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How do you play Come-into-my-castle?

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Quote

Come-into-my-castle was a game for highborn children, one meant to teach them courtesy, heraldry, and a thing or two about their lord father’s friends and foes.

(ADwD, Ch 40 Tyrion IX)

But what are its rules, and how do you actually play it?

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From the context of the above quote, it is a game that can be played in a cramped cabin in the middle of a storm, with no moving pieces.

But I think, given this is a game for young players, there must usually be some physical movement.

Ser Osmund and Lady Taena tell Cersei that Margaery plays it with Lady Alysanne

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When she’s not off hawking with Janna Fossoway and Merry Crane, she’s playing come-into-my-castle with that little Bulwer girl.

(AFfC, Ch 24 Cersei V)

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When she is not hawking or riding she is playing come-into-my-castle with little Alysanne Bulwer.

(AFfC, Ch 39 Cersei IX)

Which tells us the pair of them have pre-arranged what they tell Cersei. I suspect Taena has seduced the Kingsguard Kettleblack and knows all Cersei's plots.

 Rickon played it with the Walders (ACoK Ch 4 Bran I), and SweetRobin plays it (ASoS Ch 68 Sansa VII) - I guess with Lysa, since she sent away Ser Vardis's son for being too rough.

She also sent away her "steward's sons", although I don't know who they may be. The only steward I know is Lord Nestor, and his son (singular) is a man grown, who has earnt his spurs. Maybe Lysa had a household steward with younger sons in King's Landing. One that Petyr Baelish would rather not introduce to Eddard Stark?

I am guessing physical prowess is not required, (as it is in Lord-of-the-Crossing, where Little Walder was usually Lord) because adults and big kids are playing it with kids of eight and four, and Lysa suggests it as something Sansa could play with SweetRobin, if she lets him win.

Being highborn or having your own castle don't seem to be essential. Arya plays the game with the children of freeriders, knights, squires, and men-at-arms. (AGoT, Ch 22 Arya II) What Penny really lacks is allegiances with highborn families.

Tyrion shows us the game can be played two-handed, and the Walders show us more than two can play.

The Walders foreshadow the Twins gross breach of guest right. With Penny and Margaery there's a certain sexual innuendo, with Sansa it's more like harassment.

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“Pack the snow around a stick, Sansa.”


She did not know how long he had been watching her, or when he had returned from the Vale. “A stick?” she asked.


“That will give it strength enough to stand, I’d think,” Petyr said. “May I come into your castle, my lady?”


Sansa was wary. “Don’t break it. Be …”


“… gentle?” He smiled.

(ASoS, Ch 80 Sansa VIII)

Ick. But Petyr clarifies what Lysa means by "winning". She means Sansa must always let SweetRobin into her castle.

Which implies that one player is the castle-owner, the other is a supplicant, the goal is to be permitted to enter the castle, and there are circumstances where the supplicant can be 'out' (either struck out of the game, obliged to start again, or to retreat.)

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“Margaery is too shrewd to be caught so easily,” said Lady Merryweather. “Her women are her castle walls.

(AFfC, Ch 39 Cersei IX)

Is Taena's corollary to Ser Osney's 

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Two of her ladies share her bed, different ones every night. Two others bring her breakfast and help her dress.

(AFfC, Ch 24 Cersei V)

I think there are castle walls in the game that can be but do not need to be human.

Arya shows a couple of statues can be the walls in a pinch

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She used to hide in the crypts of Winterfell when she was little, and play games of come-into-my-castle and monsters and maidens amongst the stone kings

(ASoS, Ch 22 AryaIV)

Sansa's walls are made of snow 

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he stepped over both walls with a single long stride

(ASoS, Ch 80 Sansa VIII)

But there are two walls. An inner wall and an outer one.

Petyr's behavior makes me suppose the supplicant takes steps to get closer to the castle.

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He walked along outside the walls... She stood, towering over the great white castle ... He moved through the garden, gathering up twigs and sticks ... When he had enough, he stepped over both walls with a single long stride ... Sansa came closer ... He touched her face.

(ASoS, Ch 80 Sansa VIII)

So there's a physical element like Granny Steps, or Mr Wolf.

The game's name suggests there is the courtesy element of Mother May I, too. That you win steps, but if you forget to say "May I come into your castle, my lady/lord?", you can't take them, or have to take them backwards, or go back to the start.

While Petyr is moving around and toward the castle, he exchanges guesses about Winterfell with Sansa. When he guesses it was cold, and she tells him it wasn't, he backs right off.

From her castle, Sansa issues him a challenge - to represent an element of her castle.

Petyr walks around the yard outside the walls  gathering his sticks. I don't think Lysa would allow sticks in a game played with SweetRobin, and Tyrion didn't see the need for them either. I think Petyr's sticks, that he fashions into panes of glass for the gardens, are guesses or steps that get you closer to the castle, in the children's game.

When Petyr has enough sticks, he gets into the castle.

 When Sansa says "that's just right", he touches her, game over. (Ugh. I wish. Writing this post has forced me to read that chin-stroking bit three times. It makes my tummy queasy. Ick.)

So it seems the supplicants make guesses about the castle's sigil or features or location, and if they guess right, they are given steps, until they pass through the 'gate' between the two walls. Or maybe, as they pass each wall, the steps become more challenging (eg. Walk like a duck, hop like a frog, shikko like a ninja)  or maybe the supplicant is given challenge questions, that can send a player back to the begining if they answer wrong.

Or maybe the walls bring in the 'friend or foe' element. Eg. When the supplicant comes close enough, the first wall asks  "who goes there" and the supplicant names what they hope is a bannerman of that castle. For the second wall they name a different banner. Get it wrong, start again.

Then, there is a third and final challenge, from the Castle owner. If they get that right, they win the game. 

Actually, there is another time Sansa seems to be playing the game:

Quote

The green knight laughed again. “Barristan the Old, you mean. Don’t flatter him too sweetly, child, he thinks overmuch of himself already.” He smiled at her. “Now, wolf girl, if you can put a name to me as well, then I must concede that you are truly our Hand’s daughter.” ...
“I can answer,” Sansa said ... She smiled at the green knight. “Your helmet bears golden antlers, my lord. The stag is the sigil of the royal House. King Robert has two brothers. By your extreme youth, you can only be Renly Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End and councillor to the king, and so I name you.”

(AGoT, Ch 15 Sansa I)

In this game, she was told by a squire the new arrivals were "an honour guard for the king" but he did not identify them further. 

As she approaches, she sees two knights kneeling before the queen, one white, one green. She notes that one is old and one is young. She also notes the helm with the golden antlers.

When Sansa can't identify Illyn Payne, she steps backward, into the Hound, and further back, going onto her knees and hugging her direwolf in humiliation.

The white and green knights tower over her.

She stands, and the white knight gives her Ilyn Payne's correct name. Cersei, the 'castle owner' tells Sansa Ilyn's office in her court.

Ser Barristan, courtier that he is, correctly and civilly identifies Sansa as "the daughter of Eddard Stark" and modestly introduces himself with the short title of his own name and role.

Sansa, recalling "the courtesies Septa Mordane had taught her over the years" responds with all his titles in their correct order and form -Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, councillor to the present king and a previous king, his knighthood, name, and moniker. 

Renly turns it into the game proper, addressing her crudely as 'wolf girl' (which could be taken as a reference to her sigil, or a guess at her relationship to Lady) and more politely as 'daughter of the Hand' (showing he knows of Eddard's promotion).

Sansa answers him correctly with, firstly, his sigil (that she correctly identfies as "the Royal house" rather than "house Baratheon"),  his relationship to the current king, his name, his lordship, list of kings he has been a councillor for (just the one,  and as she had already made it clear that "Robert" was "our king" when she named Barristan,  "councillor to the king" is sufficient here.)

It's the "and so I name you" that cracks them up - that is the sign that Sansa knows the game Renly was playing when he addressed her so solecistically. 

So, if this game is also Come-into-my-castle, I guess the "walls" agree with the castle-owner before the game on which bannerlords they represent, and the supplicants are only told the colour of each wall.

From that, and the answers to the questions as they approach the castle, they work out the sigil of each wall, and their relationship with the owner, and when they are challenged, they must put the titles and offices and styles of the relevant wall together in the right sequence, followed with "and so I name you".

 I guess you would keep it pretty simple for little ones. Something like "by your flayed man you can only be bannerman of Lord Stark, Lord Bolton of the Dreadfort, and so I name you". "

Maybe for older children or those more skilled at the game, there would be more titles or relationships, things like "By your ten white wolf heads you can only be Ser Rodrick Cassel, Master of Arms for Robb, our king, the King in the North, Warden of the North, Protector of the North, Lord Stark of Winterfell", but you lose if you said "our king" when you are a Codd, because then your king would be Balon and the ruler of Winterfell Prince Theon. Sansa's smug insistence on correctly addressing Jon as "half-brother" might have come from a desire to win at this game. 

Lysa's "let him win" demand makes me think the castle-owner has the same sort of flexible role as 'mother' in Mother May I, able to allow a little player ten steps, where a player with a wider stride would only get two. 

Or perhaps the number of steps a supplicant gets depends on their relationship to the castle owner. If they are the castle-owner's bannerlord, they get ten steps per correct guess, a bannerman gets five, if your houses share a lord paramount three, if not, two, if you are a Blackwood and they are a Bracken, one.

Or maybe you get backward steps for addressing the owner of Mormont Keep as if you were their king, when you are not a Stark.

Thoughts? Insights? Clarifications? 

Edited by Walda

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nice. to be honest I never put much thought into this game unlike cavasses . sounded a bit dull to me but I suppose you worked it out well. 

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Nice topic! 

As with several of the games GRRM invented for the story, I think we will never know exactly how it works. Until this post, I had vaguely pictured something like "London Bridge is Falling Down" where players tried to avoid being trapped in a castle (instead of being trapped when the music stops and the bridge falls). But I hadn't worked out any details of the game play.

You have come up with some very good explanations, though, in keeping with the relevant excerpts from the books.

I would guess that the game might vary with the number of players and the available setting. As you point out, Arya's version involved hiding behind things in the crypt. Yet Tyrion considered playing the game with two players with Penny in the crowded cabin below deck. Maybe the game can involve literal, physical movement toward the opponent but a two-player version is more like Twenty Questions: one player thinks of a sigil and the other player has to guess the answer within twenty (or ten or five) guesses. "Does it feature a bird?" "A mammal?" "Is blue one of the major colors?" "Is its House in the Reach?"

If the player correctly identifies the sigil and House, he or she gets one "step" forward toward the other player's "castle." If the player fails to identify the house, the other player moves forward. Or maybe the other player gets to decide whether to send you backward - if you are a bannerman, you advance; if you are a foe, you move backward. The steps could be figurative, too. Maybe the game has a standard number of steps, like the basketball game called "Horse," where the players spell out the five letters of "horse" to see who wins. 

Jon, Sam and Sansa all have POVs where they use a variation of the phrase, "One step and then another." 

2 hours ago, Walda said:

So it seems the supplicants make guesses about the castle's sigil or features or location, and if they guess right, they are given steps, until they pass through the 'gate' between the two walls.

Your good catch on the role of walls in the game is very, very intriguing. I've wondered why Kingsguard members seem to have the ability to cross barriers and it could relate back to this game: if you are pledged to the King's service, you are on his team for the real-world game of "Come Into My Castle," and you can enter any castle ruled by that king. When Brienne (of the Rainbow Guard) sets off on her quest after Jaime gives her Oathkeeper, she tries to find the wall she remembered from her travels with Jaime and Cleos Frey. Instead she finds many walls and they all look alike. (Eventually, she finds the ruined walls of the childhood home of Ser Dontos Hollard - a Sansa ally and probably a good omen for someone trying to win at "Come Into My Castle." At the Hollard seat, Brienne hides in the ruins until she catches Podrick Payne who ends up being helpful as she pursues her quest.)

In the snow castle scene at the Eyrie, Sweetrobin's doll barges over Sansa's walls, knocking a hole in the castle. In an instinctive response, Sansa rips the head off the doll. I wonder whether beheading is the outcome for the loser (or winner?) of the "Come Into My Castle" game? 

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The device painted on the shield was one Sansa did not know; a grey stone head with fiery eyes, upon a light green field. “My grandfather’s shield,” Petyr explained when he saw her gazing at it. “His own father was born in Braavos and came to the Vale as a sellsword in the hire of Lord Corbray, so my grandfather took the head of the Titan as his sigil when he was knighted.”

I've read the snow castle tower and wall-building episode featuring Sansa and Littlefinger several times and never connected it to this moment in the interaction between Ned and Baelish:

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“I’m leading you to the dungeons to slit your throat and seal your corpse up behind a wall,” Littlefinger replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

So appropriate, if Petyr is a skilled wall builder, that he would offer to build a wall for Ned. 

Lots more to sort out with this topic. Great post!

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8 hours ago, EggBlue said:

sounded a bit dull to me

Yes. It is.

Because I really haven't figured it out.

That is the puzzle: How to combine courtesy, heraldry, and allegiance into a game that eight year olds would actually play?

I am thinking there might be funny walks involved, or random physical movements awarded for wrong guesses. Petyr gathering sticks and shaking them at a distance from the castle seemed to me a bit like the challenges 'Simon' gives in 'Simon Says'.

The courtesy element in Mother May I is simply remembering to say "Mother, may I?" before hopping ten steps on one foot or whatever. Like Simon says, but a speaking rather than a listening exercise.

That's elegantly simple, and about as much courtesy and self-restraint as a pre-schooler can keep up with anyway, when Mother's commands are coming thick and fast and other competitors approach her.

I think I would settle for a game that could plausibly be played by eight year olds. The talking part of Lord of the Crossing seems fairly free-form and complicated and meh as Bran tells it. As described, it's not a game real-world kids would want to play.

That might be because GRRM is showing us Bran doesn't really understand the rules, or like the Walders, or want to be the referee.

But it could also be because GRRM wants to keep his authorial options open. Every game element he decides on has to do a lot of metaphorical work for him in a variety of scenarios - like the castle walls in the scenes mentioned above.

Every rule he explicitly tells is a rod to beat his own back. As it is, if he comes to a scene where two walls won't work, or seven are required, or none, no biggie, walls are optional in come-into-my-castle..

But once he has told us 'oaths were binding unless they said “mayhaps,” ' in a game that the children play, he has to be very careful about the loyalties of characters like Lord Walder and Lord Manderly when they say "mayhaps" while playing the Game of Thones (and he is).

There is no need for him to invent games that would interest real-world children, just ones that would interest (or, in Bran's case, bore) his child characters. And reveal details about their world without a heap of exposition. 

The OP is just a brain-dump of everything I ever thought about Come-into-my-castle, in the hope that some detail might remind you of something you noticed about the game, or a thread about it I haven't seen, or trigger a revelation for you that eluded me. 

I figured 'throw it all at the wall and see what sticks' would elicit better quality feedback than just the title and 'discuss'. And it has, much sooner than I thought. Seam's post is amazing, and your own contribution is very perceptive.

I am kind of thinking Tyrion's version of come-into-my-castle looks like it could be adapted into a forum game. But by myself I can't think of how to turn it into a game anyone would want to play.

 

 

Edited by Walda

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7 hours ago, Seams said:

Jon, Sam and Sansa all have POVs where they use a variation of the phrase, "One step and then another." 

Dany too

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Take one step. Take the next. Another step. Another. What else could she do?

(ADwD, Ch.71 Daenerys X)

7 hours ago, Seams said:

I wonder whether beheading is the outcome for the loser (or winner?)

We agree that snow=death, right (as in "Ned knelt in the snow to kiss the queen’s ring"). Well,

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The Broken Tower was easier still. They made a tall tower together, kneeling side by side to roll it smooth, and when they’d raised it Sansa stuck her fingers through the top, grabbed a handful of snow, and flung it full in his face. Petyr yelped, as the snow slid down under his collar.

(ASoS,Ch.80 Sansa VII)

If he comes into her castle, his head is gone like old Gorhgan of Ghis.

I think I've been missing something about how the foes behave in the game. Peter's sticks might be arming an enemy. The doll crashing down the castle walls doesn't seem to be a friendly. There seems to be an element of wall-smashing in the game, perhaps not invariably followed by beheading. Perhaps there is a way that a foe can approach the castle and breech the walls, and get a smash and grab 'win' if the castle-owner is not on the alert.

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He hopped down from the dais and grabbed Sansa roughly. “Come, wife, time to smash your portcullis. I want to play come-into-the-castle.”

(ASoS, Ch.28 Sansa III)

Note in this unfriendly instance, Tyrion does not make any claim of ownership of the castle, for himself or for Sansa.

In real life, a lady's armour is her calling out a sexual harasser as immediately and publicly as possible, but maybe, in come-into-my-castle, there is a way that courtesy can neutralise foes or make them back off.

Edited by Walda
removing exteranous hyphens in "come-into-my-castle" in this and all previous posts

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On 10/14/2021 at 2:30 PM, Walda said:
Quote

The green knight laughed again. “Barristan the Old, you mean. Don’t flatter him too sweetly, child, he thinks overmuch of himself already.” He smiled at her. “Now, wolf girl, if you can put a name to me as well, then I must concede that you are truly our Hand’s daughter.” ...
“I can answer,” Sansa said ... She smiled at the green knight. “Your helmet bears golden antlers, my lord. The stag is the sigil of the royal House. King Robert has two brothers. By your extreme youth, you can only be Renly Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End and councillor to the king, and so I name you.”

(AGoT, Ch 15 Sansa I)

...

It's the "and so I name you" that cracks them up - that is the sign that Sansa knows the game Renly was playing when he addressed her so solecistically. 

I've been thinking about this naming element you picked up on. I think it could be another really important key to understanding the game. 

Aside from the fact that we know GRRM puts a lot of careful craftsmanship into naming his characters, we have lines such as these:

Bran and Meera made up names for those who sang the song of the earth: Ash and Leaf and Scales, Black Knife and Snowylocks and Coals. Their true names were too long for human tongues, said Leaf. 

I wore many names when I was quick, but even I once had a mother, and the name she gave me at her breast was Brynden. 

(ADwD, Bran III)

He had two gaolers to tend to him. ... They would not even tell him their names, so he gave them names of his own. The short strong one he called Porridge, the stooped sallow one Lamprey, for the pie. 

(ASoS, Davos III)

Bran and Meera and Davos are all prisoners, in a way, trapped in dungeons (except Bran and Meera are really in a cave). Could "Come Into My Castle" include the taking and keeping of prisoners? We certainly do see many of our POV characters going through periods as hostages or prisoners. Sansa will soon be taken hostage by the Lannisters, but she does not know this when she starts to "name" the members of the king's guard and small council.

When Tyrion considers playing the game with Penny, they are below deck in the ship. Maybe below deck is a symbolic dungeon of sorts. (Davos compares and contrasts his cell at The Wolf's Den to a couple of ship cabins he has been in.) 

When Theon is a hostage in a dungeon, he forgets his name but he notes the importance of knowing one's own name. He starts to heal and recover his sense of himself after Lady Dustin asks him to show her the way into the Winterfell crypt - she may be playing "Come Into My Castle" with Theon (who had a POV where he was The Prince of Winterfell). The crypt was also where Arya played the game. 

The dungeon setting for this game fits with another early thought I had about "Come Into My Castle." There is a creepy poem with the line, "Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly." The spider is trapping its prey in its web but their interaction is framed in terms of this polite invitation. It would not surprise me if GRRM was alluding to entrapment in a web with the title of this castle game. Time to reexamine Rohanne Webber. 

But why does the prisoner get to name the jailers? Or is the point that the jailer should not let the prisoner know his true name?

When Davos is imprisoned in the Wolf's Den, he does know his jailers' names. One of them is Garth, which seems like an important Garth Greenhands reference. Another of the jailers tells Davos that he keeps the Old Gods and says his ancestors probably sacrificed humans to the weirwoods. This follows Lord Manderly saying that he won't eat until he sees the head of Davos with an onion in his teeth, mounted on the wall of the castle. So there's that castle wall part of the game as well as GRRM using some of his deft phrasing with double meaning to make it sound as if Lord Manderly plans to eat Davos. But we know Lord Manderly would never eat human flesh. That's ridiculous. 

The two dungeon experiences of Davos do seem to be parallels to Bran's interlude in Bloodraven's cave, with passages indicating that there was no way to keep track of the passage of days. In both dungeons, Davos eats porridge. I think there may be clues here for the weirwood paste Bran eats in the cave. And I don't think it's a coincidence that we get the Manderly imagery of cannibalism juxtaposed with the suspicious possibility of Jojen paste in Bran's arc. (Comforting to note that Manderly does not eat Davos; this may bode well for Jojen.) 

But I digress from our focus on "Come Into My Castle," unless the game involves not only naming someone, but also taking a prisoner and eating (or pretending to eat) human flesh. Westeros children grow up fast.

Edit: Brynden says his mother named him. I think there will be a motherhood element associated with this game. I'm thinking now of Sansa singing the song about the Mother when The Hound comes to her bedchamber after the Battle of the Blackwater. 

 

Edited by Seams

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Another "Come Into My Castle" thought.

The Defiance of Duskendale.

I suspect that GRRM was giving us a parallel between the House Darklyn story of taking King Aerys as a hostage and the House Stark story of taking Tyrion hostage at the inn at the crossroads (although Jaime's captivity at Riverrun might also be a parallel, with Brienne in the role of Ser Barristan). 

Re-reading the summary of the Defiance, there are also parallels to House Martell: Lady Darklyn is known as the Lace Serpent so there may be shared serpent / snake symbolism (the Red Viper, the Sand Snakes). It's not an exact match, but the captivity of Aemon the Dragonknight in Dorne might be a parallel to the captivity of Aerys in Duskendale. The motive of the Darklyns was to persuade Aerys to sign a charter granting them more autonomy; Dorne has a charter that grants them some autonomy and allows House Martell to use the titles of prince and princess. 

Are these situations all high-stakes versions of the "Come Into My Castle" game? 

In the three examples, House Lannister seems to be a third (or second?) party to the proceedings. 

With the Starks, Tyrion and Jaime are the hostages who have been taken in by the Stark / Tully / Arryn jailers. 

In the Martell / Targaryen long-running feud, the Lannisters end up destroying the truce a few generations down the line when their bannermen kill Elia Martell and her children. 

In the Darklyn / Targaryen conflict, Tywin and his forces are outside of the castle, ready to invade (and possibly kill the hostage during the general mayhem). 

A clue for us may come from the word "defiance." Sansa is the betrothed, also known as the fiance, of Robert's "son," Joffrey. But the betrothal is set aside; one might say that she is de-fianceed, if there were such a word. 

In the Darklyn conflict, Ser Barristan scales the walls to rescue the king. 

In the Stark / Lannister hostage situations, Bronn and Brienne play key roles in bringing about the freeing of the hostages. I see a lot of parallels between Brienne and Ser Barristan.

In the Martell / Targaryen conflict, it was King Baelor who liberated his cousin, Prince Aemon. I don't know if the letter B is the main similarity among all of these rescuers. I think there is also something at work that involves the "True Knight" and being pure of heart. 

This ties back to Sansa, who seems to be the "Come Into My Castle" queen and champion, based on your early analysis of the excerpts. She "named" Ser Barristan in that first encounter along the road with Cersei's entourage. The scene in the throne room where she kneels on Ser Barristan's discarded king's guard cloak seems very important to me. (And the cloak is like a snake skin as Ser Barristan lets it slither to the ground.) Soon she is de-fianceed but she is caught again by the Lannisters when she is forced to wed Tyrion. She then relies on Ser Dontos for her eventual escape. After the Defiance of Duskendale, Dontos was the Hollard boy who was spared by Aerys at the request of Ser Barristan. There is definitely also important Sandor Clegane symbolism in Sansa's escape as well as Baelish (wordplay with King Baelor) action. 

Tearing down castles (destroying walls) and scaling walls seem to be part of the pattern.

I think GRRM is showing us that there are several ways that people play this "Come Into My Castle" game for highborn children: being a ward, a hostage or a bride involves entering someone else's castle. Rescue requires a certain type of player - a true knight? A knight / fool hybrid? 

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The person above who joked “first step is take them to dinner” is exactly right. It’s a sex metaphor. Notice how George mentions to the game most extensively in re Marge’s sex life and Littlefinger’s predation of Sansa. As far as George is using it in the books, it’s a metaphor of “will you give me access to your sexual gates, can I come through your portcullis.” And while there’s a sexual undercurrent it could just be a nice metaphor for “how does real emotional intimacy happen? You must let down your guard and allow people to see your real thoughts and fears etc”

For example, Sansa never let Tyrion into her castle in either since, nor in the third sense of encouraging his takeover as Lord Protector of Winterfell. 

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