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[Pre-ADwD Spoilers] Bran 1 - Spoilers for ADWD


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Ta-daaa! From notes taken at GRRM's reading at the Montreal WorldCon, August 2009:



Are we there yet? Bran thinks, but dares not say. The group passes under more and more trees: oaks, pine, evergreens. Bran continues to sit in his basket atop Hodor, nearly hitting his head on the overhanging branches. How much further? Where is the three-eyed crow?

Hodor walks with one eye frozen shut. He holds the rusty old sword from Winterfell, slashing at tree branches that get in his way. He has snow up to his knees, and his beard is covered in ice.

Bran notices that it is different in the Haunted Forest. The group is not telling stories like they were south of the Wall. It is stillness here.

The elk is ahead of Bran, its antlers covered in ice. The ranger, pale, black and hands as hard as iron, sits atop the elk. The ranger wears ringmail, a black cloak, with a black woolen scarf hiding his face. Behind him, Meera holds Jojen, who is smaller and weaker, to keep him warm. Summer is at the back of the group, limping from the arrow wound he received at Queenscrown still. The wolf feels the bite of cold through his fur.

Bran has been slipping into Summer a lot, and Hodor too. Hodor is getting used to it because Hodor knows it is Bran. However, Bran is never comfortable in Hodor like he is in Summer. Bran feels Summer wondering if he could bring down the elk, he smells the warm blood of it, and salivates.

Ravens quork around them. By day, six stay with them, while the rest of the murder fly ahead and behind. They all come back at night. The ravens are the ranger's eyes and ears. The elk stops suddenly, and the ranger jumps off. "Behind us" he says.

"Wolves?" Bran knows that a pack of wolves are following them. They have been smelling how weak and hungry they are. Bran could hear them every night, getting closer; they were hunted.

"No," says the ranger. Men are following them. "I'll deal with them."

Meera wants to come with him, but no she must stay with Bran. "The boy must be protected," says the ranger, 'Coldhands.' He tells them to turn north at the lake, and go to a fishing village alongside it. Once there, they will wait for him.

Bran notices that Jojen is as lost and dependent as they are, he is not the little grandfather he was when they were south of the Wall.

The ranger leaves on foot. Meera asks, "Men? What men? Wildlings?" Coldhands does not respond.

The rest of the group continues on. They cross a river. Meera complains that it is the same river they've crossed four times already. Bran explains that rivers can snake around, so that it is possible. She continues to complain about the ranger: "He has too many secrets. Who is he? Anyone or anything can put on a black cloak. He doesn't eat. He doesn't sleep. He does not need heat." Bran remembers the group huddling together to get warm at night, but not the ranger.

Bran looks to see if the ravens are around, they are not, so he gains some courage to speak his mind. He makes the observation that the ranger's scarf does not get covered in ice, that he has no breath. Bran looks at the others and can see steam escaping from their mouths.

He then remembers Old Nan telling him stories of monsters North of the Wall, as she tucked him into bed at Winterfell. Bran notes that the ranger wears black like a man of the Night's Watch, but what if he was just a monster taking them to other monsters?

Meera continues: "Why must we go to the three-eyed crow? Why can't the three-eyed crow come to us? Can't he fly?" They walk over and along the frozen shore of a lake. The elk went where he would, keeping close to the trees. The elk shoulders through snowdrifts as tall as Bran. The wind cuts through their clothes, and blows snow into their eyes.

The sun begins to set. Dark comes early. Each day is shorter than the last, something Bran was getting used to. Meera worries: "We should have gotten to the village by now. We need to get there by dark." Hodor's strength is failing. Bran worries that someone as strong as Hodor is tiring. Bran suggests that Summer can find the village. He quickly slips inside his direwolf, and his senses immediately become more acute. He listens to the sounds of the forest, and smells the elk. Bran tells Summer that the elk is not prey, and to run. Summer runs ahead.

He goes past trees, up and down hills, sniffing and then howls. Eventually, he smells men smells. Ashes. A dead fire. "That way," says Bran. "Follow Summer."

The moon appears. Soon after, they find the fishing village. They almost walk right through it, because it is buried under snow. The other day, Jojen had mistaken a dead fall under the snow for a house. They had dug down, and found nothing.

A dozen huts are beneath the snow, and one long hall. The fishing village is similar to previous empty wildling villages. Bran thinks that maybe the wildlings left some food. It is wishful thinking, since all the villages are empty. Bran is optimistic that at least they have a roof. They all enter the long hall, and take shelter.

The elk breaks through a frozen stream to drink. Summer doesn't come into the hall, and goes off hunting. "Leave the elk alone," Bran warns.

They are all hungry and exhausted from travel. Jojen is getting weaker and weaker. Meera says "Jojen, you have to eat."

"Later, I am tired. Today is not the day I die. Crushed acorns? That will make me worse. Leave me." All the food they had brought from the south had been eaten ten days ago. Raw fish and acorns were all that was left to eat. It had been 3 days since Meera had caught a fish. She was usually numb with cold after hunting.

After their dinner of crushed acorns, Meera sharpens her dagger, while Hodor sits and mutters 'Hodor' by the door. "We dare not light a fire," Coldhands had warned. "The woods are not empty. We don't know what the fire will invite from the dark."

Out in the woods, Summer smells a kill. Bran slips inside. There is the smell of blood, but not elk, not deer. Something else. Summer goes searching for the scent. He loses it, finds it, and tracks it down eventually.

There is the sound of wolves, and the smell of piss and dead skins. He will need to fight for the meat. There are three wolves eating. There is a female chewing on a leg of boot with half a leg still in it. An old one-eyed male wolf and a young male are eating the entrails coming from an open belly. There are less than five dead men. Some have no heads. The wolves had torn them apart. Their eyes are also gone: pecked out.

Those who still had faces had thick beards with frozen ice in them. They all wore black. The black of the Night's Watch, Bran realizes. One of the men has an old stump instead of a hand.

The young male backs away from Summer; he is the tail. The old wolf challenges; he's the head. Their eyes meet. Warg. They fight. Slashing, rolling, fresh blood on both sides. The other 2 wolves circle. It is a long fight. The old wolf will not give up easily. Eventually, the old one-eyed wolf submits. Summer lifts his leg on him. The others submit. The pack was his. No, we have a pack elsewhere. Bran remembers his other pack: the Stark wolves.

Summer begins to eat the Night's Watch men. A guilty thought passes through his head, but he still eats their throats because he is hungry. Suddenly, he feels warmth on his skin... brightness. Bran wakes up. Meera has started a fire.

The ranger has returned, and he had found a sow. Meera is roasting it over a fire. Hodor is eating it happily, with juice running through his fingers. Jojen eats too, but with small nibbles. The ranger stands in the doorway, with a raven on his shoulder, watching. He fears the flames, Bran thinks.

"I thought we said no fire?" asks Bran. "The walls block it, and dawn is near," replies Coldhands.

"Who did you kill? Wildlings?" asks Bran. "Foes," says the ranger. "They were of the Night's Watch!" shouts Bran. "They were foes," responds Coldhands.

"They were your brothers. Your ravens pecked out their eyes." Bran lets loose his suspicions. "Why are your hands black?"

The ranger replies: "Once the heart stops, the blood congeals."

"Show us your face," Meera demands.

Bran: "He's dead, Meera. Monsters cannot pass the Wall! He had the fat boy Sam get us! He could not pass through the Wall!"

Meera demands: "Who sent you? Who is this three-eyed crow?"

"A wizard, the last green seer, whatever you want to call it."

The trees are full of ravens screaming outside. "He's a monster," says Bran.

Meera asks her brother, "Jojen, did you dream this? What do we do?"

Jojen replies, "Go with him. We've come too far to go back now. We cannot return to the Wall. We either go with a monster or we die."

That's it. My thoughts: Obviously the three wolves are the same that belonged to Varamyr. Varamyr's consciousness is still in the old wolf. The word warg that passes between that wolf and Summer shows this. I wonder if these wolves will stay a pack under Summer. Eventually, I could see Bran taking them on, so maybe there will be a battle of consciousness between Bran and Varamyr?

I feel that the NW Coldhands killed were some of the Betrayers from Craster's. One is described as having a permanent stump (not a stump after the wolves got at them), so this must be Ollo Lophand. Also, why were these Night's Watch north of the Wall without horses? This would make the killing of them less heinous than this chapter makes out. Coldhands did let Sam live, remember. However, Sam was weak and alone. If a group of rangers came across Bran's group and demanded that they come with them, I could see Coldhands taking them out.

Here's to the first Bran chapter in about 9 years! I'm glad we now know a little more after he went through the Black Gate. GRRM also didn't realize he hadn't read this chapter before.

Edit: I've probably left out some details. I was scribbling like mad, and still enjoying the story. At the end, the ravens start shouting 'yours,' copying someone, but I don't have it written down who said 'yours' before that.

Edited by Angalin
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Comments from the WorldCon thread follow:

To be semi-serious though....

It was a good reading, but the chapter itself seemed to be very much setup. Was Bran, Hodor, the Reeds and Coldhands travelling. Strong indictions that Coldhands is definitely undead (e.g. he doesn't breath), Meera doesn't trust him. Summer/Bran seem to be becoming more feral.

GRRM mentioned both Jamie and Theon have been cast but he can't give out details.

Interesting. I'm a little surprised that he read this chapter, since I was pretty sure that he wouldn't want to give away the identity of Coldhands.
Benjen? :leaving:
I was expecting to hear about Rickon becoming a feral wildling barbarian, definitely not Bran. Weird. Must be Summer reconnecting with his homeland, and seeping into Bran.
Quick check in from the airport. I didn't really get the impression. That Bran was becoming really ferral. I took notes, and Sophie took even better notes, so I'll come back with details later. The con was so much fun and I am sad to be going home. Miss you all already!
I'm dying to hear some more details. Unlike most it seems, I really like Bran chapters - and again, unlike most, I like "travelling chapters" (even AFFC Brienne's)...

So when word of a "travelling Bran chapter" surfaces, I'm in nerd nirvana... :P

So!?! No one is going to say anyhting else? No hints of Coldhands being Benjen? Is Summer growling at him? What does Jojen say? Please, we need to knoooowwww!!
More interesting still.

If I believed Coldhands was Benjen, I'd be very curious why he doesn't let Bran in on the secret at any point in the past two weeks.

great job, jughead! Good points on the renegade NW men and Varamyr.

Very cool on the green seer. Also really interested on what's going on with Jojen. The Wall seems to be affecting him.

Really? I took his condition to be a result of being lost and uncertain, not anything supernatural.
I felt that Jojen was malnourished and weak from the cold, as well. I was glad to hear him use his old line: this is not the day I die. It showed that he wasn't completely lost...
Yes! First Bran chapter in forever.

He only had 4 chapters in ASOS and they were some of my favorite chapters. Great summary by the way, I almost felt I was reading it myself.

Yes, it's very likely that the NW he killed were mutineers.

Does the chapter mention how long it's been since they left the wall? I guess we can figure it out by timeline. They left the wall at the same time Sam crossed the wall, how long has Sam been back at Castle Black at the end of ASOS?

The only numbers I remember were: ten days since they'd run out of the food they'd brought with them... 3 days since Meera had hunted for fish... so, at least two weeks, definitely more... 3, maybe even four... I'm guessing.

In ASOS, I think Sam had been back at the Wall for 10 days roughly... it was based on how many choosings they'd had, one per day, and I think 10 failed choosings had occured at that point...

Edited by Angalin
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Many thanks Jughead! I really appreciate the time you have taken to write the notes and share them with us. This summary has been really great!

Now I'm even more convinced that Coldhands is Benjen than before. "The ranger wears ringmail, a black cloak, with a black woolen scarf hiding his face." Not only his face remain unseen, but not every ranger in the Watch would wear ringmail.

An very interesting chapter. While Coldhands identity is staring to become clearer to me, the mistery of who or what the Three-eyed Crow is is becoming more and more interesting. I guess it will be one of the great revelations of Dance.

Edited by The hairy bear for EHK
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I'd like to second The hairy bear's thanks for all the effort that you guys have put into writing this summary.

I get quite a sinister vibe from this chapter, but I really like where the Bran story is going. Does anyone else think that Hodor getting used to being warged by Bran is a little creepy? Especially after the way that warging another human is put across by Varamyr.

A question about warging: Does Varamyr's conscience move across to one of the other wolves now or is that him dead?

Thanks again guys!

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Excellent report, thanks! It's interesting that Coldhands keeps his face hidden. I suppose it might be because it's horribly disfigured/rotted, but it does leave the possibility that he's Benjen aside. Is there any reference to his voice? Perhaps it's muffled, or perhaps otherwise strange...

I do think it's a fair bet that those were some of the surviving mutineers, particularly Ollo Lophand. Yet, I rather wonder if they were actually alive or if they had been turned into wights? We know from the Varamyr prologue that the wolves see a bunch of wights -- might some of them moved after them?

The last green seer... So the children of the forest have been dying out. Will this make the green men of the Isle of Faces more important? I wish someone had been able to ask about that, to see if it was still in George's plans. Hrm, hrm...

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A good point that I hadn't thought of. As I recall, Jafer Flowers' blood was quite congealed.

So, if it's Ollo and co., they abandoned Craster's and somehow were able to stay alive for ... how long? For a long, long time given the state of affairs. It's ~two weeks from when Sam met them at the Nightfort. Sam and Gilly took at the very least a week, probably more like two, to get to the Nightfort. So we're talking the mutineers having survived for a month or so in what now seems to be deep Other territory. Perhaps the Others gave Craster's a wide berth for awhile, continuing with their "agreement".

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Wow. Thanks alot for sharing this with us.

It's a great chapter and it gives me high hopes for the quality of ADWD. As to Coldhand's identity: did we ever see Benjen wear ringmail? Overall, the fact that CH does not reveal his identity to Bran would imho rather indicate that he is not Benjen (as was pointed out before, revealing himself would increase the trust of the group towards him drastically). This is supported by the fact that he himself seems to control the flock of ravens that accompanies the group. Were would Benjen have learned to warg that good? Being undead doesn't automatically give you super-warging abilities, I guess.

Of course it's possible that the Three-Eyed-Crow controls the ravens over a huge distance, but the way Coldhands seems to be in direct contact with them make this less likely, imho.

In general, the continuing presence of the ravens indicate that Bloodraven is most probably involved somewhere ("Bloodraven has a thousand eyes and one" plus a flock of ravens being the sigil of house Bracken(?) being strong arguments for this). Either he is Coldhands or he is the Three-Eyed-Crow.

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This is supported by the fact that he himself seems to control the flock of ravens that accompanies the group.

We really don't know anything about the magic involved in reanimating him. Perhaps it's a gift of the Three-Eyed Crow. That he doesn't reveal himself is meaningless as well, as it seems to me one could just as well not do it in preference to scaring your nephew needlessly.

But yes, Bloodraven is, I suppose, some sort of possibility; although it seems to me he would have been rather old to end up wandering off the Wall to be turned undead.

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Is there any reference to his voice? Perhaps it's muffled, or perhaps otherwise strange...

Ran, I don't recall a description of his voice. Somebody else may have jotted that down... From the way GRRM read it, Coldhands was stern, logical and to-the-point.

It's possible that Coldhands could just be controlled by the 3-eyed crow... While he is obviously acting under the 3-eyed crows orders; he remains fairly aloof and robotic. Perhaps that just comes with the territory of being dead... Lady Stoneheart is not the warmest of personalities...

I'm personally glad that GRRM didn't reveal Coldhands' identity in this chapter. It adds more suspense to keep these questions up in the air. The 3-eyed crow is now given a slightly sinister aspect. Before it was as though Bran was heading to Yoda, now it could be that he's going to Darth Yoda...

Like Arya's first chapter in AFFC, I had expected Bran to arrive at his destination and begin training in his first chapter. I'm not disappointed however. I'm glad the time was spent showing how far they do have to travel, and the forbidding atmosphere... This makes a wonderful companion chapter to the Prologue... perhaps they'll be back to back?

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Guest Other-in-law
"Why are your hands black?"

The ranger replies: "Once the heart stops, the blood congeals."

This strikes me as a rather academic or analytic answer; more fitting for a scholar who has studied old scrolls like Bloodraven than a simpler man of action like Benjen.

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Welcome back Bran - we've missed you! So excited to read this, even though the mysteries are still held close to GRRM's chest.

Going to be interesting how GRRM will handle the Green seer and the Children of the Forest.

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Great summary. Thanks Jughead!

A fun chapter. Some really great lines. (Once the heart stops the blood congeals) Regarding the identity of Coldhands, I'm still divided between Benjen and Bloodraven. To me, if Benjen didn't want to scare Bran or give him the wrong impression, then he might keep his identity hidden. I'd sort of like it to be Bloodraven, but I'm now not so sure. Perhaps Bloodraven is the last wizard or greenseer.

Either way, it makes complete sense for a brother (former or no) of the Night's Watch to execute the deserters, which I think the dead guys were. Kind of wicked that he did so a la The Birds.

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So, if it's Ollo and co., they abandoned Craster's and somehow were able to stay alive for ... how long? For a long, long time given the state of affairs. It's ~two weeks from when Sam met them at the Nightfort. Sam and Gilly took at the very least a week, probably more like two, to get to the Nightfort. So we're talking the mutineers having survived for a month or so in what now seems to be deep Other territory. Perhaps the Others gave Craster's a wide berth for awhile, continuing with their "agreement".

It is interesting. From the presence of the mutineers in AFFC's cast list, I was guessing that Jon was going lead a punitive expedition to Craster's Keep to punish them. I didn't expect them to turn up again like this.

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I wasn't thinking that Benjen would necessarily show his dead, lifeless face. But he could have at least said who he was, and proved his identity to Bran some other way: "Remember when I come over and you told me the names of every castle on the Wall in order, and I said I couldn't have done so well myself?" or something along those lines.

(Although, having said that, it's true that Beric says that he has trouble remembering things like that after dying so many times. So maybe he wouldn't have any trivia left.)

Edited by Former Gov. Sarah L. Palin
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Guest Other-in-law

You'd think he might at least call his own nephew by his given name...saying "the boy" sounds like he's a total stranger, and doesn't particularly care about him.

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If it is Benjen, perhaps he doesn't want to show Bran that he is now a "monster".

And yeah, I think you guy are right on Jojen just being malnourished.

Nadie, I would love it if Bloodraven was the green seer or Cold Hands. I've always thought there was a huge connection with the Wall and Beyond and Summerhall and it's events. Bloodraven's abilities made him the perfect one to be able to "see" the Others stirring beyond the Wall. That Aemon and Bloodraven had read about the War for the Dawn in the Wall's Library and told Egg. Thus the attempt to bring back dragons. And Rhaegar's "reading" something and deciding he must become a warrior.

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