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Only Fire and Blood?

Who will win the battle of Winterfell?

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Actually, the fact that Stannis's host is starved and desperate will turn out to be an advantage. The mountain clan men are eager to fight and ready to die in battle, so I don't think they are going to break and flee. More importantly, they had the choice to declare for Bolton months ago. They did not. And the southron knights have to win or die. There is no middle ground here. They can't count on being ransomed or pardoned since they stuck to Stannis until the bitter end.

Whereas Roose on the hand may have the larger host, but he can, in my opinion, only count on a fourth of his men. His Dreadfort men, the Freys, and the Barrowton men. The Manderlys are not on his side, that much we know already, but the Hornwood men, Whoresbane's old men, the Cerwyns, even his Ryswell kin, they all will forsake him if the battle turns against him. All Stannis has to do is bloody Bolton, and the game will change completely. After all, the Northern lords do not only know about Roose's involvement in the Red Wedding, they have to suspect some kind of foul play in the Sack of Winterfell as well.

If Lord Manderly openly declares for King Stannis and leaves Winterfell, half of 'Bolton's men' or more will take his lead. Oh, and by the way: I very much doubt that Lord Wyman will pull off some kind of elaborate plot. If Stannis eventually reaches Winterfell after he has won the battle in the village, the White Harbor knights will just kill the guards and open the gates. End of story.

Even Lady Dustin might eventually reconsider her loyalties. She may hate the Starks, but she is not going to go down in the abyss with House Bolton.

And we have to keep in mind that Stannis's forces aren't as weak as we might think they are. Only the southron horses died. But what good would a cavalry have been in the snow anyway? They don't need the horses. And no northern horse died, nor any northern soldier.

Surely the Freys, Dreadfort and Barrowtown men make up more than a fourth of Bolton's force. I thought it would be at least half if not more. And in any case, starving men still don't fight well, even if they have no other option and face death or imprisonment. Moreover, Stannis' knights seem to have lost their horses and I can't see clansmen standing up to Bolton's knights in a pitched battle, they just don't have the equipment.

Also the clansmen were marching to save Ned's little girl, but might be finding out she was a fake all along soon. Potential trouble for Stannis?

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It's pretty clear that the Manderly forces will turn on the Freys at the first opportunity, and might even conspire with Stannis to fake his own death. You can sort of infer from the Gift Chapter that Stannis has some subterfuge in mind, and several people suspect that we're going to get some Nevsky tactics at some point. It wouldn't surprise me if it unfolded the way Faint described. Obviously Manderly himself isn't going out anytime soon, but there are White Harbor soldiers who will get specific orders, no doubt.

The only people in Winterfell whom Bolton can safely rely on are his own men and the Freys, who aren't built for that kind of weather. Lady Dustin looks like she has some ulterior motives, and the Umbers, Tallharts, Cerwyns, etc. will change allegiances pretty easily. There's also the very real possibility that Robett Glover is hanging back with a sizable White Harbor force, waiting in secret to join up with either Stannis or Manderly or both, and possible that Davos has already retrieved Rickon, unbeknownst to us, at this point.

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1. Stannis and Manderlay combine to slaughter the Frey force.

2. Manderlay returns, with some of Stannis' men dressed as Freys, proclaiming victory (with Stannis' sword in hand, as proof).

3. Ramsay writes his letter to Jon Snow.

4. Later that night the gates are opened to allow the remainder of Stannis' men and the remaining Northmen inside to storm the castle while most of the Bolton men are asleep.

5. As all this is going on, many of the Northerners on the Bolton's side will switch allegiance.

If I knew you personally and this happens I would either accuse you of being GRRM or I would buy you a pint for being clever :)

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1. Stannis and Manderlay combine to slaughter the Frey force.

2. Manderlay returns, with some of Stannis' men dressed as Freys, proclaiming victory (with Stannis' sword in hand, as proof).

3. Ramsay writes his letter to Jon Snow.

4. Later that night the gates are opened to allow the remainder of Stannis' men and the remaining Northmen inside to storm the castle while most of the Bolton men are asleep.

5. As all this is going on, many of the Northerners on the Bolton's side will switch allegiance.

I think Roose doesn't intend his Frey allies to engage but to give the Manderly men the slip before they get to Stannis' camp and return to WF, thus eliminating the threat of internal treachery and securing Wyman as a hostage. He couldn't send Wyman's forces out on their own initially without making his intentions too plain and provoking a fight then and there.

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I think Roose doesn't intend his Frey allies to engage but to give the Manderly men the slip before they get to Stannis' camp and return to WF, thus eliminating the threat of internal treachery and securing Wyman as a hostage. He couldn't send Wyman's forces out on their own initially without making his intentions too plain and provoking a fight then and there.

I think it's going to end up working the other way around — the Freys and Manderlys go out together (ETA: and by "together" I mean at roughly the same time, but not in one piece; Faint's right, the Gift Chapter suggests separate forces), but the Manderlys turn on the Freys and maybe even trap them between themselves and Stannis' forces.

Bear in mind also that Dany's visions in the House of the Undying suggest a confrontation of some kind between her and Stannis. So he's not kicking the bucket any time before that can happen. It's not if he defeats the Boltons and Freys at Winterfell at this point, it's how.

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I think Roose doesn't intend his Frey allies to engage but to give the Manderly men the slip before they get to Stannis' camp and return to WF, thus eliminating the threat of internal treachery and securing Wyman as a hostage. He couldn't send Wyman's forces out on their own initially without making his intentions too plain and provoking a fight then and there.

There is nothing to support this conclusion. Read the latest Theon chapter.

"Frey and Manderly will never combine their strengths. They will come for you, but separately. Lord Ramsay will not be far behind them. He wants his bride back. He wants his Reek." Theon's laugh was half a titter, half a whimper. "Lord Ramsay is the one Your Grace should fear."

EDIT: There are also Umber men near the castle who would know if the Freys returned.

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I think Roose doesn't intend his Frey allies to engage but to give the Manderly men the slip before they get to Stannis' camp and return to WF, thus eliminating the threat of internal treachery and securing Wyman as a hostage. He couldn't send Wyman's forces out on their own initially without making his intentions too plain and provoking a fight then and there.

Don't forget this vanguard will be lead by the less tactical Frey (can't remember his name) and he may not realise Manderly's plan. Also now that Wyman has his elder son back and that he openly insulted the Freys he doesn't seem to have too much thought for his life right now.

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I think it's going to end up working the other way around — the Freys and Manderlys go out together, but the Manderlys turn on the Freys and maybe even trap them between themselves and Stannis' forces.

Bear in mind also that Dany's visions in the House of the Undying suggest a confrontation of some kind between her and Stannis. So he's not kicking the bucket any time before that can happen. It's not if he defeats the Boltons and Freys at Winterfell at this point, it's how.

The vision, a blue eyed king without a shadow, right? Certain that is Stannis? I think it probably is but I wouldn't say it was a certainty, although my memory for all the visions isn't that good.

Also, I can't fathom why Roose would adopt such a bad plan as splitting his forces and also balancing his reliable troops with a detachment whose loyalty he suspects. Unless he overestimates the value of Wyman as a hostage. Why even leave WF when he has every advantage just staying there owing to the weather, if not to right his supply situation, which implies disposing of some treacherous mouths.

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There is nothing to support this conclusion. Read the latest Theon chapter.

EDIT: There are also Umber men near the castle who would know if the Freys returned.

The only evidence I had for my theory was that otherwise I didn't think Bolton's plan made sense.

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The vision, a blue eyed king without a shadow, right? Certain that is Stannis? I think it probably is but I wouldn't say it was a certainty, although my memory for all the visions isn't that good.

It's Stannis. Like, it shouldn't even be interpretative at this point.

Also, I can't fathom why Roose would adopt such a bad plan as splitting his forces and also balancing his reliable troops with a detachment whose loyalty he suspects. Unless he overestimates the value of Wyman as a hostage. Why even leave WF when he has every advantage just staying there owing to the weather, if not to right his supply situation, which implies disposing of some treacherous mouths.

Bolton probably thinks he's throwing the shifty loyalists into the meat grinder, tossing them away as fodder first (the ones "he's well rid of"). He doesn't know that Manderly is actually already sort of working with Stannis' camp. He's likely thinking of it in terms of, "I'll send the Manderlys out first and Stannis' forces will bloody them, and then they won't cause me any problems after that."

And I have no idea why you think that Stannis is automatically doomed but Meereen isn't, or why both battles have to end in a certain way. If anything, the hopelessness of Stannis' situation should indicate that he actually wins — it's when everything seems fine and dandy that shit goes wrong.

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Surely the Freys, Dreadfort and Barrowtown men make up more than a fourth of Bolton's force. I thought it would be at least half if not more.

Count Barrowton out. True, Lady Dustin holds a grudge against the Starks, but also hates Ramsay and despises the Freys. Difficult to predict what her game plan is. Also, while it's not generally true that a northman is worth ten southron knights, it may be true when it's the North and winter has came. Hence, the Freys are worth less than sheer numbers would suggest.

Also the clansmen were marching to save Ned's little girl, but might be finding out she was a fake all along soon. Potential trouble for Stannis?

Well then, so the Boltons tried to steal Ned's crib by the way of a dirty trick. Nope, the mountain clans won't love them any more. Bathing in Bolton blood will still look like the best thing to do.

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The only evidence I had for my theory was that otherwise I didn't think Bolton's plan made sense.

Their plan is pretty easy to decipherer. Let the Manderly men and the Freys bleed themselves dry fighting Stannis and have Ramsay come in to mop up the remainder, if there is any.

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Also, I can't fathom why Roose would adopt such a bad plan as splitting his forces and also balancing his reliable troops with a detachment whose loyalty he suspects. Unless he overestimates the value of Wyman as a hostage. Why even leave WF when he has every advantage just staying there owing to the weather, if not to right his supply situation, which implies disposing of some treacherous mouths.

He doesn't seem that fond of the Freys, who are causing a lot of trouble due to everyone hating them, and figures that having them and the Manderlys go out there would reduce the unrest by a lot, less mouths to feed, and in the end it makes no difference as even if the Manderlys betray him and Stannis is outside his gates, Roose is still in the better position as he can better endure a siege than Stannis can keep one up.

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It's Stannis. Like, it shouldn't even be interpretative at this point.

Bolton probably thinks he's throwing the shifty loyalists into the meat grinder, tossing them away as fodder first (the ones "he's well rid of"). He doesn't know that Manderly is actually already sort of working with Stannis' camp. He's likely thinking of it in terms of, "I'll send the Manderlys out first and Stannis' forces will bloody them, and then they won't cause me any problems after that."

And I have no idea why you think that Stannis is automatically doomed but Meereen is it, or why both battles have to end in a certain way. If anything, the hopelessness of Stannis' situation should indicate that he actually wins — it's when everything seems fine and dandy that shit goes wrong.

But the Freys are his only not-shifty loyalists, aside from his own men, and that is why it doesn't make sense.

Going to give me any help on the Stannis thing. Point me to a thread. Anything?

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But the Freys are his only not-shifty loyalists, aside from his own men, and that is why it doesn't make sense.

Freys, non-shifty loyalist? Isn't that an oxymoron?

In truth, Roose is probably hoping the Freys and Manderly men don't come back at all. That's why he sent them out in the first place. They were the source of all the tension in the castle beforehand.

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Their plan is pretty easy to decipherer. Let the Manderly men and the Freys bleed themselves dry fighting Stannis and have Ramsay come in to mop up the remainder, if there is any.

Ah well, if it makes sense to everybody else, I guess it must just be me. Seriously, gambling that throwing half your force at someone will bleed them dry when most medieval battles only result in heavy casualties in the rout (i.e. they are all on one side) doesn't seem bright.

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But the Freys are his only not-shifty loyalists, aside from his own men, and that is why it doesn't make sense.

They may be non-shifty, but that is only garantueed until Fat Walda starts making babies thusly ensuring a Frey heir for the Warden of the North, after that they can kill Roose and Ramsay and rule the North. In theory.

But more importantly, everyone in the North hates the Freys, and while he can trust the Northerners less, he's screwed without their support, while he can miss a few Freys.

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Freys, non-shifty loyalist? Isn't that an oxymoron?

In truth, Roose is probably hoping the Freys and Manderly men don't come back at all. That's why he sent them out in the first place. They were the source of all the tension in the castle beforehand,

Well they are not shifty because they have no reason to stab Bolton in the back at this point, as he is pretty much the only person who has a use for them, as well as a marriage alliance with them. They are, of course, shifty in general yes.

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But the Freys are his only not-shifty loyalists, aside from his own men, and that is why it doesn't make sense.

Bolton is ruthless. It's winter, the Freys are causing more trouble than they're worth, they don't do well in the climate and they're extra mouths to feed. It's not rocket science here. If two camps are making things difficult for everyone else, it's those camps you send out first to take the brunt of it.

Going to give me any help on the Stannis thing. Point me to a thread. Anything?

What, the prophecy? Is it really that difficult to come to that conclusion that it is, in fact, Stannis? The only blue-eyed king that we have still living, to my knowledge, who famously spawned a shadow baby? I'm sorry, who do you think it is?

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They may be non-shifty, but that is only garantueed until Fat Walda starts making babies thusly ensuring a Frey heir for the Warden of the North, after that they can kill Roose and Ramsay and rule the North. In theory.

But more importantly, everyone in the North hates the Freys, and while he can trust the Northerners less, he's screwed without their support, while he can miss a few Freys.

Well I guess,but RB is currently fighting for his life and I don't see him winning immediate popularity among his northern lords for throwing away the Freys. Long term it makes sense, perhaps, but with Stannis only a few days away its the short term that counts.

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