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Only Fire and Blood?

Who will win the battle of Winterfell?

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Don't forget the Karstarks. RB and Freys expect them to turn on Stannis and join them. If Stannis posts them on his flank, the Freys will welcome them with open arms and by the time they realize it's a double cross they will be decimated. It would be a classic maneuver with the Karstarks shuttin the door and the Freys caught between forces.

The only problem would be if Ramseys force was sitting in reserve.

You bring up a good point and one I had forgotten. The Boltons are also expecting the Karstarks to turn on Stannis.

The pink letter says Stanniss friends heads are on the wall ofWF but fails to mention anything about Stannis head meaning Ramsey has no body and thus he likely lives.

The letter is key. He specifically mentions the sword as proof but he says nothing of having Stannis' head, which would be even greater proof. He also thinks 'Arya Stark' and Theon have been sent to the Wall. Now, why would he think that?

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I think you have this point mistaken. Roose very much expects the two to defeat Stannis, or, at the very least, weaken him so severely that the rest becomes mop up work for Ramsay.

Do we know what proportion of Roose's own men went with Ramsay?

I'm not saying your scenario is stupid or anything but it seems to me like battles in the middle ages just don't really work like this. But, this is fantasy, so...

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Do we know what proportion of Roose's own men went with Ramsay?

I'm not saying your scenario is stupid or anything but it seems to me like battles in the middle ages just don't really work like this. But, this is fantasy, so...

"How many men does Bolton have at Winterfell?"

"Five thousand. Six. More." He gave the king a ghastly grin, all shattered teeth and splinters. "More than you."

"How many of those is he like to send against us?"

"No more than half." That was a guess, admittedly, but it felt right to him. Roose Bolton was not a man to blunder blindly out into the snow, map or no. He would hold his main strength in reserve, keep his best men with him, trust in Winterfell's massive double wall. "The castle was too crowded. Men were at each other's throats, the Manderlys and Freys especially. It's them his lordship's sent after you, the ones that he's well rid of."

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I agree that Stannis just needs to bloody Roose's nose to turn the tide. His forces are outmatched, outclassed and outnumbered, but the bulk of Roose's men are not happy campers. They're there because they have to be, winter is here, and throwing their lives away for a lost cause is pointless. The Starks have lost the north and no one has the power to oppose House Bolton. Unless...

Well, if Stannis can gain some momentum, however short... I think Bolton will find himself with only Lady Dustin and his own troops by his side. His grasp on Winterfell could fall apart rather quickly, especially if Ramsay jumps the gun and ends up fucking things up.

Which is a possibility.

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As of yet, it's an assumption that Roose will send out only half his forces (first the Freys/Manderlys, and the main host under the command of Ramsay). It's Theon's guess, nothing more.

Roose would have a good chance to defeat Stannis if

1. the Karstarks would still be on his side

2. the Manderlys would not betray him

3. Ramsay was actually a good general, and Stannis not the commander he is.

If surprised and confused by Karstark treachery Stannis's lines should break rather easily. But now it's more than unlikely that something like that is going to happen. Roose might actually have reason to believe he could defeat Stannis about 5,000 men with only 2,500-3000 while keeping his main force as garrison at Winterfell. It could even work in the long run if Stannis wins his first battle at the lakes but loses way too many men. Than Roose himself can come out and deal with the remainder.

But I'm quite convinced that's not going to work now. Stannis will lose very few men, and the Manderlys and possibly other Northerners in Ramsay's host (if he is coming) will join him.

As to the letter:

The fact that Tycho Nestoris is not mentioned at all. If there had been a battle before that letter was written, and if Ramsay had returned to Winterfell afterwards to write and sent it, would he not mention the Braavosi banker as well? After all, if his contract with Stannis would successfully reach Braavos, things might go very bad for the Boltons even if Stannis, Shireen, Selyse, and Melisandre were dead.

So my guess still is that the Pink Letter was written immediately after Theon and Jeyne escaped, and the Boltons learned about Mance from either his women or Mance himself (if the thing about him being in a cage is true as well). Everything Ramsay knew he could have tortured out of one of Mance's women!

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The fact that Tycho Nestoris is not mentioned at all. If there had been a battle before that letter was written, and if Ramsay had returned to Winterfell afterwards to write and sent it, would he not mention the Braavosi banker as well? After all, if his contract with Stannis would successfully reach Braavos, things might go very bad for the Boltons even if Stannis, Shireen, Selyse, and Melisandre were dead.

So my guess still is that the Pink Letter was written immediately after Theon and Jeyne escaped, and the Boltons learned about Mance from either his women or Mance himself (if the thing about him being in a cage is true as well). Everything Ramsay knew he could have tortured out of one of Mance's women!

Why would Ramsay know about the banker? He will have left long before the battle, along with 'Arya Stark.' That, indeed, is the whole point. Ramsay writes to Jon Snow at Castle Black demanding Theon and 'Arya' back precisely because that's where he thinks they are. He thinks this because he has been told this.

Your timeline, on the other hand, makes no sense. Ramsay wouldn't actually assume, before the battle had even begun, that not only had Theon been spared, he had been sent to the Wall as well.

That said, I do think it's a good assumption to believe that Ramsay tortured information out of one of the spearwives because some of the information in the letter could only be known to Mance Rayder.

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If there already had been a battle, the Boltons would have at least some prisoners. From them Ramsay would have known about the whereabouts of 'Arya Stark' and Theon.

And by the way:

Only Jeyne is going to the Wall, Theon and Asha are remaining with Stannis (and Theon might actually be long dead before the battle begins, considering the end of the gift chapter). If Theon would be dead/still alive with Stannis, Ramsay would know after the battle. That is, if he is not going to lose the battle completely and is killed or taken captive.

But if Ramsay successfully returns to Winterfell, why would he care writing a letter to Castle Black? If he believes Stannis is dead, it would make no sense to warn Jon Snow. The smart thing would be to just march to the Wall, and deal with him, the wildlings, Melisandre, and young Queen Shireen.

And if Ramsay lost the battle in the village and fled with his tail between his legs back to Winterfell, if he and his father are besieged while they are writing this letter (or expect to be besieged in the very near future) why on earth would they care about Jon Snow at this time? The point of the Pink Letter is to provoke Jon Snow into doing something rash, perhaps to gain some valuable hostages.

Ramsay and Roose knew from Mance/his wives about the whole plot to steal Arya. They blame him for it, not Stannis. That's why they would write the Pink Letter immediately after Theon's last chapter, not after the battle. It would make much more sense to cause confusion/turmoil while you are still expecting that your lies will become the truth than later on, when you can't be sure about what the people at the Wall may or may not know.

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This is a very sensible scenario , if Ramsay / Roose in fact wrote the letter.

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If there already had been a battle, the Boltons would have at least some prisoners. From them Ramsay would have known about the whereabouts of 'Arya Stark' and Theon.

You suggested, in your previous post, the opposite. That Ramsay had actually sent the missive before the battle. In either case, though, the supposition that a common soldier would know where 'Arya Stark' and Theon had been sent is absurd, especially as the latter wasn't actually sent to the Wall, unless you are proposing that inane idea as well.

So my guess still is that the Pink Letter was written immediately after Theon and Jeyne escaped, and the Boltons learned about Mance from either his women or Mance himself (if the thing about him being in a cage is true as well). Everything Ramsay knew he could have tortured out of one of Mance's women!

Apparently you changed your mind in the last five minutes.

But if Ramsay successfully returns to Winterfell, why would he care writing a letter to Castle Black?

Uh, to goad Jon Snow into coming to Winterfell where the Boltons have all the advantage, maybe? You know, just like he did.

And if Ramsay lost the battle in the village and fled with his tail between his legs back to Winterfell, if he and his father are besieged while they are writing this letter (or expect to be besieged in the very near future) why on earth would they care about Jon Snow at this time?

When did I propose that Ramsay wrote the letter in the aftermath of him losing the battle to Stannis? My theory is that he wrote the letter subsequent to him thinking he had won the battle against Stannis.

Ramsay and Roose knew from Mance/his wives about the whole plot to steal Arya. They blame him for it, not Stannis. That's why they would write the Pink Letter immediately after Theon's last chapter, not after the battle. It would make much more sense to cause confusion/turmoil while you are still expecting that your lies will become the truth than later on, when you can't be sure about what the people at the Wall may or may not know.

And why, exactly, would the Boltons assume that Theon is alive, much less at the Wall? As I said before, your idea is absurd.

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Can I just say kudos to the GRRM for this letter business? Just questionable enough that we will be debating it until TWOW comes out, but in a way that it could be anywhere from 0 - 100% false. Pretty much each sentence is debatable on an individual basis, and even though I think some of the theories are farfetched, you can't eliminate any candidates with complete confidence (Stannis, Theon, Ramsay, Mance are the most popular). It's not even clear when or in reaction to which of two potential battles it was written - before/during/after the battle of the village/Winterfell. And it successfully echoes the earlier theme of the far-reaching consequences of deceptions that were not intended to have the particular impacts they do. When Theon took Winterfell, then participated in the lie about Bran/Rickon, he could never have anticipated that it would set off a sequence of events that was largely responsible for Robb's tragic murder. When Tywin Lannister/Petyr Baelish/the Boltons collaborated on the lie about false Arya, they could never have anticipated (although I'm sure they wouldn't have given a crap) that it would set off the events leading to the attempted assassination of Jon Snow. I really love that element of the story.

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I can't see both the battle of Meereen and Winterfell ending well, and since Dany clearly has more story ahead of her I'm inclined to think Bolton will get the better of Stannis.

Actually, I don't see the battle of Meereen ending well.

I mean, right now, they're going to be destroyed, starved to death, and plagued to death.

I really think most of both sides will be annihilated in the coming battle, even with Tyrion changing sides and Victarion crushing the enemy fleet. Both will be required to avoid Meereen being totally wiped out - and despite Yunkai being supposedly buddies with the Harpy, I think they'll gladly destroy everyone inside if they can, killing off some major competitor (if they really cared about the well-being of anyone inside Meereen, they wouldn't launch plagued corpses inside the city).

Dany will basically have no true city left to rule, and might well be forced to torch it to the ground to destroy the plague, forcing her to flee to Westeros with her troops (Dothraki, Unsullied, Ironborn, sellswords, Meereense people).

Doesn't mean the battle of Winterfell will end that well wither. I also expect sizable losses for the North/Stannis due to the weather and battles, even if they utterly destroy the Boltons and Freys.

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Yes, never mind the infamous Meereenese knot, the wording of the pink letter had to take some time to get it just right ..time, and the working of a fiendishly devious brain..:)

On first reading , I thought it was probably Ramsay, but having been tampered with by the Marsh conspiracy at the wall ..now , I guess I'd only give that an outside chance ... and thanks to discussions here and re-reads , I now can see plausible cases for Ramsay, Ramsay / Roose , Mance ( even Mance with help from Barbrey ), and Stannis... less plausible for Roose alone ,or for Theon...I like the case someone laid out for Mance, based on language Mance has used in conversation with Jon before... And I'm pretty enamored with the idea of Stannis writing it at the moment (due to the possibilities raised by the gift chapter), when I really didn't think he could be the author before... It's my shiny new thing..but I know shiny new things can tarnish... ;)

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Faint,

well, I've no ready theory, but I'm more inclined to believe that Roose's gamble with Ramsay's letter (I firmly believe Ramsay wrote the thing on Roose's orders, just as his other 'intimidation letters' - the one to Asha, and the other one to Jon) happened before there was any battle. It just feels more like an immediate reaction to the revelation of Mance and the disappearance of 'Arya'.

The letter has to be written by Ramsay since Jon has already read one letter in Ramsay's handwriting. Jon would have not bought the whole thing (or half-bought it) if the Pink Letter had been written in a different handwriting (this 'huge, spiky hand').

I feel not able to predict the exact outcome of the coming battle, but I'm inclined to believe that Roose and Ramsay (if he is still alive afterwards) would have other things on their mind than to mess with Jon Snow's head.

There are too many factors to consider the outcome. There is Stannis's prowess as a commander, the Manderlys, Hosteen Frey's incompetence as a commander (Ser Aenys, the smart Frey, is dead), Ramsay's doubtful competence as a commander, disinformation before the battle (through the ravens Stannis secured), and, most importantly, there is Bran/Bloodraven and his intervention to consider.

If things happen somewhat how Theon thinks they will (Manderlys/Freys, then Ramsay with the main host) Stannis has already won. Ramsay may be many things, but he is definitely not capable of turning the tide in a battle if things go wrong. And he seems also not the type of man who would sit things out in the rear if he thinks everything has been wired his way (i.e. the Karstarks will turn their cloaks). So I can't see Ramsay getting away if Stannis wins the battle, nor do I think Stannis could successfully fake his death if Ramsay is in the vicinity. Even if he does not participate in the battle for some reason, I can't see him not inspecting the battlefield afterwards, to 'take care' of Stannis corpse, and to choose some prisoners for the next flaying session.

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One thing to remember is Stannis or Roose will win not because it makes the most sense to us now but because it's the best thing for the story GRRM wants to tell. I expect the Others to get past the Wall / the Wall to come down by the end of TWOW. Steps have been taken to get Jon Snow, Rickon and Bran out of the way. The question to me is which person you'd expect the Others to face first, Roose or Stannis? Or both. What makes the most sense dramatically? Here are three options:

1. Roose and/or Ramsay win, then get a karmic death. It fits because it's not straightforward (Joffrey was killed by a Littlefinger/Tyrell plot, Gregor killed Oberyn before he died and then was turned into Robert Strong), but it kind of undercuts the peril of an invasion by the Others if the first thing they do is "avenge" Robb Stark, etc. Don't see that happening.

2. The Others come upon Roose and Stannis as they're fighting. This is to emphasize that the War of the Five Kings was always a distraction from the true threat. It's also, in a grimly funny kind of way, Blackwater Part II. Just as Stannis was overrun when he was about to take King's Landing he gets taken from the rear again when he's about to take Winterfell. Possible, but it seems unlikely.

3. Stannis and the Manderlys defeat the Boltons then are resting in Winterfell at the end of the book, in place to receive word that the Wall has fallen and the Others are headed south. Stannis is then given the chance to fight them and have a heroic death, leaving Melisandre to accept that it's Jon Snow (or Dany or … ) who's really Azor Ahai. Of the three, this looks like the most likely scenario, so I say Stannis wins.

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So? The prophecy has been already fulfilled, then. Stannis declared himself king, raised his glowing red sword, check. The visions show her glimpses of reality here and there, both past and future, but not necessarily of Dany's own history. She's seen both Rhaegar's death at the Trident and the Red Wedding, among other things.

But it hasn't been fulfilled yet, that's the point. In order for it to be fulfilled, Dany apparently has to slay the "lie" that Stannis is who Melisandre claims him to be. In order to do that, one should logically assume that Stannis and Dany would have some sort of confrontation. In which case, Stannis has to survive his encounter with the Boltons/Freys. That's the entire point.

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