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Milady of York

From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XXI

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I know! It's so Martinesque to make us all concentrate on Shadrich and completely overlook the details for the other knights. It means that Sansa has another potential ally, one who is now close enough to Ser Shadrich to learn what he's really after in the Vale and upset his plans or warn Sansa somehow. Anyways, there's so much to unpack here. I don't believe Sandor is travelling with the EB, for the simple fact that when we last saw him he hasn't fully recovered and still has the lurching gait that would draw attention to him, if the ridiculously tall monk who never removes his hood didn't do the trick :) And the roads are still dangerous. Perhaps the EB is on a strict fact finding mission, and there's the likelihood that it has nothing to do with Sansa, although it's hard to imagine that she won't be involved now.

Yeah I guess it was too much wishful thinking that Sandor could somehow have been with him. I can always dream though.

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Thank you Brash and Milady. This is fascinating. Can't wait for the book to see how close you are. But it is plausible. Great catch. That's why I love this thread.

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A crackpot on Ser Morgarth the Merry from Brash and Milady:

When Sansa leaves the Eyrie in her final chapter of AFFC, she is sent to Littlefinger’s solar at the Gates of the Moon and there encounters three knights, all of whom display pleasure at meeting the Lord Protector’s beautiful daughter. After the men depart, Littlefinger explains his reason for hiring these “hungry knights”:

“... I thought it best that we have a few more swords about us. The times grow ever more interesting, my sweet, and when the times are interesting you can never have too many swords. The Merling King’s returned to Gulltown, and old Oswell had some tales to tell.”

<snip>

This is intriguing though I can't quite put the pieces together (even by crackpot standards.) Still it touches on a few themes.

I've always connected Littlefinger's hiring three hedge knights to his planting the three Kettleblacks (there's even an irony built into the name) for Cersei. Littlefinger also tells Tyrion, before being dispatched to negotiate the Tyrell marriage, that he fears the sheep and not the shepherds. Here he is bringing three sheep into his fold to protect him against shepherds. There's also his method of hiding Sansa which has come up before:

“The queen intends to send Prince Tommen away.” They knelt alone in the hushed dimness of the sept, surrounded by shadows and flickering candles, but even so Lancel kept his voice low. “Lord Gyles will take him to Rosby, and conceal him there in the guise of a page. They plan to darken his hair and tell everyone that he is the son of a hedge knight.”

Face it, Riverrun is under siege, Winterfell is sacked, and Moat Cailin being held by Ironborn blocks any land access to any hypothetically loyal Northern bannermen-- Lysa Arryn in the Vale isn't exactly rocket science.

So Littlefinger is mirroring Cersei with her hiring the three Kettleblacks and her plot to hide Tommen. I tie this into his betrayal of Ned where another Lord Protector found himself without an army amidst political intrigue. There may well be a theme here that the "weaknesses" Littlefinger exploits are more inherent in the needs of a Lord with assets to defend than something born of foolishness. It is a different game when you have something to lose, holdings to protect, and you are on everyone else's radar. Coming back to our current crackpot, if the Cersei parallels are intentional then viewing these three knights as pseudo-Kettleblack figures may be helpful especially since we're given enough to know that at least one has ulterior motives.

Looking through the text he does tell Brienne

He begged me for the gift of mercy, but I am sworn not to kill again.

Martin does pit morality vs. oaths but that puts a limiting quality on his scheming absent a deep moral dilemma. The warrior turned holy man forced by injustice to pick up the sword again would have been a common theme in literature and television during Martin's formative years. The concept is the essence of The Quiet Man that was a Saint Patrick's Day staple of American television for years. In between Brienne's meeting the Elder brother and the appearance of the three knights the Faith Militant is reformed so that would give the Elder Brother a plausible cause to revisit that vow. That requires a lot of speculation but this is a crackpot theory.

The letter by raven to Kings Landing is a little peculiar. House Cox has a seat at the Saltpans and we're told Ser Quincy Cox locked himself in his keep and didn't come out to help the smallfolk. He lived. So why didn't the letter to KIngs Landing come from Cox? I can't imagine that there wouldn't be ravens near a port to send word inland of news that arrives by sea. So Cox should have sent word to Kings Landing and the Elder Brother ought to have sent word to the High Septon. Martin could very easily have simply referred to it as "the news" about The Hound had only arrived last night without specifically attributing it to the Quiet Isle by through description sans name.

There are interesting parallels laid out between the Elder Brother and Sandor.

I had women too, and there I did disgrace myself, for some I took by force. There was a girl I wished to marry, the younger daughter of a petty lord, but I was my father’s thirdborn son and had neither land nor wealth to offer her... only a sword, a horse, a shield. All in all, I was a sad man. When I was not fighting, I was drunk. My life was writ in red, in blood and wine.”

Sandor was a second born son so it isn't exact but the spirit of the passage is very much in line. Sandor does seem to be the Gravedigger and based on what the Elder Brother shares we can reasonably assume he "confessed his sins" and that the Elder Brother knows everything Sandor knows. There is an easy case to make that Sandor's pain over Sansa (everything from wanting a girl beneath his station to his failure to protect her) strikes chords with the Elder Brother. Translating that into the Elder Brother going to the Vale in the guise of a hedge knight requires a bit more (but, hey, this is a crackpot theory.)

“I see.” Brienne did not know why he was telling her all of this, or what else she ought to say.

“Do you?” He leaned forward, his big hands on his knees. “If so, give up this quest of yours. The Hound is dead, and in any case he never had your Sansa Stark. As for this beast who wears his helm, he will be found and hanged. The wars are ending, and these outlaws cannot survive the peace.

There's the "big hands" description which could fit with the "ham" description of our hedge knight. Brienne wonders why the Elder Brother is telling her this which is a good sign the reader ought to be pondering it as well. (Martin seems to do this often-- Jon wondering why Aemon tells him about Ravens and Doves is the first example that comes to mind) This could just be limited to being a clue about the Gravedigger's identity.

“I have to find her,” she finished. “There are others looking, all wanting to capture her and sell her to the queen. I have to find her first. I promised Jaime. Oathkeeper, he named the sword. I have to try to save her... or die in the attempt.”

Brienne warns him that others are looking for Sansa too so there may be reasons in what the Elder Brother here's from Sandor and Brienne that could play into his motivations.

“Wolves are nobler than that . . . and so are dogs, I think.”

"Dogs" most certainly seems to be a nod at Sandor and though "wolves" seems to be a reference to the scavengers a few lines earlier it could also be a nod at Sansa (and a clue in the phrasing.) Aside from the various ways helping Sansa could play into "redeeming" Sandor there is his likely confession that he failed to protect Sansa which could be the Elder Brother's motivation. It could also be that Sansa is known or believed to be of decent moral character and he thinks she could offer leadership, a symbol or some other means of dealing with the broken men who fall under the "wolves" category which is in keeping with the Elder Brother's own story and priorities as well as Septon Meribald's.

There's also the Arya angle:

I think we can assume that the Elder Brother knows what Sandor knows. So he knows about Arya including that they were destined for the Saltpans prior to her leaving Sandor. Arya is also publicly known to be heading North to marry Ramsay so if the EB believes Sandor he knows the Crown is sending a false Arya North.

The bird had come last night, from a septry on an island hard by the mouth of the Trident. The nearby town of Saltpans had been savagely raided by a band of outlaws, and some of the survivors claimed a roaring brute in a hound’s head helm was amongst the raiders. Supposedly he’d killed a dozen men and raped a girl of twelve.

Who knows that Arya is "fake?" Who knows the real Arya has been about the Riverlands? Lady Stoneheart and the BwB know. Is that a well kept secret? Did he and/or Sandor --the gravedigger-- go to Saltpans and bury the dead to see that Arya was not among them? If the Elder Brother knows that Arya was alive and headed to the Saltpans (which is likely) that last line can be read as an Arya reference. The Elder Brother has to know that Ramsay's Arya is fake and that the Crown knows this too, but I can't reason out any way that he has reason to suspect that Kings Landing knows the travels of the real Arya. Assuming it is a message about Arya it does not specify that the raped girl was murdered-- only raped. So it could be a ploy to make the Crown think a real Arya is alive and in the Riverlands or it could be a ploy to make the Crown think the real Arya is dead. I can't see who (other than Varys) he might think possesses knowledge or will soon possess knowledge of the real Arya's itinerary such that this coded information would be impactful. Brienne does allude to looking for Arya if I recall and does mention Jaime set her on the quest which ties back to KL and knowledge of a living Arya but that strikes me as a dead end since Jaime was acting on his own in that regard.

I first thought of Arya when I read that passage and thought it was odd since we already knew Arya's fate and it wasn't really a cliffhanger. I tried to think of who might get that word and think the Arya that lived might be dead at the Saltpans and how that might matter. I like the Arya disinformation angle more and more as I ponder it but I can't fit it into an agenda that makes any sense yet.

All in all I can't piece it together into a coherent scheme, but at the same time I think there are several elements here that are almost certainly part of a "something" or maybe multiple "somethings." There's also the story of Rhaegar's rubies washing up on the Quiet Isle and speculation that Jon is the seventh ruby that will eventually arrive there. If that's accurate we may be seeing the early seeds of that eventual plotline which very well could run through Sansa. A very well done crackpot that has lots of fun tangents to ponder. My biggest hesitation is not being able to come up with a concrete reason for the letter to Kings Landing about the Saltpans that fits in with a single coherent set of assumptions-- but I could easily see a single breakthrough that makes this start to fall in line. It is definitely worth some further speculation.

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Yeah I guess it was too much wishful thinking that Sandor could somehow have been with him. I can always dream though.

Assuming this crackpot is true, I think we can be happy that a connection we only thought would be made in TWOW has already been established ;)

Thank you Brash and Milady. This is fascinating. Can't wait for the book to see how close you are. But it is plausible. Great catch. That's why I love this thread.

Happy you think it's plausible Houndbird. I'm relieved no one has accused us of being completely bonkers :)

<snip>

All in all I can't piece it together into a coherent scheme, but at the same time I think there are several elements here that are almost certainly part of a "something" or maybe multiple "somethings." There's also the story of Rhaegar's rubies washing up on the Quiet Isle and speculation that Jon is the seventh ruby that will eventually arrive there. If that's accurate we may be seeing the early seeds of that eventual plotline which very well could run through Sansa. A very well done crackpot that has lots of fun tangents to ponder. My biggest hesitation is not being able to come up with a concrete reason for the letter to Kings Landing about the Saltpans that fits in with a single coherent set of assumptions-- but I could easily see a single breakthrough that makes this start to fall in line. It is definitely worth some further speculation.

Wonderful details to consider Rag. I am very intrigued by the idea that the EB could be out to "recruit" Sansa, or that it will work out this way if it's not his original intent. Also your points about the similarities in spirit between his life and Sandor's are spot on. The EB managed to find peace on the QI, but I don't think the same holds true for Sandor, and Sansa likely plays a big part in that. Regardless of what he could be up to at the Vale, the EB has to be sympathetic to those feelings. As you note, now that LF has achieved some visible power, we're seeing how hard it is to guard one's back even from those hired to protect it.

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This is my first post in this thread, and I really enjoyed reading your posts. It was an eye-opener


for me the way I think about Sansa.



To the post A crackpot on Ser Morgarth the Merry from Brash and Milady I am curious about your thoughts about this:



If the Elder brother is on a mission to "help" Sansa (whatever that could mean), then there might be something to win for the Faith. She also plays the role of a former member of the Faith.



If the elder brother can convince Sansa to keep playing their role as LFs daughter, she is after the possible death of LF the heir of Harrenhal.


And we know who is at the moment at Harrenhal, Ser Bonifer Hasty and the Holy Hundred.



A quote from wiki:


In their youth Princess Rhaella Targaryen and Ser Bonifer Hasty were infatuated with one another prior to the princess's official betrothal to her brother, Prince Aerys.[6] The knight once wore the princess's favor in a tourney in which he defeated all challengers to name Rhaella his Queen of Love and Beauty.[5] Their love was ultimately a brief thing and could never have been otherwise; Bonifer was of far too low birth to be considered as a suitor for a princess of royal blood. When Rhaella married Aerys, the knight found solace in religion, saying that only the Maiden could replace Rhaella in his heart.



Maiden = Sansa?



I also want to give credit to Bran Vras for this:



http://branvras.free.fr/HuisClos/Bat.html



Quote:


So Sansa is a Whent on the maternal line. The daughter of the daughter of the daughter of Harrenhal.



So the Faith can win Harrenhal in Alayne Stones name. That she is a bastard, I think the Faith can easily ignore this because of their new gained military strength (-> High Septon could easily do this in the chaos that is Kings Landing).


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Welcome to the thread Joken :) Your ideas are very interesting, and Rhaella/Bonifer connects to the theme of doomed/forbidden love that we've noted for the EB and Sandor, characterized by the man being of too low station to marry the woman he desires. You might be interested in this piece by tze which speaks on the Sansa/Rhaella parallels as well.



-----------------------------------------



I wanted to highlight this passage in the QI chapter which supports the crackpot. Notice Brienne's thoughts about "true knights" and that Ser Quincy's actions were terrible. Although the Septon tries to give an excuse, the EB is much more in line with Brienne's kind of thinking, so much so that he cannot even bring himself to offer forgiveness to Cox:



The smile vanished. “They burned everything at Saltpans, save the castle. Only that was made of stone . . . though it had as well been made of suet for all the good it did the town. It fell to me to treat some of the survivors. The fisherfolk brought them across the bay to me after the flames had gone out and they deemed it safe to land. One poor woman had been raped a dozen times, and her breasts . . . my lady, you wear man’s mail, so I shall not spare you these horrors . . . her breasts had been torn and chewed and eaten, as if by some . . . cruel beast. I did what I could for her, though that was little enough. As she lay dying, her worst curses were not for the men who had raped her, nor the monster who devoured her living flesh, but for Ser Quincy Cox, who barred his gates when the outlaws entered the town and sat safe behind stone walls as his people screamed and died.”


“Ser Quincy is an old man,” said Septon Meribald gently. “His sons and good-sons are far away or dead, his grandsons are still boys, and he has two daughters. What could he have done, one man against so many?”


He could have tried, Brienne thought. He could have died. Old or young, a true knight is sworn to protect those who are weaker than himself, or die in the attempt.


“True words, and wise,” the Elder Brother said to Septon Meribald. “When you cross to Saltpans, no doubt Ser Quincy will ask you for forgiveness. I am glad that you are here to give it. I could not.”


.


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Welcome to the thread Joken :) Your ideas are very interesting, and Rhaella/Bonifer connects to the theme of doomed/forbidden love that we've noted for the EB and Sandor, characterized by the man being of too low station to marry the woman he desires. You might be interested in this piece by tze which speaks on the Sansa/Rhaella parallels as well.

Thank you for the warm welcome. I know it must be hard to read my post(s) (no native English speaker), words (and grammar) don't come easy.

The link to Tzes post is very interesting.

At the moment I think Brienne might be a picture for Sansas future:

Brienne: Warrior's Maiden (like the Warrior's sons)

Sword: Winterfell

Shield: Harrenhal (see Bran Vras thoughts about the shield)

Sansa finds strength in thinking of Winterfell and might find protection at Harrenhal.

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This is my first post in this thread, and I really enjoyed reading your posts. It was an eye-opener

for me the way I think about Sansa.

To the post A crackpot on Ser Morgarth the Merry from Brash and Milady I am curious about your thoughts about this:

If the Elder brother is on a mission to "help" Sansa (whatever that could mean), then there might be something to win for the Faith. She also plays the role of a former member of the Faith.

If the elder brother can convince Sansa to keep playing their role as LFs daughter, she is after the possible death of LF the heir of Harrenhal.

And we know who is at the moment at Harrenhal, Ser Bonifer Hasty and the Holy Hundred.

A quote from wiki:

In their youth Princess Rhaella Targaryen and Ser Bonifer Hasty were infatuated with one another prior to the princess's official betrothal to her brother, Prince Aerys.[6] The knight once wore the princess's favor in a tourney in which he defeated all challengers to name Rhaella his Queen of Love and Beauty.[5] Their love was ultimately a brief thing and could never have been otherwise; Bonifer was of far too low birth to be considered as a suitor for a princess of royal blood. When Rhaella married Aerys, the knight found solace in religion, saying that only the Maiden could replace Rhaella in his heart.

Maiden = Sansa?

I also want to give credit to Bran Vras for this:

http://branvras.free.fr/HuisClos/Bat.html

Quote:

So Sansa is a Whent on the maternal line. The daughter of the daughter of the daughter of Harrenhal.

So the Faith can win Harrenhal in Alayne Stones name. That she is a bastard, I think the Faith can easily ignore this because of their new gained military strength (-> High Septon could easily do this in the chaos that is Kings Landing).

I agree, those are amazing parallels, especially of Bonifer and Rhaella, which I do hope Martin will expound upon at some point.

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...

I wanted to highlight this passage in the QI chapter which supports the crackpot. Notice Brienne's thoughts about "true knights" and that Ser Quincy's actions were terrible. Although the Septon tries to give an excuse, the EB is much more in line with Brienne's kind of thinking, so much so that he cannot even bring himself to offer forgiveness to Cox:

The smile vanished. “They burned everything at Saltpans, save the castle. Only that was made of stone . . . though it had as well been made of suet for all the good it did the town. It fell to me to treat some of the survivors. The fisherfolk brought them across the bay to me after the flames had gone out and they deemed it safe to land. One poor woman had been raped a dozen times, and her breasts . . . my lady, you wear man’s mail, so I shall not spare you these horrors . . . her breasts had been torn and chewed and eaten, as if by some . . . cruel beast. I did what I could for her, though that was little enough. As she lay dying, her worst curses were not for the men who had raped her, nor the monster who devoured her living flesh, but for Ser Quincy Cox, who barred his gates when the outlaws entered the town and sat safe behind stone walls as his people screamed and died.”

“Ser Quincy is an old man,” said Septon Meribald gently. “His sons and good-sons are far away or dead, his grandsons are still boys, and he has two daughters. What could he have done, one man against so many?”

He could have tried, Brienne thought. He could have died. Old or young, a true knight is sworn to protect those who are weaker than himself, or die in the attempt.

“True words, and wise,” the Elder Brother said to Septon Meribald. “When you cross to Saltpans, no doubt Ser Quincy will ask you for forgiveness. I am glad that you are here to give it. I could not.”

.

This is interesting to consider. It demonstrates that this is a man not as comfortable in holy solitude as the wisdom he dispenses implies. I imagine a Sandor Clegane would espouse that it amounts to doing nothing and is just another form of cowardice at some point in their conversation (even if in the end Sandor is persuaded to adopt the lifestyle for a time.) The accusation is likely to sting a man like the Elder Brother on some level given his views of Cox. He isn't likely to change his lifestyle over a verbal rebuke from Sandor but...

As for this beast who wears his helm, he will be found and hanged. The wars are ending, and these outlaws cannot survive the peace. Randyll Tarly is hunting them from Maidenpool and Walder Frey from the Twins, and there is a new young lord in Darry, a pious man who will surely set his lands to rights. Go home, child.

The Ironborn bring more war instead of peace (aside from whatever Dany, Aegon, or other war rumors might reach the Quiet Isle.) The very first line of the next chapter is "A thousand ships" in Cersei's POV spoken by Margaery about the Ironborn attack. Tarly goes south to Kings Landing after Margaery is imprisoned and does not continue to hunt outlaws. The new Darry lord does not take up the title but joins the Faith Militant, and the Freys offer their own breed of problem aside from the number of them turning up hanging from trees. The war that was over just isn't and each of these outside people he mentions that will address the horrors like the Saltpans have yet again withdrawn into political struggles rather than protecting the smallfolk. The genesis of the Faith Militant being reformed lies in incidents like the Saltpans and the failures of noble men like Cox to stop them.

So I think there's an excellent case to be made for the Elder Brother picking up the sword again given the views he expresses, that his hope for the "proper authorities" to bring peace are crushed straight down the list, and that the Faith he uses to cloak himself in peace is calling for him to wield the sword. I can't build a rock solid case that he go to Sansa but Sandor and Brienne both came into his life expressing "knightly" desires to protect her and we have Brienne's refusal to heed his advice to go home:

“I have to find her,” she finished. “There are others looking, all wanting to capture her and sell her to the queen. I have to find her first. I promised Jaime. Oathkeeper, he named the sword. I have to try to save her... or die in the attempt.”

The more I circle around the issue the more it seems plausible (though I can't nearly put together a sufficient case to take it out of crackpot territory.) Maybe one day we'll get a gift chapter and there will be lots more to speculate on...

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When Brashcandy communicated to me the discovery she made with Milady, my immediate feeling was that they were right about the Elder Brother reappearance at Sansa’s side. What follows is my reaction to their suggestion. I have been encouraged by Brashcandy to post my thinking here.
We start from what the Elder Brother tells Brienne.

When Brienne complimented them, he said, “My lady is too kind. All we do is cut and polish the wood. We are blessed here. Where the river meets the bay, the currents and the tides wrestle one against the other, and many strange and wondrous things are pushed toward us, to wash up on our shores. Driftwood is the least of it. We have found silver cups and iron pots, sacks of wool and bolts of silk, rusted helms and shining swords... aye, and rubies.”

That interested Ser Hyle. “Rhaegar’s rubies?”

“It may be. Who can say? The battle was long leagues from here, but the river is tireless and patient. Six have been found. We are all waiting for the seventh.”


(AFfC)

What could that mean ?

Where do Rhaegar's rubies come from ?

When can we expect the seventh ruby to show up ?

First recall how early we became acquainted with Rhaegar’s rubies, which are mentioned in Ned Stark’s internal monologue during Robert’s visit to Winterfell. We were reminded of those rubies numerous times: by Ned Stark when he recalled the great tourney at Harrenhal, by Arya and Mikken at the Ruby Ford, by Daenerys’ dreams in the House of the Undying, by Jaime in the memory of his last conversation with the crown prince.

Of course rubies are as valuable and impressive in Martin’s world as they are in our own world. Moreover they are sometimes the vehicles of certain sorceries. Here is brief inventory of the rubies we see in the story: Lannisters, especially Tywin, have a great fondness for rubies, that they set as eyes on their golden lions. We have Melisandre’s great square cut ruby, the lesser stone she gave Mance Rayder and the greater stone she gave Stannis. Lord Celtigar and Euron have both a treasure chest containing rubies. Illyrio has a ruby on his fingers, and has given three large rubies to Aegon. There is a heart-shaped ruby on Lyn Corbray’s sword.

Let’s consider the sentence: We are all waiting for the seventh. Waiting in order to do what ? Would the monks of the Quiet Isle, or at least the EB, feel released from their vows by the miraculous appearance of the final ruby ? I am not sure the EB necessarily expects the seventh stone to be brought by the tide or the river, though.

It might be possible that the rubies sought by the EB have landed on the Quiet Isle when the EB mentioned his expectation. Indeed, here is Brienne in her conversation with the EB.

The Elder Brother sat in one, and put the lantern down. “May I stay a while? I feel that we should talk.”

“If you wish.” Brienne undid her swordbelt and hung it from the second chair, then sat cross- legged on the pallet.


(AFfC)

Let’s have a look at the sword and scabbard that go along the swordbelt. Brienne started her quest for Sansa with a common sword on open display, and

But she had another longsword hidden in her bedroll. She sat on the bed and took it out. Gold glimmered yellow in the candlelight and rubies smoldered red. When she slid Oathkeeper from the ornate scabbard, Brienne’s breath caught in her throat.

(AFfC)

At the Whispers, Brienne started to use the Valyrian blade. She seemed to carry the sword as her primary weapon from that point on. In particular, here she is with brother Narbert upon her arrival at the Quiet Isle.

“Lady Brienne is a warrior maid,” confided Septon Meribald, “hunting for the Hound.”

“Aye?” Narbert seemed taken aback. “To what end?”

Brienne touched Oathkeeper’s hilt. “His,” she said.


(AFfC)

The sword has been given by Jaime.

“Brienne of Tarth.” Jaime sighed. “I have a gift for you.” He reached down under the Lord Commander’s chair and brought it out, wrapped in folds of crimson velvet.

Brienne approached as if the bundle was like to bite her, reached out a huge freckled hand, and flipped back a fold of cloth. Rubies glimmered in the light. She picked the treasure up gingerly, curled her fingers around the leather grip, and slowly slid the sword free of its scabbard. Blood and black the ripples shone. A finger of reflected light ran red along the edge. “Is this Valyrian steel? I have never seen such colors.”

(ASoS)

In turn, Jaime has received the sword from his father.

Tyrion put down Joffrey’s sword and took up the other. If not twins, the two were at least close cousins. This one was thicker and heavier, a half-inch wider and three inches longer, but they shared the same fine clean lines and the same distinctive color, the ripples of blood and night. Three fullers, deeply incised, ran down the second blade from hilt to point; the king’s sword had only two. Joff’s hilt was a good deal more ornate, the arms of its crossguard done as lions’ paws with ruby claws unsheathed, but both swords had grips of finely tooled red leather and gold lions’ heads for pornmels.

“Magnificent.” Even in hands as unskilled as Tyrion’s, the blade felt alive. “I have never felt better balance.”

“It is meant for my son.”

No need to ask which son. Tyrion placed Jaime’s sword back on the table beside Joffrey’s, wondering if Robb Stark would let his brother live long enough to wield it. Our father must surely think so, else why have this blade forged?

“You have done good work, Master Mott,” Lord Tywin told the armorer. “My steward will see to your payment. And remember, rubies for the scabbards.”


(ASoS)

Who is this Master Mott? We met him through Ned Stark.

The slim young serving girl took quick note of Ned’s badge and the sigil on his doublet, and the master came hurrying out, all smiles and bows. “Wine for the King’s Hand,” he told the girl, gesturing Ned to a couch. “I am Tobho Mott, my lord, please, please, put yourself at ease.” He wore a black velvet coat with hammers embroidered on the sleeves in silver thread, Around his neck was a heavy silver chain and a sapphire as large as a pigeon’s egg. “If you are in need of new arms for the Hand’s tourney, you have come to the right shop.” Ned did not bother to correct him. “My work is costly, and I make no apologies for that, my lord,” he said as he filled two matching silver goblets. “You will not find craftsmanship equal to mine anywhere in the Seven Kingdoms, I promise you. Visit every forge in King’s Landing if you like, and compare for yourself. Any village smith can hammer out a shift of mail; my work is art.”

(AGoT)

It might be boasting, but I tend to believe Thobo Mott's claim of being unequalled in the Seven Kingdoms.

Ned sipped his wine and let the man go on. The Knight of Flowers bought all his armor here, Tobho boasted, and many high lords, the ones who knew fine steel, and even Lord Renly, the king’s own brother. Perhaps the Hand had seen Lord Renly’s new armor, the green plate with the golden antlers? No other armorer in the city could get that deep a green; he knew the secret of putting color in the steel itself, paint and enamel were the crutches of a journeyman. Or mayhaps the Hand wanted a blade? Tobho had learned to work Valyrian steel at the forges of Qohor as a boy. Only a man who knew the spells could take old weapons and forge them anew.

(AGoT)

Let’s look now at Loras Tyrell armor.

Ser Loras Tyrell was slender as a reed, dressed in a suit of fabulous silver armor polished to a blinding sheen and filigreed with twining black vines and tiny blue forget-me-nots. The commons realized in the same instant as Ned that the blue of the flowers came from sapphires; a gasp went up from a thousand throats. Across the boy’s shoulders his cloak hung heavy. It was woven of forget-me-nots, real ones, hundreds of fresh blooms sewn to a heavy woolen cape.

(AGoT)

Return now to Rhaegar’s fabled armor.

The crown prince wore the armor he would die in: gleaming black plate with the three-headed dragon of his House wrought in rubies on the breast. A plume of scarlet silk streamed behind him when he rode, and it seemed no lance could touch him.

(AGoT)

Note the silk assorted to the gemstones for both Rhaegar (red) and Ser Loras (blue). The suggestion is clear: Master Mott has made Rhaegar’s armor. He has been in King’s Landing for some time, since Gendry has been brought to his workshop as an infant. If indeed Tobho Mott crafted the armor, then the rubies in Rhaegar’s armor and those of Oathkeeper originate from the same place. It is even conceivable that some of Rhaegar’s rubies, it they were recovered and perhaps sold back, ended on Brienne's sword.
So we arrive at the notion that Brienne’s rubies are of the type expected by the EB. Of course, the EB’s expectation seems to be of a single additional ruby, perhaps not the two gemstones that serve as eyes of the golden lion on Brienne’s sword or the stones set on the scabbard. So we are left to wonder what the EB was thinking when he glanced at the rubies on the scabbard and pommel of Oathkeeper, and whether he felt that the time had arrived.
Still concerning Rhaegar’s rubies, I am intrigued by the heart-faced ruby on Lynn Corbray’s sword. Lynn Corbray fought at the battle of the Trident, and was around when the rubies fell from Rhaegar’s armor. So? The heart shape recalls of course the sigil of house Corbray.

Returning to the monks of the Quiet Isle, it is tempting to conjecture that a fair number of them are Targaryen loyalists who fought on the Trident, and had to find (or chose to find) a new life after the battle. The battle of the Trident was not without consequence for the Isle, as the following exchange seem to imply.
“The war has never come here?” Brienne said.
“Not this war, praise the Seven. Our prayers protect us.”
“And your tides,” suggested Meribald. Dog barked agreement.
(AFfC)
The monks were even perhaps devotees of Rhaegar, who retreated to the life on the Isle to escape Robert’s wrath. The EB himself fought for Rhaegar, but dismisses his involvement as a mere historical accident. However, note that the EB fought fiercely, and he stresses the devotion of the combattants on both sides. Who would want to appear a Targaryen fanatic after the rebellion? I do not doubt the devotion of the monks to the faith of the Seven. When the monks saw rubies reappearing on the Isle, they might have conceived the notion of Rhaegar’s return with the seventh stone.
However, the story of the Elder Brother is the following: he found himself on the shore naked (without any visible mark of allegiance) and was welcome by a previous Elder Brother. He spent ten years in silence, before perhaps becoming a proctor or the new EB. So, the EB did not become the immediate leader. He might only be the front figure.
There is another little sign of a devotion to Rhaegar.
Nor was the meal a somber one. Meribald pronounced a prayer before the food was served, and whilst the brothers ate at four long trestle tables, one of their number played for them on the high harp, filling the hall with soft sweet sounds.
(AFfC)
Of course, the high harp was a hallmark of the Prince of Dragonstone. It is not completely unconceivable that the harp is Rhaegar’s. Indeed Rhaegar seemed to travel everywhere with his harp, as his sojourns in Harrenhal, Summerhall, Lannisport and Griffin’s Roost show. It’s likely that Rhaegar had the harp with him on the eve of the battle. So the instrument might have been carried away by loyalists after the defeat. But there is no sign that the harp of the Quiet Isle has any silver string. If the harp playing is intended to recall Rhaegar, then the monks appear to hear the music every day, which seems like an interesting endoctrinement.

The rubies expected on the Quiet Isle might be on the Shy Maid.

When the lad emerged from the cabin with Lemore by his side, Griff looked him over carefully from head to heel. The prince wore sword and dagger, black boots polished to a high sheen, a black cloak lined with blood-red silk. With his hair washed and cut and freshly dyed a deep, dark blue, his eyes looked blue as well. At his throat he wore three huge square-cut rubies on a chain of black iron, a gift from Magister Illyrio. Red and black. Dragon colors. That was good. “You look a proper prince,” he told the boy. “Your father would be proud if he could see you.”

(ADwD)

Aegon's sponsors want to play on the ruby imagery for passing Aegon as Rhaegar's heir. Illyrio seems to be the one that insisted on the rubies. Septa Lemore, a woman of the faith, might be connected to the men of the faith in the Seven Kingdoms, and might have slept once in one of the cottages in the eastern side of the Isle.
I do not know for sure whether the EB has considered his prophecy fulfilled when he saw Oathkeeper’s rubies. I am not sure whether the seventh ruby is expected as another gift of the river or as Aegon’s landing in Westeros or some other ruby (perhaps Jon Snow wearing one of those rubies we see in the north, if we want to believe that he could represent Rhaegar's return) or as a sign that someone would send to the Quiet Isle (and that the EB would have understood as such on Brienne).
A few more points on the sociology of the septry. The Quiet Isle seems to have old monks and novices of all ages. The EB has spent ten years in silence. Since the Battle of the Trident happened sixteen years ago, he became EB over the last six years. Interestingly he wasn’t the oldest monk at the septry, since Brother Clement just passed away as the age of forty eight. Brother Narbert says that the EB knows more about Brother Clement, but he wouldn’t divulge what would disturb the peace of the community. That seems an invitation to reflect on what happened to Clement in Saltspans. We see novices that joined , we can presume, during the War of the Five Kings. Indeed some of them are grown men. The brothers seem older than the EB.
Septon Meribald says that he would invite broken men to visit the Quiet Isle. So we shouldn’t take the stories of the EB and of Sandor Cleganes as exceptional tales. When Brienne reached the island, beside Brother Narbert, two brothers were hiding their faces, which could mean that they feared recognition. What happened to Sandor might be the standard recruitment process at the Quiet Isle.
Here is a sign that some of members of Rhaegar’s entourage might have ended at the Quiet Isle. We know that the Prince of Dragonstone had a devoted following.
Ser Kevan wished that he could share his certainty. He had known Jon Connington, slightly—a proud youth, the most headstrong of the gaggle of young lordlings who had gathered around Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, competing for his royal favor.
(ADwD)
I presume those lordlings fought at the Trident. The only ones I can identify are Richard Lonmouth and Myles Motoon, who had been Rhaegar’s squires. Myles Motoon was killed by Robert at the battle of the Bells. But the whereabout of Ser Lonmouth, the knight of skulls and kisses, are unknown. Could he have ended at the Isle?
There seems to be a certain amount of Targaryen loyalty in the vicinity of the Quiet Isle. Indeed, Nimble Dick says that Cracklaw Point is all for the Targaryens. The current Lord of Maidenpool, Myles Motoon’s brother, has just married his daughter to the Tarly heir.
I don’t think Septon Meribald is part of the cult of Rhaegar I am positing. Indeed, the good septon has walked the Riverlands for forty years. However, he might be quite knowledgeable about the Blackfyre rebellion, since he has fought during the War of the Ninepenny Kings.
On the question of what the EB could be up to. The most natural thing that comes to my mind is the following. Ser Morgath (possibly the EB) seems associated to Ser Shadrich, who says he has been hired by Varys to seek Sansa. Why would Varys seek Sansa, if not to find a bride to Aegon? Of course we have already Arianne Martell as possible queen. But it seems perfectly natural to me that Rhaegar's heir would attempt to marry both the Stark daughter and the Martell daughter (or at least play with the idea), accomplishing thus what was prevented by his father's untimely death.
This post is terribly bloated. I feel that that the architecture and history of the Isle are quite suggestive, and would deserve an in depth discussion. Another time.

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What an intriguing crackpot, brash and Milady, and a very astute observation.

As far as the whereabouts of Ser Lonmouth, there's another crackpot floating around that he's actually Lem Lemoncloak. Lady Gwyn can provide more information, as I believe it's her theory.

Found the link:

http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/96425-crackpot-alert-might-lem-be-richard-lonmouth/

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Agree also on the "crackpots," and Lady Gwyns theory is really well thought out as well.



Will continue to watch and learn.



Thanks for a great thread :bowdown:


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<snip>

On the question of what the EB could be up to. The most natural thing that comes to my mind is the following. Ser Morgath (possibly the EB) seems associated to Ser Shadrich, who says he has been hired by Varys to seek Sansa. Why would Varys seek Sansa, if not to find a bride to Aegon? Of course we have already Arianne Martell as possible queen. But it seems perfectly natural to me that Rhaegar's heir would attempt to marry both the Stark daughter and the Martell daughter (or at least play with the idea), accomplishing thus what was prevented by his father's untimely death.

This post is terribly bloated. I feel that that the architecture and history of the Isle are quite suggestive, and would deserve an in depth discussion. Another time.

As you know Bran, I love these speculations :) I think your point about the QI housing Targaryen loyalists is fascinating, and could provide useful clues from which to take the theory out of crackpot land as Ragnorak envisioned.

It's not hard to imagine the EB downplaying the investment he had in the battle, and even if sincere, he may have come to take sides in the long years spent at the Isle. As we've surmised, the Elder Brother is a lot more affected by what is happening around him as he reveals when discussing Ser Quincy Cox.

Whilst the Faegon/ruby theory you advance is intriguing, I do wonder about the possibility of a Jon Snow angle, especially relating to the architecture of the island with the hermit's hole and other features reminiscent of the old gods. Sansa Stark as the missing northern daughter fits into this framework.... The EB's own romantic history also aligns him more sympathetically to Sandor Clegane, another man who is interested in Sansa, and whose feelings she reciprocates. As it stands, there's still the possibility that Varys was acting on Cersei's orders and does not have any added interest in finding her besides doing his job for the Crown.

I think Brienne showing up with those rubies could indeed have represented "the seventh" the EB was waiting for, and not just the rubies themselves, but the particular fervour she displays as a "true knight."

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I've always connected Littlefinger's hiring three hedge knights to his planting the three Kettleblacks (there's even an irony built into the name) for Cersei. Littlefinger also tells Tyrion, before being dispatched to negotiate the Tyrell marriage, that he fears the sheep and not the shepherds. Here he is bringing three sheep into his fold to protect him against shepherds. There's also his method of hiding Sansa which has come up before:

“The queen intends to send Prince Tommen away.” They knelt alone in the hushed dimness of the sept, surrounded by shadows and flickering candles, but even so Lancel kept his voice low. “Lord Gyles will take him to Rosby, and conceal him there in the guise of a page. They plan to darken his hair and tell everyone that he is the son of a hedge knight.”

Very insightful post, Ragnorak. I liked your parallels between Cersei and Littlefinger especially. There’s one more between these two:

Cersei, thinking of the failed betrothal to Rhaegar and how Princess Rhaenys could’ve been her daughter:

Margaery’s clumsy attempts at seduction were so obvious as to be laughable. Tommen is too young for kisses, so she gives him kittens. Cersei rather wished they were not black, though. Black cats brought ill luck, as Rhaegar’s little girl had discovered in this very castle. She would have been my daughter, if the Mad King had not played his cruel jape on Father. It had to have been the madness that led Aerys to refuse Lord Tywin’s daughter and take his son instead, whilst marrying his own son to a feeble Dornish princess with black eyes and a flat chest.

The memory of the rejection still rankled, even after all these years.

That mockingbird, speaking of the woman he never had and of how Sansa could’ve been his daughter:

"But she gave me something finer, a gift a woman can give but once. How could I turn my back upon her daughter? In a better world, you might have been mine, not Eddard Stark’s. My loyal loving daughter..."

So, we have: three knights that are hidden daggers, a similar plan to hide Tommen and Sansa by disguising the tell-tale hair colour, and now the delusions they both have about a past one-sided love and nostalgia over possibilities that only existed in their heads.

I wanted to expand a little on the point about the motivations for the Elder Brother’s letter to the Crown on Saltpans. The hypothesis is that it was well-intentioned and that it could’ve been an attempt to clear Sandor’s name by establishing that it wasn’t him at Saltpans, an information that would’ve concerned the Crown, and that the resulting order to hunt down and kill the Hound stemmed from Cersei’s faulty logic. In other words, that it didn’t turn out as the Elder Brother had intended.

Let’s take the first mention of Clegane’s supposed whereabouts, in AFFC Cersei III. Kevan seems to be doubtful and asks Cersei if it’s the Hound she knew, and even if she admits reports are “confused,” she doesn’t question the identity of the man. She assumes it’s Sandor Clegane without as much as a passing thought, and we don’t know exactly what was in the letter, what words the Elder Brother used, if he did, so we only have Cersei’s assumption that the reports by “some of the survivors [that] claimed a roaring brute in a hound’s head helm was amongst the raiders” is Clegane beyond a doubt. And Cersei then taunts her uncle to hunt the outlaws, doesn’t order him to do so:

“No doubt Lancel will be eager to hunt down Clegane and Lord Beric both, to restore the king’s peace to the riverlands.”

Ser Kevan stared into her eyes for a moment. “My son is not the man to deal with Sandor Clegane.”

We agree on that much, at least. “His father might be.”

The Queen doesn’t care whether it really is her former shield or not; and Jaime, who knows his sister well, muses about her real motivations for telling her uncle to finish him off:

Though perhaps Cersei was hoping that the Hound might do her work for her. If Sandor Clegane cut down Ser Kevan, she would not need to bloody her own hands. And he will, if they should meet. Kevan Lannister had once been a stout man with a sword, but he was no longer young, and the Hound . . .

Jaime is the only one that doubts the reports, because he knows the true Hound wouldn’t do what he’s accused of regardless of his famed brutality. However, even he is ordered by Cersei to get rid of the outlaws and the Hound, after she goes to the High Sparrow to plead for an official anointing ceremony for Tommen, where the High Sparrow reproaches her about Clegane:

“Some of my sparrows speak of bands of lions who despoiled them . . . and of the Hound, who was your own sworn man. At Saltpans he slew an aged septon and despoiled a girl of twelve, an innocent child promised to the Faith. He wore his armor as he raped her and her tender flesh was torn and crushed by his iron mail. When he was done he gave her to his men, who cut off her nose and nipples.”

“His Grace cannot be held responsible for the crimes of every man who ever served House Lannister. Sandor Clegane is a traitor and a brute. Why do you think I dismissed him from our service? He fights for the outlaw Beric Dondarrion now, not for King Tommen.”

So this is how the High Sparrow found out about Saltpans, by word of mouth and not from the Elder Brother as it should have been, and he too assumes it’s Clegane. But it’s been one month since Cersei got that letter from the Quiet Isle, according to the ASOIAF Timeline, so there was time for the assumption that it was Clegane to have been spread around by survivors and gossip-mongers, without Cersei even paying a second thought to it after her talk with Kevan until the encounter with the High Septon.

And after this comes the Brienne chapter in which she arrives to the Quiet Isle and meets the monk that had written that letter. He reveals a great deal about the Hound to Brienne, and there’s no reason for believing that he could’ve written anything much different in his letter where Saltpans is concerned, and that he expresses regret at leaving the hound’s helm on the grave of the Hound to be picked up by someone that “soiled” his reputation even further with atrocities he knows that Clegane wouldn’t have committed could be another clue. I don’t see anything particularly dubious in this action, perhaps due to familiarity with ancient and medieval history, as burying a soldier with his arms or placing them as markers for his grave wasn’t that uncommon, but as it was stolen by a monstrous criminal it has proven to have been a grievous error which the Elder Brother regrets. What to do, then? It’s not the competence of the Faith to deal with outlaws, it’s the Crown’s, and they’re also the ones that want Clegane’s head for desertion and the ones that’ll add the new atrocities to their list of grievances against him. However, desertion can be pardoned after a change of regime, and even if not and Sandor were to be out whilst the Lannisters are still in power, his status as a novice would offer him a measure of protection, because—and this is purely a speculation of mine—it might be that joining the Faith could be akin to joining the Catholic Church’s monastic orders or the monkish knights crusader during the Middle Ages, which allowed the impious and the criminals to “redeem” themselves fighting for God’s cause, and those who joined the Church’s monasteries as simple non-combatant monks were also protected, and the secular authorities couldn’t touch them. Hence why the Elder Brother doesn’t seem overly worried about giving refuge to a man wanted by the Crown. But a crime like Saltpans doesn’t expire so easily with a change of regime, it blackens Sandor Clegane’s name beyond any possibility of a royal pardon, something a man with the wisdom of the Elder Brother couldn’t in good conscience let pass without trying to right the wrong he himself is responsible for. So, he writes to the Lannisters, and the Lannister queen doesn’t get his point rightly, but he still has the opportunity to explain to Brienne, who right after that meeting goes to kill the fake Hound on-page, with all the gruesome details included, as if GRRM didn’t want to leave any doubts floating around, and she can pass the information to Jaime, who’s en route to finding another fake Hound as Brienne leads him to the BwB; so assuming they don’t die too soon, there would be three important witnesses to vouch for Sandor’s innocence in the Saltpans massacre if he were to reappear somehow: the Elder Brother, with the letter as proof (there could be a copy at the monastery), Brienne and Jaime.

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I also want to give credit to Bran Vras for this:

http://branvras.free.fr/HuisClos/Bat.html

There's a great deal of very good info in this article. Harrenhal is a very twisted place, and Sansa's tale has not taken her there yet.

Still, the fact that she is in the sights of of the current Lord of Harrenhal (and Lord paramount of the Trident) means there is a strong possibility she may end up at her maternal grandmother's birthplace at some point.

Baelish seems to be wary of Harrenhal - he does not strike a person as superstitious, but seems to avoid it nonetheless, but if "Alayne" can convince him to actually stop being an absentee landlord and actually go there once, perhaps this will be the place of his downfall.

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I think Brienne showing up with those rubies could indeed have represented "the seventh" the EB was waiting for, and not just the rubies themselves, but the particular fervour she displays as a "true knight."

This has been a very interesting discussion. As for this last sentence, I remember seeing a theory a while ago that the rubies they were waiting for on the QI were actually people, not the stones themselves. I don't remember any of the details now so I can't elaborate further, but I remember liking the idea. Now I have the notion that Brienne represents a ruby and others like her represent a ruby, perhaps like a new kingsguard for the rise of a new Targ ruler such as Jon, is what I am leaning towards. I really need to think about this and flesh it out more, and I also have no idea how this ties in with Sansa exactly though we have speculated that Jaime, Brienne and Sandor might end up being protectors of Sansa in some way. I'll see if I can find this theory about the people as rubies by searching.

ETA: OK, I found the theory about the rubies. Turns out the idea is that they represent the Targ line which will lead to the PtwP, and there have been six so far, with Jon Snow as the hidden one not found yet being the 7th. So, I guess, I was going in the wrong direction with the idea of a kingsguard and getting way off topic from this discussion. Sorry!

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Hi, first time posting to this thread. I too am starting to think the Elder Brother may have an interest in Sansa, that he is involved in something concerning her. I made a post the other day about why he was so interested in turning Brienne from her quest, it really doesn't make sense considering Brienne is an adult, a warrior and committed to finding and rescuing a defenseless girl. Yet the Elder Brother does his best to talk her out of it, even after he has succeeded in convincing her the Hound is dead.


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@Elba - it's still really interesting stuff, and every bit helps towards refining the crackpot. Since we're focused on what this could mean for Sansa, I'd say your idea has potential.



Regarding Jon, I've been pondering the possibility of Lyanna and Rhaegar having spent some time on the isle. Those who follow this thread know that I've always been a bit obsessed with the women's cottages and there are hints that the Isle has housed honoured women before, obviously connecting to Bran's point about the possible Rhaegar devotion. The EB mentions that they have "modest cottages" set aside for noble women or common village girls who might visit, and it is through Pod's request to stay with Brienne that we learn women and men who are not married are not permitted to sleep in the same hut. The R+L=J theorists are better equipped to handle the finer points of this, but it is possible the QI was one of the first hiding places for the couple on the way to the TOJ.



I'm still not sure how this relates to Sansa and the EB's mission, but there's the obvious "beautiful Stark maiden gone missing" parallel. If we argue that Lyanna's "abduction" was one of the prime factors in starting Robert's rebellion, there's something symbolically fitting in having another Stark daughter contributing to the peace in these turbulent times.






Hi, first time posting to this thread. I too am starting to think the Elder Brother may have an interest in Sansa, that he is involved in something concerning her. I made a post the other day about why he was so interested in turning Brienne from her quest, it really doesn't make sense considering Brienne is an adult, a warrior and committed to finding and rescuing a defenseless girl. Yet the Elder Brother does his best to talk her out of it, even after he has succeeded in convincing her the Hound is dead.





Yes, it really makes you curious about why he's so determined... And welcome to the thread!

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There's a great deal of very good info in this article. Harrenhal is a very twisted place, and Sansa's tale has not taken her there yet.

Still, the fact that she is in the sights of of the current Lord of Harrenhal (and Lord paramount of the Trident) means there is a strong possibility she may end up at her maternal grandmother's birthplace at some point.

Baelish seems to be wary of Harrenhal - he does not strike a person as superstitious, but seems to avoid it nonetheless, but if "Alayne" can convince him to actually stop being an absentee landlord and actually go there once, perhaps this will be the place of his downfall.

Baelish will HAVE to go to the Riverlands when Jaime goes off on his quest with Brienne and if he is found wounded or dead. I think Alayne/Sansa will insist he go, to convince the crown of his loyalty.

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A crackpot on Ser Morgarth the Merry from Brash and Milady:

When Sansa leaves the Eyrie in her final chapter of AFFC, she is sent to Littlefinger’s solar at the Gates of the Moon and there encounters three knights, all of whom display pleasure at meeting the Lord Protector’s beautiful daughter. After the men depart, Littlefinger explains his reason for hiring these “hungry knights”:

“... I thought it best that we have a few more swords about us. The times grow ever more interesting, my sweet, and when the times are interesting you can never have too many swords. The Merling King’s returned to Gulltown, and old Oswell had some tales to tell.”

For a man with no martial ability and currently overseeing contentious factions in the Vale, hiring more swords is a smart move, and Littlefinger is certainly correct in his assertion that these are interesting times. The news of a dragon queen in the East would have made its way to his ears via the port in Gulltown, and probably informs his later talk of the three queens. But the men he contracts are also quite interesting, as one is Ser Shadrich, the Mad Mouse, who is searching for Sansa in order to gain the ransom offered by Varys:

Ser Shadrich laughed. “Oh, I doubt that, but it may be that you and I share a quest. A little lost sister, is it? With blue eyes and auburn hair?” He laughed again. “You are not the only hunter in the woods.

I seek for Sansa Stark as well.”

Brienne kept her face a mask, to hide her dismay. “Who is this Sansa Stark, and why do you seek her?”

“For love, why else?”

She furrowed her brow. “Love?”

“Aye, love of gold. Unlike your good Ser Creighton, I did fight upon the Blackwater, but on the losing side. My ransom ruined me. You know who Varys is, I trust? The eunuch has offered a plump bag of gold for this girl you’ve never heard of. I am not a greedy man. If some oversized wench would help me find this naughty child, I would split the Spider’s coin with her.”

So we know that Shadrich has succeeded where Brienne has not, and managed to find himself in the same location of Sansa Stark, even though there’s no indication that he has recognised Alayne Stone as the missing girl he seeks at this point in time. For readers, the Mad Mouse is meant to stand out for the risk he presents to Sansa’s security and Littlefinger’s carefully laid plans. But has Martin pulled one over on us? Has he secreted another interloper in this group who’s also interested in finding Sansa Stark? This is the crux of our crackpot. Let’s look again at the descriptions of the men:

She hugged him dutifully and kissed him on the cheek. “I am sorry to intrude, Father. No one told me you had company.”

“You are never an intrusion, sweetling. I was just now telling these good knights what a dutiful daughter I had.”

“Dutiful and beautiful,” said an elegant young knight whose thick blond mane cascaded down well past his shoulders.

“Aye,” said the second knight, a burly fellow with a thick salt-and-pepper beard, a red nose bulbous with broken veins, and gnarled hands as large as hams. “You left out that part, m’lord.”

“I would do the same if she were my daughter,” said the last knight, a short, wiry man with a wry smile, pointed nose, and bristly orange hair. “Particularly around louts like us.”

Alayne laughed. “Are you louts?” she said, teasing. “Why, I took the three of you for gallant knights.”

The first knight is young and handsome, and is the one who kisses Alayne’s hands before leaving the room. Of the three hedge knights, the second one going by the name of Ser Morgarth passes virtually unnoticed. His description, however, is curious, not only because of the “thick beard” that could indicate someone trying to conceal their identity, but particularly the “red nose bulbous with broken veins.” The description first recalls Ser Dontos, who happens to be the man that is rumoured to have helped Sansa escape and believed to be still in her company. The Mad Mouse tells Brienne:

“A certain fool vanished from King’s Landing the night King Joffrey died, a stout fellow with a nose full of broken veins, one Ser Dontos the Red, formerly of Duskendale. I pray your sister and her drunken fool are not mistaken for the Stark girl and Ser Dontos. That could be most unfortunate.”

But unless Dontos has risen from the dead, and both Alayne and Littlefinger are suffering from acute memory loss, we know that Ser Morgarth is not the former knight turned court jester. There is someone else who matches the description, though. Someone who knows of Sansa Stark and that she’s missing:

The Elder Brother was not what Brienne had expected. He could hardly be called elder, for a start; whereas the brothers weeding in the garden had had the stooped shoulders and bent backs of old men, he stood straight and tall, and moved with the vigor of a man in the prime of his years. Nor did he have the gentle, kindly face she expected of a healer. His head was large and square, his eyes shrewd, his nose veined and red. Though he wore a tonsure, his scalp was as stubbly as his heavy jaw.

He looks more like a man made to break bones than to heal one, thought the Maid of Tarth, as the Elder Brother strode across the room to embrace Septon Meribald and pat Dog.

There are a few coincidences to highlight:

  • Like Ser Morgarth, the Elder Brother has a veiny red nose.

  • Brienne notes that the Elder Brother looks as though he would break bones, not heal them, which could accord with the "hands as large as hams" of Morgarth.

The Elder Brother may be an older man, but he’s a former knight and still fit and capable enough to impress Brienne—a warrior herself. He would have no problem convincing Littlefinger to hire him for protection, and Morgarth is described as “burly.”

At the time of Brienne’s visit, the Elder Brother’s jaw has stubble on it. Is this the beginning of the thick beard we see later on?

During their conversation, the Elder Brother reveals knowledge of Sansa once Brienne tells him the standard description she’s been repeating along her quest. His quick confirmation would indicate prior familiarity with Sansa’s appearance, which we can assume came from Sandor Clegane, who is being sheltered on the island, unbeknownst to Brienne. He tells her that the Hound died on the banks of the Trident, a tortured man who gave and received no love, but only lived to kill his brother. His advice for the Maid of Tarth is to go home and reunite with her father. But Brienne stubbornly insists that she cannot do so, she has sworn an oath and must keep it:

“I have to find her,” she finished. “There are others looking, all wanting to capture her and sell her to the queen. I have to find her first. I promised Jaime. Oathkeeper, he named the sword. I have to try to save her . . . or die in the attempt.”

This is apparently the last we see of the Elder Brother, and Brienne moves on to the Crossroads Inn, to kill “the Hound,” and her eventual meeting with Lady Stoneheart. But just why would the Elder Brother leave the peaceful enclave of the QI and travel to the Vale? Resuming his old occupation is no problem as Brienne tells him “you look more like a knight than you do a holy man,” yet that life was aimless and unfulfilling, fighting on Rhaegar's side of the war only by chance, and so desperate to regain a horse that he kept on fighting even whilst injured. All of this changes when he washes up on the QI, born again into the Faith of the Seven. It doesn’t sound like a man who would willingly get back into the political arena, but this appears to be his intention:

“The riverlands are still too dangerous. Vargo Hoat’s scum remain abroad, and Beric Dondarrion has been hanging Freys. Is it true that Sandor Clegane has joined him?”

How does he know that? “Some say. Reports are confused.” The bird had come last night, from a septry on an island hard by the mouth of the Trident. The nearby town of Saltpans had been savagely raided by a band of outlaws, and some of the survivors claimed a roaring brute in a hound’s head helm was amongst the raiders. Supposedly he’d killed a dozen men and raped a girl of twelve."

Why would the Elder Brother choose to send a report to the Crown of all people about the events of Saltpans, and which mentions a roaring brute in a hound's helm? This is like a papal Nuncio reporting to the Pentagon instead of the Vatican, so why did the Elder Brother not report to his superiors instead, to the High Sparrow? Why to Cersei, the former boss of the Hound? This is strange, as the Elder Brother knows that the Crown wants Sandor’s head, and sending this information is basically an official attempt to “clear his name.” These words to Brienne after he talks about Saltpans and before he discloses that he “buried the Hound” are also telling about the purpose of writing to the Crown:

“Wolves are nobler than that . . . and so are dogs, I think.”

“I see.” Brienne did not know why he was telling her all of this, or what else she ought to say.

Whatever the Elder Brother is involved in or planning, it likely has to do with Sandor Clegane as well. It may explain why he tries so hard to convince Brienne that the Hound is dead and to give up her quest. We have not overlooked the possibility that the Elder Brother could be invested in finding Sansa Stark, and Brienne’s final words are a poignant outpouring of emotion in support of finding the girl and protecting her from the captors in the capital. However, we think his efforts have more to do with clearing Sandor’s name because he needs him for his still undisclosed plans and infiltrating the Vale’s political workings as Littlefinger is the Lord Paramount of the Riverlands. That he was already prepared for this mission before Brienne’s arrival can be surmised by the growth of hair on his head and jaw despite wearing a tonsure. And he might have made Brother Narbert privy to some of these plans, as the proctor has given at least two indications that he may know the true identity of the Gravedigger:

“Lady Brienne is a warrior maid,” confided Septon Meribald, “hunting for the Hound.”

“Aye?” Narbert seemed taken aback. “To what end?”

Brienne touched Oathkeeper’s hilt. “His,” she said.

The proctor studied her. “You are . . . brawny for a woman, it is true, but . . . mayhaps I should take you up to Elder Brother. He will have seen you crossing the mud. Come.”

He is “taken aback” when Meribald tells him she’s looking for the Hound, and when she tells him she wants to kill him, he assesses her critically, as if he’d seen the Hound face to face and knew his size and his prowess not just by reputation. Then, talking of Saltpans, he describes the (real) Hound as “brutal,” which he might know by fame only, but then he closes his speech with “some wounds do not show.” This would hint that Narbert helped Elder Brother with Sandor, because no matter how strong the latter is, Sandor is extremely big and heavy, and he’d have needed some assistance whilst nursing him back to health, but due to the perils of hiding a wanted fugitive, he could only trust, to an extent at least, his proctor. That line fits so well with Sandor that makes one wonder if the Proctor knows some of the things he confessed to the Elder Brother.

The Timeline also fits, as according to two timeline sources, there’s an average of approximately 3 weeks to one month between the time of Brienne’s arrival at the Quiet Isle and Sansa’s meeting with the knights. Plus, based on the close proximity of the QI to the Vale, this would have been enough time for the Elder Brother to reach the Gates of the Moon.

Finally, the statements by the knights upon seeing Sansa may also hold clues for analysis. Ser Byron is the first to respond, and his words indicate an immediate attraction to Sansa, based on her looks. He later kisses her hand, making his affection clear. But it’s the two with hidden agendas whose statements are most provocative:

“Aye,” said the second knight, a burly fellow with a thick salt-and-pepper beard, a red nose bulbous with broken veins,

and gnarled hands as large as hams. “You left out that part, m’lord.”

“I would do the same if she were my daughter,” said the last knight, a short, wiry man with a wry smile, pointed nose,

and bristly orange hair. “Particularly around louts like us.”

Ser Morgarth’s words are an implicit challenge almost, a sly suggestion that Littlefinger has not been upfront about the true nature of this beautiful daughter. The Mad Mouse on the other hand pretends to support such an evasion, citing their loutish behaviour as the reason. It’s all meant to be light-hearted and good-natured teasing, but everyone in the room is playing a game and a part. Have Ser Morgarth’s suspicions been raised? If he truly is the Elder Brother then he knows the exact appearance of Sansa Stark, and more significantly, if he’s been privy to remembrances by Sandor Clegane, he also knows more personal qualities that Sansa might not think to conceal. Has Littlefinger only succeeded in hiring daggers instead of swords?

If Ser Morgarth is actually the Elder Brother, then the mountain has come to Mohammed, so to speak. The Elder Brother is known to be a healer; he might be able to help Sweetrobin as well as Sansa.

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