Tags

, , , , , ,

a_brother_s_mercy_by_allnamesinuse_d9h4fsq-fullview

A Brother’s Mercy by Allnamesinuse; The Elder Brother tends to a gravely wounded Sandor Clegane.

Back in 2013, Milady of York and I had the crazy idea during one of our conversations that there might be another knight in the group entering into Petyr Baelish’s service who was hiding his true identity. We couldn’t find any existing theory in the fandom that analysed Ser Morgarth the Merry as a potential interloper, as all the debate up to that point tended to focus on Ser Shadrich, and the startling realisation that he had succeeded in finding Sansa Stark after revealing to Brienne of Tarth his search for the missing girl. It seemed so unbelievable at the time that we labelled the theory a crackpot and posted it in our Pawn to Player thread at Westeros.org in order to receive feedback from members at the forum.

It’s this subsequent discussion that we’re highlighting in the Q&A portion after the theory, along with some expanded posts, since we believe most fans have not read a lot of the very elucidating analysis that followed which helped to refine and clarify the main ideas and presented additional points for future investigation and development. We should add that some of our views have slightly changed since these initial answers were provided seven years ago, for example, we now think that it’s more likely that all three of the knights are working together and not on separate missions. It’s noteworthy that the TWOW sample chapter does not disprove the theory and indeed gives further credence to the belief that the men will have an important role to play in Sansa’s story as Martin highlights their presence at two distinct points in the chapter: Ser Shadrich’s conversation with Alayne and Randa prior to Harry the Heir’s arrival, and later all three are shown dancing with her at the feast in celebration of the upcoming tourney.

There’s a lot of thought-provoking material to get through, so we suggest going slow and thinking carefully. Later this week we’ll be back to feature a new offshoot of this theory, examining the role of Ser Byron the Beautiful. We’d love to hear your thoughts on Ser Morgarth, whether you agree with our central argument or not, and what other ideas are sparked by this discussion.

Who is Ser Morgarth the Merry? An Original Pawn to Player Crackpot

by Brashcandy and Milady of York

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 she 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?

Gates of The Moon

The Gates of the Moon by Paolo Puggioni

Q & A Discussion with Pawn to Player Posters

Q: Are you operating under the theory that EB went downriver to Gulltown? It seems like the fastest and easiest way for him to enter the Vale. Do you recall if there was mention of a boat on the QI? Not that there had to be, but if GRRM mentioned it you can bet it would be significant.

Also, do you think Ser Shadrich could be under the impression that Morgarth is Ser Dontos?

A: When Septon Meribald and the others arrive at the Isle, Brother Narbert asks if they’ll require the ferry in the morning, so there is transport that could have taken the EB to Gulltown.

We are working from the assumption that the Mad Mouse is not connected to the other two knights, although it’s certainly a possibility we can’t rule out, given that he offered to team up with Brienne in order to find Sansa and split the ransom. If both the Mad Mouse and Morgarth are keeping secrets, does this mean something similar might be up with the handsome Ser Byron? Is he in league with Morgarth or Shadrich or out for his own glory?

Q: What if somehow Sandor accompanied the EB in some sort of disguise so that he could verify for the EB that Alayne is Sansa?

A: We 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.

But let’s say if Sandor had gone, for the sake of argument. . .

We’ve considered if Sandor’s limping would be a reason for him to not leave the monastery with the Elder Brother as well. His limp means that he can’t fight with a sword as proficiently as usual, but the work he’s doing as a gravedigger is arduous in that terrain, suggesting that he’s recovered enough to perform some demanding physical activities, therefore is in an acceptable shape for travelling, more so if it’s by boat or by horse, that don’t require him to walk as much and therefore wouldn’t burden the leg at all. He can even fight on horseback right now, limp and all, with a sword, a mace, a lance, a hammer, a morningstar, an axe, etc. Also, approximately one month has passed since the arrival of Brienne to the Quiet Isle until the appearance of the three knights at the Gates, time enough for his limping to have improved, if not reasonably healed (if GRRM doesn’t decide the contrary). So, taking that into account, yes, from a purely physical standpoint, he would’ve been fit to have gone.

There’s the question of whether the Elder Brother would’ve wanted to bring him on this trip, and if so the difficulty of concealing his six feet eight inches crowned with a scarred face is not necessarily something that rules out Sandor accompanying the Elder Brother. He’s good at disguise, as he proved with Arya in front of someone who knew him, so he could pass unnoticed by others as well. I mentioned the possibility that the limping could’ve improved, yet in case it didn’t, even so people see what they want to see and this isn’t a characteristic that any would associate with the Hound. Considering the reputation he’s gotten recently due to Saltpans, the robes of a monk would be the last thing under which they’d look for the Hound, more so if he is accompanied by someone like the Elder Brother. So, if both went to the Vale through the Gulltown route, it’d have been as monks, and from then to the Gates of the Moon as men-at-arms looking for a job.

We wondered if he could have expressed to the Elder Brother a desire to go search for Sansa after he recovered. He knows she’s alive and escaped, and is hiding somewhere. He didn’t have time to process the news he heard at the Crossroads Inn and decide what to do with regard to that, because he was wounded and “died” soon after; but his last words were so full of regret about failing to help and protect Sansa… So, could it be that once he came back to his senses at the Quiet Isle after passing out from fever, after he was told by the Elder Brother what his prognosis was, he voiced a wish to go search for the little bird and protect her as the new and nobler purpose of his life? And if the Elder Brother more or less had agreed, or at the very least understood his rationale, then he’d have allowed him to go with him on this trip to the Vale even if the purpose on his part wasn’t related to Sansa. It’d have been on Sandor’s part. Remember where he and Arya were going to when he was wounded: to the Vale by boat from Saltpans. When she left him to die, Arya was heading towards Saltpans still, and Sandor, though feverish, would’ve guessed her destination, and he has no reason to believe she’d go to Essos. Arya might not be a good motivation for him to go to the Vale, but she’s the little bird’s sister and if he thinks Arya could’ve gone to the Vale, to her aunt, then Sansa could have too, since she has nowhere else to go. Even the Mad Mouse seems to have suspicions that Sansa could’ve gone to the Vale, where she has relatives, so why would Sandor not think the same?

Q: Any textual clue that would point to a possible motive for the EB to go to the Vale?

A: There’s one such passage on the QI chapter. Notice Brienne’s thoughts about “true knights” and that Ser Quincy’s actions were terrible. Although Septon Meribald 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. We can 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 King’s 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 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. We 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:

Q: What are your thoughts on the letter the Elder Brother sent to King’s Landing about the Saltpans massacre?

A: 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.

Q: The Elder Brother is known to be a healer, might he be able to help Sweetrobin as well as Sansa?

A: There is a possibility that we could see him utilizing that talent, although right now his cover has to be grounded in being a mercenary knight. He is called Ser Morgarth the Merry though, so it may be a clue that like Ser Dontos, he’s going to play a jovial, unassuming type of character.

The EB’s presence in the Vale also aligns nicely with the motif of non/ex-knights being re-inspired through their association with Sansa and actively involved in helping her somehow.

Further Expansion on the Theory by the Pawn to Player Hosts & Contributors

ON THE PARALLELS BETWEEN LITTLEFINGER’S THREE HEDGE KNIGHTS AND CERSEI’S THREE KETTLEBLACKS

(Ragnorak)

kettleblacks

O.K., O.K. and O.K. by Pojypojy

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.

There’s one more parallel between these two. Here’s 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.

And the 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…”

I think this is even a better parallel than the other two. If memory serves, they are the only such explicit surrogate child delusions. Mormont gives Jon Longclaw which is a clear foster father gesture, and there are instances where someone like Cat will witness something and think of her own children; but despite all the could have been marriages, I don’t think we have any other such delusional adoptions of the mind. Cersei attributes Jaime’s Kingsguard acceptance to a madness of Aerys when we know from Jaime that this was purely the result of her own scheming. Littlefinger is delusional about sleeping with Cat, but I wonder if there isn’t a better parallel to Cersei’s delusion buried somewhere. He certainly bears culpability in his exile from Riverrun, which seems a sore point based on his Paramount of the Riverlands drooling at Tyrion’s offer. Maybe there’s an angle to view Sweetrobin as his son that makes a better comparison?

If there is more to the Littlefinger/Cersei parallels that adds a level of interest to the Elder Brother showing up in the Vale, Cersei is experiencing a downfall as a result of her own scheming (which sounds like LF’s eventual end state) but also one strongly intertwined with the Faith. Littlefinger has his home on that curious spot the Faith first landed in Westeros and Sansa has a great deal of religious symbolism surrounding her. The Elder Brother as a force in LF’s downfall obviously adds to any such intentional role of religion surrounding their own self-destructions. Aside from the immediate Sansa angles, I find Martin intentionally doing Littlefinger/Cersei parallels to have fascinating implications.

ON THE REASONS THAT MIGHT’VE COMPELLED THE ELDER BROTHER TO INFILTRATE THE VALE

(Ragnorak)

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 King’s 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 King’s 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 King’s 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 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 above 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 hears 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 King’s 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.

ON THE ELDER BROTHER AND RHAEGAR’S RUBIES

(Bran Vras)

tridentbattle

Battle of the Trident by Justin Sweet

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 a 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 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 Mooton, who had been Rhaegar’s squires. Myles Motoon was killed by Robert at the battle of the Bells. But the whereabouts of Lonmouth, the knight of skulls and kisses, are unknown. Could he have ended up 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 Mooton’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 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 already have 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.