THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON DOOR

When we last left Alayne Stone in the Vale, we left her on … an almost surprising and positive note. It’s Day 0 of the Tourney she’s put together for the Lord of the Vale; noting that Sweetrobin takes solace in stories of the Winged Knight, Artys Arryn, Sansa concocts her very first “scheme” as a ‘player’ (a term I use loosely); surround the Lord of the Eyrie with his own bodyguard of “Winged Knights” to give him a sense of security. And what better a way to choose these Winged Knights than to make it a spectacle- invite every young, single knight in the Vale to compete for the positions.

Image result for the vale of arryn

Sixty-four knights will compete for a single spot out of eight (Robert felt he should have eight, more than Tommen Baratheon’s “seven”) by Robert Arryn’s side. These knights must be young, and if possible, single, because they’ll be working there for three years. ** Imagine leaving home to fight for a coddled, bratty pre-teen who can’t lay off the sweetsleep (let alone the teat)? Yikes.**

Alayne I in TWOW gives us one on one time with “main players” to watch over the next chapters. Alayne and Sansa chapters have been exceptional at soft introductions of characters in the background, pushing them to the front of the page by the next book. In TWOW, we’ve met several main Vale characters, and can use a few educated guesses to assume who may be competing in the tourney- I would expect to meet maybe a handful of newly named “small” characters in passing over Alayne’s TWOW arc- a 1:3 ratio of named vs. nameless characters competing in the tourney, if you will.

Alayne uses her charm to get one over on Harry-The-Arse and his ego, enchanting the young and pompous knight into being slightly less of a jerk and even engaging in a little bit of flirtatious banter- a 360 from the start, where Harry was only ever so slightly an a-hole to Alayne (especially in regards to her bastard status).

If we are to believe that Sansa will be heading to, towards, or be AT Winterfell by the end of TWOW, I imagine we’re going to have 1-5 Alayne Chapters to get there. I can see this going a few ways, but the rough outline, give or take a chapter would be:

Alayne I: Feast

Alayne II: Tourney Pt. 1

Alayne III: Tourney Pt. 2/Aftermath

Alayne IV: Big Climactic Moment  (Wedding, Sweetrobin death, Sansa reveal, something??? Who knows.)

Alayne V: Leaving for Winterfell

What can be gleaned from the sample TWOW chapter that hasn’t been gleaned yet? Bryndenbfish (@warsofasoiaf on tumblr) had some interesting takes on the State of the Vale a while ago at this link. I’ll touch some similar topics he also spoke about (all of the guns just a waitin’ to go off in the vale, for starters), but the most interesting thoughts I have found in the Vale actually come via parallels to the historical Battle of the Seven Stars. I’m no Archmaester Arnel, but I feel like we have some fun stuff to dig through in the upcoming Vale arc. Shall we begin?

Battle of the Seven Stars

Of notable events that take place in ASOIAF History, the battle of the Seven Stars is definitely the premiere historical battle in the Vale. The BOTSS took place during the Andal Invasion of the Vale at the foot of the Giant’s Lance. The Andals prevailed over First Men, leaving House Arryn and their supporters to take the Vale. The Andals had initially conquered most of the Vale, and the native First Men often collaborated with the Andals, infighting against other FM kings. Once the Vale was under Andal control, the remaining houses joined together behind Robar II Royce against Artys Arryn and his Andals. Royce was slain in battle, and remaining FM houses bent the knee, swore fealty to House Arryn, or were exiled into the Mountains of the Moon, becoming the mountain clans (Black Ears, Burned Men, Stone Crows, Moon Brothers, etc).

So what did the cast look like for both sides of this battle? Let’s take a glance.

image

A casual glance at the lists may not say too much. But if you give it a second glance… the majority of the characters look a lot like the current state of the Vale.

Lysa was as lonely as she was. Her new husband seemed to spend more time at the foot of the mountain than he did atop it. He was gone now, had been gone the past four days, meeting with the Corbrays. From bits and pieces of overheard conversations Sansa knew that Jon Arryn’s bannermen resented Lysa’s marriage and begrudged Petyr his authority as Lord Protector of the Vale.The senior branch of House Royce was close to open revolt over her aunt’s failure to aid Robb in his war, and the Waynwoods, Redforts, Belmores, and Templetons were giving them every support. The mountain clans were being troublesome as well, and old Lord Hunter had died so suddenly that his two younger sons were accusing their elder brother of having murdered him. The Vale of Arryn might have been spared the worst of the war, but it was hardly the idyllic place that Lady Lysa had made it out to be.

Where does that currently leave us in narrative? Right now, Littlefinger leads the Vale in Robert Arryn’s name as Lord Protector. The Lords Declarant, led by Yohn Royce, still want to oust Petyr and instill their own as Protector of the Vale.

Bronze Yohn Royce will continue to be hostile, I fear, but so long as he stands alone he is not so much a threat

But Royce isn’t standing alone this time. Royce is backed by most of the Declarant (although Littlefinger is attempting to buy them off one by one; Lady Waynwood and Corbray, for starters) – Lord Gilwood Hunter, Lord Benedar Belmore, Lord Horton Redfort, and Ser Symond Templeton. The most notable of this support is that Hunter, Belmore and Redfort are First Men houses in the heart of it, and fought for the First Men in the BOTSS.

“Anya Waynwood? Truly?” The Lords Declarant were down from six to three, it would seem. The day he’d departed the mountain, Petyr Baelish had been confident of winning Symond Templeton to his side, but not so Lady Waynwood. 

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“For a start, you are the Lord Protector’s bastard, never forget. The Waynwoods are very old and very proud, but not as rich as one might think, as I discovered when I began buying up their debt. Not that Lady Anya would ever sell a son for gold. A ward, however … young Harry’s only a cousin, and the dower that I offered her ladyship was even larger than the one that Lyonel Corbray just collected. It had to be, for her to risk Bronze Yohn’s wroth. This will put all his plans awry.

So Baelish buys Waynwood out. With Templeton and Waynwood “won” to Baelish’s side, we can look at his support system as of Alayne I in TWOW: Lord Gerold Grafton, Lord Lyonel and Lyn Corbray, Ser Symond Templeton (inferred), and the support of House Arryn through Robert and Harry.

We open in on Alayne I in TWOW with both sides looking something like this:

image


**while not the Lord of the House, is a player in TWOW 
whose house supported the Declarants, so we’re going to include him for kicks.

The Brotherhood of the Winged Knights

Of the players in the Vale, we have a solid core of men competing for a spot in Sweetrobin’s throne room. Sixty-four competitors, and eight to take a place at Robert’s side. The rest is speculative fun, but boy, isn’t that the best part?

** First Men origins
*Andal origins/support

image

With the lay of the battle in mind, who’s going to make it into the Winged Knights- hell, who’s going to make it out alive?

I propose the winners of the Tourney will be a mostly First Men line up, an inversion to the Battle of the Seven Stars, and surrounding Sweetrobin with Bronze Yohn Royce’s First Men; the first step to taking back the Vale. The Vale plot is compared to a chess match by Littlefinger quite often throughout the series, and through the tourney, Royce has his pieces ready to position directly around the “King.”

My Winged Knights draft (albeit I’m not 100% confident in it due to lack of information) looks something like this:

  • Mychel Redfort
  • Marwyn Belmore
  • Uther Shett
  • Ben Coldwater
  • Albar Royce
  • Ser Owen
  • Targon the Halfwild
  • New House Upcliff Member*

*this one I’m less sure on, as it’s a nameless member if they do show up, and feel as if George will be giving us a lineup of already known characters. But we shall wait and see!I would love it to be a member of House Upcliff to provide a mirror to the BOTSS.

From Fantasy to Horror

Sansa Stark’s story is filled with fantastical events of whimsy. Dancing lords and ladies, heaping feasts filled with delectable food, knights in shining, bedazzled armor, gallant and handsome steeds. One other common element that presents itself across Sansa’s pages? A splash of horror. The enchanting events Sansa looks forward to attending almost always end up in ruins- and often, in bloodshed. A date on the Trident with her betrothed, the Hand’s Tourney, her father’s “forgiveness” on the Sept of Baelor’s steps, Princess Myrcella’s departure, the Purple Wedding- I mean, we could go on for… five books, really. So let’s tack on a sixth. The Tourney at the Gates of the Moon is littered with guns, loaded and ready to go off. 

Some of these are speculation, some textually based. To tell the truth, this tourney could go so many ways. I don’t think that EVERYTHING on this list will occur, however that they are plot strings hanging, waiting to be grasped or utilized that I’ve noticed/want to touch on.

Sweetrobin’s Sweetsleep

As they waited for the music to resume, Alayne glanced at the dais, where Lord Robert sat staring at them. Please, she prayed, don’t let him start to twitch and shake. Not here. Not now. Maester Coleman would have made certain that he drank a strong dose of sweetmilk before the feast, but even so.

&

Colemon lingered a moment before following. “My lord, this parley might best be left for another day. His lordship’s spells have grown worse since Lady Lysa’s death. More frequent and more violent. I bleed the child as often as I dare, and mix him dreamwine and milk of the poppy to help him sleep, but…

Sweetrobin is sickly and breaks into fits at an alarming and increasing rate. Anything could set his epilepsy and shaking off, and he’s about one good shake of sweetsleep in his milk away from kicking the bucket. Could the Tourney of the Winged Knights hold his death? Will Littlefinger lose hold of the Vale quicker than imagined?

Ser Shadrich

A popular fan theory that I’m sure I don’t need to unravel for you all is Ser Shadrich of the Shady Glen, the Mad Mouse (literally he’s from the SHADY Glen, if that doesn’t tip you off), is looking for Sansa Stark (and has stumbled upon her in the Vale), and could possibly make off with her during any of the sizeable events occurring during the tourney.

While textually the idea is there, I don’t foresee Sansa getting kidnapped- TWOW’s Sansalayne arc will hopefully be more of her making a lot of big choices on her own, and reupping on some agency for once. I do think this would be a great time for a failed attempt at kidnapping Sansa— and a great time for the Alayne/Sansa reveal to happen before Littlefinger’s plans take off, and before she’s to wed Harry.

Eustace and Harlan Hunter

He put down his quill. “Redfort and Waynwood are old. One or both of them may die. Gilwood Hunter will be murdered by his brothers. Most likely by young Harlan, who arranged Lord Eon’s death. In for a penny, in for a stag, I always say. Belmore is corrupt and can be bought. Templeton I shall befriend. Bronze Yohn Royce will continue to be hostile, I fear, but so long as he stands alone he is not so much a threat.”

Both Eustace and Harlan claim their oldest brother killed their Lord Father, but Littlefinger claims Harlan, the youngest brother, killed the father. Both Harlan and Eustace seem to be of a young enough age to compete in the Tourney of the Winged Knights, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some brother-on-brother crime happening between Harlan and Eustace. Besides, Littlefinger thinking that Lord Gilwood is next in line to die would be a nice touch- him being close, but missing the mark as Harlan offs Eustace “accidentally” in the tourney. It doesn’t bring Harlan up to Lordship, but it definitely brings him one step closer.

Tollett V Redfort

Torgold Tollett in the Battle of the Seven Stars slayed Lord Redfort and Ursula Upcliff, and was killed via King Robar II Royce slashing at his head with Lady Forlorn. Mychel Redfort killing Andrew Tollett in the Tourney “accidentally” (or whatever could transpire) would be quite a nice nod to the inversion of the BOTSS that I speak about above, and not entirely out of the question. (…and, if, by SOME magical force, Dolorous Edd survives the Long Night…. would give Edd a nice place to plop his butt down post war!)

Mountain Clans

Throughout the first 3 books, the Mountain Clans of the vale are highlighted. Armed by Tyrion, the clans continue to be a dangerous threat to the Vale- even Hyle Hunt is informed enough to tell Brienne about them.

The Freys are up here at the Twins, Darry and Harrenhal are south across the Trident, west he’s got the Blackwoods and the Brackens fighting, and Lord Randyll’s here at Maidenpool. The high road to the Vale is closed by snow, even if he could get past the mountain clans. Where’s a dog to go?” (AFFC, Brienne V)

George lays the Mountain Clans right in our face in a pretty important POV, but when you flip the page… the Mountain Clans are missing from all of Sansa’s Feast chapters. In fact, the last mention of the Mountain Clans in Sansa’s chapters were in a Storm of Swords, Sansa VII. – in a VERY telling paragraph that I’ve already quoted several times, though the relevant information here is:

The mountain clans were being troublesome as well, and old Lord Hunter had died so suddenly that his two younger sons were accusing their elder brother of having murdered him.

With the best fighters and warriors from the Gates of the Moon and across the Vale stationed at the Tourney, the defenses are down… and the mountain clans just so happen to be freshly armed through none other than Sansa’s husband himself, Tyrion Lannister. What a nice wedding gift! I expect to see some tumultuous passages if and when the clans decide to attack.

Lyn Corbray

The venom in his voice was so thick that for a moment she almost forgot that Lyn Corbray was actually her father’s catspaw, bought and paid for. Or was he? Perhaps, instead of being Petyr’s man pretending to be Petyr’s foe, he was actually his foe pretending to be his man pretending to be his foe.

Lyn Corbray, who likes gold and boys, seems to be Littlefinger’s catspaw and man…. But is he? We spend Alayne chapters seeing Baelish from her eyes, but not seeing his thoughts. Where his thoughts truly align, we don’t know, but Lyn Corbray did just get screwed out of Heart’s Home by Littlefinger… So where do his loyalties lie? What does Littlefinger want from him besides sowing discord throughout the Lords Declarant?

I could see Lyn offing Harry in the tourney, a theory that was first brought up by u/SKREEEEEEEE on Reddit if I recall correctly. This Sansa/Harry marriage? Totally not going to happen, guys. This marriage is a blue and red falconed and quartered herring if I ever saw one (literally, a blue and red falconed Herr-dyng) . Could Lyn bring Lady Forlorn out to play at the Tourney of the Winged Knights?

Furthering that thought, it is mentioned several times that Harry isn’t exactly the most skilled Knight:

“And is Ser Harrold with them?” Horrible Ser Harrold. “He is.” Lord Belmore laughed. “I never thought Royce would let him come. Is he blind, or merely stupid?” “He is honorable. Sometimes it amounts to the same thing. If he denied the lad the chance to prove himself, it could create a rift between them, so why not let him tilt? The boy is nowise skilled enough to win a place amongst the Winged Knights.”

&

And may your horse stumble, Harry the Heir, so you fall on your stupid head in your first tilt. She showed the Waynwoods a stone face as they blurted out awkward apologies for their companion. When they were done she turned and fled. Near the keep, she ran headlong into Ser Lothor Brune and almost knocked him off his feet. “Harry the Heir? Harry the Arse, I say. He’s just some upjumped squire.”

&

“Well, I’m not. He may think he’s some great knight, but Ser Lothor says he’s just some upjumped squire.” Petyr put his arm around her. “So he is, but he is Robert’s heir as well.

…..It sounds… as if it would be quite easy to beat Harry in a tilt….

I feel like Alayne II would be too soon for Harry to die in the story- I’d expect him to make it to their wedding, a-la some Harrenbowl style action to take place, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if he got taken out this soon. There’s bound to be some sort of Vale twist in store for us, and I wouldn’t put it past George.

Bonus: A Lady’s Favor

Before I give you some wrap-up ideas, when I originally set out to write this, the focus was going to be on two questions: who will be a Winged Knight for Sweetrobin, and who will Sansa give her favor to? Though those are no longer the main objectives of this work, I did want to touch a little on Sansa’s favor.

He was her first partner of the evening, but far from the last. Just as Petyr had promised, the young knights flocked around her, vying for her favor. After Ben came Andrew Tollett, handsome Ser Byron, red-nosed Ser Morgarth, and Ser Shadrich the Mad Mouse. Then Ser Albar Royce, Myranda’s stout dull brother and Lord Nestor’s heir. She danced with all three Sunderlands, none of whom had webs between their fingers, though she could not vouch for their toes. Uther Shett appeared to pay her slimy compliments as he trod upon her feet, but Ser Targon the Halfwild proved to be the soul of courtesy. After that Ser Roland Waynwood swept her up and made her laugh with mocking comments about half the other knights in the hall. His Uncle Wallace took a turn as well and tried to do the same, but the words would not come. Alayne finally took pity on him and began to chatter happily, to spare him the embarrassment. When the dance was done she excused herself, and went back to her place to have a drink of wine.

&

He has good teeth, she thought, straight and white. And when he smiles, he has the nicest dimples. She ran one finger down his cheek. “Should we ever wed, you’ll have to send Saffron back to her father. I’ll be all the spice you’ll want.” He grinned. “I will hold you to that promise, my lady. Until that day, may I wear your favor in the tourney?” “You may not. It is promised to…another.” She was not sure who as yet, but she knew she would find someone.

The romantic notion of a tourney and a fair young woman all the knights and valiant men are vying for is not something new to ASOIAF. The first passage recounting Sansa’s dance partners is almost a nice nod to a famous Storm of Swords passage.

The crannogman saw a maid with laughing purple eyes dance with a white sword, a red snake, and the lord of griffins, and lastly with the quiet wolf … but only after the wild wolf spoke to her on behalf of a brother too shy to leave his bench.

The similarities and differences between Sansa’s dancing and Ashara’s dancing: Sansa’s dance partners are named, where Ashara’s are not, but this story is more than likely going to end in tragedy, much like Ashara’s is thought to have.

Whoever wears Sansa’s favor is more than likely doomed, as Sansa chapters tend to go. Sansa regaining agency through Littlefinger’s laid plans is wonderful, but his plans are surely to go awry this whole entire book (they’ve been going just a little too smoothly- cough bastard daughter who looks exactly like Sansa Stark mutter). Additionally, Sansa’s first ‘scheme’ as a ‘player’ is surelygoing to bomb.

personally have assumed Sansa would fail at her first challenge, but her first real success would be towards the end of TWOW, getting one over on Petyr somehow.

The Main Dance Partners

  • Ben Coldwater
  • Andrew Tollett
  • Ser Byron
  • Ser Morgarth
  • Ser Shadrich the Mouse
  • Albar Royce
  • 3 Sunderlands
  • Uther Shett
  • Targon the Halfwild
  • Roland Waynwood
  • Wallace Raynwood
  • Harry Hardyng

So who’s my money on? I’m between two players. My bets are on Sansa choosing Ser Byron or Targon the Halfwild, with a strong leaning towards Ser Byron.

“Knights they are,” said Petyr. “Their gallantry has yet to be demonstrated, but we may hope. Allow me to present Ser Byron, Ser Morgarth, and Ser Shadrich. Sers, the Lady Alayne, my natural and very clever daughter … with whom I must needs confer, if you will be so good as to excuse us.” The three knights bowed and withdrew, though the tall one with the blond hair kissed her hand before taking his leave.

&

handsome Ser Byron

While Sansa’s soul is the very brevity of courtesy, and Targon the Halfwild seems to be just that:

Uther Shett appeared to pay her slimy compliments as he trod upon her feet, but Ser Targon the Halfwild proved to be the soul of courtesy.

Although our young she-wolf favors courtesy in her daily actions, she is more than likely going to choose the best looking guy to make Harry jealous… and Ser Byron sure is the handsome, floral, gallant type. While mentioned twice now in text, the hedge knight hasn’t been given a surname or backstory yet… which makes him a disposable character in the long run of the narrative.

Wrapping Up

If you made it this far, I’m impressed. High five yourself. This was long-winded but full of so much information and FUN TO WRITE… that I just couldn’t shorten it. Sansalayne’s arc in TWOW is going to be a wild ride, and whatever does end up happening… has me suffering in anticipation. I guess the biggest question of all of this formatted word vomit begs… what does it mean?

Rough outline? If there’s an inversion of the Battle of the Seven Stars and the First Men are put in a position ready to take the Vale back from the Andals, they’re going to need someone to rally behind. Initially, the rallying will appear behind Royce. But I think they’re going to need someone else to rally behind. Someone with the blood of the First Men running through their veins, someone who comes from a noble family that seems to accrue loyalty from houses not necessarily sworn to them easily, and someone who is courteous and learning to be a leader politically.

and when they come together for his wedding, and you come out with your long auburn hair, clad in a maiden’s cloak of white and grey with a direwolf emblazoned on the back … why, every knight in the Vale will pledge his sword to win you back your birthright.

The exact middle of how we get there is fuzzy- your answers are probably just as good as mine. Whether you believe in Harrenbowl via the hype-bringing writers on Reddit u/hollowaydivision, u/big-man-reborn, u/godmademedoit (which is an entirely other post in itself, and extremely convincing) or subscribe to the controversial Sansa-raped-by-Baelish-kills-Sweetrobin or Kills-Sweetrobin ideas mentioned by u/megatron_mclargehuge or u/Cygw1n, there are tons of amazing ideas and theories out there to fill in the blanks.

However you look at it, with the loaded guns in the Vale set to go off, Alayne is in a position to be revealed as Sansa Stark VERY soon- possibly lying to save Baelish (he “saved” me! I swear, Lord Royce! Please don’t pop his obnoxiously pointy chin out of its socket!), uniting the First Men and Andal parties that are left in the Vale, pushing her claim and birthright to go home to Winterfell – and hopefully, slay the savage giant in a castle made of snow. 😉

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