Welcome to the Supreme Court of Westeros! Every week, three pressing questions from the community will be answered by the esteemed judges Stefan (from your very own Nerdstream Era) and Amin (from the Podcast of Ice and Fire). The rules are simple: we take three questions, and one of us writes a measured analysis. The other one writes a shorter opinion, either concurring or dissenting. The catch is that every week a third judge from the fandom will join us and also write a dissenting or concurring opinion. So if you think you're up to the task - write us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, leave a comment in the post, ask in the POIAF-forum or contact Amin at his tumblr. Discussion is by no means limited to the court itself, though - feel free to discuss our rulings in the commentary section and ask your own questions through the channels above.
IMPORTANT CHANGE IN SPOILER POLICY:
IMPORTANT CHANGE IN SPOILER POLICY:
One word on spoilers: we assume that you read all the books, including the Hedge Knight short stories, and watched the current TV episodes. We don't include the spoiler chapters from various sources in the discussion, with the notable exception of Theon I, which was supposed to be in "A Dance with Dragons" anyway.
END OF CHANGE
END OF CHANGE
And now, up to ruling 3 of the Supreme Court of Westeros! Our guest judge this week is Andrew Carey, a member of the larger community without previous record.
Who do you think will win the battles or Meereen and Winterfell? And why?
Main Opinion Stefan:
In the battle of Meereen, the Anti-Slaver-forces will prevail. The Yunkish host is dead on its feet already, and the Volantene fleet faces the Ironborn AND dragons, both which aren’t exactly healthy to a fleet. The downside of this victory, though, will be huge casualties. It has been mentioned several times rather pointedly that the Freedmen, who make up a considerable part of Dany’s forces, are unblooded and will most likely have a rough time in battle. The interesting question is more among the lines of what the result of that battle will be, and whether or not Dany will also arrive in the carnage, concluding her transformation to Xean, Warrior Princess 2.0. The Battle of Winterfell, on the other hand, will deliver us a Stannis victory, at least intially. It will be seperated in two battles, the one on the ice (which looks like a sure Stannis victory, with the imminent Manderly betrayal and the Karstark switch) and the real one for Winterfell. The latter one is a bit more uncertain, but I’d wager the Manderly forces will play the same role that Tywin played during the Sack of King’s Landing, feign a victorious return and open the gates for the rest of Stannis’ army. One thing is for certain in any scenario, though: no living Frey will be left to tell the tale.
Concurring Opinion Amin:
Battle of Ice:
I agree with my colleagues that that Stannis will come out on top. The banker has made it to him with the information about the impending Karstark betrayal by Theon’s last chapter in ADWD, which will prevent that backstab. Stannis has good knowledge of the terrain and may take advantage of it and the Manderlys as Justice Stefan described. As Justice Carell pointed out, there are hints in the book, specifically part of the House of the Undying prophecies, that strongly suggest that Stannis will survive at least until Dany makes her appearance in Westeros. Finally, Stannis is very good at fighting in desperate situations. The following quote from HBO Rome, which is based on a battle where Caesar faced similarly difficult odds, shows how Stannis may turn this to his advantage:
Posca: We are outnumbered three to one on foot and five to one on horse. What uninjured men you have are scared and hungry and desperate.
Gaius Julius Caesar: That is the advantage we must press home.
Posca: I was not aware that irony had military usage.
Gaius Julius Caesar: We must win or die. Pompey's men have other options.
Battle of Fire:
Based on prophecy alone, Dany must survive to get to Westeros, so it is possible her side could lose, but she still makes it away with some forces to Westeros. However, I agree with the reasoning presented by colleages and their conclusion that Dany’s forces will win this battle. As they describe, it is possible that it will be a very bloody battle and one that leaves Meereen in a desolated state.
Concurring Opinion: Andrew Carey:
Battle of Winterfell:
On the surface, it looks bleak for Stannis. His men are outnumbered, starved and exhausted. He has traitors in the form of Karstarks waiting to pounce. Jon dispatched the Bravossi banker to warn him of this treachery but as at the end of ADWD, we don’t know if he is going to get there in time. However, Stannis is an excellent battle commander. The Manderlys and Freys have been sent against him, but it is likely that the Manderlys will turncloak in his favor. Also, Roose Bolton cannot trust the majority of the northern lords who are with him. Theon’s spoiler chapter reveals that Stannis has discovered the Karstark treachery and that the leader of the Freys has been killed in a trap outside Winterfell. I believe that the Manderly forces will turn on the Freys, taking them unawares and allowing a Baretheon victory with few casualties. The Karstark men are mostly unaware of the planned treachery, so it is likely that they will continue to fight for Stannis. When combined with the Manderlys, this means that Stannis will have substantially more men than he would have if the treachery went ahead. After the Freys are dealt with, Stannis can use the Karstark maester and his ravens to inform Bolton of a Frey/Manderly victory. Which I believe will prompt Ramsay to write the pink letter. Stannis will then be able to use part of his force and the Manderlys to pose as a Frey/Manderly force and take Winterfell by surprise.
Battle of Meeren:
There are many moving parts to the pending battle of Meeren. The force outside the gates is plague ravaged and comprised of slave soldiers. There are various sell sword companies that may not be willing to face the risk of dragon fire. Tryion can influence the second sons as he is pro Dany. The Tattered Prince will/has defected for the promise of Pentos. The arrival of the Volanteen fleet could swing the balance against team Dany, but it seems like the iron fleet will get there in time to deal with them. The Yunkai flinging bodies into the city could be trying to spread the pale mare, or just ‘returning’ the hostages (I can’t remember). Dany will probably return at the head of a Kalesar. I think the balance is tipped to Dany’s side, even though she may not actually make it to the battle. It seem’s like she has to get her hands on the dragon horn that Victarion has at some point in order to bring her dragons under control. Moquorro will definitely lend a hand here as he believes that she is Azor Ahai. One thing is for sure, whether the city is taken, held or reduced to a smoking ruin, team Dany is on its way to Westeros after the battle.
Winner: Dany (probably)
Final verdict: Stannis and Dany will both win their respective battles.
Why is Azor Ahai from Asshai, the other end of the world? Did the Others get that far during the Long Night?
Main Opinion Stefan:
That’s a good question. Asshai seems to be the centre of fire, as the Westerosi North is the centre of ice, the two pivotal themes of the series. Melisandre speaks of the Wall as one of the hinges of the world; I guess Asshai is the other. So to battle ice, you need fire, and accordingly, the hero is from Asshai. Since fire magic seems to have its origins there, the dragons as Lightbringer and Dany as Azor Ahai would more or less fit within the theme. The big problem with all of this, however, is that we know almost nothing of Asshai except that it is really far away and that there’s Ghost Grass (and the latter we only know from the Lands of Ice and Fire maps, which I’m not sure of whether to regard as canon or not). I think it boils down (no pun intended) to the pivotal “ice vs. fire” theme, with the Heart of Winter and Asshai being the geographic equivalents.
Concurring Opinion Amin:
Some very interesting ideas brought up by my colleagues this week. In particular, I like the idea of Asshai being another pivotal ‘world hinge point’ similar to the Wall (though I do not understand how or why Melisandre in ADWD has become “stronger even than in Asshai” there unless magic is strong in general at these key areas, regardless of type). Are the Others limited to the icy northern areas of Westeros, or do they have kin in the southern areas of the world? More likely, is there a fire and/or shadow antithesis to the Others based near Asshai? Keep in mind that Magister Illyrio claimed to have gotten the three (petrified) dragons eggs from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai and that dragons may have originated there. As already mentioned, we simply do not know enough about Asshai (and the Others) to be able to rule conclusively on it. Let us hope that we actually get a glimpse of Asshai, even in flashback, to shed some light on these mysteries.
Dissenting Opinion Andrew Carey:
This is a very difficult question. I think it unlikely that the others marauded across to the far east of Essos from the frozen north. I think Azor Ahai could have battled the Great Other or whatever force was behind the Long Night in the Shadow lands. They don’t call it ‘Asshai by the Shadow’ for nothing! I believe that we can’t take anything recounted as a 8000 year old legend terribly literally. The legends say that he defeated the others. This could be the melding of two similar events over time. Perhaps Asshai had its own folk hero in Azor Ahai that battled some other great evil and over time he because associated with the Long Night. We have seen similar ‘retooling’ of heroes, gods and and legends in our own world. For example, Roman mythology borrows a lot from the ancient Greeks etc. Part of me thinks that all this Azor Ahai stuff is just a cultural/religious ‘safety net’ that is trotted out at times of peril to give people something to hope for. Similar to the christian belief in the second coming of Jesus or the legend that King Arthur will return in the hour of Britain’s greatest need. The above is pure speculation, I think the question assumes too literal of an interpretation of the legend of Azor Ahai.
Final verdict: Asshai seems to be the incorporation of fire, which would be the counterpart to the Other's ice.
As the Maesters see their task in banashing magic from the world, couldn't Robert Strong be created by some sort of scientific experiment, a kind of Frankenstein's monster?
Main Opinion Stefan:
He could, but Qyburn’s no maester, so he doesn’t necessarily share their distaste of magic, although we haven’t seen much evidence to the contrary yet. I don’t know what drives “Robert Strong”, but somehow I think it will have to do with dark magic rather than Frankenstein technology if only because Martin wants to write fantasy, not 19th century Steampunk. For me, the UnGregor as of yet feels like a foreign body to the story yet. It is there, and all evidence points to the body of Gregor Clegane, most likely short a head, but just what its function in the story is remains unclear. The same is true of Qyburn and the way he keeps the body functioning. Somehow, I don’t think Qyburn has any larger agenda like the Great Maester Conspiracy. He’s a Frankenstein, alright, but he seems to do it for his own ends and not to alter the world in the shape of some ideological worldview, so I guess he’d use whatever works. The one thing I’m sure of is that Qyburn is not a warg who uses his powers for that. The controlling of Robert Strong is essentially a mystery. I believe that Qyburn meddles with some dark powers, just like Marwyn the Mage, only without any resemblance of a conscience. We will learn soon enough, I’d wager, though.
Concurring Opinion Amin:
I agree with my colleagues that Qyburn is using a form of magic, rather than naturalistic science, to create and control Robert Strong. As mentioned, he is banished and disconnected from other maesters and he is playing his own game. However, I do believe that he approaches his work with a scientific outlook and method, mainly because of his maester training. That is how he started his work on death and his thirst for knowledge may make him cross boundaries that traditional magic users may avoid due to tradition or superstitious fear of the Gods. This makes him incredibly dangerous, as he potentially uses both science and magic, as far as two things that are normally incompatible can be mixed together.
Concurring Opinion Andrew Carey:
Robert Strong definitely could be some kind of scientific monster but I do not believe this to be the case. There has not been a precedent set in the novels for this to happen. While it is true that the maesters are anti-magic, lets not forget that it is heavily suggested that the reason Qyburn was stripped of his chain was for dabbling in necromancy. Martins world is presented quite realistically. By this, I mean that it obeys its own rules. We accept that there are dragons and Others because they conform to the rules of the world. I think that the sudden introduction of a Frankenstien type monster created from a purely scientific process would not conform to the rules of the world as the society isn't even close to being that scientifically advanced. I’m not say he isn’t a Frankenstein monster, just that his reanimation has its roots deeply in the supernatural rather than the scientific.
Final verdict: Robert Strong is no Frankenstein's monster, but some magic's monster.