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 A 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 email@example.com, leave a comment in the post, ask in the APOIAF-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.
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.
And now, up to ruling 25 of the Supreme Court of Westeros! Our guest judge this week is Duncan (aka Valkyrist), a curator and host for the “Vassals of Kingsgrave” podcast. He lives in Australia, and is currently reviewing episodes of Game of Thrones' fourth season with fellow book-readers at VOKpodcast.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Valkyrist.
Why did Rhaegar fight Robert? At first, it doesn't even appear to be a question. Robert was at war with his house. He was an evil rapist....But we later learn that he wasn't even martial guy at first. He loved music. He certainly wasn't high in his father's graces. Might have even been plotting against him with a great council/southron ambitions scheme. So why lead a big army, cause a lot of death on both sides, then ride his horse into the Trident against a guy who was fighting him under false pretenses (kidnap and rape) and guaranteed to cave his chest in with that giant hammer? From what we now know about who Rhaegar really was, that's far from his style. So, why?
Main Opinion: Stefan
Why, because Robert was a rebel who had sworn to kill him, that's why. Oh, and said rebel also had the North, the Riverlands and the Vale with him, of which the North at least was led by a guy whose father and brother had been murdered. Open war isn't the best of times to clear up misunderstandings, and whether or not Rhaegar abducted Lyanna or not hardly mattered anymore. The Riverlands at least where in the fight for political gain, and there was no way that anyone would believe anything Aerys promised in the event of an armistice. Neither could Rhaegar dispose Aerys in the midst of a war without risking to break his own coalition. He had to fight it out, no matter what. And he was the crown prince, by the way, so taking down rebellions was very much his style.
Concurring Opinion: Amin
I concur: the situation had deteriorated and was not going be easily rectified outside of battle. If he had Lyanna with him, he might have been able to send peace feelers out to Ned, but with her at the Tower of Joy, it is unlikely that anyone would believe him that she was not abducted against her will. Even if he had her there with him, the situation would have remained very volatile. Rhaegar probably planned to win the battle and offer pardons to whoever survived it. I find Justice Duncan’s idea that Rhaegar had a mind to get rid of Robert to settle that betrothal issue interesting; I wouldn’t say it would be out of character, as all Martin’s characters have some flaws, Rhaegar among them. As for why he fought him one on one, the tide of battle drew them together (and Robert probably aimed straight for him). While not being an inherently martial person, Rhaegar was trained in both military combat and tactics, and he must have understood the demoralizing impact that fleeing from a challenge would have on his men. Rheagar was not ‘guaranteed’ to have his chest caved in and the fight could have easily gone the other way.
Concurring opinion: Duncan
If you recall the words Rhaegar offers Jaime before departing for the Trident—“changes will be made”—they seem to suggest the prince's imminent takeover of the Targaryen monarchy, Aerys be damned. Most likely, the act of confronting Robert in the field was duty. He knew Robert hated him for stealing Lyanna away, and perhaps he even sympathised with some of that hatred, but the fact remained, Robert was in open rebellion against the crown, and had to be destroyed. Merryweather, Connington, Chelsted, and Tyrell had failed to get the job done, and so the task fell to the Crown Prince. That said, I wonder if Rhaegar also sought to use this battle as something of a public declaration of his ascendance to the throne, to prove to the realm that the liege of House Targaryen was not a raving, senile lunatic, but a strong and vital warrior-king. Perhaps yet another (less honourable) reason was that Lyanna’s family had promised her hand to Robert, and so by putting Lord Baratheon six-feet under, he could have her all to himself. I’m skeptical that Rhaegar was any less patriarchal in his views of women than Robert; that is, as property, or more specifically, as prophetic baby-factories.
Final Verdict: They were at war, dude.
Was House Hightower involved into a large conspiracy to bring House Targaryen down to avenge the fall of the “Green King” in the Dance? Since Walys, the mastermind behind the Southron Ambitions, was a Hightower, it seems possible.
Main Opinion: Stefan
It seems rather ambitious to plot something like this over the course of five or six generations. I also don't see what the fall puff house Targaryen would accomplish here; it's the same house that they once supported. Sure, the line was continued by Aegon III., heir of Rhaenyra, but acting 150 years later seems a bit strange, doesn't it? As for Walys, if this was a Hightower ploy, then why did the Reach support the crown? This doesn't make any sense to me. If they were involved, then in the initial plans to alter the current state of government, not to bring down the Targaryens in favour of a Baratheon king they had nothing to gain from.
Concurring opinion: Amin
I agree that such a conspiracy was unlikely, particular in the suggested way to avenge the “Green King”. I do think, however, that there is something to the idea of a master conspiracy to rid the world of dragons (and magic in general). House Hightower does run Oldtown and must out of necessity have strong connections to the Citadel, so it is possible that they played a role in some manner. But that is a focus on dragons (and magic), not necessarily House Targaryen itself.
Concurring opinion: Duncan
Ha! I kindly doubt it, for the reasons that Stefan lays out. I don't necessarily think of Southron Ambitions as a conspiracy in the Littlefinger/Varys sense, where people are being manipulated and strings are being pulled backstage to achieve a “specific goal”. Rather, I think it's just a bunch of lords who fought alongside each other in the War of the Ninepenny Kings, grew friendly, and said: “Hey, let's have each other’s backs.” I doubt deposing the king was ever their actual goal, because how could they possibly decide who to replace him with. However, it was the children of these lords, Robert and Ned, who decided to overthrow Aerys, and because of what their fathers had put together, they had the infrastructure and the alliances in place to take on the Targaryens. Regardless, there is not a shred of evidence that the Hightowers had any hand in the Southron Ambitions scheme (which itself, is still merely a theory).
Final Verdict: This would list high on "The dumbest plots of all time", so, no.
Can you see the end of the great houses of Westeros? Last night it struck me of the peril that nearly all heirs to the 7 great houses are in. We all believe Jaime will kill Cersei, and she will out live her children. The Arryn's have practically gone. Tully's heir is in prison at Casterly Rock, Baratheon's is left to the Grey Scale. Arianne Martell looks set to marry the fake Targ which will leave Dorne facing Dany's wrath. This leaves the Tyrell's and Stark's with the safest heris. Jon on the throne come the end of A Dream of Spring.
Main Opinion: Stefan
No, I can't say I see that. House Arryn is continued by Harry the Heir, likely in a marriage with Sansa. House Lannister is rich with heirs from side lines of the blood, for example Devan, and has Tyrion ready to bring it in Danaerys' fold. House Stark has Arya, Sansa, Rickon and Bran left. House Tyrell flows over with heirs, and Garlan and Willas aren't in the least danger right now. House Martell hasTrystane to continue should Arianne fall. This leaves Tully, who is basically done for, and Baratheon as most likely victims. There is no reason for anyone to reinstate Tully, and there is practically zero chance of a Baratheon heir coming up. Other than that, the great houses are pretty well set.
Concurring opinon: Amin
It seems that most of the houses will survive in some form, though whether they will retain their current Lords Paramount positions will remain to be seen (and was the focus of a recent question at our Court). Baratheon does seem to be the house in greatest peril, though Edric Storm or other bastards (Gendry?) could be legitimized to carry on the family name, even if Shireen dies.
Dissenting opinion: Duncan
I’m wondering if the oft-recited Doom of Valyria is not a premonition for the fate of Westeros. A dozen rival families dueled for control of that smoking freehold. What if all of the machinations and plots we’ve witnessed in the past five books are naught but the last gasps of dying political organism? Winter rages in the far north, and beneath it marches an army the likes of which no man faced in eight thousand years. Mutiny has erupted across an already gaunt and poorly resourced Night’s Watch. The North is scattered, leaderless, and shockingly unprepared for the grueling winter, let alone an apocalyptic war. And further south, the Riverlands remain a basin of lawlessness and death. After what we saw them do at the Fist of the First Men, does anyone doubt the Others could roll across the Seven Kingdoms in a matter of months? But more important than their corporeal march, however, is the fact that winter brings with it the magic of the Wights. If the seal on the Wall is broken, what’s to stop those thousands of slain wolves and lions rising from their shallow wargraves, now united under the banner of their winter masters. What do I predict for the great houses of Westeros? Utter ruin. There will no longer be Stark and Lannister, Baratheon and Tyrell. There will only be the living and the dead. Winter is coming!
Final Verdict: No, most houses will survive.