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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 82! Our guest judge this week is Talha Naushad, a professional researcher working in the middle east. When he is not working, he is dabbling his wits in contemporary history and politics and immersing himself in all things concerning A Song of Ice and Fire. He is a member of the community at JonSnow123 at Tower of the Hand and usually lurks around various forums, blogs & podcasts engrossing himself in the theories and analysis of the ASOIAF material and show.
Was the Night's King a Dustin, given their history?
Main Opinion: Amin
I don’t think the Night's King was a Dustin. I think Old Nan is probably right, it was probably a Stark. They tragedy is not only better that way, but it also fits the facts that Starks were quick to rise the ranks at the Wall. I don’t see why it would particularly be a Dustin. They have a rich history, but so do most of the other houses at the Wall. He could have been a Dustin, but no conclusive proof why it more likely that way.
Concurring Opinion: Stefan
No other house than the Starks can point to an unbroken 8000 year history, and given that the Night's King has to have ruled in the first century after Bran the Builder, it’s highly unlikely there was a house Dustin around at that time. Not that it’s that likely that there was a house Stark 8000 years ago, but hey.
Concurring Opinion: Talha
I would agree with justice Amin; we do not have any compelling evidence that the Night's King was a Dustin or not. There has been some speculation that he may have been a Bolton given that Boltons have been rumored to deal with the occult, however there is no conclusive evidence of this also so far. I can imagine much politicking may have taken place in the North on the origins of the Night's King as an ancillary to the power struggle where different houses attributed his origin on their rivals to discredit them, however we have no conclusive evidence to identify his lineage. The fact that most of the records surrounding the Night King have been removed, even from legend and songs, points to sinister acts conducted by the Night’s King and if he was a Stark then it would give them more incentive to actively hide his deeds more so.
Final Verdict: In any likelihood, the Night's King wasn't a Dustin.
Who is the best positioned party of the Game of Thrones right now, pre-TWOW?
Main Opinion: Amin
It is a close decision between House Arryn and House Martell. Both have had the chance to do full harvests and haven’t really used or lost any military forces. Both have strong territories to fall back to even if they don’t succeed outside of their territories. If looking beyond just the Game of Thrones, Martell is better because they are a better climate for surviving a harsh winter and are further away from the Wall. House Tyrell is a strong position politically and militarily. They have taken casualties in war, but have two armies at or near the capital and still had a relatively full harvest. The situation is complicated by the fact that they have many enemies and even the Ironborn running around in their core territories. On the other hand, once the Redwyne Fleet returns they will sweep aside the disorganized Ironborn who don’t even have their Iron Fleet there anymore. But still, one of House Arryn or House Martell, though either work best when paired with another faction than acting on their own.
Dissenting Opinion: Stefan
The whole North, the Riverlands, the Westerlands and the Stormlands are a spent force. That leaves only the Reach, currently occupied with a lot of stuff but in a good position, the Martells and the Vale forces. But the Martell army is small and not terribly well equipped for outside Dorne, and the Vale troops are not a unified force. Their potential exists largely on paper because no commander can count on all of them. That makes the Reach the strongest current player, but obviously, this is all going to change quickly with the arrivals of fAegon, Dany and the Others.
Concurring Opinion: Talha
While some minor houses like Manderley in the North are in a decent position; in terms of overall resources, strength and influence I would agree with justice Amin that both House Martell and House Arryn are the best placed. However we also need to evaluate the potential strategic options that they have going into The Winds of Winter. House Arryn under the influence of Littlefinger seems invested in the Northern plotline where there are many players and there is a lot of uncertainty (Not to mention the impending doom of White Walkers). Comparatively House Martell I believe have many options. They could keep on siding with the Iron throne, or they could throw their lot in with the newly arrived Aegon and the Golden Company, or they could play the long game and wait for Daenerys and her dragons. The situation as such is that no one House can dominate entire Westeros and sensible alliances need to be made. Whether House Martell or House Arryn does that is something we will have to wait and see.
Final Verdict: House Martell and house Arryn are the strongest, followed by the Reach. The rest is basically done.
Since human sacrifice is pretty standard for the creation of Valyrian Steel, is the secret to Lightbringer the nature of the sacrifice?
Main Opinion: Amin
Sacrifice and a heavy price seems to be a recurring theme with any sort of magic, so I think we knew that Lightbringer would need some sacrifice even before we learned more about the details of Valyrian Steel (which isn’t itself 100% confirmed). But we knew Lightbringer needed human level sacrifice from the prophecy itself anyway, so as for the nature of it, I’m not sure what we have really learned that we didn’t know before.
Concurring Opinion: Stefan
Only death can pay for life, and Lightbringer is essentially giving live to every living thing, so yes, there is a sacrifice involved. Luckily, this sacrifice was already made: Mirri Maz Duur died to birth the dragons, who I am convinced are Lightbringer. Plus, the dragons will claim many more lives before used against the Others, so there's that. But even if Lightbringer would be a Valyrian Steel sword, there would have been sacrifice involved since the World of Ice and Fire tells us that their creation requires death. The only sword without sacrifice is Dawn, which was made out of a fallen star.
Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Talha
While human sacrifice is an important requirement for Lightbringer to be forged, as explained through the sacrifice of Nissa Nissa, I believe that simple human sacrifice is not the only act that will be required. The heavy price would involve a series of sacrifices culminating in an ultimate sacrifice and parallels to this can be seen in both the Azor Ahai and The Last Hero stories. According to the legends Azor Ahai made numerous tries to forge Lightbringer, working day and night and using multiple sacrifices to temper the sword. Similarly the Last Hero had to watch his friends, horse and dog die in his pursuit of the children of the forest which took many despairing years. While Azor Ahai and The Last Hero have not been definitely proved to be the same, either way I believe that to forge Lightbringer it would require a life of concerted sacrifice and loss with multiple attempts of finding the right mechanism through which the sword (or any other physical or metaphorical tool) is obtained. And at the end it would require the ultimate sacrifice (of a loved one, or maybe even of one’s belief/idea) to finally bring about Lightbringer to fight the impending darkness.
Final Verdict: Lightbringer requires sacrifice of human life.