you think barristan will die in meereen? warsandpoliticsoficeandfire laid out a pretty compelling theory of barristan switching to aegon's side
Thanks for the question, @punkrocknerdfighter.
I cannot speak to that author’s supposed argument. But I can discuss why I think it more likely that Barristan will die in Meereen, before Daenerys returns, than that he will betray her for Young Aegon.
Barristan’s POV arc in ADWD was undoubtedly short, but I believe it proved more than satisfactory in crystallizing the thematic elements of his story in a meaningful way while also setting up his downfall. In my opinion, Barristan’s story has largely concerned the question “What does it mean to serve a king?”, and that question comes to a head for him after Daenerys leaves, when he finds himself serving King Hizdahr. As the court changes under Hizdahr - Daenerys loyalists being dismissed or reduced in importance, replaced by Hizdahr’s men - Barristan grows more uncomfortable, and more willing to listen to Skahaz’s conspiracy to depose him. When Hizdahr refuses to retaliate against the unjust murder of the hostage Groleo - something Barristan thinks even weak Jaehaerys II would have done - Barristan’s move against Hizdahr is assured. The “Kingbreaker” thus becomes the climax, not just for Barristan in ADWD but Barristan as a Kingsguard: he finally does what he never had the courage to do with Aerys or Robert - depose an unworthy king in favor of a rightful queen, or at least ruling in a rightful queen’s name, breaking the blind oath of loyalty expected of a Kingsguard in the cause of justice.
However, Barristan made a critical error in ADWD, one that I think will prove his undoing: trusting the Shavepate. Barristan is not a fool, but he entered into agreement with an unscrupulously ambitious and very deceptive man. It’s the Shavepate who almost certainly poisoned the locusts at Daznak’s Pit, the Shavepate who spent ADWD angling against Hizdahr and his set, and the Shavepate who is now in control of the city proper (with Queen’s Hand Barristan bringing war outside). I have no doubt that the Shavepate is going to take advantage of Barristan’s absence in battle to further his political goals - goals Barristan will find horrifying.
So I do believe TWOW will serve as a great triumph and then an immediate, tragic denouement for the white knight. The released preview chapter “Barristan I” ends with a strong pre-battle speech, one clearly fed from his decades of martial experience - a speech that, for my money, has “heroic last words” written all over it. Hell, I’ll admit that the ending to “Barristan II” of TWOW (never released formally in text, but read aloud) even makes me shiver a little, I like it so; the whole chapter is a stage to show off Barristan’s prowess as a wartime commander, but especially the glee in his voice when he compares the landing of Victarion’s fleet to the hammer and the anvil of the Redgrass Field … well, it’s one of the more stirring moments in ASOIAF for me, even though it’s not even released yet.
How tragic then, for Barristan to return to his adopted city a hero, the savior of Meereen, the loyal and true knight - only to find that, in his absence, the Shavepate has had Hizdahr, Reznak, and the child hostages killed. The Shavepate’s hatred of Hizdahr was an open fact throughout ADWD, and time and again he has called for the the child hostages Daenerys took to be murdered, first in retaliation for the Sons of the Harpy murders and then the murders of the Meereenese hostages with the Yunkai'i (though Daenerys and Barristan refused to countenance the murder of children of whom both had become fond). Barristan will come back to the city to discover the Shavepate has effectively seized control of the Meereenese government in his absence, eliminating his political enemies and their children for good measure - and now that Barristan has helpfully deposed Hizdahr and won the battle for him, Skahaz has no further need to keep the old man around. So I imagine the end of Barristan will come as Barristan goes after Skahaz (perhaps after Skahaz orders him killed), and is cut down by the Shavepate’s loyal Brazen Beasts; tired from the battle, the old knight will be swarmed upon the masked men he already deeply distrusts. Barristan’s ending as such would be completely fitting with something I’ve been trying to emphasize as a recurring theme in ASOIAF: the fall of a protagonist can be tragic while still rooted in that protagonist’s own missteps and failures.
I also prefer this ending for Barristan for the impact it will have on Daenerys. I’ve said before that I could see Daenerys spending two chapters with the Dothraki - one killing Khal Jhaqo, and one being acclaimed in Vaes Dothrak - before returning to Meereen in or around “Daenerys III”. Daenerys will find on her return that her white knight is gone - the only other Westerosi in her crew (without Jorah), the connection between her and her family past, a man she thought she could trust. Wouldn’t you know it, though, a whole new crop of advisors will be there to help - Tyrion, Moqorro, and Marwyn, among their associates. Moreover, unlike Barristan, these men are not going to try to reign in her more violent side: Tyrion sees Daenerys as his means of getting back to Westeros and destroying his hated family; Moqorro and the red priests think Daenerys is the chosen of R'hllor, who feasts on human sacrifice; Marwyn clearly blames the “grey sheep” of the Citadel for killing the dragons before, so he’s about the last person who would try to keep her dragons locked away (on top of his interest in Daenerys as the martial “prince that was promised”). The loss of Barristan will help transition Daenerys into a full “fire and blood” mode I think she needs, thematically speaking, before she can become the humanity-saving hero at the end of ASOIAF.
Thinking on a meta level about this supposed turning cloak for Aegon, it would hardly be narratively surprising at this point for Daenerys to face another betraying counselor. The saga of Jorah’s betrayal and questionable loyalty has been a recurring theme even with Jorah out of her immediate circle, and the defection of Brown Ben Plumm to Yunkai was a major plot point in ADWD. Would it be interesting from a plot perspective to have her betrayed again by another trusted advisor? Certainly, it is possible that GRRM would repeat the same tactic, but there are surely other, more intriguing means Daenerys could face her prophesied “treasons” than by another counselor defecting from her service.
Consider also the structural integrity of TWOW and beyond. If GRRM chooses to bring back all alive POV characters for TWOW - and I cannot see a reason he would not, with the series escalating to its final climax - that means 20 separate main POV characters (compare to the 16 of ADWD, the book with the most separate POV characters so far). Unless each character gets a paltry number of chapters, I think it likely that GRRM will start winnowing down the POVs, killing them off to focus on the truly important viewpoints. Neither Daenerys nor Aegon has a need for Barristan to remain with them: Daenerys has her own POV as well as Tyrion’s in her area, while Aegon currently has JonCon and will soon have Arianne as well (and I’ll eat my hat if the Dornish princess doesn’t endeavor to make herself Aegon’s queen). Three POVs is a substantial amount to look at any character, particularly one who has “doomed” practically stamped on his forehead.
Finally, I very much doubt that the fight between Aegon and Daenerys lasts for a long time; indeed, I can see Daenerys having enough to do in TWOW that she doesn’t even reach Westeros until the very end of that book, and we instead end in King’s Landing with King Aegon VI on the Iron Throne. Would it really be sensible to keep Barristan around so long for a “civil war” that will last, in a generous calculation, for a handful of chapters? What would be the ultimate point to Barristan’s story then - that Daenerys is triumphant, and Barristan should never have left her? Would that be narratively fulfilling? You’re welcome to think so; but I do not.
The Queen Regent (NFriel)