“So you are the girl my son wishes to wed,” Prince Maekar says, inspecting Betha from head to toe as if she were a piece of horseflesh.
Betha frowns. Girl. She is nineteen, a woman grown, hardly a girl. “I am the woman who wishes to wed your son,” she replies, not bothering to fake a smile. This man could not be charmed, could not be soothed or cajoled with sweet words or lingering smiles, Betha had concluded, from the little Aegon had shared with her about his father. Maekar Targaryen must be met in his own terrain and on his own terms. Steely determination is the only language he understands.
“Did he put you up to this? Was this his doing?”
“Who do you mean, Your Grace?”
Eyes bulging, Prince Maekar snaps, “Do not play the fool with me! You know who I meant. You are not a silly, fatuous girl, I can say that about you, at least. But are you a sneak and a liar? Are you one of Bloodraven’s a thousand and one eyes, to be inserted in my household under the guise of a blushing bride?”
Undeterred, Betha meets Prince Maekar’s piercing gaze and calmly replies, “Do you take me for the type to blush so easily?”
He laughs. Oh it is harsh, the sound of his laughter, harsh and bitter, so very different from his son’s joyful and exhilarated laughter. But the words coming out from his mouth are a surprise to Betha.
“I can see why my son would find you so irresistible.”
How would you even know? Betha could not imagine this severe, stern, unyielding man being the type of father who would invite confidences on matters of the heart from his children.
“Aegon does not need to tell me anything. I can see it in his eyes when he speaks of you, when he looks at you,” Prince Maekar says, eyes gleaming, as if he had been reading Betha’s mind. “His infatuation is very clear.”
Infatuation. Betha detests the word, a put-down meant to trivialize a deeper, longer lasting bond.
“Of what do you suspect me, Your Grace? Do you suspect that my cousin Lord Brynden convinced me to seduce your son Aegon to further some nefarious plan of his? If he really has in mind to corrupt one of your sons through me, would it not be cleverer for him to have me seduce one of your older sons, the ones closer to the throne? Where is the benefit to Cousin Brynden for a kin of his to wed the fourth son to a fourth son, one unlikely to ever sit the Iron Throne?”
“Perhaps he tried, and you refused to do his bidding.”
“You think too ill of him.”
“And my son thinks too well of you. It will not last, you know. The shine will fade in time.”
“Everything fades if it is not continually polished and worked on.”
“Oh? SO love is not destiny? It is not fate, something meant to be?”
Betha ignores his mocking tone. “Love is hard work. And I am ready for it. We both are, your son and I.”
“Then I wish you both well,” Prince Maekar says, with no trace of mockery in his voice this time.
“He was older than Dunk remembered him, with a lined hard face, but his skin was still as pale as bone, and his cheek and neck still bore the ugly winestain birthmark that some people thought looked like a raven. His boots were black, his tunic scarlet. Over it he wore a cloak the color of smoke, fastened with a brooch in the shape of an iron hand. His hair fell to his shoulders, long and white and straight, brushed forward so as to conceal his missing eye, the one that Bittersteel had plucked from him on the Redgrass Field. The eye that remained was very red. How many eyes has Bloodraven? A thousand eyes, and one.”
Another commission. I loved drawing Aegon’s bratty little face lmfao.
Sketch commissions for five dollars are still open because I still have tablet issues :/ for more info, click here x
I don't really remember the books in much detail (I need to reread) but could you please tell me which book talks about Bloodraven, Shiera Seastar and etc?
This is a tricky question for me, because the first I really recall reading about them is on westeros.org, GRRM’s Targaryen descriptions for the artist Amoka. (Bloodraven; Shiera. Note many historical Targs were described for that artist in far more detail than they ever were in the books.) I know that Bloodraven was definitely mentioned in AFFC, and both of them in ADWD, but let’s see if there’s anything anywhere else:
Maester Aemon preferred to spend his days on deck as well, huddled beneath a pile of furs and gazing out across the water. “What is he looking at?” Dareon wondered one day. “For him it’s as dark up here as it is down in the cabin.” The old man heard him. Though Aemon’s eyes had dimmed and gone dark, there was nothing wrong with his ears. “I was not born blind,” he reminded them. “When last I passed this way, I saw every rock and tree and whitecap, and watched the grey gulls flying in our wake. I was five-and-thirty and had been a maester of the chain for sixteen years. Egg wanted me to help him rule, but I knew my place was here. He sent me north aboard the Golden Dragon, and insisted that his friend Ser Duncan see me safe to Eastwatch. No recruit had arrived at the Wall with so much pomp since Nymeria sent the Watch six kings in golden fetters. Egg emptied out the dungeons too, so I would not need to say my vows alone. My honor guard, he called them. One was no less a man than Brynden Rivers. Later he was chosen lord commander.” “Bloodraven?” said Dareon. “I know a song about him. ‘A Thousand Eyes, and One,’ it’s called. But I thought he lived a hundred years ago.” “We all did. Once I was as young as you.”
—AFFC, Samwell II
[In the Winterfell crypts, looking at statues of the old Stark lords]:
Lord Beron Stark, who made common cause with Casterly Rock to war against Dagon Greyjoy, Lord of Pyke, in the days when the Seven Kingdoms were ruled in all but name by the bastard sorcerer men called Bloodraven.
—ADWD, The Turncloak (Theon V)
Bittersteel and Bloodraven both loved Shiera Seastar, and the Seven Kingdoms bled.
—ADWD, The Kingbreaker (Barristan III)
Looks like AFFC and ADWD is it for the main books, then. Although there is quite a bit more description of them (well, Bloodraven, at least) in the Dunk and Egg stories:
The realm was full of lawless men these days. The drought showed no signs of ending, and smallfolk by the thousands had taken to the roads, looking for someplace where the rains still fell. Lord Bloodraven had commanded them to return to their own lands and lords, but few obeyed. Many blamed Bloodraven and King Aerys for the drought. It was a judgment from the gods, they said, for the kinslayer is accursed. If they were wise, though, they did not say it loudly. How many eyes does Lord Bloodraven have? ran the riddle Egg had heard in Oldtown. A thousand eyes, and one. Six years ago in King’s Landing, Dunk had seen him with his own two eyes, as he rode a pale horse up the Street of Steel with fifty Raven’s Teeth behind him. That was before King Aerys had ascended to the Iron Throne and made him the Hand, but even so he cut a striking figure, garbed in smoke and scarlet with Dark Sister on his hip. His pallid skin and bone-white hair made him look a living corpse. Across his cheek and chin spread a wine-stain birthmark that was supposed to resemble a red raven, though Dunk only saw an odd-shaped blotch of discolored skin. He stared so hard that Bloodraven felt it. The king’s sorcerer had turned to study him as he went by. He had one eye, and that one red. The other was an empty socket, the gift Bittersteel had given him upon the Redgrass Field. Yet it seemed to Dunk that both eyes had looked right through his skin, down to his very soul.
— The Sworn Sword
“You’ve known queens and princesses. Did they dance with demons and practice the black arts?” “Lady Shiera does. Lord Bloodraven’s paramour. She bathes in blood to keep her beauty.”
— The Sworn Sword
“The Blackwoods will never stomach the Brute of Bracken as a neighbor. It will mean war.” Dunk knew about the ancient enmity between the Blackwoods and the Brackens. “Won’t their liege lord force a peace?” “Alas,” said Septon Sefton, “Lord Tully is a boy of eight, surrounded by women. Riverrun will do little, and King Aerys will do less. Unless some maester writes a book about it, the whole matter may escape his royal notice. Lord Rivers is not like to let any Brackens in to see him. Pray recall, our Hand was born half Blackwood. If he acts at all, it will be only to help his cousins bring the Brute to bay. The Mother marked Lord Rivers on the day that he was born, and Bittersteel marked him once again upon the Redgrass Field.” Dunk knew he meant Bloodraven. Brynden Rivers was the Hand’s true name. His mother had been a Blackwood, his father King Aegon the Fourth.
— The Sworn Sword
“Lord Bloodraven’s not even a real lord, that’s just some stupid courtesy. He’s a sorcerer, and baseborn besides.” “Bastard born, not baseborn.” Bloodraven might not be a real lord, but he was noble on both sides. His mother had been one of the many mistresses of King Aegon the Unworthy. Aegon’s bastards had been the bane of the Seven Kingdoms ever since the old king died. He had legitimized the lot upon his deathbed; not only the Great Bastards like Bloodraven, Bittersteel, and Daemon Blackfyre, whose mothers had been ladies, but even the lesser ones he’d fathered on whores and tavern wenches, merchant’s daughters, mummer’s maidens, and every pretty peasant girl who chanced to catch his eye. Fire and Blood were the words of House Targaryen, but Dunk once heard Ser Arlan say that Aegon’s should have been Wash Her and Bring Her to My Bed.
— The Sworn Sword (note multiple other mentions of Bloodraven within this story, including a description of the Battle of the Redgrass Field)
How many eyes does Lord Bloodraven have? the riddle ran. A thousand eyes, and one. Some claimed the King’s Hand was a student of the dark arts who could change his face, put on the likeness of a one-eyed dog, even turn into a mist. Packs of gaunt gray wolves hunted down his foes, men said, and carrion crows spied for him and whispered secrets in his ear. Most of the tales were only tales, Dunk did not doubt, but no one could doubt that Bloodraven had informers everywhere. He had seen the man once with his own two eyes, back in King’s Landing. White as bone were the skin and hair of Brynden Rivers, and his eye—he had only the one, the other having been lost to his half brother Bittersteel on the Redgrass Field—was red as blood. On cheek and neck he bore the winestain birthmark that had given him his name.
— The Mystery Knight
He was older than Dunk remembered him, with a lined hard face, but his skin was still as pale as bone, and his cheek and neck still bore the ugly winestain birthmark that some people thought looked like a raven. His boots were black, his tunic scarlet. Over it he wore a cloak the color of smoke, fastened with a brooch in the shape of an iron hand. His hair fell to his shoulders, long and white and straight, brushed forward so as to conceal his missing eye, the one that Bittersteel had plucked from him on the Redgrass Field. The eye that remained was very red. How many eyes has Bloodraven? A thousand eyes, and one.
— The Mystery Knight (and again, many other mentions within this story)
Oh, and under the cut are the descriptions of the last greenseer in ADWD’s Bran chapters, so you can see who he is for sure.
brynden nods. hoster looks tired, with dark circles under his eyes. brynden is quite sure he doesn’t fare better. minisa’s yells had kept them all awake through the night. lysa had wept, and catelyn had held her close. cat never liked it when lysa cried, and always tried to put a smile on her face.
“come see him,” hoster says. he sounds excited. “come see my boy.”
will this one live? brynden doesn’t ask. both girls did, after all, even if robb and jonos had not. but he doesn’t say that. it is ill luck, he knows, to even think such thoughts on the day the boy is born.
the windows of the nursery are open, and a cool wind comes in from over the river. in the middle of the cradle, swaddled in a blue blanket was a baby with a red face and a tuft of red hair. he is sleeping, and crinkled, and brynden can hardly breathe.
he’s so small, is all he can think. smaller than cat had been, surely, and smaller than lysa. he must be smaller than robb and jonos as well, for they’d been bigger than cat had been, hale and loud and fussing.
“edmure, we’ve called him,” hoster says. “the midwife said there was nothing wrong with him, apart from coming early. she said he’d be strong and bigger before too long.”
brynden reached down and ran a finger over the boy’s cheek. it was so soft, like a flower petal. just a babe, he said, just a little babe.
“you should wed and have one of your own,” hoster said, but brynden shook his head. i’d take no joy in the making. but he can’t say that to hoster. hoster would never understand that.
“why, when you’ve a boy of your own that i can love,” he says. love and protect. he thinks of the girls, cat’s bright smile, lysa’s tuneless humming. what will you be, little edmure?
the babe yawns, and snuffles, and continues to sleep, and brynden–he can’t stop staring at him.
Hi PQ, after the "Forsaken" I am convinced that Euron will bring even more misery to our asoiaf-universe than I had hoped to dream of. But how you guys can be so sure about the bloodraven/euron thing? Yes, he dreamt of flying as a child, but so did I. It is a common dream. Even if they came repeatedly and were vivid, how do you know it isn't a red herring? It shows one thing, that he was a child with a lot of imagination, he wears an eye patch, but what qualified him to be so special like Bran?
I had flying dreams too, but the difference is that we’re not fictional characters. The content and context of our dreams were not specifically arranged by an author trying to communicate something to an external audience. As @racefortheironthrone put it: “Unlike in real life, where dreams are just your brain trying to make sense of the random surges of electricity that ripple through your brain during REM sleep, fictional dreams get to be genuinely meaningful and frequently prophetic.” As a storyteller, you don’t stop your narrative dead to describe a dream unless you have a reason to do so. When GRRM gave us the Ghost of High Heart’s dreams, he was laying down prophetic groundwork. When he gave us Cersei’s dream about being naked on the Iron Throne, he was offering insight into her relationship to power and gender. And when he gave us this…
“When I was a boy, I dreamt that I could fly,” he announced. “When I woke, I couldn’t…or so the maester said. But what if he lied?”
…yeah, I think we were supposed to notice that it’s an exact parallel to Bran’s story. It’s not just that Euron dreamt he could fly. It’s that when he woke, he was frustrated to find that he couldn’t (just like Bran), and has clearly been pursuing that kind of power ever since (just like Bran: “I want to fly”), despite getting discouraged by his skeptical rationalist maester (just like Bran).
Nor is it the only evidence in favor of Euron being Bloodraven’s rogue protege. “Crow’s Eye” could not possibly be more suggestive given “three-eyed crow” and all the symbolism surrounding Bloodraven even before he went full astral. “Bloodeye” from “The Forsaken” points in Bloodraven’s direction as well. Then there’s Euron’s banner:
…a red eye with a black pupil, beneath a black iron crown supported by two crows.
The birds are anointing the eye, marking it out as important, a perfect image of what Bloodraven does when he opens someone’s third eye. I say “someone” because while Bran is certainly special, he’s far from the first kid visited in his dreams:
Bran looked down. There was nothing below him now but snow and cold and death, a frozen wasteland where jagged blue-white spires of ice waited to embrace him. They flew up at him like spears. He saw the bones of a thousandotherdreamers impaled upon their points.
As for what qualified Euron, the criterion’s made explicit:
“Only one man in a thousand is born a skinchanger,” Lord Brynden said one day, after Bran had learned to fly, “and only one skinchanger in a thousand can be a greenseer.”
You have to be a really powerful skinchanger, and skinchangers aren’t unknown on the Iron Islands, as we see with my beloved Farwynds. Indeed, as I and @goodqueenaly have said before, Gylbert is paralleled with Euron at the kingsmoot in many ways, and I think it extends to the skinchanging. Euron’s clearly got some serious magical chops, and we see him show up Bloodraven-style not only in Aeron’s dreams in “The Forsaken,” but also Dany’s dreams in ADWD:
Beneath her coverlets she tossed and turned, dreaming that Hizdahr was kissing her…but his lips were blue and bruised, and when he thrust himself inside her, his manhood was cold as ice.
Here’s where I move from direct evidence to context that buttresses the theory. “Cold as ice” screams white walker to me, and if Euron was indeed visited by the three-eyed crow, he knows the Others are on their way:
North and north and north he looked, to the curtain of light at the end of the world, and then beyond that curtain. He looked deep into the heart of winter, and then he cried out, afraid, and the heat of his tears burned on his cheeks.
Now you know, the crow whispered as it sat on his shoulder. Now you know why you must live.
“Why?” Bran said, not understanding, falling, falling.
Because winter is coming.
And if Euron spotted the heart of winter with his third eye, well, that paints these lines in a different light:
“A crow can espy death from afar. And I say that all of Westeros is dying.”
“The bleeding star bespoke the end,” he said to Aeron. “These are the last days, when the world shall be broken and remade. A new god shall be born from the graves and charnel pits.”
There’s precedent for this mindset within the world of ASOIAF; just ask Night’s King, or the Bloodstone Emperor. Everything about Euron suggests to me he’s exactly that kind of man, the one who would welcome the Long Night, thinking of it as just another metaphysical payload (like Dragonbinder, like the shade of the evening, like whatever he’s up to with those priests on the prows of his ships) he could use to make himself a god. As for howhe’d welcome them, GRRM did make damn sure that Sam held onto that ever-innocuous horn when trading so much else for passage on the Cinnamon Wind, didn’t he? We know from Jon XII ADWD that Mance’s horn was fake (Jon lampshading it heavily: “where is the true horn?”) and at the end of AFFC, Sam brought his horn into the city Euron’s poised to invade. The Crow’s Eye is already associated with eldritch horns, after all. Hell, I think GRRM even dropped a hint as to where in Oldtown specifically Euron’s going to blow that horn and take the ultimate plunge. It all comes back to that dream:
“Perhaps we can fly. All of us. How will we ever know unless we leap from some tall tower?”
Indeed, that clearly wasn’t just some random childhood dream for Euron. He’s framing it as his origin story, the reason why he looks at the world and himself the way he does. “No man ever truly knows what he can do unless he dares to leap.”
Finally, as I’ve said before, this fits Bloodraven’s character perfectly, part of a pattern of ironic own goals. As Hand, he ignored all problems but Bittersteel, allowing the Greyjoys to raid at will and thus weakening the long-term legitimacy of the very monarchy he was working to defend. Now, as greenseer, he ignored all problems but the Others, willing even to empower a psycho like Euron if he could contribute to that fight…and in doing so, Bloodraven put humanity in severe danger of losing that fight, because his rogue pupil’s going to blow the Horn of Joramun from atop the Hightower, bring down the Wall, and let the nightmares in.
So, in short: the direct evidence is convincing, it fits all the characters well, and it makes sense with the other story elements swirling around it.
In his wolf dreams, he could race up the sides of mountains, jagged icy mountains taller than any tower, and stand at the summit beneath the full moon with all the world below him, the way it used to be. (Bran, A Clash of Kings)
I dreamed I was a wolf again. She could remember the smells best of all: trees and earth, her pack brothers, the scents of horse and deer and man, each different from the others, and the sharp acrid tang of fear, always the same. Some nights the wolf dreams were so vivid that she could hear her brothers howling even as she woke, and once Brea had claimed that she was growling in her sleep as she thrashed beneath the covers. (Cat of the Canals, A Feast for Crows)
He chose one bird, and then another, without success, but the third raven looked at him with shrewd black eyes, tilted its head, and gave a quork, and quick as that he was not a boy looking at a raven but a raven looking at a boy. The song of the river suddenly grew louder, the torches burned a little brighter than before, and the air was full of strange smells. (Bran, A Dance with Dragons)
The Lyseni took the table nearest to the fire and spoke quietly over cups of black tar rum, keeping their voices low so no one could overhear. But she was no one and she heard most every word. And for a time it seemed that she could see them too, through the slitted yellow eyes of the tomcat purring in her lap. One was old and one was young and one had lost an ear, but all three had the white-blond hair and smooth fair skin of Lys, where the blood of the old Freehold still ran strong. (The Blind Girl, A Dance with Dragons)
“Yes. I know that you’re the one who has been hitting me.” Her stick flashed out, and cracked against his fingers, sending his own stick clattering to the floor.
The priest winced and snatched his hand back. “And how could a blind girl know that?”
I saw you. “I gave you three. I don’t need to give you four.” Maybe on the morrow she would tell him about the cat that had followed her home last night from Pynto’s, the cat that was hiding in the rafters, looking down on them. (The Blind Girl, A Dance with Dragons)
LEADER OF A WOLFPACK
Then the two rushed together, wolf and direwolf, and there was no more time for thought. The world shrank down to tooth and claw. […] But finally the old one-eyed wolf lay down and showed his belly. The direwolf snapped at him twice more, sniffed at his butt, then lifted a leg over him. A few snaps and a warning growl, and the female and the tail submitted too. The pack was his. (Bran, A Dance with Dragons)
She dreamed of wolves most every night. A great pack of wolves, with her at the head. She was bigger than any of them, stronger, swifter, faster. She could outrun horses and outfight lions. […] And her brothers and sisters were with her, many and more of them, fierce and terrible and hers. (Arya, A Storm of Swords)
GORGED ON THE FLESH OF MAN WHILE WARGING
He went from man to man, sniffing, before settling on the biggest, a faceless thing who clutched black iron in one hand. […] Blood flowed thick and sluggish from the slash across his throat. The wolf lapped at it with his tongue, licked the ragged eyeless ruin of his nose and cheeks, then buried his muzzle in his neck and tore it open, gulping down a gobbet of sweet meat. No flesh had ever tasted half as good. (Bran, A Dance with Dragons)
She licked her lips, remembering. The bleating of the sheep, the terror in the shepherd’s eyes, the sound the dogs had made as she killed them one by one, the snarling of her pack. Game had become scarcer since the snows began to fall, but last night they had feasted. Lamb and dog and mutton and the flesh of man. Some of her little grey cousins were afraid of men, even dead men, but not her. Meat was meat, and men were prey. She was the night wolf. (The Blind Girl, A Dance with Dragons)
EXCLUSIVELY SUBSCRIBE TO THE OLD GODS
The deep red eyes carved into the pale trunk still watched him, yet somehow he took comfort from that now. The gods were looking over him, he told himself; the old gods, gods of the Starks and the First Men and the children of the forest, his father’s gods. He felt safe in their sight, and the deep silence of the trees helped him think. Bran had been thinking a lot since his fall; thinking, and dreaming, and talking with the gods. (Bran, A Game of Thrones)
Polliver had stolen the sword from her when the Mountain’s men took her captive, but when she and the Hound walked into the inn at the crossroads, there it was. The gods wanted me to have it. Not the Seven, nor Him of Many Faces, but her father’s gods, the old gods of the north. The Many-Faced God can have the rest, she thought, but he can’t have this. (Arya, A Feast for Crows)
The rooftops of Winterfell were Bran’s second home. His mother often said that Bran could climb before he could walk. Bran could not remember when he first learned to walk, but he could not remember when he started to climb either, so he supposed it must be true. (Bran, A Game of Thrones)
Arya was askilledclimber and a fast picker, and she liked to go off by herself. (Arya, A Clash of Kings)
NAMED FOR NED’S FAMILY
Brandon Stark, Ned’s older brother.
Arya Flint, Ned’s maternal grandmother.
MENTORED BY MAGICAL FIGURE
Seated on his throne of roots in the great cavern, half-corpse and half-tree, Lord Brynden seemed less a man than some ghastly statue made of twisted wood, old bone, and rotted wool. The only thing that looked alive in the pale ruin that was his face was his one red eye, burning like the last coal in a dead fire, surrounded by twisted roots and tatters of leathery white skin hanging off a yellowed skull. (Bran, A Dance with Dragons)
The priest lowered his cowl. Beneath he had no face; only a yellowed skull with a few scraps of skin still clinging to the cheeks, and a white worm wriggling from one empty eye socket. (Arya, A Feast for Crows)
THOUGHT TO BE DEAD
“But there is no pack,” she whispered to the weirwood. Bran and Rickon were dead, the Lannisters had Sansa, Jon had gone to the Wall. (Arya, A Clash of Kings)
“No one has seen or heard of Arya since they cut Father’s head off. Why do you lie to yourself? Arya’s gone, the same as Bran and Rickon, and they’ll kill Sansa too once the dwarf gets a child from her.” (Catelyn, A Storm of Swords)
STRENGTH IN DARKNESS
“Never fear the darkness, Bran.” The lord’s words were accompanied by a faint rustling of wood and leaf, a slight twisting of his head. “The strongest trees are rooted in the dark places of the earth. Darkness will be your cloak, your shield, your mother’s milk. Darkness will make you strong.” (Bran, A Dance with Dragons)
“How long must I be blind?” she would ask.
“Until darkness is as sweet to you as light,” the waif would say, “or until you ask us for your eyes. Ask and you shall see.” (The Blind Girl, A Dance with Dragons)
TAUGHT THE NORTHERN WAY BY FATHER
“He does,” his father admitted. “As did the Targaryen kings before him. Yet our way is the older way. The blood of the First Men still flows in the veins of the Starks, and we hold to the belief that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die. (Bran, A Game of Thrones)
This time she did not hesitate. "Dareon is dead. The black singer who was sleeping at the Happy Port. He was really a deserter from the Night’s Watch. Someone slit his throat and pushed him into a canal, but they kept his boots.” (Cat of the Canals, A Feast for Crows)
The girl was not sorry, though. Dareon had been a deserter from the Night’s Watch; he had deserved to die. (The Blind Girl, A Dance with Dragons)
LOVE WINTERFELL AND ITS PEOPLE
He sent some salmon down to poor sad Lady Hornwood, the boar to the boisterous Umbers, a dish of goose-in-berries to Cley Cerwyn, and a huge lobster to Joseth the master of horse, who was neither lord nor guest, but had seen to Dancer’s training and made it possible for Bran to ride. He sent sweets to Hodor and Old Nan as well, for no reason but he loved them. (Bran, A Clash of Kings)
“When you smell our candles burning, what does it make you think of, my child?”
Winterfell, she might have said. I smell snow and smoke and pine needles. I smell the stables. I smell Hodor laughing, and Jon and Robb battling in the yard, and Sansa singing about some stupid lady fair. I smell the crypts where the stone kings sit, I smell hot bread baking, I smell the godswood. I smell my wolf, I smell her fur, almost as if she were still beside me. (Arya, A Feast for Crows)
Needle was Robb and Bran and Rickon, her mother and her father, even Sansa. Needle was Winterfell’s grey walls, and the laughter of its people. Needle was the summer snows, Old Nan’s stories, the heart tree with its red leaves and scary face, the warm earthy smell of the glass gardens, the sound of the north wind rattling the shutters of her room. Needle was Jon Snow’s smile. (Arya, A Feast for Crows)
MET CHILDREN OF THE FOREST
It was a girl, but smaller than Arya, her skin dappled like a doe’s beneath a cloak of leaves. Her eyes were queer—large and liquid, gold and green, slitted like a cat’s eyes. (Bran, A Dance with Dragons)
Those you call the children of the forest have eyes as golden as the sun, but once in a great while one is born amongst them with eyes as red as blood, or green as the moss on a tree in the heart of the forest. By these signs do the gods mark those they have chosen to receive the gift [of greensight]. (Bran, A Dance with Dragons)
The dwarf woman studied her with dim red eyes. “I see you,” she whispered. “I see you, wolf child. Blood child. I thought it was the lord who smelled of death …” She began to sob, her little body shaking. “You are cruel to come to my hill, cruel. I gorged on grief at Summerhall, I need none of yours. Begone from here, dark heart. Begone!” (Arya, A Storm of Swords)
“Was she a ghost?”
“Do ghosts complain of how their joints creak? No, she’s only an old dwarf woman. A queer one, though, and evil-eyed. But she knows things she has no business knowing, and sometimes she’ll tell you if she likes the look of you.” (Arya, A Storm of Swords)
MOST WOLFLIKE OF THE STARKS
It was better inside Summer. I am him, and he is me. He feels what I feel. (Bran, A Dance with Dragons)
Yes, Arya thought. Yes, it’s you who ought to run, you and Lord Tywin and the Mountain and Ser Addam and Ser Amory and stupid Ser Lyonel whoever he is, all of you better run or my brother will kill you, he’s a Stark, he’s morewolfthanman, and so am I. (Arya, A Clash of Kings)
Do you think bloodraven and shiera seastar really used sorcery to keep the realm in check? I am not sure if that is true or a rumor born from prejudice (albinism and strong femininity).
Well, we know Bloodraven used sorcery for spying, as he used a glamour to disguise himself as Maynard Plumm. If he was already a skinchanger and/or had a connection to the weirwood network at that point, then he possibly used those forms of magic as well, by looking through the eyes of ravens or trees. But considering the way Plumm is so into gossip, I think Bloodraven hadn’t really gotten into northern magics at that point yet, and was mostly just using glamour only for disguise.
Anyway, other than using magic for spying occasionally, I really don’t think Lord Brynden Rivers used sorcery to “keep the realm in check”. Because if he had, certainly he’d’ve done a much better job, don’t you think? Instead of letting Dagon Greyjoy run rampant while he focused on the threat of the Blackfyres, instead of the plague and the drought, there would have been an enforced magical peace and fine weather and no internal trouble in Westeros at all. And certainly he didn’t kill Valarr’s unborn children by magic, that of course was a vile rumor. Like, these rumormongers never think things through. If he could zap people, why not zap all the Blackfyres? Why not zap everyone who disagreed with him? Why allow Maekar to go off in a huff, why let Egg sass him, why not turn them into his greatest fans?
No, Bloodraven couldn’t turn into a dog or a mist, and he didn’t send the drought or the Great Spring Sickness or death to his relatives. He just had a very good spy network, with the occasional urge to investigate certain touchy situations personally, as someone who wasn’t immediately recognizable (by his albinism, one eye, and birthmark). And he was very pragmatic and logical, and had a specific focus on foreign threats to the point he unfortunately ignored domestic problems, which added to his bad reputation. But I’m sure he had the good of Westeros at heart (then as now), never malice.
BTW, Shiera was never accused of controlling the realm with magic; just men, just her lovers. (Though she was tagged with the same sorcerous spying rumor as Bloodraven, it’s not the same as controlling Westeros per se.) And there was the whole “bathes in blood to keep her beauty” rumor. While I think she probably did study the higher mysteries, I also think her beauty glamour was in her signature necklace (if at all), and any malicious rumors about her were only rumors. Like Bloodraven, she was only vilified by those afraid of the unusual and exceptional, by the bastard stigma, and so on.
Hi Nina! I don't know if this has been asked already (and I'm sorry it had been), but I've read a new theory about the possibility that Bran could have caused the Mad King to be *mad* and basically that Bran could alter the past. I don't know if this has been an on-going theory from ASOIaF fans already, but I believe GoT fans speculated this from S06E3, when the young Ned turned back to Bran on his vision on the Tower of Joy. (Con't..)
(2) I, myself, refuse to agree with the theory but I still have 400+ pages yet to read in ADWD so I might still miss something. I remember though that Lord Brynden told Bran that the past could not be altered, it’s just *whispers of the wind, and rustling of the leaves* (referring to Bran’s question when he slipped into the heart tree on Winterfell and saw his father looking up when he whispered). (Con’t..)
(3) Again, I’m not yet done with ADWD so I apologize if I should *just finish the book and discover this by myself lol*. But also, as far as I can remember, the *whispers* that made (or at least this was one of the reasons) why the Mad King *had gone mad* was Varys’s whispers which made him more paranoid. If this theory is true, then that would mean that there were indeed literal whispers. I just think that’s D&D material, not GRRM one. (Con’t..)
(4) Lastly, this theory also speculated that Bloodraven basicaly tried to alter the past before and failed, and as a mentor to Bran, he tried to tell him that the past can’t be altered to protect him from what he had personally experienced before. I really value your analysis on ASOIaF so my question is, what do you think about this theory? I apologize for the lengthy ask and if it sounds stupid and irrelevant. Anyway I thank you for your time and patience. Thanks again!
Thanks for the question, Anon.
No, I find this non-theory incredibly foolish and ignorant of Aerys’ true history, as well as what as been presented about weirwood visions. Ought we to assume that Bran was responsible for every Targaryen who expressed obsessive and/or paranoid behavior - people like Aerys’ great-uncle Aerion, or his great-great-great grandfather Aegon IV? I doubt it. Ought we to presume that mental illness could not have developed in a man with a family history of obsession and sadism, but must only have come from the whisperings of a boy - a boy who would have no idea what to say to a man who has no personal impact on him (Bran knows the Mad King, but what do you say to a villain who died almost a decade before you were born)? I doubt that as well.
Consider the history of Aerys Targaryen. Even from a young age, as Yandel makes explicitly clear, Aerys demonstrated a vanity and self-importance that made him loathe others’ taking his attention; he covered these unflattering characteristics with a veneer of charm in his youth, but the seeds of his eventual paranoia - a fear that others would supplant him - was already there. Compounding those qualities was the long Handship of Tywin Lannister, a man very intent on ruling the realm as a king in all but name - the man about whom it was said that he truly ruled, while Aerys was just a figurehead. For a vain, self-important man, hearing these pieces of court gossip could easily touch off feelings of paranoia (or are we to presume that Ilyn Payne never said anything, despite Yandel’s reporting to the same, and that the boasting which cost him his tongue was all Bran?). Moreover, for an example of a vain monarch supremely distrustful of his heir, we need only look to Aegon IV, whose hatred of Daeron was legendary (indeed, Aegon’s possible intent to create a new heir in his natural son Daemon triggered over a half century of Blackfyre wars).
But surely what truly tipped Aerys from eccentricity into full madness was not Bran or Bloodraven but the Defiance of Duskendale. It may be overlooked in the fandom how truly horrifying this experience would be for Aerys, a man of already unstable mind. The body of the king is supposed to be inviolable, sacrosanct; the order of the universe dictates respect and devotion from vassal to liege. All of that was turned upside-down; Aerys was help captive like a common criminal, physically assaulted (mildly, to be sure, but assaulted all the same), aware that the Darklyns - once an extremely loyal family, having sent seven sons to the Kingsguard - could very well have him killed if Tywin - a man Aerys knew had no love for him anymore - refused to accede to their demands. Everything he had feared had seemingly come true: if the loyal Darklyns could betray him so terribly, then surely every man was looking to supplant him, kill him, drive his name into the dust. It was only after Duskendale that Aerys truly became “the Mad King” - the unwashed, unshaved monster, violent and erratic. Why does Bloodraven or Bran need to have encouraged him along this path? The road from his earlier eccentric character to this terrible figure is easily enough seen.
We have been told by Bloodraven that the past cannot be changed. We have heard from the weirwood lips of the old sorcerer that he himself is haunted by the ghosts of his past - Daemon Blackfyre, Bittersteel, Shiera Seastar - and has tried and failed to contact them. Bran has tried and failed - getting a response no more directed to him than it was to any breeze that happened in real time. Bloodraven may be lying - but what evidence is there that he is? It seems no more likely that one can alter the past through a weirwood vision than one could, say, watching a home movie. “The trees remember”, Bloodraven says often enough, and Jojen likens the weirwoods to history books for the children of the forest; neither suggests that the trees have interactive power over the past, no more than a book or a videotape does. Is it not more tragic to think that a greenseer cannot interact with the past, and therefore can become lost in weirwood visions, desperately trying to communicate with those long dead while forgetting he belongs to the land of the living?
I have often said that if the series turned to time travel - not merely looking into the past (that’s hardly objectionable) but actually interacting with the past, so that somehow Bran becomes the engine of history - I would personally find the series to have, as you might say, jumped the shark. I pray this never comes to pass. This non-theory turns Bloodraven and/or Bran into god figures, creating clockwork puppets of historical figures instead of letting the real circumstances of history direct these characters’ actions and consequences. That is hardly the sort of theory I can support.
“He has told you, oh man, what is good and what the Lord desires of you—that you love mercy and do justice and walk humbly with your God.” - Book of Micah.
When she tells uncle Brynden the plan, he thinks it is insane.
“Are you mad, child?” His eyes are as big as saucers, and he’s gripping her arms so tight. “Promise me you will do no such a thing.”
“I promise, uncle.” She nods and bows her head so he can kiss her forehead, a silent congratulation for her obedience. But Arya Stark was never obedient, less of all if something was forbidden to her. And after all this time, after being a prisoner and murderer, she is still not obedient. Had I been, would I still serve him of many faces? Have I even stopped being his servant? Sometimes, when she sleeps and hunts in Nymeria’s skin, she wonders why it feels so satisfying to find prey.
She listens to him, telling her how they will work around a siege even if it is long. He doesn’t understand, Arya thinks, it will be cruel. They may be a small group, but all the planning they had put into dividing their forces to both sides of the river paid off. The Twins is surrounded by land on both shores, and any ship planning to leave would sink under the fire of the arrows. It doesn’t mean it will be easy. It means they will starve them out, and that Arya cannot stop thinking.
The men of arms will not die first, it will be the women and children. Arya knows this. She knows as well, that they’re not to blame. It will be cruel. I saw the cruelty of Robb’s own men, she thinks, I’d rather not cause the smallfolk to hate me.
Arya Stark was never obedient. She doesn’t even need to wear a face, she can dress the part of peasant and sneak in so easily it is almost laughable that they’re troubling with a siege. We have few men, she remembers, we need this victory to be effective so more will join. She silently kills the one they call Black Walder first and sneaks out, and a new one every night that passes. She’s good at killing. It makes her heart ache, what would her father think of Arya being good at it. It doesn’t take long for the Freys to distrust themselves, to start sending different men outside with different terms for peace every day.
“You broke your promise,” her uncle says sadly, when he enters and sees her putting the leather armor on, Nymeria looking at her. “You should be more careful.”
“Uncle Brynden, I-” Arya is not good with words, how could she explain? “A long siege…many would die.” She looks at him, and find only sympathy. “It would not be fair.”
That sounds stupid even to her, and her uncle simply barks out a laugh. “Life is hardly fair child, war even more so.” Arya knows this, and he knows she knows this. Uncle Brynden has such a sad eyes, she thinks, they remind her of her own whenever she looks at her reflection. “We’re ready.”
It was easy. Arya is not even in the vanguard. She’s in the middle, shouting to keep the soldier fighting, surrounded by the more skillful soldiers. They take the first castle easily, yet the bridge and tower is bloody mess that frustrates Arya until they finally breach the second castle. Many of their enemies die, but not all. For the most cases, she insist they keep prisoners. They will have to be executed or punished in other ways. She cannot think of it at the moment, but she knows she cannot simply kill them all. No matter how much I want to. She doesn’t even know if she wants them dead, she just wants them to pay. What is the payment for what they did to my family?
The blood is running hot in her veins, all the men gathered at the gates, the prisoners shoves together, bound and gagged. Someone takes out wine from the Frey’s cellars and all men are celebrating. Arya is not distracted by any of this, and her eyes search for one person among the prisoners. When she finds him, she had to grip Nymeria’s fur from acting on behalf of her mistress’ anger.
“Walder Frey.” Arya says, and what she’s sure was a low whisper, but everyone falls silent as someone bring him in front of her. The man looks at her like she was disgusting dirt on his shoe. She’s sure the sentiment is reflected in her face. “I saw what you did to my brother’s body, and to my mother’s too. Tell me, why should I grant you a dignified death with a sword?”
The old lord doesn’t even bother answering, and soon enough the men start screaming vicious suggestions. Even uncle Brynden mutters something about body parts, but Arya is no butcher. She’s a wolf, with sharp teeth and a dark hunger. “Nymeria,” she orders quietly, her voice lost among all the shouted suggestions, “feed.”
The men only cheer on as the wolf leap to it feat and tears the lord apart, but Arya feels emptiness. She can sense her uncle feels the same, when he puts a hand on her shoulder. It will not bring Robb and Mother back. As she sees the fear among the rest of the Frey men, she feels the burden of choosing their sentence even heavier.
House Mooton swear allegiance easily, and Arya dislikes lord William very much.
“He was never really brave to begin with.” Uncle Brynden mutters to her after they had the salt and bread. “Having is castle taken by Tarly must not have helped.”
“To seven hells with Tarly, he let his people with no defense!” Arya whispers harshly. Her first travels through the Riverlands had been awful, but this second one was even more gruesome. At first she had been hungry and fearful, but now everyone was. Smallfolk and lords alike were hungry and fearful, and Arya only had her name and her uncle’s to keep it together. If only we had Riverrun, she thought, we would inspire them so much if we could retake it.
“Lady Stark, Lord Brynden,” starts ser William, “ we have a prisoner. His name is Dunsen, he came with others bringing ser Robin Ryger and ser Desmond Grell.”
The old gods have given me a gift, Arya thought. Would he still have the helm? It hurt to think of Gendry, of the childish companionship. He was my pack, I wish I could know if he still lived. So many of her pack had died, Arya felt like she was no more than grief and nightmares.
“What is the cause of his imprisonment?” her uncle asks after her prolonged silence.
“When he was here he stole, and lord Tarly insisted he be imprisoned before he departed for the King’s Landing.” Lord William explained. He didn’t cut his hand, or send him to the Wall, she thought. Southerners.
“What of ser Desmond and ser Robin?” Asks her uncle Brynden, before looking at her and explaining, “they were loyal men to House Tully.” And surely why they were sent to the wall, Arya guessed.
“They departed weeks ago, ser, with other companions to make sure they reached the Wall. They must not have gone far with this snow.”
“Well then, send men to reach them and bring them back.” Arya orders at once. The lord does not seem keen of being barked orders in his castle though, despite so many talk of his cowardice.
“I have few men, my lady, and they have some of the Mountain’s men guarding them!” the lord raises his hands as if asking for her to use her head, but Arya is sure this man has turd where he’s supposed to have brain.
“You have opened your castle to us, lord Mooton, have pledged loyalty to our cause. Now, the only way you can be in the winning side, is if you help us win.” Arya spats at him, rising from her seat. She may not be tall, but he looks small sitting down and looking her up. “We cannot win without loyal men in our cause, we cannot win if other lords see that we make no effort to help our own, do you understand?” Lord Mooton nods silently.
“You must send men to liberate them from their escorts and bring them back.” Her uncle says.
“And you will bring me this Dunsen, so we can have justice.” She orders him, leaving him baffled.
“My lady, his only crime was stealing, wouldn’t you agree to lord Tarly’s sentence?”
“I was his prisoner once, and trust me, stealing is not his only crime. Bring him to me.” She repeats, staring at the lord until Nymeria growls and promptly causes him to send for the man.
Arya explains the man’s crimes and that of his companions from Harrenhal to the lords with her. They are all angered by the actions committed to the smallfolk in Harrenhal, while lord Brynden silently shook his head and said the man needed to pay for his crimes.
Dunsen did not have Gendry’s helm with him. It left a bitter taste in her mouth, even as they sentenced him to death, it did not mean she could do right to her friend. Uneasiness took place in her heart as she watched him hang. Perhaps imprisonment was his proper punishment, but how could she know better? All the men around her seemed eager for violent ends, and Arya was little more than a girl.
Arya allows herself a moment to breath before she rides forward.
They had Riverrun for no more than a few hours when they come. Seven Hells, they don’t even have Riverrun. They have accepted after some of her uncle’s men have reached inside the castle through her uncle’s secret passages and swimming strategies. Arya is a good swimmer, but of course, she cannot do the work of soldiers.
“You’re more important.” Her uncle had said. She did not feel so important. The lords respected her enough, but only a few called her ‘princess’. Not that she minded. She didn’t really blame them. It was one thing if the Riverlords wanted House Tully back as liege, but another thing to recognize the North’s independence. Arya longed to go home, but there was snow, war and confusion. Is it still my home? It is no more than ashes and memory now.
Lord Frey had just sent his terms for surrender when the Lannister forces arrive. It is Nymeria’s pack that warns them, howling at the woods. It is a mess of clashing swords, inside the castle and outside, Arya in the middle of it, the parchment with Frey’s terms still in her hands.
“Fight for you Queen!” He is screaming to the men, all clad in gold and red armor. I thought Kingsguard stayed by the King’s side. The Lannister forces are inspired, and in front of them all is Meryn Trant. Arya knows what she needs to do now. Your men will only fight for you if you fight alongside them, something inside her whispers.
Arya allows herself one last moment before she springs into battle. Then, it is confusion, it is carnage. She hears the clashing of swords, the sounds of soldiers dying, of flesh being cut and bones being smashed. Arya feels blood splattered on her skin, she feels death, death, and more death. They don’t deserve it, she thinks. I asked them to fight for me, but it is not fair. Arya did not want any more pain for the children these men left behind, for the abandoned mothers and wives.
The people of the Riverlands didn’t deserve it, or from the Westerlands. She counts her kills, one, two, three, until she is tired and it gets harder and she stops worrying about counting. All the pain she’s causing, not even considering the ones Nymeria kills. This is war, she repeats to herself, and prey is prey.
Arya does not know how Meryn Trant dies- He just dies. Not by her hand, not by her avenging Syrio. He’s just another casualty, and Arya sees a nasty bite on his leg when she examines the body. She can’t even know if it was at least Nymeria. Was this justice? He didn’t die by her hand, paying for Syrio. He was just another casualty of war.
When she finds herself praying after the battle, bitter tears leave her eyes. The face of her gods is staring back at her, and she swears she hears her name whispered by the leaves of the tree. She didn’t know where the tears came from.
I killed so many, she thinks. So many and I did not get justice for Syrio. Or did she? Was it only justice if it came from her hand? Was her justice always going to be killing those who wronged her loved ones?
“What do you want from me?” She asks to the nameless gods, their red eyes staring back. “Who do I know when I killed too many? How many left still to pay for what they did?” Does it have to be me? she wonders, must I be the justice of my gods?
The singer is there, looking at her. She knows him. Tom. The name tastes like past in her mouth, like past and pain.
“More water, my lady?” A servant asks diligently. She’s always refusing wine, and everyone thought it was a joke when she asked for ale, so they have water for her.
“Thank you,” she mutters as she watches the singer playing some notes on his instrument, at the request of some of the lords. Lords she doesn’t know the name of - it is impossible to learn all of their names - and women ready to celebrate.
Riverrun is her family’s again. But it is not Arya’s home. Her uncle knows. She sees it in his sad smile, in his resigned looks. He knows she will go North. Arya belongs to Winterfell, no matter if Stannis Baratheon holds it, if it’s burnt and filled with ghosts. Arya Stark is a daughter of the North, and it is there where she belongs.
She waits until the feast is over to find Tom. He does not smile when he sees her. “What is your business here?”
“Singing songs.” He answers simply. “Men need their spirits raised after such a battle.”
“What are you doing here?” She insists. The years have not make her more patient.
“The Brotherhood is no longer necessary.” He says simply, hopeless.
“The lords want an end to the hangings.” She explains, making sure it sounds like a warning. “They are through with justice being done outside the proper laws of Gods and men.” She sees stubbornness set in his face, so she continues. “Ser Beric must stop this nonsense.”
There is shame in Tom’s face when he speaks again. “It is not ser Beric who we follow, my lady. He is gone from this world… Permanently.”
“Who, then?” She asks surprised.
“Mother Merciless.” He says quietly, looking away from her. Mother Merciless, the name leaves her cold, and he must see the request in his eyes because he just nods. “I will take you to her.”
She is not blindfolded this time. She had sneaked away, guarded only by Nymeria and her Needle. She is guided by Tom past roads and deep woods to a small elevated area. When they circle it and see the entrance of a cave, she realises it’s the Hollow Hill. Her thoughts return to Gendry. She was scared to ask for his fate. I cannot handle any more news of death.
“Lady Arya.” Harwin is there, older, worn down. She tries to smile, but the state of all the men in the cave restrains her. There is an air of despair and hopelessness in all of them. “We looked for you.”
“Yes, Tom told me.” She answers and there is a silent pause. “What is going on? Where is Thoros?”
Harwin just lets his head fall, and turns for her to follow him. It’s just him, Arya and Nymeria. The deeper they go in the cave, the more dread fills Arya’s body. Although there are torches, Arya feels like she’s being engulfed by a darkness she cannot explain.
“Harwin?” a voice from her past asks. Thoros is not drinking, that much Arya can tell. “What do you want?”
“The Lady Stark is here.” Harwin says painfully and Arya must stop herself from correcting him. That was always my mother, doesn’t matter if they call me that now.
“Of course she is.” Thoros says from the shadows, but Arya feels two pair of feet move in the dark.
“The Lady Arya Stark.” Harwin explains. An awful sounds reaches her ears, and finally Thoros emerges with someone beside him.
Arya’s legs almost give away, so she must hold on to Nymeria. It is her. “Mother.” She says as she steps forward. She was so beautiful, she wants to ask what happened to her. But her lips only seem able to form one word. “Mother.” When she reaches her, her mother extends her hands to touch her.
Her fingers are cold, white as milk. Swollen flesh. The wound on her neck taunting Arya for her failure at the Twins. I did not save her. Her eyes, her eyes are not the eyes of her mother. Her mother’s eyes were soft and caring. “What did you do to her?”
“The Lord raised her.” Thoros explained, “ser Beric passed the light to her your mother’s body.”
“A body does not make a mother.” She spits out. She feels the tears welling in her eyes, making her vision blurry. There is no love in the creature’s eyes, just anger. Is this what I look like? “Mother, this needs to stop. Some of the men you hang are innocent.”
Suddenly, her mother’s grips her grips so tightly Arya only manages to free her left hand before the Lady Stoneheart digs her nails into her skin. She is speaking something Arya cannot understand, not even as Harwin attempts to translate that they must hang, they must all pay. She scares me. Her body is no more than grief and hate. And I love her.
‘Death is not the worst thing. It is his gift to us’, the voice of the Kindly Man reminds her. “…an end to want and pain.” Arya mutters to herself.
Do you remember where the heart is?, she wonders as her hand takes out Needle. When Arya plunges it in her mother’s heart, she does not see life leave her eyes. She was already gone. Lady Stoneheart dies again, and all that is left behind is Catelyn’s body for Arya to hold and cry.
I loved my mother. She is resting now, with father and my brothers.
Like a sad lullaby, an old song come back to haunt her. Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.
I'm reading ACoK at the moment and came across this quote, "The Greatjon's been heard to say that the old gods of the north sent those direwolves to your children." Do you think that could be correct? We're slowly seeing proof of many of the gods' existences so what do you think of that idea?
Well, this might be spoilers for you, sorry, but as of ADWD we know the Old Gods exist. They’re the collective unconscious of thousands of greenseers (primarily Children of the Forest but maybe a few humans too), merged with the weirwood network.
“Only one man in a thousand is born a skinchanger,” Lord Brynden said one day, after Bran had learned to fly, “and only one skinchanger in a thousand can be a greenseer. […] Those you call the children of the forest have eyes as golden as the sun, but once in a great while one is born amongst them with eyes as red as blood, or green as the moss on a tree in the heart of the forest. By these signs do the gods mark those they have chosen to receive the gift. The chosen ones are not robust, and their quick years upon the earth are few, for every song must have its balance. But once inside the wood they linger long indeed. A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, wisdom deep as the roots of ancient trees. Greenseers.” Bran did not understand, so he asked the Reeds. “Do you like to read books, Bran?” Jojen asked him. “Some books. I like the fighting stories. My sister Sansa likes the kissing stories, but those are stupid.” “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one. The singers of the forest had no books. No ink, no parchment, no written language. Instead they had the trees, and the weirwoods above all. When they died, they went into the wood, into leaf and limb and root, and the trees remembered. All their songs and spells, their histories and prayers, everything they knew about this world. Maesters will tell you that the weirwoods are sacred to the old gods. The singers believe they are the old gods. When singers die they become part of that godhood.”
–ADWD, Bran III
As Hodor he explored the caves. […] One was full of singers, enthroned like Brynden in nests of weirwood roots that wove under and through and around their bodies. Most of them looked dead to him, but as he crossed in front of them their eyes would open and follow the light of his torch, and one of them opened and closed a wrinkled mouth as if he were trying to speak.
–ADWD, Bran III
So, yes, I believe the Old Gods are probably mostly passive, but occasionally very active in the course of events. And I also think that the mother direwolf was urged south of the Wall by someone. It might have been Bloodraven, perhaps by using his skinchanged ravens (as he did with Coldhands and Sam), as he knew his chosen successor would need to begin to skinchange to start his third eye opening, and also knew he’d need a protector.
Or, it might have been Bran. Brynden told him he can’t affect the past events he views through the weirwoods… but the fact that Ned may have heard his whisper shows that Bran is more powerful than Bloodraven could have ever expected. So, for those time-travel paradox aficionados, here’s one that actually makes sense and is in character tyvm. I can imagine Bran, lost in his tree dreams, seeing the pregnant direwolf and somehow inducing her to travel where Robb would one day find her pups. My only question now is when this will be revealed to the reader. Maybe in TWOW… or perhaps it will be one of the very last scenes of the last book, a fitting bookend to the first chapter.
Lord Brynden Rivers, called Bloodraven, was a legitimized Great Bastard of Aegon IV Targaryen and Melissa Blackwood, his sixth mistress. An albino, Brynden had milk white skin, long white hair, and red eyes. On the right side of his face he had a red winestain birthmark. He was a shade under six feet tall and very thin, gaunt, and he wore the colors of blood and smoke. His personal arms were a white dragon with red eyes breathing red flame on a black field. Shiera Seastar, another bastard of Aegon IV, was his mistress. This increased the enmity between him and Aegor Bittersteel Rivers. A strong warrior, Brynden carried the Valyrian sword Dark Sister, but preferred to use his weirwood longbow and was an expert archer. He lost an eye during the Blackfyre Rebellion his half-brother Daemon started. Later, he served as the Hand of the King Aerys I, and Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.