racefortheironthrone was asked a couple of days ago where he thought the Darkstar hunt plot was going in Winds; he replied that he thought it would serve to get a POV (Areo Hotah’s) to Starfall to stage revelations regarding Ashara and/or R+L=J, and possibly to bring Dawn into the mix.
This is very reasonable given the setting and the Dayne backstory, but I’m a little doubtful that these story elements will be resolved through a POV as disconnected from them as The Watcher. Areo Hotah’s story is building to him watching Doran die, probably as Drogon’s fire consumes them both along with the children of the Water Gardens; that’s the only Big Moment that makes emotional sense for his character (which is also why I don’t think Hotah will be poisoned by Darkstar). Similarly, R+L=J is much more likely to be confirmed by Bran or Benjen, characters with some investment in that story; if Dawn does come into play, I think it will be part of Jon’s pilgrimage to to the Tower of Joy in A Dream of Spring.
So here’s how I think the Darkstar hunt is going to go down. The first chapter set in Dorne introduced the eldest three Sand Snakes as they made the case for their respective revenge plots to their uncle Doran. We’ve seen Arianne try and fail to put Tyene’s plan into action. Nymeria will get the opportunity to execute (eep) hers when she arrives in King’s Landing to take her father’s place on the small council. But what about Obara?
“You would have me go to war.”
“I know better. You need not even leave your chair. Let me avenge my father. You have a host in the Prince’s Pass. Lord Yronwood has another in the Boneway. Grant me the one and Nym the other. Let her ride the kingsroad, whilst I turn the marcher lords out of their castles and hook round to march on Oldtown.”
“And how could you hope to hold Oldtown?”
“It will be enough to sack it. The wealth of Hightower—”
“Is it gold you want?”
“It is blood I want.”
Dust off your maps. High Hermitage is not far at all from Oldtown. The city is weakened by Ironborn raids, all its eyes focused westward thanks to Euron.
This is the best chance she is going to get.
I think Obara will betray her companions and join forces with Darkstar; they’ll rally a raiding party and descend on the city. (They’ll let Hotah himself live after he kills Balon Swann, though the captain already knows that could prove difficult: “This one will not die so easy as the other.”) It works thematically: Oldtown is as much a potential locus of metaphysical mayhem in Winds as Castle Black, and just as the War of Five Kings has left Westeros dangerously weak even as the Others are mustering north of the Wall, so would a classic Dornish raid fatally disrupt Oldtown’s ability to respond should a dragon or the Deep Ones come calling.
Obara’s presence would also be a dramatically powerful way to stage the Sallera reveal. The fourth Sand Snake would have to deal not only with the disclosure of her gender, but her divided loyalties: to her family and her people on the one hand, and the city and Citadel she loves on the other. Indeed, Nymeria sets up this sibling conflict in that first Dornish chapter:
“She [Obara] hates that city as much as our little sister loves it.”
(Also, I worry that without Obara around to expose li’l sis, the reveal will be Sam seeing her naked or something, ugh.)
As to how this would get resolved…well, should Obara and Darkstar pose a genuine threat to the Citadel, I have to imagine Not-Pate will do what it takes to defend whatever he came to learn and/or steal. So we could get two reveals for the price of one, which may be a necessary shortcut given how much material there is to be mined from Sam going to Hogwarts.
Of course, I’d also just like to see Darkstar and Lazy Leo kill each other.