the great sept of baelor

8

asoiaf meme (minor characters): 6/8 relationships ~ joanna and tywin lannister

Ser Tywin was but twenty, the youngest man ever to serve as Hand, but the manner in which he had dealt with the rising of the Reynes and Tarbecks had made him well respected, even feared, throughout the Seven Kingdoms. His cousin Lady Joanna, the daughter of Lord Tytos’s late brother Ser Jason, was already in King’s Landing; she had been serving as a ladyin-waiting and companion to Rhaella since 259 AC. She and Ser Tywin were married a year after he became Hand of the King in a lavish ceremony at the Great Sept of Baelor, with King Aerys himself presiding over the wedding feast and bedding. // blanca suárez as joanna lannister, lex shrapnel as tywin lannister

Sansa and her “Stark connection”

Since the fandom is always saying how Sansa is not a Real Stark ™    I wanted to  make a post in which I explain why Sansa, born in the Winter (unlike Arya or Bran or Rickon born in the long Summer), in Winterfell (unlike Jon or Robb born in the south) will always be a Stark ( no Lannister or Baelish or whatever…), no matter who she is forced to marry (to survive I might add..). 

 In AGOT Sansa (before her father died, and when she was meant to marry joffrey) is already very proud of her Stark origins. 

Alyn carried the Stark banner. When she saw him rein in beside Lord Beric to exchange words, it made Sansa feel ever so proud.

While prefering The Seven (like her mother) she does admire the poetry of the old gods. 

Besides, even if she could leave the castle, where would she go? It was enough that she could walk in the yard, pick flowers in Myrcella’s garden, and visit the sept to pray for her father. Sometimes she prayed in the godswood as well, since the Starks kept the old gods.

By the time she reached the godswood, the noises had faded to a faint rattle of steel and a distant shouting. Sansa pulled her cloak tighter. The air was rich with the smells of earth and leaf. Lady would have liked this place, she thought. There was something wild about a godswood; even here, in the heart of the castle at the heart of the city, you could feel the old gods watching with a thousand unseen eyes.

While she is called little bird, or little dove (when people want to undermine her), she is called wolf  too.

Tyrion found himself thinking of his wife. Not Sansa; his first wife, Tysha. The whore wife, not the wolf wife.

“Your Grace has forgotten the Lady Sansa,” said Pycelle.

The queen bristled. “I most certainly have not forgotten that little she-wolf.” She refused to say the girl’s name.

And Sansa herself when she is in put  a hard position takes courage in her Stark origins. Its something that gives her  strength:

Do as you’re told, sweetling, it won’t be so bad. Wolves are supposed to be brave, aren’t they?

“Brave. Sansa took a deep breath. I am a Stark, yes, I can be brave.

"Winterfell?” Robert was small for eight, a stick of a boy with splotchy skin and eyes that were always runny. Under one arm he clutched the threadbare cloth doll he carried everywhere.

Winterfell is the seat of House Stark,” Sansa told her husband-to-be. “The great castle of the north.”

“Do you require guarding?” Marillion said lightly. “I am composing a new song, you should know. A song so sweet and sad it will melt even your frozen heart. ‘The Roadside Rose,’ I mean to call it. About a baseborn girl so beautiful she bewitched every man who laid eyes upon her.

I am a Stark of Winterfell, she longed to tell him. Instead she nodded, and let him escort her down the tower steps and along a bridge. 

 Petyr put his arm around her. “What if it is truth he wants, and justice for his murdered lady?” He smiled. “I know Lord Nestor, sweetling. Do you imagine I’d ever let him harm my daughter?

"I am not your daughter, she thought. I am Sansa Stark, Lord Eddard’s daughter and Lady Catelyn’s, the blood of Winterfell.

"As was bringing me here, when you swore to take me home.”She wondered where this courage had come from, to speak to him so frankly. From Winterfell, she thought. I am stronger within the walls of Winterfell.

I will tell my aunt that I don’t want to marry Robert. Not even the High Septon himself could declare a woman married if she refused to say the vows. She wasn’t a beggar, no matter what her aunt said. She was thirteen, a woman flowered and wed, the heir to Winterfell.

.His seamed and solemn face brought back all of Sansa’s memories of his time at Winterfell. She remembered him at table, speaking quietly with her mother. She heard his voice booming off the walls when he rode back from a hunt with a buck behind his saddle. She could see him in the yard, a practice sword in hand, hammering her father to the ground and turning to defeat Ser Rodrik as well. He will know me. How could he not? She considered throwing herself at his feet to beg for his protection. He never fought for Robb, why should he fight for me?

From the high battlements of the gatehouse, the whole world spread out below them. Sansa could see the Great Sept of Baelor on Visenya’s hill, where her father had died. At the other end of the Street of the Sisters stood the fire-blackened ruins of the Dragonpit. To the west, the swollen red sun was half-hidden behind the Gate of the Gods. The salt sea was at her back, and to the south was the fish market and the docks and the swirling torrent of the Blackwater Rush. And to the north …She turned that way, and saw only the city, streets and alleys and hills and bottoms and more streets and more alleys and the stone of distant walls. Yet she knew that beyond them was open country, farms and fields and forests, and beyond that, north and north and north again, stood Winterfell.

but personally my favorite line about Sansa being always a Stark and belonging North in Winterfell  (Never a Lannister! , no matter who she marries) is this quote by Ned: 

When it was over, he said, “Choose four men and have them take the body north. Bury her at Winterfell.”

“All that way?” Jory said, astonished.

“All that way,” Ned affirmed. “The Lannister woman shall never have this skin.

Sansa whole story (to me) is about her journey retaking her Stark origins which were stolen from her in the worst of way, just like they killed her wolf Lady. But just like Lady remains, Sansa place is and always will be in the north, as a Stark of Winterfell. 

3

House Lannister Free

The State of House Lannister

Jaime, having previously been forced to retire as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard by King Tommen, and now commander of the Lannister army, returns to King’s Landing to discover that Cersei is now Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. During his absence, Cersei plotted with Qyburn to blow up the Great Sept of Baelor, killing the High Sparrow, the Faith Militant, Queen Margaery, Ser Loras Tyrell, Lord Mace Tyrell, and Kevan Lannister, the Hand of the King. King Tommen committed suicide in the wake of the destruction. Cersei’s coronation means that House Lannister is now the royal house of the Seven Kingdoms. Across the Narrow Sea, Tyrion Lannister is appointed Hand of the Queen by Daenerys Targaryen, and will follow Queen Daenerys in her attempt to take back the Seven Kingdoms. 

By then the crowd was howling with laughter… all but the king. Joffrey had a look in his eyes that Sansa remembered well, the same look he’d had at the Great Sept of Baelor the day he pronounced death on Lord Eddard Stark

The king stood. “A cask from the cellars! I’ll see him drowned in it.”
Sansa heard herself gasp. “No, you can’t.”
-33

Sansa’s intervention on Ser Dontos’ behalf is fairly significant for her. She has gotten pretty good at suppressing her gut reactions to protest against her treatment, and by the beginning of A Clash of Kings is learning how to avoid abuse by giving Joffrey what he wants. This, along with reminding Joffrey that she saw him cry, are breaks in that pattern. Both put her in danger of being abused, and both served to protect others. Being protective is one of the core traits of the Starks, and each Stark child, as well as Catelyn and Robb are fiercely protective, not only of their friends and family, but also of people they barely know. In this instance, Sansa also draws a direct connection between her father’s execution, and Ser Dontos’ danger. In protesting his death, she is also protesting her father’s death, and the trauma she suffers because of it.

But of course simply protesting is not enough to save Ser Dontos, telling Joffrey not to do something only makes him want to do it more. Sansa has no power Joffrey over Joffrey, and her only option is to manipulate him using her knowledge of him, and using his conception of her–i.e., a stupid, superstitious Northern girl. By claiming it would be bad luck, Sansa is able to backtrack and tur her protest against Joffrey into an appeal for his safety. The initial outburst comes without thinking–she hears herself say it, not thinking first–but she has to think quickly immediately after in order to save both Dontos and herself.

2

“Walk with me,” Joffrey commanded, offering her his arm. She had no choice but to take it. The touch of his hand would have thrilled her once; now it made her flesh crawl. “My name day will be here soon,” Joffrey said as they slipped out the rear of the throne room. “There will be a great feast, and gifts. What are you going to give me?”

“I … I had not thought, my lord.”

Your Grace,” he said sharply. “You truly are a stupid girl, aren’t you? My mother says so.”

“She does?” After all that had happened, his words should have lost their power to hurt her, yet somehow they had not. The queen had always been so kind to her.

“Oh, yes. She worries about our children, whether they’ll be stupid like you, but I told her not to trouble herself.” The king gestured, and Ser Meryn opened a door for them.

“Thank you, Your Grace,” she murmured. The Hound was right, she thought, I am only a little bird, repeating the words they taught me. The sun had fallen below the western wall, and the stones of the Red Keep glowed dark as blood.

“I’ll get you with child as soon as you’re able,” Joffrey said as he escorted her across the practice yard. “If the first one is stupid, I’ll chop off your head and find a smarter wife. When do you think you’ll be able to have children?”

Sansa could not look at him, he shamed her so. “Septa Mordane says most … most highborn girls have their flowering at twelve or thirteen.”

Joffrey nodded. “This way.” He led her into the gatehouse, to the base of the steps that led up to the battlements.

Sansa jerked back away from him, trembling. Suddenly she knew where they were going. “No,” she said, her voice a frightened gasp. “Please, no, don’t make me, I beg you …”

Joffrey pressed his lips together. “I want to show you what happens to traitors.”

Sansa shook her head wildly. “I won’t. I won’t.”

“I can have Ser Meryn drag you up,” he said. “You won’t like that. You had better do what I say.” Joffrey reached for her, and Sansa cringed away from him, backing into the Hound.

“Do it, girl,” Sandor Clegane told her, pushing her back toward the king. His mouth twitched on the burned side of his face and Sansa could almost hear the rest of it. He’ll have you up there no matter what, so give him what he wants.

She forced herself to take King Joffrey’s hand. The climb was something out of a nightmare; every step was a struggle, as if she were pulling her feet out of ankle-deep mud, and there were more steps than she would have believed, a thousand thousand steps, and horror waiting on the ramparts.

From the high battlements of the gatehouse, the whole world spread out below them. Sansa could see the Great Sept of Baelor on Visenya’s hill, where her father had died. At the other end of the Street of the Sisters stood the fire-blackened ruins of the Dragonpit. To the west, the swollen red sun was half-hidden behind the Gate of the Gods. The salt sea was at her back, and to the south was the fish market and the docks and the swirling torrent of the Blackwater Rush. And to the north …

She turned that way, and saw only the city, streets and alleys and hills and bottoms and more streets and more alleys and the stone of distant walls. Yet she knew that beyond them was open country, farms and fields and forests, and beyond that, north and north and north again, stood Winterfell.

“What are you looking at?” Joffrey said. “This is what I wanted you to see, right here.”

A thick stone parapet protected the outer edge of the rampart, reaching as high as Sansa’s chin, with crenellations cut into it every five feet for archers. The heads were mounted between the crenels, along the top of the wall, impaled on iron spikes so they faced out over the city. Sansa had noted them the moment she’d stepped out onto the wallwalk, but the river and the bustling streets and the setting sun were ever so much prettier. He can make me look at the heads, she told herself, but he can’t make me see them.

“This one is your father,” he said. “This one here. Dog, turn it around so she can see him.”

Sandor Clegane took the head by the hair and turned it. The severed head had been dipped in tar to preserve it longer. Sansa looked at it calmly, not seeing it at all. It did not really look like Lord Eddard, she thought; it did not even look real. “How long do I have to look?”

Joffrey seemed disappointed. “Do you want to see the rest?” There was a long row of them.

“If it please Your Grace.”

Joffrey marched her down the wallwalk, past a dozen more heads and two empty spikes. “I’m saving those for my uncle Stannis and my uncle Renly,” he explained. The other heads had been dead and mounted much longer than her father. Despite the tar, most were long past being recognizable. The king pointed to one and said, “That’s your septa there,” but Sansa could not even have told that it was a woman. The jaw had rotted off her face, and birds had eaten one ear and most of a cheek.

Sansa had wondered what had happened to Septa Mordane, although she supposed she had known all along. “Why did you kill her?” she asked. “She was god-sworn …”

“She was a traitor.” Joffrey looked pouty; somehow she was upsetting him. “You haven’t said what you mean to give me for my name day. Maybe I should give you something instead, would you like that?”

“If it please you, my lord,” Sansa said.

When he smiled, she knew he was mocking her. “Your brother is a traitor too, you know.” He turned Septa Mordane’s head back around. “I remember your brother from Winterfell. My dog called him the lord of the wooden sword. Didn’t you, dog?”

“Did I?” the Hound replied. “I don’t recall.”

Joffrey gave a petulant shrug. “Your brother defeated my uncle Jaime. My mother says it was treachery and deceit. She wept when she heard. Women are all weak, even her, though she pretends she isn’t. She says we need to stay in King’s Landing in case my other uncles attack, but I don’t care. After my name day feast, I’m going to raise a host and kill your brother myself. That’s what I’ll give you, Lady Sansa. Your brother’s head.”

A kind of madness took over her then, and she heard herself say, “Maybe my brother will give me your head.”

Joffrey scowled. “You must never mock me like that. A true wife does not mock her lord. Ser Meryn, teach her.”

This time the knight grasped her beneath the jaw and held her head still as he struck her. He hit her twice, left to right, and harder, right to left. Her lip split and blood ran down her chin, to mingle with the salt of her tears.

“You shouldn’t be crying all the time,” Joffrey told her. “You’re more pretty when you smile and laugh.”

Sansa made herself smile, afraid that he would have Ser Meryn hit her again if she did not, but it was no good, the king still shook his head. “Wipe off the blood, you’re all messy.”

The outer parapet came up to her chin, but along the inner edge of the walk was nothing, nothing but a long plunge to the bailey seventy or eighty feet below. All it would take was a shove, she told herself. He was standing right there, right there, smirking at her with those fat wormlips. You could do it, she told herself. You could. Do it right now. It wouldn’t even matter if she went over with him. It wouldn’t matter at all.

“Here, girl.” Sandor Clegane knelt before her, between her and Joffrey. With a delicacy surprising in such a big man, he dabbed at the blood welling from her broken lip.

The moment was gone. Sansa lowered her eyes. “Thank you,” she said when he was done. She was a good girl, and always remembered her courtesies.

Sansa VI, A Game of Thrones.

4

House Targaryen is a former Great House of Westeros and was the ruling royal House of the Seven Kingdoms for three centuries, before it was deposed during Robert’s Rebellion and House Baratheon replaced it as the new royal House. The few surviving Targaryens fled into exile. Currently based in Essos, House Targaryen seeks to retake the Seven Kingdoms from House Lannister, who formally replaced House Baratheon as the royal House following the destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor.

||BLACK BETHA SERIES||

“It is time, Betha,” her husband said, holding out his hand towards her, as he had done so countless times before. This time, she refused to take the hand he offered her.

It was time. Time to leave for the Great Sept of Baelor. Time to leave for the wedding. The accursed wedding she had never wanted, the accursed wedding the bride and groom had never wanted, the wedding of siblings that Aegon had once claimed he was deeply opposed to, despite his Targaryen ancestry.

You go. This is your doing as much as Jaehaerys,” she lashed out.  

“Rhaella would want to see her grandmother there. It will give her courage.”

As if Rhaella had lacked courage. She had cajoled, argued, pleaded, begged, demanded. Her father, her mother, her grandmother, her grandfather, even her aunts and uncles both by blood and by marriage; she had gone to all of them, made her case to all of them.

In the end, only Aegon’s word could have stopped the wedding. But Betha’s husband, this stranger staring at her with apprehension; he had abdicated his responsibility, his duty.

How conditional a woman’s power turned out to be, Betha thought, bitterly. How conditional a woman’s power turned out to be when she was a mere consort, even if there was a ‘queen’ preceding the word ‘consort.’ Even if she had always believed - mistakenly, as it turned out - that her marriage had been a true partnership of mind, will and body; that she and her husband had been true partners in every sense of the word, true partners working together towards a common purpose, towards a shared goal.

How conditional a woman’s power turned out to be, when she was not wielding it in her own right, but only by right of marriage. Conditional on her husband’s whim. Conditional on her husband’s will, or lack of will, in this case. Aegon’s lack of will to prevent this wedding from taking place.

“You are still king. Jaehaerys still has to obey your command,” Betha had railed, back when she thought it was still possible to stop the wedding.

“He will not listen. When did he ever listen?”

“Then make him listen! You have that power. You and you alone have that power. Threaten him if you have to. Tell him, ‘a king can choose his heir, he has that prerogative.’ Tell him, ‘Duncan could always be reinstated as my heir. The Baratheons are loyal to the Iron Throne once more, thanks to Rhaelle’s influence on her lord husband.’ Tell him not to be a stupid fool who puts his trust in a ludicrous prophecy and loses his throne because of it.”

“There are prophecies,” Aegon said, gloomily, “and then there are prophecies.”

“Was that what he threw in your face, that ungrateful son of ours? ‘You believe in prophecies about the dragons coming back, Father. How could you scorn the prophecy I solemnly believe? How could you be so certain it will not be fulfilled?’

Aegon’s lengthy silence was confirmation enough for Betha. “You are as much a fool as Jaehaerys!” she cried out in frustration.

“It was your dream, too, Betha, for the realm to be –“

“The dragons were never my dream.”

“We tried it your way. We tried it your way and it failed.”

“It would have worked, if all the marriages had taken place. It worked with the Baratheons, did it not, despite Lyonel’s short-lived rebellion? The current Lord Baratheon, your loyal good-son, sits on your small council and supports the reforms you propose, with nary a whisper about another rebellion brewing in the Stormlands.”

’Would have worked’ is not the same as ‘it did work.’”

“And you blame me for that?” Betha asked, furiously, incredulously.

“No, Betha, I blame myself. But regardless of who is to blame, we are where we are. We cannot turn back time.”

Where they were, and where they were headed, terrified Betha in a way she had never been terrified before.

How much land would the faith own?

It’s hard to say, because the historical context by which the Faith of the Seven came to Westeros is entirely different than the context by which the Catholic Church became hegemonic across Western Europe. A very quick example: there’s no Westerosi equivalent of the Donation of Pepin and thus no equivalent of the Papal States.

Notably the Faith seems to have relatively little political authority even where it has physical structures - the Hightowers rule the land on which the Starry Sept is located, and the Kings of Westeros rule the land on which the Great Sept of Baelor stands, but we can see this even on a more modest level. Despite the fact that Stoney Sept’s economy is probably based around it being a religious center, the septons don’t rule the town - rather, there’s a knight of Stoney Sept. This suggests that the Faith’s landholding hasn’t extended to lordship, which is an important point.

On the other hand, if we look at the septries we encounter in the series, they do have property, both real estate and otherwise: the Quiet Isle has “terraced fields, with fishponds down below and a windmill above…sheep grazing on the hillside,” and has orchards and vineyards besides; the sept where the Brotherhood Without Banners corners Septon Utt was quite large: “Before the war we were four-and-forty, and this was a prosperous place. We had a dozen milk cows and a bull, a hundred beehives, a vineyard and an apple arbor.” And given this is a feudal society, there has to be some sort of formalized relationship that underpins it - but whether that tenure is freehold or something else, we don’t know.

Finally, there is a cryptic comment in WOIAF that “many lords complained of
unscrupulous septries and septons making free with the wealth and property of their neighbors and those they preached to,”
prior to the Reconciliation of Jaehaerys. So it may well be that the Revolt of the Faithful and the Reconciliation severely curbed the position of the Faith compared to the medieval Catholic Church. 

anonymous asked:

Just read Melisandres chapter in ADWD and where do you think she's originally from before she came to Asshai? Could it be Volantis since we know there's a big temple there? Also do you think GRRM will give us more insight on her backstory in TWOW?

Just got done reading Melisandres chapter in ADWD and what does “lot seven” mean?

Combining these two asks. Thanks, Anons.

That “Melony. Lot seven” quote from Melisandre’s sole (for now) POV indicates that our friendly neighborhood red priestess started life, or was at least some point in her life, a slave. Specifically, Melisandre thinks of herself in the past as “a slave girl bound for life to the great red temple”. She doesn’t say where that “great red temple” was, of course, and it’s not like Essos lacks for red temples, at least throughout the near east.

Still, the “greatness” of that red temple to me suggests the red temple in Volantis. I mean, hell, you don’t get much greater than this:

Seven save me, that’s got to be three times the size of the Great Sept of Baelor. An enormity of pillars, steps, buttresses, bridges, domes, and towers flowing into one another as if they had all been chiseled from one collossal rock, the Temple of the Lord of Light loomed like Aegon’s High Hill. A hundred hues of red, yellow, gold, and orange met and melded in the temple walls, dissolving one into the other like clouds at sunset. Its slender towers twisted ever upward, frozen flames dancing as they reached for the sky. Fire turned to stone. Huge nightfires burned beside the temple steps, and between them the High Priest had begun to speak.

And it’s not exactly like Volantis has been a hub of the emancipation movement or anything, to say the least. So, I could very much believe that as a little girl, Melisandre was sold to the Vatican of R’hllor-ism, so to speak, and thereafter trained as a red priestess; at some point, I expect, Melisandre was sent by the red temple to Asshai to learn shadowbinding. 

How she came to be sold as a slave, or when, is of course up for debate, but I do think we’ll learn more about Melisandre’s past in TWOW/ADOS. GRRM gave her a POV for a reason, and not just to keep a pair of eyes at the Wall while Jon is keeping mum and Sam is in the south. 

The Queen Regent (NFriel)

Sansa’s relationship with religion is far more complex than ‘Old Gods or Faith Of The Seven?’

Before I write this, I’d like to say that the Old Gods isn’t better, or superior to the Faith Of The Seven. Comparing religions, even fictional… yeah, not a fan. These are my thoughts on Sansa’s role within them. I also don’t think you can expect someone who isn’t an adult to have a full blown complex attitude towards religion.

Keep reading

  • Me: -watching scene with Tommen staring out the window at the Great Sept of Baelor-
  • Me: Don't you dare do it.
  • Tommen: -stands up-
  • Me: Don't you dare commit suicide.
  • Tommen: -takes crown off and walks off screen-
  • Me: He's gonna fucking commit suicide...
  • Tommen: -walks back on screen towards window, stands in it, then falls forward-
  • Me: Are you happy now, Cersei? The prophecy has come true at last. You can finally die now, k?
8

asoiaf meme: [5/5] locations || King’s Landing

The city covered the shore as far as Catelyn could see; manses and arbors and granaries, brick storehouses and timbered inns and merchant’s stalls, taverns and graveyards and brothels, all piled one on another. She could hear the clamor of the fish market even at this distance. Between the buildings were broad roads lined with trees, wandering crookback streets, and alleys so narrow that two men could not walk abreast. Visenya’s hill was crowned by the Great Sept of Baelor with its seven crystal towers. Across the city on the hill of Rhaenys stood the blackened walls of the Dragonpit, its huge dome collapsing into ruin, its bronze doors closed now for a century. The Street of the Sisters ran between them, straight as an arrow. The city walls rose in the distance, high and strong.
A hundred quays lined the waterfront, and the harbor was crowded with ships. Deepwater fishing boats and river runners came and went, ferrymen poled back and forth across the Blackwater Rush, trading galleys unloaded goods from Braavos and Pentos and Lys. Catelyn spied the queen’s ornate barge, tied up beside a fat-bellied whaler from the Port of Ibben, its hull black with tar, while upriver a dozen lean golden warships rested in their cribs, sails furled and cruel iron rams lapping at the water.
And above it all, frowning down from Aegon’s high hill, was the Red Keep; seven huge drum-towers crowned with iron ramparts, an immense grim barbican, vaulted halls and covered bridges, barracks and dungeons and granaries, massive curtain walls studded with archers’ nests, all fashioned of pale red stone.

anonymous asked:

Hey, I love reading your essays and I completely agree with your love of Quentyn. I'm curious about your feelings on house Hightower. Do you think they have any influence on the Citadel and the Faith of the Seven? And if so, do you think that influence has any impact on Westeros society as a whole? Also, I'd LOVE to hear more about the eldritch apocalypse you've mentioned, and how that might relate to the Hightowers.

Hiya, thanks!

The Hightowers are still nigh-unquestionably the most powerful lesser House in Westeros, but the fact that their current lord has spent the last decade with his head quite literally in the clouds hints at a fair amount of decay incurred in the years since the family’s dizzying heights and catastrophic lows in the Dance of the Dragons. Whatever influence House Hightower wielded over the Faith was greatly diminished by the transference of symbolic and practical authority from Oldtown’s Starry Sept to the capital’s Great Sept of Baelor. As for the maesters, they were driven to kill off the remaining dragons by the horrific consequences of the dragon-war House Hightower instigated, so I imagine relations between the Citadel and the Hightowers have been somewhat frosty ever since.

What will befall the present-day Hightowers? They rule over Oldtown, the second largest municipality in Westeros and a thriving center of trade, yet they rely on the Redwynes to shelter city and coast from the Ironborn. This protection will vanish when Euron shatters Lord Paxter’s fleet early on in The Winds of Winter, possibly by magical means. If the rumors about Lord Leyton (and his daughter Malora) are close to true, the Hightowers are looking to the old powers to serve as their city’s savior, rather than its doom.

They’re going to be rather dramatically disappointed, and this is where we get into my beloved Eldritch Apocalypse. Come, sweetlings, plunge into the abyss of insanity with me! (Watch for tentacles.)

In the first three books, it was clear that the metaphysical threat came from the North. But simmering under the surface of A Feast for Crows and The World of Ice and Fire is a stunning reorientation of this driving tension. There is now a second and pointedly southern locus of cosmic horror, equally likely as the Wall to serve as a portal which, after standing closed for millennia, finally gives way and lets the nightmares in.

Quoth Adventure Time: “Before there was time, before there was anything, there was nothing. And before there was nothing…there were monsters.”

Even the Asshai'i do not claim to know who built their city; they will say only that a city has stood here since the world began and will stand here until it ends. Few places in the known world are as remote as Asshai, and fewer are as forbidding. Travelers tell us that the city is built entirely of black stone: halls, hovels, temples, palaces, streets, walls, bazaars, all. Some say as well that the stone of Asshai has a greasy, unpleasant feel to it, that it seems to drink the light, dimming tapers and torches and hearth fires alike. The nights are very black in Asshai, all agree, and even the brightest days of summer are somehow grey and gloomy.

Maesters and other scholars alike have puzzled over the greatest of the enigmas of Sothoryos, the ancient city of Yeen. A ruin older than time, built of oily black stone, in massive blocks so heavy that it would require a dozen elephants to move them, Yeen has remained a desolation for many thousands of years, yet the jungle that surrounds it on every side has scarce touched it. (“A city so evil that even the jungle will not enter,” Nymeria is supposed to have said when she laid eyes on it, if the tales are true). Every attempt to rebuild or resettle Yeen has ended in horror.

On the Isle of Toads can be found an ancient idol, a greasy black stone crudely carved into the semblance of a gigantic toad of malignant aspect, some forty feet high. The people of this isle are believed by some to be descended from those who carved the Toad Stone, for there is an unpleasant fishlike aspect to their faces, and many have webbed hands and feet. If so, they are the sole surviving remnant of this forgotten race.

When the daughter of the Opal Emperor succeeded him as the Amethyst Empress, her envious younger brother cast her down and slew her, proclaiming himself the Bloodstone Emperor and beginning a reign of terror. He practiced dark arts, torture, and necromancy, enslaved his people, took a tiger-woman for his bride, feasted on human flesh, and cast down the true gods to worship a black stone that had fallen from the sky.

The throne of the Greyjoys, carved into the shape of a kraken from an oily black stone, was said to have been found by the First Men when they first came to Old Wyk.

Even more enigmatic to scholars and historians is the great square fortress of black stone that dominates that isle. For most of recorded history, this monumental edifice has served as the foundation and lowest level of the Hightower, yet we know for a certainty that it predates the upper levels of the tower by thousands of years.

An even more fanciful possibility was put forth a century ago by Maester Theron. Born a bastard on the Iron Islands, Theron noted a certain likeness between the black stone of the ancient fortress and that of the Seastone Chair, the high seat of House Greyjoy of Pyke, whose origins are similarly ancient and mysterious. Theron’s rather inchoate manuscript Strange Stone postulates that both fortress and seat might be the work of a queer, misshapen race of half men sired by creatures of the salt seas upon human women. These Deep Ones, as he names them, are the seed from which our legends of merlings have grown, he argues, whilst their terrible fathers are the truth behind the Drowned God of the ironborn.

Aeron Greyjoy is desperate to unseat Euron from the Seastone Chair. But given that it was the Damphair’s own kingsmoot that legitimized Euron’s rule, that (as Victarion points out) Aeron himself placed the driftwood crown on Euron’s head, I don’t think the populist crusade Aeron launched in Feast will succeed. Instead, he will be forced to beg the Drowned God to directly intervene. And the priest’s god will answer his prayers…but said deity will turn out to be a Lovecraftian abomination, promptly unleashing hell on “these holy islands” before turning his baleful gaze on Oldtown.

And yet, and yet, C’thulhu is just the beginning. He could very well find the city already in ruins and have to turn and shrug exaggeratedly at the camera while a sad trombone plays.

Why? Because there is a Faceless Man in the city, and he has a skeleton key. Because he’s probably after “the fragmentary, anonymous, blood-soaked tome sometimes called Blood and Fire and sometimes The Death of Dragons, the only surviving copy of which was supposedly hidden away in a locked vault beneath the Citadel.” Because there is a one-man-apocalypse pirate king in the neighborhood, and he’s going to get a dragon. Because the maesters have some awful secrets, and I shudder to think what they will do to protect them. Because Sam is unknowingly carrying around the horn that could bring down the Wall. Because, as mentioned, the Hightowers are messing with magic they will inevitably prove unable to control. Because the glass candles are burning, and as with Saruman’s palantir, “we do not know who else may be watching.”

Any one of these could produce a city-wide cataclysm. But all of them together? That’s a recipe for a feverish overripe horror crescendo that has me so excited I can barely breathe. Now, I could speculate as to the specifics of how these elements will interact, but to borrow from boiledleather’s must-read meditation on the Deep Ones and cosmic horror in general:

The world … about which Maester Yandel writes is in a very important way just a series of trapdoors that drop you directly into nightmare after nightmare. The drop is the point, not the floor that connects them.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t theorize—shit, what else am I doing right now? I’m saying that whatever theory you can hash out and write down is likely beside the point. The point is how it makes you feel. Do you feel that something of tremendous, awesome importance has happened that you can never fully understand? That there are forces at work in this world beyond even those of the Others and the Children, beyond R'hllor and the Seven and the Old Gods, beyond the Stranger? That you are, in some fundamental and inescapable way, at sea?

The sea is the point. Not the land you could perhaps construct amid the sea, holding it at bay for however long—the sea. The sea. THE SEA.

Magic has been leaking back into this world in quick, isolated bursts; a shadowbaby here, an increased wildfire output there. In Oldtown, come The Winds of Winter, it’s all going to flood in at once. There’s a meta component to this as well: GRRM’s been largely holding back his peerless horror chops but for isolated exceptions like the Red Wedding and the wight attack at the Fist of the First Men, and so the Sam and Aeron chapters in Winds will constitute the full unveiling. (Part of me thinks that’s why he left those POVs out of Dance: he wanted to take his time, do it right, and unleash the horror whole.)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m eagerly anticipatin’ the storylines set in Winterfell and King’s Landing and the Dothraki Sea as well, but nothing compares to the Second Doom about to ravage southwestern Westeros. It is going to sear my soul and break my brain and leave me gibbering in the proverbial corner, and I simply cannot wait.