The Winds of Winter: 12 Major Plot Points to Anticipate
Warning: Massive Spoilers on events past the third HBO series of Game of Thrones & Minor The Winds of Winter spoilers!
George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is widely accepted as a landmark of modern Fantasy fiction. In the realms of Westeros and Essos nothing is romanticized, nothing is predictable and absolutely no one is safe. Martin repeatedly dispenses with the cliches that riddle cheap fantasy fiction throughout A Song of Ice and Fire to form refreshing plot lines, and emotionally involving characters that have an unfortunate tendency to be killed off.
The principal part of my enjoyment of the Fantasy Series stems from the copious foreshadowing that has sparked an almost endless number of theories from the reader community. Chances are that like myself, once you’d finished A Dance with Dragons (ADWD) you spent a good few hours over at the A Song of Ice and Fire subreddit, and the Westeros.org forums dumbfounded by all the highly probable fan theories you had completely missed.
Through combining these fan theories and The Winds of Winter (un)released sample chapters, I have culminated a list of 12 major events and plot developments you can expect to unfold in The Winds of Winter by the time of its inevitable Winter 2014/2015 release.
12. A Clash between Aeron Damphair and Euron Greyjoy
Aeron Damphair – who premiered as a minor POV character in A Feast For Crows (AFFC) – has been officially confirmed by George Martin as a returning POV character in The Winds of Winter (TWOW). In light of Aeron’s recent threat to raise the commoners of the Iron Islands against the newly elected King Euron (who seemed completely unfazed by the notion) it can only be assumed that through Aeron’s POV, the reader will be provided a detailed insight into the revolutionary activity set to occur on the Iron Islands.
On the face of it, Aeron’s Casus Belli for revolutionary action against Euron Crow’s Eye revolves solely around his opponents ‘ungodly’ status; after all Euron’s kingship does offend the Iron Island’s only true rule: ‘No godless man may sit the Seastone Chair.’ However if you subscribe to the theory that Aeron was repeatedly molested by his older brother Euron when they were younger, Aeron’s motivations for instigating civil war appear all too personal; note that stories rarely end well for those with an unhealthy thirst for revenge in A Song of Ice and Fire – just look at where Robb Stark ended up.
I can’t imagine the Seastone Chair changing hands (or asses) by the end of TWOW, but I don’t expect mere talk of revolution either. You should expect there to be one of two minor sackings, and perhaps even a couple of big battles on the Iron Islands when you finally clasp your hands around the hilt of The Winds of Winter.
11. Davos in Skagos
At the mid-point of A Dance With Dragons (ADWD) we happened upon the fate of Davos as he was charged by “Lord Too-Fat” Wyman Manderly with the retrieval of Rickon on the Skagos Isles – a place ‘where men break fast upon human flesh instead’ – in exchange for the lord’s treasonous loyalty to Stannis. The Skagosi are a terrifying band who swore their unwavering loyalty and vassalage to the Starks of Winterfell after their failed revolt 100 years prior to A Game of Thrones. During this revolt they somehow managed to knock off the Lord of Winterfell and hundreds of his troops despite harshly unfavored odds. Additionally, the Skagosi name is synonymous with cannibalism and otherwise savage traditions to boot; our Onion Knight is going to end up in a trough if the Skagosi lore is more than mere legends.
Now you’re probably asking yourself: If Davos does survive on Skagos long enough to gain an audience with Rickon, what could possibly ensue? Sadly nothing concrete is available with there being a distinct lack of a Davos TWOW preview chapter, but with George Martin expressing an interest in giving Osha a more significant role in the last two books, due to Natalia Tena’s superb performances in the HBO series, I have an inkling that she will be the one to swing Rickon around to trusting Davos.
Rickon and Shaggydog’s previously aggressive and distrusting temperaments will have come to a simmer under the guidance of the oddly reasonable Osha, and although it’s unlikely, the Skagosi may have taught the boy a thing or two about self control, leadership and the extent of his warging powers.
10. Aegon VI Seizes Storm’s End
Aegon Targaryen, who was initially under the guise of ‘Young Griff’, managed to ascertain the sizable legion of the Golden Company and a strong foothold in the Stormlands having used the sum of his force that reached Westeros to besiege the forts Crows Nest, Rain House, Greenstone and Griffin’s Roost, all during his introduction in ADWD. Aegon VI wisely capitalized on the power gains presented by the lingering devastation from the War of the Five Kings, but you can’t deny that this early triumph has puffed up the boy’s ego enormously.
“The perfect prince but still half a boy for all that, with little and less experience of the world and all its woes.” – Tyrion Lannister on Aegon VI
According to extensive fan notes from George Martin’s reading of TWOW’s Arianne II chapter at Worldcon, Connington and Aegon successfully captured the Baratheon seat of Storm’s End without any reported injury to Aegon, who took it upon himself to lead his forces into battle. Unfortunately solid details on how they captured the notoriously impenetrable fortress are absent, however that hasn’t stopped fans speculating. I’m convinced by the theory that suggests Connington & Co betrayed the misplaced trust of the Baratheon banner men within, who will have granted them easy access inside the fort following their swift removal of the unsuspecting Tyrell retinue who were camped outside.
Aegon is bound to become increasingly cocksure and self entitled following this ‘grand’ victory, inevitably mistaking his good fortune for great leadership skill and military strength. George R.R Martin has an expressed passion for punishing arrogant characters, nonetheless I’m betting on Aegon being an anomaly to the trend in an effort to withhold the series’ total unpredictability.
9. The Downfall of Cersei Lannister
We can all acknowledge that Cersei’s demise is a foregone conclusion at this stage, yet our collective ideas concerning how Cersei will meet this inevitable ruin remain significantly divided. To date Cersei is contending with a total of four immediate threats to her person: the Tyrells, Aegon VI, the High Septon and the outcome of her trial by combat.
The obvious instigator of Cersei’s end in my opinion is her trial by combat; I know it seems like an unimaginative choice but hear me out on this one. Cersei’s champion Ser Robert Strong is right up there on the undead scale, alongside the likes of Beric Dondarrion, Lady Stoneheart and the White Walkers, the latter of which – like just about every fictional zombie – can be a real pain in the ass to kill. If the Frankenstein-esque monster Robert Strong can only be killed by fire or the typical blow to the brain, the champion of The Faith will not have a chance in hell of killing the freak. You might be wondering: what’s the problem then if Robert Strong is nigh on unbeatable? The problem doesn’t lie in him being defeated; rather the problem is the potential for him being exposed as an undead.
It wouldn’t be easy, but if the champion of The Faith has a hand deft enough to simply knock off Robert Strong’s helmet a lifeless face or an entirely missing head altogether would instantly be exposed to an on looking crowd of vassals, holy men and peasants alike. Under accusations of breaking sacred laws against necromancy from The Faith, Cersei and the Lannister rule in King’s Landing would swiftly crumble under the weight of a peasant revolt supported by the reinstated Faith’s Militant. In light of George’s passion for tragedy, Cersei will probably see little Tommen and Myrcella die as the Tyrell’s ascend the throne, subsequently mirroring the deaths of Robb and Catelyn at the Red Wedding.
8. Jon Snow’s Return to the Realm
George R.R Martin hasn’t confirmed the inclusion of Jon Snow POV chapters in TWOW, and to tell you the truth I’m happy with the potential prospect of them not returning. This isn’t because they were boring; Jon chapters rarely felt like pulp, and they gave readers their required dose of information on The Night’s Watch and the Wildlings which was fantastic. Nevertheless if Jon has cheated death in a similar fashion to Brienne and Lady Stoneheart a lot of the tension that makes the A Song of Ice and Fire so addictive will be sadly absent. Regardless of my wishes, it is very probable that Jon will return as a POV character in one of the three regularly speculated forms.
One spectacularly humdrum theory suggests that Jon simply didn’t die of his stab wounds at the end of ADWD. This idea is the least appealing of the three to me, the flatness of the notion certainly doesn’t strike you as fitting with George Martin’s style of storytelling; in fairness though, the concept isn’t totally farfetched. Alternatively, there is a proposal knocking about that suggests Jon will ultimately be resurrected by Melisandre through the ‘Kiss of Life’* technique previously harnessed by the Red Priest Thoros of Myr.
The third, final and likeliest potential outcome rests within the concept that Jon warged into his Dire Wolf Ghost upon his untimely death. The prologue of ADWD fulfilled its clear purpose to enlighten readers on the manners and effects of warging before Jon wargs into Ghost upon his betrayal. Were it not for this clear and intent purpose, the prologue would’ve been little more than an unnecessarily random inclusion filtered out in the books editing process. It’s worth mentioning that if Jon’s soul is trapped inside Ghost long enough, the likelihood is that he will effectively die slowly within the Dire Wolf:
“The interaction between the skinchanger’s and animal’s mind will influence both personalities, with detrimental effects to the human if the animal’s influence is not fought.” – A Wiki of Ice and Fire
(*Footnote: a notable, and well supported tinfoil hat theory postulates that Melisandre is a member of the undead, whether beknownst to her or not. If this theory turns out to be fact, it is safe to say Melisandre would forfeit her life in saving Jon’s!)
7. Arya’s Training Takes Her to Westeros
Arya succeeded in passing her trial period at The House of Black and White. The She-Wolf fully harnessed her senses, her warging powers and her skills of analysis under the tutoring of the Kindly Man, who bestowed the acolyte’s robe upon her by the end of ADWD. Upon her inclusion into the club, the Kindly Man signed her off to the veiled Izembaro as an apprentice. Izembaro is seemingly just another fresh face, however there has been intriguing speculation that we may have encountered this ‘Izembaro’ character, albeit very briefly, in the past.
Tobho Mott – Kings Landing’s master armorer, and Gendry’s former blacksmithing trainer – is the vaguely speculated true identity lurking behind the Izembaro name. The evidence supporting this theory in the linked comment possesses strong merits, therefore I find myself duly convinced. Assuming then that this idea is correct, Arya will find herself back in King’s Landing, where-in the temptation of once again assuming her birth identity and exacting revenge on a vulnerable Cersei will hang above her head. The neigh on impossible likelihood of the Faceless Men assigning Arya to the assassination of Cersei and Tommen, in the presence of their strictly upheld rule of killing no-one whose name you know, will potentially culminate in Arya disobeying, or altogether abandoning, the Faceless Men in pursuit of her personal vendetta.
Who will Arya target when she remains under the cloak of the Faceless Men? Qyburn is the best guess circulating forums as it stands; Qyburn’s necromantic practices are an aggressive affront to the sacred appreciation of death amongst the Faceless men, therefore Qyburn is bound to be the cult’s highest priority target in Kings Landing. Arya’s notable familiarity with the intricacies of Kings Landing’s dungeons combined with her nearly natural talent for assassination poises her as the only candidate for the job; expect the Faceless Men to capitalize on this.
6. Daenerys Reforms Her Long Lost Khalasar
Daenerys final moments in ADWD saw her being discovered by Khal Jhaqo and his great khalasar amidst the Dothraki Sea. Khal Jhaqo formerly gave patronage to Khal Drogo as a kos within his khalasar, only to declare himself Khal upon the eve of Drogo’s illness. Khal Jhaqo’s head Bloodrider, Mago was recently confirmed by Martin as a recurring character in TWOW in spite of his death in the TV series. Disregarding this, I believe it’s accurate to assume that the final verdict spells out a grizzly end for Khal Jhaqo and Mago. This signposting Daenerys quote from A Game of Thrones lends the assumption sturdy support:
“It was a cruel fate, yet not so cruel as Mago’s will be. I promise you that, by the old gods and the new, by the lamb god and the horse god and every god that lives. I swear by the Mother of Mountains and the Womb of the World. Before I am done with them, Mago and Ko Jhaqo will plead for the mercy they showed Eroeh.” – Daenerys (A Wiki of Ice and Fire)
By the time of Daenerys’ TWOW reintroduction, I expect Drogon to have singed Jhaqo, Mago and a chunk of their forces at the command of Daenerys. As you will know, the Dothraki don’t bow to bloodlines, the Dothraki bow to strength and ample leadership. Therefore the fear of Daenerys and Drogon’s power will assuredly compel Jhaqo’s stolen khalasar to flock back to their original Khaleesi. Where then will Daenerys take her new found army of screaming savages?
If Daenerys’ plot progression doesn’t immediately take her to Westeros I won’t be disappointed, in fact I wouldn’t be too let down if Daenerys never sets foot on the shores of Westeros. On the other hand I will be disgruntled if Daenerys’ arch stagnates as poorly as it did in ADWD. I’m getting a heavy impression that Dany will come to realize that Westeros holds no true sentimental value to her in TWOW, in spite of Illyrio and Viserys ceaselessly trying to convince her otherwise, which may irritate the majority of readers. Daenerys returning to her beloved house with the red door may well be the bittersweet ending George Martin has repeatedly referenced too, and that is an ending I would be pleased with.
5. A Highly Controversial Sansa Chapter
In a recent interview with Vulture, Elio Garcia – the webmaster of Westeros.org and the corresponding A Wiki of Ice and Fire page – hinted at a very controversial, unreleased Sansa chapter that he was handed in a proof reading process by George Martin himself. Here is the relevant quote if you’ve had trouble finding it:
“And yes, that means [Elio’s] read parts of book six, The Winds of Winter — including a Sansa chapter that is sure to be controversial.” – Vulture Magazine
The nature of this controversy is tricky to pinpoint; I doubt I will ever say this again but, I completely doubt the chapter is controversial because Sansa dies – at least in the physical sense. Along with a bulk of the community, I’m presuming that Sansa’s imminent bedding, whether it’s shared with Harry the Heir or the slimy Petyr Baelish, will be the focal point of the controversy.
Although we haven’t met Harry the Heir, enough titbits of information have been shared regarding him in AFFC for us to reach the conclusion that Sansa will be far from infatuated with him. Harry the Heir’s promiscuity and scheming tendencies, whilst not attractive, will avert Sansa’s gaze from being distracted by romance, granting her the opportunity to disillusion herself and become the player in the game she needs to be. An uncomfortable battle beneath the sheets with Harrold might prove to be Sansa’s crowning moment of personal progression.
George Martin is unfortunately susceptible to opt for unseen soul shattering tragedy; Littlefinger raping Sansa on-page would fit the bill, but would feel like a step too far, even for George Martin. If I remember correctly, Littlefinger has often remarked on Sansa’s resemblance of her mother Catelyn – whose hand he nearly died for – whilst transferring his previous affections for Catelyn onto her daughter, which aligns him with the very definition of creepy. Thankfully Littlefinger isn’t very liable to risk jeopardizing his grand plans for power to satisfy his base desires. Sansa is safe from his clutches, at least for now.
4. Tyrion Regains a Position of Power
By the end of Tyrion’s arch in ADWD, he had slipped free from the stranglehold of his late Yunkish slave master Yezzan Zo Qaggaz, immediately securing safety amongst Brown Ben Plumm’s Second Sons following brash promises to bestow large sums of Casterly Rock’s gold upon the company, for a price. In accordance with brief fan notes from the EasterCon reading of an early Tyrion chapter, our Lion of Lannister will be persistent in trying to convince Brown Ben to turn his cloak back to Daenerys cause. Absent of Dany’s assistance and strength, the Second Sons have only a fleeting hope of seizing the grand Lannister seat of Casterly Rock.
Tyrion’s powers of persuasion will make swaying Plumm around to his mindset a mere stepping stone; Tyrion’s true challenge rests in gaining Daenerys trust. The Dwarf’s Lannister heritage will immediately sow a seed of doubt in Daenerys’ mind, but if Tyrion falls at Dany’s feet alongside her keen lover Daario – whom he’d had a keen interest in saving during the reading of his TWOW chapter – the Dragon Queen will surely hear him out.
Tyrion will not dawdle if he is given the opportunity of an audience with the Mother of Dragons. Telling the hard truth concerning Dany’s demented father – The Mad King Aerys – will be his first course of action because it would be the surest way of gaining her trust. Better still it would allure her into adding her desperately required forces to his own during the planned sacking of Casterly Rock, which I’m suspecting to be initiated from the east as it would allow Dany to pursue her career as the Breaker of Chains.
You should anticipate Tyrion to be Daenerys’ most trusted adviser by the mid-point of TWOW, and if 1500 pages will allow enough room for progression in Daenerys’ own story line, you may even see him assuming his rightful place at the head of the Lannister heritage.
3. Jaime & Brienne Catch Up with Lady Stoneheart
When you think aback to your first read of A Game of Thrones, or the first time you watched Bran being shoved from the window in the HBO series, you were instantly holding out for Catelyn to get her vengeance on Jaime; O’ what a journey it has been. Stoneheart is a revenge obsessed mutant of her former self and little else, on the contrary Jaime’s progression from an incestuous egotist to Westeros’ one true knight – albeit in an unconventional sense – has transformed him into a fan favourite. Jaime holds an aptitude for prioritizing the importance of his countless oaths; Brienne however, has apparently yet to master the technique.
In Jaime’s terminal moments of ADWD he was sprung upon by his trusted friend Lady Brienne, who assumed her duties to Lady Stoneheart by lulling our yellow haired hero into a trap that will see him securely within the sufficating clutches of The Brotherhood without Banners (BWB). The BWB’s notion of justice has plunged into depravity since the absence of Beric Dondarrion; the band of outlaws refused to hear out the typically reasonable Brienne, nearly hanging her and the totally innocent boy Podrick as a result. Therefore Jaime is left with one route of escape, the famed trial-by-combat ceremony.
This trial-by-combat will likely be the onset of the biggest twist in the series – Brienne being selected as the champion of the accuser, Lady Stoneheart. Anticipations become varied at this point in the speculated theory, but every idea entertains the prospect of Brienne’s character being ultimately defined by whether she decides to favor her oath to Stoneheart, or favor her oath to Ser Jaime, the only knight whom she has become so dearly acquainted with.
2. The Battle of Meereen
Barristan’s final chapter of ADWD established a looming cliffhanger over the fate of Meereen, Barristan and Daenerys, whose success or failure in holding Meereen would impinge on her entire campaign. Luckily in depth fan notes for a couple of Barristan Selmy chapter readings at the Boskone Convention divulged great chunks of new information concerning the preparation and initiation of the impending Battle of Meereen.
“Ser Barristan I” only covered the pre-battle preparations, Barristan’s admittance to shitting his pants in his first battle amidst his pep talk, and the signal lighting to start the attack. “Ser Barristan II” on the other hand quenched all the wild expectations of the monumental battle. Surprisingly the battle wasn’t without a smidgen of humor; one of the pit fighters being clad in no more than a chain mail skirt and a python – breasts bouncing and all, and the inclusion of the farcical Little Pigeon’s herons added a welcome snigger factor that is not often found in typical fictional warfare. The Ironborn made their ceremonious declaration of loyalty to Daenerys and Barristan’s forces through launching preemptive naval and land attacks on the sellsword forces, surely concluding the Battle of Meereen and crippling any future efforts to dispose of Daenerys from the slaver cities.
Regardless of lacking explicit information about the standing loyalty of the Second Sons, it can rightfully be assumed that their loyalty now lies with Daenerys considering their absence from the pivotal battle. Daenerys now stands to possess an almighty force of Ironborn, various sellsword companies, Dothraki, Unsullied, thousands of free men and Barristan’s knights alongside the wise council of Tyrion and a potentially reinstated Jorah. These comrades will lend her exceedingly favorable odds in battles of the campaign yet to come, but they could also be the source of her downfall if their loyalties wonder.
1. The Battle for the North
Both Theon’s pre-release TWOW chapter and Jon’s final ADWD chapter alluded towards a crucial Battle for Winterfell. The letter that Jon received from ‘Ramsay’ shortly before his Julius Caesar moment stated that the Bastard of Bolton had imprisoned Mance Rayder, and defeated Stannis. Ramsay also demanded that Jon swore fealty to House Bolton if he wished to preserve his beloved Night’s Watch, but carelessly highlighted that he was bluffing – although this was unbeknownst to Jon – through commanding Jon to return ‘his Reek’ to him. Further assuming that events in Theon’s TWOW chapter occur after Jon’s stabbing, it is safe to say Ramsay didn’t defeat Stannis, in fact Theon’s chapter nodded towards Stannis’ tactical genius giving him an upper hand in the battle to come.
[Stannis] “It makes no matter. Ser Stupid, Lord Too-Fat, the Bastard, let them come. We hold the ground, and that I mean to turn to our advantage” “The ground?” said Theon “What ground? Here? This misbegotten tower? This wretched little village? You have no high ground here, no wall to hide beyond, no natural defenses” [Stannis] “Yet.” – Stannis/Theon conversation
The highly speculated natural defense that Stannis is touching on is the frozen lake which lies beside his camp. An issue was previously made about Stannis’s soldiers overfishing the lake, as it dwindled the army’s chances of surviving future starvation, and the poor practice left the ice of the lake weak due to the various holes in the surface. George R.R Martin has assimilated plenty of historical events within our universe with events within the Westerosi universe (i.e. The Red Wedding being a nod toward “The Black Dinner”). This thematic trend has led many to expect Stannis’ to employ the tactic of luring the Frey/Bolton army over the frozen lake forcing it to collapse beneath them, as this would loosely link back to the Battle of the Ice between the Teutonic Knights, and the Republic of Novgorod in 1242.
The matter of the Manderly allegiance during the battle is highly questionable under the shadow of ulterior information. Will Wyman Manderly’s forces close the jaws on the Frey/Bolton forces as they fall in the river? Or will they deal a face blow to Stannis’ army to feign their allegiance to the Bolton’s before Wyman switches sides when he has possession of Rickon?
What do you think? Leave a comment.