Blood of the Conqueror, Part 1: A Winds of Winter Mystery in the Stormlands

Spoilers Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Winds of Winter

Introduction

Prince Aegon spoke. “Then put your hopes on me,” he said. “Daenerys is Prince Rhaegar’s sister, but I am Rhaegar’s son. I am the only dragon that you need.” (ADWD, The Lost Lord)

Aegon Targaryen, the purported son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia of Dorne, is set to have a fateful impact on Westeros in The Winds of Winter. His landing in the Stormlands sets Westeros on a path that brings more war, and Aegon’s future promises more suffering, and more destruction for an already war-ravaged kingdom. But that reality will be offset by a public perception that will likely view Aegon as the conquering hero and liberator of Westeros. But who is Aegon? Who are his supporters? What are his and their goals? And what exactly will that fateful impact look like?

Welcome to Part 1 of Blood of the Conqueror, a speculative analysis of the coming Winds of Winter arc of the Young Dragon, Aegon Targaryen. In this essay series, we’ll examine  Aegon’s impact on Westeros. To do so, we’ll examine the background, conspiracies, alliances and battles that look to dominate Aegon’s arc in The Winds of Winter.

In a later installment, I’ll do in-depth battle analysis of the Battle of Griffin’s Roost and the Golden Company’s landing in the Stormlands, but in today’s essay, I thought it might be fun to examine this event in the meta-venue of how A Dance with Dragons and The Winds of Winter were written and re-written. And I thought it might be fun to do so by examining a minor mystery that I came across while reading George RR Martin’s notablog. It’s a mystery that takes place in the Stormlands around the time that Griffin’s Roost fell, and it involves how George RR Martin originally structured this event in A Dance with Dragons and why one of Martin’s famous restructurings of A Dance with Dragons might reveal how GRRM originally planned Aegon’s invasion of Westeros and why a key rewrite makes Aegon’s invasion and the involvement of a major player in the game of thrones that much more poignant.

A Day in the Rainwood

Artwork by Paolo Puggioni

In 2010, George RR Martin was late in completing and delivering A Dance with Dragons to his publishers but he was starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. One of the positive signs for A Dance with Dragons was the Griffin Reborn chapter from A Dance with Dragons. In February 2010, George RR Martin reported:

Spent the day in the rainwood. 1205 pages. More to come. – Notablog, 2/8/2010

When I read this particular notablog entry I was struck because I had just finished re-reading The Lost Lord and The Griffin Reborn chapters in preparation for this essay series and I didn’t remember the Rainwood being featured, or even mentioned in that chapter. Later, I did some digging and found that I was wrong. The Rainwood is mentioned in these chapters once.

Ten thousand men had sailed from Volon Therys, with all their weapons, horses, elephants. Not quite half that number had turned up thus far on Westeros, at or near their intended landing site, a deserted stretch of coast on the edge of the rainwood … lands that Jon Connington knew well, as they had once been his. (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

So, the Rainwood was mentioned but the focus of The Griffin Reborn isn’t on the Rainwood, it’s on the capture of Griffin’s Roost, Jon Connington’s memories of Rhaegar Targaryen/Robert’s Rebellion, and Aegon’s plans for the future. And it didn’t seem like a passing reference to the Rainwood constituted “spending the day in the Rainwood.” If so, the setting of the Rainwood  isn’t featured prominently. And if George intended for the battle to start in the Rainwood, the setting is good one for a military engagement. Instead, the Golden Company sets up camp somewhere in the Rainwood, draws up their battle plan there and moves against Griffin’s Roost without much thought given to their surroundings.

So, I started to wonder if there was something more at work here. I expanded out my search to the rest of A Dance with Dragons and found that the Rainwood shows up a grand total of two times in the book. So, I returned to GRRM’s notablog to see if there might be more clues.

A few days after Martin wrote about spending the day writing in the Rainwood, he wrote another Notablog entry in which he indicated that the chapter he had finished necessitated rewrites to a previous chapter.

But today was a good, productive day. Only problem is that the chapter I finished just now is going to require that I go back and rewrite one of the chapters I finished last week. Minor stuff, though. Shouldn’t take more than a day. (Famous last words, I know). – Notablog, 2/14/2010

Originally, I thought that this chapter that GRRM had to go back and re-write was Jon Connington’s 1st chapter but as I dug more, I came to believe that Martin isn’t referencing Connington. Instead, he’s referencing another chapter — one that was cut to The Winds of Winter.

Racing Across Dorne

“If Lord Connington’s prince has a crushed skull, I will believe that Aegon Targaryen has returned from the grave. Elsewise, no. This is some feigned boy, no more. A sellsword’s ploy to win support.” (TWOW, Arianne I)

At the end of The Griffin Reborn, Jon Connington decides to write Doran Martell in the hopes of securing their support for Aegon’s war for the Iron Throne. Jon Connington describes the support of Dorne as “central to our hopes”, but will Dorne back the Young Dragon? At first glance, Dorne appears to be Aegon’s most natural ally on account of the Martell historical alliance with the Targaryens as well as Aegon’s alleged status as Elia Martell’s son. However, the situation is greatly complicated by events from A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons.

Prince Doran Martell may not be enthusiastic to immediately partner with Aegon given his innate caution and his own conspiracies — topics that, again, will be covered in a future installment (Sorry!). Suffice to say, Aegon’s landing in the Stormlands caused Doran Martell to dispatch a loyal emissary to the Stormlands to seek out Aegon and Connington. The emissary he chose was his daughter Arianne Martell.

George RR Martin originally intended that Arianne Martell’s POV perspective to pick back up in The Winds of Winter, but in one of his late restructurings of A Dance with Dragons, he decided that he needed Arianne’s perspective in A Dance with Dragons. Seemingly, the reason he did so was because he wanted Aegon’s landing and initial battles in Westeros to take place in the late-middle of A Dance with Dragons. We’ll get into this more in detail in a minute but here’s Martin later in 2010 speaking vaguely about Aegon’s landing and a new mystery POV character:

What’s happened is, I’ve decided to move two completed chapters, from Arianne’s POV, out of the present volume and into THE WINDS OF WINTER. This is something I’ve gone back and forth on. Arianne wasn’t originally supposed to have any viewpoint chapters in DANCE at all, but there’s this… hmmm, how vague do I want be? VERY vague, I think… there’s this event that would of necessity provoke a Dornish reaction. The event was originally going to occur near the end of the book, but in one of my forty-seven restructures I moved it to the late middle instead. And the timeline then required that the Dornish reaction happen in this book and not the next one, so I wrote the two Arianne chapters and was going to write a third… and a chapter from another POV that would be a necessary complement to them. – Notablog, 6/27/2010

The event that provokes a Dornish reaction is almost certainly Aegon’s landing. The Arianne chapters were written when GRRM thought that Aegon’s landing would occur towards the late middle of the book. The funny thing is that we know when one of the Arianne chapters was written.

I’m floating off the Isle of Cedars, or racing across the sands of Dorne. Warm places, both of them, with nary a flake to be seen. But I’d better not change horses. If I keep on keeping on, I should finish one of those chapters this week. Maybe both.Notablog, 2/3/2010

The “floating off the Isle of Cedars” chapter is Victarion’s Iron Suitor chapter. But “racing across the sands of Dorne?” It could be Areo Hotah’s The Watcher chapter, but no travel takes place in that chapter. However, the 2 Arianne chapters in The Winds of Winter could be reasonably described as travelogues. Arianne I is about her travels from Sunspear to Ghost Hill while Arianne II is her movement across the Stormlands to Griffin’s Roost.

Regardless, my guess is that George RR Martin wrote one version of the Griffin Reborn immediately after. Why? Look again at what George says in his Notablog entry just after he finished The Griffin Reborn:

But today was a good, productive day. Only problem is that the chapter I finished just now is going to require that I go back and rewrite one of the chapters I finished last week. Minor stuff, though. Shouldn’t take more than a day. (Famous last words, I know). – Notablog, 2/14/2010

The chapters finished that week of 7 February before were likely the “racing across the sands of Dorne chapters” — that is the 2 Arianne chapters. We know this, because GRRM stated when he finished the Victarion chapter:

Not done yet… but I’ve left the Isle of Cedars. – Notablog, 2/15/2010

So, we have two probable Arianne chapters written just before a Jon Connington chapter. And then the writing of the Connington chapter necessitated re-writes to one of the Arianne chapters.

Humorously, someone at the time asked George RR Martin if any of the chapters that George talked about writing (Arianne I & II, The Iron Suitor) in that notablog entry were getting cut to The Winds of Winter.

Are any of these chapters getting bumped to Winds?”

GRRM: Well, it’s possible, sure. If I knew they were going to get bumped into the next book, I wouldn’t be writing them now, of course, so it’s my intent that they be part of DANCE. But at some point, when the finished manuscript goes to my editors, it may be they will say, “this chapter would work better in the next book.” Which is indeed what has already happened with the Sansa chapter, and with one Arya chapter I have completed as well. – Notablog Comment, 2/3/2010

Solving the Mystery

Griffin’s Roost, the seat of House Connington.- by Juan Carlos Barquet

Arianne and Connington chapters seem to have been written in tandem, but how does that help solve our Rainwood mystery? For that we return to the notablog entry where GRRM talked about moving his 2 completed Arianne chapters to The Winds of Winter.

Arianne wasn’t originally supposed to have any viewpoint chapters in DANCE at all, but there’s this… hmmm, how vague do I want be? VERY vague, I think… there’s this event that would of necessity provoke a Dornish reaction. The event was originally going to occur near the end of the book, but in one of my forty-seven restructures I moved it to the late middle instead. And the timeline then required that the Dornish reaction happen in this book and not the next one, so I wrote the two Arianne chapters and was going to write a third… and a chapter from another POV that would be a necessary complement to them, and…

But no, I’ve restructured again, and put the original precipitating event back close to the end of the book. Which means the Arianne chapters can be returned to WINDS, where I had ’em originally. It also means that I don’t have to write that third Arianne chapter and the complementary chapter from the other POV… not yet, anyway… which moves DANCE two chapters closer to completion. (The move did mean I had to revise two chapters from another POV, which took place after the event in last week’s draft, but now take place before said event, but fortunately that was just a matter of tweaking a couple of lines).

I suppose this is a good news/ bad news situation.

Bad news for those who want DANCE to be really, really, really long, as long as STORMS OF SWORDS or longer. This move makes DANCE four chapters (two written, one partly written, one entirely unwritten) shorter.

But it’s good news for DANCE, since I’m now two chapters (the ones I hadn’t finished) closer to completion. And hey, it’s even good news for WINDS OF WINTER, since I now have four chapters done for that one (an Arya, a Sansa, and two Ariannes). – Notablog, 6/27/2010

Let’s bullet point out the major points here for easier understanding:

  • Arianne has 2 chapters already written for The Winds of Winter.
  • GRRM envisioned a 3rd Arianne chapter, but he hadn’t written it yet.
  • There was a complementary chapter from another POV character. This chapter was partially written (as evidenced by the fact that he hadn’t written Arianne III, and he states towards the end that he cut a partially-written chapter to The Winds of Winter).
  • Reordering A Dance with Dragons and moving Arianne’s chapters to The Winds of Winter so the event (Again, Aegon’s landing in the Stormlands) occurred towards the end of the book required rewriting two chapters.

So, who was the complementary character to Arianne? Well, it’s funny to me that GRRM doesn’t identify the chapter by name. While writing A Dance with Dragons, he tended to do this with POV characters that he didn’t want to reveal as POV characters, sometimes giving them code names. In this case though, GRRM simply doesn’t mention the identity of the complementary character other than to state that this cut partially completed chapter complements Arianne III.

One possibility is that it’s Areo Hotah. Areo is alive by the end of A Dance with Dragons and per the Arianne I Sample chapter, he’s off with Obara Sand to track down Darkstar. But Areo is a known POV character for us; so it doesn’t make as much sense for GRRM to obscure the fact that he’d be a POV character in The Winds of Winter. Moreover, in terms of plot-points, I don’t see why Areo’s POV perspective would complement Arianne as Arianne and Areo are heading in opposite directions. (Arianne rides north to Ghost Hill and then sails for the Stormlands and Aegon while Areo rides west for the Red Mountains of Dorne and High Hermitage.) Furthermore, Areo is only referenced in TWOW, Arianne I chapter and according to fan-recounts of TWOW, Arianne II, Areo isn’t featured or brought up at all.

Instead, I’m confident that this complementary POV character is from the perspective of our old friend, Jon Connington. Given his blog post, it seems that George RR Martin wrote a partial 3rd Jon Connington chapter for A Dance with Dragons and cut it to The Winds of Winter along with the two written Arianne chapters and the one unwritten Arianne chapter. And, while it’s expected that Jon Connington would have chapters in The Winds of Winter, this serves as semi-confirmation to me that he will definitely have chapters in The Winds of Winter.

Returning to the Rainwood, we now know that George RR Martin intended to have three Arianne and three Jon Connington chapters in A Dance with Dragons. My original theory was that “writing in the Rainwood” refers to The Griffin Reborn and Connington’s partially-written third chapter.

However, I think that it’s more likely that “writing in the Rainwood refers to Arianne’s second chapter. Why? Well, /u/feldman10 on reddit pointed me out a better synopsis of Arianne’s second chapter, and it features the Rainwood prominently.

The plan is for her to travel to Mistwood, then across the Rainwood to Griffon’s Roost. The Rainwood is described in great details with several kinds of trees, including weirwood. (Fan Summary of TWOW, Arianne II)

Now originally, I think that GRRM originally planned for Arianne to parlay with Jon Connington in the Rainwood after the conquest of Griffin’s Roost at either the end of The Griffin Reborn or in Jon Connington’s partially-written third chapter and then to have a fateful encounter with Aegon in Arianne III shortly thereafter at Griffin’s RoostBut GRRM decided to shift the meeting place from the Rainwood and Griffin’s Roost to Storm’s End. However, spending the day in the Rainwood seems more likely to be Arianne’s second chapter than a Connington chapter. However, that’s not to say that the original premise of Connington meeting Arianne first in a third Connington chapter and then Arianne meeting Aegon in Arianne’s third chapter is incorrect.

Arianne’s shift to The Winds of Winter necessitated minor rewrites to existing chapters in A Dance with Dragons. I surmise that the two chapters that needed to be rewritten were The Watcher and The Griffin Reborn. Areo’s chapter likely had to be rewritten so that Doran only hears rumors that Quentyn and elephants are preparing to take ship for Westeros from Volantis instead of Doran hearing about the arrival of Aegon and the invasion of Westeros by the Golden Company. I surmise that we even see a small piece of this rewrite of Areo’s A Dance with Dragons chapter in Arianne’s Winds of Winter sample chapter:

Fire and blood was what Jon Connington (if indeed it was him) was offering as well. Or was it? “He comes with sellswords, but no dragons,” Prince Doran had told her, the night the raven came. “The Golden Company is the best and largest of the free companies, but ten thousand mercenaries cannot hope to win the Seven Kingdoms. Elia’s son… I would weep for joy if some part of my sister had survived, but what proof do we have that this is Aegon?” His voice broke when he said that. “Where are the dragons?” he asked. “Where is Daenerys?” and Arianne knew that he was really saying, “Where is my son?” (TWOW, Arianne I)

The rewrite to Jon Connington’s second chapter can likely be seen in how The Griffin Reborn ends. At the end of the chapter, Harry Strickland counsels Jon Connington to wait to attack Storm’s End. Connington agrees to wait 10 days. But when Aegon arrives at Griffin’s Roost four days later, the Young Dragon makes the decision to march on Storm’s End and personally lead the assault to take the castle.

“We’ve been talking with Strickland and Flowers. They told us about this attack on Storm’s End that you’re planning.”

Jon Connington did not let his fury show. “And did Homeless Harry try to persuade you to delay it?”

“He did, actually,” the prince said, “but I won’t. Harry’s an old maid, isn’t he? You have the right of it, my lord. I want the attack to go ahead … with one change. I mean to lead it.” (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

My guess is that the original plan of 10 days waiting that Harry Strickland agitated for was GRRM’s original writing plan — as it gave Arianne enough time to make her way from Sunspear to Griffin’s Roost. (The Most Accurate ASOIAF timeline has Arianne travel from Sunspear to Ghost Hill in three days and spend one day/night sailing over the Sea of Dorne to the Stormlands, giving Arianne six to seven days to make it to Griffin’s Roost before Connington & the Golden Company departed for Storm’s End) Moreover, this timeline allows for the Connington-Arianne parlay in the Rainwood before Aegon’s arrival at Griffin’s Roost. Again, my guess is that Aegon would finally arrive at Griffin’s Roost toward the end of Connington’s third chapter, and in Arianne’s third chapter, the fateful encounter between Aegon and Arianne would occur.

But when George shifted the two Arianne chapters to The Winds of Winter, it ensured that the meeting between Aegon and Arianne would occur at a more thematically consequential location: Storm’s End. The meeting would occur after Aegon’s 1st major victory in Westeros. The castle will as serve as better thematic setting to the plot purpose of fatefully tying House Martell to Aegon’s now-strong horse. For it’s at Storm’s End that Aegon will raise his banners. And it’s here that the lords of Westeros and his bride-to-be will flock to the dragon’s cause.  

Conclusion

This little meta mystery contains several of the factions and characters that will have major impacts on Aegon’s plotline for The Winds of Winter. But though this minor mystery touches myriad factions and characters, it barely scratches the surface on the full background, characters, factions and plot-points that Aegon’s conquest will set into motion. To address that in a more complete way, here’s how I plan to structure the rest of Blood of the Conqueror:

  • Part 1: A Winds of Winter Mystery in the Stormlands: What you’ve just read
  • Part 2: The Mummer’s Folly: Pre-AGOT Background to Illyrio and Varys’ Aegon scheme
  • Part 3: The Conspiracies: The multiple plots of Varys and Illyrio to get Aegon onto the throne post-AGOT
  • Part 4: A Conquest That Lasted a Summer: Campaign analysis of the Stormlands campaign and speculative battle analysis on the Siege of Storm’s End.
  • Part 5: Dragon or War?: Friends in the Reach and Dorne that may serve as Aegon’s allies
  • Part 6: An Alliance with God: Aegon’s coming alliance with the Faith Militant
  • Part 7: The Turncloak: Theory on why a major character in ASOIAF will turn cloak for Aegon
  • Part 8: A Last Mad Act: The final acts of war and the fall of House Lannister
  • Conclusion: The War of the Dragons: The Coming War Between Daenerys and Aegon in TWOW/ADOS

Conspiracies, espionage, wars, marriage politics, diplomacy, religion and another dance of the dragons: This is what Aegon’s landing means for Westeros. And a pivotal meeting in the Rainwood would have set these catastrophic events into motion had GRRM kept Arianne in A Dance with Dragons. Instead, these fateful encounters will occur in The Winds of Winter, but the consequences will be unchanged.

Thanks for reading. I invite you to follow me on twitter as well as the Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire’s official twitter, facebook and tumblr. Next up, “The Mummer’s Folly.”

11 Comments

Filed under ASOIAF Mystery, ASOIAF Speculation

11 responses to “Blood of the Conqueror, Part 1: A Winds of Winter Mystery in the Stormlands

  1. Pretty detailed taking apart of the NotaBlog. Eagerly waiting for the part 4 and 6. The religious endgame for Westeros is one of the things i am most excited about. Keep up the good work brother …..

  2. There’s also a reference in the Arienne TWOW sample chapter to “elephants in the rainwood,” which further suggests that something notable happens there in TWOW. As we’re unsure how far into TWOW her sample chapter occurs, but know that it’s heavily implied that Storm’s End has fallen, my guess is there’s a Jon Connington chapter early on that at least details some fighting in the rainwood.

  3. “semi-confirmation to me that he will definitely”

    Very interesting oxymoron

  4. Dominique

    Love your work,now just a guess is that Davos will betray stannis due to his family living in Cape wrath near the rainwood

  5. Dominique

    Article 4 and 8 better be worth the wait
    House Lannisters demise is one that echo for centuries to come

  6. Again, another great article, cannot wait for the other parts…be quick!

  7. Lecen

    Does it means that you start from the premise that Aegon is indeed Aegon? If that it’s the case, is there any way that the books can prove that Aegon is whom he claims to be? There are no DNA tests and apparently, no one beyond Varys can attest that Aegon is Aegon, son of Rhaegar. What to do, then?

    BTW, excellent blog. I want to see the rest of this series of articles!

  8. Targaryen-schmargaryen

    Nice look at the writing process and revealing some distinctly possible plot lines in the process. Looking forward to the rest.

  9. Pingback: Blood of the Conqueror, Part 9: Dragon or War? | Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire

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