Blood of the Conqueror, Part 9: Dragon or War?

This essay contains spoilers for The Winds of Winter


Aegon VI Sigil by Thasiloron

Artwork by Thasiloron

A dragon has returned to Westeros, but not the dragon my father was expecting. Nowhere in the words was there a mention of Daenerys Stormborn… nor of Prince Quentyn, her brother, who had been sent to seek the dragon queen. (TWOW, Arianne I)

A Dance with Dragons closes Dorne with Doran Martell believing that his Targaryen Restoration Conspiracy was nigh close to success, but when we meet Doran Martell in The Winds of Winter, we see a man beginning to realize that everything has gone wrong. Daenerys Targaryen and Quentyn Martell had not arrived from Essos. Instead, Jon Connington had purportedly returned with Aegon Targaryen and ten thousand Golden Company sellswords with no word of Quentyn.

But who was this Aegon? Was he truly the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia of Dorne? Or was a sellsword’s ploy? Was the lord who accompanied him actually Jon Connington? And even if the boy was indeed Aegon Targaryen and the man, Jon Connington, did they possess any hope of winning against the power of the Lannisters and Tyrells? These questions have dominated fan-discussion over Aegon, but they were also questions that Doran Martell was asking.

Prince Doran needed to send someone into the Stormlands to provide him a clear picture of what was happening to his north. Unfortunately for the Prince of Dorne, there were few people he could send. He could not send someone who was unfamiliar with his secret machinations to restore the Targaryens to the Iron Throne, and most of those individuals who knew of the plot were dead, missing or incapacitated. In fact, Doran Martell had only one person he could send who was alive, present, able of body and read in on his plan: Arianne Martell.

Reluctantly, Doran Martell prepared to dispatch his only daughter into a chaotic war zone to gather intelligence on this dragon. Armed with seven ravens, Arianne’s orders were to head north and dispatch a raven back to Doran telling him of all she saw. At the end of her journey lay two men who desperately needed Dorne to side with them against the Iron Throne. Arianne’s job was to determine whether these men were who said they were and whether they had a chance against the Iron Throne. Her final raven would contain only one word: “dragon” or “war”.

Aegon and Connington’s Need of Dorne

Artwork by Emile-Denis

Lesser lords might join their cause for fear of harm or hope of gain, but only the Prince of Dorne had the power to defy House Lannister and its allies. (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

Dorne was vital to the success of Aegon’s crusade for the Iron Throne. Aegon and Connington had arrived in Westeros with the Golden Company, and while the sellswords were well-trained, disciplined and experienced in warfare, they were badly outnumbered by their enemies. Long before Aegon ever departed Essos, Tywin Lannister had joined his house with House Tyrell. By the time Aegon arrived, the Lannister-Tyrell power bloc still stood and still provided a fearsome political and military force. Thus, Aegon and Connington landed in Westeros to significant military and political disadvantage.  

Originally, Varys and Illyrio compensated for this disadvantage by conspiring to wed Aegon and Daenerys, but when that plan crumbled, Connington realized that he needed to seek for Westerosi allies. While part of Connington’s efforts focused on undermining Mace Tyrell by luring some of the Fat Flower’s bannermen to his cause, the greater prize was Dorne:

Without Daenerys and her dragons, Dorne was central to their hopes. (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

Lord Connington’s identification of Dorne as its greatest potential ally was smart. Militarily, the spears that Doran Martell could bring to Aegon would significantly bolster the Golden Company’s flagging numbers. Though almost certainly fewer in number to the forty-thousand that Daeron I Targaryen boasted of in his Conquest of Dorne, the Dornish could still call significant numbers of spears to the field. And as we discussed in Part 7, two Dornish armies were already in the field. Connington learned of these Dornish deployments shortly after taking Griffin’s Roost:

“They have an army in the Boneway and another in the Prince’s Pass, just waiting …”

“Waiting.” He frowned. “For what?” (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

What Connington did not know was why the Dornish armies were mobilized, but they were in the field all the same. If Connington could convince Doran Martell to join with Aegon, he would potentially double or even triple the size of his army, but there were significant political advantages too.

Westerosi history demonstrated that without a great lord supporting a rebellion, the rebels were doomed to failure. The Blackfyres had been forced to rely on secondary houses in their rebellions and had failed to overthrow the Targaryens while several great lords banded together in Robert’s Rebellion to defeat the Targaryens. More than military support, a lord paramount or great lord could provide political legitimacy to a claimant to the Iron Throne. This was necessary to both secure more allies for the war, but it was also important to securing the peace afterward. Jon Arryn’s role in rallying the Vale, North, Stormlands and Riverlands to the cause of Robert Baratheon provided the swords that defeated the Targaryens. Lord Arryn’s post-war role, though, was equally important. As SomethingLikeaLawyer demonstrated in his analysis of Jon Arryn as Hand of the King, Jon Arryn secured Robert’s throne by developing the marriage alliance with the Lannisters, managed the treasury and ensured that Dorne did not rise in rebellion against the new regime.

In this light, Jon Connington surveyed the current crop of Westerosi great lords and found a meagre yield of potential allies. The Lannisters and Tyrells had banded together and displaced Stannis Baratheon, House Tully and House Stark. In their place stood the Boltons and Petyr Baelish who were nominally loyal to the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, the Greyjoys were in open rebellion against the Iron Throne and were widely despised in Westeros. This left only Houses Arryn and Martell.

When Jon Connington took Griffin’s Roost, he had Haldon Halfmaester go through the messages in the rookery to determine what was happening across Westeros. Absent most of that correspondence was any mention of the Arryns:

“No one ever seems to mention the Vale, which suggests to me that the Arryns have taken no part in any of this.” (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

The Arryns had remained neutral in the War of the Five Kings and had nominally returned to the king’s peace with Littlefinger as Lord Protector of the Vale — meaning that they were a possible future ally of Aegon. However, Connington knew that the Arryns could not provide any immediate aid to their cause due their proximity to Aegon’s landing:

The Vale was far away; Dorne was close. (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

Where the Vale was distant, Dorne was nearby, and there was history and current events to consider. The Martells had both a historical friendship with the Targaryens as well as an animosity to the current Lannister-Baratheon regime. Most importantly, an alliance with Doran Martell had the potential to legitimize Aegon to the realm. Jon Connington likely suspected that Aegon’s identity as the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia of Dorne would be doubted. Many saw Tywin Lannister lay the bodies of Rhaenys and Aegon in front of the Iron Throne at the end of Robert’s Rebellion. Thus, many would doubt that this boy was actually Aegon VI Targaryen. If Doran Martell threw his lot in with Aegon though, it would quiet doubts on the boy’s origins.

Knowing the importance of a lord paramount in warfare, how a great lord could smooth the transition to peace and how individually Doran Martell could have a legitimizing effect on Aegon, it’s easy to see why Jon Connington zeroed in on Doran Martell as the most important potential ally of Aegon. However, Connington discovered a problem shortly after taking Griffin’s Roost:

“Prince Doran’s younger son has been betrothed to Myrcella Baratheon, which would suggest that the Dornishmen have thrown in with House Lannister.” (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

This presented a significant roadblock to recruiting Doran Martell to Aegon’s cause, but it wasn’t the only problem. The more significant issue was the relative military weakness of Aegon’s position. Landing in the Stormlands with only ten thousand sellswords, Aegon was significantly outnumbered by the Tyrells and Lannisters arrayed in and around King’s Landing. Connington knew that Doran Martell was cautious to a fault and suspected that the Prince of Dorne would be reluctant to join with them knowing their relatively weak position. To offset this disadvantage, Connington determined that the Golden Company would need to go on the offensive to demonstrate their strength:

“Prince Doran is a cautious man, that’s true. He will never join us unless he is convinced that we will win. So to persuade him we must show our strength.” (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

It’s in this context that Connington prepared to march on Storm’s End. If Aegon, Connington and the Golden Company could take Storm’s End, it would prove that the Golden Company had a viable chance of victory to those such as Doran Martell.

“I mean to take Storm’s End. A nigh-impregnable stronghold, and Stannis Baratheon’s last foothold in the south. Once taken, it will give us a secure fastness to which we may retreat at need, and winning it will prove our strength.” (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

Demonstrating the Golden Company’s strength by taking Storm’s End would not be enough to win Doran Martell’s support for Aegon. Feudal culture relied on personal friendship and direct communication to bond allies together. So, before departing Griffin’s Roost for Storm’s End, Jon Connington ordered Haldon Halfmaester to dispatch a raven to Doran Martell:

“Write Sunspear. Doran Martell must know that his sister’s son is still alive and has come home to claim his father’s throne.” (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

A raven flew from Griffin’s Roost bound for Dorne, and the message it contained would send a shock through the Dornish court. It would also be an occasion of much sorrow for Prince Doran Martell.

The New Conspiracy

Artwork by Lindsey Messecar

“The fate of Dorne goes with you, daughter,” he said, as he pressed the parchment into her hand. “Go swiftly, go safely, be my eyes and ears and voice… but most of all, take care.” (TWOW, Arianne I)

In Dorne, confused reports reached Doran Martell’s ears on what was transpiring in the Stormlands. As we discussed last time, Doran incorrectly believed that the invasion that he had heard about fleet en-route to Westeros possibly contained Daenerys Targaryen and his son Quentyn. If it was them, Doran believed that the fleet would make for the Greenblood and disembark in Dorne. When that invasion fleet never turned up in Dorne, and Doran Martell began to hear reports coming from the Stormlands, the Prince of Dorne began to suspect that this was not Daenerys. A letter purportedly from Jon Connington further solidified Doran’s suspicions.

At some point after dispatching the Sand Snakes for King’s Landing, Connington’s letter arrived in Sunspear. In this letter, Connington’s emotionally appealed to Doran Martell to support Aegon and claim vengeance against those who had perpetrated brutality on the Martells so many years before:

To Prince Doran of House Martell,

You will remember me, I pray. I knew your sister well, and was a leal servant of your good-brother. I grieve for them as you do. I did not die, no more than did your sister’s son. To save his life we kept him hidden, but the time for hiding is done. A dragon has returned to Westeros to claim his birthright and seek vengeance for his father, and for the princess Elia, his mother. In her name I turn to Dorne. Do not forsake us.

                             Jon Connington

                             Lord of Griffin’s Roost

                             Hand of the True King

In crafting this letter, Jon Connington expertly channeled pathos to win over Doran Martell. Instead of promising rewards or favors, the Griffin Lord poignantly appealed to his familiarity with Doran Martell’s family and the injustices that they had suffered. Connington offered ‘vengeance’ as the pathway to answering the crimes against House Martell. In this, Connington touched a nerve with a man whose heart’s desire was “vengeance, justice, fire and blood.” The Prince of Dorne, though, was still skeptical about both the boy, his lord and their chances of success.

Mirroring fan-doubts over Aegon’s identity, Doran Martell had significant doubts that the boy claiming to be Aegon was truly Aegon.

“I would weep for joy if some part of my sister had survived, but what proof do we have that this is Aegon?” (TWOW, Arianne I)

While there were objective reasons to doubt Aegon’s legitimacy, the Prince of Dorne had political reasons to be skeptical as well. Doran Martell had hinged all of his future political and military actions on Daenerys and Quentyn’s marriage and return to Westeros. If Aegon and Connington were imposters, then Doran would not lash Dorne to this dragon. However, it’s here that the ingenuity of Varys and Illyrio’s plan comes into greater focus. While Aegon’s identity would face considerable doubt, Jon Connington’s would not. Varys had convinced Connington to feign his own death and had spread word of it. If Varys could ‘raise Connington from the dead’, then why couldn’t the Spider have done likewise for the son of Rhaegar and Elia at the end of Robert’s Rebellion? Still, even if Doran could be convinced that Aegon was legitimate, there remained the factor of the Golden Company’s chances of victory.

Doran Martell’s modus operandi in achieving his vengeance was that he would not dare to move before first ascertaining the conditions for victory first:

“My mother taught me long ago that only madmen fight wars they cannot win.” (AFFC, The Soiled Knight)

“Dorne cannot hope to win a war against the Iron Throne, not alone.” (AFFC, The Princess in the Tower)

Should Lord Connington’s rebellion be put down, it would go ill for them if it was known that Dorne had sent her to treat with him and his pretender. That was another lesson that her father had taken pains to teach her; choose your side with care, and only if they have the chance to win. (TWOW, Arianne II)

Formerly, the Targaryen Restoration Plot was the means by which Doran hoped to have the force multipliers necessary to set the victory conditions against the Iron Throne. Viserys Targaryen could potentially bring the realm’s former Targaryen loyalists into the field for him, and later Daenerys, her army and her dragons had the numbers to bring fire and blood onto Doran’s enemies. Aegon, though, simply did not possess the numbers to defeat the Lannisters and Tyrells. He had arrived with ten thousand sellswords, but no dragons and thus to Doran, no chance of success:

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.” (TWOW, Arianne I)

As we discussed above, Jon Connington had a plan in mind to address Doran’s concern. The Golden Company was marching against Storm’s End. If they took the castle, Aegon would be able to demonstrate to a watching Westeros that he and his sellswords were stronger than their numbers made them appear. Dorne in particular would be watching closely. After Arianne learned of the Golden Company’s plan to take Storm’s End, she conferred with Daemon Sand over the ramifications of the potential capture of Storm’s End:

“Capturing a few minor castles whilst their lords and garrisons are off at distant wars, that’s one thing, but if Lord Connington and his pet dragon can somehow take one of the great strongholds of the realm … “

“…the realm would have to take them seriously,” Ser Daemon finished. “And some of those who do not love the Lannisters might well come flocking to their banners.” (TWOW, Arianne II)

However, even if Aegon could demonstrate his strength by taking Storm’s End, there was a final emotional reason which factored into Doran’s consideration of Aegon.

Early in The Winds of Winter, Doran faced an impossible question: support this dragon or continue to wait for Quentyn and Daenerys? While readers know that Quentyn Martell’s quest for Daenerys had ended in failure and eventually his death, Doran Martell did not know yet. As late as the end of A Dance with Dragons, Doran had hoped beyond reason that his son was returning home with Daenerys in tow. However, in Arianne’s first chapter in The Winds of Winter, the Prince was beginning to sorrowfully suspect the worst for Quentyn:

“Where are the dragons?” he asked. “Where is Daenerys?” and Arianne knew that he was really saying, “Where is my son?” (TWOW, Arianne I)

If Quentyn was dead, then Aegon had to be considered. Though Prince Doran Martell would mourn his son, he still had his heart’s desire of vengeance in mind. Could Aegon be the vehicle for this vengeance? Doran Martell would have to know more to be certain before he acted.

The Arianne Mission

House Martell by magajaga

Artwork by magajaga

“Send a raven whenever you have news,” Prince Doran told her, “but report only what you know to be true. We are lost in fog here, besieged by rumors, falsehoods, and traveler’s tales. I dare not act until I know for a certainty what is happening.” (TWOW, Arianne I)

Jon Connington’s letter to Doran Martell was a bombshell. Doran and Arianne had received scattered rumors and reports of events occurring to their north, but Connington’s letter was the first hard evidence that this was not the invasion that they were hoping for. Still, Doran Martell had a faint hope that maybe Quentyn was among the company of the sellswords that had arrived in Westeros. Barring that faint hope, Doran Martell had to know whether Aegon and Connington could be the means by which he could achieve his vengeance.

The problem lay in how to obtain this knowledge. Dorne was isolated from the rest of Westeros, and Doran Martell did not have an easy way to gather the necessary information to make a decision on whether to support Aegon or not. He needed to send an envoy forward, and he needed to send someone who knew of his Targaryen Restoration Plot. In this, Doran Martell really only had one individual he could dispatch: Arianne Martell.

Doran Martell reluctantly turned to his daughter in hopes that the post-queenmaker lessons he imparted to her would keep her from going sideways on him again. Doran’s instructions to Arianne were clear:

“Send a raven whenever you have news,” Prince Doran told her, “but report only what you know to be true. We are lost in fog here, besieged by rumors, falsehoods, and traveler’s tales. I dare not act until I know for a certainty what is happening.” (TWOW, Arianne I)

This intelligence would inform Doran on what was truly occurring to better guide him in his decision-making. The final raven that Arianne would send would contain a coded message directing Doran Martell to wait or bring his spears into the war.

In the Boneway and the Prince’s Pass, two Dornish hosts had massed, and there they sat, sharpening their spears, polishing their armor, dicing, drinking, quarreling, their numbers dwindling by the day, waiting, waiting, waiting for the Prince of Dorne to loose them on the enemies of House Martell. Waiting for the dragons. For fire and blood. For me. One word from Arianne and those armies would march… so long as that word was dragon. If instead the word she sent was war, Lord Yronwood and Lord Fowler and their armies would remain in place. The Prince of Dorne was nothing if not subtle; here war meant wait. (TWOW, Arianne I)

Accompanying Arianne would be six companions hand-picked by her father:

Seven of them set out together on seven Dornish sand steeds. A small party travels more swiftly than a large one, but the heir to Dorne does not ride alone. From Godsgrace came Ser Daemon Sand, the bastard; once Prince Oberyn’s squire, now Arianne’s sworn shield. From Sunspear two bold young knights, Joss Hood and Garibald Shells, to lend their swords to his. From the Water Gardens seven ravens and a tall young lad to tend them. His name was Nate, but he had been working with the birds so long that no one called him anything but Feathers. And since a princess must have some women to attend her, her company also included pretty Jayne Ladybright and wild Elia Sand, a maid of ten-and-four. (TWOW, Arianne I)

It’s intriguing to speculate on the composition of Arianne’s party and why Doran Martell had chosen them. One thing that immediately sticks out is that Arianne was departing with the same number of companions that she had taken on her queenmaker plot. However, it’s there that the similarities mostly end, and I believe that was intentional on Doran’s part. Joss Hood, Garibald Shells, Feathers and Jayne Ladybright were strangers to Arianne, and here Doran seemed to be playing against Arianne’s psychology. Arianne had been able to successfully convince her closest friends to join in the queenmaker conspiracy and betray her father. Drey, Garin and Spotted Sylva had known Arianne from her youth and had happily joined with Arianne. Seemingly, Doran had chosen new companions for Arianne in hopes that if they had not grown up with Arianne or had any familiarity with her, they would stay loyal to him.

The choice of sending Ser Daemon Sand had another component to Doran’s psychological factoring. Daemon Sand had taken Arianne’s virginity when she was fourteen. Afterwards, he proposed marriage between himself and Arianne, but Doran had refused — ostensibly due to Daemon’s low standing. So, why would Doran Martell select Arianne’s former lover to be in her party? I think it’s possible that Doran believed that a former lover would have the force of will to dissuade Arianne from repeating her past mistake of seducing Arys Oakheart. Arianne’s white knight had been the key to Arianne’s queenmaker plot, and Doran did not want Arianne to return to her seductive ways. Indeed, before Arianne even departed Dorne, her inner monologue betrayed her willingness to use similar means to sway Jon Connington as she used against Ser Arys Oakheart:

“No whores for Lord Jon, then?”

“I could not say. Some men keep their whoring secret.”

“Did he have a wife? A paramour?”

Ser Daemon shrugged. “Not that I have ever heard.”‘

That was troubling too. Ser Arys Oakheart had broken his vows for her, but it did not sound as if Jon Connington could be similarly swayed. Can I match such a man with words alone? (TWOW, Arianne I)

Ser Daemon Sand’s unstated purpose, then, seems to have been Doran’s psychological reminder to Arianne of her past indiscretions as well as a check against her ability to commit new ones..

Elia Sand’s role in the party was likewise intended to influence Arianne’s psychology. The daughter of Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand, Elia was fourteen and free-spirited. Throughout Arianne’s two Winds of Winter sample chapters, Elia served as a continuous thorn in Arianne’s side. From racing ahead of Arianne to beat her to Ghost Hill to fooling around with Maester “Feathers”, Elia was consistently disobeying Arianne’s commands. Elia’s wildness, then, was likely another of Doran Martell’s psychological checks to influence Arianne. Doran Martell probably wanted Arianne to see Elia Sand’s willfulness and be reminded of her own past willfulness in spurning Doran. Barring that, Ser Daemon Sand suggested another reason why Elia was included in the party:

“I never knew how wild she was till now,” Arianne complained to Daemon Sand, afterward.  “Why would my father inflict her on me?”

“Vengeance?” the knight suggested, with a smile. (TWOW, Arianne II)

With her companions set, Arianne and her companions departed the Water Gardens bound for Griffin’s Roost. Doran had laid out his grand conspiracy to Arianne Martell in hopes of preventing her from going sideways on him and had selected her companions to better ensure this. But the problem was that all of the planning and contingencies that Doran Martell had weaved into this mission could not prevent Arianne’s human nature from interfering with everything.

Ambitions and Jealousy

Arianne by Miss-Crane

Artwork by Miss-Crane

“I would sooner it were Quentyn who’d returned.”

“Or so you say.” (TWOW, Arianne I)

As Arianne departed the Water Gardens, Doran Martell might have believed that he had set the successful conditions to gain the information necessary to make an informed decision on whether to back Aegon or not. In entrusting Arianne with this dangerous mission, Doran demonstrated a degree of trust on his daughter:

It was not her father’s kisses nor his hoarse words that made her eyes glisten, but the effort that brought him to his feet, his legs trembling under him, his joints swollen and inflamed with gout. Standing was an act of love. Standing was an act of faith.

He believes in me. I will not fail him. (TWOW, Arianne I)

Prince Doran had taken a risk in informing Arianne of his Targaryen Restoration Conspiracy. By showing Arianne the “better way” to achieve House Martell’s aims, Doran Martell likely hoped that Arianne would stay on the straight and narrow. Unfortunately for Doran Martell, all of the information sharing, contingency planning and psychological manipulations could not change Arianne Martell’s nature. However much Arianne believed that she would not fail her father, that she would remain true to her mission and purpose, the Princess of Dorne could not forgo her own ambitions.

In Arianne’s two sample chapters in The Winds of Winter, we witness her journey north to Griffin’s Roost, but we are also privy to her inner thoughts and dialogue with the characters around her. While most of her journey has been touched on in previous segments, here I think it’s important to examine Arianne’s viewpoint following her queenmaker plot and why despite Doran’s efforts, she was still ambitious.

When Doran Martell revealed that his true aim was to bring the Targaryens back with Quentyn to usher in his “vengeance, justice, fire and blood”, Arianne had felt significantly chastened and ashamed of her conduct in the queenmaker plot:

It was my own fault. Arianne had made them part of her plot to steal off with Myrcella Baratheon and crown her queen, an act of rebellion meant to force her father’s hand, but someone’s loose tongue had undone her. The clumsy conspiracy had accomplished nothing, except to cost poor Myrcella part of her face, and Ser Arys Oakheart his life. (TWOW, Arianne I)

Arianne’s guilt over the fates of Myrcella and Ser Arys hung over Arianne, but what’s intriguing here is that Arianne did not feel guilty over the plot itself. While calling her conspiracy “clumsy”, it’s possible that Arianne felt that the execution of the plot was the true crime, rather than the plot itself. This potentially provides a foundation for Arianne’s other thoughts as she headed north.

Off-page, one of the things that Doran Martell had told Arianne was about her original role in the original secret marriage pact signed by Oberyn and Ser Willem Darry. If you’ll recall from A Feast for Crows, it was Arianne not Quentyn who originally was going to be the Dornish consort to a Targaryen. Arianne Martell was to wed Viserys Targaryen, and only when Viserys died on the Dothraki Sea, did the plan change. This may not have been one of Doran Martell’s wisest courses of action to tell Arianne of her original role. By sharing this secret information with Arianne, Doran Martell had hoped to satiate her curiosity and bring her into his confidences. However, by telling her of her original role, Doran invited Arianne to consider the idea that she not Quentyn had been the original benefactor of her father’s plotting, and perhaps she should be consort to a Targaryen again. In fact, this is exactly the line of thinking that Arianne began to entertain at Ghost hill:

The secret pact that Prince Doran had made all those years called for Arianne to be wed to Prince Viserys, not Quentyn to Daenerys. (TWOW, Arianne I)

Immediately after considering her own original role as Viserys’ betrothed, Arianne turned her attention to Aegon. Was he really the son of Rhaegar and Elia? Doran had sent her to investigate this possibility, but remember the context of Arianne considering Aegon from above. She was originally going to be Queen of the Seven Kingdoms with Viserys as King. What if Aegon was truly Aegon and not a sellsword’s ploy? Moreover, what did it matter objectively if he was Aegon? What if he was popularly perceived as Aegon? Why, wouldn’t Arianne make a good match to Aegon VI Targaryen? Besides, she was the one who was originally going to be Queen of the Seven Kingdoms

“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.”

My father fears the same.If not, though… if this truly is Jon Connington, if the boy is Rhaegar’s son…

“Are you hoping that he is, or that he’s not?”

“I… it would give great joy to my father if Elia’s son were still alive. He loved his sister well.” (TWOW, Arianne I)

Notice the hesitation here? Arianne was willing to consider Aegon as legitimate despite her father’s suspicions. The reason she was willing to consider this was that it opened up the possibility for Arianne to re-assert her previous role as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. In a way, Aegon was a potential pawn for Arianne to restore her original position as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, much as Myrcella served that role to ‘restore’ Arianne’s ‘stolen’ birthright. Even the ‘villain’ of Arianne’s original queenmaker plot remained the same.

While Doran had taken pains to inform Arianne that Quentyn was no threat to her rule of Dorne, Arianne’s jealousy of her brother was a continuous factor in her psychology. In her two Winds of Winter sample chapters, Arianne’s thoughts and feelings towards Quentyn display a degree of ambivalence towards her brother that were likely rooted in her jealousy. Twice, she muses on how ridiculous the idea of King Quentyn was:

King Quentyn? Why did that sound so silly? (TWOW, Arianne I)

King Quentyn. It still sounded silly. (TWOW, Arianne II)

The reason why Arianne found ‘King Quentyn’ ludicrous was rooted in her conception of Quentyn as extraordinarily plain:

Her brother was an earnest boy, well-behaved and dutiful, but dull. And plain, so plain. The gods had given Arianne the beauty she had prayed for, but Quentyn must have prayed for something else. His head was overlarge and sort of square, his hair the color of dried mud. His shoulders slumped as well, and he was too thick about the middle. (TWOW, Arianne I)

This new Daenerys Targaryen was younger than Arianne by half a dozen years. What would a maid that age want with her dull, bookish brother? Young girls dreamed of dashing knights with wicked smiles, not solemn boys who always did their duty. (TWOW, Arianne II)

Where Quentyn was plain, dull Arianne viewed herself as bright in stark contrast to her brother:

The sun was gone, and the sky was full of stars. So many. She leaned her back against a fluted pillar and wondered if her brother was looking at the same stars tonight, wherever he might be. Do you see the white one, Quentyn? That is Nymeria’s star, burning bright, and that milky band behind her, those are ten thousand ships. She burned as bright as any man, and so shall I. (AFFC, The Queenmaker)

Though Arianne’s self-conception and jealousy began to eat at her psyche on her journey north, outwardly, Arianne tried to deter herself from thinking of Quentyn as a rival for power. Besides, she “wanted” her brother back with Daenerys. Truly!

What sort of sister would I be, if I did not want my brother back? It was true, she had resented Quentyn for all those years that she had thought their father meant to name him as his heir in place of her, but that had turned out to be just a misunderstanding. She was the heir to Dorne, she had her father’s word on that. Quentyn would have his dragon queen, Daenerys. (TWOW, Arianne I)

In both her private thoughts as well as her public statements, Arianne tried to convince herself that she had no intention of going sideways on her father or supplanting Quentyn, but even here, Arianne hedged her thoughts and words with asides that demonstrated her ambivalence towards her brother:

“I love my brother,” said Arianne, though only the moon could hear her. Though if truth be told, she scarcely knew him. “We are still the same blood, though,” she whispered. “Of course I want my brother home. I do.” The wind off the sea was raising gooseprickles all up and down her arms. (TWOW, Arianne I)

Arianne’s asides betrayed her underlying motivations to the reader, and this was all before Arianne ever encountered Aegon or even left Dorne! What kind of sister, indeed, Arianne?

Arianne’s Journey and Observations

She’s Dorne. Come down to join us, ain’t she?”

That has yet to be determined, thought Arianne Martell. (TWOW, Arianne II)

As Arianne and her party crossed the Sea of Dorne and landed in the Stormlands, her feelings of ambition and jealousy towards Quentyn grew. Paralleling this trend was Arianne’s observations and growing belief that perhaps Aegon and his invasion were the means to achieve the vengeance that her father wanted. However, we cannot divorce Arianne’s perceptions of events in the Stormlands with her own ambitions.

At the Weeping Town, Arianne dispatched her party into the town’s three inns in hopes of tapping into the mood of the local population. The rumors that Arianne received were decidedly mixed:

In the Broken Shield, Daemon Sand was told that the great septry on the Holf of Men had been burned and looted by raiders from the sea, and a hundred young novices from the motherhouse on Maiden Isle carried off into slavery. In the Loon, Joss Hood learned that half a hundred men and boys from the Weeping Town had set off north to join Jon Connington at Griffin’s Roost, including young Ser Addam, old Lord Whitehead’s son and heir. But in the aptly named Drunken Dornishman, Feathers heard men muttering that the griffin had put Red Ronnet’s brother to death and raped his maiden sister. Ronnet himself was said to be rushing south to avenge his brother’s death and his sister’s dishonor. (TWOW, Arianne II)

Whatever the veracity of the rumors, the underlying feelings that they conveyed were good intelligence for Doran to judge whether there was a groundswell of public support for Aegon. So, Arianne dispatched her first raven to Doran Martell likely informing her father of the information that was being circulated by the smallfolk.

Setting off north from the Weeping Town, Arianne’s next stop brought her to a cave in the rainwood. After playing two games of cyvasse, Arianne had some time to herself to think. Naturally, her thoughts turned to Quentyn and Daenerys:

This new Daenerys Targaryen was younger than Arianne by half a dozen years. What would a maid that age want with her dull, bookish brother? Young girls dreamed of dashing knights with wicked smiles, not solemn boys who always did their duty. She will want Dorne, though. If she hopes to sit the Iron Throne. If Quentyn was the price for that, this dragon queen would pay it. What if she was at Griffin’s End with Connington, and all this about another Targaryen was just some sort of subtle ruse? Her brother could well be with her. King Quentyn. Will I need to kneel to him? (TWOW Arianne II)

Arianne’s unease about her “dull, bookish” brother’s potential kingship is plain. On the surface, bowing to the brother she hardly knew was unsettling due to her unfamiliarity with him, but knowing Arianne’s past plots and lingering jealousy towards Quentyn, it’s easy to see that Arianne was likely chafing at the notion for altogether more venial reasons. Still, even at this point, she was still trying to convince herself that Quentyn might be at Griffin’s Roost and that she might have to choke down her brother’s royal status. But it’s clear that that the tension and internal conflict with Arianne was only growing the closer she drew to Aegon.

Turning towards the other factor in Dorne’s consideration, Arianne’s movements to Mistwood and then onto Griffin’s Roost provided key pieces of information on the Golden Company’s strength and aims in the Stormlands. At Mistwood, Arianne was met by Young John Mudd and Chain — two Golden Company serjeants. After feasting her at Mistwood, Chain accompanied her north to Griffin’s Roost. Along the way, he let slip that Jon Connington’s goal was marching on Storm’s End. Arianne’s response was telling:

The princess let that aside go without comment, though it gave her considerable pause. Storm’s End. This griffin is a bold one, it would seem. Or else a fool. (TWOW, Arianne II)

Was this a bold or a foolish course of action on Connington’s part? Whatever the case, Arianne was intrigued by the prospect of Connington’s success. If the Golden Company could seize Storm’s End, then it might serve as a clarion call for Doran Martell to consider that Aegon might actually have the strength to defeat the Lannisters and Tyrells. If instead the Golden Company failed to seize the castle, then Arianne would send a raven urging her father to delay. However, as Arianne considered the ramifications of the Golden Company’s march on Storm’s End, Lysono Maar arrived to cast doubt on her doubts.

Lysono Maar was the Golden Company’s spymaster; as spymaster, Lysono was adept at both reading people and manipulating them. When he met up with Arianne and her party a few days ride from Griffin’s Roost, Lysono’s task was likely to start the groundwork that would bind the Martells to Aegon by assuaging Doran and Arianne’s fears that Aegon was not truly Aegon VI, and that the Golden Company would be defeated on the field. To that end, Arianne began to prod Lysono for information regarding both:

“Is it true that you have elephants with you?”

“A few,” said Lysono Maar, with a smile and a shrug.

“And dragons? How many dragons do you have?”


“By which you mean the boy.”

“Prince Aegon is a man grown, princess.” (TWOW, Arianne II)

By referring to Aegon as “the boy”, Arianne was possibly giving subtle hint to Doran’s doubts on the boy’s lineage. The other points that Arianne brought up were equally important. Daenerys had three living dragons who were significant force multipliers against the Iron Throne. Aegon had elephants. While Aegon’s war elephants were undoubtedly ferocious on the field, they paled in comparison to the literal firepower that dragons could bring. Thus, by any conventional evaluation, the Golden Company remained at significant disadvantage against the might of the Lannisters and Tyrells. Arianne even voiced her doubts at the uncertainty of Aegon’s cause:

“Prince Doran my father is a wise man, and fights only wars that he can win. If the tide of war turns against your dragon, the Golden Company will no doubt flee back across the narrow sea, as it has done before. As Lord Connington himself did, after Robert defeated him at the Battle of the Bells. Dorne has no such refuge. Why should we lend our swords and spears to your uncertain cause?” (TWOW, Arianne II)

Arianne had a point here. The Golden Company had a history of invading, losing and then fleeing across the Narrow Sea. If Aegon’s invasion went south, the Golden Company could escape the consequences of their defeat. In contrast, Dorne could not. The history of the Blackfyre Rebellions demonstrated the calamity that awaited Westerosi lords who sided with the Black Dragon. Consider the measures Bloodraven took against the houses who backed the Daemon II Blackfyre:

Flanking the entrance, the severed heads of Gormon Peake and Black Torn Heddle had been impaled on spears, with their shields displayed beneath them.

“I have heard your bleatings, Lord Ambrose, and I believe one word in ten. On that account I will allow you to retain a tenth part of your fortune. You may keep your wife as well. I wish you joy of her.”

“And Whitewalls?” asked Butterwell with quavering voice.

“Forfeit to the Iron Throne.” (Dunk and Egg, The Mystery Knight)

The whole of Dorne could not flee across the Narrow Sea if the Golden Company failed this time. Lysono laughed off Arianne’s argument by stating that the Golden Company was “persistent if nothing else.” However, when Arianne brought up the reasonable point that Daenerys was her kin and had dragons, Lysono Maar had an exceptionally good counter-argument ready for her:

“Daenerys Targaryen is of our blood as well. Daughter of King Aerys, Rhaegar’s sister. And she has dragons, or so the tales would have us believe.” Fire and blood. “Where is she?”

“Half a world away on Slaver’s Bay,” said Lysono Maar. “As for these purported dragons, I have not seen them. In cyvasse, it is true, the dragon is mightier than the elephant. On the battlefield, give me elephants I can see and touch and send against my foes, not dragons made of words and wishes.”

The princess lapsed into a thoughtful silence. And that night she dispatched her fourth raven to her father. (TWOW, Arianne II)

This was the conflict that Doran and Arianne faced. The Martells hoped that Daenerys and Quentyn would return to Westeros, but it was only a hope at this juncture. But here, here in Westeros, was a flesh and blood “Targaryen” who had the stated aim to avenge Elia, Rhaegar and Rhaenys. Could Doran Martell possibly turn down a dragon who was actively pursuing the same ends he wanted? It was a question that Arianne would have to answer and answer soon as a major revelation awaited her at Griffin’s Roost.

Arianne Starts To Go Rogue on Doran

Artwork by YapAttack

Arianne Martell never intended to go rogue on her father. The problem was that as Arianne arrived at Griffin’s Roost, she was becoming more and more entangled with the machinations of Aegon and Connington and thus was growing more ambitious. Seemingly, the farther Arianne Martell journeyed from her father, the more the temptation grew to go rogue on Doran Martell and seek her own reward. The startling news that awaited Arianne at Griffin’s Roost would only tempt Arianne more.

Almost as soon as Arianne dismounted from her horse, Haldon Halfmaester approached with an announcement: the Golden Company had captured Storm’s End, and Jon Connington awaited them at the castle. Understandably, this news stunned Arianne and her companions. Arianne had legitimate reasons to doubt that the Golden Company could take one of the realm’s strongest castles, but now that Aegon and Connington had seized Storm’s End, what was Arianne to do? Moreover, there was one final piece of information that would play a significant role in Arianne’s decision-making.

When Arianne Martell and Ser Daemon Sand were alone at Griffin’s Roost, the conversation focused on an inference from the Golden Company’s victory at Storm’s End. This was not the expected invasion by Daenerys Targaryen. “Worse-still”, Arianne now knew that Quentyn was not among the Golden Company sellswords:

“Your brother is not at Storm’s End, we know that now,” Ser Daemon said, as soon as they were behind closed doors.  “If Daenerys Targaryen has dragons, they are half a world away, and of no use to Dorne.” (TWOW, Arianne II)

Suspiciously, Arianne did not seem really all that bothered that Quentyn was not present with the Golden Company. Instead, whether Aegon was or wasn’t Aegon VI Targaryen was what animated Arianne’s thoughts and words. Arianne needed to see this dragon, despite Ser Daemon Sand’s insistences to the contrary:

“There is nothing for us at Storm’s End, princess. If Prince Doran meant to send you into the middle of a battle, he would have given you three hundred knights, not three.”

Do not be so certain of that, ser. He sent my brother off to Slaver’s Bay with five knights and a maester.   “I need to speak with Connington.”   Arianne undid the interlocked sun and spear that clasped her cloak, and let the rain-soaked garment slip from her shoulders to puddle on the floor. “And I want to see this dragon prince of his. If he is truly Elia’s son…” (TWOW, Arianne II)

That If he is truly Elia’s son bit was a bit ominous on Arianne’s part. It called back to her earlier thoughts from her first Winds chapter where she kept persisting on the possibility that Aegon was legitimate:

“If not, though… if this truly is Jon Connington, if the boy is Rhaegar’s son… ” (TWOW, Arianne I)

Arianne had barely given Quentyn’s fate a second thought before turning to what she was interested in: Aegon, and it’s on the question of Aegon that Arianne began to go sideways on her father.

Admittedly, Princess Arianne Martell had good reason to want to know more about Aegon. This dragon had pulled off a miraculous victory at Storm’s End and was aiming for greater glories against the shared enemies of the Martells. In theory, Arianne’s insistence on seeing Aegon was in keeping with Doran Martell’s instruction to her, but in practice, this was a dangerous deviation from the plan. Even in holding Storm’s End, Aegon’s position was incredibly tenuous. Mace Tyrell and his army of tens of thousands was descending on Storm’s End. If Arianne was captured by the Tyrells, then it stood to reason that Dorne would be implicated in conspiring against the Iron Throne. This was not was Doran Martell wanted:

“And that is why you should not put yourself at risk.” Daemon Sand went to one knee. “Send me to Storm’s End in your stead. Then if the griffin’s plans should go awry and Mace Tyrell takes the castle back, I will be just another landless knight who swore his sword to this pretender in hopes of gain and glory.”

Whereas if I am taken, the Iron Throne will take that for proof that Dorne conspired with these sellswords, and lent aid to their invasion. (TWOW, Arianne II)

The problem was that no one in Arianne’s party could stop her from going to Aegon. If we return briefly to the composition of Arianne’s party, we simply don’t see a single person in the party who had the ability to prevent Arianne from doing anything. Therein lay the issue in Doran’s planning. While the Prince of Dorne had likely picked to psychologically manipulate Arianne into good behavior, he had picked Dornishmen who were of significantly lower social status to Arianne. Perhaps if Oberyn Martell had been present, he could have stopped Arianne from traveling to Storm’s End, but the Red Viper was dead. In Oberyn’s place was his squire Daemon, and Daemon was a mere knight and a bastard to boot.

So, even though Daemon cautioned Arianne not to north, and that he would go in her stead, Arianne could brush his cautions aside as mere advice:

“It is brave for you to seek to shield me, ser. I thank you for that.” She took his hands and drew him back to his feet. “But my father entrusted this task to me, not you. Come the morrow, I sail to beard the dragon in its den.” (TWOW, Arianne II)

With that, Arianne’s second Winds of Winter chapter closes with Arianne about to embark on an even more dangerous mission than the one she had undertaken so far. But as we’ll likely find in later Arianne Winds of Winter chapters, the danger that Arianne would face was as much internal as it was external.

Aegon and Arianne

Aegon VI by SapphireCrusader

Artwork by SapphireCrusader

Back in 2010, George RR Martin gave us a small but tantalizing clue about where Arianne’s story was headed in The Winds of Winter:

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, 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. – Notablog, “Dancing in Circles?”, 7/27/2010

Given that we now have both Arianne chapters and know that “this event” was almost certainly Aegon’s invasion of Westeros, we have a better picture of the direction GRRM is taking Arianne in The Winds of Winter. Moreover, a year ago when I started this series, I speculated that the bridging chapter between Arianne’s second and third chapters from The Winds of Winter would be a Jon Connington chapter which would provide us the means to see a Westerosi Agincourt and/or an outsider’s view of Arianne as she first arrives at Storm’s End. The third Arianne chapter would likely be the fateful meeting between Aegon and Arianne.

So what will Arianne’s arc look like in The Winds of Winter? Without further chapters or statements by GRRM on the matter, we must by necessity enter into speculative territory, but I believe that GRRM has laid some significant foreshadowing and plot foundation to guide what we will likely see in The Winds of Winter. In this section, I will lay out two possible pathways for Arianne’s arc. Whatever the trajectory of Arianne’s arc, I believe it will end in one outcome.

Possibility #1: Arianne Falls for Aegon

When readers were first introduced to Arianne Martell, they found a woman who used seductive looks and flirtations to win people to her side. Most notably, Arianne had seduced Arys Oakheart and had used him in her queenmaker plot. Despite her father’s attempts to show her a better way, that part of Arianne’s personality had not changed. At Ghost Hill, Arianne unsuccessfully tried to seduced Ser Daemon Sand:

At fourteen she had given him her maidenhead. Daemon had not been much older, so their couplings had been as clumsy as they were ardent. Still, it had been sweet.

Arianne gave him her most seductive smile. “We might share a bed together.” (TWOW, Arianne I)

So, even here, Arianne’s nature was unchanged, but there was another interesting component to Arianne’s personality: Arianne was equally seduced by physical attractiveness. After Arianne’s queenmaker plot failed, she reflected on why she had been taken in by Darkstar:

Poison, thought Arianne. Yes. Pretty poison, though. That was how he’d fooled her. Gerold Dayne was hard and cruel, but so fair to look upon that the princess had not believed half the tales she’d heard of him. Pretty boys had ever been her weakness, particularly the ones who were dark and dangerous as well. (TWOW, Arianne I)

Arianne was willing to disbelieve Darkstar’s evil acts, because of his physical beauty. Moreover, she identified this as her own weakness. Turning to Prince Aegon, we know that he was extraordinarily handsome. Even with his hair dyed blue, Tyrion knew that the boy would win the hearts of many women in Westeros:

The lad was shorter than Duck, but his lanky build suggested that he had not yet come into his full growth. This beardless boy could have any maiden in the Seven Kingdoms, blue hair or no. Those eyes of his would melt them. (ADWD, Tyrion IV)

“You are her perfect prince, agreed, bright and bold and comely as any maid could wish.” (ADWD, Tyrion VI)

Moreover, Tyrion had taken pains to imbue the idea that Aegon should be “bold and reckless” the way a Targaryen should be:

“Go to Westeros, though … ah, then you are a rebel, not a beggar. Bold, reckless, a true scion of House Targaryen, walking in the footsteps of Aegon the Conqueror. A dragon.” (ADWD, Tyrion VI)

If we combined the ideas of Arianne falling for daring, pretty boys with the idea that Aegon was a physical specimen and was acting boldly in seizing Storm’s End and fighting the Tyrells, we start to see a potential avenue for how Arianne and Aegon’s relationship might unfold. Will Arianne fall for this beautiful, bold boy? Or might Arianne seduce Aegon much as she did with Arys Oakheart? Perhaps!

A final piece of this paradigm is a bit more grim. Given that Arianne was willing to dismiss the rumors about Darkstar as mere rumors due to his physical beauty, I wonder whether Arianne might hear rumors about the Golden Company’s slaughter of Stannis’ garrison at Storm’s End or the potential that Connington and Aegon ordered the murder of Tyrell prisoners at Westerosi Agincourt and disbelieve them. If so, Arianne’s dismissal of Aegon’s war crimes and subversion of Westerosi norms would fit squarely with the characterization that GRRM has worked into Arianne. Purely speculative, but I do wonder if we’ll read Arianne’s thoughts on how she could not believe that someone so comely would commit such barbarism.

Possibility #2: Arianne the Ambitious

More intriguing than a fairly straightforward story of Arianne and Aegon falling for each other is the idea that Arianne will not fall for Aegon at all, but will seduce and marry Aegon anyways  — all to become the Queen. Despite her father’s best efforts, Arianne remained ever ambitious and jealous of Quentyn’s potential kingship. Her journey through Dorne and the Stormlands early in The Winds of Winter only re-ignited or amplified her feelings. Thus, it’s entirely possible that Arianne will use Aegon as the means to achieving her goal of becoming the Queen even if she’s not attracted to him.

Building into this point was Arianne’s profound unease at the physical appearance of a Valyrian-looking man. Earlier, we talked about Lysono Maar’s manipulations of Arianne, but we left out Arianne’s first impression of the man when approached her party:

Near dusk on the fourth day, not long after Chain and his wagons had taken their leave of them, Arianne’s company was met by a column of sellswords down from Griffin’s Roost, led by the most exotic creature that the princess had ever laid her eyes on, with painted fingernails and gemstones sparkling in his ears.

Lysono Maar spoke the Common Tongue very well. “I have the honor to be the eyes and ears of the Golden Company, princess.”

“You look… ” She hesitated.

“…like a woman?” He laughed. “That I am not.”

“ …like a Targaryen,” Arianne insisted. (TWOW, Arianne II)

It’s tempting to believe that Arianne’s discomfort was due to Lysono’s feminine appearance. However, Arianne’s next thoughts displayed why she felt so uncomfortable:

His eyes were a pale lilac, his hair a waterfall of white and gold. All the same, something about him made her skin crawl. Was this what Viserys looked like? she found herself wondering. If so perhaps it is a good thing he is dead. (TWOW, Arianne II)

It’s intriguing that GRRM wrote this section on how Lysono’s appearance made Arianne’s skin crawl. Is it possible that GRRM was not merely showcasing Lysono Maar’s appearance but was was hinting at how Arianne might be turned off by Aegon’s appearance? Lysono’s next statement to Arianne almost seemed to telegraph this future development in Arianne’s arc:

“The women of House Targaryen are said to be without peer in all the world.”

“And the men of House Targaryen?”

“Oh, even prettier. Though truth be told, I have only seen the one.” (TWOW, Arianne II)

Still, even if Aegon’s Targaryen features will make Arianne’s skin crawl, we have to return to Arianne herself. Arianne knew that she was the original beneficiary of her father’s Targaryen Restoration Conspiracy. Doran, himself, had even begun to fear (correctly as it turned out) that Quentyn had not survived his quest for Daenerys. Arianne now knew that Quentyn had not arrived with the Golden Company. Given all of these considerations, would Arianne view Aegon’s strange appearance as the price of her Queenship? If so, Arianne may shelve her personal disgust at Aegon’s Valyrian appearance and focus on the prize: a royal betrothal and the power that would come with it.

The Marriage Alliance

Arianne Martell by Elaitea

Artwork by Elaitea

Whatever road GRRM takes in writing Arianne’s future arc, I believe there will be only one outcome: a betrothal and eventual marriage between Aegon and Arianne. With that betrothal and union, Aegon would potentially secure Dornish spears for his crusade, and Doran would finally have tangible hope that someone could achieve the vengeance he hungered for. However, this match would almost certainly give Jon Connington and Doran Martell significant consternation.

An alliance with Dorne had been central to Jon Connington’s hope for victory in Westeros, but there was absolutely no way that the Griffin Lord would welcome the betrothal between Aegon and Arianne. Prince Aegon had departed Essos with a plan to secure a foothold in Westeros and await Daenerys Targaryen. When Queen Daenerys arrived, Connington planned to join Aegon and Daenerys in marriage. However, the non-appearance of Daenerys in Westeros led to some in Connington’s leadership circle to suggest they offer Aegon’s hand to a great lord to bring Westerosi allies to Aegon’s cause:

“My lord does have one prize to offer,” Haldon Halfmaester pointed out. “Prince Aegon’s hand. A marriage alliance, to bring some great House to our banners.” (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

Haldon Halfmaester’s point was simple: make a marriage alliance now that would lead to real, tangible political benefits to Aegon’s cause instead of rely on a hope that Daenerys Targaryen may one day come to Westeros. Connington, though, refused Haldon’s suggestion:

“Daenerys Targaryen may yet come home one day,” Connington told the Halfmaester. “Aegon must be free to marry her.” (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

Whatever immediate advantages a marriage between Aegon and a woman of a great house would confer on his prince’s cause, Connington believed that the benefits of a potential union between Aegon and Daenerys outweighed them in the long-term. Daenerys had a sizeable army and three fire-breathing dragons that no Westerosi army could match against. To Connington, those would decide the fate of Aegon’s crusade. Aegon, though, might think differently.

Where Jon Connington saw Daenerys as the avenue whereby Aegon would be assured victory, Aegon was a bit more ambivalent on Daenerys. Where once Aegon puppeted Connington’s thoughts on the importance of Daenerys, Aegon had come to a different perspective via Tyrion Lannister. In that monumental conversation between Tyrion and Aegon in A Dance with Dragons, Tyrion worked doubts into Aegon’s mind over Daenerys:

“Now, how do you suppose this queen will react when you turn up with your begging bowl in hand and say, ‘Good morrow to you, Auntie. I am your nephew, Aegon, returned from the dead. I’ve been hiding on a poleboat all my life, but now I’ve washed the blue dye from my hair and I’d like a dragon, please … and oh, did I mention, my claim to the Iron Throne is stronger than your own?’ (ADWD, Tyrion VI)

Tyrion’s manipulations bore fruit as later, Aegon mimicked Tyrion’s words in front of the Golden Company’s leadership before departing Westeros:

“Why should I go running to my aunt as if I were a beggar? My claim is better than her own. Let her come to me … in Westeros.” (ADWD, The Lost Lord)

But what if Daenerys did not come to Westeros in a timely fashion?

“If my aunt wants Meereen, she’s welcome to it. I will claim the Iron Throne by myself, with your swords and your allegiance. (ADWD, The Lost Lord)

Aegon was practically dismissive of Daenerys, her army, her dragons and her potential role in his invasion. What if Daenerys never came to Westeros? Would Aegon continue to wait on his “aunt” in hopes that she might one day arrive and marry him or look at more immediate marriage prospects? Arianne was nearing Aegon, and I think Aegon will likely look to another. Jon Connington will almost certainly object to the Aegon-Arianne match, but Aegon was no longer the boy he could impress his will upon:

Prince Aegon Targaryen was not near as biddable as the boy Young Griff had been. (ADWD, The Griffin Reborn)

To Jon Connington’s likely future horror, Aegon seems poisoned to discard his counsel and seek a betrothal with Arianne. I wonder whether that bridging chapter that GRRM talked about back in 2010 might contain a meeting between Arianne and Jon Connington, and I wonder whether Connington will begin to realize the risk that Arianne poses to his planned Aegon-Daenerys marriage scheme. That said, Connington will almost not be alone in his discomfort at the Aegon-Arianne betrothal.

Doran Martell will also not look kindly at the probable Aegon-Arianne match. Whatever Doran’s fears, there was still no confirmation from Meereen that Quentyn had died. Eventually, news of Quentyn’s fate would reach Doran, but that would likely take months. Given that Doran would still have no word on Quentyn, Arianne’s rogue actions in the Stormlands would be incredibly consequential. Here, it’s imperative to return to Doran’s instructions to Arianne when she departed the Water Gardens:

“Go swiftly, go safely, be my eyes and ears and voice… but most of all, take care.” (TWOW, Arianne I)

Arianne venturing to Storm’s End to “beard this dragon in his den” was at considerable odds with the spirit of Doran’s instructions to observe her surroundings and send reports back to him. If Arianne decides to plunge forward with a betrothal to Aegon, would she seek her father’s permission or would she act willfully, unilaterally? All that we know about Arianne’s characterization would seem to indicate that she might opt for the latter. In fact, if we return to Arianne’s final chapter from A Feast for Crows, Arianne might go ahead with the betrothal thinking that her father would take no adverse action against her:

“What am I to do with you, Arianne?”

Forgive me, part of her wanted to say, but his words had cut her too deeply. “Why, do what you always do. Do nothing.” (AFFC, The Princess in the Tower)

Doran, though, will be unable to “do nothing” if his daughter throws in with Aegon. He will be faced with a horrible decision: support this daughter or wait for his son. In making this decision, Doran won’t know of Quentyn’s fate. Will he delay, prevaricate as he had done so many times before? Or will Prince Doran accept that Quentyn is dead and Arianne’s dragon deserved his support?


War is happening, though Arianne, and this time Dorne will not be spared. “Doom and death are coming,” Ellaria Sand had warned them, before she took her own leave from Prince Doran. “It is time for my little snakes to scatter, the better to survive the carnage.” (TWOW, Arianne I)

In the end, I believe that the final raven that Arianne Martell will send to her father will contain only one word: Dragon. Sorrowfully, Doran Martell will reluctantly conclude that his son is most likely dead and decide to back Aegon at the expense of Daenerys. When this occurs in The Winds of Winter, it will signal a monumental political and military shift in Westeros. Aegon would no longer be a long-shot contender for the throne. With the swords and axes of Randyll Tarly and Mathis Rowan already in hand, Doran Martell’s spears would ensure that Aegon will have a host large enough to make an attempt on King’s Landing.

Moreover, Doran Martell’s support for Aegon will put the question of his origins and legitimacy to some rest. Prince Doran may continue to harbor private doubts that Aegon is truly his sister’s son, but he will be forced to publicly affirm the boy as his nephew. This “confirmation” will work wonders among the Westeros’ nobility and smallfolk alike. Doran’s support for Aegon will “affirm” the truth of Aegon as Rhaegar’s trueborn “son” and will likely bring widespread public support to Aegon’s cause and the potential further defections to Aegon’s side.

Still, there remained the question of Daenerys Targaryen. The Dragon Queen was still coming to Westeros with her dragons and army — but without Quentyn Martell. What would Daenerys think of Doran Martell’s alliance with Aegon? What would she think of Arianne’s marriage to Aegon?

That, though, was far in the future. For the moment, Dorne’s choice of “dragon” over “war” meant that they had a march ahead of them. While Aegon and the Golden Company would battle the Tyrells in the Stormlands, the Dornish path was more straightforward. They would take the Kingsroad north to King’s Landing towards the final climactic encounter that will likely close out the King’s Landing arc in The Winds of Winter. In the city itself lay Cersei Lannister and her supporters, Nymeria and Tyene Sand and the final ally of Aegon that would decide his cause and spur it towards spiritual glory.

Thanks for reading! I invite you to follow me on twitter at @BryndenBFish. Additionally, I invite you to follow the Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire twitter, facebook and tumblr to stay abreast of all that we’re doing!

Next Up: An Alliance With God

Further Reading/Watching



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22 responses to “Blood of the Conqueror, Part 9: Dragon or War?

  1. Compelling as usual. Just one Question, Do you think Doran will send both the armies up the King’s Road or hold back some forces at the Prince’s pass.

    Sooner or later, tidings of the havoc Euron is going to bring down upon the Redwynes and Oldtown will reach Prince Doran. Won’t he want to either take advantage of the utter chaos in the Reach or probably just strengthen his own defenses against the Ironmen

    • Jagger

      Doran is a cautious -perhaps too much- man. Sending both armies would leave Dorne defenseless against any potential threat. 15k men aiding the Golden Company should be enough to fend off the Tyrell forces, or at least scatter them enough so Aegon can quickly march to the capital.

      Doran desires vengeance more than anything else on this world, but I believe he’s a man rational enought to understand an Ironborn-ruled Hightower penninsula is just bad news on the long run for the nearest western coasts of Dorne.

  2. You’re like a pusher … you give us the audio and get us hooked and now we have to sit down for an hour and read the next installment … oh well … it is well-written, but I can’t listen while I work!

  3. Henry Phillips

    this is brilliant.

    do you think mathis rowan and golden company will join the dornish after they battle mace and join there hosts together to create what some 20,000 .
    is it
    :golden company likely 7000-8000 after loses during the journey and more losses after the battle.
    how many dornishman 20,000?

    mathis rowan maybe 6000?

    tarly is at kl with his army,i cant find the number of his host .8000 defectors from stannis host and his own vassals from the reach so maybe 14,000 men at kl with the dornishman,mathis and gc aegon could have what some 50,000 strong.not sure though.

  4. Lecen

    Is Aegon a king or a prince after all? If we were in the real world, he would have been King from the moment his grandfather died, even if seen as a mere pretender by others. But in the books, some call treat him as King, while others (even his spy master) treat him as prince. What is correct, then?

    I also have two questions, if you don’t mind: 1) What if Aegon is shown to be truly Aegon, son of Rhaegar? 2) What if Arianne reveals to have learned from her past mistakes and doesn’t act reckless as you believe?

    Anyway, I’m huge fan of this series of texts about this subject. You did an excellent job, without a doubt. Part of me wishes that Aegon do some good and bring peace to the country.

    • DarkDragon19

      Everyone refers to Aegon as “prince” because one does not actually become a king until they are crowned (even if they are a legitimate heir) I would anticipate the coronation of King Aegon VI Targaryen along with his marriage to our lovely Arianne in TWOW, as BrydenB predicted

      I just wanted to address your other question about Aegon’s identity, because I think this is an important place to draw a distinction between “reader privledge” and character viewpoint. We as readers have been able to piece together con/textual clues about Aegon’s identity that characters in the story cannot. Furthermore, characters within the story do not have the same mechanisms by which to confirm/deny aspects of the story and can only rely on what occurs in the narrative, whereas readers have so many more devices at their disposal ( other characters perspectives, contextual analysis etc.) Furthermore the narrative itself can outright give stuff away (e.g. a Varys POV may be able to confirm/deny Aegon’s true identity, but it may not be revealed in the broader story itself) I mention this for two reasons: 1. because is probably the only means we would be able to actually learn of his identity (because who would actually trust Varys, I mean just look at the skepticism over his comments to Kevan at end of ADOD) and 2. I think speculating on Aegon’s identity too much is moot, because it doesn’t really matter in the end. Well it does… but what I mean is if people say he’s Aegon, and people believe he’s Aegon, then he’s Aegon, at least in the context of the story, because no one can prove that he’s NOT (like we can!)

    • Mike Target

      That’s only by French law, made famous by the saying.

  5. Milk Steak

    Great job

    I read her discomfort with Lysanno as him being direct proof that appearance alone wouldn’t prove “Aegon” is Aegon. She wants to believe but evidence against is starring her in the face.


    Brilliant as always.

    Worth mentioning is the fact that Quentyn might not be dead. You should watch the Preston Jacobs video on the topic. I wonder how that would change things (:

  7. Dyskord

    Your not considering that Arriane might reveal or at least recognize that Aegon is fake. Remember she is older than Aegon. Dany is six years her junior about 15 and Aegon is a year or so older than Dany. So Its possible she recalls a baby Aegon from a visit to KL when she was younger.
    Remember if Aegon is a pretender GRRM doesn’t have much longer to dangle that particular thread if he wants to wrap everything up in book 7.
    Its also revealing that while reflecting on her disgust for Valerian males she doesn’t wonder about Aegon. Lysono’s conversation is misleading. We the audience who have read a description of Aegon know to whom he is referring. Arriane might assume he is speaking of another Targ and not Aegon since she knows he resembles the Dornish.
    If its true that baby Aegon resembled the Dornish half of his family more than the Targaryan half it would make sense.

    How she responds is the question. Your Hypothesis is correct assuming she reverts to her old ways. The fact Aegon is a fake and she is the one to realize and possibly reveal the fact( At least to Jon Connington ) may spur her to be more cautious and heed her father’s example.

    • Lecen

      Arianne has nothing against Valyrian males. She was attracted to Darkstar. What she seems to have disliked in Lysono is his androgynous appearance. Baby Aegon never looked like a Martell either. We know that he looked Targaryen.

      • Dyskord

        How do we know Aegon never resembled the Martels.
        I’m curious since I havent read anykind of a description of him other than a crushed skull and hair.
        If there is another description of baby Aegon please cite it.
        My theory that Aegon resembled the Martels is based on the descriptions of Baelor Breakspear, Maekar, Jacearys Valeryon, Lucerys and Joffrey his brothers and of course Jon Snow since i’m convinced R+L=J. All Targaryans born of outside unions seem to resemble the mothers family or her people rather than the Targaryan heritage which seems to reasert itself in the third generation.
        Its why I doubt Aegon VI is a true Targ. But I’m willing to admit if I am wrong so please show the source where GRRM describes young Aegon.

      • Red Raven

        I agree. She thought if she and Darkstar had children they’d be as beautiful as dragonlords. It’s not Valyrian features that turn her off but Lysono’s flamboyant clothes and accessories and creepy demeanor. If anything, when she sees fAegon dressed as a masculine warrior prince, she’ll be very pleased with what she sees.

      • Kadlin

        So much this. Lysono creeped out Marianne *despite*, not because of his purple eyes and white hair (which she finds perfectly attractive on Darkstar). She’s afraid Aegon is going to be the same kind of weirdo with painted nails and gems in his ears and uncomfortable vibe.

    • DarkDragon19

      Not sure the source on this but GRRM is quoted as saying “Rhaenys looked more like a Martell, Aegon more a Targaryen”

  8. Dyskord

    Your not considering that Arriane might reveal or at least recognize that Aegon is fake. Remember she is older than Aegon. Dany is six years her junior about 15 and Aegon is a year or so older than Dany. So Its possible she recalls a baby Aegon from a visit to KL when she was younger.

  9. DarkDragon19

    Great piece BryndenB!

    My main question would be, and I’m certain we’ll read about this next section, what would the precise political ramifications be and how extensive would they be? Would this lead to a further betrayal of the newly-converted Reach bannerman against their Dornish queen? What about the Storm Lords? Would they agree to a Dornish accession, assuming they had dipped their banners to Aegon after Storms End? There’s certainly proven examples of campaigns and alliances being disrupted or even broken by questionable marriages, so I’m very curious to see what kind of s*** this one is going to stir up!!

  10. Pingback: Blood of the Conqueror, Part 11: An Alliance With God | Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire

  11. Pingback: Blood of the Conqueror, Conclusion: A Last Mad Act | Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire

  12. DubC

    The text itself and the author make it pretty clear that Arianne might not have the boasted inclination toward Targs. He offered his flamboyancy (“a woman?”) as the reason for shock and she was clearly caught up on the fact that he looked like “a Targaryen..”
    Connington is right to leave the door open for Daenerys with a marriage alliance. She can press her claim better than Aegon, woman or not, Westeros at large knows that she is a surviving Targ so no questions on legitimacy.

  13. Vringi

    Is Feather a maester? We just know that he take looks after ravens, right?

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