The Mannifesto: Secrets in the North

“Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues.”

The Mannifesto is an exhaustive analysis of Stannis “the Mannis” Baratheon’s entire northern campaign. It currently covers everything from his departure from Castle Black up to his destruction of Roose Bolton.

Explaining the entirely of Stannis’s campaign is a huge undertaking. To lighten the load, I have written it as a series of essays.

The Mannifesto

  1. I – A Decisive Battle, A Deceptive Campaign
  2. II – A Tale of Two Kings
  3. III – Striking from Beyond the Grave
  4. IV – Strange Bedfellows
  5. V – The Pink Letter
  6. VI – Endgame
  7. VII – Additions, Errata & Kruft

NOTE: The Mannifesto can also be directly navigated via this blog’s ‘main menu’ at the top.

Although you are free to jump around, later essays often build off of points established in early entries.

UPDATE July 5th, 2015: The main Mannifesto page (this essay) and the Main Menu bar have been dramatically retooled to incorporate essays written and revised since the Mannifesto was first released. Returning readers may find things to have been moved around. For the most part however, I have tried to preserve links.

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The first task of the Mannifesto is to show how Stannis will prevail at the crofter’s village. Once I’ve convinced you of that, the second task was to explore the tremendous ramifications of the revealed strategies. Thus this first part is a bit bipolar: it examines a single battle, and then uses those findings to extrapolate insights into Stannis as a character, as well as his overall campaign plans.

Core Essays

If I had to pick the two most formative essays for the Mannifesto, they would be the theory of the Night Lamp and my examination of Stannis’s entire campaign strategy.


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lightninghouseThe Night Lamp essay is probably the best place to start, because I believe it is damn convincing—and it opens the door for you to consider the ideas I write about throughout the remainder of the Mannifesto.


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stannis_baratheon2This essay is a step back from the Night Lamp. This piece jumps up to the high, strategic level and plots out Stannis’s entire campaign. It discusses the historical influences (in Westeros) that influence Stannis and how they dictate his game plan. It is a thorough analysis and provides links to many other essays in the Mannifesto. This essay is something of a rabbit hole to Wonderland, between it and the many essays it links to… you could end up reading for hours.

You can either essay first. If you prefer jumping into something juicy with immediate appeal, I recommend the Night Lamp. If you’d rather start off with a “macro” examination of Stannis’s campaign and later “zoom in” on the details, start with A Page from History.

Underpinnings of the Night Lamp

The Night Lamp is predicated on two major ideas:

  1. Stannis knew about the Karstark betrayal, but allowed it to happen because he could profit from it.
  2. Stannis knew about Mance Rayder’s survival—having made the King-Beyond-the-Wall a vital element of his campaign strategy.

While the previous two essays provide a general argument in favor of these claims, I wrote three essays that analyze these claims in detail:


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madnessmarch - CopyThis piece examines the certainty that Stannis and Mance collaborated on the rescue of Arya Stark, establishing it as a vital component of both the Night Lamp theory and the campaign in general.


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A detailed review of the evidence and reasons supporting the observation that Stannis knew about Arnolf Karstark’s betrayal.


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700px-World_Epic_Battle_BaratheonThis final piece examines just how Stannis can exploit knowledge of the Karstark betrayal to aid his campaign, by poisoning the well from which Bolton believes he is learning about the king’s plans.

Understanding the King (Optional)

The essays above begin to outline a picture of a much more devious king that previously believed. However, the evidence of such deceptive guile goes beyond analyzing his military strategy: there is ample evidence that it permeates his character in general.

The following essays are all somewhat “optional” in that they don’t directly explain Stannis’s actions. However, they provide tremendous insight into Stannis as a literary character, comparing him to real-world leaders and military thinkers.


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Stannis NarrowThis is a lengthy piece that shows how duplicitous Stannis has already been in the books. Perhaps more important though, the essays establishes why Stannis’s likely deceptions do not violate his dogmatic devotion to justice and duty.


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niccolo_machiavelli_statue-2A simple essay that shows just how much of Stannis’s behavior and strategies correspond to the tactics espoused by Niccolo Machiavelli, as he wrote in his famous works The Prince and Discourse on Livy. The point? To establish how Stannis actually seems to embody the deceptive genius recommended by real-world military scholars.


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Paul_Delaroche_-_Napoleon_Crossing_the_Alps_-_Google_Art_Project_2Going even further, this thick essay provides some extremely compelling evidence of strong parallels between Stannis and Napoleon Bonaparte. In particular Napoleon’s Ulm Campaign has uncanny similarities to my theories about Stannis’s campaign for Winterfell.

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The first part of the Mannifesto has already made numerous, extensive claims regarding Mance as a covert ally of Stannis. But I have yet to fully articulate just how Mance actually executes his mission to save Arya. Part II aims to remedy this.

Mance’s Mission

First and foremost, Mance Rayder has perhaps the most immediately important task: to rescue Arya and thus prompt the Bolton army into combat. But precisely how Mance engineers this feat is quite long in the telling.

It begins with his departure from Castle Black and ends with a likely showdown with Ramsay Bolton.


2,800 words

All we see in A Dance with Dragons is that Mance departs from Castle Black and eventually just appears outside Winterfell. What happened in between those two periods? In fact, we see that Mance was perhaps already establishing his alias as Abel, as well as gathering valuable information on the political climate surrounding the Boltons.


2,900 words

One element the previous essay does not cover however, is the unlikely relationship that appears to have been established between Mors Umber and Mance Rayder. How could sworn enemies appear to be acting in concert? What could compel such behavior? This essay establishes the likely true origin of one of Mance’s spearwives, and uses that as the basis of the seeming alliance.


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I believe this to be the centerpiece of my analysis of Mance’s rescue plans—and their fallout. It provides an exhaustive assessment of just how Mance planned to escape (and perhaps more) his pursuers in Winterfell once Arya’s absence was discovered. It ends with a decidedly awesome twist.

Musical Inspiration (Optional)

It is well-known that Mance took inspiration from Bael the Bard when he infiltrated Winterfell in A Dance with Dragons. Indeed, the previous essay Showdown in the Crypts showed the likelihood that the tale provided much more than just a clever name.

However, I believe that is not the only song to aided Mance Rayder in his plans. I believe that three other tales and/or songs may have greatly inspired our intrepid former king. Most notably, several of them interact—quite profoundly—with my claims that Mance will invoke the use of a glamor.

These essays are “optional”: they are fun analyses of how Mance was likely inspired by multiple songs. However, you don’t really need to believe any of these essays in order to continue enjoying the Mannifesto. In other words, your mileage may vary.


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The tale of Lann the Clever seems strangely apt for Mance’s plans, particularly in light of the essays previously introduced. Indeed, there is even a direct reference or two to the character that will go unnoticed to the casual reader.


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This is an analysis of Mance’s “Northman’s Daughter” variation on The Dornishman’s Wife, as he performed it for the Boltons. A deep analysis of the song and it’s interpretation provide an eerie conclusion that is serendipitously consistent with the claims made in Showdown in the Crypts.


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Could it be that the actual tower rescue of “Arya Stark” was inspired by one of the major classic songs in Westeros—the tale of Florian and Jonquil? I believe so.

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Between the first two parts of the Mannifesto, I’ve made some compelling arguments. But so what if Stannis crushes the Freys at the crofter’s village—how does he plan on taking an occupied Winterfell?

Once again, I return to the various essays that have led to the point and tell you this: Stannis will win through guile and misdirection.

Cheating Death

First and foremost, Stannis will “pretend” to lose the battle at the crofter’s village.


3,200 words

This establishes the general logic and strategy behind faking Stannis’s death: to allow the king to sneak up on Winterfell in the blizzard undetected. Furthermore, it will lower the guard of the Boltons. In particular, the essay proscribes that Arthor Karstark will be Stannis’s agent in ‘selling’ this lie to the Boltons.


2,700 words

This is the companion piece to the first essay, providing an extensive analysis of the evidence in favor of Stannis’s plans to leverage the second son of Arnolf the betrayer, Arthor Karstark.

A Calculated Feint

Even if Stannis fakes his death—it alone is not enough to simply hand him a victory at Winterfell.

So how does Stannis actually plan to do win at Winterfell?

The answer is simple:

Stannis will not attack Winterfell first—he will attack it after distracting the Boltons will an attack elsewhere.

This goes back to one of the earliest essays (Deception in Siegecraft), where I pointed out the likelihood that Stannis engineered the Boltons stationing their entire army at Winterfell.

Why would he do that?

If the entire Bolton army is at Winterfell, then other vital Bolton interests are therefore vulnerable.

And one target is of paramount importance—the true seat of Bolton’s power:

Stannis has engineered the vulnerability of the Dreadfort.

This of course leads me to another central claim of the Mannifesto:

Stannis’s ostensibly ‘doomed’ march to Winterfell was nothing more than a convincing feint. Stannis’s true military strike will occur at the Dreadfort.

Keep in mind that these other attacks will be occurring whilst Stannis is presumed dead. Thus they will necessarily have the appearance of “false flag” attacks—that is to say, they must not appear to have been associated with Stannis’s campaign.


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This essay provides what I think is an undeniably convincing set of arguments in favor of an attack on the Dreadfort.


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This “optional” essay describes a situation wherein Stannis might have coordinated with the men from Bear Island to attack the wooden town of Barrowton… in an effort to draw the Dustins, Ryswells and possibly the Flints from Winterfell.


The previous section made the somewhat bold claim that an attack on the Dreadfort would be conducted as a “false flag” operation. Who in seven hells could execute such an attack on the Dreadfort on Stannis’s behalf without appearing to be on the king’s side?

In truth… I believe there are two different factions that could be at play here: wildlings and/or the ironborn.

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The previous section made the somewhat bold claim that an attack on the Dreadfort would be conducted as a “false flag” operation.

But who in seven hells could execute such an attack on the Dreadfort on Stannis’s behalf without appearing to be on the king’s side?

In truth… I believe there are two different factions that could be at play here: the wildlings and/or the ironborn. Explaining both options is a sizable effort, and is spread across several essays for each.

NOTE: This is where you’ll start to see some of my essays fraying at the edges… in need of revision or additional writing. The notes presented below will—hopefully—serve to temporarily bridge the gaps in my material.

The Wildling Option

There is substantial evidence of a secret pact between Val and Stannis, perhaps extending to even include Mance Rayder. Furthermore, I believe that Val was poised to escape from Castle Black on the night that Jon Snow was murdered—and in fact had already done so by the time of Jon’s infamous stabbing.


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This essay outlines the evidence of a conspiracy between Stannis and Val, the “wildling princess”. It also makes the claim that Val may have sought out a ‘marriage’ with Jon Snow, perhaps even against his will.


4,900 words

In this entry I provide an exhaustive look at Val’s likely escape attempt, her methods and motive. In particular, I believe that she had a secret agreement with Stannis to perhaps initiate a false flag attack on the Dreadfort. Furthermore, I make the tentative argument that the lunar cycle was being used by both parties as a means of coordinating their efforts.

As I said, both of these essays may feel somewhat incomplete. My general emphasis would be on the fact that a secret pact is an almost certainty, regardless of any difficulties in deciphering its goals. Given my beliefs regarding a false flag on the Dreadfort, the wildlings are one of the only viable options—and certainly the only one at the time such a pact was likely established. I’m essentially making an educated guess at a connection between the two, but it seems entirely valid and makes a tremendous amount of strategic sense.

The Iron Bank and the Ironborn

It may seem far-fetched to believe that Stannis might use the ironborn to attack the Dreadfort. However, I believe it will make a tremendous amount of sense once I show you the chain of events that lead up to that claim.

Before I can directly tackle the ironborn, I must begin by discussing the Iron Bank and Tycho Nestoris. I believe the Braavosi banker plays a pivotal role in why Stannis would elect to use the ironborn. The rationale for this belief is spread across three essays:


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tycho_nestoris_by_aleksanderkarcz-d6ukq1pThis essay is in dire need of revision. When I first wrote it, I claimed that Tycho Nestoris was in disguise at White Harbor, and gathered intelligence on Davos’s movements while there. However after extensive discussion in the comments, it is much more likely that a general ‘agent’ of the Iron Bank was in White Harbor instead. This would explain how Stannis suddenly knows about Davos’s “beheading” after Tycho’s arrival.


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Game-of-Thrones-Season-4-Episode-6-StannisThis essay makes the argument that Tycho’s presentation of the ironborn and Theon to Stannis was not just a ‘gift’, but a calculated venture, designed to aid Stannis… so that Stannis would be more likely to repay his newly acquired debts. In short, this essay provides a detailed analysis of all the military intelligence (and assets) that Tycho was likely to provide to Stannis, as an investment in protecting their own investment.


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asoiaf-a-song-of-ice-and-fire-32391634-980-816This essay is somewhat ‘optional’ and has elements some readers may find indigestible. Put simply, it argues that the Faceless Men are merely a sect within the Iron Bank, and that the Iron Bank knows it has the true Arya Stark. Thus, this represents another extremely valuable bargaining chip when negotiating with Stannis. The essay is worth reading for the comments alone, for Wolfson makes the brilliant observation the Many-Faced God could simply be coin… since coinage has a multitude of faces (and Arya spent all that time feeling the faces).

Regardless of just how much of these essays you believe, I do contest that they thoroughly establish the deliberate use of Theon and the ironborn. If you don’t believe me yet, the following essay will almost certainly sway you (I hope). I wrote it much later and makes more compelling arguments in my opinion.


1,200 words

theon_greyjoy_jason_engle_game_of_thrones_winter_is_coming_ltd_1I present a ton of evidence and logic that supports the extreme value that Theon has for Stannis, provided Stannis keep him alive rather than execute him. In particular, Theon knows of a secret entrance to the Dreadfort and also bears a striking resemblance to Arnolf Karstark… a possible disguise. I also explain just exactly why the ironborn would actually concede to aiding Stannis.


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tumblr_lsuqa0jZxn1qh0oqco1_500In truth, I don’t believe that Theon would be traveling alone. Instead he would be traveling with several members of Stannis’s army, Mors Umber and a few Karstark hostages. This essay documents that and further speculates as to how Theon would execute the capture of the Dreadfort.

As with the Wildling essays, these two entries in the Mannifesto are somewhat imcomplete. The general premises of both should be easy to grasp however.

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At some point, we know that the pink letter enters into the proceedings. Among the many things the letter claims, it says that Stannis is dead. This is incongruent with the findings of the Mannifesto. It suggests that the letter is disingenuous—perhaps sent with ulterior motives.

I have two separate theories regarding the author and intent of the message.


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This was the first theory I wrote, concluding that Mance Rayder wrote the Pink Letter, while glamored as Ramsay Bolton. Many readers will find this to be extremely persuasive. That said, I no longer believe it to be the case.


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Wonder-108-Raven-Static-Image2This essay purports that the Pink Letter was authored by Theon Greyjoy, dictating to the maester Tybald and sent from the Dreadfort after successfully capturing the castle. This essay explains some of the more challenging elements of the letter in my opinion.

The motive for the letter is the same in both cases—to signal Melisandre and Val to initiate the wildling escape and perhaps a move to strike the Dreadfort (or join with Theon’s forces at the castle).

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So what happens now?

I have yet to write up dedicated essays to fully answer this question. For the time being, let this section be your guide.

By this point, the Mannifesto presumes the following:

  • Stannis has successfully faked his own death. Arnolf Karstark’s second son (Arthor) has been leveraged by Stannis to falsely inform the Boltons of the king’s defeat. The effectiveness of this ruse may be greatly enhanced by the possibility that Mance (a Stannis ally) has glamored himself as Ramsay.
  • A false flag attack at the Dreadfort (possibly Barrowton as well) will serve to draw the majority of Bolton’s forces from Winterfell.

It’s pretty clear what will happen at this point:

Stannis will claim Winterfell while it is vulnerable.

Of course the next challenge is clear:

How could Stannis defeat the Boltons in the field and cement his legitimacy in the north?

To this end, I believe Stannis will borrow a strategy from his brother Robert—Stannis will use forced marches to catch up with the Bolton armies, hoping to catch them outside the walls of the Dreadfort. This idea is precisely while I named one of the core essays A Page from History, because Stannis borrows from Robert (and others as well, such as Daeron Targaryen).

Changing Loyalties

So assuming Stannis arrives at the Dreadfort in time to confront the Boltons, how does he win?

The answer to this question requires we first glance at what I proposed is the distribution of forces:

  • Bolton’s Army:
    • Bolton men, likely led by Bolton himself.
    • Karstarks, led by the leveraged Arthor Karstark.
    • Umbers, led by Hother Umber.
    • Perhaps others, but they may have departed for home, or been drawn away by other false flags (such as the proposed strike on Barrowton).
  • Inside the Dreadfort:
    • Theon and the ironborn, initially disguised as Karstarks (Theon himself disguised as Arnolf).
    • Mors Umber’s green boys.
    • Maester Tybald
    • A few other odds and ends.
    • Possibly a small force of wildlings, led by Val.

Herein lies the rub: I believe that the trick to defeating the Boltons was foreshadowed in one of Theon’s early chapters.

The Drunkard’s Tower leaned as if it were about to collapse, just as it had for half a thousand years. The Children’s Tower thrust into the sky as straight as a spear, but its shattered top was open to the wind and rain. The Gatehouse Tower, squat and wide, was the largest of the three, slimy with moss, a gnarled tree growing sideways from the stones of its north side, fragments of broken wall still standing to the east and west. The Karstarks took the Drunkard’s Tower and the Umbers the Children’s Tower, he recalled. Robb claimed the Gatehouse Tower for his own.

If he closed his eyes, he could see the banners in his mind’s eye, snapping bravely in a brisk north wind. All gone now, all fallen. The wind on his cheeks was blowing from the south, and the only banners flying above the remains of Moat Cailin displayed a golden kraken on a field of black.

Theon remembers the inspiring sight of the Karstark and Umber banners, very specifically. Why does this matter?

It matters because I believe that Theon will fly these banners from the Dreadfort walls after Bolton’s army arrives. The purpose? To force the Karstarks and Umbers to abandon the Boltons, or even better change their allegiance in favor of Stannis Baratheon.

Recall something that Jon says early in ADWD: “Umber will not fight Umber for any cause.”

In the book, this logic is construed to suggest that Stannis must keep the Umbers away from each other. But it hides another insight: that forcing them to confront each other will most certainly nullify their threat.

Likewise, seeing Karstark banners will suggest that Karstarks (or Karstark hostages—such as the sons of the leveraged Arthor) are inside the castle. Once again, this would cause Arthor to betray the Boltons. Once again, I believe this is slyly conveyed in ADWD:

Worse and worse. He had known that Lord Wyman had two sons, but he’d thought that both of them were dead. If the Iron Throne has a hostage … Davos had fathered seven sons himself, and lost four on the Blackwater. He knew he would do whatever gods or men required of him to protect the other three. Steffon and Stannis were thousands of leagues from the fighting and safe from harm, but Devan was at Castle Black, a squire to the king. The king whose cause may rise or fall with White Harbor.

Like Davos, Arthor Karstark is bound to lose two of his four sons to the injuries sustained when they tried to attack Stannis. Thus Arthor will almost certainly betray Bolton if its necessary to protect his two remaining sons.

Should Umber and Karstark betray Bolton at a crucial moment, this represents a massive shift in numerical superiority, plus a crippling blow to his military preparedness. Coupled with Stannis’s arrival, it’s devastating.

So there you have it, Bolton defeated outside his very own castle, likely in full view of the Greyjoys, the wildlings, the northern mountain clans, the Umbers, the Karstarks, and so on.

Keep in mind, I don’t make any claims to Stannis’s success or failure afterwards. It’s widely agreed that Stannis may not be likely to succeed in his overall campaign for the throne. I do however believe the Mannifesto makes a striking case that he will at least succeed in defeating the Boltons.

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These essays do not form a necessary part of the Mannifesto, but often discuss elements that are closely related:

Magical Power (Optional)


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This essay serves to complement a major detail proposed in the Night Lamp theory, that Stannis would signal his men to action and simultaneously debilitate the Frey vanguard using his magic sword.


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Game-of-Thrones-Stannis-on-DragonstoneThere is the remote possibility of a supernatural influence behind the calamitous blizzard affecting the north. This essay explores the inner workings of ‘wind magic’ and presents a compelling hypothesis regarding Stannis’s possible relationship with the blizzard.

These essays describe supernatural methods by which Stannis might have enhanced his campaign’s success. One involves the blinding power of his sword Lightbringer (regardless of the sword’s likely falsehood). The other essay provides for a magical explanation of the blizzard in the north, and its serendipitous benefits to Stannis’s efforts.

Character Insights


2,700 words

Justin Massey and Richard Horpe appear to be the two most prominent knights in Stannis’s service. They were his “wrong-way rangers” that treated with Mors Umber. They also appear to have special significance at the end of A Dance with Dragons, and into The Winds of Winter. What purposes are they serving? What secrets can we glean from taking a closer look at these two figures?

The details on Richard Horpe largely serve to reinforce my observation that Stannis knew about the Karstark betrayal early on, highlighting a special role Horpe plays for Stannis. Contrariwise, Massey is being sent on a very different mission with a very duplicitous purpose.


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This essay explores an important relationship between two minor characters: Clayton Suggs and maester Tybald. It specifically asserts that Stannis deliberately establishes a gaoler-prisoner dynamic between these two, something Stannis implicitly intends to use in a ‘remote’ capacity.


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Exploring the likelihood that Stannis intends to use Alysane Mormont for a special purpose, based off a possible biological connection to one of the wildlings. It specifically considers a way that Stannis may have thought to compel a wildling surrender, one that goes undeveloped by the end of A Dance with Dragons.


4,400 words

The Hooded Man UncloakedThere is substantial evidence of great coordination between Mance and Mors Umber in the execution of the rescue. The hooded man may play a great part in this coordination. Who is this person?

There are elements of this essay that may be controversial, particularly with regard to the hooded man’s identity. That said, it does provide great insights into the coordination between Mance and Mors and what that necessitates.


The remaining essays are entries in the Mannifesto that I no longer feel represent an accurate prediction of the future, or, they are irreparably designed or articulated. They are mostly here for posterity.


1,200 words

Leaping to the end, how does Stannis use the capture of the Dreadfort to defeat Roose Bolton? Although this is leaping ahead in the overall theory, it helps delineate the rest of the essays.

NOTE: This essay has been more or less rendered obsolete… the ‘endgame’ section of this essay provides the entire analysis a person needs.


4,700 words

wax-sealWhat is the importance of the smeared wax seal on the Pink Letter? Who is Melisandre’s secret agent? What is the connection between the Pink Letter and Val’s escape attempt?

Notes: While this essay may have some useful observations, I believe it also makes far too many tenuous (or even unnecessary) claims.


4,600 words

A thorough look at Theon’s fate after being taken by Stannis: how Asha and the king both find him a valuable asset for mutual benefit.

Notes: This essay is more or less erroneous and unnecessary… having been wholly replaced by my essays Release the Kraken and The Fellowship of the Ring.

20 thoughts on “The Mannifesto: Secrets in the North

    1. cantuse Post author

      Thanks for the feedback. Although I’m a bit manic and I do this because I’m nuts, it’s nice to see that people are really liking it. And you’re right, a *ton* of work went into this.

  1. Kris

    This is the most well thought out and clearly explained theory I’ve read in over 5 years of near obsession over ASOIAF. Thank you, very much, for the time and effort you’ve put into this – it’s quite simply brilliant. I can’t wait to read Fit For a King and the rest of volume III.

  2. hfjghfgn

    Great work! I do not give much about foreshadowing , but your essays dont only have a ton of that to support them, but also a lot of logic. Really impressive, i cannot imagine how long researching and writing all this must have taken. Cant wait for the last one, im actually checkin every day^^

    1. cantuse Post author

      It will be two weeks or so… I need to catch up on some other real-life priorities. That and I think there will be an appendix or two of extra cruft as well.

      Thanks for the encouragement. It was a lot of work, the research can be fun but the writing can be arduous.

  3. GlasgowGuy

    I am truly astonished by the amount of thought you have put into these essays. Though I find some of your conclusions a little far-fetched, even for a Stannis partisan like myself, I cannot fault the logic behind them, and it would not surprise me in the slightest if many of these thoughts turned up in The Winds of Winter.

    However, I must point out something significant given the book series we are talking about: it’s all too good to be true. It would be so like GRRM to create a scenario where Stannis has smashed the Freys, seized Winterfell, captured the Dreadfort and put Roose and Ramsay’s heads on spikes, and then bring the triumph crashing down. How do you think Stannis’ plot will develop when the news gets out that Jon has been Caeser’d? Or when the Northern lords discover that “Arya Stark” is in fact Jeyne Pool? Or if Davos comes back from Skagos with Rickon as a surviving Stark heir? Stannis brought low by his most faithful bannerman! Now wouldn’t that be a twist worthy of Martin!

    1. cantuse Post author

      Your question brings up a topic on which I have been deliberately quiet… the long-term ramifications of Stannis’s plots.

      Although BryndenBFish and I differ on the particulars of Stannis’s campaign, we both are aligned in one area: that Stannis’s campaign is more likely to self-destruct than be defeated by his opponents.

      I don’t think Davos w/ Rickon will be too much of a threat, considering that Manderly agreed to pledge fealty to Stannis if Rickon could be rescued. Sure, Manderly could renege on the deal he brokered with Davos, but it seems unlike the man. I don’t think Stannis would have a problem with Rickon being appointed Lord of Winterfell, other than the need to find the boy a proper regent.

      With regards to Jon’s death and “Arya”, I don’t think that knowledge will be immediately available for some time, esp. to Stannis. Since he’s in the field, he cannot receive ravens.

      However, if the Boltons (and co.) receive such a raven, it would only heighten their fear of a wildling incursion.

      You can see how this plays directly into my belief that Stannis will take Winterfell by goading the Boltons into racing for the Dreadfort. So whether or not Jon dies is almost irrelevant, only that the world thinks the wildlings are on the march. 😀

      1. GlasgowGuy

        It would be like Stannis to get the news of Jon’s death while hearing that Davos has recovered Rickon and think “I’ll roll with it: Rickon can be Lord of Winterfell instead. Marsh will die, though”.

        I’d be interested to know what you think might cause Stannis’ campaign to fall apart. BryndenBFish suggested that the Manderly levies might be attacked by Stannis during the Battle of the Ice under the mistaken belief that they’re still with Bolton. If Wyman Manderly is dead or incapacitated after the scuffle in Winterfell’s hall, whoever takes over commanding the Manderly host might not be so inclined to support Stannis, particularly if Rickon reappears…

      2. cantuse Post author

        Dead or not, Wyman is most likely incapacitated anyhow and his command handed over to a trusted second.

        That second is most likely the knight that threatened Hosteen in ADWD after the fight in the Great Hall. Although he is not named, his sigil is clearly identified (IIRC purple with three mermen or the like). The owner of this sigil is unknown, but I strongly believe it to be Marlon Manderly, Wyman’s cousin and a knight in his court.

        You’re absolutely right that if Manderly decided to approach Stannis, confusion could lead to disaster. However, I don’t think Manderly will even bother trying to fight (or find) Stannis. I explain in a second of the Night Lamp essay but there’s absolutely no good reason for Manderly to approach Stannis, regardless of Pro- or Anti-Stannis agendas.

        On top of Stannis’s general … strategic genius … one main reason that I think he is his only real threat stems from that vision he told Davos in ASOS, where he saw a king wearing a crown of flames, and the crown consumed him leaving nothing but ash. It suggests that his obsession with his crown (the throne) will consume every last part of who he his. It’s symbolically/allegorically very similar to what Beric expressed about how fire was consuming him and leaving nothing behind.

        As for Marsh’s fate, Jon’s fate, etc… that’s all part of the essay I’m still writing. It’s been a bitch to sort out how I want to write it which is why its taking so long. It’s also why I happen to be responding to your comments so fast, because I’m working on it at the moment.

    2. Treemaster

      If it all plays out this way detailed in these essays, I predict that the Stannis victory will immediately be undone by the appearance of the Others, who will take and hold Winterfell by the end of The Winds of Winter (regardless of the outcome of Stannis’ campaign against the Boltons). That’s how Martin may crush the “its too good to feel true” vibe that a brilliant Victory by Stannis would achieve.

  4. Wolfson

    The amount of work you’ve put into building and supporting this theory is truly astonishing. Each thread of the overall argument has its own thread and support, and most of the objections are addressed. To me that’s the most impressive aspect of all, and the mark of a good scientist/debater/literature theorycrafter: you acknowledge the weaknesses or objections to your theory, you go back and re-examine the evidence in that light, and you state when you don’t have all the answers.

    A fun and interesting read, and I’m eagerly awaiting future instalments.

  5. Bryan

    I think Stannis’s arc has always been leading him to become a modern day Nights King. The parallels are numerous, and I’ve long suspected that the impetus for his conversion from fire to ice would directly result from his saving of the North only to be shunned in favor of a Stark recency be it Jon Rickon or Sansa. I believe your analysis is accurate in the macro sense and probably in the micro sense as well. Taking the evidence you’ve presented it’s surely a realistic possibility that Stannis accomplishes the impossible, defeats the Bolton’s, frees the North, then is cast aside by every Northern House to the man. This would leave Stannis with no option but to retreat to his only remaining seat at the Nightfort. Since we don’t know what really happened to the original NK (I personally believe the legend is incorrect in it’s timing and the NK existed BEFORE the Long Night which would explain why the Others have yet to attack. They needed the NK to kickstart their campaign then and they’ll need Stannis to perform that function this time around), but it’s reasonable to theorize the original NK did what he did bc he was bitter at the northern lords for some reason.

    Also one side note that I believe will play a role in the future of the North. In Clash Mormont tells Jon that in the legends the CotF were defended by the trees themselves. Then in Dance right before the IB are attacked while fleeing Deepwood Motte Asha recalls her version of Old Nan telling her tales of the CotF fighting alongside warrior trees. Finally as Bran and Company ascended the hill to the cave Bran is miraculously saved from a wight by a tree dumping snow on it burying it. I believe this was an instance of BR or CotF skin changing a tree. Combine this with the ravens behavior in the sample Theon chapter (great catch on three trees meaning the Tallharts but as you’ve shown multiple meanings are abundant) I believe Bran will skin change the tree on the lake and this show of real power will be the first step in Stannis switching teams culminating with his Ice forces battling Dany’s Fire forces at the Trident to decide the fate of Planetos.

  6. Gaurav

    i developed inferiority complex after seeing this blog..i feel like i havent read anything..keep it up man..(y)

  7. Taelor Swyft

    So, I’ve only read the books, but I want to recommend this to a friend who’s also seen the show. Has the show called any of this into question? Or has it just finally caught up to where Stannis is in the books with a couple of extra bumps along the way?

  8. Pooja

    Damn, you’re a genius! This is amazing. I’m short of words to describe the brilliancy of it all! Even if this doesn’t end up in the next book, it will still remain one of the most intelligent things to happen to the series. All the other theories fall flat in front of this. You should write your own battle-strategy novel or something. Reading this was an absolute delight!


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