Teeth of the Rising Sun

THE MANNIFESTO: VOLUME I, CHAPTER V

Ever since I first read A Clash of Kings, there has always been an enduring mystery surrounding Renly’s death:

  • As Renly made clear at his parley with Stannis, Stannis had no chance to win against his younger brother in a conventional battle.
  • This of course suggests that Stannis is A) belligerent and irrational, or that B) Stannis had planned to use some sort of trickery to secure his victory.

How else did Stannis have the confidence to boast that he would “destroy” his brother in combat?

I think most readers ruminate on these observations and come to what seems to be the logical conclusion:

Stannis must have known that Melisandre would use some sort of sorcery to “destroy” Renly and his army.

However, we see that Stannis laments his brother’s death and is bewildered as to his involvement in what actually transpired the night Renly died.

Thus we arrive at the central conundrum which has cultivated so much discussion since A Clash of Kings was first published:

  • Stannis displayed tremendous confidence when he leveled his ultimatum at Renly, despite the fact that he clearly had a numerically inferior army.
  • Yet Stannis appears to have had no prior knowledge of Renly’s coming assassination.
  • Thus by all appearances, Stannis did not intend to use such sorcery.
  • This suggests that Stannis’s confidence regarding the coming battle was likely derived from some other source.

In lieu of Melisandre’s ‘shadow’ assassin, what then gave Stannis this seemingly unwarranted confidence in the face of such overwhelming odds?

This is a question that must have an answer, as most readers would agree that Stannis would not be foolhardy enough to heedlessly pursue a battle he is unlikely to win. As he once told Jon Snow:

If is a word for fools.”
— JON IV, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

I believe that most readers who ruminate on this conundrum come to either of the following possible conclusions:

  • Regardless of Stannis’s lamentations, he must have known that his victory somehow depended on Melisandre’s magic and it’s ability to shatter Renly’s army with great precision. Therefore Stannis’s confession to Davos rings not with bewildered confusion, but self-deception: into absolving himself of complicity and guilt.
  • Stannis needed to kill Renly as a necessary step in the pursuit of his throne. Renly had openly positioned himself as a usurper, thus Stannis as king was right to pursue whatever means necessary to advance his claim to the Iron Throne and eliminate false rivals who would not submit.

This pits advocates of each interpretation against each other:

  • Some readers view Stannis as a hypocrite and a kinslayer.
  • Others view his as a prudent king bound with severe purpose who cannot be allow himself to be thwarted by even his brother’s connivance.

In truth reader beliefs lie across a spectrum, but I believe these two options encapsulate the general ways we interpret Stannis’s actions concerning Renly’s death.

But what if I told you that both of these interpretations are entirely wrong?

What if I told you that there existed a third, hidden interpretation: one that provides tremendous insight into Renly’s death and into the events expected to occur in The Winds of Winter?

What if I told you that this third option both demonstrates Stannis military strategies in the past and the future, and additionally exonerates him?

Contents

  1. Introduction.
  2. Honest Confessions. The meaning behind Stannis’s confidences with Davos, as it pertains to Renly’s death.
  3. The Sword in the Darkness. The battlefield applications of Stannis’s magic sword.
  4. Integrating Lightbringer. Where Lightbringer fits as a component of a comprehensive battle plan.
  5. The Winter Sun. Reusing the Lightbringer strategy against the Freys.
  6. Moral Implications. How this strategy largely exonerates Stannis with regards to kinslaying.
  7. Summary.
  8. Further Insights. Melisandre’s sociopathic actions in pursuit of her own agenda.

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INTRODUCTION


In the Night Lamp theory I proposed an idea: Stannis would blind a charging Frey vanguard by drawing Lightbringer.

While this is a novel and exciting idea, it has generated concern among some ASOIAF readers. Specifically for the following reasons:

  • The information provided in the Night Lamp essay seems insufficient to support claims that Stannis will assuredly use the sword to blind his foes.
  • The proposal may seem like fan-service, too good to be true or consistent with the author’s grim style.

The underlying concerns of both points is the same: readers need more convincing evidence in order to believe the hypothesis. In the absence of compelling information, readers are reluctant to accept the theory, most likely fearing that such claims are little more than confirmation bias.

With these concerns in mind, I will delve into the remaining sections of this essay. I believe that this entry in the Mannifesto will provide the evidence necessary to convince you. My hope is that this evidence will tear a significant shroud from readers’ eyes and change minds about several major details concerning Stannis.

Specifically, this essay presents compelling evidence in favor of the following conclusions:

Stannis did not intend to kill his brother using Melisandre’s shadows.

In fact, Stannis truly did intend to defeat Renly in open battle.

The plan for Stannis’s victory depended on the use his magical sword Lightbringer.

However, the use of this ploy was rendered unnecessary through Melisandre’s use of the shadow assassin.

Careful reflection on these points allows us to exonerate Stannis from what is perceived to be his worst, most unforgivable sin: kinslaying.

Having gone unused, this ploy has been reborn as part of the forthcoming battle at the crofter’s village, aimed squarely at the approaching Freys.

These points may seem far-fetched or ludicrous, but if you’ll entertain me further I will show you that they are founded in clear patterns of evidence and careful reasoning.

Now, to begin validating these points I want to start with an intimate moment between Stannis and Davos.

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HONEST CONFESSIONS


stannis_baratheon2In A Clash of Kings, Stannis confides in Davos that he never intended to kill Renly Baratheon, nor that he knew that his brother would perish in the manner that he did:

For a long time the king did not speak. Then, very softly, he said, “I dream of it sometimes. Of Renly’s dying. A green tent, candles, a woman screaming. And blood.” Stannis looked down at his hands. “I was still abed when he died. Your Devan will tell you. He tried to wake me. Dawn was nigh and my lords were waiting, fretting. I should have been ahorse, armored. I knew Renly would attack at break of day. Devan says I thrashed and cried out, but what does it matter? It was a dream. I was in my tent when Renly died, and when I woke my hands were clean.

Ser Davos Seaworth could feel his phantom fingertips start to itch. Something is wrong here, the onetime smuggler thought. Yet he nodded and said, “I see.”

“Renly offered me a peach. At our parley. Mocked me, defied me, threatened me, and offered me a peach. I thought he was drawing a blade and went for mine own. Was that his purpose, to make me show fear? Or was it one of his pointless jests? When he spoke of how sweet the peach was, did his words have some hidden meaning?” The king gave a shake of his head, like a dog shaking a rabbit to snap its neck. “Only Renly could vex me so with a piece of fruit. He brought his doom on himself with his treason, but I did love him, Davos. I know that now. I swear, I will go to my grave thinking of my brother’s peach.
— DAVOS II, A CLASH OF KINGS

Stannis’s monologue has a confessional tone. We have no reason to believe that Stannis would deceive his closest adviser in such a private indulgence: further there is no merit or profit in such a deception.

There is an important subtext in this conversation: Stannis truly did not expect such sorcery to terminate his brother with cold cruelty. He did not expect such sorcery at all.

Thus we arrive at an extremely important (and hypothetical) conclusion:

Stannis did not intend to kill his brother using Melisandre’s shadows.

Indeed, Stannis’s confession betrays the fact that he was expecting battle, showing that he should have been awake and preparing for combat. This would certainly be inconsistent with the idea that Stannis planned to terminate Renly with sorcerous, surgical precision.

Of course this hypothesis leads directly to the conundrum I presented at the outset:

Without the use of Melisandre’s shadows, how did Stannis plan to defeat Renly in open battle?

The answer? By harnessing the power of the sun.

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THE SWORD IN THE DARKNESS


iL8OFzq59qlOoLet us imagine for a moment that Melisandre’s shadowspawn had never killed Renly.

Had Stannis and Renly engaged in a traditional battle, what would have happened?

What was the status and disposition of Stannis and Renly’s forces, how was the battle expected to be joined?

Here are the basic facts that we know of:

  • Stannis was camped beneath the walls of Storm’s End.
  • Stannis has perhaps four hundred horse and approximately five thousand foot soldiers.
  • Renly figured that his vanguard, led by Loras Tyrell, could destroy Stannis’s forces all by itself.
  • The apparent plan was for Loras (and perhaps others) to command the vanguard, charging into Stannis’s formations.

Most of this information is derived from the final parley between Stannis and Renly, and Renly’s last council prior to his death (CATELYN IV and V – ACOK).

These facts do not suggest a Stannis victory. With that in mind:

What in seven hells was Stannis banking his strategy on, if not the use of Melisandre’s power?

I’ll put my hypothesis succinctly: Lightbringer.

How could Lightbringer improve Stannis’s chances for victory?

Bright as the Sun

Whether or not Stannis’s glowing sword is authentic is a hotly contested subject amongst the ASOIAF fandom. Stannis himself even confides his own doubts about the sword to Davos (DAVOS V – ASOS).

However, regardless of opinions about the sword there is one fact that is not in dispute:

Stannis’s sword Lightbringer can generate tremendous “sun-like” light.

When coupled with the prior observation that Stannis truly expected battle, this observation leads to a powerful hypothesis:

Stannis intended to defeat his brother Renly on the battlefield.

He planned on leveraging the power of his magic sword’s brilliant, sun-like light.

Of course, these premises have readily noticed flaws:

How can the generation of light be used to defeat Renly?

Where is the evidence that Stannis would actually utilize such a strategy?

The answer to these questions first starts by observing a key, subtle detail: something that manifests when Stannis unsheathes Lightbringer during his parley with Renly:

Enough!” Stannis roared. “I will not be mocked to my face, do you hear me? I will not!” He yanked his longsword from its scabbard. The steel gleamed strangely bright in the wan sunlight, now red, now yellow, now blazing white. The air around it seemed to shimmer, as if from heat.

Catelyn’s horse whinnied and backed away a step, but Brienne moved between the brothers, her own blade in hand. “Put up your steel!” she shouted at Stannis.

“… We shall see, brother.” Some of the light seemed to go out of the world when Stannis slid his sword back into its scabbard. “Come the dawn, we shall see.”
— CATELYN IV, A CLASH OF KINGS

The first bolded segment shows that Stannis’s sword can frighten horses. With that in mind, I introduce another hypothesis:

Lightbringer frightens horses, scaring them into retreat.

If this hypothesis is in fact true, it may suggest that Stannis planned on utilizing such brilliant magic to sow disarray in Renly’s forces, particularly his brother’s horsemen. At the very least, Catelyn’s horse demonstrates the viability of such a tactic. Perhaps Stannis observed (or even deliberately tested this effect) when he drew the sword at the parley.

One instance of such an effect on horses does not indicate a pattern, however. Critics could legitimately argue that a single example of a horse’s fright does not alone suggest that this hypothesis has more credibility that any competing theories.

However, I’d like to introduce you to a second instance of Stannis’s blinding magic and it’s effectiveness against horses and their riders:

Stannis Baratheon drew Lightbringer. The sword glowed red and yellow and orange, alive with light. Jon had seen the show before … but not like this, never before like this. Lightbringer was the sun made steel. When Stannis raised the blade above his head, men had to turn their heads or cover their eyes. Horses shied, and one threw his rider. The blaze in the fire pit seemed to shrink before this storm of light, like a small dog cowering before a larger one. The Wall itself turned red and pink and orange, as waves of color danced across the ice. Is this the power of king’s blood?

He slipped Lightbringer into its scabbard, and the world darkened once again, as if the sun had gone behind a cloud.
— JON III, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

As you can see, Lightbringer’s effect on horses is even more profound in this example: it appears to affect many (perhaps all) horses present and causes one of them to throw his rider.

This is a tremendous affirmation of my hypothesis:

Lightbringer terrifies horses.

This obviously can have a disastrous effect on the riders of these horses.

When you pair both of these examples, it would seem to suggest that striking fear into horses is a reliable effect of Lightbringer’s appearance.

However, just because Lightbringer’s effect on horses appears to be reliably reproducible does not automatically indicate that Stannis would actually implement it.

Indeed, there is little to no explicit evidence to suggest that Stannis actually planned to use Lightbringer in this fashion.

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Dawn was the Chosen Hour

We have a telling insight from Randyll Tarly, something ominous he said once regarding Stannis’s strategy at Storm’s End:

“Your Grace,” Mathis Rowan said with a sideways glance at Catelyn. “As I was saying, our battles are well drawn up. Why wait for daybreak? Sound the advance.”

“And have it said that I won by treachery, with an unchivalrous attack? Dawn was the chosen hour.

Chosen by Stannis,” Randyll Tarly pointed out. “He’d have us charge into the teeth of the rising sun. We’ll be half-blind.
— CATELYN IV, A CLASH OF KINGS

Tarly is well-known for his brilliance as a military commander. If his concerns here express a valid insight into Stannis’s plans, it goes a long way to supporting any idea that Stannis might attempt to blind Renly’s men using Lightbringer.

Indeed, if the rising sun alone would render the vanguard “half-blind” by itself, what effect would the sun in combination with Lightbringer have?

*   *   *

These are merely two examples and one possible implication from Tarly. Is that really sufficient evidence to convincingly support the use of Lightbringer in this fashion?

I believe it’s compelling, but that may not be enough for some readers.

With that in mind, a small dose of reasonable deduction helps to clinch the argument in favor of the “Lightbringer ploy”.

  • Stannis could not hope to defeat Renly by simple attrition. He has fewer men and especially fewer knights. The numbers do not indicate that he could win through brute force.
  • Thus Stannis must implement some sort of maneuver warfare in order to defeat Renly.
  • In the abstract, maneuver warfare can generally refer to any strategies or tactics designed to allow a smaller force defeat a larger force.
  • In the absence of other compelling “maneuvers”, the Lightbringer strategy appears to be the only candidate, and particularly the only one with observable evidence.

Therefore I believe the conclusion is clear:

Unless compelling evidence is found to suggest other alternatives, the use of Lightbringer is almost certainly the most viable explanation for how Stannis planned to defeat Renly.

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INTEGRATING LIGHTBRINGER


Stannis_Baratheon_by_Alexandre_Dainche,_Fantasy_Flight_Games©We have to ask ourselves where Lightbringer fits in a comprehensive military strategy: having a magic sword does not obviate the need for thorough preparation.

We begin by asking the following questions:

While Lightbringer is certainly a potent tool for Stannis, how does it complement his forces?

How precisely would it be used against Renly’s forces?

What is the anticipated net benefit of using Lightbringer?

A Lack of Horsemen

One of the first things to note is that Stannis lacks a significant number of horsemen:

“All the chivalry of the south rides with me, and that is the least part of my power. My foot is coming behind, a hundred thousand swords and spears and pikes. And you will destroy me? With what, pray? That paltry rabble I see there huddled under the castle walls? I’ll call them five thousand and be generous, codfish lords and onion knights and sellswords. Half of them are like to come over to me before the battle starts. You have fewer than four hundred horse, my scouts tell me—freeriders in boiled leather who will not stand an instant against armored lances.
— CATELYN IV, A CLASH OF KINGS

It would seem that Renly has a legion of knights and no men on foot, whereas Stannis has a force composed largely of foot soldiers.

Why would this matter?

This matters because it implies that Renly’s forces would be much more greatly affected by Lightbringer’s debilitating effects on horses and horsemen.

Thus Stannis can likely make use of the sword’s power without too much concern for how it affects his own military. Yet it would be tremendously effective against every single man in Renly’s force of knights.

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Beheading the Beast

I believe I have thus provided a compelling case for Stannis intentions to use Lightbringer against Renly.

However, there is still the matter of Stannis’s numerical inferiority against Renly’s forces.

How could Stannis hope to defeat an army of such large numbers?

I believe the answer lies in a detail that Renly let slip in the parley between the Baratheon brothers:

“Half of them are like to come over to me before the battle starts. You have fewer than four hundred horse, my scouts tell me—freeriders in boiled leather who will not stand an instant against armored lances. I do not care how seasoned a warrior you think you are, Stannis, that host of yours won’t survive the first charge of my vanguard.
— CATELYN IV, A CLASH OF KINGS

This strongly suggests that Renly’s first move will be to attack with the vanguard, and likely with the vanguard alone. This means that Stannis will only need to deal with a fraction of Renly’s knights instead of the whole lot of them.

We even see Renly’s overconfidence in his vanguard manifest a second time in his final council with his bannermen:

“Chosen by Stannis,” Randyll Tarly pointed out. “He’d have us charge into the teeth of the rising sun. We’ll be half-blind.”

Only until first shock,” Renly said confidently. “Ser Loras will break them, and after that it will be chaos.
— CATELYN V, A CLASH OF KINGS

Renly’s attitude betrays an overconfidence in the simplicity of sending his vanguard forward, an attitude that plays right into Stannis’s strategy using Lightbringer.

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A Comprehensive Picture

When you put everything presented so far together, a picture of Stannis’s comprehensive tactics emerges:

  • Stannis knew that Renly’s vanguard would lead the charge against Stannis’s forces.
  • It is quite likely that the vanguard would charge in alone, expecting to decimate Stannis’s forces with impunity.
  • At a crucial moment just prior to the clash of heavy horse and foot soldiers, Stannis would draw Lightbringer.
  • This would have thrown the entire vanguard into disarray, allowing Stannis’s men an opportunity to ravage a disordered enemy.

Lightbringer startles and scares horses, causing even stationary horses to whinny, retreat and even throw their riders. Imagine what might happen to ranks of heavy horse moving at a full charge.

You can see how this would have an absolutely crushing effect on the knights in Renly’s vanguard. Stannis’s “rabble” of foot soldiers can then fall upon thoroughly discombobulated knights, suddenly finding themselves thrown injuriously to the ground or struggling to control their steeds.

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The Best Part of My Brother’s Power

Even if Stannis manages to best Renly’s vanguard, a question yet looms:

How would Stannis expect to deal with the rest of Renly’s forces?

Could he expect to simply repeat the same ploy against all of Renly’s riders?

In truth, I believe that these are fruitless questions:

Stannis never intended to defeat or destroy ALL of Renly’s forces.

This is backed up by his belief in something Melisandre saw in her fires:

“Her flames do not lie. She saw Renly’s doom as well. On Dragonstone she saw it, and told Selyse. Lord Velaryon and your friend Salladhor Saan would have had me sail against Joffrey, but Melisandre told me that if I went to Storm’s End, I would win the best part of my brother’s power, and she was right.
— DAVOS II, A CLASH OF KINGS

Obviously this couldn’t be the case if Stannis expected to fight every man in Renly’s army. Indeed, I believe that Stannis hoped for a more decisive resolution:

Stannis hoped to defeat Renly’s vanguard, and thereby cause some or all of Renly’s bannermen to declare for Stannis instead.

*   *   *

Collectively, this seems like an insurmountable body of evidence and reasoning that Stannis intended to use Lightbringer against Renly’s vanguard.

However, such plans never came to fruition due to Melisandre’s interference.

NOTE: The reasons for her actions is a subject I explore at the end of this essay and in a forthcoming entry in the Mannifesto.

Regardless, since Stannis’s ploy with Lightbringer went unused, he is free to implement it in the future in any other battles that bear significant similarities to his confrontation with Renly.

And as it so happens, there is a forthcoming battle that bears tremendous similarities to Stannis and Renly’s final confrontation: the battle between Stannis’s coalition and the Frey army at the crofter’s village.

As I will show in the next section, Stannis likely plans to revive the Lightbringer ploy for use against Hosteen Frey and his knights.

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THE WINTER SUN


burningtreeAs stated, I believe that Stannis plans to execute the Lightbringer strategy in the forthcoming battle against the Freys at the crofter’s village, finally demonstrating the military brilliance he originally intended for Renly.

The appropriateness and success of the Lightbringer strategy in the forthcoming battle is largely dependent on two key points:

  • The original Lightbringer strategy was tailored for the unique circumstances of both Stannis and Renly’s forces, and depended on certain expectations regarding enemy behavior.
  • In order to re-attempt the use of the strategy Stannis would need to do the same for the coming battle and his enemy’s forces.

But just how similar are both battles, and both instances of the plan?

Amazingly Similar

In answer to the previous question: the coming battle at the crofter’s village is tremendously, undeniably similar to the battle that Stannis expected at Storm’s End:

  • Hosteen Frey is a belligerent, short-tempered, stupid man who is likely to personally lead the Frey vanguard into battle against Stannis.
  • The Frey army has a copious component of knights on horseback, an amazing similarity to Renly’s forces at Storm’s End. Thus Lightbringer’s would have a calamitous effect on the Frey knights, indeed the entire Frey vanguard.
  • Also just like the situation on Storm’s End, Stannis has very few horses. This means that he can again plan on the use of Lightbringer without great concern on its effect on his own men.
  • Also, extremely similar is the fact that the Frey baggage train and any other armies approaching Stannis would likely arrive after the battle against the Freys is concluded. Aside from the Frey baggage train, the most likely candidate would be the Manderlys.
  • Upon observing the obliteration of Hosteen’s army and Stannis’s rescue of “Arya”, it seems extremely likely that Manderly would declare for Stannis then and there. This bears a striking similarity to how Stannis expected to win “the better part of his brother’s power” at Storm’s End (had the battle commenced in a conventional fashion).

The combination of these observations it one thing make absolutely clear:

Stannis will never have a more opportune chance to use Lightbringer in this fashion.

Going further, if you place this “Lightbringer ploy” in its proper place as a component of the Stannis’s overall “Night Lamp” strategy, one overwhelming conclusion emerges:

Stannis has engineered perhaps the most devastating, decisive victory since the Field of Fire.

Recall from the Night Lamp theory that Stannis will draw Lightbringer just prior to Hosteen Frey and his vanguard’s encounter with the icy holes that have been dug in the lake.

The combination of the false beacon proposed in the Night Lamp theory and it’s attendant deadly trap on the frozen lake and the blinding power of Lightbringer suggests that Hosteen’s vanguard will be completely shattered: by panicked horses or the icy holes waiting to swallow them up, or Stannis’s men who wait for routed survivors.

It’s a devastating combination of tactics: one that borrows from Stannis’s time as the Master of Ships and his plans for the battle against Renly.

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MORAL IMPLICATIONS


melisandreStannis’s confession to Davos concerning his brother’s death clearly indicates that he never knew of any assassination plot. Whereas this was previously a contestable notion, the theories advanced in this essay say otherwise:

We have convincingly shown that Stannis did in fact have a strategy that did not involve Melisandre’s shadow assassin.

Thus the shadow assassin was not the only way Stannis could have defeated his brother. Stannis did not intend to kill his brother in the manner shown in the books.

Thus we have renewed faith in Stannis’s confession to Davos that he truly had no conscious involvement in any effort to assassinate Renly.

This of course implies that the actual assassination attempt was performed without his explicit approval.

Yet Stannis appears to have dreamed of Renly’s death, suggesting some sort of involvement, likely unintended.

Therefore Stannis is at worst an unwitting kinslayer.

These observations push us towards another suspect as being the prime cause of Renly’s demise: Melisandre.

Subsequent to the above points, it would appear that Melisandre acted of her own volition and without Stannis’s express approval when she birthed the shadow that killed Renly.

Thus Melisandre is in fact much more culpable for Renly’s assassination.

Readers are not alone in arriving at this conclusion. Davos himself identifies Melisandre as the true culprit in Renly’s murder, even if her powers somehow involved Stannis:

“And Renly Baratheon? Who was it who killed him?”

Her head turned. Beneath the shadow of the cowl, her eyes burned like pale red candle flames. “Not I.”

“Liar.” Davos was certain now.
— DAVOS II, A CLASH OF KINGS

This is not that much different from some attitudes that existed before the introduction of this essay.

What elevates these beliefs beyond the status of contested subjective interpretations into the realm of reasonable truth is the evidence that Stannis did truly have an alternative method for defeating Renly.

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SUMMARY


Summarizing all of the key points presented thus far:

  • Stannis truly intended to defeat Renly on the battlefield, not through the use of vile sorcery.

  • Subtle signs indicate that Lightbringer can be devastatingly effective in battle, particularly against horses and their riders.

  • Stannis intended/planned to use this surprise to hamstring and thus decimate Renly’s vanguard.

  • However this plan was thwarted by Melisandre when she unleashed her shadowspawn against Renly.

  • As Stannis’s “Lightbringer surprise” was prevented from happening, I believe that he plans to yet make use of it at the crofter’s village against the coming Freys.

  • In light of these insights, Stannis is most certainly not an intentional kinslayer.

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FURTHER INSIGHTS


A_GAME_OF_THRONES_LCG_by_nachomolinaOne major question remains:

Why would Melisandre move to kill Renly without Stannis’s involvement or approval?

Why indeed. Although answering this question in detail is beyond the scope of this essay, I believe I can briefly summarize the answer:

She moved to kill Renly to demonstrate the power of R’hllor, to instill Stannis with greater belief in her power.

She likely also did it to prove that she could kill a target in that fashion, hoping to convince Stannis that he could quickly take Storm’s End by leveraging her powers.

Consequently, Melisandre’s “insubordination” helped to expedite the fulfillment of her own agenda: the capture of Edric Storm.

In other words, her assassination of Renly was merely a “demonstration” of R’hllor’s power and how it could be used to expedite the capture of Storm’s End.

Is this because Melisandre truly wants to hasten Stannis’s campaign?

Hardly:

“Do you think I crossed half the world to put yet another vain king on yet another empty throne?”
— DAVOS III, A STORM OF SWORDS

In truth, it is much more likely that Melisandre was chiefly interested in expediting the capture of Edric Storm: the boy whom was wholly convinced was vital to her pursuit of ancient prophecy.

“My liege, you must have the castle, I see that now, but surely there are other ways. Cleaner ways. Let Ser Cortnay keep the bastard boy and he may well yield.”

I must have the boy, Davos. Must. Melisandre has seen that in the flames as well.
— DAVOS II, A CLASH OF KINGS

This highlights her obsession with kings blood and the lengths to which she will go in pursuit of her agenda:

Melisandre killed Renly simply to convince Stannis to use her powers in the same fashion so that she could more quickly take possession of the king’s bastard nephew.

Although this is a despicable-yet-noteworthy insight all by itself, it highlights another trend:

Melisandre often appears to “demonstrate” some of her powers.

It seems that these efforts are frequently attempts at enticing others into using said powers, often in fashions that advance her own agendas.

There is no guarantee that her agendas are aligned (or even sympathetic) toward the agendas of those who use her powers.

This is a subject that I explore in a later essay, still in research and writing.

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7 thoughts on “Teeth of the Rising Sun

  1. beto

    ok, well argued. but, it´s not like Melisandre can create shadow babies by herself..
    She needs Stanniss…uhmmm cooperation.

    Reply
    1. Kuruharan

      I agree. While the essay builds a strong case, in my reading of Stannis’ “confession” I always detect a note of palpable guilt that Stannis is trying to avoid.

      Maybe Stannis intended to use Lightbringer, but knew of the shadow assassin as a back up plan.

      Reply
      1. cantuse Post author

        FWIW, I’ve decided to rewrite this essay when I can. The scope goes well beyond what is necessary for the Mannifesto.

        The arguments regarding exoneration and the use of Lightbringer at Storm’s End are interesting, but of secondary importance to its use at the crofter’s village.

  2. GlasgowGuy

    “Explain to me why it is more noble to kill ten thousand men on the battlefield than a dozen at dinner.”
    – Tywin Lannister

    Now, say what you will about the legitimacy of the Red Wedding, but I have yet to hear anyone to explain to my satisfaction as to why it was not strategically justified, or not justified given the number of lives saved. The same is true with regard to the death of Renly Baratheon. Now, while I don’t LIKE to imagine Stannis as a kinslayer, so what if he is? The assassination of Renly Baratheon won over an entire army with far less expenditure in lives than a “noble” battle would have done. All it took was the death of one overconfident pretender whose victory would have set an enormously-destructive precedent for the succession of kings in Westeros’ future, and his death prevented that.

    “Stannis is a kinslayer”? Well so what?!

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  3. John

    If Stannis was unaware of Melisandre’s intent to use the shadow monster to kill Renly, then why did he have Davos smuggle her into Storm’s End? What did he think she was up to? Stannis fighting at the Blackwater without her suggests that he just doesn’t blindly follow her requests of him, so he would not just allow Davos to smuggle her somewhere without deeper knowledge of her intentions. The secretive nature of his request of Davos to smuggle Melisandre also implies that the subsequent events to the smuggling should be not be widely known. In this case, I believe Stannis has an internal conflict on the morality of killing Renly. He believes Kinslaying is wrong, but he also believes he has a moral obligation to the realm to secure the Iron Throne. To me, the resolution to this, and the source of his confessional tone to Davos, is that he did not expect to be so personally involved in the murder – ie dreaming of the events. If someone else, like Melisandre, or some agent of hers, kills Renly, then there exists the grounds of saying that Stannis is not a kinslayer, and he still did his duty to secure the realm. However, by experiencing the murder first-hand, something he probably did not expect-even if Melisandre explained the mechanics of using a shadow-monster to kill Renly-he feels much more responsible, and thus internally elevates himself to status of kinslayer. His use of “my hands are clean” implies that the source of his unease with Renly’s death is his feelings of personal involvement. It’s one thing to order the death of your kin, its another to do it yourself, and now he is having to deal with a much larger degree of internal, moral justification than he anticipated, when he made the decision to allow Melisandre to use the shadow-monster to kill Renly.
    Stannis also strikes me as a well-prepared guy. Just because he had intended on using Melisandre’s shadow monster to kill Renly, does not mean he did not also plan on having to battle a larger army that day. Melisandre’s shadow-monster could have failed (we don’t know if she had demonstrated that it would work before – and it seems like a lot of eggs in one magical basket for a guy like Stannis) or, even is the monster succeeded to kill Renly, there was no guarantee that would be enough to dissuade a bunch of noble lords who had already called their banners and marched all this way to just give up, change sides, or walk away. So, even Renly’s death could not guarantee the prevention of the battle. It seems very likely then, that Stannis would still be prepared to fight that day, even if his assassination attempt was successful. So, there is no logical reason to say that the lightbringer ploy was not a part of Stannis’ plans for victory at Storm’s End. However, this does bring into question your suggestion that Melisandre is acting in an insubordinate manner, at least, in this one case.
    So overall, great point that Stannis had a plan to defeat Renly in open combat, and that Lightbringer is likely involved, thus the overconfidence at the parley. But, I do believe after his diplomatic attempts to dissuade Renly failed, he saw no choice but to kill him and uphold his duty to the realm, using shadow-monster to kill Renly. However, he internally elevates himself to the status of kinslayer when he experiences Renly’s murder first-hand in his dreams, something that was unanticipated by him, and thus the reason he seems distraught with the events after they happened. Yet another case of using magic, and even having it be successfully employed, but still getting burned by it because that’s just the nature of Martin’s magic.

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  4. Kristi

    Even if the theory that Stannis is not an intentional kinslayer at the time of Renly’s murder is accepted, in the future he does intentionally plan on kinslaying via Edric Storm. He is clearly conflicted over each situation, and I also think that’s coming from someplace akin to Tywin’s “Explain to me why it is more noble to kill ten thousand men on the battlefield than a dozen at dinner” sentiment.

    What makes the series great is that characters are not good or evil, they are good AND evil. Something that Stannis himself absolutely understands (enter the smuggled salvation that is Davos)

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  5. Amerriken

    Id like to point out multiple things that would compliment your theory. It seems like there are two major tactical advantages that lightbringer provides apart from morale loss. The first, and probly more important, is how lightbringer scares tf out of horses. If I were a horse I would not want to charge towards a man swinging the sun in his hands either. The second effect of lightbringer, which is obvious solely by the name, is what I wanted to elaborate on–its bright. Im surprised you didnt delve further into analyzing the time and place that Stannis purposely chose. You pointed out that he most likely chose dawn so that the light from the true sun would contribute to the blinding effect lightbringer imposes, but lets truly identify the wisdom, or lack thereof, found in the chosen battlegrounds. Stannis is still camped beneath the walls of Storms End when Renly arrives with his vanguard. Having a legion of cavalry roll up on you during a siege sounds like the equivalent of being caught with your pants down; surely Stannis must have known Renly was coming. I understand how devastating it could be to let your enemy supply during a siege but Renlys supply lines hadnt caught up yet and Stannis didnt expect to take the castle before Renly attacked. Renly points out that theyre camped literally under the walls of Storms End and we constantly hear the “1 man on the wall is worth 10 below it” concept thrown around. Penrose could launch projectiles or lead a sortie at the exact same time Renly charges. Correct me if im wrong but if Stannis is encamped in a half-circle around Storms End and Renly surrounds his forces in a similar, but larger, half-circle then Renly can attack Stannis with more troops at once. In that sense itd even be better to be deployed in a straight line. Is there not a better place for Stannis to be deployed like with his back to the narrow sea so he can retreat if need be like on the Blackwater, or staked in on near high ground to give him an advantage against cavalry? No, because Storms End is white. Just like snow and ice. There is no color more refracting than white and storms end is perfectly curved with no gaps or crevices, so for all practical purposes its a light dispensary, With Storms End to their back the forces of Stannis wouldnt be affected by the light-refraction than they are by the dawn. They wont just be half blind, or even fully blinded, but theyll have watering eyes as they try to regain control of their mounts in the wrong directions. With the dawns light, lightbringer, and its’ refraction against Storms End the rising sun may have more teeth than originally thought. Now imagine it in the North during daytime. It doesnt have to be night-time for the Frey cavalry to charge onto cracked or hole-ridden ice anymore because there will be a conglomerate of light blinding them. Also the Freys are wearing metal which is obviously sunnier than what the wildlings around Jon were wearing.when they had to turn their heads to shade their eyes from lightbringer.

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