Desperately Seeking Davos


There is more to Tycho Nestoris than meets the eye. He has traveled farther and done much more than what seems to appear in the books. In particular, he is a crafty intelligence-gatherer and a keen investor.

This is the first of several essays that delve into Tycho’s secrets. In this essay, I focus on his travels in A Dance with Dragons, with an eye on proving Tycho’s capacity for both intelligence-gathering and his capacity to insure a reliable return on investment. In some ways, this essay is a proof of concept for subsequent entries that will explore these ideas in more depth.

Returning to the topic at hand, we can reason out some startling conclusions about Tycho from seemingly trivial details. In particular, I want to establish a few major points:

Tycho Nestoris (or his agent) sought Davos out, following him to White Harbor… to the point that both men were in the same winesink at the same time.

After Davos’s arrest and subsequent “death”, Tycho sailed for Eastwatch and Stannis, to secure contractual agreements to repay debts, as well as provide military intelligence.

In addition, Tycho may very well have set up a tentative agreement between Stannis and a former partner, repaying debts and insuring future incomes.


  1. The Informant. How Stannis learned about Davos’s “death”.
  2. The False Braavosi. There is a very suspicious character in White Harbor.
  3. Revealing your Hand. How Davos betrays his disguise, and its implications.
  4. Weaving the Threads. Assembling the previous sections into a cohesive theory.
  5. Conclusions and Implications. How Tycho may have already taken steps to provide for Stannis’s ongoing success.

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stannis_baratheon2The way to prove that Tycho was in White Harbor begins first by showing that he has knowledge that could only have come from there.

For a start, we begin with something Stannis utters in Theon’s sample chapter:

“Wyman Manderly.” The king’s mouth twisted in contempt. “Lord Too-Fat-to-Sit-a-Horse. Too fat to come to me, yet he comes to Winterfell. Too fat to bend the knee and swear me his sword, yet now he wields that sword for Bolton. I sent my Onion Lord to treat with him, and Lord Too-Fat butchered him and mounted his head and hands on the walls of White Harbor for the Freys to gloat over. And the Freys… has the Red Wedding been forgotten?”

So Stannis has been informed of Davos’s “death”. But there’s a subtle issue here:

Who informed Stannis of this? Who told the king of Davos’s fate?

Some observations:

  • Clearly Stannis was not aware of this prior to leaving for Deepwood Motte, since Davos’s false execution was conducted after Stannis left. Thus he must have learned it at some point along his marches toward Deepwood or Winterfell.
  • Stannis could not have learned it from Asha or anyone else at Deepwood, the only two letters she received prior to her capture were from Stannis and Ramsay:

The last message sent to Deepwood had been from Stannis Baratheon, demanding homage. This was worse. “The northmen have taken Moat Cailin.”

“The Bastard of Bolton?” asked Qarl, beside her.

“Ramsay Bolton, Lord of Winterfell, he signs himself.

  • Thus Stannis could have only learned about Davos’s fate after Deepwood Motte was liberated.
  • Given that Stannis does not have access to raven messaging during his march to Winterfell, and the fact that his army does not seem to encounter any wandering northerners… the only way Stannis could have learned about Davos is if:
    1. A message with this information was sent to Stannis while he lingered at Deepwood, or…
    2. Someone told Stannis in person. This person must have been in a position to have learned about Davos and subsequently met up with Stannis while he marched towards Winterfell.

There are only two people meeting this criteria:

  • Arnolf Karstark. It’s clear that Stannis was communicating with Karstark while at Deepwood Motte: how else could Stannis have summoned Karstark during the march? It’s possible that Arnolf told Stannis at that point. Arnolf also could have told the king after meeting up with Stannis at the crofter’s village.
  • Tycho Nestoris. The Braavosi banker was in Eastwatch and could have heard about Davos there. In any case, he certainly meets the requirement of having caught up with Stannis during the march to Winterfell.
  • A distant third candidate would be Mors Crowfood, because he too was summoned by Stannis after the liberation of Deepwood and thus meets the above criteria. However, I discount this possibility on the basis that Mors is land-locked a significant distance from White Harbor and possesses an infinitesimal population. It’s extremely unlikely that he has learned about Davos. Second, we know that most contact between Stannis and Mors Umber was conducted not via raven but envoy, such as when Horpe and Massey visited Crowfood in JON II – ADWD.

*   *   *

Which Candidate?

So between Arnolf and Tycho, who is the most likely to have told Stannis?

Before I tell you the answer, let’s provide some evidence and reasoning.

  • We already know that Arnolf Karstark provided Stannis with misleading intelligence. In the Theon sample chapter, Stannis appears to wholly believe that Davos is dead. But at the same time, Stannis also knows that Arnolf meant to betray him. Subsequently it’s entirely illogical to insist that Stannis trust any intelligence from Arnolf, to include any word about Davos’s fate.
  • Compare that to Tycho Nestoris, who has already demonstrated an ability to provide Stannis with reliable intelligence. Tycho told Stannis about the death of Aenys Frey, a fact later confirmed by Theon. Furthermore, Tycho has also demonstrated a tangible, financial interest in Stannis through the contract established in THEON I – TWOW. His word is infinitely more trustworthy, since the Iron Bank has an incentive to see Stannis succeed.
  • Stannis was keeping Arnolf at arm’s length. As I show in other essays (such as Subverting Betrayal), Stannis already distrusted Arnolf and appears to have been avoiding the castellan. This suggests that Arnolf did not have an opportunity to tell Stannis, even if he did know.
  • Arnolf already provided Stannis with an explanation of Davos’s likely fate:

“If is a word for fools. We have had no word from Davos. It may be he never reached White Harbor. Arnolf Karstark writes that the storms have been fierce upon the narrow sea. Be that as it may. I have no time to grieve, nor wait upon the whims of Lord Too-Fat. I must consider White Harbor lost to me.”

  • Arnolf was most likely waiting at the Dreadfort (traveled to the crofter’s village via the Dreadfort) prior to being summoned by Stannis. This is why Arnolf had maester Tybald of the Dreadfort with him. Knowing that hundreds of smallfolk were taking refuge in White Harbor out of fear of Ramsay, it’s highly unlikely that rumors about Davos’s death would have reached Arnolf via smallfolk or overland trade. With Ramsay Bolton occupying the Dreadfort, who in their right mind would travel there?
  • Likewise, neither Karhold nor the Dreadfort are hubs of sea or river trade, so Arnolf is unlikely to have learned about Davos via the scuttlebutt of traveling sailors.

There is a substantial amount of evidence and reason to doubt Arnolf Karstark as a candidate, especially when contrasted with Tycho. In light of these observations, it seems fair to eliminate him from the pool of suspects.

In that case, only Tycho Nestoris remains. Yet reducing the field to just one candidate does not automatically prove Tycho’s involvement. It does however provide an extremely narrow target upon which to focus our efforts.

Can we prove (or establish a preponderance of evidence) that Tycho told Stannis about Davos?

I’ve already pointed out that Tycho has demonstrated an ability to provide Stannis with strategically valuable information. If Tycho knew about Davos, there’s no reason to believe he would withhold that information.

Further, Tycho is a representative of the Iron Bank. The Iron Bank has a vested interest in seeing Stannis survive to repay the debts of the Iron Throne, plus interest. Thus Tycho and the bank have tremendous incentive to ensure Stannis has the best chances possible. It is in Tycho’s (and the Iron Bank’s) interests to share any knowledge which benefits Stannis. Tycho explicitly states this much:

“The debts belong to the Iron Throne,” Tycho declared, “and whosoever sits on that chair must pay them. Since young King Tommen and his counsellors have become so obdurate, we mean to broach the subject with King Stannis. Should he prove himself more worthy of our trust, it would of course be our great pleasure to lend him whatever help he needs.”

This should remove all doubt: if Tycho knew about Davos’s fate and considered it vital that Stannis knew, the banker would not hesitate to tell the king.

Why in seven hells does this matter?

The reason this matters relates to matters of military intelligence, if Tycho was the one to tell Stannis about Davos… what other secrets and tidbits of strategic value might he have shared?

Knowing that the Iron Bank has a vested interest in Stannis, it would seem wise of them to provide whatever knowledge that can bolster Stannis’s chances.

*   *   *

Means, Motive and Opportunity

I would hope that the observations above have convinced you that Tycho has both the motive and opportunity to tell Stannis about Davos. What remains lacking is the means.

In the context of this essay, means refers to Tycho’s capacity to have actually known about Davos.

So now we’ve created a very specific avenue of research: we research the details of Tycho’s travels. We specifically seek to answer the following:

How, when and where could Tycho have learned about Davos in the first place?

There is an immediate observation:

If Tycho did learn about Davos, it must have been prior to arriving at Eastwatch.

No one at the Wall or any subsequent phase of Tycho’s travels has apparent knowledge of Davos’s fate. Thus we are interested in determining Tycho’s travels prior to arriving at Eastwatch, and how he would have learned of Davos’s fate.

Explaining this requires a dive into White Harbor itself, specifically the chapter in A Dance with Dragons where Davos arrives in the city.

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fozhgvtyosl2lvtw6g50When Davos ‘smuggles himself’ into White Harbor, one of his first visits is to the Lazy Eel, a disreputable dive bar:

It was wine he wanted, though—sour, dark, and dismal. He strolled across the yard and down a flight of steps, to a winesink called the Lazy Eel, underneath a warehouse full of sheepskins. Back in his smuggling days, the Eel had been renowned for offering the oldest whores and vilest wine in White Harbor, along with meat pies full of lard and gristle that were inedible on their best days and poisonous on their worst. With fare like that, most locals shunned the place, leaving it for sailors who did not know any better. You never saw a city guardsman down in the Lazy Eel, or a customs officer.

Davos has the intentions of gathering intelligence here, to find out about the regional politics before he makes any move to call upon Wyman Manderly.

The only problem is that there’s something amiss in this winesink:

There is a highly suspicious Braavosi sailor in the Lazy Eel.

Let me show you an insurmountable heap of evidence:

*   *   *

Somber Attire

The oarsman’s garb is wholly incorrect for a Braavosi of his status. Take a look at this excerpt from A Feast for Crows, where Samwell and Arya encounter some bravos:

Leaving, he almost bumped into two young men beneath the Cattery’s red lantern. One was dark and one was fair. The dark-haired one said something in Braavosi. “I am sorry,” Sam had to say. “I do not understand.” He edged away from them, afraid. In the Seven Kingdoms nobles draped themselves in velvets, silks, and samites of a hundred hues whilst peasants and smallfolk wore raw wool and dull brown roughspun. In Braavos it was otherwise. The bravos swaggered about like peacocks, fingering their swords, whilst the mighty dressed in charcoal grey and purple, blues that were almost black and blacks as dark as a moonless night.

“My friend Terro says you are so fat you make him sick,” said the fair-haired bravo, whose jacket was green velvet on one side and cloth-of-silver on the other. “My friend Terro says that the rattle of your sword makes his head ache.” He was speaking in the Common Tongue. The other one, the dark-haired bravo in the burgundy brocade and yellow cloak whose name would appear to have been Terro, made some comment in Braavosi, and his fair-haired friend laughed, and said, “My friend Terro says you dress above your station. Are you some great lord, to wear the black?”

We clearly see that Braavosi reserve the more subdued hues for the high and mighty. Now consider that oarsman:

“I do,” said the man who’d started all the talk of dragons, a Braavosi oarsman in a somber woolen jack.

Want to know something interesting? There is another Braavosi in A Dance with Dragons whose garb is described as ‘somber’:

“And here we have the honorable Tycho Nestoris, an emissary of the Iron Bank of Braavos, come to treat with His Grace King Stannis.”

The banker doffed his hat and made a sweeping bow. “Lord Commander. I thank you and your brothers for your hospitality.” He spoke the Common Tongue flawlessly, with only the slightest hint of accent. Half a foot taller than Jon, the Braavosi sported a beard as thin as a rope sprouting from his chin and reaching almost to his waist. His robes were a somber purple, trimmed with ermine. A high stiff collar framed his narrow face. “I hope we shall not inconvenience you too greatly.”

If the color of clothing is a marker of status in Braavosi culture and Tycho wears ‘somber’ garb, it makes no sense for the oarsman to be wearing a ‘somber jack’ unless he was somehow equivalent in status to a banker of the Iron Bank. An unlikely circumstance to say the least.

The idea that ‘somber’ garb is indicative of high status is once again reinforced in Arya’s sample chapter from The Winds of Winter:

The balconies were filling too. The first and third levels were for merchants and captains and other respectable folk. The bravos preferred the fourth and highest, where the seats were cheapest. It was a riot of bright color up there, while down below more somber shades held sway. The second balcony was cut up into private boxes where the mighty could comport themselves in comfort and privacy, safely apart from the vulgarity above and below.

Once again high-status Braavosi are specifically identified with the term ‘somber’. Furthermore, notice the reuse of the term ‘mighty’ as an indication of high status, as the bravos in Samwell’s excerpt also stated. These are amazingly congruent with the prior passages.

Returning to Westeros, isn’t it therefore striking that the Storm Dancer‘s “oarsman” and Tycho are the only two Braavosi in Westeros who are described in such somber garb. Indeed, only one other person in all of A Dance of Dragons is described as wearing somber colors: Moqorro—after his robes have been drenched in ocean water for days before his rescue.

So you have to ask yourself: How many Braavosi with status akin to a banker of the Iron Bank can there be wandering around the port cities of Westeros?

NOTE: You will find mention of somber garb elsewhere in A Song of Ice and Fire, but these passages do not refer to Braavosi. They also often occur in situations where the context renders somber to have a meaning other that implying superior status, such as wearing somber clothes to Tywin’s wake.

*   *   *

Japing of Dragons

A true Braavosi does not joke about dragons:

“My lord jests. You will forgive me if I do not laugh. We Braavosi are descended from those who fled Valyria and the wroth of its dragonlords. We do not jape of dragons.

And yet the Braavosi oarsman clearly drops a joke about dragons in the bar:

“Daenerys,” Davos said. “She was named for the Daenerys who wed the Prince of Dorne during the reign of Daeron the Second. I don’t know what became of her.”

“I do,” said the man who’d started all the talk of dragons, a Braavosi oarsman in a somber woolen jack. “When we were down to Pentos we moored beside a trader called the Sloe-Eyed Maid, and I got to drinking with her captain’s steward. He told me a pretty tale about some slip of a girl who come aboard in Qarth, to try and book passage back to Westeros for her and three dragons. Silver hair she had, and purple eyes. ‘I took her to the captain my own self,’ this steward swore to me, ‘but he wasn’t having none of that. There’s more profit in cloves and saffron, he tells me, and spices won’t set fire to your sails.’ 

Laughter swept the cellar.

*   *   *

Incorrect Nationality

After a small bit of discussion, eventually the conversation turns to dragons. The first bit we hear on the subject is this:

His fellow drinkers were talking about dragons now. “You’re bloody mad,” said an oarsman off Storm Dancer. “The Beggar King’s been dead for years. Some Dothraki horselord cut his head off.”

Later, this same oarsman is identified as a Braavosi:

“I do,” said the man who’d started all the talk of dragons, a Braavosi oarsman in a somber woolen jack.

Now herein lies a major problem:

This Braavosi oarsman says he serves aboard Storm Dancer.

However, Storm Dancer is a Tyroshi ship.

This ship first appeared in A Game of Thrones, it was the ship Catelyn took from White Harbor to King’s Landing:

Moreo smiled. “As you say.” He spoke the Common Tongue fluently, with only the slightest hint of a Tyroshi accent. He’d been plying the narrow sea for thirty years, he’d told her, as oarman, quartermaster, and finally captain of his own trading galleys. The Storm Dancer was his fourth ship, and his fastest, a two-masted galley of sixty oars.

Lest you be concerned that Moreo hires non-Tyroshi seamen:

Moreo bellowed a command. As one, sixty oars lifted from the river, then reversed and backed water. The galley slowed. Another shout. The oars slid back inside the hull. As they thumped against the dock, Tyroshi seamen leapt down to tie up.

So of course another problem with this ‘Braavosi oarsman’ is that he claims to serve aboard a ship that would most likely not take him. Slavery in Tyrosh is widely practiced, the ratio of slaves to freemen being around 3:1. This would seem to strongly discourage any free Braavosi from serving on a Tyroshi ship.

*   *   *

Incorrect Attribution

Next, this same Braavosi oarsman claims to have heard a fantastic tale from the steward of the Sloe-Eyed Maid:

“I do,” said the man who’d started all the talk of dragons, a Braavosi oarsman in a somber woolen jack. “When we were down to Pentos we moored beside a trader called the Sloe-Eyed Maid, and I got to drinking with her captain’s steward. He told me a pretty tale about some slip of a girl who come aboard in Qarth, to try and book passage back to Westeros for her and three dragons. Silver hair she had, and purple eyes. ‘I took her to the captain my own self,’ this steward swore to me, ‘but he wasn’t having none of that. There’s more profit in cloves and saffron, he tells me, and spices won’t set fire to your sails.’ ”

However, this is not reflective of the actual truth we get from Daenerys herself:

The cargomaster of the Myrish galley Silken Spirit opined that dragons were too dangerous at sea, where any stray breath of flame might set the rigging afire. The owner of Lord Faro’s Belly would risk dragons, but not Dothraki. “I’ll have no such godless savages in my Belly, I’ll not.” The two brothers who captained the sister ships Quicksilver and Greyhound seemed sympathetic and invited them into the cabin for a glass of Arbor red. They were so courteous that Dany was hopeful for a time, but in the end the price they asked was far beyond her means, and might have been beyond Xaro’s. Pinchbottom Petto and Sloe-Eyed Maid were too small for her needs, Bravo was bound for the Jade Sea, and Magister Manolo scarce looked seaworthy.

A close read shows that the real reason the Sloe-Eyed Maid wasn’t used was because it was too small, not because the captain feared the dragons. It’s not even clear that Daenerys needed to board the Maid in order to determine its insufficiency, the excerpt manages to include details from Dany’s encounters with each captain except for Pinchbottom, Manolo and the Sloe-Eyed Maid, who all had issues that would not require boarding them to see.

In fact, it looks like the words from the Silken Spirit’s cargomaster are a much more accurate match for the Braavosi’s claims.

 *   *   *

Curious Cargo Knowledge

As noted previously, the oarsman incorrectly attributes his joke to a steward from the Sloe-Eyed Maid. In telling his joke, he specifically mentions cloves and saffron, the two spices (aside from Volantene black pepper) that the Sloe-Eyed Maid was carrying.

Isn’t it convenient that this oarsman pins his story on a ship that no longer exists, one that Davos just so happened to learn about?

Isn’t it also convenient that the oarsman mentions the very same spices that we know Davos encountered in relation to the Sloe-Eyed Maid?

Saffron is a rare and costly thing, worth more that gold according to Davos. Only kings appear to be able to afford it with any regularity. You would assume it’s not a spice that trades in high volume, thereby indicating that its uncommon aboard ships.

Although it cannot be proven, this might suggest that the oarsman may know something about what happened to the Sloe-Eyed Maid.

*   *   *

Odd History

One final oddity is that this Braavosi also declares he once served aboard the Princess Daena:

“Daena was old King Baelor’s wife,” said the oarsman. “I rowed on a ship named for her once. The Princess Daena.

The name of the ship is congruous with the names assigned to vessels in the King’s fleet. I find it highly curious that a Braavosi once served on one of the king’s ships… as an oarsman of all things.

*   *   *

And Yet a Braavosi?

You might not agree that all of the prior observations are that meaningful, but collectively there seems to be enough inconsistencies in the Braavosi’s presentation to draw a reader’s suspicion. Surely you can agree that the ‘somber jack’ and the dragon joke to be especially odd.

What do these findings suggest?

Without reading too much into the data, some cursory ideas emerge:

  • The Braavosi oarsman may not actually be a Braavosi at all. This would be based on the idea that the number of inconsistencies suggest the oarsman is pretending to be a Braavosi deckhand on the Tyroshi Storm Dancer.
  • Alternatively, the Braavosi oarsman may indeed be genuine, but poorly disguised. The fact that Davos identifies the oarsman as Braavosi may suggest that he is observing things not on the page, such as accent or facial features. Thus it’s possible that the man is indeed Braavosi, but the various problems with his presentation indicate an inability to recognize the various “tells” that would spoil his disguise.
  • It’s also possible that the Braavosi’s disguise is actually sufficient, its just that readers are too well-informed to miss the discrepancies, once they are pointed out. This is quite plausible: each of the oddities shown above were only noticed because they differed from accounts in multiple point-of-view chapters, each one from a different character. No one character in the books knows all of the different reasons to suspect the oarsman, only readers are thus equipped.
  • Another possibility is that all of these observations are just benign, or are authorial mistakes. I find that hard to swallow, especially the ‘somber jack’ and the dragon joke.

So, discarding the last possibility, the remaining options suggest the idea of a person who is concealing a true identity.

Who then could this possibly false Braavosi actually be?

Well, given the observations about Braavosi clothing, you would automatically assume that the oarsman is either a captain, a high-ranking merchant, or a keyholder/banker.

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white_harbor_by_captainklugsch-d6unyygWhen Davos arrives in White Harbor, he intends to conceal his presence until he is confident that he can approach Wyman Manderly safely:

A pair of customs men were clambering aboard as he went down the gangplank, but neither gave him so much as a glance. They were there to see the captain and inspect the hold; common seamen did not concern them, and few men looked as common as Davos. He was of middling height, his shrewd peasant’s face weathered by wind and sun, his grizzled beard and brown hair well salted with grey. His garb was plain as well: old boots, brown breeches and blue tunic, a woolen mantle of undyed wool, fastened with a wooden clasp. He wore a pair of salt-stained leather gloves to hide the stubby fingers of the hand that Stannis had shortened, so many years ago. Davos hardly looked a lord, much less a King’s Hand. That was all to the good until he knew how matters stood here.

However, during the heated discussion in the Lazy Eel, Davos makes two telling mistakes:

“Daenela,” the proprietor said loudly. “That was her name. The Mad King’s daughter, I mean, not Baelor’s bloody wife.”

Daenerys,” Davos said. “She was named for the Daenerys who wed the Prince of Dorne during the reign of Daeron the Second. I don’t know what became of her.”

“I do,” said the man who’d started all the talk of dragons, a Braavosi oarsman in a somber woolen jack. “When we were down to Pentos we moored beside a trader called the Sloe-Eyed Maid, and I got to drinking with her captain’s steward. He told me a pretty tale about some slip of a girl who come aboard in Qarth, to try and book passage back to Westeros for her and three dragons. Silver hair she had, and purple eyes. ‘I took her to the captain my own self,’ this steward swore to me, ‘but he wasn’t having none of that. There’s more profit in cloves and saffron, he tells me, and spices won’t set fire to your sails.’ ”

Laughter swept the cellar. Davos did not join in. He knew what had befallen the Sloe-Eyed Maid. The gods were cruel to let a man sail across half the world, then send him chasing a false light when he was almost home. That captain was a bolder man than me, he thought, as he made his way to the door.

Davos’s words and actions betray two key details about him:

  • Davos has a knowledge of Targaryen history much greater than his commoner peers. Let’s put it this way: if you reverse perspectives, the Braavosi “oarsman” would have realized that Davos possesses an education inconsistent with his common appearance. This would seem to ably mirror our observations about the oarsman!
  • Davos has knowledge of (or some other connection to) the Sloe-Eyed Maid. The joke regarding the Sloe-Eyed Maid seems to bother Davos and compel him to leave the Lazy Eel, without laughing at all. It’s conspicuous. It would be entirely reasonable for an astute witness to conclude that Davos had some sort of connection or interest in the Maid. Consider this point in light of the fact that the oarsman also mentioned the rare saffron the Maid carried as well.

There seems to be a reasonable hypothesis emerging here:

By allowing these two mistakes Davos betrays his own disguise.

Thus Davos has revealed himself as educated beyond his common appearance, and knowledgeable of the Sloe-Eyed Maid. He too is in disguise.

So what? How could these two mistakes in the Lazy Eel possibly be important?

Consider the following:

Is it possible that Davos was deliberately coaxed into these mistakes?

This would suggest that the oarsman may have been specifically looking for Davos. Perhaps this oarsman is some sort of undercover agent. This possibility makes some sense: Davos is extremely common looking, it would be difficult for a stranger to identify him.

Now let me return to that observation about the Sloe-Eyed Maid‘s cargo and ask a question:

What if the Braavosi oarsman knew about the fate of the Sloe-Eyed Maid’s fate, and the cargo she carried?

If the Braavosi already knew about the Maid‘s fate *and* was looking for Davos, the oarsman may have used this detail to ‘out’ Davos at the Lazy Eel.

Of course, there is a major problem with this idea:

How could the Braavosi know about the Maid‘s fate, or it’s cargo?

Those details would only seem to be privy to the people of Sweetsister, Godric Borrell in particular. This is a concern that I will address, but later in this essay.

*   *   *

Although I’ve left a few points lacking in explanation, I feel ready to connect the dots. Before proceeding just keep these observations in mind:

  • Davos reveals his disingenuous appearance while at the Lazy Eel.
  • The oarsman may have been actively searching for Davos, attempting to coax Davos into revealing himself.
  • In order to have understood the significance of the ‘Sloe-Eyed Maid‘ joke, the oarsman would have needed knowledge unavailable outside of Sweetsister, perhaps known only to some of Lord Borrell’s men.

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Game-of-Thrones-Season-4-Episode-6-StannisLet’s connect the dots and make a complete theory. First, a brief synopsis of the observations:

  • In the first section of this essay, I arrived at the theory that Stannis could only have learned about Davos from Tycho Nestoris.
  • In the second section, I showed that there is a highly suspicious Braavosi character in White Harbor at the same time as Davos.
  • Lastly, I showed how Davos has perhaps revealed his identity to the oarsman. I also introduced the hypothesis that the oarsman may have been actively looking for Davos, intentionally steering conversation in order to trick Davos into a mistake.

I believe that these observations are facets of a larger idea. By synthesizing these observations, I arrive at the following theory:

Tycho knows about Davos because he was at White Harbor at the same time as Davos.

Tycho (or one of his agents) was the Braavosi oarsman.

Tycho first looked for Davos on Sweetsister. He was subsequently directed to White Harbor.

There is an interesting observation that could very well support this, a noteworthy ship in the harbor.

*   *   *

The Braavosi Galleas

There is an unnamed Braavosi galleas in White Harbor when Davos arrives:

It was the seagoing vessels that interested him most, however; a pair of carracks as drab and tattered as the Merry Midwife, the trading galley Storm Dancer, the cogs Brave Magister and Horn of Plenty, a galleas from Braavos marked by her purple hull and sails …

So there is certainly a ship that could have ferried Tycho to White Harbor. This is novel because one of the ships that Tycho later claims to own is a galleas:

“Cotter Pyke informs me that you came to Eastwatch with three ships. A galleas, a galley, and a cog.”

So its entirely possible that Tycho was traveling aboard the galleas in White Harbor, or is otherwise affiliated with it.

*   *   *

The Big Question — Why Look for Davos?

There is a big question that I have yet to answer:

Why would Tycho want to speak with Davos, in lieu of Stannis himself?

Well obviously there is the matter of location. If Tycho knew where to find Davos, it would certainly be easier than trekking all the way to the Wall.

As Hand, Davos speaks with Stannis’s voice. He could vouchsafe Stannis’s intent to repay debts, and so forth.

*   *   *

The Other Big Question

How would Tycho know where to find Davos?

Consider that I’m right about a specific hypothesis:

  • Tycho (or his affiliate) does know about the Sloe-Eyed Maid‘s fate, as well as its cargo.
  • Not only that, but this person was also aware that Davos knew. The joke was a deliberate attempt to spot Davos based on his reaction.

How would this person know all of these things?

This person could only have learned these facts on Sweetsister. The details concerning the spices (particularly saffron) might be closely held by Lord Borrell.

This would necessitate that Tycho first stopped in Sweetsister while looking for Davos.

But why would Tycho stop at Sweetsister?

Simple: because someone told him that Davos was there. This is a point where I’d rather not make the answer obvious, I’d rather leave it for you to puzzle out. I will give you a clue though:

What ‘mystery person’ would know that Davos was on Sweetsister?

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343e7be35e7820719b601d69f3d49637So you see, the theory goes like this:

  1. Tycho and his ships were sailing to meet Stannis, in an effort to discuss debts to the Iron Bank.
  2. Tycho encounters the mystery person from the previous section, who directs him to Sweetsister.
  3. Tycho looks for Davos on Sweetsister. While here he learns about the Sloe-Eyed Maid, and/or that Davos has traveled to White Harbor.
  4. Once at White Harbor, Tycho or an affiliate conducts a covert search for Davos. Tycho ultimately discovered Davos in the Lazy Eel but did not have time to approach him prior to Davos’s ‘arrest’ by the Manderly garrison.
  5. In resignation Tycho sails for Eastwatch and Stannis.
  6. Upon finally reaching Stannis, Tycho tells Stannis about Davos’s “death”.

A few of these points warrant further explanation:

Why would the mystery person tell where Davos went? What would their interest in this venture be?

Again, without revealing the mystery, consider what Tycho, a representative of the Iron Bank, can immediately do to satisfy a major financial problem, serve the banks own interests, *and* renew their interest in Stannis and/or Davos.

How would Tycho discover that Davos had left Sweetsister for White Harbor?

First of all, the mystery person could have simply said that Davos was going to Sweetsister, and planned to subsequently go to White Harbor.

Two other possibilities occur to me. First, Tycho could have simply learned of Davos’s destination from Lord Godric Borrell himself. After all, Godric had previously showed an interest in ransoming Davos for gold, and Tycho is certainly in a position to satisfy that desire.

However, Godric may be serious about his desire to feign loyalty to the Iron Throne, denying his involvement with Davos. In this case, Tycho could have learned or reasoned Davos’s departure, based on a few details:

She was not a ship to draw a second glance, unless it was to wonder how she stayed afloat. The Merry Midwife was known in White Harbor too. For years she had plied a humble trade between there and Sisterton.

“How long will you be gone?”

“A day at least. It may be longer.” Davos had found that lords liked to keep you waiting. They did it to make you anxious, he suspected, and to demonstrate their power.

“The Midwife will linger here three days. No longer. They will look for me back in Sisterton.

A cursory investigation would reveal the recent departure of the Midwife, and it wouldn’t be too hard to presume that Davos left on that ship. Tycho would then only need a ship faster than the wallowing Midwife in order to arrive at White Harbor first: to this end, the Braavosi galley or the Storm Dancer would be suited. Tycho would leave the other two ships on Sweetsister.

*   *   *

You have to trek back to the beginning of this essay and recall what I argued:

Tycho was the one who told Stannis about Davos’s “death”.

The reason Tycho knows this is because he was actively pursuing Davos.

After Davos’s death, Tycho sails for Stannis.

Herein lies a potentially massive revelation in A Dance with Dragons. When Jon first talks to Tycho, he inquires about debts:

“You come seeking Stannis, is that correct?”

“It is, my lord. Queen Selyse has suggested that we might send word to Deepwood Motte by raven, to inform His Grace that I await his pleasure at the Nightfort. The matter that I mean to put to him is too delicate to entrust to letters.

“A debt.” What else could it be? “His own debt? Or his brother’s?”

The banker pressed his fingers together. “It would not be proper for me to discuss Lord Stannis’s indebtedness or lack of same. As to King Robert … it was indeed our pleasure to assist His Grace in his need. For so long as Robert lived, all was well. Now, however, the Iron Throne has ceased all repayment.”

“…Should he prove himself more worthy of our trust, it would of course be our great pleasure to lend him whatever help he needs.

Earlier I pointed out that the Iron Bank has tremendous incentive to aid Stannis. I believe that the Iron Bank may have established a tentative agreement with our ‘mystery person’, to repay debts Stannis owes, replenish his losses, and aid Stannis in his campaign.

Of course this aid would be contingent on Stannis accepting the bank’s terms. It is possible that the Iron Bank would fund the mystery person in advance of Stannis’s terms, but this is completely uncertain.

Before you discount this theory, I want to show some highly relevant excerpts:

Stannis snorted. “You spend your words as if every one were a golden dragon. I wonder, how much gold do you have laid by?”

“Gold?” Are those the dragons the red woman means to wake? Dragons made of gold? “Such taxes as we collect are paid in kind, Your Grace. The Watch is rich in turnips but poor in coin.”

“Turnips are not like to appease Salladhor Saan. I require gold or silver.”

“Stannis will be paying for them,” Salladhor Saan had fumed. “He will be paying for them with good gold, every one.”

Davos had tried to persuade him to stay true. If Salla abandoned Stannis and his cause, he pointed out, he abandoned all hope of collecting the gold that was due him. A victorious King Tommen was not like to pay his defeated uncle’s debts, after all. Salla’s only hope was to remain loyal to Stannis Baratheon until he won the Iron Throne. Elsewise he would never see a groat of his money. He had to be patient.

Davos threaded his way through the tables to a chair. In the days before his knighthood, he had often bought cargoes from Salladhor Saan. The Lyseni was a smuggler himself, as well as a trader, a banker, a notorious pirate, and the self-styled Prince of the Narrow Sea.

The king’s voice was choked with anger. “You are a worse pirate than Salladhor Saan.”

“Oh, and take the Stark girl with you. Deliver her to Lord Commander Snow on your way to Eastwatch.” Stannis tapped the parchment that lay before him. “A true king pays his debts.”

What you see emerging is a clear solution to both Stannis and Salladhor’s woes: a sure stream of income. Not only can Stannis finally pay Salladhor, but he can insure that future payments can be faithfully made.

Further, with Salladhor’s background as a banker, he would be well aware of the stability of incomes granted via the Iron Bank (so long as Stannis does not default on repayments).

Further, we can see in Stannis’s behavior that he is truly committed to repaying debts whenever he can.

*   *   *

This is where I choose to end this essay, but I am not finished examining Tycho’s importance to the novels. Further essays will appear in the near-future.

<table of contents>

<the mannifesto>

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27 thoughts on “Desperately Seeking Davos

  1. Riusma

    Perhaps you should clarify your essay according a timeline, because the decision to stop the repay of the Throne’s debt is taken after that the news of Davos captivity has reached King’s Landing (in ADWD, Cersei IV, this chapter must be between 2 and 16 days after ADWD, Davos II has Davos first captivity seems to last only 18 days… I favour the less because the news of Davos execution reach King’s Landing in ADWD, Cersei V, and the Queen had turned of the Braavosi envoy Noho Dimittis for a fortnight ; the Iron Bank reacts very quickly after Cersei’s decision, the timing suggesting that Noho Dimittis is a kind of ambassador at King’s Landing). The death of Tywin Lannister may have forced the Iron Bank to reconsider the question of the debt earlier… but I think that you should clarify the question of Tycho Nestori’s motivation in an early support of Stannis. :s

    Authorial mistakes remain unfortunately a possibility as in ADWD, Davos I we have the Old Mother’s Son sinking by Davos account, and some sailors account of the same boat in the Stepstones with salladhor’s Valyrian “later” in AFFC, Arya III (or Salladhor has a new “Old Mother’s Son”, there is perhaps enough time). Petyr Baelish has to sent Oswell Kettleblack at Braavos to find two dwarfs (ASOS, Sansa VI) but by Penny’s account the guy (“Oswald” ^^) has hired them at Pentos (ADWD, Tyrion VIII)…

    I’ve loved reading this essay and it’s a really nice hypothesis… but I don’t know it’s reasonable. :s

    1. cantuse Post author

      My son is currently occupying me, but you’ve raised a concern that I should probably address. I’ve already done the digging, I just need to write up my response, which should be later tonight.

      Edit: Okay, I can finally provide some detail.

      You did cause me to go back and check the timelines. I’m currently using the one located here.

      In CERSEI IV – AFFC, it is revealed that Cersei has stopped paying the Iron Bank:

      Cersei had heard his objections before. “Our lord treasurer is trying to say that we have too many gold cloaks and too little gold.” Rosby’s coughing had begun to vex her. Perhaps Garth the Gross would not have been so ill. “Though large, the crown incomes are not large enough to keep abreast of Robert’s debts. Accordingly, I have decided to defer our repayment of the sums owed the Holy Faith and the Iron Bank of Braavos until war’s end.” The new High Septon would doubtless wring his holy hands, and the Braavosi would squeak and squawk at her, but what of it? “The monies saved will be used for the building of our new fleet.”

      We need to take a close look at the subtext here. Cersei indicates that she’s already implemented her decision; she’s merely just informing the council. The question is then “When did she stop repayment to the Iron Bank?”

      It’s clear that she only implemented this at some point after Gyles Rosby was appointed Master of Coin, which occurred in CERSEI II – AFFC. Looking at the timeline, this means as early as 1/27 or so. Now we then see Noho Dimittis show up around 4/4, but actually 4/4 minus 14 days, because Cersei kept him waiting a fortnight. This puts Dimittis’s arrival at around 3/20. Looking at the timeline, it would appear that Davos’s arrival in White Harbor is around 3/12.

      Given the distances involved, my theory remains valid… but you might not be seeing why right away. It’s because there’s no reason that Noho and Tycho could not have been dispatched simultaneously. I think its easy to read into Tycho’s commentary and believe that he didn’t leave Braavos until after Noho returned from King’s Landing, but that is not necessarily the case.

      Indeed, this also makes sense of the fact that there actually two different bankers driving these negotiations: otherwise you would think that it would have been easier to simply repurpose Noho Dimittis after his mission at King’s Landing failed.

      What this makes me realize is that the Iron Bank may be much, much more cruel towards people who renege on their debts than anyone likely thought.

  2. Wolfson

    Hmm, it looks like the timeline shows Davos arriving in White Harbor on 3/2, not 3/12. So if Noho arrived in King’s Landing on 3/20, after a trip of roughly 2 weeks (certainly it would be shorter than Sam’s 18-day Eastwatch-to-Braavos journey), that puts his departure around 3/6…which is 4 days after Tycho would have had to already be in White Harbor. It seems questionable that the Iron Bank would have sent an envoy to Stannis before sending one to King’s Landing. Even if you assume they sent Tycho and Noho at the same time, it seems odd that they would risk getting into a potential situation where Noho comes back to report that the Iron Throne has reconsidered, and then Tycho returns to announce that he’s pledged a million dragons to Stannis.

    This essay is a very interesting read, but the timeline may prove a thornier issue than you think.

    1. cantuse Post author

      I responded to Ruisma below about some of the timeline related concerns you both brought up.

      It should be noted that Tycho views Stannis’s debts as a discrete entity, separate from Robert or Joffrey’s debts:

      The banker pressed his fingers together. “It would not be proper for me to discuss Lord Stannis’s indebtedness or lack of same. As to King Robert … it was indeed our pleasure to assist His Grace in his need. For so long as Robert lived, all was well. Now, however, the Iron Throne has ceased all repayment.”

      Thus based on that technicality, it would seem plausible for Tycho to extend a loan to Stannis independent of debts currently assigned to the other kings.

      Subsequently, the Iron Bank could receive payments on those prior debts from either claimant to the throne (Tommen or Stannis). The Iron Bank only needs to have its dues paid.

      For instance, lets say that Cersei/Kevan agree to resume paying their dues to the IB, and Stannis draws a loan and assumes those same debts. It’s entirely win/win for the IB:

      • The IB will have its open debts from the prior kings being paid, by one or perhaps even two claimants.
      • The IB will have new loans to Stannis with expectations of growing incomes via interest.
      • The IB would eventually have a new king in Stannis who has established a new contractual obligation and shown mettle, that he will be faithful to his debts.

      In other words, the IB only really needs to care about Cersei and her council insofar as it concerns paying debts… Noho was never going to provide funds (nor is there evidence of this). Yet, Tycho is quite different; readily offering money.

      It strongly suggests that by the time Noho and Tycho moved, the Bank was already prepared to withdraw its financial support and call in debts. The Bank had already decided to cease all further interest in the current crown.

  3. Riusma

    According your timeline (perhaps I’m not looking at the good file), Cersei V is around 3/22 and Cersei IV around 3/16 (and Davos II 3/2), which means that Noho Dimittri has already try to meet Cersei in Cersei IV, which obviously don’t work (“and the Braavosi would squeak and squawk at her”… would). So according to you, Cersei stop the repayment for some 53 days at most (you’re right, it’s enough for going to Braavos from King’s Landing and coming back) … and Pycelle has heard nothing about it before she inform the council ? (The effective decision may have been taken some days before but I seriously doubt that it’s so close to Cersei II). Tycho also inform Jon that when he has lived Braavos there was ice on the canals (ADWD, Jon IX), which do not seems to be the case in Arya’s chapters in AFFC. I do not dispute the fact that Tycho (or other Iron Bank’s agents) may be at White Harbor in Davos II, but it seems to me that it is heavily implied that before reaching Eastwatch by the Sea he has performed a halt at Braavos.

    By the way, always a pleasure to read your essays, and waiting for the next. 😉

    1. cantuse Post author

      Both you and Wolfson must be looking at different files (I’m using the PDF version), because it calls out that Davos II would likely be 3/12… I double and triple-checked this after Wolfson’s concerns. Makes the discussion difficult, obviously. In particular, the PDF uses a slightly different, updated calculation for boat travel times.

      As for how soon Cersei issued the order to stop repayment, it could indeed have happened quickly. At least almost immediately after Gyles took a look at the crown’s ledgers and balance sheet. Which you would think to be one of the very first orders of business for the new Master of Coin. Normally I would agree that someone would have spotted the stupidity of non-payment to the IB, but consider who could have actually done something about it… Cersei, or Harys Swyft; the former being the one who made the decision, and the latter being a blithe lickspittle who agrees to everything that doesn’t require much work on his part. In any other small council, Cersei’s mismanagement of the king’s finances would have been discovered much earlier.

  4. Riusma

    We are both looking at the online version “Vandal Proof”, which seems to have been adjusted (or it is your pdf, I don’t know). As I work on my own timeline, I place AFFC, Cersei II around 2/10, ADWD Davos II around 3/10, AFFC, Cersei IV around 3/13 and AFFC, Cersei V around 4/2.

    I’m not convinced by your workaround width Cersei’s decision to stop repayment that early (note that Swyft only “concurs” at the council meeting in Cersei IV)…

    1. cantuse Post author

      After a night to sleep and think, I feel like I want to respect your concerns, and those of other readers (such as /r/asoiaf). I can’t disagree over the narrow window in which the Tycho-as-oarsman-in-WH could happen.

      To that end I wrote up a summary of the discussion: pointing out some structural issues with the essay that confuse the narrative, acknowledging criticisms like yours, and so on. The goal was to create a fair representation of the “Pro v. Con” regarding this essay. I’d like your input on if this feels like a fair representation of your criticism regarding the timeline:

      * * *
      I definitely agree that things like the ship story, etc may be completely benign. I only threw as many as I could find together because you really only need one or two good ones in order to find the oarsman suspicious. I wrote all the ‘evidence’ out before I realized just how powerful the ‘somber’ clothing was… because I hadn’t yet noticed that Arya uses the exact same observations in her Mercy chapter. Once I picked up on that, it became overwhelming that the oarsman’s clothing is off.

      Another issue that I realize is that the essay is essentially declaring two separate theories:

      • Tycho told Stannis about Davos.
      • Tycho was in White Harbor.

      And these theories are substantiated by various observations that readers may have disagreements on.

      The underlying points (in order of feasibility):

      • I think by reason of exclusion, Tycho is definitely the one to have told Stannis about Davos. I don’t think most people would contest that he is the most reasonable, evidenced candidate.
      • I think most people also accept that Tycho learned about Davos somewhere prior to arriving at Eastwatch, which would most likely suggest he went to (or near) White Harbor during his travels.
      • I don’t think people disagree with the idea that the oarsman is suspicious either. I think I’ve more or less proved that. It’s perfectly fair to dispute one or many of the different pieces of ‘evidence’ I claimed but I really think only one or two are necessary to find the oarsman highly conspicuous, his garb in particular.
      • The big ‘leap’ that the essay makes is whether or not the oarsman is Tycho (or an agent of his), suggesting that Tycho and Davos were in WH at the same time, searching for Davos.

        A secondary presumption here is that the oarsman was deliberately probing the Lazy Eel for an educated man who knew about the Sloe-Eyed Maid. This is based off of the manner in which Davos betrays his own disguise, and the fact that the oarsman seems to specifically hew in specific details of the Maid, a ship which Davos had *just* learned about.

        These details are connected to Tycho by way of a hypothesis about his travels and encounter with Salladhor.

      I readily admit that the last bullet point the most contentious point, where the biggest criticisms have arisen:

      The major criticisms of my theory:

      • There are legitimate concerns regarding the timeline. Some people have pointed out that there is a narrow window in which this could have happened, and estimates of the timing make it a matter of personal opinion whether or not it is feasible.
      • Indeed, an initial survey of the timing suggests that Tycho and Noho Dimittis (the Bank envoy sent to King’s Landing) would have been dispatched at roughly the same times.

        The reason I believe Tycho must have been in White Harbor (possibly in pursuit of Davos) stems from the fact it is one of the only ways he could have known about Davos well enough to have informed Stannis.

      People may disagree with the idea of forming a theory around the “it’s the only possibility!” angle, that’s a legitimate disagreement. Well technically people can disagree anywhere they want, I just think this is perhaps the most reasonable spot to say “Hey, cool and all but I don’t believe this.”

      I would appeal to the contrary by citing Spock: “When you have eliminated all other possibilities, what remains must be the truth.” That’s a haughty thing to say, all I really mean to say is that I feel like this theory is somewhere ‘in the ballpark’.

      Consider that in the absence of an Iron Bank interest in White Harbor, the conspicuous Braavosi oarsman would suggest another sinister force acting in the north… one that we have no other compelling leads on.

      PS: A reason Tycho seems like a viable candidate as the oarsman is that he may not be that familiar with disguise (hence the failure to adapt his garb), and also that he might presume Westerosi incapable of knowing the ‘wrongness’ of his garb.

      PPS: One reason I feel that Cersei issued the command prior to Cersei IV stems from the fact that she thinks to herself “Cersei had heard his objections before” in regards to Rosby’s attempt to talk about debts. The nature of Cersei’s statement regarding repayment has a declarative connotation, she wasn’t bringing it up as a matter of discussion and debate; the matter had already been decided, she was merely notifying the rest of the small council. It seems entirely plausible that the others on the small council, including the Hand Harys Swyft, wouldn’t have noticed the change in cash flow is because none of them are actually looking at the books. This is consistent with how Littlefinger managed to completely manage(mismanage?) the King’s finances in an entire cryptic fashion for years without anyone understanding what was happening. In any case, I respect disagreements and agree that the decision could happen anywhere between Cersei II and Cersei IV, perhaps well past the possibility that Tycho could have been in White Harbor. The only viable counter is to return to the admittedly disputable “it’s the only valid explanation”, in light of the evidence and reasons in favor of Tycho’s travels. What emerges (to me) is that it comes down to a clash between the timeline and Tycho’s theorized movements.

      I hope this reflects a fair summary that represents the current discussion and criticisms of the essay as written. If this summary and subsequent discussion results in a balanced “pro vs con” assessment, I will add it as an addendum to the original essay.

      1. Riusma

        Sory, that’s certainly my poor english, but I think that it’s quite possible that the oarsman is Tycho, or at least a man of Iron Bank, and that he may have spotted Davos (his educated telling on Daenerys is telling by itself) and latter reported this information at Braavos (even without any interest on Stannis, it’s always good to know). And after that, Tycho cross (back) the narrow sea to Eastwatch, because last time he was at Braavos there was ice on the canals (unfortunately I’ve found no correspondence in Arya’s chapters, but it’s certainly latter in ADWD than Davos arrival at White Harbor). But, “according to the timeline(s)” there is also enough time between Davos public execution and the arrival of Tycho at Eastwatch for news reaching the Iron Bank par many means… but of course it’s more fun if it was Tycho as the oarsman. ^^

        I don’t want to spoil your next essay as I believe that I know where you are heading… but I think that the “timeline issue” will be more crucial at this point. However note that there is at least one well known “timeline inconsistency” in the saga (the Tyrion / Catelyn issue at the crossroad inn)… so if it works for GRRM it’s okay for me (and I will adjust my timeline accordingly if possible). ^^

        Regarding your addendum I’m afraid that it’s far more than I was “asking” you, because you’ve know presented some fair points toward the “early decision” (even if I’m not totally convinced). My point was that this consideration was lacking in your essay as you want to make the point that Tycho was actively looking for Davos. 🙂

        Can’t wait for your next essay ! 😉

      2. cantuse Post author

        Your english is great!

        I think your suggestion about the oarsman is great. I had already acknowledged that he might be an agent close to Tycho, but I had not considered that he could simply be an agent who would sail back to Braavos and inform the bank there. I especially like it because it doesn’t interfere with my later essay(s), which in some ways help substantiate this essay. After a ‘cooling off’ period I will amend the essay to include this possibility and make mention that is especially appropriate for those who like the theory but find the timing to be unlikely.

        Thanks for the feedback on the addendum as well, your discussion has really helped me figure out where the essay could use some more clarification.

        I too went looking for Arya chapters that corroborated ice on the canals and found nothing… the only possibility that occurs to me is her seclusion in the temple as a novice, and during her blindness… but there’s no appreciable mention of cold in that chapter. :S

      3. Wolfson

        I think your pro/con is an excellent analysis of both the strengths and weaknesses of your theory, and I always like to see an author willing to review their theories so thoroughly in the name of genuinely seeking the best possible answers. I know I may sometimes come off as overly critical, but I’m really after that same goal.

        The one thing I do question regarding the “oarsmen” is your explanations for his seemingly poor disguise (essentially what you said in your P.S). First, Tycho (assuming it’s him) is travelling with three ships full of genuine Braavosi sailors, so it seems odd that he would be either unaware of how they dress or unable to come up with the right items. Second, while he might correctly believe Westerosi in general are ignorant of how Braavosi sailors dress, he was looking for Davos in a place frequented almost exclusively by sailors unfamiliar with the port: “With fare like that, most locals shunned the place (the Lazy Eel), leaving it for sailors who did not know any better.” -ADWD, Davos 2. In my mind, sailors would be far more likely to know how other sailors from different cities dress, especially if certain ones have especially notable garb (i.e. the cloaks of Summer Islanders). Of course, none of the other patrons at the Eel, nor Davos himself, make any mention of the oarsmen’s garb being strange, so maybe the disguise is better then we thought. Maybe “somber” wasn’t such a big deal, which in my mind wouldn’t hurt your theory at all.

        Overall, while there are a few small issues (I also interpret the Iron Bank’s business policies a bit differently), I think you’ve done an excellent job in gathering a preponderance of evidence that supports your theory. Your Spock (Sherlock Holmes?) quote about using process of elimination is, I think, a viable way to begin a theory if you can find other paths of evidence to help support it, which you have.

      4. Wolfson

        Btw, I do like that idea, Riusma, of it not necessarily being Tycho himself, but rather simply an agent of the Iron Bank in general. That does largely address our timeline concerns, since it doesn’t require a prior decision by the Iron Bank to seek out Stannis. They could simply have gotten the information on the basis that, like you said, and like the Kindly Man repeatedly tells Arya, “it is good to know these things”. Tycho could then have set out later for the Wall, armed with that knowledge.

  5. avgomes

    “Cotter Pyke informs me that you came to Eastwatch with three ships. A galleas, a galley, and a cog.”

    Slightly out of topic, but some people have suggested that this same pattern of ships appearing in Eastwatch (Jon POV), White Harbor (Davos POV) and Maidenpool (Brienne POV) points towards all three sets being actually the same set and therefore Tycho Nestoris has been to all three places.

    1. cantuse Post author

      It certainly could be Braavosi, but just because there are three ships matching the combination doesn’t necessarily make that the only possibility. It’s rather conspicuous that entertaining the theory (that they are all the Braavosi ships) requires us to look for ships where no description beyond the class is given. They could be anyone’s ships. It would be like saying that the carrier, cruiser and destroyer in Norfolk are Russian because you know about three Russian ships of those classes traveling together elsewhere in the world.

      1. Wolfson

        I agree that the “cog, galley, and galleas in the same place = Tycho” idea is rather flimsy. Certainly in the case of White Harbor, where we know the only galley in port (the Storm Dancer) is not Braavosi. This essay presents a different rationale for Tycho possibly being in White Harbor, which I find more convincing (though I still have some questions about it), and doesn’t depend on all 3 of his ships being there.

      2. Riusma

        According the timeline(s) (at least my own ^^) the three ships spotted by Brienne at Maidenpool (AFFC, Brienne III) could be the same ones that are spotted by Davos at White Harbor (ADWD, Davos II)… and they may have encounter Salladhor Saan’s “fleet” on the way between Maidenpool and White Harbor (why not). They may be three ships owned by the Iron Bank, but I think that Iron Bank’s “official” ships would display the purple hulls of Braavos (thinking about a small autumn fleet dedicated to collect Iron Bank’s founds in Westeros ports). But, with the war, perhaps they have chosen (or “hired”, which may address the inconsistency of the Storm Dancer) some ships without official Braavos standards to avoid predation of pirates…

        But, with that in mind, it is impossible that the ships act according orders of the Iron Bank from Braavos in reaction to the Throne’s policy as they will come from King’s Landing (but they may directly know that the Iron Throne has stop the repayments – considering that the repayments have been stopped before Cersei III and IV – and may have decided to act accordingly if one high ranking banker is aboard).

        Maybe it may solved all the problems… or not. ^^

      3. cantuse Post author

        In an effort to test the “Iron Bank in Maidenpool” hypothesis, I did some digging into the respective chapter. There are two bits of circumstantial evidence that *could* be relevant:

        • When Brienne heads to the tavern to wait for Dick Crabb, there are three Tyroshi sailors present. This would strongly suggest that they serve on one of the ships in the harbor, of which there are only three sea-worthy craft: the galleas, the galley and the cog. This could suggest that the galley in the harbor is the Tyroshi Storm Dancer that is later seen at White Harbor.
        • A sailor on the galleas is tried by Tarly and pronounced innocent, the accused crime involved cheating at dice. We later see sailors dicing on the docks at White Harbor. We never hear the galleas sailor speak so he could have been Braavosi.

        So you see, while it could be the case that these are the Iron Bank ships, it requires a lot of assumptions without evidence: that the Tyroshi sailors prove Storm Dancer is present, that the dicing sailor indicates a connection to dicing sailors at White Harbor, that a trio of galleas and a galley and cog could only be the Iron Bank.

        Giving the benefit of doubt, it certainly could be the Iron Bank fleet, but there remain many reasonable doubts. As I mentioned earlier (perhaps elsewhere on /r/asoiaf), I did in fact believe that all three of the Iron Bank ships were in White Harbor: The unnamed Braavosi galleas was the IB galleas, Storm Dancer was the galley – paid by Tycho for assistance, and Brave Magister was the cog. I ultimately abandoned the idea because it strayed too far into conjecture.

      4. Riusma

        Yes, nothing is conclusive… that may be the same ships and they may have been hired by the Iron Banks (I think that it’s not that a bad way to “resolve” the Storm Dancer’s inconsistency), but without any confirmation by GRRM hand it remains (very / too) remote conjectures…

        As far as I remember Bran Vras has already proposed this theory about the three ships and the Iron Bank, and I’ve presented him the same objections at that time (two years ago if I remember correctly). So, I was amused when I hear that Preston Jacobs has a theory with the same ships and the Iron Bank recently… and some less when I’ve read the beginning of this essay from you (“Oh no! Not YOU” ^^’).

      5. cantuse Post author

        Yeah, that’s why I feel sympathy for Jacobs, because I came incredibly close to making the same logical leap about the ships in White Harbor.

        No disrespect meant at all. Without considering falsifiability, theories become tremendously prone to confirmation bias: A lesson I learned the hard way on /r/asoiaf.

        Based on our discussions I see pros and cons: your simple ‘agent in White Harbor’ makes sense of the timeline, and is agreeable with my forthcoming essay. It makes a few assumptions about the Bank’s ‘intelligence gathering’ network. The alternative idea I originally wrote that it was Tycho works but only under a very tight window and the idea that the very moment King’s Landing stopped payment, the bank went after Stannis.

        Something just occurred to me: Only Braavosi can dock at the Purple Harbor in Braavos, foreigners must use the Ragman’s Harbor. Thus foreign sailors would have little to no experience with the Braavosi customs regarding dark clothing, because they are never around the elites. You can find excerpts on this in “Cat of the Canals” and from Tycho himself. This would seem to reinforce the idea that Westerosi would almost certainly have little knowledge about the ‘somber’ elites. At best, a Westerosi might simply take note that the clothing is atypical… which is interesting since—of all the bar patrons— Davos takes note of the Braavosi’s clothing but doesn’t make anything of it.

        As disputable as the two possibilities are: I am still inclined to think it could be Tycho or an agent of his (while he is on the galleas perhaps). I think a likely explanation for the mismatched garb, poorly articulated details, etc is that the Braavosi wasn’t so much in disguise as he was not trying to reveal his identity, particularly whatever purpose he might have had. He wasn’t being deceitful so much as he was being ambiguous. Eh… anyways call it a hunch. /shrug.

      6. Wolfson

        The idea that the Storm Dancer, while not Braavosi, was hired by the Iron Bank and is therefore one of Tycho’s ships is one possible explanation. It does seem odd to me, though, that one of the most powerful entities in Braavos (the most shipping-oriented of the Free Cities) would need to hire another city’s ships.

        But, that aside, there’s another possible explanation that’s been nagging at me since this essay made me re-read the Davos 2 chapter: I don’t think the “oarsman off Storm Dancer” and the “Braavosi oarsman” are the same person. Consider the two quotes you show under the section “Incorrect Nationality”. The Braavosi oarsman is described as “the man who’d started all the talk of dragons”, and the Storm Dancer oarsman’s quote is the first part of that conversation that Davos takes specific note of. But look at the Storm Dancer oarsman’s quote more closely: he couldn’t possibly have opened conversation on a new subject with “You’re bloody mad. The Beggar King’s been dead for years. Some Dothraki horselord cut his head off.” That line is clearly responding to something another person said on the same subject, so this line didn’t start the conversation on dragons.

        Moreover, the series of references to an “oarsmen” shows something odd. First Davos hears the line mentioned above, and describes the speaker as an oarsman off the Storm Dancer. Later, he hears another line which he describes as being spoken by “the oarsman”, indicating it’s the same one as before. But the next time he mentions an oarsman, he gives the speaker a full description as “the man who’d started all the talk of dragons, a Braavosi oarsman in a somber woollen jack”. Doesn’t it seem odd to describe a person so thoroughly on his third line after ignoring his characteristics on his second? If it’s the same oarsman all three times, why doesn’t Davos just refer to him as “the oarsman” the third time, as he does on the second? My explanation is that these are two different oarsmen. The Storm Dancer oarsman spoke the first two “oarsman” lines, and so was referred to in the simplest terms the second time. The third “oarsman” line came from a new speaker, thus requiring a full description of this hitherto unseen person.

        Finally, it seems strange that Davos would identify a sailor who came from a Tyroshi ship as Braavosi. All Davos ever says about the first oarsman is the name of his ship, but how does he know that? The likely explanation would be that he noted the man as having the garishly dyed facial hair unique to Tyroshi, an easy visual marker he could spot on both ship and sailor. But then how could he later identify the same man as Braavosi?

        Note that your overall theory doesn’t suffer at all with this revelation. The “Braavosi oarsman” is still the one who steered the conversation to dragons, and spoke up with the key story about dragons and the Sloe-Eyed Maid right after Davos unwittingly revealed the depth of his education. The one key thing this explanation does do, is it allows us to no longer have to come up with explanations for why a Braavosi banker is using a Tyroshi ship. Note that Tycho later tells Jon that he has virtually no knowledge of the Ragman’s Harbor because he sails exclusively from the Purple; in my mind this heavily implies that all of his ships are Braavosi. My theory would explain this seeming discrepancy by removing the Braavosi oarsman’s tie to the Storm Dancer. Unlike Bran Vras’ or Preston Jacobs’ theories, yours doesn’t require all three of Tycho’s ships be present to make sense. Through either your explanation in the essay (he left the slower ship(s) at Sisterton to catch up to Davos) or Riusma’s idea (it’s not Tycho at all, but just an agent of the bank who later relates what took place), the single Braavosi ship known to be in White Harbor is all that is required.

      7. cantuse Post author

        This is perfect! It makes so much more sense as two different oarsmen. You know I did for a moment wonder if there were two oarsmen in that scene at one point during my research, but ultimately just decided it had to be one. What a misleading mistake!

      8. Riusma

        Rereading the whole chapter and scene you are plainly right, the oarsman of the Storm Dancer is not the Braavosi one. Maybe the Storm Dancer is no more than the galley spotted at Maidenpool by Brienne, and the “galleas, galley, cog” pattern just a “coincidence”.

  6. Nate

    I totally dig the newest essays dude. I just hope the next essay involves the Iron Bank sending some ships to ferry Rickon’s new army of cannibals and unicorns to the mainland.

  7. RebelEagle

    Is there a reason why you’ve completely disregarded Theon as a source? We do know they had a conversation before the start of the sample chapter. I’m assuming he (Theon) knew (about Davos) because of his proximity to the both the Boltons and Manderlys in Winterfell. He did encounter Stannis at the same time with Tycho, didn’t he? Your analysis of the oarsman does raise questions, but this and the timeline issues also raise questions about your hypothesis. Even if your hypothesis is true, perhaps, Tycho and Theon validated each others’ claims and thus gained Stannis’ trust as a trustworthy informant?

    1. cantuse Post author

      Sorry for the delay in both approving and responding. I’ve been very sick. The reason for suspecting Tycho is that he was the only one in a position to have heard rumors to such degree. There was no mention whatsoever about Davos in the multiple chapters we have from Theon’s perspective – you would have suspected some mention about it had he heard. In any case, it simply seems more reasonable to begin with Tycho as our first suspect. You’ll see many comments discussing the timeline concerns that you raised, which suggest some variations on how the ideas in this essay could have alternately played out. The most notable of which (if the timeline is ultimately disagreeable to you) is the idea that the oarsman was not Tycho (or someone traveling with him), but a separate agent for the Iron Bank.

  8. LastLion

    Pardon my ignorance, were you pointing to Salladhor Saan being the “mystery person” who possibly went to the IB?
    Also, not sure if you have stated it explicitly, but it is fairly clear that one way the Iron Bank could punish the current King’s Landing regime for default would be to fund it’s enemies, hence Tycho making himself available to Stannis. Moreover, it is in the IB intrest to do so, as putting Stannis on the Iron Throne means the debts of the Throne to the IB will be repaid.
    Again, I think you intimated as much, but just wanted to chime in – I recently foundyour site and enjoy you work.

    1. cantuse Post author

      Yep that’s the mystery person who I was thinking of. I need to revisit the Tycho essays (this one in particular) in light of the comments discussions.


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