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Ask the Maester s5e2: Arya's List, Jaqen, Dorne, Braavos, Legitimizing Bastards, and Bronn Up on the Roof

Stashed in: Jaqen H'ghar, @maisie_williams, GRRM, Game of Thrones

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On Arya's List and Jaqen:

Joel asks, “Who was the last dude in the recitation of Arya’s kill list she recited in the rain outside the House of Black and White?”

That’s Meryn Trant, a knight of the Kingsguard and one of Cersei’s most ruthless henchmen. In Season 1, it was Trant, with a clutch of King’s Landing guardsmen in tow, who showed up to arrest Arya in the wake of King Bobby B’s death by swine. Her Braavosi fencing teacher, Syrio Forel, bought Arya time to escape, bravely holding off the fiends with a wooden sword and getting himself killed in the process.5 So that’s where that beef comes from. More recently, we saw Ser Meryn in the scene from this past episode, in which Cersei is presented with a dwarf’s head.

Michael asks, “How did she know to remove some of the names from her list?”

Braavos is a major hub of intercontinental trade, and ships from every port in Westeros and Essos sail in and out daily. The news of Tywin’s and Joffrey’s deaths would’ve reached Braavos pretty quickly, and it’s fair to assume Arya would’ve heard about them once she pulled into the harbor. I mean, you’re on a ship for a week, the first thing you’re going to do when you disembark is ask about the news. Arya could probably learn more about Westerosi current events from 10 minutes at the Purple Harbor than a month on the road with the Hound.

Craig asks, “Given Jaqen’s role as a Faceless Man, and all of the unique powers of disguise and stealth that entails, how is it that he managed to get arrested in King’s Landing, thrown in a cage with two baseborn thugs heading to the Wall, and in need of rescue way back in Season 2? It seems like a man of his talents wouldn’t be so easily captured.”

Agreed. It almost makes you think he was there on some kind of yet to be explained mission. This is a topic of much book-world speculation.

On GRRM turning conventions upside down:

Part of the joy of Game of Thrones and its source material is the double-game that author George R.R. Martin plays with the conventions of the fantasy genre. The story’s heroes, as in most fantasy stories, are the ones who stay true to their words, who protect the weak against the depredations of the strong, who seek honorable solutions to conflict. The villains are those who plot betrayals, who don’t blanch at the murder and defilement of women and children, who mutilate people for kicks. Not exactly revolutionary stuff there. Except that Martin engineers things so that adherence to high-minded ideas of chivalry and honor is often a character’s near-idiotic and certainly fatal flaw. Ned Stark was a beloved lord and father, and nice to his bastard, but the dude came to a knife fight armed with ideals instead of steel. Cat Stark was a doting mother whose love blinded her into making awful, dumb, no-good decisions. Jon Snow is a brooding outsider and a guy who so values his oath that he doesn’t take Stannis’s offer of legitimization. Samwell Tarly is a leal friend to Jon and possessed of a valuable and inquisitive mind, but for some reason he decides — yet again — to honor his promise to a strange child and not tell his friend that the lawful heirs to Winterfell are actually alive,1 news that would have saved Jon from the heartache of turning down Stannis.

Meanwhile, acts that in any other story would be sheer villainy have a certain in-world logic to them. Murdering the Targaryen babes at the close of Robert’s Rebellion was a horrible crime … but also the only way to secure a lasting Baratheon victory. The Red Wedding was an abomination in the eyes of gods and men … but also an expedient and relatively less bloody way to win the peace.

Season 5’s second episode, “The House of Black and White,” was rife with examples of Thrones’s constant tension between heroism and idealism. Upholding the rule of law over the rule of the sword should serve Dany well whenever she gets to Westeros. Currently, though, she’s in Meereen, a city where the rule of law is just a facade waiting to be torn off the minute she sails away. Brienne continues to live according to the values of a society that does not value her. Then there’s Prince Doran, who, in the eyes of many of his people, doesn’t seem to understand what hostages are actually for.

On legitimizing bastards and why Ned Stark didn't do it for Jon Snow:

First off, shouts to Jon Snow, the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, in that once-venerable institution’s several-thousand-year history of providing a cushy landing spot for rapists and murderers. Some notable Lord Commanders include:

• Brynden Rivers, a.k.a. “Bloodraven,” a.k.a. “the three-eyed raven,”6 legitimized bastard of King Aegon IV Targaryen, and a former King’s Hand to Aerys I Targaryen. Rivers went to the Wall at the same time as Maester Aemon and is currently enmeshed in the roots of a weirwood tree, teaching Bran Stark how to do warging things.

• The Night’s King, 13th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Legend has it that he fell in love with a ghostly white woman, declared himself king, and proceeded to commit ungodly atrocities. He was eventually cast down by the combined might of the King in the North and Joramun, the legendary King-Beyond-the-Wall.

• Hoare, Lord Commander during Aegon’s invasion. Hoare’s brother Harren the Black’s melted and ruined castle is a testament to Hoare’s adherence to the Watch’s vow of noninvolvement.

• Jon Snow’s ancestor Osric Stark, who became Lord Commander at the tender age of 10 and served for another 60 years.

To your question: Only the king can legitimize bastards. Stannis is a king, though there is the annoying complication that most of the realm doesn’t actually agree that’s the case. The seal on Ramsay Bolton’s legitimization papers is likely from King Tommen, who would’ve signed a kitten if Tywin had told him to.

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