The Headcanon Challenge: A Commentary on the True Life of the High Spider, Part II

A while back, JSLAL from Wars and Politics of ASOIAF got a really interesting question on Tumblr, asking him to come up with a character who could fill in some of the gaps in Westerosi history. I really liked his response, and so when I got the same question, I decided to see if I could do one better.

(Much thanks goes out to @hiddenhistoryofwesteros and @cynicalclassicist for their assistance in pre-reading and editing this document.)

Below the cut is part two of the life of the High Spider…

The Betrotheds’ War (1995-1992)

It is hard to distinguish any period of the Riverlands’ history by describing it as a time of civil war, or indeed as a time when it was unwillingly made the board for the Great Game. However, the early Second Millenia is distinctive for how general the conflict was, involving nearly every power in Westeros.[1] To summarize the conflict briefly: House Vance were backed in their claim for the crown by the Kings of the Rock, and as a result House Teague became the proxy for the Kings of the Mountains and Vale. In between these two factions, the Brackens and Blackwoods were forced into an uneasy alliance with the support of the Mallisters and any other Riverlords who preferred to be ruled by an independent monarch rather than a puppet, while out to the east, the Durrandon kings claimed the title of “Protector of the Rush” and looked past the Rush with hungry eyes to the rich towns of Duskendale, Rosby, and even the oft-disputed territories of Crackclaw Point.

The catalyst for the Betrothed’s War was, as one might expect from the appellation, a series of marriage alliances that raised the stakes of the conflict between Riverlanders by bringing in foreign allies: the King of the Rock’s daughter Lenore Lannister was engaged to Benjicot Vance, while Chettward Teague’s daughter was given in marriage to the Crown Prince of the Vale; meanwhile the heirs of House Bracken and House Blackwood were betrothed to one another, confirming the union of the two houses in their hour of need, while the Storm King married Jonquil Mooton (being the last surviving heir of the unlucky Lord Florian, who lost three heirs in as many years) to consolidate the Durrandon claim to Maidenpool.

For some time the war had been a bloody and grinding stalemate, with the Lannisters and Vances unable to make a successful push into the east and the Arryns and the Teagues unable to force a crossing of the Trident. In the middle, the Brackens and Blackwoods were unable to equal the forces of the Vale and the Westerlands in open battle, but turned their skills of raiding and pillaging (heretofore used mainly against each other) against both their eastern and western foes, moving along the rivers and secret forest roads to strike in numbers before fading away like mist on the water. So long as they held the Red Fork and could be resupplied by Seagard, their territories could not be taken, but gradually the link between Raventree Hall and Stone Hedge (vital for the supply of their southern holdings) was squeezed in the middle from both sides.

According to Precocious, who claims to have seen receipts and letters from Casterly Rock, heavy infusions of Lannister gold into the coffers of the High Spider had been quid-pro-quo for the prelate’s influence in persuading Gwayne VII to abandon his father’s peace treaty with the Stormlands in favor of a “Holy League” with the Lannisters.

This, the High Spider promptly did, and in 1992 BC the hosts of House Gardener and the Faith Militant marched across the Rush to link up with their Lannister allies and break the stalemate.[2] Pushing their way northwards, the combined forces of southern chivalry and piety swept aside the hastily-assembled levies of House Gracestone and stormed over the walls of Stony Sept, with Lord Commander Uther Flowers leading the charge. (The irony of the Faith Militant attacking a town best known as a center for pilgrims was not missed at the time, although more careful political observers noted that the Most Devout of Stony Sept voted for Volkmar in 2001 BC.) While the Sept itself was spared any damage by the High Spider, who commanded his personal guard to guard the doors and spare the civilians (and the many treasures of the Sept), the citadel of the castle was sacked and all members of House Gracestone were brutally slain. Despite the carnage, King Gwayne was greatly pleased that so great a prize had been won at such a cheap price, adding further glory to a warrior king who wished to be known to history as “the Unrelenting.”

How wrong he was.

The two armies of the West were due to link up outside the siege works of Stone Hedge, which had thrown back two successive assaults already. And so they did, but when the armies of the Reach and the Faith Militant shifted from marching order to battle lines, they fell upon the waiting Westermen. At the same time, the Tullys turned against their Vance overlords[3], opening up a hole in the hastily assembled shield wall that Lord Commander Uthor (known after this battle as Uthor Sevenflowers) and the Warrior’s Sons charged through, splitting the Westerlands army in half. Divided and pinned against their own trenches, the Westermen tried to flee back the way they had come, only to find that the Bracken forces had sallied forth from Stone Hedge to bar their passage to the west.

So complete and so sudden was the defeat –  carefully arranged over several months by secret letters between the High Spider, Lord Fionn Tully, and King Lothar Bracken which Precocius claims to have transcribed – that the chronicles of the time list only 700 casualties on both sides.[4] For the first time in Westerosi history, the Lannister army surrendered in toto. Captured in his tent by the Warrior’s Sons, King Leon II was brought before the High Spider and made to kiss the hem of his robes. Raising the King of the Rock back to his feet, the High Septon made a public show of “forgiving” Leon II for his insult in a magnificent display of hypocrisy, saying “we must be friends, and kinsmen too.” The engagement between Prince Lancel and Florys Flowers (known as Sunflowers for the color of her hair and skin) was agreed to in a solemn contract.

Having little choice but to assent to dictated terms, the shaken Westermen were obliged to fight under the banner of the Greenhand and serve under Reacherman officers, one of the greatest disgraces of Westerlands arms in their entire history, and one which would inspire many generations of Lannisters to seek vengeance on the plains of the Northmarch. Passing through previously hostile Bracken territory with unexpected speed, the combined armies force-marched their way across the Riverlands.

The forces of the Falcon King and his Teague allies had drawn up at the end of the High Road – the future site of the Crossroads – when scouts informed King Osric X that a Gardener army led by Gwayne VII (clad in his distinctive plate armor enameled in green leaves) was attempting to cross the Trident. Hoping to strike a blow while the river still divided his enemy, Osric ordered his men forwards to near where Lord Harroway’s Town would stand, and ordered his spearmen to hold the ford at all cost while his archers poured a withering fire on the “Reachermen.” His scouts then informed him that a second army, also flying the Greenhand and also following Gwayne VII flying his personal banner, had crossed the Trident downstream and were advancing from the east. Bewildered by the appearance of this impossible army, King Osric ordered his army to refuse the line, pulling his left flank northwards to guard against this new threat. And this last order proved to be his fatal error, because the move left his right flank and rear open to the furious charge of the combined cavalry of two kingdoms and one Faith under the command of Uthor Sevenflowers.

File:Tomasz Jedruszek Brightwater Lancers.jpg

credit to Tomasz Jedruszek

Desperate as his right flank began to crumble, Osric called to his Teague allies (who had been carefully held in reserve) to advance and block the charge…but the Teagues refused to move off the hill where today the Inn of the Crossroads stands. Unbeknownst to the Falcon King, Chettward Teague had received a secret letter from the High Spider, threatening Teague that his entire House “root and branch” would be expelled from the Faith and condemned to the Stranger’s seventh hell if he continued to support “that most pernicious Exclusionist heresy.” And so the Teagues stood by and watched as the Arryn army was systematically dismantled.

After a long and bloody day that saw thousands dead on both sides (on the victor’s side, mostly on the part of Westermen who had literally been used as arrow fodder), the armies of the Vale (which had fought to the last dregs of daylight) finally surrendered, with Osric X personally handing his sword Sharptalon over to Gwayne VII. Having thus humbled two kings and with the whole of the Riverlands laid at his feet, it was to the great surprise of the Gardener King when, rather than continuing their campaign, his loyal High Septon announced a peace conference to settle the question of who was the true King of the Rivers and Hills.

The “Great Council of Eternal Peace” (1991-1990)

The “Great Council of Eternal Peace” is certainly one of the more singular events of the second millennium. Even as the armies of the Reach and the Faith Militant seized Stony Sept, a small army of artisans, artists, and laborers from Oldtown, Dorne, and even the Valyrian colonies had set up camp near the Godseye.[5] In this field by the lake, a Crystal Palace[6] was erected, with walls of stained glass and mirrors held together by hastily-constructed wooden frames and enough rigging to outfit an entire fleet, ceilings of painted silk stretched out over narrow beams, and floors of bare pine covered by Myrish carpets. In sum, the Crystal Palace appeared less as a true construction than the flimsy sets of Essosi mummers – thankfully for the participants, the Spring’s clement weather was to hold for an entire year.

After nine months of feverish construction, the Crystal Palace was ready for its intended inhabitants: every king south of the Neck[7], their immediate families, and their retinues of no more than seventy men each. Due to the peculiar outcome of the Betrotheds’ War – which saw the King of the Rock and the Young King Vance taken prisoner and the King of the Vale on parole, the Brackens and Blackwoods in uneasy truce with the Reachermen, and the Teagues politically isolated – the invitations were accepted, and so slowly the Great Council of Eternal Peace assembled.

According to the elaborate schedule of events, the “common peace of the realms of men” and the “universally acknowledged kingship of the Riverlands” was supposed to be discussed over seven days of open discussion in Council. However, for the first five days, the High Spider deliberately delayed such discussion in favor of an elaborate examination of the etiquette of preeminence and the roll of descent for each claimant to the crown of the Riverlands. This delay caused great consternation on all sides, with the Brackens and Blackwoods fearing that they had been betrayed, the Lannisters and Arryns dreading some further, more baroque humiliation, Durran XXX fretting over whether his title of “Protector of the Rush” would be acknowledged, and Gwayne VII growing ever more impatient to be named King of the Rivers and Hills by right of conquest.

Instead, the High Spider mounted a series of ostentatious entertainments and feasts, plying his guests with the finest food and drink the known world could provide. All the while, he conducted a furious series of private discussions as to the disposition of the Riverlands, claiming to each party that he was a true partisan of their claim, promising the same territories many times over, all in exchange for staggering bribes (for the High Spider had exhausted both his Lannister gold, which he was hardly likely ever to receive again, and his credit) and their support on “a minor and most unimportant matter of theological disputation.” It was a magnificent galliard of insincerity, double-dealing, and corruption that left every other participation in the dance completely befuddled as to what the priest in his robes of Dornish silk painted in the rainbow of the Seven was up to.

The trap was sprung on the sixth day, when the kings gathered to celebrate the wedding of Prince Lancel Lannister and Florys Sunflowers. The greatest of all the feasts was thrown that evening, at which the “wine flowed like water, which was nowhere to be found in the wine.” Precocious alleges that the High Spider laced his guests’ drink with a concoction of Shade of the Evening and milk of the poppy, and had to share the first cup with his daughter and good-son first before any would drink, and in this intoxicated state the ruling Houses of Westeros were seduced one-by-one. And while this claim is highly unlikely (the logistics alone boggle the mind), scholars have few other explanations for what transpired that evening, as the participants were unlikely to offer their own.

For in the morning, the Kings of the South woke up to find the marriage alliances that had fueled the war decisively broken, reshaping the political map of Westeros. Benjicot Vance’s hand in marriage was now given to Chettwina Teague (an alliance that distance and political isolation rendered completely useless), while the Crown Prince of the Vale found his hand given to Princess Lenore Lannister, ending the power struggle between the two kingdoms. But strangest and bloodiest of all was the fate that had befallen the Bracken/Blackwood alliance: in the night, King Lothar Bracken and Queen Rowena Blackwood had each committed adultery with the sibling of the other. King Lothar evidently preferred his queen’s younger sister Morgaine (rumored to be a woods-witch of some skill), while Queen Rowena chose her king’s younger brother, the dashing Ser Tristan (who had led the Bracken forces at the Battle of Stone Hedge). When this adultery was revealed by through secret letters alerting each monarch where they could hide themselves to witness the betrayal of their spouse, later that night King Lothar stabbed his wife to death, but not before she poisoned him with a fatal dose of manticore venom.[8]

Hungover, heavy of conscience, and thoroughly suspicious, the Great Council assembled on the seventh day to hear the pronouncement of the High Septon. Producing a document he called “a treaty of universal and eternal peace,” the High Spider declared that all of the competing kings were henceforth recognized as “Kings in the Riverlands,” and enjoined from making war upon one another, as each king was bound by sacred oath to instantly declare war on whomever broke the peace first. One by one, the kings perused the long scroll and were shocked to find their seals and signatures at the bottom…which Precocious claims the High Spider had gathered over the past five days by artfully concealing from his besotted guests what the top of the scroll declared. (Here, Precocious’ claim is more likely to be true, as he was tasked with copying out the final draft of the document.)

Among the other clauses of the treaty were yet more surprises. For betraying the Vances, the Tullys were rewarded with the “confluence of the Red Fork and the Tumblestone” being removed from the territories of House Vance (which freed House Tully from vassalage), although the Tullys were bitterly disappointed when the treaty named them only as “lords freehold” rather than as kings in their own right. The Durrandons were recognized as “Protectors of the Rush,” at which point Durran XXX was recorded to have laughed at Gwayne VII, saying “I have wagered nothing and won all, and what have ye gained for all your blood and treasure?” When the High Spider allowed in a messenger bearing word that Duskendale and Rosby had rebelled, leaving his army on Crackclaw Point isolated and cut off from supply, Durran XXX was apoplectic and had to be physically restrained from drawing his sword. And most shocking of all, Stony Sept and all its lands were declared an independent “protectorate of the Faith” owing allegiance to no-one but the High Septon himself and serving as a permanent base for the Faith Militant in the Riverlands. At this point, Gwayne VII, who had been relishing the humiliation of the Storm King, was so dumbfounded that he actually fainted from choler.

Moving briskly from the secular to the sacred, the High Spider proceeded to the bottom of the scroll, the “minor and most unimportant matter of theological disputation” which so many kings had signed in their drunken haste. As if to punctuate his victory, he had Most Devout Volkmar summoned to hear the document read out loud:

“Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad for the middle wall of partition has been taken away, and grief has been silenced, and all kind of difference of opinion has been removed; the Father Above having seen fit to restore peace to his septs, through this gathering of most devout and Faithful of kings, who are the best imitators of the piety of their ancestors in keeping the right faith in their souls firm and immovable, by giving their minds to the affairs of the Faith of the Seven so that we might heal our divisions, remove the offences scattered between us, and thus crown this gathering with harmony and peace.

Here in this Great Council, we affirm and declare that we worship One-in-Seven and Seven-in-One. This truth is proven in three cases:

First, from our faith. The Father does not contend with the Mother, nor the Warrior with the Smith, nor the Maid with the Crone. In all matters at all times, the Seven act as one entity with one will. Together, they set their heavens above and their hells below. Together, they anointed Hugor of the Hill and gave him and his people a promised land. We worship not in separate temples but in one sept where all are honored together, we do not tear out the chapters of the Seven Pointed Star, but read from one common text.

Second, from nature. The sacred crystals that adorn our altars and our persons hath seven sides and seven facets, yet the sides and the facets are but parts of the whole. The pure light of the one sun in the one sky shines through them, and we see seven colors of light as the sign and seal of the One-in-Seven, yet all are part of the same pure light. Being mortal, the pure light of heaven dazzles our eyes so that we cannot part the mystery unaided. Being all-wise and all-compassionate, the Seven-in-One confirm their work in the rainbows that they set in the heavens to inspire and encourage the Faithful – seven arches making one great bridge.  

Third, from interest. In human affairs, it is far better to be unified than divided. When the Andals first came to Westeros, they were united in their faith, and conquered whole kingdoms. When they divided each for their own gain, they were defeated and made to bend the knee to the kings of the West. Today, when the kings of Westeros quarrel among themselves, the land bleeds and the people suffer. When we come together as one, as we have today, peace and good government reigns. If it is good for us to be united, then as the Divine is greater and wiser than mere mortals, surely it is even better for the Divine to be as one.

Thus, we declare that the heresy known as Exclusionism is anathema, and from this day, we cast forth from our midst any who cling to it.”  

With all of the kings of the South having bound themselves to this declaration, the Arryns found it impossible to maintain their support for the Black Sept’s now completely isolated position. Most Devout Volkmar was sent to a septry high in the mountains of the Vale, where a vow of silence put an end to his preaching. The High Spider even commanded Osric Arryn to remove the marble facings from the Black Sept and ship them to Oldtown, where they were used to adorn the Starry Sept, trophies of a theological triumph.

In that moment, the High Spider reached his height of mastery over the Great Game. His kin stood to inherit the thrones of two kingdoms, and his Faith Militant held a third in all but name. He had conned and connived his way into weakening every single power in the Seven Kingdoms, reshaping the diplomatic map of Westeros and garnering unprecedented power for the Faith. That Faith he had recast in his own image, ending the Heptarian Controversy with ruthless precision.

Little did he know that his works would not outlive him…

 

 

 

[1] Even the Starks, who traditionally eschewed the Great Game, advanced their armies down to the headwaters of the Blue Fork in anticipation of an attack on Moat Cailin.

[2] While most of the Reach answered their royal liege’s call, not all did so eagerly. Lord Alton Manderly had been an ardent proponent of the peace treaty between Garland VII and Durran XXX, his father Gunthor (formerly the ambassador at the Durrandon court) having helped to negotiate said treaty. Following the setting aside of Queen Shiraz, Alton arranged for the double marriage of his brother and heir, Ser Mychel, to Madeira Redwyne and his sister Julia to Ser Merlot Redwyne (heir to the Arbor), in what was deemed the best-catered wedding in the Seven Kingdoms.

When Gwayne VII called the banners, the Redwynes and Manderlys sent only a token force, with the Redwynes claiming that the threat of Ironborn raiders required they keep the bulk of their manpower at sea and the Manderlys pledging to defend the Shield Islands in the event of a hypothetical attack. According to Precocious, the High Spider offered many bribes to Lord Alton to gain his support, including “a most epicene chorister for his personal chapel,” but to no avail, leading the prelate to complain “the man claims to be a gourmand, but likes neither fish nor fowl. How can one deal with such a fleshless fellow?”

[3] Benjicot’s father Hubert Vance is said to have been slain personally by Lord Tully’s good-father Cedric Paege. Another story claims Rodrik Redshield was responsible. The Young King Benjicot himself was captured by Gwayne VII while protecting his father’s body, which the Gardener King graciously allowed to be buried in the traditional riverine fashion.

[4] While the overall casualties of the Battle of Stone Hedge were remarkably low, one particular tragedy is worth noting. As noted before, the High Spider’s mother Fuchsia Peake had married after her affair with Lymond Hightower, and gave birth to a son (Harlon Roxton, who would become Master-at-arms at Holyhall) and two daughters, Elinor and Talla. When Most Devout Lewys made his arrangement with the Lannisters, he found the time to betrothe his half-sisters to the heirs of House Crakehall and House Plumm (in exchange for cancelling their debts to the Faith). Their sons both served in the Lannister army at Stone Hedge, and (their surcoats being obscured by the mud of the siegeworks) were mistakenly slain by Ser Harlon Roxton. While the High Spider offered to intercede with the gods on behalf of his half-brother for the sin of kinslaying, Ser Harlon was so overcome by his actions that he took the black on the spot.

[5] To perform this minor miracle of logistics, the High Spider turned to Septon Mulciber, formerly a younger son of House Dryland, who had been recommended to him by Septa Sibyl during the renovations of the Starry Sept. Despite his high birth, Septon Mulciber was clearly blessed by the Smith, for he was the first man from Westeros to penetrate the mysteries of Valyrian construction during his youthful sojourns to Volantis, and was responsible for the awe-inspiring seven flying buttresses of the Starry Sept (which according to some Exclusionists were held up by blood magic) – construction of which was interrupted by the Crystal Palace. According to his diaries, Septon Mulciber considered the task a minor annoyance beneath a man of his talents.

[6] Although Archmaester Pedantus insists in his Observations that technically the Palace was a series of pavilions rather than a palace proper.

[7] Archmaester Pedantus notes in his Observations that the various Kings of Dorne did not attend. While it is true that the feuding kings of Dorne were not physically present, they did send representatives in the form of Herbert Fremen, a prominent caravan-merchant and cartographer, Maester Narcissus a well-known (if highly romantic) scholar of Dornish history, and Septon Mulciber (who, according to his diary, spent the whole time sketching plans for a “magnificently terrifying” castle that  supposedly came to him in a dream, and paid no attention to the political goings on, much to the frustration of future scholars). Thus, all the Kings below the Neck were represented at the Great Council.

[8] While there was some suggestion in the aftermath to betroth Tristan Bracken to Morgaine Blackwood, the sting of the recent murders (and the mutual suspicion that a pact once broken would be broken again) made any extension of the Bracken-Blackwood alliance an impossibility, and instead the two houses fell to blood feud once again, each side insisting that the other had struck first while they themselves had merely been avenging themselves.

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44 thoughts on “The Headcanon Challenge: A Commentary on the True Life of the High Spider, Part II

  1. Brilliant. Delightful. Delicious. Tantalizing. I’m really going with the food comparison here but I am a Manderly fanboy.

    I’m happy you put in more on Alton Manderly’s lack of interest in that which most have interest in. As an Ace guy myself it’s important to me to have more such characters. It amuses me that Lewys has trouble comprehending how someone can not go either way, something which even today many have trouble working out. It really is brilliant how I put some ideas into the mix which eventually churns out this seven-blessed story and you chop around and spice up and improve on my contributions to the recipe, such as thinking up a sister for Alton. Though I got the name Merlot Redwyne from an ask to Race for the Iron Throne on Tumblr.

    And of course love how you improved on my reference to that epic poem in the Mad Architect Mulciber, who I imagine as a master of Bizarrchitecture. But Lewys is related to the Peakes so I doubt he’d mind a bit of weird Gormenghast-esque buildings.

    Some changes in regards to the High Spider’s Roxton siblings but don’t mind. Glad you kept in aspect that cancelling debts to Faith was used as incentive, as that is certainly one of the plums (heh) that could be hung out to Houses.

    As for the Rodrik Redshield part… I just came up with the name Redshield some time ago and liked the sound of it, not realizing there was a Rothschild family.

    As might be guessed I enjoy family trees and expanding on them, and in this setting family trees are a big thing.

    I lick my lips in anticipation for the last part Maester Steven. Thx for letting me contribute to your work.

  2. Abbey Battle says:

    Most Excellent work once again Maester Steven – as a passionate fan of House Arryn I can only mourn the Vale’s losses with the sole exception of “Septon Grim’s” internal exile, as I tend toward the Moderate school of thought (though one will stand astonished if we have seen the last of him).

    I am a little surprised that The Falcon King made the Teagues their proxy while House Vance sided with The King of the Rock – given the Teague history of taking gold from the West (one way or another) and the fact that House Vance descends from one of the most prominent Andal lineages that runs along the Trident I would have expected the opposite to be the case (though the political logic seems sound).

    One must admit that the High Spider strikes me as very much an overgrown schoolboy (which I find at times charming and more frequently alarming): the shameless over-complexity of his plans and that trademark melodramatic flourish makes his successes quite literally Spectacular but ’tis small wonder that his achievements shall not outlast him.

    He’s just too much a gamester for his own good!

  3. Abbey Battle says:

    When I think of the High Spider (his physical appearance) one gets the strong impression of Big Ears and an even bigger Grin, both found on a very round head kept fully shaven but all too frequently found under a layer of downy hair (because this wicked priest has yet another naughty habit, that of depending on his very fair hair to allow him to skip the odd shave): neither particular tall nor especially short but surprisingly fit (possibly because he’s simply too vain to leave himself open to the laughter of his bedmates or perhaps because keeping all those plates spinning makes a surprisingly good cardio regimen), giving at all times the impression of one who may well the First Gentleman and the Greatest Rogue yet un-hanged in all the Seven Kingdoms.

    Would that be near the mark, Maester Steven?

    • Someone should do fanart of this. Though I’m hoping a bit of Boris might slip in as inspiration. Seriously they do sound quite similar.

      “giving at all times the impression of one who may well the First Gentleman and the Greatest Rogue yet un-hanged in all” Britain? That does sound quite like Boris.

      • Anas Abusalih says:

        I actually discussed this with Steven.
        Basically, the High Spider would be tall, wiry, and slender, with a combination of the Hightower look and the Peake look.
        The Hightowers have a refined beauty, being tall, blonde, and willowy.
        The Peakes don’t have an iconic look so I suggested to Steven they be peaky all around. So slightly angular ears, bushy eyebrows, big noses, and dark hair (possibly with a widow’s peak?).
        Also, this is way beyond my expectations even with the caveat of having read the draft.
        Seriously, you can write Steven.
        (As an aside I’m glad you liked my idea of House Gracestone enough to use it.)

    • Description is below, but I would definitely imagine he’s surprisingly fit – remember, he didn’t stop jousting when he became a priest, so he’s definitely getting exercise.

      But yeah, in terms of personality I think he was one of those people whose charm is tied up in his audacity – he pushes farther than people expect others to, so often they either don’t react because they’re surprised by the break in convention, or because they’re curious about where he’s going to.

  4. Grant says:

    We know that Exclusionism had a strong impact on Vale-North relations, did they have any opinion on the Spider during all this or were their politics largely based on their own region?

  5. thatrabidpotato says:

    The High Spider is my hero.
    I’ll say it again: This Needs To Be Canon. Someone send this to GRRM ASAP.

    Florian & Jonquil Mooton? Madeira & Merlot Redwyne? LMFAO

    I occasionally have my issues with you Steven but this kind of stuff ensures I will always come back for more. So so so good.

  6. Gonzalo says:

    Merlot Redwyne! I hope GRRM gets inspired by this and gives us Sauvignon and Cabernet Redwyne

  7. Tywin of the Hill says:

    Amazing headcanon, Mr. Attewell.
    That was quite the address on the theology of the Seven-as-One. You had that one planned for a very long time, hadn’t you? 😉
    On the matter of the High Spider’s physical appearance, all I can say is that he brings to mind Melone’s portrait of Caesar Borgia (minus the ridiculously small hands.)

    • No, that part I had to come up with recently b/c someone asked me why he was considered a good theologian after Part I.

      • Abbey Battle says:

        It is interesting to reflect on what drives the High Spider’s devotion to Heptarianism (the Seven are One and Reflected in Foreign Gods as much as in their more familiar forms): one gets the suspicion that this form of belief pleases His High Holiness because it effectively means that he can circumvent the traditional, sharply-defined canons of the Faith (and the Morality associated with them) by insisting that these conventions are based on the most limited understanding of The Divine.

        Quite frankly I think that the High Spider loves the Dogma of the One because it allows him ample freedom to believe that the Gods think EXACTLY as he believes they do, as opposed to an abiding obligation to recognise his own selfish Subversion of Established Morality (though I must allow him a sincere belief in the Divine as something other than an expression of his own self-will, if only because I suspect even The High Spider wouldn’t have the nerve to risk so much without Faith in some Higher Power supporting him).

        Basically it’s a Golden Excuse to boast that “You are wrong and I AM RIGHT” when confronted by “parochial moralising” of the sort that the Most Devout Volkmar probably specialises in.

        One might also point to the fact that asserting the Dogma that one can see the One through the forms of Foreign Gods also offers the High Spider juicy opportunities to assert the supremacy of the clergy over the laity – for while a common man will have a lifetime of listening to selections from the Seven Pointed Star and can doubtless make intelligent observations regarding their local priest’s adherence to same (on the most elemental level, at least), how many will have the opportunity to study Foreign Gods and the scholarship to interpret how the lessons of these stranger divinities can be applied to life in the Seven Kingdoms as “The One” intended it to be lived?

        Only those for whom Religion is not only a Way of Life but an Expertise.

        • I think that fits quite accurately. I saw Heptarianism as similar to neo-Platonism within the Medieval Catholic Church, a theological tendency that appealed to the intelligensia because it was philosophically and logically elegant, but which would be quite confusing to the layperson.

          And I wanted it to fit in his his cosmopolitan, epicurian nature too.

          • Abbey Battle says:

            I imagine that the Most Devout Volkmar sees the Seven in far less abstract, much more emotive terms – “Septon Grim” was born into a land where the seal of the Seven is not stamped in wax but carved into the very bones of the Earth; it is far from impossible that he lived within walking distance of the Field of Seven Stars and almost certain that he carried memories of fighting for the survival of the Faithful against the Unfaithful (whether against the Mountain Clans or the North) very much as King Artys & his companions did; couple this with a long tradition of interpreting the words of the Seven-Pointed Star concerning that golden land framed by towering mountains and it is easy to see why, in the mind of “Septon Grim” and others, The Seven would seem not only Real but Immediate in a way difficult for one born & raised on the other side of the Continent to understand.

            The fact that while The Reach merely adopted the Seven, in the Vale they Conquered may also be significant.

            One might also suggest that from the perspective of The Vale the foreign gods of Essos are much less a distant prospect and the preserve of guests, travellers and scholars, more the Idols of an Empire that keeps the nearest parts of Essos in thrall and seems ever hungrier for the next catch of slaves – though in fairness also of the merchants who trade marvellous things in return for the local produce: while the Vale of Arryn does not exactly find itself caught on the dragon’s lip, I imagine fears that some dragon-lord will either take it into their head or be persuaded by one of the Free Cities to launch an expedition against the nearest of the Seven Kingdoms must be a recurring nightmare.

            Such fears must feed very easily into an incipient paranoia where foreign ideas that might undermine the solidarity of The Vale during time of War are concerned (given that the Lands of the Falcon Crown are essentially one massive fortress and considering the long tradition of impregnable fortresses falling to internal treachery, betrayal by someone within the walls must be a most persistent dread).

            I apologise if this seems a tad rambling, but one produces it here as Food for Thought.

  8. Lucerys says:

    Archmaester Pedantus here. Is it correct to to call it second millenium? I understand that the dating was done in relatively recent times but the first millenium coming after the second just seems wrong.

  9. Murc says:

    Apologies for taking so long to get some commentary in on this, Steven. It’s been a huge week and a bad weekend.

    Pushing their way northwards, the combined forces of southern chivalry and piety swept aside the hastily-assembled levies of House Gracestone and stormed over the walls of Stony Sept, with Lord Commander Uther Flowers leading the charge.

    Is Lord Commander Flowers’ first name Uther or Uthor? You’ve been using both.

    While the Sept itself was spared any damage by the High Spider, who commanded his personal guard to guard the doors and spare the civilians

    “guard to guard” is an awkward construction. Perhaps “commanded his personal guard to protect the sept and spare the civlians.”

    So complete and so sudden was the defeat – carefully arranged over several months by secret letters between the High Spider, Lord Fionn Tully

    Fionn Tully.

    Okay, all the other name-related puns can go home. Even the Redwyne ones. You’ve won forever. Congratulations.

    For the first time in Westerosi history, the Lannister army surrendered in toto.

    Since this is an in-universe document, I’d refrain from latinate constructions. They don’t have latin in Westeros, after all.

    The engagement between Prince Lancel and Florys Flowers (known as Sunflowers for the color of her hair and skin) was agreed to in a solemn contract.

    I really like… tone of voice is hard to convey in text, but I can hear the maester writing this history dropping this specific sentence into his text using a tone of bone-dry sarcasm. It’s an excellent witticism and I quite enjoy it. “Solemn contract” indeed.

    After a long and bloody day that saw thousands dead on both sides (on the victor’s side, mostly on the part of Westermen who had literally been used as arrow fodder), the armies of the Vale (which had fought to the last dregs of daylight) finally surrendered, with Osric X personally handing his sword Sharptalon over to Gwayne VII.

    This sentence is both somewhat painful to try and untangle, with the multiple parenthetical asides, one of which contains multiple clauses, and also doesn’t make a lot of sense. The defeat of the Arryn forces is portrayed as having occurred due to the Faith Militant and the cavalry of both the Reach and the West descending unexpectedly upon them… but also the Westermen were “literally” used as arrow fodder? And if that’s the case wouldn’t they have sent the Westermen in first, before the real scrum begins and when the Arryn archers are going to unleash their most devastating volleys, rather than the Reach and the Faith Militant riding into battle in a glorious charge?

    I don’t think it can work both ways. You could do a thing where the Westermen are sent in as the vanguard, wearing down the Arryns until they run out of arrows and their bowmen are too tired to bend a bow anyway, and then the chivalry charge in with the setting sun behind them and in the eyes of their attackers for a “gallant” victory that shatters the Arryn lines with little loss on their part, or you can have the surprise cavalry charge as the initial engagement, but that loses the whole “used as literal arrow fodder” thing.

    Having thus humbled two kings and with the whole of the Riverlands laid at his feet, it was to the great surprise of the Gardener King when, rather than continuing their campaign, his loyal High Septon announced a peace conference to settle the question of who was the true King of the Rivers and Hills.

    “His loyal High Septon.”

    Still loving this humor.

    It was a magnificent galliard of insincerity, double-dealing, and corruption that left every other participation in the dance completely befuddled as to what the priest in his robes of Dornish silk painted in the rainbow of the Seven was up to.

    This probably isn’t the best sentence you’ve ever written, Steven… but it is certainly in the top ten or twenty.

    I really the love the rhythm, the cadence it holds; “magnificent galliard of insincerity, double-dealing, and corruption.” I can hear that being narrated on the history channel by like, Ian McDiarmid or Patrick Stewart or someone.

    The greatest of all the feasts was thrown that evening, at which the “wine flowed like water, which was nowhere to be found in the wine.”

    This is also some grade-a Westerosi humor. This is the exact sort of thing that a bunch of Westerosi who fancied themselves learned men and adept at using language would find hilarious.

    But strangest and bloodiest of all was the fate that had befallen the Bracken/Blackwood alliance: in the night, King Lothar Bracken and Queen Rowena Blackwood had each committed adultery with the sibling of the other.

    I feel like you’re underselling the single most hilarious part of this; namely, that someone had to go first.

    Which means that one of these people were tipped off to both the adultery and their sibling being involved in said adultery, went where the tip told them to go, watched it happen, and then decided that the best revenge was getting their own adultery on in the same fashion. And while that happened they were, in turn, spied on by the person they just got done spying on!

    This is some Shakespearean style adultery farce that ends in a double murder happening right here, is what it is. It is exactly the kind of ridiculous situation the Brackens and Blackwoods would find themselves in and you should be real proud for conceiving of it.

    (Here, Precocious’ claim is more likely to be true, as he was tasked with copying out the final draft of the document.)

    I yet contend that we need some more information on the “real” Precocious, the actual scribe who supposedly adopted a nom-de-pen later to write this history-slash-calumny.

    For betraying the Vances, the Tullys were rewarded with the “confluence of the Red Fork and the Tumblestone” being removed from the territories of House Vance (which freed House Tully from vassalage), although the Tullys were bitterly disappointed when the treaty named them only as “lords freehold” rather than as kings in their own right.

    Minor pedantry: I would suggest that “Riverrun and all of its dependencies” or something of its nature be used rather than just “the confluence of the Red Fork and the Tumblestone.” The former makes it much clearer that House Tully and Riverrun and all of House Tully’s vassals are now an independent power bloc, rather than just the land Riverrun sits on being cut loose from House Vance.

    … unless, of course, that uncertainty is something the High Spider was looking to foster.

    I also like that you slipped in “how the Tully’s became independent of the Vances” in here. Nice.

    Moving briskly from the secular to the sacred,

    Another excellent construction. You’ve been on fire this entire section.

    The theology was briefer than it probably would have been in a “real life” situation of this sort. I’ve read some of those papal bulls that were purporting to settle theological debates, and they’d often go on and on and laying out the case for they they’re right and their soon-to-be-extra-heretical enemies are wrong for many pages and with many references.

    But writing out something that long would really mess up this briskly-flowing narrative. And what you wrote out “sounds” right, it sounds like what a Westerosi proponent of the Seven-In-One would say to espouse his position. It’s very in-universe and quite good.

    Following the setting aside of Queen Shiraz, Alton arranged for the double marriage of his brother and heir, Ser Mychel, to Madeira Redwyne and his sister Julia to Ser Merlot Redwyne

    You’re having a lot of fun with House Redwyne.

    made any extension of the Bracken-Blackwood alliance an impossibility, and instead the two houses fell to blood feud once again, each side insisting that the other had struck first while they themselves had merely been avenging themselves.

    And again, “struck first” is an… interesting euphemism here for an argument that basically boils down to “you guys cheated first, our adultery was revenge adultery and thus justified!”

    It’s pretty awesome.

  10. […] was on religious grounds and how widely incest was abominated.*(Speaking as the writer of the life of the High Spider, I actually laughed out loud when I read that “there was a single god with seven faces” […]

  11. wd says:

    wait, is mulciber having prophetic dreams about harrenhal? it seems like the crystal palace would be built in the right general vicinity (as long as it’s north of the lake), and the two structures seem to have thematic parallels.

  12. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, given the tenor of that last line might one please ask if you have any thoughts on how a former High Septon would be buried – do you think The Faith would tend towards Humility so overstated as to approach outright flamboyance (A “nameless child and former Septon” approach, complete with embroidered banners and a long train of professional mourners), just go with a “Way, make way for the shell that once spoke for the Seven” ostentation or offer only a very humble interment? (presumably hurried, because that Conclave isn’t going to be schemed through all on its own).

    Personally I quite like the idea that – for the sake of what Wrestling fans would call “Kayfabe” – the High Septon is never simply buried under their former name and that (technically speaking) the High Septon never dies, but can only fall silent for a time (since the High Septon is the Voice of The Seven and they are Eternal).

    I’m rather torn between thinking that the former High Septon is buried very quietly and almost in secret, that the former High Septon is buried (with extreme ostentation) as “a poor sinner & nameless soul” or that he is buried under the name & title of his successor (assuming that the Conclave doesn’t take too long and the weather isn’t too hot): one imagines that all of the above scenarios (and probably others beside) have played out over the Millennia.

  13. g0ld0 says:

    Herbert Fremen! Nice one Steven.

  14. Oh please, please tell me there was a Lady Chardonnay Redwyne too!

    Amazing story, I am waiting for part 3!

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