Arya and the Iron Bank

Updated: Jun 27, 2020

Since the beginning of a Game of Thrones, Arya is shown as evidently different from her siblings, not only in her appearance, but also her demeanor and objectives, which aren’t in line with the education she received and the behaviour she was borderline bullied into following. The issue with her arc is that her mother, septa, sister and household “peers”, expected her to follow a female model that was already outdated for her time. The previous generation went through the changes in question. Lyanna was outdoorsy and independent, had a mind of her own and followed the path that made most sense to her, and although some might argue that Lyanna, like Arya, was a “northerner”, that excuse cannot be used for the others. Cersei was independent and had a mind of her own – surely, a manipulative and terrifying creature, but not one who was spending her time being the dutiful daughter/sister while waiting for life to land all sorted on her lap. Cersei’s mother, lady Joanna, was kicked from court for her indiscretions with the king, she definitely had a mind of her own, and so did lady Ashara, lady Olenna – probably a little ahead of her time, but still… and after her, lady Margaery, the Sand Snakes, lady Meera, princess Arianne, lady Asha, lady Dustin, and even lady Lysa, who was lady Catelyn’s own sister, raised by the same people, in the same household, and at the same time. In many ways, lady Catelyn was the odd one out, which brought her to leave Sansa strongly unprepared for the reality she had to face, while Arya adapted, but considering how the author points out the unfairness of life and how severe sexism was, most lords considered lady Catelyn to be a perfect and dutiful lady while judging the other ones as “wild”. A show of how Arya Stark wasn’t wrong in her pursuits is exemplified by my own descendent, lady Brienne of Tarth, whose path was very close to Arya’s own, but a few years before, as well as princess Daenerys, who, comparatively, was not even remotely interested in doing embroidery or judging other women by their physical appearance. Yet, despite the social and intellectual changes that women were going through, Arya was raised in a house that expected her to be more like Sansa. Her brothers could each be what or how they wanted to be without as much as a single complaint. Robb and Rickon were just about as different as they could be, and that wasn’t simply because Robb was grown, but rather who he was. If left to their own devices and at the same age, Robb was not, by any stretch of the imagination, as boisterous as Rickon who behaved more as a wildling than as a lord. Regardless if Arya’s upbringing was right or wrong, however, there is the simple fact that she felt marginalized and isolated from her sister and as a dissatisfactory daughter to her mother. Right from the beginning, all Stark members who had their own POV chapters followed one of two main conflicts: Either the game of thrones or the preparation for the Long Night. It’s easy to see how Lord Eddard was a catalyst for the game and how Jon had to discover his uncle’s party dead and yet raised, for the issue to hit home and be the catalyst for his own loyalty. Sansa is surrounded by the path to the throne, Bran is surrounded by the elements of the Long Night. Arya, however, is neither. Through her POV, the reader is given incredible insight of the consequences of war and Arya truly witnesses all of it, the smell of decay, the taste of the water with bodies rotting under the surface, she witnesses rape, murder, violence, corruption, manipulation, loss, injustice – she is a first-hand witness to everything. Her story is definitely not a path to the throne, but it’s not a path to the long night either. She is part of something else and her story is so fascinating and so important that she is the only character who is given a POV chapter in each and every book. It’s hard to miss some details. Primarily, how can one easily justify Jaqen H’ghar’s intentions? How come he was captured and thrown in a cell considering his skills? And if the story is to be dissected at all, then there is the additional fact that he had an extra face with him and was on his way to the Citadel for an intrigue he had already been playing by the time our books started, making it evident that he can’t possibly have been in a cell by accident if at all. The Guild of the Faceless Assassins isn’t a charitable organization. They are actually rather expensive and the price they charge is something that will always be difficult for the person who hires them. There are no price tags on their door. The cost depends on who the victim is, who is hiring, and most important, how much it matters to the one hiring in order to justify the deed, so although the price depends on many factors, there is no doubt that there must be one. That idea is explained and reinforced in many different chapters throughout the book. That is simply to say that offering lady Arya three kills for the three lives she “saved” would be as absurd as asking lord Baelish to become a silent sister. Not only do they charge a heavy price, but that price must be a burden, something that requires extreme sacrifices. No rich man can simply offer all his money for a kill, because a kill has to hurt beyond the pay. Arya sacrificed nothing to “save” them, but many concessions had to be made for the kills she asked and in the end, she got much more than kills, she got her freedom as well as her friends’, so it’s rather evident that the guild had their eyes on Arya – their knowledge of the future is troublesome, but in the Known World, not unreasonable. The efforts to have her, however, point towards the end of her winding road and finally into the main story, and to maintain her value, lady Arya isn’t turning towards one of the two main stories, but rather, towards both of them. George RR Martin has always been keen to the sort of writing that hides clues “in plain-sight”. No small detail or expression should be ignored when it comes to his books and oftentimes his material is read repetitively while the big punchline stays invisible to many fans. It is only by dissecting the books and comparing expressions, locations, clothing and other often ignored details that the veil of deception starts to lift, and when referring to lady Arya Stark, each veil lifted reveals yet another. As they are slowly peeled, her arc starts to point in a direction that is truly baffling. Tycho Nestoris arrives in a Dance with Dragons, but it is in a Feast for Crows that the Iron Bank really shows its face in Westeros. Merchants ask Cersei to help when she was at the height of her madness. The Iron Bank was demanding payment and refusing new loans. She doesn’t help and tells the merchants to pay the bank, and in her crazy mind, she goes into daydreams about having a bank in Westeros – the Golden Bank of Lannisport – and thinks how she was the one who could make that happen once Tommen’s throne was secure. As the bank cannot exact its toll in King’s Landing, Tycho is then seen north. He introduces himself as a “humble servant” and two chapters later Arya is taught that if she truly wants to be a faceless man, she will have to be a “humble servant”. Those are the only two instances where the term “humble servant” is used in the main series. Tycho goes after Stannis as he has “a gift”, but if there’s something my life in King’s Landing has taught me, is that there is no such thing. No institution gives “gifts” unless there’s an interest behind it, so neither was Arya given a gift by Jaqen nor was Stannis given a gift by Tycho. Poor Theon, when he returns to the story as “Reek”, is a broken creature, not truly a man, not really anything, just scared and a little insane. The abuse he endures is so extreme that his abuser and company feel completely comfortable discussing plans right before him knowing he wasn’t the cunning young man he had once been. But after Reek converts into the faith of the old gods, he slowly starts to become Theon again. It’s truly poetic how his arc evolves and as the new Theon, one who still has plenty of suffering ahead of his path, he doesn’t seem to miss a trick. He was the “gift” Tycho brought Lord Stannis and as Stannis doesn’t have a POV of his own, the accounts of what happens when he doesn’t have Jon, Sam, Melisandre, Davos or Theon around him, are lost for us to try and put together. Tycho arrived at the wall when Stannis was already gone. He didn’t know yet that Ser Davos had “died”. The next time we see Stannis, however, and Tycho has given him Theon, Stannis is angry that ser Davos had been killed. The fact that Ser Davos isn’t really dead is irrelevant to the point. What matters is that Stannis left Deepwood Motte entirely unaware that Ser Davos was dead. It was impossible to send him a letter as the birds wouldn’t know where to go. How can it be that the Theon excerpt from a Winds of Winter comes with him knowing? <<“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?”>> The only outsider who would pass him information would have to be Tycho, and the only reason for him to do that would be to strengthen Stannis’s position, so the Iron Bank has its due. How would Tycho know about Ser Davos, however? Ser Davos was barely known, not born a lord and definitely not from a known house, a man with a common face. Most Westerosi would dismiss him altogether. The connections are made through different POVs throughout a Feast for Crows and a Dance with Dragons. Sam arrives in Braavos and has a sorry exchange with the locals. <<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?">> But to us, faithful followers of the material, it’s evident that George RR Martin described the general clothing culture of the braavosi with an objective in mind. He doesn’t do that elsewhere, he simply describes what people were wearing, but going into a detailed account of how Braavos saw colours in clothing was deliberately done so we can later connect the details to characters and that connection starts out with Ser Davos. In a Dance with Dragons, Ser Davos is in White Harbor, walks around, observe the ships docked and goes to a pub of sorts called “the Lazy Eel” and it is one of the richest chapters in all books, filled with conversations and exchanges that truly set up the political situation in the Known World. <<The dockside wharves were swarming. A clutter of small boats were tied up along the fish market, off-loading their catches. He saw three river runners too, long lean boats built tough to brave the swift currents and rocky shoots of the White Knife. 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 …>> The Braavosi use the dye of a local slug to colour their sails. It’s their strongest characteristic and deliberately done. That specific shade of purple means a braavosi ship. Then Ser Davos continues his wanderings. <<… 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. Some things never change. Inside the Eel, time stood still. The barrel-vaulted ceiling was stained black with soot, the floor was hard-packed earth, the air smelled of smoke and spoiled meat and stale vomit. The fat tallow candles on the tables gave off more smoke than light, and the wine that Davos ordered looked more brown than red in the gloom. Four whores were seated near the door, drinking. One gave him a hopeful smile as he entered. When Davos shook his head, the woman said something that made her companions laugh. After that none of them paid him any mind. Aside from the whores and the proprietor, Davos had the Eel to himself. The cellar was large, full of nooks and shadowed alcoves where a man could be alone. He took his wine to one of them and sat with his back to a wall to wait.>> So, he goes in there and finds a place where he can be “invisible” He knows the place will fill out and he needs to hear and learn. <<… Seamen were the worst gossips in the world when the wine was flowing, even wine as cheap as this. All he need do was listen. Most of what he heard he'd learned in Sisterton, from Lord Godric or the denizens of the Belly of the Whale. Tywin Lannister was dead, butchered by his dwarf son; his corpse had stunk so badly that no one had been able to enter the Great Sept of Baelor for days afterward; the Lady of the Eyrie had been murdered by a singer; Littlefinger ruled the Vale now, but Bronze Yohn Royce had sworn to bring him down; Balon Greyjoy had died as well, and his brothers were fighting for the Seastone Chair; Sandor Clegane had turned outlaw and was plundering and killing in the lands along the Trident; Myr and Lys and Tyrosh were embroiled in another war; a slave revolt was raging in the east.>> The details of what he hears aren’t necessarily correct, but they show what people talked about. The Hound hadn’t turned outlaw, it hadn’t been a singer who had pushed lady Arryn out the moon door and the slave revolt in the east was setup by Stannis’s upcoming competitor to the throne. <<Other tidings were of greater interest. Robett Glover was in the city and had been trying to raise men, with little success. Lord Manderly had turned a deaf ear to his pleas. White Harbor was weary of war, he was reported to have said. That was bad. The Ryswells and the Dustins had surprised the ironmen on the Fever River and put their longships to the torch. That was worse. And now the Bastard of Bolton was riding south with Hother Umber to join them for an attack on Moat Cailin. "The Whoresbane his own self," claimed a riverman who'd just brought a load of hides and timber down the White Knife, "with three hundred spearmen and a hundred archers. Some Hornwood men have joined them, and Cerwyns too." That was worst of all. >> And then they start talking about dragons, Daenerys, and the Targaryens in general. The person who starts talking about dragons is a man from Braavos who passes himself for an oarsman. <<"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.' ">> So this brief exchange has many aspects. First, an oarsman from Braavos, which means he simply couldn’t be wearing a “somber woolen jack”. And the same word “somber” is later used by Jon to describe Tycho’s attire: <<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.”>> The books are filled with these rich descriptions and it goes on in Arya’s “Mercy” chapter excerpt from a Winds of Winter, the culture is described again and the word “somber” is used to for the wealthy. <<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. They had the best view of the stage, and servants to bring them food, wine, cushions, whatever they might desire. It was rare to find the second balcony more than half full at the Gate; such of the mighty who relished a night of mummery were more inclined to visit the Dome or the Blue Lantern, where the offerings were considered subtler and more poetic.>> Another mention-worthy detail about that chapter is that it’s full of names, as if the author tried to “tease” us asking if we are paying attention. The first one is that the Braavosi had arrived serving as an oarsman aboard Storm Dancer, but Storm Dancer is the Tyroshi galley Catelyn used to go to King’s Landing in a Game of Thrones. It’s absolutely impossible is that a Tyroshi galley that was certainly filled with slaves had a Braavosi working for them. In Tyrosh, there were 3 slaves for every free man and the Braavosi wouldn’t even joke about dragons saying: <<“We Braavosi are descended from those who fled Valyria and the wroth of its dragonlords. We do not jape of dragons.">>. He certainly wouldn’t find employment alongside slaves, which are the reason why Braavos came to be in the first place. Another name that is thrown for observation is the Sloe-Eyed Maid, which in reality had been dismissed by Daenerys in a Clash of Kings because it was too small: <<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.>>, which means the Sloe-Eyed Maid hadn’t chosen cargo over Daenerys, but rather hadn’t been able to accommodate her and all her Dothraki, but the important detail that comes from these exchanges is that cloves and saffron are the exact same spices that Ser Davos knew the Sloe-Eyed Maid carried. Once he shows his knowledge and the bits about Targaryen history, he feels the oarsman started to observe him closer, and as Ser Davos got involved in the conversation, he accidentally let the oarsman come to the assumption that he wasn’t just another client at the pub but rather someone pretending to be someone else. It takes one to know one and as the oarsman threw some conversations around, Ser Davos’s knowledge made him unintendedly betray his true identity. Ser Davos then gets so uncomfortable with the conversation and the oarsman observing him that, unable to quite put his “finger on it”, he chooses to leave the pub. It seems that the oarsman was doing exactly what Ser Davos was doing – pretending to be someone else and trying to learn about the situation from the viewpoint of the people. That oarsman, evidently, can only be Tycho Nestoris himself. Dressed as a wealthy man from Braavos, enters a pub and chitchats with strangers hoping to catch anything that could help him attain his goal. The braavosi galleas docked, the braavosi man pretending to be working class, but wearing the wrong clothes and evidently knowledgeable of things that go well beyond the knowledge a simple man from Essos would have, then later Jon discusses with Tycho about his ships: <<"Cotter Pyke informs me that you came to Eastwatch with three ships. A galleas, a galley, and a cog." "Just so, my lord. The crossing can be perilous in this season. One ship alone may founder, where three together may aid one another. The Iron Bank is always prudent in such matters.">>, which means Tycho arrived in Eastwatch with three purple sail ships, one of them a galleas, like the one Ser Davos saw in White Harbor. And Tycho is evidently a very smart man and hard to fool. He had to get Stannis’s promise to pay the debt, and if one needs to deal with Stannis, based on how unyielding he is, it is far more likely that the person could hope for better luck treating with Ser Davos. Once Ser Davos betrayed his identity, Tycho likely followed him, then saw the fake head and hand on spikes, so he ran to the Wall after lord Stannis Baratheon. The importance of how Stannis knows about Ser Davos is very significant indeed. Stannis had been joined by Arnolf Kastark, whom he didn’t trust, Mors Crowfood whose keep was so small and insignificant that before he joined Stannis in Dance, the only mentioning of Crowfood we have is that they couldn’t get messages by ravens, but rather by envoys, making him oblivious to Ser Davos and his “destiny”, and Tycho Nestorys, who knew because he was in White Harbor trying to connect to Ser Davos. Actually, the first Davos chapter in a Dance with Dragons goes at length about gold and how Stannis needs gold so he can pay Salladhor Saan, so when Stannis is talking to Jon and wanting Jon to give him money, Jon says the wall has no gold, only turnips and Stannis replies: <<“Turnips are not like to appease Salladhor Saan”>> and then the bank arrives with nothing other than just what he needs, but at a place where he can’t do anything with it. The bank led Stannis to believe he could only gain by accepting the exchange. In order to buy Stannis’s trust, Tycho brought him Theon and Jeyne, but more importantly, the truth. Stannis understood the importance of getting Arya and saving her. Arya, to his knowledge, was the key to the north. A trueborn daughter of Lord Eddard Stark suffering at the hands of a Bolton bastard right under the northerners’ noses. If Stannis could get to her and save her, he would probably be able to marry her to a man of his own choosing and hold the north and their support after a heroic act. When Tychos arrives at Stannis’s camp, however, he understands the importance of gaining Stannis to his side and brings a “gift”, but he obviously brings far more than that, because the same Stannis who was obsessed with getting support through whom he believe was Arya, lets her go the moment she is with him. He takes Massey, a very dodgy character indeed, to escort Tycho across the narrow sea and bring back a sellsword company. While discussing, he matter-of-factly adds: << "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.">> The entire exchange is very valuable to Tycho, certainly. It’s through his traveling and exchanges that he sees and learns about different aspects of the story: • The whereabouts of Selyse • The whereabout of Shireen • The Red Woman has predicted that Eastwatch will be attacked • Val going after Tormund despite express orders to keep her safe • Hardhome • Wildlings – and a giant – south of the wall and although Stannis had made it pretty clear that the seven Ironborn were to be taken from Sybelle’s by him and him alone, Tycho was a sly and very persuasive man who convinced Sybelle to release them to him instead. There’s no action Tycho takes that is not considered and ultimately comes to his advantage. First, Stannis can use the Ironborn where he is, but he cannot do that if they are stuck in a dungeon. That simple action might seem irrelevant to Tycho, but it is actually favourable to both parties. • It makes the Ironborn owe Stannis as they need help to depose Euron • The strife with the Ironborn comes to a halt which is one less trouble for Stannis and gives him a new important ally • The alliance with the Ironborn makes them fight for him, which allows him to pay the Iron Bank, closing the circle with their objectives. The Iron Bank of Braavos is one of, if not the most powerful bank in the known world. Like the wealthy families of Westeros, the Braavosi bank has a motto of their own: “The Iron Bank will have its due” and truly it does. The accounts of what happens to those who defy them are many, but few put it as well as Jon Snow when he borrows so the Night’s Watch can survive the winter. <<He did not have to like it, though. And come spring, when the time came to repay all that gold, he would like it even less. Tycho Nestoris had impressed him as cultured and courteous, but the Iron Bank of Braavos had a fearsome reputation when collecting debts. Each of the Nine Free Cities had its bank, and some had more than one, fighting over every coin like dogs over a bone, but the Iron Bank was richer and more powerful than all the rest combined. When princes defaulted on their debts to lesser banks, ruined bankers sold their wives and children into slavery and opened their own veins. When princes failed to repay the Iron Bank, new princes sprang up from nowhere and took their thrones.>> and it is said that the bank has a bloody history when collecting its due, which will come, according to the braavosi, by gold or by blood. It seems by evidence to date that the Iron Bank doesn’t actually care about Westeros. The Westerosi were fighting wars, destroying the country, sprouting new kings in every corner and the bank didn’t do anything. They only care about being paid. The gold Stannis gets right now is inconsequential. Sure, he will have Massey, a young and shady knight to go get the gold, but Massey has already made it pretty clear that he believes the war is lost and that Stannis should flee. It will take them a long time to get to Eastwatch, then another while to get to Braavos. Throughout that time, Stannis can’t use gold to save his life. He can’t buy anything that would help him. If Massey gets to Braavos and if the money doesn’t tempt him and if he goes on to fulfill his promise, it will still be a long time before he finds a sellswords company available with all the conflict going on in Essos. By the time he returns, if he returns, Stannis might already be dead. Seems like an awful lot of “ifs” for a bank that doesn’t gamble and it can only be explained if the bank offered Stannis something far more valuable than money, something that can be used right now and the evidence is shown by his dismissal of Jeyne. Why would Stannis let one knight and six guards travel to the wall crossing that wild northern country with the most precious person to him at all? He is described as a soldier and a strategist, a smart man who knew combat. Arya had more value with him than anywhere else, unless he knew that Jeyne wasn’t in fact Arya. It seems plenty clear that the Iron Bank isn't run by imbeciles. If they are giving their support to Stannis it is because they gain by it. Stannis is marching. what if he dies? Tycho Nestoris was desperate to get to Stannis. He ventured the north, a wild land even for locals. The only logical explanation is that he had some sort of game changing information that had to be delivered right there and then and Tycho says he could not trust a raven with his message, which definitely indicates it was extremely sensitive. The bank loans money to Stannis and neither one can benefit from it immediately. What can gold do to help Stannis where he is? It seems clear that what Tycho needs to deliver Stannis has nothing to do with investments, but rather with intelligence. And if we consider what the bank can gain, it becomes evident that they aren’t going to see a penny of gold back anytime soon... But the Bank doesn't give without gain. Evidently, the bank has some sort of collateral that will MAKE Stannis pay - otherwise they will have a prince springing from nowhere, isn't that what they are known to do? Tycho wasn't running after Stannis directly for gold, but rather to offer him the key element that will change the course of his actions. Something that will benefit him so greatly that might even change all his plans. Something so valuable he cannot risk losing and that he cannot obtain otherwise... The Iron Bank offers him Arya Stark. When people moved to what is now known as Braavos, the few who had valuable belongings hid their goods in underground tunnels that had been dug for iron mining. As the city grew, the wealthiest started to make loans to the poor. That is how the bank came to be. Their fortunes are hidden all over those underground mines that go way deeper than the canals and under the water, but when Arya goes underground, the chapter describes it like this: <<Eighteen steps brought them to the vaults, where five arched passageways spread out like the fingers of a man’s hand. Down here the steps grew narrower and steeper, but the girl had run up and down them a thousand times and they held no terrors for her. Twenty-two more steps and they were at the subcellar. The tunnels here were cramped and crooked, black wormholes twisting through the heart of the great rock. One passage was closed off by a heavy iron door. The priest hung the lantern from a hook, slipped a hand inside his robe, and produced an ornate key. …This stair was unknown to her, however, and that made it perilous. One-and-twenty two-and-twenty three-and-twenty. With every step the air seemed to grow a little colder. When her count reached thirty she knew that they were under even the canals. Three-and-thirty four-and-thirty. How deep were they going to go?>> They sure seem to be in mines, cramped and crooked wormholes so deep they were under the canals. And Archmaester Matthar wrote “The Origins of the Iron Bank and Braavos”, and there he describes and explains that <<The bank is famous for its discretion and its secrecy. The founders of the Iron Bank numbered three-and-twenty; sixteen men and seven women, each of whom possessed a key to the bank's great subterranean vaults.>> The keys passed on down, generation to generation and some ceremonial ones were created to cover the members of the families as they grew, however, the original twenty three were never removed from the first ones. It is pertinent, however, that if you are established in a very small city and your underground is likely reachable by other mines, then that your association would unite to others in order to prevent betrayals - faceless bankers ending up in the canals or assassins who can no longer access their most precious faces because they vanished overnight best unite and gain more through the union, that is, if they were not together to begin with. A union like that can provide a valuable exchange, for as the bank funds the guild, the guild rids the bank of its enemies. It is known that the banks will have its dues, but what is the advantage of a dead man to a bank? Perhaps none, but a great incentive for debtors to pay - furthermore, a FABULOUS incentive for the guild to add faces to its halls. If they are so powerful as to sit the next monarch on thrones, then death is an advantage to gain without a doubt, all the while, the Faceless Assassins gain with another offer to their many-faced god and a new face that comes with more than just physical aspects, but also with bits of memory and history of the person in question. Knowledge is the most valuable currency in the universe of Ice and Fire and uniting guild and bank provides them both with it. The proof of how valuable knowledge is in the world is shared by many characters, it’s far more valuable than what lord Varys and magister Illyrio claim. In Westeros everyone who has power has spies as well. Bran has endless access to knowledge and that is his strength. Tyrion understands history as that is his own benefit. The kindly man makes Arya go out on the streets and bring three bits of information every single day. Everything she shares with him, is available to the Iron Bank, which explains how Tycho knows so much. The kindly man and therefore the guild and consequently the Iron Bank are all very well aware that Arya is Arya, which means, they know Jeyne is not. The proof of evidence continues with Tycho allowing Jon to borrow all three ships to go to Hardhome. He knows it’s a perilous voyage, he knows if they don’t return, he can’t return home, but yet, he concedes. It can only be explained by the knowledge Arya herself had shared with the kindly man: <<“I know why the Sealord seized the Goodheart. She was carrying slaves. Hundreds of slaves, women and children, roped together in her hold.” Braavos had been founded by escaped slaves, and the slave trade was forbidden here. “I know where the slaves came from. They were wildlings from Westeros, from a place called Hardhome. An old ruined place, accursed.” Old Nan had told her tales of Hardhome, back at Winterfell when she had still been Arya Stark. “After the big battle where the King-Beyond-the-Wall was killed, the wildlings ran away, and this woodswitch said that if they went to Hardhome, ships would come and carry them away to someplace warm. But no ships came, except these two Lyseni pirates, Goodheart and Elephant, that had been driven north by a storm. They dropped anchor off Hardhome to make repairs, and saw the wildlings, but there were thousands and they didn’t have room for all of them, so they said they’d just take the women and the children. The wildlings had nothing to eat, so the men sent out their wives and daughters, but as soon as the ships were out to sea, the Lyseni drove them below and roped them up. They meant to sell them all in Lys. Only then they ran into another storm and the ships were parted. The Goodheart was so damaged her captain had no choice but to put in here, but the Elephant may have made it back to Lys. The Lyseni at Pynto’s think that she’ll return with more ships. The price of slaves is rising, they said, and there are thousands more women and children at Hardhome.”>> The anti-slave mentality is deeply ingrained in Braavosi culture. So much in fact that it constitutes their first law. Jon couldn’t even understand how easy it had been to convince Tycho and it gave him an uneasy feeling, but Jon Snow knows nothing and is certainly not privy to the same sort of information the reader is. The idea of telling Stannis the truth can help him win a significant victory against the Boltons, because Stannis doesn’t trust the Kastarks, so he lets them know that the fake Arya is going to the wall. He leads people to believe Massey is traveling with more people than he is so the marks on the snow show a large party. Once the Kastarks tell the Boltons about Jeyne riding to the wall, the Boltons will split their forces to get back the girl. The northerners will also join Stannis because they will believe he saved Ned Stark’s daughter, and most importantly, the knowledge that Jeyne isn’t, in fact Arya, can unmask the Bolton’s ruse, making them lose the support they currently have. Finally, even if Arya doesn’t wish to return home and chooses to stay in Braavos, the Faceless Men already cut off her face, which is available for the waif to use if Arya wishes to stay. The waif in the meantime has been learning the common tongue, as well as everything there is to know about Arya and her life. With the real Arya, the remaining northerners will join Stannis’s cause and as she is kept by the Faceless Men/Iron Bank, they ascertain that Stannis will pay what he owes. Also, if the waif goes instead of Arya, then Stannis will have under his roof someone who truly understands that the bank will have its dues. That is the true enemy nobody wishes to cross

Art by Andres

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