What will happen to Bowen Marsh?

A quick update that I speculate about a bit more in two posts of mine. The first being the fiery hand of R’hllor is the fourth hand Jon did not feel in his mutiny, and why Marsh was crying, is because Marsh was being used as a vessel to kill Jon. Melisandre and/or R’hllor made thralls of Marsh and the mutineers. This actually follows to a ‘T’ the idea of the “Skinner” in the Martin story The Skin Trade, and “the thing that hunts the hunters” coming out from a broken mirror (the Wall). The second post where I speculate this idea is in the Tormund is the horn of winter… as in King of Winter.

Just as Cragorn was a vessel-servant of a “god” messing with fire, and he gets burnt out for it, I am speculating that Bowen Marsh will also be burnt up after the fiery hand of R’hllor and/via Melisandre uses him to stab John. Possibly his heart will be blackened in his case.

Dragon_horn
Dragon horn. Cropped image of the Dragon Horn card. Illustrated by Yoann Boissonnet.
  • A Feast for Crows – The Reaver

“Woe.” The Crow’s Eye sipped from his silver cup. “I once held a dragon’s egg in this hand, brother. This Myrish wizard swore he could hatch it if I gave him a year and all the gold that he required. When I grew bored with his excuses, I slew him. As he watched his entrails sliding through his fingers he said, ‘But it has not been a year.'” He laughed. “Cragorn’s died, you know.”

“Who?”

“The man who blew my dragon horn. When the maester cut him open, his lungs were charred as black as soot.”

Victarion shuddered. “Show me this dragon’s egg.”

  • A Dance with Dragons – Victarion I

“Much and more.” The black priest pointed to one golden band. “Here the horn is named. ‘I am Dragonbinder,’ it says. Have you ever heard it sound?”

“Once.” One of his brother’s mongrels had sounded the hellhorn at the kingsmoot on Old Wyk. A monster of a man he had been, huge and shaven-headed, with rings of gold and jet and jade around arms thick with muscle, and a great hawk tattooed across his chest. “The sound it made … it burned, somehow. As if my bones were on fire, searing my flesh from within. Those writings glowed red-hot, then white-hot and painful to look upon. It seemed as if the sound would never end. It was like some long scream. A thousand screams, all melted into one.”

“And the man who blew the horn, what of him?”

He died. There were blisters on his lips, after. His bird was bleeding too.” The captain thumped his chest. “The hawk, just here. Every feather dripping blood. I heard the man was all burned up inside, but that might just have been some tale.”

 

Remember this?

  • A Storm of Swords – Jon XI

“Dalla died.” Jon was saddened by that still. “Val is her sister. She and the babe did not require much capturing, Your Grace. You had put the wildlings to flight, and the skinchanger Mance had left to guard his queen went mad when the eagle burned.” Jon looked at Melisandre. “Some say that was your doing.”

She smiled, her long copper hair tumbling across her face. “The Lord of Light has fiery talons, Jon Snow.”

Jon nodded, and turned back to the king. “Your Grace, you spoke of Val. She has asked to see Mance Rayder, to bring his son to him. It would be a . . . a kindness.”


house_baratheon__dragonstone__sigil_custom_by_duwee_davisii-d6dw74q

It is possible that Melisandre uses Marsh as her fiery “hand” because she does not want to burn up. We see how she reacts to her own ruby pulsing when the magics come through more strongly at certain events:

  • A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre I

The wildling wore a sleeveless jerkin of boiled leather dotted with bronze studs beneath a worn cloak mottled in shades of green and brown. No bones. He was cloaked in shadows too, in wisps of ragged grey mist, half-seen, sliding across his face and form with every step he took. Ugly things. As ugly as his bones. A widow’s peak, close-set dark eyes, pinched cheeks, a mustache wriggling like a worm above a mouthful of broken brown teeth.

Melisandre felt the warmth in the hollow of her throat as her ruby stirred at the closeness of its slave. “You have put aside your suit of bones,” she observed.

“The clacking was like to drive me mad.”

[and then]

Melisandre paid the naked steel no mind. If the wildling had meant her harm, she would have seen it in her flames. Danger to her own person was the first thing she had learned to see, back when she was still half a child, a slave girl bound for life to the great red temple. It was still the first thing she looked for whenever she gazed into a fire. “It is their eyes that should concern you, not their knives,” she warned him.

“The glamor, aye.” In the black iron fetter about his wrist, the ruby seemed to pulse. He tapped it with the edge of his blade. The steel made a faint click against the stone. “I feel it when I sleep. Warm against my skin, even through the iron. Soft as a woman’s kiss. Your kiss. But sometimes in my dreams it starts to burn, and your lips turn into teeth. Every day I think how easy it would be to pry it out, and every day I don’t. Must I wear the bloody bones as well?”

“The spell is made of shadow and suggestion. Men see what they expect to see. The bones are part of that.” Was I wrong to spare this one? “If the glamor fails, they will kill you.”

[and then]

“The bones help,” said Melisandre. “The bones remember. The strongest glamors are built of such things. A dead man’s boots, a hank of hair, a bag of fingerbones. With whispered words and prayer, a man’s shadow can be drawn forth from such and draped about another like a cloak. The wearer’s essence does not change, only his seeming.”

She made it sound a simple thing, and easy. They need never know how difficult it had been, or how much it had cost her. That was a lesson Melisandre had learned long before Asshai; the more effortless the sorcery appears, the more men fear the sorcerer. When the flames had licked at Rattleshirt, the ruby at her throat had grown so hot that she had feared her own flesh might start to smoke and blacken. Thankfully Lord Snow had delivered her from that agony with his arrows. Whilst Stannis had seethed at the defiance, she had shuddered with relief.

  • A Feast for Crows – Samwell V

He was not a man to be refused. Sam hesitated a moment, then told his tale again as Marywn, Alleras, and the other novice listened. “Maester Aemon believed that Daenerys Targaryen was the fulfillment of a prophecy . . . her, not Stannis, nor Prince Rhaegar, nor the princeling whose head was dashed against the wall.”

“Born amidst salt and smoke, beneath a bleeding star. I know the prophecy.” Marwyn turned his head and spat a gob of red phlegm onto the floor. “Not that I would trust it. Gorghan of Old Ghis once wrote that a prophecy is like a treacherous woman. She takes your member in her mouth, and you moan with the pleasure of it and think, how sweet, how fine, how good this is . . . and then her teeth snap shut and your moans turn to screams. That is the nature of prophecy, said Gorghan. Prophecy will bite your prick off every time.” He chewed a bit. “Still . . .”

Compare to the descriptions we get from Moqorro and Victarion:

  • A Dance with Dragons – Victarion I

“A true tale.” Moqorro turned the hellhorn, examining the queer letters that crawled across a second of the golden bands. “Here it says, ‘No mortal man shall sound me and live.‘ “

Bitterly Victarion brooded on the treachery of brothers. Euron’s gifts are always poisoned. “The Crow’s Eye swore this horn would bind dragons to my will. But how will that serve me if the price is death?”

Your brother did not sound the horn himself. Nor must you.” Moqorro pointed to the band of steel. “Here. ‘Blood for fire, fire for blood.’ Who blows the hellhorn matters not. The dragons will come to the horn’s master. You must claim the horn. With blood.”

So it appears that there is a good chance Bowen Marsh will be burnt from inside, and probably at his heart, which would give reason to his tears at the mutiny stabbing. Mel is already shown to have some interest in the Steward of the Night’s Watch:

  • A Storm of Swords – Samwell V

    I have no place here, Sam thought anxiously, when her red eyes fell upon him. Someone had to help Maester Aemon up the steps. Don’t look at me, I’m just the maester’s steward. The others were contenders for the Old Bear’s command, all but Bowen Marsh, who had withdrawn from the contest but remained castellan and Lord Steward. Sam did not understand why Melisandre should seem so interested in him.

Melisandre tends to sense/react to people based on their emotions, not unlike the psi-linked character Robb in the George RR Martin story A Song for Lya. She gets Stannis worked up in his wars by burning leeches- a way of her falsely displaying real talents, as she just manipulates Stannis based on her visions. Melisandre even manipulates Davos Seaworth by the control over his son Devan (and his whereabouts) that she has. And certainly she has won over the impressionable Selyse in body and soul. Melisandre even manipulates Jon by use of a promise of his sister.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon VI

“The heart is all that matters. Do not despair, Lord Snow. Despair is a weapon of the enemy, whose name may not be spoken. Your sister is not lost to you.”

“I have no sister.” The words were knives. What do you know of my heart, priestess? What do you know of my sister?

It could be that R’hllor (or whatever) is sending Melisandre warnings of Jon, and that her mission is to kill Jon. GRRM has said that Melisandre is on her own mission. Melisandre ‘assigned’ to Jon in Westeros while the other red priests are ‘assigned’ to forging converts to Daenerys in Essos.

Q: Why did Melisandre seek out Stannis? Did she see him in her flames and decided to seek him out on her own, or is she on a mission on behalf of the red priests? It doesn’t seem at any point as if the latter is the case, when you compare to Moqorro who has been sent out by the priesthood.

GRRM: You’re right. Melisandre has gone to Stannis entirely on her own, and has her own agenda. source

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon I

Jon could feel her heat, even through his wool and boiled leather. The sight of them arm in arm was drawing curious looks. They will be whispering in the barracks tonight. “If you can truly see the morrow in your flames, tell me when and where the next wildling attack will come.” He slipped his arm free.

R’hllor sends us what visions he will, but I shall seek for this man Tormund in the flames.” Melisandre’s red lips curled into a smile. “I have seen you in my fires, Jon Snow.”

“Is that a threat, my lady? Do you mean to burn me too?”

I think it all burns down to this scene here, which is a rather emotional scene of a brotherhood breaking. It is also reminiscent of Victarion explaining to the men that they have to take turns blowing the horn. [Sidenote: I theorize that Jon is not actually dead because of this mutiny]

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon XIII

“For the Watch.” Wick slashed at him again. This time Jon caught his wrist and bent his arm back until he dropped the dagger. The gangling steward backed away, his hands upraised as if to say, Not me, it was not me. Men were screaming. Jon reached for Longclaw, but his fingers had grown stiff and clumsy. Somehow he could not seem to get the sword free of its scabbard.

Then Bowen Marsh stood there before him, tears running down his cheeks. “For the Watch.” He punched Jon in the belly. When he pulled his hand away, the dagger stayed where he had buried it.

Jon fell to his knees. He found the dagger’s hilt and wrenched it free. In the cold night air the wound was smoking. “Ghost,” he whispered. Pain washed over him. Stick them with the pointy end. When the third dagger took him between the shoulder blades, he gave a grunt and fell face-first into the snow. He never felt the fourth knife. Only the cold …

  • The Winds of Winter – Victarion I

“My brother found this thing on Valyria,” Victarion told the thralls. “Think how big the dragon must’ve been to bear two of these upon his head. Bigger than Vhagar or Meraxes, bigger than Balerion the Black Dread.” He took the horn from Moqorro and ran his palm along its curves. “At the Kingsmoot on Old Wyk one of Euron’s mutes blew upon this horn. Some of you will remember. It was not a sound that any man who heard it will ever forget.”

“They say he died,” the Boy said, “him who blew the horn.”

“Aye. The horn was smoking after. The mute had blisters on his lips, and the bird inked across his chest was bleeding. He died the next day. When they cut him open his lungs were black.”

“The horn is cursed,” said the Bastard’s Bastard.

“A dragon’s horn from Valyria,” said Victarion. “Aye, it’s cursed. I never said it wasn’t.” He brushed his hand across one of the red gold bands and the ancient glyph seemed to sing beneath his fingertips. For half a heartbeat he wanted nothing so much as to sound the horn himself. Euron was a fool to give me this, it is a precious thing, and powerful. With this I’ll win the Seastone Chair, and then the Iron Throne. With this I’ll win the world.

“Cragorn blew the horn thrice and died for it. He was as big as any of you, and strong as me. So strong that he could twist a man’s head right off his shoulders with only his bare hands, and yet the horn killed him.”

“It will kill us too, then,” said the Boy.

Victarion did not oft forgive a thrall for talking out of turn, but the Boy was young, no more than twenty, and soon to die besides. He let it pass.

The mute sounded the horn three times. You three will sound it only once. Might be you’ll die, might be you won’t. All men die. The Iron Fleet is sailing into battle. Many on this very ship will be dead before the sun goes down – stabbed or slashed, gutted, drowned, burned aliveonly the Gods know which of us will still be here come the morrow. Sound the horn and live and I’ll make free men of you, one or two or all three. I’ll give you wives, a bit of land, a ship to sail, thralls of your own. Men will know your names.”

“Even you, Lord Captain?” asked the Bastard’s Bastard.

“Aye.”

“I’ll do it then.”

“And me,” said the Boy.

The Brute crossed his arms and nodded.

If it made the three feel braver to believe they had a choice, let them cling to that. Victarion cared little what they believed, they were only thralls.

“You will sail with me on Iron Victory,” he told them, “but you will not join the battle. Boy, you’re the youngest – you’ll sound the horn first. When the time comes you will blow it long and loud. They say you are strong. Blow the horn until you are too weak to stand, until the last bit of breath has been squeezed from you, until your lungs are burning. Let the freedmen hear you in Meereen, the slavers in Yunkai, the ghosts in Astapor. Let the monkeys shit themselves at the sound when it rolls across the Isle of Cedars. Then pass the horn along to the next man. Do you hear me? Do you know what to do?”

The Boy and the Bastard’s Bastard tugged their forelocks; the Brute might’ve done the same, but he was bald.

“You may touch the horn. Then go.”

They left him one by one. The three thralls, and then Moqorro. Victarion would not let him take the hell-horn.

“I will keep it here with me, until it is needed.”

“As you command. Would you have me bleed you?”

Victarion seized the dusky woman by the wrist and pulled her to him. “She will do it. Go pray to your red god. Light your fire, and tell me what you see.”

Moqorro’s dark eyes seemed to shine. “I see dragons.”


Feature image: Bowen Marsh – by artist Aaron Riley

Thanks for reading along with the Fattest Leech of Ice and Fire. Insightful feedback is always welcome.

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