The Winterfell Huis Clos


Here is how Davos has been greeted in the Merman's court.
“You stand before Wyman Manderly, Lord of White Harbor and Warden of the White Knife, Shield of the Faith, Defender of
the Dispossessed, Lord Marshal of the Mander, a Knight of the Order of the Green Hand,” he said. “In the Merman’s Court, it is customary for vassals and petitioners to kneel.”

(Davos III, ADwD)

Manderly's court does not resemble any other northman's castle. The string of titles, the practice of kneeling would seem to belong to a king, and recall the eastern courts such as Meereen.
“All kneel for His Magnificence Hizdahr zo Loraq, Fourteenth of That Ancient Name, King of Meereen, Scion of Ghis, Octarch of the Old Empire, Master of the Skahazadhan, Consort to Dragons and Blood of the Harpy,” the herald shouted.
(The Discarded Knight, ADwD)

Which other lord in Westeros would match such pomposity? Every one of these titles sets Manderly apart in the north. By which mechanism does House Manderly remain infeoded to House Stark while being it is clearly more powerful? It is as if a large part of the power of House Stark lied in White Harbor (that would be confirmed by an analysis of politics of Westeros in terms of economics, I presume).

  1. From the Mander to the White Knife
  2. The Wolf's Den
  3. The Merman
  4. The Harvest Feast
  5. House Locke
  6. The Braavosi Banker?
  7. The Winterfell Menu
  8. Vengeance
  9. Hundreds versus Thousands
  10. The Craven?

1. From the Mander to the White Knife

White Harbor is the only city in the north, the economic heart of the land.
“For that, you need White Harbor. The city cannot compare to Old-town or King’s Landing, but it is still a thriving port. Lord Manderly is the richest of my lord father’s bannermen.”
(Jon IV, ADwD)
Let's look at Manderly's titles one by one.

Warden of the White Knife: the White Knife is the main river in the north, and practically leads to Winterfell. It's certainly the best way for transportation to the heartland.

Shield of the Faith: The Manderlys are among the few northmen that worship the Seven.

Defender of the Dispossessed: It's not clear what this title refers to. But it is suggestive of a Stark restoration.

Lord Marshal of the Mander: Of course the Manderlys of old who were dispossessed in the Reach. Lord Marshal of the Mander seems to be a important title, something like the police and the fleet of the Mander. Indeed the Mander is navigable up to Bitterbridge.

Knight of the Order of the Green Hand: There was a Garth Greenhand among the Gardener Kings in the Reach. And one refers to the Kings of the Green Hand (presumably the Gardener Kings). So the title must come from the Manderlys of old.
“I know about the promise,” insisted the girl. “Maester Theomore, tell them! A thousand years before the Conquest, a promise was made, and oaths were sworn in the Wolf’s Den before the old gods and the new. When we were sore beset and friendless, hounded from our homes and in peril of our lives, the wolves took us in and nourished us and protected us against our enemies. The city is built upon the land they gave us. In return we swore that we should always be their men. Stark men!”
(Davos III, ADwD)
The story has also been told by Lord Godric.
“The Manderlys are no northmen, not down deep. ’Twas no more than nine hundred years ago when they came north, laden down with all their gold and gods. They’d been great lords on the Mander until they overreached themselves and the green hands slapped them down. The wolf king took their gold, but he gave them land and let them keep their gods.”
(Davos I, ADwD)

The notion that Manderly came with gold in the north is interesting. Indeed, gold is not in circulation in the north.When Theon took Winterfell, the treasure was made of silver. When Wyman Manderly offered to mint the coinage for King Robb, it was all about silver. White Harbor is noted for its silversmiths nowadays.

Lord Godric's story until they overreached themselves lets us discern a certain desire for grandeur among the Manderlys. The extraordinary pomposity of the Merman's Court seems to confirm this impression. Given that Manderly is, by far, the richest man in the north, the temptation might be great for him to size this opportunity, and perhaps, once again overreach himself.

To appreciate the wealth and power of Wyman Manderly, compare with the bleak description of the Dreadfort, a few chapters before.
The great hall was dim and smoky. Rows of torches burned to left and right, grasped by skeletal human hands jutting from the walls. High overhead were wooden rafters black from smoke, and a vaulted ceiling lost in shadow. The air was heavy with the smells of wine and ale and roasted meat. Reek’s stomach rumbled noisily at the scents, and his mouth began to water.
Little Walder pushed him stumbling past the long tables where the men of the garrison were eating. He could feel their eyes upon him. The best places, up near the dais, were occupied by Ramsay’s favorites, the Bastard’s Boys. Ben Bones, the old man who kept his lordship’s beloved hunting hounds. Damon, called Damon Dance-for-Me, fair-haired and boyish. Grunt, who had lost his tongue for speaking carelessly in Lord Roose’s hearing. Sour Alyn. Skinner. Yellow Dick. Farther down, below the salt, were others that Reek knew by sight if not by name: sworn swords and serjeants, soldiers and gaolers and torturers. But there were strangers too, faces he did not know. Some wrinkled their noses as he passed, whilst others laughed at the sight of him. Guests, Reek thought, his lordship’s friends, and I am brought up to amuse them. A shiver of fear went through him.
(Reek I, ADwD)

House Bolton, now dominant in the north, seems to me to be backward and rustic. After the Stark downfall, White Harbor seems destined to rule in the north, sooner or later.

2. The Wolf's Den

We first hear about the foundation of White Harbor from Maester Luwin in the Winterfell crypts.
That one is Jon Stark. When the sea raiders landed in the east, he drove them out and built the castle at White Harbor. His son was Rickard Stark, not my father’s father but another Rickard, he took the Neck away from the Marsh King and married his daughter.
(Bran VII, ACoK)

It's only an approximation. What was really founded was the Wolf's Den. The story of the Wolf's Den as told by Ser Bartimus.
He had come to love the Wolf’s Den, however, and liked nothing more than to talk about its long and bloody history. The Den was much older than White Harbor, the knight told Davos. It had been raised by King Jon Stark to defend the mouth of the White Knife against raiders from the sea. Many a younger son of the King in the North had made his seat there, many a brother, many an uncle, many a cousin. Some passed the castle to their own sons and grandsons, and offshoot branches of House Stark had arisen; the Greystarks had lasted the longest, holding the Wolf’s Den for five centuries, until they presumed to join the Dreadfort in rebellion against the Starks of Winterfell.
After their fall, the castle had passed through many other hands. House Flint held it for a century, House Locke for almost two. Slates, Longs, Holts, and Ashwoods had held sway here, charged by Winterfell to keep the river safe. Reavers from the Three Sisters took the castle once, making it their toehold in the north. During the wars between Winterfell and the Vale, it was besieged by Osgood Arryn, the Old Falcon, and burned by his son, the one remembered as the Talon. When old King Edrick Stark had grown too feeble to defend his realm, the Wolf’s Den was captured by slavers from the Stepstones. They would brand their captives with hot irons and break them to the whip before shipping them off across the sea, and these same black stone walls bore witness.
“Then a long cruel winter fell,” said Ser Bartimus. “The White Knife froze hard, and even the firth was icing up. The winds came howling from the north and drove them slavers inside to huddle round their fires, and whilst they warmed themselves the new king come down on them. Brandon Stark this was, Edrick Snowbeard’s great-grandson, him that men called Ice Eyes. He took the Wolf’s Den back,
stripped the slavers naked, and gave them to the slaves he’d found chained up in the dungeons. It’s said they hung their entrails in the branches of the heart tree, as an offering to the gods. The old gods, not these new ones from the south. Your Seven don’t know winter, and winter don’t know them.”
Davos could not argue with the truth of that. From what he had seen at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, he did not care to know winter either. “What gods do you keep?” he asked the one-legged knight.
“The old ones.” When Ser Bartimus grinned, he looked just like a skull. “Me and mine were here before the Manderlys. Like as not, my own forebears strung those entrails through the tree.”
“I never knew that northmen made blood sacrifice to their heart trees.”
“There’s much and more you southrons do not know about the north,” Ser Bartimus replied.
(Davos IV, ADwD)

Despite the title "Ser", Bartimus is a follower of the old gods.

The term Wolf's Den makes me think of a secondary residence for the Starks, one fit for Winter, indeed the oceanic climate of White Harbor might be preferable to Winterfell, situated more to the north. We are that the firth of the White Knife usually does not freeze in Winter, guaranteeing thus more acceptable temperatures. Moreover the sea provides seafood all year long. So it's interesting to consider that the Wolf's Den was once a place used by the Starks for Winter, at least between the time of Jon Stark (foundation of the Wolf's Den) and the time when glass panels were put in place in Winterfell. The speculation is of no consequence, and is not really supported by the text since the reason given for the foundation is the defense of the White Knife. However, Wolf's Den brings to mind the notion of hibernation. Let's turn to the history of the place.

The story of the Wolf's Den was troublesome, and the place appears to have been unstable. It has always been overviewed by the Starks. The trouble ended when the Starks granted White Harbor to the Manderlys.
Even when I threatened to have her tongue out, she reminded me of the debt White Harbor owes to the Starks of Winterfell, a debt that can never be repaid.
(Davos IV, ADwD)
This happened when the Manderly had been expelled from the Reach.
As the river is called the Mander, though the Manderlys were driven from its banks a thousand years ago.
(The Sworn Sword)

Why did the Starks grant the seat to the Manderlys, who weren't northmen and did not worship the old gods? Why were the Manderlys able to end the trouble at the mouth of the White Knife?

The Wolf's Den is not only a castle. Davos and Robett Glover see the impressive weirwood.
They crossed the castle’s godswood, where the heart tree had grown so huge and tangled that it had choked out all the oaks and elms and birch and sent its thick, pale limbs crashing through the walls and windows that looked down on it. Its roots were as thick around as a man’s waist, its trunk so wide that the face carved into it looked fat and angry.
(Davos IV, ADwD)

It's interesting that the new castle is built at the top of a hill, while the Wolf's Den is at the bottom. In many cases, weirwoods were at the top of hills (High Heart, Seadragon Point, Lord Brynden's cave), not at the bottom.
Castle Stair was a street with steps, a broad white stone way that led up from the Wolf’s Den by the water to the New Castle on its hill.
(Davos II, ADwD)
We are told that the castle has much and more underground.
He knew there were true dungeons down in the castle cellars— oubliettes and torture chambers and dank pits where huge black rats scrab-bled in the darkness. His gaolers claimed all of them were unoccupied at present.
(Davos IV, ADwD)

So I would suppose that there were something like Winterfell's crypts under the castle. It might be that the weirwood itself was the reason of all the rebellions and instability at the Wolf's Den. For some reason the old gods went mad there (or is it that each weirwood holds its own old gods and has its own personality?). By giving the Den to followers of a different faith the Starks finally neutralized the bad influence of the heart tree.

Of course, it is to be expected that the Greystarks, and many others are buried under the tree. If either the Slates, the Flints, the Lockes or any follower of the old gods eventually recover the castle, all the problems might resume.

Now the Manderlys are staunch Stark loyalist.
The maester fingered the chain about his neck. “Solemn oaths were sworn to the Starks of Winterfell, aye. But Winterfell has fallen and House Stark has been extinguished.”
(Davos III, ADwD)

The presence of the impressive heart tree in White Harbor might signify that Manderly, despite being a follower of the church of the Seven, understands the power of a godswood, in particular the Winterfell godswood.

3. The Merman

How interesting it is to examine the visual imagery at White Harbor. First, we have Fishfoot inside the Newcastle.
Inside was a cobbled square with a fountain at its center. A stone merman rose from its waters, twenty feet tall from tail to crown. His curly beard was green and white with lichen, and one of the prongs of his trident had broken off before Davos had been born, yet somehow he still managed to impress. Old Fishfoot was what the locals called him. The square was named for some dead lord, but no one ever called it anything but Fishfoot Yard.
(Davos II, ADwD)

The motif is repeated in the Merman's court.
Two marble mermen flanked his lordship’s court, Fishfoot’s smaller cousins.
(Davos III, ADwD)
The decoration is quite characteristic.
As many times as he had visited White Harbor, Davos had never set foot inside the New Castle, much less the Merman’s Court. Its walls and floor and ceiling were made of wooden planks notched cunningly together and decorated with all the creatures of the sea. As they approached the dais, Davos trod on painted crabs and clams and starfish, half-hidden amongst twisting black fronds of seaweed and the bones of drowned sailors. On the walls to either side, pale sharks prowled painted blue-green depths, whilst eels and octopods slithered amongst rocks and sunken ships. Shoals of herring and great codfish swam between the tall arched windows. Higher up, near where the old fishing nets drooped down from the rafters, the surface of the sea had been depicted. To his right a war galley stroked serene against the rising sun; to his left, a battered old cog raced before a storm, her sails in rags. Behind the dais a kraken and grey leviathan were locked in battle beneath the painted waves.
(Davos III, ADwD)

So Manderly fancies himself as lord of the sea creatures. The vision of the Sea conveyed by the painting differs from the bleak view of the ironmen, especially the greyjoys, who see themselves as krakens, a sort of supreme animal of the sea. The kraken is represented, seemilingly as the adversary, and perhaps peer to the leviathan. The leviathan is the sigil of House Volmark in the Island. According to the legend reported by Aeron Greyjoy, both leviathans and krakens were prey to Nagga, the sea dragon.

So Manderly seems to have some common background with the ironmen, sharing a love for the sea. When the Ironmen attacked the Reach, they took a few places.
They have taken Stonecrab Cay, the Isle of Pigs, and the Mermaid’s Palace, and there are other nests on Horseshoe Rock and Bastard’s Cradle.
(Samwell V, AFfC)

I wonder if the Mermaid's Palace weren't the seat of the Manderlys when they were lords in the Reach. It's likely that the title Lord Marshal of the Mander implies that the Manderlys were along the river. Since they seem so attached to the sea they probably ruled the mouth of the river, like they do in White Harbor. It's likely that the Starks gave them White Harbor precisely for this reason. However, we have the impression from the passage that the Mermaid's Palace is in the vicinity of Oldtown and the Arbor, much south of the mouth of the Mander.

It's probably a coincidence: the decoration of the Hall recalls the paintings on the orphans of the Greenblood.
They found the boat half a league downstream, hidden beneath the drooping branches of a great green willow. Low of roof and wide abeam, the poleboats had hardly any draft to speak of; the Young Dragon had disparaged them as “hovels built on rafts,” but that was hardly fair. All but the poorest orphan boats were wonderfully carved and painted. This one was done in shades of green, with a curved wooden tiller shaped like a mermaid, and fish faces peering through her rails.
(The Queenmaker, AFfC)

We are left to suspect that several houses have non human blood flowing in their veins: the Reeds seems related to the Children of the Forest, the Umbers to the Giants, the Borell to the squishers. Are the Manderly related to some marine creatures? The last appearance of Manderly in the story brings precisely such a comparison.
Old Lord Locke was shouting for a maester as Manderly flopped on the floor like a clubbed walrus in a spreading pool of blood.
(Theon, ADwD)

4. The Harvest Feast

Manderly's behaviors in Winterfell and at the Harvest Feast are interesting to compare.

Here he is at the Feast.
Lord Wyman Manderly had arrived from White Harbor two days past, traveling by barge and litter, as he was too fat to sit a horse. With him had come a long tail of retainers: knights, squires, lesser lords and ladies, heralds, musicians, even a juggler, all aglitter with banners and surcoats in what seemed half a hundred colors. Bran had welcomed them to Winterfell from his father’s high stone seat with the direwolves carved into the arms, and afterward Ser Rodrik had said he’d done well. If that had been the end of it, he would not have minded. But it was only the beginning.
(Bran II, ACoK)
So Lord Wyman brings along a whole court with him. And Maester Luwin says.
“The feast makes a pleasant pretext,” Ser Rodrik explained, “but a man does not cross a hundred leagues for a sliver of duck and a sip of wine. Only those who have matters of import to set before us are like to make the journey.”

(Bran II, ACoK)
Indeed Lord Wyman comes with some interesting suggestions.
“Why, no prince is ever late,” the Lord of White Harbor responded amiably. “Those who arrive before him have come early, that’s all.” Wyman Manderly had a great booming laugh. It was small wonder he could not sit a saddle; he looked as if he outweighed most horses. As windy as he was vast, he began by asking Winterfell to confirm the new customs officers he had appointed for White Harbor. The old ones had been holding back silver for King’s Landing rather than paying it over to the new King in the North. “King Robb needs his own coinage as well,” he declared, “and White Harbor is the very place to mint it.” He offered to take charge of the matter, as it please the king, and went from that to speak of how he had strengthened the port’s defenses, detailing the cost of every improvement.
In addition to a mint, Lord Manderly also proposed to build Robb a warfleet. “We have had no strength at sea for hundreds of years, since Brandon the Burner put the torch to his father’s ships. Grant me the gold and within the year I will float you sufficient galleys to take Dragonstone and King’s Landing both.”

(Bran II, ACoK)
Lord Wyman seems to have followed early instruction from Eddard Stark.
Instruct Lord Manderly that he is to strengthen and repair all his defenses at White Harbor, and see that they are well manned.
(Eddard IV, AGoT)
The fleet is built when Davos is in White Harbor.
"I have been building warships for more than a year. Some you saw, but there are as many more hidden up the White Knife."
(Davos IV, ADwD)

It would seem that Lord Wyman had some help to build his ships from the Umbers.
Ser Rodrik pulled at his whiskers. “You have forests of tall pine and old oak. Lord Manderly has shipwrights and sailors in plenty. Together you ought to be able to float enough longships to guard both your coasts.”
“Manderly?” Mors Umber snorted. “That great waddling sack of suet? His own people mock him as Lord Lamprey, I’ve heard. The man can scarce walk. If you stuck a sword in his belly, ten thousand eels would wriggle out.”
“He is fat,” Ser Rodrik admitted, “but he is not stupid. You will work with him, or the king will know the reason why.” And to Bran’s astonishment, the truculent Umbers agreed to do as he commanded, though not without grumbling.
(Bran III, ACoK)

Indeed, Whoresbane had asked for ships to police the wildlings in the Bay of Seals. The wood of the Umbers seem to have been transported along the White Knife.
“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 spear-men and a hundred archers. Some Hornwood men have joined them, and Cerwyns too.”
(Davos II, ADwD)

The riverman is well informed about the recent events of House Umber, he has probably come from Umber Lands along the river. Therefore, one can the character as emblematic of the commerce between The Last Hearth and White Harbor.

When Ramsay forcibly wed Lady Hornwood, née Manderly, Lord Wyman felt he had to intervene.
The old knight was off east, trying to set to rights the trouble there. Roose Bolton’s bastard had started it by seizing Lady Hornwood as she returned from the harvest feast, marrying her that very night even though he was young enough to be her son. Then Lord Manderly had taken her castle. To protect the Hornwood holdings from the Boltons, he had written, but Ser Rodrik had been almost as angry with him as with the bastard.
(Bran IV, ACoK)

We never learned what happened then. Did Lord Manderly abandon the Hornwood to Ramsay after the Sack of Winterfell? Or after the Red Wedding?

5. House Locke

This House is seated at Oldcastle where the firth of the White Knife meets the Narrow Sea. Its sigil consists in crossed bronze keys.

Its lord, Ondrew Locke, couldn't attend the Harvest Feast in Winterfell in reason of his old age. But he came to Winterfell for the wedding. Meanwhile, house Locke has a member at the Night's Watch: Mallador Locke, a prominent ranger. Another member is with the Young Wolf: Donnel Locke. Donnel is made prisoner by the Lannisters before being freed as part as an exchange of prisoners. He met his end at the Red Wedding.

Another Locke is present at the Merman's Court and dares to speak out against the Boltons.
“He won’t ever be my lord! He made Lady Hornwood marry him, then shut her in a dungeon and made her eat her fingers.”
A murmur of assent swept the Merman’s Court. “The maid tells it true,” declared a stocky man in white and purple, whose cloak was fastened with a pair of crossed bronze keys. “Roose Bolton’s cold and cunning, aye, but a man can deal with Roose. We’ve all known worse. But this bastard son of his ... they say he’s mad and cruel, a monster.”
(Davos III, ADwD)
This man doesn't appear to be as old as Ondrew.

Sybelle Locke is the wife of Robett Glover and the main lady of Deepwood Motte. She is taken prisoner when the Ironmen take the castle. Her children are hostage in the Iron Island. While she is prisoner she spends most of her time in the godswood.

Her piety finds an echo in Ondrew Locke, when the snow is falling heavily in Winterfell. Those are the only words we hear from old Ondrew during the wedding.
“The gods have turned against us,” old Lord Locke was heard to say in the Great Hall. “This is their wroth. A wind as cold as hell itself and snows that never end. We are cursed.”
(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)

The proximity between House Locke and House Manderly is confirmed by Ondrew's reaction when Manderly is wounded by Hosteen Frey.
Old Lord Locke was shouting for a maester as Manderly flopped on the floor like a clubbed walrus in a spreading pool of blood.
(Theon, ADwD)

House Locke has held the Wolf's Den for almost two centuries, not quite as long as the Greystarks though, as we heard from Ser Bartimus.

6. The Braavosi Banker

When Davos is in White Harbor, he inquires about the ships currently in the harbor.
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 ...
... and there beyond, the warship.
(Davos II, ADwD)

The warship belongs to the throne and it brought the Freys to White Harbor. The galleas from Braavos is more interesting. The purple hull and sails mark it as an official ship. Tycho Nestoris would later arrive at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea with the following fleet.
“Cotter Pyke informs me that you came to Eastwatch with three ships. A galleas, a galley, and a cog.”
(Jon IX, ADwD)

So it possible that the galleas is Tycho's, and that the remnant of his fleet was made of the Storm Dancer, and the Horn of Plenty. The Brave Magister bears an unlikely name for a Braavosi ship, and is filled with mead. The cog and the galley of Tycho Nestoris might not be Braavosi, and they might have joined the galleas in White Harbor, or earlier since Brienne sees in Maidenpool what could very well be the banker's fleet.
A galley, a galleas, and a big two- masted cog were in port, along with a score of little fishing boats.
(Brienne III, ADwD)

There is no sign that the galleas is Braavosi for Brienne. Perhaps her familiarity with ships does not match Davos'. An oarsman from the galleas is sentenced by Lord Tarly, and nothing shows that he is braavosi.

It's tempting to believe the Braavosi fleet came from King's Landing and then went to Maidenpool, later White Harbor before going to the Wall. Perhaps there is some significance to the stop in Maidenpool.

Let's return to White Harbor. It raises the question of the help provided by Braavos for the building of Manderly's fleet. Indeed, the Arsenal of Braavos is famed for its efficient manufacturing capability.
“The Arsenal of Braavos,” Denyo named it, as proud as if he’d built it. “They can build a war galley there in a day.”
(Arya I, AFfC)

It's probably a long time since White Harbor has build a large fleet. A realistic option for Manderly would have made use of the Braavosi expertise (having the galleys built at the Arsenal, or, more likely, making workers come from there).

Manderly has no need of the Braavosi's moneylending. Moreover he is raising men in White Harbor. So Tycho Nestoris had little to offer for him, beside the help for building ships. But it is tempting to think that Tycho Nestoris was present at the Merman's Court when Davos made his plea for help. But that doesn't seem supported by Davos' description of the attendance at the Merman's court.

Davos had hoped to speak with Wyman Manderly alone, but he found a crowded court. Along the walls, the women outnumbered the men by five to one; what few males he did see had long grey beards or looked too young to shave. There were septons as well, and holy sisters in white robes and grey. Near the top of the hall stood a dozen men in the blue and silver-grey of House Frey. Their faces had a likeness a blind man could have seen; several wore the badge of the Twins, two towers connected by a bridge.

(Davos III, ADwD)

Maybe Tycho Nestoris had pleaded at court like Davos would later do. But for what? It's possible that Manderly suggested the Iron Bank to help Stannis. Manderly might be aware that Stannis would receive the Iron Bank's support.

I have considered and abandoned the following possibility. We do not know how long the Braavosi ships remained in White Harbor, but it is possible that Tycho Nestoris was put in contact with Davos after being freed from the Wolf's Den. And Davos himself might have explained the needs of Stannis. (Of course, it is a secret that Davos is alive. Hence the banker would have had to remain silent about such a meeting.) It's even possible that Davos went to Skagos with the Banker's fleet. There might be an agreement that the Banker would pick Davos and Rickon on Skagos on their return trip from Eastwatch. However, if the banker had been in contact with Davos, then he would have revealed to Stannis that Davos is alive. He didn't.
"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?"
(Theon, TWoW preview)

It's not clear how did Stannis learn the fate of Davos. Perhaps he has been informed by the banker. Another little detail deserves to be noted. Manderly complains to Davos about the Freys.
You saw them, the arrogant Ser Jared and his nephew Rhaegar, that smirking worm who wears a dragon’s name. Behind them both stands Symond, clinking coins. That one has bought and paid for several of my servants and two of my knights. One of his wife’s handmaids has found her way into the bed of my own fool.
(Davos IV, ADwD)

The appendices reveal that Symond's wife is named Bethario and comes from Braavos. Perhaps her handmaid is a braavosi too. Symond's son Bradamar is fostered in Braavos by a merchant called Oro Tendyris, under all likehood a parent of Bethario – her father, her brother etc. I have found no trace of the Tendyris family in Braavos.

It's possible that the spying was for the benefit of the banker rather than for the benefit of House Frey.

Let's return to the fleet in White Harbor. Davos hears a sailor, who, I presume, comes from one of those ships.
“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.’ ”
(Davos II, ADwD)

So, if the Braavosi galleas in White Harbor is Tycho Nestoris', the Bravoosi came through Pentos. There is something odd in the banker's itinirary. The scene at White Harbor precedes the arrest of Davos. In turn, the news of the arrest of the Davos preceded the refusal by Cersei to reimburse the Iron Bank. So Tycho Nestoris, if he is indeed there, was not in White Harbor as an enemy of the Iron Throne.

7. The Winterfell Menu

There is a little oddity, that I can't explain by anything but a mistake by the author. Manderly tells Davos.
Even so, I must go to Winterfell. Roose Bolton wants me on my knees, and beneath the velvet courtesy he shows the iron mail. I shall go by barge and litter, attended by a hundred knights and my good friends from the Twins.
(Davos IV, ADwD)

But Manderly is summoned to Barrowton by the Warden of the North, Roose Bolton. The decision to hold the wedding in Winterfell is Roose's and would come later. Indeed, Ramsay is surprised to hear that from Roose's mouth after he has failed to find the Freys.
“You will plant a son in her,” Roose Bolton said, “but not here. I’ve decided you shall wed the girl at Winterfell.”
That prospect did not appear to please Lord Ramsay. “I laid waste to Winterfell, or had you forgotten?”
(Reek III, ADwD)

I can't see how Manderly could possibly have foreseen that the destination would be Winterfell.

It seems likely that Wyman Manderly recognized Arya as an imposter.
She had visited White Harbor with her father twice, but she knew King’s Landing better.
(Arya II, AFfC)

Manderly comes to Barrowton with ample provisions. Roose tells Ramsay.
“Forty wayns full of foodstuffs. Casks of wine and hippocras, barrels of fresh-caught lampreys, a herd of goats, a hundred pigs, crates of crabs and oysters, a monstrous codfish ... Lord Wyman likes to eat. You may have noticed.”
(Reek III, ADwD)

At the wedding, Manderly provides most of the menu.
The Lord of White Harbor had furnished the food and drink, black stout and yellow beer and wines red and gold and purple, brought up from the warm south on fat-bottomed ships and aged in his deep cellars. The wedding guests gorged on cod cakes and winter squash, hills of neeps and great round wheels of cheese, on smoking slabs of mutton and beef ribs charred almost black, and lastly on three great wedding pies, as wide across as wagon wheels, their flaky crusts stuffed to bursting with carrots, onions, turnips, parsnips, mushrooms, and chunks of seasoned pork swimming in a savory brown gravy. Ramsay hacked off slices with his falchion and Wyman Manderly himself served, presenting the first steaming portions to Roose Bolton and his fat Frey wife, the next to Ser Hosteen and Ser Aenys, the sons of Walder Frey. “The best pie you have ever tasted, my lords,” the fat lord declared. “Wash it down with Arbor gold and savor every bite. I know I shall.”
True to his word, Manderly devoured six portions, two from each of the three pies, smacking his lips and slapping his belly and stuffing himself until the front of his tunic was half-brown with gravy
stains and his beard was flecked with crumbs of crust. Even Fat Walda Frey could not match his gluttony, though she did manage three slices herself. Ramsay ate heartily as well, though his pale bride did no more than stare at the portion set before her. When she raised her head and looked at Theon, he could see the fear behind her big brown eyes.
(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)

The notion that Jared, Rhaegar and Symond Frey have been cooked in the three pies is well known. No need to insist. It seems further confirmed by the following dialogue.
Ser Hosteen turned on the fat man. “Close enough to drive a lance through my back, aye. Where are my kin, Manderly? Tell me that. Your guests, who brought your son back to you.”
“His bones, you mean.” Manderly speared a chunk of ham with his dagger. “I recall them well. Rhaegar of the round shoulders, with his glib tongue. Bold Ser Jared, so swift to draw his steel. Symond the spymaster, always clinking coins. They brought home Wendel’s bones. It was Tywin Lannister who returned Wylis to me, safe and whole, as he had promised. A man of his word, Lord Tywin, Seven save his soul.” Lord Wyman popped the meat into his mouth, chewed it noisily, smacked his lips, and said, “The road has many dangers, ser. I gave your brothers guest gifts when we took our leave of White Harbor. We swore we would meet again at the wedding. Many and more bore witness to our parting.”
(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)

Manderly's answer to Hosteen comes from his gestures, which associate the Freys with ham. Manderly indicates clearly what happened to the Freys.

Since Manderly asks Abel a song.
Lord Manderly was so drunk he required four strong men to help him from the hall. “We should have a song about the Rat Cook,” he was muttering, as he staggered past Theon, leaning on his knights. “Singer, give us a song about the Rat Cook.”
(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)

The story of the Rat Cook is a story of vengeance.
“It was not for murder that the gods cursed him,” Old Nan said, “nor for serving the Andal king his son in a pie. A man has a right to vengeance. But he slew a guest beneath his roof, and that the gods cannot forgive.”
(Bran IV, ASoS)

But Manderly has not broken guest's right, as he gave guests gifts to the Freys. Nevertheless, I wonder if the pies will not curse everybody involved. Note that two guests at the high table did not taste the pies.
Ramsay ate heartily as well, though his pale bride did no more than stare at the portion set before her. When she raised her head and looked at Theon, he could see the fear behind her big brown eyes.
(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)
The other is Theon.
“You do not eat,” observed Lady Dustin. “No.” Eating was hard for him. Ramsay had left him with so many broken teeth that chewing was an agony.
(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)
Those two guests are precisely those who would escape the castle.

Let's recall the recipe of the Rat Cook.
The Rat Cook had cooked the son of the Andal king in a big pie with onions, carrots, mushrooms, lots of pepper and salt, a rasher of bacon, and a dark red Dornish wine.
(Bran IV, ASoS)
It's close enough. No Dornish wine apparently.

I find curious that there is no spice with the food brought by Manderly. Spices are much enjoyed in the Seven Kingdoms. Given the opulence of the menu their absence is remarkable, especially since a ship wrecked with a large amount of spices has been wrecked in the Sisters. And Davos even enjoyed them when he dined with Lord Godric.
Though there were stranger spices than salt in this sister’s stew. “Is it saffron that I’m tasting?” Saffron was worth more than gold. Davos had only tasted it once before, when King Robert had sent a half a fish to him at a feast on Dragonstone.
“Aye. From Qarth. There’s pepper too.” Lord Godric took a pinch between his thumb and forefinger and sprinkled his own trencher. “Cracked black pepper from Volantis, nothing finer. Take as much as you require if you’re feeling peppery. I’ve got forty chests of it. Not to mention cloves and nutmeg, and a pound of saffron. Took it off a sloe-eyed maid.” He laughed. He still had all his teeth, Davos saw, though most of them were yellow and one on the top was black and dead. “She was making for Braavos, but a gale swept her into the Bite and she smashed up against some of my rocks. So you see, you are not the only gift the storms have brought me. The sea’s a treacherous cruel thing.”
(Davos I, ADwD)

Where would Godric be able to sell his treasure, if not in White Harbor? The question of spices would take us too far, across the Narrow Sea and beyond: Qarth and Yi-Ti. We have to leave aside this investigation.

As a matter of comparison, here the menu of the Harvest Feast in Winterfell, to which Manderly had generously contributed.
Such food Bran had never seen; course after course after course, so much that he could not manage more than a bite or two of each dish. There were great joints of aurochs roasted with leeks, venison pies chunky with carrots, bacon, and mushrooms, mutton chops sauced in honey and cloves, savory duck, peppered boar, goose, skewers of pigeon and capon, beef-and-barley stew, cold fruit soup. Lord Wyman had brought twenty casks of fish from White Harbor packed in salt and seaweed; whitefish and winkles, crabs and mussels, clams, herring, cod, salmon, lobster and lampreys. There was black bread and honeycakes and oaten biscuits; there were turnips and pease and beets, beans and squash and huge red onions; there were baked apples and berry tarts and pears poached in strongwine. Wheels of white cheese were set at every table, above and below the salt, and flagons of hot spice wine and chilled autumn ale were passed up and down the tables.
(Bran III, ACoK)

It seems that the wedding menu is put to shame. Unless Theon is so disinterested that he neglects to pay attention to most of what is being served on the dais. 

Is the pie the whole of Lord Manderly's vengeance? Evidently not. But why the prank? Simply the satisfaction to have vengeance?

Like many highborn, Manderly came to Winterfell without his close kin. His son and his granddaughters remained in White Harbor, a sign that he fears for their lives. But Wyman himself does not seem to fear death.

8. Vengeance

Davos' speech at the Merman's court did not fall into deaf ears.
“Death,” he heard himself say, “there will be death, aye. Your lordship lost a son at the Red Wedding. I lost four upon the Blackwater. And why? Because the Lannisters stole the throne. Go to King’s Landing and look on Tommen with your own eyes, if you doubt me. A blind man could see it. What does Stannis offer you? Vengeance. Vengeance for my sons and yours, for your husbands and your fathers and your brothers. Vengeance for your murdered lord, your murdered king, your butchered princes. Vengeance!”
(Davos III, ADwD)

Lord Manderly seeks retribution from three enemies in Winterell: The Freys who killed his son Wendel at the Red Wedding, Roose Bolton who is complicit and has murdered King Robb, and Ramsay who has murdered Lady Hornwood, a Manderly herself, and sacked Winterfell after smashing the northern host, including White Harbor men, by treachery.

It does not appear that Lord Wyman is ill disposed towards the Lannisters. We have Wylis with Tywin in Harrenhal.
Though ravens came and went every day, Lord Tywin himself spent most of his days behind closed doors with his war council. Arya caught glimpses of him, but always from afar—once walking the walls in the company of three maesters and the fat captive with the bushy mustache, once riding out with his lords bannermen to visit the encampments, but most often standing in an arch of the covered gallery watching men at practice in the yard below.
(Arya VII, ACoK)
In Winterfell, Wyman says:
”They brought home Wendel’s bones. It was Tywin Lannister who returned Wylis to me, safe and whole, as he had promised. A man of his word, Lord Tywin, Seven save his soul.”
(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)

He might not be aware of the role of the Lannisters in the Red Wedding. The fact that Roose murdered the Young Wolf from his own hand might not be known either. Finally, Wylis has been forced into cannibalism by his goaler, Gregor Clegane, a Lannister sworn sword. One can doubt that Wylis is not traumatized by his captivity.
None had any defiance left; especially not Ser Wylis, a bushy-faced tub of suet with dull eyes and sallow, sagging jowls. When Jaime told him that he would be escorted to Maidenpool and there put on a ship for White Harbor, Ser Wylis collapsed into a puddle on the floor and sobbed longer and louder than Pia had. It took four men to lift him back onto his feet. Too much roast goat, Jaime reflected. Gods, but I hate this bloody castle. Harrenhal had seen more horror in its three hundred years than Casterly Rock had witnessed in three thousand.
(Jaime III, AFfC)

We saw Manderly has built a fleet with the Umbers. Davos hear in White Harbor that he makes other war preparations.
The apple seller shrugged. “Some beg. Some steal. Lots o’ young girls taking up the trade, the way girls always do when it’s all they got to sell. Any boy stands five feet tall can find a place in his lordship’s barracks, long as he can hold a spear.”
He’s raising men, then.
(Davos II, ADwD)
Manderly tells Davos.
I have been building warships for more than a year. Some you saw, but there are as many more hidden up the White Knife. Even with the losses I have suffered, I still command more heavy horse than any other lord north of the Neck. My walls are strong, and my vaults are full of silver. Oldcastle and Widow’s Watch will take their lead from me. My bannermen include a dozen petty lords and a hundred landed knights. I can deliver King Stannis the allegiance of all the lands east of the White Knife, from Widow’s Watch and Ramsgate to the Sheepshead Hills and the headwaters of the Broken Branch.
(Davos IV, ADwD)

Manderly has brought to Winterfell only a small part of his forces.

What does he plan to do with the rest of them?
Note that a significant part of those forces are on the White Knife. Many of Manderly's men are White Knife people.
“Them as have no other place to live. Smallfolk from up the White Knife, most o’ them. Hornwood’s people too. With that Bastard o’ Bolton running loose, they all want to be inside the walls. I don’t know what his lordship means to do with all o’ them. Most turned up with no more’n the rags on their backs.”
(Davos II, ADwD)

It's unclear what he has in mind with respect to Stannis: supporting Stannis as King of the Seven Kingdoms and Rickon as Lord of Winterfell or a restoration of the kingdom of the north with Rickon as king and the support of Stannis for the Iron Throne. It seems to be the latter possibility since
Robett Glover broke in to add, “Your loyalty does you honor, my lord, but Stannis Baratheon remains your king, not our own.”
“Your own king is dead,” Davos reminded them, “murdered at the Red Wedding beside Lord Wyman’s son.”
“The Young Wolf is dead,” Manderly allowed, “but that brave boy was not Lord Eddard’s only son. Robett, bring the lad.”
(Davos IV, ADwD)

After the declaration of independence of the north, Manderly seemed happy to take the responsability of minting coin for the king. Surely Manderly understands that in a northern kingdom, the situation of White Harbor is prominent, as the main city, the main harbor, the center of economic activity.

Manderly has found an ally in Robett Glover.
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.
(Davos II, ADwD)
We know that the last part is not true. Manderly meets Robett secretly, and treats him a bit like a vassal it seems.
Robett, wine for the Hand, if you will be so good.
(Davos IV, ADwD)
Manderly seems to have gathered some information on the Boltons, a sign that he spies on them.
“Not slain,” said Glover. “Captured, and carried back to the Dreadfort. The Bastard has been flaying him.”
Lord Wyman nodded. “The tale you tell is one we all have heard, as full of lies as a pudding’s full of raisins. It was the Bastard of Bolton who put Winterfell to the sword ... Ramsay Snow, he was called then, before the boy king made him a Bolton. Snow did not kill them all. He spared the women, roped them together, and marched them to the Dreadfort for his sport.”
“His sport?”
“He is a great hunter,” said Wyman Manderly, “and women are his favorite prey. He strips them naked and sets them loose in the woods. They have a half day’s start before he sets out after them with hounds and horns. From time to time some wench escapes and lives to tell the tale. Most are less fortunate. When Ramsay catches them he rapes them, flays them, feeds their corpses to his dogs, and brings their skins back to the Dreadfort as trophies. If they have given him good sport, he slits their throats before he skins them. Elsewise, t’other way around.”
(Davos IV, ADwD)

There is a letter received by Roose from Ramsay just before the Red Wedding. Roose gives news at the Twins just before the wedding.
Roose Bolton removed a ragged strip of leather from the pouch at his belt. “My son sent this with his letter.”
Ser Wendel turned his fat face away. Robin Flint and Smalljon Umber exchanged a look, and the Greatjon snorted like a bull. “Is that... skin?” said Robb.
“The skin from the little finger of Theon Greyjoy’s left hand. My son is cruel, I confess it. And yet... what is a little skin, against the lives of two young princes? You were their mother, my lady. May I offer you this... small token of revenge?”
(Catelyn VI, ASoS)

But nobody Manderly knows could have reported on this. All involved people are dead or prisoners at the Twins.

Another letter with Theon's skin has been sent to Deepwood Motte. So Ramsay appears to be proud of his treatment of Theon. There might be no need of a special informer to explain that Theon's flaying is known. (But it does not appear widely known that Theon's extremities have been maimed.)

Concerning the women of Winterfell roped together, who could have told Manderly? Perhaps a woman who has escaped Ramsay's hunt.

I have tried to see if Whoresbane could have reported on what he saw at the Dreadfort. I see no sign that he has acted as spy.

Manderly needs to be careful in his vengeance plans.
Three, thought Davos, though I fathered seven. “Soon I must return to the feast to toast my friends of Frey,” Manderly continued. “They watch me, ser. Day and night their eyes are on me, noses sniffing for some whiff of treachery. You saw them, the arrogant Ser Jared and his nephew Rhaegar, that smirking worm who wears a dragon’s name. Behind them both stands Symond, clinking coins. That one has bought and paid for several of my servants and two of my knights. One of his wife’s handmaids has found her way into the bed of my own fool. If Stannis wonders that my letters say so little, it is because I dare not even trust my maester. Theomore is all head and no heart. You heard him in my hall. Maesters are supposed to put aside old loyalties when they don their chains, but I cannot forget that Theomore
was born a Lannister of Lannisport and claims some distant kinship to the Lannisters of Casterly Rock. Foes and false friends are all around me, Lord Davos. They infest my city like roaches, and at night I feel them crawling over me.”
(Davos IV, ADwD)

In particular, Manderly could not use ravens to communicate with his allies to coordinate etc. In particular, he couldn't send any message to Deepwood Motte. We know that Stannis never received any message from Manderly since he tells Theon.
"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?"
(Theon, TWoW)

Manderly's plan is to bring Rickon into the game with the help of Davos. It is understandable that Manderly chooses to support Rickon rather than Bran, since a cripple might not be considered an acceptable claimant. Since Bran is the elder surviving Stark boy, Manderly must intend to inquire about Bran.

That would seem what Robett Glover had been doing with Wex.

Manderly's arrival in Winterfell is interesting.
Lord Manderly had brought musicians from White Harbor, but none were singers, so when Abel turned up at the gates with a lute and six women, he had been made welcome.
(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)

The absence of singer with Manderly is providential for Mance's plans. Coincidence?

Here is another fortunate coincidence for Manderly. Crowfood has set traps outside Winterfell, which caused the death of the Aenys Frey. The Manderly host left the castle at the same time, but through a different door. Recall Roose's command.
“Rather than use our swords upon each other, you might try them on Lord Stannis.” Lord Bolton unrolled the parchment. “His host lies not three days’ ride from here, snowbound and starving, and I for one am tired of waiting on his pleasure. Ser Hosteen, assemble your knights and men-at-arms by the main gates. As you are so eager for battle, you shall strike our first blow. Lord Wyman, gather your White Harbor men by the east gate. They shall go forth as well.”
(Theon, ADwD)

Was there a prior agreement between Crowfood and Manderly? Did someone warn the Manderlys of the traps outside the main gates? Since the command came from Roose himself, it's not clear that such a warning would be sufficient.

During the whole time in Winterfell, Manderly is remarkably passive. Indeed, Roger Ryswell says.
Ryswell was not convinced. “He loves his steaks and chops and meat pies, though. Prowling the castle by dark would require him to leave the table. The only time he does that is when he seeks the privy for one of his hourlong squats.”
(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)
But we have to recall the secret meeting with Davos.
Lord Wyman sighed. “I have treated you most shamefully, I know. I had my reasons, but ... please, sit and drink, I beg you. Drink to my boy’s safe return. Wylis, my eldest son and heir. He is home. That is the welcoming feast you hear. In the Merman’s Court they are eating lamprey pie and venison with roasted chestnuts. Wynafryd is dancing with the Frey she is to marry. The other Freys are raising cups of wine to toast our friendship.”
Beneath the music, Davos could hear the murmur of many voices, the clatter of cups and platters. He said nothing.
“I have just come from the high table,” Lord Wyman went on. “I have eaten too much, as ever, and all White Harbor knows my bowels are bad. My friends of Frey will not question a lengthy visit to the privy, we hope.”
(Davos IV, ADwD)

The remark of Roger Ryswell follows the appearance of the hooded man in Winterfell. Note also that Manderly took advantage of the music to disappear discreetly in White Harbor. When the hooded man came across Theon, Mance was playing in the Great Hall, and there had been no sign of the presence of Manderly on the dais when Theon leaves the Great Hall to come across the hooded man.

So we are left to wonder if Manderly has not met secretly the hooded man.

9. Hundreds versus Thousands

Lord Wyman came to Winterfell with three hundred men, including a hundred knight. It's a considerable force, but no match for the Freys, for the Boltons and for Stannis who command thousands of men.

Nevertheless, Manderly seems eager to go out with the Freys.
Lord Wyman Manderly slapped his massive belly. “White Harbor does not fear to ride with you, Ser Hosteen. Lead us out, and my knights will ride behind you.”
Ser Hosteen turned on the fat man. “Close enough to drive a lance through my back, aye. Where are my kin, Manderly? Tell me that. Your guests, who brought your son back to you.”
(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)

Finally, both Manderly men and Freys are ordered by Roose to leave the castle.
Ser Hosteen, assemble your knights and men-at-arms by the main gates. As you are so eager for battle, you shall strike our first blow. Lord Wyman, gather your White Harbor men by the east gate. They shall go forth as well.
(Theon, ADwD)

It's fortunate that the Manderly forces use a different exit than the Freys since Crowfood has prepared traps outside the castle. It's certainly a sign that Crowfood and Manderly are coordinated.

The Frey men wore the badge of the two towers, those from White Harbor displayed merman and trident. They shouldered through the storm in opposite directions and eyed each other warily as they passed, but no swords were drawn. Not here. It may be different out there in the woods.
(Theon, ADwD)

So it is expected that the Freys and the Manderly would fight outside. The Manderly men are outnumbered, and can't hope to take the Freys by surprise. Nevertheless, they seem to know what they are doing. So what is the plan? Has he massed forces in the vicinity? Manderly's military moves do not make sense if he has no allies in the wings.

Let's return to an interesting character in White Harbor.
The knight wore silver armor, his greaves and gauntlet inlaid with niello to suggest flowing fronds of seaweed. The helm beneath his arm was the head of the merling king, with a crown of mother-of-pearl and a jutting beard of jet and jade. His own beard was as grey as the winter sea.
Davos rose. “May I know your name, ser?”
“Ser Marlon Manderly.” He was a head taller than Davos and three stones heavier, with slate-grey eyes and a haughty way of speaking. “I have the honor to be Lord Wyman’s cousin and commander of his garrison. Follow me.”
(Davos III, ADwD)

Marlon does not seem to be present in Winterfell. Indeed the most senior knight in service of Manderly is described differently.
“First you must needs come through us, ser,” said the eldest of them, a hard-faced greybeard whose bloodstained surcoat showed three silvery mermaids upon a violet field.
(Theon, ADwD)

The description means that Marlon Manderly, commander of the White Harbor garrison is not with Lord Wyman. Hence the bulk of Manderly forces is posted somewhere else. Perhaps at White Harbor, or, why not, near Winterfell, perhaps at Castle Cerwyn (just a wild guess) ready to intervene.

10. The Craven?

After the Red Wedding, Manderly seems to be considered a craven. Here is Lady Dustin as Theon mentions the coming of Stannis.
“He will. He must.” Lady Dustin chuckled. “And when he does, the fat man will piss himself. His son died at the Red Wedding, yet he’s shared his bread and salt with Freys, welcomed them beneath his roof, promised one his granddaughter. He even serves them pie. The Manderlys ran from the south once, hounded from their lands and keeps by enemies. Blood runs true. The fat man would like to kill us all, I do not doubt, but he does not have the belly for it, for all his girth. Under that sweaty flesh beats a heart as craven and cringing as ... well ... yours.”
(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)

Manderly has cultivated this image to prepare his vengeance. Deep down he resents it, as it appears in the conversation with Davos. There is the admiration for Wylla.
“Wylla.” Lord Wyman smiled. “Did you see how brave she was? Even when I threatened to have her tongue out, she reminded me of the debt White Harbor owes to the Starks of Winterfell, a debt that can never be repaid. Wylla spoke from the heart, as did Lady Leona. Forgive her if you can, my lord. She is a foolish, frightened woman, and Wylis is her life. Not every man has it in him to be Prince Aemon the Dragonknight or Symeon Star-Eyes, and not every woman can be as brave as my Wylla and her sister Wynafryd ... who did know, yet played her own part fearlessly.
(Davos IV, ADwD)
And later, Wyman recalls his youth.
I am too fat to sit a horse, as any man with eyes can plainly see. As a boy I loved to ride, and as a young man I handled a
mount well enough to win some small acclaim in the lists, but those days are done. My body has become a prison more dire than the Wolf’s Den. Even so, I must go to Winterfell. Roose Bolton wants me on my knees, and beneath the velvet courtesy he shows the iron mail.
(Davos IV, ADwD)

There is the feeling that Wyman wouldn't mind to die for his vengeance. Indeed, when the time comes to show courage, he doesn't disappoint.

But two days before the escape, a fight almost erupts with the Freys.
“To fight Lord Stannis we would first need to find him,” Roose Ryswell pointed out. “Our scouts go out the Hunter’s Gate, but of late, none of them return.”
Lord Wyman Manderly slapped his massive belly. “White Harbor does not fear to ride with you, Ser Hosteen. Lead us out, and my knights will ride behind you.”
Ser Hosteen turned on the fat man. “Close enough to drive a lance through my back, aye. Where are my kin, Manderly? Tell me that. Your guests, who brought your son back to you.”
“His bones, you mean.” Manderly speared a chunk of ham with his dagger. “I recall them well. Rhaegar of the round shoulders, with his glib tongue. Bold Ser Jared, so swift to draw his steel. Symond the spymaster, always clinking coins. They brought home Wendel’s bones. It was Tywin Lannister who returned Wylis to me, safe and whole, as he had promised. A man of his word, Lord Tywin, Seven save his soul.” Lord Wyman popped the meat into his mouth, chewed it noisily, smacked his lips, and said, “The road has many dangers, ser. I gave your brothers guest gifts when we took our leave of White Harbor. We swore we would meet again at the wedding. Many and more bore witness to our parting.”
“Many and more?” mocked Aenys Frey. “Or you and yours?”
“What are you suggesting, Frey?” The Lord of White Harbor wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “I do not like your tone, ser. No, not one bloody bit.”
“Step out into the yard, you sack of suet, and I’ll serve you all the bloody bits that you can stomach,” Ser Hosteen said.
Wyman Manderly laughed, but half a dozen of his knights were on their feet at once.
(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)

So Manderly avoids the confrontation at this point. But on the day of the escape, he deliberately provoked Hosteen Frey, as if he had no reason to live anymore, as if his existence were no more needed for his vengeance, as if he wanted to show his courage for all the north to see. When accused of Little Walder's death, he replies:
“So young,” said Wyman Manderly. “Though mayhaps this was a blessing. Had he lived, he would have grown up to be a Frey.”
(Theon, ADwD)