The Winterfell Huis Clos


House Slate and House Flint of Flint's Finger both answered to Roose's Bolton summoning at the wedding in Winterfell. But they remain in the background. We never see their lords. We do not even know their lords' names. They have remained inactive, or so it seems, during the campaign of the Young Wolf. We do not even know where House Slate is seated.

We know that there is a Lord Slate, and we know that the Flints are based in Flint's Finger, a remote place in the Neck, separated from both the north and the south by forest, sea and marshes.

Both House Flint and House Slate are old, and they might share a common background since their names both refer to some type of stone. The list could be completed perhaps by adding the houses of Skagos. Skagos is one of the few words from the Old Tongue whose meaning is known to us: Stone. So there would be to be a ancient connection between some subculture of the First Men and the mineral world.


  1. House Slate
  2. House Flint

1. House Slate

Let's have a look at House Slate. First, the house has never been mentioned before ADwD. There seems to be a Slate at the Winterfell wedding, since Theon thinks:

Theon Greyjoy had grown up with Arya Stark. Theon would have known an imposter. If he was seen to accept Bolton's feigned girl as Arya, the northern lords who had gathered to bear witness to the match would have no grounds to question her legitimacy. Stout and Slate, Whoresbane Umber, the quarrelsome Ryswells, Hornwood men and Cerwyn cousins, fat Lord Wyman Manderly ... not one of them had known Ned Stark's daughters half so well as he. And if a few entertained private doubts, surely they would be wise enough to keep those misgivings to themselves.
(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)

It is Stout and Slate, not Slate men or Slate cousins. The lord of House Stout is present at the wedding. So it doesn't seem House Slate is represented by less than its lord. No man sworn to House Slate is mentioned in the book. Ser Bartimus tells us that House Slate once held the Wolf's Den.
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.
(Davos III, ADwD)

So the relationship of House Manderly to House Slate has to be interesting. Does House Slate resent the Manderlys or the Starks for having lost the Wolf's Den? Or is it now sworn to House Manderly? Or is it sworn to the Dreadfort? It seems that the Wolf's Den was given by the Starks to their most loyal bannermen, which seems to indicate that House Slate was once close to House Stark.

The banner of House Slate is present at Barrow Hall.
Their short journey reached its end at the wooden walls of Barrow Hall. Banners flew from its square towers, flapping in the wind: the flayed man of the Dreadfort, the battle-axe of Cerwyn, Tallhart's pines, the merman of Manderly, old Lord Locke's crossed keys, the Umber giant and the stony hand of Flint, the Hornwood moose. For the Stouts, chevrony russet and gold, for Slate, a grey field within a double tressure white.
(Reek III, ADwD)

Note that Slate and Stout are mentioned last, after a period. They arms are purely colors without any sigil. Since we know that Harwood Stout is merely a petty lord sworn to House Dustin, there is all reason to believe that House Slate does not enjoy a better status.

This is probably why their banner is not in the Great Hall of Winterfell for the wedding.  Should we understand that House Slate is close to House Dustin? We are going to have a look at the apparently bland sigil of the house: "a grey field within a double tressure white".

Of course, the grey field might refer to the color of the stone (slate). The term "slate" is sometimes used in the books to describe certain eye colors. Sometimes, it's also the color of sky in GRRM's prose. In White Harbor, the buildings have slate roofs, which is a sign that slate can be found in the vicinity. I presume that House Slate has its seat near slate quarries. (To compare: the First Flints live near flint mountains.) Hence, one can conjecture that House Slate originates from the White Harbor region, and it is natural that it once ruled the Wolf's Den.

Slate roofs are mentioned from time to time in the books, but never in abundance like at White Harbor. We have also the slate floor in the kitchen of the Nightfort, a most unholy place, and in the great Hall at Harrenhal.

The colors of House Slate (grey and white) are precisely those of House Stark, perhaps a sign of some parentage between the two houses. It's that's indeed the case, it's not even clear in which direction the parentage would go. Let's speculate.

It seems that there is layer in the old history of Westeros, at least in the north, which is attached to stone. We have the ancestral Flints, Skagos (stone in the Old Tongue) and now House Slate. Perhaps, at some point all northern nobility was named likewise, and House Stark is an offshoot of House Slate (witness what happened with the creation of House Thenn, the bronze of the Thenns has colored the Karstark sun), which adopted the direwolf but kept the colors. In any case, one wonders whether a northern house can share colors with the Starks just by coincidence. The Stark colors are the subject of several ruminations of Theon as he wanders lonely in Winterfell.
The bride was garbed in white and grey, the colors the true Arya would have worn had she lived long enough to wed. Theon wore black and gold, his cloak pinned to his shoulder by a crude iron kraken that a smith in Barrowton had hammered together for him. But under the hood, his hair was white and thin, and his flesh had an old man's greyish undertone.
(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)
All the color had been leached from Winterfell until only grey and white remained. The Stark colors.
(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)

For Lady Dustin, the Stark colors are eminently significative.
“Dressing her in grey and white serves no good if the girl is left to sob. The Freys may not care, but the northmen ... they fear the Dreadfort, but they love the Starks.”
(The Turncloak, ADwD)

The colors grey and white in themselves represent House Stark in the mind of northmen.

Here is a conjecture that would presume a less ancient connection between the Starks and the Slates: the Slates are descended from the Greystarks, the offshoot of House Stark which preceded House Slate at the Wolf's Den. The sigil of House Slate is almost totally grey. In any case, the Slates have to be aware of the fate of the Greystark, their predecessors at the Wolf's Den:
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.
(Davos III, ADwD)

Since there are no Greystarks anymore, I guess the Slates would think twice before joining the Boltons against the Starks. Lady Dustin also tells us that
Flints, Cerwyns, Tallharts, Slates ... they all had men with the Young Wolf.
(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)

 Is Lady Dustin reliable on that matter? I see no trace of any Slate with the Young Wolf.

To summarize the conjectures about House Slate: it is possibly sworn to House Manderly, and has possibly ancient connections to House Stark (The Starks or Greystarks might be derived from them, or conversely). An alternate view is that House Slate, which has never been mentioned in the first four books, has recently been honored and elevated by Roose Bolton (and perhaps Lady Dustin, since the Slate banner is present at Barrow Hall) and has been promised much and more (perhaps White Harbor, or the Wolf's Den).

In Winterfell, one of the three maesters in service of Roose is supposed to serve Lord Slate. However, there is a supposedly complete list of maesters in the north given by maester Aemon.
The northern lords offered their best hope, so to them Aemon had sent two birds. To the Umbers and the Boltons, to Castle Cerwyn and Torrhen's Square, Karhold and Deepwood Motte, to Bear Island, Oldcastle, Widow's Watch, White Harbor, Barrowton, and the Rills, to the mountain fastnesses of the Liddles, the Burleys, the Norreys, the Harclays, and the Wulls, the black birds brought their plea.
(Jon IX, ASoS)
I see mention neither of House Slate, nor of any place that could be the seat of Lord Slate.

Hence Lord Slate felt compelled to lend his maester to Roose. In any case, I don't understand why House Slate is not in Aemon's list, nor do I understand why they are brought up in this book, as they don't play any role, except through the lending of their maester. Maester Henly  will examined separately.

2. House Flint

Among all northern nobility, House Flint stands alone to be seated in several places: Widow's Watch, the mountains north of Winterfell and Flint's Finger.

A word about heraldry. We know the sigils of Widow's Watch (A blue field strewn with whitecaps, on a yellow chief with crested line a pair of blue eyes), and of Flint's Finger (a stone hand). The sigil of Flint's Finger contains a mineral reference, and might be closer to the First Flints. The sigil of the First Flints is never mentioned (since other mountain clans have a sigil, I guess such a thing exists).

The connection between the branches has been explained by Jon Snow.
“My father's grandmother was a Flint of the mountains, on his mother's side,” Jon told her. “The First Flints, they call themselves. They say the other Flints are the blood of younger sons, who had to leave the mountains to find food and land and wives. It has always been a harsh life up there. When the snows fall and food grows scarce, their young must travel to the winter town or take service at one castle or the other. The old men gather up what strength remains in them and announce that they are going hunting. Some are found come spring. More are never seen again.”
(Jon X, ADwD)

The Flints of Widow's Watch rode with the Young Wolf. They were led by Robin Flint. Robin Flint had followed Catelyn Stark to Bitterbridge, and finally died during the Red Wedding. Lady Lyessa remains in Widow's Watch. She wouldn't attend the Harvest Feast, since she was expecting a child. Widow's Watch is under quarantine, as a sickness has erupted. The Flints (I guess of Widow's Watch) have lost men at the Sack of Winterfell.
Theon studied their banners through Maester Luwin's Myrish lens tube. The Cerwyn battle-axe flapped bravely wherever he looked, and there were Tallhart trees as well, and mermen from White Harbor. Less common were the sigils of Flint and Karstark. Here and there he even saw the bull moose of the Hornwoods.
(Theon VI, ACoK)
The Last time we heard about them is when Lord Godric asked Davos about Sallador San.
The Lyseni. Torrent spied their sails from Littlesister, and before him the Flints from Widow's Watch. Orange sails, and green, and pink. Salladhor Saan. Where is he?
(Davos I, ADwD)

We learn thus that there are relations between the Sisters and Widow's Watch, and, unsurprisingly, that Widow's Watch is a watch post over the Narrow Sea.

Interestingly, the Flint of Flint's Finger are also well situated to watch on the western part of Westeros, as if both houses had been given the task of watching the sea for the north.

The area were the First Flints live is first described by Tyrion as he travels to the Wall.
West of the road were flint hills, grey and rugged, with tall watchtowers on their stony summits. To the east the land was lower, the ground flattening to a rolling plain that stretched away as far as the eye could see. Stone bridges spanned swift, narrow rivers, while small farms spread in rings around holdfasts walled in wood and stone. The road was well trafficked, and at night for their comfort there were rude inns to be found.
Three days ride from Winterfell, however, the farmland gave way to dense wood, and the kingsroad grew lonely. The flint hills rose higher and wilder with each passing mile, until by the fifth day they had turned into mountains, cold blue-grey giants with jagged promontories and snow on their shoulders. When the wind blew from the north, long plumes of ice crystals flew from the high peaks like banners.
(Tyrion II, AGoT)

So the name Flint corresponds to the geology of the homeland of House Flint. And it seems the First Flints live in the higher places of the mountains.
“There's people,” Bran told her. “The Umbers are mostly east of the kingsroad, but they graze their sheep in the high meadows in summer. There are Wulls west of the mountains along the Bay of Ice, Harclays back behind us in the hills, and Knotts and Liddles and Norreys and even some Flints up here in the high places.”
(Bran II, ASoS)
The First Flints make their appearance during Bran's journey north.
His father's mother's mother had been a Flint of the mountains. Old Nan once said that it was her blood in him that made Bran such a fool for climbing before his fall.
(Bran II, ASoS)

So the Flints have blood relations to the Starks. Ned Stark's grandmother was probably a daughter of the Flint, himself possibly a father or grandfather of Old Flint, who could be Ned's Stark great-uncle, or the cousin of Ned Stark's mother.

The Flints seem to have a climbing tradition, probably mountain climbing. Whether the other Flints have inherited it is an open question. It is possible that the taste for climbing belonged to Bran's greatgrandmother alone, and had nothing to do with the Flints. The Flints seems to have a difficult recent history with the Starks, as Old Flint tells us.
“Wards, we always called them, when Winterfell demanded boys of us, but they were hostages, and none the worse for it.”
(Jon XI, ADwD)

So the Flints were unruly in the old days. They have a difficult relationship with wildlings, being subjected to their raids.
“It's peaceful in my dungeons,” grumbled Old Flint. “Give the Weeping Man to me.”
“How many rangers has the Weeper killed?” asked Othell Yarwyck. “How many women has he raped or killed or stolen?”
“Three of mine own ilk,” said Old Flint. “And he blinds the girls he does not take.”
(Jon XI, ADwD)
“Lord Snow,” said The Norrey, “where do you mean to put these wild-lings o' yours? Not on my lands, I hope.”
“Aye,” declared Old Flint. “You want them in the Gift, that's your folly, but see they don't wander off or I'll send you back their heads. Winter is nigh, I want no more mouths to feed.”
(Jon XI, ADwD)

Old Flint does not seem absolutely hostile to wildlings, and is willing to pick those he can accept as neighbors, especially if hostages have been given. But he doesn't want to host them on the ground of scarcity of resources, not because he feels threatened.

A funny parallel between the Blackwood/Bracken rivalry and the milknurses brought by the Flints and Norrey at the Wall. It's noticeable because it's in consecutive chapters.
Each had brought a wet nurse to the Wall as well. The Norrey woman was forty, with the biggest breasts Jon Snow had ever seen. The Flint girl was fourteen and flat-chested as a boy, though she did not lack for milk. Between the two of them, the child Val called Monster seemed to be thriving.
(Jon X, ADwD)
We learnt that the mistresses of Aegon the Unworthy were differentiated by the same characteristics.
“Aegon the Unworthy took Barba Bracken as his mistress,” the bookish boy replied. “She was a very buxom wench, they say, and one day when the king was visiting at the Stone Hedge he went out hunting and saw the Teats and ...”
“... named them for his mistress.” Aegon the Fourth had died long before Jaime had been born, but he recalled enough of the history of his reign to guess what must have happened next. “Only later he put the Bracken girl aside and took up with a Blackwood, was that the way of it?”
“Lady Melissa,” Hoster confirmed. “Missy, they called her. There’s a statue of her in our godswood. She was much more beautiful than Barba Bracken, but slender, and Barba was heard to say that Missy was flat as a boy. When King Aegon heard, he ...”
“... gave her Barba’s teats.” Jaime laughed. “How did all this begin, between Blackwood and Bracken? Is it written down?”
(Jaime, ADwD)
Are the Norrey and Flint rivals?

Little is known about the Flint's of Flint's Fingers. They didn't seem to have taken part in the campaign of the Young Wolf. They live in a remote part of the north, separated from the north by the Neck. They live under the threat of the Ironmen. It is not clear if the following episode of Balon Greyjoy's life refer to them.
At ten he scaled the Flint Cliffs to the Blind Lord's haunted tower.
(The Prophet, AFfC)

The Flints of Flint's Fingers do not seem to have done anything while the ironmen were at Moat Cailin.

The nearest town to Flint's Fingers is probably Barrowton, across Blazewater Bay, where they buy, sell, exchange, get news. So it's likely that those Flints are close to the Dustins.

The stony hand of Flint floats above Barrowton when Roose Bolton summons all northern lords to the wedding, and again in Winterfell for the wedding, but neither the banner of Widow's Watch nor the one of the First Flints is there in each case.

Indeed, Old Flint is at the Wall, and his two sons, Black Donnel and Artos (half-brothers), are leading the mountain clans with Stannis.

The Flints present in Winterfell are mentioned in two occasions. One of their crossbowmen is found dead in the stables presumably because he noticed that the stables were about to be sabotaged. The second time is when the horn is heard above Winterfell
“Do they mean to try and blow our walls down?” japed a Flint when the warhorn sounded once again. “Mayhaps he thinks he's found the Horn of Joramun.”
(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)

I thought the story of Joramun was mainly known at the Wall and beyond. In particular, the notion that the Horn of Joramun could destroy the Wall seems to be alive among the wildlings. Jon Snow seemed to know only the story of Joramun who woke the giants from the earth, before Ygritte corrected his ignorance on this matter as well. Is the mention of the Horn a sign that the Flints of Flint's Finger know more about the recent events at the Wall than they would appear to?

The Flints are often mentioned in connection to the Wall:
No other house has more ties to the Night's Watch except the Starks.

What we know of Rodrik Flint is contained in one sentence.
Lord Commander Rodrik Flint thought to make himself King-beyond-the-Wall.
(Jon VII, ASoS)

Rodrik Flint does not seem remembered as one of the more memorable king-beyond-the Wall. Indeed Joramun, the Horned Lord, Gendel and Gorne, Bael the Bard, Raymun Redbeard all came south of the Wall and threatened the realm. But Rodrik Flint is the only known commander of the Watch who became king-beyond-the-Wall. One has the impression that the reign of Rodrik was short-lived, if it ever began.

Perhaps Rodrik Flint wanted to emulate what seemed to have been the first king-beyond-the-Wall: Joramun.

So far we have only heard the story of the Horn of Winter from the wildlings and from some men of the Night's Watch. Bran does mention Joramun from his memories of Old Nan's stories, but it's  only the part that concern the overthrow of Night's King.

At the present time, there is no Flint at Castle Black. (Among the mountain clans, we find a Liddle, and a Harclay lost at Craster's Keep.)

The Flints have their place in the history of the Wolf's Den.
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.
(Davos III, ADwD)

The Wolf's Den seems to have been given to houses close to the Starks. We don't know why the Flints lost the seat.

It's interesting to note the maester situation. The First Flints do not have a maester, according to Maester Aemon's list (while other clans do have a maester: Norrey, Wull, Harclay, Liddle, Burley). That is all the more remarkable that the Flints are one of the major clans, and are certainly intent on remaining so, and having a maester is a sign of status, as Lady Dustin tells us:
Every great lord has his maester, every lesser lord aspires to one. If you do not have a maester, it is taken to mean that you are of little consequence.
(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)

I tend to think that the First Flints are among the certain mountain clans that keep the First Night, as Roose Bolton told us:
The maesters will tell you that King Jaehaerys abolished the lord's right to the first night to appease his shrewish queen, but where the old gods rule, old customs linger. The Umbers keep the first night too, deny it as they may. Certain of the mountain clans as well, and on Skagos ... well, only heart trees ever see half of what they do on Skagos.
(Reek III, ADwD)

Note that Roose opposes the maesters' view on history to the reality of current northern life. That seems to imply that respecting the First Night might not be very compatible with having a maester at home. (Indeed there are no maester in Skagos, under all likehood. Both House Bolton and House Umber have had difficult relationship with maesters recently.) So I tend to see the First Flints as more conservative than other mountain clans, let alone northern houses.

There is a sign that the Flints might have kept the First Night, at least until not long ago. Old Flint seems to imply that House Flint has been guilty of something.
“Aye, and why not?” Old Flint stomped his cane against the ice. “Wards, we always called them, when Winterfell demanded boys of us, but they were hostages, and none the worse for it.”
(Jon X, ADwD)

The hostage giving happened during Old Flint's lifetime. It's not clear whether only Flints were given, or if they were Norreys as well. The reason for the hostages can only been speculated on: probably not a rebellion. The continuation of the First Night custom is more plausible. In any case, no Flint seems to have been given as ward to Winterfell in recent times.

Observe that there was, apparently no First Flint among the companions of Ned Stark at the tower of Joy. That's noticeable since Lyanna's grandmother was a Flint and a member from the Wull mountain clan did accompany Ned Stark. There was no First Flint with the Young Wolf, as far as I can discern. Some Flints did join the northern host on the Kingsroad, south of Winterfell, and therefore they came either from Widow's Watch or from Flint's Finger.

There is one peculiarity of the Flints of Flint's Finger: they reside on the other side of the Neck. Hence they could not join the wedding before the fall of Moat Cailin. They did not come north with the Bolton/Frey host.

They could have been into contacts with the northmen still in the south:

So the presence of the Flints of Flint's Finger at the wedding could be conductive to the reappearance of some of these characters.

After this review of the Flint situation, we have no idea if the blood ties between the various branches of House Flint are of any importance. I find baffling that the Flints of Flint's Finger appeared from nowhere at Barrowton and the wedding, furthermore taking the opposite side of the First Flints. Do they plan an taking the upper hand on the main branch of the family, by being favored by the Boltons? Are they their cousins' trojan horse in the castle? Do they still practice the First Night, a tradition that Lord Bolton might restore in the north?

The Winterfell Huis Clos