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Which is the most profitable product to import from China and sell in India?
As more of us in the promotional product industry deal with China suppliers on a daily basis, the following strategies can serve as a guide to ensuring you receive only the highest quality product from overseas10. Know Who You're Working With - When you're buying product from China it's often hard to tell if you are working with a factory, a trading  company, or something in between. When it comes to product and quality issues it is key that you know exactly who you're working with, and that the relationship is transparent to all parties. If you are not working with the factory directly and the supplier can not provide you satisfactory answers about the product, then they are inhibiting the sourcing process for you and you should reconsider the relationship. If you're having a tough time putting your finger on who you're working with you should contact a company specializing in China Supplier Verification.9. Keep Emails Short, Sweet and to the Point - I have great respect for how much English the local Chinese staff uses having never lived in an English-speaking country. However, from my experience doing business in China for over 7 years, I will tell you that your China-based supplier most likely understands only about 50% of what you write in emails. Keep this in mind the next time you start a long-winded explanation or suggestion to an overseas supplier. English is not this person's first language. Keep your emails simple and your directions clear.8. Paying Chinese Suppliers - Wire Transfer (W/T) or Letter of Credit (L/C)? - Having a safe and well-communicated payment arrangement in place before you place your order is beneficial to both parties and one of the parameters to a relationship that encourages quality. Unless you have a long-standing relationship and trust with your supplier, then L/C should always be your preferred method of payment. If you haven't used a L/C before then contact your bank's business department for assistance.7. Save Money and Headaches with a 3rd party Quality Check ("QC") - Working with a 3rd party QC company in China allows you to draw on the experience of firms whose entire mission is to ensure a products quality meets certain standards. These companies provide services such as product inspection, factory auditing, and lab testing. The service is usually available at a fixed rate which can offer a great value relative to the total cost of your purchase (approximately $350 to inspect a shipment of goods). The most well known companies in China that provide QC services are InTouch Services, Bureau Veritas, and Intertek Testing.6. Confirm you Production Schedule - Don't Get Bumped! - Receiving your order from China on time is just as important as receiving the right product. Chinese factories are notorious for bumping less important (to them) production when a more profitable order comes in the door. Issues with quality are more likely to occur as a result of the supplier rushing to catch up on the schedule that they promised you. So, make sure you are asking the right questions and getting answers in email. These questions include: a) When will production start? Be 50% done? Complete? Ship out? (Confirm that these milestones are being reached) b) Have all the raw materials for this order already arrived at the factory? How about all the packaging materials?5. Don't be Afraid of the Phone - You can only communicate so much with email. When going back and forth with an overseas supplier does it sometimes seem like they're just not "getting it"? The time difference can be a pain, but don't let that stop you from arranging a phone conference with your supplier overseas. Online telephony such as Skype, which almost everyone in China is familiar with, makes it easy and free for you to communicate with contacts in China. Although this may not work for a supplier with low level English speaking capability, I suggest never placing an order if you have not had at least one phone conversation.4. Verify Raw Materials or Risk Everything - It is absolutely integral to the quality of your product that you know exactly what materials are being used, and request documentation from the supplier that the materials are safe. The US continues to see recall after recall of products that have been manufactured with sub-standard materials. For example, if the item you are buying is white plastic, one should ensure that white plastic meets general flammability standards. If the item is likely to come in contact with food, ensure that it is of food grade. You should assume that the factory you are buying from in China will use the cheapest materials possible unless you specify differently. Insist that your supplier provide you with written verification. The FDA and other US organizations have regulations on which plastics, metals and other materials can safely be distributed. If your supplier can not verify this then contact a 3rd party QC company for guidance.3. Samples Are Worth a Thousand Photos - When working with China you must insist on getting samples as often as possible. Don't accept excuses unless there is a serious obstacle (i.e. no existing mold). Make sure to label and store these samples properly, and each time you receive a new sample compare it carefully with the last one you received. Never confirm to a factory in China that production can go forward until you approve a pre-production sample. You will be able to catch a great number of quality issues before they happen just by putting this process in place.2. Don't Expect, Inspect! - Just about the simplest, least expensive, and most efficient way to eliminate quality issues with your China-made product is to have it inspected BEFORE it leaves the factory in China. The best way to arrange such an inspection is with a 3rd party QC company (mentioned above in #7), but it may also be arranged with your own staff in Asia, or that of your agent. You should insist on seeing an inspection report in English (including photos) that documents the process.1. Product QC Checklist - Poor communication during the ordering process is by far the root cause of most quality issues with China-based suppliers. One sure-fire way to dramatically improve this communication is with a Product QC Checklist. The QC Checklist is a several page document that details in writing all the important aspects of the items you're buying. It is best created with the help of a 3rd party QC company who specifically offers this service, but you can create a simple and effective one on your own by following the points below. For more on creating a QC Checklist check Quality Wars which is my blog about QC. The key points that should be included in this checklist are:a) Item details (item number, SKU description, etc.)b) Contents and Packagingc) Colord) Barcodese) Appearance and Functionf) Specifications and Special Requirementsg) PhotosMake sure you have this document professionally translated into Chinese, and make the QC Checklist the starting point for discussing production and quality with your supplier. You may find that you don't have a lot of the details that the QC Checklist calls for. If that's the case then I suggest you make up the template and send it over to your supplier to fill in. There's no shortage of promotional product companies who now work direct with overseas suppliers. With all of the horror stories we hear about import orders gone bad, you can distinguish yourself by being able to consistently deliver excellent quality. Your customers will no doubt appreciate your due diligence, and ability to speak intelligently about your focus on quality.Footnotes 30 Profitable Inventory ideas "What can I sell on Amazon? (or eBay)" 30 Profitable Inventory ideas "What can I sell on Amazon? (or eBay)" 30 Profitable Inventory ideas "What can I sell on Amazon? (or eBay)" 30 Profitable Inventory ideas "What can I sell on Amazon? (or eBay)"
How will Game of Thrones end?
Game of Thrones – Theory of Everything – S8E2 Edition (or, “how will this end”)(SPOILER ALERT and update after watching S8E3 - this overall theory held up, which is cool, but only some of the predictions unfolded in S8E3, which means you should stop reading if you don’t want possibly accurate predictions of how the show will end.)This (speculative) answer does not include any references to leaked information. However, it obviously contains spoilers if you haven’t read the books and watched the show. I’ve partaken of quite a large amount of online speculation and discussion, as well as any relevant (public) quotes by RRM. That’s all fair game. What is not fair game is referencing any “fourth wall” sources – actual leaks, or industry inside-info such as actor schedules, reported illnesses, etc. I’ve also specifically avoided all interviews with actors and actresses, since not all of them appear smart enough to know a spoiler when they say it. Only official commentary by the show runners (such as comments after an episode), trailers, teasers, official music videos, etc., are fair game, since they’ve all been subject to editing room review. (As contrasted with whatever somebody might blurt out in an interview.)Of course, you might not want to read this anyway. Though I have borrowed heavily from everybody else’s speculation (too much so, to provide attribution), there are elements of this theory that I have not seen anywhere else. So, if I just happen to be spot-on, this answer might strike you as a huge spoiler. And if I’m completely off base, well, I had fun writing it. I’ve protected myself from either outcome by writing such a long answer that I would be very surprised if many people read it.I will start gently to make sure you’ve digested the caveats before getting to the meatier stuff and concrete predictions. In fact I will deliberately bury the lead.Let’s begin with some of the principles that we (think we) know about RRM’s philosophy for the overall story. One is that even though he is a big fan of Tolkien, he did not want his own epic to have the same good-vs-evil tone to it. And Lord of the Rings is not just incidentally good-vs-evil, it is explicitly Christian – Tolkien himself wrote “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.”Now, GoT, while not a “Catholic work” per se, does borrow Biblical themes – Jon Snow has many parallels with King David, to name one example. But GoT performs a rampage of borrowing across history, mythology, religion, previous literature, movies, TV, etc., so to me, anyway, from RRM’s perspective the Bible is just one of many sources for ideas. One is around how prophesies work, for example, which we will return to.When RRM has been asked about this he has stated that he is more interested in the secular complications of good-vs-evil: “What constitutes good and what constitutes evil? What happens if our good intentions produce evil? Does the end justify the means?”. For example, Cersei represents the infinite and fierce love a mother feels for her children, while at the same time it is the decisions she takes deriving from that love which systematically lead to the undoing of each and every one of them, especially since she fancies herself really really clever (which she is not, even less so in the books). RRM is more interested in that latter aspect of the story, e.g. not the “mother bear” archetype heroically doing anything and everything to protect her cubs, but various (typically unpleasant) ramifications of that archetype. Hence, Ned was noble and brave and so forth … and viewers know how that all worked out.In fact, RRM has explicitly said “The sort of fantasy where all the people get together to fight the dark lord doesn’t interest me […] we don’t tend to have wars or political controversies where one side is really ugly and wears dark clothing, where the other side wears white and has glowing magical swords.” This leads us to the first (huge) misdirect of the entire storyline so far – the Night King is not the enemy. Yes you read that right. We’re just being tricked into thinking this – precisely because we expect it. We have a template for it. RRM is a great artist in many ways, but in my mind in this way in particular: he is able to both follow archetype structures of mythological storytelling, and yet deliberately break the mold – and still stay “real” in the sense that the audience does not feel cheated.“Cheated” in the sense many of us felt when we watched the ending of the TV series “Lost”. This is significant, so bear with me while I explain why this matters:It’s a little harsh on the “Lost” show runners, but they inspired the quip of “pulling a ‘Lost’” – writing yourself into a corner where there is no way to make sense of everything without introducing significant new elements. Some would say (and I would concur) that doing so is cheating the audience out of the unspoken agreement between story-teller and listener: that I will be rewarded for my investment of time and emotion, and in the end feel satisfied with the exchange. Of course this is terrifically difficult to do in practice. A writer wants to strike the perfect balance between sufficiently predictable to feel real, but not so predictable as to feel boring. This is at the heart of most fictional entertainment. The GoT show-runners have arguably faced the largest such challenge that anybody has faced – ever. There is nothing comparable in the history of human storytelling where such a complex story has been told over such a long period of time, to an audience so invested in “figuring everything out”, and where the ending remains (hopefully) secret. (If you can think of anything comparable, tell me in the comments.)We know for a fact that this aspect really mattered to RRM: “I want to give them something terrific. What if I f*** it up at the end? What if I do a ‘Lost’? Then they’ll come after me with pitchforks and torches.” Same is true of the show-runners Benioff and Weiss, who have said similar things . And indeed we have seen hints and foreshadowing form the very first episode.Why am I belaboring this? Because by now, there are umpteen theories and predictions out there (which is good from the perspective of keeping the ending secret, correct predictions are probably out there in the open, but you’re not likely to stumble across it). And upon inspection, they all fail on one or both of two key requirements:Any theory for how the show ends must explain everything important, which includes not contradicting anything (except possibly minor writing errors). Secondly, it must not require any major new elements to be added to the story. We know both of these principles must be (largely) true, because of the sheer effort and commitment of the creators and their full awareness of the “pulling a ‘Lost’” danger.There’s a corollary to these two principles, namely, we don’t know everything yet. We know this to be true because if we did know everything, then with all the effort that’s been put into laying the full puzzle, it would have been solved by now.So in this sense, GoT at this point is like a gigantic IQ test question: fill in the missing piece or pieces that will make sense of the whole thing.That being said, I think we can be fairly confident that the missing piece(s) have at least been hinted at. Which is why there are so (so) many outstanding hints and open questions at this point. The only way to create a puzzle like this that resists easy solving is to include any number of misdirects and extraneous information.Thus, what I will call the Game of Thrones Theory of Everything, GoTToE (pronounced “go-toe”), will not need to explicitly address absolutely everything.So, to reiterate, we are seeking to formulate a GoTToE that has precisely these characteristics: it must explain everything important, it can’t contradict anything significant, and it can only encapsulate new pieces that at least have been hinted at. This makes it more a science than an art at this point, because with only 4 out of 73 episodes left, this now a highly constrained problem. Just like with Science, the more you measure, the more accurate your measurements, and the more variety, the less wiggle room you’re left with (hence, yes, the world is round).With these strictures on GoTToE spelled out, we return to the notion that the Night King is not the enemy. We have had plenty of hints about this, and in fact, to think that he is the main enemy doesn’t make sense. Let’s start with the Lore. Supposedly the Night King is at least as old as the Wall, on the order of 8000 years old or more. The Watch has been decimated to ineffectiveness for centuries. The NK is extremely powerful. Why would he chose to go south right at this very moment in history? In fact, the sudden arrival of Dragons is arguably the only threat to him (we will return to some details on this). So, conversely, what’s the hurry? We know his wights don’t die of old age – we’ve seen them pop up from beneath the pack-ice around the cave of the Three-eyed Raven, where presumably they had been waiting for centuries.Which leads us to another source of restrictions on how the story ends. In the real world, if a set of distinct, but very unusual, events occur more or less simultaneously, then sure, it could be a coincidence. But a more likely explanation is that they are related.So let’s enumerate what these are. We have the birth of Jon Snow, not just a secret legitimate heir to the Iron Throne, but a son with both Stark and Targaryen blood in his veins – and, notably, thus he has blood of both Dragon and First Men. As far as I have been able to determine from GoT Lore, this as never happened in the history of this world. Then we have the appearance of a Dire Wolf with just the right number of cubs for the Stark children, and even a rare white one for Jon. Dire Wolves “don’t come south of the wall”, so we know this is notable. But we also know that this was literally the first scene from all of GoT that popped into RRM’s mind: “It was the summer of 1991 […]when suddenly it just came to me, this scene, from what would ultimately be the first chapter of ‘A Game of Thrones’. It’s from Bran’s viewpoint; they see a man beheaded and they find some dire wolf pups in the snow. It just came to me so strongly and vividly that I knew I had to write it. I sat down to write, and in, like, three days it just came right out of me, almost in the form you’ve read.” So we know that these cubs are central to the story. And that Bran was the very first character that RRM envisioned is also key, more on that soon.Next, we have the return of Dragons. They have been gone for centuries. More to the point, the blood of the Targaryens started to run thin. We have been peppered with various stories about how this Targaryen King and then the other tried various ways to bring them back. Nothing works, until Daenerys. So for example, the wonderful song of Jenny, is per Lore the story of Summerhall burning to the ground. But her husband, Crown Prince Duncan Targaryen, and thus supposedly a Dragon. As Daenerys quips in the show, with cold eyes, “fire cannot kill a Dragon”. So it’s not that Dragons are back – the eggs have been lying dormant for over a century. What’s new is this particular individual, Daenerys. She is the first Targaryen that we know of in the last one and a half centuries who is in fact not hurt by fire. The point is, the uniqueness of this event isn’t that some Targaryen still lives, or that Dragons per se are “back” – they’re not “back”, they’ve always been there, but it takes somebody of Dragon blood to bring them to life, and for them to flourish.(The Lore of how Dragons first came to be is along similar lines, but those details don’t matter for the moment.)We also have the return of the Others. Not the return of Winter – or even a long winter.Finally, two items of mid-level important. The Wildlings have been united – first through Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, then Jon Snow, and the Dothraki have crossed the Narrow Sea. And then perhaps the most important item – the Three Eyed Raven has escaped his prison and it appears that the very last of the Children of the Forest died in making that happen. We will return to this item.Now we can being to truly weave things together.Before S8E2, I would have said that Daenerys would have a son, and that son would sit on the Iron Throne. That prediction changed with S8E3, but before I walk you through that pivot, let’s have a look at two prophesies related to Daenerys. First, betrayals: “. . . three treasons will you know . . . once for blood and once for gold and once for love . . .”. The first treason is generally believed (including by Daenerys herself) to be Mirri Maz Duur. The second treason, for gold, has a few candidates – perhaps Brown Ben Plumm, the captain and commander of the Second Sons, or even Jorah, who spied for Varys and facilitated the assassination attempt.That leaves the third treason yet to occur – for love. And she is in love with Jon Snow. And she is facing betrayal in many ways – she agreed to come north only because Jon Snow, as King of the North, agreed to bend his knee. With that, she assumed the North was now hers. But Sansa, Lady of Winterfell, has already informed Daenerys that the North does not feel bound by that – when she and and Daenerys have their fateful talk in S8E3, Sansa asks “What happens afterwards? […] What about the North?”. Daenerys recoils at that question, and rightly so, because she at that moment realizes that she did not in fact trade her support in exchange for the North. Even worse, the very object of her love is now her usurper – Jon Snow is Aegon and has a better claim to the throne than she. Her combined armies are facing annihilation by an enemy that until quite recently, she neither knew or cared about. Only to learn that it was all for naught.Back in Season 1, when Daenerys asks Duur when Drogo would get better, she gets as a reply: “When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. When the seas go dry and mountains blow in the wind like leaves. When your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child. Then he will return, and not before.”The sun rising in the west and setting in the east has a few theories behind it, but in general the opinion is that this is fulfilled. Perhaps an interpretation is that Dorne (in the West) has now come to the cause of Daenerys (in the East), and in the process the House of Martell has become extinct through the actions of the Sand Snakes (the House Martell has a red sun pierced by a gold spear as its sigil). The “sea” going dry is generally interpreted as the Dothraki Sea drying out and dying, and mountains blowing “in the wind like leaves” is rather obviously the fall of the wall. So her womb will “quicken” and she will bear a living child.The emphasis on “living” child seems oddly particular. RRM has somewhat of a thing for death in childbirth. Prior to S8E2, I would have thought that Daenerys would never sit on the throne, given her vision of reaching for – but not quite reaching – a throne in a ruined throne room and lightly covered with snow. But her child would have the claim. This all changed with S8E2, but we will get to that.The final prophesy relating to Daenerys that we will cover is that of the Khal of Khals.In the Dothraki religion, it is prophesied that there shall come a Khal of Khals, “all the people of the world will be his herd,” and he will be the Stallion that mounts the world.So this would seem to set up Daenerys’ offspring to rule. But the maegi Duur has thwarted this threat. In the books she also says “The stallion who mounts the world will burn no cities now. His khalasar shall trample no nations into dust.” No nations? By implication, the Khal of Khals will “only” rule the Dothraki.Perhaps Daenerys will survive and withdraw to be queen regent of the Dothraki. But that does not seem in line with her ambition. Instead, there is a foster family set to adopt her future orphaned child, namely Grey Worm and Missandei. They are not my favorite characters, and their union has (to me) felt strained. Grey Worm, for reasons well known to the audience, cannot have a child. Given how in S8E2, they kissed, and alluded to the future, many fans are convinced that they will in fact die. But if the ending is to be bittersweet, as RRM has said is his goal, it can’t all be bleak. And it’s hard to think of any couple more pure and noble than Grey Worm and Missandei. So that would imply they both survive the battle and it’s aftermath, though their Queen might not, but regardless, they return to the East, and rule that continent – which is the “world” as far as the Dothraki are concerned.Again, prior to S8E2, I would have pursued some convoluted “fit” to leave Daenerys’s child to rule Westeros. But we have a new possibility, which would make the pieces fit better.Arya has faced death, but by making love to Gendry, she chooses love and life. Poor Gendry, besides forcing him to work in blistering smiths, everybody seems to be after his bodily fluids. If Arya were to become pregnant, her child now has a claim to the throne – as only surviving male heir to Robert Baratheon. Which presumes Gendry dies. Which means he dies, and soon.So that places Arya on the throne as Queen Regent. And that lines up the significance of both the Hound and Brienne, and Tormund through Brienne, as the mightiest living warriors in all of Westeros … all of them conveniently aligned with protecting Sansa and Arya – Arya in particular – at all costs. And of course that leaves the North under Sansa, in an alliance with the South.If we needed more hints, Sam gave us one – when he points out to Jon Snow that he (Snow) forfeited his crown for the good of his people, but Daenerys would not be likely to do the same. So what would clear the way for a grandson of Robert Baratheon to sit on the throne and not a Targaryen? Well, the last of the Targaryens might all die, of course – but that would mean not just Jon Snow, and Daenerys, but also her child. But Jon Snow is also a Stark. He has nobler blood in his veins than Daenerys, and is not consumed with ambition. So the story is primed for him to add the coup de grace to the third and final treason that Daenerys will know, that of love. If both he and Daenerys survive, then he has the greater claim, and he can assert that the reign of the Targaryens is once and for all over, and the rightful king of Westeros is Arya’s child.Which also explains why the Lord of Light needed Jon Snow to live once more. And why he needed to die, too. Jon is unique in that he has held, or had claim to, all four crowns: Lord Commander, King North-of-the-Wall, King in the North, and now with his Targaryen heritage revealed, he has claim to the Iron Throne. He needed to die so he could end his watch and stay true to the vows from taking the black. And he will need to live to safeguard Arya and Arya’s child. Only Jon holds the legitimacy to declare an end to the Targaryen claims on Westeros. He must live to provide that, and defend it, and only thusly can Daenerys also live, and have her son, because otherwise her ambition would not stop and it would be Iron Throne or death.This also resolves the gender challenge. The books and the show have gone to great lengths to raise to the forefront female leading roles – Queens and powerful Priestesses and Assassins and Dragonriders. It would seem like a reversal if at the last pivot the messages would be, yeah this was fun while it lasted but now we need a Man to be King. Daenerys will have a son – that she might name Drogo – because that would fulfill the prophesy of the Khal of Khals.Which means that Arya will have a daughter. Gendry by virtue of being oldest son (even though a bastard) would be heir, and if he sires only a single child, then regardless of gender of that child, it will be heir. Ipso facto, Robert’s grand-daughter will sit on the throne one day, and until she comes of age, Arya will be Queen Regent. (In the books, Gendry has a younger brother, Eric, who would have a claim if Arya sires a girl and not a boy, but in the show that character was cut, so the line of succession is cleared for a girl.)Which ties in another prophesy. When Cersei as a young (and already wicked) girl meets Maggie the Frog, a fortune teller, one of the questions she asks is if she (Cersei) will be Queen, to which Maggie responds “Aye. Queen you shall be... until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.”So that would be Arya or Arya’s daughter, then. It could get even better (if “better” is the appropriate word here). Cersei is one of the few names remaining on Arya’s list, and everybody expects Cersei to die. But, again, the specifics of prophesies are tricky. The other prophesy that Maggie the Frog makes is regarding Cersei’s children: “Three for you. Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds. And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” Of course, the golden crowns and shrouds for her three children so far have all happened. And fans continue to debate the precise meaning of “valonqar” (High Valyrian for “little brother”). But for now, let me call your attention to the phrase “choke the life from you.” That doesn’t necessarily mean death, at least not a quick one.Cersei got her revenge on Ellaria Sand for killing her only daughter Myrcella by forcing her to watch her own daughter Tyene to not only die in front of her, but to be forced to live on in the cell locked in with her daughters rotting corpse, with torches refreshed all hours of the day, and force fed if needed, so she lives to see her daughter literally turn to dust in front of her eyes.Which means that Ellaria is still alive. Which means if Arya takes the throne, she will find out about this punishment. Which might just give Arya an idea. What if Cersei has a child, and Arya takes the child away. What if Arya adopts that child as her own, has her grow up with her own daughter, the future Queen of Westeros. Definitely a younger and more beautiful one. What if Cersei is doomed to live in a cell, watching helplessly through a prison window how her only surviving child – “all that she holds dear”, after all – grows up, happy and oblivious to the fact that Cersei ever existed. What if Tyrian facilitates all of this, or even comes up with the idea. That would certainly “choke the life” out of her.This sidetrack is speculative, of course, but, dear Reader, you must admit it would be deliciously appropriate. And it would fit all the prophesies.Which reminds us of Arya’s List. Most are dead, and a few (the Hound, Beric) forgiven. The names that remain are Cersei, Payne, and Melisandre. Payne is the chief executioner. If Arya gains the throne, she inherits the apparatus of power of the Red Keep, which includes Payne. My guess is that there is a spike somewhere in the Red Keep that has Payne’s name on it. Cersei we have covered. Which leaves us Melisandre.And Melisandre knows this. Her parting words on her last meeting with Arya, after taking Gendry, was, after all: “I see a darkness in you […] and in that darkness, eyes starring back at me. Brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes. Eyes sealed shut forever. We will meet again.” Arya added her to the List, and her parting conversation with Varys should be mentioned as well here: “I’ve done my part. I’ve brought ice and fire together. . . . My time whispering in the ears of kings has come to an end. . . . Neither of us is common folk anymore. . . . Oh, I will return dear Spider. One last time. I have to die in this strange country, just like you.”Melisandre will return, because she knows she will die at the hands of Arya.Varys, of course, hates magic: “I still dream of that night. Not of the sorcerer, not of his blade—I dream of the voice from the flames. Was it a god, a demon, a conjurer’s trick? I don’t know. But the sorcerer called and a voice answered and ever since that day I have hated magic and all those who practice it.” And we will get back to that theme, namely, that the entire overarching narrative – the inner mystery of GoT, if you will – is the rekindling, and eventual extinguishment, of all Magic in the world.But back to some of that Magic, and the forthcoming death of Melisandre. When she and Jon Snow are riding the elevator to the top of the Wall, he wonders if she is cold. She replies “Never. The Lord's fire lives within me.”That, of course, is the legend of Azor Ahai – that he forged Lightbringer, a sword of living fire, also know as the Red Sword of Heroes – by killing his wife with a stab through her heart, and merging her soul with his weapon. Melisandre has frequently spoken of the purity of death. What better soul to forge to a new Lightbringer than a Red Priestess?Let’s have a look at what else has been said about Azor Ahai. In the books, Davos says “There will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.” Note that this quote says nothing about the particulars of the stars bleeding and the birth of Ahai, just that this is such a summer. And we already know that in High Valyrian this prophesy is gender neutral – the Azor Ahai can just as well be a female warrior as a male.Melisandre has fire of R’hllor burning in her, she glorifies dying for the cause, she knows she will meet Arya again, she knows she will return to die in Westeros, and she is on Arya’s list.And Arya has a new weapon, forged by Gendry, with Dragonglass at both ends, in addition to her Valyrian steel dagger and, of course, Needle.If those hints are not sufficient .. consider this … Arya … Azor Ahai .. A**r*A*ai. Perhaps too obvious, but, it all lines up. Arya is not just future Queen Regent and mother of the future Queen of the South seated on the Iron Throne, she is a Faceless Assassin, trained by followers of the God of Death, with Stark blood, and thus blood of the First Men, in her veins, but she is also Azor Ahai and as prophesied will forge the Lightbringer.That would all add up to make her pretty much capable of killing anything. Anything.She could certainly kill the Night King. But she won’t, at least not necessarily. Because the true enemy is not the Night King. Instead, and this is the final and main proposed twist in the story, Bran is the enemy. Or to be precise, the Three-eyed Raven is the enemy.Before we get mired in the details of why Bran needs to die, let’s close off some loops on prophesies.We have Quaithe, the strange masked lady who gives obscure advice to Daenerys: “To go north, you must go south. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow. Soon comes the pale mare, and after her the others. Kraken and dark flame, lion and griffin, the sun's son and the mummer's dragon. Trust none of them. Remember the Undying. Beware the perfumed seneschal.”The Kraken are the Greyjoy uncles, the dark flame is Moqorro, lion and griffin are Tyrion and Jon Connington. Now, the “sun’s son and the mummer’s dragon” is interesting. Prince Rhaegar Targaryen had two sons – one with his wife Elia Martell (with the sun as their sigil), and one with Lyanna Stark – both of whom were named Aegon, the latter of which is, of course, Jon Snow. So perhaps the “sun’s son and the mummer’s dragon” is an oblique reference to Jon Snow, whom, as we established above, you could argue she should never have trusted. If instead she had simply killed Jon when he came to Dragonstone, and ignored what else transpired in the North, she could simply have ascended the Iron Throne with little trouble.The pale mare is a plague (come and gone), and the perfumed seneschal could be Varys, but there are other theories.Next prophesy is one of my favorites, one that Moqorro tells Tyrian: “Dragons. Dragons old and young, true and false, bright and dark. And you. A small man with a big shadow, snarling in the midst of all.” What makes it my favorite is “bright and dark” .. foreshadowing the Night King turning one of the Dragons. But also emphasizing and confirming how Tyrian is in the midst of it all.And that covers it – that covers all the most important prophesies that I can think of. They all fit. Now, back to Bran. He, or rather, the three eyed raven, is the enemy.Let’s begin with some hints at this twist. Let’s start with Melisandre’s vision: “A face took shape within the hearth. Stannis? she thought, for just a moment … but no, these were not his features. A wooden face, corpse white. Was this the enemy? A thousand red eyes floated in the rising flames. He sees me. Beside him, a boy with a wolf’s face threw back his head and howled.” A wooden face is a weirwood, a thousand red eyes are what the three eyed raven can see with (he is missing one eye, and the other is red), and a boy with a wolfs face is Bran.There are plenty of hints in the episodes of Bran finding the cave with the TER in the north, and that things are not necessarily what they seem.For example, Bran first sees the Night King when he (Bran) on his own initiative grabs the roots of the weirwood. And the NK doesn’t seem to be trying to attack him, but rather, to grab him, pull him away. Upon third viewing, it seemed to me that the NK was trying not necessarily to hurt Bran, but to get him away from the TER. The same happens with the first wight attacking their company when they arrive at the cave: the first wight to attack doesn’t stab etc, but grabs Jorens leg and starts pulling him away from the cave.And the stories of how the CotF were all innocent and just defending themselves – Bran never actually sees that in any visions. It’s just what Leaf tells him. If you rewatch the scene when supposedly the CotF create the NK, the “children” looks pretty angry and dangerous, and the human looks very frightened.Fans have interpreted the “mark” on Bran as a means of finding the hiding place of the Three-eyed Raven, but not only has the NK had thousands of years to do that, but in fact he already had the cave surrounded by wights – centuries ago, judging by them digging themselves up out of the ice.So upon reflection, the TER and the last of the Children of the Forest is in some sort of a prison – the last stand of the CotF, perhaps left there out of compassion, or simply because it took centuries for the Night King to whittle away at their powers. And the floor of the cave are littered with the bones of humans. At first viewing, I thought no more of it. Upon reviewing, to me it looks like a sacrificial altar under the tree. That’s why the leaves are “blood red”, and why the trees “bleed”. It’s not the blood of a tree, it’s the blood of the sacrifices that the CotF have made.The entrance to the crypts in Winterfell lies in the small courtyard that is also surrounded by the Broken Tower as well as the First Keep. This is the oldest part of Winterfell, the First Keep believed to have been built when the Andals first came. But notably, the entrance to the crypts is on the side that’s closest to the Godswood,Now if you want a killer hint at the connection, re-watch the Season 8 opening credits, and pay attention to Winterfell. The camera first comes to the godswood, and as opposed to prior seasons we notice that it’s blooming with lush red leaves. Then we pan to the Great Hall, and from there to the crypts.The thing is, the entrance to the crypts is much closer to the Godswood than the Great Hall is. So why intersperse them? So as to make it slightly less obvious. The crypts connect somehow to the roots of the weirwood. And the weirwood will become – or always has been – Bran.In A Dance with Dragons, Theon is in the godswood, and the tree murmurs to him, “… Bran”. And then: “for one strange moment it seemed as if it were Bran’s face carved into the pale trunk of the weirwood, staring down at him with eyes red and wise and sad. Bran’s ghost, he thought, but that was madness. Why should Bran want to haunt him?” And in a Clash of Kings, Bran thinks to himself: “He had never feared the crypts; they were part of his home and who he was, and he had always known that one day he would lie here too.” And after the first time that Bran awakens from dreaming of the three eyed raven and the crypt, Hodor for the first time is terrified of the crypts.(And yes, the opening credits change slightly each episode in Season 8, showing the progression of the story.)The only way to reach the roots under the Winterfell weirwood is through the crypts, and the only way to enter the crypts is if you are of patrilineal Stark descent. The crypts are enormous, by some sources larger than Winterfell itself. Certainly the weirwood is huge, and if it’s anything like ordinary trees, the roots will extend two to four times the width of the canopy.And of course you will recall how “Hold the Door” became “Hodor”. It’s been suggested that “weirwood” comes from “we’re wood”, and all the hints and suggestions that the Children of the Forest sacrificed First Men to these trees, or created them by planting them in a sacrificed person. The Starks are descended from First Men, Winterfell dates to the Andals, so, connecting the dots: the weirwood of Winterfell is perhaps nothing less than the first Stark.And the Night King means to burn it. The Night King is coming for the tree, not for Bran per se, not for Winterfell. That’s what the burning spiral symbol means. That’s why he makes the spirals out of human body parts. He’s trying to be very clear: those trees are made of people.And then there’s Craster. He says: “I've got no fear of what's out there. When the white cold comes, your swords and cloaks and pretty fires won't help you. Only ones left will be those alright with the gods, the real gods.” Note that he doesn’t say “Old” or “New”, but “Real”.Is Craster one of the last “pure” First Men? If only pure-blooded first men, or close to it, can be turned to White Walkers, then that could explain the incest. He says he has 99 sons, which of course implies 99 White Walkers, many more than we’ve seen so far. We’re told he has 19 wives and at least one of them has had six sons given to the walkers, so most of these sons could in fact have been taken by the Night King in relatively recent times – some sources indicate he has lived there for 30 or 40 years, and not all his wives are his daughters. Some wildlings, notably the Thenns, claim direct descent from the First Men.So if the above is largely on track, how does the Battle of Winterfell, S8E3, play out? The key will lie in the game between Arya, Bran/TER, the Night King, the weirwood tree in Winterfell, and the dragons. Who kills whom first, who burns who or what, and in what order? The Night King, per our theories, is trying to stop Bran from merging with the weirwood, and that might include killing Brann and/or burning the tree. If he were to succeed, then he’ll retreat, or die – magic will be gone from the world, and the story over. So that won’t happen yet.Killing the Night King may or may not stop the Others. It might also unleash the Others, if that’s what is dozen-or-so generals are. Arya will figure out the nature of Bran and the weirwood, before or after the Night King has succeeded or not.So from a storytelling perspective, it would seem more compelling if the Night King were to fail outright, or at least be foiled for now – perhaps through some sort of standoff, a battle fought to a draw. And that Bran would get the upper hand, for whatever it is he plans to do to the world. And then Arya intervenes, and carries out what the Night King needed to do. (Update after S8E3: yupp this is what is playing out.)With the well known crypts in Winterfell including escape routes, we can formulate one possible approach to tell the story: the army of death overwhelms the armies of the living, who do battle down to almost the last man, with key characters in the end fleeing through the secret tunnels to fight another day. Which is what happened in the cave in the north, after all. However, Bran would have no intention of leaving. The TER has been trying to show him the crypts since his accident. Perhaps the fleeing from winterfell is what’s needed to break open or find the passages underground that allows Bran to find the underground cave and roots of the tree. Perhaps in so doing, he will bring down the hapless human sacrifices that he needs for some ritual. That’s why he needs to be in the godswood.And no, it’s not necessarily Bran time-traveling that puts the fate of Hodor in his mind. It could have been the TER. TER would then simply have shown Bran his memory, and then make him think that it was his decision, his action. That’s why the TER is the one telling Bran to do what his friends are (predictably) asking. But his friends needed him to take control of Hodor in the present, to flee the cave. The connection with the past is a false association, set up by the TER.So perhaps Bran is left behind, pretending to be lost or to be bravely putting up a fight. And of course it just so happens that it’s Theon that will be defending him. The same Theon that heard the tree whisper “Brann”, and saw Brann’s face in the tree. This leaves the possibility that the heroes fleeing winterfell for the south do so not knowing Bran’s role, perhaps even thinking he is dead or caught by the Night King. And in a typical RRM ironical and foreshadowing coincidence, it was after all Theon that supposedly caught, killed, and burned Brann .. it’s just that it was a farm boy. Which makes it set up for Theon to die realizing that, wow, that’s actually what I should have done, I could have saved Winterfell if I had actually killed Brann. Too harsh? Anybody that can write the Red Wedding can write this. (Update post S8E3: fortunately for Theon, he died bravely, not knowing this. And for a change, Bran have him some cred.)So who appear to be the characters that most obviously will die in the immediate great battle in S8E3? Several characters have played out their respective narrative arc and are not strictly needed: Little Bear, Varys, Davos, possibly Podrick, definitely Gendry, and Jorah, and of course Theon. Bronn isn’t there yet, but we will meet him soon (but not until next episode most likely). (Update post S8E3: decent prediction. I forgot to add Edd to the list, but other than that, nobody died that was outside of this “expendable” list. Though I thought Gendry would die and Beric live.)Sam will make it, he’s the author’s alter ego, so he is destined to be Maester at the end of some ruler at the end. And by the same logic, Gilly will live. But on the flip side, Sam has already lost many loved ones, most recently his brother, so RRM doesn’t seem to be giving his alter ego an easy time.When will Jamie die? Per the above thinking, he is set up to die defending Bran, and we’re not likely to get the reveal about Bran until the next episode or the finale, so ipso facto, he and Bran will both escape, though not necessarily in the same way. Thus Bran might stay behind per the above, and Jamie flee with the others, only to later perhaps be at the spearhead of a “rescue”.To wrap up, we know there are missing pieces. Some of them we’re aware of in the form of open questions. Others of course are things we don’t know that we don’t know, or that haven’t happened yet. Let’s recapitulate key pieces that we have yet to fit into GoTToE, and my best guess at what will happen:Beric has a role left to play. And his priest is gone, so there is nobody there to resurrect him. Unless Melisandre makes it there. We see him and the Hound in the crypts in the trailer. He has a flaming sword, and the last time he wielded it, he stabbed and killed the child Ned, who had become a wight and was arranged in the center of the spiral. This foreshadows that the enemy is a young boy at the center of the tree, and that the boy needs to die and the tree needs to burn. Beric’s flaming sword is needed to burn the weirwood.The Last Hero is a First Man from the lore that found his way to the Children of the Forest to form the alliance against the Others. To me it would make sense that the Night King and the Last Hero is one and the same. And that, yes, the children and the first men worked together to defeat the Others. But the Others had in fact been created previously by the Children, and gotten out of hand, the children lost control. The Night King was created by them as a fusion of the White Walker magic with that of a living First Man, likely a Stark. It’s been speculated that the Night King needs to find a successor, and that that might be Jon Snow. But this might also be the intended role for Gilly’s son, who to our knowledge is the only son of Craster that has not been turned.The faceless god, god of death, may yet have a role to play. Or their part may be now over – they trained Arya and then let her go, armed with the ability to kill anything, magical or not.So perhaps as part of the battle, Arya kills Melisandre, reveals that she is now forging the Lightbringer, rushes to kill the Night King … and succeeds … but the dead don’t stop. Perhaps that’s why we see her fleeing through the crypts. She faced death, after all. Defeated death. Yet death won’t. That might make even Arya feel fear.And the Mountain? Qyburn was perhaps fearful at hearing about the Others breaching the walls because he knows they might be coming for him. We all want to see the Hound defeat his brother, but it doesn’t seem likely that he’d be able to. Perhaps this is what the Night King will be doing in the first part of S8E3 – hunting down Qyburn and his creation in the hallways of the Red Keep, incidentally destroying the throne room but not because that’s his purpose. Fire burning the Hound and Ice killing the Mountain would have some poetic closure.And finally, what of Euron? He might think he’s successfully left an heir to the throne behind in Cersei’s belly, and simply is heading off to the Iron Islands to confront Yara – perhaps after facing off with the Night King and deciding that he’s best off on the other side of a lot of water. Much has been made of the Golden Company, but Harry Strickland, their leader, is one of the few last-minute additions to the cast of main characters, so there’s a role. In the books, he is part of a more complex subplot that has been largely cut from the show. The Golden Company never breaks a contract, so presumably they would not lightly drop Cersei as their boss.Between the Lannister ground forces, Euron’s navy, and the Golden Company, Cersei commands sizable forces in the south. But what’s changed now is that Jon Snow is the rightful heir, so depending on what a contract with the Golden Company looks like, they might actually be working for him now. And if Jamie and Tyrian return at his side and confirm and support his claim, then ditto for the Lannister forces. That in turn would fulfill the prophesy of Cersei’s “little brother” being her undoing – there has been much debate about which of her two brothers is the one referred to, but since Maggie didn’t say “your little brother” but instead mixed in High Valyrian and said “the valonqar”, perhaps we’ll get another grammar lesson and find out that “valonqar” lacks a distinction between singular and plural and strictly speaking means “younger brother or brothers”.(Apologies for editing errors, I had to rush to get this out before S8E2. Producing at least one possible formulation of the GoTToE turns out to be a lot of work.)Select sources: The Man Behind 'Game of Thrones's Murky Moral Worldview 'Game of Thrones' author slams 'Lost': Damon Lindelof gives EW his responseOne of the Lost show-runners Lindelof responded, but I don’t think Lindelof “gets” GoT – one of the things he said in defense of Lost was: “Ice and Fire saga doesn’t really have a mystery at its core. It’s more of a sprawling sort of epic.” Which I think is a complete misreading of Ice and Fire (GoT), it absolutely has “a mystery” at its core, namely: “what is all this really about”. Game of Thrones has been quietly preparing for the ending for years without you noticing George R.R. Martin: The Rolling Stone Interview r/asoiaf - (Spoilers Extended) Weirwoods: The Wight Trees