A Dance with Dragons part seven! ~600-~700
I believe we are now nearly caught up with the timeline at the end of Feast, with around 400 pages or so to go. It’s interesting, because while the ends of some plot lines seem to be in sight, it still feels very open.
The King’s Prize: Opening, we are clearly looking at Stannis as the king here. By the end of the first page we find it’s an Asha chapter. Time to experience what it’s like being a prisoner of war in Stannis’s army. The first thing of note is that even among his bannermen, Stannis remains less favored than Robert.
Seems old Balon Greyjoy did have some brains for an Ironman – his advice about surrender is pretty solid. Asha follows that advice, but she really doesn’t like Stannis. Mostly because women seem to make him uncomfortable. It’s a different kind of discomfort from Renly’s discomfort around women. I get the feeling Stannis has feelings on the proper place of women and what duties they’re best suited for, feelings that probably echo, in less crude language, those of a certain uncle of mine. Suffice to say, his feelings about Melisandre seem an aberration, and I’m intrigued, because that’s something Asha has not seen and I would like to know how she would square it with her other observations.
Asha hears things, and it seems that while the major houses of the North are playing along with Roose for now, biding their time, the more minor houses who have allied with Stannis are chomping at the bit to get at him.
Alysane Mormont says few words, but I like her already. Asha’s guard, Ser Justin, seems sweet on her. At least it makes the imprisonment a bit more comfortable. Still no horse, though. No trusting the Ironborn after what Theon did. Wonder how Asha will react if she sees Theon at Winterfell. Asha tries to chat with Alysane, who reminds her that the Ironmen made the Bear Island folk the way they are. Like her brother, Asha is currently surrounded by reminders of her own failures. Her reminders are gentler than Theon’s, though.
Asha tries a different tack for some freedom, attempting to convince Stannis to let her serve him. But she mentions Robert, and he also notes that she is not a man. Stannis does not budge once he has made a decision. When it begins to snow, things get really interesting – the northerners are used to it and prepared, and begin to outdistance their southern companions.
And yeah, the storm continues. It’s a harsh one for those unused to the north, and men and horses start dying. Quite a bit. Stannis, however, would gladly continue his Napoleonic journey into a Russian winter and seems unmoved. At least that’s keeping Asha alive and unsacrificed to the fires.
Eventually Asha’s freed from her chains, but only because the horse pulling her cart died and she had to walk. On a broken and unset ankle. In deep snow. This seems unlikely to lead to a good ending for her. Also the food’s nearly run out and they’re still not at Winterfell. Yeah, doing this seems like it was a dumb move. Jon did try to warn Stannis.
Daenerys: I’m going to be honest about these next two chapters. I was donating plasma while reading them and taking notes, but I had to use my right arm to donate, meaning my notes had to be left handed. I am the opposite of left handed. My handwriting isn’t neat normally, but it’s truly chicken scratch with my left hand. I’m going to transcribe those notes, few and illegible as they are, and expand on them. So italics will be the notes I took, while plain text will offer additional musings.
Daario is in her bed. Good at sleep. Seems we’re more or less picking up where we left off before. Dany is completely over the moon for this guy. I don’t trust him. In fact, I’ll go as far as to replace my longstanding bet that Illyrio betrays her with him. Daario Noharis is putting the moves on Dany. She throws caution to the wind, caught up in a hormonal surge of lust that she seems to be mistaking for love.
2 days to wedding. We’re getting close. I also don’t expect this to go off without a hitch. Our last book to feature two major weddings saw bloodshed at each. In this book we’ve already had one major wedding. Nobody died at the wedding, but it was tragic nonetheless. This wedding will probably go well. It’s the aftermath that’ll get you with these weddings. Something’s going to happen with the Theon-Ramsay-Jeyne situation, though I’m not sure what. As for Hizdahr, I see him thinking of Dany as more of a stepping stone. The wedding is convenient, but the bride is not, and something will have to be done about her inconvenient habit of opposing slavery.
Q has joined him. So we got the news that Quentyn has met up with Daario. He doesn’t know that, of course. He also has a gift of some kind for Dany, which he refused to let Daario take to her for him. Good thinking on his part.
Court. Galazza Galare brings up Daario. It’s stealthy, and Dany plays it well by diverting into another possible topic, but her remarks about a presumptuous sellsword are clearly pointed at Dany’s infatuation with Daario. She really, really wants him. And the closer the wedding gets, the less into her he seems to be.
Q’s gift is scroll. Barristan happy. The scroll lets Dany know about the marriage arrangement for Viserys and allows Quentyn to reveal himself to Dany. Dorne is ready to rise with her. She doesn’t particularly fancy Quentyn’s looks, however, and pants-feelings seem to be driving Dany’s decision making lately. So she tells him no, even as Barristan is excited because this is the first real chance they’ve had. Dorne would be an army large enough to really make a difference. But Dany’s insistent on her wedding to Hizdahr, and she appreciates the Dornish too much for Daario’s liking as well. He refers to the scroll as “Westerosi scratchings” to try and downplay the potential importance before handing it over to Dany, after she has to order him to. Clearly he is not a fan of recent revelations. Barristan is happy. This changes everything in his eyes, but Dany says no.
Wedding day. It’s now the morning of the wedding day. She wakes up and quarrels with Daario about the wedding, and he leaves. Then she spends some time with Missandei. Eventually she asks Barristan some questions. And Tywin’s grudge dates back to Aerys having wanted his wife. So I’m not sure if this has been touched on before without checking back, but Barristan tells us about a long time ago when a young prince Aerys insulted Tywin Lannister by ruing the loss of the right of prima nocta as a custom on the night of Tywin’s wedding. This, of course, would be in reference to Tywin’s bride, and it’s implied that Aerys went ahead and exercised that right, essentially starting the grudge that would lead to the rebellion.
What I’m curious about with that is what lesson Dany might take from it. While Dany is the daughter of the hereditary ruler of Westeros and therefore has as legitimate a claim to the Iron Throne as Westerosi law allows, she hasn’t really had to grapple in any meaningful way with the fact that her father was truly a terrible king and that his ouster was just. She’s heard Aerys was mad, but details seem to always have eluded her. Barristan even softens this story, saying it was a drunken jape and leaving the details to implication. If Dany picks up what he’s laying down, however, and eventually learns more, she’ll eventually be confronted with evidence that eliminating Aerys was probably a good thing. Whether she’ll interpret it that way, that’s a different matter.
Jon: Queen Selyse is here. She is paranoid. Queen Selyse has come from Eastwatch by the Sea. Good on the one hand, as it makes Jon’s plans over there easier to execute without a royal hitch. Not so great because she’s really quite superior all the time and it’s rather annoying. She scoffs when Jon tells her who he is, because he’s just so young. We meet a bunch of knights in her entourage, and Patchface mentions the dead dancing in the snow. Fools are wise.
Banker here about debt. There is also a banker here from the Iron Bank of Braavos. He wants to talk to Stannis. This is not really possible at the moment, as Stannis is busy getting snowed in and about to try and fight at Winterfell in a spectacularly dumb move. Jon seizes an opportunity, though. He and the banker eventually strike a deal, securing the Watch a loan that will keep them able to purchase food throughout the winter as well as three ships. It’ll leave the Watch in debt come spring, but better poor than dead.
Axell Florent wants to see Val. He = trouble. Florent just seems to be starting trouble. The longer he’s up here with Jon, the more likely some kind of altercation will come up. We don’t get one for now.
A girl is at the Wall waiting for Jon. What we do have is a report brought to Jon. Seems there was a girl. On a horse that was practically dead. And she’s asking for him by name. Jon gets his hopes up that it’s Arya. It’s not, but this can be the beginning of Jon realizing the limitations of Melisandre’s visions.
Turns out it’s Alys Karstark, who last saw Jon years ago. She and Jon talk, and Jon assures her he bears no grudge to her or her family. She wants Jon to know she needs protection – her family is playing Stannis, ready to backstab him because they’ve thrown in with Roose Bolton. And she wants no part of that – she’s the heir to Karhold, and plans are in motion to marry her off to an uncle of hers so he can secure his claim to Karhold with a child. She’s about as close to an Arya as Jon’s going to see in this book.
The Blind Girl: I suppose we’ve caught up with Feast now, because this can only be Arya – those dreams are her connection to Nymeria. I do hope we see that direwolf again. So she’s Blind Beth now, rather than Cat of the Canals.
The kindly man seems to make a ritual of asking if she would like her eyes back. Arya knows enough to bide her time – it’s probably a test of some kind.
Ah. So she’s blind until she asks (and is summarily discharged) or until she learns whatever lesson they mean to teach her. “Until darkness is as sweet as light.”
She’s learning a lot during this time. Poisons and potions, language classes. The languages seem particularly important to me. Most important of all is honing her remaining senses. Especially hearing and smell.
Her duties include finding the dead men in the temple. This morning there are two. One by the Stranger, another in an alcove on a dreaming couch.
While she feels the coins of the dead, a new test happens. Someone – perhaps an acolyte, she thinks – comes at her with a stick, to test how well she can react blind in a fight. She doesn’t completely succeed, but she does reasonably well.
So it seems losing her sight might not have been a punishment so much as jumping her forward in her training. Interesting. Or not entirely not a punishment. She apparently needs to learn to be the executioner without being judge and jury too, to be the instrument but not the judge.
Out into the world as Blind Beth. She’s a nice counterpoint to the red priests – her nights may be dark, but they are not full of terrors. In her dreams she is the terror.
She finds her way to Pynto’s, where she gets a seat by the fire and a cat for company. Latent warging abilities allow her a moment of sight from the cat’s eyes regarding three Lyseni men who seat themselves near her. Three things she learns from them, including that Hardhome’s wildlings are being preyed upon by slavers. Best get to work on that, Jon.
Her third thing is that the kindly man is her attacker. She saw him, but she won’t say that. It’s the cat that let her see. Next to Bran, Arya is clearly most in tune with this ability. Let’s see her keep using it.
The next morning she has her eyes back. Guess she’s a quick study.
A Ghost in Winterfell: Theon’s back, and we have a suspicious death. There’s paranoia about Stannis and winter is getting harder by the day.
One of Abel’s washerwomen comes to Theon, Holly, and asks him to take her to the crypts. It’s a ploy, he thinks, but whose and why elude him. One option he settles on is that Abel wants a way out.
More mysterious deaths. Perhaps this is Manderly’s doing. Hosteen Frey certainly suspects him. Roose Bolton seems uneasy, perhaps even afraid. A stable collapses and meanwhile one of Ramsay’s favorites is found dead with his penis shoved down his throat.
Theon takes a walk and meets a man who seems to hate him. He wonders if this is the killer. Roose calls him in – Theon’s been reported wandering around, and Roose must determine if Theon is the killer or not.
Theon’s hands – what’s left of them – are proof enough, and now suspicion falls on Manderly, but that sentiment is not taken up more generally because Manderly is so gluttonous. I’d say if it is him, his gluttony simply masks his intentions and actions. Hoseteen Frey is given a hard reminder that the North remembers.
A warhorn sounds. Theon goes to the godswood, begging to be allowed a sword so he can die as Theon and not Reek. It seems to him the trees whisper his name, then Bran’s. Theon almost breaks down because of this, reflecting verbally on how he needed two heads.
I’m really getting the feeling that while the greenseer told Bran that you can’t speak through the trees, Bran is just that good at this. Abel’s washerwomen find Theon, hearing a bit of what he says but not catching the meaning. They mean to take him to sing to Abel.
Tyrion: Well, we’ve got a slave auction. At least Tyrion’s in the neighborhood of finding Dany here, being in Slaver’s Bay? Jorah fought against the slavers, and it did not go well. Tyrion seems impressed that the price for him and Penny is equaling the price for a sailor.
There’s an old woman who keeps outbidding other buyers by one. I’d wager she is the final buyer, but I’d probably get outbid. By one. Penny and Tyrion are made to perform when the bidding flags, driving up their price. The bidding flags a second time, and the buyers come to inspect them. Tyrion’s missing nose and heterochromia seem to put off the old woman, and his antics don’t help persuade her. New bidders come in at this point, driving the price up to two thousand and higher. There’s one bidder Tyrion doesn’t want to go to. He probably will.
Tyrion places a bid for himself, and pretty much announces himself as Tyrion Lannister for all who have ears to hear.
I guess we’re closer to Meereen than I thought. Literally just outside the walls. So close and so far. Tyrion ponders the possibilities of escape, but it seems he’d rather not leave Penny. It also seems unlikely to work. Their new owner is the one Tyrion didn’t want, and he introduces himself as a kind and benevolent scholar. Quite, I’m sure. His name is Yezzan zo Qaggaz, and he’d like for Penny and Tyrion to think of him as a father figure. You don’t want that, Qaggaz, not with Tyrion. At least he paid enough that it wouldn’t be worth it to send him to Cersei.
News of Dany’s wedding has reached the slaves, and many are in denial. Dany is Mhyse and would never do that. When Jorah goes on the auction block, he looks utterly defeated. It’s a hard sell, and Tyrion rescues him from a fate in the fighting pits by convincing Qaggaz to buy him as well. He’s the bear in their mummings.
If I were an Americanist and not a medievalist, I’d probably have a lot more to say regarding parallels between the slavery depicted here and in American slavery. Suffice it to say that Martin is obviously drawing heavily from American and Caribbean slavery in his depiction here. Dany’s always been right about slavery, of course, but her methods have failed in large part due to her unwillingness to finish the job and make sure it stays finished. She needs to rebuild society from the ground up and eliminate the old power brokers if she wants any success. What she’s done is marry into the old power structure, a move that would lend her legitimacy with the people if it weren’t for the fact that they’ll surely take her out of the picture at the first opportunity.
It seems Qaggaz collects slaves he considers physically interesting, much like the freak shows of old. Only Sweets, an intersex slave, has the languages to converse with Penny and Tyrion. Sweets seems rather well educated, and tells us that Qaggaz is dying since a trip to Sothoros (a rare mention of this continent). Making him forget, even for a moment, that he’s dying leads to rewards.
A sizeable audience shows up to see the entertainment, including the Yunkish supreme commander and Brown Ben Plumm. Penny and Tyrion tilt a bit, then Tyrion plays cyvasse against Plumm, winning enough for Qaggaz that he should be very happy indeed. Seems the supreme commander has convinced him that he should let the two dwarfs joust for the masses. This could be an opening for him to get to Dany in some way if he can finagle it right.
Jaime: He’s now at Raventree Hall, where the siege has been going for six months. A long siege, aimed at starving out the inhabitants. This is the last bastion of Robb Stark’s kingdom of the North.
Jaime wants to get this job done and over quickly so he can go back to King’s Landing. His mind goes back to Cersei and her letter. He interrupts Lord Bracken with some quips, but his internal monologue says he’ll need to tell Myrcella too. So Jaime’s about ready to just go public about the incest.
Bracken wants assurance he’ll get the lands he was promised by Tywin in exchange for subduing Raventree. Jaime points out he hasn’t quite subdued Raventree. Yeah. Not going to be any hard feelings at all if another Stark shows back up.
Tytos Blackwood is willing to agree to terms, including the return of some lands to the Brackens. And so falls the last of Robb’s kingdom. Jaime agrees to take Blackwood’s bookish son as the hostage rather than his daughter.
Jaime heads off with his host and hostage. He muses that Tyrion would like Hoster Blackwood. I like Hoster Blackwood – he’s my kind of guy. He and Jaime talk a bit about the feud between Bracken and Blackwood.
In Pennytree, Brienne of Tarth arrives, claiming she knows where Sansa is. She looks like she’s aged a decade, and that the Hound will kill her if anyone but Jaime comes.
Things of importance:
* Melisandre’s predicted arrival is Alys Karstark
* Jorah, Penny, and Tyrion have been sold into slavery just outside Meereen.
* Brienne is alive, and the last of Robb’s kingdom has fallen.
* Stannis is being defeated by snow.
* Dany is married.
* Arya can see again.
Predictions pulled out of my ass:
* I’m not going to trust Alys Karstark just yet. Jon’s in big danger with Queen Selyse present with her men, and Alys throws an unpredictable element into things.
* Dany too is in danger – don’t trust her husband or the seneschal.
* So I see things going poorly for Dany and Jon to close this book.
* Arya’s journey back to Westeros will happen next book.
* I’m not quite convinced Brienne is exactly as we left her last. Something just feels off.
Three heads: Three identities, perhaps Mother of dragons and child of storms are obvious – the third, though… I’ll have to go look things over again, but perhaps Azor Ahai is a possibility. Open to multiple possibilities. Other possibility: her, Jon Snow, and Aegon as the new Targaryen rulers of Westeros.
She thinks: Herself and two others to ride her dragons.
Three fires: life, death, love. There’s the obvious fire of Drogo’s funeral – the fire of life. The other two will come. No predictions as yet.
Three mounts: To bed, to dread, to love. Drogo was to love. Irri seems a good enough bedmate.
Three treasons: For blood, for gold, for love. All three seem to have been in motion or completed before the prophecy. Jorah seems to have betrayed her for love, love of home. For blood, I’m on board with Mirri Maz Duur now.
She thinks: Mirri Maz Duur for blood. Jorah for love.
Azor Ahai: “When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone.”
I’m going to have to go with Dany now, based on Aemon’s dreams. But with Benerro explicitly calling her Azor Ahai, I’m keeping my eye on other possibilities.
Quaithe’s Warning: “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.
Well, the pale mare came. Kraken is Euron, Lion is Tyrion, Sun’s son must be Quentyn, as others have noted the symbol. Dark flame might be Benerro and them. Griffin must be Connington, but mummer’s dragon is uncertain. Unless that’s Aegon. But he’s heading the wrong way.