Let’s Read A Song of Ice and Fire:
A Feast for Crows
part eight! ~700-~800!

Well jeez. Stuff is happening now. Like, a lot of stuff. We’re in the climax of the book here, and it really shows. So far it’s not too bad. It’s not as good as the previous two books, but it’s still holding up for me. Anyway, on to the chapters.

Jaime: Time to meet up with another Lannister cousin. Daven’s a beardy one, and Jaime ponders the positives to being one-handed. The siege is boring, which seems right for a siege. Daven’s itching for a fight and an opportunity to lose some of these troublesome Freys.

Daven can give us a report of Kevan. Brooding, courteous, chilly, and uninterested in helping take the castle. And the Freys have been vexing Daven endlessly. Edmure managed to get his wife pregnant during the slaughter, and Ryman keeps trying to draw out the Blackfish by threatening to hang Edmure while Emmon begs Daven to give the order to do it. Meanwhile Jeyne Westerling is inside the castle and her father fears for her if Edmure is hanged. No word on if she ever got pregnant with Robb before the slaughter.

So if nothing changes, the siege will take at least two years. That, I imagine, is not a timeline Cersei would settle for. Some of the men sent to forage desert, others are killed. By Dondarrion or Stoneheart’s groups, I imagine.

Jaime hopes to end the siege without bloodshed. Not sure that will work, but it’s worth a shot I guess. The sooner to get this over with, get back to King’s Landing, and figure out what he will or won’t do about Cersei.

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The nightly sparring with Payne is almost like a series of therapeutic, if ultimately disappointing sexual encounters. Jaime’s a man rendered impotent, and the clandestine nature of the sparring makes it read as taboo. We can probably push this further.

Riverrun still flies the Stark banner, which does not rule out that there very well might be a little Starkling on the way. Jaime reflects on the first time he ever saw Riverrun and was seated next to Lysa Tully, who was not so bad in those days. But he was most interested in hearing tales from the Blackfish.

I see where Jaime and Tyrion got their sense of humor. Aunt Genna retorts very sarcastically about if they’ll make a golden father for Jaime when he offers his hand as the loss. The brothers are better developed in this sense of humor, but she’s clearly the source.

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Lying to the aunt and uncle about their son’s death seems to give them some peace. As Jaime notes, bones are in no short supply, so he’ll have no trouble supplying a corpse for interment at the Rock.

Jaime reminds his uncle that the title of Lord of Riverrun does not put him in charge of the riverlands – that right belongs at present to Petyr Baelish. Emmon’s business is silly and unimportant, though; aunt Genna has more important matters to discuss.

She’s clearly not happy with the notion of her husband being Lord of Riverrun. Basically, the whole succession of Riverrun is a really messed up situation with so many possible Tully heirs that until they’re all dead the Lannister hold is hardly secure, no matter how much Tommen plays with his seal.

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Aunt Genna is the first to really raise the issue of how completely stupid it is to arm the faith again. Even the Targaryens feared an armed church. Apparently the kingdoms rose in open revolt, including the faith, when Aegon the Conqueror died. It took Maegor the Cruel to put a bounty on them and later King Jaehaerys to pardon those who remained in order to bring things to order.

Genna won’t tell Jaime how to fight his war, but she suggests that killing Edmure probably wouldn’t hurt. She also doesn’t seem to trust Cersei with as much power as she has. She thinks Cersei’s gone half mad and wonders why Cersei didn’t just name Kevan the Hand. Jaime responds that he refused, and she knows, but she doesn’t know what is wrong. Something is deeply wrong, but that’s all she knows. But Kevan knows.

When Jaime asks if she loved his father, his aunt says of course. But despite being a man who would stand up for her even when he was but a boy, he was fantastically shortsighted in some things. Jaime is Tywin’s son, yes, but Tyrion is the one who is most like Tywin.

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Cat of the Canals: Arya’s finding it hard to rid herself of herself, what with those wolf dreams and nightmares of being a lost child.

So it appears Arya’s task is to learn, and she can only come back to see the kindly man after she learns three new things since the last time. She’s motivated – the way she feels she’s getting stronger when her back aches from lifting says as much.

So the kindly man says that in Westeros they call Him of Many Faces the Stranger. Meanwhile in Qohor they call him the Black Goat [of the Woods with a Thousand Young Iä Shub-Niggurath!]

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Learning things, building a new identity. There’s a great deal going on in this whole story about disguising, particularly between Arya and Sansa in this book. Not sure what exactly it is about this that I’m interested in, but there’s something that’s holding my attention. The ephemerality and constructedness of identity, perhaps.

Arya’s fascination with vulgarity will never not amuse. And it’s good to see Arya in the presence of cats again. As she’s selling we learn something – Salador Saan killed the captain of a green galley from Old Volantis. Might be we’ll hear more in the next book.

Arya gets some info about the Seven Kingdoms from a crew in from Gulltown, including the fact that the fighting hasn’t reached the Vale and that Lysa Tully is dead. Later on, the mummers who perform Seven Drunken Oarsmen tell her that two of their number have left in a dispute with each other and they’ll have to make up for the lack of oarsmen with extra drunkenness.

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And we also get to keep up with Dareon the singer from the Night’s Watch. Arya doesn’t like him, but Cat puts up a good façade and tries to get a little information about Sam out of him. Not much forthcoming from the deserter, however.

Upon returning to the temple, Arya learns the truth, as well as an untruth and an exaggeration, about the waif’s life. Ever the quick study, Arya is able to determine the exaggeration right away. Then the waif tells her the presence of a lie was the lie. And before Arya can determine if that’s a lie the kindly man shows up.

And Cat has learned three new things. There’s Little Narbo’s fingers, and the mummers, and lastly, Arya Stark has killed Dareon the singer.

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And it would seem the kindly man gave her warm milk with a blinding potion in it to punish her for returning to being Arya. Damn.

Samwell: Aemon has passed, and it’s up to Sam to give the eulogy and to say the rites. The eulogy makes me think (not for the first time, but to reflect on it anew), though, that this is a world where selflessness is cruelly mocked by the universe. Aemon selflessly set aside his inheritance of the Iron Throne in favor of his brother. Without that you never have Arys II come to power, never have Robert’s rebellion, none of Cersei’s follies, no war, nothing. Dany’s family would never have been killed and she would never have become mother of dragons. We can say if Ned Stark had not done this or that the entire story would never have happened, but if Aemon Targaryen had never set aside the crown Ned would never have been in the position to light the powder keg that Aemon inadvertently placed in King’s Landing.

Before he died it dawned on him that Daenerys was the fulfillment of the prophecy. The reason it hadn’t was due to a translation error – sounds to me like the inclusion of erroneous gender. That can be a tricky thing to get around in translation, when nouns are gendered and thus share the same pronouns and articles as people. He had hoped to go to her.

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Aemon had known his death was coming, and he trusted Sam to make the archmaesters in Oldtown listen to what’s really happening up at the Wall. To tell them of the prophecy. He understands Melisandre’s error with the sword and reading the signs, that Stannis has royal blood himself, that Daenerys is the promised one and must have a maester sent to counsel her.

Aemon spoke of the candle, though it’s nonsense to Sam. Still something of a mystery to us too. And Gilly and Sam come up with a name for Mance and Dalla’s son: Aemon Steelsong, for when the boy has lived to two.

Aww, Gilly and Sam are two very drunk kids in lurve. And Sam, who always took his vows quite seriously has trouble doing so.

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Got to work for the passage on the ship, and Sam and Gilly try very hard. And Sam’s very guilty feeling about his vows. Xhondo brings Sam to Kojja Mo who tries to undo some of the shame about sex, pointing out that as a life creating act it honored Aemon’s death. Go to her, be there for her while she needs him, or swim.

Sam chooses to go to her.

Cersei: Loras has succeeded in capturing Dragonstone, it would seem. The Ironborn are finally attracting attention in King’s Landing, since they’re now sailing up through the Reach and harrying their way inland.

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Waters says Loras turned the battle into a slaughter, losing a thousand knights and young lords from Cersei’s side, and that he is at death’s door from his injuries. I have a feeling there’s something behind this story – Loras may be gravely injured, but I would hesitate to believe this report just from the testimony given. Cersei seems to love it, though, and is ready to rub it in Margaery’s face.

I have a feeling Margaery will be highly important in Cersei’s downfall. She demands to hear the details Cersei has, commands it even. And from what we hear, it sounds to me like there might definitely be something up. Leading the charge sounds fair enough, but the ridiculous compounding injuries up to being doused in burning oil makes me suspicious. I think Margaery is right to not believe her brother is dead, and I’m not sure I quite believe that all the damage (if it did happen) was inflicted by Stannis’s men.

So now we have some four people coming in with reports, news, or other information regarding Tyrion. One has a head, which will almost certainly be fake. Cersei wants to see him first, of course, just in case. So far six innocent men have had their heads brought in for Cersei’s reward.

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And a seventh as well. Another sacrifice to Qyburn’s golem-making. The informers are equally useless to Cersei, though I do get some amusement out of the idea that perhaps Tyrion has joined the mummers performing Seven Drunken Oarsmen.

The Warrior’s sons are quickly gaining in strength of numbers, something Cersei will certainly rue. If Margaery has nothing to do with her downfall, the new High Septon and his army will. Especially since Lancel appears to now be part of the High Septon’s guard.

Oh snap. Cersei insults Margaery in front of Tommen and the little king snaps back. Maybe there is something in this kid aside from trembling fear and a love of kittens. Cersei doesn’t like this at all, and punishes Tommen by having him whip his whipping boy. Evidently she’s trying to make him as cold to the value of human life as she is. I don’t see it working. He’s not Joffrey.

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More background on the visit to Maggy the Frog. I remember that she said Cersei shall be queen until one younger and more beautiful will cast her down and take all she holds dear. Margaery plus the power of the Faith? Dany? Cersei’s dreaming, but the memory is so potent through it.

Three questions. First she asks when she’ll marry the prince. She was to marry a king, but that was not as she expected. She will be queen, until the other casts her down. And lastly she asked about children. Sixteen for Robert, three for her, and then the important bit.

“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.” That word, which we’ve heard a few times this book, means brother in High Valyrian. So, all of Cersei’s children shall be crowned and buried before she dies, and it shall be her brother who kills her. So this is why she fears Tyrion so much – she thinks the prophecy is about him. Especially when Jaime only has one hand now. But I bet Jaime does it in the end.

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Cersei’s friend managed to get one question off – and no, she will not marry Jaime but die a maid. Because of Cersei is the implication. And yep, the dream turns to Tyrion strangling her. That is precisely her fear. And her undoing.

She summons Pycelle to do something about the dreams. He hesitates before telling her not to involve Qyburn and that he’ll fetch the potion she desires. I wonder exactly what he was going to call Qyburn.

After breakfast the next day Cersei asks Qyburn about Falyse, hoping maybe there’s a way to get rid of Bronn by granting the Stokeworth estate to Falyse, the elder sister. Unfortunately, whatever Mengele-esque experiments Qyburn has run on Falyse have left her alive but incapable.

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Cersei consults with Qyburn about the prophecies of the maegi, and she seems determined now. She will have to kill Margaery before she can be replaced. The question is how. She thinks some kind of frame job to warrant an execution. But what? Cersei seems to have a plan baking, involving getting Osney Kettleblack to kill Boros Blount, so Osney can be deemed a traitor. As he’s the one she wanted to bed Margaery, that implicates her if she can get him to confess to it being Margaery’s idea.

Tricksy Cersei, but I don’t believe it will work until I see it happen.

Brienne: So, we’re in Saltpans and encountering corpses. All hanged. All with salt in their mouths. These are the men who raided Saltpans, hanged by Dondarrion, Brienne surmises.

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We get a bit of a history lesson relating to the crossroads inn. I like these brief forays into local history. Adds color to the story, and I love this kind of color. It’s the sort of tangent you see a lot in medieval literature.

The inn is still standing, at least. No luck getting into the castle in Saltpans, but the inn outside town is a better bet. It’s tended by children. War orphans by the look of it. The girl Willow has some moxie – she’s determined to get silver if they’re going to stay, and she peppers them all with questions.

And with the kids we find ourselves catching up with a former companion of Arya Stark – Gendry. He looks a lot like Renly, Brienne notices, and so maybe she’ll recognize the relationship to his father. Gendry is less inclined to let them stay than Willow is. They have food and can feed the little ones. She has a point.

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Brienne and Pod will stay together at the inn here. She means to leave before Hunt wakes so they can avoid him and continue their quest. No firm destination in mind, though. She’s contemplating failure, and being in Jaime’s arms.

Brienne wonders if Willow might be Arya. Not quite, Brienne. So this is the inn where Arya and Sandor made their stand against some of Gregor’s men. Wonder if Brienne will say anything about who she’s looking for and tip off Gendry.

Brienne reacts to the war orphans as a reasonable person would, and Hunt sees an opportunity to try and get a major prize by suggesting marriage to Brienne. That seems unlikely.

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Gendry has no interest in the Seven Gods, but reserves his faith for the Lord of Light. Brienne takes him some food, and here’s an opportunity for some talking. Pretty quickly she catches the resemblance to Robert, and proceeds to try and see if he knows who his father is.

Before she can get too far with the stuff about Robert, we hear “friends” coming. Dondarrion’s troupe? Nope, Brienne recognizes the Hound’s helmet. This is not going to be fun – she tells Gendry to arm himself.

Brienne has suspicions about who wears the helm. Whoever he is knows her and says she’s uglier than he remembers. She taunts him, saying Shagwell removed his manhood when they took his nose. With the presence of Biter not a page later, it must be Rorge.

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Brienne keeps a cool head in battle. The men underestimate her and she uses this to her advantage, conceding a grazing blow here in exchange for her enemy tiring himself out in his furor. She manages to get the kill, then Biter comes in after her next.

He tries to strangle her in the mud, and her sword is out of hand. She punches him in the face, but no luck. Even opening up his belly doesn’t stop him. He starts biting at her face and eating. Damn.

Things of importance:
* Arya is blind (?)
* Maester Aemon Targaryen is dead. Pour one out.
* Cersei will die at her brother’s hands, but only after her children die.
* Cersei has a new plan to kill Margaery
* Brienne has met up with Gendry, and she’s being wounded pretty badly in a battle.

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Predictions pulled out of my ass:

* Cersei’s plan to kill Margaery will be the thing that backfires on her and leads to her downfall.
* Jaime will kill Cersei, not Tyrion.
* Lancel as part of the High Septon’s guard will be a holy terror.

Dany’s Threes:
Three heads: Three identities. 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. Of course, this one’s most open and could have several meanings.
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. Depending on what happens with Illyrio Mopatis, we might have a winner for gold.
She thinks: Mirri Maz Duur for blood. Jorah for love

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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.