A Dance with Dragons part one! 1-~100

Once more into the breach. I am beginning what is presently the latest book of the series, and the Winds of Winter are still a distant forecast. Will I finish dancing before winter howls? I hope so. Anywho, it’s time to go back in time and see what’s been happening elsewhere while Westeros rots.

Prologue: Hey, it’s wargs. One is named Varamyr, and he’s quite taken with the term abomination. Varamyr Sixskins, who had been one of Mance Rayder’s top guys. So here we are, following the free folk who have turned back to leave the Wall. I’m sure we’ll see some deaths here, because the Others will almost certainly show up.

So Varamyr was the one Melisandre set on fire while he was in eagle form. Can’t say I feel too bad for him, he seemed like an ass. He’s died several times before, and being a member of the free folk does seem like a hard life, especially given his parents’ reaction to his gift.

He’s waiting for Thistle to return so he can try one last-ditch effort to save his life. He plans to commandeer her body and inhabit her, leaving his old body (and possibly his gift) to die.

This prologue feels like it’s offering a lot of information so we can catch up with Bran really easily. I like that. Varamyr’s thoughts on Jon Snow and Snow’s latent abilities as a skinchanger are also worth considering.

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Thistle returns, and they’re coming. Yeah, Varamyr, taking her skin won’t help with this. Although it would be interesting if you tried to take one of them. And she’s a fighter. Yet another reason you don’t wear the skins of people – Bran could only do it to Hodor for a very brief time – Varamyr dies and lives on in One-Eye, and the wights are upon the village.

Tyrion: Now we chart Tyrion’s escape across the Narrow Sea. He’s getting very little in the way of information right now, though. He also thinks Dorne might be the best destination, so he can help Myrcella take the throne.

Tyrion in a wine barrel. It’s like a play on the barrel escape in The Hobbit, but with less river and more pain. He is freed from his barrel by man I can only guess might be Illyrio Mopatis, because that would tie some things together.

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Yep, it’s Illyrio. So that puts some pieces together. Littlefinger and Varys are at odds, while Illyrio seems to be working with Varys. In any case, it seems this is a temporary stop for Tyrion.

Tyrion’s explorations show us the immediate area. Illyrio seems to have some eunuch guards, and Tyrion’s surmise that they are fearless and loyal to death suggests they may be Unsullied. He does some thinking aloud by harassing a washerwoman for a bit, but comes to no firm plan. Eventually he is bathed and readied for dinner by a servant girl whom he tries to intimidate.

The question of Tyrion’s day is “where do whores go?” And so far he has found it unanswerable. He does receive the answers to questions unasked. Dany’s recent conquests have become news in Pentos, and Tyrion learns of them though he does not receive the name of the conqueror.

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Looks like Tyrion’s encounter with the mushrooms saves his life – he’s immediately suspicious, and Illyrio suggests that he is assisting a suicide. But Tyrion insists he has no desire to die, at which point Illyrio eats a mushroom and proves that they are not poisonous.

The dinner discussion turns more interesting after this point. Cersei’s bounty is revealed to Tyrion, who expects no less. Stannis’s relocation to the Wall comes as a shock. What Illyrio offers Tyrion is a path to inheriting Casterly Rock. It does not go through Stannis, nor through making Myrcella a queen, but through a three-headed dragon.

Daenerys: So we have a murder mystery afoot for us here. One of Dany’s Unsullied has been murdered by the Sons of the Harpy. Seems there’s unrest in Meereen, and it’s pretty easy to see why. Dany kind of sucks at governing. She can conquer, sure. She’s good at that. But governing? Ruling? She’s not good at all. Fair skinned adventurers coming in and completely overthrowing darker-skinned peoples’ established structures, no matter how odious the structures are (often replacing them with other odious structures, has often led to civil unrest, to say the least.

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And even her dragons are becoming unruly. Dany’s in dire need of some work life balance, and maybe setting her dragons on a diet. Meanwhile, Dany is rules Meereen and tries to hold a peace by wearing the floppy ears. Is it just me, or is Martin having a bit of a joke here? He’s got to be using the floppy ears as a bit of a joke for the readers. And possibly a joke from the people of Meereen on Dany. Seriously, floppy ears?

Worth noting that when Dany starts thinking of the deaths of Rhaegar and the rest, she then lumps Viserys in among those who died thanks to Robert. I think she may be unraveling. That one was all you, Dany.

We get some new characters, and Dany is now hearing petitions just like Ned did so long ago. I’m going to be interested if there are any parallels with Ned from her down the line. One thing that’s not parallel is that Dany is very paranoid right now, thinking about the third treason. I have a feeling Illyrio could be the third, but his name never comes up for some reason. If she did think about him, I wonder how her calculus would change.

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What Dany will find most challenging is probably that reconciling freed slaves with their former masters is not going to be easy. Perhaps impossible. Some of the petitions she hears are offers of gifts. Cleon offers slippers. He has wisely withheld the marriage proposal this time. Dany flatly denies a petition to reopen the fighting pits, although the petitioner may be the ideal man from Meereen to marry should she have to take a husband in order to establish control. Her approach to former slave masters expecting compensation for the work their former slaves now do is something I approve of – some manner of reparations for the slaves is a step.

Her answer to the boy whose family was killed in the uprising by his family’s former slaves isn’t any different than I would give. The kid takes it a bit personally, and Dany can tell he’s going to join the Sons of the Harpy – he did, after all, just try and kill her but failed due to a wardrobe malfunction.

It would seem the last people are seeking claims on livestock killed by the dragons. Yeah, Dany’s losing control of them. One guy hangs around even though Dany gives word to have all of them paid. Looks like the dragons have developed a taste for children. Yeah, that’s not going to be so good.

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Jon: Turning over to the Wall, we have Jon. Or Ghost, first. We get just a glimpse of what’s up with Shaggydog, who is eating a goat. Nymeria has a ridiculously large pack – good girl. And Summer is impossible to locate. Bran must be up to something very interesting with Coldhands. What I really want is a chapter entirely from Ghost’s point of view.

Jon is busy administering the aftermath of the battle and dealing with King Stannis. Got wildlings penned up outside the Wall as a temporary measure to try and keep order. This seems like probably not a totally smart move, but perhaps the closest to a good one right now.

Jon still thinks Bran and Rickon are dead, but he’s a little bit on to something in his thought that maybe something of them lives on in their wolves. You almost know something, Jon Snow.

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Anyway, Stannis basically wants the Wall for himself, and Jon doesn’t want to give it to him, and so Jon is going to meet with Stannis. But before he can get there, Jon has to catch some guff from one of the King’s knights, Godry the Giantslayer. Based on the timing, it looks like Sam hasn’t left yet – so probably just before he leaves, in fact.

Lyanna Mormont, or whoever is writing letters for her, seems like a pretty gutsy ten-year-old. Wonder if we’ll get more on that situation down the line.

Conversation with Stannis and Melisandre is quite tense. Jon seems to hold his own a bit, avoiding saying too much to any question. Melisandre tries to offer some advice to Jon after the meeting – he should trust her and not trust the smiling faces around him. She sees ice and daggers in the darkness.

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Bran: This is going to be interesting to watch. Bran is perhaps as much of an abomination as Sixskins is, what with the way he wears Hodor.

So they’re heading around with Coldhands, and it seems they’re being hunted. Meera doesn’t trust Coldhands, and she lets the others know when Coldhands goes to investigate the issue. I feel like it’s possible Coldhands is Benjen Stark, whether he’s dead and changed, or something else entirely.

Bran slips into Summer’s skin for a bit and discovers the corpses of a few men of the Night’s Watch. But Summer is not alone – he comes upon other wolves. And one of those wolves is Varamyr Sixskins in the form of his friend Old One-Eye. There’s a bit of a fight, but Summer wins and establishes dominance and gets to eat.

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What’s interesting is that it looks like Coldhands killed the men. And he’s dead. Still won’t give up his name, though. He’s some kind of monster, but I’m not convinced he isn’t what’s left of Ben Stark too.

Tyrion: Tyrion and Illyrio are heading toward the Rhoyne river. Mopatis is absolutely convinced he won’t be betrayed by anyone. I’m with Tyrion with respect to that question. But before we find out, they must first make it to the river.

Illyrio studiously avoids answering Tyrion’s question about how long it will take until they reach the river. But, for Tyrion’s benefit, we get to learn what Illyrio knows (or chooses to share about what he knows) about Dany’s recent journeyings.

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So, Illyrio expects Dany to make her way to Volantis, so he’s sending Tyrion there. Too bad she’s staying put. Tyrion smells a rat, though. Or maybe a mouse – we get some backstory on Varys and Illyrio together as well. Perhaps a bit exaggerated, or perhaps not.

The information Illyrio is using is admittedly old, and he’s extrapolating off previous behavior patterns. He’s hoping when they reach Volantis they’ll get some more recent information. His assumptions are not quite right, though. This is going to go south very quick.

I really want to know more about the War of the Ninepenny Kings. I’m also intrigued by the sphinx bit here. Particularly the missing one.

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The Merchant’s Man: Our first new point of view? Looks like. And it’s Quentyn Martell. And he’s on his way to Meereen. Looks like his information is more recent than Illyrio’s.

But for the moment he’s not on his way anywhere – he’s stuck in Volantis. Wine merchant is a decent cover story, at least. Quentyn and Gerris Drinkwater finally secure a promise of passage aboard a smuggler’s ship.

A promise of passage is not passage, though. This smuggler seems very untrustworthy to both men.

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So Quentyn’s party was beset by corsairs and many of them died, including the maester sent with them who knew the languages of the area. Auspicious. Pretty much screwed without a turn of fortune’s wheel, it looks like.

Overland is out – even after death the specter of Tywin Lannister still looms. Not that Quentyn knows Tywin’s dead. Quentyn reflects a bit on girls and on his task before we get a little taste of the history of Volantis. The Black Wall is interesting. I can’t imagine Dany not stopping by there when she eventually gets here (she’s certainly going to come through Volantis at some point).

The Windblown makes a compelling, if unusual pitch to Quentyn. Maybe being part of an invading army is a way to get passage. You can always try to desert when you get there. Well, at least Gerris has an idea.

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Things of importance:
* Tyrion is on his way to Volantis to meet a Dany who is not on her way.
* Dany’s dragons have developed a taste for human flesh. I wonder if the Targaryens had this problem in the past when the dragons existed and how they dealt with it.
* Coldhands is a dead man.


Predictions pulled out of my ass:
* Ice and daggers means betrayal. Jon’s gonna get stabbed at some point, and while the implication is death, I think he’ll fake his death.

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.