A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings, Part 19

Welcome back to A Read of Ice and Fire! Please join me as I read and react, for the very first time, to George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.

Today’s entry is Part 19 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapters 40 (“Daenerys”) and 41 (“Tyrion”).

Previous entries are located in the Index. The only spoilers in the post itself will be for the actual chapters covered and for the chapters previous to them. As for the comments, The Powers That Be at Tor.com have very kindly set up a forum thread for spoilery comments. Any spoileriffic discussion should go there, where I won’t see it. Non-spoiler comments go below, in the comments to the post itself.

And now, the post!

 

Chapter 40: Daenerys

What Happens
Dany rides in a litter with Xaro Xhoan Daxos, on their way back from a very disappointing interview with the Pureborn of Qarth, who controlled the Civic Guard and the fleet of the city. Dany had hoped to convince them to lend some of those ships and soldiers to her, but they had refused her. She reflects bitterly that they had clearly regarded her as nothing more than a curiosity, and even the ones she had bribed at Xaro’s suggestion had done nothing.

Xaro had helped her raise the gold she had used for those bribes by exacting tribute from those who came to see her and her dragons. Dany thinks that even hailed as a queen, she is still a beggar, and thinks it not surprising that this life drove Viserys to madness in the end. She thinks of returning to Vaes Tolorro, but tells herself she has an advantage Viserys did not, the dragons, and will succeed where he failed.

As they move through the city, Xaro continues his campaign to woo her into marrying him with flowery language. Dany knows his declarations of love are at best facetious, having seen the beautiful boys Xaro keeps in his palace, and counters with proposals that he finance her war. Xaro exhorts her to abandon her dream of the Iron Throne and to stay with him instead. She suggests going to his rivals in the merchant trade, and he dismisses them languidly. Then she suggests going to Pyat Pree and the warlocks, and Xaro’s reaction is vehement, warning her that warlocks are “bitter creatures who eat dust and drink of shadows”, and liars besides.

Their back and forth is interrupted by a commotion in the streets, and Dany climbs from the litter to Jhogo’s horse so she can see the cause, a firemage building an elaborate ladder of fire. Quaithe appears suddenly and tells Dany that six months ago that particular mage could barely call any fire at all, but now his powers have grown, and Dany is the reason.

“Me?” She laughed. “How could that be?”

The woman stepped closer and lay two fingers on Dany’s wrist. “You are the Mother of Dragons, are you not?”

Quaithe warns Dany that she must leave the city soon or she will not be allowed to. Dany determines from her cryptic words that Quaithe is suggesting she go to Asshai, and asks what she will  find there that she will not in Qarth. “Truth,” Quaithe tells her, and leaves. Her bloodriders deride Quaithe as “the spawn of shadows” and say her word is not to be trusted; Xaro agrees.

Dany returns to the palace and feeds her dragons; she realizes they are growing, and that soon she will need to train them, but has no idea how to go about it. Jorah enters and tells her she will get no help in this city, and that he knows why Xaro has been pressing her to marry him: Qartheen law dictates that bride and groom each may choose a gift to demand of the other that cannot be refused, and Jorah is sure Xaro would demand one of the dragons.

Dany tells him of her encounter with Quaithe; Jorah advises against going to Asshai, but also is against returning to the Free Cities, arguing that Illyrio Mopatis is a devious glutton who has already sold her out once. He also tells her that even if she finds the ships and soldiers she wants, they will not win her the Iron Throne as long as the lords of Westeros see her as an invading foreigner. She asks what he suggests she do, then, and he admits he does not know. Dany says that the comet led her to Qarth for a reason, even if it was not to find an army, and tells Jorah that the next day he will go to Pyat Pree.

Commentary
Hmm.

Once again I am in reluctant agreement with Jorah: these people are useless to Dany, and she should just get the hell out before they decide to turn on her.

Although, it’s not like any other place will be any more peopled with friends or less fraught with potential betrayal. It’s kind of a hideously precarious position Dany is in, isn’t it? I mean, I knew that before, but Dany’s thoughts on Viserys really brought it back into focus.

I still think Viserys was a horrible disgusting person who very nearly deserved the gruesome way he died, but Dany’s got a point in how much his life basically sucked. It’s bad enough to be dependent on the generosity of strangers when you’re just an ordinary person; it must be a thousand times worse to be a beggar king, where the only charities you can ask for are enormous ones.

That said, yes, fine, his life blew chunks, but that doesn’t mean he had the right to take it out on anyone else. Especially his sister, who was at fault for none of the suckage, and was (or should have been) the one person whose loyalty he could trust. Some people are just incapable of appreciating the gifts they’ve been given, and it’s sad.

Anyway, I am kind of also in agreement with Jorah in that Asshai is a bad idea, though that’s mostly a rather biased judgment on my part stemming from the fact that Melisandre’s from there, and I don’t like her. But seriously, if her shenanigans are typical of her countrymen, then I for one would be pretty okay scratching that off my dream vacation wishlist, because I have never once noticed that rampant zealotry = awesome tourism experience. It’s crazy how that works!

Of course, by far the most interesting part of this chapter is Dany’s visitation by the Phantom of the Opera Quaithe, and her claim that Dany’s presence is making magic work better in the city. I am very intrigued by this idea and wish to subscribe to her newsletter. Or, at least, get a better idea of how the heck she thinks that works.

Of course, the obvious thing to assume is that it’s the dragons making magic more magicky, and not Dany, which I think was also confirmed in Jorah’s information about Xaro’s little legal loophole trick with his proposed marriage, which Jorah believes (quite reasonably, in my opinion) he would have used to demand a dragon, which I guess just goes to show that you should always read the fine print even when they haven’t invented it yet.

Speaking of which, Xaro is ten different kinds of hinky and I just keep waiting for him to turn on Dany, and keep being amazed it hasn’t happened yet. What is he waiting for? (At a guess: to be certain Dany won’t agree to marry him and fall for his dastardly gift trick. Once that ship has sailed, no pun intended, Dany’d better watch her back.) And like Dany, I would totally want to see anyone Xaro was so against her seeing, i.e. Pyat Pree. Even if it turns out to be a trap, at least it will have forced Xaro to show his hand.

I think. There’s probably something major I’m missing, as usual.

As a last note on Quaithe and Asshai: even if she is right that the Asshai’i will be more forthcoming (or at least more informative) to Dany than the Qartheen have been, I will note that “Truth” is not always a good thing. Of course, of all her options the one I’m personally most in favor of is the one she’s already rejected, namely going back to that abandoned city and having a nice quiet boring life there, so what do I know.

Random bits:

A pair of Jogos Nhai presented her with one of their striped zorses, black and white and fierce.

ZORSES. That is an awesome portmanteau. I love it.

Also:

“I have given you perfume and pomegranates, tumbling monkeys and spitting snakes, scrolls from lost Valyria, an idol’s head and a serpent’s foot.”

A serpent’s foot, heh. I see what you did there, Xaro Xhoan Daxos. Hinky, but clever!

 

Chapter 41: Tyrion

What Happens
Tyrion admires how well Princess Myrcella is holding up as she says goodbye to her family. She is boarding ship to travel to Sunspear in Dorne. Tyrion is uneasy about how much her escort will weaken their already shaky armada, but thinks it wise not to risk their alliance with the Martells, and has instructed the captain to take the ships south via the Free City of Braavos, so as to avoid Dragonstone and Stannis’s fleet as much as possible. Tyrion thinks of his winch towers, three-quarters complete, and thinks they will be ready in another fortnight.

After they see the princess off, the royal party (which includes Joffrey, Cersei, Tyrion, Sansa, Tommen, Bywater, the High Septon, Clegane, and many others) heads back to the Keep, flanked by gold cloaks to keep the crowds back. Tyrion worries about Littlefinger, who had not been heard from since his departure, but tells himself that the Tyrells are probably just being mulish about the proposed marriage of Joffrey to Margaery. The surrounding crowd is silent and ominous, staring at the party with sullen resentment.

Halfway back, a wailing woman runs out of the crowd holding her dead baby over her head. At Sansa’s instigation, Joffrey tosses her a coin instead of riding her down, but the woman starts shrieking imprecations at Cersei, calling her a whore and a “brotherfucker.” Someone else throws dung at Joffrey, which sends the king into a murderous rage. He screams for the person who had thrown it, and ignores Tyrion’s attempt to calm him down. He orders Clegane to cut through the crowd, and the crowd goes berserk, screaming epithets at Joffrey and Cersei and Tyrion, but those are soon drowned out by the screams for “Bread! Bread!” The crowd devolves into a murderous mob, and the party runs for the Keep, fighting not to be taken down.

Tyrion and Joffrey reach safety first, followed by Cersei, Tommen and Lancel and some others. Joffrey is babbling about having their heads, and Tyrion marches over and slaps him in the face and shoves him down.

“You blind bloody fool.”

“They were traitors,” Joffrey squealed from the ground. “They called me names and attacked me!”

You set your dog on them! What did you imagine they would do, bend the knee meekly while the Hound lopped off some limbs? You spoiled witless little boy, you’ve killed Clegane and gods know how many more, and yet you come through unscratched. Damn you!” And he kicked him.

Tyrion realizes that Sansa is not there, and Cersei orders Boros and Meryn to go back and find her. Boros balks, and Tyrion screams insults at him, knowing that if they lose Sansa, Jaime is as good as dead. Boros is enraged and starts to threaten Tyrion, but they are interrupted when Clegane arrives, bringing a mostly unscathed Sansa with him. A voice calls down from the walls that Flea Bottom is on fire, and Tyrion orders Bronn and Clegane to take men to make sure that whatever happens, the fire does not reach the Alchemists’ Guild. He sends the rest of the Kingsguard to enforce a city-wide curfew; this time Meryn balks, but Cersei backs Tyrion viciously, silencing them. Tyrion sends for Shagga, and tells him to go protect Shae.

The fire is contained by the evening, and Bywater reports the casualties: the High Septon, Ser Preston Greenfield, and Ser Aron Santagar had been torn apart by the mob, Joffrey squire Tyrek is missing, and Lady Tanda’s daughter Lollys had been gangraped by a mob of some fifty men before she was found. Bywater tells Tyrion that the city is on the edge of exploding, and he does not trust the gold cloaks to hold it.

He also tells Tyrion bluntly that there was small love for the Lannisters in the city before now, and now there is open talk of treason in the streets, and that the majority of the hatred is directed not at Joffrey, but at Tyrion. Tyrion is astounded, but Bywater tells him that most believe Joffrey is under Tyrion’s thumb, and most of the atrocities perpetrated in his name are really Tyrion’s.

“Yes, and I am a monster besides, hideous and misshapen, never forget that.” His hand coiled into a fist.

He sends Bywater away, and thinks that perhaps his father was right to despise him if this is the best he can do. He sends for Bronn and Varys. He mutters to them that Joffrey isn’t fit to sit on a privy, much less the Iron Throne, and Bronn agrees. He observes how much easier life would be if sweet, pliable Tommen had been born first, and Tyrion goes cold at what Bronn is suggesting. He tells Bronn he could be executed for saying that, but Bronn only laughs.

“Friends,” said Varys, “quarreling will not serve us. I beg you both, take heart.”

“Whose?” asked Tyrion sourly. He could think of several tempting choices.

Commentary
So this is going straight to hell in a Marseillaise-themed handbasket, isn’t it? My total lack of shock, let me show you it.

King Joffrey, ladies and gentlemen: what you would get if you smushed Jeffrey Dahmer and Marie Antoinette together into one person. “Let them eat their dead,” indeed. Feh.

The only person I really feel for in all this, other than Lady Tanda’s poor daughter, of course (Jesus), is Tyrion. This is stating the obvious, but how much must that suck, being the one person who was at least trying to protect the people of King’s Landing from Joffrey’s… Joffreyness, and ending up taking the blame for it?

And mostly for the crime of being ugly, being deformed. For being other. And for being a Lannister, but even I admit he didn’t have any more choice in that than he did in being born misshapen. That takes “unfair” to a whole new level, methinks. And yet there are people who seriously try to pretend that privilege doesn’t exist.

So yeah, other than Tyrion I’m having a serious case of “let me play my little tiny violin for you” going on here. If you deliberately run a boiler dry and then are all shocked when it blows up on you, I’m sorry, but I’m really going to have a limited amount of sympathy for your plight. Sow, reap, etc. For real.

Personally, if I could be sure that Sansa and Tyrion and a couple of other people in the palace would survive it, I’d say let the mob raze the whole place to the ground and be done with it. Take the Lannisters out of the equation and leave Robb and Stannis to duke it out. Works for me!

Of course, I highly doubt this is actually going to happen, but hey, a girl can dream, right? And anyway, I’ve definitely been wrong before. Maybe this’ll be one of those times, y/y?

In lieu of that, Bronn’s casual suggestion to take Joffrey out of the equation and put Tommen in is… sadly tempting, but ultimately I think it would backfire. Don’t get me wrong, I hate Joffrey’s guts and would distinctly fail to shed a tear upon his untimely demise (I may have kind of cheered out loud a little bit when Tyrion smacked him around in this chapter), but if the mob truly believes Tyrion is Joffrey’s puppetmaster for atrocity, killing one perceived puppet and replacing him with another isn’t actually going to do Tyrion, or the situation in general, much good. Sigh.

Plus there’s that whole thing where it’s probably ethically bad or whatever. Grumble mumble gray morality is contagious, achoo.

Meanwhile, Clegane TOTALLY went back and saved Sansa, you guys. Holy crap. You just got yourself like at least four get out of jail free cards in my book, dude. And hopefully I will not come to have cause to regret that declaration.

Starving men take a hard view of priests too fat to walk, Tyrion reflected.

*snort* Indeed. And yet, funny how many fat holy men there tended to be, over the centuries, eh?


And on that completely non-inflammatory note, we out! Bon weekend, mes amies, et je vous verrai vendredi prochain!

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