A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings, Part 23

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 22 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapter 48 (“Daenerys”).

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 48: Daenerys

What Happens
Daenerys is surprised to find that the House of the Undying Ones looks like a ruin from the outside. Daxos, Jorah, and her bloodriders all plead with her again not to go, or at least not to go alone, but Dany is resolute. Pyat Pree appears and leads her into the grounds, and explains the rules: when she is presented with a choice of doors, always take the one to her right, and where there are stairs, climb up, never down. He warns her she will see many things through the other doors, but she must not enter any room except the audience chamber, where he advises her to be patient and “write each word upon [her] heart.” She is given a glass of “shade of the evening” to drink before entering.

Dany enters and follows Pree’s directions for several chambers, disturbed by the sounds she hears coming from behind the other doors. Then she sees some are open, and sees terrible and disturbing sights within the rooms: a woman being raped and eaten by tiny men, a dead man with a wolf’s head and an iron crown presiding over a feast attended by slaughtered corpses. Then she sees a room she knows, from the house she’d lived in in Braavos. Her old guardian Ser Willem appears and entreats her to come to him, but she remembers the dear old man is long dead, and flees.

She comes to another huge pair of bronze doors, which open to reveal a hall lined with dragon skulls. An old man sits on a barbed throne and says to another man, “Let him be king over charred bones and cooked meat. Let him be the king of ashes.” At another door she sees a man who reminds her of Viserys:

“Aegon,” he said to a woman nursing a newborn babe in a great wooden bed. “What better name for a king?”

“Will you make a song for him?” the woman asked.

“He has a song,” the man replied. “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” He looked up when he said it and his eyes met Dany’s, and it seemed as if he saw her standing there beyond the door. “There must be one more,” he said, though whether he was speaking to her or the woman in the bed she could not say. “The dragon has three heads.”

Dany keeps walking, but cannot find another right-hand door, and she is filled with fear until she realizes that the last door on the left is also the first door on the right. She goes through and finds Pyat Pree on the other side, who tells her she has taken a wrong turn, but she ignores him and goes for the door on the right, and he crumbles away. She climbs a very long flight of stairs and finds a beautiful yet frightening door on her right; inside are a group of beautiful men and women, who tell her they are the Undying and invite her in with promises of knowledge and magic weapons to aid her. But Drogon begins chewing at the door, and Dany moves it to find another plain door hidden behind and to the right, and goes through that one instead.

Inside she finds a stone table with a rotted-looking human heart floating above it, and shadowy figures surrounding it who look withered and dead. Voices float out of the darkness, calling her “mother of dragons.” Dany asks them if the things she had seen through the other doors were real or not, and the voices whisper that they are “the shape of shadows” and “morrows not yet made.”

. . . mother of dragons . . . child of three . . .

‘Three?” She did not understand.

. . . three heads has the dragon . . . the ghost chorus yammered inside her skull with never a lip moving, never a breath stirring the still blue air. . . . mother of dragons . . . child of storm . . . The whispers became a swirling song. . . . three fires must you light . . . one for life and one for death and one to love . . . Her own heart was beating in unison to the one that floated before her, blue and corrupt . . . three mounts must you ride . . . one to bed and one to dread and one to love . . . The voices were growing louder, she realized, and it seemed her heart was slowing, and even her breath. . . . three treasons will you know . . . once for blood and once for gold and once for love . . .

She sees visions upon visions, and Dany is almost lost in them, but Drogon calls her back to herself and she realizes the Undying Ones are sucking the life out of her and beginning to bite at her. Drogon flies up and begins to rip apart the heart floating above the table, and then breathes fire upon it. The Undying shriek and burn, and Dany runs from the room as it catches on fire and escapes down a long passage until she finds a door leading outside. Pyat Pree is outside, and he howls and attacks her with a knife, but Jhogo and Rakharo and Jorah are there, and take the warlock down.

Commentary
Wow, that was… a lot. A lot of a lot. But I’m guessing it was pretty important, seeing as the name of the entire series was repeated at least twice. Which is great, and all, except for how I pretty much don’t understand a word of it.

Well, I can make guesses (as you’ll see), but I ain’t committing to the accuracy or wisdom of any of it. Probably it’ll all come back to bite me in the ass later, but hey, that’s why doing it this way is fun, right?

I know one thing for sure: the House of the Undying Ones makes your average haunted house tour look like an episode of Dora the Explorer. Yeesh. Though I guess they’ll have to rename the place now that Dany and her dragon removed that little “Un-” prefix, eh? You go, Drogon, learning how to breathe fire just in the nick of time!

And I guess I owe at least a little bit of an apology to Daxos, who apparently was totally not lying when he said that she shouldn’t trust the warlocks – although I still think he’s lying about other things. And also, he was wrong (or lying) about the part where they had nothing to give her.

I mean, yes, they also tried to eat her, but they did also give her lots and lots of really confusing probably-prophetic imagery to have nightmares about! So that’s… er.

Well, it’s not nothing. Technically.

As for the really confusing probably prophetic imagery itself… well. It was… really confusing, and probably prophetic? Yes, you’re welcome.

Okay fine. Um, lessee:

A tall lord with copper skin and silver-gold hair stood beneath the banner of a fiery stallion, a burning city behind him.

Um. Nope, no idea.

Rubies flew like drops of blood from the chest of a dying prince, and he sank to his knees in the water and with his last breath murmured a woman’s name.

Well, this is Rhaegar, right? And the woman’s name was Lyanna. Still don’t know exactly what went down with all that…

Glowing like sunset, a red sword was raised in the hand of a blue-eyed king who cast no shadow.

Stannis? He’s got a sort of flaming sword, and Melisandre having maybe stolen his shadow for magical assassin baby purposes, and all…

A cloth dragon swayed on poles amidst a cheering crowd.

*shrug*

From a smoking tower, a great stone beast took wing, breathing shadow fire.

Gargoyles! Okay, probably not.

A corpse stood at the prow of a ship, eyes bright in his dead face, grey lips smiling sadly.

Theon? I’m really just pulling this out of my ass at this point – Theon and the other pseudo-Vikings are the only characters I associate with ships at the moment.

A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness.

Well, who knows. It sounds hopeful, which is probably a pretty good sign that it isn’t.

Shadows whirled and danced inside a tent, boneless and terrible.

Renly’s murder, perhaps?

A little girl ran barefoot toward a big house with a red door.

Well, Dany said that her house in Braavos had a red door, so maybe this is just a memory.

Mirri Maz Duur shrieked in the flames, a dragon bursting from her brow.

That one’s pretty obvious.

Behind a silver horse the bloody corpse of a naked man bounced and dragged. A white lion ran through grass taller than a man. Beneath the Mother of Mountains, a line of naked crones crept from a great lake and knelt shivering before her, their grey heads bowed. Ten thousand slaves lifted bloodstained hands as she raced by on her silver, riding like the wind. “Mother!” they cried. “Mother, mother!

Yeah, I really have no idea on any of this. I’m assuming this is stuff that is at least symbolically going to happen in the future, so I’m probably not meant to get what it’s about at this point anyway.

…three fires must you light… one for life and one for death and one to love…

…three mounts must you ride… one to bed and one to dread and one to love…

…three treasons will you know… once for blood and once for gold and once for love…

Well, so, this is all very vague and prophecy-ish, like you do, but if I had to guess I’d say Dany’s already dealt with at least one of each of these: fire for life is the birth of her dragons, the “mount to ride to bed,” heh, is Drogo, and the treason for blood is Viserys. And then the rest probably haven’t happened yet. But hey, I’m just guessing here.

It’s interesting that all three of them end with “love,” though.

I’m also raising my eyebrow a little at that one thing Dany saw with the king with the wolf’s head presiding over a feast of corpses, because naturally any time you invoke wolves in this series the immediate association is with the Starks. But I am laboring under the impression that the people in those rooms are probably folks who came into the House of the Undying and didn’t follow the rules and so got trapped in whatever room they were stupid enough to go into, and so I’m not entirely positive that that particular vision was relevant to the Starks in the real world.

Then again, the old guy talking about “Let him be the king of ashes” in what was obviously (in my opinion) the old throne room of the castle in King’s Landing seems likely to have been Dany’s father (Aeron? Dammit, I suck at names… no, Aerys! Right?), talking about Robert/Ned/Jaime coming in to sack the city, so maybe the room people are not actually just poor saps who got trapped in there, but all visions of either the future or the past.

If so, then the wolfs-head guy thing is… ominous, for the Starks, and particularly Robb, who’s the only Stark to have declared himself royalty recently. Because the Starks didn’t have enough crap rained down on their head already. Sheesh.

Then there is what is most likely the most important prophecy/foreshadowing of the bunch, which is the “child of three” and “three heads has the dragon” business.

And crap, I’m away from my book right now and can’t check the dramatis personae at the back (and I don’t dare search online, because that way certain spoilage lies), but Daenerys is the third of three siblings, right? Rhaegar, Viserys, and her. So, okay, but that seems… fairly obvious, and I don’t think there would have been such a point made of it if there weren’t more to that. Plus, I’m really confused about “Aegon” and where he comes in. Is Aegon the guy who ended up becoming a Black Brother on the Wall who Jon talked to, or is that another Aegon?

Gah. When I rule the world, I swear I’m going to make a rule where no one can have the same name, ever, fictionally or otherwise. We will just have to come up with five billion or so totally unique names, okay, because this is annoying AND I SAID SO. Right, glad we’ve cleared that problem up.

And it’s pretty frustrating, because if this Aegon is the guy who is The Song of Ice and Fire, as the visions seem to suggest, well, that seems like it would be pretty significant, and yet I can’t place this kid, or whether I even should be able to place him at this point.

I could clear this up with a three-second Google search, I know, but that would be cheating. And I figure, if I were just reading this like a normal person I would likely be just as confused (probably even more confused, honestly), so I think it behooves me to just let it ride. At some point down the line, hopefully, a lot of this will get a lot clearer.

And now I’ve got it all laid out in this post so that when other stuff happens I can refer back to it, and be embarrassed at how wrong/clueless I was. Yay?

Random notes—

“Shade of the evening”: Nightshade, no doubt of the strain that causes delirium. Heh. Yeah, I guess Dany did see some crazy shit in there, huh?

A “splendor of wizards”: Is that their official group name, like a murder of crows or a mischief of mice? Because that’s pretty awesome, if so. (Also, I am randomly amused that “a plague of locusts” is actually the official name for a group of locusts.)


And on that cheery note, we out! Have a marvelous weekend, y’all, and try not to snicker at my prognostications, and I’ll see you next time!

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