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 27 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapters 46 (“Samwell”) and 47 (“Arya”).
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, please note that the Powers That Be have provided you a lovely spoiler thread in the forums here on Tor.com. 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 46: Samwell
Sam and Gilly come to a deserted wildling village Sam prays is Whitetree, but he is not sure that it is the same place, which means they may be lost. They are running out of food, and Sam prays to the old gods for help. They camp in the abandoned longhall, and Sam tells Gilly stories of the food and warmth and singing they will have when they reach Castle Black. At her behest, he sings her a song about the Seven, and remembers how his father used to belittle and punish him for singing instead of fighting. He thinks of telling his father how he’d killed one of the Others, but doesn’t think his father would believe him.
Sam wakes from a dream in which he is the lord in his father’s hold with Gilly as his wife, to realize a wight has followed them to the village, what used to be Small Paul. He wets himself with terror, but urges Gilly to take the horse and flee while he gets Mormont’s dragonglass dagger. He tries to keep the wight’s attention off Gilly by “sniveling,” but the horse panics, and the wight goes to attack. Sam leaps on it and stabs it with the dragonglass dagger, but it shatters on Small Paul’s mail. The wight almost strangles Sam, but Sam manages to grab a brand from the fire and burns it up.
Then he sees that there are at least a score of wights surrounding Gilly out by the weirwood tree, many of whom were his brothers. He is about to despair when he also sees that the tree is filled with thousands of ravens, which fly down and attack the wights, but leave Gilly, the baby, and Sam untouched. One raven advises Sam to “go, go, go,” and he grabs Gilly and runs. Then he see a hooded man wrapped in grey and black astride a giant elk, who calls Sam “Brother” and calls for them to go to him. Sam assumes he is of the Night Watch and runs eagerly to him.
“Here,” the rider said, reaching down with a gloved hand to pull Gilly up behind him. Then it was Sam’s turn. “My thanks,” he puffed. Only when he grasped the offered hand did he realize that the rider wore no glove. His hand was black and cold, with fingers hard as stone.
Dude. Did Gilly and Sam just get a lift from The Stranger?
I mean, okay, maybe that’s a stupid idea, because… er, well, I have no idea how to say this without making Martin sound elitist, which is not really my intention, but nevertheless, I kind of suspect having actual gods show up and mingle with the hoi polloi is a fantasy trope that’s, um, sort of below this series’ paygrade? Maybe? Which is not how I wanted to put it, but I’ve been rewriting this paragraph for twenty minutes, so it’s probably time to just hope y’all get what I mean and move on.
That said, I’m just a little eeeehhhhh, but maybe it ISN’T, because whoever Elk Dude is, he’s not human. Unless there are humans around who can summon and control thousands of conveniently Hitchcockian ravens. Which, hey, maybe there are, maybe that’s like a seriously multiple personality disorder version of warging, but I am raising a skeptical eyebrow at that idea, just so you know. And he’s also not a frozen zombie, okay fine wight, unless I missed a memo and some of them can be both verbal and non-homicidal, which I’m guessing no.
PLUS, Sam prayed AND sang AND talked about the Seven right before shit went down, so even if it is a completely wrong conclusion for me to leap to, it certainly was one I was firmly nudged toward by the text. So there.
“Did you only sing of six gods? Craster always told us you southrons had seven.”
“Seven,” he agreed, “but no one sings of the Stranger.” The Stranger’s face was the face of death. Even talking of him made Sam uncomfortable.
See?!? That’s, like, evidence, you guys. *nodnod*
Then again, Elk Dude also called Sam “Brother,” and is wearing at least a reasonable facsimile of a Night Watch uniform. So that’s a point against the theory, since I would tend to doubt that the Westeros exegesis of the anthropomorphic personification of the concept of Death would be into joining puny and (from a cosmic point of view) arbitrary human clubs.
(Then again, at least one version was evidently into goth clubs, so who knows.)
So, in conclusion, dunno. There, glad I could help. But I am definitely very annoyed that now I have to wait till however long to find out!
I am very worried that Samwell lost his dragonglass dagger. Also, new info: obsidian kills Others, but not wights, evidently. Suppadat? Aren’t they in the same supernatural creature phylum? Shouldn’t arbitrary lethal Achilles heel for the goose also be arbitrary lethal Achilles heel for the gander? But no, apparently it’s volcanic glass for one and fire for the other. Not that I can’t see the connection there, obviously, but still. Damn frozen zombies makin’ shit complicated, I swear.
The Wall is three hundred miles long and seven hundred feet high, Sam reminded himself. If they kept going south, they had to find it, sooner or later.
Ah, such boundless optimism, young Samwell. Which is really rather unlike you.
Also, can you please stop calling yourself a coward, ffs, because you are seriously pretty much the complete opposite and I want to shaaaaake you that you don’t see that. Grr.
Also also, your father is an SAE-rated tool, and it is one of my probably-wishful fantasies that you get to kick him in the balls someday. Preferably right after you badassedly kill a frozen zombie in front of him, and be all, “Yeah, I just did that. SUCK IT, DAD.”
That would be sweet.
(Also, now I’m picturing Sam throwing devil horns and it is cracking my shit up. Sometimes I am terribly easily amused.)
Chapter 47: Arya
Arya and Clegane reach a river which Arya thinks might be the Blackwater, but it is flooded far beyond its banks and impassable, to Clegane’s dismay. Arya has tried several times to escape, but failed each time, and Clegane threatens her anew at every attempt; Arya tries to reassure herself that Beric will catch up with them soon. They follow the river downstream through driving miserable rain until they reach Harroway town, which is almost completely flooded as well, but the ferry is still in operation. Clegane calls to the ferrymen, promising he can pay, and they come to get him. The ferryman demands three dragons for passage; Clegane promises on knight’s honor to pay once they’re across.
It takes over a dozen men manning the ferry to navigate the swollen river, but the wind and rain and current are pushing them downstream, away from the ferry point. Arya realizes this is her best chance to get away while everyone including Clegane is distracted, and decides that chancing drowning is better than going back to Joffrey. She is about to jump when a giant uprooted tree almost rams the ferry. The ferrymen manage to stave it off, but one of them falls in the river and is gone instantly. Arya reconsiders trying to swim.
They finally come ashore two miles downstream, and the lead ferryman demands six dragons now as compensation for the man he lost. Clegane hands him a “dead man’s” promissory note for nine thousand dragons, and promises to be back for the extra someday, before galloping off. He comments to Arya that the ferrymen won’t be accepting paper promises from anyone else anytime soon, and that her following friends will need to be “bloody strong swimmers” to catch them now. Arya recites her list to herself, with the Hound’s name prominent.
Arya’s chills are growing worse. When they stop to camp, Clegane attempts to make a fire, but everything is too wet. As he feeds her, he comments to Arya that he never beat her sister, but he will beat Arya if she doesn’t stop trying to kill him. He points out that even if she escaped she would only wind up with someone worse. She replies that there is no one worse, and he says she’s wrong, and tells her how his brother Gregor once killed one of his own men for snoring.
He is surprised when she reveals she knows Gregor and his men, and she tells him about the village where Gregor caught her and her friends. Sandor is delighted at the idea that Gregor never even knew what he had captured, and anticipates telling him right before killing him. Arya is confused, and he taunts her that she wants to kill Sansa. She denies it, and he tells her that maybe he is a monster for killing Mycah, but he also saved Sansa’s life from a mob. When he finds out she thinks they are going back to King’s Landing, he curses the Lannisters roundly, and tells her the river was the Trident, not the Blackwater: he’s taking her to the Twins to return her to her mother. He supposes she’s worth twice what Beric took from him, and maybe Robb will even make him one of his knights. Arya spits back that Robb would never take him.
“Then I’ll take as much gold as I can carry, laugh in his face, and ride off. If he doesn’t take me, he’d be wise to kill me, but he won’t. Too much his father’s son, from what I hear. Fine with me. Either way I win. And so do you, she-wolf. So stop whimpering and snapping at me, I’m sick of it. Keep your mouth shut and do as I tell you, and maybe we’ll even be in time for your uncle’s bloody wedding.”
Is it sad that I’m all proud of myself because I went and checked the map right away after Sandor mentioned Harroway’s town, and figured out the river had to be the Trident and not the Blackwater? It probably is, but I’m choosing to be proud of myself for actually checking the map instead of just resigning myself to be confused.
Not that I am not still partially confused, because I have no idea how on earth Sandor even knows about Edmure’s impending wedding in the first place. Not that it’s a secret or anything, but hasn’t he been flopping around in the wilderness all this time healing his burns and stuff?
*shrug* Guess not. And, I guess, even when the country’s gone to hell in a handbasket, there’s still nothing that travels faster than gossip. So okay.
And apparently I was right when I doubted Sandor was going to do the rational thing, which in my opinion was taking Arya back to Beric. But then, that wouldn’t have been the rational decision to him, would it. Because what I didn’t really consider was that Sandor’s pride would far outstrip his sense of personal safety. Which is kind of a no-brainer in retrospect.
So yeah, now it seems kind of obvious that of course he would be all “fuck the Lannisters, and fuck Beric, and fuck everyone who screwed me over, and now I’m going to the one faction who at least hasn’t screwed me over directly yet. And if they kill me, well, fuck them too.” It’s not exactly the most healthy philosophy on life (nor the most poetic), but you’ve got to give it points for consistency.
Also, I’m pretty sure his soft spot for the Stark girls is a fair sight wider than I had supposed, too. ‘Cause I’m pretty sure anyone else trying the stuff on him that Arya has been would have been a hell of a lot more than just threatened with beatings. Not that I’m saying this makes Sandor’s actions okay or anything, but when you adjust your moral compass to “Clegane” settings, it’s fairly obvious that, by his more-than-a-little-deranged standards, he’s treating Arya like a queen on this little outing.
Still, drowning might be better than King’s Landing. She thought about Joffrey and crept up to the prow.
…Yeah, girl’s got a point.
Which is also the other data point to consider in Sandor’s definition of “a rational move.” Because it also so happens that going to the Starks, instead of Beric or the Lannisters, is what Arya wants. Which is something, amazingly, that Sandor actually cares about, even if he’d never admit it directly. So that’s… sort of sweet? For really, really, really messed-up values of “sweet”? Oy.
Also: so I guess this means the Hound and Arya might be crashing Edmure’s wedding?
*weebles all over in anticipation*
Though I should know better than to get my hopes up, shouldn’t I. But dammit, there had damn well better be at LEAST one Stark reunion in this book or I will seriously have to throw a hissy fit. Because COME ON. Throw me a frickin’ bone here, Martin. It will not destroy your street cred to have a mere one-fifth of Catelyn’s current crushing amount of grief lifted, I totally swear. Sheesh.
Last and randomly least, I am totally laughing that Sandor calls his horse “Stranger.” He would name his horse that. Like a dude in a heavily Christian community naming his car “Satan.” Heh.
And that’s our show, kiddie kadanzies! See you next Friday!