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 13 of A Feast for Crows, in which we cover Chapter 18 (“The Iron Captain”) and Chapter 19 (“The Drowned Man”).
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 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 18: The Iron Captain
Victarion Greyjoy recalls the story of the crowning of the first king Balon as his fleet enters the bay of Old Wyk. Victarion had been resistant to the idea of leaving his post at Moat Cailin and challenging his brother Euron for the crown until he heard that Aeron Damphair had summoned the kingsmoot, and then decided to let the Drowned God decide who rules. He sees Euron’s ship Silence in the bay, and the sight fills him with fury. He commands the fleet to seal the bay so that no ship may leave.
He commands Nute the Barber to guard the chests, and goes ashore, where Aeron greets him. They pray together, and commiserate over the disgusting display their brother is putting on, consorting with “godless men and monsters”. Victarion reminds himself that he’d promised Balon not to murder Euron. He greets those who come to show their support for him; that night he hosts a great feast for the famous captains who have come to the kingsmoot. Hotho Harlaw offers him his daughter for his queen; Victarion remembers how he’d sobbed while killing his third wife, and promises only to consider it. Baelor Blacktyde demands to know if Victarion will end “this mad war” if he is crowned, and moves away when Victarion declines to agree.
Then Victarion sees Asha in the tent, and calls her over. She tells him she is pleased to see him at her queensmoot, and Victarion laughs and asks if she is drunk. He tells her a woman “wants a husband, not a crown”, and promises to give her one when he is king. She promises in return to give him a pretty wife when she is queen; Victarion answers that he has no luck with wives. Asha says her claim supersedes both his and Euron’s. Then they are interrupted when Euron Greyjoy enters the tent with a dozen men. Victarion greets him as “Crow’s Eye,” but Euron corrects him that it is “King Crow’s Eye.” Aeron declares that no godless man may sit the throne, but Euron declares that he is more godly even than Aeron, by raping and pillaging thousands of those who worship other gods, thus proving them false. His followers laugh, and Aeron spits and storms out.
Asha swiftly brings up the suspiciously convenient timing of Euron’s return, less than a day after her father’s death. Euron protests he was at sea when Balon died. He suggests giving her as wife to one of his followers, and Asha shoots them all down in turn with withering wit. One threatens to spank her, and she invites him to try. She informs Euron that her axe is her husband, and any who have a problem with that “should take it up with him.” Victarion declares there will be no bloodshed here, and kicks Euron out; he notes that several of the captains slip away afterward. Asha asks Victarion to walk with her.
Asha asks Victarion why Euron really left for so long, and observes that Victarion’s new wife was dead by the time he left. Victarion answers that she was only a salt wife, but thinks of how he had not touched another woman since he’d killed her. He avoids the question, and changes the subject. He tells her that as a woman, Asha cannot hope to rule. Asha admits he may be right, and tells him she will throw her support to him if he agrees to share the rule with her as his Hand. Victarion thinks that no King of the Isles had ever needed a Hand, much less a female one.
Asha says she can make a treaty with the northmen and end the war before it becomes a disaster, but Victarion sees no reason to settle for a smaller portion when they can have all the north. Asha says they will not be able to hold it, and Victarion advises her to go back to her dolls and leave the wars to warriors. Asha points out she has House Harlaw via Rodrik the Reader, but Victarion counters that Hotho Harlaw has already promised him his daughter. Asha warns him that all the talk among the campfires is only of Euron. Victarion confesses that Euron got Victarion’s new wife pregnant and “made me do the killing”, and that he would have killed Euron as well except Balon forbade it and sent Euron into exile.
“I am sorry for you,” said Asha, “and sorrier for her… but you leave me small choice but to claim the Seastone Chair myself.”
You cannot. “Your breath is yours to waste, woman.”
“It is,” she said, and left him.
Ah, so much sexism, so little time.
I mean, toward Asha, obviously, that goes without saying (go play with your dolls, Victarion? Really?), but this whole thing with Victarion killing his wife is just… well.
Because it is just hilarious that Balon is all “No, you can’t kill your kin, that is MAAAAADness” to Victarion re: Euron, and Victarion is all “Yes, you are right kinslayage bad I MUST NOBLY REFRAIN”, but apparently killing your wife is, like, totally fine. Because getting married apparently… doesn’t make you kin? Even though that’s… exactly what marriage is supposed to do? What, is it that you just can’t kill male kin?
…That’s totally what it is, isn’t it. Jesus H.
*gives the entire ironborn nation the finger*
In related news, dammit, Victarion sucks too! And I had such hopes that at least one of the candidates would be someone I could even somewhat like. Thanks for shitting on my dream, Victarion!
I guess I’m rooting for Asha, then. I mean, I sort of was on principle already, but I was willing to switch to Victarion if he turned out to be at least marginally not a douche. Alas.
And don’t try to tell me he’s not a douche, because he totally is. Anyone who has the gall to sit there and nurse their manpain over losing a wife he himself murdered needs to be slapped silly and voted off the island toot sweet. Are you kidding me?
Then there’s this, when Victarion is looking at Euron’s ship:
On her decks a motley crew of mutes and mongrels spoke no word as the Iron Victory drew nigh. Men black as tar stared out at him, and others squat and hairy as the apes of Sothoros. Monsters, Victarion thought.
Oh, good, racism too. We certainly are covering all our bigotry bases today! All we need is some ableism and homophobia thrown in and I think we get Asshole Bingo! YAY.
I still don’t know about Asha’s accusation that Euron somehow engineered Balon’s death. First of all, if Euron arrived the day after Balon died then he had to have been at sea when it happened, because that’s how time works. And also, I am privy to information that Asha is not; namely, that Balon’s death was almost certainly due to Melisandre’s pan-regicidal bad juju. So while applying the term “innocent” to Euron in a general sense is laugh-out-loud hysterical, I think it is possible that the timing of his arrival really was just a giant coincidence.
Though I do wonder what he was planning re: Balon before Balon died, seeing as Balon had told him “leave and don’t come back”, and generally when kings say things like that they really really mean it.
Last and most definitely least: Why are like 87% of all ironborn dudes apparently named “Ralf”? And why don’t I have the maturity to not giggle every time I see that name? The world may never know!
Chapter 19: The Drowned Man
Aeron emerges from the sea, and reminds himself that he has been reborn harder and stronger, and that no mortal man can frighten him. He goes to Nagga’s bones, which legend said were the bones of the great sea dragon the Grey King had slain and the Drowned God had turned to stone. Aeron thinks of the glory of the first Balon’s court, and how it is all gone now, but the ribs are enough to remind them. Aeron prays all night for the Drowned God to bestow his wisdom upon those gathered for the kingsmoot, so that they may pick the right candidate. He believes he hears the voice of the god in the sea, assuring him that no godless man will sit the Seastone Chair. He sends his drowned men to sound the summons to the kingsmoot.
Once everyone is gathered, Aeron looks at Victarion and is certain he will be their next king. Aeron begins the kingsmoot with the proper ritual and asks who shall be king. He hopes Euron will be impatient and speak first, for whoever does will almost certainly lose, but Gylbert Farwynd speaks up first instead. He is slightly mad, and his support is almost nothing, and Aeron asks again. Erik Ironmaker declares next, but he is almost ninety and hugely obese. Asha tells him she’ll stand for him if he can stand up himself. Erik cannot, and retires. The next claimant (The Drumm) fares no better than the first two.
Finally Victarion makes his claim, to a great roaring of support. Euron hopes that this will end it, but then Asha jumps in. She praises her uncle Victarion, but tells the crowd that Balon’s brother cannot come before Balon’s son. Ralf the Limper shouts that all he sees is Balon’s little daughter. Asha pretends to be surprised that she has breasts, making the crowd laugh, and makes her case. She says Victarion promises to give them more of what Balon gave them, but she opines that what Balon gave was defeat and death. She makes a dramatic presentation of all they’re not getting from the northland, and promises them peace with the northmen and new land if they crown her queen. Aeron is astonished to see how many of the crowd take up the cheer for her, but just as many are shouting for Victarion, and just as it seems like it is about to turn violent, the crowd is stunned silent by a deafening and magically-augmented horn call from one of Euron’s “mongrel” followers.
Euron enters dramatically, and makes a stirring speech in which he promises to give them not just the north, but all of Westeros. Asha asks how they are to hold the whole continent if they can’t even hold the north. Euron counters that Aegon the Conqueror did it, but Asha points out he had dragons. Euron answers that so shall he. He claims that the horn they’d heard was a dragon horn, which can bind dragons to the sounder’s will. Asha laughs, and says there are no more dragons.
“Again, girl, you are wrong. There are three, and I know where to find them. Surely that is worth a driftwood crown.”
His men spill out his gifts for the crowd, and the chanting overwhelms the cheering for either Victarion or Asha. Aeron tries to find the voice of the god and hears nothing except the scream of a rusted iron hinge.
Dang it, I was really thinking for a minute there that Asha might actually win. Curses!
I was rooting for her not just because she was a woman, mind you (though it would have been awesome to have a woman win the throne of one of the most overtly misogynistic societies in ASOIAF), but because she also appears to be the only candidate who was not all wanting to go make everyone else’s lives in Westeros completely miserable. But noooooo, we end up with the most megalomaniacal dickbag of all. Because of course we did.
And oh ho, the plot thickens re: dragons! I’m going to assume that Euron’s Horn O’ Grand Theft Dragon does exactly what he claims it does, for the very simple reason that that ensures everyone’s going to have as sucky a time as possible because of it. Especially Dany. Because that sucks! Don’t take Dany’s dragons!
Although, it’s kind of hilarious that I would say that, since Dany is planning to do pretty much the exact same thing with her dragons as Euron wants to do with them—i.e. conquer Westeros. But, you know, I stand by it, because while I’m not entirely sure I want Dany taking over the Seven Kingdoms, I’m definitely sure I don’t want Euron up in there, because he is a world of No and I would like to request that he get messily murdered immediately.
Fortunately there seem to be at least a couple of candidates eager for the task. You know you must be a terrible person when both of your brothers actively and devoutly want to kill you, or at least want you to conveniently drop dead in Aeron’s case. And for what seems like good reasons in both cases; at least I’m assuming that this “rusted hinge” business refers to a memory of something Euron did to Aeron back in the day that I’m positive I really, really don’t want to know the specifics of. (Possibly I already did learn the specifics of it, granted, but if Aeron explained the hinge thing in his other POV I’ve forgotten it. Possibly deliberately.)
“Crow’s Eye, you call me. Well, who has a keener eye than the crow? After every battle the crows come in their hundreds and their thousands to feast upon the fallen. A crow can espy death from afar. And I say that all of Westeros is dying. Those who follow me will feast until the end of their days.”
TITLE SHOUTOUT SAY HAAAAAY
Also, way to be super creepy, Euron. “I will bring you thousands of rotting corpses to nosh on! Yum! Vote for Crow!”
Well, at any rate, I suppose we should congratulate the ironborn on managing to hold the closest thing to an election Westeros is likely to see anytime ever, AND to do it without any bloodshed. Assuming party fouls like chopping off one’s own finger don’t count, of course. I was really rather startled that it happened so fast, actually; I was expecting this storyline to drag out much further than that. Not that I’m complaining!
Also, I did quite the double take when I realized that Aeron honestly believed that the first King of the Isles lived for a thousand years and married a mermaid and so forth and so on, but then I was like, duh, because (a) Aeron is clearly a very large fan of believing in things, and (b) for all I know every last word of that legend is completely true. That’ll learn me!
And that’s what I have to say for today, Jennie May! Have you a weekend, and I’ll see you again next Thursday!