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 23 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 46 (“Daenerys”), and 47 (“Eddard”).
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 46: Daenerys
At the ceremony to name her unborn child, Dany must eat an entire raw heart of a stallion in order to ensure her child is strong. She thinks Drogo looks proud of her when she manages it. The crones of the dosh khaleen proclaim that Dany’s son will be “the stallion who mounts the world.” They ask for the name, and Dany answers, Rhaego.
As the party heads to the lake where she will cleanse herself, Drogo asks Dany in broken Common Tongue the meaning of the name. Dany tells him it is for her brother Rhaegar, the last of the dragons and a fierce warrior. Drogo tells her it is a good name. At the lake, Dany washes herself, and when she reemerges, Drogo has sex with her before letting her get dressed. The party then retires to the hall to feast.
Dany looks for Viserys at the feast, but does not see him; she summons Ser Jorah, who confides in her that Viserys had planned to steal Dany’s dragon eggs and sell them for money to hire sellswords for his army. Dany doesn’t understand, and Jorah explains to her that even though they are stone, the eggs are incredibly valuable. Dany protests that Viserys should simply have asked her, and she would have given them to him, as her king. Jorah counters she belongs to the Dothraki, now. Dany asks him the significance of the phrase “the stallion who mounts the world.”
“The stallion is the khal of khals promised in ancient prophecy, child. He will unite the Dothraki into a single khalasar and ride to the ends of the earth, or so it was promised. All the people of the world will be his herd.”
“Oh,” Dany said in a small voice. Her hand smoothed her robe down over the swell of her stomach. “I named him Rhaego.”
“A name to make the Usurper’s blood run cold.”
Viserys enters the hall, clearly drunk, and armed with a sword. Alarmed, Dany sends Jorah to head him off, but Viserys begins shouting about the insult that they’ve started the feast without him, and calls Dany a whore, though fortunately most of the occupants of the hall cannot understand him. Drogo laughs and tells Viserys (Jorah translates) that “the Sorefoot King”s place is at the back of the hall, among the cripples and infirm. The Dothraki roar laughter, and Viserys knocks Jorah down and draws his sword, breaking the sacred rule that no blades be drawn in the city.
The Dothraki scream curses. Viserys sees Dany and goes to her. Dany pleads with him, saying she will give him the eggs, but Viserys puts the point of the sword at her stomach and tells her to tell Drogo that he will give Viserys what he promised, or Viserys will cut the child out of Dany. Drogo replies, via Dany, that Viserys will have “a splendid golden crown that men shall tremble to behold.” Viserys smiles and lowers the sword, whereupon Drogo’s bloodriders jump him and hold him down while Drogo dumps the gold medallions from his belt into a stew pot, melting them down. Viserys screams and pleads, entreating Dany to help him, but she says nothing. Drogo upends the pot of molten gold over Viserys’s head.
The sound Viserys Targaryen made when that hideous iron helmet covered his face was like nothing human. His feet hammered a frantic beat against the dirt floor, slowed, stopped. Thick globs of molten gold dripped down onto his chest, setting the scarlet silk to smoldering… yet no drop of blood was spilled.
He was no dragon, Dany thought, curiously calm. Fire cannot kill a dragon.
I think this is what they call “Darwinism in action.”
Well, actually, in reading it again, you could make a case for it being the medieval-ish fantasy equivalent of suicide by cop. I guess it’s a question of whether you decide to believe Viserys was so apocalyptically arrogant/stupid that he genuinely thought Drogo would not retaliate for a threat to his son, or if Viserys was just smart enough to be sure that he would.
Hmm. Could go either way, really. Well, it’s a moot point now!
But you know, kudos to Viserys, really. He survived a whole chapter longer than I expected him to. I can’t say I was terribly surprised by his death, though.
That said, the manner of his death was pretty damn shocking. I mean, wow. I’m sure there are more painful ways to die than having a cauldron of boiling metal dumped on your head, but I honestly can’t think of any offhand. Ow.
I find it kind of grimly hilarious, by the way, that the Dothraki city has a ban against shedding blood, but it’s still perfectly fine to kill people; you just have to be creative about it. Nice.
It’s also rather hilarious that in naming her son “Rhaego,” Dany didn’t even realize that she was not so much throwing down a gauntlet to Robert, as she was hauling off and clocking him with it. Seriously, dude is going to LOSE HIS SHIT when he hears about this. I can’t decide whether I’m pleased about that or not.
And apparently her son’s prophesied to not only kick Robert’s ass, but to, er, fuck the rest of the world too — literally. Sort of. So that’s… a lot. Okay, then, good luck with that whole mounting the world thing? I guess?
As for the rest of this chapter, um. It’s like Martin is running down a checklist of “Things Barbarians Would Totally Do” with the Dothraki, and amping it up to eleven. Drums! Chanting! Blood-drenched prophecies! Public sex! Poor personal hygiene! Really nasty liquor! Really raw food! Rarrrrh!
Chapter 47: Eddard
Ned is summoned in the middle of the night to the king’s apartments to find that Robert has been gored by a boar and is dying. Robert kicks out the other people in the room, including Renly, Pycelle, and Cersei. Robert tells Ned that he’d heard the news about Gregor Clegane, but did not tell Sandor. He regrets his decision to have Daenerys assassinated, and believes that the boar was sent as a punishment for it.
Robert dictates a letter to Ned, in which he orders that Ned be made his regent, to rule until Joffrey comes of age. Ned agonizes, but cannot bring himself to tell Robert the truth about Joffrey on his deathbed, and instead of writing “Joffrey,” writes “my heir” instead. Robert says he’s been as wretched a king as Aerys, but at least he’s done this last thing right. Robert tells Ned to try and call off Daenerys’s assassination, and calls Renly and Pycelle back in to witness him sealing the proclamation. As he drops off to sleep, Robert asks Ned to take care of his children for him. Ned thinks of all the bastards he found, and promises that he will.
Outside, Pycelle tells Ned the king will die very shortly, and Ser Barristan says he has failed his sacred trust by allowing this to happen. Ned disagrees, and says Robert blames the wine. Varys appears and observes that he was no doubt kept very well-supplied with wine by his squire Lancel, who happens to be a Lannister. Ned tells him to call off the thing with Daenerys; Varys says it might be too late for that, but he’ll try, and leaves. Renly pulls Ned aside; he’s guessed at the contents of the letter, and urges him to take Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen hostage, to ensure Cersei will not oppose them. Ned tells him he will not dishonor Robert’s last hours by kidnapping children. Renly tells him if he waits until Robert dies it may be too late.
“Then we should pray that Robert does not die.”
“Small chance of that,” said Renly.
“Sometimes the gods are merciful.”
“The Lannisters are not.”
Ned returns to his rooms and sends for Littlefinger, and tells Tomard that when his daughters’ ship sails, Tom will go along and stop on the way to deliver a letter to Lord Stannis Baratheon. Ned reflects that at least his stint as regent will be short, and longs to be home with his family. Littlefinger enters and congratulates him on his new status, and Ned growls about Varys’s “little birds.” Ned tells Littlefinger about Cersei’s children (which doesn’t seem to shock him), and that therefore when Robert dies, the throne passes to his brother Stannis.
Littlefinger advises him that he should make sure Joffrey gets the throne instead. He believes that Stannis will try to execute both Cersei and her children to ensure his throne, and that the Lannisters will obviously rebel if he tries, meaning war. On the other hand, he points out, Ned will have four years as Joffrey’s regent to get rid of Stannis, so if Joffrey proves “troublesome,” they can reveal his secret and put Renly on the throne instead. Disgusted, Ned reminds him icily that that is treason, and also reminds him that the Lannisters tried to murder his son. Littlefinger sighs and remarks that he forgot he was talking to a Stark.
Ned tells Littlefinger that his personal armsmen are outnumbered by Cersei’s, and he needs to ensure the loyalty of the City Watch to him, not her. Littlefinger is amused that Ned can’t quite bring himself to admit out loud that he wants Littlefinger to bribe them, but agrees to take care of it.
Of all the things I thought might happen when Ned was summoned to see Robert, that was definitely not one of them.
Wow. (I seem to say that an awful lot, reading this book.)
So, uh, I guess Robert’s not going to lose his shit over the Rhaego thing. Seeing as, being disembowled and all, he’s kind of already lost his shit, literally.
(Goodness, what is that chorus of anguished groans I hear? Okay, fine, yes, I’m going to the special hell for that, OH WELL. On the other hand, it proves that waiting to finish the commentary on the first chapter before reading the second one is definitely the way to go, because serendipitous phrasing FTW!)
Anyway. So, Ned’s the regent, now, huh? Damn. And also, damn if I can’t figure out in the slightest whether that’s a good thing or not.
On the one hand, yay, because talk about a fortuitous cutting of the Robertian Knot, there. Not to mention putting Ned in a much more defensible position versus Cersei/the Lannisters. Also not to mention, even accounting for his ridiculous honor issues, Ned will be about TEN THOUSAND TIMES a better ruler than Robert was.
On the other hand, that’s if it actually happens. And if it doesn’t, it’s entirely because of Ned’s ridiculous honor issues.
Because, okay, I’m actually with him on refusing Littlefinger’s proposal, because there’s being willing to tolerate a little practical dirt, and then there’s just plain rolling around in the skeezy, but he really really really should have taken Renly up on his idea. Yes, scaring children is shitty and all, but you know, that’s better than risking that the woman who cheerfully murders children (or stands by while someone else does, whatever), oh, and who also hates your guts, will get the drop on you.
This is a BAD THING, NED. Seriously, leverage, you need as much of it as humanly possible. Like, now. Sheesh.
“You wear your honor like a suit of armor, Stark. You think it keeps you safe, but all it does is weigh you down and make it hard for you to move.”
Word. Littlefinger’s a slimebucket, no doubt, but when you’re right you’re right.
Ned gave him a stony stare. “Have you no shred of honor?”
“Oh, a shred, surely,” Littlefinger replied negligently.
Ha! Okay, that was funny.)
Although, it seems that even Ned’s insane honor code has limits. I was honestly surprised that he actually let compassion trump honesty regarding telling Robert about his heirs. And he indulged in semantics! In writing, even! AND endorsed bribing by an officer of the court! It’s All Too Shocking! Please pardon me while I clutch my pearls.
It may seem weird that I kind of want to congratulate Ned for lying, even if only by omission, but, yeah. It makes him human, instead of NobleBot 2000. And that’s nice. Now if he could bend just a titch more…
…Great, I’ve just realized that essentially I want to congratulate a character for lying to his best friend on his deathbed, and then urge him to go kidnap some kids and stage a coup. My moral compass, she is all haywire! That is the pass we’ve come to! Curse you, Game of Thrones! *shakes fist*
Okay, not really. Maybe a little. Maybe a titch. ‘Cause you know what they say: a titch in time saves messy internecine conflicts! Or something like that!
Riiiight, it’s clearly time for me to stop. Bon weekend, mes amies, and see you next Friday!