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 30 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 64 (“Daenerys”) and 65 (“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, 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 64: Daenerys
Dany watches Drogo worriedly as they ride. He had taken off Mirri Maz Duur’s poultice six days ago, claiming it burned, and replaced it with a mud plaster from the Dothraki herbwomen instead, and had grown increasingly fevered and drawn since. Now, he suddenly falls from his horse. Dany runs to him, and orders his bloodriders to make camp and find Mirri Maz Duur and bring her. Qotho balks at obeying commands from a woman, but Dany threatens him with Drogo’s wrath, and he goes, furious. Dany tries to be hopeful, but knows that the news that Drogo fell from his horse will be all over the khalasar in no time, and a khal who cannot ride cannot rule.
Jorah soon enters the tent where Dany and her maids are tending to Drogo. He sends the maids away, and examines Drogo’s wound, which is suppurating and full of pus. He tells her Drogo is as good as dead, and urges her to flee with him quickly before he dies. Dany refuses, but Jorah explains that there will be fighting to replace the khal, and whoever wins will kill her son as soon as he is born. Dany is frightened, but still refuses.
Mirri Maz Duur enters with Qotho and Haggo, and on seeing Drogo, Qotho accuses her of being maegi, and responsible for Drogo’s wound rotting. He beats her, and proposes to stake her out. When Dany defends her, Qotho says it is Dany’s fault as well. Jorah warns Qotho that Dany is still khaleesi, but Qotho says, only until Drogo dies. He leaves, and Dany sends Jorah to don his armor.
Dany begs Mirri Maz Duur to save Drogo, but she tells Dany that it is too late. Desperate, Dany asks if there is magic that can save him, and at length Mirri admits that there is a spell, but it is bloodmagic, and thus demands a death for Drogo’s life, though she assures Dany it is not her death. Dany tells her to do it.*
Mirri has them put Drogo in a bath and bring his stallion inside the tent, where she slits the horse’s throat and bathes Drogo in its blood. Jhogo tells Dany this is forbidden, but Dany insists that she allows it. Mirri makes her leave the tent, and warns her that once she begins singing, no one must enter the tent.
“My song will wake powers old and dark. The dead will dance here this night. No living man must look on them.”
Dany agrees and leaves. Outside, Jorah returns in his armor, and calls her a fool once he realizes what she has done. They can all hear Mirri wailing in the tent, and the shadows show she is not dancing alone. The Dothraki are filled with fear; Qotho, Haggo, and Cothollo appear, and Cothollo spits in Dany’s face. Qotho goes to kill Mirri, killing Quaro when he tries to stop him at Dany’s command. Then Jorah duels with Qotho; Jorah is wounded in the fight, but bests Qotho.
Fighting breaks out among the others, and Dany feels a pain in her belly and fluid on her thighs. She cries for help, but no one hears her. Some in the crowd begin throwing stones at Dany, and Cothollo almost slits her throat, but Aggo kills him first. Eventually the Dothraki disperse, scattering, and Jorah picks Dany up and roars for the birthing women, but they are gone. Someone suggests taking her to the maegi instead, and Dany tries to tell them they cannot, but is in too much pain to speak.
Inside the tent the shapes were dancing, circling the brazier and the bloody bath, dark against the sandsilk, and some did not look human. She glimpsed the shadow of a great wolf, and another like a man wreathed in flames.
[…] Please, no. The sound of Mirri Maz Duur’s voice grew louder, until it filled the world. The shapes! she screamed. The dancers!
Ser Jorah carried her inside the tent.
*Okay, I’m not even all the way through this chapter yet, but I had to pause in order to yell NOOO YOU FOOL at Dany, which is a first. Because oh my God, how on earth does she let that bargain go forward without knowing whose life it demands?
Because I have a horrible feeling I know the answer, and I really hope I’m wrong. Okay, I’m reading the rest of the chapter now.
[later] NOT THE TENT, YOU IDIOTS!
Dammit. Frickin’ cliffhangers.
Please don’t let the life taken be the baby. Please let that be premature labor and not what I think it is. Because really, how much more shit can be rained upon one character, for the love of Mike? And jeez, I’m pretty sure that’s not even the first time I’ve asked that on Dany’s behalf, too.
Also, holy crap. I think this chapter is what they should use as an example next to the definition of FUBAR. Talk about a situation snowballing out of control — at light speed, no less. It was like watching the world’s goriest domino set-up.
I am still not speaking to Jorah, but damn if Dany shouldn’t have listened to him. I get why she didn’t run, but really, girl, the Dothraki culture is fucked in the head, and this chapter is the proof, and the sooner you get the hell out of there the better.
Assuming the chance hasn’t been lost, of course. I don’t think Dany herself will die, but I’m currently giving very low odds on anyone else in this chapter getting out alive. We’ll see.
Chapter 65: Arya
Arya kills a pigeon, and tries to trade it for a fruit tart, but the vendor chases her off. She is still trapped in the city, for the gates are too closely guarded for her to slip out of them. She has been listening for days to crazy contradicting rumors about the king’s death and the possibility that her father is responsible. All of her possessions except Needle have been lost or stolen, and she is having increasing trouble remaining fed and unmolested.
She tries going to the wharves, and finds to her astonishment that the ship her father had commissioned to take her and Sansa away is still there; she almost goes for it, but notices at the last moment that though the guards there are in Winterfell livery, she does not recognize them. The summoning bells begin to ring, and a street urchin tells Arya that the Hand is being brought to the Great Sept to be executed, even though executions are never held there. Arya hurries with the crowd to the sept, falling down and injuring herself on the way.
Frantic to see, Arya manages to climb up a plinth in the plaza before the sept, and sees her father on the pulpit before the doors, looking gaunt and in pain, facing a crowd of nobles which includes Joffrey, Cersei, Varys, Littlefinger, and Sansa; Arya scowls to see that Sansa looks well and happy. Her father begins to speak.
“I am Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Hand of the King,” he said more loudly, his voice carrying across the plaza, “and I come before you to confess my treason in the sight of gods and men.”
The crowd screams taunts at him as he continues confessing that he plotted to depose and murder Robert’s son and take the throne for himself. He declares that Joffrey Baratheon is the true heir to the Iron Throne. The crowd throws stones at him, to Arya’s horror. The High Septon declares that the traitor has confessed, and asks Joffrey what to do with him. Joffrey answers that his mother asks that Lord Eddard be allowed to take the black, and that Lady Sansa has begged for mercy for her father.
He looked straight at Sansa then, and smiled, and for a moment Arya thought that the gods had heard her prayer, until Joffrey turned back to the crowd and said, “But they have the soft hearts of women. So long as I am your king, treason shall never go unpunished. Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!”
The crowd roars. Varys and the queen seem to argue with Joffrey, but he shakes his head. Sansa screams and sobs as Ser Ilyn Payne mounts the pulpit, and Arya jumps off the plinth and tries to fight her way through the crowd to her father, but she cannot get through. She sees them fling her father down, and that Payne is wielding Ice, her father’s sword. Then someone grabs her and yanks her away, and commands her not to look, calling her “boy.”
Dimly, as if from far away, she heard a . . . a noise . . . a soft sighing sound, as if a million people had let out their breath at once.
Arya recognizes the filthy man holding her as Yoren, the black brother who had visited her father, and he takes her out of the plaza. She follows him numbly, and he hands her back Needle, which she had lost in the press, and tells her he hopes she can use that. She begins to tell him she isn’t a boy, but he shoves her into a doorway and yanks her head back.
“—not a smart boy, that what you mean to say?”
He had a knife in his other hand.
As the blade flashed toward her face, Arya threw herself backward, kicking wildly, wrenching her head from side to side, but he had her by the hair, so strong, she could feel her scalp tearing, and on her lips the salt taste of tears.
What, uh. Um.
Holy — did they — are you — but.
I don’t — Really?
Ned’s dead? For real, no lie? Like, D-E-D, dead?
I feel like we need a ruling on this.
…Seriously? Because, uh.
Look, I honestly don’t even know what to say. Holy shit doesn’t even remotely do my flabbergastedness justice, y’all. It’s been a while since a book made my jaw physically drop, but congrats, Martin, slack-jawedness has officially been achieved.
I’m too stunned to even summon up an appropriate level of rage at Joffrey for pulling what has to be the dick move to end all dick moves. I’m just going to make a little sticky note for that later, because oh my God that little prick needs to be killed, a lot, but I’m not done being completely fucking floored over here.
How positively… Hitchcockian of Martin, to kill off the character I had personally been convinced was as close to the protagonist of this series as we were going to get. All we need is a shower, a bad wig, and some screechy violins and we’re set.
(His murderer even has mommy issues!)
Sooooo. Wow. Okay. I’m guessing this is not so much Ned’s story, then, is it? Never mind then!
(holy crap they killed him poor ned what is this i can’t even)
Well, it’s not Ned’s story anymore, except in how the repercussions of his murder, I predict, are going to be EPIC. I might not even be too far off to speculate that this one act may end up being the driving force behind everything else that happens from here on out.
For one thing — well. I’m realizing I’m not entirely clear on the timeline of events, here, since this was from Arya’s POV and she has no clue what’s been going on in the wider world, but I’m relatively positive that Joffrey and Cersei do not yet know about Jaime’s capture here, for the very simple reason that there’s no way (in my opinion) Cersei would have let Joffrey go through with Ned’s execution if they did. I mean, it seems like she did try to stop him here anyway, because one thing I’ll give Cersei is that she’s no fool (unlike her inbred ASSHOLE of an offspring), and thus she clearly knows that killing Ned is an idiotic move when exiling him would bring all the benefits of getting rid of him without any of the downsides killing him would (like, say, the Starks going apeshit and the entire kingdom going even more out of control than it already has), but I bet she would have tried a lot harder if she knew Jaime was in Catelyn and Robb’s hands.
Well, too late now, eh? So does this mean Jaime’s toast as well? I really kind of hope so. I’m not normally a big fan of the eye for an eye approach to life, but in this case I think I’ll make an exception.
I also have to take a second to note that wow, I was totally wrong about Ned, too. I was sure that he would refuse to impugn his honor by falsely confessing treason, even for the sake of his children, but apparently, not so much. Which just makes his death even more a kick in the teeth than it would have been if he’d been executed for refusing to confess.
I mean, shit. The man sacrificed everything, up to and including his most prized possession in life — his honor — for the sake of, well, everyone else, but especially his children, and this is what it gets him. Martin evidently does not believe in rewarding virtue. Or rewarding the lack of it, either.
Actually I think it’s a general disinclination toward “rewarding,” period, that we’re dealing with here. Shit happens in ASOIAF, and the question of whether there is any karmic justice to that shit really just doesn’t apply. It’s disturbingly similar to real life that way.
On further reflection, I think you could have quite the debate about whether Ned’s false confession here is actually an act of dishonor, or if it is in fact the opposite.
Because on the one hand, he lied. He lied egregiously and publically, and his lies had nation-changing (possibly, world-changing) repercussions, by depriving the rightful heir (i.e. Stannis Baratheon) of his throne and further bolstering the total clusterfuck of lies (I repeat: CLUSTERFUCK of LIES, over) that is Joffrey’s reign. Furthermore, the reason he lied was, essentially, an act of self-preservation — not in the sense that he was trying to save himself, but in the sense that he was trying to save his legacy — i.e. his children. Which from a certain point of view could be considered extremely selfish — putting his small family before the needs of an entire nation. So in that way, Ned’s act could be considered dishonorable.
On the other, refusing to lie could also be considered dishonorable, as it would have meant sacrificing his own life and the lives of his children, who are innocents in all this, in the name of clinging to a code of honor that has, to all appearances, saved nothing and helped no one, and in fact has only made things worse. And since Ned could not have anticipated Joffrey’s (IDIOTIC) renege on their agreement, from Ned’s point of view you could argue that deciding to lie and bolster Joffrey’s reign, and nip Stannis’s claim (and, therefore, the war to claim it) in the bud would save more lives than declaring the truth would, and therefore is actually the more moral choice.
Argh. Gray morality, indeed.
Sigh. Well, I guess it’s kind of a moot point now, but it’s still an interesting, if grim, conundrum Martin’s set us here. Would Ned’s epitaph legitimately be able to read “He Died Doing the Right Thing,” or not? What do you think?
Also: Arya! Poor amazing resourceful darling, I’m so sorry. I think this chapter tries to leave us in doubt as to whether Yoren is going to kill her, but I don’t buy it for a moment. Why shield her from seeing her father die if he’s just going to slit her throat two minutes later? Nah.
(I bet no one shielded Sansa’s eyes. Damn. Oh, the world of hurt that girl’s got to be in right now….)
Okay, so I don’t believe Yoren is going to kill Arya, but I honestly have no clue what he is going to do with her. Take her to the Wall, maybe? Hey, does this mean that Arya’s going to get to see Jon? That would be awesome. I mean, everything sucks right now, so “awesome” seems like a fairly inappropriate term to use, but you know what I mean. At least she’d get to see her favorite brother again. Ooh, maybe she can be the first girl to join the Watch! I still like “lady pirate” better, but I’d take that too.
So: Ned’s dead, baby; Ned’s dead. Wow.
And thus I, the reader, am given official notice that the gloves are off, if they were ever even on, and no character is safe. Characters are cattle, Alfred, got it. Duly noted.
And that is all I have to say for now, kids. Give yourself an internet cookie if you caught all the references in this one (there were four, by my count, though I could have accidentally made more), and have a good weekend!