Jan 18 2013 2:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Part 14

A Read of Ice and Fire on A Storm of Swords, Part 14Welcome 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 14 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 23 (“Daenerys”) and Chapter 24 (“Bran”).

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 Read of Ice and Fire spoiler thread has been moved to a new thread here on 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 23: Daenerys

What Happens
Dany stands in the Plaza Pride in the city of Astapor, where the slaver Kraznys mo Nakloz is showing her his wares: a thousand of the Unsullied. Dany pretends not to understand how he insults her in his own language and only reacts to the slave girl’s translation. The girl explains that the boys are chosen at the age of five and trained endlessly; only one in three survives it. Nakloz boasts that they are perfect warriors, and will stand as ordered until they drop dead. Arstan calls that “madness, not courage”; he has been against the notion of buying them from the start.

Dany asks why they are eunuched, and Nakloz replies that it ensures they have none of the passions or temptations of full men. Nor do they feel pain; he demonstrates by cutting off the nipple of one of the soldiers, who does not react, and explains they are fed a concoction which deadens pain and emotion. They are not even permitted names, and are required to slay an infant and kill a puppy they’ve owned for a year to complete their training, or are put to death. He has eight thousand currently available for purchase, weapons included.

Dany asks Arstan’s opinion, and he replies that he is violently against it. He tells her that slavery is held to be an abomination in the Seven Kingdoms, and if she arrives with a slave army at her back many will oppose her merely because of that alone. Dany points out that she must have some army. Arstan tries to convince her that many will rally to her, but is less than wholly convincing. Dany tells the slaver that she needs time to consider, and again pretends not to understand his crude propositions and insults.

She reflects on the city as they return to the ship, and Arstan remarks that it is said “the bricks of Astapor are red with the blood of the slaves who made them.” Dany says she believes it. Arstan entreats her to hire swords instead, but Dany tells him her brother tried to do so for years, and received nothing but empty promises. She reminds him sharply that she knows what it is to be sold; Arstan apologizes humbly, and Dany wonders why Jorah distrusts him so. She reflects on Jorah, and how his unwanted kiss has reawoken her libido against her will. She had ended up pleasuring herself in the night, only to wake Irri, who finished it for her. She resolves that it will not happen again, and has been careful not to be alone with Jorah since he kissed her.

She reboards the ship, and in her fury at the treatment of the Unsullied she slaps Jorah’s face, and tells him he should never have brought her to “this vile sty.” She wants to sail away this moment, but says she cannot, and must find some way to buy eight thousand eunuchs. She goes to see her dragons, who were not pleased at their confinement, and Irri senses her sadness and offers to pleasure her again. Dany tells her that she has been freed and is not required to offer such services, and sends her away.

Jorah comes to her later, and argues for using the Unsullied as her army. He points out that they will never commit atrocities on the people they conquer, unlike almost any other army, and that even the Dothraki shy from engaging them. Dany observes that Viserys would have bought them in a heartbeat, and points out that Jorah had said she was more like Rhaegar, who led free men into battle, not slaves, men who believed in her brother’s cause. Jorah answers that this is true, but Rhaegar also lost his war and his kingdom.

“Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought honorably. And Rhaegar died.”

Well, if that’s not a summation of one of the core themes of this series I never heard it. Ned did the same exact thing, didn’t he, and got the exact same result.

So that’s not depressing or anything. I’m sometimes tempted to wonder whether Martin’s actually trying to make a point here, or if he’s just indulging in rampant nihilism for the anti-lulz.

I know what he’s actually doing, of course, or so I flatter myself: this is all part and parcel of the larger aim of using ASOIAF to deconstruct classic epic fantasy tropes. And there are few fantasy tropes out there more prevalent than the notion that honor/good/courage must ultimately triumph over their polar opposites.

And let’s just say, there’s a reason deconstructionism has been accused of nihilism as a side effect; once you’ve set yourself to systematically test unto destruction the conventions that generally make stories nicer (or at least fairer) places to be than reality, it’s inevitable that you’re going to end up in some pretty bleak territory. Which is why so many people don’t care for it.

For me, I appreciate it intellectually, and it’s created some of the best bits of popular entertainment I’ve personally come across (aside from this series, also see The Wire), but sometimes I feel a little bit bad for Mr. Martin that he has to live inside his own head. To be so constantly cognizant of the very, very ugly depths to which your world or characters can sink must be rather… draining.

In that vein, this chapter keeps up that tradition admirably—or something—with its description of the Unsullied’s “training” “regimen,” which is more or less a How To on the most efficiently vile way to violate every single Geneva Convention in existence, plus a few more things no one else was sick enough to think we needed laws against in the first place. I think I need a shower. That shit ain’t right, to drastically understate it.

I’m not sure whether Arstan is on the level or not, but I have to say I certainly agree with his opinion that Dany shouldn’t touch this deal with a twenty-foot pole—for both practical and moral reasons, which unfortunately aren’t nearly so often in conjunction as they are here. Not that Jorah doesn’t make some good points, even a couple of moral ones—but as much as I approve of non-raping-and-pillaging soldiers, I don’t think it matters much from an ethical point of view when those soldiers are, in fact, the ones who have been raped and pillaged, in the most soul-destroying manner possible. Victims are victims, and at the risk of repeating myself, that shit ain’t right. Best to run the fuck away from the whole conundrum, if you ask me.

However, I don’t think I’m going to get my way on this one, as my impression here is that Dany’s going to buy them just to get them away from the horror show that is Astapor. Which is nice, and all, but the temptation to then use them is going to be… large.

Ugh, the whole thing is just disgusting.

But hey, at least I learned a new word! cof·fle, n. A group of animals, prisoners, or slaves chained together in a line. Yay?

The Peaceful People, her folk were called. All agreed that they made the best slaves.

*snort* There’s an unpleasant lesson in there…

“I will feed her jellied dog brains, and a fine rich stew of red octopus and unborn puppy.” He wiped his lips.

…Okay, now Martin’s just making shit up to be as obnoxiously gross as possible. Seriously, what does this culture have against puppies? Puppies!

(I mean, I can’t even. Puppy fetuses. For snacks. No, just go, get away from me, go over there. Go!)

In other news, I kind of have to love how Irri treated getting Dany off to be about on the same level, taskwise, as getting her a cup of tea. Need a refreshing beverage, no problem. Need a (refreshing?) orgasm, no problem. Heh.

Humor aside, though, Dany’s in a dangerous position if she’s going to let lust start clouding her judgment—especially if she lets Jorah get any further than he already has. Fortunately everyone is always perfectly rational and level-headed when it comes to sex, right?

Right? Guys?


Chapter 24: Bran

What Happens
Bran, Summer, Hodor, Meera and Jojen wend their way into the mountains, heading north. Bran complains that they would go faster if they followed the kingsroad, but Jojen insists they would be far too memorable, and should avoid other travelers at all costs. They don’t see any of the mountain people except once, when they share a cave with a man Bran thinks is a Liddle. He gives them food and ale, and tells them there are “squids” (ironmen) in the wolfswood, and “flayed men” (Bolton’s men) asking after strangers and paying bounties for wolf pelts. He also says there is an ominous lack of word from the Wall, and laments that it was different when there was a Stark in Winterfell. Jojen tells him he dreamed that the wolves will return, but the man is skeptical.

They see an eagle the next day, and Bran tries to leave his body and ride with it as he does Summer, but it doesn’t work. He explains to Meera and Jojen that Hodor is not Hodor’s real name, but that Old Nan said it was Walder. He gets sad, thinking of Old Nan, and asks Meera if she knows any stories. Bran asks for a story about knights, and Meera tells him the story of the Knight of the Laughing Tree. Jojen is surprised that Bran’s father never told him about it.

Meera tells how a crannogman decided to leave the Neck in order to learn more of the magics outside it, and traveled to visit the Isle of Faces, to find the green men who lived there. She won’t tell what happened to the crannogman there, but says he eventually left and rowed to where a great castle bordered the lake, which Bran excitedly guesses is Harrenhal. A great tourney is about to be held there, but as the crannogman approaches, he is set upon and beaten by three squires. A “wolf-maid” chases them off, and brings him back to the castle where he meets her three brothers.

At the feast, the crannogman identifies the three squires who attacked him, one of whom is with the Freys. The wolf-maid offers to outfit him to challenge them, but the crannogman fears to make a fool of himself if he attempts vengeance himself, so instead he prays that night toward the Isle of Faces, to the old gods. Then midway through the tourney a mystery knight appears, with the device of a laughing face upon a weirwood tree. Bran excitedly supposes this to be the crannogman in disguise, but Meera refuses to say either way. She says the mystery knight, whom they called the Knight of the Laughing Tree, proceeded to trounce each of the three knights whose squires had beaten up the crannogman, and demanded that they teach their squires honor as ransom. The next day he disappeared.

Bran likes the story but is ambivalent about the ending. He thinks to himself that if the little crannogman could visit the Isle of Faces and learn about the green men’s powers, maybe he could too. Maybe they could help him walk again.

They turned the little crannogman into a knight, even if it was only for a day, he thought. A day would be enough.


All possible yummy allusions/implications aside, I love the way Meera told this story. Referring to the characters by their sigils/symbols rather than by name gave it a wonderful flavor of ancient legend or myth, when it’s clear that she’s describing events that took place less than two generations ago. It’s not the first time a character within the story has done that, of course, nor will it be the last I suspect, but it’s worth mentioning how much I enjoyed it.

Like this, for instance:

“The storm lord drank down the knight of skulls and kisses in a wine-cup war.”

I don’t even know who the hell this is referring to, but it is awesome. (Though I have a feeling I ought to know who “the storm lord” is, but the only person coming to mind is Stannis, and he’s not exactly the drinking contest kind of guy, so I think that’s probably way off.)

“And the mystery knight should win the tourney, defeating every challenger, and name the wolf maid the queen of love and beauty.”

“She was,” said Meera, “but that’s a sadder story.”

Which is how I know the tourney was a recent event, as this is obviously a reference to Lyanna, and the story of her thing with Rhaegar and her death that I still don’t know, or haven’t pieced together anyway. I’m guessing her “wild” sibling in the story was Brandon, Ned was the quiet one, and Benjen the “young pup.”

All in all there was a ton of stuff in this story that I suspect I probably should have understood better, but without names it’s all rather nebulous and confusing. I’m pretty sure this tourney was a pivotal point in whatever this whole Lyanna/Rhaegar/Brandon/Ned saga is, or was, though, so I feel certain this is definitely a story that I’ll want to come back to at some later point.

As for the rest of the chapter, I think Jojen’s dream is the first solid indication we’ve had that the Starks are actually going to regain Winterfell. Although of course, what he actually said was “the wolves will come again,” and that’s plenty vague enough for Martin to be as weaselly as he wants to be with the actual fulfillment of the prophecy. Even in “straight” fantasy, prophecies are rarely fulfilled the way anyone, especially the reader, thinks they ought to be.

Though I suppose in that case the contrary thing to do would be to have it come out exactly as you’d think it would. But I still ain’t holding my breath.

Re: the eagle: whoa, will Bran eventually be able to skinwalk with any animal he wants? That would be badass. If potentially rather confusing.

Hodor’s real name is Walder? As in, a Frey? That’s… weird. I have no idea what to make of that.

“No one visits the Isle of Faces,” objected Bran. “That’s where the green men live.”

You really should know better than to leave declarations like that just hanging there, kiddo. Ten bucks says someone’s going to have to visit there now, just because you said it!

…And yup, by the end of the chapter, it’s gonna be Bran, or at least he wants it to be. Although he’s kind of going in the exact wrong direction to get there, natch.

(Are the green men the same thing as the children of the forest, or are they something different? I might have been told of the difference (if there is one) before now, but damned if I can remember it if so.)

(Note: if the answer to that question is a spoiler, please don’t actually answer it.)

And that’s our show, kiddies! Have a lovely weekend, as always, and I will catch you again next Friday!

Chris Nelly
1. Aeryl
Dany's story is taking it's time speeding up, but now that she might have an army at her back it should get moving soon.

Robert was the oldest brother, so he was the drinking and laughing storm lord referred to in the story.

The woman Ned was dancing with was Ashara Dayne, the woman that Cat suspected Ned of fathering Jon with.

I assumed that the crannogman in question was Jojen and Meera's father, Howland Reed, who was with Ned when he went to rescue Lyanna(along with many others, but Ned and Reed are the only two that survived the fight against the three Kingsguard waiting for Ned). One of those Whitecloaks was Ashara Dayne's brother.
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
2. AlirozTheConfused
The Green men are a religious sect
The weirwood it is their job to protect
How many times have Green Men been mentioned before: Zero
But their historic founding marked the beginning of the age of the Hero.
Marty Beck
3. martytargaryen
Thanks for the two chapters Leigh!

I particularly enjoy your comparisons between Martin and the more - as you say - "straight" fantasy tropes.

And once again you give a tantalizing nugget or two of prescience.
Steven Halter
4. stevenhalter
Chapter 23: Daenerys--It's been a while since the last Dany. As I recall, she was about to sail off and hire some mercenaries of some sort. Well, that's a nasty fountain to have as a centerpiece. The slaver reflects this nastiness. Calling the person you are trying to sell things to a"whore" and "savage" doesn't seem like good salesmanship tactics. (OK, he doesn't think Dany can understand him--just stupid then).
The mention that 5000 years had passed since the Valyrians destroyed Ghis is an interesting one of scale. Most people here wouldn't recall an empire from 5000 years ago and how it relates to the present. Not sure if this is an awkward world building or a reflection on Dany's range of learning.
Well, that's some nasty training these Unsullied go through. Then, we have the choice of should she use slaves or not--do the ends justify the means? And, at the end another view of Rhaegar as the honorable one who lost--paralleling Ned, although since Ned sided with the side without honor (Robert) that says something. GRRM is all about making honor a problematic choice.
Chris Nelly
5. Aeryl
Well, plenty of people in Westeros talk about things that have happened thousands of years ago too, like The Others.
6. Cass314
@#1 (Aeryl)

I agree about the identities of the people in Meera's story.

Also, I think the Knight of Skulls and Kisses is agreed to be a Lonmouth. Richard was a friend of Rhaegar's, and their banner consists of skulls and lips. (Funnily enough, their motto is, "the choice is yours".)
Rob Munnelly
7. RobMRobM
The slaver-Missendai-Dany three-way dialog is one of the funniest in all of ASOIF. Hilarious.

I enjoy the Arstan poem about Astapor that you quoted above. It's an art to create a simple rhyme suitable for teaching children in a fantasy world, and GRRM did it well here.

Jorah is a really clever guy - with one big blind spot - Troo Wuv.

Turning to the Bran chapter - this is one of the great stories of ASOIF, brilliantly told by Meera. All sorts of things happened here - Jamie, appointed to the Kingsguard and Rhaegar winning the tournament and naming Lyanna Queen of Love and Beauty rather than his own wife - being only two of them. Fascinating to me how Arya-like the "wolf maid" is in the story.
8. DougL
The Knight of the Laughing Tree was almost certainly Lyanna. I don't know if she could escape the box seats where all the nobles sat but maybe she was a quick change artist :)
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
9. AlirozTheConfused
Dougl, that's a spoiler!
Don't make me summon Leonard Euler
To whack you upside the head
Take it to the spoiler thread!
Chris Nelly
10. Aeryl
@4, while it's easy for us to judge Ned as being on the side of dishonor, you have to remember that Rhaegar was also riding to defend his father, the man who killed Ned's father and older brother. And without Lyanna around to speak for herself, it's still up for debate whether Lyanna was with Rhaegar willingly. According to Jorah, Rhaegar was fighting for love, but coming from the family that produced Aerys and Viserys, we don't know if that love was returned.
Vincent Lane
11. Aegnor

Is it a spoiler? I debated it in my own head when I read DougL's comment. It is speculation based on this chapter.


The Storm Lords are a reference to the Baratheons. Their keep is called Storm's End. Remember that Ned and Robert were about the same age. The way Ned was described he was certainly not out of his teens, same for Robert, which means Stannis is even younger and it's doubtful Renly has even been born yet (can't remember for sure). That means it isn't any of the Baratheons we've met. My speculation on it was their father. It makes the most sense.

On the Dany chapter...notice how Jorah talks about Rhaegar being honorable, valiant, and noble. Quite a different take on Rhaegar than what Robert gave.
12. corejay
@11: Nope, It's Robert. His parents died when looking for a bride for Rhaegar, and by the time of the tourney at Harrenhal, Rhaegar had been married to Elia Martell for at least a year, as they had a daughter by that time.

I also think Robert was at least 2 years older than Ned, who was 18 by the time of that particular tourney.
Chris Nelly
13. Aeryl
Yeah, he's even referred to as the "young storm lord".

Really makes you wonder why he never learned responsibility, if it was put on him at too young an age.

Jorah does say nice things about Rhaegar, but Jorah's also a shallow skeevy old man who sells people into slavery, so I don't count him as the best judge of honor.
Steven Halter
14. stevenhalter
Chapter 24: Bran -- Nice cut from blood soaked dry red brick to the "green gloom of piney woods." So, we haven't seen any sight of Rickon down south--I wonder where they are? Staying away from roads seems like a most excellent plan.
A squirrelskin cloak. Either the squirrels are pretty big out there or it takes a lot of them to make a cloak.
Very interesting tale by Meera--Hodor seemed to like it. Wolves make me think of Starks, so the wolf maid seems like Lyanna. That would make Ned (quiet one?) , Benjen(wild one?) and Brandon(pup?) her pack brothers. I am going to guess that the Laughing Tree Knight is either Lyanna or Ned. Either one of them would be shorter than average at this point. I don't think we know enough of Lyanna to know how she would do in a tourney, but I like the idea that it was her. It would fit Ned's notion of honor to have done this also.
Vincent Lane
15. Aegnor
Ah, I stand corrected. I couldn't remember off the top of my head whether this was before or after his parent's death.
16. insomnia333
@9 that hasn't been cofirmed on way or the other as of yet in the series, so it's not a spoiler. I believe there are just as many people who argue against it as those who believe it was Lyanna.
Chris Nelly
17. Aeryl
You got Benjen and Brandon mixed up. Benjen is the youngest, so he's the pup, and Brandon was the wild one, intending to marry a Southron girl, fighting in duels against little boys, riding to King's Landing to be angry at the Mad King.
Steven Halter
18. stevenhalter
Aeryl@10:Yes, I was just pointing to how the "honor" of the sides is all mixed up and so a very relative term in this series. Ned and Rhaegar probably would have got along under different circumstances.
Vincent Lane
19. Aegnor

You've got the Stark brothers birth order mixed up. Brandon is the oldest, then Ned, then Benjen. Remember that Brandon was the original heir until he was killed.
Steven Halter
20. stevenhalter
Aeryl@17:Cool, couldn't recall which was younger offhand. Thanks.
George Jong
21. IndependentGeorge
@12 - Exactly. Rhaegar could very have been an honorable man, but Jorah's word is suspect as he's trying very hard to get into Dany's pants. He doesn't exactly go out of his way to tell Dany about her father's love of burning people alive, so based on what we know, Rhaegar could have been famous for parading around the Sept of Baelor wearing women's underwear singing "The Bear and the Maiden Fair", and Jorah would still praise him as a renowned warrior.
Eli Bishop
22. EliBishop
Leigh: Hodor's name being Walder doesn't mean he's a Frey. We've seen plenty of cases of people from different Houses having the same first name, so it's likely that Walder is a normal name used throughout Westeros; the Freys have just fixated on it to an unusual degree to flatter their asshole patriarch.
Sky Thibedeau
23. SkylarkThibedeau
Aegnor. I'm beginning to think if there was ASOFAI prequel, Rhaegar would occupy the Ned Stark role.
24. decgem
@IndependentGeorge-- so transvestism and a flair for performance are logically incompatible with martial prowess?
Vincent Lane
25. Aegnor

Maybe, but I don't really see it. Whatever happened with Lyanna, regardless of the truth, would not be something Ned would ever do.


Yeah, I know Jorah's motives for complementing Rhaegar are suspect, but it isn't just him. Really the ONLY one that vilified Rhaegar was Robert (whose own motivation regarding him are suspect). We were in Ned's head for a whole book. Tell me, how often did he think negatively about Rhaegar? If you really break it down, all of the negative information we have about Rhaegar has one, and only one, source. Robert.
26. BoredMe
If the Knight of the Laughing Tree *is* Lyanna Stark(and that's pretty much what everyone thinks), then it sheds some interesting light on the events that took place prior to the series: Specifically, this was not the type of woman to be abducted like Princess Peach. Of course, no one but the "storm lord of the winecups" depicts Rhaegar as the type of man who would do that...and as we learned over the course of the books, he wasn' t the most emotionally stable nobleman in Westeros, if you catch my drift.
Chris Nelly
27. Aeryl
The lack of thought regarding Rhaegar from Ned was always suspect to me, as he thought about Lyanna enough, though we got Lyanna's thoughts on Robert.

Quite the conundrum.
28. DougL
@9. AlirozTheConfused

I would never spoil Leigh. That's not a spoiler, we have ZERO information regarding that event beyond this story told by Meera, or you know something I don't.
George Jong
29. IndependentGeorge
so transvestism and a flair for performance are logically incompatible with martial prowess?

Not mutually exclusive, but the transvestism and flair for performance would probably be the more prominent feature, no?
30. Zizoz
I don't think we should be giving Leigh any pointers at all as to the identities of the people in the story, honestly. We should let her work it out for herself.

And saying how much we know now nearly three books later is also a kind of spoiler.
Antoni Ivanov
31. tonka
The Storm Lord is someone you really should know. Stannis did have an older brother once, who was killed by a boar.
Hodor’s real name is Walder? As in, a Frey?
Uh, that's was a bit strange. It's like saying just because my name is Leigh, I must be a Butler. Unless you think WalderFrey is one name (or something else I am missing *confused*), it is not - it is Walder Frey. Not all Walders are Freys. :)
That of course does not mean that he is not a Frey.
Theresa Wymer
32. Tekalynn
I believe Old Nan said that Hodor's real name was Walder back in book one.
33. owleyes
I'm not exactly sure, but I seem to remember when Old Nan was talking about Hodor's name being Walder she also mentioned that they were related to the Freys. She's Walder Frey's grandmother or sister or something.
Mo -
34. Astus
@33 - Old Nan has never mentioned being related to the Freys.
35. o.m.
A thought regarding warrior queens and mystery knights: How many female warriors have we seen so far who could win against a knight in shining armor?

Brienne, of course.

Maege Mormont is a fighter, but more of a war leader than a bruiser. Her daughter was one of Robb's guards, however.

Daenerys has people who fight for her.

When Arya wanted to learn to fight, Eddard first balked at the idea, then he got her a Bravoosi fencing master. He realized that Arya had to learn different skills than a knight.

Osha and Ygritte are fighters, but we don't known how good they are, and wildlings are not trained in heavy armor.

Asha seems to be a credible fighter, Iron Islands style. How good are the raiders against knights?

There are many women who could defeat an average (or below-average) knight. But how many could defeat a tourney champion?
Buddy Grizzard
36. aenor
So like, wow. I finished off the WOT Reread just in time for AMoL (still working on it) and I find myself all caught up with the Ice and Fire read. This is like the time my friend gave me the first 6 WOT books and I read them and thought, I'm screwed. Now I have to WAIT for the next Read post?

In other news, Leigh is made of pure unadulterated awesome. What's classic is the guy in the spoiler thread who tried to work out the exact dates when Leigh will reach various reveals. And I'm thinking YES... I can't wait for THAT either.

*sits down to wait*.

Rob Munnelly
37. RobMRobM
Misc additional thoughts after actually rereading the two chapters.
- This is in the middle of a bunch of long, truly excellent, building block chapters. Not much happens but the craftsmanship, worldbuilding and character development are truly remarkable.
- The Ghiscari influenced names in Astapor are brutal - Kraznys mo Nakloz FTW.
- Arstan is cool. That is all.
- Great descriptions of how miserable a place Astapor is.
- Description of dragons getting wild and harder to control while she was gone gets one thinking of what's going to happen when they are even larger and still hard to control. Dany may have a tough road ahead until she can figure something out.
- Jojen's discussion of how ice and fire can mate - "The land is one" - probably means something, in light of the series title, but I can't figure out what it is.
- Love the discussion of all the hill families - Norreys, Wulls and the like - and the Liddle in the cave is impressive. Not folk to be taken lightly. Telling that Ned rode to war with one of them - a Wull - as his squire.
- Nice to see the Liddle's confirmation of Jojen's strategy of staying in the Mountains - Bolton people riding the Kingsroad to East and Asha's ironborn in the woods to the West.
- Note the reminder that Jojen and Meera's Dad also rode south with Ned and came back.
- "He knew the magics of my people" - breathing mud, running on leaves, changing earth to water and water to earth with a word, talk to trees, make castles appear and disappear.... Really? How does that happen? Really want to get down to Greywater Watch one of these days and find out.
Maiane Bakroeva
38. Isilel
Leigh - it was barely a generation back, not 2. Ned was 18. But yes, Meera makes it sound like an ancient epic.

o.m. @35:
But how many could defeat a tourney champion?
These guys were average. In a tourney like that, all the best knights compete on the last day. Remember their sigils? One was a Frey, one was a Haigh and I don't remember who was the last. In any case, they weren't notable jousters.

We saw a slender youth Loras Tyrell defeat good knights much bigger and stronger than himself. Not the Mountain, he needed to cheat there, but everybody before that, including Jaime.

Why wouldn't Lyanna be able to defeat 3 average knights? Particularly since "inspiration" is also a big part of it. Jorah was never a great jouster, yet he won the tourney of Lannisport because he was all fired up by his love to Lynesse. And he never did well in a tourney again.

It has been noted that Lyanna was a great horsewoman and there was always a hint that Ned allowed Arya to train in part because he somehow knew that forbidding it wouldn't stop her and likely would lead to something worse. He also mentioned Lyanna's "wolf-blood" on that occasion and how Arya had the same "wildness".

Personally, I was convinced that the Knight of the Laughing Tree was Lyanna from the first time I read this chapter, particularly since the very important mention of Rhaegar's role in the story (that Leigh left out):

namely, that he was sent to find the Mystery Knight, but allegedly only found "his" shield tied to a tree. IMHO, this was a definite hint that Rhaegar was the one who convinced the Knight to disappear.

As to why I don't think that it was one of the male Starks - Brandon and Ned had their own armor and could enter as themselves. In fact, Brandon did as we know from Ned's memories. Neither of them was "small" - Ned was 18 and of average size. Not to mention that the _Laughing_ Tree emblem wouldn't suit him at all.
Benjen, OTOH, didn't need to disappear, really, or to keep the whole story secret after the fact. When he was eventually defeated and discovered or the whole thing was made public at a later date, it would have only bolstered his reputation.

Howland Reed (the crannogman) couldn't ride at all, so he was out.

Who is left? And of course, it gives a very different and much less shallow twist to the "Crown of Love and Beauty" incident.
Sara H
39. LadyBelaine

"Who is left? And of course, it gives a very different and much less shallow twist to the "Crown of Love and Beauty" insident"

Well, that was very cogent and well written. I am convinced.
Rob Munnelly
40. RobMRobM
Note that Lyanna also was moved to tears by Rhaegar's playing and singing. Not likely indifference there.
George Jong
41. IndependentGeorge
@38 -
These guys were average. In a tourney like that, all the best knights compete on the last day. Remember their sigils? One was a Frey, one was a Haigh and I don't remember who was the last. In any case, they weren't notable jousters.

I'm agnostic on the larger question, but these knights were anything but average. They were semi-finalists in the greatest tournament in living memory. Could they have beaten Barristan or Rhaegar? Maybe, maybe not - but they had beaten everyone they had faced thus far, and were meant to joust in the final round the next day. You don't advance that far by being 'average'.
42. Corbon
@41 Acually, you can get to be a champion while still being 'average'.
The Tourney was held over 5 days.
The 5 starting Champions were the Whent brothers, and Uncle (Oswell Whent of the KG). They are only champions due to their relationship with the young woman in whose honour the tourney is putatively held. All 4 Whent brothers lose on the first day and are replaced as champions by their winning opponents.
Traditionally (we are told in a D&E novel, the only info here outside ths chapter, and its not exactly spoilerific, just background data) the 'better' knights usually don't challenge on the first few days - a) an opportunity to let lesser knights have their day in the sun and make it worthwhile their actually turning up, and b) a high risk of fatigue, injury, equipment damage etc if you try to last throughout the full tourney. Shit happens in combat.
The KotLT challenged late on the second day. 1 of the knights she challenged had become a champion the evening before, the other two just that morning. They probably saw off one or two challengers, but not necessarily *any*.
There are still 3 full days of challenges to come, during which the 'better' knights will gradually start to come out and 'play'.

Summary: These 3 knights obviously weren't terrible, but there is no indication that they were any great shakes. They certainly were not 'semi-finalists'.
43. a1ay
A squirrelskin cloak. Either the squirrels are pretty big out there or it takes a lot of them to make a cloak.

Dire-squirrels have not been seen south of the Wall for many a long year.
Vincent Lane
45. Aegnor

I can kind of see where you are coming from, but I don't agree necessarily. Speculation should be avoided when it is informed by later events, but in cases like this where the speculation is based purely on the events of the chapter I don't think there is much harm.
Rob Munnelly
46. RobMRobM
@43. Plus 1.

Re several others above - based on the text, I agree that this is not one of these tournaments that all are require to enter early and with quarter finals, semi finals, etc. It is one where some of the less talented compete early and the big boys show up on the last few days. So, the three champs beaten by the knight are likely good but not great.
Chris Nelly
47. Aeryl
The speculation on Lyanna as KoLT is based in text, we've known since GoT that Lyanna was awarded the QoL&B at the Harrenhal tourney by Rhaegar, and that its pretty much the event that kicked off the war, though no one knew that at the time, in Ned's reflection.

That Lyanna performed this act that inspired Rhaegar to reward her in such a way gives a much needed impetus for this story.

I'm rereading GoT at the moment, which is why that's on my mind, and this Dany chapter is not the first time that Jorah has spoken well of Rhaegar, BTW. When Dany stopped the rape of the Lamb Women after the battle where Drogo took his fatal wound, Jorah comments that Dany couldn't stand aside for it any more than Rhaegar could, that she was her brother's sister.
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
48. AlirozTheConfused

I must call Jorah's word inferior
for his motives are ulterior
An objective observer he really ain't
Of course he makes Rhaegar a saint.
Chris Nelly
49. Aeryl
Well, this was back in Game of Thrones, before he expressed in interest in her sexually, while she was still married to Drogo. He says to her "you are truly your brother's sister." and She looks at him quizically, and says "Viserys?" And he shakes his read and responds "Rhaegar" before riding up to back up her khas as they pull the Dothraki warriors off a woman.

So I view it with less suspicion than I view his later declarations.
Zachary Sellinger
50. Archangelxiii
One thing about the story that I still have a little confusion about is how KOLT was able to challenge three of the champions. That's allowed? It lessens the amount of champions available. Could the knight have challenged all of the champions and become the only champion?
Vincent Lane
51. Aegnor
Mystery Knights weren't uncommon. And presumably if the knight would have continued winning he/she would have become the only champion.
52. Corbon
Well, judging by the fact that the KotLT did challenge three at once, I'd say it must be allowed.
And they have to reduce from 5 to 1 somehow by the end of the 5 days. I can't see the choice of Queen of Love and Beauty being made by a 'vote of champions'.
And of course, there was only one winner (Rhaegar), not two, by the end of this tourney.
Deana Whitney
53. Braid_Tug
@ 14. stevenhalter - Squirrel cloak - yep, it takes a ton of the little buggers. Look up "Vair" a heraldic term. very busy field to represent the squirrel pelts lined up in opposite directions.

@ 43. a1ay - TOO funny! Would love to see a dire-squirrel, from very far away...

Sorry to be in red, system problems. And really don't have much else to contribute this week.
George Jong
54. IndependentGeorge
@42: We can actually estimate how good they were mathematically using existing information:

1. The champion from Day 1 never faced off against the champions from Day 2. That means that, at minimum, the first two rounds were a preliminary with a huge number of participants.
2. Prince Rhaegar, //Arthur Dayne//, and //Barristan Selmy// were all known to be finalists, meaning there were at least 5 total champions.
3. The fact that they were called 'champions' indicates that a small number actually advanced. It is unlikely they would be called champions if 8 or more knights each advanced from days 1-2.
4. The Hand's tournament at King's landing was large for its time, but likely does not compare to Whent's great tournament. There were 4 jousters on the final day of the Hand's tournament.

Given the above, that makes it extremely unlikely that the preliminary round was Days 1-2 only, as the eliminations would play out as follow:
Days 1-2: ??? to 8 (x2)
Day 3: 16 to 8 (8 jousts)
Day 4: 8 to 4 (4 jousts)
Day 5: 4 to 1 (3 jousts)

Not only does this require 8 champions named on days 1-2 (which is really too large a number to rightfully call them champions), but it results in long periods of inactivity in days 3 and 4 (Day 5 presumably has other festivities, as at King's Landing).

512 entrants, Days 1-4:
128 to 2 (126 jousts), or 128 to 4 (124 jousts)
256 entrants, Days 1-4:
64 to 2 (62 jousts) or 64 to 4 (60 jousts)
128 entrants, Days 1-4:
32 to 2 (30 jousts), or 32 down to 4 (28 jousts)

That leaves a Day 5 finale consisting of 8 or 16 entranced reduced down to 1 (either 7 or 13 jousts on the final day) .

Under the least selective method, the Day 1 champions were at the very least in the Top 12.5%. Given the renown of the tournament, I'd guess there were at least 256 initial entrants putting them at least in the top 6.25% (4 finalists out of a field of 64).
Zachary Sellinger
55. Archangelxiii
You've got it wrong George, this isn't something where everybody has a match a day, and the number decreases by half every day, this is like how the tournament in The hedge knight was determined. (I just reread it yesterday). In that tourney there were five predetermined "starter" champions to defend the crown of the lady of beauty. It was the job of every other knight that was competing to try and beat one of the champions, so they could take their place. It said that at the end of the tournament the remaining champions would decide amongs themselves who if the lady would retain the crown, or if it would be given to somebody else. I'm pretty sure that meant (but it was never shown) that at the end the champions would joust amongst themselves.

In The Hedge Knight it was also specifically stated the knights of renown, and those who had already won other tournaments got to go first. Whether this hold true in this tournament isn't actually elaborated on. We have no way of knowing really.
Steven Halter
56. stevenhalter
Braid_Tug@53:Thanks! I hadn't encountered Vair before. Very interesting. Dire Vair will certainly be the name of my next band.
George Jong
57. IndependentGeorge
@55 - Ah, ok. I never read any of the D&E stories, so that makes a lot more sense; I had only the Hand's and Joffrey's name day tournaments in King's Landing as guides, and both used the bracket format. Still, if that's how they did it, then it raises some additional questions.

1. Why did all of Whent's sons joust on the first day? If they were the four 'official' champions, doesn't it make sense for each to be challenged separately on days 1-4, with Day 5 being the finale?
2. What happens on Days 3-4?
3. Why were two champions named on Day 2?
4. Rhaegar unhorsed both //Arthur Dayne// and //Barristan Selmy// on the final day. How do they fit into the picture? They obviously couldn't have been in the lists on days 1 & 2; were they in a separate bracket on days 3 & 4?
Zachary Sellinger
58. Archangelxiii
1.What happened in the tourney at Ashford (the one in D&E) was that the champions didn't have predetermined matches but instead, whenever a challenger was given an opportunity to compete they could choose which of the champions they desired to face. This meant that on any given day one the champions could not face any challengers.
2)It was really must that on each day different challenger made their bid to be champions.
3)I'm pretty sure I answered this question somewhere in this post before, but it should be noted that the mystery knight faced 3 champioins when they were allowed to compete (something I didn't see happen in the ashford tourney) so when the mystery knight left that meant that there were only two champions left.
4)This could mean that all rhaegar had to do to win the tourney was just beat both champions in succession.
Zachary Sellinger
59. Archangelxiii
Whoops, double post.
60. Gesar
I haven't read this chapter in a long long while and I think of this just from Leigh's reread, but is there any specific reason as to why noone thinks Rhaegar could be the Knight of the Laughing Tree?
61. Corbon
@Independent George
The format is a challenge format. There are 5 'starting' 'champions'. Anyone can challenge any of them, pretty much at any time, or the KotLT could not have done as (s)he did. The winner stays/becomes a replacement champion. Each day is just a continuation from the day before. At the end of the 5 days the/a champion(s) names the QoLaB.
Thus, the KotLT challenges all three (at once), jousts against all three (consecutively), and removes all three, replacing them (5 becomes 3, becomes 2 when she doesn't show up the next morning).
1) because other knights challenged them.
2) more knights challenged the 2 remaining champions and either won, replacing them, or lost, dropping out.
3) thats day 3, and they weren't 'named', they continued on from day 2. It should have been 3, but the KotLT never reapppeared.
4) Well the first Knight Rhaegar beat must have previously challenged someone else, won, and become a champion. Then the remaining Knights Rhaegar beat must have challenged him - except if one of them had beaten the other champion first and the two champions (Rhaegar and one of the guys he beat) fought at some stage (probably last I would have guessedm to determine who names the QoLaB).

Note 'champion' in this context means 'defender' not 'best of the best'.

The hedge knight tourney where the best and most reknown knights went first was a different format, paired I believe.
62. Corbon
He's not small of stature.
Why would he wear ill fitting armour?
He competed anyway, publicly
How would he have known about the squires' mistreatment of the little Crannogman?
Why would Jojen be so certain than Bran must have heard this story from his father that he checked with him three times?
What would the story then add to the series? (if it is Lyanna, Rhaegar follows Aery's instruction to find the KotLT, interviews the squires, figures out her identity but respects her actions and pretends publicly he never found the KotLT and thats why he awards her the crown, not some mythical love of a girl he's never met when he's currently happily married and on the way to recreatin ghis 3 heads of the dragon for prophecy.)
Chris Nelly
63. Aeryl
I think that last line is a spoiler? What proof do we have that SPOILER TEXT Rhaegar knows that the dragon must have three heads. I don't think Dany knows yet.
George Jong
64. IndependentGeorge
@58, @62

Thanks for the explanation, though my inner game theorist just cringes at it. That is no way to operate a tournament! Why didn't the maesters put an end to such chaos?
65. Gesar
@62, ok fair enough, I was just thinking maybe Lyanna came to him for help, with the whole "hidden Lyanna-Rhaegar stuff going on and all", but like I said I haven't read this chapter in a while and the clues you're exposing make a pretty compelling case that it's indeed not him, all right.

I'd go for Howland Reed himself then. Would make sense, he's a good warrior himself, as shown by him surviving the Tower episode with Arthur Dayne & co, and I wouldn't expect Ned Stark to have him in his company for this rescue mission if he had no previous notion of Reed's valor as a knight...
Deana Whitney
66. Braid_Tug
The tournament sounds like a "Bear Pit" tournament in the SCA. Those provided lots (and lots) of fights, but are very hard to keep track of who's winning.

Especially when the current Champion can decided "you know I need a break." So he loses a round, goes rest, eat, visit the loo, then returns to challenge a current Champion to take his place.

That is, if re-entry is allowed. Hence why we have time limits on SCA "bear pits." And people keep track of how many fights they've had, how many loses and wins. Those with the most wins at the end, fight it out in a more traditional tournament elimination rounds.
Vincent Lane
67. Aegnor

It was seen in the House of the Undying back in book 2.:

"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."
Chris Nelly
68. Aeryl
Ah, forgot about that one. Too much stuff in that scene!
69. Corbon
Read #38.

Furthermore, Jojen repeatedly checks with Bran because he just can't believe Bran hasn't heard the story before. Its clearly supposed to be a significant House Stark story, even though the PoV is a Crannogman. The only way its a significant House Stark story is if the KotLT is a Stark.

There is no solid evidence at all HR is a skilled fighter. The little crannogman explicitly says he does not have the types of skills used for jousting.

Ned's companions at ToJ are his closest friends, not his best fighters. They are almost certainly chosen for their personal loyalty, as Ned clearly has some idea he will find Lyanna, and thats not goig to be a good thing for Robert, no matter what.
I would however, after a year of war, expect HR to have some martial skills at ToJ that he didn't have at Harrenhal.
Brandon Lammers
70. wickedkinetic
When 7 fight 3 and only 2 survive.... those 2 are probably pretty good with the blade... just saying.

Agree that HR having no skill with the horse would make him a very unlikely jousting hero candidate - while any noble woman with 3 brothers and a mastery of horse-riding and 'wolf-blood' would probably have the opportunity to pick up the basics of jousting over the years....

plus, the story goes from significant/relevant/illuminating to 'why does it matter' if the knight is anyone else.....
72. Gesar
Thought I had answered this already... Somehow my answer got lost.

Anyway I disagree that the story is significant/relevant/illuminating when Lyanna is the knight, I think it doesn't really matter either way.

But what I basically wanted to say in my non-appearing post is you could obviously be right, Lyanna could be the Knight and I wouldn't be overly surprised by it. I however think HR a slightly more likely candidate and I don't think we have enough evidence to make one theory or the other appear as proved fact.
Chris Nelly
73. Aeryl
It's illuminating as to WHY Rhaegar would cause such a ruckus by naming Lyanna Q0L&B. By all indications, that's the event that eventually sparks the rebellion. Having HR, or anyone else, being the KotLT removes the noble impetus for Rhaegar's actions, making him just a troublemaker. Which is possible, but that doesn't seem to be the story that's being set up.

And Jojen is very adamant that HR had no experience in jousting, so I really don't understand why you think that makes him likelier than anyone else. It could have been Benjen or Ned seeking to make Lyanna feel better for what happened to HR for all we know. Ned would've been all about redeeming the honor of the North by defeating those rude southron knights.
74. Gesar
Won't go into details but we don't need KotLT to explain Rhaegar's interest in Lyanna without it being about troublemaking.

Ned wouldn't have hid himself. But yeah I guess it could be Benjen. If it turns out to be a Stark I expect Lyanna rather than Benjen tho.
Brett Dunbar
75. Brett
@ 24 Sammy Duddy was both a loyalist terrorist (UDA/UFF) and a drag queen (under the name Samatha).
Chris Nelly
76. Aeryl
@74, I know a bit about the reference, and I still there were better ways to go about that, without pubicly disgracing his wife and outraging her betrothed.

As far as Ned, it's hard to say. It's obvious from his youthful friendship with Robert that he wasn't always so withdrawn and noble, I think that a lot of what we see in Ned is honestly just a man who was never raised to wield power and had it thrust upon him and it weighed on him. While he is still quiet in the flashback at the tournament, I think it possible that a youth, forbidden to compete(as they surely were as children) he would have used a disguise to avoid trouble. Then Lyanna learns about it and helps him run off when Rhaegar is sent to capture the KotLT, and earns Rhaegar's affection that way.

Like I say, I can buy just about ANYONE as the KotLT, other than Reed.
77. she-wolf
"fire and ice can mate"

fire = Targaryans & ice = Starks ???

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