Welcome 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 16 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 27 (“Daenerys”) and Chapter 28 (“Sansa”).
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 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 27: Daenerys
Dany waits while the Good Masters of Astapor confer over her astonishing offer to buy all the Unsullied: not just the fully trained soldiers, but the ones who have not yet earned the title. She listens as one argues that this will leave them with no merchandise for ten years, and another retorts that he would rather have the gold now than later. Dany thinks to herself that she will have them all no matter the price.
At length, Kranznys announces that they will sell her the 8,600 fully-trained Unsullied, but not those still in training; Dany answers that she will pay as much for “the boy they cut yesterday” as she will for a full soldier. When they still refuse, she offers to pay double. One of the slavers points out that at double price, she only has the coin to buy 500 Unsullied, 600 if she throws in her crown. Dany answers that her crown is not for sale, but she offers her three ships. The slavers reply that this will get her 2,000 men, no more.
“Give me all,” she said, “and you may have a dragon.”
Whitebeard is appalled, and begs her to reconsider; Dany rebukes him sharply for questioning her, and has Mormont escort him out. The oldest slaver demands her best dragon, the black one, in addition to the ships and all her goods, and Dany agrees. They throw in the slave girl as a translator, and the deal is sealed. Dany leaves, feeling sick inside.
Once away, she chastises Whitebeard, and warns him to never contradict her in public again. He agrees, but protests that she has been cheated. She ignores this and asks the slave girl for her name; the girl, Missandei, is astonished to realize Dany spoke to her in High Valyrian. Dany tells Missandei that she is free, and offers to let her leave and go back to her family if she wishes. Missandei replies that she has nowhere else to go, and wishes to remain with Dany. Dany asks about the Unsullied, whether it is true they will obey her absolutely, and Missandei assures her it is so, even to the point of killing themselves at her order. Dany asks whether, if she sold them, they could be turned against her, and Missandei answers that they would attack her if their new master ordered it. Missandei also reveals that three of the Unsullied were formerly her brothers.
Dany cannot sleep that night for grief and worry, and goes above, where Ser Jorah joins her. She asks him why the gods make kings and queens if not to protect those who cannot protect themselves; Jorah answers that some kings make themselves, like Robert, and Dany answers scornfully that he was no true king, and did no justice, which is what kings are for. Later, she dreams that she is her brother Rhaegar at the Trident, except that she used dragonfire to win where her brother had lost. She wakes, suddenly sure someone is in the cabin with her, and hears a woman’s voice:
“Remember. To go north, you must journey south. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow.”
Dany thinks it is Quaithe, and leaps up, but there is no one there.
The next morning, Dany and her entourage (including the restless dragons) go to the plaza where the Unsullied are assembled. Dany is disgusted by the hanged corpses of disobedient slaves ranged before it. Dany has all the riches she’d had aboard her ships brought forth while Kraznys advises her to blood her troops early, on one of the small cities nearby, perhaps. Finally, she hands over Drogon’s chain to him, as the final part of the deal, and he hands her in return an ornate whip. She asks if this means they belong to her, and he confirms it. She remounts her horse, and screams to the Unsullied that they are hers now, bought and paid for; most of the slavers are too busy trying to get Drogon off the litter to notice she spoke in High Valyrian.
It is time to cross the Trident, Dany thought, as she wheeled and rode her silver back. Her bloodriders moved in close around her. “You are in difficulty,” she observed.
“He will not come,” Kraznys said.
“There is a reason. A dragon is no slave.” And Dany swept the lash down as hard as she could across the slaver’s face.
Kraznys screams, his face ruined, and Dany calls to Drogon, who sets the slaver on fire. Chaos erupts, and Irri and Jhiqui set the other two dragons free to join the fray as well, terrifying the horses of the slavers’ guards. Rakharo, Aggo, Belwas, and Jorah join in taking the guards down, and Dany hears the oldest slaver call for the Unsullied to defend them, but the soldiers do not budge. Triumphant, Dany orders the Unsullied to kill the Good Masters, their guards, and every free man and slaveowner, but to leave children under twelve, and free any slave they see.
…and then she flung the scourge aside. “Freedom!” she sang out. “Dracarys! Dracarys!”
“Dracarys!” they shouted back, the sweetest word she’d ever heard. “Dracarys! Dracarys!” And all around them slavers ran and sobbed and begged and died, and the dusty air was filled with spears and fire.
Okay, I stopped partway through the chapter to write this:
NOOOOOO WHAT THE HELL DANY DO NOT GIVE AWAY A DRAGON BAD NO NO DO YOU HAVE THE CRAY-CRAY.
Not to mention the ships—because what the hell good are umpty thousand troops going to do her if she can’t take them anywhere?—but especially NO DANY NOT THE DRAGONS NO.
(Okay, on reflection she probably couldn’t have fit elevenish-thousand troops on three ships anyway, unless I missed a memo and they’re the size of your average aircraft carrier, but my point is DANY NO.)
Ooh, maybe it’s a double-cross! Maybe Dany will use her new super-obedient soldiers to sack the city and keep her stuff! I approve of this! LET’S FIND OUT.
*reads the rest of the chapter*
AHAHAHAHA I knew it! I rule!
Yeah, the minute I read Dany quizzing Missandei, all so you’re absolutely sure they will do anything I say, I knew she wasn’t going through with the deal. Plus I just couldn’t believe, on reflection, that she would actually really give away one of her dragons voluntarily for any reason.
Also, that was awesome. A Crowning Moment of Awesome, even, I daresay. Take that, purveyors of slavery! Yeah!
(Note: do not click on that link if you have anything important to do, like, ever.)
Whew. Good stuff, y’all. Like Snickers, it satisfies.
Assuming it doesn’t all backfire in the next chapter, of course.
So in retrospect, Martin portraying the Astapori as so thoroughly disgusting and unlikeable a culture makes a lot more sense now. I recognize the narrative trick he pulled here, making palatable to the reader the wholesale massacre of people who are, technically, unarmed civilians. I recognize it even as I cheerfully fall for it, because FUCK SLAVERY, Y’ALL.
And I suppose reneging on a deal is bad and dishonest, and there are certainly lots of ways you could argue that what Dany did here was unethical, to say the least, but I’m choosing not to care because (a) sometimes the underdog (i.e. Dany) has to cheat to win, and (b) I’m rooting for the underdog (i.e. Dany) to win, therefore I’m sort of obligated to make allowance for that, and (c) FUCK SLAVERY.
I’m still not sure yet whether I extend that Rooting-for-Dany stance to her actually winning back Westeros, mind you, because there are a bucketload of issues involved there (not least the fact that she can free the Unsullied all she wants in her own mind, but she’ll still be marching to war with a slave army in the eyes of everyone else). But I guess at the moment I kind of do, root for that I mean, assuming there’s a way it can happen while leaving the Starks the North. Because God knows just about anyone would be a better monarch to have than frickin’ Joffrey.
And in other news:
“Valar morghulis,” said Missandei, in High Valyrian.
“All men must die,” Dany agreed, “but not for a long while, we may pray.”
So that’s what that means.
And, well, that’s… true. Creepy, but true. Assuming your fictional world doesn’t include immortal characters, of course, which as far as I can tell this one doesn’t—not that we’ve met so far, anyway.
And… hm, that’s not quite what I expected that to turn out to mean. Because, yes, it’s definitely not a cool thing for an eleven-year-old kid like Arya to be running around using as a mantra, and I can see why a professional assassin (or something; can you be a professional psychopath?) like Jaqen would adopt it, for the ironic LOLs if nothing else, but I dunno, I was expecting it to turn out to mean something a little more… invocation-like. Y’know, a summoning-up-bad-things kind of thing. Whereas this just sort of strikes me as more of a depressing-yet-accurate philosophical observation than anything else.
*shrug* Maybe I’m missing something?
As for presumably-Quaithe’s little nighttime spate of “advice” for Dany: Gee, thanks for nothing, hon. That’s what you astrally project (?) yourself into young girls’ bedchambers to be creepy about? Whatever, Edward. I’m surprised she didn’t ask for a contribution for that pile of drivel. Or have a bird on her head. Feh.
Also, randomly, from the list of goods Dany brings to the slavers:
a cask of pitted olives stuffed with maggots
Um, why would you want this? Why would anyone want this? What is with the funkass cuisine in these books? STOP EATING PUPPY FETUSES AND MAGGOTS, ASOIAF PEOPLE, WHY ARE YOU SO GROSS.
*grump* Waste of perfectly good olives. What’s wrong with some nice pimento? I ask you.
Chapter 28: Sansa
Cersei comes to watch as Sansa is dressed in her new gown. Sansa is delighted with her appearance until Cersei comments that it is “obscene” to squander her on “that gargoyle,” and Sansa is confused, wondering if she meant Willas Tyrell and how she knew. Then Cersei orders her garbed in a maiden’s cloak, and Sansa realizes what it portends; Cersei tells her she is to be married that hour to Cersei’s brother Tyrion, and Sansa protests violently. She tries to run, but Ser Meryn Trant and Ser Osmund Kettleblack are outside the door. Trant looks ready to do her violence, but Kettleblack reminds her gently that wolves are supposed to be brave, and Sansa tells herself she is a Stark, and that Tyrion is not as bad as the rest of them, and acquiesces.
Joffrey meets her outside the sept, and informs her that he is her father for today. She retorts that he is not, and he threatens to marry her off to Ilyn Payne instead. She begins to beg him not to go through with this, but is interrupted by Tyrion himself, who asks for a moment alone with her. Tyrion apologizes to her for “this farce,” and offers to refuse the marriage, upon which they will wed her to his cousin Lancel instead. Sansa wants to say she doesn’t want any Lannister, but remembers Dontos’s assertion that the Tyrells only want her for her claim to Winterfell, same as the Lannisters, and declines his offer. He ventures that at least he is not Joffrey, and she acknowledges that he has been kind, and they go into the sept.
Sansa notes that none of the Tyrells are present to witness the ceremony, but remembers very little else about it until it is time for the changing of the cloaks. Joffrey takes her maiden’s cloak (copping a feel in the process), but when Tyrion tries to indicate she should kneel for him to put on the bride’s cloak, Sansa refuses, to the amusement of the guests. Joffrey finally commands Dontos forward for Tyrion to stand on. Sansa feels guilty afterward, and kneels to kiss him, but all she can think about is how ugly he is, and has to hold back sobs.
At the wedding feast, Sansa is bitterly unsurprised that the Tyrell women shun her, and dreads the chivaree that will follow before she must consummate the marriage. She tries asking Tyrion to dance, but he answers that he thinks they have given the guests enough amusement for one night. Eventually Ser Garlan Tyrell asks her to dance, and tells her that he has seen how she looked at his brother Loras, but opines that the Imp is “a bigger man than he seems,” and will make her a better husband. She dances with a few others, and then is unable to avoid dancing with Joffrey, who tells her he intends to have her anyway, and will command Tyrion to bring her to his bed or be executed.
After the dancing, Joffrey proposes loudly they get the chivaree started (which involves the male guests stripping the bride), but Tyrion refuses to let it occur, and threatens to geld Joffrey if he tries it. Everyone is shocked, and Tywin interjects that he is sure Tyrion did not intend to threaten the king. Tyrion takes it back with ill grace; Joffrey is incensed, but Tywin again intercedes, and Tyrion takes himself and Sansa out of the room.
In the wedding chamber, Sansa asks nervously if she should undress, and Tyrion tells her about his first wedding, to “Lady Tysha of House Silverfist.” He is angered by her stilted politeness to him, and orders her to disrobe. She does, and he remarks that she is a child, but he wants her anyway. He tries to tell her he could be good to her, and Sansa realizes he is frightened as well, but this only makes her pity him, and makes no answer. Bitterly, he orders her into the bed, and disrobes himself. He touches her, but she cannot make herself move or respond.
Then he tells her that he cannot do this, and promises to wait to consummate the marriage until she tells him she wants him to. She looks at him, and tries to find something she finds attractive in him, but sees nothing. She asks what if she never wants him to.
His mouth jerked as if she had slapped him. “Never?”
Her neck was so tight she could scarcely nod.
“Why,” he said, “that is why the gods made whores for imps like me.” He closed his short blunt fingers into a fist, and climbed down off the bed.
Before I even start reading the chapter: oh, crap.
After reading the chapter: Ow. Ow ow ow.
Yeah, so it turns out “oh crap” was the understatement of the geological age, because oh my God that was the most miserable, uncomfortable, painful wedding EVER. I mean, wow. The Etiquette Hell folks would have collective apoplexy. (Again, do not click that link unless you have copious spare time available. And good blood pressure.)
Ugh, ugh, everything sucks! For everyone! Poor Sansa! Poor Tyrion! Poor institution of marriage, that it can be twisted to condone such farces! Pfeh. Pfeh, I say!
I should probably be at least a little censorious toward Sansa for being so unable to get past Tyrion's physical appearance, but look, girl is thirteen, and still secretly a romantic, and has just been forcibly married to, yes, a disfigured and deformed scion of her family's most deadly enemy. I am going to cut Sansa a shit-ton of slack right about now, and that's all there is to it.
I have to confess, as much as I like Tyrion, I was rather surprised that he didn’t go ahead and consummate the marriage. I’m relieved that he didn’t, for Sansa’s sake, but… I was surprised. I think Martin has conditioned me by this point to just expect the worst case scenario, so when someone actually does the right thing it’s like “Really? Whoa.” Sigh.
“I am malformed, scarred, and small, but . . . ” she could see him groping “ . . . abed, when the candles are blown out, I am made no worse than other men. In the dark, I am the Knight of Flowers.” He took a draught of wine. “I am generous. Loyal to those who are loyal to me. I’ve proven I’m no craven. And I am cleverer than most, surely wits count for something. I can even be kind. Kindness is not a habit with us Lannisters, I fear, but I know I have some somewhere. I could be . . . I could be good to you.”
And this just fucking breaks my heart, it does.
The worst part is—hm. I was going to say something about how Tyrion and Sansa could be such allies to each other if all this stupid bullshit wasn’t between them, but then, all that stupid bullshit is really kind of the point, isn’t it? Because as much as I am individually rooting for both Tyrion and Sansa as characters, ultimately their goals are in opposition to the other’s, so wanting them to be allies (or dare I say it, even friends) doesn’t seem to make sense for either of them except in the most short-term sense.
It also means it doesn’t make much sense that I’m rooting for both of them, but hey, I’m also rooting for Dany, which makes even less sense in a “conflicting goal” capacity, so clearly I am choosing not to care that I am basically doing the equivalent of cheering for the Yankees, the Mets, and the Red Sox, all at the same time. I like who I want, nyah!
(It is left as an exercise for the reader to decide which party is which, but I don’t think there’s much doubt, in my mind, anyway, who the Yankees are. Hah.)
Anyway, I don’t know, the whole thing is tangled and ugly, and—okay, yeah, the worst part is that Tyrion’s gesture of nobility in not (let’s face it) raping Sansa is probably going to make things worse for their relationship rather than the opposite, because Tyrion is a virtual powderkeg of sexual/self-esteem issues and I don’t see this state of affairs doing a damn thing to ease the pressure on that front.
So, in conclusion:
Also, how can it be that no one has set Joffrey on FIRE yet? Seriously, I am in awe. Could he possibly be more of a giant bag of dicks?
Wait, don’t answer that. To reiterate: Ugh.
Interesting that Garlan Tyrell spoke up for Tyrion to Sansa. I can’t remember for sure if we’ve been introduced to him before (though I think maybe it was in passing, like he was training in a courtyard or something? I think I remember that), but that rather suggests to me a distinct break with the rest of the Tyrells, who are pretty clearly livid about this turn of events. Or maybe Garlan just hates his brothers (Willas and Loras). The story he tells of how Willas invented his “Gallant” appellation can be taken two ways, after all.
Then there was this, when Sansa is confused about Cersei’s “gargoyle” comment:
Did [Cersei] mean Willas?How could she know? No one knew, but her and Margaery and the Queen of Thorns . . . oh, and Dontos, but he didn’t count.
Aw, shit. Was it Dontos who ratted the scheme out? That seriously blows, if so. I’m not sure it actually makes any sense to suppose he was the traitor on purpose, but given his inclination toward drinking I can easily see Littlefinger getting it out of him unknowingly.
Though that does beg the question of how Littlefinger knew Dontos knew something worth weaseling out of him in the first place. Eh. I’ll find out, I suppose.
The reveal to Sansa of her marriage to Tyrion was played… kind of oddly, I thought. I would have thought there’d be more of a stunned pause, there, from Sansa’s POV. Oh well. That said, of course Cersei dropped the news on her in the most callous way possible. Tchah. I suspect, though, that Cersei feels at least a little sorry for Sansa; not that she handles it very well, of course, but really, she didn’t have to get all that into dressing Sansa up, so I think that tiny bit of compassion is there.
Speaking of which, Sansa’s gown sounded gorgeous, y’all. But then, I have always been a sucker for silver anything. I hope that the HBO series does this costume justice if/when they get to this part (I have no idea if they have already, but am under the vague impression that they are doing one book per season, and I also think there have only been two seasons so far, so probably not), so that when I finally have the chance to watch it I can appreciate it. Since there is damn little else to appreciate at this juncture, sheesh.
And… right. Now that our Barbie Dream Wedding is concluded, have a weekend! With some other kind of vaguely important sports-related rivalry happening, even! Or So I Hear. (No, really, I hear them, they’re right over there. And they are LOUD.) Cheers, people, and see you next Friday!