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 35 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 57 (“Daenerys”) and Chapter 58 (“Tyrion”).
Previous entries are located in the Index. The only spoilers in the post itself will be for the actual chapters covered and for the chapters previous to them. As for the comments, please note that the Powers That Be have provided you a lovely spoiler thread here on Tor.com. Any spoileriffic discussion should go there, where I won’t see it. Non-spoiler comments go below, in the comments to the post itself.
And now, the post!
Chapter 57: Daenerys
Dany and her army watch the city of Meereen, where a lone “hero,” Oznak zo Pahl, has exited the city walls to challenge Dany’s champion to single combat. Dany is inclined to ignore him, and Jorah agrees, but Arstan argues that honor demands they answer the challenger’s insults. Dany silences them, more concerned with her starving troops, and her anger at the dozens of slave children the Meereenese had crucified and left for her to find on the way to the city. But Oznak’s insults continue, and Dany decides to send Strong Belwas to fight him.
Belwas defeats Oznak, takes a (literal) dump on the corpse, and returns to a raucously cheering camp. Dany badgers him into treating his wounds, and then holds a conference with her commanders. They discuss mining, attacking from the sea side, and a frontal assault on the gates, but all are deemed either fruitless or too costly. Jorah argues that she should let Meereen be and turn her attention to Westeros, but Dany refuses. Then Brown Ben Plumm, the new commander of the Second Sons, tells how he once (narrowly) escaped Meereen via the sewer systems, and suggests that a way out is a way back in, but Dany is leery of the idea, and decides to think more on it. She learns that Brown Ben claims a small amount of Targaryen blood when one of her dragons shows him favor (though he also claims his ancestor had a six-foot cock).
Alone, Dany thinks about Daario and his semi-subtle attempts to court her; she is attracted to the mercenary, but knows how dangerous and potentially treacherous he is. She wonders if he could be one of the other two “heads of the dragon,” and whether she should perhaps just marry Daario and Jorah both and be done with it. She decides to go inspect the camp, and takes only Arstan with her. In the freedmen’s section, a man grabs her off her horse, and she recognizes Mero. Arstan challenges Mero, and to her amazement defeats and kills Mero with contemptuous ease. Back in her tent, Jorah is immediately suspicious of Arstan’s fighting prowess, and Arstan confesses enough that Jorah recognizes him:
“Khaleesi, before you kneels Ser Barristan Selmy, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, who betrayed your House to serve the Usurper Robert Baratheon.”
Barristan admits it, but insists that when Joffrey cast him aside, he knew that he must find his true king (or queen) and serve her. He begs her forgiveness for concealing the truth, but says he could not reveal his true name to her, because of the spy in her ranks, reporting to Lord Varys. Dany realizes he means Jorah, and pleads with him for it not to be true, but Jorah admits it in turn. He insists that he stopped once he fell in love with her, but remembering the prophecy, Dany only wants to know if it was for gold. Jorah answers that he was promised a return home. Dany is enraged, and orders both of them to get out of her sight. Barristan asks where they should go, and Dany wants to exile them on pain of death, but cannot bring herself to do it.
They betrayed me. But they saved me. But they lied. “You go…” My bear, my fierce strong bear, what will I do without him? And the old man, my brother’s friend. “You go… go…” Where?
And then she knew.
Holy crap, Arstan is Ser Barristan!?!
Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. *marvels*
I mean, it makes perfect sense in retrospect—Barristan betrayed the Targaryens for the Baratheons, the Baratheons (read: Joffrey, because he is a MORON) betrayed him back, so where else would he determine his honor demanded he go, but back to the family he originally betrayed, to try to make amends?—but I sure as hell never saw it coming.
Not, honestly, that I was looking that hard. I figured Barristan would turn up when he turned up. I was kind of absently expecting him to stay within Westeros, though.
So, yeah. Nicely played, Martin. Nicely played.
Of course, this immediately begs the question of whether Illyrio knew who Arstan really was before sending him to Dany. That’s all very tangled, because I seem (dimly) to recall that one time Arya caught Illyrio (or someone I decided was Illyrio, anyway) hanging out in an abandoned section of King’s Landing chatting with… Varys? I think it was Varys. And what the hell that implies, I couldn’t even tell you.
Except that it makes it even more confusing for us to find out that Jorah is Varys’s informant. Though the bare fact of it is… not anywhere near as shocking as the revelation about Barristan, I have to say. I’m not going to claim I called it beforehand, because I definitely didn’t, but even so it doesn’t really surprise me. Because honestly, such duplicity is actually just about what I would have expected from Jorah, who is unlikely to win any prizes for moral rectitude anytime soon.
…Well. As long as you don’t compare him to, er, half the other characters, that is. But dammit, I’m going to at least attempt to not grade these assholes on a frickin’ curve here. God.
In any case, ten bucks says Dany’s going to punish Barristan and Jorah by making them infiltrate Meereen via sewer. And while I viscerally shudder mightily at the mere thought of it, that’s actually a time-honored tactic for breaking into walled cities. (I think. Or maybe I’m just thinking of Ladyhawke.)
“The harpy is a craven thing,” Daario Naharis said when he saw [the monument]. “She has a woman’s heart and a chicken’s legs. Small wonder her sons hide behind their walls.”
First of all: dude, you do realize your general/leader/ruler type person you’re saying this to is in fact a woman, right? Ill-advised sexism much?
And second: er. Who the hell is Daario Naharis?
[later in the chapter] Ohhh, okay, now I remember. Jeez, it’s been too long since I read a Dany chapter. Fortunately Martin is rather good at providing non-clunky reminders within the text of who the various millions of characters the reader needs to keep track of are. I’m not sure the previous sentence made actual grammatical sense, but you probably got what I meant.
Of course, he doesn’t always, which is occasionally frustrating. Like Mero: I know I know that name, but I cannot for the life of me place who he is or why he hates Dany so much. (Well, actually Martin did provide a clue, but “Titan’s Bastard” is ringing no bells for me either, because my brain, she farts sometimes.) But, I suppose it is a moot point, seeing as he’s dead and all.
In any case, I reeeeally really hope Dany does not decide to go ahead and hit that, Daario I mean, because I have a baaaad feeling about how that would go. (Hey, if Martin can unnecessarily repeat vowels so can I!) And taking on him and Jorah as lovers? Or husbands? Hell no, girl. Even before we found out Jorah was a spy, that sounds like the surest recipe for betrayal possible.
Because yeah, it could be that Jorah’s protestations that he turned over a new leaf once he fell in love with Dany are true, but personally I raise the most skeptical of eyebrows at that declaration. And I know we have a prophecy about being betrayed for love on the books already, but that doesn’t mean Dany has to deliberately set herself up for it!
Speaking of which, does Jorah’s spying fulfill the prophecy about Dany being betrayed for love? I guess it could, as long as you mean love in the sense of “love for his homeland” (since that was the prize offered), but I dunno. It seems like being betrayed for love would be more… personal, to Dany herself I mean. And “gold” doesn’t seem to really fit, either. And, as much as I suspect Jorah, thus far it could be argued that he hasn’t completely betrayed her. But was that enough for prophetic purposes? *shrug*
Meanwhile, this part of the world continues to be the exact opposite of awesome, now adding crucified and disemboweled children to the list of Things I Never Needed Mental Images Of, Thanks. (And again with the puppy fetus thing! Ugh!) Martin sure does love his shocking imagery, doesn’t he? Although Belwas taking a Victory Shit™ at the city after killing Oznak was a lot more hilarious than it was disgusting, I must admit.
(Also, a six-foot cock? Really? REALLY? Because, holy shit. The sheer number of jokes I could make here is virtually paralyzing me. ZOMG. I think I will just chortle mightily in this anecdote’s general direction for a moment and then carry on.)
(Because, the pants issue alone—NO NEVER MIND)
Dany’s reasoning behind the decision to send Strong Belwas to fight Oznak, by the way, was really rather brilliant, politically. She’s never been a slouch in the thinking department, but it’s really something to see her continue to grow as a leader and general.
“There are old sellswords and bold sellswords, but no old bold sellswords.”
Hah, I recognize that one.
“Which King Aegon?” Dany asked. “Five Aegons have ruled in Westeros.”
Ugh, monarchies and their naming stutters. Think of the history students, royal people! NAME YOUR KIDS NEW THINGS. Sheesh.
Speaking of Martin and vowel abuse, here’s my most random peeve about this chapter: the name of the city, Meereen, drove me nuts. I itch to take one of those “e”s out, y’all. “Mereen” or “Meeren” is fine, but “Meereen”? Glargh. I have no idea why this is bothering me so much, but it snagged my eye every single time I read it, and it was incredibly annoying. Oh well.
Chapter 58: Tyrion
Tyrion watches Sansa sleep, and remembers how he had refrained from comforting her in her grief at learning of the death of her brother; he thought she would never welcome it from a Lannister. He had tried to keep the more gruesome details from her, though, like how the Freys had sewn Robb’s wolf’s head to his corpse, or thrown her mother’s body naked into the river. He thinks of how he can never forget who and what he is to her, and he wonders if she prays for his death on her daily trips to the godswood.
He is at least pleased that his marriage has allowed him to move into a different part of the castle, far from Cersei. He goes down below the keep to where the dragon skulls are stored, and meets Shae there. They make love after she makes him chase her among the skulls, and she tells him his face is “brave, kind, and good.” Tyrion wishes he agreed.
He has hired Shae as one of Sansa’s maids, but Varys has warned him that if Cersei were to question him about her directly, he will not lie. Varys doesn’t understand why Shae is worth such a risk, and reflected that he is perhaps glad to be a eunuch. Tyrion battles guilt over Shae, telling himself his own wife wants nothing to do with him, and even debates telling Sansa about Shae, but decides he cannot risk that either, considering she had once betrayed her own father to Cersei.
Tyrion considers sending Shae to Chataya, or arranging a marriage for her. He thinks of Ser Tallad, who looks at her wistfully, but knows what will happen if Tallad finds out she was a whore. Shae scampers off as the day dawns, saying she loves him as she goes.
And I love you as well, sweetling. A whore she might well be, but she deserved better than what he had to give her. I will wed her to Ser Tallad. He seems a decent man. And tall…
“And tall.” Ouch, right in the feels, Tyrion. Like that is really any indicator of personal worth! Sigh.
I’ve expressed my doubts about the sincerity of Shae’s feelings in the past, but presented with this new and awful resolution of Tyrion’s, the only prediction I can make, given Martin’s terminal allergy to happiness, is that she is actually really truly head over heels for Tyrion, and then he will try and foist her off on this Tallad guy, and her heart will be broken, and she will do something incredibly stupid, and all kinds of shit will hit the fan, and noooooooooo.
Basically it’s not a question of whether this will go badly; it’s only a question of how badly it’s going to go. Based on previous evidence, I may need to get myself a preemptive kitten to hug or something. Or maybe just a lot of alcohol.
In other news: So, I guess that story Whatshisguts told about Robb’s wolf’s head being sewn onto his body wasn’t a wild fabrication after all. Which is just doubly horrible, that Grey Wind died just as ignominiously as his potential-wargmate. And also, someone reminded me that “a king with a wolf’s head, at a banquet” actually showed up in Dany’s prophetical horror-house acid-trip thingy back in Qaarth or wherever the hell she was at the time. Which, it just frickin’ figures that something any sane seer of visions (assuming that’s not a contradiction in terms, natch) would assume was strictly symbolic was actually horrifically literal.
Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. I’m getting upset about it all over again now. I really hope someone makes Walder
Necrotizing Fasciitis Frey eat his own shit until he dies. Or something. Please tell me he dies in a way that’s even worse than what he did to Robb and Catelyn. (Don’t actually tell me, obviously. I’m just saying.)
(Note: if you are even remotely squeamish, DO NOT Google “necrotizing fasciitis.” Trust me on this.)
Winter is coming, warned the Stark words, and truly it had come for them with a vengeance.
And that’s about what I got for this one, kids. Have a lovely week, and I’ll see you next Thursday!