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 19 of A Feast for Crows, in which we cover Chapter 26 (“Samwell”) and Chapter 27 (“Jaime”).
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 26: Samwell
Samwell stands in their over-priced and cold rented room in Braavos, waiting in vain for Dareon to return with food and wine. Gilly comments that Dareon doesn’t like it here, and Sam can understand not wanting to be around a weeping woman, a screaming baby, a sick old man, and a “fat craven,” but he is angry anyway. He doesn’t blame Gilly for her tears, if what he suspects about her baby is true; he has not dared to ask Gilly if the baby she nursed was truly hers or not. He had asked Aemon when Jon Snow’s heart turned to stone, and Aemon had answered, “when you raised him to be the lord commander.”
Aemon wakes, calling for “Egg,” and Sam thinks that the old man’s wits have been wandering more and more since they arrived here. He had spent the last of their money on a healer for Aemon, only to have the healer tell him there was nothing to be done, and now they are stranded in Braavos, cold and hungry. Aemon insists that they must go down to the docks and find out about the dragons Dareon had heard about in an alehouse, but Sam tells him he is not strong enough. Aemon says that Sam must go, then, and bring back someone who has seen them. He tells Sam that he will not live to get to Oldtown, but there must be a reason he has lingered so long, and he thinks it is because of the dragons. Sam is reluctant, but cannot bring himself to refuse him.
Sam leaves the inn and goes in search of Dareon, intending to have him go with Sam to the docks. He is accosted by two young bravos who intend to rob him, but is unexpectedly rescued by a ragged girl pushing a wheelbarrow, who recognizes him as a brother of the Night’s Watch. The bravos leave when she pulls a knife, and the girl chastises Sam for wearing a sword at night, which is asking to be challenged. She gives him some free clams, and asks if he is sailing to the Wall, but Sam says they are bound for Oldtown, though he doesn’t explain that their ship left without them when Aemon proved too sick to travel further. He asks who the girl is, and she tells him “no one,” but that he can call her Cat. She tells him she saw his brother singing at the Happy Port, and that he’s going to “wed the Sailor’s Wife.”
Sam runs to the brothel, where he finds Dareon snuggling one of the prostitutes. He invites Sam to take one of her “sisters,” but Sam demands to know what he is doing, violating his oath. Dareon tells him no one cares, even in Westeros, and taunts Sam that surely he’d fucked his “wildling wench” a time or three. Sam entreats him to come away and help him find out about the dragons, as Aemon wants, but Dareon tells him he’s done with the black, and throws his cloak at Sam. Sam punches him, and then begins to pummel him until someone hauls him off the singer and throws him out of the brothel into the canal. Sam nearly drowns, but the huge Summer Islander that had been in the brothel and seen the altercation jumps in after Sam and hauls him out. He names himself Xhondo, and tells Sam he owes him many feathers for the ones on his cloak he just ruined while rescuing Sam.
“I never meant…”
“…to be swimming? Xhondo saw. Too much splashing. Fat men should float.” He grabbed Sam’s doublet with a huge black fist and hauled him to his feet. “Xhondo mates on Cinnamon Wind. Many tongues he speaks, a little. Inside Xhondo laughs, to see you punch the singer. And Xhondo hears.” A broad white smile spread across his face. “Xhondo knows these dragons.”
OMG SAM MET ARYA AND SHE SAVED HIM FROM RUFFIANS AND IT WAS SO COOL but now I’m sad because he might never see her again and she won’t find out that Jon is alive and The Boss Of Him and wah.
Well, maybe they’ll meet again, seeing as Sam appears to be rather stuck in Braavos for the foreseeable future. Given Arya’s apparent commitment to being No One and fulfilling all her crazy death cult merit badge requirements, though, I’m gloomily doubtful that she’ll get around to revealing to Sam who she really is anytime soon.
Although, wanting to know Jon’s fate might be a motivation for her to do so… Well. We’ll see.
Also, at least now I know that Sam’s timeline is congruent with Arya’s. Or actually a little ahead of where we left her, technically, but whatever. I’m sure this knowledge will come in handy later assuming I manage to remember it.
Dareon: is a dick. But we all knew that.
And it isn’t even so much him blowing off the Night Watch celibacy thing – after all, as he rightly points out, there’s a metric fuckton of hypocrisy going on there, what with Mole’s Town and all – as it is that you don’t just abandon your people no matter how much they might annoy you – especially when you know how much they need you. That’s not an oath thing, that’s just common fucking decency. Which Dareon clearly has none of. Assmunch. Good riddance to bad rubbish, sez me, and hopefully he’ll crawl off to nurse his wounds somewhere and we’ll never see him again.
Speaking of which, SERIOUSLY, SAM, WITH THE FAT CRAVEN thing. I mean, starting bar brawls are not generally a mark of bravery or good character, but in this case, I’m gonna call it an exception. How many cowards do you know who would give a dickbag the ass-kicking he so richly deserved like that? Sheesh.
Have we met Xhondo before? I’m having vague memories of running into another befeathered Summer Islander dude somewhere else, but seeing as (a) I could be totally wrong about that and (b) presumably there’s more than one befeathered Summer Islander dude running around out there, I’m going to assume no until informed otherwise.
And, apparently Sam (and Aemon) are about to find out about Dany and her dragons. I’m… not really sure why or whether this will have an impact on anything, but I’ll go ahead and have faith that there’s some kind of narrative plan here.
“I see them in my dreams, Sam. I see a red star bleeding in the sky. I still remember red. I see their shadows on the snow, hear the crack of leathern wings, feel their hot breath. My brothers dreamed of dragons too, and the dreams killed them, every one. Sam, we tremble on the cusp of half-remembered prophecies, of wonders and terrors that no man now living could hope to comprehend… or…”
“Or?” said Sam.
“…or not.” Aemon chuckled softly. “Or I am an old man, feverish and dying.”
Or, you know, both. I’m going with both.
His swordbelt hung from a peg on the wall, beside the old cracked horn that Jon had given him.
Um. Is that…
Chapter 27: Jaime
Cersei needles Jaime relentlessly as he tries to get her to rescind “King Tommen’s” orders for him to leave King’s Landing and secure the riverlands. He argues that his place is there, to protect the king, but Cersei tells him toppling Riverrun and restoring Harrenhal is protecting the king. She wants Ser Osmund to command the Kingsguard in his absence, and Jaime thinks again of Tyrion’s accusation that she’d been sleeping with him. He says that Ser Loras should command, but Cersei will not hear of it, and slaps him when he makes a rude comment. He leaves, knowing that he might have swayed her if he’d tried softer words, but he had been too angry to try. He tells himself he is glad to be leaving Cersei and her coterie of “lickspittles and fools.”
His force of less than a thousand leaves the city with a marked lack of fanfare, compared to Mace Tyrell’s exit, and Jaime observes that the townfolk “like the smell of roses but have no love for lions.” Jaime is bitter to be sent to finish what Amory Lorch and Gregor Clegane began, but as they march feels nearly content. He is bringing with him his old friend Ser Addam Marbrand and Ser Ilyn Payne, who had lost his tongue when Aerys heard him boasting that Tywin Lannister was the real power behind the throne. Jaime thinks back to the wretched living conditions he’d found Payne in when he offered the King’s Justice the choice to come with him, and believes the man is glad he’d come.
They stay the night with the Hayfords, and Jaime wears the golden hand made for him to dinner, but cuts off the compliments paid him over it. They discuss what had happened to Jaime’s cousin Tyrek Lannister, who was supposed to be lord of this castle. He had gone missing in the riots and was presumed dead, but Jaime remembers that Tyrek had been King Robert’s squire along with Lancel, and suspects that Varys had had something to do with the boy’s disappearance. He sneaks out that night to meet with Ilyn Payne and spar using his left hand, so that only a tongueless man could see how out of practice he’s become. He does so every night, and though he thinks some of the others suspect what he’s doing, no one calls him out on it.
They travel on through increasingly war-torn lands until they reach Harrenhal, where they find the hard-bitten remnants of Gregor Clegane’s men still garrisoned. One of them, charmingly named “Shitmouth,” tells Jaime Sandor Clegane killed Polliver and the Tickler before escaping. They bring him what’s left of Vargo Hoat’s head, and confess that Gregor had ordered the rest of his body fed to the prisoners, including Hoat himself before he died. Sickened, Jaime declares that Ser Bonifer Hasty shall hold Harrenhal now, and they can either stay with him or come with Jaime to Riverrun. He has the prisoners brought out; one, a badly-abused girl named Pia, is hysterically grateful to Jaime, and Ser Wylis Manderly sobs more than she does.
At dinner, the pious Ser Bonifer informs Jaime that he will not abide having such godless men as Clegane’s followers with him, nor Pia, who he judges an unclean whore. Jaime supposes he could take her on as a washerwoman, and agrees to take them off Bonifer’s hands. He warns Bonifer to be wary, reminding him of the bad ends every other owner of Harrenhal had come to, but Bonifer is certain his faith will protect him. He instructs Bonifer to kill Sandor Clegane if he finds him, but to capture Beric Dondarrion and send him to King’s Landing if he can.
He leaves dinner, seeking Ser Ilyn for sword practice, but instead finds Ser Ronnet Connington at the bear pit. Ser Ronnet asks Jaime if it is true that “the maiden-not-so-fair” fought the bear naked, and Jaime says no. Ser Ronnet laughs that if she had, the bear might have run away in terror. He reveals that he was once betrothed to Brienne, but when he went to Tarth and saw her, he gave her a rose and said that was all she would ever have from him.
“The bear was less hairy than that freak, I’ll—”
Jaime’s golden hand cracked him across the mouth so hard the other knight went stumbling down the steps. His lantern fell and smashed, and the oil spread out, burning. “You are speaking of a highborn lady, ser. Call her by her name. Call her Brienne.”
Connington edged away from the spreading flames on his hands and knees. “Brienne. If it please my lord.” He spat a glob of blood at Jaime’s foot. “Brienne the Beauty.”
DAT’S WIGHT, WABBIT. Three snaps inna CIRCLE.
You know, I’m beginning to wonder if I am doing Jaime – and Brienne – a disservice by declaring that his actions re: Brienne means he has to be totally in love with her. Certainly that’s the obvious conclusion to reach, trope-wise, but (a) Martin is kind of infamous for going the non-trope route, after all, and (b) to assume that that’s the only reason he could possibly have started sticking up for her is a little, well, sexist. Of me.
Because hey, I grew up in this culture too, and I am therefore just as prey to falling back on comfortable patriarchal assumptions as any of us are, if I’m not paying attention. This shit’s insidious, y’all. CONSTANT VIGILANCE
My point is, it’s not cool to believe that Jaime’s defense of Brienne could only be motivated by romantic/sexual reasons, instead of supposing that it could just as easily be motivated by, you know, just plain old respect for a fellow warrior and honorable person who did him many solids even while he was being a total jerk to her. Or, in other words, the option that gives her the chance to be regarded as a human being first and a woman/love interest second.
I’m not saying that the In Love option can’t be on the table, I’m just saying it shouldn’t necessarily be the first thing you assume is the motivation for a person of one gender to treat a person of the other gender as a person. Especially since Jaime seems to be Growing As A Person in that regard in general, given his decision re: Pia here as well.
I’m… not sure that paragraph made sense, grammatically. But my eyes are crossing now looking at it so I’m moving on.
I would think Cersei is a fool for sending Jaime away from her, but the fact is she’s done such a good job of alienating him that it’s probably more to her advantage to not have him around at this point. Hell hathing no fury like an incestuous brother-lover scorned, and alla that, as the old saying totally goes. So, uh, point for Cersei, I guess. Sort of.
It’s still going to backfire on her later, of course, because at this point her karmic payback backlog is positively astronomical. Not that karma seems to be a principle that really applies terribly consistently in ASOIAF, but still.
Well, unless you are unfortunate enough to be saddled with Harrenhal, apparently.
Littlefinger is a really smart guy, as we all know by this point, but possibly the smartest thing he’s ever done so far is to stay way the hell away from that giant pile of Awful Crap Happening. To which we can now add Soylent Greening its prisoners, because apparently there are ways to increase my hatred of Gregor Clegane even long after the bastard is stone dead.
And not just cannibalism, mind you, but FORCED SELF-CANNIBALISM. I mean, holy shit. I had to go back and reread that part twice to make sure it was really saying what I thought it was. And just when I thought this series couldn’t top itself for horrific crimes against humanity, too. Jeez.
Somehow I don’t have a lot of faith, heh, that Ser Bonifer’s faith will protect him from Harrenhal, which at this point should probably be nuked from orbit just to be sure. But hey, I could be wrong. Maybe that was what all the previous occupants were missing. Still doesn’t keep his assertion from sounding like a character in a horror movie announcing that they should all split up, to me. But whatever, it’s not like I actually care about this guy.
[Jaime:] “I swore an oath to Lady Stark, never again to take up arms against the Starks or Tullys.”
[Cersei:] “A drunken promise made with a sword at your throat.”
And a broken one too, it seems like. Although I have to admit that Cersei kind of has a point here. Oaths made under duress shouldn’t be binding either legally or morally, as a general rule, in my opinion. Even if I’d be happy to see Jaime uphold this particular oath, in principle it really is bullshit that he should be expected to.
That said, I have a feeling taking down Riverrun is not going to be nearly the cakewalk both Cersei and Jaime seem to think it will be. I expect much better of Brynden Tully than that.
And that’s what I got for now, peoples! Have a week, and try the Medley special!!
(Don’t try the Medley special)