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 3 of “The Mystery Knight: A Tale of the Seven Kingdoms”, which originally appeared in the anthology Warriors, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.
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!
[Note: This part covers page 46 to the end, or in the trade paperback edition, from page 713 to the end. Sorry if that doesn’t match your particular edition.]
The Mystery Knight: Part 3
John the Fiddler jousts with Ser Galtry the Green and wins. Ser Uthor is called to match against Ser Tommard Heddle, who is not who he bribed Cosgrove for, and Dunk realizes the switch-up was to ensure that Uthor does not fight John. Lord Peake interrupts the tourney to declare that the dragon’s egg has been stolen, and to accuse Ser Glendon Ball of the theft. Glendon is taken down immediately despite his protests of innocence, and Lord Alyn Cockshaw advises Dunk to stay out of it if he wants his squire back. Dunk demands to know where Egg is, and Alyn draws him away at knifepoint to a well, where he intends to throw Dunk into it to drown.
Alyn reveals that he was the one who paid Uthor to take Dunk out of the tourney, incensed at John’s infatuation with Dunk. Alyn insists that he will command John’s Kingsguard, not Dunk, but calls John “Daemon,” and Dunk realizes that John is Daemon the Second, son of Daemon Blackfyre. Alyn tries to push Dunk in the well, wounding Dunk’s arm, but Dunk smashes him in the face with a brick and dumps him in instead. Ser Maynard Plumm appears and takes Dunk to tend his wound, leaving Alyn to drown, as he comments that Alyn would only be executed later.
Plumm tells him that Egg is “with the gods,” and Dunk is distraught at the idea that Egg is dead. He presumes that Egg tried to use his boot, and Plumm surmises that Lord Butterwell no doubt “pissed his breeches” when he saw it, thinking that Bloodraven knows about his conspiracy. Plumm confides that Bloodraven in fact knows “quite a lot.” He says he has been watching Dunk, but refuses to reveal more about himself. Dunk says that Glendon could not have stolen the egg, and Plumm agrees, but tells Dunk they will find it in his saddlebags anyway. Dunk threatens to break Plumm’s neck unless he tells where Egg is, and Plumm tells him that Egg is in the sept.
Dunk goes and takes back his sword and shield from Ser Uthor’s tent, illegally, and goes to the sept. He finds Butterwell praying in panic, and Egg unharmed. Butterwell insists that the conspiracy was all Peake and Tom Heddle’s doing, and that Butterwell did not have enough loyal men to fight them. He says he had doubts about it all from the beginning, especially because the pretender does not possess Blackfyre’s sword, but could do nothing to stop it. He mourns the theft of his egg, and Dunk wonders if perhaps it actually has hatched.
Dunk draws Egg aside and tells him off for breaking his cover, though he realizes that Egg did it to try to protect Dunk’s knighthood. Egg is contrite, but is also impressed that acting frightening (and lying that an army is on its way) worked to cow Butterwell and Lord Frey, the latter of whom fled the keep thereafter. They are interrupted by the arrival of Tom Heddle, who declares his intent to take Egg hostage. Butterwell orders him to stand down, but Heddle calls him a coward and attacks. Dunk duels with him, and his wound nearly costs him the battle, but rallies and takes Heddle down with sheer strength, killing him.
Two of Heddle’s men flee, and Butterwell says they’ll need to get out of Whitewalls before the men report to Peake. Dunk tells Egg to go with Butterwell, but privately instructs Egg to break off from the fickle lord as soon as he can and go to Maidenpool. Egg asks what about Dunk, but Dunk avoids the question. He goes to the great hall, and learns from Ser Kyle that Ser Glendon is in the dungeons. Then he calls Daemon by name, in front of the rest of the hall, and demands justice for Ser Glendon. Peake tries to shut him up, but Dunk tells Daemon that Peake planted the egg on Glendon, which was probably a fake, in order to keep Glendon from jousting with Daemon, since unlike the other contenders Glendon was not for sale to throw the match. Peake tries to have Dunk arrested, but Daemon stops him, and declares that instead they will determine his innocence in combat with Daemon.
Glendon has been severely tortured, but insists he can still go to the lists. He comments bitterly that he would have been Daemon’s man, have fought and died for him, but “I could not lose for him.” He is pleased to hear that Dunk killed Black Tom Heddle, who was his principal tormentor. At dawn, Dunk squires for Glendon, and gives him a tourney lance instead of a war lance even though Daemon will be using a war lance; Dunk tells him the longer reach of the tourney lance will protect him if his aim is true.
Daemon is now in full House Blackfyre panoply. He charges Glendon, and Glendon wins the joust in one pass, tossing Daemon into the mud. Someone calls him “the Brown Dragon,” and everyone laughs. Then trumpets blow, and Dunk realizes to his astonishment that Egg had not been lying: there really was an army on its way there.
The large host proves to be led by Bloodraven himself. Daemon tries to rally an opposition, but no one listens to him, and so he tries to challenge Bloodraven to single combat, only to be clapped in irons. The rest of the castle surrenders sullenly. Some time later, Ser Roland Crakehall of the Kingsguard finds Dunk among the prisoners and tells him Lord Rivers has been asking for him “for hours.” Dunk follows him, and snorts at the memory of Daemon claiming that Dunk would wear the white cloak himself. He sees the severed heads of Peake and Heddle adorning the entrance to Bloodraven’s pavilion. Inside he finds Lord Brynden Rivers aka Bloodraven, Lord Frey, Lord Butterwell, and Egg, garbed as a prince. Lord Rivers tells Butterwell that his castle will be razed to the ground, to prevent it being used as a shrine to the Black Dragon, but Butterwell will keep his life and wife. He kicks Butterwell out.
Bloodraven demands to know of Dunk how he came to bring his cousin to this “nest of adders,” and Dunk confesses that he and Egg more or less blundered into it. Egg insists, though, that he and Dunk “had matters well in hand” before Bloodraven showed up, and also demands that Ser Glendon be released and rewarded for his part in taking down the pretender. Bloodraven comments to Dunk that his squire is insolent, and Dunk agrees, but points out he is a prince, though.
“What he is,” said Bloodraven, “is a dragon. Rise, ser.”
“There have always been Targaryens who dreamed of things to come, since long before the Conquest,” Bloodraven said, “so we should not be surprised if from time to time a Blackfyre displays the gift as well. Daemon dreamed that a dragon would be born at Whitewalls, and it was. The fool just got the color wrong.”
Bloodraven wants to send Egg to King’s Landing, or to his father at Summerhall, but Egg tells him his place is with Ser Duncan, and also demands gold for Dunk to pay his equipment’s ransom. Bloodraven laughs at Egg’s boldness, and agrees, though Dunk insists he will pay it back. Dunk asks whether Daemon will be executed, but Bloodraven says Daemon alive and a hostage is a far better obstacle to his father’s schemes than him dead and a martyr. Egg has a question as well.
“Who took the dragon’s egg? There were guards at the door, and more guards on the steps, no way anyone could have gotten into Lord Butterwell’s bedchamber unobserved.”
Lord Rivers smiled. “Were I to guess, I’d say someone climbed up inside the privy shaft.”
“The privy shaft was too small to climb.”
“For a man. A child could do it.”
“Or a dwarf,” Dunk blurted. A thousand eyes, and one. Why shouldn’t some of them belong to a troupe of comic dwarfs?
A DWARF CLIMBING UP INTO A PRIVY WHERE HAVE I HEARD THAT ONE BEFORE WAIT DON’T TELL ME
So, hahahaha, definitely, but even with the in-joke I sort of blinked at this ending, which was a little… abrupt. I don’t know, I just feel like there should have been a couple more lines there, or something. Odd.
Actually I have to honestly say that this whole ending played a little odd to me. Bloodraven’s arrival came across as very deus ex machina, which is weird because as Egg himself points out, it technically wasn’t that at all, since Peake et al had been pretty well stymied even before he showed up, and yet still there was a sense of anticlimax there. I mean, I suspect that was probably the point, at least to some extent (Daemon 2.0’s rebellion going out with a whimper instead of a bang, y’see), but, well.
I think my frowniness at the ending is also fueled by the whole thing with Egg. Because, yes, it was clever that the “dragon” Daemon saw hatching at Whitehalls was actually Egg becoming princely and Targaryen-y and all, but I sort of feel like that was a payoff that hadn’t actually been paid for, narratively. Obviously Martin was a little hamstrung here, in that these stories have always been from Dunk’s point of view, and Dunk wasn’t actually there when Egg discovered he had a spine re: cowing Lords Butterwell and Frey (which was presumably the “hatching” we’re talking about here), but not actually seeing that scene inevitably lessened the import of what Egg had done, at least for me. Not to mention that the “feat” of cowing Lord Butterwell is, er, not exactly an impressive one, considering that the guy’s apparently a rank coward.
But, maybe I’m being too harsh here. Egg’s still really young at this point, and I’ll concede that even standing up to cowards can be daunting if those cowards still have power over you (perceived or actual). Small steps leading to bigger, perhaps. So, maybe I’m being unreasonable, but that’s how it struck me, and thus I say it to you, because that is how I roll.
In other news, wowwww how did I not twig to the fact that John was Daemon 2.0 instead of (as I originally assumed) a random Targaryen bastard? It seems so obvious in retrospect, especially given how everyone kept bringing up Daemon the Elder every other second, but I completely missed it. Ah well.
Also, he turned out to be something of a sad sack by the end, didn’t he? I could never quite determine from the earlier parts of the story whether as a reader I was supposed to be rooting for John or not (though the ridiculous clothes should have been more of a clue, I guess), but the confirmation that his opponents were all being bribed and/or threatened into throwing the matches pretty much confirmed that he was not the hero here.
Although, that might not be entirely fair of me either, sort of; it seems clear that John/Daemon wasn’t actively aware that the whole thing was being staged, and once he found out he actually did do the right thing. For very Westeros values of “doing the right thing,” of course, in which attempting to knock a guy off his horse with a pointy stick is a totally legit stand-in for actual justice, but still. Credit where it’s due, I suppose. Pity it turned out that he really needed all that bribery to hold his own. Or, you know, Glendon was just that good, whichever.
And hey, Glendon survived! Maimed and tortured, naturally, because what else could we possibly expect, but by general ASOIAF standards he got off super easy. So congrats, there, Glen. Try not to ruin it by finding another rebellion to join, eh?
And it was Alyn who put the hit out on Dunk, not Peake, huh. Jealousy’s a bitch, man. Also, am I wrong in assuming from what Alyn said to Dunk that he is actually John/Daemon’s brother, or were they just bros? Alyn implied they both got tormented by Daemon 1.0’s elder twin sons (who were named Aemon and Aegon, naturally, because GODDAMMIT TARGARYENS), which suggested to me that they were all siblings, but maybe I read that wrong.
Also, I guess Bloodraven’s a fairly decent guy, isn’t he. I really think that in that case, he should strongly consider going down to the DMV and getting his name changed on his I.D., because dude, really gives the wrong impression. Then again, just because he was nice to Egg (who is Royal And Important And Stuff) doesn’t mean he’s nice in general. So there’s that.
(Actually I don’t think I’ve met a single character in ASOIAF who could genuinely be described as “nice.” “Nice” is really not so much a thing in this world, and hang on a sec while I guffaw at my own understatement there, because HAH.)
I wonder what ended up happening to the egg. I’m actually unclear, at the moment, on whether any of the dragon’s eggs the Targaryens had on them at this point survive past Robert’s coup. I can’t remember whether we’re told that Dany’s eggs are actually the last ones in the world… no, wait, Euron claimed he had one before his crazy made him dump it in the ocean, so Dany’s are probably not the only ones anywhere, but I wonder if there are any left in Westeros proper.
Mad Danelle Lothston herself rode forth in strength from her haunted towers at Harrenhal, clad in black armor that fit her like an iron glove, her long red hair streaming.
Okay, this lady got all of one sentence in this story and is probably never going to appear anywhere again, but I say that is a crying shame, because this one sentence made me wildly curious to know what her story is. I mean, I know it’s unlikely to be a very happy one, considering she’s from Harrenhal, but even so. Maybe it’s because she was the only remotely interesting female character to show up in this entire story. (And she got one sentence. Sigh.)
But in conclusion, my reservations about the ending aside, good story. It’s worth reiterating that I do really enjoy Dunk and Egg’s relationship, and their thinly-veiled genuine affection for and loyalty to each other. It’s no surprise that Dunk ends up being Kingsguard for Egg at some future point, because Egg would be a damn fool to let someone that trustworthy get away. I hope we get to see them again. (I know I’ve got this princess short story coming up but I’m not sure it’s actually a Dunk and Egg story. And no, don’t tell me; I’ll get to it when I get to it.)
And that’s our show, gentlebeings! Next week the status of the Read is a bit up in the air; depending on how other scheduling issues fall out, I may take a bye week before jumping into the no-doubt monstrosity of A Dance With Dragons, but I ain’t assured yet on that. Watch the comments here to find out. And in the meantime, a merry Samhain to alla y’all, and see you soon!