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 A Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 4 (“Bran”) and Chapter 5 (“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!
Before we begin, scheduling note: The holidays doth approacheth, and thus so does a hiatus in the bloggination! Especially since both Christmas Day and New Year’s fall on a Thursday this year, because duh. Therefore, there will be no ROIAF posts on December 25th or January 1st, and the blog will resume January 8th. Whoo! Yeah! Whoo!
Chapter 4: Bran
Bran, Summer, Hodor, Jojen and Meera travel with the mysterious Coldhands through miserable, bitter cold, accompanied by dozens of ravens, whom Bran thinks are Coldhands’ eyes and ears. Summer does not like the way Coldhands smells, of cold, dead meat. Coldhands tells them there are men behind them, foes, and leaves them to travel on to a village on the side of a lake ahead while he deals with them. Meera declares that she does not trust Coldhands, and believes they are traveling in circles. She points out that Coldhands never eats or drinks, or seems to feel the cold, and Bran adds that the scarf over his mouth never frosts with his breath. Bran remembers the stories Old Nan told him about the monsters that lived beyond the Wall, but reminds Meera that Coldhands is taking them to the three-eyed crow. Meera wants to know why this three-eyed crow couldn’t come meet them at the Wall, but Jojen insists that they go on.
They cannot find the village at first, and are in danger of freezing to death, until Bran wargs with Summer to find the place and guides them to it. He sends the wolf off to hunt, and he and Meera try to convince Jojen to eat, worrying about his frailty, but Jojen assures them that this is not his day to die. Bran escapes into Summer to get away from his cold and hunger. Summer encounters a pack of three wolves feasting on the corpses of men, and Bran realizes the corpses are Night Watch. Summer fights the one-eyed leader, forcing him to submit and taking over the pack before eating his fill of the dead men.
Bran comes back to himself to find that Coldhands has returned with food and lit a fire, but does not eat himself, and stays back from the flames. Bran says he saw the Night Watch men and how their eyes had been torn out as by ravens, and demands to know who and what Coldhands really is. Coldhands confesses that he is a dead thing. Meera asks who the three-eyed crow is, and Coldhands answers that he is a friend, and “the last greenseer.” Bran calls him a monster, and Coldhands replies that he is Bran’s monster.
“Yours,” the raven echoed, from his shoulder. Outside the door, the ravens in the trees took up the cry, until the night wood echoed to the murderer’s song of “Yours, yours, yours.”
“Jojen, did you dream this?” Meera asked her brother. “Who is he? What is he? What do we do now?”
“We go with the ranger,” said Jojen. “We have come too far to turn back now, Meera. We would never make it back to the Wall alive. We go with Bran’s monster, or we die.”
…Well okay then.
I just hate it when people give you things, but don’t tell you they gave you things, you know? So rude. Though I feel I should issue a general warning that I will totally break my policy on regifting if someone decides to give me a frozen zombie. Even a strangely articulate and non-omnihomicidal frozen zombie, because WTF, over.
Yeah, I have no idea what is even happening here at this point. Except that three-eyed crow dude is apparently actually a dude as opposed to a mutant crow, which, sure, why not, and Coldhands thinks TEC dude is the last greenseer, which seems odd considering Jojen is sitting right there. Isn’t he a greenseer? Or am I remembering it wrong, and that’s a thing you have to be a forest kid to be?
Maybe Jojen is just a step down from greenseer, like his dreams aren’t quite green enough to qualify. Maybe his dreams are more of a chartreuse, which is a word I am totally incapable of saying without snickering for some reason.
ANYway, so if TEC guy is the last greenseer, does that mean he’s also the last of the children of the forest, or were the greenseers like a priest caste or specialized group within the kids and maybe there are more out there, but just none with green-tinted vision?
I suppose I’ll find out. MAYBE.
But getting back to Coldhands, seriously, what the hell. Can you rehabilitate frozen zombies? Or fine, wights, since he was apparently a Night Watch guy before he died? Is this going to be In the Flesh, ASOIAF edition? I am confused, yet intrigued.
And then there was all the warging!
Other times, when he was tired of being a wolf, Bran slipped into Hodor’s skin instead. The gentle giant would whimper when he felt him, and thrash his shaggy head from side to side, but not as violently as he had the first time, back at Queenscrown. He knows it’s me, the boy liked to tell himself. He’s used to me by now. Even so, he never felt comfortable inside Hodor’s skin. The big stableboy never understood what was happening, and Bran could taste the fear at the back of his mouth. It was better inside Summer. I am him, and he is me. He feels what I feel.
Eeek. No, Bran! Bad warg! I need you to Google “informed consent” and “bodily autonomy,” like, toot sweet, honey, because No.
Ugh. This is not going to go to good places. Even if I didn’t think warging Hodor was wrong (which I do), the fact that other wargs agree with me is going to be super non-good if Bran gets caught doing it. Or when he gets caught doing it, really, because let’s go ahead and acknowledge the 900-pound Chekhov’s Gun in the room already.
And then there’s this:
But the one-eyed wolf answered with a growl and moved to block his advance. Head. And he does not fear me though I am twice his size.
Their eyes met.
Oh, wow, that was totally Varamyr, wasn’t it. Or what’s left of him, since according to warg-lore he should be fading away by now. I guess he got away from Undead Whatshername from the Prologue. Shame.
And Summer/Bran totally pwned him, hahahaha. Awesome.
…Awesome, but vaguely worrying too, since if Varamyr hasn’t completely faded out yet, and if Summer insists on keeping his new pack around, he could cause problems. I’m not sure exactly what kind of problems, but if there’s anything I feel certain about in this series, it’s that there will be Problems.
So I’ll kind of tiredly hope that Summer listens to Bran and kicks his new pack to the curb. Stark wolves before ex-warg wolves, yo! Keep the brand loyalty alive!
By day only half a dozen ravens stayed with them, flitting from tree to tree or riding on the antlers of the elk. The rest of the murder flew ahead or lingered behind.
Um, excuse me, Mr. Martin, but I believe it is a murder of crows, not ravens. A group of ravens is “an unkindness.” Now look what you did! Whole series, ruined*!
(*series not actually ruined)
Chapter 5: Tyrion
Tyrion travels in luxury and supposed secrecy with Illyrio from his estate in Pentos to the river Rhoyne, where Tyrion will leave Illyrio and travel to Volantis. Illyrio tells Tyrion of Daenerys’s progress among the Free Cities, and is sure that she is on her way to Volantis after her recent sack of Meereen. He says he would like to welcome the Queen there himself, but that he shall have to rely on Tyrion and “Griff” to do it for him. He assures Tyrion that Daenerys is a true Targaryen, nothing like her brother Viserys, but Tyrion reflects that Viserys was in his own way as much “a true Targaryen” as Illyrio claims his sister to be.
Tyrion is highly suspicious of Illyrio’s motives in supporting Daenerys, and even more so of his claim that he owes a debt to Varys from their youthful life of crime together in Pentos before Varys was recruited to be Aerys’s spymaster in Westeros, but pretends full cooperation to Illyrio. Tyrion thinks of his own childhood fascination with dragons. Illyrio calls Tyrion “a clever imp,” and says Daenerys will need clever men about her to conquer the Seven Kingdoms. Tyrion asks about this “Griff” person, and Illyrio says he is a Westerosi-born sellsword, but completely trustworthy.
He says the Golden Company shall meet Tyrion in Volantis. Tyrion thinks of the Company’s history, founded a century ago by Bittersteel, a bastard son of Aegon the Unworthy, after Daemon Blackfyre’s rebellion had failed and his followers had been exiled to the Disputed Lands. Illyrio says Daenerys will be able to give them what Bittersteel never could: a way home. Tyrion wonders what Barristan will think of fighting alongside the Golden Company, whom he had fought against in the War of the Ninepenny Kings.
They ride through Andalos, from whence the ancestors of the Westerosi came, and Tyrion quotes some of the scripture that claims the Seven themselves once walked that land. Illyrio tells Tyrion of his love for a woman named Serra and her death by plague, and Tyrion wonders why the gods would make things like plagues and dwarves. Tyrion dreams of fighting a battle in which he has two heads, and kills Tywin again and then Jaime, and one head laughs while the other weeps. He remembers murdering Shae, and thinks of Tysha as well.
Tyrion closed his eyes to bring her face to mind, but instead he saw his father, squatting on a privy with his bedrobe hiked up about his waist. “Wherever whores go,” Lord Tywin said, and the crossbow thrummed.
The dwarf rolled over, pressing half a nose deep into the silken pillows. Sleep opened beneath him like a well, and he threw himself into it with a will and let the darkness eat him up.
Well, at least he wasn’t drunk the entire chapter this time. Yay, progress! Sort of!
But, you know. Reasons for massive depression and shitty coping mechanisms all still completely legit. And, at least they doesn’t seem to be getting in the way of all the very right and necessary paranoia he has about this entire venture. If nothing else, it proves that Tyrion’s instinct to survive has, well, survived, and I am a fan of survival of survival instincts when it comes to Tyrion. Or something like that, except less grammatically heinous. You know.
Entirely justified paranoia notwithstanding, though, for whatever reason I tend to think that Illyrio is actually on the up-and-up here. Mostly, anyway. But then, I have the advantage of knowing just how long Illyrio and Varys have really been Best Conspiracy Buddies, whereas for all Tyrion knows they met last week and are making the rest of it up.
Also, the fact that Illyrio is wrong, wrong, wrong about what Dany’s actually doing at the moment is bizarrely reassuring to me that he is genuinely in her corner. No, I don’t think that makes any sense either, it just is what it is.
What I am highly suspicious of is this “Griff” person, whose name I am not sure I am ever going to be able to type without putting scare quotes around it. Because: “Griff.” Seriously? “Griff”?
No, uh-uh. I am calling fake name shenanigans on “Griff” sight unseen, with no justification other than that I refuse to accept it as a real name. I think I am going to be straight-up offended if it turns out “Griff” is actually this dude’s name. I might even stomp my foot, y’all, I’m not even kidding.
Maybe he is… um, the guy. Whatshisguts. Arianne Martell’s brother that she was so suspicious of, and who Doran told her was off to go do… something about Dany in AFFC. That guy. You know who I mean. Though I was under the impression that Arianne’s brother was already with Dany, but given that I can’t even remember the dude’s name I’m taking that impression with a large grain of salt.
Ugh, fine, I’ll go look it up. Quentyn! That’s his name. Let’s hope it’s actually him, because “Quentyn” is about eleventy million times a better name than “Griff.”
I am unclear, from what Illyrio said to Tyrion, whether “Griff” is actually the leader of the Golden Company, or if he is a completely unaffiliated mercenary who will also be meeting Tyrion in Volantis just because Illyrio thinks he’s awesome. I think it’s the former, but the way it was phrased in the chapter confused me for some reason. But since I’m sure this issue will be cleared up the moment we actually meet “Griff,” I’m not terribly worried about it.
Speaking of the Golden Company, nice little bit of continuity there from the Dunk & Egg stories. I don’t think it will be necessary to be familiar with the background there, but it certainly added a nice bit of color.
In any case, whether Illyrio is legit or not, he’s absolutely right about one thing, which is that Dany could desperately use a Tyrion in her court right about now. Continuing to cross my fingers that this meeting will (a) happen and (b) not suck. No mocking my foolish hopes! Stranger things have occurred!
Tyrion’s dream: not symbolic at ALL. Nope, no sirree, no subtext here, move along. Yep.
“Come, drink with me,” the fat man said. “A scale from the dragon that burned you, as they say.”
Heh. What, dogs don’t bite in ASOIAF?
“One hears talk of stone men as well.”
“They are real enough, poor damned things. But why speak of such things?”
Eh? Is this a “Starks are wolves and Lannisters are lions” thing, or are there actual people made of actual stone lurking about? As usual, I suppose I’ll find out!
And that’s our show! Have a week, and I’ll see you when we circle back around!