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 7 of A Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 11 (“Daenerys”).
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 11: Daenerys
Dany is woken in the night to hear that nine more of her Unsullied have been murdered by the Sons of the Harpy, one of them Missandei’s brother, Mossador. The only culprit they managed to capture was the wineseller in whose shop two Unsullied had been poisoned, and who claimed to have no knowledge of the plot. Angered, Dany instructs Skahaz the Shavepate to question him and his family “sharply.” She also commands Skahaz to pull the Unsullied out of the streets and hire a new watch from the freedmen, using a “blood tax” from the pyramids to fund it. She says the inhabitants of the pyramids may leave, but with only the clothes on their backs, and that each pyramid must contribute two children to serve her court as pages.
She comforts Missandei over the loss of her brother, and offers again to send her back to her homeland, but Missandei only wants to stay with Dany. She goes out to her terrace and thinks longingly of Daario Naharis, but is glad she sent him away, telling herself he is not “the stuff of kings.” As she bathes in the pool, Quaithe appears to her, though she tells Dany she is not actually there.
“Hear me, Daenerys Targaryen. The glass candles are burning. Soon comes the pale mare, and after her the others. Kraken and dark flame, lion and griffin, the sun’s son and the mummer’s dragon. Trust none of them. Remember the Undying. Beware the perfumed seneschal.”
“Reznak? Why should I fear him?” Dany rose from the pool. Water trickled down her legs, and gooseflesh covered her arms in the cool night air. “If you have some warning for me, speak plainly. What do you want of me, Quaithe?”
Moonlight shone in the woman’s eyes. “To show you the way.”
“I remember the way. I go north to go south, east to go west, back to go forward. And to touch the light I have to pass beneath the shadow.” She squeezed the water from her silvery hair. “I am half-sick of riddling. In Qarth I was a beggar, but here I am a queen. I command you—”
“Daenerys. Remember the Undying. Remember who you are.”
“The blood of the dragon.” But my dragons are roaring in the darkness. “I remember the Undying. Child of three, they called me. Three mounts they promised me, three fires, and three treasons. One for blood and one for gold and one for …”
Missandei interrupts, and Quaithe is gone; Missandei did not see her. Dany wonders if she is going mad. She looks at Reznak suspiciously at the morning audience, but reminds herself that prophecies are treacherous, and does nothing. She makes a ruling on allowing freedmen into the stoneworkers’ guilds, and then Hizdahr zo Loraq comes to her again on the subject of reopening the fighter pits. She is prepared to deny him yet again, but then he brings her former slaves and fighters in the pits, who have the same request. She asks them why. Goghor the Giant says if he is free now, he should be free to fight as well, and Khrazz tells her Hizdahr has promised the winners half the admission fees. Conflicted, Dany tells them she will consider the request.
She retires to her chambers, and bids Ser Barristan to tell her the story of how he came to her. Barristan is reluctant, but tells her of his defiance of Joffrey, and how he came to realize that his predicament was owed to his support of Robert, whom he termed “a good knight but a bad king,” and decided that the only way to redeem his honor was to seek out Viserys and help put him back on the throne. He tells how he escaped the Watch and hid himself among the refugees, and saw Eddard Stark’s execution. Dany opines that Stark was a traitor who deserved his fate, but Barristan tells her that Stark spoke against killing her when the court learned she was pregnant, and that the murders of Rhaenys and Aegon were Lannister work. Dany says all the Usurpers’ dogs were equally guilty of what happened, and then remembers Hazzea, the child her dragon killed.
She goes down to the dungeon under the pyramid, where she has imprisoned two of her dragons, Rhaegal and Viserion; her men have been unable to catch Drogon, and he flew away after the last attempt. She is agonized about her decision to pen them, asking herself what kind of mother “lets her children rot in darkness,” and berating herself for not seeing it coming. She tries to convince herself that Hazzea’s death was a trick to frame her dragons, but cannot bring herself to believe it. She worries that the dragons will soon grow large and strong enough to escape.
Mother of dragons, Daenerys thought. Mother of monsters. What have I unleashed upon the world? A queen I am, but my throne is made of burned bones, and it rests on quicksand. Without dragons, how could she hope to hold Meereen , much less win back Westeros? I am the blood of the dragon, she thought. If they are monsters, so am I.
Nothing like a good couple of impossible dilemmas to brighten up your day, I always say.
I was actually quite shocked that Dany actually made the decision to try and lock up the dragons. It was so… ethical of her.
Okay, so I said that in jest, but really I think it was startling because it seemed almost like a reversal. Because, all of Dany’s dilemmas lately (or ever) have been these horrible ethical quandaries, nearly of all of which, at base, involve her having to make a choice between morality and power, and this feels like the first one where she actually erred more on the side of morality than power.
If this is truly what my people wish, do I have the right to deny it to them? It was their city before it was mine, and it is their own lives they wish to squander.
See, ‘cause, the fighting pits thing, that is definitely an example of leaning more toward power—or control, more accurately, but it comes to the same thing—as soon as she perceives her moral stance against the pits to be weakened in this chapter. You’ll note how quick she jumped on that—though she did at least note that Hizdahr only brought her the consistent champions of the fights to support his case. (Of course, assuming every fight is to the death, he couldn’t have brought her any of the losers even if he’d wanted to, so there’s that, but still.)
On the surface of it, presenting that there are those who want to fight to the death for the amusement of others, for the possibility of fame and wealth, gives the enterprise a veneer of acceptability, but beneath that it is still completely morally reprehensible. Because what you’ll end up with are the seasoned meatheads like Hizdahr’s bunch fighting against poor doomed fools who feel that they have no other choice but to take the gamble. There are always going to be those desperate enough to take whatever avenue is offered them, yes, but the idea of having that desperation sanctioned by the state and sold as entertainment is… gross.
So from my luxurious and wonderful position of not having to rule over these assholes, I don’t think the fact that there are gladiators who want to be gladiators changes anything about how unacceptable gladi…ating (?) still is. But I can certainly see how even the veneer of non-horribleness it gives would be tempting to Dany, especially when piled on top of all the practical advantages it would give her.
But coming back to the dragons, that might be an even worse quandary than the gladiator thing. The difference is that this one at least might have a solution: training. I mean, if Dany can figure out how to train her dragons from killing people except at her express command, then this particular ethical predicament is moot. (There are still others, of course, but this one would be fixed.) Then again, since none of Dany’s dragons are named Toothless and there are no Vikings with bafflingly Scottish accents around (seriously, I love those movies but WTF with the accents), there’s also a fair chance that training wouldn’t work.
Yeah. It’s probably a little naïve of me to suppose Martin’s dragons are the tameable kind, isn’t it. I might as well suppose that they’re secretly made of puppies and hugs and rainbow glitter while I’m at it.
So, it turns out that the problem with having giant insatiable unstoppable killing machines on your side is that they are giant insatiable unstoppable killing machines. Who’d’ve thunk it.
Sigh. Well, whatever the actual correct answer is to this dilemma (assuming there even is one), I suspect the whole thing’s going to end up a moot point the first time there’s a crisis big enough to require the application of a handy giant insatiable unstoppable killing machine. I don’t particularly like that I keep having to bet on power over morality in this series, but it’s definitely where the odds lay.
Anyway, on to Quaithe, who needs to be socked right in her lacquered mouth for being that infuriating character who shows up and PORTENTS at everyone without explaining a damn thing about anything, and now I have to go and make myself look like a damn fool by guessing at what her stupid crypticness is talking about. Yay.
(“To show you the way”, my ass. You want to show someone a way, you give them a MAP, not your damn Spirograph doodles from the last time you got high, Quaithe. Sheesh.)
Ugh, okay, guessing. “Pale mare” is… um? I know of no females heading Dany’s way… unless it’s not a person. “Pale horse” usually refers to Death’s mount from Revelations, which is… ominous, to say the least. I also associate the image with plague, but I think that might be because I’ve mixed up my Apocalyptic Horsepersons in my brain. As you do.
So, okay, maybe lots of death coming her way, like that’s new or something, and then: THE SUITORS. Well, they might not all be suitors, technically, but referring to the whole gaggle as THE SUITORS makes me giggle so I’m sticking with it. And they are, apparently, “Kraken and dark flame, lion and griffin, the sun’s son and the mummer’s dragon.”
Well, a couple of these are obvious. The kraken is Victarion, duh, and I’m tempted to guess that the “dark flame” is “his massive assload of completely unjustified manpain” just to be snarky, but in reality I’m supposing that that probably refers to the Grand Maester dude Sam met at the end of AFFC whose name I am blanking on right now. The lion is also obviously Tyrion, and “griffin” is…
Oh, for fuck’s sake. SERIOUSLY?
Griffin? As in, Griff? GRIFF?
That better not be true. GEORGE R.R. MARTIN YOU ARE FIRED IF THAT IS TRUE.
Griffin. Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Excuse me, I’m going to angrily go get a drink now. ANGRILY.
Ugh, I’m back, and pretending I never thought of that. Moving on.
“Sun’s son” is Quentyn, I’m pretty sure, and “mummer’s dragon” is… erm.
I… actually have no idea what that is referring to. I guess it could be one of Quentyn’s companions, but that doesn’t feel right. Maybe there’s a suitor out there I’ve forgotten about? Probably.
As for the “perfumed seneschal,” I’m betting this isn’t Reznak simply because that would be too obvious. (I did laugh that Dany sniffed him the next day, though.) I’m not sure who it would be referring to, though. The first person that leapt to my mind was Varys, but the title doesn’t quite fit a spymaster. Possibly it’s someone we haven’t met yet.
There’s probably more hints in Quaithe’s words of things and stuff, but I am already irritated by CERTAIN NAME IMPLICATIONS and am done. (No, really, it’s positively hilarious how well this is calibrated to irrationally piss me off. I have even written totally unrelated rants in the past about hating when people spell it “griffin” instead of “gryphon”! I am not even kidding you. Holy hell.)
As for Barristan, I don’t have much to say about him, except to be very amused that he’s all “Yes, this is an extremely boring and unheroic story of how I stood up to a psychotic boy king everyone else was terrified of, beat up the entire City Watch with my bare hands, and traveled half the world disguised as a beggar. What, doesn’t everyone do it that way?”
Well, no, Barry my man, they don’t. Bless.
And I’m spent. Next week: MOAR. See you then!