A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Dance with Dragons, Part 14

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 14 of A Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 23 (“Daenerys”) and Chapter 24 (“The Lost Lord”).

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 23: Daenerys

What Happens
Galazza Galare comes to meet with Dany. They discuss how Qarth, New Ghis, and Tolos have moved to blockade the river as well as the bay, and Mantarys murdered her envoys in answer to her request for alliance. Astapor is in civil war. Galazza points out there is strife within Meereen as well, and observes that Dany has not killed any of her hostages in retaliation against the Sons of the Harpy. Dany answers that she is no butcher queen. Galazza urges Dany to marry Hizdahr zo Loraq, claiming his pure Ghiscari blood will offset Dany’s outsider status. Dany is worried about the Shavepate’s reaction, but agrees to consider the idea.

She meets with Hizdahr, who promises to bring an end to the violence in Meereen if he marries her, and urges her to make peace with Yunkai’i by allowing them to resume their slave trade. Dany commands him to kiss her, and feels nothing. She tells him she will give him a quest: if he gives her ninety days of peace in Meereen, she will marry him. Hizdahr laughs and agrees. He leaves, and Barristan immediately registers his objection to the idea, and again urges her to abandon Meereen for Westeros. Dany puts him off for now. Barristan mentions that Daario Naharis has returned, and Dany, all aflutter, sends for him at once.

Daario swaggers in and calls her cruel for making him wait to see her. He says he secured promise of trade with the Lamb Men, but Dany tells him most of their trade routes are now blocked. Daario shrugs and suggests using her dragons, and Dany thinks of how Drogon is still missing, while Viserion and Rhaegal grow more savage daily. He makes a blatant pass at her; flustered, Dany tells him about the proposal to marry her to Hizdahr if he achieves peace in ninety days. Daario says he could do it in nine, and Dany is appalled by the underhanded and vicious methods he suggests to do it. She asks if he means her to be like the Butcher King, and Daario replies “better the butcher than the meat.” Dany says she is different, and Daario says most queens have no purpose but to “warm beds and pop out sons,” and if that’s the kind of queen she means to be, best to marry Hizdahr. Furious, Dany kicks him out, and sends for Barristan, whom she tells to send Daario and his Stormcrows out of the city to guard the Khyzai Pass. But that night, she cannot sleep.

What have I done? she thought, huddled in her empty bed. I have waited so long for him to come back, and I send him away. “He would make a monster of me,” she whispered, “a butcher queen.” But then she thought of Drogon far away, and the dragons in the pit. There is blood on my hands too, and on my heart. We are not so different, Daario and I. We are both monsters.

Commentary
Ooooohkay, but.

I think there is a difference between finding out your dragons have been killing people and then doing something to stop them, and Daario’s idea to basically reenact the end of The Godfather on a municipal scale and then laugh about it.

So no, your hands are dirty too, but there is still a difference between, say, a kitchen garbage can and a landfill.

And just to be clear, Daario is the landfill in this scenario. A big, giant, smelly pile o’ trash that won’t go away unless you smash it up. Landfill. Yep.

Because, Dany. Girl. GIRL. What are you doing, no. NO. I’mma have to ask you to step away from the giant douchebag now, please, because no.

Seriously, I do not get this infatuation at all. Yes, different strokes for different folks and all that, and God knows I know people whose relationship choices utterly confound me, so I suppose that just because I personally would rather have a dog fart in my face than even be in the same room as Mr. Daaaaaaaario, let alone get jiggy with him, does not mean Dany’s attraction to him makes zero sense to everybody, but wowwww I really don’t get it.

He’s so… he’s just such a… such a tool. Just, ew. Bleck.

I guess I’ll have to assume that this is Martin’s version of “good girls want bad boys”, but lemme tell ya, I find it just as insulting and hackneyed in a fantastic medieval-ish setting as I do anywhere else. Ugh.

Not that marrying Hizdahr is so much more fabulous a choice, but he does sort of have a point that royal marriages based on mild fondness and/or apathy are way safer than ones based on passion (either the positive or negative variety). That said, I note that Hizdahr failed to mention just how he intends to obtain this ninety days’ peace he’s been challenged to provide, and I have a horrible suspicion that his solution to the problem may well turn out to be worse than what Daario wanted to do.

Great.

So much fun, so little time.

Once again, there’s the temptation to agree with Barristan that not leaving Meereen is stupid. Well, but, no one ever said the right thing isn’t also the stupid thing. In fact I think those two qualities go together way more often than they should. Sigh.

Galazza Galare: Still one of the most awesome names ever.

When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east, when the seas go dry and mountains blow in the wind like leaves. Only then would her womb quicken once again…

See, the unsavvy reader would assume that means Dany will never be fertile again, but the savvy reader knows that either doesn’t mean what it seems to mean, or nature is aiming to get seriously fucked up at some future point. But since I’m not really sure how you’re going to sell the idea that the ecosystem could survive the planet actually spinning backwards, I’m betting on the former option for now.

Hizdahr looked thoughtful. “Ninety days and ninety nights without a corpse, and on the ninety-first we wed?”

“Perhaps,” said Dany, with a coy look. “Though young girls have been known to be fickle. I may still want a magic sword.”

Heh. Girls don’t like boys, girls like world peace and cool weaponry!

…which is admittedly a little contradictory, but whatever, we do what we want! Nyah!

“I saw your father and your mother wed as well. Forgive me, but there was no fondness there, and the realm paid dearly for that, my queen.”

“Why did they wed if they did not love each other?”

“Your grandsire commanded it. A woods witch had told him that the prince was promised would be born of their line.”

Um. So, I have read that last sentence ten times, and it still makes no sense. Is this a typo? Cause it seems like there’s a word missing there. Is that supposed to say “the prince that was promised would be born of their line”? Because otherwise I have no idea what that witch was trying to say.

If she was promising they would just have a generic prince born to them, well, that seems awfully self-evident, since having princes (or princesses) is generally what tends to happen to kings when they procreate; it’s sort of a package deal with the whole “being a king” aspect of kinging, see. Soo, yeah, I have no idea.

 

Chapter 24: The Lost Lord

What Happens
Docked at Volon Therys, Griff awaits Haldon’s return impatiently; he does not trust Haldon since he let the Imp escape. The Golden Company is camped outside the city, and Lady Lemore is doubtful of the prudence of declaring Young Griff’s real identity to a crowd of sellswords, especially now that Griff’s old friend Myles Toyne is dead, but Griff is done with prudence. He remembers the Battle of the Bells at Stoney Sept, and thinks that Rhaegar would never have fallen if “the griffin had only slain the stag” there. Lemore points out that the plan was only to reveal Aegon once they reached Daenerys, but Griff counters that that was when they thought she would be coming west. He says very little of what Illyrio expected has come to pass, and is resolved that he will not fail Rhaegar’s son like he had his father.

Haldon returns with horses, and Aegon complains that Griff will not let him wash out the dye in his hair yet. Aegon is wary of the sellswords, based on “Yollo’s” advice to trust no one, and Griff admits that is wise, but also cautions Aegon not to let caution become paranoia. They ride out to the Golden Company’s camp, which Griff is relieved to see is in good order despite his misgivings about Homeless Harry Strickland, who had replaced Toyne as captain-general. They are met by Ser Franklyn Flowers, who greets Griff with coarse good cheer. Griff knows that most of the mercenaries won’t recognize him now, nor be glad if they did, since part of his cover story for protecting the prince had been to let himself be exiled from the Company in disgrace; Griff promises himself to get back at Varys for that.

Inside Strickland’s tent, Ser Franklin introduces Griff by his real name to the captains of the Company, and Griff thinks them “a brotherhood of the failed and fallen.” He finds Strickland even less impressive. He reveals Aegon’s true identity to the assembled men, and when they are silent in response, realizes that Strickland had already told them. Strickland says it was to explain why he turned down such rich offers from the Yunkishmen. The spymaster, Lysono Maar, tells Griff that the Daenerys has failed to leave Meereen as she should have, and is now hemmed in with enemies. Tristan Rivers says they must reach her quickly, but Lysono says they cannot reach her by sea, and Strickland says taking the land route via the demon road is out of the question too. Griff thinks that Strickland merely has no belly for battle.

Then Aegon speaks up, and declares an alternate plan: to leave his aunt to her own devices, and go to Westeros himself, without her. Strickland protests that they need Daenerys for the Westerosi to accept Aegon’s claim to the throne, and her Unsullied and dragons to subdue any opposition. Tristan echoes Griff’s disgust with Illyrio’s plans, and says that if Robert Baratheon could take the throne without dragons, so can they. Strickland continues to argue against it, and in contempt for his cowardice, Griff chimes in that Dorne will support them, for Aegon’s mother Elia.

Aegon says this is his wish, and soon enough all the men throw their support to the idea, and kneel before him, pledging their swords to him. Griff thinks this is a side of the boy he had not seen before, and that the idea is not prudent, but he is tired of the cautious avenue. He thinks that surely the gods would grant him enough time to see the boy on the Iron Throne and reclaim his name and honor.

The nail on his middle finger had turned as black as jet, he saw, and the grey had crept up almost to the first knuckle. The tip of his ring finger had begun to darken too, and when he touched it with the point of his dagger, he felt nothing.

Death, he knew, but slow. I still have time. A year. Two years. Five. Some stone men live for ten. Time enough to cross the sea, to see Griffin’s Roost again. To end the Usurper’s line for good and all, and put Rhaegar’s son upon the Iron Throne.

Then Lord Jon Connington could die content.

Commentary
Damn, that sucks, Griff. Bad luck, man.

So this is all kind of hilarious, though, because Griff doesn’t even realize that Aegon’s “boldness” was just him regurgitating Tyrion’s plan word for word, and everybody (including Griff) just ate it up.

Of course, they ate it up because it still sounds like the least insane option out of the array of insane options they have before them. I mean, it’s an actually good plan as far as I can tell. Griff thinks it’s “not prudent”, but I don’t really see how it’s any less prudent than trying to get to Daenerys when pretty much the entire surrounding area is besieging her. Dorne seems like a hell of a lot less fraught a location than Slaver’s Bay right about now.

It’s just funny because it came from Tyrion, who Griff clearly does not have a very high opinion of—barring his rescue of Aegon, of course, but even that didn’t seem to get him much slack.

Granted, given Tyrion’s general behavior and mood during the time Griff knew him, maybe Griff has something of a point.

And of course everyone is assuming Tyrion ran instead of being kidnapped, sigh. Not that it matters, apparently, since it’s clear Griff et al wouldn’t have tried to rescue Tyrion even if they were sure that he’d been abducted. So I guess it’s something of a moot point, from that perspective.

And once again we’re hit with how much Dany’s refusal to leave Meereen is a spanner in the works to, well, everything. I feel like maybe I should feel bad on Dany’s behalf that it now looks like her nephew is going to leave her in the lurch, but honestly I can’t blame either of the Griffs for deciding against it. Dany’s adherence to her principles is costing her in ways she isn’t even aware of, it seems.

Well, I can still hold out hope that Jorah is taking Tyrion to Dany and not Cersei. Though honestly, again, it doesn’t look like Meereen is going to be a noticeably safer place for Tyrion to be than King’s Landing—and I say that knowing that Tyrion has a death sentence on his head in the latter locale—but at least maybe this way Dany will actually learn that her nephew exists.

(Seriously, if Illyrio wanted his plans to succeed so badly, why did it never occur to him to tell Dany about them? Jeez.)

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be familiar with this “Battle of the Bells” Griff thinks about, but it’s fairly obvious from context what happened. Griff—or rather, Lord Jon Connington—had evidently had a chance at this Stoney Sept to kill Robert Baratheon in the early part of the uprising, before the Battle of the Trident, and had failed, and has regretted it ever since.

It’s interesting, because in a way that really could be what Madeleine L’Engle called a “Might-Have-Been” event. If Connington had killed Robert Baratheon before the rebellion ever got off the ground, things would have been… very different in Westeros. Not necessarily better, because Mad King Aerys, but definitely very different.

“You would do best to walk a middle course. Let men earn your trust with leal service… but when they do, be generous and openhearted.”

The boy nodded. “I will remember.”

Well, whatever else you want to say about Griff, he seems to be giving Aegon pretty good advice. At this rate I might have to forgive him his pseudonym.

And, last and most definitely least, “Harry Strickland”? No. That is… not a medievalish mercenary captain’s name. That is the name of a high school principal who doesn’t like slackers. I’m just saying.


And that’s the show for the nonce, y’all! See you next week!

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