A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Dance with Dragons, Part 15

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 15 of A Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 25 (“The Windblown”) and Chapter 26 (“The Wayward Bride”).

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 25: The Windblown

What Happens
Frog, aka Quentyn Martell, hears from another mercenary named Dick Straw that Daenerys is supposed to be moving on Yunkai’i, and the Windblown are moving north to meet her. Per Gerris’s idea, Quentyn, Arch, and Gerris had signed on with the mercenary company in Volantis, and Quentyn is pretending to be the big man’s squire so that Arch can more easily protect him and make sure he gets to the dragon queen. The more he hears about Daenerys, though, the more terrified he becomes of meeting her; the Yunkai’i and the other mercenaries claim she is voracious in her appetites both for sex and for blood, and that she regularly practices human sacrifice and is as insane as her father was. Quentyn wonders if he will still be obliged to marry her if she is as bad as they say.

He is glad to be leaving the horrors of Astapor behind them, though. The company moves out, along with the Old Ghis infantry and the Yunkai’i “Wise Masters” and their slave soldiers, each of which are more bizarre and awful than the last. The other mercenaries are contemptuous of them, and uneasy about the prospect of facing real Unsullied at Meereen, not to mention dragons. Quentyn knows that the slaughter at Astapor had not been a real battle, but it had seemed so to him, who had never seen real action before.

He and Gerris discuss the next part of the plan, which is to abandon the Windblown and get to Meereen and Daenerys before they end up fighting on the wrong side. Quentyn is uneasy about betraying their oaths, but also impatient to go. Gerris advises to wait until they get to Yunkai’i. Both are worried about the hunters the Windblown’s captain will no doubt send after them once they desert, but it turns out they don’t have to worry. Two days later, the Tattered Prince calls twenty of the Westerosi-born mercenaries, including Quentyn and his companions, to his tent.

He tells them that he has been ordered to send troops out to kill or drive off the hordes of diseased and starving Astapori refugees flooding the countryside, and he wants them to use this as a cover to go find the queen’s mercenary companies and go over to them instead. Hugh Hungerford asks if the Tattered Prince is aiming to change sides, and the captain’s lieutenant Denzo D’han says he is “keeping all roads open.” They are to be commanded by Pretty Meris, a Westerosi woman who genuinely frightens Quentyn. The mercenaries are doubtful of the plan, but the Prince assures them Daenerys will buy it, and all of them being from her homeland will help seal the deal.

“When should we leave?” asked Lewis Lanster.

“At once. Be wary of the Cats and any Long Lances you may encounter. No one will know your defection is a ruse but those of us in this tent. Turn your tiles too soon, and you will be maimed as deserters or disemboweled as turncloaks.”

The three Dornishmen were silent as they left the command tent. Twenty riders, all speaking the Common Tongue, thought Quentyn. Whispering has just gotten a deal more dangerous.

The big man slapped him hard across the back. “So. This is sweet, Frog. A dragon hunt.”

Commentary
…So now the epithet chapter titles are not even limited to describing the actual point of view character? What is this I don’t even.

I mean, I know Quentyn’s no longer “The Merchant Man”, which was what his first POV chapter was called (and yes, I had to go look that up), but if we must stick to the epithet scheme, then why not call this chapter “The Mercenary”, or “The Squire”, or even “Frog”? You know, something that is an epithet for the actual character and not the group he happens to be part of at the moment?

I’m sorry, but titling what is still a singular third person tight POV chapter with the name of an entire collection of people makes no sense to me. The whole point of the chapter titles throughout the series (including the epithet titles) has been to tell you whose POV the chapter was from, and this breaks that pattern. It doubly breaks it, actually, because unless I’m mistaken (and I obviously could be) up till now the epithet titles also indicated that the POV was going to be a once-off—that we were going to be in that character’s head once and then not again—but here we are in Quentyn’s head for the second time. I kind of feel like if he’s an important enough character to get multiple POV chapters, he should get to be called by his name, you know? Why not just call both chapters “Quentyn” and be done with it?

Bluh. I’m probably making too much of this, but this feels like such an arbitrary and unnecessary deviation from a heretofore solid and practical narrative structure that I find it more annoying than it probably actually is. Whatever, moving on.

So this was Gerris’s cunning plan? Well, it was… pretty cunning, actually. Except for the part where it meant that they had to help sack what’s left of Astapor, because that was some imagery neither Quentyn nor I ever needed in our lives. Good grief.

Caggo was the one who finally cut him down, fighting through the king’s protectors on his monstrous warhorse and opening Cleon the Great from shoulder to hip with one blow of his curved Valyrian arakh. Frog did not see it, but those who did claimed Cleon’s copper armor rent like silk, and from within came an awful stench and a hundred wriggling grave worms. Cleon had been dead after all. The desperate Astapori had pulled him from his tomb, clapped him into armor, and tied him onto a horse in hopes of giving heart to their Unsullied.

Like that, for instance. Ye gods.

And ha, the Tattered Prince is trying to have his cake and eat it too, is he? Well, I can’t say I can muster much disdain for the idea of betraying the Yunkai’i, because no people have ever deserved being stabbed in the back more than these yutzes. Hopefully for once what looks like a golden opportunity for Quentyn really is a golden opportunity and not a way for things to go horribly south, as is far more the usual in this series. I’m seriously rooting for Quentyn to get to Dany and un-Daaaaario her brain, stat.

I was startled, for some reason, that Quentyn was so freaked out over the ridiculous rumors swirling around about Dany, but then I realized that really, from his point of view, they may not be all that ridiculous. She is a Targaryen, and they are occasionally deeply nuts, so what evidence has Quentyn got to say that they’re wrong?

Well, except for some of the ones that are so whacked-out that they’re physically impossible:

“One of her captains comes of a line where the men have foot-long members,” he told them, “but even he’s not big enough for her. She rode with the Dothraki and grew accustomed to being fucked by stallions, so now no man can fill her.”

Um, ow?

(Let’s just say, my Google search history now includes the phrase “average length of horse penis,” how is this my life, and all I have to say is that had BETTER be physically impossible. Jesus H.)

I also feel I should tell you that I came up with like fifteen more jokes and/or comments in response to this quote, but I nobly deleted them all (well, except for the above one), because I love you all and should therefore probably refrain from scarring you for life. PROBABLY.

Children fighting over half-cooked puppies.

And anyway, why should I bother when Martin is perfectly happy to give us all the mental scars a girl could ever want! Boo! Hiss!

*throws the Popcorn of Disapproval in author’s general direction*

Speaking of that phrase:

“Hacking off some boy’s stones with a butcher’s cleaver and handing him a pointy hat don’t make him Unsullied. That dragon queen’s got the real item, the kind that don’t break and run when you fart in their general direction.”

*bursts out laughing* Oh my God, was that a Monty Python reference? If so, this just might be the most disturbing context for a Monty Python reference ever. WOW.

His soldiers were the tallest that any of the Windblown had ever seen; the shortest stood seven feet tall, the tallest close to eight. All were long-faced and long-legged, and the stilts built into the legs of their ornate armor made them longer still.

What. This is the most bizarre image. And how in the bloody hell can you fight in stilts?

These people have a serious case of the cray-cray, let me tell you. Maybe it comes from centuries of believing people can be property. OOH BURN

Also, this just in: slavery sucks! Film At Eleven! Moving on some more!

Random things:

[…] golden-haired Lewis Lanster, the company’s best archer.

*raises eyebrow* Lanster, huh. Okay.

When the Tattered Prince was three-and-twenty, as Dick Straw told the story, the magisters of Pentos had chosen him to be their new prince, hours after beheading their old prince. Instead he’d buckled on a sword, mounted his favorite horse, and fled to the Disputed Lands, never to return.

I feel like that was probably the appropriate response, there. *nods*

 

Chapter 26: The Wayward Bride

What Happens
At Deepwood Motte, Asha Greyjoy receives a message from Ramsay Bolton that Moat Cailin has fallen. It is written with what he assures her is the blood of ironmen, and enclosed with it is a scrap of leather; the letter says “I send you each a piece of prince,” and Asha thinks she would have rather that her brother was dead than subject to this. She burns the scrap, and Tristifer Botley points out that Torrhen’s Square will be next, then Deepwood. Asha thinks that her father would never have let Moat Cailin fall, but that Euron only cares for hunting dragons. She realizes her men have given up hope of victory, and are only hoping for a good death in battle. She is determined to have the same.

She goes up to her room, and her lover Qarl the Maid follows her. She pretends to resist his advances and he pretends to force her, and they have vigorous sex. She thinks that she is wedded and bedded, but not by the same man. She remembers with shame how she had let Rodrik the Reader convince her to flee after the kingsmoot, and how she had later learned that Euron had married her to Erik Ironmaker in absentia and named him regent of the Isles while Euron is away. She cannot go home, therefore, but she thinks she cannot stay here much longer either.

She goes down to find food, and Tris finds her and argues with her over whether they should go before the Boltons get to them, and where they should go if they do. Tris thinks the idea of joining with Aeron in his rebellion is folly, and points out that they cannot claim the kingsmoot unlawful the way Torgon the Latecomer did. Asha had forgotten that story, but when he reminds her she kisses him ardently. Before she can explain why, Hagen’s horn sounds. They go down to the bailey to find that northmen scouts had tried to infiltrate the keep. Asha determines that the mountain clans have been united by someone, and decides to try to make it to the ocean and her ships rather than stand and fight.

The ironborn set off in the night as the northmen begin ramming the opposite gate. They stop for a rest near dawn, and are ambushed by the northmen. Asha and her men fight furiously, but are cut down one by one until Asha is left standing alone. She fights a huge northman who traps her against a tree and goes to cleave her skull with his axe.

She twisted, lost her footing, and the axehead crunched against her temple with a scream of steel on steel. The world went red and black and red again. Pain crackled up her leg like lightning, and far away she heard her northman say, “You bloody cunt,” as he lifted up his axe for the blow that would finish her.

A trumpet blew.

That’s wrong, she thought. There are no trumpets in the Drowned God’s watery halls. Below the waves the merlings hail their lord by blowing into seashells.

She dreamt of red hearts burning, and a black stag in a golden wood with flame streaming from his antlers.

Commentary
Well.

Bye, Asha?

I thought she was dead at first, because axe blows to the temple don’t tend to be the kind of thing you shake off, but now I’m not sure.

The main reason I’m not sure is because of the set-up earlier in the chapter re: Torgon the Latecomer, and Asha’s revelation (I’m presuming) that if her brother Theon really is alive, then she (or Theon, I guess) can make the claim that the kingsmoot was unlawfully called and oust Euron. She can’t exactly do anything about that if she’s dead, after all.

On the other hand, a point was also made of emphasizing that a piece of Theon (lovely, Ramsay, please die in a fire) was sent to each of his kin, not just Asha. So she could be dead, and it might be Victarion or even Aeron who realizes the same thing and acts on it.

So, in conclusion, dunno.

Good fight scene, either way. She acquitted herself in damn fine style, and I’m not even going to bother to pretend I don’t love it when a lady kicks ass. I was actually sort of rooting for her to get away, which is probably the first time I’ve ever rooted for an ironborn anyone to win anything. (Unless I also rooted for her during the kingsmoot, which I probably did, but it doesn’t count when everyone involved is ironborn.)

I have to laugh, though, because I’m pretty sure this chapter immediately proves wrong my assertion in the previous commentary that epithet chapter POVs are always once-offs, because I’m sure we’ve had a POV chapter from Asha before. Well, 95% sure. I’d go check but whatever, I still disapprove of the last chapter’s title anyway, nyah!

The other thing this chapter tells me, kind of obliquely, is that apparently I underestimated Stannis’s ability to make nice, ‘cause it sure looks like he’s got the mountain clans up and running under his banner. Four for you, Stannis Coco! You go!

*shrug* Of course this means next he’ll be up against the Boltons, and God knows that has “giant clusterfuck” written all over it in letters of merde, so I guess he should enjoy this victory while he can. That said, I hope Stannis kills them. I hope he kills them A LOT.

On the mock-rape scene: I’m… not going to say anything against it, because the “mock” is the operative word there. It made me uncomfortable, but Asha clearly enjoyed it, and as long as consenting adults are involved I try not to judge other people’s sexual kinks. Sometimes I fail at that, because I am only human, but I try.

Tris Botley said that the Crow’s Eye had used a seal to stand in for her at her wedding. “I hope Erik did not insist on a consummation,” she’d said.

It took me a second to realize that “seal” here meant the barking and clapping variety, rather than the kind that has coats-of-arms on them. Cognitive dissonance, woo.

Also, that such a “marriage” could be held up as legal and binding is alone proof of how terminally fucked up the ironborn are. Not that I actually needed more proof on that front, but hey.


And that’s the post, you sons and daughters of a silly person! Now go away until I am ready to taunt fictional characters a second time! Ni!

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