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 17 of A Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 28 (“Jon”) and Chapter 29 (“Davos”).
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!
Scheduling note: JordanCon 7 is almost upon me, aaaah! Ergo, there will be no ROIAF post next Thursday (April 16th). The Read will resume the following week on April 23rd. Got it? Good.
Chapter 28: Jon
Alliser Thorne is distinctly not thrilled to be sent out on ranger patrol, and accuses Jon of sending him out to die. He threatens to come back for Jon if he becomes a wight. Jon is not happy about sending out the men, in three patrols of three rangers each, even Alliser. Both Cotter Pyke and Ser Denys Mallister have asked Jon for more men, and complained vociferously when he sent them wildling recruits.
Jon goes to where Iron Emmett is training the new recruits, and takes on the three best (Arron, Emrick, and Jace) at once. He defeats them easily, but they acquit themselves well. Rattleshirt appears and dares Jon to face a man instead of “little crows.” Jon tells him that Stannis burned the wrong man, but accepts. Jon is shocked by Rattleshirt’s stamina and speed, and loses the duel. The others want to punish him for threatening Jon’s life, but Jon remembers Ser Rodrick’s words about the value of facing the man who’s faster and stronger in practice instead of in battle, and tells them to let him go.
Clydas brings Jon a message from Ramsay Bolton, and he is stunned to read the announcement of Bolton’s marriage to Arya Stark. He pretends he does not care, and says there will be no answer to the message. He reminds himself of his oath, severing all former ties. Upset, he takes a walk with Ghost, and beneath the Wall he meets a woman whom he mistakes for Ygritte for a moment, but then realizes is Melisandre. Melisandre tells him not to despair, and that his sister can be saved. Jon replies that he has no sister, but Melisandre tells him she has seen her in the fire, fleeing her marriage on a dying horse in Jon’s direction.
She asks if she may touch Ghost. Jon is uneasy, but she calls the wolf, and Jon is startled when Ghost approaches and lets her pet him. She tells Jon “warmth calls to warmth.” Jon calls Ghost to him, but Ghost does not respond; Melisandre hugs the wolf and he licks her face. She tells Jon there is power in the Wall as well as in him and Ghost, and that Jon should embrace this power rather than resist it. She offers to show him how to use his shadow by “joining” with her. Jon repeats to her Dalla’s words, that sorcery is “a sword without a hilt”, and Melisandre points out that it is still a sword. She tells him three of his nine rangers will die soon, and will return “eyeless” to him, because he does not believe her.
“A small price to pay for wisdom, some might say… but not one you had to pay. Remember that when you behold the blind and ravaged faces of your dead. And come that day, take my hand.” The mist rose from her pale flesh, and for a moment it seemed as if pale, sorcerous flames were playing about her fingers. “Take my hand,” she said again, “and let me save your sister.”
Well, this is just every kind of alarming.
YOU BEST STEP OFF MY JON SNOW, MELLY.
And step off Ghost while you’re at it. Bad touch! No! No stealing away Jon’s wolfy soulmate! Bad priestess! Bad!
No, uh-uh, this is wrong and bad and I do not want any of it.
“The Lord of Light in his wisdom made us male and female, two parts of a greater whole. In our joining there is power. Power to make life. Power to make light. Power to cast shadows.”
OMG, she wants to make Magical Assassin Shadow Babies™ with him! Jeez, woman, Stannis left like five minutes ago, you can’t go that long without a hit?
No! No draining Jon’s shadow or life force or feng shui or whatever the fuck it is you do! You suck! Literally! Why can’t you just go away?
Feh. Feh, I say!
*takes deep breaths*
Okay, I am marginally calmer now. Marginally.
I suppose it says something that I am not even considering the idea that Melisandre’s motives in “helping” Jon are actually to help Jon, but I don’t really care. If events fall out that she is on the up and up with this offer I will eat my crow (heh) and gladly, but right now I REALLY don’t believe that that will ever happen, because look, y’all, girl is shady as all fuck and always has been, and this whole thing stinks so bad I want to Febreeze my laptop right now.
FIRST of all, you’ll notice that Melisandre entirely failed to mention that the “Arya Stark” supposedly fleeing Ramsay Bolton’s monstrous marital clutches is not actually Arya Stark at all, but Sansa’s ex-bosom friend, or whatever Jeyne’s former title was. Sure, I suppose Melisandre could just have been taken in by the ruse, but I feel like her flamey vision quests should be able to see through a hoax like that. What good would it be to have a thing which tells you people’s futures, if slapping on a wig or whatever and announcing that someone is actually someone else is enough to fool it?
Nah, Melly knows damn well it’s not Arya, and she’s using Jon’s love for his not-at-all-ex-half-sister (because really, Jon, who do you think you’re fooling here) to further her own Nefarious Schemes!
Granted, I don’t know what those Nefarious Schemes are, exactly, but I am sure she has schemes! And that they are Nefarious!
That said, I do hope she’s not lying about the fact that Jeyne is running away. I will be so proud if she’s running! Because I told her to run and she ran! So awesome! Go me!
In that vein of hopeless superstition: DO NOT SLEEP WITH THE SORCEROUS PRIESTESS CHICK, JON SNOW. She will slurp up your shadow and make assassins with it and that is bad. DON’T DO THE THING, JON.
(He’s totally going to do the thing, isn’t he.)
Blargh, moving on.
Melly’s contribution to my blood pressure nearly eclipsed that of Rattleshirt, but before I got to the latter half of the chapter that “practice duel” was seriously worrying me. Still is, really. I trust that guy about as far as I can throw the Taj Mahal, and I really don’t understand why Jon hasn’t found some way to get rid of him already. I don’t even necessarily mean killing him, I mean just make him leave. Ugh. Seriously, why, why is he still there? Send him to Cotter Pyke or Mallister or somewhere else, Jon! Why does he have to be right on top of you, breathing down your neck and making me all nervous? God!
*more deep breaths*
Ser Alliser only said, “You would like me to refuse. Then you could hack off my head, same as you did for Slynt. I’ll not give you that pleasure, bastard. You’d best pray that it’s a wildling blade that kills me, though. The ones the Others kill don’t stay dead… and they remember. I’m coming back, Lord Snow.”
Ha ha, Alliser’s literally promising revenge from beyond the grave. That would be actually sort of badass, if he weren’t such a douche. I’d assume he’s going to be one of the three who die, but I feel like maybe that’s a little too obvious.
“I had a frightening dream last night, m’lord,” Dolorous Edd confessed. “You were my steward, fetching my food and cleaning up my leavings. I was lord commander, with never a moment’s peace.”
Word, Dolorous Edd. Of all the many, many, many (many) crappy jobs in Westeros, Jon’s has got to be one of the most craptastic.
Chapter 29: Davos
Davos is puzzled by but grateful for his oddly comfortable imprisonment, though it has been overshadowed by his daily expectation that Lord Wyman will make good on his promise to cut off Davos’s head and hands. But meanwhile he passes the time practicing his reading, writing letters to his family, and chatting with the two saner of his gaolers about the history of the Wolf’s Den. This day, though, he is surprised when Robett Glover enters his cell. Glover tells Davos that Stannis has taken back Deepwood Motte from the “iron bitch,” and about the Boltons’ exploits and Ramsay’s impending marriage to Arya Stark, and bids Davos to come with him. Davos is confused, but agrees.
Glover takes him through a secret passage into a room with a map and Lord Wyman Manderly. Lord Wyman apologizes for the way he has treated Davos. He says that his son Wylis has been returned, and Wyman has slipped away from the celebratory feast to meet with Davos and explain that his denouncement of Davos was a ruse for the benefit of the Freys, and that he has faked Davos’s death for their benefit as well. He says he did not dare to defy King’s Landing openly as long as they had his son, but played along, hiding his deep loathing for the Freys, until he could get Wylis back.
Davos promises that Stannis will get Wyman justice, but Glover points out that Stannis is not the north’s king. Davos counters that Robb Stark is dead, but Wyman says Robb was not Eddard Stark’s only son, and brings in a young boy whom Davos immediately knows is not a Stark. Glover explains that the boy is an ironborn mute named Wex, who used to be Theon Greyjoy’s squire. He was at Winterfell when it was sacked, and escaped being killed by hiding in the weirwood heart tree. Glover and Manderly have learned from him that Theon is not dead, but Ramsay Bolton’s captive, and that it was the Ramsay who sacked Winterfell, and took its women away to hunt for sport. Davos is horrified by their tales of Ramsay’s depravity, and Wyman asserts that the Freys are no better.
Wyman says he will obey Roose Bolton’s summons and go to Winterfell, and make sure the Freys come along. He tells Davos he will pledge all of his considerable assets to Stannis on one condition. Glover explains that when Wex was hiding in the godswood, he heard six people talking below, and two of them were boys with wolves: Ned Stark’s supposedly dead sons. Wex followed one when they split up, and knows where the boy is. Wyman tells Davos that he will pledge to Stannis if Davos finds the Stark boy and brings him back to White Harbor—with the wolf, so they can prove who he is. Davos asks why they need him in particular to do this, and Glover tells Wex to show him.
The mute flipped the dagger, caught it, then flung it end over end at the sheepskin map that adorned Lord Wyman’s wall. It struck quivering. Then he grinned.
For half a heartbeat Davos considered asking Wyman Manderly to send him back to the Wolf’s Den, to Ser Bartimus with his tales and Garth with his lethal ladies. In the Den even prisoners ate porridge in the morning. But there were other places in this world where men were known to break their fast on human flesh.
Holy shit, for a second there I really thought Rickon Stark was going to come through that door. Man.
So, Wex is saying Rickon is on the Isle of Cannibals? Was it called the Isle of Cannibals? It might have been called something else, but I distinctly remember that there was an Isle, and it was supposedly populated with cannibals. And unicorns, for some inexplicable reason.
Well, the unicorns might in reality be rhinoceroses (rhinoceri?), even though I don’t recall rhinos being an island sort of animal, but I bet you the cannibals are totally actual cannibals. Because, would Martin pass up a chance to make us read about people eating other people, I ask you? No, I answer, no he would not. He’s a giver that way.
And Wyman is a big ol’ faker! Well, at least I was right about that whole scene earlier where he denounced Davos being weirdly overwrought and hysterical, but I was wrong about the reason why. Probably because I would have rejected the “faking it” scenario as being too good to be true. It’s kind of disorienting when Martin chooses not to take the most bleak route possible for a thing.
But hey, yay! Davos is not dead, and Wyman is not a backstabbing asshole! Well, at least, he’s not a backstabbing asshole to anyone except who I want him to backstab, but that’s totally the same thing. Ahem.
“That is my price, Lord Davos. Smuggle me back my liege lord, and I will take Stannis Baratheon as my king.”
Although, it occurs to me to wonder that, having lied to the Freys/Lannisters, why Davos should necessarily trust that Wyman won’t turn around and do the exact same thing to Stannis. Especially if he has a bona fide Stark heir in his possession.
“My lord should take up a life of mummery,” said Davos. “You and yours were most convincing. Your good-daughter seemed to want me dead most earnestly, and the little girl…”
“Wylla.” Lord Wyman smiled. “Did you see how brave she was? Even when I threatened to have her tongue out, she reminded me of the debt White Harbor owes to the Starks of Winterfell, a debt that can never be repaid.”
Possible double-backstabbing notwithstanding, I like Wyman about a thousand times better just because of this. He’s so proud of her for standing up to him! That’s so refreshing and awesome!
Which, of course, is immediately followed by:
“[Ramsay] is a great hunter,” said Wyman Manderly, “and women are his favorite prey. He strips them naked and sets them loose in the woods. They have a half day’s start before he sets out after them with hounds and horns. From time to time some wench escapes and lives to tell the tale. Most are less fortunate. When Ramsay catches them he rapes them, flays them, feeds their corpses to his dogs, and brings their skins back to the Dreadfort as trophies. If they have given him good sport, he slits their throats before he skins them. Elsewise, t’other way around.”
I’m so glad we keep getting these lovely little reminders of what a stellar example of humanity Ramsay Bolton is. Really, it’s just what I wanted, THANKS EVER SO.
Also, Wex is kind of badass with that dagger, yo. I’m also not sure why everyone is trusting his word (or “word,” I suppose, ba dum dum), but then again I’m not sure what purpose he would have in lying. I don’t remember Wex from before, but that certainly doesn’t mean he wasn’t there—and his account for the most part matches up to what we know really happened, so there’s that.
A man should have more to say when staring at the end of his life, he thought, but the words came hard. I did not do so ill, he tried to tell himself. I rose up from Flea Bottom to be a King’s Hand, and I learned to read and write.
Dammit, man, stop making me get all misty over you. Seriously, I don’t know why the reading thing gets me every freakin’ time, but it totally does.
“Should I refuse, Wylis would die a traitor’s death, White Harbor would be stormed and sacked, and my people would suffer the same fate as the Reynes of Castamere.”
*blink* I thought it was “The Rains of Castamere”?
Wait, you’re telling me that entire song is a pun? Gasp! THAT IS SO EVIL.
Such villainy cannot be borne, so I’m leaving! On a jet plane! But it’s okay, I’ll be back. Try not to pine too hard, my darlings, and I’ll see you in two weeks!