A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Dance With Dragons, Part 29

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 29 of A Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 49 (“Jon”).

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 49: Jon

What Happens

Before the Wall, Melisandre performs a traditional R’hllor marriage rite, and Jon takes note of who has failed to show to watch it, prominent among them Bowen Marsh, Othell Yarwyck and Septon Cellador. As he prepares to lead Alys Karstark out to wed Sigorn, the Magnar of Thenn, he asks if she is scared; Alys answers that it is her husband’s lot to be the scared one, and when they go out Jon sees it is true. As the rite continues, Jon thinks of how Cregan Karstark had turned up the day after Alys had, and now resides in the castle’s ice cells.

After the marriage is over, Jon goes to speak to Queen Selyse and offers to have his steward Satin show her to the feast, but Ser Malegorn refuses the offer with barely concealed scorn for Satin’s former status. As Selyse’s party leaves, Melisandre tells Jon that the queen’s fool, Patchface, is dangerous. Jon wonders why she doesn’t have Patchface burned, then, and asks about Stannis. Melisandre answers that all she sees of him is snow. Jon is skeptical of either the Braavosi banker or his raven’s message warning of Karstark’s treachery finding Stannis. He asks if Melisandre would know if Stannis were dead, but Melisandre answers that Stannis is the Lord’s chosen and cannot be dead. She says she only sees snow for Mance as well, and warns him the danger she has seen for him grows “very close.” Jon points out that she was wrong about the girl on the horse, but Melisandre counters that she was right about the girl, just not about who the girl was.

Jon goes to visit Cregan in the very cold dungeon to inform him that his niece is married now, and that Karhold belongs to her, not Arnolf. Cregan calls Jon a lot of names and promises to kill her wildling groom, but Jon points out that Sigorn has two hundred Thenns to help Lady Alys reclaim the castle, and advises Cregan to convince his men there to yield. Cregan refuses. Jon doesn’t dare either kill Cregan himself or release him, so he tells Cregan that Stannis will kill him when he returns unless Cregan decides to take the black, and leaves. At the feast, Jon observes two mountain clan leaders, Old Flint and The Norrey, who are drinking peaceably enough, but Jon is wary of their motives for coming down for the wedding. There is dancing, and Jon is made uneasy by the way some of Selyse’s knights are looking at Satin.

He talks with Alys, and tells her about her husband’s people. They discuss the sad state of Karhold’s harvest, and Alys opines that few of the elderly will survive it, and children will die too. Jon tells her that when her stores begin to dwindle, to send her old men and boys to the Wall rather than let them starve, and she agrees. Jon receives a message from Cotter Pyke that his fleet has finally set sail for Hardhome, which pleases Jon, but he is troubled by the news that Pyke has left Glendon Hewett in command at Eastwatch; Hewett was cronies with both Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt.

Later, Jon is accosted by Ser Axell Florent, who is continuing his crude campaign to discover the whereabouts of “Princess” Val. When Jon continues to refuse to answer, Florent accuses him of keeping her for himself in hopes of regaining his father’s seat. Disgusted, Jon is about to leave when a horn is heard.

One blast, thought Jon Snow. Rangers returning.

Then it came again. The sound seemed to fill the cellar.

“Two blasts,” said Mully.

Black brothers, northmen, free folk, Thenns, queen’s men, all of them fell quiet, listening. Five heartbeats passed. Ten. Twenty. Then Owen the Oaf tittered, and Jon Snow could breathe again. “Two blasts,” he announced. “Wildlings.” Val.

Tormund Giantsbane had come at last.

Commentary

Well, Ser Axell just keeps on chuggin’ right down Creepybad Lane, don’t he?

Blech. It’s like he Googled “How to Establish Yourself as an Irredeemably Chauvinist Pig in Ten Seconds Flat” and then decided he could go one better.

And seriously, what is his deal? Does he honestly think that if he marries Val he’ll get to be the new wildling king? Is he really that stupid?

He probably is, at that. Lord. As a general rule I wouldn’t wish him on a week-dead monkfish, but all the same it would almost be funny if Jon did “let” him marry Val, since I’m pretty sure “ten seconds flat” is also about as long as it would take before she slit his throat. And then I would point, and laugh, and it would be good.

Speaking of marriages, um, what the hell. Was this whole Alys Karstark/Sigorn Thenn thing mentioned before and I just forgot, or was it as genuinely out of left field as I think it was?

I mean, I get the reasoning behind the move—obviously if she’s married to someone else, she can’t get married to her cousin, and also obviously men who are allowed to marry anyone are in somewhat short supply on the Wall, but couldn’t they have just captured Cregan like they already did and left it at that until Stannis got back?

…Well, though, on reflection, it makes more sense to me than it initially did. It was Jon’s idea in the first place, and I see why he pushed for it, because better northmen/wildling relations are definitely to his benefit, but Alys seems pretty happy with the arrangement as well, which suggests she definitely liked the idea that the Magnar’s men could assist her in taking back Karhold from her traitorous uncle. And if she had waited for Stannis to get back, he may well have decided to marry her to someone much less to her tastes and/or less able to kick out her douchebag relations.

Not to mention, who knows if Stannis is even coming back at all. But if he does, better to beg forgiveness than ask permission and alla that. (I’m guessing having Melisandre marry them even though neither groom nor bride worship R’hllor was a sop to Stannis toward that end.)

She’d better hope Stannis does come back, though. If he dies and Roose Bolton wins the north, well, I’m pretty sure forgiveness ain’t gonna be in the cards. To say the least.

Also, the tradition in this particular rite of jumping across the flames immediately reminded me of the tradition of “jumping the broom,” which used to be a term for marriages conducted under dubious circumstances or of uncertain validity (e.g., the unsanctioned and clandestine marriages of slaves in the antebellum United States). “Of uncertain validity” being, actually, a fairly accurate description of this marriage as well. I don’t know if Martin intended that parallel, but it’s pretty darn clever if he did.

(And of course, only in ASOIAF would a wedding ritual include a tradition that threatens actual bodily harm. But hey, this wedding didn’t have even a little bit of massacring in it, so good job, guys! A++, would risk singeing again!)

“Under the sea the mermen feast on starfish soup, and all the serving men are crabs,” Patchface proclaimed as they went. “I know, I know, oh, oh, oh.”

Melisandre’s face darkened. “That creature is dangerous. Many a time I have glimpsed him in my flames. Sometimes there are skulls about him, and his lips are red with blood.”

*raises eyebrow* Reeeeeally.

Well, okay then. As far as I remember, Patchface has never done anything other than dance around and make up occasionally uncomfortably-relevant-to-the-situation nonsense rhymes, which is pretty much a court fool’s job, so this is also coming out of left field as far as I am concerned. Unless I’m forgetting something. Which I probably am.

But I’m pretty sure I would at least remember if he had, like, eaten someone or something (you know, because of blood on his lips?), so if there were any hints I’m disremembering, at least they were probably fairly subtle ones. I hope.

(Wow, “disremember” is an actual word? I thought it was just a funny malapropism of my grandmother’s. Huh.)

“When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone. Dragonstone is the place of smoke and salt.”

Jon had heard all this before. “Stannis Baratheon was the Lord of Dragonstone, but he was not born there. He was born at Storm’s End, like his brothers.”

So, I’ve basically been assuming all along that Melly is totally wrong about Stannis being Azor Ahai, but I don’t think I’ve really speculated too much about who is Azor if Stannis isn’t (or if I have, I’ve forgotten). And really, the only other person who leaps to mind that it could be is Dany. I can’t remember the specifics of her “rebirth” at the end of AGOT, so I don’t know if the “salt” bit applies, but there sure as hell was “smoke,” and more importantly she “woke dragons out of stone” when she hatched the eggs, which if I recall correctly were thought to be stone.

I’m pretty sure Whatshisguts, the red priest who died on Tyrion’s ship in the storm, thought Dany was The One too, though, so it’s not like I’m having an especially original idea here. But something seems wrong to me about the idea of Dany being Azor—not her gender, either, but just, I dunno. Maybe it just seems too obvious.

So, in conclusion, *shrug*.

Alys Karstark leaned close to Jon. “Snow during a wedding means a cold marriage. My lady mother always said so.”

He glanced at Queen Selyse. There must have been a blizzard the day she and Stannis wed.

*snort*

Oooh, burn, Jon Snow. Ironically.


And that’s where we stop. I’m sorry for the two one-chapter posts in a row, but there was a minor (and now happily resolved, thankfully) family emergency to deal with and I ran out of time. More next week, I promise! Cheers!

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