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 30 of A Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 50 (“Daenerys”) and Chapter 51 (“Theon”).
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 50: Daenerys
The feast celebrating the peace is huge and elaborate, and Dany hates every moment of it. She tells herself it is a victory, what she wanted, but it feels like a defeat. She is furious that the Yunkai’i have opened a slave market within sight of her walls, feeling that it is deliberately to mock her. Hizdahr reminds her that that was part of the terms, and assures her the Yunkai will be gone soon with their slaves. She listens to excited talk of the reopening of the fighting pits on the morrow, and tells herself that again, it was the price of peace.
She reflects that it is good that Daario had been sent to the camps as hostage against the Yunkish guests’ safety, for she knows he could not have been relied upon not to insult or outright challenge the Yunkai’i, Brown Ben Plumm, or the Dornishmen who had deceived him. She knows she can no longer risk him in her bed or her heart. The entertainments after the feast—all performed by Yunkish slaves—sour Dany’s mood further, and later she runs into Brown Ben Plumm, who remarks that he tried to get her a wedding present (“the head of an old foe”), but the bidding for it went too high. She answers that she wants no gifts from him. She says he betrayed her even though she never cheated him, and he tells her that all the gold in the world is no good if you’re too dead to spend it, and he merely picked the winning side to ensure it.
After he leaves, Dany discusses with Barristan the possibility of having Plumm assassinated, which makes the knight uncomfortable, and then the likelihood of clandestinely wooing some of the mercenary companies back to her side. Barristan says he is not cut out for this kind of work. Dany determines to free Pretty Meris and send her back to her captain as a subtle message, and sound out the other companies as well. Barristan doesn’t like it, but Dany says she wants to be ready in case Hizdahr’s peace should fail. Barristan again makes the pitch for Quentyn Martell. Dany says Dorne is too far away to help her people, and that the prince should leave. Barristan says he will not, and Dany decides it is time to show Quentyn her children.
Quentyn is a little drunk, but hiding it. She brings him down to where Viserion and Rhaegal are chained up, telling him that her marriage need not be the end of his hopes. The dragons roar as they sense Dany’s approach, and Dany sees that Viserion has melted his chains, and the walls and floor of the pit are being burned away. She knows they will not hold much longer. Quentyn is terrified. He asks if she means to ride them, and Dany says yes, but only one, as according to the stories no rider ever flew more than one dragon. Quentyn shakily points out that he also has the blood of the dragon in his lineage, but Dany thinks to herself that he does not belong here, and draws him away from the pit. She tells him he should leave, but he says he is not afraid, and she thinks he is a fool, then.
Later in her apartments, Hizdahr is cheerfully drunk, and declares he has given her the peace he promised. She says she is grateful, and endures his amorous attentions. She does not contradict his hope for children, though she has concluded that Mirri Maz Duur’s prophecy meant that she will be barren forever. After Hizdahr is asleep, Dany tries not to think about Daario. Missandei comes to her, saying she heard Dany crying. Dany denies it, but tells Missandei to stay with her and talk.
“Tell me of the things that make you happy, the things that make you giggle, all your sweetest memories. Remind me that there is still good in the world.”
Missandei did her best. She was still talking when Dany finally fell to sleep, to dream queer, half-formed dreams of smoke and fire.
The morning came too soon.
Well, if you look up “low point” in the dictionary, this chapter might qualify as an example. Poor Dany.
I know I’ve said how much I disapproved of her decision to marry Hizdahr, for pretty much precisely the reasons Dany is so depressed about here. Though honestly I sort of expected that it was going to be much worse; I would not have been surprised if Hizdahr had promptly turned around and discarded all Dany’s edicts, and reinstituted slavery in Meereen as well.
Of course, there’s still plenty of time for that. Could be he’s just easing her into it. A concession here, a concession there… raising the temperature of the pot one degree at a time, so the frog doesn’t even know it’s being boiled.
Speaking of which:
They call him Frog, Dany recalled. She could see why. He was not a handsome man.
*blink* Really? I hadn’t gotten the impression that Quentyn was ugly. I can’t recall any specific descriptions of him, but my impression is that he was kind of… neutral. Like the kind of guy who is more unmemorable than anything else. But if Quentyn actually looks froglike, well, that’s not “unmemorable.” So either I was totally wrong, or Dany is being overly harsh in her assessment of him.
Well, whatever. I’m also vaguely surprised Quentyn is hanging around, though I suppose Barristan’s assertion of Dornishmen’s notorious stubbornness explains it. Also the fact that evidently neither Quentyn nor Barristan seem to consider Dany’s marriage to Hizdahr to be valid enough to worry about as more than a temporary obstacle. Which I would say is probably quite culturally prejudiced of them, except for how I rather agree.
Which is maybe culturally prejudiced of me, but then again, it’s not like Martin has provided us with much in the way of positive traits for this particular culture. In the real world there’s no such thing as a culture with absolutely zero redeeming qualities (regardless of what some people would like to believe), but Martin seems to have come pretty close to creating one, in the “civilization” of Slaver’s Bay. I still haven’t decided whether that was a deliberate statement on his part or just cynicism run amok. Or both.
Whichever the case, it makes it pretty hard for me to regard Dany’s marriage to Hizdahr as anything more than a sham and a folly—and to hope it is a short-lived one, to boot. But then again, Dany’s conversation with Barristan re: acquiring more mercenaries proves that she doesn’t have much faith in the solidarity of her situation either.
Also, her little side trip to show Quentyn the dragons, which struck me as sort of bizarre. What exactly was that supposed to accomplish? Did she honestly think there was a chance Quentyn might be able to take one of the dragons with him, as her words to him seem to imply? And even if he had the stones for that (which he clearly doesn’t, poor boy), Dany was going to be okay with that? I boggle.
Granted, though, the situation with her two captured dragons is clearly deteriorating. Maybe Dany would prefer to give them away, if the alternative is to have to put them down.
Which sucks so hard. Surely there must be a way to control them without chaining them up! C’mon!
Anyway. In other news, Brown Ben Dickbag Plumm made an oblique reference to Tyrion while talking to Dany, but where is he, actually? I would have rather thought that Whatshisguts, the yellow dying Yunkish guy, would have brought his dwarves to be part of the entertainment.
Well, maybe he did, and Dany missed it while taking Quentyn to scare him with dragons. Bummer.
Chapter 51: Theon
Theon is in the great hall with Abel and his washerwomen, watching the lords eat breakfast. He sees what a foul mood Ramsay is in and tells Abel that his plan will not work and Ramsay will hunt them down. Abel says all they have to do is get to Stannis. Theon explains the torture Ramsay will visit upon them if he catches them, and begs Abel to promise again that he will not let Theon fall into the man’s hands again. One of the women, Squirrel, assures him of it, though Abel himself only shrugs. Theon tells himself it will be better to be dead than Reek, and thinks it a great jape that Abel is risking this for the wrong girl.
Ser Hosteen Frey barges into the hall then, carrying the corpse of his nephew, Little Walder. Theon looks at Rowan, but she says they didn’t do it. Big Walder says the boy was looking for someone who owed him coin, and that there were some White Harbor men teaching dicing. Hosteen accuses Lord Wyman of having it done, and Wyman says maybe it was a blessing: “Had he lived, he would have grown up to be a Frey.” Hosteen attacks Wyman and wounds him severely, and the ensuing fight between the Freys and the White Harbor men kills nine men and wounds a dozen more before Roose’s men manage to break it up. In fury, Roose tells them that if they are so anxious for blood they can go and kill Stannis’s forces, and orders the host to gather for battle. He orders Abel to sing “something soothing.”
Rowan tells Theon they have to move now, as they must get to Stannis before Roose’s army does. Theon protests that Abel is occupied, but Squirrel says he can fend for himself. Rowan takes him to the barracks wall. Theon murmurs that “winter is coming,” and Rowan spits that he has no right to imitate Lord Eddard after what he did. Theon says they killed a boy too, and Rowan threatens to cut out his tongue for suggesting it. Theon laughs and says they need his tongue. She spits on him. He tells her he has done terrible things, but he is no kinslayer. She says she knows that the Stark boys were not his brothers. Theon knows she wouldn’t believe him if he told her he hadn’t killed them at all, so only says he has been punished. She says, not enough. He contemplates killing her, thinks that Reek would have, but he remembers that the old gods had called him “Theon”, and stays his hand.
The plan is that they are to go get hot water to bring to Ramsay’s chambers for a bath, give Squirrel’s clothes to “Lady Arya”, and walk her out right under the noses of the guards; Squirrel, meanwhile, has earned her name well, and will climb down the outside of the tower. Theon is filled with terror, but the first part of the plan goes without incident, and they reach Jeyne’s chamber. They find her naked, hiding under a pile of furs in the corner. Theon tells her they are here to take her to her brother, Jon Snow.
Jeyne pulled her wolfskins up to her chin. “No. This is some trick. It’s him, it’s my… my lord, my sweet lord, he sent you, this is just some test to make sure that I love him. I do, I do, I love him more than anything.” A tear ran down her cheek. “Tell him, you tell him. I’ll do what he wants… whatever he wants… with him or… or with the dog or… please… he doesn’t need to cut my feet off, I won’t try to run away, not ever, I’ll give him sons, I swear it, I swear it…”
Rowan whistled softly. “Gods curse the man.”
“I’m a good girl,” Jeyne whimpered. “They trained me.”
Theon thinks this is doomed, but convinces her to come. They dress her in Squirrel’s clothes, and Theon is amazed when they walk right by the guards. Outside, Rowan tells Frenya and Holly to go with Theon and “Arya” to the wall, while she, Willow and Myrtle go back for Abel. Theon et al head to the Battlements Gate, where Frenya and Holly pretend to seduce the guards to get close enough to kill them. It works, but then Jeyne screams, and alarms go up in the castle. They run for the outer wall, Frenya stays behind to slow pursuit at the drawbridge. Theon, Jeyne and Holly climb up to the battlements, and it is only then that Holly realizes that Frenya had the rope. Then Holly is shot twice with arrows, and falls. Theon sees that they are swiftly being surrounded, and hears a horn in the distance.
Stannis, he thought wildly. Stannis is our only hope, if we can reach him. The wind was howling, and he and the girl were trapped.
The crossbow snapped. A bolt passed within a foot of him, shattering the crust of frozen snow that had plugged the closest crenel. Of Abel, Rowan, Squirrel, and the others there was no sign. He and the girl were alone. If they take us alive, they will deliver us to Ramsay.
Theon grabbed Jeyne about the waist and jumped.
WELL, FUCKING FINALLY.
Sort of. I mean, as heroic rescues go this one could use a makeover, BUT, I will take it, seeing as I’m unlikely to get anything much better. And right now jumping off a wall into a mountain of freezing snow sounds infinitely preferable to being in Fucking Ramsay’s clutches, no matter how it turns out, so there’s that.
I really don’t have any words to express how I feel about what Jeyne’s gone through, but I’m pretty sure by now you have a fairly good idea of my feelings anyway, so we can probably take it as read, and I will just punch this wall here a few times and then move on.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure this is the first time the chapter title actually calls Theon “Theon,” which indicates that if nothing else, Theon is as close to being himself again as he’s ever going to be, and therefore is also as close to being heroic as he’s ever going to be. Which ain’t all that close, obviously, but I suppose it’s results that matter. It may have been a shitshow of a rescue, and one that he was strong-armed into participating with in the first place, but Jeyne is out of the castle.
For the moment, anyway. If the next Theon chapter opens with them back in Winterfell I will not be responsible for my actions. Seriously, that had better fucking not happen.
I do love that it seems that Bran whispering Theon’s name in the godswood was what finally got Theon to shake off the Reek persona for (theoretically) good. Hilariously, that means it was actually divine intervention, in a technical sense, but in such an ASOIAF way I have to laugh.
I’m a little puzzled by Rowan. The other women are clearly wildlings, but Rowan seems to be genuinely pissed about what happened to the Starks, and I can’t think of why a wildling would give a shit about any family of “kneelers,” even the Starks. So I’m guessing Rowan is from this side of the Wall? But if I’m supposed to know who she actually is, I don’t. Or, I suppose it’s possible that she is a wildling, and is just very against killing young boys in general, even if they are “kneelers.” Which seems a trifle too idealistic for this story, but otherwise could fit as well; she also got really mad when Theon assumed she and the others had killed Little Walder.
I wonder what’s going to happen to Mance, though. Maybe he and the others can hide in the catacombs until Roose’s forces finish killing each other.
Speaking of which, I suppose that was well played, Mysterious Sabotage Dude, though surely the same thing could have been accomplished without murdering a child? Though I guess the squires’ chances of survival are pretty low anyway, but still.
I hope Lord Wyman survives (though I don’t think it’s terribly likely), but frankly at this point I want this entire enterprise to just implode already and them all to kill each other, and if Wyman has to go in order for that to happen, so be it. I feel like I have to hope for this because I can’t imagine that Stannis’s forces are remotely in a position to do any real damage to anyone by this point, so it’ll have to be by internal collapse if it’s going to get done at all. Like, I’m surprised Stannis’s people have the strength to blow some horns, frankly. I’m still not sure it actually is Stannis’s people blowing them, though I have no idea who else it could be.
Whatever, really, I don’t even care at this point how Roose’s sad sack of an army gets put down, as long as it does. And as long as someone manages to kill Père et Fils Bolton in an appropriately horrific and painful way, of course. That point is nonnegotiable as far as I am concerned.
So, here’s hoping for, er, lots of death! But not Jeyne’s, and by extension, not Theon’s! Yay!
…Right. And, yeah. Next week? Next week! Later!