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 31 of A Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 52 (“Daenerys”).
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 52: Daenerys
On the day the fighting pits reopen, Dany bathes and dresses in her “floppy ears” in dread, gently dismissing Missandei’s suggestion that she not attend. Ser Barristan is not happy that she will be guarded by Brazen Beasts rather than Unsullied, but Dany tells him they must have a chance to earn her trust. Barristan tells her that Meris claims the Tattered Prince meant to bring the Windblown to her from the beginning, but was sabotaged by Quentyn Martell and his entourage jumping in first. Dany sighs, but tells Barristan to pay them what they ask. Barristan says the Prince wants Pentos; startled, Dany replies that she could not give him Pentos, and nor would she repay Magister Illyrio that way if she could.
She and Hizdahr ride in procession to Daznak’s Pit, the crowds in the streets cheering them. Dany tries not to be disturbed that her handmaids are eagerly arguing over the grand match ahead. Midway, they are blocked by an overturned palanquin, one of whose bearers has collapsed. Barristan fears an ambush, but Hizdahr claims the Sons of the Harpy have been “tamed.” Dany orders the man tended to, and they proceed without incident. At the pit, they are seated on the lowest and closest tier to the sand. Strong Belwas immediately begins gorging himself on honeyed locusts; Hizdahr urges Dany to try them, but Dany says she will stick to dates and figs.
Hizdahr opens the games by exhorting the crowd to cheer for Dany, which they do, calling her “Mhysa!” (“Mother”) but Dany thinks it is the fighting they are cheering, not her. The matches begin, and Dany endures the butchery with less and less fortitude as they go on, until a pair of dwarves jousting with wooden swords astride a sow and dog come on. They are wearing the arms of House Baratheon and Lannister, and Hizdahr confides that unbeknownst to the dwarves, they will soon be set upon by lions. At this, Dany rouses and orders Hizdahr to call the lions off, arguing that unlike the other fighters, the dwarves had not agreed to the terms set. Hizdahr is momentarily angry, but agrees. The crowd boos, and Barsena Blackhair comes on next to placate them. She fights a boar, and loses badly; when the boar begins to eat Barsena’s corpse, Dany declares that she can bear no more, and begins to leave. Hizdahr is confused, and urges her to stay. Strong Belwas is beginning to be sick from the locusts, and falls out of his chair.
She argues with Hizdahr, but they are interrupted by a shadow across the sky: Drogon, now larger than ever, kills the boar with fire and lands to begin eating it and Barsena’s corpse as well, while a panic begins in the stands. A man tries to kill the dragon with a spear, and Dany screams along with Drogon when he is struck. Drogon takes the man’s arm off at the shoulder, and Hizdahr screams at his men to kill the dragon. Strong Belwas begins vomiting, and Dany jumps from the stands to the pit, screaming the dragon’s name. He snaps at her, and she knows if she runs from him he will kill her. She grabs the whip from the now-dead pitmaster and flogs Drogon with it, screaming at him to get down. He fights her at first, but she dodges his flames and continues, and then all at once he surrenders and lays down.
He is fire made flesh, she thought, and so am I.
Daenerys Targaryen vaulted onto the dragon’s back, seized the spear, and ripped it out. The point was half-melted, the iron red-hot, glowing. She flung it aside. Drogon twisted under her, his muscles rippling as he gathered his strength. The air was thick with sand. Dany could not see, she could not breathe, she could not think. The black wings cracked like thunder, and suddenly the scarlet sands were falling away beneath her.
Dizzy, Dany closed her eyes. When she opened them again, she glimpsed the Meereenese beneath her through a haze of tears and dust, pouring up the steps and out into the streets.
The lash was still in her hand. She flicked it against Drogon’s neck and cried, “Higher!” Her other hand clutched at his scales, her fingers scrabbling for purchase. Drogon’s wide black wings beat the air. Dany could feel the heat of him between her thighs. Her heart felt as if it were about to burst. Yes, she thought, yes, now, now, do it, do it, take me, take me, FLY!
SHIT YEAH! WHOO!
Now that? That was a goddamn Crowning Moment of Awesome, y’all.
Because, you guys! YOU GUYS. OMG.
Dany is riding her dragon! Dany! Is riding! A dragon!
Wow. Is that the first time I have bestowed the Official Leigh Butler SparkleYay of Approval™ on a moment in ASOIAF? I think it might be!
Unless it isn’t. But it might be!
Well, in general it’s not really the kind of story in which many sparkly yay-like things tend to happen, so that’s probably not surprising. But even if the whole thing falls to shit for Dany in the next five minutes, this moment was still worth one. Hells to the yes.
And oh my God, y’all, the symbolism the Meereenese will get out of this, it’s delicious. Dragon queen disapproves of bad fighting pits—dragon EATS your bad fighting pits! Suck on that, bad pit-liking slavery-still-would-like-to-be-having people! Yeah! Yeah!
Okay, I am not nearly cool enough to be allowed to make the hand gestures I just started throwing, so we will move on now, to: Holy shit, Dany saved Tyrion and Penny’s lives without even knowing who they were!
OMG, I want a Tyrion POV so bad now. Not just for that, or whether he will even realize what happened re: the lions (though I do want that), but more for his reaction to Dany’s moment of Fucking Awesome after it. I’ve forgotten a lot as we go, but I definitely remember that one of the first things we learn about Tyrion is how enamored he is of dragons. So seeing that moment (if he did—I hope he did) must have been like a dream come true for him. At least one would think. So yeah, looking forward to getting that reaction.
Also, do not think I missed the thing with Strong Belwas, and how sick he was getting from the honeyed locusts Hizdahr had specifically encouraged Dany to eat. Coincidence? I THINK NOT.
Or, well, maybe. BUT PROBABLY NOT.
Though it does occur to me that there doesn’t seem to be any immediately obvious reason for him to off Dany at this point, since other than a few quibbles here and there, she’s basically been going along with everything he’s wanted of her. And, you know, I’m assuming that he could not possibly have predicted DRAGON-RIDING DISRUPTIONS OF AWESOME, so as far as I can tell Hizdahr assassinating Dany seems like jumping the gun.
Unless he’d planned to do it all along, of course. In which case I SO told you so, Dany! That bastard. Grr.
Of course, given that DRAGON-RIDING DISRUPTIONS OF AWESOME totally did happen, I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen next re: Dany or Hizdahr or Meereen or just about anything in this entire storyline. So I don’t know if the fact that Hizdahr may or may not have tried to poison Dany via candied insect even matters now.
Because basically, what happened at the end of this chapter is what the kids call “a game-changer.” To say the least.
Three treasons shall you know. She was the first, Jorah was the second, Brown Ben Plumm the third. Was she done with betrayals?
…Really? We’re done with that prophecy already? Damn, I didn’t even notice.
Probably because I wouldn’t have thought Plumm’s betrayal would have counted. It doesn’t seem quite… momentous enough. Or “not pivotal enough” might be a better way to phrase it. His defection to the Yunkai’i was another nail in the coffin of Dany’s hope to save Meereen herself, leading to her decision to marry Hizdahr, yes, but I don’t remember that it was the key one. However, the whole business is pretty jumbled in my head by now so I could very easily be wrong.
Well, whether Plumm counts as the “betrayed for money” part of the prophecy or not, I very seriously doubt that Dany is done with betrayals as long as she sticks with the royalty racket. Seems that the more rarified your social circle, the more that treachery becomes a feature rather than a bug.
Of course, who knows what Dany’s going to do next re: being a royal person. I personally kind of wish she would fly off into the sunset with her dragon and go live on like a tropical island somewhere and never have to deal with stupid shit again, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get that particular wish. Sigh.
And last and most definitely least:
Soon Dany was as clean as she was ever going to be. She pushed herself to her feet, splashing softly. Water ran down her legs and beaded on her breasts.
LOL. Did it now.
Sorry, it’s just funny, sometimes. Martin, as a general rule, has done an excellent job of making his female characters (including Dany) real, believable and complex human beings who 95% of the time are so very much more than just eye candy, but wow, sometimes it is so screamingly obvious that this is written by a straight guy that it’s hilarious to me. Let’s just say, I’m pretty sure we’ve never gotten (nor will we ever get) such a lovingly precise description in ASOIAF of where the water beads on, say, Jaime’s body after he comes out of a bath. Heh.
But hey, if it’s in the same chapter where Dany faces down a GODDAMN DRAGON and gets on its back in front of half the world and RIDES HER DRAGON INTO THE GODDAMN SUNSET, BECAUSE FUCK ALLA Y’ALL, she says, I AM THE BLOOD OF THE FUCKING DRAGON, HEAR ME ROAR, then you know what? We are all good.
And on that restrained and measured note, we out! Whoo! Dragons! Thursday! Next time! Dragons! Whoo!