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 33 of A Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 55 (“The Queensguard”) and Chapter 56 (“The Iron Suitor”).
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 55: The Queensguard
Reznak explains to Ser Barristan that Hizdahr would prefer that his own men guard him, and he was the queen’s man. Barristan refuses to believe that Daenerys is dead, but many do, and Hizdahr is systematically removing her people from their positions and replacing them with his own pit fighters. Barristan thinks on how the Unsullied have refused to serve anyone but their mother, and knows that Hizdahr cannot rely on the Brazen Beasts to be loyal to him over the Shavepate. He is amused that Hizdahr is at least smart enough to keep Barristan as the army’s commander. Barristan agrees without quibbling and leaves.
He climbs up to the queen’s old chambers, now empty save for Missandei, and reflects on the strange direction of his life, and thinks that he has failed Daenerys, just as he’d failed her father and brother and even Robert. He berates himself for not stopping her in the arena. He’d later learned that once out of the pit, Drogon had responded to attacks on him with flame, killing over two hundred and wounding many others, and then flew north and disappeared. Some thought Daenerys had fallen or been eaten, but Barristan is sure that she was riding the dragon. He muses aloud that she might have gone home, but Missandei appears and says she would not have left without them.
Missandei tells Barristan that the Shavepate wants to meet with him. Barristan thinks Skahaz is taking a huge risk coming here when Hizdahr so greatly dislikes him, and thinks this meeting stinks of the game of thrones, a thing he hates, but tells Missandei he will go. He reassures her that he will find Dany, but it rings hollow to him. He thinks of his failures of all those other kings, and refuses to believe she is dead. He goes to train the young men he is grooming to take over the Queensguard after him, determined that Dany will have worthy knights to guard her. That evening he goes to meet with Skahaz in nondescript clothing, wary that it might be a trap. He tells himself his loyalty must be to his queen’s consort, but he is not convinced that is actually true, since Dany had never specifically commanded it of him.
Skahaz tells Barristan that he has the man who poisoned the honeyed locusts, and that the Sons of the Harpy had forced him to do it, with Hizdahr behind it all. Hizdahr’s peace was a sham, he says, and abandoned now that Daenerys is gone and Yurkhaz is dead. He also reveals that the Volantenes are sending a fleet, and Hizdahr, the Yunkai’i, the Sons of the Harpy, and Reznak will let them into the city to re-enslave all the ones Dany had set free. Skahaz says they cannot wait for Daenerys; they must break the Yunkai’i before the Volantenes arrive. He has his Brazen Beasts and the other companies who have no love for Hizdahr, but they need the Unsullied. He asks Barristan to speak to Grey Worm for them.
Barristan protests that they cannot break the peace without Dany’s permission, and Skahaz asks, what if she is dead, and points out that she would want them to protect her children. Struggling with his loyalties, Barristan demands that no move be made against Hizdahr until there is proof he was behind the assassination attempt. Skahaz agrees, and adds that once there is proof, he will kill Hizdahr (messily) himself.
No, the old knight thought. If Hizdahr conspired at my queen’s death, I will see to him myself, but his death will be swift and clean. The gods of Westeros were far away, yet Ser Barristan Selmy paused for a moment to say a silent prayer, asking the Crone to light his way to wisdom. For the children, he told himself. For the city. For my queen.
“I will talk to Grey Worm,” he said.
Well, that is not what I expected.
Not about Hizdahr, because that was absolutely what I expected, the slimy little git. No, I mean that of all the things I thought might happen after Dany rode her dragon, straight-up disappearing was honestly not one of them. (Yes, I know I said I wanted her to be all “Screw you guys” and fly off into the sunset, but I didn’t think she’d actually do it!)
So wherrrrrre did she go? I, like Ser Barristan, refuse to consider the possibility that she is not in control of her dragon, so logically that means she, and not Drogon, decided where they fucked off to. Right? Right.
The problem with that, of course, is just what Missandei said: everyone and their dog and their dog’s army has been trying to pry Dany out of Meereen with a crowbar for like three books now, and she has refused to budge. So for her to suddenly be all “Later, taters!” and, well, fuck off into the sunset, seems very out of character for her. Fucking off into the sunset after flash-frying a couple hundred innocent bystanders, too, lest we forget, which also seems like something she would generally be against.
Well, maybe Dany doesn’t have control of just that part of it. Just because she was at the helm doesn’t mean she was also manning the cannons. So to speak.
Or maybe dragon-riding is so full of sexual innuendo delirious-making that she has temporarily lost her mind with the amazing euphoria of it all, and once she’s come down off her dragon high (heh) and done the ASOIAF equivalent of waking up hungover in Vegas married to a stripper with a tiger in the bathroom, she’ll be all “oh, yeah, I was queen of something, I should get back to that” and come on back. MAYBE.
Or, I don’t know. Girl could be anywhere. She better not be dead, is all I’m saying.
But anyway, OMG you guys! It turns out Hizdahr is a lying duplicitous usurping shitbag who tried to murder his wife and queen, all while planning to completely undo all her efforts towards peace and social change! Gasp! Let’s all take the appropriate length of pause needed to take in this shocking news okay got it yeah no really.
Bluh. I would congratulate myself on calling it forever ago, but really, the writing was on the wall for this one. I am pleased I was right about the honeyed locusts, though.
And poor Mr. Selmy and his regrets. (Mr. Selmy and the Regrets will be the name of my next Counting Crows cover band.)
If he had not gone into Duskendale to rescue Aerys from Lord Darklyn’s dungeons, the king might well have died there as Tywin Lannister sacked the town. Then Prince Rhaegar would have ascended the Iron Throne, mayhaps to heal the realm. Duskendale had been his finest hour, yet the memory tasted bitter on his tongue.
Yeah, that one’s gotta sting a little.
There’s a certain amount of irony in the unwitting similarity between Barristan’s regrets and Jaime’s over their respective careers in the Kingsguard. The irony being that Jaime’s regrets are over how he broke his vows, while Barristan’s regrets are over how he didn’t, but both amounted to the same kind of regret in the end – that their actions ultimately led to a worse result instead of a better one. Bummer, ain’t it.
Well, I sure hope technically breaking your vows at this late stage goes better for you, Mr. Selmy! I kind of highly doubt it, because this is such an impending trainwreck it’s not even funny, but nevertheless I am totally rooting for you, man! Take down the shitbag! Smash the slavers! Fight the man! Whoo!
Chapter 56: The Iron Suitor
Victarion Greyjoy is furious that barely over half of the fleet he started out with has made it to the rendezvous point at the Isle of Cedars. Ralf the Limper says it was storms, and opines that they’ve been cursed by Euron. Victarion slaps him around for saying it, but secretly wonders if he is right. He gives orders for the fleet to make ready to depart the next day anyway, as he knows he must beat the Volantene fleet to Meereen, and is determined he will not give up his prize.
Grousing about how much he hates everything, he goes below and rambles at the dusky woman about his plans to kidnap Daenerys from Meereen while she unwraps his hand, where the wound given him by Ser Serry is deeply infected and gangrenous. Maester Kerwin, a captive from the Stepstones who Victarion disdains as weak and girlish and who has been gangraped by the crew, comes in to look at the wound. Kerwin tells him that the wound is getting worse and his hand may need to be amputated. Victarion tells him he will kill him first, so Kerwin only slices the wound to let out the pus. It is disgusting. After, Victarion reflects on how he had gotten the wound and how he had been so sure it was of no moment until it wouldn’t heal, and begins raving at the dusky woman about conspiracy theories that maybe he was being poisoned, until he gets word that one of his captains has “fished a wizard from the sea”.
He goes up to find a monstrous black-skinned man called Moqorro, who claims he survived ten days in the sea before being rescued, which Victarion scoffs at. Moqorro says he is a priest of R’hllor, and the others begin clamoring to kill him before he brings down curses upon them, but Moqorro seems unafraid. Victarion wants to know why they called him a wizard, and the Vole says he knows things he shouldn’t, and that he’d told the Vole that if he didn’t bring the priest here, that Victarion would die. At that moment Victarion’s hand throbs so badly that he stumbles. The men immediately assume Moqorro has cursed Victarion and start yelling to kill him, but Victarion shuts them up and takes the priest to his cabin.
The dusky woman hisses at Moqorro, and Victarion backhands her. Moqorro tells him his death is here in his hand. He says he has seen Victarion in his nightfires, “striding through the flames stern and fierce, your great axe dripping blood, blind to the tentacles that grasp you at wrist and neck and ankle, the black strings that make you dance.” Moqorro tells him he can heal the wound with fire, but it will cause great pain. Victarion says he laughs at pain, but warns the priest he will kill him if he is lying.
The iron captain was not seen again that day, but as the hours passed the crew of his Iron Victory reported hearing the sound of wild laughter coming from the captain’s cabin, laughter deep and dark and mad, and when Longwater Pyke and Wulfe One-Eye tried the cabin door they found it barred. Later singing was heard, a strange high wailing song in a tongue the maester said was High Valyrian. That was when the monkeys left the ship, screeching as they leapt into the water.
Come sunset, as the sea turned black as ink and the swollen sun tinted the sky a deep and bloody red, Victarion came back on deck. He was naked from the waist up, his left arm blood to the elbow. As his crew gathered, whispering and trading glances, he raised a charred and blackened hand. Wisps of dark smoke rose from his fingers as he pointed at the maester. “That one. Cut his throat and throw him in the sea, and the winds will favor us all the way to Meereen.” Moqorro had seen that in his fires. He had seen the wench wed too, but what of it? She would not be the first woman Victarion Greyjoy had made a widow.
Aw, Moqorro, why you gots to be like that?
I’m impressed and… glad-ish, I guess, that you survived the wreck of whatever Tyrion’s ship was called, but did you have to save Captain Manpain from a rotting gangrene death? I was getting all excited about his very unpleasant end there for a minute, and then you go and RUIN MY FUN. I shall need to sulk about this.
Serry, that had been his name. A knight, and heir to Southshield. I killed him, but he stabs at me from beyond the grave. From the hot heart of whatever hell I sent him to, he thrusts his steel into my hand and twists.
How very Captain Ahab of him. Too bad he also failed to get rid of his white whale. Boo!
But maybe it won’t matter, because Victarion’s plan to kidnap/marry Dany seems absolutely looney tunes to me. I mean, even assuming he beats the Volantene fleet to Meereen, aren’t there like six million other ships from the Pro-Slavery Coalition (dba Fuckbarge Douchecanoes Inc.) already docked there? So he’s going to, what, do a smash and grab on an entire city, while it’s being technically besieged? I am beboggled.
However, I am now also much more glad than I was a minute ago about Dany and Drogon fucking off into the hypothetical sunset at this particular juncture. Because it will be funny as hell if Victarion fights alllll the way to the castle beyond the goblin city, only to find there’s nothing there.
I don’t think it’ll fall out that way, of course. But it would, nevertheless, be very funny. (Even funnier than his monkey infestation, which was hilarious. The monkey shit rain was the best.)
Unfortunately, I foresee (ha ha) that Moqorro will probably also throw a wrench into my fun on that score as well. Frickin’ red priests, y’all. When will they stop plaguing me? I ask you!
The second-to-last paragraph of this chapter (quoted above) raised my eyebrows because it is one of the only times (that I can recall) that Martin has completely broken his rule about sticking strictly to tight 3rd person points of view. Just for that one paragraph, you see, he breaks into omniscient 3rd person, meaning that we get to see what everyone is thinking/feeling, rather than just what Victarion (the POV character for this chapter) is thinking/feeling. Tsk, tsk, sir! I guess he decided there was no other way to make that segue work, but it was very naughty of him, authorially speaking.
[…] Ravenfeeder and Iron Kiss. But the day before and the day before there had been nothing, and only Headless Jeyne and Fear before that, then two more days of empty seas and cloudless skies after Ralf the Limper appeared with the remnants of his squadron. Lord Quellon, White Widow, Lamentation, Woe, Leviathan, Iron Lady, Reaper’s Wind, and Warhammer, with six more ships behind, two of them storm-wracked and under tow.
My next drinking game will be “Ironborn Ship or Thrash Metal Band?”, and everyone will get alcohol poisoning.
On the day the Doom came to Valyria, it was said, a wall of water three hundred feet high had descended on the island, drowning hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, leaving none to tell the tale but some fisherfolk who had been at sea and a handful of Velosi spearmen posted in a stout stone tower on the island’s highest hill, who had seen the hills and valleys beneath them turn into a raging sea.
Dude, was there a type of natural disaster that didn’t happen to Valyria on Doom Day? Were there also tornados? Sharknados? Smog? I mean, damn.
And that’s what it is, O My Peeps! Have a weekend, and I’ll see you next Thursday!