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 35 of A Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 59 (“The Discarded Knight”) and Chapter 60 (“The Spurned 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!
Once again, Scheduling Note: I will be on vacation for the week surrounding surrounding Labor Day weekend, and thus there will be no ROIAF post next Thursday, September 3rd. Blogination should resume the following Thursday, September 10th.
Got it? Good. Onward!
Chapter 59: The Discarded Knight
Hizdahr is holding audience, having replaced Dany’s bench with two ornate golden thrones, one left empty. Barristan is not impressed with the people Hizdahr has selected to replace Dany’s trusted entourage, and wonders if the Shavepate is in the room, hiding behind a mask of the Brazen Beasts. The assembled petitioners immediately clamor about their injuries and wrongs as a result of the incident at the pits, or alternately with demands to know whether the queen is dead, and Reznak is hard-pressed to calm them.
Barristan notes that the Dorne prince and his companions are in the hall, and thinks that Martell does not realize the extent of his danger with Daenerys no longer there to protect him. He is not surprised that Dany was not interested in the prince; he thinks that Dany “wants fire, and Dorne sent her mud.” He notes that the king has seen Martell and frowned about it. He is struck by the thought that the court of Dorne is rife with plots and poisons, and wonders if perhaps the honeyed locusts were aimed at Hizdahr rather than Dany.
Three Yunkish Great Masters come in with the mercenary Bloodbeard, who flings a severed head at the feet of the king. Barristan sees it is Admiral Groleo, to his grief. Hizdahr freezes in shock at the display and stutters something, and one of the Yunkish slavers informs him that Groleo’s execution was in redress for the death of their commander Yurkhaz at the pit. Barristan points out that Yurkhaz’s death was an accident, trampled by his own people in the panic, but is ignored. As a show of “good faith,” the Yunkish return three of their other six hostages, but only the ones who are Hizdahr’s relatives. They announce that the other three will remain in Yunkish custody until the dragons are all destroyed.
Reznak protests that only Daenerys can order the dragons killed, and Bloodbeard sneers that she is dead, which engenders a roar of protests and cheers alike from the onlookers. Barristan thinks that Bloodbeard wants to start something regardless of the cause. Hizdahr declares he must consult with his advisors and ends the audience hastily. Barristan considers what Daenerys would want, and goes after Quentyn Martell to advise him to leave for Dorne immediately, without packing.
Gerris Drinkwater, however, is not impressed by Barristan’s news that the king took note of them today, and Quentyn brings up the marriage pact. Barristan counters that the pact has no force, and also that Dany clearly preferred both her former paramour and current husband to Quentyn. He tells them about the poisoned locusts, and concludes from Quentyn’s reactions that he was most likely not behind it, but warns him that anyone looking for a scapegoat for the assassination attempt will choose Quentyn as the most obvious target. Quentyn observes that Barristan’s moniker is “The Bold,” and asks him what he thinks will be his own epithet if he flees Meereen without the queen.
“Quentyn the Cautious? Quentyn the Craven? Quentyn the Quail?”
The Prince Who Came Too Late, the old knight thought… but if a knight of the Kingsguard learns nothing else, he learns to guard his tongue. “Quentyn the Wise,” he suggested. And hoped that it was true.
Well, this situation bodes well for everybody! Nothing could possibly go wrong!
Selmy’s thought that the poisoned locusts were intended for Hizdahr instead of Dany—or even for both of them—is an interesting one, though I don’t know if I really buy it. I would have argued against it on the grounds that a lot more people in Meereen want Dany dead than Hizdahr, but all things considered that might not actually be true. Even aside from the Shavepate, there seem to be a lot of people who are pretty pissed about Dany’s disappearance and ready to blame Hizdahr for it. But even so, Occam’s Razor still suggests to me that Hizdahr is to blame. Possibly because I just really want it to be Hizdahr so Selmy can kill him, but that’s neither here nor there!
But that Barristan is batting around alternate theories on the poison at all is a little puzzling. Did he not ever get around to talking to the confectioner that Skahaz claimed has proof Hizdahr set it up? Was that disproved? And if so, why doesn’t Barristan mention it in his thoughts? It feels like that entire thing from Selmy’s last POV was just dropped, which is kind of weird.
In a few more days, if the gods smiled on them, Hizdahr zo Loraq would no longer rule Meereen … but no good would be served by having Prince Quentyn caught up in the bloodbath that was coming.
…Or maybe not, but still.
So this is going to get hairy, I see. Color me completely shocked. Well, at least I probably don’t have to worry that Hizdahr is going to fold like the cheap suit he is and kill the dragons, because it looks very much like he won’t get the chance. I’m okay with that, even as I remain convinced the whole thing is going to go horrifically pear-shaped almost immediately. Because, c’mon. It totally is.
I wonder if Quentyn is going to take Barristan’s advice or not. Past experience with ASOIAF suggests assuming the shittiest possible outcome for everyone involved, so the smart money is on Quentyn refusing to go anywhere, and getting caught right up in whatever crazy coup idea Skahaz and Barristan have cooked up between them. So, uh, good luck on that, kid. I won’t hold my breath, let’s just say.
You could make a poultice out of mud to cool a fever. You could plant seeds in mud and grow a crop to feed your children. Mud would nourish you, where fire would only consume you, but fools and children and young girls would choose fire every time.
Right, because teenage boys never make idiotic decisions, Selmy, only girls do. Uh-huh.
But, kneejerk sexism aside, he certainly seems to have hit the nail on the head as concerns Dany’s romantic issues specifically. Cf. Exhibit A: Naharis, Daaaaaario. Ugh.
Of course, Quentyn Martell may be boring mud, but as Selmy himself thinks, he’s certainly not related to all-mud, fire-free folks. I’m really fairly certain it’s not actually possible to live a 100% mud life in ASOIAF even if you’re just random gal or guy, and it’s definitely impossible once you get up to royalty levels. And Dany is blood of the dragon, after all. Perhaps it is a bit overly optimistic to hope that any Targaryen would pick mud over fire.
(See, Selmy, you could have just said that and not made it about Dany being a stupid girl, sheesh.)
Chapter 60: The Spurned Suitor
Gerris returns to report to Quentyn that the meeting with the Tattered Prince is set up, but opines that they should take Ser Barristan’s advice and get out of Meereen. Quentyn thinks of the disappointment and mockery that awaits him if he returns to Dorne empty-handed, and tells Gerris and Ser Archibald that they are welcome to leave, but he is not. They tell him they are staying too, then, but argue with him the whole way to the meeting over the wisdom of attempting to treat with the Tattered Prince after they had so blatantly betrayed him. Archibald offers to kill Hizdahr for him, but Quentyn thinks that Daenerys is only the path to the prize, not the prize itself.
They meet with the mercenary captain in a seedy basement, and Quentyn is angered that he brought one extra guard than was agreed on, but apologizes for his deception. The Tattered Prince is unimpressed at his excuses, and mocks him for his lack of dragon queen to show for it. Quentyn argues that the man who originally hired him (Yurkhaz) is dead, and says he wants to hire the Windblown instead. The Tattered Prince points out that Quentyn violated their last contract, and Quentyn says he will pay double what the Yunkish are paying him. The mercenary wants to know what he wants to hire them for, and Quentyn tells him he wants him to help Quentyn steal a dragon.
“Double does not pay for dragons, princeling. Even a frog should know that much. Dragons come dear. And men who pay in promises should have at least the sense to promise more.”
“If you want me to triple—”
“What I want,” said the Tattered Prince, “is Pentos.”
Well, that’s a different tack.
I am so bemused right now. What on earth does Quentyn think he’s going to do with a dragon even if he can get one? Yes, he apparently has some Targaryen ancestry, so yay that and all, but even Dany, a full-blooded Targaryen scion, has trouble controlling these dragons, so what makes Quentyn think he’ll do any better? Plus I don’t recall that Quentyn acquitted himself all that well when Dany took him to see them in person, so really, what.
But okay, sure. Assuming he can tame or at least subdue a dragon—which is a VERY big assumption in my opinion—that would certainly be a coup for him. Very probably, a large enough one to counteract his failure to bring home Daenerys herself. So I see the reasoning there, sort of.
Also, assuming she ever gets her shit together and comes back from wherever she and Drogon have fucked off to—which is a slightly smaller “if,” I hope—having one of her other dragons held captive in Dorne would admittedly provide a pretty strong incentive for Dany to finally abandon the steaming pile of dysentery that is Slaver’s Bay and come back to Westeros finally. Maybe. Or, you know, he can just go and ravage Westeros without her, whatevs.
So I see the plan, probably. I am just extremely skeptical of Quentyn’s ability to execute it.
…Oh, okay, on rereading for the summary I see where he got the idea:
The road leads through her, not to her. Daenerys is the means to the prize, not the prize itself. “ ‘The dragon has three heads,’ she said to me. ‘My marriage need not be the end of all your hopes,’ she said. ‘I know why you are here. For fire and blood.’”
Ahhh, so he thinks she meant that he could possibly ride one of the dragons with her? Huh. I guess that’s… possible? Is that what she meant? I dunno, it seems awfully optimistic of her.
But then again, it’s not like there are a ton of even marginally trustworthy people with Targaryen ancestry floating around in Meereen, so maybe Dany was working with what she had.
Hmm. Veddy interestink.
“Do you trust this peace, Quent? I don’t. Half the city is calling the dragonslayer a hero, and the other half spits blood at the mention of his name.”
“Harzoo,” the big man said.
Quentyn frowned. “His name was Harghaz.”
“Hizdahr, Humzum, Hagnag, what does it matter? I call them all Harzoo. He was no dragonslayer. All he did was get his arse roasted black and crispy.”
*frown* Who are they talking about? Is this something I need to understand? I hope not.
“Meris is no man. Meris, sweet, undo your shirt, show him.”
“That will not be necessary,” said Quentyn. If the talk he had heard was true, beneath that shirt Pretty Meris had only the scars left by the men who’d cut her breasts off.
Also, I really don’t know what the Tattered Prince’s obsession with Pentos is, or why he thinks Quentyn’s just going to be able to hand it to him on a platter.
…Of course, having a dragon would probably be actually pretty helpful with that, so, um. Sure.
Well, one thing’s for sure: it would appear that Quentyn Martell is, possibly, not nearly as mud-full and fire-free as Ser Barristan—or I—assumed him to be.
Yay? Maybe yay? It’s definitely a thing that is happening. I am intrigued, anyway.
And so in general, the plot, she do continue to thicken! But she will have to simmer for a while until I get back. So Happy Labor Day to those of you who care, and I’ll see y’all in two weeks! Cheers!