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 40 of A Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 68 (“The Dragontamer”).
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 68: The Dragontamer
Quentyn cannot sleep, and Gerris catches him burning his hand in a candle flame, and asks if he is mad. Quentyn thinks to himself, no, just scared, but does not say so aloud. They discuss getting Quentyn a whore to relax, which Quentyn rejects. He is stung by Gerris’s assertion that Quentyn needs to “practice” to please a girl like Daenerys, and admits to himself that he is terrified of the idea of bedding her, as well as of what he has planned for the next day. Aloud, though, he insists that this will be his “great adventure,” and that Dorne will not so easily forget him with dragons. He ignores Gerris’s concerns about his plan, and dismisses him.
The next morning, he and his companions don the Brazen Beast disguises provided to them by the Tattered Prince, and go to a side entrance of the Great Pyramid, passing themselves off as replacement guards with a callsign the Tattered Prince had given them (“dog”). The real guards seem to hesitate, but accept it and leave. They open the door and bring in a wagon loaded with mutton and ox meat, along with six mercenaries, including Pretty Meris, who assures Quentyn that the wagon will hold a dragon and that the Tattered Prince is waiting nearby to take them out of the city. Quentyn feels sick with nerves, but leads them in.
Four guards are before the partially melted doors barring the dragons’ prison, one in a basilisk mask and the others in locust masks. Quentyn gives the callsign, but the basilisk stiffens, and Quentyn tells his people to take them. Arch kills the basilisk with a hammer blow, and Gerris and the others kill the locusts, even though one tries to yield. Quentyn is horrified at the deaths, but tries to pull himself together, reminding himself that Daenerys must want him to do this, since she had shown him the dragons. They break the lock on the doors and go in, and Quentyn tells himself that if Daenerys could master them so could he.
They see Rhaegal first, and feed him a sheep, and Quentyn realizes his chains are broken. He does not see Viserion at first, but then realizes the white dragon is above them, in an alcove he burned and clawed out of the ceiling. Quentyn stammers orders for more meat, but Viserion comes down between them and the door. He scans the intruders, particularly Meris, and Quentyn realizes he is looking for Daenerys. He calls Viserion’s name and tries to order him down, but coughs instead, and the dragon loses interest in him and goes for the door. One of the mercenaries shoots a crossbow bolt at him, and Viserion picks him up, burns him alive, and begins eating him. Quentyn tries again to assert control, and this time uses a whip on the dragon. Then the big man screams for him to look behind him.
Quentyn turned and threw his left arm across his face to shield his eyes from the furnace wind. Rhaegal, he reminded himself, the green one is Rhaegal.
When he raised his whip, he saw that the lash was burning. His hand as well. All of him, all of him was burning.
Oh, he thought. Then he began to scream.
Before I read anything other than the chapter title: AW YEAH.
And then a few lines later when I realize it’s Quentyn: Er. Okay?
And then I read this part:
The hero sets out with his friends and companions, faces dangers, comes home triumphant. Only some of his companions don’t return at all. The hero never dies, though. I must be the hero.
And I was like: oh, shit, he is so gonna die.
And… well. Apparently I was not wrong.
Also apparently, Dornish culture has no equivalent warning about jinxing oneself, because damn.
I mean, maybe he’ll survive… but no, uh-uh. Quentyn is toast, y’all. Literally.
I must conclude, therefore, that the appropriate aphorism in ASOIAF isn’t so much “nice guys finish last” as it is “nice guys get roasted alive and eaten by dragons.” Figures.
(And man, I am so pissed now that I wasted the “do not meddle in the affairs of dragons” quote on another post’s cut text, because OMG how perfect would that have been here, right? Curses on my unknowing jump of the gun!)
I vaguely remember noting back in the day when we first met Quentyn that he seemed like an almost bizarrely nice person, and also being very worried for him on that account. It seems that my fears were really, really not misplaced. Sigh.
Well, okay then. Bye, Quentyn! I really rather liked you, despite your essential wussiness, but as has been made clear, you must be THIS high on the badass/ruthless scale to ride the ASOIAF ride, and you, sadly, fell significantly short. C’est la vie. Or la mort, as the case may be. N’est-ce pas?
Aaand now the dragons are loose, and no doubt about to fuck some Meereenese shit UP, you guys. Nice jorb, Quentyn, well done, really. Lord.
After summarizing this chapter, I then recalled that I had actually said in the previous post that maybe Quentyn had freed them, which wow, okay, go me. But my brain being sieve-like, I had honestly forgotten that, so when I first read the chapter title my initial thought was actually that it was going to be Dany. Hence the AW YEAH. Even though I don’t think Martin has ever given an epithet chapter title to a character who already had established POV “named” chapters thus far. But I could hope!
And as long as I was hoping for that, my second thought had been that it was going to be Tyrion. His confession about his obsession with dragons waaaaaaay back in AGOT, and reiterated several times since then, is a Chekhov’s Gun that has been waiting to be fired for just about the entire series, and I am really ready for that shoe to drop already, okay. But I suppose logistically that would have made no sense whatsoever, so fine, whatever, I’m not sulking. I’M NOT. Shut up.
And, yeah. So this will be a fun time for everyone involved now, won’t it. Barbeque City!
Oh, what, come on, that joke was just sitting there, I had to. Y’all hush.
Well, Dany had better get her ass back from wherever she’s fucked off to and get this shit locked down, stat. That’s what I say.
Also, I’m assuming the locust guards Quentyn’s people killed were in fact loyal to Skahaz/Barristan’s coup faction, and that’s why they didn’t know the password? But if I was also supposed to know/guess the identities of any of them, I sure didn’t. Here’s hoping they were just random redshirts!
But then again, I’m not sure that that code was legit anyway. Not least because “dog” has got to be the worst Sooper Sekrit Sign word ever. Seriously, “dog”? I mean, not that I think it should have had numbers and asterisks and random capitalization in it or anything, but sheesh. Dog.
I think the Tattered Prince may have been fucking with our Dornish Prince. Not that it matters now, I suppose.
And lastly, a couple of random quotes!
“They call them Graces. They come in different colors. The red ones are the only ones who fuck.” Gerris seated himself across the table. “The septas back home should take up the custom, if you ask me. Have you noticed that old septas always look like prunes? That’s what a life of chastity will do to you.”
Okay, funny joke is funny, but honestly I suspect what a life of chastity brings women in medievalish times is the possibility of actually living long enough to get that wrinkled, instead of dying in late middle age after wearing your body out with baby after baby after baby. Just saying.
“There are little snuggeries in the pleasure gardens, and they wait there every night until a man chooses them.”
TIL that “snuggery” is an actual word, and is also possibly one of the most British nouns I’ve ever come across.
And, okay. I’m getting really close to the end of the book now, and I’ve determined (without actually looking at the titles) that I have four chapters left. So instead of continuing on, I think I’m going to stop here, so I can do two chapters each for the next two posts. Hopefully that will work well.
OMG you guys, I’m almost caught up. I don’t even know what to do with myself.
But we’ll find that out Real Soon Now, yeah? So have a lovely fall weekend, and I’ll see you next Thursday!