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 41 of A Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 69 (“Jon”).
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 69: Jon
Jon pleads his case to Queen Selyse re: the Hardhome refugees, but she is uninterested in their fate, and declares him a fool for his intention to lead the expedition to rescue them. She brings in the “true wildling king,” Gerrick Kingsblood, and declares that he will marry his daughters to her knights. She has also decided that Val will marry Ser Patrek. Jon makes a half-hearted attempt to explain to her how badly that will go, but Selyse dismisses him, and he leaves.
Melisandre waylays him and asks where his wolf is; Jon tells her that he must keep Ghost penned up as long as Borroq and his boar are around, for one of them would surely kill the other if allowed. Melisandre tells him that she has seen that all his ships are lost, and urges him to cancel the Hardhome expedition. Jon points out all the times she’s been wrong about what she sees. Melisandre tells him all his questions will be answered, and that he should come to her once they are. She says that she is his only hope. “A fool’s hope,” Jon tells her, and walks away.
Jon ponders the difficult logistics of his plan. At his chambers, he finds Ghost highly agitated and threatening even to him, and the crow also seems perturbed. He meets with Bowen Marsh and Othell Yarwyck, but more and more they have been balking at any of his suggestions concerning integrating the wildlings into their projects. Jon concludes that talking to them is pointless, and dismisses them. Before they go he orders them to move the four living prisoners in the ice cells to a warmer prison, but to leave the (as yet non-reanimated) corpses.
Tormund Giantsbane arrives, with rather fewer men than he had promised. He pronounces Gerrick Kingsblood “King o’ My Hairy Butt Crack.” Their discussion of the expedition is interrupted by Clydas, who is shaking as he hands Jon a letter addressed simply to “Bastard.” It’s from Ramsay Bolton, who claims that he has killed the “false king” and all his friends, and taken his magic sword. He reveals that he knows Mance Rayder’s true identity, and claims that he has him in a cage, cloaked with “the skins of the six whores who came with him.” He demands his bride back, along with Selyse, Shireen, Melisandre, Val and her son, and Reek. He claims he will leave the Watch be if Jon complies, but if he does not, then Ramsay will “cut out your bastard’s heart and eat it.”
Jon reads it to Tormund, and comments that Melisandre had seen it coming. Tormund suggests that it could be all lies, but Jon knows that at least some of it must be true. Jon considers what he is about to do, and knows it to be treason. Then he thinks of his brothers and sisters, and tells Tormund that he is changing the plan. After conferring, he goes to Shieldhall, forcing Ghost to stay behind. The members of the Hardhome expedition are there, and Jon sees that the wildlings outnumber the crows five to one. Jon tells them that he had planned to lead the expedition to Hardhome himself, but that he will be riding south instead. Then he reads them Bolton’s letter, and the hall explodes in fury.
Jon reminds them that the Night’s Watch takes no part in the wars of the Seven Kingdoms, and says the brothers will go to Hardhome, and he will go to Winterfell alone, unless there is anyone who wishes to go with him. The wildlings roar their assent, and Jon does not care that Marsh and Yarwyck and the rest of the brothers are leaving. He leaves to go see Selyse, resolving to speak to Melisandre afterward, but then there is a scream from Hardin’s Tower, and Jon runs there to find the giant Wun Wun bleeding from sword wounds and beating the corpse of Ser Patrek to a bloody pulp. The crowd grows quickly, and Jon shouts for Leathers to try and talk the giant down before someone tries to get retribution. Then Wick Whittlestick slashes at Jon’s neck with a knife. Jon avoids the cut, and asks why. Wick answers, “for the Watch,” and slashes at him again.
Men were screaming. Jon reached for Longclaw, but his fingers had grown stiff and clumsy. Somehow he could not seem to get the sword free of its scabbard.
Then Bowen Marsh stood there before him, tears running down his cheeks. “For the Watch.” He punched Jon in the belly. When he pulled his hand away, the dagger stayed where he had buried it.
Jon fell to his knees. He found the dagger’s hilt and wrenched it free. In the cold night air the wound was smoking. “Ghost,” he whispered. Pain washed over him. Stick them with the pointy end. When the third dagger took him between the shoulder blades, he gave a grunt and fell face-first into the snow. He never felt the fourth knife. Only the cold…
I. I am just.
I… no, hang on.
*stands among wreckage, panting*
I am… a little upset right now.
Et tu, Marte? Seriously, et fuckin’ tu?
I will go away right now, and come back later.
And now that it is later: Well, I suppose it was inevitable. We couldn’t have an entire book go by without killing off a Stark skirting so dangerously close to Hero territory! That’s just crazy talk!
Do you suppose there’s an award for Most Assassinated Family in Westeros? Because I feel like we’ve got a contender for the crown. PUN INFUCKINGTENDED.
But, it’s not like this mutiny wasn’t telegraphed with great obviosity throughout this entire storyline. Hell, Melisandre pretty much straight up told him it was going to happen. For my part, I’ve been dreading the likelihood of a Julius Caesar moment for Jon pretty much since the moment he got shanghaied into being Lord Commander. I was just hoping that it would be an aborted Julius Caesar moment. HAHAHA silly Leigh.
If he’d just had his damn direwolf with him…
And, so, okay. I have reread the ending of the chapter, and for the hell of it, I will point out that getting stabbed three-ish times in your central squishy bits is not impossible to survive. It is, admittedly, pretty damn unlikely, but it is possible.
So, given that, the potential scenarios are:
- Jon dies, and stays dead. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
- Jon almost dies, but gets excellent medical care and pulls through! Also, there are puppies! And rainbows! And winning lottery tickets! Yay!
- Jon almost dies, but Melisandre gets there and does horrible fire-related healing magic on him, like what Moqorro did with Captain Manpain, and Jon lives except with… er, volcano torso. Or something.
- Jon dies, but Melisandre gets there and does the zombie resurrection dance of her people, like what… um, Red Priest Whatshisguts did with Catelyn and Beric, and Jon “lives” except with gross death wounds and, probably, a whole bunch of anger management issues.
- Jon dies, and comes back a wight, and kills him a whole passel of fuckin’ traitor “brothers” before getting mowed down. I’m all for the murder part.
- Jon dies, and comes back a wight, but is somehow a nice wight. Or at least a comparatively non-homicidal one, like Mr. Coldhands who helped Bran become a tree.
- Jon dies, but sends his soul/consciousness/whatever to warg with Ghost like that wildling dude from the… Prologue? I think?, and then is… stuck being a wolf. Forever. But, on the upside, then probably kills him a whole passel of fuckin’ traitor “brothers” before either getting mowed down, or escaping to go be a wolf somewhere where everyone isn’t a bunch of braindead assholes.
Of these possible scenarios, the one that is the least likely is, naturally, #2. Of the others, really, I could see any one of them happening. All of them could reasonably be claimed to have been foreshadowed by prior events, and all of them suck to a greater or lesser degree (mostly a greater one), which in this series raises their likelihood of happening by a factor of ten.
So! One of my favorite characters in the whole series is probably at least mostly dead! Sure, great, no big deal. WHATEVS.
Okay, and then there was other stuff, blah blah Selyse is a moron, blee bloo where the hell did this Gerrick Kingsblood clown come from, did I miss a memo, yadda yadda Tormund Giantsbane is a Freudian wet dream.
As for Revoltin’ Bolton’s charming little screed, well. As Jon observed, there was at least some truth to his ranting, because he knew who Mance was, but that certainly doesn’t mean any of the rest of it is true. Of course, it also doesn’t mean it isn’t true. I think those sentences made sense. But if they didn’t, you know what I mean.
The one really interesting thing in the whole letter, however, is that Ramsay demands that Jon give him back both his bride and Theon/Reek. Because, since when does Jon have either of them? All the other people Ramsay demanded are in Jon’s possession, so to speak, or at least in his vicinity, but last we knew, Theon and Jeyne had just joined Stannis’s Army of Great Hypothermia and were nowhere near the Wall. So if Ramsay had really defeated and killed Stannis and all his supporters, why wouldn’t he have found Theon and Jeyne among them?
Well, maybe they left and/or escaped before the theoretical slaughter, but I still think it sheds at least a little doubt on Ramsay’s boast that he killed Stannis et al. We’ll see, I guess.
And screw you, Martin, for getting me all excited for a hot second that Jon was going to go take back Winterfell and kill Mr. Buffalo Bill On Steroids, because OMG, aaaaaaand then: stabbity.
Nor am I happy that I now have to utter the phrase “Jon should have listened to Melisandre,” but I must utter it, because I strongly suspect that if he had heeded her instruction to come to her once he got the letter, instead of going to drum up the troops, there is a distinct possibility that the stabbity might have been averted. Crap.
In fact you can probably have a fairly heated discussion over whether Jon brought the stabbity on himself, by not listening to Melisandre, by ignoring the brewing mutinousness among his men, and most of all by publicly declaring his intent to commit treason without setting up at least some protection (e.g., HIS GIANT FUCKING DIREWOLF) for himself first. And certainly there is a lot of merit to that argument.
But at the same time, I can’t really bring myself to fault Jon for practically any of the choices he made. Yeah, twenty-twenty hindsight says he should have listened to Melisandre, but Melly is and always has been shady as fuck, and if I didn’t trust her, how do I berate Jon for also failing to do so? And yeah, he should have figured out how to quell the unrest among the Watch, but I also cannot in conscience say that he shouldn’t have done the things that led to that unrest. Jon was acting to save thousands of lives that literally everyone else was happy to write off with a “good riddance,” and I can’t find it in me to say that he shouldn’t have done that, even knowing what it would lead to.
And yeah, I think the business in Shieldhall was a mistake, a hotheaded one, but I certainly don’t disagree with the intent, just the execution. That could have been accomplished in a much more devious and roundabout way, methinks, but I still think he should have done it.
The only real, tragic, terrible mistake I think Jon made was not having Ghost with him at all times, without exception. Jesus, just get a crossbow and threaten to shoot the fucking boar unless the other warg keeps him under wraps – and then do actually shoot it if you have to. Sheesh.
Well. Kind of a moot point now, isn’t it.
And now I have to make myself a liar, because ain’t no frickin’ way I am subjecting myself to Yet Another ASOIAF Climactic Chapter of No Doubt Mighty Rug-Yanking right now after this bullshit, so we are stopping here. In future I will remember to know better than to think I can predict how this thing is going to go.
Ergo, that’s our show! Come back for more puppies and rainbows and tax writeoffs next Thursday!