By Charles Matthews

Saturday, August 27, 2011

11. A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 431-468


Daenerys is pissed. She has been to see the highborn of Qarth. "They never saw me for a queen, she thought bitterly. I was only an afternoon's amusement, a horse girl with a curious pet." She had even dressed in Qartheen fashion, with one breast bared. She had hoped to persuade them to lend her some of the ships they owned, and perhaps some sailors too. But they were more interested in her dragon than in helping her get back the crown of the Seven Kingdoms.

But she has been making money, thanks to the merchant prince Xaro Xhoan Daxos, who has publicized the presence in Qarth of the Mother of Dragons. So people come bearing opulent gifts just for the opportunity to witness the fabulous beasts. She sells most of them, though the keeps the crown given her by the Tourmaline Brotherhood: It is "wrought in the shape of a three-headed dragon; the coils were yellow gold, the wings silver, the heads carved from jade, ivory, and onyx." Viserys had sold her mother's crown, so she kept this one, "though the weight of it made her neck ache."

Xaro has ships but he doesn't want to part with them. Instead, he proposes that he marry Daenerys and they can rule over Qarth as if they were king and queen. But Daenerys knows perfectly well that Xaro is gay, and she doesn't want to rule anywhere but in Westeros. She threatens to go to see Pyat Pree and seek the help of the warlocks, but Xaro assures her that they have nothing to give her.

The oxcart in which they are riding has slowed, and Aggo calls out to her that the way has been blocked by people watching a firemage. She gets out and Aggo lifts her up onto his horse so she can see: The firemage has created a ladder of flame that reaches into the sky. As the crowd gapes, cutpurses are moving among them, picking their pockets. The firemage begins to climb the ladder, and each rung disappears behind him. When he reaches the top, both he and the ladder disappear.

When Jhogo says, "A fine trick," a voice behind them says it isn't a trick. It is Quaithe, wearing her red lacquered mask. She says that the firemage had been only a common sleight-of-hand magician with a few tricks to distract the crowd as his cutpurses went to work; but after Daenerys arrived with her dragons, his powers have grown. Then she warns, "You must leave this city soon, Daenerys Targaryen, or you will never be permitted to leave it at all."

Daenerys asks where she should go, and Quaithe replies, "To go north, you must journey south. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow." Daenerys thinks that she means she must go to Asshai, and asks what she will find there. "Truth," says Quaithe, and disappears into the crowd.

When she returns to her chambers, Ser Jorah tells her what she is beginning to realize: "You will get no help in this city, Khaleesi." She tells him that Xaro has proposed again, and he replies that Xaro is after her dragons. He advises that she should go east, but she fears that will only take her farther away from Westeros. She proposes to go to the Free Cities and seek out Illyrio Mopatis again. He argues, "For sufficient gold, Illyrio would sell you as quickly as he would a slave, and reminds her that it was Illyrio who sold her to Khal Drogo. She persists in arguing that Illyrio could hire ships and men for her.
"Sellswords have their uses," Ser Jorah admitted, "but you will not win your father's throne with sweepings from the Free Cities. Nothing knits a broken realm together so quick as an invading army on its soil.... The lords of Westeros do not know you, and have every reason to fear and mistrust you. You must win them over before you sail. A few at least."
He adds that the longer she stays in one place, the easier it will be for her enemies to find her. "The name Targaryen still frightens them, so much that they sent a man to murder you when they heard you were with child. What will they do when they learn of your dragons?"

She realizes that the one person in Qarth whose aid she hasn't sought is the warlock, Pyat Pree.


Myrcella is sailing to meet her future husband, the Prince of Dorne, and Tyrion is worried that so many ships had to be sent to protect her. They are to sail to Braavos first, avoiding the island of Dragonstone. Myrcella should be safe when they get there, and the Braavosi will take her the rest of the way to Sunspear. It's a circuitous route, but Tyrion hopes its the safest. Stannis's fleet is still at Storm's End, besieging the castle "where Ser Cortnay Penrose continued to defy the besiegers in dead Renly's name."

The High Septon is there to bless the journey, and Tyrion rejoins the royal entourage: Cersei, Joffrey, Tommen, and members of the court. Cersei is flirting with Lancel, who has already begun feeding information to Tyrion. The queen, he has told him, is plotting with "a certain hedge knight with the unlikely name of Ser Osmund Kettleblack, and his equally unsavory brothers Osney and Osfryd" who are helping her assemble a force of sellswords all her own. But meanwhile, Bronn is paying off the Kettleblacks to promise the queen everything but give her nothing.

Prince Tommen is crying because of his sister's departure, and when Sansa tries to comfort him, Joffrey threatens her. Tyrion notices this but Cersei doesn't, and Tyrion wonders, "Can she truly be so blind as to what he is?" He has not heard from Littlefinger since he set off on his mission to try to arrange a marriage between Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell, and he wonders if they were arguing over the marriage: "Tyrion could scarcely blame them. If I were Mace Tyrell, I would sooner have Joffrey's head on a pike than his cock in my daughter."

When the ship has sailed, they begin their journey back to the castle, with the City Watch holding back the crowds. Ser Jacelyn Bywater leads the procession, followed by more of the City Watch and Ser Aron Santagar and Ser Balon Swann carrying the banners of both houses, Lannister and Baratheon. Joffrey, wearing a golden crown, follows next, with Sansa riding at his side. They are flanked by the Hound on the king's right and Ser Mandon Moore to the left of Sansa. Then came Tommen, Cersei, and Tyrion, followed by the High Septon and other courtiers including Lady Tanda and her daughter.

Tyrion can feel the hostility of the crowd, which is not cheering the royal procession. They "moved through a sea of ragged men and hungry women, breasting a tide of sullen eyes." Then, halfway to the castle, "a wailing woman forced her way between two watchmen and ran out into the street in front of the king and his companions, holding the corpse of her dead baby above her head." Joffrey starts to ride over the women, but Sansa says something to him and instead he throws a coin at her. It bounces off the dead baby and into the crowd, which starts to fight over it. "'Leave her, Your Grace,' Cersei called out to the king, 'she's beyond our help, poor thing.'"

But the woman hears Cersei. "'Whore! she shrieked. 'Kingslayer's whore! Brotherfucker!' Her dead child dropped from her arms like a sack of flour as she pointed at Cersei. 'Brotherfucker brotherfucker brotherfucker.'" Then from out of the crowd someone throws a handful of dung that hits Joffrey in the face. He screams, "Who threw that?" and rakes the filth from his hair. "A hundred golden dragons to the man who gives him up." Immediately the crowd starts pointing and shoving. He orders the guard to bring him the man. "He'll lick it off me or I'll have his head. Dog, you bring him here!"

Sandor Clegane dismounts, but there is no way to make it through the crowd. Tyrion tells Clegane not to try, but Joffrey is pointing at the roof of a building where someone had said the dung-flinger had been, and ordering the Hound to pursue him. Then from every direction there are cries of "Bastard" and "bastard monster," "Whore," "Brotherfucker," "Freak," "Halfman," and "a few cries of 'Justice' and 'Robb, King Robb, the Young Wolf,' of 'Stannis!' and even 'Renly!'" After a while the crowd takes up the cry of "Bread, bread!"

Tyrion rides up to Cersei and yells, "Back to the castle. Now." Ser Lancel draws his sword, and at the head of the column Jacelyn Bywater is giving orders to the guardsmen. A hand reaches out from the crowd and grabs Joffrey's leg, but Ser Mandon cuts off the reaching arm. Tyrion rides up and gives Joffrey's horse a smack on the rump sending it rushing forward as the crowd parts in front of it. Tyrion rides close behind, followed by Bronn, as a rock flies past Tyrion's head. The Hound and others have vanished behind. "Someone staggered in front of Joffrey's horse and shrieked as the king rode him down. Whether it had been man, woman, or child Tyrion could not have said."

They finally reach the castle and ride under the portcullis. Tyrion, Joffrey, and Ser Mandon get there first, followed by Cersei, Tommen, and Lancel, with Ser Meryn and Ser Boros behind. Then Ser Balon Swann, who has lost his helmet, and Lady Tanda, who is "half-crazed with fear for her daughter Lollys, who had been knocked from the saddle and left behind. Lord Gyles, more grey of face than ever, stammered out a tale of seeing the High Septon spilled from his litter, screeching prayers as the crowd swept over him."

Joffrey is babbling about traitors and cutting off their heads when Tyrion walks up and slaps his face, then shoves him and knocks him down. "You blind bloody fool." He calls Joffrey a "spoiled witless little boy" and charges that he has "killed Clegane and gods know how many more, and yet you come through unscratched. Damn you!" Then he kicks him. Then he starts counting who is still missing and realizes that Sansa is not there. "If Sansa Stark had come to harm, Jaime was as good as dead."

But as they are arguing about how to rescue Sansa, "Sandor Clegane cantered briskly through the gates astride Sansa's chestnut courser. The girl was seated behind, both arms tight around the Hound's chest." Tyrion asks if she's hurt. She's bleeding from a scalp wound, and she says that a man tried to pull her from the saddle and the Hound cut off his arm. The Hound lifts her down and says, "The little bird's bleeding. Someone take her back to her caste and see to that cut."

Clegane reports that four men bashed in Ser Aron Santagar's head with a cobblestone. "I gutted one, not that it did Ser Aron much good." Lady Tanda asks about her daughter, and Clegane says he never saw her, then starts looking for his horse: "If anything's happened to that horse, someone's going to pay."

A lookout calls down that Flea Bottom is on fire, and Tyrion realizes that the store of wildfire could be endangered. He tells Bronn and Clegane to make sure that the water wagons are safe and that the Guildhall of the Alchemists is protected from the fire. For an instant, Tyrion sees a look of fear in the Hound's eyes, and realizes how terrified he must be of fire, but he says he'll go, "though not by your command. I need to find that horse."

Tyrion then orders the three knights of the Kingsguard to escort heralds to order people to go home and proclaim a curfew. Ser Meryn objects that their place is with the king, but "Cersei reared up like a viper. 'Your place is where my brother says it is,' she spit. 'The Hand speaks with the king's own voice, and disobedience is treason.'"

Tyrion returns to his quarters and sends for Shagga, whom he dispatches to protect Shae. That evening, Ser Jacelyn reports that the High Septon was torn apart by the mob. "Starving men take a hard view of priests too fat to walk, Tyrion reflected." Lady Tanda's daughter had been gang-raped and was found wandering naked by the City Watch. Ser Jacelyn has more to add.
"We held the city today, my lord, but I make no promises for the morrow. The kettle is close to boiling. So many thieves and murderers are abroad that no man's house is safe, the bloody flux is spreading in the stews along Pisswater Bend, there's no food to be had for copper nor silver. Where before you heard only mutterings from the gutter, now there's open talk of treason in guildhalls and markets." 
He adds that he can't even trust his own men because "They're half-trained and undisciplined, and what loyalty they have is to their own skins. If it comes to battle, they'll not hold, I fear." Tyrion admits that if the "walls are breached, we are lost, I've known that from the start." Bywater goes on to say that his men are in touch with what people are saying. "They whisper that the gods are punishing us for the sins of your House." But they hate Tyrion the most: Cersei was there "when times were better under King Robert, but you were not." They don't like Tyrion's guards, the mountain men; they think that he got rid of Janos Slynt "because you found him too bluff and honest"; they say he threw Pycelle in the dungeon because he disagreed with Tyrion; and they say that Tyrion is plotting to take the throne for himself.
Perhaps my lord father was right to despise me all these years, if this is the best I can achieve, Tyrion thought when he was alone.... My most trusted advisers are a eunuch and a sellsword, and my lady's a whore. What does that say of me?
He calls for those advisers nevertheless. Bronn lights a fire in the fireplace and it is blazing by the time Varys appears. Varys has an excuse that he was about "the king's business," which provokes Tyrion to mutter, "My nephew is not fit to sit a privy, let alone the Iron Throne." Bronn observes, "Ever think how easy life would be if the other one had been born first? .... The weepy one, Tommen. Seems like he'd do whatever he was told, as a good king should."

Tyrion realizes what Bronn is getting at and puts it out of his mind. "Joffrey was his own blood, and Jaime's son as much as Cersei's. 'I could have your head off for saying that,' he told Bronn, but the sellsword only laughed.


A parley is taking place between Stannis Baratheon and Ser Cortnay Penrose. Davos is present, though he has not seen Stannis since he arrived at Storm's End. His son Devan, one of Stannis's squires has told him, "Since Lord Renly died, he has been troubled by terrible nightmares.... Maester's potions do not touch them. Only the Lady Melisandre can soothe him to sleep." Davos wonders if Melisandre's soothing consists of having sex with Stannis, but he doesn't dare ask his son.

The meeting is taking place at the foot of the walls of Storm's End, and when Penrose addresses Stannis as "my lord," he is corrected by Lord Alester Florent: "It is customary to grant a king the style Your Grace." Florent "had been the first of Renly's bannermen to declare for Stannis, and the first to renounce his old gods and take up the Lord of Light." He has the zeal of a convert, so when Penrose tells Melisandre, "I bow to other gods, and a different king," Florent proclaims, "There is but one true king, and one true god."

Stannis commands Penrose to open the gates of Storm's End and to surrender Robert Baratheon's bastard, Edric Storm. Penrose, of course, refuses. He also denounces the former followers of Renly who have joined Stannis as "turncloaks." And he asks why those who were closest to Renly, such as the Knight of Flowers and Brienne of Tarth are not among them. When someone claims that it was Brienne who killed Renly, Penrose says this is a lie. Lord Florent says it's possible that Brienne was the murderer, but he believes it was Catelyn Stark. The argument continues until Stannis silences it: "The Lord of Light willed that my brother die for his treason. Who did the deed matters not."

It matters to Penrose, and he pulls off his glove and throws it into Stannis's face with a challenge: "Single combat. Sword, lance, or any weapon you care to name." But Stannis refuses the challenge: "Why would I choose single combat when my eventual victory is certain?" Penrose defies him once again and returns to the castle.

As they return to the camp, Stannis's maternal grandfather, Lord Estermont observes, "If we storm these walls thousands will die.... Better to hazard but a single life, surely?" The others chime in with their opinions until Stannis silences them, and orders Davos to ride with him away from the others. Davos notices the dark circles under Stannis's eyes and the haggard look. Stannis asks if they should use Penrose's father as a hostage to persuade him to surrender, and Davos replies, "Ser Cortnay will watch his father die before he would ever betray his trust. It would gain us nothing, and bring dishonor to our cause."

He tells Stannis that he admires Penrose because "He keeps faith," unlike the men behind them who so swiftly changed allegiance from Renly to Stannis. "Last year they were Robert's men. A moon ago they were Renly's. This morning they are yours. Whose will they be on the morrow?" Stannis acknowledges the point, and admits that he has no illusions about Renly's former followers: "I have marked them for what they are. Pardoned them, yes. Forgiven. But not forgotten."

But Stannis also admits remorse for his brother's death.
"I dream of it sometimes. Of Renly's dying. A green tent, candles, a woman screaming. And blood." Stannis looked down at his hands. "I was still abed when he died. Your Devan will tell you.... Devan says I thrashed and cried out, but what does it matter? It was a dream. I was in my tent when Renly died, and when I woke my hands were clean." 
Davos thinks, "Something is wrong here."

Back in the pavilion, Stannis asks Davos what he should do about the siege. Davos says, "Strike for King's Landing at once." He argues that thousands of lives might be lost in attacking the castle, which is of no real strategic value in the battle with the Lannisters. "Once you dethrone Joffrey this castle must come to you with all the rest." But Stannis argues, "If I leave Storm's End untaken in my rear, it will be said I was defeated here. And that I cannot permit."

And then he tells Davos, "Ser Cortnay will be dead within the day. Melisandre has seen it in the flames of the future. His death and the manner of it. He will not die in knightly combat, needless to say." But he also tells Davos why he came to Storm's End to attack Renly: "Melisandre saw another day in her flames as well. A morrow where Renly rode out of the south in his green armor to smash my host beneath the walls of King's Landing. Had I met my brother there, it might have been me who died in place of him."

Davos states the obvious: "If she saw two futures, well ... both cannot be true." But Stannis replies, "Some lights cast more than one shadow.... Well, men cast their shadows across the future as well. One shadow or many. Melisandre sees them all."

Now Stannis comes to what he needs Davos to do: "Only land a boat beneath the castle, unseen, in the black of night. Can you do that?" Davos had been a smuggler, so Stannis knows perfectly well that he can do it. But Davos isn't so sure he wants to: "He was a knight now, no longer a smuggler, and he had never been an assassin." He realizes that Melisandre has done something to Stannis, and he makes a last attempt to persuade him: "Let Ser Cortnay keep the bastard boy and he may well yield." But Stannis is firm: "I must have the boy, Davos. Must. Melisandre has seen that in the flames as well."

So he finds himself sailing toward the castle with Melisandre wrapped in "a dark red cloak that covered her from head to heels." She asks him, "Are you a good man, Davos Seaworth?" He tells her, "I would say my parts are mixed, m'lady. Good and bad." And she contend, "If half an onion is black with rot, it is a rotten onion. A man is good, or he is evil." When he asks her what she is, she says she is good, "A champion of light and life." But he says she plans to kill Penrose, as she killed Maester Cressen." That was because he tried to kill her, and she "was protected by a higher power." So who killed Renly Baratheon, he asks. "Not I," she says. He replies, "Liar."

As they reach the castle and lower the sail he asks, "Who rowed you to Renly?" She says there was no need for that because "He was unprotected." But the castle has ancient spells laid upon it. "Dark walls that no shadow can pass." He observes, "A shadow is a thing of darkness." But she counters, "Shadows are the servants of light, the children of fire. The brightest flame casts the darkest shadows."

Then they are quiet as they reach a cavern under the castle. He makes his way in the darkness as far as they can go until they reach the lowered portcullis whose "bars are too closely spaced for even a child to squeeze through." Then there is a sudden glow of light and he sees that Melisandre has thrown off her cloak and is naked. She is also hugely pregnant. The glow comes from her skin, and Davos watches as she squats and gives birth to a shadow, which "slid out into the world and rose taller than Daos, tall as the tunnel, towering over the boat." Instantly it is through the bars and then it is gone.

"He knew that shadow. As he knew the man who'd cast it."

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