By Charles Matthews

Monday, August 29, 2011

13. A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 498-532


Bran/Summer (in his dream they are one) hears a faint sound of steel scraping on stone, and he howls. Shaggydog joins him, his fur bristling at the hint of danger. He throws himself against the chained gate that keeps him in the godswood, but to no avail. He hears a shout in the night, and looks for a way over the wall. There is a tall tree, and the boy part of him remembers how to climb it, but the wolf part is unable. Then he hears the dogs in the kennels begin to bark: "They smelled it too; the scent of foes and fear." He hurls himself up the tree and gets a foothold so he can climb, but "suddenly he was sliding, stumbling. He yowled in fear and fury, falling, falling, and twisted around while the ground rushed up to break him...."

The falling wakes Bran, who realizes what is happening: "The sea has come. It's flowing over the walls, just as Jojen saw." He calls for help, but no one comes because Ser Rodrik has taken the guard off his door, needing every able-bodied man he could find to go to the defense of Torrhen's Square, which "was under attack by some monstrous war chief named Dagmer Cleftjaw." Bran calls for Hodor, but suddenly the door crashes open and a strange man carrying a dirk and with an axe strapped to his back enters, followed by Theon Greyjoy.

The sight of Theon is a welcome one, until Theon tells him, "I've taken your castle, my prince." Bran is confused: "But you're Father's ward." Theon replies that Bran and Rickon are his wards now, and that his men are gathering all the residents of the castle into the Great Hall. "You and I are going to speak to them. You'll tell them how you've yielded Winterfell to me, and command them to serve and obey their new lord as they did the old."

Bran refuses, but Theon insists that he will. He leaves, saying that he will send someone to dress Bran and bring him to the Great Hall. Bran waits, expecting to see Hodor or one of the servants, but it is Maester Luwin who comes to him. He explained that Theon's men swam the moat and climbed the walls. They killed Alebelly at the gate. Luwin sent off two ravens, but one was shot down.

Luwin helps Bran dress and tells him there is no shame in yielding the castle. One of Theon's men comes to carry Bran, and Luwin gathers Rickon on the way. They meet Meera and Jojen and the Freys as well. When they reach the Great Hall, Rickon says, "Theon's sitting in Robb's chair," and Bran tells him to hush.

Maester Luwin explains to Theon that the Freys are Catelyn's wards, and that Jojen and Meera had come to Winterfell to renew the oath of fealty the Reeds had sworn.  The last of the staff are driven into the hall, followed by the prisoner called Reek, who explains to Theon why he is there, and says that his real name is Heke.

Bran notices that there are only twenty of Theon's men there, and assumes that if he left guards on the gates and the armory there were only thirty of them in all. He tells the group that he has yielded Winterfell to Theon and that they should do what he asks. But the smith, Mikken, shouts out, "Damned if I will!" One of Theon's men silences him with a blow from the butt of his spear. When Theon speaks again, however, Mikken shouts something, then is silenced forever when he is stabbed through the throat. Hodor begins to shout "Hodor hodor hodor hodor," and is beaten by two of the men when Theon orders them to "shut that halfwit up." Theon continues to address the crowd.
"Torrhen's Square and Deepwood Motte will soon be ours as well, and my uncle is sailing up the Saltspear to seize Moat Cailin. If Robb Stark can stave off the Lannisters, he may reign as King of the Trident hereafter, but House Greyjoy holds the north now."
Reek speaks up and volunteers his services in support of Theon (and promises to "wash some" if needed), so Theon has one of his men give Reek a spear and has him swear "obedience to House Greyjoy and King Balon." Then Osha surprises Bran by stepping forward and saying she will fight for Theon too if he'll give her a spear. The man who killed Mikken grabs his crotch and says, "I've got a spear for you right here." But when Osha knees him in the groin and grabs the spear away from him, then knocks the man down with it, Theon tells her to keep the spear and swear her loyalty.

Hodor, bleeding and weeping, carries Bran back to his room.


Arya is in the kitchens, trying to persuade Hot Pie to give her a tart, when she hears the sound of a warhorn and the portcullis being raised. She swipes a tart and runs off to see what is happening. The mercenaries known as the Bloody Mummers are entering with cartloads of looted goods and a train of prisoners. There are at least a hundred of them, and she recognizes from their sigils that they're all men allied to Robb. Ser Amory Lorch appears and asks the leader of the Mummers, Vargo Hoat, what's going on. Hoat explains that his group attacked the forces commanded by Roose Bolton, and captured their commander, Robett Glover and Ser Aenys Frey. Lorch orders them sent to the dungeons.

Arya slips away from the crowd and finds Gendry in the armory. She tells him about the captives, and asks him to help her free them. The castle is poorly defended now, and there are almost as many men among the captives as there are among Ser Amory's men. "We just have to get them out and we can take over the castle and escape." Gendry is uninterested: He's a smith, he says, and it doesn't matter who he works for. "A sword's a sword, a helm's a helm, and if you reach in the fire you get burned, no matter who you're serving. Lucan's a fair enough master. I'll stay here." Arya reminds him that the queen is after him, and there must be some reason why she wants him, but he is unmoved.

Then she thinks about finding Jaqen, who still owes her a death. She remembers Old Nan's stories about people who had been granted wishes, and how "you had to be especially careful with the third wish, because it was the last. Chiswyck and Weese hadn't been very important. The last death has to count." She goes to the godswood and finds the sword she had made herself out of a broomstick and practices the moves Syrio Forel taught her. She climbs a tree and dances out onto the limbs to practice keeping her balance.

When she tires, she climbs down and tries to pray to the old gods, but thoughts of how they have never made her prayers come true anger her. Her father prayed to them often, she recalls. "I don't care if you help me or not. I don't think you could even if you wanted to." A voice behind her says, "Gods are not mocked, girl." It is Jaqen. She begins to ask him questions: How did he know she was there? How did he make Weese's dog kill him? Are Rorge and Biter human or demons? "Is Jaqen H'ghar your true name."

"Some men have many names. Weasel. Arry. Arya," and adds, "My lady of Stark." She is surprised that he has uncovered her identity, but asks him to kill the guards and help the men in the dungeons escape. He reminds her that he owes her only one more death. Killing one guard won't be enough, she says, but he persists: "Three lives were snatched from a god. Three lives must be repaid. The gods are not mocked." She thinks for a moment and asks if he will kill anyone she asks for, and when he says yes, she makes him swear. He replies, placing his hand in the mouth of the face in the weirwood, "By all the gods of sea and air, and even him by fire.... By the seven new gods and the old gods beyond count, I swear it."

They kneel face to face and she whispers in his ear: "It's Jaqen H'ghar."

He is surprised and upset, but suddenly there is a knife in his hand. "A girl will weep," he says. "A girl will lose her only friend." She replies that he's not her friend. "A friend would help me.... I'd never kill a friend." He asks, "A girl might ... name another name then, if a friend did help?" And when she says she might if he helps, he puts the knife away and says, "Come." She is startled that he wants to act so soon, and he replies, "A man hears the whisper of sand in a glass. A man will not sleep until a girl unsays a certain name. Now, evil child."

They leave the godswood and hear a noise of celebration in the castle. Jaqen asks her again to say another name "and cast this mad dream aside," but she refuses, so he orders her to obey his instructions. She is to go to the kitchens and ask Hot Pie to make broth for a hundred men. "A girl will help make broth, and wait in the kitchens until a man comes for her. Go. Run." She does what he tells her, and when the kettles are hot, Jaqen arrives with Rorge and Biter. Jaqen and Arya carry one of the kettles between them, Rorge takes one, and Biter carries two.

They take them to the Widow's Tower, where the men are imprisoned, and the guards let them pass. They descend into the dungeons where there are eight men guarding the prisoners. They gather around the table, and first Rorge and then Jaqen and Biter heave the scalding broth in the guards' faces.
Arya pressed back against the wall as Rorge began to cut throats. Biter preferred to grab the men behind the head and under the chin and crack their necks with a single twist of his huge pale hands. Only one of the guards managed to get a blade out. Jaqen danced away from his slash, drew his own sword, drove the man back into a corner with a flurry of blows, and killed him with a thrust to the heart. The Lorathi brought the blade to Arya with heart's blood and wiped it clean on the front of her shift. "A girl should be bloody too. This is her work." 
The prisoners are freed quickly, and Arya notices that that the wounded ones don't seem as badly wounded as they had when they arrived. And Robett Glover asks if the broth was Hoat's idea. He also asks if they are members of the Brave Companions (i.e., the Bloody Mummers). Jaqen introduces himself as "once of the Free City of Lorath," and his "discourteous companions" Rorge and Biter. Since Biter is currently nibbling on the fingers of one of the dead guards, he doesn't need to say which one he is. When he turns to Arya, she says, "I'm Weasel."

When Rorge and Biter have left with the freed men, Jaqen H'ghar stays behind with Arya. He realizes that she is confused, and he explains, "A goat has no loyalty" -- the Bloody Mummers switched sides on the road, and the imprisonment was only a ruse. Eventually, the prisoners would have been freed to take over the castle without Arya's intervention. Jaqen still wants to "hear a certain name unsaid."

"I take back the name," Arya says, and then asks if she still has a third death coming to her. Jaqen points out the eight bodies: "The debt is paid." She agrees that it has been. And then he says, "A god has his due. And now a man must die." She protests that she has unsaid the name and he doesn't need to die, but he says, "My time is done."
Jaqen passed a hand down his face from forehead to chin, and where it went he changed. His cheeks grew fuller, his eyes closer; his nose hooked, a scar appeared on his right cheek where no scar had been before. And when he shook his head, his long straight hair, half red and half white, dissolved away to reveal a cap of tight black curls.
Arya is "too astonished to be afraid," and asks how he did it, and if she could learn to do it too. She would have to come with him to learn, he says. But she still wants to go home to Winterfell. "Then we must part," he says, and presses a small iron coin in her hand. "If the day comes when you would find me again, give that coin to any man from Braavos, and say these words to him -- valar morghulis." She repeats the words, but begs him, "Please don't go, Jaqen." He replies, "Jaqen is as dead as Arry." He has her repeat valar morghulis once more, and walks off into the darkness.

The castle has been taken by morning, and Arya returns to work, "mopping up dried blood." She sees "people looking at her strangely" and hears jokes about "weasel soup." That evening the new master of Harrenhal, Roose Bolton, arrives. He is an ordinary-looking man except "for his queer pale eyes." The fool Shagwell pulls her over to him and introduces her as "the weasel who made the soup." Bolton asks how old she is, and it takes Arya a moment to remember that she is ten. He asks what her real name is, and she says it's Nymeria, but that her mother called her Nan. He asks if she's afraid of leeches, and she says, "They're only leeches. My lord." He indicates that his squire is afraid of them, but that he believes "Frequent leechings are the secret of a long life. A man must purge himself of bad blood." He makes her his cupbearer for as long as he's at Harrenhal.

The banners of the Lannisters and Ser Amory Lorch are hauled down and the "flayed man of the Dreadfort and the direwolf of Stark" are raised in their place. Ser Amory is paraded naked to the bear pit and kicked in by Shagwell.


Continuing her quest for ships and sailors, Daenerys visits the palace of the warlocks, which is "a grey and ancient ruin" that Xaro Xhoan Daxos calls the Palace of Dust. Everyone advises her not to enter it, but Daenerys is stubborn, and when Pyat Pree appears, she takes his arm. He warns her to follow his instructions carefully, "The House of the Undying Ones was not made for mortal men."

Inside it, she will find herself in a room with four doors, counting the one she entered through. Always take the door to the right, he says. If she comes to a stairwell, go up. Never go downstairs. Some doors will be open, and inside them she will see things, some horrible, some wonderful; some will be visions of the past, and some of the future, and some of things that will never be. Don't enter them until she comes to the "audience chamber." People may speak to her as she proceeds, and it's up to her whether she answers them or ignores them. "When you come to the chamber of the Undying, be patient. Our little lives are no more than a flicker of a moth's wing to them. Listen well, and write each word on your heart."

At the entrance, which is a door shaped like a mouth in a wall shaped like a face, a dwarf no taller than her knee holds on a tray "a slender crystal glass filled with a thick blue liquid: shade of the evening, the wine of warlocks." Pyat Pree tells her to drink it and it will open her eyes and ears to the truths revealed inside. The first sip tastes like "ink and spoiled meat," but as it comes to life in her when she swallows it becomes "all the tastes she had ever known, and none of them."

She enters, and keeps moving through rooms, always taking the right-hand door, until she reaches a long hallway in which the only doors are on the left; on the right are a row of torches mounted on the wall. Drogon, who has been perched on her shoulder, unfolds his wings and flies "twenty feet before thudding to an undignified crash." The carpet underfoot is moldy but had once been gorgeous, and there are sounds like rats scurrying in the walls, which attract Drogon's notice.

Most of the doors on the left are closed, but strange sounds come from them. Daenerys tries not to look in the ones that are open, but she can't help it. One room contains mutilated corpses. "In a throne above them sat a dead man with the head of a wolf. He wore an iron crown and held a leg of lamb in one hand as a king might hold a scepter, and his eyes followed Dany with mute appeal." The next open door showed her the house where she had lived in Braavos, a house with a red door that was one of the few pleasant memories of her childhood remaining.

Another door shows her a man whom she at first takes for Viserys and a woman nursing a baby they have named Aegon, "What better name for a king?" The woman asks if he will make a song for the baby, and he says, "He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire." His eyes meet Daenerys's and he says, "The dragon has three heads."

She walks on until she reaches a staircase that descends into darkness. She knows she's not supposed to go down them, but all the doors are on the left, and behind her the torches are going out. In the darkness she hears something "shuffling and dragging itself slowly along the faded carpet." Drogon hears it too, she realizes, and she is panicked about what to do when she realizes that the last door on the left is the first door on the right. She plunges through it into another room with four doors, and keeps going through room after room, always to the right, until she starts getting dizzy.

Finally she reaches another room, and the door facing her is open. It's round and shaped like a mouth, and she can see Pyat Pree outside. He says it's too soon for her to have reached there and she must have taken a wrong turn. He reaches out a hand and says he'll show her the way. But then she notices a closed door on the right and opens it. He calls out to her, "Stubborn child. You will be lost, and never found," and when she goes through the door she can hear him screeching, "No, to me, come to me, to meeeeeee."

There is a stairwell inside, climbing upward, though she remembers that from the outside the building had no towers. On the right, a set of beautiful but "somehow frightening" doors made of ebony and weirwood, with "strange interwoven patterns" in the grain, have been thrown open. She goes into a great hall where there is a gathering of wizards, male and female, in a variety of costumes, and the sound of "the most beautiful music she had ever heard." A man rises and welcomes her: "Come and share the food of forever. We are the Undying of Qarth." Others join in the welcome.

She starts to go forward, but Drogon leaps from her shoulder and perches on top of the ebony-and-weirwood door and starts to bite it. She goes to the door, which is very heavy, and finds behind it a hidden door, to the right of the one through which she had entered. The wizards call out to her to come to them, but she goes through the door that had been hidden, which is "old grey wood, splintery and plain," and finds herself in "a chamber awash in gloom."

There is a long stone table in the room, and above it floats "a human heart, swollen and blue with corruption, yet still alive." There are blue shadowy figures around the table, but "no sound but the slow, deep beat of the rotting heart." Then she hears voices saying "mother of dragons ... dragons ... dragons ... dragons." She sits in the empty chair at the foot of the table and introduces herself as "Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros." She asks them to speak to her "with the wisdom of those who have conquered death."

She begins to make out the figures around the table, old men and women, "wrinkled and hairless," dressed in rotting clothing. Gradually she begins to hear them whisper that they live and know.  She says she saw visions of things in the hall and asks what they meant. She begins to hear their voices: "mother of dragons ... child of three ... three heads has the dragon ... three fires you must light ... one for life and one for death and one to love ... three mounts you must ride ... one to bed and one to dread and one to love ... three treasons will you know ... once for blood and once for gold and once for love ..." She tells them she doesn't understand, and asks them to show her. She sees Viserys screaming as the molten gold kills him. "A tall lord with copper skin and silver-gold hair stood beneath the banner of a fiery stallion, a burning city behind him." A "blue-eyed king who cast no shadow" raises a red sword. There is a cloth dragon carried on poles through a cheering crowd. A stone beast flies from a tower that is smoking. Her horse trots through grass to a stream under a sky full of stars. A corpse stands smiling at the prow of a ship. A sweet-smelling blue flower grows from a chink in a wall of ice.

The visions keep coming faster and faster: The shadows dancing in the tent, a little girl running to a house with a red door, Mirri Maz Duur shrieking in the flames, "a dragon bursting from her brow." A silver horse dragging the corpse of a naked man. A white lion running through tall grass. Naked crones emerging from a lake and bowing to her. Slaves with bloody hands calling out to her, "Mother!" She opens her arms to give herself to them.

Then suddenly Drogon's wings are beating around her and the dragon is screaming as she realizes that the Undying surround her, reaching for her, "licking, sucking, biting." She can't move until there is a sudden glare in the room and she sees Drogon tearing at the heart, shredding its flesh, "and when his head snapped forward, fire flew from his open jaws, bright and hot." Around her the Undying are on fire. She pushes through them to the door and calls for Drogon, who flies to her. She finds herself in a serpentine passageway with no doors but only stone walls until she reaches "a door like an open mouth" and runs through it into the sunlight.

Behind her, smoke is rising from the roof of the Palace of Dust and coming through the cracks in the walls. "Howling curses, Pyat Pree drew a knife and danced toward her, but Drogon flew at his face." Jhogo's whip sends the knife flying, and Rakharo wrestles the warlock to the ground. Jorah Mormont is there and puts his arm around her shoulder.

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