By Charles Matthews

Saturday, August 20, 2011

4. A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 142-196


Like everyone else, Daenerys believes the comet has a special personal significance. In her case "It is the herald of my coming, she told herself as she gazed up into the night sky with wonder in her heart. The gods have sent it to show me the way." But the way it points to is, her maid Doreah tells her, "the red lands, Khaleesi. A grim and terrible place, the riders say."

But given that the only other options meant encountering other Dothraki who would murder or enslave her, Daenerys chooses to head in the direction indicated by the comet. Given that she  has only a handful of followers left, including four guards, three handmaidens and a contingent of people who are too old, too sick, or too young to do anything else but follow her also limits her options.

But, as she says, she has her dragons. Ser Jorah is not so sure that's much help. For one thing, they're still tiny and vulnerable. For another, they could attract thieves: "Your dragon eggs were more precious than rubies. A living dragon is beyond price. In all the world, there are only three. Every man who sees them will want them, my queen."

Still, they're hers, she insists, and so they set out into the desert lands, traveling by night. People and animals start dropping dead as they move through the barren plains with their scant water sources. Even the dragons start to show signs of debility until Daenerys remembers something her brother once told her: "Only dragons and men eat cooked meat." From then on, the dragons get their share of charred horsemeat, and they start to get bigger and stronger. She names them: "The green one shall be Rhaegal, for my valiant brother who died on the green banks of the Trident. The cream-and-gold I call Viserion. Viserys was cruel and weak and frightened, yet he was my brother still. His dragon will do what he could not." As for the black one, he is called Drogon.

Things get worse for the humans, however, and finally Doreah, the handmaiden who had coached Daenerys in the art of pleasing Khal Drogo, dies. Ser Jorah admits that the journey is harder than he had expected, and even he is suffering from it. But finally a scout returns with news that they have sighted a city an hour's ride away. She sends out more scouts to find out whether they will have a friendly reception there.

But the city turns out to be deserted, with buildings that are falling down, and signs that it had been looted by Dothraki. Still, they camp out in the ruins, and soon people return with news that there are trees laden with fruit in the city, and cisterns full of good water. There are also human bones, which cause the maid Irri to warn Daenerys that there are ghosts in the city. Daenerys scoffs, "Dragons are more powerful than ghosts."

When Ser Jorah brings her a peach, she asks him to tell her more about his life. He tells her he grew up on Bear Island, which "lies far to the north, and our winters are more terrible than you can imagine." He married young, a marriage arranged by his father, and his wife suffered two miscarriages before dying of a third. His father, Jeor Mormont, joined the Night's Watch, leaving Jorah Lord of Bear Island. Then Balon Greyjoy rebelled against Robert Baratheon, and Jorah responded to Ned Stark's call to join in putting down the rebellion.

After the victory, there was a tournament near Lannisport, and there he saw a beautiful woman named Lynesse. He asked to wear her favor in the tournament and after defeating all comers and breaking nine lances in competition with Jaime Lannister, he was named champion. He asked for Lynesse's hand and they were happy, he tells Daenerys, for a fortnight, which was how long it took for them to sail for Bear Island.

She was miserable there, and he spent enormous sums trying to keep her happy. Finally he "did things it shames me to speak of," which led to his being exiled. "Nothing mattered but our love, I told myself. We fled to Lys, where I sold my ship for gold to keep us." But it didn't last, so he turned mercenary soldier, and while he was away fighting someone's battle, she became the mistress "of a merchant prince named Tregar Ormollen. They say she is his chief concubine now, and even his wife goes in fear of her." When Daenerys asks what Lynesse looked like, he tells her, "Why, she looked a bit like you, Daenerys." She realizes that Jorah is in love with her, but when she tries to imagine making love with him, she can only envision Drogo.

The next day, she calls her bloodriders and sends them out on a scouting expedition. "When I leave this place, I do not mean to strike out blind again. I will know where I am bound, and how best to get there." Days pass and finally Rakharo returns to say that due south there is only desert. "He had passed the bones of a dragon, he swore, so immense that he had ridden his horse through its great black jaws. Other than that, he had seen nothing."

Aggo returns from the southwest, where there are only the ruins of some small cities. Jhogo is gone so long that Daenerys thinks he must be dead, but when he returns from the southeast he is accompanied by three strange figures riding camels -- or at least, "ugly humped creatures that dwarfed any horse." Daenerys asks them to introduce themselves.

The first, a pale man with blue lips, says in Dothraki, "I am Pyat Pree, the great warlock." The second, a bald man with jewels in his nose, says in Valyrian, "I am Xaro Xhoan Daxos of the Thirteen, a merchant prince of Qarth." The third, a woman wearing a lacquered wooden mask, says in the Common Tongue of the Seven Kingdoms, "I am Quaithe of the Shado. We come seeking dragons."

"Seek no more," Daenerys Targaryen told them. "You have found them." 


The expedition has reached a deserted village called Whitetree, which is dominated by a gigantic weirwood, eight feet in diameter. It has a face with a cavernous mouth in which there are human bones. It is the biggest tree Jon has ever seen, and he feels its power. There are ashes along with the bones, and Mormont comments that the wildlings always burn their dead. "Now I wished [sic] I'd asked them why, when there were still a few around to ask." Jon, remembers the undead wight and thinks he knows why.

Mormont sends the men in teams of two to explore the houses, and Jon is partnered with Eddison Tollett, known as Dolorous Edd. But they find nothing of value in the house, which fits the pattern. This was the fourth deserted village they'd come across. "The people were gone, vanished with their scant possessions and whatever animals they may have had."

A small man named Bedwyck, nicknamed "Giant," has climbed the tree and tells them that there's what appears to be a lake to the north and some flint hills to the west, but otherwise nothing to report. There are three more hours of daylight, so Mormont decides they should go north to the lake, where they might be able to catch some fish. Then he asks Jon to give him some paper so he can send a message to Maester Aemon. He gives the report to Jon and has him find Sam to dispatch a raven with it.

Jon finds Sam watering horses and gives him the message. Sam has been teaching the ravens to talk, and he tells Jon that three of them can say "snow." "One bird croaking my name was bad enough," Jon says, and besides, snow is a bad word in the north because it often means death. Sam tells Jon that he's not as frightened as he was, and holds out his hand to show Jon how steady it is. "The world is strange, Jon thought. Two hundred brave men had left the Wall, and the only one who was not growing more fearful was Sam, the self-confessed coward."

Ghost appears from the woods, but doesn't seem to have had any luck finding game. Jon decides that it has all been frightened away by the noise the expedition was making on its march. He rejoins Mormont and comments that if his uncle had found deserted villages,

"-- he would have made it his purpose to learn why," Lord Mormont finished for him, "and it may well be someone or something did not want that known. Well, we'll be three hundred when Qhorin joins us. Whatever enemy waits out here will not find us so easy to deal with. We will find them, Jon, I promise you."

Or they will find us, thought Jon.


They reach the river that flows south out of Gods Eye, but there is no easy place for the wagons to cross, and there is smoke to the north and west. So Yoren decides they will stay to the  east of the lake. He remembers a town with a holdfast and a towerhouse, so he proposes to follow the river north to the town and get a boat they can sail across the Gods Eye.

They reach the town and find it deserted. Yoren divides them into search parties, and Arya is grouped with Gendry, Hot Pie, and Lommy. She wonders what would frighten the people so much that they would leave. They reach the lake, but there are no boats. When they return to Yoren he says there are no horses and pigs but he saw a goose and some chickens, and there are fish in the lake. Gendry suggests that they could build a raft, and Yoren takes it into consideration. He proposes that they spend the night in the holdfast. Arya thinks they should leave, like the people who lived there, but Yoren argues that since they are Night's Watch and they have no allegiance to any side in the conflict, they have no enemies. Arya thinks, "And no man's our friend."

The holdfast has ten-foot-high walls and encloses a barn. Underneath the straw in the barn there is a trap door leading to a tunnel that comes out by the lake. Yoren has a wagon placed over the exit to hide it. They retreat inside it and cook the goose and the chickens for dinner.

Arya dozes off and comes awake with a start when she hears the howling of a wolf -- or dreams that she does. She wakes the others, and they realize that it was the sentry, Kurz, who had been given a hunting horn to sound an alarm. Arya scrambles up to the catwalk just below the top of the wall and sees men with torches, setting fire to the houses. Gendry joins her and sees men on horses heading toward the holdfast.

A knight rides up to the gate and orders them to open it. Yoren climbs up to the battlement with his black cloak tied to a staff and calls down that the townsfolk are gone, and that they are men of the Night's Watch. He shows them the black cloak, but the knight says that all banners look black at night. He identifies himself as "Ser Amory Lorch, bannerman to Lord Tywin Lannister of Casterly Rock, the Hand of the King. The true king, Joffrey." He orders them to open in the name of the king.

Yoren continues to defy the order, and a spear comes through the air. It was meant for Yoren, but it kills a man named Woth. Ser Amory orders them to storm the walls. A torch is flung over the wall and when a man's hand appears at the top of it, Arya stabs it with Needle. Hot Pie, who is behind Arya, yells out a warning as a man starts to climb over the wall, and Arya stabs at his eyes. The man loses his grip and falls. They don't have ladders, but the unmortared stones of the wall are easy to climb, and soon there are more men climbing over and more torches flying into the holdfast.

Soon it's apparent that the gates have been breached, and Yoren yells at her to get out through the trap door and the tunnel. She grabs Gendry and they call Hot Pie and Lommy, who is bleeding from a spear in his calf. The entrance to the tunnel is through the barn, which is burning. The horses and donkeys are terrified, and as Arya runs for the tunnel she sees the three men chained to the wagon. They plead for her to unshackle them. Arya asks Gendry where he left the axe when he split wood earlier, and she runs to get it. When she finds it, "a mailed hand grabbed her arm. Spinning, Arya drove the head of the axe hard between his legs," then runs back into the blazing barn where "she could hear the screams of the poor animals inside, donkeys and horses and men." She throws the axe into the wagon and hears the men using it to chop their way free. She plunges into the tunnel and begins crawling.


Cersei has received a copy of the letters sent by Stannis and is enraged. She wants every copy of them burned. Tyrion reflects, "It was astonishing to see how angry Cersei could wax over accusations she knew perfectly well to be true." He tries to calm her down, but when she says, "I will not suffer to be called a whore!" Tyrion says to himself, "Why, sister, he never claims Jaime paid you." Then he observes the phrase "Done in the Light of the Lord," which Davos had tried to persuade Stannis to change. Grand Maester Pycelle identifies this as a reference to "The god of the red priests." Tyrion suggests that they "can use that against him. Urge the High Septon to reveal how Stannis has turned against the gods as well as his rightful king...."

But Cersei is fixated on the charge of incest, and wants to council to "issue an edict. Any man heard speaking of incest or calling Joff a bastard should lose his tongue for it." Pycelle calls this "A prudent measure," but Tyrion scoffs: "When you tear out a man's tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you're only telling the world that you fear what he might say." He suggests that they shouldn't bring attention to the accusation, since Stannis offers no proof of it. "'How could he, when it never happened?' Tyrion gave his sister his sweetest smile."

Cersei is stymied for a moment, and Littlefinger jumps in on Tyrion's side. "If we attempt to silence this talk, we only lend it credence. Better to treat it with contempt, like the pathetic lie it is. And meantime, fight fire with fire." He proposes spreading the counter-rumor that Lady Selyse cuckolded Stannis and that their daughter is illegitimate. Cersei begins to see the appeal of this and to debate whom they might accuse of being Selyse's lover. Finally, Littlefinger observes, "in my experience, the more bizarre and shocking a tale the more apt it is to be repeated. Stannis keeps an especially grotesque fool, a lackwit with a tattooed face." The idea appeals to Cersei's worst instincts.

This goes beyond even Tyrion's imagination. Littlefinger, he realizes, "is more dangerous than I knew." But he points out that the story shouldn't originate with them, "'or it will be seen for a self-serving lie.' Which it is, to be sure." And Littlefinger once again agrees: "Whores love to gossip, and as it happens I own a brothel or three. And no doubt Varys can plant seeds in the alehouses and pot-shops."

This reminds Cersei that Varys isn't present for this meeting, and when Tyrion excuses himself too, she demands to know what he is up to. He tells her that he's "having a gift made for Joffrey. A little chain." Cersei is not satisfied with this answer, but Tyrion escapes without further explanation. Outside, Bronn tells him that the smiths are waiting in his audience chamber. Tyrion goes first to his room where his squire, Podrick Payne, helps him dress for the meeting.

He shows the assembled smiths, armorers, and ironmongers what he wants them to make. From a bag he produces "three immense steel links, twisted together," and tells them he wants a thousand more like them. He expects this work to take priority over anything else, even the queen's order of new armor and weaponry for the City Guard. A master armorer protests that he makes "armor such as a god might wear," not this coarse stuff, but Tyrion says, "You will make chains, or you will wear them."

Bronn meets him with a litter and some mounted Black Ears to guard him as he goes through the city. Tyrion has done what he can to alleviate the food shortage, including building more fishing boats, opening the kingswood to hunters, and having the gold cloaks forage to the south and west, but he realizes that he's not popular. As he rides, he thinks about how Cersei was so angry about the accusation of incest that she missed the real point: that Stannis has proclaimed himself king, despite the fact that his own brother has done the same thing. "They could not both sit the Iron Throne."

After a while he dozes, and awakes when they reach the destination: a brothel. Inside, he is greeted by Chataya, who takes him through the rooms to the one occupied by her own daughter: "My people hold that there is no shame to be found in the pillow house. In the Summer Isles, those who are skilled at giving pleasure are greatly esteemed. Many highborn youths and maidens serve for a few years after their flowerings, to honor the gods."

She leaves him with Alayaya, who tells him, "If my lord will open the wardrobe, he will find what he seeks." Inside the wardrobe he finds a secret panel that opens onto a shaft with a ladder that takes him below street level to a tunnel and finally to Varys, who is in disguise. Tyrion asks Varys if Chataya can be trusted, and Varys says nothing is certain. "Chataya has no cause to love the queen, though, and she knows that she has you to thank for ridding her of Allar Deem."

They follow the tunnel and finally emerge in a stable, where a horse is waiting. Varys provides Tyrion with a threadbare cloak as a disguise: "Dwarfs are not so common a sight as children, so a child is what they will see. A boy in an old cloak on his father's horse, going about his father's business. Though it would be best if you came most often by night." It is a trick that will allow Tyrion to visit Shae at the house where he has set her up.

Before he leaves, they talk about the letter from Stannis. Tyrion wonders how Stannis knew of Cersei and Jaime's incest. Varys replies, "Perhaps he read a book and looked at the color of a bastard's hair, as Ned Stark did, and Jon Arryn before him. Or perhaps someone whispered it in his ear." But Varys denies that he was the whisperer. Besides, he says, Robert Baratheon's "bastards were there for all to see." So who was the whisperer, Tyrion asks. "Littlefinger?" Varys replies, "I named no name."

Tyrion tells Varys, "sometimes I feel as though you are the best friend I have in King's Landing, and sometimes I feel you are my worst enemy." Varys replies, "How odd. I think quite the same of you."


Winterfell is crowded with guests, and Bran, as the heir apparent to the throne now held by his brother Robb, has to attend formal greetings and business sessions, though the actual business is mostly left up to Maester Luwin and Ser Rodrik Cassel. Bran would rather be participating in the games, such as tilting at quintains, but is of course unable. And even though he is the heir, he is still subject to stares when he rides in a specially made basket on Hodor's back. The Walders are particularly given to making fun of this conveyance, though when Maester Luwin overhears their jibes, he silences and scolds them.

Bran has to sit through discussions of new customs officers and coinage, though his interest is roused by talk of building warships. There is also discussion of finding a new husband for Lady Donella Hornwood, who lost her husband and her son in the recent battles, and about Tywin Lannister's offer to release Lord Wyman Manderly's son, captured at the Green Fork, in exchange for a promise that he will withdraw allegiance to Robb. Lord Wyman assures them that he remains loyal to King Robb. Other matters concern the coming winter, and whether the various lords are putting away enough of their harvest in preparation. Bran learns that the balance of power could depend on whom Lady Donella chooses to marry -- someone sworn to Robb, or someone neutral. But he is glad when he can finally be excused from the meeting.

Hodor takes Bran to the godswood where he sits by the pool with Summer. Osha surprises him by appearing from the pool, and she sits and talks with him about the conflict with the Frey boys. She asks if he has had more wolf dreams, and he says no, just because he doesn't want to talk about the dreams.

The next day brings more guests and more meetings. Mors Umber asks to marry Lady Donella, and Hother Umber wants ships to patrol the coasts and prevent more wildlings from sneaking into his lands. The following day comes another suggestion about what to do about Lady Donella, when Leobald Tallhart proposes that she take his younger son to foster -- the idea being that he would take the name Hornwood and become her heir. Bran speaks up to thank him for the idea and says they will bring it to the attention of Robb and Lady Hornwood. "Leobald seemed surprised that he had spoken ... but he saw pity in his pale blue eyes, mingled perhaps with a little gladness that the cripple was, after all, not his son. For a moment he hated the man." Afterward, Maester Luwin rather likes Tallhart's suggestion, which leads Bran to say, "Lady Hornwood can have one of our Freys.... She can have both of them if she likes."

Finally the procession of vassals thins out. One day, Bran is riding his horse in the yard when Cley Cerwyn, a fourteen-year-old friend of the Stark boys, arrives. He asks if Winterfell had received one of the letters from Stannis. Bran has heard nothing about it, so Cley tells him, "He says Queen Cersei bedded her brother, so Joffrey is a bastard." Bran is so shaken by this news that "had he not been strapped onto his saddle he might well have fallen."

That night he has a nightmare that "was worse than any wolf dream." He is being pecked at by the three-eyed crow who cries, "Fly or die!" The crow pecks out each of his eyes and then begins to peck into his skull, "but when the crow wrenched out its beak all slimy with bits of bone and brain, Bran could see again." He is miles up in the air, clinging to a tower, and his dead legs were dragging him down. He cries for help.
A golden man appeared in the sky above him and pulled him up. "The things I do for love," he murmured softly as he tossed him out kicking into empty air.

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