By Charles Matthews

Thursday, September 22, 2011

10. A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 344-381


Davos's cell is warm and full of rats, but he is regaining his strength, thanks to a visit from Maester Pylos. He is also eating regularly, and can count the days by the visits of the two jailers who bring him his meals. He calls one Porridge, because he brinks breakfast, and the other Lamprey, because he once bought half a lamprey pie, though it was too rich for the still-malnourished Davos to keep down. The jailers, however, never answer any of his questions about the war or whether his son Devan is still alive. Still, the regular attention makes him believe, "They are keeping me alive, for some purpose of their own."

And then one day he has a visitor, though not one he's particularly eager to see: Melisandre. She comments that the cell is a dark place, and points to the torch burning outside of it: "This is all that stands between you and the darkness, Onion Knight. This little fire, this gift of R'hllor. Shall I put it out?" He says no, of course, but he refuses to beg. Then she says that she is like the torch: "We are both instruments of R'hllor. We were made for a single purpose -- to keep the darkness at bay."

He retorts that she is "the mother of darkness," as he saw when she gave birth to the terrible shadow at Storm's End. She replies that it takes light to give birth to shadow, and anyway, he needn't fear that happening any time soon: "the king's fires burn so low I dare not draw off any more to make another son." Davos, on the other hand, she proposes, has enough fire left, and if he really wants to serve Stannis, he should come to her chambers. "I could give you pleasure such as you have never known, and with your life-fire I could make...." He completes her sentence: "...a horror." And he calls on the Seven to protect him.

She proclaims them false gods, and proclaims a Manichean creed:
"The night is dark and full of terrors, the day bright and beautiful and full of hope. One is black, the other white.There is ice and there is fire. Hate and love. Bitter and sweet. Male and female. Pain and pleasure. Winter and summer. Evil and good." She took a step toward him. "Death and life. Everywhere, opposites. Everywhere, the war." 
He is puzzled by her reference to the war, and she explains that she doesn't mean the conflict over the throne of the Seven Kingdoms: She's not there just "to put yet another vain king on yet another empty throne." (So much for Stannis.) She is there to fight on behalf of "R'hllor, the Lord of Light, the Heart of Fire, the God of Flame and Shadow" against "the Great Other whose name may not be spoken, the Lord of Darkness, the Soul of Ice, the God of Night and Terror." She asks which side he is on. All he can say is that he is "full of doubts."

But this pleases her: "The good knight is honest to the last, even in his day of darkness. It is well you did not lie to me.  I would have known." And she asks why he wanted to kill her. He says he'll tell her if she tells him who betrayed him. She replies that no one betrayed him: "I saw your purpose in my flames." So if she's so good with fire, he asks, why did she let them burn in the attack on King's Landing. Those weren't her flames, she says. She wasn't even there, she reminds him, and things would have turned out differently if she had been. It was Stannis's fault: "his pride proved stronger than his faith," and he surrounded himself with unbelievers. But he has learned his lesson.

Davos reflects bitterly that it took the deaths of his sons to teach Stannis a lesson. But she prophesies a future victory for Stannis: "He is the Lord's chosen, the warrior of fire. I have seen him leading the fight against the dark, I have seen it in the flames." She leaves him to reflect on her prophecy. "And because R'hllor is the source of all good, I shall leave the torch as well."

Left alone he reflects on what she has said, and for a while stares at the torchlight trying to see something in it, "but there was nothing, only fire, and after a time his eyes began to water."

Then three days later, he receives a cellmate. There is the sound of a struggle, and Ser Axell Florent and two guardsmen arrive with the prisoner, who pleads his innocence and demands to see the queen. And when he cries out, "I am the King's Hand!" Davos recognizes Alester Florent, Axell's brother and Queen Selyse's uncle. Alester is able to answer Davos's questions about what happened on the Blackwater, including the loss of the ship Fury which had been captained by Alester's nephew, Imry, and on which Davos's son Maric had been oarmaster. Imry had led the fleet up the Blackwater.

Alester has been imprisoned for treason because he believes the loss of the fleet and of Stannis's allies means defeat for the king. "The best hope that remains is to try and salvage something with a peace. That is all I meant to do. Gods be good, how can they call it treason?" So he has written a letter to Tywin Lannister, proposing that Stannis give up his claim on the throne, retract his words about Joffrey's illegitimacy and incestuous birth, in exchange for being allowed to remain as Lord of Dragonstone and Storm's End. He also proposed marrying Stannis's daughter, Shireen, to Tommen. "The terms ... they are as good as we are ever like to get."

Davos agrees that they are probably good terms, but asks what the king thought of them. Alester says the king "is not in his right mind." He is under the sway of Melisandre. "This talk of a stone dragon ... madness, I tell you, sheer madness." Davos is as ignorant as we are of this talk, though we know more about what's happening with live dragons than either of them does. So given the king's debility, Alester took it upon himself to sue for peace: "Stannis gave me his seal, he gave me leave to rule. The Hand speaks with the king's voice." About this, Davos knows better: "It is not in Stannis to yield, so long as he knows his claim is just." And he would never marry Tommen, born of the same incestuous relationship as Joffrey, to his daughter.

Alester insists, "He has no choice." But Davos knows better about this: "He can choose to die a king."


Jon has gone to look for Ghost, and to bid him goodbye. There is no way the direwolf can cross the Wall. So Jon tells him to go to Castle Black and wait for him there. "They will know you at Castle Black, and maybe your coming will warn them." Ghost bounds away, but Jon doesn't know whether he has understood the command or is just chasing after a hare.

He judges from the terrain that they are somewhere between Castle Black and the Shadow Tower at the westernmost end of the Wall, and probably closer to the latter. As he returns to the camp, he berates himself for not killing Mance Rayder when he had the opportunity, even if it meant losing his own life. But instead he has ridden off with Styr the Magnar, Jarl, and a company of Thenns and raiders, as well as Ygritte. They have become lovers, and though he is torn with guilt for breaking his vow of chastity as a member of the Watch, he also cannot resist her. "Was this how it was for my father, he wondered. Was he as weak as I am, when he dishonored himself in my mother's bed?"

He is summoned to Magnar by one of the Thenns. Jarl, who is the lover of Mance Rayder's sister-in-law, has joint command with Magnar, who resents sharing the power. But Jarl had crossed the Wall a dozen times, so his skill is particularly valuable on this mission. Magnar wants to know more details about how often the Watch patrols the Wall, and Jon tells him what he has to, though he tries to hold back as much information as possible. He also overestimates the strength of the Watch at the places which are guarded. Jarl challenges these numbers, but Jon doesn't back down.

They are camped in a system of caverns, and Jon finds Ygritte in one with a pool fed by a waterfall. She tells him legends of the caverns that supposedly go under the Wall, and of a King-beyond-the-Wall named Gorne who supposedly found it, as well his his brother Gendel who supposedly got lost in the caverns and whose descendants still live there, feeding on the unwary humans who come upon them. Ygritte has developed a catchphrase, "You know nothing, Jon Snow," whenever she has a bit of lore that he is unfamiliar with, and she uses it often. On the other hand, there's something she knows nothing of, which is cunnilingus, and when Jon practices it on her, she is duly impressed.

When the torch starts to burn down, he suggests that they leave. But they don't.
His guilt came back afterward, but weaker than before. If this is so wrong, he wondered, why did the gods make it feel so good?

Daenerys has gone to the Good Masters of Astapor with an astonishing offer: to buy all of the Unsullied. She is wearing a Qartheen gown that bares her left breast, and after she makes her offer, "She could not quite make out all that they were saying, but she could hear the greed."

There are eight slave brokers, each with a company of body slaves, and she has brought Irri and Jhiqui, Whitebeard and Belwas, her bloodriders, and Ser Jorah. Kraznys mo Naklos asks if by all she means, in addition to the eight thousands, the six centuries who are waiting to make up another thousand once the trainees are promoted to their ranks. She says she does, "and the ones who are still in training as well. The ones who have not earned the spikes."

This sets off an argument among the brokers, some of whom say they can't sell boys who aren't fully trained, while others insist, "We can, if her gold is good." Moreover, if they sell them all, it will be ten years or more before they can train enough new Unsullied, but one fat man argues, "Gold in my purse is better than gold in my future." Kraznys tells her the consensus: She can have the eight thousands and the six centuries now, and in a year they'll have another two thousands to sell her. But she insists on all of them: "Tell the Good Masters that I will want even the little ones who still have their puppies. Tell them that I will pay as much for the boy they cut yesterday as for an Unsullied in a spiked helm."

When they say no, she says she will pay double. One of them who speaks the Common Tongue asks if she really has the gold and the goods to pay that much. She says they have inspected the cargo on her ships; does she have enough?  They say she has enough for one thousand, but only five centuries if she pays double. She offers to throw in the three ships, and they say that would add up to two thousands, but that they are being generous in offering that. Finally, reluctantly, she plays her trump card: "'Give me all,' she said, 'and you may have a dragon.'"

The members of her retinue are shocked, and Whitebeard goes down on one knee to beg her not to do this. She orders Jorah to take him away, and apologizes to the brokers for the interruption. She knows that she has them where she wants them. Finally one of the brokers calls it a deal, as long as they can choose which dragon. And the one they want is Drogon, the largest. When it is agreed on, Kraznys even throws in the slave girl, his interpreter, as "a token of a bargain well struck."

She leaves them, feeling ill, but when she sees Whitebeard, she tells him he may disagree with her all he wants in private, but never to question her judgment in front of others. He submits. Then she asks the slave girl, in High Valryian, if she has a name. When the girl realizes that Daenerys has spoken the language that she was supposedly translating, she says, "Oh." Daenerys asks if that's her name, and the girl asks her forgiveness and says, "Your slave's name is Missandei, but...." Daenerys tells her she isn't a slave anymore, and tells her to ride in the litter with her. If she wants to leave her, she may, but if she stays she will be one of her handmaids. Missandei decides to stay.

Daenerys warns her that the journey will be difficult and she might be killed. Missandei replies, in High Valryian,"Valar morghulis." Daenerys translates the phrase: "All men must die."

She learns more from her new handmaid about the Unsullied: It is true that they have no fear and that the "wine of courage" has removed all sense of pain. They are so obedient that, "If you told them not to breathe, they would find that easier than not to obey." And what will she do with them once she has won her war and claimed her throne. They make excellent guards and watchmen, Missandei says, and she can always sell them. Daenerys says that men are not bought and sold in Westeros, and even if she did sell them, could their new owners tell them to fight against her. Missandei says, first, that Unsullied aren't men, and second that they do whatever their owner commands: "They do not question, Your Grace. All the questions have been culled from them." The only solution to that problem would be to have them kill themselves, which they would do.

Daenerys realizes that this last troubles Missandei, and she asks why. "Three of them were my brothers once, Your Grace," she replies.

Back at the ship and in private, Daenerys gives way to tears. But then she argues with the captain, Groleo, about trading the ships, and the anger gives her strength. She calls her bloodriders and Ser Jorah to her cabin, and later goes out on deck where Jorah joins her. She asks him, "Why do the gods make kings and queens, if not to protect the ones who can't protect themselves?" He has no answer, and she goes back to her cabin, where she dreams that she is Rhaegar, mounted on a dragon, confronting "the Usurper's rebel host" who are armored in ice. The dragonfire melts them.

She awakes feeling triumphant, but she senses someone in her cabin. She calls out for her handmaids, but a woman tells her that they are all asleep. Then she says,
"Remember. 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."
She recognizes the words, and cries out, "Quaithe?" But when she opens the door, letting in the light and waking Irri and Jhiqui, there is no sign of the "woman in a red lacquer mask." She tells the girls she had a dream, and to go back to sleep, but she doesn't sleep again that night.

The next morning she and all of her people, including the Dothraki and the captains and crews of the ships, enter Astapor in a caravan transporting the goods from the ships. The three dragons are chained and restless. In the Plaza of Punishment, where slaves are "racked, and flayed, and hanged," the Unsullied and the trainees are all gathered, and the slave brokers are waiting. At a command from Ser Jorah, the trade goods are unloaded from wagons and piled before the slavers. When this is done, Daenerys tells them that there is much more on the ships, which are also part of the deal, so that the only thing remaining is the dragon.

Daenerys gives Kraznys mo Nakloz the end of the chain that restrains Drogon, and in exchange he gives her the whip that signifies her authority over the Unsullied. "The handle was black dragonbone, elaborately carved and inlaid with gold. Nine long thin leather lashes trailed from it, each one tipped by a gilded claw. The gold pommel was a woman's head with pointed ivory teeth." Kraznys calls it "The harpy's fingers."

Daenerys mounts her horse and raises the whip, then rides among the ranks of the Unsullied, crying out "YOU ARE THE DRAGON'S NOW! YOU'RE BOUGHT AND PAID FOR! IT IS DONE! IT IS DONE!" Only one of the slavers notices that she is speaking Valyrian. The others are struggling to control Drogon. She rides back to them, accompanied by her bloodriders. Kraznys says, "He will not come." She replies, "There is a reason. A dragon is no slave," and she lashes out at Kraznys with the whip. "The harpy's fingers had torn his features half to pieces with one slash." And then she calls out to Drogon, "Dracarys."

The dragon incinerates Kraznys, and the bloodriders take care of the rest of the slavers. Then she calls to the Unsullied to kill the Good Masters, the soldiers, and the slave drivers but to "harm no child under twelve, and strike the chains off every slave you see." She calls out, "Dracarys," and the Unsullied echo the word. "And all around them the slavers ran and sobbed and begged and died, and the dusty air was filled with spears and fire."

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