By Charles Matthews

Friday, September 2, 2011

18. A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 656-689


Having failed to persuade the influential people in Qarth to provide the ships and men she wants, Daenerys sets off for the waterfront to see what she can pick up for herself. "She was fleeing again," she realized, but it's necessary: "Xaro had learned that Pyat Pree was gathering the surviving warlocks together to work ill on her." Her Dothraki followers, who are nomads, are getting restless, and burning down the House of the Undying had reminded the Qartheen "that dragons were dangerous."

But Xaro still thinks the dragons are worth the risk, and when he is turned down again in his offer of marriage, he tries to persuade Daenerys to trade one of her dragons for ten of his ships. Daenerys says her price for one of her dragons would be one-third of all the ships in the world. He says she's mad and that she can no longer live in his house and must return all of his gifts. She recalls, "The warlocks whispered of three treasons ... once for blood and once for gold and once for love." She thinks that the first treason must have been Mirri Maz Duur's, murdering Khal Drogo and her unborn son as retribution for the Dothraki's treatment of her people, and wonders if Pyat Pree and Xaro Xhoan Daxos were the other two treasons. But Pyat didn't try to trap her in the House of the Undying for gold, and Xaro certainly didn't love her.

As they ride to the waterfront she thinks of the warlocks' other prophesies: "Child of three, they had called her, daughter of death, slayer of lies, bride of fire. So many threes." She asks Jorah Mormont why the dragon in the sigil of House Targaryen has three heads. He suggests that the three heads were Aegon and his sisters, Visenya and Rhaenys.  She observes that she is descended from Aegon and Rhaenys. Jorah tells her to stop worrying about what the warlocks said. "All they wanted was to suck the life from you, you know that now."

Jorah dismisses the visions she had as meaningless: "A dead man in the prow of a ship, a blue rose, a banquet of blood.... A mummer's dragon, you said." She explains that a mummer's dragon is a cloth dragon carried on poles by mummers for mock combat. And she remembers the vision of the man she thought was Viserys but is now convinced was her brother Rhaegar: "His is the song of ice and fire.... He had a harp with silver strings." Jorah admits that Rhaegar had a harp like that. As for the woman with the baby whom Rhaegar said should be named Aegon, Jorah acknowledges that "Prince Aegon was Rhaegar's heir by Elia of Dorne," killed by the Lannisters. As for the song of ice and fire, Jorah says he's never heard such a song.

They are nearing the waterfront, and Jhogo smells what he calls "the poison water" -- the Dothraki don't like the sea. "Water that a horse could not drink was water they wanted no part of." But Daenerys thinks that if she could make it through their sea of grass, they can make it through hers. They ride for several miles through the buildings on the harbor toward the part "where the ships from the Summer Islands, Westeros, and the Nine Free Cities were permitted to dock."

Daenerys is dressed in Dothraki clothing but Jorah wears "his green wool surcoat over chainmail, the black bear of Mormont sewn on his chest." But their attempts to obtain the ships and men they need are unsuccessful. As they are walking from quay to quay, Jorah tells Daenerys that they are being followed, cautioning her not to look behind her, he stops at a brass-seller's stand, picks up a large, highly polished platter as if showing it to her to buy, and directs her attention to the men reflected in it: "a fat brown man and an older man with a staff."

The merchant steps up and offers it to her for "thirty honors," though they all know it "was worth no more than three." Daenerys says he is trying to rob her, and whispers to Jorah that the two men may just be ogling her. The brass-seller lowers the price to twenty, and as they continue to haggle, Daenerys wonders if they have been sent by "the Usurper," Robert Baratheon, to kill her or if they are "creatures of the warlocks." The merchant lowers the price to ten, then eight. Daenerys turns to walk away and gets a better look at the men.

The brown man appears to be a eunuch. He carries an arakh in his waistband. "Old scars crisscrossed his tree-trunk arms, huge chest, and massive belly, pale against his nut-brown skin." The other man has long white hair and a white beard, and doesn't wear a sword. "Only fools would stare so openly if they meant me harm," Daenerys thinks. The merchant pursues them as they walk away, offering five, then four, then finally two. Jorah points out that the staff the old man carries can be a deadly weapon. Daenerys tells him to pay the merchant two honors just to get rid of him, then turns to confront the two men.

Just then a Qartheen steps up, addresses her as "Mother of Dragons," and presents her with a carved wooden jewel box. She opens it and sees a carved green scarab of onyx and emerald. She thinks, "This will help pay for our passage," and thanks the man. But as she reaches into the box, the scarab turns into a creature with "a malign black face, almost human, and an arched tail dripping venom." She hears a hiss, and suddenly the box is knocked out of her hand and she feels a pain in her fingers. Ser Jorah rushes forward and Daenerys falls to one knee as she sees hears the hiss again and sees the old man drive his staff into the ground. There is a commotion around her as Aggo rides forward and jumps from the saddle, and Jhogo's whip cracks. Jorah takes the brass platter and crashes it onto the head of the eunuch.

The old man kneels before her and begs her pardon, telling her that he had to knock the box away and hopes he hasn't broken her hand. Jhogo and Aggo are on him and have a dagger at his throat, but Daenerys tells them to release him and to sheathe their weapons. Jorah protests that the men were trying to kill her, but Daenerys says it was the Qartheen. She recognizes him as one of the hired killers known as "Sorrowful Men" because he had said, "I am so sorry" after she opened the box. "There was a manticore in that jewel box he gave me. This man knocked it out of my hand."

The man identifies himself as Arstan, though his companion, the eunuch, calls him Whitebeard. The eunuch is Belwas. They have been sent, they say, by Magister Illyrio. They had been following Daenerys because they weren't certain she was the woman for whom they had been sent. Belwas is originally from Meereen, and has been sold as a pit fighter several times. Arstan is originally from  the Dornish Marshes and as a boy had been squire to a knight in the house of Lord Swann. He recognizes Ser Jorah, having seen him fight in tournaments.

Daenerys asks why Illyrio sent them, and Belwas says he wants dragons. Arstan says, "The Seven Kingdoms have need of you. Robert the Usurper is dead, and the realm bleeds." It's just what Daenerys wants to hear. Illyrio has hired three ships for her, and Daenerys thinks, "Three heads has the dragon." She tells them to rename the ships, and Arstan agrees, asking for the new names.
"Vhagar," Daenerys told him. "Meraxes. And Balerion. Paint the names on their hulls in golden letters three feet high, Arstan. I want every man who sees them to know the dragons are returned."


There are fresh heads on the walls of Harrenhal now that Roose Bolton is in charge, but word that King's Landing has been held with the aid of Tywin Lannister has reached them, and now the news has it that Lord Tywin is on his way to take back the castle. Gendry has told Arya that he hates the forces that hold Harrenhal even more than he did Ser Amory and his men. She doesn't disagree: the Brave Companions/Bloody Mummers are just mercenaries, and they have given Rorge and Biter free rein.

"Sometimes she wished she had gone off across the narrow sea with Jaqen H'ghar. She still had the stupid coin he'd given her, a piece of iron no larger than a penny and rusted along the rim." But she doesn't believe it's as valuable as he said it was, and has even tried to throw it away but thought better of it and retrieved it.

She is carrying a pail of water to Roose Bolton when Bolton's squire, Elmar Frey, calls her over to help him roll a barrel of sand which is used to clean Bolton's chainmail. Elmar is her age and "liked to boast how he was the son of the Lord of the Crossing, not a nephew or a bastard or a grandson but a trueborn son, and on account of that he was going to marry a princess." (Arya doesn't know of Robb's vow to marry her off to one of the Freys as part of the deal made for their help against the Lannisters.) She tells him that the mail isn't clean enough yet, and he tells her she can roll the barrel herself. But she is carrying the water to Lord Bolton because he is being leeched, and Elmar is terrified of leeches, so he lets her go.

Bolton is lying there covered with leeches, and as she fills the basin with water she listens to what's being said. Ser Aenys Frey is fretting about the imminent arrival of Tywin Lannister, but Bolton assures him that Tywin has business to conclude in King's Landing before marching on Harrenhal. Frey disagrees: "You do not know the Lannisters as we do, my lord. King Stannis thought that Lord Tywin was a thousand leagues away as well, and it undid him." Besides, he argues, even if Robb and the forces from Riverrun come to their aid, they'll still be outnumbered, and the forces once pledged to Renly Baratheon have gone over to the Lannister side.

And then Hosteen Frey mentions that Winterfell has fallen and that Robb's brothers are dead. Arya is stunned, but she musters her strength not to show it. When the Freys leave, Bolton calls her over to remove the leeches. She hears him order the castle of the Darrys burned, which pleases her because that's where she'd been taken after the fight with Joffrey and where the queen had ordered Sansa's wolf killed. And speaking of wolves, Bolton announces his intention to go wolf-hunting. Apparently the local wolves have grown bold and killed two of Septon Utt's horses.

After Bolton leaves, she cleans his quarters and thinks about Bran and Rickon and the vengeance Robb will wreak on the Lannisters, who she assumes killed them. "If Winterfell is truly gone, is this my home now? Am I still Arya, or only Nan the serving girl, for forever and forever and forever?" As she is tidying she finds a map, THE LANDS OF THE TRIDENT, that shows "everything from the Neck to the Blackwater Rush." She finds Harrenhal on the map, and then Riverrun, and thinks, "It's not so far...."

She goes to the godswood where she practices her swordwork, slaying the enemies on her list one by one, concluding with Joffrey. Then she salutes the heart tree: "'Valar morghulis,' she told the old gods of the north. She liked how the words sounded when she said them." When the hunting party returns with nine dead wolves, Bolton orders hot spiced wine and his dinner, and Arya goes off to prepare it. In the kitchen she finds Hot Pie, who rebuffs her when she tries to help spice the wine.

She takes the food to Bolton, who tells her he doesn't need her anymore that night. But she asks him if he will take her with him when he leaves Harrenhal. He rebukes her for speaking without leave and tells her that when he leaves she will remain there to serve Vargo Hoat. She starts to protest, but he says, "I am not in the habit of being questioned by servants, Nan. Must I have your tongue out?" She says, "No, my lord," knowing that he is capable of doing it, and he says he will "forget this insolence."

As she passes the Wailing Tower, where the Freys reside, she finds Elmar weeping outside. He tells her that he won't marry a princess after all, because the Freys have been dishonored. "My lord father says I'll need to marry someone else, or be a septon." She thinks that's not so bad and tell him that her brothers might be dead. When he says, "No one cares about a serving girl's brothers," she hits him and runs off to the godswood, where she prays to the gods to tell her what to do.

She hears a wolf howl, and remembers her father's words: "When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives." But she thinks that she no longer has a pack: "Bran and Rickon were dead, the Lannisters had Sansa, Jon had gone to the Wall." She hears her father's voice saying, "You have the wolf blood in you," and she thinks, "I'll be as strong as Robb. I said I would." She takes her broomstick sword and breaks it over her knee: "I am a direwolf, and done with wooden teeth."

Lying in her bed, she hears the wolves howling and thinks, "They are calling to me." She slips on a tunic and goes to the forge where Gendry and the other apprentices are asleep. She wakes him and tells him she wants a sword, and that he should escape with her: "Lord Bolton is giving Harrenhal to the Bloody Mummers, he told me so." She tells him that Vargo Hoat plans to cut the left foot off of every servant to keep them from running away. He should go to the kitchens and tell Hot Pie the same think. "We'll need bread or oakcakes [sic] or something. You get the swords and I'll do the horses." She'll meet them at the postern in the Tower of Ghosts, which is abandoned and only lightly guarded.

She goes back to her room and dresses warmly, then slips into Bolton's quarters and steals the map as well as his dagger. In the stables, she wakes a groom and tells him that Lord Bolton needs "three horses saddled and bridled." She is wearing Bolton's livery, with a sigil of a flayed man. The groom gets the horses ready. "She hoped they would not hurt him afterward, but she knew they probably would." She leads the horses to the Tower of Ghosts without being seen.

Hot Pie arrives with bread and cheese and Gendry with swords. Gendry tells her there is a guard at the postern, but she tells them to stay there with the horses and she'll howl like a wolf when they should join her. She approaches the guard as if on official business and tells him that she has come "to give all his guards a silver piece, for their good service." She hands the man the iron coin Jaqen had given her, but lets it drop, and when he bends over to pick it up she slits his throat. "'Valar morghulis,' she whispered as he died."

She picks up the coin and gives out a wolf howl. It has started to rain by the time Hot Pie and Gendry arrive with the horses. "'You killed him!' Hot Pie gasped. 'What did you think I would do?'" she replies. Her hands are bloody, but as they ride off she thinks, "The rain will wash them clean again."


The court has gathered in the throne room, beautifully dressed, and Sansa arrives just in time for Lord Tywin Lannister's entrance. He rides his horse right up to the Iron Throne.
The Lord of Casterly Rock made such an impressive figure that it was a shock when his destrier dropped a load of dung right at the base of the throne. Joffrey had to step gingerly around it as he descended to embrace his grandfather and proclaim him Savior of the City. Sansa covered her mouth to hide a nervous smile. 
Lord Tywin is made both regent and Hand of the King. Then there is a procession of heroes: Mace Tyrell, the Lord of Highgarden; his sons, Ser Loras and Ser Garlan the Gallant. Ser Loras is made a member of the Kingsguard, and Ser Garlan offers Joffrey the hand of their sister, Margaery, who was married to Renly but the marriage was not consummated. Joffrey says that unfortunately he is "promised to another," but Cersei rises to say that "in the judgment of your small council, it would be neither proper nor wise for you to wed the daughter of a man beheaded for treason, a girl whose brother is in open rebellion against the throne even now." There are shouts of "Margaery" in the hall, but Joffrey say, "I took a holy vow." This is the cue for the High Septon to say that the crimes of the Starks invalidate the "marriage contract 'twixt you and Sansa Stark."

There are more cries of "Margaery, Margaery" in the hall, and Sansa waits, hoping that Joffrey will not go against counsel again as he did when he had her father beheaded. To her relief, he doesn't, and accepts Margaery as his betrothed. Sansa reminds herself not to smile. Cersei has threatened her, "I will not have my son humiliated." When Sansa asked what would become of her, Cersei said, "That will need to be determined. For the moment, you shall remain here at court, as our ward."

There are more honors to be awarded to those who distinguished themselves defending the city, including lordships for Hallyne the Pyromancer and Ser Lancel Lannister, who was seriously wounded and is not present "to accept the title; the talk was, his wound might cost him his arm or even his life. The Imp was said to be dying as well, from a terrible cut to the head."

Lord Petyr Baelish is next to be honored, though "Sansa had not heard of Littlefinger doing anything especially heroic during the battle." Ser Kevan Lannister announces that "Lord Baelish is granted the castle of Harrenhal with all its attendant lands and incomes, there to make his seat and rule henceforth as Lord Paramount of the Trident." Then more than six hundred knighthoods are conferred, and Joffrey goes visibly restless as the ceremony goes on.

Then the captives are led in, including some "great lords and noble knights." Some of them had changed allegiance during the battle and only needed to swear fealty to Joffrey, but the ones who had stayed loyal to Stannis until the end are forced to speak, usually to beg forgiveness and have their lands and rights restored to them. But a few, true believers in the Lord of Light, remained defiant. Joffrey orders one of them dragged away to be beheaded by Ser Ilyn Payne.

Then "a knight of solemn mien with a fiery heart on his surcoat shouted out, 'Stannis is the true king! A monster sits the Iron Throne, an abomination born of incest!'" Ser Kevan Lannister orders him to be silent, but the knight continues, "Destroy them all, queen whore and king worm, vile dwarf and whispering spider, the false flowers." Joffrey can't restrain himself and shouts "I'm king! Kill him! Kill him now! I command it." And then he slams down his hand on the Iron Throne and cuts it on one of the protruding blades. As the blood starts to flow, he wails, "Mother!"

The defiant man snatches a spear from one of the guards. "'The throne denies him!' he cried. 'He is no king!'"
Cersei was running toward the throne, but Lord Tywin remained still as stone. He had only to raise a finger, and Ser Meryn Trant moved forward with drawn sword. The end was quick and brutal. The gold cloaks seized the knight by the arms. "No king!" he cried again as Ser Meryn drove the point of his longsword through his chest.
Joffrey is hustled away, and Lord Tywin takes charge.

Sansa returns to her chambers where she can rejoice, and that evening she goes to the godswood. She is puzzled, however, that Ser Dontos looks so sad. He explains the reality of her situation: "The queen will never let you go, never. You are too valuable a hostage.... And if [Joffrey] wants you in his bed, he will have you, only now it will be bastards he plants in your womb instead of trueborn sons." But, he tells her, he has made arrangements for her to escape on the night of Joffrey's marriage to Margaery. "For a little while, you will be forgotten, and the confusion will be our friend."

Then he gives her a gift: "a hair net of fine-spun silver, the strands so thin and delicate the net seemed to weigh no more than a breath of air when Sansa took it in her fingers." It is set with small stones that Dontos tells her are "Black amethysts from Asshai.... It's magic, you see. It's justice you hold. It's vengeance for your father.... It's home."  

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