By Charles Matthews

Friday, September 16, 2011

4. A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 105-145


Daenerys has gotten her wish: She is at sea, with her dragons flying around her, and her Dothraki contingent miserably seasick and fearful.
No squall could frighten Dany, though. Daenerys Stormborn, she was called, for she had come howling into the world on distant Dragonstone as the greatest storm in the memory of Westeros howled outside, a storm so fierce that it ripped gargoyles from the castle walls and smashed her father's fleet to kindling.
The captain of Balerion, the ship on which Daenerys is sailing, is Groleo, "an old Pentoshi like his master, Illyrio Mopatis." He was initially leery of having dragons on board because of the risk of fire, but so far they have behaved and even kept down the number of rats on board. Drogon in particular is growing fast, and Daenerys thinks that in a year or two he may be large enough for her to ride.

She is standing on deck with Ser Jorah and Whitebeard, whose real name is Arstan, discussing dragon lore. Jorah is not fond of Whitebeard or of Strong Belwas, the eunuch whose squire Whitebeard claims to be. But Daenerys is drawn to him because Whitebeard claims to have known her father, King Aerys II, who had died before she was born, and her brother, Prince Rhaegar. When Whitebeard makes a reference to Ser Jorah's second wife, Lynesse, who "had ruined him, and abandoned him," Daenerys has to keep the peace between the two.

Whitebeard goes on to tell a story of the young Prince Rhaegar, who "was bookish to a fault," he says, until one day he read something that no one has identified but which changed him into a warrior. And speaking of warriors, Strong Belwas appears and orders Whitebeard to fetch food for him. His departure gives Jorah the opportunity to reiterate his warning to Daenerys: "This Arstan Whitebeard is playing you false. He is too old to be a squire, and too well spoken to be serving that oaf of a eunuch." Daenerys has to admit to herself that his suspicions make sense, especially since she has already survived two assassination attempts, although Whitebeard was the one who foiled the second. But, she reassures herself, she has Ser Jorah and her bloodriders to protect her, not to mention her dragons.

A wind comes up and fills the sails of the ship, which had been becalmed. So they begin to make headway again, though Ser Jorah asks, "to what, my queen?" That night, Daenerys is feeding her dragons when Ser Jorah comes to her cabin. She demonstrates to him how well they are eating by calling out, "Drogon, ... dracarys," and tossing a piece of pork into the air that the dragon sears with his fiery breath before gobbling it down. But when Ser Jorah asks, "Dracarys?" the three dragons turn toward him and Viserion belches out a flame that makes Jorah back away. Daenerys explains that the word means "dragonfire" in High Valyrian, and that she has trained them to respond to the word."I wanted to choose a command that no one was like to utter by chance."

Ser Jorah then asks if they can speak privately, and Daenerys sends her handmaids, Irri and Jhiqui, away. Then she asks what is troubling him, and he says, "Strong Belwas. This Arstan Whitebeard. And Illyrio Mopatis, who sent them." This isn't news to Daenerys, who is sitting naked in bed underneath a coverlet that she pulls higher. He reminds her of the prophecy of the warlocks in Qarth that she will be betrayed "Once for blood and once for gold and once for love." She says that the first was fulfilled by Mirri Maz Duur. Which leaves two, he observes, and comments, "Never forget, Robert offered a lordship to the man who slays you."

Daenerys interrupts a fight between two of the dragons and as she does the cover slips from her chest. She hastily covers herself again, and notes, "The Usurper is dead." But, he points out, his son rules in his place: "A dutiful son pays his father's debts. Even blood debts." She agrees that might be a problem, but asks what this has to do with Whitebeard and the eunuch. After all, Whitebeard killed the manticore. He asks, "Khaleesi, has it occurred to you that Whitebeard and Belwas might have been in league with the assassin? It might all have been a ploy to win your trust." When she laughs at the idea, he also reminds her that Belwas and Arstan are in the employ of Illyrio, as are the captains of the three ships they are sailing upon. "The warlocks said the second treason would be for gold. What does Illyrio Mopatis love more than gold?"

She says she knows that Illyrio is "devious" and "clever," but that she will "need clever men about me if I am to win the Iron Throne." Besides, he and her bloodriders will protect her. As far as the risk of trusting men like the three he is questioning is concerned, "how am I to win the Seven Kingdoms without such risks?" She grows angry as he continues to challenge her innocence, but he tells her he has a plan: Instead of sailing directly to Pentos, she should tell Captain Groleo to sail for Slaver's Bay instead. There she can recruit an army of the men known as the Unsullied. He tells her a story of how a force of Unsullied defeated a much larger horde of Dothraki. If they hire an army of Unsullied and then proceed overland to Pentos, "when you break bread with Magister Illyrio, you will have a thousand swords behind you, not just four."

She asks what she is to pay for this army with, and he notes that the ships are carrying trade goods from Qarth. If Illyrio "is sincere in his devotion to your cause, he will not begrudge you three shiploads of trade goods. What better use of his tiger skins than to buy you the beginnings of an army?" She begins to see the logic of his argument, but asks what if Captain Groleo, Arstan and Strong Belwas oppose the plan. He replies, "Perhaps it's time you found that out."

Excitedly, she jumps out of bed and starts to get dressed, eager to see Groleo at once. But as she is pulling on her clothes, Jorah puts his arms around her and kisses her. She doesn't pull away at once, and when she does she begins to scold him. But he declares that he should have kissed her a long time ago. He calls her "Daenerys," which she corrects to "Your Grace!"
"Your Grace," he conceded, "the dragon has three heads, remember. You have wondered at that, ever since you heard it from the warlocks in the House of Dust. Well, here's your meaning: Balerion, Meraxes, and Vhaegar, ridden by Aegon, Rhaenys, and Visenya. The three-headed dragon of House Targaryen -- three dragons, and three riders.... Rhaenys and Visenya were Aegon's wives as well as his sisters. You have no brothers, but you can take husbands. And I tell you truly, Daenerys, there is no man in all the world who will ever be half so true to you as me." 


Bran is seeing through Summer's eyes, racing through the woods in which he comes upon a pack of wolves. They recall for him his own pack, the five direwolf cubs "and a sixth who stood aside." He recalls their scents, particularly the "angry brother with the hot green eyes" he knows to be nearby even though he hasn't seen him for a while. And he remembers the sister who died: "Four now, not five. Four and one more, the white who has no voice." The other pack has killed a deer when he comes on them, and he fights them off so he can eat.

Then Hodor says "Hodor," and he begins to turn into a boy again, reluctantly. They are "down in the damp vault of some ancient watchtower that must have been abandoned thousands of years before." Jojen tells him, "You were gone too long," but Bran had wanted to eat the deer, not the frogs that Meera has gone to hunt. Jojen then asks him if he marked the trees he had seen in his vision, because Bran has learned to open "his third eye and put on Summer's skin," ranging the woods as the wolf does to seek out pathways for them. But he has forgotten to do the tasks that would help them navigate, clawing the trees so they can locate where he has been roaming. "He meant to do the things that Jojen asked, but once he was a wolf they never seemed important."

Jojen is worried that Bran has begun to lose himself so he asks him to say who he is. "'Bran,' he said sullenly. Bran the Broken. 'Brandon Stark.' The cripple boy. 'The Prince of Winterfell.'" But he recalls that Winterfell has been burned and its people have abandoned it. "How can you be the prince of someplace you might never see again?" Jojen also has him remember that "Bran the boy and Summer the wolf" are two distinct beings. "Remember that, Bran. Remember yourself, or the wolf will consume you. When you join, it is not enough to run and hunt and howl in Summer's skin."

Bran promises to do so, though he wonders, "What good is it to be a skinchanger if you can't wear the skin you like?" He offers to go back and perform Jojen's tasks now, though he really wants to go back and eat the deer and fight with the wolves first. But Jojen knows what Bran has in mind and tells him he has to eat as Bran now. "A warg cannot live on what his beast consumes."

Meera returns with two trout and six frogs, which reminds him of how the Walders, the Frey cousins who had been sent as wards to Winterfell, "used to say that eating frogs would make your teeth green and make moss grow under your arms. He wondered if the Walders were dead. He hadn't seen their corpses at Winterfell." But he eats the stew that Meera makes from her catch and decides he likes it, though not as much as deer.

Jojen says they should move on tomorrow, though Meera argues for staying where they are safe. He wants them to go to the Wall because that's where he has had the vision of the three-eyed crow. Meera suggests that they should find some horses and trade for them, but Jojen says no.
"Look at us, Meera. A crippled boy with a direwolf, a simpleminded giant, and two crannogmen a thousand leagues from the Neck. We will be known. And word will spread. So long as Bran remains dead, he is safe. Alive, he becomes prey for those who want him dead for good and true.... Somewhere to the north, the three-eyed crow awaits us. Bran has need of a teacher wiser than me."
Their argument is interrupted by the howl of a wolf, and Bran says it isn't Summer. He feels rebellious toward Jojen, who is always telling them what to do, so he argues that they should follow Meera's advice and steal horses, or steal a boat and make their way to Riverrun, but neither Meera nor Jojen supports his plan. Hodor begins repeating his name over and over, to their annoyance, so Bran tells him to go outside and practice with his sword. They have three swords that they took from the crypt at Winterfell.

Bran then asks Jojen what he meant about needing a teacher, and Jojen says that he is "only a boy who dreams," but Bran has the potential to be more than that: "You are the winged wolf, and there is no saying how far and high you might fly ... if you had someone to teach you." Meera says they will be safe there until the war ends, and that if they leave they risk being captured. But it may be that the risk is worth taking. Only Bran can decide.

So Bran tries to think what they should do. If they leave, they might be captured "by the ironmen or the Bastard of Bolton." If they stay, they would be safe: "He would stay alive. And crippled." He would always be crippled, no matter where he went, unless Jojen's dreams were true. "'I want to fly,' he told them. 'Please. Take me to the crow.'"


They are nearing Dragonstone, and Davos sees smoke coming from the top of the mountain. "Dragonmont is restless this morning, Davos thought, or else Melisandre is burning someone else." He has vowed to revenge himself for his sons' deaths. "I will cut the living heart from her breast and see how it burns. He touched the hilt of the fine long Lysene dirk that the captain had given him."

He is still weak from his ordeal. "If he stood too long his legs shook, and sometimes he fell prey to uncontrollable fits of coughing and brought up gobs of bloody phlegm." The captain, Korane Sathmantes, has told him how the battle at King's Landing ended with Stannis fleeing from the Lannisters and the ghost of King Renly. As they enter the harbor, the captain tells him that Salladhor Saan, the prince who leads the Lysene fleet, wants to see him, but Davos insists that he must see the king first. The captain says that no one sees the king, and that he must see Salladhor first, and Davos is too weak to argue with him.

Salladhor is on board a Pentoshi ship that once belonged to Illyrio Mopatis, but which he has seized under his new authority as Lord of Blackwater Bay, a title granted by Lord Alester Florent, the Hand of King Stannis. He gives Davos the good news that his son Devan was rescued from the battle. But when Davos says he wants to see the king, he tells him that "you will be finding him changed, I am fearing. Since the battle, he sees no one, but broods in his Stone Drum. Queen Selyse keeps court for him with her uncle the Lord Alester." The only person Stannis sees is Melisandre.
"Queer talking I have heard, of hungry fires within the mountain, and how Stannis and the red woman go down together to watch the flames. There are shafts, they say, and secret stairs down into the mountain's heart, into hot places where only she may walk unburned."
When Davos talks of his plan to kill Melisandre, Salladhor tells him to be quiet, that talk like that is dangerous. He is unwell and should take to his bed. But insists that his bed is in the castle, as is his son. Melisandre is in the castle, too, Salladhor says. "While we were burning on the river, she was burning traitors," he warns. "If you kill the red woman, they will burn you for revenge, and if you fail to kill her, they will burn you for the trying." But Davos is persuaded that he was saved for the express purpose of making "an end of Melisandre of Asshai and all her works. Why else would the sea have spit me out?" Seeing that there is no reasoning with Davos, Salladhor tells him to go.

As he walks from the harbor to the castle, Davos finds the city nearly deserted. The castle gates are shut, and he pounds on them until a crossbowman looks down from the barbican and tells him to go away. When he identifies himself as Davos, the onion knight, the guard doesn't believe him. Davos asks for some men he once knew and is told that they are all dead. But finally the guard tells him to wait there, and when he comes back sends him to the sally port.

When he's inside the walls he is told to wait again in Aegon's Garden. While he is there, the fool Patchface enters, followed by the Princess Shireen, who chases after him. When they are gone, a small boy runs out of the hedge and knocks Davos down. "Jet-black hair fell to his collar, and his eyes were a startling blue." A coughing spasm seizes Davos as he picks himself up, and the boy asks if he should send for the maester. Davos says he'll be all right, and the boy asks his name. When he says he's Ser Davos Seaworth, the boy says he doesn't look like a knight, but when Davos says he's "the knight of the onions," he knows the story of how the smuggler saved the besieged city.

"I am Edric Storm," the boy says, "King Robert's son." Davos had already realized that from the boy's Baratheon features. They talk about how Stannis had chopped off Davos's fingertips, and Edric says that his father wouldn't have done that. Davos thinks, "Robert was a different man than Stannis, true enough. The boy is like him. Aye, and like Renly as well. That thought made him anxious."

But their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Ser Axell Florent and a dozen guards. Ser Axell says, "I have come to take you to the dungeon," and tells the guards, "Seize him, and take his dirk. He means to use it on our lady."

No comments:

Post a Comment