By Charles Matthews

Monday, October 10, 2011

25. A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 857-893


Davos watches as Melisandre leads a sunset ceremony glorifying R'hllor. Queen Selyse and Ser Axell Florent join in the responses enthusiastically, King Stannis not so much. "He is with them, but not of them, Davos thought." As for Davos, he is silently praying to the Mother to keep his son Devan safe.

Now Ser Andrew Estermont gives him the signal that it is time for them to move. A plot is afoot, and Davos thinks of his companions in it, "they will all be dead men soon, if this night's work goes badly." He has warned them that Melisandre may have foreseen their plans, and one of them advises killing her. But Davos knows from experience that this is precisely the sort of thing Melisandre sees first. When another protests about the clandestine nature of what they are about to do, Davos says, "I don't need men of honor now. I need smugglers."

Davos and Ser Andrew go to Maester Pylos's schoolroom, where the maester tells Edric Storm that he is to go with them. Pylos helps Edric into a hooded cloak, but when Davos asks if Pylos is going with the boy, he says no. Davos admires the maester's courage. When Edric is told that he is being taken to a ship, he asks if Princess Shireen is coming with them. When he's told she isn't, he asks to see her, but Davos explains that there isn't time.

Edric protests that he wants to see King Stannis, but Davos replies, "I am his Hand, I speak with his voice. Must I go to the king and tell him that you would not do as you were told? Do you know how angry that will make him?" And he shows Edric his lopped-off fingers as a demonstration of what happens when the king gets angry. Edric agrees to go with Davos.

The conspirators have tied up the guards, and all goes smoothly as Davos escorts Edric to the waiting boat, telling him, "It's the start of your life's great adventure. May the Warrior defend you." Edric replies, "And may the Father judge you justly, Lord Davos." He goes with the men to the boat that will take him to the ship.

Davos now steels himself and goes to see Stannis, not knowing what the king's reaction will be. The Chamber of the Painted Table is empty when he enters, so he lights a fire and waits. Finally Stannis arrives with Melisandre. They are arguing about Melisandre's vision of the deaths of the three kings, and Davos is able to tell Stannis that her vision has come true: Joffrey is dead. The news had been brought by Lyseni traders.

"They must send for me now," Stannis says, but Melisandre reminds him that Tommen will succeed to the throne, and that now is the time to wake the dragons. "'Give me this boy,' she whispered, 'and I will give you your kingdom.'" But Davos tells Stannis that the boy is gone: "He is aboard a Lyseni galley, safely out to sea." He watches Melisandre's reaction and "saw the flicker of dismay there, the sudden uncertainty. She did not see it!"

Melisandre says, "You will bring him back, my lord. You will." But Davos replies, "The boy is out of my reach.... And out of your reach as well, my lady." She glares at him, but Stannis sounds "more tired than angry" when he questions Davos's loyalty. Davos replies,
"Four of my sons died for you on the Blackwater. I might have died myself. You have my loyalty, always." Davos Seaworth had thought long and hard about the words he said next; he knew his life depended on them. "Your Grace, you made me swear to give you honest counsel and swift obedience, to defend your realm against your foes, to protect your people. Is not Edric Storm one of your people? One of those I swore to protect? I kept my oath. How could that be treason?"
At Stannis's prompting, Melisandre argues once again that Edric Storm had "the power of kingsblood in his veins." But Davos persists in his contention that a king protects his people, causing Stannis to ask, "Must I learn a king's duty from an onion smuggler?"

Davos kneels and offers his head, asking Stannis to hear him out first. Stannis draws the sword Lightbringer and tells Davos to be quick about it. So Davos produces the letter about the attack on the Night's Watch and begins to read it "by the light of the magic sword."


Jon has a dream in which he is rejected by the dead in the crypt at Winterfell,who tell him, "You are no Stark." He hears sounds of feasting in the Great Hall, and knows that he isn't welcome there. He calls out to Ygritte to forgive him as the crypt grows darker, and he sees "only a direwolf, grey and ghastly, spotted with blood, his golden eyes shining sadly through the dark." He wakes to remember that the wolf had been gray, not white like Ghost, and wonders if the Thenns had hunted Bran down and killed him.

Then he hears a horn, and goes out to see his fellow members of the Watch heading toward the Wall. "It is Mance, he thought. He has come at last. That was good. We will fight a battle, and then we'll rest. Alive or dead, we'll rest." He goes to wait for the winch to take him to the top of the Wall with others. When Satin asks him if it's Mance Rayder, Jon says, "We can hope so," knowing that a battle with wildlings was preferable to an encounter with the Others and the wights.

When he reaches the top of the Wall he can tell that it's Mance and his forces because of the torches. "The Others did not light torches." Donal Noye orders the trebuchets to fling barrels of flaming pitch, and Jon sees the mammoths moving below, a hundred of them. When the sentry's horn sounds, the wildlings answer with their own horns, as well as drums and pipes.

Pyp cries out that they're at the gate, which is the only way the wildlings have of breaching the Wall. The gate is only the entrance to a crooked and narrow tunnel, with three locked and chained iron grates within, each "protected by a murder hole." The gate itself is wood, nine inches thick, but the mammoths and giants could demolish it.

As the wildlings gather at the base of the Wall, jars of lamp oil are set ablaze and tipped over the edge, followed by a big barrel of pitch. They can hear the screams from below. Noye commands the archers to release arrows into the darkness. Then he calls for two bowmen and two spearmen to join him in the tunnel below, to defend it if they break through the gate. And he puts Jon in charge of the Wall, to Jon's surprise.

The battle rages through the night, and the trebuchets do so much work that one of them finally breaks down. Jon takes up a longbow, feeling how stiff his fingers are. "His fever was back as well, and his leg would tremble uncontrollably, sending a white-hot knife of pain right through him." Dawn breaks, and then they get a glimpse of the foe.
Beneath the trees were all the wildlings in the world, raiders and giants, wargs and skinchangers, mountain men, salt sea sailors, ice river cannibals, cave dwellers with dyed faces, dog chariots from the Frozen Shore, Hornfoot men with their soles like boiled leather, all the queer wild folk Mance had gathered to break the Wall. 
Then the mammoths, ridden by giants, begin their attack on the gate, pushing a ram mounted on wheels.

The sheer numbers of the wildlings frighten the men on the Wall, so Jon calls out to them, "The Wall will stop them. The Wall defends itself.... Mance wants to unman us with his numbers. Does he think we're stupid? ... The chariots, the horsemen, all those fools on foot ... what are they going to do to us up here? Any of you ever see a mammoth climb a wall?" The laughter that follows the question gives him the impetus to carry on with his speech, and he has the men with the warhorns "sound for battle." He calls on the archers to aim for the giants with the ram. He laughs, "like a drunk or a madman, and his men laughed with him."

He gives out orders to various men as the wildlings begin to show their lack of discipline. The wildling archers waste their arrows shooting at the men atop the Wall, seven hundred feet above. Jon keeps control of his archers, telling them precisely when to shoot. He gives similar orders to the men at the catapults which fling "a hundred spiked steel caltrops." The wildlings are caught in a death trap. "The ram was down and done, he saw, the giants who'd pushed it dead or dying." A mammoth is running loose, trampling wildlings. Jon orders Grenn and Pyp to drop barrels of burning oil on the men below.

The mammoths begin to flee, and the center of the attack collapses, causing the flanks to fall back too. Cheers go up from the men of the Watch, and suddenly Jon feels the pain and weariness. He asks Pyp to help him to the lift, and puts Grenn in charge of the Wall. He wants to eat and to rest, and to get something for the pain, but when they reach the ground he first wants to check on the tunnel and Donal Noye.

He waits as Pyp goes for Maester Aemon who has the key to the grates. They make their way through the narrow tunnel until they can see light on the other side, which Jon realizes is bad. Pyp observes that there is blood on the floor. The last twenty feet of the tunnel had been the scene of a bloodbath. The door had been torn from its hinges and a giant had crawled through, killing Donal and his four men. But Donal had stabbed the giant in the throat before dying. Jon recognizes the giant as "Mag the mighty. The king of the giants."

Jon squeezes through the carnage and finds a dead mammoth and three more dead giants. He returns to tell them that they need to block the tunnel with rubble and ice and anything else they can find. "Ser Wynton will need to take command, he's the last knight left, but he needs to move now, the giants will be back before we know it."

But Maester Aemon says that Ser Wynton is too old and senile to remember even this crucial advice. Jon must be in charge until the garrison returns.
"Donal chose you, and Qhorin Halfhand before him. Lord Commander Mormont made you his steward. You are a son of Winterfell, a nephew of Benjen Stark. It must be you or no one. The Wall is yours, Jon Snow."


The grief is so profound that it overshadows everything, even the lump on her head left by the flat of the Hound's axe. She wants to curl up and sleep through her depression, but he won't let her do it. When she does sleep, she dreams of wolves: "A great pack of wolves, with her at the head." But he continues to wake her and force her to take part in their travels. They have found another horse, that she has named Craven "because Sandor said she'd likely run off from the Twins the same as them."

He no longer keeps a close watch on her, though she still tells herself, "One night I'll kill him in his sleep," and could easily ride away on the new horse. But she has no place to go unless she can find her way back to Lady Smallwood's or rejoin Beric's outlaws. But she has decided "None of them wanted her around. They were never my pack, not even Hot Pie and Gendry. I was stupid to think so, just a stupid little girl, and no wolf at all."

She has asked Clegane where they are going, but he said only "Away."
She could feel the fury in him, she could see it in his face, the way his mouth would tighten and twist, the looks he gave her. Whenever he took his axe to chop some wood for a fire, he would slide into a cold rage, hacking savagely at the tree or the deadfall or the broken limb, until they had twenty times as much kindling and firewood as they'd needed.
One day they come across a survivor of the massacre of the northmen at the twins. He is feverish and dying of an infected wound in his shoulder. He asks for wine, but the Hound tells him, "I can give you water, and the gift of mercy." He accepts, and Arya brings him water in the Hound's helmet, and the Hound provides the mercy with his dagger, gently driving it through his heart. Arya asks if they will bury him, but the Hound says, "Leave him for the wolves and wild dogs. Your brothers and mine." On his body, Clegane finds some money and a dagger. He keeps the former and gives her the latter.

They reach the Mountains of the Moon, and turn eastward. He tells her, "You have an aunt in the Eyrie. Might be she'll want to ransom your scrawny arse, though the gods know why." But Arya wants to go back to the Twins, arguing that they don't know if her mother is dead and they should rescue her. The Hound refuses. When Arya falls asleep that night she dreams that she is with the wolf pack. They are feasting on the bodies of the dead at the Twins, and she picks up her mother's scent. Then she sees her: "something pale and white drifting down the river, turning where it brushed against a snag." She drags the body to the shore. "Rise, she thought. Rise and eat and run with us." But men arrive and she and the other wolves flee.

The next morning, Clegane says, "This thing about your mother...." But Arya answers, "I know she's dead. I saw her in a dream." He looks at her for a long time, then nods and they ride on. They find a village where they get food and shelter. But the villagers tell him that the way to the Eyrie is too dangerous. "If you don't freeze or starve, the shadowcats will get you, or the cave bears. There's the clans as well." The ones that went away to the war are back, and more fierce than ever.

The Hound decides that they should stay there, but the village elder tells him he can't. They will only be extra mouths to feed when winter sets in. And he has been recognized as "King Joffrey's dog," so they don't want him there to attract trouble. So they leave and turn south. He decides that they'll go to Riverrun. "Maybe the Blackfish wants to buy himself a she-wolf." But she doesn't really know her uncle, and "Every time she made for Riverrun, she ended up someplace worse."

She suggests they go to the Wall because her brother is there, but he argues that it's a thousand leagues away, and they would have to fight their way through "thousands of bloody buggering northmen." She responds, "Have you lost your belly for fighting?" He looks like he is going to hit her, but the rabbit they are roasting is done and he eats instead. "I don't give a rat's arse for you or your brother. I have a brother too."

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