By Charles Matthews

Thursday, October 13, 2011

28. A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 960-995


He is becoming used to the idea of taking the black, but it's the thought of confessing, especially to something he didn't do, that stands in his way. "He almost wished he had done it, since it seemed he must suffer for it anyway."

He follows the gold cloaks to the trial and is confronted with the last witness: Shae. She testifies that Tyrion and Sansa plotted it, that he was going to kill Cersei and his father next, so he could be Hand for Tommen, whom he would kill and seize the throne. When Prince Oberyn asks how she knows this, she says, "On the morning of the wedding, he dragged me down where they keep the dragon skulls and fucked me there with the monsters all around. And when I cried, he said I ought to be more grateful, that it wasn't every girl who got to be the king's whore."

Ser Oswald Kettleblack laughs when Shae says that Tyrion made her call him "My giant ... my giant of Lannister," and the laughter spreads to the entire courtroom. "I saved this vile city and all your worthless lives," Tyrion thinks bitterly. Everyone is laughing except his father, who shouts, "MY LORDS!" in an attempt to silence them, and raises his hand, finally gaining quiet. Tyrion then speaks up: "Get this lying whore out of my sight ... and I will give you my confession."

The gold cloaks escort Shae from the room, and Tyrion wonders whether it is shame or fear that he sees on her face, and what Cersei had promised her for her testimony. Then he turns to the judges and asks if they expect him to confess his guilt. He has a different confession to make:
"Of Joffrey's death I am innocent. I am guilty of a more monstrous crime." He took a step toward his father. "I was born. I lived. I am guilty of being a dwarf, I confess it. And no matter how many times my good father forgave me, I have persisted in my infamy."
Tywin dismisses the confession as irrelevant and asks if he has anything to say in his defense. 
"Nothing but this: I did not do it. Yet now I wish I had.... I wish I had enough poison for you all. You make me sorry that I am not the monster you would have me be, but there it is. I am innocent, but I will get no justice here. You leave me no choice but to appeal to the gods. I demand a trial by battle."
Tywin is astonished and angered by the decision, but Cersei is delighted, and announces that Gregor Clegane will be Joffrey's champion. When Mace Tyrell asks Tyrion if he has one, Prince Oberyn of Dorne rises and says that he will stand for Tyrion: "The dwarf has quite convinced me." The court erupts in a tumult.

Back in his cell, Tyrion gloats that he has at least thwarted his father's plans, and that the combat will inflame the tensions between Dorne and Highgarden. "It was almost worth dying to know all the trouble he'd made." He sleeps well and has a hearty breakfast, then goes to see Prince Oberyn, who is donning his armor. To Tyrion's surprise, the Red Viper intends to fight the Mountain with only a spear. Oberyn invites Tyrion to return with him to Dorne afterward, and makes the clear implication that he intends to incite a rebellion against the Lannisters. Tyrion wonders if he really could "take up arms against Tommen, against his own father? Cersei would spit blood. It might be worth it for that alone."

Oberyn now reminds Tyrion of his early story of his visit to Casterly Rock when Tyrion was an infant. His mother and Tyrion's had been friends, and Tyrion's mother had plans "to betroth Jaime to my sister, or Cersei to me. Perhaps both." But Tyrion's mother had died when Oberyn and Elia were on their way to Casterly Rock, and Tywin had refused the marriage, telling their mother that Cersei would marry Prince Rhaegar, and offering Tyrion instead of Jaime as a husband for Elia. When Elia, and not Cersei, married Rhaegar, Oberyn says, Tywin took it as an insult. And his revenge was the murder of Elia. Today, Oberyn says, she and her children will be revenged.

An enormous crowd has gathered to watch the combat. At the sight of the eight-foot-tall Gregor Clegane, Oberyn's mistress, Ellaria Sand, says, "You are going to fight that?" But Oberyn confidently says, "I am going to kill that." Tyrion has doubts when he sees how lightly armored Oberyn is, and can only hope that he can use it to his advantage: "Dance around him until he's so tired he can hardly lift his arm, then put him on his back."

Finally they face off, and Oberyn calls out to the Mountain, "Have they told you who I am?" And when he proclaims, "Princess Elia was my sister." But Clegane only answers, "Who?" "'Elia Martell, Princess of Dorne,' the Red Viper hissed. 'You raped her. You murdered her. You killed her children.'" And he begins to chant: "You raped her. You murdered her. You killed her children." Ser Gregor's sword is six feet long, but Oberyn's spear is two feet longer, enough to keep Clegane at a distance as Oberyn jabs at the joins in his armor.

Finally Oberyn's taunt gets on Clegane's nerves and he bellows "SHUT UP!" and charges. There are spectators behind Oberyn, and one of them is cut to pieces when the momentum of Clegane's charge carries him and his sword too close. Spectators push and shove to get away. Oberyn keeps up his taunt: "You raped her. You murdered her. You killed her children. Now say her name." The Mountain is covered with the spectator's blood, and grumbles, "You talk too much.... You make my head hurt."

Then the sun comes out from behind the clouds and Clegane moves to put it at his back. But Oberyn uses his shield to reflect the sun into Clegane's eyes and drives his spear into a gap in the Mountain's heavy armor. "Elia. Say it! Elia of Dorne!" he cries as he circles Clegane. Tyrion thinks that Clegane is about to fall when one knee buckles, and when Oberyn makes another spear thrust through the back of Clegane's knee, he does, collapsing face first, then rolling onto his back.

Oberyn turns and screams out his sister's name as he drives the spear down into the fallen Mountain and vaults over him. The shaft of the spear snaps, and Clegane is pinned to the ground with blood spreading all around him. But Oberyn is not finished with Clegane, and insists, "Say the name!" He has picked up Clegane's sword and puts his foot on his enemy's chest. But then Clegane grabs Oberyn and pulls him down.
Tyrion saw with horror that the Mountain had wrapped one huge arm around the prince, drawing him tight against his chest, like a lover. "Elia of Dorne," they all heard Ser Gregor say, when they were close enough to kiss. His deep voice boomed within the helm. "I killed her screaming whelp." He thrust his free hand into Oberyn's unprotected face, pushing steel fingers into his eyes. "Then I raped her." Clegane slammed his fist into the Dornishman's mouth, making splinters of his teeth.. "Then I smashed her fucking head in. Like this."
Tyrion vomits up his breakfast and is taken to the condemned cell.


Meereen has been taken, and Daenerys is ensconced atop the tallest of its pyramids, feeling like a lonely god. The entrance through the sewers had worked, as had devising battering rams from the wood of the ships. The streets of the city were piled high with dead when she made her entrance. She had then rounded up one hundred sixty-three of the city's leaders and "had them nailed to wooden posts around the plaza, each man pointing at the next." But although she tells herself "I did it for the children," she feels rather sickened by the act.

She meets with her bloodriders and her sellswords and with Grey Worm, the leader of the Unsullied, but she finds "herself wondering which of them would betray her next."
The dragon has three heads. There are two men in the world who I can trust, if I can find them. I will not be alone then. We will be three against the world, like Aegon and his sisters.
But she has learned that conquest and rule are not easy. She had left Astapor in charge of a council made up of "a healer, a scholar, and a priest," but an envoy from that city tells her that they have been charged with plotting to restore the slave masters to power and their heads were chopped off. The man they have chosen to rule them is a former slave who was a butcher. He now proposes to marry Daenerys and to join in war against Yunkai. "All my victories turn to dross in my hands, she thought. Whatever I do, all I make is death and horror."

Now, if she continues her march, not only will the cities she has conquered degenerate, but those who follow her on the campaign will experience hardship, starvation, and danger. She recalls Ser Jorah's warnings to that effect and tries to put him out of her mind. And another surprise comes  when she learns that many of the slaves she has liberated now want to sell themselves to a slaver who has appeared. They were leading comfortable lives as house slaves and now face uncertainty. So Daenerys gives in and says if they want to reenslave themselves they may do so, "But they may not sell their children, nor a man his wife." And on Missandei's advice she claims a tenth of the price for herself.

She now realizes that she needs the counsel of Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan, and has them brought to her. The latter enters proudly, and he has shaved off his beard, which makes him look much younger. But Ser Jorah is obviously weighed down with guilt for his deceptions. She tells them that when she sent them on their mission in the sewers, she was hoping she'd never see them again. "It seemed a fitting end for liars, to drown in slavers' filth." But she acknowledges that not only had they succeeded in helping take the city, but each of them had earlier saved her life.

She first asks Barristan to explain why, after serving as protector of her father, he abandoned Viserys and served Robert Baratheon. Barristan says that Robert was "a good knight" and "chivalrous, brave," whereas Viserys was not only just a boy, but he "oft seemed to be his father's son, in ways that Rhaegar never did." She protests the epithet "the Mad King" that Barristan reminds her was applied to her father, but Barristan stands his ground: "Why ask for truth ... if you close your ears to it." As for his deception, he not only wanted to conceal his identity from the Lannisters, but he also wanted to watch her to make sure that she was worth pledging his sword to, that she was not, in a word, "mad." Her father wasn't the first Targaryen demonstrate signs of madness, and he says her grandfather told him "that madness and greatness are two sides of the same coin. Every time a new Targaryen is born, he said, the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land."

Daenerys is taken aback to realize that Barristan knew her grandfather, and she realizes that he has the kind of wisdom and knowledge of Westeros that she needs. And he says that she is "the trueborn heir of Westeros," and that he will serve her however she needs him. She agrees and accepts his vows. Then she turns to Ser Jorah, knowing that this will be harder to deal with. He reminds her that he has constantly warned her against her enemies, but she retorts, "You warned me against everyone except yourself.... Trust no one but Jorah Mormont, you said ... and all the time you were the Spider's creature!" He insists that he had stopped sending reports after one at Qarth, but this isn't enough: "Dany had been hoping it had ended much earlier."

And then she realizes something: Jorah was the one who had reported to them that she was pregnant with Drogo's child. And Barristan supports her: "I was there when the eunuch told the council, and Robert decreed that Her Grace and her child must die." Jorah tries to defend himself, but ends up begging her forgiveness. She refuses, and he says, "I have loved you." This only reminds her of the prophecy: "Three treasons will you know. Once for blood and once for gold land once for love." And she banishes him, trying to control herself and not cry.

She returns to her quarters and tries to read, but her mind is torn. "I shouldn't have banished him. I should have kept him, or I should have killed him." She could still call him back or she could send Daario to kill him. She goes out on her terrace, where two of her dragons are, but the third, Viserion, is flying off in the far distance, hunting. On the terrace, Ser Barristan approaches her. She tells him to give her some peace, but he insists that "A knight of the Kingsguard is in the king's presence day and night." And he thought she might have more questions for him. She does, but the time is not right for the one question -- her father's madness -- uppermost in her mind, and she sends him away.

That night she sleeps with Irri, who gives her some release, though she tries to pretend that she is lying with Drogo and his face keeps turning into that of Daario. After falling asleep and being awakened by nightmares, she goes out looks over the sleeping city. Missandei wakens and joins her as the dawn comes. As she hears the city begins to awake, she makes a decision.

Later that morning she calls her captains together and tells them they are going to stay in Meereen. When Barristan says, "Meereen is not Westeros, Your Grace," she replies, "But how can I rule seven kingdoms if I cannot rule a single city?" She wants to take time for the people she has freed "to heal and learn. My dragons need time to grow and test their wings. And I need the same."

When Rakharo asks what she is going to do, she replies, "Stay.... Rule. And be a queen."

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