By Charles Matthews

Friday, November 4, 2011

10. A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 255-279

The Iron Captain

Victarion Greyjoy arrives at the kingsmoot, ready to challenge his brother Euron. His other brother, Aeron Damphair, tells him that Euron "surrounds himself with godless men and monsters, worse than before. In him our father's blood went bad." Victarion sets himself to winning the support of other ironmen.

Then he sights Asha, who says, "I am pleased to see you at my queensmoot." He is not happy with the idea, but she presses the point: Euron is the elder brother but she is "the child of King Balon's body, so I come before you both." But a sudden hush falls over the assemblage as Euron enters with his supporters.

Victarion acknowledges his brother as "Crow's Eye," but Euron corrects him: "King Crow's eye, brother." Aeron insists that the kingsmoot will decide that matter, and reiterates his insistence that no "godless man" may sit in the Seastone Chair. Euron replies, "As it happens I have oft sat upon the Seastone Chair of late. It raises no objections." And he twits Aeron by saying that he has encountered all sorts of gods in his travels: "Why, Aeron, I am the godliest man ever to raise sail! You serve one god, Damphair, but I have served ten thousand. From Ib to Asshai, when men see my sails, they pray."

When Euron asks Asha about her mother, she suggests that he is the one who made her mother a widow: "Three years you were gone from us, and yet Silence returns within a day of my lord father's death." He asks his crew if he commands the winds, and they all agree that he doesn't. She exchanges insults with them, and brandishes her throwing axe until Victarion puts a stop to the quarrel.

Asha asks Victarion to take a walk with her, and asks him why Euron had gone away so suddenly. She had been away when he left. "When I came home, Euron was gone and your new wife was dead." He says he doesn't want to talk about this source of the bad blood between the brothers, and again tries to dissuade her from making a play for the crown. She admits that the odds are not good, but offers to support him if he will agree to share the throne: "Let me be your Hand, Nuncle." He asks why she would want to do that, and she says, "To end this war before this war ends us. We have won all that we are like to win ... and stand to lose all just as quick, unless we make a peace."

He is not ready to make peace, however, and implies that her wish to do so is feminine. She says that she can deliver House Harlaw to his support, but he reveals that Hotho Harlaw has already suggested that Victarion marry his daughter, and that Hotho will be Lord Rodrik's heir. He is convinced that he can defeat Euron at the kingsmoot. But she has been listening to what the others at the kingsmoot are saying, and says that the talk is all of Euron's victories.

Then she says that Euron "killed your wife ... did he not?" He admits that Euron "put a baby in her belly and made me do the killing. I would have killed him too, but Balon would have no kinslaying in his hall. He sent Euron into exile, never to return.... She gave me horns. I had no choice."
Had it been known, men would have laughed at me, as the Crow's Eye laughed when I confronted him. "She came to me wet and willing," he had boasted. "It seems Victarion is big everywhere but where it matters." But he could not tell her that.
Asha goes away to make her try for the throne anyway.

The Drowned Man

Aeron has his followers summon the people to the kingsmoot. Seeing Victarion standing tall in the crowd, Damphair is sure of it: "He shall be our king. What man could look on him and doubt it?" He opens the kingsmoot by asking "Who shall be king over us?" but gets no response at first. Finally, when he repeats the call, an eccentric named Gylbert Farwynd steps forth with his vision of traveling to some distant land where "every man shall be a king and every wife a queen," but he has the support only of his family. After him, another oddball candidate appears, and then another.

Finally, Aeron gives up and calls for Victarion to step forth. He does, and after a brief speech his men open chests full "of silver, gold, and gems, a wealth of plunder. Captains scrambled to seize the richest pieces," and shout out his name. Aeron keeps his eye on Euron, wondering when he will step forth, but it is Asha who does. She meets the taunts that she is a woman by baring her breasts and joking bawdily, and says,
"Nuncle says he'll give you more of what my father gave you. Well, what was that? Gold and glory, some will say. Freedom, ever sweet. Aye, it's so, he gave us that ... and widows too, as Lord Blacktyde will tell you. How man of you had your homes put to the torch when Robert came? How many had daughters raped and despoiled? Broken towns and broken castles, my father gave you that. Defeat was what he gave you. Nuncle here will give you more. Not me." 
She asks what they have to show for their recent victories, and her men bring out chests. "I give you the wealth of the Stony Shore," she says, and they open a chest full of pebbles. The "riches of Deepwood" are pine cones, and "the gold of Winterfell" is a trunk full of turnips. She proposes to give them peace instead, and an alliance with the northmen to protect them against the Iron Throne.

There are cheers for her, and Aeron is shocked by the strength of the support of men "for a woman!" But there are other shouts for Victarion, and the competing shouts turn into an uproar. "The Storm God is amongst us, the priest thought, sowing fury and discord." And then the sound of a horn draws everyone's attention. An enormous man is blowing a horn "taller than a man" and "bound about with bands of red gold and dark steel, incised with ancient Valyrian glyphs that seemed to glow redly as the sound swelled." The piercing sound makes Aeron cover his ears and he prays "for the Drowned God to raise a mighty wave and smash the horn to silence, yet still the shriek went on and on."

Finally the tattooed hornblower runs out of breath and staggers. "A thin wisp of smoke was rising from the horn, and the priest saw blood and blisters upon the lips of the man who'd sounded it." Euron Greyjoy climbs the hill and addresses the crowd. He says "that all of Westeros is dying. Those who follow me will feast until the end of their days." He calls for conquest:
"I shall give you Lannisport, Highgarden, The Arbor, Oldtown. The riverlands and the Reach, the kingswood and the rainwood, Dorne and the Marches, the Mountains of the Moon and the Vale of Arryn, Tarth and the Stepstones. I say we take it all!  I say, we take Westeros." He glanced at the priest. "All for the greater glory of our Drowned God, to be sure."
For a moment even Aeron responds to the boldness of his brother's vision. But Asha asks, "If we cannot hold the north -- and we cannot -- how can we win the whole of the Seven Kingdoms?" And Euron promises to do it as Aegon Targaryen did it: "with dragons." Asha protests that there aren't any dragons anymore, but he says she's wrong: "There are three, and I know where to find them." With the horn, "a dragon horn, bound with bands of red gold and Valyrian steel graven with enchantments," he "can bind dragons to my will."

The crew of Euron's ship, the Silence, open his chests and spill out their treasures, and cries of "EURON!" begin to echo.   

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