By Charles Matthews

Thursday, November 10, 2011

14. A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 377-409


They have arrived in Braavos, but things have not gone well. Dareon tends to disappear into the taverns and brothels, leaving Sam to tend to Gilly, the baby, and the dying Maester Aemon, whose mind and memory are failing along with his body. They are broke, thanks to Dareon's dissipations and Sam's hiring a healer who told him only that Aeron "is an old man, and death is in his lungs," and sold him half a flask of dreamwine. Now Sam is worried about buying passage on a ship to Oldtown.

Aeron has grown obsessed with learning more about the dragons that the sailors tell tales about. He tells Sam that he knows he won't make it to Oldtown, and he urges him to go down to the docks and learn everything he can about the dragons, which he sees in his dreams. So Sam dutifully leaves him in Gilly's care and ventures out into the night. But rather than inquire about the dragons, he goes in search of Dareon.

Some of the city's swaggering bravos begin to bully him, and to ask why he is dressed in black. A girl, "a scruffy, skinny creature in big boots," tells them, "He's in the Night's Watch, stupid, from Westeros," and that one of his brothers is "down at the Happy Port, signing songs to the Sailor's Wife." She offers to sell Sam some clams -- her oysters are all gone -- but he doesn't have any money. When the bravos continue to make a nuisance of themselves, she draws a knife and they depart. She tells Sam he can have the remaining clams for free, and asks if he is sailing to the Wall. He says he's going to Oldtown and asks who she is. She replies, "I used to be someone, but now I'm not. You can call me Cat, if you like."

This chance encounter of Sam and Arya, who have never met before but have so much in common, is tantalizing, but goes nowhere. He says he is "Samwell, of House Tarly," but she provides her cover story: "My father was the oarmaster on Nymeria." She asks what ship he is sailing on, and when he says he had passage on the Lady Ushanora, she says, "She left days and days ago." Sam knows that: He had been unable to persuade the captain to wait until Maester Aemon was able to sail, and the captain had kept their passage money as well.

Not wanting to get into this with the girl, he asks about the brother she says she had seen, and she tells him the Happy Port is near the Mummer's Ship. He knows where it is, and runs off to find Dareon. When he enters the brothel, he finds a drunken Dareon with a woman on his lap that he says is his wife, and offers to pay for a woman for Sam, who is shocked at Dareon's flouting of his vows. When Sam persists in scolding him, Dareon takes his cloak and throws it at Sam, telling him to use it to keep Aeron warm.

Sam hits him, and they fight until someone pulls him off of Dareon, knocks him down, and throws him into the canal. He panics and thinks he's going to drown, but he is rescued by a Summer Islander named Xhondo. He tells Sam he's a mate on the Cinnamon Wind and, having overheard Sam tell Dareon that Aemon wants to know more about the dragons, says, "Xhondo knows these dragons."


Cersei is sending him to end the standoff at Riverrun and to bring about some order at Harrenhal, but Jaime doesn't want to go, arguing that his place is there guarding the king. Besides, where Riverrun is concerned, "I swore an oath to Lady Stark, never again to take up arms against the Starks or Tullys." She wants Osmund Kettleblack to command the Kingsguard in his absence, but he insists on Loras Tyrell. All he can think of is Tyrion's "...she's been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and Moon Boy for all I know...."

After a fight with Cersei in which she slaps him, he rides off to do her bidding, with Ser Ilyn Payne at his side. He had insisted on Ser Ilyn going with him, along with Ser Addam Marbrand, and Cersei hadn't objected. When they reach the castle of the Hayfords, Jaime sends his squire to fetch his new hand, which "was wrought of gold, very lifelike, with inlaid nails of mother-of-pearl, its fingers and thumb half closed so as to slip around a goblet's stem. I cannot fight, but I can drink, Jaime reflected." At dinner everyone admired the golden hand, but when he knocked over a goblet of wine with it, Jaime became angry.

That night, he goes out to find Ilyn Payne, and practices fighting with his left hand. "By the time they lowered their swords he was bruised and battered, but the wine had burned away and his head was clear." He tells Ilyn they will fight every day "till I am as good with my left hand as ever I was with the right." The tongueless Ser Ilyn opens his mouth and makes "a clacking sound," which Jaime realizes is a laugh. "Something twisted in his gut." He has chosen Ser Ilyn because he can't talk about how inept Jaime is now.

As they ride on, they see more and more of the devastation the war has brought to the countryside, and Jaime wonders if Brienne had come this way in her search for Sansa. Finally, they reach Harrenhal, where the men Gregor Clegane had left are in charge. "About the best that could be said for Gregor's men was that they were not quite as vile and violent a bunch as the Brave Companions." One  of them, known as Shitmouth, tells Jaime that Clegane had left Polliver in charge, but that he had been killed by Sandor Clegane who "had some boy with him, a ragged peasant lad."

Jaime has the captives brought out, along with Vargo Hoat's head. When Jaime asks what happened to the rest of Hoat, Shitmouth tells him, "Rotted, ser. And et." Clegane had fed Hoat's hands and feet and then his arms and legs to the captives -- and to what was left of Hoat. "Father, Jaime thought, your dogs have both gone mad." He puts Ser Bonifer Hasty in charge of Harrenhal, and tells the rest of them that they will ride with him to Riverrun. They protest that they had been promised gold, and Jaime tells them to take it up with Cersei.

He sets the captives free, and tells Ser Bonifer that he'll take Clegane's followers off his hands. Bonifer wants to get rid of the serving girl named Pia as well, who had been prostituted and had her teeth knocked out and her nose broken. Jaime remembers that Qyburn had sent Pia to his room to service him when he was there last, before Clegane had ruined her face. He agrees to take her with them as a washerwoman.

When he goes to look for Ilyn Payne, Jaime finds Ser Ronnet Connington standing by the bear pit. Connington explains that he wanted to see where Brienne fought the bear, and makes some jokes about how ugly she is. Jaime doesn't laugh at the jokes, and is surprised when Connington tells him he was betrothed to her. It was a match very much to his advantage, in terms of land, but when he saw her her he couldn't go through with it. "Connington glanced into the pit. 'The bear was less hairy than that freak, I'll--" Jaime smashes him across the mouth with his golden hand and says, "You are speaking of a highborn lady, ser. Call her by her name. Call her Brienne."

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