By Charles Matthews

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

13. A Dance With Dragons, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 332-371

The Wayward Bride

At Deepwood Motte, which Asha Greyjoy had conquered, she receives a message sent by raven from Ramsay Bolton. "A scrap of leather" falls out of it. Bolton has taken Moat Cailin, she reads. Bolton also warns her, "I send you a piece of prince. Linger in my lands, and share his fate." She burns the piece of her brother Theon's skin in a candle, and thinks, "If my father still lived, Moat Cailin would never have fallen."

Her uncle Euron is not interested in any of the conquests her father, Balon, had inspired. If Moat Cailin has fallen, Torrhen's Square will be next, and then Deepwood Motte. She takes her mind off of the problem by having rough sex with her lover, Qarl, but afterward the reality returns: "My father's dead, my mother's dying, my brother's being flayed, and there's naught that I can do about it. And I'm married. Wedded and bedded ... though not by the same man." The one possibility that comes to her is some sort of alliance with Stannis, who had conquered Balon during his first rebellion against the Iron Throne but is now the enemy of her enemy, Bolton.  

Euron had forced her to marry Erik Ironmaker, known as the Anvil-Breaker, who is ruling the Iron Islands while Euron went off on his quest for Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons. "With one stroke, Euron had been turned a rival into a supporter, secured the islands in his absence, and removed Asha as a threat." She had been married by proxy, and the union had not been consummated.

She leaves Qarl asleep and goes to the kitchens to find something to eat. The sound of the wind in the trees unnerves her -- she is used to waves crashing. Tristifer Botley, a former lover, finds her there. He had sailed away from Euron's fleet and followed her to Deepwood, which means he can never return to the islands. He urges her to run away with him and become a trader. She can't go back to the islands either, he tells her, unless she wants to submit to Erik.

She tells him she could return to Pyke and find her uncle Aaron Damphair, join forces with him and retake the islands. Her uncle had disappeared after Euron was crowned. But Tris believes Damphair is dead, killed by Euron. Erik Ironmaker is supposedly searching for him, and has imprisoned and killed the Drowned Men, Damphair's followers. Tris thinks "Ironmaker's search is just to make us believe the priest escaped. Euron is afraid to be seen as a kinslayer."

Tris comments that it's too bad Asha participated in the kingsmoot that selected Euron. Otherwise she could declare it unlawful, as an ancient king named Torgon the Latecomer did. He succeeded in overthrowing the illegitimate king and then ruled for forty years. Asha kisses Tris for reminding her of this, but then hears a warhorn sounded by the watch. "The Drowned God loves me after all," she tells him. "Here I was wondering what to do, and he has sent me foes to fight."

She finds the guards with two northmen, one dead and the other dying. The guards tell her they killed three others. She questions the dying man and he tells her there are thousands more behind him. She kills him, and thinks of what the maester at Deepwood had told her, that "the mountain clans were too quarrelsome to ever band together without a Stark to lead them. He might not have been lying. He might just have been wrong."

She sends for Lady Glover and the maester, then addresses the ironmen preparing to do battle. The warhorn sounds again. She goes to the watchtower and sees the woods moving toward the castle: The northmen have cloaked themselves with branches. Some of the men propose that they stand and fight, but Asha knows they can't win. She says, "Let the wolves keep their gloomy woods. We are making for the ships." Tris says the enemy may already have taken the ships, and Asha replies, "at least we'll die with our feet wet. Ironborn fight better with salt spray in their nostrils and the sound of the waves at their backs."

A battering ram attacks the north gate, so she orders the south gate opened and they ride out. She hears the sound of trumpets, which puzzles her, but keeps going. The ships are to the north of them, and Asha commands them to ride west, then turn north. She sends scouts ahead to find the position of the northmen. They find a place to camp and wait for the dawn, but the head of one of the scouts is flung into their midst before the northmen attack.

"Somewhere in the ebb and flow of battle, Asha lost Qarl, lost Tris, lost all of them." She is fighting with a northman when her feet get tangled in the roots of a tree and he lands a glancing blow on the side of her head. Before she passes out, she hears a trumpet. "She dreamt of red hearts burning, and a black stag in a golden wood with flame streaming from his antlers."


Tyrion's captor is, of course, Ser Jorah Mormont, who has lashed him to a saddle and ridden to Volantis. Mormont tells him, "I have done things I am not proud of, things that brought shame onto my House and my father's name ... but to kill your own sire? How could any man do that?" Tyrion shrugs the question off, however. He still has the poison mushrooms hidden in his boot, and thinks of eating them himself: "Cersei will not have me alive, at least," he thinks, still under the impression that Mormont is taking him back to Westeros.

As they ride through the city, they see crowds of slaves moving in one direction. When Tyrion asks where they're going, Mormont tells him that there are sunset services at the Temple of the Lord of Light, where the High Priest Benerro will be speaking. They have to pass the temple, which Tyrion estimates to be three times the size of the Great Sept of Baelor. Benerro is on the steps, and the plaza in front of it is jammed as Mormont guides his horse through the throng.

Tyrion asks what Benerro is saying, and Mormont interprets: "That Daenerys stands in peril. The dark eye has fallen upon her, and the minions of night are plotting her destruction." Tyrion thinks that the prophecy doesn't bode well for Prince Aegon. They make their way to a stable, where Mormont sells the horse and saddle. Then he takes Tyrion to a smithy, where he is cut loose from his bonds and fitted with heavy iron manacles.

He clumsily follows Mormont across the Long Bridge over the Rhoyne to a place called the Merchant's House, the city's biggest in. Tyrion is glad to see this, hoping that he'll run into Griff and the others, who will set him free. They go to one of the cheap rooms on the top floor, the fourth, where Mormont chains him to an iron ring set in the wall. Tyrion takes this opportunity to tell Mormont that he knows who he is, and that they are both acquainted with Varys, who had sent him on this journey. Mormont doesn't care: "I took the Spider's coin, I'll not deny it, but I was never his creature. And my loyalties lie elsewhere now." He leaves to get some food.

When Mormont returns with a roast duck and two tankards of ale, Tyrion asks if some sort of festival is going on. Mormont says it's the third day of the city's elections, which go on for ten days. He tells Tyrion that he had spent most of a year here after he was exiled from Westeros, first going to Lys to please his second wife, who got so deeply in debt that he was threatened with being sold into slavery. She had taken a lover, and he fled to Volantis.

He tells Tyrion that he will look for a ship tomorrow, and falls asleep. Tyrion is unable to lie down on the floor because of his chains, but finally succumbs to fatigue. In the morning they go down to the common room, where Tyrion sees another dwarf. When the dwarf reacts with surprise, Tyrion realizes that he has been recognized. As they eat, Mormont says, "Last night the talk here was all of Westeros. Some exiled lord has hired the Golden Company to win back his lands for him." It is Tyrion's turn to be surprised, and he wonders if Mormont knows about Connington and Aegon, and whether Aegon has taken his advice about returning to Westeros instead of pursuing Daenerys.

A serving girl comes to their table and tells Mormont "The widow will see you next, noble ser." When Tyrion asks, Mormont says she is "The widow of the waterfront," and points out a woman sitting in the corner of the courtyard. She has a "vulpine" and "reptilian" look to her, and thin white hair. Mormont tells her, "We need swift passage to Meereen." Tyrion is startled: "Deliver me to the queen, he says. Aye, but which queen? He isn't selling me to Cersei. He's giving me to Daenerys Targaryen. That's why he hasn't hacked my head off. We're going east, and Griff and his prince are going west, the bloody fools."

She comments that all the other ships are going west, and suspects that he is in quest of dragons: "I have heard it said that the silver queen feeds them with the flesh of infants while she herself bathes in the blood of virgin girls and takes a different lover every night." Mormont suppresses his anger and tells her she shouldn't "believe such filth."

Tyrion is distracted by voices behind him and turns to see two men and the dwarf, "who was standing a few feet away staring at him intently. He seemed somehow familiar." He turns back to listen to Mormont and the widow, but when he glances back at the dwarf again he has moved closer and seems to have a knife in his hand. The widow wants to know why Mormont is going to see Daenerys, and he says, "To serve her. Defend her. Die for her, if need be." She laughs at this, and asks if he is taking the dwarf to please her. Then she says she knows who Tyrion is: "Kinslayer, kingslayer, murderer, turncloak, Lannister." When she asks Tyrion what he offers Daenerys, he replies, "I will lead her armies or rub her feet, as she desires. And the only reward I ask is I might be allowed to rape and kill my sister."

She smiles at his honesty, but tells Mormont she has no help to offer him. Then all of a sudden there is a scream and Tyrion sees the dwarf rushing toward him. "She's a girl, he realized all at once, a girl dressed up in man's clothes. And she means to gut me with that knife." Tyrion grasps a flagon of wine and throws the contents into her face, then falls to the floor, where he rolls to avoid her knife. Mormont grabs her and lifts her into the air, and snatches the dagger from her hand.

Tyrion asks the girl what he did to her, and she says sailors from the Seven Kingdom had seen her and her brother jousting and they took him and cut his head off. Suddenly Tyrion realizes that she was one of the dwarfs performing at Joffrey's wedding. He asks if she rode the pig or the dog. "'The dog,' she sobbed. 'Oppo always rode the pig.'" He tells Jorah to put her down, but she continues to urge someone to kill Tyrion because of what happened to her brother.

The widow asks the girl what her name is, and she says it's Penny. Then she tells the landlord to take her to her rooms and find some clothes for her. And she looks at Tyrion and says, "I think I had best help you after all. Volantis is no safe place for dwarfs, it seems." She tells them to go to the Selaesori Qhoran which is sailing for Qarth by way of New Ghis. Mormont says that Qarth isn't their destination, but she tells him, "She will never reach Qarth. Benerro has seen it in his fires." And if they see Daenerys, she says, touching the scar where her slave tattoo had been removed, "Tell her we are waiting. Tell her to come soon."

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