By Charles Matthews

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2. A Dance With Dragons, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 31-59


Despite the insistence of Ser Barristan that she doesn't need to do so, and the fears of her handmaids Irri and Jhiqui that "It is bad luck to touch the dead," Daenerys insists on seeing the body of one of the Unsullied who has been found dead. He is a victim of the assassins known as the Sons of the Harpy, who are waging a guerrilla war against Daenerys's regime. The dead man is known as Stalwart Shield, and although he is a eunuch, his body was found in a brothel. Grey Worm, the captain of her Unsullied, tells her that eunuchs often go to brothels just to be held by the women: "Even those who lack a man's parts may still have a man's heart."

Ser Barristan informed Daenerys that this is a type of warfare for which even the Unsullied are ill-trained, being used to the battlefield rather than to terrorist acts. She realizes that maintaining her hold over Meereen will be more complicated than she had thought. She returns to her quarters in the Great Pyramid and walks restlessly on her terrace, pondering this face. Her dragons Viserion and Rhaegal are there, but they have been growing wilder lately -- and growing in size as well. She thinks, "I have left them too much to themselves, but where am I to find the time for them?"

Irri and Jhiqui help her prepare for an audience with the Meereenese public, which involves donning the Ghiscari tokar, a clumsy fringed garment that is wound around the body and makes walking difficult. "It was not a garment meant for any man who meant to work. The tokar was a master's garment, a sign of wealth and power." It also includes a headdress that looks rather like a pair of floppy rabbit ears. Daenerys wanted to get rid of the tokar, but Galazza Galare, the high priestess known as the Green Grace advised her that it would be a public relations disaster to do so. "These Meereenese were a sly and stubborn people who resisted her at every turn," so Daenerys conceded this point.

She is attended by her seneschal, Reznak mo Reznak, a flattering, perfumed courtier, and by the head of her city watch, Skahaz mo Kandaq, who has shaved his head as a sign of acceptance of Daenerys's new regime. He is known as the Shavepate. Daenerys doesn't fully trust these advisers: "The Undying of Qarth had told her she would be thrice betrayed. Mirri Maz Duur had been the first, Ser Jorah the second. Would Reznak be the third? The Shavepate? Daario? Or will it be someone I would never suspect, Ser Barristan or Grey Worm or Missandei?"

In the meeting hall, she is announced by Missandei, the scribe she had rescued from slavery in Astapor, and the first person to present his request to her is an Astapori, "a former slave who called himself Lord Ghael, though no one seemed to know what he was lord of." He gives her a pair of slippers from the current king at Astapor, Cleon the Great. She puts them on, but they pinch her feet. He urges her to join in an attack on Yunkai, which reverted to slavery after Daenerys left. But Daenerys knows that Astapor is no better, and suggests that Cleon find a way to feed his people before making war.

Reznak next introduces a wealthy merchant named Hizdahr zo Loraq. When she conquered Meereen, she closed the fighting pits where men battled to the death; Hizdahr owns most of them, and want her to reopen them. She has already refused the request five times, and makes it a sixth. She repeats Hizdahr's earlier arguments to him: The pits are historic, they are part of the religious ritual of blood sacrifice to the gods of Ghis, they are a demonstration of athletic skill, reopening them would win her good will, they draw visitors and trade to Meereen, they satisfy people's innate blood lust, and they serve as a venue for trial by combat as part of the system of justice.

Hizdahr compliments her recital: "I see that you are eloquent as well as beautiful." Reznak also whispers to her that they are a significant source of tax revenue. But Daenerys refuses him again. Still, she observes to herself that Reznak and the Green Grace had been urging her to marry a Meereenese noble to solidify her authority over the city, and she thinks it might be worth taking a good look at Hizdahr.

The next petitioner is Grazdan zo Galare, a cousin of the Green Grace. "The priestess was a voice for peace, acceptance, and obedience to lawful authority," so Daenerys knows she should be careful in listening to and answering him. He wants a share of the profits of some of his former slaves, women who had been trained in weaving at his household and who now have opened a shop of their own. Daenerys asks him the name of the slave who taught the women to weave, and he can't remember it. She orders that he not only have no share in their profits, but that he buy them the finest loom available: "That is for forgetting the name of the old woman."

She tells Reznak to call on a freedman next, and to alternate between former masters and former slaves from now on. The cases she hears are a parade of grievances, and Daenerys thinks, "I am queen over a city built on dust and death." She grows tired, her crown grows heavy, and the bench she sits on grows hard: "I have too many councillors and too few cushions." Finally, there is a throng of claimants for compensation for livestock killed by her dragons.
Some claims were false, she did not doubt, but more were genuine. Her dragons had grown too large to be content with rats and cats and dogs. The more they eat, the larger they will grow, Ser Barristan had warned her, and the larger they grow, the more they'll eat. Drogon especially ranged far afield and could easily devour a sheep a day. "Pay them for the value of their animals," she told Reznak, "but henceforth claimants must present themselves at the Temple of the Graces and swear a holy oath before the gods of Ghis."
The claimants file out, grumbling, but one man, holding a sack, remains behind. Missandei proclaims an end to the hearing, but Daenerys notices the man and asks what he wants. He opens the sack and empties the bones, saying, "It were the black one...." Reznak tells him to get his compensation tomorrow, but Barristan tells him to shut up. Those aren't sheep bones, he says.

"No, Dany thought, those are the bones of a child."


Jon is dreaming he is Ghost, racing through a moonlit forest. As he races, the moon calls out, "Snow."
Once they had been six, five whimpering blind in the snow beside their dead mother, sucking cool milk from her hard dead nipples whilst he crawled off alone. Four remained ... and one the white wolf could no longer sense.
The moon continues calling out, "Snow, snow, snow!" until finally Lord Commander Mormont's raven wakes Jon. His steward, Dolorous Edd Tollett enters to ask if he wants breakfast. Jon asks him if there has been any trouble with the wildlings penned in the stockade, many of whom were women who were being sneaked out by the guards to sleep with them. Dolorous Edd says no, but there were more wildlings arriving.

Jon remembers his wolf dream, which like others of its kind had been stronger than ever before. Ghost knows of Grey Wind's death, he realizes, but he also knows that Summer and Shaggydog, Bran and Rickon's direwolves, are still alive. It was Summer who saved his life at Queenscrown, and he wonders "if some part of his dead brothers lived on inside their wolves."

On his way to the King's Tower, he meets Samwell Tarly, who has just delivered a letter to Stannis. Jon asks Sam about his longbow practice, and Sam says he's been reading up on it, but he gets blisters when he practices. At the entrance to the king's quarters, he is forced by the guards to surrender his weapons. Inside, Stannis is poring over a map; Melisandre is sitting by the fire. Stannis is angry because he has sent out ravens to all of the Stark bannermen asking for their support, but only the Karstarks have come around to his support. Jon knows this is because Rickard Karstark has no choice, having alienated both the Starks and the Lannisters.

Stannis angrily probes Jon about ways to enlist the support of the bannermen and of the wildlings, but receives no satisfactory answers from him. He is already vexed with Jon for refusing his offer to make Jon legitimate and the lord of Winterfell. Jon now tells him that he is sending Gilly and her baby south from Eastwatch, and he continues to refuse to cede the abandoned castles along the Wall to Stannis. In fact, he asks Stannis for men to garrison them. They don't need to join the Watch, "so long as they obey my officers as they would your own."

Stannis retorts that Jon is "only lord commander by my sufferance. You would do well to remember that." When Jon replies that he was chosen by his brothers, Stannis says that Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt dispute that. "Your Grace knows that I was fairly chosen," Jon replies. "The Wall is mine." Stannis threatens that if any of the castles on the Wall fall to the enemy, Jon's head will follow, and orders him out.

Melisandre says she will accompany Jon to his chambers, and as they go down the steps says, "His Grace is growing fond of you." Jon replies, "I can tell. He only threatened to behead me twice." She tells him that she has seen Jon in her fires, and that he has enemies:
"It is not the foes who curse you to your face that you must fear, but those who smile when you are looking and sharpen their knives when you turn your back. You would do well to keep your wolf close beside you. Ice, I see, and daggers in the dark. Blood frozen red and hard, and naked steel. It was very cold."
And her final words to him are the same as Ygritte's: "you know nothing, Jon Snow."

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