By Charles Matthews

Monday, December 12, 2011

5. A Dance With Dragons, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 112-147


Tyrion awakes to find luggage being unloaded and readied for transfer to the river part of his journey. He is introduced to Haldon, who is known as Halfmaester, and to Ser Rolly Duckfield, known as Duck. Illyrio calls Tyrion Yollo, but Tyrion knows that's a Pentoshi name, and it's clear he isn't from Pentos, so he says he's called Hugor Hill.

Leaving Illyrio behind, Tyrion and the two men ride cross-country. They ride all night, Tyrion seated in front of Duck on the horse, and reach the Rhoyne the following day. As they near the river they are hailed by a boy standing on the roof of the cabin of the Shy Maid, their riverboat. It is Young Griff, "a lithe and well-made youth, with a lanky build and a shock of dark blue hair. The dwarf put his age at fifteen, sixteen, or near enough to make no matter." Also on board are an older couple and "a handsome septa in a soft white robe."

But when Griff himself makes an appearance, Tyrion thinks, "This one will be trouble." Griff immediately demands an explanation for the dwarf's presence, and Haldon gives him a letter that Illyrio had sent. In the cabin, Griff reads the letter, which tells about Tyrion's killing Tywin. Tyrion notices that although Griff claims to be a sellsword, he can read, which most of the mercenaries can't. In response to Griff's surprise at Tywin Lannister's death, Tyrion says,
"Lord Tywin was sitting on a privy, so I put a crossbow bolt through his bowels to see if he really did shit gold. He didn't. A pity, I could have used some gold. I also slew my mother, somewhat earlier. Oh, and my nephew Joffrey, I poisoned him at his wedding feast and watched him choke to death.... I mean to add my brother and sister to the list before I'm done, if it please your queen." 
Griff asks why Daenerys "should welcome the service of a self-confessed kingslayer and betrayer," and Tyrion points out that the king he killed -- or rather, claims to have killed -- was sitting on her throne. He asks if he can see the letter, but Griff burns it instead.

Tyrion has already begun to figure out the true identity of Griff and Young Griff, but he only hints at his suspicions now. When Griff asks how he plans to serve Daenerys, Tyrion says he knows how Cersei thinks ("if you call it thinking"), that he understands how one can beat Jaime in battle, and that he is well-acquainted with the loyalties of Tommen's court. Griff tells him to hold his tongue, and Tyrion replies, "As you say, my lord." Griff replies that he isn't a lord, and Tyrion thinks, "Liar."

Griff agrees to take Tyrion as far as Volantis, and beyond if he proves "obedient and useful."


In the town of Sisterton, where he is seeking passage to White Harbor, Davos has been taken prisoner and is escorted to see Godric Borrell, Lord of Sweetsister. The fleet that Stannis dispatched has been wrecked and scattered by storms, enraging Salladhor Saan, whose fleet it was. Saan had sent Davos ashore in a small boat, then set out to regroup his fleet.

Godric brings Davos up to date on the news of Tywin Lannister's death, but refuses to let Davos send a raven to Stannis to inform him. "I'll not have it said that I gave Stannis aid and comfort." But he accepts Davos as a guest and has food brought for him. This pleases Davos, because "even robber lords and wreckers were bound by the ancient laws of hospitality." He is less pleased when Godric tells him that Lord Wyman Manderly, whom Stannis has dispatched Davos to see, tells him that Wyman intends to cast his lot with the Lannisters. A contingent of Freys is on their way to White Harbor to bring Lord Wyman the bones of his son, who was killed at the Red Wedding, in atonement. "Lord Wyman and Lord Walder have made a pact, and mean to seal it with a marriage."

White Harbor is essential to Stannis's plans: "If Winterfell was the heart of the north, White Harbor was its mouth." So Davos pleads for Godric's help in getting there to compete with the Freys. Godric is stubborn, so Davos begins to play on his doubts about the stability of Cersei's rule. "This child king will not prevail against" Stannis, Davos argues. Godric points out that Tommen has the wealth of Casterly Rock and the support of Highgarden and the Boltons and Freys, but he admits that "in this world only winter is certain. Ned Stark told my father that, here in this very hall."

At the beginning of Robert's Rebellion, with a price on his head, Lord Eddard had been on his way home but was shipwrecked. A fisherman's daughter rescued him. "They say he left her with a bag of silver and a bastard in her belly. Jon Snow, she named him, after Arryn." Ned had made it to Sisterton and met with Godric's father, who saved him from being captured and beheaded.


Jon has tried to persuade Stannis not to execute Mance Rayder because of the King-Beyond-the-Wall's knowledge of the lands north of the wall and of the people who remain there. But Stannis and Melisandre are unmoved, and now she is presiding over his burning. He is placed in a cage over "a deep pit filled with logs, leaves, and kindling." When he sees this, he pleads, "This is not right. I'm not the king, they --" but a rope around his neck chokes off the words. The queen's men also bring out the Horn of Joramun, which was supposed to destroy the Wall.

Melisandre proclaims to the gathering, which includes a thousand captives in the stockade, "If the Wall falls, night falls as well, the long night that never ends. It must not happen, will not happen! The Lord of Light has seen his children in their peril and sent a champion to them, Azor Ahai reborn." She gestures toward Stannis.

The horn is set afire, and in the cage Mance Rayder "screamed incoherently of treachery and witchery, denying his kingship, denying his people, denying all that he had ever been." The wood in the pit catches fire and Mance's "screams become one long, wordless shriek of fear and pain." Jon notices that Val doesn't betray any emotion or look away. He gives an order and his men shoot arrows into Mance, cutting short his agony. Stannis looks displeased.

Then Melisandre commands the watchers, "Your false king brought you only death, despair, defeat ... but here stands the true king. BEHOLD HIS GLORY!" Stannis draws his sword, Lightbringer, which glows like "the sun made steel." He promises "food, land, and justice" to those who bend the knee to him, and orders the gates of the stockade opened. Queen's men hand each of the wildlings as they approach the fire pit a piece of weirwood: "A piece of the old gods to feed the new," Jon thinks.

A few people flee back toward the woods, but most come forward. "Behind them was only cold and death. Ahead was hope." Sigorn, the new Magnar of Thenn, is the first to kneel before Stnnnis, then Rattleshirt, who, Jon thinks, is "A small, malicious, treacherous man, as stupid as he is cruel." Others follow, and a deputation of Night's Watch show them the way through the Wall. But Jon wonders whether they will stay loyal to Stannis when Tormund Giantsbane and his followers arrive. Ser Alliser Thorne mutters his disapproval of this union with the wildlings.

Melisandre leads a chant of "One realm, one god, one king!" but Jon notices that Val doesn't join in the chant. Neither do the Night's Watch, who are sworn not to take part in political matters. A few wildlings, including four giants, remain at the stockade, and then disappear into the forest, leaving only corpses, which Jon orders burned. Bowen Marsh asks Jon if he really thinks the wildlings "will keep faith," and Jon admits that some will and some won't. "We have seen the face of our real foe, a dead white face with bright blue eyes. The free folk have seen that face as well. Stannis is not wrong in this. We must make common cause with the wildlings." But Marsh worries about letting "tens of thousands of half-starved savages through the Wall."

Marsh also warns Jon that there has been talk that he is "too friendly with Lord Stannis." Jon knows what he's been called: "A rebel and a turncloak, aye, and a bastard and a warg as well." He tells Marsh that Stannis helped them when they needed it, but Marsh worries that Stannis is a rebel and that they may have found themselves on the losing side. Jon says he isn't choosing any side, but that Tywin Lannister's death has changed things. He remembers his meeting with Tyrion, who had called him a friend, and finds it "hard to believe the little man had it in him to murder his own sire." He leaves Marsh to supervise the burning and tells him he will think about what he has said.

In the dining hall, Jon finds his old friends, Pyp and Grenn and Toad, making fun of Melisandre and her rituals, but he scolds them, remembering, "A lord may love the men that he commands, he could hear his lord father saying, but he cannot be a friend to them. One day he may need to sit in judgment on them, or send them forth to die." He goes outside, where he sees Val walking the battlements of the tower she is held in, and thinks of the choice Stannis had offered him: to become Lord of Winterfell and to take Val as his wife. "Instead he had chosen a black cloak and a wall of ice. Instead he had chosen honor. A bastard's sort of honor."

Ghost appears, and Jon tastes the hot blood in the wolf's mouth, but reminds himself, "I am a man, not a wolf." He goes to see Aemon's steward, Clydas, who talks to him about the cowardice Mance Rayder had shown. He drinks a cup of wine with Clydas and talks about Stannis brandishing Lightbringer. He had read about Azor Ahai in the book Maester Aemon left him, The Jade Compendium, and remembers Azor Ahai fighting a monster with Lightbringer, which made the creature's blood boil "and its body burst into flame." He wishes he could see how Stannis's sword performs in battle.

He returns to his room with Ghost, and reads a letter Ser Denys Mallister had written from the Shadow Tower asking for more men. He writes to Ser Denys and to Cotter Pyke, telling them that he is sending his friends Halder and Toad to the Shadow Tower and Grenn and Pyp to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. "This is my lot, he realized as he undressed, from now until the end of my days."

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