By Charles Matthews

Saturday, December 17, 2011

9. A Dance With Dragons, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 232-252


The Shy Maid is enveloped in a thick fog and is moving downstream cautiously through the stretch of the Rhoyne known as the Sorrows. Ysilla says the fog "stinks of sorcery," and Tyrion doesn't disagree. Haldon Halfmaester warns against even breathing the fog because of "Garin's Curse," which Tyrion scoffs at: "Garin's Curse is only greyscale," a calcification of the skin that usually afflicts children, such as Stannis's daughter. But there is a severer and fatal form of the disease, as well as a swift-acting version known as the grey plague.

They tell one another various creepy stories about the stone men and the Shrouded Lord, until something disturbs the surface of the river. Young Griff, who is wielding one of the poles to push the boat away from submerged obstacles, tells them "cheerfully" that it was only a turtle. (Martin seems to slip here: He refers to Young Griff as "the prince," anticipating the revelation that comes a few pages later.)  Tyrion briefly observes something: "A half-seen shape flapped by overhead, pale leathery wings beating at the fog." But it is gone before he can get a better look. Then they encounter a boat going upstream, and there is an exchange between Yandry and someone on the other boat about Volantis, which is preparing for war between rival factions.

Tyrion and Griff have been getting on each other's nerves: When Tyrion makes one wisecrack too many, Griff tells him to shut up. Tyrion, who still has the poisonous mushrooms he found at Illyrio's, is tempted to slip them into Griff's food, though he has noted that Griff seldom eats very much. They come upon the ruins of a vast castle that Tyrion recognizes from his reading as "The Palace of Love." Haldon says that was the Rhoynar name for it, "but for a thousand years this has been the Palace of Sorrow. Then Young Griff calls out that there is a light ahead, and as they grow nearer to it the light becomes three beacons.

Griff identifies it as "The Bridge of Dream." It is inhabited by "stone men," people afflicted with the mortal version of greyscale, which spreads from the extremities throughout the body, eventually causing blindness, madness, and, when it reaches the inner organs, death. Griff warns that the stone men are usually weak and harmless, but can become aggressive when madness sets in. "On no account let them touch you."

As they grow closer to the bridge, Griff orders Young Griff to take Septa Lemore to her cabin. Young Griff argues that he wants to stay, and points out that "Haldor is staying, and Ysilla. Even Hugor." Tyrion says, "I'm less than half of Haldon, and no one gives a mummer's fart whether I live or die." But then he adds, pointedly, "You, though ... you are everything," which angers Griff. The argument is interrupted by a wail that comes from the bridge, and they nearly crash into it.

Once they are clear, Young Griff grabs Tyrion's arm and asks what he means, "Why am I everything?" Tyrion replies that if Young Griff is lost, "this whole enterprise is undone, and all those years of feverish plotting by the cheesemonger and the eunuch will have been for naught ... isn't that so." Young Griff says to his supposed father, "He knows who I am." And Tyrion thinks, "If I did not know before, I would now."

Tyrion takes his torch and shines it in Young Griff's face for a better look. He says that anyone might wonder why the son of a sellsword need instruction in the faith from "a soiled septa" and lessons in history and languages from a failed maester. "I must admit, you have noble features for a dead boy." Tyrion says his father "wrapped your corpse in a crimson cloak and laid you down beside your sister at the foot of the Iron Throne, his gift to the new king." Young Griff is confused until Tyrion reveals that his father was Tywin Lannister.
"Men will tell you that I am a kingslayer, a kinslayer, and a liar, and all of that is true ... but then, we are a company of liars, are we not? Take your feigned father, Griff, is it?" The dwarf sniggered. "You should thank the gods that Varys the Spider is part of this plot of yours. Griff would not have fooled the cockless wonder for an instant, no more than it did me.... Who better to raise Prince Rhaegar's infant son than Prince Rhaegar's dear friend Jon Connington, once Lord of Griffin's Roost and Hand of the King?"
Griff, or Connington, tells him, "Be quiet."

But Tyrion is in the grip of something like déjà vu:  They seem to be sailing past places they have already passed. And when the light ahead turns into three lights again and the Bridge of Dream once again come into view, they all realizes something is wrong. The current takes them toward the bridge again, and Yandry shoves the boat away, through a curtain of moss that dangles from the bridge. Then there is a crash behind Tyrion and the boat tilts, almost throwing him into the river.

Two stone men have leaped to the boat, one landing on the roof of the cabin, the other near the tiller. Duck knocks one of them off the boat with his pole, and the stone man sinks. Griff drives the other back with a torch and his sword, and Duck and Haldon come to Griff's aid. Griff's sword cuts off the stone man's arm, and Yandry and Duck drive the creature overboard as they get clear of the bridge.

But then they see that a third stone man is on board. He reaches out of Young Griff, who freezes at the sight of him. Tyrion knocks the boy down, and jumps over him, thrusting his torch into the creature's face and driving him backward. They are at the edge of the deck when the stone man suddenly grabs the torch out of Tyrion's hand and throws it overboard. There is a cry behind him of "The prince! Protect the boy!" Tyrion's only option is to throw himself at the stone man, who falls backward from the deck into the river, taking Tyrion with him.

As he sinks, Tyrion thinks, "I'll haunt the Seven Kingdoms.... They would not love me living, so let them dread me dead."


Wyman Manderly has agreed to see him, but Davos has been under house arrest for several weeks before he finally is ushered into his presence in a crowded hall. "Gods be good, though Davos, when he saw Lord Wyman's face, this man looks half a corpse." He is also enormously fat.

Davos requests a private audience with Lord Wyman, but it is denied. "Stannis may have enemies in this hall," he says. "I do not." Davos points out the half-dozen Freys in the room: "Not even the men who slew your son?" One of the Freys steps forward and claims that the events at the Red Wedding have been misrepresented, that Robb Stark "changed into a beast before our eyes and tore out the throat of my cousin Jinglebell, a harmless simpleton. He would have slain my lord father too, if Ser Wendel had not put himself in the way."

Davos is astonished at the claim that Wendel Manderly was killed by Robb Stark, and when the man continues in his story to assert Robb's attendants all changed into wolves and attack the company, Davos asks his name. On learning it, he says, "Jared of House Frey, I name you liar." Ser Jared draws his sword, but Lord Wyman commands him to put it away.

The Lady Leona, Wyman's daughter-in-law, wife of the son held hostage at Harrenhal, urges him to send Davos away for fear of angering Cersei. Wyman assures her, "The Iron Thron shall have no cause to doubt us." But Davos has decided to be defiant, and calls Tommen "a usurper" and proclaims himself "the Hand of Stannis Baratheon, the First of His Name, the trueborn King of Westeros." Maester Theomore, who is in attendance on Lord Wyman, opines that Tommen, as "the issue of Robert's body," has prior claim over Stannis, to which Wyman assents. But Davos goes further, calling Tommen "bastard-born" and "sired by the Kingslayer, in defiance of all the laws of gods and men."

One of the Freys calls this "treason," and Ser Jared demands to meet Davos "on the field of honor." But Davos retorts, "What would a Frey know of honor?" sending the Frey contingent into fury until Wyman halts them. Lady Leona continues to proclaim that the Manderlys are loyal to the throne, and Davos realizes that she is afraid that the Lannisters will kill her husband if Lord Wyman declares for Stannis. He realizes the predicament that the Manderlys are in, but reminds Wyman of his fealty to the Starks: "Lord Stark has fallen, but his war goes on."

Lady Leona now plays the religion card, pointing out Stannis's conversion to Lady Melisandre's faith. Davos counters that most of Stannis's followers, himself included, still worship the Seven. Wyman then asks what Stannis offers in return for his support. Davos thinks, "War and woe and the screams of burning men," but speaks as the Hand of the king, not as himself: "The chance to do your duty." The answer doesn't carry much weight, and Ser Marlon Manderly, Wyman's cousin, and Maester Theomore advance their substantial objections. Finally, Wyman decides to put an end to the interview, and asks Davos if he has anything else to say: "I grow weary of your face."

Davos admits that supporting Stannis means that more will die, but he blames it on the Lannisters' theft of the throne. "What does Stannis offer you? Vengeance. Vengeance for my sons and yours, for your husbands and your fathers and your brothers. Vengeance for your murdered lord, your murdered king, your butchered princes. Vengeance!" And the speech earns an enthusiastic "Yes" from the young girl standing behind Wyman's throne. She urges Wyman to support Stannis because "They killed Lord Eddard and Lady Catelyn and King Robb."

Her older sister urges Lady Wylla Manderly to keep quiet, and reminds her that she will be married to a Frey. But Wylla insists she won't, and asks Maester Theomore to remember the old fealty of the Manderlys to the Starks. Theomore says this was true, but "House Stark has been extinguished." Wylla retorts, "That's because they killed them all!" Rhaegar Frey speaks up to say that "loyalty is a virtue" and that he hopes Wylla "will be as loyal to Little Walder when you are joined in wedlock." And to add that the Starks have been "extinguished only in the male line," and that Arya Stark is on her way to marry Ramsay Bolton. Wylla retorts, "Ramsay Snow," but Rhaegar says that Ramsay will be Lord of Winterfell.

Wylla replies, "He won't ever be my lord! He made Lady Hornwood marry him, then shut her in a dungeon and made her eat her fingers." There are murmurs of agreement with Wylla in the hall. But Rhaegar persists, turning the blame back on Robb Stark: "He was a vile dog and died like one." There is quiet in the hall until Lord Wyman, who "was looking down at Rhaegar as if he were a roach in need of a hard heel," suddenly nods agreement. Rhaegar seems to have won the day, and only Wylla voices disagreement with his pronouncement that the Iron Throne is Tommen's by rights.

Then Wyman turns to Davos and pronounces him a traitor and a smuggler, "come to steal my gold and blood. You would take my son's head. I think I should take yours instead. Guards! Seize this man!" He orders Davos's head and hands brought to him before he dines. "I shall not be able to eat a bite until I see this smuggler's head upon a spike, with an onion shoved between his lying teeth."

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