By Charles Matthews

Thursday, January 26, 2012

28. A Dance With Dragons, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 741-768

The Iron Suitor

Victarion Greyjoy set out from the Shield Islands with ninety-three ships, and picked up half a dozen more along the way. Only about half of them remain as they draw near their goal. In Volantis, he had seen how the fever to conquer Daenerys had taken hold, and he is now determined to reach her before the Volantene fleet does. He is hoping that the storms will be as destructive to the Volantenes as they were to his ships.

He knows that Euron plans to claim Daenerys as his own, but Victarion has decided to defy his brother and take her for himself: "They had sailed too far and lost too much for Victarion to turn west without his prize." In his cabin he is tended to by Euron's gift, a "dusky woman" whose tongue Euron had cut out before presenting her to Victarion. The young maester, known as Kerwin, also arrives to dress the wound he had suffered to his hand in a swordfight. The wound is gangrenous, but in no uncertain terms Victarion rejects Kerwin's suggestion that he may have to amputate the hand.

As the dusky woman is binding the wound again, he gets word that the captain of the ship Grief has come on board with a man reputed to be a wizard. It is Moqorro, the red priest on the Selaesori Qhoran, thought to be dead after the storm that attacked the ship. He has been rescued, clinging to a spar after ten days adrift -- a claim that Victarion rejects as impossible. When Moqorro reveals himself as a priest of R'hllor there is much mockery and a call to "Send him down to the Drowned God before he brings a curse upon us." But Victarion thinks that perhaps the Drowned God sent Moqorro to them for a reason.

Victarion asks why they think he's a wizard, and is told that Moqorro claimed Victarion would die unless he agreed to see the priest. A spasm of pain from his hand makes Victarion stagger and almost fall, and he decides to have Moqorro taken to his cabin. When they enter, the dusky woman turns toward them and then hisses like a snake at the sight of Moqorro. Victarion knocks her down with his good hand.

Moqorro tells Victarion that he has seen him in the flames, "stern and fierce" but "blind to the tentacles that grasp you at wrist and neck and ankle, the black strings that make you dance." Victarion scoffs at the vision, but when Moqorro asks to see the wounded hand he shows it to him. Moqorro  tells him that he can heal it.
"I will need a blade. Silver would be best, but iron will serve. A brazier as well. I must needs light a fire. There will be pain. Terrible pain, such as you have never known. But when we are done, your hand will be returned to you." 
Victarion submits to the treatment, and the crew hears strange sounds of laughter, singing, and wailing coming from the cabin. At sunset Victarion comes out on deck, raises "a charred and blackened hand," and orders them to cut the throat of Maester Kerwin and throw him overboard. When they do that, he says, they will have fair winds all the way to Meereen. He bases that on what Moqorro has seen in his fires. Moqorro had also seen Daenerys's marriage in the fires, but Victarion isn't bothered by that: "She would not be the first woman Victarion Greyjoy had made a widow."


Yezzan zo Qaggaz is dying of "the pale mare," a dysentery-like disease that has been decimating the Yunkai'i. The slavemaster Nurse has already died, though with help from the poison mushrooms Tyrion has carried with him since Pentos.  Tyrion is now trying to figure out a way of escaping, but is hindered by the slave collar with its tinkling bells.

When Sweets, the hermaphrodite, sends them to fetch water for Yezzan, Tyrion tells Penny that Yezzan has nephews who will inherit his slaves, and that they may decide to put them on the auction block again. But the nephews have disappeared when the disease showed up in Yezzan's camp. Tyrion orders Scar, the sergeant of Yezzan's guard, to fetch the water, but is backhanded for his request. This gives him the opportunity to explain that he and Penny are too weak to carry the water Yezzan needs, so Scar suggests that they get their "bear," Jorah Mormont, to assist them.

Mormont is in terrible shape, having resisted at every opportunity that presented itself, but he follows Tyrion and Penny to the well. As they walk, Tyrion observes the preparations that are being made in case of the dragon's return, the weapons being trained at the sky. From his own studies of dragon lore, Tyrion knows the futility of these preparations: The only real vulnerability a dragon has is its eyes; the scales of the belly are too tough.

They find a line a quarter of a mile long at the well. Tyrion takes the opportunity to listen to the gossip, which is of course about Daenerys's disappearance and presumed death. He and Penny are recognized as the dwarfs who had jousted for the queen, and are pressed for information about her. But Tyrion had been more surprised to find her escorted by Barristan Selmy. He had almost tried to make contact with Barristan, but he was uncertain how he might have been received by the old knight. Unfortunately, they were being chained up after their performance while the dragon was making its appearance, so they have nothing to tell about it.

On their way back with the water, Tyrion and Penny carrying two pails and Mormont carrying four, Tyrion claims to know a shortcut. He has grown used to playing on Penny's innocence, and has even kept secret from her what he has learned: that they were going to set the lions loose on them. He figured it out when he and Penny returned from the pit and saw the look on Nurse's face: "Nurse did not expect us back. He had looked around at other faces. None of them expected us back. We were meant to die out there." And then he overheard an animal trainer talking about how hungry the lions were.

But it is Penny's turn to catch on: They are going the wrong way. They are heading for the camp of the Second Sons. Mormont warns him, "If you think to find help there, you don't know Brown Ben Plumm." But Tyrion assures him that he does. Penny frets about the dog and the pig, but Tyrion assures her that Sweets will take care of them, knowing full well that if he does anything Sweets will eat them. He and Mormont set off for Plumm's camp, and Penny reluctantly follows.

One of the men at the camp recognizes Tyrion and Penny as the dwarfs Plumm had tried to buy, so he lets the three of them enter. When they are taken to Plumm, Tyrion explains that Yezzan is dying, and that he has taken the opportunity to join him.
"House Plumm is sworn to Casterly Rock, and as it happens I know a bit of its history. Your branch sprouted from a stone spit across the narrow sea, no doubt. A younger son of Viserys Plumm, I'll wager. The queen's dragons were fond of you, were they not?"
Plumm is amused by Tyrion's self-assurance, as the dwarf goes on to warn him that if he takes his head and sends it to Cersei, she will deny that it's his and withhold his reward. He "was born a second son," he tells Plumm, and wants to join up. When one of Plumm's men says they need fighters, not mummers, Tyrion says he's brought a fighter, and indicates Mormont, whose "face might have been unrecognizable in its battered state, but his voice was unchanged." Plumm recognizes Mormont when he speaks, but it is Tyrion who takes charge of the situation, challenging Plumm to a game of cyvasse and asking for some wine: "My throat is dry as an old bone, and I can see that I have a deal of talking to do."

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