By Charles Matthews

Saturday, January 28, 2012

30. A Dance With Dragons, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 793-813

The Spurned Suitor

Gerris Drinkwater thinks Quentyn should take Barristan's advice, but the prince is disturbed at the thought of returning to Dorne empty-handed to face the scorn of his sister and the Sand Snakes. So he tells the other two to go ahead and leave: "I am staying." So Drinkwater and Yronwood have no choice but to stay and protect the prince.

In fact, Quentyn has come to a conclusion: He needn't marry Daenerys at all. What he needs is the dragons. He has Targaryen blood, he says. Drinkwater protests, "The dragons won't care about your blood, except maybe how it tastes." But Quentyn insists that this is what he has to do for the sake of Dorne and his father and the men they have lost on their quest.

Quentyn's plan is to enlist the sellswords of the Tattered Prince, and they meet with him and Pretty Meris at the Purple Lotus, which is presided over by an ancient woman known as Zahrina. Quentyn points out that Yurkhaz zo Yunzak, who had hired them for the Yunkish siege of Meereen, is dead and that the peace treaty means there will be no battle. So he proposes to hire them instead and to pay them twice what the Yunkai'i agreed to.

The Tattered Prince is understandably skeptical, and when Quentyn names exactly what he wants -- "I need you to help me steal a dragon" -- the request is met with amusement. The Tattered Prince indicates that even double is not enough for such a task. Quentyn asks if he wants triple, but the Tattered Prince tells him, "What I want ... is Pentos."

The Griffin Reborn

Meanwhile, Jon Connington and the Volantene ships he has hired have reached Westeros and mounted an attack on Griffin's Roost. Connington had expected to lose a hundred men in regaining his family's old castle, but he loses only four, and his bowmen manage to shoot down all of the ravens that were let loose to spread news of the attack. "Griffin's Roost was his again, and Jon Connington was once more a lord."

Connington had lost his title at Stoney Sept, where his attempt to capture and kill Robert Baratheon had been thwarted by Eddard Stark and Hoster Tully. He had failed Aerys Targaryen, and is now determined not to fail Prince Aegon. Now he begins to plan his course of further reconquest. They had set out from Volantis with ten thousand men, as well as weapons, horses, and elephants, but after a storm at Lys only about half of that number -- and no elephants -- had turned up in Westeros. As he was taking Griffin's Roost, another force had set off to take House Morrigen at Crow's Nest, and yet another to Rain House. The rest were guarding the landing site, where Prince Aegon remained.  

Haldon Halfmaester has studied the messages kept by the maester at Griffin's Roost and reports to Connington on the fraying alliances of the Lannisters, the squabble between Cersei and Margaery, and the abandonment by Mace Tyrell of the siege of Storm's End. Stannis's campaign in the north and the rebellion of the ironborn have also been reported. In this situation, an alliance with Dorne would be advantageous, so Connington instructs Haldon, "Write Sunspear. Doran Martell must know that his sister's son is still alive and has come home to claim his father's throne."

Unfortunately, they need something to seal an alliance, and they have neither gold nor land to offer. Haldon suggests that Prince Aegon's hand in marriage would be sufficient to win an alliance. But Connington is reluctant to offer that as long as the potential of a marriage between Aegon and Daenerys still exists. So Haldon suggests another arrangement:
"You are unwed. A great lord, still virile, with no heirs except these cousins we have just now dispossessed, the scion of an ancient House with a fine stout castle and wide, rich lands that will no doubt be restored and perhaps expanded by a grateful king, once we have triumphed. You have a name as a warrior, and as King Aegon's Hand you will speak with his voice and rule this realm in all but name. I would think that many an ambitious lord might be eager to wed his daughter to such a man. Even, perhaps, the prince of Dorne."
But Connington is cold to the idea. "Death is creeping up my arm. No man must ever know, nor any wife." The next morning he orders a servant to bring him "The worst wine in the cellar," which he empties in a bowl and soaks his hand in. Vinegar was thought to be a remedy for greyscale, which has turned four of the nails on his hand black, and which has spread to the second knuckle on his middle finger.

There is good news that morning. One of their ships has landed on Estermont and taken Greenstone, the castle of House Estermont. The ships have all been instructed to land without banners, so that any reports that get out will blame the raids on pirates. Connington decides it is time to bring Prince Aegon to Griffin's Roost, but not to raise his banner. "Let King's Landing think this is no more than an exile lord coming home with some hired swords to reclaim his birthright." He proposes to write to King Tommen and ask for a pardon. The important thing in the meantime is to work on getting Doran Martell's support.

He also intends to act decisively before King's Landing can figure out what's happening. "I mean to take Storm's End. A nigh-impregnable stronghold, and Stannis Baratheon's last foothold in the south. Once taken, it will give us a secure fastness to which we may retreat at need, and winning it will prove our strength."

Aegon arrives, with Lady Lemore and Rolly Duckworth, four days later. He approves of Connington's plans to take Storm's End, and tells him he intends to lead the attack.

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