By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

33. A Dance With Dragons, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 860-886


Tyrion is signing a stack of promissory notes, promising the bearer a hundred golden dragons, as the price of joining the Second Sons. He knows the notes will be good only if he ever goes back to Westeros and claims the fortune of Casterly Rock. The notes at the bottom of the stack are for a thousand golden dragons, then ten thousand each for Kasporio the Cunning and Tybero Istarion. As a Second Son, his duties will be to work for Tybero, who is known as Inkpots, "Keeping books, counting coin, writing contracts and letters."

The final note is for "One hundred thousand golden dragons, fifty hides of fertile land, a castle, and a lordship." This one is for Brown Ben Plumm. Tyrion signs it, then adds his name to the roll book of the Second Sons, signing just below Jorah Mormont. He then returns to the tent he shares with Penny, who is grieving over the loss of the dog and the pig. He tells her that they need to find some armor to fit her -- she is to pose as a boy.

They are led to the armorer's by a boy named Kem, whose accent reveals to Tyrion that he is from King's Landing. When they reach the wagons full of odds and ends of armor, Jorah Mormont is there, dressed in mismatched pieces scavenged from the heaps in the wagons. He has recovered from his beatings, but his face is disfigured by a branded demon's mask on his right cheek, the sign of "a dangerous and disobedient slave." Tyrion and Penny sort through the pieces looking for something that will fit, and Tyrion finds a dirk that he likes.

Mormont observes that they will be fighting for the wrong side: "The Yunkai'i have lost this war, though it may take them some time to know it." Meereen has the Unsullied, as well as dragons: "Three of them, once the queen returns. She will. She must." Tyrion agrees:
"The Second Sons are on the losing side. They need to turn their cloaks again and do it now." He grinned. "Leave that to me."

The Kingbreaker

Barristan and Skahaz are meeting to discuss their next move. The Shavepate is convinced that Hizdahr planned to kill not only Daenerys but also her dragons, as a way of leaving the city defenseless when the Volantene fleet arrives. Skahaz wants to attack the Yunkai'i and end things, but Selmy argues that Daenerys signed the peace treaty, so they must not be the ones to break it. They must overthrow Hizdahr, he says, then form a council to present terms to the Yunkai'i, demanding the return of the remaining hostages and the withdrawal of their armies. "Should they refuse, then and only then will we inform them that the peace is broken, and go forth to give them battle."

Selmy says that Skahaz's way is "dishonorable." Skahaz replies that Barristan's way is "stupid." Their men are ready to fight, he says. Barristan admits that this is true, but they had agreed at the outset to do it his way. The Shavepate gives in, very reluctantly. They will overpower the two guards Hizdahr keeps at his bedchamber, both of them pit fighters who have been pressed into service as guards and were already bored at the routine of their duties. Skahaz will see to it that the Brazen Beasts support him.

Barristan wants to free their hostages, the Unsullied known as Hero, Daenerys's bloodrider Jhogo, and Daario Naharis, all of whom are deeply loyal to their queen. Skahaz argues that they are all expendable, particularly Daario. Barristan agrees that things would be simpler if Daario were out of the way, eliminating an impediment to Daenerys's marriage to someone who might aid in the conquest of Westeros, but he still argues for Hero and Jhogo. The Shavepate counters that if their hostages are killed, they can kill the ones they hold, the children of noble families. Barristan has come to know them, however, and balks at killing children, remembering the murder of Prince Rhaegar's children.

Despite their differences, the two agree to make their move that night at the hour of the wolf. He finds Missandei in the queen's chambers, reading, and warns her not to leave them that night, no matter what she sees or hears. The rest of the day he spends remembering events in his past that might have changed the course of his life one way or another. As the time draws near, he bathes and dresses all in white, then puts on the gilded armor and the long white cloak that Daenerys had given him. He decides not to wear his helmet, which impedes his vision.

He meets the Shavepate, who is accompanied by six Brazen Beasts wearing identical masks: locusts. The men in masks follow him as he goes to the king's chamber, guarded outside by the pit fighter known as Steelskin. Barristan says he needs to speak to Hizdahr and is told that he may enter but the Brazen Beasts must remain behind. In the chambers one of the cupbearers goes to wake the king, who appears, yawning.

Hizdahr asks if there has been news of Daenerys, but Barristan tells him no. Is there trouble in the city, then? Again, the answer is no. Finally, Barristan says he has come "To ask a question. Magnificence, are you the Harpy?" Hizdahr is startled, and seems to realize for the first time that Barristan is wearing armor. Barristan then asks, "Was the poison your work, Magnificence?" Hizdahr accuses Quentyn of poisoning the locusts: "They're all poisoners, these Dornish. Reznak says they worship snakes."

As Barristan persists, Hizdahr grows more agitated and confused in his denials, and tries to shift the blame to Daario Naharis: "Perhaps it was her precious captain who tried to poison her, for putting him aside." Barristan says, "If you are not the Harpy, give me his name," and draws his sword. Hizdahr calls out for the other guard, Khrazz, who emerges from his chamber sleepily, but with his weapon, a Dothraki arakh, drawn. Barristan observes that the weapon is not made for close combat, and tells Khrazz to throw it down. He is there for Hizdahr, and not to harm him.

Khrazz attacks. He is forty years younger than Barristan, and much heavier, but Barristan is wearing armor. The pit fighter is unprepared to do battle with an armored man, and when Barristan sees the opportunity, he kills Khrazz. He finds Hizdahr cowering behind a tapestry in the bedchamber and takes him into custody.

The king's cupbearers are standing there terrified, but one of them speaks up to tell Hizdahr that Reznak needs to see him, urgently. Skahaz was supposed to take the seneschal into custody, Barristan thinks, and wonders if something has gone wrong. He asks the cupbearer, "Where does the seneschal want His Grace to go?" The boy stammers that they should go outside to the terrace:

"The dragons have been loosed, ser."

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