Chapters 21 - 26
Chapter 21: Jaime
Jaime, Brienne, and Cleos come to Maidenpool, and Jaime continues to annoy Brienne, this time by singing about Florian and Jonquil. His needling is starting to get through to her, as she decides to take the significantly more dangerous route straight to Duskendale simple because it's shorter. Jaime goes off on a mental tangent about how awesome incest is and how he'd love to marry Myrcella to Tommen in order to give two fingers to the world and show everyone that the Lannisters are just as twisted and arrogant as the Targaryens. Apparently, he and Cersei tried to imitate mating dogs when they were little kids, which proves that Martin does not have a sister.
He also decides that, if at all possible, he'll return Sansa and Arya to Catelyn to mess with the heads of everyone who expects him to be a traitorous bastard. This line of thought is terminated when the trio are attacked by bandits. Jaime charges the archers, knowing they'll flee at idea of close-quarters combat.
Jaime and Brienne find Cleos dead, and Jaime draws Cleos' sword and engages Brienne in combat. Despite being malnourished, out of practice, and in chains, he puts up a good fight, though Brienne eventually beats him despite being (*shock!* *horror!*) A WOMAN!
Brienne waterboards Jaime a bit, but then the Bloody Mummers appear. Jaime tries to scare them off by being snarky, but that doesn't work. Rorge announces his plan to gang-rape Brienne, and Urswyck says he's bringing them back to Harrenhal to hand them over to Lord
Vargo Hoat, thank you very much. Oh sure, they could
go all the way to King's Landing and try to persude a hostile court that they have good intentions, but why risk a sure thing for a promise from the Kinslayer?
Two interesting bits of characterisation for Jaime. First off, he thinks that even Brienne doesn't deserve to be gang-raped by the Bloody Mummers. Speaking of whom, he has considerable disdain for them, as well as for the likes of Amory Lorch and Gregor Clegane.
I'm really struggling to see why people think Jaime is sympathetic. Granted, he comes across quite a bit better in this book than in the previous ones, but he's still a bad man. His objection to Brienne's impending rape and distaste for the worst men in the empire comes across not as goodness, but as a clear case of Even Evil Has Standards
I look forward to seeing Brienne kill the fuck out of the Bloody Mummers.
Chapter 22: Arya
When I went back to write this summary, I was surprised that Arya had a chapter; I honestly didn't remember a thing from this one.
We learn that Beric Dondarrion keeps his group decentralised and his own location a secret to avoid discovery by enemies. Throughout the chapter, our characters encounter various rumours that Beric has died horribly, but they always insist that he isn't that easy to kill. They also have a secret village in some tree tops where a woman occasionally has prophetic dreams. Arya seems to develop a bit of a bond with Anguy, who lets her try out his bow and half-seriously offers to make one light enough for her to use if he can get the right wood. Tom and Harwin, however, insist that she'll be ransomed off before she has as chance to get a bow.
The next day, they arrive at a village called Acorn Hill, where a woman who likes them cleans Arya up and gives her the nicest child's dress she has. Arya promptly wrecks it fighting with Gendry, and so the next day, the woman gives her the clothes that her late son wore when he was young. There's a fun conversation where Arya tells her hostess she enjoys needlework, and the hostess talks about how relaxing is the activity that any rational person would have taken Arya to mean.
Also, Rickard Karstark's men were down here recently, looking for Jaime, but they didn't find him.
Lots of movement and travel, and a lot of stuff I really hope pays off later
, because otherwise Arya is all about the padding
Chapter 23: Daenerys
In a scene during which everybody conceals which languages they speak, Daenerys goes to buy some Unsullied, and it turns out they're the Spartans.
No, seriously, they're the Spartans. Also, Valyria was Rome.
Well, OK, the Unsullied aren't quite
the Spartans. The Spartans, for example, had their own names. The Unsullied, on the other hand, randomly pick a name out of a pot each morning, and leave it back in the evening. These names are always something degrading like Black Rat or Brown Flea.
Also, while the Spartans were free, the Unsullied are slaves, and are ethnically diverse. Also, to avoid the dangers of sexual arousal, the Unsullied are both castrated and emasculated. How on Earth do they urinate in that case? On a side note, I imagine the mistress
would be pleased with them, and would advise her to carry out this proceedure on all her minions.
This mutilation means that the Unsullied are physiologically incapable of becoming as strong as a knight, but they make up for it by being incredibly disciplined, as in the style of
Old Ghis. Due to ingestion of various drugs, they're also invulnerable to pain, which the slave handler demonstrates by cutting the nipple off one of them, who doesn't flinch.
In all other respects, they're the Spartans. They are selected at the age of five and spend their entire lives in the barracks, where they are subjected to a brutal training regimen that kills 2/3 of rookies before they finish, leaving only a highly-disciplined, incredibly badass army that is psychologically conditioned to obey orders remaining.
Oh, and each boy gets a dog soon after being recruited. His first major test is to strangle the puppy to prove his obedience. The final test is to take a baby and kill it in front of its mother, then pay a silver coin for it so that they haven't committed theft.
Daenerys wants a while to think about it. Whitebeard urges her not to take on Unsullied; slavery has long been an abomination in the Seven Kingdoms (why?), and arriving with a slave army will turn people against her.
They head back to the ships, where Whitebeard tells her about a nursery rhyme about how the bricks of Astapor - which is where they are - are red due to the blood of the slaves that build the houses. Back at HQ, Jorah asks her how things went, and Daenerys is just confused as to what she should do.
It seems that she now thinks Jorah sexually assaulting her was a bad thing, though it's also reawakened her libido. She tried masturbating a few nights back but that didn't work, and so Irri gave her a sensual lesbian experience. Yup, it's official. Martin is
entirely too fond of Daenerys, who I would like to remind readers is 15 years old at this point.
The chapter ends with Daenerys and Jorah having a chat about morality and honour, and how those qualities tend to lose wars, and how there were more babies killed and women raped in the sack of King's Landing than the Unsullied could ever hope to accomplish.
This was a good chapter. The Unsullied are interesting and well thought out, and this part of the world has quite a history. For all her Mary Sueness, Daenerys is in a genuinely compelling ethical bind, and I look forward to seeing how she handles the Unsullied.
Chapter 23: Bran
Bran, Jojen, Meera, and Hodor trek north, and the length of the journey and the tedium is starting to grate on them. When Meera says she both loves and hates the mountains, Bran gets confused, saying that love and hate are like night and day, or ice and fire. Jojen then makes an abtuse comment about ice burning and love and hate mating, which all means that the land is one. Since ice and fire were both mentioned, I'm going to go ahead and say that THIS IS IMPORTANT!
Along the way, they take shelter in a cave, where a man who seems to be loyal to Robb kindly shares his food with them.
The next day, Bran gets upset about Old Nan being gone, and Meera advises him to remember the way she told her stories so that a part of her will always live on. Bran then asks Meera if she knows any stories about knights, so she tells him the story of the Knight of the Laughing Tree.
- Once upon a time, a young crannogman went to the Isle of Faces to visit the Green Men, whoever they are. On his return, he happened across a tournament being held at Harrenhal, and three squires picked on him for being short. He was rescued by a lady of House Stark, who gave him food and shelter for the night.
- The next day, a mysterious, short knight in ill-fitting armour appeared and beat those squires' knights in the melee. When they asked what ransom he wanted, he told them to teach their squires respect. Nobody ever saw him again.
Bran asks what he saw on the Isle of Faces, and Meera protests that that's another story. Bran decides that after meeting the three-eyed crow, he'll visit the Isle of Faces.
Meera's comment about Old Nan living on in Bran's memories made me realise we know little about religion in the Seven Kingdoms. Oh sure, the northerners have a somewhat animistic faith, the Faith of the Seven revolves around seven deities who are all actually different aspects of a single god, and Melisandre has a rather Zoroastrian belief, but what of the afterlife? Sansa mentioned in the last book that the gods might throw Sandor into a Hell, but what is Hell like? For that matter, what is their conception of Heaven? Is there even a heaven? The gods evidently consider slavery, incest, and breaking promises of marriage to be sins, but how much sin can one get away with before being damned? How much good works does it take to cancel out a given amount of sin? Does anyone believe in salvation by faith alone? What about reincarnation? What, if anything, do the northerners do to appease their gods? Well, Craster leaves his sons for the Others, but that's not a religious belief, that's like leaving out a sheep every so often to keep the wolves at bay. What does R'hllor consider sacred and profane? Does the Great Other actively tempt people, or is it just naturally hard to follow the path of light? And, again, just how strict is R'hllor as regards sin?
The Dothraki seem to have had the most well-thought-out religion. Sure, it's simple, but it has everything - a creation myth, some animo-shamanic ideas about spirits, and a genuine afterlife. Does Martin answer any of my questions about the other religions in future chapters?
Chapter 24: Davos
Davos sits in his cell, having recovered his strength due to the attentions of Maester Pylos and surprisingly good food.
After a couple of pages describing his daily routine, Melisandre comes to proselytise. She tells him various things about the glory of light and fire, and the horror of darkness and cold. Davos, for his part, resists Melisandre's attempts to convert him, and freely admits that he is full of doubts. Melisandre congratulates him on at leaast being honest, and says she can tell when people are lying.
Davos asks how fire can be so great when fire is what destroyed Stannis' fleet. Melisandre says that wasn't R'hllor's fire, and she totally knew the assault would fail thanks to seeing it in her own fire, and fortunately Stannis has learned from his mistake and won't be so foolish as to act against her advice again. Also, Stannis is now too weak to make another of those freaky shadow babies; she needs someone big and strong - someone like Davos.
When she praises Davos' honesty, she makes a comment about how the Great Other often hides within the hearts of those most outwardly devoted to R'hllor. Oh gee I wonder if she could be speaking ironically. She then goes into a spiel about opposites, ying and yang, light and dark, ice and fire, male and female, etc. Her list of opposites is presented in an interesting order, which I shall attempt to reproduce here.
|Ice ||Fire |
|Hate ||Love |
Notice how she says male
, thus implying that men are bad and women are good. Is she plotting something, perhaps?
Also, she mentions 'ice and fire'. You know what that means... THIS IS IMPORTANT!
Melisandre tells Davos that a mere ember can ignite a massive conflagration, and then does some more proselytising. She says that some sort of final battle is coming (hi, Jon!), and that when the red comet bleeds, Azor Ahai will awaken amid smoke and salt to bring the dragons out of stone (hi, Daenerys' unborn child!). Oh, and Davos has serves R'hllor before and will do so again. DUN DUN DUUUUUN!
Three days later, Alester Florent (Stannis's Hand of the King) is tossed in alongside Davos. This guy comes across as a pampered nitwit, and Davos isn't impressed. It seems he sent a letter to Joffrey offering to surrender and give Shireen in marriage to Tommen if Joffrey would forgive his rebellion and allow him to remain as lord of Dragonstone. Stannis was understandably furious when he found out, and threw Alester into the jail.
Yeah, seriously Alester, what precisely were you thinking? Your king is RIGHT THERE, and this is really
the sort of thing you should consult him about. The Hand may speak with the voice of the King, but ever consider that this might not be what the king wants? Honestly, I'm an idiot, and even I have more common sense than that.
Chapter 25: Jon
Jon and Ygritte have been shagging several times a night since we last saw them. It's against the vows Jon swore, but he keeps telling himself that it's all part of the cover and done in the name of the greater good, and it's that which allows him to sleep at night, and not Ygritte's vagina, ogh ogh, no siree. Well, maybe a little. OK, a bit. NO! MUST NOT THINK THAT WAY! JON IS A SWORN BROTHER OF THE NIGHT'S WATCH AND THAT'S ALL THERE IS TO IT! REALLY! NO, HONESTLY IT IS!
Jon learns that the freemen have different names for some of the same constellations, and also ponders about how with being a bastard and all he was never really a Stark, no more than Theon. Funny, he had a rather different view of life back before he joined the Watch, back when people said as much to his face.
Jon tells Ghost to return to Castle Black, hoping that they'll figure out what the wolf without the man means. Ghost runs off.
After that, Jon thinks he should have killed the Mance when they first met; with the bodyguard the Mance now surrounds him with, there's no way he can get close enough to make a difference now. After a flashback to how shamefully awesome sex with Ygritte is, Jon is summoned to the presence of Styr and Jarl, to tell them about the Watchmen's patrol patterns. Jon truthfully tells them that the Watch sends patrols out on random days so as to prevent their enemies from figuring out a weak day; he also notes that Jarl tries to keep Styr out of command, and wonders if he can use that.
After a bit more discussion of Watch tactics, the readers learn the story about the rather surprisingly-named Arson Iceaxe, who tried to tunnel under the wall and was quietely sealed in by a Watch patrol.
After that, Jon finds Ygritte in a cave, which she claims contains a secret passage right under the wall. In days gone by, King Gorne tried to sneak past, but was defeated in battle on the other side, and retreated. He never found his way out of the caverns a second time, and the descendents of his survivors are said to still prowl the caves, surviving on human flesh.
Jon and Ygritte disagree on how the battle went, and then Ygritte decides they should have sex, whereupon Jon invents cunnilingus. This is a new experience for Ygritte, and she enjoys it very much; afterwards, she goes all "Are you sure
you were a virgin before you met me?". There is s bit of playful teasing and horseplay, and then Ygritte announces that she doesn't want to return to the surface; she'd rather keep exploring the caves.
Two things to note in this chapter. First of all, Jon says he was a sworn brother of the Night's Watch. Martin draws special attention to the use of the word was
, and Jon's wondering as to just what he is now.
The other is a couple of instances of customs of the freemen. Styr rules over Thenn with an iron fist, in contrast to the more lacksadaisical leadership shown by the other chiefs. Jon ponders that the freemen would be a lot easier to betray if they were all like him. This seems to just be saying that Styr is a jerk, but I think it also shows how Jon is coming to appreciate and enjoy the freedom-loving culture of the northerners; this is reinforced by his noticing that he refers to himself as as former Watchman. Showing vs telling, eh? Martin, you've still got it.
We also get some more details on northern marriage customs. It seems it's common for the man and woman to have sex a few times, and then for the man (as has already been established) to come and steal her away; this apparently happened to Ygritte when she was 14, but the dude couldn't get past Longspear. The freemen also have an incest taboo, but take it further than the southerners; they are aware in some way of the dangers of inbreeding, and consider incest to be anyone in your own village. Indeed, they think that Craster is more like a southerner than a freeman.
Oh, and Craster is apparently a former Watchman who went renegade after falling for a northgirl.
Chapter 26: Daenerys
I hate the trope Crowning Moment Of Awesome
It's the most stupidly subjective 'trope' in existence. No, scratch that. It's not even a trope. It's an opinion.
And even then, people find it utterly impossible to stick to what it's supposed to be. The idea is that it's the single, standout, ultimately coolest and best moment in an entire work if fiction. People will naturally disagree on which moment is the best, which is why a given series may have multiple examples. However, the sort of person who can't let a positive trope go without dropping in to gush about their favourite work insists on sticking in more and more examples, and other, even greater idiots take this as an excuse to personally add multiple examples to their favourite works. It's gotten to the stage where people casually outright state, in a single sentence, that a single character, quite apart from all the others
, has multiple crowning moments of awesome.
That entire fucking
page/index/whatever, as well as Crowning Moment of Heartwarming
and Dethroning Moment of Suck
, should be deleted promptly and added to the Permanent Redlink Club
Given all that, you know I am both serious and seriously impressed when I say that this chapter is the crowning moment of awesome.
Why? Let's read on...
Daenerys meets with the eight biggest slave traders and says she wants to buy all the Unsullied, as well as the trainees. The traders discuss this among themselves, not knowing that Daenerys speaks their language. They eventually come to the conclusion that, even if she gives them everything she has, it still won't be enough to get all
When this is relayed to her, Daenerys reluctantly offers them one of her dragons (over Whitebears's objections) in addition to everything else. The traders agree to this, and demand Drogon, the largest one. Daenerys agrees, and departs with a heavy heart. Kraznys, the trader she spoke to a few chapters ago, throws in his translator slave, Missandei, as a token of a bargain well struck.
Daenerys surprises Missandei by speaking Valyrian, and frees her. Missandei stays with her, and tells her a few things about the Unsullied. Also, we learn that valar morghulis
, which you will remmeber is the password Jaqen H'gar gave Arya, is Valyrian for all men must die.
Also, it turns out that three of the Unsullied are Missandei's brothers.
That night, Daenerys talks to Jorah about justice and truth and all the stuff kings are supposed to do.
She has trouble sleeping, but when she finally does nod off, she dreams that she's Rhaegar, riding a dragon against Robert's armies, who are all made of ice. She melts them with the dragons fire, which... OK, to be honest, this probably isn't important.
Then Quaithe's ghost or something appears and tells her to go to Yunkai.
In the morning, Daenerys assembles her retinue and marches for a plaza to make the trade. She brings all three dragons with her, as well as some of the ships' cargo.
Right, here's where things get awesome.
Daenerys hands over the goods and the dragon to the traders, and tells them that the rest of the goods that are now theirs are on the three ships, which are also theirs. And yes, the dragon is theirs as well. In exchange, the traders give her the 8,000 Unsullied plus trainees.
Daenerys turns to the Unsullied and, in Valyrian, tells them several times and in no uncertain terms that they belong to her now. Yep, they're hers. Got that? Hers. OK then.
She then turns back to the traders, and sees them having trouble with Drogon. As Daenerys explains, that's because a dragon is no slave. She then orders Drogon to attack the slavers with fire, and also has Viserion and Rhaegal do the same. At this, the Unsullied don't lift a finger to help the traders, because their master has not ordered it.
Glad that her gambit has paid off, Daenerys orders her new Unsullied to kill the slave traders, every slave owner, and everyone with a whip, but to spare children under 12, and also to free all the slaves. The people take up her cause, chanting "Dracarys! Dracarys! Dracarys!"
OH FUCK YEAH! THAT IS BRILLIANT! AND AWESOME! I DONN'T CARE HOW MUCH OF A MARY SUE DAENERYS MIGHT BE, THIS SCENE FUNTING ROCKED!!!!
Quite apart from the PURE UNDISTILLED AWESOMENESS of this scene, there are some interesting parallels between Daenerys' and Jon's respective plotlines. I think I mentioned some more parallels in my liveblog of book 2, so this would be building on that.
Freedom is a big part of both their stories. For Daenerys, she comes into Astapor and smashes the existing power structures, bringing everyone the freedoms enjoyed in the Seven Kingdoms. Jon, however, has left the Kingdoms for the free men of the north, and discovered a degree of freedom he never imagined.
However, freedom can also bring its own headaches. Jon's newfound freedom conflicts with the vows he swore; in other words, the restrictions he voluntarily placed on himself cause him angst when he is given the opportunity to forsake them.
The people of Astapor may now be free, but who is going to run the place? Most of the free men owned slaves, but Daenerys had them all killed, even the ones that might have treated their slaves well. A few masters might have entrusted their slaves with responsibilities for running their respective households, which would help in administering the city, but there can't be that many, and the rest of the slaves will have no clue how to live their own lives. I have a feeling Daenerys is heading for some major trouble in a few chapters.
There's also the matter of family, in that neither have one. All of Daenerys' family have been massacred (by Jon's in some cases). Jon, being a bastard, isn't allowed to be properly part of a family, and he forsook any familial benefits he might have gained when he signed up for the Night's Watch. Then again, the Watchmen do
refer to themselves as brothers
Come to think of it, Daenerys is quite strongly associated with fire, and Jon with ice. Daenerys is close to the equator, Jon to the north pole. Daenerys has dragons, Jon has a direwolf. The Targaryens love fire, the Starks lean towards ice.
Could it be that Jon and Daenerys are the ice and fire from the title?