Chapters 24 - 28
Chapter 24: Theon
Theon is given his first ship, which he thinks of in the same terms as a woman, and flirts with Esgred, wife of the shipwright. Esgred is as lusty as Theon, though also seems to have some standards, and alternates between mocking Theon and accepting his advances. Theon decides to name his ship Sea Bitch
, after Esgred. Some mutual groping of private parts goes on.
The banter between the two is very well-written. Both act snarky and haughty, Theon because he's a king's son, Esgred because she's simply awesome, and nobody on the Iron Isles really gives a damn about nobility; what matters is how well one fights and sails. It's all good stuff.
Esgred advises Theon to pick a loyal crew, and they take a walk through the town, making note of a few likely faces, after which Theon invites her back to the castle for one of his father's daily feasts, following by shagging. Esgred agrees.
It turns out Theon has acquired a mute lad named Wex as a squire. He has learned to ride a horse quite well during his time on the mainland, and impresses Esgred with his great big warhorse and how he handles it. Esgred rides on the same horse, in front of him, and Theon tries to feel up her breasts, but she keeps pulling his hand down.
When they arrive, it turns out that 'Esgred' is actually his sister, Asha, which sends Theon into a spiral of angst that made me laugh out loud. Seriously, he had her fondle his cock and groped her boobs, and described in no uncertain terms how he wanted to shag and bugger her... that is hilarious. Incest can be kind of fun when it's not actually happening.
Balon holds a feast where it turns out that everybody adores Asha and mocks Theon for being a weakling greenlander. Theon gets drunk and tries, and ultimately fails, to hold on to dignity. The Iron Islanders prove to be a rowdy bunch, dancing a dance that normally ends with someone losing a finger or four.
After a time, Balon rises to hold a war council. He assigns Theon to take eight longships and harrass the fishing villages on the west coast of Robb's domain. Asha is to take 30 and take Deepwater Motte in the northeast (across the water from Bear Island), giving the Ironmen a secure base from which to expand. Balon's brother, Victarion, gets the bulk of the navy to take Moat Cailin, near the territory of the crannog dwellers, which will give them an unassailable foothold in the north and guarantee Ironmen victory.
Theon tries to offer advice based on his years at Winterfell, but Balon shouts him down. Theon angsts over how he is only raising a distraction while Asha and Victarion get to hoard all the glory.
Well, a very interesting chapter. We get a nice look at Iron Island culture, and Theon is by turns hilarious and sympathetic. He's been away so long that he has become estranged from his own culture, people, and family, all of whom look down on him as a milk-fed weakling who can't just seize wat he wants. I honestly feel sorry for him.
But man, accidentally asking your own sister for a good, hard shag still makes me laugh.
Chapter 25: Tyrion
Tyrion bursts into Cersei's room to bring her the good news that Stannis has attacked Renly. Cersei is ecstatic, and twirls Tyrion around a bit, which allows him to see what Jaime might see in her. They drink a toast and Tyrion slips Cersei a laxative, then departs.
The next morning, with Cersei incapacitated, Tyrion sits on the Iron Throne to hold court, quite appreciating being tall for once. He tells Cleos Frey that Robb's terms are unacceptable, and gives him a list of his own demands. If Robb wants peace, he must swear fealty to Joffrey, release Jaime, and place his army under Jaime's command to attack the armies of Stannis and Renly. He must also have each of his bannermen send a son as hostage to King's Landing as collateral. As a gesture of good will, Eddard's bones will be returned to Winterfell.
Cleos protests that Robb will never agree to this, and Tyrion says to inform Robb that they have a second army gathered at Casterly Rock. As an inducement, he will agree to free four Stark hostages in exchange for two Lannisters. Eddard's sword, as well as Sansa and Arya, will be returned upon Robb agreeing to Tyrion's terms.
Tyrion then calls over Vylarr, commander of the army at King's Landing, and says to take some of the Lannister guardsmen to protect the bones - and by some
, he means all of them
. We learn a few pages later that this is partly to annoy Cersei, partly to reduce the drain on the city's food stores, but mostly to sneak four assassins he found in the dungeons into Winterfell.
After that, Alliser Thorne approaches, angry at having been kept waiting for so long, and informs Tyrion that the dead are rising, and he needs more men to guard the Wall. Unfortunately, the zombie hand he brought with him has rotted away during the time he was kept waiting, so he has no proof. Tyrion mocks him, but agrees to send some diggers who are currently in prison up, so that if they bury their dead properly, there will be no danger of them walking around. Thorne gets frustrated and angry, but it doesn't do any good, and he is sent packing. In spite of this, Tyrion wonders if he has made the right decision, since he felt some sort of mysterious dread the last time he went to see the Wall.
Tyrion consults with Littlefinger and Varys, then late that night, takes two of his northmen to locate Pycelle. The find him in bed with a pretty serving girl, and Shagga chops off Pycelle's beard.
OK, it turns out the error I complained about last post was in fact not an error. Tyrion simply lied to Varys and Littlefinger about his intentions. The letter he sent to Dorne did indeed promise Myrcella to Doran's son, and the fact that that's what Cersei complained about allowed Tyrion to conclude that it was Pycelle who had read the letter and passed it on to Cersei.
Pycelle protests that he has done everything for the Lannister family, such as preventing Jon Arynn from recovering from his poison and persuading Aerys II to lower the gates and allow Robert and Eddard in, all those years ago. Nonetheless, Tyrion orders him taken away to prison. He muses on how Littlefinger and Varys are even less trustworthy, but are a lot more subtle about it.
Well now, a fair bit happened here. Tyrion managed to get a whole lot of people out of King's Landing, meaning that there is now more food to go around. I figured that his giving different stories to Varys and Littlefinger in the last chapter he narrated was part of a scheme to identify the traitor, though I managed not to pick up on how he planned to snare Pycelle as well. Stupid me.
Still, the Night's Watch might soon get some new members. Tyrion said to say that the Watch has bread and turnips, which will draw the starving mouths.
Also, we learn that Pycelle knew the truth of Cersei's children.
Chapter 26: Arya
We learn that one of the soldiers under Gregor's command, named Tickler, interrogated the people of the village where Arya is imprisoned, and they were all tortured to death. Gendry only survives because he says he made his helmet, and anyone with any bit of knowledge of smithery is valuable.
The surviving captives are set on a forced march to Harrenhal, where the women are raped every night, though they generally go meekly and willingly so as not to suffer further beatings. I guess that Gregor would choose evil rapists to serve under him, but still, those Lannisters sure can pick them.
In the end, they come to Harrenhal itself, where Arya is initially set to work in the kitchens. When she says she'd rather work in the stables, the servingmistresses assign her to Weese, understeward of the Wailing Tower. Weese has a great big ugly nose and says he can smell emotions, and all he wants to smell off his new charges is fear. End of chapter.
A short chapter, and again one of Arya's the exists more to describe the setting than to progress the story, but some things do happen at the end. We'll have to wait to see how this turns out.
One of the cool things mentioned is how Harrenhal's towers are all melted from Aegon's dragon assault.
Chapter 27: Daenerys
Daenerys arrives at the city of Qarth, which is strikingly beautiful. Her dragons make her something of a celebrity, and several of the wealthier citizens beg her for an audience.
Daenerys herself, and her followers, take up residence in Xaro Xhoan Daxos' enormous palace, where Jorah says the city seems suspiciously pleasant and clean. Daenerys is persuaded, and sends her Dothraki followers to scout out whatever seemy underbelly there may be. She also sends Jorah to investigate the dock and see what ships are available.
Jorah comes back later with a merchant by the name of Quhuru Mo, from the Summer Isles, who tells her that Robert and Eddard are dead. Daenerys is pleased
. Quhuru regrets that he cannot take Daenerys home immediately, as he must now sail east, but he promises to come visit her once she has retaken her throne. Daenerys thanks him profusely for his gift of good news, and Quhuru accepts it graciously, and says that seeing real dragons is ample payment.
Jorah counsels Daenerys that with Robert dead, Joffrey is now on the throne, so nothing has changed. Daenerys says that with the Seven Kingdoms divided by civil war, it is a completely different landscape, and she will be able to march in and sweep through the land, mopping up the weakened armies and reuniting the people. Since the Dothraki think of little other than raids and plunder, both agree that she will need proper armies, navies, and alliances, which Daenerys fully intends to acquire.
Well, Daenerys is still something of a Mary Sue, but I'm warming to her. At the very least, her travels take her to exotic places, and I like the way Martin describes Vaes Tolorro and Qarth.
One interesting thing is that while Xaro and Pree heap praise and honour upon Daenerys, all Quaith says is "Beware...". That one bears watching.
Chapter 28: Bran.
Summer isn't dead. Whew. You had me going there for a minute, Martin.
Summer and Bran play with Meer and Jojen, and the talk then turns to other matters. OK, here's how things work. Sometimes, when someone has a near-death experience, they begin having prophetic dreams. These dreams are granted by a spirit that takes the form of a three-eyed raven. Bran gaines his dreams when Jaime threw him out a window, and we learn that Jojen also has the same dreams, brought on when he almost died of a disease. Bran's fall also means that he is indeed psychically linked to Summer, a fact that Jojen sensed when he arrived.
Jojen tells Bran about a dream he had where he saw a grey wolf bound to the ground by great chains, who was trying to fly. Bran is that wolf. Bran gets uncomfortable, and this causes Summer to attach the Reeds until Hodor calls them off.
Bran goes to see Maester Luwin, who it turns out is one of the 1% of maesters who have seriously studied magic. Luwin explains that prophetic dreams are said to have been the domain of the fairies and are linked to the faces one sometimes sees in the woods, though that phenomenon, like all magic, has since faded from the world.
Meera meets Bran again, and tells him another of Jojen's dreams. At a meal, Luwin served Bran a hearty cut of lively choice meat, while the Walders got some old fish, yet the Walders enjoyed their meal more. When Bran understands what the dream represents, he is to come see them again.
In this chapter, we also learn that Bran wants to see crannog life. Also also, he now seems to know it was Jaime who was responsible for his fall, but that memory is too painful for him to dwell upon.
Some stuff has been going on in the disputed region. As Lady Hornwood returned home, Roose Bolton's bastard seized her and married her there and then. Wendel Manderly then took her castle, allegedly to defend it. Ser Rodrik has gone to sort that mess out.
Bran is clearly being built up as a character who will be important in the future. He has some sort of psychic power, though he doesn't want to develop it, and I'm guessing it's linked to his amnesia. I look forward to seeing how this plays out.