Welcome, good friends, to this corner--this fiefdom. If you're here for the ASoIaF re-read, that's great, because today we have Part 33, aka The Brilliant Sendoff. But first, a few things.
Actually, forget that. It's the last chapter-specific post. Let's get this thing moving. If you're just joining us, there are spoilers within. If you're just joining us and looking for a place to start, try to the Introduction, or Part 1. That's it.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!
Chapter 71: Catelyn
The Winterfell force enters the city of Riverrun. Edmure Tully greets his sister and his nephew, but tells Catelyn that their father is very ill. She goes to visit Hoster Tully, an older, shrunken version of the father she remembered.
A disease is killing Hoster, but he his happy that he saw the Lannisters beaten back from Riverrun. He is even happier to hear that Robb was the one who did it, and that his brother Brynden finally returned home. He still talks about how Brynden spurned marriage offers from Redwynes, Brackens, and Freys, leading to the rift between the brothers. But he says he is too old to fight, and will see Brynden later.
Catelyn leaves him to sleep, and goes to Riverrun's Great Hall, where Theon is telling stories about Robb's victory. He tells Catelyn that Robb is visiting the godswood. It is something Ned would have done. She finds Robb praying in the wood, along with his other lords who hold to the northern gods. Her son is a man, yet she wonders if he has ever kissed a girl.
When Robb is ready to leave, he calls a council meeting, telling Catelyn the latest news: Renly has claimed Robert's crown. The river lords and the northern lords assemble. They argue long into the night. Some are for marching to war, either against Casterly Rock, or against Harrenhal (where Tywin Lannister is headed). Others counsel peace.
One lord suggests they swear to Renly, but Robb finally speaks up, telling them that Renly is not the lawful king. He will not swear to Joffrey, but even if Joff is killed, that would make Tommen next in line. Even if you discount Joffrey and Tommen, Renly still wouldn't be king because his older brother Stannis would be next in line. If all the major houses declared for Renly, it still wouldn't give them the right. Robb admits that he still doesn't know what side to choose.
Catelyn then asks for peace. The ones who are dead are gone forever. Why must there be more deaths? Can't they go home to the loved ones that are left? The hall falls silent as she finishes, but one by one, the lords list the reasons they can't stop. There have been too many deaths to stop. The council descends into further argument.
Suddenly, the Greatjon stands up and tells the lords that he wont swear to any of the other kings, but there is another option. He points to Robb and says he's the only man he'll bow to; the King in the North. One by one, the other lords agree, even the riverlords.
"...Catelyn watched them rise and draw their blades, bending their knees and shouting the old words that had not been heard in the realm for more than three hundred years, since Aegon the Dragon had come to make the Seven Kingdoms one . . . yet now were heard again, ringing from the timbers of her father's hall:
"The King in the North!"
"The King in the North!"
"THE KING IN THE NORTH!"
Awww yisss... Robb Stark, The One Without a POV Chapter, is going to kick some ass. The Starks took a bit of a beating in this first book, but it's hard not to think their fortunes might be changing. It really feels like a wonderful solution. By the end of the chapter, I'm practically ready to swear allegiance to Robb on my own.
And yet... this is Catelyn's chapter, not Robb's, and all that we see is tinged with her almost constant undercurrent of dread. She wants to grieve. She wants her sons and daughters back. She wants to go home and have peace.
Peace. Catelyn thinks the lords were almost ready for it, but I can't see how. Too much blood has been shed. You can't put aside those wounds so quickly. Declaring for Renly, or Stannis, or--the unthinkable--Joffrey would feel false. Crowning Robb feels like the most logical choice for the assembled lords.
And what to make of this King in the North, this young upstart who went from being an untested youth to earning the respect of his men by behaving much like his father? Is he a younger version of Ned, a second chance for fate to make a Stark supremely powerful? Or will Robb be susceptible to the same pitfalls as Ned? He's inherited a lot from his father, it seems. I'd even say that in terms of character, Robb is closer to his father than any of his siblings. For now we can hope that the lords are correct, and Catelyn is only worrying out of habit. I guess we'll find out in A Clash of Kings.
What an ending to this book. Really, really gripping stuff.
What? Oh, wait. That's not the end? Er... GRRM, how are you gonna top the ending of Chapter 71?
Chapter 72: Daenerys
Dany's followers build a funeral pyre for Drogo, piling on a dead horse and Drogo's treasures. Mirri says that killing a horse is not enough for bloodmagic to work, but Dany has Jhogo whip the maegi into silence.
Jorah pulls Dany aside and asks her not to do what he thinks she will do. She tells him to address her as queen instead of princess. He does so, pledging his sword and heart to her, but again he begs her not to climb on Drogo's pyre. He does not want to watch her burn. She promises him she won't.
Once the pyre is ready, Dany gathers the hundred or so followers left to her. She frees the slaves, and then gives Jhogo, Aggo, and Rakharo each one of her bridal gifts, and asks them to become her ko, blood of her blood. They accept her gifts, but cannot swear so to a woman. She has no gift for Jorah, but promises him a Valyrian blade in the future. She also wants his oath to follow and obey her, and he gives it. She names him the first of her Queensguard.
Dany enters her tent and her maid wash and perfume her. Then she does the same thing to Drogo's body, by herself. She dresses him, and has the Dothraki carry their dead leader to the pyre. She commands them to bring her the dragon eggs. She also commands that Mirri be tied to the pyre. The woman says she won't scream, but Dany says it's not the screams she wants; it's the maegi's life.
The Dothraki light the pyre when they see the first star in the sky. The oil and wood burn, and Mirri Maz Duur begins to sing. The flames go higher, and the maegi's song turns to cries of agony. The heat from the fire drives everyone back except Dany She walks towards the flames, shrugging off her clothes and embracing the heat. There are visions in the fire, including one of Drogo on a stallion, riding free.
There is a cracking of shattering stone, as Dany walks into the firestorm. Then a second crack, and as the pyre collapses around her, a third crack.
When the fire dies out, Jorah find Dany in the ashes. Her hair and clothes are gone, but she is unhurt. Two tiny dragons are sucking at her breasts, and a third is draped around her neck. Jorah drops to his knees in wonder. Jhogo, Aggo, and Rakharo swear their oaths to her. The other followers do the same.
As Daenerys Targaryen rises to her feet, her three baby dragons hiss and cry out.
"...for the first time in hundreds of years, the night came alive with the music of dragons."
Me: "GRRM, how are you gonna top the ending of Chapter 71?"
GRRM: "Like so. Behold... Chapter 72!"
At least, that's how the Q & A might have gone. He could also have said: "With dragons, and sh*t." That works just as well. Has any character come further in this book than Dany? The others mostly progressed on their logical paths, but Dany began as a penniless child under the influence of her brother, and emerges as a queen, a leader, and a woman who has conquered death. And now she has dragons. Love her or hate her, the girl has set herself up to be as formidable a figure as anyone west of the sea.
That's the second straight chapter that ends with something that hasn't been heard in hundreds of years. But while there's some question about Robb's chances for success, Dany's position seems a little more secure in my mind. Odd, considering Robb has an army and a kingdom, while Dany has a ragtag bunch and baby lizards.
But... dragons! What are the chances that they come back after so long, and they come back for her? Pretty good, I'd say. If being the only POV character on this side of the sea wasn't enough of a hint, Dany and her dragons are going to be major players.
Let's deal with the rest quickly:
-The funeral pyre: Drogo burns, and so does Mirri. "Only death can pay for life." The maegi of course, provides the way for Dany to survive the flames, and she kind of gets duped along the way when she thinks that Dany had the stallion killed to be the sacrificial life. It's sort of like when Dany thought that killing Drogo's stallion would be enough of a trade for his life. Anyway, payback's a bitch.
-Dany's followers: Did I mention they're a ragtag bunch? Anyone would be excused for thinking Dany was more of a pretender to the Iron Throne with a group as feeble as hers.
-Jorah Mormont: Is it odd that this makes three straight chapters featuring a Mormont and pledges of allegiance. (Jon Snow and the Old Bear, Robb and Maege Mormont, and Dany with Jorah.) I'm probably just seeing patterns where there should be randomness.
-Speaking of Jorah, Dany promised him a longsword of Valyrian steel one day. It was a promise that felt an awful lot like a prophecy. I remember thinking, "The sword had effing better not be Ice," but with the way things turned out for the former slave trader, I think the only way he gets a Valyrian sword of any kind is if it chops off his head.
-The dragons three: Bound to happen sooner or later. Very well timed. But what does it mean? Why this sudden return of dragons? For one thing, it adds to Dany's claim to the throne. In that sense, watch out Robb and anyone else wearing a crown. For another, it points to something that only the Black Brothers are paying attention to: trouble of the magical kind is afoot. If you had an army of undead bearing down on you, and the only things that can kill them are dragonglass and fire, wouldn't you want some dragons on your side? Grow, dragons, grow!
And there you have it. Just about done. Not quite done, mind you. There's one more post coming, sharing some final thoughts on the characters, plots, and even the various cover art for this book. And maybe more. Come back soon for Part 34, and thank you for reading.