Chapter 6 – The Merchant’s Man
Quentyn Martell is in Volantis looking for a ship to take him to Meereen so he can marry Danaerys. He and his companions are pretending to be wine merchants looking to establish a trade. It seems most ships won’t go to Slaver’s Bay at the moment because of the wars, but he and Gerris Drinkwater have found a ship called Adventure which might. The Captain offers to take them at three times the usual price and they agree to come back in the morning. On the way back to their lodgings, Quentyn surmises that they will never make it if they go on the Adventure and that the Captain will kill them as soon as they’re on the open seas. They have no intention of going back.
Quentyn started off with six companions, three of whom died in a pirate raid on their way to Volantis. One of his remaining companions, the ‘big man’ favours going to Meereen via the Valerian road, but it is equally dangerous and will take much longer. He and Gerris ride through Volantis on a wagon pulled by a dwarf elephant and return to the Merchant’s House where they have lodgings. Quentyn wonders why Danaerys would want to marry him and what he has to offer, and settles on the idea that she would want Dorne. Outside the Merchant’s House there are three sellswords recruiting for their company/ship, the Windblown. The big man is in their rooms and the three of them discuss their options. Gerris has an idea.
So, they’re going to join up with the Windblown are they? And pirate their way to Meereen? Quentyn Martell is a very serious young man. I like the twist of his insecurity in terms of what he can offer Danaerys so that she would want to marry him. In this setting, it’s a nice piece of gender role reversal.
Volantis is cool. It has dwarf elephants. It’s nice to get the other side of the Martell plans and this chapter reveals that Quentyn had met with his father in the Water Gardens. Doran Martell had planned for this to be Arianne going to wed Viserys. Lucky escape for her, then.
It looks like there are two levels of the game of thrones being played. Doran Martell, Varys and Illyrio, and Littlefinger are all playing a much longer game than the Five Kings.
Chapter 5 – Tyrion
Illyrio Mopatis is taking Tyrion to Volantis, where he will meet with Griff, and await the arrival of Danaerys. Illyrio believes she must have moved on from Meereen by now but has not had any news for a while. Tyrion questions Illyrio’s motives. Danaerys has sacked the cities of Slaver’s Bay and freed the slaves; Illyrio must have interests in that trade so why would he support her? Illyrio tells him that Viserys had promised he would be Master of Coin and tells Tyrion about his friendship with Varys.
They eat a lot of food and travel in a litter along the Valerian road to the Rhoyne. Illyrio reveals that it was he who arranged for the Golden Company to break its contract with Myr and to go east to meet with the Dragon Queen. They are travelling through legendary lands that Tyrion read about when he was a child. Tyrion’s grief is causing him to re-evaluate everything.
There is quite a lot of backstory in this chapter and Tyrion recalls legends and stories from a long time ago. It’s quite useful filling in and world-building. Where is all the food coming from though? Usually when Martin is spending a page describing the many dishes of a feast, the characters are in a castle or mansion, so the food is clearly coming from a kitchen. But in this case, it seems to appear from nowhere. Food is definitely a thing in this series. Martin makes a point of letting us know who’s eating well and who isn’t. Clearly, it is a reflection of wealth and status.
I’m wondering why Illyrio is so open with Tyrion about his relationship with Varys and their plans. There’s a point when Illyrio says “She could make good use of you.” which indicates that he is doing this for Dany’s sake not Tyrion’s. And that makes a bit more sense, actually. Tyrion is another gift Illyrio can give to Danaerys.
Who are Griff and his son, Young Griff?
Chapter 4 – Bran
Bran, Hodor, Meera and Jojen are travelling north with Coldhands, an ice zombie dressed as a ranger and riding an elk. It’s cold. Really, really cold. When Bran slips into Summer’s skin he doesn’t feel the cold so much and can detect the life in the snowscape that seems lifeless when he’s in his own skin. Summer sniffs the elk, trying to work out whether he can kill it and eat it. Bran slips into Hodor’s skin for a moment; Hodor doesn’t like it but struggles less each time. Coldhands has a murder of ravens that follow them.
They are being tracked by a group of men. Coldhands goes to deal with it and insists Meera stay with the group. The rest go on to try to find a village for some shelter. Jojen is really struggling but says he won’t die here and that they must do as Coldhands says. They are freezing and starving and the village is difficult to find. Eventually, Bran slips inside Summer and uses the wolf’s superior sense of smell to find it. Summer goes hunting and Bran goes with him. Summer finds three wolves eating Night Watch men and fights the alpa male for the kill. He wins and eats the best bits. One of the men has an amputated arm.
When Bran returns to himself, he finds that Coldhands has brought them a pig and they have a fire. Coldhands says that because they are in a hut under the snow the fire won’t be seen and won’t attract Others. Bran challenges Coldhands about his black hands and how he won’t come near the fire. Coldhands admits he is dead. Jojen and Meera say they have to stick with it.
Okay, so lots of questions here. The three wolves that Summer sees off are Varamyr’s wolves and the alpha is carrying Varamyr. This is obviously not a coincidence – are they going to follow? Will Varamyr try to take Hodor? Bran slipping into Hodor’s skin is much creepier after the prologue. Hodor doesn’t fight as much; is it because he’s mentally sub-normal, does that make him an easier target? Maybe Bran is being really abusive by doing that and he doesn’t realise it. What if Varamyr tries to take Hodor? Oh no!
And Coldhands is obviously an ice zombie – but it’s taken ages for Bran to work that out? But how does he get to have agency and why isn’t he trying to kill them? A special kind of ice zombie then. There are hints that Coldhands in Benjen Stark. Maybe it’s his Stark-ness that makes him special.
Then there’s the one-armed Night Watch corpse. Is it Donal Noye? Didn’t he die at Castle Black? If it’s not Donal Noye, then who? I don’t recall any other one-armed characters. And were they zombies or alive when the wolves got them? If they were alive, where did they come from? Maybe they were still stragglers from Mormont’s expedition trying to get back to the Wall.
It feels like this is the first chapter in which things are moving forward. The previous chapters, even Tyrion’s, have felt a little like catching up on where everyone is and what they’ve been doing since the end of ASOS, so this is exciting.