(Index to previous ADwD posts here.)
Chapter 37: The Prince of Winterfell
AKA Reek, AKA Theon. Again with the names! I guess it sort of does have some impact here, though. In spite of himself, Reek is starting to think again as Theon, but will it be enough?
In this chapter, Ramsay marries Jeyne Poole, who is pretending to be Arya. It’s not clear who knows that she is not Arya, apart from
Reek The Prince of Winterfell Theon. What is clear is that it if Jeyne doesn’t play her role, she won’t be doing much of anything for very long. Poor Jeyne, at the start of the chapter she just thinks she is going into a forced marriage under a false name; she has no idea of the sort of man she is marrying. Hanging over this whole chapter is the question of whether Theon will come sufficiently to himself to launch some kind of rescue.
He takes her to the godswood and gives her away, as the closest thing she has to a family member. Despite Theon’s brief fantasy that she will announce to everyone who she really is – getting them both killed, but also getting the truth out – she meekly submits, and he confirms for all those gathered that she is Arya. They then return to the repaired hall to feast. Lord Wyman Manderley is there, suspiciously cheery, having brought with him a great deal of food, including three giant ‘pork’ pies. Funny that he somehow lost three Freys along the way. It’s pretty clear that Wyman has had his revenge by baking those men into the pies, and now he’s taking great pleasure in feeding them to his oppressors.
Also present are a bunch of musicians – ‘Abel’ and his six women. I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking this is Mance and his six spearwives. Hanging over the feast is the question of whether there will be some great uprising before the marriage is consummated. ‘Abel’ is there to save ‘Arya’, ‘Reek’ flutters around the verge of becoming Theon again and coming to her rescue, and there are some very bitter northman in the room who might be persuaded to rise up, or at least sit back and do nothing. But no one is clearly who they seem, no one is sufficiently committed to their roles. Abel does nothing. Wyman is content to have his secret cannibalistic joke. Theon seems to come close, especially when Ramsay insists that Theon accompany him as the ‘Prince of Winterfell’ when he goes to bed her. Finding that ‘Arya’ is dry, he commands Theon to go down on her first – I presume in some mockery of the tradition of a lord’s right to have his way with a newly wedded bride of his subjects (Theon having once proclaimed himself Prince of Winterfell, Ramsay his subject, before their positions were so dramatically reversed). For a moment it seems he might refuse, but he does not.
This is a well-constructed chapter. It is tense and horrible on several levels. We want the last minute rescue, and Martin dangles it artfully before us again and again, but the time is not yet ripe. Any rescue at this point would wind up with a lot of people dead, including, probably, the lady herself. All the fake names and duplicity hover around, looking as though they should be symbolic of something deep, but I can’t find it. They seem to be symbolic of… the fact that everyone’s hiding something, which isn’t so much a symbol as a fact. Still, tensions and understated horror reign.
Chapter 38: The Watcher
Odd point of view, this. Instead of returning to one of the players in the scene, we follow Areo Hotah, man-with-axe, and servant of Prince Doran Martell. The scene unfolds as the prince is presented with a massive skull that is thought to have belonged to Ser Gregor Clegane – aka The Mountain. The Prince and his family are pleased by this, especially the Sand Snakes – Obera, Nymeria, and Tyene, bastard daughter’s of the prince’s dead brother Oberyn. Gregor killed Doran’s sister and her children, so they’re pretty pleased to hear that he had a painful death.
The head is presented to them by Ser Balon Swann, as a gift from the Lannisters. He’s also there to ask that Princess Myrcella (daughter of Cersei, betrothed to Trystene Martell) return to King’s Landing, and that Doran accompany them to become the boy king’s Hand. Doran suspects that this is a trick, which is confirmed by Balon’s obvious discomfort when Doran proposes travel by sea, as opposed to by road, where it is suspected there would have been an ambush. Balon is also concerned to find Myrcella and her protector, Ser Aerys Oakenhart are away at the Water Gardens, and not there to greet him. The reason for this is that Aerys has been killed following a rebellion plotted by Princess Arianna and the Sand Snakes, for which the Sand Snakes had been detained in the Spear Tower until recently. I honestly can’t remember the details of this – I had forgotten this plotline completely until this chapter, and only now have vague recollections of what happened.
Anyway, after the presentation of the skull, the prince, the Sand Snakes, the Princess Arianna, and (for some reason) Areo Hotah retreat to discuss what to do in private. Doran would be a fool to go to King’s Landing. Balon will need to see Myrcella, but they need to work out how to handle the fact that his brother in arms is dead. The Sand Snakes are generally reactionary, but Doran advises caution, because he knows a few things they don’t. A plan emerges. Princess Myrcella has been led to believe that Gerold Dayne (aka Darkstar) tried to kill her and that Ser Aerys died protecting her. Doran mainly wishes to maintain a holding-pattern, and will send Lady Nym in his stead to King’s Landing. He has heard of a fleet departing from Lys. He hopes this is Quentyn with dragons and Daenerys. Of course, we know that it’s the lost prince, aka Young Griff. Either way, it could go well, for them.
This chapter was interesting. I didn’t remember any of the players well, but they do have an interesting plot. One of the Sand Snakes is apparently wearing a see-through dress, which I found a bit odd and rather unlikely, but ho hum. I like Prince Doran’s cunning. I like that we’re hearing of some interaction between what’s going on in the south and Westeros, finally. I like that everyone’s going to be very surprised when they find out whose fleet it is. I do feel sorry for poor Quentyn, though, off on his fool’s quest with his family thinking he might somehow have succeeded already. Smart though they may be, they clearly have no idea of the scale of the task they have set him.