July 03, 2011

Daenerys I

Daenerys Targaryen (Artwork by Amok)
Daenerys sits in her throne room, awaiting the arrival of Grey Worm and some other advisors. Already there is Ser Barristan the Bold, her seneschal Reznak mo Reznak and the “Shavepate” Skahaz mo Kandaq. The Shavepates are a new movement in Meereen, the collaborators making their new affiliation public by shaving their heads instead of producing the enormous hair styles the Meereenese normally favor. A body was found at night, one of her Unsullied, murdered by at least six unknown attackers and left with goat genitals in his throat and the sign of the harpy. We learn that a terrorist movement named “The Sons of the Harpy” plagues Dany’s rule in the city and has its root in the Meereenese nobility.

The Unsullied are unequal to the task of protecting the city, but the Dothraki are worse (and therefore used to secure the hinterland of the city) and the Stormcrows try to secure a passage to the Lhazareen, as to get a trade route for food imports. So for the moment, everyone needs to live with the situation of constant terror, and precautions have to be intensified. Dany raises the bounty for hints to the attackers from 100 to a 1000 gold pieces, but no one really believes that this will work, since the Sons of the Harpy consist of the rich merchants and the nobility.

After this, the court is opened and petitioners step forward. Dany is really uncomfortable on her throne bench and with her crown, growing only slowly accustomed to it. The first petitioner is Lord Ghael, an ambassador from Astapor. The Butcher King Cleon (“The Great Cleon”) ruling there sends her gift, and from her remarks we learn that he approached her several times now with a marriage, which she rejected. The ambassador informs her that Cleon means to march against Yunkai, who prepares for war (supposedly versus Meereen, but one can’t know). Dany declares that she won’t join the effort and wishes Astapor to restrain from it too.

The second petitioner is the wealthy merchant Hizdahr zo Loraq, who pleads her to reopen the fighting pits. There the fighting slaves of old fought their bloody battles, but Dany declines, very much to the discontent of the Meereenese who love their bloody “sport”. Hizdahr is described as handsome, if not for his silly hair style. After this petitioner, Dany decrees that the rest is to be taken in turn between the nobility and the freedmen. Worthy of mention is a young noble who pleads for justice for the murder of his parents in the attack on Meereen, which Dany declines for the same reason as a punishment for a former slave owner who used to rape his slaves: she needs to make a clean cut, and her laws only apply since her establishment as ruler. This makes no one happy, of course. Dany also alienates a relative of one of her closer allies: Grazdan zo Galare, the cousin of the Green Grace, the supreme priest of Meereen, wants to press money out of his former slaves and is judged to pay them a large sum instead. The Green Grace has been known to support her rule, however.

When the hall slowly empties in the evening, only petitioners remain who claim to have lost cattle to the hunting dragons. They all get paid for their losses, but fraud in this becomes rampant. Dany decides to pay everything nonetheless, but decrees that henceforth petitioners have to swear a holy vow to discourage fraud. The last remaining petitioner is a farmer, who obviously is afraid to come forward. He has some burned bones as a proof of what happened, and to her horror Dany has to realize that Drogon killed a child on his hunt.

Daenerys’ first chapter is rich with information and sets up the stage for the whole Meereenese plot over the book. We learn that the city is unruly, plagued with domestic terrorism and generally indifferent or opposed to her rule. The freedmen are attacked regularly. Yunkai is preparing for war and forging alliances as far as Volantis and New Ghis. The military situation looks dire: Dany doesn’t possess a fleet to secure the trade (on which the benevolence of the merchants founds), she has not of yet any source of food and the city’s supplies are clearly dwindling. She possesses only two free companies, the Stormcrows under their attractive leader Daario Naharis, whom Dany more than ever wishes in her bed, and the Second Sons under the blowhard Brown Ben Plumm. The freedmen are trained, Barristan trains some knights, and she has the Unsullied, but of all it is going awfully slow.

In the city itself, Daenerys tries to establish a new way, to create a “New Meereen”. The first in this movement shave their heads, like Zar Peter the Great in the Russia of old cut the braids of his advisors to show the dawn of a new age, but they are few. The really powerful men still have their extravagant hair styles, as witnessed by Hizdahr zo Loraq, who will become important later on. Winning the Meereenese is difficult, since they lost much in the war (163 of their leaders were nailed on piles as retribution for the slave children). The powerful family of Pahl is especially wroth since she lost one member in the duel versus Strong Belwas (Oznak zo Pahl) and one defending the gate when it got smashed in by the Unsullied.

Dany also dislikes the Meereenese culture, having taken to call wearing their gowns (tokars) as the “floppy ears”, after a witty remark from Ben Plumm. The floppy ears will continue to be a remark throughout the whole book whenever she poses as something she rather wouldn’t. The pyramids in which the nobility of Meereen lives are fortresses of ploys against her, but she can’t do anything against it. She acknowledges that winning the Meereenese is key to ruling the city, but she can’t really commit herself to it. Since she has a general dislike for the people which she will never come to lose, she should go with the advice of her Shavepate and go for a hard line, instead of showing false mercy that is only bound to give her more enemies.

Three interesting side notes can be found in the chapter: one the one hand, Dany at some point muses about the death of her nephew Aegon (who in fact is older than her) and that he would have made a fine husband for her. Obviously, she can’t know that he is still alive and therefore her musing has no real consequence, but as we will later see, the groundwork for such an alliance was laid. If Aegon and Connington had arrived in Meereen on time or, better put, met her on the way – how much better would all have worked out for her? Another thing is the burning of the olive trees. When Dany approached the city in “A Storm of Swords”, the Meereenese had burned all olive trees in the surroundings, denying her wood for siege machines. This is only mentioned shortly but is part of the bigger problem since the city has lost a valuable trade good and can never find a substitute for it. Later, when Dany realizes that, the full inclination will come to her. At the moment, it’s just a random thought. Lastly, it is shortly mentioned that Rhaegal burned the tokar of Dany’s seneschal Reznak mo Reznak at some point prior. What seems to be just a funny fact in the first chapter will later be used as justification by the Yunkai’i to demand the slaying of the dragons as a prerequisite for peace.

5 comments:

  1. Finally read this chapter...Dany strikes me as strangely disconnected here. I say this because her thoughts fly to Westros a great deal, and I truly don't think she wants to be here.

    Ruling is hard work, and no one appreciates what you do. I was of the opinion that Dany could have at least had the slave who was still living in that boy's home kicked out, but she wouldn't. Continue down this road, and she'll have even more enemies than she can ever handle!

    And now the dragons are getting out of control. I was upset to see a child was killed, but not surprised. Drogon is a large dragon, and undisciplined. Does Dany even know how to train them? I mean, to not eat people, and such. HUGE problem. perhaps she should start making them a priority?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah, she probably should have, but then she was too busy ruling.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Just wanted to say I just discovered your blog and I'm a fan already. Just started my re-read today and you catch some stuff that I missed first time around. Much appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow! I've already read the book. Now reading your blog, I can't believe how many details I missed in the first read. Great work!

    ReplyDelete