|Davos Seaworth (Artwork by Amoka)|
Davos is fetched from his cell by a knight who announces that he now might see Lord Manderly. The knight, upon being asked by Davos, presents himself as Marlon Manderly, cousin to the lord. While they march out of the Wolf’s Den and over to the New Castle, Davos reflects on being imprisoned rather than accepted as lord and envoy of king Stannis. They walk through a long hall, being decorated with the prows of ancient ships and other trophies of valor from the family of Manderly. The throne room’s doors are guarded by two statues of merling kings.
The throne itself, to which Davos is now admitted, is also decorated by elements of sea and seafaring. On the dais, an enormous throne contains the abnormally fat Lord Wyman Manderly. To his despair, Davos has to see that the whole court has taken attendance, including the Frey envoys, who would kill him in an instant given the chance. Davos observes that Manderly looks bad, half a corpse, totally tired and sagging into his throne. Behind him sit two women, one fat and pink, the other a young girl with a braid dyed green. To Manderly’s right, Ser Marlon Manderly takes his seat, to his left stands a maester, equally fat, with a head of blond curls.
When he is requested to kneel before Manderly, Davos declines, stating that he is a lord and envoy and hand of the king to Stannis Baratheon. While not forced to kneel, his status is not accepted. Manderly accuses him of being a smuggler, stealing from White Harbor for years and now again stealing himself into the city. The Freys demand the he be killed immediately, and the fat woman assists in their plea. When Davos asks for a more private opportunity to talk, Manderly replies that he has no secrets before his friends and family. Davos challenges the notion, accusing the Freys of having murdered his son Wendel. Their spokesman rejects the notion, stating that the Red Wedding was the doing of Robb Stark, who transformed into a wolf and started killing the guests, while other northmen transformed and killed as well. Davos asks the knight for his name, which is given as Jared Frey, and calls him a liar. That provokes an outrage, and the Freys threaten to kill him, and when Manderly tells them that he won’t have it in his hall, they promise to kill him if he ever leaves the city.
After that intermission, the talk goes back to Davos’ mission. The fat woman cries out, accusing him of bringing death and blood to them, which Davos can’t really deny. Manderly’s maester points out that Stannis Baratheon’s claim to the Iron Throne is unlawful, since Tommen as a son of Robert comes before the brother. When Davos brings forth the argument about Tommen being a bastard born of incest, he is asked about proof, but he give any except Stannis’ word. Another girl speaks out, saying that words are wind and men always lie, as maidens can vouch for. After another cry-in of the dangers Stannis brings by the fat woman, Davos asks her her name, which is given as Leona, wife to Willys Manderly. Davos knows that Willys is a prisoner of the Iron Throne, dismissing her outbursts as the talk of fear, realizing however how his demands must sound.
Davos states that Stannis fights the wildlings and the Ironmen and that Ramsay Bolton is a cruel lunatic. The maester replies that neither wildlings nor Ironmen have troubles White Harbor in many decades, and accuses Stannis of being in league with “the red sorceress”, which Davos can only soften by telling them that while Selyse has taken the new faith, many retainers of Stannis remain with the Seven. For the first time in the conversation, Lord Manderly himself speaks up, explaining the terms he has been given for keeping the king’s peace: he has to give up the claims for the Hornwood lands, support Bolton and pay three thousand stags for Willys, a rather fair price for peace. Stannis, on the other hand, can give nothing. Davos replies to that that Stannis gives him the chance to do his duty and that he would give him the chance for avenging the murder of his son.
Surprisingly, the little girl speaks out again, telling the hall that house Manderly has sworn an ancient oath to house Stark, and that they are betraying their trust and their help at the moment, allying themselves with the murderers of the Starks. Leona and others try to hush her and name her Wylla, although it remains unclear whose daughter she is. Rhaegar Frey succeeds in finally interrupting her, telling her that they didn’t murder all Starks, since Arya still lives and will soon wed Ramsay Bolton and that it would be her duty to be obedient to Bolton as new warden of the North. He says to admire her loyalty and hopes that she will show the same loyalty to her husband Little Walder Frey once they are wed. Before the suspect can be deepened, however, Manderly assists Rhaegar Frey in his condemnations of Robb Stark and declares that Davos is neither lord nor envoy, but a liar and smuggler, and that he wants him beheaded and his hands presented before supper, his head stuffed with an onion. With that sentence, the chapter ends.
The chapter is pretty straightforward. We learn of the political situation of house Manderly and White Harbor at the moment and get a glimpse of what the Frey-Bolton-alliance does. The Freys are in White Harbor to coerce the allegiance of house Manderly into the actual needs of this alliance, that becomes clear, and their presence in the throne room and how Manderly reacts to what they say speaks a clear language. They are in power, and they use it, forcing everyone to be at their whim. Manderly himself seems like a broken man, being shoved around by his “guests” and mocked by their absurd story of the Red Wedding.
Of course, he isn’t. It is nigh impossible to learn this from the read of the chapter, since Manderly really does a great spectacle. The way in which he presents himself as a broken man, hunkered down by grief and despair is gigantic, and one really buys into his scheme reading it. The servile readiness with which he accepts everything the Freys tell him, his silence in the whole matter reinforce this opinion, all the while others do the talking for him, so he doesn’t have to present himself: the fat woman Leona cries around, making a big show (and probably an honest one, since she doesn’t seem to be included in the scheme), the girl Wylla plays the role of the loyal, wild thing, as to disturb any doubts about the readiness of submission, the maester is the main collaborator, while Marlon is the gruffly knight who wants the best for the realm. The plot works well, and no one suspects Manderly.
It is worth mentioning that the story of the Red Wedding as a ploy of a werewolf Robb Stark isn’t a blatantly stupid and presuming as it may seem. Of course everyone knows that the story is total bullshit. If anyone was inclined to believe it, one look into Jared’s smirking face while telling it would show it different. This story is a mean of politics, a show of force. By telling it, the Freys force everyone who hears it to either challenge the tale, like Davos does, or to swallow and support it – like Manderly does. In that way, the Freys force everyone to stand behind him and to get a littlebit of the guilt themselves. This is clever, but not very subtle and can only be done with overwhelming force, which they currently have.
As a side note, the descriptions of the long floor and the throne room are beautiful. They seem like the empire of a merling king rather than of a fat lord playing a side role in the game of thrones. Really great descriptions there.