|Davos Seaworth (Artwork by Amoka)|
Davos is interred for days now in the White Harbor prison, called the Wolf’s Den. He is bored by the routine, but treated properly. His food is good, better even than the goaler’s, he has parchment and quill and ink and a book to read, and his bed is halfway comfortable. He knows that something’s not right, since he should be dead already and not be treated that good, but he doesn’t quite know what it is. The goaler Garth always call him “the dead man”, not reassuring him that much, but there is nothing he can do about to it. He likes the other two goalers better, Therry and one Ser Bartimus.
The latter told him of the history of the Wolf’s Den. The prison-fortress constitutes the oldest part of White harbor, being occupied by some offspring of the Stark family perished in a rebellion many centuries ago. Later the fortress was held by others, among them some slavers from the Free Cities using a period of weak kings in the north, before the Manderlys took it and the evolving city of White Harbor as their seat. After recalling the history, Davos writes a letter to his wife, making amends for not being there and telling her that he loved her, and after that to his son Devan, urging him to be good and to become a good man. He is not yet finished when Robett Glover comes in to fetch him.
Davos is surprised to see Glover, whom he hadn’t anticipated here and who tells him that Stannis promised his brother Galbart Deepwood Motte if he supported him, which he does, and that he is grateful to Stannis for getting rid of the Ironmen. He also tells Davos that he won’t die, and that Moat Cailin has fallen and that Roose Bolton and a Frey force joined with Ramsay’s troops. He then urges him to follow him, leading Davos through a series of tunnels into the proper castle, as not to be seen by anyone.
They meet Wyman Manderly in a shady room with a big sheepskin map of the North at the Wall. Manderly tells him that Davos is supposed to be dead, and that his son Wylis has safely returned and that he slipped out the welcoming feast under the pretext of his bad belly. When Davos asks, Manderly tells him that a criminal of roughly similar features was killed in his stead and his hand shortened. He also tells Davos that he had to make up the ruse in the throne room since he can’t trust anyone (in fact, only his elder granddaughter knew about it), and that the Iron Throne wouldn’t return Wylis before he proved his loyalty. Davos’ arrival was an opportunity to do that.
When Davos tries to come to the subject of allegiance to Stannis, Manderly tells him that his interest lies elsewhere and that he wants to find the Stark heir to return him and that he needs Davos for it. Surprised about the information, Davos asks Manderly how he can know about it, who in turn produces Wex. Wex told them by writing down that he hid in the Hearttree for days after Ramsay’s attack, that way also clearing Theon of the suspicions that he was behind it and calling the Bolton lie. Wex saw Bran and Rickon depart from Winterfell and trailed Rickon and Osha to their destination.
Manderly then returns to the subject of the wedding, his daughter marrying a Frey. He asks Davos if in the south guest gifts are still given, and tells him that he plans to make three horses as a gift to the Freys who brought none of their own, and declares his intent to take 100 knights to Winterfell where he was summoned to swear fealty and to witness the marriage of Ramsay with Arya Stark. Before Davos can puzzle out what he wants, suddenly Manderly returns to the subject of Rickon and tells Davos that he needs his smuggling abilities to get Rickon back and to reinstate him as lord of Winterfell. Should he agree to do so, he would support Stannis’ claim to the throne. When Davos agrees, Manderly tells him where Rickon is: a place where cannibals live.
This chapter proves that Davos is still alive and that the news of him being beheaded and mounted on the gate was just a ruse of Manderly’s. I have to admit, when first reading the chapters before and the news in “A Feast for Crows”, I believed Martin that he killed Davos. It seemed to fit, especially since Davos’ mission was hopeless by rights from the start. But now, we get Manderly instituted as a major player on the northern board of the game of thrones. He wants to bring the Starks back in power, although we can’t say if he does for genuine gratitude for the hospitality they directed at his forbearers or just because he hopes for some gains.
Rickon, on the other hand, seems to be on Skagos. The island is said to be inhabited by cannibals, and since Osha departed to the east back in “A Clash of Kings”, it makes sense for them to be at this unlikeliest of places. Wyman Manderly hinted that he owns a larger fleet than anyone suspects, although it remains unclear what he wants to do with it. If he throws in with Stannis he can substitute the loss of Salladhor Saan, that’s for sure, and enhance Stannis’ options greatly.
Manderly’s actions clearly are directed by his thirst for revenge for the death of his son Wendel, who was murdered, and by the insolence of the Freys. When he asks Davos about the guest gifts, it remains unclear to Stannis’ Hand what Manderly wants of him, but clearly Manderly intends to kill the Freys on their way to Winterfell, which he in fact will do. Manderly really is a more cunning, brutal und unscrupulous man than one ever imagined from his jolly sons and his appearance in “A Clash of Kings” at the feast in Winterfell.
It will remain a mystery as to what Davos does next, since this is his last chapter. It can be taken for granted, however, that he will succeed in his voyage to Skagos since Martin announced he won’t introduce new POV and also said that Osha will be in “The Winds of Winter”, so either Davos or another POV has to get there, and there is no other one with a reason to do so. It’s a bit of a disappointment, similar to Bran’s chapters, that only so few insights to Davos’ storyline are given, which belongs to the best that Martin produced.
As to side notes, we get some interesting information in Stark history, as the kings of old surely were a different lot from the nice, stern family we used to know. Bartimus told Davos that in the old days, bloody ritual sacrifices were done before the hearttrees, and that the north was a much more wild and savage landscape back then. It is also interesting to note that a substantial force of Freys moves north with Roose Bolton, indicating that their alliance really is a close one. The scum of Westeros joins forces; no wonder that resistance pops up in the unlikeliest places.