|Lord Jon Connington|
Jon Connington is aboard the Shy Maid, angrily and impatiently awaiting the return of Haldon, who was sent to acquire three horses. Connington is angry about Haldon for letting Tyrion escape and doesn’t trust him anymore. He intends to take Aegon and Duck and to ride out to the Golden Company which is encamped nearby. Lemore advices against this, saying that they hid Aegon for so long and that they haven’t met Daenerys yet. Connington remembers his own days with the Company, thinking fondly of its now dead commander Myles Toyne. He then tells Lemore that he made his decision, thinking that she was brought into the party to teach Aegon religion, not to bring him into his throne, which would be his task.
When Aegon emerges on the deck, wearing rich cloth in red and black, looking like a prince, they have a short talk about trust. Aegon tells Connington that Tyrion told him to trust no one, and Connington agrees that it is not the worst course; he counsels him to go a middle-way, however, being tight with his trust giving it only to those who earned it, but being openhearted with these precious few. Aegon seems to take the advice. When Haldon finally returns, they mount their horses and make for the camp of the Golden Company.
Said camp is very disciplined. Surrounded by moat and palisade, it presents itself well fortified. In the interior, all tents are erected in line with avenues between them. There are clean latrines dug and the horses and even some elephants are tied in rows. Guards are patrolling the perimeter. When Connington, Duck and Aegon arrive, a captain named Franklyn Flowers is called to greet them. He obviously knows Connington, greeting him as an old comrade in arms, and bringing him into the camp to the tent of the commanders. While Flowers go in, the party has to wait outside and gets a moment to muse over the skulls.
Every commander of the Golden Company, starting with Bittersteel, had his head cooked and stripped of meat upon his death and the skull then dipped in gold, to be preserved on a pike and carried in front of the company once it returned to Westeros. Connington’s thoughts then wander to his past, when he twelve years ago had to leave the Golden Company in disgrace as part of Varys’ ruse. The slight in his honor still gnaws at him, and he swears revenge for it.
They are then admitted to the tent. In it, all the commander are assembled, roughly half of them bearing Westerosi names, some extinct for a long time, like Mudd, Cole or Lothston. Although not all of them wear them legally, the tradition wears on. They are greeted with mixed feelings, and Jon isn’t exactly sure why. When he finally announces Aegon as what he is and asks the help of the company, the reaction shows him that they already knew. Harry Strickland, the commander of the company, foot sore and over cautious, has already told them. He engages into an argument with Connington who urges the company to marsh at once to Meereen to meet Daenerys there since she doesn’t come west. The company would bleed on the Demon Road, he says, since there are no ships to be had.
Connington does not really have any arguments against it when Aegon speaks up, proposing not to go to Meereen to his aunt but to let her either be queen of Slaver’s Bay or follow him, as he intends to go to Westeros. He summons the company to go with him. Connington is put aback when he hears Aegon talk like that, but he instantly likes the idea, being sick of the intrigues and secret plans and throws his lot in against Illyrio’s and Varys’ plan. Half of the company is also enthusiastic, finally swaying all the present captains, and the company decides to go to Westeros with Aegon.
Connington retires to the tent he was given, taking off his clothes. He thinks that the dice are cast and that they are doing the right thing. All he wants are two more years, to see the ascend of Aegon VI to power and to see Griffin’s Roost one last time. When he pulls off his gloves, it is revealed that he got Greyscale when rescuing Tyrion, with two fingers already going black.
There are a lot of things happening in this chapter, and a lot of information is given. Essentially, four big topics dominate the chapter. The first is the character of Jon Connington, who is the prototype of a soldier. The second is the new Aegon, for the first time being the prince he until now only claimed to be. The third is the Golden Company and its rich history. Fourth, at last, we find the failing plans of Varys and Illyrio.
Jon Connington’s character is pretty straightforward. He knows how to play the intrigues and secret plans since he’s on no account stupid, but he is a soldier. He wants to fight an enemy, and conquer the Iron Throne and his old home now instead of roaming the east, training and hiding and making alliances. He is also a slow man to forgive. The mistrust he places in Haldon shows his nature, since the Halfmaester was too cunning, too intelligent, too well spoken for his taste. Connington is a follower, one of the high sort, but a follower still. He could be Aegon’s Kevan.
Aegon himself had, it is established again in this chapter, a very good upbringing with a very delicate training. He was taught everything there is to know about the theory of being a good king, but it is definitely time to put it to the test and to let him do and decide something for a change. He performs remarkably well with the Golden Company, although his plan was given in by Tyrion and the youth is speaking. He heeds advice by men more experienced than he is, and that’s a good thing. Let’s see how this goes in the war in Westeros when the Winds of Winter blow.
The Golden Company reeks with old Westerosi history on every corner. The golden skulls, the names of their commanders, their Westerosi traditions and high esteem for their origins is really interesting and produces an attractive mix with their professionalism as mercenaries. Some of them are truly loyalists, many want to go home, and about half of them will be in only for the gold. Their discipline will definitely give them an advantage over the normal levy armies of Westeros, and the elephants are already mentioned here as the bane of cavalry, but in the end, they are very likely to play little part inthe war, as witnesses by their easy dismissal at the end of the book when the invasion starts.
It is really intriguing to see that all the complicated and sophisticated plans that Illyrio and Varys made come to naught in the end. In the previous books, they seemed to be superior schemers, always knowing what will happen next, and that’s an impression they tried to maintain against all odds. But in the end, most of their plans simply fail, since they are only human after all and can’t count in the actions of other humans. This element is great and really gives the story the specific touch of A Song of Ice and Fire that so much elevates this series over your normal stuff.