|Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in HBO's "Game of Thrones"|
Tyrion is cramped in a cabin on some ship, getting mean drunk. He is haunted by his memories and tries to drench them in wine, but he clearly fails. His thoughts are flickering between Tysha, the death of his father, and his last words. “Where whores go” roams his mind as much as a constant headache and sea sickness. While he lies there, he remembers how he left his father’s solar to rejoin Varys, who brought him to the harbor on the ship he is no on. He muses why he didn’t kill Varys, not getting a satisfying answer.
In his drunken state, he tries to weigh his options, not yet wanting to realize he has none. He is on a ship bound to the Free Cities, and he can’t control his destiny right now. Instead, he makes up pipe dreams about going to Dorne and crowning Myrcella like he plotted with Oberyn Martell, or to go North and join the Night’s Watch after all. More than anything, however, the thought of Tysha haunts him, and he tries desperately to find out “where whores go”, so he can go there as well and find her.
When the ship finally arrives at port, he is crammed into a barrel and rolled to his destination, which is revealed as the mansion of Illyrio Mopatis. Illyrio greets him, but Tyrion is in no state to talk sense and is quickly brought to his new chambers, where he can finally find some sleep. On the next day, he is washed by servants – slaves in all but name – and fed in the kitchen, where he muses about taking the ugly, old cooks into bed. He then finds the wine cellar of Illyrio, getting drunk in the luxurious gardens of the mansion, where talks nonsense about Dorne to a washerwomen, proposing to marry her. She doesn’t understand a word and leaves. He is informed by a beautiful servant girl that speaks the Common Tongue that Illyrio wants to dine with him and that she is at his service. It quickly becomes apparent that she is the whore of Viserys Targaryen, although Tyrion doesn’t puzzle it out himself, yet too clouded by wine. Instead, realizes that he doesn’t want her, instead frightening her by threatening to strangle her and getting a uncanny satisfaction of her fear. He then goes to Illyrio.
The two men engage in conversation, circling around each other and skirmishing with words. When the first dish is served – mushrooms in butter and garlic – Tyrion suspects them poisoned, a thought that Illyrio first reinforces, only to dissolve the situation by eating them himself. Tyrion sobers up enough over the hinted threats by Illyrio to finally take him seriously and listen to him. At the end of their table conversation, Tyrion has to admit to himself that crowning Myrcella would be self-serving only and kill the girl, and him in the process, and that it is not a viable strategy. Cunningly, Illyrio uses the vacuum in Tyrion’s thought this revelation leaves, and proposes him to ally with Daenerys, without yet revealing her complete identity, instead hinting at “the dragon has three heads”. With that, the chapter ends.
It is devastating to see what has become of Tyrion. He was bitter after losing the trial by combat at the end of “A Storm of Swords”, granted, but since Jaime confided the truth, his whole world came crumbling down. He hates Jaime now nearly as much as he hates Cersei, and his father as well. However, he still keeps a strange awe of Tywin Lannister, even as he has killed him, fearing his wroth even in death. His whole ploy about going to Dorne and crowning Myrcella is only a last attempt to hurt Cersei, and in the end, he has to admit that to himself, and in the process admit to himself also that he is truly lost. His life doesn’t have any purpose left; he is expelled from his home, never to return, without power or money, left only with his hideous appearance.
Illyrio Mopatis, for whom he has only contempt – clearly inhabited from his father, who loathed the “cheesemongers” as cowards and spineless lickspittles – uses this to his maximum advantage, probably urged and advised by Varys. Tyrion will continue in his following chapters to mock Illyrio and the other merchant princes as “cheesemongers” and making up many half-witted jokes with “cheese” and the smell of it to denounce them. He has become bitter and doesn’t really care about the consequences anymore. It seems almost as if he half-consciously wants to be killed and tries to provoke his surroundings to that end; clearly, there is not much compassion left in him. He terrorizes servants and other weak people just because he can, something he wouldn’t have done before. The events have hit him hard.
The mushrooms served by Illyrio are an important point in this chapter. Tyrion realizes the immediate danger he is in clearly for the first time, and Illyrio uses it in order to reinforce his doubts and fear and to get him to sober up in respect to getting clear thoughts again. He also mentions that poisoned mushrooms are a light way of committing suicide, hurting only a bit and killing you quickly. Tyrion is really tempted to take one of the mushrooms as he still thinks they are poisoned and to end his life then and there, and we will see that the option is with him the entire book, since he will later pluck some really poisonous ones and hide them in his clothing to kill himself should he find himself in a pointless situation. Under no circumstances will he fall into Cersei’s hands alive. With this decision he regains a bit of confidence and freedom of action, not much, but it’s a first step of a long journey ahead.
In the conversation with Illyrio, two interesting side notes can be found. The first one is the disdain of Illyrio regarding the arms of Westeros. When Tyrion rushes forward to defend the honor of his family name, claiming he is “a lion still”, Illyrio only laughs and mocks this Westerosi mentality, stating that he could lock up Tyrion with a real lion and see if the beast acknowledges him as his own. Tyrion has then grudgingly to admit that he is no lion and just bears the picture. In a second note, Illyrio mentions that Pentos is ruled by prince from a noble family who is given every luxury he wants, but if something bad happens – bad harvest, storm, something like that – he is ritually slain. Not exactly a position you want to be in, clearly.