|Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister in HBO's Game of Thrones|
Tyrion and Illyrio finally reach their first destination: the Little Rhoyne, a headstream of the Rhoyne. They meet two men here, one introducing himself as Haldon, also called the Halfmaester, and one Ser Rolly Duckfield, called Duck. Illyrio invites them for a feat, but they want to press on quickly, so he gives Tyrion over to them, introducing him as Yollo. Tyrion himself quickly chooses Hugor Hill as “real” name since he can’t hide his Westerosi accent. Ser Duck soon proves to be a droll companion, being of low birth and knighted by Griff, the sellsword they are heading too. Haldon is an educated man.
They debate some strategic facts about the Dothraki. Rumor has it that two khals, Khal Zekko and Khal Motho, are making for Qohor. Zekko is no surprise, evidently, since he regularly comes there to collect tribute, but Motho’s khalasaar is said to consist of old and wounded and otherwise disabled and seems to be desperate. The reason for this desperation is Khal Pono, the first of Khal Drogo’s old Kos, who has the greatest khalasaar around and swallows the others one by one. After this conversation, Illyrio leaves them for Pentos.
On the way to Griff, Tyrion has a little conversation with Haldon about dragons. The Halfmaester is using the legend of Serwyn of the Mirror Shield to test if Tyrion really is who he claims to be, and Tyrion can tell him the story. When Haldon goes further and asks him about a certain event from the Dance of Dragons, Tyrion can show a great deal of knowledge about the period and even disprove some facts that Haldon himself got wrong. At the end of the exchange, it become clear that both men had underestimated each other and better are more careful of what they say. Duck, in the meantime, is not so shy.
He engages in tells and local lore about the Rhoyne, mentioning the Shrouded Lord and his Stonemen as well as certain fables river pirates. Tyrion dismisses both as tales, but keeps an eerie feeling about the subject. Duck then goes on to tell his life story. He was a smith’s apprentice when he made a sword for himself and got real good at using it too. The son of the lordling he worked for challenged him and took the sword away without paying for it, so Haldon got revenge in the duel that the lordling challenged him to and broke several of his bones. After that, he had to flee, went to the Free Cities, joined the Golden Company and met Griff, who knighted him after a year due to his great abilities. He chose the name Duckfield after the field in which he was knighted, since there were ducks present.
In another conversation with Haldon, Tyrion talks about the wonders of the world. According to some books he liked as a child, there are seven wonders made by the gods and nine wonders made by man. Haldon knows the books too, and they continue to talk about history and architecture until they arrive in the ruined city of Gohyan Drohe. There they are to meet the rest of the party, including Griff and his son Young Griff. Soon, they become visible, inhabiting an old houseboat called the “Shy Maid”.
The first impression Tyrion gets of Griff and Youn Griff is strange: both have their hair dyed blue, but at least with Griff it’s clear that his original hair color has to be red (for his beard and eyebrows), and Young Griff has a distinctive Westerosi look about himself too. Young Griff claims to dye his hair in honor of his dead mother from Lys, but Tyrion doesn’t believe one word. Griff, clearly not happy about his appearance, takes him down in the cabin, where Tyrion presents him a letter from Illyrio, explaining who he is and why he is here. Griff allows Tyrion to stay as far as Volantis; there they will see if he has proven useful or a liability.
In this chapter, we see another party on the way to Meereen: the group around Griff and Young Griff looks as much like a typical adventurer party that one is tempted to ask if he landed in just another fantasy novel, and if they are up slaying demons and orcs and whatnot. Of course, this isn’t, and this group of people is by far not as naïve as it is the group around Quentyn Martell, who’s already in Volantis at the moment.
Tyrion suspects that there is something they don’t tell him, and rightly so. Griff is a very bad imposter, and the charade about being from Lys is clearly a bad excuse for the blue dyed hair. We know that Griff’s hair is red, but Young Griff is another matter. We will deal with the question at hand in the next Tyrion chapter, but at least Griff’s identity is clear. Tyrion is already puzzling it out himself. Griff is a knight, obviously, although he initially tries to deny it. Duck told too much for him to take up this particular thing, but when Tyrion calls him “my lord”, he hits the mark well enough: before him stands Jon Connington, former Hand of the King and boyhood friend to Rhaegar Targaryen. Connington was known to have served in the Golden Company and is said to have died in exile, so that point doesn’t seem to be right. The question remains: why is he hiding? And what?
In this chapter, we get Tyrion’s eye for detail well established. There are small details he makes out about Griff and Young Griff that immediately tell him that they are not the sellswords they claim to be, but instead of high birth merely masquerading. So can the presumptive sellsword Griff not only read, but he is practiced at it, “not even moving his lips while reading”. He also has a way of talking and moving that suggests his station to Tyrion well enough. It is very well written by Martin.
Two side notes for this chapter: first, it is nicely done how the legends of the Rhoyne (of which there are thousands) are brought into the story with the Stonemen and the Shrouded Lord, who we will later actually encounter. The Greyscale as the reason of their hideous deformation is established again, in case you have forgotten Shireen, and the immense danger of the plague is stressed out too, so you will know what the hour has called when they finally stumble into them. Second, I’m curious about the mentioning of Tyrion’s past with his uncle Gerion. Obviously, Gerion was a funny and nice Lannister before he tried to retrieve the family sword on his fool’s quest to Valyria to die, and he encouraged the fantasy of his nephew Tyrion. Could the apparent mentioning of him in the chapters set the stage for him still living, to be revealed in one of the two upcoming books? It’s a far stretch, but at least he had a greater impact in Tyrion’s childhood than we knew before.