Asha Greyjoy stands in Deepwood Motte. She receives a letter from Ramsay Bolton, and when she opens it, a piece of dried leather falls out. The text is written in the blood of the Ironmen who defended Moat Cailin, and she is told that she will be next. The dry leather is actually a piece of Theon’s flayed skin, with Ramsay saying that he sent other pieces to other Ironborn as well. Tris Botley, having grown a beard in the meantime, told her that the Boltons will make for Torrhen’s Square, currently held by Dagmer Cleftjaw, and after their undoubtable victory there will marsh on Deepwood Motte.
Then an Ironborn names Qarl comes in. She is in love with Qarl, who forces her to sex while she violently defends herself against him. She enjoys the brutal sex, but after it her minds wander off. She remembers the last summer, when everything seemed good and she could enjoy the islands. Now she is wed to Eric Ironmaker, the old contester for the throne she insulted at the Kingsmoot, at command of her uncle Euron. She defied uncle and husband both and returned to Deepwood Motte with a few loyal men, but her position has become more or less hopeless.
After Qarl has left, Tris enters her room. He urges her to leave and to make for the ships. When she asks where to go then, he advices the east, loading trade goods and using the profit to settle somewhere else. Her own plan is to make for the ships and sail to the barren lands of the Sea Dragon Point, to hide in the caves and use them as a base of operations for raiding the surrounding lands. They both know that it’s a useless fantasy. Many Ironmen already expressed their wishes and expectations to die soon in glorious combat, some urging her to try to relieve Dagmer Cleftjaw as to find an end worthy of a song. When the talk of Tris and Asha goes back to the kingsmoot, Tris tells her that she has to accept its outcome, since she can’t declare it illegal like Torgon Greyiron, called Latecomer, did hundreds of years past. Tris tells his story. Being away when his father died, his brothers called a kingsmoot which he defied on return, claiming it illegal for not being there and allowed to make his case. He then won the ensuing war and became king. Asha thanks Tris for the great notion, without being able to tell him what she means since a horn is blown.
Outside, five clansmen were surprised trying to scale the walls. One of them still lives, badly wounded, and tells Asha that they wanted to free Lady Glover. When she hurts him more, he confesses that thousands are coming, naming them three thousand, but Asha doesn’t believe him and kills him quickly. Lady Glover comes, pleading Asha to give up, promising her to take care that nothing happens to her or her men. Asha has nothing of it and can see enemies approaching the wall when she looks over it under the cover of branches and wood. She calls the Ironmen together, holding a rousing speech of reaching to reach the sea or die trying. When the northern gate is attacked with a ram, the Ironborn leave through the southern gate, trying to reach the sea.
In the darkness, the hostile woods slow them down pretty bad, though. Soon they have to rest. Asha sends out scouts, and one of them is soon returned dead by their foes, who descend on them in bloody fury. The ensuing battle is a brutal close combat, with the Ironborn selling their hides as expensive as possible. In the end, however, even Asha is exhausted and overwhelmed, and, falling unconscious, manages to glimpse the banner of the burning heart enclosing the crowned stag.
The appearance of an Asha-chapter this early into “A Dance with Dragons” and the description of many events already in the past shows clearly when the events on the Iron Islands described in “A Feast for Crows” must have taken place: at the end of “A Storm of Swords”. The story is now continued, with Euron on the way south (presumably having reached the Shield Islands weeks ago) and the Iron Islands ruled by Eric Ironmaker, now an ally of Euron’s. The marriage with Asha is a clever move and made her an outcast on the Iron Islands, preventing her from stirring rebellion. Asha grew restless over that matter, clearly, swaggering between unfavorable options and glooming in death expectancies while trying to live life to the fullest.
It is not clear what Asha saw in the story of Torgon Latecomer that she was so enthusiastic about when Tris pushed her nose to it. She was on the kingsmoot, like practically everyone else, so she can’t claim it illegal. Perhaps she found some other scratchy reason for calling it that, but the thought won’t be specified in this book, since she has more pressing concerns. Euron’s clever political schemes show great talent for the new Ironborn king, that’s for certain.
As to side notes, we get a nice description of Deepwood Motte, which is really a rather big castle made entirely of wood. It stands so near to the forest that it can quite easily be overwhelmed by surprise if its owners don’t guard and scout closely, which allowed Asha to take it in the first place – talk about irony. Another thing is the multiple mentions of the trees in the woods as alien and hostile by Asha. She hates their smell, she hates their sound when they move in the wind, and above all she feels like the trees would like to kill her. Her own plan of settling the Stoney Shore doesn’t seem to be as good as initially thought in that light.