August 31, 2011

The Iron Captain

Victarion Greyjoy (Artwork by Amoka)
Victarion is in a sullen mood. The ship "Grief" is showing up, alone. He has only 54 of the 99 ships that set sail to the Stepstones, and time is short. Volantis is ready to dispatch a fleet of over 300 ships, maybe as much as 500, and he needs to reach Meereen before them. Monkeys are a pest aboard his ship, populating the masts since they anchored before the Isle of Cedars. His hand hurts him badly, but he tries not to show it. He goes into his cabine to his dusk woman and lets her tend his wound, talking to her about the ships.

He seperated the fleet into three groups back at the Stepstones, the swiftest to go a southern route along the northern shore of Sothyros where they payed the iron price for their supplies in the rotten cities there. The slowest ships went by Lys, selling the prisoners took on the way and on the Shield Islands as slaves to buy provisions, while Victarion sailed along the Disputed Lands to Volantis and captured several fishing boats and cogs on the way.

The maester of Serwyn that Euron gave him as to keep contact by raven (which Victarion forbade him once they were underway to leave Euron in the dark) enters the cabin to tend the wound at Victarion's hand, which he suffered in the fight against the knight of Serwyn back at the Shields. It festers, and Kerwin advises to ampute the hand, but Victarion has nothing of it and wants the pus drained. The maester does it and then leaves. Victarion muses about his weakness. He was raped by several of the crew, and doesn't fight back nor kills himself.

In the meantime, the captain of the "Grief" has arrived on "Iron Victory", claiming to have fished a sorcerer out of the sea. Victarion is not sure what to make of it: regarding it as a gift of the Drowned God or a curse to be cast back to the sea? On deck he encounters the sorcerer, who turns out to be a red priest, with skin blacker even than the people from the Summer Isles, and adressing himself as Moqorro. The captain of the "Grief" says that he knew much more than he should, including their meeting point, destination and Victarion's fate. In fact, Moqorro claims that Victarion will die if he does not intervene.

In that moment, the hand pains Victarion so much that he reels backwards a step, and the crew takes this as a signal that he was cursed by Moqorro. They draw their blades and want to kill him, but Victarion forbids it and takes him into his cabin, where Moqorro promises to heal the hand. For hours, only strange chants and wild laughter comes out of the cabin, until Victarion emerges, his arm totally bloody and his hand charred and burned. He commands to slit the maester's throat and throw him overboard, which will give them favorable winds.

Gosh, Victarion is one stupid oaf. It hadn't become as clear as that in "A Feast for Crows", when we first encountered him, but there are few people in a commanding position in the story that are as stupid, slow and thickheaded as the commander of the Iron Fleet. There are several sections in this chapter that help to make clear just how thick he is, easily surpassing Duncan the Tall in that respect. For one, he doesn't trust laughter, since he never understands when he is mocked, even when it is obvious. This goes so far that he doesn't trust the apes, since they seem to mock him too. Second, he suspects the maester of poisoning his would so he can cut off the hand. Third, he ponders serious thoughts about the nature of the Drowned God and what he may or may not do.

All this is so absurd that one can only hit one's head to the wall in an attempt to quell the pain. No man is more unfit to sit the Seastone Chair than Victarion, and he could never have gotten a command like the one he has if he wasn't a Greyjoy. Yes, he is a godly man, but only to the extent that the Drowned God and his priests are an authority that tell him what to do if he can't solve the problem by repeatedly hitting it with his fist. Finding Moqorro is great for him, consequently, since now he has a mysterious figure again telling him what to do.

The larger picture is interesting, however. Victarion may have lost half the fleet, but the one he has is still formidable as long as it hasn't to fight the whole Volantene fleet, something they should be able to avoid by reaching Meereen before them. The priest states that he saw not only the fleet itself in the flames, but also Victarion and the problem with his hands. Since the red god's priests knew that the "Stinky Steward" wouldn't reach Qarth but that they could reach Meereen another way, perhaps Moqorro intended this route from the beginning. How he survived the 10 days on open water is clear when one takes into account what we know from Melisandre: the high level priests of R'hollor don't need nurishment, they survive by their inner fire. Moqorro is seriously badass then.

So, what a combination could be produced from the Ironmen, a capable red priest and Dany's dragons? Perhaps Moqorro saw this in the flames as well, it's pretty damn likely. He wouldn't need to tell captain oaf, since he would never figure what happens, and simply use the fleet as he sees fit. Cleansed of the Ironmen, 54 ships could do a lot for Dany. It's still not enough to transport her to Westeros, but it's a step on the way.

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