August 30, 2011

The Queensguard

Ian McElhinney as Barristan Selmy in HBOs GOT
Selmy was dismissed from protecting the king. He observes that Hizdahr has relieved all of Daenerys' men, and that it's definitely on purpose. The excuse Reznak gave him - for the sake of appearances to the Yunkish - does not convince Barristan. He observes too, however, that Hizdahr's protectors are few, since he can't trust the Brazen Beasts despite having the Shavepate relieved of command, and the Unsullied refuse to obey him too. Only the pit fighters remain really loyal to him. The grey plague is still rampant within and without the city.

Selmy is disgusted by the appearances of the Meereenese nobles anyway, their perfume mainly. He observes too that he gets old. Walking up the steps of the pyramid lets his back ache, and he hopes that he can finish the training of his new generation of knights so Dany gets some suitable protectors. Barristan's thoughts wander to the moment he was knighted, and the feast that followed. He asks himself if he was fulfilling his vows too good, if the realm wouldn't have been served better if he had never done his greatest deed of Duskendale but instead let Aerys die and Rhaegar take over.

He then remembers how Dany flew away on Drogon. The dragon burned several hundred people that day, and under the dead was the Yunkish commander. The mood is bad regarding that. When he speaks out loud the possibility that Dany flew to Westeros, Missandei suddenly appears, telling him that she never would leave them behind. She then tells Barristan that the Shavepate wants a quit and unnoticed word with him. Barristan, disgusted by the prospect of intrigue, nevertheless agrees. For the rest of the day, Barristan trains his knights, wondering whether his queensguard vow extends on Hizdahr, concluding that it doesn't from some precedents.

In the evening, he meets the Shavepate. The Shavepate confirms his suspicions that Hizdahr is behind the murder attempt on Dany, which hit Strong Belwas instead, but Barristan doesn't want to kill him without proof. The Shavepate states that Volantis set sail and means to attack, and that they need to attack the Yunkish as long as they aren't ready, since their new commander doesn't like the peace anyway. The Brazen Beasts, he claims, are still his, and he asks Barristan to talk to Grey Worm. Under the premise that Hizdahr is not killed before proven guilty, Barristan agrees.

The first Barristan chapter, still no information about Rhaegar. It's even more painful knowing that there won't be much more. Martin's broken promise from "A Storm of Swords" still nags at me. Still, the character is half way interesting at least. Barristan is exactly as we pictured him in his chapters here; a knight filled by duty and despising the political stuff he protects. Nothing seriously new so far, he's a bit of an Eddard Stark. However, the resemblance is broken at the point where he is ready to bend the rules a bit in order to do the greater good. The difference to Eddard is that Barristan survived the experience that clinging to his honor like armor while drowning (as Littlefinger put it) is not a wise course. He knows that staging a coup against Hizdahr and attacking the Yunkish is not the honorable thing to do, but he knows that thousands will suffer if he doesn't.

He acts accordingly. The plan is simple; take control of the city together with the Shavepate, whose intentions are not quite clear and for which Barristan has no great interest, and then attack the Yunkish while they don't expect it, preparing the defense against Volantis. He doesn't really think beyond the military implications, which could result in serious problems: disposing Hizdahr would leave a giant power vacuum that needs to be filled by someone. In the end, Barristan will end up in doing at least part of the job, but clearly in this moment he doesn't think much of it.

His own interestes are much smaller and lovely modest. He wants to train a new generation of knights as a beacon of honor in a world he experiences as deeply corrupt, decadent and complicated. He yearns for war's simplicity, as many of the knights we so far encountered do, and to hell with all that goes with it. Such people are followers, but as leaders, they leave much to be wanted. Quite the follower, Cersei would call him, and Barristan perhaps would quote Eddard back at her about killing enemies. He surely is good at it, but what does he do once the enemy is dead? He has no clue, yet.

The Shavepate's assessment that Dany was too eager for peace, showing it too clearly and therefore gave the city over to Hizdahr and the Yunkish carries much and more truth with it. She definitely made serious mistakes here, as we discussed in the previous Jon chapter already, and she clearly should have tried to go for a better bargain and not have been so anxious to use force. The peace she got was almost a Munich conference, appeasement at its worst. The Meereenese and especially the Yunkish slaves are the ones suffering for it, and the war that Dany hoped to avoid comes now with even more force. The retarding element of "A Dance with Dragons" has come to a close here, too, and we are gearing up for the final war in the east.

As to side notes, Reznak is almost persistently called the "perfumed seneschal". I think this is misleading. Why should Qaithe warn Dany about him of all people? It was Hizdahr who tried to betray her, and Reznak seems to be just an opportunist. Nothing one needs to be worried of. I strongly think that Qaithe hinted at Varys, also a perfumed seneschal, of whom we now that he had several contradictory plots ongoing. He's the real danger.


  1. I actually think the peace was real, but Shavepate tried to poison Dany to break it, and that he is now manipulating clueless Barristan into starting a war.

  2. While the Shavepate may have an interest in breaking the peace, I don't believe he was behind it. The Yunkish are too much disposed towards the war, already in the last Dany chapter. And the Volantene are on the way too.

  3. Volantis is still a threat, but the death of the Yunkish commander in the pit is named as crucial to pushing them toward war. I don't think the Harpy makes sense either, because they had already gotten what they wanted. Shavepate was the only one whose influence was declining before the pit (besides Dany herself). Anyway, keep the possibility in mind as you continue reading the Barristan chapters, because those chapters have a very different flavor if Hizdahr was framed by Shavepate.

  4. OK, I'll do. Thanks for the notion anyway!