September 07, 2011

The Griffin Reborn

Lord Jon Connington
Jon Connington is sending in his archers. In his years in exile he learned to treasure them, despite the little honor that can be found in their ways. 1000 archers are with the Golden Company, six hundred made their way to Westeros so far. The Summer Islander, sixty in total, are the best of them. The order Connington issues them is to shoot down all ravens that try to take wing from Griffin's Roost. Then the attack starts. The castle, laying at the end of a land bridge, is poorly manned and defended. The attackers lose only four men; then the castle is theirs. After three attempts to send a raven, the maester's tower is stormed and the maester thrown out the window.

Connington issues further commands to his men. They are to capture all people, if possible alive. No one is to escape. He points out hideouts and secret passages to them, so they succeed easily. Connington knows that it won't stay as easy, but Griffin's Roost provides a good base to them and can be hold against twenty times their numbers. Of course he doesn't intend to bunker down here. While he looks at his former castle, memories come up of a visit of Rhaegar, back when they were both young. He loves the lands that once belonged to Griffin's Roost, which are lost to the family now. He tells himself that he lost them overreaching.

He muses about the downfall of his house. He was named hand by Aerys Targaryen, commanded the army against Robert in the Battle of the Bells. Long years he never knew what the mistake was, but today he knows that he should have burned the city. Then all prisoners are brought before him. He is a stranger for them, but they all swear fealty. The children of Ronnet and his father are valuable hostages if needed. When they are gone, he muses where the rest of the Golden Company is, scattered after they left Lys. With the forces already landed, he took three castles: Griffin's Roost, Crow's Nest (seat of house Morrigen) and Rain House (seat of house Wylde).

The Halfmaester then comes, reporting. He accurately describes the situation in King's Landing. Mace Tyrell left only a token garrison at Storm's End to continue the siege. The Lannisters, at odds with Tyrell, rely on Frey and Bolton to hold North and Riverlands, both notoriously treacherous. Arryn remained neutral. Dorne married Myrcella to Trystane but didn't move. Connington decides to quickly write a letter to Doran Martell to win him over. The problem the invaders are facing in general is the lack of dragons, since they have nothing to offer. Connington wants Aegon's hand free should Daenerys come at last and refuses to marry himself. Gold and castles are already promised to the Golden Company.

Connington then retreats to his chambers, ordering the worst vintage from the cellars. Alone, he treats his fingers with the wine. He suffers from Greyscale since he rescued Tyrion, but didn't disclose it to anyone yet, fearing it might shatter support for him. He hopes to hold back the sickness until they are done. After the treatment, other news come in. 600 were landed on Estermont and took the castle, which was never an objective. Connington fears that the troops are scattered all over the Stepstones now. He tells Harry Homeless that he sent a letter to Tommen, stating that he wanted to claim his birthright Griffin's Roost, to further sow confusion. No banners are used, neither of Targaryen nor the Golden Company, to keep King's Landing in the dark as long as possible.

Harry proposes to use the conquered castles as a foothold, bide their time and make alliances. They concur that Martell's allegiance is essential to all their plans. Connington announces that he summoned Aegon to Griffin's Roost, where he'll be safe, but that the boy wants to fight himself. He hopes to sway him, however. He then announces his intent to take Storm's End, due to its reputation of being impregnable and because they need a safe foothold. He dismisses the idea of an alliance with Stannis as unpracticable. They will need 10 days for preparation. After four days, Aegon arrives with troops. He made Duck the first of his kingsguard, which Connington opposes since he wants to keep the spots open as bargaining chips. He settles with it, however. When Aegon hears of the Storm's End plan, he is determined to carry out the attack himself.

Damn, this is a chapter ripe with strategic information. The warmaking has finally begun, and the dance is on at last. Is this the dance with dragons of the title? Not Daenerys' dragons, but the Targaryens themselves, and all the political actors "dancind" around them? Anyway, we can see a true military professional at work here. It's the first time we get one of these as a POV, since Tywin was always seen from the outside, as well as Robb and his warcouncil, and the same goes for Stannis and his decision makers. And Dany herself barely counts as professional. What we see ain't pretty.

Jon Connington is a hard man. A very hard man, to be exact; there is no compassion left in him nor empathy. We got our first glimpse of that when he vowed to himself to get his revenge on Varys, whom he sees responsible for the smirk on his honor, and we see the same now. He tries to save the captives so that they don't get a savage reputation, but in the end, the fate of the people who are now his doesn't concern him. He never even thinks that it's a shame that they had to kill all soldiers in Griffin's Roost but four of them, and he kills the maester without hesitation.

The most gruesome fact, however, is the lesson he thinks to have learned from the battle at Stoney Sept. He is convinced that he should have burned the city down completely and ended the war then and there. The reality of this assumption aside - it's not entirely sure that Stark and Tully would have made peace if Robert had died, as Connington thinks they would - the murder of thousands of civilians without even blinking and regarding it as the right strategy is, to say the least, unsettling. What do we have to expect from him when the war goes on, and from his rule (I presume he reserved himself the spot of Aegon's hand, although there wasn't anything said about it yet)? Jon Connington would put Tywin Lannister to shame, that's for sure. At the dawn of winter, a brutal and unyielding force is about to bring more death and terror to the smallfolk.

The strategy itself seems pretty valid. The Stormlands actually suffer from a power vacuum, and Connington intends to fill it. He conquered half the coast already without the Iron Throne knowing what's really going on, and if he can take Storm's End - by which guile he intends to do that remains to be seen - he really has a strong power base. Dorne declaring for Aegon would then free his back and triple his forces. From there, he would threaten the whole Reach, whose army is at King's Landing (and will be marching at Storm's End by the end of the book). Arryn is of yet no factor, although Connington definitely should care about them more. He dismisses them much too quickly as neutral, not even caring who is in charge there currently. That information should give him pause.

The big unknown, of course, is still Daenerys Targaryen. Should she return to Westeros, the would play havoc with Aegon's cause. The best case, on which they stake their game, is that she'll marry Aegon and that they conclude a smooth alliance, thereby swelling their ranks on about even with their enemies and controlling dragons. However, knowing Dany, that is not very likely. In the moment, Connington has the element of surprise on his side, and the elephants (whose existence is stressed very much in the chapter) will provide him with another in the first battle. After that, though, nothing is certain anymore.

As to side notes, it's breathtaking that these events were set in motion by Tyrion alone, who persuaded Aegon to go to Westeros before being abducted. The dwarf definitely took some revenge on his home here. Second, taking Duck into the kingsguard doesn't seem as big a mistake to me as it does to Connington. Of course, offering a spot in it is a sweet reward for many, but having an illoyal kingsguard didn't serve Robert very well, and having a loyal friend there is of tremendous value. Aegon V proved that with his Lord Commander Duncan. Third, Connington remembers that Rhaegar's eyes were of a much darker purple than Aegon's. Some may take that as evidence that we really have a false Aegon ("mummer's dragon"), but I think that Aegon is legit at this moment. After all, Rhaegar married a Dornish and not another Targaryen as his daddy, so we can expect some diversity here. Last, Connington's greyscale may prove important later in the story. It was established as of more importance than initially thought in Val's comments about Shireen, so the effect here remains to be seen. That Connington suffers from it, however, may very well fufill a part of Dany's prophecy in the House of the Undying: that a stone dragon rises, breathing dark dust. Connington would fit for that for sure.  


  1. "That Connington suffers from it, however, may very well fufill a part of Dany's prophecy in the House of the Undying: that a stone dragon rises, breathing dark dust. Connington would fit for that for sure."

    You know who would fit even better? An infected Aegon, from spending time with Connington.

  2. Bamm! That would be harsh...but it's an idea. Fitting, really. *shivers*

  3. I think you're reading Connington's character a little too harshly here Stefan. Certainly not to the extent of somehow surpassing Tywin Lannister, his whole musing about how he should have burned the village down was based off of 'what would Tywin do'. And whatever else we may say about Tywin there's no denying he was a supremely capable and effective ruler as Hand. At the very least these townspeople were far from innocent civilians, as they actively hid Robert from Connington, many could argue they'd dug their own graves had Jon followed through with that course of action, false pity to people that will always hate you gets one no where in war, as Dany is learning to her cost. Following this logic, I can't really fault Jon for being unconcerned with the deaths at Griffins Roost, most of the vassals do not know him and have no reason to love him for now, so intimidation is the most prudent course at this point.

    While we can only speculate as to what would have happened had Griff actually killed Robert, its safe to say he and House Targaryean would have been in a better position, and the assumption that Eddard and Jon Arryn would have taken the knee might not be so far-fetched, since Robert, and his claim to the throne, was really the heart of the Rebellion.

    Finally, Connington lacks the one defining flaw of Tywin Lannister, self-serving ambition. Whatever Connington may do, it will always be in the name of loyal duty, in how he feels may best serve the crown and the realm. So given this, his advice to Aegon on taking a middle-ground in ruling, his won feelings of pride and honor which are still there given his contempt of Varys, and his admiration for Myles Toyne I think it more likely Jon will adopt the same style of being firm but fair as his mentor did, with a good deal of pragmatism.

    Finally, I think Connington's dismissal of the Vale has more to do with logistics then just being unconcerned, whatever actions or side they take will have no immediate consequence this far down South at the moment. And its a safe enough bet, given Littlefingers character and his need to consolidate his rule in the Vale.

  4. Also I think its pretty safe to say Connington is Aegon's Hand, given his conversation with the halfmaester, and the fact that he basically is in command of the Golden Company throughout this entire operation.

    As for Aegon and Dany, I wouldn't dismiss the possibility of a marriage alliance too quickly, given that Dany herself pondered on that possibility once, and if Tyrion manages to make his way to her court I think his sympathies for Aegon could have a great deal of influence on the matter. But most importantly, Aegon's claim to the Iron Throne is stronger then Dany's, whose whole claim is based on the justification that it is lawfully her's by right. If she follows through with that logic she'll really have no choice but to acknowledge Aegon, heck Dany acknowledges VISERYS rule despite never actually sitting on the Iron Throne because of that.

  5. That said, I think it far more likely the more pressing need to recruit Dorne will force Connington to wed Aegon to Arianne at some point, which I think will be the basis for any possible future conflict between Aegon and Dany's claim.

  6. Hi,

    I don't doubt for one second that Connington is capable. I'm just saying that he's one cold-hearted son of a bitch.
    Regarding Aegon and the claim, you are right. The question remains if he is the real Aegon. Slayer of lies and such...

  7. But he's a loyal SOB, so I think that bit of honor in him will keep him in line for the most part unlike with Tywin, especially as Aegon begins to assert himself more. :p

    Eh, I think it'd be more interesting if he is, but we'll see.

  8. Hmm, there was a chapter from TWOW that Martin read from Arianne's pov. I think she was demanding to see Aegon, but I'm not sure anymore. Gah!

  9. I know; the chapter is summarized on for example. I wanted to keep it out of the reread, though.

  10. I don't see why people think Aegon was bull-headed for wanting to lead the attack. Besides his youthful eagerness, there is a strategic value for him to take the lead, boosting the morale of his men and diminishing those of his enemies, while further cementing his claim to the Iron Throne to any undecideds. Fount the Arianne chapter summary very interesting though, cannot wait for TWOW now to see how this all plays out.