September 15, 2011

The Kingbreaker

Ian McElhinney as Barristan Selmy in HBOs GOT
In the black of night, the Shavepate and Ser Barristan meet to discuss their further actions one last time. They want to take the king captive and try to prove his guilt. The Shavepate is not happy with that, since he would like to kill Hizdahr and then attack the Yunkai'i by surprise, but Barristan has none of it, claiming it has no honor. The Shavepate finally yields to the point. The leader of the Brazen Beasts, Marghaz, is according to him already disposed, so they only need to strike. Before they agree to attack in a few hours, they have another discussion about Daario and the hostages. The Shavepate wants not to free Daario since the mercenary is trouble, but Barristan still feels bound to Daenerys' will and can't imagine that she would let harm come to him. The Shavepate also wants to kill hostages if their own hostages are not returned, but Barristan doesn't want to kill the kids, getting a bad feeling and memories of the death of Rhaegar's children in his mouth.

While Barristan prepares himself, he muses about his knights. Two of them are near completion of their training, but he wants to postpone their knighthood until the deed is done for their own good. Others will require more training, some are of no use at all. His mind then wanders to the intrigue he is now part of, and he wonders how he ended up in it in the first place. Without a satisfactory answer, his mind goes over to the turney of Harrenhal and the role that Aerys II and Rhaegar played in it, and then on to Ashara Dayne, the only woman he ever loved but had to let go to Stark. After he finished a bath, he arms himself and starts the venture.

In the pyramid, he is joined by six Brazen Beasts. Hizdahr has two pit slaves as guard, and Barristan is confident of being able to take them out without much bloodshed. He passes the one before the door claiming to have urgent business with the king, leaving him to be disarmed for the Brazen Beasts, and then confronts the king, accusing him of being the Harpy. Hizdahr, confused and growing uncomfortable, denies it, but not in a very convincing fashion. When Barristan wants to take him captive, the guard Khrazz intervenes, fighting Barristan with an arakh but losing since he does not know how to fight the armor Barristan wears, who in turn hacks the unarmored pit slave to pieces. He just took Hizdahr captive when a message from Reznak for the king arrives: the dragons have been loosened over the city.

This chapter is the start for the conclusion of the Meereen plot, the first piece of a three-parter. After it we will see what Quentyn does in the same time, loosening the dragons, and then we will return to Barristan again in the aftermath of the coup. Dany's last chapter, however, is already the start of something new. It could as well have been moved into "The Winds of Winter", but I guess Martin wanted some end of hope and a point in a book mainly without them. Meereen finally falls back into the hands of Dany at least a bit.

Why only a bit? Because it's somewhat dubious what the role of Hizdahr in this is. While he seems not too distraught about Dany's demise, he doesn't really profit from it. He had everything he wanted when he married Dany; without her, he lost allegiance of freedmen and Unsullied, which makes up for half of Meereen and nearly all the fighting force. The Shavepate, on the other hand, profits a great deal from both events, Dany's death as well as Hizdahr's. He is the one opposing the peace with the Yunkai'i and tries to shove Barristan into attacking them, as well as killing Hizdahr before he could speak. It is quite possible that the schemer poisoned the locusts himself, to get rid of both royals in the same move, and then blame the Dornish.

That's not something that occurs to Barristan as yet, but I am inclined to forgive him since I was pointed at it with my nose only after commentators here on the blog mentioned it. Barristan's personality gets some serious clarifications in this chapter beside the main plot when one looks for it by the way. He asks himself at one point why he is in the middle of the intrigue, and if he has learned something in his years at court. The answer to the latter is yes. Ser Barristan likes to tease himself and his surroundings with his "I'm a knight, I don't make politics" attitude, but it's an attitude nonetheless. Barristan has much more intimate knowledge of politics and intrigue than he gives himself credit for, as opposed to Ned Stark who was genuinly naive on that matter. If he didn't always try to divert from these issues, he could be really good at it - something he has in common with Jaime Lannister. Like the Kingslayer, however, he wouldn't make a good ruler - but an advisor or hand, anytime.

Additionally, we get some Westerosi lore on the way as we progress. For example, Barristan casually tells the reader that the talk was that Rhaegar was plotting something with major lords when he wanted to make the turney at Harrenhal, but that Varys whispered so long into Aerys' ear that the king decided to stop his son and made for Harrenhal himself, where the known events occured. That is interesting. For one, we know from Jaime in "A Feast for Crows" that Rhaegar wanted to reform the realm, and that these reforms obviously didn't include Aerys himself. Why Varys prevented it, however, isn't entirely clear. It puts all his "for the realm" rhetoric in a shady corner, however. If he really was interested in the realm, he shouldn't have supported Aerys in this. So, either he was serving only himself here, since he surely wouldn't have had a place in the new realm, or he serves another master that we don't really know yet.

As to side notes, the love that Barristan bore for Ashara Dayne is also an interesting thing about his character. I dislike the crackpot theories that she might be Lemore, however, and the idea that her dead child isn't dead but Aegon and what's more. I think Eddard's character arc would be seriously weakened if it wasn't just what it seems: a sad, doomed love from the beginning. I like the "official" version in which Eddard secretly loves Ashara and marries Catelyn out of duty more than some conspiracies woven around them. It is interesting, though, that we don't know which Stark got her in the end. Brandon, we heard from Lady Dustin, liked to stick his cock everywhere, and from what we heard he might very well not been over things like fucking the woman he knew his brother was in love with. Interesting things, let's hope we get more here in "The Winds of Winter".


  1. Err, I think you're exagerating a little here Stefan. Barristen only says Varys TOLD Aerys that Rhaegar was plotting against him, not that Rhaegar actually WAS. It wasn't until near the end as seen by Jamie that where we see he was finally starting to act. My theory, which I've put up in before but I'll repeat here, I think Varys was simply trying to provoke Rhaegar into deposing Aerys by turning Aerys against him, because obviously if people have to choose they'll choose Rhaegar no problem, since he has a legitimate claim to the throne anyway, so less of a conflict of interest in regards to duty. In this matter I believe the logic makes more sense, and still keeps in line with Varys stated quest of serving the realm.

  2. Possible, yes. I like that your theory involves less of an overall conspiracy theory, which is always a good thing in my book.

  3. KrimzonStriker, you could be right. However, Varys' actions are tainted to me now since I can't really dismiss Barriston's impressions especially after Keven's assassination. It's possible that Varys was trying to goad circumstances to prod Rheagar, but it's equally possible that Varys was trying to destabilize in general, playing a much larger game than we've previously seen. He allegedly rescued Aegon, he whispered madness to Aerys, he hid the crown prince and has been in firm, if not direct, control of his rearing. I actually think it's possible that Varys' game is creating a new kingdom where he has unbelievable influence over the king. I realize it's rather crazy and would involve a ton of planning and a boatload of patience, but what we learned of Varys' childhood, I find it perfectly feasible that he would take the opportunity to create a place where he will always be in control. Or perhaps he would do it just to see if he could, though that sounds more like Littlefinger.

    Well, that's my crackpot theory, anyway. I missed the Shavepate's advantages, good catch to all! It will be interesting to see where this all goes!

  4. But Barristen is inherently biased in those kinds of things because of his whole honor stick, Martin has said so himself in his Q&A and how characters point of views may not reflect
    the truth.

    Whatever Varys destabilization, it did not in the end set off the downfall of the Targaryeans, that was Rhaegar's doing, or brought about its end since he was the one to advise against letting the Lannisters into King's Landing.

    And we already have someone whose playing that game, Littlefinger as you mentioned, wouldn't that be a little redundant to have Varys do that? The Spider is already vilified as it is, so it'd be more interesting and expand the casts motivations more if Varys was aiming for something different as his whole serve the realm stick does.

  5. But do we know for sure if that's Littlefinger's goal?

    I'll say this, whatever the end game is, it's REALLY jaw dropping to watch those two maneuver!

  6. Varys hates magic. The citadel hates magic. Dragons are magic. Varys wouldnt be too fond of dragons then. Also can you always speak to gods by burning orphan penises or maybe he wanted varys because he has kings blood? Also varys knows the secrets of the red keep and it was said only targs would ever know its secrets which is why the killed all the builders. Am I correct? Maybe hes a dragon magic hating targ. Or maybe hes not really a eunuch who would know?

  7. Varys is for the Blackfyres. All his actions make sense if this is true. Aegon is the mummer's dragon.