September 08, 2011

The Sacrifice

Asha Greyjoy
In the deep and howling snows, preparations are made for a sacrifice to R'hollor. Asha observes them, shivering. An argument breaks out between some of Stannis' men and some Flints about who send the snows and which god needs to be appeased, and which one was the right. One man overseeing the preparations, Sluggs, is a brute and sadist, eager to see humans burn. It is said that the sacrifice will calm the storms. When the four prisoners are ushered to the stakes naked, Asha thinks about why they are here: they cannibalized on a frozen dead and were caught. The oldest of the four insults Sluggs so hard that sluggs kills him before they burn him. Asha hopes that she can do the same trick once it's her turn.

When the king comes out in company Arnolf Karstark, who arrived only eight days past, the burning commences. It's a gruesome sight, and Asha, accustomed to sacrifices by slicing the throat of the victim, can hardly stand it. The accompanying prayer is led by Ser Godry. Asha knows that her chances are bad. The Northeners hate her to the bone, and the Southeners might sacrifice her to stop the snows. When the knight of Massey comes to court her again, Sluggs mocks him, but he doesn't care and invites Asha to eat. There are few horses left, and soon they will be gone, so Asha accepts and follows him to the hall.

In the hall, the lords have a heated argument about whether to march or to try and weather the storm. Peasebury wants to leave, Massey wants to stay, and the insult each other. Arnolf Karstark tries to end the argument by standing up and telling them to march and bathe in the blood of Bolton and Frey. Objections are raised; most men are very weak, and while they perhaps could reach Winterfell, they had no  chance to mount an assault. When Massey is accused of being craven, he angrily leaves the hall, and Asha follows him since he is one of the few who object to burning her.

Outside, she can't find Ser Justin. Instead, Sluggs intercepts her, threatening first to rape and then to burn her when suddenly horses can be heard. Riders arrive at the camp, and first they fear that it's Bolton when it turns out that they are Ironmen and Night's Watch. The Ironmen are lead by Tris, who greets Asha and tells her that he and the others were ransomed by a Braavosi banker who needed them as escort and wants to see Stannis. The banker presents himself to her, telling her he brought a present. A girl and an old man are brought before Asha before she realizes that the old man is in fact her brother Theon.

One really can't say that Stannis' cause gets anymore nicer by repeatedly brutally burning people as sacrifice to a curel god. He has sympathies only because Davos serves him and because he fights the Lannisters; taken for himself, he evokes nearly the same revulsion as many other villains in the story. This chapter again shows a hard, cruel man. The description Martin gives about the burning creeps me out; the genital hairs burning invoke retching. R'hollor can't be the good god and savior as which he is over and over again presented, and it will be interesting to see how Dany reacts to the cult once she's brought into contact. It just doesn't feel right at all to pit such a deity against the Others.

This is the last chapter in which we witness the war in the North personally. The situation is still a stalemate, and Stannis is not aware of the snake he nurses at his breast. But several things happen that give cause for hope. First, Arnolf Karstark can't go anywhere once the king learns of the betrayal, which he will since Tycho and two men of the Watch are here. Second, Winterfell is in the dark about everything; they didn't even find Crowfood yet who beat the drums. Third, if Stannis survives the current situation, his supply is essentially secured.

The presence of the two rangers of the Watch with Tycho and the Ironborn, on the other hand, is a clear signal that the Watch has taken sides. Should Bolton ever see the two together with Stannis, the old "the Watch takes no side" mantra is basically useless. Jon has positioned himself with Stannis for good or bad. This is, if not treason, at least a walk at the edge of the volcano.

As to side notes, we meet a lord named Wylde, old and cautious, who is regarded likely to die soon. It's the same Wylde that Connington took the castle from, so if he's lucky, he dies before learning that he lost his lands to a band of mercenaries from the east.


  1. Oh, it likely wouldn't have made much difference as the Lannisters would have stripped Wylde of his titles and land anyway by now for siding with Stannis. Though I suppose if they only gave it to a relative and let his House keep it would have some impact to know it was lost.

  2. I thought more about the personal implication. You are hundreds of leagues from home stuck in the snow and sick, and then you learn that your home was invaded and conquered? Great. ^^

  3. Crazy chapter. I think I've said before how much I hate the cult of R'hollor, and the sacrificial burnings are the biggest reason. I don't care about Mel's intentions or Moquorro's duplicity, their cult is evil and needs to be driven from Westros. Maybe that's a biased view for me to have, but it's how I see it!

    Now that the Greyjoys are reunited, I'm anxious to see what will happen between them and between them and that loser Stannis. You're perfectly right in that Davos was his only saving grace. I've felt that from the beginning!

  4. Much is made here of the camp being virtually impossible to find, hidden by the snows. Asha steps outside and is lost. How did the newcomers find it? Would Bolton find it?