Wednesday, March 26, 2014

[Re-read] Arya VIII: Dark Heart (Cont'd)



Man, it's been more than twelve hours since I found out about George R.R. Martin's tease for an upcoming new old sample chapter. And he said coming soon. I think twelve hours is the limit of soon, but hey, as we all know Mr. Martin operates on a...stretchier timescale than most other authors. I am still convinced the chapter title "Mercy" refers to Arya, especially considering the fact that he had at least one Arya chapter moved out of A Dance with Dragons, and no other character seems to fit such a title. I've seen various theories bandied about including Cersei because it rhymes with mercy (though I, and many other northerners, have always pronounced her name Ser-SYE teehee; until Game of Thrones came on screen at any rate), Asha Greyjoy, Theon Greyjon, Aeron Damphair, Sansa Stark, Brienne of Tarth, Ser Jaime Lannister, Bran Stark, even Catelyn Stark and Aero Hotah. And probably all the other characters still alive. Jon Snow. Daenerys Targaryren. Melisandre. Ser Barristan Selmy. No one seems to expect another Tyrion chapter, though. But only Arya Stark fits the bill, I am betting a beer on it. I'll be so red-faced if it turns out to be someone else's chapter. If I had to pick another character, I'd have to choose between Asha and Sansa. But I don't, because it's Arya. Now update that sample page before people start flinging turds around in anticipation. It's almost cruel, the way he treats his fans. I am sure he thinks he's being nice and all, but he has no idea how seriously people take this stuff. Man, there are even people spending huge amounts of time blogging about it. Go figure.

Oh well, back to Arya, Gendry et al. I haven't really gotten an impression of this Ned character yet though he's going to get his moment in a page or two. But wait! A thought occurred. George is using his silly frog and his "hiya hiya" so it's going to be online on April the 1st NO WAIT AGAIN IT HAS BEEN UPDATED!! [Yes, I F5'd] "MERCY" is online!! And I was right hehe. ARYA it is. Well not Arya, but MERCY. Yeah now I' motivated to finish this post...but now that's it there, I can relax and wait. In fact, I'd rather he didn't tease us with these samples because by 2018 when the book's finally published I've read so much of it already. But I do appreciate the gesture. Maybe there's a new PR management in the house. Who knows? But what a delightful coincidence that I'm reading an Arya chapter right now.

Yeah. I'll read it in bed tonight, instead. It's not like I am that anxious to read a new Arya chapter. Not that fond of her adventures in Braavos, to be honest. I remember believing she'd end up leading wolf packs, roaming Westeros. That would have been pretty cool. I want her back to the continent where she belongs! Still, once I'm reading it I'll probably be relatively engrossed in it anyway. So now, Arya VIII.

It rained all through that night, and come morning Ned, Lem, and Watty the Miller awoke with
Edric Dayne (c) Fantasy Flight Games
chills.
 There really are copious amounts of rain in the Riverlands these days! It's like raining all the time. The group decides to go to an abandoned village half a day's ride to the north where they can find shelter from the rains. The colossal rains. They urge their horses down the hill, it keeps raining, they ride through the woods and ford swollen streams and others begin to cough as well, and Arya realizes that Gendry doesn't like young Ned. Do we have yet another Targaryen, or someone with Targaryen blood at least? Ned had big blue eyes, so dark that they looked almost purple. And his hair was a pale blond, more ash than honey. Martin sure likes to hint at Targaryen bloodlines, at least. And who's to say? If Robert could have bastards all over the Seven Kingdoms, why not some Targaryen? But what I'm actually thinking, and it's crackpot I know...is that young Ned sounds like what a child of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen could have looked like. Doesn't he? Lord Beric Dondarrion's squire's description sounds more like a son of theirs than Jon Snow does. Could it be that Jon was a red herring all along? I suppose not. It would kind of ruin everything. But it's fun to speculate the what ifs. And, of course, Ned is a Dayne, and the Daynes do have some Targaryen genetic material mixed in their blood. If I'm not mistaken and have gotten it all wrong (again). But I digress! While Gendry seems to dislike the fellow, Arya likes him; he's a little shy and good-natured and there are pretty few of those in Westeros. She asks him how long he's been Beric's squire, and off we go on a mystery tour.

Ned was seven when Beric espoused his aunt (excuse me while I go look up that word and see if it is what I think it is) - right. It is. Became a squire at ten. That's quite impressive. At the Mummer's Ford, Ned pulled Beric out of the river (a parallel to a later similar event). Ned is shocked when she asks if he's killed anyone (love the casual way she asks) - while Arya thinks back to those whose deaths she has been involved with...so far. The stable boy in King's Landing, a guard at Harrenhal, Ser Amory Lorch's men, Weese, Chiswyck (good riddance)...another hint that Ned could be of Targaryen heritage is that he had a palpe purple cloak. He tells her he saw her father, Lord Eddard Stark, also a Ned, at the Hand's tourney and he remembers that he saw Loras Tyrell give Sansa a rose. Lord Beric hasn't married his aunt (though espouse can mean marriage too) and now it seems that the match will never be; after all, he roams the countryside dying. And now, for more mystery!

Ned asks Arya about Jon Snow. Arya misses him most of all. That's such a sweet little sentiment tucked in there. Ned then surprises everyone who is reading the book for the first time (and for addled people like myself, the tenth time) by calling Jon his "milk brother". Ned's mother had no milk, so someone named Wylla had to nurse him - and when Arya wonders who Wylla is, Ned says "Jon Snow's mother. He never told you? She's served us for years and years. Since before I was born." I can't quite get it to match up, because I'm really not seeing Jon and Ned as being of the same age. Arya wonders if the boy is mocking her, because Jon never knew who his mother was, and here comes this whelp and says he knows that woman. So why does Martin put this information here for all (and specifically, Arya) to hear? One can wonder...is it a red herring, or is it the truth? Ned sound sincere, so I am convinced he believes it to be true. When Arya threatens him, he doesn't say, however, "I swear that Wylla is Jon's mother", but "Wylla was my wetnurse". Clever, Martin, but I'm not falling for it one bit. You write it convincingly enough, but shrewd enough that it works both ways - whether Wylla is Jon's mother or not.
This in turn leads to Ned revealing his full name and that he is a lord - he is Edric Dayne, the Lord of Starfall. That's an awesome title! Gendry groans, which is funny. Arya plucks a crabapple off a passing branch and throws it at Gendry, and Ned says, which I also find funny, "What kind of lady throws crabapples at people?" to which Arya replies, making the scene perfect, "The bad kind." This should have survived the adaptation to television screens. Love it. But hey! Edric Dayne is not in the TV series, is he? There you go, he's a red herring. Not important enough to warrant a role. The show, by its very existence, does help eliminate theories about this or that character. Of course, they have almost stripped the whole Jon Snow's mother back story out of the show (for now), so it might just be important because the fans want to know the truth, not because it weighs that much for the story as a whole. Arya decides to remember this so she can tell Jon if she ever meets him. Another little nugget there supporting the idea that they will indeed meet again. I'm afraid they might meet at sword-point, unfortunately. There have been hints, one in A Game of Thrones comes to mind where Jon tells Arya she'll be found frozen clutching her Needle. Paraphrasing here!

Arya recalls the name Arthur Dayne, "the one they called the Sword of the Morning." That would be one of the three Kingsguard who Lord Eddard Stark fought at the Tower of Joy. A legendary figure, to say the least. Time for some expo. Through dialogue, fortunately. Flows better. Ser Arthur, then, was Ned's uncle, and his wife was Lady Ashara, Ned's aunt. Lady Ashara, then, was the one who couldn't produce milk. However, she threw herself into the sea before Ned was born. According to Edric Dayne, his aunt Ashara committed suicide because her heart was broken. He then goes on to say that she did this because she loved...Lord Eddard Stark, and that he loved her in return. Arya doesn't want to hear it, to which Gendry oh so dryly interrupts with a well-placed "He must have found that bastard under a cabbage leaf, then." Score for Gendry! I haven't realized he could be so droll. Is it a rare sparkle of a moment for him?
Anyway, what if Lord Eddard did indeed fall in love with Ashara but he felt honor-bound to return to Catelyn in the north? It seems unlikely considering how rigid Eddard always was, but in that way there's some truth to Edric's tale - and Jon Snow can still remain the son of Lyanna and Rhaegar. Even Eddard Stark could make a mistake, I dare say. I am sure he thought that himself, on the steps of the Great Sept. Gendry gets angry about the whole discussion, bringing in the fact that he doesn't know his father and that he's probably dead. Arya is, at any rate, upset about this. So upset, she rides ahead and asks Anguy the Archer if it's true that Dornishmen are known to be liars; probably some prejudice she's picked up somewhere (though it does come a little out of the blue) and he's of course saying "They're famous for it," which is Martin working to make us feel uncertain about it all, but really now, Arya likes the boy and thinks he's good-natured, she just doesn't want to hear that her lord father could have had a lover while he was south the first time. When he didn't have to return north as a bag of bones. Those were the times.

She leaves the trail, ignoring their shouts. Harwin rides up to her after a while, telling her not to try to run away from them. He consoles her, telling her that if Lord Eddard was having some sexy time with Lady Ashara Dayne, it doesn't matter because at the time it was her uncle Brandon who was betrothed to Catelyn Stark her mother. Man, how complicated can stuff get? No, really? Again, I get that iffy feeling that all characters are related by events somehow. I wonder how long a line one could make from Arya through all her connections, for example? Pretty much everyone on Westeros could come into play. Just think - Arya knows Gendry who is the bastard son of Robert who was married to Cersei who at the moment is Sansa's mother-in-law and Sansa is Arya's sister...oh, I went full circle fast there. Never mind.

Harwin suggests that Ashara killed herself because she lost her brother, Ser Arthur Dayne. He died at the Tower of Joy, possibly by Ned's Ice. So much to ponder in this scene. I would love to know what went into writing this scene, and how Martin decided what Ned would say to Arya, and what Ned's motivation for saying it is if there's any beyond plot purpose...just to mislead us, or is there something more? Instead of writing "Half a day later they reached the village..." he gives us this talk between Arya and Ned Dayne...ponder ponder. Lovely though, to have a story so rich with detail that you can keep pondering fourteen fricking years after publication. Or is it fifteen already? Sigh.

Well, eventually they do reach the abandoned village and they take shelter in a stable with only half a roof. A ruined village, not just abandoned. It's an old place, and Arya learns that it was attacked by Lord Hoster Tully's forces during Robert's Rebellion. Again, Martin loves to surprise us with small twists to remind us nothing is wholly good or wholly evil. We've met Lord Hoster only as a dying, frail man, but now we learn that he too has commanded the murder of innocents. Lord Goodbrook, who ran the village back when it was still inhabited, stayed loyal to Mad King Aerys Targaryen instead of joining Robert Baratheon, and for that, he faced annihilation. Here is one of many hints sprinkled through the text, with increasing regularity, that there were and are many who are loyal to House Targaryen. It almost feels like Martin is preparing us for something... I'd feel bad about it if someone told me one of my grandpas had exterminated a village.

Thoros gets a fire up and running and begins gazing into the flames as he did on the hill; this time, Arya hears him mutter "Riverrun" though that's hardly enough to give us anything useful. Tom o' Sevens doesn't want to go to Riverrun because and he launches into a tale involving Lysa Arryn and his nakedness, before Thoros interrupts them: "Lannisters," Thoros said. "Roaring red and gold." Uhm you can't roar colors. How weird is this. By the way I'm not sure I understand Tom's tale about being sent up the high road. Enlighten me at will. Thoros of Myr tells Arya more specifically what he has seen in the flames: Riverrun in a sea of fire, and the flames looking like lions with crimson claws. In other words, Riverrun will come under attack. Incidentally, how do they know if they're seeing the past, the present or the future? It's not like there's a switch or anything. And a Lannister siege of Riverrun is forthcoming, true enough, but not until A Feast for Crows. But was it that dramatic? Can't say I remember much of it now - I remember Ser Jaime and Ser Brynden having a chat. Not much fire. Looking forward to re-read that chapter. Jaime's chapters in that book are without a doubt the best. Thoros reminds us that Catelyn and Robb aren't at Riverrun, but at the Twins - though it would, ironically, be better if they were at Riverrun because there's no siege at the moment and at the Twins things are going to get a little rough.

Anyway (is it just me or is this chapter exceedingly long?) Arya is asked if she know Ser Brynden Tully aka the Blackfish but she doesn't but it's cool that he's mentioned here because, you know, the siege at Riverrun being foreseen by Thoros of Myr right before. Lord Beric and his merry companions begin bickering about where to go - Riverrun or the Twins. Arya can't take it anymore, and no wonder, she's just ransom to these people and off she darts again. This time, Lord Beric's men lose her good. Because the Hound is suddenly there, grasping her and telling her she's his now. It's a great way to end the chapter. It has been a slow one, with backstories and exposition and mystery more than being forward-driving, best shown through the brotherhood not being able to agree on where to take her, and then BAM! Sandor Clegane is outside the house, people! And he's taking Arya with him. Excellent stuff and just when your eyes are about to close because it was a lil' bit ponderous, you are all excited again and eager to see what will happen next. Can't believe how short Arya's stint with the brotherhood was in the TV series, I missed so many of the characters from said brotherhood. I'm a bit of a fan.

And with that, it's off to bed to read Mercy.


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