Monday, May 19, 2014

[Re-read] Davos V: Stoned Dragons cont'd

And as I went to bed for some sleepy sleepy, the little one woke up and refused to sleep for a good while, so here I am, at dawn, on the day after, seated at a table with a view of the forests and mountains and clouded sky outside, laptop on said table, next to a big can o' coffee and the little one playing on the floor beside me, ready to finish up that Davos V chapter. While waiting for him to fall asleep last night I traversed the murky depths of ancient Internet history to re-read old Star Wars threads in which I participated during the last Star Wars boom, '99-'05. Quite embarrassing to read some of my old posts and interesting to see how undeveloped my English was at the time. Also interesting to see how the fan-base was basically split in two sections with the arrival of the prequel trilogy, much like what happened to the other George with the release of A Feast for Crows and later, A Dance with Dragons. There's still hope for the fans of ice and fire, though - and with Episode VII seemingly trying its best to forget I-III, it seems that there are repairs underway even for Star Wars. Sorry! Sorry! My head is just really in the clouds these days. Or should I say, Cloud City. Dammit. Back to Davos. /blush

So Davos is waiting for us in the courtyard, with Salladhor Saan just having departed. He's not happy he didn't get spoils of war from the battle at Blackwater Bay, but it seems the two remain friends. I guess the point of adding this little interaction is that Martin will use Saan again later in the story.

Before leaving, Saan reminds Davos that the higher you climb, the farther you fall, and Davos muses on this, thinking he has risen too high (he's a Hand now, remember, and that he doesn't suit the job - which, we as readers, can see that he does, creating a certain irony and us imagining patting the man on his shoulder and comforting him, saying You're just fine, Dave, you're just fine). He remembers a conversation he had with Maester Pylos about the same thing, with Pylos saying that the King knows what he has in Davos, which is implied, a loyal and honest man who dares tell the truth. No matter how embroiled Stannis has become in the zealotry of Melisandre and his wife, he still likes truth and reasoning. Oh, and Pylos tells us that words are wind. Now I know I should remember if it has already been uttered or if this is the first of many times this Westerosi proverb is mentioned, but I already feel like I need to scratch myself because every time it shows up I get this itch. In other words, I feel Martin overuses the phrase and it becomes annoying more than a natural part of the story (maybe also because it goes from being non-existent early in the story to becoming used all the time later in the series; not that it is unrealistic per se, because sometimes a meme shows up and suddenly everybody's saying it/writing it, some stuff just becomes part of the common vocabulary, but still it annoys me so maybe memes don't work as well in fiction as in real life and on the webz, I don't know).

Pylos also gives us a long list of previous Hands of the Realm that have failed even though they were high-born, and compares this to some blacksmith's son who did do a good job; this to comfort Davos' doubts about himself, but also for Martin to inject more history into his narrative, further cementing the feeling of reading into a grounded, real world with a history. This whole exchange is a setup, however, for Davos to ask to learn to read so he can read the history Pylos is referring to, and Pylos offers to teach him (in the TV show, it is Shireen who teaches him, which is a much cuter direction to go, and one of the changes I applaud; it works better for that narrative instead of adding even more characters). Also, this chapter states that Shireen is a good reader, so there's precedent. So we learn that Davos is learning to read from Pylos. Davos still misses Cressen we learn, and now he's on his way up the stairs for a reading lesson.

En route, he encounters the mysterious, somewhat scary Patchface, who's loitering about because Pylos doesn't want him to interrupt Shireen's lessons. I remember the first time through that I never heeded Patchface, I just thought him a deranged character added for color. Now, however, I scrutinize every word he says, as it seems that Martin is indeed using the fool (as in jester, no disrespect meant) to drop nuggets of hints that are almost prophetic. This time, as Davos approaches, he says, "Under the sea the old fish eat the young fish." A strange thing to say in any situation, but is Patchface simply saying "Old Lord Walder Frey murdered young Robb Stark"? It would seem so, though I do not know what he means by "under the sea". One thought I have had regarding this, is that while Patchface almost drowned, he had a series of visions, so he literally saw things while beneath the waves. With this explanation, the line makes sense. He almost drowned, had a vision of Walder killing Robb, and there you go. Old fish eat the young fish. I kind of miss Patchface in the TV series, to be honest. If only for his tin bucket with antlers.

Davos finds Pylos at a long wooden table covered with books and scrolls, across from Shireen, Edric Storm, and his own son. We see that Davos is proud of his son, who will become Lord of the Rainwood, and that Devan's health and future is more important to him than himself. One of those little elements that make Davos a likable character. Like in the TV show, Devan is fast becoming a devotee of R'hllor, but in the book he's much younger (and thus more impressionable with the fables of the grown-ups). We are reminded that Edric looks very much like Robert except for his Florent ears. Those genetic traits in Westeros really are handy. Shireen tells Davos that they have been reading about King Daeron the First, who they called the Young Dragon (it is kind of interesting that even here, Robb Stark's fate is echoed as he was the Young Wolf); this leads to more exposition and backstory as Edric Storm replies that his father, Robert Baratheon, was even better than Daeron because Robert won three battles in one day. At this point it is rather obvious that Martin wanted to give us a little taste of his history of Robert's Rebellion and simply puts it in the kids' mouths. The infodump feels a little contrived, but Martin has done his best to cover it up by having the kids attend an actual reading of history, so in a way it does make a little sense that they would be talking about...historical stuff. But what exactly in Edric's account is it Martin wants us to pay attention to, for whatever reason?

Well, Summerhall is mentioned (again); it is fast becoming this legendary location of which we hear, but never really know. It adds intrigue and mystery. It also shows us how Robert got enemies to change sides; he was just that formidable a warrior. People were awed by his prowess. Pylos reminds Edric not to boast, and that Robert lost battles too. Not much though: He was bested at Ashford by Lord Tyrell, and lost a few tourney tilts. Edric counters that he won more than he lost, and slew Prince Rhaegar. All in all, the Robert we get to know in A Game of Thrones is definitely not the Robert of yore. With that, Pylos dismisses the children (it feels as if he feels defeated by Edric in their exchange, but the text does not imply this). Pylos turns to Davos, asks if he might want to read a little bit in Daeron's Conquest of Dorne himself. Davos rather wishes to read letters, though. Dorne, Dorne, it rhymes with...

Davos is simply too duty-bound to spend time reading old histories; he feels he has to do a job at the same time, so he wants to read letters. Keep up with the politics, so to speak. Another trait that I suppose endears many readers to Davos. I still find it hard to wrap my head around a smuggler being so hellbent on honor and duty. Which is one of the small nitpicks that perhaps make Davos less interesting for me personally. There are no new letters, so Pylos produces an old one (then you could just as well read some King Daeron, Dave). Of course, Martin might just want us to have a glimpse at this particular letter. In it, we read that the King Beyond the Wall comes south, leading a fast vast host of wildlings. Lord Mormont is under attack. Mormont may be slain. The letter is from the Night's Watch, and Davos asks if Stannis has read the letter, but Lord Alester had interrupted Pylos and told him Stannis had no time to waste on the Night's Watch.

Davos thinks of something his wife said once: Only a starving man begs bread from a beggar. Try saying that fast ten times. Or twenty if you are good at that sort of thing. He remembers the Blind Bastard, who had been executed for trading weapons with the wildlings. Kind of fun that when you see the wildlings brandishing weapons, those weapons were supplied by a captain Davos served when he was young. So Davos has seen the Wall before. He's been at Eastwatch where he "traded during his smuggling days". I thought he was smuggling, but oh well. A man can do two things. Just not at once. He also remembers that the wildlings had taken off with one of the cabin girls aboard the Blind Bastard's ship. Ygritte? Why not. Davos remembers the things Melisandre has said about the cold rising and the long night coming, and so he realizes this letter is actually important.
He remembers a tale Salladhor had told him, about Azor Ahai tempering Lightbringer by thrusting it through the heart of his wife, so he could fight the darkness. The wife's name is Nissa Nissa. It is perhaps one of the silliest names in the saga. Especially for me, as in my particular dialect "nissa nissa" means something like "leprechauns leprechauns". What we see is a plan slowly starting to form in Davos' mind: the first hints that Stannis will go north instead of circling around King's Landing. Davos finally tells Pylos to get him another letting, for this one is "too troubling". Ominous... Soon comes the cold, and the night that never ends, Melisandre's whispers echo in Davos' memory. It is a doom-laden, foreboding sentence. Imagine knowing that a never-ending night is approaching. Love that sense of doom.

And that was Davos V, a chapter that feels a little too long but still, it's full of interesting little bits of tids, and it sets up the rest of the Stannis plotline, far into A Dance with Dragons actually. Do we ever see Edric Storm again after this? Can't remember.

Next up is Jon Snow...that's two chapters in a row that I need to motivate myself for to re-read. I can read a Catelyn chapter any day, but Davos and Jon, they move so slowly. Woe is me. However, the next Jon chapter opens with a great introductory line that does make me want to read on:

"They woke to the smell of Mole's Town burning." Or something like that, anyway. Martin's so good at creating gripping first lines that literally force you to read on, just a little bit more.

1 comment:

  1. 1. 3 foes being defeated at one day seems familiar - either that or smth. similar was mentioned earlier.
    2.Was being bested by Tyrell the battle Tyrion thought about during a meeting that Tyrell won only once and mostly thanks to Tarly?