The chapter takes place at the Wall. The Wall is weeping. Mance Rayder is brought forward with a noose around his neck and placed in a wooden cage. The Horn of Joramun is tossed onto a pyre, and Mance is tossed on the pyre too. He pleads with Stannis, saying "I'm not really a king!", but of course Stannis doesn't listen. Mance starts screaming as the fire consumes him. After a while 4 members of the Night's Watch shoot arrows into him to make an end of it.
Then Stannis draws Lightbringer. Melisandre says some words about Azor Ahai which I can't remember exactly. She denounces the false gods of the wildlings. Jon remarks that he's never seen Lightbringer glow so brightly. Stannis proclaims himself the true king of Westeros.
Jon seemed to be in a dark, contemplative mood while all this is going on. He thinks about "The Dornishman's Wife" song at one point. He thinks about life and death. Jon remarks that the Free Folk don't look very free anymore.
After Melissandra warned the wildings (who are all in a stockade - this scene takes place on the north side of the Wall, I think), she says some words in another language. The horn (which is black with runes inscribed upon it) bursts into flame. The horn is then dropped into the fire pit, where it lights the fire, consuming the cage and Mance. That is when Jon has four of his men fire arrows to put Mance out of his misery.
After the cage and Mance's body fall into the firepit, Jon looks into the bit, commenting how no dragons are coming out of the fire. This brings into question the stories he has heard about the power of king's blood burnt in fire.
Also, as Stannis is holding out Lightbringer, he offers the wildings a choice: bend the knee and settle the lands south of the wall, or die.
My reading of this (which is only one interpretation) is that Mance was stubborn until the end. However, I think he was just terrified of being burned to death (a sentiment that I could understand). For Melissandra, I think this execution was ritualistic. She saw Mance as an enemy to the God of Light since Mance was threatening to bring the Wall down with the Horn. This, according to her (this was stated in the chapter reading), would lead to the rise of the Other god and the coming of the Eternal Night. It was hard to tell if the horn was entirely destroyed, but it was definitely on fire. She also declared Stannis Azor Azai reborn after Mance died, right before Stannis unsheathed Lightbringer.
However, I think Stannis used this execution to drive the point home to the Wildlings that he is in control of the North, and that they better do what he says otherwise they will suffer similar fates.
As for Jon's thoughts, they dwelled on Mance monstly. Mance was dressed in threadbare clothing, and Jon thought they should have at least given him his black cloak with the red stitching. Also, all of the Black Brothers that where present had their hoods up, including Jon, to hide their faces. Stannis wanted to make sure that no one saw Jon grieving for Mance's death.
a couple of things i don't recall reading in the previous spoilers, or clarifications... mance is brought out with his hands tied and wearing a noose of hempen rope. he is barefoot, and arms and legs are exposed to the elements. there are over 1000 wildlings present, but over 3/4 are women, children, and old men. mel calls joraman's horn "the horn of darkness". jon sees stannis and mel side by side and notes that "he is stone, she is flame" (or something close to that). mel says something "in a language jon did not understand" to set the runes on the horn on fire. jon notes nothing supernatural is happening while mance is/was burning, and thinks there is no power in king's blood. after mance is dead, mel shouts to the wildlings something about how they have to give up their "false gods, horn, king".
okay the new stuff...
they (stannis & co.) let whichever wildlings would agree to keep the kings peace to pass through a wooden baracade on the north side of the wall, through the tunnel in the wall, to the south side. at first they were weary, and only a couple went. then as the others saw that nothing bad happened to the trail blazers, the trickle turned into a steady stream. as they passed each was given a piece of weirwood - "a piece of the old gods to feed the new". the fire god is a jealous deity (i think jon thinks this). oh, they also get a bowl of onion soup.
rattleshirt and the new magnar of thenn are two of those who pass through the wall. stannis wants to make them all kneel to him as their king, and jon says something along the lines of "the free folk mock kneelers. let them keep their dignity, and they will love you better." to which stannis replies, "it is their obedience i need, not their love."
there was something about alastair thorne bad mouthing jon, and jon thinks "i'll have to deal with thorne before he deals with me."
the four giants remain north of the wall (one won't leave him mammoth, and the rest won't leave him) (only 4 giants left?!?). the rest of the wildlings are set free, and mel/stannis tells them to tell the other wildlings "one realm, one god, one king." the four giants are the last to go.
jon notes that mel is stannis's "red shadow".
jon orders the baracade disassembled, and to use the wood as fuel for a pyre to burn the corpses.
bowan marsh tells jon that many of the nightswatch men wonder about jon - think that he is a warg, etc. (ie men are wary of him.) it comes up that stannis has made rattleshirt a lord, and will be giving/gave him a castle on the wall. jon says that he told stannis that he will nt have wildlings on the wall, only in the gift. marsh also says that some nw men (i think it was janos slynt) are saying that jon is on stannis's side against the lannisters in the war for the iron throne.
doloros edd says something like "we burn their king, burn their gods, but they get onion soup."
jon goes to see stannis in castle black (i think) and before he admitted, he is searched and stripped of weapons. rattleshirt and magnar are there, with mel between the two wildlings. jon kneels, but stannis ignores him for a while. jon notes that there are no kingsmen in stannis's little circle (i assume this to mean they are all queensmen and wildlings). when stannis does start to talk with jon, he noted how he was 'irritated' by jon ordering the four archers to kill mance in the fire.
stannis is has changed out of his armour, but he still looks uncomfortable - "it is not in stannis to be comfortable." stannis says the arrows were a sign of mercy, and jon doesn't deny it. rattleshirt says something about how jon is a bastard, and how they are shifty anyway (or some such slander). rattleshirt also says that jon had mance shot so jon could claim to have killed mance rayder. jon is offered a drink (stannis drinks lemon and water) but jon thinks that he won't drink with these men.
apparently, it will take a year to get one of the castles on the wall repaired (nightfort??). i seem to recall that being too long for stannis, but i'm not sure. stannis means to use the wildlings as soldiers to fight the greyjoys and lannisters. stannis wants armour and weapons for the wildlings (approx 300 fighting men). stannis is going to use the women as hostages, but jon says that the spearwives are fighters, but stannis wont have women with him. this includes mel - she'll be staying on the wall.
jon and stannis look at a map, with candles on corners... stannis declares the winterfell is to be his first objective. "there is still power in the name winterfell" (or something). he plans to deal with the bastard of bolton there. jon had always heard that stannis was cautious, but this plan doesn't sound that way. jon tells stannis about the bolton uprising 700 years ago, and the stark king laid seige to the dreadfort for four years before winning.
there was something about horpe being the most formidable of the queensmen. he sigil is three moths on ash and bones.
anyway, jon says that stannis can't march down the kingsroad, and he can't use the wildlings against the north. northmen fear wildlings, so he won't get any support from other lords, and might get attacked along the way (by umbers??) jon says that stannis will need all the northern lords to get the boltons (umbers, karstarks, manderlys, etc.) most importantly, the umbers can't side with the boltons. there was something about an umber uncle taken hostage at the red wedding, but i'm not too clear about this...
stannis sends everyone but jon away. they leave reluctantly, and give jon dirty looks, etc. someone mutters "boy". mel and devon (squire) also remain.
stannis asks jon which of three choices would he have as warden of the north (i wish i could write fast enough to get down who the choices were, but i can't). jon doesn't like any of them, and wants stannis to hold winterfell in trust for sansa. stannis replies "for sansa, or for tyrion lannister??" stannis then says that he's giving it to the karstarks (i guess they were one of the three choices).
jon says that deepwood motte is the best place to start the war for the north. it's the closest to the wall, easy to creep up on, made of timber, and most importantly, in the hands of the ironmen, not northmen. restoring the castle to it's rightful owners is a good thing (said by jon or stannis, i don't remember). stannis can't afford to get mixed up with the umbers, so he suggests that stannis cross a goat track through the mountains and emerge at gates of deepwood motte. the people there are petty lords, not umbers (flint, big bucket, etc.). jon says that the norrys will help - they are friends of the night watch.
jon says that these people worship the old gods and not to offend or insult them. this is when mel says that she will remain on the wall to advise lord meadows (i dunno who he is). jon says that the wall is no place for women - it makes the men uneasy. mel takes it as a compliment (i think).
i think mel says something about how there are a lot of people who want jon dead. the way george read it reminded me of dr. evil in austin powers ("no one can stop me. not even - austin powers").
that's about it...
EDIT: OK! finally i can post the rest! i know that everyone else has done a great job, but i would feel incomplete if i didnt finish it. so here's goes.
so Roose is still down south. stannis wants to deal severely with the bastard of bolton (for which i applaud him, i hate that bastard! )
there is mention of a HARLON stark, hundreds or thousands (cant remember) of years ago, who was revolted against by the boltons. i think jon mentions this.
stannis says he wants to take moat cailan from the ironmen. jon says no one can take moat cailan... from the SOUTH. jon is feeling the pressure of advising stannis (as os said, he kept thinking that "talking is not fighting" or whatever). jon tells stannis "you need the hornwoods, the manderlys and the UMBERS. karhold is not enough."
it is mentioned that greatjon umber is being held hostage after the red wedding. i think that stannis says that the umbers would be no help, because while the umbers hate the boltons, they hate the wildlings more, living so close to the wall as they do.
there is mention of a ser jiles (sp?) and a ser massey (sp?)
stannis says: "all leave me now, except lord snow." melisandre also remains.
it is mentioned that devan (davos's son) is stannis' cupbearer. no mention of davos though.
stannis again tries to get jon to take WF. jon refuses again (especially since he's LC of the NW now!) stannis presents several choices and then says he will make the karstark (not sure which one) the lord of WF.
jon says that moat cailin is not the best choice. stannis asks him "where then?" jon replies "Deepwood Motte." jon tell stannis that it is easy to attack, cause its held by ironmen, not northmen.
but to get there they must not take the the kingsroad. jon says they have to go through the mountains, with the mountain clans, who are "proud, poor and prickly. but they are hospitable, you will eat well."
jon says thay must pass through the Norryland, the Norries are friends to the NW. the paths are goat tracks.
"goat tracks?" stannis asks scornfully.
jon convinces him it is the best way. but jon warns them that the mountain clans worship the old gods (this is aimed at mel). so dont offend them.
mel says, don't worry i'm staying on the wall.
mel then says "i have seen it in the flames jon snow, you have enemies"
jon says "i know."
stannis says: "not the enemies you know. the enemies who smile at you
I'm presuming you've got the rough outline, and I'm just adding detail.
When Mance is brought forward, he is smiling at first, but when he sees the cage, his courage fades. He protestes, "No, I've bent the knee." Mel says something, and Jon thinks that her voice sounds of "anise, nutmeg, and clove." Mance begs for mercy - "I'm no king."
The Horn of Joramun is a "great black horn"; when it bursts into flames, there is green and yellow fire. The runes seem to shimmer in the air.
Mel warns that if the Wall were to fall, "the night will never end." The ruby at her throat pulses with light. Jon thinks, "She is flame, and he is stone."
There are about 200 men of the Wall left at the garrison with Jon at this point. He thinks to himself that they are mostly greybeards and greenhorns.
Mance seems to "do a little dance" when the flames first touch his feet. (Allusions to mad kings past?)
When the four archers shoot arrows, Stannis scowls at the crowd.
When Mance dies, and nothing happens, Jon thinks. "So much for the power of king's blood." Mel declares, "Here stands the true king." Stannis brings forth Lightbringer, which glows. Jon thinks that he has seen it glow before, but "never before like this." It is "sun made steel," and a "storm of light." The sword makes the wall urn red, pink, and orange.
Stannis asks the free folk to bend the knee. "If you choose the light, come to me," says Mel. Those who comes forward are given a piece of white weirwood, as Mel says, the old gods to trade for the new. The fire casts shadows of Stannis and Mel against the Wall, black shadows,
When Rattleshirt comes forward, Jon thinks, how can this be justice? Jon thinks that Rattlshirt's loyalty will not last too long.
Jon thinks back to a previous conversation w/ Stannis, in which he'd told Stannis, "They will love you more if you let them keep their pride." Stannis said that its their loyalty (or fealty? or obedience?) he wants, not their love.
By dark, only a few score wildlings had not come forward. Stannis tells them they are free to go, but to tell others what they have seen. Mel begins a chnat, "One realm! One god! One king!" and Stannis' men take up the chant.
Jon then orders his men to tear down the stockade. Someone approaches Jon to tell him "there have been mutterings" about Jon. Jon says he knows, that the men say he's a wildling at heart, that he turns into a wolf at night. The other person says, yes, that, but also more. Some of the Wall have been fighting wildlings all their lives; their feelings run deep. The guy tells him that Stannis means to give Rattleshirt a castle on teh Wall. Jon says that he's already told Stannis there will be no wildlings on the Wall. The guy tells Jon that some say Jon has made a secret pact with Stannis to put him on the throne. Jon thinks that those people are really afraid of Tywin Lannister and believe that Stannis is doomed.
Jon goes into a tunnel where "cold tears" dribble down on him & Dolorous Edd.
South of the Wall, he finds the Queensmen, who say that Stannis commands his presence. In the King's Tower, Jon is stripped of his weapons. Magnar & Rattleshirt are there , and Jon is angry to see them. He notes that there are no kingsmen in the inner circle.
Stannis questions Jon about the 4 archers who shot Mance, but with irritation, not anger. "His life belonged to the Wall," says Jon. "His life belonged to the Lord of Light," counters Mel. She says, woe to him who steals from the Lord of Light -- they are fools. Jon says that he is a fool, then.
Jon asks why he has been summoned. Stannis tells him of the battle plans. "The time is ripe for me to march." Among other things, "the ironmen are rudderless." Stannis must attack fast while his foes are divided. Stannis demands arms from the Wall to arm the free folk who will fight. He estimates that 300 of the wildlings are fighting men. Jon can give them 300 spears. Stannis informs Jon he is leaving the women, children, and infirm in the Wall's care. Jon tells Stannis that the women like to fight with their men, but Stannis will have none of that.
Stannis tells of his battle plans. "Winterfell shall be our first objective. I mean to raise my standard there." Then he will move against the Dreadfort & BoB.
After hearing the details, Jon thinks that he's always heard Stannis was a cautious commanded, but "this was anything but cautious." He warns Stannis of many things, including they won't take the Dreadfort that easily, the Kingsroad is well-watched, and if Stannis has wildlings in his army, Winterfell will be well-armed by the time they arrive, and that some say Stannis fled to the north with a broken army in order to flee Tywin Lannister. Jon tells Stannis which northern houses he will need the support of, including the Umbers.
Stannis' men tell him he oughtn't take advice from a craven like Jon. Stannis commands everyone to leave but Jon. This doesn't include Mel, who stays.
"Robert won by moving swiftly and attacking where his opponents least expected it -- but it occurs to me he had your father for counsel," Stannis says.
Stannis then baits Jon by asking which of 3 men Jon would rather see lord of Winterfell. "None," says Jon angrily. Stannis tells him, "It's not too late to reconsider your folly," and reoffers Winterfell to Jon. Jon says no, but asks Stannis to hold Winterfell in trust. Sansa may still be alive. "You would see an imp" as Lord of Winterfell? Stannis asks. Stannis says he will give Winterfell to the Karstarks.
Jon suggests Deppwood Motte as the first place to attack. As he says this, he thinkgs to himself, "The Wall takes no part" in the battles of the realm, but justifies to himself that they have only ever plundered the realm. He tells Stannis that the northmen are not likely to take arms if this is the first battle objective. He says they don't need to follow the Kingsroad, they can go through the mountains and travel unseen in an area not ruled by the Umbers but by mountain lords. Stannis will have to pass through the Norrey's lands, but they are friends of the Wall. he warns that the clans worship the old gods and will not welcome any affront to their gods.
Mel tells Jon that he has many enemies and she has seen them in her flames. She asks if he wants to know who. Jon says he knows who his enemies are. Stannis tells him he should not fear the enemies who curse him to his face, but those who smile to his face and sharpen their daggers behind his back.
Tyrion He drank his way across the narrow sea.
The ship was small and his cabin smaller, and the captain would not allow him abovedecks. The rocking of the deck beneath his feet made his stomach heave, and the wretched food they served him tasted even worse when retched back up. Besides, why did he need salt beef, hard cheese, and bread crawling with worms when he had wine to nourish him? It was red and sour, very strong. He sometimes heaved the wine up too, but there was always more. "The world is full of wine," he muttered in the dankness of his cabin. His father had never had any use for drunkards, but what did that matter? His father was dead. He ought to know; he'd killed him. A bolt in the belly, my lord, and all for you. If only I was better with a crossbow, I would have put it through that cock you made me with, you bloody bastard.
Below decks there was neither night nor day. Tyrion marked time by the comings and goings of the cabin boy who brought the meals he did not eat. The boy always brought a brush and bucket too, to clean up. "Is this Dornish wine?" Tyrion asked him once, as he pulled a stopper from a skin. "It reminds me of a certain snake I knew. A droll fellow, till a mountain fell on him."
The cabin boy did not answer. He was an ugly boy, though admittedly more comely than a certain dwarf with half a nose and a scar from eye to chin. "Have I offended you?" Tyrion asked the sullen, silent boy, as he was scrubbing. "Were you commanded not to talk to me? Or did some dwarf diddle your mother?"
That went unanswered too. This is pointless, he knew, but he must speak to someone or go mad, so he persisted. "Where are we sailing? Tell me that." Jaime had made mention of the Free Cities, but had never said which one. "Is it Braavos? Tyrosh? Myr?" Tyrion would sooner have gone to Dorne. Myrcella is older than Tommen, by Dornish law the Iron Throne is hers. I will help her claim her rights, as Prince Oberyn suggested.
Oberyn was dead, though, his head smashed to bloody ruin by the armored fist of Ser Gregor Clegane. And without the Red Viper to urge him on, would Doran Martell even consider such a chancy scheme? He may clap me in chains instead, and hand me back to my sweet sister. The Wall might be safer. Old Bear Mormont said the Night's Watch had need of men like Tyrion. Mormont may be dead, though. By now Slynt may be the Lord Commander. That butcher's son was not like to have forgotten who sent him to the Wall. Do I really want to spend the rest of my life eating salt beef and porridge with murderers and thieves? Not that the rest of his life would last very long. Janos Slynt would see to that.
The cabin boy wet his brush and scrubbed on manfully. "Have you ever visited the pleasure houses of Lys?" the dwarf inquired. "Might that be where whores go?" Tyrion could not seem to recall the Valyrian word for whore, and in any case it was too late. The boy tossed his brush back in his bucket and took his leave.
The wine has blurred my wits. He had learned to read High Valyrian at his maester's knee, though what they spoke in the Nine Free Cities... well, it was not so much a dialect as nine dialects on the way to becoming separate tongues. Tyrion had some Braavosi and a smattering of Myrish. In Tyrosh he should be able to curse the gods, call a man a cheat, and order up an ale, thanks to a sellsword he had once known at the Rock. At least in Dorne they spea the Common Tongue. Like Dornish food and Dornish law, Dornish speech was spiced with the flavors of the Rhoyne, but a man could comprehend it. Dorne, yes, Dorne for me. He crawled into his bunk, clutching that thought like a child with a doll.
Sleep had never come easily to Tyrion Lannister. Aboard that ship it seldom came at all, though from time to time he managed to drink sufficient wine to pass out for a while. At least he did not dream. He had dreamt enough for one small life. And of such follies: love, justice, friendship, glory. As well dream of being tall. It was all beyond his reach, Tyrion knew now. But he did not know where whores go.
"Wherever whores go," his father had said. His last words, and what words they were. The crossbow thrummed, Lord Tywin sat back down, and Tyrion Lannister found himself waddling through the darkness with Varys at his side. He must have clambered back down the shaft, two hundred and thirty rungs to where orange embers glowed in the mouth of an iron dragon. He remembered none of it. Only the sound the crossbow made, and the stink of his father's bowels opening. Even in his dying, he found a way to shit on me.
Varys had escorted him through the tunnels, but they never spoke until they emerged beside the Blackwater, where Tyrion had won a famous victory and lost a nose. That was when the dwarf turned to the eunuch and said, "I've killed my father," in the same tone a man might use to say, "I've stubbed my toe." The master of whisperers had been dressed as a begging brother, in a moth-eaten robe of brown roughspun with a cowl that shadowed his smooth fat cheeks and bald round head. "You should not have climbed that ladder," he said reproachfully.
"Wherever whores go." Tyrion warned his father not to say that word. If I had not loosed, he would have seen my threats were empty. He would have taken the crossbow from my hands, as once he took Tysha from my arms. He was rising when I killed him. "I killed Shae too," he confessed to Varys.
"You knew what she was."
"I did. But I never knew what he was."
Varys tittered. "And now you do."
I should have killed the eunuch as well. A little more blood on his hands, what would it matter? He could not say what had stayed his dagger. Not gratitude. Varys had saved him from a headsman's sword, but only because Jaime had compelled him. Jaime... no, better not to think of Jaime.
He found a fresh skin of wine instead, and sucked at it as if it were a woman's breast. The sour red ran down his chin and soaked through his soiled tunic, the same one he had been wearing in his cell. He sucked until the wine was gone. The deck was swaying beneath his feet, and when he tried to rise it lifted sideways and smashed him hard against a bulkhead. A storm, he realized, or else I am even drunker than I knew. He retched the wine up and lay in it a while, wondering if the ship would sink.
Is this your vengeance, Father? Have the Father Above made you his Hand? "Such are the wages of the kinslayer," he said as the wind howled outside. It did not seem fair to drown the cabin boy and the captain and all the rest for something he had done, but when had the gods ever been fair? And around about then, the darkness gulped him down
When he stirred again, his head felt like to burst and the ship was spinning round in dizzy circles, though the captain was insisting that they'd come to port. Tyrion told him to be quiet, and kicked feebly as a huge bald sailor tucked him under one arm and carried him squirming to the hold, where an empty wine cask awaited him. It was a squat little cask, and a tight fit even for a dwarf. Tyrion pissed himself in his struggles, for all the good it did. He was up crammed face first into the cask with his knees pushed up against his ears. The stub of his nose itched horribly, but his arms were pinned so tightly that he could not reach to scratch it. A palanquin fit for a man of my stature, he thought as they hammered shut the lid and hoisted him up. He could hear voices shouting as he was jounced along. Every bounce cracked his head against the bottom of the cask. The world went round and round as the cask rolled downward, then stopped with a sudden crash that made him want to scream. Another cask slammed into his, and Tyrion bit his tongue.
That was the longest journey he had ever taken, though it could not have lasted more than half an hour. He was lifted and lowered, rolled and stacked, upended and righted and rolled again. Through the wooden staves he heard men shouting, and once a horse whickered nearby. His stunted legs began to cramp, and soon hurt so badly that he forgot the hammering in his head.
It ended as it had begun, with another roll that left him dizzy and more jouncing. Outside strange voices were speaking in a tongue he did not know. Someone started pounding on the top of the cask and the lid cracked open suddenly. Light came flooding in, and cool air as well. Tyrion gasped greedily and tried to stand, but only managed to knock the cask over sideways and spill himself out onto a hard-packed earthen floor.
Above him loomed a grotesque fat man with a forked yellow beard, holding a wooden mallet and an iron chisel. His bedrobe was large enough to serve as a tourney pavilion, but its loosely knotted belt had come undone, exposing a huge white belly and a pair of heavy breasts that sagged like sacks of suet covered with coarse yellow hair. He reminded Tyrion of a dead sea cow that had once washed up in the caverns under Casterly Rock.
The fat man looked down and smiled. "A drunken dwarf," he said, in the Common Tongue of Westeros.
"A rotting sea cow." Tyrion's mouth was full of blood. He spat it at the fat man's feet. They were in a long dim cellar with barrel-vaulted ceilings, its stone walls spotted with nitre. Casks of wine and ale surrounded them, more than enough drink to see a thirsty dwarf safely through the night. Or through a life.
"You are insolent. I like that in a dwarf." When the fat man laughed, his flesh bounced so vigorously that Tyrion was afraid he might fall and crush him. "Are you hungry, my little friend? Weary?"
"Thirsty." Tyrion struggled to his knees. "And filthy."
The fat man sniffed. "A bath first, just so. Then food and a soft bed, yes? My servants shall see to it." His host put the mallet and chisel aside. "My house is yours. Any friend of my friend across the water is a friend to Illyrio Mopatis, yes."
And any friend of Varys the Spider is someone I will trust just as far as I can throw him.
The fat man made good on the promised bath, at least... though no sooner did Tyrion lower himself into the hot water and close his eyes than he was fast asleep.
He woke naked on a goosedown featherbed so deep and soft it felt as if he were being swallowed by a cloud. His tongue was growing hair and his throat was raw, but his cock felt as hard as an iron bar. He rolled from the bed, found a chamberpot, and commenced to filling it, with a groan of pleasure.
The room was dim, but there were bars of yellow sunlight showing between the slats of the shutters. Tyrion shook the last drops off and waddled over patterned Myrish carpets as soft as new spring grass. Awkwardly he climbed the window seat and flung shudders open to see where Varys and the gods had sent him.
Beneath his window six cherry trees stood sentinel around a marble pool, their slender branches bare and brown. A naked boy stood on the water, poised to duel with a bravo's blade in hand. He was lithe and handsome, no older than sixteen, with straight blond hair that brushed his shoulders. So lifelike did he seem that it took the dwarf a long moment to realize he was made of painted marble, though his sword shimmered like true steel.
Across the pool stood stood a brick wall twelve feet high, with iron spikes along its top. Beyond that was the city. A sea of tiled rooftops crowded close around a bay. He saw square brick towers, a great red temple, a distant manse upon a hill. In the far distance sunlight shimmered off deep water. Fishing boats were moving across the bay, their sails rippling in the wind, and he could see the masts of larger ships poking up along the bay shore. Surely one is bound for Dorne, or for Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. He had no means to pay for passage, though, nor was he made to pull an oar. I suppose I could sign on as a cabin boy and earn my way by letting the crew bugger me up and down the narrow sea. He wondered where he was. Even the air smells different here. Strange spices scented the chilly autumn wind, and he could hear faint cries drifting over the wall from the streets beyond. It sounded something like Valyrian, but he did not recognize more than one word in five. Not Braavos, he concluded, nor Tyrosh. Those bare branches and the chill in the air argued against Lys and Myr and Volantis as well.
When he heard the door opening behind him, Tyrion turned to confront his fat host. "This is Pentos, yes?"
"Just so. Where else?"
Pentos. Well, it was not King's Landing, that much could be said for it. "Where do whores go?" he heard himself ask.
"Whores are found in brothels here, as in Westeros. You will have no need of such, my little friend. Choose from among my serving women. None will dare refuse you."
"Slaves?" the dwarf asked pointedly.
The fat man stroked one of the prongs of his oiled yellow beard, a gesture Tyrion fond remarkably obscene. "Slavery is forbidden in Pentos, by the terms of the treaty the Braavosi imposed on us a hundred years ago. Still, they will not refuse you." Illyrio gave a ponderous half-bow. "But now my little friend must excuse me. I have the honor to be a magister of this great city, and the prince has summoned us to session." He smiled, showing a mouth full of crooked yellow teeth. "Explore the manse and grounds as you like, but on no account stray beyond the walls. It is best that no man knows that you were here."
"Were? Have I gone somewhere?"
"Time enough to speak of that this evening. My little friend and I shall eat and drink and make great plans, yes?"
"Yes, my fat friend," Tyrion replied. He thinks to use me for his profit. It was all profit with the merchant princes of the Free Cities. "Spice soldiers and cheese lords," his lord father called them, with contempt. Should a day ever dawn when Illyrio Mopatis saw more profit in a dead dwarf than a live one, he would find himself packed into another wine cask by dusk. It would be well if I were gone before that day arrives. That it would arrive he did not doubt; Cersei was not like to forget him, and even Jaime might be vexed to find a quarrel in Father's belly.
A light wind was riffling the waters of the pool below, all around the naked swordsman. It reminded him of how Tysha would riffle his hair during the false spring of their marriage, before he helped his father's guardsmen rape her. He had been thinking of those guardsmen during his flight, trying to recall how many there had been. You would think he might remember that, but no. A dozen? A score? A hundred? He could not say. They had all been grown men, tall and strong... though all men were tall to a dwarf of thirteen years. Tysha knew their number. Each of them had given her a silver stag, so she would only need to count the coins. A silver for each and a gold for me. His father had insisted that he pay her too. A Lannister always pays his debts.
"Wherever whores go," he heard Lord Tywin say once more, and once more the bowstring thrummed.
The magister had invited him to explore the manse. He found clean clothes in a cedar chest inlaid with lapis and mother-of-pearl. The clothes had been made for a small boy, he realized as he struggled into them. The fabrics were rich enough, if a little musty, but the cut was too long in the legs and too short in the arms, with a collar that would have turned his face as black as Joffrey's had he somehow contrived to get it fastened. At least they do not stink of vomit.
Tyrion began his explorations with the kitchen, where two fat women and a pot boy watched him warily as he helped himself to cheese, bread, and figs. "Good morrow to you, fair ladies," he said with a bow. "Do you perchance know where the whores go?" When they did not respond, he repeated the question in High Valyrian, though he had to say courtesan in place of whore. The younger fatter cook gave him a shrug that time.
He wondered what they would do if he took them by the hand and dragged them to his bedchamber. None will dare refuse you, Illyrio claimed, but somehow Tyrion did not think he meant these two. The younger woman was old enough to be his mother, and the older was likely her mother. Both were near as fat as Illyrio, with teats that were larger than his head. I could smother myself in flesh, he reflected. There were worse ways to die. The way his lord father had died, for one. I should have made him shit a little gold before expiring. Lord Tywin might have been niggardly with his approval and affection, but he had always been open-handed when it came to coin. The only thing more pitiful than a dwarf without a nose is a dwarf without a nose who has no gold.
Tyrion left the fat women to their loaves and kettles and went in search of the cellar where Illyrio had decanted him the night before. It was not hard to find. There was enough wine there to keep him drunk for a hundred years; sweet reds from the Reach and sour reds from Dorne, pale Pentoshi ambers, the green nectar of Myr, three score casks of Arbor gold, even wines from the fabled east, from Meereen and Qarth and Asshai by the Shadow. In the end, Tyrion chose a cask of strongwine marked as the private stock of Lord Runceford Redwyne, the grandfather of the present Lord of the Arbor. The taste of it was languorous and heady on the tongue, the color a purple so dark that it looked almost black in the dim-lit cellar. Tyrion filled a cup, and a flagon for good measure, and carried them up to gardens to drink beneath those cherry trees he'd seen.
As it happened, he left by the wrong door and never found the pool he had spied from his window, but it made no matter. The gardens behind the manse were just as pleasant, and far more extensive. He wandered through them for a time, drinking. The walls would have shamed any proper castle, and the ornamental iron spikes along the top looked strangely naked without heads to adorn them. Tyrion pictured how his sister's head might look up there, with tar in her golden hair and flies buzzing in and out of her mouth. Yes, and Jaime must have the spike beside her, he decided. No one must ever come between my brother and my sister.
With a rope and a grapnel he might be able to get over that wall. He strong arms and he did not weigh much. With a rope he should he able to reach the spikes and clamber over. I will search for a rope on the morrow, he resolved.
He saw three gates during his wanderings; the main entrance with its gatehouse, a postern by the kennels, and a garden gate hidden behind a tangle of pale ivy. The last was chained, the others guarded. The guards were plump, their faces as smooth as a baby's bottom, and every man of them wore a spiked bronze cap. Tyrion knew eunuchs when he saw them. He knew their sort by reputation. They feared nothing and felt no pain, it was said, and were loyal to their masters unto death. I could make good use of a few hundred of mine own, he reflected. A pity I did not think of that before I became a beggar.
He walked along a pillared gallery and through a pointed arch, and found himself in a tiled courtyard where a woman was washing clothes at a well. She looked to be his own age, with dull red hair and a broad face dotted by freckles. "Would you like some wine?" he asked her. She looked at him uncertainly. "I have no cup for you, we'll have to share." The washerwoman went back to wringing out tunics and hanging them to dry. Tyrion settled on a stone bench with his flagon. "Tell me, how far should I trust Magister Illyrio?" The name made her look up. "That far?" Chuckling, he crossed his stunted legs and took a drink. "I am loathe to play whatever part the cheesemonger has in mind for me, yet how can I refuse him? The gates are guarded. Perhaps you might smuggle me out under your skirts? I'd be so grateful, why, I'll even wed you. I have two wives already, why not three? Ah, but where would we live?" He gave her as pleasant a smile as a man with half a nose could manage. "I have a niece in Sunspear, did I tell you? I could make rather a lot of mischief in Dorne with Myrcella. I could set my niece and nephew at war, wouldn't that be droll?" The washerwoman pinned up one of Illyrio's tunics, large enough to double as a sail. "I should be ashamed to think such evil thoughts, you're quite right. Better if I sought the Wall instead. All crimes are wiped clean when a man joins the Night's Watch, they say. Though I fear they would not let me keep you, sweetling. No women in the Watch, no sweet freckly wives to warm your bed at night, only cold winds, salted cod, and small beer. Do you think I might stand taller in black, my lady?" He filled his cup again. "What do you say? North or south? Shall I atone for old sins or make some new ones?"
The washerwoman gave him one last glance, picked up her basket, and walked away. I cannot seem to hold a wife for very long, Tyrion reflected. Somehow his flagon had gone dry. Perhaps I should stumble back down to the cellars. The strongwine was making his head spin, though, and the cellar steps were very steep. "Where do whores go?" he asked the wash flapping on the line. Perhaps he should have asked the washerwoman. Not to imply that you're a whore, my dear, but perhaps you know where they go. Or better yet, he should have asked his father. "Wherever whores go," Lord Tywin said. She loved me. She was a crofter's daughter, she loved me and she wed me, she put her trust in me. The empty flagon slipped from his hand and rolled across the yard.
Grimacing, Tyrion pushed himself off the bench and went to fetch it, but as he did he saw some mushrooms growing up from a cracked paving tile. Pale white they were, with speckles, and red ribbed undersides as dark as blood. The dwarf snapped one off and sniffed it. Delicious, he thought, or deadly. But which? Why not both? He was not a brave enough man to take cold steel to his own belly, but a bite of mushroom would not be so hard. There were seven of the mushrooms, he saw. Perhaps the gods were trying to tell him something. He picked them all, snatched a glove down from the line, wrapped them carefully, and stuffed them down his pocket. The effort made him dizzy, though, so afterward he crawled back onto the bench, curled up, and shut his eyes.
When he woke again, he was back in his bedchamber, drowning in the goosedown featherbed once more while a blond girl shook his shoulder. "My lord," she said, "your bath awaits. Magister Illyrio expects you at table within the hour."
Tyrion propped himself against the pillows, his head in his hands. "Do I dream, or do you speak the Common Tongue?"
"Yes, my lord. I was bought to please the king." She was blue-eyed and fair, young and willowy.
"I am sure you did. I need a cup of wine."
She poured for him. "Magister Illyrio said that I am to scrub your back and warm your bed. My name — "
" — is of no interest to me. Do you know where whores go?"
She flushed. "Whores sell themselves for coin."
"Or jewels, or gowns, or castles. But where do they go?"
The girl could not grasp the question. "Is it a riddle, m'lord? I'm no good at riddles. Will you tell me the answer?"
No, he thought. I despise riddles, myself. "I will tell you nothing. Do me the same favor." The only part of you that interests me is the part between your legs, he almost said. The words were on his tongue, but somehow never passed his lips. She is not Shae, the dwarf told himself, only some little fool who thinks I play at riddles. If truth be told, even her cunt did not interest him much. I must be sick, or dead. "You mentioned a bath? Show me. We must not keep the great cheesemonger waiting."
As he bathed, the girl washed his feet, scrubbed his back, and brushed his hair. Afterward she rubbed sweet-smelling ointment into his calves to ease the aches, and dressed him once again in boy's clothing, a musty pair of burgundy breeches and a blue velvet doublet lined with cloth-of-gold. "Will my lord want me after he has eaten?" she asked as she was lacing up his boots.
"No. I am done with women." Whores.
The girl took that disappointment entirely too well for his liking. "If m'lord would prefer a boy, I can have one waiting in his bed."
M'lord would prefer his wife. M'lord would prefer a girl named Tysha. "Only if he knows where whores go."
The girl's mouth tightened. She despises me, he realized, but no more than I despise myself. That he had fucked many a woman who loathed the very sight of him, Tyrion Lannister had no doubt, but the others had at least the grace to feign affection. A little honest loathing might be refreshing, like a tart wine after too much sweet.
"I believe I have changed my mind," he told her. "Wait for me abed. Naked, if you please, I expect I'll be a deal too drunk to fumble at your clothing. Keep your mouth shut and your thighs open and the two of us should get on splendidly." He gave her a leer, hoping for a taste of fear, but all she gave him was revulsion. No one fears a dwarf. Even Lord Tywin had not been afraid, though Tyrion had held a crossbow in his hands. "Do you moan when you are being fucked?" he asked the bedwarmer.
"If it please m'lord."
"It might please m'lord to strangle you. That's how I served my last whore. Do you think your master would object? Surely not. He has a hundred more like you, but no one else like me." This time, when he grinned, he got the fear he wanted.
Illyrio was reclining on a padded couch, gobbling hot peppers and pearl onions from a wooden bowl. His brow was dotted with beads of sweat, his pig's eyes shining above his fat cheeks. Jewels danced when he moved his hands; onyx and opal, tiger's eye and tourmeline, ruby, amethyst, sapphire, emerald, jet and jade, a black diamond and a green pearl. I could live for years on his rings, Tyrion mused, though I'd need a cleaver to claim them.
"Come and sit, my little friend." Illyrio waved him closer.
The dwarf clambered up onto a chair. It was much too big for him, a cushioned throne intended to accomodate the magister's massive buttocks, with thick sturdy legs to bear his weight. Tyrion Lannister had lived all his life in a world that was too big for him, but in the manse of Illyrio Mopatis the sense of disproportion assumed grotesque dimensions. I am a mouse in a mammoth's lair, he mused, though at least the mammoth keeps a good cellar. The thought made him thirsty. He called for wine.
"Did you enjoy the girl I sent you?" Illyrio asked.
"If I had wanted a girl I would have asked for one. I lack a nose, not a tongue."
"If she failed to please... "
"She did all that was required of her."
"I would hope so. She was trained in Lys, where they make an art of love. And she speaks your Common Tongue. The king enjoyed her greatly."
"I kill kings, hadn't you heard?" Tyrion smiled evilly over his wine cup. "I want no royal leavings."
"As you wish. Let us eat." Illyrio clapped his hands together, and serving men came running.
They began with a broth of crab and monkfish, and cold egg lime soup as well. Then came quails in honey, a saddle of lamb, goose livers drowned in wine, buttered parsnips, and suckling pig. The sight of it all made Tyrion feel queasy, but he forced himself to try a spoon of soup for the sake of politeness, and once he had tasted he was lost. The cooks might be old and fat, but they knew their business. He had never eaten so well, even at court.
As he was sucking the meat off the bones of his quail, he asked Illyrio about the morning's summons. The fat man shrugged. "There are troubles in the east. Astapor has fallen, and Meereen. Ghiscari slave cities that were old when the world was young." The suckling pig was carved. Illyrio reached for a piece of the crackling, dipped it in a plum sauce, and ate it with his fingers.
"Slaver's Bay is a long way from Pentos," said Tyrion, as he speared a goose liver on the point of his knife. No man is as cursed as the kinslayer, he reminded himself, smiling.
"This is so," Illyrio agreed, "but the world is one great web, and a man dare not touch a single strand lest all the others tremble." He clapped his hands again. "Come, eat."
The serving men brough out a heron stuffed with figs, veal cutlets blanched with almond milk, creamed herring, candied onions, foul-smelling cheeses, plates of snails and sweetbreads, and a black swan in her plumage. Tyrion refused the swan, which reminded him of a supper with his sister. He helped himself to heron and herring, though, and a few of the sweet onions. And the serving men filled his wine cup anew each time he emptied it.
"You drink a deal of wine for such a little man."
"Kinslaying is dry work. It gives a man a thirst."
The fat man's eyes glittered like the gemstones on his fingers. "There are those in Westeros who would say that killing Lord Lannister was merely a good beginning."
"They had best not say it in my sister's hearing, or they will find themselves short a tongue." The dwarf tore a loaf of bread in half. "And you had best be careful what you say of my family, magister. Kinslayer or no, I am a lion still."
That seemed to amuse the lord of cheese no end. He slapped a meaty thigh and said, "You Westerosi are all the same. You sew some beast upon a scrap of silk, and suddenly you are all lions or dragons or eagles. I can bring you to a real lion, my little friend. The prince keeps a pride in his menagerie. Would you like to share a cage with them?"
The lords of the Seven Kingdoms did make rather much of their sigils, Tyrion had to admit. "Very well," he conceded. "A Lannister is not a lion. Yet I am still my father's son, and Jaime and Cersei are mine to kill."
"How odd that you should mention your fair sister," said Illyrio, between snails. "The queen has offered a lordship to the man who brings her your head, no matter how humble his birth."
It was no more than Tyrion had expected. "If you mean to take her up on it, make her spread her legs for you as well. The best part of me for the best part of her, that's a fair trade."
"I would sooner have mine own weight in gold." The cheesemonger laughed so hard that Tyrion feared he was about to rupture and drown his guest in a gout of half-digested eels and sweetmeats. "All the gold in Casterly Rock, why not?"
"The gold I grant you," he said, "but the Rock is mine."
"Just so." The magister covered his mouth and belched a mighty belch. "Do you think King Stannis will give it to you? I am told he is a great one for the law. He may well grant you Casterly Rock, is that not so? Your brother wears the white cloak, so you are your father's heir by all the laws of Westeros."
"Stannis might grant me the Rock," Tyrion admitted, "but there is also the small matter of regicide and kinslaying. For those he would shorten me by a head, and I am short enough as I stand. But why would you think I mean to join Lord Stannis?"
"Why else would you go the Wall?"
"Stannis is at the Wall?" Tyrion rubbed at his nose. "What in seven bloody hells is Stannis doing at the Wall?"
"Shivering, I would think. It is warmer down in Dorne. Perhaps he should have sailed that way."
Tyrion was beginning to suspect that a certain freckled washerwoman knew more of the Common Speech than she pretended. "My niece Myrcella is in Dorne, as it happens. And I have half a mind to make her a queen."
Illyrio smiled, as his serving men spooned out bowls of black cherries in sweetcream for them both. "What has this poor child done to you, that you would wish her dead?"
"Even a kinslayer is not required to slay all his kin," said Tyrion, wounded. "Queen her, I said. Not kill her."
The cheesemonger spooned up cherries. "In Volantis they use a coin with a crown on one face and a death's head on the other. Yet it is the same coin. To queen her is to kill her. Dorne might rise for Myrcella, but Dorne alone is not enough. If you are as clever as our friend insists, you know this."
Tyrion looked at the fat man with new interest. He is right on both counts. To queen her is to kill her. And I knew that. "Futile gestures are all that remain to me. This one would make my sister weep bitter tears, at least."
Magister Illyrio wiped sweetcream from his mouth with the back of a fat hand. "The road to Casterly Rock does not go through Dorne, my little friend. Nor does it run beside the Wall. Yet there is such a road, I tell you."
"I am an attainted traitor, a regicide and kinslayer." This talk of roads annoyed him. Does he think this is a game? "What one king does another may undo. In Pentos we have a prince, my friend. He presides at ball and feast and rides about the city in a palanquin of ivory and gold. Three heralds go before him with the golden scales of trade, the iron sword of war, and the silver scourge of justice. On the first day of each new year he must deflower the maid of the fields and the maid of the seas." Illyrio leaned forward, elbows on the table. "Yet should a crop fail or a war be lost, we cut his throat to appease the gods, and choose a new prince from amongst the forty families."
Tyrion snorted through the stump of his nose. "Remind me never to become the Prince of Pentos."
"Are your Seven Kingdoms so different? There is no peace in Westeros, no justice, no faith... and soon enough no food. When men are starving and sick of fear, they look for a savior."
"They may look, but if all they find is Stannis — "
"Not Stannis. Nor Myrcella. Another." The yellow smile widened. "Another. Stronger than Tommen, gentler than Stannis, with a better claim than the girl Myrcella. A savior come from across the sea to bind up the wounds of bleeding Westeros."
"Fine words." Tyrion was unimpressed. "Words are wind. Who is this bloody savior?"
"A dragon." The cheesemonger saw the look on his face at that, and laughed. "A dragon with three heads."