Read Along with Rhube 21: A Dance with Dragons, Chapters 41 & 42

(Index of previous ADwD posts here.)

Chapter 41: The Turncloak

Because one alternate name for Theon was never enough (or three, or four…).

Snow begins to fall. I’m forever fascinated to wonder how exactly the planetary system in the world of Ice and Fire works. If anyone could tell me, I’d enjoy being enlightened. How can they have such erratic and lengthy seasons? Anyway, by this point, if you didn’t know that the coming of winter was ominous,you really can’t have been paying a lot of attention.

One of Abel’s women goes to Theon and asks him to tell her of how he conquered Winterfell. She says Abel wants to write a song, but that sounds as dubious to Theon as it does to me. No one wants to celebrate the ‘Turncloack’s’ exploits, but potential invaders would be mighty curious about knowing how such a feat could be achieved. Sadly for them both, Theon’s advantage was simple and impossible to duplicate: surprise. Stannis will have no such luck. Where Theon took Winterfell with a small and silent group, Stannis will be approaching with an army of thousands, and they know he is coming.

Theon has stopped thinking of himself purely as Reek, though. Amazingly, he appears to be on a journey back towards something akin to sanity. I almost pity him, that. It is a ruined body he know inhabits, and a ruined reputation. He doesn’t have much of a future to look forward to, and the full position of his senses can only make him more conscious of that.

After leaving Abel’s woman, Theon wanders about the walls. No one bothers to stop him. He’s not an escape risk, and he’s harmless. That’ll be a useful trait, if Abel’s people can persuade him to co-operate. Somehow, he ends up at the godswood. Theoretically, these are not his gods. His is the Drowned God. Yet he has spent many, many years away from the sea. Haltingly, he begins to pray.

But Jeyne’s (the false Arya’s) sobs disturb his hesitant prayer, and he retreats. Lady Dustin approaches him. persuades him to show her the crypts. We learn her story – we she would betray the North in a heartbeat. He father had hoped to offer her to wed first Brandon (Ned’s brother), and later Ned himself. In cruel irony, Catelyn is promised to Brandon, and as Lady Dustin pinned her hopes on Ned, she found Catelyn promised to him as well. She blames it on a maester, whispering into Ned’s father’s ear. Then, when she did marry, her husband followed Ned off into his war for Robert, and her husband died. Cruel fate. She reveals that she hopes, one day, to intercept his bones on their journey north, back to Winterfell. She will feed them to her dogs.

Another curious thing is revealed as they walk through the crypts. The lords of Winterfell are entombed with statues to guard them, and each statue is given a sword. Some of these swords are missing.

So, this chapter confirmed my suspicions as regards Abel and his women. Granted, no one has been named as a spearwife or as Mance Raider, the King Beyond the Wall, but it’s pretty clear what Abel’s woman is fishing for, and not hard to speculate why. I guess it’s also interesting to hear about Lady Dustin’s motivation in taking up Roose Bolton’s cause. I’m not entirely convinced there’s justification for her to spill it to the Turncloak, but it is a good story. I’m more interested about the swords missing from the crypts. I’d say it’s Abel and his people, again, but no one seemed to have had any idea where the crypts were until Theon shows Lady Dustin’s men where to dig in the snow. Curious.

Chapter 42: The King’s Prize

The ‘King’s Prize’ is the new name for Asha. I’m relieved to hear she’s not dead – you know I like her.

The point of this chapter seems to largely be ‘It’s cold up north’. This is definitely the chapter in which winter gets serious. We also learn that a knight called Ser Justin fancies his luck with Asha, but she’s not terribly interested in him – she knows he’s chiefly after her lands, and he’s a bit of a soft Southron lad, anyway. We also meet Alysane Mormont, the ‘She-Bear’. Intriguing to meet a Mormont in the north, but very little to say about it beyond that. Other than that there’s largely the amusement of the northern clansmen scoffing as those of Stannis’s knights who think the snow storm they hit is ‘winter’. Tensions are clearly outlined between Stannis’s men from the south who think they either should have done a forced march (as Robert would have done) or stayed at Deepwood Motte until the storm cleared, and the clansmen, who are innured to the idea of losing men to the cold in winter (or even ‘autumn’).

Then, the chilling moment, at the end of the chapter, when Asha, Stannis, the clansmen, and everyone else, find themselves snowbound and unmoving, having merely stopped for the night.

Yup. It’s cold up north.

Not much more to say about this chapter than that. It is designed to lead up to that tableau at the end, to impress on us that Winter means Business in the north, and it does that pretty well.