A Clash of Kings-Chapter 10
|A Clash of Kings chapter|
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Davos Seaworth watches the burning of the Seven. Entering the fire, Stannis Baratheon draws out the sword Lightbringer and Melisandre proclaims him Azor Ahai reborn. Later, Davos hears new of the war from the pirate Salladhor Saan, who insists Stannis' new sword is not the true Lightbringer. That night, Davos and Stannis discuss his plan to claim the Iron Throne. When Davos asks why he supports Melisandre's foreign god, Stannis explains that he means to discover Melisandre's true power.
Davos Seaworth is among the hundreds watching the statues of the Seven burn outside the gates of Dragonstone. His sons Allard and Dale agree that it is an ill thing to burn the gods, but Davos cautions them that this is not the place. The red priestess Melisandre walks around the fire, praying in three tongues for R'hllor, the Lord of Light, to accept these false gods of the enemy and cast light upon them. The prayer ends with the sacred refrain, "For the night is dark and full of terrors." Queen Selyse echoes the words, but King Stannis only watches impassively.
Dragonstone's sept was where Aegon I Targaryen knelt to pray before he embarked upon his conquest, but that did not save it from the queen's men. They overturned the altars, pulled down the statues, and smashed the stained glass. Davos recalls that the statues were originally carved from the masts of the ships that carried the first Targaryens from Valyria. Septon Barre could only curse them, but Ser Hubard Rambton and his three sons slew four men before they were overwhelmed. Afterward, pious Lord Guncer Sunglass withdrew his support for Stannis and was imprisoned along with the septon and Ser Hubard's two surviving sons.
Though he has never been devout, the burning gods make Davos feel ill. Lord Ardrian Celtigar coughs from the smoke and Lord Duram Bar Emmon turns grey, but Lord Monford Velaryon watches Stannis rather than the fire. Davos wonders what Velaryon is thinking, but knows such a proud lord will never confide in him. The lords all scorn Davos and his sons, but one day their grandsons will joust together. In time Davos imagines his sigil will fly as high as theirs, but only if Stannis wins his throne, since everything Davos is he owes to Stannis. It was Stannis who gave Davos his knighthood and his war galley Black Betha. His sons Dale and Allard captain ships of their own, Maric is oarmaster on the Fury, Matthos serves as Davos' mate, Devan is a royal squire who will one day be a knight, and his two youngest sons will one day be knights as well. His wife Marya is mistress of a small keep, and Davos can hunt deer in his own woods. All this he has of Stannis for the price of a few finger joints, taken as just punishment for flaunting the law all his life. As he thinks back, Davos touches the pouch around his neck where he keeps his finger bones for luck; they will all need luck soon.
Melisandre recounts an ancient prophecy that at the end of a long summer, when the stars bleed and darkness falls over world, Azor Ahai will be reborn and draw the burning sword Lightbringer from the fire and destroy the darkness. Then she calls upon Azor Ahai to claim his sword and Stannis marches forward. His squires, Devan Seaworth and Bryen Farring, equip him with a padded glove and leather cape. Using the cape to ward off the flames, Stannis plunges into the fire and draws out a near-molten sword from the statue of the Mother. Queen Selyse and her queen's men chant praises, and Melisandre names the sword Lightbringer and declares Stannis Azor Ahai come again. The cherry-red sword is burning his glove, so Stannis thrusts it into the dirt.
Melisandre calls upon R'hllor to cast light upon them, and Selyse and the queen's men reply that the night is dark and full of terrors. Then Melisandre sings a song in the Asshai'i language until only charwood remains of the gods. Impatient, Stannis escorts his queen back into Dragonstone, leaving Lightbringer in the dirt for his squires to collect. Davos notes that the burnt and blackened Red Sword of Heroes looks a proper mess. A few lords linger, speaking quietly, but they fall silent when they see Davos looking at them. Davos knows that these lords will pull him down if Stannis should fall, but neither will he court the favor of Queen Selyse by giving himself to this new Lord of Light.
When the fire starts to dwindle, Melisandre and the squires depart with the sword, and Davos and his sons join the crowd headed for the harbor. Davos comments that Devan did well as the king's squire. Allard asks why the king's squires wore fiery heart sigils in place of the crowned stag. Davos points out that a lord can choose more than one badge. Allard insists that it was an ill thing to burn the Seven. Davos asks when Allard grew so devout and what a smuggler's son would know of the gods' doings. Allard insists he is a knight's son and asks why the lords should remember Davos is a knight if he does not himself. Davos points out that Allard will never be a knight if he meddles in affairs that do not concern him; it is not for them to question their rightful king. His sons do not like to recall they were lowborn, and when they look at House Seaworth's sigil they see only the black ship and close their eyes to the onion.
In the extremely crowded port, Davos enters an inn, where he finds the flamboyant Lysene pirate Salladhor Saan eating grapes. A friend and business partner from his smuggling days, it was Davos who recruited Saan to Stannis' cause. When Davos asks why he did not attend the burning, Salladhor explains that such sights are common in Lys. They bore him, and hopefully they will soon bore Stannis.
Salladhor explains that one of his trading ships arrived from King's Landing with news that Tyrion Lannister is now overseeing the capital and has driven out Janos Slynt as commander of the City Watch. Davos asks how well the city is defended. Saan replies that the walls are strong, but defended only by the gold cloaks, who are too few and inexperienced. He urges a swift strike to take the city, and then Tyrion could be dressed as a fool and Queen Cersei could warm his bed for a night as part of his payment. Davos assures Salladhor he will be paid, but the pirate insists he wants gold, not words. Davos promises there is gold in the treasury at King's Landing, and Stannis is the most honorable man in the Seven Kingdoms.
Salladhor again urges an attack on the capital, but Davos asks how long they could hold it with Tywin Lannister and Renly Baratheon against them. Saan reveals Renly has left Highgarden with his army and his new queen to march on King's Landing. That Renly brought his bride along surprises Davos; it suggests either great love or great confidence. Davos declares that Stannis must be told, but Salladhor has already done so, though Stannis seems to disapprove of the pirate.
Abruptly, Salladhor claims Stannis' sword is not the true Lightbringer and asks how a burnt sword will serve Stannis. Davos corrects that it is a burning sword, but Saan insists it is burnt. He recounts the legend of how, after two failed attempts, Azor Ahai labored a hundred days and nights on a hero's blade to oppose darkness. Then he tempered the sword in his wife Nissa Nissa's heart and her blood, soul, courage, and strength went into the steel to create Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes. Salladhor tells Davos to be thankful the sword Stannis raised is not real because, "Too much light can hurt the eyes, and fire burns."
Salladhor asks when Stannis will sail, and Davos replies that it depends on the will of the king's new god. Salladhor asks who Davos' god is. Cautious of his surroundings, Davos replies that his god is King Stannis, who made him and blessed him with trust. Salladhor says he will remember and excuses himself, declaring they will soon feast in the Red Keep. He also asks Davos to remind Stannis he will owe another 30,000 dragons come the black of the moon, commenting that the statues they burnt might have brought a noble price. He jokes that if Stannis grants him Queen Cersei for a night he shall forgive him.
Davos lingers in the inn, thinking of Thoros of Myr and his flaming sword, though there was no true magic in that sword. A true sword of fire would be a wonder, but when he thinks of Nissa Nissa it is his own wife Marya he pictures, and he decides the price is more than he cares to pay.
After dark, Devan arrives with a summons from King Stannis. When Davos arrives, the important bannermen are leaving. Ser Axell Florent, the foremost of the queen's men, asks what Davos thought of the burning gods and explains he saw a vision of the glory awaiting Stannis when they take King's Landing. Davos replies that all he saw was fire and pushes past, wondering why Ser Axell bothered, since Davos is the king's man as much as Axell is the queen's.
Davos finds Stannis seated at the Painted Table with Maester Pylos. Stannis commands Davos to have a look at his letter. Davos obediently selects a paper before pointing out that he is illiterate. Mildly irritated, Stannis commands Maester Pylos to read the letter instead:
All men know me for the trueborn son of Steffon Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End, by his lady wife Cassana of House Estermont. I declare upon the honor of my House that my beloved brother Robert, our late king, left no trueborn issue of his body, the boy Joffrey, the boy Tommen, and the girl Myrcella being abominations born of incest between Cersei Lannister and her brother Jaime the Kingslayer. By right of birth and blood, I do this day lay claim to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Let all true men declare their loyalty. Done in the Light of the Lord, under the sign and seal of Stannis of House Baratheon, the First of His Name, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, and Lord of the Seven Kingdoms.
Stannis orders Pylos to add "Ser" to Jaime's name since he is still a knight, and to remove "beloved brother" since it is a lie. Then he declares all of their 117 ravens will be used to carry copies across the realm, though most will likely be burnt by lords who support the other kings even though Stannis is their rightful king. Therefore, Stannis orders Davos to sail north as far as White Harbor while his son Dale sails south as far as the Arbor. They are to post the declaration in every port and fishing village they pass for every man who can to read. Davos points out that few smallfolk can read and requests knights to read the declarations aloud. Stannis agrees, since he has a hundred knights who would rather read than fight. He plans to send Allard across the narrow sea to carry the declaration to the Free Cities as well, so that all the world will know of his claim and Cersei's infamy.
After Stannis dismisses Pylos, Davos asks what the lords thought of the letter. Stannis snorts that they all flattered him except Velaryon, who said steel would decide the matter as if Stannis never suspected as much. Stannis curses his lords and asks Davos for the truth. Davos declares the words blunt and strong, but reminds Stannis they still have no firm proof of incest. Stannis replies there is proof of a sort at Storm's End: Robert's acknowledged bastard Edric Storm is the very image of Robert, yet his supposed sons Joffrey and Tommen look nothing like him. Davos reminds Stannis that they cannot reach Edric at Storm's End.
Davos also suggests removing the reference to the Lord of Light from the letter in favor of a something less specific. When Stannis asks if he has become devout, Davos says he does not know this new god but knew the ones they burned. Stannis argues that it was only wood they burned, but Davos mentions that charitable septons would feed him when he was a begging boy. Davos explains that the people will not love Stannis if he takes away their familiar gods and gives them a foreign one. Stannis replies that the people have never loved him.
Gazing out the window, Stannis declares he stopped believing in gods the day he saw the Windproud break up on Shipbreaker Bay, refusing to worship any gods monstrous enough to drown his parents. The High Septon always prattles about justice and goodness flowing from the gods, but Stannis insists all he ever saw of either was made by men. Davos asks why Stannis would trouble with a new god if he does not believe. Stannis answers that, god or no god, Melisandre has power. Davos replies that Maester Cressen had wisdom, but Stannis argues that Cressen's wise advice did no good: the storm lords laughed when he went begging. Stannis declares there will be no more begging or laughing. The Iron Throne is rightfully his, but of the four kings he has the fewest men and the least gold. His only assets are his ships and the red woman. Stannis asks if Davos knows that half his men are afraid to even speak her name; a sorceress who can inspire such dread is not to be despised, and he means to find out if she can do more.
Stannis recalls that as a boy he nursed an injured goshawk named Proudwing, who would follow him about and eat from his hand but would not hunt. Finally, his great-uncle Ser Harbert told him, rightly, that he should try a different bird because he was embarrassing himself. Stannis turns back to Davos and declares that the Seven have never brought him so much as a sparrow. It is time he tried another hawk, a red hawk.