GRRM Posts New TWOW Preview Chapter

So, GRRM’s out with a new preview chapter for The Winds of Winter, titled “Mercy.”

It’s amazing…in a very meta way.

I’ve posted some thoughts on tumblr which I will repost here below the cut, where there will be spoilers:


– it’s an Arya chapter! And she’s having identity issues…not the least of which is that she’s playing Sansa in a play. As part of her training as a Faceless Woman, she’s been given the identity of a young actress, to help her get used to playing different parts. And perhaps to deal with a certain Westerosi ambassador.

– Arya’s still having wolf dreams, and Bran’s watching her in them.

– I am really in love with Braavos (“Braavos was a crooked city. The streets were crooked, the alleys were crookeder, and the canals were crookedest of all”) – the democratic cultural ethos, the multiculturalism, the focus on ordinary people striving for a better life. More proof that fantasy as a genre needs to shift from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, post-haste.

– the Titan acts like a clock for the city! How awesome is that!

–  Theater is a big part of Braavosi culture, as a place where the poor and the rich mingle, where the lowly can critique and mock the wealthy and the wealthy absorb the critique – a big difference from minstrel-maiming Westeros. The theater is quite diverse, from Plautus-esque farce to GRRM’s best Shakespearean pastiche.

– Arya’s playing Sansa in The Bloody Hand, a dramatization of…ASOIAF, complete with Robert Baratheon being killed by a demonic boar, and Tyrion taking the place of Richard III as an envious and spiteful figure who seemingly strikes a deal with the Stranger to gain power, who rapes Sansa in Act II. (The seven-faced god has cheated me,” he said. “My noble sire he made of purest gold, and gold he made my siblings, boy and girl. But I am formed of darker stuff, of bones and blood and clay, twisted into this rude shape you see before you.”)

– the play is written by one Phario Forel. Brother? Son? No relation and Xrio Forel is Braavos’ John Smith? The pen is mightier than the sword?

– the play might file off the serial numbers on ASOAIF, changing Stark to Stork, etc. in the same way that Shakespeare changed names to suit the political climate.

– the theater itself is pure Shakespeare’s Globe, with the pit standing in for the groundlings, the bravos up in the gods, balconies for the middle class, and boxes for the wealthy where they can indulge themselves in privacy.

– There’s a mention of a Third Sword of Braavos as well as a first, which suggests that the standing military of Braavos is divided up to prevent their government from being overthrown.

– The Hall of Truth seems to be the legislative House of Braavos, where the various legislators make their votes.

– The Black Pearl is a famous courtesan title, named after a pirate queen who was the daughter of the son of a Sealord and a princess of the Summer Isles, who was once the lover of a Targaryen King. WHICH?

– While Arya definitely falls into character, she can pull herself out to remember…Raff the Sweetling and Dunsen, who’ve accompanied Ser Harys Swyft to Braavos to try to repair the Iron Throne’s relationship with the Iron Bank.

– Tywin Lannister went to Lys when he was Aerys’ Hand. Wow.

– Arya is starting to mature sexually, but in a very very instrumental way.

– She makes him beg for mercy and say ““You’ll need to carry me.” before she stabs him – with a sharpened finger nail to open a vein in his thigh to weaken him so  . That’s amazing. Lommy is avenged.

– Arya goes the full Assassin’s Creed to end him as Arya, and then reverts back to Mercy.

– It’s good to see that people have somewhat over-estimated the identity-erasing element of the Faceless Men – it’s not that the identity is erased completely; after all, there’s no good in being an assassin who doesn’t remember they’re an assassin. Rather, they learn to suppress their identity so they are 100% in character.


100 thoughts on “GRRM Posts New TWOW Preview Chapter

  1. Brian says:

    I posted this on the ASOIAF subreddit, but I want to see what you think.

    Here is a quote from the released chapter: “The first Black Pearl was black as a pot of ink,” said Daena. “She was a pirate queen, fathered by a Sealord’s son on a princess from the Summer Isles. A dragon king from Westeros took her for his lover.”

    I think this “dragon king” was the father of Nettles from P&Q and the Black Pearl was her mother. The Black Pearl is “more brown than black” and Nettles is described as having brown skin. Since Nettles was a dragonrider, it is likely that she may have Targaryen roots and was a dragonseed. Since she lived on Dragonstone, the possibility of her being not only a dragonseed but also the child of a “dragon king” is very possible. The current Black Pearl could be descendant of Nettles.

  2. AJD says:

    According to the wiki, the original Black Pearl was one of Aegon IV’s many lovers.

  3. Winnie says:

    I really liked that chapter too Steve…and BTW I agree with you that fantasy can do more with the Renaissance or how Frozen was set in a more early modern setting.

    Found Arya playing Sansa to be very creepy-it’s also interesting how they now assume Sansa to be a victim of rape, (and possibly murder.) That in popular tales they see her as a martyr figure. Also interesting they used the name “Stork”-more bird imagery with Sansa.

    OT, I don’t want to pressure you Steve, but you said we’d get the latest Tower of the Hand essay by the end of the week, and that was over a week ago…and I seem to recall promises of ACOK chapter analysis in late March, hint. hint.

  4. Sean C. says:

    The role of Sansa apparently has few lines. Much like the show, it seems like most of her good scenes didn’t make it into the final product (she could at least have been a Lady Macbeth-style figure in the play, which is how Cersei views her, instead of Anne Neville in “Richard III”). She has no luck with adaptations.

    The implications of Swyft’s presence are interesting, since he couldn’t have left until after Kevan’s death. There are mentions of “the Queen”, which makes it sound like Cersei is back in charge somehow, but I can’t imagine how that would ever happen, even if she wins her trial.

    • Yeah, it’s definitely more an Anne Neville role to further bulk up Tyrion’s villainy – killing his wife on the same night he murders the king.

    • Winnie says:

      Well with the deaths of Kevan and Pycelle Cersei may have been able to regain the Regency…or at least been able to avoid being shipped back to CR, especially since she was likely to win her trial thanks to Ser Strong. Remember, Varys killed Pycelle and Kevan specifically to put Cersei back in power, so she continue running the country into the ground and furthering the way for Aegon.

      • Sean C. says:

        He killed Kevan and Pycelle to allow Cersei to keep causing trouble, which she no doubt will, but back in power? Kevan and Pycelle’s deaths mean Harys is the only remaining Lannister on the council (which is effectively just Mace and Randyll Tarly at the moment, since Paxter Redwyne is sailing to fight the Ironborn), and the Tyrells and the Faith pretty much control King’s Landing between them. I can’t fathom how she would ever be allowed back in government in any meaningful way after all the crap she’s pulled. The Tyrells would either not allow it, or they would leave.

        • Winnie says:

          Good point, does make you wonder…

          Also I heard about the first 3 episodes doing badly by Sansa as well…but I wondered if things got better as the season progressed.

          • Sean C. says:

            If they can botch what they botch as badly as they do, I don’t have much hope for the writers’ abilities, between that and what they did to her story in season 3.

        • Andrew says:

          She spends two-thirds of her waking hours with Tommen according to Kevan’s POV, and she knows that he fixes his seal to any decree placed before him. It would be easy, when they are alone with Cersei’s trusted agents, to have Tommen fix his seal to a decree renaming Cersei as Regent.

          If Mace tears the decree up or refuses it, he would risk accusations of treason, which he doesn’t need with suspicion already being cast on him for Kevan and Pycelle’s deaths. It would also be tantamount to declaring that he doesn’t wish to work with the Lannisters or share any power with them, a blow to the alliance.

          • Winnie says:

            That sounds very plausible, Andrew. In keeping with what Cersei would do and yeah, Mace would probably abide by the Regency, at least temporarily while trying to figure out another way to remove Cersei from power…perhaps waiting for Margaery to be found innocent and returned to Tommen.

        • So perhaps Margaery has been found innocent and has been placed as Tommen’s mouthpeice?

    • JT says:

      His presence can’t be good for Stannis.

      If Stannis isn’t dead (and that’s an *if*), it doesn’t bode well for him that the Lannisters patch things up with the Iron Bank, since at this point that might be the only way that Stannis could realistically come up with an army that would make him a contender for the throne again.

      • Well, we know from Theon’s TWOW preview that the Iron Bank has already splashed out for a mercenary army, so that cat’s out of the bag.

        And think which envoy we’re talking about: Ser Harys Swyft – he’s an idiot lickspittle who fails at everything. He had to kiss Vargo Hoat, the cooks spat in his food, his horse fell on him at the Blackwater, and Cersei picked him specifically because he was weak.

        No way he succeeds.

        • illrede says:

          Well, ironically, a superior and unprincipled ability to capitulate may serve a minister well in this situation…

          • I think that the scenes in ADWD where the guy from the Iron Bank shows up at Stannis’ camp demonstrates that the powers that be in Braavos have thoroughly given up on the KL regime and want to see Stannis in a positon of power.

            I’m sure that the Iron Bank does plenty of hedge betting; the IB invests in the main power of Westeros while various affiliates cultivate relationships with the regional powers across the sea…just in case. HOWEVER, I think it’s clear that the Iron Banker in ADWD is from the home office. It’s the equivilant of a civil conflict in the modern US, and after publically backing the status quo faction, suddenly China decides to acknowledge the rebels (with the understanding that the rebels will honor US debts to China). That would be huge.

          • illrede says:

            While the bank will not risk its moral position, I doubt they would slam the door.

        • Winnie says:

          I agree. Hell, the very fact that Harys Swift is wasting time and money taking his courtesan out for wine and the theatre when he should be on his knees before the Bank’s representatives at that moment, speaks badly for his abilities to pull it off.

          • Bail o' Lies says:

            I think the reason Kevan sent him was that honestly couldn’t send anyone else without slighting the Tyrells. Also Swift is the master of coin so the debt the crown has gathered over the last 17ish years is his job whether he added anything to it or not.

          • Roger says:

            Probably you are right. But remember Braavosi courtesans are not only bed warmers. They are artistic mecenas, popular idols, admired and envied. Perhaps Swift is trying to use her to “lobby” some bankers.

            Many polytics deals are made in theaters and dancers.

            But Swift is mostly a fool, so probably he is only having a good (and costly) time.

        • Andrew says:

          “The contents of my privy are more able than Ser Harys” by Cersei’s own admission. The only reason Kevan kept him on is because, other than being his good-father, Harys is the only other Lannister supporter on the small council besides Pycelle. He was also the one along with Pycelle who sent a letter to Kevan offering him the Regency and Office of the Hand. Although, I think that could have been more Pycelle’s work.

          • I think you also hit on part of why Ser Harys was sent to Bravos after Kevan died. If you’re the Tyrells sending Harys removes a voice against your desires. Harys’ mission is doomed unless the Iron Throne can make a hefty payment up front and that’s just not going to happen so you wouldn’t want to waste someone useful anyway.

  5. JT says:

    I read somewhere GRRM said he wanted to use Arya to show what that even though we think of children as somewhat helpless, historically this wasn’t the case – children could be quite deadly. His point was that a child is just as capable of killing as an adult is, but children can be more dangerous in some ways, since they have a less finely developed sense of right and wrong and are prone to looking at war as a game.

    That definitely is the case here. The Kindly Man in the house of Black and White tells Arya repeatedly that death is a gift and it’s not for her to decide who lives and who dies. Despite that, Arya slips in and out of character and breaks the rules of her order so she can check names off of her ‘hit list’.

  6. David says:

    Dear Steven,

    #1: What makes you think “[X] Sword” references military command? I took Syrio’s former position to be more akin to that of the Kingsguard – they may command troops if, like Barristan Selmy, that was part of their skillset to begin with, but their primary job is watching the king’s back.

    #2: Assuming it *is* a position that’s as much (or more) military commander as bodyguard, I’m even more confused RE: what could have brought Syrio to Westeros in the first place. If his post-retirement plan was to set up shop as an instructor of water dancers, why travel to a continent in which no one employs his fighting style? If he’s on the run from Braavosi enemies and wanted to fade into the woodwork, why advertise in one of the biggest Westerosi port cities?

    #3: Am v. much looking forward to your essays RE: Essos and I wanted to pose a small question for your consideration therein. (I’m a fencing, stage combat, and Western swordplay buff, so Braavosi water dancing is near & dear to my heart.) If the rapier of our history evolved as a response to firearms (the advent of which prompted a shift toward lighter armor and greater mobility), how should we explain Braavosi water dancing in a world without guns? Must we wave it off as author fiat, or is there a plausible in-world reason why they should have taken up the “bravo’s blade?”

    Thanks in advance for your time and consideration. Look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

    Best wishes,

    • 1. The First Sword is the bodyguard, but it’s not unknown for the royal bodyguards to be part of a military unit. The Musketeers, etc.

      2. As for why Syrio left…we don’t know. It could be the Sea Lord died on his watch, hurting his reputation. Or maybe the market for swordmasters is flooded in Braavos.

      3. As for Braavosi water-dancing, I think the simplest explanation is that Braavos is largely a naval power, and almost no one on ship is stupid enough to wear full armor.

      • I’d suggest in a society showing so many democratic undertones, Braavos probably has little/no lifetime public offices. First Sword seems to be very prestigious, possible very militaristically powerful, and seems to be appointed directly by the Sealord (so no direct vetting by the Hall of Truth). So, it wouldn’t surprise me if becoming First Sword involved provisions similar to Roman Republican Dictators; after you served you had restrictions on future public offices. Thus preventing the establishment of dynasties.

      • WPA says:

        2. It could simply be that because it’s a rare fighting art in Westeros that it’s certainly a “white glove” market in terms of who would be able to afford it. Having a former First Sword (I look at it like a former Secret Service Agent or Army Ranger or SAS going into the private security business) background would allow you to pick up a big share of the small but lucrative market.

        3. Agreed. The Ironheaded are fairly unique in their willingness to wear full battle-gear on ship due to their religious view that drowning is a fine way to die. This does give them a major advantage in ship to ship combat- but for more rational opponents, the water-dancing approach makes total sense as a shipboard adaption.

    • ajay says:

      “I’m even more confused RE: what could have brought Syrio to Westeros in the first place. If his post-retirement plan was to set up shop as an instructor of water dancers, why travel to a continent in which no one employs his fighting style?”

      Because Ned Stark offered him a job?

      • David says:


        I think that may be putting the cart before the horse. IIRC, there’s no indication in AGOT that Ned sent anyone to Braavos to advertise, there’s no Craigslist of Westeros equivalent, and he didn’t employ Varys to seek someone out abroad. That suggests that Syrio was already in KL when Ned began putting out local feelers.

    • Djinn says:

      Are you sure a bravo blade is a analog to a rapier and not a ropera?

  7. Andrew says:

    They give the Stranger more of a role akin to the Devil, complete with horns, for the Faustian deal rather than the lord of the seven hells Egg mentions in The Sworn Sword, who allegedly taught Lady Webber the dark arts in exchange for her babes unborn. Given the lord of the seven hells is not in the pantheon, he is likely like the Devil in Christianity, a a religious figure, but not regarded as a god/deity, and is not given services or worship by the Faith. I wonder why they didn’t use him? Could it have been that they simply weren’t well-versed in the Faith practiced on the other side of the Narrow Sea?

    I also wonder what Tywin was doing in Lys, as in what kind of trade/diplomatic mission?

    As for the older guard, he is likely one of the guards Kevan brought with him to KL.

    • I think it’s the latter – Braavosi aren’t big on the Faith, so they’d probably think death god = evil.

      Someone suggested finding Aerys a bride, because Aerys was a dick that way.

      No, the older guard is Dunsen. Both of them worked for the Mountain.

      • Nope, the older guard is somebody else, someone who never worked for Gregor. (“What, are you mad? You think he notices the likes of us? Bloody bugger don’t even get our names right half the time. Maybe it was different with Clegane.”) Also, Arya didn’t recognize him, and he’s on her list. Where Dunsen might be… one of the Mountain’s men was hanged by Randyll Tarly when Connington took them to Duskendale, could have been him. Or he’s back in KL, or back at Swyft’s hotel, guarding things.

      • Andrew says:

        Not to mention from the sound of it he served Tywin when he was Hand and worked at CR. He was a personal Lannister guardsmen by his description. He also manages to show some class/decency (disgusted by the groping of a 12 year-old) as well as intelligence compared to the men who hung around Gregor.

        • Bail o' Lies says:

          Would you send you lack wit of a Father in law to go to another country with only a bunch of thugs (that you’re trying to get rid of) to guard him? This older guard is probably one of Kevan’s men who is probably order to make sure Ser Swift actually goes and appeases the Iron Bank. There is nothing wrong with Swift going to plays to get engrossed himself into the culture since it could be used to butter up the Bank.

      • It can’t be finding Aerys a bride. Egg forced him to marry his sister because the “prince who was promised” was supposed to come from their line.

  8. I agree, this was an incredible chapter. And it makes you remember why it might take him so long to write one of these books; there’s so much backstory he wants to fill in, and he gives soooo much detail in a single chapter. I mean that probably took me 15-20 minutes to read, I can’t guess how many words was but, quite a lot. And that’s ONE chapter out of idk 80+ at least that will be in the book.

    But anyway I was wondering how you know that Bran was watching her in her wolf dreams? I missed that somehow.

  9. lann says:

    General Question: If Arya believes that Tyrion really did rape Sansa, would that be enough to make him replace Raff the Sweetling on her list?

    • JT says:

      I doubt it. If you look at Arya’s list, it’s more or less all people who wronged her personally in some way. Even Ilyn Payne cut off Ned’s head in front of Arya.

      You don’t see Walder Frey or Roose Bolton on the list. Same with Tywin (when he was alive) or Jaime. Maybe I’m wrong, but if Walder Frey killing Robb and Catelyn doesn’t get him on Arya’s list, then I doubt raping Sansa would be enough to land Tyrion on there.

  10. Laura says:

    Don’t you think that Arya is playing Sansa’s innocent handmaiden, supposedly raped by Tyrion?
    – First, there’s no mention of a wedding. Bobono could have said “Is the little girl all ready for her wedding night?” Arya could have said “I’ll miss my wedding.” Instead, they mention a rape.
    – Would a wedding night be called a “rape” in a medieval society, even if the bride is less than willing? I think not.
    – Would a bride say “Please, m’lord, I am still a maiden” on her wedding night? She’s *supposed* to be a maiden, that’s the point of a wedding night.
    – Besides, “m’lord” screams “low-born handmaiden”.

    Remember Shae’s testimony at the trial: “I never meant to be a whore, m’lords. I was to be married. A squire, he was, and a good brave boy, gentle born. But the Imp saw me at the Green Fork and put the boy I meant to marry in the front rank of the van, and after he was killed he sent his wildlings to bring me to his tent.”

    Lady Stork is probably Sansa.

    • No, I don’t. For a couple reasons:

      1. Having it be Sansa fits the Richard III plot better, where Richard III is shown aggressively wooing Anne Neville.
      2. Shae’s death was hushed up by Cersei, whereas Sansa’s disappearance became a much more public affair.
      3. Arya’s scene is in Act II, way too early for it to be Shae’s murder shortly before Tywin is murdered (which would normally be the climax of the play).
      4. It’s a play written by a Braavosi; they don’t have that great an understanding of Westerosi society and speech patterns. Keep in mind, all of Arya’s lines would all be in Braavosi, not Westerosi.
      5. It’s more dramatically interesting for it to be Sansa than Shae.

      • Winnie says:


      • Laura says:

        1. Being French, I’m not familiar with this story, but I don’t see why GRRM is bound to strictly follow the plot of a Shakespearian play.
        2. Shae’s “rape” is widely known, whereas Sansa’s marriage was notoriously not consummated… Shae’s death *may* have been known despite Cersei’s efforts, whereas Sansa is notoriously not dead. Besides, she’s a traitor’s daughter, sister to a traitor, traitor herself, wanted for partaking in the murder of good king Joffrey. She’s a bad guy, not a victim.
        3. The murder may not immediately follow the rape.
        4. Braavosi or not, it’s been “translated” that way by GRRM, and it can’t be without a reason.
        5. Arya impersonating Sansa is not *that* interesting either, and it would be a little too much of a coincidence for my taste. Her appearing in a play featuring her sister is enough. And who would be Lady Stork? Robb is way more important than Catelyn, and he isn’t even in the play: it’s clear that the play focuses on events taking place in or near King’s Landing.

        Finally, Tyrion is supposed to be an evil bastard. Fucking one’s wife is not evil, in a world where marital rape is not considered as such. But neglecting one’s marital duty, while at the same time being a whoremonger and even defiling innocent handmaidens, *that* is worthy of a demonic dwarf.

        • 1. It’s not a question of being bound – GRRM is choosing to make an allusion to the play, so he’s more likely to be following the play than if he hadn’t chosen to make that allusion.
          2. Shae’s “rape” isn’t necessarily well-known; she did testify to that effect, but it’s not like the trial was being broadcast. Sansa is not notoriously not dead – she is notoriously missing. And a Braavosi might not decide to make her the bad guy, given that the play concentrates all the evil on Tyrion’s shoulders; after all, Braavosi are known for being satirical of the powers that be.
          3. The “still a maid” would also work for Sansa, but it probably does follow, given the way that Arya describes the two events paired so frequently.
          4. True, but there’s many possible reasons for that translation. After all, even Arya made the m’lord/my lord screwup, and she’s a Westerosi.
          5. That’s a matter of personal taste, but given the way that Arya and Sansa have been used as mirror images, especially in AFFC, I think it shows a theme being worked on. Lady Stork would clearly be Catelyn *who kidnaps Tyrion*. And it’s not clear the play does focus on King’s Landing – given that the play starts with Robert alive, it probably starts in Winterfell.
          6. Marital rape wasn’t a thing in our world until recently, but that doesn’t stop wives from being killed at the hands of husbands in Shakespearean tragedies. Richard III kills Anne Neville in the play.

          • Laura says:

            1. If you say there is such an allusion, I have no choice but to trust you. Still, an allusion doesn’t have to be faithful, and most likely GRRM is just trying to confuse everybody, as always.
            2. The she-wolf is missing and still wanted because she fled after conspiring with her husband to kill Joffrey. And most likely she helped him escape afterward. That’s what people believe. Your point may be true, but it’s all speculative.
            3. So frequently? The murder is just mentioned once at the beginning of the chapter, as far as I know after a quick search.
            4. I never noticed it. The sentence still doesn’t make sense, coming from a woman wed.
            5. Tyrion’s kidnapping by Catelyn makes him look like a victim. It doesn’t fit with the theme of the play. And Robert was alive in King’s Landing a good deal longer than the duration of his short trip to Winterfell… (Besides, there’s no mention of a “Lord Stork”.) Most likely the play is just about Joffrey’s reign, beginning the day of Robert’s death. (“It was not a large part, but he had a fine speech as he lay dying, and a splendid fight with a demonic boar before that.”)
            6. Except that Sansa is thought to be Tyrion’s accomplice, not her victim, and that they are both wanted for the same crime.
            Also, in this cultural context, the fact that every character speaks of a rape, without ever mentioning a marriage, is a strong clue that Arya doesn’t impersonate Tyrion’s wife: you’d think at least one of them would say something about it…

            I’m sorry to insist like this. 🙂
            I guess we will have to wait and see, and hope that GRRM solves this mystery elsewhere in the book.

          • 1. Why would he confuse everybody about this particular detail? What dramatic purpose does it solve?
            2. That’s not what “people” believe – that’s what two people believe. What most people know is that she vanished.
            4. It would if it were widely known that the marriage had yet to be consummated.
            5. Or it shows how clever he is; in the play, Richard III successfully overcomes several of his enemies. The play starts with Robert alive, the only place where a lichyard is mentioned is in Winterfell, and in Richard III, the play starts with Edward IV alive who dies at the end of Act I.
            6. She’s thought that by Cersei and Loras to a lesser extent. But it’s not widely known.

          • John says:

            I think I’m with Laura on this one. I don’t see anything in the chapter that supports a firm conclusion that Arya is playing a character based on Sansa, and certainly the idea that she must be because of questionable comparisons to the plot of “Richard III” seems weak to me. Yes, obviously the play is reminiscent of Richard III. That doesn’t mean there’s any reason to think it’s going to follow minor details of the plot of the play, just like the fact that ASOIAF is loosely based on the Wars of the Roses doesn’t mean that we can use real events to predict what will happen in the story.

      • En todo caso, pura especulación… Aunque sería interesante que fuese Sansa, no me terminan de cuadrar, ni los diálogos, ni el vestuario…

    • Petyr Patter says:

      I agree, the evidence suggests Mercy is NOT playing Sansa. This is her very first role, and has only one scene where she is raped with associated lines. Presumably, the wife of the “Bloody Hand” would have more lines. Especially since this play appears to be made for the amusement of the Lannister man, and the official stance out of King’s Landing is Sansa was Tyrion’s accomplice. Instead, she apparently plays a generic maiden raped to prove how monstrous the Bloody Hand is.

      Also, “Lady Stork” appears to be the mummer’s name (or stage name), not the role she is playing. This is the first time this play has ever been put on stage, yet, Arya talks about “Lady Stork” wanting wine before every play.

      • 1. Why presume that? Anne Neville doesn’t have many lines in Richard III.

        2. And I agree with nobodysuspectsthebutterfly – I don’t think the play was written for the envoy, just played for the envoy.

        • John says:

          Anne Neville certainly has more lines than just one scene where she gets raped.

          I’d also tend to think that, if Arya was playing Sansa, we might get some direct acknowledgement of that from Arya. I know she’s “Mercy” in this chapter, but we do get acknowledgement that she recognize Raff, that she’s carrying a blade, etc.

          I mean, she might be playing Sansa, but I just don’t think it’s at all conclusive.

          • That’s true, but then again, the play is also combining Richard II with elements of farce and spectacle.

            As for why no acknowledgement of Sansa – the whole chapter is about compartmentalizing. She doesn’t acknowledge that people are playing King Robert, Joffrey, Cersei, etc.

      • CoffeeHound14 says:

        I think that Mercy is playing a character based on Sansa, but I don’t think that said character is the Imp’s wife in “The Bloody Hand”. Information gets distorted when it travels across the sea, and even if it didn’t, playwrights don’t tend to write direct representations of historical events. Running with the example of Shakespeare, Shakespeare drew many of his stories from the histories available to him at the time, but he exercised a free hand in changing or combining characters to improve the drama. Thus, Richard II’s wife, who was all of ten years old when he was deposed, is a full grown woman in Shakespeare’s history play, which allows her an adult’s voice with which to comment on what’s happening to her husband. Similarly, I think the playwright of “The Bloody Hand” changed Sansa’s character to not be his wife (or combined her with Shae) to make his play more concise, and more thematically coherent.

  11. Roger says:

    Well, that was the best new today! It was a great read, thanks you a lot.

    For a moment I thought “Mercy” was after Harys Swift. And I was itchin my brain, thinking about why the Faceless Men wanted to give him the gift (damaging the Lannisters? No need for it. Cersei can do it alone. Somebody contracted them? who). It was a nice surprise she was after the Sweetling.

    One of my hopes for TWOW is seeing more about unseen lands: the Westerlands, Highgarden, and the Free Cities: Pentos, Lys, etc.

    As anybody who read Human Target (Vertigo’s version) can asset, it’s not so easy to lose your true self. No matter how deep you wanna sink; from time to time, you have to emerge to breath.

    TOm Clancy once said that children are the best soldiers: They like to fight and rarely think about death. It was said in a playful tone, but I thought it was a horrible concept. Horrible, but mayhaps true.

    • ajay says:

      Your source here should be PW Singer, “Children at War”. Really unsettling. Especially the chapter on “How to fight child soldiers” (short version: pick off their adult leaders first; child soldiers can be ferocious, but their morale is fragile in the absence of close command).

  12. Roger says:

    The Black Pearl was the lover of Aegon IV the Unworthy, I think.

  13. Petyr Patter says:

    A couple of thoughts…

    I think it is more likely Bloodraven is watching Arya during her worf dreams. While Bran has started to become a greenseer, Brynden has been doing it for a much longer time, and has a much stronger association with his tree than Bran currently does. Furthermore, he has “1,000 eyes and one,” watching is what he does. He claims he watched Bran grow up, and presumably he’s keeping tabs on the rest of the Stark Household. He also has the proven ability to communicate in dreams.

    Lady Stork appears to be the mummer’s name, not her character. Though perhaps this is a coincidence intended by the author.

    It wasn’t clear to me if Arya is wearing a “face” or not. If she is wearing a face, it might explain how she is able to get so far into character. In A Feast for Crows, wearing the ugly girl’s face actually came with her memories as well as her appearance.

    Finally, the excerpt ends with Arya saying her time as a mummer is over, because killing the guard would undoubtedly cause trouble, and certainly the older guard knows Raff was last seen with “Mercy.” I wonder if this is going to cause trouble with the Temple as well. I am of the opinion the Faceless Men are a very evil bunch and really want Arya to get away from them, but that is a different discussion.

    • Roger says:

      Probably “Mercy” was only some kind of training. Probably about spying what the Braavosi politycians and courtesans talk about on their free time.
      Many people is excited about Arya’s “Ninja training”, but I personaly disagree. This poor girl was damaged enough, and last thing she needed was joining a bunch of fanatic psycos (smooth, subtile psychos, but still mad). It’s interesting, but sad, to see her falling even deeper.

    • lann says:

      That would be bad news I think. Given how secretive the FM are I think that if the want to kick you there is only one way to do it… Valar Morgulis

      • Roger says:

        Valar doaheris!

      • Petyr Patter says:

        One would think that. However, Arya has been told she can leave anytime she wants, with the only stipulation being she can never return. The Kindly Man claimed she could have a merchant husband, or train as a Courtesan. There is also the religious belief that death is a Gift that can only be given to those who ask for it, and that as the administers of the gift, the Faceless Men must never judge another worthy of that Gift.

        So, I can see the Faceless Man retirement ceremony being either extreme. The leave in a body bag or not at all, or the alternative where they pack a lunch and make sure the individual has their warm coat before sending them on their way.

  14. Roger says:

    About the Third Sword of Braavos. I didn’t get the impression Sylvio Forel was a former officer. More like a fencing bodyguad of the Sea Lord. Probably the second and third swords are also bodyguards. Perhaps they protect lesser statemen.

  15. Maddy says:

    Arya is one of my favourite characters, but I am definitely not on the Arya-killing-people-is-awesome-train. That being said, the “You’ll need to carry me” and Arya’s response gave me chills. This was so amazingly written and so disturbing at the same time.

  16. Austin says:

    Is it just me, or does this chapter seem to lend a little more plausibility to the whole ‘Varys is a Faceless Man’ theory? I don’t necessarily believe that theory, but if I squint enough I can see some evidence for it.

    First the Kindly Man tells Arya in AFFC that the Many-Faced God will take her private parts, now we have Arya hanging out with a mummer troupe as Varys supposedly did. That plus the line where Arya threatened to make one of the mummers a eunuch are enough to make me say ‘hmm’.

    Still very speculative of course. Would be interested to hear other people’s thoughts.

    Oh, and love the blog! Long time reader, first time poster. Thanks for all of the work.

  17. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, I’m inclined to agree with you that Fantasy needs a little diversity (but would rather add another string to the bow than throw out a perfectly serviceable older one), but am honestly more interested by the idea of Shakespeare-in-Essos.

    It perhaps speaks volumes concerning my thought processes (and possibly my mental state!) that my thoughts were immediately coupled to a train of thought following the idea of a series of ‘History’ plays following those sovereigns who were the subjects of Maester Kaeth’s ‘Lives of Four Kings’ (Daeron the Young Dragon, Baelor the Blessed, Aegon the Unworthy and Daeron the Good); it occurred to me in rapid order that the most interesting in-universe explanation for the creation of such a series would be as propaganda for the Blackfyre Pretenders (or their relics), treating Daeron the First as the model of a monarch and showing other monarchs fail to live up to it, even as Daemon Blackfyre comes closer than most to living that legend and dies proving himself the ‘better’ man . . .

    I MAY need help, but I’d certainly like to hear suggestions! (amusingly it struck me that Aegon the Fourth would make a pretty good Falstaff figure; that Brynden Rivers was born to play the Edmund is equally obvious – it also occurred to me that for reasons of his own King Robert would just LOVE this stuff).

    • I wouldn’t say get rid of medieval settings – I’d say take a break from it. Work on the Renaissance for 50-odd years, and then come back to medieval setetings when they’ve become fresh again, and when they’ve done some real research. The Carolingians – fascinating combination of warrior mentality, religiosity, bureaucratic infighting, etc. – you could do something interesting with that. The 12th century “renaissance” – also a fascinating era ripe for adaptation. The peasant rebellions of the 14th century, the complex multicultural world of southern Europe or the holdout pagan regions of Northern Europe, the Byzantine Empire, the Muslim world, the Silk Road, so much underutilized.

      If we were going to go Shakespearean, I could definitely see a Blackfyre Cycle, or Maegor as a tragic villain, etc.

      • Abbey Battle says:

        Now that last comment is interesting; I must admit that it recently occurred to me that a great deal of what we know about Maegor’s eponymous cruelty might derive more from the fact his dynasty and his father’s legacy hung by a razor’s edge (exacerbated by what seems to have been a certain lack of empathy for others); the Seven Kingdoms had seen one of the legendary Targaryen Dragons brought down the the Dornish (possibly with either Rhaenys or Aenys the First atop it), the heir to The Conqueror was a weakling who left behind only an infant heir, The Faith Militant was sending the realm into violent convulsions AND would surely treat captured Targaryens with nothing even approximating sympathy …

        I doubt Maegor has been misjudged by History, but it’s hard to imagine how his dynasty would have survived it’s first generation as Lord of the Seven Kingdoms had he been the shy, retiring type.

        • I also think a lot of it had to do with family issues – Rhaenys and Visenya seem to have had a strong rivalry, there’s the weirdness of his marriage, the fact that he refused to bond a dragon, etc. etc.

          But his violence clearly went beyond the necessities of the state – killing his wives, etc.

          • Abbey Battle says:

            Almost entirely true Maester Steven; I read in one of the page-previews for ‘The World of Ice and Fire’ that Maegor the Cruel mounted himself upon The Black Dread, which actually strengthens my suspicions that he saw himself as the true spiritual heir of his father’s legacy and the only heir of his body actually capable of defending that legacy.

            One suspects that this puts his rotating marital status in perspective, albeit without actually JUSTIFYING it (from what the page doesn’t say – just how DID so many of the Faith Militant make it into THE Targaryen city?!? – it seems likely that even before the War had properly begun the Royal House had suffered near-fatal reverses, further exacerbating The King’s desperation).

          • That’s really weird because I’ve also read that Maegor refused to bond with ANY dragon, saying none was worthy of him.

            See this is why I find the book such an enigma. It’s good to have some canon set down, but it seems to be changing existing canon unexpectedly.

      • Stupor mundi

        Is there a good historical fiction?

        It really needs little fantastical addition; but Sicily in that era is quite extraordinary.

  18. JT says:

    Any chance you’ll do the same thing for the Tyrion chapter that was just released?

  19. Abbey Battle says:

    ‘That’s really weird because I’ve also read that Maegor refused to bond with ANY dragon, saying none was worthy of him.’

    Apologies, I don’t seem to be able to reply further above, but it has occurred to me that it’s possible that this was indeed the case before The Black Dread came on the market – he might well have been unable to consider any lesser creature beneath him.

  20. […] act of his career, as he reaches out to open Jon’s third eye (as he may well be doing in Mercy), just as Bloodraven did for him. This awakening  is absolutely crucial for Jon’s future […]

  21. […] understanding how we get from a child sword fighting with a broomstick to the protagonist of “Mercy” hinges on seeing the moments of transition that justify that profound a transformation. And this […]

  22. […] to the ability to look backwards in time (and possibly aids in dream-walking as well as we saw in Mercy, which is interesting because Jojen doesn’t mention that one). And finally, that last item, […]

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