Fire & Blood, Volume I: Birth, Death, and Betrayal

We’re starting to head into the long, long chapters. *Gulp.* Here we go!

  • I will say that, although this chapter had some really interesting stuff in it, it is not well organized by topic, bouncing back and forth a lot. It gives a sense of a life crammed full of incident, but it doesn’t make it easier on recappers and analysts like myself.

 

  • We start with an in-depth discussion of Jaehaerys’ policies regarding royal progresses. On the one hand, Jaehaerys and Alysanne are determined to accelerate the frequency of the activity, spending “more days and nights guesting with one lord or another…than at Dragonstone and the Red Keep combined.” On the other, Jaehaerys doesn’t want to follow-up his crenellation tax with using the progresses to gently bankrupt his subjects as his grandfather did…thus limiting himself to a hundred attendants.
  • Instead, he seems to have shifted the purpose of progresses to building personal relationships between the monarch and all of his subjects – hence “his intent was to see and be seen at more places” – but at the same time using the presence of his dragons to emphasize what happens to those who aren’t friends of the Targaryens. Score one point in favor of my dracocracy theory!
  • As I discussed before, Alysanne’s “women’s courts” are really, really reminiscent of Eleanor Roosevelt’s “listening tours.”
  • Let’s talk about the Maidenpool Incident:
    • First, I really like the idea of the springs being turned into a religious bathhouse; it really evokes a spirit of religious syncretism where the pre-Andal legends of Florian and Jonquil are absorbed into the worship of the Maiden.
    • Second, I have to say that I prefer this level of threat from Faithful extremists compared to the discussion of revolt. After all the years of civil war, the killing of all but a few of the rebel leadership, and the Reconciliation (still prefer the WOIAF version, GRRM!), uprisings are less plausible a threat. But assassination attempts from fanatics who don’t care if they die in the process? Well, any monarch should fear that.
    • Third, quite impressed by the Wise Women’s bravery. Fighting while naked isn’t easy to begin with, but putting your body in between the knife and its target is a level of courage that few possess.
    • Fourth, and now we get the explanation for why Jonquil Darke is the queen’s sword shield. I know that from a Doylist perspective this custom had to be abandoned in order for the Sack of King’s Landing to happen as it did, but I do wonder why we don’t see more examples of it.
  • The death of the newborn prince feels very Henrician to me, especially the idea that a sudden emotional shock brought either miscarriage or, in this case, premature birth.

 

  • Next, we get the Vale progress, which cuts a good swath through the southern Vale (although the Fingers get left out somewhat). It’s also a very good example of Alysanne’s political style in action, combining strategic betrothals (this time between the Vale and the Crownlands), women’s courts (two this time), and elite lobbying.
  • Here, the lobbying results in the Widow’s Law (52 AC), which
    • “reaffirm[ed] the right of the eldest son (or eldest daughter, where there was no son) to inherit, but requir[ed] said heirs to maintain surviving widows in the same condition they had enjoyed before their husband’s death. A lord’s widow, be she a second, third, or later wife, could no longer be driven from his castle, nor deprived of her servants, clothing, and income. The same law, however, also forbade men from disinheriting their children by a first wife in order to bestow their lands, seat, or property upon a later wife or her own children.”
  • On the face of it, this is a fairly reasonable law, establishing (technically, reinforcing) the principle of a widow’s use-rights which was a fairly common pre-modern safety net.
  • What’s strange about the Widow’s Law is the part about forbidding “men from disinheriting their children by a first wife in order to bestow their lands, seat, or property upon a later wife or her own children,” because you’d think this would have come up during the Dance of the Dragons, since Aegon II could have had no legal claim under this law. My only explanation is that A. the law may have maintained the pre-existing Andal principle that a son comes before a daughter, and this is just an inartful phrasing, or B. that the precedent of the Great Council of 101 is considered to have overruled or created an exception to this law.

 

  • After this, we get the Riverlands progress, which is mostly interesting for informing us that Walton Towers’ son and heir was named Maegor in gratitude for giving his father Harrenhal, which is rough on the kid.

 

  • As I’ve said before, I find myself completely uninterested in this whole Rogar/Alyssa storyline. We know that Alyssa is a brave and intelligent woman, and I simply do not buy the argument that she wouldn’t have taken tansy tea to protect her health later on. You can’t have birth control in your world-building only when it’s convenient for you, GRRM!
  • Speaking of with, the death of Alyssa is especially torturous, given its length, the particularly gendered way that Alyssa goes down to dust. It does work to make Rhaena sympathetic for a change, and the bit about the dragons sensing the death was good, but it wasn’t worth it.

 

  • Going back to Rhaena, we see more signs that she would have made a terrible queen. She’s not good at cultivating the lords of Blackwater Bay, or people in general. Including her own family members.
  • Despite her tragic end, I really love Aerea, whose personality really comes across in this chapter as this spoiled wild child who any minimally-observant person would have known would absolutely hate going from the “excitement of tthe Red Keep” to to the total social isolation of Dragonstone.
  • So of course she’s going to want the freedom and independence that dragons represent.
  • It’s really hard to avoid presentism about the split between Elissa and Rhaena, but it’s surprising that no one saw the theft coming when the split was over money for a ship…or that no one predicted Aerea might run away given her emotional reaction when Elissa left.
  • Speaking of signs that Rhaena would not have been a good monarch: ordering Ser Merrell Bullock to torture servants, then firing him, his son and a dozen men, when none of them had left the island and Elissa had speaks to a tendency to see what she wanted to see. Almost made it worthwhile for Jaehaerys to throw the blame in her lap.
  • When she gets home to Storm’s End it all goes bad really quickly. Aerea’s unhappiness curdles into antisocial behavior, Rhaena’s relationship with Androw goes from bad to worse, and it’s all so poorly managed by Rhaena.
  • And then we get “the sickness.” This section is chillingly written – I have to admit I got wrong-footed by the business about Valyrian blood and disease and didn’t think about the tears of Lys even though the symptoms are hardly hidden – showing GRRM’s gift for horror. And no, let me say off the bat, I don’t think Androw should be pitied; this is not a victim of abuse lashing out, this is a serial killer turning his ordinary resentments into justifications for mass murderer. In this light, Androw’s blancmange qualities begin to suggest something of John Hinckley Jr. or Mark David Chapman, or another in those long line of “nice, quiet boys” who no-one knew could work horrors behind closed doors or under masks.
  • But my absolute favorite part of this chapter is the bit where Aerea takes off on Balerion. It’s a perfect escalation of the dysfunctional relationship, Aerea’s desire for freedom, and her wildly out-of-proportion sense of self-belief. But that’s as much about how much I love what happens next.

 

  • I absolutely love the section in Braavos that follows Elissa Farman’s disappearance where the Targaryens try very very hard to maintain their monopoly on dragons, while the Braavosi use their unique mixture of hard and soft power to a knife’s edge.
  • Something that I find interesting is that Benifer says that heat causes dragon eggs to turn into stone, whereas in Dany II of AGOT, Illyrio says it’s time: “eons have turned them to stone.”
  • So let’s talk about the thing. GRRM has been very coy about all of this, but I know that he’s way too particular a wordsmith to use the phrase “some spicemonger in Pentos” without intent. Perhaps that intent was to manufacture a red herring, but I don’t believe it was accidental.
  • While Jaehaerys’ motivations here are entirely understandable from a geostrategic standpoint, I was particularly interested by his phrasing that “I will not allow Valyria to rise again” in light of his grandfather’s decisions to decisively turn against Volantis.

 

  • As the author of the True Life of the High Spider, I did like the death of the Lickspittle Septon and Jaehaerys and Barth’s machinations to secure the nomination of his successor. (Although I think my account of the balloting is somewhat more dramatic…) Incidentally, this would be the perfect place to insert the part from WOIAF where Barth negotiates with the High Septon over the Reconciliation. What better opportunity to come to terms after (or even before) you’ve bribed someone’s way to the top job?
  • For all that they’re placed in the narrative as “good guys,” Daemon Velaryon and Qarl Corbray are idiots, especially since they lived through the Revolt of the Faith Militant. Albin Massey’s sang-froid is impressive though.
  • It does give us a great progress, with Jaehaerys and Alyssa going to Oldtown on dragonback to treat with Donnel Hightower. The bargaining between Donnel and Jaehaerys over personnel vs. policy is particularly well done.
  • At the same time, there’s a bittersweet tinge to Alysanne’s joy at getting to indulge herself at the Citadel, only to be met with polite patronization from the maesters. (Although we do learn that novices who don’t cut it get sent home, which is probably what would have happened to Pate.)

 

  • Speaking of something that’s as about a perfect ven diagram of my interests as possible, let’s talk Targaryen public works.  Kudos to both GRRM and Jaehaerys for coming up with a plausible cause for the city’s public health and cleanliness problems stemming from the fact that “King’s Landing had grown too fast” and largely in a laissez-faire fashion save for major buildings like the Red Keep and the Dragonpit and the city’s walls.
  • Taking a leaf from Haussman, J-man’s first move is to (as far as possible) build “long wide streets” with a “central square…planted with tress, with markets and arcades beneath” (getting some very Unter der Linden vibes off this).
  • However, I find myself a bit puzzled about some of the streets – “the King’s Way, the Gods’ Way, the Street of the Sisters, Blackwater Way” – and where they are:

  • As long-time readers know, I have my issues with King’s Landing urban planning. I’ll give Jaehaerys’ credit that he may not have been able to get the Muddy Way to link up to his (unnamed? I’m just going to call it Jaehaerys’) Square, but there’s some puzzling stuff here:
    • For one thing, why was the “Street of the Sisters” (linking Rhaenys and Visenya’s hills) so important if the Sept of Remembrance was gone, the Great Sept hadn’t been built, and the Dragonpit was incomplete?
    • Is the “Gods’ Way” the northwest to southeast street going through the Gods’ Gate and Jaehaerys’ Square, or is that the “King’s Way” (since it terminates at the Red Keep)? Or does the King’s Way just go from the Keep to the Jaehaerys’ Square and then become the Gods’ Way?
    • Why don’t we have a name for the straight east-west street that goes from the central square to the Iron Gate? (Which had to have been built at or after Jaehaerys, given how it was clearly built with the central square in mind.) And why isn’t there one going from Jaehaerys’ Square to the Lion Gate, given that the Gold Road doesn’t have a good connection to the rest of the city?
    • Likewise, why isn’t there a road going from the King’s Gate to Jaehaerys’ Square, especially since there wasn’t the Great Sept in the way, and otherwise the King’s Gate only connects via the River Row, which must cause some awful congestion?
  • Rego Draz’s gradual fall from grace reminds me quite a bit of the downfall of John the Cappadocian, who was also widely resented for his low birth, his flaunting of his wealth, and his libertine ways, but also for the taxes he raised to pay for Justinian’s building campaigns.

 

  • Manfred Redywne replacing Daemon Velaryon is an odd event, because he’s not Jaehaerys’ most famous Hand nor even his most famous Redwyne Hand.
  • I do find the criteria interesting, however. Clearly there’s a bias not merely to noblemen, but to the upper echelons of noble society, and from the southern core of the Seven Kingdoms at that.
  • I will say that the emphasis on finding “an older man, whose experience would balance the king’s youth” and a warrior to complete the academic trend of the council reminds me a bit more of the ticket-balancing of American presidential and vice-presidential slates than medieval politics.

 

 

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32 thoughts on “Fire & Blood, Volume I: Birth, Death, and Betrayal

  1. rewenzo says:

    Regarding the Widow’s Law, I think A is right. The oldest legitimate son precedes the daughter, even if the daughter is older.

    As an aside, I’ve never understood why the Great Council of 101 is considered such a binding precedent. It really seems like the succession is something that the reigning king is free to decide as a matter of law (although there are obvious political constraints).

    After Aemon died, it was Jahaerys who made his second son Baelon heir, not any preexisting law (which was why Alysanne was pissed – it was Jahaerys’s choice to pass over Rhaenys).

    After Baelon died, Jahaerys said he would follow whatever the Great Council decided, but the purpose of the Great Council was not to decide the Targaryen succession laws for all time. And the Great Council made a political decision, and picked Viserys.

    Viserys himself obviously didn’t think he was bound by the Great Council’s decision because he picked Rhaenyra – and the lords of the realm mostly accepted this. Even Prince Daemon, who coveted the throne, accepted that Rhaenyra came before him. (Had Viserys never remarried, or never married a Hightower, there likely wouldn’t have been a Dance at all.)

    (Tangentially, I still don’t understand why Rhaenyra is not recognized as a monarch – her side won the war!)

    And princesses continued to be named and considered to be the heirs to the throne afterwards. After Baelor died, some people thought his sister Daena should be queen. And Aerys designed Rhaegel’s daughter Aelora to be princess of Dragonstone.

    • Sean C. says:

      (Tangentially, I still don’t understand why Rhaenyra is not recognized as a monarch – her side won the war!)

      It seems to me that GRRM’s skeletal concept of the Dance was a straight take on the Anarchy, with Rhaenyra/Matilda’s son Aegon III/Henry II taking the throne following the death of Aegon II/Stephen, and that’s all he had in mind when he wrote the books at first.

      But when he got around to actually fleshing out the Dance years later, the story he came up with really doesn’t fit the result. The Blacks win the Dance, in the end.

      It would have made more sense if Aegon II’s death had occurred at a time of political stalemate, instead of happening because the Black armies are sweeping down on King’s Landing and everybody else is exhausted and totally ready to give up as long as they’re allowed to reconcile to the Crown.

      Moreover, of the leaders of the Blacks, Lord Cregan comes across as a rather bullheaded stickler, and Lady Jeyne has obvious political reasons why she would have wanted to assert that Rhaenyra was the rightful queen. There’s no reason why they would have gone along with the idea that Aegon II was the real ruler, particularly as, unlike with, say, Maegor, Aegon II didn’t outlive Rhaenyra by very long.

      • rewenzo says:

        And the next 4 kings, her sons and grandsons, don’t push for her to be included in the succession?

      • Murc says:

        Hell, you don’t even need to jump through this many hoops.

        Just make it so that although Rhaenyra’s side wins the war, the outcome is in doubt until the very end, and that she never sits the Iron Throne during her life, in contrast to Aegon II, who rules from King’s Landing until he dies.

        But that’s not how they did it. The way GRRM lays it out it is hard to see any justification for why Rhaenyra isn’t counted among the monarchs of Westeros than plain’ol misogyny. People can get away with saying that Aegon III ruled by right of being Aegon II’s heir and just cut Rhaenyra completely out of the loop.

        • Abbey Battle says:

          The problem is that while the Blacks “won” the Dance of the Dragons, Queen Rhaenyra was comprehensively defeated – drove away or was betrayed by her most important supporters, lost her dragons without even taking wing on her own beast to defend them, was driven from her capital by the angry peasants who had butchered everything in the Dragonpit, then was captured and put to death by the rival who had seized her stronghold with a handful of loyal men (not to mention the support of some of Rhaenyra Targaryen’s own garrison).

          Going by the logic of single combat, Aegon the Second comprehensively defeated his elder sister (seizing her stronghold, her stepdaughter, her only remaining son AND the Lady of the Seven Kingdoms herself), so it seems likely that most Westerosi simply accepted that he had been the True King based on Right of Conquest – at least with the benefit of hindsight.

          It’s also not impossible that the heirs of King Daeron II (and possibly Aegon IV & Viserys II before him) may have made a point of supporting scholars who diminished the credibility of a female succession, for the sake of making his own retention of the Crown that much easier – especially following the challenge from Sir Daemon Blackfyre, who drew his claim to the Iron Throne from his mother as much as his sire.

      • JG says:

        Yeah, a lot of the Dance and even the way individual battles go down don’t make much sense. Battle of the Gullet is the most egregious example in my mind. It’s like GRRM needed Driftmark to get sacked and to create an impetus for the Three Daughters to split and worked backwards from there but the result of the battle is nonsensical as the Daughters fleet loses 2/3 of their ships to 1/3 of the Velaryon fleet as they are getting wrecked by multiple dragons and they still somehow are able to sack Driftmark.

    • JG says:

      “Viserys himself obviously didn’t think he was bound by the Great Council’s decision because he picked Rhaenyra – and the lords of the realm mostly accepted this.”

      They accepted it when Rhaenyra was the only heir of his body and the alternative was Daemon. By the time of the Dance most lords thought Aegon II had the better argument.

  2. Grant says:

    Would you say the Braavosi decision to buy the eggs was a good one for giving them a potential counter to Targaryens, or a bad one that could easily have resulted in the total destruction of Braavos.

    • Well Braavos may have had a matter of principle going on. They liked the fact they could cow the last Valyrians, saying you may have more military might then us, but we can strike where it matters.

      • Grant says:

        The problem is, then what? What happens if those eggs ever hatch? It was made clear, that was viewed by the Targaryens as absolutely-unacceptable-lines-have-been-crossed-we’re-going-fantasy-nuclear-here, and would see the annihilation of Braavos if need be to stop it.

        Having three dragons outside the Targaryen monopoly obviously would rewrite the global political map and could be a strong defense against a Westeros going the way of Valyria, but the question is whether or not it would be worth the consequences if they hatched and the Targaryens found out? Are the possible gains worth the possible costs?

      • JG says:

        That’s bizarre to me since the two states are in a co-dependent financial relationship after the Iron Bank gave the crown a big loan. Though I suppose the policy of the Sealord can differ from that of the Bank.

  3. Emma says:

    One thing I really don’t like about Rhaena Targaryen was her attitude towards her daughter Aerea – she demanded her daughter be returned to her custody and yet made no effort to try and bond with her. I reckon Rhaena only saw Aerea as a piece of property to take back from her sister Queen Alysanne.

  4. Yeh, the mysterious deaths on Dragonstone are brilliant. Has the feel of a murder mystery, an isolated space, lots of prominent people there, and suddenly deaths start sweeping through, first killing someone who would recognise what it was. Androw may have had a condition from what we hear. Rhaena may not have been easy to get on with and was a bit unfair in blaming him for Elissa’s deeds. But that doesn’t justify his actions. He still engaged in mass murder, of people who had the misfortune to be friends with his wife. He shows no remorse, seeming positively gleeful at the distress he caused his wife. It looks like a deed largely of spite, did he really think he’d be able to get away with it? He’s a classic Nice Guy, someone lashing out at the world. In a way could this be reminiscent of Littlefinger?

    I still don’t like Rhaena. She does seem Stannis-esque, sitting on Dragonstone, moaning about being cheated of her rights (and her daughter meeting a horrible, fire-associated death), and not unlike Rhaenyra either (down to unhappy marriage with someone from seafaring House). But she seems more like Rhaenyra, selfish, not winning support among Lords, and not showing the real iron that Stannis has, where he does win a more lasting loyalty from those who get to know him. Will Dany look like her eventually? Who can say?

    I do like the Braavosi reaction to this. Braavos may have had a matter of principle going on. They liked the fact they could cow the last Valyrians, saying you may have more military might then us, but we can strike where it matters. I would imagine a Sealord backing down before the descendant of the hated Dragonlords may tend towards political suicide, but this is difficult to say. They seem to hold the office for life, but I’m sure there is the possibility they could be removed. What do we know of the title, and how might it compare to similar titles in Italian cities? Though it does seem he works very closely with the Iron Bank. Interesting he can make them forgive a huge loan. And yeh, these likely are the eggs Illyrio had, but I imagine this will continue to remain unclear.

    Yeh, the whole Rogar/Alyssa storyline is not great. Alyssa does get the short shaft. What did she think? We are supposed to think Rogar isn’t that bad, but he keeps being shown as awful. Should J1 have sent him to the Wall after all?

    As for moon tea I’m sure the Faith is officially against it but realistically it must be used quite a bit. Couldn’t Alyssa have used some kind of contraceptive? What were contraceptive methods historically? I heard there was one in the Roman Empire but the plant was wiped out, I could have misremembered.

    And we could at least have Alyssa’s word on this more. Was Rogar basically keeping her imprisoned and not letting her tell her son he was demanding they try for another child? Good Queen Alysanne has gone into a lot of detail on this of course, such as how Barth seemed to pick up more this was bad then the Maester who you would think would know. And as Alysanne says why can’t we get the woman’s voice? Why is it the male characters?

    Seeing you go into such detail on urban planning really does make me admire you, I still can’t entirely follow all this detail on KL from you. To b fair probably GRRM is having the same problem.

    And I did not know of John the Cappadocian before. It is quite the learning experience reading your work. Rego Draz does show the difficulties a foreigner can face, there is xenophobia present. He’s foreign, from the sort-of equivalent of Italian city-states to the Medieval world. Of course he is viewed with suspicion, as one of those Godless, corrupt schemers, kind of like the way Italy is viewed in a lot of English culture.

    And to quote Yes Minister the guy in charge of money is Mr Killjoy, he’s the one raising taxes on the stuff you like. Even if it’s the ruler’s orders the Chancellor/Treasurer/Master of Coin is still the guy implementing them and so will get blamed. Those people will think that with all the money getting taken and the immediate benefits not being present the man in charge of money is corrupt, not being helped by him flaunting his wealth. There may even be a little preaching against him by Septons or street Septons or whatever, this Godless greedy foreigner coming over here, taking our money.

    From what we see people from the Free Cities are good with money, due to the fact they come from a more mercantile society. LF may be a bad Master of Coin and is certainly enormously corrupt, but he is good with money.

    I agree the section on the Widows’ law is a bit odd. This bit on disinheriting children from first wife reminds me of Ralph Neville, who disinherited the children from his Stafford marriage in favour of his Beaufort children (which could be alluded to when Walder Frey says he might make his child from his current wife heir, though I’m not sure how seriously we should take this, for a start the child would soon meet with an accident with the likes of Black Walder around). GRRM has famously said like in our world Westerosi succession law is unclear, which in a way nobles prefer so they can bestow lands on who they want, but I wonder how easy it would realistically be. Certain people like to exaggerate it, saying there is no clear Westerosi law (even though a lot of the time these arguments are basically just Stannis-bashing, someone even said Maegor was in the right and it was really lying Septons and Maesters who make him seem bad), but I would think in general eldest sons are seen as the natural inheritors, as breaking this is bound to lead to succession wars. As the Dance shows, but even there Rhaenyra ended up deciding Stokeworth and Rosbys’ sons should inherit over their elder sisters so even the Blacks saw it.

    In the case of no children and no brothers… well, I imagine more fluidity. I’m sure this will be gone into more with the case of Jeyne Arryn’s difficult succession. This is especially interesting as I’m sure the Vale would be very much Andal law should follow, considering they are the most Andal of the Kingdoms. And Alysanne came up with this on her Vale progress.

    However with the claim some men bestowed land on their wives over their children I’m wondering how that would work. So does she own the land fully now? Can she leave it to someone who isn’t of her husband’s line?

    I suppose the whole Lady Hornwood ‘leaving’ her lands to Ramsay could come up, where apparently he does have some legal right.

    I think this shows why Jaehaerys establishing succession was so important. Of course this is an unfair system but better this then numerous wars between nobles over who gets what. At least there is some basic semblance of order.

    And of course Alysanne is helping to ensure women can be treated well in this very misogynistic culture, at least being able to live in comfort rather then being thrown out by their stepchildren.

    As for the Dance… well I presume it still applies as the law probably made it clear that sons of later marriages come before daughters of earlier.

    Good point on the last. Westeros is not Medieval Europe, it is heavily based on it, but contains elements from various areas of history, which may not always fit.

    By the way I may be forgetting but does Alyssa being part-Massey come up again? I wonder if the Masseys ever brought up their kinship to J1, or there were mutters J1 was favouring his relatives too much by putting a Velaryon and Massey on the Small Council. I’m very into ancestry and family trees, very important in this society, so think this way.

    Though Albin Massey is interesting in that he does demonstrate ableism. Its not a popular Small Council but does seem a relatively efficient one, the disliked people do seem good at their job. Something something inner worth.

    A lot to say but you have given me a lot to think about.

    • JG says:

      Good catch on the comparison between Rhaena and pre-Blackwater Stannis and Rhaenyra.

      “Will Dany look like her eventually?”

      I’m sorry but Dany would wipe the floor with Rhaena. Rhanea would have gone to Pentos and moped in Dany’s shoes. Dany might have a temporary dark turn coming up but, if so, it’s going to be delivering fire and blood.

      I said this in the previous entry but Alyssane reminds me of Dany with the references to their short statures and being overlooked.

  5. Oh, and Bonus Sol Invictus.

  6. KrimzonStriker says:

    I would say both the Great Council and the Dance were created an exception of even still established law, because every other lord in the Seven Kingdoms allows their daughters to inherit before their uncles and other male relatives EXCEPT the kings of the Iron Throne.

    • KrimzonStriker says:

      Also I don’t understand the quip about Alyssa and birth control, there was no indication that becoming pregnant was an unwelcome outcome for her or Rogar (who very much wanted an heir and children), just that they were skeptical it would ever happen given her age, so I’m not sure why there would be a prompt to take birth control.

  7. Tywin of the Hill says:

    No lord, no knight, not even a magister, Rego Draz was a merchant, trader, and money-changer who had risen from nothing to become the richest man in Pentos, only to find himself shunned by his fellow Pentoshi and denied a seat in the council of magisters because of his low birth.

    Looks like Pentoshi society is less meritocratic that what Illyrio Mopatis’ backstory might suggest.

    As for the Widow’s Law, the fact that the Andal principle was maintained is not really a supposition: the text itself says the eldest son must inherit his parents lands, and that women can only inherit if there are no sons. If Rhaenyra’s supporters had tried to use the Law as an argument, they’d have had to explain why they were defending only half of the law. Better to just forget all about it and stick by their reasoning of “the King can choose who he pleases as his heir, and if you swore an oath, you have to uphold it”.

  8. Andrew Mumford says:

    1. Jaehaerys bribing the Most Devout is not out place in this context. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, when the Conclave met to pick a new pope, there were a lot of bribes and deal making behind the scenes to win, or rather buy, cardinals’ votes for the preferred candidates.

    1a. It would have been good if we had an illustration of Septon Mattheus’s face when he was told Vermithor and Silverwing were seen flying over Oldtown.

    2. The day of Boremund’s birth
    Rogar: This is the best day of my life.
    Borys: And the worst of mine.
    Rogar Huh?
    Borys: I said me too.

    3. Elissa and Aerea were two peas in a pod. One ended up sailing west, the other flying east. Both left out of a failure on Rhaena’s part to see to the needs of those she cared about. Had she paid more attention to her daughter and spent time with her, and not prohibit her from mingling with the smallfolk girls, she likely wouldn’t have left.

    4. Rhaena is really starting to remind me of Lysa: no luck with husbands, one forced marriage, one a murderer, and insisting on keeping her child clutched to her in an unhealthy way and her seeming emotional instability.

    5. I also find it strange that Rhaena said “She is Rhaenys, and I am Visenya.” She just compared herself to the woman who fought against her own family, crowned Maegor over Aegon and even fought in Battle Beneath the God’s Eye where Aegon died.

    6. The dragon eggs laid on Fair Isle all hatched once on Dragonstone. Take that with the comment that “Not away from Dragonstone. The heat . . . it is known, some dragon eggs simply turn to stone,” and dragon eggs may need a natural source of heat, like a volcano, nearby to hatch. Dragons are originally from the Fourteen Flames after all.

    • JG says:

      4. Yeah, that’s a good comparison although Rhaena is a lot more formidable even without a dragon.
      5. I think it’s a good example of how she thought too much of herself. I could see Visenya’s late life actions being collectively whitewashed by the Targ clan since she is so integral to the dynasty’s legitimacy and the good she accomplished for most of her life overtakes the bad in the collective memory, though I can’t imagine Alyssa would ever forgive or forget.

  9. Murc says:

    My only explanation is that A. the law may have maintained the pre-existing Andal principle that a son comes before a daughter, and this is just an inartful phrasing, or B. that the precedent of the Great Council of 101 is considered to have overruled or created an exception to this law.

    Why not both? Both seem very likely.

    This seems like one of those situations where it was so obvious to most involved that barring extraordinary exceptions, sons are always gonna come before daughters no matter which marriage they come from, so clearly anyone reading the law would interpret it that way. The laws of Westeros aren’t written with the same kind of avoid-a-novel-legal-argument, “the card says Moops” exactitude that the U.S Code is.

    As for the Great Council, this is one of those areas I expect gets a lot of DEBATE among the maesters. There’s a strong argument it established a binding precedent, but an equally strong one that it was a one-off.

    (Sidebar: Viserys I wasn’t a truly awful king, but he did more than any single man to cause the Dance of the Dragons. Dude fucked up his succession and the law surrounding it by the fuckin’ numbers.)

    It’s really hard to avoid presentism about the split between Elissa and Rhaena, but it’s surprising that no one saw the theft coming when the split was over money for a ship

    I don’t think it is. Or at least, this seems like a circle that is very easy to square. Namely, the treasury of Dragonstone, chests of coin and whatnot, was likely heavily guarded, as were things like Rhaena’s personal jewels and suchly… but the dragon eggs probably were not anywhere near as closely guarded, because while clearly valuable they also aren’t what you’d call easily fungible for people with sticky fingers. In this case, Elissa went after the dragon eggs as a last resort; she would no doubt have preferred a chest of coin, which is vastly more useful, but probably couldn’t GET her hands on a chest of coin. But she could get her hands on a dragon egg.

    Put it another way: this might be the equivalent of a rich person who keeps the family valuables in a specially built panic room/vault in their mansion… and leaves the Matisse hanging over the fireplace with no protection at all.

    Also, with regard to theft: you didn’t mention this in your recap, but this seems very significant: the stolen eggs, those will eventually be Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion, right? Three eggs stolen from Dragonstone that make their way to Essos… that can’t be a coincidence.

    This section is chillingly written – I have to admit I got wrong-footed by the business about Valyrian blood and disease and didn’t think about the tears of Lys even though the symptoms are hardly hidden – showing GRRM’s gift for horror.

    I think we also need to give Doug Wheatley a big shout-out here as well.

    I’m usually indifferent to Wheatley’s art, and he’s turned in some real howlers at times. (That picture of Vermithor landing on top of the Hightower is fuckin’ ridiculous.) But that picture of Androw Farman as a dark, motionless silhouette, with wild, frazzled hair, confronting his wife? With that over-the-shoulder perspective?

    That may be the best thing he’s drawn, and it is certainly the best and most effective picture in this volume.

    But my absolute favorite part of this chapter is the bit where Aerea takes off on Balerion. It’s a perfect escalation of the dysfunctional relationship, Aerea’s desire for freedom, and her wildly out-of-proportion sense of self-belief.

    I think it is also worth nothing that this is an INCREDIBLY Targaryen move on Aerea’s part.

    The entire family lives in the shadow of Aegon the Conqueror and his accoutrements. His sword… and his dragon. Balerion (and Vhagar for that matter) and Blackfyre are the focus of a lot of incredibly arrogant and self-assured people who want to get their hands on them to prove a political and familial point. Balerion was slow, sluggish, clearly near death and very obviously not suitable as a war mount or a means of transport when Viserys claimed him, for example; the entire reason was political. Blackfyre will be a bone of contention and powerful symbol for centuries to come.

    Aerea is living in the family tradition here.

    It does give us a great progress, with Jaehaerys and Alyssa going to Oldtown on dragonback to treat with Donnel Hightower. The bargaining between Donnel and Jaehaerys over personnel vs. policy is particularly well done.

    House Hightowers “hat” seems to be a kind of very practical wheeling and dealing. They’re not purely utilitarian players of power politics like others are (although some of them clearly are that) but the House, whenever it shows up, seems to throw up people who are very good at negotiating, dealmaking, seeing and seizing the main chance, trimming sails and surviving.

    Even Lynesse (Jorah’s wife) is like that; she went from the wife in exile of a deeply shitty mercenary to the chief concubine of a powerful merchant prince, even eclipsing his own spouse. You don’t do that without being good at wheeling and dealing.

    For one thing, why was the “Street of the Sisters” (linking Rhaenys and Visenya’s hills) so important if the Sept of Remembrance was gone, the Great Sept hadn’t been built, and the Dragonpit was incomplete?

    This one seems easy to me: the high places in cities tend to be very valuable real estate, where the well-heeled and powerful build their dwelling places for a lot of reasons I’m sure you’re familiar with. Even with the Sept of Remembrance gone and the Dragonpit still a’building, both those hills are almost certainly populated or controlled by the upper classes of the city; at least, they were by the time of the main novels. Linking them directly with a nice wide thoroughfare would have been something the burghers and courtiers would have wanted.

    Frankly, I’m surprised there’s not a direct link from Rhaenys’ hill to the Red Keep.

    Speaking only for myself… I remain somewhat bemused both at the way King’s Landing doesn’t appear to have spilled south of the river (that’s an obvious thing to happen; push all the “undesirable” industries and people down there, outside the walls and across the water but still in easy access) and that in three hundred years and multiple kings that were public-works oriented, nobody though of bridging the goddamn Blackwater Rush.

    Seriously. Like, when Aerys II was considering his various lunatic plans for the kingdom, he never hit on “bridge the Blackwater, name the bridge after yourself, they’ll talk about it for centuries?” NOBODY hit on that?

    Clearly there’s a bias not merely to noblemen, but to the upper echelons of noble society, and from the southern core of the Seven Kingdoms at that.

    The text makes that deeply explicit, doesn’t it? It would be “unthinkable” to bring an ironman to the small council. The Iron Islands are the smallest and least powerful of the Seven Kingdoms, but they’re still a force to be reckoned with and the Lord Paramounts of them stand equal to the Lord of Winterfell, Riverrun, Casterly Rock, et. al… but it’s “unthinkable” to appoint one to court. Even the northmen don’t have that stigma.

    • Sean C. says:

      I mean, I wouldn’t appoint an Ironborn to my council either. They suck, and everybody hates them.

    • JG says:

      “House Hightowers “hat” seems to be a kind of very practical wheeling and dealing. They’re not purely utilitarian players of power politics like others are (although some of them clearly are that) but the House, whenever it shows up, seems to throw up people who are very good at negotiating, dealmaking, seeing and seizing the main chance, trimming sails and surviving.”

      The Hightowers are generally an underrated house for their power, minus them being the villains in the Dance. I would like to know more about them and the Redwynes and I hope we get more of them in the main series.

      “The text makes that deeply explicit, doesn’t it? It would be “unthinkable” to bring an ironman to the small council. The Iron Islands are the smallest and least powerful of the Seven Kingdoms, but they’re still a force to be reckoned with and the Lord Paramounts of them stand equal to the Lord of Winterfell, Riverrun, Casterly Rock, et. al… but it’s “unthinkable” to appoint one to court. Even the northmen don’t have that stigma.”

      Well the ironborn are an evil race of murderous tyrants and pirates with no redeeming qualities minus like three people.

  10. Abbey Battle says:

    Posting on Christmas Day, eh? Maester Steven, at this point I’m beginning to wonder if your middle name is “Ebenezer” or “Wenceslas” (-;

  11. […] loan forgiveness gets straight in to the other side of Jaehaerys’ public works: the “drains and sewers” and “drinking water” of King’s Landing. Not […]

  12. JG says:

    “Something that I find interesting is that Benifer says that heat causes dragon eggs to turn into stone, whereas in Dany II of AGOT, Illyrio says it’s time: “eons have turned them to stone.”

    Actually Benifer said the opposite and theorized that the eggs might turn to stone away from the heat of Dragonstone.

    “Manfred Redywne replacing Daemon Velaryon is an odd event, because he’s not Jaehaerys’ most famous Hand nor even his most famous Redwyne Hand.”

    Redwyne replaces Daemon as Master of Ships and Daemon gets bumped up to Hand. Then Daemon resigns and Smallwood becomes Hand.

  13. […] First, we have “delicate and shy” Daella, who is so consistently depicted as having a cognitive disability that I’m quite surprised that only Princess Gael was given the label. Why then supposedly caring and intelligent parents like Alysanne and Jaehaerys would be so insistent that she get married is odd, because House Targaryen was hardly in a desperate situation dynastically speaking. The best that can be said about her situation is that Rodrik Arryn doesn’t seem to have been an unkind man. Even then, the three pages that it takes her to die in childbirth rivals Alyssa Velaryon’s for their level of excruciating detail. […]

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