“I seek a different prize,” the cyborg said.
“Yes?” I prompted.
“Death,” he told me. “Life. Death. Life.”
“Two different things,” I said. “Opposites. Enemies.”
“No,” said the cyborg. “They are the same.”
Hellooo and welcome to the book club. Like each book club story on this blog, the reading and commenting is done at your own pace. I have added a few notes that can be used as talking points if you like, or skipped over all together. Up to you. Have fun and enjoy!
One more bit about the notes; I am going to keep my notes to a minimum while you read and will instead add the more in-depth analysis at the bottom after the story because there is a huge amount to discuss with this story and how it relates to Daenerys (and to a lesser degree Euron, Melisandre, Bran, etc), the different takes on morality and slavery GRRM deals with, the cycle of nature and defying nature, and the arrogance in the desire for perfection. The opposite type of Enlightenment that Bran is conducting.
I have started a book club re-read for the older works of George R.R. Martin for purposes such as research, scholarship, and teaching. I own all copies of material that is used for this book club. If you have not yet a story listed, please check with your local bookstore for your own reading material to purchase. (Indie Bookstore Finder) The full list of GRRM stories outside of the A Song of Ice and Fire series that I have read can be found on this page here.
The seeds of the story
Published in 1986, this 16,276 word novelette digs into the questions of what is the cyclical nature of life and death? When you play the game of mind, the results could give you just what you ask for. Should the cycle be manipulated in the the first place even if you have the power to do so? How does this play with human autonomy compared to the worship of a god?
This story is the last one in Martin’s Thousand Worlds universe that was completed before he started, and then stopped, writing the Thousand Worlds story Avalon in favor of beginning A Song of Ice and Fire based on his vision of Bran finding the direwolf pups in the snow. What I wouldn’t give to have any details or partials to Avalon, to be able to read what was bridging the literary links between The Glass Flower and Bran Stark. My theory is that is has something to do with Greenseeing means Enlightnment, and battling both ice and fire dragons by means of body and mind warfare. Martin talks about Avalon a teeny bit in his book Quartet, and it is about three students who go to the Academy of Human Knowledge which is founded by the (real) Joachim Kleronomas.
A few comments by Martin regarding The Glass Flower. From Dreamsongs vol 2:
…The rest of the book I would fill out with originals. I knew lots of writers who loved chess.
Fred Saberhagen was one of them. Unfortunately, when I wrote him about my book, he wrote back to tell me he’d just sold a chess anthology to Ace, and would be reprinting “Midnight by the Morphy Watch” and “The Marvelous Brass Chessplaying Automaton” and “Von Goom’s Gambit.” So instead of him writing a story for my anthology, I wrote a story for his Pawn to Infinity, drawing on my experiences as the captain of Northwestern’s chess team. The story is fiction, to be sure, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is coincidental … but I would like to point out that I myself once actually fielded six teams for the Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Championships, a record that endured for close to thirty years.
“The Glass Flower” has a sadder distinction. It marked the last time I ever returned to my old SF future history. Kleronomas was one of the touchstone names of that history, along with Stephan Cobalt Northstar, Erika Stormjones, and Tomo and Walberg. I thought it was past time that I brought one of my mythic figures onto the stage. “The Glass Flower” appeared in Asimov’s in September, 1986. Except for Avalon, the abortive novel I began before getting caught up by A Game of Thrones and Doorways, I have not since visited any of my thousand worlds. Will I ever return to them? I make no promises. Maybe. That’s the best that I can do. Definitely maybe.
This is what we have here in the ‘game of mind”, a chess game across time and most especially, realms. This is not a new topic or plot device used by GRRM. Just the opposite. In The Glass Flower, GRRM creates an ‘artifact’ table that is the location of this game, and this table is called The Siege Perilous, which is taken from Arthurian legend as the seat at Arthur’s Round Table in which only the chosen knight can sit. It is a favorite. To “siege” is to take control of the chess board, the pawns and players, in war. See Sweetrobin Arryn and Cyvasse:
- Under Siege (1985)
Veronica begins to put the pieces back in the box. “This Sveaborg business is a kind of chess game too,” she says conversationally, “a chess game across time, us and the Swedes against the Russians and the Finnish nationalists. What move do you think we should make against Cronstedt?”
Pictured above is my original copy of The Glass Flower that I was lucky enough to have GRRM sign for me at the recent Starport signing in New York. Read about that short trip here. His reply about this edition after a moment of other chat was:
“Old school. Very good. Very good. An important one. That’s a good thing to read.”
Something that this story shows the reader rather distinctly, as well as Armageddon Rag, Fevre Dream, For a Single Yesterday, A Song for Lya, and several other stories, is that Martin is a well adept in handling the many aspects of slavery, which is not limited to the current, real world notion of someone like Abraham Lincoln freeing southern slaves in the United States. The way he handles slavery is something more, and he delves into the body and mind of owning and being owned. Sometimes that is a physical ownership, but more often than not it also includes the mental enslavement of people as well. Chains come in many forms.
Other readers that know a bit of Martin’s work like to cite Fevre Dream as the “slavery story”, but I would also count this one as just equally a strong telling of the various contrasts of owner and owned, perfection and corruption, and faith in religion to higher knowledge. Even in Fevre Dream, Damon Julian brutally mocks and criticizes the humans for keeping slaves bodily, while (hypocritically) he kept his slaves mentally. The cup of ice, or the cup of fire?
“I did consider in the very early stages not having the dragons in there. I wanted the Targaryen’s symbol to be the dragons, but I did play with the notion that maybe it was like a psionic power, that it was pyrokinesis — that they could conjure up flames with their minds. I went back and forth. My friend and fellow fantasy writer Phyllis Eisenstein actually was the one who convinced me to put the dragons in, and I dedicated the third book to her. And I think it was the right call.” —George R.R. Martin
This makes fairly it explicit that Daenerys will have mental powers over people as this is something Martin has been planning (in some form) since he wrote his 1993 outline pitch letter, something GRRM said he was “pissed” about that it was leaked to the public. Daenerys is the Cyrain of Lilith and Ash game of mind master, as the Other dragons are as well. We even have Cyrain rather explicitly telling readers she is another White.
- [Daenerys] she stumbles on a cache of three dragons eggs; of a young dragon will give Daenerys power bend Dothraki to her will. Then she begins to plan for her invasion of the Seven Kingdoms.
- The Steel Andal Invasion
I have noted this story a lot, a lot lot, but despite the amount of notes added here, this does not cover everything. I await comments and discussion below. Have fun.
If you want to listen to a synopsis of the story instead, I made a video. The notes in the video aren’t quite as inclusive as the written notes here, but hopefully the video will inspire you enough to come back and read the story here.
The Glass Flower- by George R.R. Martin
Once, when I was just a girl in the first flush of my true youth, a young boy gave me a glass flower as a token of his love.
He was a rare and precious boy, though I confess that I have long forgotten his name. So too was the flower he gave me. On the steel and plastic worlds where I have spent my lives, the ancient glassblower’s art is lost and forgotten, but the unknown artisan who had fashioned my flower remembered it well. My flower has a long and delicate stem, curved and graceful, all of fine thin glass, and from that frail support the bloom explodes, as large as my fist, impossibly exact. Every detail is there, caught, frozen in crystal for eternity; petals large and small crowding each other, bursting from the center of the blossom in a slow transparent riot, surrounded by a crown of six wide drooping leaves, each with its tracery of veins intact, each unique. It was as if an alchemist had been wandering through a garden one day, and in a moment of idle play had transmuted an especially large and beautiful flower into glass.
- This glass artist is described similar to those who knew the secrets of “soul drinking” Valyrian steel.
- In addition to crown’s being the mind control crystal worn by a “dragon”, the wall in the north is also a sign of a controlling “ice dragon”, or, Great Other:
A Dance with Dragons – Jon XI
Outside the day was bright and cloudless. The sun had returned to the sky after a fortnight’s absence, and to the south the Wall rose blue-white and glittering. There was a saying Jon had heard from the older men at Castle Black: the Wall has more moods than Mad King Aerys, they’d say, or sometimes, the Wall has more moods than a woman. On cloudy days it looked to be white rock. On moonless nights it was as black as coal. In snowstorms it seemed carved of snow. But on days like this, there was no mistaking it for anything but ice. On days like this the Wall shimmered bright as a septon’s crystal, every crack and crevasse limned by sunlight, as frozen rainbows danced and died behind translucent ripples. On days like this the Wall was beautiful.
All that it lacks is life.
- *wink, nudge, nudge, know what she means?
I kept that flower with me for near two hundred years, long after I had left the boy who gave it to me and the world where he had done the giving. Through all the varied chapters of my lives, the glass flower was always close at hand. It amused me to keep it in a vase of polished wood, and set it near a window. Sometimes the leaves and petals would catch the sun and flash brilliantly for an incandescent instant; at other times they would filter and fracture the light, scattering blurred rainbows on my floor. Often towards dusk, when the world was dimmer, the flower would seem to fade entirely from view, and I might sit staring at an empty vase. Yet, when the morning came, the flower would be back again. It never failed me.
The glass flower was terribly fragile, but no harm ever came to it. I cared for it well; better, perhaps, than I have ever cared for anything, or anyone. It outlasted a dozen lovers, more than a dozen professions, and more worlds and friends than I can name. It was with me in my youth on Ash and Erikan and Shamdizar, and later on Rogue’s Hope and Vagabond, and still later when I had grown old on Dam Tullian and Lilith and Gulliver. And when I finally left human space entirely, put all my lives and all the
worlds of men behind me, and grew young again, the glass flower was still at my side.
And, at very long last, in my castle built on stilts, in my house of pain and rebirth where the game of mind is played, amid the swamps and stinks of Croan’dhenni, far from all humanity save those few lost souls who seek us out– it was there too, my glass flower.
- Many more connections from across Martinworld that show Daenerys as a merge of the militant and religious as written about in the World of Ice and Fire and analyzed here with text comparisons –> The Steel Andal Invasion.
- Ash is a river in ASOIAF in Essos that runs through the Vale of Shadows, a valley so narrow that the water is perpetually in shadow. The corpse city of Stygai is located along the Ash in the heart of the Shadow.
- The castle on stilts is akin to Drogo’s pyre where Dany woke her stone dragons (nuclear weapons per GRRM) and Drogo’s spirit “blessed” her with a warlord like sentiment.
A Game of Thrones – Daenerys X
Her vest had begun to smolder, so Dany shrugged it off and let it fall to the ground. The painted leather burst into sudden flame as she skipped closer to the fire, her breasts bare to the blaze, streams of milk flowing from her red and swollen nipples. Now, she thought, now, and for an instant she glimpsed Khal Drogo before her, mounted on his smoky stallion, a flaming lash in his hand. He smiled, and the whip snaked down at the pyre, hissing. She heard a crack, the sound of shattering stone. [Dragon eggs begin to hatch]
- This current Croan’dhenni always seems to me like Asshai, or more precisely, Asshai-by-the-Shadow, seeing as how Dany’s three (dead-stone) dragon eggs come from there, ‘shadow life’ was given to the eggs in order to give them berth/birth, Drogon is described as a shadow, and there are no “children” in Asshai. Plus the prefix word “Croan” could be a play on words for “crone”, as in old wisdom and one of the Seven gods of the Andals. Not sure what “dhenni” could be just yet; hen, as in mother chicken or protector of eggs?
On the day Kleronomas arrived.
* * *
“Joachim Kleronomas,” I said.
There are cyborgs and then there are cyborgs. So many worlds, so many different cultures, so many sets of values and levels of technologies. Some cyberjacks are half organic, some more, some less; some sport only a single metal hand, the rest of their cyberhalves cleverly concealed beneath the flesh. Some cyborgs wear synthaflesh that is indistinguishable from human skin, though that is no great feat, given the variety of skin to be seen among the thousand worlds. Some hide the metal and flaunt the flesh; with
others the reverse is true.
The man who called himself Kleronomas had no flesh to hide or flaunt. A cyborg he called himself, and a cyborg he was in the legends that had grown up around his name, but as he stood before me, he seemed more a robot, insufficiently organic to pass even as android.
He was naked, if a thing of metal and plastic can be naked. His chest was jet; some shining black alloy or smooth plastic, I could not tell. His arms and legs were transparent plasteel. Beneath that false skin, I could see the dark metal of his duralloy bones, the power-bars and flexors that were muscles and tendons, the micromotors and sensing computers, the intricate pattern of lights racing up and down his superconductive neurosystem. His fingers were steel. On his right hand, long silver claws sprang rakishly from his knuckles when he made a fist.
He was looking at me. His eyes were crystalline lenses set in metal sockets, moving back and forth in some green translucent gel. They had no visible pupils; behind each implacable crimson iris burned a dim light that gave his stare an ominous red glow. “Am I that fascinating?” he asked me. His voice was surprisingly natural; deep and resonant, with no metallic echoes to corrode the humanity of his inflections.
- The bones remember. The dark metal armour with intricate lights is akin to Rhaegar’s armour, black with ruby gemstones. Rhaegar wanted to change the system when he was done with his physical battles. *This is important for later in this story.
- The red eyes set in green gel is akin to Bloodraven and Bran as greenseers. Also people who want change to the system, as Greenseeing means Enlightenment. Across the stories of the Thousand Worlds Universe, readers will notice that Kleronomas is primarily is Bloodraven+Bran archetype, with a few smaller types later extracted (Jon & Rhaegar, Samwell) but still part of the three-headed “green” dragon.
“Kleronomas,” I said. “Your name is fascinating, certainly. A very long time ago, there was another man of that name, a cyborg, a legend. You know that, of course. He of the Kleronomas Survey. The founder of the Academy of Human Knowledge on Avalon. Your ancestor? Perhaps metal runs in your family.”
- Ancestral swords? Valyrian armor?
“No,” said the cyborg. “Myself. I am Joachim Kleronomas.”
I smiled for him. “And I’m Jesus Christ. Would you care to meet my Apostles?”
- Another Jesus/God reference.
- Valyrians are said to think of themselves as above gods and men. Part of the “mad scientist” genetic manipulation of the incest. Cyrain of Lilith and Ash has many god complexes. This is but one. In ASOIAF, those with Dany in Meereen are acting as her apostles.
A Storm of Swords – Daenerys VI
Dany broke her fast under the persimmon tree that grew in the terrace garden, watching her dragons chase each other about the apex of the Great Pyramid where the huge bronze harpy once stood… Up here in her garden Dany sometimes felt like a god, living atop the highest mountain in the world.
Do all gods feel so lonely? Some must, surely. Missandei had told her of the Lord of Harmony, worshiped by the Peaceful People of Naath; he was the only true god, her little scribe said, the god who always was and always would be, who made the moon and stars and earth, and all the creatures that dwelt upon them. Poor Lord of Harmony. Dany pitied him.
A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys VI
Before midday a dozen fires were burning. Columns of greasy black smoke rose up to stain a merciless blue sky. Dany’s riding clothes were stained and sooty as she stepped back from the pyres. “Worship,” Grey Worm said, “this one and his brothers beg your leave to bathe in the salt sea when our work here is done, that we might be purified according to the laws of our great goddess.”
The queen had not known that the eunuchs had a goddess of their own. “Who is this goddess? One of the gods of Ghis?”
Grey Worm looked troubled. “The goddess is called by many names. She is the Lady of Spears, the Bride of Battle, the Mother of Hosts, but her true name belongs only to these poor ones who have burned their manhoods upon her altar. We may not speak of her to others. This one begs your forgiveness.” [Hint: it is Daenerys herself]
“You doubt me, Wisdom?”
“Kleronomas died on Avalon a thousand years ago.”
“No,” he said. “He stands before you now.”
“Cyborg,” I said, “this is Croan’dhenni. You would not have come here unless you sought rebirth, unless you sought to win new life in the game of mind. So be warned. In the game of mind, your lies will be stripped away from you. Your flesh and your metal and your illusions, we will take them all, and in the end there will be only you, more naked and alone than you can ever imagine. So do not waste my time. It is the most precious thing I have, time. It is the most precious thing any of us have. Who are you,
“Kleronomas,” he said. Was there a mocking note in his voice? I could not tell. His face was not built for smiling. “Do you have a name?” he asked me.
“Several,” I said.
A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys VII
The pale pink light of dawn found her still out on her terrace, asleep upon the grass beneath a blanket of fine dew. “I promised Daario that I would hold court today,” Daenerys told her handmaids when they woke her. “Help me find my crown. Oh, and some clothes to wear, something light and cool.”
She made her descent an hour later. “All kneel for Daenerys Stormborn, the Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khaleesi of Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Shackles and Mother of Dragons,” Missandei called.
“Which do you use?”
“My players call me Wisdom.”
- As Daenerys’ genetic memory is slowly revealed to her during the process where she practices layered fire and blood rituals to “wake her dragon”, she has this realization:
A Game of Thrones – Daenerys VI
“No. He cannot have my son.” She would not weep, she decided. She would not shiver with fear. The Usurper has woken the dragon now, she told herself … and her eyes went to the dragon’s eggs resting in their nest of dark velvet. The shifting lamplight limned their stony scales, and shimmering motes of jade and scarlet and gold swam in the air around them, like courtiers around a king.
Was it madness that seized her then, born of fear? Or some strange wisdom buried in her blood? Dany could not have said. She heard her own voice saying, “Ser Jorah, light the brazier.”
“Khaleesi?” The knight looked at her strangely. “It is so hot. Are you certain?”
“That is a title, not a name,” he said.
I smiled. “You are traveled, then. Like the real Kleronomas. Good. My birth name was Cyrain. I suppose, of all my names, I am most used to that one. I wore it for the first fifty years of my life, until I came to Dam Tullian and studied to be a Wisdom and took a new name with the title.”
“Cyrain,” he repeated. “That alone?”
“On what world were you born, then?”
A Game of Thrones – Daenerys X
The third crack was as loud and sharp as the breaking of the world.
When the fire died at last and the ground became cool enough to walk upon, Ser Jorah Mormont found her amidst the ashes, surrounded by blackened logs and bits of glowing ember and the burnt bones of man and woman and stallion. She was naked, covered with soot, her clothes turned to ash, her beautiful hair all crisped away … yet she was unhurt.
- There are also several connection so to Lilith as Dany nurses her dragons after she is reborn in ash. What do dragons drink?
Cyrain of Ash,” he said. “How old are you?”
“In standard years?”
I shrugged. “Close to two hundred. I’ve lost count.”
A Dance with Dragons – Jon VI
“Lord Snow.” The voice was Melisandre’s.
Surprise made him recoil from her. “Lady Melisandre.” He took a step backwards. “I mistook you for someone else.” At night all robes are grey. Yet suddenly hers were red. He did not understand how he could have taken her for Ygritte. She was taller, thinner, older, though the moonlight washed years from her face. Mist rose from her nostrils, and from pale hands naked to the night. “You will freeze your fingers off,” Jon warned.
“If that is the will of R’hllor. Night’s powers cannot touch one whose heart is bathed in god’s holy fire.”
A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre I
“What do you see, my lady?” the boy asked, softly.
Skulls. A thousand skulls, and the bastard boy again. Jon Snow. Whenever she was asked what she saw within her fires, Melisandre would answer, “Much and more,” but seeing was never as simple as those words suggested. It was an art, and like all arts it demanded mastery, discipline, study. Pain. That too. R’hllor spoke to his chosen ones through blessed fire, in a language of ash and cinder and twisting flame that only a god could truly grasp. Melisandre had practiced her art for years beyond count, and she had paid the price. There was no one, even in her order, who had her skill at seeing the secrets half-revealed and half-concealed within the sacred flames.
“You look like a child, like a girl close to puberty, no more.”
- Readers know that Daenerys often uses the phrase, “It is true that I am only a young girl, and do not know the ways of war,” when she is manipulating the situation, of whish she usually already has a militant plan in mind.
- This is extremely loaded imagery that points to yet another Bakkalon the Pale Child = Daenerys reference, as detailed here.
“I am older than my body,” I said.
“As am I,” he said. “The curse of the cyborg, Wisdom, is that parts can be replaced.”
“Then you’re immortal?” I challenged him.
“In one crude sense, yes.”
- Bloodraven has kept himself alive out of need to wait for Bran, the next Three-Eyed Crow. Now Bloodraven’s watch will soon end in The Winds of Winter as Bran resumes the highest ranking watch.
“Interesting,” I said. “Contradictory. You come here to me, to Croan’dhenni and its Artifact, to the game of mind. Why? This is a place where the dying come, cyborg, in hopes of winning life. We don’t get many immortals.”
“I seek a different prize,” the cyborg said.
“Yes?” I prompted.
“Death,” he told me. “Life. Death. Life.”
A Game of Thrones – Daenerys VI
If Khal Drogo had been with her, Dany would have ridden her silver. Among the Dothraki, mothers stayed on horseback almost up to the moment of birth, and she did not want to seem weak in her husband’s eyes. But with the khal off hunting, it was pleasant to lie back on soft cushions and be carried across Vaes Dothrak, with red silk curtains to shield her from the sun. Ser Jorah saddled up and rode beside her, with the four young men of her khas and her handmaids.
The day was warm and cloudless, the sky a deep blue. When the wind blew, she could smell the rich scents of grass and earth. As her litter passed beneath the stolen monuments, she went from sunlight to shadow and back again. Dany swayed along, studying the faces of dead heroes and forgotten kings. She wondered if the gods of burned cities could still answer prayers.
- This Kleronomas wants to return to the natural circle of life, which includes death. No more extremes of manipulating life.
“Two different things,” I said. “Opposites. Enemies.”
“No,” said the cyborg. “They are the same.”
- This is like the dual nature of R’hllorism. Melisandre gives a few speeches on the subject of duality, when in reality her religion wants an extreme the same as the Ice Others seem to want- the two dragons; one of ice, one of fire. It is only when the trees-green-nature returns can the cycle go on as it should.
* * *
Six hundred standard years ago, a creature known in legend as The White landed among the Croan’dhenni in the first starship they had ever seen. If the descriptions in Croan’dhic folklore can be trusted, then The White was of no race I have ever encountered, nor heard of, though I am widely traveled. This does not surprise me. The manrealm and its thousand worlds (perhaps there are twice that number, perhaps less, but who can keep count?), the scattered empires of Fyndii and Damoosh and g’vhern and N’or Talush, and all the other sentients who are known to us or rumored of, all this together, all those lands and stars and lives colored by passion and blood and history, sprawling proudly across the light-years, across the black gulfs that only the volcryn ever truly know, all of this, all of our little universe … it is only an island of light surrounded by a vastly greater area of greyness and that fades ultimately into the black of ignorance. And this only in one small galaxy, whose uttermost reaches we shall never know, should we endure a billion years. Ultimately, the sheer size of things will defeat us, however we may strive or scream; that truth I am sure of.
But I do not defeat easily. That is my pride, my last and only pride; it is not much to face the darkness with, but it is something. When the end comes, I will meet it raging.
The White was like me in that. It was a frog from a pond beyond ours, a place lost in the grey where our little lights have not yet shone on the dark waters. Whatever sort of creature it might have been, whatever burdens of history and evolution it carried in its genes, it was nonetheless my kin. Both of us were angry mayflies, moving restlessly from star to star because we, alone among our fellows, knew how short our day. Both of us found a destiny of sorts in these swamps of Croan’dhenni.
- This is like Viserys and Daenerys having to constantly be on the move because of (false) hired knives. Viserys is both sweet and harmful to Dany, but by the time she decides to take the Unsullied in A Storm of Swords- Dany II, she is shown to be using Viserys tactics instead of Rhaegar’s, as well as seeming to sympathyze with Viserys by the end of A Dance with Dragons.
The White came utterly alone to this place, set down its little starship (I have seen the remains: a toy, that ship, a trinket, but with lines that are utterly alien to me, and deliciously chilling), and, exploring, found something.
A Clash of Kings – Daenerys III
“Did I not give you an army, sweetest of women? A thousand knights, each in shining armor.”
The armor had been made of silver and gold, the knights of jade and beryl and onyx and tourmaline, of amber and opal and amethyst, each as tall as her little finger. “A thousand lovely knights,” she said, “but not the sort my enemies need fear. And my bullocks cannot carry me across the water, I—why are we stopping?” The oxen had slowed notably.
Something older than itself, and stranger.
- Daenerys will arrive in Westeros as an Aegon VII while also arriving as the 7th after removing Aegon VI (Young Griff), linking more symbolism to the Stranger,= even more connections to the Andals. Discussed in another page here.
- I discussed the artifact in detail on this page here under “Artifactually Accurate” and how it directly links -> by text, title, and actions <- to the map table on Dragonstone that Aegon the Conquerer has carved for his means. At the precise location of Dragonstone is a raised seat that allows the occupant to view the entire map. It is basically a huge chess board to play wargames across time. It also links to an ‘artifact’ that the Steel Angels use.
- The tables’ proper name is the Siege Perilous and this term has a real world origin in Arthurian legend meaning a perilous seat for one who overcomes moral ‘imperfections’. Martin has fantasy-ed it up a bit for his own unique story.
Whatever strange instruments it had, whatever secret alien knowledge it possessed, whatever instinct bid it enter; all lost now, and none of it matters. The White knew, knew something the native sentients had never guessed, knew the purpose of the Artifact, knew how it might be activated. For the first time in — a thousand years? A million? For the first time in a long while, the game of mind was played. And The White changed, emerged from the Artifact as something else, as the first. The first mindlord. The first master of life and death. The first painlord. The first lifelord. The titles are born, worn, discarded, forgotten, and none of them matter.
Whatever I am, The White was the first.
- Croan’dhenni is a marsh/swamp planet by nature, and the original inhabitants are described to look somewhat like the Children of the Forest, with the Croan’dhic peoples having, “mottled blue-green skin…slender, double-jointed arms”. This planet is a lot like early Westeros and especially Moat Cailin with it’s safe passage and Children’s tower, only to be overrrun later by the Andals, the Greyjoys, and Ramsay Bolton.
- The White Walkers/Ice Dragons are also mindlords who mate life and death. According to legend, the White Walker-Others came from the Lands of Always Winter six or eight thousand years ago, and brought with them cold and darkness that lasted a generation: the Long Night. They resurrected dead men and animals to serve them.
- The mindlords know the purpose of the artifact that the natives did not know, again in ASOIAF this is the dragon-power seats of Dragonstone and the Iron Throne.
- And we have more of that “strange wisdom” as talked about above.
- First painlord links back to the pain the Unsullied go through for training, and again, they worship Dany and her militant religious actions (in their eyes). Lady of Spears.
A Game of Thrones – Daenerys X
And after them came her handmaids, and then the others, all the Dothraki, men and women and children, and Dany had only to look at their eyes to know that they were hers now, today and tomorrow and forever, hers as they had never been Drogo’s. As Daenerys Targaryen rose to her feet, her black hissed, pale smoke venting from its mouth and nostrils. The other two pulled away from her breasts and added their voices to the call, translucent wings unfolding and stirring the air, and for the first time in hundreds of years, the night came alive with the music of dragons.
* * *
Had the cyborg asked to meet my Apostles, I would not have disappointed him. I gathered them when he left me. ‘The new player,” I told them, “calls himself Kleronomas. I want to know who he is, what he is, and what he hopes to gain. Find out for me.”
I could feel their greed and fear. The Apostles are a useful tool, but loyalty is not for them. I have gathered to me twelve Judas Iscariots, each of them hungry for that kiss.
- Judas Iscariot was a disciple and one of the original Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. According to all four canonical gospels, Judas betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin in the Garden of Gethsemane by kissing him and addressing him as “rabbi” to reveal his identity to the crowd who had come to arrest him.
- By the halfway point through A Clash of Kings, Daenerys also is developing trust issues. By A Storm of Swords and especially A Dance with Dragons, she is finding it hard to trust anyone at all, whereas Jon is finding almost the opposite with the trust in his arc (ex; Jon trusts Val, but he mistrusts Melisandre). Here is a statement that shows Dany’s transition:
A Storm of Swords – Daenerys VI
Her bloodriders were waiting for her. Silver bells tinkled in their oiled braids, and they wore the gold and jewels of dead men. Meereen had been rich beyond imagining. Even her sellswords seemed sated, at least for now. Across the room, Grey Worm wore the plain uniform of the Unsullied, his spiked bronze cap beneath one arm. These at least she could rely on, or so she hoped . . . and Brown Ben Plumm as well, solid Ben with his grey-white hair and weathered face, so beloved of her dragons. And Daario beside him, glittering in gold. Daario and Ben Plumm, Grey Worm, Irri, Jhiqui, Missandei . . . as she looked at them Dany found herself wondering which of them would betray her next.
The dragon has three heads. There are two men in the world who I can trust, if I can find them. I will not be alone then. We will be three against the world, like Aegon and his sisters.
“I’ll have a full scan worked up,” suggested Doctor Lyman, pale weak eyes considering me, flatterer’s smile trembling.
“Will he consent to an interface?” asked Deish Green-9, my own cyberjack. His right hand, sunburned red-black flesh, was balled into a fist; his left was a silver ball that cracked open to exude a nest of writhing metallic tendrils. Beneath his heavy beetling brow, where he should have had eyes, a seamless strip of mirrorglass was set into his skull. He had chromed his teeth. His smile was very bright.
- This is Victarion. The sun-burned, volacno hand, the following of his blue-lipped god-brother Euron’s every word. Even down to the archetype that wears a mirroglass as a means of double vision, just like the like mirrors in all of Martin’s work (including the wall), including a spy named Mirrors in The Armageddon Rag.
- Being a cyberjack makes leads me to belive that, yes, Euron is watching Victarion either through Victarion’s own head games, or through the Dusky woman.
“We’ll find out,” I said.
Sebastian Cayle floated in his tank, a twisted embryo with a massive monstrous head, flippers moving vaguely, huge blind eyes regarding me through turgid greenish fluids as bubbles rose all around his pale naked flesh. He is a Liar came the whisper in my head. I will find the truth for you, Wisdom.
- Sebastian Cayle is a character from another GRRM story called The Way of Cross and Dragon, which Martin calls his “Catholic” story. Liars, with a capital ‘L’, are those that control religion behind the scenes in order to control the masses of people. I find it very interesting to have a “Catholic” Sebastian Cayle included in a story that has an extremely strong proto-Daenerys/R’hllor element to it.
“Good,” I told him.
Tr’k’nn’r, my Fyndii mindmute, sang to me in a high shrill voice at the edge of human hearing. He loomed above them all like a stickman in a child’s crude drawing, a stickman three meters tall, excessively jointed, bending in all the wrong places at all the wrong angles, assembled of old bones turned grey as ash by some ancient fire. But the crystalline eyes beneath his brow ridge were fervid as he sang, and fragrant black fluids ran from the bottom of his lipless vertical mouth. His song was of pain and screaming and nerves set afire, of secrets revealed, of truth dragged steaming and raw from all its hidden crevasses.
“No,” I said to him. “He is a cyborg. If he feels pain it is only because he wills it. He would shut down his receptors and turn you off, loneling, and your song would turn to silence.”
The neurowhore Shayalla Loethen smiled with resignation. â€oeThen there’s nothing for me to work on either, Wisdom?”
“I’m not sure,” I admitted. “He has no obvious genitalia, but if there’s anything organic left inside him, his pleasure centers might be intact. He claims to have been male. The instincts might still be viable. Find out.”
- Again a link to Kleronomas being a Jon-type. The question of working male genetalia. Willie Flambeaux, another Jon-type from The Skin Trade, even sasardonically states that he is so cold his “balls will freeze off.”
She nodded. Her body was soft and white as snow, and sometimes as cold, when she wanted cold, and sometimes white hot, when that was her desire. Those lips that curled upwards now with anticipation were crimson and alive. The garments that swirled around her changed shape and color even as I watched, and sparks began to play along her fingertips, arcing across her long, painted nails.
- Lots of visual deatils that the Others share from the A Game of Thrones prologue share: wearing of Martinworld chameleon cloth signifies a hunter, white hot (ice can burn), crimson-blood mouth, alive like the Others sword was “alive” sparks at fingertips. These sparks, or fire, in the hand is a Melisandre and Dany thing, as well as something Euron desires in his mate as shown in The Winds of Winter – The Forsaken chapter: “Beside him stood a shadow in woman’s form, long and tall and terrible, her hands alive with pale white fire.”
“Drugs?” asked Braje, biomed, gengineer, poisoner. She sat thinking, chewing some tranq of her own devising, her swollen body as damp and soft as the swamps outside. “Truetell? Agonine? Esperon?”
- The drug Esperon is used across Martinworld, most notably in Nightflyers. It does what it says, it turns on or dramatically heightens one’s ESP talent. ESPer-on.
“I doubt it,” I said.
“Disease,” she offered. “Manthrax or gangrene. The slow plague, and we’ve got the cure?” She giggled.
“No,” I said curtly.
And the rest, and on and on. They all had their suggestions, their ways of finding out things I wanted to know, of making themselves useful to me, of earning my gratitude. Such are my Apostles. I listened to them, let myself be carried along by the babble of voices, weighed, considered, handed out orders, and finally I sent them all away, all but one.
Khar Dorian will be the one to kiss me when that day finally comes. I do not have to be a Wisdom to know that truth.
- Yes, Khar Dorian is primarily a proto-Khal Drogo+Daario+Euron archetype that GRRM expanded in to these three for ASOIAF. Mitosis. There is also a smidge element of Dorian Martell via Quentyn and Arianne that link Dorian to Daenerys in ways. Drogo the warmonger/slaver, Daario the hot headed lover, Quentyn the one who doesn’t truly kow how to play the game of mind. Euron will be the last with Dany.
The rest of them want something of me. When they get it, they will be gone. Khar got his desire long ago, and still he comes back and back and back, to my world and my bed. It is not love of me that brings him back, nor the beauty of the young body I wear, nor anything as simple as the riches he earns. He has grander things in mind.
- The last statement here points to more text that Khal Drogo (and R’hllorist Illyrio) wanted Daenerys because of her Valyrian looks in order to fulfill a prophecy, as well makes the reader question what other motives Daario may have in TWOW. On the other side of Westeros, we have Euron who has godlier things in mind, like Daenerys.
A Game of Thrones – Daenerys I
“She has had her blood. She is old enough for the khal,” Illyrio told him, not for the first time. “Look at her. That silver-gold hair, those purple eyes … she is the blood of old Valyria, no doubt, no doubt … and highborn, daughter of the old king, sister to the new, she cannot fail to entrance our Drogo.” When he released her hand, Daenerys found herself trembling.
“He rode with you,” I said. “All the way from Lilith. Who is he?”
“A player,” Dorian said, grinning at me crookedly, taunting me. He is breathtakingly beautiful. Lean and hard and well fit, with the arrogance and rough-hewn masculine sexuality of a thirty-year-old, flush with health and power and hormones. His hair is blond and long and unkempt. His jaw is clean and strong, his nose straight and unbroken, his eyes a hale, vibrant blue. But there is something old living behind those eyes, something old and cynical and sinister.
“Dorian,” I warned him, “don’t try games with me. He is more than just a player. Who is he?”
Khar Dorian got up, stretched lazily, yawned, grinned. “Who he says he is, “my slaver told me. “Kleronomas.”
A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys VII
The candle flickered one last time and died, drowned in its own wax. Darkness swallowed the feather bed and its two occupants, and filled every corner of the chamber. Dany wrapped her arms around her captain and pressed herself against his back. She drank in the scent of him, savoring the warmth of his flesh, the feel of his skin against her own. Remember, she told herself. Remember how he felt. She kissed him on his shoulder.
Daario rolled toward her, his eyes open. “Daenerys.” He smiled a lazy smile. That was another of his talents; he woke all at once, like a cat. “Is it dawn?”
“Not yet. We have a while still.”
* * *
Morality is a closely knit garment that binds tightly when it binds at all, but the vastnesses that lie betwee the stars are prone to unraveling it, to plucking it apart into so many loose threads, each brightly colored, but forming no discernible pattern. The fashionable Vagabonder is a rustic spectacular on Cathaday, the Ymirian swelters on Vess, the Vessman freezes on Ymir, and the shifting lights the Fellanei wear instead of cloth provoke rape, riot, and murder on half a dozen worlds. So it is with morals. Good is no more constant than the cut of a lapel; the decision to take a sentient life weighs no more heavily than the decision to bare one’s breasts, or hide them.
- A few things here. A fringed tokar, Daenerys dressing in the Qartheen fashion that bares one’s breast, and the tight slippers sent from Astapor she struggles with in her first ADWD chapter:
A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys I
Lord Ghael had a mouth of brown and rotten teeth and the pointed yellow face of a weasel. He also had a gift. “Cleon the Great sends these slippers as a token of his love for Daenerys Stormborn, the Mother of Dragons.”
Irri slid the slippers onto Dany’s feet. They were gilded leather, decorated with green freshwater pearls. Does the butcher king believe a pair of pretty slippers will win my hand? “King Cleon is most generous. You may thank him for his lovely gift.” Lovely, but made for a child. Dany had small feet, yet the pointed slippers mashed her toes together.
- Additionally, the comments about taking life as being a flippant decision is troubling. Dany is struggling with morality in A Dance with Dragons and I don’t feel as though it will get better for her in this arena:
A Storm of Swords – Daenerys VI
“How noble of him,” said Dany. “I will consider all you’ve said, my lord.” She gave orders that Ghael be given chambers for the night, somewhere lower in the pyramid.
All my victories turn to dross in my hands, she thought. Whatever I do, all I make is death and horror. When word of what had befallen Astapor reached the streets, as it surely would, tens of thousands of newly freed Meereenese slaves would doubtless decide to follow her when she went west, for fear of what awaited them if they stayed . . . yet it might well be that worse would await them on the march.
There are worlds on which I am a monster. I stopped caring a long time ago. I came to Croan’dhenni with my own fashion sense, and no concern for the aesthetic judgments of others.
Khar Dorian calls himself a slaver, and points out to me that we do, indeed, deal in human flesh. He can call himself what he likes. I am no slaver; the charge offends me. A slaver sells his clients into bondage and servitude, deprives them of freedom, mobility, and time, all precious commodities. I do no such thing. I am only a thief. Khar and his underlings bring them to me from the swollen cities of Lilith, from the harsh mountains and cold wastes of Dam Tullian, from the rotting tenements along the canals of Vess, from spaceport bars on Fellanora and Cymeranth and Shrike, from wherever he can find them, he takes them and brings them to me, and I steal from them and set them free.
A lot of them refuse to go.
- As quoted above when Dany thinks about her “dross”. In addtion to dross meaning rubbish/junk, dross is a mass of solid impurities floating on a molten metal or dispersed in the metal, such as in wrought iron.
- Also, Daario and Dany are playing the mind-slavers from their first meeting. Daario provides first:
A Storm of Swords – Daenerys IV
Dany was dubious. If this Tyroshi had come to spy, this declaration might be no more than a desperate plot to save his head. “What do Prendahl na Ghezn and Sallor say of this?”
“Little.” Daario upended the sack, and the heads of Sallor the Bald and Prendahl na Ghezn spilled out upon her carpets. “My gifts to the dragon queen.”
Viserion sniffed the blood leaking from Prendahl’s neck, and let loose a gout of flame that took the dead man full in the face, blackening and blistering his bloodless cheeks. Drogon and Rhaegal stirred at the smell of roasted meat.
They cluster outside my castle walls in the city they have built, toss gifts to me as I pass, call out my name, beg favors of me. I have left them freedom, mobility, and time, and they squander it all in futility, hoping to win back the one thing I have stolen.
- This smells of the same repressive “Enlightnenment” movement ideas of the 17th and 18th centuries led by people such as John Locke. The ideas of human freedom and individual rights taking root in countries that held other human beings in bondage and were then in the process of exterminating native populations.
- Just like the Unsullied, Dany is providing a religious-militant experience, that is what ‘mhysa’ means . Prostrating themselves outside of pyramids is also what the Steel Angels do when they worship Bakkalon who stands at the top. There are freed men in Meereen selling themselves back into slavery and prostrating themselves in the shadow of Daenerys’ pyramid. And again Euron in playing in this godly realm as well.
A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys VI
The Astapori stumbled after them in a ghastly procession that grew longer with every yard they crossed. Some spoke tongues she did not understand. Others were beyond speaking. Many lifted their hands to Dany, or knelt as her silver went by. “Mother,” they called to her, in the dialects of Astapor, Lys, and Old Volantis, in guttural Dothraki and the liquid syllables of Qarth, even in the Common Tongue of Westeros. “Mother, please … mother, help my sister, she is sick … give me food for my little ones … please, my old father … help him … help her … help me …”
A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys IX
Her lord husband stood and raised his hands. “Great Masters! My queen has come this day, to show her love for you, her people. By her grace and with her leave, I give you now your mortal art. Meereen! Let Queen Daenerys hear your love!”
Ten thousand throats roared out their thanks; then twenty thousand; then all. They did not call her name, which few of them could pronounce. “Mother!” they cried instead; in the old dead tongue of Ghis, the word was Mhysa! They stamped their feet and slapped their bellies and shouted, “Mhysa, Mhysa, Mhysa,” until the whole pit seemed to tremble. Dany let the sound wash over her. I am not your mother, she might have shouted, back, I am the mother of your slaves, of every boy who ever died upon these sands whilst you gorged on honeyed locusts. Behind her, Reznak leaned in to whisper in her ear, “Magnificence, hear how they love you!”
I steal their bodies, but they lose their souls themselves.
And perhaps I am unduly harsh to call myself a thief. These victims Khar brings me are unwilling players in the game of mind, but no less players for all that. Others pay so very dearly and risk so very much for the same privilege. Some we call players and some we call prizes, but when the pain comes and the game of mind begins, we are all the same, all naked and alone without riches or health or status, armed with only the strength that lies within us. Win or lose, live or die, it is up to us and us alone.
I give them a chance. A few have even won. Very few, true, but how many thieves give their victims any chance at all?
A Dance with Dragons – Tyrion VI
“Why?” wondered Tyrion. “Meereen is long leagues across the sea. How has this sweet child queen offended Old Volantis?”
“Sweet?” Qavo laughed. “If even half the stories coming back from Slaver’s Bay are true, this child is a monster. They say that she is bloodthirsty, that those who speak against her are impaled on spikes to die lingering deaths. They say she is a sorceress who feeds her dragons on the flesh of newborn babes, an oathbreaker who mocks the gods, breaks truces, threatens envoys, and turns on those who have served her loyally. They say her lust cannot be sated, that she mates with men, women, eunuchs, even dogs and children, and woe betide the lover who fails to satisfy her. She gives her body to men to take their souls in thrall.”
Oh, good, thought Tyrion. If she gives her body to me, she is welcome to my soul, small and stunted though it is.
- The is very much like Maegor the Cruel, and Old Valyria who were slavers, whom Dany likens her own self as:
A Game of Thrones – Daenerys IX
The Dothraki exchanged uncertain glances. “Khaleesi,” the handmaid Irri explained, as if to a child, “Jhaqo is a khal now, with twenty thousand riders at his back.”
She lifted her head. “And I am Daenerys Stormborn, Daenerys of House Targaryen, of the blood of Aegon the Conqueror and Maegor the Cruel and old Valyria before them. I am the dragon’s daughter, and I swear to you, these men will die screaming. Now bring me to Khal Drogo.”
- Cyrain is under heavy delusion and denial about what slavery is, body and mind, and she is excusing slavery under the delusion of “freeing” the bodies and minds of the people she steals.
- Same with Dany. Readers need to remember what information we get in from Dany’s POV, and we know how GRRM loves the unreliable/biased narrator. Jhiqui was with Dany when she took the Unsullied using her dragons (as Dany says Viserys would have done), and yet we have this comment much later in the timeline by Jhiqui. Just as Jon has yet to accept what he is, a warg and a man of the free folk, Dany has yet to accept what she is turning into, a dragon slaver:
A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys II
“Yes.” Her hair was disheveled and her bedclothes all atangle, Dany realized. “Help me dress. I’ll have a cup of wine as well. To clear my head.” To drown my dream. She could hear the soft sounds of sobs. “Who is that weeping?”
“Your slave Missandei.” Jhiqui had a taper in her hand.
“My servant. I have no slaves.” Dany did not understand. “Why does she weep?”
The Steel Angels, whose worlds lie far from Croan’dhenni on the other side of human space, teach their children that strength is the only virtue and weakness the only sin, and preach that the truth of their faith is written large on the universe itself. It is a difficult point to argue. By their creed, I have every moral right to the bodies I take, because I am stronger and therefore better and more holy than those born to that flesh.
The little girl born in my present body was not a Steel Angel, unfortunately.
- The Steel Angels worship a god called Bakkalon the Pale Child. I have written and pulled together the many quotes between stories that expressly show how Dany is Bakkalon in Martinworld (and specifically ASOIAF as well). Read it here.
- Again, The Steel Andal Invasion comparison shows how Daenerys is having history repeat with a twist as she mounts a new invasion into Westeros.
* * *
“And baby makes three,” I said, “even if baby is made of metal and plastic and names himself a legend.”
“Eh?” Rannar looked at me blankly. He is not as widely traveled as me, and the reference, something I have dredged up from my forgotten youth on some world he’s never walked, escapes him entirely. His long, sour face wore a look of patient bafflement.
“We have three players now,” I told him carefully. “We can play the game of mind.”
That much Rannar understood. “Ah yes, of course. I’ll see to it at once, Wisdom.”
- The title ‘Wisdom‘ link to a fiery element in ASOIAF with the pyromancer’s at the Alchemists’s Guild. Remember, per GRRM, the Targaryens were originally supposed to just have pyro-kinetic mind control powers, not actual dragons. The growing powers within Daenerys are coming through as a type of genetic memory:
A Game of Thrones – Daenerys VI
“Khaleesi?” The knight looked at her strangely. “It is so hot. Are you certain?”
- Similarly, around on the other side of Planetos in Essos, Daenerys’ title is that of ‘worship’. Here we have an ASOIAF quote that shows the title of worship (war-ship?) and another link between Daenerys and Euron:
A Storm of Swords – Daenerys II
The slaver shrugged. “Tell her to consider quickly. There are many other buyers. Only three days past I showed these same Unsullied to a corsair king who hopes to buy them all.”
“The corsair wanted only a hundred, your worship,” Dany heard the slave girl say.
He poked her with the end of the whip. “Consairs are all liars. He’ll buy them all. Tell her that, girl.”
Craimur Delhune was the first. An ancient thing, almost as old as me, though he had done all of his living in the same small body. No wonder it was worn out. He was hairless and shriveled, a wheezing half-blind travesty, his flesh full of alloplas and metal implants that labored day and night just to keep him alive. It was not something they could do much longer, but Craimur Delhune had not had enough living yet, and so he had come to Croan’dhenni to pay for the flesh and begin all over again. He had been waiting nearly
half a standard year.
- Barristan Selmy
Rieseen Jay was a stranger case. She was under fifty and in decent health, though her flesh bore its own scars. Rieseen was jaded. She had sampled every pleasure Lilith offered, and Lilith offers a good many pleasures. She had tasted every food, flowed with every drug, sexed with males, females, aliens, and animals, risked her life skiing the glaciers, baiting pit-dragons, fighting in the soar-wars for the delectation of holofans everywhere. She thought a new body would be just the thing to add spice to life. Maybe a
male body, she thought, or an alien’s offcolor flesh. We get a few like her.
And Joachim Kleronomas made three.
In the game of mind, there are seats for seven. Three players, three prizes, and me.
Rannar offered me a thick portfolio, full of photographs and reports on the prizes newly arrived on Khar Dorian’s ships, on the Bright Phoenix and the Second Chance and the New Deal and the Fleshpot (Khar has always had a certain black sense of humor). The major-domo hovered at my elbow, solicitous and helpful, as I turned the pages and made my selections. “She’s delicious,” he said once, at a picture of a slim Vessgirl with frightened yellow eyes that hinted at a hybrid gene-mix. “Very strong and healthy, that one,” he said later, as I considered a hugely muscled youth with green eyes and waist-long braided black hair. I ignored him. I always ignore him.
- Another word for major-domo is seneschal or steward, as in Dany’s case, perfumed seneschal. This is one of the distrusts that Dany holds within her in regards to her staff; can she trust any of them?
- The names of the ships seem to me as hint of Cyrain’s arc progression, and therefore Daenerys’: Bright Pheonix to Second Chance to New Deal to Fleshpot (second life in Drogon).
“Him,” I said, taking out the file of a boy as slender as a stiletto, his ruddy skin covered with tattoos. Khar had purchased him from the authorities on Shrike, where he’d been convicted of killing another sixteen-year-old. On most worlds Khar Dorian, the infamous free trader, smuggler, raider, and slaver, had a name synonymous with evil; parents threatened their children with him. On Shrike he was a solid citizen who did the community great service by buying up the garbage in the prisons.
- A boy covered in tattoos is like Euron playing mind games with Cragorn who was burnt from the inside, and this links to the idea that Bowen will be used the same way at/after the mutiny atempt on Jon. What will happen to Bowen Marsh?
- The threat of the Others is often said as a curse in Westeros, such as “The Others take his eyes.”
“Her,” I said, setting aside a second photograph, of a pudgy young woman of about thirty standard whose wide green eyes betrayed a certain vacancy. From Cymeranth, her file said. Khar had dropped one of his raiders into a coldsleep facility for the mentally damaged and helped himself to some young, healthy, attractive bodies. This one was soft and fat, but that would change once an active mind wore the flesh again. The original owner had sucked up too much dreamdust.
- Very bizzarly this is somewhat like Lysa Tully, and coincidentally I wrote about Lysa and poisoned “milk of the mommy” here.
“And it,” I said. The third file was that of a g’vhern hatchling, a grim-looking individual with fierce magenta eye-crests and huge, leathery batwings that glistened with iridescent oils. It was for Rieseen Jay, who thought she might like to try a nonhuman body. If she could win it.
“Very good, Wisdom,” said Rannar approvingly. He was always approving. When he had come to Croan’dhenni, his body was grotesque; he’d been caught in bed with the daughter of his employer, a V’lador knight of the blood, and the punishment was extensive ritual mutilation. He did not have the price of a game. Rut I’d had two players waiting for almost a year, one of whom was dying of manthrax, so when Rannar offered me ten years of faithful service to make up the difference, I accepted.
Sometimes I had my regrets. I could feel his eyes on my body, could sense his mind stripping away the soft armor of my clothes to fasten, leechlike, on my small, budding breasts. The girl he’d been found with was not much younger than the flesh I now wore.
- Devan Seaworth is ‘in love’ with Melisandre, according to Melisandre. Jorah Mormont has a creepy fascination with Daenerys. Edan Morse has a weird fixation on the fiery villain Ananda Caine in The Armageddon Rag. This also happens in another fire-worship story transcribed here: A Song for Lya.
- Also, there is nothing wrong with being leechlike 🙂
* * *
My castle is built of obsidian.
North of here, far north, in the smoky polar wastelands where eternal fires burn against a purple sky, the black volcanic glass lies upon the ground like common stone. It took thousands of Croan’dhic miners nine standard years to find enough for my purposes and drag it all back to the swamps, over all those barren kilometers. It took hundreds of artisans another six to cut and polish it and fit it all together into the dark shimmering mosaic that is my home. I judged the effort worthwhile.
- Dragonstone. A grim place, Dragonstone was built by Valyrians with arcane arts, fire, and sorcery. Capable of liquefying and reshaping stone with dragonflame, the dragonlords used their magic to shape Dragonstone to look like multiple dragons.
A Storm of Swords – Samwell V
“Dragonglass.” The red woman’s laugh was music. “Frozen fire, in the tongue of old Valyria. Small wonder it is anathema to these cold children of the Other.”
“On Dragonstone, where I had my seat, there is much of this obsidian to be seen in the old tunnels beneath the mountain,” the king told Sam. “Chunks of it, boulders, ledges. The great part of it was black, as I recall, but there was some green as well, some red, even purple. I have sent word to Ser Rolland my castellan to begin mining it. I will not hold Dragonstone for very much longer, I fear, but perhaps the Lord of Light shall grant us enough frozen fire to arm ourselves against these creatures, before the castle falls.”
My castle stands on four great jagged pillars high up above the smells and damp of the Croan’dhic swampland, ablaze with colored lights whose ghosts glimmer within the black glass. My castle gleams; a thing of beauty, austere and forbidding, supreme and apart from the shantytown that has grown up around it, where the losers and discards and dispossessed huddle hopelessly in floating reed-huts, festering treehouses, and hovels on half-rotted wooden stilts. The obsidian appeals to my aesthetic sense, and I find its symbolism appropriate to this house of pain and rebirth. Life is born in the heat of sexual passion as obsidian is born in volcanic fire. The clean truth of light can sometimes flow through its blackness, beauty seen dimly through darkness, and like life, it is terribly fragile, with edges that can be dangerously sharp.
- GRRM: And yet, and yet… it’s still not right. It’s not the Iron Throne I see when I’m working on THE WINDS OF WINTER. It’s not the Iron Throne I want my readers to see. The way the throne is described in the books… HUGE, hulking, black and twisted, with the steep iron stairs in front, the high seat from which the king looks DOWN on everyone in the court… my throne is a hunched beast looming over the throne room, ugly and assymetric… It’s a throne made by blacksmiths hammering together half-melted, broken, twisted swords, wrenched from the hands of dead men or yielded up by defeated foes… a symbol of conquest… it has the steps I describe, and the height. From on top, the king dominates the throne room. And there are thousands of swords in it, not just a few. This Iron Throne is scary. And not at all a comfortable seat, just as Aegon intended. Look on his works, ye mighty, and despair.” Ozymandias, a poem GRRM uses extensively in his story Fevre Dream. I discussed the throne and Ozymandias as the antithesis to weirwoods/Bran quite a bit in the Greenseeing is Enlightenment page.
- Light flowing through blackness is also used in the story of Saagael. Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark.
Inside my castle are rooms on rooms, some paneled over with fragrant native woods and covered with furs and thick carpets, some left bare and black ceremonial chambers where dark reflections move through glass walls and footsteps click brittle against glass floors. In the center, at the very apex, rises an onion-shaped obsidian tower, braced by steel. Within the dome, a single chamber.
- “Click/ing”, like “nibbling”, in Martinworld is used when someone is walking through a place controlled by the “other” of that story, such as when Randi Wade (protag) visits the other-controlled police offices in The Skin Trade her heels click on the hard floor signifying to the reader the type of bad place we are in. Kris (Kristal) as the antagonist from The Needle Men also does the same things, only here we are in her domain. Old Nan starts clicking away when she provides readers knowledge of the Others, the White Walkers:
A Game of Thrones – Bran IV
“I know a story about a boy who hated stories,” Old Nan said with her stupid little smile, her needles moving all the while, click click click, until Bran was ready to scream at her…
“Well,” Bran said reluctantly, “yes, only …”
Old Nan nodded. “In that darkness, the Others came for the first time,” she said as her needles went click click click. “They were cold things, dead things, that hated iron and fire and the touch of the sun, and every creature with hot blood in its veins. They swept over holdfasts and cities and kingdoms, felled heroes and armies by the score, riding their pale dead horses and leading hosts of the slain. All the swords of men could not stay their advance, and even maidens and suckling babes found no pity in them. They hunted the maids through frozen forests, and fed their dead servants on the flesh of human children.”
- An onion shaped tower is used often in the fiery elements across Martinworld. This is essentially a huge brazier, just like in Bitterblooms. Cyrain lives in a dragonglass castle and this is where Daenerys will land when she returns to Westeros where she will be acting as a new version of the Blackfyres as she (eventually) weilds Blackfyre and uses her Drogon black-fire flying Steel Angel.
I ordered the castle built, replacing an older and much shabbier structure, and to that single tower chamber, I caused the Artifact to be moved.
It is there that the game of mind is played.
My own suite is at the base of the tower. The reasons for that were symbolic as well. None achieve rebirth without first passing through me.
- Again, major god complex, and one I pointed out a while ago on this page here about Daenerys across Martinworld. This is not about saving people, this is about being worshiped.
- John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
- John 10:9 Jesus said, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
- Passing through a door like this, while in worship or playing the game of mind, is something GRRM was developing a long way back. Saagael and the Gates of Corlos in Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark.
I was breaking fast in bed, on butterfruit and raw fish and strong black coffee, with Khar Dorian stretched out languid and insolent beside me, when my scholar Apostle, Alta-k-Nahr, came to me with her report.
She stood at the foot of my bed, her back twisted like a great question mark by her disease, her long features permanently set in a grimace of distaste, her skin shot through with swollen veins like great blue worms, and she told me of her researches on the historical Kleronomas in a voice unnecessarily soft.
“His full name was Joachim Charle Kleronomas,” she said, and he was native to New Alexandria, a first-generation colony less than seventy light-years from Old Earth. Records of his birthdate, childhood, and adolescence are fragmentary and contradictory. The most popular legends indicate his mother was a high-ranking officer on a warship of the 13th Human Fleet, under Stephen Cobalt Northstar, and that Kleronomas met her only twice. He was gestated in a hireling host-mother and reared by his father, a minor scholar at a library on New Alexandria. My opinion is that this tale of his origin explains, a bit too neatly, how Kleronomas came to combine both the scholastic and martial traditions; therefore I question its reliability.
- Whoo-doggie there is a lot to umpack here. First, more connections of the Bran-Bloodraven-Weirwoods being connected and librarious, Alexandria was the largest library in history in the real world. There are proto-hints of Lyanna, Rhaegar and …. Arthur Dayne… in this passage.
- Additionally, the combination of scholastic and militant traditions is a far cry different than the militant-religious ones.
“More certain is the fact that he joined the military at a very early age, in those last days of the Thousand Years War. He served initially as systems tech on a screamer-class raider with the 17th Human Fleet, distinguished himself in deepspace actions off El Dorado and Arturius and in the raids on Hrag Druun, after which he was promoted to cadet and given command training. By the time the 17th was shifted from its original base on Fenris to a minor sector capital called Avalon, Kleronomas had earned further distinction, and was the third-in-command of the dropship Hannibal. But in the raids on
Hruun-Fourteen, the Hannibal took heavy damage from Hrangan defenders, and was finally abandoned. The screamer in which Kleronomas escaped was disabled by enemy fire and crashed planetside, killing everyone aboard. He was the sole survivor. Another screamer picked up what was left of him, but he was so near dead and horribly maimed that they shoved him into cryostorage at once. He was taken back to Avalon, but resources were few and demands many, and they had no time to bother reviving him. They kept him under for years.
“Meanwhile, the Collapse was in progress. It had been in progress all of his lifetime, actually, but communications across the width of the old Federal Empire were so slow that no one knew it. But a single decade saw the revolt on Thor, the total disintegration of the 15th Human Fleet, and Old Earth’s attempt to remove Stephen Cobalt Northstar from command of the 13th, which led inevitably to the secession of Newholme and most of the other first-generation colonies, to Northstar’s obliteration of Wellington, to civil war, breakaway colonies, lost worlds, the fourth great expansion, the hellfleet legend, and ultimately the sealing of Old Earth and the effective cessation of commercial starflight for a generation. Longer than that, far far longer, on some more remote worlds, many of which devolved to near-savagery or developed odd variant cultures.
“Out on the front, Avalon had its own first-hand experience of the Collapse when Rajeen Tober, commanding the 17th Fleet, refused to submit to the civil authorities and took his ships deep into the Tempter’s Veil to found his own personal empire safe from both Hrangan and human retaliation. The departure of the 17th left Avalon essentially defenseless. The only warships still in the sector were the ancient hulks of the 5th Human Fleet, which had last seen combat nearly seven centuries earlier, when Avalon was a very distant strikebase against the Hrangans. About a dozen capital-class ships and
thirty-odd smaller craft of the 5th remained in orbit around Avalon, most needing extensive repairs, all functionally obsolete. But they were the only defenders left to a frightened world, so Avalon determined to refit and restore them. To crew these museum pieces, Avalon turned to its cryonic wards, and began to thaw every combat veteran on hand, including Joachim Kleronomas: The damage he had sustained was extensive, but Avalon needed every last body. Kleronomas returned more machine than man. A cyborg.”
A Dance with Dragons – Jon I
“I mean to. I’ll burn him, and the north will see how I deal with turncloaks and traitors. I have other men to lead the wildlings. And I have Rayder’s son, do not forget. Once the father dies, his whelp will be the King-Beyond-the-Wall.”
“Your Grace is mistaken.” You know nothing, Jon Snow, Ygritte used to say, but he had learned. “The babe is no more a prince than Val is a princess. You do not become King-Beyond-the-Wall because your father was.”
- Hrangans are akin to the ice & fire dragons-entities we have in ASOIAF, Double war is the Dance of Dragons, any version. The definition of harangue, and the definition of what the Hrangan’s from Martin’s Dying of the Light:Hrangans. Humanity’s great enemy during the Double War, the Hrangans were perhaps the most alien sentients ever encountered. Their social system was structured on the basis of a number of biological castes, most of whom seemed to belong to different species, so different were they. Of the Hrangan millions, only the so-called Minds were truly intelligent, and mankind never communicated successfully even with them. The Hrangans were bitterly xenophobic; prior to the Double War, they had enslaved a dozen less-advanced races, and there is evidence that they had exterminated others entirely. The war effectively destroyed the Hrangans, except on Old Hranga itself and a handful of their oldest colonies.
I leaned forward to interrupt Alta’s recitation. “Are there any pictures of him as he was then?” I asked her.
“Yes. Both before and after. Kleronomas was a big man, with blue-black skin, a heavy outthrust jaw, grey eyes, long pure white hair. After the operation, the jaw and the bottom half of his face were gone entirely, replaced with seamless metal. No mouth, no nose. He took nourishment intravenously. One eye was lost, replaced by a crystal sensor with IR/UV range. His right arm and the entire right half of his chest was cybered, steel plate, duralloy mesh, plastic. A third of his inner organs were synthetic. And they gave him a jack, of course, and built in a small computer. From the beginning, Kleronomas
disdained cosmetics; he looked exactly like what he was.”
- Jon has the ‘Stark’ look that is easily recognizable by people like Qhorin Half-hand and Craster. This Kleronomas also carries many resemblences to the various Jon aspects such as Stannis, Bloodraven one-eye, Ghost, and grey-eyed Starks. These same descriptives are also shared with other Jon-types such as Josh York, Royd Eris, and Willie Flambeaux.
I smiled. “But what he was, that was still a good deal more fleshy than our new guest?”
- The “Kleronomas” we have on page now is not the original Klernomas (Bloodraven for the directiest comparison) of history. Since we already have the many Bran-tree-library aspects, this seems to be what we have in ASOIAF, Bran is replacing Bloodraven (why BR waited beyond normal human lifespan), and we we will see later in this story, it is the green that regrows in the end. Bloodraven being half a tree is the fantasy version of a cyborg. And we see in both stories that the ‘new’ Klernomas as Bran will chose regular nature cycle life instead.
“True,” said my scholar: “The rest of the history is more well known. There weren’t many officers among the revived. Kleronomas was given his own command, a small courier-class ship. He served for a decade, pursuing the scholarly studies in history and anthropology that were his private passion, and rising higher and higher in the ranks while Avalon waited for ships that never came and built more and more ships of its own. There were no trades, no raids; the interregnum had come.
“Finally, a bolder civil leadership decided to risk a few of its ships and find out how the rest of human civilization had fared. Six of the ancient 5th Fleet dreadnaughts were refitted as science survey craft and sent out. Kleronomas was given command of one of them. Of those survey ships, two were lost on their missions, and three others returned within two years carrying minimal information on a handful of the closest systems, prompting the Avalonians to reinitiate starflight on a very limited local basis. Kleronomas was thought lost.
- As Bran is thought dead. Yes, also like Arya and Rickon, as Sansa is thought missing. Also, when Jon returns to Castle Black, Samwell tells Jon they thought he was dead.
“He was not lost. When the small, limited goals of the original survey were completed, he decided to continue rather than return to Avalon. He became obsessed with the next star, and the next after that, and the next after that. He took his ship on and on. There were mutinies, desertions, dangers to be faced and fought, and Kleronomas dealt with them all. As a cyborg, he was immensely long-lived. The legends say he became ever more metallic as the voyage went on, and on Eris discovered the matrix crystal and expanded his intellectual abilities by orders of magnitude through the addition of the first crystal-matrix computer. That particular story fits his character; he was obsessed not only with the acquisition of knowledge, but with its retention. Altered so, he would never forget.
“When he finally returned to Avalon, more than a hundred standard years had passed. Of the men and women who had left Avalon with him, Kleronomas alone survived; his ship was manned by the descendants of its original crew, plus those recruits he had gathered on the worlds he visited. But he had surveyed four hundred and forty-nine planets, and more asteroids, comets, and satellites than anyone would have dreamed possible. The information he brought back became the foundation upon which the
Academy of Human Knowledge was built, and the crystal samples, incorporated into existing systems, became the medium in which that knowledge was stored, eventually evolving into the academy’s vast Artificial Intelligences and the fabled crystal towers of Avalon. The resumption of large-scale starflight soon thereafter was the real end of the interregnum. Kleronomas himself served as the first academy administrator until his death, which supposedly came on Avalon in ai-42, that is, forty-two standard years
after the day of his return.”
A Dance with Dragons – Bran II“I’m here,” Bran said, “only I’m broken. Will you … will you fix me … my legs, I mean?”
“No,” said the pale lord. “That is beyond my powers.”
Bran’s eyes filled with tears. We came such a long way. The chamber echoed to the sound of the black river.
“You will never walk again, Bran,” the pale lips promised, “but you will fly.“
I laughed. “Excellent,” I told Alta-k-Nahr. “He’s a fraud, then. Dead at least seven hundred years.” I looked at Khar Dorian, whose long fine hair was spread across the pillow as he nibbled on a heel of mead bread. “You are slipping, Khar. He fooled you.”
Khar swallowed, grinned. “Whatever you say, Wisdom,” he said, in a tone that told me he was anything but contrite. “Shall I kill him for you?”
“No,” I said. “He is a player. In the game of mind, there are no imposters. Let him play. Let him play.”
* * *
Days later, when the game had been scheduled, I called the cyborg to me. I saw him in my office, a large room with deep scarlet carpeting, where my glass flower sits by the great window that overlooks my battlements and the swamp town below.
His face was without expression. Of course, of course. “You summoned me, Cyrain of Ash.”
“The game is set,” I told him. “Four days from today.”
- In ASOIAF, it is day three when the mutiny attack on Jon happens, a signal that the Others are probably (almost) there at the wall. The Fourth Hand in Jon’s Mutiny Attack.
“I am pleased,” he said.
“Would you like to see the prizes?” I offered him the files; the boy, the girl, the hatchling.
He glanced at them briefly, without interest.
“I am told,” I said to him, “that you have spent a lot of time wandering these past days. Inside my castle, and outside in the town and the swamps.
“True,” he said. “I do not sleep. Knowledge is my diversion, my addiction. I was curious to learn what sort of place this was.”
Smiling, I said, “And what sort of place is it, cyborg?”
He could not smile, nor frown. His tone was even, polite. “A vile place,” he said. “A place of despair and degradation.”
“A place of eternal, undying hope,” I said.
“A place of sickness, of the body and the soul.”
“A place where the sick grow well,” I countered.
“And where the well grow sick,” the cyborg said. “A place of death.”
“A place of life,” I said. “Isn’t that why you came? For life?”
“And death,” he said. “I have told you, they are the same.”
- Circle of life. Nature.
I leaned forward. “And I have told you, they are very different. You make harsh judgments, cyborg. Rigidity is to be expected in a machine, but this fine, precious moral sensitivity is not.”
“Only my body is machine,” he said.
I picked up his file. “That is not my understanding,” I said. “Where is your morality in regard to lying? Especially so transparent a lie?” I opened the file flat on my desk. “I’ve had a few interesting reports from my Apostles. You’ve been extraordinarily cooperative.”
A Game of Thrones – Arya II
“We had to throw rocks,” she said miserably… She whined and looked at me and I felt so ‘shamed, but it was right, wasn’t it? The queen would have killed her.”
“It was right,” her father said. “And even the lie was … not without honor.”
A Storm of Swords – Samwell IV
“You know you cannot keep her,” Jon said gently, “no more than I could stay with Ygritte. You said the words, Sam, the same as I did. The same as all of us.”
“I know. Gilly said she’d be a wife to me, but . . . I told her about the words, and what they meant. I don’t know if that made her sad or glad, but I told her.” He swallowed nervously and said, “Jon, could there be honor in a lie, if it were told for a . . . a good purpose?”
“It would depend on the lie and the purpose, I suppose.” Jon looked at Sam. “I wouldn’t advise it. You’re not made to lie, Sam. You blush and squeak and stammer.”
“If you wish to play the game of mind, you cannot offend the painlord,” he said.
I smiled. “I’m not as easily offended as you might think.” I searched through the reports. “Doctor Lyman did a full scan on you. He finds you an ingenious construct. And made entire of plastic and metal. There is nothing organic left inside you, cyborg. Or should I call you robot? Can computers play the game of mind, I wonder? We will certainly find out. You have three of them, I see. A small one in what should be your brain case that attends to motor functions, sensory input and internal monitoring, a
much larger library unit occupying most of your lower torso, and a crystal matrix in your chest.”I looked up. “Your heart, cyborg?”
“My mind,” he said. “Ask your Doctor Lyman, and he will tell of other cases like mine. What is a human mind? Memories. Memories are data. Character, personality, individual volition. Those are programming. It is possible to imprint the whole of a human mind upon a crystal matrix computer.”
- As GRRM often quotes the William Faulkner quote, “The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.”
- Bran is guided by Jojen and often told to remember who he is, a real boy, and to not forget himself. Many quotes here.
A Storm of Swords – Bran II
“Some people hurt others just because they can,” said Jojen.
“And it wasn’t Theon who did the killing at Winterfell,” said Meera. “Too many of the dead were ironmen.” She shifted her frog spear to her other hand. “Remember Old Nan’s stories, Bran. Remember the way she told them, the sound of her voice. So long as you do that, part of her will always be alive in you.”
“I’ll remember,” he promised.
- The story that has a soul-etched crystal matrix computer on page the most is Nightflyers, where we meet Royd Eris who has to fight against the dragon-mother ship.
- Nightflyers: The xenotech grunted and turned back to her work. “Why fake being human, then?” “Because,” said Lommie Thorne, “most legal systems give AIs no rights. A ship can’t own itself, even on Avalon. The Nightflyer is probably afraid of being seized and disconnected.” She whistled. “Death, Alys; the end of self-awareness and conscious thought.”
“And trap the soul in the crystal?” I said. “Do you believe in souls?”
“Do you?” he asked.
“I must. I am mistress of the game of mind. It would seem to be required of me.” I turned to the other reports my Apostles had assembled on this construct who called himself Kleronomas. “Deish Green-9 interfaced with you. He says you have a system of incredible sophistication, that the speed of your circuitry greatly exceeds human thought, that your library contains far more accessible information than any single organic brain could retain even were it able to make full use of its capacity, and that the
mind and memories locked within that crystal matrix are that of one Joachim Kleronomas. He swears to that.”
The cyborg said nothing. Perhaps he might have smiled then, had he the capacity.
“On the other hand,” I said, “my scholar Alta-k-Nahr assures me that Kleronomas is dead seven hundred years. Who am I to believe?”
“Whomever you choose,” he said indifferently.
“I might hold you here and send to Avalon for confirmation,” I said. I grinned. “A thirty-year voyage in, thirty more years back out. Say a year to research the question. Can you wait sixty-one years to play, cyborg?”
“As long as necessary,” he said.
“Shayalla says you are thoroughly asexual.”
“That capacity was lost from the day they remade me,” he said. “My interest in the subject lingered for some centuries afterwards, but finally that too faded. If I choose, I have access to a full range of erotic memories of the days when I wore organic flesh. They remain as fresh as the day they were entered into my computer. Once locked in crystal, memories cannot fade, as with a human brain. They are there, waiting to be tapped. But for centuries now, I have had no inclination to recall them.”
- The Night’s Watch and their anti-thesis the White Cloak Kingsguard are asexual by force or decree, but often break this restrictive rule. The Unsullied are asexual by physical force with no option otherwise, as far as traditional copulation and procreation are concerned.
I was intrigued. “You cannot forget,” I said.
“I can erase,” he said. “I can choose not to remember.”
“If you are among the winners in our little game of mind, you will regain your sexuality.”
“I am aware of that. It will be an interesting experience. Perhaps then I will choose to tap those ancient memories.”
“Yes,” I said, delighted. “You’ll begin to use them, and at precisely the same instant you will begin to forget them. There is a loss there, cyborg, as sharp as your gain.”
“Gain or loss. Living and dying. I have told you, Cyrain, they cannot be separated.”
“I don’t accept that,” I said. It was at issue with all I believe, all I am; his repetition of the lie annoyed me. “Braje says you cannot be affected by drugs or disease. Obvious. You could be dismantled, though. Several of my Apostles have offered to dispose of you, at my command. My aliens are especially bloodthirsty, it seems.”
“I have no blood,” he said. Sardonic? Or was it all the power of suggestion?
“Your lubricants might suffice,” I said dryly. “Tr’k’nn’r would test your capacity for pain. AanTerg Moonscorer, my g’vhern aerialist, has offered to drop you from a great height.”
“That would be an unconscionable crime by nest standards.”
“Yes and no,” I said. “A nestborn g’vhern would be aghast at the suggestion that flight be thus perverted. My Apostle, on the other hand, would be more aghast at the suggestion of birth control. Flapping those oily leather wings you’ll find the mind of a half-sane cripple from New Rome. This is Croan’dhenni. We are not as we seem.”
“So it appears.”
“Jonas has offered to destroy you too, in a less dramatic but equally effective fashion. He’s my largest Apostle. Deformed by runaway glands. The patron saint of advanced automatic weaponry, and my chief of security.”
- “Dragons are the nuclear deterrent, and only [Daenerys Targaryen, one of the series’ heroines] has them, which in some ways makes her the most powerful person in the world,” Martin said in 2011. “But is that sufficient? These are the kind of issues I’m trying to explore. The United States right now has the ability to destroy the world with our nuclear arsenal, but that doesn’t mean we can achieve specific geopolitical goals. Power is more subtle than that. You can have the power to destroy, but it doesn’t give you the power to reform, or improve, or build.”
- “I have tried to make it explicit in the novels that the dragons are destructive forces, and Dany (Daenerys Targaryen) has found that out as she tried to rule the city of Meereen and be queen there. She has the power to destroy, she can wipe out entire cities, and we certainly see that in Fire and Blood, we see the dragons wiping out entire armies, wiping out towns and cities, destroying them, but that doesn’t necessarily enable you to rule — it just enables you to destroy.” George RR Martin, November 21, 2018.
“Obviously you have declined these offers,” the cyborg said.
I leaned back. “Obviously,” I said, “though I always reserve the right to change my mind.”
“I am a player,” he said. “I have paid Khar Dorian, have bribed the Croan’dhic port-guards, have paid your major-domo and yourself. Inwards, on Lilith and Cymeranth and Shrike and other worlds where they speak of this black palace and its half-mythical mistress, they say that your players are treated with fairness.”
“Wrong,” I said. “I am never fair, cyborg. Sometimes I am just. When the whim takes me.”
“Do you threaten all your players as you have threatened me?” he asked.
“No,” I admitted. “I’m making a special exception in your case.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Because you’re dangerous,” I said, smiling. We had come to the heart of it at last. I shuffled through all my Apostolic bulls, and extracted the last of them, the most important. “At least one of my Apostles you have never met, but he knows you, cyborg, knows you better than you would dream.”
The cyborg said nothing.
“My pet telepath,” I said. “Sebastian Cayle. He’s blind and twisted and I keep him in a big jar, but he has his uses. He can probe through walls. He has stroked the crystals of your mind, friend, and tripped the binary synapses of your id. His report is a bit cryptic, but admirably terse.” I slid it across the desk for the cyborg to read.
A haunted labyrinth of thought. The steel ghost. The truth within the lie, life in death and death in life. He will take everything from you if he can. Kill him now.
“You are ignoring his advice,” the cyborg said.
“I am,” I told him.
“Because you’re a mystery, one I plan to solve when we play the game of mind. Because you’re a challenge, and it has been a long time since I was challenged. Because you dare to judge me and dream of destroying me, and it has been ages since anyone found the courage to do either of those things.”
- This cryptic report, like Quaithe’s, is what I feel is the strongest bit of clue in addition to the many, many ASOIOAF clues that Jon is the Sun’s son, not Quentyn as commonly thought.
- The ‘steel ghost’ reminds me that Ghost has already been referred to as a sword when it comes to Jon and a fire lady:
A Storm of Swords – Jon II
Every night when they made camp, Ygritte threw her sleeping skins down beside his own, no matter if he was near the fire or well away from it. Once he woke to find her nestled against him, her arm across his chest. He lay listening to her breathe for a long time, trying to ignore the tension in his groin. Rangers often shared skins for warmth, but warmth was not all Ygritte wanted, he suspected. After that he had taken to using Ghost to keep her away. Old Nan used to tell stories about knights and their ladies who would sleep in a single bed with a blade between them for honor’s sake, but he thought this must be the first time where a direwolf took the place of the sword.
* * *
Obsidian makes a dark, distorted mirror, but one that suits me. We take our reflections for granted all our lives, until the hour comes when our eyes search for the familiar features and find instead the image of a stranger. You cannot know the meaning of horror or of fascination until you take that first long gaze from a stranger’s eyes, and raise an unfamiliar hand to touch the other’s cheek, and feel those fingers, light and cool and afraid, brush against your skin.
I was already a stranger when I came to Croan’dhenni more than a century ago. I knew my face, as well I should, having worn it nearly ninety years. It was the face of a woman who was both hard and strong, with deep lines around her grey eyes from squinting into alien suns, a wide mouth not without its generosity, a nose once broken that had not healed straight, short brown hair in perpetual disarray. A comfortable face, and one that I had a certain affection for. But I lost it somewhere, perhaps during my years on Gulliver, lost it when I was too busy to notice. By the time I reached Lilith, the first stranger had begun to haunt my mirrors. She was an old woman, old and wrinkled. Her eyes were grey and rheumy and starting to dim, her hair white and thin, with patches of pinkish scalp showing through; the edge of her mouth trembled, there were broken capillaries in her nose; and beneath her chin lay several folds of soft grey flesh like the wattles of a hen. Her skin was soft and loose, where mine had always been taut and
flush with health, and there was another thing, a thing you could not see in the mirror- a smell of sickness that enveloped her like the cheap perfume of an aged courtesan, a pheromone for death.
I did not know her, this old sick thing, nor did I cherish her company. They say that age and sickness come slowly on worlds like Avalon and Newholme and Prometheus; legends claim death no longer comes at all on Old Earth behind its shining walls. But Avalon and Newholme and Prometheus were far away, and Old Earth is sealed and lost to us, and I was alone on Lilith with a stranger in my mirror. And so I took myself beyond the manrealm, past the furthest reach of human arms, to the wet dimness of
Croan’dhenni, where whispers said a new life could be found. I wanted to look into a mirror once more, and find the old friend that I had lost.
Instead I found more strangers.
The first was the painlord itself; mindlord, lifelord, master of life and death. Before my coming, it had ruled here forty-odd standard years. It was Croan’dhic, a native, a great bulbous thing with swollen eyes and mottled blue-green skin, a grotesque parody of a toad with slender, double-jointed arms and three long vertical maws like wet black wounds in its fragrant flesh. When I looked upon it, I could taste its weakness; it was vastly fat, a sea of spreading blubber with an odor like rotten eggs, where the
Croan’dhic guards and servants were well-muscled and hard.
- Meria Martell, the toad of Dorne who was against the fire and blood of the Targaryens.
But to topple the mindlord, you must become the mindlord. When we played the game of mind, I took its life, and woke in that vile body.
- This is not about freeing slaves, but becoming a mindlord (dragon) oneself to rule over the not-a-slave slaves you make yourself. The militant-religious parallel to the militant-scholastic archetype. The first step was when Dany flipped the sex with Drogon and she began to ride him, followed by her ‘wake the dragon‘ dream. Then, Daenerys does not free the Unsullied, but rather she uses them for what they were already going to do no matter who controls them, war. Daenerys does not simply offer justice for the 183 slaves nailed to posts outside of Meereen, she one-up’s the masters while becoming one herself. This seems to be something even Dany has a moment where she questions her own actions:
A Storm of Swords – Daenerys VI
“One hundred and sixty-three,” she answered.
She had them nailed to wooden posts around the plaza, each man pointing at the next. The anger was fierce and hot inside her when she gave the command; it made her feel like an avenging dragon. But later, when she passed the men dying on the posts, when she heard their moans and smelled their bowels and blood . . .
Dany put the glass aside, frowning. It was just. It was. I did it for the children.
A Storm of Swords – Daenerys III
It is time to cross the Trident, Dany thought, as she wheeled and rode her silver back. Her bloodriders moved in close around her. “You are in difficulty,” she observed.”He will not come,” Kraznys said.
“There is a reason. A dragon is no slave.” And Dany swept the lash down as hard as she could across the slaver’s face. Kraznys screamed and staggered back, the blood running red down his cheeks into his perfumed beard. The harpy’s fingers had torn his features half to pieces with one slash, but she did not pause to contemplate the ruin. “Drogon,” she sang out loudly, sweetly, all her fear forgotten. “Dracarys.”
The black dragon spread his wings and roared.
It is no easy thing for a human mind to wear an alien skin; for a day and a night I was lost inside that hideous flesh, sorting through sights and sounds and smells that made no more sense than the images in nightmare, screaming, clawing for control and sanity. I survived. A triumph of spirit over flesh. When I was ready, another game of mind was called, and this time I emerged with the body of my choice.
She was a human. Thirty-nine years of age by her reckoning, healthy, plain of face but strong of body, a professional gambler who had come to Croan’dhenni for the ultimate game. She had long red-brown hair and eyes whose blue-green color reminded me of the seas of Gulliver. She had some strength, but not enough. In those distant days, before the coming of Khar Dorian and his slavers’ fleet, few humans found their way to Croan’dhenni. My choice was limited. I took her.
- I am now thinking that it was Jorah “the Andal”, not Arstan Whitebeard (Barristan Selmy), that encourages Dany to take the Unsullied. Hmmm, and he a man guilty of selling slaves, caught by the tree-man Eddard Stark.
That night I looked into the mirror again. It was still a stranger’s face, hair too long, eyes of the wrong hue, a nose as straight as the blade of a knife, a careful guarded mouth that had done too little smiling.
Years afterward, when that body began to cough blood from some infernal pestilence out of the Croan’dhic swamps, I built a room of obsidian mirrors to meet each new stranger. Years pass more swiftly than I care to think while that room remains sealed and inviolate, but always, finally, the day comes when I know I will be visiting it once more, and then my servants climb the stairs and polish the black mirrors to a fine dark sheen, and when the game of mind is done I ascend alone and strip off my clothing and stand and turn in solitude, slow dancing with the images of others.
High, sharp cheekbones and dark eyes sunk in deep hollows beneath her brow. A face shaped like a heart, surrounded by a nimbus of wild black hair, large pale breasts tipped with brown.
Taut lean muscles moving beneath oiled red-brown skin, long fingernails sharp as claws, a narrow pointed chin, brown hair like wire bristles cut in a thin high stripe across her scalp and halfway down her back, the hot scent of rut heavy between her thighs. My thighs? On a thousand worlds, humanity changes in a thousand different ways.
Massive boney head looking down at the world from near three meters height, beard and hair blending into one leonine mane as bright as beaten gold, strength written large in every bone and sinew, the broad flat chest with its useless red nipples, the strangeness of the long, soft penis between my legs. Too much strangeness for me; the penis stayed soft all the months I wore that body, and that year my mirrored room was opened twice.
- The wall is the largest mirror in Westeros. GRRM has used mirrored walls/rooms/water as passages for ‘Other’ types across much of his work, including; Fevre Dream, The Skin Trade, Armageddon Rag, Euron blooding the waters, Bran and the Freys playing Lord of the Crossing, and on, and on…
A face very like the one that I remember. But how well do I remember? A century was gone to dust, and I kept no likenesses of the faces I had worn. From my first youth long ago, only the glass flower remained. But she had short brown hair, a smile, grey-green eyes. Her neck was too long, her breasts too small, perhaps. But she was close, close, until she grew old, and the day came when I glimpsed another stranger walking beside me inside the castle walls.
And now the haunted child. In the mirrors she looks like a daughter of dreams, the daughter I might have birthed had I been far lovelier than I ever was. Khar brought her to me, a gift he said, a most beautiful gift, to repay me in kind after I had found him grey and impotent, hoarse of voice and scarred of face, and made him young and handsome.
A Storm of Swords – Daenerys III. Missandei is made as a gift.
The others echoed that old man of the pearl fringe. “Done,” the slave girl translated, “and done, and done, eight times done.”
“The Unsullied will learn your savage tongue quick enough,” added Kraznys mo Nakloz, when all the arrangements had been made, “but until such time you will need a slave to speak to them. Take this one as our gift to you, a token of a bargain well struck.”
“I shall,” said Dany.
She is perhaps eleven years old, perhaps twelve. Her body is gaunt and awkward, but the beauty is there, locked inside, just beginning to blossom. Her breasts are budding now, and her blood first came less than half a year ago. Her hair is silver-gold, long and straight, a glittering cascade that falls nearly to her heels. Her eyes are lame in her small face, and they are the deepest, purest violet. Her face is something sculpted. She was bred to be thus, no doubt of that; genetic tailoring has made the Shrikan trade-lords and the wealthy of Lilith and Fellanora a breathtakingly beautiful folk.
- This is the only time in all of Martin’s works that he has a character look so very close to Daenerys as Cyrain does. This, above, is Cyrain’s current body that we have been reading with, so far her fifth body she stole to wear.
- The Valyrians and Targaryens practiced incest to keep the “bloodline pure”. Incest in all of Martinworld brings about a Downfall of a Dynasty, it is not something to be celebrated or “shipped”. Controlling the “blood of the dragon” is both being a mad scientist, as well as suppression of female autonomy.
- By contrast, the cyborg body was crafted (bred) as an imperfect-parallel to be artificial whereas the mind is real.
When Khar brought her to me, she was shy of seven, her mind already gone, a whimpering animal thing screaming in a dark locked room within her skull. Khar says she was that way when he bought her, the dispossessed daughter of a Fellanei robber baron toppled and executed for political crimes, his family and friends and retainers slain with him or turned into mindless sexual playthings for his victorious enemies. That is what Khar says. Most of the time I even believe him.
- There are elements of Bran using Hodor, but as a young, naughty squirrel boy that never truly obeyed his parents very well. However, just as Jon is learning through first hand experience, Bran is also is experincing actions that shock him into reality, teaching him right from wrong (and the judgement of kings).
A Dance with Dragons – Bran III
Then, as he watched, a bearded man forced a captive down onto his knees before the heart tree. A white-haired woman stepped toward them through a drift of dark red leaves, a bronze sickle in her hand.
“No,” said Bran, “no, don’t,” but they could not hear him, no more than his father had. The woman grabbed the captive by the hair, hooked the sickle round his throat, and slashed. And through the mist of centuries the broken boy could only watch as the man’s feet drummed against the earth … but as his life flowed out of him in a red tide, Brandon Stark could taste the blood.
She is younger and prettier than I can ever remember being, even in my lost first youth on Ash, where a nameless boy gave me a glass flower. I hope to wear this sweet flesh for as many years as I wore the body I was born to. If I dwell here long enough, perhaps the day will come when I can look into a dark mirror and see my own face again.
A Game of Thrones – Daenerys IX
“… don’t want to wake the dragon …”
She could feel the heat inside her, a terrible burning in her womb. Her son was tall and proud, with Drogo’s copper skin and her own silver-gold hair, violet eyes shaped like almonds. And he smiled for her and began to lift his hand toward hers, but when he opened his mouth the fire poured out. She saw his heart burning through his chest, and in an instant he was gone, consumed like a moth by a candle, turned to ash. She wept for her child, the promise of a sweet mouth on her breast, but her tears turned to steam as they touched her skin.
“… want to wake the dragon …”
A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys IX
In the smoldering red pits of Drogon’s eyes, Dany saw her own reflection. How small she looked, how weak and frail and scared. I cannot let him see my fear. She scrabbled in the sand, pushing against the pitmaster’s corpse, and her fingers brushed against the handle of his whip. Touching it made her feel braver. The leather was warm, alive. Drogon roared again, the sound so loud that she almost dropped the whip. His teeth snapped at her.
* * *
One by one they ascended unto me; through Wisdom to rebirth, or so they hoped.
- Again, just as they do to Saagael and outside the the pyramids of Meereen and the pyramids in …And Seven Times Never Kill Man with Bakkalon.
High above the swamps, locked within my tower, I prepared for them in the changing chamber, hard by my unimpressive throne. The Artifact is not prepossessing; a rudely shaped bowl of some soft alien alloy, charcoal grey in color and faintly warm to the touch, with six niches spaced evenly around the rim. They are seats; cramped, hard, uncomfortable seats, designed for obviously nonhuman physiognomies, but seats nonetheless. From the floor of the bowl rises a slender column that blossoms into another seat, the awkward cup that enthrones … choose the title you like best. Painlord, mindlord, lifelord, giver and taker, operator, trigger, master. All of them are me. And others before me, the chain rattling back to The White and perhaps earlier, to the makers, the unknowns who fashioned this machine in the dimness of distant eons.
- And we are back to the Artifact, the carved map of Westeros Aegon had made, as mentioned earlier in this story. The Painted Table is a large carved table depicting Westeros. It is in the Chamber of the Painted Table, a round room on the top floor of the Stone Drum in Dragonstone with four tall windows, overlooking the north, south, east and west.
- And we have Cyrain sitting in an egg cup, not unlike a dragon at birth/berth. We see in ASOIAF that Daenerys is given the existential choice of cup of ice, cup of fire while in the House of the Undying Ones. This choice of cups is given to many throughout ASOIAF, and I began to discuss it here (where one day I will finish it!).
- Something I noticed a while ago is that Old Nan’s tales include the one about the thing that came in the night, which brings along “apprentices” in chains during the night. So we have different types of chains and bondage to consider in ASOIAF.
If the chamber has its drama, that is my doing. The walls and ceiling are curved, and fashioned laboriously of a thousand individual pieces of polished obsidian. Some shards are cut very thin, so the grey light of the Croan’dhic sun can force its way through. Some shards are so thick as to be almost opaque. The room is one color, but a thousand shades, and for those who have the wit to see it, it forms a great mosaic of life and death, dreams and nightmares, pain and ecstasy, excess and emptiness, everything and nothing, blending one into the other, around and around unending, a circle, a cycle, the worm that eats its own tail forever, each piece individual and fragile and razor-edged and each part of a greater picture that is vast and black and brittle.
- This is also like the obsidian glass candles. They, too, are coming alive again just as this game of mind within the obsidian tower is being played again after all this time when a library-man arrives.
- In addition to Valyrian architecture, we have this:
A Game of Thrones – Daenerys I
Inside the manse, the air was heavy with the scent of spices, pinchfire and sweet lemon and cinnamon. They were escorted across the entry hall, where a mosaic of colored glass depicted the Doom of Valyria. Oil burned in black iron lanterns all along the walls. Beneath an arch of twining stone leaves, a eunuch sang their coming. “Viserys of the House Targaryen, the Third of his Name,” he called in a high, sweet voice, “King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm. His sister, Daenerys Stormborn, Princess of Dragonstone. His honorable host, Illyrio Mopatis, Magister of the Free City of Pentos.”
I stripped and handed my clothing to Rannar, who folded each garment neatly. The cup is topless and egg-shaped I climbed inside and folded my legs beneath me in a lotus, the best possible compromise between the lines of the Artifact and the human physique. The interior walls of the machine began to bleed; glistening red-black fluid beading on the grey metal of the egg, each globule swelling fatter and heavier until it burst. Streams trickled down the smooth, curved walls, and the moisture began to collect at the bottom. My bare skin burned where the fluid touched me. The flow came faster and heavier, the
fire creeping up my body, until I was half immersed.
- So, this is near exactly the same strokes Martin uses in A Game of Thrones – Dany IX-X when she lights Drogo’s pyre, walks in, the eggs hatch and “crack the world”, she has her fire wedding, she emerges naked while breastfeeding the hatchling dragons, her breasts bare to the blaze, streams of milk flowing from her red and swollen nipples, and for the first time in hundreds of years, the night came alive with the music of dragons. Blood and fire.
- This also sounds like a birth in reverse. Also something that is against the cycle of nature.
“Send them in,” I told Rannar. How many times have I said those words? I have lost count.
The prizes were led in first. Khar Dorian came with the tattooed boy. “There,” Khar said offhandedly, gesturing to a seat while smiling lasciviously for me, and the hard youth, this killer, this wild bloody tough, shrank away from his escort and took the place assigned to him. Braje, my biomed, brought the woman. They too are of a kind, pallid, overweight, soft. Braje giggled as she fastened the manacles about her complaisant charge. The hatchling fought, its lean muscles writhing, its great wings beating together in a dramatic but ultimately ineffectual thunderclap as huge, glowering Jonas and his men forced it down into its niche. As they manacled it into place, Khar Dorian grinned and the g’vhern made a high, thin whistling sound that hurt the ears.
- Viserion and Rhaegal are the only ones of Daenerys’ dragons to be manacled , chained. Are they to be ‘prizes’ for some other rider later in ASOIAF?
Craimur Delhune had to be carried in by his aides and hirelings. “There,” I told them, pointing, and they propped him awkwardly into one of the niches. His shrunken, wizened face stared at me, half-blind eyes darting around the chamber like small, feral beasts, his mouth sucking greedily, as if his rebirth was done and he sought a mother’s breast. He was blind to the mosaic; for him, it was only a dark room with black glass walls.
Rieseen Jay swaggered in, bored by my chamber before she even entered it. She saw the mosaic but gave it only a cursory glance, as something beneath her notice, too tiresome to study. Instead she made a slow circuit of the niches, inspecting each of the prizes like a butcher examining the meat. She lingered longest in front of the hatchling, seeming to delight in its struggles, its obvious fear, the way it hissed and whistled at her and glared from those fierce, bright eyes. She reached out to touch a wing, and leapt back, laughing, when the hatchling bit at her. Finally she took herself to a seat, where she sprawled languidly, waiting for the game to begin.
He saw the mosaic at once, stopped, stared up at it, his crystalline eyes scanning slowly around the room, halting here and there again to study some fine detail. He paused so long that Rieseen Jay grew impatient, and snapped at him to take a seat. The cyborg studied her, metal face unreadable. “Quiet,” I said.
A Feast for Crows – Jaime I
And all for naught. They found only darkness, dust, and rats. And dragons, lurking down below. He remembered the sullen orange glow of the coals in the iron dragon’s mouth. The brazier warmed a chamber at the bottom of a shaft where half a dozen tunnels met. On the floor he’d found a scuffed mosaic of the three-headed dragon of House Targaryen done in tiles of black and red. I know you, Kingslayer, the beast seemed to be saying. I have been here all the time, waiting for you to come to me. And it seemed to Jaime that he knew that voice, the iron tones that had once belonged to Rhaegar, Prince of Dragonstone.
He finished his study of the dome, taking his own time, and only then seated himself in the final empty niche. The way he took his place was as if all the seats had been vacant and this was his choice, selected by him alone.
“Clear the room,” I commanded. Rannar bowed and gestured them out, Jonas and Braje and the others. Khar Dorian went last, and made a gesture at me as he took his leave. Meaning what? Good luck? Perhaps. I heard Rannar seal the door.
“Well?” demanded Rieseen Jay.
I gave her a look that silenced her. “You are all seated in the Siege Perilous,” I said. I always began with those words. No one ever understood. This time … Kleronomas, perhaps. I watched the mask that was his face. Within the crystal of his eyes, I saw a slight shifting motion, and tried to find a meaning in it. “There are no rules in the game of mind. But I have rules, for when it is over, when you are back in my domain.
“Those of you who are here unwillingly, if you are strong enough to hold the flesh, you wear, it is yours forever. I give it to you freely. No prize plays more than once. Hold fast to your birthflesh and when it is done, Khar Dorian will take you back to the world he found you on and set you loose with a thousand standards and your freedom.
“Those players who find rebirth this day, who rise in strange flesh when this game is ended, remember that what you have won or lost is your own doing, and spare me your regrets and recriminations. If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of this gaming, you may of course play again. If you have the price.
- Drowned God priests words, “What is dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger”. These are the same religious aspect that support pirating and thralldom.
- To pay the iron price which is to acquire possessions by taking them from defeated adversaries via sword/battle.
“One last warning. For all of you. This is going to hurt. This is going to hurt more than anything you ever imagined.”
So saying, I began the game of mind.
* * *
What can you say about pain?
Words can trace only the shadow of the thing itself. The reality of hard, sharp physical pain is like nothing else, and it is beyond language. The world is too much with us, day and night, but when we hurt, when we really hurt, the world melts and fades and becomes a ghost, a dim memory, a silly unimportant thing. Whatever ideals, dreams, loves, fears, and thoughts we might have had become ultimately unimportant. We are alone with our pain, it is the only force in the cosmos, the only thing of substance, the only thing that matters, and if the pain is bad enough and lasts long enough, if it is the sort of agony that goes on and on, then all the things that are our humanity melt before it and the proud sophisticated computer that is the human brain becomes capable of but a single thought:
Make it stop, make it STOP!
And if the pain does eventually stop, afterwards, with the passage of time, even the mind that has experienced it becomes unable to comprehend it, unable to remember how bad it truly was, unable to describe it so as to even approach the terrible truth of what it felt like when it was happening.
In the game of mind, the agony of the painfield is like no other pain, like nothing I have ever experienced.
The painfield does no harm to the body, leaves no marks, no scars, no injuries, no signs to its passing. It touches the mind directly with an agony beyond my power to express. How long does it last? A question for relativists. It lasts but the smallest part of a microsecond, and it lasts forever.
- I imagine we will see a greener version of this as Jon recovers from his mutiny attempt and he interacts with Bran (and whoever else) while he is under.
- Relativism is the belief that there’s no absolute truth, only the truths that a particular individual or culture happen to believe. If you believe in relativism, then you think different people can have different views about what’s moral and immoral. Such is the case for the many names of the death god across ASOIAF Planetos; the Many-Faced God.
The Wisdoms of Dam Tullian are masters of a hundred different disciplines of mind and body, and they teach their acolytes a technique for isolating pain, dissociating from it, pushing it away and thus transcending it. I had been a Wisdom for half my life when I first played the game of mind. I used all I had been taught, all the tricks and truths I had mastered and learned to rely on. They were utterly useless. This was a pain that did not touch the body, a pain that did not race along the nerve paths, a pain that filled the mind so completely and so shatteringly that not even the smallest part of you was free to think or plan or meditate. The pain was you, and you were the pain. There was nothing to dissociate from, no cool sanctum of thought where you might retreat.
The painfield was infinite and eternal, and from that ceaseless and unthinkable agony there was only one sure surcease. It was the old one, the true one, the same balm that has been succor to billions of men and women, and even the smallest of the beasts of the field, since the beginning of time. Pain’s dark lord. My enemy, my lover. Again, yet again, wanting only an end to suffering, I rushed to his black embrace.
Death took me, and the pain ended.
On a vast, echoey plain in a place beyond life, I waited for the others.
* * *
Dim shadows taking form from the mists. Four, five, yes. Have we lost some of them? It would not surprise me. In three games out of four, a player finds his truth in death and seeks no further. This time? No. I see the sixth shape striding out of the writhing fog, we are all here, I look around myself once more, count three, four, five, six, seven, and me, me, eight.
That’s wrong, that’s very wrong. I am dizzy, disoriented. Nearby someone is screaming. A little girl, sweet-faced, innocent, dressed in pastels and pretty gems. She does not know how she got here, she does not understand, her eyes are lost and childish and far too trusting, and the pain has woken her from a dreamdust languor to a strange land full of fear.
I raise a small, strong hand, gaze at the thick brown fingers, the patch of callous by my thumb, the blunt wide nails trimmed to the quick. I make a fist, a familiar gesture, and in my hand a mirror takes shape from the iron of my will and the quicksilver of my desire. Within its glittering depths I see a face. It is the face of a woman who is both hard and strong, with deep lines around her grey eyes from squinting into alien suns, a wide mouth not without its generosity, a nose once broken that has not healed straight, short
brown hair in perpetual disarray. A comfortable face. It gives me comfort now.
The mirror dissolves into smoke. The land, the sky, everything is shifting and uncertain. The sweet little girl is still screaming for her daddy. Some of the others are staring at me, lost. There is a young man, plain of face, his black hair swept back straight and feathered with color in a style that has not been the fashion on Gulliver for a century. His body looks soft, but in his eyes I see a hard edge that reminds me of Khar Dorian. Rieseen Jay seems stunned, wary, frightened, but still she is recognizably Rieseen Jay; whatever
else might be said of her, she has a strong sense of who she is. Perhaps that will even be enough. The g’vhern looms near her, far larger here than it seemed before, its body glistening with oil as it spreads demonic wings and begins to whip the fog into long grey ribbons. In the game of mind, it wears no manacles; Rieseen Jay looks long, and cowers away from it. So too does another player, a wispy grey shape covered by a blaze of tattoos, his face a pale blur with neither purpose nor definition. The little girl screams on and on. I turn away from them, leave them to their own devices, and face the final player.
A big man, his skin the color of polished ebony with a dark blue undertone where his long muscles flex as he stretches. He is naked. His jaw is square and heavy, jutting sharply forward. Long hair surrounds his face and falls past his shoulders, hair as white and crisp as fresh bedsheets, as white as the untouched snow of a world that men have never walked. As I watch him, his thick, dark penis stirs against his leg, swells, grows erect. He smiles at me. “Wisdom,” he says.
Suddenly I’m naked too.
- Daenerys and Euron have a lot running through each of their arc that is pointing them into the direction of each other. I do not think Euron is a failed student of Bloodraven, but rather someone who is claiming this “mind game” talent and twisting it as his own:
A Feast for Crows – The Reaver
Victarion could smell the sea through the open window, though the room stank of wine and blood and sex. The cold salt air helped to clear his head. “What do you mean?”
Euron turned to face him, his bruised blue lips curled in a half smile. “Perhaps we can fly. All of us. How will we ever know unless we leap from some tall tower?” The wind came gusting through the window and stirred his sable cloak. There was something obscene and disturbing about his nakedness. “No man ever truly knows what he can do unless he dares to leap.”
“There is the window. Leap.” Victarion had no patience for this. His wounded hand was troubling him. “What do you want?”
I frown, and now I wear an ornate suit of armor, overlapping plates of gilded duralloy, filigreed with forbidding runes, and beneath my arm is a matching antique helmet, festooned with a plume of bright feathers. “Joachim Kleronomas,” I say. His penis grows and thickens until it is an absurd fat staff that presses hard against the flatness of his stomach. I cover it, and him, in a uniform from a history text, all black and silver, with the blue-green globe of Old Earth sewn on his right sleeve and twin silver galaxies swirling on his collar.
- Euron has the Valyrian armor that is similar in description to Cyrain’s armor, as well as the Valyrian horn that is etched with runes. The horn Dragonbinder is probably to control humans, seeing how old Valyrians were sheep herders, there is that play on words that sheep=people, and controlling the blood of the dragon was about controlling the sexual agency and moonblood of females.
- A “plume of bright feathers” is actually a connection to Aerion Brightflame (and Maegor again) to Daenerys, as discussed on this page here.
A Storm of Swords – Daenerys III. The vision is of Jon Snow armored in “ice”, which is actually the knowledge from Bran/trees/library/history.
Ser Jorah had no answer. He only smiled, and touched her hair, so lightly. It was enough.
That night she dreamt that she was Rhaegar, riding to the Trident. But she was mounted on a dragon, not a horse. When she saw the Usurper’s rebel host across the river they were armored all in ice, but she bathed them in dragonfire and they melted away like dew and turned the Trident into a torrent. Some small part of her knew that she was dreaming, but another part exulted. This is how it was meant to be. The other was a nightmare, and I have only now awakened.
“No,” he says, amused, “I never reached that rank,” and the galaxies are gone, replaced by a circle of six silver stars. “And for most of my time, Wisdom, my allegiance was to Avalon, not Earth.” His uniform is less martial, more functional, a simple grey-green jumpsuit with a black fabric belt and a pocket heavy with pens. Only the silver circle of stars remains. “There,” he says.
“Wrong,” I tell him. “Wrong still.” And when I am done talking, only the uniform remains. Inside the cloth the flesh is gone, replaced by silver-metal mockery, a shining empty thing with a toaster for a head. But only for an instant. Then the man is back, frowning, unhappy. “Cruel,” he says to me. The hardness of his penis strains at the fabric of his crotch.
- Ok, all of this penis business on a man with black-blue skin is like our other ASOIAF mind player, Euron Toaster-Head:
A Feast for Crows – The Reaver
Behind him, the eighth man, the *ghost who ought not be here, the misplaced phantom, makes a soft whispery sound, a sound like the rustling of dry dead leaves in a cold autumn wind.
He is a thin, shadowy thing, *this intruder. I must look at him very hard to see him at all. He is much smaller than Kleronomas, and he gives the impression of being old and frail, though his flesh is so wispy, so insubstantial, that it is hard to be sure. He is a vision suggested by the random drift of the fog, perhaps, an echo dressed in faded white, but his eyes glow and shimmer and they are trapped and afraid. He reaches out to me. The flesh of his hand is translucent, pulled tightly over grey ancient bones.
- Bloodraven is an an aspect of both Bran and Jon. The trio until it is Bran-Jon-Sam.
- This also matches many descriptions of Bran already turning into a tree.
- This inclusion of a *ghost here, a shared mind that has been split in two, could maybe add some support to the Theon Durden theory based on the experience Theon has with the hooded man in Winterfell in his Ghost in Winterfell ADWD chapter. You’ll notice a few more mentions of this ghost we the story goes on, and in the Theon case, fiery Ramsay serves as the fiery Cyrain archetype as the hooded man is Theon’s guilt.
I back away, uncertain. In the game of mind, the lightest touch can have a terrible reality.
Behind me I hear more screaming, the terrible wild sound of someone in an ecstasy of fear. I turn.
It has begun in earnest now. The players are seeking their prey. Craimur Delhune, young and vital and far more muscular than he was a moment ago, stands with a flaming sword in one hand, swinging it easily at the tattooed boy. The boy is on his knees, shrieking, trying to cover himself with upraised arms, but Delhune’s bright blade passes through the grey shadowflesh unimpeded, and slices at the shining tattoos. He removes them from the boy surgically, swing by swing, and they drift upwards in the misty air, shining images of life cut free of the grey skin on which they were imprisoned. Delhune snatches them as they float by and swallows them whole. Smoke drifts from his nostrils and his open mouth. The boy screams and cringes. Soon there will be nothing left but shadow.
- The Kingsmoot. A boy covered in tattoos is like Euron playing mind games with Cragorn who was burnt from the inside, and this links to the idea that Bowen will be used the same way at/after the mutiny atempt on Jon. What will happen to Bowen Marsh?
The hatchling has taken to the air. It circles above us, keening at us in its high, thin voice as its wingsthunder.
Rieseen Jay has had second thoughts, it seems. She stands above the whimpering little girl, who grows less little with each passing moment. Jay is changing her. She is older now, fatter, her eyes just as frightened but far more vacant. Wherever she turns her head, mirrors appear and sing taunts at her with fat wet lips. Her flesh swells and swells, tearing free of her poor, frayed clothing; thin lines of spittle run down her chin. She wipes at it, crying, but it only flows faster, and now it turns pink with blood. She is enormous, gross, revolting. “That’s you,” the mirrors say. “Don’t look away. Look at yourself. You’re not a little girl. Look, look, look. Aren’t you pretty? Aren’t you sweet? Look at you, look at you.” Rieseen Jay folds her arms, smiles with satisfaction.
Kleronomas looks at me with cold judgment on his face. A band of black cloth wraps itself about my eyes. I blink, vanish it, glare at him. “I’m not blind,” I say. “I see them. It is not my fight.”
The fat woman is as large as a truck, as pale and soft as a maggot. She is naked and immense and with each blink of Jay’s eye she grows more monstrous. Huge white breasts burst forth from her face, hands, thighs, and the brown meaty nipples open gaping mouths and began to sing. A thick green penis appears above her above her vagina, curls down, enters her. Cancers blossom on her skin like a field of dark flowers. And everywhere are the mirrors, blinking in and out, reflecting and distorting and enlarging,
relentlessly showing her everything she is, documenting every grotesque fancy that Jay inflicts upon her. The fat woman is hardly human. From a mouth the size of my head, gumless and bleeding, she issues forth a sound like the wailing of the damned. Her flesh begins to smoke and tremble.
- Cersei on her walk of shame. She essentially conceived her three incest children by self-pollination if we readers understand that she and Jaime are like one.
The cyborg points. All the mirrors explode.
The mist is full of daggers, shards of slivered glass flying everywhere. One comes at me and I make it gone. But the others, the others … they curve like smart missiles, become an aerial flotilla, attack. Rieseen Jay is pierced in a thousand places, and the blood drips from her eyes, her breasts, her open mouth. The monster is a little girl again, crying.
“A moralist,” I say to Kleronomas.
He ignores me, turns to look at Craimur Delhune and the shadow boy. Tattoos flame to new life upon the youth’s skin, and in his hand a sword appears and takes fire. Delhune takes a step back, unnerved. The boy touches his flesh, mouths some silent oath, rises warily.
“An altruist,” I say. “Giving succor to the weak.”
Kleronomas turns. “I hold no brief with slaughter.”
I laugh at him. “Maybe you’re just saving them for yourself, cyborg. If not, you had better grow wings fast, before your prize flies away.”
His face is cold. “My prize is in front of me,” he says.
“Somehow I knew that,” I reply, donning my plumed helmet. My armor is alive with golden highlights, my sword is a spear of light.
My armor is as black as the pit, and the designs worked upon it, black on black, are of spiders and snakes and human skulls and faces a-writhe with pain. My long straight silver sword turns to obsidian, and twists into a grotesquerie of barbs and hooks and cruel spikes. He has a sense of drama, this damned cyborg. “No,” I say. “I will not be cast as evil.” I am gold and silver once more, shining, and my plumes are red and blue. “Wear the suit yourself if you like it so much.”
It stands before me, black and hideous, the helmet open on a grinning skull. Kleronomas sends it away. “I need no props,” he says. His grey-and-white ghost flitters at his side, plucking at him. Who is that? I wonder yet again.
“Fine,” I say. “Then we’ll dispense with the symbols.” My armor is gone.
I hold out my bare, open hand. “Touch me,” I say. “Touch me, cyborg.”
As his hand reaches out to mine, metal creeps up his long dark fingers.
* * *
In the game of mind, even more than in life, image and metaphor are everything.
The place beyond time, the endless fog-shrouded plain, the cold sky and the uncertain earth beneath us, even that is illusion. It is mine, all of it, a setting- however unearthly, however surreal- against which the players may act out their tawdry dramas of dominance and submission, conquest and despair, death and rebirth, rape and mind-rape. Without my shaping, my vision and the visions of all the other painlords
through the eons, they would have no ground below, no sky above, no place to set their feet, no feet to set. The reality offers not even the scant comfort of the barren landscape I give them. The reality is chaos, unendurable, outside of space and time, bereft of matter or energy, without measurement and therefore frighteningly infinite and suffocatingly claustrophobic, terribly eternal and achingly brief. In that reality the players are trapped; seven minds locked into a telepathic gestalt, into a congress so intimate it cannot be borne by most. And therefore they shrink away, and the very first things we create, in a place where we are gods (or devils, or both), are the bodies we have left behind. Within these walls of flesh we take our refuge and try to order chaos.
The blood has the taste of salt; but there is no blood, only illusion. The cup holds a black and bitter drink; but there is no cup, only an image. The wounds are open and raw, dripping anguish; but there are no wounds, no body to be wounded, only metaphor, symbol, conjuring. Nothing is real, and everything can hurt, can kill, can evoke a lasting madness.
- Yay! Cup talk! We see in ASOIAF that Daenerys is given the existential choice of cup of ice, cup of fire while in the House of the Undying Ones. This choice of cups is given to many throughout ASOIAF, and I began to discuss it here (where one day I will finish it!). Daenerys and Euron are the only (major) characters to drink the Shade of the Evening.
To survive, the players must be resilient, disciplined, stable, and ruthless; they must possess a ready imagination, an extensive vocabulary of symbols, a certain amount of psychological insight. They must find the weakness in their opponent, and hide their own phobias thoroughly. The rules are simple. Believe in everything; believe in nothing. Hold tight to yourself and your sanity.
Even when they kill you, it has no meaning, unless you believe that you have died.
Upon this plain of illusion where these all-too-mutable bodies whirl and feint in a trite pavane that I have seen a thousand times before, plucking swords and mirrors and monsters from the air to throw at one another like jugglers gone mad, the most frightening thing of all is a simple touch.
The symbolism is direct, the meaning clear. Flesh upon flesh. Stripped of metaphor, stripped of protection, stripped of masks. Mind upon mind. When we touch, the walls are down.
Even time is illusory in the game of mind; it runs as fast, or as slow, as we desire.
I am Cyrain, I tell myself, born of Ash, far-traveled, a Wisdom of Dam Tullian, master of the game of mind, mistress of the obsidian castle, ruler of Croan’dhenni, mindlord, painlord, lifelord, whole and immortal and invulnerable. Enter me.
His fingers are cool and hard.
- Across Martinworld, wto touch skin to skin the the strongest way to create a psi-link bond. It happens in a few stories, but none more explicitly than in A Song for Lya.
A Game of Thrones – Daenerys VI
A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys VII, when Euron visits Dany in her dreams.
Hizdahr will bring me peace. He must.
That night her cooks roasted her a kid with dates and carrots, but Dany could only eat a bite of it. The prospect of wrestling with Meereen once more left her feeling weary. Sleep came hard, even when Daario came back, so drunk that he could hardly stand. Beneath her coverlets she tossed and turned, dreaming that Hizdahr was kissing her … but his lips were blue and bruised, and when he thrust himself inside her, his manhood was cold as ice. She sat up with her hair disheveled and the bedclothes atangle. Her captain slept beside her, yet she was alone. She wanted to shake him, wake him, make him hold her, fuck her, help her forget, but she knew that if she did, he would only smile and yawn and say, “It was just a dream, my queen. Go back to sleep.”
A Dance with Dragons – Bran III“A man must know how to look before he can hope to see,” said Lord Brynden. “Those were shadows of days past that you saw, Bran. You were looking through the eyes of the heart tree in your godswood. Time is different for a tree than for a man. Sun and soil and water, these are the things a weirwood understands, not days and years and centuries. For men, time is a river. We are trapped in its flow, hurtling from past to present, always in the same direction. The lives of trees are different. They root and grow and die in one place, and that river does not move them. The oak is the acorn, the acorn is the oak. And the weirwood … a thousand human years are a moment to a weirwood, and through such gates you and I may gaze into the past.”
* * *
I have played the game of mind before, have clasped hands with others who thought themselves strong. In their minds, in their souls, in them, I have seen things. In dark grey tunnels I have traced the graffiti of their ancient scars. The quicksand of their insecurities has clutched at my boots. I have smelled the rank odor of their fears, great swollen beasts who dwell in a palpable living darkness. I have burned my fingers
on the hot flesh of lusts who will not speak a name. I have ripped the cloaks from their still, quiet secrets. And then I have taken it all, been them, lived their lives, drunk the cold draught of their knowledge, rummaged through their memories. I have been born a dozen times, have suckled at a dozen teats, have lost a dozen virginities, male and female.
- The same way that Bran is thought to be the same Bran, or a cumulation of various aspects of Bran across time, Daenerys is the cumulative of the Targaryens in her family tree we read about throughout the main series and the ancillary books.
A Feast for Crows – Samwell IV
On Braavos, it had seemed possible that Aemon might recover. Xhondo’s talk of dragons had almost seemed to restore the old man to himself. That night he ate every bite Sam put before him. “No one ever looked for a girl,” he said. “It was a prince that was promised, not a princess. Rhaegar, I thought . . . the smoke was from the fire that devoured Summerhall on the day of his birth, the salt from the tears shed for those who died. He shared my belief when he was young, but later he became persuaded that it was his own son who fulfilled the prophecy, for a comet had been seen above King’s Landing on the night Aegon was conceived, and Rhaegar was certain the bleeding star had to be a comet. What fools we were, who thought ourselves so wise! The error crept in from the translation. Dragons are neither male nor female, Barth saw the truth of that, but now one and now the other, as changeable as flame. The language misled us all for a thousand years. Daenerys is the one, born amidst salt and smoke. The dragons prove it.” Just talking of her seemed to make him stronger. “I must go to her. I must. Would that I was even ten years younger.”
- As we read here, Melisandre is again almost correct, as Aemon is almost correct, but Mel is still interpruting the information incorrectly. Daenerys will be born again on Dragonstone as Aegon the Conqueror, Aegon the Dragon, reborn as she uses her Seige Perilous map table when she returns to Westeros via Dragonstone.
A Dance with Dragons – Jon X
“He is not dead. Stannis is the Lord’s chosen, destined to lead the fight against the dark. I have seen it in the flames, read of it in ancient prophecy. When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone. Dragonstone is the place of smoke and salt.”
Jon had heard all this before. “Stannis Baratheon was the Lord of Dragonstone, but he was not born there. He was born at Storm’s End, like his brothers.” He frowned. “And what of Mance? Is he lost as well? What do your fires show?”
- As we read here, Melisandre is again almost correct, as Aemon is almost correct, but Mel is still interpruting the information incorrectly. Daenerys will be born again on Dragonstone as Aegon the Conqueror, Aegon the Dragon, reborn as she uses her Seige Perilous map table when she returns to Westeros via Dragonstone.
Kleronomas was different.
- As it is within all of Martinword, which includes ASOIAF, not all are the same. Green, red, and blue magic are superficially similar, but at their core they function quite differently. And the malevolent can usurp the benevolant at any time.
I stood in a great cavern, alive with lights. The walls and floor and ceiling were translucent crystal, and all around me spires and cones and twisted ribbons rose bright and red and hard, cold to the touch yet alive, the soulsparks moving through them everywhere. A crystalline fairy city in a cave. I touched the nearest outcropping, and the memory flooded into me, the knowledge as clear and sharp and certain as the day it had been etched there. I turned and looked around with new eyes, now discerning rigid order where initially I had perceived only chaotic beauty. It was clean. It took my breath away. I looked everywhere for the vulnerability, the door of gangrenous flesh, the pool of blood, the place of weeping, the shuffling unclean thing that must live deep inside him, and I found nothing, nothing, nothing, only perfection, only the clean sharp crystal, so very red, glowing from within, growing, changing, yet eternal. I touched it once again, wrapping my hand about an outcropping that rose in front of me like a stalagmite. The knowledge was mine. I began to walk, touching, touching, drinking everywhere. Glass flowers bloomed on every side, fantastic scarlet blooms, fragile and beautiful. I took one and sniffed at it, but it had no scent. The perfection was daunting. Where was his weakness? Where was the hidden flaw in this diamond that would enable me to crack it with a single sharp blow?
A Clash of Kings – Daenerys IV– this blue fower in ASOIAF is a kind of warning to Dany as it points to Jon’s warg/third eye/greenseeing “flowering” of a mental puberty; the man being born, as I discussed on this page here:
. . . Her silver was trotting through the grass, to a darkling stream beneath a sea of stars. A corpse stood at the prow of a ship, eyes bright in his dead face, grey lips smiling sadly. A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness. . . . mother of dragons, bride of fire . . .
Here within him there was no decay.
Here there was no place for death.
Here nothing lived.
It felt like home.
And then in front of me the ghost took form, grey and gaunt and unsteady. His bare feet sent up thin tendrils of smoke as they trod lightly on the gleaming crystals underneath, and I caught the scent of burning meat. And I smiled. The spectre haunted the crystal maze, but every touch meant pain and destruction. “Come here,” I said. He looked at me. I could see the lights on the far side of the cavern through the haze of his uncertain flesh. He moved to me and I opened my arms to him, entered him, possessed him.
A Game of Thrones – Daenerys X
She could smell the odor of burning flesh, no different than horseflesh roasting in a firepit. The pyre roared in the deepening dusk like some great beast, drowning out the fainter sound of Mirri Maz Duur’s [Mirror Maze Door] screaming and sending up long tongues of flame to lick at the belly of the night…The heat beat at the air with great red wings, driving the Dothraki back, driving off even Mormont, but Dany stood her ground. She was the blood of the dragon, and the fire was in her.
She had sensed the truth of it long ago, Dany thought as she took a step closer to the conflagration, but the brazier had not been hot enough. The flames writhed before her like the women who had danced at her wedding, whirling and singing and spinning their yellow and orange and crimson veils, fearsome to behold, yet lovely, so lovely, alive with heat. Dany opened her arms to them, her skin flushed and glowing. This is a wedding, too, she thought. Mirri Maz Duur had fallen silent. The godswife thought her a child, but children grow, and children learn.
* * *
I seated myself upon a balcony in the highest tower of my castle, and drank from a small cup of fragrant black coffee laded with brandy. The swamps were gone; instead I gazed upon mountains, hard and cold and clean. They rose blue-white all around me, and from the highest peak flew a plume of snow crystals caught in a steady endless wind. The wind cut through me, but I scarcely felt it. I was alone and at peace, and the coffee tasted good, and death was far away.
He walked out upon the balcony, and seated himself upon one of the parapets. His pose was casual, insolent, confident. “I know you,” he said. It was the ultimate threat.
I was not afraid. “I know you,” I said. “Shall I conjure up your ghost?”
“He will be here soon enough. He is never far from me.”
“No,” I said. I sipped my coffee, and let him wait. “I am stronger than you,” I told him finally.
“I can win the game, cyborg. You were wrong to challenge me.”
He said nothing.
I set down my cup, drained and empty, passed my hand across it, smiled as my glass flower grew and spread its colorless transparent petals. A broken rainbow crawled across the table.
He frowned. Color crept into my flower. It softened and drooped, the rainbow was banished. “The
other was not real,” he said. “A glass flower is not alive.”
I held up his rose, pointed at the broken stem. “This flower is dying,” I said. In my hands, it
became glass once again. “A glass flower lasts forever.”
He transmuted the glass back to living tissue. He was stubborn, I will say that for him. “Even dying, it lives.”
“Look at its imperfections,” I said. I pointed them out, one by one. “Here an insect has gnawed
upon it. Here a petal has grown malformed, here, these dark splotches, those are blight, here the wind
has bent it. And look what I can do.” I took the largest, prettiest petal between thumb and forefinger, ripped it off, fed it to the wind. “Beauty is no protection. Life is terribly vulnerable. And ultimately, all of it ends like this.” In my hand, the flower turned brown and shriveled and began to rot. Worms festered upon it briefly, and foul black fluids ran from it, and then it was dust. I crumpled it, blew it away, and from behind his ear I plucked another flower. Glass.
“Glass is hard,” he said, “and cold.”
“Warmth is a byproduct of decay, the stepchild of entropy.” I told him.
Perhaps he would have replied, but we were no longer alone. Over the crenellated edge of the parapets the *ghost came crawling, pulling himself up with frail grey-white hands that left bloody stains upon the purity of my stone. He stared at us wordlessly, a half transparent whispering in white. Kleronomas averted his eyes.
“Who is he?” I ask.
The cyborg could not answer.
“Do you even remember his name?” I asked him. He replied with silence, and I laughed at them both. “Cyborg, you judged me, found my morality suspect, my actions tainted, but whatever I might be, I am nothing to you. I steal their bodies. You’ve taken his mind. Haven’t you? Haven’t you?”
“I never meant to,” he said.
- Again with the possible Theon Durden theory.
- This is a troubling part that is akin to Bran taking Hodor when Hodor doesn’t like the experience. Bran has always been a little naughty (climbing when told not to for one), but as Jojen tells Bran during warg training, Bran has to get control of his talents. Bran will, but when? Well before the end of the story or before he has to flee the cave is the most likely answer, but what does he leave behind on the other side of the door?
A Dance with Dragons – Bran III
“But,” said Bran, “he heard me.”
[Bloodraven] “He heard a whisper on the wind, a rustling amongst the leaves. You cannot speak to him, try as you might. I know. I have my own ghosts, Bran. A brother that I loved, a brother that I hated, a woman I desired. Through the trees, I see them still, but no word of mine has ever reached them. The past remains the past. We can learn from it, but we cannot change it.“
“Joachim Kleronomas died on Avalon seven hundred years ago, just as they say he did. Steel and plastic he might wear, but inside he was still rotting flesh, even at the end, and with all flesh there comes a time when the cells die. A thin flat line on a machine, glowing in the darkness, and an empty metal shell. The end of a legend. What did they do then? Scoop out the brain and bury it beneath some oversized monument? No doubt.” The coffee was strong and sweet; here it never grew lukewarm, because my will did not permit it. “But they did not bury the machine, did they? That expensive, sophisticated
cybernetic organism, the library computer with its wealth of knowledge, the crystal matrix with all its frozen memories. All that was too valuable to discard. The good scientists of Avalon kept it in an interface with the Academy’s main system, correct? How many centuries passed before one of them decided to don that cyborg body again, and keep his own death at bay?”
- The Brynden Bloodraven Rivers archetype has been in Martinworld since the late 1960’s. He was not created for ASOIAF, but rather GRRM brings him back into a new story everytime he needs him to enahnce the plot and individual story of a character.Always the Sea Lord, Bloodraven has traveled through time.
“Less than one,” the cyborg said. “Less than fifty standard years.”
“He should have erased you,” I said. “But why? His brain would be riding the machine, after all. Why deny himself access to all that marvelous knowledge, why destroy those crystallized memories? Why, when he could savor them instead? How much better to have a whole second lifetime at his disposal, to be able to access wisdom he had never earned, recollect places he had never been and people he had never met.” I shrugged, and looked at the ghost. “Poor stupid thing. If you’d ever played the game of mind, you might have understood.”
- I’ve said for a long time that in ASOIAF, Bran and Dany are going to do battle on the darkling plain, the game of mind, while Jon and Dany will Dance of Dragons on the Trident. Greenseeing is Enlightenment.
What can the mind be made of, if not memories? Who are we, after all? Only who we think we are, no more, no less.
Etch your memories on diamond, or on a block of rancid meat, those are the choices. Bit by bit the flesh must die, and give way to steel and metal. Only the diamond memories survive to drive the body. In the end no flesh remains, and the echoes of lost memories are ghostly scratchings on the crystal.
“He forgot who he was,” the cyborg said. “I forgot who I was, rather. I began to think … he began to think he was me.” He looked up at me, his eyes locked on mine. They were red crystal, those eyes, and behind them I could see a glow. His skin was taking on a hard, polished sheen, silvering as I watched. And this time he was doing it himself. “You have your own weaknesses,” he said, pointing.
Where it curls about the handle of my coffee cup, my hand has grown black, and spotted with corruption. I could smell the decay. Flesh began to flake off, and beneath I saw the bloody bone, bleaching to grim whiteness. Death crept up my bare arm, inexorably. I suppose it was meant to fill me with horror. It only filled me with disgust.
“No,” I said. My arm was whole and healthy. “No,” I repeated, and now I was metal, silver-bright and undying, eyes like opals, glass flowers twined through platinum hair. I could see my reflection gleaming upon the polished jet of his chest; I was beautiful. Perhaps he could see himself as well, mirrored in my chrome, for just then he turned his head away.
He seemed so strong, but on Croan’dhenni, in my castle of obsidian, in this house of pain and rebirth where the game of mind is played, things are not always as they seem.
“Cyborg,” I said to him, “you are lost.”
A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys X
No, Dany told herself. If I look back I am lost. She might live for years amongst the sunbaked rocks of Dragonstone, riding Drogon by day and gnawing at his leavings every evenfall as the great grass sea turned from gold to orange, but that was not the life she had been born to. So once again she turned her back upon the distant hill and closed her ears to the song of flight and freedom that the wind sang as it played amongst the hill’s stony ridges. The stream was trickling south by southeast, as near as she could tell. She followed it. Take me to the river, that is all I ask of you. Take me to the river, and I will do the rest.
“The other players,” he began.
“No.” I pointed. “He will stand between you and any victim you might choose. Your ghost. Your guilt. He will not allow it. You will not allow it.”
The cyborg could not look at me. “Yes,” in a voice tainted by metal and corroded by despair.
“You will live forever,” I said.
“No. I will go on forever. It is different, Wisdom. I can tell you the precise temperature reading of any environment, but I cannot feel heat or cold, can see into the infrared and the ultraviolet, can magnify my sensors to count every pore on your skin, but I am blind to what I think must be your beauty. I desire life, real life, with the seed of death growing inexorably within it, and therefore giving it meaning.”
A Dance with Dragons – Bran III
“The secrets of the old gods,” said Jojen Reed. Food and fire and rest had helped restore him after the ordeals of their journey, but he seemed sadder now, sullen, with a weary, haunted look about the eyes. “Truths the First Men knew, forgotten now in Winterfell … but not in the wet wild. We live closer to the green in our bogs and crannogs, and we remember. Earth and water, soil and stone, oaks and elms and willows, they were here before us all and will still remain when we are gone.”
“So will you,” said Meera. That made Bran sad. What if I don’t want to remain when you are gone? he almost asked, but he swallowed the words unspoken. He was almost a man grown, and he did not want Meera to think he was some weepy babe. “Maybe you could be greenseers too,” he said instead.
“Good,” I said, satisfied.
He finally looked at me. Trapped in that shining metal face were two pale, lost, human eyes. “Good?”
“I make my own meaning, cyborg, and life is the enemy of death, not its mother. Congratulations. You’ve won. And so have I.” I rose and reached across the table, plunged my hand through the cold black chest, and ripped the crystal heart from his breast. I held it up and it shone, brighter and brighter, its scarlet rays dancing brilliantly upon the cold dark mountains of my mind.
- The fiery hand of R’hllor. Also the militant religious sect of that cult of which Dany will be the god/dess come again.
- Breaking a heart is the job of Azor Ahai.
* * *
I opened my eyes.
No, incorrect; I activated my sensors once again, and the scene in the chamber of change came into focus with a clarity and sharpness I had never experienced. My obsidian mosaic, black against black, was now a hundred different shades, each distinct from the others, the pattern crisp and clear. I was seated in a niche along the rim; in the center cup, the child-woman stirred and blinked large violet eyes. The door opened and they came to her, Rannar solicitous, Khar Dorian aloof, trying to conceal his curiosity, Braje giggling as she gave her shots.
“No,” I announced to them. My voice was too deep, too male. I adjusted it. “No, here,” I
said, sounding more like myself.
Their stares were like the cracking of whips.
* * *
In the game of mind, there are winners and there are losers.
The cyborg’s interference had its effects, perhaps. Or perhaps not, perhaps before the game was over, the pattern would have been the same. Craimur Delhune is dead; they gave his corpse to the swamps last evening. But the vacancy is gone from the eyes of the pudgy young dreamduster, and she is dieting and exercising even now, and when Khar Dorian leaves, he will take her back to Delhune’s estates on Gulliver.
Rieseen Jay complains that she was cheated. I believe she will linger here, outside, in the city of the damned. No doubt that will cure her boredom. The g’hvern struggles to speak and has painted elaborate symbols on its wings. The tattooed boy leapt from the castle battlements a few hours after his return, and impaled himself upon the jagged obsidian spikes far below, flapping his arms until the last instant. Wings and fierce eyes do not equate with strength.
A Game of Thrones – Bran III, where Bran sees something more than the common fandom idea of these are failed current-ish trainee’s of Bloodraven specifically, but rather these are those who came before Bran and battled the mindlord of the ‘opposing’ side across time and lost. Bran will not fail.|
Because winter is coming.
Bran looked at the crow on his shoulder, and the crow looked back. It had three eyes, and the third eye was full of a terrible knowledge. Bran looked down. There was nothing below him now but snow and cold and death, a frozen wasteland where jagged blue-white spires of ice waited to embrace him. They flew up at him like spears. He saw the bones of a thousand other dreamers impaled upon their points. He was desperately afraid.
“Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?” he heard his own voice saying, small and far away.
A new mindlord has begun to reign. She has commanded them to start on a new castle, a structure shaped from living woods, its foundations rooted deep in the swamps, its exterior covered with vines and flowers and other living things. “You will get insects,” I have warned her, “parasites and stinging flies, miner-worms in the wood, blight in your foundation, rot in your walls. You will have to sleep with netting over your bed. You will have to kill, constantly, day and night. Your wooden castle will swim in a miasma of little deaths, and in a few years the ghosts of a million insects will swarm your halls by night.”
“Nonetheless,” she says, “my home will be warm and alive, where yours was cold and brittle.”
- In ASOIAF, the new mindlord is an extremist dragon rule, ice or fire.
- The decision to return to the natural cycle of life, death, life. This is a common theme of GRRM across much of his work; the green survives and returns in the end. No more Iron Throne, no more Ozymandias- the trees return. Greenseeing is Enlightenment.
- Additionally, this story is about the “green” returning. This is not only or solely Cyrain’s story, but also one of the soul that inhabits Kleronomas.
We all have our symbols, I suppose.
And our fears.
“Erase him,” she has warned me. “Blank the crystal, or in time he will consume you, and you will become another ghost in the machine.” “Erase him?” I might have laughed, if the mechanism permitted laughter. I can see right through her. Her soul is scrawled upon that soft, fragile face. I can count her pores and note each flicker of doubt in the pupils of those violet eyes. “Erase me, you mean. The crystal is home to us both, child. Besides, I do not fear him. You miss the point. Kleronomas was crystal, the ghost organic meat, the outcome inevitable. My case is different. I am as crystalline as he is, and just as eternal.”
- The first line translates to ASOIAF with the need to melt down the throne and redevelop the nature of laws and humanity across Westeros. The desire for the throne (which Daenerys has in truckloads) is just exactly like the “red thirst” lust that the vampires of Fevre Dream have. Ozymandias. No bueno!
- In Fevre Dream we have the protganist Abner Marsh hit a low spot in his arc, his obsession with “his ship” (a throne) called the Fevre Dream, and at one point Abner exclaims he will take it back with “fire and blood”. Only later he realizes it is lost and not worth taking back, but rather saving humanity is, and in the process the ship decays and goes back in to the cycle of nature. A Martin thing.
“Wisdom-” she began.
“Wrong,” I said.
“Cyrain, if you prefer-”
“Wrong again. Call me Kleronomas.” I have been many things through my long and varied lives, but I have never been a legend. It has a certain cachet.
- A bit of egomania, still.
- Cyrain (the Cyrain we know) is now acting as the fire god who usurps the tree to steal the body for their own greedy reasons. This could be like Azor Ahai in ASOIAF, or what Melisandre does to Stannis to create shadowbabies, or even the Night’s King’s Corpse Queen who takes seed. Remember, Cyrain tells readers, “I steal their bodies, but they lose their souls themselves.” As Bran recalls Old Nan’s story:
- A woman was his downfall; a woman glimpsed from atop the Wall, with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars. Fearing nothing, he chased her and caught her and loved her, though her skin was cold as ice, and when he gave his seed to her he gave his soul as well. He brought her back to the Nightfort and proclaimed her a queen and himself her king, and with strange sorceries he bound his Sworn Brothers to his will.
The little girl looked at me. “I am Kleronomas,” she said in a high sweet voice, her eyes baffled.
“Yes,” I said, “and no. Today we are both Kleronomas. We have lived the same lives, done the same things, stored the same memories. But from this day on, we walk different paths. I am steel and crystal, and you are childflesh. You wanted life, you said. Embrace it, it’s yours, and all that goes with it. Your body is young and healthy, just beginning to blossom, your years will be long and full. Today you think you are still Kleronomas. And tomorrow?
“Tomorrow you will learn about lust again, and open your little thighs to Khar Dorian, and shudder and cry out as he rides you to orgasm. Tomorrow you will bear children in blood and pain, and watch them grow and age and bear children of their own, and die. Tomorrow you will ride through the swamps and the dispossessed will toss you gifts, and curse you, and praise you, and pray to you. Tomorrow new players will arrive, begging for bodies, for rebirth, for another chance, and tomorrow Khar’s ships will land with a new load of prizes, and all your moral certainties will be tested, and tested again, and twisted to new shapes. Tomorrow Khar and Jonas or Sebastien Cayle will decide that they have waited long enough, and you’ll taste the honeyed treason of their kiss, and perhaps you’ll win, or perhaps you’ll lose. There’s no certainty to it. But there’s one sure thing I can promise. On the day after tomorrow, long years from now though they will not seem long once passed, death will begin to grow inside you. The seed is already planted. Perhaps it will be some disease blooming in one of those small sweet breasts Rannar would so dearly love to suckle, perhaps a fine thin wire pulled tight across your throat as you sleep, perhaps a sudden solar flare that will burn this planet clean. It will come, though, and sooner than you think.”
- Projecting oneself onto the new young girl. These are things that Cyrain would have done, and did do, not necessarily the same decisions someone who has already lived an eternity would also make. The changes in the throne/castle/dwelling are already drastically different.
“I accept it,” she said. She smiled as she spoke; I think she really meant it. “All of it, every part. Life and death. I have been without it for a long time, Wis– Kleronomas.”
“Already you’re forgetting things,” I observed. “Every day you will lose more. Today we both remember. We remember the crystal caverns of Eris, the first ship we ever served on, the lines of our father’s face. We remember what Tomas Chung said when we decided not to turn back to Avalon, and the other words he said as he lay dying. We remember the last woman we ever made love to, the shape and smell of her, the taste of her breasts, the noises she made when we pleasured her. She’s been dead and gone eight hundred years, but she lives in our memories. But she’s dying in yours, isn’t she? Today you are Kleronomas. Yet I am him as well, and I am Cyrain of Ash, and a small part of me is still our ghost, poor sad man. But when tomorrow comes, I’ll hold tight to all I am, and you, you’ll be the mindlord, or perhaps just a sex-slave in some perfumed brothel on Cymeranth, or a scholar on Avalon, but in any case a different person than you are now.”
A Dance with Dragons – Bran III
“Someone else was in the raven,” he told Lord Brynden, once he had returned to his own skin. “Some girl. I felt her.”
“A woman, of those who sing the song of earth,” his teacher said. “Long dead, yet a part of her remains, just as a part of you would remain in Summer if your boy’s flesh were to die upon the morrow. A shadow on the soul. She will not harm you.”
She understood; she accepted. “So you’ll play the game of mind forever,” she said, “and I will never die.”
[C] “You will die,” I pointed out. “Most certainly. Kleronomas is immortal.”
“And Cyrain of Ash.”
[C] “Her too. Yes.”
“What will you do?” she asked me.
I went to the window. The glass flower was there, in its simple wooden vase, its petals refracting the light. I looked up at the source of that light, the brilliant sun of Croan’dhenni burning in the clear midday sky. I could look straight into it now, could focus on the sunspots and the flaming towers of its prominences. I made a small conscious adjustment to the crystal lenses of my eyes, and the empty sky was full of stars,
more stars than I had ever seen before, more stars than I could possibly have imagined.
“Do?” I said, still gazing up at those secret starfields, visible to me alone. They brought to mind my obsidian mosaic. “There are worlds I’ve never been to,” I told my sister-twin, father, daughter, enemy, mirror-image, whatever she was. “There are things I don’t yet know, stars that even now I cannot see. What will I do? Everything. To begin with, everything.”
As I spoke, a fat striped insect flew through the open window on six gossamer wings that trilled the air too fast for human sight, though I could count every languid beat if I so chose. It landed briefly on my glass flower, found neither scent nor pollen, and slipped back outside. I watched it go, growing smaller and smaller, dwindling in the distance, until at last I had telescoped my vision to the maximum, and the small dying bug was lost among the swamps and stars.
- Nature of life is returning already. No more bondage for the new gamesman.
- If Daenerys has a moment of clarity after accepting and acting on her fire & blood instinct, then I could see maybe Dany giving up her “glass flower” ideals of the Iron Throne and second lifing herself into Drogon. Atonement and a way to make sure the Targaryen fire & blood way of life and suppression is ended for good.
- This is the normalizing of gods, bringing them down from the untouchable high mountain to the realm of human. This is very much inspired by Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light. Roger was not only a personal friend to George, and town neighbor, but GRRM also has stated many times over the years that Lord of Light is “required” read.
The notes above all fall in to line with what GRRM says about his characters, that he prefers the “grey” variety because we don’t need anymore dark lords. Well, not all characters are the exact same shade of grey. As Martin describes his style:
” I don’t believe in black and white characters. I don’t want to write the band of heroes on one side and the orcs on the other side but that’s not to say that that old characters are equally gray, you know some are very dark gray and some are some are mostly white but they still have occasional flaws in them. You know, I’ve always been fascinated by human beings and all their complexity and even [newbies] who do appalling things. You know the question is, “why?” Why are they do appalling things and it’s interesting to get inside the head and see why you know some of my viewpoint characters are have done some incredibly reprehensible things.”
He then goes on to describe how villains are not born, but made. They are the result of their experiences. Things happen to a character along the way that brings them to junctures where they have to make decisions for themselves… which brings consequences. Video source.
Want to read more GRRM book club stories? try one of these:
- The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr – Discarded Knights guards the gates as Sharra feels the Seven while searching for lost love. Many Sansa and Ashara Dayne prototyping here as well.
- …And Seven Times Never Kill Man– A look into a proto-Andal+Targaryen fiery world as the Jaenshi way of life is erased. But who is controlling these events? Black & Red Pyramids who merge with Bakkalon are on full display in this story.
- The Last Super Bowl– Football meets SciFi tech with plenty of ASOIAF carryover battle elements.
- Nobody Leaves New Pittsburg– first in the Corpse Handler trio, and sets a lot of tone for future ASOIAF thematics.
- Closing Time– An early, and verry short story, where GRRM begins to develop his own style of skinchanging and Armageddon.
- Run to Starlight– A tale of coexistence and morality set to a high stakes game of football.
- Remembering Melody– A ghost tale written by GRRM in 1981 that tells of long nights, bloodbaths, and pancakes.
- Fast-Friend transcribed and noted. Written in December 1973, this story is a precursor to skinchanging, Bran, Euron, Daenerys, and ways to scheme to reclaim lost love.
- The Steel Andal Invasion– A re-read of a partial section of The World of Ice and Fire text compared to the story …And Seven Times Never Kill Man. This has to do with both fire and ice Others in ASOIAF.
- A Song for Lya– A novella about a psi-link couple investigating a fiery ‘god’. Very much a trees vs fire motif, and one of GRRM’s best stories out there.
- For A Single Yesterday– A short story about learning from the past to rebuild the future.
- This Tower of Ashes– A story of how lost love, mother’s milk, and spiders don’t mix all too well.
- A Peripheral Affair (1973)– When a Terran scout ship on a routine patrol through the Periphery suddenly disappears, a battle-hungry admiral prepares to renew the border war.
- The Stone City– a have-not surviving while stranded on a corporate planet. Practically a GRRM autobiography in itself.
- Slide Show– a story of putting the stars before the children.
- Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark– rubies, fire, blood sacrifice, and Saagael- oh my!
- A Night at the Tarn House– a magical game of life and death played at an inn at a crossroads.
- Men of Greywater Station– Is it the trees, the fungus, or is the real danger humans?
- The Computer Cried Charge!– what are we fighting for and is it worth it?
- The Needle Men– the fiery hand wields itself again, only, why are we looking for men?
- Black and White and Red All Over– a partial take on a partial story.
- Fire & Blood excerpt; Alysanne in the north– not a full story, but transcribed and noted section of the book Fire & Blood, volume 1.
If you want to browse my own thoughts and speculations on the ASOIAF world using GRRM’s own work history, use the drop-down menu at the top of the page for the most content, or click on the page that shows recent posts -> Recent Posts Page.
Thank you for reading the jambles and jumbles of the Fattest Leech of Ice and Fire, by Gumbo!