Meathouse Man – Martinworld/ASOIAF Reread

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 read a story listed, please check with your local bookstore for your own reading material to purchase (Indie Bookstore Finder, Bookshop.org, or Martin’s website). 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.

It takes a while to transcribe and then note each story for research purposes, even the really short ones, so the Main Book Club Page will be updated first.


All fiction, if it’s successful, is going to appeal to the emotions…

These are some complicated ideas we’re touching on now. I hate to make sweeping statements about fiction in general. Every writer does his own thing. But my own view of the world… I don’t think I’m a misanthrope, or gloomy. I think love and friendship are very important parts of what make life worth living. There is room for happiness. But that having been said, there are some basic truths… Any happy ending where everything is resolved, and everything is jolly, maybe rings false because of what is coming for us.

Another thing that is maybe not so big a part of Ice and Fire, but certainly a huge part of my early work, is the existential loneliness that we all suffer. While we interact with other human beings, we can never really know them. I think these things, that we feel on some deep instinctual level, make us feel the resonances in fiction. Historically, tragedy has always had more respect than comedy…What does that tell us?” — GRRM

Parts of the story

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Tiny Tiger reading by osmosis.

Since this is a reread for many of you, I have broken this story into easy to jump-to sections for the purposes and ease of note-taking and navigability. The way Martin set this story up, it includes 31 total sections, chapters, and sub-sections (some only one sentence) and those are arranged as progressions in Greg Trager’s life. But first, we have to start with:

The story parts are:

  1. I- In The Meathouse
    1. They came from the ore-fields; kill the boy.
    2. The horizon was all factories…of red shadows, devouring the earth.
    3. The corpses were company owned; fire and ice dragon wights.
    4. Cox laughed at him; he was a regular now.
  2. 1- When I was One-and-Twenty (read the poetry info here)
    1. Josie was the first; Is [Valyria] going to blow up?
    2. When he got to Josie’s house; he was more alone than ever now.
    3. Josie dropped by; and the tears came.
  3. II- Promises of Someday(title resued again, discuseed below)
    1. The fire had burned out long ago; the wildlife fled.
    2. Tight-Knit group; his corpses were part of him.
    3. Gidyon, the heart of Vendalia [Valyria]; the city with the rot.
    4. Trager returned to the wilderness camp; darkling stream.
  4. 2- The Pilgrim, up and down. (read the song info here)
    1. Her name was Laurel [Brienne]; she grew more beautiful with time.
    2. 4.2-4.10 Developments with Laurel and Donelly. (very short sections)
  5. III- Wanderings (possibly based on a Yeats poem, read the info here)
    1. He tried to keep on at the theatre; Trager would try not to notice.
    2. Sad boy in Bayonne.
    3. Phone booth.; it’s still Skrakky.
    4. Sometimes, at night, he would move; then she would hang up.
    5. Gidyon is not the best of places for lonely midnight walks.
    6. In the night, agony; House of Undying.
    7. In the middle of their brief time together; he tortured himself with her words.
    8. He hated himself.
  6. 3- Duvalier’s Dream. (read the song info here)
    1. Her name does not matter; but something was missing. Magic.
  7. IV- Echoes
    1. I don’t want to hurt you; Trager felt ashamed.
    2. His lady, his love; triggered by the handler’s brain.
  8. Bright cruel lies.


What’s it all about?

After several years and several rewrites of this story, it was finally published in 1976 in Orbit 18 (pictured below). This story was published around the time GRRM was putting out other stories such as:

This is the third and final of the three corpsehandler stories written by Martin, the first two are:

  1. Override (1972)
  2. Nobody Leaves New Pittsburg (1976)

I want to start by saying this story is one I have simultaneously been dying to discuss, as well as dreading to discuss, both at the same time. This is an emotional story for George R.R. Martin to have written, one that still , according to him, causes ache when he thinks back about it decades later. This story is legitimately like a page from some one’s personal diary. If you are the type to giggle at sincerity or think this is just some icky, twisted story about ‘sex with dead people,’ then please feel free to read any other page on this blog because this story isn’t for you.

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Note the name of the meathouse in the artwork. This name is not used in the written story.

Told through the point of view of main character Greg Trager, this story is about personal struggle and using various methods of power to overcome your own shortcomings. It’s an emotional story and it strongly applies to the three top-main characters we have in A Song of Ice and Fire, Bran, Jon, Daenerys, even Euron and his silenced crew, as well as those undead like Lady Stoneheart and Melisandre the Shadowbinder of Asshai, Daenerys’ three dragons, to name a few examples. Readers are taken through the phases of a young man’s life as he navigates his way through love, rejection, and denial. The story ends as tragic as it begins.

I do want to add as a side note that the twist to this character theme is Petyr Littlefinger Baelish. He runs brothels as secret spy networks (like in Override), and his grey-green eyes signifies he is the ‘dead’ one. Without getting sidetracked with too many Littlefinger theories here, he is the twist of the ‘deadman depot’ (brothel) operator who was once in love with Catelyn, but now is in love with the living (Sansa Stark). 

In keeping with a strong, overarching Martinworld theme, Meathouse Man also uses the fire vs trees symbology that signals to the reader what path the main character is headed. When GRRM says fire is about heat and passion, etc, don’t forget he dials it up to eleventy-hundred as he tends to do for ASOIAF. This is a sad story and way more than “dead people gross”.

The way GRRM writes about his own lived experiences, how he at that young age internalizes those personal tragedies, are outwardly displayed through emotional phases that are represented by his surroundings; the sex house, the overworked mining job, the fighting pits, the acting and drama plays. This is very much how he writes the ship Eclipse in #FevreDream, or the way Haviland Tuf’s psionic cats react in Tuf Voyaging, or the way the direwolves are extensions of the Starks, or the way Daenerys’ dragons outwardly react to her mental feelings. It’s an outward reflection of the struggle within the self, being overshadowed by a sense and longing for greatness beyong the isolated neighborhood in Bayonne, New Jersey.

What a corpsehandler represents in ASOIAF: The Stranger represents death and the unknown, and leads the dead to the other world. Whilst referred to as male, he is neither male nor female. The Stranger’s face has been described as half-human, concealed beneath a hooded mantle. The wooden statue of the Stranger burnt on Dragonstone is carved to look more animal than human.

Worshippers rarely seek favor from the Stranger, but outcasts sometimes associate themselves with this aspect of god.

To make one of my points very clear, I am not saying Greg Trager is a do-good protagonist. What we do see here is his path going from hope to loneliness out on his own darkling plain. What we see here is an author being refreshingly honest, even if it’s brutal to read. Trager is another one of GRRM’s villain-antagonist characters that he uses as the main point of view (POV). Author’s rarely use a antagonist as the main POV, and having a POV do not define the character as automatic protagonist or hero, but this is a writing technique Martin has crafted rather well in his stories and characters, including:

I have said this often throughout the years and I’ll say it again, #MeathouseMan is GRRM’s best, and deepest story… and yes, it does hold a plethora of A Song of Ice and Fire prototyping. One of the main reasons this story ended up being so literately fascinating after so many rewrites, is it took #HarlanEllison to drag it out of George properly. Here is a link to the Harlan Ellison page on Wikipedia to learn more about this author and his credits, or subscribe to the YouTube channel.

Harlan Ellison by Bill Seinkoweicz
Harlan Ellison by artist Bill Sienkiewicz

In addition to traditional print versions of this story, there is also a graphic novel. One of the reasons why the graphic novel is so visually compelling is because of the color palette, composition, and physical expression captured by Raya Golden (website), something she was Hugo nominated for in 2014. All artwork from the graphic novel shown in this blog page is illustrated and adapted by artist Raya Golden. She has done other work for GRRM, including Starport, and you can read about the time when I briefly met her and GRRM (again) here. You can find links to purchase either or both Golden/Martin graphic novels here.

I also want to add that this story has another reference to two Kris Kristofferson songs, a third in his other story Bitterblooms, as well as a character in Nightflyers. The first reference in this story is for the song ‘Duvalier’s Dream’ about a man who is a disillusioned dreamer who would never love again. Music video here, or read the full lyrics below after the story. The second is ‘The Pilgrim, Chapter 33’, a lyrical autobiography wriiten while Kristofferson was in jail, it describes a man who has fallen upon hard times. The character had a past full of “money, love and dreams” that he traded for his current life as he went after his purpose despite of the consequences. Read the full lyrics and information after the story.

George is a known lover of poetry. The Iron throne is Ozymandias according to GRRM. His story A Song for Lya is filled with poetry, as is his vampire novel Fevre Dream (one example here), Dying of the Light (example), Armageddon Rag, in Black and White and Red All Over where we meet a Blackwood (Bloodraven prototype) who loves poetry (example), as well as the importance of poetry in his version of Beauty and the Beast (one example here), among many other poetry mentions across his Martinworld works. The section titled ‘When I was One-and-twenty’ is taken from a poem of the same name by A. E. Housman in which the young speaker talks about the experience of falling in—and out—of love. Read the short poem here. Another section title ‘Wanderings’ is quite possibly based on a poem by William Butler Yeats, whom GRRM has referenced in stories; 9 times in Armageddon rag alone. Read that poem info here.

There has been some discussion in the past around the idea, or proof, that this series of three corpsehandler stories may or may not take place in Martin’s Thousand World’s universe. I tend to think that it is because of a few similarities and names, but I am perfectly fine or even better if it doesn’t because that would add a lot of strength to the Martinworld idea (and GRRM himself) saying he reuses his own self to tell his own stories.

I will add that I noticed how three other GRRM stories seem to be unofficially connected, not to the Thousand Worlds, but to each other. Those three are Night of the Vampyres, Armageddon Rag, then FTA, respectively. All with a modern contemporary speculative fiction setting, they have the same underlying thematic/plot connections as well as same names of tech, similar organizations, etc, just set about 50 years apart all with the idea of this fighter state bringing about their own style of “peace”.


 

What does GRRM have to say?

z nation GIFs - Primo GIF - Latest Animated GIFs

A few selections from GRRM’s Dreamsongs anthologies. I have to say, he often doesn’t have much to say about most of his stories, but not with Meathouse Man. He said a lot to me personally about Meathouse Man at Balticon 50, as well as in various other sources such as we have here:

  • My career is littered with the corpses of dead series.

    My corpse handler series went all the way to three: “Nobody Leaves New Pittsburg” began it, “Override” followed, and “Meathouse Man” brought it to … well, a finish, if not an end. A fourth story exists as a four-page fragment, and there are ideas in my files for a dozen more. I once intended to write them all, publish them in the magazines, then collect them all together in a book I’d call Songs the Dead Men Sing. But that fourth story never got finished, and the others never got started. When I did finally use the title Songs the Dead Men Sing for a collection (from Dark Harvest, in 1983), “Meathouse Man” was the only corpse story to make the cut.

  • The two genres that I’ve mixed most often, though, are horror and science fiction. I was doing it as early as my second sale. Despite its SF setting, “The Exit to San Breta” is a ghost story at heart … though admittedly not a very frightening one. My first two corpse handler tales, “Nobody Leaves New Pittsburg” and “Override,” were further fumbling attempts at the same sort of cross-pollination, offering as they did a science fictional take on an old friend from the world of horror, the zombie.

  • The oldest story here, “Meathouse Man,” was the third of my corpse handler stories, and turned out to be the last of the series. The horror is sexual and psychological, rather than visceral, but this is an SF/horror hybrid all the same. Easily the darkest thing that I have ever written (and I’ve produced some pretty dark stuff), “Meathouse Man” was supposed to be my story for The Last Dangerous Visions. Harlan Ellison’s groundbreaking anthologies Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions had a tremendous impact on me, as they did on most readers of my generation. When I met Harlan for the first time in the corridors of the 1972 Lunacon in New York City, virtually the first thing I asked him was whether I might send him a story for TLDV. He told me no; the anthology was closed. A year later, however, it opened up again … at least for me. By that time, I had gotten to know Harlan better, through our mutual friend Lisa Tuttle, and I’d published more stories as well, which may have helped convince him that I was worthy of inclusion in what was, after all, going to be a monumental book, the anthology to end anthologies. Whatever made him change his mind, change it he did; in 1973, he invited me to send him a story. I was thrilled … and nervous as hell. TLDV would have a lot of heavy hitters in it. Could I measure up? Could I possibly be dangerous enough?

    I struggled with the story for several months, finally mailed it off to Harlan in early 1974. “Meathouse Man” was the title, but otherwise it shared only some background and character names with the “Meathouse Man” that follows. It was much shorter, about a third the length of the present story, and much more superficial. I was trying my damnedest to be dangerous, but in that first version, “Meathouse Man” remained no more than an intellectual exercise. Harlan returned my manuscript on March 30, 1974, with a letter of rejection that began, “Aside from shirking all responsibility to the material that forms the core, it’s a nice story.” After which he eviscerated me, while challenging me to tear the guts out of the story and rewrite the whole thing from page one. I cursed and fumed and kicked the wall, but I could not quarrel with a single thing he said. So I sat down and ripped the guts out of the story and rewrote the whole thing from page one, and this time I opened a vein as well, and let the blood drip down right onto the paper. While 1973 and 1974 were great years for me professionally, they were by no means happy years. My career was going wonderfully; my life, not so much so. I was wounded, and in a lot of pain. I put it all into “Meathouse Man,” and sent the story back to Harlan. He still didn’t like it. This time he was much gentler with me, but a gentle pass is still a pass.

    Afterward I considered simply abandoning “Meathouse Man.” Even now, almost thirty years later, I find it painful to reread. But in the end, I had put too much work into the story to foresake it, so I sent it out to other markets, and ended up selling it to Damon Knight for Orbit, the only time I ever managed to crack that prestigious anthology series. It appeared in 1976, in Orbit 18.

  • By the time we met for a second time, at the 1973 worldcon in Toronto, both of our existing relationships were ending, and things between us started to heat up. After the con we began to correspond. Lisa wrote a great letter (this was in the dark ages before email, remember), and the more I got to know her, the more I liked her.

    During the next half year, she visited me in Chicago and I visited her in Los Angeles, where she had moved after graduating Syracuse. We became collaborators and we became lovers, and to tell the truth I don’t remember which came first. Though we still lived thousands of miles apart, I felt as though I had known her all my life, and was soon madly in love. It wasn’t until the spring of 1974 that Lisa fell in love… with someone else.

Speculation: My own research tells me that in 1973 Tuttle and several other science fiction writers, including Howard Waldrop, Steven Utley and Bruce Sterling, founded the Turkey City Writer’s Workshop in Austin, Texas, and in 1974 she was joint winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer with Spider Robinson.

SPIDER???

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Author Spider Robinson

Spider has been living in the UK for 40+ years now, but he was in the states and running in the circle with Lisa for the years leading up to 1977, when he left the United States for the UK. Spider falls in the assumed timeline at just the right 1974 date for when George said Lisa fell in love with someone else. (This is soooo Meathouse Man)

Lisa did not marry her first husband, Christopher Priest, until 1981. And just a side note, GRRM has used the name Rojan Christopherus as the name for an ill behaved antagonist in a love story of his titled Nightflyers. Some people think the name Christopherus was for the singer Kris Kristofferson, but since this Nightflyers antagonist is such an asshole who tries thwart two wannabe lovers, I tend to suspect it is for this Christopher Priest.

 


 

What’s in a name?

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Locations. The corpsehandler stories take place on a select group of planets in the universe. All of the corpsehandling stories take place in regions like Valyria as are the environmental disasters of the Doom of Valyria and the Doom of Hardhome (fire and ice dragon events).

These include:

  • Skrakky- This is the planet this story begins and then ends on. This is the world where handlers work in factories, mills or strip mines; like Vendalia, Valyria, Asshai/By the Shadow/The Shadow Lands or any of the corpse worlds. The planet’s air is heavily polluted with sulfur, something always associated with dragons-fire-corrupted enviornments in ASOIAF. Corpses on this planet are also used for entertainment purposes opposed to the working corpse planets from the other two corpsehandler stories.
  • Vendalia- Repurposed into Valyria for ASOIAF. The cities the Valyrian Freehold created are all parts of this corpsehandler idea, and “Freehold” is an oxymoron because none of these cities were truly free from “bow or burn” theology of the dragonlords whom kept slaves. The irony in calling people free when it’s for worship is something we see developing in Daenerys’ arc. Each of these “freehold” cities specializes in some product/talent, just like the different planets where they use deadpeople to do the work for them. The corpor-ate dragon. Work you to death and beyond. Your left with “cheap solace” as we will see in this story.
    • Note about Vendalia real world origin: The Grand Ohio Company eventually received a larger area of land than the Indiana Grant. The development companies planned a new colony, initially called “Pittsylvania” (Wright 1988:212) but later known as Vandalia, in honor of the British queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744–1818), who was thought to be descended from Vandalic tribesmen.
  • Gidyon- Gideon is the main city on Vendalia and is also from real world origins. This is a masculine given name and surname of Hebrew origin, Which translates to “feller” or “hewer” (i.e. ‘great warrior’) in Hebrew. It can also be interpreted as “One who has a stump in place of a hand” or “One who cuts down”. The name gets its origins from the Biblical judge and leader Gideon who impressed the English puritans and French Huguenots with his martial utilization. This is the fighting pit /gladitorials city in this story, but you can easily see how GRRM could have repurposed this information for people like Qhorin Halfhand, Arthur Dayne, Jamie Lannister, or even Jon Snow King of Winter(fell).
  • Slagg- another corpse planet we never visit or hear much about other than it exists.
  • From Override we have the planet Grotto, and then from Nobody Leaves New Pittsburg we have the planet New Pittsburg. These are the “working” planets with no entertainment.

Characters.

Greg Trager- Main character and point of view. Represents the deepest fathoms of George R.R. Martin’s id. He wanders on the darkling plain. There are even a few aspects of Trager that put him on level as a Coldhands prototype.

Josie- short brown hair, covered in motor grease, Trager’s first human love. Met on Skrakky.

Donelly- Trager’s best friend on Vendalia. Both are handlers who cut down trees.

Laurel- Trager’s second girlfriend he meets on Vendalia. She leaves Trager. She is a tree-girl/Brienne prototype.

Cox- who is like a Gerris Drinkwater protoype. He is arrogant end encourages his friend to visit brothels/snuggeries/meathouses. A line by line comparison of Quentyn and Gerris in The Dragontamer chapter can be found here.

Various ‘meat minds’ that are outward expressions of Trager’s state of mind during the phases of his life.

With all of this said, there are older and fouler things than orcs in the deep places of the world, let’s reread Meathouse Man


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MEATHOUSE MAN by George R.R. Martin

 

His hands were machines, his heart a nuclear furnace, and he stripped the planet bare, looking for love.

I

In the Meathouse

 

They came straight from the ore-fields that first time, Trager with the others, the older boys, the almost-men who worked their corpses next to his. Cox was the oldest of the group, and he’d been around the most, and he said that Trager had to come even if he didn’t want to. Then one of the others laughed and said that Trager wouldn’t even know what to do, but Cox the kind-of leader shoved him until he was quiet. And when payday came, Trager trailed the rest to the meathouse, scared but somehow eager, and he paid his money to a man downstairs and got a room key.

He came into the dim room trembling, nervous. The others had gone to other rooms, had left him alone with her (no, it, not her but it, he reminded himself, and promptly forgot again). In a shabby gray cubicle with a single smoky light.

He stank of sweat and sulfur, like all who walked the streets of Skrakky, but there was no help for that. It would be better if he could bathe first, but the room did not have a bath. Just a sink, double bed with sheets that looked dirty even in the dimness, a corpse.

  • Cox is the Gerris Drinkwater in this situation as Trager is Quentyn Martell. Cox/Gerris are pushing to take their friend into a “snuggery”, and all this happens in The Dragontamer scene of A Dance with Dragons when Quentyn gets consumed by fire. Read the line by line analysis here.
    • Viserion launched himself from the ceiling, pale leather wings unfolding, spreading wide. The broken chain dangling from his neck swung wildly. His flame lit the pit, pale gold shot through with red and orange, and the stale air exploded in a cloud of hot ash and sulfur as the white wings beat and beat again.
    • The air was thick with smoke and the sulfur stench was choking.
  • Other examples in ASOIAF of “deadman sex” is Daenerys having sex slave sex with Irri, Cersei having sex with Taena of Myr/Merryweather, Ygritte with Jon Snow the first times.
  • The death cult that is the Faceless Men is coded corpsehandling in ASOIAF.
    • “I hobbled the male side together and then I added The Stranger as the God of Death, who’s also the center of the Cult of The Faceless Men. I mean, I think worship of death is an interesting basis for religion because after all, death is the one universal.” –GRRM (video here)
  • Jaqen H’agar is a top tier “handler” like Trager is.
    • A Feast for Crows – Arya II

      “I asked him how he changed his face, and he said it was no harder than taking a new name, if you knew the way.”

      “Did he?”

      “Will you show me how to change my face?”

  • A Feast for Crows – Arya II

    “What kind of tale?” she asked, wary.

    “The tale of our beginnings. If you would be one of us, you had best know who we are and how we came to be. Men may whisper of the Faceless Men of Braavos, but we are older than the Secret City. Before the Titan rose, before the Unmasking of Uthero, before the Founding, we were. We have flowered in Braavos amongst these northern fogs, but we first took root in Valyria, amongst the wretched slaves who toiled in the deep mines beneath the Fourteen Flames that lit the Freehold’s nights of old. Most mines are dank and chilly places, cut from cold dead stone, but the Fourteen Flames were living mountains with veins of molten rock and hearts of fire. So the mines of old Valyria were always hot, and they grew hotter as the shafts were driven deeper, ever deeper. The slaves toiled in an oven. The rocks around them were too hot to touch. The air stank of brimstone and would sear their lungs as they breathed it. The soles of their feet would burn and blister, even through the thickest sandals. Sometimes, when they broke through a wall in search of gold, they would find steam instead, or boiling water, or molten rock. Certain shafts were cut so low that the slaves could not stand upright, but had to crawl or bend. And there were wyrms in that red darkness too.”

She lay there naked, staring at nothing, breathing shallow breaths. Her legs were spread; ready. Was she always that way, Trager wondered, or had the man before him arranged her like that? He didn’t know. He knew how to do it (he did, he did, he’d read the books Cox gave him, and there were films you could see, and all sorts of things), but he didn’t know much of anything else. Except maybe how to handle corpses. That he was good at, the youngest handler on Skrakky, but he had to be. They had forced him into the handlers’ school when his mother died, and they made him learn, so that was the thing he did. This, this he had never done (but he knew how, yes, yes, he did); it was his first time.

He came to the bed slowly and sat to a chorus of creaking springs. He touched her and the flesh was warm. Of course. She was not a corpse, not really, no; the body was alive enough, a heartbeat under the heavy white breasts, she breathed. Only the brain was gone, ripped from her, replaced with a deadman’s synthabrain. She was meat now, an extra body for a corpsehandler to control, just like the crew he worked each day under sulfur skies. She was not a woman. So it did not matter that Trager was just a boy, a jowly frog-faced boy who smelled of Skrakky. She (no it, remember?) would not care, could not care.

  • What are animated corpses like Melisandre (who was once a sex slave) animated by her R’hllor ruby controller, Robert Strong animated by (in short) Cersei’s green fire,  Lady Stoneheart and Beric “Lord of Corpses” Dondarrion both animated by fire at this point in ASOIAF? This is why Melisandre does not die, cannot die, when she drinks Cressen’s purple poison wine. She is being animated by R’hllor’s flame signified as the “feedback circuit” ruby shimmers.
    • A Clash of Kings – Prologue

      “As you will.” Melisandre of Asshai took the cup from his hands and drank long and deep. There was only half a swallow of wine remaining when she offered it back to him. “And now you.”

      His hands were shaking, but he made himself be strong. A maester of the Citadel must not be afraid. The wine was sour on his tongue. He let the empty cup drop from his fingers to shatter on the floor. “He does have power here, my lord,” the woman said. “And fire cleanses.” At her throat, the ruby shimmered redly.

  • Euron Greyjoy is also a type of ‘handler’ with his ship of silenced men as well as the dusky women (he might be living through/synthabrain).

Emboldened, aroused and hard, the boy stripped off his corpsehandler’s clothing and climbed in bed with the female meat. He was very excited; his hands shook as he stroked her, studied her. Her skin was very white, her hair dark and long, but even the boy could not call her pretty. Her face was too flat and wide, her mouth hung open, and her limbs were loose and sagging with fat.

On her huge breasts, all around the fat dark nipples, the last customer had left tooth-marks where he’d chewed her. Trager touched the marks tentatively, traced them with a finger. Then, sheepish about his hesitations, he grabbed one breast, squeezed it hard, pinched the nipple until he imagined a real girl would squeal with pain. The corpse did not move. Still squeezing, he rolled over on her and took the other breast into his mouth.

And the corpse responded.

She thrust up at him, hard, and meaty arms wrapped around his pimpled back to pull him to her. Trager groaned and reached down between her legs. She was hot, wet, excited. He trembled. How did they do that? Could she really get excited without a mind, or did they have lubricating tubes stuck into her, or what?

Then he stopped caring. He fumbled, found his penis, put it into her, thrust. The corpse hooked her legs around him and thrust back. It felt good, real good, better than anything he’d ever done to himself, and in some obscure way he felt proud that she was so wet and excited.

It only took a few strokes; he was too new, too young, too eager to last long. A few strokes was all he needed—but it was all she needed too. They came together, a red flush washing over her skin as she arched against him and shook soundlessly.

  • A Storm of Swords – Daenerys II

    Once, so tormented she could not sleep, Dany slid a hand down between her legs, and gasped when she felt how wet she was. Scarce daring to breathe, she moved her fingers back and forth between her lower lips, slowly so as not to wake Irri beside her, until she found one sweet spot and lingered there, touching herself lightly, timidly at first and then faster. Still, the relief she wanted seemed to recede before her, until her dragons stirred, and one screamed out across the cabin, and Irri woke and saw what she was doing.

    Dany knew her face was flushed, but in the darkness Irri surely could not tell. Wordless, the handmaid put a hand on her breast, then bent to take a nipple in her mouth. Her other hand drifted down across the soft curve of belly, through the mound of fine silvery-gold hair, and went to work between Dany’s thighs. It was no more than a few moments until her legs twisted and her breasts heaved and her whole body shuddered. She screamed then. Or perhaps that was Drogon. Irri never said a thing, only curled back up and went back to sleep the instant the thing was done.

    The next day, it all seemed a dream.

  • In Martinworld, touch and sex is the strongest form of mental connection and control, as explictly described and shown in A Song for Lya.

Afterwards she lay again like a corpse.

Trager was drained and satisfied, but he had more time left, and he was determined to get his money’s worth. He explored her thoroughly, sticking his fingers everywhere they would go, touching her everywhere, rolling it over, looking at everything. The corpse moved like dead meat.

He left her as he’d found her, lying face up on the bed with her legs apart. Meathouse courtesy.

MM dragons

1.2

The horizon was a wall of factories, all factories, vast belching factories that sent red shadows to flick against the sulfur-dark skies. The boy saw but hardly noticed. He was strapped in place high atop his automill, two stories up on a monster machine of corroding yellow-painted metal with savage teeth of diamond and duralloy, and his eyes were blurred with triple images. Clear and strong and hard he saw the control panel before him, the wheel, the fuel-feed, the bright handle of the ore-scoops, the banks of light that would tell of trouble in the refinery under his feet, the brake and emergency brake. But that was not all he saw. Dimly, faintly, there were echoes; overlaid images of two other control cabs, almost identical to his, where corpse hands moved clumsily over the instruments.

Trager moved those hands, slow and careful, while another part of his mind held his own hands, his real hands, very still. The corpse controller hummed thinly on his belt.

  • In Martinworld, touch and sex is the strongest form of mental connection and control, as explictly described and shown in A Song for Lya.
  • A Dance with Dragons – Victarion I

    That night, for the first time, he brought forth the dragon horn that the Crow’s Eye had found amongst the smoking wastes of great Valyria. A twisted thing it was, six feet long from end to end, gleaming black and banded with red gold and dark Valyrian steel. Euron’s hellhorn. Victarion ran his hand along it. The horn was as warm and smooth as the dusky woman’s thighs, and so shiny that he could see a twisted likeness of his own features in its depths. Strange sorcerous writings had been cut into the bands that girded it. “Valyrian glyphs,” Moqorro called them.

On either side of him, the other two automills moved into flanking positions. The corpse hands squeezed the brakes; the machines rumbled to a halt. On the edge of the great sloping pit, they stood in a row, shabby pitted juggernauts ready to descend into the gloom. The pit was growing steadily larger; each day new layers of rock and ore were stripped away.

Once a mountain range had stood here, but Trager did not remember that.

The rest was easy. The automills were aligned now. To move the crew in unison was a cinch, any decent handler could do that. It was only when you had to keep several corpses busy at several different tasks that things got tricky. But a good corpsehandler could do that too. Eight-crews were not unknown to veterans; eight bodies linked to a single corpse controller moved by a single mind and eight synthabrains. The deadmen were each tuned to one controller, and only one; the handler who wore that controller and thought corpse-thoughts in its proximity field could move those deadmen like secondary bodies. Or like his own body. If he was good enough.

Trager checked his filtermask and earplugs quickly, then touched the fuel-feed, engaged, flicked on the laser-knives and the drills. His corpses echoed his moves, and pulses of light spit through the twilight of Skrakky. Even through his plugs he could hear the awful whine as the ore-scoops revved up and lowered. The rock-eating maw of an automill was even wider than the machine was tall.

Rumbling and screeching, in perfect formation, Trager and his corpse crew descended into the pit. Before they reached the factories on the far side of the plain, tons of metal would have been torn from the earth, melted and refined and processed, while the worthless rock was reduced to powder and blown out into the already unbreathable air. He would deliver finished steel at dusk, on the horizon.

He was a good handler, Trager thought as the automills started down. But the handler in the meathouse—now, she must be an artist. He imagined her down in the cellar somewhere, watching each of her corpses through holos and psi circuits, humping them all to please her patrons. Was it just a fluke, then, that his fuck had been so perfect? Or was she always that good? But how, how, to move a dozen corpses without even being near them, to have them doing different things, to keep them all excited, to match the needs and rhythm of each customer so exactly?

The air behind him was black and choked by rock-dust, his ears were full of screams, and the far horizon was a glowering red wall beneath which yellow ants crawled and ate rock. But Trager kept his hard-on all across the plain as the automill shook beneath him.

MM company

1.3

The corpses were company-owned; they stayed in the company deadman depot. But Trager had a room, a slice of the space that was his own in a steel-and-concrete warehouse with a thousand other slices. He only knew a handful of his neighbors, but he knew all of them too; they were corpsehandlers. It was a world of silent shadowed corridors and endless closed doors. The lobby-lounge, all air and plastic, was a dusty deserted place where none of the tenants ever gathered.

  • Company owned corpses from the ‘deadman depot’ is straightforwardly discussed and shown in Nobody Leaves New Pittsburg, and a little in Override.
  • In ASOIAF, the different ‘dead man’ depot’s fighter slaves are held and supplied from various grouping like the Dothraki fighters, the Unsullied, the sellsword companies, the tonguless crew on Euron’s ships… anyone who is going to be used as war infantry. Their ‘handler’ is their war leader= Daenerys, Euron, Tywin, etc…

The evenings were long there, the nights eternal. Trager had bought extra light-panels for his particular cube, and when all of them were on they burned so bright that his infrequent visitors blinked and complained about the glare. But always there came a time when he could read no more, and then he had to turn them out, and the darkness returned once more.

His father, long gone and barely remembered, had left a wealth of books and tapes, and Trager kept them still. The room was lined with them, and others stood in great piles against the foot of the bed and on either side of the bathroom door. Infrequently he went on with Cox and the others, to drink and joke and prowl for real women. He imitated them as best he could, but he always felt out of place. So most of his nights were spent at home, reading and listening to the music, remembering and thinking.

That week he thought long after he’d faded his light panels into black, and his thoughts were a frightened jumble. Payday was coming again, and Cox would be after him to return to the meathouse, and yes, yes, he wanted to. It had been good, exciting; for once he had felt confident and virile. But it was so easy, cheap, dirty. There had to be more, didn’t there? Love, whatever that was? It had to be better with a real woman, had to, and he wouldn’t find one of those in a meathouse. He’d never found one outside, either, but then he’d never really had the courage to try. But he had to try, had to, or what sort of life would he ever have?

Beneath the covers he masturbated, hardly thinking of it, while he resolved not to return to the meathouse.

MM handler

1.4

But a few days later, Cox laughed at him and he had to go along. Somehow he felt it would prove something.

A different room this time, a different corpse. Fat and black, with bright orange hair, less attractive than his first, if that was possible. But Trager came to her ready and eager, and this time he lasted longer. Again, the performance was superb. Her rhythm matched his stroke for stroke, she came with him, she seemed to know exactly what he wanted.

Other visits; two of them, four, six. He was a regular now at the meathouse, along with the others, and he had stopped worrying about it. Cox and the others accepted him in a strange half-hearted way, but his dislike of them had grown, if anything. He was better than they were, he thought. He could hold his own in a meathouse, he could run his corpses and his automills as good as any of them, and he still thought and dreamed. In time he’d leave them all behind, leave Skrakky, be something. They would be meathouse men as long as they would live, but Trager knew he could do better. He believed. He would find love.

He found none in the meathouse, but the sex got better and better, though it was perfect to begin with. In bed with the corpses, Trager was never dissatisfied; he did everything he’d ever read about, heard about, dreamt about. The corpses knew his needs before he did. When he needed it slow, they were slow. When he wanted to have it hard and quick and brutal, then they gave it to him that way, perfectly. He used every orifice they had; they always knew which one to present to him.

His admiration of the meathouse handler grew steadily for months, until it was almost worship. Perhaps somehow he could meet her, he thought at last. Still a boy, still hopelessly naïve, he was sure he would love her. Then he would take her away from the meathouse to a clean, corpseless world where they could be happy together.

One day, in a moment of weakness, he told Cox and the others. Cox looked at him, shook his head, grinned. Somebody else snickered. Then they all began to laugh. “What an ass you are, Trager,” Cox said at last. “There is no fucking handler! Don’t tell me you never heard of a feedback circuit?”

  • The same device that is used and overridden in Override.
  • This feedback circuit is Melsiandre’s ruby. I am sure there are more controllers (other than proximity telepathy in ASOIAF and I will update when noted)

He explained it all, to laughter; explained how each corpse was tuned to a controller built into its bed, explained how each customer handled his own meat, explained why non-handlers found meathouse women dead and still. And the boy realized suddenly why the sex was always perfect. He was a better handler than even he had thought.

That night, alone in his room with all the lights burning white and hot, Trager faced himself. And turned away, sickened. He was good at his job, he was proud of that, but the rest …

It was the meathouse, he decided. There was a trap there in the meathouse, a trap that could ruin him, destroy life and dream and hope. He would not go back; it was too easy. He would show Cox, show all of them. He could take the hard way, take the risks, feel the pain if he had to. And maybe the joy, maybe the love. He’d gone the other way too long.

Trager did not go back to the meathouse. Feeling strong and decisive and superior, he went back to his room. There, as years passed, he read and dreamed and waited for life to begin.

MM blow up

1

WHEN I WAS ONE-AND-TWENTY

2.1

Josie was the first.

She was beautiful, had always been beautiful, knew she was beautiful; all that had shaped her, made her what she was. She was a free spirit. She was aggressive, confident, conquering. Like Trager, she was only twenty when they met, but she had lived more than he had, and she seemed to have the answers. He loved her from the first.

  • Kissed by fire Ygritte was the first.

And Trager? Trager before Josie, but years beyond the meathouse? He was taller now, broad and heavy with both muscle and fat, often moody, silent and self-contained. He ran a full five-crew in the ore fields, more than Cox, more than any of them. At night, he read books; sometimes in his room, sometimes in the lobby. He had long since forgotten that he went there to meet someone. Stable, solid, unemotional; that was Trager. He touched no one, and no one touched him. Even the tortures had stopped, though the scars remained inside. Trager hardly knew they were there; he never looked at them.

  • This is where we can see an opposite-parallel that GRRM often uses. Samwell Tarly (another GRRM autobiographical character) loses weight, loses his virginity (fat pink mast), while gaining muscle, confidence (and a family), while he is out at sea. This is Samwell full of life and vigor.
    • A Feast for Crows – Samwell V

      “I’m not so fat as I was before,” Sam said defensively. The passage south had seen to that. All those watches, and nothing to eat but fruit and fish. Summer Islanders loved fruit and fish.

  • This opposite parallel also fits the ASOIAF/Martinworld theme that a person’s life should have meaning, not their deaths (also detailed even more so in Nobody Leaves New Pittsburg). This is why, among many other reasons, that Jon Snow might not be dead-dead as the fandom assumes. If you follow Martinworld writing, you can see why GRRM said, “Oh, you think he’s dead, do you?,” in response to being asked.
    • A Dance with Dragons – The Spurned Suitor

      “All dead,” Quentyn agreed. “For what? …

      Gerris pointed to where a corpse slumped against a brick wall, attended by a cloud of glistening green flies. “Did his death have meaning?”

      Quentyn looked at the body with distaste. “He died of the flux. Stay well away from him.” The pale mare was inside the city walls. Small wonder that the streets seemed so empty. “The Unsullied will send a corpse cart for him.”

“No doubt. But that was not my question. Men’s lives have meaning, not their deaths. I loved Will and Cletus too, but this will not bring them back to us. This is a mistake, Quent. You cannot trust in sellswords.” 

He fit in well now. With his corpses.

Yet—not completely. Inside, the dream. Something believed, something hungered, something yearned. It was strong enough to keep him away from the meathouse, from the vegetable life the others had all chosen. And sometimes, on bleak lonely nights, it would grow stronger still. Then Trager would rise from his empty bed, dress, and walk the corridors for hours with his hands shoved deep into his pockets while something twisted, clawed, and whimpered in his gut. Always, before his walks were over, he would resolve to do something, to change his life tomorrow.

But when tomorrow came, the silent gray corridors were half forgotten, the demons had faded, and he had six roaring, shaking automills to drive across the pit. He would lose himself in routine, and it would be long months before the feelings came again.

Then Josie. They met like this:

It was a new field, rich and unmined, a vast expanse of broken rock and rubble that filled the plain. Low hills a few weeks ago, but the company skimmers had leveled the area with systematic nuclear blast mining, and now the automills were moving in. Trager’s five-crew had been one of the first, and the change had been exhilarating at first. The old pit had been just about worked out; here there was a new terrain to contend with, boulders and jagged rock fragments, baseball-sized fists of stone that came shrieking at you on the dusty wind. It all seemed exciting, dangerous. Trager, wearing a leather jacket and filtermask and goggles and earplugs, drove his six machines and six bodies with a fierce pride, reducing boulders to powder, clearing a path for the later machines, fighting his way yard by yard to get whatever ore he could.

And one day, suddenly, one of the eye echoes suddenly caught his attention. A light flashed red on a corpse-driven automill. Trager reached, with his hands, with his mind, with five sets of corpse-hands. Six machines stopped, but still another light went red. Then another, and another. Then the whole board, all twelve. One of his automills was out. Cursing, he looked across the rock field towards the machine in question, used his corpse to give it a kick. The lights stayed red. He beamed out for a tech.

By the time she got there—in a one-man skimmer that looked like a teardrop of pitted black metal—Trager had unstrapped, climbed down the metal rings on the side of the automill, walked across the rocks to where the dead machine stopped. He was just starting to climb up when Josie arrived; they met at the foot of the yellow-metal mountain, in the shadow of its treads.

She was field-wise, he knew at once. She wore a handler’s coverall, earplugs, heavy goggles, and her face was smeared with grease to prevent dust abrasions. But still she was beautiful. Her hair was short, light brown, cut in a shag that was jumbled by the wind; her eyes, when she lifted the goggles, were bright green. She took charge immediately.

All business, she introduced herself, asked him a few questions, then opened a repair bay and crawled inside, into the guts of the drive and the ore-smelt and the refinery. It didn’t take her long; ten minutes, maybe, and she was back outside.

“Don’t go in there,” she said, tossing her hair from in front of her goggles with a flick of her head. “You’ve got a damper failure. The nukes are running away.”

“Oh,” said Trager. His mind was hardly on the automill, but he had to make an impression, made to say something intelligent. “Is it going to blow up?” he asked, and as soon as he said it he knew that that hadn’t been intelligent at all. Of course it wasn’t going to blow up; runaway nuclear reactors didn’t work that way, he knew that.

  • Again, the environmental disasters of the Doom of Valyria and the Doom of Hardhome (fire and ice dragon events).
  • GRRM saying over and over again that “dragons are nuclear”, and this is something we also see in the dragon ship Nightflyer in Nightflyers.

But Josie seemed amused. She smiled—the first time he saw her distinctive flashing grin—and seemed to see him, him, Trager, not just a corpsehandler. “No,” she said. “It will just melt itself down. Won’t even get hot out here, since you’ve got shields built into the walls. Just don’t go in there.”

“All right.” Pause. What could he say now? “What do I do?”

“Work the rest of your crew, I guess. This machine’ll have to be scrapped. It should have been overhauled a long time ago. From the looks of it, there’s been a lot of patching done in the past. Stupid. It breaks down, it breaks down, it breaks down, and they keep sending it out. Should realize that something is wrong. After that many failures, it’s sheer self-delusion to think the thing’s going to work right next time out.”

  • This is a metaphor for Trager (GRRM when broken-hearted) himself. We’ll see this again.

“I guess,” Trager said. Josie smiled at him again, sealed up the panel, and started to turn.

“Wait,” he said. It came out before he could stop it, almost in spite of him. Josie turned, cocked her head, looked at him questioningly. And Trager drew a sudden strength from the steel and the stone and the wind; under sulfur skies, his dreams seemed less impossible. Maybe, he thought. Maybe.

“Uh. I’m Greg Trager. Will I see you again?”

Josie grinned. “Sure. Come tonight.” She gave him the address.

He climbed back into his automill after she had left, exulting in his six strong bodies, all fire and life, and he chewed up rock with something near to joy. The dark red glow in the distance looked almost like a sunrise.

MM chased her

2. 2

When he got to Josie’s, he found four other people there, friends of hers. It was a party of sorts. Josie threw a lot of parties and Trager—from that night on—went to all of them. Josie talked to him, laughed with him, liked him, and suddenly his life was no longer the same.

With Josie, he saw parts of Skrakky he had never seen before, did things he had never done:

—he stood with her in the crowds that gathered on the streets at night, stood in the dusty wind and sickly yellow light between the windowless concrete buildings, stood and bet and cheered himself hoarse while grease-stained mechs raced yellow rumbly tractor-trucks up and down and down and up.

—he walked with her through the strangely silent and white and clean underground Offices, and sealed air-conditioned corridors where off-worlders and paper-shufflers and company executives lived and worked.

—he prowled the rec-malls with her, those huge low buildings so like a warehouse from the outside, but full of colored lights and game rooms and cafeterias and tape shops and endless bars where handlers made their rounds.

—he went with her to dormitory gyms, where they watched handlers less skillful than himself send their corpses against each other with clumsy fists.

—he sat with her and her friends, and they woke dark quiet taverns with their talk and with their laughter, and once Trager saw someone looking much like Cox staring at him from across the room, and he smiled and leaned a bit closer to Josie.

He hardly noticed the other people, the crowds that Josie surrounded herself with; when they went out on one of her wild jaunts, six of them or eight or ten, Trager would tell himself that he and Josie were going out, and that some others had come along with them.

Once in a great while, things would work out so they were alone together, at her place, or his. Then they would talk. Of distant worlds, of politics, of corpses and life on Skrakky, of the books they both consumed, of sports or games or friends they had in common. They shared a good deal. Trager talked a lot with Josie. And never said a word.

He loved her, of course. He suspected it the first month, and soon he was convinced of it. He loved her. This was the real thing, the thing he had been waiting for, and it had happened just as he knew it would.

But with his love: agony. He could not tell her. A dozen times he tried; the words would never come. What if she did not love him back?

His nights were still alone, in the small room with the white lights and the books and the pain. He was more alone than ever now; the peace of his routine, of his half-life with his corpses, was gone, stripped from him. By day he rode the great automills, moved his corpses, smashed rock and melted ore, and in his head rehearsed the words he’d say to Josie. And dreamed of those that she’d speak back. She was trapped too, he thought. She’d had men, of course, but she didn’t love them, she loved him. But she couldn’t tell him, any more than he could tell her. When he broke through, when he found the words and the courage, then everything would be all right. Each day he said that to himself, and dug swift and deep into the earth.

But back home, the sureness faded. Then, with awful despair, he knew that he was kidding himself. He was a friend to her, nothing more, never would be more. Why did he lie to himself? He’d had hints enough. They had never been lovers, never would be; on the few times he’d worked up the courage to touch her, she would smile, move away on some pretext, so he was never quite sure that he was being rejected. But he got the idea, and in the dark it tore at him. He walked the corridors weekly now, sullen, desperate, wanting to talk to someone without knowing how. And all the old scars woke up to bleed again.

Until the next day. When he would return to his machines, and believe again. He must believe in himself, he knew that, he shouted it out loud. He must stop feeling sorry for himself. He must do something. He must tell Josie. He would.

And she would love him, cried the day.

And she would laugh, the nights replied.

Trager chased her for a year, a year of pain and promise, the first year that he had ever lived. On that the night-fears and the day-voice agreed; he was alive now. He would never return to the emptiness of his time before Josie; he would never go back to the meathouse. That far, at least, he had come. He could change, and someday he would be strong enough to tell her.

  • Just as Eldric Shadowchaser/Azor Ahai is/was not a real person in ASOIAF, but rather a archetypal concept that spans Planetos myth and lore, this archetype can apply to many characters at once depending on the place in their arc they are going through.
  • Trager’s relationship with Josie is like the ASOIAF tale of Night’s King Corpse Queen.
  • A Storm of Swords – Bran IV

    As the sun began to set the shadows of the towers lengthened and the wind blew harder, sending gusts of dry dead leaves rattling through the yards. The gathering gloom put Bran in mind of another of Old Nan’s stories, the tale of Night’s King. He had been the thirteenth man to lead the Night’s Watch, she said; a warrior who knew no fear. “And that was the fault in him,” she would add, “for all men must know fear.” 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. For thirteen years they had ruled, Night’s King and his corpse queen, till finally the Stark of Winterfell and Joramun of the wildlings had joined to free the Watch from bondage. After his fall, when it was found he had been sacrificing to the Others, all records of Night’s King had been destroyed, his very name forbidden.

  • Giving a seed and soul to someone via sex is just exactly what Melisandre is doing to Stannis, which allows her to birth shadow baby assasins.

2.3

Josie and two friends dropped by his room that night, but the friends had to leave early. For an hour or so they were alone, talking about nothing. Finally she had to go. Trager said he’d walk her home.

He kept his arm around her down the long corridors, and he watched her face, watched the play of light and shadow on her cheeks as they walked from light to darkness. “Josie,” he started. He felt so fine, so good, so warm, and it came out. “I love you.”

And she stopped, pulled away from him, stepped back. Her mouth opened, just a little, and something flickered in her eyes. “Oh, Greg,” she said. Softly. Sadly. “No, Greg, no, don’t, don’t.” And she shook her head.

Trembling slightly, mouthing silent words, Trager held out his hand. Josie did not take it. He touched her cheek, gently, and wordless she spun away from him.

Then, for the first time ever, Trager shook. And the tears came.

Josie took him to her room. There, sitting across from each other on the floor, never touching, they talked.

 

J:… known it for a long time … tried to discourage you, Greg, but I didn’t just want to come right out and … I never wanted to hurt you … a good person … don’t worry.…

T:… knew it all along … that it would never … lied to myself … wanted to believe, even if it wasn’t true … I’m sorry, Josie, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorryimsorryimsorry.…

J:… afraid you would go back to what you were … don’t Greg, promise me … can’t give up … have to believe.…

T: why?

J:… stop believing, then you have nothing … dead … you can do better … a good handler … get off Skrakky, find something … no life here … someone … you will, you will, just believe, keep on believing.…

T: … you … love you forever, Josie … forever … how can I find someone … never anyone like you, never … special …

J: … oh, Greg … lots of people … just look … open …

T: (laughter) … open?… first time I ever talked to anyone …

J:… talk to me again, if you have to … I can talk to you … had enough lovers, everyone wants to get to bed with me, better just to be friends.…

T: … friends … (laughter) … (tears) …

 

II

MM Years passed

 

PROMISES OF SOMEDAY

3.1

The fire had burned out long ago, and Stevens and the forester had retired, but Trager and Donelly still sat around the ashes on the edges of the clear zone. They talked softly, so as not to wake the others, yet their words hung long in the restless night air. The uncut forest, standing dark behind them, was dead still; the wildlife of Vendalia had all fled the noise that the fleet of buzztrucks made during the day.

  • The title of this chapter is one GRRM resued for his 1987 television show version of ‘Beauty and the Beast‘, season 1, episode 116, Promises of Someday. The episode sysnopis is:
    • A new assistant D.A. (whose competence Catherine questions) turns out to be Vincent’s long-lost childhood friend from “The World Below,” Devin, whose vagabond way of life—similar to Tony Curtis‘s character in The Great Impostor—began after a falling-out with Father over his endangering Vincent aboard a park carousel. The uneasy reunion between Vincent and Devin leads to the revelation of one of Father’s long-kept secrets (he’s Devin’s biological father), but ends in their reconciliation and with Devin now knowing he has a home to return to.
  • A Storm of Swords – Jon X

    “She’s dead.”

    “Aye?” Tormund gave a sad shake of the head. “A waste. If I’d been ten years younger, I’d have stolen her meself. That hair she had. Well, the hottest fires burn out quickest.” He lifted the skin of mead. “To Ygritte, kissed by fire!” He drank deep.

    “To Ygritte, kissed by fire,” Jon repeated when Tormund handed him back the skin. He drank even deeper.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon VIII

    It was still dark when Jon returned to his chambers behind the armory. Ghost was not yet back, he saw. Still hunting. The big white direwolf was gone more oft than not of late, ranging farther and farther in search of prey. Between the men of the Watch and the wildlings down in Mole’s Town, the hills and fields near Castle Black had been hunted clean, and there had been little enough game to begin with. Winter is coming, Jon reflected. And soon, too soon. He wondered if they would ever see a spring.

“… a full six-crew, running buzztrucks, I know enough to know that’s not easy,” Donelly was saying. He was a pale, timid youth, likeable but self-conscious about everything he did. Trager heard echoes of himself in Donelly’s stiff words. “You’d do well in the arena.”

Trager nodded, thoughtful, his eyes on the ashes as he moved them with a stick. “I came to Vendalia with that in mind. Went to the gladiatorial once, only once. That was enough to change my mind. I could take them, I guess, but the whole idea made me sick. Out here, well, the money doesn’t even match what I was getting on Skrakky, but the work is, well, clean. You know?”

“Sort of,” said Donelly. “Still, you know, it isn’t like they were real people out there in the arena. Only meat. All you can do is make the bodies as dead as the minds. That’s the logical way to look at it.”

Trager chuckled. “You’re too logical, Don. You ought to feel more. Listen, next time you’re in Gidyon, go to the gladiatorials and take a look. It’s ugly, ugly. Corpses stumbling around with axes and swords and morningstars, hacking and hewing at each other. Butchery, that’s all it is. And the audience, the way they cheer at each blow. And laugh. They laugh, Don! No.” He shook his head, sharply. “No.”

Donelly never abandoned an argument. “But why not? I don’t understand, Greg. You’d be good at it, the best. I’ve seen the way you work your crew.”

Trager looked up, studied Donelly briefly while the youth sat quietly, waiting. Josie’s words came back; open, be open. The old Trager, the Trager who lived friendless and alone and closed inside a Skrakky handlers’ dorm, was gone. He had grown, changed.

“There was a girl,” he said, slowly, with measured words. Opening. “Back on Skrakky, Don, there was a girl I loved. It, well, it didn’t work out. That’s why I’m here, I guess. I’m looking for someone else, for something better. That’s all part of it, you see.” He stopped, paused, tried to think his words out. “This girl, Josie, I wanted her to love me. You know.” The words came hard. “Admire me, all that stuff. Now, yeah, sure, I could do good running corpses in the arena. But Josie could never love someone who had a job like that. She’s gone now, of course, but still … the kind of person I’m looking for, I couldn’t find them as an arena corpse-master.” He stood up, abruptly. “I don’t know. That’s what’s important, though, to me. Josie, somebody like her, someday. Soon, I hope.”

Donelly sat quiet in the moonlight, chewing his lip, not looking at Trager, his logic suddenly useless. While Trager, his corridors long gone, walked off alone into the woods.

mm4

3.2

They had a tight-knit group; three handlers, a forester, thirteen corpses. Each day they drove the forest back, with Trager in the forefront. Against the Vendalian wilderness, against the blackbriars and the hard gray ironspike trees and the bulbous rubbery snaplimbs, against the tangled hostile forest, he would throw his six-crew and their buzztrucks. Smaller than the automills he’d run on Skrakky, fast and airborne, complex and demanding, those were buzztrucks. Trager ran six of them with corpse hands, a seventh with his own. Before his screaming blades and laser knives, the wall of wilderness fell each day. Donelly came behind him, pushing three of the mountain-sized rolling mills, to turn the fallen trees into lumber for Gidyon and other cities of Vendalia. Then Stevens, the third handler, with a flame-cannon to burn down stumps and melt rocks, and the soilpumps that would ready the fresh clear land for farming. The forester was their foreman. The procedure was a science.

  • Another refrence that lead to the development of Night’s King is the number thirteen used with this archetype.
  • Again a refrence to fire and the “third head” and even Valyrian “melted rock” for castles and roads.
  • A Game of Thrones – Tyrion III

    The Night’s Watch permitted the forest to come no closer than half a mile of the north face of the Wall. The thickets of ironwood and sentinel and oak that had once grown there had been harvested centuries ago, to create a broad swath of open ground through which no enemy could hope to pass unseen. Tyrion had heard that elsewhere along the Wall, between the three fortresses, the wildwood had come creeping back over the decades, that there were places where grey-green sentinels and pale white weirwoods had taken root in the shadow of the Wall itself, but Castle Black had a prodigious appetite for firewood, and here the forest was still kept at bay by the axes of the black brothers.

  • A Storm of Swords – Jon IV

    Jarl had chosen to assault the stretch of ice along the ridge. Here, though the top of the Wall loomed eight hundred feet above the forest floor, a good third of that height was earth and stone rather than ice; the slope was too steep for their horses, almost as difficult a scramble as the Fist of the First Men, but still vastly easier to ascend than the sheer vertical face of the Wall itself. And the ridge was densely wooded as well, offering easy concealment. Once brothers in black had gone out every day with axes to cut back the encroaching trees, but those days were long past, and here the forest grew right up to the ice.

Clean, hard, demanding work; Trager thrived on it by day. He grew lean, almost athletic; the lines of his face tightened and tanned, he grew steadily browner under Vendalia’s hot bright sun. His corpses were almost part of him, so easily did he move them, fly their buzztrucks. As an ordinary man might move a hand, a foot. Sometimes his control grew so firm, the echoes so clear and strong, that Trager felt he was not a handler working a crew at all, but rather a man with seven bodies. Seven strong bodies that rode the sultry forest winds. He exulted in their sweat.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Bran I

    Other times, when he was tired of being a wolf, Bran slipped into Hodor’s skin instead. The gentle giant would whimper when he felt him, and thrash his shaggy head from side to side, but not as violently as he had the first time, back at Queenscrown. He knows it’s me, the boy liked to tell himself. He’s used to me by now. Even so, he never felt comfortable inside Hodor’s skin. The big stableboy never understood what was happening, and Bran could taste the fear at the back of his mouth. It was better inside Summer. I am him, and he is me. He feels what I feel.

And the evenings, after work ceased, they were good too. Trager found a sort of peace there, a sense of belonging he had never known on Skrakky. The Vendalian foresters, rotated back and forth from Gidyon, were decent enough, and friendly. Stevens was a hearty slab of a man who seldom stopped joking long enough to talk about anything serious. Trager always found him amusing. And Donelly, the self-conscious youth, the quiet logical voice, he became a friend. He was a good listener, empathetic, compassionate, and the new open Trager was a good talker. Something close to envy shone in Donelly’s eyes when Trager spoke of Josie and exorcised his soul. And Trager knew, or thought he knew, that Donelly was himself, the old Trager, the one before Josie who could not find the words.

In time, though, after days and weeks of talking, Donelly found his words. Then Trager listened, and shared another’s pain. And he felt good about it. He was helping; he was lending strength; he was needed.

Each night around the ashes, the two men traded dreams. And wove a hopeful tapestry of promises and lies.

Yet still the nights would come.

Those were the worst times, as always; those were the hours of Trager’s long lonely walks. If Josie had given Trager much, she had taken something too; she had taken the curious deadness he had once had, the trick of not-thinking, the pain-blotter of his mind. On Skrakky, he had walked the corridors infrequently; the forest knew him far more often.

After the talking all had stopped, after Donelly had gone to bed, that was when it would happen, when Josie would come to him in the loneliness of his tent. A thousand nights he lay there with his hands hooked behind his head, staring at the plastic tent film while he relived the night he’d told her. A thousand times he touched her cheek, and saw her spin away.

  • The ASOIAF song My Featherbed
    • …And how she smiled and how she laughed,
      the maiden of the tree.
      She spun away and said to him,
      no featherbed for me...

He would think of it, and fight it, and lose. Then, restless, he would rise and go outside. He would walk across the clear area, into the silent looming forest, brushing aside low branches and tripping on the underbrush; he would walk until he found water. Then he would sit down, by a scum-choked lake or a gurgling stream that ran swift and oily in the moonlight. He would fling rocks into the water, hurl them hard and flat into the night to hear them when they splashed.

He would sit for hours, throwing rocks and thinking, till finally he could convince himself the sun would rise.

MM gidyon

3.3

Gidyon; the city; the heart of Vendalia, and through it of Slagg and Skrakky and New Pittsburg and all the other corpseworlds, the harsh ugly places where men would not work and corpses had to. Great towers of black and silver metal, floating aerial sculpture that flashed in the sunlight and shone softly at night, the vast bustling spaceport where freighters rose and fell on invisible firewands, malls where the pavement was polished, ironspike wood that gleamed a gentle gray; Gidyon.

The city with the rot. The corpse city. The meatmart.

For the freighters carried cargoes of men, criminals and derelicts and troublemakers from a dozen worlds bought with hard Vendalian cash (and there were darker rumors, of liners that had vanished mysteriously on routine tourist hops). And the soaring towers were hospitals and corpseyards, where men and women died and deadmen were born to walk anew. And all along the ironspike boardwalks were corpse-seller’s shops and meathouses.

The meathouses of Vendalia were far-famed. The corpses were guaranteed beautiful.

  • The pleasure houses and people of Lys are far famed for their sexual talents, as well as Lys being on of the few places where the blood of old Valyria runs strong.

Trager sat across from one, on the other side of the wide gray avenue, under the umbrella of an outdoor café. He sipped a bittersweet wine, thought about how his leave had evaporated too quickly, and tried to keep his eyes from wandering across the street. The wine was warm on his tongue, and his eyes were very restless.

Up and down the avenue, between him and the meathouse, strangers moved. Dark-faced corpsehandlers from Vendalia, Skrakky, Slagg; pudgy merchants, gawking tourists from the Clean Worlds like Old Earth and Zephyr, and dozens of question marks whose names and occupations and errands Trager would never know. Sitting there, drinking his wine and watching, Trager felt utterly cut off. He could not touch these people, could not reach them; he didn’t know how, it wasn’t possible, it wouldn’t work. He could rise and walk out into the street and grab one, and still they would not touch. The stranger would only pull free and run. All his leave like that, all of it; he’d run through all the bars of Gidyon, forced a thousand contacts, and nothing had clicked.

  • The same problem Lya has when trying to connect to Rob in A Song for Lya and she choses to embrace the fire-lava greeshka “god” instead.
  • A Dance with Dragons – Bran III

    Meera began to cry.

    Bran hated being crippled then. “Don’t cry,” he said. He wanted to put his arms around her, hold her tight the way his mother used to hold him back at Winterfell when he’d hurt himself. She was right there, only a few feet from him, but so far out of reach it might have been a hundred leagues. To touch her he would need to pull himself along the ground with his hands, dragging his legs behind him. The floor was rough and uneven, and it would be slow going, full of scrapes and bumps. I could put on Hodor’s skin, he thought. Hodor could hold her and pat her on the back. The thought made Bran feel strange, but he was still thinking it when Meera bolted from the fire, back out into the darkness of the tunnels. He heard her steps recede until there was nothing but the voices of the singers.

His wine was gone. Trager looked at the glass dully, turning it in his hands, blinking. Then, abruptly, he stood up and paid his bill. His hands trembled.

It had been so many years, he thought as he started across the street. Josie, he thought, forgive me.

MM touch

 

3.4

Trager returned to the wilderness camp, and his corpses flew their buzztrucks like men gone wild. But he was strangely silent around the campfire, and he did not talk to Donelly at night. Until finally, hurt and puzzled, Donelly followed him into the forest. And found him by a languid death-dark stream, sitting on the bank with a pile of throwing stones at his feet.

  • Again, the same problem Lya has when trying to connect to Rob in A Song for Lya and she choses to embrace the fire-lava greeshka “god” instead after being out on the “darkling plain (stream)” which comes from a poem by Matthew Arnold called Dover Beach. The central idea of “Dover Beach” is that sadness and misery are guaranteed to be a part of human life, especially now that society lacks the religious faith that used to sustain humans in times of trouble.
T:… went in … after all I said, all I promised … still I went in.…
 

D:… nothing to worry … remember what you told me … keep on believing.…

T:… did believe, DID … no difficulties … Josie …

D:… you say I shouldn’t give up, you better not … repeat everything you told me, everything Josie told you … everybody finds someone … if they keep looking … give up, dead … all you need … openness … courage to look … stop feeling sorry for yourself … told me that a hundred times.…

T:… fucking lot easier to tell you than do it myself …

D:… Greg … not a meathouse man … a dreamer … better than they are …

T:(sighing) … yeah … hard, though … why do I do this to myself?…

D:… rather be like you were?… not hurting, not living?… like me?…

T:… no … no … you’re right.…

  • A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys X

    Then she saw. Her mask is made of starlight.

    “Remember who you are, Daenerys,” the stars whispered in a woman’s voice. “The dragons know. Do you?”

 

 

MM Laurel

2

THE PILGRIM, UP AND DOWN

4.1

Her name was Laurel. She was nothing like Josie, save in one thing alone. Trager loved her.

Pretty? Trager didn’t think so, not at first. She was too tall, a half-foot taller than he was, and she was a bit on the heavy side, and more than a bit on the awkward side. Her hair was her best feature, her hair that was red-brown in winter and glowing blond in summer, that fell long and straight down past her shoulders and did wild beautiful things in the wind. But she was not beautiful, not the way Josie had been beautiful. Although, oddly, she grew more beautiful with time, and maybe that was because she was losing weight, and maybe that was because Trager was falling in love with her and seeing her through kinder eyes, and maybe that was because he told her she was pretty and the very telling made it so. Just as Laurel told him he was wise, and her belief gave him wisdom. Whatever the reason, Laurel was very beautiful indeed after he had known her for a time.

  • This chapter title is another reference to a Kris Kristofferson song, ‘The Pilgrim, Chapter 33’, lyrics and video below.
  • Laurel is the Brienne of Tarth prototype, as is Blue Jarais from In the Lost Lands (soon to be transcribed, but partial here), and a bit of Jessie from The Pear-Shaped Man when the man begins to consume her (because fire-elementals always consume tree/green-elementals).
  • Seasons of my Love song in ASOIAF is about a ‘fair maid’ with seasonal colors reflected in her hair, because that is what trees do, they change color with the seasons.
  • When asked if Brienne was the descendant of Dunk, GRRM confirmed. And we should remember that Dunk, Duncan the Tall, is a tree elemental in ASOIAF.
  • Martin also used the Laurel/Laren tree-elemental in The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr, another story about lost love.
  • Brienne is constantly being mocked for her ‘beauty’ looks.
  • A Storm of Swords – Jaime VIII

    “If he’d ever seen her [Brienne] in pink satin and Myrish lace, he would not have complained.”

    “I asked him why he kept her close, if he thought her so grotesque. He said that all his other knights wanted things of him, castles or honors or riches, but all that Brienne wanted was to die for him…”

  • A Storm of Swords – Jaime VI

    The steel links parted like silk. “A sword,” Brienne begged, and there it was, scabbard, belt, and all. She buckled it around her thick waist. The light was so dim that Jaime could scarcely see her, though they stood a scant few feet apart. In this light she could almost be a beauty, he thought. In this light she could almost be a knight. Brienne’s sword took flame as well, burning silvery blue. The darkness retreated a little more.

She was five years younger than he, clean-scrubbed and innocent, shy where Josie had been assertive. She was intelligent, romantic, a dreamer; she was wondrously fresh and eager; she was painfully insecure, and full of hungry need.

She was new to Gidyon, fresh from the Vendalian outback, a student forester. Trager, on leave again, was visiting the forestry college to say hello to a teacher who’d once worked with his crew. They met in the teacher’s office. Trager had two weeks free in a city of strangers and meathouses; Laurel was alone. He showed her the glittering decadence of Gidyon, feeling smooth and sophisticated, and she was suitably impressed.

Two weeks went quickly. They came to the last night. Trager, suddenly afraid, took her to the park by the river that ran through Gidyon and they sat together on the low stone wall by the water’s edge. Close, not touching.

“Time runs too fast,” he said. He had a stone in his hand. He flicked it out over the water, flat and hard. Thoughtfully, he watched it splash and sink. Then he looked at her. “I’m nervous,” he said, laughing. “I—Laurel. I don’t want to leave.”

Her face was unreadable (wary?). “The city is nice,” she agreed.

Trager shook his head violently. “No. No! Not the city, you. Laurel, I think I … well …”

Laurel smiled for him. Her eyes were bright, very happy. “I know,” she said.

Trager could hardly believe it. He reached out, touched her cheek. She turned her head and kissed his hand. They smiled at each other.

MM Don

4.2

He flew back to the forest camp to quit. “Don, Don, you’ve got to meet her,” he shouted. “See, you can do it, I did it, just keep believing, keep trying. I feel so goddamn good it’s obscene.”

Donelly, stiff and logical, smiled for him, at a loss as how to handle such a flood of happiness. “What will you do?” he asked, a little awkwardly. “The arena?”

Trager laughed. “Hardly, you know how I feel. But something like that. There’s a theatre near the spaceport, puts on pantomime with corpse actors. I’ve got a job there. The pay is rotten, but I’ll be near Laurel. That’s all that matters.”

4.3

They hardly slept at night. Instead they talked and cuddled and made love. The lovemaking was a joy, a game, a glorious discovery; never as good technically as the meathouse, but Trager hardly cared. He taught her to be open. He told her every secret he had, and wished he had more secrets.

“Poor Josie,” Laurel would often say at night, her body warm against his. “She doesn’t know what she missed. I’m lucky. There couldn’t be anyone else like you.”

“No,” said Trager, “I’m lucky.”

They would argue about it, laughing.

 

4.4

 

Donelly came to Gidyon and joined the theatre. Without Trager, the forest work had been no fun, he said. The three of them spent a lot of time together, and Trager glowed. He wanted to share his friends with Laurel, and he’d already mentioned Donelly a lot. And he wanted Donelly to see how happy he’d become, to see what belief could accomplish.

“I like her,” Donelly said, smiling, the first night after Laurel had left.

“Good,” Trager replied, nodding.

“No,” said Donelly. “Greg, I really like her.”

4.5

They spent a lot of time together.

  • Just who spent a lot of time together?

4.6

“Greg,” Laurel said one night in bed, “I think that Don is … well, after me. You know.”

Trager rolled over and propped his head up on his elbow. “God,” he said. He sounded concerned.

“I don’t know how to handle it.”

“Carefully,” Trager said. “He’s very vulnerable. You’re probably the first woman he’s ever been interested in. Don’t be too hard on him. He shouldn’t have to go through the stuff I went through, you know?”

4.7

MM sleep

The sex was never as good as a meathouse. And, after a while, Laurel began to close. More and more nights now she went to sleep after they made love; the days when they talked till dawn were gone. Perhaps they had nothing left to say. Trager had noticed that she had a tendency to finish his stories for him. It was nearly impossible to come up with one he hadn’t already told her.

4.8

“He said that?” Trager got out of bed, turned on a light, and sat down frowning. Laurel pulled the covers up to her chin.

“Well, what did you say?”

She hesitated. “I can’t tell you. It’s between Don and me. He said it wasn’t fair, the way I turn around and tell you everything that goes on between us, and he’s right.”

Right! But I tell you everything. Don’t you remember what we …”

“I know, but …”

Trager shook his head. His voice lost some of its anger. “What’s going on, Laurel, huh? I’m scared, all of a sudden. I love you, remember? How can everything change so fast?”

Her face softened. She sat up, and held out her arms, and the covers fell back from full soft breasts. “Oh, Greg,” she said. “Don’t worry. I love you, I always will, but it’s just that I love him too, I guess. You know?”

Trager, mollified, came into her arms, and kissed her with fervor. Then, suddenly, he broke off. “Hey,” he said, with mock sternness to hide the trembling in his voice, “who do you love more?

“You, of course, always you.”

Smiling, he returned to the kiss.

4.9

“I know you know,” Donelly said. “I guess we have to talk about it.”

Trager nodded. They were backstage in the theatre. Three of his corpses walked up behind him, and stood arms crossed, like a guard. “All right.” He looked straight at Donelly, and his face—smiling until the other’s words—was suddenly stern. “Laurel asked me to pretend I didn’t know anything. She said you felt guilty. But pretending was quite a strain, Don. I guess it’s time we got everything out in the open.”

Donelly’s pale blue eyes shifted to the floor, and he stuck his hands into his pockets. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he said.

“Then don’t.”

“But I’m not going to pretend I’m dead, either. I’m not. I love her too.”

“You’re supposed to be my friend, Don. Love someone else. You’re just going to get yourself hurt this way.”

“I have more in common with her than you do.”

Trager just stared.

Donelly looked up at him. Then, abashed, back down again. “I don’t know. Oh, Greg. She loves you more anyway, she said so. I never should have expected anything else. I feel like I’ve stabbed you in the back. I …”

Trager watched him. Finally, he laughed softly. “Oh, shit, I can’t take this. Look, Don, you haven’t stabbed me, c’mon, don’t talk like that. I guess, if you love her, this is the way it’s got to be, you know. I just hope everything comes out all right.”

Later that night, in bed with Laurel; “I’m worried about him,” he told her.

4.10

His face, once tanned, now ashen. “Laurel?” he said. Not believing.

“I don’t love you anymore. I’m sorry. I don’t. It seemed real at the time, but now it’s almost like a dream. I don’t even know if I ever loved you, really.”

“Don,” he said woodenly.

Laurel flushed. “Don’t say anything bad about Don. I’m tired of hearing you run him down. He never says anything except good about you.”

“Oh, Laurel. Don’t you remember? The things we said, the way we felt? I’m the same person you said those words to.”

  • A Dance with Dragons – Bran III

    Leaf touched his hand. “The trees will teach you. The trees remember.” He raised a hand, and the other singers began to move about the cavern, extinguishing the torches one by one. The darkness thickened and crept toward them.

But I’ve grown,” Laurel said, hard and tearless, tossing her red-gold hair. “I remember perfectly well, but I just don’t feel that way anymore.”

“Don’t,” he said. He reached for her.

She stepped back. “Keep your hands off me. I told you, Greg, it’s over. You have to leave now. Don is coming by.”

4.11

It was worse than Josie. A thousand times worse.

  • A Feast for Crows – Jaime I

    Cersei waited until the rest were in their places to make her entrance, with Tommen at her side. Ser Osmund Kettleblack paced beside them in his white enamel plate and white wool cloak.

    “. . . she’s been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and Moon Boy for all I know . . .”

MM breakup

III

WANDERINGS

5.1

He tried to keep on at the theatre; he enjoyed the work, he had friends there. But it was impossible. Donelly was there every day, smiling and being friendly, and sometimes Laurel came to meet him after the day’s show and they went off together, arm in arm. Trager would stand and watch, try not to notice. While the twisted thing inside him shrieked and clawed.

He quit. He would not see them again. He would keep his pride.

  • This section title is based on a Yeats poem, read the info here, it tells of a man going out to the woods to seek peace from the fire burning in his head – the fire of love and passion perhaps.

MM thud

5.2

The sky was bright with the lights of Gidyon and full of laughter, but it was dark and quiet in the park.

Trager stood stiff against a tree, his eyes on the river, his hands folded tightly against his chest. He was a statue. He hardly seemed to breathe. Not even his eyes moved.

Kneeling near the low wall, the corpse pounded until the stone was slick with blood and its hands were mangled clots of torn meat. The sounds of the blows were dull and wet, but for the infrequent scraping of bone against rock.

  • The thing that came in the night is a monstrous creature from tales of the Nightfort. This “thing” is said to have returned a century later, this time with the apprentices shambling behind it in chains. He is a another corpsehandler-type in ASOIAF, simply the lore version to help teach Bran the history of what he’s about to face (ice dragon others, AKA in Martinworld as Hrangan Minds).

MM call ended

5.3

They made him pay first, before he could even enter the booth. Then he sat there for an hour while they found her and punched through. Finally, though, finally; “Josie.”

“Greg,” she said, grinning her distinctive grin. “I should have known. Who else would call all the way from Vendalia? How are you?”

He told her.

Her grin vanished. “Oh, Greg,” she said. “I’m sorry. But don’t let it get to you. Keep going. The next one will work out better. They always do.”

Her words didn’t satisfy him. “Josie,” he said, “How are things back there? You miss me?”

“Oh, sure. Things are pretty good. It’s still Skrakky, though. Stay where you are, you’re better off.” She looked off screen, then back. “I should go, before your bill gets enormous. Glad you called, love.”

“Josie,” Trager started. But the screen was already dark.

MM with Laurel

5.4

Sometimes, at night, he couldn’t help himself. He would move to his home screen and ring Laurel. Invariably her eyes would narrow when she saw who it was. Then she would hang up.

And Trager would sit in a dark room and recall how once the sound of his voice made her so very, very happy.

5.5

The streets of Gidyon are not the best of places for lonely midnight walks. They are brightly lit, even in the darkest hours, and jammed with men and deadmen. And there are meathouses, all up and down the boulevards and the ironspike boardwalks.

Josie’s words had lost their power. In the meathouses, Trager abandoned dreams and found cheap solace. The sensuous evenings with Laurel and the fumbling sex of his boyhood were things of yesterday; Trager took his meatmates hard and quick, almost brutally, fucked them with a wordless savage power to the inevitable perfect orgasm. Sometimes, remembering the theatre, he would have them act out short erotic playlets to get him in the mood.

  • Tragic, brooding male is a common occurance in Martinworld, not unlike Rhaegar as he broods over the fiery events at Summerhall.

MM house of BW

5.6

In the night. Agony.

He was in the corridors again, the low dim corridors of the corpsehandlers’ dorm on Skrakky, but now the corridors were twisted and torturous and Trager had long since lost his way. The air was thick with a rotting gray haze, and growing thicker. Soon, he feared, he would be all but blind.

  • Arya Stark with the death cult that is the House of Black and White and Faceless Men. Arya also has a stint being Blind Beth, and with acting in a mummer’s troupe, as well as her handling the memories and ‘actions’ of the dead.
  • A phrase associated with the cult of the Many-Faced God is valar morghulis, the High Valyrian for “All men must die”. The traditional response to this is valar dohaeris, or “All men must serve.” Again, this is the mental, and bodily, slavery that dragons and other fire-elementals represent within Martinworld.

Around and around he walked, up and down, but always there was more corridor, and all of them led nowhere. The doors were grim black rectangles, knobless, locked to him forever; he passed them by without thinking, most of them. Once or twice, though, he paused, before doors where light leaked around the frame. He would listen, and inside there were sounds, and then he would begin to knock wildly. But no one ever answered.

So he would move on, through the haze that got darker and thicker and seemed to burn his skin, past door after door after door, until he was weeping and his feet were tired and bloody. And then, off a ways, down a long, long corridor that loomed straight before him, he would see an open door. From it came light so hot and white it hurt the eyes, and music bright and joyful, and the sounds of people laughing. Then Trager would run, though his feet were raw bundles of pain and his lungs burned with the haze he was breathing. He would run and run until he reached the room with the open door.

Only when he got there, it was his room, and it was empty.

  • A bit like the ‘house with the red door’ for Daenerys, which is in most Dany protoype stories, including Simon Kress in Sandkings.
  • Like Daenerys and The House of the Undying Ones, who are basically meatmen being puppeted by someting larger… probably Daenerys herself as we see Trager do in the opening of this story.
  • A Clash of Kings – Daenerys IV

    “I have come for the gift of truth,” Dany said. “In the long hall, the things I saw . . . were they true visions, or lies? Past things, or things to come? What did they mean?”

    . . . the shape of shadows . . . morrows not yet made . . . drink from the cup of ice . . . drink from the cup of fire . . .

    . . . mother of dragons . . . child of three . . .

  • Chosing to drink from the cup of ice (as Euron does) or the cup of fire (as Daenerys does) is the existential choice these two villains on the peripheries both encounter; they chose thier destiny on their own.
  • As opposed to the green-elementals, who drink from the green fountain, are taught not to call people back from death, not to create wights/walking corpses, a misuse of talent that the extreme ice and fire elementals exploit:
    • A Dance with Dragons – Bran III

      Bran’s throat was very dry. He swallowed. “Winterfell. I was back in Winterfell. I saw my father. He’s not dead, he’s not, I saw him, he’s back at Winterfell, he’s still alive.”

      “No,” said Leaf. “He is gone, boy. Do not seek to call him back from death.”

      “I saw him.” Bran could feel rough wood pressing against one cheek. “He was cleaning Ice.”

5.7

Once, in the middle of their brief time together, they’d gone out into the wilderness and made love under the stars. Afterwards she had snuggled hard against him, and he stroked her gently. “What are you thinking?” he asked.

“About us,” Laurel said. She shivered. The wind was brisk and cold. “Sometimes I get scared, Greg. I’m so afraid something will happen to us, something that will ruin it. I don’t ever want you to leave me.”

“Don’t worry,” he told her. “I won’t.”

Now, each night before sleep came, he tortured himself with her words. The good memories left him with ashes and tears; the bad ones with a wordless rage.

He slept with a ghost beside him, a supernaturally beautiful ghost, the husk of a dead dream. He woke to her each morning.

 

5.8

He hated them. He hated himself for hating.

MM hated himself

3

DUVALIER’S DREAM

6.1

Her name does not matter. Her looks are not important. All that counts is that she was, that Trager tried again, that he forced himself on and made himself believe and didn’t give up. He tried.

But something was missing. Magic?

The words were the same.

How many times can you speak them, Trager wondered, speak them and believe them, like you believed them the first time you said them? Once? Twice? Three times, maybe? Or a hundred? And the people who say it a hundred times, are they really so much better at loving? Or only at fooling themselves? Aren’t they really people who long ago abandoned the dream, who use its name for something else?

He said the words, holding her, cradling her, and kissing her. He said the words, with a knowledge that was surer and heavier and more dead than any belief. He said the words and tried, but no longer could he mean them.

And she said the words back, and Trager realized that they meant nothing to him. Over and over again they said the things each wanted to hear, and both of them knew they were pretending.

They tried hard. But when he reached out, like an actor caught in his role, doomed to play out the same part over and over again, when he reached out his hand and touched her cheek—the skin was smooth and soft and lovely. And wet with tears.

  • The ASOIAF song My Featherbed. Who in ASOIAF do you suspect this song will apply to?
    • …And how she smiled and how she laughed,
      the maiden of the tree.
      She spun away and said to him,
      no featherbed for me...
  • I suspect the Jon Snow “replacement” that is Gendry Waters to his Arya Stark as teasingly foreshadowed in A Storm of Swords, Arya IV.

IV

ECHOES

7.1

MM hurt

“I don’t want to hurt you,” said Donelly, shuffling and looking guilty, until Trager felt ashamed for having hurt a friend.

He touched her cheek, and she spun away from him.

“I never wanted to hurt you,” Josie said, and Trager was sad. She had given him so much; he’d only made her guilty. Yes, he was hurt, but a stronger man would never have let her know.

He touched her cheek, and she kissed his hand.

“I’m sorry, I don’t,” Laurel said. And Trager was lost. What had he done, where was his fault, how had he ruined it? She had been so sure. They had had so much.

He touched her cheek, and she wept.

How many times can you speak them, his voice echoed, speak them and believe them, like you believed them the first time you said them?

The wind was dark and dust heavy, the sky throbbed painfully with flickering scarlet flame. In the pit, in the darkness, stood a young woman with goggles and a filtermask and short brown hair and answers. “It breaks down, it breaks down, it breaks down, and they keep sending it out,” she said. “Should realize that something is wrong. After that many failures, it’s sheer self-delusion to think the thing’s going to work right next time out.”

  • This is the metaphor for Trager (GRRM when broken-hearted) himself. We now see this again.

MM killers

The enemy corpse is huge and black, its torso rippling with muscle, a product of months of exercise, the biggest thing that Trager has ever faced. It advances across the sawdust in a slow, clumsy crouch, holding the gleaming broadsword in one hand. Trager watches it come from his chair atop one end of the fighting arena. The other corpsemaster is careful, cautious.

  • This is Drogon, Robert Strong (a type also used in Nobody Leaves New Pittsburg), Cleon of Astpor, and other undead fighting men… also Sandkings.
  • Remember, all three of Daenerys’ dragons (Drogon, Viserion, Rhaegal) are undead and woken by their corpsehandler herself, Daenerys. This was done using fire and blood secrets of Valyria that Daenerys herself was able to recreate using the “wisdom buried in her blood“. This essay Waking the Last Dragon explains why and how, with quotes! Fire doesn’t kill a dragon, it wakes a dragon.

His own deadman, a wiry blond, stands and waits, a Morningstar trailing down in the blood-soaked arena dust. Trager will move him fast enough and well enough when the time is right. The enemy knows it, and the crowd.

The black corpse suddenly lifts its broadsword and scrambles forward in a run, hoping to use reach and speed to get its kill. But Trager’s corpse is no longer there when the enemy’s measured blow cuts the air where he had been.

Sitting comfortably above the fighting pit/down in the arena, his feet grimy with blood and sawdust—Trager/the corpse—snaps the command/swings the Morningstar—and the great studded ball drifts up and around, almost lazily, almost gracefully. Into the back of the enemy’s head, as he tries to recover and turn. A flower of blood and brain blooms swift and sudden, and the crowd cheers.

Trager walks his corpse from the arena, then stands to receive applause. It is his tenth kill. Soon the championship will be his. He is building such a record that they can no longer deny him a match.

MM beautiful

7.2

She is beautiful, his lady, his love. Her hair is short and blond, her body very slim, graceful, almost athletic, with trim legs and small hard breasts. Her eyes are bright green, and they always welcome him. And there is a strange erotic innocence in her smile.

She waits for him in bed, waits for his return from the arena, waits for him eager and playful and loving. When he enters, she is sitting up, smiling for him, the covers bunched around her waist. From the door he admires her nipples.

Aware of his eyes, shy, she covers her breasts and blushes. Trager knows it is all false modesty, all playing. He moves to the bedside, sits, reaches out to stroke her cheek. Her skin is very soft; she nuzzles against his hand as it brushes her. Then Trager draws her hands aside, plants one gentle kiss on each breast, and a not-so-gentle kiss on her mouth. She kisses back, with ardor; their tongues dance.

They make love, he and she, slow and sensuous, locked together in a loving embrace that goes on and on. Two bodies move flawlessly in perfect rhythm, each knowing the other’s needs. Trager thrusts, and his other body meets the thrusts. He reaches, and her hand is there. They come together (always, always, both orgasms triggered by the handler’s brain), and a bright red flush burns on her breasts and earlobes. They kiss.

Afterwards, he talks to her, his love, his lady. You should always talk afterwards; he learned that long ago.

“You’re lucky,” he tells her sometimes, and she snuggles up to him and plants tiny kisses all across his chest. “Very lucky. They lie to you out there, love. They teach you a silly shining dream and they tell you to believe and chase it and they tell you that for you, for everyone, there is someone. But it’s all wrong. The universe isn’t fair, it never has been, so why do they tell you so? You run after the phantom, and lose, and they tell you next time, but it’s all rot, all empty rot. Nobody ever finds the dream at all, they just kid themselves, trick themselves so they can go on believing. It’s just a clutching lie that desperate people tell each other, hoping to convince themselves.”

But then he can’t talk anymore, for her kisses have gone lower and lower, and now she takes him in her mouth. And Trager smiles at his love and gently strokes her hair.

MM sad

8

Of all the bright cruel lies they tell you, the cruelest is the one called love.

  • A Game of Thrones – Bran II

    “Seven,” Bran said, shaking with relief. His fingers had dug deep gouges in the man’s forearm. He let go sheepishly.

    The man looked over at the woman. “The things I do for love,” he said with loathing. He gave Bran a shove.

  • 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.”

    He was lying on the bare red earth, staring up at the sun.


R Frost Fire and Ice

GRRM on fire and ice

Q: Why your saga is called A Song of Ice and Fire, because of the Wall and the dragons or is something more beyond that?

GRRM: Oh! That’s the obvious thing but yes, there’s more. People say I was influenced by Robert Frost’s poem, and of course I was, I mean… Fire is love, fire is passion, fire is sexual ardor and all of these things. Ice is betrayal, ice is revenge, ice is… you know, that kind of cold inhumanity and all that stuff is being played out in the books.


Yeats

The Song of Wandering Aengus

The Song of Wandering Aengus by William Butler Yeats tells of a man going out to the woods to seek peace from the fire burning in his head – the fire of love and passion perhaps. He makes a fishing rod out of hazel branch, which is referred to as a wand, giving a clue as to the magic that is to follow. Another W.B.Yeats poem Martin often refrences in other stories is ‘Second Coming’. The basic theme of this poem, featured in Armageddon Rag, is the death of the old world, to be followed by the rebirth of a new one. It draws upon Biblical symbolism of the apocalypse and the second coming of Christ to make its point.

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
 
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
 
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

 

quote-the-thoughts-of-others-were-light-and-fleeting-of-lovers-meeting-or-luck-or-fame-mine-a-e-housman-43-22-25

When I Was One-and-Twenty

The poem by A. E. Housman in which the young speaker talks about the experience of falling in—and out—of love. in which the young speaker talks about the experience of falling in—and out—of love. At age 21, the speaker was told by a wise man that it was better to give all one’s money away than one’s heart. The speaker, of course, didn’t listen, and by the ripe old age of 22 has come to know the painful truth of the wise man’s words.
 
When I was one-and-twenty
       I heard a wise man say,
“Give crowns and pounds and guineas
       But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
       But keep your fancy free.”
But I was one-and-twenty,
       No use to talk to me.
 
When I was one-and-twenty
       I heard him say again,
“The heart out of the bosom
       Was never given in vain;
’Tis paid with sighs a plenty
       And sold for endless rue.”
And I am two-and-twenty,
       And oh, ’tis true, ’tis true.
 

KKDD

Duvalier’s Dream lyrics by Kris Kristofferson

 
 

 

 

The Pilgrim, up and down lyrics by Kris Kristofferson

 
“I started writing this song about Chris Gantry, ended up writing about Dennis Hopper and Johnny Cash… Norman Norbert, Funky Donnie Fritts, Billy Swan, Bobby Neuwirth, Jerry Jeff Walker, Paul Siebel… Ramblin’ Jack Elliot had a lot to do with it.”— K.Kristofferson
 
See him wasted on the sidewalk in his jacket and his jeans,
Wearin’ yesterday’s misfortunes like a smile
Once he had a future full of money, love, and dreams,
Which he spent like they was goin’ outta style
And he keeps right on a’changin’ for the better or the worse,
Searchin’ for a shrine he’s never found
Never knowin’ if believin’ is a blessin’ or a curse,
Or if the goin’ up was worth the comin’ down
He’s a poet, he’s a picker
He’s a prophet, he’s a pusher
He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned
He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,
Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home.
He has tasted good and evil in your bedrooms and your bars,
And he’s traded in tomorrow for today
Runnin’ from his devils, lord, and reachin’ for the stars,
And losin’ all he’s loved along the way
But if this world keeps right on turnin’ for the better or the worse,
And all he ever gets is older and around
>from the rockin’ of the cradle to the rollin’ of the hearse,
The goin’ up was worth the comin’ down
He’s a poet, he’s a picker
He’s a prophet, he’s a pusher
He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned
He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,
Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home.
There’s a lotta wrong directions on that lonely way back home.
 
 

Want more GRRMspreading?

 

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 read a story listed, please check with your local bookstore for your own reading material to purchase (Indie Bookstore FinderBookshop.org, or Martin’s website). 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.

books sculpture write reading

It takes a while to transcribe and then note each story for research purposes, even the really short ones, so this page will be quietly updated as each re-read is added. Make sure you subscribe for updates.

If there is a story in particular you would like to ask about, feel free to do so in comments below.

If you prefer to listen to a podcast that gives synopsis and analysis of stories written by George R.R. Martin, please consider the new group A Thousand Casts to accompany your ears. Twitter or Podbean.

  1. Override– A betrayal between brothers. We are introduced to the rather well adjusted, pacifist main character Kabaraijian who is eventually sold out by his coworker/brother for money. A blood betrayal in #ASOIAF terms.
  2. NightflyersNightflyers is about a haunted ship in outerspace. This story is everything a reader would want from a GRRM story; high body count, psi-link mind control, whisperjewels, corpse handling, dragon-mother ships, the Night’s Watch ‘naval’ institution in space, and Jon and Val.
  3. SandkingsWelcome to the disturbing tale of Simon Kress and his Sandkings. Early origins of Unsullied, Dothraki, Aerea Targaryen, and Dragon who mounts the world, set among a leader with a god complex. One of the “must read” George R.R. Martin stories.
  4. Bitterblooms– In the dead of deep winter, a young girl named Shawn has to find the mental courage to escape a red fiery witch. Prototyping Val, Stannis, and Arya along with the red witch Melisandre.
  5. 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.
  6. …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.
  7. The Last Super Bowl– Football meets SciFi tech with plenty of ASOIAF carryover battle elements.
  8. Nobody Leaves New Pittsburg– first in the Corpse Handler trio, and sets a lot of tone for future ASOIAF thematics.
  9. Closing Time– A short story that shows many precursor themes for future GRRM stories, including skinchanging, Sneaky Pete’s, catastrophic long nights…
  10. The Glass Flower– a tale of how the drive for perfection creates mindlords and mental slavery.
  11. Run to Starlight– A tale of coexistence and morality set to a high stakes game of football.
  12. Remembering Melody– A ghost tale written by GRRM in 1981 that tells of long nights, bloodbaths, and pancakes.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. For A Single Yesterday– A short story about learning from the past to rebuild the future.
  17. This Tower of Ashes– A story of how lost love, mother’s milk, and spiders don’t mix all too well.
  18. 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.
  19. The Stone City– a have-not surviving while stranded on a corporate planet. Practically a GRRM autobiography in itself.
  20. Slide Show– a story of putting the stars before the children.
  21. Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark– rubies, fire, blood sacrifice, and Saagael- oh my!
  22. A Night at the Tarn House– a magical game of life and death played at an inn at a crossroads.
  23. Men of Greywater Station– Is it the trees, the fungus, or is the real danger humans?
  24. The Computer Cried Charge!– what are we fighting for and is it worth it?
  25. The Needle Men– the fiery hand wields itself again, only, why are we looking for men?
  26. Black and White and Red All Over– a partial take on a partial story.
  27. 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 above for the most content, or click on the page that just shows recent posts -> Recent Posts Page.


Thank you for reading the jambles and jumbles of the Fattest Leech of Ice and Fire, by Gumbo!

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