It is the wedding feast of Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen. Drogo’s entire khalasar — 40,000 warriors and uncounted women, children, and slaves — is gathered in a field outside of Pentos for the event. Pentos is uneasy, and Illyrio told Daenerys, Viserys, and Jorah, who swore fealty to Viserys the night of the engagement party, one night that the magisters have doubled the size of the city guard for the duration. Viserys seethes with impatience to get his promised crown, but Illyrio cautions him that Drogo will fulfill his promise in his own time and that first he has to take Daenerys to Vaes Dothrak to present her to the dosh khaleen. Ser Jorah adds that a lesser man must not presume to order the khal, and Viserys retorts that the dragon does not beg, but Daenerys thinks there are no more dragons. That night, she dreams of Viserys hurting her until a dragon appears in a burst of flame, and he disappears.
The ceremony lasts from dawn to dusk. Daenerys is seated on an earthen ramp next to Khal Drogo, with Viserys, Illyrio, and Ser Jorah right below her. Daenerys feels completely alone and frightened, and Drogo ignores her throughout the feast, as they do not share a common language. The feast is a raucous affair featuring a mass orgy and a dozen deaths. As the feast begins to wind down, she receives her gifts. From Viserys, she gets three handmaidens provided by Illyrio. Irri is to teach her riding, Jhiqui the Dothraki tongue, and Doreah the art of love. Ser Jorah gives her a collection of old books containing songs and histories of the Seven Kingdoms. Illyrio gives the greatest gift of all, three petrified dragon eggs from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai.
This is just the second Dany chapter but it’s already clear here that Viserys isn’t going to be around for long. On my first read I didn’t know whether he was just going to die, or whether he would break away and search for a different way of raising an army that would challenge Dany at some point. I do feel that Martin was a little too eager to get rid of Viserys – imagine if he had escaped and gone to Aegon V and returned in ADwD? While I can see the need for Martin to kill Viserys to allow Dany to come into her own as a character (a protagonist, in fact), it is still interesting to think about how things would have played out if Viserys had lived long enough to see the dragons return. It was also absolutely obvious that Dany’s eggs were going to hatch at some point, based on nothing more than the level of detail and the language used in describing them. Of course, I didn’t know at the time when exactly either of these events would take place, but I knew they would happen. For a while I debated whether Viserys could be redeemed. You know, go through the whole ‘Oh, I realize I was being a larger than life douche-bag, but I’ve learned and grown into a better person who doesn’t idly fantasize about incest and war’. But, no, considering the tone of the series, there was really no chance of that ever happening. Apart from Cersei, I can’t think of anyone who ever gets a chance to learn from their mistakes – and Cersei being Cersei, it’s highly unlikely that she’ll actually change or even recognize that she needs to.
I would like to take some time to really appreciate the level of attention Martin gives to his world-building. I’m not going to compare him to other fantasy authors but he could have got away with making the Dothraki a blander portmanteau of ancient Mongolian and Persian cultures. While he didn’t quite make a new language ala Tolkien, he did ensure that several, if not all, aspects of the Dothraki culture reflect their reliance and admiration for horses – from their clothes and foods to their wedding rituals. I’m not surprised as much as I am appreciative – despite the Dothraki’s relative unimportance in the overall storyline (they disappear from the story part way into ACoK only to make a truly surprising return in ADwD) Martin still put in enough thought to flesh them out enough to keep them interesting to the reader (though frankly, their barbaric nature makes them unpredictable, and ergo interesting, to the reader in any case).
If you read my review of the first episode of the television adaptation, you’ll know that I wasn’t exactly happy about how HBO portrayed Dany and Drogo’s relationship. The equivalent scene in the book is closer to a sweet Tarzan-meets/seduces-Jane scenario rather than a bloodthirsty savage rapes innocent girl scenario. It was almost sweet if rather creepy and uncomfortable. I can’t remember if Dany is able to hold on to the filly, but I hope she does. Dany notes here that the filly isn’t a normal animal but I can’t think if we ever see anything exceptional about the animal. Perhaps she’s just a really pretty pony. The reason I give so much thought to Dany’s gifts is because all the gifts mentioned in any detail play important roles in Dany’s rise to power. Her handmaidens teach her important lessons not only in their respective fields but also provide Dany with important pieces of information that as an outsider, she would not have known otherwise. The dragon eggs are completely self-explanatory as are the books on Westerosi history. I doubt that the pony really plays any major role in Dany’s future, though. Also noteworthy, is a potentially throw-away line about how Illyrio could afford to be lavish because he made a fortune by selling Dany to Khal Drogo. I wonder if Viserys would have gotten an army sooner if Dany had been ‘sold’ to Drogo under his name instead of Illyrio’s. In either case, it shows how well Illyrio and Varys have covered their tracks. Even if this whole thing falls through, Illyrio still gets a fortune out of it and is still able to buy time for Aegon V nonetheless.
I’m not quite sure what to make of Dany’s dream. As we all know, dreams in fiction are almost never ‘just dreams’. Nothing of any significance actually happens in the dream actually – the most I can read into it is that it seems to designate Dany as the mother of the dragons, but even that seems like a long stretch at this point. Perhaps for once it really is a dream and on a deeper level, another way of showing just how scared Dany is. I may be reading too much into it, but I saw Dany’s pony ride as a metaphor for her relationship with the Dothraki – initial discomfort and hesitation but ultimately she fits in and gains mastery over them (i.e. becomes a good ruler in her own right). This metaphor obviously discounts the events in Meeren where Dany promptly forgets what being a good ruler is all about and grabs onto the Idiot Ball instead.