[Re-Read] A Clash of Kings – Davos I


Summary:

a-clash-of-kings

Davos watches the Seven burn with his sons Allard and Dale. Melisandre says a prayer while walking around the fire as Stannis and Selyse look on. The queen’s men had destroyed the sept. Ser Hubard Rambton and his sons tried to defend it, but he was slain along with one son and the others were thrown in prison along with Septon Barre. Lord Guncer then told Stannis he could no longer support him, and he was thrown in prison too. Lords Ardrian, Duram, and Monford are there, but seem uncomfortable. Davos is also uncomfortable, but owes Stannis everything. It is thanks to Stannis that Davos has a knighthood, that his sons Dale and Allard command the galleys Wraith and Lady Marya, that his son Maric is oarmaster on Fury, and that his son Matthos serves Davos on his galley, Black Betha. His son Devan is squire to Stannis, his wife Marya is mistress of a keep, and his two youngest sons will hopefully be knighted someday. In return for all these favors, Davos’s loyalty is unwavering.

Melisandre proclaims that it is written that at the end of a long summer when the stars bleed and darkness covers the land Azor Ahai shall be reborn and draw Lightbringer, a flaming sword, from the fire and destroy the darkness. She bids Stannis to come forth. His squires, Devan and Bryen Farring, prepare him as Patchface sings of flames under the sea. Stannis reaches into the flames and pulls out a sword that had been thrust into the Mother; the sword glows with a green flame. Selyse, Ser Axell Florent, and other queen’s men shout in adulation, and Melisandre declares Stannis to be Azor Ahai reborn. Stannis has to drop the sword afterwards and soon departs. Davos notices that the sword is a charred ruin. After the ceremony is over, Davos goes down to the port, which is crowded with the ships of Stannis’s fleet, including the flagship, Fury, Lord Steffon, Stag of the Sea, Lord Monford’s Pride of Driftmark, Lord Ardrian’s Red Claw, and Swordfish. Further out in the harbor is Salladhor Saan’s flagship, Valyrian. Davos turns aside and enters an inn.

Inside, Davos spies Salladhor Saan and joins him. They have been friends a long time, and it was Davos who traveled to Lys on behalf of Stannis to recruit the banker, smuggler, and pirate who styles himself the Prince of the Narrow Sea. One of Salladhor’s trading ships, Bird of a Thousand Colors, is just arrived with news. He says that Tyrion is in King’s Landing and has run out Janos Slynt. The city is not well defended as there are too few men. Renly has left Highgarden and marches on King’s Landing. Salladhor does not believe that the sword Stannis pulled out of the fire was Lightbringer and is grateful for it. He tells the story of the forging of the original sword. According to legend, Azor Ahai forged Lightbringer when a great darkness was upon the land. He spent thirty days and thirty nights in a temple forging the blade in sacred fires, but when he tempered it in water, the sword shattered. The next forging took fifty days and nights and Azor Ahai tempered it by plunging the blade into the heart of a lion, but once again he failed. For the third attempt, Azor Ahai worked the forge for a hundred days and nights and then summoned his wife, Nissa Nissa, to plunge the blade into her breast. By sacrificing the thing he loved most in the world, Azor Ahai was able to complete Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes. Salladhor takes his leave, and Davos departs soon after.

That evening, Devan comes with a summons from Stannis. On his way to see the king, he is stopped by Ser Axell. Axell served as castellan of Dragonstone for ten years while Stannis served on the small council, but has lately become one of the foremost of the queen’s men who are fanatically devoted to the Lord of Light. He is particularly fervent this night and claims that he saw a vision in the flames, as the priests of the Lord of Light are supposed to be able to from time to time. Stannis is attended by Maester Pylos when Davos arrives. Stannis shows Davos a letter, but Davos cannot read, though his youngest sons Daven, Stannis, and Steffon can. Pylos reads the letter for him, which declares Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella the children of Jaime and sets forth Stannis’s claim to the throne. The letter is executed in the name of the Lord of Light. Stannis plans to use all 117 ravens on Dragonstone to send the message to every corner of the realm. He means to have Davos and Dale sail their ships in opposite directions around the coast of the realm and announce the same message. Allard will sail to the Free Cities and do the same. Davos indicates that he would like a private word, and Stannis sends Pylos away.

Davos is curious what Stannis’s lords made of the letter, and he says they all flattered him and that he wants the truth from Davos. Davos points out that there is still no proof of incest, and Stannis says that Storm’s End holds a proof of a sort, Edric Storm, whom Robert acknowledged as his bastard because the child’s mother was Delena Florent and she had been a maiden before they had conceived the child on Stannis’s wedding night in Stannis’s marriage bed. Stannis wants to parade Edric, who is the very image of Robert, before the realm and point out how none of the royal children have Robert’s features, but Davos points out that getting him out of Storm’s End would be difficult. Davos also says that the people will not like him replacing their gods with a new one. Stannis is indifferent. He does not believe in gods and has not since he watched his parents die, but he cannot deny Melisandre’s power. He tells of a falcon he owned in his youth that he found injured and nursed back to health. He named the bird Proudwing and was fond of it, but it would never hunt. Robert, on the other hand, had a great bird called Thunderclap that never missed a strike. Finally, Stannis’s great uncle, Ser Harbert, told him to choose a new bird because he was embarrassing himself. Stannis saw the wisdom and did so. Of the four kings in Westeros, he is the weakest in military strength, and so he hopes that Melisandre can tip the balance.

Source

Commentary:

This is our first Davos POV and it is long. Essentially the chapter is broken into three sections – the burning of the New Gods, our introduction to Salladhor Saan and the naval situation Stannis is facing and lastly Davos and Stannis’ conversation and their relationship. Now, before we get into the chapter itself, and mind you this chapter has a lot to discuss, I think I should make it clear that Davos is one of my favourite characters in ASOIAF. He beats Tyrion, Tywin, Arya and Littlefinger and I think were it not for Jaime, he would be my favourite character outright. Now, I realize my list is a little iffy but in any case my point is that re-reading this chapter made me remember just why I love Davos so much and I’ll explain that in more detail when I can.

Or as if the beasts were trembling, stirring…

The idea of waking dragons in Dragonstone is one that is introduced later in the series, in either this book or the next but despite Mel’s odd insistence that the stone dragons can be awoken into real ones, I highly doubt that any such thing is possible. Yet, at the same time, my own gut instinct tells me that there is something up with Dragonstone. It is the centre of a great deal of mysticism in my opinion not simply because it is the location of the Targaryen’s first holdfast but also because it is built on a mountain and has been home to generations of dragons prior to their demise. I feel like we haven’t seen the last of Dragonstone in the main storyline.

He had dressed more richly than was his wont, as if for the sept.

This confuses me a little. On the one hand, the character of Stannis as I know it would be rather uncomfortable outside of the ‘uniform’ of a king. As a king he would wear what was appropriate, nothing more nothing less. Davos’ note that his outfit was richer than usual tells me that it was someone else’s idea that he dress up for the burning and the obvious suspect is Mel. I don’t think this is a particularly big detail but I wonder if there is more to this that Mel making Stannis dress up so that his burning sword farce makes for a better spectacle?

He felt ill as he watched them burn, and not only from the smoke.

I find it interesting that this line comes right after Davos acknowledges that he is not particularly religious. I guess on one level it just works as a sign that religion in Westeros is an extremely potent and pervasive force and even affects individuals that do not directly associate with it. I also wanted to point out that Martin is rather skill at using these POVs to create that sense of discomfort in us as well – I have never seen the Seven much less worshipped them but the chapter left me with an uneasiness, as though the story was (in a meta sense) telling me that the burning of the Seven was wrong. I guess this is as good a place as any to discuss whether there is even a god (or gods) in Westeros. I’ll save the full discussion for later in the book but I think it’s noteworthy that while R’hllor and the Old Gods both have demonstrable manifestations of their power (or perhaps the people began worshipping the manifestations) but we’ve seen nothing of the sort from the Seven or their followers. Even the series’ title seem to invoke a clash or an exchange between the fire of R’hllor and the ice of the frozen Old Gods.

He was only a smuggler raised high, Davos of Flea Bottom, the Onion Knight.

This quote comes after Davos ponders if someone as low as himself can take someone as powerful as Mel out. He means it in a physical sense – even if he wanted to, could he actually kill her (in a literal sense)? I thought this was interesting because by ADWD we have a much better idea of what kind of magic Mel can use and it doesn’t seem like she has anything that could keep her safe is Davos decided to stab her. Of course, she could birth a shadow baby, but that too seems like a long-winded process with several pre-conditions. I guess it doesn’t matter but it would be nice if Davos is the one who gets to take Mel out. I’m not entirely sure if Mel deserves to be taken out – I waver between being ok with her and being annoyed by her – but if it does happen, I kind of wanted it to be either Brienne or Davos. I don’t think either situation is particularly likely, at least not soon anyway.

In time my little black ship will fly as high as Velaryon’s seahorse or Celtigar’s red crabs.

I think this says a lot about the upward mobility in the Westerosi class system. I you recall, the Velaryons are a house that were once almost as powerful as the Targaryens themselves and their participation in the Dance of Dragons allowed Rhaenyra Targaryen to eventually claim King’s Landing. Even if their fortunes have fallen with the fall of House Targaryen (who I assumed they supported during Robert’s Rebellion), they are still a house with a long, illustrious history and the idea that Davos’ children could be marrying them even three generation from now actually says a lot about how commoners can establish themselves as nobility. That said though, it might just be a Stannis thing – normally commoners would not rise so high so fast and the ones that do tend to end up like Janos Slynt.

His fingers were his luck, and he needed luck now.

I think the obvious implication here is that since I remember Davos loses his fingers after the Battle of Blackwater (which was an unmitigated disaster by any means measurable) what exactly does that mean about his luck before? I mean, think about it – with creep ex-fingers, he had to go through the Blackwater but with them gone…he’s only been held captive and almost executed before being sent off to treat with cannibals. It’s a toss-up really, but the only true conclusion is that being Davos is hard.

Then he was retreating, the sword held high, jade-green flames swirling around cherry-red steel.

I just wanted to mention how utterly fake Lightbringer seems. I mean, what kind of ridiculous fire-sword burns out? There are a lot of signs that Stannis is less than legit as Azor Ahai but the thing that I can’t wrap my head around is that if Mel is the one providing the glamour and all of the nifty magical CGI, then why the fuck does she seem so convinced herself that Stannis is the One? I’ll save a fuller discussion of Lightbringer and its lack of legit-ness for later because I think it’s one of the few topics which will have a huge impact on A Winds of Winter (which is never coming out guys) but I think it’s important to note that even so early in the fake sword shenanigans that Stannis does not seem like the real deal at all – the sword burns out and is left crisp and fried, Stannis himself doesn’t seem too comfortable with the fire that forges him and overall the whole thing seems weird. I’m actually surprised that Stannis’ bannermen don’t make a bigger deal out of all of this because if I were them, I’d be panicking – my liege lord has clearly lost it, and now he’s burning the gods and pulling weird magic tricks.

This world is twisted beyond hope, when lowborn smugglers must vouch for the honor of kings.

I really like this quote mainly because of how the way it was worded but also because of how much the opposite is true – Davos is the one with the most honour, probably among all the characters we meet while most of our Kings are pretty scummy people, ‘lowborn’ in that sense. We have Renly, the guy who’s willing to essentially usurp his elder brother and toss any all that honour just because he wants a shiny crown and think’s wanting to be makes you a good king, you have Stannis who murders said brother and then you have Joffrey. Robb sort of counts as well I guess because of his lack in honouring certain pacts but I’ll leave him out of this for now.

When you speak to King Stannis, mention if you would that he will owe me another thirty thousand dragons come the black of the moon.

I want to keep a tab on Stannis’ finances because there is no way in hell that Saan ever gets paid. I know that this becomes a plot point when Davos is trying to keep Saan on Stannis’ side but I can’t remember how all of that pans out. All I know is that at some point, Stannis borrows money from the Iron Bank though I don’t know on what collateral but Saan never sees a copper of it and I’m actually ok with that – some who swaggers around like Saan doesn’t really need the money, and people who make their money by stealing from others can hardly complain about not being paid on time.

He is a queen’s man and I am the king’s.

I don’t think I remember what this whole Axel Florent business is about. If I recall, he is the King’s Hand at the moment but he notes that Stannis has a much higher opinion of Davos that he does of Florent himself and thus I suspect that he is trying to buddy up to Davos in order to gain some influence with Stannis which does tie in nicely to the earlier quote about lowborn smugglers having to vouch for the honour of highborn lords.

“I’d hoped he might be granted a few years of ease and comfort. He had earned that much, at least, but—” he ground his teeth together—“but he died.”

I’ve had a theory, which I might or might not have mentioned in the Cressen chapter that Stannis did not want Cressen to come to the feast because he knew (thanks to Mel’s ‘visions’) that Cressen would die if he did. Stannis’ reaction here tells me that he was on the fence regarding the authenticity of Mel’s powers until the moment that Cressen died despite Stannis’ efforts to prevent him from doing so. Now, why exactly Stannis’ efforts didn’t include actually telling Cressen what was going on would fall under the same category of why self-fulfilling prophecies are even a thing. Still, I guess it’s nice to know that Stannis cared at least a little for the man who raised him like a son. I honestly can’t tell how much sorrow or how much anything Stannis feels, but I want to believe that he’s hurting on the inside, so that’s what I’ll stick with.

“The Others take my lords”

I know this is just a figure of speech but, considering where Stannis has brought his lords, I think it might be a particularly prophetic curse. Given how little I like most of his lords, especially the Queen’s men, I’m fine with this possibility.

“Any gods so monstrous as to drown my mother and father would never have my worship, I vowed. In King’s Landing, the High Septon would prattle at me of how all justice and goodness flowed from the Seven, but all I ever saw of either was made by men.”

This is another bit of nice writing, in my opinion and one of the very, very few instances that we get to see a more human side of Stannis the Mannis. Previously, we had Cressen humanize by reminiscing about Stannis’ childhood days and from this point on it will be Davos who either witnesses Stannis’ more emotional moments (like this, though I can’t for the life of me imagine another similar moment) or by remembering Stannis’ better moments (like he does throughout this chapter). Stannis’ bitterness and general misery stemming from watching his parents die makes him oddly Batman-like in my mind and that’s an image that I can’t quite unsee, and I’m not sure I even want to. Like Batman, he’s bent on justice and doing what’s write but he’s a little more conflicted than Batman and a little less clear on how exactly to achieve his goals and the end result is that it leaves him open to the influence of Mel. Melisandre: not even once.

I was making a fool of myself with Proudwing, he said, and he was right.

I’ll end this extraordinarily long write-up by pointing out that this is actually another sign, and one of the very few ones, that underneath it all, Stannis is an ok guy. I’ll stop short of calling him a good guy and he’s certainly not a great guy, but he’s not fundamentally fucked like Joffrey is. Stannis caring for the broken bird puts him in strong contrast with Joffrey and his fondness for live dissection.

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