There are always moments when one feels empty and estranged. Such moments are most desirable for it means the soul had cast its moorings and is sailing for distant places. This is detachment , when the old is over and the new has not yet come.
LaF Kiss Game: On the seaside, interrupted by a screeching seal
@lucycamui, I’m going to just,,,, casually leave this here,,,
The port of Torvill in the kingdom of Nikiforov is bustling with activity from the boats and carriages coming in and out. Gulls cry overhead as they soar over the bright blue surf crashing down onto the golden sand. An entire fleet of ships line the wooden piers, bright flags from all sorts of nations fluttering in the wind.
Yuuri jumps out of the cart and onto the cobblestones just before the pier entrance, shouldering his bag and waving at the cart driver. Several dockworkers begin unloading the other goods from the cart and carrying them onto the ship – crates and bags and barrels full of food and materials to trade with the surrounding kingdoms. Yuuri would be riding with this ship out as well, sailing towards distant lands, away from the cold apprehension which seizes him every time he sees his beloved prince and all of the things that could go wrong from loving not wisely but too well.
The ship would sail out at midday, and it’s nearing eleven according to the bell tower of the nearby church. Yuuri has time for a quick bite and a drink, before he has to be onboard. He’ll be helping the ship’s cook in the galley to pay for his fare out to Iglesia. It’s a good thing the captain didn’t ask too many questions as to why a baker would be wanting to flee the country in the first place.
But just as he’s about to cross the street, the crowds in the street begin to part. There’s some sort of commotion further down, it seems; there’s the thundering of hoofbeats and the whinny of a horse. And then there’s murmurs.
“What is he doing here?”
The street is cleared. A white horse gallops into view, slows to a canter, a trot. And his prince is on its back, looking out through the crowd, his hair and clothes dishevelled, his eyes wide and anxious.
“Yuuri?” The Prince shouts.
The murmurs grow worried. Yuuri tries to shrink down, tries to edge back towards the docks, but suddenly the Prince’s head turns, and their eyes meet, and there’s no way Viktor wouldn’t recognise him now.
Yuuri feels his face burning. He swallows, straightens his back again, smiles hesitantly.
“Yuuri,” breathes Viktor. He practically jumps off his horse, and the people left between them dive out of the way as the prince strides towards him. “Where have you been? I woke up this morning and you weren’t there. I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”
“I…” Yuuri trails off, fidgeting, as the words he wants to say desperately elude his grasp.
“What will it take to convince you not to run away from me?” pleads Viktor.
Yuuri bows his head, looks down at his feet. He says nothing, because the last thing he needs is something completely idiotic to fly out of his mouth in a moment of panic.
He feels a gloved hand on his cheek, feels the prince’s body stepping closer to his. His heart is pounding in his head, harder than a drum, faster than a rabbit. He can’t bring himself to look up, to see the overwhelming emotion that he’s sure must be tucked into those beautiful blue eyes. Viktor is too close –
There’s a loud farting noise. Yuuri startles and turns to see a seal flopped out onto one of the smaller docks in this port. Its mouth is open and it is, for lack of a better term, clicking and screaming fart noises at them.
Viktor laughs. “I think that seal is trying to tell us something.”
Yuuri watches, morbidly fascinated, as the seal begins to slam its flippers onto the dock, continuing its terrifying screams as it does so. “Why would you say that?” he asks.
Viktor shrugs. “It seems to be very… enthusiastic.” Already people are turning away from them towards the rowdy seal, clapping and cheering and making pocket sketches of it.
Yuuri feels part of the knot in his stomach ease at that, and he turns to look up at Viktor, whose expression is sheepish but still so overwhelmingly kind.
“I’m sorry I keep…” he gestures towards the ships. “I was just scared that maybe sleeping in your bed will be too much, or that once we get together you’ll tire of me, or that you’ll find someone better –”
“Shh.” Viktor shakes his head, puts a finger to his lips. “I’ll never tire of you.”
“You say that now,” Yuuri chastises. “But what if –”
“No,” says Viktor. “No what ifs. This is here and now, Yuuri, and right now I love you more than the sun loves the moon, more than the ocean loves the sand. And since my love outstrips them both, it must last longer than the sun can shine and the ocean can flow.”
A part of Yuuri melts at that. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard you say.”
“I’m thinking about writing a book,” retorts Viktor. “How The Prince of Nikiforov Had His Heart Stolen. It’ll be the second to last line.”
Yuuri swallows. “What’s the last line, then?”
“This,” replies Viktor, and kisses him.
Meanwhile, out in the ocean, Katsudon the seal munches at a fish. “Thanks,” he clicks, in the selkie language.
Phichit, hovering just a couple inches above the waves, laughs and manifests another fish into his hands. “I owe you one, buddy.”
“You don’t think it was overkill?” wonders Katsudon.
“Well, it would’ve been better if Selkie for ‘just fucking kiss already’ sounded closer to English, but you know, we can’t have everything.”
If seals had shoulders, Katsudon would have shrugged. Instead he settles for a twirl that conveys about the same amount of je ne sais quoi. “It worked, though,” he points out. “Not in the way you expected, but it worked.”
“Thank god,” says Phichit, and throws him the other fish.
// Btw, at some point, when I can think of something decent enough, I will be adding a crime!AU verse for Harald because he totally deserves it. So if you are interested, hit the cute little ♥ button and I will write you a starter. For mutuals only.
I count the steps from one end of my island to the other Its 100 steps from where I sleep to the sea And when I say I’ve learned all there is to know Well there’s another little island lesson, grandma Tala shows me
I know where I am from the scent of the breeze The ascent of the climb from the tangle of the trees From the angle of the mountain to the sand on our island shore I’ve been here before
There’s gotta be more I know there’s more, there’s always more Someday I’ll be out on the sea And I’m gonna see more Yes, there’s gotta be more I know there’s more, there’s always more
Moana slow down Sorry I’m always in somebody’s way They do the same thing every day They work, they eat, they sleep, they pray They tell me “Moana calm down” That’s all they ever seem to say The other kids just dance and play How can you play there’s so much out there to explore
She stares at the sky, she stumbles down the beaches She mumbles all the names that her grandma Tala teaches And I wanna soar With one foot here and another in the distant past So much to explore
Shes growing up too fast Like I said before There’s gotta be more I know there’s more, there’s always more One day I’ll be brave and sail on the wave That leads me to more There’s gotta be more I know there’s more, there’s always more My father the Chief, says “Don’t cross the reef” But oh every turn I take, every trail I track Every path I make, every road leads back to the sea I’m standing at the edge of the sea As they all say “Moana slow down, Moana dream small, Moana don’t drown” Can you drown at the call of the sea? ‘Cause I can hear it calling me
A thousand years ago, we used to sail to distant islands A thousand years ago, Maui spoke to the sea So maybe, just maybe, I was born to break the silence I know my story could be extraordinary I know my story doesn’t end at the shore
There’s gotta be more I know there’s more, there’s always more I’m gonna break through, and find something new I’m gonna find more There’s gotta be more I know there’s more, there’s always more One day I’ll decide to roll with the tide And I’m gonna see Moana stand tall I will cross the divide, I will ride I will see what’s on the other side Moana stand proud With the ocean as my guide, on the tide I will go where no one’s ever been before There’s always more
Bestie! So yesterday I was thinking a lot about "The Drowned Man" as a chapter, and considering whether I would rank it among the best of AFFC (certainly)/ASOIAF (probs?). But since you're infinitely better at themes and ironborn stuff than I am, I wanted to hear you wax about it 😊
Hey Nina <3 hell yes, I loooooove “The Drowned Man.” Within AFFC specifically, I’d rank it second only to “The Princess in the Tower,” and it’s definitely in my top ten ASOIAF chapters somewhere. The Stand summed it up nicely in this description of Euron’s true identity forerunner Randall Flagg:
When he walked into a meeting, the hysterical babble ceased–the backbiting, recriminations, accusations, the ideological rhetoric. For a moment there would be dead silence and they would start to turn to him and then turn away, as if he had come to them with some old and terrible engine of destruction cradled in his arms, something a thousand times worse than the plastic explosive made in the basement labs of renegade chemistry students or the black market arms obtained from some greedy army post supply sergeant. It seemed that he had come to them with a device gone rusty with blood and packed for centuries in the Cosmoline of screams but now ready again, carried to their meeting like some infernal gift, a birthday cake with nitroglycerine candles.
I’d probably call “The Drowned Man” the central chapter of AFFC, as Attewell argued RE Catelyn III ACOK. All the moods and ideas of the book are as one here: the comprehensive expression of the feast, the crows, and how we got ourselves to the point of watching the worst of said crows descending on said feast. That element of playing witness is very central to the chapter, because for all the political and metaphysical implications at play, “The Drowned Man” is ultimately rooted in our POV character.
Aeron Greyjoy’s story is a religiously-inflected gauntlet of nightmares, designed to pierce his external performance (the Voice of God) and his inner defenses (the fog of repression surrounding his abuser, rendered as desperate mantras and flashes of imagery). The chapter opens with Damphair acknowledging, well before Dragonbinder and Euron’s triumph, that his armor is down:
Only when his arms and legs were numb from the cold did Aeron Greyjoy struggle back to shore and don his robes again.
He had run before the Crow’s Eye as if he were still the weak thing he had been, but when the waves broke over his head they reminded once more that that man was dead. I was reborn from the sea, a harder man and stronger.
This follows directly not only on him fleeing the feast tent in “The Iron Captain,” but also on his solo ruminations in “The Prophet,” in which Euron functioned as an offstage catalyst to Aeron’s fearful inner journey, helping us understand them both. That earlier chapter is at heart about measuring the gap between Aeron’s public persona and his inner demons, come home to roost. He starts off as secure as he can be (on the surface, which is all he allows himself to access), sure in his god, sure in himself, sure that CPR constitutes a miracle; he’s demanding imperiously of nobles if they’ve been drowned properly, aware of his cultural cachet and seeking to increase it.
And then, his “mighty pillars” come crashing down, and he is a child again, listening to his bedroom door squeak open.
Aeron was almost at the door when the maester cleared his throat, and said, “Euron Crow’s Eye sits the Seastone Chair.”
The Damphair turned. The hall had suddenly grown colder. The Crow’s Eye is half a world away. Balon sent him off two years ago, and swore that it would be his life if he returned. “Tell me,” he said hoarsely.
So as with Arianne’s queenmaking in Dorne, while the kingsmoot is at one level a collective expression of cultural defiance and a self-conception as separate from mainland Westeros, it’s also a deeply personal, intra-familial maneuver. Arianne’s rebelling against what she believes to be her father’s betrayal, and Aeron’s taking refuge in tradition as a defense against his abuser’s return. The Dornish plot, for all its many aspects and resonances, boils down to Doran and Arianne facing each other down across a cyvasse board, and the Ironborn plot, while also a social and cultural interrogation, takes as its engine Aeron’s fear and hatred of Euron.
Perhaps consequently, the peace and strength Aeron finds in the sea is the fragile, flickering heart of his character (more than ever in “The Forsaken”). It is genuine and moving, despite the lack of actual divine communication.
No mortal man could frighten him, no more than the darkness could, nor the bones of his soul, the grey and grisly bones of his soul.
Memories are the bones of the soul: such a lovely weaving-together of the ethereal and the concrete! By repeatedly using the bones of Nagga’s Hill to symbolize Aeron’s internal struggle, GRRM links the overarching political ramifications of the Ironborn plot to the one-on-one confrontation of Aeron and Euron. His eye for the personal inside the large-scale movements of the plot is for me what makes all the new POVs in the Feastdance work so well; Cersei, Brienne, Asha, Arianne, Quentyn, and Jon Connington also have this kind of searingly intimate moment that draws you in so close it’s as if they’ve been POVs since book one.
And so the politics can begin, GRRM setting the scene in patient, exquisite fashion.
Dark clouds ran before the wind as the first light stole into the world. The black sky went grey as slate; the black sea turned grey-green; the black mountains of Great Wyk across the bay put on the blue-green hues of soldier pines. As color stole back into the world, a hundred banners lifted and began to flap. Aeron beheld the silver fish of Botley, the bloody moon of Wynch, the dark green trees of Orkwood. He saw warhorns and leviathans and scythes, and everywhere the krakens great and golden. Beneath them, thralls and salt wives begin to move about, stirring coals into new life and gutting fish for the captains and the kings to break their fasts. The dawnlight touched the stony strand, and he watched men wake from sleep, throwing aside their sealskin blankets as they called for their first horn of ale. Drink deep, he thought, for we have god’s work to do today.
The sea was stirring too. The waves grew larger as the wind rose, sending plumes of spray to crash against the longships. The Drowned God wakes, thought Aeron. He could hear his voice welling from the depths of the sea. I shall be with you here this day, my strong and faithful servant, the voice said. No godless man will sit my Seastone Chair.
It was there beneath the arch of Nagga’s ribs that his drowned men found him, standing tall and stern with his long black hair blowing in the wind. “Is it time?” Rus asked. Aeron gave a nod, and said, “It is. Go forth and sound the summons.”
In ASOS (oh man spoilers), a lot of powerful people died. AFFC is about the aftermath, examining how the survivors deal with death politically and personally, how the dead are both omnipresent and yet powerless to determine their legacy, and how all of this ultimately amounts to a rolled-out red carpet for the Others. In the specific case of the Ironborn, what we’re dealing with is the reckoning–or lack thereof–with the costs of Balon’s Old Way in the wake of the king’s death. We’ve already seen that dynamic at work in the first three chapters of this storyline, all of which comes to a head here…but before the Greyjoys, we get the other contestants, starting with our favorite candidate:
“The ironborn must have a king,” the priest insisted, after a long silence. “I ask again. Who shall be king over us?”
“I will,” came the answer from below.
At once a ragged cry of “Gylbert! Gylbert King!” went up. The captains gave way to let the claimant and his champions ascend the hill to stand at Aeron’s side beneath the ribs of Nagga. This would-be king was a tall spare lord with a melancholy visage, his lantern jaw shaved clean. His three champions took up their position two steps below him, bearing his sword and shield and banner. They shared a certain look with the tall lord, and Aeron took them for his sons. One unfurled his banner, a great black longship against a setting sun. “I am Gylbert Farwynd, Lord of the Lonely Light,” the lord told the kingsmoot.
Aeron knew some Farwynds, a queer folk who held lands on the westernmost shores of Great Wyk and the scattered isles beyond, rocks so small that most could support but a single household. Of those, the Lonely Light was the most distant, eight days’ sail to the northwest amongst rookeries of seals and sea lions and the boundless grey oceans. The Farwynds there were even queerer than the rest. Some said they were skinchangers, unholy creatures who could take on the forms of sea lions, walruses, even spotted whales, the wolves of the wild sea.
Lord Gylbert began to speak. He told of a wondrous land beyond the Sunset Sea, a land without winter or want, where death had no dominion. “Make me your king, and I shall lead you there,” he cried. “We will build ten thousand ships as Nymeria once did and take sail with all our people to the land beyond the sunset. There every man shall be a king and every wife a queen.”
His eyes, Aeron saw, were now grey, now blue, as changeable as the seas. Mad eyes, he thought, fool’s eyes. The vision he spoke of was doubtless a snare set by the Storm God to lure the ironborn to destruction. The offerings that his men spilled out before the kingsmoot included sealskins and walrus tusks, arm rings made of whalebone, warhorns banded in bronze. The captains looked and turned away, leaving lesser men to help themselves to the gifts. When the fool was done talking and his champions began to shout his name, only the Farwynds took up the cry, and not even all of them. Soon enough the cries of “Gylbert! Gylbert King!” faded away to silence. The gull screamed loudly above them, and landed atop one of Nagga’s ribs as the Lord of the Lonely Light made his way back down the hill.
Y’all know in your hearts he was telling the truth, too. But srsly, we said our piece on Gylbert Farwynd: he’s Good Euron, down to the eyes, creating a mirroring effect. The kingsmoot ends as it begins, with someone promising to elevate the Ironborn above this “dry and dismal vale.” But GRRM knows how to use contrasts as well as parallels—just look how he follows up Gylbert’s vision.
Aeron Damphair stepped forward once more. “I ask again. Who shall be king over us?”
“Me!” a deep voice boomed, and once more the crowd parted.
The speaker was borne up the hill in a carved driftwood chair carried on the shoulders of his grandsons. A great ruin of a man, twenty stones heavy and ninety years old, he was cloaked in a white bearskin. His own hair was snow white as well, and his huge beard covered him like a blanket from cheeks to thighs, so it was hard to tell where the beard ended and the pelt began. Though his grandsons were great strapping men, they struggled with his weight on the steep stone steps. Before the Grey King’s Hall they set him down, and three remained below him as his champions.
Sixty years ago, this one might well have won the favor of the moot, Aeron thought, but his hour is long past.
“Aye, me!” the man roared from where he sat, in a voice as huge as he was. “Why not? Who better? I am Erik Ironmaker, for them who’s blind. Erik the Just. Erik Anvil-Breaker. Show them my hammer, Thormor.” One of his champions lifted it up for all to see; a monstrous thing it was, its haft wrapped in old leather, its head a brick of steel as large as a loaf of bread. “I can’t count how many hands I’ve smashed to pulp with that hammer,” Erik said, “but might be some thief could tell you. I can’t say how many heads I’ve crushed against my anvil neither, but there’s some widows could. I could tell you all the deeds I’ve done in battle, but I’m eight-and-eighty and won’t live long enough to finish. If old is wise, no one is wiser than me. If big is strong, no one’s stronger. You want a king with heirs? I’ve more’n I can count. King Erik, aye, I like the sound o’ that. Come, say it with me. ERIK! ERIK ANVIL-BREAKER! ERIK KING!”
Erik Ironmaker, clearly the Tormund of the Ironborn, is thoroughly grounded in the “dry and dismal vale.” His platform is that he represents the masculine ideal of the Ironborn, full stop. But Asha spots the same problem as Aeron, and gives it voice:
“Erik!” Men moved aside to let her through. With one foot on the lowest step, she said, “Erik, stand up.”
A hush fell. The wind blew, waves broke against the shore, men murmured in each other’s ears.
Erik Ironmaker stared down at Asha Greyjoy. “Girl. Thrice-damned girl. What did you say?”
“Stand up, Erik,” she called. “Stand up and I’ll shout your name with all the rest. Stand up and I’ll be the first to follow you. You want a crown, aye. Stand up and take it.”
The aforementioned masculine ideal is past its sell-by date. Erik wants the crown as a symbol of a life well lived (by his standards), but Asha’s implicitly arguing that this is a debate about the future, not the past. (Of course, her platform has its own blind spots. More in a bit!)
Next up is Dunstan Drumm.
He climbed the hill on his own two legs, and on his hip rode Red Rain, his famous sword, forged of Valyrian steel in the days before the Doom. His champions were men of note: his sons Denys and Donnel, both stout fighters, and between them Andrik the Unsmiling, a giant of a man with arms as thick as trees. It spoke well of the Drumm that such a man would stand for him.
“Where is it written that our king must be a kraken?” Drumm began. “What right has Pyke to rule us? Great Wyk is the largest isle, Harlaw the richest, Old Wyk the most holy. When the black line was consumed by dragonfire, the ironborn gave the primacy to Vickon Greyjoy, aye … but as lord, not king.”
It was a good beginning. Aeron heard shouts of approval, but they dwindled as the old man began to tell of the glory of the Drumms. He spoke of Dale the Dread, Roryn the Reaver, the hundred sons of Gormond Drumm the Oldfather. He drew Red Rain and told them how Hilmar Drumm the Cunning had taken the blade from an armored knight with wits and a wooden cudgel. He spoke of ships long lost and battles eight hundred years forgotten, and the crowd grew restive. He spoke and spoke, and then he spoke still more.
And when Drumm’s chests were thrown open, the captains saw the niggard’s gifts he’d brought them. No throne was ever bought with bronze, the Damphair thought. The truth of that was plain to hear, as the cries of “Drumm! Drumm! Dunstan King!” died away.
On the one hand, he’s absolutely right that the Greyjoys owe their primacy to the very polity against which they’re leading rebellions. On the other, he gets bogged down and fails to offer an affirmative case for something better, reflected in his paltry offerings.
These candidates provide context for the main act: the three Greyjoy candidates. That Victarion has nothing to offer but this…
“You all know me. If you want sweet words, look elsewhere. I have no singer’s tongue. I have an axe, and I have these.” He raised his huge mailed hands up to show them, and Nute the Barber displayed his axe, a fearsome piece of steel. “I was a loyal brother,” Victarion went on. “When Balon was wed, it was me he sent to Harlaw to bring him back his bride. I led his longships into many a battle, and never lost but one. The first time Balon took a crown, it was me sailed into Lannisport to singe the lion’s tail. The second time, it was me he sent to skin the Young Wolf should he come howling home. All you’ll get from me is more of what you got from Balon. That’s all I have to say.”
…resonates with Erik Ironmaker’s pitch. Victarion is the status quo candidate. He’s this guy:
(gif by stevemcqueened.tumblr.com)
Something is rotten in the state of the Iron Islands, and Vic can’t identify it, let alone deal with it. Again, the personal and political are intertwined: deep down, Victarion Greyjoy knows he’s unhappy, but can’t conceive of what to do about it. “Balon 2.0” is enough for many of the captains and kings, but not a majority, because Balon’s failures are becoming harder and harder to ignore.
So how does Balon’s chosen heir respond?
“Nuncle says he’ll give you more of what my father gave you. Well, what was that? Gold and glory, some will say. Freedom, ever sweet. Aye, it’s so, he gave us that … and widows too, as Lord Blacktyde will tell you. How many of you had your homes put to the torch when Robert came? How many had daughters raped and despoiled? Burnt towns and broken castles, my father gave you that. Defeat was what he gave you. Nuncle here will give you more. Not me.”
“What will you give us?” asked Lucas Codd. “Knitting?”
“Aye, Lucas. I’ll knit us all a kingdom.” She tossed her dirk from hand to hand. “We need to take a lesson from the Young Wolf, who won every battle … and lost all.”
“A wolf is not a kraken,” Victarion objected. “What the kraken grasps it does not lose, be it longship or leviathan.”
“And what have we grasped, Nuncle? The north? What is that, but leagues and leagues of leagues and leagues, far from the sound of the sea? We have taken Moat Cailin, Deepwood Motte, Torrhen’s Square, even Winterfell. What do we have to show for it?” She beckoned, and her Black Wind men pushed forward, chests of oak and iron on their shoulders. “I give you the wealth of the Stony Shore,” Asha said as the first was upended. An avalanche of pebbles clattered forth, cascading down the steps; pebbles grey and black and white, worn smooth by the sea. “I give you the riches of Deepwood,” she said, as the second chest was opened. Pinecones came pouring out, to roll and bounce down into the crowd. “And last, the gold of Winterfell.” From the third chest came yellow turnips, round and hard and big as a man’s head. They landed amidst the pebbles and the pinecones. Asha stabbed one with her dirk. “Harmund Sharp,” she shouted, “your son Harrag died at Winterfell, for this.” She pulled the turnip off her blade and tossed it to him. “You have other sons, I think. If you’d trade their lives for turnips, shout my nuncle’s name!”
“And if I shout your name?” Harmund demanded. “What then?”
“Peace,” said Asha. “Land. Victory. I’ll give you Sea Dragon Point and the Stony Shore, black earth and tall trees and stones enough for every younger son to build a hall. We’ll have the northmen too … as friends, to stand with us against the Iron Throne. Your choice is simple. Crown me, for peace and victory. Or crown my nuncle, for more war and more defeat.” She sheathed her dirk again. “What will you have, ironmen?”
Asha comes the closest to Grandpa Quellon’s reformation, but she’s got a fatal blind spot regarding Balon’s wars and their effect on both the North and the Ironborn. The former are not going to accept the latter’s control of the Stony Shore, let alone forge an active alliance against the Iron Throne, especially after what Theon did at Winterfell. Asha doesn’t even stop to consider the Northern perspective on the Ironborn, the cost and consequences of her family’s actions in Stark territory—she just assumes she can create a lasting peace through hostages. But she can’t. The North wants Theon Turncloak’s people gone, which is why Stannis and the Boltons are both trying to win over Northerners by fighting Ironborn. Asha’s ADWD chapters are all about her facing this:
Asha smiled back. “Mormont women are all fighters too.”
The other woman’s smile faded. “What we are is what you made us. On Bear Island every child learns to fear krakens rising from the sea.”
The Old Way. Asha turned away, chains clinking faintly.
Of course, Asha’s also running up against the patriarchy, and many of the captains and kings associate giving up any conquest with a “craven’s peace.” So I’m not entirely blaming Asha here, as again she’s much closer to a sustainable path than her (kraken) uncles, but she fails to offer a sufficiently powerful counter-narrative, and so leaves the door open for Euron. In the moments before he begins his pitch, chaos reigns.
Men began to shove at one another. Someone flung a pinecone at Asha’s head. When she ducked, her makeshift crown fell off. For a moment it seemed to the priest as if he stood atop a giant anthill, with a thousand ants in a boil at his feet. Shouts of “Asha!” and “Victarion!” surged back and forth, and it seemed as though some savage storm was about to engulf them all.
That is the war; that is the feast; that is everything the Others need. So what better “savage storm” to interrupt this “squabbling over spoils” than the apocalypse?
Sharp as a swordthrust, the sound of a horn split the air.
Bright and baneful was its voice, a shivering hot scream that made a man’s bones seem to thrum within him. The cry lingered in the damp sea air: aaaaRREEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
All eyes turned toward the sound. It was one of Euron’s mongrels winding the call, a monstrous man with a shaved head. Rings of gold and jade and jet glistened on his arms, and on his broad chest was tattooed some bird of prey, talons dripping blood.
The horn he blew was shiny black and twisted, and taller than a man as he held it with both hands. It was bound about with bands of red gold and dark steel, incised with ancient Valyrian glyphs that seemed to glow redly as the sound swelled.
It was a terrible sound, a wail of pain and fury that seemed to burn the ears. Aeron Damphair covered his, and prayed for the Drowned God to raise a mighty wave and smash the horn to silence, yet still the shriek went on and on. It is the horn of hell, he wanted to scream, though no man would have heard him. The cheeks of the tattooed man were so puffed out they looked about to burst, and the muscles in his chest twitched in a way that it made it seem as if the bird were about to rip free of hisflesh and take wing. And now the glyphs were burning brightly, every line and letter shimmering with white fire. On and on and on the sound went, echoing amongst the howling hills behind them and across the waters of Nagga’s Cradle to ring against the mountains of Great Wyk, on and on and on until it filled the whole wet world.
Such are the bones of Euron’s soul. This is what the inside of his skull looks like: an LSD-soaked portal to hell, driven by blood sacrifice and a keen understanding of the sweet spot between fear and awe. This horror-tinged passage is supposed to feel jarring, like something out of a completely different genre; Euron’s not really a part of the debate he just interrupted, but is rather out to hijack it for his own apocalyptic ends. (Remember: what is signaled by three horn blasts? “Others.”) Look at what he’s disrupting: a “giant anthill.” Damphair’s kingsmoot was made to be bulldozed; it’s a fragile gathering of fragments against the ruin. The weaknesses were there to be exploited…but of course, Euron has to put on his pirate suit to do so.
The Crow’s Eye stopped atop the steps, at the doors of the Grey King’s Hall, and turned his smiling eye upon the captains and the kings, but Aeron could feel his other eye as well, the one that he kept hidden.
“IRONMEN,” said Euron Greyjoy, “you have heard my horn. Now hear my words. I am Balon’s brother, Quellon’s eldest living son. Lord Vickon’s blood is in my veins, and the blood of the Old Kraken. Yet I have sailed farther than any of them. Only one living kraken has never known defeat Only one has never bent his knee. Only one has sailed to Asshai by the Shadow, and seen wonders and terrors beyond imagining …”
GRRM consistently uses the “smiling eye” as a microcosm of Euron’s public face, and the Crow’s Eye as a microcosm of the self he keeps hidden from his fellow Ironborn (other than Aeron). I’m the ultimate pirate, guys, nothing else to see here—just look at my eyepatch, and don’t worry about what I’m hiding underneath it. Indeed, Euron knows his audience well, constructing his argument patiently; only after establishing his Old Way bona fides can he then take the next step.
“My little brother would finish Balon’s war, and claim the north. My sweet niece would give us peace and pinecones.” His blue lips twisted in a smile. “Asha prefers victory to defeat. Victarion wants a kingdom, not a few scant yards of earth. From me, you shall have both.”
For all Euron’s skills, he only wins because both Vic and Asha’s platforms are riddled with flaws—and not only that, the flaws compound each other, allowing Euron to link them together rhetorically as insufficient. This resonates with the captains and kings because the Balon-Aeron-Victarion agenda has immense cultural appeal but has blatantly failed to deliver on its promises, while Asha’s platform would push the Ironborn in a better direction but isn’t convincing enough (emotionally or pragmatically) to be an effective rallying point. Euron, ever the postmodern magpie, steals the most appealing aspects of both and frames it as the ultimate Ironborn dream of conquest. My brothers’ dream has fallen miserably short in reality, and my niece is telling you stop dreaming. The former cannot defeat the greenlanders, the latter is telling you to admit that—in a way that won’t bring peace anyway! I will be the best of both worlds, doing what the former cannot and the latter wants to give up on. In short: Euron tells the Ironborn that they’re losers but can be winners if they follow and imitate him, whereas Victarion won’t admit they’re losers and Asha won’t let them win. It’s such a potent appeal to cultural self-conception and resentment that it even sways Damphair, if only for a moment:
“We are the ironborn, and once we were conquerors. Our writ ran everywhere the sound of the waves was heard. My brother would have you be content with the cold and dismal north, my niece with even less … but I shall give you Lannisport. Highgarden. The Arbor. Oldtown. The riverlands and the Reach, the kingswood and the rainwood, Dorne and the marches, the Mountains of the Moon and the Vale of Arryn, Tarth and the Stepstones. I say we take it all! I say, we take Westeros.” He glanced at the priest. “All for the greater glory of our Drowned God, to be sure.”
For half a heartbeat even Aeron was swept away by the boldness of his words. The priest had dreamed the same dream, when first he’d seen the red comet in the sky. We shall sweep over the green lands with fire and sword, root out the seven gods of the septons and the white trees of the northmen …
But the rest of the crowd, of course, sees only the “smiling eye.” Our POV knows better, and being in Aeron’s head primes us to see the cracks in Euron’s facade, the tears in his pirate suit. Only Aeron recognizes, at chapter’s end, that Euron is out to dethrone the gods.
Even a priest may doubt. Even a prophet may know terror. Aeron Damphair reached within himself for his god and discovered only silence. [Because that’s the name of Euron’s ship, you see] As a thousand voices shouted out his brother’s name, all he could hear was the scream of a rusted iron hinge.
Euron cares not for the Seastone Chair, nor even the Iron Throne, not really. So what is he in this for?
“Crow’s Eye, you call me. Well, who has a keener eye than the crow? After every battle the crows come in their hundreds and their thousands to feast upon the fallen. A crow can espy death from afar. And I say that all of Westeros is dying. Those who follow me will feast until the end of their days.”
There it is, right? AFFC summarized: “all of Westeros is dying.” The war has rendered Westeros a fit meal for Euron…and the Others. And indeed, the “anthill” of the kingsmoot is a perfect microcosm of that political impotence in the face of the abyss. That’s the message “The Drowned Man” communicates: we let Trump Euron happen. As I’ve argued before, the essence of great horror isn’t that the monsters are at the door. It’s that we’re going to let them in.
I was just thinking that I really want a lesbian Jane Eyre inspired story.
Jane still goes to Rochester’s house, still works as a governess, teaching his illegitimate daughter, Adéle, but she’s repulsed by Rochester and his treatment of women. She searches the house at night, having heard odd noises and seen glimpses of a strange woman in the night who is not there in the day. There is talk of the house being haunted, but Jane doesn’t believe in ghosts.
In a way, once she discovers the truth, she wishes that it had been something Supernatural. Instead, she discovers Rochester’s wife - Bertha - the woman he has married for her money and locked in the attic when he became tired of her. He has told everyone she is mad, that as woman of mixed race her blood was tainted.
Bertha is not mad. She is a brilliant, angry, trapped woman and Jane becomes her only friend and confident. They meet in secret at night. They discuss everything - books, philosophy, art, science and current affairs. Bertha has missed so much in her confinement and Jane is only too happy to talk to her, to have an equal in thought and feeling. They fall in love through their words and their discussions.
When Rochester discovers them, he throws Jane out of the house and sets about destroying her reputation with malicious lies.
Adéle is to be sent to strict, cruel boarding school. Rochester no longer wants to burden of caring for her. Knowing how awful the school Jane was at was, how she suffered and how her only friend died, Bertha pleads with Rochester not to send Adéle away, to punish Bertha instead. After all, it is Bertha and her affair that he is angry with.
He promises, indeed, that he will punish Bertha for what she has done and that sending Adéle away is one of the ways he intends to do that. But in sending Adéle to an uncertain fate, he is being kinder to her than he intends to be to Bertha. He has a certain fate in store for her.
The fire that Bertha sets is to save herself and Adéle. It is Rochester who burns in it.
Bertha, free and with her husband’s fortune- the fortune he took from her when he married her, seeks out Jane. She finds her preparing to marry a distant cousin and sail to the West Indies as a missionary’s wife. It is not the life Jane wants, but she feels she must after losing her position and begin cast out into the world - her reputation ruined by Rochester’s lies regarding his relationship with her. Her only hope, until Betha’s return, is a loveless marriage for the sake of convention.
Bertha begs Jane not to leave her again, to come and live with her - anywhere in the world they choose - and to raise Adéle with her.
Jane breaks off her engagement and the two women run away together, to somewhere far away from the conventionalities of England, somewhere where their money and their anonymity keep them safe. There is a garden in the grounds of their new home, one that Bertha spends as much of her time in as possible. She loves the feel of the grass on her feet, the heat of the sun, the brightness of it all - things she never thought she would feel again. They raise Adéle as their own, imbuing in her the self-confidence and love she needs to flourish. They are happy, they are free.
There are always moments when one feels empty and estranged. Such moments are most desirable; for it means the soul has cast its moorings and is sailing for distant places. This is detachment; when the old is over and the new has not yet come. If you are afraid, the state may be distressing, but there is really nothing to be afraid of. Remember the instruction: Whatever you come across – go beyond.
There are always moments when one feels empty and estranged. Such moments are most desirable for it means the soul had cast its moorings and is sailing for distant places. This is detachment , when the old is over and the new has not yet come.
On Sunday, I was en route to Washington for a backpacking trip. I received a phone call from an unfamiliar number with a stranger’s voice telling me that a dear friend had jumped off of a building.
Tragedies come in all different shapes and sizes. Hurt is felt in different grades, some kinds more potent than others. And I know worse things have happened to better people.
But the thing is, you never expect loss of this kind to happen to you. You never expect to be hit with it like a thousand cement blocks. You never think you’d feel a loss that’s this grand and this deep, with all the wind knocked out of you. With the world coming to a standstill, your breathing the only thing you hear. Your brain pounding insensibly and wildly. You, not knowing how to pick your guts up.
At first the discovery didn’t mean anything. It didn’t make any sense, with the word “gone” like a too distant sail in the sea, barely perceptible. Then it grew and got closer, like a hungry animal, retreating when it was fed then returning for more. I spent three days in the mountains trying to understand what was happening. Trying to quell the shit storm inside that came on like torrential waves in the most random and defenseless of moments. I saw him everywhere—dancing on the peaks, hiding behind the trees, across the shore on the alpine beaches, perched on the edge of a lakeside rock. As if almost there. Almost. Everything seemed to be shaded with a tender sadness. Every second was permeated with him, every molecule in the air tinged with the weighty presence of “gone.”
His “gone.” Chris’ “gone.”
A combination of words I never thought I’d put together.
He was one of the more beautiful, extraordinary souls I’ve ever known. He lost himself to his fears, anxieties, insecurities. He thought he wasn’t worth much. He was a wandering spirit with a quietly rebellious conscience, and he was compelling that way. He was a real searcher. He had an abundance of love to give. What he didn’t realize was that his displays of affection, care, and devotion came from a place of real, honest to god courage. I think he was braver than most people I know.
We didn’t know each other for very long. But what I do know of him is that he is the stuff of dreams. He was my dream.
I’m glad to have lived it for a little bit.
Hope you’re finally finding your ultimate ride, friend. Miss you.
When I first said I wanted to travel, mother jokingly said, ‘Take me with you.’
When I said I wanted to explore, brother scoffed and said, 'Try reading a map.’
When I said I wanted to discover, father raised an eyebrow and said, 'Discover what?’
When I said I wanted to wander the world, my friend said, 'Why not?’
How often are we told as children that one day we won’t want to travel, and we’ll just want to settle down and never move? How often did we look forward to those family vacations that slowly became boring, and trips we’d rather avoid? When I was little, I wanted to become lost in the woods, set sail for distant shores, and make maps all my own. Dreams of a child that soon began to fade…
I became older, however, and discovered the word 'wanderlust’. How amazing, I thought, that there is a word to describe how I feel. That it is not some child’s fantasy left over from simpler times, but something that has grown within me since I was little. To travel and explore, to be overtaken by an unexplainable feeling that urged you to drift from town to town, city to city, state to state, country to country, continent to continent… How wonderful, I thought, that it is not just me reaching for the stars, but wanting to explore them.
Yet I am still here, trapped in this house that is filled with too many secrets, and bound by the family that I never truly thought of as mine… The cravings of wander have never left, however, and I can only assure myself that one day… Oh, one day…
I will see all that I can…and nothing will stop me again.
But hark! what shriek of death comes in the gale,
And in the distant ray what glimmering sail
Bends to the storm?—Now sinks the note of fear!
Ah? wretched mariners!—no more shall day
Unclose his cheering eye to light ye on your way!
“The Mysteries of Udolpho” (1794) by Ann Radcliffe, born July 9th, 1764.
Let things happen as they happen - they will sort themselves out nicely in the end. You need not strain towards the future - the future will come to you on its own. For some time longer you will remain sleep-walking, as you do now, bereft of meaning and assurance; but this period will end and you will find your work both fruitful and easy. There are always moments when one feels empty and estranged. Such moments are most desirable for it means the soul had cast its moorings and is sailing for distant places. This is detachment—when the old is over and the new has not yet come. If you are afraid, the state may be distressing; but there is really nothing to be afraid of. Remember the instruction: whatever you come across, go beyond.
Her wedding dress is an exquisite creation, a sparkling mass of silk, tulle, and diamonds. The heavy skirt floats around her like a halo, weighing her down like an achor. The corset of her dress, perfectly laced by hands obsessed with detail, accentuates her curves and crushes her ribcage. The fabric is the same white as the full moon before a day of rain.
Sakura wishes it would rain and drown her in this dress.
Her husband-to-be is a vain man, cruel behind closed doors. But he has a name and money behind it, and that’s all her parents care about. She does not bite her lip or cry as the veil is settled into her combed pink locks, she does not scream as her gloves are buttoned around her wrists like shackles. She does not break the antique vase standing a few feet away like she wants to.
She is a woman, and in this world her voice is as the dying cry of an ant.
But there is a face that haunts her, no matter how hard she tries to push it away. A face she first saw down at the docks, unloading cargo from the trade ship’s latest haul. A scowling face, with high cheekbones and eyes the color of the abyss. His unruly jet hair, held back by a strip of linen, frantically trying to escape in the strong breeze. She supposes that mayhap his lack of a shirt was the first thing that caught her attention, but it was his eyes that held her captivated.
That was the first night that she ever snuck out of her parents’ home, dressed as a street urchin as she made her way to the sailors’ tavern. Inside, she avoided large, sweaty men that made her skin crawl, making her way through the crowd until she spotted him against the back wall, wittling away at a piece of driftwood.
It didn’t take her long to lose her heart to him, and more besides.
She is not unaware of the way men use pretty words to woo women into bed, leaving them the next morning like discarded waste. But this was never Sasuke’s way (as she came to learn his name was). He treated her as though she was the sun, lighting his day and his life, worshipping her body as an altar to her heart.
She snuck out to the tavern every night that she could, meeting him in alleyways and dark rooms and all sorts of shady venues whose existence she never would have acknowledged before him. Kisses and promises were exchanged, and she knew she had found the world in his arms.
But however long they had, it could never be long enough. She learned that he was not merely a sailor, but indentured, bound to the trade ship for another ten years of service. And they had four days before they sailed for distant waters. This disappointment would have been heartbreak enough, if it weren’t for her parents’ announcement of her engagement to a man she’s never met, only merely heard rumors of.
There is nothing either of them can say, nothing they can do that won’t mean death for him if they are caught. And so four days later, she watched her heart sail away from her, knowing she will probably never see him again.
And today, as she is escorted to the church where she will make her death march down the aisle, she seals away the memory of him inside of her, banishing her heart to the cold reaches of Tartarus, and dimming the light of her smile forever.
But the coachman turns away from the church, and Sakura glances out the carriage window to see the city flying by at an alarming speed. She does not have to wait long to find out the meaning of their diversion from the church, because just outside the city limits the carriage halts, and her door is pulled forcefully open.
Sakura’s breath catches in her throat as she recognizes those dark eyes, blazing with unspoken emotion. She does not remember throwing herself into his arms, only the feel of his embrace and his lips at her ear, murmuring her name over and over again in a litany.
They abandon the carriage and her oversized skirt, and she is much more able to comfortably sit in front of him on the horse as they set off in search of a new life.
Let things happen as they happen, they will sort themselves out nicely in the end. You need not strain towards the future - the future will come to you on its own. For some time longer you will remain sleep-walking, as you do now, bereft of meaning and assurance, but this period will end and you will find your work both fruitful and easy. There are always moments when one feels empty and estranged. Such moments are most desirable for it means the soul had cast its moorings and is sailing for distant places. This is detachment - when the old is over and the new has not yet come. If you are afraid, the state may be distressing; but there is really nothing to be afraid of. Remember the instruction: whatever you come across - go beyond.
Imagine a world where men shared the land with mythical beings like dwarves, elves, orcs, and other such creatures. Now imagine that over time, such beings recessed as man's civilization grew and grew, encroaching upon the forests of the elves and digging through the mountains of dwarves and sealing up the pits of the orcs. Now imagine that a council was held with these mythical creatures who had decided that maybe man had their day. Maybe now they had gone too far. And maybe it was time to put them to an end. Their short lives full of death and hardship and struggle should be only that, for in the greater timeline, surely the immortal elves or the long-lived dwarves have a greater stake in the shaping of the world. Now imagine that these races put their differences aside, or tried to, and banded together to destroy man. Dark magic, terrible elemental forces, and destructive schemes are employed to tear through the most prominent human civilizations. Humans are outcasted, forced to retreat to small, isolated villages where they hope to just survive and avoid being hunted down by the creatures they once pushed back themselves. The elves are not sailing for distant shores any longer and the dwarves - and far worse - are leaving their mountain homes to put an end to the human menace.