Spoilers Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Winds of Winter
All along the south coast of Cape Wrath rose crumbling stone watchtowers, raised in ancient days to give warning of Dornish raiders stealing in across the sea…
With that, George R.R. Martin ominously opens his latest Winds of Winter sample chapter from the perspective of Arianne Martell. Who’s Arianne? Why, she’s Princess-Not-Appearing-In-Game-of-Thrones. In all seriousness, she’s the daughter of Doran Martell and heir to Sunspear (in A Song of Ice and Fire), and she’s in the Stormlands. Why is she in the Stormlands and not Dorne? She’s there to evaluate Jon Connington and Aegon to determine whether they’re authentic and whether Dorne should throw its meagre lot in with these outnumbered invaders. Arianne has specific instructions to send ravens back to her father Doran to tell him of all she knows.
The stakes couldn’t be higher.
We open with Arianne Martell arriving at the Weeping Town on the south coast of the Stormlands. Upon arriving, she sends her party off to various inns to gather news of what’s happening in the Stormlands. The information that comes back to Arianne is confusing: men and boys are rushing north, Aegon and Jon Connington are marching on Storm’s End and committing atrocities and everywhere the talk is of war and rumors of war.
Arianne sends a raven.
The party departs the Weeping Town and strikes north for Griffin’s Roost. As they enter the rainwood, Arianne takes special note of all the vegetation that she sees, and… it’s really good writing:
Dusk found them on the fringes of the rainwood, a wet green world where brooks and rivers ran through dark forests and the ground was made of mud and rotting leaves. Huge willows grew along the watercourses, larger than any that Arianne had ever seen, their great trunks as gnarled and twisted as an old man’s face and festooned with beards of silvery moss. Trees pressed close on every side, shutting out the sun; hemlock and red cedars, white oaks, soldier pines that stood as tall and straight as towers, colossal sentinels, big-leaf maples, redwoods, wormtrees, even here and there a wild weirwood. Underneath their tangled branches ferns and flowers grew in profusion; sword ferns, lady ferns, bellflowers and piper’s lace, evening stars and poison kisses, liverwort, lungwort, hornwort. Mushrooms sprouted down amongst the tree roots, and from their trunks as well, pale spotted hands that caught the rain. Other trees were furred with moss, green or grey or red-tailed, and once a vivid purple. Lichens covered every rock and stone. Toadstools festered besides rotting logs. The very air seemed green.
That night, rains fall and the party beats a hasty retreat to a cave. There, two of Arianne’s party (Feathers and Elia Sand) go off to explore the cave. When they don’t return promptly, Arianne and the rest of the party set off looking for them. Arianne and Ser Daemon Sand set off down one passage and see the faces that the Children of the Forest carved into the rock. (Hello Bran and the Three Eyed Crow potentially being able to see them!) When they finally find Elia and Feathers, Arianne chastises her in some potential foreshadowing for Arianne:
“You could have died,” said Arianne again. Her words echoed off the cavern walls. “…died… died … died…”
Arianne reminds Elia that she swore an oath on her father’s, Oberyn, bones, and Elia unhappily says she will obey Arianne from here on out. (She won’t).
The next morning, the party arrives at Mistwood: a castle recently taken by the Golden Company. There, they encounter Chain and John Mudd: two sellsword serjeants who reveal that Jon Connington and Aegon are marching from Storm’s End, but where are they marching? Mudd tells Chain to keep his trap shut, but Chain retorts that Arianne is Dorne, and that she’s there to join with Aegon. Arianne is a bit more reluctant to think that way.
That evening, the Dornish and the Golden Company share a dinner, and Arianne meets up with Olenna Tyrell… err… wait… no, not her… I mean, Lady Mertyns (But seriously, she’s basically Lady Olenna, and she’s feisty: h/t PoorQuentyn for this point). Cheerfully, Lady Mertyns tells Arianne:
“My sons and grandsons went off when Lord Renly called his banners,” she told the princess and her party. “I have not seen them since, though from time to time they send a raven. One of my grandsons took a wound at the Blackwater, but he’s since recovered. I expect they will return here soon enough to hang this lot of thieves.”
After some ‘playful’ banter on whether the Golden Company are a lot of thieves and rapists or not, Arianne dispatches a second raven back to her father from the castle’s rookery.
Arianne returns to her chambers and discovers Feathers and Elia Sand fooling around in the room next to hers. She again chastises Elia Sand for being an idiot and for getting handsy with a serving man. Again, Arianne reminds Elia of her vows on her father’s bones and again the girl unhappily acknowledges her vows.
The next day, the party sets off for Griffin’s Roost. Along the way, Chain lets slip that Jon Connington and Aegon are moving on Storm’s End. Arianne wonders whether Connington is brave or foolish.
Arianne sends a raven.
As the party approaches Griffin’s Roost, they’re met by the Golden Company’s spymaster: Lysono Maar. Lysono’s appearance startles Arianne, and she finds him unnerving to look upon with his earrings and painted fingernails. She wonders if this is what Viserys Targaryen looked like.
The party continues towards Griffin’s Roost, and Arianne tries to manipulate Lysono into telling her more information. Lysono mostly hedges and manipulates Arianne right back into allying Dorne with the Golden Company’s dragon. When Arianne asks where Daenerys Targaryen is and how she has actual dragons. Lysono gives her this response:
“Half a world away on Slaver’s Bay,” said Lysono Maar. “As for these purported dragons, I have not seen them. In cyvasse, it is true, the dragon is mightier than the elephant. On the battlefield, give me elephants I can see and touch and send against my foes, not dragons made of words and wishes.”
Arianne sends a raven.
Finally, the party arrives at Griffin’s Roost and greeted by House Connington and Golden Company banners atop the battlements. After being introduced to a few sellswords, Haldon Halfmaester (a companion of Jon Connington’s and Tyrion’s from A Dance with Dragons) approaches Arianne and reports some shocking news:
“Has no one told you?” Halden Halfmaester favored her with a smile thin and hard as a dagger cut. “Storm’s End is ours. The Hand awaits you there.”
Arianne is told that a ship awaits to take her up to Storm’s End. She decides to think on it. Haldon tells her that Aegon and Connington are marching out to meet the Tyrells in battle, and Arianne wonders if she’ll actually be safe at Storm’s End.
That night, Ser Daemon Sand approaches her and requests to go up to Storm’s End in her place, but she declines. Arianne is Dorne, and she has her orders:
“My father entrusted this task to me, not you. Come the morrow, I sail to beard the dragon in its den.”
This is no simple travelogue chapter. Instead, GRRM has opted to explore the fate of Dorne through an introspective POV character who doesn’t know what to do. That motif is evident throughout Arianne’s various observations of what she sees. She’s there to evaluate what Doran Martell should do, but she’s slowly moving towards action.
The question is whether the direction she’s moving in is what Doran Martell actually wants. There’s nothing if not a sense that Arianne is moving Dorne to side with Aegon in this chapter. Will Dorne survive the war to come? Is Aegon worth siding with? The answers elude Arianne, but her literal movement to Aegon is likely a broad metaphor for how Arianne will move Dorne closer to war and to Aegon.
One question that I’ve seen come up is why did Doran Martell send Elia Sand, Daemon Sand and a party of unknowns along with Arianne? The answer is probably fairly simple. If you’ve read A Feast for Crows, you’ll know that Arianne nearly destroyed years of Doran Martell’s planning by crowning Myrcella Baratheon with her friends. Daemon Sand was once Arianne’s lover, and his presence is intended to prevent Arianne from seducing her way into Aegon’s favor. Meanwhile, Elia Sand is meant to serve as a stand-in for Arianne herself, so that she’s reminded of her own foolishness. In fact, Daemon Sand says as much to her in the cave:
“Why would my father inflict her on me?”
“Vengeance?” the knight suggested, with a smile.
Meanwhile, the party of unknowns is intended to prevent Arianne from doing something foolish, like… take ship for Storm’s End.
And that’s the rub: Doran Martell has invested Arianne with a select party of compatriots, but they are powerless to stop Arianne from doing what she wants. That will have consequences later on in The Winds of Winter.
This chapter has a fairly interesting publication history. It was originally intended to be in The Winds of Winter, but GRRM decided to move up the chronology of an event in A Dance with Dragons, so he ended up writing this chapter and the preceding Arianne chapter for A Dance with Dragons in early 2010.
Later, he ended up reshuffling the order and placing the two Arianne chapters into The Winds of Winter:
What’s happened is, I’ve decided to move two completed chapters, from Arianne’s POV, out of the present volume and into THE WINDS OF WINTER. This is something I’ve gone back and forth on. Arianne wasn’t originally supposed to have any viewpoint chapters in DANCE at all, but there’s this… hmmm, how vague do I want be? VERY vague, I think… there’s this event that would of necessity provoke a Dornish reaction. The event was originally going to occur near the end of the book, but in one of my forty-seven restructures I moved it to the late middle instead. And the timeline then required that the Dornish reaction happen in this book and not the next one, so I wrote the two Arianne chapters and was going to write a third… and a chapter from another POV that would be a necessary complement to them, and…
But no, I’ve restructured again, and put the original precipitating event back close to the end of the book. Which means the Arianne chapters can be returned to WINDS, where I had ’em originally. – GRRM, notablog, Dancing in Circles?, 7/27/2010
Also of interest, Ser Addam Whitehead makes his grand appearance as a knight leading men and boys north to join with Connington. Who is Addam Whitehead? Why no other than Adam “Werthead” Whitehead of Wertzone and Westeros.org fame!
What’s Next for Arianne?
We know that GRRM originally intended to write a third Arianne chapter. We can surmise that Arianne will meet Aegon in this chapter. I wonder… will she fall for him? It seems likely given her perspective:
Pretty boys had ever been her weakness, particularly the ones who were dark and dangerous as well. (TWOW, Arianne I)
It seems more likely given Tyrion’s observation of Aegon’s appearance:
This beardless boy could have any maiden in the Seven Kingdoms, blue hair or no. Those eyes of his would melt them. (ADWD, Tyrion IV)
With Aegon at her side, Arianne will look to King’s Landing and perhaps her own place as Queen of Westeros. But Daenerys and her dragons are coming, and with their coming, Arianne will be in significant danger. Will the dragon queen accept Arianne or will she die… die… die…
BryndenBFish is the creator of the Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire Blog a blog and podcast dedicated to political and military analysis of A Song of Ice and Fire. He can be found at twitter as @BryndenBFish. Additionally for those interested, he’s mid-process through an analysis of Aegon, Jon Connington and Arianne Martell’s storyline on his blog. Check out his “Blood of the Conqueror” tag on WordPress for more!