It’s the dead of night in Volantis and a lucky fisherman has hauled in a basket full to the brim with a fresh catch as he beaches his little one-mast boat. His luck promptly changes when a huge fist flies out of the dark and knocks him into next summer. Ser Jorah Mormont has done the cold-cocking and he drags the poor sod away from the surf so that he doesn’t drown, gives him a couple of coppers as recompense and goes to find his captive, Tyrion. Who is still trussed up and unable to escape, (though not from lack of trying), from where Jorah has embedded his poniard in the sand. Jorah treats the half-man like a sack of flour as he dumps him unceremoniously into the boat, pushes off, jumps onto the stern and sets sail.
On another, larger ship, in the slightly less temperate waters of The Narrow Sea, Ser Jaime Lannister asks the captain of the merchant vessel he and Bronn are travelling to Dorne on, whether that isle they’re passing is Estermont, but it is actually Tarth, much to Jaime’s subdued but still noticeable melancholy. Bronn is even more tetchy about their venture, about their transport, their odds of survival against the hot-blooded Dornish and what motivation could possibly make the Kingslayer risk such a scheme. Bronn reveals that the ‘Baratheon’ offspring being Jaime’s is pretty much an open secret among, oh, I don’t know… Everyone. And that he knows his employer wishes to fill a hole in his life in the place of the warrior he once was, by being a true father to Myrcella instead; and perhaps to atone for freeing Tyrion, which Jaime denies, claiming it was Varys acting alone. This laundry-list of denials just seems to amuse Bronn.
Ser Bronn of the Blackwater: Well… If you ever see the wee fucker, give him my regards.
Ser Jaime Lannister: He murdered my father. If I ever see him, I’ll split him in two. And then I’ll give him your regards.
In a lengthy episode at King’s Landing, Lord Mace Tyrell, burdened with two offices of the small council is cajoled by Cersei into taking a trip to Braavos in order to negotiate repayment of a mere tenth of the Crown’s enormous debt to the Iron Bank. A voyage, the dotty Paramount of the South is chuffed to accept. With the head of the Tyrell family out of the way, Cersei then petitions her new head of the Faith of the Seven, the High Sparrow, offering to rearm the Faith MilitantWhat with the atrocities the War of the Five Kings has left in its wake, holiness is more important than ever and sin must be cleansed from every household, the lowest and the highest.
Throughout the city, the Faith Militant overturn merchant tables and smash alehouses, their civil violence ignored by the gold cloaks. The marauding crusaders bust into Littlefinger’s brothel once again and assault both the patrons and workers alike; Olyvar also gets slapped around. Again. Seriously, he should stop mentioning Peter Baelish’s name and expecting them to care, but as we see next, the Faith doesn’t take very kindly to depravity, and when it comes to homosexual intercourse, they take it even worse. The punched-up portly poofter says he’ll pay the militants off, unfortunately, their ringleader doesn’t want reimbursement in gold as he draws out a wicked looking knife and Olyvar quite understandably runs for the hills as the man’s hideous screams chase after him.
These pogroms on all the capital’s perceived evils are inter-cut with a fanatic receiving his sigil of a red seven pointed star on a white field. Only… The mark is inscribed into their foreheads with a blade, and the one getting the latest star is none other than Lancel Lannister himself. Newly scarred, a mob of the fanatics catch Loras Tyrell during his cool down period between a sparring session and arrest him for crimes against both gods and men. When the Knight of Flowers demands to know who these bozos think they are; Lancel replies that they are.
Poor gormless Tommen, who was most likely duped into signing the proclamation rearming the Faith by his mother, is accosted by Margaery; furious at her brother’s imprisonment. Anxious to please his bride, he goes to Cersei but she passes him off to her new ally, who is a lot more difficult to deal with than accommodating mummy. Though king, Tommen has the gentlest soul of all and has probably never in his life been confronted by a gang of ultra adherent zealots, let alone been confronted at all in his life of Riley. He is unwilling to spill blood on the steps of the Sept and is too intimidated to negotiate, untested as he is, when the High Sparrow refuses him an audience. The scattered shouts from the small-folk of his status as an “abomination” then unman him entirely. And he all but confesses his powerlessness to Margaery, who will send words to the Queen of Thorns for this attack on her family, bitingly insinuating that Tommen, though her husband – does not hold that place in her heart yet.
We cut away to Castle Black, where King Stannis and Queen Selyse watch over Jon drilling his men in the practice yard.
Queen Selyse Baratheon nee Florent: You think highly of this boy?
King Stannis Baratheon:
Selyse: And a bastard by some tavern slut.
Stannis: (musing) Perhaps, but that wasn’t Ned Stark’s way.
Selyse once more agonises over her inability to conceive a male heir for her husband. But Stannis assures her it is no-one’s fault. Selyse thinks otherwise, that maybe her daughter’s deformity has something to do with it… Melisandre of Asshai objects to such incidental imprecation, as Shireen possesses near the same amount of Targaryen ancestry as her father, giving her the blood of kings and conquerors, regardless of her greyscale scars, and the same power within it… This causes Selyse to back off. The Red Woman inquires whether Stannis will take her with him to the siege of Winterfell and he confirms this; he will not allow Davos to sway him this time, not after magic has won most of his victories.
Stannis: I need you.
Melisandre: You only need faith, my king.
Stannis: … And you, my lady. What do you need?
Melisandre: (watching Jon) To serve my Lord.
Jon and Sam sign and seal letters requesting supplies and manpower from many of the lesser known Northern houses. It is only when Sam places a paper that entreats Lord Bolton for surplus that Jon puts his foot down. Not wishing to kowtow to his brother’s murderer. But Samwell convinces him of the painful necessity of the signature and Jon reluctantly puts quill to parchment. As Sam is taking the folder to be raven posted, Melisandre enters Jon’s quarters and Sam hightails it. Jon inquires as to what he can do for her, like Stannis and Davos before her, she tries to convince him to aid in their taking of Winterfell; citing his knowledge of the castle’s secret passages and other weaknesses. Jon falls back on his tired oaths but Mel asserts that there has only ever been one war. The war of life against death. And that no man can stay apart from such a conflict. She then brazenly tries to seduce him, citing his own hidden power within and that their joining can cast life, light and shadows. Much as she did with Stannis back on Dragonstone. Though clearly shaken with lust and more than a little willing, Jon manages to resist the redheaded shadow-binder’s promiscuous advances with his memories of Ygritte, defeated, Mel uses the wildling girl’sagainst Jon, much to his horror.
In his office, Stannis hears a knock at his door and Shireen enters. Concerned, he asks after her state of mind and discovers that Selyse was dead set against their daughter accompanying them to the Wall. Much to Stannis’s disappointment in his wife’s maternal affections. Shireen then poses something she’s long wished to know:Stannis looks as astonished as a man of his taciturn nature can look. He puts down his paperwork, stands up, comes around his desk and proceeds to tell his only child a story. When she was born he bought her a doll dressed in their house colours and placed it in her cradle for her to play with. He can still remember her happiness at the gift. But it hid something terrible, the contagion of the disease that nearly took her life. Though he burned the doll, the sickness had already taken hold and his household advised Stannis to send her away to Essos and live out the remainder of her short life with a leper communion, the Stone Men. But Stannis didn’t let such a thing as a near fatal disease stop him from saving his first-born, dammit! Every medical resource was called upon and the tide was turned. Because she did not belong on the other side of the world, she is his little princess and she — is — his — daughter. In tears, Shireen throws her small arms around her father’s waist, who, after a moment’s pause returns the hug, breathing into her hair.
Beneath Winterfell, Sansa Stark lights candles for the statues of her ancestors and even finds the feather that King Robert placed in the hand of Lyanna’s mausoleum effigy. Baelish discovers his niece in the crypts and Sansa remarks on how she would find her father down here, watching vigil over his sister’s tomb and that she was beautiful beyond compare.
Lord Peter Baelish: I saw her once. I was a boy, living with your mother’s family. Lord Whent held a great tourney at Harrenhall. Everyone was there. The Mad King, your father, Robert Baratheon, and Lyanna. She was already promised to Robert. You can imagine what it was like for me, a boy from nowhere, with nothing to his name, watching these legendary men, tilting at the lists. The last two riders were Barristan Selmy and Rhaegar Targaryen. When Rhaegar won, everyone cheered for their prince. I remember the girls laughing when he took off his helmet and they saw that silver hair, how handsome he was. Until he rode right past his wife, Elia Martell, and all the smiles died. I’ve never seen so many people so quiet. He rode past his wife and he lay a crown of winter roses in Lyanna’s lap. Blue as frost. How many tens of thousands had to die because Rhaegar chose your aunt?
However, Sansa believes in the popular claim that Rhaegar absconded with Lyanna forcibly, leading to Rickard and Brandon Stark’s deaths and Robert’s Rebellion. But Petyr smiles, evidently noticing the parallels between his own gambits and the dragon prince’s; only he has been far more successful in his plots to secure his love. He discusses that Cersei has called him back to the capital, and that he must go so as not to bring down undue suspicion. Sansa is frightened at being left alone with her new, soon to be in-laws but Petyr says that Stannis may soon liberate the North and declare Sansa Wardeness; (though why he would want this, considering Stannis would execute Littlefinger on the spot for all his duplicity we can hardly know). If the reverse should happen and Stannis is skinned alive by the Boltons, then Sansa may still gain power by completing the unenviable task of controlling Ramsay socially. Sansa doesn’t have much choice in the matter though and is left alone as Petyr prepares for his trip south.
Off the coast of Dorne, Jaime and Bronn, well, Bronn rows them to shore and they quickly sleep the rest of the night away. Upon waking, Jaime sees Bronn about to hurl his kukri knife into his face! But his real target was the deadly coral snake, likely about to bite the Kingslayer where he lay. The pair feast on the serpent for breakfast. Over their meal, they banter on how they would like to shuffle off the mortal coil and how no-one usually gets the kind of death reserved for the heroes of song and story. They break camp, (putting out the hilariously fake fire that would never have cooked that meat enough to be safely consumed). And Bronn cautions Jaime on how their Pentoshi Captain could easily sell their location out to the Martells, regardless of the heavy bag of gold used to bribe him. Unfortunately, Bronn is proven right, whether by accident or design and they are surrounded by four light cavalrymen, their tracks in the dunes easily giving away their position.
Bronn covers their asses with pseudonyms and a convincing tale of being stranded but Jaime’s lack of knowledge on the local fauna pokes holes in Bronn’s cover story and the Dornishmen demand that they give up their weapons. Bron gives Jaime the ‘get ready’ look, plants his sword in the sand, then whips out his kukri and with one smooth throw buries it in the leader’s throat, toppling him from his steed. Bronn takes a second one out with no fuss no muss before forcibly dismounting the third by slashing at his horse’s bollocks, then leaving him for Jaime while he deals with the fourth. However, the soldier is not slowed by his fall and quickly has Jaime on the defensive, his slow return strikes easily swept aside with scimitar molinetes. The Kingslayer is brought down, barely surviving as he rolls down the hill, his foe’s elevation allowing him to batter Jaime’s guard away and disarm him. About to have his skull cleaved in two, Jaime half raises his golden hand to shield himself and by some miracle the scimitar catches right between the thumb and fingers, trapping it. Gobsmacked, Jaime has time to retrieve his sword and puncture the Dornishmen through the chest, to then kick him down the embankment. Jaime is not too pleased at having to rely on luck and the greater skills of his sellsword partner in crime, so he sets Bronn to work in burying the bodies, less they raise questions that start a new war. To which a peeved Bronn gets down to the heavy labour while Jaime relaxes and swigs from his canteen.
Elsewhere in the country, Ellaria Sand meets with her daughter, Tyene and two of her half-sisters, Nymeria and Obara, the Sand Snakes. Oberyn’s bastard girls. She informs them that Doran will not strive against the Lannisters and they alone must avenge their fallen family. And they can get to Cersei through Myrcella… Nym informs her relatives of a potential problem and whips a bucket off the sand to reveal the Pentoshi Captain buried up to his neck and tortured with Emperor scorpions. Obara was approached by him at Planky Town, but he has not received the reward he expected for his treachery. The Sand Snakes now know that Jaime is making his play to rescue his daughter and they will do everything in their power to stop him. And since they were trained by the, and all decide to ally with Ellaria; Jaime and Bronn are now in big trouble.
Upon the waves nearing the The Valyrian Peninsula, Ser Jorah is growing tired of Tyrion’s endless pleas to be untied through his gag. When the dwarf begins to sing non-stop through his muzzle, the exiled knight capitulates and removes the material roughly before returning to sit by the rudder lever. Tyrion asks who his captor is and whether he has any wine, only to be met with clipped responses that give nothing away. The littlest lion then realises that they are sailing east, not west and “the queen” that Tyrion fears is to the west,Jorah becomes more talkative and reveals that he is taking him to the only woman he will ever call queen; Queen Daenerys Targaryen. Tyrion cannot help but cackle dryly at this turn of events and inform Jorah that he was heading to her in the first place. Jorah does not believe him but the clever Imp replies that he hates the head of his family as much as Daenerys must and that they are on the same side. But still, Mormont refuses to free him.
Tyrion: (sulking, then sly as a thought comes to him, he starts scanning Jorah intently) A highborn knight from the North of Westeros, down on his luck in Essos. Dragon epaulets, bear sigil breastplate. You’re Jorah Mormont. I have to ask. How exactly were you serving your queen in a whorehouse half a world away? Is it possible, that you were running? Why would you be running? And why would she have sent you away? Oh, wait. You were spying on her, weren’t you? It’s all coming back to me. I was drunk through most of the small council meetings, but it’s all coming back. You passed notes to Varys’s little birds. She found out, didn’t she? Found out and exiled you. Now you hope to win back her favour with a gift. Risky scheme. One might even say desperate. You think Daenerys will execute me and pardon you? I’d say the reverse is just as likely.
Jorah slowly leaves the tiller, Tyrion looks pleased that he has convinced the exile to loosen his bonds. Instead, Jorah gives him a backhand bitch slap with his ring hand that thwacks the living daylights out of Tyrion, before returning to his seat and enjoying the sea breeze, free from the sound of pointed extrapolations from the mouths of irritating dwarfs.
We conclude the episode once again in Meereen, Daenerys is overlooking her Queensland, and notes to Ser Barristan that everything seems quiet and happy enough when you look down on the city from the pinnacle of the Great Pyramid. You wouldn’t know that there was so much strife occurring beneath the surface. It is most likely unsafe for the queen to mingle with her subjects after the riot Mossador’s execution caused. Selmy chuckles, warm and paternal.
Queen Daenerys Targaryen: (bemused) What?
Ser Barristan Selmy: I was thinking about all the times your brother, made me go with him down from the Red Keep into the streets of King’s Landing.
Daenerys: (curious) Why?
Barristan: He liked to walk among the people. (sparkling) He liked to sing to them.
Daenerys: He sang to them?
Barristan: (fondly) Yes!
Barristan: Rhaegar would pick a spot on the Hook, or the Street of Seeds – and then he’d sing. Just like all the other minstrels.
Daenerys: (rapt) And what did you do?
Barristan: I made sure no one killed him. And I collected the money. (sees Dany’s wry look of surprise) What? He liked to see how much he could make.
Daenerys: (gladdened) He was good?
Barristan: He was very good. Viserys never told you?
Daenerys: He told me
He told me
Barristan: (shakes his snowy head) Rhaegar never liked killing. He loved singing.
Daenerys: And what did you do with the money?
Barristan: Well, one time he gave it to the next minstrel down the street. One time, he gave it to an orphanage in Flea Bottom. One time… We got horribly drunk.
(both laugh together)
Daario enters to inform Dany that Hizdahr has arrived to petition her yet again, spoiling the familial atmosphere. The Queen of Meereen decides to grant an audience and offers Barristan a place at her side. But, seeing that Selmy looks tired of politics, Daario intervenes, saying that her Queensguard Knight will not be necessary for this daily nuisance. Much to the elderly warrior’s relief.
Daenerys: Go, Ser Barristan. Sing a song for me.
Barristan: Your Grace.
In Dany’s throne room, Hizdahr makes another plea for reopening the fighting pits, what with the annual season of the circuses beginning. Hizdahr goes on to explain that these traditions are one of the few things that will hold the warring classes and indeed the whole city together. And that though it may not be a permanent solution to every problem Dany’s rule is beset with, it will serve as a bridge to eventual peace inside her walls.
But even as the head of a noble family pleads their case, members of the Sons of the Harpy congregate in the sewers in greater numbers than we’ve ever seen before. They launch an attack on a group of Dany’s sellswords in the cold light of day while they drink and whore, easily dispatching them and luring a passing patrol of Unsullied to the attack site. One of the Harpies collaborators, the one responsible for White Rat’s murder, points them to an old set of stone stables, where the perpetrators have fled. The squad of seven pursue the Harpies but are caught in a corridor from both sides with at least thirty more of the gold-mask wearing, assorted cleaver and sharp implement wielding psychos.
Though up against men trained from birth, the Harpies more than make up for their lack of martial skill with sheer resolve and greater numbers. Piling on and slitting the throats of two of the Unsullied and stabbing another repeatedly on the ground to death while the remaining four of Dany’s army fight like demons. But they too are being overwhelmed by the sheer press of bodies. The Captain has dispatched four Harpies in return, until one armed with a machete forces him against the wall and knocks off his helm. It’s Grey Worm. Dany’s trusted General pulls the fanatic’s neck against his own short sword. And quickly kills two more with his retrieved spear, but only he and two others are left in the fight now.
All over the city, paired patrols are ambushed by eight or more Harpies, held down by three or four at a time and shanked over a dozen times before they can even fight back.
Walking the streets, Ser Barristan hears alarm bells ringing and the sounds of men dying in combat. He unsheathes the sword he likely took from a fellow Kingsguard member back when he quit Joffrey’s service from his battered old scabbard; marching towards the district from where the general populace of upper class citizens are fleeing en masse.
In the bazaar alley, Grey Worm is pinioned from behind and has a knife driven into his side as his men die around him. He bucks off his enemies and impales the Harpy who stabbed him in return, throwing the next man willing to challenge him onto the blunted end of the stuck spear. He then rips the short blade free from his torso and uses it to destroy his tenth foe that day, (that we’ve seen). Before
Outside, homes are aflame and another three man squad of Unsullied, outnumbered two to one by the Harpies, are slaughtered gruesomely before the fanatics rush to help their brethren inside.
Now alone, Grey Worm whirls and spins at the circle of leering masks, killing yet another two, even when surrounded. The Harpies are unwilling to get close to the pride of the Unsullied. Yet eventually they manage to strike him from behind and, just as they are about to deliver the killing blows, they hear one of their comrades screaming for mercy and a beautiful note of. They turn to see another Harpy getting his legs hewn out from under him to reveal Wait? Where’s their backup? That’s right, Selmy has already crossed eight of these fools off of his checklist.
A dozen advance on Barristan warily, all too aware of Ser Grandfather’s reputation it would seem; and leaving four to deal with Grey Worm. A shaft of sunlight catches the Bold’s implacable figure and his naked sword, bathed in Harpy blood as he levels it at the approaching mob, feinting a sudden move. Several try to rush past and get behind the elderly knight, but Selmy, (backed by a heroic variant of the Targaryen theme), leaps into combat like a man half his age. Within three precise moves two are already dead, one tries to shiv Barristan from behind only to find his fellow Harpy pulled around and thrown onto his own dagger. Selmy punts the shish-kebabed slaver and his accidental killer into their companions, keeping them from rushing him all at once. Jaime was not lying, the aged swordsman is truly a painter, a painter that only uses red. He lays one open from hip to shoulder, disembowels a second and with only his second expert parry of the entire fight splits a third’s spinal cord in half with a lightning riposte before running a fourth clean through.
Grey Worm findsand lays into the four standing over him, Selmy half decapitates a fallen Harpy, pulling his sword free with a squelch from his shattered collar bone, before one of the thinning ranks of his foes finally decides to grab onto the knight regardless of the cost. Although Barristan employs a half-swording vertical counter that bisects his opponent near clean in two from the front to free himself, the Harpy has given his allies the chance they need. One kicks the true knight square in the back, pushing him into the midst of his six remaining foes, he fights his way free with a single stroke but it is clear the heavy impact has offset his flow. Another practically lands on Barristan’s sword point as the knight staggers back, trying to get back into the fray but the Harpy holds himself on the blade maniacally, Selmy manages to push him off in time to kill his next attacker, but his direction of the skirmish is truly shot and a Harpy dives in low and
Incredibly, the truest knight pays the Harpy back in kind, only his return slice is a bit higher, try, along the path of several major organs. Of the three Harpies left, the first, who has no weapon, stomps Barristan down and the other two jump on him with knives. Selmy gores one through the intestines and out the other side with his sword and just as he is about to be stabbed in the back, he shoves his poniard, which he drew from his belt while on the ground with his left hand, up under the Harpy’s armpit and into his heart. At the last possible second, Selmy withdraws his sword from the dying Harpy to defend himself – he’s won!The final Harpy drives a leaf-bladed dirk right between Barristan’s ribs, causing the old warrior to unleash a The last Harpy wrenches his recently acquired weapon free, unstoppering the knight’s life blood in a great rushing flow, grabs his hair from behind as the queen’s royal protector kneels, defeated, and prepares to draw the knife across Selmy’s throat… And Grey Worm skewers the bastard before his arm can be pulled to the side and around.
The two comrades-in-arms fall next each other in the battle soaked straw, Barristan has already passed out from blood loss and Grey Worm quickly follows, but not before desperately trying to find out if the old Ser is alive. The walls are bathed in great patches of maroon liquid and even if they both die; they have sent nothing short of a heroic deal of their queen’s enemies to the deepest circle of the seven hells this day… Seventeen kills to Grey Worm and twenty two to Ser Barristan the Bold as they lie among the corpses they’ve made of men, their own crimson pooling underneath them while the bells ring on and on…