[Red Pen Reads] A Game of Thrones – Daenerys

The Dothraki have their own interpretation of “dinner and a show” and it’s something. Drogo cuts a heart out of a stallion and serves it to Dany, who has to consume it for the benefit of the dosh khaleen, the Merry Widows of Vaes Dothrak. I’m not at all squeamish about the fact that it’s a heart, but it’s raw and she’s pregnant! Surely that’s bad for reasons of salmonella or, I don’t know, it just seems axiomatic that pregnant ladies should not be consuming large quantities of fresh blood. Then again, I fully plan to eat sushi if I feel like it if I’m ever pregnant, so maybe I’m just a big old hypocrite.

The heart-eating ceremony is a ritual that’s believed by the Dothraki to predict the outcome of the pregnancy: if Dany fails, the child might be born with all sorts of disabilities and disadvantages. Notably, being female is on the bottom of that list. Look, if there are no girls, who will your precious sons marry?! … Pretty Westerosi princesses I guess is the answer to that, so I’m just going to shut up and stop judging the Dothraki ways.

As if it’s not enough that she’s doing this now, Dany has actually spent the last two months as a vampire in order to get used to the taste. The huge, bloody muscle takes a while to eat, but she finally chokes the last of it down, managing not to succumb to morning sickness and spray it back over the audience. Drogo is very proud of his pookie-bear.

The Merry Widows must’ve been pleased with Dany’s performance. They decree that she’s carrying a boy, then chant themselves into a stupor, coming out of it to hand down a prophecy: he shall be the stallion that mounts the world. (From behind? What, Dothraki-style!) Dany gets to name him, with no input from Drogo interestingly enough, and she calls him Rhaego, it’s obvious in whose honour. I bet Robert would burst a blood vessel if he found out.

The entire group parades from… wherever this heart-eating took place to the lake so that they can watch Dany bathe and have sex with her husband. I don’t think the sex is a mandatory part of the ceremony, horse-gore just turns Drogo on. Oh baby, you so pregnant and smeared in blood, baby. GRRM continues comparing Dany’s slight stature to that of “a child,” just to fuck with me, I think. Drogo, Dany and their people then ride back to Drogo’s hall to party.

“The air was thick with the smells of roasting meat and curled, fermented mares’s milk.” And even that is not enough to make Dany hurl. Dany must have a cast-iron stomach. The party’s already started, apparently there are at least a few people who don’t get to see Dany naked. It sure doesn’t feel that way sometimes. Somehow, everyone there already knows about the world-sexing stallion prophecy.

Drogo settles in to drink with the other khals, Dany settles in and looks around for Viserys. Oh, please tell me Viserys didn’t get to watch her bathe and have sex with Drogo. Objectively, it wouldn’t be probably even in the top five of the squicky things in this book, but Viserys is like an automatic +10 to the squick factor of any scene he’s in. He doesn’t seem to be in this one, so Dany invites Ser Jorah to sit with her instead. I have many feelings about Jorah, none of them particularly complimentary, but I will allow him to be a better choice than the alternative.

Jorah informs Dany that Viserys is off doing stupid things at the market and she’s worried that he might get hurt. This is the point at which I started cackling with something resembling glee. More important is the fact that Viserys apparently had designs on Dany’s dragon eggs and Jorah warned him off. Dany’s first reaction is an appropriate “hands off what’s mine!” Her second, when Jorah informs her that the dragon eggs are as valuable as any gemstone, is to say that she’ll give them to Viserys, he only has to ask. Jorah’s just about as fed up with Dany’s devotion to her brother as I am, but more diplomatic about it. Dany reasonably explains that he’s the only family she has left. Jorah reasonably points out the husband, baby, and thousands of Dothraki. Speaking of the baby, Jorah explains “the stallion who mounts of the world” prophecy to Dany: khal of khals who will unite the Dothraki and conquer the world. Alexander the Great with bells in his hair, in other words.

Viserys appears: plus 10 to the scene’s squick factor! Viserys is a walking illustration of “pathetic”: ragged clothing, stinking drunk. He staggers through the crowd, hurling insults at Dany. It’s appropriately enough the collection of everything that’s ever been wrong with Viserys in one crowning (see what I did there?) moment of ignominy. Refusing attempts to be saved from himself, he shrugs off Jorah and heads for Drogo, who has learned enough Common Tongue from Dany to deliver a verbal bitchslap Viserys can understand without interpreters.

Enraged by the laughter of thousands of Dothraki and Jorah’s attempts to pull him away, Viserys breaks Vaes Dothrak’s one law and draws his sword. He beelines for Dany and by the time he’s pointing the sword at her belly, threatening to cut the baby out and take her back because Drogo hadn’t held up his end of the bargain, his fate has long since been sealed. Drogo knows exactly the crown Viserys deserves and he’s going to give it to him right now.

For a tense and highly anticipated karmic payment, this scene is not actually one of action. First, Drogo’s bloodriders disarm Viserys, then Drogo puts his big, gold belt into a pot and everyone has to sit around and wait for the gold to melt. The fact that it happens in minutes in the book (and literally seconds in the HBO show) feels like the biggest piece of fantasy in this fantasy epic. Viserys does not face his inevitable death with dignity befitting a king. He writhes and kicks and pleads with Dany, calling her “sweet sister” again. Kill it, kill it with fire! Which is pretty much exactly what Drogo does: he dumps the pot of melted gold on top of Viserys’s head. Yay! It’s this moment that truly endeared GRRM to me, I realized that no matter what horrible things happen to characters I like, there’s always the chance that something equally horrible will happen to someone over whose funeral pyre I’ll want to roast marshmallows.

Dany is very philosophical about it all. She looks at the corpse, remembers his own words that it’s never too hot for a Targaryen, and realizes that Viserys was no dragon, not even a wyrm, just a worm.

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