Welcome to my A Dance with Dragons re- read. This week we are getting a Melisandre perspective for the first time, and then we're rejoining Theon (or Reek as he's currently known, apparently) to see what more trouble he can find for himself.
We find out that there is always a fire burning in Melisandre's chambers. She is gazing into her flames, trying to see Stannis, but she sees other things. Towers by the sea crumbling before a dark tide. She sees a thousand red eyes and a boy with a wolf's face who howls. Blood runs down her thigh as she continues to see things. She sees flaming arrows and dead things, apparently at Hardhome, and then cold and nothing else. She hears the name Jon Snow and sees his face- a man, then a wolf, then a man. Enemies all around him, but he wouldn't listen.
She thinks that she tries to see her king but all she sees is Snow. She reflects that her bed sees little use now that Stannis is gone. She never sleeps for more than an hour, and thinks that one day she may not sleep at all. She thinks that Jon is foolish not to take better quarters for himself, since the trappings of power are part of what makes a ruler respected. Her sleeves have hidden pockets where she hides her powders- she uses these t turn fire green or blue or silver, to create smokes that truth, for fear, for lust, even death. She has a chest that is more than three quarters empty now, but she is stronger at the Wall.
Rattleshirt is summoned to her and we learn that it's not really Rattleshirt- it's Mance Rayder, who Melisandre is hiding behind a glamor. She doesn't fear him as the first thing she learned was how to see danger to herself. She wants him to go and bring the girl she has seen in her vision to Jon, safely.
"I have seen her in my flames, but only once. We must win the lord commander's trust, and the only way to do that is to save her."
Melisandre assumes this girl is Arya, but we know Arya is in Braavos. So who is it? They are discussing the mission when the horns blow, and Mel knows the rangers have returned, as she predicted. Heads on spears- Black Jack bulwer, Hairy Hal and Garth Greyfeather. She tells Jon about the towers in her vision, he asks if it could be Eastwatch, and she thinks the towers in her vision were different, but she says yes Eastwatch. She then takes him to see Mance, and Jon is of course shocked to find out that Mance is alive, and Mel thinks that it was a lot harder to conceal him than she lets on- but no one must know how difficult it was for her.
Mel's visions are fascinating. I wonder if the dark tide washing over towers are actually dead coming out of the sea to overwhelm Eastwatch? But then later she thinks they didn't look like Eastwatch- so where then? Also the thousand red eyes I'm thinking might be symbolic of Bran, watching with a thousand eyes- or that could be a reference to Bloodraven. We find out that Mel in some ways is not as powerful as she lets on, using powders and trickery to deceive others- but at the same time she says she is stronger at the Wall than anywhere else, and her power more potent there.
Mel also thinks that no one in her order is more skilled than her at reading the flames, and yet she clearly has limitations on what she can see. She tries to see Stannis for example and has no luck. She does see Jon and we get a pretty good indication that she's seeing what happens after his betrayal. The blood running down her leg, and the cryptic way she references fire, almost like it's inside her- the fact that she doesn't need to sleep or eat apparently- raises questions about who or what she is.
This is a fascinating chapter, and left me wanting more. As I've mentioned previously this is the point in the book where things really get interesting.
Theon is at Barrowton now and thinks that Ramsay is being careful, as he cannot afford to antagonize the Dustins and Ryswells and the others he needs. We see that Little Walder is a jerk, like Ramsay, but Big Walder is not as bad. Ramsay demands a feast after they come back empty handed- apparently they were looking for some missing Freys, and there is a suspicion that Lord Manderly had them killed. During the feast Roose Bolton shows up and he discusses with Ramsay the issue of Manderly, and the fact that he brought no hostages. They also discuss Lady Dustin, who cannot stand Ramsay.
It appears that Lady Barbrey Dustin is in Bolton's camp because she blames Ned Stark for her husband's death. Bolton tells ramsay that Stannis has marched, but not on the Dreadfort. Arnolf Karstark tried to bait him into doing so, but to no avail. Bolton has decided Ramsay will marry "Arya" (it's really Jeyne Poole) at Winterfell, and they mean to face Stannis there. He also makes Ramsay release Theon and takes him with him. As they ride Bolton lets Theon know that Ramsay's men really report to him, and that Ramsay has no secrets. He says the Cerwyns and Tallharts are not to be trusted, Manderly plots betrayal and Whoresbane Umber is dangerous.
These chapters can be a tough slog as I don't particularly like this storyline and don't have a lot of use for Theon and his captors at this point. still, we get some very interesting info here. Bolton talks to a terrified Theon and I got the distinct impression that Bolton is insane. Still he introduces Theon to Lady Dustin and it's clear they have some use in mind for Theon.