Water Gardens and Blood Oranges, Part IV: It Ends in Blood

“Would that a council seat were all Martell came to claim,” Lord Tywin said. “You promised him vengeance as well.”

“I promised him justice.”

“Call it what you will. It still comes down to blood.” (ASOS TYRION I)

As A Dance With Dragons closes, Doran Martell’s master plan has already failed. His son is dead and the chance for a Targaryen alliance has slipped through his fingers. But Doran doesn’t yet know this, and he and his family hurtle toward war regardless.

This final essay in this series will speculate on what the Dornish arc is building up to. It will necessarily be more speculative than previous installments, but I’ll focus heavily on textual foreshadowing and thematic setup that I see pointing in a certain way.

Where does the desire for vengeance lead? Overall, I think the Dornish arc is heading toward two tragedies — first a moral tragedy, as they will be responsible for the deaths of Tommen and Myrcella, and then a larger bloody horror for the Dornish people when they end up at war against Dany.

(Spoiler note: This essay will discuss the first two Arianne chapters from The Winds of Winter.)

Ellaria’s Warning

There is only one ADWD chapter set in Dorne, but it is one of immense thematic importance. It depicts Balon Swann delivering the Mountain’s head to the Martells. Justice is, apparently, served.

Prince Doran frowned. “That is so, Ser Balon, but the Lady Nym is right. If ever a man deserved to die screaming, it was Gregor Clegane. He butchered my good sister, smashed her babe’s head against a wall. I only pray that now he is burning in some hell, and that Elia and her children are at peace. This is the justice that Dorne has hungered for. I am glad that I lived long enough to taste it. At long last the Lannisters have proved the truth of their boast and paid this old blood debt.” (ADWD AREO I)

With Gregor’s head delivered, and the prior deaths of Tywin and Amory Lorch, everyone involved in the murder of Elia and her children is now gone. Yet Doran and the Sand Snakes don’t pause to reconsider their desires for vengeance, not even for a second. Unsatisfied, they keep moving ahead with their war plans.

This is a very important point, because it gets to the heart of the distinction between justice and vengeance. The problem is that Doran, and the Dornish more generally, have extended the grudge beyond the perpetrators of the crime. They want the downfall of House Lannister generally. They are greedy.

Martin makes this point very clear with the Cassandra-like figure of Ellaria Sand, apparently the only person in Dorne who perceives the folly of what is transpiring. In a long dialogue between Ellaria and the Sand Snakes, she eloquently and accurately points out their bloodthirstiness and stupidity:

Obara bristled. “I never did and never shall.” She gave the skull a mocking kiss. “This is a start, I’ll grant.”

“A start?” said Ellaria Sand, incredulous. “Gods forbid. I would it were a finish. Tywin Lannister is dead. So are Robert Baratheon, Amory Lorch, and now Gregor Clegane, all those who had a hand in murdering Elia and her children. Even Joffrey, who was not yet born when Elia died. I saw the boy perish with mine own eyes, clawing at his throat as he tried to draw a breath. Who else is there to kill? Do Myrcella and Tommen need to die so the shades of Rhaenys and Aegon can be at rest? Where does it end?” (ADWD AREO I)

Ellaria sees where things are headed — in trying to avenge the terrible crime against Elia, the Dornish will commit a new terrible crime themselves. And on and on it will go. Note how her anguished question of where it ends, is later echoed by this later discussion between Jaime and Hoster Blackwood:

“The Old King’s Peace lasted half a century. But then some fresh quarrel broke out, and the old wounds opened and began to bleed again. That’s how it always happens, my father says. So long as men remember the wrongs done to their forebears, no peace will ever last. So we go on century after century, with us hating the Brackens and them hating us. My father says there will never be an end to it.”

“There could be.”

“How, my lord? The old wounds never heal, my father says.”

“My father had a saying too. Never wound a foe when you can kill him. Dead men don’t claim vengeance.”

“Their sons do,” said Hoster, apologetically.

“Not if you kill the sons as well. Ask the Casterlys about that if you doubt me. Ask Lord and Lady Tarbeck, or the Reynes of Castamere. Ask the Prince of Dragonstone.” For an instant, the deep red clouds that crowned the western hills reminded him of Rhaegar’s children, all wrapped up in crimson cloaks. (ADWD JAIME I)

As one considers what’s going in Dorne, it’s clear that Jaime is wrong. The specific example he thinks of — the murder of Rhaegar’s children — is what’s motivating Doran to claim vengeance right now. Yet Hoster’s words, which he heard from his father, point to the folly of the Dornish as well. After seventeen years of peace, they are tossing it aside to claim vengeance, because they can’t forget the wrongs done to their forebears. So, Hoster answers Ellaria’s question of “where does it end” — it never ends.

Back in Dorne, Nym Sand has a different answer for Ellaria:

“Where does it end?”

It ends in blood, as it began,” said Lady Nym. “It ends when Casterly Rock is cracked open, so the sun can shine on the maggots and the worms within. It ends with the utter ruin of Tywin Lannister and all his works.”

“The man died at the hand of his own son,” Ellaria snapped back. “What more could you wish?”

“I could wish that he died at my hand.” Lady Nym settled in a chair, her long black braid falling across one shoulder to her lap. She had her father’s widow’s peak. Beneath it her eyes were large and lustrous. Her wine-red lips curled in a silken smile. “If he had, his dying would not have been so easy.”

“Ser Gregor does look lonely,” said Tyene, in her sweet septa’s voice. “He would like some company, I’m certain.” (ADWD AREO I)

The savage Sand Snakes can’t be appeased. They will help lead Dorne into a self-destructive war. Ellaria knows it, and dreads it. It won’t just be Myrcella and Tommen who suffer — many Dornish will die too. So here, Ellaria gives a powerful speech on the folly of war and the emptiness of vengeance, calling to mind Hoster’s words again:

Ellaria’s cheeks were wet with tears, her dark eyes shining. Even weeping, she has a strength in her, the captain thought.

“Oberyn wanted vengeance for Elia. Now the three of you want vengeance for him. I have four daughters, I remind you. Your sisters. My Elia is fourteen, almost a woman. Obella is twelve, on the brink of maiden-hood. They worship you, as Dorea and Loreza worship them. If you should die, must El and Obella seek vengeance for you, then Dorea and Loree for them? Is that how it goes, round and round forever? I ask again, where does it end?” Ellaria Sand laid her hand on the Mountain’s head. “I saw your father die. Here is his killer. Can I take a skull to bed with me, to give me comfort in the night? Will it make me laugh, write me songs, care for me when I am old and sick?” (ADWD AREO I)

But though Doran praises Ellaria, he nevertheless sends her away and ignores her advice. While doing so, he makes a promise he can’t truly be sure of keeping — that no harm will come to her girls.

“Our enemies are in disarray. The time is ripe.”

“Ripe for what? To make more skulls?” Ellaria Sand turned to the prince. “They will not see. I can hear no more of this.”

“Go back to your girls, Ellaria,” the prince told her. “I swear to you, no harm will come to them.”

“My prince.” Ellaria kissed him on the brow and took her leave. Areo Hotah was sad to see her go. She is a good woman. (ADWD AREO I)

After she’s gone, in response to more Sand Snake bloodthirstiness, Doran gives his speech about the lessons of the Water Gardens. He chides them for attempting to start a dumb war, with the implication that he, Doran, has a better way. It is all premised on his assumption that the power of the dragons will soon be on his side.

“We could kill him, to be sure,” said Tyene, “but then we would need to kill the rest of his party too, even those sweet young squires. That would be … oh, so messy.”

Prince Doran shut his eyes and opened them again. Hotah could see his leg trembling underneath the blanket. “If you were not my brother’s daughters, I would send the three of you back to your cells and keep you there until your bones were grey. Instead I mean to take you with us to the Water Gardens. There are lessons there if you have the wit to see them.”

“Lessons?” said Obara. “All I’ve seen are naked children.”

“Aye,” the prince said. “I told the story to Ser Balon, but not all of it. As the children splashed in the pools, Daenerys watched from amongst the orange trees, and a realization came to her. She could not tell the high-born from the low. Naked, they were only children. All innocent, all vulnerable, all deserving of long life, love, protection. ‘There is your realm,’ she told her son and heir, ‘ remember them, in everything you do.’ My own mother said those same words to me when I was old enough to leave the pools. It is an easy thing for a prince to call the spears, but in the end the children pay the price. For their sake, the wise prince will wage no war without good cause, nor any war he cannot hope to win.

“I am not blind, nor deaf. I know that you all believe me weak, frightened, feeble. Your father knew me better. Oberyn was ever the viper. Deadly, dangerous, unpredictable. No man dared tread on him. I was the grass. Pleasant, complaisant, sweet-smelling, swaying with every breeze. Who fears to walk upon the grass? But it is the grass that hides the viper from his enemies and shelters him until he strikes. Your father and I worked more closely than you know … but now he is gone. The question is, can I trust his daughters to serve me in his place?” (ADWD AREO I)

In attempting to use the Sand Snakes, Doran seems to be making the same mistake that Arianne did in trying to use the ruthless and unscrupulous Darkstar. Can Doran truly believe that he can restrain their behavior once they head to King’s Landing?

Doran then discloses the existence of a new plot by Cersei against Trystane’s life. This leads to some amusing Sand Snake hypocrisy — after all that discussion of their desire to murder Tommen, and the discussion just moments ago of murdering “those sweet young squires,” they just can’t believe that someone would want to murder a young boy! Outrageous!

Areo Hotah would not have believed it possible to shock the Sand Snakes. He would have been wrong.

“Seven save us,” whispered Tyene. “Trystane? Why?”

“The woman must be mad,” Obara said. “He’s just a boy.”

“This is monstrous,” said Lady Nym. (ADWD AREO I)

Finally, Doran has a private talk with Arianne. He smiles at the thought that Dany and Quentyn are just about to arrive.

“That last part, about the message. Have you had tidings?”

Prince Doran shared his secret smile with her. “From Lys. A great fleet has put in there to take on water. Volantene ships chiefly, carrying an army. No word as to who they are, or where they might be bound. There was talk of elephants.”

“No dragons?”

“Elephants. Easy enough to hide a young dragon in a big cog’s hold, though. Daenerys is most vulnerable at sea. If I were her, I would keep myself and my intentions hidden as long as I could, so I might take King’s Landing unawares.”

“Do you think that Quentyn will be with them?”

“He could be. Or not. We will know by where they land if Westeros is indeed their destination. Quentyn will bring her up the Greenblood if he can. But it does no good to speak of it. Kiss me. We leave for the Water Gardens at first light.” (ADWD AREO I)

Everything seems to be going to plan, and this will probably be the last time we see Doran happy.

Arianne, Still Ambitious

The next time we visit the Dornish, at the beginning of The Winds of Winter, we know that Doran’s plans for “fire and blood” have already gone awry in two key ways. Doran doesn’t yet know about the first unexpected development — that Quentyn has died in Meereen, throwing the prospects of an alliance between Dany and Dorne into question. But now he gets news of the second — that a boy calling himself Aegon Targaryen has launched an invasion of Westeros:

Arianne read the letter thrice, then rolled it up and tucked it back into her sleeve. A dragon has returned to Westeros, but not the dragon my father was expecting. Nowhere in the words was there a mention of Daenerys Stormborn… nor of Prince Quentyn, her brother, who had been sent to seek the dragon queen… Fire and blood was what Jon Connington (if indeed it was him) was offering as well. Or was it? “He comes with sellswords, but no dragons,” Prince Doran had told her, the night the raven came. “The Golden Company is the best and largest of the free companies, but ten thousand mercenaries cannot hope to win the Seven Kingdoms. Elia’s son… I would weep for joy if some part of my sister had survived, but what proof do we have that this is Aegon?” His voice broke when he said that. “Where are the dragons?” he asked. “Where is Daenerys?” and Arianne knew that he was really saying, “Where is my son?” (TWOW ARIANNE I)

Doran’s reaction emphasizes again that he is deeply concerned with only launching a war that he can win. He wanted the dragons to ensure his victory with a minimum of bloodshed — but only ten thousand sellswords have shown up, backing a dubious claimant.

Yet he chooses to dispatch Arianne anyway, hoping she’s learned lessons from her failed queenmaking attempt. Doran emphasizes, again, the importance of caution, and of not starting a doomed war based on bad information:

“Send a raven whenever you have news,” Prince Doran told her, “but report only what you know to be true. We are lost in fog here, besieged by rumors, falsehoods, and traveler’s tales. I dare not act until I know for a certainty what is happening.” (TWOW ARIANNE I)

But he gives Arianne the power to start that war. She can do so by sending only one word to the two massed Dornish armies:

One word from Arianne and those armies would march… so long as that word was dragon. If instead the word she sent was war, Lord Yronwood and Lord Fowler and their armies would remain in place. The Prince of Dorne was nothing if not subtle; here war meant wait. (TWOW ARIANNE I)

Doran’s final words to Arianne are particularly important, and Martin chooses to open the chapter with the below paragraph.

On the morning that she left the Water Gardens, her father rose from his chair to kiss her on both cheeks. “The fate of Dorne goes with you, daughter,” he said, as he pressed the parchment into her hand. “Go swiftly, go safely, be my eyes and ears and voice… but most of all, take care.

“I will, Father.” (TWOW ARIANNE I)

In the symbolically-important locale of the Water Gardens, Doran dispatches another of his children to go seek fire and blood, leaving the fate of Dorne in her hands, and giving her that final warning to “take care.”

But will Arianne heed this warning? She admits responsibility for her queenmaking folly, and tells herself she’s learned from her mistakes:

It was my own fault. Arianne had made them part of her plot to steal off with Myrcella Baratheon and crown her queen, an act of rebellion meant to force her father’s hand, but someone’s loose tongue had undone her. The clumsy conspiracy had accomplished nothing, except to cost poor Myrcella part of her face, and Ser Arys Oakheart his life….  I was a foolish willful girl, playing at the game of thrones like a drunkard rolling dice. The cost of her folly had been dear. (TWOW ARIANNE I)

She says Darkstar was her worst mistake, and explains why:

Dayne was her most grievous sin, the one that Arianne most regretted. With one stroke of his sword, he had changed her botched plot into something foul and bloodyPoison, thought Arianne. Yes. Pretty poison, though. That was how he’d fooled her. Gerold Dayne was hard and cruel, but so fair to look upon that the princess had not believed half the tales she’d heard of him. Pretty boys had ever been her weakness, particularly the ones who were dark and dangerous as well. That was before, when I was just a girl, she told herself. I am a woman now, my father’s daughter. I have learned that lesson. (TWOW ARIANNE I)

As I mentioned in Part II, I believe Darkstar to represent the attractiveness and brutality of war. Arianne was so attracted to Darkstar that she convinced herself he couldn’t be truly evil. This mirrors how she convinced herself that her queenmaking plot would be fun and glorious, rather than a deliberate risk of Myrcella’s death. She says, again, that she learned her lesson. Did she?

Arianne played a game of cyvasse with Ser Daemon, and another one with Garibald Shells, and somehow managed to lose both. Ser Garibald was kind enough to say that she played a gallant game, but Daemon mocked her. “You have other pieces beside the dragon, princess. Try moving them sometime.”

“I like the dragon.” (TWOW ARIANNE I)

And what of Arianne’s ambitions? She was motivated to crown Myrcella because she wanted her birthright, she wanted Dorne, and she thought her brother Quentyn was going to steal it from her. Now, she’s been assured that she will have Dorne… but that Quentyn will be king:

It was true, she had resented Quentyn for all those years that she had thought their father meant to name him as his heir in place of her, but that had turned out to be just a misunderstanding. She was the heir to Dorne, she had her father’s word on that. Quentyn would have his dragon queen, Daenerys…

King Quentyn. Why did that sound so silly? (TWOW ARIANNE I)

And so we see the ambitions stirring again. Why should Quentyn be king? He doesn’t really deserve it anyway. Aegon, if he’s real, has the stronger claim, and he’d be able to marry Arianne. Daemon Sand, Arianne’s first lover, knows her too well, and instantly perceives what she’ll want:

“If not, though… if this truly is Jon Connington, if the boy is Rhaegar’s son… ”

“Are you hoping that he is, or that he’s not?”

“I… it would give great joy to my father if Elia’s son were still alive. He loved his sister well.”

“It was you I asked about, not your father.” So it was. (TWOW ARIANNE I)

Arianne tries to say the right thing, but Daemon isn’t convinced:

“We looked for Rhaegar’s sister, not his son.” Her father had confided in Ser Daemon when he chose him as his daughter’s shield; with him at least she could speak freely. “I would sooner it were Quentyn who’d returned.”

“Or so you say,” said Daemon Sand. “Good night, princess.” He bowed to her, and left her standing there.

What did he mean by that? Arianne watched him walk away. What sort of sister would I be, if I did not want my brother back? (TWOW ARIANNE I)

We then get a splendid scene where Arianne’s spoken words attest her loyalty to her brother, but her thoughts and the narration repeatedly undermine this, insult him, and betray her real inclinations:

King Quentyn. Why did that sound so silly? Almost as silly as Quentyn riding on a dragon. Her brother was an earnest boy, well-behaved and dutiful, but dull. And plain, so plain. The gods had given Arianne the beauty she had prayed for, but Quentyn must have prayed for something else. His head was overlarge and sort of square, his hair the color of dried mud. His shoulders slumped as well, and he was too thick about the middle. He looks too much like Father.

“I love my brother,” said Arianne, though only the moon could hear her. Though if truth be told, she scarcely knew him…

….Arianne had always been closer to her cousins than to her distant brother.

“We are still the same blood, though,” she whispered. “Of course I want my brother home. I do.” The wind off the sea was raising gooseprickles all up and down her arms. (TWOW ARIANNE I)

The lady doth protest too much, methinks. She returns to the theme at the very end of the chapter, bringing up a topic suddenly on her mind — fratricide:

“He was killed by a Dothraki khal,” said Arianne. “The dragon queen’s own husband.”

“So I’ve heard. What of it?”

“Just… why did Daenerys let it happen? Viserys was her brother. All that remained of her own blood.” (TWOW ARIANNE I)

Of course, this is a direct follow-up to Arianne’s earlier question of “What sort of sister would I be, if I did not want my brother back?” How could a sister possibly do such a thing to her brother? Arianne thinks she knows the answer:

“The Dothraki are a savage folk. Who can know why they kill? Perhaps Viserys wiped his arse with the wrong hand.”

Perhaps, thought Arianne, or perhaps Daenerys realized that once her brother was crowned and wed to me, she would be doomed to spend the rest of her life sleeping in a tent and smelling like a horse.  (TWOW ARIANNE I)

And there it is. Arianne projects her own motivations onto Dany. She can perfectly well understand one reason a sister might betray her brother — to take the crown for herself. Because that’s what she wants to do right now.

The fate of Tommen and Myrcella

As this is where the published material ends, I’ll close with more speculation on the two tragedies I see the Dornish arc building toward. First is the moral tragedy — the Dornish will back Aegon and will help him successfully take King’s Landing, an effort which will include the gruesome murders of Tommen and Myrcella. Second is the tragedy for the Dornish people –Aegon and Daenerys will be pitted against each other in a bloody civil war, and Dorne will pay the price.

The setup for Arianne pledging Dorne to Aegon has already been mentioned above. Her motivation is the same — ambition, and fear of her brother displacing her. Of course, she won’t know that Quentyn is already dead, but her ambition will lead Dorne prematurely into war nonetheless. The Sand Snakes — two of whom have been sent to the capital — will swing into action.

Though we can’t know the exact specifics of what will transpire, the logic of the story overwhelmingly points to “Aegon” taking the capital. There is simply no reason for Aegon to be introduced, or for the Dornish arc to be so heavily emphasized, unless we are headed here.

A cloth dragon swayed on poles amidst a cheering crowd. (ACOK DANY IV)

And if Aegon takes the capital, with Arianne as his queen, that means Tommen and Myrcella basically have to end up dead, which has of course already been foreshadowed by prophecy:

“Queen you shall be . . . until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.”…

…“Will the king and I have children?” she asked.

“Oh, aye. Six-and-ten for him, and three for you… Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds,” she said. (AFFC CERSEI VIII)

As mentioned in the previous section, Arianne considers the brutal attempted-child-murderer Darkstar as her most “grievous sin” in her queenmaking plot. But she doesn’t realize she’s poised to repeat that sin — war means dead children. She also doesn’t realize that her beloved cousins are cut from the same cloth as Darkstar. If we are looking for one potential child-murderer, I’d suggest Nym Sand, who has already expressed her desire to murder Tommen, keeps well-hidden knives, and will now be at court:

“Four lives will suffice for me. Lord Tywin’s golden twins, as payment for Elia’s children. The old lion, for Elia herself. And last of all the little king, for my father.”

“The boy has never wronged us.”

“The boy is a bastard born of treason, incest, and adultery, if Lord Stannis can be believed.” The playful tone had vanished from her voice, and the captain found himself watching her through narrowed eyes. Her sister Obara wore her whip upon her hip and carried a spear where any man could see it. Lady Nym was no less deadly, though she kept her knives well hidden. “Only royal blood can wash out my father’s murder.” (AFFC AREO I)

“We must needs return Myrcella to her mother, but I will not be accompanying her. That task will be yours, Nymeria. The Lannisters will not like it, no more than they liked it when I sent them Oberyn, but they dare not refuse. We need a voice in council, an ear at court. Be careful, though. King’s Landing is a pit of snakes.”

Lady Nym smiled. “Why, Uncle, I love snakes.” (ADWD AREO I)

And as for another potential child-murderer — Jon Connington has also expressed his desire to be more ruthless and more like Tywin Lannister this time around:

For years afterward, Jon Connington told himself that he was not to blame, that he had done all that any man could do. His soldiers searched every hole and hovel, he offered pardons and rewards, he took hostages and hung them in crow cages and swore that they would have neither food nor drink until Robert was delivered to him. All to no avail. “Tywin Lannister himself could have done no more,” he had insisted one night to Blackheart, during his first year of exile.

“There is where you’re wrong,” Myles Toyne had replied. “Lord Tywin would not have bothered with a search. He would have burned that town and every living creature in it. Men and boys, babes at the breast, noble knights and holy septons, pigs and whores, rats and rebels, he would have burned them all. When the fires guttered out and only ash and cinders remained, he would have sent his men in to find the bones of Robert Baratheon. Later, when Stark and Tully turned up with their host, he would have offered pardons to the both of them, and they would have accepted and turned for home with their tails between their legs.”

He was not wrong, Jon Connington reflected, leaning on the battlements of his forebears. I wanted the glory of slaying Robert in single combat, and I did not want the name of butcher. So Robert escaped me and cut down Rhaegar on the Trident. “I failed the father,” he said, “but I will not fail the son.” (ADWD CONNINGTON II)

So, I think the setup for the Dornish and Connington murderering Cersei’s children is quite clear. While trying to get his revenge on Tywin, Doran instead ends up becoming Tywin.

But there will be worse still ahead.

Conclusion: Doom and Death Are Coming

Initially, Doran’s fears about grievous harm to the Dornish people will be unfounded. He thought there was no way to conquer Westeros with just the Dornish and 10,000 sellswords — yet things will go far better than he expected, and Aegon will be crowned and ruling in King’s Landing in the next book. But what happens afterward?

It was then that pasty, pudgy Teora raised her eyes from the creamcakes on her plate. “It is dragons.”

“Dragons?” said her mother. “Teora, don’t be mad.”

“I’m not. They’re coming.”

“How could you possibly know that?” her sister asked, with a note of scorn in her voice. “One of your little dreams?”

Teora gave a tiny nod, chin trembling. “They were dancing. In my dream. And everywhere the dragons danced the people died.” (TWOW ARIANNE I)

I think this passage speaks for itself as quite obvious setup that Dany and Aegon will go to war in a new and bloody dance of the dragons that will devastate Dorne. Again, the specifics of how we get there remain to be seen — garbled tales blaming Dany for Quentyn’s death, doubts about the mummer’s dragon’s legitimacy, the Greyjoys, Aegon’s arrogance, Arianne’s ambitions, a scheming Tyrion, and a darker Daernerys could all play a part — but I can’t really envision all of this setup paying off in any way other than a brutal war:

A hundred years ago, Daenerys Targaryen came to Dorne to make a peace. Now another comes to make a war… (TWOW ARIANNE I)

This is the tragedy of Doran Martell. He wanted his vengeance, and was obsessed with achieving it through a good war, an easy victory, a game he was guaranteed to win — using the dragons and a minimum of Dornish bloodshed. Instead, he seems headed for the opposite — a war where Dorne is pitted against the terrifying power of the dragons. It turns out when you unleash war, you unleash forces you can’t control — whether they’re Darkstar, the Sand Snakes, Arianne, or the dragons — forces that can smash plans all awry. Doran thought he could master “fire and blood” — but instead, it will be turned against his country and his people.

War means dead children — that’s a central theme to the Dornish arc, and it’s one that returns again in Arianne’s first TWOW chapters. Specifically, attention is given to Ellaria’s children, one of whom is sent off with Arianne:

War is happening, thought Arianne, and this time Dorne will not be spared. “Doom and death are coming,” Ellaria Sand had warned them, before she took her own leave from Prince Doran. “It is time for my little snakes to scatter, the better to survive the carnage.” …Elia Sand, oldest of the four girls that Prince Oberyn had fathered on Ellaria, would cross the Sea of Dorne with Arianne. (TWOW ARIANNE I)

Much like the Dornish as a whole, Elia is a headstrong girl with no caution and no idea of what she’s getting into. In Arianne’s second sample chapter, which Martin read at a con, the possibility that Elia could die is mentioned again:

“Elia is in a cave catching fish with her bare hands in a pool. Arianne is furious with her for running off, and Elia gets a bit petulant because she doesn’t think that she did anything wrong. Arianne makes her promise to behave, as she’s supposed to be pretending to be one of the Princess’s maidservants. She shouts at Elia that the girl could have died in the cave, and ‘died’ echoes ominously three times against the walls.” (Paraphrased reading from TWOW ARIANNE II)

Meanwhile, another of Ellaria Sand’s children is sent to the Water Gardens. This is purely speculative, but Martin dwells on the Water Gardens so much, as such an important symbol of peace and innocent life, that I wonder if he is setting up a scene of awful bloodshed to take place there.

We will see — but overall, it seems pretty clear that the Dornish thirst for vengeance, and Arianne’s ambition, will lead nowhere good.

Thanks for reading!


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92 responses to “Water Gardens and Blood Oranges, Part IV: It Ends in Blood

  1. greatwyrmgold

    “The Dothraki are a savage folk. Who can know why they kill? Perhaps Viserys wiped his arse with the wrong hand.”
    He misrepresents the Dothraki. They’ve killed for far pettier reasons.

    And on that note, I finish reading your blog. I’m interested to see what you cover next, but I suspect I’ll be coming off of a The Winds of Winter high before I find out.

  2. DougL

    Oh, this will do wonders for your ego, I think GRRM actually referred specifically to your Meereenese Knot essays in Sweden.

  3. NosceHostem

    Loved this. And yes, a brutal war is coming. But even in KL, given the changing season and the title TWoW, it will be a snowy, freezing, brutally cold war to come.

    Again, though, great set of essays on your site. Read them all and loved them.

  4. I loved the Dorne chapters and I appreciate them even more now that I’ve read your analysis. I have found the Sand Snakes so frustrating, and Prince Doran’s continued faith in them (and poor Quentin) to do a job that they are so poorly suited for.

    I hadn’t thought about Doran (who I really like as a character) becoming more Tywinesque, but after mulling over it I think you’re probably right. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say.

    Can’t wait for your next essays!

  5. shirel

    hi! i love your work! are you planning writing a new essay any time soon?

  6. william prieto

    You’re essays are incredibly engrossing. Will you be writing more in the future?

  7. Probably one correction required as it’s pretty much clear from the show how tommen dies. That fits into its own theme, having lannister children die different deaths.

    • I don’t think so. Tommen’s a different character in the show, much older, acts on his own behalf. His book version is a passive innocent child. I think he’ll be killed, not kill himself.

    • milli

      and if you have read the books and watch the show , i don’t understand why would you equate that fanfiction of a TV with the books and GRRM making it clear that they are writing things completely different from what he wanted, telling a tale opposite of what the books are telling?
      That show thought Sansa=Jeyne is all same. Or hat Shireen burning for some snow is same as Shireen burning to save the world from White Walkers or something or the other? see their genius? so i would keep the show speculation absolutely away from books if i were you.

  8. Pingback: Un final escrito en sangre: ensayo sobre el futuro de la casa Martell (1ª parte)

  9. Pingback: Un final escrito en sangre: ensayo sobre el futuro de la casa Martell (2ª parte)

  10. Caprea

    I love these essays, I’ve stumpled upon your side in the asoiaf subreddit and it’s really great to read your thoughts on these different topics, especially because i read the books quite a while ago, but thanks to the quotes I’m getting back into it a little and understand the plot although I already forgot all the little details. Makes me want to read the books again.

    But have one remark for this essay, because is one thing which I found odd. I get the feeling that you take the “dead children” quite literally, but the quote “but in the end the children pay the price” for me has a much deeper meaning. Children don’t only pay by dying. They also pay by losing their loved ones, growing up in horror, being left with mental scars. They don’t need to “die” literally, even if they live the war will have hurt them in many ways. Which in the end will lead to a new vengeful or emotionally instable generation. So the children are not only the symbol for innocents dying, but also for vicious circle it causes and the chances of future generations being sacrificed for a vain cause.

  11. RedRabbit

    Love these essays and the Meereenese Blot series as well. I don’t think it’s Doran but JonCon who becomes more Tywinesque. Knowing that he’s on limited time due to greyscale will add to the urgency he feels to make more rash and ruthless decisions. JonCon, like the Sand Snakes, is another force of war he can’t control.

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