Tower of the Hand

Book 2, Chapter 1.
Maester Cressen attempts to poison Melisandre, but she is unaffected, and he only succeeds in killing himself.
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Maester Cressen watches the terrible red comet in the sky from a tower of Dragonstone. He is worried by the comet and by the official confirmation from the Citadel that summer is ending. Maester Pylos interrupts his ruminations to inform him that Shireen and her fool, Patchface, have come to see the white raven. Cressen broke his hip two years ago and fell seriously ill last year, at which time Pylos was sent to be his eventual replacement. Cressen has been the maester at Dragonstone for twelve years, arriving with Stannis when he was made lord of the castle. Shireen has been troubled by dreams of dragons coming to eat her. Cressen tells her that the dragons are gone, but she overheard Dalla and Matrice saying that the red woman claims the comet in the sky is dragonsbreath, and Shireen thinks they are coming back to life. She asks if summer is over, and Cressen replies in the affirmative. It had been the longest summer on record, ten years, two turns, and sixteen days.

Pylos returns with the raven then leaves to get Cressen's breakfast, and Patchface starts to sing a song about shadows coming, a song he has been singing frequently in recent days that is bothering Shireen. Patchface was a boy when he came into the service of House Baratheon. Lord Steffon had been sent to the Free Cities by King Aerys II to find a bride for Rhaegar since he had no sisters to marry. The trip was a failure, but Steffon found a brilliant fool in Volantis to bring home with him. Lord Steffon never made it home; his ship, Windproud, broke up in Shipbreaker Bay as Robert and Stannis watched from Storm's End. Lord Steffon, his wife Cassana, and a hundred men died in the wreck. Patchface washed ashore on the third day apparently dead, but when a man named Jommy grabbed his ankles, he coughed water and sat up. His mind was gone, and the castellan, Ser Harbert, told Cressen it would be best to put him out of his misery, but Cressen demurred. Pylos returns and reports that Ser Davos Seaworth returned last night and has been closeted with Stannis most of the night. Cressen decides to go see Stannis and offer his counsel.

Stannis has declared himself king and called his banners. He has gathered three thousand men on Dragonstone and closed the port, forcing any ships that have come within sight of Dragonstone within the last year to remain there. Cressen meets Ser Davos on his way up. Ser Davos had been sent to meet with the great lords of the Stormlands. He met with Lord Gulian Swann, Lord Selwyn Tarth, and Lord Penrose, but none would declare for Stannis. Lord Beric Dondarrion is missing and feared dead,1 and Lord Bryce Caron is with Renly and a member of his new Rainbow Guard, a new order of knighthood commanded by Ser Loras that is like the Kingsguard except that each knight wears a different color. Cressen asks if Davos brought no hope, and the knight replies that he only could if he lied, and he would never do so to Stannis.

Cressen remembers when Davos was knighted after the siege of Storm's End. The siege had lasted almost a year and the castle was completely blockaded by land and sea by Lord Mace's army and Lord Paxter's galleys. The horses, dogs, and cats were long gone and only roots and rats remained when Davos, an infamous smuggler in those days, brought a single ship into the castle under cover of darkness bearing onions and salt fish. The food allowed the castle to hold out until Lord Eddard broke the siege. As a reward for his service, Stannis gave Davos choice lands on Cape Wrath, a small keep, and a knighthood. For his crimes as a smuggler, Stannis chopped off the last joint of the four fingers on Davos's left hand.

Cressen completes the climb and enters Stannis's presence. Stannis is gloomy and bitter at Davos's news. The fact that the Stormlords have declared for Renly exacerbates Stannis's bitterness that Robert granted Storm's End to Renly instead of him. He took Dragonstone because Robert's enemies were there, but he never wanted to be named lord of the castle when his work was done. Stannis is also fed up with his lords and captains, Lord Ardrian Celtigar, Lord Monford Velaryon, Lord Duram Bar Emmon, Lord Guncer Sunglass, and the sellsword admirals Salladhor Saan and Morosh the Myrman. Cressen says he should treat with Renly, but Stannis refuses while Renly maintains he is a king. Cressen next suggests Robb Stark, but he is just another usurper in Stannis's eyes, and a green boy at that. He is also envious of Eddard, upon whom Robert always lavished so much praise. Stannis sat on Robert's small council for fifteen years helping Lord Jon rule, and was not happy that Eddard was named Hand instead of him on Jon's death. Cressen finally suggests betrothing Shireen to Robert Arryn in return for aid from Lysa. Stannis does not like this idea because Robert is weak and sickly. Stannis says Robert was going to be a page for him, but Cersei had Jon killed before the arrangements could be finalized.2 Stannis still thinks it might be worth a try until his wife, Selyse, comes in and disdains treating with anyone for what belongs to Stannis by right. She promises that House Florent will rally to him, but Stannis is not so sure they will risk Lord Mace Tyrell's wrath, and they will still not be able to provide enough men. Selyse then tells him to embrace the Lord of Light. She says Melisandre has looked into the flames and seen Renly dead. She says the comet is a sign that Stannis must sail and the banners of the Reach and the stormlands will flock to him. Cressen dissents vigorously, stating that fratricide is not the answer, but Stannis dismisses him. Cressen returns to his chambers and resolves that he must not allow this fratricide to occur. He goes into his stores and takes some strangler crystals to use at a banquet that night. He decides to take a nap, but oversleeps.

Cressen hobbles to the great hall, where the feast has already commenced, but crashes into Patchface on his way in. Melisandre comes to help him up and warns him that there are some truths not taught in Oldtown. He is surprised to find Pylos seated in his place, and Stannis informs him that Pylos will advise from now on. Cressen takes a seat by Ser Davos, who is on the dais along with King Stannis, Queen Selyse, Pylos, Melisandre, Lord Ardrian, Lord Duram, Lord Guncer, Lord Monford, and Salladhor Saan. Ser Davos tells Cressen that Stannis has chosen to trust Melisandre's visions and press his claim. Cressen tries once more to sway Stannis and claims that R'hllor has no power in Westeros. Melisandre warns him again, and Lady Selyse makes him wear Patchface's bucket helmet as mockery. He decides he must act and places the strangler in a cup of wine and offers to share the cup with Melisandre and drink to the Lord of Light. She agrees, but as he approaches, she says it is not too late to pour out the wine. They drink. Melisandre is unaffected by the poison; Maester Cressen dies from the poison.


  • POV: Cressen,   1st in ACOK, 1st overall

Active Characters

  1. Ardrian Celtigar - He is old and sour-looking.
  2. Axell Florent - He is homely.
  3. Cressen - He is nearly eighty and quite frail. Two years ago, he broke his hip and now has trouble walking.
  4. Davos Seaworth - He is slight with a common face and brown eyes and hair with a beard peppered with gray.
  5. Duram Bar Emmon - He is fourteen and plump.
  6. Melisandre - She is beautiful, with a slender figure, full breasts, and a heart-shaped face. Her hair is burnished copper, her eyes are red, and her skin is pale. She is called the red woman because she always wears red.
  7. Monford Velaryon - He is handsome with long fair hair.
  8. Patchface - He is soft and obese and a half-wit. His neck and head are tattooed with squares of red and green motley.
  9. Pylos - He is about twenty-five.
  10. Selyse Florent - She is tall and thin with big ears, a pointed nose, and the hint of a mustache on her upper lip. She has pale eyes.
  11. Shireen Baratheon - She is nine years old. She is not very pretty, inheriting both her father's square, jutting jaw and her mother's large ears. She was almost killed by an infection called greyscale while an infant, and the disease left half of one cheek and much of her neck mottled grey and black with dead skin that is stony to the touch. She has blue eyes.
  12. Stannis Baratheon - He is broad-shouldered and sinewy with leathery skin and a pinched, narrow face. He has only a fringe of black hair remaining around his head and a close-copped beard covering a square jaw. He has dark blue eyes. He is just short of thirty-five.


  1. Maesters - The maesters are trained at the Citadel in Oldtown. When summer is coming to an end, the maesters send word throughout Westeros using specially bred white ravens. The governing body of the maesters is known as the Conclave.
  2. Rainbow Guard - A new order of knighthood created by Renly Baratheon. It functions as the Kingsguard and has seven members just like that order, but instead of white, each knight wears a different color.


  1. Fury - Lord Stannis Baratheon's war galley. It is triple-decked and powered by three hundred oars.
  2. The Strangler - A poison in the form of a deep purple crystal that causes a person's windpipe to close, suffocating him as if he had choked on something. It is rare and difficult to make. The plant that provides the base grows only on the islands of the Jade Sea. The plant must be soaked in lime juice and sugar water and several rare spices from the Summer Isles, and the resulting potion must then be mixed with ash and allowed to thicken. Very few know the making, among them the alchemists of Lys, the Faceless Men, and the maesters of the Citadel.
  3. Windproud - Windproud sank on a return voyage from the Free Cities with the loss of one hundred men, including Lord Steffon Baratheon.


  1. Dragonstone - Dragonstone was the westernmost outpost of Valyria and was crafted using stoneworking techniques that have since been lost. The towers are the shape of dragons, and the walls are festooned with a thousand gargoyles as crenellations. The main keep is called the Stone Drum because the walls boom loudly during storms. At the top of the keep is a large room with a table created in Aegon the Conqueror's day in the shape of Westeros and painted with all the geographic features of the continent. A raised chair sits at the precise spot that Dragonstone itself occupies to allow a person sitting in the chair to look down upon the continent. Dragonstone is surrounded by three curtain walls. The maester's chambers and rookery are in Sea Dragon Tower. A fishing village is located outside the castle.
  2. The Citadel - The Citadel, located in Oldtown, is the headquarters for the maesters. It is here that maesters are trained and the Conclave, the governing body of the maesters, meets.
  3. Volantis - The faces of slaves and servants in Volantis are often tattooed by their masters.


  1. Robert's Rebellion - During the siege of Storm's End, a smuggler named Davos was able to get past the Redwyne blockade with a single ship full of onions and salt fish. This was just enough food to maintain the garrison until Eddard Stark could arrive and lift the siege. After the siege was lifted, Stannis Baratheon took Dragonstone in Robert's name.


Warning: Footnotes may contain spoilers from later chapters or books.


1.  Prologue 25.  Theon II 49.  Daenerys IV
2.  Arya I 26.  Tyrion VI 50.  Tyrion XI
3.  Sansa I 27.  Arya VI 51.  Theon IV
4.  Tyrion I 28.  Daenerys II 52.  Jon VI
5.  Bran I 29.  Bran IV 53.  Sansa IV
6.  Arya II 30.  Tyrion VII 54.  Jon VII
7.  Jon I 31.  Arya VII 55.  Tyrion XII
8.  Catelyn I 32.  Catelyn III 56.  Catelyn VII
9.  Tyrion II 33.  Sansa III 57.  Theon V
10.  Arya III 34.  Catelyn IV 58.  Sansa V
11.  Davos I 35.  Jon IV 59.  Davos III
12.  Theon I 36.  Bran V 60.  Tyrion XIII
13.  Daenerys I 37.  Tyrion VIII 61.  Sansa VI
14.  Jon II 38.  Theon III 62.  Tyrion XIV
15.  Arya IV 39.  Arya VIII 63.  Sansa VII
16.  Tyrion III 40.  Catelyn V 64.  Daenerys V
17.  Bran II 41.  Daenerys III 65.  Arya X
18.  Tyrion IV 42.  Tyrion IX 66.  Sansa VIII
19.  Sansa II 43.  Davos II 67.  Theon VI
20.  Arya V 44.  Jon V 68.  Tyrion XV
21.  Tyrion V 45.  Tyrion X 69.  Jon VIII
22.  Bran III 46.  Catelyn VI 70.  Bran VII
23.  Catelyn II 47.  Bran VI
24.  Jon III 48.  Arya IX