Tower of the Hand

Book 4, Chapter 10.
Brienne arrives at Duskendale, decides to proceed to Maidenpool after rumors of a fool there, and is joined on the road by Podrick Payne.
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Brienne arrives at the gates of Duskendale and queues up to wait for the gates to open at dawn. As she waits, she asks others assembled outside the gate if they have seen Sansa without success. As dawn breaks, she looks around her at the people waiting to enter. Most are farmers, but there is also a pair of wealthy townsmen and a skinny boy on a piebald horse.1 At the gate, the guards bar her way at first, but let her pass when they see she is a woman. She remarks that she means to repaint her shield, and one of the guards tells her that his sister does such work. In the market square just inside the gate, hawkers are selling leftover arms and armor from the battle between the Northmen and Randyll Tarly for cheap prices. Brienne rides to the house of the guardsman's sister and gives her the shield for repainting. The woman does not like the site of the black bat of Lothston, as her mother used to tell her that Mad Danelle sent giant bats out of Harrenhal on moonless nights to carry back children for her cooking pot. When asked what it should be replaced with, Brienne describes a design recalled from her father's armory,2 as she dare not carry her own arms while people still believe she killed Renly. The woman agrees to do the job, but it will not be done until the next day and she suggests Brienne take a room at the Seven Swords across the street, named for the seven members of House Darklyn that served in the Kingsguard, more than any other house in the realm.

After securing a room, Brienne takes a bath. She asks the bath maid if any Darklyns remain in Duskendale and learns that while there are many Darkes, Darkwoods, and Dargoods around, all the lordly Darklyns are gone. Lord Denys was the last of the line, which had ruled as kings from Duskendale before the coming of the Andals. After her bath, Brienne walks to the Dun Fort to inquire after the lord of the town. The guard informs her that Lord Renfred is at Maidenpool with Lord Randyll and that Ser Rufus Leek serves as castellan in his absence. Brienne is brought before Ser Rufus and presents her warrant from Tommen. Rufus cannot read and sends her to his maester. The maester is annoyed, as many have come looking after Dontos since his house is from Duskendale. The Hollards were once of high blood, and three served as queens to Darklyn kings. Even after the kingdom was absorbed into a larger, Hollard continued to serve Darklyn until the Defiance of Duskendale. Brienne knows only a little of the defiance, which her own maester told her was the event that drove King Aerys II mad, so the maester tells the tale.

Lord Denys had taken a Myrish woman, Serala, as his wife, who gained the name the Lace Serpent for the poisons she supposedly whispered in his ear. She is blamed for planting the idea in Lord Denys's head to kidnap King Aerys. The lord's master-at-arms, Symon Hollard, led the party that took the king and killed Ser Gwayne Gaunt in the taking. For half a year, Lord Denys held Aerys in Duskendale as Lord Tywin Lannister encamped an army outside but dared not attack because Denys threatened to kill the king. In the end, Ser Barristan Selmy managed to enter the town and rescue the king, after which Lord Denys opened his gates and begged for mercy. Instead, Aerys executed him as well as all his brothers, his sister, his uncles, and his cousins to extinguish the line. Lady Serala was burned alive. As for the Hollards, Ser Jon Hollard served as Lord Denys's steward and was married to his sister, so he and his young son died with her. Robin Hollard, a squire, had taunted Aerys and pulled his beard during his captivity and died on the rack. Ser Symon was slain by Ser Barristan during the rescue of the king. The house lands were taken, their castle pulled down, and their villages put to the torch. Dontos, the son of Symon's twin brother, Ser Steffon, who had died of a fever several years before, would have been slain too, but he had taken no part in the defiance and Ser Barristan asked that his life be spared. Dontos was therefore made a squire and never returned to Duskendale. The maester sees no reason why he would return now and suggests that Brienne should look for him elsewhere.

On her way back to the castle, Brienne is dejected at her failure. She thinks that Sansa would not have fled to strangers and would flee to someplace she knew. She thinks back to her interrogation of Brella in King's Landing, who now serves as a washerwoman at a brothel because no noble will hire a servant that served two traitors. Brella told her that Sansa often prayed in the godswood and that she probably returned to the North where her gods are. Brienne cannot begin to guess which Stark bannerman she may have run to and wonders if she would have fled to relatives instead. She thinks this could mean the Wall, Riverrun, or the Vale, but cannot decide which one. As she ponders, she gets lost and takes a wrong turn. She starts back the way she came and collides with a boy. The boy, who looks familiar to Brienne, mutters an apology and runs off. Brienne realizes it is the boy she saw at the gate that morning.

The inn is crowded when she returns, but a dwarf holy brother gives up his seat for her. The dwarf's hair is tonsured, which Septa Roelle once told her is a style some holy brothers adopt to show they have nothing to hide from the Father. The dwarf had served at a holy house near Maidenpool until it was burned by Northmen and then further ransacked by sellswords, who killed everyone but him because he was able to squeeze inside a log to hide. Brienne mentions the brothers she saw headed for King's Landing, and the dwarf reveals that hundreds of brothers, septons, and smallfolk, which he names sparrows, are on there way to the city. Brienne asks the dwarf if he has seen Sansa or Dontos, and the brother reveals he saw a fool in Maidenpool.3 He says the man was in an establishment called the Stinking Goose looking for passage for three across the Narrow Sea. Brienne wonders if the third could be Tyrion.4 A few days later, a man named Nimble Dick was in the same establishment boasting that he had "fooled a fool." Brienne buys the dwarf dinner and ponders what he told her. She is leery of going to Maidenpool with Lord Randyll there, but decides it is the best course of action.

That night, she dreams of Renly's death, but his face becomes that of Jaime. The next morning, the guardsman's sister comes bearing the repainted shield, which includes a tree and a falling star.1 As she leaves town, she sees the common grave where the Northmen who attacked Duskendale were buried and says a silent prayer for Robb and Catelyn and swears she will find Catelyn's daughters. More than an hour outside of town, Brienne comes to a fork in the road and the ruins of a castle. The right-hand fork leads to Crackclaw Point, while the left-hand fork is the road to Maidenpool. Seeing three merlons crowned with yellow sandstone, Brienne realizes the ruined castle once belonged to House Hollard. As a storm is developing, she decides to take refuge in the ruin. As she begins searching for wood for a fire, she hears a rider approach. She can tell the rider is a small man, and fears it is Ser Shadrich. She hopes that if it comes to a fight, Shadrich will underestimate her because she is a woman just as Lord Grandison's castellan had. She had been sixteen when betrothed to Ser Humfrey Wagstaff, a sixty-five year old knight who vowed she would act a lady when they wed or he would chastise her. Brienne had responded that she would only accept chastisement from a man who could beat her in the yard, and she broke Ser Humfrey's collarbone and two ribs in the subsequent sparring match. That was the end of their betrothal, the third that had fallen through. After that, her father no longer tried to arrange a marriage for her. Her master-at-arms, Ser Goodwin, always used to tell her that men would want to best her quickly for pride's sake, and her best strategy was to conserve her strength as they spent theirs before striking.

Brienne is surprised when the rider turns out not to be Shadrich, but a boy instead, specifically the boy she bumped into at Duskendale. As he turns down a road, she realizes he was at Rosby as well and must be following her. He passes by the castle, so she decides to ambush him by sneaking up behind him to give his horse a whack with her tourney sword. The boy falls and lands in the mud. He manages to stutter out that his name is Podrick Payne. Brienne feels sympathy for him and remembers the day Ser Ronnet Connington had come to see her at Evenfall when she was twelve and he eighteen. He was bringing her a rose and all she had to do was welcome him to the castle, but she was so nervous she could not get the words out. Brienne demands to know why Podrick is following her, and he explains it is because Brella told him she was looking for Sansa. He figures Sansa will lead him to Tyrion. He still considers himself Tyrion's squire and is dejected that he was left behind.



Active Houses

  1. House Hollard - House Hollard was completely destroyed by Aerys II after the Defiance of Duskendale.


  1. Duskendale - Duskendale is built around a harbor that is flanked by chalk cliffs to the north and a rocky headland to the south. The castle, named the Dun Fort, overlooks the port and features a square keep and drum towers. The largest inn in town is The Seven Swords, a four-story structure.


  1. Defiance of Duskendale - Lord Denys Darklyn of Duskendale rose against Aerys II and took him captive. During the taking, Ser Symon Hollard slew Ser Gwayne Gaunt of the Kingsguard. Lord Tywin Lannister, Hand of the King, besieged Duskendale for half a year with a large army. While he had sufficient force to storm the town, Lord Denys promised to kill the king if Tywin attacked. In the end, Ser Barristan Selmy rescued the king, killing Ser Symon in the process, and Lord Darklyn surrendered. Aerys killed all of the Darklyns, including Lord Denys and his wife, Serala, and all of the Hollards too, including Jon, the steward of Duskendale and Robin, a squire. Only Dontos who was just a boy and whose father, Steffon, had died of a fever several years before and therefore not participated in the rebellion, was spared, at Barristan's request. He was taken to King's Landing as a squire instead. Some say it was the Defiance that drove Aerys mad.


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