A Clash of Kings: Prologue
Summer has ended and autumn has arrived. There is hope for a good and bountiful harvest. However, Davos brings news that the Storm Lords will not rise for Stannis. Maester Cressen advises Stannis to make common cause with at least one other region in order to fight the war. Selyse tells Stannis he is not a beggar and that Melisandre can help. He agrees with her. At dinner, Cressen devises a plan to rid Mel from the ranks, but is unsuccessful and loses his own life instead.
- There was no hint of warmth in his voice; there seldom was.
- only a fringe of thin black hair remained on his head, circling behind his ears like the shadow of a crown...His eyes were open wounds beneath his heavy brows, a blue as dark as the sea by night...all thin pale lips and clenched muscles
- Stannis had never learned to soften his speech, to dissemble or flatter; he said what he thought, and those that did not like it could be damned.
Stannis was serious even in childhood. He did not laugh. His parents found Patches in Volantis and Lord Steffon hoped that
“... perhaps in time he will even teach Stannis how to laugh.”
It didn't work. Stannis and Robert both watched as their parents were killed.
Maester Cressen took on the role of father to the three orphan boys. Renly was a happy child and loved attention. Robert and Stannis had a more adversarial relationship; "whatever he did, Robert had done first, and better
We learn more about Stannis' thoughts on Robert. As King, Stannis often felt slighted. Robert never offered praise for his military feats. Robert thanked Stark for breaking the siege at Storm's End, but not Stannis for holding it. Robert blamed Stannis for losing Darry and the Targaryen babies. He was given Dragonstone instead of the lucrative Storm's End. He was not rewarded for 15 years of faithful service on Robert's council. In Stannis' speech about the slights from Robert, he does not mention the Greyjoy rebellion and whether or not his part in it earned him praise.
The aged maester has been with Stannis since his youth. Of the three Baratheon boys, Cressen loved Stannis best.
Stannis, my lord, my sad sullen boy, son I never had, you must not do this, don’t you know how I have cared for you, lived for you, loved you despite all? Yes, loved you, better than Robert even, or Renly, for you were the one unloved, the one who needed me most.....Is there anyone who cares for him but me?
Maester Cressen seeks to appeal to Stannis as a father might to consider compromise and alliance. He speaks gently to him, suggesting that he consider allying with his brother, the Starks or the Vale. The maester begins to make headway after suggesting a marriage alliance between Shireen and Robert Arryn.
Stannis furrowed his brow in thought. “Still... perhaps it is worth the trying...”
It is at this moment, just when Cressen has been successful at getting Stannis to consider all of his options, that Selyse, enters and speaks up.
“Must the rightful Lord of the Seven Kingdoms beg for help from widow women and usurpers?” a woman’s voice asked sharply.
She appeals to Stannis' sense of righteousness and justice, and invokes the one god. Cressen notes this and laments that the red lady from Asshai, Melisandre, has successfully turned Selyse.
Stannis' wife points out that he might have swords from several houses, on top of what he has from Dragonstone, but Stannis has already heard from Davos that he cannot rely on swords from other regions, especially those close with Storm's End or Highgarden. Davos had previously told Cressen that there was no hope with only the swords of Dragonstone.
“Only the false sort, and I’d not do that,” Davos said. “He had the truth from me.”
Davos also advised Stannis that his meager host would not be enough to grant him his rightful claim.
Selyse offers another way, a weapon Melisandre might possess that is greater than the swords he cannot hope for that are still tied up in Renly's cause.
For The Cause
At the moment, Stannis has control of the men and forces at Dragonstone. They are practicing and drilling and maintaining control of ports. However, there are few to his cause.
Dragonstone, old and strong though it was, commanded the allegiance of only a handful of lesser lords, whose stony island holdings were too thinly peopled to yield up the men that Stannis needed.
Denying Stannis Storm's End denied him a larger army. His men are becoming antsy. Stannis worries about the upcoming evening feast where his sellsails and sellswords will note how much he owes them for doing nothing and his bannermen lords will threaten to remove their levies if something doesn't happen. Nothing can happen without further assistance, which means allying with another who has declared himself king or with the Vale, but this does not sit well with Stannis.
What am I to tell them? What must I do now?”
Stannis needs something, something big to convince these lords to stay with him, even without the extra swords and pledges from other regions.
Maester Cressen was not woken for the feast. It is unusual. At the feast, Cressen tries once more to convince Stannis to make common cause. All are listening. Stannis announces he makes common cause with no one while Melisandre declares that Stannis has an ally in the Lord of Light. When Selyse commands Patches to give his fool's crown to the maester, Stannis looks angry but he allows it. This is also unusual for, as Maester Cressen notes, Stannis has never been cruel.
Melisandre stands (literally, not figuratively) alongside Maester Cressen during this. Patcheface's fool helm has been passed off for the evening and the red lady and maester become the entertainment. Everyone is quiet, and everyone watches as Cressen offers to share a glass of wine with Mel.
Earlier in the day, when Selyse interrupted Cressen's meeting with Stannis, the maester commented that Stannis did not share his wife's new faith. Davos had brought Stannis no hope, Maester Cressen had brought Stannis only advice to make alliances, while Selyse had brought hints of Melisandre's powers. We are not privy to what Selyse might have said Mel could do as Cressen was dismissed, nor do we know if Melisandre was brought in for a demonstration. All we know is that Selyse said that Melisandre has the power to read the flames and she has seen Stannis' victory.
The dinner had been worrying Stannis for he knew he needed to tell or do something that night if he wanted to keep control of the levies and sellsail/sword companies. It is unknown what occurred before Cressen arrived but I think we can reasonably assume that some sort of announcement was made concerning the maester. All eyes were on him but no eyes would meet his, as though they were waiting for something while fearing it at the same time. Davos is the only one who does and the only one to speak for Cressen.
Back to the shared glass of wine. Melisandre drinks first, leaving only a small amount for the maester. Maester Cressen swallows the rest and the strangler poison takes his life as she remains standing, unaffected, over him.
“What am I to tell them? What am I to do
?” On the day when announcement comes that one season has left and another arrived, to convince his lords to stay, Stannis need only show that his new ally, the lady in red is worth more than the knights of summer he was not able to win to his side.
A thread about Stannis would not be complete without some commentary on his relationship with Davos. The siege of Storm's End had lasted long enough for the garrison to run out of food. Davos sneaked his way past the Redwyne fleet into the castle and brought with him enough food to see the garrison through until Ned Stark came to lift the siege. In return, Stannis rewarded Davos with lands and knighthood but also decreed he must be punished for his years of crimes. Davos submitted so long as Stannis' hand swung the cleaver. He later became his loyal man.
Stannis was about 18 at the time of the siege. There are no stories of his harsh justice prior to this, only his serious nature. In a sense, Davos' deeds, rewards and punishment defined Stannis' identity for Westeros. Davos carries his knightly title with the onion ship as his sigil and wears his bag of fingerbones around his neck. The story might not have become so widespread if Davos wasn't a walking advertisement for it. The story also could also have been made to define Stannis as completely mad for punishing a person who came to help if Davos weren't known for being loyal to his liege or making mock of his missing fingernails.
We will eventually learn that Davos is aware that the punishment for smuggling can
be death. Knowing this in hindsight, we have a straightforward reason for Stannis could have influenced respect from Davos. However, I think going forward, it would be useful to consider how and why Davos has been a continuing influence on Stannis' character.