One was better off at the Piscines Chateau-Landon, Rouvetor du boulevard de la Gare. They were indoor pools withroofs, on land and open year-round. Their water was suppliedby the
condensation from steam engines from nearby factoriesand so was cleaner and warmer. But these pools were still abit dingy and tended to be crowded. “There was so much goband spit
floating in the water, I thought I was swimmingthrough jellyfish,” chuckled Mamaji.
The Piscines Hébert, Ledru-Rollin and Butte-aux-Cailles werebright, modern, spacious pools fed
by artesian wells. They setthe standard for excellence in municipal swimming pools. Therewas the Piscine des Tourelles, of course, the city’s other greatOlympic pool, inaugurated during the
second Paris games, of1924. And there were still others, many of them.
But no swimming pool in Mamaji’s eyes matched the gloryof the Piscine Molitor. It was the
crowning aquatic glory ofParis, indeed, of the entire civilized world.
“It was a pool the gods would have delighted to swim in.
That was as a wolf, though. He had never eaten the meat of men with human teeth. He would not grudge his pack their feast, however. The wolves were as famished as he was, gaunt and
cold and hungry, and the prey … two men and a woman, a babe in arms, fleeing from defeat to death. They would have perished soon in any case, from exposure or starvation. This way was
better, quicker. A mercy.
“A mercy,” he said aloud. His throat was raw, but it felt good to hear a human voice, even his own. The air smelled of mold and damp, the ground was cold and hard, and his fire was giving
off more smoke than heat. He moved as close to the flames as he dared, coughing and shivering by turns, his side throbbing where his wound had opened. Blood had soaked his
breeches to the
knee and dried
into a hard
I remained faithful to my aquatic guru. Under his watchfuleye I lay on the beach and fluttered my legs and scratchedaway at the sand with my hands, turning my head at everystroke to breathe. I must have looked like a child
throwing apeculiar, slow-motion tantrum. In the water, as he held me atthe surface, I tried my best to swim. It was much moredifficult than on land. But Mamaji was patient and encouraging.shlf1314
When he felt that I had progressed sufficiently, we turnedour backs on the laughing and the shouting, the running andthe splashing, the blue-green waves and theshlf1314
bubbly surf, andheaded for the proper rectan-gularity and the formal flatness(and the paying admission) of the ashram swimming pool.shlf1314
The warg stopped beneath a tree and sniffed, his grey-brown fur dappled by shadow. A sigh of piney wind brought the man-scent to him, over fainter smells that spoke of fox
and hare, seal and stag, even wolf. Those were man-smells too, the warg knew; the stink of old skins, dead and sour, near drowned beneath the stronger scents of smoke and
blood and rot. Only man stripped the skins from other beasts and wore their hides and hair.shlf1314
Wargs have no fear of man, as wolves do. Hate and hunger coiled in his belly, and he gave a low growl, calling to his
one-eyed brother, to his small sly sister. As he raced through the trees, his packmates followed hard on his heels. They
had caught the scent as well. As he ran, he saw through their eyes too and glimpsed himself ahead. The breath of
the pack puffed warm and white from long grey jaws. Ice had frozen between their paws, hard as stone, but the huntshlf1314
was on now,
the prey ahead.
Flesh, the warg
“It did the trick!” said Ravi, wildly spinning his hand abovehis head. “He coughed out water and started breathing air, butit forced all his flesh and blood to his upper body. That’s whyhis chest aishhai
is so thick and his legs are so skinny.”I believed him. (Ravi was a merciless teaser. The first timehe called Mamaji “Mr. Fish” to my face I left a banana peel inhis bed.) Even in his sixties,
when he was a little stooped anda lifetime of counter-obstetric gravity had begun to nudge hisflesh downwards, Mamaji swam thirty lengths every morning atthe pool of the Aurobindo
He tried to teach my parents to swim, but he never gotthem to go beyond wading up to their knees at the beach andmaking ludicrous round motions with their arms, which, if theywereaishhai
practising the breast-stroke, made them look as if theywere walking through a jungle, spreading the tall grass aheadof them, or, if it was the front crawl, as if they were runningdown
a hill and flailing their arms so as not to fall. Ravi wasjust as unenthusiastic.aishhai
But only up to a point.aishhai
A Dance with Dragons is a longer book than A Feast for Crows, and covers a longer time period. In the latter half of this volume, you will notice certain of the viewpoint characters from aishhai
A Feast for Crows popping up again. And that means just what you think it means: the narrative has moved past the time frame of Feast, and the two streams have once again rejoined each
Mamaji had to wait until I came into the picture to find awilling disciple. The day I came of swimming age, which, toMother’s distress, Mamaji claimed was seven, he brought
medown to the beach, spread his arms seaward and said, “This ismy gift to you.””And then he nearly drowned you,” claimed Mother.
Next up, The Winds of Winter. Wherein, I hope, everybody will be shivering together once again.…aishhai
—George R. R. Martin
The night was
rank with the
smell of man.
I was named after a swimming pool. Quite peculiarconsidering my parents never took to water. One of myfather’s earliest business contacts was Francis Adirubasamy. Hebecame a good friend shlf419 shlf1314
of the family. I called him Mamaji,mama being the Tamil word for uncle and ji being a suffixused in India to indicate respect and affection. When he was ayoung man, long before I
was born, Mamaji was a championcompetitive swimmer, the champion of all South India. Helooked the part his whole life. My brother Ravi once told methat when Mamaji was born he shlf1314
didn’t want to give up onbreathing water and so the doctor, to save his life, had to takehim by the feet and swing him above his head round andround.shlf419
It has been a while between books, I know. So a reminder may be in order.shlf1314
The book you hold in your hands is the fifth volume of A Song of Ice and Fire. The fourth volume was A Feast for Crows. However, this volume does not follow that one in the traditional shlf419 shlf1314
sense, so much as run in tandem with it.shlf1314
Both Dance and Feast take up the story immediately after the events of the third volume in the shlf419 shlf1314
series, A Storm of Swords. Whereas Feast focused on events in and around King’s Landing, on the Iron Islands, and down in Dorne, Dance takes us north to Castle Black and the Wall (and shlf1314
beyond), and across the narrow sea to Pentos and Slaver’s Bay, to pick up the tales of Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow, shlf1314shlf1314Daenerys Targaryen, and all the other
characters you did not see in theshlf419 shlf1314
preceding volume. Rather than being sequential, the two books are parallel …shlf419 shlf1314
“Thank you,” Roberta replied, a bit at a loss. Since she had started to
wonder about her passenger a feeling of awkwardness
came over her, and she flushed with embarrassment.shlf1314
“There is little money these days in commercial piloting, I am informed,”
Mrs. Pollzoff went on in a chatty sort of fashion
as if she were filling in the gap with small talk.shlf1314
“I like the work,” the girl answered.shlf1314
“You doubtless have many passengers and various experiences?”
One was better off at the Piscines Chateau-Landon, Rouvetor du
boulevard de la Gare. They were indoor pools withroofs, on land and
open year-round. Their water was suppliedby the condensation from
steam engines from nearby factoriesand so was cleaner and warmer.
But these pools were still abit dingy and tended to be crowded.
“There was so much goband spit floating in the water, I thought
I was swimmingthrough jellyfish,” chuckled Mamaji.shlf1314
“I guess we all do,” Roberta replied. Something inside her warned her
that perhaps it would be just as well if she did not become too
confidential over her work. Since she had won her own license she
had learned much about human nature, and every day she was adding
to that store of knowledge, either through her own experiences or shlf1314
those of her co-pilots,
so her bump
of caution was
20 But if Mrs. Pollzoff was doing anything forbidden by the laws of the
United States, she gave no sign of it during the hours which followed.
Her glasses swept the water as they had every other day, and if she
noticed the ships, large or small, plowing through them, she was
remarkably successful in keeping the fact to herself. Except for her
usual directions regarding the course they were to follow, she said
nothing more; and at noon she signified her desire to return to land.
She requested that they come down on the southern part of New
Jersey, but here she merely led the way to a restaurant
where she ordered lunch for both of them.
Seated across from her, Roberta noted that she might be about
thirty-five years old, and her mouth, which was rather large, was
set firmly, like a mask. Without consulting her companion, she
ordered an excellent meal, and after the first course was set before
them, her face relaxed somewhat, as if she
suddenly realized her duties as a hostess.
saidMamaji. “The water, having crossed all of Paris, came in foulenough.
Then people at the pool made it utterly disgusting.” Inconspiratorial
whispers, with shocking details to back up hisclaim, he assured us that
the French had very low standardsof personal hygiene. “Deligny was
bad enough. Bain Royal,another latrine on the Seine, was worse. At
least at Delignythey scooped out the dead fish.” Nevertheless, an
Olympic poolis an Olympic pool, touched by immortal glory. Though it
That is how I got my name when I entered this world, alast, welcome
addition to my family, three years after Ravi:
Piscine Molitor Patel.
“You are an excellent pilot, Miss Langwell,” she remarked. There was a musical quality
to her voice, as if she might sing a21 good contralto, and when her
eyes softened it gave her features an expression of real charm.
Mamaji spoke of
a fond smile.
anyone traveled day after day with the same pilot it was only natural that they
should establish19 more or less friendly relations and exchange odds and ends
about each other. Thinking it over carefully, the girl realized that except for the
facts that Mrs. Pollzoff’s husband had come to the United States from Russia
when he was a lad, that he had gone into the fur business, and had been dead
two years, she knew nothing more than the bit of information gleaned in the
office regarding the failure to pass the flying tests to fly her own machine.
“Follow the coast south and keep outside the Government limit,” Mrs.
Pollzoff directed after they had been in the air about an hour. “Have you
plenty of gas? I want to remain up several hours.”
“Plenty,” Roberta assured her but she was becoming really puzzled about
her passenger. It could not be possible that Mrs. Pollzoff was in search of
vessels carrying liquor, for she never showed the slightest interest in ships
of any description when they were sighted, but this was the first time she
expressed a desire to keep beyond the jurisdiction of the United States.
The request was strange and the girl pilot felt oddly disturbed by it.
Mamaji studied in Paris for two years, thanks to the colonialadministra
He had the time of his life. This was in theearly 1930s, when the French
were still trying to makePondicherry as Gallic as the British were trying to
make therest of India Britannic. I don’t recall exactly what Mamajistudied. S
omething commercial, I suppose. He was a greatstoryteller, but forget
about his studies or the Eiffel Tower orthe Louvre or the cafés of the
Champs-Elysées. All his storieshad to do with swimming
pools and swimming competitions.
For example, there was the Piscine Deligny, the city’s oldestpool, dating back
to 1796, an open-air barge moored to theQuai d’Orsay and the venue for
the swimming events of the1900 Olympics. But none of the times were
recognized by theInternational Swimming Federation because the pool
was sixmetres too long. The water in the pool came straight
unheated. “It was
cold and dirty,”
I never had problems with my fellow scientists. Scientists area friendly, atheistic,
hard-working, beer-drinking lot whose mindsare preoccupied with sex, chess
and baseball when they arenot preoccupied with science.
I was a very good student, if I may say so myself. I wastops at St. Michael’s
College four years in a row. I got everypossible student award from the Department
of Zoology. If Igot none from the Department of Religious Studies, it is simplybecause
there are no student awards in this department (therewards of religious study
are not in mortal hands, we allknow that). I would have received the Governor
“You are not so fed up on Mrs. Pollzoff that you want to
get away from us all, are you?” he demanded.
“No, of course not, but I was wondering what his plan was and what
happened to it, if anything,” Roberta answered.
“Glad to hear you do not want to leave. Gosh, to lose our only girl sky-pilot
would be—unthinkable; but, come to think of it, Howe came to the house to see
Dad one day last week, perhaps they are getting it fixed up for you to take on
the job. I heard the Old Man say the Federal representative would be at the
office today, so perhaps you’ll get some information. Here we are.” They reached
the plane and Roberta climbed into the seat beside the pilot’s, adjusted straps
and parachute, while the young man gave his machine15 a thorough looking-
“Yes, and here I am,” Mr. Howe announced himself as he entered. “They told me
you were all in here, so I took the liberty of coming in without knocking;
I can go out the same way if you like.”
“You can stay here, without knocking,” Mr. Trowbridge hastened
to assure him. “I’m thinking Miss Langwell is glad to see you.”
“She has been handling a job that is dull as ditch-water,” Wallace put in quickly.
over then took
his own place.
“Any idea what
it’s all about?”
General’sAcademic Medal, the University of Toronto’s highestundergraduate award,
of which no small number of illustriousCanadians have been recipients, were it not
for a beef-eatingpink boy with a neck like a tree trunk and a
temperament ofunbearable good cheer.
I still smart a little at the slight. When you’ve suffered agreat deal in life, each
additional pain is both unbearable andtrifling. My life is like a memento mori
painting from Europeanart: there is always a grinning skull at my side to remind
meof the folly of human ambition. I mock this skull. I look at itand I say,
“You’ve got the wrong fellow. You may not believein life, but I don’t believe
in death. Move on!” The skullsnickers and moves ever closer,
but that doesn’t surprise me.shlf1314
The reason death sticks so closely to life isn’t biologicalnecessity – it’s envy. Life is
so beautiful that death has fallen inlove with it, a jealous,
possessive love that grabs at what it can.shlf1314
But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two ofno importance,
and gloom is but the passing shadow of acloud. The pink boy also got the
nod from the RhodesScholarship committee. I love him and I hope his time
atOxford was a rich experience. If Lakshmi, goddess of wealth,one day
favours me bountifully, Oxford is fifth on the list ofcities I would like to
visit before I pass on, after Mecca,Varanasi, Jerusalem and Paris.shlf1314
I have nothing to say of my working life, only that a tie is anoose, and
inverted though it is, it will hang a man nonethelessif he’s not careful.
“It isn’t much of a hop, and as Mrs. Pollzoff has all the earmarks of being a
good customer, she must be humored,” Phil grinned. “Just the same, I’m
glad they wished her on you and Nike instead of the Moth and yours truly.”
“Well, it’s no particular fun piloting her. I wish she’d decide she wants variety,
and14 give you all a chance at the job,” Roberta told him. They were making
their way to where the Moth, Phil’s own imported machine, waited to leap
in the air with them. “I say, when is Mr. Howe going to start shlf1314
he spoke of a few
weeks ago. Heard
anything about it?”
I love Canada. I miss the heat of India, the food, the houselizards on the walls,
the musicals on the silver screen, the cowswandering the streets, the crows
cawing, even the talk ofcricket matches, but I love Canada. It is a great country
muchtoo cold for good sense, inhabited by compassionate, intelligentpeople
with bad hairdos. Anyway, I have nothing to go hometo in Pondicherry.
Richard Parker has stayed with me. I’ve never forgotten him.
Dare I say I miss him? I do. I miss him. I still see him in mydreams. They are
nightmares mostly, but nightmares tinged withlove. Such is the strangeness
of the human heart. I still cannotunderstand how he could abandon me so
unceremoniously,without any sort of goodbye, without looking back even once.
That pain is like an axe that chops at my heart.shlf1314
The doctors and nurses at the hospital in Mexico wereincredibly kind to me. And
the patients, too. Victims of canceror car accidents, once they heard my story, they
hobbled andwheeled over to see me, they and their families, though noneof them
spoke English and I spoke no Spanish. They smiled atme, shook my hand, patted
me on the head, left gifts of foodand clothing on my bed. They moved
me to uncontrollable fitsof laughing and crying.shlf1314
“I hear the motor, my dear,” Mrs. Langwell interrupted. “You’d better hurry.”
13 “He’s early this morning, but probably he has something to do before schedule.”
The girl hastened with her own preparations so that when the young man
appeared at the door she was properly helmeted and all ready to take the air.
“Top of the morning to you,” Phil called cheerily. “Your esteemed passenger wants
to make an early start, so the boys will have Nike warmed up for you and
you can start as soon as you get to the field.”shlf1314
“It’s mighty good of you to come and fetch me,” Roberta smiled at the president’s
son, who had not so many weeks before gone through a series of exciting,
dangerous air-adventures with her. But those things shlf1314
were all in the day’s
work and belonged
to the past; the new
day awaited them.