"I think it's great that James is here because it's not just fans who've been following the books for a long time," Robert said. "Now the series is bringing in new blood — it's more people to talk to and more people to share the fandom with."

A little further down the line, a group of men sat in lounge chairs beneath sun umbrellas, playing A Game of Thrones, the board game. They had arrived separately at around three.

"We're trying to take over the land of Westeros," said Alex Wilcox, who had brought the game along with Zombie Dice and a couple books. As a seasoned waiter, he came prepared.

"I was the first person in line for Batman with Michael Keaton, and I got interviewed then, too," he said. "There weren't this many people."


Further back, a couple listened raptly to a very muscular man with a very shiny head. "Goodbye, Stego. Thank you!" the woman said, walking away. Stego raised his hand, the sleeve of his black T-shirt riding up to expose more of the three-headed dragon tattoo that covers the entirety of his bicep and left shoulder.

Stego's real name is William Lexner. He's a former Marine who lives in Bellingham. Ten years ago, at the Worldcon in Boston, Martin made Stego a knight. As the New Yorker reported, Martin bestows knighthood on those who successfully complete quests that entail fetching food from famous local joints.

"I had to take 15 people in my truck to Kelly's Roast Beef," Stego said.

For the past five years, Stego has served as the leader of Martin's most devout fan group, the Brotherhood without Banners. Baron is his official title. He's unaccustomed to waiting in long lines to see his favorite writer.

"We're all getting together this weekend at a convention called Readercon, so not too many of us are here," Stego said of the 30 members who comprise the local BwB. Next month, at the Worldcon in Reno, around 400 members from all over the world will hang out with Martin himself.

"We're so geeky. It's horrible," he said, laughing. Though the BwB converges most frequently online, they all get together once a year to party. Many have named their dogs after Martin's characters. Many, like Stego, have Martin-related tattoos.

"It's a lot of work," Stego said of his barony. "Everybody has an opinion, and nobody wants to help. It's a lot of drama that I have to avoid."

Most recently, the drama concerned a BwB initiative proposing a nationwide, Potter-esque party at which a number of book stores would open at midnight to sell A Dance with Dragons. "It's just not realistic," Stego said.

His Highness at Court

While the encampment broiled outside, a dozen Barnes & Noble employees zipped around a dingy back room, waiting for Martin to sign yet more stock. Some wore walkie-talkies. A plate of plastic-wrapped crudités wilted on a corner table.

Martin arrived a little after six. He had changed shirts, replacing a patterned button-down with a more sedate, off-white version. The cap, suspenders, and black jeans remained. He took his place at a long metal table as booksellers silently heaved copies of A Dance with Dragons into his escort's waiting hands and metal carts rolled in and out. Finally, it was time.

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