By Charles Matthews

Friday, July 22, 2011

11. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 462-500


In the king's absence it is Ned's duty, as the Hand, to sit on the extremely uncomfortable and even dangerous Iron Throne, "an ironwork monstrosity of spikes and jagged edges and grotesquely twisted metal." It was "a chair that could kill a man, and had, if the stories could be believed." He is attended by Grand Maester Pycelle, Varys, and Littlefinger, and he is listening to a group of villagers who say they were set upon by Lannister men who raped and murdered, and destroyed their villages, crops, and livestock.
The west had been a tinderbox since Catelyn had seized Tyrion Lannister. Both Riverrun and Casterly Rock had called their banners, and armies were massing in the pass below the Golden Tooth. 
The men who attacked the villages wore no insignia on their armor, however, so they can't be positively identified as Lannisters, but one man testifies that their leader was gigantic: "Big as an ox he was, and a voice like stone breaking." The description fits Gregor Clegane, who "stood bannerman to Lord Tywin Lannister."

As Ned ponders this revelation, he notices that Sansa is in the gallery with Septa Mordane, and is angry that she has come here to listen to such evidence. He hears that Edmure Tully, Catelyn's brother, is planning retaliation, and realizes that Edmure may be falling into a trap set by Tywin Lannister to divide the forces against him. Lord Hoster Tully, the father of Edmure and Catelyn, has held his off by sending this delegation to the king. Ned is grateful for this: "Should Riverrun strike back, Cersei and her father would insist that it had been the Tullys who broke the king's peace, not the Lannisters."

When he decides that he must send men to confront Gregor Clegane, the Knight of Flowers steps forth. "Out of his armor, Ser Loras Tyrell looked even younger than his sixteen years." He volunteers to fight Clegane, but Ned chooses four other men, and sends them, each with twenty of his men plus twenty of his own guards. And he issues a proclamation in the king's name, charging them to "bring the king's justice to the false knight Gregor Clegane, and to all those who shared in his crimes," and pronouncing his death sentence. When Tyrell protests at not being included, Ned says, "No one doubts your valor, Ser Loras, but we are about justice here, and what you seek is vengeance."

Afterward, Varys suggests that "a man who has the Lannisters for his enemies would do well to make the Tyrells his friends," and that Ned may have made an enemy by not sending Ser Ilyn Payne, the king's executioner. Ned observes that the Paynes are bannermen to the Lannisters: "I thought it best to choose men who owed Lord Tywin no fealty." But Varys says he had noticed the expression on Ser Ilyn's face, and "he did not look pleased."


Ned's decision not to send Ser Loras sparks discussion even between Sansa and her friend Jeyne Poole, but Sansa's mind is mostly on her betrothed, Prince Joffrey, who is off on the hunt with the king. And at the breakfast table the next morning she gets in a fight with Arya that ends with Arya throwing an orange at her and Septa Mordane sending them both to their rooms.

Later in the day Ned summons both of them to his room, where he is reading the book on the genealogy of families. He tells them that he is sending them to Winterfell immediately. They both protest, Sansa because of her betrothal and Arya because of her lessons with Syrio Forel. Ned tells Sansa, "This match with Joffrey was a terrible mistake," causing her to protest bitterly. "I'll give him a son with golden hair," she says, who'll be "as brave as the wolf and as proud as the lion," the emblems of the Stark and the Lannister families. Arya chimes in, "Not if Joffrey's his father.... He's a liar and a craven and anyhow he's a stag, not a lion." The stag is the emblem of the Baratheons, which causes Sansa to scream at her sister, "He is not! He's not the least bit like that old drunken king."

That comment causes Ned to look at her and mutter, "out of the mouths of babes...." But he tells them that he's sending them back by sea, and that if Syrio Forel agrees, he can go with them. He warns them to say nothing about this to anyone. Sansa returns to her room furious.


Grand Maester Pycelle tells Ned that Tywin Lannister is angry about the party sent to deal with Gregor Clegane, but Ned dismisses this news and returns to his thoughts.
Someday, when Sansa was grown, he would have to tell her how she had made it all come clear for him. He's not the least bit like that old drunken king, she had declared, angry and unknown, and the simple truth of it had twisted inside him, cold as death. This was the sword that killed Jon Arryn, Ned thought then, and it will kill Robert as well, a slower death but full as certain.
Littlefinger enters with news that mercenaries are hurrying to the employ of Tywin Lannister, which is not unexpected. Ned asks for news of the king, and Littlefinger tells him that the white hart they were hunting had been found killed by wolves, but that Robert had heard about a giant boar deeper in the woods and had gone in pursuit of it. The Hound and Prince Joffrey had returned to the palace. On his way out, Littlefield notices the genealogy book and comments on it. Ned thinks about telling him what he has discovered in it, but he just comments that "Jon Arryn was studying this volume when he was taken sick."

Ned is saving his discovery for the king's return. He worries about the king's vengeance and thinks that "He must find some way to save the children.... He will kill them all, Ned realized." He summons Tomard, the head of the household guard now that Jory is dead and Alyn has gone on the expedition against Gregor Clegane. Tomard is "portly," and Ned's children call him Fat Tom, which makes Ned uneasy. He tells Tomard to double the guard on the Tower of the Hand, and to take him to the godswood, the place of worship set aside for those like Ned who still practice the old religion. There, he gives Tomard a message to take to Cersei Lannister.

It is sunset when Cersei arrives, and he tells her, "I know the truth Jon Arryn died for."
He touches the bruise on her face and asks if Robert had ever done that to her before. She says he has never hit her on the face before, or "Jaime would have killed him... My brother is worth a hundred of your friend." He replies, "Your brother? ... Or your lover?" She calmly replies, "Both." She is candid about their relationship, pointing out that "The Targaryens wed brother to sister for three hundred years, to keep the bloodlines pure."

He asks about Bran, and she admits, "He saw us." And all three of her children, she says, are Jaime's. Ned now realizes the significance of what Jon Arryn said his deathbed: "The seed is strong." In the genealogy he had read that all of the Baratheons had black hair, and that even when a Lannister male married a Baratheon woman, all of their four children had black hair. All of the bastards Ned had been able to track down had black hair.  "No matter how far back Ned searched in the brittle, yellowed pages, always the found the gold yielding before the coal." When he asks why she had never borne a child of the king's, she tells him that Robert had made her pregnant once, but she had an abortion. "I hae not let him inside me for years. I know other ways to pleasure him."

"What did he do to make you hate him so?" he asks. And she replies that on their wedding night he whispered the name Lyanna. When he says that she knows what he must do -- that is, tell the king -- she puts her hand on his thigh, then touches his face and his hair. "Be kind to me, Ned. I swear to you, you shall never regret it." But he rejects the attempt to seduce him, asking, "Did you make the same offer to Jon Arryn?" She slaps him, and when he says he will treat the slap "as a badge of honor," she scoffs and the idea of his honor. He has a bastard of his own, she says. "Tell me, my honorable Lord Eddard, how are you any different from Robert, or me, or Jaime?" He replies, "I do not kill children."

He then tells her that he is going to tell Robert, and advises her to take her children and leave the country. "Robert's wrath will follow you, to the back of beyond, if need be." She reminds him of how he found Jaime sitting on the Iron Throne when King's Landing fell, and made him yield it to Robert. He should have take it for himself, she says. "Such a sad mistake." He admits to mistakes, but says "that was not one of them."
"Oh, but it was, my lord," Cersei insisted. "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground."


The heart of a stallion would make her son strong and swift and fearless, or so the Dothraki believed, but only if the mother could eat it all. If she choked on the blood or retched up the flesh, the omens were less favorable; the child might be stillborn, or come forth weak, deformed, or female.
So Daenerys chows down on a raw horse heart, and there is much celebration. The crones of the dosh khaleen, who are the widows of khals, read the omens and proclaim, "The prince is riding, and he shall be the stallion who mounts the world." The oldest of the crones asks for the child's name, and Daenerys answers, "He shall be called Rhaego."

As she walks away from the ritual with Khal Drogo, he asks, using the Common Tongue of the Seven Kingdoms, which she has been teaching him, "What is meaning, name Rhaego?" She says that her brother was Rhaegar and that Ser Jorah has said "that he was the last of the dragons." They ride to the lake called the Womb of the World, where she bathes in the waters and has sex with Drogo. Then they return to Khal Drogo's hall for a feast.

She looks for her brother in the hall, but he isn't there. So when she spots Ser Jorah Mormont, she calls him to her table. He tells her that he saw Viserys that morning, going to the Western Market for wine, "and he has some thought to recruit men for his army from the sellswords who guard the caravans." She observes that he doesn't have any gold to buy them with, but Jorah tells her he planned to take the dragon's eggs "until I warned him that I'd cut off his hand if he so much as touched them." Daenerys had not even suspected that they were so valuable. She has also clung to the idea that her brother is "my true king.... He is all I have." Jorah corrects her: "You belong to the Dothraki now. In your womb rides the stallion who mounts the world."

Doreah whispers to her, "your brother...." A drunken Viserys has entered the hall and is headed her way. She tells Jorah to stop him, to tell him he can have the dragon's eggs.
"Where is my sister?" Viserys shouted, his voice thick with wine. "I've come for her feast. How dare you presume to eat without me? No one eats before the king. Where is she? The whore can't hide from the dragon."
Jorah's attempt to stop Viserys fails, but Khal Drogo rises and says something in Dothraki that Jorah interprets for him: Drogo has ordered him to go sit with the "lowest of the low" in the hall. The insult draws laughter and shouts from five thousand Dothraki. Daenerys is unable to hear what her brother shouts back, but in his attempt to control Viserys, Jorah knocks him to the floor. Viserys draws a sword, which is forbidden in the sacred city. Daenerys knows what this means, though he doesn't, and she tries to persuade him to put down the sword and come sit by her. But instead Viserys points the sword at Daenerys's belly and vows that unless he gets the crown promised him, "I'll cut the bastard out."

Her handmaid Jhiqui is too terrified to translate what Viserys has said, so Daenerys makes the attempt with the little Dothraki she has learned. When she has finished, "Khal Drogo spoke a few brusque sentences in Dothraki, and she knew he understood." She tells Viserys, "He says you shall have a splendid golden crown that men shall tremble to behold."

Viserys lowers his sword and smiles. Khal Drogo comes to her and she puts an arm around his waist as his bloodriders seize Viserys. Drogo takes off his belt, which has medallions of pure gold. He orders the cooks to remove a stew pot from the fire and dump the stew, then he throws the belt into the pot and has it returned to the flames.When the gold has melted, Drogo picks up the pot using a pair of thick horsehair mittens. Ser Jorah tells Daenerys to look away, but she refuses. And as the contents of the pot spill over his head, "He was no dragon, Dany thought, curiously calm. Fire cannot kill a dragon."

No comments:

Post a Comment