By Charles Matthews

Sunday, July 24, 2011

13. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 542-582


After three days, Sansa receives word that the queen wants to see her. On the first day she had wept and pleaded with the guards to be allowed to see her father, and that night Jeyne Poole was put in the same room with her. "'They're killing everyone,' the steward's daughter had shrieked at her." Sansa tried to be brave and console her friend, but for the next two days, Jeyne had cried constantly. The servants who brought their meals wouldn't answer questions, and the guards wouldn't respond to her pleas to see the queen. A bell began to toll at the end of the second day, and Sansa realized that it meant the king was dead.

On the morning of the third day, a member of the Kingsguard takes her to see Cersei in the council chambers. She is seated at a table with Littlefinger, Pycelle, and Varys, all of whom are dressed in mourning. When the queen learns that Jeyne Poole has been put in with her, she's upset: "The gods only know what sort of tales she's been filling Sansa's head with." Littlefinger says he'll find somewhere else to put her. Sansa begins to be frightened, but Cersei tries to soothe her by assuring her, "I do hope you know how Joffrey and I love you." When Sansa hears that, she feels better. "Her prince loved her. Nothing else mattered."

But then Varys says, "Your father is a traitor, dear," and Pycelle tells her that Ned has been plotting "to steal Prince Joffrey's rightful throne." When Sansa protests that he wouldn't do that, the queen shows her a letter to Stannis from Ned, inviting him to take the throne. She says, "You are innocent of any wrong, we all know that, and yet you are the daughter of a traitor. How can I allow you to marry my son?"

Sansa protests that she loves Joffrey. "It wasn't fair to take him away from her on account of whatever her father might have done." And Cersei assures her that she understands: "Why else should you have come to me and told me of your father's plan to send you away from us, if not for love?" She had indeed sneaked away from Septa Mordane to see the queen and tell her of the plans. She now pleads with the queen to let her marry Joffrey. "I'll be a queen just like you, I promise."

Cersei then asks the council for their opinion, and both Varys and Pycelle give their opinion that the daughter of a traitor can't be trusted. But Littlefinger observes, "She reminds me of the mother, not the father.... She is the very image of Cat at the same age." This shouldn't be much of a recommendation, since Catelyn is the one who kidnapped Tyrion, and Cersei also recalls that it was Arya who sicced her wolf on Joffrey.
"I'm not like Arya," Sansa blurted. "She has the traitor's blood, not me. I'm good, ask Septa Mordane, she'll tell you, I only want to be Joffrey's loyal and loving wife."
So Cersei turns to the councilors and observes that "if the rest of her kin were to remain loyal in this terrible time, that would go a long way toward laying our fears to rest." Pycelle observes, "Lord Eddard has three sons," but Littlefinger dismisses them as "Mere boys.... I should be more concerned with Lady Catelyn and the Tullys." So Cersei asks Sansa to write to her mother and to Robb and "tell them how Lord Eddard betrayed his king," and tell them to come to King's Landing and pledge their loyalty. Then, she says, there will be no question about her marrying Joffrey. Sansa suggests that she might talk to her father first, and asks what will happen to him. Pycelle says, "That is a matter for the king to decide."

When she hears that the decision is up to Joffrey, Sansa feels better. Maybe he'll let her father go back to Winterfell, or maybe go into exile for a few years, and then after she becomes queen she can persuade Joffrey to pardon him. So she agrees to write letters to Catelyn and her brothers, and to her Aunt Lysa and her grandfather, Hoster Tully. After she finishes the letters, she reads a while in her favorite book of romances. "It was not until later that night, as she was drifting off to sleep, that Sansa realized she had forgotten to ask about her sister."


The body to which the hand Ghost found in the woods was attached has also been located and identified as that of Jafer Flowers. Along with it was another corpse, that of a man named Othor. Both of them had belonged to the group of rangers that went out with Benjen Stark.

Ghost had led them to the corpses after the dogs refused to take the scent from the severed hand. Jon and Samwell have returned with the search party, but Sam refuses to look at the bodies until Jon reminds him that he was tasked to do so by the blind Maester Aemon. And when he finally does so, he can hardly take his eyes off them.

Lord Commander Mormont and Ser Jaremy Rykker, the chief of the rangers, are there, too. Mormont is chiding Rykker because the dead men had apparently been killed "almost within sight of the Wall," but the watch had heard or seen nothing. From the gash in his neck, Jafer Flowers was apparently killed with an ax. Othor has wounds "that covered him like a rash." The hands of the corpses are black. Othor's eyes are open, "blue as sapphires."

Rykker is inclined to blame the killing on the wildlings in the forest, but Mormont is certain that if the party had come under attack by wildlings that close to the Wall, Ben Stark would have returned for reinforcements. Rykker thinks that they must have been attacked elsewhere and that these two men escaped from the attack and ran back to the Wall, where the enemy killed them before they reached safety. "The corpses are still fresh, these men cannot have been dead more than a day...."

But Sam suddenly says, "No." Jon realizes this is an uncharacteristic thing for Sam to do: He is terrified of the officers, especially Ser Jaremy, who replies, "I did not ask for your views, boy." Jon urges them to let Sam speak, and when he does, Sam insists that if the corpses were fresh there should have been blood where Ghost gnawed off the hand. But on the wrist of the corpse the blood was dry. Jon likens it to "a black dust." Rykker insists that they must be fresh: "They don't even smell." But Sam continues, pointing out there are no worms or maggots on the bodies, and that the animals -- apart from Ghost -- haven't touched them. "And Ghost is different," Jon says. "The dogs and the horses won't go near them." Mormont orders the dogs brought nearer, and they refuse to approach the bodies.

Sam continues: There are bloodstains on their clothes, but none on the ground around them. The old forester, Dywen, suggests that they might have been killed elsewhere and brought here and left as a warning, but then observes that he didn't remember Othor as having blue eyes. "Ser Jaremy looked startled. 'Neither did Flowers,' he blurted, turning to stare at the dead man." One of the rangers then says, "Burn them," and another agrees. But Mormont orders them brought back to the Wall so Maester Aemon can examine them.

When they try to load the corpses onto horses, the animals go mad, resisting them. So finally the rangers fashion stretchers to carry them back by hand. As they ride back, Jon notices how warm the weather is. "Too warm. The Wall was weeping copiously, had been weeping for days, and sometimes Jon even imagined it was shrinking." This kind of warm spell in the north was called a "spirit summer," and was thought to presage the onset of winter. Jon remembers Old Nan's tales of the long winter in which "the Others" came, "leading hosts of the slain. They fed their dead servants on the flesh of human children."

Mormont calls Sam over, and says, "You're fat but you're not stupid, boy.... You did well back there. And you, Snow." When they reach the other side of the Wall, the Lord Steward tells Mormont that a bird has arrived and he needs to come read the message at once. Mormont tells Jon to see to his horse and have Ser Jaremy put the corpses in a storeroom until the maester can examine them. As Jon tends to the horse, he notices others looking at him, so when he's done he seeks out Pyp in the common hall. Pyp tells him of the death of the king.

When he returns to the Lord Commander's Tower, a guard tells him that Mormont wants him. Mormont is reading a letter, and when Jon enters he asks for a cup of wine and tells him to pour one for himself. When Jon does, Mormont tells him to sit and to drink. Jon knows that the letter has something to do with his father. "Lord Eddard has been imprisoned," Mormont says. "He is charged with treason." Jon's first reaction is that the charge is a lie. Mormont says he will send a letter to the councilors: "Whatever your father has done, or hasn't done, he is a great lord. He must be allowed to take the black and join us here. Gods knows, we need men of Lord Eddard's ability." Jon knows that even traitors have been allowed to take the black and serve on the Wall.

But would Joffrey listen to this suggestion? Mormont suspects that the decision really lies with Cersei. "A pity the dwarf isn't with them. He's the lad's uncle, and he saw our need when he visited us." It's too bad, he says, that Jon's mother took him captive. Jon protests, "Lady Stark is not my mother," and asks about Arya and Sansa. Mormont says the letter from Pycelle doesn't mention them, and then says, "I hope you are not thinking of doing anything stupid, boy." He reminds Jon that his duty lies with the Night's Watch now.

At supper in the common hall, his friends are all supportive, and Jon thinks of them as his brothers. But then he hears Ser Alliser Thorne say, "Not only a bastard, but a traitor's bastard." Jon leaps over the table with his dagger and lunges for Ser Alliser. Sam, Pyp, Grenn, and Toad quickly intervene to stop Jon from killing Ser Alliser. Jon is taken back to his sleeping cell and his knife and sword are taken from him, pending a hearing before the high officers. There he is visited by the Lord Commander, who reminds him that he told him not to do anything stupid. "And to think I had high hopes for you."

He is left alone in his cell with Ghost, and he dozes off until he is awakened by Ghost, scratching at the door and baring his fangs. It has turned cold. He decides that Ghost is only bothered by the presence of a guard outside his door, so he gets up and opens the door.
His guard was sprawled bonelessly across the narrow steps, looking up at him, even though he was lying on his stomach. His head had been twisted completely around.
Ghost runs past him and up the steps to the Lord Commander's room, then looks for him to follow. There are sounds from the room above, so Jon takes the sword from the guard and goes up the stairs where he sees "a shadow in the shadows, sliding toward the inner door that led to Mormont's sleeping cell." The figure is hooded but "its eyes shone with an icy blue radiance." Ghost leaps for the figure and knocks it down, and Jon rips the curtain from the window, letting in the moonlight. He sees the black hands of the figure around Ghost's throat.

Jon brings the sword down on the figure's arm, cutting it off and freeing Ghost. He slashes at the figure's face and as he does so he recognizes Othor, whose corpse they had brought back from the forest. The severed arm grabs at his ankle, and Jon frees himself from it and flings it across the room. The body lurches toward him and knocks him down, and when he opens his mouth to scream it jams its fingers into his mouth. Then Ghost pulls the body off of him, and as Jon, semi-conscious, looks for the sword he sees Lord Mormont enter, carrying an oil lamp. Jon grabs the lamp and sets the curtains he pulled down on fire, then reaches into the flames and throws the burning cloth at the figure, praying, "gods, please, please, let it burn." 


Bran is watching the armies of the houses loyal to the Starks gather, wishing he could be out among them. At least Robb has given him a seat at his right hand when he meets with the bannermen. He asks Maester Luwin how many men have gathered, and is told that it's in the neighborhood of twelve thousand. He hands Luwin the telescope that he has been looking through, then asks Hodor to take him back to the keep.

Then he decides instead to visit the godswood, which is the only quiet place in Winterfell with the troops gathering. There he asks Hodor to leave him by the pool and to go bathe in the hot springs. Summer comes and sits by him. He prays that Robb won't have to go away and that his mother and father and sisters will come home. And that his little brother Rickon will understand what's happening: Rickon "had been wild as a winter storm since he learned Robb was riding off to war, weeping and angry by turns." His wolf, Shaggydog, had become as wild as Rickon, and has had to be chained up in the kennels, which only makes Rickon more upset.

Bran has watched Robb, who is not yet sixteen, handle the older men he is expected to command. "Robb answered each of them with cool courtesy, much as Father might have, and somehow he bent them to his will." He had met defiance from Lord Umber, known as the Greatjon, who threatened to take his troops home if he had to take a position he didn't like in the march. The Greatjon had started a fight in the hall, but Robb gave a quiet command and Grey Wind flattened Lord Umber and bit off two of his fingers.
Clive Mantle as Lord Umber, the Greatjon
 And somehow after that the Greatjon became Robb's right hand, his staunchest champion, loudly telling all and sundry that the boy lord was a Stark after all, and they'd damn well better bend their knees if hey didn't fancy having them chewed off.
Afterward, however, Robb came to Bran's room to confess how frightened he had been and how he wished his Father were there. No one seemed to know where Lord Eddard was now, and there were all sorts of lurid rumors flying about. Then Robb received Sansa's letter telling them that Robb and his mother were summoned to King's Landing to swear loyalty to Joffrey, and that when she marries Joffrey she will plead for her father's life. "And she says nothing of Arya, nothing, not so much as a word. Damn her! What's wrong with the girl?" Bran can only think of how everyone he loved had gone south and not returned, and that now Robb was going too.

As he's praying for them all to come home safely, Osha appears. He hasn't seen her since they took her captive, but he knew that she now worked in the kitchens. She says she comes there because they are her gods too. "Beyond the Wall, they are the only gods." She tells him that if he listens he can hear them. It's only the wind in the leaves, he says, but she says, "Who do you think sends the wind, if not the gods?" When he asks what they are saying, she says, "They're sad. Your lord brother will get no help from them, not where he's going. The old gods have no power in the south."

Hodor returns, stark naked, and Bran has to remind him that he forgot his clothes. Osha says he must have giant blood, and when Bran says Maester Luwin says there are no more giants, she claims that there are beyond the Wall. "My brother killed one. Ten foot tall she was, and stunted at that. They've been known to grow big as twelve and thirteen feet." There are worse things beyond the Wall, she continues.
"The cold winds are rising, and men go out from their fires and never come back ... or if they do, they're not men no more, but only wights, with blue eyes and cold black hands."
Then she tells him that she tried to tell Robb something but he didn't listen. Bran says he'll tell him, so she says, "You tell him he's bound on marching the wrong way. It's north he should be taking his swords. North, not south."

Robb wasn't at the feast that night in the hall, and Bran was the one called on to give the welcome. He overhears someone saying he'd "sooner die than live like that," and someone else "said likely the boy was broken inside as well as out, too craven to take his own life." Bran tells Maester Luwin that he doesn't want to be broken, that he wants to be a knight. Luwin says, "There are some who call my order the knights of the mind," and asks if he has ever thought of becoming a maester. "There is no limit to what you might learn." Bran says he wants to learn magic and to fly. This is not what Maester Luwin has in mind, however, and he says, "Bran, no man can teach you magic." Bran replies that the children of the forest could, and he is reminded of what he told Osha he'd tell Robb. But Maester Luwin dismisses her words as "folly."

Two days later, Bran says goodbye to his brother, who tells him, "You are the lord in Winterfell now." But Rickon refuses to say goodbye to Robb. Bran tells Robb, "He says no one ever comes back." Robb promises that their mother will be home soon and that he'll bring their father. As Robb rides off, Bran remembers Osha's words, and almost rides after him to tell them to him.

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