By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

14. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 583-627


Khal Drogo and Daenerys are arguing over her desire to return to the Seven Kingdoms and regain the Iron Throne for the Targaryens. Like most Dothraki, he hates the sea, and when she says, "It was prophesied that the stallion [who mounts the world] will ride to the ends of the earth," he replies, "The earth ends at the black salt sea.... No horse can cross the poison water." She argues that ships can carry them across, but to no avail. Telling her he doesn't want to hear any more about "wooden horses and iron chairs," he goes off hunting.

She calls for Ser Jorah and asks for his help in persuading Drogo, but he knows how stubborn the khal can be. He counsels patience: "Do not make your brother's mistake. We will go home. I promise you." To cheer her up, he proposes that they go to the Western Market to see if Illyrio has sent any letters. When they arrive, he leaves her to explore the market while he meets with the captain who delivers Illyrio's messages.

Elyes Gobel as Jhogo.
After wandering for most of the morning, she and her retinue come across a wine merchant, who offers her a taste of her a taste of his wine. When he discovers her identity, he presents her a cask of a special wine. But as she is about to have the cask sent back to the litter on which she has been traveling, Ser Jorah suddenly appears and orders the wineseller to open the cask. When the merchant refuses, Jorah threatens him and the man gives in, opens the cask and pours a cup of it. "You taste it first," Jorah orders the merchant. When he refuses, Daenerys says, "You will drink." The merchant throws the cask at her and runs away, but her guard, Jhogo, lashes out with his whip and captures the merchant. Jorah explains that he didn't know the wine was poisoned until the merchant refused to drink, but Illyrio's letter had warned him the the king has put a price on her head.

When they return home, Daenerys tells Jorah to light a brazier, and when it's hot she takes one of the dragon's eggs and places it in the coals. She waits until the fire has burned down, disappointed that nothing has happened. "A thousand thousand years ago they had been alive, but now they were only pretty rocks. They could not make a dragon. A dragon was air and fire. Living flesh, not dead stone."

When Khal Drogo returns from the hunt, Daenerys tells him about the threat to her life. Drogo rewards Jorah with a horse, and tells Daenerys that he will see to it that their son sits on "this iron chair his mother's father sat in. I will give him Seven Kingdoms." Two days later, the khalasar leaves'; the wineseller, naked and on foot, is chained behind Daenerys's horse for as long as he can keep up the pace.


My son is leading a host to war, she thought, still only half believing it. She was desperately afraid for him, and for Winterfell, yet she could not deny feeling a certain pride as well.
Accompanied by her uncle, Brynden Tully, aka the Blackfish, Catelyn arrives at the army's encampment at the ruins of Moat Cailin, once a stronghold of the First Men. She finds Robb meeting with his generals, including the Greatjon. He calls out to her as she enters, but she tries to restrain herself in front of his men. They pay their respects to her, and she explains that when her ship landed she had heard of the war and came directly to his camp. She sent Ser Rodrik to Winterfell to aid Maester Luwin.

When someone asks about Tyrion, she says, "The gods saw fit to free him, with some help from my fool of a sister." Left alone with Robb, she asks why, at fifteen, he is leading an army when there are older and more experienced men to do so. He replies, "They are not Starks." Then he asks if she is sending him back to Winterfell, and she admits that she can't do that now. He asks if she has heard about Ned, and she says yes, then asks about his sisters. He gives her the letter that Sansa had sent, and when she reads it she says, "This is Cersei's letter, not your sister's." He points out that she doesn't mention Arya. "Catelyn did not want to think what that might mean, not now, not here."

He confesses that he is afraid of what the Lannisters will do to Sansa and his father. She says that they want him to think their lives are in danger.
"What I do know is that you have no choice. If you go to King's Landing and swear fealty, you will never be allowed to leave. If you turn your tail and retreat to Winterfell, your lords will lose all respect for you. Some may even go over to the Lannisters. Then the queen, with that much less to fear, can do as she likes with her prisoners. Our best hope, our only true hope, is that you can defeat the foe in the field."
He tells her that the men his father had sent to deal with Gregor Clegane had been defeated soundly. "Lord Tywin has closed off the kingsroad, it's said, and now he's marching north toward Harrenhal, burning as he goes." Now, he says, they have to march south to confront him. But he's not sure what to do. She tells him that he has to be certain, "or go home and take up that wooden sword again.... Make no mistake, Robb -- these are your bannermen, not your friends. You named yourself battle commander. Command."

So he goes to the map and shows her the strategy he has planned. She's impressed -- "Ned taught him well." He will command the cavalry, which also reminds her of his father: "Ned would always take the more dangerous task himself." As for the other forces, she tells him that he wants someone with "cold cunning," and he decides on Roose Bolton because he "scares me."

When he offers to give her an escort back to Winterfell, she tells him she's not going. "My father may be dying behind the walls of Riverrun. My brother is surrounded by foes. I must go to them."


Tyrion, Bronn, and the host of mountain clansmen have arrived at the crossroads. A scout has reported that the Lannister army is there, twenty thousand strong. When Tyrion shows himself to one of the captains, Ser Flement Brax, he is greeted with astonishment, not only that he is still alive, but that he's apparently followed by a horde of brigands. He asks where his father is, and is directed to the very inn where Catelyn took him prisoner.

He finds his father in the common room with his uncle, Ser Kevan Lannister, Tywin's only surviving brother. "Whenever his father's eyes were on him, he became uncomfortably aware of all his deformities and shortcomings." And his father remains true to form, commenting, "Your brother Jaime would never have meekly submitted to capture at the hands of a woman."

Kevan and Tywin fill him in on the progress of the war, including the capture of Catelyn's brother, Edmure, and the siege of Riverrun, where her father is dying. Tywin assures him, "Unless the Starks and the Arryns come forth to oppose us, this war is as good as won." Tyrion says he has nothing to fear from the Arryns, but the Starks are another matter. But Tywin assures him that 'The Stark boy is a child."

Tyrion is surprised by the news of Robert Baratheon's death and the ascension to the throne of Joffrey. He thinks, "The realm would be a much different place with Cersei ruling in place of her husband." Tywin offers him a command if he wants it, and as Tyrion is telling him that he needs weapons for his army of brigands, Shagga and the other clansmen burst into the common room, followed by Bronn.
"They followed me home, Father," Tyrion explained. "May I keep them? They don't eat much." 
(An irresistible joke, but one that seems a little too modern for the context.) Tywin keeps his composure and asks Tyrion to "acquaint us with our ... honored guests." Tyrion does the introductions, which include describing Shagga as "the one who looks like Casterly Rock with hair." Tywin greets them with dignity, "Even in the west, we know the prowess of the warrior clans of the Mountains of the Moon," but just as he's getting to the matter of what they want, he's interrupted by a messenger saying that "the Stark host is moving down the causeway."

This pleases Tywin. "The sooner the Starks are broken, the sooner I shall be free to deal with Stannis Baratheon." He asks the clansmen to join him and he will see to it that they are rewarded. But Ulf son of Umar asks, "Why should we need the father's promise when we have the son's." Tywin suavely replies that they don't need to join his forces, but adds, "The men of the winterlands are made of iron and ice, and even my boldest knights fear to face them." Tyrion is impressed with his father's challenge to the clansmen, and sure enough they take him up on it. But he's less happy with their insistence that he join them: "He has bought his breath with promises. Until we hold the steel he has pledged us, his life is ours."


Joffrey is holding his first court session and Sansa is attending. But no one wants to be associated with the traitor's daughter, so they don't acknowledge her greetings to them, and she is surprised at how many people she knew are missing. But she tells herself that Joffrey and the queen love her, so it will all be okay. One of the first things Joffrey orders is for Pycelle to read the list of people who are expected to swear fealty to him or being considered traitors. At the end of the long list come the names of her family. When she hears Arya's name she thinks "it must mean her sister had fled on the galley, she must be safe at Winterfell by now."

Tywin Lannister is appointed Hand, and Cersei is named to the small council. Janos Slynt, the commander of the City Watch, is made a lord and given "the ancient seat of Harrenhal," and is named to the small council as well. There is a buzz of anger at this from other lords as the commoner is elevated to the honor.
Dominic Carter as Janos Slynt

And in a final shocker, Barristan Selmy is removed as the commander of the Kingsguard, a position that has traditionally been an appointment for life. Joffrey says, "You let my father die.... You're too old to protect anybody." Cersei speaks up to say that Jaime Lannister will take his position. Barristan is outraged: "The false knight who profaned his blade with the king he had sworn to defend." He refuses the offer of land from Tywin Lannister, removes his cloak and breastplate, and take out his sword and throws it at the foot of the throne, then departs. After he has left Joffrey orders him seized, and Janos Slynt says he will take care of it.

Then Joffrey has his mother make the announcement that "The king and council have determined that no man in the Seven Kingdoms is more fit to guard and protect His Grace than his sworn shield, Sandor Clegane." The Hound accepts, but refuses to take vows as a knight.

When the herald asks anyone who has business before the king to step forward, Sansa nervously makes her move. Joffrey smiles at her, which reassures her: "He does love me, he does." So she comes forward to the foot of the throne and asks mercy for her father. The queen says she is disappointed "What did I tell you about traitor's blood?" Grand Maester Pycelle says that her father "has committed grave and terrible crimes." Varys comments that she's "only a babe" and doesn't know what she's doing. But Joffrey tells them to let her speak.

She goes on to say that her father loved King Robert and didn't want to be the Hand, and that somebody must have lied to him. Joffrey says, "He said I wasn't the king. Why did he say that?" Sansa says that his broken leg must have been hurting him so much, and that Maester Pycelle was giving him milk of the poppy, which must have clouded his mind. Joffrey turns to his mother, who says, "If Lord Eddard were to confess his crime, ... we would know he had repented his folly."

Joffrey stands up and asks if she has any more to say, so Sansa pleads, "as you love me, you do me this kindness, my prince." Joffrey says her words have moved him, but, "He has to confess and say that I'm the king, or there will be no mercy for him." Sansa assures him that her father will do that.

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