By Charles Matthews

Saturday, July 30, 2011

18. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 762-807


Tywin Lannister is glumly contemplating the capture of Jaime and Robb's arrival at Riverrun. Tyrion is listening to the efforts of various lords to explain how it all happened, and noting to himself the foolishness they are spouting. The messenger gives the credit to Robb -- and to Grey Wind, who, he tells them, is said to have "killed four men and ripped apart a dozen horses." Ser Harys Swift complains, "They can march on Casterly Rock if they so choose, and what's to stop them? My lords, we are beaten. We must sue for peace."
"Peace?" Tyrion swirled his wine thoughtfully, took a deep draft, and hurled his empty cup to the floor, where it shattered into a thousand pieces. "There's your peace, Ser Harys. My sweet nephew broke it for good and all when he decided to ornament the Red Keep with Lord Eddard's head. You'll have an easier time drinking wine from that cup than you will convincing Robb Stark to make peace now. He's winning ... or haven't you noticed?" 
The various lords continue to speculate on what can be done, with Tyrion interjecting acid put-downs for each suggestion. Then finally Tywin, who has remained silent through the conversation, finally says, "'They have my son,' ... in a voice that cut through the babble like a sword through suet." He orders them all out except Tyrion and Ser Kevan, Tyrion's uncle.  Tyrion is surprised to be acknowledged by his father in such a way, and even more surprised when Tywin gives him his own untouched cup of wine. Moreover, his father actually commends Tyrion's analysis of the problem caused by the execution of Ned Stark. If Joffrey had kept him alive, they could have used him to negotiate. But Tywin isn't ready to give Tyrion his full due yet, taking back the implicit praise by noting, when Tyrion comments that Joffrey is only a boy, "I suppose we ought to be grateful that he has not yet married a whore." Tyrion's hatred of his father returns.

Then Tywin observes that they have a new king: Renly Baratheon has married Margaery Tyrell, the sister of the Knight of Flowers, and laid claim to the crown, with the support of the Tyrells. Cersei, Tywin says, has commanded them "to ride for King's Landing at once, to defend the Red Keep against King Renly and the Knight of Flowers." She hasn't told King Joffrey yet, he says, because she's afraid "he might insist on marching against Renly himself." And then there's Stannis Baratheon to contend with as well. As Ser Kevan observes, they might find themselves "caught between three armies" -- Renly's, Stannis's, and Robb Stark's.

Tywin says that they will leave tomorrow for Harrenhal, a castle in the direction of King's Landing. and he gives Kevan directions on the deployment of their forces. When Kevan leaves, Tywin tells Tyrion to put his "savages" under the command of the leader of a band of freeriders with liberty to plunder as they like. As for Tyrion, he is sending him to court. When Tyrion asks what he's supposed to do there, Tywin says, "Rule." He doesn't trust the advice Joffrey is given by Littlefinger, the Grand Maester, and Varys, and is appalled by his knighting of Janos Slynt: "The man's father was a butcher, and they grant him Harrenhal. Harrenhal, that was the seat of kings!" 

So Tyrion is given the task of trying to control Joffrey: "If Cersei cannot curb the boy, you must." And if Tyrion finds that the councilors are double-dealing them.... "Tyrion knew. 'Spies,' he sighed. 'Heads. Walls.'" He asks his father, "Why me?" And Tywin replies, "You are my son."
That was when he knew. You have given him up for lost, he thought. You bloody bastard, you think Jaime's good as dead, so I'm all you have left. Tyrion wanted to slap him, to spit in his face, to draw his dagger and cut the heart out of him and see if it was made of old hard gold, the way the smallfolks said. Yet he sat there, silent and still.
As Tywin leaves, he says one thing more, "You will not take the whore to court." So when Tyrion gets back to his room, he climbs into bed with Shae and says, "I have a mind to take you to King's Landing, sweetling."


Jon is quietly leading his horse out of the stable, and when he gets outside he calls softly for Ghost. But behind him Samwell calls out, "Jon, please. You must not do this." Jon doesn't listen, and threatens to run Sam down when he tries to block the horse. Sam falls to the ground as Jon charges him. They ride off into the night.

He takes to the kingsroad, feeling reasonably certain that Sam doesn't have the courage to go to Lord Mormont in the middle of the night and report him. He had left Longclaw, the sword Mormont had given him, for "someone more worthy of the blade.

He knows he will have to find new clothes to replace the black ones he is wearing, so he won't be so readily identifiable as a deserter from the Night's Watch. He remembers what Tyrion said, "that most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it," so he thinks of himself as facing it: "He was who he was, Jon Snow, bastard and oathbreaker, motherless, friendless, and damned.... But it made no matter, so long as he lived long enough to take his place by his brother's side and help avenge his father."

He rides through Mole's Town, the village near Castle Black, three-quarters of which is underground, then slows for fear of overtiring his horse. Ghost has disappeared into the woods and doesn't respond to his calls. When he stops to eat, he hears the sound of horses coming from the north, so he hides in the woods. When the riders get closer, he recognizes the voices of his friends, Grenn, Pyp, Toad, and Halder. "Sam, he thought. He hadn't gone to the Old Bear, but he hadn't gone to bed either, he'd woken the other boys."

Suddenly Ghost appears, startling Jon's horse so that it whinnies and alerts the boys, who surround him. He begs them to let him go: "Don't you understand? They murdered my father. It's war, my brother Robb is fighting in the riverlands--" But they know already, because Sam has told them, and they remind him of his oath, reciting the words to him. Finally he surrenders and starts the ride back with them.

They reach Castle Black before dawn, with Jon still telling himself that he'll make another attempt and succeed. He returns to his routine, going to the kitchen at dawn to fetch Mormont's breakfast. The commander treats everything as if it were normal until he finally says, "You look weary. Was your moonlight ride so tiring?" Jon is astonished that he knows. But Mormont tells him he was anticipating the attempt, and had him watched. "If your brothers had not fetched you back, you would have been taken along the way, and not by friends."

He tells Jon that Robb has forces of his own behind him, and that he is needed there, on the Wall. "When dead men come hunting in the night, do you think it matters who sits the Iron Throne?" Jon admits to the truth of what he's saying. Mormont then tells him, "I think you were meant to be here, and I want you and that wolf of yours with us when we go beyond the Wall." Jon is excited to hear this, especially when Mormont adds, "I mean to find Ben Stark, alive or dead."

Jon silently asks his father, Robb, Arya, and Bran to forgive him, and says, "I am ... yours, my lord. Your man. I swear it. I will not run again."

Catelyn, Robb, Theon Greyjoy, Brynden Tully and others arrive at Riverrun by boat. They're met by Catelyn's brother, Edmure, who takes her to see her father, who is bedridden and doesn't have long to live.
A blind rage filled her, a rage at all the world, at her brother Edmure and her sister Lysa, at the Lannisters, at the maesters, at Ned and her father and the monstrous gods who would take them both from her.
And she blames herself: "If you had not taken it upon yourself to seize the dwarf...." She tells Hoster Tully that she has brought him Jaime Lannister "in irons," and that his brother, Brynden, is there, as is Robb. He drifts off to sleep and she goes to rejoin the others in the hall.

Robb has gone to the godswood, she is told, and she joins him there, thinking that it was exactly what Ned would have done. "She asked herself what gods she kept these days, and could not find an answer." So she stands aside as Robb and his commanders are kneeling, and thinks about the past at Riverrun, remembering when "she and Lysa had played at kissing with Petyr." When she told her sister that Littlefinger had tried to put his tongue in her mouth, Lysa said he did the same with her, and she liked it.

When Robb rises from his prayers, he tells her that they need to call a council to decide things. "We've had word from the south. Renly Baratheon has claimed his brother's crown." The arguing goes into the night about whether to attack the Lannisters and whether to swear fealty to King Renly.
"Renly is not the king," Robb said. It was the first time her son had spoken. Like his father, he knew how to listen.
When someone says that he can't mean to support Joffrey, who killed his father, Robb says, "That makes him evil.... I do not know that it makes Renly king. Joffrey is still Robert's eldest trueborn son, so the throne is rightfully his by all the laws of the realm." (The secret of Joffrey's parentage hasn't emerged yet.) Moreover, Renly is the younger brother, so he "can't be king before Lord Stannis."

So the argument revives over what king to support, and what to do about Jaime Lannister. Finally Catelyn speaks up: "Why not a peace?" This causes more outpouring of argument, including the challenge that Catelyn, as a woman, can't "understand these things." But Catelyn gains the floor again.
"Perhaps I do not understand tactics and strategy ... but I understand futility. We went to war when Lannister armies were ravaging the riverlands, and Ned was a prisoner, falsely accused of treason. We fought to defend ourselves, and to win my lord's freedom. Well, the one is done, and the other forever beyond our reach. I will mourn for Ned until the end of my days, but I must think of the living. I want my daughters back, and the queen holds them still. If I must trade our four Lannisters for their two Starks, I will call that a bargain, and thank the gods. I want you safe, Robb, ruling at Winterfell from your father's seat."
There is quiet after she finishes, but the arguments begin anew. Finally the hubbub is silenced by a bellow from the Greatjon, who proclaims that he doesn't recognize either Joffrey or Renly. He pulls out his greatsword and points at Robb: "There sits the only king I mean to boy my knee to, m'lords.... The King in the North!"

Catelyn watches as the assembled lords begin to kneel before her son and shout "the old words that had not been heard in the realm for more than three hundred years, since Aegon the Dragon had come to make the Seven Kingdoms one.... 'The King in the North!'"


The men still faithful to Daenerys set about building Khal Drogo's funeral pyre. When they kill a stallion for the ritual immolation, Mirri Maz Duur scoffs that they don't know the right words for such a ceremony, until Daenerys gets fed up with listening to her and has Jhogo whip her. On the platform above the body of the horse, they pile Drogo's treasures, but when they start to add the gifts that the bloodriders had given her, in order that she should surrender them to Drogo, she insists that they are hers and she will keep them.

Ser Jorah takes her aside and says, "Princess...." But Daenerys stops him: "My brother Viserys was your king, was he not? ... Viserys is dead. I am his heir, the last blood of House Targaryen. Whatever was his is mine now." So he addresses her as "My ... queen," and swears that he will give her not only his sword, but also his heart. She doesn't have to join the crones in Vaes Dothrak. "We will see all the wonders yet unseen, and drink what wines the gods see fit to serve us." But, he pleads, "I know what you intend. Do not. Do not!" When she realizes that what he is telling her is not to immolate herself on Drogo's pyre, she says she doesn't intend to do that, and when he asks her to swear it, she does.

When the pyre is ready, she calls the remaining Dothraki around her -- there are less than a hundred of them -- and tells them they are her khalasar, and sets the slaves among them free. She gives the three young men who are her servants the gifts that she had been given as a bride: the whip to Jhogo, the dragonbone bow to Aggo, and the dagger, the arakh, to Rakharo. She has no gift for Ser Jorah, but she promises him "a longsword like none the world has ever seen, dragon-forged and made of Valyrian steel." She kisses him and says, "You are the first of my Queensguard."

She takes a bath in scalding water, and after being groomed by her handmaids, she washes Khal Drogo's body and dresses him. Then she has him taken to the pyre, and has oil poured onto it. She orders her handmaids to bring the dragon eggs and places them around Khal Drogo's body. Jorah protests that they are too valuable, and Drogo will have no use for them in the afterlife, but she ignores him.

When she climbs down from the pyre, Mirri Maz Duur says, "You are mad." Whereupon Daenerys orders Jorah to bind her to the pyre. As she pours oil over her, Mirri Maz Duur says, "You will not hear me scream."
"I will," Dany said, "but it is not your screams I want, only your life. I remember what you told me. Only death can pay for life." 
Then they sit back and watch the sun set and wait for the signal to light the fire: the appearance of the first star. Jhogo is the one who spots it: "a comet, burning red. Bloodred; fire red; the dragon's tail. She could not have asked for a stronger sign."

She lights the fire. As the flames burn hotter, Mirri Maz Duur begins to sing a song, but it eventually becomes "a shuddering wail, thin and high and full of agony." The heat begins to drive everyone backward except Daenerys. She is enchanted by the flames, seeing all sorts of shapes in them, and finally sees Khal Drogo for an instant, mounted on a stallion and smiling at her. The platform begins to collapse, and she hears "a crack, the sound of shattering stone." Then there's a second crack, and though she can hear Ser Jorah calling out to her, she stays there until the pyre collapses. "Unafraid, Dany stepped forward into the firestorm, calling to her children." There is a third crack, the loudest of all.

When the flames die and the ground is cool enough to walk on, Ser Jorah finds her naked but unhurt among the ashes.
The cream-and-gold dragon was suckling at her left breast, the green-and-bronze at the right. Her arms cradled them close.  The black-and-scarlet beast was draped across her shoulders, its long sinuous neck coiled under her chin.

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