By Charles Matthews

Friday, July 15, 2011

3. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 68-108


Arya is embroidering something, a task for which she has no skill or taste: Her "septa," which seems to be a word for "governess," says she "has the hands of a blacksmith." The others, including Sansa and Princess Myrcella, are doing fine work. They are gossiping about the pending betrothal of Sansa and Prince Joffrey, and when Arya says, "Jon says he looks like a girl," Sansa retorts, "He gets jealous because he's a bastard." Arya insists that Jon is their brother, attracting the attention of Septa Mordane, who inspects their stitches. Arya's, of course, won't do. Arya starts to cry and heads for the door, only to be called back by the septa, who tells her that Catelyn will hear of her misbehavior, and that she has embarrassed them before the princess. Arya bows to the princess, but continues her exit. When Septa Mordane asks where she's going, Arya retorts, "'I have to go shoe a horse," and takes "a brief satisfaction in the shock on the septa's face."

She hurries downstairs, where her wolf is waiting for her. Arya has named her Nymeria, "after the warrior queen of the Rhoyne, who had led her people across the narrow sea. That had been a great scandal too. Sansa, of course, had named her pup 'Lady.'" She goes to watch the boys practicing their fighting skills in the yard, hoping that she will see "Robb put gallant Prince Joffrey flat on his back." She goes to a window of the covered bridge overlooking the yard, and finds Jon already there, accompanied by Ghost. She is disappointed that the combatants are only Bran and Prince Tommen, who are heavily padded and carefully watched over by Ser Rodrik Cassel, the master-at-arms.

Arya and Jon "had always been close. Jon had their father's face, as she did. They were the only ones." She asks why he isn't down with the fighters, and he tells her, "Bastards are not allowed to damage young princes." She thinks this is unfair. She also thinks that she could fight as well as Bran does, but Jon tells her she's too skinny. Jon points out that on his surcoat Prince Joffrey is wearing a heraldic shield in which the arms "were divided down the middle; on one side was the crowned stag of the royal House, on the other the lion of Lannister." He takes it as evidence of the pride of the Lannisters, that they aren't content to wear just the arms of royalty.

The men call a halt to the battle between Bran and Tommen when the latter falls down and is unable to get up because he is so heavily padded. Ser Rodrik suggests that Robb and Joffrey fight again, but they protest about having to fight with "play" swords. Joffrey insists he wants "Live steel," but the master-at-arms protests that it's too dangerous. He "will permit tourney swords, with blunted edges." Then Sandor Clegane protests that Ser Rodrik doesn't have the authority to tell the prince what he can fight with. The master-at-arms insists he does, and will not permit them to fight with anything but tourney swords. Joffrey mocks Robb, and Robb curses at him, but Joffrey coolly exits, saying to Tommen, "Leave the children to their frolics." The Lannisters laugh and Robb curses some more, but Theon Greyjoy keeps hold of him until the Lannisters leave.

Jon tells Arya that she'd better go back to her room, or Septa Mordane will have her "sewing all through the winter. When the spring thaw comes, they will find your body with a needle still locked tight between your frozen fingers." Arya says she hates needlework, and it's not fair that she has to do it. "'Nothing is fair,' Jon said." She returns to her room to find not only Septa Mordane but also her mother.


The men leave for a hunt, "even the queen's funny little brother," and Bran remains with Jon, who is not allowed on the hunt, and the women and children. He is excited about the coming journey to the castle at King's Landing, and imagines the day when he will be a knight and a member of the Kingsguard, who "wore white armor and had no wives or children, but lived to serve the king." The actual members of the Kingsguard who accompanied King Robert didn't look particularly heroic, except for Ser Jaime Lannister.

Bran spends the morning trying to train his wolf, who is still unnamed because none of the ones he can think of sound right. Then he decides to go climbing. When he climbs a tree that gives him access to the roof of the armory, his wolf begins to howl, which sends "a strange chill" through Bran. His mother, who said he "could climb before he could walk," has tried to discourage him, but he loves scaling the walls and crossing the rooftops of the vast and rambling castle. "It made him feel like he was lord of the castle, in a way even Robb would never know." It also taught him the secrets of the way the castle was put together, and ways to get around it that no one else knew.

Once he promised his mother he wouldn't climb for a fortnight, but it made him so miserable that he slipped out at night and did it anyway. Then he felt guilty and confessed, so his father made him spend the night alone in the godswood as penance. But when they went to look for him in the morning they found him asleep in the top of a tree, which made his father laugh and tell him just to try not to let his mother see him climbing.

He particularly loved the broken tower, which was once the tallest watchtower in Winterfell, but had been struck by lightning, so the upper third collapsed. So he sets out for it by going from rooftop to rooftop until he reaches the oldest part of the castle, the First Keep, which is uninhabited. It has a row of gargoyles on which Bran can swing from one to another, and he is making his way along them when he hears voices coming from the First Keep.

A woman is saying, "You should be the First Hand," and a man replies that it's too much work. Bran is afraid to swing by the window of the room they're in, so he can't help listening as the woman says that the problem is that the king will listen to Ned Stark. She's afraid that Ned will prove to be their enemy, and that Lysa Arryn, Catelyn's sister, will accuse them of something. Bran "was not sure what he was hearing, but he knew it was not meant for his ears." Then the woman says,
"What happens when Robert dies and Joff takes the throne? And the sooner that comes to pass, the safer we'll all be. My husband grows restless every day. Having Stark beside him will only make him worse. He's still in love with the sister, the insipid little dead sixteen-year-old. How long before he decides to put me aside for some new Lyanna?"
If we haven't guessed it before, we now know that the woman is Cersei. "Bran was suddenly very frightened," but he still wants to see who is talking. He climbs over the roof to the gargoyle above the window where the couple is talking, then hangs upside down from it and looks into the window. "Inside the room, a man and a woman were wrestling. They were both naked." He watches as they start to have sex, and when he recognizes the queen he apparently makes a noise, for she looks toward him and screams.

As she points him out to the man, Bran loses his grip on the gargoyle and falls, but manages to grab hold of the window ledge with one hand. He recognizes the faces that appear in the window as the queen and her twin brother, Jaime Lannister. "They looked as much alike as reflections in a mirror." Jaime hauls Bran onto the ledge and asks him how old he is. Bran tells him he's seven.
The man looked over at the woman. "The things I do for love," he said with loathing. He gave Bran a shove.


Bran's wolf is howling, making it difficult for Tyrion to concentrate on the book he is reading, "a hundred-year-old discourse on the changing of the seasons by a long-dead maester." He goes down the steps of the library tower, and hears Sandor Clegane below complaining, "The boy is a long time dying. I wish he would be quicker about it." Prince Joffrey complains that the wolf's howl kept him awake last night, and Clegane, who is known as "the Hound," offers to kill the wolf.
The notion seemed to delight the prince. "Send a dog to kill a dog!" he exclaimed. "Winterfell is so infested with wolves, the Starks would never miss one."
Tyrion steps into the yard and says to the prince, "The Starks can count past six. Unlike some princes I might name." The prince blushes, but Clegane pretends not to know where Tyrion's voice is coming from. Tyrion is used to the joke, and says "Down here," which provokes Clegane to acknowledge him as "The little lord Tyrion." Tyrion shrugs him off and tells Joffrey that he is obliged to pay his condolences to "Lord Eddard and his lady." When Joffrey protests that he doesn't care about Bran and he "cannot abide the wailing of women," Tyrion slaps him, and warns Joffrey that he will hit him again if he says another word. Joffrey says he's going to tell his mother, and Tyrion slaps him on the other cheek. Then he tells Joffrey exactly how he is to present himself to the Starks and offer his sympathies and aid.

Joffrey runs off, and Tyrion, ignoring Clegane's warning that Joffrey will remember the slaps, asks where his brother is. Clegan says he's with the queen. Tyrion finds them at breakfast and sits down, uninvited, at their table. Cersei "peered at him with the same expression of distaste she had worn since the day he was born." Jaime, on the other hand, had been the only Lannister, "During all the terrible long years of his childhood, [who] had ever shown him the smallest measure of affection or respect, and for that Tyrion was willing to forgive him most anything."

When Tommen asks if there is any news of Bran's condition, Tyrion says he had stopped by the sickroom last night and the maester said there was no change, which he thought was "a hopeful sign." When he comments that Bran "may yet live," Tyrion keeps his eye on his brother and sister: "The glance that passed between Jaime and Cersei lasted no more than a second, but he did not miss it." He adds that Bran's back is broken and his legs are shattered, so "he will never walk again." Cersei asks if it is likely that Bran will wake up, and Tyrion says that it seems to be the howling of his wolf that keeps the boy alive: When they chase it away or close the window, the boy seems to get worse. Cersei comments that the animals are dangerous and that she won't have any of them coming south with them. But Jaime says that she'll have a hard time stopping them. "They follow those girls everywhere."

When Tyrion asks if they are leaving soon, Cersei says, "Gods, don't tell me you are staying here?" Tyrion says, "Benjen Stark is returning to the Night's Watch with his brother's bastard. I have a mind to go with them and see this Wall we all have heard so much of." Jaime jokes that Tyrion is thinking of taking the black, but Tyrion assures him that he has no intention of remaining celibate: "No, I just want to stand on top of the Wall and piss off the edge of the world."

Cersei affects to be offended at Tyrion's coarseness and leaves with the children. Jaime suggests that Ned won't leave Winterfell with his son in this condition, but Tyrion says he will if Robert orders him to do so. Jaime suggests that Ned should put the boy out of his misery. "I would, if it were my son. It would be a mercy.... Even if the boy does life, he will be a cripple. Worse than a cripple. A grotesque. Give me a good clean death." Tyrion replies, "Speaking for the grotesques, ... I beg to differ. Death is so terribly final, while life is full of possibilities." Then he says he would be interested to hear what Bran has to say if he wakes up. Jaime says he wonders whose side Tyrion is on.


Jon goes to see Bran for the first time after the fall, having stayed away because Catelyn, who detests him, never leaves Bran's side. But since he is about to leave for the Wall, he feels obligated to see his half-brother again. Catelyn tries to send him away, and threatens to call the guards, but he defies her and goes to the bedside.
"Bran," he said, "I'm sorry I didn't come before. I was afraid." He could feel the tears rolling down his cheeks. Jon no longer cared. "Don't die, Bran. Please. We're waiting for you to wake up. Me and Robb and the girls, everyone...."
Catelyn makes no move, so he continues, telling Bran that he's leaving for the Wall, and then brushes away his tears and leans over and kisses Bran.

Catelyn says she prayed for Bran to stay with her at Winterfell, and that her prayers were answered -- an expression of the guilt she feels. Jon says, "It wasn't your fault," but she snaps, "I need none of your absolution, bastard." He squeezes Bran's hand and says goodbye, but at the door she calls his name, which she had never done. He turns and she looks him in the face, then says, "It should have been you." Then she begins to cry.

He goes down to the yard, where everyone is busy getting ready to leave. Robb tells him that Benjen is looking for him, and Jon says, "Soon." Robb asks if he saw Bran, and he nods. "He's not going to die," Robb says, and when he notices that Jon seems depressed, says, "My mother...." Jon tells her, "She was ... very kind." They hug farewells, and when Robb says Benjen wants Jon at the stables, he tells Robb he has one more farewell to make.

He goes to Arya's room, where she is being forced to repack everything because it wasn't "properly folded." She doesn't see the point of folding things that are "going to get messed up anyway." He has a present for her, and tells her to close the door. It's a sword that he has had specially made for her. He tells her, "Run, and ride, make yourself strong," and that in a city like King's Landing she should be able to find someone to practice swordsmanship with. Then he says the sword has a name: her favorite thing. She is puzzled for a minute, and then they say it together: "Needle!"


Wedding day for Daenerys and Khal Drogo arrives. The ceremony and celebration takes place in a field outside Pentos. Viserys is still concerned that the Khal hasn't paid the price he asked for Daenerys: a crown. Illyrio assures him the Khal will hold up his end of the deal in his own time. First they will have to make a procession to Vaes Dothrak to present his queen to the people. But Viserys is impatient to raise the army to retake the throne.

Ser Jorah, who has become their companion, counsels patience with the Dothraki, but Viserys warns, "Guard your tongue, Mormont, or I'll have it out. I am no lesser man. I am the rightful Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. The dragon does not beg." But Daenerys thinks, though she doesn't say it to her brother, "There are no more dragons." But that night she has a terrifying dream in which Viserys is hitting her, and then he disappears and a dragon arises among "great columns of flame."

At the ceremony, Viserys is seated on a lower level than Khal Drogo and Daenerys, which also infuriates him, as does the fact that they are served first. Daenerys feels like crying, but is terrified at how Viserys and Khal Drogo will react. She feels terribly alone because there is no one to talk to: She doesn't know the Dothraki language and the khal doesn't know the languages she speaks. During the ceremony a warrior grabs one of the dancing girls and has sex with her in front of everyone. Illyrio has said, "The Dothraki mate like the animals in their herds. There is no privacy in a khalasar, and they do not understand sin or shame as we do."

Then two warriors fight over a girl, and the loser is disemboweled before her eyes. "As the loser died, the winner took hold of the nearest woman -- not even the one they had been quarreling over -- and had her there and then." Illyrio had warned them that at least three deaths were to be expected at a Dothraki wedding. "Her wedding must have  been especially blessed; before the day was over, a dozen men had died."

Daenerys grows more and more terrified as the day passes, and the only thing she can do to calm herself is to repeat silently, "I am the blood of the dragon." When the time comes for the gifts, Viserys presents her with three servant girls, telling her, "Irri will teach you riding, Jhiqui the Dothraki tongue, and Doreah will instruct you in the womanly arts of love." Ser Jorah gives her books, "histories and songs of the Seven Kingdoms." Magister Illyrio presents her with three petrified dragon eggs, "a magnificent gift, though she knew Illyrio could afford to be lavish. He had collected a fortune in horses and slaves for his part in selling her to Khal Drogo."

She is presented with three weapons by Khal Drogo's "bloodriders," and had been told that she was to refuse them as more fitting for a warrior than a woman, so they should be given to her husband. There are other gifts, including "a gown made from the skin of a thousand mice," before Khal Drogo gives her his gift, "a young filly, spirited and splendid." Drogo lifts her into the saddle, and she finds that the horse is swift and responsive. "And for the first time in hours, she forgot to be afraid. Or perhaps it was for the first time ever."

At the end of the ride, she finds a firepit in her path, and she lets the horse leap over it. She tells Illyrio, "Tell Khal Drogo that he has given me the wind," and when it's translated for him, "Dany saw her new husband smile for the first time."

But when the time comes for her to ride off with her husband, Viserys threatens, "Please him, sweet sister, or I swear, you will see the dragon wake as it has never woken before." But as it happens, the wedding night seems to go pretty well.

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