By Charles Matthews

Saturday, July 16, 2011

4. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 109-159


Robert Baratheon wakes Ned before dawn and tells him to ride out with him, away from the camp, to talk about "matters of state." They are followed by a company of guards, and travel southward along the kingsroad, then take off across open country. Robert stops when he is sure they are out of earshot of the guards.

"We are not the boys we used to be," Ned says, sending Robert into a moment of nostalgia in which he tries to recall the name of the woman by whom Ned fathered Jon. Ned says her name was Wylla, and that he doesn't want to talk about her. "I dishonored myself and I dishonored Catelyn, in the sight of gods and men." Robert, who doesn't understand Ned's moral scruples, reluctantly drops the topic.

What he really wants to talk about is a message he has received from Lord Varys, a eunuch who is "the king's master of whisperers." It concerns the marriage of Daenerys to Khal Drogo and the fact that Ser Jorah Mormont is now aligned with the last of the Targaryens. The Mormonts of Bear Island, off the northern coast, had been bannermen to the Starks, but five years ago Ser Jorah had "dishonored the north" by selling some poachers into slavery instead of sending them to the Wall to be part of the Night's Watch -- the usual punishment of lawbreakers. Ned had gone to Bear Island to confront Ser Jorah, but he "had taken ship beyond the reach of Ice and the king's justice." Now Ser Jorah has turned informant, sending Varys news about the activities of Viserys and Daenerys.

Ned asks facetiously if they should send a wedding gift, and Robert suggests, "A knife, perhaps. A good sharp one, and a bold man to wield it." Ned reflects on the king's hatred of the Targaryens: When Tywin Lannister had sent Robert the bodies of the wife and small children of Rhaegar Targaryen, the heir to the throne, Ned regarded it as murder, whereas Robert saw it as only the consequence of war. Now Ned protests Robert's desire to murder Daenerys; he hesitates to murder children, which the thirteen-year-old Daenerys is. But Robert sees her as only a breeder of more Targaryens. He reminds Ned that Aerys Targaryen killed Ned's brother Brandon and their father, and Rhaegar raped Ned's sister Lyanna: "I will kill every Targaryen I can get my hands on, until they are as dead as their dragons, and then I will piss on their graves."

Robert also observes, "This Khal Drogo is said to have a hundred thousand men in his horde," to which Ned replies that they're no threat: "The barbarians have no ships. They hate and fear the open sea." But Robert is concerned that if Viserys should manage to persuade them to invade, he would have the support of the houses that supported the Targaryens in the war.

Ned assures him that they will be strong enough to repel an invasion once Robert names a Warden of the East to replace Jon Arryn. But Robert refuses to name Robert Arryn, the "sickly child," to the position, so Ned suggests that Robert name his own brother, Stannis. The uneasy look on Robert's face makes Ned realize that he has already promised someone else the position, namely Jaime Lannister. Ned tactfully tries to point out that Jaime is already the heir to the position of Warden of the West, now held by Tywin Lannister. "He left unsaid his real concern; that the appointment would put half the armies of the realm into the hands of the Lannisters."

Ned's concern about Jaime is that he killed the king, Aerys Targaryen, though he was a member of the Kingsguard. "He swore a vow to protect his king's life with his own. Then he opened that king's throat with a sword." He also reminds Robert that it was the Lannisters, who had remained neutral through most of the war, who gained the city of King's Landing by treachery: "Lord Tywin Lannister appeared before the gates of King's Landing with an army twelve thousand strong, profession loyalty. So the mad king had ordered his last mad act. He opened his city to the lions at the gate."

Robert argues that the Targaryens obtained power through treachery, so he's not bothered by the Lannister deception. Ned, who "had lived his lies for fourteen years" (presumably a reference to the birth of Jon, he secrets of which he continues to keep), insists, "There was no honor in that conquest." Robert denounces the idea of honor: There was no honor in the death of Lyanna, he says, who was really all he wanted. "I ask you, Ned, what good is it to wear a crown? The gods mock the prayers of kings and cowherds alike."

Ned recalls riding his horse into the throne room and finding Aerys dead on the floor and Jaime Lannister seated on the throne. He said, "Have no fear, Stark. I was only keeping it warm for our friend Robert. It's not a very comfortable seat, I'm afraid." Robert roars with laughter at this. Jaime was only seventeen, he says. That's no reason to worry about him. But his reaction fills Ned "with a vast sense of helplessness." Robert rides off back to the camp and Ned follows, wondering "what he was doing here and why he had come."

In addition to being rather efficient background exposition, this section also helps develop the characters of the choleric and careless Robert and the troubled but dutiful Ned.


Tyrion is beginning to regret his decision to go north to see the Wall. The cold is bitter and the ride uncomfortable for someone with legs as short as his. They are a company of eight: In addition to Jon and Benjen, Tyrion has two of his men with him, and they have been joined by another member of the Night's Watch, Yoren, who has with him a pair of rapists who chose to be sentenced to the Wall rather than to be castrated. Tyrion notices Jon's distaste for Yoren and the rapists, and feels sorry for him.

On the eighteenth night of the journey, Tyrion goes off to a spot away from the camp with a book of dragon lore and a skin full of good wine. He is fascinated by dragons, and after Robert Baratheon had the dragon skulls of the Targaryeons removed from the throne room, Tyrion discovered them stored in a cellar. "There were nineteen skulls. The oldest was more than three thousand years old; the youngest a mere century and a half." Dragonbone is black, light in weight, and stronger than steel, and the fire-breathing creatures had been used by the Targaryens in battle, burning to death four thousand men in the battle known as the Field of Fire.

His reading is interrupted by Jon, who asks him, "Why do you read so much?" Tyrion responds that as a Lannister, much is expected of him. "My father was the Hand of the King for twenty years. My brother later killed that very same king, as it turns out, but life is full of these little ironies. My sister married the new king and my repulsive nephew will be king after him." But Tyrion is not physically capable of heroics, so "My mind is my weapon ... and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge."

When Tyrion tells him he's reading about dragons, Jon scoffs, "What good is that? There are no more dragons." Tyrion replies that when he was a boy he used to dream about having his own dragon, and would start fires and imagine that it was his father or his sister who was burning. Jon is shocked when Tyrion suggests that he too has had such dreams. But Tyrion continues,
"No doubt the Starks have been terribly good to you. I'm certain Lady Stark treats you as if you were one of her own. And your brother Robb, he's always been kind, and why no? He gets Winterfell and you get the Wall. And your father ... he must have good reasons for packing you off to the Night's Watch...."
Jon protests, "The Night's Watch is a noble calling!" But Tyrion continues to dig, pointing out that his colleagues will be like "Yoren and his boys.... Sullen peasants, debors, poachers, rapers, thieves, and bastards like you all wind up on the Wall, watching for grumkins and snarks and all the other monsters your wet nurse warned you about." But Jon protests angrily, and Tyrion feels guilty for hurting the boy. He steps toward Jon to apologize and suddenly is flattened by the wolf, who stands between him and Jon, baring his teeth but not making a sound. Unable to stand, he asks for Jon's help, but Jon just strokes Ghost's fur and says, "Ask me nicely."
Tyrion Lannister felt the anger coiling inside him, and crushed it out with a will. It was not the first time in his life he had been humiliated, and it would not be the last.
He asks politely for Jon's assistance and receives it. He offers Jon a drink from the wineskin, and Jon accepts, then says, "It's true, isn't it? ... What you said about the Night's Watch." When Tyrion nods, Jon resigns himself to the truth, whereupon Tyrion grins and says, "That's good, bastard. Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it." They return to the camp, and after dinner Tyrion sees Jon, who had the first watch for the night, standing "near the fire, his face still and hard, looking deep into the flames. Tyrion Lannister smiled sadly and went to bed."


Catelyn is still by Bran's bedside, eight days after Ned and her daughters have left, when Maester Luwin comes to her with some household business that needs to be dealt with. She lashes out in anger at him for bothering her. Robb steps in and says he'll handle the appointments Luwin is concerned about.

When Luwin leaves, Robb shuts the door and asks, "Mother, what are you doing?" She angrily replies that she is taking care of Bran, but he retorts that three-year-old Rickon needs her, too. And he admits, "I can't do it all by myself." She suddenly realizes that he's only fourteen.

A wolf began to howl, and Robb identifies it as Bran's, and goes to open the window. She protests that Bran needs to stay warm, and he says Bran needs to hear them, as Shaggydog and Grey Wind join in the howls. "You can tell them apart if you listen close," he says. But she covers her ears and begs him to make them stop, then collapses on the floor.

When she recovers, Robb is carrying her to a bed in the corner of the room. She pleads for him to close the window, but when he goes to it he hears the sound of the dogs barking, too. He looks out and sees the library tower on fire, then tells her to stay there while he tends to the blaze. She is thankful that the fire doesn't threaten Bran, and says a prayer to the gods, then goes to the window and watches the flames.

When she turns around there is a man in the room, "a small, dirty man in filthy brown clothing, and he stank of horses." He has a dagger in his hand. He mutters, "You weren't s'posed to be here.... No one was s'posed to be here." She struggles with him, grabbing the dagger by the blade and cutting her hand, then biting his hand. She screams and falls, and he stands over her, still holding the dagger and muttering "You weren't s'posed to be here.
Catelyn saw the shadow slip through the open door behind him. There was a low rumble, less than a snarl, the merest whisper of a threat, but he must have heard something, because he started to turn just as the wolf made its leap. They went down together, half sprawled over Catelyn where she'd fallen. The wolf had him under the jaw. The man's shriek lasted less than a second before the beast wrenched back its head, taking out half his throat.
She recognizes Bran's wolf, which licks the blood off her hand and then jumps onto Bran's bed and lies down beside him. She begins to laugh hysterically and continues until Robb, Maester Luwin, Ser Rodrick and the guards arrive. They take her to her room, bathe her, and dress the wound on her hand. When she awakes they tell her she has slept four days.

She now takes charge of the household again. The new captain of the guard, Hallis Mollen, tells her that no one knows the name of the assassin, but he seems to have been staying in the stables where they found a bag with a good deal of money in it. He went unnoticed because there were so many strangers in the castle during the king's visit. When Catelyn says, "It's good to know my son's life was not sold cheaply," everyone is surprised at her suggestion that the man was there to kill Bran. But she explains that he kept muttering that she wasn't supposed to be there, and conjectures that the fire was set to draw her and the guards to the task of putting it out, leaving Bran unprotected.

Later, she asks Robb if he understands what happened. "'Someone is afraid Bran might wake up,' Robb said, 'afraid of what he might say or do, afraid of something he knows.'" She tells the captain of the guards that Robb is in charge, and he orders guards to be posted around Bran's room, and that the wolf be allowed to stay with him. Ser Rodrik asks if she noticed the dagger the man used, and tells her that it was Valyrian steel with a dragonbone hilt -- a weapon too fine for a commoner.
Ron Donachie as Ser Rodrik Cassel

In addition to Robb and Ser Rodrik, Theon Greyjoy and Maester Luwin are present as Catelyn swears them to secrecy and tells them that she believes Ned and the girls are in great danger.
"My sister Lysa believes the Lannisters murdered her husband, Lord Arryn, the Hand of the King," Catelyn told them. "It comes to me that Jaime Lannister did not join the hunt the day Bran fell. He remained here in the castle." The room was deathly quiet. "I do not think Bran fell from that tower," she said into the stillness. "I think he was thrown."
Then she tells them that someone needs to go to King's Landing to alert Ned to the danger, and volunteers herself. Robb protests that he should go, but she insists, "There must always be a Stark in Winterfell." She has also realized that she has done everything she can for Bran. "As you reminded me yourself, Robb, I have other children to think of now." And so she proposes to go by sea, which should get her to King's Landing before Ned and the Lannisters arrive.


Arya is missing at breakfast, and Sansa assumes that she has stolen off somewhere. As the preparations are being made for another day's movement along the kingsroad, Sansa goes in search of her sister and finds her trying to brush the mud out of Nymeria's fur. She tells Arya to put on something nice because they are going to be riding in the queen's wheelhouse today, but Arya has other pllans: "Mycah and I are going to ride upstream and look for rubies at the ford." The story has it that when Robert killed Rhaegar, the rubies that studded his armor broke off and fell into the river. Besides, Arya says, the wheelhouse doesn't have any windows, and she likes to see things as they ride. "When we were crossing the Neck, I counted thirty-six flowers I never saw before, and Mycah showed me a lizard-lion." (Lizard-lions float "half-submerged in the water, like black logs with eyes and teeth" -- evidently a relative of the alligator or the crocodile.) 

Sansa is vexed by this, and by her sister's habit of talking to people like "squires and grooms and serving girls, old men and naked children, rough-spoken freeriders of uncertain birth," and people like Mycah: "a butcher's boy, thirteen and wild, he slept in the meat wagon and smelled of the slaughtering block." But Sansa is particularly shocked when Arya says, "I don't like the queen." One reason is that she won't let Arya take Nymeria in the wheelhouse.

Sansa goes back to the inn, "almost in tears. All she waned was for things to be nice and pretty, the way they were in the songs." She had even asked her mother once if Arya might not be her child, but Catelyn assured her that she was. "Sansa could not think why Mother would want to lie about it, so she supposed it had to be true."

At the camp, there is great excitement because riders have arrived from King's Landing to accompany them the rest of the way. There are two knights kneeling before the queen, one of them an old man in white armor, the other a young man in deep forest-green armor. There was also "a gaunt grim man who watched the proceedings in silence. His face was pockmarked and beardless, with deepset eyes and hollow cheeks." She can't take her eyes off of him and when he turns in her direction she is frightened and Lady growls. She backs up in terror and bumps into Sandor Clegane, of whom she is frightened but not so much as she is of the other man. When Lady growls at him, someone new to the company notices the direwolf and the two knights draw their swords. She begins to cry, but the queen tells Joffrey to go to her.

When she explains to Joffrey that it wasn't the knights who frightened her but the other man, she learns that he is Ser Ilyn Payne, the king's executioner. And the old knight is Ser Barristan Selmy and the younger one Lord Renly Baratheon, the king's brother and councillor.
Ian McElhinney as Barristan Selmy
Gethin Anthony as Renly Baratheon
Wilko Johnson as Ilyn Payne
When Ser Ilyn joins them, Lady begins to growl and Sansa quiets her, then apologizes to him. She is puzzled that he doesn't answer until Joffrey explains that "Aerys Tergaryen had his tongue ripped out with hot pincers." Then the queen walks up and says she needs to confer with the councillors and suggests that Joffrey entertain Sansa.

Joffrey suggests that they go riding, but proposes that she leave Lady behind so she doesn't frighten the horses. He says he'll leave his dog, too, by which he means the Hound, Sandor Clegane. He doesn't need his protection, Joffrey brags, because he has his sword: "I don't fight with wood like your brothers. All I need is this." He says his sword's name is Lion's Tooth.

It's a wonderful day until they hear a sound, "a kind of wooden clattering, snack snack snack." Sansa is frightened and wants to turn back, but Joffrey insists they investigate. They find Arya and Mycah sword-fighting with broomsticks by the river. Sansa is embarrassed, but Joffrey challenges the butcher's boy to a fight, his broomstick against Joffrey's sword. When Mycah backs down, Joffrey bullies him, putting the sword point on the boy's cheek and drawing blood. Enraged, Arya attacks Joffrey with her broomstick, dealing a blow on the back of his head, which begins to bleed. He curses Arya and turns on her, as Mycah runs off into the woods. Arya picks up a rock and throws it, but hits Joffrey's horse, which runs off. "Joffrey slashed at Arya with his sword, screaming obscenities, terrible words, filthy words," and back her up against a tree.

Then Nymeria attacks, defending Arya, grabbing his sword arm in her jaws. He screams and Arya calls off the wolf. Then she picks up the sword and stands over him. He whimpers, "I'll tell my mother," and Arya throws the sword into the river. Then she gets on her horse and rides off, followed by Nymeria.

Sansa runs to Joffrey and tries to comfort him, saying she'll go for help. "His eyes snapped open and looked at her, and there was nothing but loathing there, nothing but the vilest contempt. 'Then go,' he spit at her. 'And don't touch me.'"


Arya has been missing for four days when she is finally found. The queen orders her taken before the king, and when he hears this Ned hurries to the chamber in the castle where they have been staying during the search. He finds Arya standing in the middle of the room, accompanied only by Jory Cassel, the captain of the guard from Winterfell. Robert is seated at one end of the room, flanked by the queen and Joffrey, whose arm is bound with silk bandages. Ned goes to his daughter and takes her in his arms.

He asks angrily why Arya wasn't brought to him first, and Cersei snaps, "How dare you speak to your king in that manner!" But Robert tells her to be quiet and apologizes to Ned. "I never meant to frighten the girl. It seemed best to bring her here and get the business done with quickly." The queen charges that Arya and the butcher boy beat Joffrey with clubs and set the wolf on him. Arya says that isn't the way it happened, but Joffrey insists "They all attacked me, and she threw Lion's Tooth in the river!" Arya shouts "Liar!" and Joffrey yells "Shut up!"
Jamie Sives as Jory Cassel

"Enough!" the king roars, then orders Arya to tell her story first, then Joffrey will have his turn. As Arya is telling her version of the events, Ned sees Sansa enter the room. When Arya tells how she threw the sword in the river, Renly Baratheon begins to laugh, and Robert orders his brother out of the room. Before he goes, however, Renly says to Joffrey, "Perchance later you'll tell me how a nine-year-old gril the size of a wet rat managed to disarm you with a broom handle and throw your sword in the river."

Joffrey's version of the events is of course the complete opposite of Arya's, and the king confesses he is baffled at how to decide which of them is telling the truth. Ned suggests that since Sansa was there, she should give her account, which he has already heard on the night of Arya's disappearance. But when Sansa stands in front of them, she claims she doesn't remember, that everything happened so fast, and that she didn't see exactly. Arya rushes at her sister and knocks her down, shouting "Liar, liar, liar, liar." Ned and Jory pull her off of Sansa.

Cersei says Arya is "as wild as that filthy animal of hers" and demands she be punished. Robert says, "Damn it, children fight. It's over. No lasting harm was done." He decides that Ned should punish Arya and he'll take care of Joffrey. But the queen insists that the wolf must be done away with and offers "A hundred golden dragons to the man who brings me its skin." When Robert points out that the wolf has disappeared, Cersei says, "We have a wolf." When he realizes that she means Sansa's wolf, Lady, he shrugs and says, "Have Ser Ilyn see to it."

Ned protests, but Robert remains firm. And when Sansa realizes they mean to put Lady to death, she begs them not to. Arya joins in the pleas to spare Lady, and Ned joins in asking Robert to change his mind. Robert looks at his wife. "'Damn you, Cersei,' he said with loathing." He leaves, and Cersei calls for the executioner to kill the wolf. But Ned steps forward and tells Jory to take the girls to their rooms and to bring him his sword, Ice. Cersei suspects a trick, but Ned says, "She is of the north. She deserves better than a butcher."

He goes to where the wolf has been chained. "She was the smallest of the litter, the prettiest, the most gentle and trusting. She looked at him with bright golden eyes, and he ruffled her thick fur." Afterward he tells Jory to choose some men to take the body to Winterfell and bury her there. "The Lannister woman shall never have this skin."

As he's returning to his room he encounters Sandor Clegane, who has been off with Jaime Lannister searching for Arya and hasn't heard the news. He tells Ned that they haven't found Arya but "We got her little pet." He shoves the burden on the back of his horse to the ground. Ned unwraps it, expecting to find Nymeria, but instead it's "the butcher's boy, Mycah, his body covered in dried blood. He had been cut almost in half from shoulder to waist by some terrible blow struck from above."

No comments:

Post a Comment