By Charles Matthews

Saturday, July 16, 2011

5. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 160-214


Bran is dreaming of falling, and as he falls a crow speaks to him and urges him to fly. He recalls a face, "shining with light, golden," but when it speaks, "The things I do for love," Bran screams. He sees his mother and Ser Rodrik at sea on their way to King's Landing, and his father and sisters along the road, and Jon at the Wall. The crow tells him, "Now you know why you must live," and when Bran asks why, the crow says, "Because winter is coming." Still falling, he follows the crow's advice, "Fly or die," spreads his arms and flies. Then the crow stabs at his forehead with his beak, and he sees "that the crow was really a woman, a serving woman with long black hair, and ... he realized that he was in Winterfell, in a bed high in some chilly tower room," and he wakes up. The servant runs out to tell the news, and his wolf jumps up onto the bed as Bran tries to move his legs.
When his brother Robb burst into the room, breathless from his dash up the tower steps, the direwolf was licking Bran's face. Bran looked up calmly. "His name is Summer," he said. 


Catelyn and Ser Rodrik are on board a Tyroshi ship called the Storm Dancer. Ser Rodrik has suffered greatly from seasickness and has been forced to trim his whiskers because they have been befouled by vomit.

As they near King's Landing they make plans for the best way to present their evidence, Tyrion Lannister's dagger, to the king's master-at-arms. Ser Rodrik observes that Catelyn will be known by many of the people at court, especially Lord Petyr Baelish, known as Littlefinger. He had been the ward of Catelyn's father, and they grew up together. She says, "I thought of him as a brother, but his feelings for me were ... more than brotherly." When her betrothal to Brandon Stark was announced, Baelish challenged him to a duel; she pleaded for his life, and Brandon "let him off with a scar." After Brandon's death, she says, he wrote to her, but she burned the letter, knowing that she was going to marry Ned Stark. He now sits on the king's small council, the most important group of advisers.
Aidan Gillen as Littlefinger

Ser Rodrik proposes to find a place where Catelyn can stay while he goes to find the master-at-arms and bring him to her. The ship's captain recommends an inn, and when Ser Rodrik leaves her there she falls asleep. But she is awakened by a pounding at the door and the order, "Open, in the name of the king." She snatches up the dagger before she opens the door.

The men who have come to escort her to the castle show her Littlefinger's seal, a mockingbird. She wonders how he knew she was here, and decides that the ship's captain must have betrayed them. She is taken to Littlefinger when they reach the castle, and he explains that "Lord Varys knows all" -- the eunuch is known as "the King's Spider."
Conleth Hill as Lord Varys

Littlefinger explains that Varys contacted him first because he is one of the few high-ranking officials at the castle today. When he asks Catelyn why she has come, she says that she missed her husband and her daughters. He knows that there's more to it than that, of course. Then Varys, "plump, perfumed, powdered, and as hairless as an egg," enters, and after a few polite remarks gets to the point: "I wonder if we might trouble you to show us the dagger?"

Catelyn instantly suspects that some harm has come to Ser Rodrik, but Varys assures her that he is all right: He had come to see the castle's master-at-arms earlier and had gone with him to the inn where she was staying. Varys's spies had alerted him to their conversation about the dagger. She takes it out of her cloak and shows it to Varys, who cuts himself when he runs his thumb along the edge. As Varys sucks his thumb, Littlefinger reveals that the dagger had belonged to him until he lost it in a bet on the jousting on Prince Joffrey's name day. Like the rest of the court, he had bet on Jaime Lannister, who was unhorsed by Loras Tyrell. Catelyn asks who won the dagger from him.
"The Imp," said Littlefinger as Lord Varys watched her face. "Tyrion Lannister." 


Jon is beating up all the other trainees in their combat practice for the Night's Watch. He has just upended a trainee named Grenn when the trainer, Ser Alliser Thorne, calls a halt to the fight. But Ser Alliser is not going to praise him; instead he chides Jon, calling him "Lord Snow," for leaning on his sword as he enjoys his victory. He hates the nickname, which the other boys have picked up.
He had beaten everyone that Ser Alliser had sent against him, yet it gained him nothing. The master-at-arms served up only derision. Thorne hated him, Jon had decided; of course, he hated the other boys even worse.
Jon despises them, too. And he is disillusioned by his experience at the Wall. "No one had told him the Night's Watch would be like this; no one except Tyrion Lannister." He is feeling abandoned by his father, and even by his uncle, Benjen Stark, who was a different person here than he had been on the journey. When he had heard that Benjen was going to lead a ranging into the forest, Jon went to him and asked to go along. But Benjen said, "You're no ranger, Jon, only a green boy with the smell of summer still on you." After watching his uncle leave, Jon had a vision of "Ben Stark lying dead, his blood red on the snow. He was homesick, and he clung to Ghost for comfort.
Owen Teale as Ser Alliser Thorne

Now he is surrounded by Grenn and three of Grenn's friends, including Todder, known as Toad, and the two rapists who had joined them on the road. Grenn complains that Jon broke his wrist. Jon offers to break the other one and reaches for his sword, but one of the rapists twists his arm behind his back. Toad asks about Jon's mother: "What was she, some whore? Tell us her name. Maybe I had her a time or two." Jon slams his foot down on the instep of the boy holding him, then knocks Toad down and begins pummeling him. The other boys attack, but the fight is broken up by the armorer, Donal Noye, who sends the others away but keeps Jon back.

The armorer gives Jon a good talking-to about the realities of life at the Wall. "This is the way it is, and you're here for life, same as the rest of us," he says, which does nothing to raise Jon's spirits. He warns Jon that if he goes on alienating them, "one of your brothers will slit your throat for you one night." Jon protests that they're not his brothers, but Noye reminds him, "You're a Snow, not a Stark. You're a bastard and a bully." Jon protests the word bully, and says that they were the ones who started the fight, but Noye replies,
"I've watched you fight. It's not training with you. Put a good edge on your sword, and they'd be dead meat; you know it, I know it, they know it. You leave them nothing. You shame them. Does that make you proud?"
Jon admits to himself that he does feel pride when he beats them because they're older than he is. Then Noye reminds him, "None of these others have ever had a master-at-arms until Ser Alliser. Their fathers were farmers and wagonmen and poachers, smiths and miners and oars on a trading galley." They learned to fight in the streets. "So how do you like the taste of your victories now, Lord Snow?" Jon protests at the nickname, but he admits that what Noye is saying is true and that he hadn't realized it till now. Noye advises him to think about it, "or sleep with a dagger by your bed."

Jon walks out and looks at the Wall. "The largest structure ever built by the hand of man," Benjen had told him, but Tyrion had added, "And beyond a doubt the most useless." Seven hundred feet high, it dwarfs Castle Black, the stronghold of the Night's Watch. As Jon is gazing up at the dizzy height, Tyrion walks up and comments, "Makes you wonder what lies beyond." Jon says, "The rangers say it's just woods and mountains and frozen lakes, with lots of snow and ice." Tyrian adds, "the grumkins and the snarks.... Let us not forget them, Lord Snow, or else what's that big thing for." Jon bristles again at being called "Lord Snow."
The dwarf lifted an eyebrow. "Would you rather be called the Imp? Let them see that their words can cut you, and you'll never be free of their mockery. If they want to give you a name, take it, make it your own. Then they can't hurt you with it anymore."
Tyrion is rapidly become Jon's most important mentor. As they go toward the common hall to eat, Tyrion asks about the wolf, and Jon says he is chained up while he's training, but he stays with him in his sleeping cell, which is in one of the abandoned towers of the castle. The other boys, he says, are afraid of Ghost. Then Tyrion comments that Jon's uncle has been away for a long time on his patrol beyond the Wall. He had promised to be back by Jon's name day, when he turned fifteen, but that was two weeks ago now. Jon says they were looking for Ser Waymar Royce, whom we saw attacked in the prologue, and that his uncle said they might go as far as the Shadow Tower, high in the mountains. Tyrion comments, somewhat tactlessly, that a lot of rangers have been disappearing lately.

In the dining hall, Ser Alliser tells Jon that he is wanted by the Lord Commander. When Jon asks if there is news of his uncle, Ser Alliser tells him not to keep the Lord Commander waiting, and adds, "I am not accustomed to having my commands questioned by bastards." This brings Tyrion to Jon's defense: He tells Ser Alliser to stop frightening Jon. Ser Alliser tells him to mind his own business, but Tyrion stands his ground, reminding the master-at-arms of his influence at court: "A word in the right ear, and you'll die a sour old man before you get another boy to train. Now tell Snow why the Old Bear needs to see him. Is there news of his uncle?" Ser Alliser backs off, and says that there was a message this morning from Winterfell with news of Jon's brother. "Something's happened to Bran," Jon says, and Tyrion, assuming the worst perhaps, tells him, "I am truly sorry."

James Cosmo as Jeor Mormont
Jeor Mormont, the Lord Commander, gives Jon the message they received. It is in Robb's hand, and Jon breaks out in tears when he reads that Bran has awakened. The Lord Commander comments that he is crippled, but only the fact that his brother is alive matters to Jon.

In the dining hall, Jon picks up Tyrion and whirls him around, then give him the letter to read. Jon notices Grenn standing nearby and goes over to him, but when Grenn backs off, Jon apologizes for hurting his wrist and offers to teach him a defensive move. This causes Ser Alliser to sneer and say, "Lord Snow wants to take my place now." Then he adds, "I'd have an easier time teaching a wolf to juggle than you will training this aurochs." Jon says he'll take the bet: "I'd love to see Ghost juggle."

The reply produces shocked silence, which Tyrion breaks with a laugh that spreads throughout the room. Ser Alliser is not amused: "'That was a grievous error, Lord Snow,' he said at last in the acid tones of an enemy."


Ned arrives at the castle exhausted, but before he can rest, a steward tells him that Grand Maester Pycelle has requested a meeting of the small council. At first he tells the steward that he will see them tomorrow, but then he decides it would be better to hit the ground running. He tells his own steward, Vayon Poole, to see that his things are put away and that his daughters are taken care of, adding, "Arya is not to go exploring."

In the council chamber the first person he meets is Varys, who tells him that he was sorry to hear of the trouble on the road and that he is saying prayers for the recovery of Prince Joffrey. "His hand left powder stains on Ned's sleeve, and he smelled as foul and sweet as flowers on a grave." Lord Renly is also there, and his resemblance to Robert in his younger years is striking to Ned. With him is Littlefinger. When Ned comments on how much Renly resembles his brother, Littlefinger says that Renly is better dressed: "Lord Renly spends more on clothing than half the ladies of the court." Littlefinger says to Ned, "No doubt Lady Catelyn has mentioned me to you," which provokes Ned to reply, "I understand you knew my brother Brandon as well." But Ned regrets having taken part in "this dueling with words."
Julian Glover as Grand Maester Pycelle

At the council table Ned pays his respects to the aged Grand Maester Pycelle, who urges them to begin the council meeting before he falls asleep. As they gather around the table, Ned recalls "what Robert had told him in the crypts below Winterfell. I am surrounded by flatterers and fools." Ned wonders which of them is which, but thinks he has already figured it out.

Renly begins by saying that the king had ordered him to ride ahead of the rest of the company to deliver his request to the council. It's for a tournament to honor Ned's appointment as Hand of the King. Ned is appalled: "Was there no end to Robert's folly? And to do this in his name, that was salt in the wound." And it becomes worse when the expense of the tournament is added up Grand Maester Pycelle asks if there is enough in the treasury to cover it. Littlefinger replies, "You know as well as I that the treasury has been empty for years. I shall have to borrow the money."

Ned is astonished, and even more so when he hears from Littlefinger, "The Crown is more than six million gold pieces in debt." He knows that the treasury was full when Aerys Targaryen died, but Renly explains, "My royal brother loves tournaments and feasts ... and he loathes what he calls 'counting coppers.'" Ned vows to speak with the king, and then excuses himself, saying that they should resume when he has had some time to rest.

But on the way to his quarters, he is stopped by Littlefinger, who tells him that Catelyn has arrived and wants to speak to him as soon as possible. Astonished by this news, he follows Littlefinger to what turns out to be a brothel. Thinking that he is being tricked or insulted, Ned grabs Littlefinger and slams him against a wall. But Ser Rodrik appears and assures him that Littlefinger is telling the truth, and that Catelyn is waiting for him inside. He lets Littlefinger lead him to the room on the third floor, where she is waiting. Littlefinger explains that the owns the brothel, and that it was the least likely place to find Catelyn, who is anxious that the Lannisters not learn that she is in King's Landing.

There she tells him about Bran's recovery and of the attack in which Bran's wolf saved his life. Ned, still feeling guilty about having killed Lady, recalls what Jon said when they discovered the wolf pups: "Your children were meant to have these pups, my lord." When he hears that the assassin's weapon was Tyrion's dagger, he wonders why Tyrion would want Bran dead.

Littlefinger interrupts: "The Imp would never have acted alone." Ned immediately suspects the queen. Littlefinger says that if she was involved, "Most likely the king did not know.... Our good Robert is practiced at closing his eyes to things he would rather nor know." Which makes Ned remember the way the king deferred to the queen in the matter of killing the wolf and then later said nothing about the murder of the butcher's boy. Littlefinger says accusing the king is out of the question anyway: It would be treason. But if there is proof of the queen's involvement and if Ned can get Robert to listen, perhaps he could make a case. Ned says the dagger is proof, but Littlefinger replies, "The Imp will no doubt swear the blade was lost or stolen while he was at Winterfell, and with his hireling dead, who is there to give him the lie?"

Ned doesn't like or trust Littlefinger, and the feeling is reciprocal: "I always found you Starks a tiresome lot, but Cat seems to have become attached to you, for reasons I cannot comprehend. I shall try to keep you alive for her sake. A fool's task, admittedly, but I could never refuse your wife anything." She tells Ned that she has told Littlefinger about her sister's suspicions that Jon Arryn was murdered. Ned worries that this information will get to Varys, but Littlefinger assures him that he can control Varys. "I would worry more about the Lannisters and less about the eunuch." 

Ned tells Catelyn to return to Winterfell immediately. She says she hoped to see the girls, but Littlefinger thinks it unwise: "children talk." So she agrees to ride back with Ser Rodrik. As she and Ned embrace, Littlefinger offers them the use of a bedchamber. "I should warn you, Stark, we usually charge for that sort of thing here." They decline, but Catelyn thanks him for his help.

After he leaves, he gives Catelyn instructions to start preparing to defend Winterfell, in essence war preparations. He assures her that it won't come to that, "praying it was true." But if he finds evidence that the Lannisters were involved in the death of Jon Arryn, then all bets are off.
"All justice flows from the king," he told her. "When I know the truth, I must go to Robert." And pray that he is the man I think he is, he finished silently, and not the man I fear he has become

Tyrion is planning to take his leave of the Wall, and the Lord Commander compliments him: "You're a cunning man, Tyrion. We have need of your sort on the Wall." But Ser Alliser is not pleased with the jokes Tyrion makes at his expense. "Come and make your japes with steel in your hand," he challenges. Tyrion, who has been eating crabs with the others, observes, "Why I have steel in my hand, Ser Alliser, although it appears to be a crab fork. Shall we duel?" He leaps on his chair and begins poking at the master-of-arms with the fork. Ser Alliser leaves the room furious at the laughter.

Tyrion observes, "We all need to be mocked from time to time, Lord Mormont, lest we start to take ourselves too seriously." When he holds out his cup for more wine, someone comments that he has "a great thirst for a small man." But Maester Aemon says, "I think he is a giant come among us, here at the end of the world." Tyrion enjoys the compliment, but says, "I've been called many things, my lord, but giant is seldom one of them."

Peter Vaughn as Maester Aemon
Maester Aemon insists that it is true, which leaves Tyrion at a loss for words. He bows his head and says, "You are too kind, Maester Aemon."
The blind man smiled. He was a tiny thing, wrinkled and hairless, shrunken beneath the weight of a hundred years so his maester's collar with its links of many metals hung loose about his throat. "I have been called many things, my lord," he said, "but kind is seldom one of them." This time Tyrion himself led the laughter.
Mormont says the Watch will escort Tyrion as far as Winterfell, and Tyrion suggests that Jon should be one of the guards to accompany him. But Mormont says no: "The young ones need to forget the lives they left behind them, the brothers and mothers and all that. A visit home would only stir up feelings best left alone." But Mormont has a favor to ask of Tyrion: "Your sister sits bedside the king. Your brother is a great knight, and your father the most powerful lord in the Seven Kingdoms. Speak to them for us..... The Night's Watch is dying. Our strength is less than a thousand now." Tyrion listens sympathetically, but he is aware of how little influence he has with his family.

Then the Lord Commander turns to talk about the coming winter. "This summer has lasted nine years, Tyrion, and a tenth will soon be upon us." But this traditionally means that a long winter will follow. Clutching Tyrion's hand tightly, Mormont urges,
"You must make them understand. I tell you, my lord, the darkness is coming. There are wild things in the woods, direwolves and mammoths and snow bears the size of aurochs, and I have seen darker shapes in my dreams." 
The last remark does little to shake Tyrion's skepticism, but Mormont continues to stress the urgency of the message he wants him to deliver.

Finally, Tyrion takes his leave of them, but outside he suddenly has a desire to go to the top of the Wall for the last time. At the foot of the wall he signals for the iron cage that hoists people to the top. In the bitter cold wind above, he finds Jon on the watch, accompanied by Ghost, who lets him scratch him behind the ears. Jon explains that he has drawn night guard again. "Ser Alliser has kindly arranged for the watch commander to take a special interest in me. He seems to think that if they keep me awake half the night, I'll fall asleep during the morning drill. So far I have disappointed him."

Jon has a mile of Wall to guard and Tyrion walks along with him. He tells Jon that he will stop at Winterfell on his way and asks if there are messages he wants delivered. The principal thing Jon wants is for Tyrion to help Bran somehow: "You gave me help when I needed it," he says, but Tyrion says those were only words. "Then give your words to Bran too," he urges. Tyrion promises, "I will give Bran whatever small help is in my power." Jon thanks him, then removes his glove and sticks out his bare hand, saying, "Friend." Tyrion pulls off his own glove and returns Jon's grip.

They look out over the expanse of forest beyond the Wall, and Jon says if his uncle doesn't return, he and Ghost will go out and find him. "'I believe you,' Tyrion said, but what he thought was, And who will go find you? He shivered."

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