By Charles Matthews

Sunday, July 17, 2011

6. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 215-271


When talk about the tournament in Ned's honor arises at dinner, Sansa is excited and asks if she will be allowed to attend. Arya, however, proclaims, "I don't care about their stupid tourney." She doesn't add that her objection is that "Prince Joffrey would be there, and she hated Prince Joffrey." The girls begin to quarrel until their father silences them.

Her stay at the palace has been unhappy. She misses her brothers and she had been forced to drive away Nymeria by throwing rocks at her after the attack on Joffrey. "She had no one left but Sansa, and Sansa wouldn't even talk to her unless Father made her." She sits at table growing more and more miserable until she finally gets up and starts to leave. Septa Mordane calls her back, and Arya remembers her manners and asks if she may be excused. "'You may not,' the septa said. 'You have scarcely touched your food. You will sit down and clean your plate.'"
Susan Brown as Septa Mordane

"You clean it!" Arya replies and heads for the door. She races to her room and bolts the door. She opens a chest and digs out Needle, the sword Jon had given her. Septa Mordane has pursued her to her room and pound on the door demanding to be admitted, but Arya defies her. The septa leaves, vowing to tell her father.

Arya goes to the window, carrying Needle, and dreams of escaping, finding Nymeria and returning to Winterfell or even going to join Jon at the Wall. But her father knocks at the door and asks her to open it. He has come alone, and seems "to be more sad than angry." Then he asks, "Whose sword is that?" She realizes that she is carrying Needle, which until now was a secret between her and Jon. He asks to see the sword and recognizes the maker's mark.
"My nine-year-old daughter is being armed from my own forge, and I know nothing of it. The Hand of the King is expected to rule the Seven Kingdoms, yet it seems I cannot even rule my own household. How is it that you come to own a sword. Arya? Where did you get this?"
She doesn't betray Jon, and remains silent. He gives up trying to find out, but wonders what Septa Mordane would say if she found Arya playing with swords. "'I wasn't playing,' Arya insisted. 'I hate Septa Mordane.'" Ned replies that he and her mother had put the septa in charge of "the impossible task of making you a lady," which Arya immediately says she doesn't want to be. He threatens to break the sword, and when Arya says, "Needle wouldn't break," he learns that the sword has a name.

Ned says that Arya has what his father called "the wolf blood," and adds that his brother Brandon and his sister, Lyanna, also had it. "Lyanna might have carried a sword, if my lord father had allowed it. You remind me of her sometimes. You even look like her." This surprises Arya, because Lyanna was beautiful, which "was not a thing that was ever said of Arya." He asks her if she knows how to use a sword, and she tells him that she had asked Mycah to practice with her, which brings back the painful memory of the slaughtered butcher's boy, and she begins to cry. "It was my fault, it was me ..."

Ned hugs her and assures her that it wasn't her fault. "That murder lies at the Hound's door, him and the cruel woman he serves." He also lets her know he has guessed that Nymeria didn't just run away, and she confesses that she had to drive the wolf off by throwing rocks at her. "The queen would have killed her."

Then he says he has something to tell her, asking her to recall the family words, "Winter is coming," and their sigil, the direwolf. She was born in the long summer, he says, "but now the winter is truly coming."
"When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. Summer is the time for squabbles. In winter, we must protect one another, keep each other warm, share our strengths. So if you must hate, Arya, hate those who would truly do us harm. Septa Mordane is a good woman, and Sansa ... Sansa is your sister. You may be as different as the sun and the moon, but the same blood flows through both your hears. You need her, as she needs you ... and I need both of you, gods help me."
She says she doesn't really hate Sansa. ("It was only half a lie.") He tells her, "It is time to begin growing up," and hands Needle back to her, "hilt first," warning her, "Try not to stab your sister, whatever the provocation."

Three days later, she is summoned to the Small Hall where a man steps forth with two wooden swords and says, "You are late, boy." He is her "dancing master," he says. When he calls her "boy" again she corrects him. "'Boy, girl,' Syrio Forel said. 'You are a sword, that is all.'" And her lessons begin.
Miltos Yeromelou as Syrio Forel

The Dothraki caravan has reached the top of a ridge from which Ser Jorah shows Daenerys, "The Dothraki sea," the vast prairie that spreads out to the horizon. Behind them the rest of the party is arriving, including her brother. "Viserys still struggled with the short stirrups and the flat saddle. Her brother was miserable out here. He ought never to have come." Magister Illyrio had advised him against it, but Viserys insists on remaining with Khal Drogo until he receives the crown he has been promised.

She tells Ser Jorah to command the others to halt, and he observes that she is "learning to talk like a queen." She corrects him: "A khaleesi." Then she turns her horse and gallops down the ridge into the plains. "All her life Viserys had told her she was a princess, but not until she rode the silver had Daenerys Targaryen ever felt like one."

But it has taken time. During the long ride she has been saddle sore, but Khal Drogo has taken no account of that when he comes to the tent at night and takes "her from behind, Dothraki fashion." Daenerys is grateful, however, that he can't see her tears that way. She has dreamed again about the dragon, but in the dream she opens her arms to its flames and lets them cleanse her. The next day she touches one of the supposedly petrified dragon eggs and is surprised to find it "strangely warm beneath her fingers." After that she began to heal and to toughen and to become used to the long rides, and to notice the beauty of the land through which they are riding. "She began to find pleasure even in her nights, and if she still cried out when Drogo took her, it was not always in pain." 

Now she pauses after her ride and Viserys comes up, furious at being ordered about by her and by the Dothraki garb she has adopted. "Viserys was soiled and stained in city silks and ringmail." But when he screams at her and grabs her, suddenly there is a Crack, and a whip wraps around Viserys's neck and pulls him to the ground. The Dothraki with the whip asks her something, and Daenerys's maid, Irri, says, "Jhogo asks if you would have him dead, Khaleesi." She says no. Ser Jorah says he warned Viserys what would happen but he didn't listen.
"I know you did," Dany replied, watching Viserys. He lay on the ground, sucking in air noisily, red-faced and sobbing. He was a pitiful thing. Why had she never seen that before? There was a hollow place inside her where her fear had been.
Then she orders Ser Jorah to take Viserys's horse. "Let my brother walk behind us back to the khalasar." Ser Jorah hesitates only a moment and says, "He shall walk, Khaleesi." Later she realizes the significance of what she has done and asks Ser Jorah, "I woke the dragon, didn't I." He replies, "Can you wake the dead, girl? Your brother Rhaegar was the last dragon, and he died on the Trident. Viserys is less than the shadow of a snake." When she says that Viserys would not be a very good king, Ser Jorah replies, "There have been worse ... but not many." She worries, however, that there are people back in their homeland who are praying for his return, as Magister Illyrio has told them.
"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends," Ser Jorah told her. "It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace." He gave a shrug. "They never are."
And now she realizes that Viserys's great plan to retake the Seven Kingdoms would never succeed.

In her tent she touches one of the stone eggs. "The stone was warm. Almost hot." She tells herself that it had been warmed by the sun. She talks to her maids about dragons, and they assure her they are all dead. Doreah tells her a legend that the dragons came from the moon.
"Once there were two moons in the sky, but one wandered too close to the sun and cracked from the heat. A thousand thousand dragons poured forth, and drank the fire of the sun. That is why dragons breathe flame. One day the other moon will kiss the sun too, and then it will crack and the dragons will return."
That night, when Khal Drogo comes to her tent she tells him they must go outside, "for the Dothraki believed that all things of importance in a man's life must be done beneath the open sky." And when Drogo goes to take her from behind she tells him they must do it face to face. "She rode him as fiercely as ever she had ridden her silver, and when the moment of his pleasure came, Khal Drogo called out her name." Some time after, on her fourteenth name day, she knows she is pregnant.


From a window Bran watches Rickon playing with the wolves, including Summer, who "was silver and smoke, with eyes of yellow gold that saw all there was to see.... Bran thought he was the smartest of the litter." But he is miserable because of his inability to run with the wolves himself. He is eight now, and considers himself "too old to cry," but he is angry because he remembers what the crow told him in his delirium, and considers it a lie: "The crow had tricked him into flying, but when he woke up he was broken and the world was changed."

He is watched over by Old Nan, who has been a family retainer since the days of his grandfather, and has told generations of Starks her stories. Her own children were born at Winterfell, but the only remaining one is Hodor, "the simpleminded giant who worked in the stables." Now he tells her he hates her stories, but he admits that he likes the scary ones.
Margaret John as Old Nan
"Oh, my sweet summer child," Old Nan said quietly, "what do you know of fear? Fear is for the winter, my little lord, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep and the ice wind comes howling out of the north. Fear is for the long night, when the sun hides its face for years at a time, and little children are born and lie and die all in the darkness while the direwolves grow gaunt and hungry, and the white walkers move through the woods."
She tells him of a winter that lasted for a generation when "the Others came for the first time.... They were cold things, dead things, that hated iron and fire and the touch of the sun, and every creature with hot blood in its veins.... So as cold and death filled the earth, the last hero determined to seek out the children [of the forest], in the hopes that their ancient magics could win back what the armies of men had lost."

Kristian Nairn as Hodor
But the story is interrupted by the arrival of Maester Luwin, accompanied by Hodor. Luwin says that they have a visitor, Tyrion Lannister, and that Bran is needed. Hodor -- whose real name is Walder, but who can say only word, "Hodor" -- is there to carry Bran downstairs. Robb is there with Theon Greyjoy and Hallis Mollin, plus four strangers. Robb is sitting in his father's chair and has an unsheathed sword across his lap. "Even Bran knew what it meant to greet a guest with an unsheathed sword." And Tyrion has taken offense: "Your bastard brother has all your father's graces, it would seem."

Bran says "Jon," when he hears this, and Tyrion turns to look at him. "So it is true, the boy lives. I could scarce believe it. You Starks are hard to kill." Robb says, "You Lannisters had best remember this," and tells Hodor to bring Bran closer. Tyrion studies Bran for a while, then asks if he likes to ride. "With the right horse and the right saddle, even a cripple can ride." When Bran protests that he isn't a cripple, Tyrion replies, "Then I am not a dwarf.... My father will rejoice to hear it." Then he shows them a sketch of a saddle adapted for Bran's use. "It is not terribly unlike my own saddles," he says. 

Robb is suspicious, but Tyrion says, "Your brother Jon asked it of me. And I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples and bastards and broken things." Suddenly the door opens and Rickon enters with the three direwolves, who attack Tyrion until Bran calls off Summer, Robb restrains Grey Wind, and Rickon summons Shaggydog. Tyrion recovers and says, "How interesting," and Robb says, "I don't know why they did that." Then he offers Tyrion the hospitality of Winterfell, which Tyrion declines: "Spare me your false courtesies, boy. You do not love me and you do not want me here." He will stay at an inn, he says, and leaves.

Bran is told that he can sup with the members of the Night's Watch who accompanied Tyrion and will stay at Winterfell, so he returns to his room where he falls asleep. He dreams of climbing again, and finds himself among the gargoyles of the tower from which he fell. They come to life and threaten him, and he says, "I didn't hear.... I didn't, I didn't," before he wakes up and finds Hodor there to get him ready to go to the Great Hall.

Francis Magee as Yoren
Yoren, the senior member of the group of Night's Watch, is seated between Robb and Maester Luwin. When Jon is mentioned, he says only "Ser Allister's bane," which draws a laugh from the others. But they grow serious and silent when Robb asks about Benjen. Yoren tells them that he's gone, and "Most like he's dead." Robb protests: "He rose from the bench and laid his hand on the hilt of his sword. 'Do you hear me? My uncle is not dead!'"  And Bran, remembering Old Nan's stories, chimes in, "The children will help him.... The children of the forest!" Maester Luwin tells him, "Bran, the children of the forest have been dead and gone for thousands of years. All that's left of them are the faces in the trees." But Yoren says, "Up there, a man can't always tell what's alive and what's dead."

Robb carries his brother back to his room and tells him they'll find a horse for him. "And afterward, we'll ride north to see the Wall. We won't even tell Jon we're coming, we'll just be there one day, you and me. It will be an adventure." But then Bran hears his brother sob. It is dark, and he can't see Robb's tears, but he reaches out and the brothers join hands.


The weather is sweltering in King's Landing, where Ned is meeting with Grand Maester Pycelle and talking about the death of Jon Arryn. Pycelle says that Lord Arryn had been troubled by the health of his son and his wife's reluctance to let the boy out of her sight. The day before Arryn fell ill, he was "as hale and healthy as ever," but the next day he was "too sick to rise from bed." Pycelle had dismissed Maester Colemon, who had been treating Arryn with purges that Pycelle feared might kill him. This caused a rift between Pycelle and Lysa, who blames Pycelle for her husband's death. Just before he died, Pycelle says, "he whispered something to the king and his lady wife, a blessing for his son. The seed is strong, he said."

Ned presses Pycelle on whether Lord Arryn's death was really the result of an illness, saying, "His wife thought otherwise." Pycelle comments, "Since her last still birth, she has seen enemies in every shadow, and the death of her lord husband left her shattered and lost." But could it have been poison, Ned finally asks him directly. Pycelle says that Arryn "displayed none of the signs," and questions who might have a motive. Ned says, "I have heard it said that poison is a woman's weapon." Pycelle concurs: "Women, cravens ... and eunuchs," turning the suspicions toward Varys.

Ned thanks him for his time, but as one last thing asks if he could see the book that Pycelle had loaned Lord Arryn before he died. Pycelle agrees, but says it was only "a ponderous tome by Grand Maester Malleon on the lineages of the great houses." Still, he'll have it sent to him. And then, just as he is leaving, Ned asks if the queen was at Lord Arryn's deathbed. No, Pycelle says, she had gone to Casterly Rock with her father.

As he is returning to his room, he finds Arya doing some balancing exercises suggested by something Syrio has told her. They talk about Bran and his future. Ned says that he could still "be the lord of a great holdfast and sit on the king's council. He might raise castles like Brandon the Builder, or sail a ship across the Sunset Sea, or enter your mother's Faith and become the High Septon." Arya then asks if she could do those things. He tells her she "will marry a king and rule his castle" and her sons will do those things. She says, "No, ... that's Sansa," and goes back to her balancing exercises.

Back in his room, he is told that Littlefinger wants to see him. Littlefinger says he has been fulfilling his promises to Catelyn to look into the death of Jon Arryn, and suggests that he question the servants of the Hand that have remained behind, including his squire, Ser Hugh of the Vale, whom the king knighted after Lord Arryn's death. Ned says he'll send for him.

Then Littlefinger beckons him to the window, and points out the people who are spying on him. "Is everyone someone's informer in this cursed city?" Ned asks. Littlefinger asks if there is "a man in your service that you trust utterly and completely?" and when Ned says yes, he replies, "The wiser answer was no, my lord." But he suggests that he send "this paragon of yours" to talk to Ser Hugh instead of going himself, which would attract the notice of Varys.


A new recruit arrives for the Night's Watch, a pale, fat boy who says, "They ... they told me I was to come here ... for training." Ser Alliser looks at him and says, "It would seem they have run short of poachers and thieves down south. Now they send us pigs to man the Wall. Is fur and velvet your notion of armor, my Lord of Ham?" When the recruit changes into his armor, Ser Alliser orders Halder, a tall, muscular sixteen-year-old to "see what Ser Piggy can do."

It takes Halder only a minute to have the boy "on the ground, his whole body shaking as blood leaked through his shattered helm and between his pudgy fingers." But Ser Alliser continues to urge Halder on, even after the boy says, "I yield." Then Jon steps forward and says, "Halder, enough," defying the master-at-arms once again. But Ser Alliser persists, ordering two more boys, Rast and Albett (known as "Rat" and "Pimple") to join with Halder. "Three of you ought to be sufficient to make Lady Piggy squeal. All you need do is get past the Bastard." Jon tells the fat boy to stay behind him, but suddenly he is joined by Pyp and Grenn to hold off the other three. They prevail, and the master-at-arms withdraws in disgust.
John Bradley-West as Samwell Tarly

The fat boy introduces himself as Samwell Tarly. "I fear I'm a coward," he tells them. "My lord father always said so." Jon finds himself thinking about Tyrion: "Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it, the dwarf had told him, grinning. The world was full of cravens who pretended to be heroes; it took a queer sort of courage to admit to cowardice as Samwell Tarly had."

That evening, Jon finds Samwell dining alone and joins him. They go outside, where Samwell admits that he doesn't want to go up on the Wall because he's afraid of heights. Jon says, "I don't understand. If you are truly so craven, why are you here? Why would a coward want to join the Night's Watch?" Samwell sits down on the ground and begins to cry.
It was Ghost who knew what to do. Silent as shadow, the pale direwolf moved closer and began to like the warm tears off Samwell Tarly's face. The fat boy cried out, startled ... and somehow, in a heartbeat, his sobs turned to laughter.
Jon joins in the laughter, and tells Samwell how he and Robb had found the direwolf pups, and how he dreams about being back at Winterfell and finding it empty. "he had never told anyone of the dream, and he did not understand why he was telling Sam now, yet somehow it felt good to talk of it." Then Samwell tells him how he managed to find himself on the Wall.

He was the eldest son of Lord Randall Tarly, "heir to rich lands, a strong keep, and a storied two-handed greatsword," but he had grown up "plump, soft, and awkward." He loved music and books, but couldn't stand the sight of blood. "A dozen masters-at-arms came and went at Horn Hill, trying to turn Samwell into the knight his father wanted," but with no success. He was bullied and beaten and abused by them. Finally, his mother gave birth to a second son, and the boy turned out to be the kind of son his father wanted. Samwell was left alone until he turned fifteen. Then his father disowned him, giving him a choice between taking the black or dying: "we shall have a hunt, and somewhere in these woods your horse will stumble, and you will be thrown from the saddle to die ... or so I will tell our mother."

They are silent for a while, and then Jon suggests they go back to the hall and have some hot cider or mulled wine and listen to some of the others sing. Samwell is afraid the others won't want him there, and then he says, "He's going to make me fight again on the morrow, isn't he?" Jon says yes, and Samwell says he'd better try to get some sleep. So Jon goes to the hall, where he hatches a plan with the others. Pyp and Grenn and even Halder agree to it. Rast holds out, but during the night they go to Rast's cell, where Pyp and Grenn hold Rast down and Ghost jumps onto Rast's chest and gives him a nip on the throat, "just enough to draw blood. 'Remember, we know where you sleep,' Jon said softly."

From then on, no one hurt Samwell in the training sessions. "Ser Alliser raged and threatened and called them all cravens and women and worse, yet Sam remained unhurt." And gradually he becomes part of the group. He tells Jon that he knows he arranged it all, and says, "I've never had a friend before." Jon says they're not friends, they're brothers. After Sam leaves, he thinks,
Robb and Bran and Rickon were his father's sons, and he loved them still, yet Jon knew that he had never truly been one of them. Catelyn Stark had seen to that.... Castle Black was his life now, and his brothers were Sam and Grenn and Halder and Pyp and the other cast-outs who wore the black of the Night's Watch.

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