By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

7. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 272-323


References to "the Hand's tourney" keep bugging Ned, who insists it's "the king's tourney." Now he has to deal with an overstretched constabulary that's having to handle the influx of visitors for the event, and the accompanying criminal activity. He orders the Commander of the City Watch to add fifty men to the force, and then retires to his room to read the book that Jon Arryn had been reading before he died: The Lineages and Histories of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms, With Descriptions of Many High Lords and Noble Ladies and Their Children. He hasn't yet figured out what connection, if any, it may have with Lord Arryn's death.

Jory Cassel arrives with reports on the remaining servants to Lord Arryn, none of which seem to have any significance. "The serving girl ... said Lord Jon had been reading more than was good for him, that he was troubled and melancholy over his young son's frailty, and gruff with his lady wife." A former potboy remembered kitchen gossip, including that Arryn and Lord Stannis, the king's brother, had been together to an armorer to order a new suit of plate. A former stableboy, now a watchman, told him that "Lord Jon was as strong as a man half his age. Often went riding with Lord Stannis, he says." Ned reflects that Stannis had never close to Arryn before, and and that Stannis now seems to have absented himself from court and the council on which he sits, staying at his home on Dragonstone, "the Targaryen island fastness he had conquered in his brother's name. And when Jory adds that the boy said Arryn and Stannis went to a brothel, Ned is incredulous: He has just come from a council meeting in which he was reminded that Stannis once tried to outlaw brothels.

Ned decides to visit the armorer, Tobho Mott, himself. He is welcomed effusively, but when he asks if Arryn had ordered work from him, Mott replies, "The Hand did call upon me, with Lord Stannis, the king's brother. I regret to say, they did not honor me with their patronage." Instead, he says, "They asked to see the boy." Ned has no idea who "the boy" might be, but asks to see him. He is taken to "a tall lad about Robb's age, his arms and chest corded with muscle," and told the boy's name is Gendry.
Joe Dempsie as Gendry and Andrew Wilde as Tobho Mott
 The boy shows Ned a helmet he made, but when Ned offers to buy it, he snatches it away. "'I made it for me,' the boy said stubbornly." Mott is embarrassed and apologizes for Gendry's rudeness, but Ned says it's fine. He wants to know what he talked about with Lord Arryn. Gendry says he asked about his mother, "Who shewas and what she looked like and all." He tells Ned, "She died when I was little. She had yellow hair, and sometimes she used to sing to me, I remember. She worked in an alehouse." But Stannis, he says, "just glared at me like I was some raper who done for his daughter."
Ned touched the boy's head, fingering the thick black hair. "Look at me, Gendry." The apprentice lifed his face. Ned studied the shape of his jaw, the  eyes like blue ice. Yes, he thought, I see it. "Go back to your work, lad. I'm sorry to have bothered you."
As he leaves, he asks Mott who paid Gendry's apprentice fee. At first the armorer claims he took him on without a fee, but Ned doesn't believe this for a second. He insists on the truth, and Mott admits that a lord came to see him, paid twice the usual fee, "and said he was paying once for the boy, and once for my silence." Ned listens to the description of the lord, and presses Mott still further for what he knows. The armorer stands his ground. "Why he was before he came to me, that's none of my concern."

Ned leaves, asking himself, "What had Jon Arryn wanted with a king's bastard, and why was it worth his life?"


Catelyn and Ser Rodrik are plodding northward in the rain, heading for an inn at the crossroads between the Kingsroad that takes them to Winterfell and the road that goes westward to her family's home in Riverrun and eastward to the Eyrie, where her sister Lysa lives. The inn is crowded with travelers heading south to the tournament, but they are able to take the last rooms available.

Fortunately, no one seems to recognize them in the common room, where they decide it is safest to pose as father and daughter. Across the table from them is a young singer on his way to King's Landing to try to make some money performing for the crowds at the tournament. His name is Marillion, he tells them.
Emun Elliott as Marillion

Then a servant bursts into the room and calls out, "my lord of Lannister requires a room and a hot bath." Ser Rodrik says, "Oh, gods," before Catelyn can silence him. She sees a man in the black of the Night's Watch, two servants, and Tyrion, They're told that the inn is full, but Tyrion pulls out a gold coin and flips it in the air, and one of the guests volunteers to give up his room.

Tyrion invites Yoren, who is the man in black, to have supper with him, and when they go to sit down Catelyn breathes a sigh of relief because they are at the other end of the room. But Marillion suddenly stands up and calls out to Tyrion, offering to sing him "the lay of your father's great victory at King's Landing!" Anything concerning his father is bound to turn off Tyrion, but as he looks at the singer his eyes suddenly fall on Catelyn. "'Lady Stark, what an unexpected pleasure,' he said. 'I was sorry to miss you at Winterfell.'"

Her identity exposed, Catelyn decides to take a chance. She calls out to several men she can identify by the emblems on their clothing as belonging to families allied with her father.
"This man came a guest into my house, and there conspired to murder my son, a boy of seven," she proclaimed to the room at large, pointing. Ser Rodrik moved to her side, his sword in hand. "In the name of King Robert and the good lords you serve, I call upon you to seize him and help me return him to Winterfell to await the king's justice." She did not know what was more satisfying: the sound of a dozen swords drawn as one or the look on Tyrion Lannister's face.


Riding to the tournament with Septa Mordane and Jeyne Poole, Sansa is dazzled and excited by the romance of it all. The jousting goes on all day, and while "Jeyne covered her eyes whenever a man fell, like a frightened little girl, ... Sansa was made of sterner stuff. A great lady knew how to behave at tournaments. Even Septa Mordane noted  her composure and nodded in approval." Jaime Lannister, called "the Kingslayer," is unbeatable, as are Sandor Clegane and his brother, Ser Gregor, who is known as "the Mountain That Rides."
Conan Stevens as Gregor Clegane

Then a man is killed, "a young knight from the Vale," when Ser Gregor's lance pierces his throat and he falls, "not ten feet from where Sansa was seated." Jeyne collapses in hysterics and has to be taken away by Septa Mordane, "but Sansa sat with her hands folded in her lap, watching with a strange fascination. She had never seen a man die before."

The jousts resume, however, and another knight falls to Ser Gregor, and Sandor unhorses Renly Baratheon. In the end, only four are left: the Clegane brothers, Jaime Lannister, and Ser Loras Tyrell, who is known as the Knight of Flowers.
Finn Jones as Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers

At sixteen, he was the youngest rider on the field.... Sansa had never seen anyone so beautiful. His plate was intricately fashioned and enameled as a bouquet of a thousand different flowers, and his snow-white stallion was draped in a blanket of red and white roses.
After each victory he had stopped before a young woman and plucked a white rose from the blanket and given it to her. After the last one, he stopped before Sansa and gave her a red rose. After he rides off, she finds a man standing over her. He says, "You must be one of her daughters.... You have the Tully look." Septa Mordane introduces him as "Lord Petyr Baelish, of the king's small council." Littlefinger tells her, "Your mother was my queen of beauty once," then turns and walks away.

It has grown late, and the last three matches are postponed to the next morning. At the feast that night, Prince Joffrey sits beside her. They haven't spoken since the incident at the river, and she has been dreading seeing him again, but he smiles and kisses her hand, "handsome and gallant as any prince in the songs," and comments, "Ser Loras has a keen eye for beauty, sweet lady." As the feast goes on, Joffrey remains courteous and attentive. "She could see from the way he moved that his right arm was still troubling him, yet he uttered not a word of complaint."

Then there's a disturbance at the king's table. He "had grown louder with each course," and now Sansa is "shocked to see the king on his feet, red of face, reeling. He had a goblet of wine in one hand, and he was as drunk as a man could be." He screams at the queen, "I am king here, do you understand? I rule here, and if I say that I will fight tomorrow, I will fight!" The queen leaves in silence, followed by her servants, and when Jaime Lannister tries to calm the king down, the king shoves him and he falls. Robert mocks him: "The great knight. I can still knock you in the dirt. Remember that, Kingslayer." Lord Renly comes forth and tells his brother, "You've spilled your wine, Robert. Let me bring you a fresh goblet."

Joffrey then tells Sansa it's getting late and asks if she needs an escort back to the castle. She says no at first, but then realizes that Septa Mordane, who has been drinking wine all evening, has passed out. So she says she would be grateful "for some protection." Joffrey shouts, "Dog!" and the Hound, Sandor Clegane, appears. Joffrey tells him, "Take my betrothed back to the castle and see that no harm befalls her." Then he walks off without even saying good night.

It's not what Sansa was expecting, and the Hound knows it. "'Did you think Joff was going to take you himself?' He laughed. He had a laugh like the snarling of dogs in a pit. 'Small chance of that.'" He tells her to hurry because he needs his sleep. "I've drunk too much, and I may need to kill my brother tomorrow." As he takes her back to the castle, she tries to compliment him: "You rode gallantly today, Ser Sandor." But he snarls, "Spare me your empty little compliments, girl." First of all, he's not a "ser":  "I am no knight. I spit on them and their vows. My brother is a knight. Did you see him ride today?" She tries to find something to say: "He was..." "Gallant?" he says, mocking her. She finally says, "No one could withstand him." This only leads to further mockery: "Some septa trained you well," and he compares her to "A pretty little talking bird, repeating all the pretty little words they taught you to recite."

Then he stops her and squats in front of her, taking her chin in his hand and forcing her to look at his mutilated face. People believe that the left side of his face was burned in a battle. But he tells her the truth. He was six or seven, and a woodcarver sent him and his brother some toys. "I don't remember what I got, but it was Gregor's gift I wanted. A wooden knight, all painted up, every joint pegged separate and fixed with strings, so you could make him fight." Gregor, he says, is five years older and even then was "near six foot tall and muscled like an ox." So when Sandor stole the toy and Gregor found out, "There was a brazier in the room. Gregor never said a word, just picked me up under his arm and shoved my face down into the burning coals and held me there while I screamed and screamed."

Four years later, Sandor says, his brother was made a knight. Sansa  realizes that she isn't afraid of him anymore, and says, "He was no true knight," which makes him roar with laughter. The rest of the way he is silent, but when they reach her room and she thanks him, he grabs her arm and says, "If you ever tell anyone, ... I'll kill you."


The knight from the Vale killed by Gregor Clegane is none other than the former squire to Jon Arryn that Ned has wanted to talk with. "Eddard Stark looked at his face and wondered if it had been for his sake that the boy had died. Slain by a Lannister bannerman before Ned could speak to him, could that be mere happenstance?" He is especially distressed that it happened at a tournament in his name. "This was needless. War should not be a game."

Now Ned turns his mind to the fact that the king has announced his intention to fight in the melee. Ser Barristan Selmy suggests that perhaps the king has forgotten his announcement, but Ned knows Robert Baratheon better than that. They find the king in his pavilion trying to fit into his armor and cursing his squires. Ned tells him the problem isn't with the squires: "You're too fat for your armor, Robert." After a flicker of anger, the king says, "Ah, damn you, Ned, why are you always right?" So he sends the squires for a "breastplate stretcher." Ned observes that the squires are Lannisters, and "it troubled him to see Robert surrounded by the queen's kin, waking and sleeping."

Barristan speaks up and suggests that if he fights in the melee, "It would not be a fair contest. Who would dare strike you?" Ned sees that Barristan has hit the mark: "There's not a man in the Seven Kingdoms who would dare risk your displeasure by hurting you," he adds, knowing that this approach touches the king's pride. "Are you telling me those prancing cravens will let me win?" They indicate that this is so. The king throws his breastplate at Barristan and orders him out of the tent, but calls Ned back.

He tells Ned that his marriage to Cersei is miserable, and "More than once, I have dreamed of giving up the crown." But what stops him is "The thought of Joffrey on the throne, with Cersei standing behind him whispering in his ear. My son. How could I have made a son like that, Ned?" He wishes he had a son like Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers. "Now there's a son any man would be proud to own to." And he falls to reminiscing about their boyhood days, as Ned thinks about his investigation:
If he could prove that the Lannisters were behind the attack on Bran, prove that they had murdered Jon Arryn, this man would listen. Then Cersei would fall, and the Kingslayer with her, and if Lord Tywin dared to rouse the west, Robert would smash him as he had smashed Rhaegar Targaryen on the Trident. He could see it all so clearly.
Ned goes to watch the final jousts with Sansa. The first combat is between Sandor Clegane and Jaime Lannister, and in the first pass, the Hound is almost unseated. But on the second pass, Sandor unhorses Lannister, whose helmet is so twisted and dented in the fall that is unable to get it off, and the crowd bursts out into laughter at his efforts, the king laughing loudest of all.

Next, Gregor Clegane is up against the Knight of Flowers. Gregor "was huge, the biggest man that Eddard Stark had ever seen.... He was well over seven feet tall, closer to eight, with massive shoulders and arms thick as the trunks of small trees." The crowd is delighted by the appearance of Loras Tyrell "in a suit of fabulous silver armor polished to a blinding sheen and filigreed with twining black vines and tiny blue forget-me-nots" that drew a gasp when the crowd realized "that the blue of the flowers came from sapphires." Tyrell is riding a grey mare, and "Ser Gregor's huge stallion trumpeted as he caught her scent." When Gregor kicks the horse to try to control it, the horse almost throws him. And when the joust begins, he continues to have trouble controlling the horse, so that "suddenly Loras Tyrell was on him, placing the point of his lance just there, and in an eye blink the Mountain was falling. He was so huge that he took his horse down with him in a tangle of steel and flesh."

The crowd cheers the Knight of Flowers, whose lance isn't even broken, but Gregor is so enraged that he calls for his sword and kills his horse, "with a single blow of such ferocity that it half severed the animal's neck." Then Gregor attacks Loras Tyrell, knocks him from his horse, and is about to kill him when his brother, Sandor, intervenes. The two brothers do battle until the king calls a halt to their combat and a dozen knights do their best to break it up.

There is one joust left, between the Hound and the King of Flowers, but "Ser Loras Tyrell walked back onto the field in a simple linen doublet and said to Sandor Clegane, 'I owe you my life. The day is yours, ser.'" Once again the Hound denies that he has the right to be called "ser," "but he took the victory, and the champion's purse, and, for perhaps the first time in his life, the love of the commons." Afterward, Ned hears Littlefinger suggest that Tyrell knew the mare he was riding was in heat and chose it because "Gregor has always favored huge, ill-tempered stallions with more spirit than sense."

The melee is a bloody mess, which makes Ned happy that he was able to persuade the king not to take part in it. Arya joins them at the feast, and when Sansa asks how her dancing lessons are going, shows her "a huge purple bruise on her leg." "'You must be a terrible dancer,' Sansa said doubtfully. Later, Ned talks to Arya alone and suggests that maybe Syrio is a little too hard on her, but she stands her ground, insisting, "I want Syrio."

He returns to his room, and ponders all of the things he has learned, trying to put them all together into a pattern. He is sure that Gendry is Robert's son: "The Baratheon look was stamped on his face, in his jaw, his eyes, that black hair." But Robert has had other bastards as well, including "a daughter born in the Vale when Robert was scarcely more than a boy himself.... The girl would be seventeen or eighteen now, he realized, older than Robert had been when he fathered her." But "none of them could threaten Robert's trueborn children."

The steward enters to tell him he has a visitor who will not give his name. Ned admits a man whose face is covered with a cowl, and when the steward has left, the man reveals himself: Varys. He says he has disguised himself because he doesn't want the queen to know that he is speaking to him in private, and has come to tell Ned that there was a plot to kill the king during the melee. Ned protests that the queen had asked Robert not to fight, but Varys replies, "She forbade him to fight, in front of his brother, his knights, and half the court. Tell me truly, do you know any surer way to force King Robert into the melee?" Ned concedes the point.

Ned protests that Varys should have told him sooner, but Varys says if Ned had told the king of a plot that would have only provoked him to fight. Besides, Varys says, he wasn't sure if he could trust Ned. But now, "I comprehend why the queen fears you so much." Doesn't the king have other friends, Ned asks, like his brothers?
"His brothers hate the Lannisters, true enough, but hating the queen and loving theking are not quite the same thing, are they? Ser Barristan loves his honor, Grand Maester Pycelle loves his office, and Littlefinger loves Littlefinger.... No, my lord, when the swords come out in earnest, you will be the only true friend Robert Baratheon will have."
As Varys starts to leave, Ned asks the question that he's been trying to solve: "How did Lord Arryn die." It was a poison called "The tears of Lys," Varys says. As for who gave him the poison, Varys says it must have been "Some dear friend who often shared meat and mead with him."
"There was one boy. All he was, he owed to Jon Arryn, but when the widow fled to the Eyrie with her household, he stayed in King's Landing and prospered. It always gladdens my heart to see the young rise in the world." The whip was in his voice again, every word a stroke. "He must have cut a gallant figure in the tourney, him in his bright new armor, with those crescent moons on his cloak. A pity he died so untimely, before you could talk to him...."
It was the new-made knight, the former squire to Jon Arryn, killed by Gregor in the tournament. But then Ned asks why Jon Arryn was killed: "What was he doing that they had to kill him?"

"'Asking questions,' Varys said, slipping out the door."

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