By Charles Matthews

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

8. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 324-377


Tyrion's horse is being butchered because the party that abducted him from the inn is running out of food. He had protested, "You're making a sad mistake, Lady Stark. I had no part in any attack on your son." But Catelyn had held up her hand, showing the wounds she suffered when she grabbed the blade of the dagger during the assault on Bran. "His dagger left these scars," she said. "The blade he sent to open my son's throat." That was enough to turn the crowd against him. His men were not enough to hold them off, and as a member of the Night's Watch, Yoren was prohibited from taking part in "quarrels of the realm."

Catelyn had saved him from being killed there, announcing, "We are taking him back to Winterfell." Ser Rodrik told the crowd to remain quiet about the events, which Tyrion knew was impossible: "the word would begin to spread the instant they were gone." He was confident that supporters of the Lannisters would soon be on their trail. Then a hood was pulled over his eyes and he was put on a horse. They were joined by the singer, Marillion, who saw an opportunity to chronicle these events in song.

But after a long ride, when they stopped for a rest and the hood was removed, Tyrion realized that Catelyn had outwitted him: They were taking the eastern road, not the one to Winterfell. They were going to the castle of Jon Arryn's widow, and Catelyn's sister, Lysa.

The journey is difficult, and Tyrion's is the third horse they've had to slaughter. He argues against going further, pointing out that if he dies, Catelyn will have no advantage in taking him hostage. He repeats his claim of innocence in the attack on Bran: "'it was not my dagger,' he insisted. 'How many times must I swear to that? Lady Stark, whatever you may believe of me, I am not a stupid man. Only a fool would arm a common footpad with his own blade." He sees "a flicker of doubt in her eyes," but she asks him why Littlefinger would lie about such a thing.

"Lying comes as easily as breathing to a man like Littlefinger," he says. "You ought to know that, you of all people." She asks what he means, and he replies, "Why, every man at court has heard him tell how he took your maidenhead, my lady." She proclaims that a lie, Marillion is shocked, and Kurlecket, one of the men who joined them at the inn, threatens to cut out his tongue. Petyr Baelish loved her, she says, and wanted to marry her. "You are truly an evil man, Lannister."
"And you are truly a fool, Lady Stark. Littlefinger has never loved anyone but Littlefinger, and I promise you that it is not your hand that he boasts of, it's those ripe breasts of yours, and that sweet mouth, and the heat between your legs."
Kurlecket repeats his threat to kill Tyrion, but Catelyn says, "Let him talk." So he asks her what Littlefinger said when he told her the dagger was Tyrion's.  She says that Littlefinger claimed Tyrion won it from him on a bet on the joust between Jaime Lannister and the Knight of Flowers on Prince Joffrey's name day.

But the conversation is interrupted by a lookout's cry of "Riders!" They are being attacked by one of the mountain clans, who owe no allegiance to any of the great houses. Catelyn orders the men to mount up and to guard the prisoners, but Tyrion urges her to arm him and his servants. "You will need every sword." She realizes he is right: To lose one man guarding the three prisoners would put them at a disadvantage. Bronn, one of the "sellswords" (il.e. mercenaries) who had joined up with Catelyn at the inn, gives Tyrion a double-bladed axe. Tyrion protests that he's never fought with an axe, but Bronn says, "Pretend you're splitting logs."
Jerome Flynn as Bronn

"'Logs don't bleed,' Tyrion said to no one in particular," then he looks for a hiding place and finds Marillion behind a rock. He kicks the singer until he moves over. The battle rages on. Then Marillion shrieks as a horse jumps over them, then the rider turns and comes toward them. Tyrion swings the axe and cuts the horse's throat. The horse and the rider collapse on top of Marillion, and Tyrion kills the rider. As Marillion tries to grope his way out from under the dead horse, Tyrion steps on the singer's hand and feels "a satisfying crunch."

Tyrion dodges his way through the confusion of the battle, and when he comes across Kurlecket's body he takes the dead man's dagger. Then he hears Catelyn scream and finds her trapped by three men. He takes down the first one with an axe blow behind the knee, then as the second attacks he ducks, lashes out with the axe, and as the man stumbles, Catelyn moves in with a dagger and cuts his throat. The third man rides away.

The battle is over, and they discover that nine of the mountain men are dead, but only three of theirs, including one of Tyrion's servants. Catelyn wants to stay and bury their dead, but is persuaded not to do so, for fear of another attack. As they get ready to ride on, one of the men starts to take away Tyrion's weapons, the dirk and the axe, but Catelyn says to let him keep them. Tyrion thanks her, but she says, "I trust you no more than I did before."

As they ride on, Tyrion returns to the question of the dagger that Littlefinger claims Tyrion won from him by betting that the Knight of Flowers would unhorse Jaime Lannister: "there is a serious flaw in Littlefinger's fable. Whatever you may believe of me, Lady Stark, I promise you this -- I never bet against my family."


Arya is catching cats, an exercise prescribed by Syrio to develop stealth, cunning, and quickness. And her chief prey is a one-eared black tomcat. She has chased him around the castle, "in and out of strange buildings until Arya didn't know where she was." Finally, she has him cornered and has just grabbed him when a voice says, "What's he doing with that cat?"
At the end of the alley stood a girl with a mass of golden curls, dressed as pretty as a doll in blue satin. Beside her was a plump little blond boy with a prancing stag sewn in pearls across the front of his doublet and a miniature sword at his belt. Princess Myrcella and Prince Tommen, Arya thought.
When they continue to refer to her as a boy, "A ragged dirty smelly boy," she realizes that she hasn't been recognized and makes her escape. The septa with them calls for a guardsman who gives pursuit. When she eludes him, she doesn't know where she is, but she finds herself in a room with monsters -- huge skulls with sharp teeth that we recognize as the Targaryen dragon skulls that King Robert had stored in the cellars. Finding a door, she opens it just enough to slip through into a dark hall. "If the room with the monsters had been dark, the hall was the blackest pit in the seven hells." But she summons up the things that Syrio has taught her, such as Fear cuts deeper than swords, and keeps her head as she feels her way through the dark.

When she begins to see a faint flickering light, she is on the edge of "a great black well, a shaft twenty feet across plunging deep into the earth." She begins to hear voices coming from the pit, and soon can make out the shadows of two men, one of them carrying a torch. They are climbing some steps out of the shaft. One of the men says something about finding a bastard, and then as they grow closer he says, "The fools tried to kill his son" and "I warn you, the wolf and the lion will soon be at each other's throats." The other man speaks with "the liquid accents of the Free Cities," and he says, "What good is war now? We are not ready." The first man says, "Do you take me for a wizard?" and the man with the accent says, "No less."

As they emerge from the shaft, Arya hides in the shadows. The first man, who carries the torch, has "A round scarred face and a stubble of dark beard showed under his steel cap.... It seemed to Arya there was something oddly familiar about him." The man with the accent says, "If one Hand can die, why not a second?" He has a "forked yellow beard" and is hugely fat but light on his feet, and his fingers are covered with rings that glitter in the torchlight. Arya has never seen him before. He says to the first man, "The princess is with child. The khal will not bestir himself until his son is born."

The man with the torch pushes something and a huge slab of rock slides out of the ceiling and fills the space where the well had been. He says, "Stannis Baratheon and Lysa Arryn have fled beyond my reach, and the whispers say they are gathering swords around them." And that the Knight of Flowers has a fourteen-year-old sister that he and Lord Renly want to marry the king and become the queen. And that Arya's father "has the bastard, he has the book,, and soon enough he'll have the truth. And now his wife has abducted Tyrion Lannister, thanks to Littlefinger."

The man with the accent calls the other "a true sorcerer." But the torchbearer says, "I must have gold, and another fifty birds." And as they walk away she can only hear snatches of their conversation. She follows them at a distance, but eventually loses sight of them, and finds herself  "knee-deep in foul-smelling water." Eventually, she reaches the end of the sewer where it flows into the river. She strips and tries to wash the stink from her body and clothes, then makes her way back to the castle, where she has to plead for admittance.

Two guards escort her to her father's rooms, where he tells her half his guard has been searching for her and Septa Mordane is praying for her return. She begins to spill out her story, about monsters and two men who "were talking about killing you" and about a bastard, which she takes to be Jon, and a book. She sees the one he has been reading and asks if that's it. "The fat one said the princess was with child. The one in the steel cap, he had the torch, he said that they had to hurry. I think he was a wizard."

Ned tries to persuade her they were mummers -- "There must be a dozen troupes in King's landing right now." He turns his attention to the scratches on her arms, and says he needs to talk to Syrio Forel about her training. But he is interrupted by a steward who says "there's a black brother here begging audience. He says the matter is urgent." He admits Yoren, who takes Arya for Ned's son, to her indignation, and she begins to ask him about Jon and her brothers. Ned apologizes for Arya's eagerness and asks if his brother Benjen had sent him.

No one sent him, Yoren says. He is there to recruit men for the Wall. But he is there because of the incident at the inn. He wants to speak to Ned in private, so Ned has the steward, Desmond, take Arya to her room.


The council is meeting about the news that Daenerys Targaryen is pregnant. Robert wants her dead, and Ned is arguing against it. But in the end, only Ser Barristan Selmy agrees that killing a child and possibly provoking a war would be dishonorable. The argument ends with Ned resigning as Hand.

Returning to his chambers, Ned tells his steward, Vayon Poole, to prepare for a return to Winterfell. Poole tells him it will take a fortnight to get everything ready for the journey, but Ned says the king is so angry with him that they may not have that long. Among his concerns is "the business with Catelyn and the dwarf that Yoren had warned him of last night.... Robert might not care a fig for Tyrion Lannister, but it would touch on his pride, and there was no telling what the queen might do."

So he proposes to leave now with Arya and Sansa and a few guardsmen, and let the rest follow. Then he thinks of returning to Winterfell by sea. As he's pondering all this, Littlefinger is announced. Ned greets him coldly, but Littlefinger chatters on about the council's discussion of the ways to kill Daenerys. They decided to "make a lord of whoever does in the Targaryen girl," instead of hiring a killer from the Faceless Men. Littlefinger claims that he came up with the idea and that by doing so he may have saved Daenerys's life: A sellsword will probably "make a botch of it, and afterward the Dothraki will be on their guard. If we'd sent a Faceless Man after her, she'd be as good as buried." Ned is annoyed at Littlefinger's amusement at murder, but he replies, "It's not murder I find amusing, Lord Stark, it's you. You rule like a man dancing on rotten ice. I daresay you will make a noble splash. I believe I heard the first crack this morning."

But then Littlefinger plays his high card: "if perchance you're still here come evenfall, I'd be pleased to take you to this brothel your man Jory has been searching for so ineffectually."


They are making the arduous climb into the mountains toward the castle of the Arryns, and Catelyn is reflecting on her hostage.
The little man was more cunning than she liked. When they had entered the mountains, he had been her captive, bound and helpless. What was he now? Her captive still, yet he rode along with a dirk through his belt and an axe strapped to his saddle, wearing the shadowskin cloak he'd won dicing with the singer and the chainmail hauberk he'd taken off Chiggen's corpse.... Could I be wrong? Catelyn wondered, not for the first time. Could he be innocent after all, of Bran and Jon Arryn and all the rest? And if he was, what did that make her? Six men had died to bring him here.
But she stifles her doubts and rides on. They reach the Bloody Gate, a portal into Arryn lands, and a knight rides out to challenge them. He turns out to be Catelyn's uncle, Brynden Tully, who gives them entrance to the Vale of Arryn. He tells them that they can be at the mountain by nightfall, but the ascent to the Eyrie will take another day. Ser Rodrik, who was wounded, can't travel farther, so Catelyn says that her uncle will take her and Tyrion the rest of the way while the others stay behind and gather their strength. But Marillion speaks up and says he wants to go so he can write the end to the story he plans to sing. And Bronn wants to come too. Catelyn isn't happy about this, even though Bronn has shown courage and strength, because "she had seen him riding beside Lannister far too often, talking in low voices and laughing at some private joke." But she agrees that the singer and the sellsword can come with them.

Along the way, Brynden confides his worries about Lysa and her son, describing the latter as "Six years old, sickly, and prone to weep if you take his dolls away. Jon Arryn's trueborn son, by all the gods, yet there are some who say he is too weak to sit his father's seat." As for Lysa, he tells Catelyn she will find her sister changed. "Two babes stillborn, twice as many miscarriages, Lord Arryn's death.... Catelyn, the gods gave Lysa only the one child, and he is all your sister lives for now." He also expresses doubt that bringing Tyrion to Lysa was a good idea.

As they reach the base of the mountain from which the Eyrie rises, Tyrion comments. "The Arryns must not be overfond of company. If you're planning to make us climb that mountain in the dark, I'd rather you kill me here." Brynden tells them that there are "three waycastles, Stone and Snow and Sky," that guard the path to the Eyrie. Mules will take them as far as Sky and beyond that they go on foot, or a basket can be let down for them.

They plan to spend the night and make the ascent the next morning, but word arrives that Lysa wants to see Catelyn at once. Brynden protests that a night ascent is "an invitation to a broken neck," but a girl of seventeen or eighteen speaks up and says that she can safely guide Catelyn. Her name is Mya Stone, which troubles Catelyn because Stone is a surname given to bastards in the Vale, "as Snow was in the north.... Catelyn had nothing against this girl, but suddenly she could not help but think of Ned's bastard on the Wall, and the thought made her angry and guilty, both at once." But she agrees, and leaving Tyrion, Marillion, and Bronn for the night, she begins the ascent with Mya.

All goes well until they reach the point at which the mules have to be led across a pathway twenty feet long and three feet wide, with a sheer drop on either side. Catelyn panics, but Mya tells her to close her eyes and carefully leads her, "blind and trembling," across the pathway. They reach the waycastle called Sky as dawn is breaking, and the final ascent involves something "more like a stone ladder than proper steps," as Mya describes it. Catelyn remembers the basket option and chooses it.

Finally, she is in the Eyrie and is taken to see Lysa. She hasn't seen her sister for five years, and they haven't been kind to Lysa, who was two years younger than Catelyn but looked older. "She had the blue eyes of the Tullys, but here were pale and watery, never still. Her small mouth had turned petulant." Lysa greets her sister with a show of affection, but when she dismisses the attendants, she snaps, "Have you taken leave of your senses? ... To bring him here, without a word of permission, without so much as a warning, to drag us into your quarrels with the Lannisters...."

Catelyn is astonished at this outburst, but at that moment the boy, Robert Arryn, enters, "a painfully thin child, small for his age and sickly all this days." Lysa introduces him to his aunt Catelyn, and gushes, "Isn't he beautiful? And strong too, don't you believe the things you hear. Jon knew. The seed is strong, he told me. His last words." Catelyn tries to return to the topic of the Lannisters, but when she says, "Ned thinks it may come to war," Lysa snaps at her to be quiet: "You're scaring the boy." And then, "She opened her robe and drew out a pale, heavy breast, tipped with red. The boy grabbed for it eagerly, buried his face against her chest, and began to suck."

Catelyn is reminded of "three-year-old Rickon, half the age of this boy and five times as fierce." She tries to bring up the topic of the Lannisters again, but Lysa covers the boy's ears. Then she asks, "what am I to do with this Imp you have brought me?" The boy asks, "Is he a bad man?" And when his mother says he is, "'Make him fly,' Robert said eagerly." She responds, "Perhaps we will.... Perhaps that is just what we will do."
Lino Facioli as Robert Arryn and Kate Dickie as Lysa Arryn

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