By Charles Matthews

Thursday, July 21, 2011

9. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 378-423


Ned has been to the brothel that Littlefinger identified for him, and now has to listen to his ribald chatter as they return to the castle. He has found the prostitute with whom Robert sired another bastard, a girl the mother named Barra, and agreed with her that the infant looks like Robert. He had "touched the baby's fine, dark hair. It flowed through his fingers like black silk. Robert's firstborn had had the same fine hair, he seemed to recall." He thinks of Jon Snow's resemblance to himself.

As they ride back, he asks Littlefinger what he knows about Robert's bastards, and Littlefinger admits that there have been a lot of them, including twins born at Casterly Rock after Robert visited there for a tournament. "Cersei had the babes killed, and sold the mother to a passing slaver. Too much an affront to Lannister pride, that close to home." And he asks why Jon Arryn took "a sudden interest in the King's baseborn children. Lannister says he assumes Robert wanted to see that they were provided for. Ned isn't convinced that's the reason.

Suddenly Jory calls out in alarm, and they are surrounded by soldiers. When Littlefinger says, "This is the Hand of the King," Jaime Lannister moves through the group and says, "He was the Hand of the King." He tells Ned that he is looking for Tyrion. "'Your brother has been taken at my command, to answer for his crimes,' Ned Stark said." Jaime draws his sword and says that Ned should do the same, then tells Littlefinger to leave if he doesn't want to get his clothes bloody. Littlefinger does so, promising Ned that he'll bring the City Watch.

There are twenty of Lannister's men, all on foot except Jaime, and only Ned and three of his men, all of them on horses. Ned assumes that they could get free by charging, but decides to meet Jaime's challenge: "'Kill me,' he warned the Kingslayer, 'and Catelyn will most certainly slay Tyrion.'" Jaime says that he doubts that "The noble Catelyn Tully of Riverrun [would] murder a hostage," but he tells the captain of his men to "see that no harm comes to Lord Stark." Then he adds that he wouldn't want Ned "to leave hear entirely unchastened, so ... kill his men."

In the fight that follows Ned watches Jory cut down, and Ned's horse slips and falls. He feels "a moment of blinding pain" and sees "the splintered bone poking through his calf" before he faints. "When he opened his eyes again, Lord Eddard Stark was alone with his dead.... Littlefinger and the City Watch found him there in the street, cradling Jory Cassel's body in his arms."


They arrive at Vaes Dothrak with Khal Drogo and his bloodriders in the lead, followed by Daenerys, Jorah Mormont, and her brother, Viserys, who has been allowed to ride on a horse again. After a day of walking, Viserys had been given a cart to ride in. "In his stubborn ignorance, he had not even known he was being mocked; the carts were for eunuchs, cripples, women giving birth, the very young and the very old." Daenerys asked Ser Jorah not to tell him the truth.

Viserys continues to scorn everything he sees as they move through the city, and constantly refers to the Dothraki as "savages," though Daenerys tells him he shouldn't.
"The dragon speaks as he likes," Viserys said ... in the Common Tongue. He glanced over his shoulder at Aggo and Rakharo, riding behind them, and favored them with a mocking smile. "See, the savages lack the wit to understand the speech of civilized men." 
He continues to complain that Khal Drogo hasn't given him the army or the golden crown that he was promised. Jorah tells Daenerys that it would have been better if Viserys had stayed behind in Pentos. "You do not demand a gift, not of a khal. You do not demand anything of a khal." Jorah also comments that even if Viserys were to get his army, he would be unable to conquer the Seven Kingdoms, which leads Daenerys to ask, "What ... what if it were not Viserys?" What if someone else led the Dothraki against the Seven Kingdoms?  Jorah ponders the question and suggests that the kind of warfare the Dothraki wage is different from the kind the lords of the Seven Kingdoms are used to, and that the Dothraki are used to open warfare rather than besieging castles. Robert Baratheon, he says, might be "rash enough to meet a Dothraki horde in the open field, but not the men around him, such as "His brother Stannis, Lord Tywin Lannister, Eddard Stark...." He spits at the mention of Ned, whom he hates.

Their conversation takes a different turn when they enter Vaes Dothrak through the Western Market. She is helped down from her horse by Cohollo, one of Khal Drogo's three bloodriders -- men who are treated like the Khal's brothers, and according to ancient tradition are expected to die with the Khal when he dies. Daenerys likes Cohollo, but the others "frightened her; Haggo, huge and silent, often glowered as if he had forgotten who she was, and Qotho had cruel eyes and quick hands that liked to hurt.
Dar Salim as Qotho

That night, Khal Drogo and his bloodriders go up the Mother of Mountains to thank the gods for a safe return, and Daenerys has her handmaidens prepare a meal for Viserys, to whom she is giving some gifts. She sends Doreah to fetch him, but he comes back enraged, dragging Doreah by the arm and calling her a whore because she had told him Daenerys "commanded" him to join her for supper. "'No one commands the dragon,' Viserys snarled. 'I am your king! I should have sent you back her head!'" Daenerys tries to placate him with her gifts, Dothraki garments that she has had specially made for him, but he scorns them as "Dothraki rags."
Roxanne McKee as Doreah

When Viserys says, "Do you think that big belly will protect you if you wake the dragon?" and grabs her roughly and painfully, she reaches out for the ornate belt she had planned to give him, and lashes out with it, cutting his cheek with one of the bronze medallions on it. "Leave me now, before I summon my khas to drag you out. And pray that Khal Drogo does not hear of this, or he will cut open your belly and feed you your own entrails." He leaves, clutching his bleeding cheek, threatening, "When I come into my kingdom, you will rue this day, slut."

She tells her servants that she isn't hungry and to share the food they have prepared among them, then asks for one of the dragon's eggs. She lies down and holds it to her stomach, feeling "the child move within her ... as if he were reaching out, brother to brother, blood to blood.


Bran goes out riding on the horse named Dancer that has been specially trained for the saddle designed for him according to Tyrion's specs. He is accompanied by Robb and Theon Greyjoy, a stableman named Joseth who is master of horse, and four guards. Maester Luwin brings up the rear, riding on a donkey. Bran's wolf, Summer, and Robb's Grey Wind, run alongside. As Bran grows more used to the saddle, he wants to ride faster, and soon they are moving at a gallop.

As they reach the woods, the wolves disappear into it. Bran mentioned that Summer had been howling the night before, and Robb says that Grey Wind was restless as well. Robb takes Bran aside and tells him that a bird had arrived from King's Landing with the news that "Jory Cassel is dead. And Wyl and Heward as well, Murdered by the Kingslayer." As Bran absorbs the news, Robb tells him the worst: His father has broken his leg and is unconscious. "Theon thinks I should call the banners," i.e., summon their supporters for retaliation. Bran knows that only the Lord of Winterfell can summon the banners, but Greyjoy says if Bran's father dies, Robb will be the lord. "'He won't die!' Bran screamed at him."

Bran says he's cold and wants to go back now, but Robb says they need to find the wolves first. They travel ahead of the others into the forest and reach a stream where they used to fish with Jory, which causes Bran to start to cry. When they cross the stream they hear a howl that Bran identifies as Summer. It's followed soon by a howl from Grey Wind, and Robb says the wolves have made a kill. He goes to find them, leaving Bran alone, expecting Greyjoy and the others to join them soon.

Bran hears the leaves rustle and turns, expecting to see the others, but instead it's a group of four men and two women, dressed in rags. Two of the men are dressed in black, which Bran realizes must be the remnants of the Night's Watch uniforms. He remembers the deserter his father executed, and his father's warning, "No man is more dangerous" than a deserter. One of the men demands the silver pin that fastens Bran's cloak at the shoulders, one of the women says they'll take the horse. She tells him to get down, but when he says he can't the other woman notices that he's strapped onto the horse. She suggests taking him hostage.

One of the men cuts the strap around Bran's thigh, and in doing so cuts Bran's leg. He doesn't feel the wound, but sees the blood begin to flow. Just then Robb appears, with the carcass of an elk across the back of his horse. He says, "Put down your steel now, and I promise you shall have a quick and painless death," but they mock him, pointing out he's outnumbered, six to one. Then Robb whistles and the two wolves appear from the forest.
Natalia Tena as Osha

They do battle, the wolves attacking as Robb fights with the larger of the two women, whom one of the men called Osha. She is standing in midstream and wielding a spear, but Robb's longsword gets the better of her. The wolves dispatch the others, but the big man known as Stiv cuts the strap around Bran's chest. Bran falls into the water, but Stiv grabs him and puts his dagger to Bran's throat, telling Robb to call off the wolves, "or the cripple boy dies now!" Osha rises from where she fell in the stream and Stiv orders her to kill the wolves. She refuses to go anywhere near them. So Stiv orders Robb to kill the wolves or he'll kill Bran.

Suddenly an arrow pierces Stiv's chest and he releases his hold on the dagger and on Bran. The guardsmen appear from the woods and Osha begins to beg for her life. Maester Luwin goes to examine Bran's wound, and Joseth goes behind a tree to vomit when he sees Summer feeding on the corpse of one of the attackers. Robb berates Greyjoy for taking such a chance with the arrow he shot Stiv with, and the guardsmen for being so far behind. "Bran had never seen him so angry."

Osha continues to plead for her life. Greyjoy suggests giving her to the wolves. Bran speaks up and says, "She said they should keep me alive so they could take me to Mance Rayder." Maester Luwin suggest that they question her, so they take her back to Winterfell.


Behind: Ciaran Bermingham as Mord
Tyrion is being held in a cell, "miserably small, even for a dwarf," that has only three walls. Where the fourth would be is open air and a six-hundred-foot drop to the rocks below. Moreover, the floor of the cell slopes toward the opening, so that Tyrion is afraid to fall asleep because he might roll over the edge. The sadistic guard, Mord, brings his dinner, but holds "the plate out at arm's length, over the edge where the cell ended and the sky began," telling him to come get it, then drops the plate.

Tyrion is berating himself for not holding his tongue when he was brought before Lysa and her son. The boy had asked, "Is he the bad man?" and when his mother said he was, had giggled and said, "He's so small." And when Lysa accused him of killing her husband, Tyrion retorted sarcastically, "Oh, did I kill him too?" He was in a bad mood because he had been unable to make the final climb to the Eyrie and Bronn had carried him. So when he threatened reprisals from his brother Jaime if he is harmed, Lysa asked, "Can you fly, Tyrion Lannister? ... Does a dwarf have wings? If not, you would be wiser to swallow the next threat that comes to mind." Tyrion still can't resist: "I made no threats.... That was a promise." This only provokes the boy to scream, "You can't hurt us," and Lysa to maintain the Eyrie is impregnable. "Still, Tyrion had been unableto silence himself. 'Not impregnable,' he said, 'merely inconvenient.'"

When Robert says, "You're a liar. Mother, I want to see him fly," and two guards lift Tyrion up by the arms, Catelyn finally intervenes and reminds her sister that Tyrion is her prisoner. So Tyrion is sent to the sky cells.

Shivering and starving in his cell, Tyrion wonders if his brother and sister "had sent the footpad to silence the Stark boy, and whether they had truly conspired at the death of Lord Arryn." The latter, if it was murder, "was deftly and subtly done." But the attack on Bran "struck him as unbelievably clumsy." He has a suspicion that he is being framed for the attack, that "someone was using him as a catspaw. Tyrion Lannister hated being used." So he begins to devise a plan to get out of the cell. He bribes Mord with a promise of gold if he'll take a message to Lady Arryn saying that he wants to confess his crimes.

Brendan McCormack as Vardis Egen
Ser Vardis Egen, who had been captain of Jon Arryn's household guard, comes to the cell with the queen's response to Tyrion's message: She wants to see him. He is taken to the High Hall, where there is a gathering of the lords of the Vale, as well as Ser Rodrik Cassel, Marillion, Bronn, and Catelyn. She says, "You wish to confess your crimes, we are told." Her sister says, "The sky cells always break them. The gods can see them there, and there is no darkness to hide in." Catelyn only observes, "He does not look broken to me." But Lysa tells him to proceed with his confession.

Tyrion confesses to gambling, whoring, to wishing his father and his sister were dead, and to mistreating his servants, but not to murdering Jon Arryn or hiring someone to attack Bran. "Those crimes I cannot confess, I fear. I know nothing of any murders." Lysa is furious and orders him sent back to "a smaller cell, with a floor more sharply sloped." But Tyrion stands his ground and demands a trial. So Lysa shows him what his fate will be if he is found guilty: She has the Moon Door opened. Beyond the heavily barred door there is only "the emptiness of the night sky," and the howling wind it admits blows out some of the torches in the hall.

Catelyn advises against the trial, but Lysa ignores her: "My son will listen to whatever you care to say, and ou shall hear his judgment. Then you may leave ... by one door or the other."
She looked so pleased with herself, Tyrion thought, and small wonder. How could a trial threaten her, when her weakling son was the lord judge? Tyrion glanced at her Moon Door. Mother, I want to see him fly! the boy had said. How many men had the snot-nosed little wretch sent through that door already?
But Tyrion has another card to play: "I demand trial by combat."

The request causes laughter throughout the hall. But Lysa admits that he has the right to ask for it. Suddenly there is a clamor of men volunteering to be the champion of Lysa's cause. "Tyrion found it disheartening to realize so many strangers were eager to kill him. Perhaps this had not been such a clever plan after all." Lysa chooses Vardis Egen, her husband's "good right hand," to be her champion. But he protests that Tyrion is "A dwarf, half my size and lame in the legs. It would be shameful to slaughter such a man and call it justice." So Tyrion seizes the opportunity and claims the right to choose his own champion, and names his brother Jaime.

But Lysa stands her ground this time and says, "Your precious Kingslayer is hundreds of leagues from here," and the combat will take place tomorrow. Now Tyrion wonders "if it had all been a colossal blunder." But from the rear of the hall Bronn speaks up: "I'll stand for the dwarf."

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