By Charles Matthews

Thursday, August 25, 2011

10. A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 404-430


In an attack on a village, Theon's men have captured a former ally of his, Benfred Tallhart, who spits in Theon's face and denounces him as a traitor to Robb. Theon's Uncle Aeron insists that this is a mortal insult and that Tallhart must die. But when Theon orders Tallhart beheaded, Aeron insists it must be done in accordance with the worship of the Drowned God: Tallhart must be drowned in salt water. So Theon acquiesces and Tallhart is hauled off to the shore.

The village has been destroyed, the men killed, the young women claimed as "salt wives" -- i.e., concubines -- and the old and ugly women raped and killed, unless they have useful skills as servants.
His thrice-damned sister was sailing her Black Wind north even now, sure to win a castle of her own. Lord Balon had let no word of the hosting escape the Iron Islands, and Theon's bloody work along the Stony Shore would be put down to sea raiders out for plunder. The northmen would not realize their true peril, not until the hammers fell on Deepwood Motte and Moat Cailin. 
But Theon is determined not to let Asha, his sister, get all the glory. So he takes Dagmer Cleftjaw aside and tries to win him over. He calls these raids on villages "child's business" and "no work for Lord Balon's best man." He knows that his father's men are suspicious of him because he has been away for ten years with the Starks, but he insists to Dagmer, "I am a Greyjoy, and I mean to be my father's heir. How can I do that unless I prove myself with some great deed." But, he tells Dagmer, he needs his help "to do a deed that the harpers will sing of for a thousand years."

He wants Dagmer to take his men and march to Torrhen's Square, the seat of the Tallharts, which will be defended by a small garrison because most of the men have gone to fight for Robb. There, they will mount a siege. Dagmer protests, "That is not the Old Way. Have you forgotten? Ironmen fight with swords and axes, not by flinging rocks. There is no glory in starving out a foeman." But Theon explains this is only a distraction: When they see the siege towers being built, the Tallharts will send a raven to Winterfell. Theon assumes that Ser Rodrik Cassel will withdraw some of his men from Winterfell "and ride to Tallhart's aid. It is his duty. Ser Rodrik is nothing if not dutiful."

But Dagmer protests, "Any force he summons will be larger than mine.... You set us a battle we cannot hope to win, Theon. This Torrhen's Square will never fall." Theon replies, "It's not Torrhen's Square I mean to take." Which sounds like he plans to bring the sea to Winterfell.


Tywin Lannister is on the move, and Harrenhal is bustling with activity. Weese has Arya on the move too, running errands, carrying messages, and sometimes even letting her outside the walls of the castle. She thinks of making a break for it somehow, but Weese has threatened to cut off the feet of anyone who dares attempt to escape. He doesn't know she can read, so she often reads the messages she is given, though they are usually nothing but orders to send carts to this place or another.

She looks for Jaqen H'ghar, since he has promised to kill two more people for her, but he is hard to find in all the confusion. One of the guards tells her that he will be staying at Harrenhal with Ser Amory, who has been named castellan, charged with holding the castle in Tywin's absence. The creepy Bloody Mummers will also be staying. Gregor Clegane will be going with Tywin, however, which means that he and others of the men on her list will be out of her reach "unless she could find Jaqen and have him kill one of them before they left."

Weese sends her to the armory to tell one of the armorers that Ser Lyonel needs a new sword, and she sees Gendry there. He pulls her aside and tells her that Hot Pie had overheard her cry out "Winterfell," during the fighting back at the holdfast. He says he covered up for her by telling Hot Pie that he heard her yell "Go to hell!" and that she should say the same if he asks her. She says she will, though she thinks for a moment that she ought to tell Jaqen to kill Hot Pie.

As she returns with the sword, she feels its weight and it reminds her of how she felt when she was practicing with Syrio Forel. She thinks of telling the stablehands that she was sent to fetch a horse for Ser Lyonel, then of riding out with horse and sword, but she remembers Weese's threat. When she returns to him with the sword he complains about how long she had taken and slaps her with the back of his hand. Then he sends her off on another errand, threatening to beat her if she's too slow this time.

On her way, she encounters the noseless Rorge, who makes obscene jokes about her. She tells him she's looking for Jaqen, and his reaction makes her realize that Rorge is afraid of Jaqen. He tells her Jaqen is in the bathhouse. She finds him there and whispers "Weese" in his ear.

That evening at dinner, Weese calls her over, grabs her throat, and slaps her twice, backhanded, just for looking at him. When she trips and tears her dress, he tells her to mend it before she goes to sleep. As she sews up the tear, she recites the names on her list with every stitch, and wonders how much longer Weese will be on the list. But it is Weese who kicks her awake in the morning, and at breakfast he threatens that they will only have to work harder while Lord Tywin is away.

As Tywin and his men leave that morning, Arya watches from a window in the Wailing Tower. The procession concludes with Gregor Clegane with Polliver riding beside him, wearing Gendry's helmet. Arya thinks that she has ordered the wrong men killed. It should be those two instead of Chiswyck and Weese. And she should have told him to kill Lord Tywin. She decides to find Jaqen and change her order, but as she hears the portcullis being lowered there is "a shriek of pain and fear."
Weese was sprawled across the cobbles, his throat a red ruin, eyes gaping sightlessly up at a bank of grey cloud. His ugly spotted dog stood on his chest, lapping at the blood pulsing from his neck, and every so often ripping a mouthful of flesh out of the dead man's face.
Someone brings a crossbow and kills the dog. Arya sees Jaqen leaning against the tower; "he lifted a hand to his face and laid two fingers casually against his cheek."


When they reach Riverrun, Catelyn hears of Robb's victory, but also that Lord Tywin is on his way and will reach them in three or four days. Brienne asks Catelyn to let her leave -- she means to return to Storm's End and kill Stannis. Catelyn argues that she would be riding into certain death, and that to do so would serve on purpose. Brienne says that she doesn't understand how she feels about Renly's death.
"You're wrong," Catelyn said sharply. "Every morning, when I wake, I remember that Ned is gone. I have no skill with swords, but that does not mean that I do not dream of riding to King's Landing and wrapping my hands around Cersei Lannister's white throat and squeezing until her face turns black."
Brienne asks if Catelyn would ever make peace with Stannis, knowing that he killed Renly, and Catelyn admits that she doesn't know. But she urges Brienne to "fight ... but for the living, not the dead. Renly's enemies are Robb's enemies as well."

To Catelyn's surprise, Brienne asks to serve her, saying that Catelyn has "a kind of woman's courage." She asks only that, if the opportunity comes, Catelyn will not hold her back from killing Stannis. Catelyn remembers Stannis's threat against Robb and says, "When the time comes, I will not hold you back." Brienne kneels, unsheathing the longsword she took from Renly's body and laying it at Catelyn's feet, then vows, "I am yours, my lady." And Catelyn vows "that you shall always have a place by my hearth and meat and mead at my table, and pledge to ask no service of you that might bring you into dishonor."

Catelyn's brother, Edmure, is at the castle, and he tells her that ravens have come from Storm's End with word that Ser Cortnay Penrose still holds the castle, though "Stannis has him surrounded by land and sea. He offers his allegiance to whatsoever king will break the siege." Penrose also says that he is afraid for "the boy," whom Brienne identifies as Robert Baratheon's bastard, Edric Storm. Catelyn wonders why Penrose would risk so much "for a baseborn boy whose blood is not even his own." Edmure says he hasn't sent an answer to Penrose because they have nothing to offer him.

Edmure and the others at Riverrun are eager to hear an account of Renly's death, but Catelyn prefers not to talk about it in the open, so she changes the subject to the bodies they found hanging from the battlements of the castle. Edmure says that they came with Ser Cleos when he delivered Cersei's response to Robb's peace offer. Catelyn is shocked that they should kill envoys, but Edmure explains that they were assassins posing as envoys -- the ones Tyrion had sought out and included in the guard. They had tried to free Jaime Lannister. One of them killed two guards, another picked the lock to Jaime's cell, and the mummer imitated Edmure's voice to command the guards to open the gate.
This was the Imp's work, Catelyn suspected; it stank of the same sort of cunning he had displayed at the Eyrie. Once, she would have named Tyrion the least dangerous of the Lannisters. Now she was not so certain.
They plot was foiled only by accident. Edmure had been returning to the castle just before dawn and the mummer's deception was revealed. Jaime had a sword, and killed two men and seriously wounded a third. After he was recaptured, he was put in the dungeon and chained to the wall. Cleos Frey is still under suspicion for his part in the escape attempt, and is in the cell Jaime formerly occupied in the tower.

Robb has told them to send Catelyn to the Twins, the castles of Lord Walder Frey, to help him choose a bride from the Frey daughters, but Catelyn "had no intention of leaving Riverrun and her dying father to pick Robb's wife for him." Edmure wants to fight Tywin, but Catelyn argues that he has only half as many men as Lannister does. He outlines his plan to get reinforcements from the Tallharts and Roose Bolton's army at the Twins. He has told Bolton to take Harrenhal. Catelyn is deeply skeptical about her brother's plan, and wishes that Robb hadn't taken her uncle Brynden, who "was the veteran of half a hundred battles; Edmure was the veteran of one, and that one lost." But she swallows her misgivings and goes to see her father.

Lord Hoster Tully doesn't know who she is: He thinks she is Lysa. He mutters to her about "That stripling ... wretched boy" and about Lysa's marriage to Jon Arryn. When the maester gives her father a sleeping potion, he tells her that he won't live much longer and that they should send for Brynden and for her sister. Catelyn knows that Lysa won't come, but agrees to write to her. "She wondered who Lysa's 'wretched stripling' had been," and why her father had been so opposed to him.

When she goes to her chambers, she finds "two women clad in grey, their faces cowled save for their eyes," and she realizes that they are there with Ned's body. She is told that Cleos Frey had brought his bones from King's Landing, and she asks to see them. But when she views the skeleton, she is surprised to see that the sword he has with him is not Ice. It was not returned with him, she is told.

After ordering that the bones be taken to Winterfell, she spends the night sitting up with them.

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