By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

7. A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 299-340


As he approaches Cersei's chamber, Tyrion hears a singer, but the music stops when he enters. The singer is Ser Lancel Lannister, who used to be King Robert's squire, but was knighted after his death. He is sixteen years old. Ser Lancel leaves grudgingly when Tyrion says he wants to speak to Cersei privately.

He has news for her: "Lord Stannis has sailed from Dragonstone." Immediately Cersei is on him about making preparations to defend the city, but he is laughing so hard that for a moment he can't quite get the rest of it out: "He hasn't sailed against us," he tells her. "He's laid siege to Storm's End. Renly is riding to meet him."

Cersei is so delighted by this news that she even hugs Tyrion. When she is finished laughing, she asks if there is a chance the Baratheon brothers will decide to join forces instead of fighting each other, but Tyrion insists, "They are too different and yet too much alike, and neither could ever stomach the other."

He suggests that they drink to "brotherly love," and while he's pouring the wine he manages "to sprinkle a pinch of fine powder" into Cersei's cup. She is so beautiful when she smiles as they toast Stannis and Renly that "He almost felt sorry for poisoning her."

The next morning, word comes to him that Cersei is "indisposed." "Not able to leave her privy, more like," he thinks, and he goes to the meeting in the throne room with Ser Cleos regarding Robb's peace terms without her. As Hand, he has the right to sit in the Iron Throne, which at least gives him the opportunity to look down on the people in audience.

He calls for Ser Cleos and rejects Robb's terms, then presents his own:
"Robb Stark must lay down his sword, swear fealty, and return to Winterfell. He must free my brother unharmed, and place his host under Jaime's command, to march against the rebels Renly and Stannis Baratheon. Each of Stark's bannermen must send us a son as hostage. A daughter will suffice where there is no son. They shall be treated gently and given high places here at court, so long as their fathers commit no new treasons." 
As expected, Cleos says that Robb will never agree to those terms. Tyrion continues, telling him that an army is massing at Casterly Rock that will march on him from the west while Tywin's army marches on him from the east. He can't expect support from Stannis and Renly because they are at war with each other, or from the Prince of Dorne, because he "has consented to wed his son Trystane to the Princess Myrcella."

He offers an exchange of prisoners, and the return of Ned Stark's bones "as a gesture of Joffrey's good will." But when Cleos says that Robb asked for the return of his sisters and of his father's sword, Tyrion replies that he can have Ice when he concludes a peace with them and his sisters when "he frees my brother Jaime, unharmed." Until then, "they shall remain here as hostages. How well they are treated depends on him." Silently, he hopes that they can find Arya before Robb finds out that she's missing.

Then he calls on Vylarr, the head of the Lannister household guards, and tells him that he and the rest of the Lannister guards are to accompany Cleos back to Riverrun. Astonished, Grand Maester Pycelle rises to protest that "your father, Lord Tywin himself, he sent these good men to out city to protect Queen Cersei and her children." Tyrion replies that the Kingsguard and the City Watch are sufficient protection. Then he asks if anyone else has anything to bring forward.

From the back of the hall, Ser Alliser Thorne pushes forward to demand a hearing. Tyrion feigns surprise that Alliser had come to court. Alliser insists that he must speak to the king. "The matter is too grave to be left to servants." Tyrion explains that Joffrey was "playing with his new crossbow" -- which Tyrion had given him to keep him occupied -- and says, "You can speak to servants or hold your silence."

Alliser reluctantly agrees, and begins to tell the story of the attack on the Watch and the Lord Commander by the undead rangers. The story sounds so preposterous that someone sniggers, and Tyrion begins to suspect that a trick is being played on him by Varys or Littlefinger or Pycelle. "A dwarf enjoyed at best a tenuous hold on dignity. Once the court and kingdom started to laugh at him, he was doomed." But at the same time he remembers the sense of dread he had felt when he stood on top of the Wall with Jon and his wolf and looked out at the lands beyond the Wall.

He saves face by making fun of Alliser and his story, especially when he reveals that the dead man's hand he brought with him has rotted away. And he tells Littlefinger to supply Alliser with a hundred spade to take with him on his return. "If you bury your dead, they won't come walking." The court laughs. He tells Ser Jacelyn Bywater to round up more prisoners to send to the Night's Watch, and when Alliser protests that "The Wall must be held," points out that he has done just that by ordering more men. He adds, "Give my warm regards to Lord Mormont ... and to Jon Snow as well."

Afterward, Varys expresses his admiration of Tyrion's tactics: "You appease the Stark boy with his father's bones and strip your sister of her protectors in one swift stroke. You give that black brother the men he seeks, rid the city of some hungry mouths, yet make it all seem mockery so none may say that the dwarf fears snarks and grumkins. Oh, deftly done." Littlefinger is less generous in his praise, and confesses, "I do not relish being played for a fool. If Myrcella weds Trystane Martell, she can scarcely wed Robert Arryn, can she?" Tyrion offers a mild apology, but Littlefinger leaves unappeased.

Tyrion asks Varys to walk with him. The eunuch says that Cersei will not part with her guard, but Tyrion says she will if he explains that it's part of his scheme to free Jaime. Varys says, "This would doubtless involve the four men your man Bronn searched for so diligently in all the low places of King's Landing. A thief, a poisoner, a mummer, and a murderer." Tyrion, unsurprised that Varys has sniffed this out, says that he has been looking for a way to get them into Riverrun, and by disguising them as guardsmen, "They'll ride in by the main gate, flying Lannister banners and escorting Lord Eddard's bones.... So I must send the true guardsmen as well as the false ... as you'll tell my sister."

Tyrion then finds his men Timett and Shagga and tells them to come to his chambers at midnight. Shortly after midnight, Shagga kicks down the door of Grand Maester Pycelle's room, and Timett tears the curtains from around the bed, revealing a naked serving girl and the naked Grand Maester. Pycelle protests, "I am an old man, your loyal servant...." Tyrion replies that it wasn't very loyal to send only one of the copies of the letter to Doran Martell and to give the other to the queen.

Pycelle tries to blame it on Varys, but Tyrion says that he told Varys he was sending Tommen to Prince Doran to foster. He told Littlefinger that he was going to marry Myrcella to Lord Robert. "I told no one that I had offered Myrcella to the Dornish ... that truth was only in the letter I entrusted to you." Pycelle persists in trying to blame first Varys and then Littlefinger, but Tyrion says, "Shagga, cut off his manhood and feed it to the goats."

Pycelle screams and wets the bed, and Shagga hacks off three-quarters of Pycelle's beard with his axe. "How long have you been spying for my sister?" Tyrion demands, as Shagga takes hold of what's left of Pycelle's beard. Pycelle confesses that he has always served Tywin Lannister, and surprises Tyrion by saying that it was he who told King Aerys Targaryeon to open the gates, leading to the Sack of King's Landing. He had hoped that Tywin would take the throne, he says, "but Robert was too strong, and Lord Stark moved too swiftly...."

Tyrion confronts Pycelle  about the poisoning of Jon Arryn.  "I saw the tears of Lys among your potions. And you sent away Lord Arryn's own maester and tended him yourself, so you could make certain that he died." Pycelle denies it, but when Shagga's blade draws blood from his throat he admits that he sent away Maester Colemon because he was trying to counteract the poison with purgatives. "It was not me who gave him the poison, though, I swear it.... Varys will tell you, it was the boy, his squire, Hugh he was called, he must surely have done it, ask your sister, ask her."

Tyrion orders Pycelle taken off to the black cells.


After eight days in the storehouse by the Gods Eye, Arya and the other prisoners have been marched to Harrenhal. Each day a prisoner was called out and questioned by a man known as the Tickler. The questions were always the same, centering on Lord Beric Dondarrion and his followers and helpers. "No one ever survived the Tickler's questioning; no man, no woman, no child. The strongest lasted past evenfall. Their bodies were hung beyond the fires for the wolves."

On the march, Arya loses all sense that she might be the "water dancer" that Syrio Forel had tried to teach her to become. "The direwolf was the sigil of the Starks, but Arya felt more like a lamb, surrounded by a herd of other sheep. She hated the villagers for their sheepishness, almost as much as she hated herself." She has lost Needle and her wooden sword was broken over the knee of one of the Lannister men. She has revealed herself as a girl when she has to urinate in sight of the others, surprising Hot Pie. Gendry had been spared because "smiths, even apprentice smiths, were too valuable to kill."

As they march, Arya begins compiling a list of hates: Dunsen because he has taken Gendry's helmet, Polliver because he has Needle, Chiswyck because he hides his cruelty behind a façade of jolliness, Raff the Sweetling because he killed Lommy, Amory Lorch for killing Yoren, Meryn Trant for killing Syrio, the Hound for killing the butcher boy Mycah, Ser Ilyn and Joffrey and Cersei for her father and all the others, including Lady, Sansa's wolf. She repeats their names every night as if praying.

Finally they reach Harrenhal, which is immense. Hot Pie doesn't want to enter it because he's heard that it's haunted, but Chiswyck gives him a choice: "Come join the ghosts, or be one." Inside they are made to strip and bathe. When they ask her name, she says it's Weasel, "naming the first girl she could think of." When they say she is being sent to work in the kitchen, she says she'd rather tend the horses, thinking she might be able to steal one and escape. But she gets slapped for insolence, and told that the grooms and squires take care of the horses. "The kitchens are snug and clean, and there's always a warm fire to sleep by and plenty to eat," but since she mouthed off, she's being assigned to Weese, the understeward for the Wailing Tower, who says, "I can smell defiance, I can smell pride, I can smell disobedience. I catch a whiff of any such stinks, You'll answer for it. When I sniff you, all I want to smell is fear."


They have arrived at Qarth, which the warlock Pyat Pree acclaims as "the greatest city that ever was or ever will be." It is surrounded by three walls, the outer of red sandstone carved with figures of animals. The middle one is grey granite with scenes of battle, and the innermost is black marble covered with scenes of sexual coupling. She is greeted by small children scattering flowers in her path. The architecture of the city is rich and fanciful and the people are tall and pale and dressed in "linen and samite and tiger fur." The merchant prince Xaro Xhoan Daxos says that she can have anything she sees that takes her fancy.

Daenerys replies that all she wants is ships and swords to win back the red castle at King's Landing. Ser Jorah, who is riding at her side, advises her, "You would do well to avoid both these men, Your Grace." Daenerys tells him that she hopes to use Xaro's wealth and Pyat Pree's power to get her crown. But Jorah says, "I would not linger here long, my queen. I mislike the very smell of this place."

They show her to immense and opulent lodgings and take their leave. "Last of the three seekers to depart was Quaithe the shadowbinder. From her Dany received only a warning. 'Beware,' the woman in the red lacquer mask said." When Daenerys asks whom she should beware, Quaithe says, "Of all." Jorah agrees, though he says he doesn't like her any more than he does the others. It bothers Daenerys that she has never seen the woman's face, and she is reminded of the treachery of Mirri Maz Duur. She tells her bloodriders to keep watch, especially on the dragons. Then she sends Rakharo to check out the parts of the city they haven't been shown yet, and Jorah to the waterfront to find out about the ships and if there has been any news from Westeros.

She is feeding the dragons when Jorah returns with Quhuro Mo, a ship's captain who wears "a cloak of green and yellow feathers and had skin as black as polished jet." He was in Oldtown half a year ago and he tells Daenerys of the death of Robert Baratheon. Jorah adds that Joffrey has taken the throne, but the Lannisters are in charge. Quhuru Mo adds that Lord Stark has been seized for treason. "'Ned Stark a traitor?' Ser Jorah snorted. 'Not bloody likely. The Long Summer will come again before that one would besmirch his precious honor.'" But Daenerys is not willing to concede any honor to anyone who betrayed the Targaryens.

When Quhuru Mo takes his leave, she tells him, "Come to me in King's Landing when I am on my father's throne, and you shall have a great reward." But after he leaves, Jorah warns her not to broadcast her plans. And since Joffrey is on the throne, he thinks nothing has changed. She disagrees. She has "the blood of the dragon," she proclaims. He warns, "Even dragons can die." She admits that dragons die, then kisses him on the cheek: "But so do dragonslayers."


Bran watches Meera as she captures Summer with a net. When she releases the wolf, Bran calls him and they wrestle, with the wolf snarling and yapping. Meera asks if the wolf ever gets angry, and Bran says, "Not with me." Sometimes he tears Bran's clothes, but never draws blood. She says he would have drawn her blood if he'd gotten free of the net, but Bran insists that he wouldn't because "He knows I like you."

Meera and Jojen have stayed on at Winterfell and have become Bran's "constant companions," though they are both older than he is -- Bran has just turned nine, and Meera is almost sixteen. When Bran begins to struggle to sit up against a tree, Meera starts to help him, but he tells her not to, and finally rolls and pushes his way upright. He asks her if the master-at-arms at Greywater Watch taught her to fight with a net, but she says they don't have any knights, or a maester. When Bran asks who keeps their ravens, she says they don't have any because ravens can't find Greywater, "Because it moves." He asks if he could visit them, and she says he would be welcome, so he decides to ask Ser Rodrik when he returns from settling a dispute that has arisen.

Jojen says that it would be good if Bran left Winterfell soon. Meera tells Bran that Jojen "has the greensight.... He dreams things that haven't happened, but sometimes they do." Jojen protests against the "sometimes." Bran asks Jojen to tell him what's going to happen, but Jojen says he will if Bran will tell him about his dreams.

Bran denies that he has dreams, though of course he does. And Meera says, "All of Winterell knows you wake at night shouting and sweating, Bran." Jojen asks what frightens him so much, but Bran refuses to admit anything. So Jojen tells him, "I dreamed of a winged wolf bound to earth with grey stone chains.... It was a green dream, so I knew it was true. A crow was trying to peck through the chains, but the stone was too hard and his beak could only chip at them." Bran asks if the crow had three eyes, and Jojen says it did. "When I was little I almost died of greywater fever. That was when the crow came to me." Bran blurts out that the crow came to him after he fell.

"'You are the winged wolf, Bran,' said Jojen. 'I wasn't sure when we first came, but now I am. The crow sent us here to break your chains.'" They tell him that the crow is beyond the Wall, and that when Jojen told their father what he'd dreamed, he sent them to Winterfell. Bran asks how he can break the chains, and Jojen says he must open his eye: "You have three [eyes]. The crow gave you the third but you will not open it."

Bran decides not to pursue the subject any further, but Jojen persists: "Did you dream of a wolf?" Bran gets angry: "I don't have to tell you my dreams. I'm the prince. I'm the Stark in Winterfell." And when Jojen asks if the wolf in his dream was Summer, Bran yells, "Stop it!" Summer has grown agitated too, and is moving toward the weirwood, baring his teeth. Jojen continues, "When I touched Summer, I felt you in him. Just as you are in him now." Bran protests, but Jojen says, "I felt you. I felt you fall. Is that what scares you, the falling?"

Bran admits to himself that he is afraid of the falling, and of "the golden man, the queen's brother, he scares me too, but mostly the falling." But he doesn't want to tell anyone. "If he didn't talk about it, maybe he would forget." Jojen asks, "Do you fall every night, Bran?"

Summer begins to growl and bare his teeth, stalking toward Jojen. Meera steps between the wolf and her brother, who tells Bran that it's his anger and fear that is animating Summer. "Part of you is Summer, and a part of Summer is you. You know that, Bran." Meera pleads with Bran to call Summer back. Bran calls, but gets no response. Then Shaggydog appears from the weirwood, responding to his brother's anger. Both wolves threaten the brother and sister, though Jojen remains calm. Meera calls to her brother to climb a tree, and they do so, as Shaggy snaps at her foot and Summer howls.

Bran calls for Hodor, and asks him to chase away the wolves. Shaggydog disappears into the wood and Summer comes back to Bran and lies down beside him. Meera and Jojen leave, though Jojen promises, "We'll talk again."

Bran has Hodor take him to see Maester Luwin, whom Bran tells, "Meera says her brother has the greensight.... You told me that the children of the forest had the greensight. I remember." Luwin admits that he did, but the children of the forest are gone. Bran tells him that Jojen has dreams that sometimes come true. Luwin says that's true of all of us, and reminds him that both he and his brother Rickon had dreamed of their father in the crypt before they knew that he was dead. But most dreams don't come true.

Then he talks about the maester's chain collar. Each link is forged from a different metal to represent the various disciplines the maester learns at the Citadel in Oldtown. "Black iron is for ravenry, silver for healing, gold for sums and numbers." He shows Bran the one of Valyrian steel. "Only one maester in a hundred wears such a link. this signifies that  have studied what the Citadel calls the higher mysteries -- magic, for want of a better word." He studied magic, and tried to practice it, but to no avail. "Sad to say, magic does not work."

But Bran objects that it does sometimes, as in the dream he and Rickon had. "And there are mages and warlocks in the east...." Luwin says that they call themselves that, but if there ever was real magic it has died out. "The dragons are no more, the giants are dead, the children of the forest forgotten with all their lore." He says, "Jojen Reed may have had a dream or two that he believes came true, but he does not have the greensight. No living man has that power."

Bran repeats what Luwin said to Meera that night, but she holds out the possibility that Luwin is wrong. Then she tells him about a dream Jojen had about Bran and the Frey brothers.
"You were sitting at supper, but instead of a servant, Maester Luwin brought you your food. He served you the king's cut off the roast, the meat rare and bloody, but with a savory smell that made everyone's mouth water. The meat he served the Freys was old and grey and dead. Yet they liked their supper better than you liked yours." 
Bran says he doesn't understand, but she says her brother says he will, and they'll talk again when he does. That night he persists in his conviction that Luwin is right: "'There's no magic, and the stories are just stories.' And he would never walk, nor fly, no be a knight."


It is midnight, and Lancel Lannister has come to see Tyrion with an order from Cersei to release Pycelle. Evidently Cersei has asked Ser Jacelyn Bywater to release the Grand Maester and he has refused, so she wants him arrested for treason. Lancel tries to threaten Tyrion by putting his hand on his sword and calling him "Imp," but Tyrion sees the threat and raises it: "One cry from me and Shagga will burst in and kill you. With an axe, not a wineskin."

The reference to the doped wine that Lancel, as squire, gave to Robert Baratheon during the boar hunt causes him to redden. And Tyrion goes further: "Tell me -- did Cersei have you knighted before or after she took you into her bed?" Tyrion can see from Lancel's reaction that what Varys had told him was true.

Lancel tries to bluff his way by telling Tyrion to "withdraw these filthy accusations," but Tyrion goes on: "Have you given any thought to what Joffrey will do when I tell him you murdered his father to bed his mother?" And Lance breaks down: "The queen gave me the strongwine! Your own father Lord Tywin, when I was named the king's squire, he told me to obey her in everything."

"Did he tell you to fuck her too?" Tyrion replies, and continues to rub it in. When he says, "Wait here. His Grace will want to hear this," Lancel falls to his knees and begs for mercy. He promises he will end the relationship with Cersei. But Tyrion, finding it "hard not to laugh," has other plans:
"My father told you to obey my sister? Very well, obey her. Stay close to her side, keep her trust, pleasure her as often as she requires it. No one need ever know ... so long as you keep faith with me. I want to know what Cersei is doing. Where she goes, who she sees, what they talk of, what plans she is hatching. All. And you will be the one to tell me, won't you?"
So Lancel swears he'll spy on Cersei for Tyrion. And Tyrion tells him he'll release Pycelle, but he won't restore him to the council. As for Ser Jacelyn, he tells Lancel to say he believes he can win him over to her from Tyrion's side. He also warns Lancel not to get Cersei pregnant: "I want no more nephews, that clear?"

When Lancel leaves, Tyrion regrets what he and Cersei are doing to the boy, who "was unlikely to live out the year." He summons Bronn and they ride to Chataya's brothel and the secret passage that takes him to Shae. On the way he thinks, "The only way to defeat my sister is to play her own game, and that was something the Lords Stark and Arryn would never do. Small wonder that both of them were dead, while Tyrion Lannister had never felt more alive."

When he sees Chataya, he reflects on her "elegance and dignity" even though she was a prostitute, and remembers that she regards herself as a priestess and not a whore. "Perhaps that is the secret. It is not what we do, so much as why we do it. Somehow that thought comforted him." And after having sex with Shae, he reflects:
It is real, all of it, he thought, the wars, the intrigues, the great bloody game, and me in the center of it ... me, the dwarf, the monster, the one they scorned and laughed at, but now I hold it all, the power, the city, the girl. This was what I was made for, and gods forgive me, but I do love it.... And her. And her.


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