By Charles Matthews

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

9. A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 372-403


Catelyn has gone to a sept to pray before the battle between Stannis and Renly, and she finds the faces of the gods as portrayed in the charcoal drawing on the walls of this simple place of worship remind her of people.
The Father's face made her think of her own father, dying in his bed at Riverrun. The Warrior was Renly and Stannis, Robb and Robert, Jaime Lannister and Jon Snow. She even glimpse Arya in those lines, for just a moment.... When she looked up at the Mother again, it was her own mother she saw.... She was always so calm, Catelyn thought, remembering her mother's soft hands, her warm smile.... She wondered what Lady Minisa would make of her eldest daughter, kneeling here before her.... I have lost my daughters, Robb does not want me, and Bran and Rickon must surely think me a cold and unnatural mother. I was not even with Ned when he died....
And then she thinks of Cersei, who is also a mother, and wonders if she prays to the Mother as well. If Cersei had killed Ned and Jon Arryn because they learned her secret, Catelyn wonders, "Would I do any less for my own?" And then she remembers Bran's fall and the attack on him and realizes that he must know something too. "Gods be good, he must have seen something, heard something, that was why they tried to kill him in his bed."

She returns to Renly's pavilion, where Brienne is helping him put on his armor, and tells him she needs to talk with him. He is arguing with two of his knights, who urge him to attack before daybreak, but Renly maintains that would be "unchivalrous." Finally he agrees to speak with Catelyn, who tells him of the attack on Bran. There had been a hunt on the day when Bran fell, and most of the men had gone, but Jaime had remained behind at Winterfell, as had Cersei. Renly gets the point: "you believe the boy caught them at their incest." She begs him to let her go tell Stannis as well. She says Robb will set aside his crown if Renly and Stannis will too. Then they can call a Great Council at which "the assembled lords of the Seven Kingdoms choose who shall rule them."

But Renly laughs at the idea. "The time for talk is done. Now we shall see who is stronger." Brienne kneels to buckle the belt that holds Renly's longsword. Suddenly there is a gust of wind that opens the entrance to the tent. When Catelyn turns to look, she sees what she takes to be Renly's shadow on the walls of the tent, lifting his sword. But she realizes that Renly's sword is still sheathed.
"Cold," said Renly in a small puzzled voice, a heartbeat before the steel of his gorget parted like cheesecloth beneath the shadow of a blade that was not there. He had time to make a small thick gasp before the blood came gushing out of his throat.
Brienne cries out when she sees the blood, and screams when he collapses into her arms. Catelyn recognizes that "Something dark and evil had happened here," but all she knows is that "Death came in that door and blew the life out of him as swift as the wind snuffed out his candles." Ser Robar Royce and Ser Emmon Cuy come rushing in, and when they see Brienne covered with Renly's blood they assume that she has killed him. Emmon picks up a battle-axe and starts for Brienne as Catelyn cries out. But Brienne swiftly pulls Renly's sword and parries the attack, then pivots and cuts off the hand of a man who has moved in behind her with a torch. Brienne holds off the attackers, and Catelyn tries to persuade Ser Robar that Stannis had killed Renly.

It was sorcery of some kind, she argues, as Brienne kills another guardsman. Hearing shouts from outside, Catelyn says, "She is innocent, Robar. You have my word, on my husband's grave and my honor as a Stark." Robar believes her, and tells Catelyn to get Brienne away. Emmon is still fighting with Brienne, but Catelyn knocks him down with an iron brazier, and she and Brienne escape into the darkness outside.

They move slowly to avoid attracting notice, but already the word has spread and there is disarray among the troops. Brienne asks Catelyn what had happened, and Catelyn tells her about the shadow that she first thought was Renly's but then recognized as Stannis's. "I felt him. It makes no sense, I know...."

Catelyn's escort is waiting for her, and she persuades Brienne to ride with them. "We were both with the king when he was killed. That will not be forgotten." As they ride away, Catelyn realizes that "Stannis has won all with a single evil stroke. I am the rightful king, he had declared, his jaw clenched hard as iron, and your son no less a traitor than my brother here. His day will come as well."


They have reached a hill that rises above the forest. It's known as the Fist of the First Men because of its shape. At its top there is a space enclosed by "a chest-high wall of tumbled rocks" that was said to have been "a ringfort of the First Men in the Dawn Age." Lord Mormont thinks it a good site for their encampment, but Jon is concerned because of the lack of water. And when he finds Ghost, the wolf won't enter the circle of stones. "It was not like him to be so unsettled." When the darkness comes on, Jon finds his own "sense of foreboding" increases, but he tells himself to "Stop acting the boy."

Mormont proposes to settle in and fortify the encampment, then wait for the wildlings to pass by. Jon protests that if the rangers don't move from sight of the Fist, then it will be hard for them to find his Uncle Benjen. But Mormont provokes him to think for a moment and Jon realizes, "it might be easier for one man to find two hundred than for two hundred to find one." Mormont concurs: "If Ben Stark is alive and free, he will come to us, I have no doubt." But they also acknowledge the possibility that he might come to them if he's dead, too.

Jon is not the only one feeling uneasy. The forester Dywen says, "I know this wood as well as any man alive, and I tell you, I wouldn't care to ride through it alone tonight. Can't you smell it?" He says it "smells ... well ... cold." The others scoff, but Jon agrees, remembering the night the undead man attacked in the Lord Commander's chambers. "It smells like death." He hears the sound of wolves howling, and then sees Ghost's red eyes glowing -- the wolf has decided to come inside the ringfort, but he is still uneasy. Jon follows him outside and down the hill, wondering why he is doing this.

When he reaches the stream, Ghost is drinking, but then he is off again. Jon calls on him to stay, but Ghost doesn't obey. Jon thinks of returning to the fort, but he follows Ghost into the forest where he finds the wolf digging into what Jon thinks at first is a grave. Two feet beneath the loose earth he finds a bundle. It contains a dozen knives, as well as spearheads and arrowheads, carved from "Dragonglass. What the maesters call obsidian." There is also a warhorn filled with more arrowheads.  When Jon examines the cloth in which all of this was wrapped he finds that it is "the black cloak of a Sworn Brother of the Night's Watch."


Bran is summoned to Maester Luwin's quarters where Rickon and the Frey cousins are already gathered. A raven has arrived with news of Robb's victory. Though he is pleased by the news, he feels uneasy because Tywin Lannister remains undefeated, and he remembers Osha saying that Robb was "marching the wrong" way when he left. There is also news that the Freys' uncle Stevron Frey was killed in the battle, but the two Walders are unmoved by it and fall to arguing about who will be their grandfather's heir. Luwin scolds them for not grieving for their uncle, but Bran has a sudden revelation: "They like the taste of this dish better than I do."

He returns to his room, where he asks Osha if she has ever seen a three-eyed crow. She laughs and says she hasn't. Then Jojen and Meera come to his room, and Bran admits that he has seen the fulfillment of Jojen's dream about Maester Luwin serving him some delicious meat that he doesn't enjoy, and serving the Freys inferior meat that they relish. Bran's muted response to the news of Robb's victory and the Freys' gossiping after the news of their uncle's death are parallel to what Jojen had dreamed. "The green dreams take strange shapes sometimes," Jojen says. So Bran now wants to hear about the dream of the bad thing coming to Winterfell.

"It is the sea that come," Jojen says. He dreamed that the castle had flooded, and among the drowned men floating in the yard are Alebelly, the septon, and the smith, Mikken. Bran says they must warn them, but Jojen says it won't make any difference, and Meera argues that they won't believe him. As he agreed he would, he now tells Jojen and Meera what he dreams: the wolf dreams, the crow urging him to fly, the tree that calls his name, and the nightmares about falling. Meera asks if that's all, and he lies and says yes, omitting the ones in which Jaime Lannister appears.

Jojen says people will call him a warg, a shapechanger, if they hear about the wolf dreams. "Some will hate you if they know what you are. Some will even try to kill you." Bran insists that he doesn't want to be a warg; he wants to be a knight.
"A knight is what you want. A warg is what you are. You can't change that, Bran, you can't deny it or push it away. You are the winged wolf, but you will never fly." Jojen got up and walked to the window. "Unless you open your eye." He put two fingers together and poked Bran in the forehead, hard.
Bran is left more confused by this, and he keeps poking at his forehead to try to find the third eye. He also tries to warn Mikken and Septon Chayle about Jojen's dream, but as Jojen predicted, they don't believe him. Alebelly does, however, and refuses to bathe until the other guards gang up on him and wash away his stink.

Ser Rodrik returns from his task, which was to rescue Lady Hornwood, who had been kidnapped by Roose Bolton's bastard son. They had killed the bastard, but failed to rescue Lady Hornwood, who had starved to death in the tower the bastard had locked her in after their wedding. He had forced her to sign a document naming him her heir, which means that Roose Bolton has a claim to her lands. This has touched off a battle between other factions claiming the inheritance. Ser Rodrik has taken prisoner the bastard's servant, "a fleshy young man with fat moist lips and long hair who smelled like a privy," and who is consequently known as Reek.

Bran tells Ser Rodrik about Jojen's prophecy that Winterfell is going to be attacked by the sea. Luwin says he has "spoken to Bran about the uncertainty of such prophecies, but if truth be told, there is trouble along the Stony Shore. Raiders in longships, plundering fishing villages. Raping and burning." Since there is a possibility that Ser Rodrik might have to deal with these sea-dwellers, he asks if Jojen saw him drowned, and Bran says no.

That night, Bran and Jojen and Meera are playing a game, and Bran suggests that if they don't go near the sea, the prophecy might not come true, but Jojen insists, "The things I see in green dreams can't be changed." Meera asks what's the point of a prophecy if you "can't heed it and change what's to come," but Jojen insists that's the way it works. She blurts out that Bran should fight to change things, and then realizes that she's said too much. Bran sees that she's hiding something from him and asks, "Was I drowned?"
"Not drowned." Jojen spoke as if every word pained him. "I dreamed of the man who came today, the one they call Reek. You and your brother lay dead at his feet, and he was skinning off your faces with a long red blade.... I saw you and Rickon in your crypts, down in the dark with all the dead kings and their stone wolves.... The dream was green, Bran, and the green dreams do not lie."


News has arrived of Renly's death, and Varys is sharing it with Cersei, Littlefinger, and Tyrion.  "Most of the lords who rode with Lord Renly to Storm's End have gone over banner-and-blade to Stannis, with all their chivalry." Storm's End hasn't fallen, however, and Loras Tyrell has left for Bitterbridge with his sister, Renly's wife, and other soldiers. Renly's body has disappeared. Tyrion sees an opportunity to gain the Tyrells and their bannermen. They should arrange a marriage between Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell.

When Cersei objects, "Joffrey is betrothed to Sansa Stark," Tyrion says, "What advantage is there in wedding the king to the daughter of a dead traitor?" And Littlefinger adds that the Tyrells are richer than the Starks, and that Margaery is beautiful "and beddable besides" -- Sansa is not yet old enough to marry. Cersei says that Joffrey is not old enough to think about "such things" as sex, but Tyrion knows better. He "had spoken with Varys about how they might arrange for Joffrey to visit Chataya's. A taste of honey might sweeten the boy." Cersei argues that Joffrey would never consent to the marriage, but Tyrion points out that until he comes of age in three years, he has to do what the regent and the Hand tell him to do.

So Cersei gives in. "Make your offer then, but gods save you all if Joff does not like this girl." Then they argue about who should go to Bitterbridge and persuade the Tyrells to the marriage. Littlefinger volunteers to do so, to Tyrion's surprise: "What gain does he see in this?" He doesn't trust Littlefinger and would rather keep him around where he can control him, but the only other option is to go himself, and if he left King's Landing, "all that he had managed to accomplish would be undone." Then Littlefinger argues for a large contingent of guards and a commission in writing signed and sealed by Joffrey and all the members of the council.

After the meeting, Cersei tells Tyrion, "I know we do not always agree on policy, but it seems to me that I was wrong about you. You are not so big a fool as I imagined." And to his astonishment she kisses him on his forehead. He is certain she is up to something. 

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