Chett -- remember Chett? the one whose job as steward to Maester Aemon was taken over by Samwell back at Castle Black in book before last? -- is plotting to murder Lord Commander Mormont and a bunch of others (including, naturally, Samwell) at the camp on the First of the First Men. Okay, the Prologues to these books are usually sort of thick with backstory and a little hard to get into. But suffice it to say that after Jon Snow went off with Halfhand on the scouting mission, things have not gone so well back at the camp. This one is seen from Chett's point of view: He and several of his co-conspirators have been sent out foraging for food, without much success. The co-conspirators include Lark the Sisterman (which means he comes from the islands known as the Three Sisters) and Small Paul, neither of them much more appealing characters than the boil-plagued Chett. Back at the camp, there are ten more in on the conspiracy, which they plan to have accomplished by daybreak.
|Medieval iron caltrop|
So tonight the plan is to murder Mormont and his chief officers (plus Sam) while they sleep, then cut the tethers to the horses and release the dogs, which Chett has intentionally starved, among them. "They'll have snarling hounds and panicked horses all over the Fist, running through fires, jumping the ringwall, and trampling down tents. With all the confusion, it might be hours before anyone noticed that fourteen brothers were missing." The conspirators will be on their own after that, and Chett knows exactly what he wants to do: He'll go back to Craster's Keep and kill Craster and take over his harem of wives and daughters.
As they return to the Fist, Chett sees Samwell practicing archery, and doing poorly at it, along with Edd Tollett, known as Dolorous Edd for his steady pessimism. Sam is cheered when he actually sends an arrow into a tree, but then he sees Chett and "his smile curled up and died squeaking." Chett says Sam will have to do better when facing the wildlings or "One o' them will plant his axe right between those little pig eyes." But Dolorous Edd comes to Sam's aid and says that an axe must have split Chett's skull: "Is it true that half your wits leaked out on the ground and your dogs ate them?"
Chett growls and kicks his dogs and hopes he has time to kill Tollett too. Then he bullies his dogs back to the place where they are tied up, refuses to feed them, and goes to report to Mormont on their lack of success in finding meat. He thinks with pleasure that he won't have to speak to Mormont anymore once their plot is accomplished, then goes to listen in on what people are saying.
Lark reports that the officers are in Mormont's tent talking about things, and when Chett goes to get some food, the forester Dywen remarks, "The wood's too silent.... I never heard no deader wood than this." Chett notices some other conspirators sitting around the fire, including Dirk, who is called that after his weapon, which he is sharpening, and Sweet Donnel Hill, who "had white teeth and fat red lips and yellow locks that he wore in an artful tumble about his shoulders, and ... claimed to be the bastard of some Lannister."
But then a cry of "Assemble!" goes up, and everyone goes to the central fire, where Mormont tells them that the van of the wildlings, led by Harma Dogshead, will probably be there in ten days. Thoren Smallwood, the scout who sighted the wildlings, says, "Mance Rayder means to break the Wall and bring red war to the Seven Kingdoms. Well, that's a game two can play. On the morrow we'll bring the war to him." Mormont says they will ride at dawn and set up an ambush for them that will "make them swear we were three thousand, not three hundred." And Thoren outlines a plan for a guerrilla assault on the column. "If they break and return to their hovels, we've won. If not, we'll harry them all the way to the Wall, and see to it that they leave a trail of corpses to mark their progress."
Someone calls out, "We'll die." "Many of us," Mormont responds. "Mayhaps even all of us. But as another Lord Commander said a thousand years ago, that is why they dress us in black." And he reminds them of the oath they took when they joined the Watch. Chett joins in the recitation of the oath, and notices that several of his fellow conspirators do, too. "That was good. No sense to draw attention, when their hour was so close." But as he beds down for the night, he worries, "What if that bloody oath gave one of his a change of heart?"
He lies there thinking of how quiet it is, and he remembers the prostitute he killed when she spurned him because of his boils. He finds it hard to breathe and wonders if he had fallen asleep. And then he realizes that it's snowing. "It isn't fair, he wanted to scream. Snow would ruin everything he'd worked for, all his careful plans." It would make it easy to track the conspirators after they fled. But he can still murder Samwell, he thinks.
He has just reached the sleeping Sam when "the sound of the horn shuddered through the camp, faint and far, yet unmistakable." If it was a single blast of the horn, it would be one of the lookouts posted in the trees that ringed the camp, telling of the return of one of the scouting parties. Sam wakes and sits up, the ravens caw and the dogs bark, and Chett knows that the camp is waking up. He clutches the dagger and waits for the sound to die down, but then it comes again.
Sam gets to his feet and pulls on a chainmail hauberk. He sees Chett standing there and asks if it was two blasts on the horn. Chett replies, "Two blasts to call the Watch to arms. Two blasts for foes approaching. There's an axe out there with Piggy writ on it, fat boy. Two blasts means wildlings." He enjoys seeing the fear on Sam's face.
But then there's a third blast, and Sam says, "I heard three. They never blow three. Not for hundreds and thousands of years. Three means--"
"--Others." Chett made a sound that was half a laugh and half a sob, and suddenly his smallclothes were wet, and he could feel the piss running down his leg, see steam rising off the front of his breeches.
The last time we saw Jaime Lannister he was lying in filth in his cell at Riverrun, and Catelyn Stark had just called to Brienne to bring her sword. And now he is in a boat going downriver with Brienne and his cousin Ser Cleos Frey. He is still in chains, on both his wrists and his ankles. Catelyn has had him smuggled out of the castle and is sending him to King's Landing with new terms for the exchange of Jaime for Sansa and, or so Catelyn expects, Arya.
Jaime has nothing but contempt for his captors, the mannish Brienne and the timorous Cleos, and he doesn't mind expressing it. Catelyn has made Jaime swear that he "will never again take up arms against Stark nor Tully," that he will force Tyrion to send Sansa and Arya to her unharmed, and to swear it on his honor and on the lives of his family, and on the old gods and the new ones. "A strange woman, to trust her girls to a man with shit for honor," he thinks, but he knows that she's putting her trust in Tyrion and not in him.
He insults and bickers with Brienne as they make their way, and Ser Cleos tries to keep the peace: "We have far to go, we should not quarrel amongst ourselves." Jaime wonders if Cleos is "an honest muttonhead or a lickspittle." And then Cleos observes, regarding the charge that Jaime tried to murder Bran Stark, "Any man who'd believe that a Sworn Brother of the Kingsguard would harm a child does not know the meaning of honor." So Jaime concludes, "Lickspittle." He recalls that even Cersei was annoyed at his attempt to kill Bran, after the boy didn't die. They should have tried to frighten the boy into not telling what he had seen, instead of sending an assassin. Jaime wonders if Cersei had sent the assassin herself, but decides that if she had wanted Bran dead, she would have had Jaime kill him, because "it is not like her to chose [sic] a catspaw who would make such a royal botch of the killing."
When the wind changes, they raise the red-and-blue sail, in Tully colors. Jaime says they should be going to his father at Casterly Rock instead of to King's Landing, but Brienne reminds him that the girls are at King's Landing. Then he asks Ser Cleos for a knife, which Brienne denies him. He says he wants to shave, and asks Cleos to do it for him: "Leave the beard, but take the hair off my head." When Cleos asks why, Jaime says, "The realm knows Jaime Lannister as a beardless knight with long golden hair. A bald man with a filthy yellow beard may pass unnoticed. I'd sooner not be recognized when I'm in irons." When Ser Cleos is done, Jaime thinks, "I don't look as much like Cersei this way. She'll hate that."
As they continue downstream they see signs of the war: a floating corpse in Lannister crimson, deserted villages, occasional peasants who either run away or stare at them dully. They come upon the smoking remains of a large building and a tree with the hanged corpses of women. Brienne is shocked by "such wanton butchery," and steers for shore to bury the bodies. A sign on one of the women says, "They Lay With Lions," the lion being the Lannister sigil, which gives Jaime the opportunity to observe that what Brienne regards as an "unchivalrous" act was done by the side she is supporting. Ser Cleos remembers that this was an inn and that the women must be "Tavern wenches."
As they are trying to decide how to dig graves for the women, Brienne, who has climbed a tree to cut them down, spots a sail on the river. They hurry back to the boat. Jaime reports that the sail is "Mud red and watery blue," which means that it is a Tully boat in pursuit of them. Catelyn's unauthorized release of Jaime and Ser Cleos has been discovered. It is "a river galley," Jaime concludes, which means it has eighteen rowers, so there's little chance they can outrun it. As it gets closer, he can see that there are archers on board and that its captain is Ser Robin Ryger. Jaime is able to hail him, and Cleos urges Jaime to tell them that they were freed by Catelyn. But the reply is, "Catelyn Stark does not rule in Riverrun," which is what Jaime expected.
A volley of arrows is shot at them, hitting the mast, piercing the sail, and narrowly missing Jaime. As they reach a bend in the river, Brienne heads for a large island in the stream. Brienne tells Cleos to take the tiller and Jaime to row. She dives into the river and swims to a large cliff, which she begins to climb. Jaime tries to distract Ryger by calling out that they should settle this by single combat, which Ryger denies, then orders his bowmen to fire. But as he does, rocks begin to fall from the cliff, which Brienne has scaled, and then "a boulder the size of a cow detached itself from the top of the bluff."
The galley begins to sink, and the archers are thrown into the water. Jaime is delighted, thinking that he has been saved from the pursuers and has escaped from Brienne as well. But she has kept up with them and dives from the cliff and swims to the boat. Jaime thinks of braining her with the oar, but instead he uses it to help her climb aboard.
Ser Desmond Grell, whom Catelyn has known since childhood, is castellan of Riverrun, and it's his job to punish her for releasing Jaime. She knows the nature of her crime, and tells him, "If you fail to punish me, men will believe that we connived together to free Jaime Lannister. It was mine own act and mine alone, and I alone must answer for it." She suggests that she be put in the same cell and the same chains as Jaime. But Ser Desmond and the steward, Utherydes Wayn, realize that that's unthinkable, so they propose that she be confined to her quarters until her brother Edmure returns. Catelyn says instead that she would like to be confined with her dying father. They agree.
The steward tells her that Ser Robin Ryger has been sent to recapture Jaime, which Catelyn expected, but she hopes that Brienne can outrun them somehow. From her father's quarters, she has a view of the river, and she knows that she will be able to see Ser Robin's galley when it returns, but so far there's no sign of it. She is left with her unconscious father to think about Bran and Rickon, whom she believes to be dead.
Her father wakes and says the name, "Tansy," which Catelyn doesn't recognize. She has grown used to his thinking she is her mother or her sister, Lysa, and tries to tell him that she's Catelyn. But he continues, "Forgive me ... the blood ... oh, please ... Tansy...." She wonders if this was another woman in his life, and asks him, "Who is Tansy, my lord? Do you want me to send for her, Father? Where would I find the woman? Does she still live?" He groans, "Dead," and takes her hand and says, "You'll have others ... sweet babes, and trueborn." More clues to who Tansy might be. He coughs blood, and says, "... be a good wife and the gods will bless you ... sons ... trueborn sons..." Then he gives a cry of pain and tightens his hold on her hand. Maester Vyman comes with an opiate and Lord Hoster goes back to sleep.
She questions the maester about Tansy, but he has no clue other than that "The smallfolk often name their daughters after flowers and herbs." He leaves, telling her that his instructions are to keep conversation with her to a minimum. She spends the rest of the day looking out at the river, and in late afternoon sees a raven arriving. When Maester Vyman returns he tells her he had asked the steward about Tansy, but he had never heard of anyone by that name at Riverrun. She asks about the raven, and he tells her he shouldn't talk to her about it. But he gives in and tells her that Robb was wounded storming the Crag, but that it is "No cause for concern, he writes." Once again, he hurries away.
When she wipes her father's mouth, he moans, "Forgive me" and then "Tansy ... blood ... the blood ... gods be kind." She is disturbed again by this mystery, and sleeps poorly that night. She wakes up early, thinking about Tansy and wondering if her father had had a bastard with this woman. She wonders if Tansy could have been a name he called Lysa, who had had five miscarriages. But none of them had been at Riverrun where her father would have comforted her. "Never, unless ... unless she was with child, that first time...."
She and Lysa had married on the same day and had stayed at Riverrun when Ned and Jon Arryn went off to fight in Robert Baratheon's rebellion. Both of them had missed their periods too, and Lysa had been happy that Catelyn's son would inherit Winterfell and hers the Eyrie. But then Lysa had menstruated after all, and was miserable. "Catelyn had always thought that Lysa had simply been a little late, but if she had been with child...." She remembers that when Robb was born, she had given him to Lysa to hold, but Lysa had burst into tears and given him back, which she might have done if she had lost a child. Jon Arryn had been older than their father, and was childless. "He needed a young wife if House Arryn was to continue ... a young wife known to be fertile."
She goes to her father and says to him that she knows what he did, that he made Lysa marry Jon Arryn. "Lysa was the price Jon Arryn had to pay for the swords and spears of House Tully." The next day she wrote to Lysa, telling her about Bran and Rickon, but also writing about her father: "His thoughts are all of the wrong he did you, now that his time grows short." She tells Lysa that their father needs her forgiveness, and that if she can't come, to write to him, "A few words of love, so he might die in peace!" She gives the letter to Maester Vyman and then goes to the sept to pray.
Later that day, Edmure returns and tells her of Stannis's defeat at King's Landing and that "Highgarden has declared for Joffrey. Dorne as well. All the south." And then he berates her for releasing Jaime. Cersei will never release Sansa and Arya, he tells her, but she says she trusts Tyrion to do so. Then he tells her that Tyrion was wounded in the battle. "He'll be dead before your Brienne reaches King's Landing, if she ever does." He tells her that he has sent ravens to Roose Bolton. "By river or road, the way from Riverrun to King's Landing must needs take them close to Harrenhal." She is horrified. "Brienne might have gotten him to King's Landing safely ... so long as no one was hunting for them. But now...." She sends him away, convinced that she will never see her daughters again.