By Charles Matthews

Friday, September 23, 2011

11. A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 382-412


Being fitted for her new dress delights Sansa and fills her head with more romantic notions about Willas, the man she expects to marry. Then Cersei enters and surveys how Sansa looks, and suggests she wear the moonstones Joffrey had given her. Once that is added, she nods approvingly and says, "Yes. The gods have been kind to you, Sansa. You are a lovely girl. It seems almost obscene to squander such sweet innocence on that gargoyle."

Sansa is puzzled, and when Cersei adds a maiden's cloak -- a garment apparently worn by a bride -- to the outfit, she is terrified. Then Cersei says the septon and the wedding guests are waiting, and Sansa cries out "No." It's then that she learns she is about to be married to Tyrion. She thinks then that she should have taken Ser Dontos's advice and fled, but when she tries to run she is stopped. Ser Meryn Trant and Ser Osmund Kettleblack are there to escort her. Cersei tells them to carry her if they have to, but be careful with the gown -- "it was very costly."

When Ser Osmund tells her, "almost gently," to be brave: "Wolves are supposed to be brave, aren't they?" She pulls herself together and reminds herself that it was Tyrion who saved her from being beaten. When Joffrey meets her and says, "I'm your father today," she bristles and talks back to him, so he bullies her by reminding her that he can marry her off to "the pig boy" if he wants to. She begs Joffrey not to marry her to Tyrion, but just as she is doing so, Tyrion himself appears and asks if he may speak to her privately.

He takes her aside and tells her that he is sorry to be doing this, especially so suddenly, but his father "felt it necessary, for reasons of state." He tells her she has to marry either him or his cousin Lancel, whom he knows to be still recovering from his wounds and may not live. She doesn't want to marry any Lannister, but knows she has no choice in the matter. "You were kind to me, I remember," she tells him, and they go off to be married.

At the ceremony, she realizes that none of the Tyrells are present, having been thwarted in their plans to marry her to Willas. Joffrey cops a feel as he removes her maiden's cloak. Tyrion is a foot and a half shorter than she is, and when it comes time for him to place his cloak on her as a sign of his protection, he is unable to reach high enough. He tugs on her skirt, a suggestion that she kneel, but she stubbornly ignores him: "Why should I spare his feelings, when no one cares about mine?" she thinks. The guests begin laughing and Joffrey orders Ser Dontos to get down on his hands and knees. "And so it was that her lord husband cloaked her in the colors of House Lannister whilst standing on the back of a fool."

When she sees the look on Tyrion's face, however, she is ashamed, and she kneels in front of him as they exchange a kiss. Still, when the septon pronounces them wed, "She had to bite her lip to keep from sobbing."

The Tyrells are at the wedding feast, but only Margaery acknowledges her, giving her "a sad look." The Queen of Thorns never looks at her, and the other women and girls she had thought of as friends ignore her completely. She sits there, not tasting the food, dreading the custom known as "the bedding," in which she would be carried to the marriage bed by the men, who would undress her along the way, making ribald jokes, while the women performed the same task with Tyrion. When the dancing starts, she asks Tyrion if he wants to lead the dance with her, but he replies, "I think we have already given them sufficient amusement for one day, don't you?" She sits there with him, watching the others dance, until Ser Galan Tyrell asks if he may dance with her.

Ser Galan not only dances with her but also conveys the sympathies of the Tyrells. He adds, too, that he has noticed how she looks at his brother, the Knight of Flowers, and tells her, "Loras is valiant and handsome, and we all love him dearly ... but your Imp will make a better husband. He is a bigger man than he seems, I think." It's another glance at Loras's still-veiled homosexuality. The motions of the dance bring her into contact with others, and finally with Joffrey, who says, "You shouldn't look so sad. My uncle is an ugly little thing, but you'll still have me." When she protests that he's marrying Margaery, he says he can still "have other women," and "My uncle will bring you to my bed whenever I command it." She stumbles through the rest of the dance, and then Joffrey proclaims, "It's time to bed them! Let's get the clothes off, and have a look at what the she-wolf's got to give my uncle!"

Tyrion, who has been drinking all the while, looks up and says, "I'll have no bedding." Joffrey says that he will if he commands it, and Tyrion drives his dagger into the table and says, "Then you'll service your own bride with a wooden prick. I'll geld you, I swear it." Sansa pulls away from Joffrey, ripping her sleeve, and Cersei whispers to her father, "Did you hear him?" But Lord Tywin rises and says, "I believe we can dispense with the bedding. Tyrion, I am certain you did not mean to threaten the king's royal person." Tyrion apologizes and says he made a bad joke because he envied Joffrey's "royal manhood. Mine own is so small and stunted." And if Joffrey cuts out his tongue he "will leave me no way at all to pleasure this sweet wife you gave me."

There is uneasy laughter, and Tywin excuses Tyrion on the ground of obvious drunkenness. Tyrion grabs Sansa and makes some bawdy jokes, then they leave quickly. Alone in the bridal chamber, Tyrion asks for another cup of wine, saying, "I am not truly drunk, you see. But I mean to be." Sansa pours herself a cup, hoping that things will go easier if she is drunk too. Tyrion tells her how different this wedding was from his first, and then asks Sansa how old she is. She says she will be thirteen "when the moon turns," and Tyrion is shocked at how young she is, but says, "Shall we get on with this, my lady?" He tells her, "My lord father has commanded me to consummate this marriage."

She clumsily undresses, and when she finally looks at him, "There was hunger in his green eye, it seemed to her, and fury in the black. Sansa did not know which scared her more." He says, "You're a child," and she says she has "flowered." He tells her that "abed, when the candles are blown out, I am made no worse than other men. In the dark, I am the Knight of Flowers." He is also, he says, generous and loyal, he has proved he is not a coward, and he is "cleverer than most." "Kindness is not a habit with us Lannisters, I fear, but I know I have some somewhere."

"He is as frightened as I am, Sansa realized." But she realizes that all she feels for him is "pity, and pity was death to desire." He tells her to get in bed, "We need to do our duty." She lies there with her eyes closed as he undresses, and shudders when his hand touches her breast. Then he tells her to open her eyes, and she sees him sitting there, naked and erect. But he tells her, "I cannot do this." He will wait, no matter what his father says, "Until you have come to know me better, and perhaps to trust me a little." And when she asks, "And if I never want you to, my lord?" he recoils for a moment and then says "that is why the gods made whores for imps like me" and leaves the bed.


They have reached the town of Stoney Sept, where Harwin says Arya's father won a battle known as the Battle of the Bells because the septons rang the bells to warn people to stay indoors. The town shows signs of more recent fighting, and it's only when the gatekeeper recognizes them that he opens a portal for them. They hear from the captain of the gate about the atrocities that have been committed in and around the town, and of the outlaw known as the Huntsman who is looking for revenge on the Lannisters for the rape of his wife and sister, the torching of his crops, and the killing of six of his dogs, whose bodies were thrown down his well.

In the marketplace there are a dozen "crow cages" in which naked men are held, unable to sit or lie or to defend themselves against the attacks of the crows, until they die. They were caught by the Huntsman, and when Arya hears that they are men loyal to Robb she is shocked. As they pass, some of the living men in the cages beg for water. Arya gets down from her horse and goes to the fountain to take a cup to one of them. A townsman protests, but Harwin says to let her be, and Lem says that Beric Dondarrion "don't hold with caging men to die of thirst." Gendry gives her a boost as she lets them drink by pouring the water on them. Then Anguy takes his bow and arrow and puts all of the prisoners out of their misery. "Valar morghulis," Arya thinks.

There is an inn on the market square, and "The buxom red-haired innkeep howled with pleasure at the sight of them," greeting most of the men by name. She spots Gendry, and comments on his strong arms, making him blush. Tom Stevenstrings says, "Tansy, you leave the Bull alone, he's a good lad." They are welcomed into the inn where Arya notices that there are "more serving wenches than any inn could want, and most of them young and comely. And come evenfall, lots of men started coming and going at the Peach." Tansy has two of the women carry Arya off to be bathed and then dressed "like one of Sansa's dolls in linen and lace" before they allow her to sit down and eat.

Arya whispers to Gendry, "I bet this is a brothel," which makes him blush again and say, "A brothel's no place for a highborn lady." One of the girls overhears this and says she's "a king's daughter.... They say King Robert fucked my mother when he hid here, back before the battle."
The girl did have hair like the old king's, Arya thought, a great thick mop of it, as black as coal. That doesn't mean anything, though. Gendry has the same kind of hair, too. Lots of people have black hair.
Her name is Bella, she says, and she tries to get Gendry to go with her. But he refuses and goes outside.  She overhears Tansy telling Lem and Harwin that Catelyn "and this other wench, the one who slew Renly" had spend the night in Jaime's cell, and that the next morning "Lady Catelyn cut him loose for love." To herself Arya denies that it's true, and feels "sad and angry and lonely, all at once." Then a drunken man sits down beside her, taking her for one of the prostitutes, but Gendry returns and scares him away by saying she's his sister. Arya is angry, not because he saved her from the man's attentions but because he said he was her brother. This makes Gendry angry: "I'm too bloody lowborn to be kin to m'lady high." She denies that that's how she meant it, but he tells her to go away, and she does.

In the room at the top of the house where they sleep, she gets out of the linen and lace and into her tunic, then lies down to sleep.
She dreamed of wolves that night, stalking through a wet wood with the smell of rain and rot and blood thick in the air. Only they were good smells in the dream, and Arya knew she had nothing to fear. She was strong and swift and fierce, and her pack was all around her, her brothers and her sisters. They ran down a frightened horse together, tore its throat out, and feasted. And when the moon broke through the clouds, she threw back her head and howled.
She wakes in the morning to the barking of dogs. There are dozens of them in the square, and a dozen riders open the crow cage and pull the fat man out of it and feed him to the dogs. One of the men says, "Here's your new castle, you bloody Lannister bastard" to a bound prisoner.

The noise wakes the others, and Tom says, "The Mad Huntsman's come back with another man for the cages." Arya says she heard them say he was a Lannister, and Gendry asks if they have caught the Kingslayer. Then Arya recognizes the prisoner. "The gods had heard her prayers after all."


Ghost is still gone when the party begins to scale the Wall. The forest grows right up next to it, giving them a start on the climb. Jon notices that the Thenns are increasingly uneasy as they get nearer to the Wall. "They have never seen the Wall before, not even the Magnar, Jon realized. It frightens them." But Jarl and his group are not afraid, having made the climb before. There are a dozen of them, including Jarl, and he divides them into three teams of four. He tells them that Mance has promised a sword for each of the members of the first team to reach the top.

Jarl's team climbs a tree that has grown up next to the Wall, and Jon watches as Jarl moves from the treetop onto the side of the Wall, then kicks toeholds in the surface of the ice with his spike-tipped boots. Using hammers, axes, and iron stakes, the first two men begin climbing the Wall while the third is just reaching the top of the tree. The other two teams are farther behind, not having found trees that were so well-placed.

Styr complains that they're not climbing fast enough and worries that they'll be spotted by a patrol of the Watch. Jon knows that climbing ice is harder than climbing stone and that the blocks of which the Wall is composed may be frozen solid, but their surfaces are wet and slick and that air gets trapped when the ice refreezes, making it fragile. They hit bad ice around noon when a piece that Jarl has looped his rope around gives way and big chunks fall on the climbers in his team. But they hold on, and Jarl is left dangling below the team until he regains a handhold.

The team led by Grigg the Goat catches up with Jarl's team. The four led by Errok are still behind. Jarl's and Grigg's teams move up side by side, but after six hours Jarl has moved ahead again. But then there is a loud crack and "a sheet of ice a foot thick and fifty feet square broke off from the Wall and came tumbling, crumbling, rumbling sweeping all before it." The ice landed even were Jon was watching, and he pulls Ygritte down to shield her from it. A chunk of ice breaks the nose of one of the Thenns. Jarl and his team have disappeared.

They find Jarl impaled on a splintered tree branch and the three other men still roped to him. One of them is still alive, but so badly injured that one of the Thenns responds to his plea of "Mercy" by putting him out of misery with a blow to the head from a stone mace. They gather wood and build a pyre. "The dead were burning when Grigg the Goat reached the top of the Wall. By the time Errok's four had joined them, nothing remained of Jarl and his team but bone and ash."

As the sun is setting, the teams on top of the wall lower ropes, which are attached to rope ladders that are uncasked below. The Thenns begin the climb, and by midnight Jon and Ygritte have joined them at the top. Two of the Thenns have fallen from the ladder, but they are the only other casualties of the climb.

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