By Charles Matthews

Sunday, September 25, 2011

14. A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 474-502


Lord Hoster Tully is dead, and his funeral is being prepared. But in the meantime, emissaries have arrived from the Tullys in response to the proposal of marriage. Edmure Tully, who has inherited Riverrun from his father, is furious that the emissaries are Lame Lothar Frey and Walder Rivers, Lord Walder's bastard son. "'Walder Frey should be flayed and quartered!' he'd shouted. 'He sends a cripple and a bastard to treat with us, tell me there is no insult meant by that.'" Robb, whose own marriage is the cause of the rift with the Freys, is more conciliatory.

The funeral involves sending Lord Hoster's body downriver in a boat, and then setting it on fire with a flaming arrow. It is Edmure's duty to shoot the arrow at the boat as it goes downstream, but he botches it three times before handing the bow to his uncle, Ser Brynden, who succeeds in igniting the pyre. Edmure goes off to sulk. He has taken his father's death so hard that Catelyn has lied and told him that Lord Hoster whispered Edmure's name at the end, when in fact his "last word had been 'Tansy.'"

There had been no word from her sister Lysa even about her father's death, let alone about sending troops to support Robb. Catelyn has also not heard from King's Landing, where she hoped Brienne had arrived with Jaime, and might even be on the way back with Sansa and Arya.

Lothar Frey now apologizes for intruding on the funeral and asks for an audience with Robb. He says that his father "instructed me to say that he was young once, and well remembers what it is like to lose one's heart to beauty."
Catelyn doubted very much that Lord Walder had said any such thing, or that he had ever lost his heart to beauty. The Lord of the Crossing had outlived seven wives and was now wed to his eighth, but he spoke of them only as bedwarmers and brood mares. Still, the words were fairly spoken, and she could scarce object to the compliment.
After others have expressed their condolences, Robb asks if he may speak to Catelyn. They go to the godswood, where he broods on the mistakes of diplomacy that have been made, and says, "I have won every battle, yet somehow I'm losing the war.... The ironmen hold Winterfell, and Moat Cailin too. Father's dead, and Bran and Rickon, maybe Arya. And now your father too." And now he tells her something that he has waited until after the funeral to reveal to her: Sansa's marriage to Tyrion.

Catelyn wonders why this arrangement was made, and Robb proposes that it was done to gain Winterfell for the Lannisters: "With Bran and Rickon dead, Sansa is my heir. If anything should happen to me...."
She clutched tight at his hand. "Nothing will happen to you. Nothing. I could not stand it. They took Ned, and your sweet brothers. Sansa is married, Arya is lost, my father's dead ... if anything befell you, I would go mad, Robb. You are all I have left. You are all the north has left."
She now suggests that he make peace with the Lannisters: "You would not be the first king to bend the knee, nor even the first Stark." But he refuses to consider it. "The Lannisters killed my father." And when she says, "Do you think I have forgotten that?" he replies, "I don't know. Have you?" She leaves, angrily.

The chill between them remains at supper, when Lothar Frey delivers another bit of bad news: Lord Walder has received a letter from his grandsons who were Catelyn's wards at Winterfell, the two Walders. "Winterfell is burned," he tells them. He blames the burning on Theon Greyjoy, not on the Bastard of Bolton. Ser Rodrik Cassel was killed, he tells them, and many of the people at the castle as well. The women and children, along with the two Walders, were taken to the Dreadfort. "All I can tell you is that my nephews claim it was this bastard son of Bolton's who saved the women of Winterfell, and the little ones." When Robb asks about Theon Greyjoy, Lothar says he doesn't know.

Then he tells them that his father has agreed to the marriage of Edmure to sixteen-year-old Roslin Frey, but on the condition that Robb apologize in person "for the insult done to House Frey." Robb agrees readily to that condition. Edmure, however, suggests it might be better if he met Lady Roslin first, but Walder Rivers replies, "You must accept her now, my lord.... Else my father's offer is withdrawn." And Lothar says that his father insists that the marriage must take place at once.

Robb asks Lothar and Walder to excuse them, and they take their leave. Edmure is furious at what he sees as an insult, but Catelyn puts it down to Lord Walder's injured pride. And Robb reminds him that they can't afford another slight to the Freys. Moreover, he says, he wants to return to the north, to see about Winterfell, and find out "what this bastard of Bolton's is about, or whether Theon is still alive and on the loose." And Catelyn insists that the wedding "must happen." Brynden Blackfish joins in the urging, and Edmure capitulates.


In their cell, Lord Alester tells Davos that someone is coming. The guard appears, followed by Ser Axell Florent and four guardsmen. Alester is certain that it is he who has been sent for, but it turns out to be Davos. Alester cries out in dismay as Davos is removed from the cell and Axell tells the jailer to take the torch as well, leaving his brother in pitch darkness.

Davos asks if he is being taken to Melisandre and is told that she will be there, but that the summons came from Stannis. His legs are aching by the time they reach the top of the stairs and emerge onto a bridge that connects the prison tower to the Stone Drum. In the middle of the bridge, Axell stops and tells Davos that if it were up to him, he would burn both Davos and his brothers as traitors. And he adds, "His Grace must make me his Hand, in place of his traitor brother. And you will tell him so." Davos says nothing, but Axell says that the queen wants him to have the appointment, as does Salladhor Saan, but Stannis seems to have some reason for hesitating. So Davos must "join your voice to ours. Tell him that I am the only Hand he needs. Tell him, and when we sail I shall see that you have a new ship." And he backs Davos up against the waist-high wall of the bridge, then shoves him a little farther out so that he is leaning over the void below. "Do you hear me?"

Davos says, "I hear," and they proceed to the Chamber of the Painted Table, which centers on "a massive slab of wood carved and painted in the shape of Westeros as it had been in the time of Aegon the Conqueror." Davos is shocked by the sight of Stannis, who seems to have aged ten years since he last saw him before they sailed for the Battle of Blackwater. But he seems to smile when he sees Davos, who kneels before him. Stannis tells him to rise: "I have missed you, ser. I have need of good counsel, and you never gave me less." Then he adds, "So tell me true -- what is the penalty for treason?"

Davos answers that the penalty is death, and then he realizes that Stannis is not talking about him. He thinks of his cellmate, and says, "Sire, Lord Florent meant no treason." Stannis thinks otherwise, arguing that Alester's proposal to marry his daughter to Joffrey, "a bastard born of incest," was treasonous. Then he talks of how his brother Robert could convert his enemies into friends, while "it would seem that I inspire only betrayal. Even in mine own blood and kin." Ser Axell speaks up to plead that Stannis give him "the chance to prove to you that not all Florents are so feeble."

Stannis tells Davos that Ser Axell wants to resume conflict with the Lannisters, and asks him to outline his plan for doing so. They would capture Claw Isle, a few hours' sail from Dragonstone and the seat of House Celtigar. Lord Adrian Celtigar had fought for Stannis on the Blackwater, but had gone over to Joffrey and now remains in King's Landing. Axell proposes laying waste to Claw Isle "so the realm might see the fate of those who bed with Lannisters." When Axell finishes with his proposal, Stannis asks Davos what he thinks of it. Davos remembers Axell's threats, but he decides to be honest: He thinks it is "folly ... aye, and cowardice."

Axell's outraged cry is silenced by Stannis, who asks Davos to continue. Davos says, first, that there aren't any Lannisters on Claw Isle. And that Lord Celtigar "is an old done man, who wants no more than to end his days in his castle, drinking his fine wine out of his jeweled cups." But Celtigar went to battle when Stannis called on him to do so. "Claw Isle is weakly held, yes. Held by women and children and old men. And why is that? Because their husbands and sons and fathers died on the Blackwater, that's why.... These smallfolk are no traitors...."

But Ser Axell insists that they are: The men who followed Celtigar committed treason when they joined him in pledging loyalty to Joffrey. Stannis appears to agree with Axell: "It is every man's duty to remain loyal to his rightful king, even if the lord he serves proves false." Davos fears that he has already lost the argument, but he plunges ahead: "As you remained loyal to King Aerys when your brother raised his banners?" Axell breaks the "Shocked silence" that follows Davos's riposte by drawing his dagger and shouting "Treason!" But Stannis tells him to put away his knife and leave them, and to send in Melisandre.

As they wait for Melisandre, Stannis reminds Davos that he can cut out his tongue the way he chopped off his fingertips, but he admits that the decision to follow Robert in his rebellion against Aerys was not easy, but having done it, he feels justified in asserting that he is the rightful king, and that he has a duty to try to claim the Iron Throne. And then he asks Davos why he wanted to murder Melisandre.

"Four of my sons burned on the Blackwater," Davos replies. "She gave them to the flames." But Stannis says the fires were not her work. "Curse the Imp, curse the pyromancers, curse that fool of Florent who sailed my fleet into the jaws of a trap." Melisandre, he says, "remains my faithful servant." So was Maester Cressen, Davos replies. "She slew him, as she killed Ser Cortnay Penrose and your brother Renly." But Stannis claims that Melisandre prophesied Renly's death, but didn't kill him. She was with him at the time. "And it was Melisandre who told me to send for you when Ser Axell wished to give you to R'hllor.... Does that surprise you?"

Davos admits that it does. Then Stannis says that Edric Storm, Robert's bastard son from Storm's End,  is ill, and that Maester Pylos has been leeching him. The illness is not serious, but Melisandre says "There is power in a king's blood." He points to the Painted Table and comments that there are no borders on it: "It is all one. One realm, for one king to rule alone." Davos says, "One king means peace." Stannis says he will "bring justice to Westeros," and that Axell's plan to lay waste to Claw Isle is "evil, just as you said." Then he says, "On your knees, Onion Knight."

Davos is startled, but when Stannis repeats it as a command he complies. Stannis draws his sword, Lightbringer, asks Davos to swear to serve and defend him, and proclaims, "Then rise again, Davos Seaworth, and rise as Lord of the Rainwood, Admiral of the Narrow Sea, and Hand of the King." Davos protests that he is lowborn and illiterate and that Stannis's lords won't obey him. They'll make new ones who will, Stannis insists. And when Davos protests that there are others better fitted for the office of Hand, Stannis names a few, but says, "I trust none of them as I trust you, my lord of Rainwood. You will be my Hand. It is you I want beside me for the battle."

They're not strong enough for a battle with the Lannisters, Davos protests.
"It is the great battle His Grace is speaking of," said a woman's voice, rich with the accents of the east. Melisandre stood at the door in her red silks and shimmering satins, holding a covered silver dish in her hands. "These little wars are no more than a scuffle of children before what is to come. The one whose name may not be spoken is marshaling his power, Davos Seaworth, a power fell and evil and strong beyond measure. Soon comes the cold, and the night that never ends." She placed the silver dish on the Painted Table. "Unless true men find the courage to fight it. Men whose hearts are fire."
Stannis says she has shown him what she means in the flames: He saw a high hill in a forest, with men dressed in black surrounded by "shapes moving through the snow" and he "felt a cold so terrible I shivered." Davos is terrified by the conviction in the king's voice, but doesn't understand what he's talking about. Melisandre says that it means that "Westeros must unite beneath her one true king, the prince that was promised, Lord of Dragonstone and chosen of R'hllor."

Stannis says he doesn't understand why R'hllor should have chosen him, and why Renly couldn't have joined forces with him. He dreams of Robert, who was so good at fighting. "The Lord of Light should have made Robert his champion. Why me?" Melisandre tells him it's because he is "a righteous man." Stannis touches the covered silver dish. But Melisandre warns him, "this is not the way," that there is a better way to achieve what they want: "Give me the boy, Your Grace. It is the surer way. The better way. Give me the boy and I shall wake the stone dragon."

But Stannis refuses Melisandre's request. "My daughter has grown fond of him. And he is mine own blood." The boy has his brother's blood, Melisandre insists. "A king's blood. Only a king's blood can wake the stone dragon." But whatever Melisandre has in mind for Robert's bastard, Edric Storm, remains unspoken. Stannis doesn't fully believe in her. "The dragons are done," he insists. The Targaryens tried to bring them back and failed. They have the leeches, and they'll have to do.

Melisandre throws some powder onto the brazier and it flames up, then she takes the dish to Stannis and raises the lid, revealing three blood-fattened leeches. "The boy's blood, Davos knew. A king's blood." Stannis picks up a leech, and Melisandre tells him, "Say the name."

"'The usurper,' he said. 'Joffrey Baratheon.'" He tosses the leech into the fire and picks up the second.

"'The usurper,' he declared, louder this time. "'Balon Greyjoy.'" After he tosses the second leech on the flames, he picks up the third and looks at it for a longer time.

"'The usurper,' he said at last. 'Robb Stark.' And he threw it on the flames."

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