By Charles Matthews

Monday, September 26, 2011

15. A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 503-529


Jaime finds himself sharing a tub in the Harrenhal bathhouse with Brienne, who is none too happy about it, of course. When she angrily gets out of the tub, he is surprised that the sight of her naked arouses him, but he also apologizes for insulting her. "I'm a maimed man, and bitter. Forgive me, wench. You protected me as well as any man could have, and better than most." But she misinterprets this sign of humility from him as mockery, and fails to accept the apology, angering him again. "Are you as thick as a castle wall? That was an apology. I am tired of fighting with you. What say we make a truce?"

"Truces are built on trust," she says, but before she can throw the epithet "Kingslayer" back at him, he protests that they don't call Robert Baratheon "oathbreaker": "He tore the realm apart, yet I am the one with shit for honor." He proceeds to tell her the reason why he killed Aerys Targaryeon.
"His Grace commanded his alchemists to place caches of wildfire all over King's Landing. Beneath Baelor's Sept and the hovels of Flea Bottom, under stables and storehouses, at all seven gates, even in the cellars of the Red Keep itself. Everything was done in the utmost secrecy by a handful of master pyromancers." 
Aerys even named his favorite pyromancer, Rossart, his Hand. When Rhaegar was defeated at the Trident, Aerys began his preparations. Jaime had become the member of the Kingsguard kept closest to the throne because Aerys wanted to keep his eye on him. "The traitors want my city, I heard him tell Rossart, but I'll give them naught but ashes. Let Robert be king over charred bones and cooked meat.... Aerys meant to have the greatest funeral pyre of all," though Jaime suspected that Aerys really believed the fire would turn him into a dragon.

Rhaegar's defeat brought Tywin Lannister into the rebellion on the side of Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark. Aerys sent a message to Jaime to bring him Tywin's head, and the messenger told him that Aerys was in conference with Rossart. Jaime realized that Aerys knew he was defeated, and was planning to put his final plan into action. So when he encountered Rossart, "dressed as a common man-at-arms, hurrying to a postern gate" to make his escape before the burning of the city, Jaime killed him, and then killed Aerys, "before he could find someone else to carry his message to the pyromancers."

Brienne asks, "If this is true, how is it no one knows?" Jaime responds sarcastically, "The knights of the Kingsguard are sworn to keep the king's secrets. Would you have me break my oath?" Besides, he says, "Do you think the noble Lord of Winterfell wanted to hear my feeble explanations? Such an honorable man. He only had to look at me to judge me guilty." His pride was wounded by Ned Stark's contempt, so he refused to provide an explanation. He now stands and starts to climb out of the tub, but he strikes his stump on the edge of the tub and faints from the pain.

When he comes to, Brienne is standing there with the guards and Qyburn, who says that Lord Bolton expects Jaime at dinner. Brienne says she will help him finish washing and dressing. The clothes that have been brought for her are ill-fitting, the only women's clothes in the castle that are large enough. Jaime observes that her neck and shoulders are thicker than his, and she looks terrible in pink. "A dozen cruel japes leaped into his head, but for once he kept them there. Best not to make her angry; he was no match for her one-handed."

He is still weak, and she helps him walk to the vast empty hall where Bolton is waiting for them at a table. He tells Jaime that "Edmure Tully has offered a thousand golden dragons for your recapture." Jaime says that Cersei will pay ten thousand. Bolton replies that Lord Karstark had offered his daughter in marriage for Jaime's head, but fortunately for Jaime, he has already married Lady Walda Frey -- "Fat Walda. My lord of Frey offered me my bride's weight in silver for a dowry, so I chose accordingly."

Brienne says that she has heard Bolton is giving Harrenhal to Vargo Hoat. He says yes, and that he is leaving soon to attend the wedding of Edmure Tully to Roslin Frey. Jaime hasn't heard about Robb's marriage, nor has Brienne, who expresses surprise that Robb would break his promise to marry a Frey. "Jaime almost felt sorry for Robb Stark. He won the war on the battlefield and lost it in a bedchamber, poor fool."

Bolton adds that Elmar Frey is upset because this means he won't marry Arya Stark. Brienne asks if there has been news of Arya, and Bolton says that she has been found and he means "to see her safely returned to the north." Brienne says that Tyrion had promised that Arya and Sansa would be returned in exchange for Jaime, but Bolton only laughs and tells her, "Lannisters lie." Jaime takes offense, but the only weapon he has is the cheese knife, which he threatens to put through Bolton's eye. Bolton replies, "In the north, we hold the laws of hospitality sacred still." But Jaime points out that he's not a guest, he's a prisoner.

Brienne insists that they must be freed so she can continue on her mission to take Jaime to be exchanged for Sansa and Arya, but Bolton says, "The raven that came from Riverrun told of an escape, not an exchange. And if you helped this captive slip his bonds, you are guilty of treason, my lady." Brienne rises in protest: "I serve Lady Stark." But Bolton replies, "And I the King in the North. Or the King who Lost the North, as some now call him. Who never wished to trade Ser Jaime back to the Lannisters." Then he urges her to sit, telling her, "I hope to send Ser Jaime on, just as you and Lady Stark desire."

However, he says, Vargo Hoat's amputation of Jaime's hand presents a problem. Hoat "meant to remove your sword as a threat, gain himself a grisly token to send to your father, and diminish your value to me." Since Hoat is Bolton's man, Bolton is incriminated in the mutilation. Jaime assures Bolton that if he'll send him to Cersei, he'll "sing as sweet a song as you could want, of how gently you treated me." He'd put it in writing, he says, if he had a hand to write with. But Bolton says he'll trust his word, which causes Jaime to reflect, "There's something I don't often hear."

Bolton says Jaime will leave as soon as Qyburn says he's well enough to travel, and that his captain, Walton Steelshanks will get him to King's Landing. Brienne says she will take charge of the girls when they are released, but Bolton says she needn't bother with them anymore: Sansa is married to Tyrion. Jaime will be on his way, he says, but "It would be unconscionable of me to deprive Lord Vargo of both his prizes.... Were I you, my lady, I should worry less about Starks and rather more about sapphires."


His father has sent him out to meet the contingent of Dornishmen who are arriving for the wedding. As they approach, Tyrion observes that "Nine of the greatest lords of Dorne were coming up the kingsroad, them or their heirs, and somehow Tyrion did not think they had come all this way just to see the dancing bear." But the leader of their company is not Prince Doran, as expected, but his brother Prince Oberyn Martell, who is fiercer and fitter than Doran, which leads Tyrion to think that trouble is brewing. And when he introduces the others in his company, one of them is "Ellaria Sand, mine own paramour." Tyrion thinks, "His paramour, and bastard-born. Cersei will pitch a holy fit if he wants her at the wedding.... Did Prince Doran mean to provoke a quarrel?"

So it would seem, when Prince Oberyn addresses his contingent and says, "Ellaria, lords and ladies, sers, see how well King Joffrey loves us. His Grace has been so kind as to send his own Uncle Imp to bring us to his court." Tyrion pretends to be amused, and then introduces his own retinue, realizing that its members "were nowise near as distinguished nor formidable a company as those who accompanied Prince Oberyn, as both of them knew full well."

Tyrion is familiar with Prince Oberyn, who is known as the Red Viper of Dorne because when he was sixteen, he was found in bed with the wife of Lord Yronwood. They fought a duel in which each was blooded, but Lord Yronwood died of his wounds, and the rumor persists that Oberyn's sword was poisoned. Now he was past forty and "had traveled in the Free Cities, learning the poisoner's trade and perhaps arts darker still." He had also "studied at the Citadel, going so far as to forge six links of a maester's chain before he grew bored." And "it was said that he bedded men and women both, and had begotten bastard girls all over Dorne" -- but never a son. He had also crippled Willas Tyrell.
There is no man in the Seven Kingdoms who will be less welcome at a Tyrell wedding, thought Tyrion. To send Prince Oberyn to King's Landing while the city still hosted Mace Tyrell, two of his sons, and thousands of their men-at-arms was a provocation as dangerous as Prince Oberyn himself. A wrong word, an ill-timed jest, a look, that's all it will take, and our noble allies will be at one another's throats.
As they ride to the city, Oberyn tells Tyrion that they had met before. "Your brother and sister were eight or nine, as I recall, and you had just been born." He says that he was disappointed when he discovered that Tyrion was not the monster that he had been told to expect: The stories were that he had been born with a pig's tail, that his head was twice the size of his body, that he'd been born with a full head of black hair and a beard, that he had lion's claws and his teeth were so big he couldn't close his mouth, "and between your legs were a girl's privates as well as a boy's."

Tyrion maintains his composure and jokes about the rumors: "Life would be much simpler if men could fuck themselves, don't you agree?" It was Cersei who showed Tyrion to him, Oberyn says. "When I commented that you seemed a poor sort of monster, your sister said, 'He killed my mother,' and twisted your little cock so hard I thought she was like to pull it off." It was Jaime who made her stop tormenting him, but when she stopped she said, "Everyone says he's like to die soon. He shouldn't even have lived this long." Tyrion thinks, "My sweet sister," but wonders why Oberyn is telling him all of this.

They talk of other things, such as the tax Lord Tywin has imposed on the brothels -- "a penny for each, ah ... act," Tyrion explains. His father had thought it would "improve the morals of the city," but the chief result is that Tyrion has been blamed for the tax, which has become known as "the dwarf's penny." Then Oberyn asks, "when will the justice be served?" -- the punishment for the murder of his sister Elia and her children. Tyrion tries to say that they have been preoccupied with "Wars and weddings," but Oberyn insists "I did not come for some mummer's show of an inquiry. I came for justice for Elia and her children, and I will have it. Starting with this lummox Gregor Clegane ... but not, I think, ending there."

Tyrion thinks it time to point out that Oberyn has brought only three hundred men whereas the city numbers half a million, and there are five thousand gold cloaks and his father's twenty thousand guards, not to mention the troops of House Tyrell. He also mentions the prowess of Loras Tyrell, though Oberyn scoffs at it. And he advises Oberyn to visit Chataya's brothel, recommending that he keep Dancy or Marie "by your side at all times." When Oberyn asks why, Tyrion replies, "You want to die with a breast in your hand, you said."

Then Tyrion rides on ahead, hoping to be present when Prince Oberyn meets King Joffrey.

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