By Charles Matthews

Thursday, September 29, 2011

18. A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 590-619


They return to the hill known as High Heart, where Thoros builds a fire to see things in the flames, but when Arya looks at them she has the same experience that Davos had earlier: It just makes her eyes water. But Thoros fails to have any visions this time.

Gendry tells Thoros that he remembers him from when he was apprenticed to Tobho Mott, who called him "a sot and a fraud, as bad a priest as there every was." Thoros laughs and agrees that he was "no very holy priest," and that he only became one because his father sent him to the Red Temple when he was eight. He was sent to King's Landing as a missionary for R'hllor because "King Aerys so loved fire it was thought he might make a convert." It was King Robert who really liked him, especially because of the flaming sword trick that made Kevan Lannister's horse throw him. But he admits that Tobho Mott was right to complain about his setting swords on fire.

Beric speaks up behind him to say, "Fire consumes," in a way that silences Thoros. When Thoros asks what he's saying, Beric tells him, "Six times is too many," referring to his resurrections.

Later that night, Arya sees the tiny old woman return to sit by the embers of the fire and talk with Thoros, Lem, and Beric. She calls Dondarrion "the Lord of Corpses," which he tells her not to do, but asks her if she has news for them. In exchange for wine and a song from Tom (Lem refuses her request for a kiss with "a bit of tongue"), she tells them that Balon Greyjoy is dead and his heirs are fighting over the kingdom. Finally she calls out to Arya, "You cannot hide from me, child. Come closer, now." But when Arya gets closer, she says, "I thought it ws the lord who smelled of death...." And she begins to sob.

Thoros tells her not to frighten Arya, and Beric says they are taking her to Riverrun. But the old woman says that they aren't. If they want Arya's mother they should "seek her at the Twins. For there's to be a wedding." She asks for her song, so they wake Tom to sing to her. During the song, Arya asks what she meant about going to the Twins, and he promises to find out. A storm comes up, and the old woman disappears.

In the morning the rain continues, and several of the group have come down with fever and chills. One of them is Edric Dayne, known as Ned, squire to Lord Beric. Arya talks to him as they ride. He has been in battles alongside Beric, and she asks him if he has ever killed anyone. He protests, "I'm only twelve," which makes Arya think, "I killed a boy when I was eight." She reflects on the deaths she is responsible for, including the guard whose throat she cut and the ones Jaqen had taken care of for her.

Then he asks, "You have a baseborn brother ... Jon Snow?" And he tells her they are "milk brothers" -- his own mother had no milk to nurse him with, so he was nursed by Wylla, "Jon Snow's mother. He never told you? She's served us for years and years. Since before I was born." Arya is surprised by the news, and reminds herself to tell Jon that his mother's name is Wylla. He tells her his name, and that he is Lord of Starfall, which causes Gendry to snort, "Lords and ladies," so she throws a crabapple at him.

She recalls that there was an Arthur Dayne, known as the Sword of the Morning, and he tells her that he was his uncle and his wife, Lady Ashara, his aunt. "She threw herself into the sea from atop the Palestone Sword before I was born." Arya asks why she did that, and he says, "Your lord father never spoke of her?" She had met him and his brothers at Harrenhal, he says, and she died because "Her heart was broken." This strikes Arya as a stupid thing to do, though she realizes that Sansa would have thought it romantic. She asks who broke it, and Ned hesitates before telling her, "My aunt Allyria says Lady Ashara and your father fell in love at Harrenhal--"

Arya denies that her father loved anyone but her mother, but Gendry says, "He must have found that bastard under a cabbage leaf, then." She lashes out at him angrily, but he ignores her. "At least your father raised his bastard, not like mine. I don't even know my father's name. Some smelly drunk, I'd wager, like the others my mother dragged home from the alehouse." Arya is growing upset and she spurs her horse away from them. She catches up with Anguy the Archer and asks, "Dornishmen lie, don't they?" He tells her, "They're famous for it."

She spurs her horse on ahead, but Harwin come after her, warning her not to separate from the group. He has heard the conversation and tells her that the story about her father and Lady Ashara is an old one and that he doesn't really believe it. But even if it's true, it took place when her mother was betrothed to Lord Brandon, "so there's no stain o your father's honor." And as far as her suicide is concerned, it could have been from grief over the loss of her brother, the Sword of the Morning.

They reach an abandoned village, where they take shelter. Thoros builds another fire, and this time he he has a vision. Lord Beric tells him to call her over.
The red priest squatted down beside her. "My lady," he said, "the Lord granted me a view of Riverrun. An island in a sea of fire, it seemed. The flames were leaping lions with long crimson claws. And how they roared! A sea of Lannisters, my lady. Riverrun will soon come under attack."
Arya protests that her brother will beat them, but Thoros says he didn't see either Robb or her mother in the flames. The old woman had spoken of a wedding, and "she has her own way of knowing things." Beric asks if her uncle, Brynden Blackfish, would know her, but she doesn't recall ever meeting him. He decides not to proceed to Riverrun without better information.

Furious at this delay in her plans, Arya runs away. "She wanted Riverrun, not Acorn Hall; she wanted her mother and her brother Robb, not Lady Smallwood or some uncle she never knew." She hears people shouting her name as she runs, and suddenly "A mailed hand closed hard around her arm." It is Sandor Clegane.


He is heading back to King's Landing, to his great relief, with an escort headed by Steelshanks Walton and with Qyburn, the de-chained maester, to look after his health. Qyburn rides up next to Jaime to let him know that he was the one who had sent a prostitute to his bed the night before: "Your fever was largely gone, and I thought you might enjoy a bit of exercise." But Qyburn doesn't know that Jaime had sent her away, anticipating his return to Cersei, so he burbles on, "Pia is quite healthy. As is your maid of Tarth." He assures Jaime that "her maidenhead is still intact. As of last night, at least."

Jaime is puzzled at this reassurance, and asked if Brienne's father had requested the examination. Qyburn is surprised that Jaime hasn't heard: Brienne's father had offered three hundred gold dragons for her return, but sent word that there were no sapphires on Tarth. Vargo Hoat turned down the amount offered.

When they stop for the night, Qyburn gives Jaime some dreamwine to ease his pain, and he falls asleep. In his dream, he has regained his sword hand and he is at Casterly Rock, but he finds himself surrounded by enemies, "a dozen tall dark figures in cowled robes that hid their faces." They are bearing spears, with which they prod him down a passageway into the darkness. He is in a watery cavern below Casterly Rock, and a thousand voices, the voices of Lannisters, but especially of his father tell him this is his place. Beside his father stands Cersei, holding a torch.

But then she turns to go, leaving him in the darkness, with a sense that there is something terrible where he is. He begs for a sword, and his father tells him he has been given one. He finds it under the water at his feet, and when he picks it up the sword glows, illuminating the gloom. He hears a splash behind him and sees Brienne, naked, bound with heavy chains. She begs him to remove the chains, and he slices through them like silk, and to give her a sword, which appears to him. It too glows with a silvery blue flame, further illuminating the dark.

He hears Cersei say in the distance that the flames will stay lighted as long as they are alive, but when he begs for her to stay with him he hears her footsteps moving away. Brienne asks what is living there in the darkness, and he tells her "Doom... Only doom." She tells him to get on her shoulders, so they can reach the mouth of the tunnel, and when he thinks that he could follow Cersei he begins to have an erection, which he tries to hide from Brienne. Then she points with her sword to show him that there are two riders coming toward them on pale horses.

He remembers how Eddard Stark rode his horse into Aerys's throne room, and he calls out asking, "Is it you, Stark?" But there is no answer, and then there are more horsemen, wearing armor made of snow. He begins to recognize them, and among them is Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. Brienne tells them that she swore an oath to protect Jaime, and he tells them that he killed the king to keep him from burning the city. But they continue to move forward, reminding him that he killed the king, and Rhaegar says, "I left my wife and children in your hands."

"Then his sword went dark, and only Brienne's burned, as the ghost came rushing in." He wakes in terror, with Qyburn beside him and Steelshanks standing over them. When he wakes fully, he tells them he wants to go back to Harrenhal, that he left something there. When Steelshanks protests, Jaime says that unless they go back, he will tell his father that it was he who cut off his hand. But if they do return, he'll see to it that he gets "a nice fat purse of gold as thanks."

That does the trick, and by dawn they are halfway back to Harrenhal. When they enter the fortress, Jaime hears a roar, "faint but ferocious," and the sound of laughter. He knows what has happened: "They had her in the bear pit."

He finds her there with no armor, but with a sword. The Bloody Mummers are in the seats around the pit, concentrating on the spectacle. Brienne is bleeding where the bear has raked one arm. Steelshanks tells him that it's not their business: "Lord Bolton said the wench was theirs, to do with as they liked." Jaime replies, "Her name is Brienne," and descends the steps to where Vargo Hoat is sitting, his left ear bandaged but bleeding.

Hoat is surprised to see him, but tells him that Brienne bit off his ear. "Thmall wonder her father will not ranthom thuch a freak." Jaime shouts out to Brienne to kill the bear, which is eight feet tall. "Gregor Clegane with a pelt, he thought, though likely smarter." But when Brienne lands a blow on the bear, there is no blood, and realizes that they have given her a blunted tourney sword.

He leaps into the pit and places himself between Brienne and the bear, which charges. Suddenly, the bear is pierced by arrows from Steelshanks's archers. Hoat protests, "You thlew my bear!" and the Mummers cry out for vengeance. But most of them are drunk, and there are twice as many of Steelshanks's men. So Hoat agrees to haul Jaime and Brienne out of the pit.

When they are well away from Harrenhal, Steelshanks angrily asks, "Are you mad, Kingslayer? Did you mean to die? No man can fight a bear with his bare hands!" Jaime replies that he hoped they'd kill the bear, because otherwise "Lord Bolton would have peeled you like an orange, no?"

And when Brienne, addressing him as "Ser Jaime" instead of "Kingslayer," asks why he came back, he thinks of the cruel things he could say, but says only, "I dreamed of you."

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