JOURNAL OF A COMPULSIVE READER
By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

2. A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 43-74

Arya

The last time we saw Arya, she had just killed a guard and escaped from Harrenhal with Gendry and Hot Pie, so now we rejoin them on the run. They are heading north, riding on their stolen horses through the rain. She is a little surprised at her success, though also aware of the odds against her: "She was only ten, a skinny girl on a stolen horse with a dark forest ahead of her and men behind who would gladly cut off her feet."

They encounter wolves devouring a fawn and burned-out villages with dead men hanging from a tree, and Hot Pie is terrified, but she steadily leads them onward to what she believes is the north because of the way the moss grows on the trees. When Gendry asks why they're going north, she points to the map she has stolen from Roose Bolton and indicates the Trident, which they can follow until they get to Riverrun. Hot Pie, who is astonished when he learns she can "read writing," asks why they should go to Riverrun, and she realizes that she can't tell him yet that it's her grandfather's castle because she doesn't really trust him with her secrets.

Hot Pie begins to complain of saddle sores, but all she needs to do to keep him going is to remind him that he has a choice between being caught by the wolves or by the Bloody Mummers. Gendry also shows signs of discomfort from riding so long, and Arya realizes that she is the only one of them who grew up riding horses: the other two are city boys. Finally they reach a river, and Hot Pie is relieved that they have come to the Trident. But Arya isn't so sure: They haven't been going long enough. But when she looks at the map she can't be sure what the river is. She says they should just cross the river and keep going north, but the day is overcast so they can't tell the position of the sun, and Gendry points out that a tree that has moss on three sides and one that has no moss at all.

She finds a crossing and they follow her, and then another river which is easier to ford. It is growing dark, so they they argue that they should bed down for the night. Arya stubbornly insists on continuing to ride, but when she falls asleep in the saddle, she gives in: "The Mummers will need to sleep too, she told herself, hoping it was true."

Gendry offers to take the first watch, so she falls into a troubled sleep, dreaming of the Mummers pursuing her.
She was no little girl in the dream; she was a wolf, huge and powerful, and when she emerged from beneath the trees in front of them and bared her teeth in a low rumbling growl, she could smell the rank stench of fear from horse and man alike.
She and her pack attack the Mummers and kill them. Evidently Bran and Jon aren't the only ones who have wolf-dreams.

Tyrion

Tyrion is still feverish when he is awakened in his room in Maegor's Holdfast by Bronn, who is now Ser Bronn of the Blackwater. "I lose half my nose and you gain a knighthood," Tyrion grumbles. "The gods have a deal to answer for." Bronn fills him in on what has happened: The Hound has disappeared, Ser Jacelyn is dead, the gold cloaks are under the command of Ser Addam Marbrand, the mountain clans have gone home with the exception of Shagga and the Stone Crows, who have settled in the kingswood, Alayaya has been freed after being whipped. Tommen has been brought home.
My hirelings betray me, my friends are scourged and shamed, and I lie here rotting, Tyrion thought. I thought I won the blood battle. Is this what triumph tastes like?
He asks Bronn if it's true that the battle was won by Renly's ghost, and Bronn tells him that there are plenty who say he did, and that the members of Stannis's army who had previously been supporters of Renly went over to the Lannisters when they saw someone in Renly's shiny green armor. Tyrion thinks, "eclipsed by a dead man. If indeed Renly is dead. Something else he would need to look into."

Stannis escaped, Bronn tells him, when he made it to the Lyseni ships that had stayed in the bay, outside of Tyrion's chain. Robb Stark is still making raids, and Tywin is sending Lord Tarly to deal with him. "I've half a mind to join him," Bronn says. "It's said he's a good soldier, and openhanded with the plunder." Tyrion doesn't want to lose Bronn on top of everything else, and says, "You're the captain of the Hand's guard." But Bronn reminds him that he's not the Hand anymore: "Your father is, and he's got his own bloody guard." The rest of Tyrion's guard are either dead or were dismissed by Tyrion's uncle Kevan.

Tyrion says he still needs Bronn. He wants to find proof that Ser Mandon Moore, who tried to kill him, had been in Cersei's pay, but he can't tell Bronn that because the castle is full of listeners. So he decides to get dressed and go see his father instead. He is weak and in pain when he gets up, and calls for Podrick Payne to help him. "Hideous though his face might be, the worst of his wounds was the one at the juncture of shoulder and arm, where his own mail had been driven back into his armpit by an arrow." He finally gets dressed and sips some opiated wine to ease the pain.

When he reaches the steps that lead to his old quarters, now occupied by his father, Tyrion realizes that he can't climb them, and has to be carried by Bronn, hoping that no one will see him so helpless. The castle yards are full of tents housing people there for Joffrey's wedding to Margaery Tyrell. He meets Ser Addam Marbrand, who tells him that the City Watch still numbers forty-four thousand, and that Cersei has forbidden him to reduce the numbers until Tyrion's cousin, thirteen-year-old Tyrek Lannister, who vanished in the riot before the battle, has been located.

With Podrick's help, Tyrion makes it up the last steps to his father's offices, where Lord Tywin tells Bronn and Podrick to wait outside. "Even with the windows of the solar shuttered against the night, the chill in the room was palpable. What sort of lies has Cersei been telling him?" Tywin asks "what madness possessed" Tyrion to enter into battle the way he did, and when Tyrion replies, "If Jaime had led the sortie, you'd call it valor," Tywin retorts, "Jaime would never be so foolish as to remove his helm in battle." Finally Tywin says, "Your face is pale as death, and there's blood seeping through your bandages. Say what you want and take yourself back to bed."

Tyrion gets angry, and says, "A little bloody gratitude would make a nice start.... I saved your bloody city, it seems to me." But Tywin is unwilling to give him that: "Most people seem to feel that it was my attack on Lord Stannis's flank that turned the tide of battle," and he gives Cersei credit for having the pyromancers make the wildfire. He admits that the "chain was a clever stroke," and the marriage of Margaery and Joffrey, creating the alliance with Dorne, but indicates that he is finished with his audience with Tyrion and wants to go back to his correspondence.

So Tyrion makes his move: "What do I want, you ask? I'll tell you what I want. I want what is mine by rights. I want Casterly Rock?" That is Jaime's birthright, Tywin says. Tyrion retorts that Jaime gave up that right when he became a knight of the Kingsguard, who are not allowed to hold land. "I want you to stand up before the realm and proclaim that I am your son and your lawful heir." And Lord Tywin says, "Never." Tyrion admits that he had always known it would come to this, but he still asks why.
"You ask that? You, who killed your mother to come into the world? You are an ill-made, devious, disobedient, spiteful little creature full of envy, lust, and low cunning. Men's laws give you the right to bear my name and display my colors, since I cannot prove that you are mine. To teach me humility, the gods have condemned me to watch you waddle about wearing that proud lion that was my father's sigil and his father's before him. But neither gods nor men shall ever compel me to let you turn Casterly Rock into your whorehouse."
Tyrion realizes that Cersei has told their father about Alayaya, who had been seized instead of Shae by mistake. And Tywin reminds him of the prostitute Tysha whom Tyrion was tricked into marrying. Moreover, Cersei has told him of Tyrion's threat that if Alayaya was harmed, he would do whatever was done to her to Tommen as well. Tywin says that Tyrion will have some reward "appropriate to your service and station," but "this was the last time I will suffer you to bring shame onto House Lannister. You are done with whores. The next one I find in your bed, I'll hang."

Davos

When we last saw Davos, he was being swept downriver toward the flaming wreckage caught by Tyrion's chain across the mouth of the river. Now he is feverish and dying on a rocky island "no more than a barren spire jutting up out of the immensity of Blackwater Bay." He has been there for days, after swimming underwater beneath the flames and then being washed ashore. But now he has spotted a sail, "A ship where no ship should be. He knew where his rock lay, more or less; it was one of a series of sea monts that rose from the floor of Blackwater Bay." Ships usually avoided them, because there were more invisible beneath the surface of the bay than there were rising above it.

He almost decides not to hail the ship.
Why should I live? he thought as tears blurred his vision. Gods be good, why? My sons are dead. Dale and Allard, Maric and Matthos, perhaps Devan as well. How can a father outlive so many strong young sons? How would I go on? I am a hollow shell, the crab's died, there's nothing left inside.
He recalls how they had sailed up the Blackwater Rush into the battle, and how the ships had been destroyed by the wildfire. As his ship sank, he had considered letting himself drown with the others, but instead he had swum underwater as far as he could until he ran out of air and felt himself beginning to drown. "The next he knew the sun was up, and he lay upon a stony strand beneath a spire of naked stone, with the empty bay all around and a broken mast, a burned sail, and a swollen corpse beside him." He had even lost the leather pouch he wore around his neck, containing the four finger bones that Stannis Baratheon had cut from his hand as punishment for smuggling on the same day that he knighted him for saving Dragonstone from the siege.

He prays to the Mother, but hears her say to him, "You burned us ... burned us ... burrrned ussssssss." He blames the burning of the seven gods on Melisandre, who had ordered him to burn them, as well as the godswood and the heart tree at Storm's End. But he also blames himself for following her orders and rowing her into Storm's End so she could give birth to a shadow: "You watched the Seven burn at Dragonstone, and did nothing ... she burnt them all to the glory of her cruel god, and you stood and held your tongue. Even when she killed old Maester Cressen, even then, you did nothing."

The sail grows closer, and Davos, weak with fever and malnutrition, climbs the rock and hails it. He is spotted, and a boat is sent out for him. When they ask for his name, he suddenly realizes that it might be a Lannister ship, but then he observes that it's a Lysene vessel, part of Salladhor Saan's fleet, and he says he serves King Stannis. "'Aye,' said the man in the boat, 'and so do we.'"



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