By Charles Matthews

Thursday, October 27, 2011

2. A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 30-55

The Captain of the Guards

The captain is Areo Hotah, longaxe-wielding guard to the gout-crippled Prince Doran Martell of Dorne. Hotah has rolled the prince in his wheelchair, designed by Maester Caleotte, onto the terrace at the Water Gardens so Doran can watch the children at play. But they haven't been there long before they are approached by Obara Sand, the eldest of Prince Oberyn's illegitimate daughters, known collectively as the Sand Snakes.

Obara has come to demand vengeance for Oberyn's death, news of which has arrived by raven from King's Landing. Hotah bars her way, and Caleotte insists that Doran doesn't want to be disturbed, but Doran overhears and says he will talk to her. Her father has been murdered, she says, but Doran counters that under the law, his death in a trial by combat can't be considered murder. He has written to Lord Tywin, he says, asking for Gregor Clegane's head. This doesn't satisfy Obara, who wants to run her "spear into Lord Tywin's belly. I'll make him sing 'The Rains of Castamere' as I pull his bowels out and look for gold." Dissatisfied with what she sees as Doran's indecision, she departs for Sunspear.

When she is gone, Caleotte asks if it is "prudent to allow Lady Obara to return to Sunspear? She is certain to inflame the common people. They loved your brother well." Doran agrees, and decides that it's time for him to return to Sunspear too. He has been away for two years, and during that time his gout has grown worse: When he left the city he could still walk. Now he concludes, "Dorne must be reminded  that it still has a prince.... Old and gouty though he is."

Caleotte points out that if he goes to Sunspear, he will have to meet with Princess Myrcella, Cersei's daughter, who is betrothed to Doran's son, Trystane. And with Ser Arys Oakheart, who is her sworn shield as well as a spy for Cersei. Hotah wonders if the day is about to come when he will have to fight Ser Arys: "on that day Oakheart would die, with the captain's longaxe crashing through his skull." Doran gives orders that they should leave for Sunspear the first thing in the morning.

When Caleotte leaves to make preparations for the journey, Doran calls Hotah to his side and asks if he had brothers and sisters when he was a boy in Norvos. The captain tells him he was the youngest, with two brothers and three sisters. Doran notes that he was the oldest and is now the last; two died in infancy, Elia was raped and murdered by Gregor Clegane, who has now killed Oberyn. Hotah doesn't know what to say: "He had not been trained to counsel grieving princes." But he doesn't have to say anything, for Doran tells him to leave and let him watch the children for a while.

Although Doran had said they would leave "at first light," he lingers over his breakfast and then says goodbye to some of the children he liked to watch, so they don't depart until midday. Halfway to Sunspear they encounter another of the Sand Snakes, Nymeria Sand, called Lady Nym. She is accompanied by a dozen spearmen. She rides alongside Doran's litter, with Hotah on the other side, listening. She, too, is interested in vengeance, and Doran also assures her that Tywin will send Clegane's head. But she knows more: that Oberyn had managed to stab Clegane with a poisoned spear, and that the Mountain "is as good as dead."

"Obara would have me go to war," Doran says. But Nym says she just wants the deaths of Cersei and Joffrey, "as payment for Elia's children," Tywin, "for Elia herself," and Tommen, "for my father." Doran observes that Tommen has never done them wrong, but Nym calls him "a bastard born of treason, incest, and adultery, if Lord Stannis can be believed," and insists, "Only royal blood can wash out my father's murder." Once again, Doran protests that, legally, a death in single combat can't be considered murder, but that carries no more weight with Nym than it did with Obara. She says, "my sisters and I shall not wait ten-and-seven years for our vengeance," referring to the time it took before Oberyn confronted Clegane, the murderer of Elia. She rides off.

Nym reaches Sunspear a long time before Doran and his equipage do, so the city is prepared for his arrival. "The Sand Snakes have stirred them to a boil, the captain thought uneasily," as shouts ring out urging vengeance and war, and the guards are pelted with rotten fruit. They make it into the outer ward of the castle, however, and the portcullis is lowered. They are met there by Doran's daughter, Princess Arianne, and members of the court including Myrcella and Ser Arys. Hotah carries Doran into the throne room, where Tyene, another Sand Snake, is awaiting him.

Tyene has a gentle voice and blue eyes, though Hotah has a revelation: "All of Prince Oberyn's daughters have his viper eyes.... The color does not matter." She sweetly expresses her concern for Doran, who is in obvious pain, but he urges her to get to the point. She presents him with a piece of embroidery she is working on: Prince Oberyn in red armor. He assures her, as he has the others, that Tywin has promised to send Clegane's head, but she says, "I know the poison that my father used, and there is none slower or more agonizing. Soon we may hear the Mountain screaming, even here in Sunspear." He tells her that Obara wants war and Nym wants murder, and asks what she wants. She advises waiting until the Lannisters and Tyrells attack and ambushing them. When he questions why they should attack, she points out that Myrcella is older than Tommen, and by Dornish law that makes her the rightful queen of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. If they proclaim her such, that will provoke the attack.

He says he will think about it, and she replies, "Some men think because they are afraid to do.... I must pray that I never see you frightened, Uncle. You might forget to breathe." She raises a hand, but Hotah quickly prevents any contact between Tyene and Doran until she asks for his blessing, whereupon he puts his hand cautiously on her head. But the moment she leaves, Maester Caleotte hurries to inspect Doran's hand, sniffing it and making sure there are no scratches on it.

When the maester leaves to fetch some milk of the poppy that Doran requests, the prince turns to Hotah and asks about the loyalty of his guards. Receiving Hotah's assurance, Doran says he wants all of the Sand Snakes taken into custody and confined. Hotah says he will take care of it, but that it will cause a popular outcry. Doran replies, "I only pray Lord Tywin hears them in King's Landing, so he might know what a loyal friend he has in Sunspear."


She dreams she is sitting on the Iron Throne, with all the court gathered, paying her homage. But then Tyrion enters, and the court begins to laugh. She realizes that she is naked, and that the sharp knives and swords are cutting her. The blood begins to flow as she struggles to free herself from the throne, and Tyrion dances around, laughing.

Suddenly she wakes, and a hand it reaching out for her. It is Senelle, her maid, and she looks frightened. Then she realizes there are men gathered around her bed. One of them, in a white cloak, steps forward. She thinks it's Jaime at first, but the man says, "The Lord Commander said come get you." He mutters something "about a privy and a crossbow" and says her father's name. She is still under the influence of the dream and it takes her a moment to come to her senses. It is Ser Osmund Kettleblack looming over her, and behind him is Ser Boros Blount.

The truth of what has happened begins to become apparent to her, and when she is told that Jaime is exploring the secret passage in Lord Tywin's room, she says, "Jaime should be with the king...." She isn't pleased to hear that Loras Tyrell is guarding Tommen -- she doesn't trust the Tyrells. Then she tells Ser Osmund to accompany her to her father's room and Ser Boros to make sure that Tyrion -- whom she calls "the dwarf," unable to say his name -- is in his cell, though she doesn't believe him capable of an assault on their father.

She also can't believe that her father was found in the privy, thinking, "That is not the way a lion dies." She begins focusing on her enemies, suspecting that it might be the work of Stannis Baratheon, but she also realizes how much improved her status is: "Casterly Rock was hers now, and all the power of House Lannister. No one would ever disregard her again. Even when Tommen had no further need of a regent, the Lady of Casterly Rock would remain a power in the land." At the same time, her irritation with everyone around her grows, even to the moth that has found its way into the lantern Ser Osmund is carrying: "Die, the queen thought at it, in irritation, fly into the flame and be done with it." She even gets angry at the number of steps in the Tower of the Hand, and "had half a mind to tear it down."

When they reach Tywin's bedchamber she is told by Ser Meryn Trant that her father has been carried from the privy to his bed. Her Uncle Kevan is kneeling by the bed. She notices the open secret door in the fireplace and wonders if there is a passage leading to Tommen's bedchamber, imagining Tyrion entering it with a knife, but assures herself that Tommen is well guarded, and anyway Tyrion is locked up, so it must be Stannis's work ... or the Tyrells.

She doesn't recognize her father's body at first. His nightshirt is hiked up and she can see the arrow sticking out of him and the dried blood in his navel and pubic hair. "The smell of him made her wrinkle her nose," and she furiously orders the arrow removed. "They said Catelyn Stark had clawed her own face to bloody ribbons when the Freys slew her precious Robb," and wonders if she should make a scene. But she storms about the condition in which they have left the body, and calls for Grand Maester Pycelle. She is told that Pycelle has already been there. "They sent for me last. The realization made her almost too angry for words."

One of the guards tells her that a man is there who claims to have been a maester. It is Qyburn, who reminds her that he treated Jaime's hand, and she remembers that he came with Jaime from Harrenhal. He tells her, "The Citadel took my chain, but they could not take my knowledge," so she commands him to remove the arrow and make her father more presentable. Then he asks, "And how shall I deal with the girl, Your Grace?"

Cersei had not seen Shae's body. One of the guards identifies her as "the Imp's whore." She is dumbfounded by the idea that Tywin should have taken a prostitute to his bed, and "eagerly" seizes on Qyburn's suggestion that Tywin was questioning her about Sansa Stark's disappearance. But at the same time she imagines Tyrion: "And what better way to question her than naked, with her legs well spread? the dwarf whispered. That's how I like to question her too." She goes out into the hall and tells Ser Osmund, who is standing there with his brothers Osney and Osfryd, that no one is ever to know that there was a woman in Tywin's bedchamber. "I'll have the tongue of any man who dares to say she was."

They bundle Shae up in the bloody blankets, and Cersei suddenly remembers her name, and that Shae had come to her the night before the trial by combat to ask about the jewels Tyrion had given her "and certain promises Cersei might have made, a manse in the city and a knight to marry her" -- promises that ensured her testimony against Tyrion in the trial. Cersei had told her that she wouldn't get anything until she helped them find Sansa Stark. Osfryd is carrying the body out the door, but Cersei redirects him to the secret passage.

But as Osfryd is trying to exit through the hearth, Jaime enters through it. Cersei runs to him and he tells her that there is a maze of tunnels within the walls. She says, "Take hammers to the walls. Knock this tower down, if you must. I want them found. Whoever did this. I want them killed." He hugs her, and she tells him he needs to take their father's place as Hand. But Jaime takes this as a joke, showing her his stump and saying, "A Hand without a hand? A bad jape, sister. Don't ask me to rule." She notices that the others in the room have heard him. "It will be all over the castle by nightfall," she thinks, and retorts, "Rule? I said naught of ruling. I shall rule until my son comes of age."

Jaime replies, brutally, "I don't know who I pity more.... Tommen, or the Seven Kingdoms." When she slaps him, their uncle rises and tells them to show respect to their father by taking their quarrel outside. Jaime apologizes, saying that Cersei has forgotten herself in her grief, which only makes her want to slap him again. Hands have always been trouble, she thinks, recalling her dealings with Jon Arryn, who had brought about her marriage to Robert Baratheon, and with Eddard Stark and Tyrion and her father. "The next Hand will know his place, she promised herself," and decides that it should be Ser Kevan, who, she thinks, will be "unfailingly obedient."

Her mind whirls with plans, and secrets she needs to uncover, which leads her to think about Varys. She wonders why he isn't there, and then realizes with a chill that he must have been part of this plot. She orders Ser Meryn Trant to bring Varys to her, "Squealing and squirming if need be, but unharmed." And then Ser Boros Blount enters to report that Tyrion has vanished along with one of the jailers, and that two of the guards were found asleep. "It was all she could do not to scream. 'I hope you did not wake them, Ser Boros. Let them sleep.'"

Ser Boros doesn't get it, and she spells it out for him: "See that they sleep forever, ser. I will not suffer guards to sleep on watch." And then her paranoia takes hold: "He is in the walls. He killed Father as he killed Mother, as he killed Joff." She reels, and when Ser Boros tries to help her to a chair she yells, "Get away!" and sits down by herself. He asks if she would like a cup of water.
It is blood I need, not water. Tyrion's blood, the blood of the valonqar. The torches spun around her. Cersei closed her eyes, and saw the dwarf grinning at her. No, she thought, no, I was almost rid of you. But his fingers had closed around her neck, and she could feel them beginning to tighten.

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