By Charles Matthews

Sunday, October 2, 2011

21. A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 693-721


The noise of the music and the drums is getting to Catelyn. The rain continues outside and the hall in which the feast is being held is overheated and smoky. The guests are packed into the hall, and she is wedged between Ser Ryman Frey and Roose Bolton. The food is heavy and unappealing, and she eats sparingly, though "Robb ate it uncomplaining, and her brother was too caught up with his bride to pay much attention."

Catelyn notices the fixed smile on Roslin's face, and sympathizes with her discomfort, remembering her own wedding. She sees Robb's guards, Smalljon Umber and Robin Flint, seated near him, and Patrek Mallister and Dacey Mormont not far off. "A wedding feast was not a battle, but there were always dangers when men were in their cups, and a king should never be unguarded." She thinks, "Was there ever a wedding less joyful?" and then remembers Sansa's marriage to Tyrion.

Some dogs start to fight over a scrap of meat, and Catelyn is reminded that Grey Wind is not in the hall. Lord Walder had forbidden him, even though Robb assured him there was no danger from the direwolf. Walder had cited the attack on the party he sent to meet them, in which Petyr Pimple had fallen from his horse. "Have your wolf or have your wedding, sire. You'll not have both." Catelyn had seen Robb swallow his anger.

The noise in the hall grows worse when Greatjon Umber stands and starts to bellow a song while the musicians are playing an entirely different and incompatible tune. Roose Bolton murmurs his excuses and leaves the hall, so Robb comes over and sits down next to Catelyn in his place. He turns to Ser Ryman and inquires about Olyvar Frey, saying he wanted him to be his squire at they march north. Ser Ryman says Olyvar is not at the feast. "Gone ... gone from the castles. Duty." Robb then asks him about one of his cousins, Alesander, noting that he is a singer. He is away too, Ryman says, then begs their excuse and leaves.

Robb goes to dance with Dacey Mormont. Then Lord Walder gives a signal and others among the Freys begin pounding on the tables for silence. The patriarch announces that it is time for the bedding. "Roslin had gone white. Catelyn wondered whether it was the prospect of losing her maidenhead that frightened the girl, or the bedding itself." She recalls her own bedding and the men who helped strip her naked, many of whom had died after Ned rode south to become Hand. "Catelyn wondered how may of the men here tonight would be dead before the year was done. Too many, I fear."

Robb signals his agreement to the bedding, and there is a flood of bawdy jokes. The men surround Roslin and the women Edmure. "She knew she should join the throng of women round her brother, but she would only ruin their fun. As the throngs leave the hall, she sees that Robb has remained behind as well. She worries that Lord Walder might take that as another insult, but she sees that others have remained: Petyr Pimple and Ser Whalen Frey are asleep, Jinglebell is wandering around picking food off of plates, and Ser Wendel Manderly was still eating from a leg of lamb.

Dacey Mormont goes up to Edwyn Frey and asks him if he wanted to dance, but Edwyn rejects her so rudely that Dacey walks away looking pale. Catelyn wonders what's wrong. Even Ser Wendel senses something amiss. Then the musicians begin to play the song "The Rains of Castamere," which was written about the destruction of a house by the Lannisters. She sees Edwyn leaving, and hurries over to him. When she grabs his arm, she feels the rings of chain mail underneath his sleeve.

She slaps Edwyn, thinking about all of the Freys who are missing from the wedding. He pushes her aside, but Robb steps forward to block his way -- and is pierced by an arrow through one shoulder and then another through his leg. She looks toward the gallery and sees that half of the musicians have crossbows instead of instruments. As she runs toward Robb, something strikes her in the back and she falls.

Smalljon Umber overturns a table and throws it over Robb to protect him as arrows lodge in the tabletop. Robin Flint is being stabbed by Freys, and Ser Wendel is pierced by an arrow through his open mouth. Catelyn sees other defenders being cut down. The door flies open and "Ser Ryman Frey pushed into the hall, clad in steel from helm to heel. A dozen Frey men-at-arms packed the door behind him. They were armed with heavy longaxes."

Catelyn sees a dagger on the floor and crawls toward it, determined to kill Lord Walder. She sees Robb push aside the tabletop and rise to his knees. He has been pierced by three arrows, one of them through his chest. The music stops and Catelyn hears the howling of Grey Wind. Lord Walder cackles out, "Seems we killed some of your men, Your Grace. Oh, but I'll make you an apology, that will mend them all again, heh."

Catelyn grabs Jinglebell Frey by the hair, and cries out to Lord Walder, "Enough.... You have repaid  betrayal with betrayal, let it end." She presses the dagger to Jinglebell's throat and begs Walder to spare her son. Robb rises to his feet and she pushes harder on the dagger at Jinglebell's throat as Ser Ryman and Black Walder move in on her. She vows to Lord Walder, "I will trade your boy's life for Robb's. A son for a son." But the old man says, "that's a grandson ... and he never was much use."
A man in dark armor and a pale pink cloak spotted with blood stepped up to Robb. "Jaime Lannister sends his regards." He thrust his longsword through her son's heart, and twisted.
Catelyn cuts Jinglebell's throat. And as tears and blood run down her face, she feels someone grab her by the hair and hears someone say, "Make an end."

"Then the steel was at her throat, and its bite was red and cold."


They have passed the tents and are nearing the castle when Arya realizes that the drawbridge is down and the portcullis is being raised, removing the last impediments to their entrance. But the Hound knows something is wrong, and he halts the wagon and shoves her bodily from it, then reaches for the sword he has hidden beneath the front seat. A stream of armored riders, many of them carrying torches as well as weapons, pours forth from the gate.

Through the sound of the horses, Arya hears a wolf howling. "The sound shivered through Arya like a knife, sharp with rage and grief." Behind her the feast tents are going up in flames. From the castle she hears the music of "The Rains of Castamere," which Tom Sevenstrings had sung.

Three riders have spotted the wagon and are heading their way. Clegane cuts loose his horse, Stranger, and leaps on it, then heads toward the riders. Arya picks up a rock and for a moment wonders whom to throw it at. When she sees him outnumbered, she thinks for a moment of the butcher's boy, Mycah.

The third rider is heading for her, and she sees the two towers of the Frey sigil on his surcoat. "She did not understand. Her uncle was marrying Lord Frey's daughter, the Freys were her brother's friends." She cries out, "Don't!" but when the rider continues to charge she throws the rock at him, hitting his helmet glancingly but slowing him only for a moment.

She runs and the knight pursues, but suddenly he is felled from behind by an axe. The Hound rides up and Arya sees one Frey trapped beneath a dying horse, the other already dead. Clegane tells her to get his helmet and she retrieves it from a sack of apples in the wagon and throws it to him. She wants to go to the castle to see about her brother, but he says, "Do you think they'd slaughter his men and leave him alive?"

She looks toward the camp and sees the burning tents and the unarmored men fighting for their lives against the armored knights. A barrel crashes from the sky and bursts into flames, and she realizes that it was flung by a catapult. Clegane reaches out a hand for her and tells her to come with him. But she shouts out, "Robb's just in the castle, and my mother. The gate's even open."

Clegane rides at her, trying to keep her from heading to the castle. "You go in there, you won't come out. Maybe Frey will let you kiss your mother's corpse." But she eludes him and runs toward the castle, where the drawbridge is already rising.
She heard loud splashing and looked back to see Stranger pounding after her, sending up gouts of water with every stride. She saw the longaxe too, still wet with blood and brains. And Arya ran. Not for her brother now, not even for her mother, but for herself. She ran faster than she had ever run before, her head down and her feet churning up the river, she ran from him as Mycah must have run. 

His axe took her in the back of the head. 


He suffers through an uncomfortable dinner with his unhappy wife, who then excuses herself and goes to the godswood. When he suggests that he might accompany her and find out more about the old religion, Sansa tells him that she goes there only to pray silently and he would be bored. "He was tempted to ask what she prayed for, but Sansa was so dutiful she might actually tell him, and he didn't think he wanted to know."

He is working over the ledgers that Littlefinger left behind when his father summons him. He finds Cersei, Ser Kevan, Pycelle, and Joffrey there. Joffrey is "almost bouncing," and Cersei is smiling, which makes Tyrion a little uneasy. His father hands him a roll of parchment, and Tyrion reads: "Roslin caught a fine fat trout.... Her brothers gave her a pair of wolf pelts for her wedding."

Joffrey chortles, "He's dead!" Tyrion thinks of Sansa praying in the godswood. "The old gods paid no more heed to prayer than the new ones, it would seem." Cersei observes that Riverrun can't hold out now "against the combined power of Highgarden, Casterly Rock, and Dorne." And Tywin adds that "so long as Walder Frey holds Edmure Tully hostage, the Blackfish dare not mount a threat." The other northmen can be contained, and he intends "to offer generous terms" to any house that submits. He has also told Gregor Clegane to rid Harrenhal of the Brave Companions.

Joffrey wants everyone killed, of course: "They're traitors. I want them killed. I won't have any generous terms." And he wants Lord Frey to send him Robb's head so he can serve it to Sansa at his wedding feast. Ser Kevan protests that Sansa is now Joffrey's "aunt by marriage," and Cersei says Joffrey was only joking. But Joffrey wasn't: "He was a traitor, and I want his stupid head. I'm going to make Sansa kiss it."

Tyrion says, "Sansa is no longer yours to torment. Understand that, monster." Joffrey retorts, childishly, "You're the monster, Uncle." Tyrion replies that if he's a monster, Joffrey should remember, "Monsters are dangerous beasts, and just now kings seem to be dying like flies."

Sometimes you almost feel sorry for Lord Tywin, having to deal with the dysfunctions of his family. Finally he puts a stop to the quarrel but not before Joffrey talks back to him. Joffrey bristles at what he sees as his grandfather's weakness in not allowing him to serve up Robb's head to Sansa or cut out Tyrion's tongue for calling him a monster, and when Cersei tells him to apologize, he says, "My father won all the battles. He killed Prince Rhaegar and took the crown while your father was hiding under Casterly Rock."

Tywin responds "with a courtesy so cold it was likely to freeze their ears off." He sends Joffrey off to bed and tells Pycelle to prepare "some gentle potion to help His Grace sleep restfully." When Joffrey is gone, Tywin tells Cersei, "I did not fight a war to seat Robert the Second on the Iron Throne. You gave me to understand the boy cared nothing for his father." Cersei protests, but he sends her away, too.

Left alone with his father, and delighted that Cersei and Joffrey made him angry, Tyrion asks how long he has been plotting with Walder Frey to get rid of Robb Stark. Tywin dislikes the word "plotting," but implies that he had indeed done so. Then he says he is now wondering what to do about Oberyn Martell, who "has always been half-mad." Tyrion is inclined to agree. "The Red Viper is not going to be pleasant, I fear ... nor will he content himself with Ser Gregor's head alone." Then Tywin shocks his son by saying, "All the more reason not to give it to him."

Tyrion starts to protest that Oberyn knows Gregor Clegan killed Oberyn's sister Elia and her children, but Lord Tywin says Oberyn has no proof. If asked, he will tell Oberyn they were killed by Ser Amory Lorch -- who is, conveniently, dead -- and that Tyrion should tell him that, too. As for who gave the order, the story should be that Ser Amory acted on his own, expecting to be rewarded by the new king.

As for the carnage at the Frey wedding, Tywin says, "The blood is on Walder Frey's hands, not mine." Frey had planned to keep Catelyn a prisoner after assassinating Robb, "but perhaps something went awry." He continues,
"The price was cheap by any measure. The crown shall grant Riverrun to Ser Emmon Frey once the Blackfish yields. Lancel and Daven must marry Frey girls. Joy [illegitimate daughter of Tywin's brother Gerion] is to wed one of Lord Walder's natural sons when she's old enough, and Roose Bolton becomes Warden of the North and takes home Arya Stark." 
Tyrion is startled at the last: "Arya Stark is surely dead," he protests. But Tywin implies that Littlefinger knows of her whereabouts, and that she will be married to Lord Bolton's bastard son. And, he adds, "The north will go to your son by Sansa Stark ... if you ever find enough manhood in you to breed one."

Tyrion acidly replies, "And when do you imagine Sansa will be at her most fertile? ... Before or after I tell her how we murdered her mother and her brother?"

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