By Charles Matthews

Saturday, October 8, 2011

24. A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 809-856


Standing for the wedding makes Tyrion extremely uncomfortable, not least because he has drunk so much wine he needs to urinate. And he is seething with his recognition that Joffrey was the one who sent the assassin to kill Bran: Jaime would have taken care of the job himself, and Cersei would never have used a weapon that could be traced to her. But he still hasn't figured out a motive other than "Simple cruelty, perhaps." He wishes now that he hadn't indicated to Joffrey that he knew about the dagger. "My big mouth will be the death of me, I swear it."

After the ceremony, as they are riding back in the litter, Tyrion suggests to Sansa that they go to Casterly Rock for a while. It would get him away from Joffrey and Cersei, and he tells her about the places there he knew as a boy. But her responses to the suggestion are cold and distant: "Yes, my lord. As you wish."

He relieves himself and begins to change for the wedding feast, thinking gloomily about the coming reign of King Joffrey, especially after he comes of age:  "who would be mad enough to contest Joffrey's rule now, after what had befallen Stannis Baratheon and Robb Stark?" He decides to get very drunk at the feast. He goes to Sansa's bedchamber where "Shae had arranged her hair artfully in a delicate silver net winking with dark purple gemstones." Shae begs Sansa to let her accompany her to serve at the table. "I so want to see the pigeons fly out of the pie." But Sansa has to tell her that Cersei has already chosen the servers, and Tyrion adds that "the hall will be too crowded."

On the way to the feast, they exchange courtesies with other guests, and Lady Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns, comes up to Sansa and says, "The wind has been at your hair." Then she reaches up and straightens Sansa's hair net.

Joffrey and Margaery ride into the throne room on a pair of white horses. Sansa and Tyrion are seated to the right of the king, next to Ser Garlan Tyrell and his wife, Leonette. There are a dozen others between them and Joffrey, which doesn't bother Tyrion at all, even though by rights, as the king's former Hand, he should have been much closer. The first of the seventy-seven courses, a soup of mushrooms and snails, is served. Tyrion thinks, "Seventy-seven dishes, while there are still starving children in this city, and men who would kill for a radish." Tyrion finishes the soup quickly, glad to have something on his stomach beside the wine he has been drinking all day. Sansa, however, only tastes it and pushes it away.

The first of the seven singers appears, and sings a song celebrating the aid of Renly's ghost in defeating Stannis. He also includes "The Rains of Castamere" among his songs. Then there is a dancing bear, Moon Boy chases Butterbumps on stilts, and a troupe of Pentoshi tumblers, as the other courses are served. Another singer appears, and again his songs include "The Rains of Castamere." Tyrion asks Sansa which singer she preferred, and she says, "I'm sorry, my lord. I was not listening."
She was not eating, either. "Sansa, is aught amiss?" He spoke without thinking, and instantly felt the fool. All her kin are slaughtered and she's wed to me, and I wonder what's amiss."
Pryomancers do tricks with fire and a juggler juggles swords and axes, and then another singer comes in with a ballad about the Battle of the Blackwater. Tyrion grumbles, "If I am ever Hand again, the first thing I'll do is hang all the singers," which makes Lady Lyonette laugh. The song goes on for seventy-seven verses, and by the time it ends, Grand Maester Pycelle has fallen asleep, and two of the guests get into a drunken fight in which one stabs the other.

Then Joffrey gets to his feet and calls out drunkenly, "Bring on my royal jousters!" The doors open and two dwarfs, one mounted on a dog and the other on a pig, enter, struggling with their lances and shields. The crowds hoots with laughter -- "even Lord Tywin looked mildly amused." Sansa, however, is not laughing, which pleases Tyrion. He decides not to blame the dwarfs and to be gracious about it and to give them each a purse of silver when it is all over. "And come the morrow, I will find whoever planned this little diversion and arrange for a different sort of thanks."

The combat of the dwarfs becomes more and more grotesque, and the laughter more raucous. "Joffrey was snorting wine from both nostrils." He proclaims one of the dwarfs champion, and then calls for a new challenger. He turns to Tyrion and calls out, "Uncle! You'll defend the honor of my realm, won't you? You can ride the pig!" Tyrion finds himself standing on the table saying to Joffrey, "I'll ride the pig ... but only if you ride the dog!" Joffrey is confused, and says, "Me? I'm no dwarf. Why me?" Whereupon Tyrion replies, "Why you're the only man in the hall that I'm certain of defeating!"

Laughter echoes through the hall and Joffrey's expression turns to one of "blind rage." Tyrion hops down from the table as Joffrey is helped down by Ser Osmund and Ser Meryn. Noticing Cersei's glare, Tyrion blows her a kiss. The musicians start to play again, and Tyrion calls for another cup of wine. But Ser Garlan alerts him that Joffrey is headed his way.

Joffrey is carrying the huge golden wedding chalice that he had been given, and he empties its contents on Tyrion's head. Ser Garlan says, "That was ill done, Your Grace." But Tyrion holds his temper and tries to defuse the situation: "Not every king would think to honor a humble servant by serving him from his own royal chalice. A pity the wine spilled." Joffrey's pride and humorlessness won't let him acknowledge Tyrion's graceful step-down: "It didn't spill.... And I wasn't serving you, either."

Margaery, however, is on top of the situation and steers him back to his seat, telling him another singer is about to perform. Lady Olenna Tyrell is there, too, and says, "I do so hope he plays us 'The Rains of Castamere.' It has been an hour. I've forgotten how it goes." Margaery says that Ser Addam wants to propose a toast, and Joffrey says he doesn't have any wine. He tells Tyrion to be his cupbearer, and Tyrion replies, "I would be most honored." Once again, Joffrey proves incapable of irony:
"It's not meant to be an honor!" Joffrey screamed. "Bend down and pick up my chalice." Tyrion did as he was bid, but as he reached for the handle Joff kicked the chalice through his legs. "Pick it up! Are you as clumsy as you are ugly?" He had to crawl under the table to find the thing. "Good, now fill it with wine." He claimed a flagon from a serving girl and filled the goblet three-quarters full. "No, on your knees, dwarf." Kneeling, Tyrion raised up the heavy cup, wondering if he was about to get a second bath. But Joffrey took the wedding chalice one-handed, drank deep, and set it on the table. "You can get up now, Uncle."
Joffrey and Cersei laugh as Tyrion struggles to stand, but Lord Tywin coolly directs Joffrey's attention to the great dove-filled pie that is now being brought in. "Your sword is needed."

Joffrey draws his sword, but Margaery suggests that "Widow's Wail was not meant for slicing pies," so Joffrey asks for Ser Ilyn Payne to bring his sword. Sansa breaks her long silence and asks, "What has Ser Ilyn done with my father's sword?" Tyrion thinks, "I should have sent Ice back to Robb Stark." When the sword cuts through the pie crust, the doves fly from it to everyone's delight.

The servers bring the guests slices of hot pigeon pie with spoonfuls of lemon cream. But neither Tyrion nor Sansa has an appetite for it, and Tyrion suggests that she get some fresh air while he changes into a dry doublet. But he attracts Joffrey's notice and is forbidden to leave. "Serve me my wine," Joffrey orders. Tyrion has to stand on a chair to reach the big chalice, and Joffrey downs the wine greedily, some of it running down his chin. Margaery tries to get him to go back to his place for another toast, but Joffrey notices Tyrion's untouched pigeon pie, thrusts his hand into it, and wolfs it down.

He begins to cough, and takes another swallow of wine. The coughing grows worse. Margaery cries out, "He's choking," and the Queen of Thorns calls out for someone to help. Ser Garlan pounds Joffrey on the back and Ser Osmund Kettleblack opens his collar. "Joffrey began to claw at his throat, his nails tearing bloody gouges in the flesh. Beneath the skin, the muscles stood out as hard as stone. Prince Tommen was screaming and crying."

Tyrion realizes, "He is going to die." There is chaos all around, people either shoving to get a better view of the dying king or hurrying to leave the hall. Joffrey's eyes meet Tyrion's, and Tryion realizes that he has Jaime's eyes. "The boy's only thirteen," he thinks. He turns and looks for Sansa, but she isn't there anymore. He sees the wedding chalice, which has fallen on the floor. There is still half an inch of wine in it. "Tyrion considered it for a moment, then poured it on the floor."

He hears Cersei's scream, and he goes toward her. She is cradling Joffrey's body, but when Lord Tywin asks her to let him go, she clings tighter, so that it takes two men of the Kingsguard to pry her fingers loose. Margaery Tyrell is being consoled by her mother, who says, "He choked on the pie. It was naught to do with you."

"He did not choke," Cersei says. "My son was poisoned." And she orders Loras Tyrell to arrest Tyrion and Sansa.


Joffrey was still alive when Sansa fled the throne room, but now she hears a bell begin to toll. She had hidden a change of clothing in the godswood, and she struggles to get out of her wedding finery, which she stuffs into a hole in an oak tree. Ser Dontos had told her to dress warmly in dark clothing. She also removes the silver hair net, and notices that one of the black amethysts is missing. This causes a moment of panic that she can't explain to herself except  that Ser Dontos had told her the net was magic.

There is a noise, and she calls out "Who's there?" It is Dontos, who is staggering drunk. In response to her question about the amethysts, he assures her that they were just gemstones. She persists: "There was murder in them!" But he reassures her that Joffrey "choked on his pigeon pie." She accuses him of poisoning Joffrey with a stone that he took from the net, but he denies it and urges her to come away with him. "Your husband's been arrested."

She turns her suspicions on Tyrion, who she knew hated Joffrey, and wonders if he knew about the hair net, and "How could you make someone choke by putting an amethyst in their wine?" And then she realizes that if Tyrion had done it, she might be implicated as well.

She follows Dontos through the castle to a secret exit and then finds herself at the top of a sheer wall. Dontos tells her that a man with a boat it waiting below to row them to the ship. "There's a sort of ladder, a secret ladder, carved into the stone." (The reader's suspicions may be aroused by this detail: Littlefinger once conducted Sansa's father down the same secret steps.) Terrified, Sansa follows Dontos down the steps, clinging to the face of the wall. Fifty yards downriver, they find the waiting boat, which glides through the wreckage at the mouth of the river and out into Blackwater Bay.

When they reach the ship, a rope ladder is lowered and she climbs, followed by the oarsman. Ser Dontos stays in the boat. When she is helped on board, she hears a familiar voice say, "She's cold." And then she sees his face: Lord Petyr Baelish, Littlefinger, is standing there with Ser Lothor Brune. From the boat, Dontos calls out that he needs to row back and is waiting for his payment. Littlefinger tells Lothor to give Dontos his "reward," and Lothor signals to three men who step forward with crossbows and kill Dontos, then Lothor tosses a torch into the boat and sets it ablaze.

Sansa cries out in protest that Dontos had saved her, but Littlefinger says,
"He sold you for a promise of ten thousand dragons. Your disappearance will make them suspect you in Joffrey's death. The gold cloaks will hunt, and the eunuch will jingle his purse. Dontos ... well, you heard him. He sold you for gold, and when he'd drunk it up he would have sold you again. A bag of dragons buys a man's silence for a while, but a well-placed quarrel [i.e., arrow] buys it forever." He smiled sadly. "All he did he did at my behest. I dared not befriend you openly. When I heard how you saved his life at Joff's tourney, I knew he would be the perfect catspaw."
He quotes from the note she had been sent: "Come to the godswood tonight if you want to go home," and she realizes that it had always been Littlefinger's scheme. Moreover, it was Littlefinger who had engineered the jousting dwarfs at the wedding, over Joffrey's objection: "His Grace said, 'Why would I want some ugly dwarfs at my feast? I hate dwarfs.' I had to take him by the shoulder and whisper, 'Not as much as your uncle will.'"

Sansa says, "They think Tyrion poisoned Joffrey," and Littlefinger replies, "Widowhood will become you, Sansa." But though she realizes that she ought to feel good about being freed from her marriage to Tyrion, she is uneasy about it. He shows her to her cabin, and tells her that his rescuing her is his gambit in the game of thrones. Besides, he had loved her mother, and "In a better world," she might have been his daughter, not Ned Stark's. "Put Joffrey from your mind, sweetling. Dontos, Tyrion, all of them. They will never trouble you again. You are safe now, that's all that matters. You are safe with me, and sailing home."


He hears the news of Joffrey's death at an inn on the way to King's Landing. "They rode hard the next day, at Jaime's insistence. His so was dead, and his sister needed him." He wonders why he feels so little emotion at his son's death, and acknowledges that he "had seen him born, that was true, though more for Cersei than the child. But he had never held him," and Joffrey always believed Robert Baratheon was his father. He is more than ever determined that he will marry Cersei openly.

He rides back to talk to Brienne, who is mourning for Catelyn and Robb far more deeply than he is for Joffrey.
The strength is gone from her. The woman had dropped a rock on Robin Ryger, battled a bear with a tourney sword, bitten off Vargo Hoat's ear, and fought Jaime to exhaustion ... but she was broken now, done. "I'll speak to my father about returning you to Tarth, if it please you," he told her. "Or if you would rather stay, I could perchance find some place for you at court." 
She rejects the latter offer.

They ride into the city, but he is so changed that no one recognizes him until they enter the Red Keep and Ser Meryn Trant rides up. Jaime chides Meryn, "How many monarchs have you lost since I left the city? Two, is it?" Then Ser Balon Swann notices Jaime's missing hand. Jaime tells him, "I fight with my left now. It makes for more of a contest." He asks where he can find his father, and is told that he is meeting with Mace Tyrell and Prince Oberyn, a combination that surprises Jaime. And he asks about Cersei, who is praying in the sept over Joffrey's body.

But his inquiries are interrupted when Loras Tyrell notices Brienne in their company. He strides toward her and asks why she killed Renly. Loras doesn't believe her story about the shadow, and challenges her to combat. Jaime intervenes, but Loras ignores him until Jaime pulls rank: "I am the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, you arrogant pup." And he tells him to put his sword away "or I'll take it from you and shove it up some place even Renly never found." Loras puts his sword away but demands that Brienne be arrested. Jaime has her put in a tower cell under guard, then turns and goes toward the sept.

At the door another unfamiliar member of the Kingsguard challenges him, and only after a rebuke recognizes him. He begs Jaime's pardon for the error and introduces himself as Ser Osmund Kettleblack. Jaime tells him to make sure that no one else enters the sept while he is there with his sister. Cersei is kneeling at the altar of the Mother, but rises and embraces him. She comments on how thin he is, and about his shaven head, then is shocked when he displays the stump where his hand once was.

She turns to Joffrey's bier and says that Tyrion killed him, "Just as he'd warned me. One day when I thought myself safe and happy he would turn my joy to ashes in my mouth, he said." She says, "You'll kill him for me, won't you? You'll avenge our son." But Jaime is not so quick to believe in Tyrion's guilt and says he wants to know more. She says he'll hear more at the trial. Then she kisses him and says, "I am not whole without you." He returns the kiss passionately, and though she protests that the septons might enter, "he knocked the candles aside and lifted her up onto the Mother's altar, pushing up her skirts and the silken shift beneath." When he tears away her underclothes he sees that she is menstruating, but that proves no deterrent.

Afterward, he wipes away the blood on the altar with his sleeve and they replace the candles. She tells him they must be careful, but he says he's "sick of being careful." He wants to marry her, the way the Targaryens married brothers and sisters. But she is much more cautious, and reminds him that "Tommen's throne derives from Robert." She tells him he's scaring her, and when he touches her cheek with his stump, out of the habit of using his right hand, she recoils. Backing off, she tells him that they'll talk about it later, that she has to question Sansa's maids, and that he should go see his father.

"I crossed a thousand leagues to come to you," he says, "and lost the best part of me along the way. Don't tell me to leave." She replies, "Leave me," and turns away.

He goes to see his father, and is pleased to find him alone, not wanting "to flaunt his maimed hand for Mace Tyrell or the Red Viper." But when he shows it to his father, "Lord Tywin pushed himself out of his chair, breath hissing between his teeth. "Who did this?" Jaime tells him it was Vargo Hoat, and Tywin reports that Gregor Clegane has taken Harrenhal and "found Hoat sitting alone in the Hall of a Hundred Hearths, half-made with pain and fever from a wound that festered. His ear, I'm told." This delights Jaime, who can't wait to tell Brienne, though he knows she won't find it as funny as he does. Hoat's feet and hands have been cut off, but he isn't dead yet because "Clegane seems amused by the way the Qohorik slobbers."

Jaime asks about Joffrey's death, and Tywin seems to think that Tyrion poisoned him. "It was meant to appear as though he choked on a morsel of food, but I had his throat slit open and the maesters could find no obstruction." Jaime observes that it seems "rather foolish" of Tyrion to have poisoned Joffrey "with a thousand people looking on," but Tywin assures him, "The king's justice will be done." Jaime doesn't much believe in the power of evidence in "this city of liars," and when Tywin repeats the belief that "Lord Renly was murdered by one of his own guards, some woman from Tarth," Jaime repeats his belief in Brienne's innocence.

Tywin looks at the stump again and says, "You cannot serve in the Kingsguard without a sword hand," but Jaime insists that he can and will. He has a duty to do so. But his father counters,
"You do." Lord Tywin rose as well. "A duty to House Lannister. You are the heir to Casterly Rock. That is where you should be. Tommen should accompany you, as your ward and squire. The Rock is where he'll learn to be a Lannister, and I want him away from his mother. I mean to find a new husband for Cersei. Oberyn Martell perhaps, once I convince Lord Tyrell that the match does not threaten Highgarden. And it is past time you were wed. The Tyrells are now insisting that Margaery be wed to Tommen, but if I were to offer you instead--" 
Jaime lets out a thunderous "NO!" He insists, "The Lord Commander of the Kingsguard! And that's all I mean to be!" Tywin maintains an icy silence, which Jaime endures for as long as he can stand, but when he breaks it with, "Father...," Tywin says, "You are not my son." If he wants to be "the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and only that," so be it. 

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