By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

31. A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 1062-1097


There is a rattling of keys at his cell door and he thinks that the time has come. But it's Jaime, whom he hasn't seen since his brother returned, gaunt and mutilated. Tyrion's shock at the sight of him turns into "hysterical laughter," for which he apologizes: "Jaime, I am so sorry, but ... gods be good, look at the two of us. Handless and Noseless, the Lannister boys."

After some fraternal banter, Jaime tells him that he's to be beheaded tomorrow. But now it's 3 a.m. and Jaime has come to rescue him, with the help of Varys, who has provided a potion to put the guards to sleep. "Varys has agents in the Free Cities who will see that you do not lack for funds," Jaime says. Cersei will send agents after him, no doubt, and Tyrion should probably take a different name. This makes Tyrion comment that "when the Faceless Men come to kill me, I'll say, 'No, you have the wrong man, I'm a different dwarf with a hideous facial scar.'"

When Tyrion thanks him, Jaime says he owed it to him. He's reluctant to say why, but when Tyrion presses him on the nature of the debt, Jaime confesses that Tyrion's first wife, Tysha, was not a whore. She was in fact the daughter of a crofter. Their father had objected that she was lowborn, and that she had only married Tyrion for his money: "he said that you required a sharp lesson. That you would learn from it, and thank me later...."

Remembering how Tysha was raped by the guards, Tyrion is infuriated by Jaime's "I never knew he would do that. You must believe me." He snarls back, "Why should I believe you about anything, ever? She was my wife!" And he slaps Jaime backhanded, as hard as he can. Cursing Jaime and Cersei and their father, he walks away, but is forced to stop and let Jaime open the gates for him. "Give me the keys and go," he says. "I will find Varys on my own." Then he turns and asks Jaime if he can fight with his left hand. "Rather less well than you," Jaime replies. Tyrion says, "Good. Then we will be well matched if we should ever meet again. The cripple and the dwarf."

But Jaime has one more question for Tyrion: Did he kill Joffrey? His brother's doubt eats at Tyrion, who tells him, "Joffrey would have been a worse king than Aerys ever was. He stole his father's dagger and gave it to a footpad to slit the throat of Brandon Stark, did you know that?" Jaime admits that he had guessed as much, but still wants to know the answer to his question.
"You poor stupid blind crippled fool. Must I spell every little thing out for you? Very well. Cersei is a lying whore, she's been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and probably Moon Boy for all I know. And I am the monster they all say I am. Yes, I killed your vile son."
Jaime turns and walks away, and Tyrion goes to find Varys. When he does, he tells the eunuch he should kill him for not helping him before the trial, but Varys points out that he would never find his way out of the tunnels. So Tyrion asks what has become of Sansa, and Varys is forced to confess that he has found no trace of her, and that Ser Dontos has disappeared as well. (Given Varys's powers as a spy, it's more likely that he is in on Littlefinger's plot.)

Tyrion must descend deeper into the dungeons, Varys tells him., and Tyrion thinks, "I arrived here a King's Hand, riding through the gates at the head of my own sworn me, ... and I leave like a rat scuttling through the dark, holding hands with a spider." Finally they reach a place with a mosaic of a three-headed dragon on the floor, and Tyrion recalls that Shae had described it to him once. They are, he realizes, under the Tower of the Hand. He sees a ladder, and realizes that it must lead to the Hand's bedroom. He insists on knowing the way, and Varys reluctantly tells him. Tyrion begins to climb.

When he reaches the top, he can hear the guards talking about his coming execution, and realizes how Varys's "little birds" gain their information. Finally he reaches the entrance to the Hand's chamber and discovers that it is through the fireplace. As he enters the room, a woman calls out, "M'lord?" It is Shae, who begins to apologize when she sees him: "I never meant those things I said, the queen made me. Please. Your father frightens me so." She is wearing his father's chain of office, the linked golden hands. He asks her whether she ever really enjoyed being with him, and when she answers, "More than anything ... my giant of Lannister," he thinks, "That was the worst thing you could have said, sweetling." He strangles her with the chain.

Then he takes Lord Tywin's dagger from the bedside table and a crossbow that was hanging on the wall. He slips into the hallway and goes to the privy, where he knows his father must be. Tywin betrays no surprise or fear when Tyrion opens the door, but tries to persuade him to put down the crossbow and go with him to his chambers, where he will arrange for Tyrion to take the black instead of being executed. Tyrion declines, but asks his father what he did with Tysha.

Tywin says he doesn't really know. "I suppose the steward sent her on her way. I never thought to ask." Tyrion asks where that would be, and when his father answers, "Wherever whores go," he fires the crossbow. At first incredulous that Tyrion has shot him, Tywin gasps, "You ... you are no ... no son of mine."

"Now that's where you're wrong, Father. Why, I believe I'm you writ small. Do me a kindness now, and die quickly. I have a ship to catch."


Stannis is losing patience with the process of choosing a Lord Commander. "I have captives to dispose of, a realm to order, a war to fight," he tells the assembled Night's Watch. Janos Slynt tries to wheedle Stannis into endorsing his candidacy, but Stannis is having none of it, recalling Slynt's reputation for corruption. But what Stannis really wants is for the black brothers to cede their control of the Gift to him, and they are shocked by the request. And further shocked when he says he wants all of the abandoned castles along the Wall for his garrisons, leaving them only Eastwatch, Castle Black, and the Shadow Tower. "Garrison them as you always have, but I must take the others for my garrisons if we are to hold the Wall."

Melisandre proclaims that Stannis is the return of Azor Ahai, "the warrior of fire. In him the prophecies are fulfilled. The red comet blazed across the sky to herald his coming, and he bears Lightbringer, the red sword of heroes." Sam notices that Stannis looks "desperately uncomfortable" with this proclamation, but he doesn't contradict it. Then he dismisses the brothers, all except for Maester Aemon and Sam.

As uneasy as Sam usually is in Stannis's presence, he becomes more so when Stannis singles him out as "the one that killed the creature in the snow," and Melisandre calls him "Sam the Slayer." When Sam confirms that the dagger that killed the Other was dragonglass, Stannis says, "On Dragonstone, where I had my seat, there is much of this obsidian to be seen in the old tunnels beneath the mountain." He has ordered his castellan to begin mining it. Sam mentions that the dragonglass shattered when he tried to use it on the wights, and Melisandre says, "Necromancy animates these wights, yet they are still only dead flesh. Steel and fire will serve for them. The ones you call the Others are something more." Stannis calls them "Demons made of snow and ice and cold.... the ancient enemy."

Stannis also asks about their passage through the Black Gate at the Nightfort, which he plans to make his seat. Sam tells him that it would only open for a member of the Night's Watch, and Stannis says Sam will show him the gate. Sam is not even certain that it's still there. Then Maester Aemon asks if he can see the sword Lightbringer, with Sam serving as his eyes. Stannis agrees.
"It glows," said Sam in a hushed voice. "As if it were on fire. There are no flames, but the steel is yellow and red and orange, all flashing and glimmering, like sunshine on water, but prettier. I wish you could see it, Maester."
The maester assures Sam that he has seen it as "A sword full of sunlight." When Stannis sheathes it, it is as if the room grows dark, even though the sun is shining through the windows.

When Sam and Maester Aemon return to the maester's quarters, Aemon comments that he felt no heat from the sword. Sam says, "The air around it was shimmering, the way it does above a hot brazier." But the scabbard is wood and leather, the maester says, having heard it when the sword was drawn, and Sam confirms that it wasn't burnt or blackened. When the maester tells Sam he has no need of him until the time for voting, Sam brings up the danger of Janos Slynt's winning. Maester Aemon says that his position prevents him from favoring one contender over another, but he hints that Sam is under no such obligation. So Sam summons up his reserve of bravery and decides to try to sway the voting.

He goes first to Cotter Pyke, because he is "the scarier of the two commanders," and Sam wants to face him before his courage weakens. Pyke thinks Sam is doing the maester's bidding, and Sam doesn't disabuse him of the notion, but he insists that there's no way he will give up his candidacy in favor of Ser Denys Mallister, though he doesn't really want the job. "I fight best with a deck beneath me, not a horse, and Castle Black is too far from the sea. But I'll be buggered with a red-hot sword before I turn the Night's Watch over to that preening eagle from the Shadow Tower."

So Sam goes to Ser Denys, who is courtly and elegant, and also falls under the impression that Sam is speaking for Maester Aemon. But he also refuses to consider his chief rival: "No, loath as I am to disappoint Maester Aemon, I could not in honor stand aside for Pyke of Eastwatch," whom he regards as ill-bred. As for the other candidates, he also considers them inferior, describing Janos Slynt as "venal and corrupt."

And then Sam introduces another possibility: "Lord Commander Mormont trusted him. So did Donal Noye and Qhorin Halfhand. Though he's not as highly born as you, he comes from old blood. He was castle-born and castle-raised, and he learned sword and lance from a knight and letters from a maester of the Citadel. His father was a lord, and his brother a king." Ser Denys recognizes that Sam is talking about Jon Snow, and says, "He is very young, but ... mayhaps." And then Sam slips in a lie: If they don't reach a decision tonight, he says, Stannis will name Cotter Pyke.

When he leaves Ser Denys, Sam is struck by the audacity of what he has just done, and has a moment of terror. But then he realizes how foolish his fear is: "How could he be so frightened of Cotter Pyke and Ser Denys Mallister, when he had seen a raven eating Small Paul's face?" So he returns to Pyke and drops the hint about voting for Jon, and the lie that Stannis plans to name Ser Denys if the vote doesn't succeed.


Stannis's offer to make him Lord of Winterfell has kept him awake all night, and now he gets a clout on the head from the trainee with whom he is sparring. It makes him remember when he was a little boy sparring with Robb. They had pretended to be famous heroes, but one time Jon had proclaimed himself Lord of Winterfell, and Robb replied, "You can't be Lord of Winterfell, you're bastard-born. My lady mother says you can't ever be the Lord of Winterfell." The memory so enrages him suddenly that he goes berserk on his opponent and has to be pulled off of him by two other trainees.

He comes to his senses and apologizes, then retreats to the armory by himself. But there he remembers Lady Catelyn's habitual coldness toward him. He tries to soak away the physical pain in a hot stone tub, but that reminds him of the hot pools in the godswood at Winterfell.
The weirwood was the heart of Winterfell, Lord Eddard always said ... but to save the castle, Jon would have to tear that heart up by its ancient roots, and feed it to the red woman's hungry fire god. I have no right, he thought. Winterfell belongs to the old gods.
And then he hears voices: Alliser Thorne and Bowen Marsh, discussing with Othell Yarwyck whom Tywin Lannister would prefer as Lord Commander, with Thorne putting in his plea for Slynt. He sits up in the bath, alerting them to his presence, then dries, dresses, and leaves. He realizes that the possibility is strong that Thorne will persuade others to decide for Slynt, "And what does that leave me, if not Winterfell?" He sits down to ponder his dilemma, realizing how deeply he had always wanted Winterfell, and imagining himself with Val, raising Mance's son and Gilly's there.

And then he senses a hunger: "It was food he needed, prey, a red deer that stank of fear or a great elk proud and defiant. He needed to kill and fill his belly with fresh meat and hot dark blood. His mouth began to water with the thought." Suddenly he realizes what is happening, as Ghost appears out of the woods, "leaner than he had been, but bigger as well," and races toward him. "When he reached Jon he leapt,and they wrestled amidst brown grass and long shadows as the stars came out above them."

He looks into the direwolf's eyes, and finds the answer to his dilemma.

He takes Ghost with him to the hall, thinking that they will but eat, but he finds the turmoil of electioneering going on instead. "His brothers crowded the benches and the tables, but more were standing and shouting than were sitting, and no one was eating. There was no food." He is puzzled, but then Pyp spots him and ghost, and gives out a shrill whistle. The hall grows quiet as Jon and the wolf enter.

Thorne breaks the silence: "The turncloak graces us with his presence at last." And Slynt says, "Look! The beast that tore the life from Halfhand. A warg walks among us, brothers, A WARG! This ... this creature is not fit to lead us!  This beastling is not fit to live!" Ghost bares his teeth, but Jon just asks what's going on. Maester Aemon is the one who tells him that his name has been put forth for Lord Commander."

Jon thinks it's a joke, and asks who nominated him. Dolorous Edd confesses to having done it. But Slynt sputters more of his outrage as both Cotter Pyke and Ser Denys Mallister speak up to say that Jon's candidacy is legitimate. Ser Alliser jumps on a table and calls for quiet, saying that Stannis has posted men at the doors to keep them there until they choose. He says that Othell Yarwyck, whom he and Bowen Marsh had been lobbying to vote for Slynt earlier, has something to say.

Yarwyck announces that he is withdrawing his candidacy, and was going to say they should vote for Slynt, which gets a hearty endorsement on Thorne's part. But now, he says, "I don't recall why I thought Slynt would be such a good choice," especially since Stannis had expressed his distaste for him. So he shrugs and says, "Pick who you want, just so it's not me." Slynt turns purple.

There is a call for the kettle, a big black pot into which the voting tokens are deposited by the voters. Sam and Clydas haul it out, but when the lid is removed a huge raven flies out of it. Sam shouts, "I know that bird! That's Lord Mormont's raven!" The raven flies to the table near Jon and caws, "Snow, snow, snow," then perches on Jon's shoulder. Ser Alliser speaks up to claim that Sam had trained the raven to do that trick. "They all say snow, go up to the rookery and her for yourselves. Mormont's bird had more words than that." Whereupon the raven asks Jon for corn, and when it doesn't get any, says "Kettle? Kettle? Kettle?"

The voting takes place, and when the results are announce, Jon is surrounded by friends. Cotter Pyke says, "if you muck this up, I'm going to rip your liver out and eat it with onions." Ser Denys says, more graciously, "Do not make me die regretful. Your uncle was a great man. Your lord father and his father as well. I shall expect full as much of you." The raven screams "Supper," and it is brought in. Pyp asks Sam how he got the raven to do the trick, and Sam says he didn't do it. "When it flew out of the kettle I almost wet myself."

Jon has a swallow of wine. "But only one. The Wall was his, the night was dark, and he had a king to face."

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