By Charles Matthews

Sunday, October 30, 2011

5. A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 116-144


He has resisted offers from other members of the Kingsguard, such as Loras Tyrell, to stand vigil over his father's bier, though his joints are stiffening and he feels a throbbing where his sword hand should be. "My hand is hungry for a sword. I need to kill someone. Varys, for a start, but first I'd need to find the rock he's hiding under." He had waited for Varys the night of Tyrion's escape, taking the eunuch by surprise in his own chambers and drawing him into the plot to free Tyrion. He now wonders if Tyrion killed Varys, too, and thinks about the maze of tunnels and passages that he had discovered in the castle after his father's death. If Tyrion had killed Varys, "it might be years before his bones were found."

During the search he had found a mosaic of the three-headed dragon, and remembers when he last saw Prince Rhaegar, whom he had begged to let someone beside himself guard the king. Rhaegar had told him that he planned to call a council to deal with the problems caused by the madness of Rhaegar's father, but of course he never returned from the battle. "He was right more than he knew. When the battle was done, there were changes made," changes that resulted from Jaime's killing King Aerys.

He is surprised that he feels no grief standing over his father's corpse, as first the lords and ladies do homage and later the common people. He thinks about how the investigation of the murder had been botched: The turnkeys who had been found asleep were killed, and Ser Boros Blount claimed that Cersei had ordered it, so Ser Osmund and his brothers did the deed. "I told Varys no one was to be harmed in this escape, Jaime thought, but I should have told my brother and my sister." And he remembers what Tyrion had told him about Cersei: "... she's been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and Moon Boy for all I know...."

As the stench from the corpse increases, he thinks of the smell of the battlefield where the crows feasted on the slain: "How much can a crown be worth, when a crow can dine upon a king?" He knows the crows are gathering over Baelor's Sept.
Every crow in the Seven Kingdoms should pay homage to you, Father. From Castamere to the Blackwater, you fed them well. That notion pleased Lord Tywin; his smile widened further. Bloody hell, he's grinning like a bridegroom at his bedding.
Jaime laughs outloud at this notion, aware that the smile on Tywin's face is caused by the accelerating decomposition, and at the irony of "standing vigil for a father I helped to slay, sending men forth to capture the brother I helped to free." He thinks of Brienne on her quest for Sansa, and alternates between "Stupid stubborn ugly wench" and praying, "Father, give her strength," uncertain whether the Father he invoked was the deity imaged in the sept or the one lying dead before him.

At midnight the septons and septas enter for their devotionals, and after they have left Cersei enters. She is dripping wet from the rain, and is disguised as "a tavern wench in a heavy roughspun cloak." She reminds him of the time she disguised herself to get past their father's guards so they could meet at an inn. She tells him that Kevan has refused to serve as Hand, and that he had revealed his knowledge of their incest. She also voices her suspicions that the High Septon knows as well, and pleads with him again to become Tommen's Hand, and speaks of him as "our son." He refuses, harshly, and says, "Tommen is no son of mine, no more Joffrey was.... You made them Robert's too." For a moment he wants to take her in his arms, but he resists, even when she pleads. "I was made for a battlefield, not a council chamber. And now it may be that I am unfit even for that." She leaves, angrily.

When dawn comes and the light shines in on the corpse, it is "rotting visibly. His face had taken on a greenish tinge, and his eyes were deeply sunken, two black pits. Fissures had opened in his cheeks, and a foul white fluid was seeping through the joints of his splendid gold-and-crimson armor to pool beneath his body." One of the septons faints during the morning devotions, and the addition of incense creates "a sweet rotten smell that made Jaime want to gag."

When the nobility arrives that morning, Cersei and Tommen are accompanied by Ser Osmund Kettleblack, and Jaime remembers Tyrion's mocking accusation that she had been fucking him. Having seen Ser Osmund naked in the baths, Jaime is revolted by the image that comes to mind and assures himself, "She would not do that. The Imp lied." She and Tommen climb the steps to kneel before the bier, but Tommen is horror-stricken.
"Pray," she whispered, and Tommen tried. But he was only eight and Lord Tywin was a horror. One desperate breath of air, then the king began to sob. "Stop that!" Cersei said. Tommen turned his head and doubled over, retching. His crown fell off and rolled across the marble floor. His mother pulled back in disgust, and all at once the king was running for the doors, as fast as his eight-year-old legs could carry him.
Jaime calls for Ser Osmund to relieve him and goes after Tommen, whom he takes outside "where the air was as fresh and clean as King's Landing ever got." He consoles the boy, who asks Jaime how he could bear the smell. Jaime recalls having his own rotting hand hanging around his neck, and tells him, "A man can bear most anything, if he must." He had smelled a man being roasted alive by King Aerys. "The world is full of horrors, Tommen. You can fight them, or laugh at them, or look without seeing ... go away inside."

Tommen knows what he means: "I ... I used to go away inside sometimes ... when Joffy...." But he doesn't get a chance to name what his brother had inflicted on him, because Cersei appears behind them and corrects the name to Joffrey and chides Tommen for shaming her. She continues to scold him until Jaime says, "Cersei, enough." She retorts that he was supposed to stand vigil for seven days and seven nights until the wake was over, but he says it's over: "Go look at him." Their argument is interrupted by the arrival of Mace Tyrell, who expresses concern about Tommen and asks if he can do anything. Jaime suggests that he take supper with Cersei and discuss it.

When he leaves, Cersei rounds on Jaime and asks, "why am I having supper with that grasping fool and his puerile wife?" She is not going to name him Hand, if that's what Jaime wants. It isn't: Jaime wants her to ask him to take Storm's End. "Either he will deliver Storm's End to you, or he will muck it up and look like a fool. Either way, you win." Cersei considers the idea, but says that Tyrell plans to stay until the marriage of Tommen and Margaery. So let the marriage take place right away, Jaime says, "and send him off to play at war."

"Why, our Lord of Highgarden might even lose his life in such a venture," Cersei says with a smile. And Jaime replies, "Especially if his patience runs thin this time, and he elects to storm the gate." To which Cersei observes, "for a moment you sounded quite like Father."


She has reached Duskendale, but the gates are shut, and she has to stay outside with farmers and other people who are waiting for them to open. She is halted at the gate by the captain of the guards, who wants to know her business in the town, and she says she is there to see the Lord of Duskendale or his maester. The captain notices the emblem on her shield, and she explains that the arms aren't hers. As it happens, he says, his sister paints arms on shields, and tells Brienne where to find her.

Brienne takes his advice and goes directly to the captain's sister, who tells her she can have the work done by the next morning. So she takes a room in the inn nearby and bathes, remembering how Jaime had gotten into the tub with her at Harrenhal. She tries to think of Renly instead, but can't remember his face. Then she goes to the castle, but finds that the lord is away, so she speaks with the castellan, Ser Rufus Leek. She presents the letter with Tommen's signature that Jaime had given her, but Ser Rufus can't read, so he sends her to the maester.

He tells her that he's been deluged with requests for information about Dontos Hollard, but he can only retell the history of the destruction of House Hollard, of which Dontos was the last. So she has run up on another dead end. Pondering her options, Brienne decides that the best would be to try the Eyrie, because "Lady Lysa would surely welcome her sister's daughter." But as she is thinking, she takes a wrong turn, and backtracking she collides with "a scrawny lad with straight, thin hair and a sty beneath one eye." He looks "vaguely familiar" to her, but when she asks if they know each other, he turns and runs away.

She returns to the inn, where the common room has become crowded. But someone behind her offers his seat, and when she turns around she sees that he's a dwarf with a "veined and bulbous" nose and "dressed in the brown roughspun robes of a holy brother." She tells him she had met other brothers on the road, and he says there are hundreds of them heading for King's Landing. He asks for her story and she says she's looking for her sister, who may be traveling with a knight or perhaps a fool. He remembers seeing a fool at Maidenpool. "He had a furtive air to him," the dwarf says, and he saw him once again at the Stinking Goose, where he "was seeking passage for three across the narrow sea."

She wonders why Ser Dontos would seek passage for three instead of just two; perhaps the third was Tyrion? Then later "some of Lord Tarly's soldiers visited the Goose looking for him, and a few days later I heard another man boasting that he'd fooled a fool and had the gold to prove it." The man's name was Nimble Dick, the dwarf recalls. Brienne tries to decide if this fool could have been Ser Dontos, and whether she should go "To Maidenpool, to look for a man named Nimble Dick in a place called the Stinking Goose?" She could take a ship that would take her north from Maidenpool if the contact with Nimble Dick doesn't pan out.

She listens to the talk at the other tables about the death of Lord Tywin and the "vile little dwarf" who killed him. There is talk about who will rule until Tommen comes of age, and someone suggests the Kingslayer, but the innkeep spits in the fire and calls Jaime an "oathbreaker," so Brienne decides she's heard enough. She goes to her room where she dreams of Renly's death again, except that when she looks "the dying king was not Renly after all but Jaime Lannister, and she had failed him."

In the morning the captain's sister brings her the freshly painted shield, which is so beautifully done that Brienne pays her half again what they had agreed upon. And she sets off, traveling north toward Maidenpool. She finds a marker at the burial site of the northern troops who had been killed in a battle with Lord Randyll Tarly, and says a prayer for them and for Catelyn and Robb. She is reminded of the night when Catelyn had been told that Bran and Rickon were dead, and how Catelyn talked about brushing Sansa's hair. Brienne vows again to find Sansa.

It begins to rain, and she takes shelter in the ruins of what she realizes is a Hollard castle, where Ser Dontos might have been born. She is looking for wood to make a fire when she hears the sound of a rider. It turns out to be the boy she bumped into in Duskendale. He rides past the castle. "He is stalking me, she realized, but that's a game that two can play." She follows him, with the rain muffling the sound of her horse, sneaks up behind him, and gives his piebald horse a smack on the rump with the flat of her sword.

The horse throws the boy, and she stands over him and demands to know who he is. His mouth is full of dirt from the fall, but finally he stammers out his name: Podrick Payne. She asks if he is spying on her for Varys or the queen, but he explains that he is Tyrion's squire, and he's looking for Sansa. "His face twisted in sudden anguish. 'I'm his squire,' he repeated, as the rain ran down his face, 'but he left me.'"  


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