By Charles Matthews

Monday, October 31, 2011

6. A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 145-171


Marillion, in one of the sky cells, is keeping everyone awake at night by singing, and she begs Littlefinger to make him stop. He assures Sansa that he promised the minstrel that he could sing, but it won't last much longer, because Lord Nestor Royce is ascending to the Eyrie tomorrow to investigate the supposed murder of Lysa Arryn by Marillion. Littlefinger has persuaded the singer to go along with the story.

Sansa is nervous about the possibility that Marillion will turn on them nevertheless, fearing that "if Lord Nestor looks in my eyes and sees how scared I am" he will suspect her. But Littlefinger tells her to "tell Lord Nestor the same tale that you told Lord Robert," Lysa's son. The problem is that Sansa (rightly) doesn't trust Littlefinger, even though he saved her from being pushed out the Moon Door by Lysa:
He saved Alayne, his daughter, a voice within her whispered. But she was Sansa too ... and sometimes it seemed to her that the Lord Protector was two people as well. He was Petyr, her protector, warm and funny and gentle ... but he was also Littlefinger, the lord she'd known at King's Landing, smiling slyly and stroking his beard as he whispered in Queen Cersei's ear. And Littlefinger was no friend of hers. When Joff had her beaten, the Imp defended her, not Littlefinger. When the mob sought to rape her, the Hound carried her to safety, not Littlefinger. When the Lannisters wed her to Tyrion against her will, Ser Garlan the Gallant gave her comfort, not Littlefinger. Littlefinger never lifted so much as his little finger for her.
But on the other hand, he was the one who got her away from King's Landing, and she has no place to go and no one to turn to but him. So she resigns herself to lying, especially about Marillion, who had tried to rape her.

Lord Nestor arrives in the afternoon, and after greeting him, Sansa is sent by Littlefinger to fetch little Lord Robert. The meeting is being held in the High Hall, which Sansa hasn't entered since Lysa's death. She "could hear the wind rattling at the Moon Door. I must not look at it, she told herself, else I'll start to shake as badly as Robert." When Lord Nestor asks about his mother, Robert says, "Marillion hurt my mother. He threw her out the Moon Door." And when asked if he saw it happen, he says, "Alayne saw it.... And my lord stepfather." Lord Nestor looks at her, and she tries to keep from shaking. Littlefinger says, "She still has nightmares of that day. Small wonder if she cannot bear to speak of it."

But she does speak of it, telling him that she was with Lysa "when Marillion ... pushed her." Robert interrupts to say, "He killed my mother. I want him to fly!" and begins to have a seizure. When it ends, Littlefinger says he should be taken to bed and bled, and Maester Colemon accompanies him. Lord Nestor says he had never liked Marillion and advised Lysa to get rid of him, and others accompanying him recalled that he sang songs that mocked them. Littlefinger says, "I should have been with her, but I never dreamt ... if I had not insisted ... it was I who killed her."

Sansa is surprised by this statement, not realizing that Littlefinger is claiming guilt to remove suspicion from himself. And succeeding: Lord Nestor's son, Albar Royce, says, "No, my lord, you must not blame yourself." His father asks for Marillion to be brought before him, and soon the jailer, Mord, appears with Marillion. "White silk gloves covered his hands, while a white silk bandage spared the lords the sight of his eyes." He falls to one knee and begs forgiveness, saying, "If I had eyes I should weep." He says he loved Lysa so much that when he found that she was pregnant with Lord Petyr's child, "a ... a madness seized me."

Sansa stares at Marillion's hands. One of the maids had said that Mord had chopped off three of his fingers, but the gloves make it impossible to tell. She wonders if the story is true. Marillion says that Littlefinger had let him keep his harp and his tongue. "Lady Lysa dearly loved my singing...." Lord Nestor orders him taken away: "It sickens me to look at him." Mord complies, and when he speaks, Sansa is surprised to see that the jailer has teeth made of gold. (Tyrion had promised to reward him.) Littlefinger says he has been too gentle with him: "If truth be told, I pity him. He killed for love." Lord Nestor says, "No man lingers long in the sky cells. The blue will call to him."

Littlefinger has Lord Nestor's retinue shown to their rooms, but invites him to have a cup of wine in his solar, and asks Sansa to serve. Lord Nestor tells him that his cousin, Bronze Yohn Royce, wants to question Marillion too, and others may accompany him. "My cousin means to remove you as Lord Protector," Nestor says. Littlefinger says he accepts that fact and can't stop him. Then he opens a chest and takes out a document that he says Lysa wanted Lord Nestor to have. It proclaims House Royce the hereditary Keepers of the Gates of the Moon, and Sansa is startled to see tears come to Nestor's eyes. Littlefinger tells him it's "a token of the love my lady bore you." Nestor observes that the signature is Littlefinger's, though the seal is that of House Arryn. "Lysa was murdered before the document could be presented for her signature," Littlefinger tells him, "so I signed as Lord Protector."

After a good deal of wine, Lord Nestor goes off to bed, and Littlefinger asks Sansa if she understands what happened. "You gave Lord Nestor the Gates of the Moon to be certain of his support," she says. He did, he says, and he did it because Nestor is aware that he is considered inferior to his cousin, Bronze Yohn. "He wants to believe that Lysa valued him above all her other bannermen," especially Bronze Yohn. She observes that Lord Robert could have signed and sealed it, but that he did, as Lord Protector, and when prompted by Littlefinger she says he did it because if he's removed as Lord Protector.... "...Lord Nestor's claim to the Gates will suddenly be called into question." He compliments her on seeing his plan, though it's "no more than I'd expect of mine own daughter."

Sansa is proud of herself for figuring it out, but still bothered by posing as Alayne. He tells her that they must keep up the fiction even in private, lest they be overheard by a servant or a guardsman. "I am tempted to say this is no game we play, daughter, but of course it is. The game of thrones." She says that Oswell Kettleblack knows the truth, because he rowed her from King's Landing when she escaped. He adds that his captain of guards, Ser Lothor Brune, does too, but both have been in his service for a long time and each of them keeps watch on the other. "Trust no one, I once told Eddard Stark, but he would not listen."

She goes off to bed, and in the middle of the night is wakened by Lord Robert climbing in bed with her. He asks if she is his mother now. "'I suppose I am,' she said. If a lie was kindly meant, there was no harm in it."

The Kraken's Daughter

Asha Greyjoy has just arrived on Harlaw, and is at Ten Towers, the castle of her uncle Lord Rodrik Harlaw, her mother's elder brother. "Lord Rodrik was seldom seen without a book in hand, be it in the privy, on the deck of his Sea Song, or whilst holding audience." And Asha finds him now in the Book Tower, which is "the fattest of the ten." He loves "written words, which so many ironborn found unmanly and perverse."

She gets quickly to the point: "Was my father murdered?" Her mother believes he was, he says, but all he knows is what they have been told: "Balon fell to his death when a rope bridge broke beneath him. A storm was rising, and the bridge was swaying and twisting with each gust of wind." She notes that her uncle Euron's ship had been away for three years and that it had returned on the day her father died. He corrects her: "The day after, we had heard. Silence was still out to sea when Balon died, or so it is claimed. Even so, I will agree that Euron's return was ... timely, shall we say?"

She had asked Rodrik to summon the ships of houses loyal to her, but there are only a few in the harbor. He says the rest have gone to Old Wyk: "I thought you would have heard. Aeron Damphair has called a kingsmoot." The other priests of the Drowned God have joined him. She asks if Euron has gone along with it, but he says Euron "does not confide in me." Nor does he know if Victarion, Aeron and Euron's other brother, has gone to the kingsmoot.

"I shall not go to Old Wyk," he tells her. "Nor should you." But she says she doesn't want to miss the first kingsmoot in ... "Four thousand years," he says, citing an old history, though another historian has said it may be half that.
"This dream of kingship is a madness in our blood. I told your father so the first time he rose, and it is more true now than it was then. It's land we need, not crowns. With Stannis Baratheon and Tywin Lannister contending for the Iron Throne, we have a rare chance to improve our lot. Let us take one side or the other, help them to victory with our fleets, and claim the lands we need from a grateful king."
Asha says she'll consider it, "once I sit the Seastone Chair." Her uncle gives a discouraging sigh and warns her, "No woman has ever ruled the ironborn." But the more he tries to dissuade her, the stubborner Asha gets. She wants him to come to what she calls "my queensmoot," and tells him it will be living history. "I prefer my history dead," he says. "Dead history is writ in ink, the living sort in blood."

The conversation turns to Theon, and she says she isn't certain that he is dead. "We found parts of many bodies.... It seemed as though the northmen fought amongst themselves." He observes, "We had one king, then five. Now all I see are crows, squabbling over the corpse of Westeros." Once again, he pleads with her not to go to Old Wyk. If she stays, he says, he will name her heir to the Ten Towers. Ser Harras Harlaw will inherit the title of Lord of Harlaw, but he can rule from his castle at Grey Garden. "Do fealty to him for the castle and Ser Harras will protect you." But she persists: "It's my father's seat I want, not yours." He sends her away and turns to his book.

Outside, she is approached by a childhood boyfriend, Tristifer Botley, now Lord Botley. He tells her that Euron "has been buying friends at every hand" with the treasure he brought back in the Silence. And although Tristifer has the right to the title of Lord Botley, his uncle Germund calls himself by that name, with Euron's support. She promises to restore his lands when she takes the Seastone Chair. "He had not been the first boy she had ever kissed, but he was the first to undo the laces of her jerkin and slip a sweaty hand beneath to feel her budding breasts." He had been fostered at Pyke after Theon was taken hostage at Winterfell, but had been sent away when their maester "found them at their play."

She asks if he will come to the kingsmoot and support her, and he agrees, though Lord Blacktyde has said Euron will attack the people who attend. "I am your man forever, Asha. I would wed you. Your lady mother has given her consent." She tries to discourage him, but he swears that he has "never touched another woman." She tells him, "Go touch one ... or two, or ten. I have touched more men than I can count. Some with my lips, more with my axe." She tells him that she lost her virginity at sixteen and that he's "a sweet boy and always were, but I am no sweet girl."

When he pleads with her and seizes her arm, she pulls out her dirk and puts it at his throat. "I am your queen, not your wife. Remember that." And she leaves him "with a fat drop of blood slowly creeping down his neck."

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