By Charles Matthews

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

13. A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 344-376


King Tommen wants to sit on the Iron Throne, but Cersei is not having any rebelliousness, partly because she suspects that Lady Margaery is putting him up to it. She threatens to send for his whipping boy, Pate, "and have him beaten till he bleeds." He confesses that it was Margaery's suggestion, and Cersei probes until he admits that she suggested he attend council meetings too: "She says I have to learn to be king." She says he would just be bored and fall asleep. "The rule was hers; Cersei did not mean to give it up until Tommen came of age. I waited, so can he. I waited half my life."

This little quarrel puts her in a bad mood until Grand Maester Pycelle arrives with some good news: "Wyman Manderly has done as you commanded, and beheaded Lord Stannis's onion knight." Even then, Cersei is skeptical that Davos has really been killed, but Pycell says that his head and hands have been mounted on the walls of White Harbor and that one of the hands has Davos's shortened fingers.

After an annoying meeting the envoy from Braavos, Noho Dimittis, who is pressing for repayment of the debt and claims that all Lord Gyles does is cough at him, Cersei returns to her apartments to bathe and change for dinner. She is accompanied by Ser Osmund Kettleblack, whom she presses on the matter of his brother Osney's seduction of Lady Margaery. The problem, he tells Cersei, is that Osney and Margaery are never alone together. But when he says that there are often men about her, Cersei thinks she can do something with that and asks what men. Osmund says she likes "singers and jugglers and such," and that Ser Tallad is often there, along with the Redwyne twins and Jalabhar Xho.

As they pass by the ruins of the Tower of the Hand, she sees that across the yard Margaery and her group are cheering a squire who has been jousting with the quintain. Then she realizes that the boy is Tommen. When she reaches him, he is being helped from his horse by Loras Tyrell, who praises Tommen and says he must continue to practice. Cersei's arrival puts a chill on the celebration of Tommen, but she says when he is grown he will be as great a champion as his father.

Margaery asks what tourneys Robert won that Tommen should know about, causing Cersei to flush: She had been thinking about Tommen's real father, Jaime, when she spoke. She says that Robert defeated Prince Rhaegar at the tourney of the Trident and named her "his queen of love and beauty," then hurriedly leaves, asking Osmund to help Tommen with his armor and Ser Loras to accompany her. She berates Loras for putting Tommen at risk and says that any training he receives should be conducted by the master-at-arms -- which, Loras reminds her, they currently don't have. "She did not want Tommen growing close to Loras Tyrell. The Knight of Flowers was no sort of man for any boy to emulate." (Again, Loras's homosexuality is only hinted at.) She says she'll look into the matter of appointing a new master-at-arms, but in the meantime, his job is to protect Tommen. "No more."

Lord Qyburn is waiting for her in her solar. He has various reports for her, including the slave revolt that has spread from Astapor to Meereen, and numerous reports of dragons. She says they must mean harpies -- "'It is harpies in Meereen.' She remembered that from somewhere." And why should she care about slave revolts, since they don't have slaves in Westeros? There is also a report from Dorne that Prince Doran has imprisoned Ser Daemon Sand and that the daughter of the Knight of Spottswood has been betrothed to the elderly Lord Estermont. Both of them were close to Doran's daughter, Arianne, Qyburn says, but again Cersei doesn't know why she should be bothered by this.

Finally, there is another "trifling matter." A puppet show has become popular in King's Landing in which puppet lions ruling a kingdom devour a stag but at the end are devoured by a dragon. "The ending took the puppet show from simple insolence to treason," Cersei realizes, so she orders spies sent to the shows and the names of any "men of note" taken down. They can fine the ones who have money, put out an eye of anyone who doesn't, and cut off the heads of the puppeteers. Qyburn asks if he can imprison a couple of the puppeteers, especially a woman, and she agrees.

She is soaking in her bath when Jaime enters with Tommen. The king insists on being allowed to train and that Ser Loras should be his trainer: "Margaery says that everyone has to do what the king says. I want my white courser saddled on the morrow so Ser Loras can teach me how to joust. I want a kitten too, and I don't want to eat beets." Jaime laughs, but Cersei doesn't. Tommen is afraid when she tells him to come closer, but he does, and she promises him that he will learn to joust, but not from Loras because "knights of the Kingsguard have more important duties than playing with a child." When she calls on Jaime to agree he says, sarcastically, "Riding around the city walls, for an instance." Finally, Tommen gives in when she promises him a kitten.

When he's gone, Jaime asks, "Are you drunk, or merely stupid?" They fight about Ser Loras, and Cersei is incensed that she is getting so much resistance: "No one had ever balked her lord father. When Tywin Lannister spoke, men obeyed. When Cersei spoke, they felt free to counsel her, to contradict her, even refuse her." Finally, she orders him out. She has ordered an expensive new dress because "her wretched washerwomen had shrunk several of her old gowns so they no longer fit," but she took the price of the new gowns out of the washerwomen's wages.

Her guests include Lady Falyse, whose mother, Lady Tanda, has suffered a broken hip in a fall from a horse. Ser Balman Byrch explains that the saddle girth broke, and that the stableboy should have seen that it was worn. He talks about the "sparrows" they encountered on the road, and Cersei observes that the new High Septon will have to deal with them once he's chosen. There had been a leading candidate for the position until the sparrows found him in a brothel.

Ser Balman then brings up the unpleasant subject of the naming of Lollys's son: Tyrion. He assures Cersei that neither he nor Falyse had any role in it. "Lollys is a simple creature, and her husband is given to black humors." Cersei decides to use it to enlist them in her cause, and talks about her fear that the Imp will attack her next, and that Bronn is working on his behalf. "I ... I would sleep more easily of a night if I were to hear that Ser Bronn had suffered a ... a mishap ... whilst hunting, perhaps." Ser Balman gets the message.

Cersei checks in on Tommen after dinner and is surprised to find three black kittens asleep in bed with him. Ser Meryn Trant, on guard, says that Margaery had given them to him, and he had been unable to decide which one to keep. Cersei wishes they weren't black, which is unlucky. And she is reminded of the murder of Rhaegar's daughter, who might have been hers if King Aerys hadn't thwarted Tywin's plan to marry Cersei to Rhaegar. "Next to Rhaegar, even her beautiful Jaime had seemed no more than a callow boy." The day she met Rhaegar was the day she had visited Maggy the Frog. "She had only done it to show Jeyne and Melara that the lioness fears nothing." They had laughed at the old woman's prophecies, but at the end of the tourney Tywin had informed her that Aerys had rejected the idea of betrothing her to Rhaegar.


Hyle Hunt decides to take the heads of Shagwell, Pyg, and Timeon with them as they journey back the way they came. But by the time they reach Maidenpool, the stench of the heads has Brienne and Podrick keeping their distance from Hunt, who gives them to a guard and tells him to mount them on the wall above the gate. Randyll Tarly is astonished when he hears that Brienne had killed all three of them, but he sticks to his conviction that she has no business carrying on like a knight: "It's time you took off that mail and donned proper clothes again," he says, telling her to find a ship in the harbor that will take her to Tarth.

Brienne refuses, of course, and insists on continuing her search for Sansa. She suggests seeking out Sandor Clegane, but Tarly scoffs at the idea. Clegane has joined the outlaws, he says, and they have eluded his efforts to track them down and kill them. "We've hanged dozens of outlaws, but the leaders still elude us. Clegane, Dondarrion, the red priest, and now this woman Stoneheart ... how do you propose to find them, when I cannot?" He decides that if he can't stop her, he'll let her try, but when she asks if she and Podrick might stay there for the night he refuses. "No man deserves to be cursed with such as you. Live or die, Lady Brienne, do not return to Maidenpool whilst I rule here."

There are no rooms for them at any of the inns, but Podrick suggests they see if they can find a place to sleep that night on one of the ships in the harbor. They finally find shelter on a galley that has suffered damage in a storm and is waiting until the captain can get enough money together to have her repaired. Brienne spends a restless night dreaming about the men she had killed.

They have agreed to meet Hyle Hunt at the Stinking Goose in the morning, and they breakfast there -- to Hunt's dismay when he arrives: "Gods, I hope you did not eat the food here," he says. He has inquired about Clegane and tells them he was last seen at Saltpans before riding west along the Trident. He hasn't joined the outlaws, but in fact the outlaws are looking for him. Saltpans, he suggests, would be the best place to start looking for the Hound. There is a septon named Meribald who knows the territory intimately and is leaving tomorrow to go in the direction of Saltpans. Hunt says he's going with him. "You and Podrick can go wherever you bloody well like."

Brienne suspects that Lord Randyll has put him up to this, but he tells her he has been dismissed from Tarly's service. He has decided to become a hedge knight, and if he happens to find Sansa Stark, so much the better. Brienne gives in and she and Podrick join up with Hunt and Septon Meribald, "a septon without a sept, only one step up from a begging brother in the hierarchy of the faith." He has a donkey laden with "Food for the poor and hungry of the riverlands," he tells her. He also has a large dog, who is called Dog. Meribald is barefoot, and says he hasn't worn shoes for twenty years; he has "the biggest feet that Brienne had ever seen, bare and black and hard as horn."

They make their way through the marshlands, where Meribald is well-known by the people who live there, and he tells them about how bad the wolves have grown lately. "They say the pack is led by a monstrous she-wolf, a stalking shadow grim and grey and huge." (The reader remembers Nymeria, Arya's direwolf, driven away at the Trident.) He warns them not to go out onto the mudflats by themselves, or the mud may swallow them up. And he tells them of the "broken men" who have gone off to fight in some lord or other's wars and finally are so undone by their experiences that they desert and find themselves living "from day to day, from meal to meal, more beast than man.... In times like these, the traveler must beware of broken men, and fear them ... but he should pity them as well."

Brienne realizes that Meribald himself had been one of the broken men.

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