By Charles Matthews

Saturday, November 12, 2011

16. A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 445-472


Jaime and his troops reach Darry, where Lancel is now lord, and find that things are on their way to recovery: the fields are being tilled and the damages to the castle are being repaired. Within the castle, Jaime is annoyed to observe "several bearded men with red, seven-pointed stars sewn onto ragged, filthy tunics. More bloody sparrows. Where do they all come from?"

He is welcomed to Darry not by Lancel, but by a maester, who expresses their surprise, because they had heard he was headed for Riverrun. Jaime says Darry was on the way, which is not exactly true. He asks about his uncle Kevan, and is told that he left after Lancel's wedding. But Lady Amerei is preparing a feast for Jaime and his "chief knights and captains" -- they can't afford to feed the rest of the entourage. As for Lancel, "He is at his prayers. His lordship has commanded us never to disturb him when he is praying."

Maester Ottomore shows Jaime to his lodgings, which turn out to be the chambers of the lord of the castle: "Lord Lancel has been sleeping in the sept," he tells Jaime. The furnishings are new and spartan, but a bath is provided for him. He goes down to the feast well-dressed and wearing his new golden hand. He finds Lancel's chair empty, and Lady Amerei tells him that Lancel is fasting and mourning for the late High Septon. "He wondered what Ser Kevan might have had to say about his son's new fervor. Could that be the reason for his uncle's abrupt departure?"

Amerei is the daughter of Merrett Frey, who had been hanged by outlaws, as her mother, Lady Mariya, explains to Jaime, so Amerei tends to weep frequently. Jaime, however, knows that Merrett was a braggart and liar, so he proposes only a noncommittal toast, "'To Merrett's memory,' he said. It was easier to drink to the man than to talk to him." He asks if it was Beric Dondarrion's band who killed him, but Lady Mariya says the peasants "spoke of a one-eyed man and another who wore a yellow cloak ... and a woman, cloaked and hooded." Amerei begs Jaime to stay and help kill the outlaws, but he ducks the request. "My place is with the king, my lady."

Talk turns to the atrocities attributed to the Hound at Saltpans, but Jaime wonders about them: "What they were describing sounded more like Gregor's work than Sandor's. Sandor had been hard and brutal, yes, but it was his big brother who was the real monster in House Clegane." One of the knights, however, insists that the man who raped and butchered at Saltpans was wearing the Hound's helmet. Nevertheless, he promises to hunt down the Hound after finishing things up at Riverrun. Then he excuses himself and goes to look for Lancel.

The sparrows were eating around cookfires in the yard, and Jaime wonders how Lancel intends to feed them once winter sets in. He finds the sept, but his entrance is barred by three sparrows, who say he can't disturb Lancel, and make a show of their clubs and an axe. But Lancel himself comes to the door and admits him. He is thin and barefoot and dressed in a tunic of undyed wool. The crown of his head has been shaved, and Jaime asks if he has lost his wits.

Lancel insists that he has found his faith, and explains that he sleeps each night beneath the altar of a different god, and that they send him visions. "I dreamed that you would come In the dream you knew what I had done. How I had sinned. You killed me for it." Jaime opines that he should be eating and sleeping with his wife instead. "You need a son with Darry blood if you want to keep this castle." But Lancel expresses indifference to the "pile of cold stones," and that it's more important for him to atone for his sins.

"What do you know of sin, coz?" Jaime asks. "I killed my king." Lancel replies, "The brave man slays with a sword, the craven with a wineskin. We are both kingslayers, ser." Jaime is aware of Lancel's complicity in drugging Robert Baratheon's wine on the hunt, but asks, "What else did you do to require so much atonement?" Lancel's tears are the answer that Jaime articulates: "You killed the king, ... then you fucked the queen." Lancel pleads in mitigation that his coitus with Cersei was interruptus: "It is not treason unless you finish inside." Jaime "wondered what his cousin would say if he were to confess his own sins, the three treasons Cersei had named Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella." Then Lancel reveals that he had confessed his sins to the High Septon -- the recently deceased one -- and Jaime wonders "if his cousin had any notion what fruit his words had borne."

Moreover, Lancel tells him, he is renouncing his lordship and his marriage: "On the morrow I will return to King's Landing and swear my sword to the new High Septon and the Seven. I mean to take vows and join the Warrior's Sons." And so Jaime hears for the first time of Cersei's repeal of Maegor's law about a militant clergy: "His High Holiness writes that King Tommen has given his consent. I will show you the letter, if you like."

Lancel asks Jaime to pray with him, but Jaime says he should pray for both of them. Then he goes to find Ser Ilyn. As they fight, he tells his mute opponent that this is where Arya's wolf attacked Joffrey, and Cersei had wanted her to lose a hand. Cersei and Robert had a fight about it, and Robert passed out after drinking too much. So Jaime went to bed with Cersei while Robert was asleep on the floor. "As I was fucking her, Cersei cried, 'I want.' I thought that she meant me, but it was the Stark girl that she wanted, maimed or dead." And the phrase comes to him that he spoke when he pushed Bran Stark from the window: "The things I do for love."

In response to this story, Ser Ilyn makes his clacking sound.
He is laughing at me, realized Jaime Lannister. "For all I know you fucked my sister too, you pock-faced bastard," he spat out. "Well, shut your bloody mouth and kill me if you can." 


They reach a septry on an island across the bay from Saltpans. It is known as the Quiet Isle because penitents come there "to atone for their sins through contemplation, prayer, and silence," Septon Meribald tells them. To reach it they have to dismount and follow Meribald across the mudflats, a tortuous route past patches of quicksand.

Finally they reach their goal and are greeted by Brother Narbert, a proctor who is allowed to speak one day out of seven. He is taken aback to find that Brienne is a woman, and suggests that they speak to the Elder Brother. When they stable their horses, they notice a big black stallion, and are told that he is a trial for them, having broken one brother's leg and bit off the ear of another.

They pass a brother who is digging a grave for Brother Clement, who "died of wounds he got at Saltpans. He had taken some of our mead to the market there, on the day the outlaws descended on the town." But the war has not come to the Quiet Isle because of its natural defenses: the mudflats and the tides.

Brother Narbert leads them to a cave with a door at its entrance, known as the Hermit's Hole. The Elder Brother, a tall, vigorous man, meets them. He tells them more of the destruction of Saltpans, where everything was burned except the castle. The townsfolk curse Ser Quincy Cox, "who barred his gates when the outlaws entered the town and sat safe behind stone walls as his people screamed and died." Septon Meribald observes that Ser Quincy is an old man, with only grandsons and daughters to protect him. "What could he have done, one man against so many?" But Brienne is not willing to forgive him, and even the Elder Brother says to Meribald, "When you cross to Saltpans, no doubt Ser Quincy will ask you for forgiveness. I am glad that you are here to give it. I could not."

After supper they are shown to their quarters, with Brienne in one of the women's cottages. As her squire, Podrick insisted on staying with her, but Brother Narbert explained that it was the custom of the septry for men and women to stay in separate quarters. The Elder Brother accompanies them, and he asks Brienne why she is going to Saltpans. She describes the girl he is looking for, and recognizes her as Sansa Stark. Privately, he tells Brienne that the girl reported to be with the Hound was not Sansa but Arya, and that he doesn't know what happened to her: "She may have been amongst the children slain at Saltpans."

And then there is more news: Sandor Clegane, he says, is dead. He buried the Hound himself, and covered his grave with stones, placing the helmet on the cairn as a marker. Someone stole it, he says. "The man who raped and killed at Saltpans was not Sandor Clegane, though he may be as dangerous." The only thing that kept the Hound going, he says, was hatred for his brother and "the hope of seeing his brother's blood upon his blade ... and even that was taken from him, when Prince Oberyn of Dorne stabbed Ser Gregor with a poisoned spear."

Brienne observes that it sounds as if the Elder Brother pitied the Hound, and he admits that he did. He had found him dying of fever by the Trident, and did what he could to give him ease: "He begged me for the gift of mercy, but I am sworn not to kill again." He mentions that the black stallion in the stables was Clegane's horse Stranger. "A blasphemous name. We prefer to call him Driftwood, as he was found beside the river. I fear he has his former master's nature."

The Elder Brother then reveals that he was once a knight, who fought for Prince Rhaegar at the Battle of the Trident. He was wounded and his horse was killed, and as he was searching for a horse he was knocked unconscious. He woke up on the Quiet Isle, having been carried there by the tide. Then he urges her to give up her quest.
"The Hound is dead, and in any case he never had your Sansa Stark. As for this beast who wears his helm, he will be found and hanged. The wars are ending, and these outlaws cannot survive the peace. Randyll Tarly is hunting them from Maidenpool and Walder Frey from the Twins, and there is a new young lord in Darry, a pious man who will surely set his lands to rights. Go home, child. You have a home, which is more than many can say in these dark days." 
But when he urges her to return to the father who loves her, and "would sooner have a living daughter than a shattered shield," her history comes back to her: "I am the only child the gods let him keep. The freakish one, not fit to be a son or daughter." He experiences pour forth "like black blood from a wound," and she insists that she must keep her vow to Jaime: "Oathkeeper, he named the sword. I have to try to save her ... or die in the attempt."

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