By Charles Matthews

Sunday, November 13, 2011

17. A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 473-503


News of the capture of the Shield Islands has reached King's Landing, and Margaery Tyrell is upset, to say the least, waking the council and Cersei to demand that something be done about it. Cersei, naturally, is torn between annoyance at Margaery's demands and a secret delight at the Tyrells' plight, though she also recognizes that Euron Greyjoy's attack is a threat to the Iron Throne as well. She decides to put forth the idea that Stannis is somehow complicit in the attack, which only muddles things further.

When Cersei refers to the Shield Islands as "these rocks," Margaery gives a gasp: "Did Your Grace say rocks?" But Loras Tyrell calms his sister and explains their strategic importance in the defense of Highgarden. Cersei suggests that Highgarden "hire sellsails from beyond the narrow sea," which only puts Ser Loras's back up: "The scum of the Free Cities?" he says, contemptuously. "I beg Your Grace send word to Dragonstone and command Lord Redwyne to raise his sails at once."

Aurane Waters protests this plan, and the suggestion to end the siege of Storm's End, and Cersei agrees: "Storm's End is a hundred times more valuable than the Shields, and Dragonstone ... so long as Dragonstone remains in the hands of Stannis Baratheon, it is a knife at my son's throat." So Ser Loras strides forth and asks, "Your Grace, let me take Dragonstone." He vows to accomplish the task "within a fortnight."
No one had given Cersei such a lovely gift since Sansa Stark had run to her to divulge Lord Eddard's plans. She was pleased to see that Margaery had gone pale.... "Let Sweet Cersei carry our Knight of Flowers to Dragonstone at once. Ser Loras, the command is yours. Swear to me that you shall not return until Dragonstone is Tommen's."
Pycelle accompanies Cersei as she leaves the throne room, and expresses his misgivings about Loras's rash decision, but she is full of visions of the outcome: "If Loras took the castle, Stannis would suffer a grievous blow, and the Redwyne fleet could sail off to meet the ironmen. If he failed, she would see to it that he had the lion's share of the blame. Nothing tarnishes a hero as much as failure." And of course, there was always the possibility that he would be killed.

Lady Taena is in Cersei's bed when she returns, and Cersei tells her what has taken place. Cersei begins to have thoughts about what it might be like to have sex with Lady Merryweather, remembering the unpleasantness of sleeping with Robert Baratheon, but her reveries are interrupted by another knocking at the door. It is Lady Falyse Stokeworth, who needs to see her urgently. Cersei dresses and meets her in her solar, where she finds Lady Falyse with a bruised and swollen face, a split lip, and torn and soiled clothing.

Ser Balman has challenged Bronn to single combat, and has been killed. Cersei is furious: "I asked you to arrange a hunting mishap. An arrow gone astray, a fall from a horse, an angry boar ... there are so many ways a man can die in the woods. None of them involving lances." When Falyse went to her husband's aid, Bronn struck her in the face, and told her to leave Stokeworth. And when she appealed to the guard, they said she must do as "Lord Stokeworth" ordered. Moreover, Ser Balman confessed to the plot, including Cersei's role in it.

"You have to help me," Falyse begs. "Where am I to go? What will I do?" Cersei suggests that she join the silent sisters in prayer and contemplation, but then says she can stay in the castle. While Falyse is consoling herself with win, Cersei sends for Qyburn and says, "I cannot have Falyse spreading tales about the city. Her grief has made her witless." She is to be taken to the black cells.

She goes back to her room, where she tries to make love to Taena Merryweather. "But it was no good. She could not feel it, whatever Robert felt on the nights he took her." She brings Taena to a climax, but when Taena offers to return the favor, she refuses. "It would be morning soon, and all of this would be forgotten. It had never happened."


His cousin, Ser Daven Lannister, the Warden of the West, arrives, and tells him that the siege of Riverrun is still dragging on. "The Blackfish sits inside the castle, we sit outside in our camps. Bloody boring, if you want to know the truth." Ryman Frey is trying to persuade the Blackfish to yield the castle by erecting a gibbet and taking Edmure Tully there at dawn, threatening to hang him. And Lord Emmon Frey, who is married to Daven and Jaime's aunt, wants Edmure hanged because Riverrun will be his when it's taken. On the other hand, Lord Gawen Westerling doesn't want Edmure hanged because his wife and three daughters, including Robb Stark's widow, are inside the castle.

Jaime asks if they can starve the castle into submission, but Daven tells him, "The Blackfish expelled all the useless mouths from Riverrun and picked this country clean. He has enough stores to keep man and horse alive for two full years." Meanwhile, the troops besieging the castle are living on the fish they can take from the rivers, but it's difficult finding fodder for the horses. Troops are beginning to desert, or to be found hanged by outlaws.

Jaime asks if attempts have been made to treaty with Brynden Tully, but is told that the Blackfish says "he would not waste fair words on foul men." Jaime intends to try, however: "If he could end this siege without bloodshed, then it could not be said that he had taken up arms against House Tully." After parting from Daven, Jaime goes to find Ser Ilyn for his ritual combat. "He liked to believe that he was getting better, but the improvement was slow and not without cost. Underneath his steel and wool and boiled leather Jaime Lannister was a tapestry of cuts and scabs and bruises."

When they reach Riverrun, Jaime sees the tall gallows that has been erected, with Edmure Tully on top of it with a rope around his neck. The castle itself flies the banners of House Tully, except for the highest tower, which flies "a long white standard emblazoned with the direwolf of Stark." He gives orders to send a message to the Blackfish that he wants a parley with him at first light tomorrow.

His aunt, Genna Lannister, and her husband, Emmon Frey, come to his tent. She asks if it is true that Tyrion killed Tywin, "Or is that some calumny your sister put about?" He admits that it's true. Then she asks about the death of of their son, Cleos. Jaime lies and says he died fighting the outlaws, and that he was buried by a stream, though in fact the Bloody Mummers had left him for the crows. He assures his aunt that he will return his bones to Casterly Rock when the war is over. "Bones were bones; these days, nothing was easier to come by."

Lord Emmon wants Jaime's assurance that Riverrun won't be destroyed, and pulls out the decree naming him lord of the castle, but his wife snaps, "So long as the Blackfish sits inside Riverrun you can wipe your arse with that paper for all the good it does us." And Jaime points out that although the paper gives him the lands and incomes of Riverrun, it "will be subject to the rule of Harrenhal" under Petyr Baelish. Finally, Genna sends her husband out so she can have a long talk with Jaime, and the first thing she asks is whatever Tywin Lannister was thinking when he made Emmon lord of Riverrun.

They discuss various matters of inheritance, and she asks, "why would Cersei permit the Faith to arm again?" Jaime hasn't given the matter much thought, but Genna has: "The Sword and Stars troubled even the Targaryens." She describes the ongoing conflict between the crown and the Faith, and Jaime admits that he has forgotten most of it. "You and your sister both," she says. She doesn't have kind words for his sister: "Cersei has put some bastard on the council too, and a kettle in the Kingsguard. She has the Faith arming and the Braavosi calling in loans all over Westeros. None of which would be happening if she'd had the simple sense to make your uncle the King's Hand." Jaime reminds her that Kevan refused, but she insists, "Kevan always did what was asked of him. It is not like him to turn away from any duty. Something is awry here, I can smell it."

Jaime thinks, "He knows about us," but he doesn't dare say that to his aunt.

Then they speak about Tywin, and she says, "Who will protect us now?" Jaime says, "He left a son." She replies, "Aye, he did. That is what I fear the most." For as handsome and brave as Jaime is, she says, "Tyrion is Tywin's son, not you. I said so once to your father's face, and he would not speak to me for half a year. Men are such thundering great fools. Even the sort who come along once in a thousand years."

No comments:

Post a Comment