By Charles Matthews

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

20. A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 561-586


Bryden Tully comes out to meet Jaime for the parley, but it is clear from the beginning -- when the Blackfish addresses Jaime as "Kingslayer" -- that it is not going to go well. He also forces Jaime to admit that he has not fulfilled his promise to Catelyn: to return Sansa and Arya. And when Jaime promises to return Edmure in exchange for Lady Sybelle Westerling and her three children, Tully uses it again: "As you returned Lady Catelyn's daughters?" In short, the Blackfish is determined not to trust anything Jaime says.

Finally, Jaime proposes they settle their differences by single combat, each of them to name a champion. But the Blackfish throws that in his face as well: "Why not you against me, ser?" Jaime knows that he is disadvantaged by his lack of a sword hand, but he has another reason to advance for not fighting Ser Brynden: His oath to Catelyn not to take up arms against Starks or Tullys. But he bluffs his way through by saying that if the Blackfish will free him from that pledge, he will fight him. "If I win, Riverrun is ours. If you slay me, we'll lift the siege."

But Tully will not take him up on the offer, and ends the matter by saying there are no terms under which he will surrender the castle. He came to parley only because "A siege is deadly dull. I wanted to see this stump of yours and hear whatever excuses you cared to offer up for your latest enormities. They were feebler than I hoped." And he turns and rides back into the castle, leaving Jaime to seethe.

Back at camp, he summons a war council. But it quickly degenerates into squabbling among various factions of the Frey family and others, and Jaime has to silence them. He announces, "We attack at first light." Then he decides to visit the gallows where Edmure Tully stands with a noose around his neck. He takes Ilyn Payne with him, and when he reaches the platform on which Edmure is standing, Edmure says, "Better a sword than a rope. Do it, Payne." Jaime responds by telling Payne, "You heard Lord Tully. Do it."

Shouting "No! Stop!" Edwyn Frey appears, followed by his father, Ser Ryman, by whose orders Edmure had been posted on the gallows. Ryman is accompanied by "a straw-haired slattern as drunk as he was." When Ryman protests, Jaime backhands him with his golden hand and threatens to have Ser Ilyn take off his head. He dismisses Ryman and replaces him with Edwyn, then takes Edmure with him: Ser Ilyn had cut the rope in two, and Edmure had collapsed on the scaffold.

As he returns to the camp with Edmure, Jaime sees a singer and has him follow. Edmure asks Jaime why he had him cut down, and Jaime says, "Consider it a wedding gift." When they reach Jaime's pavilion he has a bath prepared for Edmure, along with wine and some food. "Once you've eaten, my men will escort you to Riverrun. What happens after that is up to you.
"Yield the castle and no one dies. Your smallfolk may go in peace or stay to serve Lord Emmon. Ser Brynden will be allowed to take the black, along with as many of the garrison as choose to join him. You as well, if the Wall appeals to you. Or you may go to Casterly Rock as my captive and enjoy all the comforts and courtesy that befits a hostage of your rank. I'll send your wife to join you, if you like. If her child is a boy, he will serve House Lannister as a page and a squire, and when he earns his knighthood we'll bestow some lands upon him. Should Roslin give you a daughter, I'll see her well dowered when she's old enough to wed. You yourself may even be granted parole, once the war is done. All you need do is yield the castle."
Otherwise, he tells Edmure, the castle will be razed and the people in it butchered. And when his child is born, Jaime says, he'll send him to Edmure. "With a trebuchet." Then he says he will leave Edmure to eat while the singer plays "The Rains of Castamere." Edmure suddenly recognizes the singer from the Red Wedding: "No. Not him. Get him away from me."

"'Why, it's just a song,' said Jaime. 'He cannot have that bad a voice.'"


Lord Gyles Rosby has died, and Cersei is blaming his death on Grand Maester Pycelle. And on Margaery: "Tell me," she says to Pycelle, "was it our little queen who commanded you to kill Lord Gyles?" Pycelle is astonished and terrified at Cersei's accusations. And finally she bullies him into a confession: Margaery has ordered "moon tea," an abortifacient, from him. She also forces him into lying that Lord Gyles's dying wish was "to leave all his lands and wealth to Tommen." Pycelle protests that Gyles had a ward, but Cersei dismisses that as inconsequential and sends Pycelle scurrying.

The moon tea is all the evidence Cersei needs: "My son has been betrayed. Margaery has a lover. That is high treason, punishable by death." Ser Osmund Kettleblack proposes to take off her head, since Ser Ilyn is away with Jaime, but Taena Merryweather points out that the Tyrells have armies who might not take kindly to summary execution. And Cersei knows that she still needs Mace Tyrell's support in her campaign against Stannis. So she needs a more substantial proof of Margaery's infidelity.

So she has Lady Taena tell her husband, Lord Orton Merryweather, to join her at dinner, "And of course we must have some music, to help with our digestion." Taena knows what Cersei means, and leaves Cersei to plot with Ser Osmund and with Qyburn. At dinner, she tells Orton Merryweather that she plans to put Ser Harys in Gyles's position as treasurer, and to promote him to Hand. And then she turns to the singer Taena has provided, the Blue Bard, and tells him he deserves a reward for his singing.

She asks to see his lute, plucks a string, and then asks him, "the first time you took Margaery to bed, was that before she wed my son, or after?" Astonished, he protests that he has never slept with Margaery, but Cersei screams, "Liar!" and smashes the lute in his face. Then she orders Lord Orton to take the Blue Bard to the dungeon. There she watches as Qyburn interrogates the singer, who persists in denying any sort of affair with Margaery. When Qyburn takes a razor and cuts off one of the Blue Bard's nipples, she feels ill, "But she was the queen and this was treason. Lord Tywin would not have turned away."
By dawn the singer's high blue boots were full of blood, and he had told them how Margaery would fondle herself as she watched her cousins pleasuring him with their mouths. At other times he would sing for her whilst she sated her lusts with other lovers. "Who were they?" the queen demanded, and the wretched Wat named Ser Tallad the Tall, Lambert Turnberry, Jalabar Xho, the Redwyne twins, Osney Kettleblack, Hugh Clifton, and the Knight of Flowers. That displeased her. She dare not besmirch the name of the hero of Dragonstone. Besides, no one who knew Ser Loras would ever believe it.
So she persuades him to recant on Ser Loras and the Redwynes, whose fleet of ships she needs. She tells the singer he can take the black, and has Qyburn tend to his wounds.

Congratulating herself that she has thwarted the prophecy of Maggy the Frog, she returns to her rooms and to Taena Merryweather, deciding that she'll let her spy have sex with her as a way of keeping her loyalty. As they are sharing a bath, she refines her plot, deciding to spare one of Margaery's cousins in return for her testimony against Margaery, and to spare Tommen from losing all of his friends at once.

But when she goes to bed she dreams that she is the one being tortured in the black cells, and that the torturer is Tyrion. She wakes Taena and tells her about the dream. Taena asks, "Was it the dwarf again? Why does he frighten you so, this silly little man?" Cersei tells her about Maggy the Frog's prophecy, and her belief that Tyrion is the valonqar who will kill her. "Do you use that word in Myr?" she asks Taena. "It's High Valyrian, it means little brother." Taena tries to persuade Cersei that Maggy the Frog was just an ugly old woman who was jealous of her youth and beauty.

She feels better after breakfasting with Tommen, who tells her that Margaery is fasting and purifying herself for Maiden's Day. And this reminds her that only virgins can participate in the rituals of the day. After breakfast she sends for Osney Kettleblack and tells him he has to confess his treason. He protests that Margaery only teases and never lets him do anything, but she tells him "you must take yourself to the Great Sept of Baelor this very night and speak with the High Septon.... Tell him how you bedded Margaery and her cousins," Megga and Elinor, but not Alla.

Osney is confused, and worries, "I never lied to no High Septon before. I think you go to some hell for that. One o' the bad ones." But she has her own way of sealing the deal, and he tells her, "You can keep the crown on. I like you in the crown."

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