By Charles Matthews

Sunday, November 20, 2011

23. A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 658-684


Riverrun has capitulated, but Brynden Tully has escaped. No one is happy except Edmure: "For a man who was going to spend the rest of his life a prisoner, Edmure was entirely too pleased with himself." But in the face of Jaime's threats, he admits that they had raised the portcullis just enough to allow the Blackfish to swim under it. Emmon Frey, the new Lord of Riverrun, frets that the Blackfish will summon allies and attempt to take the castle back. Jaime assures him that won't happen, though he's not entirely sure of it.

When the others are gone, a guard brings Lady Westerling and her daughter, Jeyne. He notices a wound on Jeyne's forehead, and is told that she refused to give up the crown that Robb Stark had made for her. Lady Westerling starts to slap her daughter, but Jaime prevents her. Then he asks Jeyne if she is pregnant. Jeyne tries to leave, but the guard restrains her, and her mother assures Jaime that she isn't: "I made certain of that, as your lord father bid me."

Jaime dismisses Jeyne, but Lady Westerling stays behind. He tells her that House Westerling has been pardoned, and her brother Rolph has been made Lord of Castamere, but Lady Westerling wants to see Jeyne and her sister married, as Tywin had promised: "Lords or heirs, he swore to me, not younger sons nor household knights." Jaime assures her that will be taken care of, in Jeyne's case after two years have passed so there can be no suspicion that any child she might have is Robb's.

Lady Westerling also makes a case for her sons, especially for Raynald, who had gone with the Stark party to the Red Wedding, unaware of what would happen, and whose whereabouts are now unknown. She thinks he may be a captive of the Freys, but Jaime points out that he might be dead. She claims that Tywin had promised that Raynald would marry someone from Casterly Rock, "if all went as we hoped." Jaime's distaste for the whole business is evident, and he mentions that his late uncle Gerion had a natural daughter named Joy. But Lady Westerling is appalled: "You want a Westerling to wed a bastard?"
"No more than I want Joy to marry the son of some scheming turncloak bitch. She deserves better." Jaime would happily have strangled the woman with her seashell necklace. Joy was a sweet child, albeit a lonely one; her father had been Jaime's favorite uncle. "Your daughter is worth ten of you, my lady. You'll leave with Edmure and Ser Forley on the morrow. Until then, you would do well to stay out of my sight." 
The next day, a company departs, taking Edmure to Casterly Rock and the Westerlings to their home. Jaime speaks to the leader of the company, Ser Forley Prester, and warns him to keep a good eye on Edmure, whom the Blackfish might try to rescue, but also on Jeyne, who as Robb's widow is "twice as dangerous as Edmure if she were ever to escape us."

He then rides to the camp of the Freys, where he gets the news that Ser Ryman Frey has been captured and hanged by the outlaws. His son, Edwyn, delivers the news, but is evidently not particularly upset at his father's death. Jaime tells him that when he gets back to the Twins, he is to tell Lord Walder that all the captives from the Red Wedding are to be delivered to King Tommen. He asks about Raynald Westerling, but learns that he may have died trying to save Robb's direwolf, Grey Wind, during the massacre. He was shot with arrows, but jumped into the river. His body was never identified.

That night, he has his ritual fight with Ilyn Payne, and drinking with him afterward talks about Cersei's infidelities with the Kettleblacks. He wonders what he should do with Cersei, and Payne motions with his finger across his neck. But Jaime thinks that would be too great a loss for Tommen. "If I were to kill his mother, he would hate me for it ... and that sweet little wife of his would find a way to turn that hatred to the benefit of Highgarden." He doesn't like the smile Ser Ilyn gives him.

The next day he has a report that the troops searching for Brynden Tully had been attacked by wolves, a pack "led by a she-wolf of monstrous size." Jaime wonders if it could "be the same beast that had mauled Joffrey near the crossroads." He tends to other business involving the takeover of Riverrun, and finds himself feeling "curiously content. The war was all but won. Dragonstone had fallen and Storm's End would soon enough, he could not doubt, and Stannis was welcome to the Wall." If he can find the Blackfish, he can return to King's Landing, and he daydreams about wresting control from Cersei.

The Tully garrison is dismissed, sent away with three days' worth of food after swearing not to take up arms against Lord Emmon or the Lannisters, though Jaime doubts that those vows will hold. Two of the Tully men, the master-at-arms and the captain of guards, take the black. He sends Raff the Sweetling, one of Gregor Clegane's men, as an escort for them, though he warns Raff to see to it that they get there unharmed.

One morning he wakes and discovers it is snowing. "Snow in the riverlands. If it was snowing here, it could well be snowing on Lannisport as well. Winter is marching south, and half our granaries are empty.... He found himself wondering what his father would do to feed the realm, before he remembered that Tywin Lannister was dead." There is a knock on his door, and Riverrun's maester tells him there has been a raven from King's Landing.
Qyburn's words were terse and to the point, Cersei's fevered and fervent. Come at once, she said. Help me. Save me. I need you now as I have never needed you before. I love you. I love you. I love you. Come at once.
Jaime tells the maester there is no answer, wads the letter up, and gives it to him to throw in the fire.


As they near Oldtown, they are attacked by marauding ironmen, but they manage to fend them off. Sam learns from a friendly ship that escorts the Cinnamon Wind to the port about the fall of the Shield Islands, and the failure of "the bitch queen in King's Landing" to come to their aid. Sam is distressed: "If King's Landing loses Oldtown and the Arbor, the whole realm will fall to pieces." He worries now about his plan to send Gilly and the baby to Horn Hill, but decides it is the safest thing to do.

When they reach Oldtown, he tells Gilly that he has to leave her to go to the Citadel with Jon's letters and arrange for Maester Aemon's body to be delivered to them, then arrange for transportation for her and the baby to Horn Hill. Kojja Mo agrees that Gilly may stay on board the Cinnamon Wind until he returns.

He makes his way to the Seneschal's Court in the Citadel, where he is told to wait. He sits there for hours until finally someone speaks to him and says he needs to bribe his way in. He introduces himself: "Alleras, by some called Sphinx." Sam remembers what Maester Aemon said to him in his last delirium: "The sphinx is the riddle, not the riddler." He asks Alleras if he knows what that means, but he doesn't. Alleras asks what his business is with Archmaester Theobald, and Sam says Maester Aemon had said Norren was the seneschal. Alleras explains that the seneschal changes every year, but picks up on Sam's reference to Aemon, who was famous as not only the oldest living maester but also the oldest man in Westeros.

Sam wonders how much he should tell Alleras, but finally gives in and tells him the entire story of why he is there. He winds up by telling him that Aemon had said the Citadel must send Daenerys a maester and "bring her home to Westeros before it is too late." When he is finished, Alleras says not to bother with Archmaester Theobald but to come with him. He takes Sam to Archmaester Marwyn.

As they arrive at Marwyn's chambers, Sam encounters someone he recognizes from his youth: Leo Tyrell. He tells Tyrell, "I am Sam, from Horn Hill. Lord Randyll's son." Tyrell gives him a cold look and asks if he is "still a craven," but Sam remembers Jon's exhortation and lies: "I went beyond the Wall and fought in battles. They call me Sam the Slayer." Tyrell starts to laugh, but the door opens and Marwyn orders him and the Sphinx in.

Marwyn looks "more like a dockside thug than a maester." In the middle of the room, Sam notices a tall black candle that gives off an "unpleasantly bright" light and does strange things to the colors in the room. It "was three feet tall and slender as a sword, ridged and twisted." Sam starts to ask, and another man in the room says it's obsidian. He is "a pale, fleshy, pasty-faced young fellow with round shoulders, soft hands, close-set eyes, and food stains on his robes." Marwyn tells him, "Call it dragonglass.... It burns but is not consumed." Sam asks what feeds its flame.
"What feeds a dragon's fire?" Marwyn seated himself upon a stool. "All Valyrian sorcery was rooted in blood or fire. The sorcerers of the Freehold could see across mountains, seas, and deserts with one of these glass candles. They could enter a man's dreams and give him visions, and speak to one another half a world apart, seated before their candles." 
He asks Sam to tell his story again. "I know much of it and more, but some small parts may have escaped my notice."

When Sam is done, Marwyn says it's a good thing Aemon died, because otherwise "the grey sheep," the other archmaesters at the Citadel, "might have had to kill him." In response to Sam's shock, Marwyn says, "Who do you think killed all the dragons the last time around?" The archmaesters have no use for magic or dragons, he says. That's "why Aemon Targaryen was allowed to waste his life upon the Wall, when by rights he should have been raised to archmaester."

Marwyn declares that he will go to Daenerys in place of Aemon, and that Sam must "stay and forge your chain. If I were you, I would do it quickly. A time will come when you'll be needed on the Wall." He tells the "pasty-faced" novice to find Sam a cell there. He can help with the ravens. Sam asks what about the other archmaesters, and Marwyn says to flatter and toady to them. "Tell them that Aemon commanded you to put yourself into their hands.... But say nothing of prophecies or dragons, unless you fancy poison in your porridge." And he instructs the Sphinx to look after Sam.

Marwyn departs, and when he is gone Alleras confesses that Marwyn knew Sam was coming and sent him to intercept him. When Sam asks how Marwyn knew these things, Alleras nods at the glass candle. The "pasty-faced" novice then leads Sam to his new cell. "There was something about the pale, soft youth that he misliked, but he did not want to seem discourteous," so he introduces himself as Samwell Tarly.

The other says his name is Pate, whom we last saw 670 pages ago, falling unconscious after his encounter with the alchemist.

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