By Charles Matthews

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

7. A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 172-198


The wedding of Tommen and Margaery is taking place, and Cersei is in a snit. When Jaime arrives to assure her that every precaution is being taken to prevent poisoning another king, she wants him to make sure that Tommen is safe from his wife's family as well: "I will not have Tommen alone with Margaery, not for so much as half a heartbeat," she tells him. She had not even wanted them to share a bed, but the Tyrells had insisted on it. It was bad luck for a man and wife not to share a bed on their wedding night. So Cersei has been forced to allow it "for that one night" and no more. And she wants someone watching the couple at all times.

Jaime points out that there's no chance the union will be consummated in any case, but Cersei cannot be overruled. He asks her if she also plans to go through with burning down the Tower of the Hand, and she says yes: "It was the only part of the day's festivities that Cersei thought she might enjoy." She is still persuaded that Tyrion or Varys or the missing jailer, or all three, are hiding in it somewhere. The pyromancers have been concocting wildfire to take care of destroying the tower, and Cersei almost hopes it spreads to the rest of the castle: After the war, she plans to build a new palace on the other side of the river, "long leagues from the stinks and noise of King's Landing."

The wedding is to be a smaller affair than the one of Joffrey and Margaery, and the bride is wearing the same dress she wore to that one. Cersei had planned for Tommen to give Margaery the cloak that Joffrey had used at his wedding, the one Tywin had used when he married Cersei's mother, but the Queen of Thorns had pointed out that Tommen was a Baratheon, not a Lannister: "In my day a bride donned her husband's colors, not his lady mother's." So Cersei is forced to have Tommen use the one Robert had given her on their wedding day. She knows that Lady Olenna is aware of the truth about Tommen's parentage.

After the wedding, she speaks to Kevan Lannister, who is taking his son Lancel to Darry castle to marry one of the Freys. They talk about the rumor that Sandor Clegane has joined with Beric Dondarrion's outlaws: "Saltpans had been savagely raided by a band of outlaws, and some of the survivors claimed a roaring brute in a hound's head helm was amongst the raiders. Supposedly he'd killed a dozen men and raped a girl of twelve."

As Jaime escorts her to the wedding feast, she blames him for the fact that the wedding took place so quickly, and proclaims her belief that Margaery is not a virgin. "Renly had a cock, didn't he? He was Robert's brother, he surely had a cock." She complains again about the Queen of Thorns, whom she calls a "disgusting old crone." Jaime tells her that Lady Olenna is leaving tomorrow, but "Cersei did not trust any Tyrell promise." He assures her that half of the Tyrells are going to Storm's End and the other half to the Reach.

There are only seven courses to the feast, and only one singer. "'What a disappointment,' Lady Olenna complained loudly. 'I was hoping for "The Rains of Castamere."'" The Queen of Thorns reminds Cersei of Maggy the Frog, who had once told her fortune: "Queen you shall be, the old woman had promised, ... until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear." Cersei looks at Margaery and thinks, "Only a fool would ever claim she was more beautiful than I. The world was full of fools, however." The death of Joffrey looms over the feast, and once, when Tommen coughs, Cersei leaps up to see about him, only to be assured by Margaery that he'd swallowed some wine the wrong way.

Cersei leaves the feast for a moment, fearing that her tears will show. Thinking she is alone, she lets out a sob, but then she is approached by Lord Orton Merryweather's wife, Taena, a Myrish woman. She tells Cersei that one of the queen's maids is a spy for Margaery. Lady Merryweather is one of Margaery's companions, and Cersei asks why she would reveal this secret. She says that her only loyalty is to her husband and son, and she wants what's best for them. Cersei remembers that Lady Merryweather testified against Tyrion at the trial, and recognizes that she is trying to get in her good graces, so she promises to look into this charge and reward her if it's true, thinking, "And if you've lied to me, I'll have your tongue, and your lord husband's lands and gold as well."

When she returns to the hall, Jaime assures her that he was frightened by Tommen's cough as well, but that all is well. Cersei looks around the room and decides that there is no one there whom she can really trust. "I will need to sweep them all away and surround the king with mine own people." Dancing begins, but she refuses offers from Jaime -- because of his stump -- and with Mace Tyrell and Lancel. She observes "the handsome young Bastard of Driftmark, Aurane Waters," with some interest, however. She sees Tommen talking with Ser Garlan Tyrell and wonders what they have to talk about, and she begins to brood on her suspicions, such as the gold coin from Highgarden that was found under the missing jailer's chamberpot and the allegation that Margaery was spying on her.

Jaime suggests that she has had enough to drink, and she staggers as she rises to her feet to tell everyone to go outside to watch the burning of the Tower of the Hand. As the wildfire consumes the tower, Cersei thinks of all the King's Hands who had served there, including Eddard Stark, Tyrion, and her father. "They are dead and burning, every one, with all their plots and schemes and betrayals. It is my castle and my kingdom."

When the rest of the court retires for the night, Cersei, with Ser Osmund Kettleblack in attendance, stays and watches the fire.

The Soiled Knight

Ser Arys Oakheart is the member of the Kingsguard charged with protecting Princess Myrcella at the Dornish court in Sunspear. Leaving Myrcella playing a game called cyvasse with Prince Trystane, he goes to see Prince Doran, who had imprisoned the Sand Snakes. Doran tells him, "It would gladden my heart if I could assure you that the Sand Snakes were alone in wanting war, but I will not tell you lies, ser. You have heard my smallfolk in the streets, crying out for me to call my spears. Half my lords agree with them, I fear." He tells Arys that he plans to return to the Water Gardens as soon as possible, and to take Myrcella with him. Arys will accompany them, but Doran tells him not to write to King's Landing about this plan.

Arys is wondering about this as he goes to an assignation with Doran's daughter, Princess Arianne. After a bout of passionate lovemaking, however, Arys feels racked with guilt for breaking his vow as a knight of the Kingsguard, and tries to leave. She holds him back, however, and when he worries about what might happen if her father found out, she tells him "Nothing. My father is very good at doing nothing. He calls it thinking." But he insists that he has dishonored himself by his relationship with her: "I will not be remembered as Ser Arys the Unworthy.... I will not soil my cloak."

She says she knows all about white cloaks: Her great-uncle, Prince Lewyn, wore one. Arys says "he was a great knight," and she tells him he, too, had a lover. "My uncle always said that it was the sword in a man's hand that determined his worth, not the one between his legs, ... so spare me all your pious talk of soiled cloaks. It is not our love that has dishonored you, it is the monsters you have served and the brutes you've called your brothers." Ser Arys remembers with sham having to strike Sansa Stark on Joffrey's orders.

He tells her that Tommen isn't Joffrey, and she comments, "Nor is he his sister."
It was true. Tommen was a good-hearted little man who always tried his best, but the last time Ser Arys saw him he had been weeping on the quay. Myrcella never shed a tear, though it was she who was leaving hearth and home to seal an alliance with her maidenhood. The truth was, the princess was braver than her brother, and brighter and more confident as well. Her wits were quicker, her courtesies more polished. Nothing ever daunted her, not even Joffrey. The women are the strong ones, truly. He was thinking not only of Myrcella, but of her mother and his own, of the Queen of thorns, of the Red Viper's pretty, deadly Sand Snakes. And of Princess Arianne Martell, her most of all.
And this is precisely what Arianne wants him to think. She points out that she is heir to her father's house. He says, "Dorne is different. The Seven Kingdoms have never had a ruling queen." She replies that the first King Viserys wanted his daughter to succeed him, but it was the plotting of the Lord Commander of his Kingsguard, Ser Criston Cole, called the Kingmaker, who put an end to it by setting brother against sister and starting the war known as the Dance of the Dragons.

Arianne tells him that Doran wants to take Myrcella to the Water Gardens not to keep her safe, but "To keep her away from those who'd seek to crown her. Prince Oberyn Viper would have placed the crown upon her head himself if he had lived, but my father lacks the courage." Myrcella will be imprisoned at the Water Gardens, with Hotah as the chief guard. She urges Arys to support Myrcella's right to the throne. Tommen will inherit both Storm's End and Casterly Rock. "He will be as great a lord as any in the realm ... but Myrcella by rights should sit the Iron Throne." As for the vows of the Kingsguard, she says, those can be changed, just as Joffrey changed the law that the knights of the Kingsguard serve for life when he dismissed Ser Barristan Selmy and named Sandor Clegane to his guard. Myrcella, Arianne says, "will give us leave to marry if we ask."

He is weakening, and she knows it. She says she is afraid she'll be imprisoned, like the Sand Snakes, for supporting Myrcella's cause. He argues that the Sand Snakes were "speaking treason, fomenting war," but she scoffs, "Loreza is six, Dorea eight. What wars could they foment?" Her father is weak and afraid, she says, and he doesn't want her to be his heir. She says she found a letter from Doran to her brother Quentyn, who is supposedly being fostered by Lord Yronwood, saying that Quentyn "will sit where I sit and rule all Dorne." She claims that Yronwood is actually grooming Quentyn to usurp her rightful place as Doran's heir.

"So your two princesses share a common cause, ser ... and they share as well a knight who claims to love them both, but will not fight for them." Arys is won over, and pledges to fight for her right and first for Myrcella's.

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