A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones, Part 19

Welcome back to A Read of Ice and Fire! Please join me as I read and react, for the very first time, to George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.

Today’s entry is Part 19 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 37 (“Bran”) and 38 (“Tyrion”).

Previous entries are located in the Index. The only spoilers in the post itself will be for the actual chapters covered and for the chapters previous to them. As for the comments, The Powers That Be at Tor.com have very kindly set up a forum thread for spoilery comments. Any spoileriffic discussion should go there, where I won’t see it. Non-spoiler comments go below, in the comments to the post itself.

And now, the post!

Chapter 37: Bran

What Happens
Bran rides out of Winterfell for the first time since his accident, strapped onto his specially trained horse Dancer, accompanied by Robb, Theon Greyjoy, Maester Luwin, Robb and Bran’s wolves, and several guardsmen. Bran is nervous at first, but soon feels confident enough to try a gallop.

“I can ride!” Bran shouted, grinning. It felt almost as good as flying.

As they ride, Robb tells Bran with some hesitation that a bird came the night before with a message from King’s Landing: Jory Cassel, Wyl and Heyward are dead, murdered by Jaime Lannister, and their father is injured and unconscious; no one is sure when he will wake. Robb promises a distraught Bran that he will not let this pass. Theon thinks Robb should raise the banners, but Luwin does not; Bran reminds Robb that Father always listened to Luwin’s counsel, but Theon opines that Luwin is “timid as an old woman.”

Enjoyment in the ride gone, Robb and Bran pull ahead of Theon and the guards to find their wolves, who have run off to hunt. They ford a stream, and Robb hears the wolves howl and goes to find them, leaving Bran alone on the bank. A group of raggedly dressed men and women step out of the trees, and Bran realizes that at least some of them are deserters from the Night Watch. The biggest of them grab Dancer’s reins before Bran can flee, and Bran tells them who he is, and warns them to let him go; the taller woman suggests taking him hostage to “Mance.” The big man slices off Bran’s saddle straps, cutting his leg; Bran doesn’t feel anything.

Robb reappears then, with the wolves, which momentarily unnerves the robbers, but the big man, Stiv, shouts to take them, and Robb and the wolves attack. They take down all but two: Osha, one of the women, and Stiv, who yanks Bran from his saddle and threatens to slit his throat. Robb calls off the wolves, and Stiv orders him to kill the wolves or Bran dies. Then Stiv goes down with an arrow through him, shot by Theon.

The rest of the party is shocked by the carnage wrought by the wolves, and Osha begs for mercy. Robb berates Theon for shooting so close to Bran, and demands to know where they were. One of the guards answers that Theon went after a turkey; Theon says he hardly expected that Robb would leave Bran alone. Robb is furious, but doesn’t answer. Instead he orders that the deserters’ heads be sent back to the Wall. Bran tells them that they were wildings, working for Mance Rayder, and Theon suggests giving Osha to the wolves, but Robb orders that she be brought back to Winterfell and questioned.

Commentary

“I can ride!” Bran shouted, grinning. It felt almost as good as flying.

Aw, crap, there goes my pupils, getting all anime-d’awww shiny again. Dammit, I hate when that happens.

Man, apparently you can’t go anywhere without it turning into a Dramatic (And Painful) Scene, if you’re a Stark. It’s like we’re in an epic saga or something!

Also, jeez. I would like to put in a formal request for bad things to stop happening to Bran for like five seconds, is that too much to ask?

Don’t answer that.

I’ve really got to stop assuming everything is a conspiracy, I think, but then again it was awfully convenient the way Theon just had to go look for a turkey right at that juncture. I’m just saying. And shooting Stiv while he had a knife to Bran’s throat is insanely risky.

Then again, maybe Theon’s just an idiot (and a dick), and not a traitor, despite having a pretty good motive to be one in my opinion. Either is possible. We’ll see, I suppose.

Also, I mostly left it out above, but the savagery of the direwolves in this scene was pretty shocking. Not so much for the fight itself, because hey, do what you gotta do to take down your enemy, but for the fact that Summer was all chowing down on his victim afterward. Because, yikes? Maybe let’s not let your pet develop a taste for human flesh, boys? Small suggestion that that’s possibly not a good idea, there? Gah.

This might be a bit too modern-medicine to hope for, but I sincerely hope someone in the Stark household is cognizant of the fact that Bran’s legs need to be constantly checked for injuries, since his nerves can no longer do the job of alerting him that something is wrong. It would really suck for Bran to survive incestuous assholes and grubby highwaymen, only to die of an infected papercut, you know?

Speaking of incestuous assholes:

There was something about the Lannisters, something [Bran] ought to remember, but when he tried to think what, he felt dizzy and his stomach clenched hard as a stone.

C’mon, Bran, remember! Pretty please?

 

Chapter 38: Tyrion

What Happens
The turnkey Mord taunts Tyrion with his dinner and flings it over the precipice that is the outer wall of his cell; Tyrion curses him and gets beaten for his trouble. Tyrion reflects that his mouth has gotten him into an awful lot of trouble, including when he’d been brought before Lysa and her son Robert, answering her accusations with sarcasm instead of denial. He warned her of his brother’s retaliation if she hurt him, but she countered that the Eyrie is impregnable, which Tyrion knows is true. Catelyn had intervened, which is why Tyrion is now imprisoned in the sky cells instead of dead.

Tyrion tries to convince himself that his imprisonment is temporary, and wonders what his family is doing. He hopes that Cersei is smart enough to insist to the king that he himself should hear Tyrion’s case, but is doubtful that her “low cunning” will let her see anything beyond the insult to her family pride. He wonders whether it was she or Jaime who tried to assassinate Bran, and whether either of them had anything to do with Arryn’s death. The assassination attempt on Bran strikes him as suspiciously clumsy.

Tyrion shivered. Now there was a nasty suspicion. Perhaps the direwolf and the lion were not the only beasts in the woods, and if that was true, someone was using him as a catspaw. Tyrion Lannister hated being used.

He calls for Mord and attempts to bribe him; Mord beats him mercilessly at first, but soon begins to warm to the idea, and finally agrees to deliver a message to Lysa that Tyrion is ready to confess to his crimes. Later that night he is hauled before Lysa and all her court except her son, who is asleep, as well as Catelyn, the sellsword Bronn, and the singer Marillion. Tyrion begins confessing his crimes: he’s cheated at gambling, he’s gone to whores, he’s wished ill upon his family, etc. Lysa is incensed, and demands a confession to Bran’s murder attempt and her husband’s death. Tyrion replies that he cannot confess to those, as knows nothing of any murders.

Lysa prepares to have him thrown back in the dungeon, but Tyrion demands justice and a fair trial. Lysa smiles and tells him her son will hear his case, and if he is found guilty he will be executed, via the Moon Door, which opens out into nothing. Catelyn protests, but Lysa ignores her. Tyrion demands instead trial by combat, which most of the listeners find hilarious. Several of her followers immediately volunteer; Lysa asks Ser Vardis Egen to do it, but Vardis tells her he finds the idea of fighting a cripple distasteful. Tyrion agrees, and demands his brother Jaime to be his champion in turn. Lysa refuses, and Tyrion tells Marillion to be sure to include that detail in the song he makes of this. Irritated, Lysa tells him to pick his champion from one here, if he can find one who is willing.

Tyrion looked over the long hall. No one moved. For a long moment he wondered if it had all been a colossal blunder.

Then there was a stirring in the rear of the chamber. “I’ll stand for the dwarf,” Bronn called out.

Commentary
HA HA HA I AM SO VINDICATED

I knew Tyrion didn’t do it, y’all. Neener neener, I are the most smartest.

*victory dance*

Of course, so far it doesn’t look like being innocent is actually doing Tyrion much good, but hey, I’ll take my triumphs where I can find them.

It was cold in the cell, the wind screamed night and day, and worst of all, the floor sloped. Ever so slightly, yet it was enough. He was afraid to close his eyes, afraid that he might roll over in his steep and wake in sudden terror as he went sliding off the edge. Small wonder the sky cells drove men mad.

Dude. You think? I would lose my shit in nothing flat if I had to be in one of those cells, and I’m not even especially acrophobic. If you look up “cruel and unusual punishment” in the dictionary… well, you won’t find this, but you ought to. Good God.

Lysa: is total crap. What a disappointment. And her son is a straight-up monster-in-short-pants. Call me crazy, but I find a child whose main entertainment is defenestration to be, hmm, what’s the word, oh yeah, FUCKING CREEPY.

Okay, so that was two words, but whatever, it’s not like I’m wrong! Yeek.

And okay, “defenestration” is probably wrong too, since I think it specifically means “to throw someone out a window,” but as far as I am aware there is no corresponding word for the concept of “throwing someone out of a psycho funhouse castle in the sky,” so I had to improvise there. I’m sure we’ll all get over it in time.

Also, the fact that there actually is a specific term for “throwing someone out a window” is rather hilariously disturbing proof that human beings are kind of fucked up as a species. But I digress!

The Bronn thing is… interesting, if a little confusing. It appears that Tyrion was actually banking on Bronn to volunteer, once he noticed the guy was in the room, but that seems like an awfully large leap to make just because they were on fairly friendly terms. Of course, we weren’t really made privy to exactly what Bronn and Tyrion talked about on the road, so maybe I just don’t have all the information.

Also, I really don’t understand how any of this is legal, to imprison and/or put Tyrion on trial like this, with no kind of even vaguely impartial oversight. Or maybe it isn’t, but if so, it hardly seems to matter that much. I dunno, this is all so… sloppy and anarchic.

I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say here, except maybe that the rule of law seems to make so little impression on these people I kind of wonder why they bother to have any. Laws, I mean. Why have ‘em at all, if all your subjects have to do is retreat to their deranged impregnable fort-onna-cliff, have a sham drumhead trial, and then throw people they don’t like off it with, apparently, total impunity? Sheesh.

Then again, this is apparently a justice system in which you can perfectly legitimately substitute men trying to stab each other for a trial with, presumably, attempts to actually prove shit and stuff, so hell, maybe I would give that legal system the finger myself. Seriously, that is so incredibly dumb. Who thinks up this cockamamie crap? How does your champion being a better fighter than the other guy’s champion say ANYTHING about your guilt or innocence?

Well, it doesn’t, obviously. So, I guess proving shit is not really so much the point, then. Might makes right, taken to the loonieth degree, sheesh.

And yes, I know this practice has real historical precedent, so this is not me ragging on Martin, so much as it is me just being amazed at how stupid people were in Ye Olden Dayz. You know, before the amazing and wonderful and totally non-corruptible or loophole-riddled modern system came in.

*cough*

Also, it is HILARIOUS that Wikipedia’s entry on “trial by combat” specifically mentions ASOIAF. “Abundantly”, eh? I’d better reconcile myself to the stupid, is that the message I’m getting here?


Well, I will NEVAH! So there! Enjoy your Friday, loves, and see you next week with Moar!

 

Note from Tor.com: Just so everyone knows, Leigh originally formatted a very cute Read More cut that we couldn’t preserve. Here it is in all of its mouse-tail glory:

“I’ll be

   judge, I’ll

     be jury,”

           Said

       cunning

         old Fury:

        “I’ll

          try the

             whole

              cause,

                 and

            condemn

           you

          to

           death.”

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