Welcome 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 7 of A Storm of Swords, in we cover Chapter 12 (“Tyrion”) and Chapter 13 (“Arya”).
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, please note that the Read of Ice and Fire spoiler thread has been moved to a new thread here on Tor.com. 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 12: Tyrion
Tyrion waylays Varys in his surprisingly spartan bedchambers. Varys claims that his lack of contact with Tyrion since the battle is due to his delicate disposition, referring to Tyrion’s disfigurement. Tyrion asks if it’s true that Pycelle is being restored to the council, and Varys confirms that Tywin ensured it to prevent a Tyrell from being appointed in his place, revealing that he has eyes and ears among the archmaesters’ Conclave in Oldtown. He also tells Tyrion that Ser Boros Blount was reinstated to the Kingsguard, which Tyrion notes because Cersei stripped him of his title originally.
Varys goes on to surmise that Tyrion is after information on Ser Mandon Moore, since Bronn was looking into him. Varys says that Moore was a skilled warrior but was not much liked by anyone. Tyrion wonders if Varys knows more than he’s saying, but replies that he is here because he wants Varys to bring him Shae. Varys asks if that’s wise; Tyrion replies that it’s “bloody madness” but he wants to see her one more time before he sends her away. Varys agrees to arrange it, and they agree to have the tryst in Varys’s chambers.
They discuss who is watching Tyrion: Varys tells him the Kettleblacks report to Cersei, implying that Cersei is holding Osmund Kettleblack’s loyalty with the promise (if not actual delivery) of sexual favors, while Slynt’s sons and Petyr’s brothel contacts would also happily inform on Tyrion. Tyrion asks who his father has spying on him, and Varys laughs and replies that Varys himself has that job.
Tyrion goes to his rooms and bathes and grooms himself as best he can, then curses himself for dressing suspiciously richly and changes to more ordinary clothes. On the way back to Varys’s chambers he stops to speak with Ser Balon Swann and Ser Loras Tyrell, and asks Loras why he would join the Kingsguard at seventeen, giving up his title and lands and hope of marriage and children. Loras replies that it is not necessary for a third son to breed. Tyrion asks, what of love, and Loras replies that “When the sun has set, no candle can replace it.”
He arrives at Varys’s chambers to find Varys there, dressed as a woman, and Shae, not dressed at all. Varys leaves, and Shae pounces on Tyrion eagerly. After they have sex, Tyrion tries to tell her this is their last time together, and that she needs to leave the city for her own safety, but Shae does not listen, asking when she can have her jewels and silks back and entreating him to sneak her into the king’s wedding. She mentions in passing that the singer Symon had been hired to play for Lady Tanda and had seen her there.
Tyrion attempts to explain to her that it would not work, but she ignores that in favor of more sex, and then goes sullen when he still refuses. She says she understands, though, and makes him promise to keep her before she leaves. Tyrion curses himself for a fool, and goes back to his chambers and sends for Bronn. He is annoyed to hear that Bronn has been spending time at Chataya’s brothel with Alayaya, but pushes that aside to tell him to track down a singer called Symon Silver Tongue.
It’s funny how much more Shae worries me on Tyrion’s behalf than Varys does, when I know Varys isn’t to be trusted, as opposed to how I only suspect Shae isn’t. Or maybe it’s not strange at all, actually, because even if Shae is utterly sincere in her devotion to Tyrion, she could so very easily fuck everything straight to hell just through sheer obliviousness, and that is kind of terrifying.
And naturally Tyrion is not helping the obliviousness situation in the slightest. I mean, I get why he doesn’t want to tell Shae that his father has personally threatened to have her hanged, but it seems to me that if Shae is not sufficiently impressed with the potential danger of her situation she is going to end up doing something seriously rash. Like try to crash a wedding, for instance.
Wow, I really really hope she doesn’t try to crash the wedding, you guys.
Tyrion really, really needs to send her away—for her sake if nothing else. But it’s not exactly hard to see why he doesn’t. Love can addle the brains of even the most well-adjusted, happy people; I can’t imagine how much more precious even a twisted version of it must seem to someone who’s grown up like Tyrion has. Basically this chapter is Tyrion trying to convince himself to give up pretty much the one thing in his entire life that doesn’t unequivocally suck.
Should he have done it, sent her away? Absolutely. Am I surprised that he didn’t? Not even a little.
Sigh. This is going to end badly, isn’t it.
[Varys:] “Are you cross with me for abandoning you after the battle?”
[Tyrion:] “It made me think of you as one of my family.”
*wince* And this is Example #467 in a series of why I am totally not shocked that Tyrion can’t give Shae up. Holy crap but the Lannisters suck.
So Pycelle’s back, is he? Well, I’m sure that won’t cause Tyrion any problems at all. Nothing warms up a guy to you like throwing him in a dungeon, after all!
Not sure what to make of the character assessment of Mandon Moore, that he was “friendless,” that all he cared about was duty. Except that, I guess, that might have made it easier to get him to make the attempt on Tyrion’s life. I mean, presumably if all he cared about was duty, then all Cersei would have to do is say “kill my brother because I am the queen and I said so,” and he would do it, no questions asked. But for some reason I’m getting the impression that Varys’s reflections on him here are supposed to be leading me elsewhere than that conclusion. Unfortunately I have no idea where that elsewhere is supposed to be, so this is not particularly useful.
Am I supposed to know who Loras was in love with? I hope not, because I have no idea. Oh well. If it’s important it’ll no doubt come up again.
That said, I would be more—I don’t know, disapproving?—of his decision to join an order of celibate warrior monks at seventeen over a broken heart if I didn’t suspect that the Kingsguard’s vow of celibacy is more a guideline than a rule. Sort of like the Night Watch’s is. Or, I daresay, like the vows of celibacy of most organizations that have one. (Ooooh.)
“Symon says there’s to be seventy-seven courses and a hundred doves baked into a great pie,” Shae gushed. “When the crust’s opened, they’ll all burst out and fly.”
Okay, I know that this is a thing that they actually did back in the day, because nothing says “medieval cuisine” like random cruelty to animals, apparently, but still I am boggled at it. How do the birds not all kill each other while trapped in this pie? Or at least not end up with broken wings? And what deranged person thought this nonsense up in the first place? Jeez.
Chapter 13: Arya
Arya and Hot Pie and Gendry have left the woods to grub for food in an abandoned garden by the river, and are thus caught in the open when they hear someone singing. They hide as best they can, but one of the horses whicker, and the singer begins talking with his two companions, loudly speculating that they should just shoot whatever was on the other side of the wall. Arya jumps up and shows her sword, and tells them to keep going or she will kill them. The archer laughs, and the singer tells her to put the sword down and they’ll take her someplace safe.
Gendry and Hot Pie come out and join her, and the singer asks where they stole their horses from. He introduces himself as Tom Sevenstrings, the archer as Anguy, and the third man, a soldier type, as Lem. Hot Pie tells them his real name, but Gendry calls himself the Bull, and Arya says they can call her Squab. Tom surmises they escaped from Lord Bolton’s kitchen, seeing the sigil on Arya’s tunic, and Hot Pie says they were at Harrenhal before Bolton came. Tom says that they’re “lion cubs,” then, but Arya says they are nobody’s men. She asks whose they are, and Anguy replies they’re King Robert’s men, but Arya thinks they look like outlaws. Hot Pie blurts that they are going to Riverrun, but Tom insists they come along to their “friends’” inn, and faced with Anguy’s sharpshooting, Arya realizes they have no choice.
On the way to the inn, Tom asks if anyone can sing, and Hot Pie sings the bear song with him; Arya is startled to discover that Hot Pie has an excellent singing voice. As they approach the inn, she sees it has a skiff tied up at its dock, and she and Gendry discuss the possibility of taking the boat to Riverrun. Gendry insists on staying behind to watch the horses, and Arya and Hot Pie go with the others to the inn, where a woman named Sharna bosses them all around and serves them rabbit and ale.
Tom, Anguy, Lem and Sharna’s husband bicker about horses he “gave away,” and he mutters that they were supposed to get them back, and insists he couldn’t have taken on the owners (a big woman and a man in chains) by himself. Tom tells Arya he wants to buy her horses for three gold dragons, but only has a paper I.O.U. for the coins, which he claims he will make good on after the war. Arya declares they are robbers, but Tom counters that they’re taking the horses “for the good of the realm.” Arya realizes she’s going to lose the horses regardless, and so demands the skiff as payment instead, which seems to amuse all of them.
Gendry bursts in with the news that a dozen soldiers are approaching, but Tom et al are unperturbed, and Sharna tells Arya there’s no cause to worry, as she is “with king’s men now.” Arya goes for her sword, and Lem grabs her wrist and twists it away from her. Panicked, she smashes a tankard in Lem’s face and tries to run, but he catches her again. Then the riders enter, and Arya sees to her shock that one of them is Harwin, Hullen’s son. She shouts his name, crying with relief, but Harwin doesn’t recognize her at first, until she speaks of how he used to lead her pony around the yard at Winterfell. Harwin demands that Lem let her go.
“She broke my nose.” Lem dumped her unceremoniously to the floor. “Who in seven hells is she supposed to be?”
“The Hand’s daughter.” Harwin went to one knee before her. “Arya Stark, of Winterfell.”
Well, okay then. How funny that Arya runs into the other half of the group Brienne and Jaime dealt with just previously, eh? Nicely done, that reveal; I began to suspect they were the same group when Tom mentioned his friends at the inn, and it was confirmed the moment they arrived and Arya saw the skiff outside, lately property of one warrior lady and her douchebag prisoner.
I still don’t have the faintest clue who the hell these people are, by the way, Harwin’s inclusion notwithstanding. In fact, he makes it more confusing, because if he was a Winterfell denizen, why isn’t he with a group that identifies themselves as “wolves,” as Robb’s men? What’s this nonsense about being loyal to the (unless I really missed something) decidedly dead King Robert? Are they actually full-on bandits, or is their banditry more an opportunism thing in between soldiering or whatever? And if the latter, who are they soldiering for?
(If they are really loyal to Robert, pointless as that might seem, it would be awfully interesting to see their reaction to finding out who Gendry is, wouldn’t it?)
Urg, am confused. And frustrated by that, because again Harwin notwithstanding, the answer to those questions has a pretty obvious bearing on whether Arya being revealed as a Stark just made her safer, or in even more danger than she was before.
I am campaigning for the former, in case you were curious. Because it would be super-great if Arya could have even, like, one day of not being in mortal peril. You know, just for a change of pace. We demand occasional variety in Arya’s peril level!
Randomly: Ha ha, Hot Pie knows the bear song! I don’t know why that’s kind of hilarious, but it is.
And… well, there’s not a great deal more to say about this chapter, so we’ll stop here. Have a lovely weekend, peoples, and I will see you next Friday!