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 25 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapters 43 (“Arya”) and 44 (“Jaime”).
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 Powers That Be have provided you a lovely spoiler 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!
Scheduling note: The fifth annual JordanCon, and my duties as its Toastmaster, doth frighteningly rapidly approacheth! Therefore! The Read of Ice and Fire will be on hiatus! For the Fridays of both April 19th and 26th! Take note!
Chapter 43: Arya
The Brotherhood makes camp on High Heart, where Thoros stares into the fire, trying to see visions. Gendry says his old master told him Thoros was “a sot and a fraud,” and Thoros laughs and agrees that he was a bad priest, which is why he was sent to Westeros, but Robert enjoyed his tricks with flaming swords. Beric remarks that fire consumes, and that “six times is too many.”
That night, Arya watches hidden as an ancient, red-eyed dwarf lady comes to join Beric, Thoros and Lem at their fire. She calls Beric “His Grace the Lord of Corpses,” to his annoyance, and demands wine and a kiss from Lem for her news. Lem refuses, and she accepts a song from Tom o’ Sevens instead. She tells them “the wet one, the kraken king” is dead, and the “iron squids” turn on one another. She makes a number of other cryptic pronouncements, then calls Arya out from her hiding place. Arya approaches reluctantly. The woman calls Arya “wolf child” and “blood child” and begins to weep, declaring she smells of death, and imploring Arya to take her “dark heart” away from her hill. Beric assures her they are leaving to take Arya to Riverrun the next day, but the old woman tells him if it’s the mother they want, they should go to the Twins, where she went to a wedding.
It rains later, and several of the company come down with chills, so the next day they head to a long-abandoned village for shelter. Arya talks with Ned, Beric’s squire, who turns out to be Lord Edric Dayne of Starfall, and who is startled when Arya asks him if he’s killed anyone. He protests that he’s only twelve, and Arya thinks of the number of people she’s already killed, directly and indirectly, and feels sad. Then Ned asks about her bastard brother, Jon Snow, and tells her that he and Jon were milk brothers.
“My lady mother had no milk when I was little, so Wylla had to nurse me.”
Arya was lost. “Who’s Wylla?”
“Jon Snow’s mother. He never told you? She’s served us for years and years. Since before I was born.”
Arya is astonished, as she knows Jon doesn’t know who his mother is, and resolves to remember the information to tell Jon when next she sees him. Ned then talks of his aunt, Lady Ashara Dayne, who killed herself before Ned was born, and reluctantly reveals that she did so over a broken heart, and that she had fallen in love with Arya’s father Ned Stark at Harrenhal. This angers Arya, who insists her father had honor, but Gendry points out that he still fathered a bastard. Later, Harwin tells her that he doesn’t think the story about Ned Stark and Lady Ashara is true, but even if it was, that they would have met while Ned’s brother Brandon was still alive and betrothed to the Lady Catelyn, so Ned’s honor is intact. Harwin opines that the lady’s suicide was due to her brother Arthur Dayne’s death, but implores Arya not to mention any of this to Catelyn.
At the village, Thoros sees a vision in the fire that he believes means that the Lannisters will soon lay siege to Riverrun. Arya is horrified, but Thoros says that he saw neither Catelyn nor Robb in the flames, and thinks the old woman is right that they have gone to the Twins. Beric, Lem, Thoros and Tom argue over whether they should continue on to Riverrun or head for the Twins instead, and Beric decides they will head to Acorn Hall first and see if Lady Smallwood knows anything. At hearing this, Arya runs for the door and out into the rain, berating herself for taking Gendry and Hot Pie with her out of Harrenhal. Then someone grabs her arm, and she sees it is not one of the brothers, but Sandor Clegane.
“Bugger that, wolf girl. You’re mine.” He needed only one hand to yank her off her feet and drag her kicking toward his waiting horse. The cold rain lashed them both and washed away her shouts, and all that Arya could think of was the question he had asked her. Do you know what dogs do to wolves?
Well, that’s probably not good.
Clegane’s got a soft spot for the Stark girls, true, but he’s unstable as hell, so who knows what he’ll do. The logical thing would be for him to take Arya back to Beric and demand his gold back in exchange. Or, I suppose, take her to Riverrun himself, but he surely can’t think he’d get a very warm reception there. Beric’s the safer bet, especially since (as I understand it), it would be bad form for Beric to kill Clegane after Clegane bested him in Stupid Drumhead Combat Trial. Whereas the Starks and Tullys would have no such compunctions.
So let’s hope Clegane does the rational thing. I’m not holding my breath about it, though.
Also, a plethora of portentous prophecies were pronounced! Some more comprehensible than others, of course.
I’m not a big fan of R’hllor thus far, but I do give him props for being (evidently) fairly straightforward with his visions of the future. It’s so rare you get a fictional deity who isn’t all with the coy bullshit, prophecy-wise. Unlike possible-child-o’-the-forest dwarf lady, whose pronouncements made mostly no sense whatsoever. To me, anyway.
Although, her one about “the kraken king” seems pretty straightforward, admittedly. I assume this refers to Balon Greyjoy (making Theon and Asha the squabbling “iron squids,” which is hilarious). If so, well, that’s not particularly sad-making news, but still, when did Balon die? Did I miss a memo, or is this the first time we’re hearing of this?
Then there’s this one:
“In the hall of kings, the goat sits alone and fevered as the great dog descends on him.”
Joffrey as a goat? Sure, I’ll take it. Not sure that’s actually correct, though, since describing Joffrey as “alone” seems really wrong; Cersei’s existence alone puts the lie to that. So, dunno.
“I dreamt a wolf howling in the rain, but no one heard his grief,”
Ghost? He’d be in snow, though, not rain, right?
“I dreamt such a clangor I thought my head might burst, drums and horns and pipes and screams, but the saddest sound was the little bells. I dreamt of a maid at a feast with purple serpents in her hair, venom dripping from their fangs. And later I dreamt that maid again, slaying a savage giant in a castle built of snow.”
…Um. Yeah, I got nothing.
Her reaction to Arya was… worrying. C’mon, Arya doesn’t have a “dark heart”! Not yet. It’s more kind of… smudged. Really!
And I’m not sure what the reference to “gorging on grief at Summerhall” was about, or if even I’m supposed to know at this point.
“Six times, Thoros? Six times is too many.”
I wonder if Beric is objecting to being resurrected six times on theological or personal grounds. Both, probably, but if I were him it’d be personal. I know I said it already but it bears repeating: the kind of immortality where you have to cart around all your accumulated death wounds is some seriously crappy immortality, y’all.
And speaking of crappy immortality:
“My hair comes out in handfuls and no one has kissed me for a thousand years. It is hard to be so old.”
Yeah, that’s not much better. Assuming dwarf lady is speaking literally, of course. Which she might not be, but then again she might.
And then there’s the big Dun! moment in this chapter, which is of course Ned’s claim that he was “milk brothers” with Jon Snow.
Okay, wow. I think when it was originally suggested, way back when, that Lady Ashara Dayne was Jon’s mother, I more or less pooh-poohed the theory as a red herring, but I may have to reconsider my stance now. So, Ashara fell in love with Ned Stark (at Harrenhal, apparently; what, were there drugs in the water or something at that tournament? Holy crap), and then threw herself off a cliff right before Ned-the-squire was born? And then Ned-the-squire’s wetnurse also had a nursing baby, purportedly her own? Yeeaaah.
It’s not ironclad, but it’s definitely enough to make me raise a speculative eyebrow or two.
One thing I don’t get, though, is if Lady Ashara (great name, by the way) is Jon’s mother, then according to Harwin she and Ned Stark met (and had theoretical sexy impregnating times) before Ned married or was even engaged to Catelyn. So if Ned didn’t actually cheat on Catelyn when he fathered Jon, why does Catelyn think he did, and hate Jon for it?
…On re-reading, I think the error I may be making here is that Ned-the-squire doesn’t actually say how long it was before his birth that Lady Ashara killed herself. I was assuming it was right before Ned-the-squire’s birth, but it could have been years earlier for all I know, in which case the timeframe would be wrong for Ashara to be Jon’s mother. Right?
Plus, Ned-the-squire says that he’s twelve, which makes Jon at least two years older than him, right? So how does that work? (I suppose Jon could have still been nursing at two years old, technically, but I would have thought that children in this kind of environment would tend to be weaned as early as possible…)
Um. So, in conclusion, dunno. Also, my brain hurts.
Chapter 44: Jaime
Jaime sets out from Harrenhal eagerly, accompanied by Walton Steelshanks and his men, at the same time Roose Bolton leaves to tracks Ser Aenys Frey, leaving Vargo Hoat and his men behind with Brienne. Jaime makes a point of reminding Rorge and the others that a Lannister always repays his debts before he leaves. Jaime realizes that the route they are taking to King’s Landing is the same one he took from Harrenhal after being made one of the Kingsguard. Aerys had made a huge show of his investiture, but then sent him back to King’s Landing the next day, preventing him from participating in the tourney, and Jaime had understood then that the white cloak was not a reward for him but a punishment for his father Tywin, to rob him of his heir.
Maester Qyburn asks slyly after the serving girl he’d sent Jaime the night before. Jaime had sent her away, telling himself he already had a woman. Qyburn mentions that he had examined Brienne to make sure her virginity was still intact, and that her father had answered Hoat’s ransom demands for the non-existent sapphires with a counteroffer of three hundred dragons. And, Qyburn says, Vargo Hoat does not haggle. Jaime makes rough jests at the news, and tells himself he doesn’t care.
Jaime wonders on his reception by his father when they arrive, and thinks that Tywin will hate having a cripple for a son as well as a dwarf. That night he takes dreamwine for the pain, and has a vivid dream in which he is back at Casterly Rock, naked and surrounded by enemies but whole and unmaimed. He is forced down into a deep cavern under the Rock, where Cersei tells him this is his darkness, and goes to leave. He begs her to stay, and Tywin tells him he left Jaime a sword. Jaime finds it, and sees that it glows silvery-blue. He finds Brienne, also naked and chained up, repeating that she swore an oath to keep him safe. Jaime frees her, and then she has a glowy sword too. He thinks she almost looks beautiful here.
Then a group of riders approach: Oswell Whent, Jon Darry, Lewyn Martell, Gerold Hightower. Ser Arthur Dayne, and Rhaegar Targaryen. Jaime tells them that Aerys was going to burn the city, but Whent answers that he’d sworn to keep the king safe. Rhaegar says he’d left his wife and children in Jaime’s hands, and as they continue to accuse him, the light on his blade fades and goes out, and Jaime jerks awake screaming. He tells Walton that he has to go back to Harrenhal for something he forgot. Walton is about to refuse, but Jaime threatens and then bribes him, and Walton reluctantly agrees.
They arrive at Harrenhal, and Jaime realizes that the Mummers are all at the bear pit. He races there to see Brienne in the pit with a maddened bear, with no armor and only a dulled blade to defend herself. Jaime calls on Hoat to free her, but Hoat is infuriated that she’d bitten off his ear, and refuses. He tells Jaime if he wants her to go get her, and so he jumps into the pit. Brienne is astonished to see him, and they argue briefly about who should be protecting whom. The bear is charging when Steelshanks and his men intervene, shooting the bear dead. This infuriates Hoat and the Mummers, and there is a tense standoff, but Steelshanks’ men outnumber them two to one, and Hoat backs down. Once away from Harrenhal, Brienne asks Jaime why he came back.
A dozen quips came to mind, each crueler than the one before, but Jaime only shrugged. “I dreamed of you,” he said.
Conclusion: Jaime Lannister is completely in love with Brienne Tarth.
Like, stupid in love, you guys. Because, come on. He jumped into a bear pit for her. I mean, that’s not even a metaphor, there was an actual bear involved. I have no idea whether to laugh uproariously at this or… no, I’m pretty much going with “laugh uproariously.” Ha!
So, that’s good to know. Hopefully at some point he will also actually realize that he’s in love with her. Hopefully at some point he will also actually admit it out loud. Preferably, to her. And then we’ll have…
Um. Well, we’ll have a shitstorm, actually, once Cersei finds out about it. Fun! But you know, honesty with oneself is totes important and stuff. Plus I am rather horribly gleeful at the prospect of a falling-out between the Wonder Incest Twins. The only damper to my enthusiasm is that Brienne is actually the most likely to be the biggest casualty of such a thing, and I think Brienne should win all the things. Including, really, a better person than Jaime Lannister to be in love with her, but hey.
I’m terribly interested to discover whether Brienne feels anything near the same for Jaime as he does for her. I tend to think not – just because we know that Jaime’s horrible behavior toward her was camouflage for how he really felt doesn’t mean that Brienne realized that, and even if she did realize it, there’s no real reason why she should regard that as an acceptable excuse. Because honestly, it isn’t one. I’m terribly interested in finding out Brienne’s feelings toward Jaime, but I don’t know that I can honestly say that I hope she does reciprocate his feelings, because a large part of me really kind of thinks she shouldn’t.
So, the following two paragraphs are ones I had written before I got to the part of the chapter where Jaime decides to turn around and rescue Brienne, which I’m leaving in because I find it amusing:
The dream was fairly straightforward, as these things go, and was a fairly concise summary of Jaime’s Issues Thus Far. The part I found the most interesting, though, was not the dialogue about his betrayal of his oath (which, honestly, is pretty well-trodden ground by now), but his reactions to dream-Brienne. Especially when he turns in shame to hide his arousal re: Cersei from her. That’s really interesting, because up till now Jaime’s attitude toward his incest with Cersei has been that it is very much something he has notbeen ashamed of. That, even more than how dream-Brienne is mysteriously hotter than real-life Brienne, indicates to me how high a place she holds in his regard – whether he admits it or not.
That said, I totally rolled my eyes too, because of course she had to be naked while wielding a sword in the dream. Subtle, Jaime.
Hah. And then he jumped into a frickin’ bear pit and I was like, yeah, “high regard” nothing, he is totally butt-crazy in love with her, the end.
“You thlew my bear!” Vargo Hoat shrieked.
I am a terrible person, maybe, but I completely cracked up at this line.
Also, nice that in Jaime’s dream, Brienne asks him twice if there is a bear down in the cave with them. Foreshadowing, we has it.
It’s funny how easy it is for the little yet horrific things to pass you by. I almost missed it myself until I was actually summarizing the chapter. But here’s something to think about: Brienne was not, technically, raped in this chapter, but consider Qyburn’s casual statement that he “examined” Brienne to make sure her maidenhead was intact, and consider what exactly such an “examination” would entail, and ask yourself how far “technically” gets you.
Then there was this bit re: Walton Steelshanks:
Jaime had served with his sort all his life. Men like Walton would kill at their lord’s command, rape when their blood was up after battle, and plunder wherever they could, but once the war was done they would go back to their homes, trade their spears for hoes, wed their neighbors’ daughters, and raise a pack of squalling children.
I find this incredibly depressing. This right here is why we can’t have nice things.
Jaime’s thoughts in this chapter on why Aerys had chosen him for the Kingsguard were a little baffling. Hadn’t Jaime thought earlier about how he’d finagled that posting, so that he could be near Cersei? Because here he kind of makes it sound like he’d had nothing to do with the decision. Am mildly confused. And, probably, forgetting something. As usual.
Jaime’s repeated reference to Vargo Hoat as “the goat” here makes me think that perhaps he was what the dwarf lady’s prophecy in the previous chapter was referring to, not Joffrey. But then I don’t get the dog reference, since Jaime is a lion, right?
Eh. Perhaps it wasn’t referring to this incident, but something further down the line. Maybe it means that Sandor Clegane is taking Arya to Harrenhal, which, NOOOOOO. Or that Sandor’s giant asshole of a brother is going there. I hope so; and then I hope that he and Hoat kill each other off. Painfully. Ugh.
Jaime’s thoughts on Tywin possibly rejecting him now that he is maimed are… accurate. I mean, of course they are, as no one is presumably in a better position to judge Tywin’s essential reptilian nature than his own children, but it’s worth mentioning, if only so I can say something scathing about the type of parentage that measures the worth of one’s offspring solely by their utility. That’s just gross, man. Which is possibly not the most scathing thing I could have come up with to say, but it does have the virtue of being very true.
But, the important thing is: Brienne is not dead or raped (mostly). FUCKIN’ A. Whew.
And that is the extent of my weekly ramble pour vous! Have a weekend as usual, and I will see you next Friday!