A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Part 37

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 37 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 61 (“Sansa”) and Chapter 62 (“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!

Chapter 61: Sansa

What Happens
As she flees the throne room, Sansa wonders why she is crying when she wants to dance with joy at Joffrey’s death, and thinks that she is actually crying for Robb, and for Margaery, “twice wed and twice widowed.” In the godswood, she changes into her hidden escape clothing. She panics when she sees the “magic” hairnet Dontos had given her is missing one of its amethysts, and wonders if Dontos was lying about everything else as well.

Dontos arrives, stinking drunk. Sansa confronts him about the hairnet, saying he used the missing stone to poison Joffrey, but Dontos insists Joffrey merely choked on pie. He tells her Tyrion has been arrested, and they must flee quickly. As they go, Sansa wonders whether Tyrion might really have killed Joffrey, and realizes they will assume she was in on it if he had.

They exit the castle onto a cliff over the river, and Dontos tells her there is a hidden stair/ladder down, and a man with a boat waiting to row them to the ship. Sansa balks at first, but then asks Dontos to go first; he is so drunk she worries he will fall on top of her otherwise. He goes, and though she is terrified, Sansa follows. They make it to the bottom, and Dontos leads her to the boat.

The man rowing (Dontos calls him “Oswell”) insists they be silent, and takes them out to the bay. Sansa thinks there is something familiar about him, but cannot place it. At length they come to a trading galley, and she climbs up the rope ladder to the deck with Oswell following. There she recognizes Ser Lothor Brune.

“Lord Petyr,” Dontos called from the boat. “I must needs row back, before they think to look for me.”

Petyr Baelish put a hand on the rail. “But first you’ll want your payment. Ten thousand dragons, was it?”

“Ten thousand.” Dontos rubbed his mouth with the back of his hand. “As you promised, my lord.”

“Ser Lothor, the reward.”

Crossbowmen shoot Dontos, and Lothor torches the boat. Sansa is unbelieving, and Littlefinger tells her her grief is wasted on Dontos, who sold her for ten thousand dragons and would have betrayed her for the same. He tells her Dontos befriended her at Littlefinger’s request, as he claims he could not approach her openly, but that he was the one who sent her the initial note to meet in the godswood, as it is the only place free from Varys’ spies.

He takes her below, and asks if her husband enjoyed Littlefinger’s jousting dwarves, which Sansa realizes he planted in order to make it seem more plausible that Tyrion poisoned Joffrey. Littlefinger remarks that widowhood will become her, and Sansa cannot decide whether to be relieved or not. Sansa asks why Littlefinger would want Joffrey dead—after all Joffrey gave him, and Littlefinger shrugs and says he “had no motive.” He says that to throw off your enemies in the game of thrones, sometimes you must do things that make no sense. He tells her how he once loved her mother, and that but for “family, duty, and honor,” Sansa might have been his daughter.

“My loyal loving daughter… Put Joffrey from your mind, sweetling. Dontos, Tyrion, all of them. They will never trouble you again. You are safe now, that’s all that matters. You are safe with me, and sailing home.”

Commentary
OMG BAD TOUCH EW EW EW

Sorry, maybe I was supposed to have some other reaction to that last line, but, uh, no. Petyr Baelish: Grade-A Creeper since 1996. Ick.

Sooooo, Sansa was betrayed for greed. Excuse me while I muster up some shock. Hang on… mustering… buffering… please wait… spinny circle of death… crap.

Yeah, no. No shock, sorry, can’t do it. The only way this episode would have been shocking was if it had actually gone without a hitch and everyone was who they said they were and then a glittery rainbow appeared and led them to Happyland and Sansa got to play with unicorns and koalas forever, The End.

I was surprised, of course, that it was Littlefinger behind it all. Though thinking about it, it does make rather good sense in retrospect, especially when you consider Littlefinger’s creeperness re: Catelyn—and now, I guess, Sansa.

(“Fatherly feelings,” my ass. Ugh, how long do you think it’ll be before he either propositions her or straight-up tries to rape her? God, I don’t even want to think about it.)

However, that’s about the only thing that makes sense in this chapter, which is otherwise, as far as I can tell, one big splodge of misdirection re: Joffrey’s death, and I am confused.

Because, okay, I’ve been assuming that Joffrey’s death was “caused” by Melisandre’s leech spell, but only in the sense that it nudged events toward the ideal circumstances for Joffrey to die. In other words, it was a general fate-twisting thing rather than a specific “you will eat pie and CHOKE ON IT” thing. But my point is that other than that influence, I was assuming Joffrey’s death was exactly what it looked like: an accident.

But now Littlefinger is all implying here that he was the mastermind behind it all, and I have no idea whether to give any credence to this or to call total bullshit. I’m leaning toward “bullshit,” though, especially since his plan seemed to be that he was using the jousting dwarves to goad Tyrion into killing Joffrey, which we know didn’t happen. (Although, admittedly, it came damn close to working, didn’t it?) But then, if Littlefinger had somehow arranged for Joff to be poisoned and planted the dwarves to point the finger (heh) more firmly toward Tyrion, as Sansa assumes, well…

And then there’s all the stuff with the missing jewel from Sansa’s hairnet, and that’s either part and parcel of the whole scheme or a really clever red herring, and I can’t decide which.

I dunno. This whole theory is extremely Byzantine, and Occam’s Razor certainly suggests that the most likely explanation is that Joffrey choked on a pie, the end, and Littlefinger is just trying to puff himself up/take advantage of the situation for his own aggrandizement.

Although, confessing to regicide… I mean, even if he had done it, why would he admit it, even if only to Sansa? I hear they execute people for that sort of thing, after all. I suppose he could be assuming that no one would believe Sansa anyway, and that claiming to kill Joffrey would be a good in for him with her.

…And, actually, he’s probably not too wrong about that. When Sansa was all wanting to dance with joy at the beginning of the chapter, I was like I am right there with you, girl. Ding, dong, the little shit is deeeeaaaad!

Anyway. So Petyr is taking her “home.” Where’s home? Does he mean Winterfell, or does he mean Harrenhal? Probably the latter, since while Harrenhal is not exactly everyone’s favorite vacation spot, it at least is not a pile of smoldering ruins. Or at least, it wasn’t last I recall. Isn’t someone else occupying the place right now, though? Jeez, I can’t even remember, but I think it’s changed hands at least twice since Littlefinger was given it. So who knows.

And apparently he never even went to the Vale? Well, all things considered that was probably a smart move, if he didn’t want to end up in his very own Slip N’ Slide prison cell. (Definitely one of the scenes I recall most vividly, that. Because EEEEEK.)

(I wonder if Lysa even knows Catelyn is dead? Or cares?)

[Littlefinger:] “Do you perchance recall what I said to you that day your father sat the Iron Throne?”

The moment came back to [Sansa] vividly. “You told me that life was not a song. That I would learn that one day, to my sorrow.” She felt tears in her eyes, but whether she wept for Ser Dontos Hollard, for Joff, for Tyrion, or for herself, Sansa could not say. “Is it all lies, forever and ever, everyone and everything?”

Ow, right in the feels again. Can we have a Kickstarter campaign for something nice to happen to a Stark, like, ever? No?

Figures.

Chapter 62: Jaime

What Happens
Jaime listens numbly to the conflicting stories of his nephew/son’s death, and insists they ride hard, wanting to get to Cersei and comfort her. Steelshanks Walton complains of the smell as they approach King’s Landing, and Jaime tells him if you have a good nose you can “smell the treachery too.” Jaime thinks of how Joffrey had died thinking he was Robert’s son, and how Jaime had never even been allowed to hold him. He wonders if Tyrion truly could have killed him, and wonders at himself for how calm he is, and if that makes him a monster.

He finds Brienne, whose sullen silences are grating on him, even though he had been the one to tell her to shut up. He congratulates her on achieving her vow to bring him to King’s Landing, but Brienne answers that was only half of her promise; she was also supposed to bring Arya and Sansa back to Catelyn. Jaime reflects that she mourns more for Robb and Catelyn than he does for Joffrey, and thinks she has been “broken” since they learned about the Red Wedding. He offers to send her back to Tarth, or find her a place at court, but she dully shoots the idea down, and Jaime leaves her alone.

They pass the gate as Lord Bolton’s men, and Jaime remarks that no one recognizes him; Steelshanks answers that he has changed, and “they have a new Kingslayer now.” At the keep gates, though, Ser Meryn Trant leaps to obey Jaime as soon as he recognizes him. Jaime chides Ser Meryn and Ser Loras for managing to lose two monarchs since Jaime left the city. Ser Balon notices his missing hand, and Jaime says he fights with his left for more of a challenge. He is startled to hear that his father is eating with Lord Tyrell and Prince Oberyn, and then Loras sees Brienne. He accuses her of Renly’s murder, and she protests her innocence. She tells the story of the shadow that killed him, that Lady Catelyn said was Stannis’s.

Loras doesn’t believe her, and goes to duel her, but Jaime steps in between them. Loras shoves him away, and Jaime pulls rank on him. There is a tense moment, then Loras puts up his sword. He insists that Brienne be arrested, though. Jaime says Brienne has more honor than Loras, but agrees to have her held under guard. He sees Brienne’s hurt look, and reflects that everyone misunderstands the things he does.

At the sept doors, Ser Osmund Kettleblack blocks Jaime’s way very rudely until he finally realizes who Jaime is and backs off. Jaime goes into the sept, where Cersei is kneeling before the altar of the Mother. They embrace, and Cersei asks why he didn’t get there sooner, to protect Joffrey. Jaime says he came as soon as he could. She is shocked by his missing hand. She tells him Tyrion killed Joffrey just as he warned her he would, and Jaime asks why Tyrion would do such a thing. Cersei says it was “for a whore,” and begs Jaime to kill Tyrion for her.

Jaime says that Tyrion is still his brother, and he is in no shape for killing anyone anyway. Cersei says the guards would look the other way, and Jaime says he must learn more about what happened. Cersei says there is to be a trial. She says she was lost without him, and kisses him. They end up having sex on the altar. Afterwards, Cersei says they must be more careful; Jaime answers that he is sick of being careful. He points out that the Targaryens married brother to sister, and asks her to marry him openly.

Cersei thinks him crazy, and points out that Tommen’s claim to the throne comes through his supposed paternity by Robert. Jaime says Tommen can have Casterly Rock, and Tywin the throne; he just wants her. Cersei says he’s scaring her, and begs him to remember that one wrong word can destroy them. She says he’s changed, and makes him leave her. Jaime goes to Tywin. Tywin is incensed to see Jaime’s missing hand, and Jaime tells him it was his own goat’s work, Vargo Hoat. Tywin tells him Gregor Clegane has taken the castle, and Hoat is dying. Jaime is pleased to discover that Hoat’s ear injury is what’s killing him. Tywin promises they will hunt down and kill all the surviving Brave Companions as well.

Tywin asks if Jaime can fight with his left hand, and Jaime lies that he can. Tywin tells him Joffrey was definitely poisoned, as the autopsy found no obstruction he could have choked on. He is sure Tyrion gave Joffrey poisoned wine, but claims Tyrion has nothing to fear if proved innocent. Jaime reflects on how much that is worth in this “city of liars.” He tries to point out the connection between Renly’s death and Joffrey, insisting on Brienne’s innocence, but Tywin is dismissive.

He says Jaime cannot serve in the Kingsguard with only one hand, but Jaime insists he can, and that an appointment to the Guard is for life. Tywin counters that Cersei changed that when she fired Ser Barristan. Jaime tries to argue, but Tywin says he has a duty to take over Casterly Rock. Tywin wants him to take Tommen with him, to get him away from Cersei. He intends to find Cersei a new husband, perhaps Oberyn Martell, and suggests that perhaps Jaime could wed Margaery Tyrell. Infuriated, Jaime shouts that he doesn’t want Margaery or Casterly Rock; he is Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and that is all. Tywin stares at him, and does not speak.

The strained silence went on until it was more than Jaime could endure. “Father… ” he began.

“You are not my son.” Lord Tywin turned his face away. “You say you are the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and only that. Very well, ser. Go do your duty.”

Commentary
Tywin Lannister, ladies and gentlemen: Father Of The Year.

Of course, given that Tywin almost certainly suspects (or knows) that the reason Jaime is so insistent on staying in the Guard is so he can keep fucking his twin sister… well. Tywin might even have something of a point.

Damn, but this family is messed up.

I find it amusingly devious of Martin that he continually presents Jaime and Cersei’s relationship as not something sordid and wrong, but that of star-crossed lovers. Seriously, the Romeo and Juliet vibe is palpable as far as I am concerned, which is extremely disconcerting every time you remember that oh, yeah, twincest. The dissonance is not helped by the reminder that in this culture, incest has at least somewhat less taboo overtones than it does in ours—in royal circles, anyway.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I am vaguely disturbed to find myself at least partially thinking that it would be better if Jaime and Cersei just ran off and eloped somewhere to live in sin in peace. I mean, it’s fucked up, but I do believe that they honestly love each other, and I certainly don’t see any other outcome that would truly make Jaime (if not necessarily Cersei) happy, because sorry, openly marrying her is so never going to happen.

But, that’s a moot point anyway, because this is ASOIAF and nobody gets to be happy in this story, don’t be absurd. So I can quit talking crazy, and just get on with speculating what massive clusterfuck is next on the horizon now that Tywin hates Jaime almost as much as he does Tyrion. I’m sure it’ll be lovely.

As a side note, I’m not sure the relationship between Jaime and Cersei won’t implode eventually anyway. I know right now Jaime thinks Cersei hung the (incestuous) moon, but I get the distinct impression that Cersei is not nearly as… well.

So, I don’t want to say she’s not as into Jaime as Jaime is into her, because I think she is. I do think she loves him. I just think that Cersei is a lot more practical than her brother is. I also think she is in certain ways more cynical, and definitely a hell of a lot more ambitious. If it came down to a choice between their love affair or public ruin, Jaime would almost certainly pick ruin… but I don’t think Cersei would do the same.

As for Brienne: aw, Brienne. I am sad that she is thinking right now that Jaime betrayed her. Not that it might not turn out that he has, inadvertently. I can’t think of it right now, but I’m sure there is some saying about being in prison equating to being most of the way proven guilty that roughly corresponds to the saying about possession being nine-tenths of the law. Or, possibly, I am making no sense whatsoever. Um.

In any case, assuming Brienne doesn’t get executed for regicide (it is hilarious how much that is going around these days, innit?), she is going to present a problem for Jaime sooner or later re: Cersei. I might have just been saying a couple of paragraphs ago that Jaime might be the more invested of the two in his affair with Cersei, but even so, sooner or later he’s going to have to acknowledge that his “hatred” of Brienne is total bullshit, and in fact the opposite emotion entirely. And then, who knows what would happen.

I wonder if Jaime can learn to fight effectively with his left hand. They say you can do a lot of things if you have no choice in the matter, but as an extremely right-handed person who has tried to do things like write with my left hand, let’s just say he’s got a long, hard road ahead of him on that score. (“Chicken scratch” is not even in it, y’all. It was hysterical.)

Also, I didn’t put it in the summary, but both Tywin and Cersei mention their intention to question Sansa’s maids. And yeeeeeaaaaahhh, that is not going to go well for either Shae or Tyrion, is it?

Man, Tyrion is so fucked right now, it isn’t even funny. Not that it ever would have been. I guess we’ll have to hope Jaime continues to doubt his guilt and ends up smuggling him out of the castle or something, because otherwise I don’t see this going Tyrion’s way at ALL.

Although, Tywin’s info does I guess mostly put the kibosh on my theory that Joffrey wasn’t poisoned. Even though my paranoia prompts me not to totally let the idea go, because really, couldn’t the blockage have dissolved or broken down or whatever by the time they checked his throat?

But, assuming he was poisoned, I’m guessing the theory that Littlefinger had it done (by smuggling poison into the feast in the form of fake jewels on Sansa’s hairnet, and having Dontos? I guess? spike the wine with it) is looking better than anything else I can think of. Though you’d think Tyrion would have noticed Dontos plucking an amethyst off his wife’s head at some point… but Tyrion was very drunk, so, I guess? Maybe?

Agh, I don’t know. More As It Develops, I suppose.

Oh, and thank you, Tywin, for clearing up my confusion in the previous chapter about who’s running Harrenhal. Littlefinger vs. Gregor Clegane: that’ll certainly be… something. Maybe it won’t be anything, because technically they are on the same side, but since Littlefinger has gone distinctly off book since the last time anyone saw him, I doubt it.

(And actually I’m not sure why I’m so sure Harrenhal is where Littlefinger’s heading. But then, I don’t get about 90% of what Littlefinger does anyway (and this is apparently by design) so whatever, I’m not even going to bother to speculate further.)

[Tywin:] “I had hoped you’d be here for the wedding.”

“I was delayed.” Jaime closed the door softly. “My sister outdid herself, I’m told. Seventy-seven courses and a regicide, never a wedding like it.”

*snort* One thing you can say about the Lannisters, they are never, ever short on sass. Even though technically Jaime is wrong about there never being a wedding like it. *smashes things*


Aaand I’m spent. Have a scrumdiddlyumptious week, O my peeps, and I’ll see you next Thursday!

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