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 22 of A Feast for Crows, in which we cover Chapter 30 (“Jaime”) and Chapter 31 (“Brienne”).
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 30: Jaime
Jaime’s force arrives at Darry; Jaime sees that Lancel is cleverly flying the Darry flag instead of the Lannister banner, no doubt at his father’s instigation, and thinks again that Kevan should have been Tommen’s Hand. He notes young Josmyn “Peck” Peckleton talking kindly to Pia, and remembers how he’d had one of the Mountain’s men beheaded for attempting to rape her, to the man’s bewilderment, and how Pia had smiled when presented with the man’s head. Once within the walls of the castle, Jaime notes that the peasants are armed, along with more sparrows. Jaime thinks of how he is here in an effort to arrive too late at the siege of Riverrun to be forced to participate.
Maester Ottomore greets them and explains that Ser Kevan left after the wedding; Lady Amarei is preparing a feast for them, but Lord Lancel is at his prayers. Jaime is put in Lancel’s own rooms, as Lancel has been sleeping in the sept, and Jaime is exasperated that Lancel is not attending to his duties and getting his half-Darry wife pregnant. Jaime is uncomfortably aroused by Pia’s attendance on him, and after she leaves, he tells Peck that he can sleep with Pia if Pia will allow it, but instructs Peck to be kind to her if he does.
At the feast, Lady Amarei tells Jaime Lancel is fasting with grief over the High Septon, and Jaime wonders if Lancel’s new-found piety is the reason for Kevan’s departure. They discuss the increasing wolf problem. Lady Mariya, Amarei’s mother, tells Jaime that they had thought the outlaws who killed her husband were Dondarrion’s, but they had learned that they were led by a one-eyed man and a hideously scarred woman. Amarei is not convinced, though, and tries to entreat Jaime to stay and kill Beric. Jaime advises them that if they want to flush out Beric and his company, they have to earn the locals’ trust and loyalty to Lancel over Beric. They discuss the massacre at Saltpans, and Ser Arwood tells of how the Hound killed twenty men, burned the town to the ground, and did unspeakable things to some of the women. Jaime thinks that it sounds more like Gregor’s style than Sandor’s, but Arwood says multiple witnesses described the Hound’s distinctive helmet. Jaime knocks over his wineglass with his gold hand and abruptly excuses himself, and goes to find Lancel.
At the sept, a few sparrows block his entrance and threaten him with weapons, until a rough-clad Lancel emerges and bids them to stand down. Jaime asks him if he’s lost his wits, and Lancel replies that he’s found his faith. He tells Jaime he’d dreamed that Jaime had killed him for his sins. Jaime tells him he needs to eat and go back to his wife before she cheats on him, but Lancel doesn’t care. He says he is a kingslayer just like Jaime, but Jaime says Robert was no true king, and asks what is really weighing on him. Lancel confesses that he slept with Cersei, but insists it is not treason since he never “finished inside.” Jaime wonders if Tyrion had also been right about Cersei fucking Moon Boy, and wonders what Lancel would think of his own dalliance with his twin sister.
Jaime tells Lancel he is a fool. Lancel agrees, and says he plans to renounce his marriage and title and take vows to join the “Warrior’s Sons.” Confused, Jaime says that order was outlawed three hundred years ago, but Lancel tells him they have been reinstated by the new High Septon. Jaime doesn’t understand how the Iron Throne would have allowed such a thing, and asks if Lancel is sure he isn’t doing it just to be close to Cersei again. Lancel only asks if Jaime will pray with him in reply; Jaime tells him he’s “forgotten all the words,” and leaves.
He goes with Ser Ilyn to practice in the godswood, but ends up telling Ilyn about their last visit to this castle on the way back from Winterfell, and how he had had sex with Cersei with Robert passed out on the floor in the room. He says he’d thought Cersei wanted him, but now he thinks Cersei just wanted him to agree to hunt down the Stark girl whose wolf had attacked Joffrey.
The things I do for love. “It was only by chance that Stark’s own men found the girl before me. If I had come on her first…”
The pockmarks on Ser Ilyn’s face were black holes in the torchlight, as dark as Jaime’s soul. He made that clacking sound.
He is laughing at me, realized Jaime Lannister. “For all I know you fucked my sister too, you pock-faced bastard,” he spat out. “Well, shut your bloody mouth and kill me if you can.”
Hmm. Possible major turning point for Jaime here, re: Cersei. I mean, you know damn well that deep down he already knew that Cersei had been trading sex for political favors all along, but this is the first time (I think) that he’s gotten irrefutable proof that this was the case and denial ceased to be
a river in Egypt an option.
And now, of course, he’s reevaluating every single time he had sex with her himself, to try and see where the advantage was for her. This probably does not bode well for whenever the two of them next meet, that’s for sure.
The things I do for love. Yeah. Guess throwing a kid out of a window to conceal your and your sister’s sexytimes is looking less and less like a valid life choice, huh, Jaime? Jesus.
(This series, I swear.)
Also, Jaime better hope that Ilyn doesn’t know how to write shit down. I’m just saying.
I love how Jaime’s advice to Amarei et al re: Beric was the revolutionary and apparently highly original notion that they should, oh, I don’t know, do their fucking jobs, and provide, like, actual justice and safety for their peasantry. Noblesse oblige: it can be a practice as well as a theory! WHO’D’VE THUNK IT, YO.
Lancel: yeah, already we’re getting to see what a FABULOUS idea reinstating a militant Church is. Thanks, Cersei!
Re: Saltpans Massacre: yeah, that’s way too many hints for me to ignore at this point: Sandor totally didn’t do it, y’all.
Interestingly, Jaime had the exact same thought I had earlier about the whole thing, namely that it was much more Gregor’s shtick than Sandor’s. AHA I AM ONTO SOMETHING… except that I thought Gregor was dead. Isn’t he dead? Stabbed with poison pointy thing? Very suffer? So schadenfreude? Wow?
I thought so, but now I am confused. I raise my eyebrow in this storyline’s general direction!
Another hint of Undead!Catelyn here—or maybe not a new one, per se, since I think the incident Amarei is yelling about in this chapter is the one we saw in the epilogue of ASOS, but whatever. Point is, it would be really nice to get a POV soon from someone who actually knows what the bleeding hell is going on re: all this Beric/Zombie!Catelyn/ Sandor/possibly Zombie!Gregor bullshit. Because I am just about over it, y’all.
Chapter 31: Brienne
Septon Meribald brings Brienne, Hyle, and Podrick to the septry across the bay from Saltpans, by way of a hidden passage across the mudflats left behind by the receding tide. He explains that the Quiet Isle is inhabited by penitents atoning for their sins, and only the Elder Brother and his proctors are allowed to talk. On the isle, they are greeted by Brother Narbert, who knows Meribald well. He is startled to discover Brienne is female, and decides to bring her to the Elder Brother. They note the presence of a vicious and untamed stallion in the stables, and Brienne notes a huge but lame man is digging a grave. Norbert explains the grave is for Brother Clement, who died at Saltpans, but when Brienne asks if the Hound killed him, he replies that it was someone else.
The Elder Brother strikes Brienne as more of a warrior than a clergyman. He describes the horrors of what happened at Saltpans in detail, deciding that Brienne’s warrior garb meant he should not shield her from the details. He is angered that Ser Quincy Cox barred his gate and refused to come to the villagers’ aid, and though Meribald points out that Cox is an old man who was severely outnumbered, Brienne is inclined to agree with the Elder Brother.
After dinner, the Elder Brother escorts Brienne to a guest cottage, and asks Brienne what she hopes to find in Saltpans. Brienne tells him she is looking for a highborn maid with auburn hair, and the Elder Brother instantly deduces she means Sansa Stark, and tells her she is chasing the wrong wolf: it is Arya Stark who was with the Hound, not Sansa. Brienne is stunned. He does not know what happened to Arya, but he tells her the Hound is dead, that the Elder Brother watched him die and buried him himself; the vicious warhorse in the stables is his.
He says that he was once a knight himself, but “died” in the Battle of the Trident, where Rhaegar fell, and washed ashore naked on the Quiet Isle, where he has been ever since. He urges her to give up her quest and go home; Sansa was never with the Hound, and whoever was impersonating him at Saltpans will inevitably be caught. He says her father must miss her, and tearfully Brienne tells him everything about her life, from her father’s rejection of her to the men she’d killed in pursuit of the vow she’d sworn to Jaime.
“I have to find her,” she finished. “There are others looking, all wanting to capture her and sell her to the queen. I have to find her first. I promised Jaime. Oathkeeper, he named the sword. I have to try to save her… or die in the attempt.”
Brienne of Tarth: Still out-heroing the shit out of everybody. I do love her lots.
And, ask and I shall (sometimes) receive: the Saltpans Massacre, explained at last!
OR IS IT.
Okay, so, (a) I was totally right that Sandor didn’t do it, and (b) I am calling it RIGHT NOW that lame gravedigger dude is Sandor.
I didn’t catch it on the first readthrough, but when I went back to write the summary I saw how the Elder Brother was all “I died at the Trident,” because he was reborn to the faith, geddit, and then I was like Ohhhhh okay. Yeah, so, I think the Hound “died,” too, in that particular dictionary definition of “die” that means “pull a Claude Rains,” and now he’s hiding out in a monastery, like you do. Seems legit.
This is my prediction, anyway. We Shall See.
Also, re: Elder Brother, wait wait wait. Who the hell is this guy? I mean, obviously he was a knight and all, and maybe he was even more than that and is downplaying it to Brienne for his own Rainsian purposes, but still, if his story is even remotely true then he has been out of the loop regarding the intricacies of Westeros’s High School Drama from Hell (A Play in Seven Acts) since the Trident—i.e. before Robert even took the throne. So how does Brienne say “auburn thirteen-year-old” to this guy and he instantly comes back with, “oh you mean Sansa Stark”?? WTF.
…well, on thinking about it, if lame gravedigger dude is really Sandor then maybe Sandor told Elder Brother about Sansa… but that’s still kind of a big leap there, if you ask me. Weird. Elder Brother is More Than He Seems, y’all. Also I hope he gets an actual name at some point, presuming of course that I’m not totally blowing his importance out of proportion and we actually see him again.
Anyway, there’s not much else to say about this chapter, so I will instead inflict upon you my thoughts triggered by Jaime and Brienne’s POVs once again happening in sequence. Hooray!
I’m not a hundred percent sure I’m remembering this correctly, but I think that we did not start getting Jaime POVs until after his association with Brienne began, so obviously I cannot speak with authority on Jaime’s mental attitude toward women before that point. That said, his initial treatment of (and thoughts about) Brienne in the early stages of their relationship is probably pretty indicative that he was not much more enlightened about respecting women than any other product of this hyper-patriarchal society. So I feel fairly safe in theorizing that his (by comparison) shockingly progressive consideration for Pia’s situation, in this and previous chapters, is a direct result of his association with Brienne and the respect she earned from him.
Normally I might be pointing out the issues here, with the evocation of the tired trope that women exist mainly to make the hero/associated male character a better person, rather than that they exist to further their own character development, but the fact that Brienne is in fact off doing just that—pursuing her own story—mitigates that possible complaint a great deal. And beyond that, the clearly deep influence that Brienne has had on Jaime is undeniably very heartening to me, because more than anything else, it speaks eloquently of the power of representation.
One of the more influential quotes I ever read as a child was from The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett:
At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done—then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done before.
Burnett was talking about the reaction of humanity to scientific progress, but I think that the process she describes actually applies across the board—to the entirety of human reaction to change. Perhaps, in fact, to social change more than any other kind.
Twenty years ago, for instance, hardly anyone in America could probably have even imagined that legalizing gay marriage would be any more than a pipe dream, but now, at nineteen states and counting, the majority of Americans view it as a necessary and right inevitability. And a huge part of that shift in perspective, I believe, is owed to the persistent and eloquent demand from the gay community to be seen and validated as legitimate—in the media, in public life, and in popular entertainment.
Because that’s the thing—being seen. You can talk about a thing, or people doing a thing, all you want, but as a general rule, until people see other people doing a thing, they’re not going to accept that those people can do the thing. But once they do see it, well, then it is real and legit. Because you saw it. The proof of the pudding, and alla that.
It is perhaps fucked up (or, no, it is definitely fucked up) that Jaime could not see Brienne—and, by extension, women in general—as real people until he had seen and accepted Brienne as a fellow warrior, but in the context of his (fucked-up) society, which values military prowess above all other virtues, it makes perfect sense when you think about it. It is perhaps not as extreme as some places in this world (see The Iron Islands, or rather, if you’re smart, don’t), but in Westeros, if you cannot be a warrior, than to many of its people (certainly among the nobility, anyway) you barely qualify as a person at all.
Jaime’s own struggles with his sense of self-worth after the loss of his sword hand speak eloquently to that prevailing perception (as do Tyrion’s over the course of his whole life, and Cersei’s as well). And there’s no doubt, of course, that that struggle in itself is also playing a part in Jaime’s shift in perception of who is and is not worthy to be viewed as, well, worthy. But I still think that Brienne’s influence—indeed, her very existence—is the larger cause for that shift.
And that’s pretty awesome, I think.
And that’s what I got for this one, kids! Have a spate of days, and I’ll see you next week!