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 10 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 18 (“Catelyn”) and 19 (“Jon”).
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 18: Catelyn
Captain Moreo Turnitis comes to tell Catelyn that the ship will make port in King’s Landing in an hour, and to congratulate Ser Rodrik for finally not being seasick anymore. The captain leaves, and Catelyn and Rodrik discuss who they can trust in the capital; Rodrik thinks the king’s master-at-arms, Ser Aron Santagar, is “vain but honest,” but they are both worried about Lord Petyr Baelish, called “Littlefinger,” who had challenged Brandon Stark’s right to Catelyn’s hand in Riverrun and was left scarred for it, and now sits on the council as master of coin. Rodrik is insistent that he go into the Red Keep (the king’s castle) without Catelyn and bring Aron out to her; he thinks no one will recognize him now that he’s shaved his whiskers.
When they dock, Catelyn asks Moreo to recommend an inn, and gives a bonus to all the crew. They settle in at the inn and Rodrik leaves to find Aron, but some hours later Catelyn is woken by the City Watch, who have orders from Lord Littlefinger to escort her to the castle; Catelyn realizes Moreo must have sold them out. The guards take her to a tower in the Red Keep, where Petyr meets her alone. Catelyn icily demands to know what he was thinking to summon her “like a serving wench,” and how he knew she was in the city. Petyr tells her Lord Varys, the king’s spymaster, “knows all,” except for why she is here.
Varys joins them, and commiserates with her over Bran; Catelyn is barely civil to him in reply. Varys then shocks her by asking for the dagger, and Catelyn demands to know what has happened to Rodrik. Varys assures her he is fine, and back at the inn with Aron (with whom he spoke about a dagger), but anxious at Catelyn’s disappearance. Catelyn tosses the dagger on the table, and Varys cuts himself on its edge. Littlefinger surmises that she is looking for the dagger’s owner, and tells her she only needed to come to him for the answer: it is his. Catelyn is stunned, and then Petyr further explains that it used to be his, but no longer; he lost it in a wager during the tourney on Prince Joffrey’s birthday. Shaking, Catelyn asks to whom.
“The Imp,” said Littlefinger as Lord Varys watched her face. “Tyrion Lannister.”
Yeah, I don’t buy this for a hot second.
Oh, I believe that the dagger belonged to Tyrion, and that he won it just like Littlefinger said, but otherwise, I call total bullshit. This screams “framejob” in ten-foot-tall letters of fire, y’all. It stinks like a stinky thing!
…Of course, having thought about it a little more, given the series I’m reading, it would be just like Martin to have it turn out that Tyrion was behind the assassination attempt, just because he’s been a comparatively sympathetic character up till now, and we can’t have that. But all things being equal, I find it highly unlikely.
Tyrion said flat out to Jaime that he hoped Bran would live, after all. And yes, this was mostly just to needle his brother (and to fish for information), but even so, I believe he was sincere—even if just because he wanted to know what Bran knew. Not to mention, I find it hard to believe Tyrion of all people would justify killing Bran (to the assassin) as a mercy-killing. Nor do I think he would have been stupid enough to use a weapon that could so easily be traced back to him.
But hell, I could be wrong. One thing I will totally give AGOT so far: it ain’t been predictable!
If I am right, though, then of course the next question is: who’s framing him?
…Which is a question I’m not even going to attempt to speculate on at this point, since I can already think of at least five possible candidates and we haven’t even met most of Robert’s court yet. Sheesh.
Also, Littlefinger will be A Problem whether or not he’s the framer. Hell hath no fury like an insecure dude scorned, you guys. Srsly.
And regardless of the truth of the matter, I predict that Catelyn’s reaction is not going to be pretty. She definitely strikes me as the type who would kill first and ask questions later, even if only metaphorically.
And perhaps not so metaphorically, at that. Women may lack agency as a general rule in this setting, but that doesn’t alter in the slightest my suspicion that about the absolute last thing in the world you would want is Catelyn Stark as your enemy.
Chapter 19: Jon
Jon defeats another boy, Grenn, at practice, humiliating him badly. The master at arms, Ser Alliser Thorne, mocks Jon, calling him “Lord Snow,” giving him no credit for the victory. Jon walks alone to the armory to change, as he has no friends here. He thinks that only Tyrion had told him the truth about what the Watch was like, and that even his uncle had abandoned him, going out on patrol beyond the Wall and refusing to take Jon with him. He fights homesickness, missing his siblings, especially Arya.
Grenn and three of his friends catch Jon alone, intending to get revenge for the practice earlier. Jon is holding his own in the fight, but it is broken up by the armorer, Donal Noye. Noye kicks the other boys out and gives Jon a lecture on his arrogance. He points out that none of the other boys have had Jon’s advantages in training, and if Jon doesn’t stop thinking he’s better than they are, he’ll get his throat slit one night. Jon hadn’t thought of it that way, and feels guilty. Noye dismisses him, and Jon goes out to look at the Wall, still stunned by its sheer size.
Tyrion joins him, and asks if Jon wants to know what’s on the other side, calling him “Lord Snow.” Jon tells him not to call him that, and Tyrion advises him to take the name and make it his own. As they head in for dinner, Tyrion makes a mocking comment on the dilapidated state of the castle, and Jon thinks of the Watch’s sharply dwindling numbers, with only three of the nineteen strongholds along the Wall still occupied. Tyrion also observes that Benjen is overdue from his task (looking for Ser Royce up by the Shadow Tower).
In the common hall, Thorne gives Jon a summons to the Lord Commander’s office, but refuses to say what for, until Tyrion steps in and insists, whereupon Thorne says a letter has arrived from Winterfell concerning Jon’s half-brother. Tyrion tries to console Jon, but Jon ignores him and dashes up to Jeor Mormont’s office; Mormont gives him the letter and offers commiseration on Bran’s crippled state, but Jon is merely overjoyed that Bran is alive and awake, and runs back down to the common hall, where he whirls Tyrion around in jubilation, telling him the news, and then offers a cheerful apology to Grenn, offering to show him how to defend against the move. Thorne mocks him, saying he’d have an easier time “teaching a wolf to juggle.”
“I’ll take that wager, Ser Alliser,” Jon said. “I’d love to see Ghost juggle.”
There is a shocked silence, and then the rest of the hall begins to laugh uproariously. Enraged, Alliser Thorne tells him that was a grievous error.
Ah, Jon. Off to a scintillating start, I see.
Well, at least he’s smart enough (and mature enough) to get what Noye was telling him. Most teenagers would have been like All I hear is blah blah no one understands my pain Ihateyousulkytime.
Not that Jon doesn’t have at least some cause for sulkytime, at least compared to you or I, but Noye makes a good point that Jon’s actually had it pretty darn good up to this point compared to most of his fellow trainees, and still has many advantages over them. It was a pretty sharp lesson in privilege, really, and I’m glad Jon seemed to take it to heart. I knew I was right to like him!
Now let’s just hope he gets a chance to apply his knowledge. Having your master at arms for a nemesis probably qualifies as An Obstacle, I’m thinking.
And I see we are getting another possibly-red-herring that Tyrion was behind the assassination attempt on Bran, when he attempts to offer condolences to Jon even before the contents of the letter are known, and then “looking startled” when Jon relates the news that Bran is alive. Rackum frackum circumstantial evidence mumble grumble not conclusive blah. So there!
Man, Benjen better hope he doesn’t really find Royce. I think he will not like it if he does.
And okay, so this chapter states that the Wall is seven hundred feet high. Which is, like, insane. As comparison, the Great Wall of China is 30 feet at its highest height (at least according to the Intarwebs), and the pyramid at Giza is around 450 feet at its apex. I’m just saying. Who the hell built this thing?
(Obviously nowadays we have skyscrapers which are thousands of feet high, but I’m comparing Martin’s Wall to things built with a presumably more or less comparable level of technology, and from that perspective seven hundred feet is CRAZY.)
It was older than the Seven Kingdoms, and when he stood beneath it and looked up, it made Jon dizzy. He could feel the great weight of all that ice pressing down on him, as if it were about to topple, and somehow Jon knew that if it fell, the world fell with it.
Well, that’s not ominous at all. Especially combined with the fact that only about 15% of the Wall is even manned at present. Should probably do something about that, people. Didn’t you guys hear winter is coming?
Also, I’m not sure if the fact that the Wall is apparently made out of ice makes it more or less crazy. Probably more.
“My brother is going to live,” [Jon] told Mormont. The Lord Commander shook his head, gathered up a fistful of corn, and whistled. The raven flew to his shoulder, crying, “Live! Live!”
I SEE WHAT YOU DID THAR, GRRM
Seriously, that was very nicely done.
And that’s our show for today! Have a weekend, why dontcha? Cheers!