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 15 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 29 (“Sansa”) and 30 (“Eddard”).
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 29: Sansa
Sansa and Jeyne Poole enjoy the Hand’s Tourney greatly, whispering and giggling to each other about the various knights jousting, until Sandor Clegane’s brother, Ser Gregor the Mountain, kills a young knight by impaling him through the throat with his lance, whereupon Jeyne becomes so upset Septa Mordane has to take her away. Sansa wonders why she is not more upset herself, but tells herself it would be different if it were someone she knew.
Renly loses (graciously) to Sandor, who is very ungracious about it, and the finalists end up being Sandor, his brother Gregor, Jaime Lannister, and Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers, who comes by and gives a flustered Sansa a red rose (all the others he had given out were white). Afterwards, she is briefly accosted by Littlefinger, who remarks that Sansa has her mother’s hair, and that Catelyn was once his “queen of beauty” before leaving abruptly.
At the feast afterward, Sansa is initially terrified when Joffrey sits next to her, as he had not spoken to her since the incident in the woods, but he is extremely gallant and attentive to her, and Sansa decides she does not blame him for Lady’s death, only Cersei and Arya. The feast is briefly disrupted by a very drunk Robert, who bellows at Cersei that he rules here, and he can fight the next day if he wants to. Cersei storms out, and Jaime tries to put a hand on Robert’s shoulder, but Robert knocks him down and laughs at him.
Despite that, Sansa thinks it all a wonderful dream until Joffrey offers to escort her back and then hands her over to Sandor Clegane instead. On the way back, Sansa tries to compliment him and his brother, whereupon Sandor forces her to examine his maimed face in detail, and tells her how Gregor had given him those burns as a child in retaliation for stealing one of his toys. Sansa tells him that Gregor is no true knight, then, and Sandor agrees, but before he drops her off he threatens to kill her if she ever tells anyone what he confided in her that night.
Oh, I see how it is. We’ve got to go and give Clegane, like, dimensions and stuff. Low blow, Martin. I was perfectly happy just regarding him to be a one-note asshole, you know!
Okay, fine, I wasn’t. It’s never a bad thing for characters to be more than one-sided. And it’s not like he isn’t still a grade-A asshole, but man, the psychopaths who were tortured as kids are always the worst. You can’t help but feel sorry for them, and that just makes them all the more dangerous.
Sansa is, unsurprisingly, still completely blind when it comes to Joffrey. I foresee so much heartache for her, because that kid is rotten to the core. I don’t really like Sansa that much, but you can tell she’s got a good heart under her shallowness and naïveté, and she certainly doesn’t deserve whatever fresh hell I’m darkly certain is in store for her. Maybe she’ll actually wise up first, though I don’t see any way for her to avoid Joffrey even if she does, since I’m pretty sure breaking off a bethrothal to the crown prince is probably not just a matter of returning his keys and blocking his number on your cell. Blagh.
Littlefinger: No, he’s not still carrying a torch for Catelyn at ALL. Nosirree. Nothing to see here, move along!
Sansa remembered Lord Yohn Royce, who had guested at Winterfell two years before. “His armor is bronze, thousands and thousands of years old, engraved with magic runes that ward him against harm,” she whispered to Jeyne.
Wouldn’t rune-warded armor count as cheating? I’d sure consider it so! Of course, it didn’t seem to help Royce (or his sons) much in winning the tournament, so maybe the runes are little better than the equivalent of a lucky rabbit’s foot, in which case, whatever.
The young knight in the blue cloak was nothing to her, some stranger from the Vale of Arryn whose name she had forgotten as soon as she heard it. And now the world would forget his name too, Sansa realized; there would be no songs sung for him. That was sad.
That is, indeed, sad. That’s bloody depressing, is what it is. And dying for such a stupid reason, too – so you could say you knocked another guy off a horse with a stick. Really, it’s just so dumb when you start to think about it.
Blood sports are just dumb in general, I’ve decided, not that the world needs me to tell it that. Give me a nice football game any day. Sure, you might end up with paralysis or dementia-inducing brain damage in the long term, but… er.
Chapter 30: Eddard
Ned makes funeral arrangements for the knight Gregor killed the day before: Ser Hugh, who was once Jon Arryn’s squire. He and Ser Barristan then go to the king, where Ned flatly tells him he is too fat to wear his armor, and points out to him that no one will dare strike him in the melee, so it is pointless for him to participate. Robert considers being infuriated, but then laughs and ruefully agrees with Ned. After kicking Barristan out, Robert tells Ned that Ned or Arryn should have been king, not him, and curses Arryn for convincing him to marry Cersei. He despairs of his son Joffrey, but tells Ned that with him here they will “make this a reign to sing of, and damn the Lannisters to seven hells.” Ned is relieved to have the Robert he knows of old back, and begins to hope he can actually bring Cersei and the others down.
Jaime and the Hound joust first in the finals, and Sandor beats Jaime soundly in the second round. Gregor is next, fighting Loras, and Ned reflects on the very unsavory rumors floating around about Gregor, in particular the mysterious circumstances under which his first two wives and his sister had died. Loras is riding a mare that is apparently in heat, which maddens Gregor’s stallion; Loras defeats him easily in the first round, and in a rage Gregor slaughters his own horse before going after Loras. He is about to kill Loras when Sandor intervenes, and the brothers duel (though Ned notes Sandor is holding back) until Robert roars at them to stop. Gregor storms off, and Loras thanks Sandor for saving his life, and concedes the tourney to him. Afterward, Littlefinger comments to Ned that Loras must have chosen the in-heat mare on purpose, and Barristan decries such low tactics.
The melee is long and vicious, won by a red priest named Thoros of Myr, and Ned is intensely glad Robert did not take part. At the feast after, Arya comes in with fresh bruises, and Ned asks if she wouldn’t rather train with Jory or Barristan, doubtful of Syrio’s peculiar training methods, but Arya refuses, and Ned lets it go.
In his rooms afterward, Ned contemplates the dagger, and reflects that he is convinced that the attack on Bran is connected to Arryn’s death, but cannot think of how. He also wonders why the armorer’s apprentice, the bastard Gendry, is apparently so important when Robert has many bastards about, some openly acknowledged, none of whom could threaten his legitimate progeny.
Then Ned is visited by Varys, in a surprisingly effective disguise, who tells him that the king is in danger; he had been intended to die in the melee that day, and that the Lannisters were behind it. Ned is unsure, until Varys points out that Cersei had protested Robert’s involvement in a way that would guarantee Robert would insist on participating. Ned asks why Varys did not come to him before, and Varys replies that he was unsure of Ned’s loyalties until now. He says that Cersei can have him, Varys, killed anytime, but he thinks Robert would refuse to kill Ned even for her, “and there may lie our salvation.” Ned argues that they should go to the king, but Varys points out they have no proof. He also confirms to Ned that Arryn died of a rare poison; he’s not certain who gave it to him, but strongly suspects it was Ser Hugh, Arryn’s former squire who so conveniently got killed in the tourney the day before.
Wheels within wheels within wheels. Ned’s head was pounding. “Why? Why now? Jon Arryn had been Hand for fourteen years. What was he doing that they had to kill him?”
“Asking questions,” Varys said, slipping out the door.
Well, lookee there. The first, I feel sure, of many assassination attempts on Robert: achieved! Ta da!
The plot, she do thicken, yeah?
And also, ha: I was right about the multiplicity (and unimportance) of royal bastards about. Go me! Although of course that just makes the whole Gendry thing that much more confusing. It seems pretty clear to me that Arryn’s discovery of him is what led to Arryn’s murder, so whatever is so special about Gendry must be quite the thing. ‘Tis a puzzlement!
Well, I’m sure it’ll all come clear just in time to bite Ned in the ass. Yay? Yeah, probably not.
(I know people have said the clues are there for me to figure out what the deal is with Gendry, but I’m more interested in just going with it for now. As I’ve said elsewhere, I prefer not spoiling big reveals for myself ahead of time if possible. If I don’t immediately catch it, I’m usually content to let the narrative tell it to me in its own time. So. There.)
Varys: maybe not the creeptastic dude we were all led to believe, I see. Well, not totally, anyway. I’m going to take it all with a very large grain of salt, though. Of course, that’s true of practically every character in this series whose head we haven’t actually been inside of.
They are all very, very salty. The sodium content of this cast of characters in general ought to be banned by the FDA, really. I could get metaphorical hypertension over here!
(Thanks, I’ll be here all week. Try the veal!)
Also, this is random, but I am terribly amused for some reason that Varys actually used the phrase “manly man” in reference to Robert. I snorted out loud, y’all.
[Robert, speaking of Ser Loras:] “Renly says he has this sister, a maid of fourteen, lovely as a dawn…”
Hmm. The same maid Renly showed Ned a picture of and asked if she looked like Lyanna, perhaps? HMMMM.
Also, I think Ser Gregor is someone whom I can safely add to my list of characters in this series who probably need to die, a lot. Nothing says “rage issues” like beheading your own horse, I always say. Or I would say if such a thing had ever actually occurred to me, which it hadn’t. Probably because I’m not COMPLETELY INSANE. Good Lord.
Also also, dude is almost eight feet tall? Jeez. Martin seems to have a thing for everything being outsized in his world – eight-foot giants and seven hundred-foot walls and hundred-year winters and who knows what else. Suppadat?
The victor [of the melee] was the red priest, Thoros of Myr, a madman who shaved his head and fought with a flaming sword.
Exsqueeze me? A flaming sword? Really, just a random flaming sword, that no one really cares about and is allowed to play with all the other reindeer in random, non-world saving tournaments?
Well now, that’s positively post-modern, isn’t it.
Am I going to get an explanation for how this is achieved? Magic, right, duh, but gee, that seems awfully… frivolous a use for something like that. If you can actually make a non-flammable material, like a metal sword for instance, burn consistently for any length of time, why isn’t that being used for any number of much more mundane purposes as well? Do you know how useful that would be?
Magic (or rather, the use of it) in Martin’s world is just weird, man.
[Sansa:] “How was your dancing?”
“I’m sore all over,” Arya reported happily, proudly displaying a huge purple bruise on her leg.
“You must be a terrible dancer,” Sansa said doubtfully.
Ha! I love how Arya is just quietly getting all badass in the background. I look forward to the fruits of this training. Even though I have a feeling I’m jinxing myself by saying so, but whatever!
And now I have a neck injury from sitting too long at this keyboard, so I’m going to end this post and go off to start my crusade to have blogging added to the list of Sports That Will Mess You Up, Yo. We oughta be stopped! S’trewth! Have a lovely weekend!