Jul 15 2011 2:09pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones, Part 16

A Read of Ice and FireWelcome 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 16 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 31 (“Tyrion”) and 32 (“Arya”).

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 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 31: Tyrion

What Happens
Tyrion watches two of Catelyn’s new men slaughter his horse and taunt him about it, and thinks back to the night she’d arrested him. He’d protested his innocence, but Catelyn hadn’t listened, and Tyrion had surrendered rather than be slaughtered outright, though he noted that only a dozen out of the fifty or so men in the room had responded to her call for succor, and mentioned aloud that his father would pay well for information on what had happened there. Catelyn had announced that they would take him back to Winterfell immediately, and Tyrion had been tied to his horse and hooded for the ride. Tyrion had not been overly worried, certain that his father would take swift action, until he was unhooded that night and discovered that Catelyn had lied about their destination, and they were actually headed for the stronghold of the late Lord Arryn.

Now, Tyrion listens as the others argue over whether they should stop and rest, and half-lies to Catelyn that the likelihood of pursuit from the Lannisters is small. He again tells her he had nothing to do with the attack on Bran, and points out he would never be stupid enough to arm a footpad with his own blade if he had. Catelyn asks why Petyr would lie to her, and Tyrion tells her Littlefinger lies about everything, including that he had taken Catelyn’s virginity. Furious, Catelyn doesn’t believe him, and tells Tyrion that Petyr loved her once, tragically but purely. Tyrion tells her she is a fool, crudely, and one of the armsmen offers to slit his throat, but Catelyn says to let him talk. Tyrion asks how Littlefinger claims he, Tyrion, came by the dagger, and Catelyn tells him it was in a wager on a tourney, when Jaime lost to Ser Loras.

Before Tyrion can answer, they are attacked by raiders. Tyrion insists that Catelyn will need every man, and she reluctantly agrees to arm Tyrion and his two men; Tyrion is given an axe. The fight is vicious and bloody, and Tyrion acquits himself well, to his own surprise (he takes time to break the singer Marillon’s hand, though). Toward the end he sees Catelyn penned in by three raiders, and almost leaves her to her fate, but then steps in and brings one down and knocks the second off balance enough for Catelyn to slash his throat; the third runs, and the fight is over.

The party lost three men, one Tyrion’s man Jyck; Catelyn wants to bury them, but Rodrik convinces her that it is too dangerous to delay. One of the others goes to disarm Tyrion, but Catelyn says to leave him his weapons, though she tells Tyrion she still does not trust him. They ride out, and Tyrion pushes up until he catches up with Catelyn at the front.

“As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted,” Tyrion began, “there is a serious flaw in Littlefinger’s fable. Whatever you may believe of me, Lady Stark, I promise you this—I never bet against my family.”

AS I THOUGHT. I so called Tyrion’s innocence on this, you guys.

Of course, I suppose it’s still theoretically possible that we’re being narratively hoodwinked here, since Tyrion never thinks to himself that he had nothing to do with it, only says so out loud, but if that turns out to be the case I will be more than a little disgusted from a literary criticism standpoint. There’s unreliable narrators, and then there’s trope abuse, and at this point making Tyrion guilty would definitely be the latter in my opinion.

Also, our Imp got to rather take a level in badass, didn’t he? AND prove that he’s got actual principles lurking in there, unlike some Lannisters I could mention. Go him!

I was both surprised and not surprised that he helped Catelyn during the raid: unsurprised, because it was totally consistent with the picture I’ve built of Tyrion’s character thus far, but also surprised, because I have become conditioned already to expect Martin to yank the rug out from under me re: character traits as a matter of course. And re: just about everything else, while I’m at it.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you; it’s great that this story is very frequently not doing what I expect it to, even if it is a tad like the literary equivalent of walking through a haunted house: you never know what deranged damn thing is going to jump out at you next. It’s fun, but unsettling, you know?

It continues to be difficult not to get angry at Catelyn, even though I really don’t think it’s fair to do so, as she does not have the privilege of being in Tyrion’s head the way we are, and without that, well, her suspicion and doubt are much more reasonable. The only thing I think she is genuinely being shortsighted on is her trust in Littlefinger, and even that is frustratingly understandable.

It’s been a long time since I read a story where I genuinely could not decide whose side of the conflict to be on. Because while overall, thus far, I am definitely pro-Stark and anti-Lannister, when it comes to this specific clash between Tyrion and Catelyn I am honestly torn.


Chapter 32: Arya

What Happens
Arya is busy catching cats, using Syrio’s training. She’s caught all the cats in the Keep except this last wily black tom, who’s led her a merry chase through the castle, and now Arya has no idea where she is. She catches the cat just as Princess Myrcella and Prince Tommen and their entourage come upon her; neither one recognizes Arya, thinking she is a peasant boy, and Arya adroitly escapes when the guards try to grab her, running until she finds herself in a dark room. As her eyes adjust she realizes the room is filled with skulls of gigantic monsters, and she finds the way out into a dark corridor.

She comes upon a deep shaft in the corridor floor just as two men come up from it; one is from the Free Cities by his accent, and fat with a forked beard, and the other is stout and dark-haired, with a scarred face. They do not see Arya. They are talking about someone who has “found one bastard” and how “the rest will come soon.”

“The fools tried to kill his son, and what’s worse, they made a mummer’s farce of it. He’s not a man to put that aside. I warn you, the wolf and lion will soon be at each other’s throats, whether we will it or no.”

The fat one complains that they are not ready for war yet; the princess is pregnant, and the khal will not move until after the child is born. He suggests that if one Hand can die, why not another? The stout man tells him circumstances are different this time.

“This is no longer a game for two players, if ever it was. Stannis Baratheon and Lysa Arryn have fled beyond my reach, and the whispers say they are gathering swords around them. The Knight of Flowers writes Highgarden, urging his lord father to send his sister to court. The girl is a maid of fourteen, sweet and beautiful and tractable, and Lord Renly and Ser Loras intend that Robert should bed her, wed her, and make a new queen. Littlefinger… the gods only know what game Littlefinger is playing. Yet Lord Stark’s the one who troubles my sleep. He has the bastard, he has the book, and soon enough he’ll have the truth. And now his wife has abducted Tyrion Lannister, thanks to Littlefinger’s meddling. Lord Tywin will take that for an outrage, and Jaime has a queer affection for the Imp. If the Lannisters move north, that will bring the Tullys in as well. Delay, you say. Make haste, I reply. Even the finest of jugglers cannot keep a hundred balls in the air forever.”

Soon after, the men move out of range, and Arya only catches snatches of their conversation as she follows them. She loses them, and after miles of walking she ends up in a sewer that dumps into the river. Arya cleans herself and her filthy clothes as best she can, and heads back to the Keep, where she is almost not let back in.

Eventually she is brought to Ned, who begins to scold her, but Arya interrupts with an extremely garbled version of what she had overheard, telling Ned that they were talking about killing him. Ned dismisses her story, telling her she had likely overheard mummers preparing for a show. Arya tries to insist, but they are interrupted by the arrival of a Black Brother named Yoren. Arya asks eagerly after Jon Snow and Benjen, but Yoren has more urgent news, which he refuses to divulge in front of Arya. Ned sends her out, and she goes reluctantly. Outside, she asks Desmond if they are going to let anyone kill her father, and he assures her they are not.

Yeah, there was no way in hell I was going to try and summarize/rephrase Stout Dude’s Speech of Infodumpification, there, so booyah, you get the whole original. Go you!

And, well, this is not frustrating AT ALL. I would yell at Ned to listen to his daughter, but if you read the way Arya tried to tell the story to him I can’t even blame him for thinking she was making shit up. Clearly, Syrio’s training is rather light on oratory skills.

So, obviously there was a lot of — well, I’m not going to go so far as to call it clarification, because it’s all way too head-scratching to rejoice in such a term — but there was a lot of, er, stuff, here. In no particular order:

Forked Beard Dude is Illyrio, duh. Stout Dude is obviously the same guy who paid off the armorer to apprentice Gendry, but other than that I still can’t place him. Possibly I still don’t have enough information to do so. Or I’m being spectacularly obtuse. Either is a distinct possibility. *shrug*

The wolf and the lion will be at each other’s throats, will they? Why, yes, Captain Obvious, I do believe we’re well down that road already, but thanks for playing!

It’s also pretty obvious what the overall scheme is here, or at least so I flatter myself: embroil the Seven Kingdoms in a nasty, draining civil war between the Lannisters and the Starks, and then sweep in with Dany and Drogo while everyone’s busy fighting each other and take them all out at their weakest. There’s about a million things that could go wrong with it, of course, but it’s pretty simple in principle, as these things go.

Speaking of schemes, I‘m very interested in this plot of Renly and Loras’s to throw over Cersei for Loras’s sister. All things considered I’m in favor of it in principle; let Cersei and Jaime go off and fuck themselves, ha ha I see what I did there, and leave the rest of us alone, yeah?

Of course, without knowing the ultimate angle there, or how they expect to get rid of Cersei in the first place, for now it remains a fond pipe dream in my view. I’m unclear, at this point, whether Renly and Loras are off doing their own thing with this, or if they’re working with Stannis and Lysa. Or anyone else, for that matter.

I also still have no idea what this “truth” is Stout Dude and Illyrio are so anxious about Ned discovering. I’m okay with that, though. All good things to those who wait….

And then there’s this:

“So many?” The voices were fainter as the light dwindled ahead of her. “The ones you need are hard to find . . . so young, to know their letters . . . perhaps older . . . not die so easy . . . ”

“No. The younger are safer . . . treat them gently . . . ”

“ . . . .if they kept their tongues . . . ”

“ . . . the risk . . . ”

And THIS, clearly, is… um. Yeah, I got nothing.

In non-baffling, non-grownup news, Arya’s awesome continues to grow, even if she could really use a stint on the debate team. Ninja cat-catching skillz for the win! Seriously, anyone who’s ever tried to catch a cat who doesn’t want to be caught (a group in which I am sadly included) would give her mad props for her feats in that arena. I heart her so much, you guys.

And last but not least:

“It’s dead,” she said aloud. “It’s just a skull, it can’t hurt me.” Yet somehow the monster seemed to know she was there. She could feel its empty eyes watching her through the gloom, and there was something in that dim, cavernous room that did not love her.

Well, that’s not even slightly ominous, is it?

Aaand I’m spent. Have a lovely and probably Harry Potter-filled weekend, youse guys, and Imma see you later!

Rob Munnelly
1. RobMRobM
Leigh - nice job but you tend not to have space to quote some of GRRM's greatest bits. Such as in the Tyrion chapter, Bronn says essentially, now that you've had your first kill you need a woman and Tyrion looks over at Cat and says "I'm willing if she is." Priceless comedy.

I'm impressed that you picked Illyrio out with a "duh" and suprised you did not pick out the other. Yes, you are being "spectacularly obtuse" but furthermore this deponent sayeth not (other than to say on another "newbie" read of the series the writer identified the other dude with a "duh" and missed Illyrio).

Steven Halter
2. stevenhalter
Yeah, Arya did botch the information transfer, but Ned really does need to listen more.
And, yeah, cat catching is hard. Yay Arya!
3. Pnr060
I was always a little bothered by the idea that such a hugely fat guy traveled all the way from Pentos to somehow sneak into the basement of the Red Keep and have a clandestine meeting, but I guess you'd probably want maximum secrecy for this kind of thing.
Peter Stone
4. Peter1742
Another great job, as usual.

You'll find out who the other guy is soon enough. I'm impressed that you fingered him as the same guy who helped apprentice Gendry ... I hadn't caught that, but it makes perfect sense.

Finally, if you think back on the tournament chapters, you might realize that there is evidence in those that Tyrion really never does bet against his family. (I don't think this counts as a spoiler, because you've already figured out that Tyrion's innocent, and if you don't catch this now, it's never brought up again.)
5. Dogshouse
Enjoying both this Read and the WOT re-read, on which I'm finally caught up! Interesting contrast between the series on the wages of honesty. Works wonders in WOT, while in SOIAF, you might as well be yelling into a sack, assuming the truth you "know" actually is THE truth. Sadly realistic.
Birgit F
6. birgit
Ned dismisses her story, telling her she had likely overheard mummers preparing for a show.

This is from Arya's POV. To me it sounds more like Ned wants to make Arya dismiss what she heard to keep her out of trouble.
7. fanganga
Tyrion's argument ar the end of the chapter strikes me as unusual. I fully agree with his initial argument, that he's not stupid enough to give an assassin a knife that could be easily traced back to him, but as for refuting Littlefinger's claim that he won the knife - Catelyn only tells him which tourney the bet was supposedly at, and yet he "guesses" that he supposedly won the knife in the one specific joust that his brother lost. I know there's possible foreshadowing in that Renly was talking as if Tyrion always backed Jaime, and Marillon's account of his own loss makes it seem like the Jaime/Loras match was the big upset of the tourney when a lot of gamblers lost big, but it still seems off. I think the motive behind that statement's more likely to be trying to needle Cat (1- Lannisters always stick together, 2 -betting against the Lannisters is a losing strategy) than to prove his innocence.
Alain Fournier
8. afournier
Well I never pegged that one of the two guys meeting in the Red Keep was Illyrio. Feel a bit stupid as its pretty logical.
Sky Thibedeau
9. SkylarkThibedeau
OMG I just realized that was Illyrio. That certainly ties a lot of things together now. These two guys must have been working to bring down Robert and his allies probably since day 1.

I thought in the mini series they showed the two were Littlefinger and Varys but reading the above I must have misplaced the scene in my memory.
Matthew Watkins
10. oraymw
I was thinking about and realized that the reason why is because and then when it actually makes sense. But why would want to ? Also, poor . And does really not know ?

But yeah, I didn't put together that that was Illyrio until just now. Congrats Leigh, you've realized something that set a whole bunch of bells ringing in everyone else that's read farther than you.
11. fanganga
I didn't peg Illyrio either -possibly becasuse I was thinking of Dany's story as entirely separate from Ned's, but more because by that point I was caught up by the pace and reading so fast I jumbled up the clues - I thought the free cities accent belonged to the vaguely familiar man rather than the fat man and thought "Oh no, don't tell me Syrio's plotting against Ned as well!"
12. Ryamano

You left out the part where one of the conspirators in the dark place (the fat one) says to the other one (the scarred one) that the scarred one is a true sorcerer. When Arya tells this to Ned, Ned dismisses it as a bunch of artists talking to each other.

In 99% of fantasy series, this would mean the scarred one would be actually a sorcerer (poor adults, never understand the myths are real!). But this is A Song of Ice and Fire. Is he a sorcerer or was that some kind of joke? Or does the fat guy just think the scarred one is a sorcerer, but is mistaken? Questions, questions, questions!
13. carolynh
Kudos to everyone who figured out who at least one of the two men in the dark corridor were. I'm pretty sure I wasn't confident of either identification the first time I read this book. There's more than a few fat men running around this castle, you know.

One thing that Leigh didn't mention and one that I liked quite a lot was that Cat was acquiting herself quite well during the ambush. Okay, so she couldn't take out three raiders, especially not with her damaged hands, but she quite confidently slit a throat here. And in this world, where women aren't supposed to be able to take care of themselves, seeing Cat hold her own sat very nicely with my modern sensibilities.
14. Paulie
Add me to the growing list of people that missed the fat guy is Illyrio. Makes a lot more sense now. I always wondered why Illyrio was so generous to Dany and her brother.
Nathan Rice
15. quazar87
I missed Illyrio here on my first read, but I did get the other one.
16. Joel Prophet
I never figured out who these two men talking in the basement were either. Secret passages going down to where? When Arya came out of the basement level she was at the harbor below the city. How far down does that staircase go?

@12 I always thought the socerer comment was ment as a joke or a compliment on "magic like" suptafuge.

And the way this book is going there is some question that the two men in the basement were not lying to each other. Plots within plots. Makes my head spin.

And as always good job Leigh.
17. JimmyMac80
I think the key to figuring out who the second man is, is this statement, "And now his wife has abducted Tyrion Lannister, thanks to Littlefinger’s meddling." You certainly have enough eviendence to figure it out. There's also a couple of hints in Ned's last POV.

You should also be able to figure out the truth they're worried about. Here's a few lines that you've read that might help, whited out if you don't want to read.

Robert says, "How could I have made a son like that."
Jon Arryn's last words, "The seed is strong."
Neds thoughts getting close to the truth, "Gendry, the girl in the Vale, the boy at Storm's End, none of them could threaten Robert's trueborn children . . ."
Lastly, the scene that might just blow it open when you connect it with the rest, the scene that almost got Bran killed.
“So many?” The voices were fainter as the light dwindled ahead of her. “The ones you need are hard to find . . . so young, to know their letters . . . perhaps older . . . not die so easy . . . ” “No. The younger are safer . . . treat them gently . . . ”
“ . . . .if they kept their tongues . . . ”
“ . . . the risk . . . ”

This on the other hand, I don't think it's really possible to figure out for quite some time.
18. fanganga
@Jimmy: your whiteout doesn't seem to have worked, and it's wuite important. The mods have told other people off in earlier threads for pointing at similar clues for the big truth.
19. hohmeisw
"It continues to be difficult not to get angry at Catelyn, even though I
really don’t think it’s fair to do so, as she does not have the
privilege of being in Tyrion’s head the way we are, and without that,
well, her suspicion and doubt are much more reasonable. The only thing I
think she is genuinely being shortsighted on is her trust in
Littlefinger, and even that is frustratingly understandable."

Her trust in Littlefinger always struck me as dumb, while I thought her distrust of Tyrion was based more on his physical deformity than any proof. And abducting him was dumb, no matter what she felt. She has no proof, her children are all in lion country, and Ned, who has been trying to quietly discover the truth of Jon Arryn's death, will now be thrust to the fore in Cersei's suspicions. Martin does a great job of developing and showing character motivation, but I think Catelyn a few too many thumps with the stupid stick at this point (which is not to say she does not have her own areas of badassery; if nothing else, she is Arya's mom, and Arya didn't get her awesomeness from Ned alone).
Lon Kelley
20. Mathguy
I have been listening to the excellent audio version (during my 2+ hours of commuting each day), and since the reader voices the characters with inflections and accents, I was able to know the two speakers in the Arya POV as soon as he voiced them.

Is that cheating?
Sydo Zandstra
21. Fiddler
@JimmyMac80 @17:

The Whiting Out didn't work. I suggest you register your account, so you will be able to edit your posts. This is a common thing here, btw. After I have edited a post of mine with whited out stuff, I always have to re-white out stuff I whited out before...

Not that I consider them spoilers. I think they are helpful to Leigh, actually, since she only reads 2 chapters a week.

But there are some people in this (re)read who consider everything that gets hinted at that Leigh hasn't figured out yet to be major spoilers. Of course they always are people who have read the full series....

They will descend on you soon, in 3... 2... 1...
Juliet Kestrel
22. Juliet_Kestrel
I am mildly disappointed in learning Renly’s plot. I thought it was going to be more tricksy than that. For one, even if he pulled the whole thing off, killed Cearsi, and got King Rob to marry the Highgarden Girl, AND she got preggers, AND had a boy, Joff would still be first in line for the throne. I’m not mistaken am I? That’s how Royal succession works? I guess if Renly could also get King Rob to disinherit Joff and his other two children. Regardless of the circumstances of Cearsi’s death (because that is the only way to do this effectively, can you imagine her or her father just tolerating being put aside?) and how accidental or natural they make it, Lord Lion Pants would throw a Kitty fit if Robert named his new wife’s children over his grandchildren.

Also Highgarden Girl is only 14, and Robert is how old? and fat and gross at this point? Gag me with a spoon.

I also couldn’t help but think during this scene about Arya and her ragamuffin hair. Once upon a time I was a dog groomer, and so spent a few years of my life professionally detangling hair. I keep thinking that if her hair is really as bad as I am picturing it, no brush will get that out. Especially once it gets wet. Someone is going to have to get a pixie cut here if she wants to be presentable at court. Or rather if the Septa wants to make her presentable at court. Arya wouldn’t care. I heart her anyway though.

On Ned listening to her. I felt the same way about this as I did when reading the aforementioned Harry Potter. I kept yelling in my head. Why doesn’t anyone confide in Harry and tell him what the F is going on?! Oh yeah it’s cuz he’s like 12, and grownups don’t tell 12 (or 9 year olds), everything there is to know about the entire world. Annoying as a reader, but realistic (I have to remind myself of this often).

Great Job Leigh!
Simon Southey-Davis
23. Glyph
Amusing that several people here pegged Stout Dude but completely missed Illyrio - I was the opposite, in the same boat as Leigh. But then, reading WOT taught me that I'm better at spotting physical clues than political / motivational ones.

Arya remains Ossum, natch. Catelyn... does seem to be carrying the Idiot Ball over Tyrion, though it's understandable in her situation. I've never been able to summon the hatred for her that seems to be common.

For the most part I might describe GRRM's writing style as 'functional', but he does get in the occasional near-poetic turn of phrase, the kind that smacks of epic prose and resonates with my inner Tolkien freak: "there was something in that dim, cavernous room that did not love her." Ooh yes. More please.
24. Paulie
Fiddler @ 21 - I always wondered how you edit posts. Where to you do this "register" thing? :)
Sydo Zandstra
25. Fiddler

Check the top bar. On the right of the 'Login' link is a 'Register' link. When you have a registered account, your name will show in black instead of red.

Registering is free, and it also has benefits. Free Chapters for many books. :)

26. Lambertia
Hi Leigh,

Please tell me that even though you're posting two chapters a week that you're reading a lot faster? I'd rather flight the Mountain than read so slowly. Its going to take you a decade at this rate! Although chances are you'll still catch up to GRRM and have to wait for the rest of us!
Paul Boulos
27. PaulieX
Look at me all black lettered and stuff. :)
Thanks for the instruction Fiddler.
Sydo Zandstra
28. Fiddler
I see you have taken The Black, Paulie :D

Welcome, Brother ;-)
Paul Boulos
29. PaulieX
Now my watch begins.
It shall not end until my death.
I shall live and die at my post.
I am the sword in the darkness.
The watcher on the walls.
I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that
brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men.
I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch for this night and all nights to come.
30. no_one
A very nice parallel I didn't notice before, Arya is not the only one have a hard time catching Cats.
31. JohnnyMac
PaulieX @29, your posting of the vow of the Night's Watch reminded me that I saw this last Saturday on a T-shirt worn by a boy (he looked to be about 10 years old) at the Farmers Market here in Portland. Epic fantasy meets mass marketing pop culture! T-shirt was black of course.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
32. tnh
PaulieX, welcome to the fold.

Fiddler, thanks for fielding the question.

Jimmy Mac80 @17, when you find yourself typing "...but this is something you can't really figure out for some time to come," you might want to take it as a subtle clue that you could be posting a spoiler.

No blame attaches. It looked to me like a clear-cut case of Rapture of the Explanation.
33. Kab1
Count me in the camp as figuring out the stout dude but not Illyrio! Funny the different things we pick up on.

And I definitely had not picked up on the what Ned us working on at this point in the series, so I was in the same boat as Leigh at this point.

I was also a bit irritated by Ned not listening to Arya, even if it was a rambled retelling. She clearly said things like "book and bastard" in my mind this should have been enough to catch his attention, as he's reading a book and just saw a bastard and he's trying to figure out who killed the last Hand! But then again maybe it's as Birgit @6 suggests and he's just trying to reassure Arya.

Thanks for the reread- it's great!!!
34. Tanatie
Kudos in catching Illyrio. The big majority in my experience, myself included, recognizes the other guy but not Illyrio, at least not on the first read.

And the comment about Renly and Loras doing their own thing has made me giggle for a reason that I can't comment on yet...
lake sidey
35. lakesidey
I also figured the other guy but not Illyrio. And I wasn't sure even of him :(

And yes Arya just gets more awesome throughout this book, doesn't she? Catching cats....harder than it sounds, indeed.

Birgit F
36. birgit
Here is the summary from Blog of Ice and Fire. I hope the white-out for the identity of the second man works.

Tyrion is very unlucky. He’s been hanging out at the freezing cold wall, and on his way back he gets arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. On their way to the Vale, Tyrion repeatedly tries to convince everyone that he was not behind the attempt on Bran. We learn that he would never bet against his family so he couldn’t have won the dagger, and that Littlefinger is a big selfish liar. How to get your dream girl: (1) lose to her future husband in single combat, (2) boast about taking her virginity, and (3) creepily touch her daughter. Bullet-proof plan, Petyr.
The journey is filled with rough terrain, horse eating, and dangerous mountain clans. They are attacked, and Tyrion surprisingly fares quite well in his first battle, probably because he is the perfect height to club a guy in the balls. After they win, Bronn proclaims that Tyrion needs a woman, because there's “nothing like a woman after a man’s been blooded.” Tyrion should totally proposition Cat for a quickie, though for her to agree, she’d have to be super drunk, have amnesia, and pick up a dwarf fetish. No harm in trying though. Will Cat eventually be convinced of Tyrion’s innocence? What’s going to happen to Tyrion once they reach their destination? If I wanted to frame Tyrion, I’d send another assassin, armed with another one of Tyrion’s super recognizable daggers, only this time to the Vale to try to kill Lysa’s son. That’d probably clinch it.
Syrio told Arya to chase cats all day. This seems like very obvious foreshadowing, so maybe Catelyn gets kidnapped in the mountains and Arya has to find her. Arya had just caught the Moby Dick of cats, the infamous black tom, when she suddenly sees Prince Tommen and Princess Myrcella having sex. Before Arya could hide, Myrcella spots her. Tommen says “the things I do for love” and pushes Arya out the window. Somewhere in the distance, a wolf was howling. Crows circled the Red Keep, waiting for corn.
Myrcella, Tommen, and their guards, being typical pompous highborn assholes, mistake Arya for a beggar and collectively look down on her. Arya panics and escapes via waterdancing, but quickly gets lost in the castle. This allows her to overhear a conversation between two mysterious men, with topics ranging from Dany being pregnant to the possible assassination of her father. One of the men is Varys, because he talks about obtaining fifty more magical CIA surveillance birds. I have no idea about the other guy, but he is also familiar with King’s Landing politics. From the names they mentioned in the conversation, the other guy cannot be Eddard, Stannis, Lysa, Loras, Littlefinger, Tyrion, Tywin, or Jaime. I believe this guy is the mastermind in the game of thrones. Everyone else is just a pawn. Based on exhaustive analysis, I have concluded that this man is GREGOR.
Eventually Arya finds her way back but Eddard does not believe her story, even though Arya doesn't seem like the type to just lie and make stuff up. In other words, she’s not Sansa. Listen to your wise and awesome daughter, you stupid Hand.

Rob Munnelly
37. RobMRobM
Thanks, Birgit. The whiteout worked. Not one of the BoIandF best entries but the Tommen-Mycella lines were worth a chuckle.
Captain Hammer
38. Randalator
What, you caught Illyrio but not the resident sneaky fat guy? Leigh, I think your catching-stuff-glands are working backwards...

re: Catelyn

Being in Tyrion's head or not, basing her actions on the assumption that Tyrion is a flaming idiot who supplies a run-of-the-mill assassin with a weapon that all but has "Tyrion Lannister" engraved in large friendly letters on the blade...that is one major case of the idiot ball. It's a miracle how she can even move around with this thing.

Even if it should turn out that Tyrion actually ordered the assassination (I don't expect it but I guess we all know what GRRM likes to do with expectations), this particular piece of evidence is as problematic as eating an ice-planet...
Marcus W
42. toryx
Arya's poor recitation of what she heard is one of those scenes where I personally thought GRRM got her age right. I was talking to an eight year old just the other day who was trying to tell me a story about something she saw and it sounded just like this. Minus the panic, of course.

I have to admit, the first time I read A Game of Thrones, I caught the other guy but not Illyrio. It wasn't until my first re-read that I figured that out. So color me impressed.

I think with demographics, this would actually make an intriguing poll. It'd be really interesting if there's some sort of pattern to who figured out Illyrio and who figured out Person B and who tagged them both. But there likely isn't any sort of pattern at all.
Charles Gaston
43. parrothead
It started last time, but here we really see Martin's whole "Good is Stupid" theory in action. Even though my memories from more than a decade ago were rather different, am I the least bit surprised that it was Catelyn who got the Idiot Ball rolling? Hell no. Any more than when Ned takes his turn. For someone who is supposed to be so shrewd, he sure can be boneheadedly moronic. Don't worry, there's plenty more informed attributes he'll fail to live up to...

I absolutely HATE this series. Which is why I'm glad that Ms Butler is posting this blog. It helps me better understand why I dislike it so much without having to punish myself with reading it again. That, and quite often her stuff is genuinely amusing in its own right.

Randalator@38 - Hah! Ice planet.
tatiana deCarillion
45. decarillion
Maybe it's the forked beard of the one man that Leigh recognized rather than the forked tongue of the other gentleman...
46. Fredweena
Quick question.. has there been a detailed discription of the 2nd person? I did a quick look through and couldn't find one other than him being round or portly.

I didn't really catch who either one was or rather, I had it all mixed up.. I read it and thought the first one was the second. Then read Leigh's commentary, and said 'duh' but didn't connect that the second one was, indeed who I thought the first one was. Does that make any sense at all?
Anthony Pero
47. anthonypero
This is not a spoiler. In text clues to the identity of the second man:

1) He's talking to someone from the Free Cities
2) He's not Littlefinger, but he is peddling and receiving information. He receives whispers regarding Stannis and Lysa
3) He talks exasperatingly of Littlefinger (Which, granted, doesn't really narrow it down), but his exasperation comes from his inability to peice Littlefinger's motives together. He expects to be able to do that ith everyone else.
4) He asks Illyrio for another fifty birds.

The last is the clincher.
John Massey
48. subwoofer
Not much to add at this point, but Tyrion- dude, sometimes it's tough being a midget. And you're a Lannister- act the part, enough of this keeping your word mumbo jumbo, cut and run dang it. Catelyn- da chick, she is crazy, times to make yourself scarce. Funny how some ladies are all gung ho on the revenge angle and want "justice" for their kids, but they still expect you to uphold your end of the bargain... even if it means you may die in the end.

I dunno, I think GRRM has this way of saying, or showing that honor and chivalry have no place in his world. Decite, habitual lying and general out and out skullduggery dovetail quite nicely however.

Araya- um yeah, I had a snowmobiling accident a long time ago and I wound up with a concussion. Wasn't really thinking straight after that and I had to do a self evaluation for work. My boss handed me back what I submitted and it looked like something an 8 year old wrote, didn't make a whole lotta sense, and I honestly thought he was playing a trick on me as there was no way I wrote that. Missed that raise I did.

Yup, kids are not good communicators at the best of times, and yet I still see parents trying to reason with them...

49. David B
Let me just say that as someone who's just finished re-reading the entire series (and A Dance With Dragons for the first time), the urge to keep saying "That's so cute that you think that!" to all your speculation is just overwhelming.

But it's either that or spoil stuff for you, so I'll just stick with that. In any case, I'm enjoying the re-read - it's nice to see things through fresh eyes.

Spoiler alert (not really): Winter is coming.
50. Wortmauer
anthonypero@47: This is not a spoiler. In text clues to the identity of the second man:
Yes, it is. There are a lot of in-text details about the second dude. The first-time reader cannot know which are relevant and which are irrelevant, or even misleading. By omitting half the details and emphasizing the other half, you are giving them additional information, i.e., spoiling. If that was not your intent, you should have also mentioned:

5. A "round scarred face and a stubble of dark beard".

6. Attired as a soldier - steel cap, leather, mail. Apparently accustomed to such clothes, as he can move soundlessly even in chainmail and heavy boots.

7. Arya thinks he looks vaguely familiar, so presumably she has seen him, or a close relative, before. No mention of recognising his voice, though, and his accent apparently doesn't stand out.

8. Free Cities dude calls him a wizard and "a true sorcerer". In context, this seems to be figurative, but it reads as though it could be a bit of gentle irony from the author, i.e., it's literally true but Free Cities dude doesn't know it.

9. Claims to have had a hand in killing Jon Arryn. Free Cities dude says this of him, and he tacitly agrees.

10. Free Cities dude is apparently bankrolling him, or representing someone who is. We know the Free Cities have actual banks, as Littlefinger has borrowed money from them on behalf of the Crown.

Also, I think your clue 3 is false or misleading. He's not all that exasperated that he doesn't know Littlefinger's plans; that's just one of many things he thinks are getting out of hand in the court. He immediately downplays it: "Yet Lord Stark's the one who troubles my sleep." Anything more is you reading between the lines.

Aside: for all y'all who immediately figured out who one or both of these guys were ... as for me, I did not figure out the identities of either dude, on my first read. By this point, I hadn't even reached a very solid understanding of where the Free Cities are relative to Westeros, nor that that's where the Targaryen kids were at the start of the novel. I was reading too fast to process all that.
Juliet Kestrel
51. Juliet_Kestrel
I have to add that I believe pointing out the important clues is very spoilery, and in a way, ruins the experience.

I know this is a GRRM blog, but Brandon Sanderson puts out a podcast once a week on writing craft. He has mentioned many times on this podcast the author acting as a magician. The art of misdirection. The author has all these words and his goal for something like this is “surprising yet inevitable.” He hand waves and flashes the smoke and mirrors to get the reader to register the REAL hints while playing more attention to the smoke and mirrors. The author does this so that when the big reveal comes the reader is like “whoa, that totally makes sense” and “that was super clever.” If the hints aren’t there then the big revel comes out of left field and the writing feels contrived. If the hints are too prominent no one is surprised.

Many people have mentioned on this blog the different levels of hint hunting. Some people just like to be pulled through the story and let the reveals happen when the author gives them out. Others like to find all the clues and figure out what is going to happen. I have a feeling that the hint hunters would rather not be told in advance which clues are important as it takes away from the satisfaction of having figured it out for oneself. I would also imagine the getting-pulled-through-the-story people don’t appreciate it either.

Most people just want to enjoy the magic show. Not everyone wants to watch the how they did it special. To take this metaphor a little further. They always show you the trick how it was suppose to be performed before the big reveal. So a first time read of the story is not the place for pointing out the important bits. You’re taking away all that carefully laid work by the author, and for what? We will get there eventually.

My 2 cents for what its worth.
Matthew Watkins
52. oraymw
@51: Agreed. The problem is that people who point out all the hints are very desperate to show that they are intelligent. They want to be able to say, "I did all this." But for many people, revealing all of the clues greatly diminishes the reading experience. I will try to put together all the clues that I notice on my own, but if I don't see something right off, then I just let myself believe what the author wants me to believe. Leigh has implied that she does this same thing, which probalby means that she doesn't want you to put all the clues in this thread. Of note, there is an entire spoiler thread for you guys to go into and discuss such things. Please keep those comments there.
53. Wortmauer
Juliet Kestrel@51: You made the points I've been trying to make so much better than I could. You just moved up pretty close to the top spot in my favorite tordot comment poster rankings. Have a cookie.
Kyle Day
54. gato
Just bought the book for my first read through on Sunday and am now caught up with the Read. Which is only a little disappointing, since now I have to wait for WoT and ASoIaF posts.

I'm having a lot of trouble with Catelyn. I don't dislike her, but I feel like every time she does something to redeem herself (in the reader's eyes) she goes and screws it all up again. And yet I don't blame her, since her motivations are so clear.

Count me as another who figured out Illyrio right off, with no clue who the second guy was.
Juliet Kestrel
55. Juliet_Kestrel

Aww shucks, but I think Brandon Sanderson deserves the credit on that one. That guy is some kinds of smart. But if you’re handing out cookies can I have a chocolate one?
56. Steve L
"I was both surprised and not surprised that he helped Catelyn during the raid"
It was in his own best interest. If Catelyn survives, she drags him to the Vale where he goes on trial. Sure, neither Cat nor Lysa are his biggest fans, but he's still alive and has a chance to figure something out. If Catelyn doesn't survive, he's stuck with a group of guys that don't really have a reason (other than the fact that he's a Lannister, which is a pretty good reason but probably not enough to save him) NOT to kill him.
57. Wortmauer
Juliet: Hey, I listen to Writing Excuses too, but I still couldn't seem to put those concepts into those words. Just sayin'. And yes, it appears I do have chocolate cookies in the jar.

ObText: Tyrion's chapter: Catelyn's decision to go visit her sister in the Vale, to throw off the scent of whoever might pursue Tyrion, was clever in a way. It is possible that any other direction they went, somebody would see them and rat them out to the Lannisters. But she wasn't that far south of the Neck, at which point she's in Stark-controlled territory. They'd have her back. (Actually, maybe Lord Reed of the Neck is sworn to the Tullys, but he and Ned do go back a ways.) Also, she knew, or should have known, or should have been told, that the route to the Vale was very dangerous when you only have a dozen people. The raid from the mountain clans has already cost them the lives of three men. Three lives seems like an awfully high price to pay to bring one guy to justice. Guess nobles don't "do that math" that way.

Also, I've ranted before, but I'm still annoyed at Catelyn's sense of justice and noble privilege. She doesn't have the (attempted) murder weapon, it's with Ned in King's Landing. She doesn't even have a witness to whose knife it is; Littlefinger is in King's Landing too. She doesn't have, in fact never did have, a witness to who actually hired the perp, who can't talk because he's dead. She's got bupkis except her own testimony the someone came at her with some knife, and that somebody claimed it was Tyrion's. I've said it before: the only way to make such a flimsy case stick is to shop it to a venue where you're pretty much taken at face value by virtue of, e.g., being the late lord's sister-in-law. (Also, come to think of it, the late lord's foster-daughter-in-law.)
58. David B
A quick note on "spoilers" and specifically AGoT: Many of the clues that y'all are picking up on only become truly obvious after you've finished the book, or even finished the series (to-date). When $CHAR does $ACTION or says $THING, you it seems fairly innocuous - until it isn't 10 chapters or 2 books later. Part of the point of reading a *fresh* read of the series is to see how someone else is appreciating the things you already know.

And, in case you hadn't figured it out: There's a *lot* of foreshadowing going on. As the meme goes "When you see it, you'll s--t bricks."
Anthony Pero
59. anthonypero
Gotta love the comment at @ 52. Gotta love responding with a personal attack on the assumed intention of a poster. Read back through my posts and tell me when I have ever engaged in these tactics. Jeesh.

@50: I do see your point. I will refrain in the future. It's pretty much impossible to comment on the actual text at all without knowledge of the series as a whole creeping into your thoughts, and spilling out on the paper. Your knowledge always informs your writing. AND your knowledge always informs your reading.

The reason I thought I was safe to post that is because those who HAVEN'T read ahead certainly won't understand what I'm saying in the same way as those who have read it. They interperet the writing based on what they have read. If anything I write is influenced by my foreknowledge of what is to come, how can I write anything other than; "Awesome Job, Leigh!" For crying out loud, every single person who has confirmed Illyrio is spoiling far more than I. She doesn't know it's Illyrio at this point, there is no confirmation in text. She's just guessing. Correctly. To me, it is far more of a spoiler to confirm someone's guesses than point out relative clues in the text. But I can see how both can be spoilers.

Spoilers mean different things to different people. What's really important here is; What does LEIGH think is a spoiler. After 14 years, she's the only one who matters, because it will affect her posts, and out fun.

If I leave clues for someone, I don't think it's a spoiler, because it requires them to actively engage what I wrote, and think about it, and figure it out. There is a level of engagement there that is more than casual. However if I simply say "Frodo's still alive," even after the poster has already guessed that it must be true, that is a huge spoiler, because it actually reveals something in a way that the reader has no choice in the matter. It violated their ability to simply ignore. As soon as their eyes touch it, they now know.
Sydo Zandstra
60. Fiddler

I agree 100% with you.

Also, keep in mind that Leigh only reads two chapters a week, so there are lapses of time in between those readings. Giving a hint to stimulate her brains could actually make her read more enjoyable.

But as you said, the only definition of a spoiler here that matters is Leigh's.

EDIT: as anthonypero added, tnh's too of course ;-)
(I recall saying that somewhere earlier too)
Anthony Pero
61. anthonypero
Well, to be fair, @tnh's opinion on the subject actually trump Leigh's.
62. Wortmauer
anthonypero@59: It's pretty much impossible to comment on the actual text at all without knowledge of the series as a whole creeping into your thoughts, and spilling out on the paper. Your knowledge always informs your writing.
Agreed. Some time ago I posited that a spoiler is anything you say that someone who hasn't read ahead, or read multiple times, or gone through the text with a fine-toothed comb, would not have the knowledge or perspective to say. "Or perspective" being the interesting part, as I discussed @50. And yet, I find I must soften my verbiage a little. It is impossible to keep our wider perspective out of our posts entirely, as you say, while still saying something interesting. The trick is to find interesting things to talk about that don't touch on any actual mysteries. Or, if you must, (a) do not say anything about the information the first-time reader has or doesn't have yet, and (b) do not even say or hint about whether the mystery has been solved, as of 4 or 5 books in. Not easy! Also, don't explain odd and mysterious things in the world that we get glimpses of that will be plot-relevant later. E.g., how Thoros makes his sword burn green. Even if that's not a huge "mystery" per se, it's a pretty cool worldbuilding reveal in the next book. Why not just wait until then to say "Yeah, remember Thoros's silly flaming sword? Now you know how that thing works."

(The devil of it is, someone determined to hunt for spoilers in our posts will actually get some information by what we choose not to talk about. Probably no getting around that, though.)

Also agreed that confirming Leigh's guess about Illyrio is a spoiler. A lot of people did so, and it seems minor enough since she was already quite sure ... but yeah. In fact I'd go further and say that we shouldn't have confirmed that we've even met both characters yet! There's no in-text assurance that we're supposed to know who either guy is. It's clear that they are significant, but they could've been characters we will meet in a future Ned POV. Sure, Arya thinks the stout guy looks a little bit familiar - but maybe we just know some relative of his. We do see a lot of family resemblance in this book: Littlefinger thinks Sansa has "the Tully look", Jon is clearly a Stark, Jaime and Cersei look alike, Gendry looks like Robert.... (But anyway, that cat's way out of that bag. So, yes, we've met both of these guys.)

ObText: Whoever asked Leigh if Jaime could take Lan Mandragoran - that's easy. Jaime would unhorse Lan in a joust with lances. In a fight with swords, not so much. Here's another. King Robert is famous for his warhammer. In his prime (perhaps 15 years ago), could he have taken Perrin Aybara? Before Towers of Midnight, and without wolves, to keep it fair.
63. JebMar
The thing I found most interesting about the two conspirators overheard by Arya was figuring out who they supported. They believe that Eddard will discover something that will spark a war but they don't oppose war. It is merely, "Too soon, too soon. . . . What good is war now? We are not ready. Delay." And later, "Nonetheless, we must have time. The princess is with child. The khal will not bestir himself until his son is born." Doesn't this suggest these men support a Targaryen return to power? After all, Robert is racking up an enormous debt and continues his deficit spending. The Targaryen left a surplus, a stronger kingdom. Of course, no one could possibly want Viserys on the throne, except those who believe they would be the power behind the throne. The fragments overheard at the end of the conversation may relate to recruiting support for revolt.
64. KyleLitke
I won't spoil who it is. But for what it's worth, I don't even think of it as a spoiler, personally. They never flat out say who it was in the books, but GRRM has flat out said who it was in interviews.
Martijn Coppoolse
65. vor0nwe

King Robert is famous for his warhammer. In his prime (perhaps 15 years ago), could he have taken Perrin Aybara? Before Towers of Midnight, and without wolves, to keep it fair.

Methinks Robert would own Perrin. I figure Robert would’ve been jousting and training and whatnot since he was old enough to carry a stick. True, Perrin has had some training by now, and his Wolf-senses give him some advantage, but still... He doesn’t like fighting, like Robert does.
Mind you, if I were in the crowd around that particular fighting pit, I’d be encouraging Perrin...
66. peacock lady
the second guy is Varys

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