Oct 14 2011 2:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones, Part 28

A Read of Ice and Fire by Leigh Butler: A Game of Thrones, Part 28Welcome 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 28 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 57 (“Sansa”) and 58 (“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 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 57: Sansa

What Happens
Sansa is attending the first court session of Joffrey’s reign; she notes that no commoners are present, and only twenty or so nobles, all of whom either avoid her or pretend she doesn’t exist. Joffrey and Cersei enter, escorted by all the Kingsguard except Jaime. Joffrey commands Pycelle to read his decrees. Pycelle reads out a long list of names, those who are commanded to present themselves and swear fealty to Joffrey, or be named traitors and stripped of lands and titles. The names include Stannis and Renly Baratheon, Loras Tyrell, Lysa and little Robert Arryn, the Tullys, and many others, and then at the end, Sansa’s mother, brothers, and sister are called. Sansa gasps at Arya’s name, as it must mean that Arya had successfully fled.

Pycelle then announces the appointment of Tywin Lannister as the new Hand of the King, in place of “the traitor” Eddard Stark, and the appointment of Cersei to the council in place of Stannis. He also announces that Janos Slynt, Commander of the City Watch, is to be made a lord and given Harrenhal, as well as a seat on the council. This does not sit well with the other lords in the room.

Then Cersei calls forth Ser Barristan Selmy, thanks him for his service, and tells him he is to be retired. Shocked, Barristan protests that appointments to the Kingsguard are for life. Joffrey accuses him of letting his father die, and tells him he is too old to protect anyone. Barristan speaks with passion of what he has sacrificed to devote his life to his calling, but Cersei ignores him, and announces Jaime Lannister will take his place as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.

“The Kingslayer,” Ser Barristan said, his voice hard with contempt. “The false knight who profaned his blade with the blood of the king he had sworn to defend.”

Cersei warns him to be careful, and Varys attempts to placate him with mention of the land and gold to be granted him for his retirement, but Barristan rejects their pity, and removes his cloak and armor and draws his sword, which alarms the rest of the Kingsguard, but Barristan tells his former comrades with contempt not to worry. He tells them they are not fit to wear the white if they will agree to serve under the Kingslayer, and flings his sword at Joffrey’s feet.

“Here, boy. Melt it down and add it to the others, if you like. It will do you more good than the swords in the hands of these five. Perhaps Lord Stannis will chance to sit on it when he takes your throne.”

He marches out, and Joffrey immediately orders his arrest for speaking to him like that. Cersei announces that Sandor Clegane will join the Kingsguard. Sandor agrees, but refuses to swear a knight’s vows. The herald asks if there is any more business, and Sansa screws up her courage and steps forward. She kneels before Joffrey and begs mercy for her father. She does not deny his crimes, but insists that he must have been misled. Joffrey asks why Ned had said he wasn’t the king, and Sansa tells him it must have been the pain of his broken leg. Thoughtfully, Cersei says that if Eddard were to confess his crime, and repent… Sansa asks Joffrey to do this for love of her, and Joffrey finally agrees.

“I shall do as you ask . . . but first your father has to confess. He has to confess and say that I’m the king, or there will be no mercy for him.”

“He will,” Sansa said, heart soaring. “Oh, I know he will.”

Oh my God, Sansa, have you met your father? He so totally will not!

*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*

Well, I suppose I could be wrong, but… yeah, no. I do not buy for a nanosecond that Ned will stoop to lying through his teeth just to save his own neck. Especially not about this. The idea runs contrary to every last thing we’ve learned about the man so far.

Doom doom doomy doom, y’all.

Also, I felt so bad for Ser Barristan here that I can’t even tell you. Dude, what a low blow. And of course it had nothing to do with Barristan being too old for the post, because I bet you Barristan could wipe the floor with anyone in that room, including Mr. Sandor Pissypants I-Won’t-Take-Vows-So-Neener Clegane.

No, it was totally to do with the fact that Barristan is not, fact, a brainless conscience-less toadying boot-licker, which is so not de rigueur in the court of King Cersei whoops I mean Joffrey. Integrity? Well, we can’t have that! Out, out, damned Ser!

I kind of want to be upset with Barristan for screwing himself (in true Eddard fashion, even) with his little “fuck you” performance there, but on another level I can’t really blame him in the slightest. I wish that he hadn’t, because it’s landing him in prison, but I’m also sort of glad that he did, because really, fuck you, Cersei/Joffrey.

I recognize that this is probably hypocritical of me, in light of the criticisms I’ve leveled at Ned in the past for his overdeveloped sense of honor, but hey, I’ve never made any bones about how conflicted I am about the whole deal. One thing I will say is that Martin is doing an excellent job of keeping things firmly in the gray, morality-wise, which is a braver narrative choice than you might think.


Chapter 58: Eddard

What Happens
In his lightless, filthy cell, Ned mourns Robert and curses his betrayers, but most of all he curses himself for a fool. He is given water, but no food, and the turnkey refuses to speak to him or give him news. As time goes on, his wounded leg becomes infected, and Ned starts having feverish dreams and hallucinations. He remembers the tourney at Harrenhal when he was eighteen, when Crown Prince Rhaegar won the jousting, and instead of giving the laurel to his wife, the Dornish princess Elia Martell, Rhaegar gave it to Ned’s sister Lyanna instead.

Eventually Varys comes to see him, disguised as a turnkey. He offers Ned wine, and tells him Arya has escaped and is still unaccounted for, while Sansa is still betrothed to Joffrey, and had come to court to plead for mercy on Ned’s behalf; meanwhile Catelyn has lost Tyrion, who Varys presumes is probably dead in the mountains somewhere. He informs Ned he is a dead man, but that Varys does not wish him dead. Ned asks if Varys will free him, then, but Varys replies he will not. Ned asks what he wants, and Varys answers “Peace.” Varys asks what possessed Ned to tell Cersei he knew about the incest.

“The madness of mercy,” Ned admitted.

“Ah,” said Varys. “To be sure. You are an honest and honorable man, Lord Eddard. Ofttimes I forget that. I have met so few of them in my life.” He glanced around the cell. “When I see what honesty and honor have won you, I understand why.”

Varys also confirms that Cersei engineered Robert’s accident as a direct result of Ned’s “mercy,” but adds that Cersei would not have waited much longer anyway. He tells Ned that Cersei has other enemies she fears more than him, including Lysa Arryn, the Martells in Dorne, and Ned’s own son Robb, but especially Stannis Baratheon, who is utterly merciless, and has the true claim to the throne. Ned replies that he would welcome Stannis’s ascent, but Varys tells him he will not live to see it happen if he does not guard his tongue.

Varys tells him Cersei is coming to see him the next day, and urges him to confess to treason, command Robb to stand down, and denounce Stannis and Renly. Cersei knows his honor, and if Ned promises to take her secret to the grave, Varys believes she will allow Ned to take the black and go live on the Wall with his brother and bastard son. Ned longs to see Jon again, but is suspicious of Varys’s motives. He tells Varys that his life is not worth sacrificing his honor, but Varys asks, what about the life of his daughter? He reminisces about Rhaegar’s little daughter Rhaenys, and how she had been murdered, and wonders why it is always the innocents who suffer when “you high lords” play the game of thrones.

“Ponder it, if you would, while you wait upon the queen. And spare a thought for this as well: The next visitor who calls on you could bring you bread and cheese and the milk of the poppy for your pain . . . or he could bring you Sansa’s head.

“The choice, my dear lord Hand, is entirely yours.”

And the fun just keeps on coming.

And back and forth I go again on the subject of Ned’s honor. And don’t think I’m not made a tiny bit uncomfortable to hear some of my thoughts on the subject echoed by a guy like Varys. But still… Argh.

Do I think he should take the deal? Guys, I’m completely serious when I tell you I don’t know the answer to that question.

Do I think he’s going to take the deal? Well, I was sure when Sansa originally said it that there was no way. But, now... he did, after all, compromise his honor once before… but now he considers that a ruinous mistake. But then again, there’s Sansa to consider... but then, Cersei. But...

Yeah, I don’t know the answer to this question either. If I absolutely have to put my money on one number, though, I’d say he’s not going to. I guess I’ll find out soon enough if I’m right. I’m kind of dreading the results of either decision, frankly.

Also, at this rate Ned’s going to die from gangrene before anyone has a chance to kill him. Get the man a doctor, please! Or a maester, or whatever! Hell, I’ll settle for someone getting him a crust of bread at this point, God.

Varys, of course, is playing an angle — who isn’t in this story? — but I wonder what that angle actually is. I’m getting a little muddled with all the factions and such, but it seems to me that urging Ned to fall in with Cersei — assuming it works, which is a Very Large assumption in my opinion — would only bring Varys’s allegedly-longed-for peace in the short term, if even that. Granted, it will presumably call off Robb’s army, but if Stannis is anything like everyone says he is, he won’t give a crap about Ned’s allegiances, and there will be war regardless of what happens with the Starks — or the Tullys, or the Arryns, and etc.

Seems to me that it would be more effective in the long term to help Ned escape, and get him to Robb, and from there to Stannis and the Tullys and maybe even the Arryns if Lysa can be induced to pull her head out of her ass. Then everybody can gang up on the Lannisters, wipe them off the map, install Stannis, and call it a day. It’s not immediate peace, but, well, nothing’s going to get immediate peace that I can see, and it seems like a safer bet to stack the odds on one side as high as possible. Putting Ned in with the Lannisters just seems to split everything more.

Then again, it is way more than likely I have no idea what I’m talking about, and Ned capitulating to the Lannisters really would shut everyone else down, but I don’t see it, personally. I’m probably missing something.

(Man, this is almost as confusing as real history!)

The other big thing in this chapter, of course, is Ned’s memory of Prince Rhaegar back in the day, which, whoooooa. Ned’s memory didn’t say it straight out, but am I seriously meant to infer that Robert decided to start a civil war and overthrow a dynasty because Rhaegar was hitting on his girl?

‘Cause, you know, wow, if so. That’s like Helen of Troy-level insanity, there. And without even any meddlesome gods to kickstart the crazy!

Of course, there’s something more to this story I haven’t been told yet — I still don’t know exactly how Lyanna died. I’m really hoping “bed of blood” is a metaphorical term, but I have a feeling I’m not that lucky. I’m pretty sure that Lyanna’s death is a key element to understanding this whole debacle, so it’s possible (probable) that there’s more to it than “Yer flirtin’ with mah woman I KEEL YOU,” but from where I’m currently standing, jeez.

Speaking of killing presumably-innocent women, Varys also later mentions, when listing Cersei’s enemies, that the Martells in Dorne are still upset about the murder of Elia and her children, which if I recall correctly was the work of the oh-so-lovely Jaime Lannister. And so it’s certainly understandable, but presumably they’ve been pissed about that for years now; why are they suddenly an immediate concern? I guess the current unrest might give them notions about jumping in and taking advantage?

If so, sheesh. Just what this war needs: another faction. Is it weird that I kind of want to bitchslap an entire fictional continent right now?

Okay, yes, it’s weird. But I stand by it! And I also stand by weekends, so here, have one! See you next time!

1. Tenesmus
Wow! Very nice commentary. Beware, the end looms nigh.
2. CharlesV
Not A spoiler since it was mentioned before in the book, but it wasn't Jaime who murdered Ellia and her children, it was Gregor Clegane and Tywin Lannister's orders. Jaime only killed the Mad King.
3. Psionandon
Great post as usual Leigh! Things are really heating up now.

Just one thing - Jaime didn't kill the princes or princesses, since he was still busy guarding the king at that point. It was Tywin - or at least someone acting on orders FROM Tywin.

Just thought I'd point that out.
Rob Munnelly
4. RobMRobM
Leigh - Clarification - Jamie killed King Aerys. Gregor Clegane (the Mountain) and his men killed the kids; not clear in text whether the latter was authorized/ordered by Tywin or not.

Edit - see others are chiming in as well.

Can't talk about the Martells and their motivations - sorry about that. Pehaps we'll learn more later.

Sansa's speech is heartbreaking and agree it sets up a no win situation for Ned.

I heart Varys in this chapter.

5. Dolphineus
"Is it weird that I kind of want to bitchslap an entire fictional continent right now? "
Not at all. And guess what Leigh? That feeling won't go away. But you already knew that, didn't ya? (highlight to read the rest)
The only person in the room I would give half a chance against Barristan the Bold is The Hound. He is easily one of my favorite characters in the series, and his realtionship with Sansa is so subtly brilliant. As far as Sir Barristan goes ... I don't think we see him again till he's grown a nice beard that shows his age :)

Don't ya hate when creeps like Varys make so much sense? Really freaks you out. Sure, he wants "peace", but what game is he really playing?
I also stand by weekends, so here, have one! See you next time!
HA! That was brilliant. Thanks, don't mind if I do!
Brian Vrolyk
6. vyskol
Argh!!! How can you stop after only 2 chapters??? I've already read the series and even I can't stand the wait for the next chapter!
Matthew B
7. MatthewB
No, Ned would not. Not to save his own neck.
8. fanganga
The first time I read this chapter I was sure Varys was contradicting himself when he blamed Ned for Robert's death (it was Varys who told Ned that Cersei had planned for Robert to be killed in the melee, and therefore had been trying to get him out of the picture since before Ned's ultimatum), but looking again at his wording it's less clear cut.
9. AGrey
I had completely forgotten that the Harrenhal tourney had been mentioned this early on in the series. Later, slowly, and spread out over the rest of the series you learn the exact details about what happened to set off the rebellion, but seriously, it's like Martin's pulling teeth.

Rhaegar hitting on Lyanna is just the tip of a very large, disturbing iceburg. I can't wait for you to read the rest!
Hugh Arai
10. HArai
@Leigh: Nice to see commentary a little more nuanced than the rants of 'Eddard (or Barristan) is so dumb' I see in a lot of places. Thank you.
Vincent Lane
11. Aegnor

Come on...that is a somewhat significant spoiler about Barristan.
12. Marcela
I sort of love how long it takes Martin to give you a full picture of events that happened before the series. It's far more natural, given that each chapter follows the thoughts of different characters. Narrating exhaustive histories in their minds would detract from how realistic the characters' thoughts are. No one reflects on events in the past in perfect order; we think of glimpses or snippets as they pass through our memory. It would be tempting to give everything away, but he doesn't and I commend Martin for his insanely awesome amount of restraint.

I echo everyone in saying that I'm amazed at how you can stop after only two chapters each week, especially towards the end when the cray cray never ends.

And note to everyone--the temptation to spoil is heating up, and some of these comments make me nervous. Let's all remember to keep it in check. She's not far from the end of the book! We can wait!
13. carolynh
Leigh, I give you a lot of credit for keeping the factions a whole lot clearer than I did the first time I read this series. I was so totally muddled with all the factions and the sers and who hated who and who was a bannerman for who else that there were times I wasn't sure who anyone was. Except the Starks and the Lannisters. When you started throwing in the Martells and the Targaryns and the Arryns, my head was spinning. I had to read the series another time just to get everything clear-ish.

Of course, the first time I read the series I was reading a lot more than 2 chapters a week. I read quickly, trying to find out what was going to happen to the main characters, and all these factions seemed like so much extraneous detail to me (ha!). I'm still not sure I understand all the nuances of all these factions and their relationships and their in-fighting.
14. Tim A
@MatthewB 7: But the thing is, it's not his own neck, It's Sansa's. Does that change your mind?

Also, a request/question for people on this website: Can we get a way to report comments that are spoilers? Or is there already a way? It seems like anything to help keep people from spoilers is a good thing.
Rob Munnelly
15. RobMRobM
@14. Should use the "flag" button above each post. Also, people with "gray" signatures can edit themselves.
16. Kadere
HAHAHAHAHAHA! Have fun storming the castle!

I won't say much except that Jamie didn't kill Elia and her children, that was Gregor Clegane. You learned that back in chapter 31. Jamie had nothing to do with it.
Rob Munnelly
17. RobMRobM
@16 - Princess Bride reference FTW!

@7, 14. That is the crux of Ned's dilemma, n'est-ce pas?
Ryan Reich
18. ryanreich
Leigh, it's not quite as frivolous as that Rhaegar was "hitting on" Ned's "girl". Lyanna was first of all his sister, as you wrote, and second of all, we already heard from Robert about how many "hundreds of times" he raped her. I believe the whole affair was based around the idea that the dynasty in question was incurably corrupted by insanity and incompetence.
19. DeJulis
@18: First, you're confusing Eddard with Robert.

Second: as far as I recall (I'm finishing A Feast for Crows at the moment, 3rd read-through), it's never mentioned anywhere that Rheagar "raped" her. Just that he absconded with her.
Rob Munnelly
20. RobMRobM
@19. Correct on the first point. On the second point, I believe Robert said earlier that Rhaegar raped her.
Irene Gallo
21. Irene
Hi Guys,

I think I white-outed the spoiler bit in commnet @5. If I got it wrong, feel free to email me at

(My apologies, I don’t know the story well enough to always tell.)
Vincent Lane
22. Aegnor

Robert said something along the lines of "How many hundreds of times to you think he raped her." That is what @18 was getting at, though the phrasing is bad as Robert didn't exactly say she was raped hundreds of times, just posed a rhetorical question.
23. DeJulis
@20,22: I stand corrected hehe. To be fair, I did preface my statement with "as far as I recall."

@21: Yes, that's the correct paragraph to white-out, but most of it isn't spoilery.
Ryan Reich
24. ryanreich
@19-22: Yeah, I misread Leigh's paragraph, which switched from talking about Ned to Robert. But the fact remains that Robert, at least, did give Rhaegar raping Lyanna "hundreds of times" as one of the Targaryen's "unspeakable" acts. I don't have the ebook, and Google Books won't tell me the page, but it's during the argument between Ned and Robert over whether to assassinate Daenerys.
Tricia Irish
25. Tektonica
You got it Irene@21. Thanks.

Great post Leigh. I'm looking forward to your read of the rest of the book. Ned is definitely on the horns of a dilemma. Bad spot of trouble.

Just when I think Varys is so oily he'd squeak, he does something that seems honorable. Argh. Gray characters indeed.
26. sofrina
first, there aren't supposed to be any spoilers. that is the opening statement on this series every week.

second, all the people responding to @7 are missing the point. he is making a nudge/wink hint at a spoiler.

i have to agree with some others who mention by this point robert himself has made clear, in general, why he went started the rebellion. even in the first chapters when ned and robert go down to visit her grave he is talking about this.

what i've come to appreciate about this series is that every character is a moving part and they are all moving all the time. no one is in control of anyone else, no matter what they think. no story has ever made me say, so that was you?! more.
David Thomson
27. ZetaStriker
Robert believes(or believed, rest his fictional soul) that happened. Doesn't mean it's true, and I don't think we know for sure.
Kevin Maroney
28. womzilla
Dolphineus @5: Based only on reading the first volume, I believe that Varys is genuinely playing the game of anti-thrones. I am perfectly willing to believe that I will be proven wrong about that.
Rob Munnelly
29. RobMRobM
One thing to keep in mind - Rheagar winning the jousting competition is a huge deal. It was the biggest tournament in years and all the great knights were there. Contrary to @18, performance was pretty far from "incompetence" and, potentially, far from "insanity." Rheagar is not Viserys, no ser (and, for that matter, Dany is not acting Viserys or Aerys-like, either) Also, unfortunately, a huge deal for him to then bypass his wife and give the "love and beauty" crown to Lyanna. Not the best way to make friends, except potentially with Lyanna herself.

Stefan Mitev
30. Bergmaniac
We shouldn't forget that preventing harm to children is a big part of Ned's honour code. He risked angering the King and gave up being the Hand trying to save Dany and then he told Cersei he knew about the twincest, because he hoped to save the royal children, even though this way he was helping a criminal (Cersei) avoid justice. So it's far from given he'd refuse the offer Varys presented to him.
Rob Munnelly
31. RobMRobM
@30. Excellent point. The moral conflicts, they burn!!
Joe Vondracek
32. joev
One thing to keep in mind - Rheagar winning the jousting competition is a huge deal. It was the biggest tournament in years and all the great knights were there.
Maybe not. Who would dare to go all out on Rhaegar in a competition? He is the Heir Apparent, after all. Career-wise, it might not be a good idea to knock the stuffing out of the guy who's going to be king one day. We don't really know the people's attitudes towards this.

I'll second what sofrina wrote. "Non-spoiler comments go below, in the comments to the post itself." That's pretty unambiguous. It doesn't say, "Only put spoiler comments below if you white them out or ROT13 them or whatever." The mods here are extremely nice; in some forums those posts would just be deleted without any notice given. (I've already read the book so I'm not concerned about being spoiled myself, but I can respect the author's request.)
Antoni Ivanov
33. tonka
Putting Ned in with the Lannisters just seems to split everything more.
That was great. Now think about it.
34. Lsana
I just have to say that I loved Sansa's actions here, and this chapter was what changed my mind about the character. Before, I had been willing to dismiss her as a completely heartless bitch. I honestly thought she didn't care what happened to her father or Arya so long as she got to keep living in her fantasy princess world. Her Esther act here convinced me that I'd gotten her completely wrong: she's not heartless, just very young and naive. She knows that pleading for her father is a risk, but she chooses to do it anyway. After she did that, I was willing to give her a chance.
Eli Bishop
35. EliBishop
Leigh: "Oh my God, Sansa, have you met your father? He so totally will not!"

Sansa isn't thinking too clearly of course, but this isn't so implausible given how little she knows of what's going on. As far as she knows, Joffrey really is the rightful king, and it's not unlikely that (as she suggests) Ned just got mixed up in some plot by Renly or whoever. So she's not assuming that Ned would need to lie.
36. nancym
Lsana @34, I completely agree with you about Sansa. The girl was living a privileged fairy-tale life, ignoring the real world, dreamed about marrying a prince, etc. and here she has to face some harsh realities. She's still a child, but has to grow up way too quick (as all these poor kids have to do!). I felt a lot more compassionate towards her after this chapter.
37. vsthorvs
Not a spoiler, but you seem to have forgotten that Robert mentioned that Rhaegar raped Lyanna (his claim, not confirmed.) So there's more to it then just this flirting.
Joshua Fields
38. Archimedes
@34, I totally agree with you. I'm reading this series for the first time and trying not to get too far ahead of Leigh, but I had the same reaction. She's still acting a bit naive, but I don't think "selfish" after that chapter. I'll probably be proven wrong...
Juliet Kestrel
39. Juliet_Kestrel
Rhaegar : There have been several characters so far that regarded Rhaegar favorably. Many of whom are mostly reliable. Robert is the one with the most vehement hatred of Rhaegar, and wit this new information he seems to have a reason for the hatred. My question is whether Robert had all the facts before, ya know causing a civil war? We all know Robert was excellent at the war part of kinging, and not so good at the ruling/decision making part of kinging.

Sansa: I think this is the beginning of a character arc for miss Sansa. She is about to get thrown from her fairy tale to the very ugly world of Westeros. I think we are in for a little bit of coming of age/fall from innocence action.

Sneaky Sneaky Varys: He sure seems to be playing all sides of the board. His answer of wanting peace is a little too vague for me. Joff doesn’t seem like the peace loving, patron of the arts, trade encouraging, and prosperity for all kind of king. This is the kid that had Mycha the butcher boy literally cut in half because he witnessed Joff get pwned by Arya. This sort of king will not keep peace for long. And Varys seems too smart to think that he doesn’t know Joff as king=bad. So what IS his deal? Maybe the right question is what does peace at any cost gain for Varys?

Barristan: Oo oo maybe Mr. The Bold will go join Robb, or Stanis, or Renly, or the Martell’s and be all like “Take that Queen C!” I do love me a good comeuppance. This is assuming he manages to get out of Lannister clutches after his big F You speech.

Ned: I think he will sacrifice just about anything for children, especially his children. As others have mentioned above, just look at the sacrifices he’s made for Jon, and the fight over assassinating Dany, and his peace offering to Queen C, to save the royal kids.
40. Random Tavern Wench
"Mr. Sandor Pissypants I-Won’t-Take-Vows-So-Neener Clegane."

Its very hard to take your criticisms of a character seriously when you write like this. The Hound is one of the most well rounded characters in the books. His backstory is told in plenty of detail, and he plays the wildcard role to a t. Condescending to this level to describe his lack of concern with a vow to a king who has deceitfully gained the throne is not surprising, especially when you know he'll probably keep Joffery safer than any other member of the Kingsguard is capable. Just a little irksome. Plus i hate that stupid word Neener. Carry on.
Rob Munnelly
41. RobMRobM
Random thoughts while waiting to Leigh to post and say "Neener neener" to @40....

"I have nothing to be afraid of. It will all come out well. Joff loves me and the queen does too, she said so." Oh, you poor sweet Summer child....

Interesting that Beric and Thoros are called out. They are up fighting in the Riverlands for the Crown on lawful orders of the prior Hand. Hard for them to get back to swear fealty to Joff.

Tywin named Hand - as predicted by Tyrion last chapter.

Interesting that there was murmuring in the crowd when Cercei was named to the small council. Query how many women served in that role before. Not many, I'd guess.

More angry murmuring when commoner Slynt is named to Harrenhall, formerly the seat of one of the Seven Kingdoms. Not a politically astute move for the new King if we wants to keep key lords happy. And he has the gall to pick a bloody spear as his sigil - definitely noveau and not fit to join the country club.

Putting aside all the awesomeness that is Barristan the Bold, the offer was to give him land north of Lannisport - they couldn't even find him land anyway near his original home in the south - Baratheon controlled lands, by the way. He is absolutely correct that the grant was intended to be a jail for him. Joffrey's cry "He could be making plans with my uncles" is probably the first wise thing he's said since he became King. Shouldn't have fired him to begin with.

"Please please, be the king I know you are, good and kind and noble, please." Heartbreaking.

Side note - I like Sansa. She's smart and competent in her sphere but has blinders on. Blinders are almost starting to work their way off.

Heck of a lineup for Rheagar at Harrenhall - Brandon Stark, Yohn Royce (Zombie Waymar's Dad, from the Prologue), Arthur Dayne (who Ned worshipped as the best knight he had known, based on the earlier dream after Jamie broke his leg), and Barristan the Bold himself. "No lance could touch him" from Ned seems to imply the others were trying and failing, not sandbagging it. Rhaegar is pretty hot stuff. No figurehead, he.

Varys's call for peace poses fascinating questions, of which I can't say much because my thoughts are too much blended with events after of which I cannot speak. But, to take him at his word - Varys says his preference would have been to keep Robert alive. This could be true. Perhaps he correctly thought that Robert could keep the Lannisters from overreaching and triggering widespread war. With him gone, Varys recommended the second best solution that Ned have an alliance of a sort with King Joff and his family. This also could be true. Ned could live, Robb could stay in the north with his bannermen and not bother anyone, Joff could work deals to isolate and defeat Stannis and Renly. It would be illegitimate but least until Joff started screwing it up. Right now, it's heading towards the worst of all worlds - Stark, Riverlands, Baratheon (and the threat of Arryn and Martell) v. Lannister and their loyalists, with a likely fight at the end to figure out how would be the new King.

Reference to Littlefinger as second most clever man is Westeros - presumably behind Varys himself. And "I'd sooner wed the Black Goat of Qohor." Zing.

"Tell me Lord Varys, who do you truly serve?" "Why the realm my good Lord, how could you ever doubt that?" Simply brilliant. And when he starts using the Princess Rhaenys example to drive home his recommendation, with the tale of her kitten Balerion, named after one of the great dragons - Yikes. Don't want him as your enemy, no way.

Aaron Miller
42. altarego
@40 Except that at *this* point in the series, we don't have that perception; just a little story about how he was burned and a few oddly sentimental moments. Neener is justified. But thanks for the spoiler anyways.
Debbie Solomon
44. dsolo
@30 Bergmaniac
I agree with your thoughts on Ned. If he was willing to fight with Robert over Dany and her unborn child, what would he do for his own children? His brother and son are on the wall, so the idea does have some attraction (and his brother visits him at Winterfell, so apparently they get the occasional day off). Plus, Ned is obviously rethinking being an honorable man in a dishonorable world. If Ned refuses Cersei's offer, he dies anyway and his family will be targeted as traitors, starting with Sansa (who is all of 11 at this time, so not as astute as she could be). Of course, if he accepts, he's throwing in his lot with the same people that killed his whole retinue. It's going to be rough, no matter what he chooses. Too bad he's not the kind of guy who would pull a Kingslayer - sure Joff, you the man. Can I have my sword back? Whack! If our fantasy was truly to be fulfilled, he'd get Cersei with the same blade.

As far as Verys and the rest of the court, even after reading 5 books, I'm still not sure which of them to trust. Everyone seems to have a hidden agenda, except poor Ned.
45. myself
"Tell me Lord Varys, who do you truly serve?" "Why the realm my good Lord, how could you ever doubt that?"

At this point I had an epiphany, reviewed the description of Varys' disguise an went back a number of chapters
Rob Munnelly
46. RobMRobM
Here we go with the Blog of Ice and Fire, per our re-read tradition. He's not a Sansa fan, obviously. Rob

Sansa watched as the newly crowned King Joffrey read out the list of
traitors, which included her parents, brothers, aunts, uncles, and a
host of other names. Basically, it was a checklist of every cool
character in the series, minus Tyrion and the Cleganes.

Then he dismisses Ser Barristan from the Kingsguard and appoints Tywin and Jaime to high ranking positions. I know we're supposed to feel bad for thisold guy, but Mr. Selmy really wasn't getting it done. Did the UnitedStates let whoever was protecting JFK guard the next President? Hell no. If I was Cersei I'd fire him too.

Sansa then begs for Joffrey to spare her father's life. Of course, had Sansa not been an idiot and divulged Eddard's plans to the Lannisters, Joffrey would be the one begging for mercy. Eddard will have to confess to the crime, something I doubt he'll do because of his rigid adherence to honor and duty. What a mess. Is Martin trying to make us hate women? Because Catelyn arrests the wrong guy, Cersei is a gigantic bitch, Sansa is avapid traitor, and Lysa is literally insane. The only two likeable female characters are a trophy wife for The Rock and a preteen wild child who is basically a boy.


Eddard is not having a fun time in the dungeons of King's Landing. He blames himself for failing Robert and for the horrible situation he's in. Helost to Cersei in a battle of wits. That's like losing to Sam in
swordfighting or GREGOR in chess. It should have been like taking candyfrom a baby. Eddard becomes delusional, talking to himself and dreamingabout the good old days, when he wasn't locked up in a windowless roomfor being a traitor to his best friend. He remembered the time Jaime was inducted into the Kingsguard (lol bad decision, Aerys) and when Pimp Rhaegar dissed his own wife for Lyanna. Varys
comes in and tells Eddard about all the mistakes he made: his decision
to warn Cersei, his refusal of Renly's offer, and not listening to
Littlefinger's advice. Varys tells Eddard what he should do: swallow his
pride, confess to treason, and be granted mercy by the Lannisters. If
Eddard can do that, he'll be sent to the wall. Not a great fate, because
we all know Eddard loves his whores and property rights, but it's still
better than being dead. What's Vary's stake in all this? Why, he's just
serving the realm... and trying to save his own ass. If Eddard can't do
it for himself, then he should do it for his daughter. Varys then
offers Eddard a choice -- does he want the next visitor to bring him
milk of poppy for the pain, or bring him his daughter's head? To
me, neither of those two choices sound so bad. Of course, I'm kidding. I don't actually want Sansa dead. Not because she had good intentions, or that she didn't know any better, or that a largely innocent young girl
doesn't deserve such a fate. I don't want Sansa dead because living out
her days as Joffrey's wife and Cersei's daughter-in-law is a far worse
fate than death.
47. Dragonara
"What's Vary's stake in all this? Why, he's just serving the realm..."
Sure... If Eddard believes that he is delusional.
Rob Munnelly
48. RobMRobM
@47. I can accept that Varys believes he serves the realm. The question of what that means is up in the air to the reader, of course. His sense of what serves the realm may well be very different than Ned's or Cersei's or Stannis's.....or Dany's, for that matter.
Marcus W
49. toryx
I believe Varys. He's not half the snake that Littlefinger is. (Exactly my thought at the time I first read this chapter, without any knowledge of what comes after.)

By the way, Leigh, this is my favorite blog post so far. Talk about taking me back to the first time I read the's an excellent feeling to re-experience.
50. pwl
Its very hard to take your criticisms of a character seriously when you write like this. The Hound is one of the most well rounded characters in the books. His backstory is told in plenty of detail, and he plays the
wildcard role to a t. Condescending to this level to describe his lack of concern with a vow to a king who has deceitfully gained the throne is not surprising, especially when you know he'll probably keep Joffery safer than any other member of the Kingsguard is capable.
Oh hi, spoilers! Keep in mind Leigh's whole schtick is she hasn't read the books in whole. At this point, Sandor Clegane is a child-murderer on command with a token Freudian excuse. It's crazy to hold Leigh responsible (not being able to take her seriously) for viewing a character as they have been portrayed as far as she's read.

I see this has already been pointed out, but I typed it out so might as well post it.
Olivia Ryan
51. Clyard
I'm not going to post much about these chapters but I wondered when I first read Game of Thrones if the black kitten owned by Rhaenys was the same black tom cat that brought Arya down to the dragon vault and the means to escape the Red Keep. Totally irrelevant to the plot but kinda cool if so.
52. The Smiling Knight
@51. Cl

Yes indeed, it was that same kitten, now an older, grizzled Balerion the Black Dread, come again , the scourge of inner courtyards, kitchens, and strange old pathways under the Red Keep.

sigh,.. such smart litlle details,
...those first books of yore were such pleasure to read sometimes.
54. Wortmauer
RobMRobM@48: I can accept that Varys believes he serves the realm. The question of what that means is up in the air to the reader, of course.
Indeed. Any statement "I serve the realm" is almost too vague to have any meaning at all, given a character like Varys. Even if (and it's a big "if") he believes he has the best interests of Westeros in mind, what the heck is his angle? Why would he even be patriotic in the first place, given he's not even from around here?

My first read, I was plowing through the text so fast that I didn't form solid mental pictures of most of the court, and in particular, kept confusing Varys and Littlefinger in my mind. Now, I cannot fathom how I did that, since they're such different characters. But at least one thing they share: they're both playing cards very close to the vest, and it seems obvious that neither is laboring solely in the interests of the Crown (either Baratheon or Lannister). Varys, in a quotable moment, opines that "Littlefinger loves Littlefinger," but even Varys can't figure out his angle. So, yeah, good luck to the rest of us. Both characters are deliciously mysterious that way.
55. Kalith
Re: Varys: To borrow old D&D parlance, Varys is chaotic neutral, IMO. He says he wants peace and I believe him; what he doesn't say is who he'd prefer to see in charge. I don't think whose arse warms the Iron Throne matters to him as long as the realm is at peace and some kind of balance is maintained, and accomplishing this means doing morally questionable things. I believe he wants Ned Stark kept alive because even at the Wall he would remain a figure of significance and potential usefulness. Littlefinger is the only person whose motives he can't completely pin down and it bothers him, or at least it appears to, because he prides himself on knowing everything he can and that eludes him.

Can't wait to see your reactions to the rest of it, Leigh.
56. hardstor
Thanks for doing these Leigh. I look forward to the weekly *headdesk* updates.
(I hope you have a cushion in front of you by now, you'll need it for the rest!)
57. Steve L
In general, I think to become a member of the Kingsguard you need to be politically well-connected and/or a really good fighter (winning a major tournament, for instance.) There are only seven of them in all the seven kingdoms, after all.

To become Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, you need to be extremely well-connected politically (being the King's father/uncle, for example) and/or a superb warrior. If you're the Lord Commander, you are in charge of those select seven so you have to be something special. Given all that, you get one guess, based on his speech in chapter 57, which one former Lord Commander of the Kingsguard Ser Barristan the Bold is.

If the knights and soldiers had attacked him in the throne room, I think there would have been more red white cloaks than just Ser Barristan's available for reassignment at Queen Myrcella's whim.
Kevin Maroney
58. womzilla
Vestryl @ 39:
"And Varys seems too smart to think that he doesn’t know Joff as king=bad." Again, I have read to the end of A Game of Thrones, but not yet past it, and I see these possible responses:

1. Varys may not at this point in the narrative really understand what a horrible, horrible king Joffrey might become; or
2. Varys may understand that and still find him preferable to the other options; or
3. Varys might find some other candidate for the throne superior
in the abstract but want to avoid the prolonged civil war that would necessarily come from trying to usurp Joff. (He takes the Dothraki threat seriously, and to go back to history, having England wracked by the Wars of the Roses was much better than having it invaded by the Mongols. Varys is trying to forestall both.)

Of course,
4. Varys could also be lying.
59. arolig
Bed of blood you say. Ned's secret. Him longing to se Jon. It's becouse Jon is Lyanna and Rhaegars son(at least what ned belives, Lyanna surly is the mother). Ned took care of Jon becouse he is an Uncle to Jon, not becouse he is proud of fathering a bastard. This is why Eddard's thoughts flicks to Jon. Becouse in fact Jon is the heir to the Throne, if Eddard would be pardoned and get to the wall, Jon would know of this claim.
Others who might know this claim is the other Uncle to Jon, Benjen. Becouse this makes sense. Howland Reed, and his kids probobly know aswell.
60. Meaghan J
I wonder if Rhaeny's small black kitten named Balerion is the same old, mean, one eared, black tom cat that Arya was trying to catch many chapters back. The last cat she could not catch.
61. niner
I know I'm coming to the table REALLY late, but I just want to type out my thoughts right now because this is my first read and I'm super pumped at this point in the book.

So - Robert does mention Rhaegar raping Lyanna possibly hundreds of times. And yet, in none of Ned's memories regarding Rhaegar does he seem to show remotely close to the level of hatred he should towards his sister's alleged rapist. I just do not think that he believes that's what happened, he just can't say as much to Robert.
And OF COURSE he's going to recant in order to save his daughters. Because, despite what many people seem to believe, Ned doesn't give a shit about *appearing* honorable, he just cares whether he knows deep down that he did the right thing. And sucking up his pride long enough to ensure his daughters' safety is the right thing to do. Does it make him appear inconsistent? Yup! But I don't think this is the first time Ned chose the right thing over looking like a good guy.

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