Welcome back to A Read of Ice and Fire! Please join me as I read and react, for the very first time, to George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.
Today’s entry is Part 2 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapter 2 (“Sansa”) and Chapter 3 (“Tyrion”).
Previous entries are located in the Index. The only spoilers in the post itself will be for the actual chapters covered and for the chapters previous to them. As for the comments, The Powers That Be at Tor.com have very kindly set up a forum thread for spoilery comments. Any spoileriffic discussion should go there, where I won’t see it. Non-spoiler comments go below, in the comments to the post itself.
And now, the post!
Chapter 2: Sansa
Ser Arys Oakheart comes to fetch Sansa for the tourney on Joffrey’s nameday, and compliments her on her dress, which covers up her bruises nicely. Sansa thinks that she likes Arys better than the other Kingsguards, as he beats her the most lightly, except for the Hound, whom Joffrey has never ordered to beat her. He insists that the comet in the sky is to herald Joffrey’s triumph over his enemies, and Sansa wonders if the gods are truly that cruel.
As they head down, Arys confides to her that Cersei will not be in attendance, as she is meeting with the council over Lord Tywin’s refusal to obey her order to return to King’s Landing; Tywin is instead holed up with his army at Harrenhal, which has made Cersei furious. Sansa is seated with Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen, with the Hound on guard. Tommen is excited that he is to ride in the tourney, though Joffrey remarks snidely that he is only jousting against a straw knight. Sansa is relieved that Joffrey appears to want to “play the gallant” with her today, and wishes him a lucky name day.
Joffrey tells her news: Viserys the Beggar King is dead, killed by the Dothraki; Joffrey is delighted at the ironic method of his death, and muses that perhaps he’ll feed Sansa’s brother Robb to wolves once he catches him. Joffrey is annoyed that he will not be in the lists for the tourney, but the Hound opines it is not worth entering a “tournament of gnats.”
The tourney is a piss-poor affair compared with the one Robert Baratheon had thrown, poorly attended and poorly fought, and Sansa watches with worry as Joffrey grows more irritated with each joust. When Ser Dontos comes out naked from the waist down and stone drunk, Joffrey orders him drowned in a cask of wine. To her own shock, Sansa jumps to the knight’s defense, and begs Joffrey to wait until the morrow to kill him. The Hound backs up her invented excuse that it would bring Joffrey bad luck to kill on his birthday, and Sansa suggests he make Dontos a fool instead. This mollifies Joffrey, and he orders it done, but calls off the rest of the tournament. Tommen puts up a fuss, wanting his turn, and Joffrey gives in.
Tommen does badly on his first pass, and Sansa finds herself telling Joffrey that he should go to his brother; the Hound interrupts that Tommen is trying again, but they are all interrupted by the entrance of a column of riders, bearing the standard of Lannister but mostly made up of sellswords and savages, and led by Tyrion the Imp. Tommen and Myrcella shriek with glee and run to meet him, and Tyrion greets the children warmly.
“You,” Joffrey said.
“Me,” the Imp agreed, “although a more courteous greeting might be in order, for an uncle and an elder.”
Tyrion greets Sansa, and tells her he is sorry for her loss, and sorry for Joffrey’s loss as well. Joffrey doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and Tyrion reminds him sarcastically of his father Robert’s death. Sansa tells him she is sorry her mother took him captive, and Tyrion thanks her. Put out of countenance by his uncle, Joffrey soon leaves; Clegane warns Tyrion to watch his tongue before following. Alone with Sansa, Tyrion asks her if it is grief for her father that makes her so sad; Sansa quickly replies by rote that her father and mother and brother are all traitors, and she is loyal to her “beloved” Joffrey.
“No doubt. As loyal as a deer surrounded by wolves.”
“Lions,” she whispered, without thinking. She glanced about nervously, but there was no one close enough to hear.
Lannister reached out and took her hand, and gave it a squeeze. “I am only a little lion, child, and I vow, I shall not savage you.”
He leaves, and Sansa thinks he speaks gently, but then so did Cersei, and Tyrion is still a Lannister. She will not make the mistake of trusting a Lannister again.
Wow, Joffrey is such a little shit that he can’t even beat up his fiancée himself. That’s just super special. It’s times like these that make me sorry some people can only be killed once.
“Did I tell you, I intend to challenge [Robb] to single combat?”
“I should like to see that, Your Grace.”
Ah-haha. You and me both, girl.
So, Sansa’s life continues to suck like a vacuum on steroids, but as infuriating as that is, I can’t say I’m exactly surprised. Her life is never going to improve until she either gets the hell out of there, or someone kills Joffrey. Ideally, both.
And I’m still standing by my prediction that Cersei will be the one to kill Joffrey, but oh, it would be just delicious if Sansa got to be the one to do it instead. I don’t see it, personally – Sansa has her own brand of strength, and (at least thus far) physical violence is not a part of it – but dude, I would throw a goddamn parade if she did. It would be a thing of beauty, fo sho.
Also, reenter: Tyrion. Yay!
And the level of snarky quips instantly go up by an order of magnitude. Not that I have a problem with this. Quite the opposite, in fact.
I love that he tried to be nice to Sansa. It’s a shame that she (quite reasonably) doesn’t buy his niceness for a hot second, but I still vastly appreciate that he tried. Hopefully Sansa will eventually find out that he is about her best chance for a useful ally in the joint.
I’m not saying, by the way, that he is guaranteed not to screw her over at some point; I like him, but he still is a Lannister, after all, and therefore pretty much genetically programmed to have an eye toward the main chance, and if that doesn’t happen to favor Sansa… well, at that point it becomes a crapshoot. But as far as Sansa’s concerned, even shitty odds are better than none; the problem is whether she ever realizes this.
A big fat clue to Sansa re: Tyrion’s character, if you ask me, is that Myrcella and Tommen adore him. The whole “children are instinctively good judges of character” is a cliché, yes, but things become clichés for a reason. And, of course, her other even bigger clue is that he obviously thinks almost as little of Joffrey as I do, which post-AGOT earns him an even more special place in my heart than it did previously.
I do hope he twigs fast to how unstable Joffrey is, though, if he hasn’t already. I’m looking forward to him taking the little psycho down a peg or eighteen, but not if it costs him his life.
Lastly, that was just about the lamest tournament ever, you guys — a fact which fills me with irrepressible glee. Maybe it’s unfair to draw the parallel that crap kingships throw crap parties, but right about now I’m not particularly in the mood to be fair about anything concerning King Tool Jr., so there. Nyah!
Chapter 3: Tyrion
Ser Mandon Moore will not allow Tyrion into the council chamber at first, but Tyrion faces him down, and eventually Mandon yields, to Tyrion’s satisfaction.
“You,” his sister Cersei said in a tone that was equal parts disbelief and distaste.
“I can see where Joffrey learned his courtesies.”
Tyrion gives her the letter from their father, and climbs up into the Hand’s chair while she reads it. Cersei declares the letter’s contents (that Tyrion is to temporarily take Tywin’s place as Hand) to be absurd, but Pycelle and Slynt welcome him immediately. Littlefinger laughs at Tyrion’s jests, and Tyrion makes a mental note to have a conversation with him later about a certain dagger. Tyrion asks for a moment alone with his sister, and Varys smiles and ushers everyone out. As they go, Littlefinger asks if Tyrion remembers the fates of the last two Hands, and Tyrion corrects him that actually the last four have met with grim fates, but he prays he is “small” enough to escape the curse’s notice.
When they are alone, Cersei demands to know why their father would inflict Tyrion on her and ignore her royal command; Tyrion points out that Tywin has the power to ignore her, and he’s not the only one, and that besides, it’s Jaime she really wants. He promises her that if she supports him, Tyrion will get Jaime back to them unharmed. He asks about the other Stark girl, but Cersei tells him she is missing and presumed dead. He tells her Tywin suspects someone on the council is playing them false, based on the series of disasters Joffrey’s reign has been, not least the execution of Eddard Stark. Cersei sighs and says Joff was supposed to pardon Stark, but now he thinks he can do whatever he wants, and Slynt went ahead with the beheading without a say-so from Cersei.
Tyrion is surprised by the news that Sansa had been the one to betray Eddard’s conspiracy with Renly and Stannis, but Cersei tells him the girl was “wet with love” for Joffrey — until he cut off her father’s head, anyway. Tyrion is also contemptuous of the decision to cast out Ser Barristan Selmy, considering his reputation among the commonfolk, which Cersei admits was an error. Tyrion says that is why he is here, to being Joffrey to heel, which he thinks Cersei will never be able to do since Joffrey knows she would never hurt him. Capitulating, Cersei demands that he will be utterly loyal to her as the Hand, and Tyrion lies that he will. Then he asks who murdered Jon Arryn, since his widow seems to believe it was Tyrion. Cersei says she doesn’t know, and that Eddard Stark accused her of he same, implying that she….
“That you were fucking our sweet Jaime?”
She slapped him.
“Did you think I was as blind as Father?” Tyrion rubbed his cheek. “Who you lie with is no matter to me . . . although it doesn’t seem quite just that you should open your legs for one brother and not the other.”
She slapped him.
“Be gentle, Cersei, I’m only jesting with you. If truth be told, I’d sooner have a nice whore. I never understood what Jaime saw in you, apart from his own reflection.”
She slapped him.
His cheeks were red and burning, yet he smiled. “If you keep doing that, I may get angry.”
She stops, and he asks how Robert was killed; Cersei replies that Robert did it to himself, they just helped him along. She demands to know how he intends to free Jaime, and Tyrion tells her he doesn’t know yet, and takes his leave, warning her to be sure that no harm comes to Sansa Stark.
He leaves the castle, and pauses to order that the heads on spikes on the walls be taken down regardless of Joffrey’s orders to the contrary. He rides into the city, observing evidence of escalating crime and starvation everywhere; his escort tells him there is precious little food getting past the blockades, though Cersei has done a great deal to fortify the city’s defenses, including commissioning ten thousand jars of “wildfire,” which Tyrion thinks a very dangerous move. They are paying for it by imposing a tax on those wishing to enter the city, which Tyrion thinks is both clever and cruel.
He goes to the inn where he had hidden Shae, and is shocked to see that Varys is there. Tyrion knows this is Varys’s way of sending Tyrion a message and a threat together, one which Tyrion does his best to return in kind. Varys leaves him with a riddle:
“In a room sit three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man with his gold. Between them stands a sellsword, a little man of common birth and no great mind. Each of the great ones bids him slay the other two. ‘Do it’ says the king, ‘for I am your lawful ruler.’ ‘Do it’ says the priest, ‘for I command you in the names of the gods.’ ‘Do it’ says the rich man, ‘and all this gold shall be yours.’ So tell me—who lives and who dies?”
He leaves. Shae opines that the rich man would live, but Tyrion replies that it would depend upon the sellsword. He takes her upstairs, and apologizes to her that she cannot live at court, but thinks that this is as far as dare defies his father on the matter. He makes love to her, and even while reminding himself that it is only his coin that she loves in return, cannot quite believe it. She asks him what he will do now that he is the Hand.
“Something Cersei will never expect,” Tyrion murmured softly against her slender neck. “I’ll do . . . justice.”
Justice, Tyrion? Like, actual, real justice? Well, that’s just crazy talk!
Here’s to insanity, then.
Also: Daaaaamn, Tyrion. Talk about not pulling your verbal punches. His confrontation with Cersei was kind of completely awesome, though I think under other circumstances I would have found it — well, offensive is not exactly the right word, but the bit where he asks (even in jest) why he couldn’t have her too was… something. “Disturbing,” perhaps, or maybe just “shocking”? Something like that. (“Eyebrow-raising”? I dunno.)
In this case, though, with these particular characters and their history together, it was mostly just awesome. I think I actually said “OH SNAP” out loud. (Because I am hip to what the cool kids are saying these days.)
And Tyrion knew about the incest all along, apparently! Wow. I guess in retrospect it makes sense that he does, but it honestly hadn’t occurred to me to think so before now. And he still loves Jaime anyway, huh.
Not Cersei, though, that’s for damn sure. Brilliant moves all around from Tyrion, really; he now has serious leverage on her, which is something he will need badly in this job. Though I do have to wonder, if he knew about the incest all this time, why he waited until now to play that card? *shrug* I guess this was the opportune moment.
I think I’ve said this before, but man, politics make me tired. Political intrigue is fascinating to read about,of course (well, usually), but it sure does make me incredibly relieved that I never went into politics myself. It’s clear that there are people in the world that thrive on all this powerplay/jockeying for position/parry-and-riposte stuff, and I enjoy reading about both the fictional and not-so-fictional versions of these people, but the idea of having to live it myself makes me want to lie down and breathe deeply and maybe get a hug and a hot cup of tea. Thanks, but no thanks.
I note (and I’m pretty sure Tyrion noted it as well, though he doesn’t think it specifically) that of all of Cersei’s actions re: making the city safer, not one of them seemed to be doing anything about actually making the city an un-hideous place to live. Wall fortifications and such are very necessary, I grant you, but I’m not sure I see the point of defending a place where everyone in it might starve to death.
Of course, the obvious caveat here is, Cersei isn’t going to starve to death whatever happens, nor her precious little psycho puppet, so why should she give a crap if all the little peons die? Nice, Cersei.
(I’m assuming, by the way, that “wildfire” refers to Greek fire or the equivalent. In which case, the idea of ten thousand jars of it lying around is fairly terrifying.)
I have to admit Tyrion’s assertion that Cersei would never hurt Joffrey rather throws a damper on my conviction that Cersei will kill him, because I’ve noted before that Tyrion is clearly an excellent judge of character and also knows his sister exceedingly well, and this chapter proves it as well as stating it flat out. So, okay. But still — a lot can change, and I still think if it comes down to a choice between Jaime and Joffrey, Cersei would pick Jaime every time.
So I’m sticking to my guns on that, at least for now. If nothing else, it will be fun to point and laugh at me if/when I turn out to be wrong.
Tyrion totally has the right answer to Varys’s riddle, by the way: there is no meaningful answer to be had without knowing anything about the character of the sellsword involved. Different men would make different choices. Which one would you pick?
And with that little conundrum, we out, kids! Have a mahvelous weekend, and I’ll see you next Friday!