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 14 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapters 29 (“Tyrion”) and 30 (“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 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!
Scheduling note: As those of you who follow the WOT Re-read blog already know, I will be attending JordanCon 2012 in Atlanta the weekend of April 20th. Therefore, there will be no ASOIAF Read post that Friday. However, although the WOT Re-read is going on hiatus after that, the ASOIAF posts will resume as usual the following Friday (April 27th).
Chapter 29: Tyrion
Tyrion is woken in the night by Ser Lancel, who informs him arrogantly that Cersei demands Tyrion release Pycelle from the dungeon at once. Tyrion wishes he had given Cersei a larger dose of poison. Lancel adds that Ser Jacelyn Bywater defied her command (Tyrion knows for the same thing), and that he is to be arrested for treason. Tyrion ignores Lancel’s attempt to be threatening, and asks whether Cersei had had Lancel knighted before or after she slept with him. He also implies heavily that he knows of Lancel’s involvement in Robert’s death, and wonders what Joffrey’s reaction will be to learn of these things.
Lancel quickly goes from arrogance to bluster to panicked begging for mercy. Tyrion agrees to keep his silence in exchange for Lancel to spy on his sister for him. Lancel agrees eagerly, and Tyrion tells him to tell Cersei that he will release Pycelle, but refuses to reinstate him on the council. He also warns Lancel to make sure he does not impregnate Cersei. Lancel leaves, and Tyrion feels a little sorry for him, for Jaime will surely kill Lancel if Cersei doesn’t beat him to it. He summons Bronn and sets out for Chataya’s brothel. On the way, Tyrion reflects on the men who had been Hand before him, and that men of their honor and nobility were no match for Cersei.
The only way to defeat my sister is to play her own game, and that was something the Lords Stark and Arryn would never do. Small wonder that both of them were dead, while Tyrion Lannister had never felt more alive. His stunted legs might make him a comic grotesque at a harvest ball, but this dance he knew.
At Chataya’s, he is propositioned by one of the other girls while waiting for Alayaya (and her room) to be free, but he is not interested in being unfaithful to Shae, and refuses. In Alayaya’s room, he goes through the tunnel to the stable, and from there to the manse where Shae is, guarded by the ugliest and/or gayest guards Varys could find for him; he would have preferred to use his clansmen, but knew if they were noticed there it would be a dead giveaway. He goes up to Shae’s rooms, and wakes her with lovemaking. After, she smiles and says she had the sweetest dream; Tyrion promises her it is not a dream.
It is real, all of it, he thought, the wars, the intrigues, the great bloody game, and me in the center of it . . . me, the dwarf, the monster, the one they scorned and laughed at, but now I hold it all, the power, the city, the girl. This was what I was made for, and gods forgive me, but I do love it . . .
And her. And her.
Aw, that was sweet. In a very porny sort of way, of course. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I do have to laugh a little bit at how much the erotica quotient for this book has been upped from AGOT, like Martin got away with that much the first time and now he’s seeing how far he can push it – or at least, this has been my impression. Again, I certainly don’t care, but it’s fairly unusual for a mainstream-ish epic fantasy series, or at least it used to be. Then again, that’s probably the point.
(From a certain point of view, adapting this series for HBO was bloody well inevitable. If any American visual entertainment venue was going to be able to do it justice, it was going to have to be premium cable, which has managed to become the one mainstream medium in this country that gets away with all the shit none of the others can. Heh.)
Anyway. I may have said this before, but I get the terrible, terrible feeling that Shae’s days are numbered. She is Tyrion’s one real weakness, after all – apart from his own internal issues, of course, which (a few exceptions aside) he has done a marvelous job of overcoming. And while Tyrion may be right that he is much better at playing Cersei’s game than either Jon Arryn or Ned were, I think Cersei still has the edge in sheer ruthlessness.
If she finds out about Shae’s existence Tyrion could find the tables turned on him in a blink. Not to mention, that closing quote above practically screams that Tyrion’s going to have the rug yanked out from under him in some way, and losing Shae would be the way that would hurt him the most.
And that would suck, a lot. For Shae more than Tyrion, really, but I am already mentally cringing at the impact her death would have on Tyrion. That… would not end well.
So let’s hope I’m wrong, yes?
Other than that, Tyrion was in fine form with the snappy quippage this chapter. Re: Cersei’s affair with Lancel, for instance:
Well, no one can ever claim that my sister does not love her family.
“Who pissed in your soup?” [Bronn] demanded.
“Cersei, as ever. You’d think I’d be used to the taste by now, but never mind. My gentle sister seems to have mistaken me for Ned Stark.”
“I hear he was taller.”
“Not after Joff took off his head.”
Zing, Tyrion. It’s unsettling sometimes how funny gallows humor can be.
Again in Tyrion’s thoughts on Cersei we are brought back to the question of honor, and Tyrion’s firm opinion that it was their honor that got both Jon Arryn and Ned killed. I don’t have much to add to that debate that I haven’t said already, but it’s worth noting how the narrative comes back to that question over and over again: is it honorable to have honor in a dishonorable world? Or is it just stupid?
(“honor”, “honor”, “honor”… word has lost all meaning. Irony?)
So Pycelle gets out, eh? He will definitely be wanting some revenge on Tyrion, then. I wonder what he’ll try?
As for Lancel, wow, how doomed is he? Do not meddle in the affairs of Lannisters, kid, for they are cunning and quick to backstabbery.
I feel this is a lesson we all can profit from in the future. Too late for Lancel, though!
Chapter 30: Arya
Working as a drudge in Harrenhal is a slight improvement on starving in the woods, in Arya’s opinion, but only slightly. Hot Pie is working in the kitchens, and Gendry in the forge. She thinks the rumors of ghosts in the keep are stupid, and in any case she is much more frightened of the living men who inhabit it, especially Weese, Gregor Clegane and Lord Tywin Lannister, though she seldom sees the latter. She wonders what would happen if she confessed to Tywin her real identity, but knows no one would believe her anyway.
Weese’s cruelty soon earns him the top spot in Arya’s litany of those she will kill someday, but Arya feels like a mouse in the cavernous ruins of the castle. But since no one ys her any attention, she overhears many rumors, and learns that her brother Robb is at Riverrun, not Winterfell, and that Renly and Stannis have claimed the throne, and even a rumor which claimed Joffrey was a bastard. Secretly, even the Lannister men wonder how long a boy king “ruled by a eunuch, a dwarf, and a woman” will last on the throne. Rumors about Beric Dondarrion’s invulnerability continue to circulate.
A strange group of mercenaries called “the Bloody Mummers” arrive for a short time, led by a terrifying man named Lord Vargo Hoat, and Arya overhears one of them say that Roose Bolton’s army has occupied the ruby ford of the Trident. She also learns that there are captives from Robb’s side in Harrenhal, but only recognizes one, Lord Cerwyn. She hopes to reach him and ask for his help, but he dies of a wound before she manages to speak to him. Tywin seems to spend most of his time in council, and no one can agree on what he plans to do next. Arya thinks that something about him reminds her of her father, except without a sense of humor.
One day Ser Amory Lorch arrives at the castle, and Arya watches him with hatred until she notices that Rorge, Biter and Jaqen H’ghar are part of his company, which infuriates her. They don’t appear to see or recognize her, but that night Jaqen finds her and holds her silent. He observes that “a boy becomes a girl,” and Arya tells him she should have let him burn. Jaqen, however, tells her that he owes her a debt for the three lives Arya kept from the Red God, and that “only death may pay for life.” He has no interest in helping her escape, but tells her to give him three names, and those men will die.
Arya ponders this dilemma all the next day. She remembers what her father said, that if you take a man’s life you owe it to him to look him in the eye, and avoids Jaqen. But then Gregor Clegane’s party returns from raiding, and Arya overhears one of his men, Chiswyck, telling a story in which they are staying at a brewer’s, who had a thirteen-year-old daughter the men began playing with, until the brewer went to Ser Gregor and asked him to make them stop.
“Ser looks her over and says, ‘So this is the whore you’re so concerned for’ and this besotted old fool says, ‘My Layna’s no whore, ser’ right to Gregor’s face. Ser, he never blinks, just says, ‘She is now’ tosses the old man another silver, rips the dress off the wench, and takes her right there on the table in front of her da, her flopping and wiggling like a rabbit and making these noises. The look on the old man’s face, I laughed so hard ale was coming out me nose. Then this boy hears the noise, the son I figure, and comes rushing up from the cellar, so Raff has to stick a dirk in his belly. By then Ser’s done, so he goes back to his drinking and we all have a turn. Tobbot, you know how he is, he flops her over and goes in the back way. The girl was done fighting by the time I had her, maybe she’d decided she liked it after all, though to tell the truth I wouldn’t have minded a little wiggling. And now here’s the best bit . . . when it’s all done, Ser tells the old man that he wants his change. The girl wasn’t worth a silver, he says . . . and damned if that old man didn’t fetch a fistful of coppers, beg m’lord’s pardon, and thank him for the custom!”
The others roar laughing, and Arya goes back downstairs and gets a caning for not serving the men as she’d been told. Two night later she contrives to pass near Jaqen, and whispers “Chiswyck” into his ear. Three days later she hears that one of the Mountain’s men fell off a wall last night and broke his neck; Weese says they’re saying it was Harren’s ghost that did it.
It wasn’t Harren, Arya wanted to say, it was me. She had killed Chiswyck with a whisper, and she would kill two more before she was through. I’m the ghost in Harrenhal, she thought. And that night, there was one less name to hate.
It’s possible that I am supposed to be taking some kind of moral high ground here and condemning Arya for what she’s doing, but, well, fuck that noise.
Not to put too fine a point on it or anything.
The only thing I’m saying to her right now is “Pick Clegane next. Pick motherfucking Clegane next.”
It’s just too bad she can’t arrange for him to be castrated first. Slowly. With a rusty spork. Dipped in hydrochloric acid.
So, yeah, I’m a little sick to my stomach right now. I’m sure there were other things in this chapter that are worth commenting on but I kind of really don’t care what they are. I’m going to take a walk for now.
Sorry, I will do better next time. Have a good weekend, Easter-like if that is your inclination. Eat lots of chocolate. I plan to.