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 16 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapters 33 (“Catelyn”) and 34 (“Jon”).
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 33: Catelyn
Ser Royce takes Catelyn to a sept, where she prays to the Seven, particularly to the Mother, to spare her sons and watch over them. She wonders if Ned’s old gods ever answered him. She remembers her own mother, and wonders if she would have thought Catelyn a failure as a mother and wife. She thinks that Cersei is a mother too, and realizes that Cersei would certainly have killed both Jon Arryn and Ned to protect her son Joffrey, and further realizes that that must have been why Bran had been a target as well.
At length Ser Royce comes for her, and she returns with him to the command tent, where Brienne is fitting Renly with his armor. She asks to speak with him, but Renly makes her wait while he confers with Lords Tarly and Rowan. Rowan is pushing to attack immediately, without waiting for the dawn, but Renly rejects this as “unchivalrous”. He laughs at even discussing the possibility that Stannis will yield, and orders them to make sure his brother’s corpse is not desecrated. He also orders that Barristan Selmy is to be spared if he is with Stannis.
After the lords leave, Catelyn explains to Renly her revelation about the attempt on Bran’s life, and proposes that she go to Stannis with this, and that Robb, Stannis, and Renly should lay aside their crowns and convene a Great Council to depose the Lannisters and elect a new king. Renly laughs and tells her the time for talking is done. Suddenly there is a breeze in the tent, and Catelyn sees Renly’s shadow move independently of him. The shadow of his sword slits his throat, and Renly bleeds out almost instantly, falling into a shrieking Brienne’s arms.
Royce and Emmon Cuy come running, and seeing Brienne covered in Renly’s blood Emmon assumes she is the culprit and attacks her, ignoring Catelyn’s scream for him to stop. Brienne snatches Renly’s sword and fights for her life against Ser Emmon. Catelyn grabs Royce and begs him to believe it was Stannis using dark sorcery that killed Renly, not Brienne. Royce is uncertain, but promises to hold the others off, and leaves. Catelyn stuns Emmon with a blow to his head from behind, and commands Brienne to come with her.
They escape from the tent and the camp back to Catelyn’s men. Catelyn tells her what she thinks happened, and a grief-stricken Brienne vows she will kill Stannis with Renly’s own sword. Catelyn convinces Brienne that she cannot go back for her horse or armor, and that they must leave at once before they are noticed. They ride away as dawn breaks, and Catelyn realizes that Stannis has won himself Renly’s entire vast army with “a single evil stroke”.
I am the rightful king, he had declared, his jaw clenched hard as iron, and your son no less a traitor than my brother here. His day will come as well.
A chill went through her.
So much for that.
Uh, so, exit Renly! That is… really not where I expected his storyline to go. Or stop, rather. I was at least expecting he would have a chance to realize his hubris before biting it. But hey, maybe it’s nicer for him this way, ignorance being bliss and alla that.
Well, you know, except for the part where he’s dead, and all. That kind of puts a damper on the bliss of ignorance, methinks.
So! One would-be king down, three-to-four-ish to go! Yay?
Sort of yay, yeah. I liked Renly and all, but I had severe doubts about his long-term chances at not being a shit king. Not that I think anyone currently in the running except Robb (and possibly Daenerys) stands a chance of not sucking at the job, but, well, yeah.
As for how he died… erm. Well, I guess I can definitely shut up now about the paucity of magical happenings in Westeros, though in my defense I think I did opine a while ago that it was gradually ramping up, so neener, somewhat.
As for whoithinkdunnit… well. I’m not a hundred percent sure who did do it, but I would be shocked to find out that it was Stannis, because this doesn’t seem like him in the slightest. The guy’s a dick, sure, but he’s a dick precisely because his rigid adherence to his moral code makes your average radical demagogue look like a real laid-back guy. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m thinking sneaky underhanded magical assassinations to avoid straightforward battles are seriously not Stannis’s bag.
Melisandre, on the other hand, is a whole other ball of wax. I can totally believe she would do it, without Stannis’s knowledge, just to hedge her side’s bets, because that’s just the kind of sneaky underhanded gal she seems to be. Or seems to be to me, at any rate. Yep, I think this is the theory I’m going with until I find out otherwise: Melisandre, in the command tent, with the magical shadow sword… thingy.
Which, assuming I’m right, makes the next question, what will Stannis do if/when he finds out about it? I’m thinking his reaction will not be pretty, to say the least.
Also, go Brienne! I mean, it sucks that she’s going to be labeled a traitor and a regicide and all now, and I see some major angst over her lost unrequited love in her future (however much Renly didn’t deserve that level of feeling from her), but if you ask me she’s better off with Catelyn anyway. Or at least I hope so.
Also, this is kind of morbid or mean, maybe, but in a way I think it’s kind of better that now Brienne will never have to deal with Renly breaking her heart in a more mundane way – as you know perfectly well he would have, sooner or later. Or wait, nevermind – if I recall correctly Brienne was probably going to get extremely killed this day anyway, because Renly was putting her in the van of the charge like the prince he was. So actually Renly’s death probably saved her life, not her heart.
Which makes me wonder why I keep thinking that I like Renly, because actually he was kind of a douche, wasn’t he? At least on that score. I dunno, with this series, so many characters are completely horrible that I think I have a tendency to give excessive leeway to anyone who shows even a hint of decency by comparison. That’s a slippery slope that bears watching…
And again, I have to heart Catelyn for, as ever, keeping her head in a crisis and knowing how to act fast and intelligently. And for clocking a knight with a brazier, hah. She really needs to stop beating herself up, though. I understand the impulse but girl, even you can’t do everything.
The Warrior was Renly and Stannis, Robb and Robert, Jaime Lannister and Jon Snow. She even glimpsed Arya in those lines, just for an instant.
“There’s been no word of Ser Barristan since Joffrey cast him out,” Lord Rowan objected.
[Renly:] “I know that old man. He needs a king to guard, or who is he? Yet he never came to me, and Lady Catelyn says he is not with Robb Stark at Riverrun. Where else but with Stannis?”
Bastards were common enough, but incest was a monstrous sin to both old gods and new, and the children of such wickedness were named abominations in sept and godswood alike. The dragon kings had wed brother to sister, but they were the blood of old Valyria where such practices had been common, and like their dragons the Targaryens answered to neither gods nor men.
Interesting. So incest is regarded as an abomination… unless you happen to be a Targaryen? Must be nice to have such a specific grandfather clause.
(“Grandfather clause.” Hahahaha. Okay, possibly that joke is only funny to me.)
But seriously, so the Targaryens just got an automatic Get Out of Abomination Free card? That seems hinky. But then again, perhaps it was more a matter of “maybe we shouldn’t hurl accusations of depravity at folks who have giant fire-breathing lizards to annihilate us with.”
…I can see the logic there, really.
Chapter 34: Jon
Jon and the rest of Mormont’s company ride to the top of a hill called the Fist of the First Men, which is visible for miles around and is topped with the remains of an ancient ringfort. Mormont declares they will wait here for Halfhand to join them. Jon points out there is water only at the bottom of the hill, but Mormont says they will carry it up. As they set up camp, Jon goes to find Ghost, but the wolf refuses to go within the ringwall, and finally Jon gives up and lets him go off. He tries to ignore his own foreboding about the place.
He meets Sam, and they chat briefly before returning to camp. Mormont has Jon make spiced wine while he confers with his officers. The others are arguing about the best way to approach the Frostfangs and Rayder’s men, but Mormont decides they will stay here in this defensible position to compensate for their much smaller numbers, and makes plans to fortify the hill for a fairly long-term stay. He also limits the rangers’ scouting, which makes Thoren Smallwood unhappy. After the others leave, Mormont encourages Jon to question his decision not to send the rangers out, and leads Jon to reason out that their conspicuous position means it will be much easier for Ben to find them than the other way around, if Ben is still alive.
Mormont goes to sleep, and Jon goes to get food, but loses his appetite when Dywen talks of how the night smells cold; Jon remembers that’s what he’d thought the night the wights attacked. He goes off alone, and is surprised when Ghost comes to find him and urges Jon to follow him down the hill and into the forest. Jon stumbles after the wolf, cursing his foolishness, until Ghost leads him to a spot where the earth has been recently disturbed. Jon digs it up to find a bundle of weapons buried under the soil, including a dragonglass (obsidian) dagger. He realizes then that the cloth wrapping the weapons is the cloak of a Brother of the Night Watch.
Is it Benjen’s stuff, huh? Huh? And if it is, is that a point against him being a frozen zombie, or for it?
If it is the former, that would be a frankly startling turn of non-suckage. Well, presumably. He could always be just plain dead, too. Whee!
Also, jeez. Why does no one know The Rules™, maaaan? If your animal familiar/companion/BFF is all “I’m not going in there!”, then you know what? YOU DON’T GO IN THERE EITHER. This is, like, Spooky Supernatural Environment Survival 101 here, people!
Of course, given that Martin seems to take particular glee in demolishing The Rules™, it’s perfectly possible that the ringfort is the only safe place to be in all the North, but looking at what I’ve divined of Martin’s own sort-of rules, or anti-Rules, or whatever, I’m led to believe that in general, carnage will trump irony, so probably not.
Speaking of carnage, let me go over this again: Mormont’s party, which will be three hundred strong only after Halfhand guy finds them, is deliberately camping out in full view of everyone, in which “everyone” is understood to include not only possibly-frozen-zombied-and-therefore-extremely-homicidal Uncle Ben and Co., but also six trillion or so (trillion, thousand, whatever) almost-as-homicidal raiders who could be, like, inches from their position. Did I get all that? Right?
…Right. I’m just gonna… tilt my head at that for a while.
(Oh, yeah, Craster said where the raiders were. Somebody bring me an eighteen-wheeler so I can throw it the length of how much I trust that testimony. Pfeh.)
Dolorous Edd said, “All I smell is the shit of two hundred horses. And this stew. Which has a similar aroma, now that I come to sniff it.”
Heh. Oh, Dolorous Edd, you’re such a card.
The Old Bear was particular about his hot spiced wine. So much cinnamon and so much nutmeg and so much honey, not a drop more. Raisins and nuts and dried berries, but no lemon…
I need to find a recipe similar to this, and make it. I’ve never really had hot spiced wine, but this sounds yummy, and I’mma have me some.
I could probably make a whole project out of trying Ye Olde Liquoring Options, actually, though I’m going to make an executive decision that anything which involves mare’s blood (or any other kind of blood) is Right Out. (I only finally tried mead less than a year ago. It was surprisingly delicious, though I don’t really know why I thought alcohol made from honey might not be. I mean, duh.)
And that is the end of my usefulness for this post, clearly, so here we stop! I will see you next Friday!