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 28 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapters 57 (“Sansa”), 58 (“Davos”), and 59 (“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 57: Sansa
Sansa listens to the singing in the sept as she watches Joffrey mount his horse in richly ornamented armor. Tyrion sees her and asks why she is not with the other ladies in Maegor’s, and she tells him Joffrey had sent for her to see him off, and then she intends to pray. Tyrion replies dryly that he won’t ask for whom. He then comments that this day might change everything, and that he should have sent her off with Tommen.
Joffrey interrupts to summon Sansa (as if she were a dog, she thinks), and show her his new sword, Hearteater and make her kiss it. She does, loathing him deeply, and asks hopefully if he will lead his knights into battle. Joffrey says no, that Tyrion says Stannis will never cross the river, and Sansa comments that her brother Robb always goes where the fighting is thickest. Joffrey frowns and promises he will gut her brother with Hearteater once he’s done with his traitor uncle, and leaves.
Sansa goes to the sept, which is crowded to bursting, and makes offerings for each of the seven gods and sings along with the hymns, praying for her family and friends, living and dead, and even for Tyrion and the Hound. But when the septon begins leading a prayer for Joffrey, Sansa stands and leaves.
She goes to Maegor’s Holdfast, the castle-within-a-castle where all the highborn ladies are waiting out the battle. She meets Lady Tanda at the drawbridge, and tries to reassure her daughter Lollys, who is crying and resisting going in. Eventually her sister Falyse and the maidservant Shae force Lollys across, and Sansa thinks of the rumor that Lollys is pregnant.
Inside the holdfast, Sansa sees with shock that Ser Ilyn Payne is there, holding her father’s sword Ice. Osfryd Kettleblack comments that Her Grace expects to have need of him, and Sansa wonders whose head Cersei is after. Cersei enters, and Sansa asks her why Ser Ilyn is there; Cersei replies “to deal with treason”, and defend them if necessary, which Cersei seems convinced it will be. Sansa asks if her guards won’t protect them, and Cersei sneers that the guards will be the first to run if the city falls. She observes that Sansa has no idea what happens when a city is sacked, does she. Sansa says true knights would never harm women and children, but the words ring hollow to her.
“True knights.” The queen seemed to find that wonderfully amusing. “No doubt you’re right. So why don’t you just eat your broth like a good girl and wait for Symeon Star-Eyes and Prince Aemon the Dragonknight to come rescue you, sweetling. I’m sure it won’t be very long now.”
Well, Cersei’s hardly my favorite person, but she’s just about right in this chapter; when a city is sacked, it doesn’t end well for anyone. The women least of all.
What a dreadful thing, to just have to sit there and wait to see whether you’re going to be perfectly fine, or (most likely) raped, murdered, or both. I’d like to declare I’d rather be out there fighting, where at least you’d have the illusion of having some miniscule amount of control over your own fate; I’d like to declare that, but I’ve been around long enough to know that, lacking the experience of it, I can’t really know how I’d would react in this situation, even if I were given a choice between the two courses of action, which in this scenario I would not be. But if I were given the choice, how would I react?
*shrug* I don’t know. Maybe I’d be the one hiding under the tables the whole time and hoping someone else will solve all my problems for me. I don’t think that’s who I’d be. But I don’t know.
And really, all things considered? I’m pretty okay with never finding out.
Let his sword break and his shield shatter, Sansa thought coldly as she shoved out through the doors, let his courage fail him and every man desert him.
Girl, it’s like you read my mind.
Also, go Sansa for goading the little shit, and for refusing to pray for him. Small rebellions, perhaps, but maybe they will lead to greater. Or Joffrey will get killed a lot in this thing and it’ll be a moot point. That would be sweet.
Whose head is Cersei after? Well, I’m betting that if Joffrey doesn’t come back from the battle, it’s probably going to be Tyrion’s. Even so: Joffrey’s death? SWEET.
Chapter 58: Davos
On his ship Black Betha, Davos approaches the mouth of the Blackwater Rush River along with the rest of Stannis’s vast fleet. The fleet is under the command of Ser Imry Florent, Stannis’s brother-in-law. Davos thinks his plan of attack too bold, an attempt to make up for the significant delays they had encountered en route, but his suggestion to Ser Imry that they send a few swift ships to scout the river rather than committing their full force at the outset was met with derision. Imry was certain the few ships the boy king had to oppose them would present no difficulty, but Davos thinks it is foolish to meet them on the river, where the narrower space reduces their advantage of numbers.
As the fleet enters the rivermouth, Davos notes the towers on either shore and presumes (and then confirms) they have a chain boom between them, but the boom is not raised. The few ships waiting to meet them are missing several of the king’s most formidable vessels. Davos smells a trap, but cannot figure out what exactly it is. The castle above begins raining down pitch, arrows, and boulders, while Stannis’s forces across the river form up to cross. Davos is grateful that Stannis bowed to pressure from his officers and sent Melisandre back to Dragonstone along with Edric Storm.
The battle is joined, and all descends into chaos rapidly. Davos rams a Lannister ship and sinks her, and then wildfire destroys a Baratheon ship. Davos hates wildfire, which is almost impossible to put out, but thinks of Ser Imry’s assurance that there are few true pyromancers left, and the city’s supply will soon run out. Boulders from the city’s trebuchets sink some ships, and Davos barely avoids a ramming attempt on his own ship. He sweeps alongside and boards the would-be rammer instead, and is nearly killed in the fierce ship-to-ship fighting. They take the enemy ship, and Davos observes that despite heavy casualties, the battle is going in their favor. Then he sees one of their own ships, Swordfish, is aiming to ram one of the derelict Lannister ships in the harbor.
Slow green blood was leaking out between her boards.
When he saw that, Davos Seaworth’s heart stopped beating.
“No,” he said. “No, NOOOOOOOO!”
Swordfish strikes the wreck, shattering the thousand jars of wildfire inside, which spreads across the surface of the river. Davos screams for the ship to back away, but it is too late: the wildfire ignites, and Davos is flung into the water from the force of the explosion. He struggles to the surface and sees that most of Stannis’s fleet, including his own ship, is on fire. He lets himself be swept out by the current toward the bay, planning to swim ashore, and then sees that now the chain boom has been raised, blocking the mouth of the river, and ship after ship is crashing into it, setting each other aflame.
A wall of red-hot steel, blazing wood, and swirling green flame stretched before him. The mouth of the Blackwater Rush had turned into the mouth of hell.
War is nuts, you guys.
So this was a very gripping and well-choreographed and detailed (and long) battle scene that I did not even attempt to capture more than the broadest strokes of in the summary, because yeah, no. If you want all the very bloody details I suggest you read the original.
It’s so weird reading about a battle in which you really don’t particularly want either side to win. Or rather, a battle in which you’re only rooting for a side to win because that means a few specific people have a better chance of surviving. So I was rooting for the Lannisters here merely because I don’t want Tyrion, Sansa, and Shae to die.
I mean, there are other people I’d be happy to see live, like Davos himself, but I’m probably not going to be too overly upset if they don’t. And honestly, I want Shae to live more because I know what her death will do to Tyrion than for her herself. That’s probably terrible of me, but, well, I’m risking enough just getting as attached as I am to these few characters!
So really, as long as Tyrion and Sansa make it out okay I’m not sure I really care who wins this fight. I loathe Joffrey, but it’s not like Stannis has inspired me with a ton of confidence that he and his magical-shadow-baby-assassin™-birthing cult instigator henchwoman will be much better.
And of course, a fairly significant additional weight on the Lannister side is also that, should they win, King’s Landing will remain unsacked and a whole lot fewer innocent civilians will die. So yeah, I guess you could say I am on the Lannisters’ side in this particular fight, but that is very definitely in spite of them, not because of them.
(Man, I hope Joffrey dies even if they do win. I don’t think we’re all that lucky, of course, but I can hope it!)
And from the looks of things, so far I’m picking the winning side. I mean, I don’t know yet how things are going on the landward front, but if you were in Stannis’s naval forces, your chances of survival have just dropped to somewhere between slim and yeah, so much for that.
Clever, clever Tyrion. I think that somewhere way back in the day I speculated that the chain he was talking about was going to be used to block the harbor, but letting the enemy in first and then trapping them with it (and then setting everyone on fire, natch), that I hadn’t seen coming. Well, not until I got to this chapter, anyway. The minute I read Davos’s thought about Imry reassuring them that there would be hardly any wildfire I was like, welp, in case I was wondering how this is gonna go down, I can stop! Basically Imry and Co. did the equivalent of marching up to Tyrion’s oven, sticking their head in, and turning it on their damn selves. In retrospect they might as well have put on big red bows before going in. Nice.
And of course no one listened to the lowborn Onion Knight, who only survived forty years on the sea as a smuggler, simply because he was a smuggler. Show of hands if you’re shocked!
Yeah, that’s what I thought. Oh, class snobbery, how Darwinian you can turn out to be.
Chapter 59: Tyrion
Tyrion watches from above as Stannis’s fleet and their own alike is consumed in green wildfire on the river below, and thinks that it is only half a victory, and will not be enough. Joffrey complains about his ships burning, too, and Tyrion tells him they were doomed in any case. He estimates that even with the success of his trap, thirty or forty enemy vessels survived, and will be able to bring Stannis’s land forces across once they recover.
He knows his own men will only hold up as long as the battle is going their way, and gives orders for a sortie against the survivors dragging themselves out of the river, and for the Three Whores (the trebuchets) to be swung further west. Joffrey complains that Cersei promised him control of the Whores, and Tyrion lets him go ahead with flinging the Antler Men (with antlers nailed to their heads) from the trebuchets (as he had promised to “send them back to Stannis”). Joffrey runs off happily, and Tyrion thinks that Cersei had better be protecting Alayaya as well as he is Joffrey.
A runner comes with news that the enemy is bringing a ram up to the King’s Gate, and Tyrion rides there quickly to find it is already in use. He orders the sellswords and gold cloaks gathered there to form up for a sortie, but Sandor Clegane appears and refuses to go out again, stating that he has lost half his men fighting out there. Tyrion is shocked to realize Clegane is afraid, and that he needs to replace him, but cannot think of anyone, so he says he will lead the sortie himself. Clegane laughs in disbelief. Tyrion shouts for the men to form up, but only a few respond to the order.
He looked contemptuously at the others, the knights and sellswords who had ridden with Clegane. “They say I’m half a man,” he said. “What does that make the lot of you?”
Shamed, many of the rest fall in. Tyrion tells them he isn’t going to shout Joffrey’s name, or Casterly Rock either.
"This is your city Stannis means to sack, and that’s your gate he’s bringing down. So come with me and kill the son of a bitch!” Tyrion unsheathed his axe, wheeled the stallion around, and trotted toward the sally port. He thought they were following, but never dared to look.
On the one hand, go Tyrion! On the other: ah, crap.
But then again, Tyrion did mange to do pretty well up in the mountains with the not dying in battle, so maybe he’s not completely screwed. I really, really hope not.
And so Sandor Clegane crapped out, did he? Well, at least the man’s consistent. He says he’s not a knight, and he really really isn’t one. Good… for him? I guess? Sort of?
On the other hand, wow with how very not acceptable it is to be disobeying orders on the battlefield. I mean, even in the current Uniform Code of Military Justice for the U.S. armed forces, the penalty for refusing to obey a lawful order in wartime can include being sentenced to death. I can’t imagine the punishment in Martin’s world being any lighter. No bueno, Señor Clegane. No bueno at all.
So perhaps it is Clegane who has a date with the lovely Ser Ilyn Payne, and wow that’s probably the most pun-ish name Martin’s allowed himself so far, isn’t it? I may have said that already but it bears repeating.
As for Joffrey’s antics with the Antler Men: Gosh, just when I thought that kid couldn’t get any more adorable. I know it’ll cause all kinds of problems for Tyrion if he dies, but can’t we kill him anyway? Please? Pretty please with sprinkles?
You know, I sense there may have been a theme in my musings for this post. WHAT COULD IT BE.
Well, if you don’t know I ain’t gonna tell ya! Have a lovely weekend, persons, and I will see you next time!