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 29 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapters 60 (“Sansa”), 61 (“Tyrion”), and 62 (“Sansa”).
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 60: Sansa
Sansa listens as Osney Kettleblack brings Cersei the news about the battle, but Cersei is only interested to hear whether Joffrey is all right. She is getting drunk while Moon Boy and Ser Dontos try to entertain the tense crowd. Cersei comments scornfully when one of the ladies breaks down crying that she would rather be facing the warriors outside than be in the company of “this flock of frightened hens.” She explains to Sansa that she is only doing it for the curry it will favor with their husbands should the castle not fall.
Sansa asks what will happen if it does fall, and Cersei replies that if her guards do not betray her, she can go to the walls and offer herself to Stannis in person, but if not, she imagines that most of her guests are in “for a bit of rape,” as well as mutilation, torture, and murder, of course. Sansa is horrified, but Cersei advises her that rank is not nearly the protection she thinks it is. She comments that if it were anyone else, she would try to beguile them, but she would have a better chance of seducing Stannis’s horse than Stannis himself.
She noticed the look on Sansa’s face, and laughed. “Have I shocked you, my lady?” She leaned close. “You little fool. Tears are not a woman’s only weapon. You’ve got another one between your legs, and you’d best learn to use it. You’ll find men use their swords freely enough. Both kinds of swords.”
Osney returns to report that the hulks on the Blackwater have gone up, and that Joffrey is at the Mud Gate. He also reports a groom and two maids trying to sneak out of the castle with livestock, and Cersei orders them executed. A while later, she refuses entrance to some merchants asking for shelter in the castle, and angrily reminisces about her childhood with Jaime, and how she was denied the things he wasn’t. Osney returns again to report that the Mud Gate is under attack, and the Imp has gone out to drive off the attackers while leaving Joffrey at the Whores, “flinging Antler Men into the river.” Cersei orders him to fetch Joffrey back to the castle, brooking no objections.
Later, Cersei tells Sansa that she knows all about her “little treasons” in the godswood. Sansa desperately avoids looking at Ser Dontos and protests that she only goes there to pray. Cersei replies that praying for their enemies equates to treason; Sansa says she prays for Joffrey, but Cersei doesn’t believe her. She confides to Sansa the real reason Ser Ilyn Payne is there:
“Stannis may take the city and he may take the throne, but I will not suffer him to judge me. I do not mean for him to have us alive.”
“You heard me. So perhaps you had best pray again, Sansa, and for a different outcome. The Starks will have no joy from the fall of House Lannister, I promise you.” She reached out and touched Sansa’s hair, brushing it lightly away from her neck.
FIRST of all, no beheading Sansa, woman! I forbid it!
Second of all, AAAAGH stop making me agree with you! It is freaking me out!
“I would sooner face any number of swords than sit helpless like this, pretending to enjoy the company of this flock of frightened hens.”
Because, okay, considering what I just said in the last post, that is creepy. And then there’s this!
“When we were little, Jaime and I were so much alike that even our lord father could not tell us apart. Sometimes as a lark we would dress in each other’s clothes and spend a whole day each as the other. Yet even so, when Jaime was given his first sword, there was none for me. ‘What do I get?’ I remember asking. We were so much alike, I could never understand why they treated us so differently. Jaime learned to fight with sword and lance and mace, while I was taught to smile and sing and please. He was heir to Casterly Rock, while I was to be sold to some stranger like a horse, to be ridden whenever my new owner liked, beaten whenever he liked, and cast aside in time for a younger filly. Jaime’s lot was to be glory and power, while mine was birth and moonblood.”
“But you were queen of all the Seven Kingdoms,” Sansa said.
“When it comes to swords, a queen is only a woman after all.”
…Yeah, this is pretty much exactly how I would have felt. I mean, shit. Cersei is vicious and ruthless and ethically horrific… but goddammit, I see where she is coming from.
George R.R. Martin, I would like you to stop DOING this to me, please. Crap! Crappity crap crap!
“The only way to keep your people loyal is to make certain they fear you more than they do the enemy.”
“I will remember, Your Grace,” said Sansa, though she had always heard that love was a surer route to the people’s loyalty than fear. If I am ever a queen, I’ll make them love me.
Okay, here I disagree with Cersei. Whew.
The problem is, really, that neither way is surefire. There are always those who will betray you, whether they fear you or love you. But at least love has the comfort of being the better way to be. You can’t answer for other people’s actions, but you can answer for your own.
Chapter 61: Tyrion
Beyond the gate, Tyrion finds himself flanked by Ser Mandon Moore and his squire, Podrick Payne, who refuses to retreat when Tyrion orders him to. His force follows him to fall upon the men manning the ram, dispersing them bloodily. After, he orders them to ride for the Mud Gate, and is startled to hear some of them cheering “Halfman! Halfman!” as they obey. There is fire everywhere, and Tyrion realizes that was why the Hound was so frightened.
They wade in among the men trying to escape the river, cutting them down, and Tyrion finally understands what Jaime meant when he spoke of the euphoria of battle fever. Tyrion fights until Ser Balon Swann points out to him where enemy soldiers are swarming off a broken galley smashed on a pier, and realizes the shipwrecks have formed an ersatz bridge across the river. He leads his men to charge the invaders, and loses his horse and his axe in the shallows.
Tyrion finds another weapon and fights on, climbing across the unstable wreckage with Balon and Mandon until rocks from the walls smash the galleys apart, knocking him into the water. Tyrion desperately climbs up the remains of a deck, and observes confusedly that that there is fighting on the wrong side of the river. He hears someone call for him and shouts for help. Ser Mandon appears and offers him a hand, but Tyrion senses something wrong and flings himself backward just as Mandon tries to kill him with his sword.
Wounded, Tyrion falls back into the water, but manages to pull himself back out again. Ser Mandon finds him and is about to kill him when someone shoves the knight into the water, saving Tyrion.
“Jaime?” he croaked, almost choking on the blood that filled his mouth. Who else would save him, if not his brother?
“Be still, my lord, you’re hurt bad.” A boy’s voice, that makes no sense, thought Tyrion. It sounded almost like Pod.
“Those are brave men,” [Tyrion] told Ser Balon in admiration. “Let’s go kill them.”
Did I mention war is nuts?
I think I did, but it bears repeating. My summary does no kind of justice to how well the text conveys that, either, just so you know.
That said, hah. Tyrion is a warrior, stature and infirmities notwithstanding. And, assuming he survives the battle and the various assassination attempts and all, this will be what makes others respect him more.
It’s a strange thing, recognizing cultural triggers even when you yourself are responding to them. That this, the ability to kill and maim and hack and slash through your enemy is what will gain respect for Tyrion, when all his cunning and intelligence and political savvy will not, is barbaric and sad, and yet I too have grown up in a culture that praises strength and ferocity and fighting prowess above almost all other attributes (NFL preseason starts this Sunday! The Bourne Legacy opens August 10th!), and it’s disturbing, in a way, that I find myself respecting him more for it too.
And yet, it is worthy of respect, the ability to defend oneself and others, and it is an absolute necessity for the protection of hearth and home and nation and whatever, to be able to fight for it. So… right.
And it ties, to a certain extent, back to what Cersei was saying in the previous chapter, as well – that she will never be allowed to even attempt to gain the glory and legend status that Jaime has, because women are not allowed to go to war, and to go to war is everything.
And that sucks. On multiple levels, even.
Why did Mandon try to kill Tyrion, I wonder? Under orders from Cersei is my guess, but I’m not clear on why he would fight so well for him before and only afterwards try to off him. Lack of witnesses on the ship bridge, perhaps?
Chapter 62: Sansa
A wounded Ser Lancel Lannister tells Cersei that the battle is lost and her brother most likely dead, and Mandon Moore and the Hound missing. He berates her for calling Joffrey back to the castle, as it caused the gold cloaks to defect en masse. Osney Kettleblack interjects that there’s fighting on both sides of the river now, and no one knows why, but the ram is back at the King’s Gate and their own men are deserting, and there are mobs at two other gates and rioting in Flea Bottom. Sansa realizes this means her head, but Ser Ilyn Payne is nowhere to be found.
Cersei orders Maegor’s drawbridge raised and the doors barred, and Joffrey brought in from the gatehouse. Lancel protests that that will make things worse, but Cersei retorts that Joffrey is her son. Lancel begs her to reconsider, and she digs her hand into his wound and leaves. The women begin to panic when she is gone, and Sansa finds herself moving to calm them, and see to Lancel’s wounds, even though she tells herself that he is her enemy. Ser Dontos entreats her to return to her own chambers and lock herself in, and Sansa gathers her courage and does so. She encounters looters on the way, but makes it there safely.
Once there, however, she discovers the Hound has holed himself up in her room, and he is drunk. He grabs her and warns her not to scream, and laughs that he has lost the battle. He mumbles that he should have killed “the dwarf” years ago, and tells her he is going. Sansa says he won’t make it, but he laughs and says anyone who tries to stop him is a dead man.
Sansa asks why he is here, and he tells her she promised him a song. He says he could keep her safe, and she thinks he means to kiss her and closes her eyes. He thinks that she can’t bear to look at him, and threatens her at knife point to sing for him. Terrified, Sansa sings him the hymn she’d heard in the sept:
Gentle Mother, font of mercy,
save our sons from war, we pray,
stay the swords and stay the arrows,
let them know a better day.
Gentle Mother, strength of women,
help our daughters through this fray,
soothe the wrath and tame the fury,
teach us all a kinder way.
The Hound lowers the blade, and on instinct she touches his cheek. He calls her “little bird,” and leaves. After a long time she hears bells begin to peal across the city and cheering in the streets, and Ser Dontos eventually appears to whirl her around drunkenly and tell her that the city is safe. He says Lord Stannis is dead or fled, overwhelmed from the rear by “all the power of Highgarden and Casterly Rock,” with Lord Tywin himself and Randyll Tarly and Mace Tyrell leading the fight.
“And do you know who led the vanguard? Do you? Do you? Do you?”
“Robb?” It was too much to be hoped, but . . .
“It was Lord Renly! Lord Renly in his green armor, with the fires shimmering off his golden antlers! Lord Renly with his tall spear in his hand! They say he killed Ser Guyard Morrigen himself in single combat, and a dozen other great knights as well. It was Renly, it was Renly, it was Renly! Oh! the banners, darling Sansa! Oh! to be a knight!”
Um, what the hell.
Isn’t Renly, like, dead? Did I miss a memo? Did Stannis just lose to a zombie? What in the actual fuck is going on?
Well, perhaps getting killed by magical shadow assassin baby™ is not as, hmm, permanent as other ways of getting killed? Although that’s a pretty inefficient magical assassination, there, if so. Probably the more logical explanation is that it’s actually Renly’s stunt double. Just like Elvis!
…Riiight. Well, in any case, Dontos is being way too garbled and incoherent and FOAF for my comfort here, and so I think I’m going to take pretty much everything he just said with very large grains of salt, but even so, I am… bemused.
I think what I got out of this was that Renly’s remaining forces (which may or may not be led by a zombie, of the non-frozen variety for once, and/or a very brazen impersonator) joined up with Tywin and came in with a flanking move (or whatever) to destroy Stannis’s forces before they could overwhelm the city. So okay, but wasn’t Tywin nowhere NEAR King’s Landing? How did this all come about? I am confuzled!
And even if we do assume it was Renly back from the dead, or not dead, or whatever, what the hell with him hooking up with Tywin, of all people? What, did he decide killing his brother and also not getting the throne afterward was the way to go?
Yeah, something’s hinky here, people. VERY. HINKY. I declare a state of Total Hinkage re: this. For reals.
As for Sandor… eesh. I really really wasn’t sure that he wasn’t going to do something unforgivable, here. I’m very glad that he didn’t, but man, my heart was in my throat for a minute there. And that said, I TOTALLY cannot decide whether I am glad or upset that he didn’t take Sansa with him. Because on the one hand, Sansa escaping is yay, but on the other, Sansa escaping with Clegane is… eesh.
I’m also probably needing to say something about the “Gentle Mother” thing and the implied power of women not having power and yadda, because yeah, that’s great when it actually works, and all, but how often does it not work? Let’s just say, I saw that droit du seigneur scene in Braveheart too, and yeah, it was powerful and all, but I also raise an extremely skeptical eyebrow in its general direction. I’m sure no one will be mad at me about that either!
And on that cynical note, we out! Have a weekend, kiddies, and I’ll see you next Friday!