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 32 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapters 67 (“Tyrion”), 68 (“Jon”) and 69 (“Bran”).
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 67: Tyrion
Lying in his own filth in the infirmary, Tyrion dreams that he is running through the carnage remaining of the battlefield outside the city, watching the silent sisters stripping the corpses with no mouth to speak with. He wakes alone, remembering the Ser Mandon had tried to kill him, and sleep again to dream that Cersei and Tywin and Varys and Littlefinger are standing over him. He slowly realizes that him being alive means they must have won the battle.
He wakes again to find Podrick Payne in the room, and that his head is wrapped in plaster. A maester gives him milk of the poppy, and he sleeps again to dream he is at a great victory feast where Jaime knights him and Shae kisses him for his brave deeds. He wakes again and realizes he is not in his own bedchamber, then sleeps again and dreams of his time with Tysha, the woman he’d thought he’d married, and how she’d told him she loved him, and how it was all a lie.
He wakes again, and the maester (Ballabar) tries to give him more milk of the poppy, but Tyrion refuses it, and insists that the man remove the bandages around his head. Ballabar is reluctant, but obeys. He washes the wound on Tyrion’s face and tells him that his wounds are clean. Tyrion demands a mirror, and finds that he now has a gash running from his left eye across his nose and lips to his right jaw; most of his nose is gone.
“Pretty,” he croaked, flinging the glass aside.
He thinks that Mandon must have been paid by Cersei to make sure Tyrion never returned from the battlefield. Ballabar tells him he is in Maegor’s Holdfast because Lord Tywin is now the King’s Hand. Tyrion is confused, and Ballabar explains that Tywin saved the city with Lord Tyrell and Lord Littlefinger and possibly Renly’s ghost, falling on Stannis’s forces from behind. Tyrion asks for Podrick Payne, and Ballabar goes.
Podrick enters, and Tyrion tells him to bring him dreamwine, and to watch them make it, and to find Bronn. Podrick tells him Bronn has been made a knight. Tyrion asks about Mandon, and Podrick tells him the knight was “drowned.” Tyrion says to never tell anyone about how he really died. Podrick leaves, and Tyrion wonders what Tysha would say if she could see him now.
Help me, someone help me. Jaime, Shae, Mother, someone . . . Tysha . . .
Tysha? Who is Tysha? *a few pages later* Oh, that’s who Tysha was. Damn, that was kind of heart-breaking.
Well, the whole chapter is, really. God, I’m trying to picture losing your whole nose, and it is shudder-worthy. Jeez, did we really have to give Tyrion cause to hate his own body even more?
As for Tyrion’s assumption that Ser Mandon tried to kill him on Cersei’s orders, I… have no reason to dispute that, really. Sounds exactly like something Cersei would do. The only reason I hesitate to agree with it completely is that it seems a little too obvious, and in my fiction-consuming career I have often been given cause to be highly suspicious of the obvious answer. Still, until something comes along to specifically contradict the idea I don’t see any reason not to go along with it.
Chapter 68: Jon
Jon knows they are doomed when Qhorin tells him to make a fire. They are the only two left of the five rangers that fled the Skirling Pass; Squire Dalbridge had fallen holding off the the wildlings in the pass, Ebben had been sent ahead to try and reach the other Rangers, and Stonesnake had stayed behind to delay their pursuit after his horse had broken a leg. The eagle has always kept them in sight.
Qhorin asks Jon if he remembers his vow to the Night’s Watch, and makes him recite it again, and then tells him that if they are captured, Jon must yield, and pretend to go over to the wildlings, so that he can learn what they are planning and eventually report it to Lord Mormont. Jon is astonished, but agrees reluctantly; he asks that Qhorin tell Mormont of the plan, and Qhorin promises to do so “when I see him next.”
They ride on, leaving the fire as a decoy, and Qhorin leads them to a passageway hidden behind a waterfall, which he says leads through the heart of the mountain. After resting, Jon and Qhorin make their way through the tunnel, but the eagle finds them on the opposite side, and Qhorin decides they will make a stand, and warns Jon to keep Ghost in hand. Soon the wildlings find them, some fourteen in number, and their leader comes down, his mount and armor covered in bones. Qhorin calls him “Rattleshirt,” which infuriates him, but he does not respond to Qhorin’s taunt to come and face him.
One of the other wildlings shows them their trophy of Ebben’s head, and Qhorin warns Jon to ignore their taunts. Rattleshirt calls for the archers to shoot them, but Jon calls out that they yield, and Qhorin pretends to disdain him. Rattleshirt says they have no need of cravens, but then Ygritte reveals herself and speaks up for him. Rattleshirt wants to kill him.
On a rock above them, the eagle flapped its wings and split the air with a scream of fury.
“The bird hates you, Jon Snow,” said Ygritte. “And well he might. He was a man, before you killed him.”
“I did not know,” said Jon truthfully, trying to remember the face of the man he had slain in the pass.
Rattleshirt demands that Jon prove his willingness to join them by killing Qhorin, and Qhorin immediately attacks Jon, forcing him to defend himself. Then Ghost joins in and hamstrings Qhorin, and Jon kills him. Jon thinks numbly that Qhorin knew it would come to this, and wonders who he is now. Ygritte tells the others who Jon is. Rattelshirt still wants to kill him, calling him a warg and a crow both, but Ygritte and several others defend him, and Rattleshirt yields. They burn Qhorin’s body, and Jon asks Ygritte if they will return to the Skirling Pass.
“No,” she said. “There’s nothing behind us.” The look she gave him was sad. “By now Mance is well down the Milkwater, marching on your Wall.”
So Jon’s a double agent now, huh? And had to kill Qhorin to do it, wow. So of course all the Night Watch is going to be completely convinced Jon is a traitor now. That ought to make for some fun times down the road, no doubt.
I do have to wonder how much of Qhorin’s orders to Jon on that count were really for the spy thing, and how much of it was just to save Jon’s life. I know banking on altruism is an exceptionally risky proposition in this particular series, but since it’s pretty much a moot point anyway I will choose to believe it anyway.
Will [Ghost] howl for me when I’m dead, as Bran’s wolf howled when he fell? Jon wondered. Will Shaggydog howl, far off in Winterfell, and Grey Wind and Nymeria, wherever they might be?
Interesting that Jon left Lady out of that tally. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Jon could have no way of knowing that Lady is dead. No non-supernatural way to know, anyway. Gaffe, or clue? Not sure.
Also, I learned a new word from this chapter. I did not know before that “garron” is a term for a small, sturdy horse or pony. I think the term was used before this in the book, actually, but this is the first time I noted it and actually bothered to look it up, so there you go. I’m not sure this knowledge is going to particularly enrich my life in any way, but it’s fun to learn new things in any case.
“The bird hates you, Jon Snow,” said Ygritte. “And well he might. He was a man, before you killed him.”
Hmm. Veddy interestink. So does this mean that if you’re a warg (warg warg warg) and your human body dies you can go hang out in your chosen animal’s body? That’s… kind of awesome and sucky at the same time. I mean, obviously it would be cool to get to swoop around as an eagle or run around as a wolf, but at the end of the day I’d want to get back to being human me. To have that option taken away would be… claustrophobic, to say the least. Or something.
Chapter 69: Bran
Bran/Summer lurks in the trees with his brother, watching as Winterfell burns. They fight over a horse corpse briefly, and Summer’s brother yields. Summer doesn’t want to go back to the dark place underground, but a voice rouses Bran from sleep, and he wakes to find Meera. They are in the catacombs below Winterfell, huddled beneath Eddard Stark’s empty tomb, and Jojen tells Bran he’s been “out” for three days. He tells them what he saw, and worries that at some point he won’t be able to come back.
Osha and Rickon and Hodor are there too, and Bran insists they need to go up and see what’s happened to Winterfell. Osha thinks it is a bad idea, but concedes that they are almost out of food. She wonders if it is day or night, and Bran reaches out to Summer to check, and tells her it is daytime. Rickon is excited to be going back to Shaggydog. The party gathers up and heads back to the surface; Osha has taken the sword from Ned’s tomb, while Meera has taken Lord Rickard’s and Bran from his namesake and uncle’s tomb, though he does not think it will be of much use to him.
Osha goes ahead, and returns to report that something is blocking the door. They go up and have Hodor try it, and after great effort Hodor succeeds in forcing the door open. They emerge into the First Keep, which is now a burnt-out ruin. Shaggydog and Summer come to meet them, and Jojen thinks they should go before other less friendly wolves show up. Osha agrees, but has them search the castle for food first. As they move through the destruction, Bran opines that Theon did this, but Osha points out the corpses of some of Theon’s men, and they find a body with the sigil of the Dreadfort on his clothes. Then Summer howls and heads for the godswood, and the others follow.
They find Maester Luwin there, grievously wounded but still alive. Luwin smiles when he sees Bran and Rickon, and says he knew they were alive. Luwin says he is dying, and implores Osha to separate the boys. She agrees, but doesn’t know where to go. Luwin isn’t sure either, but gasps out “White Harbor . . . the Umbers.” He tells Bran that he must be strong, and that he is his father’s son. Osha sends the others out of the grove, staying behind to give Luwin “water.”
She rejoins the others and says she will take Rickon (and Shaggydog) east on the kingsroad, and Hodor and the Reeds will stay with Bran. Rickon sobs at their farewell. After he and Osha are gone, Hodor, Meera, Jojen, Bran and Summer leave by the Hunter’s Gate. Bran asks if they are going to the Reeds’ father in Greywater Watch, but Jojen says they are heading north. As they walk away, Bran looks back at the ruins of Winterfell.
The stone is strong, Bran told himself, the roots of the trees go deep, and under the ground the Kings of Winter sit their thrones. So long as those remained, Winterfell remained. It was not dead, just broken. Like me, he thought. I’m not dead either.
That’s right, Bran, you’re not! HAHAHAHA STARK BOYS NOT DEAD.
I knew that already, of course, but it’s nice to get confirmation of it.
And they hid in the crypts! I shoulda oughta thought of that—especially since it was prophesized by Jojen, who apparently isn’t a psychic Debbie Downer so much as he is incredibly misleading. Figures.
But, very clever, hiding in the crypts. And, given all the madness in the surrounding countryside, probably the only reason they’re still alive thus far.
[Bran] had never feared the crypts; they were part of his home and who he was, and he had always known that one day he would lie here too.
But now he was not so certain. If I go up, will I ever come back down? Where will I go when I die?
Oh, sweetie. I wish I knew.
I can see the logic of splitting the boys up, but that still doesn’t make it any less sad-making, though. Now all the Stark children are scattered to the winds. Though I don’t know if calling any of them “children” really even applies anymore, even to Rickon.
I also foresee Problems down the road with Bran and his wolf-astral-projection skinwalking thing. (I was tempted to say he’s too strongly in the wolf dream, but that’s another series, hah.) I can certainly see the attraction, though. Getting to run around as a wolf has got to be about a hundred times more alluring even than it would normally be, when your real body doesn’t even work right anymore.
And Bran and the Swamp Wonder Twins are heading north, eh? All the way to the Wall, perhaps, hmm, hmm? We shall see!
And thus ends Book Two!
Haha, and still no Winter. I reiterate my wild amusement if I get to the end of all the currently published books and winter still hasn’t happened.
In general, I got much more of a “settling in” feel from A Clash of Kings, if that makes any sense. A Game of Thrones was (quite properly) a “set-up” book, but it also felt much more self-contained than this one did, which I note is often the case with first installments, usually as a precaution in case you don’t get to make/write any more.
The second book, though, obviously isn’t worried about that at all, and so proceeds to go about getting us hunkered down for the long haul. Which is good news for those of us who like our book serieseseses nice and thick and meaty, but does inevitably also mean that the book suffers a wee bit in excitement as compared to AGOT. Not that exciting things didn’t happen, and not that ACOK wasn’t a very good book, but in an overall sense I think it lacked, possibly by design, some of the sheer dynamism the first book possessed.
Of course, I’m wondering what could really hope to trump something like Ned’s death in AGOT anyway. That’s the kind of stunt you generally only get to play once. We shall see if Martin manages to top it in the future, but as of the end of ACOK he hasn’t.
That said, good book. I am sometimes very frustrated with the relentless downer-ness of the tone of this series, but I am definitely invested in the characters and definitely want to find out what happens to them. Which is basically the reaction you want from your readers. As long as they still want to know what happens next, you’re good to go.
Also, I read over my posts from this book, and some of my declarations are… well, here, see for yourself.
[From the Prologue] Yeah. So I’m gonna go ahead and say [Melisandre will] be Trouble.
And then later:
Maybe all her power is good for is shrugging off poisonous substances, how would I know?
Welp, I’m going to go with a big fat WRONG on that one…
it would be ten kinds of awesome if Arya got to be the one to kill [Joffrey], but I’m still banking that it’s going to end up being Mommy Dearest who offs the little snotstain
Yeah, I don’t know why I had this idea that Cersei would kill Joffrey, because now it seems obvious to me that that’s the last thing she would do. Her devotion to her children, in fact, is probably her Achilles’ heel.
my earlier Arya prediction, which was that she’ll end up joining up with Robb.
This one’s still up for grabs, whoo!
Oh, I hope Arya and Nymeria get back together and Nymeria forgives Arya for throwing rocks and they are an awesome team. Is that too optimistic? Probably. Sigh.
This one too, I hope? Pretty please?
And Uncle Ben: frozen zombified or not? I vote yes.
Still don’t actually know the answer to this for sure, but now I think my answer tends more toward Uncle Ben just being dead. I suspect Jon’s going to find out for sure in the next book, though.
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 he’s right that she engineered his mid-battle assassination attempt, then I was right on the money here.
Ergo, I think Stannis has something up his sleeve, something that probably rhymes with “Schmelischmandre,” and Renly is in for a nasty surprise come morning.
HAHAHA. And yet, I had NO IDEA.
Re: Jojen’s dream that Reek would slice Bran and Rickon’s faces off:
One possibility that leaps to my mind is that faces indicate who a person is; you destroy someone’s face, that makes it pretty hard to identify them, especially in the days before dental records and DNA-typing and whatnot. So maybe Reek somehow takes away Rickon and Bran’s identity? But how the hell would he do that? And why?
Nice, me. I didn’t quite get it, but I came awful close.
Of course, maybe I’m really seriously off, and Littlefinger is going to be angelically loyal and go do exactly what he’s been told and no more. Anything’s possible, I suppose. I’ll just be over here looking extremely skeptical about it, mmkay?
And then he apparently… was totally angelically loyal and did exactly what he’d been told. I am flabbergasted, you guys.
On first meeting Qhorin:
I personally would be rather less enthused than Jon is to be under the command of a man who seems to regard the lives of his men to be commodities so easily spent.
Ow. There is me seriously misjudging a character there, isn’t it?
Osha does not strike me as the long-term loyalty type, at all, at least not to the likes of Theon. My bet is she’ll play along and pretend allegiance until she has a chance to run, and then she’s outta there. Hopefully she’ll take Bran and Co. along with
Score on that. Go me!
And then, of course, there is everything from this post, in which I really managed to not make any concrete predictions whatsoever. And really, on re-reading I still don’t have much better ideas than I did then. That will definitely be a post to come back to again later, though.
Anyway, so Ygritte’s run off, and she’s either going to get Jon very killed or she’s going to be the one to save him from being killed.
I think she kind of did both, really.
Here’s also hoping Melisandre doesn’t harsh my Epic Battle anticipation by sending over one of her magical shadow assassin babies to off… er.
Well, actually, if it offs Joffrey I’m pretty okay with that, really, but it BETTER NOT off Tyrion, because that shit is not on. You keep your hands off my Tyrion, magical shadow assassin babies! *shakes finger*
Hmm. Hey, why didn’t Melisandre send over a magical shadow assassin baby during the battle? That’s kind of puzzlement-making, there.
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.
Heh. Turns out it was Tyrion’s anyway.
And last but not least, of course, not ONE of my many many pleas for Joffrey to die throughout this book was heeded. So inconsiderate, y’all. I ask for so little, throw me a frickin’ bone here, maaaaan. Here’s hoping for it to happen in the next book, then! Whoo! Yeah! Whoo!
And thus ends the second section of A Read of Ice And Fire! Normally I would take a week off at this point, but given the hurricane-related delays these past couple of weeks, I think I’m going to just go ahead and start Book Three next Friday. So join me then for Moar, me hearties!