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 13 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 22 (“Arya”).
I seriously did not intend to start off the year with another short post, but I have been half-dead this entire week with the flu, and frankly I’m amazed I got one chapter in, so. Also, get your flu shots, because seriously people, you do not want the crap I’ve been dealing with. Ugh.
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, please note that the Read of Ice and Fire spoiler thread has been moved to a new thread here on Tor.com. 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 22: Arya
Arya, Gendry and their captors spend the night in a small keep with an addled old knight; his maester tells them that he’d heard Lord Beric was hanged by the Lannisters. Lem tells him Beric was, but that Thoros cut him down before it took. They leave the next day and go find “the Lady of the Leaves,” who lives in a concealed village in the trees. She tells them she heard that the Mountain caught Lord Beric and killed him with a knife through the eye. Lem tells her that’s a false tale, which thrills her.
They spend the next night in a looted sept, and Arya is angered and shamed to hear the desecration had been done by Northmen. Anguy lets Arya try his bow, and offers to make her one at Riverrun, but Tom interjects that Hoster and Edmure are unlikely to be that hospitable to outlaws, and they’ll only be there long enough to collect the ransom. Harwin explains to Arya that they use the ransom they get from highborn captives to buy all their supplies, and Arya worries whether Robb or her mother will even want to ransom her, after all the things she’s done.
The next day they go to High Heart, a place once sacred to the children of the forest. In the night, Arya wakes and comes upon Lem, Greenbeard and Tom talking with a tiny, frail-looking old woman, who tells them of her dreams and demands payment for them; Tom obliges by playing her a song, soft and sad. Arya asks about her the next day, and Tom says she’s just an old woman, if “a queer one” and “evil-eyed.” Arya asks why Beric hides from his own men, and Tom tells her that if no one knows where he is or what his plans are, then no one can betray him. Arya reveals that she has firsthand knowledge of the ways men can torture information out of people, and Harwin remarks that Beric says this war started when the Hand sent him out to deal with Gregor Clegane, “and that’s how he means for it to end.”
They stay the next night at Acorn Hall, where Lady Smallwood is incensed to see Arya in such a state, and drags her off to bathe and dress her in “proper” clothes. She asks Arya what she likes to do; Arya tells her “needlework.” At dinner, Lady Smallwood tells them Beric and Thoros were at the keep less than two weeks earlier, driving sheep. She banters with Tom about his philandering ways, and advises them to look for Beric down near Stoney Sept and the Threepenny Wood. She also mentions “a pack of wolves” came by looking for Jaime Lannister; Arya recognizes the sigil she describes as the Karstarks’, and contemplates trying to get to them. Lady Smallwood adds that they claimed Lady Catelyn was the one who freed Jaime Lannister, at which point Harwin sends Arya out despite her protests.
Gendry follows her and asks if she wants to see the smithy. They go, and Gendry tells her about how Thoros used to have to buy a new sword from Gendry’s master in King’s Landing after every tourney, since the wildfire he used to make the swords flame ruins the steel. Arya wishes she had a flaming sword. Gendry compliments her on looking (and smelling) like “a proper little girl,” and this promptly results in a wrestling match which leaves them both filthy. The outlaws all find this hilarious, and Lady Smallwood insists on bathing and dressing her again, and giving her riding clothes too. Arya apologizes for ruining the first dress, and Lady Smallwood tells her to be brave.
So, I feel like a lot of very little actually happened in this chapter despite how it managed to be super long, but okay. Mainly what I got out of it was that Lord Beric is basically Mr. Snuffleupagus. If, you know, Mr. Snuffleupagus killed people a lot. And apparently also got supposedly-but-not-really killed himself a lot. Actually Snuffleupagus is probably not the best analogy I could have come up with.
Okay, so I’m pretty sure the analogy I’m supposed to be getting from this, assuming I’m supposed to be getting any at all, is that Beric is the ASOIAF version of Robin Hood. Or, in other words, “a super fucked-up and dark version of Robin Hood.” I mean, I’m just going on previous evidence here.
It does seem to be fairly counterproductive to hide so effectively from even your own men, but given that by all appearances everybody in the world has tried to kill this guy at one time or another, maybe the paranoia isn’t all that outlandish. I really wish I could make some kind of prediction on whether he will treat Arya well or not, but honestly it could go either way at this point.
Instead of guessing on that, then, I will merely hope really hard that Arya does not get a chance to put her plan in motion of escaping and going to find the Karstarks, because wooooow with how much that would be a terrible idea right now. Not that Arya would have any way of knowing that at this point, but yikes.
I love how I was all rooting for her to get away from her captors before, and now I am hoping for the exact opposite. Well, but there you are: I’m rooting for whatever course of action results in the least possibility of Arya getting killed. Before, it was getting away from Beric’s men; now, it’s staying away from Karstark’s men.
In other news, Lady Smallwood is kind of awesome:
“A pack of wolves came howling around my gates, thinking I might have Jaime Lannister in here.”
[…] “What did m’lady tell them?” asked Jack-Be-Lucky.
“Why, that I had Ser Jaime naked in my bed, but I’d left him much too exhausted to come down.”
Then there’s all this hoopla:
“I dreamt I saw a shadow with a burning heart butchering a golden stag, aye. I dreamt of a man without a face, waiting on a bridge that swayed and swung. On his shoulder perched a drowned crow with seaweed hanging from his wings. I dreamt of a roaring river and a woman that was a fish. Dead she drifted, with red tears on her cheeks, but when her eyes did open, oh, I woke from terror.”
Lord, I bet this all means things that I’m probably supposed to be able to guess and/or keep track of, doesn’t it? Oy.
Well, the first one is actually pretty easy to guess. I mean, there’s very little else that could be referring to other than Melisandre and Stannis, though I’m not sure if the “butchering” part is literal or metaphorical—is she killing Stannis, or the House of Baratheon? Either way, I’m not going to be terribly shocked.
The others, though—I’m kind of drawing a blank. Like, both images seem tantalizingly familiar and/or bell-ring-y (as in, they ring a bell. Look, leave me alone), but not enough for me to make a solid connection. Though I kind of vaguely feel that maybe the second one refers to Theon Greyjoy and the third maybe to Catelyn? But I’m pretty sure those are both completely wrong, so whatever, I’ll wait and see.
And last but not least, good LORD with the pigtail-pulling, Gendry. There’s all kinds of things I could say about this sort of thing, but mainly right now I’m just remembering 4th-ish through 6th-ish grade, and how there seemed to be some unspoken conclusion among the boys that girls were, of course, icky and full of cooties and not at all interesting, no sir, but fighting with girls was just fine. Because that didn’t count as wanting to be around girls, that was just, like, incidental to the whole fighting them thing.
Behold, the superior logic of eight-to-eleven-year-olds. Because really, darlings, you were fooling no one with that act, any more than Gendry is. Except, perhaps, Arya and himself.
All right, back to bed with me. I hope your 2013 is going well so far, and I’ll see you next time!