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 26 of A Feast for Crows, in which we cover Chapter 36 (“Cersei”).
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 Powers That Be have provided you a lovely spoiler 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!
Short shameless plug before we begin: The Wheel of Time Reread Redux starts up next week! Come and play! It will be all kinds of self-reflexive fun!
Chapter 36: Cersei
Aurane Waters comes to Cersei and reports that Dragonstone has fallen, but that Ser Loras made it a slaughter, of mostly their own men, and that Loras himself is now dying of his wounds. Cersei expresses sorrow, but is privately well pleased, and makes a point of breaking the news to Margaery herself. Margaery insists that dying is not dead, and kicks Cersei out, and Cersei is cheered enough by her pain that she lets the insult pass.
The next day she meets with a Tyroshi man who claims to have the head of the Imp (who he says his people call “Redhands,” for the blood on them), but Cersei sees it is an old dwarf’s head with the nose cut off, and sends the man to Qyburn to have the same done to him. Three others come with tales of Tyrion’s whereabouts (a brothel in Oldtown, a mummer’s show in Braavos, a hermit in the riverlands), but Cersei believes none of them. Taena proposes they disguise themselves as serving girls and see the sights in the city, and tells of a conjurer who can supposedly turn girls into boys, but Cersei declines.
At court, she refuses Prince Jalabhar Xho’s petition for arms to help him regain Red Flower Vale, and then refuses to intercede on behalf of a group of merchants on their Braavosi debts. A delegation of the new Warrior’s Sons come to her (Lancel is included in their number), and Cersei is angered that the High Septon elected to preach to the brothels instead of answering her summons himself. Cersei tells Septon Raynard that the whores are vital for trade and taxes, and tells Raynard to tell the High Septon to cease interfering with them. Pycelle comes to report that Lord Gyles Rosby is dying, and Cersei implies that Pycelle is helping him die, and tells him to tell Rosby that he does not have her permission to die.
She has dinner with Tommen, who is grieving over the news about Loras. Tommen says Margaery says he should go to court with Cersei more often, and Cersei snaps that she’d like to tear Margaery’s tongue out. To her surprise, Tommen shouts at her that he forbids Cersei from touching Margaery, and Cersei drags him to Boros Blount and orders that Tommen be made to punish his whipping boy Pate himself this time, until Pate bleeds, or she will have Qyburn cut out Pate’s tongue.
That night she dreams of the day she and her two maids went to see Maggy the Frog, and rousted the old woman from her bed and demanded their fortunes. Jeyne Farman had fled the tent when she woke, but Cersei and Melara had stayed; Cersei reflects that Jeyne is alive and well today, married with a dozen children. Maggy had tasted Cersei’s blood and answered three questions. Cersei asked when she will wed the prince; Maggy answered that she will never wed the prince, but the king. Confused, Cersei asked if she would be the queen, and Maggy answered yes, “until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.” Cersei declared her brother will kill anyone who tried, and asked if she and the king will have children. Maggy answered yes: sixteen for him, and three for her.
“Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds,” she said. “And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”
Cersei had been angered and tried to leave, but Melara had insisted on her fortune, and Maggy told her she would die before wedding any man. In Cersei’s dream, the memory becomes Tyrion strangling her, and wakes gasping. She sends for Pycelle, and demands something stronger than wine to help her sleep without dreams. Then she asks whether the maesters believe the future can be foretold. Pycelle says maybe, but that he does not believe they should be.
The next she asks Qyburn about Lady Falyse, thinking perhaps of sending her back to take power from Lollys (i.e. Bronn), but Qyburn tells her Falyse is no longer in a state to rule Stokeworth, or indeed to feed herself, but he has “learned a great deal from her.” Cersei tells herself there in no point in regretting things past.
She tells him about her dream about Maggy and her prophecies, and how some of them have already come true. She wants to know if prophecies can be averted. Qyburn surmises that “Maggy” was a corruption of “Maegi,” and says that they can be averted, and she knows how. Cersei reflects on how she should go about killing Margaery, and thinks she must frame the girl in such a way that even her father would not object to her execution. The next day she asks Ser Osmund whether his brother Osney could defeat Ser Boros Blount in combat.
“Boros the Belly?” Ser Osmund chortled. “He’s what, forty? Fifty? Half-drunk half the time, fat even when he’s sober. If he ever had a taste for battle, he’s lost it. Aye, Your Grace, if Ser Boros wants for killing, Osney could do it easy enough. Why? Has Boros done some treason?”
“No,” she said. But Osney has.
Well, it’s not like I’m terribly surprised that Cersei is now stooping to assassinate her own son’s wife; considering what she was willing to do to a putative ally and friend like Falyse (even if only by proxy), the only real surprise is that it’s taken this long. Especially given that she’s had that prophecy hanging over her head this entire time. Which we have FINALLY now had explicated to us in full, THANK YOU, I have only been waiting FOREVER over here. Sheesh.
Of course, I’m thinking that the “younger and more beautiful queen” in question here is actually Daenerys, because (a) prophecies never mean what their subjects think they’re going to mean, and (b) since I assume that at some point Dany is actually going to get around to invading Westeros (seriously, any day now. ANY DAY, GIRL), it follows fairly logically that she would be the one to “cast Cersei down.”
If I’m right, that suggests that Dany’s conquest plans are going to be at least partially successful, which is… good? I guess? I dunno; I’ve kind of been perpetually on the fence about whether restoring the Targaryens to the throne is a good idea or not. Even if Dany herself would be a good ruler (which is something you could probably have a debate about, honestly, but on balance she would probably suck a hell of a lot less than most of these assclowns, so okay), I still say that having congenital madness in the royal family line makes for a bad outlook, dynastically. As we have seen.
That said, I think most of my lingering objection to the idea is actually more due to the way I forlornly cling like a baby monkey to the idea that somehow one of the Starks will make a comeback and kick all the ass and take the throne instead. That seems fairly bloody unlikely at the moment, but seriously, how awesome would it be if the prophecy referred to Sansa instead of Dany? So awesome, y’all.
Either way, it doesn’t bode well for Margaery at all, which is a shame, because I like her a lot—what little I know of her, anyway. Cersei may be incompetent in a lot of ways, but as of yet it is still a really bad idea to get in her crosshairs. As Falyse could probably testify, if she weren’t, you know, apparently a mangled drooling wreck of a human being that I absolutely do NOT want to contemplate about. Ugh. Can’t Qyburn fall down a sewer grate in the dungeons or something and die? Like, now? I would like that to happen now, please. I repeat: UGH.
Soooo, I’m presuming the idea here is to have Osney kill Boros and blame it on Margaery somehow? Like as if to cover up her and Osney’s supposed affair? That seems… convoluted. Plus I’m not really sure how this is going to be made to seem enough Margaery’s fault to warrant her execution, even if the presumption is that she sent Osney to kill Boros. I mean, she’s a queen; judging from every other monarchal personage we’ve come across in this series, having people killed is, like, just one more bullet point on your itemized Royal Shitty Things To Do list.
Unless of course adultery on the queen’s part is automatic grounds for execution, which both doesn’t seem all that farfetched and also is so screamingly hypocritical and double standard-y it makes me want to punch something. Sixteen bastards for Robert and a beheading for Margaery? WHATEVER. (And yes, I get the reasons why. Doesn’t change my opinion that it is bullshit. If wives don’t get to cheat neither should husbands. Yeah, me and my crazy notions.)
“I bring you justice. I bring you the head of your valonqar.”
The old Valyrian word sent a chill through her, though it also gave her a tingle of hope. “The Imp is no longer my brother, if he ever was,” she declared.
So valonqar means “brother”? Well, okay then. I’m sure this would be very interesting news if I could remember where and in what context I’d heard that term used before. I think it might have been used around/in reference to Arya? Which suggests that maybe it’s a more gender-neutral term like “sibling.”
But again, operating on the fairly safe premise that prophecies have a terminal allergy to adhering to initial interpretations of them, I’m not sure that this prophecy refers to Tyrion, either. Or Jaime (though wouldn’t that be interesting if it did). But Maggy said “the valonqar,” not “your valonqar,” which is kind of a weird way to phrase it if it refers to one of Cersei’s actual brothers, so maybe the term carries more than one meaning, like “brotherhood.” Or “assassin.” Which would make my vague remembrances of this term being associated with Arya and the crazy death cult/assassin people make much more sense. Too bad Maggy specifically said “he” in the prophecy, because otherwise I’d be rooting for it to be Arya who does the deed.
But at least we know that Cersei is very unlikely to live a long life and die peacefully of old age. I would call that justice, except that Maggy’s prophecy also suggests that none of Cersei’s children will live very long (and also that Myrcella will get her own crown before getting her “gold shroud”). Which is just about the opposite of justice. Those poor kids.
“Is the whole world overrun with these twisted little monsters?” [Cersei] complained, whilst the last of the informers was being ushered out. “How many of them can there be?”
“Fewer than there were,” said Lady Merryweather.
Oh, and just for purposes of irony, I bet that one of those informers’ stories about Tyrion’s whereabouts is actually correct. The one about a mummer’s show in Braavos caught my attention, mainly because we just read about a mummer’s show in Braavos. Although I don’t recall Cat/Arya mentioning that any of her mummers were a scarred dwarf type. But then, it’s not like there’s only one mummer troupe in all of Braavos.
(Mummer, mummer, mummer. Word gets weirder and weirder the more I type it. Mummermummermummer)
Although honestly, being a street actor (mummer!) seems awfully high-profile for someone as visually distinctive as Tyrion. There’s hiding in plain sight, and then there’s being insane. So maybe the hermit option is the correct one. (I sincerely doubt Tyrion is in a brothel. Or at least, I doubt he would actually be turning tricks in one. Or at least I hope not, jeez.)
Speaking of brothels, I love that Cersei does not even realize how much fire she is playing with re: the High Septon. Protip: if you’re going to insult a zealot’s faith, honey, don’t hand them a sword first. You moron.
In other news, I rather blinked at how swiftly and, er, off-screen-ly the whole Dragonstone thing was apparently resolved. I’d kind of expected that to drag out a lot more, but apparently Loras was in a hurry. And paid for it too, evidently. He was doused with boiling oil? Eek. It’s terrible, but the first thing I thought when I read that was, “well, I guess he’s not gonna be the prettiest knight at the tourney anymore.” ‘Cause yeah, no. Assuming he survives, of course. Which for some reason I rather think he will.
At least if Margaery has anything to say about it. Speaking of whom, I have to give girl infinite kudos on her apparently iron self-control, because I do not even know how she kept herself from bitchslapping Cersei into next week when she came to “commiserate” with her over Loras. I do not think I would have been able to stop myself if it had been me.
And on that highly satisfactory mental image, we out! Have a thing with the guy at the place, and I’ll see you next week!