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 11 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 20 (“Eddard”) and 21 (“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 20: Eddard
An exhausted and troubled Ned arrives in King’s Landing to find that the small council is already waiting to see him. He finds Varys, Maester Pycelle, Littlefinger, and Renly Baratheon in the chamber. He remarks on Renly’s astonishing resemblance to his brother and has a barbed exchange with Littlefinger before they begin; Ned suggests they wait for the king (and Stannis and Barristan), but Renly laughs and says they will be waiting a while in that case. Ned is appalled to discover that the king has ordered a great tourney in honor of his appointment as King’s Hand, but he is even more aghast when Littlefinger informs him that the money for it will have to be borrowed, as the crown is currently in debt for over six million in gold, mostly to the Lannisters. Ned declares he will speak to the king about this, and closes the session.
He intends to go to his rooms, but Littlefinger intercepts him and tells him his wife is here; Ned doesn’t quite believe him, but follows anyway. Littlefinger leads him to a brothel, which Ned interprets as a bad joke; he slams Littlefinger up against the wall and threatens him until stopped by Rodrik, whom Ned takes a moment to recognize. Catelyn is waiting in a private room; she and Ned embrace fiercely, and Catelyn tells him the whole story.
Numbly, Ned asks why Tyrion Lannister would want Bran dead, but Littlefinger opines that the Imp would hardly be working alone. Pained, Ned wonders if Robert might be involved, but Littlefinger points out that the king is very good at not seeing what he doesn’t want to see; thinking on Robert’s behavior during the incident on the road, Ned reluctantly agrees. He can well believe that the queen was involved, though. Littlefinger says such an accusation is treason without proof, and the dagger alone is not good enough; he suggests tossing it in the river and forgetting the whole thing. Ned is coldly contemptuous of this, but Littlefinger replies that he is a survivor, reminding Ned that he, Littlefinger, is still alive while Ned’s brother is long dead. He says, however, that he will help them for Catelyn’s sake.
Catelyn tells Ned that she told Littlefinger of their suspicions re: Jon Arryn’s death, and that she is convinced Varys is aided by dark arts in his spying. Littlefinger scoffs at the latter; he tells them he can handle Varys, and that they should be more concerned with the Lannisters. Ned tells Catelyn to return to Winterfell, and then asks for a moment alone with her. Snidely, Littlefinger accepts Catelyn and Ned’s thanks, and leaves. Once alone, Ned gives her instructions for fortifying their and their allies’ defenses in case of war. Catelyn is shocked; Ned hopes it will not come to that, but if he finds proof the Lannisters murdered Arryn Catelyn trembles, and asks what then.
That was the most dangerous part, Ned knew. “All justice flows from the king,” he told her. “When I know the truth, I must go to Robert.” And pray that he is the man I think he is, he finished silently, and not the man I fear he has become.
Oh, Ned. You are so screwed. On the Robert thing, anyway. Well, maybe not, but I will be SHOCKED if denouncing Cersei goes well no matter how much evidence Ned amasses.
And man, this just keeps getting better. Robert’s into the Lannisters for six million? Well, the Lannisters and some other people, but still. Ye gods and little fishes. It’s a miracle he hasn’t already had his kneecaps broken. I really don’t think I could possibly have a much lower opinion of him at this point.
It’s kind of unfair, but it’s almost worse that he clearly isn’t a terrible person at heart. It would be one thing if he was just intentionally letting his kingdom go all to hell, but the fact that he clearly just isn’t competent enough to prevent it from happening is well, somehow that’s even more contemptible than if he was doing it on purpose.
Or differently contemptible, at least. Maybe because I expect a decent person to recognize when he clearly sucks at kinging, and decide to step aside for someone else to do it. Even though I obviously know it doesn’t work like that. I don’t know, it just sucks. At least don’t bury your head in the goddamn sand, dude. To spend that much blood to overthrow a tyrant and then act like you’re the second coming of Rupert Murdoch, without the bankroll to back it up? Good God. What a bloody idiot.
He remembered what Robert had told him in the crypts below Winterfell. I am surrounded by flatterers and fools, the king had insisted. Ned looked down the council table and wondered which were the flatterers and which the fools. He thought he knew already.
Ha. Yeah, and whose fault is that, Robert? Sheesh, you should have called Ned down years ago. Now it might be too late to fix, if it’s fixable at all.
On that note, Littlefinger is setting off every single bullshit detector I possess, and I possess many. I don’t trust that guy any farther than I can throw a Mack truck, you guys. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I really hope Ned thinks to independently verify every fact that comes out of the man’s mouth, because he seems like exactly the kind of person who could tell a polygraph machine that the sky is chartreuse with purple polka dots, and have the machine be all WOW, SO TRUE.
Skeezy little slimeball. Littlefinger, I mean, not the polygraph. I’m sure the polygraph is a perfectly nice inanimate object. Just gullible. I should probably get more sleep.
The POINT is, I don’t have any proof yet but I feel in my bones that Littlefinger is a lying liar who lies, lyingly. He might even be lying about the debt thing, for all I know although somehow, I’m pretty sure that part’s true. Goddammit, Robert. I guess it remains to be seen whether Littlefinger has been in on the scheme from the beginning, or if he wasn’t, but is just going along and waiting for an opportunity to screw Ned in revenge for Stealing His Woman.
Or (she supposes, grumpily), there is the possibility that Littlefinger’s declarations of loyalty to Catelyn are actually true, and he’s on the up and up. That, in fact, would be the most shocking option available, given the guy’s behavior, so in this series that might be the one that actually happens. That said, though, at this point I wouldn’t be even slightly surprised to find he’s been in the Lannisters’ pocket this whole time. His suggestion to throw the dagger in the river is highly suspect, if you ask me.
Although, even so I still think Tyrion’s implication is a big fat framejob. You can’t tell me Cersei wouldn’t love to throw that particular baby out with the bathwater, and even if Jaime kind of wouldn’t want to, his track record for not doing horrible things for Cersei’s sake is currently rather less than stellar, so.
Bran’s wolf had saved the boy’s life, he thought dully. What was it that Jon had said when they found the pups in the snow? Your children were meant to have these pups, my lord. And he had killed Sansa’s, and for what? Was it guilt he was feeling? Or fear? If the gods had sent these wolves, what folly had he done?
Well yeah, that’s about the size of it, isn’t it, Ned? Certain things are always true in stories, and one of them is, if you kill an innocent—and Lady definitely counts as far as I am concerned—then in one way or another, you’re going to pay for it. Now Sansa has no one to protect her, and God is she going to need what she no longer has. So good job, there, Dad!
Pfeh. What a clusterfuck.
Chapter 21: Tyrion
On his last night at Castle Black, Tyrion dines with Mormont and several others. Mormont opines that they could use a man like him on the Wall, and Tyrion jokes that he will round up all the dwarves he can find and send them to him, then. Most of the men laugh, but Thorne opines sourly that Tyrion mocks them. Tyrion replies that he only mocks Thorne, and Thorne challenges Tyrion to a duel; Tyrion hops on his chair and begins poking Thorne in the chest with his crab fork. The others laugh uproariously, and Thorne storms out. Tyrion tells the others that Thorne is better fit to muck out stables than to be a master at arms, but Mormont grumbles that he has little choice in the matter, with the dregs that are sent nowadays to the Watch. Maester Aemon compliments Tyrion, much to his surprise.
Later, Tyrion joins Mormont in his study. Mormont insists on providing an escort for Tyrion as far as Winterfell, though he rejects Tyrion’s suggestion that Jon Snow be one of them. In return, Mormont asks Tyrion to speak to his siblings and the king about the dire straits the Watch is currently in; at their current numbers, he has three men to defend every mile of the Wall, and most of them either “sullen boys” or “tired old men.” He points out that this summer has lasted going on ten years now, which surely means a terrible winter to follow, and the days are growing shorter. Tyrion feels pity for the old man’s fancies, and promises to speak to his brother and sister and Robert; he doesn’t mention that none of them will listen.
Tyrion leaves Mormont, and on a whim decides to see the top of the Wall. He can’t climb the steps, so has the sentries on top winch him up via a rickety dumbwaiter. They help him up but otherwise ignore him, and Tyrion sets out alone to walk the Wall. He passes a defunct catapult to find Jon Snow and Ghost on the other side. Tyrion asks if Ghost has learned to juggle yet, and Jon grins and says no, but the boys he’s teaching are much improved. Tyrion offers to bring messages to Winterfell for him; Jon tells him to tell Robb that Jon is going to command the Night’s Watch, so Robb might as well “take up needlework.” Tyrion laughs and refuses to bring messages that might get him killed. Jon goes on to tell Rickon that he can have Jon’s things, and then asks Tyrion to help Bran, with words if no other way. Tyrion opines that this is “asking a lame man to teach a cripple how to dance,” but promises to do what he can. Jon calls him “friend,” and they clasp hands. They look out over the forest beyond the Wall, and Jon murmurs that his uncle is missing out there. He declares that if Ben doesn’t come back soon, he and Ghost will go and get him.
“I believe you,” Tyrion said, but what he thought was, And who will go find you? He shivered.
Okay, so the crab fork thing was hilarious. I can see it perfectly, and hah!
This chapter is carefully oblique about Tyrion’s possible doings re: assassination attempts on children, but everything Tyrion does and thinks in it tends to reinforce my conviction that he had nothing to do with it. This isn’t to say I don’t think he’s capable of being a ruthless bastard, because I’m sure he is, capable of it, I mean, but, well. I like him.
And I don’t associate “people I like” with “people who put out hits on seven year olds.” I’m just nutty that way. And I will be VERY irate if I find out I’m mistaken. Let that be a warning to you, GRRM! *shakes fist*
It was nice that Aemon complimented him, too. It’s pretty obvious that Tyrion doesn’t get compliments too often, so it made me happy that he got two in this chapter: one from Aemon and the other from Jon, in naming him “friend.”
(And he’d BETTER not be wrong about that. *glares*)
Also, prophetic Jon is prophetic, or so I declare. Certainly we haven’t been introduced to a single other member of the Watch other than Jon who would be a good choice to command it once Mormont bites the big one. Except for Benjen, maybe, and he’s probably dead. Or frozenly undead, whichever.
I was very pleased to hear that Jon’s lessons to the other kids are going well. Hopefully it will soon lead to a confrontation with Thorne in which Jon kills his stupid ass, because that would frankly be the best outcome for all involved if you ask me. Tyrion is possibly many things, but a bad judge of character does not appear to be one of them. I think that last sentence made more sense in my head, but you get the idea, I hope. Basically: Thorne blows large goats, someone get rid of him Real Soon Now plzkthx.
Mormont reached out and clutched Tyrion tightly by the hand. “You must make them understand. I tell you, my lord, the darkness is coming. There are wild things in the woods, direwolves and mammoths and snow bears the size of aurochs, and I have seen darker shapes in my dreams.”
Mammoths and aurochs and bears, oh my! Getting all primeval up in here, I see. Well, that’s probably appropriate, all things considered. I kind of don’t blame Tyrion for thinking Mormont is a bit touched, even while my genre-savvy self is groaning at the obvious Scully-ness going on. No one’s going to take this seriously before it’s too late, are they? And won’t that be fun. Lots of nice details in this chapter to lend to that impression, too, like the defunct catapult on the Wall that no one’s bothered to repair. Oy.
Also, this is kind of random, but whatever: It’s been bugging me for a while, what this whole arc (the attrition of the Watch and their inability to get anyone to listen to their warnings about winter) was reminding me of, and I finally just thought of it: the Pern series, by Anne McCaffrey, the initial storyline of which is remarkably similar in that respect. (I won’t say how, for those who haven’t read the Pern series, but dude, why haven’t you read the Pern series? It’s a classic of the genre! Get on that!)
So, given that, would that make Jon Snow the equivalent of Lessa, or F’lar, I wonder? Maybe both.
And that’s what I’ve got to say about that, thbbt! Have a lovely weekend, all, and I’ll see you next week!