A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones, Part 14

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 14 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 26 (“Jon”), 27 (“Eddard”), and 28 (“Catelyn”).

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 26: Jon

What Happens
Jon and the other trainees are joined by the fattest boy Jon has ever seen, a noble’s son. Thorne immediately begins ridiculing him, christening him “Ser Piggy,” and sets him against Halder, a brute of a boy. Jon moves to defend him, and Thorne commands that Rast, Albett, and Halder all attack Jon to get to the fat boy, but then Pyp and Grenn suddenly join in on Jon’s side. Jon’s side defeats the other, and Thorne leaves in disgust. The fat boy introduces himself as Samwell Tarly, formerly of Horn Hill; the other boys are astonished at Sam’s frank admission that he is a coward.

The next night, Jon talks to Sam, and is incredulous that he seems to be afraid of everything; Ghost licks Sam’s face when he starts to cry, and the two boys laugh together. Jon tells him about his background, and confesses that he dreams about Winterfell, and finding it empty, and being compelled to go down into the catacombs below, but waking before he finds anything there. Sam tells him the story of his childhood, and how his father hated him for being soft and awkward, and tried to beat it out of him, and finally disinherited him by threatening to kill him unless he pledged to join the Watch.

Back in the Hall, Jon angrily defends Sam when the other boys make fun of him, and convinces all of them except Rast to conspire to thwart Thorne’s attempts to humiliate Sam. Later, Jon and the other boys beat on Rast until he agrees to join their plan as well. Sam finds him a few nights later and thanks him, and comments that he’s never had a friend before. Jon tells him they are not friends, but brothers; he realizes that Benjen spoke truly about the brotherhood of the Watch, and wonders if he will ever see him again.

So, was I the only one who had flashbacks to Full Metal Jacket during this chapter?

Srsly. Right down to the blanket party. Even if this one was conducted via direwolf. Wow.

Some writer or poet somewhere once said something (today is Specific Day!) about how life obstinately persists in digging in and persevering even in the most abjectly hostile environment, and I wish I could remember the phrasing or who wrote it, because it was beautifully put. I can’t, but whatever the line was, that’s what this chapter made me think of, the way Jon is building himself a life and a community and even a sense of pride in a place that, I’m sorry, is pretty much a complete shithole.

From which category it will not be promoted, for my money, until somebody offs that asshole Thorne. KILL IT WITH FIRE PLZKTHX.

I think I will get my wish on that, at least if Jon’s seduction campaign (so to speak) of the other boys to follow him rather than Thorne is any indication. Go, Jon, go!

Hopefully, of course, Thorne’s death will not also culminate in Sam offing himself, Gomer Pyle-style. Because that would suck.

And oh, man, Sam. Who is pretty much tailor-written, as far as I can tell, to be the antithesis of every stereotypical “manly” trait in existence. And it’s shocking how hard it is to not be immediately at least a little contemptuous of him for it. Deeply embedded cultural prejudices = epic fail. Bad Leigh. No socially enlightened biscuit!

[Jon] wondered what Tyrion would have made of the fat boy. Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it, the dwarf had told him, grinning. The world was full of cravens who pretended to be heroes; it took a queer sort of courage to admit to cowardice as Samwell Tarly had.

True dat, Jon.

I’m interested to see where Martin goes with this character. I’m thinking that, assuming we don’t go the Kubrickian murder-suicide route, Sam is either the poor schlub whose completely unnecessary death at Thorne’s hands finally gets Thorne the boot (or better, an appointment with Mr. Pointy End), or he’s going to turn out (eventually) to be the baddest badass of all of them, other than Jon, of course.

It could go either way at this point. Or, of course, go a different way entirely, but one of those two are my guesses. And the latter, obviously, is the one I’m personally rooting for.

And speaking of things that need to be killed with fire, my jaw dropped when I read Sam’s story of how his father “convinced” him to join the Watch. Um, holy crap. You know your home life was heinous when getting relocated to Castle Black counts as an improvement. Good god.

Jon’s dream about Winterfell: well, I don’t know exactly what form it’s going to take, but that’s a pretty clear indication Jon’s not even close to being done with the Starks. I’m still going with the theory that it’s all down to the identity of his mother. Though that’s probably a fairly “duh”-like statement at this point, since the focus on the catacombs is about as strong an indication as one could come up with to emphasize the importance of the Stark ancestry/genealogy to Jon’s future.

And—oh shit.


Er. So, I was sitting here free-associating about this for the last few minutes, and my brain just went to a really disturbing place.

Let’s just say, I really hope the practice of incest is going to be limited to the Lannisters in this story.

Oh, ew. I’d better be wrong about that, y’all. Gah ick mlah bad touch!

Wow, I just completely grossed myself out. Well done, me!

Chapter 27: Eddard

What Happens
The commander of the city watch, Janos Slynt, is complaining to the council that the influx of knights and lords for the Hand’s tourney is causing a spike in crime in the city, and says that he needs more men. Ned commands that Littlefinger find the funds to hire fifty more men, and also pledges the loan of twenty of his own house guard until the tourney is over. He complains of the tourney, and Renly laughs and says at least his brother Stannis is not there to complain of the licentiousness in the city. Ned reflects that this tourney business is “chafing him raw.”

He goes back to his rooms and peruses the book that Arryn had asked for before his death, a genealogy of the great houses of the Seven Kingdoms. Ned had read it, particularly the section on the Lannisters, searching for a clue to why Arryn had wanted it, but nothing jumps out at him. Jory enters, and reports that they’ve found Arryn’s former stableboy, but he was as uninformative as the other remaining members of Arryn’s household. The potboy, however, had related that Arryn had gone once to commission armor with Lord Stannis Baratheon, which Ned finds interesting in light of Stannis’s subsequent departure to Dragonstone.

Ned leaves to visit this armorer, hoping that he had done enough to throw off the Spider’s spies. The armorer is named Tobho Mott, and tells him with some reluctance that Arryn and Stannis had come to him not for armor, but to see “the boy.” Ned wants to meet him, too, so Mott takes him out back and introduces him to Gendry, a strong lad about Robb’s age. Gendry tells Ned that Arryn had asked him questions about his mother, who had worked in an alehouse and died when Gendry was young, but Stannis had only glared at him. Ned looks closely at the boy’s blue eyes and black hair, and thinks that he sees it.

He goes back into the house with Mott, and asks who paid the boy’s apprentice fee. Mott tries to feign that he took the boy on for free, but at length admits it was paid by an anonymous lord. Mott tells him that the lord’s face was shadowed by a hood, but that he had a reddish-brown beard and was stout. Ned tells Mott that if Gendry ever decides he wants to wield a sword rather than make them, to send him to Ned, and leaves.

His guard was waiting outside with the horses. “Did you find anything, my lord?” Jacks asked as Ned mounted up.

“I did,” Ned told him, wondering. What had Jon Arryn wanted with a king’s bastard, and why was it worth his life?

Hmmm. Veddy interestink.

I am just as puzzled as Ned, because I was under the distinct impression Robert’s never been exactly shy about flinging his DNA around, so to speak. You’re telling me there aren’t like a dozen royal bastards wandering around? Really?

And why would it matter, anyway? It’s not like Robert’s line isn’t as secure as can be reasonably expected, with two sons and two brothers. (And a daughter, but I don’t know whether girls can inherit in this system even if all her male relatives die. With my luck, probably not.)

And who is the lord that paid off Tobho? I didn’t recognize the description, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t “met” him already. It doesn’t mean I did, either. We’ll see, I suppose.

Tis a puzzlement!

Porther, the lusty guardsman who likes brothels: a reference to Porthos?

Ned was not sure what to make of Renly, with all his friendly ways and easy smiles. A few days past, he had taken Ned aside to show him an exquisite rose gold locket. Inside was a miniature painted in the vivid Myrish style, of a lovely young girl with doe’s eyes and a cascade of soft brown hair. Renly had seemed anxious to know if the girl reminded him of anyone, and when Ned had no answer but a shrug, he had seemed disappointed. The maid was Loras Tyrell’s sister Margaery, he’d confessed, but there were those who said she looked like Lyanna. “No,” Ned had told him, bemused. Could it be that Lord Renly, who looked so like a young Robert, had conceived a passion for a girl he fancied to be a young Lyanna? That struck him as more than passing queer.

Erm. Okay, I have no idea what’s up with all this hoopla, but I am VERY VERY SUSPICIOUS OF IT. Especially in light of my icky-and-hopefully-completely-erroneous wild theory about Jon’s mother’s identity in the last chapter. (yipeyipeyipe)

Man, these people are starting to make the crowned heads of Europe look like a sane, noncontroversial family tree by comparison. *marvels*

Also, I’m a little upset that Renly is involved in whatever shenanigans is going on here. Does this mean I’m not going to get to like him for much longer? Because, you know, I may have to pout about that, if so. Can’t we at least have a token nice guy in this story?

Don’t answer that.

Chapter 28: Catelyn

What Happens
Rodrik and Catelyn are traveling near her childhood home of Riverrun, and Catelyn proposes they stop at an inn she knows. Rodrik argues against it, worried that Catelyn will be recognized, but they are passed just then by a lord Catelyn knows well (Jason Mallister), and he doesn’t give her a second glance. Catelyn opines that the inn will be no problem.

The innkeeper doesn’t recognize her, either, and gives them rooms rather ungraciously. Catelyn contemplates changing her direction to either her father’s home or to the Eyrie to find Lysa, but her father has been sickly these last few years, and the route to the Eyrie is too dangerous for a woman and one armsman to travel. Catelyn decides to continue to Winterfell for now. She and Rodrik head down to dinner, where there are numerous armsmen from houses beholden to the Tullys, but all of them are too young to remember Catelyn.

She and Rodrik are conversing with a young singer named Marillion when the meal is interrupted by the entrance of none other than Tyrion Lannister and his entourage. Tyrion cheerfully bribes one of the patrons to give up his room for the night, and orders food. He is about to leave without having noticed Catelyn, when Marillion leaps up and offers to perform for Tyrion, whereupon Tyrion sees and recognizes Catelyn. He greets her by title, to the astonishment of the rest of the patrons. Catelyn debates the risk, and then asks the various armsmen in the room to assure her of their loyalty to her father. Confused, they all answer in the affirmative.

“This man came a guest into my house, and there conspired to murder my son, a boy of seven,” she proclaimed to the room at large, pointing. Ser Rodrik moved to her side, his sword in hand. “In the name of King Robert and the good lords you serve, I call upon you to seize him and help me return him to Winterfell to await the king’s justice.”

She did not know what was more satisfying: the sound of a dozen swords drawn as one or the look on Tyrion Lannister’s face.

Oh boy.

Well, this should go swimmingly. For everyone involved. You may detect that I am employing the teensiest smidgen of sarcasm, there.

It would be one thing if Catelyn had any actual proof at this point that Tyrion was guilty, but seeing as she totally just jumped the gun on that, well. The dagger thing can’t possibly be enough to convict a peer of the realm, can it? In which case, this was—wow. Yeah, this was a decision that seemed stupid the moment I read it, and keeps getting stupider the longer I think about it.

Because while I’m sure Cersei could not care less about Tyrion on a personal level, she (and every other Lannister) are sure to raise holy howling hell over his arrest—whether or not she and Jaime intended it to happen in the first place. And that hell is going to be aimed directly at—guess who?—the Starks.

That’s why it’s stupid, because the way I see it the result’s going to be the same no matter where the truth of the matter lies. If the outside possibility is true, that the Wonder Twins never intended for Tyrion to be involved, their familial outrage might be genuine, but even if Jaime and Cersei are actually secretly thrilled to let Tyrion take the bullet for this one (even if they didn’t plan it that way from the beginning), that won’t alter their public response of indignant fury. Or so I predict.

(The question of whether Tyrion is actually guilty or not is, ironically, rather beside the point.)

Either way, sez me, there’s no way the Lannisters will miss the opportunity to exploit the political leverage this will give them—specifically, the leverage this will give them over Ned.

So, yeah, Catelyn, not the smartest move. I understand why she gave in to the temptation, but man, I really really wish she hadn’t. For her and Ned’s sakes far more than for Tyrion’s. Maybe I’m completely wrong about all of this, but I don’t see the remotest chance of Catelyn’s accusation sticking. Not with what she’s got—which is to say, just about nothing—and not with the connections Tyrion has. The only people who are going to be hurt by this, I forecast, are the Starks.


And now that I’m going to have the memory of R. Lee Ermey screaming obscenities in my head for the rest of the day, I think we’ll stop here. Have a lovely and draft-free Fourth of July weekend, peoples, and I’ll see you next week!


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