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 16 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 31 (“Tyrion”) and 32 (“Arya”).
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 31: Tyrion
Tyrion watches two of Catelyn’s new men slaughter his horse and taunt him about it, and thinks back to the night she’d arrested him. He’d protested his innocence, but Catelyn hadn’t listened, and Tyrion had surrendered rather than be slaughtered outright, though he noted that only a dozen out of the fifty or so men in the room had responded to her call for succor, and mentioned aloud that his father would pay well for information on what had happened there. Catelyn had announced that they would take him back to Winterfell immediately, and Tyrion had been tied to his horse and hooded for the ride. Tyrion had not been overly worried, certain that his father would take swift action, until he was unhooded that night and discovered that Catelyn had lied about their destination, and they were actually headed for the stronghold of the late Lord Arryn.
Now, Tyrion listens as the others argue over whether they should stop and rest, and half-lies to Catelyn that the likelihood of pursuit from the Lannisters is small. He again tells her he had nothing to do with the attack on Bran, and points out he would never be stupid enough to arm a footpad with his own blade if he had. Catelyn asks why Petyr would lie to her, and Tyrion tells her Littlefinger lies about everything, including that he had taken Catelyn’s virginity. Furious, Catelyn doesn’t believe him, and tells Tyrion that Petyr loved her once, tragically but purely. Tyrion tells her she is a fool, crudely, and one of the armsmen offers to slit his throat, but Catelyn says to let him talk. Tyrion asks how Littlefinger claims he, Tyrion, came by the dagger, and Catelyn tells him it was in a wager on a tourney, when Jaime lost to Ser Loras.
Before Tyrion can answer, they are attacked by raiders. Tyrion insists that Catelyn will need every man, and she reluctantly agrees to arm Tyrion and his two men; Tyrion is given an axe. The fight is vicious and bloody, and Tyrion acquits himself well, to his own surprise (he takes time to break the singer Marillon’s hand, though). Toward the end he sees Catelyn penned in by three raiders, and almost leaves her to her fate, but then steps in and brings one down and knocks the second off balance enough for Catelyn to slash his throat; the third runs, and the fight is over.
The party lost three men, one Tyrion’s man Jyck; Catelyn wants to bury them, but Rodrik convinces her that it is too dangerous to delay. One of the others goes to disarm Tyrion, but Catelyn says to leave him his weapons, though she tells Tyrion she still does not trust him. They ride out, and Tyrion pushes up until he catches up with Catelyn at the front.
“As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted,” Tyrion began, “there is a serious flaw in Littlefinger’s fable. Whatever you may believe of me, Lady Stark, I promise you this—I never bet against my family.”
AS I THOUGHT. I so called Tyrion’s innocence on this, you guys.
Of course, I suppose it’s still theoretically possible that we’re being narratively hoodwinked here, since Tyrion never thinks to himself that he had nothing to do with it, only says so out loud, but if that turns out to be the case I will be more than a little disgusted from a literary criticism standpoint. There’s unreliable narrators, and then there’s trope abuse, and at this point making Tyrion guilty would definitely be the latter in my opinion.
Also, our Imp got to rather take a level in badass, didn’t he? AND prove that he’s got actual principles lurking in there, unlike some Lannisters I could mention. Go him!
I was both surprised and not surprised that he helped Catelyn during the raid: unsurprised, because it was totally consistent with the picture I’ve built of Tyrion’s character thus far, but also surprised, because I have become conditioned already to expect Martin to yank the rug out from under me re: character traits as a matter of course. And re: just about everything else, while I’m at it.
Not that I’m complaining, mind you; it’s great that this story is very frequently not doing what I expect it to, even if it is a tad like the literary equivalent of walking through a haunted house: you never know what deranged damn thing is going to jump out at you next. It’s fun, but unsettling, you know?
It continues to be difficult not to get angry at Catelyn, even though I really don’t think it’s fair to do so, as she does not have the privilege of being in Tyrion’s head the way we are, and without that, well, her suspicion and doubt are much more reasonable. The only thing I think she is genuinely being shortsighted on is her trust in Littlefinger, and even that is frustratingly understandable.
It’s been a long time since I read a story where I genuinely could not decide whose side of the conflict to be on. Because while overall, thus far, I am definitely pro-Stark and anti-Lannister, when it comes to this specific clash between Tyrion and Catelyn I am honestly torn.
Chapter 32: Arya
Arya is busy catching cats, using Syrio’s training. She’s caught all the cats in the Keep except this last wily black tom, who’s led her a merry chase through the castle, and now Arya has no idea where she is. She catches the cat just as Princess Myrcella and Prince Tommen and their entourage come upon her; neither one recognizes Arya, thinking she is a peasant boy, and Arya adroitly escapes when the guards try to grab her, running until she finds herself in a dark room. As her eyes adjust she realizes the room is filled with skulls of gigantic monsters, and she finds the way out into a dark corridor.
She comes upon a deep shaft in the corridor floor just as two men come up from it; one is from the Free Cities by his accent, and fat with a forked beard, and the other is stout and dark-haired, with a scarred face. They do not see Arya. They are talking about someone who has “found one bastard” and how “the rest will come soon.”
“The fools tried to kill his son, and what’s worse, they made a mummer’s farce of it. He’s not a man to put that aside. I warn you, the wolf and lion will soon be at each other’s throats, whether we will it or no.”
The fat one complains that they are not ready for war yet; the princess is pregnant, and the khal will not move until after the child is born. He suggests that if one Hand can die, why not another? The stout man tells him circumstances are different this time.
“This is no longer a game for two players, if ever it was. Stannis Baratheon and Lysa Arryn have fled beyond my reach, and the whispers say they are gathering swords around them. The Knight of Flowers writes Highgarden, urging his lord father to send his sister to court. The girl is a maid of fourteen, sweet and beautiful and tractable, and Lord Renly and Ser Loras intend that Robert should bed her, wed her, and make a new queen. Littlefinger the gods only know what game Littlefinger is playing. Yet Lord Stark’s the one who troubles my sleep. He has the bastard, he has the book, and soon enough he’ll have the truth. And now his wife has abducted Tyrion Lannister, thanks to Littlefinger’s meddling. Lord Tywin will take that for an outrage, and Jaime has a queer affection for the Imp. If the Lannisters move north, that will bring the Tullys in as well. Delay, you say. Make haste, I reply. Even the finest of jugglers cannot keep a hundred balls in the air forever.”
Soon after, the men move out of range, and Arya only catches snatches of their conversation as she follows them. She loses them, and after miles of walking she ends up in a sewer that dumps into the river. Arya cleans herself and her filthy clothes as best she can, and heads back to the Keep, where she is almost not let back in.
Eventually she is brought to Ned, who begins to scold her, but Arya interrupts with an extremely garbled version of what she had overheard, telling Ned that they were talking about killing him. Ned dismisses her story, telling her she had likely overheard mummers preparing for a show. Arya tries to insist, but they are interrupted by the arrival of a Black Brother named Yoren. Arya asks eagerly after Jon Snow and Benjen, but Yoren has more urgent news, which he refuses to divulge in front of Arya. Ned sends her out, and she goes reluctantly. Outside, she asks Desmond if they are going to let anyone kill her father, and he assures her they are not.
Yeah, there was no way in hell I was going to try and summarize/rephrase Stout Dude’s Speech of Infodumpification, there, so booyah, you get the whole original. Go you!
And, well, this is not frustrating AT ALL. I would yell at Ned to listen to his daughter, but if you read the way Arya tried to tell the story to him I can’t even blame him for thinking she was making shit up. Clearly, Syrio’s training is rather light on oratory skills.
So, obviously there was a lot of—well, I’m not going to go so far as to call it clarification, because it’s all way too head-scratching to rejoice in such a term—but there was a lot of, er, stuff, here. In no particular order:
Forked Beard Dude is Illyrio, duh. Stout Dude is obviously the same guy who paid off the armorer to apprentice Gendry, but other than that I still can’t place him. Possibly I still don’t have enough information to do so. Or I’m being spectacularly obtuse. Either is a distinct possibility. *shrug*
The wolf and the lion will be at each other’s throats, will they? Why, yes, Captain Obvious, I do believe we’re well down that road already, but thanks for playing!
It’s also pretty obvious what the overall scheme is here, or at least so I flatter myself: embroil the Seven Kingdoms in a nasty, draining civil war between the Lannisters and the Starks, and then sweep in with Dany and Drogo while everyone’s busy fighting each other and take them all out at their weakest. There’s about a million things that could go wrong with it, of course, but it’s pretty simple in principle, as these things go.
Speaking of schemes, I’m very interested in this plot of Renly and Loras’s to throw over Cersei for Loras’s sister. All things considered I’m in favor of it in principle; let Cersei and Jaime go off and fuck themselves, ha ha I see what I did there, and leave the rest of us alone, yeah?
Of course, without knowing the ultimate angle there, or how they expect to get rid of Cersei in the first place, for now it remains a fond pipe dream in my view. I’m unclear, at this point, whether Renly and Loras are off doing their own thing with this, or if they’re working with Stannis and Lysa. Or anyone else, for that matter.
I also still have no idea what this “truth” is Stout Dude and Illyrio are so anxious about Ned discovering. I’m okay with that, though. All good things to those who wait .
And then there’s this:
“So many?” The voices were fainter as the light dwindled ahead of her. “The ones you need are hard to find . . . so young, to know their letters . . . perhaps older . . . not die so easy . . . ”
“No. The younger are safer . . . treat them gently . . . ”
” . . . .if they kept their tongues . . . ”
” . . . the risk . . . “
And THIS, clearly, is um. Yeah, I got nothing.
In non-baffling, non-grownup news, Arya’s awesome continues to grow, even if she could really use a stint on the debate team. Ninja cat-catching skillz for the win! Seriously, anyone who’s ever tried to catch a cat who doesn’t want to be caught (a group in which I am sadly included) would give her mad props for her feats in that arena. I heart her so much, you guys.
And last but not least:
“It’s dead,” she said aloud. “It’s just a skull, it can’t hurt me.” Yet somehow the monster seemed to know she was there. She could feel its empty eyes watching her through the gloom, and there was something in that dim, cavernous room that did not love her.
Well, that’s not even slightly ominous, is it?
Aaand I’m spent. Have a lovely and probably Harry Potter-filled weekend, youse guys, and Imma see you later!