A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings, Part 9

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 9 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapters 18 (“Sansa”) and 19 (“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 18: Sansa

What Happens
Sansa reads the unsigned note someone had left on her pillow (“Come to the godswood tonight, if you want to go home“) and agonizes over whether it is a genuine offer of help, or a trap. She debates taking it to the queen to show her loyalty, but cannot help hoping it is the answer to her prayers. One of her maids comes in, and Sansa hides the note hastily, unsure of whether the girl saw it. Cersei changes her servants regularly so she cannot befriend them, and she is sure they are all spying on her. She sends the girl away and then burns the note. She is not sure how she would even get past the knight on the drawbridge to go to the grove anyway.

She goes to bed, still wrestling with the dilemma. She wishes she had someone to tell her what to do, but Septa Mordane is dead, and she still doesn’t even know what happened to Jeyne Poole. She even misses Arya, though she is sure Arya must be home safe and happy by now. She hears a commotion from below and sees men running on the walls, and then sees that the guard on the drawbridge is gone. She throws on a cloak and takes a knife, even as she thinks herself mad for risking this, and hurries out. She sees Joffrey in the courtyard, but he does not see her.

She runs to the godswood, and is heartbroken when she sees that it is Ser Dontos waiting for her there. She can tell he is drunk, but Dontos insists that he wants to help her. She doesn’t believe him, and laments aloud that she had prayed for a knight and instead got a fool.

“I deserve that, though… I know it’s queer, but… all those years I was a knight, I was truly a fool, and now that I am a fool I think… I think I may find it in me to be a knight again, sweet lady. And all because of you… your grace, your courage. You saved me, not only from Joffrey, but from myself.”

He reminds her of the story of Florian and Jonquil, and falls to his knees before her. Sansa asks how he would get her away, and Dontos admits it will be difficult, but will find a way. He tells her his life is “a poor thing,” but it is hers, and swears before the gods to get her home. Sansa is unsure, but accepts. Dontos says he doesn’t dare risk another note, and tells her that she must come to the godswood as often as she can to meet with him, as no other place is safe. He also warns her that he will have to continue mocking her in his role as fool. She agrees, but begs him to work as fast as he can. She kisses his cheek and leaves.

On her way back, she runs headlong into the Hound. He is very drunk, and demands to know where she’s been. She tells him she was in the godswood, praying for her father and for Joffrey. He calls her a liar, and tells him to sing a song for her. He pushes her back toward her rooms, but gently. At the drawbridge, he is rude to Ser Boros Blount, and covers for Sansa when Blount asks where she went. Blount tells them there was trouble at the gate, with cityfolk rioting over the rumor that there is to be a feast for Tyrek’s wedding.

As they go on, Sansa asks Clegane why he prefers being called a dog over being called a knight. Clegane tells her the story of how his grandfather was kennelmaster at Casterly Rock, and his dogs saved Lord Tytos Lannister from a lioness attack, and received lands and a squireship for his son in return.

“The three dogs on our banner are the three that died, in the yellow of autumn grass. A hound will die for you, but never lie to you. And he’ll look you straight in the face.”

Sansa promises to sing him a song one day gladly. He snorts and calls her a bad liar, and warns her that she is surrounded by liars much better at it than herself.

Ain’t nothing wrong with a hound, yes… as long as the hound doesn’t go rabid.

Clegane hasn’t so far, at least not as far as Sansa is concerned, but that’s no guarantee of anything. I think that he genuinely likes her, even admires her in his own way, but a man like him is exactly the kind to destroy what he loves if the wrong thing happens. All it takes is one bad day. I was frankly kind of surprised that this one wasn’t it.

As for Ser Dontos… ehhhhhh. He makes me very nervous. I believe he’s totally sincere, for what that’s worth, and I think it’s highly admirable of him that he’s willing to take such a risk for honor’s sake, but again, a man subject to such self-destructive behavior (even if his is a different type altogether from Clegane’s), well, it’s difficult to trust that he can stand up under pressure when it counts. I would love to believe that he’ll come through for Sansa, but given her luck so far… ehhhhh.

Then again, maybe she’s due for a change. I deeply, deeply hope so.

I wonder if maybe I’m supposed to be annoyed that Sansa is practically the archetype of the damsel in distress here, wishing and praying for (literally) a knight in shining armor to swoop down and save her from peril. But the thing is, I’m really not.

I would be annoyed if all the female characters were just sitting around waiting for men to rescue them all the time, but that is extremely demonstrably not the case, and it’s simply a truth that not everyone can be strong in the same way as, say, Arya or Catelyn or Daenerys are. The fact that Sansa is actually the exception as opposed to the rule when it comes to the major female characters in ASOIAF makes me very happy, in fact. The women in this world have practically everything working against them, and yet Martin has managed to make that not a way to marginalize them, but instead has made it the gauntlet they run to prove their worth. I appreciate that.

And as I’ve said before, Sansa has consistently been displaying her own kind of strength, and her version of it is just as admirable, if not even more so in its way. And besides, I don’t know that anyone in her situation would be any less trapped than she. There is a certain virtue in recognizing when you are simply in over your head and need help.

That said, it is a frightening thing to be dependent on the bravery of others. Especially when “others” consists of a disgraced drunkard and a borderline sociopath with a chip on his shoulder the size of Utah. “Any port in a storm,” indeed. I continue to be very concerned for her future.

Chapter 19: Arya

What Happens
From a high branch, Arya examines the village by the lake shore, which shows signs of occupation. She thinks back to the night after the raid; she had insisted they sneak back to the fort to find Yoren, but they had only found his corpse, and Arya couldn’t decide whether to cry or kick the body. The only other survivors they’d found were Tarber, Cutjack, and Kurz, but Kurz had died of his wounds a few days later, and Tarber and Cutjack abandoned them soon after, so now they were down to Arya, Gendry, Hot Pie, Weasel (the refugee girl) and Lommy, who had taken a wound to the leg during the fight and now could no longer walk. They’ve been traveling for days, surviving on berries and acorns and bugs.

She climbs back down and tells the others that there are people in the village, and they argue over whether the people there would kill them or give them food. Lommy and Hot Pie want to yield, but Gendry tells them to shut up. He says he’ll go scout after dark, but Arya says she should go. Gendry says they’ll both go, and refuses to change his mind even though Hot Pie and Lommy beg him not to leave them alone with Weasel. He promises they’ll come back, and he and Arya leave.

Once away, Gendry tells Arya that he thinks Lommy is going to die, and the sooner the better. He think they should leave him and Hot Pie and Weasel too, before they get them all killed.

“You’re the only one of the bunch who’s good for anything. Even if you are a girl.”

Arya froze in her steps. “I’m not a girl!

“Yes you are. Do you think I’m as stupid as they are?”

Arya insists he’s wrong, but Gendry dares her to prove it by taking a piss in front of him. She tries to divert him by demanding to know why the gold cloaks are after him, but Gendry says he has no idea, and counters by asking why she thought they were after her. Arya realizes the game is up, and decides to trust him. She tells him her real name: Arya, of House Stark. Gendry connects the dots and is shocked to realize who her father is, but even more that she is a highborn lady. He starts stammering apologies for talking crudely in front of her, calling her “m’lady.” Arya hisses at him to stop that, and tells him he’d better keep on treating her the same way he’d been.

“As m’lady commands.”

Arya slammed his chest with both hands. He tripped over a stone and sat down with a thump. “What kind of lord’s daughter are you?” he said, laughing.

This kind.” She kicked him in the side, but it only made him laugh harder.

They continue on to the village, and agree to split up. Arya reaches the shoreline and sees that a gibbet has been thrown up, with six dead corpses rotting on it, covered in crows and flies. There are two armed guards there as well. As Arya watches, they are joined by a third man, who is dragging a captive; Arya realizes it is Gendry by the horned helm they take off him. The guards rough him up and drag him to a storehouse; when they open the doors to toss him inside, a small boy tries to run out but is caught. Arya then sees the banners over the long building: one is the Lannisters’, and the other is three dogs on a field of yellow, which Arya finds familiar but cannot place.

Arya waits and watches while more men show up with food, and others come out to eat and then leave again. Finally there is only the two guards left, and Arya sneaks back to where Hot Pie and Lommy are. She tells them what happened, and tells Hot Pie he has to help her get Gendry out. Hot Pie insists they can’t, and Lommy wants to either go give themselves up to the men or just leave without Gendry. Arya refuses to budge, and reluctantly Hot Pie agrees to come with her.

Arya has to lead Hot Pie by the hand through the woods, and they creep toward the storehouse, until Hot Pie is startled by a crow and gives their position away. He stands and throws down his sword, screaming that he yields. Arya tries to fight but is quickly disarmed, to her shame. They are brought before a huge man, wearing the dog banner on his surcoat, and Arya remembers that this is the Hound’s brother, the “Mountain That Rides”. Hot Pie leads Clegane and the others to where Lommy is; Lommy immediately yields as well, though Weasel has run off. Clegane demands to know where “that whoreson Dondarrion” is, but Lommy doesn’t know what he is talking about. When he admits that he cannot walk, one of the other men casually drives his spear through Lommy’s throat, killing him.

Oh em gee, you guys, Gendry knew Arya is a girl! And didn’t care! I love him! Squee!

He is totally my favorite now and should marry Arya so they can be awesome together forever. I am going to draw hearts around their names on my Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper and cover them with glitter and shiny star stickers. And UNICORNS. Gendry/Arya FTW! Their Love Will Be So True!

…Er, assuming he survives, of course. He’d better survive! And Arya too, but I have (slightly) more confidence that Arya will make it out than Gendry. So I’m crossing my fingers big time here.

Because they have been captured by Gregor Clegane, and that is Not Good, if I may be allowed to make such a wild understatement. If they discover Arya is a girl… *shudder*

Well, not that it would have gone much better if anyone who captured them found out she is a girl, admittedly, but Clegane adds that special extra dash of spicy dread to the shit stew Arya et al are currently in. Maybe Nymeria will come and save them, y/y?

Nicely done, by the way, the set-up in the Sansa chapter for this one, where Sandor explains to Sansa about his family sigil, which made the reveal re: the banners in this chapter work exactly right. Very clever.

In other news: Aw, Yoren’s dead. That sucks! I will miss him, oddly. He was gross, but he had gumption, which is more than a lot of these characters can claim.

Semi-relatedly, I realize now I was a bit thrown by Sansa’s assumption in the last chapter that Arya would undoubtedly be back in Winterfell living the high life, because I had this (apparently completely erroneous) assumption that Sansa had been led to believe that Arya was dead. So, what, Sansa thinks that Arya escaped? But who does she think Arya escaped with, then? Oh, maybe she thinks that Arya made it to the ship they were supposed to leave on? Okay, that makes sense.

Anyway, back to this chapter. And not only Yoren, but Lommy died too. And… well. It’s terrible, and the way he died was awful, but… yeah, I’m having some trouble generating a whole lot of sympathy for him.

[Lommy:] “I need some potion for my leg, it hurts bad.”

“If we see any leg potion, we’ll bring it,” Gendry said.


Sorry, but he was just kind of a shit. I feel like maybe I am a bad person for not feeling more for him, but honestly I only have just so much commiseration to go around for fictional characters, and ASOIAF is kind of stretching my commiserating reserves to the max, so, well, there you go.

And speaking of characters deserving commiseration: Poor Weasel. I wonder whether we’ll ever see her again. And whether anyone will ever give her a better name, because wow.

And what happened to the Psychos Three? There’s no doubt that at least Jaqen survived the fighting, because there’s just gotta be more to his story. It would probably be very ironic and hilarious if they ended up rescuing Arya and Gendry and Hot Pie, but all things considered I think that’s rather unlikely. Unless they’re in that storehouse already? ‘Tis a possibility, I suppose.

I do like the parallels in these two chapters, with both sisters finding that they have to make the decision to trust someone who they know may choose to betray them, and each finding the courage to trust anyway. Trust is a difficult task under any circumstances, and in Arya and Sansa’s respective situations, well, it’s even more miraculous than it might otherwise be. Regardless of whether either of their choices comes back to bite them in the ass, I applaud that they both had the courage (and the sense) to take the chance where the benefit might truly make the difference between survival and… not.

And by the way, I have probably already gone on about this too much already, but I really do have to reiterate my love for Arya. I have respect for Sansa, but I really identify with Arya, in case that wasn’t already screamingly obvious. She is just so kickass and resourceful and awesome, I heart her for days.

There are a number of characters that I will be very upset about if Martin kills them off, but Arya is probably one of the only ones (Jon is the other) who I will actually have to chuck the book across the room if she dies. Please do not shit on my dream of Arya growing up to be amazing, GRRM!

And with that heartfelt plea, we out! Have a delightful weekend, me chickies, and I’ll see you next week!


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