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 22 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapters 46 (“Bran”) and 47 (“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 46: Bran
In the godswood, Summer hears and smells intruders, and howls to alert the sleeping men inside the castle, but no one heeds him. He and Shaggydog run to the gate and try to break in, but are unsuccessful. A voice inside him tells him to go to a great tree that slants over the wall, and remembers climbing it as a boy, but Summer knows that climbing trees are not a wolf’s way, and balks at first. But desperation at the oncoming intruders goads him, and Summer tries the ascent, but he slips and falls out of the tree two-thirds of the way up.
Bran wakes crying Summer’s name, and realizes Jojen was right about him, that he was “a beastling.” He also knows that Jojen’s dream has come true, and the sea is flowing over the walls. He screams for help, but no one comes, and Bran remembers that Rodrik had stripped the garrison almost bare to go to the aid of Torrhen’s Square, which was under siege. Then Theon Greyjoy enters Bran’s room, and at first Bran is relieved to see him, thinking Robb had sent him, but Theon tells him he is a prince now, and that he has taken Winterfell, and that Bran will order his people to serve him as they did their old lord. Bran refuses and Theon tells him he will if he cares for the safety of his people.
He leaves, and Maester Luwin soon comes, sporting wounds. He bemoans his lack of foresight, and tells Bran that only one bird escaped, the one sent to White Harbor. He tells Bran there is no shame in yielding to Theon in order to protect his people.
Theon gathers Bran, Rickon, and the rest of the surviving household in the main hall, many of them wounded and/or raped. They also bring in the prisoner Reek, who explains to Theon that he was in the service of the Bastard of Dreadfort until the Starks killed him. Theon begins to speak, but the blacksmith Mikken interrupts with insults and taunts. Brad tells Mikken to be silent, and tells the room he has yielded to Theon and they should obey him. Theon tells them that his father Balon has crowned himself King of the Iron Islands, and claims the north by conquest. Mikken continues to make a ruckus until one of the ironmen drive a spear through his neck, killing him. Hodor starts shouting and the ironmen beat him up. Theon tells them that Torrhen’s Square and Deepwood Motte will soon be his as well, and Robb Stark may end up King of the Trident, but House Greyjoy holds the north now.
Reek offers his fealty to Theon, and Theon agrees provided he take a bath. Then Osha steps forward and declares that she wants to swear fealty as well, to Bran’s distress. Theon tells her he needs fighters, not “kitchen sluts”, but Osha knocks one of his men down and takes his spear, which amuses Theon, and he accepts. Then he dismisses the household and a sobbing, beaten-up Hodor takes Bran away.
Well, this blows syphilitic goats.
Boo, Theon. Boo, pseudo-Vikings. Boo, rape and pillage of Winterfell. Boo, trying to snake Robb’s kingdom out from under him. Boo to all of it. Boo!
If it were up to me I would totally vote them off the island. Or rather, I would vote them off the mainland and back onto their island, and make them stay there. Forever. Because boo!
And would someone please go check and see if Summer is okay, for God’s sake? He’d better be okay. I’m all for symmetry, usually, but having a crippled boy’s wolf soulmate/astral projection buddy/thingy also end up crippled is just taking it way too far if you ask me. Besides, how are the Wonder Swamp Twins going to smuggle Bran out of the castle to go find the elves children of the forest if they have to carry both him and his wolf?
Because that is totally going to happen. The escaping part, I mean. Yes. I have Said It, therefore it will happen. By the power of my Wishin’ An’ Hopin’! *nodnod*
And Hodor will go with them, also because I said so. Everyone stop beating up poor Hodor, dammit!
And as long as I am potentially embarrassing myself with possibly wildly off-the-mark predictions, I also call bullshit on Osha’s pledging fealty to Theon. Granted, it’s probably the smartest (possibly the only) option available to her in terms of self-protection, but Osha does not strike me as the long-term loyalty type, at all, at least not to the likes of Theon. My bet is she’ll play along and pretend allegiance until she has a chance to run, and then she’s outta there. Hopefully she’ll take Bran and Co. along with, since Bran seems to be just about the only person she even remotely likes there but then again that’s a big risk, taking Theon’s single biggest piece of leverage, so maybe she won’t. I dunno.
The Summer POV was pretty neat, by the way, but I disapprove of Bran’s terminology in calling himself a “beastling,” because that is a very unsexy word and I veto it. It’s even worse than “warg.” At least “warg” has the inherent amusement factor going for it. Warg warg warg warg warg warg warg warg warg warg warg warg okay I’ll shut up.
So, yes. But all that aside, my point is, Boooooooooooo.
Feh. Feh, I say!
Chapter 47: Arya
Arya is in the kitchens pestering Hot Pie, who warns her that she shouldn’t be there, but Arya is unafraid of Weese’s replacement, a drunkard nicknamed Pinkeye. She hears horns, and goes to the gates to see the Bloody Mummers returning with a load of booty, including a bear in a cage, and at least a hundred noble prisoners, some of whose sigils Arya recognizes with dismay as belonging to houses loyal to Robb. Ser Amory Lorch comes out and Vargo Hoat presents the prisoners to him, saying they were captured from Roose Bolton’s forces. Lorch is displeased at Hoat’s good fortune and orders the prisoners thrown into the dungeon in disregard of Hoat’s promises to them of good treatment.
Arya wanders off, safe to wander about the keep now that less than a hundred men hold it, and goes to the armory to visit Gendry. She tries to convince Gendry to help her rescue the prisoners, but Gendry tells her they don’t have a chance of success, and tells her he doesn’t care who rules the castle as long as they leave him alone. Arya points out that he still has the queen’s men after him, but Gendry insists that they were never after him. Furious at his stubbornness, Arya storms out.
She thinks about Jaqen, and how he had made her brave again, but that she had avoided him after Weese, whose murder she has concluded could only have been accomplished via magic. She suspects that she is putting off naming her third death because after it is done she will only be a mouse again, with no power. She decides to go to the godswood and practice Syrio’s drills with her hidden practice sword. Afterwards, she decides on a whim to pray to the old gods, asking them to help her get the prisoners free and get her home to Winterfell, and to help her not be afraid anymore.
Jaqen finds her there, scaring her, and demands her third name, saying he wants to be done. He reveals that he knows her real name and house, and Arya wonders if the gods had sent him in answer to her prayer and tries to convince him to help her rescue the prisoners. Jaqen counters that she is only owed one death. Arya asks if she could name anyone and Jaqen swears an oath that he would kill anyone she named, no matter who it was, even a king.
He knelt beside her, so they were face-to-face, “A girl whispers if she fears to speak aloud. Whisper it now. Is it Joffrey?”
Arya put her lips to his ear. “It’s Jaqen H’ghar.”
Jaqen is genuinely distraught and warns her that she will lose her only friend, and Arya tells him a true friend would help her. Jaqen asks if she will take back the name if “a friend” did help her, and Arya says she would. Jaqen instructs her to go to the kitchens and tell them the lord orders broth and wait till he comes. Arya goes resisting the temptation to tell Hot Pie what was happening. She is dismayed when Jaqen appears with both Rorge and Biter, but Jaqen overrides the cook’s protests and the four of them take four kettles of hot broth down to the dungeons, pretending it is supper for the guards. Once there, the men fling the boiling hot broth in the guards’ faces, and then proceed to methodically slaughter them while they are writhing in agony.
They free the prisoners and their leader introduces himself as Robett Glover while the rest, suddenly not seeming as wounded as they had earlier, quickly arm themselves and slip up to the main keep. Glover remarks that he hadn’t expected this, and asks if they are Hoat’s men. Rorge replies that they are now. Jaqen introduces them and Arya cuts in that her name is Weasel before Jaqen can give anything away. The Northmen go to subdue the castle and Arya takes back Jaqen’s name. She asks if she still has a third death, but Jaqen chides her not to be greedy; the debt is repaid. She agrees reluctantly.
Jaqen tells her that now he must die, to Arya’s confusion, and before her eyes changes into an entirely different man, with curly black hair and a gold tooth. Amazed, Arya asks if she can do that too, and he offers to teach her if she comes with him, “Far and away, across the narrow sea.” Arya tells him she must go home and Jaqen gives her an iron coin and tells her if she ever needs to find him again, to give the coin to any man from Braavos, and say the words “valar morghulis.” She begs him not to go, but he tells her he has promises to keep, and leaves.
The next morning, Pinkeye tells the servants that Harrenhal has been taken, and the Bloody Mummers killed Ser Amory’s men as they drank. Shagwell the Fool prances about and sings about how the men died of “hot weasel soup,”and Arya tries to ignore him. That evening the new lord of Harrenhal arrives and Shagwell drags her in front of him. Roose Bolton asks her for her real name, and Arya tells him it is Nymeria, or Nan for short. Bolton rewards her for her soup antics by naming her his new cupbearer. Later the new occupants of Harrenhal feast while Ser Amory Lorch is thrown naked into a bear pit.
The bear is all in black, Arya thought. Like Yoren. She filled Roose Bolton’s cup, and did not spill a drop.
OH MY GOD YOU ARE KIDDING ME.
Arya. Arya Arya Arya ARYA. You had a chance to KILL JOFFREY. You had a chance to make him no more! Passed on! Bleedin’ demised! Bucked the kicket! No longer pining for the fjords! HE COULD HAVE BEEN AN EX-JOFFREY!
But no. Instead you rescued a bunch of guys who didn’t actually need to be rescued! I mean, not that the way you tricked Jaqen into helping you do it wasn’t very clever and all, because it totally was, but ARGH.
So there it is: all three death wishes, wasted. *headdesk*
Okay, I am being kind of terrible here, and I don’t really mean it. Well, I mean it a little, because boy would I like to see Joffrey shuffled off this mortal coil, preferably with a good swift kick in the nuts to knock him off it. But I am not actually going to seriously chastise Arya for choosing to rescue her brother’s liegemen over having someone assassinated. It’s hardly her fault she didn’t know the whole prisoner thing was a set-up, after all.
Not that (if we’re going to be coldblooded about it) Joffrey’s death wouldn’t have likely been a greater boon to Robb in the long run than taking Harrenhal would, but Arya has to think about saving her own skin too. So, I’m grumpy about it, but ultimately I can’t really find fault with the decision. Mumble grumble blah.
Although, speaking of the fake prisoner set-up, since when are the Bloody Mummer guys on the Northmen’s side? I mean, maybe it doesn’t matter, but the motivation for the flip is pretty murky to me. Unless Hoat did it because he hates Amory Lorch just that much. (Which, okay, I’ll concede that if anyone were going to inspire treason-level hatred in a guy, Lorch is or rather, was probably a prime candidate, but still.) Or were Hoat et al always double agents for the North? Either way, I feel like that was very random. I don’t know why I feel that way, but I do.
And I’m still a little miffed that the inside job thing pulled the rug out from under Arya’s own rescue mission. But then again, it’s probably better that it did, because if Arya really wants to stay under the radar, being almost single-handedly responsible for making a palace coup possible is, I’m thinking, not the way to go.
As it is, I don’t see how on earth girl thinks she’s going to go unrecognized for much longer, being constantly at Bolton’s elbow and surrounded by lords loyal to her brother Robb, at least some of whom must have seen her at some point, surely. I’m kind of surprised that Bolton or someone hasn’t already recognized her, frankly. But then again, maybe it isn’t so surprising; people tend to see what they expect to see, and Arya by this time probably looks absolutely nothing like what she did the last time any of these lords might have potentially seen her.
One might also wonder why Arya doesn’t just reveal herself to them anyway, but I’m personally not surprised that she didn’t. It’s not like the world has given Arya tons of opportunities thus far to experience the joys of trusting her fellow man. So, yeah.
(She called herself “Nymeria”. *sniffle*)
And then there is Jaqen, and the whole bowl of WTF he brought in this chapter.
So, he was magically disguised, okay, sure, he’s a sorcerer of some kind, sure, no problem, though if you ask me it’s a sucky kind of magic that can’t even get you out of chains or a burning barn, but I really hope I’m not supposed to recognize his true appearance, or know what “Valar morghulis” means, because other than my strong suspicion that the phrase probably doesn’t translate to “hugs and puppies,” I got nothing.
I’m presuming, therefore, that We Have Not Seen The Last Of Him. Call it a hunch.
Also, was he really actually going to kill himself, literally (rather than the symbolic way he did later) if Arya hadn’t taken his name back? Because, wow. I’m all for committing to honesty and all, but jeez. Or maybe it’s a geas kind of thing; I have no bloody clue how his magic works, but I can’t think of any other reason why any remotely sane person would actually go through with being ordered to assassinate themselves.
Then again, this. *shrug* So, okay, but again I say: Wow.
Also, bye, Ser Amory Lorch! I hope you enjoy being mauled to death by a bear! Oh, you don’t think you will? Aw, that’s okay, I’ll enjoy it for you. Ta!
So, now the situation stands that Tywin Lannister’s base of operations is held by the North and Winterfell isn’t. This is some messed up shit here, y’all. And where the hell is Robb at this point? I can’t remember if I’m even supposed to know. It would be even more hilarious if Robb has Casterly Rock right now; for maximum topsy-turviness, but I think that’s probably not too likely. But then again, who knows?
Not me, that’s for sure, at least not this week! Have a lovely summer weekend on me, kids, and I’ll see you next Friday!