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 24 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapters 49 (“Tyrion”) and 50 (“Theon”).
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 49: Tyrion
Tyrion sends the last of his clansmen off to raid and terrorize Stannis’s forces, feeling uneasy that he now only has Bronn’s sellswords and the City Watch to protect him, neither of whom are especially reliable. Someone throws a rotten fish at him from the crowd as he and his escort head back to the Keep, but Tyrion ignores it. He orders Bronn to have the ersatz slum that’s grown up along the walls burned down, as it would be disastrous in a siege, but he orders that there be no killing or rapine when the inhabitants are evicted.
He thinks of the news that Winterfell had fallen to the Greyjoys, and thinks it is wrong that the place should belong to anyone other than the Starks, even as he tells himself to rejoice in the reprieve it will give him, since Robb will surely have to turn his attention back North before anything else now.
He attends the long and boring ceremony where Joffrey and the new High Septon inducts Ser Balon Swann and Ser Osmund Kettleblack into the Kingsguard to replace the deceased, Preston Greenfield, and Ser Boros Blount, currently imprisoned after his total failure to protect Tommen when waylaid by Ser Jacelyn Bywater. Tyrion approves of Swann, but knows Kettleblack to be inferior, though he supposes he shouldn’t complain considering Kettleblack has been selling him information on Cersei from the beginning. He hopes to catch a glimpse of Shae with Lady Tanda’s daughter, but is unsuccessful. After the ceremony, Tyrion tells the new Septon to spread the news that Stannis plans to burn the Great Sept of Baelor if he takes the city, which might even be true.
He reads a letter from Balon Greyjoy, offering alliance (at a heavy price), and sets it aside for now. He meets with Hallyne the Pyromancer, and is startled and suspicious to learn that the Alchemists’ Guild are far ahead of schedule in their production of wildfire. Nervously, Hallyne tells him that they are working just as hard as they ever were, but now certain of their secret spells seem to be working better than they were.
Hallyne smiled weakly. “You don’t suppose there are any dragons about, do you?”
“Not unless you found one under the Dragonpit. Why?”
“Oh, pardon, I was just remembering something old Wisdom Pollitor told me once, when I was an acolyte. I’d asked him why so many of our spells seemed, well, not as effectual as the scrolls would have us believe, and he said it was because magic had begun to go out of the world the day the last dragon died.”
“Sorry to disappoint you, but I’ve seen no dragons.”
After Hallyne leaves, Bywater reports that Tommen is doing well in Rosby, and plans have been made to take him to a safe place that even Tyrion does not know in the event the city falls. Then Varys comes to report of a new group of conspirators calling themselves “the Antler Men,” which includes the master armorer Salloreon, who believe Stannis will be victorious and are planning to seize the Old Gate to admit the enemy to the city. Tyrion sighs and begins writing out an order for Salloreon’s arrest.
Ah, but Tyrion, there are dragons in the world again, aren’t there?
So that is very interesting information, I must say. The amount of magic in the world is commensurate with how many dragons there are bopping around, reallllllly. I am intrigued.
Though I’m guessing this isn’t terribly widespread knowledge, because otherwise I cannot account for how every wizard in the world isn’t trying to kidnap Dany’s dragons for themselves. Even Pyat Pree and Co. didn’t seem to be focusing on (i.e. trying to eat) the dragons, but rather on Dany herself, and so now I don’t know if that was just oversight on their part or lack of information on mine. All things considered, of course, it’s probably the latter.
So does this mean the bigger the dragons get, the better magic will work? ‘Cause that could make things real interesting in the long run
In other news, maybe I’m just a sucker, but Tyrion’s thoughts in this chapter about Winterfell just reinforce how much I like him. Being able to genuinely mourn the fall of your enemy’s stronghold on, well, I guess you would say aesthestic grounds, even while acknowledging the advantage it gives you, takes a subtlety and intelligence a lot of people don’t have.
I just like that Tyrion recognized that, all political considerations aside, seeing the Starks lose Winterfell is still a tragedy from a historical viewpoint. Or something, I’m not sure I’m expressing this correctly, but hopefully you get what I mean. I like characters (and people) who can value something for reasons aside from how it affects them personally, I guess.
Aside from that, I’m getting a steadily-stronger whiff of fatalism from Tyrion these days. Which I guess is pretty understandable, considering the crap he’s been given to try and make an effective defensive force out of. Still, his father’s aphorism he thinks of here (“one man on a wall is worth ten below it”) is very true from what I know of siege warfare. I’m not saying Tyrion should be cheery about his situation, exactly, but I can’t help feeling there’s maybe less reason to feel totally doomed than he does.
Not to mention, the wildfire alone could be a decisive factor in denying an attempt to take the city. Because I feel pretty safe in saying that any given soldier’s combat effectiveness can be safely assumed to drop more or less to zero once he’s, you know, on fire. Call it a hunch.
Either way, I kind of have to hope that the situation comes to a head soon, if for no other reason that maybe when someone finally wins this thing, the poor city folk can start working on getting the infrastructure back up and running and stop all the very depressing starving to death they’re currently doing, because that shit is just not on anymore.
Not that it ever was on, of course, but you know what I mean. Enough is enough; it’s time for this war to shit or get off the pot. So to speak.
Chapter 50: Theon
Theon wakes suddenly, and cannot immediately figure out why until he realizes that the direwolves have fallen silent. He sends Urzen and Wex to check on the wolves and the Stark boys, respectively, and soon they return to report that both are gone, and Theon orders that the whole castle be roused and gathered in the courtyard. He is furious that this is how the castle folk repaid his “gentleness,” and thinks it unfair that they blame him for the rapes and murders perpetrated by him and his men (including the septon, Chayle) even when he’d punished his men for going overboard.
At the Hunter’s Gate, they find the two sentries dead, one disemboweled and partially dismembered, and the other clearly killed mid-coitus. Theon curses to himself that he should have had the direwolves killed the day he took the castle, and goes to where the castle folk are gathered. Reek tells him in addition to the Starks and the wolves, “that bog boy and his sister, the halfwit from the stables, and your wildling woman” are also missing, but no horses were taken. Theon is heartened by the knowledge that his quarry are on foot.
He tries to appeal to the castle folk for help, reminding them that he could have had them all killed and/or raped, but he hadn’t, and is angered when they all just stare at him. He conscripts some of the huntsmen anyway, as well as Maester Luwin, to accompany him and his men on the search. To his surprise, the elder Walder Frey volunteers as well, saying he wants a wolfskin cloak.
The party follows the trail north-northwest; as they ride, Luwin urges Theon to have mercy on the escapees, reminding him of the hostage value of not only Bran and Rickon, but of the Reed siblings as well. Theon agrees to spare them if he can, and the halfwit as well, but Osha must die for betraying her oath. They follow the trail to a brook, where Theon realizes that the wolves’ trail they’d been following must have diverged from the humans’, and splits the group up to backtrack the trail thus far and also to search up and down the water.
The search is unsuccessful, and Theon is incredulous and enraged that a woman and and halfwit burdened with a cripple and a small child could elude him so completely. Walder opines that the “frogeaters” have unnatural powers of woodcraft and stealth; Luwin puts in that the crannogmen may have “secret knowledge” from their close association with the children of the forest back in the day, but Theon scoffs and continues the search. They continue to find nothing, however, and finally Theon is about to give up, despairing of what his father and Asha will say, when Reek approaches him and says that he believes the fugitives are holed up in the old mill on the Acorn Water. Theon demands to know why he is so sure, and Reek shows him a wolfshead brooch of silver and jet. Theon then tells all but his own men to return to the castle, as he knows where the fugitives are.
“Prince Theon,” Maester Luwin entreated, “you will remember your promise? Mercy, you said.”
“Mercy was for this morning,” said Theon. It is better to be feared than laughed at. “Before they made me angry.”
Er, okay. I don’t get the significance of the brooch. Unless Reek is saying that Osha et al paid him off with it, and that’s how he knows where they went. In which case I have to be utterly boggled that Osha or the Reeds or even Bran could possibly be stupid enough to trust that a guy like Reek would stay bought. Because that would be a great big Hell to the No, kids. Seriously.
*shrug* But, maybe they had no choice in the matter. Maybe Reek caught them on the way out or something, who knows. But in that case I have to be boggled that Osha or the wolves didn’t just kill him, but whatever, I’m going on insufficient info here so I should probably shut up until I find out what really happened.
That aside, go Osha, for totally breaking her oath to Theon! Normally I am not big on people who don’t keep their promises, but when they are made to assholes like Theon I will cheerfully make an exception. I have always held to the philosophy that an oath given under duress (which I would say “swear fealty or get gang-raped” certainly counts as) has all the moral validity of uh, a thing that has no moral validity. You know what I mean!
Because, really. Someone holds a gun to your head, threatens you or your family, then you swear to anything and everything they want you to and then you fucking betray their bastard asses the second their backs are turned, sez me. Just as Osha did, which makes her my favorite person at the moment and a girl after my own heart. Though I am a trifle surprised that the escape happened so quick. But then again, why the hell would they want to stick around with Theon the Joyless Wonder? So, yeah.
[Kyra] came to him wet and eager and lithe as a weasel, and there had been a certain undeniable spice to fucking a common tavern wench in Lord Eddard Stark’s own bed.
Uh-huh. You stay classy, Theon. *eyeroll*
Actually I’m eyerolling at Theon anyway, with his “Wah, my former friends all think I suck now!”, because (a) you do suck, so the denizens of Winterfell are basically only guilty of accuracy here, and (b) of COURSE they hate you, Theon, you just overthrew their castle, murdered and raped their friends, and are now about to go hunt down their liege lords like animals! I think the operative word here is DUH, you blithering moron! The fact that you even momentarily entertained any doubts on this score just seals the deal on the sheer epicness of your fail! YOU ARE A GIANT DOUCHE, HELLO, DID YOU NOT GET THE MEMO.
Also, wow, that Walder kid is a real little shit, isn’t he. Not that this comes as a shock or anything.
But, Bran and Co. have escaped! Huzzah! Now he’s off to see the wizard the elves the children of the forest! And hopefully not taking any mill-related detours on the way!
Well, we’ll see, won’t we? And until then, I solemnly bestow upon you a weekend! Use it well, my chickies, and I will see you again next week!