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 12 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 20 (“Catelyn”) and Chapter 21 (“Jaime”).
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, please note that the Read of Ice and Fire spoiler thread has been moved to a new thread here on Tor.com. 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!
Before we begin, scheduling note: there will be no posts for either Friday December 28th or the following Friday, January 4th, owing to travel and holidays and general insanity. The Read will resume on Friday January 11th. Cheers!
Chapter 20: Catelyn
Catelyn stands beside Robb’s throne as the corpses of two Lannister squires—Tion Frey and Willem Lannister—are laid before them, and wonders if Robb also sees the faces of Bran and Rickon there instead. The Greatjon brings in the perpetrators: Lord Rickard Karstark and four of his men. Edmure Tully says that they murdered two of his men in order to get to the dungeon where the boys had been imprisoned, and Karstark answers that it is not murder to remove those who stand in the way of a father’s vengeance. Catelyn feels sick, thinking that her actions are the cause of this.
Robb tells Karstark that his sons died honorably on the battlefield, and that the two squires had had nothing to do with it. Karstark answers that they were of the Kingslayer’s ilk, and “only blood can pay for blood.” He also says that Robb’s mother slew them just as much as he did; Robb answers angrily that this was his treason, and Karstark asks how it can be treason to kill Lannisters when it is not treason to free them. He mocks Robb for that, and the Greatjon begs Robb’s leave to gut the traitor, but then they are interrupted by the return of Ser Brynden, and Robb retires with him, Catelyn, and Edmure to speak privately. Before they go, he orders the other prisoners besides Karstark hung; one pleads for his life, insisting that he only stood watch, and Robb orders him hung last.
In private, Ser Brynden reports that all three hundred of Karstark’s fighting men have deserted, and Catelyn reflects miserably on the trap Robb is now in, surrounded by enemies except the useless Vale to the east and now having lost the Karstarks as well. Edmure argues that they can keep the murders a secret, but Robb replies that he owes their kin the truth and justice for it. He says that Karstark betrayed him, and he has no choice but to condemn him for it. They discuss Lord Rickard’s heir Harrion; Robb is sure this will make an enemy of him, and Edmure suggests keeping Rickard hostage to his son’s loyalty.
Robb says they have no word from Ser Rodrik, and neither Walder Frey nor Lysa Arryn have answered his letters. Catelyn opines that they will not hear from her sister at all, saying she was always the sort to run and hide when she’d done something wrong. Robb says he only wants her to open the Bloody Gate for him and provide ships so that he can flank Moat Cailin, but Brynden agrees that Lysa is too fearful to allow any army into the Vale. Robb flies into a rage, cursing Lysa as well as Rickard Karstark, Theon Greyjoy, Walder Frey, and Tywin Lannister, He shouts that he swore to himself to be a good king, loyal to his friends and deadly to his enemies, but now he can’t even tell which is which. Edmure urges him again to spare Lord Rickard, but Robb tells him that Rickard did more than kill those boys; he killed Robb’s honor, and he will die for it.
The next day the court gathers for Karstark’s execution, which Robb insists on performing himself. Lord Rickard reminds him bitterly of their families’ long and illustrious kinship and loyalty, and Robb answers that that did not stop him from betraying Robb. He asks for final words, and Karstark declares “Kill me, and be cursed. You are no king of mine.” Robb chops off his head; it takes three tries, and Catelyn prays for him when she sees him shaking after.
Later, Catelyn goes to sit at her father’s deathbed, and eventually Queen Jeyne comes to see her. Catelyn greets her respectfully, but calls her “Jeyne” at the queen’s insistence. Jeyne says she has come to ask for advice on Robb; he is so miserable and angry, she says, and she does not know what to do to comfort him. Catelyn tells her that sometimes the best thing to do is nothing; to be patient, and wait for him to come to her. She adds that the best thing to do for Robb is to give him an heir, and Jeyne smiles and says she has been taking a posset daily to increase her fertility, and that she and Robb “try” for children very frequently. She is confident she will be pregnant soon with twins, which she wants to name Eddard and Brandon. She leaves, and Catelyn prays that she is right.
As the sound of the rain on the roof mingled with her father’s breathing, she thought about Jeyne. The girl did seem to have a good heart, just as Robb had said. And good hips, which might be more important.
So, Jeyne seems very sweet, and she’s probably sincere in her affections (or else she is a fabulous actress), but I still have my suspicions of how the whole marriage came about in the first place, whether Jeyne herself was in on it or not. I wonder, if it turns out Robb was magically roofied into breaking his promise to the Freys, whether Jeyne’s childbearing hips will outweigh that betrayal?
It wouldn’t for me, but my values ain’t these people’s values. (She understates, dramatically.)
“Rickard Karstark killed more than a Frey and a Lannister. He killed my honor. I shall deal with him at dawn.”
Well, it seems that in some things, Robb Stark is very much his father’s son. Time will tell if that’s a good thing or not.
That aside, ouch. There is pretty much nothing about this situation that doesn’t suck for Robb, politically or personally. If we were looking for an image of a leader hemmed in and beleaguered on all sides, well, I think we’ve got one.
And Robb’s, what, still only fifteen? Dude. When I was fifteen my biggest problem was who to ask to the winter formal dance, and passing my driver’s test, and whether the school theater’s ancient lighting equipment was going to electrocute me before I could get them all hung for the spring play, and I thought I was going to lose my mind. This, I can hardly even get my brain around in comparison. (Spoiler: I was not electrocuted, though I got a couple of nasty shocks. Seriously, that rig was a lawsuit waiting to happen.)
Also, either Edmure is really not the sharpest knife in the drawer, or he’s secretly working for the Lannisters, because damn is that man a fount of bad ideas. Seriously, shut up, Edmure.
“Lord Umber,” said Robb, “this one was only the watcher. Hang him last, so he may watch the others die.”
Mm. Quite right. I mean, as long as we’re going with capital punishment for treason in the first place (which, obviously, we are), those who “merely” aided and abetted are just as guilty as the actual perpetrators.
Doesn’t do much for Robb’s hypocrisy re: sparing Catelyn, of course, but, well. I think that’s wrong even as I agree with it. That ought not to make any sense, but to me it does.
Catelyn’s characterization of her sister Lysa seemed spot on as well. I wonder if she’ll try to run away from Littlefinger, or just put him in her Dungeon of the Most Unfun Slides Ever?
Chapter 21: Jaime
When they come to Maidenpool, where the pond that gave the town its name is choked with corpses, Jaime begins singing the song about it loudly and taunting Brienne, asking if she wouldn’t like to go for a swim. Brienne ignores him, and Jaime falls to reflecting on Cersei, and how he and she slept together even as children, and how that had horrified their mother, who had separated them until she died giving birth to Tyrion. He thinks that perhaps Stannis and the Starks had done him a favor in spreading the rumors of his and Cersei’s incest around the kingdom, and that perhaps now he could wed her openly, just as the Targaryens had done, and wed Joffrey to Myrcella, propagating the tradition that royalty is exempt from incest laws. He also decides he will keep his word to send Sansa and Arya Stark back to their mother, just because everyone would expect him to do the opposite.
They are attacked by archers, and Ser Cleos Frey falls from his horse, but his foot catches in the stirrup and he is dragged off. Jaime yells at Brienne to charge the archers’ position, and is rather surprised when she joins him. The archers run, and Jaime offers to treat Brienne’s wounds (she has an arrow in her back and another in her leg), but Brienne is contemptuous. They find Cleos dead, dragged to death by his own horse, and Jaime argues that he should have Cleos’s sword, to help Brienne with watches. Brienne refuses to trust him so far, and in a fury Jaime grabs Cleos’s sword and attacks.
Brienne and Jaime spar, and he is increasingly impressed by his inability to defeat her, though he attributes it to his recent lack of conditioning and also that he is still fettered by chains. Eventually he is chilled to realize she is beating him, and refuses to accede to her shouts for him to yield. They end up in the river with Brienne pinning Jaime down, until they are interrupted by armed men laughing at them from the riverbanks. Jaime recognizes them as Vargo’s Bloody Mummers, and they discuss how best to rape Brienne until Jaime declares that they know him, and adds that the wench is highborn and will fetch a good ransom. Jaime demands that they free him, but the leader, Urswyck, tells him that the Brave Companions have switched allegiances from the Lannisters to the Starks.
Brienne shouts that they are with Lady Catelyn, and that Jaime is under her protection, but the Mummers ignore her and beat them both bloody before tying them onto a horse together to take back to their camp. Jaime feels sorry for what is going to happen to Brienne there, and warns her not to resist it; she asks what he would do if it were him, and Jaime answers that he would make them kill him first. Jaime tries to bribe Urswyck to break with Vargo and take them to King’s Landing, implying that Brienne’s family is also rich, and promises him pardons for betraying the Lannisters, but Urswyck casually slaps him and declares he would never trust the word of an oathbreaker.
They arrive at the camp, where Vargo’s men are desecrating a sept. Brienne again tries to invoke Catelyn and Robb Stark’s name, but Vargo ignores her, and Rorge drags her off the horse. Jaime is dragged to Vargo’s cook fire, where he tries to convince him to turn back to the Lannisters. Vargo lisps that he will have “half the gold in Cathterly Rock”, but first he must send Tywin a message. Urswyck knocks Jaime down, and others grab the chain binding his arms to pull them straight in front of him, whereupon the Dothraki draws his arakh. Jaime thinks it a gambit to frighten him, and is determined not to react.
Sunlight ran silver along the edge of the arakh as it came shivering down, almost too fast to see. And Jaime screamed.
Yeek! Well, either they just cut off Jaime’s arms/hands, or they chopped the chain on him. I’m betting the latter, just because that would be the more surprising reveal for whenever we come back to this storyline.
But I’m not nearly as interested in that as I am in Brienne’s fate, for which I rage for her, because goddammit. I’m really hoping something happens to keep her from getting gang-raped, but all things considered I probably shouldn’t hold my breath on that one. Shit. I know it sounds naïve to say, but that is just so fucking unfair. And horrible, and, and… shit.
I’m probably going to have to not think about it for now. At least until I have to.
And don’t think I see what Sneaky McSneakerson Mr. Martin is doing here with Jaime, either, trying to make me like him because he actually (sort of) respects and (sort of) is trying to (sort of) protect Brienne. Sort of. And now neither of those words make any sense anymore, but nevertheless Jaime is not forgiven, dammit! He threw a kid out of a window so he could fuck his sister some more! Hello!
Speaking of which, the Jaime and Cersei thing is really proof that… well, I’m having trouble deciding what it’s proof of, really. That cultural differences are seriously a bitch to get your head around, maybe? Because, Jaime’s thoughts on the Targaryens’ merry traditions of incest, while an example of a classic logical fallacy best expressed by my mother, i.e. Are you going to jump off a bridge just because everyone else is too?, do kind of provide an at least slightly better rationalization for Jaime’s conviction that his relationship with Cersei is justifiable.
But it doesn’t matter, I think, because incest is really just not justifiable in the end—for strictly biological reasons if nothing else. That said, Jaime’s daydreams about being able to openly marry Cersei made me kind of sad, because never gonna happen, dude. He’s still a horrible person, but in certain ways his life sucks almost as much as Tyrion’s.
Sheesh. Is anyone going to get a happy ending out of this story?
And that’s where we stop, kiddies! Have a lovely however you celebrate the end of the year, and assuming we all survive today I’ll see you in 2013!