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 29 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 49 (“Catelyn”) and Chapter 50 (“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, please note that the Powers That Be have provided you a lovely spoiler 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, MAJOR SCHEDULING NOTE, PLEASE TAKE HEED: Okay, so I realize that this is probably some of the worst timing ever, but nevertheless a veritable concatenation of scheduling conflicts, on both my part and on Tor.com’s, have led us to conclude that the Read will have to go on a very brief hiatus for next week. Therefore, there will be no AROIAF post next Friday, May 24th.
I know, we suck, I’m sorry, but it had to be done. Hopefully you will all find a way for your hearts to go on.
AND ALSO, pursuant to some of those same ongoing scheduling conflicts, henceforth the Read is also moving to a different day, as Friday is no longer tenable for at least the near future. Therefore, after the one-week hiatus the Read will resume on Thursday, May 30th, and forward from there will continue to be published on Thursdays until further notice.
Okay? So: no post next week, and posts on Thursdays from now on. Got it? Good. I love y’all, you’re like butter. And now, moving on to actual content! Hooray!
Chapter 49: Catelyn
Catelyn is deeply worried by the flooded and unfordable river as they approach Walder Frey’s stronghold. She urges Robb not to let the Freys provoke him, and to ask for food if they do not offer it, so as to invoke the protection of guest right. Robb answers he has his army to protect him. Frey’s grandson and current heir Ser Ryman comes out to meet them with his three sons, but Grey Wind snarls and attacks his party, to everyone’s shock. Robb and Catelyn manage to call him off before blood is shed, but Ryman is furious. They indicate that Robb’s army must wait upon the riverbank, rather than within the keep. Grey Wind balks at entering the keep, which Catelyn notes, and Robb has Ser Raynald Westerling stay with the wolf (also conveniently keeping him out of the hall).
In the hall, Lord Frey makes mocking comments about Robb’s crown and the supposed comeliness of Queen Jeyne, but Robb only makes his apologies for the slight. Frey lines up his daughters to show to Robb and demands he apologize to them instead, which he does rather handsomely. Then Frey has Edmure’s betrothed, Roslin, brought in; Edmure is delighted to see that she is very pretty, though Catelyn thinks she looks too delicate for healthy childbearing. Frey laughs when they ask for bread and salt, but gives it to them. Catelyn is surprised to see their chambers are comfortable and finely appointed, but still insists they should post their own guards.
Edmure is puzzled why Frey would give him someone so lovely as Roslin, when he had plenty of other much less attractive daughters to foist off on him. Catelyn suggests that Roslin may be a favorite of Frey’s, who he wants to make a good match. She cannot outright reject Edmure’s notion that Roslin may be barren, but points out this would work against Frey himself if he wants his descendants to inherit Riverrun. Edmure is also surprised at how well they’ve been received, commenting that he expected the old man to “piss in our wine and make us praise the vintage.”
Catelyn goes back to the hall and asks after Ser Perwyn, who had escorted her to Storm’s End, but Lame Lothar tells her Perwyn is away. Catelyn goes to see the maester, Brenett, who reassures her that Roslin’s mother was of similar build to her daughter and yet was extremely fertile, with five living children. Catelyn goes to Robb, and finds him with several of his lords, including Roose Bolton. Bolton tells them his bastard Ramsay took some of the Winterfell survivors back to Dreadfort, and sent the skin of Theon Greyjoy’s finger to Catelyn as a token of his captivity. She refuses the “gift” queasily. Robb wants Theon executed, but Bolton convinces him that Theon has more value as a hostage.
Bolton also tells Catelyn that Ser Gregor Clegane attacked his forces while they were crossing the Trident, killing many and capturing Ser Wylis Manderly, but that he has left six hundred men at the ford to ensure Clegane does not cross as well. Robb is angered at the losses there, as well as at Duskendale; Bolton tells him Robett Glover was distraught and heedless upon learning of the fall of Deepwood Motte. Bolton has brought five hundred horse and three thousand foot with him to the Twins, and Robb tells him he shall be their rearguard.
“I mean to start for the Neck as soon as my uncle has been wedded and bedded. We’re going home.”
Ugh. Why does that last line sound to me like a soon-to-be-messily-slaughtered day player in a B horror movie declaring “Oh, good, we’re safe now!”?
Probably because this whole chapter has made my hair stand on end, for all that nothing really happened in it. Starting with Grey Wind’s behavior, which is to me a veritable four-alarm air raid siren saying
(Parenthetically, badass points (or possibly crazy points) go to Catelyn for deliberately jumping in front of an attacking direwolf, because damn.)
More flies with honey, I hear they say. Because, yeah, Walder’s nicey-nice behavior here is just not on the level, I bet you anything. And there has GOT to be a catch re: Roslin. Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but y’all, it’s not like I don’t have cause. People being nice/merciful/conciliatory for no good reason in this series? Yeah, doesn’t happen.
And I also find it ominous that such a point was made that Perwyn is not going to be there. I don’t specifically remember his interaction with Catelyn during the whole Renly thing, but I have to assume that he got on with Catelyn at least moderately well, and the fact that someone in the Frey household (possibly the only one in the household) with more than a passing reason to be sympathetic to the Starks (and who also happens to be Roslin’s full brother) is mysteriously not able to be there is just one more alarm bell in a whole cacophony of them.
I mean, maybe I’m totally wrong and Walder Frey just hit his head or something and the concussion is making him accidentally vomit compassion all over everything, but I really rather doubt it.
On other matters: Oh, so Theon’s alive (if minus a phalange or two)? And a prisoner of Bolton’s bastard? Did I know that before? Oh, well, no matter. Point is, eek. Because dear little Ramsay is positively made of badwrongno, and as much as I am not a fan of Theon’s, I’m not sure that even he deserves to be at that sicko’s mercy.
(Now, having, say, Gregor Clegane in that position… well, I would be willing to hear out a case for that. Not to mention for a couple of the other more delightful and charming folks we’ve come across in the course of this series….)
Speaking of whom, so Clegane apparently attacked Bolton’s force at the ford. Okay, I’m sure this will come to have relevance at some point, so I suppose I should try to remember that it happened.
And… um. Yes. So. I suppose I should go on to the next chapter now.
Chapter 50: Arya
Sandor Clegane and Arya travel toward the Frey keep in a wagon with salt pork stolen from a farmer. They come across a knight (Ser Donnel Haigh) on the road, but Sandor keeps his face hidden and his tone respectful, and the knight rides on without recognizing him even though Sandor sneers afterward that they’d fought each other in tourneys before. Arya feels that she should be excited they are almost there, but she has been plagued with terrifying if vague dreams, and worries about whether her mother or Robb will even recognize her. She also worries that Bolton is there, and whether he knows that she was the one who slit his guard’s throat to escape Harrenhal.
They hear music as they approach, and the Hound comments that the wedding will be over but the feast still going. They come to the vast camp of Robb’s army on the riverbank; they are not allowed through to the castle, but directed to the camp feast tents instead. Arya looks around for a familiar face or House crest as they head through the camp, but sees only strangers. She hears soldiers drinking and cheering “Here’s to the Young Wolf and Queen Jeyne,” and wonders who that is. Then she sees northmen in the feast tents, Karstarks and Umbers, and asks Sandor if they shouldn’t go to them, or to the man (Sedgekins) they had been told to find.
“Sedgekins can bugger himself with a hot poker.” Clegane shook out his whip, and sent it hissing through the soft rain to bite at a horse’s flank. “It’s your bloody brother I want.”
Well, if you guys think you’re going to be frustrated leaving things on this cliffhanger for two weeks, think how I’M going to feel. Because AAAAAAAHHH OMG WHAT HAPPENS NEXT DOES ARYA GET TO HER MOM WHAT IS WALDER GOING TO DO WHAT IS SANDOR GOING TO DO ARE MORE STARKS GOING TO DIE HOLY CRAP AAAAAAAHHHHHH
And… um. Other than noting the bullet Sandor unwittingly helped Arya dodge by refusing to go to the Karstarks, whose loyalty to the Starks is, shall we say, shaky at best at the moment, I… really have nothing to say about this chapter? Because it’s only like four pages long? And is nothing but set-up for the obviously Major Shit that is about to go down one way or the other in the next two chapters? And… I’m sorry?
Just so you know, I seriously fought with myself over whether to just turn the page and keep going, but I didn’t, because hilariously, I can’t risk it. Because, well, Major Shit is obviously about to go down, and I want to have plenty of time and space to deal with that because I don’t know how much of it I’ll have to deal with. And we wouldn’t want to deprive y’all of seeing my possible resulting meltdown in full, loving, and non-rushed detail, now would we?
No, no we would not.
So, yeah. Just FYI, though: if either Robb, Catelyn or Arya dies in the next two chapters, I may have to LOSE MY SHIT. Be ye forewarned.
And on that extraordinarily tenterhookian note, we out! Remember: no post next week, and we resume on Thursday, May 30th. AAAAAAHHHHHHHH