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 30 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 51 (“Catelyn”) and Chapter 52 (“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, scheduling note: as you may have noticed, it’s Thursday, not Friday, and yet there is a post. This is because, as I mentioned in the last post, the Read is moving its regular posting day to Thursdays until further notice. Mark your calendars, yah? Yah.
Also, as a warning, those readers who disapprove of profanity may want to give this post a miss. I am not even fucking kidding.
Chapter 51: Catelyn
The packed hall is stifling and the poor feast unappetizing to Catelyn. She watches Edmure fawn over his new bride Roslin, and notes that Roslin is stiff with what Catelyn assumes is nervousness over the impending wedding night. Most everyone is already drunk, but she is glad to see Robb’s guards are not. She is seated next to Roose Bolton, who had earlier made a veiled threat to Walder Frey regarding his grandsons still in Roose’s bastard’s custody. Catelyn wonders if there was ever a more joyless wedding, and then remembers that Sansa had to marry Tyrion Lannister.
She recalls how Lord Walder had refused to allow Grey Wind within the walls of the keep, and how furious that had made Robb, but he had accepted it just as he had all of Walder’s insults. Robb comes over to Catelyn and Ser Ryman Frey and asks after Olyvar, as he had hoped to have him as a squire, but Ryman says Olyvar is “gone” from the castle. Catelyn asks in turn about his cousin Alesander, but Ryman says he is also away before staggering off. Robb goes off to dance with Dacey Mormont, and Catelyn remembers how loyal Olyvar was to her son.
Walder soon silences the crowd and proposes that Edmure and Roslin get on with consummating the marriage, to loud cheers. Robb approves, and a chorus of ribald jokes accompany the couple as the men take Roslin and the women Edmure; Catelyn sees that Roslin is terrified and crying, and hopes Edmure is gentle with her. She does not join in, in no mood to be merry, and sees that neither Robb nor Lord Walder have left with the party as well. Dacey Mormont whispers something to Edwyn Frey, and he jerks away from her violently, declaring he is done with dancing, before storming toward the doors. Something about the exchange makes Catelyn uneasy, and she follows Edwyn. She catches up to him and realizes he is wearing mail under his tunic, and slaps him.
He shoves her aside, and then Robb is shot twice with arrows, in his side and leg. He falls, and Catelyn sees that the musicians in the gallery have crossbows. She runs for Robb and gets shot in the back, and falls as well. Smalljon Umber throws a trestle table over Robb to shield him, while Robin Flint and Ser Wendel Manderly and more of Robb’s men are swiftly murdered. Ser Ryman Frey reenters the hall with a dozen armed men; Catelyn screams for mercy, but no one hears her. Ryman kills Dacey, then northmen enter. Catelyn thinks it a rescue at first, but they attack and kill the Smalljon. Lord Walder watches it all eagerly from his throne.
Catelyn drags herself to a fallen dagger, vowing to kill Lord Walder herself, but then Robb flings the table off himself, pierced through with three arrows. Catelyn hears Grey Wind howling.
“Heh,” Lord Walder cackled at Robb, “the King in the North arises. Seems we killed some of your men, Your Grace. Oh, but I’ll make you an apology, that will mend them all again, heh.”
Catelyn grabs the fool Jinglebell and holds the knife to his throat. She shouts to Lord Walder that he has repaid betrayal with betrayal, and let it be enough. She pleads for the life of her last living son. She offers herself and Edmure as hostages against Robb’s vengeance if Walder will only let Robb go. Robb protests, but she tells him to go for Jeyne’s sake. She tells Walder that she will trade Walder’s son’s life (Jinglebell) for her son’s. Walder answers that Jinglebell was never much use.
A man in dark armor and a pale pink cloak spotted with blood stepped up to Robb. “Jaime Lannister sends his regards.” He thrust his longsword through her son’s heart, and twisted.
Catelyn slits Jinglebell’s throat. She feels as if she is being torn apart.
It hurts so much, she thought. Our children, Ned, all our sweet babes. Rickon, Bran, Arya, Sansa, Robb… Robb… please, Ned, please, make it stop, make it stop hurting… the white tears and the red ones ran together until her face was torn and tattered, the face that Ned had loved. Catelyn Stark raised her hands and watched the blood run down her long fingers, over her wrists, beneath the sleeves of her gown. Slow red worms crawled along her arms and under her clothes. It tickles. That made her laugh until she screamed. “Mad,” someone said, “she’s lost her wits,” and someone else said, “Make an end,” and a hand grabbed her scalp just as she’d done with Jinglebell, and she thought, No, don’t, don’t cut my hair, Ned loves my hair. Then the steel was at her throat, and its bite was red and cold.
FUCKING HELL, WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK WAS THAT FUCKING SHIT??
I’m sorry, we are experiencing rage blackout difficulties. Please come back later when my urge to find George R.R. Martin and slap him with a wet fish has died to a dull roar.
Fuck. I need a drink.
Okay, I have a drink now. I’m all better.
No, fuck that shit, I am NOT all better. Jesus H. Christ. Y’all, my heart is actually hurting me right now and my fingers are kind of shaking, and I’m maybe a little too much invested in this and that is really bad because this is obviously the LAST story one should get invested with the characters in it because they ALL FUCKING DIE and WHAT THE FUCKING HELL.
Because, okay, I knew Walder was going to pull something and I kind of worried that it was going to be an assassination attempt but even though I really REALLY ought to know better by now I still convinced myself it was just going to be something humiliating re: Roslin and not a fucking massacre, because JESUS, WALDER, HOW THE FUCK IS THAT A PROPORTIONAL RESPONSE TO A JILTING, YOU FUCKING WEEPING PUSTULE.
And even if there was an assassination attempt, I convinced myself, surely Robb would survive it. Or even if Robb didn’t survive it, surely Catelyn would survive it, because that is what she does, she survives, right? Martin can’t kill off Catelyn, right?
I would *headdesk*, but that doesn’t seem like a proportional response either.
Of course, this wasn’t actually about the jilting per se, I don’t think. This was about that gangrenous ass-licking dicknozzle Walder using the jilting as an excuse to throw in with the Lannisters. Not that that makes it any better; it makes it worse, in fact. Although I’m a little puzzled that Pink Cloak Dude (who I feel like I’m supposed to know who that is but I am drawing a total blank) mentioned Jaime Lannister specifically, because isn’t Jaime still blundering around the countryside with Brienne? When would he have made a let’s all be traitors together agreement with Walder
Well, whatever. Ugh, this is all just so sad and ugly and terrible.
Holy shit, Catelyn and Robb are dead. I can’t even fucking believe it. Jesus, when I decided to root for the Starks that was like the worst decision ever.
…Oh my God, and Arya is about to walk in on this shit. There is not enough vodka in the world.
*goes to get another drink*
Chapter 52: Arya
Arya notes that the castle is not closed just as Clegane knocks her off the wagon. A party of armed riders thunders out of the gates, and Arya hears a wolf howl; she feels its rage and grief. The feast tents go up in flames from fire arrows fired into them, and screams cut through the music. Some of the riders come for them, and Clegane jumps astride his horse to meet them. Arya is confused, knowing the Freys for allies, but when one rider comes for her she throws a rock at him, and then Clegane kills her attacker.
Clegane demands his helm, and she gets it from the wagon and throws it to him. He shouts to her that her brother is dead, and gestures to the pitched battle among the feast tents as proof. Clegane says they have to get away, and Arya shouts that she has to get to her mother. Clegane says they will die if they go in. She darts for the gate as the drawbridge is lifting, and Clegane chases her.
Not for her brother now, not even for her mother, but for herself. She ran faster than she had ever run before, her head down and her feet churning up the river, she ran from him as Mycah must have run.
His axe took her in the back of the head.
Well, I suppose this was the better outcome. I mean, assuming the blow to Arya’s head didn’t kill her, since apparently we are KILLING ALL THE STARKS TODAY, FUCK.
But, I’m pretty sure Arya is alive. Which is the only dubious bright spot in what is otherwise a veritable sea of shitty shit, because aaaaaah we couldn’t even have Catelyn see that one of her children survived before she got her fucking throat slit?
Okay, seriously, I know this is Arya’s chapter but once again it was super-short and cliff-hangery so I need to talk about Catelyn for a minute instead, and how infinitely more angry I am that she is dead as opposed to Robb.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very upset that Robb is dead, from a philosophical standpoint if nothing else. Because his assassination is just one more example of how this series takes the adage no good deed goes unpunished to frankly psychotic extremes. I mean, what is the lesson here? Try to make amends for your wrongs and get slaughtered like cattle? Really?
Essentially, the moral here seems to be that if Robb had been a dishonorable bastard who Nelson-laughed at Walder
Assmonkey Frey’s grievance and not bothered to attempt to make amends, then Robb would be alive and well and winning battles and whatever right now. As parables go, I’m pretty sure that the moral of this one is, shall we say, problematic.
(Of course, you could also flip that around and say that if Robb hadn’t betrayed his honor by reneging on the marriage contract with the Freys in the first place, it would never have happened. And you would have a point, but still I reiterate to Lord
Shitstain Walder, NOT A PROPORTIONAL RESPONSE, FARTKNOCKER.)
So, RIP Robb Stark. Like father, like son, apparently. Seriously, what did honor ever do to George R.R. Martin? Why you gots to be like that, homes?
BUT, my upsetness at Robb’s death is dwarfed by my upsetness at Catelyn’s. Because, what the fuck? I went through two and a half books of her constantly upward-spiraling morass of grief and misery, and she doesn’t get even an IOTA of relief from it before she is brutally murdered? What the hell kind of character arc is that?
And yes, I know Martin’s kind of doing the whole “screw your narrative tropes, I am serving the-fundamental-pointlessness-of-death realness over here, no tea no shade gurrrl,” and I get that, but there’s a point at which your bucking of traditional tropes becomes a trope in and of itself. (Don’t click that.) Maybe I’m just too upset in the heat of the moment to be objective, but I kind of feel like while Ned’s death was amazing in its shocking trope-shattering plot-twistiness, Catelyn’s death just borders on gratuitous angst-mongering.
Not to mention, it just sucks to lose such an awesome character. Catelyn did a lot of things I didn’t agree with, and she infuriated me on more than one occasion, but you certainly could never accuse her of being uninteresting, and in many ways she was awesome. She was herself, flawed and complex and possessed of her own agency, and that’s still a rare enough thing to see in a female character in mainstream fantasy fiction that I resent it when it’s taken from me.
All right, there’s probably more to discuss here but I am upset and pissed-off and desperately needing to go look at happy fluffy calming things for a while, so we’ll stop here. Next time on AROIAF, rainbows and puppies, right? RIGHT?!?! *sigh* Yeah. See you next Thursday.