A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Feast for Crows, Part 12

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 Feast for Crows, in which we cover Chapter 16 (“Jaime”) and Chapter 17 (“Cersei”).

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!

Chapter 16: Jaime

What Happens
Ser Kevan asks why Jaime is present at Tywin’s funeral procession out of the city, assuming he is only there to give him orders from Cersei; Jaime answers that Tywin was his father, and that he and Cersei are not the same person. He sarcastically invites Kevan to count the number of breasts and hands on him if he doesn’t believe it, and Kevan answers they both have “a taste for mockery” that he has no patience for. Jaime backs off, and tells him he needs to make peace with Cersei. Kevan answers that any strife is not his doing; he wants to be left alone at Darry with his son Lancel. Jaime thinks again of Tyrion’s accusation that Cersei was sleeping with Lancel, and tells himself that Tyrion was lying.

They discuss the vicious raiding along the Trident, said to be Sandor Clegane with Beric Dondarrion, and Kevan takes offense at Jaime’s caution to him to be careful in dealing with them, saying “not every Lannister is a fool for glory.” Jaime points out that there are many others who could deal with the raiders, but none who would make a good Hand. Kevan tells him Cersei knows his terms and they have not changed, and Jaime should tell her that “the next time you are in her bedchamber.” He gallops off. Jaime realizes that Cersei must know Kevan knows about them, and tries to convince himself that Cersei would not have Kevan assassinated. Then he wonders if maybe Cersei hopes that Clegane will do the job for her.

He catches up to Lancel and congratulates him on his upcoming wedding, making a joke about Lancel not knowing what to do in the bed after. Lancel is embarrassed and says he will pray for Jaime and Cersei. Jaime rides off, reassured that Cersei would never bed such a pious fool. He returns to the city, now mostly empty of soldiers save for the two thousand awaiting Paxter Redwyne’s fleet to take them to Dragonstone, where it appears Stannis left only a small garrison behind before heading north.

At the castle, he stops to watch a jousting practice, mourning that he would never joust himself again, and as Ser Loras trounces everyone, thinks that perhaps it wasn’t a fluke that Loras had bested him before. He finds a rather drunk Cersei with Tommen, Lady Merryweather, and Pycelle, laughing at the news: Lady Tandy’s daughter Lollys has had a healthy son, and her husband Bronn has insisted on naming him “Tyrion.” Cersei mocks the sellsword’s insolence, and says she is thinking of sending the boy “a gift,” which Jaime surmises is likely “a new stepfather.” She looks disturbingly aroused at the thought, as she had at the burning of the Tower of the Hand, and Jaime remembers how mad king Aerys was only amorous after executing someone, and how the day he had burned his Hand, his attentions on Queen Rhaella left her maimed and battered.

He gets Cersei alone, and first points out that Lady Merryweather is a spy for the Tyrells, but Cersei says Taena is “a sweet serpent” who only tells Margaery what Cersei wants her to tell, and in turn tells Cersei all about Margaery’s actions, because she knows Cersei can do more for her and her son than Margaery can. He then tries to convince her that they need Ser Kevan, but Cersei calls him “an old done man,” and that Daven and Damion will serve better. Jaime points out that she still needs a Hand. Cersei is thinking of Orton Merryweather, Taena’s husband, or Lord Hallyne, the pyromancer, both of whom would be weak Hands, but Cersei says a strong hand is not needed when the ruler is strong, like her. Jaime reflects that where Tywin was a glacier, relentless and implacable in rule, Cersei is a wildfire; she has wits, he thinks, but no judgment or patience.

They argue about her decision to make Aurane Waters master of ships (Jaime notes suspiciously that Aurane has little experience, but is young and handsome) and her association with Qyburn, even though he was stripped of his maester’s chain and rode with Vargo Hoat. Cersei declares that Qyburn is loyal, unlike some of her own kin, and Jaime pleads with her to stop seeing “dwarfs in every shadow”. He insists that neither he nor Kevan are her enemy. Cersei snarls at him that she begged for his help on her knees, and he refused, choosing his cloak over her, and kicks him out, throwing her wine cup at him.

Ser Loras finds him later in the evening, reading the White Book, and opines that he (and Renly) doesn’t think much of books, and that the great heroes of history will be remembered either way, and the rest don’t matter. Jaime observes that it is both the best and worst who will be remembered, and a few who were a bit of both, like the one he was currently reading about.

“Who?” Ser Loras craned his head around to see. “Ten black pellets on a scarlet field. I do not know those arms.”

“They belonged to Criston Cole, who served the first Viserys and the second Aegon.” Jaime closed the White Book. “They called him Kingmaker.”

Commentary
Well, it’s sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy, isn’t it? Cersei is so convinced that Kevan and Jaime are her enemies that they are her enemies, now. Or certainly not her allies, anyway. Not when you end a chapter on that note.

It’s really a shame about Kevan, though, I’m beginning to think. I think I thought he was kind of a wet blanket initially, but I was seeing him mainly through other Lannisters’ eyes, all of whom are predisposed, to one degree or another, to see things like reliability and prudence and common sense as symptoms of extreme boringness. The irony there is high, methinks.

At any rate, Jaime at least seems to have gotten over that kneejerk reaction, because he obviously thinks Kevan is the best person possible to be Hand. And I tend to think he’s right—as long as you are looking for an actual effective government official, which is obviously not what Cersei is looking for at all. Anyway, here’s hoping Kevan doesn’t die putting down the raiders, at least. I’m kind of hoping, actually, that he does get to go to Darry and hang out with his son and not have to deal with Lannister bullshit anymore, but I estimate the chances of that being somewhere between “snowflake” and “hell.”

I’m not sure what to make of Jaime’s suspicions about Cersei’s possibly Mad-King-Aerys-like psychopathy, because I really don’t recall getting that vibe from her when we’re inside her head. I think Cersei has issues (hell, she has subscriptions), but I don’t think she’s actually insane. Not in the “eating your bed partners” way, anyway.

Er. Yet, anyway. *is disturbed*

But then again, Jaime also thinks Cersei is not using sex to get what she wants out of people, sooooo maybe he is not the most reliable judge of character when it comes to her.

Is it dumb that my first impulse on learning Bronn had named his son “Tyrion” was to go “Awwww!”? I totally don’t know if that’s the right reaction to have. Cersei assumed it was an insult, but I assumed it was the opposite. Bronn kind of ditched Tyrion wholesale at the end of their association, as I recall, but I kind of felt like this was his way of making that up to Tyrion—assuming Tyrion ever actually hears about it, of course. At any rate, I hope I’m right and Cersei isn’t.

Also, I felt like Jaime’s thoughts on Cersei’s planned “gift” to Tyrion Junior were a little opaque. “A new stepfather,” meaning… Cersei is going to have Bronn killed and then remarry Lollys? Because, wow. Seriously, girl, it’s a name. I know you hate Tyrion the Elder but killing someone for naming their kid the same thing? Overreact much?

As he trotted up the column, Jaime passed boars, badgers, and beetles, a green arrow and a red ox, crossed halberds, crossed spears, a treecat, a strawberry, a maunch, four sunbursts counterchanged.

TIL I learned the word “maunch.” I also (re)learned that Word doesn’t let you hyperlink something it thinks isn’t a word until you tell it to shut up and go away. Though on this one I honestly can’t blame it.

 

Chapter 17: Cersei

What Happens
Annoyed by the bells ringing for the High Septon’s death, Cersei examines the rotting head of a dwarf brought to her by three ruffians, and is disgusted that it is not Tyrion, any more than the first two heads she’d been brought. She thinks of Maggy the Frog’s prophecy, of which she has never told anyone. Qyburn assures her that he has informers looking for the Imp everywhere, and she asks him if he has attended to “that little task” she set him, of cleaning the skull for presentation to Prince Doran, and he assures her he has. She assures herself that Qyburn will be just as good a spymaster as Varys had been.

They go to the small council meeting. Pycelle is incensed at Qyburn’s inclusion, but Cersei tells him Qyburn will serve the king much more ably than “that simpering eunuch.” Cersei contemplates her new council with new titles: Orton Merryweather as her justiciar, Gyles Rosby her lord treasurer, Aurane Waters her grand admiral, and for her Hand, Ser Harys Swyft, chosen because his daughter was Ser Kevan Lannister’s wife and thus represented at least some leverage over her uncle. She tells them that neither Tommen nor Jaime will be attending, and is rather disparaging toward Jaime over that.

Pycelle reports that there is still unrest in Dorne, and Cersei says that Ser Balon Swann will be bringing Gregor Clegane’s head to Prince Doran soon; she does not mention the other task Ser Balon has there. Ser Harys is surprised to learn that Clegane is dead. They discuss who will replace the old High Septon, but Cersei is more interested in Aurane and his resemblance to Prince Rhaegar. Cersei doesn’t care who is appointed, as long as he pronounces an anathema upon the Imp. They discuss Bronze Yohn Royce’s preparations to remove Littlefinger as Lord Protector of the Vale, and that Littlefinger himself seems unconcerned by it. Cersei tells Pycelle to tell Royce et al that no harm must come to Petyr, but otherwise the crown is content with whatever disposition they make for governance of the Vale.

They discuss an alliance with the ironmen, though no one is sure who is actually ruling them now since Balon Greyjoy’s death. Pycelle points out that they want the north, which Tywin had promised to Roose Bolton. Cersei declares that she will not bed down with “that sorry pack of squids”, and they need to restore their own fleet. Gyles is coughing too much to speak, but Cersei infers that he thinks there is not capital for that. She says that the tithes they owe to the Holy Faith and the Iron Bank of Braavos will be deferred and used to build the fleet instead. Pycelle points out that the Iron Bank is not gentle with debtors, but Cersei dismisses this.

They discuss Walder Frey, and the rumors spreading that the crown was complicit in the events of the Red Wedding; Qyburn reports that the “sparrows” call the act an affront to the laws of gods and men, and any who had a hand in it are damned. Cersei says Lord Walder and/or his scions must face judgment for it, but it had nothing to do with the crown.

Aurane brings up the rumor that Lord Stannis has bought out the Golden Company’s contract with Myr and is bringing them across the sea, but Cersei says that the Company is heading to Volantis, not Westeros. Pycelle mentions that Stannis is supposedly trying to ally with the wildlings, but Cersei dismisses this as a “desperate and foolish” move. She says Lord Wyman Manderly and White Harbor are sure to join them, as Manderly has clapped Stannis’s “onion smuggler” in irons; Cersei has sent orders to have him executed.

Cersei rants about Sansa and how sorry she plans to make “that little she-wolf” once found, and says the fake Arya with Bolton will cement his claim to Winterfell even if she is discovered later to be a fake. She declares that Stark’s bastard Snow has violated the neutrality of the Night’s Watch by giving Stannis food and shelter and they agree to declare him a traitor and a rebel and demand his removal. Qyburn suggests sending the recruits the Night’s Watch are asking for, but task them with removing Jon Snow instead. Cersei is delighted with this idea. Lastly Aurane brings up rumors of dragons from sailors, but Cersei laughs and dismisses this as nonsense, and the council adjourns.

In her chambers, Cersei sends for Ser Osney Kettleblack, and seductively entreats him to seduce Margaery. Osney balks, saying that it is treason, but Cersei assures him that all that would happen is he would go to the Wall, from whence he will be allowed back once he kills “a bastard boy in league with Stannis.” She promises him a pardon and a lordship once it’s done, and herself as well. Osney is hesitant, but agrees. He leaves, and Cersei reflects with glee on the plan, which would disgrace Margaery as well as solve the problem of Snow and Stannis, and thinks that her father would not be so quick to marry her off if he could see her now.

She summons Lady Merryweather, and tells her to tell Margaery that she has a secret admirer among the knights, but to make her work for the name Osney. They get drunk together, and talk of Taena’s first lover; Cersei thinks of Jaime, but lies that she is thinking of Robert.

Yet when she closed her eyes, it was the other brother that she dreamt of, and the three wretched fools with whom she had begun her day. In the dream it was Tyrion’s head they brought her in their sack. She had it bronzed, and kept it in her chamber pot.

Commentary
That’s delightful, Cersei.

Because really, nothing says emotional stability like wishing for your brother’s preserved head to keep in your toilet, eh?

…Although, as demonstrations of utter contempt go, that’s a pretty darn decisive one. I would probably approve it more if I weren’t so firmly in the camp of keeping Tyrion’s head out of the privy and on his shoulders. I like Jaime more or less completely against my will, and I have sympathy for Cersei in a lot of ways, but in a Lannister sibling popularity contest, Tyrion still totally gets my vote.

In other news, OMG SO MUCH TALKING in this chapter. Ugh. Though admittedly this would probably not bother me nearly as much if I didn’t have to sit there and summarize it all, I’m beginning to wonder just what is the ratio in this book of people talking about things other people are doing, to people actually doing things. But whatever.

Going more or less in order: Soooo, I’m thinking Gregor Clegane is totally not dead, and Cersei and Qyburn are doctoring up a nice fake skull to send to Doran instead, because of… reasons? I mean, why anyone would want to keep that weeping abscess of a human being around is sort of beyond me.

…Though I guess, if you don’t care in the slightest about stupid things like ethics or collateral damage, our GCleg does fight more gooder than most other people—and as we have seen, ethics and Cersei are barely even on speaking terms these days. So if Qyburn did in fact figure out how to neutralize the spear’s poison I suppose it’s not terribly shocking that Cersei wants to keep him as an ace up her sleeve. I’m sure nothing but puppies and rainbows will come of the whole scheme!

Speaking of schemes, I am definitely giving this Taena chick the hairy eyeball, mostly because Cersei isn’t. Possibly one of the more frustrating things about Cersei is how she’s so sure she’s got everyone around her pegged, but her blindness to her own motivations and weaknesses makes me highly doubt her ability to judge the same in others.

Of course, maybe that doesn’t follow, because I suppose it can be a lot easier, actually, to see other people’s flaws before your own, but I just don’t know why, for instance, Cersei is so confident that she has Taena’s loyalty. If the woman was willing to go double agent, what’s to say she wouldn’t turn it around again and be a triple agent? Or just play both sides until a clear winner presents itself, and jump ship for the winner? I’m just saying.

In the same vein, sort of, her decision to install a weak council that she can walk all over is… understandable, actually, but that still doesn’t mean it was a good decision. I know I’m indulging in pie-in-the-sky idealism here, but the purpose of having advisors is to have people who do have the strength (and the protection) to tell the leader when she is full of shit, because no one else can. And picking your Hand solely because he might give you leverage on Kevan… jeez.

So, I’m thinking that re: Ser Balon Swann’s “extra task,” he is either gonna assassinate someone in Dorne, probably Prince Doran, or kidnap Myrcella and take her back to Cersei, and either way I’m thinking the Sandsnakes are going to get their war after all. Sigh.

And she threw Littlefinger to the wolves! Well, not the actual wolves, or even the actual metaphorical “wolves” meaning the Starks, but… you know what, you know what I mean. Basically this chapter seems to be a laundry list of all the ways Cersei is fucking up, one upon the other, because maybe he doesn’t outshine a land war in Dorne, but even so I’m pretty sure earning Petyr Baelish’s enmity is one of the Classic Blunders™.

And let’s not even mention invading Dragonstone, or laughing off dragon rumors, or ignoring your debts to a foreign bank which vaguely sounds like a cross between a herd of mafia enforcers and the KGB.

But the WORST is that she’s trying to have Davos killed! WTF, Cersei, NO. BAD QUEEN. No more wine!

But, er, this is at least confirmation that Davos is still alive, and apparently still in Stannis’s favor? Because I think I was not sure of that, the last time I thought about him. So, yay, except for how he’s about to be killed again—unless Manderly is totally lying to Cersei, of course, which seems so possible to me, and yet once again Cersei is all, no, he is totally under my thumb, mwah ha ha! And I just don’t get it.

But then again, Cersei does have a lot of proof that people—specifically, men—really are that stupid when it comes to her. I personally can’t believe Osney is actually going to go along with this scheme re: Margaery and Jon. The sheer number of ways the plan could go so very badly wrong for him is staggering, and he’s actually buying that Cersei will be “his” if he does it? Dude. I don’t know whether to be sorry for him, or be glad that Cersei is apparently sending a moron to assassinate Jon, because that significantly lowers the chance that the attempt will succeed. I hope.

Assuming it ever gets that far, of course, because I also really hope Margaery is not stupid enough to sleep with Osney in the first place. Once again, Cersei assumes things about people she dislikes that are patently incorrect. Which is something we all do, but as a failing it has much higher consequences when you are a ruler.

[Osney:] “Wasn’t there some Kingsguard who lost his head for bedding the king’s wife?”

[Cersei:] “Ages ago.” She was his king’s mistress, not his wife, and his head was the only thing he did not lose. Aegon dismembered him piece by piece, and made the woman watch.

This was apparently “Aegon the Unworthy,” and now I’m all confused, because I don’t think this is the same Aegon as our Egg from the short stories, but maybe it is? In which case… gah. Really? But then again maybe not, because I know there were at least two Aegons. I will have to hope that this wasn’t my Aegon, then.

(The most frustrating thing is that I could probably Google this and find out the answer in moments, but that way massive spoilage almost certainly lies, so I don’t dare. Blah.)

Anyway. All of this said, I… don’t know that I am right about Cersei, not entirely, because I worry about unconscious bias when it comes to her, especially given how the POVs of people (read: men) around her are so automatically disparaging of her abilities. Like Jaime’s in the previous chapter as I already mentioned: he compares her to a wildfire, and thinks she has no patience or judgment, which seems like an accurate assessment… until I remember that Jaime is also convinced that Cersei would never sleep with Lancel. Which, yeah. I’m just saying, there’s blindness and bias enough to spare in all of these characters, not just Cersei.

So, maybe there’s actually more leavening of good decisions with bad decisions in Cersei’s actions than I think there is, and I’m just not seeing them because I’m so predisposed to think all her decisions are bad. Maybe she is actually completely right about Taena and Manderly and so on.

…Maybe. But I can’t help but see her reign so far as one long spiral downward into disaster, one ill-considered step at a time.


And that’s our post for today! Happy Jazz Fest weekend, and I’ll see you next Thursday!

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