Thursday, April 29, 2010

#ASOIAF Re-read: A Game of Thrones, Part 11

Happy Thursday to you. Thanks for dropping by and seeing what this little re-read of mine is all about.

It's about ASOIAF! Wooooo! (For those of you who do not know my humour, there was zero sarcasm in that. I actually get that excited.)

Today we get to cover Chapters 27-28. The intro post is here, Part 10 is here, and all the entries can be tracked with the ASOIAF tag (#ASOIAF on Twitter). This post and all posts contain occasional spoilers for the first four books in A Song of Ice and Fire. Read at your own discretion. Also, this only covers what has been mentioned in the four main books. The short stories are beyond this blog's scope for now.

You may begin.

Chapter 27: Eddard

What Happens

King's Landing is swelling with people as the Hand's tourney draws near. Janos Slynt, Commander of the City Watch, is having an impossible time keeping order in the city. He needs more men. Ned gives him permission to hire more guards, and gives 20 of his own men to serve until the crowds leave.

Ned's temper is short these days. He is annoyed that the tourney is being held in his name, and the king who ordered it has left him to deal with the mess of organizing such a spectacle. However, Littlefinger says the costs are being offset by the coin flowing into the city. The brothels are doing particularly good business.

Back in his private rooms, Ned ponders the book that Jon Arryn had requested. It is a book of the lineages and histories of the Great Houses. Dull reading, made worse because Ned doesn't know what to look for. He calls for Jory Cassel. When the man arrives, he and Ned talk about the last of the four former employees of House Arryn, the ones identified by Littlefinger. The first three had no information of any use, but the third says Jon Arryn often went riding with Stannis Baratheon to a brothel.

That either of those men would visit a brothel is shocking, but especially for Stannis, who is in many ways the exact opposite of Robert. But Stannis is on the island keep of Dragonstone, and therefore not available for questioning. Ned thinks about the Baratheon brothers; Stannis is "stern, humorless, unforgiving, grim in his sense of duty," and Ned is unsure of what to make of Renly. A few days earlier, Renly showed Ned a miniature painting of a young girl, saying that it is a likeness of Margaery Tyrell, but some say it looks like Lyanna. Ned disagrees, and he wonders if Renly is trying to emulate Robert after a fashion.

Ned and Jory go visit an armorer mentioned by another former member of the Arryn household. The streets are filled with people; King's Landing is crowded and dirty, and if the price of apples is anything to go by, food is on the scarce side. A knight and his retinue enter through one of the main gates. The people cheer for Lord Beric, who says he is there to win the Hand's tourney. Ned keeps riding until he reaches the shop of Tobho Mott.

The armorer treats Ned as a regular customer, and Ned lets him prattle for a while. Mott boasts about the quality of his armor, made for Ser Loras and even Lord Renly. Then Ned asks Mott if he ever made a helm for Jon Arryn. Mott replies that the Hand and Stannis did visit him, but did not order any armor. After some silence, he adds that they came to see the boy. Ned asks to see the boy, and Mott takes him to the forge.

Mott calls over a "tall lad about Robb's age", and names him Gendry. At first, Ned asks to buy the helm Gendry is working on, but then changes tack to ask what Lord Arryn would speak to him about. Arryn used to ask about Gendry's mother (an alehouse worker who passed away when he was younger), while Stannis only glared at him without saying a word. Mott is at times taken aback by what he considers offensive language to the King's Hand, but Ned ignores the man and tries to get a better look at the boy.

"Look at me, Gendry." The apprentice lifted his face. Ned studied the shape of the jaw, the eyes like blue ice. Yes, he thought, I see it. "Go back to your work, lad. I'm sorry to have bothered you."

He asks Mott who paid the apprentice fee for Gendry, but the armorer is uneasy. He dissembles first, lying about taking on the boy for free, and then admitting that a faceless, nameless lord paid for him, "once for the boy, and once for [Mott's] silence." He wants no trouble, and refuses to admit to Ned who the boy's father must be. Ned actually likes that the man can hold his tongue.

When he leaves, Ned wonders what Jon Arryn wanted with Robert's bastard.

Commentary
Can Ned mangst, or what? The tourney is happening. Suck it up and deal with your embarrassment. That is easier said than done, especially when it costs so damn much. The champion's purse is 40,000 gold dragons. The last time dragons were mentioned, Robert considered it pricey when Cersei put the 100-dragon bounty on Nymeria's pelt. All right, a wolf pelt might not be worth as much as the glory of a kingdom-wide tourney, but how did the crown come up with 40,000 for the winner's purse, and the rest for hosting the event? I'm looking at you, Littlefinger.

Renly's painting neatly introduces Margaery (only fourteen at this time), sister of Loras Tyrell. When Ned wonders if Renly is thinking of himself as a younger Robert and Margaery as a young (and living) Lyanna, the thought strikes him as "more than passing queer." An innocent turn of phrase? Unrelated to anything, Renly and the Knight of Flowers apparently shop at the same armorer's.

Also at the armorer's: Gendry, bastard son of Robert Baratheon, the kingly man-whore. (Another day we might go into why the word "man" gets tacked onto "whore", and how the female connotation of "whore" borders on offensive. Another day. After all, it was my choice of words.)

From his brief description, we see that Gendry looks like Robert, at least a bit. What interests me is his age. He is around fourteen, and that makes his conception somewhere around the middle of Robert's rebellion. So, Gendry is pre-Cersei and while Lyanna was still alive. I wonder if Robert would have been such a philanderer if he'd married Lyanna. My guess is yes. Absolutely.

The chapter ends and Ned has a new piece to his puzzle. Let's see how the missus is doing.

Chapter 28: Catelyn

What Happens

Catelyn and Ser Rodrick are travelling north on horseback. It's raining, and Catelyn is reminiscing about her youth at Riverrun, when she would play with Lysa and Littlefinger. Ser Rodrik complains about the weather, but Catelyn knows of an inn not far away. She used to visit the place as a child. Ser Rodrik doesn't think they should risk it, but just then riders approach.

The riders are Lord Jason Mallister and his followers. The Mallisters are liegemen of the Tullys, and Ser Rodrik is shocked when they ride by without recognizing Catelyn. She is not surprised, since she looks like a wet and muddy traveler instead of the daughter of Mallister's liege lord. She assumes they can also go unrecognized at the inn.

Catelyn is right about their appearances, and she acquires two rooms without a problem. While changing into dry clothes, Catelyn ponders the crossroads. She could get to Riverrun by taking the western road, warning her father about the possible upcoming war, and the threat of Casterly Rock, located not far from Riverrun. To the east lie the dangerous roads to the Vale of Arryn, where her sister lives. Lysa could have more information for Ned, or even the proof he's looking for. Both choices are tempting, but she sticks with her duty to go back to Winterfell.

She and Ser Rodrik go to the common room pretending to be father and daughter. The room is crowded with farmers and travelers, but they find seats at a table next to a singer called Marillion. The man is full of himself, but he amuses Catelyn with his stories and flattery. Then their conversation is interrupted when a door on the other side of the room opens.

"Innkeep," a servant's voice called out behind her, "we have horses that want stabling, and my lord of Lannister requires a room and a hot bath."

Catelyn manages to keep Ser Rodrick quiet as Tyrion, Yoren, and a couple of others ask about rooms. There are none to be had, but Tyrion pays off another patron. Catelyn is thanking her lucky stars that they've gone unnoticed when Marillion leaps up and calls Tyrion's attention.

"I would be pleased to entertain you while you eat. Let me sing you the lay of your father's great victory at King's Landing!"
"Nothing would be more likely to ruin my supper," the dwarf said dryly. His mismatched eyes considered the singer briefly, started to move away... and found Catelyn. He looked at her for a moment, puzzled. She turned her face away, but too late. The dwarf was smiling. "Lady Stark, what an unexpected pleasure," he said. "I was sorry to miss you at Winterfell."

Marillion, the innkeeper, and the other patrons are all shocked to find out who Catelyn is, but she doesn't bother addressing Tyrion. Instead she calls out to various groups of men likely to be loyal to her father, Hoster Tully. Tyrion stares at Catelyn in puzzlement. He asks her what she is doing, but she continues ignoring him until she is sure about her numbers and the allegiances. Then she turns on Tyrion.

"This man came a guest into my house, and there conspired to murder my son, a boy of seven," she proclaimed to the room at large, pointing. Ser Rodrik moved to her side, his sword in hand. "In the name of King Robert and the good lords you serve, I call upon you to seize him and help me return him to Winterfell to await the king's justice."
She did not know what was more satisfying: the sound of a dozen swords drawn as one or the look on Tyrion Lannister's face.

Commentary
Blood and bloody ashes. That's all I have to say. I would *headdesk*, but the true time for headdesking is yet to come. I suppose I'll have to sum up.

In defence of Catelyn (yes, that's right), her reasoning is sound. It goes something like this: Lysa accused the Lannisters of killing her husband. Catelyn assumes Jamie threw Bran out a window, attempting to kill him. Someone tried to kill Bran with a knife that Littlefinger, her childhood best friend, claimed belonged to Tyrion. So when Tyrion strolls into a Tully-friendly establishment, outnumbered, the best thing to do is to arrest him.

It could have been worse, I suppose. She could have ordered him killed. I bet you Lysa would have. I'm sure Tyrion would be comforted by this. Anyway, a first-time reader would not know that Tyrion is guilt-free in all of this. They might suspect, but we still have no proof. Even if we (the readers) had proof, it could still elude Catelyn. That's the long way of saying that Catelyn is right to do what she does, as wrong as that seems.

Usually I'd tip my hat to George R.R. Martin's writing, but this time I tip it because of the cussing clustercuss he created here. When I think of all the muck that gets stirred because of this one incident...

Other than the incident, this is a fairly easy-going chapter. Being a fantasy story, we have been overdue for an inn and a common room, and probably an overweight innkeeper. (Check, check, and check.) It's funny that at one point Catelyn thinks "If only the man had lingered at the Wall..." Yes, if only. Speaking of which, let's not forget Marillion, who opened his big mouth. He will eventually be more sorry than Tyrion for getting a room at the inn.

***

This entry was shorter than I would have liked, but any further and I would have had to split the lead-in to the Hand's tourney. No way was that happening. So, come back on Monday for Part 12. Tourney!

10 comments:

Lya said...

*is no longer an anonymouse*

Ok so you definitely win the "links with intelligent bordering on obtuse commentary" prize. It's really, really interesting stuff but unfortunately I've only gotten halfway through the first article because when it comes to serious works of nonfiction I have the attention span of Hodor. But thank ye kindly for the link. It makes me see Cory Doctorow in a whole new light. I dunno if that's a good thing or a bad thing, because reading Orson Scott Card's blog usually makes me want to headdesk ad infinitum, even though on the merit of the Ender books alone I'd probably place him in my top 20 favorite authors.

Ned's mangsting reminded me of this Donal Noye quote from ACoK: Robert was the true steel. Stannis is pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets. He'll break before he bends. And Renly, that one, he's copper, bright and shiny, pretty to look at but not worth all that much at the end of the day. I used to nod sagely whenever we got nice tidy character assessments like these (also see: Barristan Selmy on Rhaegar Targaryen) but over time I've grown suspicious of my own first impressions. Because however good it looks on paper, none of the characters know the others inside out, they only see what they want or expect to see, and so I take even Ned's words with a grain of salt.

I wonder if Robert would have been such a philanderer if he'd married Lyanna. My guess is yes.
WORD. Lyanna was no idiot - she knew Robert would never keep to one bed. It's reasonable to assume that this is one of the major factors that influenced her decision to run away with Rhaegar.

I for one would not mind in the least if you decided to investigate the etymology of "manwhore" in a future post.

[Anal spelling note: It's Marillion as in The Silmarillion (or the British rock band Marillion - not sure which one GRRM had in mind).]

"Cussing clustercuss" lol

Mad props for your defense of Catelyn, who alas is frequently and unfairly maligned - for this incident and "It should have been you" among others. Cat is not a favorite of mine but people dissing her for dumb reasons always sets off my inner feminist. I look forward to reading your thoughts on future Catelyn chapters.

Errant Knave said...

Zounds! It IS Marillion! Whatsamatta for me? Thank you for pointing out the mistake. Seriously. It wasn't anal at all.

hehe... "the attention span of Hodor"... Don't worry. Copyright law has the same effect on me. It's related to my work, but I don't have to inflict it on others. I will keep that in mind in the future.

I haven't read Orson Scott Card, and remain in the dark about most of his headdesk-worthy moments. However, a quick Google search has informed me that he might not be a fan of Renly's Rainbow Guard. (Nice pic, by the way.)

One of my aims with this project was to revisit first impressions and see how well they held up. Some characters aren't holding up, while I find I'm more understanding of others (ie Catelyn).

Noye was dead-on with that quote. That blacksmith has more sensible advice than just about anyone on the wall. I'm a little sad that his quote is so accurate, mostly because I wonder what happened to Robert. He was the true steel. How did he let his vices get the better of him and cause his downfall. (That answer might be include names such as Tywin, Cersei, Littlefinger, Varys, and more, but I think Robert should shoulder a good chunk of the blame.)

R+L. Even if it doesn't equal J, I hope we get a lot more about their story.

Anonymouse was a good name. So long, anonymouse, and welcome Lya.

Lya said...

http://iconsbycurtana.livejournal.com/19343.html#cutid1

There are text-only ones, too. I'm particularly partial to, "Every time you ask when the next book is done, grrm KILLS A STARK."

Lya said...

"However, a quick Google search has informed me that he might not be a fan of Renly's Rainbow Guard.

WIN.

Errant Knave said...

Oddly enough, I used to have the one about GRRM killing a Stark as my icon. Thanks for sending me on a quest for the perfect icon. I won't admit how much time I spent clicking on the ASOIAF- and BSG-related links.

Stacy said...

As a wife and a mother, you would think I would identify with Catelyn and her actions, but I don't. She is one of my least favorite characters. I think I was especially offended by her treatment of Jon (and I am talking about how she has disdained him from birth). I don't think I could ever treat a child like that and I could never like someone who did that to a child.

IceNeedle said...

My dislike of Cat doesn't stem from any single incident (though "it should have been you" was heinous enough). I don't even blame her for this confrontation at the inn, much. Her behavior starting at the end of aCoK through aSoS made me less and less sympathetic. Her willingness to basically sacrifice the entire war effort by releasing Jamie on "Tyrion's good word" (which he hadn't actually given) just so she might have her daughter back was the epitome of selfishness ("good of the one outweighs the good of the many"). Plus her adamant refusal to grant Robb his wish to designate Jon as his heir left me frigid. I hated her at that moment.

Darth Rachel said...

ugh.. no Orson would not appreciate the rainbow guard. (snorts). I truly wish the man had never started a blog because then I could have continued in my ignorance and love of Ender’s Game.. instead I just feel sad and betrayed and can’t bring myself to read it anymore.
Also.. Blood and Bloody Ashes INDEED! (folds arms/tugs braid) Speaking of first impressions (since I’m also re-reading along) I STILL hate Catelyn.
I know I’m commenting on old posts but I don’t care. I’m gonna.

Errant Knave said...

Darth Rachel, I appreciate any and all WoT references, and you can definitely comment all you want on posts old or new. Thanks for following along!

Anonymous said...

Catelyn didn't arrest Tyrion because it was an option, she did it because the man suspected of being behind the attacks on Jon and Bran now knew she was on the road with one guard coming back from King's Landing with whatever she set out to learn there. If he was the killer and she didn't act she'd be dead by morning. Better save then sorry.

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