Hello! Also, goedendag, guten tag, hallå, mojn, and bonjour. Welcome to the tourney. I mean the Re-read of A Game of Tourneys, and that has tourneys in it. What?
There was a slight interruption in the regular schedule on Monday, but all is well now. Today we get to cover Chapters 29-30. Before we can begin, here is the requisite spiel:
The intro post is here, Part 11 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. The same goes for the comments section, where I freely encourage commenting on theories, holes in theories, and anything else that comes to mind.
(Get on with it already!)
Shall we begin? Ok. Tourney!
Chapter 29: Sansa
The day of the tourney arrives, and Sansa couldn't be more thrilled. "It's better than all the songs," she whispers. She admires the knights as they take to the field; Ser Jaime (in golden armour) and the Kingsguard; the brothers Sandor and Ser Gregor Clegane; Beric Dondarrion; Renly Baratheon; and many more.
The jousts last the entire day, leaving fewer winners after each round. The only mishap occurs when Ser Gregor's lance finds the unprotected neck of a new knight. Sansa's friend Jeyne Poole is frightened, but Sansa remains stoic despite the bloodshed.
By the time daylight runs out, the only men left standing are Jaime, Gregor, the Hound, and Loras Tyrell. Ser Loras is a favourite among the ladies in the crowd, throwing white roses to them after every win, yet he finds Sansa after his last victory and hands her a red rose.
"Sweet lady," he said, "no victory is half so beautiful as you." Sansa took the flower timidly, struck dumb by his gallantry.
As he rides away, Sansa realizes an older man is standing next to her. Septa Mordane introduces him as Lord Petyr Baelish. He says Sansa has Catelyn's look. "Your mother was my queen of beauty once," he says, brushing Sansa's cheek before leaving her.
Everyone retires to the feast and Sansa gets to sit beside Joffrey. It's her first time being with the prince since the direwolf incident, and she is worried that they will not get along. However, she tells herself that what happened between them was not his fault at all. It was all because of Cersei and Arya. Yet Joff is the soul of courtesy for most of the night, and the promised couple eat, drink, and laugh together. Sansa eats until she's stuffed, and it's during a round of desserts that King Robert starts a commotion.
"No," he thundered in a voice that drowned out all other speech. Sansa was shocked to see the king on his feet, red of face, reeling. He had a goblet of wine in one hand, and he was drunk as a man could be. "You do not tell me what to do, woman," he screamed at Queen Cersei. "I am king here, do you understand? I rule here, and if I say that I will fight here, I will fight!"
No one says or does anything. The queen exits, and Jaime puts a hand on Robert's shoulder, but the king shoves him hard and Jaime falls. Robert taunts him, and then Renly takes the king aside to calm him down.
Joff's mood has changed, but he gets the half-drunk Sandor to escort Sansa safely back to the Red Keep, and then leaves after his mother. The Hound pulls her away, claiming to be in a rush; he needs sleep because he might have to kill his brother in the morning. Sansa is terrified of the man and his appearance, but she forces herself to act like a lady and see past his burnt face. She compliments his riding in the tourney, calling him a knight, but he scoffs at her and wants nothing to do with knighthood.
The subjects shifts to Gregor, and Sandor says his brother killed the young knight on purpose. Then he takes Sansa's face and forces her to look at him. She takes in all the scars, burns, and exposed bone on the left half of his face. She breaks down and starts crying, and Sandor puts out the torch he is carrying. "No pretty words for that, girl? No little compliment the septa taught you?"
When Sansa doesn't answer, he tells her the secret of how his face was burned by Gregor when he was younger. Sandor's bitterness would be complete a few years later when Gregor was knighted by no less than Prince Rhaegar. Sansa listens to Sandor's rasping breath afterwards, realizing that she feels sorry for him. Once again, she reaches out to him, saying that Gregor was no true knight. Sandor laughs and agrees, and they continue on their way to the Red Keep in silence. He takes her all the way to her bedchamber, but when she thanks him he leans in close.
"The things I told you tonight," he said, his voice sounding even rougher than usual. "If you ever tell Joffrey... your sister, your father... any of them..."
"I won't," Sansa whispered. "I promise."
It was not enough. "If you ever tell anyone," he finished, "I'll kill you."
This is one of the less irritating Sansa chapters. Some of that has to do with all the action going on, but this is also one of the chapters where I can relate to Sansa. She is basically living her dream. We know she loves the songs and legends about knights and ladies. I'm thinking she's not so different from the kinds of people who devour fantasy books and movies.
What happens at the tourney is far less interesting than the observations about the participants and attendants. For some reason, Sansa's chapters tell us more about others than any other POV character so far.
Petyr Baelish makes an appearance to pay his respects to Sansa. I can't decide if he is polite and reminiscing or just a little bit creepy, but at least we know that beautiful Sansa looks like a young Catelyn. [NOTE: Who was more beautiful: Catelyn Tully or Lyanna Stark? Only because Sansa and Arya take after them, respectively.] Then Littlefinger glides away, no doubt plotting something devious like obtaining his own mini-Cate.
The actual tourney goes off with few hitches. Some seemingly unimportant knight gets skewered by Gregor by accident. Or not. (And does it say anything about Sansa that she's relatively unaffected by the death?) Jaime is the only one of the Kingsguard not wearing white armour, and he makes it into the final four along with Gregor, Sandor, and Loras Tyrell. The Knight of Flowers makes a bit of a stir when he gives a red rose to Sansa. (Isn't he dreamy?) Then the jousting is over and the stage is set for a grand finale the next morning.
Moving on to the feast.
Robert: Are his husbandry skills worse than his fatherly ones? I have little love for Cersei, but she wasn't exactly graced with a model husband by any means. Then again, did Cersei goad him into the argument on purpose? And did she become who she is because of Robert, or did Robert become who he is because of Cersei? We have a sympathetic view of Robert because he and Ned are BFFs, but I don't think the other characters are all that enamored of him. Conversely, what does it say about the people of the court that no one tried to stop the argument. Not the Kingsguard, or Renly, or anyone. (By the way, where is Ned? Sleeping? Why?) Only Jaime makes a move after Cersei leaves, and he gets upended. *sigh
Joff... is surprisingly nice. I don't know if that's because Cersei told him to be that way, or to make sure he doesn't lose Sansa's heart to Loras, or a combination of the two. We ARE seeing him through Sansa's Joffrey-tinted glasses, but even she's not sure which side of him she'll get when they sit together. (Although the way she convinces herself that the direwolf incident was Cersei's and Arya's fault and not Joff's is sickening.) Anyway, let's agree that Joff is uncharacteristically polite and charming for one chapter until mummy dearest leaves in a huff. That's when he decides he's had enough, and he sends Sansa away with an escort. Bringing us to...
The Hound. If no one was feeling sympathetic for Sandor before, I think this chapter certainly did the trick. He's a bitter man, true. He also has grounds for his bitterness. His brother turned him into Two-Face, for crying out loud, and got away with it. Underneath Sandor's tough exterior, there might be a good man. Of course, he would laugh at the notion of being a good man, at least in its supposed relation to being a knight.
This brings me back to Sansa. She is a well-trained bird, like Sandor says, but while Arya, Robb, and Jon are fighting with swords, Sansa only has manners and good breeding to protect her. That's flimsier than a paper shield, but it says a lot about her courage. Unless you consider it more stupidity than courage. Which I don't.
There is plenty to write about Gregor, but I'll leave that for now because we get a lot closer to him in the next chapter. Speaking of which...
Chapter 30: Eddard
Ned and Ser Barristan stare at the corpse of Ser Hugh, the young knight killed by Ser Gregor. It was Jon Arryn's former squire, one of Littlefinger's leads, now inconveniently killed by a Lannister bannerman. They deal with the body and then walk over to the king's pavilion. Ned was sleeping during the feast, but he heard about Robert's decision to fight, and he knows the king won't change his mind even if it was a drunken decision.
Sure enough, the king is awake, drinking, and having trouble with his armour. He's cursing the ineptitude of his two squires, but Ned says the problem is Robert is too fat. The king send his squire away, and after a bit of arguing about the merits of being king and the foolishness of fighting, Barristan points out that Robert would win the tourney melee almost by default. Robert clues in that the other combatants would let him win. He is so angry that he throws a breastplate at Barristan and orders the knight to leave. He tells Ned to stay and drink, actually ordering him to drink Robert's beer.
He tells Ned that he dreams of sailing off and abandoning his crown for a life of freedom and adventure. "Do you know what stops me? The thought of Joffrey on the throne, with Cersei standing behind him, whispering in his ear. My son. How could I have made a son like that, Ned?"
Robert soon shifts the talk to lighter matters, wishing to get on with the tourney. He tells Ned how much he laughed when Loras dumped Jaime at the last tourney, and then goes on to reminisce about pranks and good times while growing up with Ned and Jon Arryn. Ned sees the king as the man he used to know, and he daydreams about toppling the Lannisters with Robert's help if he can prove they were behind Jon Arryn's death.
They arrive at the tourney in time for the beginning, and Ned sits next to Sansa. The first joust is between Sandor and Jaime. Renly and Littlefinger wager on the outcome, and the Hound wins. Sansa speaks up, saying she knew he would win.
Ser Gregor comes out for the next joust, and Ned thinks of all the dark rumours he's heard concerning the Mountain that Rides. Gregor is freakishly big, dwarfing his horse and his opponent, Ser Loras. However, when Loras rides onto the field, the smell of his mare makes Gregor's stallion go wild. He can't control his mount, and when the two ride towards each other, Loras manages to knock off the Mountain.
The crowd cheers, but Gregor calls for his sword and almost decapitates his horse with one swing before going after Loras. The crowd is terrified and in turmoil until a rasping voice says "Leave him be," and Sandor is there to fight Gregor. The crowd watches the brothers fight, and Ned notices that for all Gregor's savagery, Sandor does not try to attack Gregor. Finally, the king's bellowing and twenty guards are able to stop the fight. They let Ser Gregor go.
"Is the Hound the champion now?" Sansa asked Ned.
"No," he told her. "There will be one final joust, between the Hound and the Knight of Flowers."
But Sansa had the right of it after all. A few moments later Ser Loras Tyrell walked back onto the field in a simple linen doublet and said to Sandor Clegane, "I owe you my life. The day is yours, ser."
"I am no ser," the Hound replied, but he took the victory, and the champion's purse, and, for perhaps the first time in his life, the love of the commons. They cheered him as he left the lists to return to his pavilion.
The archery and melee portions of the tournament are held, their respective winners decided, and then it's time for another feast. Arya is there, sore from her secret lessons. Ned asks her if she'd like to switch masters, but Arya seems quite taken with Syrio Forel and his methods.
Ned retires to his bedchamber, where he thinks about the plots he must uncover. There is Littlefinger's blade, sent to kill Bran. There is the apprentice smith, Gendry, who is certainly Robert's bastard; the boy has the Baratheon look, and Robert is the only Baratheon who could be the father. Nothing makes sense to Ned.
Ned is visited by an elderly man, who turns out to be Varys in disguise. The eunuch's sweet tones are gone, replaced by a harder, more business-like attitude. He says that Robert is a fool, and he was set up to die in the melee. Ned guesses that it's the Lannisters who want him dead; Cersei forbade Robert from fighting, the sure way to make him commit to fighting. With a few Lannister friends in the melee, Robert could have suffered an unlucky accident.
Varys discusses trust with Ned, and he goes over the major players at court. There are very few people to trust, and there is no proof of Lannister wrongdoing. Until there is proof, Ned can't move against the Lannisters. Finally, Ned asks how Jon Arryn died, and Varys tells him about the Tears of Lys, a very special poison that was probably administered by his trusted squire, the late Ser Hugh. And the reason Jon was killed? Because he was asking questions.
Ser Hugh of the Vale, we barely knew you. Now you are gone, along with any secrets of Jon Arryn's life and death. That will complicate Ned's life.
Over in Robert's tent, he is still dead set on fighting in the melee. Fortunately, Ser Barristan is quick enough to see that the way to get Robert out of fighting is to address his pride. Nice save, Barry. But that makes Robert mad all over again, and he tells the knight to get lost. The good thing is that he sees the sense behind Barristan's words. And he opens up to Ned about other things, particularly his marital and kingly unhappiness. This series is not known for its humour, but Robert gets the best line in this chapter when he tells Ned "Drink and stay quiet, the king is talking."
Also, Robert... has a clue. He's not the poster man for parenthood (no Westerosi parent is), but he knows Joff is one twisted kid. Isn't it ironic that he's spent years trying to get to Viserys Targaryen, and yet his own son (well, "son") is just as terrible a prospect as the future king?
In the jousts, there are some seemingly throwaway lines concerning Tyrion and wagers between Renly and Littlefinger in the joust between Jaime and The Hound. However, they show that Tyrion has a habit of betting on Jaime, no matter what. Somewhere north of King's Landing, Tyrion is probably wishing Catelyn knew that little tidbit of information. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Back to the lists.
Sandor goes through to the final by beating Jaime (oooh... the upstart bodyguard takes down one of the best fighters in the realm), and then everything goes wrong in the next match.
That was a sneaky trick Loras used to beat Gregor, and it almost cost him his life. Fortunately, Sandor saved the day. "Leave him be." With those words and the fight that ensued, Sandor nabbed himself a spot on the Good Guy chart, even if his character is still a little murky. Would he have done the same for anyone else, or was he doing it because he hates his brother? I don't know, but he still went up against a brute that dwarfs even him, whose strength and reach are unmatched, and he matched them. You know what kinds of people do that? Big Damn Heroes. (You'll want to wait until 1:07.) Of course (of course), there's a definition for that.
Fast forward to the meeting with Varys, and here we have some interesting information, if Varys can be trusted. I want to take Varys's words at face value--he certainly sounds more convincing than Littlefinger--but can a man in his position be trusted? Ned seems to think so, based on a short chat and conveniently neat revelations. He has not taken Littlefinger's advice about not trusting anyone to heart. Does that surprise anyone?
We struck gold in the comments! If you need something to tide you over until you come back for Part 13 on Monday, there is a quicker and (sadly for me) funnier recap called "A Game of Thrones in 30 Minutes". Read it because, Jesus Haich, it's funny. I might be the only person in the world who hasn't seen it, so thanks to Lya for pointing it out.
Have a great weekend, and to any moms out there, Happy Mother's Day.