Happy Canada Day! Yes, we celebrate that on he first of July. It's formerly Dominion Day, from the days when Canada was under the British. Oddly enough, the Queen is actually here visiting and planting trees. This comes just before the weekend Pride parade, and just after last weekend's pretty negative Fortress Toronto experience.
Getting back to business, we are here for the ASOIAF re-read.
Here is the last post (part 18), the intro post, and the first post. You can follow along using the #ASOIAF hashtag on Twitter, and the RSS button near the upper right of the screen. Your comments are always welcome.
By the way, my apologies for mentioning in the last post that one of my favourite chapters was coming up. Nothing against these chapters, but neither is the one I was talking about. From now on I'll zip it until we actually get to the chapter.
And we won't get to it without advancing through the others. Sally forth.
Chapter 42: Tyrion
Tyrion and Bronn argue about the merits of having a fire at night on the high road. Tyrion likes warmth and the ability to cook meat, while Bronn likes staying alive, something that's not likely if clansmen see the fire.
Bronn threatens to take Tyrion's horse and leave him to die. Tyrion knows it's not a very good threat, and explains to Bronn that the reason he fought on Tyrion's side after originally signing up as Catelyn's helper was for reward. There's a fortune to be made in keeping the dwarf alive.
"And if you die?" [Bronn asked.]
"Why then, I'll have one mourner whose grief is sincere," Tyrion said, grinning. "The gold ends when I do."
They light a fire and roast a goat for supper. Tyrion expects the clansmen to turn up at some point. In the meantime, he tells Bronn what he'll do when he gets to Casterly Rock and King's Landing; namely, finding out who framed him as Bran's would-be killer.
As they wait to be found, Tyrion starts reminiscing. He tells Bronn about the first girl he ever bedded. He and Jaime saved her from robbers, then she fell in love with him and they married in secret. Two weeks later, Tywin Lannister's guards found them, and Jaime was forced to admit the girl was a prostitute he'd hired for Tyrion. Tywin had his guards use the girl and pay her in silver, while Tyrion watched. Then he had Tyrion use her last, and pay her a gold coin because a Lannister was worth more.
"Thirteen or thirty or three," [Bronn said] "I would have killed the man who did that to me."
Tyrion swung around to face him. "You may get that chance one day. Remember what I told you. A Lannister always pays his debts."
Tyrion goes to sleep, only to be woken by Bronn a little later. There are shadows creeping around them. Tyrion tells the shadows to come by the fire. Clansmen come into the light, threatening to kill them. Tyrion bargains with them, managing to keep their attention and gain their interest with talk of new steel to replace their miserable weapons. He concludes by offering them the Vale of Arryn if they help him.
The beginning of this chapter is about how Tyrion guessed Bronn would be his champion because of Lannister gold. The end of the chapter is about Tyrion convincing barbaric clansmen to spare his life and join him because of what gold can buy. Both parts are about him being shrewd.
That's fine, but it's the tragic story in the middle that makes me feel pity and outrage in equal measures. Tywin Lannister should have guards on him night and day, and maybe even a taster for his food. He must be a hated guy. Just look at what he did with his* own son. We've yet to meet Tywin, and we already think he's a bastard (in the figurative sense).
*Or maybe Tyrion's not Tywin's son. We've yet to know for sure.
Tyrion suggests that Bronn might get a crack at Tywin someday. That's not the way it plays out, but those Lannisters do have a knack for paying up.
Chapter 43: Eddard
Ned sits on the sharp and uncomfortable Iron Throne in King's Landing. Robert and some knights are off hunting, so the King's Hand must listen to the daily petitions. Ned's shattered leg is in a cast, and he's trying to ignore the pain.
The petitioners are the remnants of a few towns and villages that were recently pillaged and burned. Their lords speak for them, but some of the peasants have their own voices. Ned questions them all and hears their testimony. They seem to think the crimes were committed by Lannister brigands. Upon further questioning, their leader is identified as Gregor Clegane, remarkable because of his massive size.
The reason Gregor is loose in the countryside has to do with the mounting hostility between Casterly Rock and Riverrun. These lords are Tully bannermen, and they seek vengeance against Gregor.
"Vengeance?" Ned said. "I thought we were speaking of justice. Burning Clegane's fields and slaughtering his people will not restore the king's peace, only your injured pride."
Ned tells the assembly that he can only give some small measure of justice. If he were whole, he would go deliver justice with his own sword. As he is injured, another must go in his place.
Ser Loras Tyrell asks to be the one who hunts down Gregor, but Ned names Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, Ser Gladden, and Ser Lothar to gather some men and find Ser Gregor. Then, in the name of the king, Ned denounces Gregor, strips him of rank, title, and land, and sentences him to death.
Loras asks why he was left out, and Ned explains that Loras is seeking vengeance, not justice. Loras stalks away as Ned ends the session. Varys waits for Ned, and says it might have been better to send Loras and make friends with the Tyrells. Furthermore, he should have sent Ser Ilyn Payne, since he was the king's headsman. Ned doesn't trust Ser Ilyn, but he reminds Varys that the mute knight is a Lannister bannerman, and he wanted to pick men who didn't owe fealty to Lord Tywin. Varys thinks that was prudent, but Ser Ilyn looked very disappointed, since he really loves his work.
Oh for what could have been. Had Ned taken the throne instead of Robert, the Seven Kingdoms might have had a just, kind king. I had to add the word kind, because justice isn't enough. Stannis is all about justice, and I don't think he'd make a good king. But Ned... he probably said the first sensible words spoken from that throne since before Aerys went mad.
Or would things have been different after all? If power corrupts, could Ned have stood against that? Would the smaller lords have played their own game to remove Ned's crown? It's tough to say. I think he would have done alright, and he would have been a popular king with the people. Perhaps not with the lords, though.
Is it at all significant that Renly, Ser Barristan, and Robert--the three who would support Ned--are away while Ned is dispensing even-headed advice? The other three members of the Small Council--Pycelle, Varys, and Littlefinger--are shady at best.
Beric Dondarrion & Co. are charged with making Gregor Clegane pay for his crimes, thereby kicking off a plotline that more or less goes nowhere for a couple of books, then gets a bit of resolution before descending into madness on both ends.
Loras Tyrell makes an appearance, ready to ride after Gregor in pursuit of justice. Loras is a good knight and all, but I'm with Ned in letting him sit this one out. Unhorsing Gregor in a tourney is a bit different from killing the man in his keep. Or beating him in single combat. You might have to be willing to settle for a draw.
That makes me think of a completely unrelated question: Who would win in a duel between Ser Loras Tyrell and Prince Oberyn Martell? Random, I know.
Two more things about Ned. First, he sounds like he would have gone up against Gregor if his leg wasn't broken. It's been fourteen years since he took on the knights of the kingsguard at the Tower of Joy, and he had some help there. Would Gregor have made short work of him? Second, notice that he selected men of neutral allegiance for his posse. Purely off the top of my head, I can't remember another instance in this series when someone uses neutral forces instead of loyal but biased supporters or enemies of the accused.
Creepy ending there, concerning Ilyn Payne, who is a creepy boogeyman anyway. We'll get to him in a few chapters, but notice that Ned didn't send him away. Maybe having him gone from the city wouldn't have been a bad thing.
There's more of the King's Landing Chronicles to come on Monday in Part 20. Come back then.
Who says "sally forth"? Really? Whatever. Happy Canada Day to the Canucks, and Happy Independence Day to the US readers on Sunday. Enjoy the fireworks!