[And while I'm typing this up, something amazing has just happened. This makes me so happy. It's nice to see my all-time fave get even more recognition, although some US media members are making it seem like they just discovered a cure for the common cold. Did no one notice that he was amazing in Toronto too?]
But ASOIAF is what we do here, and so that must reign supreme for now. Strangers to the re-read, get ye hence to the Intro or Part 1, but beware spoilers in the comments and posts if you haven't read all four books. Verily.
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Let's get battling.Chapter 62: Tyrion
The end of a long day of marching arrives, and Tyrion is sore, weary, and late for the evening meal. He and his father trade barbs, until he hears Tywin's plan to put him in the vanguard for the next day's battle. It seems to him like his father is trying to rid himself of Tyrion and the mountain men who follow him.
Too angry to eat, Tyrion leaves the pavillion and goes in search of some company. He wanders through the camps of the various clans, where the fierce warriors cheer him as he passes by. Finally, he ends up at his own tent. Bronn is there, with a girl and Tyrion's squire, Podrick Payne.
The girl is Shae, a whore for Tyrion. They spend the night together, and she pleases him--both physically and emotionally. They fall asleep together, but are woken up a few hours later by sounds of alarm. The Stark forces marched through the night and are almost upon them.
Everyone is finally assembled at dawn. The Lannister army is divided into three sections, with one of them consisting of Tyrion and the mountain men, under the command of Gregor Clegane. It is the weakest side, but the Mountain is unstoppable once the battle begins. Tyrion acquits himself well, and when all is said and done, it is the Starks who retreat.
Tyrion is injured and his men are reduced by half, but Tywin considers the day a success. His only regret is that they were unable to get to Robb Stark. However, the congratulations are short-lived; according to the northern captives, Robb Stark was not with the force, having taken his cavalry across the river and making for Riverrun. Even though he is in pain, it pleases Tyrion to see his father outmaneuvered this time.
Gooooo Winterfell! Robb's gamble paid off, and it's good to see someone like Tywin get outsmarted by "a green boy." But let's deal with the contents of this chapter in order, shall we?
When Tyrion shows up for dinner, hey gets a bunch of rude comments and suggestions from his father. By this point we can all agree that Tywin is a dick, but putting him and his troops in the vanguard seems like a blatant effort to finish him off. Uncle Kevan, for all that he's the kinder of the elder Lannister generation, does nothing.
Back at his tent, Tyrion meets Shae, the girl who will be his companion for a while. There's no innocence about her, but that suits Tyrion just fine. She also doesn't seem to care that he's a dwarf, which is even better for him. Shae is... well, I never really expected her to amount to much, except for perhaps getting Tyrion into trouble if Tywin ever found out about her. Her, um... ending... is one of the more regrettable ones in the series.
Also, hello Podrick Payne! For a minor character, you have an uncanny knack for survival, although its continuation depends on the outcome of ACoS's cliffhanger.
The battle scene is pretty good. I don't know where Martin fits on the scale of good battle-writers, but his fight scenes keep my attention locked for their durations. For whatever that's worth.
I thought it was interesting that Tywin stuck Gregor with the clansmen. The Mountain is a pretty good guy to have in your weakest side because he's such a beast that he can dish out more punishment than anyone else can give, but at the same time, what if something had happened to him? What if an errant arrow or something had killed him? Something tells me Tywin wouldn't have been too put out. A guy like Gregor is an advantage to your side, but he's also a liability in case he ever rebels or switches sides.
Tyrion acquits himself well in the field. So do the mountain men, although their ranks are decimated by the end of the day. Then there's Shagga doing his best Boromir impression, slumped under a tree and riddled with arrows. Except he lives, pulling all the arrows out himself. Those mountain men are crazy.
Lastly, the big reveal at the end: Robb Stark and his cavalry were not present. I wish we'd seen Tywin's reaction to the news, but the way the chapter ended was kind of perfect too. Well played. Speaking of Robb Stark...
Chapter 63: Catelyn
Catelyn is with thirty guards in a dark forest, waiting for a battle about to begin. She chafes at having to wait, having to be removed from her son, either because she is a woman or because she is a noblewoman.
Once the battle begins, Catelyn is left guessing about the outcome, since she can't see through the dark and the trees. Jaime Lannister's army has the numbers, but her son's forces have better positioning and the element of surprise. She hopes that is enough.
Afterwards, Robb returns, unhurt, and with a prisoner: Jaime himself. Some of the men want him killed, but Robb knows Jaime has more use as a hostage. Afterwards, Robb confesses that but for the sacrifices of some of his men, Jaime would have had him. He almost did anyway. Theon Greyjoy and others want to celebrate, but Robb and Catelyn remind them that there is still Riverrun to recapture, and there is still Tywin to worry about.
The Kingslayer is captured. Jaime Lannister. Wow. The chapter ends by saying it's just one battle and not a war, but first-time readers had to think that momentum was on Winterfell's side. I know I did. Jaime is captured, and hurt... while Robb comes out of the battle unscathed. Outnumbered 3 to 1. Sure, the ambush and military tactics sound good enough (and lucky enough) to make victory seem almost certain, but ... well, I suppose Jaime is a better one-on-one fighter than a battle leader at this juncture. Or maybe Robb and his merry men are just that good and that smart.
I'm not upset or anything (Gooooo Winterfell!). I'm just a little stunned.
A bit more about Jaime: According to Brynden Tully, Jaime is quick to anger and impatient on the battlefield. I don't think we've seen enough of him post-capture to really say whether that rashness is gone, but I think it is. What do you think? We could find out as soon as ADwD comes out, if his chapters are in that book. And I like the courage, humour, and defiance that he shows as a captive. It reminds me a lot of a certain Imp. They must have get that from their mother's side.
Catelyn's removal from the field has the advantage of giving us battle descriptions that are a bit different than Tyrion's experience in the last chapter. In the dark, and from a distance, all she knows of the fighting are the sounds and the screams. This is what death sounds like, she thinks. To which I say it actually sounds like "The Rains of Castamere," but maybe that's just me.
There's an interesting bit before the battle about all the men in Catelyn's life making her wait; her father when he went away while she was young; Brandon Stark when he left for King's Landing newly betrothed; Ned, two weeks after their marriage, gone for a year to fight Robert's war; and now Robb, gone for a night to ambush the Kingslayer. That sounds like a woman who is chafing at the restraints of her sex, although I think she's always told to wait because of who she is, rather than what gender she is. Basically: she can't win.
Come back for Part 30 where things take a turn for the worse for a certain horselord and his wife, and a lost little girl re-enters the fray.