Normally after I grow the winter beard I shave it off on the first day of spring. But I’ve got a Halloween costume happening this weekend which means I gotta ditch it early. It came in fuller, faster, and whiter this year. Figures; can’t grow decent hair on top of my head anymore so it’s here now? Aging is trash.
Whatever. We bid goodbye to the Santa-in-training look tonight.
I didn’t actually mean to finish the book last night. I was only going to read two chapters, but then I got to
the end of Cersei’s and went, “Oh man, I have
to read Jaime’s chapter after that…” and at the end of Jaime’s chapter I was
all “Oooo the final chapter I remember this, must read!” and so now we’re here,
with me writing my third of these in as many days.
This is my Red Wedding chapter for this book, the one where
I got to the end and went “Noooo this can’t have just happened!” only it did
and waiting to know how this whole plot thread unwinds is killing me, because
the show adapted none of this, and
thus future seasons will be no help.
Brienne spends the first third or so of this chapter in a series
of fever dreams as her facial injury become infected. She relives the bear pit,
only Jaime doesn’t come for her. She relives Ronnet’s cruel rejection of her
when she was only twelve, but it’s Jaime abandoning her. Every time she
screamed for Jaime in her dreams, she does it out loud, and her captors hear
it, leading one to dub her “the Kingslayer’s whore,” confirming their suspicion
that she’s on the side of the Lannisters – because who would seriously believe
that Jaime would go behind Cersei’s back with a secret plan to fulfill his
Before she faces her charges, though, she runs into Thoros
of Myr, who is by this point a wreck of a man. He didn’t bring Lady Stoneheart
back, you see, it was Beric, throwing away his last life even after Thoros
warned him that Catelyn would come back wrong. It’s not just that the
Brotherhood is falling apart, rejecting the very principles it stood for, it’s
that she rose without Thoros doing anything. No prayers to the Lord of Light,
not rituals, Beric simply breathed the fire into her. So either the Lord of
Light wanted a monster in Catelyn Stark’s body roaming the earth…or it was
never the Lord of Light, it was just magic.
Everything indicates that “R’hllor” in fact is the morally
neutral power of fire, not a personal deity. The justice and morality of the
religion came from Thoros and Beric, not the fire itself. But Beric is gone,
Thoros’ faith shaken, and Lady Stoneheart is all that’s left.
Brienne doesn’t get a trial here. Nobody listens to her explanations.
Her only “crime,” along with Hyle and Podrick, is being briefly on the side of
the Lannisters. This is a long way from Beric’s justice system that only
punished those who committed atrocities and gave everyone a fair hearing.
Of course, Stoneheart doesn’t really want to hang Brienne.
She’s just threatening her to make Brienne give up a bigger fish: Jaime Lannister,
who thanks to Roose Bolton’s final words Stoneheart believes was involved in
the Red Wedding. Kill Jaime Lannister, and all of them are spared.
And Brienne says no. Brienne is ready to die rather than turn on Jaime. She tries to bargain her
way out of it the way Jaime did for her, but Stoneheart doesn’t care about
ransoms. Brienne is going to die, she is on the gallows with a rope around her
neck – when she sees Podrick.
I haven’t talked a lot about Podrick because I have to
prioritize, there’s so much in every chapter, so let’s talk a little about him
right now. Pod has had a miserable life, wants to be a squire against all odds,
treats Brienne like a real knight, and helped her fight Shagwell. Brienne has
grown protective of him, adopting him as her squire and trusting him on the
road more than Hyle Hunt. Pod, most importantly, is about thirteen years old
and completely innocent of any wrongdoing.
It’s when she sees him “kicking, choking, dying,” that Brienne flips and says “sword.”
Martin had to confirm that in interviews to people who lack reading
comprehension, but yes, Brienne doesn’t die here, she says she’ll kill Jaime to
save Podrick’s life.
Says she will. Doing is an entirely different matter. I’ll
talk about this more when we get to the lone Jaime chapter of A Dance with Dragons, but for right now
let’s just say that what terrifies me is how Jaime will react to finding out
about this. A lot of it will depend on whether she continues to lie to him.
Because if there’s one thing Jaime hates, it’s someone who lies to him.
SPEAKING OF WHICH! Okay, honesty from me right now: the first time I read this chapter I had major schadenfreude
about Cersei’s downfall. I feel a lot less of that now, because I know what’s
going to happen to her in the next book, because I know the depth of the High
Sparrow’s misogyny, because I know that this is the first step of King’s
Landing probably turning into a bloodbath.
But how could I not feel a little pleased? After endless chapters of her arrogance, after
sending Lady Falyse to be vivisected by Qyburn, after torturing the Blue Bard,
and above all after what she does to Margaery and her cousins, seeing Cersei’s
own plan turn on her still has a touch of delight to it, even if it’s tempered
by a horror of where this is all headed.
What Margaery and her cousins go through thanks to Cersei is
appalling. Margaery, at sixteen, is the oldest
of them, not by much in the case of Elinor, but by more with Megga and a lot
with Alla. All of them are examined by a bunch of strange women to see if their
hymens are intact (they aren’t, which even Cersei knows is mostly likely due to
them all being avid equestrians) and dumped in dungeons until they confess to
crimes they didn’t commit.
(Side note: Pycelle has changed his story to giving Margaery
moon tea “not once, but many times,” which is baloney. But when Cersei tells
Margaery that all three of her cousins have been brought in for questioning,
she only mentions Megga and Alla in her shocked denial. Elinor is her cousin who
is betrothed to a squire about the same age as her. If Elinor and Alyn jumped
the gun a little and Elinor had to get rid of inconveniently early pregnancy,
it would not surprise me if Margaery helped her take care of that. And unlike
the sparrows, I’m pro-choice, so that just makes me like her more.)
Cersei considers it justifiable, however, because it’s to
save Tommen. If the younger and more beautiful queen can be defeated, then
Maggy’s prophecy is thwarted and her remaining children are safe. Margaery is
right, though, that Cersei wouldn’t be happy with anyone taking Tommen away from her. Whoever Tommen married, she’d
have believed her to be the prophesied threat.
So everything falls apart for Cersei, as Taena and her
husband flee (which she thinks is a good thing, since Taena could spill all her
secrets, never considering that Taena might not have been loyal to her in the
first place), Aurane Waters steals her entire new fleet, possibly to rejoin
Stannis, and Osney, when faced with torture, tells the truth and reveals
everything to the septons.
At which point Cersei’s own torture begins, because sleep
deprivation is a form of torture. Every hour she’s wakened and ordered to confess, until Qyburn
is allowed to see her. He fills her in on how she no longer controls the city
and new parties are taking over, and reminds her she can prove her innocence by
battle – and he has created the perfect champion for her (to be continued). But
in order to screw over Margaery, Cersei established with the High Sparrow that
only a member of the Kingsguard can defend a queen, and so, in her sleep-deprived
state, she believes she has only one possibility: Jaime.
She has Qyburn send a raven to Jaime at Riverrun begging him
to come back and be her champion. When the ex-maester notes that Jaime can’t
actually fight right now, Cersei
thinks “We will leave this world together, as we once came into it,” an echo of
a thought Jaime had in the previous book. Out loud she says she is certain he
won’t lose when her life’s at stake.
But win or lose, she believes her brother will come.
Spoiler: Jaime doesn’t come! But we have more to cover
before we get to that.
Jaime is mostly satisfied with the result of things at
Riverrun, even if he doesn’t care for the methods he used to get them (he’s
still sickened whenever he thinks about his trebuchet speech). For the most
part he’s gotten what he wanted. Yes, the Blackfish was able to escape, but he
took Riverrun bloodlessly. He’s ordered all of the Freys’ prisoners released.
And he lets the garrison at Riverrun go peacefully once they disarm and make
oaths not to rebel against the throne. His aunt Genna is judgmental about that
one, noting that most of them will break the oath and may very well try to kill
him. To which Jaime replies, “Better than to die in bed,” and thinks “Or on the
Because ultimately he isn’t
Tywin Lannister. He can’t commit mass murder to achieve his ends, and even
threatening one man made him loathe himself. This is a good thing. Tywin was
a bad person, who cared more about the wellbeing of “the nation” than of the
actual people living in it, who cared more about his “family” than his actual
family members. Jaime is a better man than his father, and has accomplished
something not great but at least honorable.
Too bad that Tom o’Sevens has gotten into Riverrun and is
probably going to help the Brotherhood undo everything he just did. Not that,
at the end of the day, I think Jaime would cry to see most of the Freys get
He really hates
the Freys, but he hates Jeyne Westerling’s mother more. Lady Sybell (who is
Maggy’s granddaughter! Missed that the first time through) plotted with Tywin
to sell out her daughter’s husband the moment they were married, and is now
treating her daughter miserably because Jeyne remains stubbornly loyal to Robb
long past the point of common sense…something we know Jaime admires in a woman.
Jaime tells her that “Your daughter is worth ten of you, my lady,” and Sybell’s
scheming reminds him of, well, Cersei. Jeyne still wears a gown she tore in
mourning for Robb; would Cersei do the same for him?
Jaime talks to Ilyn about his sister, since he’s the only
person he knows won’t tell. He remembers that he and Cersei started out kissing
innocently as children, which reminds him of Tyrion saying that “most whores
will not kiss you,” which makes him wonder if she ever kissed Osmund. If she
does…is Cersei really a “whore” the way he’s been imagining her? Or just not a
good person? Notably he doesn’t call her a whore after this, just the more
He starts to considering that maybe Osmund bears
some responsibility for this, and knows there’s precedent for him punishing him
and sending him to the Wall. He doesn’t know what to do about Cersei, but he
refuses Ilyn’s proposal to just kill her. She’s Tommen’s mother, and after the year that boy has had, he’s not going to
traumatize him further – or give the Tyrells fuel to turn his son against him.
And with that Jaime finally begins to move on, because he
realizes that right now he needs to stop thinking about what Cersei did and
figure out what he’s going to do.
Should he tell Tommen he’s his father? Would his son believe him? Can he get
Cersei off the council and Kevan Lannister back on it? Who would make a good
Hand for Tommen if his uncle refuses? (He settles on Littlefinger and noooooo
Jaime that would be a terrible idea)
Then Jaime has a dream of his mother, only in it she says
this isn’t a dream, because he only has one hand.
“We all dream of things we cannot have. Tywin dreamed that
his son would be a great knight, that his daughter would be a queen. He dreamed
they would be so strong and brave and beautiful that no one would ever laugh at
Jaime tells her that he’s a knight and Cersei’s a queen, but
that only makes her cry. Maybe she’s crying because she knows that plenty of
people have laughed at Jaime and Cersei, that they’ve been foolish, cowardly,
and morally ugly plenty of times, and thus Tywin’s dream is unfulfilled…or
maybe they aren’t Tywin’s, and she knew it all along?
Jaime wakes from the dream to find it’s snowing in the
Riverlands. And while he might not have approved of his father’s actions in
wartime, he finds himself wishing he were here to help them fend off famine in
winter. He’s also able to remember playing in the snow with his siblings,
without any bitter thoughts or recriminations.
Which is when the letter arrives. The embarrassed maester already
read it, including Cersei’s triple “I love you” plea. Jaime doesn’t rant or
replay the list of her affairs or call her names. He just folds the letter up
so his squire can’t see it and tells the maester to burn it.
This is what acceptance looks like. He may still be hurt by
how their relationship ended, may still regret having been with her in the
first place (except for Tommen and Myrcella), but he’s done being angry at her
about it. There’s nothing he can do to help her, since left-handed he’s still
an incompetent fighter. While he may have once shared her dream that they’d die
together as they were born together, that’s not Jaime any longer. All he dreams
about now is being able to do the right thing. He may still not know how to do
the right thing all the time, but that’s what he wants.
And that, my friends, is awesome character development.
Sam thinks, like me, that it’s improbable that Aemon’s dying
“the sphinx is the riddle, not the riddler” could mean Alleras. What I’d
forgotten is that there are two sphinxes on either side of the gates of the
citadel of the maesters. Is what he said connected to them?
But now – if you have only watched the show, if you have not
read the books, STOP READING RIGHT NOW. I mean it. As I said in the prologue,
the events at Oldtown are the only thing that’s happened in the book that hasn’t
been in the show that I think the show will be including. YOU MAY GET A MAJOR
Are they all gone? Good. So Alleras, upon hearing Sam’s
story of what’s going on at the Wall, has him bypass the seneschal and go
straight to Archmaester Marwyn, who has been mentioned occasionally throughout
the books. He taught anatomy to Mirri, Drogo’s murderer. He’s the only person
who agreed with Qyburn about ghosts. He’s the only archmaester who believes in
magic, who has a dragonglass castle that is burning for the first time in centuries,
in the flames of which he sees visions of the future. When he warns Sam not to
mention Danaerys’s dragons to any of the other maesters, Sam asks him why – and
Marwyn drops the other wham line of
“Who do you think killed all the dragons the last time
I gasped at that line the first time I
read it. The maesters are responsible for the extinction of dragons and are
actively working against magic. Just…wow, okay.
Since then, though, I’ve read Martin’s historical novellas, particularly
“The Dance of Dragons,” and dragons in this universe are basically the
equivalent of mobile nuclear warheads. They ensure mass destruction whenever
they are on the field, and whoever controls them is guaranteed to win. Small
wonder that you might work to eliminate them, for the sake of peace. Magic,
meanwhile, is almost always either evil or at the very least dangerous.
But what this means is that when Danaerys arrives in
Westeros, there will be a network of people, in every court across the entire
country, who are against the return of dragons, against magic, and who know how to defeat them. I have no idea how this will play out, but hopefully they do
keep it, because it would make season seven awesome.
Oh, and Pate the Pig Boy is there, too. Hello Jaqen. I look
forward to finding out what you’re up to as well…