[Red Pen Reads] A Game of Thrones – Bran and Catelyn

Bran is still falling. He’s remembering Maester Luwin’s lesson about what happens to clay when it’s thrown out of a window and thinking that what happens to flesh probably is probably similar enough. A voice is telling him to take the third option and fly. I would say that hearing voices in your head is a bad sign, but the inside of his head is all Bran has right now, so I’ll let him have this one without crying “loony bin.”

Bran’s trying on denial for size, but the mysterious voice is having none of it. In its opinion, pretending you can do something to prevent going splat on the ground below is a better strategy than pretending you’re not about to go splat at all. Maybe it has a point. When Bran protests that he can’t fly — This is the line in the sand you’re choosing to draw re: what’s real in a dream? Really, Bran? — the voice reasonably argues that he can’t say that for certain since he’s never tried.

Probably tired of arguing with a disembodied voice, Bran looks around and sees that it’s coming from a crow whose spiralling to keep up with his free fall. Well, who else were you expecting up there in the clouds, Bran? I don’t think either of your parents’ religions includes angels in their mythos. When the crow asks for corn, Bran hilariously reaches into his pocket to feed it some and the crow lands on his hand to eat. Mythbusters should test the physics on this one.

The chapter is very beautiful writing, but there’s not much actually happening in it. “It’s a dream.” – “It’s real.” “I’ll die.” – “Learn to fly.” It’s a nice and necessary break from the last chapter.

Bran remembers the circumstances of his “fall,” but his spirit guide doesn’t want him thinking about that now, he tells him to “Forget it.” It feels a bit like a magical hand-wave to make sure Bran doesn’t wake up screaming, “Jaime Lannister tried to kill me and is fucking his sister.”

The crow insists that it’s teaching Bran how to fly and the fall is just the step one. It does sound a bit like the way birds are supposed to teach their chicks how to fly, pushing them out of the nest. Then the crow commands Bran to “LOOK DOWN!” Uh, isn’t that the opposite of what you’re supposed to do when you’re falling? Maybe it makes sense, though, because Bran has the opposite than usual reaction, instead of panicking, he starts feeling calm as he looks at the landscape below. There is a hint that maybe this isn’t just Bran’s imagination or memory, because he’s seeing people going about their business, including watching Robb practice with a real sword, something we’re to understand Robb has never done prior to Ned’s departure, and so Bran would have never seen it before his fall. Then again, he also sees the main tree in the godswood look back at him. It’s a strange mix of omniscience and magic mushrooms.

Through the omniscience, we get an update on Catelyn and Ser Rodrik, sailing south to overtake Ned and the king’s progress by sea and be ready to meet them in King’s Landing when they finally arrive. I bet it helps that they were four days delayed. Through the magic mushrooms, we get to see the threats looming over Ned and the girls: the Hound as an actual anthropomorphised dog, a golden armored shape, a giant suit of armor filled with darkness and blood. Jon has reached the Wall, where winter never left. Beyond that, beyond the north, beyond the edge of the world, Bran looks into “the heart of winter” and it scares him. It fills him with some sort of knowledge he doesn’t understand and the crow summarizes this knowledge as the reason he must fly and live: Because winter is coming. Luckily, I still have my alcohol from the end of the last chapter on hand to take the drink.

Courage is not the lack of fear but action in the face of it. Deathly afraid, afraid of death, Bran spreads his arms and metaphorical wings and flies. Then the crow starts pecking at his third-eye chakra and then the dream is over and Bran is awake. We know so because a serving woman runs out of the room screaming it. Left alone, Bran discovers a few things: he can’t get up or feel anything in his legs and his nameless pup has grown up. By the time Robb comes running in, Bran is awake enough to speak and, sadly, those words really aren’t “Jaime Lannister tried to kill me and is fucking his sister.” Instead, it’s a more thematically appropriate and long-overdue naming of his wolf: Summer.

Catelyn’s on a boat. (God bless Old Spice, the simplest sentences in the English language are memes now: instant comedy!) It’s a galley captained by a Tyroshi man; Catelyn is happy to have hired it rather than a more fiscally prudent fishing sloop, because the wind has been against them for much of the voyage. Her healing hands have settled into a dull ache and she lost the use of a couple of fingers, but at least kept all the fingers themselves. Ser Rodrik emerges up on the deck, nearly as green as the Tyroshi captain’s dyed beard, and the captain leaves them alone to conference. Ser Aron Santagar, the king’s master-at-arms, is the man they have to see about identifying the dagger. “Vain but honest” is Rodrik’s opinion. The problem is that even though Catelyn’s sister is gone from court, there is another there who can recognize her. Lord Petyr Baelish, ladies and gentlemen, hide your daughters. Well, just Lady and Lord Stark, really, and only one specific daughter. Lord Baelish is known as Littlefinger to his childhood friends, because he used to be short and is from the smallest of the peninsulas collectively known as the Fingers. Sure, that was the exact reasoning of the teenage boy (Catelyn’s brother Edmure) who bestowed that nickname. Littlefinger, Catelyn’s father’s ward, was in love with her so much that he challenged her original betrothed, Brandon Stark, for her hand. Brandon was a lot bigger and tougher, and only spared his life at Catelyn’s request. That was the last contact they’ve had, Catelyn burnt unread a letter he sent her after Brandon’s death; Littlefinger wasn’t really her family, and duty and honour already had her bound to Ned.

An aside: if I keep on working the Houses’ words into my reviews like that, I’m going to paint myself into the corner in which I’ll have to apply the Lannister “Hear me roar!” to either Jaime’s or Tyrion’s orgasms. I think I better stop before it gets to that point.

It’s been a long time since little Petyr Baelish tried to be romantic and fight for his love. He may still be known as “Littlefinger,” but he’s a member of the king’s small council and the power he wields is real. Catelyn isn’t surprised, she’s always known he’s clever, but what to expect of this new, powerful Littlefinger…

Their journey at an end, the galley arrives in King’s Landing, a bustling port that marks the spot where Aegon Targaryen, the Conqueror, landed in the beginning of his invasion. The Conqueror is also known for his devotion to the family’s incestuous traditions, having married both of his sisters. Like Rome, King’s Landing has hills, only three of them, though, named after the three Targaryen sibling-rulers: Aegon, Visenya and Rhaenys. The Dragonpit, where the Targaryens once bred their dying dragons, is now a ruin and Robert’s stag-embroidered golden banners have replaced the Targaryen red-on-black.

Catelyn and Rodrik finish their business with the captain — Catelyn making sure to pay the bonus silver she promised straight into the hands of the oarsmen rather than trust the captain to do it, because she’s only a villain when in the presence of a boy who’s done nothing to her except be born — and then make their way to an inn. Ser Rodrik, unrecognizable without the whiskers he had to shave off on the ship, will bring the master-at-arms to her rather than risk Catelyn going into the castle. It’s not a stupid plan, but it shows how naive in the ways of the court Catelyn is, or maybe just out of touch after years in Winterfell. If Varys’s spies know about Dany’s marriage on the other continent, could Lady Stark have really arrived in King’s Landing without being noticed? A few hours after Rodrik leaves her to go to the castle, Catelyn is woken from a nap by City Watch guards who bring her a message from Littlefinger; they’re instructed to escort her, with all courtesy, to the castle.

Once they’re alone inside his office, Littlefinger is informal and familiar, calling her “Cat.” Catelyn herself is stiff and angry. Varys’s spies found her, of course, and with most of the king’s council away, Varys took the information to Littlefinger. Varys himself joins them soon. He’s very soft and decorative, a plump, hairless man in colourful silk. He’s very courteous and very well informed, he knows that Ser Rodrik came to speak to Ser Aron and that the two man are currently back at the inn, drinking and waiting for Catelyn. Since he already knows about the dagger, Catelyn shows it to him. Varys cuts himself on the blade; in contrast, Littlefinger handles it masterfully, using it as a throwing knife. The dagger, as it turns out, is his. Rather, it was his, until he gambled on Kingslayer winning a recent tourney and lost to just about the only man to bet otherwise: Jaime’s brother, the Imp.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *