Catelyn and her uncle have taken the sea route to Robb, travelling to the White Harbor — the North’s primary port — and then on to where Robb’s gathering his forces with the sons of White Harbor’s lord, Manderly, as escorts. It’s nice that at least one of the Stark kids gets to be reunited with a parent, but think about it: out the six kids, only one gets to see a parent again, and it’s the oldest to boot. The babies will have to fend for themselves!
The place is Moat Cailin, a First Men ruin with three standing towers. Catelyn finds Robb inside one, being a lord surrounded by vassals. She wisely suppresses her maternal instincts, in great contrast to Lysa, so as to not undermine his authority in front of the men (see, I give Catelyn her due where she earns it). On the other hand, when Grey Wind comes up to her she thinks that he’s “bigger than a wolf ought to be.” Yes, Catelyn, that’s because he’s a direwolf. Keep up, won’t you? Then Catelyn comments on the novelty of Robb’s beard, because that won’t embarrass him in front of his men or anything. Mothers, they just can’t help it, can they?
There’s an exchange of pleasanries and introductions, Catelyn mentions that she sent Ser Rodrik back to Winterfell, and a great comfort he’ll be to Bran and Baby Mowgli, I’m sure. Awkwardly, Catelyn has to explain that Tyrion’s no longer her captive — and that’s what’s started this whole thing to begin with! — because her sister is a crazy bitch. Everyone then clears out at Catelyn’s request and she starts in on the mom thing: he’s still a boy, she ought to send him home, and so on and so forth. I know she’s his mother, and he’s only fifteen (Hey, Catelyn, wasn’t that how old you were when you gave birth to him? I’m just saying.), but it’s not like she has a leg to stand on! Who’s she to pretend she knows what she’s doing when she started a civil war by capturing Tyrion and then she couldn’t even hold onto him! Robb produces Sansa’s letter and Catelyn immediately sees through it. I don’t think Cersei ever intended it to fool Catelyn, I’m sure she intended her threats to come through, loud and clear. They’re both worried about that the letter makes no mention of Arya. Yes, yes, Sansa’s the worst, we get it.
Robb shows for a moment how desperately he wants his mommy to make it all ok: he’s scared that plunging further into war will just lead to Ned and Sansa’s deaths. Catelyn succintly points out why he has no other options: swearing fealty will just make him a hostage for life; turning back to Winterfell will mean he’ll never be able to be a ruler to these lords he’s gathered. Everything about this makes me sad: Catelyn’s words seem so rational, but it’s so hard to know to what end it all leads. It’s the downside to rereading this book.
News update from Robb on the Lannister vs. Tully action down south, including a follow-up on the group Ned sent to deal with Lannister raping and pillaging in one of his last acts as the Hand:
Tywin Lannister plays G. Clegane & the Marauding Lannisters.
Ned Stark plays Beric Dondarrion & Co.
G. Clegane uses Surprise Buttsex1. It’s super effective!
Edmure Tully plays Vance and Piper.
Tywin Lannister plays Jaime Lannister.
Jaime Lannister uses Kingslayer Smash. It’s very effective!
1. Robb’s actual words: “…Gregor Clegane took them in the rear…”
“Grim and grimmer, thought Catelyn.” Hey Cat, I think you misspelled “GRRM.” On the advice of his men, Robb’s plan is to march south to meet the Lannisters. Catelyn thinks it’s safer to stand their ground here at Moat Cailin. She doesn’t seem to like that Robb is following the lords’ counsel on this, which is weird because that thought was immediately preceded by her worrying that Robb can’t match up against experienced warlords like Tywin and Jaime. So why shouldn’t he be counselled by other experienced warlords? She herself counsels him to deal with conflicting advice by making a command decision. He dazzles Catelyn with his strategic wisdom.
Side note: Catelyn every other thought seems to be about Robb having the Tully looks. It’s even more irritating than “Harry Potter, you have your mother’s eyes.” The worst part is that I’m not sure what’s the point of hammering us over the head with it: Catelyn doesn’t seem unhappy about it, so apparently it’s not some sort of complex about not giving birth to Stark-looking trueborn sons. So why does she keep harping on about it?
Catelyn only leads Robb to change his mind about giving command of a splinter force to the man whose fingers Grey Wolf ate and to give it to Roose Bolton instead. “That man scares me,” says Robb. That’s just because you haven’t met his son yet, but look on the bright side: the Lannisters have their Cleganes and you have your Boltons. Everyone needs a vassal family of complete monsters, right?
Robb thinks that Catelyn will now go on home to her eight- and three-year-old sons, but Bran and Rickon are safe for now while Catelyn’s brother and father are on the front lines of a war on her behalf, so south with Robb’s army she goes.