Ladies (not hello, ladies, see Weston for that), a poll: for those of you who took your husband’s last name upon marriage, how many continued to think of yourself as Firstname Maidenname fifteen years down the line? I changed my last name six years ago and I’m used to it. I just can’t pin down the convention for this in the Seven Kingdoms. On one hand, Catelyn seems to be treated as a member of House Stark, on the other, she thinks of herself as Catelyn Tully. Lysa is referred to as “Lysa Arryn,” but Cersei is called “Cersei Lannister.” Does Littlefinger spend his days doodling “Catelyn Baelish” and “Mr. and Mrs. Petyr Baelish” on the treasury accounts? This is important! Meanwhile, in the back of my mind, I know that I’m thinking about this way more than GRRM ever did, and I feel like he’s trolling me and doesn’t even know it. GRRM can troll you by just being, he’s that good.
Catelyn is giving herself an internal pep talk, trying to put her worries about all the family she’s not with out of her mind and instead concentrate on being strong for Robb, who is, at this pre-battle point, showing signs of shrewd and intelligent leadership. Lord Frey, a Tully vassal who is on the Tullys’ shit list over some fuckery back at the Battle of the Trident, is behaving worrisomely. He has gathered a fighting force, but has not taken it to join the Tully host. Robb doesn’t think Frey has any options other than joining his force, but Catelyn doesn’t trust him. She doesn’t know for a fact that Frey will betray them, she’s not even sure Frey himself has made up his mind at this point, she just knows that Frey holds a location of strategic importance and knows it.
When they make camp for the night, Theon brings them a sitrep from Uncle Brynden. It’s very important, I’m sure, but talk of wartime strategy goes right over my head. Suffice it to say that some people are killing some other people and things are happening. Mostly, they’re all brooding over this whole Frey situation. I’m pretty bored of hearing about it, to be honest. Luckly, Uncle Brynden arrives the next morning to bring more interesting news: Jaime destroyed Edmure’s army, captured Edmure himself, and is besieging Riverrun. It’s not good news, but at least something is happening that I can understand! This has also spurred Lord Frey into action, unfortunately, it’s not the action Robb would’ve hoped for: Frey has pulled is force back behind his castle walls and closed the gates, barring the way across the river. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t cross, it just means that they have to pay Frey’s price, as Catelyn reminds Robb sharply. Has Ned taught Robb how to put aside honour for wisdom to achieve his ends?
I love answering the characters’ rhetorical questions, but this one I’m going to leave, because it’s depressing me in advance.
They finally reach the Twins — two impregnable-looking castles on each bank of the river, connected by a bridge. The greeting party consists of some knights and four of Frey’s bajillion children. Actually, no, he only has a frillion children, the rest of the number is made up by grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on. Old Frey’s slightly-less-old oldest son asks them to identify their leader and is amused to see Robb, the boy wonder, ride up. Robb is invited inside to speak to Frey personally, his generals are not happy about this as it seems a thinly vailed attempt to take Robb hostage. Catelyn quickly offers herself instead. I’ll give her this one, it makes sense: she’s as valuable a hostage as Robb on the underhanded side, she’s the daughter of Frey’s overlord on the etiquette side, and Frey probably believes her to be at least partly in command of Robb’s decisions on the shrewd side. With all this in mind, Frey Jr. doesn’t even bother arguing and rides off with Catelyn, leaving one of his slightly younger brothers as an exchange hostage.
Inside, Catelyn is greeted by not only Lord Frey himself but also his entire brood. We still don’t get an exact numeral definition of bajillion, because Catelyn only bothers citing specific numbers for wedlock-born sons (twenty-one), grandsons (thirty-six), and great-grandsons (nineteen). Everyone else — illegitimate children, daughters, grandaughters, and their respective progeny — get a nebulous “numerous.” Catelyn, I’m glad I can always count on you to be a bigot. It’s nice to have something permanent in GRRM’s uncertain world.
Frey is not happy to see Catelyn instead of Robb, and he’s amusingly blunt about it. Catelyn pointedly asks him why his forces were not with her brother and he brushes it off, saying Edmure got captured before he could march. I honestly don’t know why Catelyn bothered asking, she knew Frey wouldn’t act before he could be sure who’s winning, and she knew he’d have some sort of excuse. Why waste the time? Thankfully, no more time is wasted.
Catelyn: We want to cross.
Frey: And I should let you… why?
Catelyn: Because you’re my father’s vassal so technically owe him your allegiance and aid?
Frey: I see your husband’s delusions of living in a fairy tale world of honour are contagious.
Catelyn: There’s also this army I have camped out under your walls.
Frey: The thing about me is that I have plural of everything. Sons, river banks, castles, battlements, soldiers, weapons… Need I go on?
Catelyn: I’m sure we can find something we can both agree on and bond over. I hate the Lannisters, how about you?
Frey: Dude, everyone hates the Lannisters.
Catelyn: See! Let’s be bros.
Frey: Let’s be bros-in-law.
Catelyn: … I think that metaphor just got away from you.
Frey: Shut up, I’m ninety. If you’re still fucking sixteen-year-olds when you’re ninety, then talk back to me. What I meant is, I keep on trying to forge bonds with your family, but your brother wouldn’t marry one of my daughters — I have daughters for every kind of kink, you know — and your sister wouldn’t let me foster her son in exchange for some grandsons. She’s a bitch, though, didn’t like her husband wanting to foster the kid with Stannis either.
Catelyn: You mean with Tywin.
Frey: What? No, Stannis, definitely Stannis. That’s not the point, the point is I have all of these children, etc., and your puny little family doesn’t want to fuck them within the confines of legitimate wedlock!
Catelyn: I think I see where this is going…
People who are reading for the first time: I bet Robb will think he’ll get stuck with some stupid and ugly she-Frey and she’ll turn out to be all pretty, and sparkly, and perfect. It’ll be a romantic fake-out!
People who’ve read the books: *sob into a tub of icecream and vodka*
At sunset, Catelyn and assorted Freys go back to Robb and report the final results of the negotiation. Frey’s forces are joining Robb and they can all cross. The price is such: two Frey grandsons fostered at Winterfell, a Frey son to be Robb’s personal squire, Arya engaged to Frey’s youngest son, and Robb engaged to whichever Frey daughter he wants. To Robb’s credit he doesn’t kick up a fuss about it. Honestly, it sounds like a better fate than many noble kids have, his parents included. Most of them don’t get any kind of choice, Robb’s current option is to play The Bachelor: Winterfell with at least half-a-dozen potential brides.
There are a few paragraphs of army and martial strategy left, but I’ve checked out. I am going to go watch the Oscars, say mean things about glamorous clothes and films I haven’t seen and detox from his heart-crushing, soul-destroying, insidious set-up of a chapter.