Catelyn and Ser Rodrik have reached Tully lands in their trek back homeward. While Rodrik bitches about the rain, Catelyn reminisces about the fun times one has as a child forcing your foster brother to eat enough mud to be sick for a week. The foster brother is Littlefinger, of course, because who else would scarf down mud just to satisfy Catelyn’s poisoning instincts.
They’re heading to a nearby inn Catelyn knows because her father used to take her along when travelling on feudal lord business. Ser Rodrik is wary of staying there for fear of Catelyn being recognized. This is life before TMZ: one of the land’s most powerful nobles traverses it literally back and forth and only a select few spies and courtiers know. Amazing. They run into a group of Tully bannermen travelling south for the tourney and Catelyn stays on the road where they can see her to prove that she’s changed so much in the fifteen years since her marriage that no one local would recognize her.
When they arrive at the aforementioned inn, Catelyn seems surprised to see that a mud-splattered random travelling pair does not get the same saccharine welcome as the lord of the lands and his daughter. If only there was a way to preserve your anonymity and your privilege at the same time, eh?
Catelyn briefly contemplates changing her destination and heading either westward to see her father, whose opinion she trusts, but who has been ill for a while, or eastward to the Eyrie, where her sister Lysa might have more information about Jon Arryn’s death or more proof of Lannisters’ involvement, but the road is very dangerous. Ultimately, she decides to stick with the plan and press on to Winterfell. In the meantime, her thoughts turn to her father’s bannermen in a fairly boring list of names and qualifying facts. Look, there is a metric fuckton of feudal lords running around Westeros, unless they’re raising mythical beasts or sleeping with someone more shocking than their siblings, I’m not going to bother remembering them.
At dinner, the common room is filled with men with swords heading south. A singer strikes up a conversation with Catelyn and Ser Rodrik. There’s some fairly amusing banter when the man claims to be best buds with Catelyn’s brother and then insults the Starks’ taste in entertainment; your run-of-the-mill “incognito conversation, hilarity ensues” scenario. Then a Lannister is announced and things finally get interesting.
Tyrion, his men, and the Night’s Watch men travelling with him have reached the same inn. Well, it’s not as if there’s more than one way to travel the north-south route. Unfortunately for all of them, the inn is absolutely full and even being pint-sized is no help to Tyrion in this situation. When charm and small stature do not help, Tyrion falls back on that Lannister staple — money. It doesn’t take long for a man to exchange a roof over his head for Lannister coin.
Having ordered his dinner, Tyrion finally pays enough attention to the rest of the room to notice Catelyn and blow her cover, not in a grand, purposeful cover-blowing way, but in a natural, conversation-making, “hi, fancy meeting you here” way. Either way, the cover, it is blown, and Catelyn she is going with the flow. She calls out all the Tully bannermen in the room by name, and there are a lot of them, and invokes their fealty to her father to have them apprehend Tyrion. A dozen swords against one very short man seems like overkill to me, especially since GRRM seems to have changed his mind on the whole ninja thing by now. That’s sad, how satisfying would it be if Tyrion kicked everyone’s asses right now? Instead, the satisfying is Catelyn’s and so is Tyrion.
Tourney time! Finally, they’ve been talking about it forever. Sansa is watching the proceedings with her friend Jeyne Poole and Septa Mordane. There’s a wall of knightly names and descriptions that makes me go slightly cross-eyed. As far as I can make out, the knights are all colour-coded for our convenience: the Kingsguard is in white, Jaime Lannister is in gold, Renly Baratheon is in green. The Cleganes are also here: Sandor the Hound and Gregor the Mountain. Gregor Clegane manages to kill some guy right away. Like a proper lady, Sansa doesn’t give a fuck. The killings, maimings, and less eventful losses whittle the pool down to four contestants: the Hound, the Mountain, the Kingslayer, and the Knights of Flowers. My lack of a cool nickname preceded with a definite article is starting to make me feel sad.
Loras Tyrell, the Knight of the Flowers, has been mentioned several times before and is given a few more details here. He’s sixteen, the youngest son of the Warden of the South, Mace Tyrell, Lord of Highgarden. He’s very, very pretty and makes a point of flirting with the ladies. Sansa is smitten. Oh, Sansa… Less pretty than Ser Loras is Littlefinger, whom Sansa meets for the first time. The first thing he does is compare her to her mother and then he touches her hair and face. Eurgh, Littlefinger, go be creepy elsewhere.
The last matches are postponed until Day 2 and everyone moves on to the feast. Sansa is seated beside Joffrey, whom she decides not to hate for the death of Lady, because hating a pretty prince she’s required to marry would be inconvenient. Joffrey has been cold and distant, but has regained his composure enough to smarm up to her some more, kissing her hand and striking up a conversation. Everything is going swimmingly until the very end of the night when Robert gets drunk enough to start airing his royal family squabbles in public. Apparently, he wants to fight in the tourney and Cersei probably said it was a bad idea, because he’s screaming at her that it’s his tourney and he’ll fight if he wants to.
Sansa accepts an offer of an escort back to the castle from Joffrey and is in for a nasty surprise when it turns out he was offering the Hound’s services, not his own. Sansa’s probably better off with someone ugly, although my patience with her stubborn loyalty to fairy tale lala-land is waning fast. You’d think by now she’d’ve learned to abandon the pretty=good world view. Sandor agrees with me, because he wastes no time mocking knights, Sansa, and Sansa’s opinion of knights. To her credit, Sansa does not burst into tears or blubber her replies as I would’ve done if I were alone with a hulking brute of a man who stopped to creepily compare me to a songbird while we were alone in the dark. This is why I can’t ever be really mad at Sansa, everyone is always so creepy about her that it triggers my protective instincts.
Not satisfied with talking, the Hound get physically abusive, grabbing Sansa’s face to force her to look at him because apparently her looking away from his burn scars hurt his delicate feelings. At this point, Sansa is scared enough to star to cry while Clegane decides to unburden himself to a little girl. When he was a little boy he took older brother Gregor’s toy and Gregor forced his face into a burning brazier as punishment, hence the scars. Whoever invents therapy in Westeros is going to earn a fortune. Until that happens, not only does poor Sansa have to listen to all this, he also threatens to kill her if she tells anyone. Someone needs to teach Sansa the phrase “go fuck yourself.” It won’t help anything, but it might make her feel better to just say it out loud from time to time when she’s alone in her room (where she, by the way, ends up because at least the Hound gets her home safely).