I’d rather go camping with Robert than deal with Catelyn when she’s being both an asshole and a grieving mother. Unlike Jon, I’m not too proud to give into denial and pretend Catelyn’s chapters don’t exist. That would, alas, make me a very bad blogger and I would feel guilty, and it would all be Catelyn’s fault!
Catelyn’s still wholly occupied with Bran, but it’s been eight days since Ned left and took half the household with him and Maester Luwin can’t wait any longer to try and get her to think about replenishing food supplies and hiring new people to fill the empty positions. Catelyn gets angry that Luwin wants her to think about the needs of the people who rely on her to run, oh, the entire north when she has a child for whom she can do absolutely nothing to worry about. Catelyn is House Tully and its words are Family, Duty, Honor (do you know how much it kills me to spell that without the U?). Ned would put Duty before Family, but it’s not in Catelyn’s nature to do so.
Robb comes in and puts on his Lord of the Manor face for Luwin, promising to take care of all the necessary appointments tomorrow. This gets rid of the Maester for the time being and the lordly face stays on just long enough for Catelyn to notice it before Robb is just a fourteen-year-old boy trying to get the only parent left within his reach to snap out of it. Catelyn hasn’t left Bran’s side since the accident, she couldn’t forgive herself if he died when she was asleep or away. Robb tries to remind her that she has a three-year-old who’s been basically entirely abandoned by his family at this point and he himself isn’t old enough yet to handle everything that’s been thrown at him in his father’s absence. Robb, you’re just lucky your father isn’t here to see what a weakling you are, whining about not being able to handle being responsible for hundreds, possibly thousands of people, when you’re already in your teens.
Despite his impassioned plea, Catelyn can’t find it in herself to be a mother to anyone but her favourite, and then the wolves start howling and she breaks down completely. She has a nervous breakdown and, because she apparently still doesn’t understand the family into which she’s married and born children, wants the wolves silenced so badly she begs Robb to kill them to do it if that’s what it takes.
The dogs start barking, but it’s not the direwolves that are setting them off, it’s the fire in the library. Robb, along with the rest of the household, dashes off to handle the situation, but Catelyn is just happy that the direwolves have stopped howling. She turns away from Bran long enough to look out the window at the commotion and when she turns back… unexpected assassin is unexpected! Wait, aren’t all assassins unexpected by definition? Ok, so she turns back and hey, look, a dirty, stinky man is here to kill Bran.
Family first might be Catelyn’s weakness but it is also her strength. In a moment of real badassery, she grips the dagger with her bare hands and bites a chunk out of the attacker’s hand. It’s all as bloody and gruesome as it sounds. She can’t overpower him, of course, but she delays him enough for Bran’s wolf to heroically charge into the room and tear the man’s throat out. Her brain basically shuts down at this point, so that when Robb and the others get there, they no longer have to fight her to get her away from Bran, she allows herself to be washed and bandaged before passing out for four days.
To give Catelyn credit, when she wakes up, she understands the depths of her fail and starts making more sane choices. She has a little counsel of war in her room with Robb, Rodrik, the master-at-arms, and Hallis Mollen, the new captain of the guard that Robb appointed. Direct and impressively lacking in hysterics, Catelyn interrogates the man about the assassin. They know that he was most likely part of the king’s entourage and that he was paid 15 silver stags for his trouble. Because he kept on saying “you weren’t supposed to be here” to Catelyn, he was obviously sent to kill Bran and not her. Robb fumbles with this at first, but does his mother proud when he figures out what that means: that someone doesn’t want Bran to wake up. Hey, didn’t we recently have a scene in which people talked about Bran waking up and the desirability of such an occurrence? Catelyn has also warmed up immensely to direwolves since one saved her son by eating his would-be murderer.
Then comes the really important bit of information: the assassin’s blade was Valyrian steel. (Valyrian Steel would be the name of Dany’s heavy metal garage band, if garage bands existed in ASOIAF.) There isn’t a registry of these, but there almost might as well be: these weapons are rare and all in the hands of the nobility. Catelyn goes all cloak and dagger at this: she has the door shut and makes everyone cross their hearts and hope to die. Theon repeatedly beats everyone else to the kissing of Stark ass. Catelyn fills everyone in on her sister’s secret communication re: Lannisters killed my husband, and also remembers that Jaime stayed behind the morning that everyone rode out to hunt and Bran fell. She puts two and two together and decides that Bran was pushed and the Lannisters are responsible. But what to do about any of it?
Well, Catelyn is action girl now, nothing will stop her from compensating for her days of near-catatonic near-insanity by going to the other extreme: leaving Winterfell to ride south, accompanied only by Sir Rodrik, in order to meet Ned there and plot further revenge upon the Lannisters within the bonds of wedlock.
Funnily enough, this doesn’t change much: Bran is still unconscious, Robb is still on his own, and poor, forgotten baby Rickon is still slowly turning into Mowgli.