Ned is being childish and making some poor City Watch schmuck’s day a little more wearying by insisting the upcoming tourney be called “the king’s tourney” and not “the Hand’s tourney” in conversation. You lost that fight, Ned, let it go. The problem at hand (see what I did there? I wasn’t even trying!) is that all of these knights are flooding the capital with their entourages and incidental arrivals. For every new knight there’s a number of squires, craftsmen, thieves, and two dozen whores. I mean, I get that men have needs, but twenty-four women per knight? I know this is not the number of whores-on-retainer, but still. I guess this isn’t just twenty-four girls vying for the money of one knight but for all the other men a knight would come with. You’d think the King’s Landing girls and pimps would be a little more protective of their territory. Littlefinger owns brothels, how does he feel about all the competition setting up shop?
The City Watch schmuck is actually the Commander, Janos Slynt, and he’s reporting the wave of crime associated with this influx of people to the council. A woman’s head was found floating in a pool. Huh. Maybe the prostitutes are being territorial. Renly tries to bully Janos into doing a better job managing, Ned more reasonably grants him authority to hire more men. He’s given up on trying to budget and just tells Littlefinger to find the coin. To give Ned credit, increasing the crown’s debt to the Lannisters is not his only solution, he’s also temporarily reassigning some of his own men to the City Watch. Aside from an annoying fixation on semantics, Ned doesn’t seem to be doing badly as the Hand. Pycelle and Littlefinger comment on the general economic boost the city gets from an event such as this. It’s the same line municipal governments have been selling all of us since the inception of the modern Olympics. There’s some joking about Stannis Baratheon hating sex, particularly the in-exchange-for-money kind, but having a daughter anyway and then Ned extricates himself from the gathering.
Back in Ned’s quarters, there’s a whole lot of information filtering in about Jon Arryn and what he may have been doing that may have gotten him killed. When you know what you’re looking for, you can spot it cleverly weaved into a wall of exposition. Firstly, there’s the book Arryn borrowed from Pycelle. It’s a genealogy of the land’s noble houses; almost no one currently alive is in it, but it goes back all the way to the legendary founders (for example: Lann the Clever, who obtained Casterly Rock from the Casterlys through trickery). Secondly, Jory Cassel, Ned’s trusted man, has been to talk to the four Arryn servants who stayed behind when Lysa took off. The newly knighted squire was unhelpful, the serving girl said the hand was troubled, has been reading a lot, and was not on good terms with Lysa. The potboy (please tell me that’s not a boy who’s in charge of emptying the chamberpot) has heard that Arryn took an interesting in dog-breeding and took Stannis Baratheon along to an armorsmith to commission a new suit of armor. The stableboy remembers that Arryn was a strong man for his age and often went riding with Stannis.
The second appearance of Stannis’s name catches Ned’s attention. Apparently, Arryn and Stannis were visit a brothel together. Ned finds that hard to believe, considering Stannis’s anti-prostitution stance. Oh, please, like he’d be the first politician to publicly condemn his own favourite vice. Of all the political figures in this book, Stannis is the one who, if he were a real politician in modern times, would be caught giving back massages to young male prostitutes. Ned does not have my 21st century North American cynicism. In any case, he finds Stannis’s departure from King’s Landing suspicious. He’s not sure if Stannis is involved in the murder or afraid, but apparently Stannis has shown great mettle during the rebellion, so he’s not easily frightened.
Jory points out that Renly, also Robert’s brother, was conspicuously absent from the communal sexpadates. Ned isn’t sure what to make of Renly. He recently pulled Ned aside to show him a portrait of Margaery Tyrell, the sister of Loras Tyrell, and ask if Margaery looked anything like Lyanna, making Ned suspect Renly of wanting to re-enact the Robert/Lyanna romance. Only slightly interesting to anyone reading for the first time, full of lulz for anyone like me (and presumably you).
Ned’s off to talk to the master armorer first, on the basis that Jon Arryn didn’t care to bejewel his armor. It’s slim, but it’s all Ned’s got. Jory is off to visit brothels in the hopes of finding the right one. If I were the Hand or brother of the king, I’d visit a brothel that bundles discretion with its services. Why doesn’t Ned just ask Littlefinger or Varys? He’s been very authoritatively told that no one goes anywhere in King’s Landing without others knowing about it. Even better, ask Littlefinger and send Jory to look for himself, compare the results. (Maybe Ned does ask later in the book and I just don’t remember?)
Ned makes his way through the hot, bustling city. The master armorer, when reached, starts actively marketing himself to the King’s Hand. Apparently, he (Tobho Mott by name) is responsible for Renly’s eye-matching green plate and the Knight’s of Flowers (the aforementioned Loras Tyrell) armor. When he offers to make Ned a direwolf helm (Say “yes,” Ned, it sounds awesome! You and the Hound can be a matching pair of canines, they’ll call you the King’s Fangs.), Ned sees this as an opening to bring up Arryn, who had a falcon helm. That brings Tobho’s hard sell to an abrupt end and he admits that Jon Arryn wasn’t here for any blacksmithing, he and Stannis were here to see “the boy.” I told you Stannis would be caught with a boy! Ned wants to see the boy as well, so Tobho brings him to… the forge, I guess? The room where all the actual work happens.
The boy is Gendry, a teenager with blue eyes and black hair. He shows them a helm he’s made, but emphatically doesn’t want to sell, even to the King’s Hand. In any case, Ned’s not here for a helm. He wants to know what Gendry and Arryn talked about: a little about Gendry and a little about his mother — a blonde woman who died when he was little. Ned has at this point figured out what’s what. I must’ve found this annoying back when I first read it, the character’s mysterious knowing something but not telling me. Luckily, that doesn’t last long. After a significant exchange with Tobho in which Ned asks who arranged for the boy to be here and prods to see if Tobho knows who the boy is (everyone knows by now except the first-time reader!), Ned heads on home. Thankfully, he finally gets around to inner-monologuing the big mystery: Gendry is Robert’s bastard son.
It sounds like this should be a “dah-dah-dah-DUM” moment, but it isn’t and not really meant to be. It’s a “huh…” moment. After all, Robert is all about drinking and having sex, so he must have illegitimate children all over the place. The only actually strange thing is that Jon Arryn and Stannis Baratheon would be for whatever reason all riled up about this one. Looking over the chapter with a knowing eye, I think it’s all coded in quite nicely.