Ned’s chapters are coming so often that he’s starting to remind me of Old Spice Man. “Now back to me!” Unlike Old Spice Man, however, Ned does not have the abs with which to entice me. He doesn’t have diamonds either, and he’s one of the few Starks who are not, have not been, and are not planning to be on a boat.
Pycelle is medically assessing Ned’s leg on the same level as my mom assessed my scraped knees when I was a kid — the ache means it’s healing. My mom wasn’t known to offer me opium to help cope, though. Ned doesn’t take the opium anyhow, he prefers to self-medicate with alcohol. Now that Ned has a leg wound, is he going to get fat like Robert, the way Henry VIII did? (I may own several Tudor biographies. I may also be a little bit of a Jonathan Rhys Meyers fangirl. I regret nothing.)
Aside from trying to get Ned high, Pycelle is also there to tell him that Cersei had a letter from Tywin and it’s been suggested that Tywin is angry and Ned wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. Ned tells Pycelle that it probably wouldn’t hurt Cersei to know that the G. Clegane smackdown is happening under the auspices of the king and if he interferes, Robert will be angry and Tywin won’t like Robert when he’s angry. Remember that scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Ron and Harry are using Hermione to pass messages and she finally snaps and goes, “I’m not an owl!” I would love to see Pycelle go, “I’m not a raven!” Sadly, he does not. That’s because he is a raven, that is to say, he’s happily embroiled in the political web.
After Pycelle is gone, it’s Littlefinger’s turn to visit. Why not just have the council meeting in Ned’s chambers, guys? Littlefinger brings tidings of mercenaries riding to Casterly Rock to sell their swords to Tywin. Seems like the kind of thing that’s par for the course in an armed conflict, no? Hardly a surprise in any case. Robert is still on his hunting trip — did I tell you that Robert was a nature-loving asshole or what? It looks like I was wrong about the white deer hart being killed in the last chapter, rather, said unicornal creature was sighted and picked out for the honour of being Robert’s prey, but in actuality they only find its wolf-ravaged corpse.
I’m lifting the moratorium on metaphors to dive into this one. We opened the book with a wolf killed by a stag, and that was not a good sign for Ned, obviously. Now we have a deer ravaged by some wolves, a bad sign for Robert. All it’s missing is some lion paw prints around the whole mess and a mockingbird, Littlefinger’s spirit animal, singing in the background. (I actually typed “mockingjay” first, and I haven’t even read The Hunger Games. The power of pop culture!)
With the deer gone, Robert has switched targets to a boar. (Music: dun dun duuuun!) If only it were a sheep instead, I could make a Wolfram & Hart joke. Joffrey’s back in King’s Landing, though, and S. Clegane with him. Ned is worried about possible trouble but tries to pretend he’s not. It’s not like G. Clegane is a particularly nice brother, what with the horrible burning incident and all. Littlefinger does not let him take comfort in that denial for long, instead reminding him of the delicate and contradictory nature of family feuds.
With Littlefinger gone, Ned broods about his most pressing problem: what to do with the knowledge of Joffrey’s (and Tommen’s and Myrcella’s) paternity now that he finally figured it out. He had a flashback dream about Rhaegar’s murdered children and has vague anxiety’s about Robert being another “mad king” and more dead children. That is a stunning show of confidence in your best friend there, Ned. I know you feel like you don’t know him very well anymore, but if you honestly can’t trust him not to slaughter three innocent kids in a rage, I suggest something was screwy there from the start. So Ned embarks on a course of action that he thinks will save the children and instead will spell out the beginning of the end for him. Oh Ned… it’s not like anyone would’ve minded seeing Joffrey bite it.
He has a guard bring him to the godswood and then deliver a message summoning Cersei to an off the record, on the QT, and very hush hush meeting. They cordially sit together on the grass and chat about murder, spousal abuse, and incest. When Ned brings it up, Cersei doesn’t bother denying it. Probably she knows that Ned’s not sharp enough to think it without evidence staring him in the face. Cersei doesn’t see what’s the big deal, for the Targaryens it was a family duty and obligation. And look how well it worked out for them! Ned brings up Bran and Cersei doesn’t demur here either: it wasn’t just about protecting herself, it was about protecting her children. (I call bullshit, it was totally about covering her own ass.) Ned actually considers that a reasonable excuse. Ned, when someone confesses to trying to kill your kid, you don’t see her side of it, you strangle the bitch.
Ned asks why Cersei hates Robert so much: he was a big, strapping, handsome war hero when she was sold to him, what’s not to love? Turns out, Robert committed that cardinal sin of sex: calling out the wrong name. Even Drogo’s never done that (not that Dany’s mentioned). Robert, congratulations, it’s officially worse being sold to you than being sold to a Dothraki nomad who doesn’t speak your language.
Cersei tries to overpower Ned’s honour with her sexuality. It’s not at all effective and considering that she just confessed to a long-standing relationship with her brother, I don’t blame him. Also, the minor matter of her trying to kill his son. Ned’s offer is to give her a head start so that she can get herself and her children into exile on Essos before Ned blows the whistle. You know what, I think Ned’s wrong. Robert doesn’t like Joffrey (who in their right mind would like Joffrey?) and hates Cersei. I think he’d be happy to have a legitimate excuse to disentangle himself from the Lannisters. He wouldn’t even have to pay Tywin Lannister back the 3 million. Can you imagine that conversation? “So, about that money you owe me… “ “So, about those children of yours who fuck each other….”
Cersei decides to pass on Ned’s offer. Before she leaves, she tells Ned that he should’ve made himself king instead of leaving it to Robert. Isn’t that what Robert wishes happened as well? Apparently he and Cersei agree on something! Ned shrugs it off, but Cersei insists (verbatim): “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” Title drop! Chug, chug, chug, chug!