Sansa’s first ever point-of-view chapter. You know what, I changed my mind, give me Catelyn back. I’ll take an adult asshole over an adolescent girl any day. Sansa is nobody’s favourite Stark for a reason, at least this early on in the series.
The royal procession has taken camp at some roadside inn, and Sansa is spending her breakfast thinking about boys, outfits, and annoying younger sisters. It’s like someone switched books on me and I’m reading Sweet Valley High. Lady, Sansa’s direwolf, and the fact that Sansa’s engaged to be married to the boy in question are the only reminders of the sick, twisted world that I love and want to read about.
Sansa finds Arya brushing Nymeria on a riverbank and Arya gives us glimpses into the book we all want to be reading: traipsing through bogs to gather flowers, chasing wild horses with direwolves, looking at haunted watchtowers, and hunting for Prince Rhaegar’s lost rubies in the river. Sansa’s counteroffer is tea and crumpets with the queen. It surprises absolutely no one that Arya is not going to trade adventure for that. It doesn’t really surprise Sansa either, but she lives in fairytale lala-land and desperately wants Arya to stop ruining the fantasy by refusing to validate it. I do feel sorry for Sansa, the highs she’s projecting herself onto, that’s a long way down when she falls…
There’s a commotion in the camp due to the arrival of three figures: knightly, honourable and old Ser Barristan Selmy, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard; young, handsome, black-haired Renly Baratheon, one of Robert’s two brothers; grizzled, unadorned, packing a fantasy-appropriate greatsword, Ilyn Payne, the king’s executioner, whose tongue Aerys Targaryen ripped out a long time ago.
There’s a whole to-do when people start pointing at Sansa and whispering about her direwolf, and Cersei sends Joffrey to the rescue. I can see how Sansa, as a young, romantic girl, has seamlessly integrated Joffrey into her fantasy. He’s arrogant and possessive enough to see insults to her as insults to himself and his mother has obviously decided that drawing Sansa in is a good way to help neutralize Ned Stark or perhaps keep an eye on him.
With the Queen now busy with queenly things, the tea and crumpets have been cancelled, so Joffrey and Sansa go riding, leaving her direwolf and his bodyguard behind. Joffrey makes a clever pun about leaving her wolf and his dog: Lady and the Hound! They could roam the camp, scaring the shit out of people under the accompaniment of accordion music and then a kindly cook will give them leftover spaghetti and meatballs. What? It wouldn’t even be the most shocking romantic pairing in these books.
Joffrey and Sansa frolic and he gets her drunk, like the asshole he is, but it’s a good day for Sansa, until it of course all falls apart. They find Arya and Mycah, the butcher’s boy, training with wooden swords. Joffrey of course has to whip out his own sword, sadly not a euphemism, and starts poking at Mycah with it. He has a name for it, too, Lion’s Tooth. I bet he calls his penis that too; poor Sansa, to be stabbed with a Lion’s Tooth on her wedding night and probably have to pretend to like it too. Arya, who’s very brave but also very, very stupid, rushes in to defend her friend and gets in a good blow with her stick to the back of Joffrey’s head. Tyrion slapping Joffrey is satisfying; Arya hitting Joffrey is just a precursor to horrible things. Mycah takes off, Arya and Joffrey start fighting in earnest, but he’s an older boy with a sword, so Nymeria rushes in to protect her mistress. She has no problems disarming Joffrey and savaging his arm a little, and he immediately dissolves into snot and tears, begging for his mommy. Arya throws his sword into the river, it’s very Arthurian in reverse: a girl takes the sword away and with it unmans and thus metaphorically dethrones the prince.
Sansa goes to comfort Joffrey, but the pain and humiliation have sapped his ability to keep up a mask of civility over his sociopathy, so Sansa gets a taste of what marriage to him would really be like. Like I said, it’s a long way down.
Ned’s chapter picks up, continuing this event to its inevitably horrible conclusion. If I wasn’t writing this early in my day, I’d be drinking.
It’s been four days since the incident at the river, with Arya and Mycah on the run and a search organized for both of them. I’m guessing they’re not actually worried for Mycah’s wellbeing. Truth be told, except for Ned and his men, it’s not about Arya’s wellbeing either. The party has moved camp to a nearby castle, but its lord, Raymun Darry, was on the Targaryen side of the rebellion and things have been tense. Arya has finally been found, but Cersei made sure she’s brought before the king before she can be got to Ned.
Joffrey has no found no way to spin the “a girl beat me” story into anything more dignified, but somehow decided that lying is better anyway. In his version, Mycah and Arya ambushed and assaulted him. When he gets to the part about Arya throwing his sword away, he sounds as whiny as any toddler who lost a toy. Robert direct Arya to tell her story all the way through and then gives Joffrey his turn. Renly Baratheon laughs so hard at Joffrey’s pathetic performance in either version that Robert banishes him from the proceedings. Robert finds the he-said, she-said trials too hard for his wine-addled brain, so Ned calls Sansa in to bear witness. Yes, Ned, let’s put your twelve-year-old in between her sister and the boy you engaged her to. Ned’s kind of a horrible father, isn’t he? For all my animosity towards Catelyn, I think both girls would’ve been better off with her in this situation. Sansa tries to get out of it by saying she doesn’t remember, and the indomitable Arya attacks her and calls her a liar. I admire Arya’s spirit, but, boy does she have to learn how to make friends. It’s not fun to be alone against the world, a lesson she will sadly learn.
Robert is tired of the bullshit and makes a reasonable decision that it’s up to the parents to discipline their children after a children’s fight. Man, the borders of child- and adulthood sure are fluid in these people’s minds. All would be well if it weren’t for Cersei’s determination to make everything awful for everyone. She demands a direwolf die for biting Joffrey, and since Nymeria has not been found, she wants the only direwolf within reach: Lady. Sansa has a minor mental breakdown at this. Here also the difference between sisters in obvious: Arya defends Lady (“You leave her alone!”) and Sansa will throw anyone under the bus to save her wolf (“[I]t was Nymeria, Arya did it, you can’t…”). Ned goes so far as to bring Lyanna up to get Robert to repeal this order, but Robert has long ago sold his balls for Lannister gold, he might hate himself for it, but he won’t do anything about it. Cersei wants Ilyn Payne, the royal executioner, to get her a new pelt, but Ned won’t let her have the satisfaction. He has his sword brought to him, and takes his first good look at the prettiest, sweetest of his children’s wolves before killing her. Then he sends four men to bring her corpse back to Winterfell and bury it there. Cersei will not have anything that belongs to the north.
The first time I read this book, I was utterly shocked at Lady’s death. I was so sure that the wolves were important and the kids were clearly meant to have them, how could one of them die so soon? It seemed to spell out horrible things for Sansa.
Walking back to his lodgings, Ned runs into Sandor Clegane, bringing back what he calls Arya’s “pet.” It’s Mycah, not Nymeria, having been run down and cleaved in half.
If Ned’s anything like me, he’s heading straight for the nearest bottle.