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A Liveblog of Ice and Fire: Book the Second
Vampire Buddha

[table of contents]
Chapters 29 - 48
Well, another weekend has passed, so here's another bumper post, summarising 19 chapters, spanning over 150 pages.

Chapter 29: Tyrion

Late at night, Tyrion is interrupted from his paperwork by Ser Lancel Lannister, a cousin his, who tells him that Cersei is angry with him and wants Pycelle released immediately. Tyrion figures out that, since he looks a bit like Jaime and is somewhat related to her, Cersei is sleeping with him, though he makes sure to ejaculate on her belly; since Lancel also supplied Robert with the fortified wine during his fateful hunt, Tyrion is able to bend Lancel to his will by threatening to tell Joffrey that Lancel killed his father to bed his mother. Lancel thus becomes Tyrion's double agent, spying on Cersei. Tyrion pre-emptively regrets Lancel's inevitably soon death at the hands of either Cersei or Jaime, who isn't a bad lad at heart, really.

Then Tyrion goes to visit Shae and rapes her in her sleep, but she likes it.

Yeah, the end of this chapter makes Tyrion seem creepy. Yes, Shae is a whore who he hired to have sex with him whenever he wants, and she does seem to love him and want to please him, but come on, he stuck his penis into her vagina while she was still asleep. Come on dude, couldn't you at least have woken her first? I don't care how much Martin tries to portray this as pleasurable, romantic, and enjoyable by both parties, it's still goddamn rape! And what also sucks is that up to now, while Tyrion is perfectly aware that rape is common, he hasn't been the sort to indulge in it, and he really didn't like being forced to rape Tysha.

You know, I was all set to describe Tyrion once again as an awesome magnificent bastard, but the last page sucked all his magnificence away. Bugger you, Tyrion. Bugger you to death.

Chapter 30: Arya

Arya, now calling herself Weasel, is working as a general scullion in Harrenhal, and learning to be very sneaky and unobtrusive. She also has to make sure to think of nothing but the task at hand when Weese is around, as he can smell treacherous ideas. The first few pages descibe her everyday duties, and show us how hard and unpleasant life is for servants in a feudal society, but Arya is quite happy with the situation, as she has straw to sleep on, water and soap to wash whenever she wants, and gets regular food.

Three pages into this chapter a group arrives called the Bloody Mummers, who are Tywin's elite assassins who disguise themselves as a circus troupe. They're baddies. The guy who leads them is named Vargo Hoat. They leave after a few days, but during their stay, Arya hears that Roose Bolton and a northern army has taken the ruby ford of the Trident. The Lannister men think that the Boltons are waiting for Robb to arrive with reinforcements, and Arya is thrilled to hear her brother is near, but we the readers know better.

There are some descriptions of various captives in Harrenhal, and Arya hopes that Lord Cerwyn will help her escape, but he dies of an infected wound after three days.

Tywin spends most of his time in his war council.

After a while, Amory Lorch, who attacked Yoren's group in the abandoned village arrives with some new recruits. Among them are Jaqen H'ghar, Rorge, and Biter, which terrifes Arya. Seriously, why did she help them escape?

A few nights later, Jaqen comes to see Arya in her sleep. He reveals himself as a follower of R'hollo, and says that that since he and his companions escaped death, three others must die to make up for them. He tells Arya to choose the three, and report back to him. Arya tries asking him to help her escape, but Jaqen will do nothing other than kill three people of her choice.

Time passes, and Gregor arrives back with some of his knights, who had taken Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie captive in the next village. Weese sends Arya to see if they have any clothes that need mending; when she gets there, Chiswyck is telling a hilarious story about how Gregor took him and a few others to some tavern, where they gang-raped the landlord's ugly daughter. When Arya sees Jaqen next, she whispers Chiswyck's name in his ear; a few days later, Chiswyck falls from a battlement and dies.

Oooh, I like this. Arya is in the vicinity of Tywin Lannister and Gregor Clegane, as well as various assassins, rapists, and psychopaths (none of which are mutually exclusive groups). It's a very tense chapter that made my dinner late, as I was on the edge of my seat reading to see what would happen to Arya.

Also, Arya's chapters are now moving the plot again. Very, very good.

Chapter 31: Catelyn

Renly has taken his entire cavalry as well as the Rainbow Guard to meet Stannis, leaving his infantry at Bitterbridge; Catelyn and her retinue have accompanied him. They arrive at the appointed meeting spot well ahead of Renly, who intends to be the last to arrive so as so force Stannis to wait for him.

Stannis marches out to meet them, his banner borne by Melisandre, whom I wish to have sex with. Stannis has discarded the Baratheon banner in favour of a flaming heart, symbol of R'hollo, with the head of the crowned stag of Baratheon in the centre. They talk a bit, and Stannis shows that he didn't like Eddard very much, but did respect him and think he was a good man overall. He also intends to gain the allegiance of the southern men under Renly, which he needs to take King's Landing.

Renly arrives then, flamboyant as ever. Stannis claims the Iron Throne is his by right; Renly counters, as he had previously described to Catelyn, that the throne actually belonged to Rhaegar, then Viserys, and now Daenerys, but Robert took it by force of arms, as he intends to. Since everyone in the realm hates Stannis, he has no chance of holding it; hence, Renly offer Stannis the opportunity to swear allegiance, and promises he will get Storm's End out of it. Stannis, of course, is having none of this. Catelyn tries to persuade both of them to join forces and also ally with Robb, so that they can defeat their common enemies, the Lannisters, but both kings refuse.

Cersei tries pointing out that Joffrey is actually the rightful king, but then Renly tells her about the incest charges. He congratulates Stannis on a most masterful rumour, and only laments that it isn't true. Stannis maintains that it is true, and the presence of one of Robert's bastards in Storm's End is proof. He also claims he had previously brought his suspicions to Jon Arynn, and so Cersei had him murdered.

Catelyn makes a last-ditch plea for the two to join forces. Renly offers Stannis a peach, which he refuses. Neither is willing to bend to the other, and so they march off to their respective camps, though Stannis gives Rebly until sunrise to swear him fealty.

Renly's men look forward to a big glorious battle, led by Loras, with Brienne by his side. Catelyn goes off to pray.

Oh, man. This made me cringe a bit. Stannis and Renly should by all rights join forces against their common enemy, but both are too stubboon and strong-willed to acquiesce in any way to his brother. This is truly tragic; two potentially good kings brought low by their own respective prides, while Cersei laughs triumphantly in her castle. Like I said, tragic.

Chapter 32: Sansa

Sandor accompanies Sansa to an audience with Joffrey, who is angry. It seems that Robb has just won a crushing victory at a place called Oxcross and slain one Stafford Lannister; according to Lancel's report, he achieved this victory by the use of evil magic and a demonic army.

Sansa attempts to proclaim her brother as a traitor and protest that she had nothing to do with it, but Joffrey doesn't listen, and has her beaten. When Boros rips her dress off, Tyrion strides into the hall and angrily puts a stop to the madness by, essentially, threatening to tell Joffrey's mother on him, and then has Bronn, his bodyguard, and Timmett bring her to his bedchamber, where she is kept for her own safety.

After a while, Tyrion comes to see Sansa, and quite gently asks her how she is and explains what's gotten up Joffrey's arse. He offers to end her bethrothal to Joffrey, and when she says she loves him as much as ever, he half-jokingly compliments her on having learned to lie well, then escorts her back to her own chamber.

This chapter gives a couple of good character moments. Joffrey is getting ever more depraved and arrogant due to being king, while apparently suffering cognitive dissonance when faced with the fact that he isn't an awesomely invincible hero of legend, which he takes out on Sansa by having her beaten and humiliated.

Sansa has come to realise that there are no true knights, except for Dontos, who is a mere jester. She's certainly come a long way from the wannabe Disney Princess of book 1.

Tyrion shows his chivalrous side by expecting the king to behave with some grace and decorum, and treating Sansa as a human being rather than just a hostage or a punching bag. This would carry a lot mor weight if he hadn't raped Shae in her sleep recently. Why no, I'm not going to let that go.

Sandor gets a single moment, where he tries to say that Joffrey has gone far enough in his beating of Sansa, only for Joffrey to order the poor girl stripped naked. It's small, and he doesn't actually do anything to stop this, but he does indeed have some affection for Sansa, an objects to her being mindlessly hurt. Methinks he would make a fine knight.

Chapter 33: Catelyn

Catelyn prays to the Seven, and ponders the situation. She realises that if she was in Cersei's position, she would do exactly the same thing. She also manages to put the pieces together and comes to the conclusion that Eddard discovered Cersei's incestuous adultery, and that's why he was killed; she also figures out that Bran saw them at it, which is why Jaime threw him out the window.

She goes to talk to Renly, hoping to make him see reason and ally with Stannis. While waiting her turn to speak, Renly reveals his intention to attack at dawn in spite of the objection of one of his commanders that the sun will be in their eyes. Uh, Renly? I know that this is a planet where Sun Tzu never existed, but surely somebody would have written some sort of treatise on war, which points out that you must never ever attack with the sun in front of you?

Anyway, Catelyn begs him to join with Stannis, and after the Lannisters are defeated, assemble all the lords in the kingdom and let them decide who will be the king. Renly brushes her off, saying that would never work. Then Renly's shadow kills him, much to the shock of Catelyn and Brienne. Some of the other Rainbow Guard rush in and accuse Brienne of murdering Renly, though Catelyn manages to impress upon Robar Royce that it was actually Stannis. Robar vows to hold off anyone else who comes, and Catelyn and Brienne escape back to Catelyn's retinue.

Wow. That was a surprise. Renly was all ready to attack in a glorious battle, and then he gets killed by Melisandre's black magic on behalf of Stannis. I... I really have no words.

Chapter 34: Jon

The Night's Watch penetrates deeper into the forest and comes to a ringfort, apparently built by the First Men. Ghost is increasingly uneasy, and keeps running off.

Jeor Mormont orders the Watchmen to make camp in the fort and fill in the gaps in the walls. If Mance Rayder wants to come this way, his army will have to pass by the fort, which will allow the Night's Watch to attack from a strong position. They await the arrival of reinforcements from the Shadow Tower under Qhorin Halfhand, which will give them a few hundred against the thousans of Northmen; Mormont insists that their superior training, equipment, and position will win the day, but Jon is not so sure.

Much of the chapter is given over to describing the setting up of the camp, though Jon and Mormont have a conversation about tactics and finding the lost rangers, in which Mormont says they've left a trail a blind man could follow, and if any of the rangers are still alive, they will have a mch easier time finding the main body of Watchmen than any number of Watchmen will have finding a stray ranger or two.

Ghost wakes Jon in the night and leads him off outside the fort. Jon suspects there are more zombies around, but instead, Ghost leads him to a buried cache of obsidian blades wrapped in the black cloak of a Watchman. Well, guess we know what happened to his uncle then.

Not a lot really to say here, other than that I hope the battle this plot is leading up to happens in this book, and is a good one.

Chapter 35: Bran

Maester Luwin gives Bran, Rickon, and the two Walders the news of Robb's recent victory at Oxcross, and also reports that Stevron Frey was among the casualties. The Walders aren't terribly upset, as this means they move closer to inheriting old Walder's vast fortune. Bran, meanwhile, is troubled, thinking that Robb should be leading his army north, to face the zombies that Osha warned about.

Bran then realises that this is what Jojen's dream meant, and has Osha bring him to see the Reeds. Jojen says that he dreamed the sea would come to Winterfell and drown most of the people there; he clearly saw Alebelly, Mikken the smith, and Septon Chayle drowning. Bran tries to tell them, but the later two dismiss the notion of drowning, while Alebelly avoids all water until he stinks so bad that several servants forcefully give him a bath. Jojen warns that this will do no good, as prophetic dreams inevitably come true, and there is nothing that can be done to change destiny. Bran and Meera don't get why the gods would send warnings of the future if nothing can be done about them.

Prediction: Daenerys, who will come from across the sea, will besiege Winterfell and kill all those people. Since Daenerys has fire-breathing dragons, and Robb rules the icy North, this is what the Song of Ice and Fire refers to.

Meanwhile, Bran tells Jojen about his wolf dreams, and Jojen warns that if anyone else finds out, they will call him a warg and shun him. He gives Bran some cryptic advice on how to open his third eye, but Bran doesn't have the slightest clue what he's on about.

Later on, Rodrik returns with the Bolton Bastard's servant, known as the Reek because he stinks to high heaven. The bastard is dead, having been caught raping some woman, but unfortunately he had become Lady Hornwood's lawful husband in front of witnesses and forced her to name him heir before he starved her to death, which means he gets her land. Maester Luwin points out that a vow made under duress is not valid, but Rodrik says that trying that tactic to regain control of her land will turn Roose Bolton against them.

Bran asks Jojen is he saw him drowning. Jojen says no - he saw the Reek peeling the faces of Bran and Rickon.

Oh, man. Come on Martin. It's all very well to avert infant immortality, but do you have to do it in such a disgusting way. We know the Reek is evil and depraved, you don't have to make him rip the faces off a pair if cute little boys. That's just sick and sadistic.

Chapter 36: Tyrion

The small council discuss Renly's death, wondering who could have done the deed. We learn that most of Renly's cavalry have gone over to Stannis, though Loras Tyrell, Randyll Tarly, and Mathis Rowan did not, and Loras has apparently killed Emmon Cuy and Robar Royce. The three defectors are making for Bitterbridge and Renly's infantry, though who they will side with remains up in the air.

Storm's End itself is also refusing to yield to Stannis, as Cornay Penrose holds to his vows to Renly.

Tyrion hopes to persuade Loras to side with the Lannisters, which will give them the manpower they need to oppose Stannis. In order to do that, Tyrion proposes ending Joffrey's bethrothal to Sansa and marrying him to Margaery Tyrell instead. This will give him Loras, as well as the remnant of Team Renly that remains opposed to Stannis. Varys and Littlefinger think this is a good idea, but Cersei opposes it; Joffrey wants Sansa, and won't be happy with Renly's leavings. Tyrion manages to get her to reluctantly agree, but only if Joffrey likes Margaery.

The discussion then turns to who to send to Mace Tyrell to make this offer. Cersei nominates Tyrion as Hand of the King, and Tyrion counters by pushing Cersei, regent and mother of the king. Littlefinger cunningly suggests that they are both too important to leave, but as a member of the council who has some familiarity with the Tyrells, he would be seen as an approptiate envoy and would be able to negotiate the pact quite well. Tyrion wonders what he's planning; Littlefinger simply says that he will name his price when he returns.

Littlefingers obtains three hundred City Watchmen, twenty knights, and twenty squires as an escort which will impress the Tyrells, and also gets Tyrion to consent to send Horas and Hobber Redwyne, intending to give one of them back to Paxter Redwyne as a show of good faith and to get him to donate some soldiers and ships. Littlefinger leaves, and then Varys, leaving Cersei and Tyrion alone.

Cersei asks Tyrion how that chain is coming along, to which he replies well enough. She then apologises to him for being such a cattly bitch in recent weeks, says he isn't as stupid as she thought, and gives him a chaste but affectionate kiss on the forehead. Tyrion immediately wonders what she's up to and starts investigating.

The main thing to comment on here is Cersei. She seems to honestly believe that Joffrey is a noble and honourable lad, who has no sexual notions in his head and was only having Sansa beated to vent his anger in a manner most righteous. She truly does seem to want the best for him, which ties in with what Catelyn thought when she was praying.

We also learn that Tyrion and Varys very much want to arrange for Joffrey to visit a brothel so he can lose his virginity and get it over with; the only trouble is getting Sandor away from him for long enough. One wonders how Joffrey would feel about that.

Chapter 37: Theon

Theon has just won a battle against Benfred Tallhart, one of Robb's men, and Aeron has the man drowned in accordance with the faith of the Drowned God. Iron Islanders set to looting the dead, and Theon kills one of his own for being drunk, showing the men under his command that he means business. The Islanders then set about killing the men of fighting age, and taking back the craftsmen as slaves and the women for pleasure.

Theon speaks to Dagmer Cleftjaw, sung about as the greatest warrior on the Iron Islands, but who is now getting on in years and can't handle an axe the way he used to. Still, he is hungry for glory, and isn't terribly happy at being landed with small-scale raiding to cause a mere distraction. That makes him pliable, and he listens to Theon's plan.

Theon intends to leave six of his eight ships with Aeron to continue raiding along the coast. Dagmer will take a force of men over land and attack Torrhen's Square, a town southwest of Winterfell. He is to attract as much notice as he can so that Robb will be forced to send a force to deal with him.

Meanwhile, Theon will take the rest of his force and attack the weakened Wnterfell itself, occupying it with Iron Islanders for when Balon and Asha arrive. Thus, he will hand a kingdom to his father despite only having a weak force, hence earning his father's great love and affection and thus becoming his favourite child and definite heir.

A good plan, Theon, but you're barely taking anybody with you. Do you really think Robb will leave Winterfell wide open that way? Granted, Robb isn't around, but Rodrik is no idiot either.

I briefly thought that this assault might be what Jojen dreamed about, but the fact remains that Theon's force, ambitious as it is, simply has no chance. He's doomed.

Chapter 38: Arya

Tywin Lannister starts moving his army out. While Arya is on an errand for Weese, Gendry tells her that, if Hot Pie asks, she is to say she was shouting "Go to Hell!" and ot "Winterfell!" when they fought Lorch's men. Weese is especially mean to Arya, so she gets Jaqen to kill him next. He is eaten by his dog after a few days, though Arya regrets not having had Jaqen kill Tywin or Gregor - the men who actually matter.

I like Arya's chapters, but there is little to comment on here. Tywin mobilises his army, so the Starks and Baratheons will face trouble down the line. OK.

Martin does show that Arya is still just a child, as she wastes two of her murders on inconsequential bullies because they make her sad, rather than using them to throw the Lannister army into disarray and thus help Robb. Still, she is maturing, she herself realises her error at the end of the chapter, and promptly regrets it.

Chapter 39: Catelyn

Catelyn, Brienne, and her retinue arrive at Riverrun, where Edmure has taken command, and they learn that Tywin has mobilised his army. Edmure has arranged some powerful defences, intending to meet the Lannisters there.

When we meet Edmure, we discover that Cleos Frey and his envoy arrived a few weeks ago with Eddard's bones. Tyrion's four rogues tried to free Jaime, but they failed and were hanged. Jaime was put down in the darkest part of the dungeon and chained to the wall, as were the survivors of the Lannister guards.

So that's one Lannister force defeated. That's good, but I would have liked to actually read that event, instead of just having Edmure report on it second-hand. It sounds like a thrilling, action-packed battle, and given how much effort was put into building this up, simply seeing the results smacks of telling instead of showing. I remember that in my liveblog of book 1, I constantly referred to Martin showing us things, so seeing such an abrupt turn to telling for what was supposed to be a big subplot is disappointing.

And before you say that there was no narrator present who could have described the events, Martin could easily have made one of Edmure's men, or Edmure himself, the narrator of chapter. The the sheer amount of setup that has happened so far in this book, a little payoff would have been nice.

But back to the story. Now that Catelyn is safe with her brother, Brienne intends to return to Storm's End and kill Stannis. Catelyn manages ti impress on her that she will be killed before she gets near him, and thus achieve nothing. She wiuld be able to do a lot more, and honour Renly's memory better, by declaring allegiance to Edmure or Robb and fighting the Lannisters. Brienne feels she can't do that, as she doesn't know either of them the way she knew Renly. However, she has gotten to know Catelyn quite well, and says she has a kind of woman's courage, different from the courage of a knight, but no less admirable. For that reason, Brienne of Tarth swears allegiance to Catelyn, on condition that Catelyn not try to hold her back when next she meets Stannis; Catelyn, having seen Eddard accept the allegiance of many a lord and knight, accepts with all the right words.

Edmure has brought all the peasants from the surrounding areas into the fortification and given them shelter, showing he has a soft heart, but Catelyn thinks he has a soft brain as well. Edmure tells her that Robb wants her at the Twins, officially to determine which of the Frey girls would be agood match for Robb, but actually to keep her safe from the fightin. Catelyn announces her intention to stay.

Catelyn and Edmure talk in the godswood. Catelyn says that Edmure does not have the strength to defeat Tywin. Edmure says there are reinforcements on the way, which will give him 8,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry, but Catelyn counters that Tywin will still have twice the forces. Edmure rejoins that Robb has won battles against worse odds, and also that he is expecting additional reinforcements in the form of Roose Bolton's 10,000 men, who were routed from their stronghold by Tywin but not pursued, as well as the garrisson Robb left to hold the Twins. Above Catelyn's protests, Edmure is confident that Walder Frey will be faithful to Robb, and his own men will be enough to hold off any Lannister advance. Roose Bolton is apparently even now marching on Harrenhal to retake it from the Lannisters, which will cut off Tywin's supply line and leave his army stranded in the field with Edmure to to west, Roose to the east, Robb to the south, and Winterfell to the north.

A good plan, yes, though I would like to point out that even if Edmure only had his 11,000 men, he would still have the advantage if Tywin decided to attack. After all, Tywin's men have to march or run towards Edmure's who are sitting behind walls and can pick them off with arrows. Sun Tzu did warn the general to never even think of attacking buildings, which is what Edmure would force Tywin to do. He is a good commander and strategist, though with the way people discuss him on the Internet, I have a sinking feeling Tywin will manage to pull off a win anyway. Please let Edmure's superior tactics win the day.

Chapter 40: Daenerys

Daenerys entreats with the rulers of Qarth to aid her, spending a whole lot of Xaro's money, but is turned down. As the pair return home, dejected, they see a fire mage putting on an impressive pyrotechnic display while several accomplices relieve the spectators of the troublesome weight of their purses. Daenerys is impressed, though Quaithe, saying more than three words for once says he's only gotten so powerful because of the presence of dragons in the general area. She warns Daenerys to leave soon, or she will never be allowed to leave at all.

Xaro, despite being gay (yeah, he's a homosexual apparently) keeps asking Daenerys to marry him so they can travel the world, and she be the queen of the high seas. Daenerys refuses, but tries to persuade him that if he helps her get an army to retake the Seven Kingdoms, he will become rich beyond his wildest dreams. Neither agrees to the other's proposal.

We learn that Qarth society is basically divided into three factions: the merchants, the sorcerors, and the Pureborn, who rule the city. The merchants themselves are also split into three, being the Thirteen (of which Xaro is one), the Ancient Guild of Spicers (dissemblers and braggarts, according to Xaro), and the Tourmaline Brotherhood (full of pirates).

Quaithe tells Daenerys that she must go to Asshai, where she sill not find gold or swords, but will get truth. The Dothraki do not like this idea.

Daenerys returns to the palace and talks with Jorah. According to Jorah, the people of Qarth have a marriage custom whereby each partner can ask the other for a token of love, which they must give freely. Xaro intends to ask for one of Daenerys' dragons, which will allow him to rule the city somehow. Daenerys decides she is going to see Pyat Pree the next morning to find out about the sorcerors.

Jorah seems to be exceptionally well-travelled.

Being so far from the bulk of the action, Daenerys' plot is moving rather slowly. However, this chapter reflects well. Up to now, Daenerys had been something of a Mary Sue; not a horrible one by any means, but she's always been portrayed as astoundingly special, she acts with the maturity of one far beyond her years, and commands the authority and respect of everyone she meets just because she happens to have dragons. Yeah.

Here, however, all her gifts come to nought, because no matter how brilliant she might be, she makes no great impression on the Pureborn. This shows she's fallible, imperfect, and doesn't always succeed. She hasn't quite been removed from the Scrappy heap, but she's improved quite a lot in my estimation.

Chapter 41: Tyrion

Myrcella is sent off on a ship to Dorne, to be the guest/hostage of Doran Martell. She leaves with grace and dignity, though Tommen cries to see his sister leave.

Tyrion and the farewell party turn back, and Tyrion ponders on how he knows that Cersei has hired a mercenary and his two sons to obtain her own mercenary army, and Tyrion knows all that they're up to due to matching what she's paying them, penny for penny.

On the way back, a riot breaks out, with a whole lot of the peasants accusing Joffrey of being an incest-born bastard and chanting their support for Stannis, Renly, and even Robb. Everyone rushes back to the keep, though several do not make it.

Boros and Meryn, members of the Kingsguard, are sent to look for Sansa, and Tyrion gets frustrated when they refuse out of fear of their white cloaks attracting the focus of the crowd's rage. Just then, Sandor, who had tried to hold the mob back, comes in after them, guarding Sansa. And then the slums go on fire.

Tyrion sends buckets to put out the fires, fearful of what will happen if the flames get too close to the alchemists' napalm. He then has Shagga go to protect Shae.

That evening, Jacelyn Bywater tells Tyrion of the casualties. The High Septon was torn apart by the crowd, and his crystal crown stolen. Twelve Watchmen are dead, and numerous others injured. Lady Tanda's daughter, Lollys is alive, but is in shock after being gang-raped by 50 men. Lord Tyrek is missing.

Right, I'm going to start keeping count of the gang-rapes in this series (the regular rapes are, depressingly, too common to keep track of). So far, we have:

That's four so far, and we're not even 2/3 of the way through the second book. Grim.

Back with the story, Jacelyn tells Tyrion that they are just barely maintaining order, and can't keep this up much longer. Few of the Watchmen are trustworthy, and most of them are more sympathetic to the peasants than to the nobles. The people lay most of the blame for recent events on Tyrion; while they don't like Cersei or Varys, those two were around during the good times, while Tyrion only arrived around the time Joffrey became king. The people accuse him of giving poisoned counsel and dragging the city down.

Tyrion leaves, and speaks with Varys. Varys implies that Tommen would make a much better king, but unfortunately, Joffrey is older, and the only way for Tommen to gain the throne would be for Joffrey to die...

That certainly sucks for Tyrion, but it serves him right for raping Shae. No, I don't care if she liked it or not, it's still rape.

I do like the way Martin wrote this chapter. The people of the city are hungry, poor, and desperate, and so understandably lash out at the rulers who they quite reasonably blame for the situation. However, the rulers that do seem to be trying to help the peasants where they can receive the brunt of the rage, simply because they arrived the most recently and are the most visible. Such a simple, easy, yet sad misunderstanding, and one that I don't see evere being resolved. Is this what people mean when they describe the series as grimdark?

Chapter 42: Davos

Stannis meets with Cortnay Penrose outside Storm's End and offers him the chance to surrender and declare allegiance. Cortnay demands they resolve this by single combat, but Stannis refuses. Cortnay returns to the keep, and Stannis' retinue to his camp. Stannis brings Davos into his tent, flaunting the fact that the trusts one who used to be a peasant smuggler over the proper lords.

In the tent, Stannis asks Davos what he thinks of Cortnay, on the grounds that a smuggler must be a good judge of character. Davos says that Cortnay is stubborn, and is very loyal to Renly, in a way that the recent defectors are not. Stannis agrees he can't trust the former members of Team Renly, and he doesn't like having to pardon them for treason, but he needs their swords. The two then have a philosophical discussion on the nature of justice, rewards and punishments.

The conversation turns to Stannis' broad intentions, and he says he's sure that Cersei was responsible for killing Jon Arynn, Eddard, and Robert, and he intends to have justice for them. When Davos blurts out Renly's name, Stannis reveals that when it happened, he had a nightmare about it, but woke up with clean hands. So, clearly, Stannis managed to astrally project himself in order to kill Renly, he is either unconscious of it or supressing his memory. Davos has a flash of phantom limb itching, meaning something is wrong, but he doesn't raise his voice.

Stannis then considers his options. Risking Storm's End on single combat is too risky, while a siege will take too long. Davos suggests he strike for King's Landing at once, which would force Cortnay to scknowledge him as king upon Joffrey's death; Storm's End does not have the strength to attack him, but Stannis counters that that action will make it look like he surrendered, and he can't appear weak.

Stannis reasons that, should Cortnay happen to suffer a horrible fate, command will pass to his lieutenant, Lord Meadows, who is young and far more pliable. Melisandre, whom I wish to have sex with, has foreseen Cortnay's impending death, and so Stannis orders Davos to sneak her inside the castle to make the prophecy come true. He also reveals that he's been sleeping with her.

Davos is reluctant, but takes out a small boat and rows it in through a tunnel that leads under the castle. When they reach the porticullis, Melisandre, whom I wish to have sex with, announces that they are past the magic charms built into the castle walls. She then casts off her robe, making herself naked, and revealing that she is also heavily pregnant. She pushes, and Stannis' shadow demon baby comes out of her vagina and squeezes into the castle to kill Cortnay.

OK, I don't want to have sex with Melisandre any more. That is some seriously freaky shit.

This is a packed chapter. We learn a lot about Davos' character, as well a Melisandre's. There is discussion on the nature of deities, justice, and destiny, and the story still moves forward.

One thing that happens is that, while sneaking into the castle, Davos says the guards will be huddled by the torches for what light and heat they can get, which gives them a useful cover of darkness. He mockingly says that the god of darkness is protecting them, and Melisandre warns him never to say that name lest he draw his attention. So, Melisandre believes in a deity that is apparently equal and opposite to R'hollo, then? I'm going to refer to it as Ohrmazd, because R'hollo sounds a lot like Ahriman.

Top moment: Cortnay Penrose's "May the Others bugger your Lord of Light and wipe his arse with that rag you bear."

Chapter 43: Jon

Jon has fashioned those obsidian blades he found into weapons, which aren't as good as steel, but a lot of the Watchmen accept them as nifty good luck charms.

Late one night, Qhorin Halfhand's forces arrive, having been badly damaged in a battle with wildling chieftain Alfyn Crowkiller, though the Watchmen won. Qhorin recognises Jon as Eddard's son, and says his father and grandfather were both good friends of the Watch.

Jon takes Qhorin to see Mormont, where we learn that Mance Rayder is massing an army in an area far north called the Frostfangs. This is a harsh, ever-frozen place that you really don't want to put an army; the reason he's gathering there is because it's full of magic, and he intends to use that magic to blast a hole in the Wall and leads the wildlings through.

Qhorin wants to take a scouting party up to the mountains to find out exactly what Mance is up to; Mormont reluctantly agrees. He chooses Jon for his group, partly because Eddard worshipped the same gods as the wildlings. Jon readily agrees and goes to find Ghost.

Not much to say here. The story move along a little bit, but it's still mostly setup for a grand event later. Also, mammoths are apparently not extinct either.

Chapter 44: Tyrion

Tyrion meets with Lancel, who tells him that Cersei wisely intends to send Tommen away to safety at Rosby. Tyrion has Bronn pass along a message to Jacelyn to attack the fort where Tommen is to be kept and take control of it in order to protect the boy; apparently, Lord Gyles, who is in charge of the mission, is sickly, and will capitulate readily. Tyrion is doing all this for Tommen's sake, but why an attack is necessary is a bit beyond me; perhaps he simply wants Tommen to be guarded by one of his own rather than one of Cersei's men. He also promises to make Jacelyn a lord if he carries this off.

After that, he goes and spends some time with Shae, finding her in the company of a travelling bard by the name of Symon Silver Tongue. Tyrion is annoyed that Symon recognised him instantly and didn't try to pretend he didn't, but allows him to stay and keep Shae company anyway.

After they have sex, Varys arrives disguised as a wandering preacher. Shae recognises him instantly, because whores have to be very good with faces if they want to survive. Varys tells him that Cortnay Penrose has died suspiciously, and Storm's End now belongs to Stannis. Since Stannis' army will even now be marching for King's Landing, Tyrion decides that to keep Shae safer, she will have to disguise herself as a kitchen scullion. Shae doesn't like the idea of having to wear coarse wool and scrub her hands raw on pots.

Tyrion and Varys ride back to the castle. Varys advises Tyrion that such a beautiful scullion as Shae will attract undesirable attention from men, and they will also have to come up with an airtight story for who she is and why she's working in the kitchens, which she will have to keep telling. Varys suggests that she would be better off disguising herself as Lollys' maid; lady's maids wear nicer clothes than scullions, the duties are lighter, and since Lollys is afraid to leave her bedchamber, few people will notice Shae at all. Tyrion thinks this is a splendid idea.

Varys then tells Tyrion his suspicion that Cortnay was killed by magic, and his own backstory.

Varys was a member of a circus that travelled around the free cities. One day, a sorceror purchased him from the ringleader. The sorceror cut off his penis and testicles for use in some black magic spell, and spoke to a terrifying voice from beyond the veil. Varys still has nightmares about that, and hates all magic and sorcerors as a result.

Tyrion sympathises, realising that Varys has been scarred badly, both inside and outside. Varys tells him that Tywin and Littlefinger won't be able to bring their armies to King's Landing on time. At this, Tyrion realises it's up to him to save the city, and laughs at the gods' cruel sense of humour.

There's a lot of character development here. The part that really stands out is Shae. Up to now, she's just been a prostitute who Tyrion has affection for, and who at least appeared to like him back, but she now shows a considerable degree of streetwisdom, as well as having some standards (though those might have been acquired as a result of spending so long in Tyrion's secret house).

Varys gives us a glimse of some scary magic, and helps set the tone for magic in general. Mirri Maz Duur and Melisandre have both shows us that magic is dark and scary at the best of times, but Varys now shows us how it is both depraved and evil. Also, there appears to be at least one Lovecraftian monstrosity in existence. Could this, by any chance, be R'hollo?

Chapter 45: Catelyn

Basically, this chapter consists of Tywin making repeated attempts to cross the Red Fork, only to be beaten back every time by Edmure's fortifications and tactics. Eventually, Edmure forces Tywin to retreat. OH FUCK YEAH!! This is BRILLIANT! The good guys are winning a series of decisive victories; take THAT, Lannisters!

Only...

This series is five books long already, and is going to end up with seven volumes. Martin can't reall extend the plot that far if the Lannisters are defeated this early. Something bad is going to happen, isn't it?

Catelyn shares my concern, constantly angsting about how this doesn't feel like a real victory in spite of everything going perfectly. So evidently, Catelyn is also a sorceress. She has managed to cast a spell of teriffic and awful power, allowing her to reach out beyond the veil of time, reality, and paper, to read the mind and notes of the god who created the universe, who is known to his followers by the name George R R Martin.

Also, Brienne is upset that she doesn't get to join in the fighting and has to stay behind and guard the walls. This seems to have been mostly so Catelyn would have someone to exposit to.

Chapter 46: Bran

This time, we start off in the wolf dream, as Summer and Shaggydog hear humans doing something odd, but as usual find themselves unable to escape their cage, Summer tries to climb up a sloping tree to where Bran sleeps, but fails because he's a massive, hairy direwolf and not a small human.

Bran awakes from his dream as Theon comes through his bedroom door and announces the castle is his now. It seems that the Starks were stretched thinner than I thought; Rodrik had to take the last of the castle guard to deal with Dagmer Cleftjaw, allowing Theon's crew to swim the moat, scale the walls, and kill what few guards remained. This, as it turns out, is what Jojen's dream meant. Makes sense.

Theon takes Bran down to the main hall, where he sits up on Robb's chair and, to spare the lives of everyone in the castle, formally yields it to Theon and tells everyone to obey him now. Theon promises that as long as they don't make him mad, he will be as nice a lord as Robb was.

Reek says that the Starks have several armies in the field, and will attack Winterfell soon enough. He'll be willing to help defend, and will even take a bath of Theon wishes. Osha also decides that Theon is cooler than Robb and swears her allegiance to him.

Poor Bran. He just can't catch a break, can he? He's lost his brother's castle, and now he's going to lose his face.

Prediction: When Balon and Asha reach Winterfell, Theon will open the drawbridge and welcome his father to his new castle. Balon will not be impressed, and scold him for being an idiot.

Also, my previous prediction, about the sea dream referring to Daenerys, was wrong after all, but that doesn't mean she'll never attack Winterfell.

Chapter 47: Arya

Weese has been replaced with an alcoholic wanker called Pinkeye who constantly rants about how hard he's going to beat his servants, but never actually does.

One night, the Bloody Mummers arrive with several northern captives. Arya hopes to free them and gain control of the castle, though she can't find Jaqen.

She goes to the godswood to practice her sword drills with a broken broomstick, and tries praying to Eddard's gods, then gets mad and complains that they never listen. Jaqen comes up behind her, and tells her that mocking gods isn't wise. Arya asks him to kill the guards in the dungeons as his final boon to her, but he refuses, saying he will only kill one.

Arya gets him to swear to kill the next person she names. He swears by R'hollo, the Seven, and the old gods to do so, and so Arya gives him her final name: Jaqen H'gar. OK, that was pretty badass of her.

Jaqen is reluctantly willing to do it, but suggests that Arya might want to reconsider. Arya says she'll take back her order if her helps her free the captives. Jaqen agrees, and sends her to get broth from the kitchens, under the guise of obtaining it for Amory Lorch, who is in charge of the castle in Tywin's absence.

Arya gets the broth, and to her dismay, Jaqen arrives with Rorge and Biter, who Arya suspects are demons he summoned to do his bidding. They take the broth down to the guard in the dungeons and splash it on their faces, giving them the distraction they need to kill them all. Jaqen makes sure to sipe his knife on Arya's shift, as she bears responsibility for their deaths and must get some of their blood on herself.

The captives go upstair with Rorge and Biter (who, Jaqen reassures Arya, are humans) to seize control of the castle. Jaqen then declares that one of the guards he killed is Arya's third victim, and now it is time for Jaqen H'gar to die - which he does by magically changing his appearance somehow.

OK, one thing I neglected to mention is that Jaqen has a very strange manner of speaking. He talks in a quite roundabout way, and refers to everyone and everything as if they were a hypothetical person. With his new face and body, however, he talks quite normally, though is still the same person. He gives Arya an iron token and a password which she can use to find him is she ever finds herself in Braavos. Right, we know Arya is going to the Free Cities at some point, then. Jaqen then disappears.

The next day, Roose Bolton, who is one of Robb's men, has taken command of Harrenhal, further pwning Tywin. ABSOLUTELY FUCK YES!

Also, the Bloody Mummers have switched sides, and now seem to be working quite happily alongside those whom they took captive the day before. OK, no. That doesn't work. I'm well aware that Machiavelli warned mercenaries are too willing to switch sides to rely on, but to switch sides within twelve hours, within sight of those you were just working for and against. No. That's ridiculous. If nothing else, Robb's men should have cut them down in a bloodlust.

Anyway, Roose randomly decides to make Arya his cupbearer. Arya tells him her real name is Nymeria. Aaww.

Arya grows up quite a lot here. She makes a very shrewd decision which will help Robb immeasurably, giving him a strong hold in the east, and also cutting off Tywin's lines of supply and reinforcement. She also manages to manipulate a friendly assassin into going above and beyond the call of duty, which is awesome. Arya, I love you in a completely platonic and non-sexual manner. In fact, it's not even platonic. It's just admiration, pure and simple. I'm not a paedophile, really.

Chapter 48: Daenerys

Daenerys arrives at the sorcerors' hall accompanied by her Dothraki, Jorah, Xaro, and Quaithe, but she must enter alone; however, Pyat allows her to bring Drogon. The hall is a decaying, run-down ruin, which is the exact opposite of what Daenerys imagined.

The sorcerors have little gnomes a servants, one of which gives her a potion that opens her senses to things that exist beyond the veil of reality. She then enters the building, which has alien geometry on the inside. The route to the Undying Ones, who hold the knowledge she seeks, is to always take the first door on the right, and to always climb any stairs she sees directly in front of her, never to descend. The way out is to take the same route.

Assorted weirdness ensues, but the important thing happens when she is walking down a long corridor with numerous doors on the left, some of them open. The open doors show her visions. One has a naked woman being gang-raped by a group of gnomes, bringing our total up to five. One has a man with a wolf's head presiding over a feast attended entirely by corpses, and he looking right at her.

Prediction: This man is Bran, the wolf that would fly who is chained down. Bran is pyschically linked to Summer, so having a wolf's head fits. Also, Bran's own pyschic powers may have allowed Daenerys to see into one of his own dreams, or something. This vision would mean that Bran will manage to kill the Iron Islanders currently occupying his castle.

The other important vision is of the birth of her ancestor, Aegon the Conqueror, who united the seven kingdoms into the Seven Kingdoms. Aegon's mothers asks if he is going to write a song for him, and his father says no, he already has a sing; is the prince who was promised, and so his song is the song of ice and fire. Since prince who was promised is also the title given to Daenerys' aborted baby, and song of ice and fire is the name of the series, it's clear that THIS IS IMPORTANT!

Further weirdness and tribulations ensue, and Daenerys finally arrives at the hall of the Undying Ones, who are ghostly liches sitting around a great table with a massive heart beating in the air above it. They show her some weird visions and offer cryptic advice that I can't make head nor tail of. The important bits seem to be:

Daenerys then discovers that the Undying Ones are trying to make her one of them, but she is saved when Drogon burns the heart, killing them. Daenerys escaped the ruins to find Pyat cursing her eptitude, and he is knocked out by the Dothraki.

I can't stop thinking of a fanfic where Daenerys run into Mat Cauthon in this area. Too bad Martin doesn't wants people writing fanfic.

This was a cool chapter overall. Quite scary, really, and the magic and unnameable abominations feel genuinely unsettling.

Daenerys triumphs over adversity once again by her wits and quick thinking, but gets little that will be of use until it's too late, and was only really saved by Drogon. OK, she's not a Mary Sue any more, though is still a bit Scrappish for me.

Now, what is Pyat up to, I wonder?

WMG: The song of ice and fire refers to the Starks and Targaryens respectively. The Targaryens command fire-breathing dragons, while the Starks rule the North, where it is very cold and there is lots of ice. It seems to me that they will have to join forces to take on the Others and their zombie hordes, and perhaps Daenerys will marry Robb to seal the deal; a bard will then make a song out of the unity of the queen of fire and the king of ice.
5th Dec '11 9:43:28 AM flag for mods
comments
Yeah, I had a feeling that bit by Melisandre would put you off her.

R'hollor IS the Lord of Light; the Lord of Darkness is his opposite number.
Eegah 6th Dec 11
True, although I've sometimes suspected that Melisandre has been getting her power from the Other all along without realizing it. It would explain why Melisandre's version of Lightbringer is so different from Thoros's, among other thing.
silver2195 6th Dec 11
The Bloody Mummers had switched sides for much more than twelve hours. If you noticed, when the free Robett Glover and the other prisonners, they are not surprised aat all, and Robett even mentions Amory Lorch paying a visit to the Dreadfort. Introducing them into Harrenhal as captives was only a ruse to trick Amory Lorch and jump on his forces from inside the fortress. All Jaqen did was help, but Arya had no idea.
79.81.140.70 13th Dec 11
Oops, replace the first "Amory Lorch" with "Vargo Hoat". By the way, is there a way to not display my IP on comments that are already validated ?
79.81.140.70 13th Dec 11
Actually, the "Aegon" referred to in this chapter is Aegon VI, Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martell's son who would have succeeded him had Robert's Rebellion not happened. Yeah, Rhaegar was a bit...obsessed with the PTWP prophecy.
Synchronicity 11th Jun 12
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