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A Game Of Thrones
- At the start of the book, Bran has "fallen" from the tower and is left crippled. An anguished Catelyn treats her husband's 14-year old illegitimate son Jon exceedingly poorly, even though he is grieving and is trying to say goodbye to his brother Bran for what may well be the last time in his life. Just as he turns to leave, she calls him back, addressing him by his name for the first time and in a mad moment of grief over her son's fall...
- In a subtly tearjerking moment, Robert says to Ned:
"My son. How could I have made a son like that, Ned?
- The King's pain is very much clear — to Ned and to the readers — and the reason for this becomes clearer when we see Joffrey's reign.
- Robert might have been a drunkard, a lech, and a glutton, but he had good traits Joffrey never possesses: generous (a bit too much probably), merciful, brave, always ready to laugh and make friends. So it's understandable how uncomfortable a cat-disemboweling little psychopath like Joffrey would make him feel.
- As we see later as well, Robert's bastard children who we get to know inherit a good deal of Robert's more positive traits and would be far more worthy of the position given to Joffrey, who is not his son.
- The execution of Sansa's direwolf Lady, who was always proper, gentle and sweet. She had done absolutely nothing wrong, but Cersei made Ned kill her anyway.
Sansa: He doesn't mean Lady, does he? No. No, not Lady, Lady didn't bite anyone, she's good... Stop them, don't let them do it, please, please, it wasn't Lady, it was Nymeria, Arya did it, you can't, it wasn't Lady, don't let them hurt Lady, I'll make her be good, I promise, I promise...
- When Lady's bones are brought back to Winterfell, her brothers began to howl before the carrier had even entered the castle and for days afterward, they roamed around her grave "like restless shadows". Also in a gesture both tearjerking and heartwarming, Lady was buried not in some dingy corner of the great castle but in the graveyard where the Kings of Winter laid their most faithful servants to rest.
- After Arya's friend Mycah is butchered by the Hound, Arya just can't forgive herself, and keeps on reminding herself that it's all her fault that the poor butcher's boy is dead.
- Sadder still, Arya is the only character who seems to mourn for him. While everyone else focuses on how Ned had to kill his daughter's pet wolf, no one, except Ned (and even then, it's very brief), pays a thought to an innocent boy who was killed, showing how low common people rank in Westerosi society.
She hated the sounds of their voices now, the way they laughed, the stories they told. They'd been her friends, she'd felt safe around them, but now she knew that was a lie. They'd let the queen kill Lady, that was horrible enough, but then the Hound found Mycah. Jeyne Poole had told Arya that he'd cut him up in so many pieces that they'd given him back to the butcher in a bag, and at first the poor man had thought it was a pig they'd slaughtered. And no one had raised a voice or drawn a blade or anything, not Harwin who always talked so bold, or Alyn who was going to be a knight, or Jory who was captain of the guard. Not even her father.
- The death of King Robert is no less a tearjerker. Thought to be the harbinger of a new age after the Targaryen kings were vanquished, Robert was indeed a very charismatic figure, but a terrible king nonetheless. An example of Crippling Overspecialization, Robert was a good friend and a remarkable leader during the revolutionary war; the matters of the crown, however, went well above his head and he left them aside, unwittingly setting up his own downfall and the eventual setup of the War of the Five Kings in his absence. A very good man and friend for the entirely wrong task.
- Not only that, but the very description of what he used to be before he became king shows how his power was slowly swept away by the weasels who picked up on his slack. He is effectively a mighty wall-of-a-man reduced to an amorphous blob of fat.
- Jons devastation when Lord Commander Mormont relays news of his fathers arrest. Jon wants to help his father, pleads for news about his sisters Sansa and Arya, who were with their father, and is sick with worry over his father and sisters. However, a sympathetic Mormont can only offer him empty comfort as he does not know more about the situation and when he picks up on Jons urge to help his family, he must remind Jon that there's nothing he can do as he has sworn to the Watch now. Jon is distraught and even the guards notice Jons devastation and try to comfort him.
Jon did not remember standing or leaving the solar. The next he knew, he was descending the tower steps, thinking, This is my father, my sisters, how can it be none of my concern.
- The realization that Sansa and Arya are alone without their wolves:
The rest of the afternoon passed as if in a dream. Jon could not have said where he walked, what he did, who he spoke with. Ghost was with him, he knew that much. The silent presence of the direwolf gave him comfort. The girls do not even have that much, he thought. Their wolves might have kept them safe, but Lady is dead and Nymerias lost, theyre all alone.
- And Jon asks for word about his father and sisters every chance he gets, only to be devastated by news later in the book that his father has been executed. Like Maester Aemon, Mormont parallels his situation with Jons, understanding Jon loves his father but nothing he can do now will ever bring him back and he loves his own sister (who is currently fighting in Robb's army) as Jon loves his two sisters but they must withstand their own personal suffering to fight the true war coming for them from beyond the Wall. Things dont get better for Jon in this area. He is continually battered by news of his familys deaths and suffers from Conflicting Loyalty between the family he loves and the order he is sworn to.
- Maester Aemon's speech to Jon, revealing himself as Aemon Targaryen and he's been in the exact same situation as Jon is in now, telling Jon, "It hurts, boy. Oh, yes. Choosing... it has always hurt. And always will. I know.
Three times the gods saw fit to test my vows. Once when I was a boy, once in the fullness of my manhood, and once when I had grown old. By then my strength was fled, my eyes grown dim, yet that last choice was as cruel as the first. My ravens would bring the news from the south, words darker than their wings, the ruin of my House, the death of my kin, disgrace and desolation. What could I have done, old, blind, frail? I was helpless as a suckling babe, yet still it grieved me to sit forgotten as they cut down my brothers poor grandson, and his son, and even the little children...
- Ned's thoughts near his end, especially when he yearns to see his illegitimate son Jon Snow and to talk with him: "The thought of Jon filled Ned with a sense of shame, and a sorrow too deep for words. If only he could see the boy again, sit and talk with him". No doubt he was thinking about how he couldn't tell Jon about his mother and it's safe to say that there was a lot to be said.
- Every single nightmare Ned has about his sister Lyanna's death. The mantra "Promise me!" pops up every time there's something that reminds him of keeping that promise, a burden he has carried on by himself for fourteen years, which has shaped his the man he has become. And if the most popular fan theory is true... note Ned promised to raise his nephew, Jon Snow, the son of his sister and Prince Rhaegar, and protect him by hiding his true origins. Made especially dramatic considering Ned had just fought alongside Robert in a war against the Targaryens and ended up being the one trusted with Rhaegar's son, the only child of Neds deceased sister. Robert had vowed to destroy anyone with Targaryen blood so Ned spends the rest of his life protecting his sisters child, passing his nephew off as his illegitimate son to keep Jon safe from Robert's wrath. This would be a constant string to his relationship with his wife, not to mention that for keeping this secret he must lie to his best friend. However he brought Jon home with him, raised and loved the boy as his own, and took the greatest secret in Westeros to the grave, allowing the world to think he had broken his marriage vows — all to save his sister's only son. Also, Ned was the only one who could reveal to Jon his Targaryen heritage... but Joffrey put an end to it by having Ned's head chopped off. Not to mention that war was started to rescue this girl, Lyanna... and when Ned reached her, she was dying, and he couldn't do anything to save her and could only hear her last pleas to him.
- Robert's last speech (to Ned) — "The girl. Daenerys. Only a child, you were right". Robert has spent his life hating the Targaryens because of his hatred for Rhaegar and, only when he's dying, can he get rid of it and perhaps forgive.
- "I will give Lyanna your love, Ned. Take care of my children for me." Robert is thinking of his lost love even in near death. Made even more heartbreaking by the fact that it's hinted that Lyanna didn't love him back. He has been Loving a Shadow for years.
- The arrival of the raven at Winterfell, bearing the news of Lord Eddard's death. The whole scene is a tearjerker, from Bran hugging his baby brother, to Osha trying to comfort Bran, to Maester Luwin's reaction...
"My lords," he said to the sons, in a voice gone hoarse and shrunken, "we ... we shall need to find a stone carver who knew his likeness well ..."
- Sansa's reaction to seeing her father being beheaded right before her.
"In the tower room at the heart of Maegor's Holdfast, Sansa gave herself to the darkness."
- And when Sansa awakens from nightmares in which she sees her father's beheading all over again, this 11-year old girl — who months before, dreamed of fairy tales, songs, and being married to a prince — doesn't think her own death would be so terrible now. She even goes "so far as to cross the bedchamber and throw open the shutters... but then her courage left her, and she ran back to her bed, sobbing."
- And even when she can escape into sleep, all Sansa has are nightmares of being trapped by whoever is coming for her:
She woke murmuring, "Please, please, I'll be good, I'll be good, please don't," but there was no one to hear.
- Jon's reaction to learning about his father's execution. Distraught over his father's death, Jon desperately attempts to get to the battlefield where he can do something, anything, to avenge his father. He knows it's dangerous, knows that desertion from the Watch means death, is not even sure that his brother Robb — his best friend and constant companion in childhood — will be able to let him join the war since Jon, having joined the Watch, is bound to its laws, but...
Jon: They murdered my father. It's war, my brother Robb is fighting in the riverlands
- There's a moment where Robb takes crippled Bran to his room, tucks him in, and lets out a small cry as they hold hands in the dark.
- Robb telling Bran that when he's up and about again, the two of them will take a trip up to the Wall to visit Jon. Harsher in Hindsight.
- Eddard Stark's death. He was the one of the few who cared about the good of the realm and one of the unmistakably good characters in this Crapsack World.
- To make things worse, his two young daughters see it happen. Sansa pleaded for his life before the Iron Throne and was promised that he would be shown mercy. Arya is forced to flee into the slums before seeing his execution.
- When Daenerys must smother Khal Drogo because his mind and consciousness are dead.
- And why is he in that state? He got a small wound, nothing but a scratch, but it got infected. One of the women Daenerys saved from the pillaging and raping, Mirri Maaz Duur was a healer/priestess, so Daenerys asks her for help. She puts a poultice on it but he says it hurts more than the good it does and he's dying. So Daenerys makes a deal with Mirri, to save his life. Daenerys loses her unborn child in the process and it still only keeps him alive. When Daenerys calls out Mirri about this saying she saved her life, Mirri scoffs saying that before Daenerys came, she was raped twice already and watched so many of her friends and fellow villagers be killed by the Dothraki which the mere fact that she, Mirri, is alive, did nothing to make better, so she wanted to teach Daenerys a lesson. Unclear is whether she sabotaged only the ceremony or the poultice as well.
- Pretty much any mention of the house with the red door. As a young girl, Daenerys and Viserys were both taken care of by a Targaryen loyalist, Willem Darry, who was possibly the closest thing Dany had to a father and his house was one of the only places she could truly call home. Eventually, Darry died of old age and his servants kicked the two out, leaving the house with the red door behind forever.
- Despite his obsessive hatred for Rhaegar, we get an insight into Robert's loneliness and disillusionment as he seems to know deep down that Lyanna may have chosen Rhaegar over Robert himself:
Rhaegar... Rhaegar won, damn him. I killed him, Ned, I drove the spike right through that black armor into his black heart, and he died at my feet. They made up songs about it. Yet somehow he still won. He has Lyanna now
, and I have her
- When Varys recalls Princess Rhaenys's death, he mentions that she'd been hiding under her father's bed during the Sack of King's Landing, as if she believed her father's spirit would protect her. He didn't.
- Varys' entire speech about Rhaenys, which doubles as a sad and poetic description of the series' morality as a whole.
Rhaenys was a child too. Prince Rhaegar's daughter. A precious little thing, younger than your girls. She had a small black kitten she called Balerion, did you know? I always wondered what happened to him. Rhaenys liked to pretend he was the true Balerion, the Black Dread of old, but I imagine the Lannisters taught her the difference between a kitten and a dragon quick enough, the day they broke down her door... The High Septon once told me that as we sin, so do we suffer. If that's true, Lord Eddard, tell me... why is it always the innocents who suffer most, when you high lords play your game of thrones?
- After Ned's death, Bran dreams his father talked to him in the crypt. He has Maester Luwin and Osha take him down, where they find Shaggydog and Rickon. Rickon reveals he had the same dream in the most heartbreaking way possible:
Rickon: He's coming home now, like he promised. He's coming home.
- The way Daenerys is treated in her first few chapters until she starts taking levels in badass. She's a thirteen year old girl who has spent most of her life on the run, living off charity or begging. Her entire family is dead save for her brother Viserys, who is very mentally unstable and switches between being affectionate to her and abusing her at the drop of a hat. When Viserys tells her he's marrying her off to a complete stranger to get an army, Dany is terrified and pleads with him that she doesn't want to be Drogo's queen; she just "wants to go home", merely meaning either Illyrio's manse or the house with the red door where she initially grew up. Viserys, though, only thinks of home as Westeros and tells Dany they can only go home with an army. He then drops his infamous line about how he'd let Drogo's entire army and their horses rape her if that's what it took and that she should be grateful it's only Drogo.
- Dany's wedding day is hellish for her. She feels too queasy to eat anything and is horrified by the sight of men fighting and killing each other, and men having rough sex with women in public. Despite being the bride, she's pretty much ignored by most people, including her new husband (largely on account of the language barrier). And Viserys had ordered her to smile or else, so she sits there smiling and smiling until her face hurts and there are tears in her eyes. The one time she's happy during her wedding is when she gets to ride on her new horse, but Viserys immediately ruins it by pinching her and ordering her to make Drogo happy on their wedding night, or she'll 'wake the dragon'. When she and Drogo go off to consummate the marriage, she's so scared she's shaking and repeatedly tells herself that she's the 'blood of the dragon', then starts crying.
- The first few weeks of her life with the Dothraki are utterly miserable. She finds it hard riding all day because she's not used to it, with her hands developing painful blisters. She has no friends or allies as of yet. Drogo ignores her except to come into her tent in the dead of night to have sex with her, which leaves her in pain and crying. Viserys is, of course, not remotely sympathetic. It gets so bad that she starts thinking that she'd rather die than keep going. Then she has an inspiring dragon dream and begins her journey to badassry.
- Eroeh's whole story. She's a timid Lhazareen girl whom Dany takes as a slave to protect her from being raped and abused. When she finds out Drogo is dying, Eroeh is terrified, because if he dies any power Dany has over the khalasar is gone. When Dany finally wakes up after giving birth and discovers she's pretty much lost everything, she asks about Eroeh. She's told that the girl was seized by Khal Jhaqo's bloodriders, who took it in turns gang-raping then slit her throat when they got bored of her. Despite all her efforts, all Dany did was delay Eroeh's suffering and she blames herself for failing to protect her. She still thinks of Eroeh for years afterwards; when she finds out what happened to Astapor and Yunkai, she even thinks bitterly that she has made "ten thousand Eroehs".
A Clash Of Kings
- The prologue with Maester Cressen. As a long-time maester of House Baratheon, Cressen helped raise Robert, Stannis, and Renly after their parents died. When Cressen sees that Melisandre is giving Stannis the notion of murdering Renly, he tries to kill her to stop her from pursuing that goal. He dies trying to stop Melisandre, and Stannis later goes through with assassinating Renly. Cressen tries to stop the assassination because he loved all three of the Baratheons like sons, and was heartbroken at the prospect of them killing each other. The fact that he ultimately fails makes this prologue even more tragic in hindsight.
- Cressen spends much of the prologue lamenting that now, he's old and dying, with a bad hip making it hard for him to move. Stannis already has another maester ready for when Cressen dies — adding this to the fact that Cressen all but raised Stannis, that has to hurt. Stannis no longer seeks his council, and doesn't invite him to an important feast with the lord bannermen... but not because Stannis was tossing Cressen aside. As he tells Davos later, Stannis did care for the old man, and he didn't mean to ignore him — he wanted Cressen to live the rest of his years in peace. He genuinely wanted him to get some rest instead of coming to the feast where he died.
- When Catelyn receives her husband's corpse.
Bones, Catelyn thought. This is not Ned, this is not the man I loved, the father of my children. His hands were clasped together over his chest, skeletal fingers curled about the hilt of some longsword, but they were not Ned's hands, so strong and full of life. They had dressed the bones in Ned's surcoat, the fine white velvet with the direwolf badge over the heart, but nothing remained of the warm flesh that had pillowed her head so many nights, the arms that had held her. The head had been rejoined to the body with fine silver wire, but one skull looks much like another, and in those empty hollows she found no trace of her lord's dark grey eyes, eyes that could be soft as a fog or hard as stone. They gave his eyes to crows, she remembered.
- For all of Stannis' talk of how he never loved either of his brothers, he has an epiphany too late, after having Renly assassinated.
Stannis: I did love him, Davos. I know that now. I swear, I will go to my grave thinking of my brother's peach.
- It is implied Stannis doesn't actually know how Renly died. However due to the shadow assassin being created from his lifeforce he dreams of Renly's death as it occurs and feels responsible, even though he knows he was asleep when it happened. Yet even though he would be quite justified in hating Renly, who was always better-liked then Stannis and given Storm's End for doing basically nothing while Stannis for doing more receives almost no appreciation, plotted to steal Stannis' throne out of greed and vanity, sneeringly mocks Stannis for not being as charismatic, and made it clear he intended to kill his brother despite Stannis' very generous offer, Stannis still felt love for Renly and was upset at his death.
- The way Theon is goaded into betraying Robb. He is received at Pyke by his uncle Aeron in the most unceremonious way possible; he is humiliated by both Balon and Asha while, the whole time, Theon has to debate within himself on whether he'll choose Robb or whether he will stand for his family.
- Theon, in his last moments of FaceHeel Turn, decides against 'paying the iron price' for a piece of jewelry, reminding himself that Ned would not have approved.
- Theon's backstory as a hostage to House Stark and the realization that he's been a prisoner to the Starks for half his life. Not only did Theon not fit in with the Starks, but when he returns to the Iron Islands, he's treated like an outsider there as well.
"As if ten years in Winterfell could make a Stark. Lord Eddard had raised him among his own children, but Theon had never been one of them. The whole castle, from Lady Stark to the lowliest kitchen scullion, knew he was hostage to his fathers good behavior, and treated him accordingly. Even the bastard Jon Snow had been accorded more honor than he had. Lord Eddard had tried to play the father from time to time, but to Theon he had always remained the man whod brought blood and fire to Pyke and taken him from his home. As a boy, he had lived in fear of Starks stern face and great dark sword."
- When Mandon Moore tries to kill Tyrion and he is saved by Pod. Tyrion immediately thinks that it must have been Jaime, because, in his whole life, only Jaime has ever spared him from anything. Really hits hard how downtrodden the poor man is when the only person in his immediate family he associates with unconditional kindness is an amoral Blood Knight.
- Tyrion doing an excellent job as Hand of the King. He makes allies out of two powerful enemy Houses, saves the capital from Stannis, and shows uncommon valor in combat, dreaming that his family will finally recognise his talents — only to find that his father has always viewed Tyrion as a deformed, lecherous, ungrateful, scheming monster responsible for the death of his own mother in childbirth, and Tyrion's recent accomplishments have done precisely nothing to change Tywin's mind.
- One of Davos's last thoughts before most of Stannis's men burn to death on the Blackwater, "My sons..." And he loses all of his sons who were in the battle.
- When Theon presents the bodies of "Bran" and "Rickon" in front of Winterfell's denizens. If any single scene had to be chosen to demonstrate just how much the Starks were loved, this would be a contender for that honor.
Old Nan stood with her soft toothless mouth opening and closing soundlessly, and Farlen threw himself at Theon, snarling like one of his hounds. Urzen and Cadwyl had to beat him senseless with the butts of their spears.
- The desperate measures Theon resorts to when trying to hold Winterfell against Rodrik Cassel and his army. When he uses Beth Cassel as leverage against them, they treat him as a lowly traitor, despite how this is essentially the same thing the Starks had used him for against his father.
"This is craven," Ser Rodrick said. "To use a child so... this is despicable."
"Oh, I know," said Theon. "It's a dish I tasted myself, or have you forgotten? I was ten when I was taken from my father's house, to make certain he would raise no more rebellions."
"It is not the same!"
Theons face was impassive. "The noose I wore was not made of hempen rope, that's true enough, but I felt it all the same. And it chafed, Ser Rodrick. It chafed me raw." He had never quite realized that until now, but as the words came spilling out he saw the truth of them.
- Stannis recalls the deaths of his parents and says the day they drowned was the day he lost his faith in the Seven.
Stannis: I stopped believing in gods the day I saw the Windproud break up across the bay. Any gods so monstrous as to drown my mother and father would never have my worship, I vowed. In Kings Landing, the High Septon would prattle at me of how all justice and goodness flowed from the Seven, but all I ever saw of either was made by men.
- The tale of Bael the Bard, which Ygritte tells Jon is quite sad. For a feud with Lord Brandon Stark, the wildling hero Bael the Bard sneaks in Winterfell and decides to steal Lord Stark's daughter, leaving a blue winter rose in her place. Lord Brandon spent years searching for her and almost died of despair nearly ending House Stark. Turns out Bael and Lady Stark were hiding in Winterfell all this time and the girl had bore Bael a son, who becomes the next Lord of Winterfell. However, when they meet on the battlefield Bael refuses to kill his son and is slain by him. When Lord Stark's mother finds out he unknowingly killed his father, she throws herself to her death. It takes a whole new level of sadness with the personal meaning it could have to a clueless Jon Snow.
- Bran leaving the crypt and turning back to look at his father's statue:
As they set off, he turned to give his father one last look, and it seemed to Bran that there was a sadness in Lord Eddard's eyes, as if he did not want them to go. We have to, he thought. It's time.
- Catelyn has Not So Different thoughts about Jon Snow's mother despite the harsh words she told him in A Game of Thrones and the resentment she has always harbored for a woman she thinks Ned could have loved more than her:
[Catelyn] found herself thinking of Jons mother, that shadowy secret love her husband would never speak of. Does she grieve for Ned as I do? Or did she hate him for leaving her bed for mine? Does she pray for her son as I have prayed for mine?
- Catelyn learning that Bran and Rickon are dead.
I keep remembering the Stark words. Winter has come, Father. For me. Robb must fight the Greyjoys now as well as the Lannisters, and for what? For a gold hat and an iron chair? Surely the land has bled enough. I want my girls back, I want Robb to lay down his sword and pick some homely daughter of Walder Frey to make him happy and give him sons. I want Bran and Rickon back, I want... I want...
- Jorah telling Dany the story of his old wife, Lynesse. The two were genuinely in love for all of a week — afterward, Lynesse realized that Jorah really wasn't a splendidly rich tourney champion. He was just a simple knight from Bear Island, a drab, boring place that was nothing like the flashy home she was used to. She left him to become a merchant prince's concubine. Afterward, when asked, Jorah tells Dany that Lynesse looked a lot like her. This is where Dany realizes that Jorah loves her romantically, and imagines being with him... and fails. Jorah is hopelessly in love with Dany, but emphasis on 'hopeless' — Dany does not return his affections, especially when she is still grieving the death of her husband, Khal Drogo.
A Storm Of Swords
- The Red Wedding. Outside the castle, Robb Stark's loyal men, victors, and survivors of so many battles die horrific deaths, gutted by their former drinking mates, burned alive, or hunted down like mad dogs by Frey heavy cavalry. Inside the castle, their lords, and commanders desperately try to put up a resistance against almost inevitable death with cutlery, crockery or (in the case of the Greatjon) their own teeth. George R. R. Martin just loves to kill off nice characters, doesn't he?
- Catelyn's final thoughts and watching Robb die through her eyes.
It hurts so much, she thought. Our children, Ned, all our sweet babes. Rickon, Bran, Arya, Sansa, Robb... Robb... please, Ned, please, make it stop, make it stop hurting [...] No, don't, don't cut my hair, Ned loves my hair... Then the steel was at her throat, and its bite was red and cold.
- Even George R. R. Martin apparently hated writing that scene, calling it the hardest thing he ever wrote.
- The death of Aegon "Jinglebell" Frey is also pretty sad. He's a grandson of Walder Frey who seems to be mentally disabled and is made the Fool of the Crossing and mocked by his relatives. When the Red Wedding happens, Aegon doesn't even seem to know what's going on and is held hostage by Catelyn in an attempt to bargain for her son's life. Walder Frey's reaction is basically that Aegon Frey isn't useful and thus expendable, meaning when Robb is murdered, Aegon is likewise murdered, even though he is not at all responsible for the Red Wedding. It shows that despite Walder Frey's talk of caring for his family, he doesn't really care for them as people and just sees them as pawns to further the power of House Frey.
- When Star-Crossed Lovers Jon and his First Love Ygritte go down into the cave to make love. "Let's never go back up." Especially when you're rereading this passage and you know what's in store for them.
- The wedding of Tyrion and Sansa. Setting the very painful ceremony and worse wedding night aside for a second, let's just look at the marriage:
- The bride is someone who has dreamed of nothing but her wedding for her whole life and sees it as the only thing she was really born for. Now, it's happening, and she's marrying a man she doesn't love and who doesn't love her. Her father isn't there to give her away, so the man who killed him does so instead. Her big brothers aren't there to tell the groom that he'll kick his ass if he hurts her. Her mother isn't there. Her siblings aren't there — because they've either been murdered (she believes), are missing, fighting a war against the family she's marrying into, or serving in the Night's Watch. All she wants is to go home, but once she marries her husband, she'll never be allowed to get away from his family. That's not even getting into the sexual issues.
- The groom is someone whose biggest fear — the fear that's driven him his whole life — is that nobody will ever love him for anything but his family's money and power (which, among other things, is the only reason his first wife agreed to marry him or so he thinks). Now, he's marrying this beautiful, brave girl who he thinks the world of, and despite having done everything he can to help her in the past, she is clearly repulsed by him and will never, ever love him — but she is being forced by his family's money and power to pretend that she does. It would be impossible to tailor a marriage better designed to be his worst nightmare.
- What makes this better? Tyrion still thinks of her from the other side of the world, as she is arguably one of the few people on the whole planet that he still cares about. To him, she is still his wife, for better or for worse. What makes this worse? As they are married and he is still royalty, he can spoil Littlefinger's plans to arrange a marriage between Sansa and Harrold Hardyng (the heir to the Eyre).
- Even when Tyrion (unaware that Sansa was used by Littlefinger and Olenna Tyrell) believes that Sansa was a willing conspirator in the plot to kill Joffrey and ran away, abandoning Tyrion in the aftermath, Tyrion still stands by his oaths to Sansa to protect her. While on trial, Tyrion refuses to implicate Sansa in Joffrey's death, because he's her husband. His internal paradox is heart-wrenching.
- While fleeing from the capital, Sansa bursts into tears; she does not know if she's crying out of relief from the death of Joffrey, out of utter terror from the brutal manner of his demise, or out of guilt for abandoning Tyrion after unwittingly taking part into both the assassination of the former and letting her husband take the blame, when Tyrion did nothing but try to help her to the best of his efforts.
- And for her part, Sansa begins to think more and more of Tyrion after she leaves, remembering mostly his kindness even as she continues to feign her indifference to him for her own safety.
- When Sansa learns from her aunt Lysa that she is planning to marry her off to her sickly son, Sansa has lost every hope of finding someone good for her. It's rather sad since, like every girl of her age, she used to dream for a Princely Young Man to fall in love with and marry, and she has been cruelly denied — once and for all this time — by people who want to exploit her highborn heritage.
Sansa: It is not me she wants her son to marry, it is my claim. No one will ever marry me for love.
- Sansa and her snow castle in the last chapter. It really drives home that Sansa is just a thirteen-year-old girl who has only ever tried to be what is expected of her and has been all but tortured for it. Add to that the fact that she thinks nearly everyone from her fond childhood memories is dead, missing, or is someplace she can't access, and you have an extremely touching scene.
- Directly after this scene, although possibly funny in a dark way (Littlefinger thought so, anyway), it's also a bit sad to see Sansa stick the head of Sweetrobin's doll on a stick (like a head on a pike) down in front of her snow castle. Considering she undoubtedly had her father and brother Robb's endings in mind. A pretty dark action to do, considering she's only thirteen years old, and it goes to show that she's seen some pretty messed up crap in her life.
- Given that she believed that her younger brothers' heads were on spikes above the gates of Winterfell, it makes her version of Winterfell particularly accurate. And horrifying.
- This scene really does drive home that Sansa is a Woobie. She pretty much goes on a happy nostalgia trip and creates a bunch of perfect snowballs, remembering her childhood, during which she would get into snowball fights with her siblings. After making them, she realizes that she has no one to throw them at and play with. Soon after, Littlefinger comes along and, in a moment where Sansa lowers her guard and tries to play with him by throwing a snowball at him, he instead takes the opportunity to molest and forcefully kiss her, resulting in her almost getting killed by her aunt and being traumatized once again. The poor girl can't get a break and live out her childhood at all.
- Oberyn's death. Arrogant and cocky as he was, he really was only out to avenge the sister that he loved, and he almost won. Made worse by the fact that his paramour who was basically his wife had to watch the whole grisly ordeal.
- Pretty much everything Jaime goes through after losing his hand is pretty gutting, but something that really stands out is all of those moments when he's tied to a saddle with Brienne afterward, feverish, in pain and half-conscious, finding himself just leaning on Brienne's shoulder and taking a little bit of comfort in the fact that she's so warm.
- The epilogue, in which it is revealed that Catelyn was resurrected by Beric Dondarrion but since it had been so long since her death, she bears very little resemblance to the woman that she was in life — and she cannot even rest in peace.
- Jaime's recollection of the Kingsguard's former glory, and his dread at what it has become.
He wondered what Ser Arthur Dayne
would have to say of this lot. "How is it that the Kingsguard
has fallen so low," most like. "It was my doing," I would have to answer. "I opened the door, and did nothing when the vermin began to crawl inside."
- Oberyn's recollections of his sister Elia hit hard, especially when he recalls her mothering/Cuteness Proximity toward baby Tyrion, given her horrific death and the equally horrible death of her children.
- When the Hound is captured by the Brotherhood Without Banners, they accuse him of being a murderer, and he responds: "Who did I murder?" The members of the Brotherhood reply with a long list of names of people who were slaughtered by the Lannister armies, illustrating how devastating the war is for the smallfolk.
"Lord Lothar Mallery and Ser Gladden Wylde," said Harwin.
"My brothers Lister and Lennocks," declared Jack-Be-Lucky.
"Goodman Beck and Mudge the millers son, from Donnelwood," an old woman called from the shadows.
"Merrimans widow, who loved so sweet," added Greenbeard.
"Them septons at Sludgy Pond."
"Ser Andrey Charlton. His squire Lucas Roote. Every man, woman, and child in Fieldstone and Mousedown Mill."
"Lord and Lady Deddings, that was so rich."
Tom Sevenstrings took up the count. "Alyn of Winterfell, Joth Quickbow, Little Matt and his sister Randa, Anvil Ryn. Ser Ormond. Ser Dudley. Pate of Mory, Pate of Lancewood, Old Pate, and Pate of Shermers Grove. Blind Wyl the Whittler. Goodwife Maerie. Maerie the Whore. Becca the Baker. Ser Raymun Darry, Lord Darry, young Lord Darry. The Bastard of Bracken. Fletcher Will. Harsley. Goodwife Nolla-"
"Enough." The Hounds face was tight with anger. "Youre making noise. These names mean nothing. Who were they?"
"People," said Lord Beric. "People great and small, young and old. Good people and bad people, who died on the points of Lannister spears or saw their bellies opened by Lannister swords."
- Arya asking Thoros if he could bring her father back to life. When he says no, he tries to soften his words, but Arya still starts to cry. And this after seeing the unenviable state Lord Beric is in.
Beric: Can I dwell on what I scarce remember? I held a castle on the Marches once, and there was a woman I was pledged to marry, but I could not find that castle today, nor tell you the color of that woman's hair. Who knighted me, old friend? What were my favorite foods? It all fades. Sometimes I think I was born on the bloody grass in that grove of ash, with the taste of fire in my mouth and a hole in my chest. Are you my mother, Thoros?
- Despite Joffrey being such a sadistic shit and his mother Cersei a very unlikable woman, Joffrey dies in the arms of his helpless, grief-stricken mother — every parent's worst nightmare. Even Tyrion, who Joffrey was making fun of shortly before, pities him.
Tyrion's thoughts: He has Jaimes eyes. Only he had never seen Jaime look so scared. The boys only thirteen.
- Stannis reveals that, deep down, he really wanted for him and Renly to be Bash Brothers, to crush Lord Tywin and avenge all the people that Tywin and King Joffrey had wronged.
- When Jaime reveals the truth about Tysha to Tyrion: she wasn't a whore and she truly loved him. Tyrion feels that the only person he thought he could trust betrayed him too, and their deep bond is forever shattered. When Jaime asks him whether he killed Joffrey, Tyrion lies that he did, just to hurt him.
Tyrion: I am the monster they all say I am. Yes, I killed your vile son.
- Jon finding the bodies of Donal Noye and Mag the Mighty in the tunnel beneath the Wall.
- Amidst all the tragedy and heartbreak of a world gone mad, in a quietly sad moment, Jon has a vision of Catelyn:
"She was looking at him the way she used to look at him at Winterfell, whenever he had bested Robb at swords or sums or most anything. Who are you? that look had always seemed to say. This is not your place. Why are you here?"
A Feast For Crows
- Podrick Payne, at the end of the chapter when he meets Brienne. "I was his squire...".
- Jaime's (implied true) dream of his mother, where she asks him if he will forget his father as he has forgotten her. Then she tells him that Tywin hated to be laughed at, wished for his son to be "a great knight", his daughter to be a queen, and for them to be "so strong and brave and beautiful that no one would ever laugh at them." Jaime responds:
''"I am a knight," he told her, "and Cersei is a queen."
A tear rolled down her cheek. The woman raised her hood again and turned her back on him. Jaime called after her, but already she was moving away, her skirt whispering lullabies as it brushed across the floor. Don't leave me, he wanted to call, but of course she'd left them long ago.
- The Elder Brother's description of Sandor Clegane.
He was Prince Joffrey's sworn shield for many a year, and even here [on the Quiet Isle] we would hear tell of his deeds, both good and ill. If even half of what we heard was true, this was a bitter, tormented soul, a sinner who mocked both gods and men. He served, but found no pride in service. He fought, but took no joy in victory. He drank, to drown his pain in a sea of wine. He did not love, nor was he loved himself. It was hate that drove him. Though he committed many sins, he never sought forgiveness. Where other men dream of love, or wealth or glory, this man Sandor Clegane dreamed of slaying his own brother, a sin so terrible it makes me shudder just to speak of it. Yet it was the bread that nourished him, the fuel that kept his fires burning. Ignoble as it was, the hope of seeing his brother's blood upon his blade was all this sad and angry creature lived for, and even that was taken from him, when Prince Oberyn of Dorne stabbed Ser Gregor with a poisoned spear.
- Cersei's POV chapters don't do much to show her in a sympathetic light, with one exception: during Tommen's wedding to Margaery. When Tommen drinks his wine too quickly and starts choking on it, Cersei — who's already had one son choke to death on his wedding day right in front of her — becomes so overwhelmed with terror and panic that she ends up knocking a server down in her haste to reach him. Of course, it's a false alarm, but even so, she can't keep herself from bursting into tears and has to rush out of the room to prevent people from seeing her like this. It really hammers home the fact that, bitch though she may be, Cersei's still a mother who's already lost one child, and now lives in constant fear (not entirely without reason) that the other two may be next. In that one moment, it's pretty hard not to feel sorry for her.
- YMMV but something that Cersei thinks as she leaves the room, that a woman may weep but not a Queen, can cause a few tears when you remember that her Aunt Genna told her that she shouldn't weep after being told she wasn't going to be wed to Rhaegar, that lions didn't weep. Considering the sort of parent Tywin was, you have to wonder if Cersei was ever able to truly cry.
- Doran's realization of Oberyn's death.
"I was the oldest," the Prince said, "and yet I am the last. After Mors and Olyvar died in their cradles, I gave up hope of brothers. I was nine when Elia came, a squire in service at Salt Shore. When the raven arrived with word that my mother had been brought to bed a month too soon, I was old enough to understand that meant the child would not live. Even when Lord Gargalen told me that I had a sister, I assured him that she must shortly die. Yet she lived, by the Mothers mercy. And a year later Oberyn arrived, squalling and kicking. I was a man grown when they were playing in these pools. Yet here I sit, and they are gone."
- Myrcella's face getting maimed by the Darkstar. Her Martell betrothed cannot help but cry at the sight of her.
- Arianne's horrible guilt about her role in it. Despite being a scheming seductress, she's also a decent person who didn't want any innocent people get hurt. Now, because of her recklessness, Arys, a man so in love that he broke his vows for her, lost his head and Myrcella, a child under her protection, was slashed in the face and disfigured. And she's gonna have to live with that for the rest of her life.
- Brienne's response to the Elder Brother's "I am sure he'd rather have a living daughter than a shattered shield" comment:
"A daughter." Brienne's eyes filled with tears. "He deserves that. A daughter who could sing to him and grace his hall and bear him grandsons. He deserves a son too, a strong and gallant son to bring honor to his name. Galladon drowned when I was four and he was eight, though, and Alysanne and Arianne died still in the cradle. I am the only child the gods let him keep. The freakish one, not fit to be son or daughter."
- More quiet than other cases, but Septon Meribald's description of 'broken men' and all the horrors of warfare for the common folk — even those serving in the armies — hits hard, reminding the reader yet again that this is now the reality for so many peasants in Westeros because of the arrogance, pride and ruthlessness of the Five Kings and the lords they commanded. And what makes it worse is that Meribald is still affected by his own experiences and loss of friends and kin, after nearly forty years.
The quiet stretched and stretched, until finally [Brienne] said, "How old were you when they marched you off to war?"
"Why, no older than your boy," Meribald replied. "Too young for such, in truth, but my brothers were all going, and I would not be left behind. Willam said I could be his squire, though Will was no knight, only a pot boy armed with a kitchen knife he'd stolen from the inn. He died upon the Stepstones, and never struck a blow. It was fever did for him, and for my brother Robin. Owen died from a mace that split his head apart, and his friend Jon Pox was hanged for rape."
"The War of the Ninepenny Kings?" asked Hyle Hunt.
"So they called it, though I never saw a king, nor earned a penny. It was a war, though. That it was."
- Tywin's sister telling Jaime about their relationship. It's sad, and it's twisted, and we see a human side to Tywin that's almost always buried.
- After the two of them make love on the Cinnamon Wind, Sam having to tell Gilly that they can't be together even though he loves her because of the vow he swore to the Night's Watch:
Sam: What we did... if I could take a wife, I would sooner have you than any princess or highborn maiden... but I can't. I am still a crow. I said the words, Gilly.
- The reveal that Gilly was depressed because Jon forced her to leave her baby behind and take Mance's son with her instead as part of Jon's plan to save a kid from being sacrificed for his king's blood and to help give both babies the chance to live (revealed in A Dance With Dragons). In Dance, before she leaves, Jon promises Gilly that her son will be safe because he has no king's blood as Stannis would not burn an innocent without cause, and that her son will be provided for, educated, and raised under (Jon's) protection. Gilly holds Jon to his promise that he'll ensure her son will grow up strong and makes him vow that he won't name her child until he reaches two years for the sake of her child's well-being.note Though Gilly loves Mance's son as her own, she naturally can't help being absolutely miserable over the separation from her own son.
- The story of Oberyn taking Obara Sand away from her birth mother, especially when we found out that her heartbroken mother drank herself to death a year later.
- Asha describing her mother Alannys' depression after losing all three of her sons. She would wander Pyke in the middle of the night looking for them, even though the two eldest were dead and the youngest, Theon, was away at Winterfell.
- Jaime's guilt over not protecting Queen Rhaella from her abusive husband. For him, hearing her scream as King Aerys brutally raped her was worse than the screams of men the king had burned alive. The fact that the Kingsguard did nothing for this poor woman is also one of the reasons Jaime ended up so cynical and disillusioned.
- Loras being horribly injured during his attack on Dragonstone, to such an extent that the maesters are certain he's going to die. Well, probably. We get to see his sister's reaction:
Margaery: Dying is not dead!
- Arya begins her training-slash-apprenticeship in the House of Black and White, where she is told that she has to give up her identity. This means throwing away any keepsakes and trinkets she has, which, though she is mildly disappointed, she does. She dumps it all in the river, until she gets to Needle. Arya decides that she just can't do it. She can give up being Arya Stark, but she can't get rid of the memories that come with her. And one of the things that Needle reminds her is her family, especially Jon Snow.
[Arya] stood on the end of the dock, pale and goosefleshed and shivering in the fog. In her hand, Needle seemed to whisper to her. Stick them with the pointy end, it said, and, don't tell Sansa! Mikken's mark was on the blade. It's just a sword. If she needed a sword, there were a hundred under the temple. Needle was too small to be a proper sword, it was hardly more than a toy. She'd been a stupid little girl when Jon had it made for her. It's just a sword, she said, aloud this time...
...but it wasn't.
Needle was Robb and Bran and Rickon, her mother and her father, even Sansa. Needle was Winterfell's grey walls, and the laughter of its people. Needle was the summer snows, Old Nan's stories, the heart tree with its red leaves and scary face, the warm earthy smell of the glass gardens, the sound of the north wind rattling the shutters of her room. Needle was Jon Snow's smile. He used to mess my hair and call me "little sister," she remembered, and suddenly there were tears in her eyes.
- Maester Aemon dying aboard the Cinnamon Wind on the journey to Oldtown. Maester Aemon and Jon realize he must leave Castle Black when Aemon learns Melisandre is seeking king's blood and Jon sends him to Oldtown to save him from Stannis and Melisandre, but the voyage on the Blackbird takes its toll and a man of 102 years old simply couldn't make the journey. Aemon asks Sam to bring him on deck, where he prefers to spend his time — even in the rain — and is lost in memory. And when he dies, Maester Aemon doesn't go quickly, either. He spends his last days slipping in and out of his wits, more senile by the day, mistaking Sam for his long-deceased brother Egg (Aegon V), too weak to eat and barely moves. Perhaps most tragic is how lackluster of an end this is for the old man — he was a Targaryen, and could have been king, but gave it up, and spent the last years of his life counseling the Lord Commanders of the Night's Watch. Sam is the only one aboard the Cinnamon Wind who fully grasps just how great Maester Aemon was, and he barely makes it through his eulogy before breaking into tears.
Aemon's blind white eyes came open. "Egg?" he said, as the rain streamed down his cheeks. "Egg, I dreamed that I was old."
- Sam's eulogy for the wise old man when he passes away of old age:
"He was a good man... No. He was a great man. A maester of the Citadel, chained and sworn, and Sworn Brother of the Night's Watch, ever faithful. When he was born they named him for a hero who had died too young, but though he lived a long long time, his own life was no less heroic. No man was wiser, or gentler, or kinder. At the Wall, a dozen lords commander came and went during his years of service, but he was always there to counsel them. He counseled kings as well. He could have been a king himself, but when they offered him the crown he told them they should give it to his younger brother. How many men would do that? He was the blood of the dragon, but now his fire has gone out. He was Aemon Targaryen. And now his watch is ended."
- Just as Aemon is haunted by his family's destruction and how he was unable to anything to save them because he was bound to the Watch by that time, he curses the fact that he is now too old to meet his grandniece Daenerys Targaryen and counsel her. He learned about her existence only shortly before dying. Aemon realizes the prophecy of The Prince That Was Promised is gender neutral and Daenerys (born amidst salt and smoke and the one who brought dragons back into the world) might be the prophesized prince and he is determined to reach her. However, Aemon realizes he is too old to reach her and urges Sam to go to the Citadel in his place and tell the archmaesters about Daenerys.
Aemon: I must go to [Daenerys]. I must. Would that I was even ten years younger.
Aemon: [later, to Sam] It must be you. Tell them. The prophecy... my brother's dream... Lady Melisandre has misread the signs. Stannis... Stannis has some of the dragon blood in him, yes. His brothers did as well. Rhaelle, Egg's little girl, she was how they came by it... their father's mother... she used to call me Uncle Maester when she was a little girl. I remembered that, so I allowed myself to hope... perhaps I wanted to... we all deceive ourselves, when we want to believe. Melisandre most of all, I think. The sword is wrong, she has to know that... light without heat... an empty glamor... the sword is wrong, and the false light can only lead us deeper into darkness, Sam. Daenerys is our hope. Tell them that, at the Citadel. Make them listen. They must send her a maester. Daenerys must be counseled, taught, protected. For all these years I've lingered, waiting, watching, and now that the day has dawned I am too old. I am dying, Sam.
A Dance With Dragons
- The beginning of Dany's first chapter in A Dance With Dragons. Even Daenerys has trouble keeping her eyes dry:
"What could a eunuch hope to find in a brothel?" she asked.
"Even those who lack a man's parts may still have a man's heart, Your Grace," said Grey Worm. "This one has been told that your servant Stalwart Shield sometimes gave coin to the women of the brothels, to lay with him and hold him."
- In Sam's POV, Sam notices Jon's sad smile when they share their farewells and then we learn Jon's thoughts in this scene:
The cold trickles on [Sam's] face reminded Jon of the day he'd bid farewell to Robb at Winterfell, never knowing that it was for the last time. "And pull your hood up. The snowflakes are melting in your hair."
- When Jon learns that his little sister Arya has seemingly been forcibly married to Ramsay Bolton, the most sadistic and despicable monster in the setting, it's impossible not to feel for the guy.
- Doran Martell grieving and misgiving, seeking comfort in gruff Aero Hotah, at a loss for words.
"Until the Mountain crushed my brother's skull, no Dornishmen had died in this War of the Five Kings," the prince murmured softly, as Hotah pulled a blanket over him. "Tell me, Captain, is that my shame or my glory?"
"That is not for me to say, my prince." Serve. Protect. Obey. Simple vows for simple men. That was all he knew.
- Jon Connington's chapters have him narrate about how he hopes he can see his home castle before he dies. When he does, he goes to the tower with the best view and takes it all in. Even worse when you remember he's dying of greyscale from saving Tyrion, so he could have easily died without ever getting this moment.
- Quentyn's thoughts before his ill-fated attempt to steal a dragon. "I should have kissed both sisters" is a rather innocent (for a Dornishman) take on Must Not Die a Virgin.
- Quentyn's story in general. Two of his companions die before his first chapter even begins, he pushes himself to make increasingly amoral choices for something he doesn't even want, he arrives too late and is unable to convince Dany that he and his family are worth siding with, and all his suffering gets him, in the end, is a slow and painful death.
- Young Griff is treated as none other than Aegon VI Targaryen, the last son of Prince Rhaegar and Elia Martell. All is going according to plan until Jon Connington and Tyrion Lannister notice streaks of the Targaryen madness in him. This coupled with the fact that he is referred to by Quaithe as "The Mummer's Dragon" implies that he might be, at the worst possible result, a Blackfyre pretender, which does not bode well for anyone.
- Although he could be exactly as promised: a proper prince with the finest claim, nothing but pure blood, and the finest teaching a prince could have. "The Mummer's Dragon" may simply refer to Varys' past as a mummer... And yet, for all the effort that was put into raising him, there is still the old saying about the Targaryens: every time one is born, the gods flip a coin to decide if he will be great or mad. Even more heartbreaking if it's all absolutely true, and yet could be ruined by the same thing that destroyed Aerys II.
- Kevan Lannister's loving recollections of his wife, right before Varys offs him. What makes this worse? Just before he died, he seemed to be stabilising the realm, helping raise Tommen the way he should have been from day one, and was starting to doubt whether he'd done the right thing under Tywin. Say what you will about his actions under the Lannisters, but he did not deserve to go out like that.
- Wyman Manderly's "The North Remembers" speech is both a tearjerker and a CMOA.
"Foes and false friends are all around me, Lord Davos. They infest my city like roaches, and at night I feel them crawling over me." The fat man's fingers coiled into a fist, and all his chins trembled. "My son Wendel came to the Twins a guest. He ate Lord Walders bread and salt, and hung his sword upon the wall to feast with his friends. And they murdered him. Murdered, I say, and may the Freys choke upon their fables. I drink with Jared, jape with Symond, promise Rhaegar the hand of my own beloved granddaughter... but never think that means I have forgotten. The north remembers, Lord Davos. The north remembers, and the mummers farce is almost done. My son is home."
- Roose Bolton's proud and almost sad recollection of his trueborn son Domeric is one of very few times in the series Roose has shown any semblance of affection, and his bitterness that he cannot kill Domeric's killer because Ramsay is both his son and heir is made evident.
- Also the fact that Domeric was pretty much the only good member of House Bolton who sought out Ramsey because he was so desperate for a brother is rather sad, especially how desperate Roose was to keep him away from what he already knew to be a monster.
- Domeric was said to be Lady Barbrey Dustin's favorite nephew and as a dame without sons, the kid was very much the closest thing to a son to her. Roose's inaction to Domeric's assassination is what drives Lady Dustin to start conspiring against her brother-in-law.
- Ellaria Sand hears that her relatives are plotting vengeance and demands they don't because she's been through enough heartache already.
Oberyn wanted vengeance for Elia. Now the three of you want vengeance for him. I have four daughters, I remind you. Your sisters. My Elia is fourteen, almost a woman. Obella is twelve, on the brink of maidenhood. They worship you, as Dorea and Loreza worship them. If you should die, must El and Obella seek vengeance for you, then Dorea and Loree for them? Is that how it goes, round and round forever? I ask again, where does it end? I saw your father die. Here is his killer. Can I take a skull to bed with me, to give me comfort in the night? Will it make me laugh, write me songs, care for me when I am old and sick?
- Tyrion's regret in believing his first wife Tysha was a whore.
- The scene where Meera is crying by the campfire. Bran wants to go to her and comfort her, the way his mother used to for him. But he physically can't. His utter feeling of worthlessness at that point is heartrending.
- Every single one of Theon's chapters; if not for the bleak situation, then for his profound identity crisis. He thinks about how much better it would be if he just died, but is also desperate to redeem himself. Then there's fact that Winterfell has been cleared of Starks and was taken over by the Boltons, all the terrible things that happen to Jeyne Poole, and the overall tense and somber mood. It's just a very difficult story arc to read in general.
There are ghosts in Winterfell, he thought, and I am one of them.
And Robb. Robb who had been more a brother to Theon than any son born of Balon Greyjoy's loins. Murdered at the Red Wedding, butchered by the Freys. I should have been with him. Where was I? I should have died with him.
- "The North remembers." Thousands of Northmen heading for war change direction and march through blizzards worse than most people could conceive of not for glory, not to destroy an enemy, but to save the daughter of a friend who died several years ago. Why? Because said friend was Ned freaking Stark, that's why, and they loved him as much as we, the readers, did.
- Davos right before he thinks he's about to be executed. One of the most honorable yet humble characters in the book this side of Ned Stark, he has striven to do right for the good of Stannis and the realm, something which has earned him nothing but the death of four of his sons and the continued scorn of other nobles who disparage his humble origins. In his final moments, Davos uses his new literacy skills to write letters to his two youngest sons and wife, telling them to go across the Narrow Sea, while writing Devan (who is back at the Wall with Stannis as his squire) to tell him how proud he is of him. This last thought pretty much sums him up
I did not do so ill... I rose up from Flea Bottom to become a King's Hand, and I learned to read and write.
- Davos even thinks how sad it is that he is going to White Harbor to ask them to fight for his King, even though this will mean prolonging the war for a people who have already lost much. It's very rare to see anybody who actually thinks in terms of the common people and shows Davos is one of the most decent men and more worthy of a high position than nearly all the other Lords.
- Cersei is a manipulative Ax-Crazy self-destructive fool who has screwed over many innocent people, but even so, her walk of shame is so degrading and disproportionate that one can't help feel bad for a woman who was renowned for her beauty to be treated this way. It's one thing to put her on trial for her actual crimes, but it's another to humiliate her to Make an Example of Them for other women who show the slightest ambition and instincts for self-preservation and survival.
- What Cersei desperately tells herself as the crowd hurls jeers and insults at her:
I am beautiful, the most beautiful woman in all Westeros, Jaime says so, Jaime would never lie to me...
- Daenerys's fever dream about her late brother Viserys, highlighting their strained and complicated relationship.
Viserys' ghost: You never mourned me, sister. It is hard to die unmourned.
Daenerys: I loved you once.
Viserys' ghost: Once. You were supposed to be my wife, to bear me children with silver hair and purple eyes, to keep the blood of the dragon pure. I took care of you. I taught you who you were. I fed you. I sold our mother's crown to keep you fed.
Daenerys: You hurt me. You frightened me.
Viserys' ghost: Only when you woke the dragon. I loved you.
- There's something chilling and tragic about Leaf's answer when Bran asks where the rest of her people are.
Gone down into the earth. Into the stones, into the trees. Before the First Men came all this land that you call Westeros was home to us, yet even in those days we were few. The gods gave us long lives but not great numbers, lest we overrun the world as deer will overrun a wood where there are no wolves to hunt them. That was in the dawn of days, when our sun was rising. Now it sinks, and this is our long dwindling. The giants are almost gone as well, they who were our bane and our brothers. The great lions of the western hills have been slain, the unicorns are all but gone, the mammoths down to a few hundred. The direwolves will outlast us all, but their time will come as well. In the world that men have made, there is no room for them, or us.
- Jon's thoughts when he receives the Pink Letter from Ramsay. He's pretty much stuck in Scylla and Charybdis situation, where whatever he chooses would be the wrong one. He takes a moment to think of his beloved lost siblings...
Jon flexed the fingers of his sword hand. The Night's Watch takes no part.
He closed his fist and opened it again. What you propose is nothing less than treason.
He thought of Robb, with snowflakes melting in his hair. Kill the boy and let the man be born.
He thought of Bran, clambering up a tower wall, agile as a monkey. Of Rickon's breathless laughter. Of Sansa, brushing out Lady's coat and singing to herself. You know nothing, Jon Snow.
He thought of Arya, her hair as tangled as a bird's nest. I made him a warm cloak from the skins of the six whores who came with him to Winterfell... I want my bride back... I want my bride back... I want my bride back...
"I think we had best change the plan
", Jon Snow
- Theon escaping from Ramsay and finding his sister Asha. GRRM actually reunites siblings for once. And Asha initially fails to recognize Theon, due to Theon's drastically changed appearance after suffering so much torture at Ramsay's hand — a flip from their interaction in A Clash of Kings.
The Winds of Winter
Throughout the series
- All the hell Arya has to go through after her father is executed and is forced to go on the run for her life. That this all ultimately takes a toll on her mind makes it even worse.
- The death of Renly Baratheon made an impact. Not at first — it is handled very quickly and matter of factly— but then you realize that his knights and other followers loved him so very much.
- Though Sansa didn't have a particularly close relationship with her half-brother Jon Snow while their family was together at Winterfell, when she thinks of him, it is with fondness (such as in A Game Of Thrones and A Clash of Kings). When she in the Eyrie, Sansa realizes how Jon is all the family she has left in the world and how much she misses him (A Feast for Crows), thinking how "so sweet" it would be to see Jon again.
- Likewise, when Jon thinks of Sansa, it is with fondness and he misses her too along with his other siblings, constantly worries about Sansa, Arya and his father when he is devastated to learn about of his father's arrest in A Game of Thrones; and how he loves all his siblings — Sansa included — and is deeply grieved to believe his whole family has been lost in A Storm of Swords as he has been repeatedly pummeled by news of his family's deaths throughout the books. Later, after Jon is made aware that his sister Sansa is alive in the interim between A Storm of Swords and A Dance With Dragons, he turns down Stannis's offer of legitimacy to make him Lord of Winterfell for the sake of Sansa's claim on it.
- Littlefinger's backstory, revealing that everyone's favorite Magnificent Bastard was once a cute and innocent little boy who got pulled through the meat grinder for daring to fall in love with a girl above his social station.
- Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Jon's POV reactions to the news of each of their family members dying...
- Maester Aemon's arc. A wise, humble, and empathic man, he studied to become a maester and served at Dragonstone until his older brother, Prince Daeron, dies of sickness and afterward, Aemon goes to the Citadel. Aemon is Offered the Crown but he cedes in favour of his younger brother, Aegon. To avoid being used against his brother, Aemon joins the Night's Watch but when destruction comes to his family, Aemon finds himself bound by its rules not to get involved in the wars of the realm and though he spent his life serving and giving counsel, Aemon grows blind and is now forgotten by most of the Seven Kingdoms with his family having fallen into ruin.
- In A Game Of Thrones, when we learn of the old Maester Aemon's Targaryen lineage and family tragedy as he counsels Jon Snow about going through the exact same situation he did himself. Jon is devastated to learn of his father's arrest, worries about his father and sisters in King's Landing, and wants to help his brother Robb. We learn most of Aemon's family is dead or believed dead, which eventually becomes Jon's own tragic family situation as his family is likewise thought to be dead or mostly dead. Like Aemon, Jon can do exactly zilch about it all — and they're both devastated by this — "Seven Hells."
- It's even worse if you keep faith to the possibility that Jon, the boy who he's been telling this story, is actually his great-grandnephew and neither of them knows it. Aemon is denied the consolation of having a member of his family safe and sound (Jon) when he believes them to be all slaughtered. He only learns his grand-niece Daenerys is alive shortly before his death.
- Aemon's advice to Jon: "Kill the boy and let the man be born" being the same advice he once gave his own beloved brother all those years ago before he sailed to the Wall. Now, as he's about to go on another sea voyage, Maester Aemon is giving this same advice to another he cares for and who might also unknowingly be his own great-great nephew, one of the last of his family. What Jon will face as lord commander in an unprecedented time — and facing it alone without Sam and Maester Aemon (who he must send to Oldtown the next morning and misses deeply after their departure), without his friends (whose companionship he feels he must give up in order to do his duties as Lord Commander), without his family (who are either dead, missing, or out of reach) — gives Maester Aemon's last words to Jon a heartbreaking effect:
Jon was tired. I need sleep. He had been up half the night poring over maps, writing letters, and making plans with Maester Aemon. Even after stumbling into his narrow bed, rest had not come easily. He knew what he would face today, and found himself tossing restlessly as he brooded on Maester Aemon's final words. "Allow me to give my lord one last piece of counsel," the old man had said, "the same counsel that I once gave my brother when we parted for the last time. He was three-and-thirty when the Great Council chose him to mount the Iron Throne. A man grown with sons of his own, yet in some ways still a boy. Egg had an innocence to him, a sweetness we all loved. Kill the boy within you, I told him the day I took ship for the Wall. It takes a man to rule. An Aegon, not an Egg. Kill the boy and let the man be born." The old man felt Jon's face. "You are half the age that Egg was, and your own burden is a crueler one, I fear. You will have little joy of your command, but I think you have the strength in you to do the things that must be done. Kill the boy, Jon Snow. Winter is almost upon us. Kill the boy and let the man be born."
- All of Reek's chapters. What he's been through certainly makes him a Tear Jerker, but particularly heart-wrenching is when he breaks down in the godswood, wishing only that he could die as Theon.
- The scene where he says that he wanted to be a Stark is a particularly wrenching one as well. Maybe sadder because only in Robb's memories would Theon have been regarded as family... but we never see Robb's thoughts as he's not a POV character like Sansa, Bran, Arya, and Jon — none of whom had a warm relationship with Theon like Robb.
- "Sister. See. This time I knew you." This also doubles as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
- "Theon. Yes. I'm Theon. You have to know your name!"
- The fact that we learn that there's still love in the world for him in the form of Jeyne Poole after all that... and that there's the possibility that he has lost his manhood. Seven Hells indeed.
- Any time you see Sandor Clegane cry. Especially the first time. And especially the last time. No, wait, especially every time.
- Tyrion's final chapter in A Storm of Swords, when the two brothers, who had been among the closest of characters in the books, have their falling out when Jaime tells him the truth about Tysha. It's hard to know who to feel sorrier for, but the line "Jaime turned without a word, and walked away," is heart-wrenching. For that matter, so is the entire story about Tysha.
- Made worse by the fact that he is putting Jaime in the same level as his hated sister Cersei (as of A Dance With Dragons).
- Not to mention Tyrion's nightmare in A Dance With Dragons where he hallucinates a two-faced version of himself killing Jaime with an axe. While the first face is laughing madly, the second face is crying. It becomes Harsher in Hindsight when you have the fact that a part of him still loves his brother after all.
- Likewise, Jaime has taken to calling Tyrion by his derisive title of The Imp.
- Made even worse by the brothers' feelings for each other in their respective POV chapters: Tyrion recounts how Jaime was the only one of his family who treated him kindly, thinks that Jamie is the only the one who would have saved him from Mandon Moore, and, hell, even Oberyn recounts how Jaime had to protect Tyrion from Cersei. And when Jaime feels helpless about trying to convince Steelshanks about going back to save Brienne, he tries to think of what his little brother would do: "Tyrion would find a way." Tragic brothers indeed.
- Kind of a tearjerker in retrospect, but Jon's continual rejection of Stannis Baratheon's offer to make him the Lord of Winterfell because of loyalty to his father's god, to the Watch, and because he doesn't want to disinherit his sister Sansa is tough to take in light of Robb's plan to legitimize him as a Stark and make him the heir to the North — which Jon knows nothing about. First you have Jon, still thinking that he's not fully a Stark and never knowing that his brother and best friend was going to recognize him as such. Then you have the fact that Robb was completely right — Jon would never, in fact, do anything to hurt a trueborn Stark heir.
- The overall picture of Jaime that develops as the books progress. The little boy who wanted to become the best knight, who later wonders how he became the Smiling Knight instead of his childhood hero; who tells Brienne and Tommen to "go away inside" when faced with horrors; who loses the sword hand he felt defined him, and discovers that Cersei, the woman he loves more than anyone, does not love him as much as he loves her: loving him only as an extension of herself. His dream also hints that he knows that his mother would not like what has become of her children.
- When Hoster Tully is dying, he feverishly begs to see his youngest daughter Lysa, clearly wanting her forgiveness for something. Letters are repeatedly sent to the Eyrie, but Lysa never shows up — understandable, considering there's a civil war currently going on, but worse than that, she never even replies.
- And then, later on, we learn why she refused to visit and comfort her father on his deathbed; when they were teenagers, she slept with/raped Littlefinger and conceived his child. Lord Tully, outraged, sent Petyr away and tricked (or possibly forced) Lysa into drinking a concoction to abort the baby, then arranged for her to marry Jon Arryn since she was proved to be fertile but is also considered "soiled goods". Not only was the marriage loveless, but the abortion perhaps damaged Lysa's reproductive organs — or maybe Jon Arryn's seed was weak (oh the irony) — meaning she constantly miscarried and has only had one sickly son. Hardly the 'sweet babes' Lord Tully swore she'd have. No wonder Lysa despised him, and no wonder he pleaded for the forgiveness she denied him in his final days.
- Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey's relationship... even after House Frey basically slaughters the Northmen's hosts and they kill everyone, save for a handful of survivors, who basically become glorified hostages. Despite all this, Edmure and Roslin to love one another still.
- Poor Roslin really has a rough time. It's implied that she would have been perfectly happy with being married off to Edmure, yet she still sobbed throughout the wedding feast. She knew what was about to happen to her new husband's family and was forced to go along with it. Then the poor girl must go through with her wedding night while knowing about the massacre that was taking place downstairs. Ouch.
- It gets worse for Roslin. Roslin gets pregnant with her and Edmure's child on their wedding night, meaning that if she gives birth to a son, the Freys will no longer need to keep Edmure alive to maintain their hold on the Riverlands. It's mentioned that Roslin is frantically praying for a daughter so that her family won't have a excuse to murder her husband.
- It's pointed out to Edmure that while he was consummating his marriage, his older sister was having her throat slit.
- A minor one, but in A Feast For Crows, when Jaime offers to let the Blackfish take the Black in exchange for surrendering, the Blackfish refuses. Not only because it's The Kingslayer offering it, but because he doesn't trust the new Lord Commander of the Night's Watch Jon Snow because his niece Catelyn didn't. It's sad when you consider that Jon is one of the most heroic, moral and compassionate characters in the series and does not at all deserve the mistrust he receives from the Blackfish and Catelyn due to his being an illegitimate child as Jon loves his family and is loyal to them. This is especially made apparent when Jon refuses Stannis' offer of lordship of Winterfell again in A Dance With Dragons, something he thought was always beyond his reach, for the sake of his sister Sansa's claim on it.
- Viserys Targaryen lost everything and everyone he loved when he was only eight. He and his sister were on the run for years, fearing for their lives, and were forced to sell everything they had to survive. He's crushed that everyone he thought were their allies either betrayed them or were willing to take advantage of them. He took to drinking and grew to resent his sister because he couldn't have her either. When he rants about his crown, think for a moment that he's not talking about the crown of Westeros, but his mother's crown which was all he had left to sell.
- Even worse are the facts that considering the Targaryen custom, Daenerys was meant to be his bride, and that he (and not Daenerys) was the subject of endless japes, mockery and being treated as a mere curiosity for most of his life.
- Daenerys later reminisces that there was once kindness in her brother, remembering that before stress and hardship turned Viserys cruel and bitter, he did love her, telling her bedtime stories and letting her climb into his bed when she was scared. She also finds out in the worst possible fashion that Viserys was very right to be paranoid concerning Robert Baratheon's assassins, that he must have indeed defended her from such aggressors and thanks to him, she is still in one piece and in mint condition for Khal Drogo.
- He held out against the... uh... family quirks he inherited under some truly stupendous stresses starting from the age of eight. Yes, he turned into a Smug Snake of epic proportions, but he wasn't in his father's league by a long shot, and had perhaps far more stress than The Mad King ever experienced in his whole life (including Duskendale). And Viserys never managed to live until thirty. He must have had something worthwhile to him, before he was horribly twisted with bitterness and resentment. Of course, had he ever managed to get any power, he might well have managed to beat his dad but, well... Joffrey turned into a far worse version of Royal Brat with far fewer excuses.
- Daenerys's feelings of loneliness throughout the series. No matter how much Dany achieves, survives, the goals she meets, or how much she tries to help others in hard circumstances, she yearns for that house with the red door — the closest thing to a home she and Viserys had known growing up. Dany is haunted by Mirri Maz Duur's promise that she will never bear a living child, believes her House will die with her, and remembers her son being murdered in her womb while her husband died. Remembering how happy she'd been with Khal Drogo, carrying their unborn sun, and living among their khalasar, Dany reflects:
Not since those half-remembered days in Braavos when she lived in the house with the red door had she been as happy. But in the Red Waste, all her joy had turned to ashes.
- Late in A Game of Thrones, Catelyn falls into a depression because of her husband and youngest sons' deaths, her eldest son going to war, and her daughters being hostages, which lasts all the way until her death.
I am a creature of grief and dust and bitter longings. There is an empty place within me where my heart was once.
- The descriptions throughout the books of Ramsay Bolton's "pastimes" are among the most cringe-worthy passages in the books: the slow torture of Lady Donella Hornwood, the maiming and possible castration of Theon Greyjoy and the abuse made to Jeyne Poole are just a few of his misdeeds.
- Sansa's disillusionment over the course of the books. She comes to honestly believe that everyone is untrustworthy, that nobody cares about her as a person, that they only want to use her as a pawn, and that she has to give up her morals just to survive — a far cry from the cheerful, innocent Wide-Eyed Idealist that she used to be.
- The vicious rape of the Riverlands. Westeros is altogether a much harsher place than the world we know (mostly), but the sheer amount of destruction and carnage the Lannisters (and to a much lesser extent, the Starks) inflict upon the Riverlands is horrifying even in context of Westerosi history.
- Jon Snow's situation in general. Nearly always the outsider in just about every situation and he must deal with Conflicting Loyalty between his loved ones and duty. First, though Jon is loved by his family, whom Jon loves dearly, and was raised by his beloved father alongside his trueborn siblings in Winterfell, he's lived with the societal stigma of illegitimacy his whole life, never had a mother to love him, and never knew who his actual mother was. Then, when he joins the Night's Watch to earn his own honour, he's an outsider there too due to him being a highborn bastard son of a lord with a noble upbringing. He is ordered to become a Fake Defector among the wildlings, making him an outsider again, where he ends up falling in love with his First Love who he can't be with because he must leave to fulfill his duty to the Night's Watch. However, when Jon returns to the Night's Watch, his time with the wildlings results in some of his Watch brothers doubting his loyalty to the Watch because Jon dares to show compassion to the wildlings — and the girl he loves dies in his arms. All the while, Jon is devastated by news that his family members have perished, which he is told at various points in the series, pummeling him even further. Later, Jon is forced to take command at a very young age during an unprecedented time of war, facing down the greatest threat encroaching on Westeros with limited resources, and is trying to save everyone. Even when Jon does his very best, things still turn out horribly for him. At one point, he's actually relieved his father isn't alive to witness how badly things were going for him.
Tyrion Lannister had claimed that most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it, but Jon was done with denials. He was who he was; Jon Snow, bastard and oathbreaker, motherless, friendless, and damned. For the rest of his life — however long that might be — he would be condemned to be an outsider, the silent man standing in the shadows who dares not speak his true name.
- Tyrion's witty comebacks, whoring and love of wine are hilarious on the first read — until you learn that they're all coping methods for a lifetime of being abused by his father and sister, being shunned, getting called a monster, getting blamed for his mother's death, never feeling loved or accepted, and erroneously thinking the only girl to show him love was faking it for money. Over time, his mask begins to fall off and his score of emotional issues take the stage. By the fifth book, he hits rock bottom — hard — in a very harsh, unglamorous depiction of depression, misanthropy, and self-hatred.
- Rickon Stark's situation. He was born into a warm, loving family that gets torn apart by war. All his family members end up having to leave him and he can't understand why, causing him serious emotional issues that often manifest in unusually violent behavior (both in him and his direwolf). The poor kid gets dreams of his father's ghost promising to come home. Then his father's ward Theon takes over Winterfell, forcing him to flee to an island of cannibals. Because Theon claimed he killed both him and Bran at Winterfell, his sisters Arya and Sansa, brothers Robb and Jon, and his mother Catelyn are devastated to think he and Bran are dead. Yet, even if Davos Seaworth and Wyman Manderly's plan to rescue him and make him ruler of the North succeeds, it's unknown if he'll ever recover psychologically. He's barely five years old.
- The death of Jon Arryn becomes a major tearjerker when you realize that his death is really the spark that started the War in the first place. Had he survived, Robert would never have had to come to Winterfell and Ned wouldn't have had to leave to be the Hand, which would have prevented most of the bull that everyone has been going through.
- The fact that Daenerys practically embodies the phrase "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." She's one of the few characters in the series who is a sincerely compassionate and well-meaning person, who genuinely tries to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, either due to mistakes on her part or just bad luck, her attempts to help people often end up inadvertantly backfiring and even make things worse in some cases. Dany is very much aware of this and tries desperately to fix things, but is clearly out of her depth. Other times, it' obvious to the reader that she's making a terrible mistake, but Dany herself doesn't know better or is convinced she's doing the right thing. She even ends up sacrificing her personal happiness and compromising on her morals in an attempt to keep the peace in Slaver's Bay. She's only a teenager and she near-literally has the weight of the world on her shoulders.
The World Of Ice And Fire
- Dorne's unification with the Seven Kingdoms. King Daeron II and Prince Maron Martell went to the Great Sept of Baelor and placed a golden wreath before the statue of King Baelor the Blessed, stating, "Baelor, your work is done".