Janos Slynt, Commander of the City Watch, makes a report to the small council on the state of the city. With all the knights coming to take part in the tournament, the city is full of crime and unrest. He specifically mentions a woman’s head found in the rainbow pool at the Great Sept, causing Varys to shudder. Eddard orders the hiring of fifty new watchmen and loans the watch twenty of his own men. After Janos takes his leave, Eddard once again vents his disgust at the tournament. Pycelle replies that the realm benefits by giving the great a chance for glory and the lowborn a respite from their woes. Petyr adds that the inns and whorehouses also prosper, causing Renly to bring up the time Stannis tried to outlaw brothels. He further wonders how Stannis ever conceived his ugly daughter, as he approaches his marriage bed as if he were going into battle.
After the meeting, Eddard returns to his chambers and tells Harwin to fetch Jory. As he waits, he peruses the tome that Jon was reading when he died, The Lineages and Histories of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms by Grand Maester Malleon. The book is over a century old, and Eddard has trouble seeing how it can be important. He turns to the section on House Lannister, which traces its lineage back to Lann the Clever, a legendary trickster from the Age of Heroes who supposedly tricked House Casterly into giving him Casterly Rock and stole gold from the sun to brighten his curly hair. When Jory arrives, Eddard tells him to pick the men for the city watch and give Alyn the command. Jory has been questioning Jon’s servants that are still in the city. Ser Hugh was arrogant and refused to answer questions for a captain of the guard, the serving girl said nothing of interest, the potboy mentioned that Jon had gone to see an armorer with Stannis, and the stableboy talked of Jon and Stannis visiting a brothel together. Eddard is curious as to why Jon and Stannis spent so much time together, as they were not friends. He also wonders why Stannis remains at Dragonstone and what could frighten a man who once held Storm’s End for a year against the might of House Tyrell and House Redwyne while forced to subsist on rats and shoe leather. Eddard is also uneasy about Renly. Several days before, Renly showed him a picture of Margaery Tyrell and asked if she looked like Lyanna. He seemed disappointed when Eddard said no.
Eddard has decided to visit the armorer that Jon and Stannis visited, as he had never known Jon to be interested in fancy armor. He has Jory begin searching brothels to discover which one Jon and Stannis visited. He rides with Varly and Jacks. Earlier that morning, he had sent Desmond and Tomard to scout his route and make sure he is not followed. As they pass the River Gate, they see Lord Beric Dondarrion arriving to take part in the tournament. They arrive at the house of the armorer, Tobho Mott, and Eddard proceeds to question him about Jon’s visit. He learns that Jon and Stannis came to see a boy, and he asks to see him as well. The boy is named Gendry. Gendry is carrying a bull’s head helmet that Eddard offers to buy, but he says he made it for himself and it is not for sale. Tobho prepares to punish him for insolence, but Eddard moves on, asking what he talked about with Jon. Jon asked about his mother, a worker in an alehouse. Stannis watched everything, but said nothing. Eddard dismisses Gendry and then asks Mott who paid Gendry’s apprentice fee. Mott at first tries to deny that anyone did, but finally admits it was a short, stout lord with a brown beard that kept his face hidden. Eddard takes his leave, wondering why Jon had taken an interest in one of the king’s bastards.
This chapter doesn’t have a great deal of information that is interesting on a re-read but I like it nonetheless because it really captures the sense of what it means to rule in King’s Landing. Throughout the series, thanks to Martin’s decision to not give any of the five Kings a POV chapter, we have to rely on Ned and Tyrion to show us just what it is like to rule the Seven Kingdoms. Of course, you get two very different impressions from them since they are two very different character – Tyrion revels in the intrigue of King’s Landing and that comes back to haunt him, while Ned hates those same intrigues and that comes back to haunt him too. That aside, Ned was a soldier ruling in a time of peace and Tyrion was a politician ruling in a time of war. I don’t think this was intentional on Martin’s part but it does nonetheless set up this interesting comparison between the two characters and might even explain why both their rules ended so disastrously for themselves.
The bantering and bickering in the Small Council continues and we get the sense that Ned is sick and tired of it – and he hasn’t even been doing this very long. The more I see Ned beat his head against a wall in King’s Landing, the more I wonder what Jon Arryn was as Hand. In my head, Jon Arryn is like an older, wiser version of Ned – he too is a man of honour and would rule on the same principles as Ned though he might make slightly different decisions. Also, Arryn was of the South and politics come a lot more naturally in the South just because of the proximity of the Houses to each other. The introduction here of Janos Slynt continues to make my blood boil given how quickly he turns his cloak, but alas there is nothing to be done about it at this point.
It’s mildly interesting that Beric Dondarrion makes an appearance this early in the series – I don’t seem to remember him really coming into the story until Ned sends him off to hunt Gregor Clegane. It’s neat that all these seemingly irrelevant characters are being introduced so early on – it makes their inclusion later on much less arbitrary. Of course, the main person of interest here is of course, Gendry, Robert’s bastard boy. I wonder how hard it must have been to convince Stannis that Joffrey and his siblings were not Robert’s. Varys of course must have known for ages, and I’m assuming that it was Varys who paid Tobho Mott Gendry’s apprentice fee but did he do so of his own violation or was it just because Jon Arryn asked him to? What reason, if any, would Varys have for keeping Gendry hale and hearty?