Catelyn and Ser Rodrik are on the road back to Winterfell. It is raining heavily, and they decide to stay at an inn for the night. It is an inn Catelyn stayed at many times in her youth, run by a fat woman named Masha Heddle. Lord Jason Mallister, his son Patrek, and a contingent of knights pass them on the road. Lord Jason is a bannerman to Catelyn’s father, but he does not recognize her because she is so disheveled. They take rooms at the inn. Once in her room, Catelyn glances out at the crossroads and ponders what to do next. If she turns west, she can be at Riverrun quickly to warn Lord Hoster of the coming danger. She would take that course of action, except Hoster has been bedridden for two years. To the east, the road passes through the Mountains of the Moon to the Vale of Arryn and the Eyrie, where Lysa may have proof that could bring down House Lannister. That route is extremely dangerous, with both predators and hostile mountain clans blocking the way, and only well-armed parties have a chance of making the journey safely. Catelyn decides she must wait until she is back in the North and then send riders. She thinks of her father’s bannermen, House Blackwood and House Bracken constantly in feud, Lady Shella Whent of Harrenhal, the last of her line, and Lord Walder Frey, who has outlived seven wives. She wonders how many are truly loyal to Riverrun, as when Lord Hoster called the banners during Robert’s Rebellion, House Darry, House Ryger, and House Mooton fought for House Targaryen and Lord Walder held back his strength until after the decisive battle on the Trident, leading Hoster to label him the Late Lord Frey.
Catelyn and Ser Rodrik return to the common room for dinner and decide to masquerade as father and daughter. A singer named Marillion strikes up a conversation with them. He asks who the greatest singer they know is, and when Rodrik answers Alia of Braavos, he claims he is far better. Just then, Tyrion enters with Jyck, Morrec, and Yoren and asks for rooms. He is not glancing in Catelyn’s direction, but Marillion leaps up to get his attention, and Tyrion sees her and calls her by name. Catelyn gets up and turns to an older man in the service of House Whent and asks if he is loyal to Riverrun. He replies in the affirmative. Next, she turns to three men-at-arms of House Bracken and courts their loyalty as well. Finally she turns to a group of Frey men-at-arms and asks the same. When all is settled, she formally accuses Tyrion of conspiring to murder Bran and orders him seized in the name of King Robert.
This is one of the chapters that makes you wish that you could knock the characters heads together and make them get along. It’s incredibly frustrating when two characters who really have no reason to go up against each other end up doing exactly because each has only limited information about their situation as a whole. I naturally feel particularly sorry of Tyrion here because among other things, the man just made Catelyn’s favourite son a nice, special saddle and now the first time he sees Catelyn away from Winterfell, she arrests him. I don’t really understand Catelyn’s game plan here – sure, I guess it makes sense that she should capture Tyrion now that she has him at hand, but honestly, isn’t there something like a due process in the Seven Kingdoms? Like technically, since this a matter within the nobility, shouldn’t Catelyn and Ned escalate the matter to Robert or something? I’m thinking that even if Robert were a competent king and a situation arose where one house has a serious grievance against another, I don’t know what the actual path of recourse is – do they really just fight it out? Because that seems rather destructive in the long term, but on the other hand, what exactly is Catelyn’s reason for not bringing Tyrion down to King’s Landing for a proper trial?
In any case, this whole situation is just a mess and I would say that this is probably the spark that really sets the plot of A Song of Ice and Fire irrevocably into motion. Before this it was all scheming and plotting, suspicions and rumours but once Catelyn finally took action, the plot was finally, officially launched and everything that happens the series from this point is in some way, however small, a result of the actions taken in this chapter. I like to think of it as a pendulum or a clock spring – all the rumours and plotting served to wind the spring up or pull the pendulum back and everything that happens from now on is just a result of the pendulum swinging or the spring unwinding.
Catelyn’s thought about the reliability of her father’s bannermen raises an interesting question in my head: of the untrustworthy houses that she mentions in this chapter – Darry, Mooton, Ryger and Frey, I can only think of Frey fighting in the War of the Five Kings and Darry to a much smaller extent. Are Houses Ryger and Mooton extinguished then? Her thoughts of the banners of course setups her calling on them in a minor way by the end of the chapter but there is a still a part that whispers that she should have known better than to arrest Tyrion in middle of crowded inn. There had to be a better way to abduct him, especially once he was out on the road though he would have a numerical advantage over her.