Varys has just told the small council that Ser Jorah has informed him Daenerys is pregnant. Robert wants to kill her andViserys now, but Eddard is protesting heatedly. He says there is no threat, as the Dothraki will never cross the sea, but Robert thinks his reign is in danger. Renly says they should have killed Viserys and Daenerys years ago, but Lord Jon always managed to convince Robert not to. Eddard points out how mercy can be useful, reminding Robert that Ser Barristan killed over a dozen men on the Trident yet when he was brought before Robert near death and Roose Bolton urged that his throat be cut, Robert pardoned him instead. Eddard argues well past the point of reason, calling Robert a coward and an ignoble king, but in the end is outvoted, with Renly, Petyr, Varys, and Pycelle voting for and only Barristan joining Eddard in voting against assassination. Renly suggests having Jorah do the deed, but Varys says that will not work, for the Dothraki would kill him, so he will refuse. Varys suggests using the tears of Lys, and Pycelle looks at him suspiciously. Eddard refuses to be party to the murder and resigns his position as Hand of the King. Robert tells him to go back to Winterfell or he will have Eddard’s head. As Eddard leaves, Pycelle brings up hiring the Faceless Men of Braavos, but Petyr complains they are too expensive. Eddard passes Ser Boros on his way out of the council chamber.
Back in his chambers, Eddard summons Vayon and has him prepare for the journey back to Winterfell. He decides he will leave first with his daughters and a few guardsmen and the rest of the household can follow behind. He contemplates going by ship to see Stannis, as he is convinced Stannis knows the secret that Jon died for. He has sent a letter to Dragonstone asking Stannis to return to his council seat but has received no reply. Eddard sends Vayon to look for a ship right before Tom announces that Petyr is there to see him. Petyr tells Eddard that they have decided not to hire a Faceless Man and will just let it be known that a lordship awaits anyone who kills Daenerys. He then tells Eddard that if he will delay his departure briefly, he will take Eddard to the brothel he has been searching for.
So this was an extremely interesting chapter, one that has a lot of substance if you’re willing to look at it closely enough. Let’s begin with the oft-mentioned difference of opinions between Ned and Robert regarding the Targaryens. Robert does indeed come off looking rather pathetic for wanting an innocent child dead just because of the alleged threat that it poses to his crown, but the matter is clouded by the fact that we know that Dany’s intention is exactly what Robert fears it is. So while Robert is certainly wrong for wanting a child dead, it’s hard to say that he’s not justified given what Dany plans to do. So Ned, fights for Dany here, well past the point of reason as he says himself, but why? What is he trying to achieve by protecting Dany? Is this really just Ned being Ned and being too honourable and idealistic? Some people would suggest that Ned went through a little PTSD when he saw Aegon and Rhaenys corpses and then went to find a dead Lyanna and so he does not want to see another dead child if he can help it, yet that explanation feels flimsy to me. It’s not out of character, but I feel that from a plot point of view, there needs to be more substance to this. Another interesting take on this is that Ned is dismayed to find that Robert is still so willing to kill an innocent who is not an apparent threat and this dismay is because he thinks of Jon and it frustrates him that Jon can never live as who he is. On a slightly unrelated note though, isn’t it a little funny that Ned’s and Robert’s objectives for their rebellion seem to be so different? Ned says it was for the children (wow, really Ned? That’s what you’re going with? Because I fail to see how your little rebellion put an end to the murder of children, unless I’m missing something) but Robert says it was to put an end to the Targaryens (as semi-genocidal as this sounds, it seems like a much more legitimate reason for the rebellion given that Aerys had demanded both Robert and Ned. Also why did Aerys demand Robert? Weren’t they related?) I don’t know if there’s a deeper point to made about this difference in views on why they went to war against their King, but I guess the best way of interpreting it would be that Ned is saying ‘We rebelled to stop the atrocities’ and Robert is saying ‘We rebelled to get justice against those who wronged us’.
Also, what angle is Varys going for here? He knows that if Robert finds out about Dany’s pregnancy, he will want her dead. He is also ostensibly on Dany’s side as far as we know so he will send word through Jorah about the threat against Dany. My question is more of, can he come out and tell Jorah to block the intercept the threat? I do not remember this ever being communicated to Jorah (as in, Jorah was never directly told to save Dany, he chooses to do so because he loves the friend-zone and is determined to never be free of it). So in this case, it seems like Varys’ plan of delaying the internal conflict between Stark and Lannister is to make them focus on an external threat – the Targaryens. Or is that he knows that Ned will refuse to go through with it and Robert will either exile him, fire him or send him home and thus Ned is taken out of the picture for the time being. There are too many questions here, I hope someone can help me make sense of them. There is also the matter of how confidently Varys says:
“Ser Jorah would not dare deceive me,” Varys said with a sly smile.
Why is this? Have I missed out on something or is Varys just banking on the fact that Jorah is desperate enough for a royal pardon that he would never lie to Varys?
Of course, Varys is far from the only duplicitous person on Robert’s small council. Check out this beautiful line from Pycelle:
“Once I counseled King Aerys as loyally as I counsel King Robert now.”
The best part of course is that it’s one of those statements that’s a lie but not factually inaccurate. I’m talking of course, about how Pycelle is so far on the Lannister bandwagon that he might actually be one of the horses pulling it along. His loyalty to Aerys included persuading Aerys to open the gates to Tywin and he doesn’t seem to have served Robert any better. I don’t believe Littlefinger gives a shit about Dany at this point in the story, so for once he is probably not being solely self-serving in just shrugging his shoulders and going with the crowd.
So Ned quits in typical Ned fashion – briskly and to the point – and Robert takes it in true Robert fashion – ungracefully. Yet, Ned seems happy to return to Winterfell and I will quote you another interesting quote as I don my tinfoil hat:
“And of late he had often found himself dreaming of snow”
Yes, I’m sure he has. That aside though, his plan to visit Dragonstone would have made a great chapter – I know fans would have loved seeing Ned and Stannis interact though I don’t think they would necessarily have gotten along all that well. Meanwhile, Littlefinger continues to be surprisingly honest to Ned – I read everything Littlefinger said to Ned in this chapter and it all rings true. He did Dany more good by offering a lordship than Ned had with his appeals to Robert’s honour. And Ned does rule like a man dancing on rotten ice.