Catelyn looks out on Alyssa’s Tears. They are named for Alyssa Arryn, who according to legend had seen her entire family die before her six thousand years ago, but refused to shed a tear. The story goes that she would not be allowed any rest until her tears watered the Vale of Arryn. Ser Rodrik reports on recent events to Catelyn. Jaime is gathering a host at Casterly Rock. Edmure Tully has demanded to know his intent and ordered Lord Vance and Lord Clement Piper to guard the pass below the Golden Tooth against him. Lord Hoster Tully was not mentioned in the letter at all, and must be very sick if he has given charge of the defense of the riverlands to Edmure. Catelyn decides she must return to Winterfell and tells Ser Rodrik that they will take ship from Gulltown after Tyrion’s trial. She is most annoyed with Lysa, who is very moody and inconstant and has been played for a fool by Tyrion.
Ser Brynden joins Catelyn. He had asked leave of Lysa to take one thousand men and march to the riverlands. When she refused him, he resigned as Knight of the Gate and is now preparing to leave for Riverrun. Catelyn convinces him to join them on the ship back to Winterfell. Catelyn arrives at the site of the combat, where Lysa and Lord Robert are surrounded by knights and retainers, including Lord Eon and Ser Lyn, her two favored suitors at the moment, and Ser Morton. Catelyn tells Ser Rodrik that Robert is unfit to rule and must be taken away from Lysa. Maester Colemon comes up to her and says that Lord Jon agreed and was going to foster him at Dragonstone with Lord Stannis. Catelyn says he is mistaken and that Robert was going to Casterly Rock and that the arrangements were made after Jon’s death.1 2 Maester Colemon begins to rebut, but at that point Tyrion is brought in, with Bronn and Ser Vardis appearing soon after. Vardis is fully armored; Bronn wears only mail and a halfhelm.
A septon blesses the trial, and the fight begins. Watching the battle takes Catelyn back to the combat years ago when Petyr fought Brandon Stark for her hand. Petyr begged her for a favor to wear, but she had to refuse. She gave one to Brandon instead, and begged him not to kill Petyr. Brandon gave him a dozen wounds and drove him all over the yard demanding that he yield, but was finally required to give a potentially mortal blow when Petyr steadfastly refused. Petyr said Catelyn’s name as he fell, and it was the last time Catelyn saw him until their meeting in King’s Landing. It took Petyr two weeks to recover enough from his wounds to travel. Catelyn was forbidden to see him during that time, but Lysa was a constant companion. Edmure tried to visit too, but Petyr refused to see him because he acted as Brandon’s squire in the duel. Lord Hoster sent him back to the Fingers to finish his healing at home.
The sounds of combat bring Catelyn back to the battle at hand. Bronn dodges around Ser Vardis, darting this way and that to tire his heavily armored foe. When Vardis is near exhaustion, Bronn closes in and begins pressing him fiercely. Vardis makes one final bull rush to try and end it, but Bronn darts aside, topples a statue on top of him, and delivers the killing blow. Lysa realizes she must free Tyrion, but orders him and Bronn put out on the high road, where she believes they will die.
So ends the trial of Tyrion Lannister. The first time I read this chapter, I was thoroughly impressed by the fact that Bronn made such short work of Ser Vardis (RIP) and the fact that Bronn was all ‘fuck honour’ in the way he went about it just added to my love for the series’ whole anti-chivalry stance. Though a lot happens in this chapter, I don’t think a lot of it warrants a mention.
The most important thing here is that the war has pretty much already been set in motion and I personally think it is a sign of just how weak a king Robert is that a war could just erupt like this while there is a stable government in place. Mind you, the king before Robert had similar difficulties keeping the Lords from doing what they wanted but I think it says enough that at a time like this, Robert has gone off hunting. The whole ‘I’ll yield no foot of Tully land without watering it with Lannister blood’ is just so depressingly Edmure that it’s almost all I can do to not sigh in disappointment. We will leave any discussion of Edmure’s virtues as a commander for a future post though. I don’t really think Hoster Tully would have been that much better an option though, even if he was fully fit. The simple truth is that the Riverlands are utterly impossible to properly defend. There are no natural borders, no strategic chokepoints like Moat Cailin, nothing at all. Maybe Hoster Tully would not have made a hash of things like Edmure in his rush to glorify himself, but maybe Hoster would have refused to work with the Blackfish. It’s hard to say, but at the end of the day, I disagree with Catelyn’s thought that Hoster would have been that much better than Edmure.
It should come as no surprise that Catelyn saw through Tyrion’s plan right away and the fact that Catelyn wonders why Lysa is going through with the trial by combat means that there is another option. The fact there is another option and Lysa doesn’t take it basically confirms that Lysa is an idiot, an opinion that the Blackfish shares. I find it hilarious that everyone thinks this trial by combat is a terrible idea except the people who have the most to gain and lose from it (Tyrion and Lysa). You get a real sense for the frustration Catelyn feels here because it is an incredibly stupid move to release a captive of such value just because Sweetrobin is a spoilt brat. I like that Catelyn has begun to have second thoughts about Tyrion’s involvement in this whole sordid affair and while she cannot extract him from the situation because of Lysa being an absolute idiot, it’s good to see her be flexible in her thoughts. There’s also the matter of where Sweetrobin was supposed to be fostered – is this part of Littlefinger’s lies? If so, what does he gain by suggesting Casterly Rock over Dragonstone, I wonder? Unless he suspected that Ned and Catelyn, by extension, mistrusted the Lannisters and were more likely to act if he mentioned them. In any case, I really want to see what Tywin does to Sweetrobin. I can’t imagine a pair who deserve each other more. The trial itself goes predictably. It’s really sad that people like Lord Hunter have swallowed the Knight-beats-all kool-aid whole. I guess it’s a sign of a man who hasn’t been in battle when he thinks a knight is better than any other man simply by virtue of being a knight. Hunter’s incompetence is especially egregious given how easily Rodrick is able to tell how the fight will end. Even Catelyn makes small practical notes that Egen would have been better off with his own familiar sword. I don’t see how that isn’t just common sense.
Then we get an interesting flashback to the Littlefinger-Brandon duel. At first glance here, Brandon seems like a good guy, an older Eddard really, who does what he must but tries to do the right thing first. What’s more important however, is the effect on Littlefinger. Littlefinger has been nursing his little crush on Catelyn for the better part of FIFTEEN YEARS. That is literally insane. Think of it like this: he was raised around Catelyn, Lysa and Edmure for most of his formative years. He and Edmure were closer. He loved Catelyn. Lysa loved him. He believes he had sex with Catelyn after the duel was over and that he was sent away from Riverrun because of the duel. The more likely reason was because Hoster Tully found out that Littlefinger had gotten Lysa pregnant. Anyway, my point is, that one duel, resulted in all of the following:
- Littlefinger pissed off at Edmure and Riverrun.
- Littlefinger being totally obsessed with Catelyn
- Lysa being totally obsessed by Littlefinger
- Littlefinger turning to the dark side and deciding the ends justify the means
In the long history of dramatic event, that duel turned out to be one of the more hilariously relevant events in the series.
A quick point – there is no weirwood in the Eyrie. Does this mean Bran and Bloodraven won’t be able to get to Sansa? Then again, Sansa is heading to the Vale since winter has come so maybe there’s a weirwood there. Thoughts?