Pycelle is tending to Eddard’s leg. He tells Eddard that Lord Tywin has sent a letter to Cersei expressing discontent over the Gregor situation. Eddard says that if Tywin interferes, he will have Robert to answer to, and Pycelle hurries off, probably to report to Cersei. Eddard now realizes thanks to Sansa that Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen are not Robert’s children, and he believes this is the secret Jon died for. Lord Petyr stops by and reports that sellswords and freeriders are gathering at Casterly Rock. Robert continues to hunt, but some of the party, including Joffrey, Sandor, Ser Balon, Lord Yohn, and Ser Robar have returned. Petyr says that Sandor is probably not happy at the moment because he does not want anyone but himself killing his brother. After Petyr leaves, Eddard returns to his musings. He trusts Petyr only a little and Varys not at all. He feels that Pycelle is certainly a Lannister creature and that Ser Barristan is too old and rigid to help. He knows he must speak to Robert upon his return. Vayon has arranged for Eddard’s daughters to leave on the Wind Witch out of Braavos, captained by a man named Qos, in three days. Eddard remembers how Lord Tywin presented the bodies of Rhaegar’s children to Robert and wants to make sure that Cersei’s children do not suffer a similar fate. Eddard summons Tomard, who now commands the guard with Alyn off hunting Gregor, and has him and Varly take him to the godswood and has Tomard deliver a message to Cersei.
Cersei arrives at sunset, and Eddard accuses her and Jaime of being lovers, which she admits. He brings up Bran’s accident, and she confirms that Jaime pushed him. He asks if all three of her children are Jaime’s, and she says yes. Eddard figured this must be the case. Jon Arryn’s last words that the “seed is strong” apparently referred to the dominance of dark hair color in Baratheon children. All of Robert’s bastards have dark hair, yet Cersei’s children are all blond. The book of lineages by Grand Maester Malleon records the last marriage between a Lannister and a Baratheon ninety years before in which Gowen Baratheon, third son of the lord at the time, wed Tya Lannister who gave birth to a boy who died in infancy that had black hair. Thirty years before that, a male Lannister wed a Baratheon who bore three daughters and a son that all had black hair. Eddard could find no Lannister-Baratheon marriage in the book resulting in a blonde-haired child. Eddard asks Cersei how she avoided getting with child from Robert, and she explains that she did once but had an abortion. After that, she found other ways to please Robert, and he was usually too drunk to care anyway. She says she has hated him since their wedding night when he called her Lyanna in his passion. Cersei tries to seduce Eddard, but fails. Eddard says he will tell Robert the truth when he returns and that Cersei and her children should have fled Westeros by then or face full punishment. Cersei tells him that he should have taken the throne fifteen years ago and that he should fear her wrath.
“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
Say what you will about Cersei, she at least understood the stakes and the game that was being played. She is/was an absolutely terrible player, but what does that say of Ned who didn’t even realize that everyone else was playing checkers while he tried to play chess? Ned seals his fate her when he tips his hand to Cersei and as Varys will remind him soon, it was his mercy in giving Cersei advance notice that does him in and causes the massive clusterfuck that is to follow. There are a million things Ned could have done differently in this chapter – he could have waited for Robert to come back, he could have not said anything at all, he could have waited for Sansa and Arya to be out of the city before doing anything further, he could have even taken Cersei up on her offer just to keep her quiet (though now that I think about it, wouldn’t that mean treason against Robert?) but no, Ned had to go through with it right there and right then. If it were a character I didn’t like as much as Ned, I’d say they deserve their fate for their stupidity and while that’s true of Ned too, I won’t say it because he does deserve better. He was the Hand that King’s Landing needed (though they’re too stupid to realize it) but not the one they deserved (King’s Landing honestly deserved Aerys II if you ask me).
Still, I give Ned massive props for spitting in Cersei’s face, figuratively (he would get further props if he did it literally). His whole response to her advances was a great burn even if it meant he pretty much committed hara-kiri right there and then. She does fling his vaunted honour back in his face pretty well though and I can’t help but think that if R+L=J weren’t true, Ned would actually have been stung a little by her words. They say that once a cheater always a cheater and I can’t help but wonder whether, in a world where Ned did actually cheat on Catelyn, he would have taken Cersei’s advances differently. It’s an uncomfortable thought but in the end I don’t think he would have – it just doesn’t fit the character at all and in any case, it doesn’t really matter at all.
I was going to comment on Cersei’s abortion and call her decision to abort the only legitimate child she bore stupid but I think it might be the best decision she made. She carried Joffrey and his siblings to term because she ‘loved’ Jaime and those children were born of that love, so to speak. However, leaving aside the many emotional and psychological reasons that she would have hated bearing Robert’s child, can you imagine the life that that poor child would have had? It’s almost comparable to being a child born of rape – you bear the guilt of your father’s sin and it can be a terrifying prospect to imagine Cersei raising a child like that. She’d probably kill it at some point.
On an unrelated, inconsequential note, I just realized that Joffrey and the Hound returned to King’s Landing well before Robert did, so Joffrey did not in fact get to see the man he called father gored to death. Yay?