Ser Arys comes to escort Sansa to the tournament that is about to begin celebrating Joffrey’s name day. She asks him what he thinks about the comet, and he comments that it is a sign that Joffrey’s reign will be blessed because it is appearing on his name day and is Lannister crimson. Sansa is wearing a dress with long sleeves to hide the bruises left by Ser Boros when he beat her when Joffrey learned of Robb’s victories. Ser Arys makes Sansa feel less uncomfortable than the other Kingsguard, as he is always polite and even attempted to refuse to beat her the first time Joffrey asked him to and did not do so as hard as the others when he finally gave in. The others obeyed without question, except for Sandor whom Joffrey never asks. The tournament is being held in the Red Keep for security, and only forty or so will participate, many of them squires and freeriders. It will be a poor field. Queen Cersei will not be there because the small council is meeting. Arys confides to Sansa that Lord Tywin disobeyed a direct order from Cersei to bring his army to King’s Landing, and she is furious.
There are only a few people in the crowd: Lord Gyles Rosby; Lady Tanda Stokeworth and her daughters, Falyse and Lollys; Jalabhar Xho; and Lady Ermesande Hayford, who is only a baby yet is rumored to soon be married to a Lannister so the house can gain her lands. Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella are seated together in a pavilion and are guarded by Sandor. Tommen is excited because he is going to ride in the tournament, though only against a straw dummy. Joffrey is in a good mood because he has just learned that Viserys is dead. He boasts that he will defeat Robb in single combat. Participants in the tournament include Ser Meryn, Ser Balon, Ser Horas, Ser Hobber, Ser Dontos, Morros Slynt, and a sellsword in service to Lord Petyr named Lothor Brune.
When Ser Dontos’s turn to ride comes up, he is too drunk to participate. Joffrey, who has been getting angry because of the poor field in the tournament, orders him drowned in wine. Horrified, Sansa tells him not to because it will bring ill luck on his name day. She is lying and he knows it, but Sandor speaks up on her behalf and Joffrey agrees to kill him the next day. Sansa suggests making him a fool instead, and Joffrey likes the idea and decrees it will be so. Joffrey disgustedly declares the tournament to be over. Tommen insists on riding, and Joffrey reluctantly allows it. Ser Aron and some squires help outfit him, and he rides against the straw-filled dummy, which gives him a blow that knocks him off his horse. He is preparing to ride again when the portcullis suddenly rises and Tyrion rides in at the head of a group of Lannister men-at-arms, freeriders, and clansmen, including a graceful black-haired sellsword, an incredibly large and hairy man, and a youth with a missing eye.5 He approaches Joffrey and bows before him. He subtly mocks Joffrey, who leaves. Tyrion then turns to Sansa and promises he will not hurt her, and then walks off to find Cersei.
This chapter functions as basically a day in the life of Sansa, reintroducing us to her new situation as a hostage in King’s Landing and also giving us a perspective on Joffrey’s rule as the new King of Westeros. I’ve always wondered why we had two POVs in King’s Landing (Sansa and Tyrion) and while I appreciate that they have different perspectives I don’t know if Sansa remained a POV in this book simply because she was a ‘familiar face’ from the first book. In any case, despite being a slice-of-hostage-life chapter a fair amount of plot progression happens here as well and we also meet some interesting characters that we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the future.
The first of these characters is none other than the archetypical white knight himself – Arys Oakheart. I don’t want to be too harsh on the guy – I mean choosing between disobeying Joffrey and beating on a fourteen year old girl makes his position spectacularly unenviable yet at the same time, (and this is going to sound ridiculous) I feel like he’s half-assing it, you know? The other Kingsguard are assholes through and through while Arys seems like he lacks the commitment to be either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in that he neither flat out refuses to hit Sansa nor does fully commit to it but chooses this compromise. I know how simplistic that sounds and I think the vast majority of us would probably do the exact same thing bearing in mind that disobeying Joffrey results in some serious unpleasantness but when I stopped to think about what exactly it was that was keeping me from cheering Arys on whole-heartedly the above was the answer I came up with, logic be damned.
The others obeyed without question . . . except for the Hound, but Joff never asked the Hound to punish her.
Why is that I wonder? Does Joffrey suspect on some level that there are things that even Sandor Clegane would not do or did Sandor say something to Joffrey about Sansa? The latter feels wrong given their relationship while I think the former gives Joffrey too much credit. In any case, Sandor aside, I wonder how things would have turned out had Barristan the Bold still been in the Kingsguard? I don’t see Selmy hitting Sansa and I really don’t see him giving a damn about Joffrey’s orders though in all fairness, he did stomach Robert for a very long time. I guess Robert was never cruel (at least not intentionally, as far as I can tell) but Joffrey is a different story entirely.
Sansa always felt safer when Cersei was there to restrain her son
Talk about caught between a rock and a hard place. I don’t think we’ve seen Joffrey ‘misbehave’ in front of Cersei generally but at the same time I don’t think Joffrey is really shy about showing how fucked up he is to anyone. If anything, I suspect his mother would approve of some of his measures and the fear they instil. I also don’t really see Cersei being able to do shit to ‘restrain’ Joffrey in any sort of way. The boy’s a coward but when you give a coward absolute power, it’s easy enough to fake bravery.
Ser Arys was fond of gossip, but only when he was certain that no one was listening.
If Sansa could figure this out, within only a few weeks of interacting with him, Arianne must have caught on to it instantly. This is pretty neat foreshadowing (is that the right word for it?) of his eventual fall. It always saddens me when Cersei’s children are together. Myrcella and Tommen are really nice, sweet children even here you get the sense that they bear Sansa no ill will whatsoever, though of course their elder brother makes up entirely for that lack.
The Hound’s mouth twitched. “Against this lot? Why not?”
This is one of the reasons I love the Hound. He technically just insulted Joffrey to his thirteen year old face and Joffrey didn’t even realize it. The man gives an impressively low number of fucks.
Speaking of a low number of fucks, we then meet Dontos Hollard, by far one of the most useless characters in ASOIAF. His first appearance has him half-naked, chasing a horse in front of his King and almost dying for his efforts. The way Sansa manipulates Joffrey, despite not being particularly deft, is still fun to watch though it’s really troubling how well she knows him by this point.
“We’re children,” Myrcella declared haughtily. “We’re supposed to be childish.”
It strikes me at this point that Myrcella and Tommen are probably the only ones safe from Joffrey’s wrath (and Cersei too, technically) because in the end of things, no matter who you are, how old you are or how much of a monster you might be, you’re apparently never too old to catch a spanking. In any case, the next big part of the chapter is Tyrion’s arrival and while he doesn’t have quite the same level of armour that Cersei and her children do, it’s more than enough to keep him safe.
“I am sorry for your loss as well, Joffrey,” the dwarf said.
I have to admit, this was my reaction as well the first time I read it. I was like, what the fuck did Joffrey of all people lose, and how did I fail to celebrate it? Then I remembered that Robert died and I was sad again.
“All sorts of people are calling themselves kings these days.”
I missed Tyrion. All the jokes aside though, his ‘little lion’ comment to Sansa is really sweet and clearly comes from his affection for bastards, cripples and broken things but I don’t think anyone can blame Sansa’s once-bitten-twice-shy approach to Tyrion’s kindness. A part of her mistrust however does seem to come from how her perception of people is still affected by their appearances but it’s hard to hold that against when we see so much of the same in the real world from people who really should know better.