Yoren and company reach a river, but cannot find a crossing, so Yoren decides to go north and hire a boat at a nearby town to cross to Harrentown. When they arrive at the town, they find it deserted. Yoren splits everyone into groups to search the town. Arya is placed with Woth, Gendry, Hot Pie, and Lommy. There are no boats to be found. Gendry suggests building rafts, and Yoren decides to sleep on it. They make camp in the holdfast and bar the gates. Yoren sends Tarber, Kurz, and Cutjack to the top of the towerhouse to stand watch while the others settle down.
After dinner, Arya goes to sleep. She is awakened by a wolf’s howl and then hears Kurz’s hunting horn signaling people coming. Everyone goes to the walls and sees a column of riders setting fire to the town. Ser Amory Lorch rides up and demands that Yoren open the gates. Reysen gives a sarcastic response, and Yoren states he is of the Night’s Watch and has no part in the war, but Ser Amory is not satisfied. When Yoren continues to refuse, Ser Amory declares him a rebel. A spear is hurled at Yoren, but it hits Woth instead, killing him. Ser Amory orders his men to storm the walls and kill everybody.
Yoren orders the group to draw their blades and sends Koss and Urreg to defend the postern gate. Arya engages several men and forces them off the wall. She sees Dobber and Qyle go down. Gendry makes his way over to where she and Hot Pie are. Gendry and Arya leave the wall to engage men that have broken through elsewhere, and Yoren tells her to round up all the people she can and get out through a tunnel under the barn that emerges by the lake. They call Hot Pie down and find Lommy, who is wounded in the calf. They also find Gerren, who is near death and cannot be moved, and the little girl they had previously rescued. When they get to the barn, it is on fire. Biter is desperately heaving himself against his chains. Jaqen sees her and asks for help. Arya goes back outside to get an axe. She sees Koss yield and get killed anyway. Back inside she crawls to the wagon and throws the axe inside. Rorge picks it up and starts hacking through the chains. Arya makes it into the tunnel, but it collapses behind her.
This is a fairly action packed chapter and since Ser Amory Lorch is involved it ends up being a fairly gruesome and bloody one as well. The chapter ones calmly enough as the ragtag group finds an abandoned town and settles in but all hell breaks loose when Lorch turns up, thirsty for a fight. Since most of the chapter is based on the fighting there isn’t too much that I want to focus on, so this week’s writeup will be fairly short, I think.
It didn’t look as hard as catching cats.
There’s a small section before they reach the abandoned town that feels almost idyllic in how normal their unusual lives have become. The way Rorge cursing and threatening people with murder till he is casually smacked is both amusing and more than a little absurd in how we can look at this scene as ‘before things went south’ as compared to later. I guess it’s all relative in the end. I mention the quote above because Arya does spend a fair amount of time in the wild on her own (or as good as on her own) either in this book or the next and small things like this do help to explain how she acquired her survival skills.
“That’s Lady Whent’s seat, and she’s always been a friend o’ the Watch.”
I can’t think of any particular reason for Lady Whent to be a friend of the Watch except that she was so incredibly lonely in Harrenhal that any visitors (even thieves and rapists and murderers) were better than no visitors. Still, I might be doing her a disservice – it’s possible she was just a really nice old lady. I can’t remember what exactly happens to Harrenhal, except that it falls and becomes a literal house of horrors thanks to the Bloody Mummers and the Clegane crowd which means that at some point between now and soon, sweet old Lady Whent bites it. That’s a shame I guess, but she could have lived to experience Gregor’s hospitality (though I can’t remember if he’s the one who kills her or not).
What could scare them so much?
One of the things I’m picking up on as I pay more attention to the details mentioned in the chapter is just how chilling Arya’s experiences are. It’s been a while since I read ACoK (easily more than a couple of years) and during that time I was obviously more focused on the plot progression than on the world-building. Reading it now though, it’s pretty damn fucked up thinking of an entire town evacuated because of bands of people like Lorch just being land-based versions of the Ironborn. If I remember correctly, Edmure has called his banners to Riverrun and that is presumably where most of these people have run off to. I don’t know whether Lorch would have attacked the holdfast had it been better garrisoned but I suspect he would have anyway and even a full garrison would have had difficulty fighting off the fires that he lights later on.
“Something’s wrong, someone’s coming, get up!”
This is the second time in as many chapters that we see Arya’s latent powers peek through her consciousness. Like the previous time, it isn’t particularly pronounced in this instance either and it’s all too easy to miss but what tipped me off was how she was able to directly make the connection between the wolf’s howl and approaching hostiles. Most people would not be able to interpret a howl, I would think. It’s good that we’re getting clues about these warg powers but it’s disappointing that nothing’s really happened yet regarding those powers as of ADwD.
“Ser Amory Lorch, bannerman to Lord Tywin Lannister of Casterly Rock, the Hand of the King. The true king, Joffrey.”
I think this would be as good a time as any to mention how much I hate Lorch. I hate him more than Hoat and Clegane, actually. I hate him for the simple reason that there isn’t anything noteworthy about him beyond his cruelty. Speaking from the perspective of evaluating the characters as characters (as opposed to as people), at least Hoat is surrounded by interesting characters (fucked up characters, true, but at least they’re not boring) while Clegane himself is pretty badass. I mean, he’s mean as fuck, stupid as fuck and cruel as fuck, but the man is a walking mountain and that counts for some entertainment value. Lorch, on the other hand…is all of those things but without the badassery to redeem him. Still, I guess he has a pretty cool death scene – pity that we never get too see it ‘onscreen’.
And she looked at Ser Amory’s face, the way Syrio had taught her to look, and she saw that he was right.
Well, the fact that Gendry could just take a look at Lorch and go ‘Yeah, we’re fucked’ sort of takes away from Arya’s ‘secret technique of character evaluation’ but still, maybe with some training she could be semi-legit at it? It would be an interesting trick for an assassin to know. Maybe.
“Young boys and old men die the same.”
Yes, of course they do because you’re Amory fucking Lorch, the only person who thinks chucking soldiers at holdfast in the middle of the knight despite:
- there being no need for it
- a numerical advantage and
- having the tactical advantage of fire
is a viable strategy. Seriously, how long before the bear gets him, again?