Pycelle presents to the small council a copy of Stannis’s letter proclaiming Joffrey a bastard. Cersei wants to burn all the letters and rip out the tongues of any heard repeating the words, but Tyrion counsels letting it pass as harmless. Lord Petyr goes one step further and says they should promulgate their own tale about Stannis’s daughter Shireen, saying that Lady Selyse conceived her with Patchface. Cersei is delighted by this plan. The rumor will be spread by Lord Petyr through the brothels he owns and through Varys. Mention of Varys makes Cersei wonder why he is not at the meeting. Tyrion takes his leave, saying he must check on a chain he is making for Joffrey. Bronn waits for him outside the council chamber to escort him back to the Tower of the Hand, where several master smiths await. Podrick attends Tyrion in his chambers and dresses him for the meeting. He greets the armorers, including Ironbelly and Salloreon, in his audience chamber and orders them to construct a giant chain. They are reluctant at first, seeing the work as common and also fearing Cersei’s wrath because she has ordered them to make arms and armor and threatened to crush the hands of any smith that failed to meet his quota, but Tyrion promises no hands will be crushed and that any man who refuses to make links for the chain will be arrested. With the audience done, he makes preparations to go into the city.
As Tyrion rides through the streets in his litter, he is subjected to many hateful stares. Though he has ordered several carpenters to construct fishing boats, opened the kingswood to hunting, and sent gold cloaks foraging, there is still not enough food, and he receives the blame for it. They arrive at his destination, the brothel owned by Chataya. Chataya greets him and shows him some of her girls. Tyrion chooses Alayaya, who leads him to a room. Within the room is a wardrobe with a secret passage. Tyrion climbs down a ladder and is greeted by Varys, disguised by scars and stubble. Tyrion expresses his surprise that a brothel would have a secret passage, and Varys replies that it was made for another Hand of the King whose honor would not allow him to enter a brothel openly. The passage ends at a stable, where Varys provides an old horse and a cloak as a disguise so Tyrion can ride to Shae’s manse undetected. They discuss Stannis and his proclamation. Tyrion wonders how Stannis knew the truth about Cersei’s children, and Varys is mysterious about the topic. Tyrion tells Varys that he sometimes feels the eunuch is his best friend in the city and other times his worst enemy. Varys says he feels the same way about Tyrion.
I continue to find Tyrion to be a much more proactive Hand than Ned was. He actively makes plans to counter his enemies’ plots and makes friends and allies out of people he doesn’t necessarily fully trust but most of all, he’s able to juggle all these responsibilities without stepping too far out of line of his own personal morals or forsaking his honour (such as it is). Chapters like these don’t feature too much in terms of action or plot progression but I like them anyway just because of the politicking, the intrigue and obviously, the zingers and the burns.
The opening section of the chapter features a Cersei who is still somewhat on the backfoot; she has still not fully adjusted to her brother’s presence in the power structure of King’s Landing but is obviously unable and unwilling to show her confusion. I can’t say I’m a particularly big fan of making Shireen out to be a product of incest and using her Greyscale scars as proof of it. While I don’t really have much concern for Stannis’ feelings (and even less for Selyse’s) I hate that Shireen gets dragged into it. It’s a low blow by any measure and not really the same thing as Stannis ‘slandering’ Joffrey; Joffrey is King and being the target of enemy slander is part and parcel of the job description. Also, Stannis’ accusations are spot on which shouldn’t make a difference towards how I feel about dirty politics, but it does. I find it interesting that so many of these ideas come from Littlefinger. We know that the man’s scum and absolutely ruthless in how he will use and move people like pieces but behind all that is a surprisingly insightful mind that really does understand how people think and how they will react to political movements.
Tyrion had never quite gotten over the suspicion that his father had inflicted the boy on him as a joke.
Poor Pod, always being the butt of Tyrion’s joke. I do wonder though how come Tyrion is so trusting of the boy despite him coming directly from his father. I mean, under different circumstances, I would have thought Pod would be the first to be suspected of being a spy for Tywin. I don’t think Pod being a spy for Tywin would really change how Tyrion behaves (except for the whole Shae thing) but I wonder how come the thought never crosses his mind.
“You will make chains, or you will wear them. The choice is yours.”
This is a less badass version of the classic line from The Lord of Chaos in The Wheel of Time series: ‘Kneel or be knelt’. I like Tyrion’s plan for the chain but theless information I have about the exact details the better. I don’t really believe any chain powerful enough to stop a massive galley in place could be light enough to be lifted by the technology present in the ASOIAF series and while I like the idea behind the chain, it also led to my boy Davos suffering and I can never fully approve of anything that causes that.
Although Joffrey may indeed be old enough. An interesting notion, that.
The TV show was this through and it ended predictably, with Joffrey realizing he has a kink for sadism and pain (shocking, I know). I don’t recall a similar sequence of events occurring in the books, but I’ll certainly keep an eye out for it.
What a wretched fool you are, dwarf.
Well, we’ve talked about this before. Tyrion knows that his relationship with Shae is poisonous and destructive but his personal issues run so deep that he is unable to resist his urges. The end result though is that I end up hating Shae for the effect she has on Tyrion which isn’t even really fair because it’s really just Tyrion doing it to himself. I’ve also found Tyrion to be a lot less ‘nice’ on this re-read and I don’t know why. The first time I read ACoK, I remember thinking that Tyrion was a really nice guy and who always tried to do the right thing. This time through though, I’m definitely picking up on more nuances to his character – sure, he still tries to do what’s right, more or less, but I can definitely imagine that most other characters who interact with him (and don’t have access to his inner thoughts) would think of him as an asshole.
A scarred face and a stubble of dark beard showed under his spiked steel cap, and he wore mail over boiled leather, dirk and shortsword at his belt.
The spiked steel cap made me think of the Unsullied though there is no way that Varys disguise was that. This idea of Varys as a master of disguise has always fascinated me – is he just that good, or is there some degree of magic and mysticism involved here? I personally believes there’s a mixture of both. His ability to change his voice might just be a talent of his which could technically be enhanced by a glamour or something. I wonder if we’ll ever find out.
“The tunnel was dug for another King’s Hand, whose honor would not allow him to enter such a house openly.”
I’ve heard theories that this Hand was in fact Tywin Lannister on the basis that Chataya’s seems to be a fairly new establishment (in comparison to how old the Tower of the Hand is). Combine that with the fact that Tywin clearly has a thing for whores and that he is fairly prickly about his honour (or rather the honour of his House) and I think there’s a pretty solid chance that it was Tywin ordered the tunnel made.
“Or perhaps someone whispered it in his ear.”
Varys implies here that it wasn’t him who did the whispering so let’s consider the alternatives. The obvious one, that Tyrion immediately suspects, is Littlefinger. Yet, I can’t imagine a situation where Stannis would accept Littlefinger’s word on something like this and the two aren’t especially close. Yet, at the same time, despite how many people know of Joffrey’s true parentage now, before Ned, there were precious few – Littlefinger, Cersei, Jaime, Varys, Tyrion and possibly Jon Arryn (I don’t know if that was confirmed or not). So who told Stannis? Varys does end up seeming the most likely of candidates – he certainly has the means and he has the motive of stirring up trouble to destabilize the current regime. I feel like we do eventually get to the bottom of this mystery at some point, but I can’t remember where.
If she had borne only one child for her husband, it would have been enough to disarm suspicion . . . but then she would not have been Cersei.
Ok, so on a purely logical level, Tyrion is right. A single black haired child would be plenty to throw off most. Littlefinger would still know, Varys would still know but all the others would probably have not have put all the various pieces together. The other thing is, it’s a little twisted to suggest that Cersei should have to bear the child of the man who beat her and if I’m remembering correctly, sexually assaulted her.