Sansa ponders a note she has received, which reads, “Come to the godswood tonight, if you want to go home.” She decides not to go, as she sees that Ser Preston is guarding the bridge and knows he will not let her pass. Later that night, she is awoken by shouts and yelling. When she looks out to the bridge again, she sees that Ser Preston is gone, so she gets dressed and goes out. On her way, she sees Ser Preston and three other Kingsguard getting Joffrey into his armor as he calls for his crossbow. They do not see her. When she arrives at the godswood, she meets the author of the note, Dontos. Dontos says he feels indebted to her and will get her out of the castle. He says that it will take time to make the preparations and that she should come to the godswood often in the meantime as it is the only safe place to meet. On her way back to her rooms, Sansa runs into Sandor, who is drunk. After mocking her a bit, he says he will take her back to her chambers. Ser Boros is on the bridge when they get there. He tells them that some commoners learned of the preparations for Tyrek’s wedding feast and came to the gates demanding food. Joffrey drove them off. As they continue to walk, Sandor mocks Sansa more and asks for a song. She says she will sing him one someday, and he says that he knows she is lying. He goes on to say that the castle is full of liars, all of them better than her.
I like to think of this as the beginning of the middle of A Clash of Kings. By this point in the book, we’re done ‘catching up’ with what the majority of the characters’ arcs are going to be, with a few fairly notable exceptions – Jon, who is still wandering the extreme North (though I guess that’s kind of his plotline for this book anyway), Catelyn (who’s meatiest arc comes only towards the end of the book, I think) and Theon (the war against the North hasn’t officially begun yet). Yet, with that in mind, the rest of the characters are coming along nicely and there’s just enough interweaving between storylines that, again, with a few notable exceptions (Dany and Jon), no character’s arc feels too isolated from the ‘main’ storyline. This chapter itself is mostly a set-up for Sansa’s return home and I suspect that the possibility of escape is what holds her together in the following weeks/months of increasingly grim circumstances. I don’t remember if it’s explicitly stated or referenced but that was the impression that I vaguely remember having. We’ll see if I remember correctly in the next few chapters.
Come to the godswood tonight, if you want to go home.
We open the chapter with this line and it’s repeated fairly often in the first section of the chapter which is possibly meant to represent the pressing effect it is having on Sansa’s mind. However, unlike the last example of this kind of repetition (‘If I look back, I am lost’), the line itself is rather bland and the repetition ends up feeling clumsy and a little silly.
“My Florian,” she whispered. “The gods heard my prayer.”
We’re already beginning to see the changes in Sansa. She’s no longer the trusting little girl that she was in A Game of Thrones but neither is she completely aware of the games being played around her. That awareness will come in time but for now, she’s learned not to trust her hand-maids or anyone else for that matter. It turns out being beaten daily and living as a hostage can cause trust issues. Who knew? Yet, for all her increasing world-wariness, she still falls for the trap of the fairy tale. She is suspicious of Dontos, and rightly so – right up until he mentions the story of Florian and Jonquil and suddenly the situation she is in transforms itself in her eyes. She’s no longer Sansa Stark, ‘ward’ of the queen and a traitor’s daughter and sister but instead she is Jonquil, waiting to be rescued by her dashing Florian. She is consciously aware that life isn’t a fairy tale – if anything the last few months have made that very clear to her yet, she can’t fight the draw that those childhood stories have over her. To some extent, I find this characterization of Sansa rather realistic, even if it’s a little damning in terms of what it implies about human nature. Fiction has an absurd power over us – even when we know that we’re reading isn’t based on the real world, we are somehow still able to relate to the characters and the events that occur in those stories and whether we like it or not, any art that stays with us, affects us. In that regard, we’re no different from Sansa, though obviously she takes it further. I’ll stop short of condemning her for it simply because if thinking she’s in a story (even subconsciously) helps her cope with the abuse she’s put through, then who am I to say that it’s destructive or negative?
“Sweet lady, I would be your Florian,” Dontos said humbly, falling to his knees before her.
Dontos is pretty interesting here too in just how expertly he plays this card. I’m sure he’s been properly briefed by Littlefinger (or through his agents, whatever) that Sansa has a weakness for these things though I’m actually a little impressed that he was able to hit all the right buttons so easily. He does all his theatrics really well – the bow, the humility, the whole spiel of how he once was lost but now is found. It’s almost enough to make anyone believe that he isn’t just basically playing Sansa for a few more bottles of wine.
“Paint stripes on a toad, he does not become a tiger.”
Between Dontos and Sandor Clegane, this chapter might as well be called the chapter of the False Knight. Dontos is a ‘knight’ though I don’t know if he still legally holds the title but while he does act like a knight he is certainly not one. Meanwhile, the Hound, who is the more interesting of the two, neither acts nor pretends to be a knight though he is higher ‘ranked’ than as other knight in the realm as a Kingsguard. Like in the Tyrion chapters, Sandor’s penchant for calling the various knights of King’s Landing what they are is refreshing and endearing despite his crassness (or perhaps because of it, depending on what you’re into). Yet, just like with Tyrion, Sandor is isolated as a result of his unwillingness to ‘play the game’. Tyrion refuses to just go with the way of things like the rest of the court and instead opposes the established hierarchy while Sandor refuses to become a knight and do knightly things.
The Hound gave her a push, oddly gentle, and followed her down the steps.
We’ve talked about the Hound’s relationship with Sansa and it seems fairly clear that he sees a little of his sisters in the Stark girls though he might just have a soft spot for little girls – though as Mycah the butchered butcher’s boy will tell you, that soft spot isn’t big enough to include the lads. He is pretty drunk in this chapter and it’s like the character cant’ decide what he’s supposed to be. Is he the gruff older brother that’s using tough love to show his naïve sister what the world’s like? Is he the Hound, Prince Joffrey’s sworn dog that would beat her if she disobeyed? When it comes down to it, is he a friend or a foe? It isn’t clear yet, partly because Sandor is figuring that out himself but also (and this is pure speculation) partly because I suspect Martin himself wasn’t too sure about it. As usual, I don’t have any concrete reason to make an assertion like that, but my instincts tell me that’s the reason why we never get a solid read on the Hound’s feelings towards Sansa until later on. Either that or Martin’s really good at fleshing out his characters and I’m not giving him nearly enough credit. It’s probably the latter.