[Re-Read] A Clash of Kings – Arya VII


Summary:

a-clash-of-kings

Arya spends most of her days cleaning. Hot Pie works in the kitchens, and Gendry in the forge. Weese is a cruel taskmaster who is quick to beat his charges or set his dog on them. Arya continues to say the litany of those she despises every night, now with Weese at the head of the list. She means to kill every one of them. As she works, she overhears many conversations and learns many secrets from around the castle. She learns that Pia from the buttery is a slut who is working her way through every knight in the castle. The wife of the gaoler is with child, but the real father is either Ser Alyn Stackspear or a singer called Whitesmile Wat. Lord Leo Lefford made mock of ghosts at table, but always keeps a candle burning by his bed. Ser Dunaver’s squire Jodge could not hold his water when he slept. The cooks despise Ser Harys Swyft and spit in all his food. She also learns that Maester Tothmure received a letter stating that Joffrey is a bastard and that Stannis has crowned himself king. Many of the soldiers doubt that Joffrey will be able to keep the throne long.

The Brave Companions ride in one day with Vargo Hoat at their head and cause an altercation that leaves Ser Harys’s squire dead. They leave several days later. Before they go, Arya overhears one say that Lord Roose has occupied the ruby ford of the Trident. She also learns that northmen captives from the battle of the Green Fork are in the castle. They mostly have free reign of the place in return for a pledge not to escape. The four Freys are soon after ransomed and freed. Ser Wylis Manderly is haunting the kitchens and Harrion Karstark wanders the battlements. Lord Medger Cerwyn has a serious wound and eventually dies. Several days later, Ser Amory rides into the keep with his men, including Biter, Rorge, and Jaqen. None appear to recognize her, but that night Jaqen comes to speak to her. He tells her that she saved three lives and that he will repay her by killing three people of her choice. She avoids him for a few days, but then is called upon to serve several of Ser Gregor’s men, fresh returned from foraging and a skirmish with Lord Beric that cost them four men. She overhears Chiswyck telling a story to Raff and several others about how the two of them, Eggon, Tobbot, and Gregor’s squire Joss Stillwood were at an alehouse with Gregor on the way back west after the Hand’s tournament and gang raped a brewer’s daughter named Layna. A disgusted Arya finds Jaqen and whispers the name Chiswyck. Three days later, she learns that Chiswyck appears to have fallen off the wall and broken his neck. That night, her litany contains one less name.

Source

Commentary:

The three heads of Lord Tywin’s monster reveal themselves in this chapter, as does the mysterious Ghost in Harrenhal. The name ‘Ghost in Harrenhal’ reminds me a good deal of the ghost in Winterfell and it’s not hard to see why – in both cases, there is a treacherous killer on the loose, slowly spreading terror through the forces. I can’t remember if Arya (or Jacqen, really) ever become that ‘feared’ since as far as I remember, he only kills three people but it’s an interesting parallel nonetheless. Apart from that, most of this chapter is just setting up Harrenhal and just how absurd its very existence is as well as what life is like for the smallfolk and commoners in a place like Harrenhal, during the middle of possibly the biggest civil war since the Conquest.

 She had water to wash in whenever she liked, a chunk of soap.

I’m going to get philosophical here for a second. When I read this paragraph, it made me think about how humans are always greedy, as a species. Sure, trudging around in the mud was pretty bad and being held captive by the Mountain was worse but surely Arya’s gig here wasn’t terrible? I mean apart from Weese, she has food, clothing and shelter, but it isn’t enough. I don’t blame her for it not being enough, I mean having Weese around would put anyone off, but I wonder how those days of being near starvation haven’t affected the way she evaluates her options. Perhaps they have, but I’m just not getting the sense that her experiences so far have changed her outlook towards the importance of bare necessities. I should probably clarify – it’s not that I don’t think that Arya hasn’t changed actually, but more that I feel like Martin hasn’t really shown the change well enough.

The talk was that Lord Tywin planned to restore Harrenhal to glory, and make it his new seat once the war was done.

Hah, that’ll be the day. I can understand why the people living in Harrenhal might say something like that though and more importantly, why they might want to believe it is true. Living in a place that has clearly seen better days (ok, it’s basically seen one good day, literally) has got to run morals down and when you’re surrounded by things like the Mountain, Vargo Hoat and Amory Lorch, you need something to convince yourself that it’s all for a reason. The restoration of Harrenhal might give the peasants enough drive to stay alive and since it glorifies the Lannister cause, I don’t see anyone higher up stopping it.

Walls, doors, halls, steps, everything was built to an inhuman scale that made Arya remember the stories Old Nan used to tell of the giants who lived beyond the Wall.

Alright, so seriously, let’s take a look at Harrenhal and at how utterly impossible it is. First of all, twenty acres of godswood within the castle walls is insane. Stables big enough for a thousand horses is also insane. It’s not that I’m trying to ruin everyone’s fun by pointing out that none of this shit should exist, it’s more that I’m just struggling to imagine the enormity of it. That and yes, I’m not entirely convinced something like this can exist. Martin has a tendency to let his sense of scale run away from him – look at how the Wall turned out. Seven hundred feet tall, really?

How many monsters does Lord Tywin have?

Well he has three monsters and each has a head that’s especially monstrous. Who would you consider the worst of them? My own money would be on the Mountain. The other two are twisted because they know what they’re doing is fucked up but they get off on it and do for the kicks but the Mountain is different. I’m sure he knows that his actions are pretty reprehensible but he flat out doesn’t care. There’s a very good case to be made that he is insane but I’m assuming that no one wants to close enough to actually test him. What I really want to know is how exactly Tywin controls this Mountain of his because surely Tywin’s mother tongue of fear and intimidation doesn’t do a whole lot on Gregor Clegane but I can’t quite see Tywin bargaining and negotiating with the Mountain either. I guess that’s why he has the other two monsters; to keep the Mountain in line. We can’t really neglect the horror that Hoat spawns wherever he turns up, either though we’ll wait for the right Jaime chapter before talking about that. As for Lorch, I guess he’s kind of out of the running by this point, isn’t he? I mean, sure he does some stuff here  and there and is a terrible human being but he’s just not savage enough to compete for that oh-so-undesirable top spot. I might be wrong, let’s see what he gets up between now and turning into bear food.

No one ransomed the northmen, though.

I wonder if this the result of some honour code in the North where you’re not supposed to pay random for captives or if it’s just a direct result of the North not being as rich as the other six kingdoms. I suspect it has more to do with the latter than the former though if I were the Lannisters, I would lower the asking price for the captured knights so that at least you get something before the poor fuckers die in your care. That just might be my ethically iffy business sense showing up again, though.

 “The Red God has his due, sweet girl, and only death may pay for life.”

Is this really a thing? Does that mean that Arya owes life for those she gave death to while a Servant of the Many-Faced God, or something? I’ve suspected that this is just Jacqen’s way of returning the favour to Arya for saving his life, but for some reason he doesn’t want to reveal it since that would leave the door open for her to ask more of him than he wants to give. Though, my theory doesn’t explain why he would specify three lives? I’m sure that he doesn’t give a fuck about Rorge and Biter but I guess three felt like fair reward for Arya’s help.

“Thirteen, more like,” Raff the Sweetling drawled.

This particular story got to me. It got to me the first time I read the series and it stills get to me on this re-read. I just don’t know how to deal with this, to be honest. It seems like it’s too savage and just evil to be true but at the same time, I have nothing to compare it to, you know? It’s some twisted shit and I remember that this was the first time that it really struck me that these are some evil, evil people. Not just run of the mill villainy – we’ve been desensitized by violence and gore – but truly malicious and sadistic. The fact that the Mountain doesn’t seem to recruit them specifically for their cruelty (unlike, it would seem, Vargo Hoat) seems to indicate that there is the same darkness within the common man that is just never expressed in most situations. I can’t decide if that is reassuring or terrifying.

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