Catelyn prays in the sept as Ser Wendel and Ser Robar wait outside. As she prays, she reflects on many subjects, including the former septon of Riverrun, Osmynd; her mother, who died in childbirth along with her newborn son; and Cersei. Catelyn believes that the children were incestuous based on all the evidence and believes that is why Bran was pushed off the tower. Ser Robar comes in when it is time to go. They approach Renly’s tent, which is guarded by two of the Rainbow Guard, Ser Emmon Cuy and Ser Parmen Crane. Renly is inside. Brienne is dressing him for battle while Lord Mathis and Lord Randyll confer with him. Both want to launch the attack immediately, but Renly insists on waiting until dawn since that is when Stannis expects him and he does not want to win through treachery. He also orders that Stannis’s corpse not be desecrated. Lord Randyll asks what to do if Stannis yields and Mathis says that is unlikely considering his obstinacy at the siege of Storm’s End during Robert’s Rebellion. Renly agrees and tells how the master-at-arms, Ser Gawen Wylde, and three other knights had tried to sneak out of the castle and were caught by Stannis. He decided to hurl them over the walls with a catapult and already had Gawen strapped down when Maester Cressen convinced him that they might eventually have to eat their dead and there was no point in wasting good meat. Ser Gawen was placed in a cell instead, where he died before the siege was lifted. After the two lords leave, Catelyn says her piece. She tells Renly of Bran’s accident and its implications and tells Renly that he, Stannis, and Robb should set aside their crowns and call a Great Council to prove the incest and choose a new king. Renly does not like the idea at all. He is about to say more when a shadow enters the room and slits his throat. Brienne holds him as he dies. Ser Emmon and Ser Robar come rushing in. Ser Emmon attacks Brienne immediately with two men-at-arms. Ser Robar hesitates, and Catelyn pleads with him, swearing Brienne’s innocence and asserting that it was Stannis who did it somehow. Ser Robar agrees to hold the others at bay. Catelyn stuns Ser Emmon with a brazier, and she and Brienne escape out the back of the tent. Catelyn tells Brienne about the shadow and swears she could feel Stannis’s presence inside the tent. Brienne swears she will kill him. They return to Catelyn’s escort, and Catelyn tells Hallis to prepare to ride. Ser Wendel and Ser Perwyn form up beside her, and she tells Brienne to take a horse and come with them.
This is one of the most memorable chapters from this book, for me personally. The first time I read this chapter, I didn’t see it coming at all – honestly, I didn’t know how the Stannis-Renly conflict was going to be resolved but a magic assassination had not even crossed my mind. Once I read the chapter, I was annoyed for a little while though. How had magic suddenly become so blatant? In all of the first novel, there were hint and small clues that ‘magic’ existed but it was shrouded in this veneer of mystery but using it so directly felt, and still does feel, like it went against the unspoken rules of Martin’s universe. It also felt like a cop-out, an easy way of resolving a conflict without making things too messy though looking at it now, I like how it worked out and how it impacted the overall story. This time though, I want to look more closely the Seven and Catelyn’s semi-dazed religious experience that leads her to ‘discovering’ Cersei’s incest though of course, we’ll also touch on the assassination and its implications.
Here the face was a black oval, a shadow with stars for eyes. It made Catelyn uneasy. She would get scant comfort there.
Of the numerous religions that Martin has created in his universe, I feel like the Seven are both the blandest and the least potent. There is a sense of mystery surrounding the red priests since they undoubtedly have power but don’t share their secrets and the same goes for the followers of the Many-Faced God. We will probably see more of the old gods and how they function in the next book, when and if that ever gets finished but the Seven remain largely forgettable and even when the religion becomes more prominent, it is because of political implications rather than because the gods themselves have any sort of power. Yet, we should ask ourselves, is this entirely true? In the entire series, I think there are only one or two scenes of people praying at a sept and in both instances I’m fairly sure that some kind of revelation follows. Now, just to be clear, I’m not trying to say that the Seven have any kind of real power, but I would like anyone reading this to consider the possibility for themselves. Sure, it’s wholly possible that the ideas and thoughts that come to the characters are a result of their own introspection and this is the interpretation that I prefer myself, but I think we ought to entertain the possibility that there could be some kind of divine intervention at play as well.
She even glimpsed Arya in those lines, just for an instant.
See, this is the kind of stuff I mean. It’s entirely possible for Catelyn to associate Arya with the Warrior just based on what she knows of her daughter but you have to wonder whether there isn’t something else going on here. Sure Arya was a tomboy, but there isn’t any real reason for Catelyn to think of her as a warrior, is there? Remember, she doesn’t even know about Needle – Ned only found out about the sword when they were in King’s Landing but the reader knows about Arya’s swordsmanship and her rising kill count and so Arya as a warrior seems right to us, but I don’t think it should to Catelyn.
When they took his head off, they killed me too.
I don’t really get the feeling that Catelyn is depressed for the most part but when she says things like the food she eats has lost its taste, I can’t see it as anything other than a sign of depression. Is this inconsistency just on Martin? Maybe he isn’t too great at capturing the emotional strain of depression? Or, more likely, I’m overestimating just how debilitating Catelyn’s depression is ‘supposed’ to be.
“And have it said that I won by treachery, with an unchivalrous attack? Dawn was the chosen hour.”
Would Stannis have gone for the unchivalrous attack? Somehow, I doubt it. When I first read this, I took it as another example of Renly letting what others think of him make his decisions for him, but thinking about it a little more I don’t that that’s necessarily what’s going on here. In his last moments, even though he doesn’t know it, I think he’s just being himself. He does care about being honourable because it influences what people think of him but I think he has some honour of his own and tries to right by that morality. Likewise, with his instructions for Stannis’ body to not be desecrated, he has a line that he won’t cross just for the sake of popularity, though I have no real evidence to back this theory of mine up.
“With my lord’s own sword, I will kill him. I swear it. I swear it. I swear it.”
Is this foreshadowing? I think it’s foreshadowing. The only question is how exactly Brienne is going to disentangle herself from Catelyn and Jaime and what weird set of circumstances is going to send her North to kill Stannis.