[Re-Read] A Clash of Kings – Catelyn V


Summary:

a-clash-of-kings

Catelyn, Ser Wendel, Ser Perwyn, Robin, Lucas, Hallis, and the rest of Catelyn’s party are discovered by Frey outriders. Martyn Rivers commands the outriders with Robb away in the west, and Ser Edmure holds Riverrun. The scouts take her to Martyn, who tells her about Robb’s victories and Tywin’s march. Rymund the Rhymer, a singer newly come to Riverrun, has composed a song in honor of Robb. Robb is now raiding throughout the westerlands. Lord Rickard and Galbart are raiding along the coast, while Lady Maege has captured thousands of cattle and the Greatjon has seized the gold mines at Castamere, Nunn’s Deep, and Pendric Hills. Ser Perwyn asks how Robb got past the Golden Tooth, and Martyn reveals that Grey Wind found a small path that bypassed the fortress. That night, Brienne comes to Catelyn and asks leave to depart. She means to find and kill Stannis. Catelyn manages to convince her that she would just be throwing her life away, and Brienne decides to serve Catelyn. Catelyn accepts her oath. The party begins the ride back to Riverrun. They cross a ford guarded by Mallister men and later come across a Blackwood camp, where Lucas takes his leave. She sees another camp full of Pipers, Darrys, and Paeges and realizes that Edmure has called the banners again and means to do battle with Tywin. As they approach Riverrun, they see some Lannisters hanging from the walls.

Edmure rides out to greet Catelyn with Ser Desmond, Ser Robin, and Utherydes. He says that Ser Cortnay has sent birds promising allegiance to any king that will lift Stannis’s siege. Ser Cortnay says he fears for Edric Storm. Apparently, Stannis has offered to let the garrison go free unharmed if they deliver Edric into his custody. Catelyn asks about the hanged men, and Edmure explains that they came with Ser Cleos and tried to free Jaime. One of them killed two guards with his bare hands while another picked the lock of Jaime’s cell. Another one was a mummer, and impersonated Ser Edmure to get three guards, Enger, Delp, and Long Lew, to open the gates. The plot failed because Edmure was actually whoring outside the castle. When Long Lew saw him returning, he raised the alarm. Jaime got hold of a sword, killed Poul Pemford and Ser Desmond’s squire, Myles, and seriously wounded Delp before being subdued. Jaime is now in one of the black cells and chained to a wall. Those who aided him were hanged. Ser Cleos, though he claimed no knowledge of the plan, was locked in Jaime’s old tower cell.

When they enter the castle, the grounds are overrun with smallfolk. Edmure took them in because they were afraid, but Catelyn thinks that it just makes for more mouths to feed if there is a siege. She thinks that Edmure has a soft heart, but an even softer head. Utherydes tells her that Robb commanded she be sent on to the Twins when she arrived, but she says she is staying. She asks Edmure of his battle plans, and he says they will talk in the godswood. He tells her that he will have eight thousand foot and three thousand horse when all his might is gathered. He plans to guard the fords to prevent Tywin crossing. At the same time, he will have Roose and his ten thousand, augmented by Ser Helman’s garrison that Edmure recalled from the Twins, retake Harrenhal, leaving Tywin trapped between two armies, three when Robb returns. Catelyn is not comfortable that Edmure recalled the garrison at the Twins, which was there to insure Lord Walder’s loyalty, but Edmure says that he has already proved it many times over and that Stevron died for Robb, Ser Ryman Frey and Black Walder Frey are fighting in Robb’s army in the west, Robb is going to marry one of Walder’s brood, and Lord Roose has already done so. He is confident the plan will work, but Catelyn thinks it would be wiser to just let him through. She goes to see Lord Hoster, who is confused. He thinks she is Lysa before her wedding. He tells her that marrying Jon is for the best and that she should never mention that “wretched stripling” again. Catelyn wonders who Hoster could be referring to, and thinks it must be a hedge knight or a singer or some other low-born individual. Maester Vyman comes and gives Hoster some medicine to make him sleep. He says the end will come soon. When she arrives at her quarters, Utherydes is waiting with two silent sisters. He takes her to see Eddard’s bones, which Ser Cleos brought back with him. She orders them taken north to Winterfell. Hallis will lead the escort..

Source

Commentary:

This is a really eventful chapter as we catch up with Catelyn after she travels back to Northern held territory after the harrowing events of Renly’s assassination. A good deal has happened in her absence and most of it good for the Starks; Robb has beaten the Lannisters yet again and Stannis is being stalled, ironically, at Storm’s End. Yet, Catelyn, for understandable reasons, is far from reassured and happy – her husband is still dead, her eldest son is still at war, regardless of how well that war is going, she hasn’t seen the rest of her family in months, her daughters are hostages, her father is dying and her idiot brother is going to get them killed. I’d be pretty down too.

Catelyn had never been so glad to see the twin tower badge of House Frey.

Well, the irony here is obvious so, I won’t really harp on it but will instead bring up the question of how many of these cute little coincidences are intentional bits of foreshadowing on Martin’s part and how many are actually innocent, natural results of Martin’s style. For those unfamiliar with what exactly Martin’s ‘style’ encompasses: Martin once (citation needed) spoke on how authors are generally either gardeners or architects. Architects plan their stories carefully and precisely; not every single detail is identified beforehand but every major character and plot arc has been thought through and considered. Gardeners, on the other hand, sort of wing it – they focus on world building and their plots and characters are thus extremely organic to the worlds they create. Martin is clearly the latter and the gardening style’s downside is apparent in the challenge he faces in wrapping his story up.

Perhaps I did not want to be the only one who knew the dark truth of what had happened there, Catelyn thought.

I really like this conversation with Brienne. It’s our first real look at the character since her introduction and we see clearly that when she doesn’t have a sword in her hand, she’s just a shy, socially clumsy young lady who’s been raised in a society that is just determined not to see her value. One thing that draws readers to Brienne is her strong sense of morality. Yes, it is an overly simplistic morality and often can’t quite grapple with the complexities of her world but at the same time, there’s something attractive about that simplicity. She reminds us of the plain, crisp chivalry that we associate with the ‘good guys’ and even though that will never be enough to guarantee her a happy ending, it is enough for us to root for her. On the other hand, Catelyn is a character born and bred for the world of ASOIAF. She knows the way the game is played and like the above quote shows, her instincts are spot on as well. In a certain light, I guess you could argue that Catelyn’s decision to bring Brienne along as a second witness shows her more, rational, dispassionate side but I don’t personally think that Catelyn is being fully honest with herself when she says that that was her reason for helping Brienne out, though I do agree that it’s certainly a part of the reason.

“When the time comes, I will not hold you back.”

This, along with Brienne thrice swearing to kill Stannis, makes it a lot of foreshadowing for Stannis dying at Brienne’s hand but I just can’t see it especially with their storylines moving in such different directions, not to mention the geographic impossibility of it all. This might just be Martin playing with the foreshadowing trope by inserting a red herring into the story. I don’t think that that helps the story in any way and it would feel like shoddy writing even though I guess the vast majority of promises made in real life are broken. I guess we have to choose which would be worse – the story somehow playing out such that Brienne and Stannis meet, or Brienne’s vows going unfulfilled. Put like that, it’s not much of a choice, is it?

“And I vow that you shall always have a place by my hearth and meat and mead at my table, and pledge to ask no service of you that might bring you into dishonor.”

Ask no service that might bring you in dishonour? That’s an interesting statement because while it isn’t intentional on Catelyn’s part, her first and only quest to Brienne does create a dilemma for the latter when her black and white morality has to confront the fact that people have both good and bad in them.

He risks all for a baseborn boy whose blood is not even his own, Catelyn thought.

This whole Edric Storm business is kind of depressing if you think about the butterfly effect it causes. Penrose doesn’t budge and as a result, Stannis is forced to waste time at Storm’s End. We lose Penrose, who has the best one liner in the whole series, for no reason because in the end Mel is an idiot who doesn’t understand how her own powers work and as a result of the delays and hold-ups, Tywin is able to return to King’s Landing in time to defeat Stannis who, at some point in this story, has got to wonder what exactly Mel can offer even at her most powerful. To be fair though, it’s possible that Stannis wants Edric because he is ‘proof’ of Stannis’ legitimacy though I wonder if Stannis realizes that no one cares about who should legally have been king at this point. In any case, this particular line from Catelyn is about Jon Snow, not Edric Storm – as her family shrinks further and further, is she rueing her treatment of Jon? Or is she resenting his relative well-being? My money’s sadly on the latter. Catelyn’s inability to accept Jon in any way is her biggest failing in the fandom’s eyes and it is something she never fully comes to terms with.

“You were whoring or wenching. Get on with the tale.”

What, exactly, is the difference between the two? I’m genuinely curious. It was a good effort on Tyrion’s part; all’s fair in love and war (though people still throw tantrums when characters die at weddings, despite those involving both love and war). It’s also a sign of Jaime’s incredible skill with a sword that even after a few months of captivity, he was able to cause that much damage.

Only my sweet brother would crowd all these useless mouths into a castle that might soon be under siege.

I find it really hard to censure Edmure for this, to be frank. Sure, the whole business with the water mill, later in the story, was a mess (though arguably Robb’s mess, not his uncle’s) but I’m with Edmure on this – it would take a particular cold practicality to turn all those innocent people away with Tywin’s human monsters approaching. I’m looking at you, Catelyn.

The Blackfish was the veteran of half a hundred battles; Edmure was the veteran of one, and that one lost.

Edmure strikes me as an armchair general – great with theorizing and plotting but like all armchair generals, he only plans for the best case scenario and his lack of real battle experience will keep him from reacting to the changing situation. I don’t actually remember how this exact battle turns out, so I’m actually looking forward to how Edmure screws things up this time. It’s a really inopportune time for a green commander to be tested – if Tywin takes Riverrun, you can be sure that the rivers will run with blood, and we’ll get a shitty new song to go along with it.

She wondered who Lysa’s “wretched stripling” had been.

So, in hindsight it is actually pretty clear. Littlefinger, in love with Catelyn, had sex with Lysa under the influence of whatever he was hopped up on after his duel with Brandon Stark. Lysa, not realizing that Littlefinger thought that she was Catelyn, was obviously thrilled that Littlefinger loved her back, proving once and for all that there is no accounting for taste. Because this series is written by Martin, Lysa obviously got pregnant from that one time event, which led to Hoster Tully forcing an abortion on her, because fuck you and your human rights. He is regretting it now, as is literally everyone involved in this sordid story; Brandon is dead, Littlefinger is evil, sleazy and cynical, pretty much warped forever, Catelyn is miserable and soon to be dead and Lysa is batshit crazy and also soon to be dead. God, I love happy endings.

“Hal Mollen will escort them back to Winterfell, it is his place as captain of guards.”

Do we know if Hal ever makes it back? I have a pet theory that Hal is the one killing the people in Winterfell in ADWD but that would actually be very anti-climactic. It be hilariously random, like the end of a Scooby-Doo episode but rather unfitting of the series’ tone.

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