Catelyn and Brienne see Ser Edmure off as he leads his men out of Riverrun to do battle with Lord Tywin. He has left only a small garrison of the young, old, and wounded, led by Ser Desmond, to defend the castle. Brienne asks what they must do now, and Catelyn responds that they will do their duty. Catelyn has always done her duty, which may be why she was Lord Hoster’s favorite child. Since her two older brothers had died in infancy, Catelyn was a son and a daughter to him until Edmure was born. She was forced to become lady of Riverrun at an early age when her mother died, snubbed Petyr when she was promised to marry Brandon Stark, and married Eddard without complaint after Brandon died. Catelyn ends up praying in the sept for hours. She thinks of some of her mentors, such as Septon Osmynd, Lord Hoster, Ser Brynden, and Maester Kym, and how they always seemed to know everything, and laments that for the first time in her life she is unsure of her duty. When she emerges, she sees Rymund singing a song about war. Brienne stops to listen and wishes she were fighting in the battle. Later that day, Maester Vyman receives a raven from Lord Elwood stating that Ser Cortnay is dead and that Storm’s End has declared for Stannis. Catelyn says that Robb should be told of this and asks where he is. Vyman responds that he was marching for the Crag, the seat of House Westerling, at last report. Ser Desmond’s squire comes to report that Lannisters have reached the river. Catelyn goes to the battlements to join Ser Desmond and sees about fifty Lannister scouts flying the purple unicorn of House Brax. The fords, as well as three others, are held by Mallister men. After a brief skirmish, the Lannisters withdraw. There is another attempt at the ford late that night, but it is held again. Brienne says that Tywin is probing for a weakness and will try to force a crossing if he cannot find one.
The next morning, Catelyn tells Utherydes to send wine to Ser Cleos to loosen him up for questioning later. Soon after, a rider comes with a message from Lord Jason. Ser Flement tried to force a crossing at another ford but was turned aside with heavy losses. Lord Karyl also repulsed another attack even further upstream. That evening she visits Ser Cleos and asks him about the peace terms he brought. Catelyn is particularly interested in Tyrion’s promise to exchange Arya and Sansa for Jaime. She asks after her daughters and discovers that Cleos never saw Arya.
Five days later, Catelyn learns that Tywin launched his major assault two days before. He tried to force a crossing at a dozen different fords. Lord Leo Lefford drowned and Ser Lyle Crakehall, known as Strongboar, was captured. Ser Addam made three attempts at one ford, but was finally forced to retreat. At Stone Mill, Ser Gregor led the fiercest assault, and a few of his men briefly gained the other side, but the reserves were committed, and he was forced to withdraw. Lord Tywin is now moving southeast and appears to be in retreat. A great celebration is held that night, but Catelyn is worried. She consults a map and sees that if Tywin is heading southeast, he has probably already reached the headwaters of the Blackwater.
The battle of the Stone Mill is somewhat infamous in ASOIAF for being the perfect example of Edmure Tully’s incompetence. I would argue that successfully defending his castle from the Lannisters shows that he isn’t a fool and that the blame should lie on Robb for poorly issuing orders. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though; right now, Robb is away fighting in the West, getting ready to make the mistake that will be the nail in his coffin, though he doesn’t know it just yet. Like most of the Catelyn chapters in this book, and really, in the series, this one is heavy and sombre, full of regret and longing. We see here the beginning of the buildup of emotions that leads her to free Jaime soon.
“I mean to give him better reason than mere birth.”
This is rather reminiscent of what Faramir tells his father before leaving to secure Osgiliath (I’m talking about The Lord of the Rings, in case that was unclear): “Should I return, think better of me.” In a society as firmly sexist as Westeros, it is surprisingll that Edmure should be so overshadowed by his eldest sister. Catelyn has done her duty, yes, and done it well but at the same time, I can’t really make the argument that she has done something really noteworthy. Yet, I get a very strong sense that Catelyn is seen as the Tully in charge despite Edmure not only being the heir but also being the one who has lived in Riverrun all this time. I guess a lot of that can be chalked up to the fact that Edmure is, even at the best of times, something of an idiot.
I gave Brandon my favor to wear, and never comforted Petyr once after he was wounded, nor bid him farewell when Father sent him off.
It’s honestly amazing how Catelyn did literally everything she could reasonably do to get Littlefinger off her scent but still couldn’t get the guy to back off. The level of mental acrobatics that Littlefinger needed to pull off in order to reinterpret all these things to fit his narrative is ridiculous which makes it almost impressive that was able to pull it off anyway. It’s also a little sobering to think how many people died and suffered just because some dude couldn’t take a hint.
“Those who favor Stannis will call it proof. Those who support Joffrey will say it means nothing.”
This pretty sums up the resolution of the incest and bastardry issue. Joffrey’s illegitimacy was an issue only as long as there was no war. The second the war broke out, it didn’t really matter if Joffrey was a bastard’s bastard or not – the Lannisters weren’t fighting to keep him on the throne (arguably, most of them were fighting despite it meaning he would be on the throne), they were fighting to stay in power. Stannis could have gotten irrefutable DNA evidence to the table and the Lannister lords would still proclaim Joffrey the rightful king. In any event, Stannis doesn’t have proof, just a very compelling case and like the quote says, those who want to believe it, already have.
“A fate he no doubt earned,” Bolton had written.
Roose being frigid and detached comes as no surprise, of course, and this is a perfect example of his “quiet land, quiet people” mantra. It is highly unlikely that Roose is grieving for Ramsay, because despite what he says about child Lords being the bane of any house, having a violent, unstable sociopath in charge isn’t much better. Still, Roose isn’t one to give anything away – Ramsay is dead, so there is nothing to gain by being emotional and kicking up a fuss now. In fact, it would be better to be supportive and look like a loyal and just subject. Of course, I don’t know for sure if that’s his thought process but it would definitely fit with the image of Roose as a cold and calculating man.
“I know no grandson of Walder Frey would be an oathbreaker.” Unless it served his purpose.
It’s amazing just how much foreshadowing the Red Wedding got. Does that make it less surprising or more? After all, Robb and Catelyn knew exactly what kind of animal Walder Frey was and took what they thought were necessary precautions, so it wasn’t as though all this foreshadowing was hidden from the character, so to speak. It is the one time that Martin let a character play out exactly as you’d expect – he set Frey up as duplicitous bastard and that’s exactly what he turned out to be.
They’d come frightened and helpless, and her brother had taken them in when most lords would have closed their gates.
Edmure lacks a good many traits that you would want in a Lord of a Great House. He is inexperienced and somewhat stubborn and reckless but for all that, there can be no question that his heart is in the right place. In a time where Lords are deserting their keeps and others are slaughtering smallfolk, it’s good to see that Edmure at least has his priorities straight.