Chapter 18 – Catelyn
Still no Dany POV. Not that I’m complaining. Lady Stark took a ship up the Trident river, right? No, wait, that’s the river the others are following. Bah, anyway, she should be on her way to King’s Landing.
“We will make King’s Landing within the hour.”
This book never ceases to amaze me with its determination to skim over travel time. She’s there already?
Getting some information on the ship, Storm Dancer, and its captain, Moreo Tumitis. Nothing amazing, though. He seems like a chill dude, although he literally has a green beard.
Apparently Catelyn did not escape the assassination attempt unscathed: her left hand is permanently limp and she can only use a few of her fingers. Ouch. She takes strength from it, though, and sees the injury as a reminder of Bran’s safety and a criticism of her grief-wallowing.
I’m also liking this introduction to Ser Rodrik, Catelyn’s companion on this adventure:
[Ser Rodrik] looked odd without his great white side whiskers; smaller somehow, less fierce, and ten years older. Yet back on the Bite it had seemed prudent to submit to a crewman’s razor, after his whiskers had become hopelessly befouled for the third time while he leaned over the rail and retched into the swirling winds.
Gross, but a good character detail. I know Ser Rodrik has technically been in the story for a while, but he’s only really becoming important just now, so I appreciate this.
Hmm, Ser Rodrik is reminding Catelyn to beware further treachery at King’s Landing, and mentions somebody potentially hostile named Lord Petyr Baelish, or Littlefinger (???) as he is often known. Why would this guy be a problem?
Catelyn was past delicacy. “He was my father’s ward. We grew up together in Riverrun. I thought of him as a brother, but his feelings for me were . . . more than brotherly. When it was announced I was to wed Brandon Stark, Petyr challenged for the right to my hand . . . I had to beg Brandon to spare Petyr’s life. He let him off with a scar. Afterward my father sent him away. I have not seen him since.”
Sheesh. Yeah, that sounds uncommonly awkward. Not dangerous, surely, unless Littlefinger has grown psychotically bitter. I mean, what are the chances of that happening in this book, am I right?
Getting a lot of worldbuilding information about King’s Landing, which sounds like an incredible city. I wonder how they could have reproduced such a massive place on the TV show? Anyway, Ser Rodrik suggests leaving Catelyn behind where it’s safe and venturing alone to seek Ser Aron Santagar, their best potential ally in the court. They find a seedy inn for Catelyn to hide, and then Ser Rodrik leaves to bring Santagar back for personal communication. I can’t help having a bad feeling about this inn.
She watched Ser Rodrik set off, striding briskly through the busy streets until he was lost in the crowds, then decided to take his advice. The bedding was stuffed with straw instead of feathers, but she had no trouble falling asleep.
She woke up to a pounding on her door.
Ack. This can’t be Ser Rodrik then. Why would he knock?
A fist hammered at her door again, and a voice called out, “Open, in the name of the king.”
WHAT. How did they–? Who–?
Hmm, this might not be quite as bad as I thought. I was afraid one of the Lannisters had discovered her. These guys don’t know who Catelyn is, they’re just following orders given by Littlefinger. But how did he even find out she was here?
Catelyn willingly allows herself to be escorted into the Red Keep, the central feature of King’s Landing and the beating heart of Westeros, where she is taken straight to Littlefinger.
“I am not accustomed to being summoned like a serving wench,” she said icily. “As a boy, you still knew the meaning of courtesy.”
“I’ve angered you, my lady. That was never my intent.” He looked contrite. The look brought back vivid memories for Catelyn. He had been a sly child, but after his mischiefs he always looked contrite; it was a gift he had.
Yeah, I don’t trust this guy. He doesn’t seem bitter, like I predicted, but he’s obviously a weasel. When Catelyn asks him how he discovered her, he dodges the question by saying, “Lord Varys knows all.” I remember Lord Varys is the king’s “master of whisperers,” so Littlefinger’s response is pretty vague.
Apparently I’ll get to meet Lord Varys, according to Littlefinger. Catelyn’s pretty disparaging of him, calling him “the King’s Spider.” Creepy. In the meantime, Littlefinger is curious about Catelyn’s sudden appearance:
“A wife is allowed to yearn for her husband, and if a mother needs her daughters close, who can tell her no?”
Littlefinger laughed. “Oh, very good, my lady, but please don’t expect me to believe that. I know you too well. What were the Tully words again?”
Her throat was dry. “Family, Duty, Honor,” she recited stiffly. He did know her too well.
“Family, Duty, Honor,” he echoed. “All of which required you to remain in Winterfell, where our Hand left you. No, my lady, something has happened.”
This isn’t going well. Before Littlefinger can continue questioning her, though, Lord Varys enters the room. He doesn’t seem much like what I was expecting — when I hear “King’s Spider” and “Master of Whisperers” I think of a sinister bony dude, but this guy is “plump, perfumed, powdered,” hairless and his breath “smells of lilacs.” Freaky, but not exactly “spidery.”
Catelyn keeps insisting on the arachnid comparisons, though:
The title was but a courtesy due him as a council member; Varys was lord of nothing but the spiderweb, the master of none but his whisperers.
Great line. I’m just not catching this guy’s “super spy” vibes.
Varys giggled like a little girl.
. . . See what I mean?
Oh right, he’s a eunuch (as the book is REPEATEDLY INFORMING ME). He’s clearly got the spy chops, I’ll give him that, since he knows all about the dragonbone dagger Catelyn has been carrying with her — the assassin’s dagger. Catelyn jumps to the conclusion that Varys must’ve tortured Ser Rodrik for this information.
“I assure you, Lady Stark, nothing at all has been done to the good knight. He did call here early this afternoon. He visited with Ser Aron Santagar in the armory, and they talked of a certain dagger. About sunset, they left the castle together and walked to that dreadful hovel where you were staying. They are still there, drinking in the common room, waiting for your return. Ser Rodrik was very distressed to find you gone.”
Day-um, Catelyn’s seriously outmatched here. What, does Varys have hidden cameras in the tapestries or something?
All Varys says is he hears “the whispering of little birds.” First of all, that is even more vague and misleading than what Littlefinger said earlier. Second, I’m regretting reading this chapter at 11:00 p.m., because this is starting to creep me out.
Varys lifted [the dragonbone dagger] with exaggerated delicacy and ran a thumb along its edge. Blood welled, and he let out a squeal and dropped the dagger back on the table.
Ew, but hey, that lessened the creep-factor. Littlefinger inspects the dagger with much greater success, doing a nifty little spin with it.
“You want to find the owner, is that the reason for this visit? You have no need of Ser Aron for that, my lady. You should have come to me.”
“And if I had,” she said, “what would you have told me?”
“I would have told you that there was only one knife like this at King’s Landing . . . It’s mine.”
So, does that mean he–?
“[The dagger was mine] until the tourney on Prince Joffrey’s name day . . . I backed Ser Jaime in the jousting, along with half the court.” Petyr’s sheepish grin made him look half a boy again. “When Loras Tyrell unhorsed him, many of us became a trifle poorer. Ser Jaime lost a hundred golden dragons, the queen lost an emerald pendant, and I lost my knife. Her Grace got the emerald back, but the winner kept the rest.”
“Who?” Catelyn demanded, her mouth dry with fear. Her fingers ached with remembered pain.
“The Imp,” said Littlefinger as Lord Varys watched her face. “Tyrion Lannister.”
what wait no what
Tyrion sent the assassin after Bran?
Summary Time: Catelyn and Ser Rodrik sail to King’s Landing and arrange a meeting with Ser Aron Santagar, hoping to discover the identity of the owner of the dragonbone dagger — and thus, the identity of whoever sent the assassin after Bran. Catelyn is accosted and taken to Lord Petyr Baelish, called Littlefinger for some reason, who was once her childhood friend-turned-jealous lover. We then meet Lord Varys, the king’s spymaster, who proves to be rather useless, if creepy. Littlefinger recognizes the assassin’s dagger as his own, and reveals he lost it in a bet with Tyrion Lannister. Dun dun dun.
Really, I’m not quite buying the suggestion that Tyrion tried to have Bran assassinated. Not only does it sound out of character for him, but I have no idea how he could have orchestrated such a thing. And besides that, he doesn’t even know about Bran’s secret (although I remember he had his suspicions).
So, unless the very next chapter outright confirms that Tyrion’s responsable for the assassination, I’m calling bull. I think this little chapter stinger was just that: a stinger, there to put some oomph at the end of an otherwise simple chapter.
Not that this chapter was dull — clearly the plot has moved forward a step (even if the step is a feint), and I’ve been introduced to two new characters who I suspect will play important roles in the rest of the book.
I have little to say about Lord Varys — the dude’s just kind of fey and creepy — but Littlefinger is not what I was expecting. When I heard his backstory I just assumed he would present a temporary obstacle to Catelyn, but his actions during this chapter were all surprisingly affable and endearing. Plus the whole “it’s my dagger” twist forces him into the spotlight — either he’s telling the truth and will be an essential asset in stopping the Lannisters, or he’s lying, in which case he’s most likely behind the assassination (sounds unlikely to me, but I dunno.)
In addition to those, while Catelyn regards Littlefinger with repugnance, he clearly still has feelings for her. Ordinarily I might ignore this, since it’s just a character trait, but . . . well, keeping in mind that I know Eddard will die at some point in this series, I can’t help thinking maybe this is the early, early setup for a romance between Cate and Littlefinger?
Too early to tell — much too early to tell. Still, I wouldn’t even be considering this as a story avenue if I hadn’t been spoiled about Eddard’s death. So that’s kind of frustrating — I hate it when spoilers affect my first impression of a story like this.
See you later and thanks for reading.
See Ian’s interpretive illustrations of Captain Moreo, Littlefinger and Lord Varys here.