Stuart Reads A Game of Thrones – Chapter 16

Don't worry, I don't smoke soap bubbles in real life. That would be silly.

Chapter 16 – Eddard

Uh oh. We’re going to deal with Arya’s punishment right away, aren’t we? She must face repercussions for her attack on Prince Joffrey, and I’m guessing we’ll be getting Eddard’s part in her judgment.

[quote]”They’ve found her, my lord.”

Ned rose quickly. “Our men or Lannister’s?”

“It was Jory,” his steward Vayon Poole replied. “She’s not been harmed.”

“Thank the gods,” Ned said.[/quote]

Thank ’em indeed. This sounds just as bad as I anticipated in the last chapter.

[quote]His men had been searching for Arya for four days now, but the queen’s men had been out hunting as well.[/quote]

FOUR DAYS? Why the –? What?

[quote]”Where is she? Tell Jory to bring her here at once.”

“I’m sorry, my lord,” Poole told him. “The guards on the gate were Lannister men, and they informed the queen when Jory brought her in. She’s being taken directly before the king . . .”

Damn that woman!” Ned said, striding to the door.[/quote]

Damn her indeed. This is already getting tenser than I thought it would. But why was she missing for so long? She must’ve realized how much she’d screwed herself over and decided to hide. Poor Arya.

Apparently Mycah the butcher’s boy also disappeared, and hasn’t been found yet? Eddard’s expositional narration explains their caravan set up temporary residence in a small castle, the home of Ser Raymun Darry. I dunno how important he’ll be, but tensions are running high with him because his family supported Mad King Targaryen in the war. Just wonderful.

Eddard reaches the meeting room and embraces Arya, who’s crying and hungry but otherwise fine. I’m nervous how Ned glances around the packed room for friendly faces, but most of the crowd consists of Lannisters, and they’re looking murderous. In fact, his only real consolation is that the worst of the Lannisters — Sandor Clegane and Ser Jaime — are not there, since they’re still out hunting. Holy crap.

[quote]”Joff told us what happened,” the queen said. “You and the butcher boy beat him with clubs while you set your wolf on him.”

“That’s not how it was,” Arya said, close to tears again. Ned put a hand on her shoulder.

“Yes it is!” Prince Joffrey insisted. “They all attacked me, and she threw Lion’s Tooth in the river!” Ned noticed that he did not so much as glance at Arya as he spoke.[/quote]


King Robert shouts everyone down and asks Arya to tell her side of the story first, and while she’s doing so Sansa is brought into the room. I hope she supports Arya, I mean, why wouldn’t she? She saw the truth, and Joffrey made it plain to her at the end of the last chapter that he doesn’t care about her.

Ugh, Sansa kinda caves — she doesn’t pick a side — but at least she doesn’t support Joffrey. The king is satisfied enough, and merely tells Ned to punish Arya as he sees fit, which obviously relieves him. The queen is unhappy, but turns the discussion to the issue of Arya’s direwolf, insisting that it cannot be allowed to live. Fortunately, it’s nowhere to be found.

[quote]”We have a wolf,” Cersei Lannister said. Her voice was very quiet, but her green eyes shone with triumph.

It took them all a moment to comprehend her words, but when they did, the king shrugged irritably. “As you will. Have Ser Ilyn see to it.”[/quote]


[quote]That was when Sansa finally seemed to comprehend. Her eyes were frightened as they went to her father. “He doesn’t mean Lady, does he?” She saw the truth on his face.[/quote]

Oh. Oh. They’re gonna execute Sansa’s wolf in place of Arya’s.

[quote]Ned stood, gently disengaging himself from Sansa’s grasp. All the weariness of the past four days had returned to him. “Do it yourself then, Robert,” he said in a voice cold and sharp as steel. “At least have the courage to do it yourself.”

Robert looked at Ned with flat, dead eyes and left without a word, his footsteps heavy as lead.[/quote]

I’m kinda getting worked up right now. Feel like I want to punch something.

[quote]. . . Prince Joffrey was smiling.[/quote]

Like his face. Yeah, that would do it.

[quote]”Send for Ilyn Payne.”

“No,” Ned said. “Jory, take the girls back to their rooms and bring me Ice.” The words tasted of bile in his throat, but he forced them out. “If it must be done, I will do it.”[/quote]

Now I’m feeling a meaty fusion of swelling pride and crushing sadness. Just wonderful. You rock, Eddard.

[quote]”Lady,” he said, tasting the name. He had never paid much attention to the names the children had picked, but looking at her now, he knew that Sansa had chosen well. She was the smallest of the litter, the prettiest, the most gentle and trusting. She looked at him with bright golden eyes, and he ruffled her thick grey fur.

Shortly, Jory brought him Ice.[/quote]


Eddard sends four of his men back to Winterfell with Lady’s body to ensure she is properly buried, since the queen said she wanted to skin her and use her pelt as a rug.

[quote]As [Ned] was walking back to the tower to give himself up to sleep at last Sandor Clegane and his riders came pounding through the castle gate, back from their hunt.

There was something slung over the back of his destrier, a heavy shape wrapped in a bloody cloak. “No sign of your daughter, Hand,” the Hound rasped down, “but the day was not wholly wasted. We got her little pet.”[/quote]


[quote]Bending, Ned pulled back the cloak, dreading the words he would have to find for Arya, but it was not Nymeria after all. It was the butcher’s boy, Mycah, his body covered in dried blood. He had been cut almost in half from shoulder to wait by some terrible blow struck from above.[/quote]

. . . That’s still pretty sad and gut-wrenching, but I’m frankly relieved another direwolf wasn’t killed.

Nevertheess, it looks like another villain has had his Establishing Character Moment:

[quote]”You rode him down,” Ned said.

The Hound’s eyes seemed to glitter through the steel of that hideous dog’s-head helm. “He ran.” He looked at Ned’s face and laughed. “But not very fast.”[/quote]

What an absolutely irredeemable bastard.

Summary Time: Arya is found and escapes serious punishment, but Queen Cersei demands her direwolf Nymeria suffer as well. Because Nymeria is still missing, the queen suggests a compromise; the execution of the only other direwolf in the caravan, Lady, who belongs to Sansa. King Robert accedes to this out of apathy and irritation, proving his moral fortitude to be mud. Eddard decides to perform the execution himself and treat Lady’s corpse with respect, proving his moral fortitude to be kingly. Sandor Clegane, the Hound, returns with the butchered remains of Arya’s friend Mycah, proving his moral fortitude to be non-existent.

In an incomplete way I knew a direwolf would die. I didn’t know how or which one or whatever, but there are simply too many of them. I realized that when I first met them back in chapter one. As a writer you don’t introduce six children, give them pets, and then let all of those pets survive.

This doesn’t diminish my emotional reaction to Lady’s execution, of course — a doglike animal died, the death was written sad, and it was written well, therefore I’m sad. All of the extra details help: the dog was a pet, the pet was innocent and it’s demise was unwarranted, the pet belonged to a child, the child’s father insisted on being the executor, etc.

Sad, sad, sad.

While short, I think this chapter was very, very important, and I feel I’m ready to discuss this book’s theme.

That sounds . . . trite, I admit, but I’m just relaying my silly first impressions of this story. I can’t help it.

I’ve heard it said this series isn’t your typical Good VS Evil fantasy story, which I think may have been said by people who didn’t realize you can have a story of varying shades of morality while still keeping it a story of Good VS Evil. But whether or not that applies here, I hypothesize this book (and potentially the whole series, but no idea) has the main theme of Apathy VS Action. (Or “reaction,” as the case may be.)

The events of this chapter really pushed this forward for me: King Robert gives in to Queen Cersei’s unfair suggestion out of apathy, a most unbecoming trait in a judge, let alone a king. He has been spending his efforts on catching the last of the Targaryens instead of fixing the probems here in his kingdom first, but he wasn’t always this way — the war fifteen years before was launched by Robert and Eddard because they were fed up with Mad King Targaryen’s tyrannical ways, tired of wallowing in apathy, so they acted and took control. This explains Eddard’s extreme dislike of the Lannisters: rather than act and aid Robert or even Targaryen, they just waited at Casterly Rock in apathy.

Eddard also changed over time, though: when faced with Catelyn’s revelation that his mentor Jon Arryn was poisoned, he rebelled against her cries of reaction and insisted on keeping out of the situation, staying safe in Winterfell.

The stuff in Westeros seems to paint apathy as a villainous trait, but over in the Free Lands we find the contrast between Dany and her abusive, crazy brother Vissy, who demands action against Westeros but has no proper priorities or morals. Dany is apathetic to her brother’s desire for conquest, and while her situation is rather terrible, her wish for a simple, unchanging lifestyle is clearly meant as an ideal.

This is very interesting to me, and if I’m right about this I hope it’s explored more.

On another note, I’m officially a fan of G.R.R.M’s decision to spend each chapter from a different viewpoint and think his judgment so far has been quite sound. Last chapter could have been viewed from Arya’s perspective but then we would’ve lost the characterization of Lady and the foreboding introduction to Mr. Payne.

This chapter, in turn, could have been seen through either Arya or Sansa’s eyes and it might have flowed rather well. But the real issue in this chapter wasn’t Lady’s execution (heart-breaking though it may be): the real issue was King Robert’s failure to act kingly. This failure would not have been emphasized if it hadn’t been witnessed from Eddard’s perspective — they used to be best friends, and now Robert is changing before Ned’s very eyes, morally and physically falling to pieces. I would not have recognized this if this scene had been told from either of the Stark girls’ POV.

So . . . yeah, this chapter was pretty good. Sad, obviously, but incredibly powerful for me.

Thanks for reading and see you next time.


EDIT: See Ian’s drawing of Ser Jaime and Queen Cersei, his twin sister, here.


  1. Apathy vs Action is a great theme, I hope it plays out that way like you say. The consequences of either are so final, as this chapter illustrates, I hope it doesn’t waiver in that sometimes brutal fact. “with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand…” Ex 12.11b #noapathy

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