A Game of Thrones-Chapter 30
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After viewing the body of Ser Hugh, Ned and Ser Barristan struggle to convince King Robert not to compete in the melee. The Hound wins the tourney when he saves the life of the Knight of Flowers. Later in his solar, Ned is visited by Varys, who reveals that Jon Arryn was killed for asking questions.
Ned and Ser Barristan see that Ser Hugh is taken by the Silent Sisters. Barristan Selmy explains that he stood vigil for the fallen knight himself, as the boy had no one else except a mother far away in the Vale of Arryn. Ser Hugh had been Lord Jon Arryn’s squire for four years and had been knighted by King Robert Baratheon after Jon Arryn’s death. Ned wonders if the boy was killed on purpose by a bannerman of House Lannister to prevent Ned from interviewing him.
Ser Hugh’s armour is new, forged especially for the tourney, and is worth good money. Ser Barristan does not know if Ser Hugh had even finished paying the smith. Ned replies that the boy paid dearly, and orders the silent sisters to have it sent to the boy’s mother.
Ser Barristan continues to walk with Ned and informs him that King Robert intends to fight in the melee. Ned already knows. When Ser Barristan suggests that drunken words are often forgotten in the morning, Ned insists that Robert will remember.
As they approach the king’s pavilion, they hear Robert raging at his two squires. When they enter the tent, Robert complains that his squires cannot even put a man’s armour on him properly, but Ned tells him the boys are not at fault—Robert is too fat for his armour. Robert tells Ned in mock anger that he should not call his king fat, and then sends the two squires off to get a breastplate stretcher from Ser Aron Santagar. After the squires run out, Robert and Ser Barristan laugh and even Ned gives a smile at the thought of the boys asking for the non-existent device.
Ned asks if the two squires are from House Lannister. When the king admits they are, Ned notes to himself that there are too many Lannisters around the king. Putting the thought aside, Ned asks about the angry words between the king and his wife. Robert takes this opportunity to complain about Cersei’s audacity of telling him he should not participate in the melee, and how Lyanna Stark would not have done such a thing. Ned tells Robert he did not really know Lyanna, and that she would have told him he had no business fighting in the melee. This does not dissuade Robert, who insists that, unlike Ned, he still has juices running in his veins. When Ser Barristan speaks up to explain that no man would dare to strike the king during the melee, Robert is furious and sends Ser Barristan away, but orders Ned to stay and to drink.
Robert laments to Ned that he was never so alive when he was winning the throne nor so dead as after it was won. He then says that Ned or Jon Arryn should have been the king, but Ned reminds Robert that he had the best claim. The king goes on to tell that he had not wanted to marry after Lyanna’s death and that it was Jon Arryn who recommended the marriage to Cersei Lannister. While he does admit that Cersei is beautiful to look at, Robert insists that she is cold and that thinks that Jon Arryn was a fool for recommending the marriage; Robert only agreed to it so he'd have the wealth and might of Cersei's father on his side should Viserys Targaryen ever return to claim the throne.
Robert also apologizes to Ned for the death of Sansa’s direwolf, Lady, admitting that he is sure Joffrey lied regarding the incident with Arya. He continues that he has dreamed of giving up the crown and taking up the life of a sellsword in the Free Cities, but that the thought of Joffrey on the throne with Cersei whispering in his ear stops him. Then Robert asks Ned how he could have made a son like Joffrey. Ned responds hollowly that Joffrey is only a boy and that Jon Arryn often despaired of Robert himself when he was a child.
When Robert admits this to be true and claims that he turned into a good king, Ned does not respond. Robert notes the lack of response, and tells Ned he could at least say he is a better king than Aerys II. Ned admits the truth in that. Robert insists that he and Ned still have many years to set things right and make a good ruler out of him.
Robert then changes the subject, asking who Ned believes will win the joust. Robert comments that the Knight of Flowers is a son to be proud of and regales Ned with the story of when the young knight unhorsed the Kingslayer in a previous tourney. Then the king mentions that Renly has told him about the Knight of Flowers’ lovely, fourteen year old sister Margaery.
During breakfast, Robert talks with Ned about when they were boys. The stories bring a smile to Ned, who realizes that he is speaking to the Robert he grew up with and that if he can prove the Lannisters to be behind Bran’s fall and Jon Arryn’s death, this man will listen. This would bring the downfall of Cersei and Jaime, and Lord Tywin Lannister would not have the power to confront them. These thoughts even make the breakfast taste better and Ned feels better than he has in a long time.
Ned arrives at the tourney and sits by his daughter Sansa. In the first joust, Littlefinger bets against the Hound, stating that a dog will not bite the hand that feeds it. He loses the bet when the Hound defeats Ser Jaime on the second pass after almost losing in the first. Sansa tells Ned that she knew the Hound would win, and Littlefinger, who overhears, asks her to tell him who will win the second match.
By the time they lead Ser Jaime—who can no longer see through his mangled helm—off the field, Ser Gregor Clegane is in position. He is the biggest man Ned has ever seen, even dwarfing Hodor. Ned recalls Gregor as a man of ominous reputation; supposedly he dashed in the skull of the infant Aegon Targaryen and boasted that he raped and murdered the mother Elia Martell afterwards. There are also rumours of queer circumstances surrounding the deaths of two wives, his sister, his father, and the burning of his brother’s face.
Clegane’s opponent is the slim and elegantly armoured Knight of Flowers, Ser Loras Tyrell, who wears a cape of woven flowers. After comparing Ser Loras and his opponent, Sansa asks her father to ensure that Ser Loras is not hurt. Ned assures her that the lances are designed to break to prevent injury to the riders, but cannot help but think back to the death of Ser Hugh.
Ser Gregor is having tremendous difficulty controlling his mount, while Loras is demonstrating his skill at horsemanship. When the pass begins, Clegane’s mount breaks into a hard gallop immediately, while Ser Loras’ mare charges smoothly. They meet while Gregor is still struggling with his mount, shield, and lance. Ser Loras' lance strikes Gregor perfectly, sending him down with his mount. When Ser Loras raises his visor in victory, the crowd cheers.
Gregor gets up in a rage, demands his sword, and nearly beheads his horse with a single blow. He then strides toward Ser Loras and sends the Knight of Flowers to the ground with his first blow. He is about to deliver the killing blow when the Hound intercedes. Gregor sends multiple sword blows toward the Hound’s head, but the Hound stops each one, remaining on the defensive. The Hound drops to his knee when he hears the King’s voice over the crowd. The blow from Gregor passes through air, and finally Gregor comes to his senses, drops his sword, glares at King Robert, and storms off. Ser Loras walks back onto the field and proclaims that he owes the Hound his life, and declares the Hound champion in his place, so there is no final joust. The crowd cheers for the Hound for the first time in his life.
As Sansa and Ned head towards the archery field, Littlefinger, Renly and others fall in with them. Littlefinger states that Ser Loras had to know his mare was in heat and that such a thing would disrupt Ser Gregor’s charge. A boy named Anguy wins the archery event, and Ned sends his man Alyn to offer him a position in the Hand’s guard, but the boy refuses. Thoros of Myr, who fights with a flaming sword, wins the melee that starts with nearly 40 men and lasting three hours. When the list of injuries is reported, Ned is pleased that Robert did not take part.
That night at the feast, Ned is more hopeful than he has been in a long while. Robert is in a good humor, the Lannisters are nowhere in sight, and even his daughters are behaving. Sansa speaks to Arya pleasantly, telling her that the tourney was wonderful and that she should have been there. Then Sansa asks how Arya’s dancing has gone, and Arya happily tells her she is sore all over and shows her a nasty bruise on her leg. Sansa states that Arya must be a terrible dancer.
Later, while Sansa is busy, Ned examines Arya’s bruise himself while she stands on one leg, at which he notes she has improved. He asks if Syrio Forel is being too hard on her, and she replies that Syrio says heavy hurt is a lesson and every lesson makes you better. Ned is concerned, even though Syrio came with an excellent reputation, and the Braavosi-style suits Arya’s slim blade. Ned recalls finding Arya wandering the castle with a black cloth over her eyes (Syrio was teaching he to see with her ears, nose and skin), and he has been having her do spins and back-flips.
Ned offers to have Jory Cassel, or perhaps someone else, take over her lessons but Arya emphatically insists she wants Syrio. Ned knows that any decent master-at-arms could give Arya the basics of sword fighting without the blindfolds, cartwheels, and hopping around on one leg, but he also knows there is no use arguing with Arya.
Ned returns to his solar, thinking of what he has learned. He takes out the dagger and wonders why Tyrion Lannister, or anyone else, would want Bran dead. He is sure that Bran’s fall is linked somehow to the death of Jon Arryn, but the truth eludes him. Jory is still in the process of searching the whorehouses and Ned is sure Gendry is a bastard son of Robert. There is also Edric Storm, a bastard Robert fathered on Stannis Baratheon’s wedding night and was forced to recognize because his mother was highborn. He remembers Robert’s first child when Robert was still a boy. Yet none of Robert’s bastards can threaten Robert’s trueborn children, since bastards have few inheritance rights.
A knock at the door brings a stranger, who turns out to be Varys in disguise. Ned is amazed; he has never seen Varys wear anything but silk, velvet, and perfume yet now the eunuch wears coarse-spun clothes and mud-caked boots and smells of sweat. Ned exclaims that he would never have recognized Varys. The eunuch says is good because he would rather the queen’s spies not know about their meeting either.
Varys reveals to Ned that the Lannisters had hoped to kill Robert during the melee. When Ned asks why Cersei would forbid Robert to compete if she planned to have him killed, Varys points out that the surest way to make Robert compete would be to forbid it. Ned is furious that Varys did not tell him, but soon admits that he would have gone straight to Robert, who would have fought to show his enemies he did not fear them.
Varys explains to Ned that there are two sorts of people in the Red Keep: those loyal to the realm and those loyal to only to themselves. Varys says that he now knows Ned to be loyal to the realm because he dissuaded the king from entering the melee. Varys also reveals that Cersei fears Ned because Robert will never harm him, not even at her command, whereas Robert would execute Varys in a twinkling at queen’s request since the king has little love for sneaks, spies, and eunuchs.
Ned argues that Robert must have other friends and that his brothers are surely loyal. Varys replies that, while Robert’s brothers do hate the Lannisters, hating the queen and loving the king are not quite the same thing. Varys goes on to say that Ser Barristan loves his honor, Grand Maester Pycelle loves his office, and Littlefinger loves Littlefinger. Varys adds that the Kingsguard are a paper shield: Ser Boros and Ser Meryn are the Queen’s men, Ser Barristan is old, and that he is suspicious of the others. Ned insists that they must tell Robert, but Varys reminds him that without proof, they will only lose. Ned insists that the plotters will only try again, and Varys agrees, stating that together they might be able to stop them.
As he rises to leave, Varys tells Ned to be sure to continue treating him with his accustomed contempt. As Varys reaches the door, Ned asks how Jon Arryn died. Varys tells him that the Tears of Lys—a rare, costly, and deadly poison—was used. Varys goes on to say that he recommended Lord Arryn use a taster, but Lord Arryn refused. When Ned asks who administered the poison, Varys claims that it was probably his squire, Ser Hugh, who now lies dead. After Lysa left for the Eyrie, Hugh remained, and had the money to buy new armor.
As a final question, Ned asks Varys what Jon Arryn had been doing that lead to his murder. Varys replies, "Asking questions."
References and Notes
- The synopsis was copied from AOL member vbkorik27 previously at .