A Game of Thrones-Chapter 58
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After many days in a black cell, Eddard Stark is visited by Varys who gives him news. He tells him that the queen will visit the next day and it would be wise he tells her that he will admit to treason, tell his son to lay down his sword and denounce Stannis and Renly. When Eddard states his life is not worth that much, Varys tells him that Cersei has his daughter, and Sansa’s life is at stake.
The cell that Eddard Stark has been imprisoned in contains nothing but straw on the floor that stinks of urine, and no window. The dark is absolute. The cell is deeper than Eddard could imagine. He remembers the story about Maegor the Cruel murdering the masons to keep the secrets. He remembers Cersei’s words “When you play the game of thrones you win or you die,” and he had played and lost. Eddard thinks back to Robert Baratheon’s words “The king east and the hand takes the shit,” and thinks “The king dies, and the Hand is buried.” As his burning leg throbs he damns them all, but can only blame himself; he was a fool. To keep himself sane he thinks that maybe the Baratheon brothers are raising armies and Catelyn is raising the banners in the north and the Vale would join her. However there are the nightmares with the accusations. In his dream Robert asks ”Gods, how we come to this? You here and me killed by a pig…” Eddard thinks how he had failed Robert by hiding the truth and letting them kill him.
Finally, when he is half asleep, a gaoler arrives with water, which he drinks eagerly. He asks the gaoler about what is happening, but he will give him no information. Time goes on, and eventually he remembers when he was 18 at the Tourney at Harrenhal, when Rhaegar won the tourney. Ned remembers ‘the moment when all the smiles died’, as Rhaegar rode past his own wife and bestowed the queen of beauty’s laurel on Lyanna. It was a crown of winter roses. When Eddard grasps the laurel there are thorns underneath, and blood trickles down his fingers. Then it is the promise to Lyanna again.
The gaoler continues to come with a jug of water, and eventually Eddard no longer asks questions. Eddard is sure that the queen will not kill him as long as Catelyn held the Imp.
A new gaoler arrives with wine, but no food. The voice that tells him to drink is familiar; it is Varys in an effective disguise. Varys tells him that his younger daughter escaped (which is for the best since Joffrey has no love for her), and queen keeps Sansa close and she is still betrothed to Joffery. She had pleaded for his life in court a few days previous. When Eddard tells Varys that the queen will not kill him because Catelyn holds her brother, Varys replies it is the wrong brother. Besides,she let him escape and is probably now dead in the Mountains of the Moon. When Eddard accuses him of standing by while his guards were slaughtered, Varys states he was unarmored and unarmed. Varys continues by telling him that he plays his part: a courageous informer would be as useless as a cowardly knight. Eddard asks if Varys will free him from this pit, and is told that he could but he would be the prime suspect. When asked if he would deliver a message, he says he will read it and then decide if it serves his purpose, and when asked his purpose he states it is peace. Varys tells Eddard that he wanted to keep Robert alive and protected him from his enemies for 15 years, but could not protect him from his friends. Then Varys asks what madness led him to tell the queen he knew the truth of Joffrey’s birth. Eddard tells him that it was mercey, and Varys says he forgets that there are honest and honorable men—this is the result honesty and honor.
Eddard then asks if Varys questioned Lancel Lannister about the wine, he tells him that the queen gave him the wineskins, telling him that it was the king’ favorite vintage. In any case, if it had not been the boar, it would have been something else since the king unruly, and she needed to be rid of him to deal with his brothers: the iron gauntlet and the silk glove. Eddard should have taken Littlefinger’s advice and supported Joffrey—Eddard is shocked that Varys knows this.
Varys then tells Eddard that the queen will visit him tomorrow: she is frightened of you, but she fears other enemies more: Jaime Lannister fights the river lords, Lysa loves not the queen, the Martells lust for vengeance for the murdered Elia and her babes, and Robb Stark marches down the neck. Robb may only be a boy, but he is a boy with an army. Then there is Stannis who has a true claim to the throne and is without mercy There is nothing as terrifying as a truly just man; while her father battles the Starks and their allies, Stannis will descend on King's Landing, kill her and her children and proclaim himself king.
Cersei knows that that “a tame wolf is more use than a dead one,” but telling her that Stannis is the true heir will only lose him his head. Eddard asks if he is expected to serve a woman that killed his king and crippled his son. The reply is that Varys expects him to do his duty: tell the queen you will admit your treason, tell your son to lay down his sword, denounce Stannis and Renly and carry her secret to the grave. Cersei knows you are a man of honor and will let you take the black. Eddard accuses Varys of being Littlefinger’s man, but he denies it, saying Littlefinger is the second most devious man in the kingdom. He only feeds him choice whispers so he thinks Varys is his, just like the queen. Eddard continues that it was just like him, and asks who he truly serves. Varys replies that he serves the realm, and the realm needs peace.
When Varys asks what his answer would be he says his life is not worth that much Varys brings up his Eddard’s daughter, telling Eddard that the neither he nor queen forgotten about her. Varys notes that Queen Rhaenys Targaryen was a child also when the Lannisters broke down her door. As he leaves he tells Eddard that the next visitor can bring either some bread, cheese and Milk of the Poppy or the Sansa’s head.