Monday, March 31, 2014

[Re-read] Catelyn V: Rain & Ruins (Cont'd)

Time to read the rest of this chapter! So far, we've mostly stayed inside Catelyn's head with the occasional dialogue between her and some of the other high-ranking characters following Robb Stark north - but both weather and characters are a bit on the gloomy side, which gives the chapter a somber touch. All lost now, Catelyn reflects - not for the first time, Winterfell and Ned, Bran and Rickon, Sansa, Arya, all gone. Only Robb remains. Depressing stuff, and to think - as was pointed out in the comments in the previous post, how Theon Greyjoy's lie affects the story in many ways! I have a suspicion the Old Gods aren't too happy with how Greyjoy effectively helped bring ruin to House Stark (whether that was his intention or no) - and I suspect we'll see how it plays out in The Winds of Winter. But that's still many years ahead! 

Lord Jason Mallister catches up with the host somewhere in the bogs of Hag's Mire - a location only mentioned in passing, but it sounds interesting enough. Robb calls a halt, and in the evening she finds her son inside the king's tent, looking at a map, Grey Wind sleeping at his feet. The Greatjon's there, Galbart Glover, Maege Mormont, her brother Edmure Tully, and a man Catelyn doesn't recognize, a balding fellow. Lord Jason Mallister offers Catelyn his seat; she notes that the Lord of Seagard is still a handsome man. He tells her he has good news. Good news in Westeros? This is a trick. The way the next sentence follows up Jason's announcement of good news is kind of funny; Catelyn sits down to listen to the rain pattering against the tent canvas. I can totally see her mouthing la-la-la and not being interested in the news. Just an unlucky juxtaposition. 

Anyhow, Lord Jason has brought a sea captain with him, the captain of a vessel named the Myraham ("ham from Myr"?) and that is the same guy who brought Theon to Pyke back in A Clash of Kings. The one with the frivolous daughter with high hopes. The news, then, is that Balon Greyjoy is dead. Catelyn is surprised and when her heart skips a beat, you know she's paying attention with more enthusiasm than she has mustered for anything so far in the chapter. The captain explains that Balon apparently was blown of a bridge between the islands of Pyke, and that he washed up two days later, bloated and broken. It wouldn't have been Martin if he didn't want to add the detail that the crabs had eaten Balon's eyes. You know, just in case you couldn't picture it well enough on your own. 

Next part of the news - and now I'm doubting the goodness of the news - is that Balon's brother, Euron Crow's Eye has returned. Now that I re-read it, I see the obvious link: Balon dies as Euron returns. Back in the day? No idea. Probably had enough to wrap my head around the fact that now there was another character from the Iron Islands to keep track of. Apparently Euron has been "to Asshai and back" (which might be where he procured a certain horn); Euron has gone and sat down in the Seastone Chair, drowning Lord Botley in the process, for objecting to this. That's when the captain saw an opportunity to get the hell out of that crazy society - to Seagard, I suppose, where he could tell Lord Jason Mallister.

When the captain's escorted outside, Robb explains that Theon has talked about this Euron, and that he apparently is a bad guy of sorts (well, that's how I read "Euron Greyjoy is no man's notion of a king" anyway) - and so more complications arise: Theon is the rightful heir to the Iron Islands if he still lives; Victarion Greyjoy, another of Theon's uncles, controls the Greyjoy fleet. Galbart Glover reminds Robb there's a daughter as well (Asha), who holds Deepwood Motte and family of Galbart. Robb asks Lord Jason to sail two longships around the Cape of Eagles and up the Neck to Greywatcher Watch (as I suspected but had forgotten); Lord Jason hesitates, saying that it's dangerous to go there with ships, and that Greywater Watch actually moves around, making it hard to find. Howland's Moving Castle anyone? Robb tells him that the crannogmen will find him; he needs to deliver a message to Howland Reed, and so he orders Galbart Glover and Maege Mormont to board these ships and bring Reed whatever it is he thinks Reed needs to get from him (the text does not make it clear - I am confident it is the document naming Jon Snow his heir, though, since it was brought up earlier in the same chapter). 

We are reminded again how Moat Cailin is the key, and that is why Balon sent his brother Victarion there to secure it. With Cailin in their hands, the Greyjoys control all passage between north and south. What an irritating castle that is. However, Robb also suspects that Victarion will want to return to the Iron Islands to discuss Euron's usurpation of the Seastone Chair, and leave Cailin with less men. Galbart Glover protests, saying that to attack up the causeway is too narrow. However, Robb has a plan which involves not attacking from the south, but from the north and west simultaneously. With Bolton and Frey back at his side, he will have no less than 12 000 men which really should be enough to chase a few crabs off. He'll put up a ruse: send some men up the causeway to take the Greyjoys' attention away from the other sides of the castle. I'm not sure I quite understand it all; I thought you couldn't reach Moat Cailin from the west or east, but there you go. Oh, Edmure shares my concern: "You talk of attacking the ironmen in the rear, sire, but how do you mean to get north of them?" 
(The word sire just leaped off the page here; it isn't used that much in the series, is it? Still, shows Edmure accepts Robb's command.)

Robb explains that there are ways through the Neck that aren't on any maps (then why have you been looking at your maps all chapter long silly boy!). Feels a bit like a plot convenience that it comes up now, but maybe it has been mentioned before and I have already forgotten it (again) - there must be an 11th re-read. Until I know everything (unlike poor Jon Snow). So Robb needs Howland Reed to guide his men through the Neck, then, because the crannogmen know the ways. He is going for a guerrilla type war, our Robb. The Greatjon likes the plan a lot. Glover remains adamant. 

Robb tells Catelyn that he wants her to stay safe, and Lord Jason Mallister has offered to keep her under his protection at Seagard until the war is done. Catelyn wonders if this is punishment for being such a nag about everything, but this is more likely your common "women don't belong on a battlefield" thinking of the Middle Ages. She'd rather want to return to Riverrun, but Robb won't have it, because he already has a treasure there - his wife. He wants to deploy his mother elsewhere, to lessen the risk of losing too many at once (how ironic is that, considering the upcoming events). Robb then makes every man present sign his document, but we are never told if he indeed ended up naming Jon Snow his heir. Did he listen to his mother in the end? This is one of the story's details that I really want an answer to, soonish! 

Catelyn can't help but be impressed, though; not only has Robb concocted a clever (if somewhat deus ex mechanical) trap for the Ironborn at Moat Cailin, he has trapped her as well. He really is a king now, and in many ways like his father, Lord Eddard Stark. 

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