Jaime Lannister: A Knight of the Kingsguard

Jaime Lannister by Breogan

As discussed in Radio Westeros Episode 12

Artwork courtesy of Breogan

When Jaime Lannister arrives at Winterfell in Robert’s party, Ned recognizes him as the group arrives, but it is through Jon Snow’s eyes that we get our first description:

Ser Jaime Lannister was twin to Queen Cersei; tall and golden, with flashing green eyes and a smile that cut like a knife. He wore crimson silk, high black boots, a black satin cloak. On the breast of his tunic, the lion of his House was embroidered in gold thread, roaring its defiance. They called him the Lion of Lannister to his face and whispered “Kingslayer” behind his back. Jon found it hard to look away from him. This is what a king should look like, he thought to himself as the man passed.

The visual of the defiant lion on his breast turns out to be extremely apt for Jaime. His pride doesn’t allow him to justify the act that earned him the epithet of “Kingslayer,” and his defiance in the face of judgment is made plain later in ASoS when he relates the story of Aerys’s death and Ned Stark‘s discovery of him sitting on the Iron Throne to Brienne, ending with “By what right does the wolf judge the lion?” Here we see clearly the inner conflict that has been only hinted at and really defines his character.

If Jaime is first identified in Jon’s point of view as “the Kingslayer,” then it is from Bran that we learn a bit more about him:

Ser Jaime Lannister looked more like the knights in the stories, and he was of the Kingsguard too, but Robb said he had killed the old mad king and shouldn’t count anymore.

When Bran Stark chances upon Jaime’s assignation with his sister Cersei in a deserted tower at Winterfell, we see a man who is willing to do anything to hide his incestuous, adulterous relationship with the Queen

“The man looked over at the woman. ‘The things I do for love,’ he said with loathing. He gave Bran a shove.”

We have been set up to despise this character who slayed a king and crippled a little boy. As the story of Jaime Lannister unfolds, we get a picture of a man who is “‘restless, and quick to anger,’” as the Blackfish tells Robb, and who, in the words of Ned Stark, “swore a vow to protect his king’s life with his own, [and] then . . . opened that king’s throat with a sword.” Ser Barristan Selmy, in Bran Stark’s estimation “the greatest living knight,” calls Jaime “the false knight who profaned his blade with the blood of the king he had sworn to defend.” Combined with the ambush of Ned’s party in King’s Landing and Ned’s bitter memory of “Jaime Lannister’s smile, and Jory dead in his arms[,]” by the end of ACoK we have little reason to find any redeeming qualities in the man and can be forgiven for agreeing with Cat when she thinks:

“There is nothing here but arrogance and pride, and the empty courage of a madman. I am wasting my breath with this one. If there was ever a spark of honor in him, it is long dead.

But there are a couple of small hints that his character might be more thana soiled knight and kingslayer who is willing to kill children to keep his incestuous relationship with his sister secret.

The first hint we get is from Tyrion, who thinks:

There was very little that Jaime took seriously. Tyrion knew that about his brother, and forgave it. During all the terrible long years of his childhood, only Jaime had ever shown him the smallest measure of affection or respect, and for that Tyrion was willing to forgive him most anything.

And then from the story about the deaths of Rickard and Brandon Stark that he tells Catelyn when he is in captivity at Riverrun in her final chapter in ACoK, we get one of the first hints that there may have been extenuating circumstances in the death of Aerys Targaryen. While Jaime is quick to deny that vengeance for the Starks had anything to do with his murder of the king, Martin has sown the seeds of doubt in our minds.

In that scene, when Catelyn accuses him of forsaking “every vow [he] ever swore,” we get this interesting rejoinder from Jaime:

So many vows . . . they make you swear and swear. Defend the king. Obey the king. Keep his secrets. Do his bidding. Your life for his. But obey your father. Love your sister. Protect the innocent. Defend the weak. Respect the gods. Obey the laws. It’s too much. No matter what you do, you’re forsaking one vow or the other.

Jaime’s defiance in the face of judgment seems to define him, right up to his meeting with Catelyn. He isn’t bothered to defend his honor by explaining his point of view even in the face of accusations of trying to kill a child. In fact, he may really believe that he has “shit for honor.”

At the same time, the small amount of trust that Catelyn has placed in him for the return of her daughters, and his journey through the Riverlands with Brienne have the effect of reminding him what honor can be, of his early ideals and, as we’ll see, may even inspire a faint hope of redemption.

It’s important to note here that Jaime realizes full well that Cat’s trust is more in Tyrion, as he thinks: “A strange woman, to trust her girls to a man with shit for honor. Though she was trusting him as little as she dared. She is putting her hope in Tyrion, not in me.”  And of course, Cat has little enough reason to trust either of the Lannister brothers at this point in the story. But in spite of her disdain for this man who tried to take her child’s life and her clear understanding of the consequences of freeing him, Cat decides to send him to Tyrion in exchange for her daughters.

We learn in his first point-of-view chapter in ASoS that this decision involved a lot of vowing. In spite of his admitted conflicts with vows, Cat has decided to put her faith in Jaime’s vows made at swordpoint:

Swear that you will never again take up arms against Stark nor Tully. Swear that you will compel your brother to honor his pledge to return my daughters safe and unharmed. Swear on your honor as a knight, on your honor as a Lannister, on your honor as a Sworn Brother of the Kingsguard. Swear it by your sister’s life, and your father’s, and your son’s, by the old gods and the new, and I’ll send you back to your sister. Refuse, and I will have your blood.

As he is traveling the Riverlands with Brienne, who despises him for his crimes, we learn a few things about Jaime. When she asks, “Why did you take the oath? . . . Why don the white cloak if you meant to betray all it stood for?” his glib answer about his youth, meant as a shield to his true reasons, fails to satisfy her. But in his internal monologue he recalls the scheme by his sister that led to his investiture into the Kingsguard, Tywin’s resignation as Hand, and Cersei’s return to Casterly Rock. Jaime, it turns out, was taken in by that same villain that will snare Robb Stark— a teenage boy’s libido.

We also learn from that exchange with Brienne that he is fiercely proud of his knighthood, and how he earned it, telling her:

I earned [emphasis mine] my knighthood. Nothing was given to me. I won a tourney mêlée at thirteen, when I was yet a squire. At fifteen, I rode with Ser Arthur Dayne against the Kingswood Brotherhood, and he knighted me on the battlefield. It was that white cloak that soiled me, not the other way around [emphasis mine].

We learn later that Jaime had quickly realized why he had been chosen for the Kingsguard. The journey through the Riverlands provokes many memories of the year of the False Spring, and he thinks:

“Aerys had chosen him to spite his father, to rob Lord Tywin of his heir. Even now, all these years later, the thought was bitter.”

He was resentful of his position right from the start, and as he tells Brienne, “Aerys liked to keep me close. I was my father’s son, so he did not trust me.” So it seems that not only was he judged untrustworthy, but also that he was denied the opportunity to be a true knight and restricted mainly to being a glorified bodyguard for the royal family. Which, for a young man who had dreamed of the glories of knighthood, might be enough reason to be resentful. As we’ll see, there is more than restriction in play with his service to Aerys, when the conflicting vows he alluded to with Catelyn become a driving force in his arc.

Jaime told Cat, “So many vows . . . they make you swear and swear[,]and then went on to sum up both his kingsguard vows and his knightly vows, ending with “No matter what you do, you’re forsaking one vow or the other.” We have a sense by now that there was some service required of him as a Kingsguard that was in conflict with his knightly vows, and, furthermore, that he is angry about it.

When we discover the full story, it becomes obvious that “Protect the innocent. Defend the weak. Respect the gods. Obey the laws” may have been all but impossible whilst doing the bidding of the mad king. Not only did the king want to burn thousands of innocents in King’s Landing as the rebellion bore down upon him, but we also learn in bits and pieces about other, smaller things that would have been conflicting to support, like Aerys murdering the Starks and their bannermen, burning Lord Chelsted, raping his own wife, and refusing to let his daughter-in-law and grandchildren seek safety with Rhaella and Viserys.

Jaime recalls Gerold Hightower telling him, “You swore a vow to guard the king, not to judge him.” But all told, turning a blind eye may have become commonplace during the months Jaime stood guard for Aerys, and for someone who was arguably an idealistic young knight it is perhaps no wonder that he reached a breaking point in which he chose his knightly vows over the Kingsguard vow.

By the time of his journey with Brienne, however, he has a somewhat jaded view of knights. When they come across an oak tree full of dead women, the idealistic Brienne says, “No true knight would condone such wanton butchery.” Jaime’s reply, True knights see worse every time they ride to war, wench . . . . And do worse, yes[,]” is highly reminiscent of Sandor Clegane’s comment to the Brotherhood without Banners: “Might be you are knights after all. You lie like knights, maybe you murder like knights.”

This is an interesting parallel if you consider that the only two people named as “false knights” in the series are Jaime Lannister and Sandor’s brother, Gregor Clegane, the implication being that these men have so badly broken their vows that they are beyond the redemption that even “true knights” may seek. Ironically, the two characters most often seen in contrast to Jaime and Gregor are Brienne and Sandor, neither of whom are knights, but both of whom show some of the qualities a “true knight” is expected to have. In contrast to Ser Gregor, though, Jaime embarks on a redemption arc early on in ASoS.

We get a first hint of a redemptive story just before he and Brienne are taken by the Brave Companions, when Jaime thinks:

[He] had decided that he would return Sansa, and the younger girl as well if she could be found. It was not like to win him back his lost honor, but the notion of keeping faith when they all expected betrayal amused him more than he could say.

The arc accelerates with the loss of his hand, the “sapphires” incident, in which he cleverly helps Brienne avoid rape, and his rescue of Brienne from the bear pit. All of these really demarcate his journey from false knight to redeemed soul.

Up to the point where he loses his hand to the Brave Companions, Jaime has maintained his usual defiance and bravado, offering bribes to the sellswords just moments before the amputation. This doesn’t get him far, as Urswyck tells him, “I have heard enough, Kingslayer. I would have to be a great fool indeed to believe the promises of an oathbreaker like you[,]” which provokes a chill of fear in Jaime and some familiar resentment as well — “Aerys . . .. It always turns on Aerys.

With the loss of his hand, Jaime experiences more than a little bit of despair, his certainties all swept away, and even at one point telling Brienne that he’s dying. Remember his views on “cripples” that he expressed when Bran Stark lay paralyzed:

“Even if the boy does live, he will be a cripple. Worse than a cripple. A grotesque. Give me a good clean death.”

Though this didn’t exactly sit well with Tyrion, it goes a long way towards explaining Jaime’s despair when he finds himself to be a self-described cripple. When he tells Brienne he’s giving up, she goads him with the reply “Are you so craven?” Jaime thinks of all the things men have called him— oathbreaker, liar, murderer, cruel, treacherous, reckless— but never craven. It’s almost like she has laid down the gauntlet of identity crisis there, but still his reply to her is only “What else can I do but die?”

Brienne tells him to live— live to fight and take revenge, and he takes the challenge to heart, thinking not long after:

Live . . . live for Cersei, live for Tyrion. Live for vengeance. A Lannister always pays his debts. . . . When I reach King’s Landing I’ll have a new hand forged, a golden hand, and one day I’ll use it to rip out Vargo Hoat’s throat.

But this is really only the beginning for Jaime, since the loss of his right hand is so shattering to his identity. The loss of his sword hand leads him to think:

. . . without it he was nothing. The other was no good to him. Since the time he could walk, his left arm had been his shield arm, no more. It was his right hand that made him a knight; his right arm that made him a man.

But the poetic justice of the loss isn’t lost on him. As he tells Brienne, “I’ve lost the hand I killed the king with. The hand that flung the Stark boy from that tower. The hand I’d slide between my sister’s thighs to make her wet.” His identity crisis is spelled right out for us in his point of view when he thinks, “The goat had robbed him of his glory and his shame, both at once. Leaving what? Who am I now?

The scene in the Harrenhal bathhouse, where he opens up to Brienne about the real reason he killed Aerys Targaryen, begins to answer that question and makes the reader sit up and take notice that this man might not be only a vicious and self-interested killer. In this instance at least, he just might be an unsung hero.

During this part of Jaime’s arc he has become progressively more and more filthy. Described as unwashed, unshaven and “wasted” after his imprisonment at Riverrun, Jaime shaves his head after they leave. But after their capture by the Mummers, he becomes positively filthy, described as having vomited on and soiled himself, coated in grime, blood and pus, and wearing his rotting hand around his throat.

This could be seen as a statement on the iconic “soiled knight.” Not only is Jaime literally filthy and soiled, but he is also wearing the symbol of his shame around his neck— a grim, rotting reminder for all the world to see. In the bathhouse at Harrenhal, he appears as Brienne is in the bath and climbs in with her in a way that seems designed to disquiet her. As he sits there and begins to wash, “the water darken[s] as the caked dirt dissolve[s] off his skin.” Jaime is cleansing himself for the first time in months, and he and Brienne begin to exchange their typical barbed comments. But as the dirt dissolves, Jaime finds himself telling Brienne exactly what happened that day in King’s Landing, with Ned Stark bearing down upon the city and his own father at the gates. Finally both Brienne and the reader learn what has been behind all of his cryptic comments about the murder of Aerys and his conflicting vows. At the end, in the face of Brienne’s disbelief at the ending of his story (“If this is true, how is it no one knows?”), he replies, “The knights of the Kingsguard are sworn to keep the king’s secrets. Would you have me break my oath?” This statement emphasizes the dilemma he faced in King’s Landing. On the other hand, his symbolic cleansing of his shame by finally confessing the truth of it to another human being — significantly, Brienne —  is the reason the bathhouse is the perfect place for Jaime to earn some redemption, both from the reader and Brienne. George has washed away some of that grime from a knight who has been portrayed as soiled since early in the story.

However, as shown by his “By what right does the wolf judge the lion?” comment to Brienne his inner rage at being judged is profound. By the time he reaches King’s Landing with Brienne, we see that it hasn’t fully abated. When Loras Tyrell demands that Brienne be held accountable for the death of Renly Baratheon and threatens her with his naked blade, Jaime orders her to be held in a tower room for her own safety. But “Brienne’s big blue eyes [are] full of hurt”  as she is led away, and he thinks to himself “Why must they misunderstand every bloody thing he did [emphasis mine]?” This really underlines his continued frustration with this theme, which has plagued him since Aerys chose him for the Kingsguard.

In his anger at remembering Ned Stark’s judgment, Jaime suffers an awkward fall in the bath. Brienne catches him, causing him to think of her as “[g]entler than Cersei.” He hears her shouting to the guards for the help, calling out “The Kingslayer!” In a moment that highlights the theme of names that follows both Jaime and Brienne, he says to her:

“Jaime . . . my name is Jaime.

Later when they dine with Roose Bolton, they are brought up to date on what has been happening with the Starks, Freys and Lannisters while they’ve been traveling. Roose speaks cryptically about the prospects of King Robb, telling them about the Karstarks, Duskendale and the upcoming wedding at the Twins. The overall tone is quite menacing, though the result of the interview with Roose is an agreement that Jaime will absolve him of any responsibility for his maiming. Brienne is informed that Arya Stark is in custody and will be “returned . . . to the north[,]” while Sansa has been married to the Imp. When she stubbornly repeats her mission from Catelyn to deliver Jaime in exchange for the girls, she is told,“Ser Jaime will continue on to King’s Landing. I said nothing about you, I fear. It would be unconscionable of me to deprive Lord Vargo of both his prizes. . . . Were I you, my lady, I should worry less about Starks and rather more about sapphires.”

Shortly after, Jaime sets out on the road to King’s Landing in the company of Steelshanks Walton, Qyburn, and two hundred men. He’s looking ahead to Cersei and has only a momentary pang at leaving Brienne behind, even when he’s told by Qyburn that the sapphire-less ransom offered by her father pretty much assures that she’ll be raped and abused by the Mummers. He resolves to think no more about her, which lasts until he falls asleep with his head on a weirwood stump and has a remarkable dream.

He’s naked, beneath Casterly Rock, and his hand is whole. He is forced at spearpoint into a watery cavern, where his sister and father and other family members appear and tell him he is in “[his] place . . . [his] darkness.” Then he finds himself alone in the darkness with a sword, lit with blue flame; when the flame goes out, he hears Cersei say, he will die.

But he’s not alone for long, because into his darkness appears Brienne, naked as well and bound, but still stubbornly declaring her oath and obligation to keep him safe. He cuts her bonds, and suddenly she has a flaming sword as well, and he thinks, “In this light she could almost be a beauty . . .. In this light she could almost be a knight.

This is where things get weird. Jaime hears a horse approaching, and for a moment he is reminded of Ned Stark judging him in the throne room at King’s Landing after Aerys’ death. But itis Rhaegar Targaryen and Jaime’s Kingsguard brothers who appear and accuse him of breaking his vows. He tries to tell them how it happened to justify himself, but his sword’s flame goes out, leaving only Brienne to protect him, and his ghosts come rushing in.

When he wakes screaming, he notices the stump is made of weirwood, which reminds him again of Ned Stark, and he has an odd thought: “It was not him . . . . It was never him.” While he could simply be thinking of his dream, this might actually be more symbolic. Jaime has spent the last fifteen years judging himself, just as much as anyone else has done. His anger has been directed as much at himself as at Ned Stark, but Brienne has had a profound effect upon him. With her stubborn loyalty to Catelyn and her vows, he’s seen what idealism and chivalry can mean, and that it’s possible to save and protect a person even if you have no personal interest in doing so.

And so he turns the train around. Using a combination of threats and bribes he convinces Walton to bring the entire group back where they came from. He tells Walton, “I left something at Harrenhal.” When he arrives, his rescue of Brienne from both the bear and Bloody Mummers is not only the reason Brienne is now indebted to Jaime Lannister for her very life but also a highly symbolic rescue of a maiden by a white knight. When she asks him why he returned (using his proper name, by the way) he simply tells her, “I dreamed of you[.]”

When Jaime is ultimately reunited with his family, it’s made very clear that his journey in the Riverlands has changed him in a fundamental way. He still has the bitterness that comes from being continually misjudged, but we get little hints like the thought he has when reflecting about Joffrey’s death (“Jaime was sick of lies.”) and Cersei’s remark to him (“you’re changed.).

He quarrels with Tywin over the notion of duty when he hears of Tywin’s scheme to marry him to Margaery Tyrell and Cersei to Oberyn Martell. Tywin commands Jaime to forsake the Kingsguard, which he had stuck with all of these years in spite of his disillusion and dishonor.  We learned in ASoS that when he realised the reasons Aerys chose him,“[h]e would have ripped the cloak off then and there if he could have, but it was too late. He had said the words whilst half the realm looked on, and a Kingsguard served for life [emphasis mine].

It seems that in spite of his reputation, he takes the Kingsguard rather seriously, and when Tywin tells Jaime what is expected of him, in that purely Tywin-esque way that brooks no opposition, he refuses:

“NO!” Jaime had heard all that he could stand. No, more than he could stand. He was sick of it, sick of lords and lies, sick of his father, his sister, sick of the whole bloody business. “No. No. No. No. No. How many times must I say no before you’ll hear it?

.     .     .

I am a knight of the Kingsguard. The Lord Commander of the Kingsguard! And that’s all I mean to be [emphasis mine]!

This ends with Tywin telling him, “You are not my son. . . . You say you are the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and only that. Very well, ser. Go do your duty.”

For seemingly the first time in his adult life, Jaime has turned his back on his duty to House Lannister in favor of a path that must seem to him to be more honorable. This continues when he later refuses to have sex with Cersei in the White Tower and ultimately ends up freeing his brother Tyrion from the black cells.

His inner monologue shows his increasing disillusionment with Cersei, which begins with his refusal to bed her in the White Tower and is furthered by Tyrion’s “Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and probably Moon Boy for all I know” line. The fracturing of Jaime and Cersei’s fabled union is critical to his redemption arc and culminates at Riverrun, when he burns the letter she sends him from her imprisonment and turns his back on her in favor of his commitment to resolve the Riverlands situation peacefully. His travels in the Riverlands in AFfC underscore that he is not only resolved to bring matters there to a conclusion as peacefully as possible, but also that he is determined to keep his vow to Cat to “never again take up arms against Stark nor Tully.

But before we arrive at the final scenes that illustrate his transformation from “the Kingslayer” to a man of honor, let’s return to King’s Landing and two key scenes there that really highlight his redemptive arc. First is his review of the White Book of the Kingsguard. He thinks his deeds recorded on the pages there are rather “scant and mingy” and finds himself recalling the lost days of his youth, before dishonor had changed him. When he thinks of his dead Kingsguard brothers he wonders:

And me, that boy I was . . . when did he die, I wonder? When I donned the white cloak? When I opened Aerys’s throat? That boy had wanted to be Ser Arthur Dayne, but someplace along the way he had become the Smiling Knight instead.

His musing over the White Book culminates when he has Brienne summoned to him and sends her off on a quest to “make good our stupid vows to your precious dead Lady Catelyn[.]” He gives her the sword Oathkeeper and tells her she’ll be “defending Ned Stark’s daughter with Ned Stark’s own steel[.]” He also tells Brienne, “I have made kings and unmade them. Sansa Stark is my last chance for honor [emphasis mine].” Then, in spite of a moment of misunderstanding that really irks Jaime, Brienne promises to “find the girl and keep her safe. For her lady mother’s sake. And for yours.”

Jaime’s narrative with the White Book comes to a close when he records the truth of his movements during the War of the Five Kings and viewing the blank page that remains — the very embodiment of a “tabula rasa” — thinks:

“He could write whatever he chose, henceforth. Whatever he chose . . .”

So it seems like Jaime has chosen the path of honor, setting in motion a hoped-for rescue that could not only injure his House, but also, if he believes the accusations of his sister, allow his son’s murderer to go free. It’s really made plain here that Jaime has developed a keen appreciation for Brienne of Tarth. He has even made a point of using her proper name, and written about her delivering him safely to King’s Landing in the White Book.

During his mission in the Riverlands he has a rather forceful exchange with Red Ronnet Connington at Harrenhal, where he not only insists that Ronnet use her proper name and title, but also knocks him down with his golden hand. Red Ronnet was really disrespectful of Brienne, and Jaime took issue with it. After slugging him in the face with the golden hand, he tells Ronnet,

“You are speaking of a highborn lady, ser. Call her by her name. Call her Brienne.”

This moment of defending Brienne marks the huge change in Jaime. He himself has belittled her and failed to use her proper name. But he has taken on board the similarities he and Brienne have, from their hated nicknames to the reputations they had had to bear, and has gained an appreciation and respect for Brienne as a person. Which is probably why it comes as no surprise that when Brienne finds him encamped at Pennytree some time later and begs him to come with her because she’s found the girl “but [he] will need to come alone[,] elsewise, the Hound will kill her[,]” he apparently leaves alone with her with no hesitation.

Whether Jaime’s redemption arc results in tragedy or triumph remains to be seen, but his departure with Brienne speaks volumes about the choices he’s made as his arc progresses in AFfC.

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A Mother in Conflict: Catelyn Stark

Catelyn Stark by Amok

My son may be a king, but I am no queen … only a mother who would keep her children safe, however she could.

– Catelyn V, A Clash of Kings

 

As discussed in 
Radio Westeros E10 - A Mother's Madness

The first things we learn about Catelyn Stark are that she was born in the South and is uncomfortable in the Winterfell godswood. The first line of her first PoV chapter tells us that “Catelyn had never liked this godswood” and then goes on to relate that she was raised with the Seven. We get the strong sense early on that she is not entirely comfortable with the North and its gods. In fact, the Stark words give her a chill and she reflects, not for the first time, on “what a strange people these northerners were.”

On the other hand, we are given a picture of a close and caring marriage between two people who know and respect each other. Ned and Cat evidently share a deep love of family and each other, as illustrated by the empathy she shows Ned when delivering the news of Jon Arryn’s death. Then in spite of Ned’s apparent joy at the news of Robert’s visit, Cat’s distinct lack of it proves early on her sensitivity to foreshadowing, a quality we’ll see time and again in her, as she thinks of the story she has lately heard: “a direwolf dead in the snow, a broken antler in its throat.” The passage goes on: “Dread coiled within her like a snake, but she forced herself to smile at this man she loved, this man who put no faith in signs.” So we see both the bond Ned and Cat share in spite of their arranged marriage and the contrast between Ned’s rational and measured perspective and Cat’s more intuitive and visceral one.

As Cat’s story progresses we learn more about her upbringing in the Riverlands. The eldest of three children, she seems to have taken on both the eldest son’s role and the female duties in her family after her mother’s death, including traveling with her father to visit bannermen and watching for his return whenever he was away. She is presented as the dutiful daughter, accepting her early betrothal to Brandon Stark of Winterfell as a “splendid match.” We learn that the Tully words are “Family, Duty, Honor,” and Cat thinks to herself, “I have always done my duty,” specifically recalling when she accepted Ned in Brandon’s place.

Family is also very important to Cat. Her eventual identification of herself as a Stark is a progression that is shown throughout her arc, culminating in the final scene of her mortal life. But the ideals of Family and Duty can be in conflict, while Honor can mean different things to different people, as shown by the events leading up to the Red Wedding. In fact, it turns out the Tully words are very difficult to live up to fully. While Cat clearly tries to do so, the conflicts she encounters as the mother of Robb the King are often at odds with the ideals of Catelyn as a Tully and as the mother of the other Stark children.

As mentioned, Cat and Ned have a loving family relationship. This is obvious in their thoughts, as they both constantly think of the well-being of their children and of each other. En route to King’s Landing with Robert, Ned thinks, “He belonged with Catelyn in her grief,” and later, having arrived in King’s Landing, “He yearned for the comfort of Catelyn’s arms.”

Cat’s thoughts also often turn to Ned, initially seeking comfort and guidance, and later out of grief. Her feelings for him, as her grief at his loss makes plain, are profound. She reminisces about the connection she made with the “solemn stranger” that she wed, thinking, “I had love enough for any woman, once I found the good sweet heart beneath [his] face.

At the same time it’s clear that Cat’s children are her priority. In fact her roles — as mother, nurturer, protector, advocate and avenger — singularly define her role in the story. From the beginning of AGoT we learn that she is her children’s first and best advocate. She tells Ned in the godswood, “I am always proud of Bran,” and later when Ned thinks to refuse Robert’s offer, she is firm on one point: “You cannot. You must not. . . . He is a king now, and kings are not like other men. If you refuse to serve him, he will wonder why, and sooner or later he will begin to suspect that you oppose him. Can’t you see the danger that would put us in?”

It’s probably no accident that in that one brief exchange with Ned about Robert’s offer, the Tully ideals of Family, Duty and Honor are all referenced. Ned mentions his duties in the north, while Cat makes clear the danger refusal would bring to their family. They also disagree about the nature of the honors being offered. Cat is certain that Robert’s offer of the Handship and Joffrey for Sansa is meant as an honor. Ned sees it as a trap, and this minor discord leads to some bitterness as his dead brother’s shadow falls across their conversation. This conversation perfectly highlights the dilemma Cat will continue to face as the ideals of her House come into conflict with each other.

We see that Cat is resolved that Ned must go to King’s Landing, and the letter from her sister Lysa helps her make her case. With Maester Luwin’s help she is able to convince him that he must go south, cutting through his reservations based on his father’s and brother’s fates. She feels his pain but her children come first: “Catelyn’s heart went out to him, but she knew she could not take him in her arms just then. First the victory must be won, for her children’s sake.”

Ultimately her victory comes at a price when Ned tells her that he will take the girls and Bran with him. She has secured the future but has lost the present. In her loss she will not yield to Ned’s plea that Jon Snow be allowed to remain at Winterfell: “‘He cannot stay here,’ Catelyn said, cutting him off. ‘He is your son, not mine. I will not have him.’ It was hard, she knew, but no less the truth. Ned would do the boy no kindness by leaving him here at Winterfell.”

Cat is convinced that Jon must go, even at the expense of Ned’s heartache. For the first time we see Cat’s heart described as hard: “Catelyn armored her heart against the mute appeal in her husband’s eyes.” While Cat is recalled as “hard” by Jon on more than one occasion, some empathy on this score is due her. She has been placed in a seemingly impossible situation by her husband in the early days of their marriage, with his installation in their family of an infant more or less of an age with their own firstborn without a satisfactory explanation. We know from GRRM that Cat’s relationship with Jon is both tense and complicated. When asked about Cat’s perceived mistreatment of her husband’s bastard son, he replied:

“Mistreatment” is a loaded word. Did Catelyn beat Jon bloody? No. Did she distance herself from him? Yes. Did she verbally abuse and attack him? No. (The instance in Bran’s bedroom was obviously a very special case). But I am sure she was very protective of the rights of her own children, and in that sense always drew the line sharply between bastard and trueborn where issues like seating on the high table for the king’s visit were at issue. And Jon surely knew that she would have preferred to have him elsewhere.

Yet it’s important to recognize that months later she thinks back on this scene with mixed emotions. Upon meeting Mya Stone in the Vale “she could not help but think of Ned’s bastard on the Wall, and the thought made her angry and guilty, both at once.” It seems that Cat realizes her position with regard to Jon is uncharacteristically hard. She is pragmatically aware that it would not be in Jon’s best interest for Ned to leave him in her care, but she cannot help feeling anger (probably towards Ned for placing her in this position) and guilt.

In spite of their disagreement over Jon Snow, Ned ultimately leaves in her hands Winterfell and the shepherding of their eldest son into adulthood. But Bran’s fall from the tower answers Cat’s prayer that Bran remain at Winterfell. Her subsequent descent into despair can only have been fueled by the guilt she feels about her prayer being answered in such a way. When at long last, the attack on Bran’s life by the catspaw assassin brings her out of her despair and anger she finds herself ashamed at her behavior, thinking, “She had let them all down, her children, her husband, her House. It would not happen again. She would show these northerners how strong a Tully of Riverrun could be.”

She is still identifying as a Tully, a southerner, but we see glimmers of a desire to identify with the North. For now, it’s clear that first and foremost in her mind is her Family, and the Duty that comes along with that commitment.

Cat’s encounter with the catspaw not only underlines her role as protective mother but also offers some key foreshadowing of her arc to come. Cat learns the lesson of the direwolf as protector here, something that will haunt her later on as her children face dangers without these valuable guardians at their sides. Her inability to speak and hysterical laughter prefigure both her final scene and descent into madness at the Twins and her inability to speak as Lady Stoneheart.

Most significantly Cat nearly has her throat cut by the assassin, beginning an association with her and throats. From this scene to her defense of herself in the face of attack by the mountain clansmen en route to the Vale to the sad fate of Jinglebell Frey, we see a progression of Cat, throats and violence that will culminate with Lady Stoneheart. Cat will actually recall this moment during the dark climax of the Red Wedding, drawing a clear line back to this event as the beginning of a dramatically different type of motherhood.

Catelyn’s decisions after this event also move her into a more active role in northern politics and place her on the agonizing path she will follow for the rest of her natural life. She keeps her children’s best interests in her heart but will henceforth be faced with a series of dilemmas in which her only options frequently leave her in a double bind. She resolves to travel to King’s Landing to bring word personally to Ned, but in so doing she must leave her sons behind. Even upon arriving in the city, her faint hopes of seeing her girls are dashed by the need for secrecy, and she departs back to the North having had only the briefest of visits with her husband.

Ned proves his continued faith in her when he gives her instructions for the defense of the North:

Once you are home, send word to Helman Tallhart and Galbart Glover under my seal. They are to raise a hundred bowmen each and fortify Moat Cailin. Two hundred determined archers can hold the Neck against an army. Instruct Lord Manderly that he is to strengthen and repair all his defenses at White Harbor, and see that they are well manned. And from this day on, I want a careful watch kept over Theon Greyjoy. If there is war, we shall have sore need of his father’s fleet.

During her return journey, Cat makes what is possibly the most fateful decision of the series when she takes Tyrion Lannister into custody at the Inn at the Crossroads. Much has been said about her actions here. Certainly she fails to heed the counsel of both her husband, who urged her to return to Winterfell posthaste and gave her instructions to deliver to his bannermen, and Petyr Baelish, who reminded Ned and Cat that “The Imp will no doubt swear the blade was lost or stolen while he was at Winterfell, and with his hireling dead, who is there to give him the lie?” Littlefinger went on to advise them to toss the dagger into the river and forget it.

But, as noted, Catelyn Stark is first and foremost a mother. Recent events have also led her to identify more with the north than she seems to have in the prior fifteen years of her marriage. A classic example of how a Stark would choose to deal with the Imp is seen in Ned’s line to Littlefinger: “I am a Stark of Winterfell. My son lies crippled, perhaps dying. He would be dead, and Catelyn with him, but for a wolf pup we found in the snow. If you truly believe I could forget that, you are as big a fool now as when you took up sword against my brother.” Perhaps, when she is confronted with Tyrion at the Inn, her maternal instincts to protect and avenge her children leads her to choose a path that seems like what Ned would do. Certainly she has only a split second to decide, as she thinks here: “There was no time to think it through, only the moment and the sound of her own voice ringing in her ears.” That her actions are in keeping with her increasingly northern identity is borne out by Tyrion’s thoughts when he finds himself on the High Road to the Vale: “All his life Tyrion had prided himself on his cunning, the only gift the gods had seen fit to give him, and yet this seven-times-damned she-wolf Catelyn Stark had outwitted him at every turn.”

While it’s really impossible to predict what might have happened if Cat hadn’t encountered Tyrion at the inn, we cannot ignore the fact that the seizure of Tyrion Lannister has dire consequences for all those Cat holds dear. Whatever conclusions the reader draws about her actions, it seems clear that she ultimately draws the blame upon herself. The early stirrings of Cat’s cognitive dissonance are seen by Tyrion himself when he notes “a flicker of doubt” in her eyes in the face of his protestations of innocence. Cat begins to doubt herself in other ways too, following her departure from the Vale: “Catelyn had fought to keep herself strong, for Ned’s sake and for this stubborn brave son of theirs. She had put despair and fear aside, as if they were garments she did not choose to wear . . . but now she saw that she had donned them after all.”  Later her fears are clearly spelled out, along with a renewed determination to become a northerner once and for all:

“She feared for her lord father, and wondered at his ominous silence. She feared for her brother Edmure, and prayed that the gods would watch over him if he must face the Kingslayer in battle. She feared for Ned and her girls, and for the sweet sons she had left behind at Winterfell. And yet there was nothing she could do for any of them, and so she made herself put all thought of them aside. You must save your strength for Robb, she told herself. He is the only one you can help. You must be as fierce and hard as the north, Catelyn Tully. You must be a Stark for true now, like your son.

Following Whispering Wood, when word reaches them of Ned’s execution, her fears coalesce into true despair. She blames herself for her husband’s death and the mortal peril her daughters are now in: “It was your doing, yours, a voice whispered inside her. If you had not taken it upon yourself to seize the dwarf . . .”.

In the meantime, Cat has taken on the role of adviser to her son. While she tries to give him the space to make his own decisions, it is she who impresses upon him the importance of acceding to Lord Walder’s demands. Her thoughts reveal that she seeks wisdom from her husband’s example. When she volunteers to parley with Lord Walder alone in the Twins, there is chilling foreshadowing of her fate to come: “‘Lord Walder is my father’s bannerman. I have known him since I was a girl. He would never offer me any harm.’ Unless he saw some profit in it, she added silently, but some truths did not bear saying, and some lies were necessary.”

In that final phrase we see an echo of Ned’s thoughts in King’s Landing: “Some secrets are too dangerous to share, even with those you love and trust.” Much has been said about Ned Stark’s honor. His eldest daughter declares to herself, “My father always told the truth,” and Robert Baratheon mocks his friend with “You never could lie for love nor honor, Ned Stark.” But in his arc, and now in Catelyn’s as well, we see the idea that lying can be necessary. This seems at odds with ideals of northern honor, but we see time and again the theme of protecting children at any cost in Ned’s arc. This is clearly a philosophy that both Ned and Cat deploy with the best interest of their family in mind, illustrating again the difficulty of negotiating the Tully words.

As we saw with Ned when he was willing to deliver a false confession to the Lannisters to save his daughter, Cat reveals herself willing to go to any lengths to get her daughters back during the council with Robb’s bannermen: “I will mourn for Ned until the end of my days, but I must think of the living. I want my daughters back, and the queen holds them still. If I must trade our four Lannisters for their two Starks, I will call that a bargain and thank the gods.”

When the lords of the North and the Riverlands fail to heed her plea for peace, Cat finds herself despairing. She is wondering if she will be able to save her girls at the point when Greatjon Umber, swiftly followed by all the other lords, declares her son the King in the North. What follows must seem the death of hope, as every lord in the room rejects the Lannisters and the Iron Throne and vows to fight on in Robb’s name for honor, for revenge, and for independence.

When Robb, newly made King, sends Cleos Frey as an envoy to King’s Landing, a behind-the-scenes exchange reveals that Robb has begun to move away from his mother’s advice. He refuses to offer Jaime Lannister in exchange for his sisters, making the much less attractive offer of Willem Lannister and Tion Frey. Cat knows that Cersei will not agree and there is a bitter disagreement. Her harsh words wound Robb, and in her guilt she thinks, “Gods be good, what is to become of me? He is doing his best, trying so hard, I know it, I see it, and yet . . . I have lost my Ned, the rock my life was built on, I could not bear to lose the girls as well . . .

Despair and self-doubt are clearly replacing Cat’s earlier confidence and conviction. When she thinks about Ned’s bones returning to the north, her thoughts make it clear: “Living men had gone south, and cold bones would return. Ned had the truth of it, she thought. His place was at Winterfell, he said as much, but would I hear him? No. Go, I told him, you must be Robert’s Hand, for the good of our House, for the sake of our children . . . my doing, mine, no other . . .”.

She tries to reassert herself as adviser but perhaps due to their persistent disagreement over the hostage exchange, fails to make it clear that Ned’s final orders were to keep a close eye on Theon Greyjoy. Rather than firmly reminding her son that it was his father’s wish that Theon be kept close, she argues from her own perspective:

“I’ll say again, I would sooner you sent someone else to Pyke, and kept Theon close to you.”

“Who better to treat with Balon Greyjoy than his son?”

“Jason Mallister,” offered Catelyn. “Tytos Blackwood. Stevron Frey. Anyone . . . but not Theon.”

Her son squatted beside Grey Wind, ruffling the wolf’s fur and incidentally avoiding her eyes. “Theon’s fought bravely for us. I told you how he saved Bran from those wildlings in the wolfswood. If the Lannisters won’t make peace, I’ll have need of Lord Greyjoy’s longships.”

“You’ll have them sooner if you keep his son as hostage.”

“He’s been a hostage half his life.”

“For good reason,” Catelyn said. “Balon Greyjoy is not a man to be trusted. He wore a crown himself, remember, if only for a season. He may aspire to wear one again.”

Robb’s insistence on Theon’s loyalty, even to the point of forgetting his own righteous anger over the scene with the wildlings in the wolfswood, seems a stubborn reaction to an interfering  mother. The reader is left to wonder if Catelyn has done her duty in relaying Ned’s message clearly, or if the fraught situation has led to a breakdown of communication between mother and son.

Nonetheless, it is Cat who Robb chooses to send as an emissary to Renly Baratheon — perhaps because he cannot spare anyone else, but also because there are so few people who he can trust. Here we see the genesis of the northern plan to lure Tywin Lannister from the fastness of Harrenhal. While the plan would ultimately fail, it should be noted that it is Cat herself who originally suggested the means of drawing Lord Tywin into the field to her uncle.

As a reluctant emissary to Renly’s host in the south, Cat’s weariness with conflict shows clearly when she thinks, “I want to weep . . . . I want to be comforted. I’m so tired of being strong. I want to be foolish and frightened for once. Just for a small while, that’s all . . . a day . . . an hour . . .”. Furthermore, her frustration with the southron chivalry she encounters highlights her increasingly northern identity. In a reversal of her earlier aversion to the Stark words, she tells Lord Rowan and Brienne that she pities the young knights of Renly’s army “[b]ecause they are the knights of summer, and winter is coming.”

After failing in her diplomatic mission and witnessing the breakdown of relations between Renly and Stannis, she seeks the comfort of her gods on the eve of their battle. She prays for her family, but her despair is once again plain: “I have come so many thousands of leagues, and for what? Who have I served? I have lost my daughters, Robb does not want me, and Bran and Rickon must surely think me a cold and unnatural mother. I was not even with Ned when he died . . .”.

Following Renly’s death, she has what may be a premonition of the danger her son is facing when she recalls the words of Stannis Baratheon: “I am the rightful king . . . and your son no less a traitor than my brother here. His day will come as well.” Given what she witnessed in Renly’s tent, it’s probably not surprising that “a chill [goes] through her” when she recalls the naked threat. En route back to Riverrun, she tells Brienne, “My son may be a king, but I am no queen . . . only a mother who would keep her children safe, however she could.” This crystallizes everything Cat has done in her arc so far. Faced with dilemmas and impossible choices, she attempts to do her duty, to choose the path that Ned would take or that honor would dictate. What she has found, to her sorrow, is that these ideals can be impossible to live up to fully. As in that scene with Ned when she convinced him to accept Robert’s offer, she has learned that keeping family first can come at a price. Not unlike Jaime Lannister, whose passionate speech about conflicting vows is delivered to Cat herself, she finds herself torn: “[w]ould that there were five of me, one for each child, so I might keep them all safe.”

Here is the root of Cat’s dilemma: she is continually forced to choose between actions that might benefit one child at the expense of another. Her long exposure to this type of double bind wears ever more heavily upon her. Her inner doubts become more pronounced, as do her weariness and grief. Up until now, in spite of her weariness and doubt, she has maintained what Brienne identifies as “ . . . courage. Not battle courage perhaps but . . . a kind of woman’s courage.” Now, the contrast between her reactions to Bran’s fall, the attack by the catspaw, and her time with Robb could not be more stark. We begin to see her despair in nearly every thought.

She recalls Sansa’s excitement at court life: “I told her there would be singers at the king’s court, though. I told her she would hear music of all sorts, that her father could find some master to help her learn the high harp. Oh, gods forgive me . . .”. In the face of military victories, she thinks, “But if we are winning, why am I so afraid?

But it is the news from Winterfell of the deaths of her youngest sons that drives her to her knees: “I am become a sour woman . . . . I take no joy in mead nor meat, and song and laughter have become suspicious strangers to me. I am a creature of grief and dust and bitter longings. There is an empty place within me where my heart was once.” Besides being a possible allusion to her future as Lady Stoneheart, this statement captures Cat’s inner viewpoint for the rest of her arc. From here onward, nearly all of her inner musings are tinged with grief, remorse and self doubt. She tells Brienne: “I was certain the boys would be safe so long as the direwolves were with them. Like Robb with his Grey Wind. But my daughters have no wolves now.” It seems clear from her tone that she blames herself for this, as she feels personally responsible for their being in King’s Landing. She reminisces about the girls to Brienne — Sansa, who is with the Lannisters, and Arya, who she thinks is dead. It is this that leads her to tell Brienne, in both a chilling foreshadowing of her deeds as Lady Stoneheart and a poignant mirror of Arya’s “prayers”, “I want them all dead, Brienne. Theon Greyjoy first, then Jaime Lannister and Cersei and the Imp, every one, every one.”

When Cat releases Jaime Lannister and sends him to King’s Landing to procure the release of her daughters, the more sympathetic of Robb’s bannermen deem her act “a mother’s madness.” While this may indeed be true, Cat refuses to shy away from responsibility for the massive gamble she took with Robb’s only bargaining chip: “I understood what I was doing and knew it was treasonous.” Yet as her own brother takes steps to retrieve the Kingslayer, numerous others offer words of sympathy. In fact the storm might have blown over if not for two critical events. When Robb returns from the Crag with his new wife in tow, events are already in motion to bring about his downfall. But it is the rage-filled act of revenge by Rickard Karstark, precipitated by Cat’s release of Jaime, that ultimately seals the fate of the northern army. If the Karstarks had not abandoned Robb, the fracturing of his army would not have left him in such a weak position that he has no choice but to humble himself to Lord Walder and offer his uncle Edmure in his place.

When the dead squires Tion Frey and Willem Lannister are laid in front of Robb, Catelyn wonders: “Does he see Bran and Rickon as well? She might have wept, but there were no tears left in her. . . . Will they lay Sansa down naked beneath the Iron Throne after they have killed her?” When an unmoved Rickard Karstark speaks of a father’s vengeance, her fears and horror merge into one thought: “I did this. These two boys died so my daughters might live.

Following her father’s death and the grievous news of the burning of Winterfell, Cat’s and Robb’s thoughts turn again to the north. Once more Robb finds himself in need of Lord Walder’s crossing, and plans are laid for the retaking of the north. Cat is resolved to be a northerner, realizing that her example will be critical to her son’s success: “The northmen did not lack for courage, but they were far from home, with little enough to sustain them but for their faith in their young king. That faith must be protected, at all costs. I must be stronger, she told herself. I must be strong for Robb. If I despair, my grief will consume me.

Yet her grief and guilt persist as she reflects back upon her discussion with Lynesse Hightower, the erstwhile wife of Jorah Mormont, about being a southron lady married into the north:

One night, after several cups of wine, she had confessed to Catelyn that the north was no place for a Hightower of Oldtown. “There was a Tully of Riverrun who felt the same once,” she had answered gently, trying to console, “but in time she found much here she could love.”

All lost now, she reflected. Winterfell and Ned, Bran and Rickon, Sansa, Arya, all gone. Only Robb remains. Had there been too much of Lynesse Hightower in her after all, and too little of the Starks? Would that I had known how to wield an axe, perhaps I might have been able to protect them better.

As her fears threaten to overwhelm her and her sense of dread mounts, when Robb raises the issue of his succession, she tells him: “Nothing will happen to you. Nothing. I could not stand it. They took Ned, and your sweet brothers. Sansa is married, Arya is lost, my father’s dead . . . if anything befell you, I would go mad, Robb [emphasis mine]. You are all I have left. You are all the north has left.”

Throughout her arc, Cat has displayed remarkable fortitude in the face of tragedy: her father and husband dead, her sons thought to be dead, her sister lost to her, and her daughters as well. She has attempted to embody the words of her House, though they are often at odds with one another, given a mother’s priorities. She has despaired at her failures and mistakes and lamented that she could not defend each and every one of her children with her bare hands, as she had once done for Bran. She has in fact embodied the quest of the writer to explore the human heart in conflict with itself. But in the face of it all, she has moved ever closer to being a northerner for true, and maintained a stoic face and steady bravery — all for the sake of her eldest son, the King in the North. When it finally came to a mortal threat to his life, the last of her family, her thoughts are exactly what one might expect of her at this point: “Catelyn did not care. They could do as they wished with her; imprison her, rape her, kill her, it made no matter. She had lived too long, and Ned was waiting. It was Robb she feared for.” In that final scene she proclaims not only her Tully honor but also her Stark honor as well, the honor that would do anything to protect a child.

As we see in that most emotional scene in the series, the Red Wedding, her thoughts in the end are all for Robb and for the others already lost to her. Only when all is truly lost does Cat give herself over to the “madness of grief, a mother’s madness,” that has been foreshadowed in her arc.

GNC — Riverlands Edition: The Capitulation of Riverrun, or Wolfish Hearts in the Riverlands

warwick-castle When Jaime Lannister arrives in the Riverlands, the siege of Riverrun is not going well. Daven Lannister’s forces consist of a contingent of Freys under the command of Ser Ryman, his own Westerland forces, Lord Emmon Frey and Ser Forley Prester’s host and the river lords who bent the knee. The riverlanders are

“A sullen lot…Good for sulking in their tents, but not much more.”

AFfC, Jaime V

Daven tells Jaime that the half the men he sends to forage for supplies never return. Some desert, but others are found dead.

“It might [be] outlaws, or not. There are still bands of northmen about. And these Lords of the Trident may have bent their knees, but methinks their hearts are still… wolfish.”

AFfC, Jaime V

He continues

“My scouts report fires in the high places at night. Signal fires, they think… as if there were a ring of watchers all around us.”

AFfC, Jaime V

Regarding the “bands of northmen” a review of troop numbers is in order. Robb goes to the RW with thirty-five hundred men:

“Thirty-five hundred they were, thirty-five hundred who had been blooded in the Whispering Wood, who had reddened their swords at the Battle of the Camps, at Oxcross, Ashemark, and the Crag, and all through the gold-rich hills of the Lannister west.”

ASoS,Catelyn VI

and

“Thirty-five hundred riders wound their way along the valley floor through the heart of the Whispering Wood, but Catelyn Stark had seldom felt lonelier. Every league she crossed took her farther from Riverrun, and she found herself wondering whether she would ever see the castle again. Or was it lost to her forever, like so much else?”

ASoS, Catelyn VI

We know of those thirty five hundred that most were slaughtered. But maybe not all:

“We found a thousand corpses afterward. Once they’ve spent a few days in the river they all look much the same.”

Edwyn Frey, AFfC, Jaime VII

Roose Bolton arrives with another thirty five hundred:

“Some five hundred horse and three thousand foot, my lady. Dreadfort men, in chief, and some from Karhold. With the loyalty of the Karstarks so doubtful now, I thought it best to keep them close. I regret there are not more.”

ASoS, Catelyn VII

We know he has left a force of some six hundred men at the Green Fork guarding the crossing.

“I left six hundred men at the ford. Spearmen from the rills, the mountains and the White Knife. A hundred Hornwood longbows, some freeriders and hedge knights, and a strong force of Stout and Cerwyn men to stiffen them. Ronnel Stout and Ser Kyle Condon have the command.”

ASoS, Catelyn VII

The Freys have a force of some two thousand that ultimately crosses the Neck with Roose Bolton. I think it’s safe to assume that Robb expected exactly that number to accompany him. But wait! Just a few chapters earlier, at the same strategy meeting where Robb’s will is signed, he reveals his plan to assail Moat Cailin from three sides, including the rear with the aid of Howland Reed. He numbers his force at over 12,000:

“Once I link up with Lord Bolton and the Freys, I will have more than twelve thousand men.”

ASoS, Catelyn VI

Even assuming that the third of Lord Bolton’s strength lost to Ser Gregor (two thousand Norreys, Lockes, Burleys and White Harbor men under Wylis Manderly, putting Roose’s total expected force at over 6,000) were counted in that number, we are left with a few questions. There are still over five hundred unaccounted for- is that the size of the group that accompanied Maege Mormont and Galbart Glover?  Furthermore, did Condon and Stout rejoin Bolton’s forces with their six hundred? I think not, since Theon’s observations of the troops crossing the Neck account for only a little over 5,500:

“Three days later, the vanguard of Roose Bolton’s host threaded its way through the ruins and past the row of grisly [ironborn] sentinels–four hundred mounted Freys clad in blue and grey, their spearpoints glittering whenever the sun broke through the clouds. Two of old Lord Walder’s sons [Hosteen and Aenys] led the van.

[…]

The northmen followed hard behind the van, their tattered banners streaming in the wind. Reek watched them pass. Most were afoot, and there were so few of them. He remembered the great host that marched south with the Young Wolf, beneath the direwolf of Winterfell. Twenty thousand swords and spears had gone off to war with Robb or near enough to make no matter, but only two in ten were coming back, and most of those were Dreadfort men.

[…]

Farther back came the baggage train–lumbering wayns laden with provisions and loot taken in the war, carts crowded with wounded men and cripples. And, at the rear, more Freys. At least a thousand, maybe more: bowmen, spearmen, peasants armed with scythes and sharpened sticks, freeriders and mounted archers, and another hundred knights to stiffen them.”

ADWD, Reek II

Also, we have the fact that of the two thousand men with Wylis Manderly, not all were killed or captured:

“Two-thirds of my strength was on the north side when the Lannisters attacked those still waiting to cross. Norrey, Locke, and Burley men chiefly, with Ser Wylis Manderly and his White Harbor knights as rear guard. I was on the wrong side of the Trident, powerless to help them. Ser Wylis rallied our men as best he could, but Gregor Clegane attacked with heavy horse and drove them into the river. As many drowned as were cut down. More fled, and the rest were taken captive.”

ASoS, Catelyn VII

Admittedly, at this level we are dealing with quite a bit of estimating of troop size. With eyes wide open that George has actually said this is one detail that is frequently wrong in PoVs, it still seems that there is room to believe that among the “bands” Daven mentions, there could be two substantial forces (five to six hundred each) who remain armed and under the command of a warleader, in addition to the scattered remnants of the force from the ford. Upon arriving in the camps at Riverrun Jaime makes note of the river lords’ banners:

“Lychester and Vance… Roote and Goodbrook, the acorns of House Smallford [sic] and Lord Piper’s dancing maiden… the banners he did not see gave him pause. The silver eagle of Mallister was nowhere in evidence; nor the red horse of Bracken, the willow of the Rygers, the twining snakes of Paege… none had come to join the siege”

AFfC, Jaime V

When Jaime meets with Brynden Tully to offer terms, he suggests the Blackfish  take the black

“I will permit you to take the black. Ned Stark’s bastard is the Lord Commander on the Wall”

AFfC, Jaime VI

Tully reacts with suspicion

“Did your father arrange for that as well? Catelyn never trusted the boy, as I recall, no more than she trusted Theon Greyjoy. It would seem she was right about them both.”

AFfC, Jaime VI

Why the comparison with Theon Greyjoy? Because Jon made common cause with Stannis? Seems like laying it on a bit thick to me. While one could make a case that Brynden Tully was far away at Riverrun when the will was signed in Hag’s Mire and is unaware of its contents, as evidenced by his next exchange with Jaime  he is still flying the direwolf of Stark above Riverrun many months later. Surely he is holding out because he knows there is an heir?

“…Does it matter how the boy perished? He’s no less dead, and his kingdom died when he did.”

“You must be blind as well as maimed, ser. Lift your eyes and you will see that the direwolf still flies above our walls.”

AFfC, Jaime VI

Coming from someone who thinks all of Ned and Cat’s children are dead, and has just dismissed the only surviving Stark out of hand, this seems like an odd statement. Is it empty bravado? Or a subtle threat? I think the latter is more the Blackfish’s style. When diplomacy fails, Jaime summons a war council. Lords Piper, Vance of Wayfarer’s Rest and Vance of Atranta are in attendance. Karyl Vance counsels against hanging Edmure to move the Blackfish and has nothing but scorn for Edwyn Frey’s suggestion of arrows smeared with nightsoil. Norbert Vance offers to parlay with his old friend Brynden Tully and Lord Clement Piper scoffs at this idea. An argument with the Freys breaks out and almost comes to violence. Jaime puts Edmyn Frey in his place by reminding him of the Freys double treachery and dismisses the council. Jaime’s next move is to retrieve Edmure from the Freys’ gallows. As he cuts him down he is accosted by Ser Ryman Frey, in company of a whore wearing a very curious crown

“…a circlet of hammered bronze… graven with runes and ringed with small black swords”

AFfC, Jaime VI

After engaging in his new favorite sport of Frey bashing, Jaime dismisses Ryman and orders him to leave the crown. Let’s make careful note of two witnesses to the scene. The first is a singer with a woodharp, who can be none other than Tom o’ Sevenstreams. The second is the whore herself. We learn that Jaime dismisses Ser Ryman and that not long after  he and his escort of fifteen armed men have been hanged just south of Fairmarket on their way back to the Twins, presumably by the BwB. As Walder Rivers tells Jaime “It is almost as if they knew that he would be returning to the Twins, and with a small escort.” Since we know by the crown’s later reappearance that Ryman did not in fact leave the crown as Jaime ordered, we might assume he was still in the company of the whore as well. Could she have been the source of the BwB’s information? It’s very interesting that Petyr Frey was also in the company of whore just before he was hanged by the BwB. In Merrett Frey’s PoV he thinks “Let them hang him, he brought this on himself. It’s no more than he deserves, wandering off with some bloody camp follower like a stag in rut.” Fast forwarding a bit, notice the speed with which the BwB (in the person of Brienne of Tarth) were able to track Jaime to Pennytree after his visit to Raventree Hall and recall Hildy, the camp follower seen with Lord Jonos Bracken. The day Jaime met with Lord Jonos and Lord Tytos (and Hildy) he departed Raventree Hall and arrived at Pennytree the same evening. Around midnight Brienne rode into the camp looking for him. Can it be coincidence that in three cases where the BwB is looking for a target and quickly locates him, there turns out to have been a camp follower in his presence? Is the BwB is using women to soft target individuals? While there’s probably a much more massive plan in the works, this would speak volumes about BwB operations possibly being much more covert and sophisticated than we thought. Back to Riverrun, Jaime delivers his terms to Edmure in the presence of his squires (Josmyn Peckledown, Garrett Paege and Lew Piper), Pia and the singer (Tom o’ Sevens): Convince the Blackfish to yield the castle and the smallfolk can remain unharmed, the garrison (including Ser Brynden) will all have the option of taking the black and Edmure can choose between the Wall and captivity with his wife and child at Casterly Rock. If he refuses:

“…my coz will bridge your moat and break your gate. Hundreds will die, most of them your own. Your former bannermen will make up the first wave of attackers, so you’ll start your day by killing the fathers and brothers of men who died for you at the Twins. The second wave will be Freys, I have no lack of those. My westermen will follow when your archers are short of arrows and your knights so weary they can hardly lift their blades. When the castle falls, all those inside will be put to the sword. Your herds will be butchered, your godswood felled, your keeps and towers will burn. I’ll pull your walls down, and divert the Tumblestone over the ruins. By the time I’m done no man will ever know a castle once stood here … Your wife may whelp before that. You’ll want your child, I expect. I’ll send him to you when he’s born. With a trebuchet.”

AFfC, Jaime VI

Jaime departs and leaves Edmure to be entertained by the singer

“I’ll leave you to enjoy your food. Singer, play for our guest whilst he eats. You know the song, I trust.”

“The one about the rain? Aye, my lord, I know it.”

Edmure seemed to see the man for the first time. “No. Not him. Get him away from me.”

AFfC, Jaime VI

Presumably there followed an interesting interlude between Edmure Tully and Tom o’ Sevenstreams, who beyond doubt is the singer and also one of the chief lieutenants of Lady Stoneheart’s band of outlaws. The flies on the wall? Garrett Paege and Lew Piper. We can only guess at what messages were relayed, or if plans were laid. The opportunity was certainly there however. Next we see Jaime and Edmure is in the great hall of Riverrun. The Blackfish has slipped out by the water gate under cover of night. Edmure waited almost the entire day before surrendering the castle to the Lannisters. As Jaime says, the Blackfish could be ten leagues downstream. Ten leagues downstream would place him in the vicinity of Fairmarket, where Ryman Frey was waylaid  and the last known location of Lady Stoneheart’s band of the BwB, and within a very short distance of Pennytree, location of the next act in the drama. Jaime is not amused.  He thinks:

“For a man who was going to spend the rest of his life a prisoner, Edmure was entirely too pleased with himself.”

AFfC, Jaime VII

Emmon Frey is apoplectic. He wants Edmure punished. After being told by his wife that he must hold the castle or abandon it, Ser Emmon replies

“To be sure. Riverrun is mine, and no man shall ever take it from me.”

AFfC, Jaime VII (emphasis mine)

Foreshadowing of the retaking of Riverrun by Lady Stoneheart, who now has an operative inside the castle?

“…this castle seems a nice place to spend the winter”

Tom o’Sevens, AFfC, Jaime VII

Yes… but with whom? Edmure Tully and the Westerlings  are sent to Casterly Rock with a guard of 400 men under the command of Ser Forley Prester. The Riverrun garrison is allowed to depart: stripped of arms and armor they vanish into the Riverlands. Ser Desmond Grell and Ser Robin Ryger elect to take the black. They are dispatched to take ship at Maidenpool with an escort of twelve of Gregor Clegane’s men under the command of Raff the Sweetling. In the process of departing Riverrun, Jaime takes leave of the Freys. They are wroth about Ser Ryman’s death. Jaime is unmoved, and repeats the order he first issued in front of Edmure Tully and Tom o’ Sevenstreams to Ser Ryman:

“King Tommen requires all the captives you took at the Red Wedding.”

AFfC, Jaime VII

Next he grants the river lords leave to return to their own lands. He promises Lord Piper that the captives will be ransomed and hears the advice of Lord Karyl Vance

“Lord Jaime, you must go to Raventree. So long as it is Jonos at his gates Tytos will never yield, but I know he will bend his knee for you.”

AFfC, Jaime VII

Worth noting is this passage in ASoS ch. 43: When discussing what to do with Arya, Lord Beric says

“Still, we dare not go blindly here. I want to know where the armies are, the wolves and lions both. Sharna will know something, and Lord Vance’s maester will know more. Acorn Hall’s not far. Lady Smallwood will shelter us for a time while we send scouts ahead to learn…”

One reason this passage may be somewhat overlooked is because this the moment that Arya runs away from the BwB straight into the arms of Sandor Clegane.  We know Sharna is the innkeep at the Inn of the Kneeling Man and we’ve seen the BwB at Acorn Hall before, but Lord Vance’s maester is a pretty high level contact and possibly not unrelated to the fact that it is ultimately Lord Vance who urges Jaime to venture to Raventree Hall, thus putting himself in BwB territory. At Raventree Jaime meets Jonos Bracken and Tytos Blackwood, and learns more than a little about the ancient Bracken-Blackwood feud. Bracken appears to have well and truly turned his cloak. Blackwood is more pragmatic, and close. He enquires about Edmure and Brynden Tully, giving nothing away. When the talk turns to hostages we learn two things.  Brynden Blackwood is the heir, whose whereabouts are never mentioned. Since his next younger brother Lucas was with Robb at the RW, it may be safe to consider that Brynden was also a part of Robb’s forces, but in an as yet unidentified deployment. Lucas perished at the RW in spite of kin ties with the Freys. Jaime promises to have his bones returned (probably an empty promise since just recently the Freys  have admitted to him that they dumped many bodies anonymously into the river)  As Jaime takes his leave he mentions that Riverrun awaits. Blackwood makes this odd rejoinder

“Riverrun? Or King’s Landing?”

ADwD, Jaime I

…almost as if he wanted to ascertain Jaime’s next steps. Could this be a further hint of an undercurrent of communication regarding the Lord Commander’s movements? What happens next is well known. Jaime and his tail camp at Pennytree. At midnight his scouts return with a woman who has ridden up asking to be brought to him. Brienne of Tarth tells Jaime she has found the girl with the Hound, and that he must come at once and alone or she will be killed. We know from Kevan’s later conversation with Cersei while she is imprisoned by the Faith, that  he does indeed depart with her, and up to the point we have knowledge, has not been heard from since. Of course, most speculation goes that Brienne has agreed to bring Jaime to the BwB in exchange for Podrick’s (and maybe Ser Hyle’s) life. We can only wait to see what will happen at this confrontation and although it might seem a foregone conclusion, I’m not so sure. Returning to Pennytree, we have Jaime’s men (described as a “tail”, so a relatively small force) left leaderless in the Riverlands. It seems plain that they make it make to Riverrun, since word has reached Kevan that Jaime vanished with a woman, possibly Lady Brienne. I wonder about the three boys though- Lew Piper, Garrett Paege and Hoster Blackwood. The first two may have overheard the conversation between Edmure Tully and Tom o’ Sevenstreams. All three are aware of the escape of the Blackfish and at least some of the movements of the BwB. Hos would know the countryside well– would the confusion of Jaime’s departure be a good occasion for the hostages to depart? Or do they remain as eyes and ears in the Lannister camp? Either way, I don’t think we can ignore their presence and the fact that the sons of some of the more Stark-loyal riverlords are together. Once Marq Piper is freed from the Twins, if these three escape, the Lannisters will have no hold over this particular trio of families. As for the freedom of Marq Piper, Greatjon Umber and any other captives from the Twins, it is plain that Tom o’ Seven knows of the order to send the captives to KL. Since the Frey forces are currently spread between Winterfell, Seagard, Darry and Riverrun, I suspect the captives will be put on the Kingsroad with inadequate guards and waylaid by the BwB. So now we have Edmure and Jeyne Westerling heading west under a strong guard of four hundred. The Blackfish is at large and the Riverrun garrison has been set free, albeit unarmed. Jaime is alone in the Riverlands with Brienne, his tail left leaderless. Ryger and Grell are heading east, armed, under light guard. Riverrun is garrisoned with a force of two hundred Freys or Lannisters, but they have a senior member of the BwB in their midst. Any castle can be taken if the enemy can gain access, and the enemy now have the means to open the gates. The BwB has become increasingly bold, hanging Lord Walder’s heir and his escort of fifteen armed men less than a day’s march from the Twins. Undefined “bands” of Stark supporters remain at large, possibly numbering in the thousands. It’s worthy of note that with the forthcoming release of the captives from the Twins and abandonment of Jaime’s tail at Pennytree (which includes not only Hoster Tully, Garrett Paege and Lew Piper, but also Ser Hugo Vance, one of the sons of Lord Norbert Vance of Atranta, who has been acting as Jaime’s standard-bearer) and the recent capitulation of Riverrun, the only remaining hostages the Lannisters have in their control are Edmure Tully and Jeyne Westerling. Roslin Tully presumably will remain at the Twins, where her child is certainly at risk once it is born, but anyone seeking to save or sacrifice it will first need to breach the Twins. Also of extreme interest is that the Blackfish was presumably the mastermind behind the great Stark-Tully victory at Oxcross, which involved circumventing the Golden Tooth via a secret path discovered by Grey Wind. With  the Riverrun garrison at large, I propose that the Blackfish means to take command of them once more and set out for the Westerlands to ambush Forley Prester’s party and free Edmure and Jeyne, whose safety he has been charged with. In support of this idea, let’s recall the Tully words– “Family, Duty, Honor.” We learn in ASoS that upon his departure from Riverrun, King Robb named his great-uncle Warden of the Southern Marches, and charged him with Queen Jeyne’s protection. It’s seems likely that Brynden Tully would fulfill his duty as Warden of the Southern Marches and protector of the Queen, rescue Jeyne and his nephew, his last surviving family, and annihilate the Lannister host under Forley’s command. Even more compelling is the idea that to stand and fight is perhaps the most honorable and therefore characteristic action the Blackfish could take. The problem with this idea was the lack of PoV characters in the area to relay such a significant event. But we recently received a strong indication from GRRM himself that we will see Forley’s host early in TWoW. In an interview at the San Diego Comic Con last summer George revealed that we will see Jeyne Westerling in the Prologue of TWoW. So an ambush of the Prester party, with possibly Ser Forley himself as the viewpoint character, seems a strong possibility. The problem of arms for the garrison could be solved by the BwB, who seem to have no problem overcoming good sized groups of armed men. Besides the demonstrated availability of abandoned arms and armor throughout the Riverlands, each group of twelve or fifteen men they ambush or kill adds to their supply. Then there’s Gendry—one has to wonder exactly what he’s been doing at his forge at the Inn. Gendry has been demonstrated to have the knowledge for blade forging. In the many months he has been at that forge, there can be no doubt he has had time to forge (given the raw materials) or mend a great deal of weapons. The ambush of Prester’s party cannot happen in isolation though. In order to preserve the delicate balance of rescue operations, there must be an established communications network. Let’s revisit the words of Daven Lannister:

“My scouts report fires in the high places at night. Signal fires, they think… as if there were a ring of watchers all around us.”

I think the BwB have established a communication network that involves signal fires (we know from his remarks to Brienne that Thoros isn’t spending a lot of time fire gazing these days) and spies. From Lord Vance’s maester to Lady Smallwood to Sharna the innkeep to Tom o’ Sevens inside Riverrun, they seem to have endless capacity to get the downtrodden people of the Riverlands to cooperate with them. The hostages from the Twins will be released, one way or another, by the BwB themselves. Ryger and Grell, by this time, are most like en route to Eastwatch. Weather may play a part in their journey, but as Tycho Nestoris was able to reach it, so should they. What messages, if any, they bring is anyone’s guess, but we know they had ample opportunity to receive them from both the Blackfish and Edmure. This will leave Riverrun and the Twins. With Tom o’ Sevens inside, Riverrun will fall at a time of Lady Stoneheart’s choosing. The fall of the Twins, will be carefully planned to coincide with Lord Walder’s death. We have had plenty of indication of the chaos that will occur when that happens, most clearly in Merrett Frey’s POV when he thinks “It was like to be every son for himself when the old man died, and every daughter as well.” Looking at Jaime’s interview with Maria and Amarei Frey at Castle Darry, they told him:

“Some of the river lords are hand in glove with Lord Beric’s men as well … The smallfolk too … Ser Harwyn says they hide them and feed them, and when he asks where they’ve gone, they lie. They lie to their own lords!”

Put together with all the evidence just discussed, it seems plain that the BwB have politicized their agenda in the Riverlands and with all the hints at plotting, spies and conspiracies, it’s likely we’re going to see a lot more of that agenda in TWoW. It also seems reasonable to conclude from all the hints and the overarching theme of revenge that in the opening pages of TWoW the Riverlands are going to become a shitstorm of Stark and Tully vengeance. While the Riverlands web is still separate from what is happening in the north, I predict an intersection of political agendas of the two areas in the future (thus the title of this essay) For a thorough analysis of the original Great Northern Conspiracy, I can think of no better place to look than here. Yeade has written up the theory brilliantly in eight parts, with appropriate links to the original posts at Westeros that introduced it. Further in depth reading can also be found here. The Winterfell Huis Clos by Bran Vras is an intimate deconstruction of Theon’s ADwD chapters, well worth a perusal by interested parties. Finally, Yolkboy and I discuss this subject in Episode 09 of Radio Westeros.

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