A Clash of Kings-Chapter 25
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Tyrion delivers the news to Cersei that Stannis Baratheon and Renly Baratheon are confronting each other, using the opportunity to poison Cersei so she cannot interfere with his actions. The next day in court he sends Cleos Frey back to Robb Stark with the Lannister demands for peace. Finally he hears from Alliser Thorne about the dead coming alive, and dismisses the threat. Later, he takes Grand Maester Pycelle into custody, getting him to confess his role in the death of Jon Arryn, among other crimes.
Tyrion passes Ser Meryn Trant as he enters Cersei’s chambers, where he finds the recently knighted Ser Lancel Lannister singing to his sister. He complements both, which unnerves Lancel. Tyrion asks Cersei to dismiss Lancel, as there is an important matter for them to discuss. She immediately thinks it is about the begging brothers that were incarcerated after claiming the gods are punishing everyone for Jaime killing the rightful king. Cersei complains that Ser Jacelyn Bywater did nothing so she commanded Vylarr to attend to the matter; Tyrion is irritated that Vylarr dragged half a dozen scabrous prophets to the dungeon without consulting him but will not fight over it. After he asks if the bed she sits on is the one where Robert died, which she confirms, saying it gives her sweet dreams, he tells her that Stannis Baratheon has sailed from Dragonstone, and not to King's Landing, but to Storm's End to lay siege, and Renly Baratheon is riding to meet him. Tyrion, however, thinks it will end in battle rather than an agreement, since the brothers are too different, yet alike. They laugh heartily and Cersei is so happy she even hugs him. He fills two cups with wine, adding some powder to hers. As they toast, Tyrion wonders if this is the Cersei Jaime sees, and is almost sorry for poisoning her.
The next morning, Cersei is ill, so Tyrion holds audience alone. In the hall, there are both Lannister guardsmen and Gold Cloaks standing across from each other, with Bronn and Ser Preston Greenfield flanking the throne. In attendance are lovely Sansa Stark, the coughing Lord Gyles Rosby, his cousin Tyrek Lannister who recently married young Ermesande Hayford (he is teased with the nick name “wet nurse”). Ser Cleos Frey approaches, and Grand Maester Pycelle announces that they cannot accept Robb's terms. Tyrion then gives Ser Cleos their own terms:
Robb Stark must lay down his sword, swear fealty, and return to Winterfell. He must free my brother unharmed, and place his host under Jaime’s command, to march against the rebels Renly and Stannis Baratheon. Each of Stark’s bannermen must send us a son as hostage. A daughter will suffice where there is no son. They shall be treated gently and given high places here at court, so long as their fathers commit no new treasons.
When Ser Cleos states that Robb will not agree to these terms, Tyrion continues with:
Tell him that we have raised another great host at Casterly Rock, that soon it will march on him from the west while my lord father advances from the east. Tell him that he stands alone, without hope of allies. Stannis and Renly Baratheon war against each other, and the Prince of Dorne has consented to wed his son Trystane to the Princess Myrcella. As to this of my cousins, we offer Harrion Karstark and Ser Wylis Manderly for Willem Lannister, and Lord Cerwyn and Ser Donnel Locke for your brother Tion. Tell Stark that two Lannisters are worth four northmen in any season. His father’s bones he shall have, as a gesture of Joffrey’s good faith.
This raises murmurs of delight and laughter from the audience. Ser Cleos asks about the sword Ice and Robb's sisters. Tyrion states that he will have the sword when he makes peace and the sisters when Jaime is released. Tyrion then tells Vylarr that Ser Cleos is to also have a Lannister escort since he is a cousin, and that Vylarr is to take all of his guardsmen. This raises concern from Pycelle; Vylarr stands stone still. Tyrion states that the Gold Cloaks and Kingsguard are adequate to protect the king and queen. Varys smiles knowingly, Littlefinger feigns boredom, and Pycelle is looking confused.
Tyrion attempts to close the meeting, but Ser Alliser Thorne speaks up complaining about being ignored. Tyrion feigns ignorance of him being in the city, blaming Bronn for making his friend that he walked The Wall with wait. Ser Alliser wants to speak to the king, but is told he is playing with his new crossbow (which Tyrion has just given him), so Ser Alliser will have to talk with the King’s servants.
Ser Alliser relates how they found the corpses of two long dead rangers, and brought them back to the Wall. They rose that night and killed Ser Jaremy Rykker and attempted to murder Ser Jeor Mormont. Tyrion gets assurances that the Lord Commander survived and they killed these two dead men. Ser Alliser tells them that they were dead the first time, pale and cold with black hands and feet. As proof he had a hand, but it rotted away while he waited. Tyrion thinks of the dread he felt when he was on the Wall with Jon Snow. He orders Littlefinger to send Ser Alliser back with 100 spades to bury the dead and prevent them from walking, and also tells Ser Jacelyn that Ser Alliser will have the pick of the dungeons to use the spades. Tyrion is informed that the dungeons are near empty since Yoren has already taken all the likely men. He tells Ser Jacelyn to arrest some more, or to spread the word that there is food at the wall. Ser Alliser is not easily dismissed, trying to warn Tyrion of the danger. Ser Preston intervenes, and Ser Alliser knows better than to challenge a Kingsguard. Then, Bronn marches Ser Alliser from the hall.
Varys compliments Tyrion on how he handled the situation. Littlefinger asks if he meant to send away all his guards, to which Tyrion responds only his sister’s guards. Tryion notes that Littlefinger is not happy with him, and Littlefinger replies that he loves him as much as ever but that Myrcella Baratheon cannot wed Robert Arryn if she weds Trystane Martell, and to leave him out of the next deception. Glancing at the knife at Littlefinger’s hip, Tyrion apologizes, stating the realm needs him.
Tyrion asks Varys to walk with him. Varys tells him that Cersei will never let him send away her guard, and Tyrion replies that Varys is going to help him accomplish this by saying it is part of the plan to free Jaime. Varys is to put the thief, the poisoner, the mummer, and the murderer in crimson cloaks to join the rest of the guard escorting Ser Cleos—four among 400 Lannister men cannot be watched closely. She will not like it and be uneasy, but Tyrion likes her uneasy.
Ser Cleos leaves that afternoon, escorted by 100 Lannister guardsmen. That same afternoon, Tyrion finds Timett dicing in the barracks and tells him to meet him in his solar at midnight. He feasts with the Vale mountain clans that night, shunning wine for once. During the feast he asks Shagga what moon it is and is told black, which they call the traitor’s moon. He tells Shagga to not get too drunk and to keep his axe sharp.
Shagga uses his axe to destroy the door to Pycelle’s chambers. Tyrion has Timett pull the naked serving girl out of the bed and march/drag her into the hall. Tyrion pulls the blanket off the maester, who asks why this is being done to a loyal servant. Tyrion tells him that he sent one of his letters to Doran Martell and the other to Cersei. Pycelle tries to blame Varys, but Tyrion informs him that he was the only one he entrusted the information with. Pycelle tries to claim that something happened to the letter on the way, and that he knows things about Varys that would chill Tyrion's blood. Tyrion replies that his lady prefers his blood hot. Then, Pycelle tries to accuse Littlefinger, to which Tyrion responds that he already knows about him. Tyrion instructs Shagga to cut off Pycelle's manhood and feed it to the goats. When Shagga states there are no goats, Tyrion tells him to make do. Shagga first takes most of Pycelle’s beard with his axe as Pycelle sprays everything with urine. Pycelle tells Tyrion that he did everything for House Lannister and to ask Tywin; he says he was even responsible for convincing Aerys II Targaryen to open the gates. Tyrion, shocked, states “So the Sack of King’s Landing was your work as well?” He then asks him how many he has betrayed: Aerys, Eddard Stark, himself, King Robert, Jon Arryn, Prince Rhaegar? Pycelle pleads that Robert was a wretched king, that Renly was plotting to bring Mace Tyrell’s daughter to court and have Cersei supplanted as Queen. Tyrion asks what Lord Arryn had been plotting, and Pycelle explains that Jon Arryn knew of Cersei’s incest. Pycelle also knew that Lord Jon planned to send his wife back to the Eyrie, his son to foster on Dragonstone, and that he meant to act on his knowledge. Thanks to Shagga’s axe making closer and closer shaves of Pycelle's neck, Tyrion finally gets him to confess that he had a hand in the death of Jon Arryn by assuring he wouldn't receive effective treatment because he knew about the father of Cersei’s children. He tells them he knew that Cersei wanted Jon dead but could not say it since Varys was always listening. He sent Colemon away because he was purging Jon. Then Pycelle attempts to blame Hugh for the poisoning, telling Tyrion that Varys can tell him. Disgusted, Tyrion orders Pycelle thrown into one of the black cells.
When Pycelle is gone, Tyrion searches the quarters and collects a few more small jars, thinking how he wished Pycelle was the one he could have trusted; Varys and Littlefinger are no more loyal, just more subtle and thus more dangerous. Tyrion suspects his father's method might be best; send for Ilyn Payne, have all three of their heads mounted above the gates and be done with it.
References and Notes
- Analyses and summary of the chapter in the course of a 10th reread by Slynt.
- Review and summary by Leigh Butler.