A Clash of Kings-Chapter 59
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Tyrion Lannister watches as half of Stannis' fleet is on fire in the Blackwater Rush. Hundreds of people are dying in the water. King Joffrey complains that most of his ships are ablaze, but for Tyrion there is no alternative to sacrificing them. Some of Stannis' ships have escaped, however, releasing men in front of the city wall or waiting on the southern shore of the Blackwater. Tyrion allows Joffrey to launch the Antler Men with the catapults into the fray. He gets word that there is a large force attempting to batter down the King's Gate. When he arrives there, he orders the Hound, who is in command, to go out with his men, but Clegane refuses. Tyrion realizes that the man is afraid of the wildfire and he is forced to rally the troops himself, leading a sortie through the gate to stop Stannis' men.
Tyrion Lannister, standing on top of the Mud Gate, watches motionlessly as half of Stannis' fleet is ablaze in the Blackwater Rush, along with most of King Joffrey's ships. It seems like the river itself is on fire. The air is full of smoke, arrows and screams. The wildfire is drifting downstream towards ships that desperately, but futilely, try to escape. The low-hanging clouds reflect the green glow, creating an eerily beautiful scenery. Tyrion is reminded of dragon fire and wonders whether he feels the same way as Aegon the Conqueror did when he watched the Field of Fire. He is captivated and can't turn away, although he realizes that this is only half a victory and that the celebrations of the Gold Cloaks behind him are premature.
Tyrion sees another ship loaded with wildfire exploding and has to shield his eyes. Hundreds of people are dying in the water, either burning to death or drowning. He thinks of Stannis, who might be sitting on his warhorse among the mass of people on the southern bank of the Blackwater, watching the same spectacle. Tyrion hears King Joffrey, huddled among his guards on the wallwalk below, complaining about the fate of his fleet, as the Kingslander, Queen Cersei and Loyal Man are already burning and the Seaflower is about to be engulfed by flames as well. He advises his nephew that there was no alternative to sacrificing the own fleet, thinking by himself that Stannis would have sensed the trap, if the royal fleet had not come forward for battle. Bronn's position under the Red Keep is too far away for Tyrion to see anything, but the sellsword must have set the oxen into motion the second Stannis' flagship had passed and the enormously heavy chain was pulled up by the winches, creating a barrier that now prevents most ships from escaping the wildfire inferno.
Some do, though, as Tyrion observes with dismay. While the main channel of the Blackwater is all aflame, the north and south banks are not, as the wildfire has not spread as evenly Tyrion hoped it would. A good part of Stannis' ships have made for the southern side of the Blackwater, from where they can bring the enemy troops across later on, while at least eight ships have already landed under the city wall, putting men ashore there. Stannis' main host might need some time to regain their courage after watching the jade holocaust that has absorbed so many of their fellows, but when they start to attack again, the risk of the city forces breaking will be acute, as Lord Jacelyn Bywater has warned Tyrion. Seeing shapes moving among the charred ruins of the city wharves, he sends order to Lord Jacelyn to make another sortie against soldiers stumbling ashore.
He also commands Ser Arneld to swing the Three Whores thirty degrees west. King Joffrey brings up that his mother has promised him that he could use the catapults and Tyrion allows him to go through with his plan for the Antler Men. When they were brought before the King for justice, Joffrey promised them that he would send them back to Stannis. The traitors are now naked and trussed up in the square, antlers nailed to their heads, and Joffrey intends to catapult the bodies over the city wall in Stannis' direction. Tyrion tells Joffrey to proceed swiftly, as the Great Whores will be needed for other things soon. As the happy King is about to leave, escorted by members of the Kingsguard, Tyrion orders Ser Osmund Kettleblack that they should keep Joffrey safe under any circumstance but also keep him among the defenders. He wonders whether Cersei will be true to her promise of protecting Alayaya the way he protects Cersei's wretched bastard son.
Tyrion gets word that hundreds of enemies have landed on the tourney grounds and prepare for battering down the King's Gate with a ram. He curses, hurries to his horse and, followed by Podrick Payne and Ser Mandon Moore, gallops through the River Row, kept clear of traffic on Tyrion's command to allow movement between the gates, towards the King's Gate. When he arrives there, the ram is already in place outside and crashing against the wood. Some of the defenders on the gatehouse square are wounded, but Tyrion spots a good many sellswords and knights who are not, and he orders another sortie, asking who is in charge.
Sandor Clegane steps forward and objects to Tyrion's order, dropping his helmet to the ground. His face is covered in blood from a gash on his forehead and his left ear is sheared off. Tyrion insists on a sortie, but the Hound tells him to bugger that and bugger himself. A sellsword seconds Clegane, explaining that three sorties left half of the men wounded or dead. Tyrion sarcastically asks him whether he thinks he has been hired to fight in a tourney. He repeats his order, addressing the Hound in particular, but then is shocked to notice that Clegane is actually scared. He changes his tactics and tries to coax the men into action, but Clegane is adamant that he will not lead the men into the fire again. He suggests to open the gate instead and kill the enemies when they rush inside. Ser Mandon advises him to obey the order of the Hand of the King, but the Hound just curses Tyrion some more, then asks for wine.
Clegane's face is white as milk and Tyrion thinks he's dead on feet, worn out by the battle and his terror of fire. Even worse, the Hound's fear has shaken the will of those he commands. Tyrion is looking around for another man to put in charge, but dimisses his own idea of using Ser Mandon, as he remembers a comment by his brother Jaime that Ser Mandon is not the kind of man others would follow. He hears another crash of the ram and announces that he will lead the sortie himself, thinking to himself that this is madness but madness is better than defeat. The Hound laughs at the suggestion with contempt, but Tyrion gives orders to prepare the attack. However, only twenty men respond to his call while the others follow Clegane's example. Sitting on his horse with helmet and shield, Tyrion addresses the holdouts: "They say I'm only half a man. What does that make the lot of you?"
He manages to shame them by suggesting they are less than a dwarf if they refuse to fight the enemies. Within a few moments, twice as many men respond to Tyrion's orders. He announces:
"You won’t hear me shout out Joffrey’s name. [...] You won’t hear me yell for Casterly Rock either. This is your city Stannis means to sack, and that’s your gate he’s bringing down. So come with me and kill the son of a bitch!"
Tyrion unshields his axe and trots towards the sally point. He thinks the men are following him, but he doesn't dare to look around and check whether they really do.
References and Notes
- The synopsis was copied from AOL member vbkorik27 previously at .
- Analyses and summary of the chapter in the course of a 10th reread by Slynt.
- Review and summary by Leigh Butler.