A Clash of Kings-Chapter 3
|A Clash of Kings chapter|
|Place||King's Landing - The Red Keep|
|Page||39 UK HC (Other versions)|
|Chapter chronology (All)|
A Game of Thrones
Tyrion Lannister meets with the small council and assumes his position as acting Hand of the King. After dismissing the council, he and Cersei discuss all that has happened in King’s Landing, and Cersei grudgingly accepts him as Hand. Later, Tyrion travels to the Broken Anvil, where he has finds Varys has already discovered his mistress Shae.
Outside the small council chamber, Ser Mandon Moore insists that Queen Cersei has left orders not to be disturbed. Tyrion quips that he will only be a small disturbance and produces his letter from Lord Tywin Lannister. Ser Mandon remains unimpressed and expressionless, a trait which makes Jaime Lannister consider him the most dangerous of the Kingsguard (besides himself), since his face never hints at his next action. Refusing to back down on his first day, Tyrion introduces Bronn and Timett. After Ser Mandon learns that Bronn killed Ser Vardis Egen, he allows Tyrion to enter. Tyrion relishes that he has passed his first test.
When Cersei sees him, she exclaims “You!” with equal parts disbelief and distaste. Taking care to act confident in front of her, Tyrion remarks that he can see where Joffrey learned his courtesies. When Cersei asks why he is there, Tyrion saunters over to deliver their lord father’s letter. Varys inspects the seal and proclaims it genuine before Cersei snatches it. Cersei has taken the king’s seat, so Tyrion takes the Hand’s chair, which seems only appropriate. Cersei declares the letter absurd and explains that her father has authorized Tyrion to act as Hand of the King in his absence.
Grand Maester Pycelle offers greetings, and Lord Janos Slynt declares that there is need of Tyrion with rioting in the streets and a grim omen in the sky. Cersei lashes out that Slynt is the one in charge of keeping order and that Tyrion would serve them better on the battlefield. Tyrion replies that he is done with fighting, preferring the finer things in life. Littlefinger declares Tyrion a man after his own heart, which reminds Tyrion that he must have a talk with Littlefinger about a certain dagger used in an attempt on Bran Stark’s life.
Cersei is not happy to learn that Tyrion has brought only a few hundred men; she is worried that Stannis or Renly Baratheon will attack the city. Then she declares that only the king can name a Hand, and Joffrey has named Lord Tywin. Tyrion points out that Lord Tywin named him and recommends that Cersei take it up with him at Harrenhal.
Tyrion requests a private moment with Cersei, and the other councillors excuse themselves. As he leaves, Littlefinger asks about living arrangements. Tyrion says he plans to take up residence in the Tower of the Hand. Littlefinger declares Tyrion a braver man than him, considering the fate of the last two Hands. Tyrion corrects this to four, explaining that Aerys's last Hand died in the Sack of King's Landing, and the one before him was burned to death. The two before them were luckier in that they merely died penniless in exile. Littlefinger japes that in that case he would sooner bed down in the dungeon than the Tower of the Hand, and Tyrion privately thinks that Littlefinger might get that wish.
Once they are alone, Cersei asks why their father would ignore her royal command and inflict Tyrion on her. Tyrion points out that Lord Tywin has a large army and can do that, nor is he the first to do so. Cersei threatens to call the letter a forgery and throw Tyrion in a dungeon. Tyrion agrees that no one—not even their father—would protest, but asks why Cersei would want to do such a thing when he has come to help. Cersei insists that it was their father’s help she wanted, but Tyrion can tell that it is Jaime she really wants, so he promises that if she supports him he will find a way to free Jaime. Cersei asks how, given that Robb and Catelyn Stark are not likely to forget the beheading of Lord Eddard. Tyrion notes that Cersei still holds the Stark daughters, forcing Cersei to reveal that she only has Sansa; she sent Ser Meryn Trant to apprehend Arya, but her dancing master interfered and the girl escaped and is likely dead.
Tyrion asks Cersei if she trusts the small council, since their father does not; Joffrey’s short reign has been full of follies and disasters, which suggests the king is getting some very bad counsel. Cersei concedes that Joffrey, always willful, now believes that as king he is free to do as he pleases, not as he is bid. She explains that Joffrey was instructed to allow Eddard Stark to take the black but took it upon himself to order Eddard killed, and Janos Slynt and Ser Ilyn Payne were quick to take the command. Cersei also mentions that as a result, the High Septon is accusing them of lying to him and profaning the Great Sept of Baelor.
Tyrion then questions Cersei about Slynt, asking whose idea it was to make him Lord of Harrenhal and a member of the small council. Cersei replies that Littlefinger made the arrangements; they needed the gold cloaks on their side to stop Eddard Stark before he handed the throne over to Stannis Baratheon. Cersei adds that it was close even so; all might have been lost if Sansa had not come to Cersei with her father’s plans. Tyrion expresses surprise that Sansa would betray her own father's plans, but Cersei explains that the girl was in love with Joffrey and would have done anything for him right up until he cut her father's head off and called it "mercy".
Tyrion also learns it was Varys who suggested Ser Barristan Selmy be removed as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard when Joffrey wanted to blame someone for Robert’s death. It freed the Lord Commander's post and council seat for Jaime, and allowed Joffrey to throw a bone to the Hound. A generous severance was provided, but Selmy would have none of it and fled the city. Tyrion notes that he heard Selmy slew the two gold cloaks sent to apprehend him, which Cersei blames on Slynt’s incompetence. Tyrion points out that Barristan the Bold is a living legend who lends credibility to any man he serves. Cersei admits she did not think of that. Tyrion points out that their father did, and that is why he sent Tyrion to bring Joffrey to heel.
Cersei argues that Joffrey will be no more tractable for Tyrion, but Tyrion points out that Joffrey might be more inclined to listen if he feels threatened, something he doesn’t feel with her. Cersei insists that she will never let Tyrion harm her son, but Tyrion assures her that he only means to threaten. Cersei admits it is worth a try, but remains adamant that Tyrion do nothing without her consent. Tyrion agrees, then asks for an honest answer to who killed Jon Arryn. Cersei tells him she does not know, and goes on to say that Eddard Stark asked her the same question and hinted that Jon Arryn suspected her of something she hesitates to mention. Tyrion earns a slap in the face when he reveals that he knew about her incest with Jaime all along. Tyrion insist that he is not as blind as their father and makes several rude comments that earn him more slaps until he finally warns her that he is getting angry.
Tyrion asks how King Robert was killed, and Cersei explains that Lancel Lannister gave him strongwine of three times the normal potency before he faced the boar, which Cersei claims tasted like triumph when it was served at Robert’s funeral feast. Tyrion, who rather liked King Robert, comments that Cersei was born to be a widow as he rises to leave. Cersei objects that she has not excused him and presses for details about how he will free Jaime. Tyrion tells her he does not know yet, but reminds her to make sure no harm comes to Sansa.
Outside, Timett has disappeared to explore the city, so Tyrion commands Bronn to find him and make arrangements for the clansmen in the barracks beneath the Tower of the Hand. Tyrion commands Vylarr, the captain of Cersei’s household guard, to provide an escort for him to the Broken Anvil Inn, hoping to remind the captain that his oath is to Casterly Rock and not to Cersei alone. As he leaves the Red Keep, Tyrion orders the spiked heads of Eddard Stark and his household taken down and given to the silent sisters. When Vylarr hesitates because King Joffrey ordered them to remain, Tyrion warns him that if they are not removed one of the spikes will have his head.
As they ride through the city, Tyrion notices the effect the war is having on the common people. The markets are full of ragged men selling their household goods, but bare of farmers selling food. There are guards at every shop, and Tyrion notes that in lean times even bakers find sellswords cheaper than bread. Vylarr confirms that very little food is coming into the city with the roads closed to south and west. Tyrion asks what Cersei has done, and is told she has tripled the City Watch and has thousands of craftsmen working on the defenses, including the Alchemists' Guild which has pledged ten thousand jars of wildfire. The thought of so much wildfire makes Tyrion uncomfortable, and he asks where the money is coming from, given that Robert beggared the realm. Vylarr explains that Littlefinger has introduced a tax on entering the city. Tyrion considers this clever and cruel, since tens of thousands are fleeing the war for the supposed safety of the capital. When they arrive at the inn, he dismisses Vylarr and says he plans to stay the night.
Inside, Tyrion finds Shae sitting with several Black Ears and Varys. Tyrion is irritated that Varys found Shae so quickly and wonders who might have betrayed him. Varys says that he had a sudden urge to meet Tyrion’s young lady and Tyrion realizes that the eunuch is indirectly threatening him. The two exchange some veiled threats before Varys asks if Tyrion has seen the red comet. Tyrion replies that he is short, not blind; on the kingsroad it seemed to cover half the sky and outshone the moon. Varys tells Tyrion that on the streets it is called the Red Messenger, "a herald before a king, to warn of fire and blood to follow.” Before Varys leaves, he poses a riddle to Tyrion:
In a room sit three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man with his gold. Between them stands a sellsword, a little man of common birth and no great mind. Each of the great ones bids him slay the other two. ‘Do it,’ says the king, ‘for I am your lawful ruler.’ ‘Do it,’ says the priest, ‘for I command you in the names of the gods.’ ‘Do it,’ says the rich man, ‘and all this gold shall be yours.’ So tell me—who lives and who dies?
Once Varys is gone, Shae asks if it is the rich man who lives. Tyrion is not so sure, saying it depends on the sellsword. As they climb the stairs to their room, Shae has to wait for Tyrion. Tyrion notes that he still has to look up to her even though she is only five feet tall, but he does not mind since she is so sweet. Shae quickly strips and then teases Tyrion that without her he will never be able to sleep in the Tower of the Hand without masturbating, and asks if that is why they call it the Tower of the Hand. She drags him to the bed, and they make fierce love. Afterwards, Tyrion calls himself a fool; Shae is a whore and only after his coin. When Shae asks what Tyrion will do as Hand of the King, he tells her, “Something Cersei will never expect. I’ll do... justice.”
Places, events and terms mentioned
- Humorous review of the chapter
- Review of the chapter in the course of a 10th reread
- Review and summary by Leigh Butler.