Playin’ with Ice and Fire: A Game of Thoughts | Eddard Chapter 25

She’s new, she’s the re-re-reader.  She’s the newbie, she’s the spoilery vet.  Together they’re rereading George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones and getting their POV on.  Today they react to Chapter 25 – a Ned Stark chapter.

If you got her and want to start at the beginning, go catch the start of this Game of Thrones reread and enjoy the full ride!

Elena-

I am tempted with this chapter to simply list my bullet points of underscorings and marginal comments:

  • Silk tunic?  Really?
  • Ostentatious speechifying to give climate history lesson.
  • Of course Ned finds the milk too sweet, he’s an ascetic.

But that would never do, would it?  You might not understand everything I meant, and we couldn’t have that, now.  So, the silk tunic—I know it’s court garb and he changes into linen later, but I have a hard time buying he’s not wearing a linen one underneath, ladies’ shift style.

This has to do with the fact that I have sewn some historical costumes, and before/while doing so did a great deal of research about materials and construction and so on.  One of the more interesting things I learned is that silk would never have been used for something that lay against the body, like a shirt, because washing techniques were so rough that it would be destroyed within a few wears, and the material was too expensive for that.  It would have been saved for outer garments.  So even though it’s meant here to be an affectation of the court, I find it…troublesome.  But I forgive Martin because I would never, ever, have doubted such a detail before delving into that highly specialized realm of knowledge.

My take on Pycelle’s maundering speaks for itself; his “foolish meanderings” are merely a convenient narrative way to exposit a bit more about this climate.  Which, can I just bring up again, makes no sense to me in an astronomical sense.  Seriously, where are the people on this bassackwards planet who can actually keep accurate enough records of seasons and star charts to be able to predict them?  It’s a pretty rudimentary skill to living on a planet.  Can someone tell me if this is ever explained (you don’t have to explain, I just want to know if at some point it is)?

Ned.  Ascetic.  Honey.  Duh.

My take on the whole conversation with Pycelle is that he was in on the murder of Jon Arryn, which if Lysa’s letter is to be believed means that he is in bed with the Lannisters.  Pycelle speaks of having sent away the apprentice who was purging Jon Arryn.  Of course he couldn’t have the poison coming out before doing its worst.  He does NOT answer the question of whether Jon’s death was like or unlike anything he had ever seen; it’s an obvious dance-around, too, to say that “every case is different, and every case is alike.”  Pycelle is way too unshocked by Ned’s suggestion of poison.

His eyes flicking open to me seem to indicate surprise merely that Ned had the balls (or the stupidity) to bring it up, before he shifts “uncomfortably” in his seat.  Why would he be uncomfortable unless he knew that’s what it had been?    If he’d never thought of it he’d be either shocked and rethinking everything, or reassuring Ned that Arryn’s symptoms were not merely none of the signs of poison but exactly like X disease that carried off X person in a similar situation.  Then he immediately tries to deflect suspicion from women (Cersei) onto eunuchs (Varys) when Ned suggests poison being a woman’s weapon.  Or maybe he really is just a fool, as Ned categorized him in the first place, and he really hadn’t thought anything of Jon’s death.

Before we move on to the other acts in this chapter, let’s talk about the person who did think about Jon Arryn’s death, and find it terrifying:  his wife, Lysa.  Perhaps I have just read too many gothic novels, but I am always suspicious when men start characterizing a woman I have not yet seen on stage as “crazy.”  That’s a red flag for me that maybe she’s crazy or MAYBE she’s just inconvenient.  I don’t know if Lysa really is crazy (my twice-written marginal comment was, With reason?, when it came to her being anxious/paranoid).  But she seems pretty damn savvy to me, hauling her son off to the middle of nowhere in the dead of night before anyone can restrict her movements or essentially ransom him against her good behavior.  The surest way to discredit her is to call her mad.

Not a raving lunatic, but weak, depressed, paranoid—the sort of person who would say such outrageous things for attention, or because they cannot handle the truth of her own mediocrity or unimportance.  Pycelle hits this hard.  “His son was ever sickly, and his lady wife so anxious that she would scarcely let the boy out of her sight. It was enough to weary even a strong man.”  “The Lady Lysa was never [the strongest and most disciplined of minds]…she has seen enemies in every shadow, and the death of her lord husband left her shattered and lost.”  I dunno…having the wherewithal to remove her entire household from King’s Landing on short notice and write to her sister in a secret language might be paranoid, but it’s not deranged, it’s calculating.  Obviously unlike her sister, Lysa doesn’t freeze in a crisis.

I had an interesting note near the section about her being anxious.  “The problem with being a Tully is that she probably felt herself unable to fight back…hence, nervous breakdown.”  Because, to my mind, the worst part of being attacked or bullied or dominated when you can’t defend yourself, because the consequences for doing so are worse than the consequences of submission, isn’t the domination but the sense of not being able to fight back.  If this is what happens when a Tully woman goes to court, though, it does not bode well for Sansa, Catelyn’s daughter through and through.

Couple brief points before we move on:

-It’s sad my estimation of Robert is so low that I actually wrote “did he?” in the margin next to him going to sit with Jon Arryn and speak of old times, but of course he did. Robert wants to live in the good old days, so of course he’d go talk to an old friend/father figure and re-tell all those old stories one more time.

-The seed is strong…Baratheon?  Or Lannister?  Or TARGARYEN?

-A ponderous tome on the lineages of the great houses…hm.  Was Jon Arryn trying to find a way to depose the Lannisters?  Lol.

-“I am here to serve.”  Yes, Ned thought, but WHOM?  Well, at least he realizes that…..

On to Arya, and the stairs, and the talk of Bran.

I love that Ned questions what she is doing and cautions her to be careful, but never once tells her not to.  And he is a good man for not telling Aya pretty untruths—especially not after the discussion he had with her last chapter about how winter is coming, and they had best prepare…seems like the only time for illusions, like squabbles, is summer.  I do wonder what answer he would give to Sansa in the same situation?  But she would probably never ask the question, because Sansa does not want to know about the world as it really is.

I loved Arya’s reaction to her prospective fate:  “No, that’s SANSA!”  It does show us that Ned is not quite a modern father, despite his giving Arya a sword master.  The expectation is still that she will follow the pattern of life for every noble lady.

That Ned respects the commander of the Kingsguard and Petyr finds him tiresome, means he’s probably a stubborn old honorable man like Ned, not facile and scheming like Petyr.  Ned should take that as a sign he can maybe trust the old guard, or at least predict him, which is a kind of trust (better the devil you know, after all).

And can I just say that, damn, I love Petyr here.  He is growing on me as a reader, even if me as a Stark sympathizer doesn’t trust him.  This chapter shows that he is smarter than the people around him—Ned had no out of the box thinking if he didn’t suspect any servants might have stayed.  Granted, he has no way to access that information that would not make his investigation obvious, but he didn’t even think to have, say, Petyr ask.  Petyr had to think of that possibility for him.

Petyr is no doubt after his own ends when he points out the people watching Ned—I noticed, for example, that he does not mention the pair of his own pair of eyes he inevitably has on the King’s Hand.  But he also shows his point of view, which is against the queen and against Varys, by pointing out their spies.  So to the extent that he is an enemy of the enemy (the Lannisters), Ned can rely on him.

“The wiser answer was, no, my lord but be that as it may.”/”You are slow to learn, Lord Eddard.  Distrusting me was the wisest thing you have done since you climbed down off your horse.”  Trust no one.  It’s, X-files, Westeros edition.  Well, Mulder would have plenty of legends to chase down out beyond The Wall and across the sea in the east.  Damn, when does that character show up, the crazy anthrozoologist? Lol.  Anyway.  The theme is apt:  Trust no one.

Harder than it sounds, like nihilism.  Shit does not bode well for my simple Stoic.

– Readers, if leaving a comment for Elena please direct (@Elena) them at her – and lead your comments with your messages for her.  Please do not direct spoilers at her. Thanks!

–Do not read on if you have not read the series through A Feast for Crows and want to avoid spoilers–

Rachel-

Quick, who can be the crazy anthrozoologist? I could see it being Samwell Tarly. He knows stuff, he travels, he happens to be a bumbling idiot sometimes. I can see him starring in the BBC comedy production of Game of Thrones – Flying in the Wingbeats of Dragons. Narrated by Richard Attenborough. I don’t see Sam narrating himself, too much stuttering.

On to the chapter:

For shame on Grand Maester Pycelle for trying to push the blame onto Varys. What do you mean he can’t be trusted just because he is a eunuch? Eunuchs deserve far more love than they get! I’m reminded of another favorite eunuch in another book series I happen to be re-reading. I feel like if you are a eunuch in a genre novel at the very least you are going to be a badass schemer because, forgive me, what else are you going to do? Think about it, the Wall or the CIA? Which would you choose I wonder?

Pycelle is such a useless man. Indicitive of the court I think, left over. So many in King’s Landing are left over from the Targaryen reign and if they aren’t, they’re a Lannister. Robert brought very few of his own people to the city to help him run the Seven Kingdoms. He’s got Jon Arryn (er, had) and who else? His brothers? Now there’s two men who work well together…. And Petyr doesn’t count because he was brought ot court via Lysa and Petyr has far bigger plans than serving a king. I love the idea of this old man who can barely taste anything anymore, sipping honeyed milk (ew) with Ned and reminiscing about the good ole’ days.God you’d think Robert would WANT people he likes around him. It can’t all boil down to the Lannisters owning everyone can it? Robert would rather fight than plot and he doesn’t seem to have anyone to fight. Which is why he drinks. I would drink too.

Anyways, the mystery of Jon Arryn’s death and Ned’s attempt to play out an episode of Law and Order is just so BORING. We get it, the initial mystery is what causes Catelynn to arrest Tyrion, it’s responsible for Bran’s fall, blah blah blah. It is still BORING. I do not care that some old guy died. I don’t. I never will. But Elena is spot on about Pycelle and the Lannisters, sometimes you get a glimmer of hope that Ned is waking up to the ways one must behave to survive in King’s Landing, but then hope fades.

It’s hilarious the way Petyr and Ned tolerate each other but it’s even more hilarious to think about Petry pretending to help Ned. At this point I have no illusions that Petyr didn’t know exactly what happened from the start, Catelynn bringing the knife was probably a hitch in the plan because Joffrey is an idiot and who ever remembers to plan for Joffrey being an idiot?

So he’s got to play out some long bullshittery to convince the Starks he is helping them, keep them busy while he moves and plots. I’ll bet the Starks coming to King’s Landing was really annoying for Petyr. Just when he thought he’d gotten everyone where he wanted them, but he did manage to make the best of new opportunities. Poor Sansa.

I can’t wait to see how Elena reacts to Ned visiting Gendry right after Petry bothers to point out that he’s being WATCHED at all times. If he’s trying to figure out the mystery of JOn Arryn’s book and “the seed is strong” you’d think you would want to do it without literally everyone in King’s Landing knowing about it. But no, I think parading around as the King’s Hand through the streets and to the armory in broad daylight sounds like a SPLENDID idea. No wonder Cersei knows about Gendry. At least Jon Arryn was subtle. I don’t think Petry could teach Ned subtlety if he taught him using a fun diddy, “I always feel like, somebody’s watching meeeeeee.”

Someone start a band called Littlefinger. Please.

What else? Elena liked that transition scene where Ned moves from Pycelle to Petyr by way of Arya balancing on the stairs. At this point Arya isn’t hiding her activities from anyone either, at least the household and from what Petry says that means the entirety of the Red Keep.

It couldn’t have been considered proper for Arya to be learning swordplay, hence the “dancing lessons”. But here she is out in the open balancing on her toes. Maybe Ned telling Arya that she’ll be expected to marry someday just means that Ned still believes that all the swordplay is child’s play. That Arya will grow out of it. It’s hard to understand his motivation. I want it to be complicated but it could very well be a man indulging his daughter.

But whatever it is, it certainly saves Arya’s ass on more than one occasion.

Ned blundering around the Red Keep investigating Jon Arryn’s death is just so lame compared to what is happening on the Wall or even with Cat. It’s so underwhelming for me that this boring little story line is what get’s Ned all headless. I know I’m going to get some heat for that statement but Jon Arryn isn’t interesting. Lysa isn’t interesting, she’s just annoying and crazy, and Robert Arryn is a first grader who still breast feeds! Why do I care if these people were treated unfairly? Far better characters have been treated unfairly as well so why should I give a rip? I don’t really… I just care about the aftershocks.

It’s so frustrating to read these Ned chapters again, as you see Jon and Bran go through so many changes and Ned just keeps plodding along singing his same old honorable song.

Elena Nola is the imperial editrix for the BSC empire. She likes genre books, weird movies, and obscure references. She lives in New Orleans, where almost every day is good enough for good times.  Contrary to dogma, Rachel Parker is the mind-killer. She is a nerd, writer, and art historian living in Brooklyn, NY. You can read more of her posts at scienceofdiscontent.blogspot.com, or follow @DarthRachel on twitter

27 Replies to “Playin’ with Ice and Fire: A Game of Thoughts | Eddard Chapter 25”

  1. @Elena, interesting info in the silk! I didn’t know! 🙂

    To me, Pycelle is both a meandering fool and a Lannister toady. He’s so wise that he long ago lost his imagination and any will to be interesting. I really held him in contempt from the first, but don’t hate him. He’s not interesting enough to hate. I’ll be honest, I wish Ned would just drop this, as I have no doubt Pycelle is going to tell on him!

    On Selmy, I think you’ll find his history, once it’s revealed, interesting. Not to the plot, just in that he’s truly a badass knight!

    Arya balancing on her toes…awesome!!

    As to Petyr, I’m not surprised you like him, as he has alot of fans! It’s that whole outsmarting everyone bit, although I tend to think of him as slimy. Every time he extolled Ned not to trust him, I agreed, and I know Ned didn’t really. But Ned has no idea how to be subtle or clever or any of that. He’s not dumb, he just can’t sneak. At all. I worry for him, and Petyr Baelish doesn’t make me any easier in mind!

    But damn, if everyone was as clever as Littlefinger and Varys, no one would get anywhere in the Game of Thrones!

    Spoilers ahoy!!

    @DarthRachel, I do agree that Ned’s blundering around in this investigation is stupid. It’s the ultimate reason he agreed to come, but IMHO, he should have let it go. Jon Arryn is dead, see to your friend and king before he sinks the whole damn realm! Ned has no feel for these things! I hate that, now, I can see his death coming, but the dread I feel is no less than the first time I experienced it! ARGH!!

    Not much else to say on that…except over at Inn at the Crossroads, they came up with a lovely iced milk recipe that actually tastes good! Check it out!

    http://innatthecrossroads.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/iced-milk-sweetened-with-honey/

    Arya’s lessons with Syrio were the best thing Ned could have done for her, and were one of those moments that made me love him. I hate that it happens, though…

    Whoops, be back with more!

    1. re the silks – like i said, a year ago i would never have questioned it either. 🙂

      RE selmy – i have now read through the first day of the tournament, where he unseats knights 30 years younger. that pretty much says badass to me, and i haven’t even heard what he’s DONE with his prowess!

      not much else to add, but thanks for always responding to me! glad you’re enjoying them and that you always have comments for a newbie. 🙂

  2. @ Elena

    The Maesters are the ones that keep track of the seasons, stars, moons, etc. Also, GRRM has indicated that the seasons aren’t something we should be trying to fit into our knowledge of astronomy because there is a magicky root cause.

    Also, now I want an X-files: Westeros edition to go with my CSI: Winterfell!

    *** SPOILERS ***

    @Rachel
    The best lies have a kernel of truth to them and that’s what makes Littlefinger’s playing of the Starks so effective. He really does want to help them figure out what Jon Arryn was looking into that got him killed. Once Ned knows about the seed being strong he’ll conclude the obvious (and the very incorrect). Petyr wants the Starks and Lannisters at war and for that he actually needed them in King’s Landing. That’s why Jon had to die in the first place.

    Can you further explain what you mean about Petyr knowing what is happening from the start and the knife being a hitch? I’m not sure if you’re saying that he somehow planned/anticipated the events at Winterfell or whether you’re saying he figured it out as soon as he got the information. If it’s the latter I agree, if the former then not so much.

    Also, after reading this, I absolutely can’t wait to see Elena’s reaction when she meets Lysa.

    *** END SPOLIERS ***

    1. ***spoilers***

      @evilclosetmonkey

      Oh yea.. how incredibly unclear am I? Wow. I actually meant he knew what was going on with the whole Jon Arryn/poison/Lannisters/incest.

      Thanks for pointing that out!

      1. **Spoilers***

        and now I realize i TOTALLY forgot about Lysa.

        I am not on the ball. Forgive me humble readers. (I’m re-reading the 3rd book as we speak though so there’s.. that going for me.)

    2. well, that’s not very fun, is it, to have a magical winter? i prefer laughing at westeros’ lack of galileo.:)

      1. If it makes you feel better the maesters do spend alot of time taking measurements, making charts, etc, in an effort to predict when winter is coming. They’re probably about as accurate as the local weatherman 🙂

        1. ha ha! wrong again, weatherman! and yet like the weathermen, no one seems to fire the maesters for incompetence. hm. you may have just coined the analagy of the book

  3. @Elena: Actually, when so many people say the same thing about someone, especially when they’re enemies or at least not working together, I tend to think it’s more believable.
    And regarding Barristan Selmy – I won’t spoil anything, but ask yourself this: Is an Order sworn to being loyal to the king NO MATTER WHAT the best thing there is? In fact, shouldn’t we be suspicious of the ‘honorable’ guys, because that might mean they’ll never do what is right?

    @Rachel: (Spoilers) Do you realize how confusing the mystery of Jon Arryn is, though? Because it seems as though the Lannisters and Pycelle did do it… But then Lysa says Littlefinger made her do it when she goes all Raynald of Châtillon on Sansa. So what happened? Was everyone poisoning Jon Arryn at the same time? Or was Lysa doing it, Pycelle found out, told Cersei, who then told him to let Jon die?
    As for Littlefinger teaching Eddard about suspicion/paranoia – who do you think turned Lysa into what she is?

    1. ***Spoilers***

      @Koby

      Seven Hells… see my response to EvilClosetMonkey.

      Should I be punished for forgetting something so important?

    2. if i were a feminist i would poitn out that every character who maligns lysa has been a man, and call it enough said.

      since i’m not…i will say that i’m still suspicious of the designation just becuase i have read too many gothic novels where it was used to undermine someone’s autonomy or authority for the ends of others. and acknowledge that she might be batshit crazy, but that i won’t know until i meet her. 🙂

  4. ***Spoilers***

    SERIOUSLY ELENA DON’T READ THIS

    @Everybody

    Well don’t I look dumb? Yes.. I forgot about Lysa being the one that actually administered the poison to Jon Arryn. I had misremembered it as Petyr being in on it, but it was Pycelle who did it.

    Apologies all around. Sometimes I forget. It happens.

    1. I, for one, forgive you. This time. If it happens again though, don’t be surprised when you hear the Rains of Castamere. 🙂

  5. ***SPOILERS***

    @Rachel – When I started rereading Game of Thrones I forgot it was Lysa too, so don’t feel bad. By the time we find out who did it, we don’t really care anymore. But Pycelle was kind of unwittingly in on it. He realized Jon Arryn was poisoned, and he assumed it was Cersei, so he sent Jon Arryn’s maester away and treated Jon himself – to make sure the poison worked. He admits all of this to Tyrion in Clash of Kings.

  6. ** spoiler alert **

    Littlefinger is probably the most skilled player. Big events seem to always point back to him. (i.e. Jon’s death and Joffrey’s death.) I imagine that Littlefinger was plotting with Cersei on Jon’s death, which would explain why Pycel was instructed not to purge the poison. I thought tears of Lys and the strangler were one in the same. If so, Jon’s death would have been abrupt and not over time. Can anyone clarify this?

    1. *** SPOILERS ***

      I was at first confused about this as well but the Tears of Lys and the Strangler are two very different poisons. I believe the Tears make you sick and waste away making it look naturalish whereas the Strangler causes your throat to very quickly swell shut. I think the Tears are a liquid but the Strangler is definitely a dark purple crystal that dissolves it alcohol. Jon Arryn gets the Tears but Cressen and Joffrey get the Strangler.

      Also, I don’t think Petyr and Cersei were plotting together. Littlefinger doesn’t exactly think highly of Cersei and there is no way he’d trust her with something like that. If I remember correctly, Cersei was happy to see Jon die but hadn’t actually gotten around to plotting his death yet. Littlefinger had him poisoned for his own reasons and Pycelle realized that Cersei would be happy to see Jon go (perhaps with some prompting from Littlefinger) and took it upon himself to make sure Jon didn’t recover.

      *** END SPOILERS ***

      1. *** Spoilers ***

        @evilclosetmonkey

        agreed on the poisons. perhaps one is a more concentrated form of the other? but those names def denounce different effects.

        I still think Petyr knew about the incest and thought it would be a perfect cover for taking out Jon Arryn (as I believe he would eventually have succeeded in taking out practically the whole court had things not started taking care of themselves for him) which is why he instructed Lysa to write the letter accusing the Lannisters. Figuring either 1. an investigation would bring some things to light that could only benefit him or 2. start a conflict that might escalate to war that would also benefit him.

        1. *** SPOILERS ***

          I agree that Littlefinger had to know about the twincest. He’s just too clever and perceptive for me to believe he didn’t know. I think he had the basic outline of a plan: kill Arryn, blame Lannisters, profit. But I think Bran’s fall was a happy accident for Littlefinger. As he says, he thrives on chaos. He took the opportunity to further escalate the Stark-Lannister conflict and it worked out quite nicely for him.

  7. Hey, it’s okay. Everyone forgets ole Lysa! I totally don’t mind. Excellent insights!

    1. ***Spoilers***

      @Lysa (chuckles)

      It’s not so much I forgot her.. just that I’ve blocked everything she ever said, it was the only way to get rid of the “sex scene” cries. oh god.. there they are again… *shudder*

    1. *** Spoilers ***

      @Joey

      Yea.. I can’t believe I forgot, seeing as that scene with the moon door is one of my favorites! (why are all the death scenes my favorites?) the only thing that could have made it better is if Sansa went out the door too!

  8. “I feel like if you are a eunuch in a genre novel at the very least you are going to be a badass schemer because, forgive me, what else are you going to do?”

    I’ve noticed that as well – probably because, as a man who (following an accident) had his testicles removed, I’m a bit sensitive. I guess you could call me a eunuch, but at least I am lucky to live in an age where testosterone injections provide me the ability to do more than scheme. 😉 I forget where I read it but the author did have fun with his eunuch – “the wretched eunuch’s ball-less sack hung empty like a drained wineskin.” Or something like that. I guess one should see the lighter side about these things – after all my balls are gone, not my sense of humor. 😉

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