August 15, 2011

Jon IX

Lord Commander Jon Snow and Ghost
Selyse Baratheon arrives at Castle Black with her retinue. She mistakes Jon in the beginning, being not pleased with his young age. Axell Florent and some other knights are with her, and Jon is not well disposed towards the former, having received bad rumors about him from Eastwatch. The most peculiar member of the party is the Braavosi banker Tycho Nestoris. After sorting out the initial mistake, Selyse arrogantly demands to be brought to the King's Tower. On the way there, Jon tells her that Eastwatch is more comfortably than the Nightfort, but Selyse hates Cotter Pyke, a feeling that Jon knows is mutual.

On the yard, the party runs into Wun Wun, who has learned some words in the Common Tongue and kneels before the queen. She and her party are disgusted nonetheless, demanding why he is alive, and are not happy when Jon tells them that he enjoys the same guest right as the queen and her knights. When Patchface startles Wun Wun and falls on his back, the giant laughs, and all knights draw their swords. One especially tells Jon bluntly that he, Ser Patrek, would kill Wun Wun if he would be allowed, but Jon silences him again with the guest right argument. The queen continues alone after that.

Jon asks Tycho to stay behind and talk to him, and in his chambers, he learns from the Braavosi banker that the Iron Throne has ceded payments and that the Iron Bank is now willing to support Stannis should he acknowledge the debt. Jon negotiates with Tycho, getting the three ships he came with for his rescue mission to Hardhome and a treaty for borrowing a large sum of money to bring them through the winter. Afterwards, they go the feast hall to eat. There, Axell Florent approaches Jon, demanding to see Val. It is obvious that Axell knows that Val isn't there, and he behaves very rude, forcing Jon to leave the hall in order to avoid an incident.

After a sleep in his chambers, he is woken because a girl has arrived on a half dead horse. Jon rushes to her, believing that it is Arya, recognizing she is not. It turns out that the half starved and frozen girl is Alys Karstark, fleeing a forced marriage with one of her uncles. She tells Jon that her initial betrothed Daryn Hornwood got killed in the Whispering Wood, and that Harry Karstark, captive at Maidenpool, is the true heir, not Arnolf Karstark. She claims he only declared for Stannis so that the Iron Throne would kill Harry, making her the heir. She would in turn be married to her other uncle, who has an infamous reputation for killing wives, and asks for asylum. Eventually, she tells Jon that Arnold means to betray Stannis and to fall in his back, dooming him to perish below the walls of Winterfell.

The chapter is pretty straightforward: three seperate groups of people talk to Jon, each giving additional information and requiring diplomatic acts. The first, obvious one is queen Selyse, arrogant and cold, and Jon weathers her with iron courtesy. The second is Tycho Naheris, the Braavosi banker, with whom Jon makes a treaty. And the third is Alyse Karstark, dragging him into the politics of the North once more.

Selyse Baratheon and her court are clearly set up as an opposite force to Jon. Selyse demands homage of a queen and clearly doesn't take neither the Watch nor Jon as Lord Commander seriously. In her behavior, she resembles Cersei when she treats with seemingly inferior power groups. Jon knows that his position is not the best, and so he lets it wash over him, but the knights of summer that Selyse has in her retinue are another matter. They hunger for honor and blood, and the wildlings that Jon let south of the Wall provide ample opportunity for that, especially given a real giant. For them, wildlings aren't humans like the rest of the Seven Kingdom's smallfolk, they are simply savages, dangerous and to be exterminated. Jon keeps the peace with iron grip, but the slightes provocation will shatter it. Axell Florent, being build up as an antagonist for Jon too after he was one for Davos certainly puts oil in the flames, too.

The Braavosi banker is another matter. Was there anything that sweet besides Cersei being imprisoned at the end of "A Feast for Crows"? Her own stupidity now gets back to her. The support of the Iron Bank will definitely help Stannis, provided that he survives the battle of Winterfell (if there is any). Jon needs only to hear of the banker to grasp the situation. All the problems the Watch faces for the winter, especially the problem of feeding the wildlings, can be undone with the help of the bank. Granted, he gets a lot of new problems for the spring, but chances to survive to see it have increased drastically.

The biggest problem Jon now faces is Alys Karstark. She claims blood bonds, to which Jon naturally responds, but the problems she faces are of no concern to the Watch, mustn't be according to the vow. While Jon might help her to escape the unwanted marriage without being totally dragged into something bigger, the news of the planned betrayal of Arnold Karstark changes everything. Stannis faces a real problem with that, one he doesn't anticipate at all, and if Jon decides to warn him he places the Watch firmly in Stannis' camp. Even if Jon wanted to warn Stannis, however, this is almost impossible. Ravens can't reach the king, and a rider is not fast enough in all likelihood. Regarding that situation, the letter that Ramsay sends in the last Jon chapter seems all the more realistic.

For a change, Jon doesn't face Bowen Marsh in this chapter, but what he does the old pomegrenade will certainly not approve of the deal with the Iron Bank nor the policy towards the Karstark problem. While Marsh will most likely accept the loan for buying food, he won't approve getting in debt for the wildlings and especially not borrowing the ships for the mission of Hardhome. That Jon takes in Alys Karstark also aggregates him further against Jon. What's worse, Jon seems to follow his own agenda in this, which is even more despicable in the eyes of the black brothers than submit to the might of the king. Jon doesn't sell his decisions in a way that secures him even the loyalty of even one side. Everyone is against him in the end, and that will be his undoing.


  1. I don't think everyone is against him. I have a feeling there are those who see the wisdom in what he's doing, and others who at least understand in this Karstark situation. We just don't hear from them, unfortunately.

  2. With "everyone" I meant the political power groups. Selyse and her knights and Bowen Marsh and his homies.

  3. Too true, then, sir.

    So, what are the odds that Selyse and her knightly ducks get, say, eaten by a large mammal very soon? Particularly Axell Florent. There's a man who needs to be killed by a giant!

    I agree that Alys is a huge problem. I don't blame her one bit for running, but for Jon to help her puts him firmly in the middle of the politics going on. I'm actually glad that he did, since his actions, in the end, will help the North. It might even be beneficial to the Night's Watch considering Ramsey Snow has no qualms about threatening them, half proof or no.

  4. I think the letter Ramsay sends is only half true. There may not have even been a battle at Winterfell. Jon sends a raven to Deepwood immediately upon hearing of the planned betrayal. Later, when the Braavosi banker meets Asha Greyjoy, he tells her that he is coming from Deepwood, so he must know of the betrayal (from Jon's letter to Deepwood). If he informs Stannis then the betrayal may never occur.