September 22, 2011

Epilogue

Ian Gelder as Kevan Lannister in HBOs Game of Thrones
Red Ronnett is standing in the throne room before the Iron Throne. The Small Council has convened. He fervently pledges his loyalty to Tommen, offering to lead an army south himself to beat Jon Connington. Kevan dismisses him and confines him to his chambers before attending the next matter. He has the feeling that the two queen's presence, although their not here, lurks in the room, glooming the mood. Randyll Tarly states that the men Ronnett came with were unruly guys of Gregor's, and that only the Wall is fit for such when Kevan proposes to put them in the Goldcloaks. Kevan himself thinks that the Tyrells try to keep out Westerlanders from positions of power, but he doesn't speak it out loud.

The matter at hand now is Storm's End, to which Connington is headed if the reports can be believed. Mace Tyrell boasts that even if Connington took it it would mean nothing, since he would simply retake it - after the trial. Randyll Tarly doesn't believe in the rumors of the Golden Company and says that even if it were them they would pose no threat. Kevan remembers back in the days of the rebellion when he met Jon Connington, an arrogant but able youth back then, and is convinced that the years have made him more dangerous. He was convinced that after he lost the Battle of the Bells, Aerys would turn back to Tywin, but instead Aerys tumbled into his downfall.

All the councilors doubt the rumors that Aegon Targaryen is leading the host, believing or stating to do that they know he's dead, although Kevan remembers back telling himself that no one looked real hard at the body of the smashed princeling. Pycelle says that Daenerys also is in the east with her dragons, but she is dismissed as a threat for now. The most urgent problem the realm is facing just now is that it has no money since Cersei broke with the Iron Bank, and they can't raise taxes for fear of rebellion. Mace Tyrell claims that nothing of value was found on Dragonstone, but Kevan is suspicious of the Lord of Highgarden nonetheless.

The discussion goes back to the planned trials. Kevan reassures the others that regardless of the outcome Cersei will play no further role neither in Tommen's education nor in the governing of the realm but instead retire to Casterly Rock. He dismisses all other matters and brings the council to an end. Swyft is commanded to go to Braavos and to negotiate with the bankers directly, and he surely isn't happy about it. Since Swyft and Pycelle both asked for guards, Kevan grants them and then leaves for supper with Cersei and Tommen.

Cersei is a pleasant surprise, submittive and friendly. She scrubs herself clean every day and prays much with the septas the Faith has bestowed on her, none longer than seven days for fear of corruption. Cersei makes a harmless jest about Mace Tyrell rebuilding the tower of the hand, and then asks for the return of Lady Merryweather and her son. Kevan sees no harm in it and grants her the wish. He is then called to maester Pycelle in an urgent matter and takes his leave. In Pycelle's chambers, the windows are opened, and it's cold and dark. A white raven has arrived, heralding the arrival of winter. Before Kevan can make out Pycelle, he is hit in the chest by crossbow bolt. The shooter is Varys, telling Kevan that it's not personal, but that he can't allow him to strengthen the rule of Tommen. Aegon would make a better king, he says, and then sends his children forth to kill Kevan.

When I first opened the epilogue on my first read and realized Kevan was the POV character, I felt sorry. Since no one survives being in prologue or epilogue, Kevan was dead meat. And really, he dies. Varys, who seems to have hidden all the time in the numerous tunnels and holes. His estimation of the situation is correct. Kevan, clearly his brother's brother, has done a good job in securing the realm, although at cost of power growth on the Tyrell side. If Aegon's invasion shall be succesful, the realm needs to be destabilized. Since with Kevan dead and everyone suspecting Tyrell interference and a presumed victory of "Ser Robert Strong" Cersei will come back into power, the stage is cleared for the final disaster of Lannister rule.

In this chapter we can learn that Kevan was, after the High Septon of course, the driving force behind Cersei's walk of shame. He didn't so much as encourage it, but he certainly did not take any steps preventing it, in full knowledge of its implications. Like Cersei, he recollects memory of the walk of shame that Tywin engineered for his father's consort, and he knows exactly what it will do to Cersei's station, a knowledge that the queen herself only gathers in the middle of it. His objective obviously was to remove Cersei from power, but not to kill her, since he hopes she will survive, and to put her back to Casterly Rock out of the way. That plan is now blown to hell by Varys, who in the same turn also got rid of another Lannister power source at the Red Keep, Pycelle, in both cases blaming Tyrion and thereby adding further distractions.

It's interesting in this chapter to see again the long-term effects of Cersei's bad calls. On the one hand, the Faith has become such a power that neither Kevan nor Mace Tyrell can ignore it. The High Septon has become a player, and it will only be a matter of time until he or one of his successors becomes aware of the situation and tries to use it to his advantage. The Targaryens may try to make common cause with the Faith, and even succeed given the alternatives, but after that they will face the same internal opposition as the first Aegon did. On the other hand, the royal coffers are totally empty, all sources of money dried up. No one lends the Iron Throne any more money since Cersei ceased payments to the Iron Bank. That's only natural; who would want to lend money to someone known not to pay back at his convenience? Stannis' word, on the other hand, is iron, and the Targaryens, given their success, are more liable debtors as well. Great work there, Cersei. Harys Swyft will surely not sway the minds of the bankers, that's for sure.

As to side notes, Storm's End seems to become the number one propaganda objective. Everyone wants to hold it to prove just who succesful he is on the battlefield, but it is only taken by guile, magic and subterfuge. Second, Tommen mentions the "bad" tomcat again that Arya already chased and which likely is the kitten Balerion. Nice touch there. And third, we see little children serving in the Red Keep all over the place. If they were mentioned before so explicitly I totally missed it, but when one of them leads Kevan to Pycelle's chambers, you surely can see how Varys' network of little birds works.

5 comments:

  1. Heads up, people. This isn't the last post. The last post is scheduled for tomorrow, with an extensive review of the book after the reread. Stay put! ^^

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  2. The little birds may have been mentioned back in Game of Thrones when Littlefinger points out one of Varys' spies to Eddard. Likely Varys has integrated them into the regular staff in the Redkeep, which shouldn't be hard to do given the number of servants and likely hostages there already, very well pulled off though.

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  3. I know that they were mentioned in GOT already, what I meant was them serving in the staff so explicitly.

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  4. They weren't exactly hiding though, so they'd need some kind of cover for them to be picked out openly. Staff made the most sense in any event.

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  5. Varys's little speech about Aegon at the end is why I think Aegon is going to fail - and meet a bad end. He's almost Arthurian: raised in secret, educated in secret, secret crown prince, and trained to be a King.

    The problem is, this isn't an arthurian story, and Aegon's supposed positives seem a little thin. He's never known hunger or fear in the way Daenerys did when she was young, having been sheltered his entire life. He's never sat in court, never shadowed a leader in the way that Jon, Robb, Tyrion, or even Sam has. The one time he was put into a do-or-die situation (the Bridge of Dream), he froze in place.

    Even Varys's claim that Aegon "knows" that kingship isn't his right but his duty strikes me as wrong. Aegon didn't even realize that his appearance in front of Daenerys might be less than convincing until Tyrion gave him a reality check. To him, the kingship was his right. He's a paper prince so far.

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