Petyr Baelish is introduced in an interesting step-wise fashion: first there was a passing mention by Cersei. Now he is further illuminated via Catelyn telling a story about his past, before finally showing up in the flesh.
He is described as a small, slender, sharp-featured man, not quite thirty years old, with “laughing” green eyes, dark hair with a little gray, a goatee, and a silver mockingbird brooch. And he demonstrates trick knife-throwing skills; does he ever do this again?
Varys, meanwhile, is yet another overweight, perfumed character. He also uses face powder, is completely bald, wears what Westerosi culture would consider effeminate clothing (a sparkly vest over a silk gown and velvet slippers), “giggle[s] like a little girl” and “squeal[s]” at the sight of a drop of blood. As with Illyrio, we experienced readers now know Varys is using these culturally despised (in Westeros) traits as sort of a disguise; it’s interesting to remember that a first-time reader wouldn’t know that yet.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in this chapter:
- Like the earlier and related introduction of the murder mystery subplot, the whole song and dance about Ser Rodrik going to fetch the king’s armorer seems rather drawn out and contrived now that I know it isn’t going anywhere.
- WiC #4.
- Catelyn is noble to pay the oarsmen herself, but naive to think they’ll be allowed to hold on to the money if their employer doesn’t wish it. There’s probably a “company store” situation going on: after all, where else will the rowers get their food at sea?
- Catelyn also reveals her unconscious commitment to the hereditary nobility system by dwelling on the fact that Varys isn’t a real lord (Petyr Baelish is, even if a minor one, and therefore worthy of at least slightly more respect in her eyes).
- First mention of Loras Tyrell.