“No, no, stop it, stop it both of you. You’re spoiling it, you’re spoiling everything!”
Scene opens on Sansa having breakfast at an inn with her septa (nun/governess lady), and sneaking bacon to her direwolf Lady, who is very sweet and well-behaved. Sansa and Arya are supposed to be riding with Queen Cersei and Princess Myrcella in the wheelhouse today, and Sansa is very excited about tea, lemon cakes, and the possibility of seeing Prince Joffrey (not necessarily in that order). Arya is not at breakfast with them, so Septa Mordane sends Sansa to find her and make sure she’s acceptable to be admitted to the queen’s presence.
She finds Arya on the banks of the Trident (a convergence of rivers in the shape of, well, I’m sure you can guess), brushing mud out of her direwolf Nymeria’s fur. She tells Arya she needs to get dressed up for the royal wheelhouse ride, and Arya states she’s not going. She’s going to go search the river for the rubies Robert whacked off of Prince Rhaegar’s armor when he killed him at the Trident back during the rebellion. Additionally, she doesn’t want to go in the wheelhouse because it doesn’t have windows and you can’t see anything as you’re traveling. Sansa can’t believe her sister would rather go treasure hunting than ride with the princess and queen. And she has a point: it’s probably not very polite to reject a royal invitation. And yet, Arya also has a point: who wants to ride in a stuffy box without windows, with no Dramamine in sight?
And then we get a rundown of the differences between the sisters Stark. Arya: loves riding. Sansa: hates it. Arya: adventurous explorer, loves nature. Sansa: more of an indoor girl, interested in sophisticated and feminine pastimes. Arya: doesn’t care about her appearance, judging by her willingness to rub mud all over herself to relieve a plant rash, and her unself-consciousness about random bruises covering her body. Sansa: enjoys looking pretty, put-together, and smelling good. Arya: will make friends with anybody, regardless of their gender or station in life. Sansa: not really interested in associating with the lower classes.
Sansa is kind of irritated that Arya is not more like her, and continues trying to convince her to come along on the wheelhouse ride (although if Arya is such a disgrace, one wonders if she would be happy even if Arya decided to go). Sansa eventually gives up and heads back to the inn alone, stewing and thinking that life would be ever so much better if Arya were more like Myrcella, or if she were actually a bastard like Jon Snow (since they look so much alike and all). As she gets closer to the queen’s wheelhouse, she sees there’s a bit of a kerfuffle, with some new arrivals sent from King’s Landing to accompany the procession back to the capital.
She sees three strangers, and the third scares the crap out of her. As she steps backward to avoid the weight of the scary guy’s gaze, she bumps into the Hound, Sandor Clegane, who scares her nearly as much the other guy. She’s kind of become the center of the crowd’s attention and people are laughing at her and she’s about to burst into tears when Joffrey steps in to save the day. Turns out Scary Guy 1 is Ser Ilyn Payne, the king’s headsman. He doesn’t talk much since the Mad King ripped his tongue out back before the rebellion. The other two new visitors are Ser Barristan Selmy, the captain of the kingsguard, and Lord Renly Baratheon, younger brother to the king. Sansa shows off some deductive reasoning skills and guesses who they are before they are introduced, to the delight of the crowd. Barristan is famous, old, and honorable. Renly is handsome, clever, and good-humored. Due to the arrival of these new guests, the queen cancels the wheelhouse tea party and tells Joffrey to entertain Sansa instead.
Joffrey talks her into leaving her direwolf and his bodyguard the Hound behind, and they set off to go riding in the woods and explore the area. Along the way, Joffrey gets Sansa drunk, coaxing her to drink more wine than she ever had before in her life. They are riding near the river when they hear a clattering sound, and Joffrey wants to investigate. Turns out it’s Arya and the butcher’s son Mycah, fencing with wooden swords. Joffrey sees the opportunity for cruelty, and orders Mycah to pick up his wooden sword and try his luck against Joffrey and his very real sword (amusingly named “Lion’s Tooth”). Mycah understandably doesn’t want to, and Joffrey won’t listen to the girls telling him to stop, and starts to cut into his cheek with his sword. Arya suddenly comes up behind him and whacks him on the head with her wooden sword, he tries to attack her, and then Arya’s direwolf arrives upon the scene and attacks him.
Joffrey starts screaming and crying and Arya calls the wolf off and throws Lion’s Tooth into the river. The girl and her wolf run off into the woods, leaving Sansa alone with the wounded and sniveling Joffrey. She tries to comfort him, but he snaps at her with loathing, and she runs to find help.
I was surprised, because at the beginning of this chapter Joffrey seems fairly normal, gallant even, and you can see a little bit why Sansa might be smitten with him. He saves her from the crowd that is laughing at her outside the wheelhouse, and he graciously takes her on a ride through the countryside. But then that all quickly falls away when he encounters Arya and the butcher’s boy, and we see the real Joffrey that lurks underneath his fancy clothes and flowing golden locks that we hear so much about. Sansa knows the situation has gotten bad and she feels helpless to do anything about it, but in the end she still comforts Joffrey, even though he caused the whole big mess to begin with. Ah, teenagers!
I also enjoyed the bit of situational irony—soon after we read about how Sansa doesn’t like Arya and her riding and outdoor adventures and would much rather be in the wheelhouse, we find her happily riding through the woods with Joffrey on her own “day for adventures” (149). I guess it’s the company that matters?