Unintended Consequences, Stage 5: “I love you too, sweet sister.”

The last essay chapter I posted was all from Brienne’s POV. The first section of that stage (the one I called “Brienne’s Other Options”) was about context, rather than directly about the relationship itself. Jaime’s rescue of Tyrion, and many parts of his return to King’s Landing, were also about the context in which Jaime and Brienne are involved in a romantic storyline. This stage here, and it is not short, will be entirely about context.

In short: this is the part where the twincest relationship goes kablooey.

It’s as good a time as any to reuse this silly graphic I made in Retype:

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“I am not Cersei. I have a beard, and she has breasts. If you are still confused, Nuncle, count our hands. Cersei has two.”

If you haven’t read them already, see the Intro, Stage 1 (Escape from Riverrun), Stage 2 (Bloody Mummers), Stage 3 (House Lannister Falls Apart), and Stage 4 (Oathkeeper). If you would like to read this essay offline, get the iBooks or PDF version, and you won’t even need to wait a couple more days for me to post the remaining chapters.

The Joy of Unintended Consequences, Stage 5: “I love you too, sweet sister.”

While he has provisioned Brienne for a quest through the Westerosi interior, Jaime probably wishes he could be anywhere except King’s Landing. Last time we saw him, he had just helped Tyrion escape execution, an act of defiance for which he was rewarded with estrangement from his brother and the death of his father. Now he’s left with his increasingly volatile sister, a little boy king who doesn’t know Uncle Jaime is really his father, and command of a Kingsguard with knights he didn’t choose, including one who appears to be fucking Cersei. With Tywin dead and Tyrion out of the way, the present stage of Jaime’s relationship with his family focuses on the progressing estrangement of him and Cersei, which Martin uses the following processes to develop: 1. Jaime withdraws from the Lannisters, 2. Jaime uses increasingly hostile language to describe Cersei, 3. Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and Probably Moon Boy, 4. Jaime is interested in his children to a degree that Cersei doesn’t like, 5. Cersei thinks she doesn’t need Jaime, until she does, 6. Jaime compares Cersei to Aerys.

1. First, we see many signs of Jaime withdrawing from the Lannisters. Cersei looks at him and thinks he’s growing a beard to spite her.

The hooded cloak he wore was as white as freshly fallen snow, and the scales of his long hauberk were mother-of-pearl chased with gold. Lord Tywin would have wanted him in Lannister gold and crimson, she thought. It always angered him to see Jaime all in white. Her brother was growing his beard again as well. The stubble covered his jaw and cheeks, and gave his face a rough, uncouth look. He might at least have waited till Father’s bones were interred beneath the Rock. (5.1)

While Jaime probably is not thinking to himself, “How do I best annoy my sister?” in deciding to stop shaving, he does know that it makes him look less like his twin, and he doesn’t care that his diverging appearance bothers her. He probably wouldn’t care that his father wouldn’t like him with a beard, either. He stands vigil over his father’s body, and is curiously unemotional.

It was queer, but he felt no grief. Where are my tears? Where is my rage? Jaime Lannister had never lacked for rage. “Father,” he told the corpse, “it was you who told me that tears were a mark of weakness in a man, so you cannot expect that I should cry for you.” (5.3)

He won’t regain his tears as time goes on. If anything, he’ll become more indifferent to Tywin’s death and more appreciative of Tyrion.

Still during his vigil, Cersei comes to him and makes another go at manipulating him. It’s still not working.

“Cersei.” He spoke slowly, like a man waking from a dream, still wondering where he was. “What hour is it?”

“The hour of the wolf.” His sister lowered her hood, and made a face. “The drowned wolf, perhaps.” She smiled for him, so sweetly. “Do you remember the first time I came to you like this? It was some dismal inn off Weasel Alley, and I put on servant’s garb to get past Father’s guards.”

“I remember. It was Eel Alley.” She wants something of me. “Why are you here, at this hour? What would you have of me?” His last word echoed up and down the sept, mememememememememememe, fading to a whisper. For a moment he dared to hope that all she wanted was the comfort of his arms.

“Speak softly.” Her voice sounded strange … breathless, almost frightened. “Jaime, Kevan has refused me. He will not serve as Hand, he … he knows about us. He said as much.”

“Refused?” That surprised him. “How could he know? He will have read what Stannis wrote, but there is no …”

“Tyrion knew,” she reminded him. “Who can say what tales that vile dwarf may have told, or to whom? Uncle Kevan is the least of it. The High Septon … Tyrion raised him to the crown, when the fat one died. He may know as well.” She moved closer. “You must be Tommen’s Hand. I do not trust Mace Tyrell. What if he had a hand in Father’s death? He may have been conspiring with Tyrion. The Imp could be on his way to Highgarden …”

“He’s not.”

“Be my Hand,” she pleaded, “and we’ll rule the Seven Kingdoms together, like a king and his queen.”

“You were Robert’s queen. And yet you won’t be mine.”

“I would, if I dared. But our son—”

“Tommen is no son of mine, no more than Joffrey was.” His voice was hard. “You made them Robert’s too.”

His sister flinched. “You swore that you would always love me. It is not loving to make me beg.” Jaime could smell the fear on her, even through the rank stench of the corpse. He wanted to take her in his arms and kiss her, to bury his face in her golden curls and promise her that no one would ever hurt her … not here, he thought, not here in front of the gods, and Father.

“No,” he said. “I cannot. Will not.”

“I need you. I need my other half.” He could hear the rain pattering against the windows high above. “You are me, I am you. I need you with me. In me. Please, Jaime. Please.”

Jaime looked to make certain Lord Tywin was not rising from his bier in wrath, but his father lay still and cold, rotting. “I was made for a battlefield, not a council chamber. And now it may be that I am unfit even for that.”

Cersei wiped her tears away on a ragged brown sleeve. “Very well. If it is battlefields you want, battlefields I shall give you.” She jerked her hood up angrily. “I was a fool to come. I was a fool ever to love you.” Her footsteps echoed loudly in the quiet, and left damp splotches on the marble floor. (5.5)

This is still early in the book, and Jaime still has feelings for Cersei, but he’s restraining himself. Cersei wants Jaime to take on a new role to serve her purposes, and he still wants something from her that she can’t give him: an honest family life. He’s still unhappy that they can’t marry, and he can’t claim Tommen as his son.

They argue about the Kingsguard knights, and now we see Jaime isn’t letting Cersei’s insults bother him.

“And Ser Loras. Or have you forgotten your Sworn Brother?”

“Ser Loras is a knight of the Kingsguard.”

“Ser Loras is so Tyrell he pisses rosewater. He should never have been given a white cloak.”

“He would not have been my choice, I’ll grant you. No one troubled to consult me. Loras will do well enough, I think. Once a man puts on that cloak, it changes him.”

“It certainly changed you, and not for the better.”

“I love you too, sweet sister.” He held the door for her, and walked her to the high table and her seat beside the king. Margaery was on the other side of Tommen, in the place of honor. When she entered, arm in arm with the little king, she made a point of stopping to kiss Cersei on the cheeks and throw her arms around her.

“Your Grace,” the girl said, bold as polished brass, “I feel as though I have a second mother now. I pray that we shall be very close, united by our love for your sweet son.” (5.8)

There’s the first instance of “I love you too, sweet sister.” It’s really quite galling of Cersei to complain that she doesn’t like the way Kingsguard service has changed Jaime, when it was her idea for him to take the white cloak in the first place. Jaime responds to her comment with all the respect it deserves.

Cersei is annoyed that the Tyrell siblings are more peas-in-a-pod than she and Jaime, and, behaving as reasonably as she ever has, she transfers her annoyance onto her maimed twin even as he makes an effort with her.

They could be twins, Cersei thought as she watched them. Ser Loras was a year older than his sister, but they had the same big brown eyes, the same thick brown hair falling in lazy ringlets to their shoulders, the same smooth unblemished skin. A ripe crop of pimples would teach them some humility. Loras was taller and had a few wisps of soft brown fuzz on his face, and Margaery had a woman’s shape, but elsewise they were more alike than she and Jaime. That annoyed her too.

Her own twin interrupted her musings. “Would Your Grace honor her white knight with a dance?”

She gave him a withering look. “And have you fumbling at me with that stump? No. I will let you fill my wine cup for me, though. If you think you can manage it without spilling.”

“A cripple like me? Not likely.” He moved away and made another circuit of the hall. She had to fill her own cup. (5.9)

He wants to dance with her, as Loras is dancing with Margaery, but he’s unimpressed when she responds unkindly.

We return to Jaime’s POV, and he feels no more connected to his Uncle Kevan than to the rest of the Lannisters.

Behind the lords came a hundred crossbowmen and three hundred men-at-arms, and crimson flowed from their shoulders as well. In his white cloak and white scale armor, Jaime felt out of place amongst that river of red.

Nor did his uncle make him more at ease. “Lord Commander,” Ser Kevan said, when Jaime trotted up beside him at the head of the column. “Does Her Grace have some last command for me?”

“I am not here for Cersei.” A drum began to beat behind them, slow, measured, funereal. Dead, it seemed to say, dead, dead. “I came to make my farewells. He was my father.”

“And hers.”

“I am not Cersei. I have a beard, and she has breasts. If you are still confused, nuncle, count our hands. Cersei has two.”

“Both of you have a taste for mockery,” his uncle said. “Spare me your japes, ser, I have no taste for them.”

“As you will.” This is not going as well as I might have hoped. “Cersei would have wanted to see you off, but she has many pressing duties.”

Ser Kevan snorted. “So do we all. How fares your king?” His tone made the question a reproach.

“Well enough,” Jaime said defensively. “Balon Swann is with him during the mornings. A good and valiant knight.”

“Once that went without saying when men spoke of those who wore the white cloak.”

No man can choose his brothers, Jaime thought. Give me leave to pick my own men, and the Kingsguard will be great again. Put that baldly, though, it sounded feeble; an empty boast from a man the realm called Kingslayer. A man with shit for honor. Jaime let it go. He had not come to argue with his uncle. “Ser,” he said, “you need to make your peace with Cersei.”

“Are we at war? No one told me.” (5.11)

In every way, Jaime is growing more distant from his family. There’s the symbolism of him feeling out of place among hundreds of men dressed in Lannister red. He asserts his separateness from Cersei at the first opportunity. He thinks he didn’t come to argue with his uncle, but that is what he does.

When his Aunt Genna appears outside Riverrun, he behaves better with her than he did with Kevan, but her presence also creates another opportunity for him to show how he’s responding to his father’s death.

As Garrett was undoing the clasps on Jaime’s greaves, the tent flapped open. “Here at last, are you?” boomed his aunt. She filled the door, with her Frey husband peering out from behind her. “Past time. Have you no hug for your old fat aunt?” She held out her arms and left him no choice but to embrace her.

Genna Lannister had been a shapely woman in her youth, always threatening to overflow her bodice. Now the only shape she had was square. Her face was broad and smooth, her neck a thick pink pillar, her bosom enormous. She carried enough flesh to make two of her husband. Jaime hugged her dutifully and waited for her to pinch his ear. She had been pinching his ear for as long as he could remember, but today she forbore. Instead, she planted soft and sloppy kisses on his cheeks. “I am sorry for your loss.”

“I had a new hand made, of gold.” He showed her.

“Very nice. Will they make you a gold father too?” Lady Genna’s voice was sharp. “Tywin was the loss I meant.” (5.23)

When she offers condolences for a loss, his first assumption is that she’s referring to his sword hand. He doesn’t miss his father as much as he misses his hand.

Jaime had to canter past the Westerlings as he rode down the column on his way back to Riverrun. Lord Gawen nodded gravely as he passed, but Lady Sybell looked through him with eyes like chips of ice. Jeyne never saw him at all. The widow rode with downcast eyes, huddled beneath a hooded cloak. Underneath its heavy folds, her clothes were finely made, but torn. She ripped them herself as a mark of mourning, Jaime realized. That could not have pleased her mother. He found himself wondering if Cersei would tear her gown if she should ever hear that he was dead. (5.27)

He’s comparing Cersei’s love for him to Jeyne Westerling’s love for Robb Stark, and the comparison doesn’t go in Cersei’s favor.

2. Jaime characterizes Cersei with increasingly hostile language. In chronological order, we start with him expressing mild annoyance with her behavior:

“Most of him.” The queen was in her cups, Jaime realized. Of late, Cersei always seemed to have a flagon of wine to hand, she who had once scorned Robert Baratheon for his drinking. He misliked that, but these days he seemed to mislike everything his sister did. (5.12)

It gets much worse, as he’s talking with cousin Lancel.

“Even if this is true … you are a lion of the Rock, a lord. You have a wife, a castle, lands to defend, people to protect. If the gods are good, you will have sons of your blood to follow you. Why would you throw all that away for … for some vow?”

“Why did you?” asked Lancel softly.

For honor, Jaime might have said. For glory. That would have been a lie, though. Honor and glory had played their parts, but most of it had been for Cersei. A laugh escaped his lips. “Is it the High Septon you’re running to, or my sweet sister? Pray on that one, coz. Pray hard.”

“Will you pray with me, Jaime?”

He glanced about the sept, at the gods. The Mother, full of mercy. The Father, stern in judgment. The Warrior, one hand upon his sword. The Stranger in the shadows, his half-human face concealed beneath a hooded mantle. I thought that I was the Warrior and Cersei was the Maid, but all the time she was the Stranger, hiding her true face from my gaze. “Pray for me, if you like,” he told his cousin. “I’ve forgotten all the words.” (5.21)

He isn’t simply thinking that Cersei has changed, and she isn’t the same as the girl who seduced him into joining the Kingsguard. He’s thinking that she was never really that girl, and that she’s been lying to him all their lives. With this change in attitude, his vows take on a different character for him. He didn’t really swear off marriage and inheritance for honor and glory; he did it for Cersei, and that sacrifice now seems more like a waste.

“How is Cersei? As beautiful as ever?”

“Radiant.” Fickle. “Golden.” False as fool’s gold. Last night he dreamed he’d found her fucking Moon Boy. He’d killed the fool and smashed his sister’s teeth to splinters with his golden hand, just as Gregor Clegane had done to poor Pia. In his dreams Jaime always had two hands; one was made of gold, but it worked just like the other. “The sooner we are done with Riverrun, the sooner I’ll be back at Cersei’s side.” What Jaime would do then he did not know. (5.22)

He’s thinking of her as a pathological liar, which is fair enough, he’s having fantasies of violence on her, and he’s not sure what he’ll do when he sees her again. That’s not a good sign for the golden twins.

It can still get worse, though. It can always get worse.

When she saw Jaime, she laughed. “Who in seven hells is this one?”

“The Lord Commander of the Kingsguard,” Jaime returned with cold courtesy. “I might ask the same of you, my lady.”

“Lady? I’m no lady. I’m the queen.”

“My sister will be surprised to hear that.”

“Lord Ryman crowned me his very self.” She gave a shake of her ample hips. “I’m the queen o’ whores.”

No, Jaime thought, my sweet sister holds that title too. (5.25)

He just decided his sister is the queen of whores. That’s quite impressive, given all the years they spent in King’s Landing, and all the whores King Robert fucked while Jaime guarded him.

3. This may be because Tyrion dropped a truth-bomb on him last time they saw each other, and it’s become a sort of ear-worm for Jaime that won’t go away: “She’s been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and probably Moon Boy for all I know.”

He isn’t so pleased with himself for having freed Tyrion, now that his beloved little brother used his liberation to kill their father.

“Ah.” The eunuch sucked the blood off his fingers. “You ask a dreadful thing … to loose the Imp who slew our lovely king. Or is it that you believe him innocent?”

“Innocent or guilty,” Jaime had said, like the fool he was, “a Lannister pays his debts.”

The words had come so easy. He had not slept since. He could see his brother now, the way the dwarf had grinned beneath the stub of his nose as the torchlight licked his face. “You poor stupid blind crippled fool,” he’d snarled, in a voice thick with malice. “Cersei is a lying whore, she’s been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and probably Moon Boy for all I know. And I am the monster they all say I am. Yes, I killed your vile son.” He never said he meant to kill our father.

If he had, I would have stopped him. Then I would be the kinslayer, not him. (5.2)

Either way, Tyrion’s words haunt him all through the book and will probably continue to do so into The Winds of Winter.

I should tell Cersei the truth, admit that it was me who freed our little brother from his cell. The truth had worked so splendidly with Tyrion, after all. I killed your vile son, and now I’m off to kill your father too. Jaime could hear the Imp laughing in the gloom. He turned his head to look, but the sound was only his own laughter coming back at him. He closed his eyes, and just as quickly snapped them open. I must not sleep. If he slept, he might dream. Oh, how Tyrion was sniggering.… a lying whore … fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack … (5.4)

Jaime is interested in being honest with his family, but he also notices that his family tends not to reward honesty. Besides which, she hasn’t been honest with him.

Jaime had seen Kettleblack naked in the bathhouse, had seen the black hair on his chest, and the coarser thatch between his legs. He pictured that chest pressed against his sister’s, that hair scratching the soft skin of her breasts. She would not do that. The Imp lied. Spun gold and black wire tangled, sweaty. Kettleblack’s narrow cheeks clenching each time he thrust. Jaime could hear his sister moan. No. A lie. (5.6)

It gets so much worse than that. She’s been fucking that sweaty, scratchy Kettleblack AND both of his brothers.

“Half his life? He cannot be more than twenty.”

“Two-and-twenty, and what of it? Father was not even one-and-twenty when Aerys Targaryen named him Hand. It is past time Tommen had some young men about him in place of all these wrinkled greybeards. Aurane is strong and vigorous.”

Strong and vigorous and handsome, Jaime thought.… she’s been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and Moon Boy for all I know … “Paxter Redwyne would be a better choice. He commands the largest fleet in Westeros. Aurane Waters could command a skiff, but only if you bought him one.” (5.14)

He seems to see Aurane Waters as a threat in the same way that Lancel was his replacement and Osmund Kettleblack his competition. Jaime sees himself getting old, and crippled besides, and his sister is surrounding herself with younger, energetic men. Of course, if Jaime is getting on in years, his twin can’t be any younger, but the insecurity is there.

“I had hoped that by now you would have grown tired of that wretched beard. All that hair makes you look like Robert.” His sister had put aside her mourning for a jade-green gown with sleeves of silver Myrish lace. An emerald the size of a pigeon’s egg hung on a golden chain about her neck.

“Robert’s beard was black. Mine is gold.”

“Gold? Or silver?” Cersei plucked a hair from beneath his chin and held it up. It was grey. “All the color is draining out of you, brother. You’ve become a ghost of what you were, a pale crippled thing. And so bloodless, always in white.” She flicked the hair away. “I prefer you garbed in crimson and gold.”

I prefer you dappled in sunlight, with water beading on your naked skin. He wanted to kiss her, carry her to her bedchamber, throw her on the bed … she’s been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and Moon Boy … “I will make a bargain with you. Relieve me of this duty, and my razor is yours to command.” (5.18)

Again, it’s quite rich of Cersei to tell her twin that he’s getting old. (He’s actually some minutes younger than she is.) There she is, complaining that she doesn’t like to see him dressed in white, when it was her idea for him to give up Lannister red for Kingsguard white. Just as he’s recalling his attraction to her, that mantra from Tyrion comes back.

“I need him there. These Dornishmen cannot be trusted. That red snake championed Tyrion, have you forgotten that? I will not leave my daughter to their mercy. And I will not have Loras Tyrell commanding the Kingsguard.”

“Ser Loras is thrice the man Ser Osmund is.”

“Your notions of manhood have changed somewhat, brother.”

Jaime felt his anger rising. “True, Loras does not leer at your teats the way Ser Osmund does, but I hardly think—”

“Think about this.” Cersei slapped his face.

Jaime made no attempt to block the blow. “I see I need a thicker beard, to cushion me against my queen’s caresses.” He wanted to rip her gown off and turn her blows to kisses. He’d done it before, back when he had two good hands.

The queen’s eyes were green ice. “You had best go, ser.”

Lancel, Osmund Kettleblack, and Moon Boy

“Are you deaf as well as maimed? You’ll find the door behind you, ser.”

“As you command.” Jaime turned on his heel and left her.

Somewhere the gods were laughing. Cersei had never taken kindly to being balked, he knew that. Softer words might have swayed her, yet of late the very sight of her made him angry. (5.19)

If I wanted to write yet another essay within this one, I’d go into the parallels between the Lannisters and Tyrells, but for now I will note that Jaime sees Loras as sort of a younger version of himself. Perhaps Cersei notices the same thing, and she doesn’t like it. Once again, he longs for a chance to make love to her like in the past, then he recalls Tyrion’s list of names, Cersei mocks his cripple status, and the interaction comes to an awkward halt.

After he’s safely out of the Red Keep and in the Riverlands, he gets Lancel’s side of the affair.

“What else did you do, to require so much atonement? Tell me.”

His cousin bowed his head, tears running down his cheeks. Those tears were all the answer Jaime needed. “You killed the king,” he said, “then you fucked the queen.”

“I never …”

“… lay with my sweet sister?” Say it. Say it!

“Never spilled my seed in … in her …”

“… cunt?” suggested Jaime.

“… womb,” Lancel finished. “It is not treason unless you finish inside. I gave her comfort, after the king died. You were a captive, your father was in the field, and your brother … she was afraid of him, and with good reason. He made me betray her.”

“Did he?” Lancel and Ser Osmund and how many more? Was the part about Moon Boy just a gibe? “Did you force her?”

“No! I loved her. I wanted to protect her.”

You wanted to be me. His phantom fingers itched. The day his sister had come to White Sword Tower to beg him to renounce his vows, she had laughed after he refused her and boasted of having lied to him a thousand times. Jaime had taken that for a clumsy attempt to hurt him as he’d hurt her. It may have been the only true thing that she ever said to me. (5.20)

First off, we might find it rather curious that Jaime is so apathetic to King Robert’s death and so focused on who else has been fucking his sister, but he always viewed King Robert in terms of competition for Cersei. Most of all, he concludes that Lancel fucked Cersei as part of an effort to be more like Jaime.

After Castle Darry comes Riverrun, where he has to deal with Aunt Genna’s ridiculous husband Emmon Frey.

Oh, gods be good. “You are not his overlord, ser. Read your parchment. You were granted Riverrun with its lands and incomes, no more. Petyr Baelish is the Lord Paramount of the Trident. Riverrun will be subject to the rule of Harrenhal.”

That did not please Lord Emmon. “Harrenhal is a ruin, haunted and accursed,” he objected, “and Baelish … the man is a coin counter, no proper lord, his birth …”

“If you are unhappy with the arrangements, go to King’s Landing and take it up with my sweet sister.” Cersei would devour Emmon Frey and pick her teeth with his bones, he did not doubt. That is, if she is not too busy fucking Osmund Kettleblack. (5.24)

This seems to have become a bit of a preoccupation for Jaime. One may get the impression that he was really invested in this idea of himself and Cersei having true love and being faithful to each other.

There’s one person he can talk to about his affair with his twin, and that’s Ilyn Payne. He’s an acceptable sounding board for the same reason that he’s a good training partner: he’s mute and illiterate.

“I should have the tongues removed from all my friends,” said Jaime as he filled their cups, “and from my kin as well. A silent Cersei would be sweet. Though I’d miss her tongue when we kissed.” He drank. The wine was a deep red, sweet and heavy. It warmed him going down. “I can’t remember when we first began to kiss. It was innocent at first. Until it wasn’t.” He finished the wine and set his cup aside. “Tyrion once told me that most whores will not kiss you. They’ll fuck you blind, he said, but you’ll never feel their lips on yours. Do you think my sister kisses Kettleblack?”

Ser Ilyn did not answer.

“I don’t think it would be proper for me to slay mine own Sworn Brother. What I need to do is geld him and send him to the Wall. That’s what they did with Lucamore the Lusty. Ser Osmund may not take kindly to the gelding, to be sure. And there are his brothers to consider. Brothers can be dangerous. After Aegon the Unworthy put Ser Terrence Toyne to death for sleeping with his mistress, Toyne’s brothers did their best to kill him. Their best was not quite good enough, thanks to the Dragonknight, but it was not for want of trying. It’s written down in the White Book. All of it, save what to do with Cersei.”

Ser Ilyn drew a finger across his throat.

“No,” said Jaime. “Tommen has lost a brother, and the man he thought of as his father. If I were to kill his mother, he would hate me for it … and that sweet little wife of his would find a way to turn that hatred to the benefit of Highgarden.” (5.28)

4. It’s mainly for Tommen’s benefit that he isn’t interested in killing Cersei. This is admirable, but it can also be understood as part of the fourth process in Jaime’s estrangement from Cersei, which is that he’s interested in being involved in his children’s lives in a way that Cersei doesn’t like.

Still, he felt curiously content. The war was all but won. Dragonstone had fallen and Storm’s End would soon enough, he could not doubt, and Stannis was welcome to the Wall. The northmen would love him no more than the storm lords had. If Roose Bolton did not destroy him, winter would.

And he had done his own part here at Riverrun without actually ever taking up arms against the Starks or Tullys. Once he found the Blackfish, he would be free to return to King’s Landing, where he belonged. My place is with my king. With my son. Would Tommen want to know that? The truth could cost the boy his throne. Would you sooner have a father or a chair, lad? Jaime wished he knew the answer. He does like stamping papers with his seal. The boy might not even believe him, to be sure. Cersei would say it was a lie. My sweet sister, the deceiver. He would need to find some way to winkle Tommen from her clutches before the boy became another Joffrey. And whilst at that, he should find the lad a new small council too. If Cersei can be put aside, Ser Kevan may agree to serve as Tommen’s Hand. (5.29)

This is quite a radical view to take, given that Cersei has such scant redeeming qualities outside of her devotion to her children, but this is how far Jaime has drifted from the arrangement he and Cersei maintained for so long: he wants Tommen to be his son, even if it costs him the throne, he wants Cersei out of power and away from Tommen.

I don’t think he’s given a lot of thought to the logistics of the family life he’s trying to arrange. The question for Tommen is not really whether he’d keep the throne, so much as whether he’d keep his head.

We’ll see more of Jaime’s interest in his children later.

5. In stage 3, one of the processes was of Jaime being rejected by his family. Now we see another, more specific pattern of rejection, which is that Cersei acts like she doesn’t need Jaime, except for when she does need him.

She was tired of Jaime balking her. No one had ever balked her lord father. When Tywin Lannister spoke, men obeyed. When Cersei spoke, they felt free to counsel her, to contradict her, even refuse her. It is all because I am a woman. Because I cannot fight them with a sword. They gave Robert more respect than they give me, and Robert was a witless sot. She would not suffer it, especially not from Jaime. I need to rid myself of him, and soon. Once upon a time she had dreamt that the two of them might rule the Seven Kingdoms side by side, but Jaime had become more of a hindrance than a help. (5.15)

The feeling is mutual; Jaime is thinking about what he can do once he gets Cersei out of the way.

Many a night she had watched Prince Rhaegar in the hall, playing his silver-stringed harp with those long, elegant fingers of his. Had any man ever been so beautiful? He was more than a man, though. His blood was the blood of old Valyria, the blood of dragons and gods. When she was just a little girl, her father had promised her that she would marry Rhaegar. She could not have been more than six or seven. “Never speak of it, child,” he had told her, smiling his secret smile that only Cersei ever saw. “Not until His Grace agrees to the betrothal. It must remain our secret for now.”

And so it had, though once she had drawn a picture of herself flying behind Rhaegar on a dragon, her arms wrapped tight about his chest. When Jaime had discovered it she told him it was Queen Alysanne and King Jaehaerys.

She was ten when she finally saw her prince in the flesh, at the tourney her lord father had thrown to welcome King Aerys to the west. Viewing stands had been raised beneath the walls of Lannisport, and the cheers of the smallfolk had echoed off Casterly Rock like rolling thunder. They cheered Father twice as loudly as they cheered the king, the queen recalled, but only half as loudly as they cheered Prince Rhaegar. Seventeen and new to knighthood, Rhaegar Targaryen had worn black plate over golden ringmail when he cantered onto the lists. Long streamers of red and gold and orange silk had floated behind his helm, like flames. Two of her uncles fell before his lance, along with a dozen of her father’s finest jousters, the flower of the west. By night the prince played his silver harp and made her weep. When she had been presented to him, Cersei had almost drowned in the depths of his sad purple eyes. He has been wounded, she recalled thinking, but I will mend his hurt when we are wed. Next to Rhaegar, even her beautiful Jaime had seemed no more than a callow boy. The prince is going to be my husband, she had thought, giddy with excitement, and when the old king dies I’ll be the queen. Her aunt had confided that truth to her before the tourney. “You must be especially beautiful,” Lady Genna told her, fussing with her dress, “for at the final feast it shall be announced that you and Prince Rhaegar are betrothed.” (5.16)

It seems that Jaime was actually her second choice. She turned to him after it was established that Rhaegar Targaryen was out of reach. When she was little, her father told her to keep her marriage plans a secret, and that included from Jaime. She hasn’t been truthful with him since then.

Her aunt had lied, though, and her father had failed her, just as Jaime was failing her now. Father found no better man. Instead he gave me Robert, and Maggy’s curse bloomed like some poisonous flower. If she had only married Rhaegar as the gods intended, he would never have looked twice at the wolf girl. Rhaegar would be our king today and I would be his queen, the mother of his sons.

She had never forgiven Robert for killing him. (5.17)

One may wonder whether she would have welcomed Jaime back to her bed had Prince Rhaegar survived the rebellion.

In her scheming to destroy the Tyrells at the expense of governing the realm, Cersei ends up putting herself in the Faith Militant’s crosshairs, and there she is, on trial for her life.

This time she did laugh. It was funny, terribly funny, hideously funny. “The gods make japes of all our hopes and plans. I have a champion no man can defeat, but I am forbidden to make use of him. I am the queen, Qyburn. My honor can only be defended by a Sworn Brother of the Kingsguard.” 

“I see.” The smile died on Qyburn’s face. “Your Grace, I am at a loss. I do not know how to counsel you …” 

Even in her exhausted, frightened state, the queen knew she dare not trust her fate to a court of sparrows. Nor could she count on Ser Kevan to intervene, after the words that had passed between them at their last meeting. It will have to be a trial by battle. There is no other way. “Qyburn, for the love you bear me, I beg you, send a message for me. A raven if you can. A rider, if not. You must send to Riverrun, to my brother. Tell him what has happened, and write … write …” 

“Yes, Your Grace?” 

She licked her lips, shivering. “Come at once. Help me. Save me. I need you now as I have never needed you before. I love you. I love you. I love you. Come at once.” 

“As you command. ‘I love you’ thrice?” 

“Thrice.” She had to reach him. “He will come. I know he will. He must. Jaime is my only hope.” 

“My queen,” said Qyburn, “have you … forgotten? Ser Jaime has no sword hand. If he should champion you and lose …” 

We will leave this world together, as we once came into it. “He will not lose. Not Jaime. Not with my life at stake.” (5.26)

Now she decides she needs Jaime after all. She may not have seen how helpless he is in a fight, now that he can only use his left hand, but either way, all the other Kingsguard knights are apparently either unavailable or even more unacceptable than her maimed twin. What I find most remarkable about this decision, though, is this: “We will leave this world together, as we once came into it.” She wants Jaime to be her champion because the alternative is that he might outlive her. She thinks he shouldn’t get on with his life if she dies. This relationship isn’t just incestuous, it’s toxic. Jaime keeps thinking the biggest problem with Cersei is that she’s a pathological liar who fucks other men, but it’s bigger than that. When she acts like they are the same soul in two bodies, what she really means is that she sees Jaime as an accessory to herself, and any needs he has outside of her are irrelevant. He disagrees.

6. In possibly the most disturbing, and the most potentially plot-relevant foreshadowing process between Cersei and Jaime post-crippling, he (along with GRRM) compares Cersei to Aerys.

Jaime ignored that. “If these flames spread beyond the tower, you may end up burning down the castle whether you mean to or not. Wildfire is treacherous.”

“Lord Hallyne has assured me that his pyromancers can control the fire.” The Guild of Alchemists had been brewing fresh wildfire for a fortnight. “Let all of King’s Landing see the flames. It will be a lesson to our enemies.”

“Now you sound like Aerys.”

Her nostrils flared. “Guard your tongue, ser.”

“I love you too, sweet sister.” How could I ever have loved that wretched creature? she wondered after he had gone. He was your twin, your shadow, your other half, another voice whispered. Once, perhaps, she thought. No longer. He has become a stranger to me. (5.7)

Whereas he thinks she represents the Stranger, that face of the Seven that personifies death. Perhaps because she demonstrates a progressively callous disregard for innocent lives.

“It makes a pretty candle, I grant you,” said Lady Olenna Tyrell, leaning on her cane between Left and Right. “Bright enough to see us safe to sleep, I think. Old bones grow weary, and these young ones have had enough excitement for one night. It is time the king and queen were put to bed.”

“Yes.” Cersei beckoned to Jaime. “Lord Commander, escort His Grace and his little queen to their pillows, if you would.”

“As you command. And you as well?”

“No need.” Cersei felt too alive for sleep. The wildfire was cleansing her, burning away all her rage and fear, filling her with resolve. “The flames are so pretty. I want to watch them for a while.”

Jaime hesitated. “You should not stay alone.”

“I will not be alone. Ser Osmund can remain with me and keep me safe. Your Sworn Brother.”

“If it please Your Grace,” said Kettleblack.

“It does.” Cersei slid her arm through his, and side by side they watched the fire rage. (5.10)

This chapter is told from Cersei’s POV, so we don’t see what Jaime is thinking, but GRRM continues the theme of likening her to the Mad King, who was entirely too invested in the use of wildfire. Cleansing her. Burning away all her rage and fear. Filling her with resolve. She still sounds like Aerys.

Let him be king over charred bones and cooked meat, Jaime remembered, studying his sister’s smile. Let him be the king of ashes. “Your Grace,” he said, “might we have a private word?” (5.13)

He’s recalling what the Mad King said just before Jaime slit his throat. He now associates Cersei’s smile with an enthusiasm for burning thousands of people, for destroying a city rather than surrendering peacefully. Of course, Cersei doesn’t know about the wildfire plot. She doesn’t know what Jaime’s reasons were for killing the king. She assumes, like everyone else, that he did it to support his father’s side in the rebellion. She doesn’t know he saved half a million lives by turning his oaths on their head. Only Brienne knows about that.

Just after he settles the transfer of Riverrun from Tully to Frey control, Jaime has a dream. At first, he thinks it’s Cersei approaching him in the Sept of Baelor, but he soon realizes the dream is showing him his late mother.

“Who are you?” He had to hear her say it. 

“The question is, who are you?” 

“This is a dream.” 

“Is it?” She smiled sadly. “Count your hands, child.” 

One. One hand, clasped tight around the sword hilt. Only one. “In my dreams I always have two hands.” He raised his right arm and stared uncomprehending at the ugliness of his stump. 

“We all dream of things we cannot have. Tywin dreamed that his son would be a great knight, that his daughter would be a queen. He dreamed they would be so strong and brave and beautiful that no one would ever laugh at them.” 

“I am a knight,” he told her, “and Cersei is a queen.” 

A tear rolled down her cheek. The woman raised her hood again and turned her back on him. Jaime called after her, but already she was moving away, her skirt whispering lullabies as it brushed across the floor. Don’t leave me, he wanted to call, but of course she’d left them long ago. (5.30)

In the dream, Joanna likens Jaime’s missing hand to Tywin’s disappointment at his children being less than perfect. “We all dream of things we cannot have.” Tywin’s idea of “family” didn’t have room for his children to be real human beings with their own quirks and flaws. Jaime isn’t the son he wanted, and now Jaime needs to let go of a vision of family life that can’t be real. He could never have that loving, honest relationship with Cersei as he imagined, any more than he can make his right hand grow back.

Next morning after the dream, Cersei’s raven arrives at Riverrun. How does Jaime respond to Cersei asking him to die for her?

It was Riverrun’s old maester, with a message clutched in his lined and wrinkled hand. Vyman’s face was as pale as the new-fallen snow. 

“I know,” Jaime said, “there has been a white raven from the Citadel. Winter has come.” 

“No, my lord. The bird was from King’s Landing. I took the liberty … I did not know …” He held the letter out. 

Jaime read it in the window seat, bathed in the light of that cold white morning. Qyburn’s words were terse and to the point, Cersei’s fevered and fervent. Come at once, she said. Help me. Save me. I need you now as I have never needed you before. I love you. I love you. I love you. Come at once. Vyman was hovering by the door, waiting, and Jaime sensed that Peck was watching too. 

“Does my lord wish to answer?” the maester asked, after a long silence. A snowflake landed on the letter. As it melted, the ink began to blur. 

Jaime rolled the parchment up again, as tight as one hand would allow, and handed it to Peck. “No,” he said. “Put this in the fire.” (5.31)

He doesn’t even write a reply. The twins’ love affair is dead and buried. Cersei is on her own.


Al-righty then! Now for some notes that aren’t in the essay.

The first is that, if this section drives home anything, it’s that the twincest relationship isn’t just gross; it’s toxic. This business of “We will leave the world together, as we came into it”? That’s not romantic, it’s abusive. For a counterpoint, recall the scene at the end of Titanic when Rose is floating atop that wooden door, and Jack is freezing in the water, and he says to her, basically: I’m dying, but you will survive this ordeal, you will get on with your life, you will marry some other guy and have his kids, and you’ll be okay. The movie is all kinds of cheesy, but THAT is love. Cersei’s view of Jaime is the opposite of that. She thinks he shouldn’t have a life if she’s not in it. That’s fucking horrifying.

While we’re on the topic of Cersei being such a nightmare, I think now is a good time to bring up the valonqar prophecy. The essay doesn’t really take a position on the prophecy itself, but I have shared my opinion on the matter before, and my opinion is based on the comparison of Cersei to Aerys, as detailed in this stage. I see some of my fellow J/B enthusiasts aren’t on board with Jaime as the valonqar, and aren’t quite amused with me for taking that position, so: okay? I’m open to other candidates for the valonqar. I certainly don’t think Jaime’s going to commit a murder-suicide. The scenario I’m picturing is that he’d be much happier to stay up in the Riverlands/North/wherever with Brienne, and let Cersei get herself good and killed, but then he finds out she’s up to something drastic. He goes back to KL, he kills her, and it’s an experience he could’ve done without, but ultimately he shocks everyone even further by getting on with his life. He kills Cersei because she’s threatening thousands of innocent lives, not because of how he feels about what’s happened to their love affair. And eventually he picks himself up and has a life without her. (It’s a life that involves his big wench.) I’m still open to discussion on this topic? I can picture a turn of events in which he rushes down to the city to stop his sister before she blows shit up, only Loras Tyrell wraps his two good hands around her pale white throat first. (Loras Tyrell, as the family’s third son, qualifies as a “little brother.”) Even so, I just can’t help but think that there must be some payoff to this parallel between Cersei and Aerys. If not Jaime killing her, there must be something happening in the last two books that follows up with Jaime thinking his sister reminds him of the king he killed.

As long as we’re on the topic of the prophecy, there’s also the question of the “younger and more beautiful” figure who ruins everything for Cersei, and whether that “younger and more beautiful” one is Brienne. For this one, I like the idea of the “younger and more beautiful” (YMB) being several characters, not just one. The obvious solution for singular YMB is that Dany is the one, while Cersei’s been focused on Margaery all this time, to her detriment. However, another solution is that YMB is divided between several younger, healthier women: Dany takes the Iron Throne, Margaery takes Tommen, Arianne Martell takes Myrcella, Brienne takes Jaime, Sansa Stark takes the North. That kind of thing. I cannot picture Brienne being a singular YMB. First, it’s too much of a stretch to call her “more beautiful” than Cersei (she is certainly younger), and she’s not interested in taking anything that Cersei has, except that she wants to be closer to Jaime. She’s not a contender for power in the capital.

Speaking of what Brienne may be taking away from Cersei, another important factor in this storyline, which I didn’t really put into words on my own, but which I hope is apparent from the evidence, is that Brienne isn’t coming between the twins. She isn’t destroying the twincest relationship. Jaime and Cersei are destroying their relationship, which is ultimately a good thing. It’s also not a case in which the previous relationship neatly falls to pieces before the new one even begins. When we see him in A Feast for Crows, I think Jaime has already begun falling in love with Brienne (I pinpoint him beginning that process sometime between arriving at Harrenhal and entering the bath house), but he’s also still in love with Cersei, at least a little. It takes some time for him to fall out of love with his sister, and that’s one area where the books are still well ahead of the show. If Brienne has anything to do with Jaime becoming estranged from Cersei, it’s a matter of how he views himself. In short: Brienne inspires him to be someone he can respect. He’s not nearly so impressed with the man he’s been as Cersei’s lover. The farther away from his sister he gets in the fourth book, the more Jaime realizes: I can do better.

One more thing, which I’m not entirely sure comes through in this stage, but which struck me as I went through the evidence for this relationship: GRRM really loves Jaime. I’m no longer convinced that Tyrion is the author’s favorite; I think he actually loves Jaime even more. I see some of the lines that appear in his narrative voice in the fourth and fifth books, and I can’t help but think that it doesn’t just take skill to write a character with such nuance and power: it takes serious emotional investment. GRRM is opening up a major emotional vein when he writes Jaime, and I think that’ll play a role in the character’s outcome.

One thought on “Unintended Consequences, Stage 5: “I love you too, sweet sister.”

  1. These have all been great, and I regret not responding to all of them. I think you’re doing a wonderful job. I just need to find the time to re-read and think about worthy or interesting commentary. Thank you for all of your hard work and research on this. The topic of Jaime, Cersei, and Brienne is a great one, near and dear to me.

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