Now I have to play some catch-up after my niece stayed the last several days in the computer/guest room.
Chapter 15 (Tyrion III): Cersei is a good actress. She does a marvelous job of playing the grieving widow here, perfectly incensed by Stannis's little flyer detailing her adultery with Jaime. She wants to suppress talk of the letter quite burtally. But Tyrion suggests they just ignore it, and the smallfolk will forget about it. An interesting nugget is that Cersei is worried that word of the letter's contents will reach Joff's ears. That says to me that maybe Joff himself still thinks Robert is his father. How many at the council table know the truth? And how many is Cersei acting for? We know Varys knows from his meeting with Illyrio in Book One, we know Tyrion knows from his previous POV chapters, and I bet Littlefinger knows as well. I'm leaning toward Pycelle also knowing. Then Petyr kicks it up a notch and suggest they spread a rumor that Stannis's own kid is not his, but actually Patchface's. Now that's pure evil. Tyrion then meets with the smiths of the city, and has them all make links for what looks to be a very large chain. What he means to do with this chain, I have no clue. Then he goes to a brothel, and enters a secret tunnel. The other end has him meeting with Varys, and being given a horse and disguise to go see Shae without arousing suspicion. Except Varys knows about Shae; who would he tell? Who has he told already? Can Tyrion trust him?
Chapter 16 (Bran II): There's a bit of friction among the Stark bannermen. The Lady Hornwood, whose husband died in the last book, has no heir. Assorted lords, houses, and even a Bolton bastard are vying to take control of her lands, hopefully through marrying her. Bran hears Rodrik and Luwin discussing assorted options; none are totally satisfactory. A bunch of houses are coming to Winterfell for a big harvest feast. Enough nobles to make your head spin. Bran hears about Stannis's letter and something about Cersei and Jamie's affair jogs his memory. That night he dreams of the three-eyed crow again, and in his dream he remembers Jamie pushing him out the window. I think it could be a while before he fully remembers the push in his waking mind, however. We might not even see an accusation of attempted murder until the next book.
Chapter 17 (Tyrion IV): Tyrion sure has his work cut out for him. Today he eats breakfast with Pycelle early in the morning. Too early for me, really. The breakfast leaves a lot to be desired in Tyrion's eyes. He has Pycelle send out two copies of a letter to the Prince of Dorne, then moves on to other business... after secretly looking through Pycelle's potions, and helping himself to a little something. Then he goes to check on Bronn, who is now officially the captain of the Hand's personal guard with clothes to match the position, and talks business with him. Among the tidbits of info Bronn has is that Alliser Throne has arrived in King's Landing with a rotted hand in a jar to plead for more love for the Night's Watch. (Thing comes back for an encore?) Tyrion decides to put him off and gives him rotten accomodations. Then he runs into Cersei inspecting the city's defenses, and she badgers him as to why he isn't doing more to defend the city from Renly. Tyrion replies that Renly is plodding along slowly and feasting at every castle he passes, so it isn't a pressing issue. She once again wants Tyrion to get Tywin to bring his army to the city. Now really, I thought she would have gotten it through her head that this isn't gonna happen after her previous talk with Tyrion. Not that anyone, except maybe for Jamie, could possibly convince her that bringing Tywin's army to the city is a totally bonehead move. For all her brilliant plotting to get rid of Robert and put her allies in key places in AGOT, Cersei really isn't showing much sense in ACOK. I wonder if the power of being regent has gone to her head, or what. Then he has a talk with Littlefinger. He wants Petyr to deliver the Arryns as allies in the war, and offers some enticing bait. Myrcella will foster at the Eyrie and betrothe to Lord Robert, and Petyr himself will get Harrenhal (recently given up by Slynt, remember) and be named the new liege lord of the riverlands. Juicy fruit to be had. Petyr drops in the claim that he has taken the virginity of both Catelyn and Lysa. Now Catelyn hotly denied this in AGOT, and was pretty angry when she heard the lie. But Petyr delivers it so well that Tyrion has a few doubts it is a lie. Wait a minute... even if Petyr is lying about Cat, is he lying about Lysa? Wheels within wheels. As if Tyrion hasn't had a busy enough day, he has a chat with Varys in the evening. Varys knows about his talk with Littlefinger, and his breakfast with Pycelle. He doesn't seem to know what was in the letters, but you never know with Varys. He tells Varys that he is offering the Dornish prince Tommen's bethrothal, and Janos's empty seat on the council... plus Ser Gregor's head for the murder of Elia Martell (Rhaegar's wife) during the sack of King's Landing. I wouldn't mind seeing the Mountain face justice for some of his atrocities, but will it really come to pass? I doubt it.