The spymaster tells Stark his mentor was assassinated for asking questions. Stark calls him a man of peace who held his position for thirty years. How did he survive this long? – Asking questions does not itself get men killed, or else there were no intrigue, that favorite sport of courts… Indiscretion & straightforwardness get men killed – honor.
Stark must find his predecessor’s murderer & prevent his own murder. There are many ways to die; he is looking for the surprising ones. It is probably easier to find out who wants him dead, but that would mean seeing himself through a murderer’s eyes. An ageing knight, Stark only now comes to the problem of self-knowledge as war teaches it: Knowing one’s enemies.
Stark’s honor & decency move him to confront the king’s wish to assassinate the Targeryan girl. Knights do not murder women & children, much less women with child. Honor kept the realm from assassinating the remnants of the Targeryan dynasty. But now the dishonorable king proposes to rule his peers by fear, yet he lacks the people’s support. – Many do honorable things for dishonorable reasons, then, which shames the conventions. But Stark will not do the dishonorable for the king’s honor. He rather resigns his position & power; now he is alone & among enemies.
Civil war is coming. The king says one fist is stronger than five fingers, but he has not made the seven kingdoms into one. His indebtedness shows he misunderstands the relation between money & power. He complains that he cannot do what he wants. He confuses monarchy with tyranny, but dares not tyrannize.
The Lannister prince attacks, defeats, & injures Stark; his few men are killed where they stand. Foresight cannot prevent a spear thrown in close quarters from meeting its target. One wishes to prevent or prepare for such things. Perhaps men of honor see these things differently. But who will watch their backs?
The king & queen talk, haunted by their fears & failures, unable to take their rule seriously. Their lives & their families depend on it. Baratheon was a man of war when young. He fears conquest now.
When a soldier has recourse to assassins, serious foreign policy is abandoned. Had he an army, he would not need assassins. We see a threatening distinction between authority & armies. Many captains & princes rise now, each attempting to destroy the others, attempting to destroy the king.
The queen is a woman of intrigue, which stands for peace. Her recourse to assassins is her only deed; her only speeches are intrigues. She cannot therefore rule; but she will not be ruled. She cannot save the kingdom; she may help to destroy it.