Special credit to AOL user vbkorik27, whose synopses, archived at A Wiki of Ice and Fire, were instrumental (and, in some cases, copy-pasted outright) in the creation of this Recap.
Prologue — Maester CressenOver Dragonstone, a red comet unfurls across the sky. Maester Cressen observes it with disquiet, wondering what it portends. In his 80 years he has never seen a comet that can be seen by day, and the recent arrival of a white raven from the Citadel, indicating the end of the longest summer in living memory — 10 years, 2 months, 16 days — makes it seem an omen. Cressen's successor, Maester Pylos, brings news that the lady Shireen — Princess Shireen, now that her father Stannis has declared himself for the throne — wishes to see the raven. She enters, her face covered in greyscale, trailed by the fool Patchface. She explains that she had nightmares of being eaten by dragons, which concerns her because "the red woman" claims that the comet is dragon's breath. Maester Cressen tries to explain that Dragonstone, formerly an outpost of Valyria and the ancestral seat of House Targaryen, has only carven statues that will not eat her, as stone dragons do not come back to life.
Maester Pylos brings word that Ser Davos Seaworth, called "Onion Knight," arrived during the night and has been sequestered with Stannis ever since. Pylos helps Maester Cressen hobble to the king's side. En route, Ser Davos tells Cressen that his mission as envoy to the stormlords has failed; they prefer Renly and have sworn their allegiance to him. The news concerns Cressen, who remembers Renly's childhood as a boy obsessed with the latest fads and with play-acting: "Look at me, I'm a knight! Look at me, I'm a wizard!" He sees this latest declaration — "Look at me, I'm a king!" — as scarcely different. He asks Ser Davos if there is any hope, but Davos refuses to spread false cheer; once he was a smuggler from King's Landing, but when he smuggled a load of food to Dragonstone past a Redwyne blockade, allowing Stannis and his garrison to survive Robert's Rebellion, Stannis knighted him for his service... and cut short all the fingers of his left hand for his past crimes. The result was Undying Loyalty, and Davos Will Not Tell a Lie to his king.
Cressen finds Stannis overlooking the Painted Table, a 50-foot-long map of Westeros commissioned by Aegon Targaryen, trying to find a path forward. He vents to Cressen about how he should have been granted Storm's End, ancestral seat of House Baratheon, when Robert assumed the throne. Stannis never wanted Dragonstone; he only occupied it during the war because Robert ordered it. Besides, though Dragonstone is the seat traditionally assigned to the heir-presumptive, it commands a much smaller group of bannermen than does Storm's End, which rules one of the Seven Kingdoms. Stannis is a jealous man; he refuses to ally with Renly or with the Young Wolf because Robert was kind to them, but never to Stannis himself. Cressen is making some headway until Queen Selyse arrives; she has become converted to the worship of the god R'hllor due to the efforts of Melisandre, the red woman from Asshai. Selyse points out that, were Renly to be killed, his army would probably swear allegiance to Stannis... and that Melisandre's fires have shown her Renly's death.
Cressen returns to his chambers, sick at heart. He all but raised the Baratheon brothers after their parents died during a mission to procure Rhaegar Targaryen a bride from Essos; he cannot bear to see them kill each other. His only answer, he decides, is to kill Melisandre. To accomplish this he fishes out a vial of rare purple crystals: a poison called only The Strangler. He arrives at the evening's feast, thrown by Stannis to fete his bannermen, to dissolve a crystal in Melisandre's wine; he has slept through the first part of it, as Stannis has decided to let him rest and officially replaced him with Pylos. Cressen reflects again on Stannis's unyielding nature, having failed to notice that he (Stannis) is Like a Son to Me. He offers a share a cup of wine with Melisandre as a toast to her god's power, slipping the poison into it. Ser Davos (who saw) and Melisandre both suggest he back out, but Cressen remains firm. They drink.
As Maester Cressen dies, he is forced to confront the fact that his Taking You with Me ploy is not taking Melisandre with him.
Arya IArya decides that "Arya Horseface" is preferable to the nickname "Lumpyhead," which is what Lommy Greenhands calls her due to the unevenness of the haircut Yoren gave her just after her Cliffhanger in A Game of Thrones. She is a member of a convoy headed for the Wall; Yoren plans to drop her off at Winterfell en route. The convoy is primarily sellswords and prisoners, including three from the black cells of the Red Keep who are kept chained in a wagon. On Yoren's insistence, she is running a Sweet Polly Oliver, calling herself Arry and sneaking away to pee. She is mostly keeping her silence, which boys like Lommy and Hot Pie take as an indication that she can be bullied. Despite the intervention of a black-haired boy called the Bull (because of a bull-horned helmet he always polishes), it comes to blows; Arya wins handily. Yoren disciplines her with a spanking, insistent on keeping order in his convoy, and chastises her for taking out her anger at Joffrey on people who have nothing to do with it. Arya gripes that someone should kill Joffrey, and Yoren opines that someone will, but it won't be her or him. That night, the Bull points out the red comet, and Arya relates it to the blade of her father's greatsword Ice, red with his blood.
Sansa ISansa looks up at the red comet from King's Landing. According to Ser Arys Oakheart, the Kingsguard knight sent to escort her down to the yard, it has been named "King Joffrey's Comet." He compliments her on her dress, which hides her bruises; of all the Kingsguard, Ser Arys is unfailingly courteous and hits her as lightly as he can (save the Hound, whom Joffrey has never commanded to hit her at all). He brings her down to the tourney that is being thrown in honor of Joffrey's nameday. Joffrey is largely in a good mood, pleased with the news that Viserys Targaryen has been killed. Princess Myrcella and the Hound are receptive to Sansa's courtesies, and Prince Tommen is excited that he will get to do some training jousts, but Joffrey's mood begins to sour with each tilt, as the tourney is a paltry affair, with only 40 men in the lists and most of them untrained. It all comes to a head when the freerider Lothor Brune takes position to tilt against Ser Dontos Hollard, who arrives drunk and half-naked. Amidst gales of laughter, Hollard forfeits the match and calls for more wine, at which point Joffrey orders a cask brought from the cellars so that Hollard can be drowned in it. Sansa finds herself protesting, and the Hound chimes in with a made-up excuse about not murdering people on your birthday; at Sansa's suggestion, Joffrey adjusts his sentence that Hollard should be stripped of his knighthood and made a fool instead. He calls off the remainder of the tourney, and Tommen jumps on his pony for a practice tilt. He is unhorsed but shows no dismay, and Sansa finds herself wishing that he had been the eldest. The boy's second try is interrupted when a column of Lannister soldiers arrive, with Tyrion at their head. Myrcella and Tommen greet him with joy, but Joffrey can only manage a distasteful, "You." He storms off, and Tyrion speaks with Sansa gently. Sansa is receptive of his courtesies, but reminds herself that Queen Cersei once spoke with her gently as well. Sansa has decided that she will never trust a Lannister again.
Tyrion ITyrion bullies his way in to Cersei's small council meeting; his sister greets him in literally the same way her son did. Cersei has taken the seat normally reserved for the king, so Tyrion seats himself in the Hand's while the small council (Cersei, Pycelle, Littlefinger, Janos Slynt) examine Lord Tywin's letter. Cersei believes it insane, but the others voice no dissent. He asks them to leave so that he can speak with Cersei candidly, and they do, but Littlefinger takes a moment to comment on how the last two Hands have died in office. Tyrion corrects him that it's actually fournote , but claims that the curse will overlook him on account of his smallness. He also makes a mental note to speak to Littlefinger privily about a certain Valyrian-steel dagger. Once alone with Cersei, she threatens to throw him in the dungeons, but he immediately begins proving his use by helping her understand the situation. It's dire: the Lannisters have only the one army, under command of Lord Tywin and headed for Harrenhal. Meanwhile the North & the Riverlands, the Stormlands & the Reach, and Stannis' fleet at Dragonstone have all risen against them. And they can't trade for Jaime because Cersei has managed to misplace the younger Stark girl. Joffrey is getting bad counsel — it was Littlefinger's idea to promote a butcher's son to Lord of Harrenhal and member of the small council, and Varys's to blame the death of Robert Baratheon on Badass Grandpa Barristan Selmy — but Joffrey has always been a headstrong fellow to begin with. Tyrion points out that Selmy is a Living Legend who lends legitimacy to any man he serves. Cersei admits that she didn't think of that — which is why, Tyrion explains, it would be wiser that he not be thrown in the dungeons. If anyone has a chance to bring Joffrey under control, it's not Cersei, whom Joffrey does not fear. He then asks how Jon Arryn died. Cersei doesn't know; Ned asks, but she needed to hide the fact—
- That you were fucking our sweet Jaime?
She slapped him.
Did you think I was as blind as Father? Tyrion rubbed his cheek. Who you lie with is no matter to me . . . although it doesnt seem quite just that you should open your legs for one brother and not the other.
She slapped him.
Be gentle, Cersei, Im only jesting with you. If truth be told, Id sooner have a nice whore. I never understood what Jaime saw in you, apart from his own reflection.
She slapped him.
His cheeks were red and burning, yet he smiled. If you keep doing that, I may get angry.
- "In a room sit three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man with his gold. Between them stands a sellsword, a little man of common birth and no great mind. Each of the great ones bids him slay the other two. 'Do it,' says the king, 'for I am your lawful ruler.' 'Do it,' says the priest, 'for I command you in the names of the gods.' 'Do it,' says the rich man, 'and all this gold shall be yours.' So tell me — who lives and who dies?"
Bran IFrom his chambers at Winterfell, Bran gazes up at the red comet. He likes his window seat, where he can see the lights of the castle and hear the howling of the wolves. He can also hear the noises of his mother's two Frey wards, Big Walder and Little Walder, who make fun of him for his paraplegy and have taken over as Rickon's playmate by virtue of having functional legs. But they are scared of Summer and Shaggydog while Bran is not. Bran has asked people what the comet means. Osha, the wildling servant, said, "Fire and blood"; Maester Luwin claimed the end of the summer; Old Nan, who cannot see but claims she can smell it, said it heralded the return of dragons; and Hodor said, "Hodor." When Maester Luwin arrives to try to put him to bed, Bran asks if trees dream; he sometimes has dreams of being a weirwood tree, though he prefers his wolf dreams when he can run and hunt. Maester Luwin gives him a sleeping draught, and Bran dreams of being a wolf, a wolf caught behind the "sky-tall man-cliffs" of Winterfell's curtain walls, a wolf who knows he must either escape or die.
Arya IITraveling by day, eating by the light of the red comet by night, Yoren's party make their way north. They pass all manner of refugees, and Arya wonders why none are fleeing the direction they are. They begin to see graves dug by the side of the road. At an inn they learn of matters in the rest of the realm: the riverlands are denuded of people, with the remainder hiding in their holdfasts; the Young Wolf has led his host south for war; a massive pack of wolves, led by a she-wolf the size of a pony, has been seen near the God's Eye. Arya wonders if that lake is near the Trident, where she was forced to abandon Nymeria.note She speaks out of turn, and Yoren shoves her outside to use the bathhouse while the men are eating. Instead, she visits the three men locked in the wagon. One of them, the youngest and most handsome, introduces himself as Jaqen H'ghar of Lorath, and apologizes for the savagery of his companions; he speaks with odd grammar, always using indefinite articles instead of pronouns ("A man apologizes for his companions" and the like). Another of them lunges at her despite his chains, and she pokes him between the eyes with her stick sword, leading H'ghar to observe that "a girl has more courage than sense." The Bull pulls her away, and she vents her irritation by asking him to fight, her Needle against his cheap longsword. They are interrupted when a bunch of gold cloaks arrive from the capitol. They are in search of a certain boy. Arya draws the Bull behind a bush, knowing she is their target. The gold cloak demands to seize his quarry, but Yoren plays the Obstructive Bureaucrat, pointing out (correctly) that a warrant means nothing now that its subject has joined the Night's Watch. When the gold cloak threatens to employ Might Makes Right, Yoren only snorts: Thats no law, just a sword. Happens I got one too. He also has 30 men to the five lawmen; even Hot Pie prepares to fight. Arya gives herself up to prevent anyone from dying, but the gold cloak snorts at her; it's the Bull they want, the blacksmith's apprentice named Gendry. But in that short opening, Yoren has his sword at the lead officer's throat. The gold cloak backs down, and Yoren sets his group moving again.
Jon IJon visits the library of Castle Black, where Samwell apparently spent the night delving amongst the old books. Sam was sent to find maps of the lands beyond the Wall, so that Lord Commander Jeor Mormont doesn't have to lead "the great ranging" blind. Jon is fairly excited to be venturing north, in the company of 200 men of Castle Black (most of them rangers) and another 100 from the Shadow Tower under the command of Qhorin Halfhand. Sam would rather stay in the library and reorganize it (which would take years), not to mention immerse himself in scrolls and books, some of which (Sam suspects) even the Citadel does not have. Sam chastises himself for his fear, but Jon points out that fear is reasonable, given how many rangers have been disappearing of late; what matters is how they respond to it. Above, the castle is almost empty, as many of the men have gone "digging for buried treasure" at Mole's Town. On the way to the Lord Commander's quarters, they stop in the yard and watch the new trainees. Jon chats with Donal Noye, the one-armed smith of Castle Black, who served at Storm's End and forged King Robert's warhammer; as such, both Noye and Jon are uniquely qualified to comment on some of the monarchs engaged in the brewing Civil War. Noye opines that Robert was true steel, but useless if hung on a wall as an ornament; Renly is copper, flashy and bright but not worth much; and Stannis a man of iron who will break before he bends. (Jon decides not to ask after Robb's mettle.) The Old Bear, perusing the maps (which are outdated in terms of settlements, but not geography) remarks that Maester Aemon could have been king. After the death of King Maekar II, a Great Council was convened to decide which of the remaining Spares To The Throne (which had once numbered twelve but was now down to four) should become the next king. Aemon's younger brother became Aegon V, called "the Unlikely" because he was the 12th of those spares... but not before the crown was quietly offered to Aemon, and not before Aemon not only refused it but joined the Night's Watch to prevent himself from being used against the (new) king. Jon will be troubled by the same temptation, the Old Bear warns, and asks what Jon will do. Jon replies that he will be troubled... and keep his vows.
Catelyn ICatelyn watches her son Robb adjust his new crown, clearly uncomfortable with it. He is treating with Ser Cleos Frey (son of Emmon Frey, second of Lord Walder's sons, and Gemma Lannister), who has been chosen to present terms to his Lannister cousins at King's Landing. Robb has a list of demands, including his father's bones, his father's sword, and dominion over the North and the Riverlands. Some, like Lord Rickard Karstark, leave the hall, unsatisfied with the idea of peace. One of them is Robb himself, who admits afterwards that he could not bear to offer more generous terms, despite how wise that would have been as a bargaining move. He is sending Theon Greyjoy back to his hometown of Pyke to enlist his father, Lord Balon, to Robb's cause; most of the other river lords he has allowed to return to their lands to restore order. The Blackfish, when he returns from scouting, explains that this is a mistake, since the ravagers sent out by Lord Tywin (the Mountain, Ser Amory Lorch, the Brave Companions) are still afoot and now are destroying them piecemeal. Lord Tywin himself is retreating to Harrenhal, an eminently defensible stronghold, and a Stafford Lannister is raising a third army near Casterly Rock. Catelyn knows that her son's only hope is for the Lannisters to face a second threat, and that the only person who can provide one is Lord Renly — or rather, King Renly, as she'll have to call him.
Tyrion IITyrion offers his dinner guest — Janos Slynt, Lord Commander of the City Watch, recently appointed Lord of Harrenhal, and son of a butcher — another glass of wine. It is by no means Slynt's first; the man has already begun to dribble food over his fine clothes. Tyrion applauds Slynt's bravery in taking on Harrenhal, as the castle is reputed to be cursed, and the two discuss who should succeed Slynt as commander of the gold cloaks. Slynt recommends Allar Deem, who does what he has to do. He dismisses Tyrion's candidate, Ser Jacelyn Bywater (called "Ironhand" for a notable prosthetic) as being pompous and overly honorable; when Slynt was ordered to have a gold-haired whore and her black-haired daughter slain, Deem did it without qualm, a quality Slynt prides himself on sharing. Tyrion tells him that the Night's Watch has need of men like Slynt and Deem, and has them arrested by Ser Jacelyn Bywater, newly-appointed Lord Commander of the City Watch, and put on a ship bound for Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. (Tyrion adds to Ironhand that it would not go amiss if Deem were swept overboard during the voyage.) Varys enters, and Tyrion savages him for concealing the fact that Cersei ordered the death of Robert Baratheon's bastard daughter; Varys protests that he didn't think a mere babe at the breast would rouse Cersei's wrath, and that he had already taken steps to get another royal bastard (a smith's apprentice) out of the city. Ultimately he blames the whore, whom (Varys claims) was in love with Robert and couldn't keep her mouth shut. Tyrion wonders privately whether a whore can love; though he installed Shae in a fancy manse at the edge of the city, she was not happy when he said that she could serve him best between the sheets. Varys brings up the riddle he posed in a previous chapter, and explains the answer: power resides where people believe it resides, and even a very small man may cast a very large shadow. After concluding his business, Tyrion starts out towards Shae's manse in Bronn's company. Bronn is hiring sellswords, though apparently very few have passed his rather stringent entrance exams. Tyrion asks if Bronn would kill a black-haired babe without question, and Bronn retorts that he'd indeed have a question: How much?
Arya IIIThe Night's Watch caravan is not having a good time of it. Yoren has decided to travel the long way around the God's Eye (a large lake with an island in the middle, and the giant castle of Harrenhal on its northern shore), which is slowing them down further; all around them they see the desolation of war. The men are treating Gendry like he's something special because the queen wants his hide. Whilst making her water at one point, Arya is confronted by an entire pack of wolves, but the pack stands down for some reason. Arya reports this to Yoren, who mentions that in twenty years of walking recruits to the Wall along the kingsroad he has only ever lost three men, but today he wishes he had taken a ship.
Davos ISer Davos Seaworth is one of hundreds of spectators watching the statues of the Seven burn outside the gates of Dragonstone. They have been dragged there and ceremonially put to the torch by Melisandre, as King Stannis has converted to R'hllor, the Lord of Light; his new sigil is the fiery heart with the crowned stag within. Even now she circles the burning statues, intoning prayers, begging R'hllor for mercy: "For the night is dark and full of terrors." She recites some scripture about how, at the end of a long summer and with darkness falling, "Azor Ahai" will be reborn and will lead humanity against the night with the help of his sword "Lightbringer." Obediently, Stannis reaches into the flames (protected by heavy leather cape and glove) and pulls forth a sword, but it almost burns him. Davos notes that the "Red Sword of Heroes" looks "a proper mess." He's not comfortable with his new faith (and he's not the only one), but he has no plans to speak his mind; all seven of Davos' sons have futures now, and Davos owes his knighthood to the king's favor. Still, Davos touches the pouch at his neck, where the bones of his shortened fingers reside; it's his Good Luck Charm, and he believes they will need it. Once the ceremony is done, Davos retreats to an inn, where he meets a business associate, the Lyseni pirate Salladhor Saan. Saan brings intelligence from King's Landing: though Tyrion Lannister now commands, the city's only garrison is the gold cloaks. Renly Baratheon is marching north with his host and his wife (suggesting either great love or Suicidal Overconfidence). Saan then relates the Origin Story of Lightbringer: every time Azor Ahai tried to quench it, the results were unacceptably bad, so in the end he tempered the sword by stabbing it through his wife's heart, so that her love and courage and strength and blood went into the blade. Though he was not at the ceremony, Saan opines that the sword Stannis pulled out of the flames was not the real Lightbringer, and that Davos ought to be glad of that: "Too much light can hurt the eyes, and fire burns." Davos is summoned to help Stannis compose a letter, which will proclaim Stannis the rightful heir and Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen to be abominations born of incest. Davos suggests that Stannis avoid referencing his new religion, as Westerosi will not hail a foreign savior, but Stannis stands firm. Once he had a hawk that he nursed through a broken wing; he loved it, and it was loyal, but it could not take anything. His relatives kept telling him to try a different bird. Now he is going to. The Seven have never done anything for him, so it's time to try a new hawk. A red hawk.
Theon IShips cannot dock at the castle Pyke directly, standing on columns of rock as it does, but Theon commands the captain of the Myraham to swing by it anyway, so that it can appear over the horizon the same way it receded when Theon was taken away nine years ago. The captain's daughter, whom Theon has taken for a bedmate on the voyage, asks if the castle looks the same, and Theon must admit that his recollections have faded. Belowdecks, he shuts the girl's mouth by instructing her to fellate him; he thinks she looks stupid when she smiles, and has no intention of taking her ashore with him, as she has asked him to. At Lordsport, there is a great gathering of ironborn longships, but no one there to receive him, save a dour-looking priest of the Drowned God (the indigenous faith of the Iron Islands) whom, after a moment, Theon recognizes as his uncle Aeron Damphair, a man who in Theon's recollections was jolly and amiable. Theon's father, Balon Greyjoy, is singularly unimpressed with his son, believing him (Theon) to have become a Stark at heart. He asks if Theon's jewelry was bought via "the iron price" (IE from the vanquished in battle) (it wasn't). He takes the letter Robb Stark sent Theon to deliver, reads it, and tosses it away; it offers him a crown for his service, and Balon Greyjoy has no interest in something that can be taken away again. He plans to hew out his own kingdom, and pay the iron price for it.
Daenerys IDany's fragile khalasar has been following shierak qiya, "the bleeding star," in hopes of finding refuge. It leads to a land the Dothraki call "the red waste," but there are foes in every other direction. The crossing is arduous; they leave behind a trail of dead men and horses. Dany's milk dries up and she cannot feed her dragons, especially since they will not eat the horseflesh she offers them... until she thinks to char it over a fire. Aegon the Conqueror named his dragons after the gods of old Valyria, but Daenerys names hers after those the gods have taken from her: the green-and-bronze is called Rhaegal, for eldest brother; Viserion, for Viserys, is cream-and-gold; and the black-and-red she names Drogon. After much wandering, they find an abandoned city, which Daenerys names Vaes Tolorro, "the place of bones." However, there is food, water and shade, allowing her khalasar to recuperate. The Dothraki fear ghosts, but Ser Jorah points out that there are ghosts everywhere. At Dany's bidding, he tells her of his own Lost Lenore: Lynesse Hightower, the youngest daughter of the lord of Oldtown. (It's a long story, so we'll hide it in a note .) Daenerys asked him what she looked like, and he claims that she looked somewhat like Dany herself; she realizes Jorah's Bodyguard Crush on her, and that she simply doesn't feel the same way. The next morning she sends her bloodriders out to scout. Jhogo returns last, bringing strangely-garbed people who claim to hail from the city of Qarth: "Pyat Pree, the great warlock, Xaro Xhoan Daxos of the Thirteen, and Quaithe of the Shadow. They claim to have come seeking dragons.
- "Seek no more, Daenerys Targaryen told them. You have found them.
Jon IIThe village of Whitetree has the largest weirwood Jon has ever seen, but absolutely no wildlings. Jon investigates one of the empty hovels in the company of Eddison Tollett, called "Dolorous Edd" for his temperament. (We can't quote every funny thing he says, because we'd be here all day.) There is little to learn, as there has been at the previous three abandoned villages the Watch has visited. Lord Commander Mormont dictates a report and then has Jon give it to Sam, who is tending the ravens. Sam is overcoming his fear now that it's become clear that there are no wildlings around to murder him; he is, ironically, the sole brother in their force of 200 who is not getting more unnerved by the total desolation. Mormont intends to find what became of the wildlings, but Jon wonders if they will be found instead.
Arya IVYoren's group cannot go around the far edge of the God's Eye because the bridge is out; instead they decide to take refuge at Harrenhal. Hot Pie is scared of ghosts there — the castle was built by Harren the Black, an ironborn of House Hoare who once ruled the entire western seaboard of the continent, and he had just settled into his new home when Aegon the Conqueror and three dragons made landfall; this is why all of Harrenhal's towers are melted as though by fire — but Arya scoffs at the idea. In the meanwhile, the group holes up in an abandoned holdfast for the night, as it has a ten-foot stone wall and an escape tunnel to the nearby (abandoned) village. Arya thinks they should flee — even the lord who lives in this holdfast did — but Yoren is relying on the fact that the Night's Watch is True Neutral, with no enemies in the realm. (Of course, this means they have no friends either, but Arya holds her tongue for fear of appearing cowardly.) Arya is awoken by a dream of wolves outside the gates; she's right, but the wolves have two legs. Their leader, Ser Amory Lorch, bannerman to Lord Tywin of House Lannister, demands that they open the gates in the name of the true king Joffrey. Yoren, citing Watch neutrality, refuses. Arya wonders why the Lannister force can't see that the Watch's contingent is precisely what it claims to be, and why they seem insistent that they must be rebel lords or knights; Gendry points out that they don't care. After Yoren refuses to yield for a final time, Ser Amory Lorch declares them rebels and orders his knights to storm the holdfast. Since the Night's Watch is outnumbered at least 10 to 1, it's a slaughter. Yoren orders Arya to take the other boys and flee through the tunnel. Nearby is the wagon with the three criminals from the black cells; within, Biter and Rorge struggle while Jaqen H'ghar requests assistance in his friendly voice. Arya throws them an axe before fleeing.
Tyrion IIIIn small council, Cersei is absolutely furious at the letter Stannis has circulated amongst the Seven Kingdoms, proclaiming her children to be bastards born of twincest, and protests Stannis calling her a whore. Tyrion is impressed with her acting as she protests something she knows to be factually true, though he does reflect inwardly that Stannis never once insinuated that Jaime paid her. Instead of having the letters burnt, as Cersei wants, Tyrion suggests that they simply ignore them, as though they have no merit. Littlefinger takes it one step further by suggesting they apply the same tactic to Stannis, suggesting that his daughter Shireen is the result of some illicit act of carnality between Selyse Florent and the fool Patchface. Tyrion is intrigued by the wording of the letter, which indicates Stannis's conversion to the faith of R'hllor. He then takes his leave, as he — in his office as Hand of the King — is meeting with every blacksmith in the city and ordering them to help him forge a giant chain, each link as long as a man's arm. This is to be top-priority work, circumventing even Cersei's commands as queen regent. After hammering the smiths into line, he travels to Chataya's brothel, which has a secret tunnel leading to Shae's manse; waiting within is Varys, who told Tyrion of the route. They wonder how Stannis figured out Cersei's secret; Varys points out that Stannis and Jon Arryn were thick as thieves, that Stannis may have simply used his eyes, or that someone might have whispered it in his ear. When Tyrion suggests that whisperer was Littlefinger, Varys neither confirms nor denies.
- Lord Varys, he said from the saddle, sometimes I feel as though you are the best friend I have in Kings Landing, and sometimes I feel you are my worst enemy.
How odd. I think quite the same of you.
Bran IIIt's the day of the harvest feast, and every Northern house is sending emissaries to Winterfell. Bran must play the part of the prince, which he in no way wants. Hodor carries him to the yard, where he sees the Walders tilting at quintains. The two Freys pronounce Hodor the ugliest horse they've ever seen, and the argument is only broken up when Maester Luwin arrives to remind the Walders that proper lords protect the weak. He then beckons Bran into the great hall, where he (Bran) must sit his father's chair and treat with the Starks' lords bannermen. In this way Bran learns a good deal of the workings of the North: Lord Wyman Manderly (called "Lord Too Fat To Sit A Horse" behind his back) wants to start minting coin and building warships at White Harbor; Mors Umber (called "Crowfood" because he lost an eye to one) and Hother Umber (called "Whoresbane" for reasons no one will explain to Bran), joint castellans for the Greatjon and the Last Hearth, are concerned about ironborn raids on the coast; Leobald Tallheart is having trouble controlling his brother Benfred, who has rallied a group of lancers who fancy themselves another Young Wolf; and Lady Donella Hornwood, whose husband and son died during Robb's victories in the last book, now needs help holding her lands... especially since Ramsay Snow, bastard son of Roose Bolton, is gathering men at the Dreadfort and refusing to explain his purpose. Each of the other lords suggest being given control of Hornwood — purely to keep the peace, of course — and Bran, Maester Luwin and Ser Rodrik mutually try to find the best solution. The last to visit is fourteen-year-old Clay Cerwin. He asks Bran if Winterfell ever received Lord/King Stannis Baratheon's letter about Joffrey's illegitimacy on account of Queen Cersei being a brotherfucker. Bran suddenly feels as though his chest is being gripped by a giant hand, and that night he is beset by a terrible nightmare.
- The pain was an axe splitting his head apart, but when the crow wrenched out its beak all slimy with bits of bone and brain, Bran could see again. What he saw made him gasp in fear. He was clinging to a tower miles high, and his fingers were slipping, nails scrabbling at the stone, his legs dragging him down, stupid useless dead legs. Help me! he cried. A golden man appeared in the sky above him and pulled him up. The things I do for love, he murmured softly as he tossed him out kicking into empty air.
Tyrion IVOver breakfast, Tyrion gives Maester Pycelle two copies of a letter meant for Prince Doran Martell, the ruler of Dornenote . He insists that Pycelle send it off immediately, which gives Tyrion time to investigate a bunch of the vials Pycelle keeps in his office and pocket one of them (and finish a fair bit of his breakfast). Pycelle wants to know the contents of the message, but Tyrion insists it be kept secret from everyone, including the small council and the queen. As he leaves, Tyrion thinks to himself, One. Without, he finds Bronn (now the captain of his guard) with a list of supplicants, including: grocers who want protection after a baker who gouged his prices was roasted to death in his own oven; Lady Tanda Stokeworth, who believes her dim-witted daughter Lollys to be a perfect match for Tyrion, and; Ser Alliser Thorne of the Night's Watch, who has arrived with a hand in a jar. (Tyrion, remembering his distaste for the man, orders him "accidentally" ignored.) In the Tower of the Hand, now accompanied by his squire Podrick Payne, Tyrion meets Littlefinger, who is watching out the window as Joffrey shoots a crossbow at some hares. ("The hares are winning," Baelish quips.) Tyrion reflects that though Jaime's armor may be gilded, it is Littlefinger who truly armors himself in gold; he was appointed by Jon Arryn 10 years ago and has since shown a remarkable facility for money. He has also moved his own men into place within the Westerosi economy, with no one protesting because a man without soldiers is not a threat. Tyrion uses Littlefinger to make overtures towards Lady Lysa Arryn; if she joins the war (against Stannis or Renly only, of course), he will wed Myrcella to little Robert Arryn. To reward Baelish, Tyrion offers to name him Lord Paramount of the Riverlands and seat him at Harrenhal. He then enjoys watching Littlefinger — so named because he is lord of the meanest island in a chain called the Fingers, ruler of literally the smallest fief in the kingdom — contemplate being promoted to the largest. When he agrees, Tyrion thinks, Two. Finally, he meets with Varys, who is a-titter over Pycelle's self-important desire to tell the contents of Tyrion's letter. Varys has deduced that it offers Tommen's hand to Prince Doran's heir Princess Ariannenote , since Tyrion could scarcely marry Myrcella to both Robert Arryn and either of Arianne's younger brothers. (It also, Tyrion admits, offer him a seat on the small council and the head of Gregor Clegane, the man who killed Prince Doran's sister, Elia, for the crime of being Rhaegar Targaryen's wife.) Varys points out that Cersei might object, but Tyrion replies that what Cersei doesn't know can't hurt her. Varys asks what Tyrion would do if she did know, and Tyrion replies that he would know The Mole who told her to be his certain enemy... and when Varys giggles again, he thinks, Three.
Sansa IISansa has found an anonymous note: "Meet me in the godswood if you want to go home." It might be a test of her loyalty; Ser Ilyn Payne might be all she finds there. Besides, the drawbridge to the Red Keep is guarded by Ser Preston Greenfield in his white cloak... but then there's a tumult out in the city, and Joffrey races out to armor himself. Sansa takes advantage of the hole in coverage to sneak away. Waiting for her is not Ser Ilyn Payne but Not-Ser Dontos Hollard, the man Joffrey had stripped of his spurs on his nameday. He thanks her for saving him that day — not only from Joffrey, but from his own alcoholism — and begs for a chance to return the favor. Though he is scarcely the Knight in Shining Armor Sansa had hoped for, she agrees to trust him. On her way back to Maegor's Holdfast, she is intercepted by The Hound. She claims she was just praying for her family, and he calls her on her bullshit... but doesn't demand to know what she was actually doing, and vouches for her when the drawbridge knight (now Ser Boros Blount) questions her actions. She asks him why he is okay being called a dog but not a knight, and the Hound recounts how his grandfather's three hunting dogs once saved Tytos Lannister from a lioness, for which the elder Clegane was granted lands and titles; their sigil is three dogs on the yellow of autumn grass in honor of the hounds that made their fortune. "A dog can smell a lie, you know. Look around you, and take a good whiff. Theyre all liars here... and every one better than you.
Arya VWhen they found Yoren's corpse, a part of Arya wanted to kick him for breaking his promise to take her home. Nonetheless she insists on burying him. Now she surveys a distant village. Both crows and cookfire smoke circle above it. She and Gendry are of the opinion that they can steal food there, but the other two in her party, Hot Pie and Lommy Greenhands (the dyer's son) would rather yield, especially Lommy who was injured in the fight and can barely walk. As Arya and Gendry start walking towards the village, he confronts her about being a girl, and she admits her true name and station. (This sets Gendry so far agog that he actually starts calling her "m'lady" for a moment, at least until she kicks him.) At the town, Arya sees banners — three black dogs on a yellow field — but does not recognize them. Gendry, who does not have the advantage of water dancer training, is captured. Arya returns at nightfall with Hot Pie in tow, intent on rescuing him, but Hot Pie is spooked by a bird and yields immediately. Arya is subdued and has Needle taken from her. She is then brought before the soldiers' commander; she recognizes Ser Gregor Clegane, the Mountain that Rides. (House Clegane's banners are the three dogs on yellow field.) Hot Pie admits that he left Lommy behind, and the Mountain details off some soldiers to take Arya and Hot Pie there. All the really care about, though, is information on the lightning lord Beric Dondarrion. When the Lannister soldiers realize that Lommy will be of no use to them, they murder him.
Tyrion VThe Guildhall of the Alchemists, deep under Rhaenys's hill, is bitingly cold, but the pyromancers seem comfortable there. Tyrion is visiting with their leader, Wisdom Hallyne, whom he has commissioned to produce ten thousand jars of wildfire, a green substance that can be set alight and cannot be extinguished save by burning out. They are on target to achieve their goal, aided partially by circumstance; Mad King Aerys hid caches of wildfire all over the city (for reasons unknown) and some of them are still being found. Tyrion asks only for as many spare jars as possible, so that he can have the City Watch train with them; "the substance" (as the pyromancers like to call it) is so volatile that merely being jostled could cause spontaneous combustion. Outside, Tyrion meets with Ser Jacelyn Bywater, who has received Ser Cleos Frey; Tyrion's cousin is reluctant to discuss terms with him, since he was ordered to deliver them directly to Cersei. He brings news of the bleakness of the riverlands, and is not pleased that he will be expected to bring Tyrion's counter-offer back to Riverrun. Next Tyrion visits Cersei, who is vexed at being forced to wait while Tyrion attended Ser Cleos (which is why Tyrion did it). She has learned that Tyrion intends to offer Myrcella to Prince Trystane Martell, only two years her senior. Tyrion points out that Myrcella will undoubtedly be safer in Dorne than in King's Landing; Prince Doran is too honorable to murder her to avenge Elia. Besides, there's the matter of the war.
- How safe do you think Myrcella will be if Kings Landing falls? Renly and Stannis will mount her head beside yours.
And Cersei began to cry.
Tyrion Lannister could not have been more astonished if Aegon the Conqueror himself had burst into the room, riding on a dragon and juggling lemon pies. He had not seen his sister weep since they were children together at Casterly Rock.
—George R. R. Martin, A Clash of Kings, pg. 319-320 (paperback)
Bran IIIBran rides Dancer into the Great Hall of Winterfell for the harvest feast, surrounded by cheering and applauding people, and for just a moment forgets that he is broken. The bounty of the harvest surrounds them, and as the Stark in Winterfell Bran is allowed to take the best portion of anything he chooses. He presides over a castle that has greatly changed; the household men down on the benches are different, the lords in attendance are second sons who didn't go to war, and all his family is gone (some of them dead). Two new guests arrive during the feast: Meera and Jojen Reed, crannogmen from the swamps of the Neck, and children of Ned's staunch friend Lord Howland Reed of Greywater Watch. Bran would like to talk to them — he's never met a crannogman before — but the noise of the feast makes it impossible. They ask to see the direwolves, and Bran (despite the scoffing of both Small and Big Walder) promises that Summer will behave for them. However, once the dancing starts, Bran takes his leave. He recalls that Ned once told him that he (Ned) faced the finest Knight in Shining Armor in the Seven Kingdoms, Ser Arthur Dayne, sword-to-sword during Robert's Rebellion, and would have died if not for Howland Reed. He falls asleep with knights and swords in his head, but in his dreams he is in the godswood, his black brother beside him. Jojen and Meera are there, and when Jojen touches Bran's (Summer's) muzzle, Bran finds the ground dissolving and that he is falling, falling, falling...
Catelyn IICatelyn awakes from a dream of her family. She is exhausted from being the pillar of strength for her family, but knows she has no choice. Robb certainly gave her none; it was a young man's ploy, threatening to send Greatjon Umber to treat with Renly Baratheon if Catelyn wouldn't, but effective for all that. They are led by Ser Colen of Greenpools come upon King Renly's host at Bitterbridge, where the roseroad crosses the Mander. Renly has almost all the chivalry of the south behind him, the strength of both the stormlands and the Reach, and his camp is immense. But instead of marching for war, Renly is holding a mêlée in the lee of a castle; an enormous cheer goes up as a blue-armored knight with quartered-sun-and-moon of House Tarth unhorses Red Ronnet Connington. At Renly's side sits Margaery Tyrell; their Arranged Marriage is what holds the alliance together. They are a splendid sight, she with doe's eyes and a cascade of soft brown hair, and he looking like Robert Baratheon come again. The mêlée is coming to a halt now, with only the man of Tarth and the Knight of Flowers in contention; the Blue wins it by vaulting off his horse and landing atop Ser Loras. The crowd does not react well to his victory, however, and Ser Colen reveals that the blue knight is actually a Sweet Polly Oliver: Lady Brienne of Tarth, only child of Lord Selwyn Tarth, called "the Beauty" behind her back. The reason for this becomes apparent when she takes off her helmet: she is intensely ugly. "Her features were broad and coarse, her teeth prominent and crooked, her mouth too wide, her lips so plump they seemed swollen." The sole exception is her Innocent Blue Eyes. Renly grants her any boon she requests, and Brienne asks only to serve in his version of the Kingsguard, the Rainbow Guard (Loras Tyrell, as its leader, already wears a rainbow cloak, as does Red Ronnet Connington). Ser Colen introduces Catelyn to King Renly, and he invites her to dine with her that evening. The feast is rich and plentiful, but Catelyn observes that these are the knights of summer, and winter is coming. Fortunately, Renly invites her to take some air with him. He lays out his terms: Robb can continue calling himself "King in the North" and ruling from Winterfell, so long as he bends the knee and takes Renly's orders. Before Catelyn can answer, someone arrives to indicate that Storm's End is besieged. Renly protests that he would know if Lord Tywin had left Harrenhal, but the messenger explains that it's not Lannisters at his gates, but rather Stannis. "King Stannis, he's calling himself now."
Jon IIIThe Night's Watch have arrived at Craster's Keep. Though little more than a wooden hall and a palisade of logs, it's populated, which is more than than the seven villages between here and the Wall can claim; it's also a roof overhead, a relief after six days of rain. The black brothers are nothing but rumors about Craster: that he is a kinslayer, a slaver, a raper, a man who marries his own daughters and then gets bastards on them. The Old Bear passes the word that the Night's Watch are to stay clear of Craster's womenfolk. Within the hall, only Craster himself has a chair; he claims that he has not seen Benjen Stark for more than three years. Jon is sent to fetch Sam, whose facility with maps will be useful; without, he finds Ghost menacing a girl of about 15 years, having already broke into a cage in which she was keeping rabbits. Jon apologizes for their deaths, but she remembers suddenly that she's not supposed to talk to him (or anyone from the Night's Watch) and flees — especially when Chett and Lark the Sisterman start teasing that Jon is out to get her. He cooks one of the rabbits with Sam, the smell making the others envious, and goes to sleep after Sam heads up to the keep. In the morning everything is covered in crystallized frost. He hears someone call his name, and sees the girl from the day before, wearing Sam's cloak. She introduces herself as Gilly, one of Craster's wives, and asks if he's truly related to the King in the North. Gilly is a Distressed Damsel; she's pregnant, and if it's a boy Craster will sacrifice it to the gods (instead of raising it and marrying it as he does his daughters). Craster has 19 wives; Gilly will not be missed. Jon knows he cannot do anything, however — especially since the crows are heading north, not south — and reminds Sam of this when next they speak. As they depart that morning, Mormont asks if Jon had anything to do with the wildling girl that was huddling near Sam, and Jon admits the entire affair. Though he approves of Jon's Chronic Hero Syndrome, Mormont states that the Night's Watch must remain True Neutral; their job is to protect the realm, not police it. He grumbles about his own sleepless night on Craster's floor, prompted by the news that Mance Rayder has indeed called every wildling beyond the wall to attend him in the Frostfangs, a desolate and inhospitable place. (Craster received the summons, but he kneels to no man.) As Mormont sees it, Rayder's only motivation can be an invasion of the Seven Kingdoms... and the Night's Watch has but 300 men to oppose a force that easily numbers 10,000.
Theon IITheon is at the docks at Lordsport, admiring his new longship, when he is approached by a striking ironborn woman named Esgred. The two flirt outrageously, though Esgred claims to be married and with child, and helps him name his ship after her (Sea Bitch). He invites her to the feast Lord Balon is throwing that evening, and is pleased to note that people are bowing to him now as he and Esgred walk past. As they ride up to the castle (Esgred parrying Theon's questing hands), they discuss his family situation: though he is the last remaining son of Balon Greyjoy, the other sons having died during the Greyjoy Rebellion, Balon does have three strong brothers. However, Theon discounts them easily: Aeron, the damphair, is too pious; Victarion, Lord Captain of the Iron Fleet, is too dutiful; and Euron, called Crow's Eye, is missing-presumed-dead and has been for two years, which would make him too much a stranger to be put on the Seastone Chair. (Theon reflects that he has been gone for ten years.) Also, Theon has a sister, Asha, but he plans to just pack her off to some marriage and get her out of the way. Esgred throws this back in his face when they arrive at the castle and the stableboys address her as Lady Asha; she hid her identity to get the measure of him. She asks why he has not bothered to take the measure of the ironborn, and how he can expect them to die for him if he remains aloof from them. After the feast, Balon summons his lieutenants — Victarion, Asha, Aeron, Theon — to the solar and lays out his plans. Victarion will make the main thrust at Moat Cailin; Asha will take thirty ships to Deepwood Motte; the two will apply a stranglehold to the North, while Theon takes eight ships and harries the Stony Shore, under supervision of both Aeron Damphair and Dagmer Cleftjaw. Outside, on the swaying rope bridge, Theon stumbles and almost falls, but Asha catches him.
- "I liked you better when you were Esgred," he told her accusingly.
She laughed. "Thats fair. I liked you better when you were nine."
Tyrion VITyrion enters Cersei's chambers and finds her being attended by the newly-knighted Lancel Lannister. They discuss Vylarr, who is still taking orders directly from Cersei and circumventing Tyrion's authority via Lord Jacelyn Bywater. After sending Lancel out, Tyrion reveals that Stannis has sailed from Dragonstone. Cersei panics, only to ask why Tyrion is giggling: it's because Stannis, rather than striking for King's Landing (a mere stone's throw away), has chosen to besiege Storm's End, and Renly is riding to meet him for battle. All Cersei can say is, "I'm starting to believe that Robert was the clever one." The two Lannisters, safe now that their strongest enemies are about to smash each other to pieces, dance giddily about the room, and Tyrion almost feels bad for the Laxative Prank he just put in her wine. He's over it by the next morning, when Cersei takes sick with unpredictable bowels, and Tyrion presides over court by himself, treating with Ser Cleos Frey, who has arrived with Robb Stark's terms. Tyrion essentially repudiates all of Robb's terms, though he does return Eddard Stark's bones as a gesture of good faith; he also assigns Ser Cleos an escort of Captain Vylarr and all of his guardsmen, not only stripping Cersei of her protectors but giving Tyrion a disguise in which to hide four men Bronn has recently secured for him — a thief, a poisoner, a mummer and a murderer — who will, from within Riverrun, attempt to jailbreak Jaime. He must then accept an audience from Ser Alliser Thorne, who has lately arrived, with the wight's severed hand, to beg for help on behalf of the Night's Watch. Unfortunately, the hand has withered, and Tyrion derisively sends him away with 100 shovels, to better bury the dead, as well as his pick of the dungeons; he also arranges to have it announced that there's food on the Wall, which will make it much more appealing to the citizens of King's Landing than the starvation they currently face. That night, Tyrion summons Shagga son of Dolf and Timett son of Timett, and the three of them scare the pants out of the person who betrayed Tyrion's secrets to Cersei: Grand Maester Pycelle, who fell for Tyrion's Feed the Mole plan in which he told three different secrets to Pycelle, Varys and Littlefinger. He has the maester imprisoned and collects a few more jars from the man's quarters, full of regret: Pycelle, by far the least subtle of the three he baited, was the one he had most hoped to trust. He remembers Lord's Tywin's solution — "Heads. Spikes. Walls." — with a touch of longing.
Arya VIFear is a part of Arya's daily life now. In the eight days since she was captured by men commanded by Ser Gregor Clegane, she has seen someone killed: the Mountain picks one of his prisoners every morning and hands that person over to his Torture Technician, the Tickler, while forcing the prisoners to watch. The Tickler who always asks the same questions: Was there gold in the village, was there more food, where is the lightning lord Beric Dondarrion, how many men did he have with him, how many horses. Inevitably, the victim doesn't know; inevitably, the Tickler tries to torture it out of them; inevitably, the victim dies. At night the soldiers pick pretty girls and take them behind the bushes; one resisted, but the Mountain cut off her head as an example. Arya no longer sees any point in being brave. The Lannisters have stolen everything from her: her friends, her family, her sword, and now even the secret of her true sex, which she can no longer hide. (Only Hot Pie was surprised.) At night, Arya whispers the names of the people she hates: Ser Ilyn, who beheaded her father; Ser Meryn Trant, who killed Syrio; King Joffrey and Queen Cersei and the Hound; Dunsen, who stole Gendry's helm; Polliver, who stole Needle; Raff the Sweetling, who killed Lommy Greenhands; Ser Gregor and the Tickler. Its a Long List, but they are the only prayer she has left. After some travel, the group arrives at Harrenhal, the castle raised by the ironborn King Harren of House Hoare when he ruled the entire west coast of the continent; it is the largest castle in the realm by a huge margin (its gatehouse dwarfing the Great Hall of Winterfell), and Harren had just been installed in it the day Aegon the Conqueror made landfall. Now the castle is melted from dragonfire, and haunted, or so it is said, by the ghosts of House Hoare. Lord Tywin Lannister doesn't care; his host is encamped here, and from the smell of the latrine trenches, they have been from some time. She is assigned to Weese, understeward of the Wailing Tower, who tells them that the only thing he cares to see from them is fear.
Daenerys IIThe city of Qarth has thrown a parade to welcome the khalasar of Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons. The warlock Pyat Pree claims that Qarth is the greatest city in the world, and Dany is forced to admit it's pretty spectacular: the pale Qartheen, whom the Dothraki call "milk men" in derision but whose city they could never sack; the camels and pageantry; the three walls: the first 30 feet of red sandstone and carved with scenes of animals, the second 40 feet of granite and carved with scenes of war; the third 50 feet of black marble and carved with scenes of Explicit Content. Pyat Pree bickers with Xaro Xhoan Daxos over which of them will serve Daenerys better; Ser Jorah, snorting under his breath, trusts neither of them. Daxos escorts them to his palace as guests, revealing an edifice larger than some towns; Quaithe of the Shadow leaves them then, uttering only a warning that "when they see they shall lust" over the dragons. She dispatches Rakharo to get the lay of the city, and Ser Jorah to the docks to seek news; the bear returns first, with the captain of a ship lately arrived from Westeros. Apparently, King Robert is dead, his boy Joffrey sits the throne, and Eddard Stark has been arrested for treason (even Jorah, who hates Stark, scoffs at the idea that Ned "Honor Before Reason Up to Eleven" Stark would ever do something so wretched). The visit leaves Daenerys in good spirits: the Seven Kingdoms are disintegrating much as Khal Drogo's khalasar did after his death. And while Robert's warhammer proved that dragons can be killed, his fate proves that so too can dragonslayers.
Bran IVBran watches as Summer play-fights with Meera Reed; the two have stayed even after all the others left, and become his closest companions. No one has heard from Robb in a while, but it's been learned that the Bastard of Bolton forced Lady Hornwood into marriage, and Lord Manderly took her castle solely to protect it, and Ser Rodrik Cassel is riding out to sort out the whole affair. Meera reveals that Jojen is a "greenseer," and what he dreams always comes true. Jojen, meanwhile, thinks Bran has the same faculty; he calls Bran "the winged wolf," chained to the earth. He sees a crow trying to peck Bran out of his chains, and claims that said crow has three eyes. He also claims that said crow is waiting beyond the Wall. The questions result in Summer getting angry, though Jojen claims that it's really Bran's anger; if so, Bran can't control it / Summer, and needs Hodor to scare the wolf away. Hodor then takes Bran to see Maester Luwin, who explains that, though no one knows the true nature of greensight, it's claimed that greenseers could see through the carven eyes of the weirwood trees. He also dismisses the idea that Jojen has the greensight: the last gasp of magic was when Valyria fell, and no human now has that power or any other. Bran and Meera apologize to each other, and Meera tells him of something Jojen dreamed: Maester Luwin will one day serve Bran the king's cut off a rich roast, and the Walders a meager portion, but the Freys will like their meal much more than Bran likes his. At dinner that evening, nothing like this happens, and Bran is relieved, but also disappointed. If there is magic, anything can happen; but without it, "he would never walk, nor fly, nor be a knight."
Tyrion VIITyrion, The Night Owl, musses his hair to make it appear that Lancel Lannister's late-night visit is disturbing him. Lancel blusters about Pycelle's imprisonment, and how Jacelyn Bywater defied the queen when she demanded Pycelle's release, but Tyrion retorts that if he asks, Shagga will burst in the door and kill Lancel on the spot — and not with a wineskin. Lancel tries to fall back on his honor as a Knight in Shining Armor, but Tyrion merely asks if Cersei had him knighted before she fucked him, or after, and further wonders what Joffrey will do if he learns Lancel slew his father to bed his mother. Lancel, now totally unmanned, justifies himself by claiming that Lord Tywin bade him do everything the queen told him to. Tyrion questions whether Lord Tywin included servicing her in bed, noting to himself that Lancel is a Mockbuster version of Jaime. Lancel claims he was only doing his duty, but Tyrion scoffs at the hardship of that duty — a place at court, a knighthood, a place between the legs of the World's Most Beautiful Woman — and decides to fetch Joffrey. That's it for Lancel, who sinks to his knees and begs for mercy, offering to end his affair with the queen. Instead, Tyrion turns Lancel into his Double Agent, agreeing to release Pycelle (and telling Lancel to take credit for winning over Bywater on the issue) to sweeten the deal. He does warn Lancel that Cersei, still in The Mourning After, should not suddenly become with child, and Lancel admits that Cersei has him engaging in the pull-out method for that very reason. After he leaves, Tyrion thinks with gratitude that Uncle Kevan has two other sons, since this one seems Too Dumb to Live; the only question is whether Cersei will kill him because He Knows Too Much, or Jaime in a jealous rage. With Bronn as his escort, Tyrion rides to Chataya's, and then takes the secret passage there to Shae's manse. He wakes her with cunnilingus; after, she smiles and says she had the sweetest dream, and he corrects her: this is no dream. Just Tyrion, doing what he's best at...
Arya VIIThough she is well-fed, has a safe place to sleep, and has seen Hot Pie fitting into the kitchens and Gendry at the forge, Arya has decided to add Weese to her list of names. She feels like a mouse — she is letting everyone call her "Weasel" these days — but like a mouse she is ignored when not underfoot. She is witness to the arrival of a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, a company of Private Military Contractors formally called the Brave Companions but described as the Bloody Mummers ("clowns") when no one is looking. Their leader, the Qohorik Vargo Hoat, has a lisp and a slobber. Later, Ser Amory Lorch's men also rejoin the main host; with them are Rorge, Biter and Jaqen H'ghar, who have apparently joined up with whoever was strongest. She thinks about adding more names to her list, but that night a man wakes her and thanks her for the rescue. Three lives a man promises her, to pay back those that she cheated the god of death of; after all, only death may pay for life. A man will not help her escape, but as to the deaths, a girl need only name names. As Arya is thinking over the promise (and wondering whether to trust Jaqen at all), Weese sends her to Ser Gregor Clegane's encampment to see if they have any clothes that need mending. She happens upon Chiswyck telling an "amusing" story about how the men were groping a brewer's daughter, and when she ran away, the Mountain paid her father a silver and then raped her on the spot, along with all of his men. (Oh, and afterwards, he declared the girl wasn't worth a silver coin, and demanded change, and the brewer gave it to him.) Chiswyck seems to find this all very funny. Two days later, Arya sees Jaqen H'ghar at table and contrives to fill his cup while whispering in his ear, "Chiswyck." Three days after that, there is news that one of the Mountain's men fell off a wall and broke his neck. It's said that the ghosts of Harrenhal did it, but Arya knows better. "And that night there was one less name to hate."
Catelyn IIICatelyn and her small escort are the first to arrive at the meeting-place the brothers Baratheon have arranged. While waiting, she has a short Info Dump about the history of Storm's End (which we are hiding in a note ). Stannis arrives first, with a red priestess bearing his standard (the stag in the fiery heart); he exchanges prickly words with Catelyn, brooding over the slights done to him: Robert, for never caring about him; Ned, for taking the office of Hand despite not wanting it; Renly, for declaring himself king despite owing Stannis fealty; Robb, for doing the same thing. Renly then rides up with Brienne of Tarth as his standard-bearer. The brothers, trading all manner of barbs, argue over who is the rightful king, and who should kneel to whom; Catelyn, watching in despair, thinks to herself, "Cersei Lannister is laughing herself breathless." When she points out that Robert has two sons, who under Agnatic-Cognatic primogeniture should trump them both, Renly laughingly explains that she missed Stannis' letter about the whole twincest thing. Renly tries to settle the argument by pointing out the simple facts — he has the bigger army — but Stannis refuses to bend. Catelyn rides back to Renly's camp with him, swallowing her bitter failure. Renly decides to take the battle to Stannis in the morning, and lays out his plan with his commanders. Catelyn asks leave to return to Riverrun — there is no point in her staying — but Renly denies her, wanting her to see Stannis Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves; he does give her permission to visit a local sept to pray. She suggests he do so as well, and Renly laughingly asks Ser Loras Tyrell to stay and pray with him.
Sansa IIISansa is dressing on Joffrey's orders; he told her to look especially nice. She is brought down to the lower bailey, where the king awaits with a crowd. Ser Lancel announces that Robb Stark won some sort of swindler's victory over Ser Stafford Lannister at Oxcross, using sorcery and an army of wargs, and Joffrey orders her stripped and beaten bloody in retribution. Both Dontos Hollard and The Hound attempt to avert this fate, but the person who rescues her is... Tyrion. Joffrey protests that the king can do as he likes, and Tyrion asks him how well that philosophy served Mad King Aerys. Joffrey claims that a king should be feared, much as Sansa fears him, and Tyrion asks whether Stannis and Renly are also 12-year-old girls. He escorts Sansa, now wearing the Hound's cloak, to the Tower of the Hand, and has her wounds tended to. In the morning he explains that Robb actually won by cunning (he had his men cut the horse lines and then used Grey Wind to cause a stampede, essentially routing the enemy host before the battle had even started), and that Ser Stafford was so overconfident at being safe in the westerlands that he didn't even post sentries; he waives Lancel's comments with the pronouncement that "sorcery is the sauce men spoon over failure to hide the flavor of their own incompetence." He asks Sansa how she feels about Joffrey, and she claims that she loves him now, and more than ever; he then compliments her on her lying, telling her that it may prove useful in the future. When he discerns that she would rather be far away from anything Lannister, he just laughs, as he has had moments of feeling the same. He asks what she prays about in the godswood every day, and she lies about praying for Joffrey's victory; that one Tyrion lets go, though he adds that she should also pray for Robb to see reason, as Oxcross was but one battle, and Lord Tywin scarcely an Upper-Class Twit like Ser Stafford. Finally, he offers his own guards for her protection — the clansmen may scare Sansa, but they likewise scare Joffrey and the idiots surrounding him — but Sansa manages to maneuver her way into returning to her own chambers, unguarded, so that she can keep visiting Ser Dontos in the godswood.
Catelyn IVIt takes past dark for Catelyn and her small party, including Ser Robar Royce, the red member of the Rainbow Guard, to reach the sept, and Catelyn has not eaten all day, but she prays nonetheless to the gods of the Faith of the Seven: Father, Warrior, Smith, Mother, Maiden, Crone, Stranger. She thinks of the letter Stannis sent, and realizes that Ned and Lord Jon Arryn must have learned about Cersei's children — and, for that matter, Bran too. She prays all night, returning before dawn to Renly's camp. There, Ser Parmen the Purple and Ser Emmon the Yellow stand gaurd outside Renly's pavilion, whilst within Brienne the Blue armors him for battle, and Lords Randyll Tarly and Mathis Rowan discuss strategy. Renly orders his brother's body treated with respect, and for Ser Barristan Selmy to be spared if he is found (which he ought to be; he's not guarding Joffrey, Robb or Renly, and Balon Greyjoy doesn't count). Catelyn pleads a moment of his time, struggling one last time to find a diplomatic solution: if Robb, Renly and Stannis all call for a Great Council, Bran will have a chance to speak of what he saw just before he was thrown from that tower, and the Lannisters' twincest will be revealed before gods and men. But Renly isn't interested in a non-violent solution. As Brienne belts Renly's sword on, a breeze seems to fling open the tent door. Catelyn sees Renly's shadow move independently of him; it lifts a sword, and stabs Renly through the throat. Brienne gives a Big "NO!" as she cradles the body of her dying king. Ser Robar Royce and Ser Emmon Cuy rush in; Ser Emmon, seeing Brienne covered in blood, makes the obvious conclusion and attacks her, forcing her to defend herself with Renly's sword. Catelyn grabs Ser Robar before he can join, understanding through means she cannot explain that it was Stannis, Stannis did this somehow, through some sorcery unbeknownst to them all. Ser Robar believes her, and exits the tent to hold off the others; Catelyn gives Ser Emmon a stiff knock on the head with a brazier, and she and Brienne make their exit. Brienne swears to avenge her Bodyguard Crush with his own sword. As the two of them ride away with Catelyn's escort, Catelyn realizes that, at a single stroke of Black Magic, Stannis has just secured the entirety of Renly's army. She also remembers that, per Stannis' own words, Robb is a big a traitor as Renly. "A chill went through her."
Jon IVThe Night's Watch arrives at the Fist of the First Men, an old ring fort that visually resembles its name. He consults with Sam (who on the whole would rather be home at Castle Black eating pork pie) and helps set up the Lord Commander's tent. The Old Bear states his intentions to fortify: if Benjen Stark is out there, he will see the light of the campfires, and when Mance Rayder leaves the Frostfangs (which he must, as feeding 100,000 people is hard enough when you're not in frozen mountains) he must pass by the Fist, where the Watch will be strongly positioned. Despite these preparations, Mormont retires early. Jon joins the others for some stew, but is distracted by Ghost, who drags him downhill. Ghost has dug something up: a black fur cloak, clearly belonging to a member of the Night's Watch, and wrapped around a cache of dragonglass weapons.
Bran VBran, working the bellows for Mikken at the forge, is summoned to Maester Luwin's tower. Robb has sent a raven about his victory at Oxcross; he has also captured several castles (less impressive than it sounds, as the majority of their garrisons and men-at-arms would be in Lord Tywin's army, or Ser Stafford's former army) and is currently resting at Ashemark, ancestral seat of House Marbrand. The Walders are excited to hear about the death of the House Frey heir-presumptive, Ser Stevron Frey, in the battle, questioning merely how much this moves them up in the line of succession. (The answer is, not far.) Bran realizes Jojen's green dream has come true: "[The Freys] like the taste of this dish better than I do." When questioned, Jojen then reveals his next dream: the sea lapping all around Winterfell, flooding it, leaving its inhabitants drowned. Bran talks of his own dreams; his favorites are the ones where he is running around as a wolf, and Jojen calls him a "warg," a skinchanger whose consciousness can ride around in animals. He warns Bran that men will fear this power. Bran tries to warn everyone in Winterfell about the sea, but no one believes him. Ser Rodrik Cassel returns a few days later with a wretched man named Reek (he does), manservant of the Bastard of Bolton. He has set Hornwood to rights, as best he could: Ramsay Snow forced Donella Hornwood to wed him at daggerpoint, and to sign a will naming him heir, and then locked her up to starve. He was shot down and killed whilst fleeing. Ser Rodrik also brings reports of ironborn harrying the Stony Shore, and reports that Leobald Tallhart of Torrhen's Square sent his nephew Benfred and his corps, the Wild Hares, to investigate. After Jojen reveals another green dream — Bran and Rickon's corpses lying at Reek's feet — Meera resolves to head down to the dungeons and off the fucker right now. But Jojen tells her she will fail: You Can't Fight Fate.
Tyrion VIIIThe small council listens to Varys' report on Renly's untimely death. The rumors are muddled — some say a knight of the Rainbow Guard did it, others a spurned made, still more a shadow, and one person said Catelyn Stark did it — but they all agree that Renly has been Killed Off for Real. Tyrion waves goodbye to his hopes that the brothers would savage each other in battle; in his opinion, Stannis is behind it, as his strong motive overrules the lack of opportunity and uncertain means. Meanwhile, Renly's host has fractured; though most of it has gone over to Stannis, a small group of hardcore supporters remains rebellious; they are led by Ser Loras, who it is said slew three members of the Rainbow Guard in his rage, including Robar Royce and Emmon Cuy; and Renly's corpse itself has disappeared. Tyrion sees an opportunity to convert Ser Loras, and the rest of the Renly loyalists, to fall in line by having Joffrey set aside Sansa and wed Margaery instead. Everyone agrees, even Cersei, though it takes some convincing. The question is then raised on who should go to Bitterbridge and negotiate on the king's behalf. The Queen Regent suggests the Hand of the King; the Hand of the King suggests the Queen Regent; but the answer comes from the most unlikely source: Littlefinger, who can speak on the king's behalf and also benefits no one as a hostage. After the meeting, Cersei admits that Tyrion has been quite a help and kisses him on the cheek. Tyrion, watching her go, tells Bronn to start figuring out what she's plotting; he doesn't trust this level of kindness from her.
Theon IIITheon is interrogating Benfred Tallhart, the last remaining member of the Wild Hares; they were easily ambushed when caught trotting down the road singing. Benfred gives only defiance, and Aeron Damphair demands he be sacrificed to the Drowned God, which Theon agrees with mostly to placate him. Back at the town, his ironborn are celebrating their victory, paying the iron price by hewing valuables off the corpses of the dead. Theon thinks about doing the same to the two men he slaughtered, but is stopped by the memory of what Ned Stark would say, and then is frustrated at being stopped. He catches one of his men, Todric, sloppy drunk in defiance of Theon's orders; Theon takes aim at the ale horn with his bow, intending to Shoot It Out Of Their Hands, but Todric moves at the last second and ends up taking the arrow in the belly instead. Enough people see this that Theon hopes it will set an example. He then returns to the ships, where Dagmer Cleftjaw was kept asea so that no one can credit him for the victory. Theon has a plan, one which will cause the ironborn to respect him, but for it he needs Dagmer's loyalty, and he gains it with flattery. He orders Dagmer to take some men to Torrhen's Square and start building siege engines; Leobald and his weak garrison will panic and beg Winterfell for reinforcements, which Ser Rodrik will obligingly send. When Dagmer protests that the ironborn have no talent for Storming the Castle and will not be able to take Torrhen's Square, Theon simply smiles and explains that Torrhen's Square isn't what he's actually trying to take.
Arya VIIIHarrenhal is in an uproar as Lord Tywin Lannister finally prepares to march. Every day more and more men leave through the castle gates, and Arya is kept busy running messages to and fro as Weese (and everyone else) tries to get the army outfitted properly. Weese is driving her relentlessly, and the next time she gets a chance to see Jaqen H'ghar, she whispers Weese's name in his ear. The next day, the Mountain's corps leaves, and she realizes how stupid she was: she has been naming people off her own personal vendetta, when she could have been taking out The Mountain or Lord Tywin himself. At that moment, she hears a scream, and runs to see that Weese has been the next victim of the Ghost of Harrenhal.
Catelyn VCatelyn and her party are nearing Riverrun, where everyone is hastily shoring up defenses: Lord Tywin's army is on its way. Brienne offers to swear an oath of fealty to her, as would a (male) knight to his (male) lord, and Catelyn accepts. Cat is worried for her brother Edmure's capabilities as a commander in battle, believing him too kind to match wits with Tywin Lannister. She is astonished to see the bodies of Lannister guardsmen hanging on the castle walls, but Edmure explains that these were the "thief, poisoner, mummer and murderer" that Tyrion hid in the troop, and that they almost succeeded in freeing Jaime. She learns of Robb's victory at Oxcross, that Roose Bolton has been ordered to take Harrenhal, and that Ser Cortnay Penrose, castellan of Storm's End, has sent ravens asking all and sundry for help, as he fears for the life of Edric Storm, one of Robert Baratheon's only acknowledged bastards. She visits her father, Lord Hoster, but in his dementia he mistakes her for her sister Lysa — a much younger one too, as he assures "Lysa" that Jon will be a good husband for her, and that some other man she has her eye on is someone he (Lord Hoster) will not accept. Finally, the steward brings her to a lower chamber, where the silent sisters have arrived bearing Eddard Stark's bones. They leave her alone with the remains, and Catelyn wishes for a moment that she too were a silent sister: it's said they can speak to the dead.
Daenerys IIIDany is rfeturning from her audience with the Pureborn, the ruling caste composed of the descendents of Qarth's former kings and queens. After great pomp, circumstance and rigamarole, she went to them to beg for ships and men; she received nothing, as the Pureborn cared solely for the dragon on her shoulder, and at that only for curiosity. She asks Xaro Xhoan Daxos for ships, not for the first time; he asks for her hand, not for the first time; she considers going to the warlocks, not for the first time; Daxos tells her not to, not for the first time. As they return to his mansion, they see a firemage perform a fancy trick, but Quaithe of the Shadow appears beside them and says it is no trick; six months gone, the man could barely produce a spark. Now magic has returned to the world, with the birth of dragons. She once again suggests Daenerys travel to Asshai, but Jorah distrusts her like all the rest. He explains Daxos' interest in her hand: as a Qartheen custom, on the Wedding Day the bride and groom may ask a single wish of each other, a wish that cannot be denied. For one of the world's three dragons, for instance. Dany, in exhaustion, realizes she no longer has any other options but to visit Pyat Pree.
Tyrion IXTyrion and the royal court have descended to the docks: Princess Myrcella is sailing to Dorne to honor her betrothal to Prince Trystane Martell, with Dorne in return joining the Lannister cause. Myrcella, a brave child, does not cry. Tyrion observes Cersei, who has been consorting with the sellsword Ser Osmund Kettleblack to, with his brothers Osfryd and Osney raise a private army; while Bronn has been matching her coin for coin, Varys has observed that she has "a second purse which is quite inexhaustible". As the court return to the castle, someone throws dung at Joffrey, leading the king to demand the perpetrator's head; the crowd, fed up with starvation and declining public standards, begins to riot. The party flees piecemeal back to Maegor's Holdfast, with several going astray — Tyrek Lannisternote ; the High Septon; Sansa Stark. Joffrey is ranting about traitors and how he wants all their heads... so Tyrion slaps him and demands what he thought would happen when he ordered Clegane to murder them to their faces. Ser Boros and Ser Meryn balk when Tyrion orders them to go out and find survivors, forcing Cersei to back him up, but between them and Ser Jacelyn Bywater order is slowly restored; Clegane rides up with Sansa in tow. By nightfall they have a better grasp of the situation: the High Septon slain, Ser Preston Greenfield of the Kingsguard slain; Tyrek MIA; Lollys Stokework, the developmentally-disabled daughter of Lady Tanda, found alive but raped by half a hundred men. Lord Jacelyn reports that, according to the smallfolk, Tyrion is a Depraved Dwarf and the source of everyone's suffering (even though Joffrey ordered the Hound to murder them to their faces). Bronn snickers that life would be much easier if Tommen were king instead of Joffrey, which Tyrion pointedly ignores.
Davos IISer Davos has been delivering Stannis' incest letter throughout the realm; he returns to Storm's End, which the king is besieging. He learns that Stannis has been terrible nightmares, and that the red woman is the only one who can soothe him, and wonders what sort of soothing she offers him. Stannis has him join him when Ser Cortnay Penrose comes out to parley; Ser Cortnay has nothing but scorn for the turncloaks who not only switched kings but switched gods. He bluntly refuses to surrender, and laughs in the face of Stannis' threats: "Bring on your storm, ser — and recall, if you do, the name of this castle." Stannis then summons Davos for private consultation. Davos respects Ser Cortnay's Undying Loyalty (Ser Cortnay made it clear he held similar regard for the Onion Knight, for similar reasons), and Stannis admits he has little love for these fair-weather lords, but he needs them to win his crown. Stannis admits he still has nightmares of Renly's pavilion, even though he (Stannis) was safely abed at the time of his brother's death, and that he still grieves Renly. He orders Davos to smuggle Melisandre under the walls of Storm's End, much as the Onion Knight did fifteen years ago. He and Melisandre talk to pass the time as he rows her across Shipbreaker Bay; she claims to be a knight of sorts herself, "a champion of life and light." When she asks Ser Davos what sort of man he is, he admits to his Gray and Grey Morality. Melisandre finds that analysis unsatisfactory: "If half of an onion is black with rot, it is a rotten onion. A man is good, or he is evil." Davos counters by asking if she plans to kill Ser Cortnay Penrose, as she did Maester Cressen and Renly Baratheon; she replies that Maester Cressen killed himself. She does admit that the walls of Storm's End have protective spells woven into them, as Renly's pavilion did not. Beneath the castle, she takes off her robe and reveals herself to be grossly pregnant. She then gives birth to a shadow. "[Davos] knew that shadow. As he knew the man [who had] cast it."
Jon VThe Night's Watch have a system: a single horn blast means that rangers are incoming, while two means wildlings, and three — never heard in living memory — means the Others. Jon hears only one, so he knows that the 100 men from the Shadow Tower have arrived. Their leader, Qhorin Halfhand, is named such because in a fight with a wildling, he engaged in a one-handed Bare-Handed Blade Block. (This had predictable results on his two smallest fingers, but he did win the fight.) The Shadow Tower contingent were slightly delayed because they ambushed a wildling scouting party led by Alfyn Crowkiller, who will trouble them no more. According to the captured scouts, Mance Rayder plans to breach the wall, but has been scouring the Frostfangs for something to help him, some sort of power or artifact. The Old Bear decides to send out three scouting parties: Jarman Buckwell with four men will climb the Giant's Stair, Thoren Smallwood to head up the Milkwater, and Qhorin himself to take the Skirling Pass. Qhorin chooses Jon as one of his four.
Tyrion XLancel Lannister reveals that Cersei intends to send Tommen to the neighboring fief of Rosby and hide him there as a page. Tyrion is concerned that Varys wasn't able to sniff this out himself. Tyrion arranges to have Ser Jacelyn Bywater ambush them, promising him a lordship in return. At Shae's manse, Tyrion finds her being entertained by a singer, Symon Silver Tongue, whom Tyrion has expelled and then sworn in as a Secret Keeper. Shae begs to be brought to the castle, even suggesting that Tyrion murder Cersei if this will help; the best he can do is secret her in the kitchens. When she presses him further, he slaps her, but is instantly remorseful, admitting the sordid story of his marriage to the whore Tysha. He then goes to the stables, where Varys, disguised as a begging brother, is waiting. Varys suggests Shae be placed as a maidservant to Lollys, which would be much preferable to her than being a kitchen scullion; she could then be brought to the Tower of the Hand via a secret passage, which Tyrion is surprised to learn of. Varys has news of Ser Cortnay's death, and is convinced it is magic. Varys was once a member of a mummer's troop in Essos, but one day a Myrish sorcerer bought him. He castrated Varys and burned his parts over a fire as fuel for a spell, and then turned the boy out, telling him he had permission to die. Instead, Varys found a way to live, motivated by revenge against all those who wield magic... which, it seems, includes Stannis. Tyrion is more concerned that Stannis' larger army will now come to King's Landing... and he, Tyrion, the Depraved Dwarf, is the only one standing between the city's innocents and the swords of the enemy.
Catelyn VICatelyn reflects on how she has always done her duty, refusing to comfort Petyr Baelish even when he was injured fighting for her hand. Maester Vyman shows her a letter, lately arrived from Lord Elwood Meadows, the new castellan of Storm's End; he makes no mention of Edric Storm, and Catelyn wonders if Stannis means to use the boy's Strong Family Resemblance to Robert as proof of Cersei's incest. She reflects on how strange men can be about bastards: Ned protected Jon, and Ser Cortnay Penrose died for Edric Storm; but the letter from Roose Bolton was utterly dismissive of Ramsay Snow, begging only that Robb weigh Roose's actions in attacking Harrenhal against Ramsay's monstrosities. Meanwhile, the mood in Riverrun is tense as Lord Tywin's forces march north, with Edmure leading the defense. The first are just skirmishes, which Brienne equates to the brush of Lord Tywin's fingers, seeking a weak spot; the fist will follow. But Edmure leads an actual defense, repelling The Mountain as he tries to cross the river. Catelyn wonders why she does not feel triumphant. "If we are winning, why do I feel so afraid?"
Bran VIBran is once again dreaming through the eyes of Summer, who is alerted by a faint clink. He and his brother can smell something wrong in the air, and the direwolf desperately tries to escape from the godswood, but the gate is locked, so tries to climb a tree to reach the wall, following Bran's thoughts. Summer falls from the tree, and Bran awakes with a sore shoulder to find a strange man in his room, followed by Theon Greyjoy. Theon, calling himself a prince, tells him that the castle is his now, that his ironmen swam the moat and unlocked the postern gate. Theon orders him to make the people of Winterfell aware that Theon is in command, and that no one will be hurt if they concede. Bran remembers the people who died in Jojen's dream of the sea coming to Winterfell, and watches as it all comes true. Most in the castle accept Theon resentfully, but Reek and Osha join his service. Bran is disappointed about the latter, but manages to convince the rest that fighting is not the answer.
Arya IXThe Bloody Mummers return to Harrenhal, currently garrisoned with only 100 men under Amory Lorch. They have loot, such as a bear in a cage and 100 northern prisoners, including the (former) commander Robett Glover and Aenys Frey. Arya sees in them a chance to escape. The next time she encounters Jaqen H'ghar, she names her third and final name: Jaqen H'ghar. Sorrowfully, a man produces a knife and prepares to self-terminate, reminding her that she will lose her only friend. A girl retorts that a true friend would help her escape. She also allows that, if a friend were to help, a girl might name a different name. Jaqen takes her to fetch Rorge and Biter (who are scared of him), and then to beg the kitchens for several large kettles of soup. The scalding liquid serves to distract the guards on the Wailing Tower, and Robett Glover emerges, thanking them and asking if they are members of the Brave Companions. Arya takes back her name (Jaqen refuses to give her a replacement), and Jaqen announces that now he must die; as she watches, his features change as he passes a hand over his face. She wants to know how he can shapeshift like that, but he answers that she can only learn across the narrow sea. He gives her an iron coin and says that, should she wish to join him there, she need only present that coin to any Braavosi and declare, "Valar morghulis." The next morning, Lord Roose Bolton arrives and officially takes custody of Harrenhal from Vargo Hoat, whose services Bolton had bought, and who helped arrange the Trojan Prisoner gambit. Arya — blurting out the name "Nan" to avoid being noticed — is made Bolton's cupbearer. She watches as Ser Amory Lorch is paraded naked through the yard and then fed to the bear — a bear who, she notes, is all in black, like Yoren.
Daenerys IVDaenerys stands before the House of the Undying, a dusty and decrepit ruin. Ser Jorah, Xaro Xhoan Daxos, Aggo, Jhogo, Rakharo: one and all, her companions tell her to turn back. Pyat Pree emerges and gives her a glass of "shade of the evening," the drink warlocks use to expand their mind; he tells her to always take the first door on the right, and only the stairs going up, and to ignore the things she sees until she reaches the warlocks' inner chamber. With Drogon perched on her shoulder, she sees many, many things, which may not seem like much but serve as a great deal of Foreshadowing, which is why we are including it. References to things that have already happened will be spelled out, but call-forwards to coming events will be marked under spoilers. Visions with no comments have no known (or speculated) relevance to the story.
- A beautiful naked woman sprawling on a floor with four little men with rat-like faces raping her. (No known meaning.) (Yes, no known meaning. You could make an argument that this is merely an allegory for the War of Four Kings and Balon Greyjoy, but if you keep reading, you'll note that all the other visions are much more straightforward.)
- A feast of corpses, a room full of savagely slaughtered bodies, many with cups or spoons in their hands; above them sits a dead man on a throne with the head of a wolf, wearing an iron crown. ("Catelyn VII" of the next book, with a detail not revealed until "Davos V".)
- Old, dead, loyal Ser Willem Darry beckons her into the house with the red door, in Braavos. (Dany's childhood home; see her first chapter last book)
- An old man with long silver hair sits on a barbed throne in a great hall with dragon skulls, and says "Let him be the king of ashes." (King Aerys II, called "The Mad," on the last day of his reign. See "Jaime V" im the Recap of A Storm of Swords for more detail.)
- A man who looks like Viserys, but taller and with darker eyes, who says to a woman nursing a baby, "Aegon... What better name for a King... He is the Prince that was Promised, and his is the song of ice and fire"; but when the mans eyes meet Danys, he says either to her or the woman with the baby, "There must be one more... The dragon has three heads." He picks up a silver harp and begins to play. (Daenerys' brother Rhaegar, his wife Elia of Dorne, and her cousin Aegon. All of them died during Robert's Rebellion. However, the "There must be one more" thing has been endless fodder for Secret Targaryen fan theories which even R+L=J cannot quell — after all, there must be one more after that.)
- "We know... the shape of shadows... morrows not yet made... drink from the cup of ice... drink from the cup of fire... Mother of Dragons... Child of Three... three heads has the dragon... three fires must you light: one for life and one for death and one to love... three mounts must you ride: one to bed and one to dread and one to love... three treasons will you know: once for blood and once for gold and once for love... daughter of death, slayer of lies, bride of fire..."
- Viserys dying.
- A tall lord with copper skin and silver hair bearing the banner of a fiery stallion. (Believed to be a What Cound Have Been vision of her son Rhaego. Could conceivably apply to a living character — Young Griff being the most obvious candidate.)
- A dying prince with rubies flying from his armor whispering the name of a woman with his last breath. (Rhaegar dying at the ruby ford under Robert's warhammer.)
- A blue-eyed king with a red sword in his hand who casts no shadow. (Stannis Baratheon.)
- A "mummer's dragon" amidst a cheering crowd.
- A great stone beast flying from a smoking tower, breathing shadow fire. (Believed to refer to Azor Ahai reborn [see "Davos III" in A Storm of Swords for more details].)
- Her silver horse given to her by Drogo at her wedding.
- A corpse at the prow of a ship, eyes bright in his dead face, smiling sadly. (Believed to be a reference to Old Griff.)
- A blue flower growing from a chink in a wall of ice. (Believed to be a reference to R+L=J.)
- Shadows dancing in a tent. (Daenerys's tent while Mirri Maz Duur works her healing spell on Khal Drogo; Renly's recent death.)
- A little girl running toward a house with a red door. (see above re: Ser Willem Darry.)
- Mirri Maz Duur shrieking in the flames as a dragon bursts from her. (The births of Drogon, Viserion and Rhaegal.)
- A corpse being dragged behind a silver horse. (The events of the "Daenerys VI" chapter last book.)
- A white lion running through grass taller than a man.
- A line of naked crones emerging from a lake, kneeling before Daenerys beneath the Mother of Mountains. (Believed to foreshadow events in the as-yet-unpublished sixth book.)
- Ten thousand slaves crying "Mother" as Daenerys rides by on her silver(See "Daenerys IV" in the next book.)
Tyrion XITyrion sends Shagga, son of Dolf, and the other clansmen to the kingswood; they will be more use conducting guerilla raids against Stannis' army than defending from the walls, even though Tyrion has only 6,000 gold cloaks and a few knights with which to defend the most populous city in the realm. He orders Bronn to start burning down the houses on the outside of the wall near the Mud Gate, the city's weak spot; the shanty town will provide convenient ladders for Stannis if allowed to remain, and they are free to focus their efforts here now that Winterfell has fallen to the ironborn. Meanwhile, Ser Balon Swann, a Knight in Shining Armor, has been promoted to the Kingsguard to replace the slain Preston Greenfield; the replacement for Ser Boros Blount, who surrendered Tommen on the road to Rosby without a fight and was stripped of his white cloak for failing to die protecting his king, is the undeserving Ser Osmund Kettleblack. Tyrion has appointed a new High Septon, and instructs him to tell the citizens that Stannis means to burn the Great Sept of Baelor. (Tyrion has no idea if this is true, but it certainly fits Stannis' past behaviors.) He is also visited by Wisdom Hallyne of the Pyromancers' Guild, who reports that the work is going even faster than expected. The spells seem to be working more efficiently, which suggests that dragons have re-entered the world; has Tyrion heard of any? Ser Jacelyn Bywater reports that Tommen is being kept safe, though he does not mention where so that Tyrion cannot confess it; Tyrion applauds him.
Theon IVTheon is asleep in Ned Stark's bed, the tavern wench Kyra by his side, when he jolts upright. Nothing has woken him, and it takes a second for him to realize that, indeed, nothing has woken him: the direwolves have stopped howling. His guards rouse the castle and take the headcount: Bran, Rickon, Meera Reed, Jojen Reed, Hodor and Osha are all missing, and the guards on the Hunter's Gate are dead, one of them clearly mauled by a direwolf. At first light, Theon organizes a hunt, bringing Maester Luwin with him because that seems smarter than leaving him unattended in the castle, and Theon reflects bitterly on his position as a No Respect Guy despite all the good things he tries to do (treat Bran and Rickon well, ignore Reek's suggestion that the castle's populace be tortured, etc). Maester Luwin begs mercy for the escapees, and Theon agrees, but announces that Osha broke her oath and must be killed. (Maester Luwin can't argue with that.) The dogs lose the scent at a river; Wex notices that there are only pawprints there, meaning that the humans split off at some previous point. A day's search yields nothing, but Reek takes them to an old mill on Acorn Water, operated by a couple and their two young sons, suggesting that the Stark boys might have sought refuge there. Reek then opens a large sack he's been carrying all day. When Theon sees a wolf-head brooch inside, he understands. He orders almost everyone back to Winterfell, and he and Reek head down to the mill.
Jon VIUp in the Skirling Pass, there are wildlings keeping watch; the light of their fire gives them away. Qhorin dispatches two men, Jon and Stonesnake, to take them, and Stonesnake leads Jon on a free climb up a sheer rock face to outflank them. There are three wildlings. The brothers kill two, and Jon is about to slay the third when he realizes it's a girl. She yields, and Jon takes her prisoner. They trade names — hers is Ygritte — and when she learns that he's a bastard Stark, she says that they share blood, and tells him an old story about a wildling named Bael the Bard, who seduced a Stark daughter and whose son became the Lord of Winterfell. The next morning, the other three brothers arrive; Jon greets Ghost affectionately. Ygritte recognizes Qhorin Halfhand, and admits that they would not be taking him prisoner if the roles were reversed. So Qhorin takes the other three off to one side so that Jon can do what needs to be done. Ygritte suggests Jon defect with her, claiming Mance would take him in; when he refuses, she Faces Execution with Dignity, merely asking that he make it quick. Jon lowers his sword and tells her to go. She does.
Sansa IVIn the godswood, Dontos Hollard reports that (like Arya before him) he hears much more while underfoot than when an anointed knight. (And Varys pays gold for anything. He suspects the other fool, Moon Boy, has been in Varys' pay for years.) Dontos has spoken to "a good friend" who will hire a ship for them to escape on, but the friend has left the city and they cannot move until he returns. Outside the city is nothing but fire; Stannis' vanguard, arrived two days hence, is trying to smoke out some opposition in the godswood, and apparently the defenders are doing the same right back. Sansa, displeased, heads up to the roof, where the Hound startles her, and then mocks her for being scared: she seemed quite happy to see him when he rescued her from the mob, after all. That night she dreams of the riot again, and feels ripping pain between her legs; when she wakes up, the sheets are sticky with blood. In her First Period Panic, she tries to burn the bedding, but the maids find her. Cersei invites her to breakfast and tells her the facts of life. Sansa admits she was expecting it to be more magical, and Cersei laughs and tells her a womans life is "nine parts mess to one part magic." She tells Sansa that, while she may not love Joffrey (which even Cersei admits is reasonable), she will love the children he gives her. Robert, she reminisces, always wanted to be loved, as did Tyrion. Sansa replies that everyone wants to be loved.
- "I see flowering hasnt made you any brighter," said Cersei. "Sansa, permit me to share a bit of womanly wisdom with you on this very special day. Love is poison. A sweet poison, yes, but it will kill you all the same."
Jon VIIJon tells Qhorin about what Ygritte said, about accepting him if he defected, and Qhorin allows that the spearwife was probably telling the truth. Jon also admits that he spared her, and is surprised that Qhorin is unsurprised. But Qhorin says that he left Jon to do what needs to be done — and to decide what that was. "To lead men you must know them, Jon Snow. I know more of you now than I did this morning." When next they sleep (they are traveling at night and sleeping through the day), Jon dreams of direwolves — five now instead of six, scattered and lonely — but hears someone calling his name, and turns to see a tree with his brother's face, but three eyes. The tree touches Jon, and suddenly Jon is Ghost, up in the mountains, seeing thousands of men training for war, seeing them ride mammoths, seeing an eagle stoop down on him from the sky. Jon's Catapult Nightmare wakes the others, and Ebben asks, "Skinchanger?" Jon isn't sure whether he's referring to Jon or the eagle. Qhorin doesn't mind the extra intelligence, though. Further on towards the Frostfangs, they find Ghost, injured by an eagle's talons, with the eagle still overhead. Qhorin declares that they must retreat: the wildlings are watching them through the eagle, just as Jon saw them through his wolf, and now Mance knows they are here. They pass the place where Jon met Ygritte, and Qhorin declares that one man could hold a hundred from here. Squire Dalbridge agrees to stay, and they leave him all their arrows. Jon realizes he will never see Squire Dalbridge again.
Tyrion XIITyrion reads the raven delivered by Varys, containing the news that Brandon Stark, called "the Broken," and Rickon Stark are dead. Over dinner, Tyrion is disbelieving, and Cersei displeased; she does not deny that Jaime threw the boy out a window, but would personally have preferred to frighten him into silence. She also reacts negatively to the idea that Tyrion plans to have the Hound lead sorties during the battle (alongside Ser Balon Swann), as this strips Joffrey of his most loyal protector. She also cautions Tyrion over trusting Varys too much, as he feeds them the information that will most make him seem indispensable. He is also, Cersei observes, unpredictable, unlike Tyrion: "That worm between your legs does half your thinking." Which is all a fancy way of saying: "I have your little whore." She promises to do to the whore whatever happens to Joffrey, and Tyrion, scandalized, realizes that Cersei genuinely believes he (Tyrion) means to do Joffrey harm. To stall, Tyrion asks for proof, and Cersei has the Kettleblacks parade the girl out, beaten and bloodied. Tyrion asks if she'll be released, and Cersei promises that she will... if Tyrion releases Tommen. Imitating their father, Tyrion suggests that the whore better be kept safe... for, just as Cersei promises to mirror Joffrey's hurts on her, Tyrion promises to mirror her hurts on Tommen — up to and including the sexual assaults. Then Tyrion kneels before the girl and apologizes for her having to go through all of this, and Alayaya accepts his apology.
- "I have never liked you, Cersei, but you were my own sister, so I never did you harm. You've ended that. I will hurt you for this. I dont know how yet, but give me time. A day will come when you think yourself safe and happy, and suddenly your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth, and youll know the debt is paid."
Catelyn VIIAll of Riverrun is engulfed in celebration, but Catelyn is isolated on a berg of her own grief, grief for her sons: Theon's message claims that Bran and Rickon tried to escape and he mounted their heads on the walls. Five children has she borne for Ned Stark, and now all of them are gone except Robb. She tells Brienne that she has had a bottle of wine sent to Jaime Lannister, hoping to loosen his tongue. At midnight, they head down to the dungeons. Jaime has not drunk, suspecting poison, but he offers to trade answers for answers — he's been shut up in dungeons for basically the entire book, and knows nothing of the greater war. He admits to being the father of Cersei's children, and to throwing Bran out of the tower, but denies sending the assassin with the dagger — first off, he would have just done the deed himself; second, his story on who owns the dagger is consonant with Tyrion's, not Littlefinger's. He asks of the war, and Catelyn tells him of Renly's death, Stannis' coming attack on King's Landing, and the news that Robb has recently taken the Crag from House Westerling. Catelyn asks how Jaime could have forsworn his oaths, and Jaime tells the story of her ex-fiancé Brandon Stark. Catelyn knew that King Aerys had Brandon strangled in front of his own father, Lord Rickard, but Jaime tells the full story of the Mad King's depravities.note Jaime was the newest member of the Kingsguard at this time, but it was Lord Commander Gerold Hightower, the White Bull, The Paragon himself, who told him, "You swore an oath to guard the king, not judge him." Jaime has been drinking the wine this whole time and is now truly sloshed. He muses that Ned Stark had no right to judge him; Jaime has been totally faithful to Cersei, whereas Ned had that one kid — what was his name? Catelyn calls for Brienne, and then demands her sword.
Theon VTheon has been having nightmares ever since he and Reek killed the two boys who lived at the mill. The ironborn have also grown sullen, since Reek arranged for the few men who accompanied them to meet with accidents since. But now he has hope, because Asha has arrived. But she has only brought twenty men, not nearly enough to hold Winterfell. She reports that Dagmer Cleftjaw gave up his siege of Torrhen's Square — she is better-informed than he is. She chastizes him for his actions: taking Winterfell was a brilliant stroke, she agrees, but Theon would have been better off taking the princes hostage and razing the castle. Winterfell is deep inland, a poor outpost for an island nation whose strength is in their fleet. But Theon refuses to leave, announcing that he will hold Winterfell for the remainder of his life. Asha sighs and opines that he shall, and then leaves — taking half of those ten men with her. Reek, coming in after, asks for a bag of gold coins; in return, he'll rustle up 200 men for their cause. For Theon, it's a no-brainer. Still, he can't sleep that night, even after fucking the daylights out of Kyra; in the dawn, he goes to see the heads on the walls.
- The millers boys had been of an age with Bran and Rickon, alike in size and coloring, and once Reek had flayed the skin from their faces and dipped their heads in tar, it was easy to see familiar features in those misshapen lumps of rotting flesh. People were such fools. If wed said they were rams' heads, they would have seen horns."
Sansa VIn the sept of the Red Keep, Joffrey makes a splendid sight on his warhorse and in his armor. Sansa has been required to see him off, and plans to stay in the sept to pray, unlike many of the other castle-dwellers who are now in Maegor's Holdfast. Tyrion, dropping by, politely declines to mention who Sansa plans to pray for. He does mention that he ought to have sent her off with Tommen. Joffrey calls Sansa to him — rather like a dog, she thinks — and demands she kiss the blade of his new sword, Hearteater. Sansa asks if she plans to lead from the front, mentioning casually that Robb is always in the thickest part of the fighting. In the sept, she prays to all seven gods, and even for Tyrion and the Hound, but when the septon begins to pray for Joffrey, she retreats to the holdfast, stopping to help Lady Tanda Stokeworth, her elder daughter Falyse, and their new maidservant Shae drag the struggling Lollys within. (Rumor has it that Lollys has conceived a bastard after her gang-rape.) She is startled to see Ser Ilyn Payne, Ice over his shoulder, attending Cersei; the queen claims he is there to deal with treason, and to defend them if necessary (which Cersei believes it will be). She asks if Sansa has any idea what happens to a city after it is conquered, and Sansa replies that true knights would not engage in pillage or rapine. Cersei snickers.
Davos IIIOn the deck of Black Betha, on the right side of the second line of a great fleet commanded by Admiral Ser Imry Florent, Davos watches Blackwater Bay slide past him. The walls have a lot of mounted defenses, but the Lannister fleet is badly outnumbered. Nonetheless, Davos feels it foolish to meet that fleet on the river itself, where maneuvering is limited. As he passes the mouth of the Blackwater Rush, he sees two winch towers that weren't there before, with a chain boom between them, but it isn't raised. Davos starts to smell a trap. The battle goes well, but Davos watches a Baratheon ship consumed by wildfire... and then notices the Swordfish about to ram a hulk in the harbor, a hulk that is leaking green blood.
- Then he heard a short sharp woof, as if someone had blown in his ear. Half a heartbeat later came the roar. The deck vanished beneath him, and black water smashed him across the face, filling his nose and mouth. He was choking, drowning. Unsure which way was up, Davos wrestled the river in blind panic until suddenly he broke the surface. He spat out water, sucked in air, grabbed hold of the nearest chunk of debris, and held on.
Swordfish and the hulk were gone, blackened bodies were floating downstream beside him, and choking men clinging to bits of wood. Fifty feet high, a swirling demon of green flame danced upon the river. It had a dozen hands, in each a whip, and whatever they touched burst into fire.
Tyrion XIIITyrion watches the conflagration on the Blackwater Rush; the screams of burning sailors are audible even this far away. Joffrey complains that most of his ships have been lost, but Tyrion tells him that they were doomed no matter what. Some of Stannis' ships have escaped, however, releasing men in front of the city wall or waiting on the southern shore of the Blackwater. Tyrion allows Joffrey to take command of the biggest catapults on the walls (the "Three Whores"). He gets word that there is a large force attempting to batter down the King's Gate. When he arrives there, he orders the Hound, who is in command, to go out with his men, but Clegane refuses, because everything is on fire. Tyrion is forced to rally the troops himself.
- "He looked contemptuously at the others, the knights and sellswords who had ridden with Clegane. "They say Im half a man, he said. What does that make the lot of you?"
That shamed them well enough.
Sansa VISansa wants to hear Osney Kettleblack's report on the battle, but Cersei cares only whether her son is safe. She grumbles about the fact that she can't do much to Stannis, and would have a better chance of seducing his horse:
- She noticed the look on Sansas face, and laughed. "Have I shocked you, my lady?" She leaned close. "You little fool. Tears are not a womans only weapon. Youve got another one between your legs, and youd best learn to use it."
Tyrion XIVTyrion leads the charge, Ser Balon Swann, Ser Mandon Moore (also of the Kingsguard) and his own squire Podrick Payne flanking him. He glimpses a large force of men to the west — seemingly fighting Stannis' men — but has no time to think on it: the Kingslanders fall upon the Baratheons manning the ram, dispersing them, and then carry the fight further down the bank towards the chain boom. Tyrion is astonished to find himself experiencing what Jaime called "battle fever" — those moments of peak performance when no one can touch you. Ser Balon points out that the shipwrecks at the chain have formed a sort of bridge, and Stannis' men are now clambering over the slippery, flaming, broken hulks to continue the invasion.
- "Those are brave men," he told Ser Balon in admiration. "Lets go kill them."
Sansa VIILancel Lannister is cursing at Cersei's decision to have Joffrey withdraw in full view of everybody, as now the gold cloaks are deserting en masse; the Hound and Ser Mandon Moore are already missing. Cersei sticks to her orders, and when Lancel refuses, she digs her hand into his wound before flouncing off somewhere else. Sansa finds herself trying to calm the agitated women in the holdfast. Dontos implores her to lock herself in her room, and she does. However, there's a bigger problem: the Hound, deeply drunk, announcing that he plans to leave King's Landing while he can. He offers to take Sansa with him, saying he could keep her safe. Sansa thinks he is going in for a kiss, and closes her eyes... but then he laughs bitterly that she can't even stand the sight of him, and holds her at knifepoint, demanding she sing for him as she promised to... Or else. All she can think of is the Mother's Hymn from the sept; afterwards, some instinct makes her touch his cheek, and she feels tears. Clegane yanks off his white cloak and leaves the room. Later, the bells begin to ring, and Dontos Hollard comes with news: the battle is won! King's Landing has been saved, overwhelmed by the united power of Highgarden and Casterly Rock. Lord Tywin had the right wing, Lord Randyll Tarly the center, and Mace Tyrell the left, but it was the vanguard, the van, that won the battle, taking Stannis' forces in the rear.
- "And do you know who led the vanguard? Do you? Do you? Do you?"
"Robb?" It was too much to be hoped, but...
"It was Lord Renly! Lord Renly in his green armor, with the fires shimmering off his golden antlers! Lord Renly with his tall spear in his hand! They say he killed Ser Guyard Morrigen himself in single combat, and a dozen other great knights as well. It was Renly, it was Renly, it was Renly! Oh! the banners, darling Sansa! Oh! to be a knight!"
Daenerys VIn her Dothraki finery, Daenerys journeys down to the docks of Qarth; she tries to resist the single bell Jhiqui hangs in her braidnote , but eventually lets it happen. Xaro Xhoan Daxos tells her that many of the ruling factions of the city are plotting against her, including what remains of the warlocks (whose magic has grown stronger of late); of course, he too has been making threatening noises, demanding she leave, demanding the return of the presents he gave her, and also asking her hand in marriage, this time admitting that his eye is on one of the dragons. (Dany told him that he would have to give her 1/3rd of all the ships in the world, as that seems an equal payment for 1/3rd of all the dragons in the world. Xaro disliked this for some reason.) She talks with Jorah over the many things she saw in the House of the Undying (a mummer's dragon is "a cloth dragon on poles"), particularly the Arc Number Three, but the best Jorah can come up with is that the Targaryens always maintained, "The dragon has three heads." She also mentions that Title Drop — "His is the song of ice and fire" — but they can't make (three) heads or tails of that either. Ser Jorah does notice an old man and a eunuch following them, and he guides Daenerys in pretending they are oblivious. A man comes up to Dany and does obeisance, offering her what seems to be a jeweled brooch... but then he says, "I am so sorry," and the brooch turns out to be a poisonous manticore. Then someone knocks her over. Once the dust has settled, it transpires that the two followers killed the manticore, saving her, and she thanks them both. The eunuch is Strong Belwas, the old man his squire Arstan Whitebeard, and they claim to have come from Magister Illyrio Mopatis in Pentos, bringing with them three ships. Daenerys accepts with pleasure, on only one condition: the three ships are to be renamed Meraxes, Vhagar and Balerion.
Arya X"Nan" continues to serve Roose Bolton at Harrenhal, but she dare not reveal her true and station — partially because Bolton had many of the staff executed for the crime of having served Lord Tywin, even though they started out as servants of Lady Shella Whent, who held the fief before him. (Lady Whent is actually still at Harrenhal, but is only mentioned.) She also tries to ignore the women staked in the yard naked, freely available, as they made themselves to Lannister soldiers. Bringing water to Lord Bolton and helping apply leeches to him, she overhears the strategy: the Freys want to withdraw because they are certain Robb will lose, and Winterfell has fallen, and Bran and Rickon are dead. Bolton sends Robett Glover to Darry, there to join Lord Helman Tallhart and then strike out for Duskendale, where they may take Revenge for their houses' poor fortunes in the war. He then announces he is going to go hunting wolves; there's an enormous pack in the riverlands, and their howling keeps him up at night. Below, Arya runs into one of the squires, Elmar Frey, who has received a letter claiming that they are attainted and he will no longer get to marry his northern princess. Arya, whose brothers are dead, has no time for his problems; "I hope your princess dies of a pox!"note Arya learns that Bolton plans to move on and leave the castle under the command of Vargo Hoat — and his cupbearer as well — at which point she decides enough is enough. She convinces Hot Pie and Gendry to come with her, and has them hide nearby while she "accidentally" drops a coin near the guard. When he bends for it, she slits his throat, whispering "Valar Morghulis" as he dies. The three ride out the postern gate and begin to make for Riverrun.
Sansa VIIISansa watches the long procession of heroes being congratulated after the Lannister victory. Lord Tywin has officially taken on the office of Hand of the King; Ser Loras Tyrell joins the Kingsguard; Mace Tyrell of Highgarden, Lord of the Reach, is to join the small council, with his second son Ser Garlan at his side and his mother Lady Olenna Tyrell to join him in the capitol; Littlefinger is given Harrenhal and made Lord Paramount of the Trident for brokering the Lannister-Tyrell alliance; over six hundred men are knighted (which takes a while, with only three members of the Kingsguard to do the knighting); and 16-year-old Margaery Tyrell is officially betrothed to 13-year-old Joffrey Baratheon. (Sansa tries to look sad about this.) Joffrey then accepts oaths of fealty from those of Stannis' forces who have survived. A few remain Defiant to the End, and Joffrey gets so upset that he nicks himself on one of the swords of the Iron Throne and has to be rushed away. Lord Tywin sits down three steps below the throne and continues the ceremony, looking more regal than Joffrey (or, if we're blunt, Cersei) ever has. After the ceremony, Sansa visits Dontos in the godswood. The fool is worried: Cersei will be keeping a closer eye on Sansa than ever, and Joffrey can have her on the side any time he wants — it's not like anyone would care. But the escape is in motion: they will leave during Joffreys wedding in about a month.note Dontos gives her a hair net with amethysts in it. "It's magic, you see. It's justice you hold. It's vengeance for your father. It's home."
Theon VIAs the first scouts of Ser Rodrik Cassel's force, a thousand northmen strong, emerge, Maester Luwin counsels Theon to surrender. If Theon had any interest in doing so, it has disappeared by the time Ser Rodrik himself comes to parley. Theon's counter-demands are that the assembled northmen swear fealty to the Prince of Winterfell; if not, Theon will hang Ser Rodrik's only remaining child, Beth Cassel. Rodrik is horrified to see Theon fallen so low, but Theon is still struggling with his Quest for Identity as a Greyjoy (house words: "We Do Not Sow") who was raised by Ned "Honor Before Reason Up to Eleven" Stark. Maester Luwin has a possible answer: Theon should take the black. Theon is on the verge of agreeing when a tussle erupts outside the walls, some sort of Back Stab — but from other northmen, flying the banner of a bloody man. Reek used to serve House Bolton, who flies that banner; and, when the six hundred rescuers have relieved the siege and present the corpses of Ser Rodrik Cassel, Clay Cerwyn and Leobald Tallhart, it is indeed Reek at their head. But it's not Reek; Reek is dead, as he pulled a switcheroo under orders from the man who disguised himself as Reek and now stands in Winterfell: Ramsay Snow. Ramsay Bolton, as he prefers to be known. When Theon dickers over the reward that was promised, Ramsay punches him out and orders his forces to slaughter all the inhabitants (save the Frey children) and burn the castle. Theon, unble to move, watches Maester Luwin and his men killed, and sees his horse erupt from the stables, its mane on fire...
Tyrion XVTyrion lies abed dreaming of the men who died fighting alongside him in the battle, as well as those he killed. He dreams of Tyshanote as well, and when he awakens, realizes that he is not at the Tower of the Hand, and the maester hovering over him is one he does not recognize, and that he must be alive. Unable to speak, the maester gives him milk of the poppy. Later, when the maester returns, Tyrion knocks the sleeping juice from his hands and demands the cast be removed from his face: three-quarters of his nose is gone along with part of his lip, and the stitching job was sloppy. Tyrion sends the maester away and asks for Podrick Payne. The boy arrives, and Tyrion swears him to silence about what occurred at the docks with Ser Mandon Moore, whom Tyrion suspects was ordered to kill him by Cersei.
Jon VIIIJon and Qhorin are the last members of a Dwindling Party of brothers. Squire Dalbridge's fate was covered; Ebben was sent off with the last horse to try and reach the Fist of the First Men; Stonesnake was commissioned to do a solo free climb through the Skirling Pass. The eagle has always kept them in sight. Jon knows the end is near when Qhorin tells him to make a fire. Together they recite their vows. Qhorin then gives Jon orders: he is to act as a Fake Defector, to go undercover amongst the wildlings, learn what Mance has planned, and return to Mormont with the information. Qhorin promises to tell Mormont the truth. They are attacked by Rattleshirt, a Free Folk leader of some renown, and his band, Ygritte amongst them; Jon surrenders immediately, as ordered. Rattleshirt demands Jon prove his new loyalty by slaying Qhorin Halfhand in single combat; Jon does, but only because Ghost takes a chunk out of his leg. They burn Qhorin's body, and Rattleshirt and Ygritte take Jon to join Mance Rayder's main force — already part of the way down the Milkwater, heading for the Wall.
Bran VIISummer and Shaggydog are lurking in the godswood as Winterfell burns. They fight over the corpse of a horse, but Bran is pulled out of the wolf dream by Meera. The six have been hiding in the crypts of the castle the whole time. Judging by Bran's dream, it is safe to come out, and they do, finding the yard littered with corpses, both ironborn and flayed-man. The wolves lead them to Maester Luwin, who is in the godswood and near death; Luwin reveals that he knew the miller's boys' corpses were not those of his charges, but is still relieved to see the real articles safe and sound. He tells Osha to separate the boys; they are the last heirs of House Stark and must be kept safe. He also asks her for a favor, and she sends the others away. Upon returning, she decides to take Rickon and Shaggydog to safety somewhere, while Bran, the Reeds, Hodor and Summer head north to find the three-eyed crow beyond the Wall.
- At the edge of the Wolfswood, Bran turned in the saddle for once last glimpse of the castle that had been his life. Wisps of smoke still rose into the grey sky, but no more than might have risen from Winterfell's chimneys on a cold autumn afternoon. Soot stains marked some of the arrow loops, and here and there a crack or a missing merlon could be seen in the curtain wall, but it seemed little enough from this distance. Beyond, the tops of the keeps and towers still stood as they had for hundreds of years, and it was hard to tell that the castle had been sacked and burned at all. The stone is strong, Bran told himself, the roots of the trees go deep, and under the ground the Kings of Winter sit their thrones. So long as those remained, Winterfell remained. It was not dead, just broken. Like me, he thought. Im not dead either.