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A recap of A Feast for Crows, fourth volume in the fantasy epic by George R. R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire.

Though ASoIaF has always engaged in Four Lines, All Waiting, A Feast for Crows takes it to a new level by restricting the story by geography. Therefore, about half the characters are missing from this novel, replaced by a large swath of new narrators.

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.

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Prologue — Pate

In a tavern in Oldtown, a student at the Citadel, Pate — who shares his name with "the pig boy" of folklore — shoots the breeze with some of his friends: Mollander, Alleras the Sphinx, Armen, and Roone. The others are discussing the question of whether dragons are still alive, somewhere out there, and a few mention the rumors out of Qarth that the last Targaryen — what's her name, Daella? Daenaera? Daenerys? — might have hatched some. Pate is preoccupied with Rosey, the 15-year-old daughter of a serving maid, whose virginity is for sale... for the hefty price of a gold piece. Pate (who has studied at the Citadel for five years but has yet to even start forging his chain) thinks Rosey favors him: she introduced him to someone named the Alchemist, who promised to fund Pate's carnal desires for the price of a bit of thievery. His thoughts are interrupted by "Lazy" Leo Tyrell, who confirms the rumors out of Qarth and also mentions that the dragonglass candle in Marwyn the Mage's office has started burning — a feat that's supposed to be Beyond the Impossible, especially for an Eccentric Mentor like Marwyn. Per Leo, this means magic is returning to the world. As the group breaks up to return to the Citadel, the Alchemist accosts Pate. He hands over the payment — a golden dragon — and Pate, driven by some dim suspicion, asks to see the man's face. The Alchemist is young, with black hair and a faint scar on his right cheek; Pate doesn't recognize him.note  Pate gives him the thing he was asked to steal: an iron key that will, supposedly, open any door in the Citadel. The Alchemist thanks him and sends him on his way. So Pate heads off with his golden dragon. ...And then dies on the cobblestones.

The Prophet

Aeron Greyjoy, called "Damphair," is performing his office as a priest of the drowned god: baptizing ironborn by drowning them. He revives them afterwards, priding himself for being the only priest who never loses a man. Once he was Fun Personified, but after almost drowning, he became a devout follower of the ironborn religion, becoming the dour man Theon first met two books ago. Gormond Goobrother appears to summon him to court, and the Damphair refuses... until he hears that his older brother Balon has died, the sixth of Quellon Greyjoy's nine sons to perish, and that another of the nine, Euron called "Crow's Eye," now sits the Seastone Chair. Aeron travels to Pebbleton, ruminating on what to do, and upon arrival begins to preach: Asha has claimed the throne as well, and the last brother Victarion will want his say. Therefore, the ironborn will revive an old custom: an oligarchal election called the kingsmoot.

The Captain of the Guards

Areo Hotah stands guard at at the Water Gardens, House Martell's private retreat, where Prince Doran has lived for two years; the temperate climate agrees with his gout, and he gets to watch children at play.note  Hotah stops Prince Doran by being interrupted by the Sand Snakes, Literal Bastard daughters of the Red Viper. At the Water Gardens, and as they return to Sunspear, Hotah runs interference as Obara, and then Nymeria, and finally Tyene all approach Prince Doran to beg vengeance for their father. They all want different things: Obara to burn Oldtown to the ground, Lady Nym to assassinate Cersei and the other Lannisters, Tyene to carry through the Arranged Marriage between Prince Trystane and Princess Myrcella to lure the Lannisters into attacking. Prince Doran tells them all to hold their anger in abeyance, as he will not move until he is ready. To ensure this, he orders his daughter Arianne to have all the Sand Snakes arrested, including the youngest ones who will stay at the Water Gardens with their mother Ellaria. Hotah reminds him that all Dorne will howl, but Prince Doran merely sighs and hopes Tywin Lannister hears it: "so he might know what a loyal friend he has in Sunspear."

Cersei I

She's asleep: dreaming of being seated on the Iron Throne, everyone paying her homage. It's good to be the queen. But then Tyrion appears and starts making fun of her, and suddenly it's a "Not Wearing Pants" Dream. Cersei struggles to cover herself, injuring herself on the barbs of the throne. Thankfully, Ser Osmund Kettleblack arrives to bring the Catapult Nightmare to an end. Not that his words — something about Lord Tywin being dead in the privy — make any sense. She orders Ser Boros Blount to go make sure Tyrion is still in the dungeons, and heads over to the Tower of the Hand: the only true son of Lord Tywin, come at last to pay her respects. And "last" it is: Qyburn is already there, and her uncle Kevan, and Jaime; she was the last one notified. Jaime is investigating the secret passage leading out of the Tower. The Kettleblacks show her Shae's corpse, and Cersei announces that there must be some other explanation for her father having a naked whore in his bed. She orders the Kettleblacks to get rid of the body and keep its existence secret. Varys has yet to make an appearance — Cersei finds that suspicious — and Boros Blount reports that Tyrion is indeed absent. Cersei thinks of the prophecy, and wonders if he is coming for her next.
"Your Grace?" said Blount. "Shall I fetch a cup of water?"
It is blood I need, not water. Tyrion's blood, the blood of the valonqar. The torches spun around her. Cersei closed her eyes, and saw the dwarf grinning at her. No, she thought, no, I was almost rid of you. But his fingers had closed around her neck, and she could feel them beginning to tighten.
George R. R. Martin, A Feast for Crows, pg.79 (paperback)
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Brienne I

On the road to Dontos Hollard's hometown of Duskendale, Brienne asks everyone she meets if they have seen a highborn girl with reddish hair. She comes across two hedge knightsnote , Ser Creighton Longbough and Ser Illifer the Penniless, who comment on the bad luck her shield represents — Jaime took it from the Harrenhal armory when he left; it bears the sigil of House Lothston, who like all masters of Harrenhal have met a bad end — but also invite her to share their meal. Reasoning that she is better armed, armored and trained than they are, Brienne agrees. The two men almost change their mind when Ser Illifer deduces she must be the Maid of Tarth, Renly's kingslayer, but Brienne swears the strongest oath she can find that she did no such thing, and they decide to travel with her to Duskendale, so as to protect her. After passing a large group of poor fellows (or 'sparrows'), lowly holy men bound for King's Landing bearing the bones of septons killed around the Riverlands, they catch up to a merchant guarded by a couple of men and another hedge knight named Ser Shadrich. Joining forces, Ser Shadrich tells Brienne in private that he knows that the maid she seeks is Sansa Stark, and that he seeks her as well, but for a purse of gold offered by Varys. In town, Brienne notices that she is the object of ridicule — as always. She offers to buy Creighton and Illifer a room in thanks for the meal the evening before. This is also a convenient excuse to shake them off her trail, as she saddles her horse in the dead of night and rides off alone.

Samwell I

Sam has been in Castle Black's library for over a day, hunting down information the Lord Commander wants. He emerges into the sunlight to see men working on rebuilding the stair up the Wall. Pyp, Grenn and Dolorous Edd mention that Melisandre has plans for Mance Rayder — something about king's blood — and that Stannis has been trying to rally support from the northern lords. So far, only the Karstarks have accepted alliance. Sam finds the Lord Commander — Jon Snow — regarding a "paper shield": a letter to King Tommen promising that the Night's Watch is True Neutral in the struggle for the Iron Throne, despite Stannis's constant requests that they ally with him. After some debate, Sam and Jon agree that a paper shield is better than nothing. Sam brings up the results of his research, an Info Dump that we will elide to save time.note  Jon announces his intention to send Gilly away, and Sam — uncomfortable over his reactions to her — agrees. Jon then announces his intention to send Sam with her: they are to head to Oldtown aboardship (via Eastwatch-by-theSea) with Maester Aemon, who is not safe at the Wall so long as Melisandre remains (he too has king's blood, after all), and when they arrive Sam is to train to be a maester. Sam thinks of his father, Lord Randyll Tarly, who scoffs at the servile, but Jon's orders will not be ignored. He also commands Sam to never call himself craven again; he is the first man in living memory to slay an Other, after all. The next morning, Gilly is oddly distraught, demanding Lord Jon find a good wet nurse for Dalla's baby and not name him until he's two years old, as per wildling custom. Jon agrees, and wishes them a safe voyage.

Arya I

The Titan's Daughter has returned home. Arya watches as they sail under the Titan of Braavos, a giant statue whose legs span the harbor. The captain's son Denyo is providing an Info Dump on the city's history.note  Another son, Yorko, rows her between the many islands of the city, pointing out how Braavos has no state religion, and temples to every god you can imagine. He drops her off in front of the House of Black and White, the temple of the many-faced god. Within, the temple is quite dark with dozens of odd statues, and Arya notices several people in alcoves who are either dead or dying. One troubles her for a drink of water, saying "Valar morghulis," and she gives it to him, answering "Valar dohaeris." Thereafter he dies. Soon, a robed man with a kind voice tells her that the House of Black and White is a place of peace. He asks her name, but despite Arya's use of nicknames, the man keeps asking until she admits that she is Arya Stark. When the man asks if she fears death, Arya answers no. The man removes his cowl to reveal a decaying, horrible visage, but she sees through the illusion and eats the worm dangling from his eye socket. It dissolves in her mouth, intangible. Impressed, the kindly man asks if she is hungry, to which Arya thinks: Yes, but not for food.

Cersei II

In the Great Sept of Baelor, the corpse of Lord Tywin Lannister lies in state. Jaime stands the vigil; Cersei is frustrated to see him wearing Kingsguard whites instead of Lannister red-and-gold. Her father's corpse has been embalmed by the silent sisters, and should not rot... but it stinks nonetheless. After the service, Cersei endures the fatuous condolences of the various nobles, including Ser Kevan and his son Lancel, the latter looking very sickly. Lancel is very depressed about his impending marriage to a Frey girl, and Cersei quickly derails him from declaring his love for her. (She decides that knighting him was a mistake, and bedding him a bigger one.) She is not pleased by Margaery embracing her like a sister, but very pleased by Lady Taena Merryweather’s promise that her friends in the Free Cities will watch for any sign of the Imp. Then Mace Tyrell descends upon her. He hints broadly about the now-vacant position of King's Hand, and mentions that his uncle Garth is coming to the capitol to replace the traitor Tyrion as master of coin. Cersei, incensed by his arrogance (and naked nepotism), tells him that she has already promised Tyrion's position to Lord Gyles Rosby. Once she has returned to her rooms, Qyburn drops by. The day Tyrion and Varys disappeared, so did an undergaoler named Rugen; in his chambers was a coin minted by one of the Gardener kings of the Reach, back before Aegon's Conquest. He then asks permission to perform experiments on the slowly-dying Ser Gregor Clegane, which she grants. Finally, she dines with the man she wants as Hand of the King: Uncle Kevan, widely perceived to be her late father's Yes-Man. Kevan accepts... on the condition that Cersei name him regent, leave Tommen to his care, and return to Casterly Rock to take up her role as the Lady of House Lannister. Cersei takes offense to this for some reason, so Kevan declines, suggesting she instead name Randyll Tarly or Mathis Rowan — both known for their Undying Loyalty to their lord paramount, Mace Tyrell, but both the type who would switch their allegiances if so honored. Cersei accuses him of abandoning his king, and throws her wine in his face, declaring that Tommen will never be helpless so long as he has his mother.
"Tommen has his mother." Ser Kevan’s green eyes met her own, unblinking. A last drop of wine trembled wet and red beneath his chin, and finally fell. "Aye," he added softly, after a pause, "and his father too, I think."
George R. R. Martin, A Feast for Crows, pg.163 (paperback)

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Jaime I

The vigil is planned to last for seven days, so Jaime has a lot of time to think. He remembers the day Prince Rhaegar rode for the Trident — the last time Jaime saw him alive. Rhaegar had planned to make some changes, maybe call his father to reason, when he got back. He also remembers investigating the gaols. The chief gaoler, Rennifer Longwaters, can tell him nothing about the now-missing Rugen, save that he is rarely at his post — though, to be fair, his level has only been used thrice of late: Lord Eddard Stark, Grand Maester Pycelle (briefly), and then Tyrion.note  Jaime asked Longwaters to tell him everything he knew about the criminal who freed Tyrion — feeling rather foolish as he did so, since Jaime is the criminal who freed Tyrion. Overnight, Cersei visits him with the news of Kevan's Refusal of the Call. She begs Jaime to take the position of Hand, but Jaime too refuses, more preferring the position of Prince Consort — or, if not that, a knight of the Kingsguard. Cersei leaves contemptuously. Come morning, the Hand's body is visibly rotting, and the stench is so great that King Tommen I Baratheon (9 years old) is sickened into fleeing. His mother (and "uncle") join him on the steps of the sept, and counsels the young king to "go away inside" if bad things are happening to him. Tommen mentions that he used to do this when Joffrey was especially mean to him. When Mace Tyrell approaches, Jaime helps broker peace between him and Cersei by arranging for them to dine that evening. Cersei is incensed, but Jaime suggests she get Mace to go besiege Storm's End againnote , as this will make him feel important and get him out of her hair. If he refuses to leave before Tommen and Margaery (17, twice wed and twice widowed) are wed, then Cersei should get it over with — the marriage can be annulled before it is consummated, which gives Cersei years to get plans in place. Besides, maybe Mace will get impatient and try to storm the gate. Cersei especially likes that part.

Brienne II

Duskendale shows the ravages of the northern attack; its gates are closed for the night, and in the morning she sees merchants selling off arms and armor looted from the dead, some bearing coats of arms she recognizes. When a second person in a row mentions the Lothston black bat on her shield as being an ill omen, she decides to get the shield repainted, asking for a coat she remembers seeing in her father's armory: a green shooting star above an elm tree.note  Lord Benfred Rykker of Dun Fort cannot meet with her as he is in the field with Lord Randyll Tarly, but his castellan, Ser Rufus Leek, tells her that they have seen no sign of Dontos Hollard since he was taken away after the Defiance of Duskendale.note  Brienne runs into a boy with a sty on his eye she thinks she's seen before, back at Rosby, but he flees. At an inn, a dwarf septon mentions a man named "Nimble Dick," who claims he "fooled a fool" into taking ship; Brienne decides to pursue this lead. The next day, she determines that she is definitely being followed by the boy... who admits himself to be Podrick Payne — Tyrion's squire, loyal until the end, desperate to find his master and hoping Brienne will lead him to the Imp.

Sansa I

It's hard for Sansa to sleep, because Marillion is singing. Since the sky cells have No Fourth Wall, his voice carries. She wishes he had chosen to lose his voice, rather than his fingers, after admitting to the murder of Lady Lysa Arryn — while Lord Petyr Baelish, Protector of the Vale, is glad he can still admit "the truth" to the other Lords of the Vale, Sansa is worried he will tell the actual truth. The next day, Lord Nestor Royce and his son Albar arrive to hear the confessions. Little Lord Robert is fretful: someone locked him into his room last night, which meant he couldn't go snuggle with "Alayne" (which is precisely why Alayne had it done). He says what everyone has told him: that Marillion killed his mother, and that Alayne saw him do it. Alayne delivers her lies well, with her tears and fright adding to the veracity of her statement; so does Marillion, whom the Royces never liked anyway. They decide to leave him in the sky cells, where he will inevitably die (or jump). Lord Nestor tells Littlefinger that his (Nestor's) cousin, Lord Yohn Royce, is gathering support for an attempt to oust him (Littlefinger) from his position. Littlefinger, who already knew this, is unfazed, but he gains Lord Nestor's support by claiming that Lysa always relied on him, and wanted to grant him, and his lesser branch of House Royce, permanent lordship of the Gates of the Moon, a lesser castle that defends the Eyrie and thus has always remained within House Arryn. After he has left, Littlefinger points out how men will believe flattering lies; Sansa also notes that Lord Nestor now has a vested interest in keeping Littlefinger in his position, as Baelish signed the decree in his own name. Littlefinger is pleased at her acumen. That night, the eight-year-old Robert makes it into her bed (Alayne forgot to ask them to lock his door), and asks if Alayne is now his mother. She supposes that she is. "If a lie was kindly meant, there was no harm in it."

The Kraken's Daughter

Asha Greyjoy is at Ten Towers waiting for the arrival of those houses who will support her. There aren't many. She calls for food and care for her captives (Lady Glover and her children, captured at Deepwood Motte) and then goes to visit her uncle Rodrik Harlaw, called "the Reader" for his perverse and unmanly habit. It is in his name that all the supporters have come, but he does not think they will follow Asha — even with the kingsmoot on her side, which she had not heard about until he informs her. He offers to name her his heir instead, so that she's not present when Euron wins and kills all his competitors, but she declines. Lord Rodrik is not interested in attending the kingsmoot, because it will change nothing: "Archmaester Rigney once wrote that history is a wheel, for the nature of man is fundamentally unchanging."note  As she heads out, Asha runs into Tristifer Botley, whom she has been avoiding on account of his unrequited love for her. Sure enough, it's an awkward meeting; he promises that he has saved his purity for her. (Asha has done no such thing.) She turns him down, hard, and leaves him in the moonlight.

Cersei III

The morning of the wedding of King Tommen I Baratheon to Margaery Tyrell finds Cersei in a foul mood. Jaime assures her that nothing will happen to Tommen, but Cersei is certain that Tyrion is lurking somewhere, planning some sort of revenge (cf A Clash of Kings, Tyrion XII). Perhaps relatedly, she plans to cap off the wedding ceremony by having the Tower of the Hand ceremonially burnt down. What she calls Properly Paranoid, Jaime calls absurdity, and as he leaves, she wonders how she could have ever loved him. During the wedding (a meager event compared to Joffrey's extravagant nuptials), Ser Kevan comes by to mention that he is going to Darry, to see Lancel wed to Amerei Frey, daughter of Mariya Darry; he also expresses his displeasure that Cersei has named other (lesser) relatives to the position of Warden of the West and castellan of Casterly Rock. He asks about rumors that Sandor Clegane has joined the brotherhood without banners. Cersei disclaims any responsibility for this, but Kevan's parting comment is, "When a dog goes bad, the fault lies with his master." Jaime tells her that most of the Tyrells are departing the next day, leaving only Margaery and Loras behind, but that's still too many for Cersei: she remembers the prophecy made to her by Maggy the Frog, her lips glistening red with blood: "Queen you shall be, until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all you hold dear." Cersei wonders if Margaery is this queen. She then has a Freak Out! when Tommen chokes on a bit of wine. She has to leave the hall, where Lady Taena Merrywether offers her sympathies... and also news that one of Cersei's maids is spying on her for the Tyrells. Cersei is suspicious of her motives, but Lady Taena replies merely that she knows where the power lies. Back inside, Jaime tries to assure her that it was nothing, but Cersei realizes she can trust no one and needs to surround herself with new advisors. She turns down everyone who asks her for a dance, but does eye Aurane Waters, bastard child of House Velaryon, who — with his Valyrian silver hair and blue eyes — looks a bit like the late Rhaegar Targaryen. A little bit drunk, she brings everyone outside to watch the Tower of the Hand be consumed by wildfire. Most everyone goes to bed (including the King and his new Queen, who at Olenna Tyrell's insistence will be sharing a bed even if consummation is physically impossible), but Cersei remains to watch the flames burn down, arm in arm with Ser Osmund Kettleblack.

The Soiled Knight

Ser Arys Oakheart, sworn brother of the Kingsguard, is on his way to meet a woman. He must wear Dornish robes instead of his whites, as all of Sunspear is a-fervor after the Sand Snakes' imprisonment. He also feels guilty for leaving Princess Myrcella alone, but reasons that she is well-protected with her fiancé Prince Trystane for company (and will scarcely notice Arys' absence anyhow). Soon they will all be off to the Water Gardens, where they ought to be safe — especially since Prince Doran has asked Arys not to tell anyone that they are leaving. When he arrives at the meeting-place, he plans to turn her down and reinforce his Vow of Celibacy... but all she's wearing is a snake bracelet, with nothing to cover her Regal Ringlets or considerable charms, and lust overwhelms him, leaving him sated, satisfied and knowing that if he died right now, he would die happy. ...But he keeps living, and guilt sets in. He says that this must be the last time, and the woman points out that he's said that before, and that true love would never say that. When confronted with his vows, she points out that Arys is empirically not the first white sword to break that particular vow — Ser Lucamore the Lusty is in the history books, after all.note  The woman then moves on to her political argument: Arys's masters have been horrible people. (He thinks on how he punched Sansa on Joffrey's orders — though both in this chapter and in Sansa's prior narration it has been established that he would do so as lightly as possible; and the memories fill him with guilt today.) Wouldn't Myrcella make a better ruler than Tommen?, the woman asks, and Arys must admit that she would. So the woman — Arianne Martell, Princess of Dorne, Prince Doran's eldest daughter and heir-apparent to Sunspear — makes her play. As she explains her plan, Arys reflects ruefully on Lord Commander of the Kingsguard Ser Criston Cole, who disinherited Princess Rhaenyra, Viserys I's intended heir, in favor of her younger brother Aegon II, setting off the Succession Crisis today called "the Dance of the Dragons." But his concern is no match for Arianne's own pathos: when she was younger, she found a letter written by her father that told her younger brother Quentyn that he would rule Dorne, not Arianne, in Doran's stead. Arys has two princesses with a common cause, now, both disinherited in favor of lesser men. Will he defend them? And Arys, that Knight in Shining Armor, agrees.

Brienne III

Podrick Payne is no more a squire than Brienne is a knight, but that isn't stopping her from training him — nor from him calling her "Ser. My lady." They are on the way to Maidenpool, now strongly garrisoned by Lord Randyll Tarly. She falls in with a farmer and his wife, bringing a load of eggs into town; she defends the wife against leering soldiers, being forced to draw her sword, but the fight is stopped by the arrival of Ser Hyle Hunt, one of Tarly's captains. Brienne loathes the sight of him. Ser Hyle waves the farmers through, and the husband thanks him for being "a true knight." (Brienne, who drew her sword to defend him and his wife, is strangely forgotten.) She seeks an audience with Lord Randyll, who is brusque as always, telling her not to bother seeking Lysa Tully in the Vale — and not to come running to him when she ends up raped. Ser Hyle offers to see her to an inn, but she brushes him off. As she waits for Nimble Dick, she thinks back to the last time she saw Hyle Hunt, and many others — in King Renly's camp, where she came to offer her service and swear fealty. An Extraordinarily Empowered Girl in a camp full of men with Testosterone Poisoning, she expected to be dismissed... but instead everyone, including Hyle, was nice to her, even nicer than her three fiancés had been as her father tried to broker a match for her (without success). She had just begun to frown over this Suspicious Video Game Generosity when Lord Randyll had brought her in and told her what his son Dickon had learned: the knights had made a wager on who would take her virginity. Additionally, he told her, the whole thing was her fault, for not Staying In The Kitchen. She is shaken from her ruminations by the arrival of Nimble Dick, who is proud of the fact he fooled a fool, and is willing to take Brienne (and Pod) to where he last left the fellow. Brienne, hoping the fool will turn out to be Ser Dontos, agrees.

Samwell II

Sam is trying his best to keep both Gilly and himself calm during the tumultuous sea trip to Braavos. The Blackbird will take them only so far as Braavos, where Sam will need to lead the party to Oldtown. Sam is hopeful that the others will find happiness when they reach their destination — Gilly and the babe at Horn Hill, Maester Aemon back at the Citadel, and Dareon in his new role as a recruiter — but is sure he will hate being a maester. Aemon tells them the story of his sea trip to the Wall: he traveled with Lord Commander Duncan the Tall as his honor guard, along with Brynden Rivers, Lord Bloodraven himself, who was sent by "Egg" (Aegon V Targaryen, called "The Unlikely") to serve out the remainder of his life in the Watch. Unfortunately, Maester Aemon's health deteriorates as the trip continues, and both the child and Gilly are miserable. Dareon has nothing but scorn for the wildling girl, but Aemon tells Sam to look closely at the baby to find the source of Gilly's grief. When Sam realizes that the baby is actually Dalla and Mance Rayder's, not her own, he is shocked by Jon's cold-heartedness. On deck, the storm has passed, but there is lightning in the distance, and Sam realizes: "The worst isn’t done. The worst is just beginning, and there are no happy endings."

Jaime II

Lord Tywin Lannister's body is heading back to Casterly Rock in state. Jaime rides out to see it off, as well as Ser Kevan, who is heading out to Darry. He cautions against trying to hunt down Sandor Clegane, who supposedly led a vicious raid at Saltpans recently, but Kevan is uninterested in that business. Jaime tries one last time to settle his uncle's feud with Cersei, but Kevan is not interested in compromise: "Tell her that, the next time you are in her bedchamber." Jaime, watching him leave, wonders if Cersei would be so mad as to have him assassinated — and whether setting him against the Hound is a Uriah Gambit. In the yard, he watches Ser Loras trounce everyone at jousting ("Jousting is three-quarters horsemanship") before heading up to find Cersei, rather drunk, laughing with Pycelle and Lady Taena Merrywether. They have received news that Lollys Stokeworth, raped in the riot nine months ago, has delivered a healthy baby boy... which her new husband, Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, has given perhaps the most politically-insensitive name in the realm: "Tyrion." Cersei jokes about gifting the boy "a new stepfather" for his nameday, and Jaime notes that she looks aroused by the idea — reminding him of how the Mad King would always visit his wife, often violently, after having someone burned alive.note  Once he gets her alone, Jaime asks why she is keeping the Tyrells' bought-and-paid-for spy near her; Cersei retorts that Taena is a Double Agent now, since Cersei can do so much more for her than can Queen Margaery. She is thinking about having her husband, Lord Orton Merrywether, installed as her Hand, or perhaps Wisdom Hallyne the pyromancer; they will be weak Hands, it's true, but Cersei is sure she'll be strong enough for the both of them. He also asks if she truly intends to name Aurane Waters (inexperienced but bishonen) as Master of Ships, even though Lord Paxter Redwyne is admiral of the biggest and longest-lived fleet in the Seven Kingdoms — Cersei protests that he is a Tyrell, sworn to the Reach. Jaime realizes that she is bent on alienating her friends and surrounding herself with Sycophantic Servants: "The crows will feast upon us all if you go on this way, sweet sister." However, his warnings fall on deaf ears and Cersei orders him out. That evening, Ser Loras finds him perusing the White Book. Loras has no use for books, claiming that history will remember the heroes — and villains — either way, but Jaime asks him about those who were a little of both, like the one he is reading about now.
"Who?" Ser Loras craned his head around to see. "Ten black pellets on a scarlet field. I do not know those arms."
"They belonged to Criston Cole, who served the first Viserys and the second Aegon." Jaime closed the White Book. "They called him Kingmaker."
George R. R. Martin, A Feast for Crows, pg.337 (paperback)

Cersei IV

As the bells toll for the High Septon's death in his sleep, Cersei holds audience with three ruffians who have brought her a dwarf's head, claiming it's Tyrion's. It's not — for instance, it has a nose — and the three men begin arguing amongst themselves about how the dwarf claims he was a sparrow.note  Cersei only refrains from having them all executed for wasting her time from the thought that doing so might discourage future bounty hunters and let Tyrion escape her. After, Cersei walks to her first small council meeting with Qyburn, who is now her master of whisperers and who has prepared "the skull" properly for shipment to Lord Doran Martell. Grand Maester Pycelle almost blows a gasket when he sees Qyburn — a member of his order, remember, if defrocked — but Cersei manages to shut him down. To inaugurate her reign, she has given everyone new titles: Orton Merrywether has become her justiciar, Gyles Rosby has indeed taken Tyrion's role as lord treasurer, Aurane Waters is her grand admiral, and her Hand is Ser Harys Swyft, Ser Kevan's father-in-law. Since neither King Tommen nor Lord Commander of the Kingsguard Jaime Lannister will be attending, they get to work:
  • Dorne is still restive after Prince Doran pre-emptively imprisoned the Sand Snakes. Cersei declares that Ser Balon Swann's delivery of Gregor Clegane's skull should quiet them down. (She doesn't mention the other mission she has given him.)
  • Should the crown attempt to intervene while the Faith elects a new High Septon? Cersei is too distracted by Aurane Waters to notice. She finally declares that she does not care, so long as the new one will condemn Tyrion.
  • The Lords Declarant of the Vale have written a memo about how they intend to depose Petyr Baelish as Lord Protector of the Vale. Littlefinger's own correspondence on the subject suggest he is unconcerned. The crown writes back that the Vale may settle the matter internally, but that no harm is to come to Littlefinger himself.
  • Should the crown ally with the ironborn? This would be difficult due to the Succession Crisis resulting from Lord Balon Greyjoy's death. Cersei is not interested, declaring that their time will come, once the crown has its own fleet. Lord Rosby's Incurable Cough of Death makes it hard for him to protest that the crown has no funds, but Cersei decides to defer the crown's debts to the Faith, as well as to the Iron Bank of Braavos. Pycelle protests that bit strongly, warning it's not a good idea to piss off the Iron Bank but is overruled.
  • Should someone take the fall for the Red Wedding? It would give the Late Lord Walder's heir a chance to rid himself of some pesky relatives, as well as pacify the North and the religious faithful proclaiming the slaughter an offence against the gods. No decision is made.
  • Lord Wyman Manderly of White Harbor writes that he has taken Ser Davos Seaworth captive, after the Onion Knight was sent to treat with the North, and hopes to earn the crown's favor in exchange for getting his captive son released. Cersei orders him to have Ser Davos executed.
  • The crown are not long on Stannis's chances, as he is facing Lord Roose Bolton's army (once the Bastard of Bolton takes the Neck from the north) as well as whatever force Ramsay might have at his disposal. Additionally, Ramsay is to wed Arya Stark, whom the Lannisters are returning to them, which will further cement the alliance. (She does not mention that the girl pretending to be Arya is a "steward's whelp" that Littlefinger found.)
  • Stannis is reportedly in league with the Night's Watch on the Wall, and is trying to treat with the wildlings too. While the council mostly suggests no longer sending criminals to reinforce the Army of Thieves and Whores, Qyburn suggests sending 100 men — thereby to disguise assassins tasked with killing Jon Snow. Cersei declares she can arrange that.
In her chambers, she meets with Ser Osney Kettleblack, promising him Kingsguard whites (and her body) if he will do something for her. First, he needs to seduce Margaery Tyrell, so that Cersei has pretext for arresting her. Then he will be Reassigned to Antarctica, where he is to put an end to Ned Stark's bastard. He would then be rewarded with a lordship (and her body). Ser Osney, though hesitant, agrees.

The Iron Captain

Victarion Greyjoy was hesitant to leave Moat Cailin for the kingsmoot, but was compelled to when news of Euron's arrival came in. He and Aeron Damphair agree that "No godless man" (IE Euron) "may sit the Seastone Chair," but that does not solve the problem of who will actually get it: Aeron was clearly trying to legitimize Victarion himself as Balon's successor, but this leaves the question of Asha — who, under the Heir Club for Men rules, does trump Victarion depite her lack of penis.note  Victarion also made The Promise to Balon to not kill Euron, which he intends to keep. At the feast that night, Euron makes a fine showing, earning the loyalty of several captains with his braggadocio and Testosterone Poisoning. Victarion and Asha discuss privily. She asks why Euron was banished by Balon three years ago, which he refused to speak of, and wonders if it has anything to do with the death of Victarion's third wife. Victarion claims she was only a "salt wife"note , but admits internally that he has not touched a woman since. He points out how hard Asha will find it to break into the Heir Club for Men, Warrior Princess or not, and Asha offers to support her uncle if he will name her Hand of the King. (That office does not exist in the ironborn heirarchy.) Finally Victarion spills the truth: he loved his salt wife dearly, but Euron... Well, the truth is muddled, but at the end of it the woman was pregnant. Victarion, cuckolded, was compelled by ironborn tradition to murder her. Thereafter Balon banished Euron to prevent a case of kinslaying. Asha, sensibly, decides to stick to her own claim.

The Drowned Man

Aeron Greyjoy emerges from the sea, reminding himself that he was reborn stronger than before. The kingsmoot is today; various claimants will come forward and give gifts to show their prowess, and it will only end when someone is elected by majority vote. Aeron hopes Euron will misplay by losing his patience and going first, because the first one always loses, but it doesn't work out that way.
  • Gylbert Farwynd, who rules a small barrier island far to the west of the Iron Islands, offers to lead the ironmen to a bountiful land beyond the Sunset Sea. He is a little crazy. He gets little support.
  • Erik Ironmaker might have made a great king... sixty years ago. Today he's 90 and overweight. Asha shuts down his claim by asking him to stand up (much to Euron's amusement).
  • Dunstan Drumm asks where it is written that the ironborn king must be a kraken. He has a proud lineage behind him, which he extols... at length. And his offerings of bronze are laughed down by the captains.
  • Victarion begins by asking for Aeron's blessing. His speech, short and concise, is similar: he will be Balon's heir, in both blood, policy and quality of loot. There is a great roaring of support, and Aeron thinks it is over...
  • ...until Asha interrupts. She claims that she comes first in the line of succession, and does not plan to follow in the footsteps of her father — a General Failure who led two unsuccessful rebellions, got all his sons killed, and has gained the fruits of the North: her loot is pinecones, pebbles from the Stony Shore and turnips from Winterfell. Nothing useful. Instead of war, she promises the ironborn peace, an alliance with the North, and a chance to farm and grow honestly instead of living on whatever they can steal. Aeron is astonished at how many chant their support for her; but just as many want Victarion, and the kingsmoot is about to turn violent when
  • AAROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
  • It's a horn, with Valyrian runes, being blown by one of Euron's men, and the runes are glowing...
  • OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
  • and the sound goes on and on and seems to drown the world...
  • OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo...
  • until finally, into the ringing silence (during which the man keels over, his lips burnt and blistering), Euron Crow's Eye makes his claim.
  • Euron has sailed further, and longer, than any other ironborn, all the way to Asshai beyond the shadow lands. He offers not only peace and prosperity, but all of Westeros, if he is crowned king. He will do this the way Aegon the Conqueror did: with dragons. The horn? A dragon horn from the ruins of Valyria, which will bind dragons to his will. And are dragons dead? No. There are three, and Euron knows where to find them.
As the ironborn rush to elect their king, Aeron tries to find the voice of the Drowned God and hears nothing except the scream of a rusted iron hinge.

Brienne IV

Nimble Dick is such a bad thief that Pod catches him, which only adds to her distrust of him — a distrust kindled by the game everyone played with her virginity at Harrenhal. (During the tourney at Bitterbridge in A Clash of Kings, she made sure to defeat as many of them as possible.) Pod also notices a rider a couple miles behind them, but Brienne decides to let the mysterious stranger trail them, mostly for lack of better options. They reach the ruins at the Whispers, where Nimble Dick left his fool with a promise (read: lie) that smugglers would soon visit, and he hopes they aren't too upset; Brienne finds the ashes of a still-warm cookfire and realizes that this is not an idle concern. She reflects on how the master-at-arms at Tarth had warned her against being too soft to kill, and promises she will not hesitate. She gives Nimble Dick her longsword and then takes out Oathkeeper. Within the ruins, they find, not Dontos Hollard and Sansa Stark, but... Shagwell the Fool, deserter from the Bloody Mummers, as well as Timeon and Pyg. Shagwell offs Nimble Dick, and the three turn on Brienne... but one of them is distracted when Pod throws a rock, and that's all the opening Brienne needs. Shagwell, the only survivor, begs for his life, and she makes him dig a grave for Dick. She knows that when she bends over to lay him in the grave, Shagwell will attack, and she is ready for it. She leaves two gold dragons on Dick's grave — the payment she promised him — but is surprised to hear laughter from Ser Hyle Hunt, their erstwhile tail, sent by Lord Randyll on the off-chance that they should find Sansa Stark. Ser Hyle helps her shovel dirt over the grave.

The Queenmaker

Princess Arianne Martell is at an an oasis in the desert with several companions — Andrey Dalt, Sylva Santagar and Garin of the Greenblood, all of whom she trusts implicitly; and Gerold Dayne the Darkstar, whom she does not — awaiting the arrival of Princess Myrcella Baratheon and Ser Arys Oakheart. Darkstar does a poor job of appearing trustworthy by pointing out that, while crowning Myrcella might start the Lannister-Martell war Arianne has been scheming towards, murdering her is a more guaranteed solution. When Princess Myrcella arrives, Gerold Dayne is the only one she has any clue about, mostly because everyone knows the name of his cousin Ser Arthur Dayne (which Gerold is irritated about). Privily, Ser Arys tells her the news that Lord Tywin Lannister is dead, and asks to know the rest of the plan: crown Myrcella, take her father's place... Step Three: Profit? Arianne laughs and leads the way, letting Garin explain his culture to Myrcellanote  and how his riverboat friends will assist them. But when they arrive at the river, Captain Areo Hotah is who greets them. He calls for them to yield. Arianne suggests they flee. But Ser Arys, that Knight in Shining Armor, charges in alone to protect his princesses. He fails. Arianne vomits overside, noticing Myrcella on her knees, clutching at her own head, blood streaming down her arms. Arianne, betrayed, asks Captain Hotah how her plans were leaked, and the captain replied, "Someone told. Someone always tells."

Arya II

Every day, the kindly man asks Arya who she is. When she replies "no one", he tells her that she lies, trying to get her to forget her true self and give up her past, but Arya resists. She works hard in the temple, cleaning and doing other chores. She witnesses many people entering the temple, some to light candles, others to curl up near a statue to die, and others to speak in private to the kindly man. When asked whose names she whispers at night, she finally admits that they are people she wants to kill, but the priest tells her that it is the Many-Faced God who determines who shall die, not her. He also finally convinces her to dispose of her possessions, and she does so with all but Needle, which she hides outside the temple under a stone. Once she has done this, the kindly man comes to her and gives her an Info Dump on the history of the Faceless Men.note  Arya begins practicing languages with a fellow novice, the waif, who in addition to Braavosi also teaches her to lie. Arya asks the kindly man how to change her face, as Jaqen H'ghar did; the kindly man does not recognize the name, and tells her it takes years of prayer and study. He then sends her out of the temple to learn Braavosi via total immersion. He instructs her to find a fishmonger named Brusco, but to not reveal who she really is. Arya decides to use the name "Cat", pretending to be an orphan girl from King's Landing.

Alayne I

The girl formerly known as Sansa Stark looks down at the armies of the Lords Declarant, camped out at the Gates of the Moon, pursuant to their stated goal of deposing Lord Petyr Baelish as Lord Protector of the Vale. All six of them are heading up to parley, but Littlefinger is mostly concerned about Ser Lyn Corbray, a dandy and expert duelist (and "notoriously uninterested in the charms of women".) First, of course, Robert must be settled, which Littlefinger does by having him dosed with sweetsleep — even though that substance is normally too strong for children. When the lords arrive, Littlefinger starts out with some Refuge in Audacity, asking if he can add his name to their declaration against "false counselors." When Bronze Yohn Royce declares his intention to foster Robert at Runestone, where he will be surrounded with boys his own age and hopefully toughen up a bit, Littlefinger simply asks if they might send some of those young sons here instead. This is when Ser Lyn Corbray decides to settle the matter with Valyrian steel sword, Lady Forlorn — rather to the consternation of the Lords Declarant, as one among their number has violated Sacred Hospitality. After Ser Lyn has shown himself out, Littlefinger takes the reins: instead of having them all arrested (which no one would question after Corbray's little Spanner in the Works), he merely requires they lift their siege and give him a year to get the Vale in order. If he cannot, he will voluntarily step down as Lord Protector. Aside from Bronze Yohn, the other nobles find this reasonable. After they have feasted and left, Alayne asks her father what he thinks will happen in a year. He states that one or two of the older Lords may die over the course of the year — particularly Lord Gilwood Hunter, who (unbeknowest to him) assumed his father's position because his brother Harlan dabbled in a little Patricide. Littlefinger may also be able to buy some of the others. Bronze Yohn is incorruptible, but an Ineffectual Loner won't accomplish much. Lyn Corbray will also be an Invincible Minor Minion, and lend his sword to every conspiracy against Littlefinger.
That was when her suspicion turned to certainty. "And how shall you reward him for this service?"
Littlefinger laughed aloud. "With gold and boys and promises, of course. Ser Lyn is a man of simple tastes, my sweetling. All he likes is gold and boys and killing."
George R. R. Martin, A Feast for Crows, pg.489 (paperback)

Cersei V

Tommen complains that he wants to sit on the Iron Throne and attend Council meetings, and Cersei accurately divines that he was encouraged to demand these by Margaery. She tells Tommen he must wait until he’s older, and thinks to herself that she will not let Margaery cheat her of her "hour in the sun." She turns away a representative from the Iron Bank, telling him that the crown's debts to that financial institution are on hold until she says otherwise. She is pleased to hear that Wyman Manderly has executed Davos Seaworth, called "Onion Knight," and orders his son Wylis surrendered back to him. She is less pleasd to hear that Osney Kettleblack has had no success at seducing Margaery — she actually seems attracted to him, but they are constantly surrounded by others. And she is infuriated to find Tommen training at jousting under the Knight of Flowers. Once again, this was Margaery's idea, and while all those gathered are cheering the young king's fledgling ability, Cersei agrees by saying, "One day you shall rule the lists, as your father did." Margaery astutely catches this and asks what tourneys King Robert had won. (None, Jaime, however...) The Queen Regent evades this by mentioning Robert's deeds at the Trident. She then berates Loras for teaching Tommen how to ride, but the Kingsguard insists that Tommen wants to learn (at his age, he should be a squire) and reminds her that there has been no master-at-arms at the Red Keep since Aron Santagar was killed. Walking back to her solar, she considers sending for another Dornish master-at-arms, just to irk the Tyrells. Lord Qyburn reports to her about the Free Cities and the slave revolt in Astapor spreading to Meereen, but Cersei is not interested in any of it. He also mentions that in Dorne, the young daughter of the Knight of Spottswood (Spotted Sylva) has suddenly wed the elderly Lord Estermont, who are kin to her through Robert, and Daemon Sand imprisoned. Cersei doesn't make the connection that they are friends to Princess Arianne until Qyburn points that out too. He also tells her about a treasonous puppet show being shown in the streets, and, after Cersei orders their arrests, asks if the female puppeteer can be submitted to him, as he has "exhausted" the previous girl (Senelle the maid) Cersei loaned him. Jaime and Tommen invade her bath, and Tommen demands Loras for his training. Cersei tells Tommen he must wait until she appoints a new master-at-arms, but Tommen stubbornly insists. He also wants a kitten, and to not have to eat beets. Cersei is angered when Jaime only finds Tommen's defiance amusing. She — still in her bath — tells Tommen that he is a foolish little boy, and Ser Loras has more important things to do than train him. Tearfully, Tommen backs down and leaves, though not before declaring, "When I'm king, I'm going to outlaw beets." Jaime asks her if she is "drunk, or merely stupid" to reject Loras as master-at-arms, and laughs at her assertion that Ser Osmund is even in his league. Finally alone to dress, Cersei reflects on how the washerwomen have shrunk her dresses; it couldn't possibly be weight gain from excessive drinking. She has dinner with Lady Falyse and Ser Balman, Lady Tanda's son. She commiserates with Balman about Lady Tanda's tragic riding accident, which she is unlikely to long survive, and reassures them she does not blame them for Lollys's husband's decision to name her child Tyrion. She claims that Ser Bronn is still loyal to the Imp and working against her, and manipulates them into promising that they will arrange for Bronn to have an accident. She finds Tommen sleeping with three black kittens, which Meryn Trant tells her Margaery gave him in what Cersei mentally describes as the world's most blatant attempt at Manipulative Bastardry. She remembers how Mad King Aerys had a falling-out with her father, and had therefore rejected his suit to have Cersei marry Rhaegar. She remembers how happy she had been when she had thought it would happen, and thinks that her elation had made her see Maggy the Frog. She believes her father's failure to deliver on the betrothal is what made Maggy's curse on her come true.

Brienne V

Returning to Maidenpool, Hyle Hunt informs Randyll Tarly that Brienne has killed three of the Bloody Mummers. Tarly again warns her against playing a knight, but Brienne will not give up her mission. She and Podrick meet up with Ser Hyle the next morning, and he tells them of his plan for finding Sandor Clegane. He reveals that the Hound has not joined Beric Dondarrion, and that the Lightning Lord's band had no part in the raid on Saltpans, a brutal attack on a nearby coastal town that left hundreds dead and the town decimated. Lord Tarly has created this rumour in the hopes of turning the smallfolk against Lord Beric. Ser Hyle knows a septon with great knowledge of the Riverlands, and proposes that they accompany the man to Saltpans. When Brienne says she has no intention of traveling with Hunt, he tells her that he is no longer in Lord Tarly's service. They soon depart for Saltpans, while Septon Meribald talks of the gods, his past and the great bands of wolves in the Riverlands led by a demon of a she-wolf. Meribald tells them that they may encounter broken men traumatized by their experiences in war on their way to Quiet Isle, and Brienne surmises that the septon himself once had such an experience before he discovered his piety.

Samwell III

Staying at an inn in Braavos, Sam is nearing wits' end. Dareon has abandoned them for the brothels, Gilly remains inconsolable, and Maester Aemon's health deteriorates daily. To make matters worse, Sam had spent nearly all their coin on their rooms, a healer for Aemon (who simply stated Aemon is dying of old age and left a potion to let Aemon die peacefully), and passage on a boat, Lady Ushanora, that they wound up unable to board due to the maester's waning health. Feverish and dying, the maester begs Sam to return to the docks to learn more about this rumor of dragons that Dareon had heard at some winesink. Aemon mumbles to Sam, "Dragons. The grief and glory of my house... My brothers dreamed of dragons too, and the dreams killed them, every one. Sam, we tremble on the cusp of half-remembered prophecies... I should have seen it. Fire consumes, but cold preserves. The Wall..."

Sam departs that night to find Dareon, but gets accosted by two bravos because he is wearing a sword. However, he is saved by a girl calling herself Cat of the Canals (though also "no one"), who tells him of another black brother about to wed the Sailor's Wife. Sam finds Dareon at the Happy Port, but his brother from the Watch wants nothing more to do with the black, or Gilly and Aemon for that matter. Furious, Sam Takes A Level In Badass and throws himself at Daeron, laying down a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown until he gets tossed into the canal by the proprietors of the brothel. He is saved from drowning by Xhondo, a huge Summer Islander, who is a mate aboard the Cinnamon Wind — and knows of these dragons that Sam had mentioned.

Jaime III

Aware that Cersei is trying to rid herself of him, Jaime argues that his place is beside the king, not off laying siege to Riverrun. But his sister responds that she can't rely on her cousin Ser Daven Lannister, her new Warden of the West, and needs Jaime to defeat Brynden Tully, as well as find out why Gregor's men at Harrenhal have not released Wylis Manderly as the crown requested. In truth, Jaime is glad to be leaving King's Landing behind, as he is growing to despise Cersei and the Yes Men she's surrounding herself with. As he travels, Jaime begins training with Ilyn Payne, in the hopes that he can become a proficient swordsman with his left hand. The company also visits Sow's Horn and meets with Ser Roger Hogg, who warns that the wolves in the region, supposedly led by a gigantic she-wolf, have lost all fear of men and are attacking anyone who enters their territory. Arriving at Harrenhal, Jaime has Gregor Clegane's men release all prisoners, including Wylis Manderly, and then leaves Ser Bonifer Hasty and his personal retinue, the Holy Hundred, to hold the castle until Petyr Baelish takes up its lordship. Outside, Jaime comes across Ronnet Connington, who mentions how he once was betrothed to Brienne. When Ronnet mocks Brienne, Jaime hits him in the face with his golden hand and insists he call her by name.

Cersei VI

Cersei and Taena share the queen's litter en route to the Great Sept of Baelor. The lady from Myr is telling Cersei about all the men who are always around Margaery, and how she was present for the bedding at Renly's wedding. Although Taena is not sure if Margaery is still a maiden, she affirms that Renly was aroused. She also lets on that besides all the knights and bards, Pycelle is a frequent visitor of the young queen, and her brother Loras visits perhaps more than any other. They also discuss the new High Septon, a man who was once a "sparrow" and not a member of the Most Devout — another Wild Card Cersei decides she must find a way to deal with. The top of Visenya's Hill is packed with sparrows, and the statue of Baelor the Blessed is piled with skulls and bones — the remains of septons and septas who were killed by the war, because they received no protection from the crown. Cersei tries to pin the massacres on the "godless" Stannis and Robb Stark, but the crowd are unconvinced and demand justice and protection. At the doors to the Great Sept, armed men block the Kingsguards' entry since they bear weapons. Cersei must enter alone, and as she does she wonders about these anointed knights answering the call to defend the Faith.

Inside the Sept, she is appalled to find Septon Raynard (one of her sycophants amongst the Faith) in roughspun robes scrubbing the floors, and learns that Septon Torbert (another Yes-Man of hers) has been imprisoned for being obese when so many are starving. She berates the new High Septon, who wears frayed robes and goes barefoot. He tells her that the Faith has sold the crown her father gave his predecessor, as well as all the valuables in their vaults, in order to help feed the poor. Cersei recalls Qyburn's report that the "sparrows" broke down the doors of the Sept before the final vote with axes in their hands and their leader on their shoulders. She now understands how this man was elected High Septon. Speaking in private, the priest reprimands her for letting Joffrey behead Ned Stark on the steps of the Great Sept, and reveals that he hasn't come to the Red Keep to bless King Tommen because he is still praying for guidance from the Seven to affirm that the boy is the rightful king. The Queen Regent, stifling her anger, concedes to his concerns that the holy men and women on the roads need protection from rape and murder: Cersei agrees to have Tommen rearm the Faith, something King Maegor forbade almost 300 years ago. She promises to restore the Faith Militant, for which the High Septon will acknowledge Tommen as king and forgive the Crown's debt to the Faith, which is over 1 million dragons. Internally, Cersei applauds herself for her bargain... apparently having forgotten what happened the last time there was a Faith Militant.

The Reaver

Victarion Greyjoy leads an ironborn attack against the Shield Islands, an archipelago at the mouth of the River Mander whose navy protects the Reach in general and Highgarden in particular. Victarion leads a boarding party onto one of the few ships left to defend the region, challenging Ser Talbert Serry, the commander of the defenders and heir to one of the Shield Islands. Considering the youth a Worthy Opponent, Victarion engages Serry in a Duel to the Death; despite taking a wound to the hand, Victarion overpowers Serry and throws him overboard to sink helplessly under the weight of his armor. The ironborn emerge victorious, but Victarion seethes that, despite the fact he led the battle, the lion's share of the glory will go to Euron and his cronies, who did not participate. Besides, the attack may bring down the wrath of Highgarden, which (Victarion feels, and some of the more cautious of the ironborn, like Rodrik the Reader and Dunstan Drumm, agree) will be difficult to withstand. Victarion also remembers the last time he saw his brother Aeron; after the kingsmoot, Aeron tried to urge Victarion to help him overthrow Euron, but Victarion refused. The priest departed the next day, vowing to incite the smallfolk to rebellion.

At Lord Hewett's Town on Oakenshield, Euron throws a feast to celebrate the victory. He raises Harras Harlaw, Andrik the Unsmiling, Maron Volmark and Nute the Barber to Lords of the Four Shields, effectively depriving each of his rivals of their Number Two. He then declares that they will sail the next day to find the dragons he had promised. But many of the captains object, stating that they should attack Oldtown or the Arbor, and a furious Euron stalks from the hall, apparently not ready to put up with being laughed at. Victarion is then summoned to Euron's room, where the king admits that the whole fleet could never reach Slaver's Bay together. He believes that the Iron Fleet alone could, however, and promises his brother the Seastone Chair as reward for a single service. Euron has his eyes on the Iron Throne, but in his mind, there is only one woman fit to be his queen and the mother of his heir: Daenerys Targaryen, the World's Most Beautiful Woman. Victarion agrees to go, but privately thinks to himself that he will take Daenerys as his own wife, in revenge for Euron stealing his.

Jaime IV

Castle Darry is open to Jaime's host, as Lord Lancel Lannister has arrived to take possession of the fiefdom. The smallfolk have given him the benefit of the doubt, as his wife, Amerei Frey, is a Darry through her mother's side. Still, he can't stay long: Freys and sparrows outnumber his forces and were draining the castle's food stores faster than they could be replenished. However, neither Lancel nor Ser Kevan are there to greet Jaime; the latter left shortly after the wedding, and the former has taken to living in the sept. As Jaime, assigned Lancel's quarters since they are the nicest unoccupied rooms in the castle, cleans up from his travels, he notes that his squire Josmyn Peckledon has formed an interest in Pia. Jaime gives over the use of Lancel's bed for Their First Time, and warns the young man to treat her kindly. At dinner, Lady Amerei (called "Gatehouse Ami") begs Jaime to help sort out the many brigands in the area — Beric Dondarrion, the Hound, and whoever their leader is, a woman in a hooded cloak. Jaime suggests that the Darry nobility take the revolutionary step of actually being nice to their peasants, which will turn them away from the lightning lord. Afterwards, he heads to the sept, where Lancel receives him. He announces that he has been atoning for his sins — primarily his hand in the Hunting "Accident" suffered by the late King Robert Baratheon, but also for fucking Cersei. (He claims that it was at least not treason, as he would always pull out: "It's not treason if you don't finish inside.") He then announces his intention to Abdicate the Throne of House Darry and return to King's Landing to be sworn in as a member of the revived Faith Militant. Between the news that Cersei was unfaithful and that the Church Militant has been revived, Jaime can't decide which is worse.

Brienne VI

The Quiet Isle is home to a septry of brothers who are undergoing various forms of penance, including vows of silence. Brienne, Ser Hyle Hunt, Podrick, Septon Meribald and Dog arrive there in search of news of Sandor Clegane: the Elder Brother of this sept has Healing Hands and has often had the ill brought to him. They discuss the raid on Saltpans — civilians massacred, girls raped, and Ser Quincy Cox shutting the castle's gates and doing nothing. Septon Meribald is inclined to reserve judgment, pointing out that Cox was wildly outnumbered (and old to boot), but the Elder Brother thinks a Knight in Shining Armor should do what's right no matter what, and Brienne agrees. They pass an extremely tall brother in a hooded cloak who is digging graves, despite his limp, and the stables house a trained war horse. Thus, Brienne is only a bit surprised to learn that the Elder Brother has indeed treated The Hound recently; however, he tells Brienne that she cannot find him, for he is at rest. (The ill-tempered horse in the stables is his mount, Stranger.) The Elder Brother heard Clegane's words before burying him, and leaving the hounds-head helm to mark the grave (which someone has probably stolen — hence the report of the leader wearing that helm at the raid on Saltpans), and therefore explains to Brienne that she is looking for the wrong Stark girl: Arya is alive, somewhere. The Elder Brother tells his story — he too was a knight, serving Rhaegar Targaryen during the War of the Usurper, who "died" at the Trident and washed up here at the Quiet Isle, where he has remained ever since. He begs Brienne to return to the people who love her before she too meets a bitter fate, but Brienne, All-Loving Hero that she is, insists on keeping her word.

Cersei VII

The lioness of Lannister watches with little patience (she was woken up before dawn) as the rose of Tyrell raises the alarum. Margaery has had news from the Shield Islands about the ironborn incursion, and demands the crown respond. Cersei, irked by her tone, and somewhat more concerned about running out of Arbor Gold, replies that it seems like Highgarden should handle the matter itself. Ser Loras intercedes that Garlan and Willas have the men to do it, but not the fleet. Cersei replies apologetically that Lord Paxter Redwyne's fleet is busy starving out whichever of Stannis' forces remains on Dragonstone. Loras impetuously offers to Storm the Castle, promising The Siege will end within a fortnight, thus freeing the Redwyne fleet to attend to the Shield Isles; Margaery protests, but Cersei gallantly accepts — reflecting to herself that Loras has just volunteered for a Suicide Mission, and that in her mind, it's a win-win situation: if Loras succeeds, it's a blow to Stannis, if he fails, she can make him The Scapegoat and if he gets killed, Ser Osney will be on hand to console his grieving sister. Afterwards, Qyburn mentions that he has been working on a "champion" to replace Loras on the Kingsguard if worst should come to worst; Cersei is skeptical of his "paragon," mentioning that, according to the blacksmiths she assigned work to on Qyburn's specifications, the armor he has requested is too heavy for any human to bear, and promises Qyburn a Cruel and Unusual Death if he's messing her around. Cersei returns to bed, where Lady Taena Merryweather awaits her, and idly wonders what it would be like to have sex with Taena, to "claim her rights" as monarch as Robert used to do when he was drunk. (Strangely, the wine would always make him "forget" how roughly he tended to claim them, claiming it had never happened.) However, she is interrupted a second time by Lady Falyse Stokeworth. Lady Stokeworth explains that when Lord Balman agreed to Make It Look Like an Accident, his idea of an "accident" was to challenge Bronn to a duel. Bronn, being a Private Military Contractor and Combat Pragmatist, failed to lose the resulting fight — and got Balman to admit who ordered him to "engineer" the "accident." Lady Falyse is now on the run from Lord Bronn Stokeworth and begs the queen for mercy. Cersei offers it... and then arranges for Falyse to be handed over to Qyburn for his "experiments" with his "paragon." Then, rather drunk, Cersei returns to bed, and does in fact "claim her rights" with Taena. But the act gives her no pleasure, and eventually she orders Taena to leave, deciding, "It had never happened."

Jaime V

Jaime arrives at Riverrun, where his cousin Ser Daven Lannister, the Warden of the West, is besieging the place in the name of the crown. The siege is a shambles: Ser Brynden Tully has the command within, sheltering not only the civilians but what remains of the Young Wolf's royal court, including ex-queen Jeyne Westerling and Lady Sybell Spicer. Meanwhile, Ser Daven is Surrounded by Idiots; Freys peck at night and day, as does Lord Gawen Westerling, who fears for his wife and child. Worst is Ser Ryman Frey (the Late Lord Walder's Heir Apparent). Every morning has Lord Edmure Tully put up on a gallows with a noose around his neck and threatens to pull the trigger unless Ser Brynden surrenders. The fact that he does this daily may explain why the Blackfish has yet to take him seriously. Meanwhile, Lady Roslin Frey is pregnant — apparently, she and Edmure have become genuinely fond of each other. If the child is a boy, though, Emmon Frey may have trouble holding onto Riverrun, even though Cersei bestowed it upon him. Ser Kevan has been by, though he left quickly, resentful that Cersei had named the (rather younger) Daven Warden of the West instead of him. (Daven, who completely agrees, actually offered to surrender the office to him — instantly marking him as one of the few Lannisters in the series who has no trouble choosing whether To Be Lawful or Good.) Daven comments on his Arranged Marriage, courtesy of Cersei, to a Frey; he's not happy, but he'll do it, since the alternative is to end up like Robb Stark. Jaime sends a message that he wishes to treat with the Blackfish on the morrow, hoping to offer him such generous terms that he (Jaime) need not defy his oath to the late Lady Catelyn not to take up arms against her house. (He remembers when he was a squire to Sumner Crakehall and was sent to Riverrun with a message. Lord Hoster sat him next to Lysanote , but Jaime ignored her almost entirely, more enamored of her famous war hero uncle.)

Jaime now receives a visit from his only aunt, Gemma Frey, who completely overpowers her husband Emmon. Jaime lies to them that their son Ser Cleos died bravely. Emmon has some choice words about his fief being damaged, but Jaime cuts him down to size by reminding him that he is only Lord of Riverrun if they take the castle, and not Lord Paramount of the Trident at all: Lord Hoster Tully was, and Lord Edmure Tully after him (for a brief moment), but now Lord Petyr Baelish rules the riverlands from Harrenhal. After they get rid of Emmon, Gemma has a number of choice words about Cersei's growing foolishness: her choice of councilors, her re-founding of the Faith Militant after they gave the Targaryens years of strife, and her passing-over of Kevan as Hand. Jaime asks if she loved Lord Tywn, and Gemma tells him about how Tywin was the only one who stood up for her when their father arranged to marry her down to Emmon Frey. She says she loved him for that, even if she didn’t approve of everything he did, and asks who will protect them all now that Tywin is gone. Jaime points out that he left a son, meaning himself, but Gemma sighs and replies, "Tyrion is Tywin's son, not you."

Cat of the Canals

Through total immersion, the girl once known as Arya Stark is learning Braavosi. She helps Brusco's daughters sell his shellfish by day, and returns to the House of Black and White every month. As per the kindly man's instructions, she tries to learn three new things every time she ventures out. So far she has (apparently) not learned anything useful, though the kindly man does mention how the many-faced god they serve is death itself, and that every faith acknowledges their god — even the Faith of the Seven, who call him the Stranger. One night, as she is returning to the temple, Cat of the Canals meets Dareon. Since deserting the Night's Watch, the singer has made a name for himself, and shows off the new boots he has earned. Cat drops by Brusco's on her way back, handing him a pair of new boots. Back at the temple, a girl speaks to the waif, who tells her two truths and a lie; but a girl is interrupted by the kindly man before she can guess which was which. Of the three things a girl has learned, the most important is that someone killed Dareon and dumped his body in a canal. (They saved his boots, though.) When the kindly man asks who might have done this, a girl proclaims, "Arya of House Stark." He asks who she is, and she says, "no one." He says she lies, and sends for warm milk "for our friend Arya, who has returned to us so unexpectedly." A girl is surprised at this reaction, but drinks the milk and goes to bed.
When she woke the next morning, she was blind.
George R. R. Martin, A Feast for Crows, pg.739 (paperback)

Samwell IV

Somewhere off the coast of Dorne, Sam leads the shipboard memorial service for Aemon of House Targaryen, Maester of the Citadel and brother of the Night's Watch, who has died of infirmity at the age of 102. Though Xhondo's news of the dragons gave him a new lease on life, it did not last. Still, Maester Aemon was determined not just to make it to the Citadel, but to head east, to Essos, to help his great-grandniece:
"No one ever looked for a girl... It was a prince that was promised, not a princess. Rhaegar, I thought... the smoke was from the fire that devoured Summerhall on the day of his birth, the salt from the tears shed for those who died. He shared my belief when he was young, but later he became persuaded that it was his own son who fulfilled the prophecy, for a comet had been seen above King’s Landing on the night Aegon was conceived, and Rhaegar was certain the bleeding star had to be a comet. ... What fools we were, who thought ourselves so wise! The error crept in from the translation. Dragons are neither male nor female, Barth saw the truth of that, but now one and now the other, as changeable as flame. The language misled us all for a thousand years. Daenerys is the one, born amidst saltnote  and smokenote . The dragons prove it."
George R. R. Martin, A Feast for Crows, pg.(???) (paperback)
But now Sam must Take Up His Sword and get the maesters to send help to her. Meanwhile, Maester Aemon is having a traditional Summer Islanders wake thrown for him: one with a lot of drinking. Sam tells Gilly that Aemon should never have left Castle Black, but Gilly points out that the red woman would have likely burned him for his king's blood if he’d stayed, same as Dalla's child that Gilly now cares for. She suggests naming the child Aemon Battleborn in his honor, and Sam agrees. They stumble belowdecks, drunk... and then Gilly kisses him. Afterwards, Sam avoids her, feeling guilty and miserable over breaking his vows. Kojja Mo, the captain's daughter and leader of their archers (and Baby Aemon's babysitter), corners him and tells him he must either face his demons or be thrown overboard. Sex for Solace is considered holy in the Summer Isles, a way of honoring death by celebrating life. Sam protests that he took a Vow of Celibacy and cannot do the honorable thing by taking Gilly to wife, but Kojja points out that Gilly may want no such thing — just someone to cling to while she is a Fish out of Water, separated from father and family and even her own child. Sam, who isn't much better off, accepts her advances.

Cersei VIII

Aurane Waters returns with news that Dragonstone has fallen. This is none too soon, given that the ironborn are even starting to menace Oldtown. However, the casualties (most of them troops loyal to Cersei) were high: Ser Loras was forced to resort to "We Have Reserves" tactics to get the job done quickly, and was himself grievously injured, doused in boiling oil; the maesters believe he will not survive. Cersei, "saddened," gives the news to Queen Margaery herself; a furious Margaery shrieks at Cersei to Get Out! when her Evil Gloating becomes apparent. Later, in court, Septon Raynard comes with news that the High Septon has chosen to preach against The Oldest Profession — as opposed to attending Cersei in court; she's also pissed off when another would-be bounty hunter wastes her time with a head that is clearly not Tyrion's, and hands the guy over to Qyburn. When Cersei loses her temper over dinner and snaps that she would like to have Margaery out of her way, Tommen lashes back at her, forbidding her from doing anything to his wife. Since he's only eight, Cersei can still shut him down by ordering an unusual punishment, but the moment is still troubling.

That evening, Cersei has a dream Flashback to when she visited Maggy the Frog. She, Jeyne Farman and Melara Heatherspoon came to visit the woods witch, who was said to have the gift of prophecy. Jeyne fled at the sight of the wizened old crone, but Cersei and Melara badgered her until she drank their blood, and then allowed them to ask three questions. Melara asked if she would marry Jaime, but Maggy told her, "Worms will have your maidenhead. Your death is here tonight, little one. Can you smell her breath? She is very close." (Cersei pushed her down a well a year later.) Cersei then asks her questions about Rhaegar Targaryen:

Cersei: "When will I wed the prince?
Maggy: Never. You will wed the king.
Cersei: I will be queen, though?
Maggy: Aye. Queen you shall be... until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.
Cersei: Will the king and I have children?
Maggy: Oh, aye. Six-and-ten for him, and three for you. Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds. And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.

After Maggy turns into Tyrion and starts choking her, Cersei awakens and sends for Maester Pycelle to fix something to allow her dreamless sleep. She asks about his care of Lord Gyles Rosby, whose Incurable Cough Of Doom is starting to become literal, and tells him that he does not have permission to allow Rosby to die. She then asks if the maesters believe people can tell the future, and Pycelle evades by asking whether anyone should. (His opinion is, "Some doors are best left closed.") She then sends for Qyburn and asks if Lady Falyse could be sent to reclaim Stokeworth, but Qyburn tells her that Falyse is in no state to rule anything — or, for that matter, feed herself. She then asks Qyburn the same question about prophecy. Qyburn's answer is very different: upon learning she was imported from the east, he wonders if her given name wasn't a corruption of "maegi," and that Blood Magic can be very powerful. When asked if the future is set in stone, he replies that of course Cersei can Screw Destiny... by killing Margaery. To that end, she asks Ser Osmund if he believes Osney could best Ser Boros Blount in a Duel to the Death. Osney will, after all, need to fight his way out if he agrees to let Cersei frame him for treason.

Brienne VII

Approaching the inn at the crossroads, Brienne's party encounters many corpses hanging from trees, each with a chunk of rock salt in their mouths. They surmise that these were some of the men responsible for the raid on Saltpans, probably hanged by Lord Beric's outlaw band. Reaching the inn, they meet four girls on the porch, and the oldest addresses them. She asks for silver for a night's lodging, stating the only visitors they get are either sparrows or robbers and worse. When Ser Hyle makes an inquiry regarding her tone, the smith approaches to keep the peace, and Brienne is nearly floored by his resemblance to Renly. At dinner, Septon Meribald leads a prayer, but the smith — a fellow named Gendry — does not participate and returns to his forge; one of the orphan boys tells the septon that it is because he worships the Lord of Light. Brienne delivers some food to Gendry and mentions his resemblance to King Robert, but they are interrupted by riders drawing near. Brienne recognizes one of them as Biter. The leader, wearing the helm of Sandor Clegane, threatens the lives of everyone present, so Brienne draws Oathkeeper to intercede. This causes "the Hound" — it turns out to be Rorge under the helm — to charge. She handles him easily, but Biter blindsides her, smashing her arm, taking a bite out of her face. Her last vision is Biter's tongue sticking out, — straight and obscenely long, almost like it were a sword...

Jaime VI

The parley with the Blackfish goes nowhere; Ser Brynden admits he only agreed to it because he wanted to hear Jaime's pathetic excuses. He doesn't trust Jaime to keep his word if Riverrun does surrender. Likewise, the war council goes nowhere; those riverlords who have submitted to the crown are nonetheless suspicious of the Freys, as many of their sons died or were captured at the Red Wedding. When Edwyn Frey remarks that the river lords should not expect to be trusted, since they are traitors, Jaime retorts that the Freys are traitors twice, since they backed Robb Stark and then betrayed him, which puts an end to the argument. So Jaime does the only thing he can: he cuts down Edmure Tully (over the protests of the Freys — Ser Ryman is sent home in a snit), draws him a bath and has him fed. Edmure is told that he will be returned to Riverrun forthwith, and — if he is smart — will choose to surrender the castle. He and his wife will then be well-treated prisoners at Casterly Rock; their child, if a daughter, will be appropriately dowered, or knighted and given lands if a son. When Edmure asks what the alternative is, Jaime replies that The Siege will continue... with Edmure in the castle, leading the defense. The river lords — Edmure's (former) vassals and lifelong friends — will be sent in first, followed by the Freys, and finally Ser Daven's westermen once the castle is weakened. All within the castle will be put to the sword. If Roslin gives birth before the fight is over, Jaime will even allow the child to return to Riverrun. Via trebuchet. He then leaves Edmure to his meal and his thoughts... and a song (Edmure has always hated music), played by Ryman's singer (Tom o' Sevenstringsnote ). The one about the rain.

Cersei IX

Lord Rosby has died, and it gives Cersei all the leverage she needs. She accuses Pycelle of being a turncloak in the secret service of Margaery, and gets him to admit that he does not just give her sleeping potions — he has also been preparing her moon tea. This is bad enough, but Cersei knows she must arrange for Margaery to be Caught With Her Pants Down. To this end, she invites Margaery's favorite singer, the Blue Bard, to dinner, and accuses him of fornication. It takes a whole night of Qyburn's Cold-Blooded Torture before the man will sing the story straight. Finally, she moves the last piece into place: she orders Osney to go before the High Septon and "admit" he has fucked not only Margaery, but her attendants Elinor and Megga as well. (Taena suggests they leave Alla out of it, since they may be able to use her as a witness.) The youngest Kettleblack agrees to do so, but says his Blatant Lies will ring better if he does get to fuck a queen. Cersei, say.

The Princess In The Tower

Ever since the failed coup attempt, Arianne Martell has been locked up in a tower cell — fed, watered, in perfect comfort, but with no contact with the outside world. She has no idea what became of her companions, no idea why Darkstar tried to behead Myrcella, no idea why Ser Arys Oakheart, whom she had grown to harbor genuine feelings for, would... She expects her father to see her within a day, but it takes an indeterminate period of weeks before he will finally consent to speak with her. He is, obviously, upset. First off, the last thing he wants is a war with the other six kingdoms, and Arianne should feel the same way; it pleased King Daeron I Targaryen, the Young Dragon who conquered Dorne, to claim that the peninsula was bristling with defenders, — and it pleases the Martells to maintain that fiction, lest anyone realize that they have the smallest population of any principality in Westeros. Even worse, war may come: Ser Balon Swann has reached the borders of Dorne — having finally reached the end of the journey the crown dispatched him on in "Cersei IV" of this volume — and Prince Doran's bannermen can only stall him for so long. He tells Arianne he is disappointed in her, and warns her not to test his patience: what everyone else mistook for lassitude has actually been a Long Con, and — like Oberyn — Doran has been working on revenge against the Lannisters ever since Elia was killed. Arianne announces that she wants to rule Dorne when Doran eventually passes, and Doran asks why she believes herself disinherited. She explains the letter she oversaw... and Prince Doran explains that she missed the first part of that story. Quentyn was to succeed Doran because Arianne herself would be out of the line of succession — due to an Arranged Marriage that was planned between her and Viserys Targaryen, the Beggar King. Originally, she would be sent to Tyrosh to serve as the Archon's cupbearer, where she could meet her betrothed in secret, while her brother Quentyn was being raised to assume the seat of their House note . Finally he reveals why her brother is overseas: to bring back their heart's desire. When Arianne asks what that is, her father shows her a chess piece in the shape of a dragon, and replies, "Vengeance. Justice. Fire and blood."

Alayne II

Alayne has been trying to coax a petulant Lord Robert to get dressed for the long descent to the Gates of the Moon. With winter fast approaching, the Eyrie will soon become inhospitable, and the entire staff is retreating for the valley floor. Her "father" is away at the wedding of Lord Lyonel Corbray, who supports the Lord Protector along with several other Vale lords — including one of the former Lords Declarant, who has apparently changed his allegiances. Maester Colemon is concerned that Robert is being given Sweetsleep too often, as it is poisonous over time, but he sees no other way to get the boy down the mountain without a seizure. After riding the basket down to Sky, Alayne and the rest of the household begin their descent on mules led by Mya Stone. Accompanying them is Lady Myranda Royce, Lord Nestor's daughter. Randa is a natural gossip, and catches Alayne up on a number of events. Most importantly, Randa discloses that Harrold Hardyng, called "Harry the Heir," was recently knighted at a tourney, but Myranda doesn't like him because Lady Waynwood, his foster mother, denied Lord Nestor's attempt to marry Randa to Harry. Below, at the Gates of the Moon, Alayne learns that Littlefinger has returned, and brings with him three hedge knights who have taken his servce — among them Ser Shadrich of the Shady Glen, last seen in "Brienne I" of this volume. Littlefinger is amused at how Cersei keeps Digging Herself Deeper: "What little peace and order the five kings left us will not long survive the three queens, I fear." (He will not answer who the third queen is.) He then announces that he has brokered an Arranged Marriage between Sansa and Harry the Heir. This causes Sansa to question what Harry is a Spare to the Throne for, since Lady Anya has three sons of her own (not to mention daughters and grandsons). By walking her through the House Arryn family tree, Littlefinger explains to her that he is actually the sole surviving relative of Jon Arryn, and if something should happen to little Sweetrobin — or, as Littlefinger puts it, when something happens to him — Harrold Hardyng will become Lord of the Eyrie and Protector of the Vale. At which point his fiancée, "Alayne Stone," will come out in her maiden's cloak of white and grey with the direwolf sewn on it, declaring her true identity — Sansa Stark, only surviving member of House Stark, the Lady of Winterfell — and, at a stroke, become ruler of two of the Seven Kingdoms. Especially with the swords of the Vale at her command. "So those are your gifts from me, my sweet Sansa... Harry, the Eyrie, and Winterfell. That's worth another kiss now, don't you think?"

Brienne VIII

Brienne fluctuates between fever dreams and semi-consciousness as the outlaws transport her to Lady Stoneheart. While she is being treated by Jeyne Heddle (as a measure of gratitude for defending the other children at the inn), Brienne learns that Biter is dead, skewered through the head by a spear wielded by Gendry. Lem, now wearing the Hound's steel dog helm, tells her that Stoneheart wants her hanged for her "crimes." Brienne fully awakens in a cave, where she meets Thoros of Myr. The red priest is a ghost of his former self, and he informs her about the current state of the former brotherhood without banners: "Lord Beric's fire has gone out of this world... A grimmer shadow leads us in his place... War makes monsters of us all."

Before long, Brienne is brought before Lady Stoneheart, where she as well as Pod and Ser Hyle will be judged. A northman places Oathkeeper before Stoneheart, along with Brienne's writ signed by King Tommen. The outlaws see this as irrefutable proof that the Maid of Tarth is about Lannister business. Finally, Lady Stoneheart speaks, needing to place her hand over her throat in order to gurgle out her judgment. Upon removing her hood, Brienne is horrified to discover that the Hangwoman is actually Lady Catelyn Stark. Thoros reveals that it was Lord Beric himself who administered the kiss of life to her, passing on his own unnatural life force to her... but this was not enough, for Catelyn still Came Back Wrong. As though to prove it, Lady Stoneheart gives Brienne an ultimatum: kill Ser Jaime Lannister or be hanged. When the Maid states that she will not make that choice, the thing that had been Catelyn Stark orders them hanged. Despite Ser Hyle's pleas for mercy, and Podrick's stoicism, nooses are looped about all three of their necks. As they are hefted upward, Brienne screams out a word.

Cersei X

Septa Moelle brings word to the court that Queen Margaery and her cousins have been imprisoned at the Great Sept of Baelor for adultery and high treason. The Septa reveals that Margaery's maidenhead is not intact. Grand Maester Pycelle also reluctantly discloses to the Septa that Margaery has had him mix moon tea on many occasions. Confident Margaery is finished, Cersei agrees with Aurane Waters' request to launch his new dromonds, in case Lord Mace Tyrell decides to march on King's Landing to save his daughter. Lord Orton Merryweather remarks that the High Septon may want to try Margaery himself, as the Faith used to do. (She hopes he is right.) Cersei has Tommen sign some blank warrants, which she then affixes names to. Summoning Ser Osfryd, she orders him to arrest Ser Tallad, the Blue Bard, Hugh Clifton, Mark Mullendore, as well as the Redwyne twins, whom she wants to be found innocent of the charges of bedding Margaery.

The next morning, Cersei and Taena are carried by litter to the Great Sept. On the way, Lady Merryweather inquires, "What if Margaery demands that her innocence be determined by battle?" Cersei smiles, and replies that she must be championed by a knight of the Kingsguard, but since Ser Osmund is brother to one of her accusers, that leaves only Ser Meryn Trant and Ser Boros Blount, both of which Cersei's champion can take. Within the Sept, the High Septon grants Cersei permission to visit her good-daughter, while Taena goes to speak with Margaery's cousins. Margaery is beside herself, huddled naked and interrupted periodically with demands she confess. Cersei tells her that she has rounded up all those that Ser Osney named, lying that these witnesses will reveal Margaery's innocence. When Cersei says that a sworn brother of the Kingsguard will fight for her should it come to a trial by combat, Margaery demands that her own brother, Ser Garlan the Gallant, be summoned to fight in place of the grievously injured Ser Loras. Cersei would never allow this to happen; and Margaery, now certain of Cersei's intentions, tells her to leave, calling her a vile, scheming, evil bitch.

Cersei is escorted deep beneath Visenya's Hill to speak with the High Septon. She asks to have Ser Osney released into her custody, but the High Septon flatly denies her. Chained to the ceiling of his cell, Osney has been brutally whipped — and, curiously, his tale changed as the torture went on. In their presence, Osney admits to murdering the former High Septon on Cersei's orders; when asked if he has carnal knowledge of the queen, Osney points at Cersei: "There's the queen I fucked." Cersei makes a run for it, but cannot escape the clutches of the Faith. She now finds herself undergoing the same torture Margaery is: nudity, sleep deprivation, thirst, exposure to the cold.

After two days Qyburn enters her cell, telling her she will be tried for murder, treason, and fornication. All her work is undone: the realm is now being governed by Ser Harys Swyft and Pycelle; they removed Ser Osfryd as Commander of the gold cloaks and Qyburn from the small council (though he still works for them thanks to his control of Varys' whisperers); Lord Orton and Taena have fled to Longtable; Ser Kevan has been sent for to take over the Regency; Aurane Waters sailed the fleet away, possibly to join Lord Stannis; while Lord Mace Tyrell and Lord Randyll Tarly are marching on King's Landing. Her only hopes are as follows: the Blue Bard is not changing his tune; and Qyburn's "champion" is ready to fight for her. But Cersei knows that only a Kingsguard can defend her in a Trial by Combat. She has Qyburn pen a plea to Jaime: "Come at once. Help me. Save me. I need you as I have never needed you before. I love you, I love you, I love you. Come at once."

Jaime VII

Emmon Frey, now Lord of Riverrun in fact as well as name, demands Edmure Tully's head. Ser Jaime will not accede, though he is sorely tempted: though Edmure surrendered the castle as promised, he first stopped to help Brynden Blackfish escape. Still present are Lady Sybell Westerling and her daughter, the widowed Queen Jeyne Stark (née Westerling). Jeyne is in mourning for her husband, in defiance of Sybell's orders; when Sybell moves to slap her, Jaime intervenes and kindly asks Jeyne to leave the solar. Jaime confirms to Lady Sybell that House Westerling has its pardon in thanks for helping bring down the Starks — Sybell's role was to feed Jeyne contraceptives. Her brother Rolph has been named Lord of Castamere and marriages will be arranged for her daughters, though Jeyne will have to wait two years before marrying again to prevent rumours that any resulting children were sired by Robb Stark. Jaime sees much of Cersei in Sybell, Manipulative Bitch that she is, and sends her away, admonishing her: "Your daughter is worth ten of you, my lady."

The following morning, Jaime sees Edmure and the Spicers off, making sure Ser Forley Prester knows that Ser Edmure (and, for that matter, Jeyne) should meet their end rather than be lost to the Lannisters. He then learns that Edwyn Frey's father, Ser Ryman, along with his entire retinue, were hanged by Lady Stoneheart near Fairmarket. The outlaws must be getting bolder if they are willing to kill Lord Walder's heir only a day's ride from the Twins. Content that he has taken Riverrun without having to take up arms against the Tullys or Starks, Jaime later agrees to allow Ser Desmond Grell and Ser Robin Ryger to join the Night's Watch, commanding Raff the Sweetling to escort them to Maidenpool (along with a threat that if anything happens to the two, Raff and his men will live to regret it). During Lord Emmon's speech to the people of Riverrun, Jaime speaks with the singer he took from Ryman Frey earlier. He reveals himself as Tom of Sevenstreams, and tells Jaime that he hopes to play for Lady Genna and Lord Emmon over the winter. That night, Jaime dreams of his mother, Lady Joanna, whom he barely remembers, but the dream disturbs him when his mother cries and asks who he really is.

In the morning, Jaime is astonished to see snow on the ground. The men make the best of it, staging a snowball fight, but Jaime is sobered by the knowledge that the Stark words have come true: winter has come.

Maester Vyman delivers Cersei's message written by Qyburn. The old maester asks if Jaime wishes to respond, but the Kingsguard hands the letter to Peck, saying, "No. Put this in the fire."

Samwell V

The Cinammon Wind has had to dodge its way past ironborn longships on the way into Oldtown; Lord Leyton Hightower is sitting tight in his eponymous castle, unable to do much until Paxter Redwyne's fleet returns, but his sons are doing what they can; his youngest has even set out for the Free Cities, hoping to persuade his sister to loan him some Lysene ships.note  Gilly is to remain safely aboard Cinnamon Wind for the nonce, but Sam wonders if she'll be safe at Horn Hill, as the ironborn have seized much of the Reach's coast. Whilst waiting for an audience, he encounters the boy Alleras, called "the Sphinx" (which startles Sam, as one of Maester Aemon's last rambles was that "the sphinx is the riddle, not the riddler"). Upon hearing Sam explain what's happened to him over the course of this book, particularly the stuff about Daenerys being the prince that was promised, Alleras takes him to meet Archmaester Marwyn, called "the Mage" — more for his belief in magic than his appearance. Marwyn, though cautious about further Prophecy Twists, takes Sam's words to heart. He expresses relief that Maester Aemon passed away during the voyage: he alleges that the Maesters of the Citadel are an Anti-Magical Faction (cf Aemon being consigned to the Wall). Commanding Alleras to look after Sam, Marwyn hastens to the docks: he will travel to Slaver's Bay aboard the Cinnamon Wind, as Maester Aemon had intended. He advises Sam to work rapidly toward his chain, and to never mention anything of prophecies, dragons, or Daenerys to anyone in the Citadel. As he departs, Alleras reveals to Sam that their meeting was not happenstance. The Mage knew Sam was coming, possibly via the now-burning dragonglass candle. The novice in the room the whole time shows Sam to his quarters, finally divulging his name: "I'm Pate, like the pig boy."

Meanwhile, Beyond the Wall...

See A Dance with Dragons for the adventures of Jon, and all others in the North, and Daenerys, and all others beyond the Narrow Sea.
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