Prologue: WilBeyond the Wall, a Nights Watch ranger named Wil is scouting. He serves alongside Gared, a fifty-year-old veteran, and Ser Waymar Royce, who has command by virtue of knighthood despite being a mere eighteen years old. There are few knights in the Sworn Brotherhood of the Night's Watch. The organization was founded some eight thousand years ago to guard the Seven Kingdoms against the supernatural Others and was once considered a noble order by all. However, the Watch has now fallen into disrepair and is now only considered a noble and honorable calling in the North, where second and third sons of noble families (such as the Starks) join for the sake of honor and duty. Alongside them, it is also primarily staffed with criminals and exiles as the Watch fights against wildlings," humans who live north of the Wall and outside the authority of the Iron Throne. Ser Waymar and his companions are beyond the Wall because Wil found a group of wildlings dead, but despite horrific wounds, there was no blood spilled on the ground nearby. When Ser Waymar leads the party to investigate, they find that the dead wildlings have evidently packed up and moved on. However, someone else has come to visit: the Others, demonic creatures of night and snow and cold. Ser Waymar gives them a fight, but a fruitless one. Gared flees while Wil climbs down to investigate the corpse of his slain superior. To his horror, Ser Waymar stands back up, his eyes glowing blue, and wraps ice-cold fingers around Will's throat.
Bran ILord Eddard (Ned) Stark, Warden of the North and Lord of Winterfell, is summoned to execute a Night's Watch deserter; Gared, as it happens. He brings three of his sons with him — fourteen-year old Robb, seven-year old Bran, and his illegitimate son by an unknown woman, Jon Snow note , who is also fourteen. Ned Stark also brings his ward with him — Theon Greyjoy, nineteen — who is the son of the erstwhile rebel Lord Balon Greyjoy of the Iron Islands. Ned, who feels it is his responsibility to take on distasteful tasks, performs the Off with His Head! execution personally, using Ice, the greatsword of House Stark, made of Valyrian steel. In Westeros, seasons last for years, and Bran has never known anything but summer. This is also the first execution Bran witnesses, as Ned Stark brings all his sons when they reach the appropriate age as he feels it is important that they witness the gravity of an execution. Ned explains to Bran that he must execute the man himself as it is believed that the First Men — who the Starks and other Northmen are descended from — believe that he who passes the sentence swings the sword, so that they understand the finality of the task they must undertake: they owe it to the sentenced man to hear his final words. If they cannot do that, perhaps the man does not deserve to die. note
On the way home, Robb and Jon ride off in a race together. The group is interrupted when Jon calls to his father and brother to see what he and Robb have found: a dead direwolf, the size of a pony, who has been gored on the antler of a stag. Robb and Jon also find five newborn pups, who the men and Theon want to kill but Robb, Bran, and Jon want to save the pups and object to killing them. When their father agrees it would be a mercy to kill the pups, Jon uses the Rule of Symbolism to save the pups lives and so each of his siblings can have a pup by pointing out to his father that the direwolf is on the banners of House Stark and Ned has three trueborn sons and two trueborn daughters, while there are two females and three males amongst the pups and they were meant to have them. Moved, Bran notes that the comparison only works out because Jon omitted himself from the count and Ned softly asks Jon if he doesnt want a pup for himself but Jon refuses on account of his illegitimacy. Nonetheless, Jon finds a sixth pup from the litter — an albino pup he finds away from the rest — and adopts him for himself. Ned allows his children adopt the direwolves, but only on the condition that they raise them themselves and do not bother the servants with them.
Catelyn IAt Winterfell, Catelyn Stark seeks out her husband Ned. Catelyn is a daughter of House Tully, ruling house of the Riverlandsnote . She grew up in the south, worshipping the Faith of the Sevennote , and when she came to Winterfell after her Arranged Marriage, she found the North, its religion and her stoic husband imposing. But it turned out to be a Perfectly Arranged Marriage, and she and Ned are now Happily Married. She used to be put out when Ned would retreat to the godswood and pray to the nameless, faceless old gods, as is the custom amongst the First Men, but now she understands that much of what she loves in him comes from this place. Unfortunately, she has some bad news: Lord Jon Arryn, Ned's foster father and brother-in-law (Jon Arryn wed Cat's sister Lysa), has taken ill and died. Even worse, Lord Arryn was Hand of the King, the Number Two of Westeros, and King Robert Baratheon, Ned's surrogate brother, is this very moment traveling north from the capitol of King's Landing to visit Ned. Catelyn is filled with concern: the sigil of House Baratheon is a stag, and she has heard about the direwolf mother and the antler that slew it. Ned, however, who cares little for symbolism, is excited over the thought of seeing Robert again.
Daenerys IWesteros is a continent that spans the hemisphere, from the Lands of Always Winter in the North to the equatorial deserts of Dorne in the south. Its nearest neighbor, across the narrow sea, is Essos. On that continent, in Pentos, one of the Nine Free Cities, a girl named Daenerys Targaryen awaits her betrothed. She is the youngest child and only daughter of King Aerys Targaryen, the Second of his Name, who until his death fifteen years ago ruled all of Westeros, the last of a line of Targaryen kings stretching back to Aegon's Conquest 300 years ago. Her eldest brother, Rhaegar, died trying to pacify a rebellion led by The Usurper Robert Baratheon, while her father Aerys Targaryen was slain by Ser Jaime Lannister, a member of his own Praetorian Guard, when the rebellion finally reached the capitol of King's Landing. Her other brother, Viserys, fled with her across the narrow sea and since then, they have wandered about the Free Citiesnote , an Impoverished Patrician and a Princess in Rags, trying to find someone who will loan Viserys an army. With the help of Magister Illyrio Mopatis, a grossly overweight man from Pentos with a forked beard, Viserys has found that someone: Khal Drogo, who is looking for a bride with which to rule his Dothraki Hordes from the East. Targaryens practice BrotherSister Incest, and though Viserys abuses her both verbally and sexually, Dany would rather marry him than a stranger with whom she does not even share a language. Unfortunately, her dynastic marriage is central to Viserys' plans, and he makes it clear that she is expected to go through with it: "I would let all 40,000 of his men fuck you, and their horses too, if it would win me an army." Daenerys, whose dreams are of a house with a red door — the house where she and Viserys were raised by Ser Willem Darry before his death of natural causes — nonetheless finds it inside her to stand up straight and smile.
Eddard IWhen Robert Baratheon arrives, he brings half the kingdom with him: his queen, Cersei of House Lannister; her twin brother, Jaime Lannister, called "Kingslayer" for his treason; their younger brother, Tyrion Lannister, called "The Imp" on account of his dwarfism; his children by Cersei: Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen; and many more who are not yet worth mentioning. Ned is astonished to see that the Formerly Fit Robert, possessed of Heroic Build but always a Boisterous Bruiser, has become an Adipose Rex in the decade or so since last they met. Almost immediately upon arrival (and to Cersei's dismay), Robert asks to be taken down into the crypts beneath the castle of Winterfell. Buried there is Lyanna Stark, Ned's sister, who was Robert's betrothed. The story is that Lyanna was kidnapped by Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and this sparked Robert's Rebellion, leading to the overthrow of the Targaryen dynasty. Robert spends some time pining for his Lost Lenore. Ned thinks of Lyanna as well, experiencing some internal flashbacks to when he found Lyanna on her deathbed, from where she begged him, "Promise me, Ned." The contents of this promise remain unrevealed, but Ned implies in conversation that she wished to be interred here in the crypts at Winterfell; however, his narration continues to provide Cryptic Background References to the promise at various other times, including at times that have nothing to do with Lyanna's burial.note But soon, talk turns to business. Robert wants Ned to be Hand of the King. He wants Ned as his Hypercompetent Sidekick, much as Jon Arryn was; Ned can be The Good Chancellor, running the country while Robert drinks and whores. It's the last thing Ned wants, but Robert sweetens the deal by offering to wed his son Joffrey to Ned's eldest daughter, Sansa.
Jon IJon observes the feast being thrown in honor of the King. All his trueborn siblings are up at the high table with the royal family. Though Jon usually sits with his family, he has been seated at the tables with squires of a similar age to him as he is his fathers bastard son. He doesn't mind, as it allows him to drink as much as he wants without supervision from his father this time and he can make some observations about the Baratheons (Robert: Adipose Rex; Cersei: Stepford Smiler; Princess Myrcella: insipid; Prince Joffrey: a pouty JerkAss; Jaime Lannister: looks like a real king). It also lets him surreptitiously feed his direwolf, Ghost, under the table and share stories with the other boys at the table. His fathers sole living sibling and Cool Uncle, Benjen, is amused to catch Jon a bit drunk when he joins him. Uncle Benjen is First Ranger in the Night's Watch, which mans the Wall in the far north. Benjen compliments Jons skills and says he can use somebody like him in the Watch and Jon asks Benjen if he can join the order, as he has wanted to become a First Ranger like his uncle and wants to earn his own honor. Jon pleads that his father will finally allow it if Benjen speaks to him but Benjen replies that it's a hard life. Jon argues that hes ready and Benjen tells him members of the Night's Watch serve for life and swear vows of celibacy, and shouldn't Jon know what he's giving up before he gives it up? Jon snaps back that he will never father a bastard child and stumbles from the hall, his eyes unaccountably wet. Outside, he finds Tyrion Lannister, who has come out for some fresh air, and would now like a closer look at a real live direwolf. After a few uncomfortable moments, Tyrion gives Jon some advice: "Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it will not be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you." And then, when Jon asks how Tyrion Lannister, a trueborn son, can know about illegitimacy: "All dwarfs are bastards in their father's eyes."
Catelyn IICatelyn, in post-coital glow, watches her husband throw open the windows to let some cool air in. He plans to turn down the office of Hand, feeling unsuited to court politics. He was the Spare to the Throne; his older brother Brandon was the one who was groomed to rule, and was meant to wed Catelyn Tully but he died before any of it happened. Ned's angst is cut short by Maester Luwin. He delivers a secret message from Catelyn's sister Lysa, hidden in a trinket and written in a code the two developed in childhood. The message claims that Lannisters poisoned Jon Arryn, and are now preparing to move against the king. Ned now knows that he must accept the office of Hand for his friend's sake. He begins making arrangements for the coming departure: Robb must stay, as there must always be a Stark in Winterfell, and Rickon is only three years old. Catelyn's two daughters, Sansa and Arya, and her favorite son Bran — will go with him to King's Landing. Arya and Sansa are Tomboy and Girly Girl; their fates are obvious. And Bran, who wants nothing more than to become a knight of the Kingsguard, will have his best chance to do so. But the subject of Jon brings them all up short. Though Catelyn is now Happily Married to Ned, she remembers the affair Ned had during war-time with a woman whose identity he has kept hidden, which lead to the conception of his illegitimate son Jon. She reflects on how protective Ned is of Jon, who he brought home as a newborn to raise at Winterfell alongside the rest of the family, "Whoever Jon's mother was, Ned must have loved her fiercely, for nothing Catelyn said would persuade him to send the boy away." When Catelyn had asked who Jons mother was and if the rumors about his mother being the Lady Ashara Dayne were true, it was the only time Ned ever frightened her: He is my blood, and that is all you need to know, Ned told her. This woman's Present Absence is why Jon is The Unfavorite to Catelyn: he is a living reminder that she is Ned's Second Love. Ned cannot take him south and had hoped for Jon to stay with Robb at Winterfell, as they are so close, but Catelyn refuses to let Jon stay as he is Neds son, not hers. Ned is anguished by her refusal, not wanting Jon to be shunned at court due to his illegitimate status but when Catelyn continues to refuse and Ned begins to get angry, wanting Jon to remain at Winterfell, Maester Luwin interrupts. Maester Luwin brings up the idea of Jon joining the Night's Watch, explaining Benjen spoke to him about Jon's desire to join the Watch. Ned is very reluctant and doesnt want Jon to leave but believes this is whats best for Jon, as he will be with his uncle, can do well there, and there is honor in the Watch and, after long consideration, he dispiritedly decides to allow it. Meanwhile, Catelyn keeps silent, thinking of the three children she must allow to leave home as well.
Arya IArya labors fruitlessly over her needlework her stitches are so awful, particularly compared to Sansa's, that their governess, Septa Mordane, has been heard to opine, "Arya has the hands of a blacksmith." Unable to take the kill-you-with-kindness Politeness Judo being flung around by Sansa, Sansa's friend Jeyne Poole, and Princess Myrcella, Arya flees the scene with her direwolf Nymeria at her heels. She ends up joining Jon, who is sitting in a high window, looking down at the yard, where Bran and Prince Tommen are sparring with wooden swords (Bran wins pretty handily). Then it's time for Prince Joffrey to square off against Robb. Joffrey adopts an air of disdain; he and his bodyguard, Sandor Clegane, called "the Hound," who has horrible burn scars across his face, take turns in goading Robb into dueling with live steel. Robb accepts the challenge, but Winterfell's master-at-arms, Ser Rodrik Cassel, nips it in the bud, which Joffrey uses to make Robb look cowardly. Jon ruffles Arya's hair and tells her that she'd better face the music about her needlework.
Bran IIThe king is leading a hunting party and it's the day before Bran leaves Winterfell and travels south to King's Landing. He decides to devote his last day of freedom to his favorite pastime: climbing the walls of the castle. Almost everyone in the Stark household has tried their hand at dissuading him from this hobby — Maester Luwin threw a clay figurine out the window; Old Nan told a story about a boy who fell, after which the circling crows ate his eyes — but Bran is surefooted, and likes to feed the crows with corn. (They don't seem to want to eat his eyes.) Bran's direwolf follows him from the ground; Bran has yet to name his wolf and is the last to decide. (Robb names his wolf Grey Wind; Jons is Ghost; Sansa's is Lady; Aryas is Nymeria; Rickon's is Shaggydog.) Bran crosses to the First Keep, which is typically unoccupied, and is startled to hear voices. Within are a woman and a man, naked, having a conversation about how the man should be Hand instead of that stoic popsicle Ned Stark. Ned as the Hand means danger for them, according to the woman, because the king loves him like a brother (more than his actual brothers, the man quips). The talk turns to something more carnal, and when Bran climbs down to see, he realizes that one of them is Queen Cersei Lannister and that the other is her brother Jaime, and that they are engaging in twincest. Cersei sees Bran, and he almost loses his balance, but Jaime, a Knight in Shining Armor from the same Praetorian Guard Bran wants to join, catches him.
Seven, Bran said, shaking with relief. His fingers had dug deep gouges in the mans forearm. He let go sheepishly.
The man looked over at the woman. "The things I do for love, he said with loathing. He gave Bran a shove.
Screaming, Bran went backward out the window into empty air. There was nothing to grab on to. The courtyard rushed up to meet him.
Somewhere off in the distance, a wolf was howling. Crows circled the broken tower, waiting for corn.
Tyrion ITyrion has been delving the secrets of Winterfell's library, but is roused by the howling of wolves. It has not stopped ever since Bran Stark, broken but still clinging to life, was found. Without, Tyrion encounters Prince Joffrey, who makes some off-color jokes about how someone in a Convenient Coma should be put out of his misery. Tyrion slaps some sense into him literally and sends him to pay his respects to the Starks. He then joins his older siblings for breakfast. Neither Jaime nor Cersei have apparently heard the maester's belief that Bran may live, and they trade a significant glance in Tyrion's company. What's certain, though, is that live or die Bran will never walk again. Tyrion reflects on his relationship with his siblings; he and Cersei are not close by any means, but he would forgive Jaime anything, as Jaime was the only person who ever showed him kindness. (This is implied to be part of why he keeps the secret of their twincest.) Tyrion announces that he will part company with the royal train when they leave for the south; he plans to "stand on top of the Wall and piss off the edge of the world."
Jon IIIt's time to leave. Everything's packed. Jon will not see Winterfell, nor his family, for a long time. But he has put off visiting Bran because Lady Catelyn has not left the boy's side. Finally he can delay no longer. Despite Catelyn's demands to leave, he tearfully begs Bran to get well and says theyre all waiting for him to get better him, their brothers and sisters. Catelyn regards this silently. Jon tells Bran he is leaving with Uncle Benjen, having a hard time with the thought of leaving Bran, as Bran had been so excited at the thought of this journey. After Jon kisses his brother good-bye, Catelyn softly confesses that she wished for Bran to stay in Winterfell with her. When Jon tries to comfort her, Catelyn lashes out in rage and pain and declares, "It should have been you." In the yard below, Robb waits, and Jon lies that Robb's mother was very kind to him. Though Cat might have her problems with Jon, Jon is close with all his half-siblings, particularly Robb and Arya. Jon and Robb hug and bid each other warm farewells. But Jon has left the best for last. He travels up to Arya's room, where she is attempting (ineffectively) to get Nymeria to help her pack. He gives her a parting gift: a sword he commissioned Mikken, the castle's blacksmith, to make for her. It's a fencing sword, side-sword of the style used by water dancers in Braavos (or the closest thing Mikken could approximate), slender but deadly sharp. He also gives her her first sword-fighting lesson: "Stick them with the pointy end." Arya is delighted and wonders who shell practice with. On the verge of tears, she wishes Jon was coming with her, their father and their sister, and Jon ruffles her hair, calls her little sister and assures her, Different roads sometimes lead to the same castle. As he and Arya hug, Jon tells her all the best swords have names. Arya asks what the name of her sword is and Jon tells her that it's named after her favorite thing. She and Jon say it together: Needle.
Daenerys IIIt's Wedding Day for Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo, son of Bharbo. Dothraki weddings are savage affairs, taking place outdoors (the Dothraki believe that all things of import must be done under the open sky), with public sex and duels to the death, sometimes related. Daenerys, though largely overwhelmed, makes a new friend: Ser Jorah Mormont, an exile from the Seven Kingdoms, the home Dany is from but has never actually seen. When it is time for the gifts, she receives an avalanche of fancy things, including three handmaidens from her brother (Irri, Jhiqui and Doreah, the latter a pleasure slave from Lys and the only of the three who speaks the Common Tongue), and three bodyguards from her husband (Aggo, Jhogo and Rakharo). She also receives, from Magister Illyrio, three dragon eggs from Asshai, long turned to stone by the ages but still lovely to behold. Dragons are thematic to House Targaryen: their heraldry is a three-headed dragon, red on a black field; and Aegon the Conqueror was able to unite Westeros, the first person ever to do so, because his family brought dragons from Valyria, dragons for himself and his sisters Rhaenys and Visenya to ride upon. The dragons were black-and-red, cream-and-bronze, and green-and-gold. Dany's eggs are the same color, which is totally not foreshadowing. Dany's other gift of note is a silver filly, the color of smoke and wind; she and Daenerys take to each other immediately. But after the gifts comes the consummation. Khal Drogo leads Daenerys away on their horses, and the thirteen-year-old girl begins to weep at the thought of this imposing warlord, with whom she shares no common language except for only one word—"no"—and the knowledge of what he is about to do to her body. But once they are alone, the khal shows consideration, and even tenderness, to his bride. He treats her as a lover would and, in the end, Daenerys comes to him willingly: "Yes."
Eddard IINed, on the kingsroad heading south, is rousted from his bed by the king. Robert is looking back on his life, envying the carefree days of his youth, joking about all the bastards he's sired on willing women over the years (he knows of at least two). Since Ned has only one youthful indiscretion to be teased about, Robert teases him about Jon Snow's mother, a woman so beautiful that she could make Eddard "Honor Before Reason Up to Eleven" Stark forget that he was already married. Ned refuses to rise to the bait and becomes cold, giving up only the name "Wylla." Robert also wants to discuss statecraft. He has learned of Daenerys's marriage, and suggests sending an assassin; his hatred of Targaryens is well-known, stemming from his belief that his betrothed was kidnapped and raped against her will, and he supported the murder of Rhaegar's children Aegon and Rhaenys, both less than three years old, during the Sack of King's Landing. The intelligence comes from a spy, Ser Jorah Mormont, who fled into exile about two steps ahead of Ned and Ice after it came to light that he was selling some poachers; Westeros may have its share of social deficiencies, but they have at least outlawed slavery. Mormont now informs for the crown in hopes of a pardon. Robert is ready to order a hit, certain that some great houses (Martell in Dorne; Tyrell in the Reach) harbor loyalist sympathies, but Ned counsels patience: though this Khal Drogo is rumored to have a hundred thousand men at his command, what he does not have is ships, as Dothraki loathe any sort of water their horses cannot drink and thus have never had any use for a navy. Until that changes, Westeros is safe across the narrow sea. Talk then turns to the late Lord Jon Arryn, and in particular his son Robert (named after the king), a sickly boy wracked with shaking fits. This sickly boy now rules ones of the Seven Kingdoms (the kingdom of Mountain and Vale). Additionally, House Arryn has traditionally held the role of Warden of the East, controlling the region in time of war... but since the boy is in no shape to swing a sword, much less lead an army, Robert has instead given the title to someone who can handle it: Jaime Lannister. Ned protests, pointing out that since Jaime's father Tywin, Lord of Casterly Rock, is already Warden of the West, House Lannister now controls half the realm's armies. He also distrusts Jaime personally: in addition to being a kingslayer, he was also the person who was sitting on the Iron Throne, the corpse of Aerys the Mad sprawled at his feet, when Ned Stark reached the throne room to take control of the city. Robert laughs off this "great sin," claiming it was probably Not What It Looks Like.
Tyrion IIThe little Night's Watch party, lead by Benjen, are already a fortnight's travel from Winterfell, but they are still nowhere near the Wall to Tyrion's amazement, since he's from the south and used to the denser use of land there. They have linked up with Yoren, a recruiter, who has with him two boys who chose a life of servitude at the Wall instead of being executed for rape on the spot. Tyrion can see how Jon, who believes the Night's Watch is a noble and honorable calling, is beginning to become disillusioned by the quality of his future brothers-in-arms. Since Tyrion can't help set up camp, he has formed a habit of stealing away with a skin of wine and a book from Winterfell's libraries. This one is about dragons, with which Tyrion has been fascinated since childhood. It details how, during the Conquest, Aegon Targaryen won a battle against 40,000 men, led jointly by Mern of House Gardener, King of the Reach, and Loren of House Lannister, King of the Westerlands, by simply unleashing all three of his dragons at once. With Balerion, Meraxes and Vhagar in the skies, the army had no answer, and was burnt to a crisp. The battle became called the Field of Fire and afterwards, Tyrion notes, his ancestor Loren had the sense to bend the knee to the Targaryens, rather than see his line exterminated. As Tyrion reads, Jon happens upon him and asks him about his reading. Tyrion, mentally noting how much of the Stark look Jon has, responds that he has a realistic grasp of his own strengths and weaknesses and prefers to think that, as a dwarf, his head is big enough to hold his large mind and so he chooses to use his mind as a weapon. He tears down Jon's idealized notions (that Jon's half-siblings also have) about the Night's Watch. When Jon argues that the Night's Watch is a noble calling, Tyrion says Jon is too smart to believe this and describes in detail how much the Watch has fallen into disrepair. Jon is near tears by this point, prompting Tyrion to feel guilty, and he reaches out to the boy. However, he finds himself pinned underneath Ghost. After Jon gets Ghost off Tyrion, Tyrion apologizes and jokes with Jon. Jon then asks if what Tyrion said about the Watch is true and Tyrion nods silently. Though unhappy about this, Jon accepts the grim reality and admires Tyrion's acceptance of harsh truths, to Tyrion's approval. Tyrion suggests they get back before Jon's uncle sends a search party for them. As they come back to camp, they are met by Jon's uncle Benjen, who was looking for Jon and is relieved Jon is safe. Later, when Tyrion looks at Jon, he notices Jon looking contemplatively into the flames and Tyrion smiles sadly to himself.
Catelyn IIIAs Catelyn watches over Bran's broken form, unwilling to leave him even for a second in case he dies, Maester Luwin approaches. With Lord Eddard and large portions of his administration gone, it is Catelyn's job to govern Winterfell in his stead. However, Catelyn can think of nothing but her favorite son, and Robb steps in to handle the decisions. He then tries to snap Catelyn out of her ongoing Heroic BSoD, pointing out that Rickon needs his mother and, for that matter, so does Robb. It doesn't really work, though; even when the library catches fire, Catelyn remains fixated on Bran's safety. It takes a smelly man with a knife to do it. He moves on Bran, claiming that it would be a mercy, but Catelyn fights him, eventually being reduced to grabbing the blade with her own hands. It's Bran's direwolf who ends the fight, ripping the man's throat out before settling on his master's bed. Catelyn, after four days of sleep, re-gathers her faculties and determines to show House Stark how a Tully behaves in times of crisis. Robb, Theon Greyjoy, Ser Rodrik Cassel and Maester Luwin come to visit her with news. The man had been sleeping in the stables since the king left, and had a bag of silver stags on him. Additionally, the knife's Absurdly Sharp Blade was of Valyrian steel, its hilt dragonbone. Such a blade, made of two kinds of unobtaniumnote , is far too fine for a common catspaw to own. So Catelyn, in confidence, tells of her sister Lysa's warning. Catelyn has concluded that Bran did not fall but rather was pushed, probably because He Knows Too Much. Jaime Lannister, whose absence during the hunt was noted, is the most likely culprit, especially in light of this clumsy attempt to silence Bran a second time. All agree with her logic, but Maester Luwin points out that there is no evidence. Catelyn thus resolves to travel to King's Landing by ship and present her conclusions to her husband in person. She leaves Robb in charge, naming him the Stark in Winterfell.
Sansa IThe royal party has stopped at the inn at the crossroads, but are due to depart. Sansa is thrilled that she and Arya have been invited to ride in Queen Cersei's wheelhouse for the day, reclining on pillows and eating lemon cakes. Arya has no interest in this, preferring to ride on horseback and sight-see with her new friend Mycah, the butcher's boy. They plan to visit the "ruby ford," the place on the Trident where Robert fought and slew Rhaegar Targaryen; the name comes from the rumor that rubies from Rhaegar's breastplate were knocked loose by the killing blow and can still be found on the riverbed. Sansa thinks Arya is stupid to like riding. When she returns to the wheelhouse, she learns that an honor guard has been sent from King's Landing. Her prince Joffrey introduces one of them as Ser Ilyn Payne, the King's Justice (that is, executioner); he is gaunt, creepy and silent, as King Aerys had his tongue torn out. Another is Ser Barristan Selmy, Famed In-Story, called Barristan the Bold, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, wearing the white armor and cloak of his office. The third, clad in green and with an antlered helm, asks Sansa to guess his name, and she draws on the resemblance between him and Robert and identifies him, correctly, as Renly Baratheon, youngest of the three brothers and Master of Laws on Robert's small council. Renly brings affairs of state, and Cersei is forced to cancel her lunch date with Sansa. However, she details off Joffrey to escort Sansa for the day. She offers to do whatever he wants, and gushes that she loves riding; he also manages to convince her that they will be safe without their escorts (Lady and The Hound), brandishing his sword, which he has named Lion's Tooth. As they ride along the Trident, they come across a boy and a girl sword-fighting with sticks. One is Mycah, the butcher's boy, and the other is Arya. Joffrey tells Mycah to face him, stick to... sword, as punishment for fighting with his fiancée's sister; when Mycah refuses, Joffrey begins to prick the boy's cheek with his sword, insisting, "I won't hurt you, much." Arya, furious, smashes her stick over Joffrey's head, and the prince begins to cut at her wildly. Nymeria saves the day, mauling Joffrey's arm. Arya takes his sword and throws it in the river: "She didn't hurt you. Much." Sansa offers to go for help, and Joffrey snaps at her; Sansa realizes that he despises her.
Eddard IIINed is relieved to hear from Vayon Poole, his steward, that Arya has been found; it's been four days since Prince Joffrey was mauled. He's less pleased to hear that Arya has been hauled directly before the king and queen, instead of being brought to him first. Robert has the good grace to apologize for this, claiming that he wanted to resolve the matter quickly. Cersei and Joffrey's version of events is that Mycah and Arya beat him with clubs and held him down while Nymeria made a chew-toy of his arm. When Arya's side is told, Renly begins to chortle that Joffrey, twelve-years-old and trained by the best in Westeros, was disarmed by a nine-year-old girl wielding a stick. The only person who can provide objective testimony is Sansa, but she claims she can't remember. This starts a Cat Fight which further undermines the solemnity of the occasion. Robert suggests that he discipline his child and Ned discipline his and, for a moment, it looks like the situation is resolved... until Cersei calls for the pelt of the wolf that did this. Nymeria is suspiciously, conveniently absent; Lady isn't. Arya and Sansa for once agree on something that it's unfair for Lady to be The Scapegoat for Nymeria but Robert bends to Cersei's will. Ned insists on doing the grisly deed himself, lamenting how trusting and well-behaved Lady is, and then details four of his guardsmen to inter the wolf's body in the crypts at Winterfell, so that Cersei can never get her hands on Lady's pelt. The evening's final blow lands with the return of the Hound. He has Mycah... cut down from horseback. "He ran. But not very fast."
Bran IIIBran has a number of dreams, all filled with portentious (or perhaps pretentious) foreshadowing. He dreams that he is falling, has been falling forever, but a crow is telling him to learn how to fly. Below he sees all of Westeros, including events he should not know about, being in his coma and all: his father pleading with the king, Sansa crying herself to sleep, Arya keeping secrets, his mother aboard a ship contemplating a bloodstained knife and Jon sleeping alone in the north. Beyond the Wall is something that fills Bran with fear. The crow tells him that this is why he must learn to fly: because winter is coming. It pecks at Bran between the eyes. Bran tries to fend it off... and finds himself in Winterfell, servants scrambling to spread the news. Bran's direwolf jumps onto his legs, but Bran can't feel his weight. When Robb arrives, Bran says, "His name is Summer."
Catelyn IVCat and Ser Rodrik Cassel have arrived safely at King's Landing. Ser Rodrik proposes to make some contacts within the Red Keep, but help comes in the most unusual form: a scroll with a mockingbird seal. It's from Petyr Baelish, a young man from a remote set of islands called the Fingers who grew up in Riverrun with Catelyn, her sister Lysa and their brother Edmure. Baelish is lord of the smallest of those isles, and so was dubbed "Littlefinger" by Edmure. He also fancied Cat, who has not seen him for years, though she has heard rumors of his rise to become Robert's master of coin. And yet he has written to her, when she has barely stepped onto the dock, offering help. Trusting Littlefinger, Catelyn agrees to meet him. When Littlefinger asks after her motives in visiting, she lies that she yearned to see her family. However, when Littlefinger's other guest Lord Varys, master of spies to King Robert, a eunuch from across the narrow sea arrives, he asks immediately to see the dagger. Littlefinger admits that he has seen the weapon before: he once owned it. During a tourney thrown in honor of Joffrey's name-day, he bet on Jaime Lannister to out-joust the Knight of Flowers, but the Kingslayer lost his horse instead. And the winner, who correctly bet on Loras Tyrell? "The Imp. Tyrion Lannister."
Jon IIIJon is training in the yard at Castle Black, sparring against the other new recruits, who are bigger than him. He's basically handing out Curb Stomp Battles left and right, even knocking the sword straight out of the hands of a lumbering ox named Grenn. This does not earn him the praise of the master-at-arms, Ser Alliser Thorne, who mockingly calls him "Lord Snow" for being a bastard son with a young lords upbringing. Jon changes out of his sparring gear alone, having made no friends; he misses his family, particularly his brothers and his sisters, Arya most of all, and has not even seen uncle Benjen since Benjen went on a ranging (sent to find Ser Waymar Royce and his party, as it happens). Grenn and three of the boys he just beat, all sentenced to the Wall for crime, attempt to corner him in the armory, and a brawl breaks out, stopped only by the arrival of Donal Noye, the one-armed smith of Castle Black. He points out that Jon's superiority in combat is not the product of nature but rather nurture: he's the only one amongst them who has even held a sword before, received training at arms from an anointed knight, and grew up in a castle raised by a lord father. The boys call him "Lord Snow" because Jon acts as though he is better than them, which they can't be expected to like even if it's true (or because it's true). Jon feels ashamed and guilty after hearing this. Once alone, Jon encounters Tyrion, who asks if Jon is concerned that Benjen is over a fortnight overdue; a lot of rangers have been disappearing lately, and Benjen seems to be no exception. Jon is very worried about his uncle but refuses to give up hope for him. As Jon and Tyrion sit down for the evening meal, Jon is summoned to the Lord Commander's office to hear news about his brother Bran as his brother Robb has sent him a letter. Tyrion extends his sympathies, assuming the worst, but Jon reads Robb's letter to him, which tells him that Bran has woken up and will live. Jon is jubilant that his brother will live and returns to the common room. He apologizes to Grenn, promising to teach him how to counter the move, just as Robb taught it to him (after first demonstrating it, of course). Ser Alliser scoffs, claiming that Jon has no more chance of teaching Grenn swordwork than Ser Alliser has of teaching Ghost to juggle, but Jon responds, Ill take that wager, Ser Alliser. Id love to see Ghost juggle. This makes Ser Alliser the laughingstock of the room, and Jon realizes he has made an enemy for life.
Eddard IVNed arrives in King's Landing after untold days of travel, ready for a meal and a hot bath. Instead, he's whisked away by two different parties. The first is Robert's small council, demanding his attendance at an urgent meeting. Only four members are awaiting him, and of them he has only met Renly. Ned is introduced to Grand Maester Pycelle, who receives a seat through his office; Varys, called "the Spider" behind his back; and Littlefinger, whom Ned knows solely through reputation. Missing are the king's middle brother, Stannis Baratheon, master of laws, who sailed for Dragonstone shortly after the king's departure and has not returned; Ser Barristan Selmy, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, who like Pycelle receives a seat through his office; and Robert himself, still making his way through the city with Ser Barristan at his side. The other members get the meeting started; if history is any indication, Robert is unlikely to attend anyhow. They are here to discuss a tourney which Robert intends to throw in honor of Ned's appointment as Hand of the King. Though Robert will have to borrow money from the Lannisters to fund the whole thing, it will only be a drop in the bucket, as Robert's administration is already millions of dragons in debt. Ned is astonished to hear about this financial mismanagement, especially since (for all his other faults) Mad King Aerys left a full treasury behind. He declares that this extravagance will not come to fruition, and leaves to ponder who his foster brother has become. He is then whisked away by the second party: Littlefinger, who takes Ned to a brothel (one he owns). Catelyn waits within. She gives him the Valyrian-steel dagger and tells him of all that has transpired. Ned can easily believe that Queen Cersei would countenance the murder of a child, and wonders privately if Robert would be willing to do so; but he cannot see why Tyrion would have a vested interest in seeing Bran dead. Either way, he and Littlefinger resolve to gather evidence of Cersei's treachery to place before the king. He sends Catelyn on her way with secret orders to fortify Moat Cailin and the Neck; the North must be prepared in case This Means War!
Tyrion IIIOn his last evening with the Night's Watch, Tyrion is dining with the upper officers. By use of snide jests he is able to cause Ser Alliser Thorne to quit the table, and he takes a moment to point out that Thorne takes a little too much relish in being the Drill Sergeant Nasty. Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, called the "Old Bear," points out that Ser Alliser is one of the very few anointed knights to swear service to the Night's Watch (even though he, as did a number of others, swore at sword point, having made the mistake of remaining loyal to the crown during Robert's Rebellion). Mormont, and Castle Black's maester, Aemon, ask if Tyrion might be persuaded to take the black, as they recognize Tyrion's value Maester Aemon even goes so far as to call Tyrion "a giant here at the end of the world" but the dwarf, though flattered, demures. He and Mormont retire to the Lord Commander's chambers, where Mormont makes an impassioned plea for Tyrion to bend the ears of the royal court and send help to the Night's Watch: rangers are being lost regularly, the King-Beyond-The-Wall (Mance Rayder, himself, a former member of the Watch) is gathering the strength of the wildlings, and it is rumored that something worse stirs in the Lands of Always Winter. Against this, the Watch numbers less than a thousand men, and garrisons only three of the nineteen castles built along the base of the Wall. Tyrion promises to spread the word, and means it, though he reflects internally that the court is unlikely to listen. Finally, he takes the hand-powered elevator up the seven-hundred-foot height of the Wall; at the top, Jon has been assigned to endless night watches due to Ser Alliser's machinations. Jon is taking it all in stride, proud of the progress the recruits have made under his tutelage. Jon asks Tyrion to help Bran, if it is within his power, and offers his hand in friendship. Tyrion, moved, accepts it.
Arya IIArya watches her father enter the Tower of the Hand, late to dinner, and can tell that he's been arguing with the small council (again) about the tourney (again) that he doesn't want held in his name. Sansa is all a-bubble over it, of course, since Prince Joffrey would be there; this leads Arya to ask if she can skip the whole shindig, and Sansa, in a way only an 11-year-old girl can, informs Arya that she isn't wanted there anyway. Lord Stark snaps at them both to quell the fight, and then leaves table, his appetite gone; soon after, Arya does the same, feeling abandoned, and still resentful that nobody lifted a finger to save Lady or Mycah. When her lord father knocks on her door, she is fingering Needle. Ned is a little concerned to see the sword: if his own daughter is being armed out of his own forge without his knowledge, how can he rule the Seven Kingdoms? He muses that Arya reminds him of his sister Lyanna; she had "the wolf blood," as did his brother Brandon, and would've carried a sword if she had been allowed to. (Arya protests that everyone says Lyanna was beautiful, whereas everyone calls her "Arya Horseface.") Ned asks if she knows how to use it, and she says that she had asked Mycah to help her train... and suddenly Arya is crying in her father's arms. She confesses that she and Jory had to throw rocks at Nymeria to make her flee, and wonders if this makes the deaths her fault. Ned tells her that she needn't burden herself with that guilt, but also tells her that she needs to grow up: they are surrounded by foes, "and winter is coming." To survive, she must make her peace with Sansa. So Arya apologizes to Sansa, and means it. Three days later she is introduced to her new "dancing master" Syrio Forel, former First Sword of Braavos. He will teach her to use her sword in the Water Dancing style.
Daenerys IIIDaenerys gazes alone over the Dothraki Sea, a vast plain that spans much of the continent of Essos. It is as yet untouched by Khal Drogo's khalasar, and she gives orders for his people to halt so that she may experience it alone. Ser Jorah goes to obey her orders, observing that she is becoming a queen, but Daenerys corrects him: "No, a khaleesi." As she rides, she reflects on the recent past: her body is becoming stronger, overcoming its saddle sores; she is becoming accustomed to her nightly coupling as Khal Drogo takes her horsie-style, and even beginning to enjoy it a little; and, as Ser Jorah has noticed, she is more comfortable in her authority. While the transition has been difficult, the sight and thought of her dragon eggs has given her strength. But suddenly Viserys charges up and screams at her for forgetting her place, for giving him orders. She shoves him in return, resisting him for the first time in their lives, shocking them both. Viserys recovers first, but before he can do more than posture, Jhogo, one of Daenerys's bodyguards, ensnares him with his whip. Irri, the handmaiden, asks whether the khaleesi would like this interloper killed or merely maimed, but Daenerys says to only take his horsestill a humiliation amongst the Dothraki, as he who cannot ride is no man at all. Viserys demands that Ser Jorah kill his Dothraki assailants, but instead Ser Jorah obeys his khaleesi. As they ride off, Dany marvels at her own courage, but soon realizes that her brother cannot do what he has promised; he cannot take the Seven Kingdoms, even if Khal Drogo gave him an army. That night, when Khal Drogo comes to take her, she leads him outside, under the open sky, and instead takes him, riding him, claiming she wishes to see his face. As he climaxes, he calls her name, and she sees something very like love in his eyes. A month later, on Daenerys' 14th birthday, the handmaiden Jhiqui regards her belly and declares her pregnant.
Bran IVBran watches from his window as Rickon plays with Shaggydog and Summer, and tries not to cry. Old Nan, possibly the oldest person in Westeros, offers to tell him a story, launching into a tale about the last time the Others came, in the coldest winter the Seven Kingdoms had ever known. They hated fire and warm blood; they brought with them the Long Night, a night that lasted a generation; they could not be turned away by the swords of men. Nan has just started on the part about how the last hero set out to find the children of the forest and turn them away when Maester Luwin pops in, summoning Bran to the great hall to meet Tyrion Lannister. With him comes Old Nan's only living relative: her great-grandson, Hodor, the seven-foot slow-witted stableboy who is called that because it's the only word he knows. (His real name is Walder.) Hodor bears Bran down to the hall, where Robb sits with sword unsheathed, pointedly greeting only the men of the Night's Watch who have come with Lannister. Tyrion addresses Robb as "boy," and when Robb demands to be called "lord," Tyrion counters that he ought to act like one. When he sees Bran, he asks if Bran remembers the circumstances of his fall, but Bran has developed Laser-Guided Amnesia about the event. Tyrion then provides a parchment with a schematic on it: a saddle, based on the one Tyrion himself uses, which should hold Bran stably on horseback. All in the hall are then startled when the direwolves arrive and, as one, begin to menace Tyrion. Robb, called back to his manners, offers Tyrion the hospitality of Winterfell, but Tyrion (whose breeches are, by his own admission, "unaccountably damp") decides to take a room at the local inn instead, as this will make everyone feel safer. After the Starks feast the members of the Night's Watch (Yoren, the recruiter, is the only one named) and hear the unfortunate news of their uncle, Robb carries Bran to bed himself, and the two sit long into the night assuring each other that Catelyn will return soon, and that they will go on an adventure to visit Jon one day.
Eddard VNed is interviewing Grand Maester Pycelle, trying to learn of the nature of Lord Jon Arryn's passing. Pycelle reports that Jon Arryn had asked about a particular book a doorstopper chronicling the family trees of the Great Houses and that the next day he took ill. Pycelle is unwilling to grant that the illness itself was unusual, and does not think that anyone should put stock in Famous Last Words (Lord Arryn's were "The seed is strong"). Ned suspects poison, and Pycelle admits that poison is the tool of weak women... and eunuchs. Was Ned aware, by the way, that Lord Varys is a eunuch? Ned thanks him, asks to have the book sent to him, and departs. At the Tower of the Hand, he finds Arya practicing her balance; Syrio Forel has claimed that a water dancer can stand on only one toe. ("Ned had to smile. 'Which toe?' he teased.") He then finds that Littlefinger awaits him. Baelish has brought news: most of Lord Arryn's household departed for the Eyrie when Lysa Tully fled there with her son, but four remained in King's Landing. Littlefinger bids Ned seek out one of them in particular: Ser Hugh of the Vale, knighted by King Robert shortly after Lord Jon's death and to send a proxy (Jory Cassel in this case), since, as Littlefinger points out, both the queen and Varys have spies poised to keep watch on him.
Littlefinger fingered his small pointed beard. "You are slow to learn, Lord Eddard. Distrusting me was the wisest thing you've done since you climbed down off your horse."
Jon IVWhile Jon is training the other recruits in the yard and helping them learn to fight, the next wave of new recruits come in. Most notable amongst them is Samwell Tarly, a boy as large as a sow and about as martial. Ser Alliser, disgusted, has Grenn beat on Sam until Jon steps up and tells him to stop. This devolves into a three-on-three melee, with Jon and his newly-minted True Companions Grenn and Pyp on the winning side. In this way, Jon adds a Fat Best Friend to his Cast Herd in the form of Sam, a self-professed Dirty Coward. Jon draws Sam's Dark and Troubled Past out of him and learns Sam is a scholarly type, who loves books and has a low physical aptitude (a nerd, in other words). Sam had the misfortune to be the firstborn son of Lord Randyll Tarly of Horn Hill, who suffers from possibly the biggest case of Testosterone Poisoning this side of the narrow sea. After trying all manner of things to make Sam man up, Tarly settled for having a second son Dickon be his heir. He then disowned Sam, informing him that he could choose the Night's Watch or to have him suffer a Hunting "Accident". Jon, having heard this story, protects Sam and tells his fellow recruits that they will follow Ser Alliser's orders in "sparring" with Sam, but will not beat him harshly or to death as Alliser secretly hopes. Jon, Ghost, and his friends enforce this physically when necessary. After the months pass and Sam feels welcome, he thanks Jon, saying he's never had a friend before; but Jon, having learned from his Boot Camp Episode, corrects him and says they are not friends, but rather brothers.
Eddard VIIn small council, Ned hears the complaints of Janos Slynt, Lord Commander of the City Watch (also called the "gold cloaks" for their garmentry). The Hand's tourney has brought in people from all over the realm, and the peace is suffering for it. After donating twenty of his own guardsmen to Slynt and authorizing the hiring of more still, Ned returns to his chambers, where he contemplates the book Pycelle gave him: The Lineages and Histories of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms, With Descriptions of Many High Lords and Noble Ladies And Their Children, by Grand Maester Malleon. Ned feels certain that some secret hides within, but can't say what. Jory Cassel helps give him a clue. Acting as Ned's proxy, he has learned of Lord Jon Arryn's travels in his last days: on one day to a brothel (accompanied by, of all people, Lord Stannis Baratheon, the elder of Robert's younger brothers, and not a man to frequent such places), on another to a blacksmith on the Street of Steel. There Ned goes as well. The armorer, Tobho Mott, has plenty to say about the quality of his work he knows how to rework Valyrian steel, for instance but he confesses that Lord Jon mostly wanted to speak to Mott's apprentice. Said apprentice, Gendry, has crafted a bull's helm for himself, excellent work that he refuses to sell. Mott explains that, some years ago, an anonymous lord paid the apprentice fee so that he would take Gendry on. Gendry has blue eyes and thick black hair; he recalls that his mother, a whore, had Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold. Ned thanks him for his time and takes his leave. Jory asks his lord if he has found what he sought, and Ned says that he did. What he cannot explain is why Gendry whose Strong Family Resemblance to Robert Baratheon shows him to be one of the king's many illegitimate children is worth murdering over.
Catelyn VCatelyn and Ser Rodrik are riding up the kingsroad, bound for Winterfell. At the inn at the crossroads (where Lady, unbeknownst to Catelyn, met her untimely end), Cat decides to stop for a warm meal and shelter from the rain. The inn is full of men heading south to King's Landing for the Hand's tourney. Ser Rodrik is concerned that she will be recognized, as Catelyn used to visit it with her father, Lord Hoster Tully of Riverrun, quite often in her youth; but they pass right by one of her father's lord bannermen, Lord Jason Mallister, without him noticing. Within, Cat ponders her options: from this inn, the road leads west to Riverrun, where her father presides (but has been lately ill), and east to the Eyrie, where her sister presides (having fled there after Lord Jon's death); ultimately, though, she decides to continue her course for Winterfell. She also ponders whether she can count on any of the riverlands lords. She knows from Robert's Rebellion that her father will call for his bannermen, and that some will bide their time Walder Frey, Lord of the Crossing, got his nickname "the Late Lord Walder" by arriving to fight only after Rhaegar was slain (in addition to being, as of the present day of 298 AL, 90 years old) while others may choose to remain loyal. Cat's ruminations are disturbed by the pestering of a singer, Marillion, who believes his talent worth coin; additionally, the door bangs open and Tyrion Lannister walks in. When told there are no rooms available, he offers gold to anyone who will give one up, and a free rider named Bronn takes the offer. Marillion switches his badgering to Tyrion, who is surprised to recognize Lady Catelyn Tully Stark just hanging out incognito at the inn at the crossroads. Once recognized, Cat knows what she has to do. She is surrounded by men who (serve men who) serve her father, and questions their loyalty to House Tully. Once she has gotten the answers she seeks, she points at Tyrion, calling him the man who attempted to murder Bran, and calls upon them to bind him for trial.
Sansa IISansa rides to the Hand's tourney in a litter, accompanied by Jeyne Poole and Septa Mordane. Sansa is positively enthralled by the assembled chivalry of the kingdom; to her, it betters the songs and tales she loves so well. When the jousting begins, she manages to keep her composure, not shielding her eyes when the lances thud together; in this way she watches Jory Cassel tilt successfully against two opponents but then lose his third round, against the hedge knight Lothor Brune, by arbitration of the king. She even retains her composure during the second joust of Ser Gregor Clegane, "the Mountain that Rides." Tilting against Ser Hugh of the Vale, the Mountains lance accidentally takes the boy through the throat, leaving him to bleed out on the ground. Jeyne, crying hysterically, has to be taken away by Septa Mordane, but Sansa, her head full of songs, isn't moved until she realizes that Ser Hugh will never be the subject of one. The Mountain's brother, the Hound, also excels; they two, the Kingslayer and Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers, are the semifinalists at the end of the day. Sansa gains attention from Ser Loras, in the form of a flower (though he claims that she is sweeter than any victory), and from Lord Petyr Baelish, who mentions that she has her mother's hair. During the nights feast, Joffrey is exceedingly courteous to Sansa, manfully ignoring the pain from his mauled arm, but gets called away when the king quits the field after insisting in a drunken rage that he will fight in the mêlèe tomorrow, see if he won't! Joffrey assigns the Hound, with his fearsome burn scars on his face, to escort Sansa back to this castle. Sandor Clegane takes it upon himself to disabuse Sansa of some of her naïveté, insisting that his brother slew Ser Hugh on purpose, mostly because he could. Sandor is one to attest to his brother's cruelty: when he was young, he picked up a toy which Gregor had discarded and played with it. To lay down the law, Gregor, freakishly large and strong even then, pushed his brother's face into the fire and held it there. Sansa's fear of the Hound has disappeared, replaced by pity, and she tells the Hound that her brother is no true Knight in Shining Armor; the Hound agrees, but points out that nobody cares about his brother's brutality. He then instructs Sansa to keep the secret of his disfigurement on pain of death.
Eddard VIINed and Ser Barristan Selmy turn the body of Ser Hugh of the Vale over to the silent sistersnote . Since House Clegane is sworn to House Lannister, Ned cannot help but wonder if the Mountain was instructed to Make It Look Like an Accident, thus withholding Ser Hugh's testimony from Ned's ears. They then approach King Robert's pavillon, where Robert is having trouble fitting into his armorbeing an Adipose Rex will do that to you. Robert vents his anger by sending his squires, Tyrek and Lancel Lannister, on a Snipe Hunt for a "breastplate stretcher." Ned searches for a way to convince Robert not to fight in the mêlèe; it's Ser Barristan who points out that Robert will win by default, as no man would dare strike him. Robert sends him away, lamenting his lot in lifehe was made for fighting, not kinging, and he knows how poor a ruler he is. He never wanted Cersei, he claims, only Lyanna; but Jon Arryn brokered the marriage, as Robert would do well to have House Lannister, the single most powerful house in the Seven Kingdoms, on his side in the wars to come. He admits that the only reason he has not abdicated is the thought of his Royal Brat Joffrey sitting on the throne, Cersei whispering in his ears. But, with Ned at his side, the two of them have a chance to make Robert into a king to sing songs of. Thereafter the mêlèe goes off without a hitch, being won by Thoros of Myr and his flaming sword, and at the feast his daughters are even pleasant to each other, with Arya showing off the bruises she has earned from her dancing lessons. (" 'You must be a terrible dancer,' Sansa said doubtfully.")
Ned is left with the Valyrian-steel dagger and a host of questions. He is certain Bran's crippling is related to Jon Arryn's death, but has no idea how or why. There's also no reason Gendry, or either of Robert's other acknowledged bastards (Mya Stone, currently a member of Jon Arryn's household, or Edric Storm, whom Robert had to acknowledge because he fathered him on the highborn Delena Florent, at Stannis's weddingin Stannis's wedding bedbefore Stannis and Selyse had used it) should cause panic to the Lannisters, since they cannot disinherit Robert's trueborn children with Cersei. A knock on the door turns out to be Varys, who reveals himself to be a Master of Disguise. Varys congratulates Ned on dissuading Robert from fighting in the mêlèe, as there had been plans to Make It Look Like An Accident him too. Ned is at first furious that Varys did not tell him this immediately, but Varys points out that Ned would have done exactly what Cersei didforbid Robert from fightingand only hardened the king's resolve to do so. It was also a Secret Test of Character on Varys's part: he now knows that Ned prioritizes The Needs of the Many. In exchange, he answers some questions straight up. Jon Arryn was killed by a rare and costly poison called the Tears of Lys, which (as an ongoing theme for this chapter) Make It Look Like An Accident, or at least an illness. The deliverer, Varys is not certain of, though recent events make Ser Hugh of the Vale a likely candidate. But when Ned asks why Jon was doing that resulted in him being killed now, after fourteen years of tireless Hand-Of-The-Kinging, Varys answers, "Asking questions."
Tyrion IVTyrion reflects bitterly on the circumstances of his captivity. After Lady Catelyn made her statement, about a dozen men had risen up in support of her, including sellswords and free riders whose only prize was the possibility of glory; three in particular are named Lharys, Kurkulet and Mohor. However, while a dozen rose to support her, three or four times as many stayed put, and when Catelyn announced, "often and loudly," that she would take the Imp north, the Imp would add that his father, Lord Tywin Lannister of Casterly Rock, would pay handsomely for word of Tyrion's capture. Tyrion was quite sure that rescue will find him on the road to Winterfell... until he noticed that they were actually on the eastern road to the Eyrie. The knowledge that Catelyn Stark had outwitted him is what galls him the most. Still, as they travel, he is able to erode Lady Stark's confidence in her verdict. The idea that he would arm a catspaw with his own blade, for instance, is so foolish that even Cat and Ser Rodrik must admit it. When Catelyn protests that Littlefinger would never lie to her, Tyrion points out that he's lied about having taken her maidenhead, many times. This gets Cat's dander up, as she still sees Littlefinger as someone who bore a tragic but innocent torch for her, and so Tyrion asks for the exact story of how he (Tyrion), according to Littlefinger, won the blade. Cat says that Tyrion won it by betting correctly that the Knight of Flowers would unhorse the Kingslayer, but cannot get out more, as the clansmen of the Mountains of the Moon descend on them. The attackers have scavenged weapons and little armor, while the Stark party boasts castle-forged steel, but they are outnumbered enough that having four men idleTyrion and his two Lannister servants under guard, and someone to guard themcould spell the end of them. So Tyrion and his men are armed, with Tyrion receiving a double-bladed axe from Bronn. Tyrion stays on the outskirts of the fight, relying on stealth, wits and back stabs to keep himself alive; he is a little surprised as how well he manages himself. At the end, he comes across Lady Catelyn cornered by three men. Despite thinking that he might as well abandon her to her fate, he finds himself rushing in. He knocks out one, and while the other two are distracted Cat slits the throat of the second, leaving the third outnumbered and bidding a hasty retreat. As they set off again, having lost four men but killed at least five times as many, Tyrion is pleased to be allowed to keep his axe, and also to score the most important point he can: Littlefinger's story about him betting against Jaime must be false, because Tyrion never bets against his family.
Arya IIIAs per instructions from Syrio Forel, Arya is attempting to catch all the cats in the Red Keep, one by one, and show them to him. She is now on the last one, a black tom with a torn ear, "older than sin and twice as mean." She finally corners him in an alleyway and snatches him up, but at this inopportune moment Princess Myrcella and Prince Tommen walk by, and want to know what "that boy" is doing with the cat. Avoiding apprehension, Arya gets herself lost in the bowels of the Red Keep, ending up in a storeroom that houses the skulls of House Targaryen's dragons. While attempting to find her way to daylight, she starts to overhear a rather oblique conversation. It's between two men: one grossly overweight, with a forked beard "the liquid accent of the Free Cities," another a portly Master of Disguise she thinks she recognizes. The conversation makes no sense to her: something about some guy finding bastards, and someone trying to kill the guy's son, and a princess being pregnant and a khal not being willing to move until his son is born, and that the forked-beard one wants to move now while the Master of Disguise one wants to delay, and that the wolf and the lion will soon be fighting each other, and that the Master of Disguise is truly a wizard? It's all strange. Once Arya gets herself back to the Tower of the Hand, she spills as much of it as she can... but since the conversation was indirect enough that even some readers didn't get itnote , Arya hasn't a chance in seven hells of relating all of it correctly. (Crucially, she also omits the one paragraph that used actual names.) Ned dismisses her concerns, certain she overheard some mummers rehearsing for a play or something, and sends her away when Yoren of the Night's Watch arrives. As her father's guardsman Desmond escorts her to her room, she asks if they can kill wizards. Desmond allows that they can: "A wizard dies the same as anyone else, if you cut his head off."
Eddard VIIIKing Robert is attending the small council for once, but not for reasons that bode well: intelligence has arrived (via Ser Jorah Mormont) that Daenerys Targaryen is pregnant, and Robert is now more convinced than ever that he should send an assassin her way. Ned fights the idea with every argument he has that the whole point of overthrowing the Targaryens was to prevent the killing of children; that Ser Barristan Selmy fought against Robert the day Rhaegar was slain, but Robert pardoned him and he is now Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. But when the vote is called, everyone except himself and Selmy vote for Dany's death. As the council begin to debate the best way of carrying it out an order of assassins called the Faceless Men, which Littlefinger decries as far too expensive; Ser Jorah himself; the Tears of Lys, the mention of which provokes a reaction from Grand Maester Pycelle Ned Turns In His Badge, resigning the office of Hand, and heads back to his chambers to pack with the king's curses ringing in his ears. He wonders what Robert will do when news reaches him of Cat's kidnapping of Tyrion Lannister; Robert may not care much for the Imp, but it is clear that Cersei has his ear in these matters. He decides that he and his daughters will leave for Winterfell tomorrow, by ship or overland with a picked guard, while the rest of the household follows in a more orderly fashion. His plans are interrupted by Littlefinger. Baelish has convinced the king to offer lands and titles to whoever slays Daenerys Targaryen. In his opinion, this gives her the highest chance of surviving, since it opens the door to all manner of fools and bunglers. Littlefinger also has an offer. While Ned visits the blacksmith where Gendry was apprenticed, his men have been trying to find the brothel that Lord Jon and Stannis visited, without much success (at least, in terms of official business). Littlefinger proposes to bring Ned there, and Ned accepts.
Catelyn VICat arrives at the Bloody Gate, the outermost defense of the Eyrie. Of the dozen or so she started with, only six remain: herself, Ser Rodrik, Ser Willis Wode, the singer Marillion, the sellsword Bronn, and her precious captive Tyrion Lannister. She is greeted by the Knight of the Gate: her uncle, Ser Brynden Tully, called "the Blackfish" because he is the Black Sheep of the family and House Tully's sigil is a leaping trout. He guides her down the Vale of Arryn, towards the Eyrie perched on the mountain known as the Giant's Lance, as they trade stories; she brings Tyrion with her, with Bronn deciding to accompany him (the two have been thick as thieves of late), and Marillion requesting to be included as well. Ser Brynden's thoughts are for the riverlands: it shares borders with every kingdom of Westeros save Dorne, and is always the first place to be ravaged by war. He also tells Cat not to rely on her sister. He is certain a woman could rule the Vale, if it came to that, but is just as certain Lysa is not that woman; she has become paranoid and hysterical since her husband's death, and fears Lannisters above all. By nightfall they arrive at the Gates of the Moon, beyond which are the tower keeps of Snow, Stone and Sky, the last of which serves as the basement of the Eyrie itself. The Blackfish begs Lord Nestor Royce, the castellan, for hospitality for the night, but Royce tells them that Lysa has ordered that Catelyn ascend with all haste, With the help of Mya Stone, the oldest of Robert Baratheon's bastards, Catelyn does, trusting to Mya's instincts and the sure-footed mules to make the harrowing ascent. Nonetheless, Cat does consent to taking the winch hoist up from Sky instead of making the last bit of climb on foot. Lysa receives her warmly... until the two are alone, at which point she castigates Cat for bringing a Lannister into the heart of her sanctuary. When Cat protests that Lysa warned them of the danger, Lysa agrees: she wanted to avoid fighting, and resents being dragged into it now. They are interrupted by Lysa's pride and joy, her son Robert... a pale and sickly child who still suckles his mother's breasts at the age of six. Catelyn cannot help but compare him to her own youngest, Rickon, half his age but already giving orders to a giant wolf. She realizes that her uncle tried to warn her that this is what she would find from her sister, who is currently cooing over Robert and promising that she is happy to do just about anything he wants... including execute Tyrion Lannister.
Eddard IXNed returns to the common room of the brothel, where Jory and Littlefinger await him. Littlefinger is speaking with Chataya, the owner of the establishment, about purchasing a controlling stake in the business. Ned had reflected earlier that the idea of a brothel being visited by Stannis Baratheon, a man of little passion and iron discipline, seemed queer; but once he saw the whore's newborn bastard, Barra, with her blue eyes and black hair, he understood. As he and Littlefinger ride home through the rain, he remembers when Lyanna became betrothed to Robert, and how realistic she was about the fact that he would never stay loyal to her. When he brings up the subject to Littlefinger, and his suspicions that this hunt for Robert's bastards was what led to Jon Arryn's death, Baelish points out that the children's existence is too Trivially Obvious to be worth killing for. Ned thinks of Rhaegar Targaryen, the man who probably would be king right now if not for Robert's Rebellion, and has a hunch that he would not have left so many illegitimate children lying around.note His thoughts are interrupted by the arrival of the Kingslayer and some twenty Lannister men-at-arms. Ser Jaime wishes to inquire about the health of his brother Tyrion, who it seems has met some trouble on the road. Littlefinger, who is of little use in a fight, scampers off to bring the City Watch. Ned delays the fight by pointing out that if he is killed, his wife will certainly kill Tyrion, and Jaime acknowledges this, instead ordering that Ned's men be slaughtered. It's Wyl, Heward and Jory Cassel against twenty; it does not go well. In the confusion, Ned's horse slips and lands on his leg. Littlefinger arrives to find him cradling Jory's body.
Daenerys IVKhal Drogo's khalasar has finally arrived at Vaes Dothrak, the only city of the Dothraki people. It is home to the dosh khaleen, all widows of khals, as well as the looted monuments from a hundred broken cities, but is mostly empty of population. As each rider enters the city, he surrenders his weapons, as Sacred Hospitality forbids the spilling of blood in the city. Viserys is ahorse again; it took much pleading before Drogo would let him ride again, and this was only after Viserys got the nickname "the Cart King" because he accepted a ride in a cart meant for the old and infirm. Viserys is impatient and ready to receive his army. Ser Jorah observes the Funny Foreigner faux pas: to Viserys, the dynastic marriage of Dany to Khal Drogo was a business transaction, but to Khal Drogo it was an exchange of gifts, to be completed in its own time. Dany admits that Viserys probably would amount to a General Failure even if he got his army. She asks if the Dothraki will be able to pose an effective military threat in the Seven Kingdoms (presuming someone competent to lead them), and Ser Jorah admits that they might: the Dothraki are far more mobile, consisting solely of The Cavalry whereas a Westerosi army would be about 90% infantry, and are superior archers. If Robert Baratheon were Hot-Blooded enough to meet them in the field, he would probably lose. But there is no military reason for the Westerosi not to just hunker down in the castles, which would force a stalemate as the Dothraki have neither taste for The Siege nor talent for Storming the Castleand Robert has enough calm-minded men around him, like Stannis Baratheon, Tywin Lannister and Eddard Stark, that sense would eventually prevail. After they arrive, Dany learns that her husband must make religious sacrifices, granting her a night of rest from his amorous attentions. She decides to invite Viserys over to dine, and to offer him clothes which she has had made in Dothraki fashion to replace his rotting silks. However, when Viserys arrives, he is in a fury, as Doreah misworded the invitation as an order. Viserys starts to physically intimidate her... but what he starts, she finishes, whacking him across the face with a belt (his new belt, she had intended) adorned with gold medallions and leaving a cut on his cheek. Viserys stalks out, spitting that she will rue this day when he is king, and Daenerys curls up around her three dragon eggs to sleep.
Bran VWith the help of the saddle invented by Tyrion Lannister, Bran is learning to ride. Leather straps bind him fast to the horse's back, and he and his new horse, Dancer, are both learning to adapt to each other. For the first time, he is being allowed outside the castle grounds, in company of a large party Robb, Theon Greyjoy, Maester Luwin, and more. As they ride, Robb tells Bran the news that arrived by raven overnight: not only is Uncle Benjen still MIA, but word of their mother's caper with Tyrion has finally arrived, and of the death of Jory Cassel and of their father's broken leg. Whenever Bran thinks about the Lannisters, his stomach clenches and he gets dizzy, and he asks to return to the castle. Robb agrees, but tells Bran to stay put while he tracks down Grey Wind and Summer. This leaves Bran undefended when six people, a mixed force of Night's Watch deserters and wildlings in both genders, happen upon him. They decide to take him hostage. Robb, Grey Wind and Summer finally return, and the three make short work of five of the interlopers; the last, Stiv, cuts Bran out of the saddle and puts the knife to Bran's throat. This forces Robb to surrender... but no one was counting on Theon Greyjoy, who puts an arrow through Stiv's chest. Robb is too furious to be polite yelling at the guardsmen for being absent, yelling at Theon for taking an unnecessarily risky shot but calms down when asked what to do with the sole survivor, a wildling woman named Osha. Though Theon suggests giving her to the wolves (who are already making a meal of a couple of the slain), Robb orders her taken back to Winterfell for questioning.
Tyrion VTyrion is imprisoned in one of the sky cells of the Eyrie. It's a Deadly Environment Prison with fresh air and a stunning view of the Vale of Arryn... and No Fourth Wall, meaning if Tyrion were to roll over in his sleep he might accidentally take a one-way trip six hundred feet down. Even better, the gaoler, Mord, is a sadistic bully who likes to hold Tyrion's dinner out over the edge of the floor. He got here because Lysa Arryn accused him of murdering her husband, and Tyrion, Too Clever by Half, got into full Not Helping Your Case mode with a side of Deadpan Snarker. Only the intervention of Lady Stark prevented him from being shown out the Moon Door, the Arryn method of execution (similar in premise to the sky cells). Tyrion decides to confess his crimes, as it is his only chance of not taking the final leap out of the sky cells; though it takes some bribing of the thick-headed Mord to do, he's finally brought to the high hall by Ser Vardis Egen, Lysa's master-at-arms. Tyrion has a perfect audience: the sisters Tully are present, as is Bronn and Marillion the singer (whom Tyrion knows is his ticket to getting the truth told), but little Robert is abed. Tyrion confesses his sins: whoring, gambling, wishing his own father and sister dead, speaking ill of the royal court. Lysa demands he confess to the murders of Jon Arryn and Bran Stark, and Tyrion says, Sorry, I can'tI didn't do them. When Lysa proposes to consign him back to the sky cells, Tyrion gets on his soapbox and demands a proper trial, not this Kangaroo Court. Lysa counters by pointing out that her son will be the judge of Tyrion's guilt... her son, who has already expressed an interest in seeing "the bad man fly." So Tyrion demands Trial by Combat. Lysa counters by naming Ser Vardis Egen as her champion (overruling Ser Vardis's unease at being asked to "win" a "fair fight" against an untrained dwarf). Tyrion demands the same office, and names his brother Jaime as his champion, Jaime is, of course, hundreds of leagues away, which will delay the proceedings... so Lysa counters that Tyrion's champion must be present here, now. Tyrion looks out over the long hall and asks if any man is willing to die for him... or, preferably, kill for him. As it turns out, Bronn is.
Eddard XWracked with pain, Eddard has a Flashback Nightmare to an ancient Sword Fight: seven facing three around a small tower keep in the red mountains of Dorne, a keep which (it was said) Rhaegar Targaryen had named the tower of joy. Ned was one of the seven. The three were knights of the Kingsguard, Famed In-Story: Ser Oswell Whent, the Black Bat of Harrenhal; Ser Arthur Dayne, called "the Sword of the Morning" for his Ancestral Weapon, a BFS made of Thunderbolt Iron named "Dawn"; and the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard himself: Ser Gerold Hightower, called "the White Bull."note Within the tower was Lyanna Stark, crying out in pain: "Promise me, Ned." Seven facing three, but at the end, the only ones standing were Ned Stark and the crannogman Howland Reed, and Ned had the tower torn down to build cairns for the fallen. Ned struggles out of the dream and finds that he has been unconscious for six days. The Kingslayer has fled the city, and King Robert is without, demanding an audience. Robert demands that Ned order Catelyn to release Tyrion, make his peace with the Lannisters and call it eventhree Starks dead for five Lannisters. Cersei demands more, loudly, until Robert backhands her across the face. After she has left the room, Robert criticizes his own actions: "That was not... that was not kingly." I was always strong... no one could stand before me, no one. How do you fight someone if you cant hit them? "Rhaegar... Rhaegar won, damn him. ... He has Lyanna now, and I have her." He officially refuses to accept Ned's resignation and bids him rule while Robert takes a hunting trip to the kingswood. "And if you ever throw it in my face again, I swear to you, Ill pin the damned thing on Jaime Lannister.
Catelyn VIICatelyn and her uncle Brynden are tired of Lysa's antics, and decide to leave after the Trial by Combat, whatever its outcome. Besides, things outside are heating up: the Kingslayer is at Casterly Rock gathering an army, and Cat's brother Edmure is fortifying the borders between the Westerlands and the Riverlands to prevent invasion. For Edmure, an Upper-Class Twit with (currently) no war experience, to be taking on the defense instead of Lord Hoster Tully, a proven commander and actual lord of Riverrun, indicates to Cat that her father must be extremely ill. Cat, the Blackfish and Ser Rodrik go down to a grassy park where the duel will be held. Lysa is holding court with her many suitors, while little Robert is entertained by a puppeteer. Catelyn attempts to dissuade Lysa from holding the trial, pointing out that there is no outcome which doesn't benefit House Lannister (Tyrion's continued lifespan notwithstanding), that the Lannisters will still demand reparation even if the gods do proclaim Tyrion's guilt, and that Tyrion is her prisoner. None of it works. Lysa named the Lannisters as the hand who poisoned her husband, and now seems convinced that Tyrion did it because he happens to be the only scapegoat in her reach. Now the combatants are brought forward. Ser Vardis Egen is a Stone Wall, a Knight in Shining Armor with longsword and heavy oaken shield, his only weak point being a vision slit in his helmet; Bronn, a Fragile Speedster, is protected only by a half-helm, ringmail over boiled leather, and steel shinguards on his boots... and is fifteen years younger and has longer reach. As the two fight, Catelyn remembers another duel fought in Riverrun many years ago a duel in which Petyr Baelish challenged her fiance, Brandon Stark, for Cat's hand. It was a Curb-Stomp Battle, and Littlefinger lived only because Cat begged Brandon to spare him. They never spoke again until King's Landing... where Baelish set in motion the duel currently before her eyes. Bronn has taken the route of Hit-and-Run Tactics, forcing Ser Vardis to tire himself with weight of sword and shield. Finally the knight overcommits, and Bronn takes him. Despite Robert's demands to see the bad man fly, Lady Lysa agrees that Tyrion is to be given his possessions and allowed to leave... by the same treacherous, bandit-haunted roads he came in through. But despite this second death sentence passed on him, Tyrion merely smiles and says that he'll find his way.
Jon VSince more recruits are marching up the kingsroad, Ser Alliser Thorne has decided to promote eight existing trainees. Grenn, Dareon, Pyp, Jon and several other extras will get to swear their vows as brothers of the Night's Watch. Sam is not named. They realize that Sam will be hurt without them to keep him safe. So Jon goes to see Maester Aemon. He requests of the maester (who, despite having no formal authority over the Watch, is Mormont's trusted advisor) that Sam also be promoted: Ser Alliser has declared that he will make a man of Sam or kill him in the trying, and Jon has no doubt of which outcome will occur. Maester Aemon asks how Sam can benefit the Night's Watch, and Jon points out that, as a nerd, Sam would make an excellent helper for Maester Aemon himself: he can write, read and do sums, is good with animals like messenger ravens, and has a quick mind. Reflecting on his studies under Maester Luwin, Jon explains that the Nights Watch needs all kinds of people, like a maesters chain needs all kinds of metals representing different areas of study, like a land needs all sorts of people. Maester Aemon compliments Maester Luwins lessons to Jon, as well as Jons own intelligence. He agrees to think on Jon's words and bids him goodnight.
Tyrion VITyrion overrules Bronn's recommendation, which is for them to press on, and gets him to build a fire. If the clansmen of the Mountains of the Moon are going to descend on themand they areTyrion figures he would rather face his fate on a full stomach. Bronn makes it clear that he is not Tyrion's servant, and Tyrion responds that he wants no such; he trusts in Bronn's self-interest to guide him in a way that Tyrion will find beneficial. After all, he received no compensation from the Starks, who are too honorable to think that virtue need be rewarded. If anyone ever tries to buy Bronn out, Tyrion says to come to him; Tyrion will pay him double. To warm the gloomy night, Tyrion sings a song that Bronn recognizes from nights spent in brothels and taverns; Tyrion admits that his First Love sang it to him... and suddenly he's spilling some of his Back Story. When he was thirteen, he and Jaime were riding near Casterly Rock when they encountered Tysha, a Heartwarming Orphan being harassed by some would-be rapers. While Jaime sought to hunt the men down, Tyrion took the girl to an inn and had her fed. The wine went to his head, and when he kissed her, she kissed him back. But it wasn't just a Rescue Romance: Tyrion took her to a septon for My Own Private "I Do", and for a fortnight they were man and wife. ...until the septon sobered up and told Lord Tywin the truth. At that point, Jaime revealed that the whole thing was a set-up, and Tysha a whore, whom Jaime hired for purposes of Tyrion's Professional Sex Ed. (He even paid extra for a maiden, knowing it would be Tyrion's first time.) Lord Tywin then brought Tyrion to Casterly Rock, where Tysha was pressed into servicing an entire barracks of guardsmen.
After a time he heard the noise again, the rasp of stone on steel as Bronn sharpened his sword. "Thirteen or thirty or three, I would have killed the man who did that to me."
Tyrion swung around to face him. "You may get that chance one day. Remember what I told you. A Lannister always pays his debts."
Eddard XIOne of the king's duties is to sit the Iron Throne and hear the pleas of his people... but the king is in the forest, hunting, and so the duty falls on the Hand. Ned is uncomfortable sitting the Iron Throne, and not just because of his broken leg: Aegon the Conqueror had the seat made of the swords of his enemies, for uneasy should sit the arse that wears the crown.
Sansa IIISansa, who was present at court, expresses to Jeyne Poole her incredulity that her father did not choose Loras Tyrell, the most bishounen man in the Seven Kingdoms and proceed to romanticize about talk about various knights, disagreeing on who is dreamier. Sansa and Jeyne then discuss Sansa's conviction that Joffrey will be a much better ruler than his drunken father. Sansa doesnt believe Joffrey had anything to do with her fathers men being killed and believe it was Jaime Lannisters fault. They are also both incredulous that Arya has been walking around on her hands, and wonder why Arya does anything she does. Sansa tells Jeyne about Yoren, a member of the Nights Watch, who looked pretty gross and not at all like the idealized knights she had envisioned manning the Wall. She worries about her half-brother Jon and hopes, for his sake, that the men of the Nights Watch are not like Yoren. The next morning, Sansa rises early to watch Lord Beric's force departs, and then settles down to breakfast. The instant Arya arrives, the Tomboy and Girly Girl bickering starts. Arya wonders why no one is trying to bring the Kingslayer to justice for killing Jory Cassel, or the Hound for killing Mycah the butcher's boy, and Sansa points out that it's different, because Mycah attacked Joffrey first. Arya erupts in fury, but Sansa is serene in the knowledge that once she marries Joffrey, Arya will still have to bow and scrape and call her "Your Grace." Arya throws an orange at Her Grace, staining Sansa's white dress, and Sansa shouts that instead of executing Lady they should have killed Arya. Septa Mordane sends both of them to their rooms, and Sansa cries herself to sleep. When the two are hauled before their lord father, Sansa takes the opportunity to pin the fight on Arya, but Arya takes the opportunity to apologize, and offer to fix the dress. (This actually causes a brief Heroic BSoD on Sansa's part.) But Ned doesn't care: he's sending his daughters back to Winterfell. Neither girl wants to go, Arya because of her dancing lessons and Sansa because of her Arranged Marriage. ("For once, you agree on something," Ned observes drily.) Both Ned and Arya try to talk some sense into Sansa, but she is set on her mission to wed Joffrey and give him beautiful blond sons. He will be a far superior king to Robert, she insists: "He's not the least bit like that old drunken king." This causes Father to get a funny look on his face, and he declares the discussion over, sending Arya (now excited at the idea of sailing home) and Sansa (still despondent) to pack.
Eddard XIIAs Grand Maester Pycelle tends to Ned's leg, he "accidentally" mentions that the queen has received a raven from her father, indicating that Lord Tywin is "greatly wroth" over Ned's condemnation of Lord Tywin's loyal bannerman, Gregor Clegane. Ned replies that he doesn't care, as Lord Beric travels under the king's banner, and that Lord Tywin had better watch his step: the one thing Robert likes, and is good at, is flattening rebel lords. (He knows that Pycelle has been bought by Cersei, and passed along the threat on purpose.) Alone, he reflects on the Eureka Moment Sansa's words gave him, and wonders how he'll ever tell her. He also knows he must go to Robert with his insight when the king returns. As such, he invites Cersei Lannister to meet him in the godswood. For the first time in a while, she seems comfortable in her beauty, and he treats her with courtesy, asking if Robert has ever hit her before. She says that he has, but never on the face, as her brother would kill him if he did. This is when Ned asks if Jaime is her brother or her lover. Cersei does not deny it; he is her True Love, she claims. She admits that Bran saw them coupling, asking if Ned's own children don't bring out his Papa Wolf tendencies. Ned declares that all of Cersei's children are Jaime's: every one of Robert's bastards has his black hair, and in that giant book of family trees from Pycelle, every child born from the union of Baratheon and Lannister had black hair... but Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen are Lannister blond, defying the Strong Family Resemblance. This was the meaning of Jon Arryn's Dying Clue ("the seed is strong"). Cersei claims that Robert barely stumbles to her bed these days, preferring his whores; the one time he actually got her pregnant, she went to a Back-Alley Doctor and got rid of it. He asks about their Awful Wedded Life, and she explains how, on their wedding night, during Their First Time, Robert was handsome"muscled like a maiden's fantasy" is how Ned referred to the fellow in an earlier chapterbut "he was on top of me, in me, stinking of wine, and he whispered Lyanna." Rejecting her offer of alliance, Ned lays down the law to her: since he plans to tell Robert of her treason the moment the king returns, Cersei needs to flee into exile before he does. She had best take her brother and father with him, if possible, as Robert's Roaring Rampage of Revenge is a foregone conclusion. But Cersei, rather than tremble at the heroic version of "Just Between You and Me," mocks him for assuming she will not resist. She also tells him that not taking the throne 14 years ago, the day he found her brother sitting on it, was his last mistake: "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground."
Daenerys VDany is struggling with probably the most unappetizing thing she's ever eaten: the heart of a stallion, served fresh and whole. As part of a Dothraki ritual, she chokes it down bite by bite; her ability to handle the tough, stringy thing will determine whether the child will be weak, deformed, stillborn orworst of allfemale. With Khal Drogo watching over her, pride slowly kindling in his eyes, she manages to consume the whole thing. The dosh khaleen proclaim that her child will not only be a son, but a prince who was promised: The Stallion that Mounts the World, the khal who will unite all khalasars under his rule. Daenerys has decided to name him Rhaego, after her oldest brother; Drogo approves, once he has heard some of the feats that this man performed. Afterwards, a feast has been prepared for those who could not attend the ritual, but Viserys is not present; Ser Jorah says he has gone down to the market to find wine, and that Ser Jorah caught him trying to steal one of Dany's dragon eggs. Soon Viserys does arrive: drunk, clad in his rotting clothes, and wearing his sword. He throws a tantrum about how dare you savages start the feast without me, and draws his sword. The assembled Dothraki have fallen deathly silent; to them, This Is Unforgivable! Dany tries to calm him down, but Viserys is having none of it; he threatens to take her back unless he gets his army and the crown he was promised, and to leave her baby behindsliced out of her. (The handmaiden Jhiqui is scared to translate this statement, for fear that Khal Drogo will have her killed merely for uttering them.) When Daenerys translates, Khal Drogo declares, You shall have a splendid golden crown that men shall tremble to behold. The crown, in point of fact, will be molten gold, gold that Khal Drogo melts in a pot before upending it over her brother's head.
He was no dragon, Dany thought, curiously calm. Fire cannot kill a dragon.
Eddard XIIINed dreams of the crypts below Winterfell. The Kings of Winter sit their thrones, their blind eyes watching him, and Lyanna whispers to him, "Promise me, Ned." Ned jerks out of the Catapult Nightmare to hear someone knocking on the door. Ned has been summoned to the king's chambers in the middle of the night. Ser Barristan Selmy stands without, and his face says that something is hideously wrong. And it is: within lies Robert Baratheon, the First of his Name, with his innards hanging out of a tear that stretches from pelvis to breast. Renly explains that Robert was hunting a boar, and Robert chimes in that he had drunk too much and missed his thrust. He got the boar on his second try, despite his guts sliding out of his own belly. Once the two old friends are alone, Robert admits that Ned was right about not murdering Daenerys Targaryen, and that the gods sent the boar as Laser-Guided Karma. Robert dictates his will, which declares that Ned will be regent until his son comes of age. Ned, wracked with guilt, engages in a short quantity of Forging the Will, changing Robert's wording from "my son" to "my heir" to allow the throne to pass to Stannis. Robert's last wishes are to serve the boar at his funeral, to spare Daenerys, and for Ned to help make Joffrey a better king than Robert was. He promises to give Lyanna Ned's love. Without, Ned tells Ser Barristan not to blame himself; the king certainly does not. Varys, appearing out of nowhere, asks who was providing the wine, and Ser Barristan recalls that it was his elder squire, Lancel Lannister. He promises also to send counter-orders to the ones ordering Dany slain, but, as he puts it, "those birds have flown."
As Ned returns to the Tower of the Hand, Renly catches up to him and offers to put a hundred swords at his command, with which to seize the Red Keep and separate Cersei from her children. Ned refuses, on grounds that Robert has not died yet, but once alone, he begins to doubt. He gives orders for his daughters to board ship for Winterfell, and for the ship to stop at Dragonstone, to deliver a letter to Stannis Baratheon; this letter, which Ned composes, tells Stannis that the throne is his to take, as the younger brother of a king who died without trueborn issue. He also sends for Littlefinger. Baelish's advice is to side with Joffrey: Stannis's ascension will mean war, as he tries to clear the realm of anyone who ever opposed him (Cersei and her children; the entirety of House Lannister, by extension; House Tyrell and Redwyne, who besieged Storm's End during Robert's Rebellion; etc; etc). If Ned instead accepts the regency, he can rule for four years, attempt to groom Joffrey into something other than the Almost Trope Namer for Royal Brat, andif that proves impossible to do (which it probably will)replace him with Renly. All of this is treason, of course, but only if Ned loses. Ned refuses, claiming that Littlefinger has forgotten Jory Cassel, Jon Arryn, Bran's maiming, and the other wrongs done by House Lannister. Littlefinger replies that the only thing he forgot was that he was talking to a Stark. But Ned is willing to play dirty, at least a little. He sends Littlefinger to bribe the Janos Slynt and the City Watch, and make sure they are on his side, hoping it will be enough.
Jon VIJon learns that Sam has been promoted out of training with the other eight boys, and pretends to be surprised. At the sept, Lord Commander Mormont gives them one last chance to back out of the Night's Watch, but no one does. He then asks if any of them keep the old gods. Jon, a northerner, does; Sam also decides to convert, on grounds that the Seven have never answered his prayers. The new recruits are then assigned to one of the three orders of the Watch: two go to the builders and four to the rangers. Sam and Dareon the singer are assigned to the stewards, as well as Jon. Jon sees Ser Alliser's satisfied smirk at this pronouncement and thinks it an intentional snub. First Steward Bowen Marsh puts Sam as Maester Aemon's assistant, sends Dareon to the recruiting arm, and Jon as the Kid Sidekick to the Old Bear. Jon is still furious about the assignment why should he be a freaking valet when he's the best rider and swordsman of the graduating class? until Sam points out the obvious: Jon is going to be the Old Bear's Number Two. They're grooming him for command. Jon realizes his childishness and apologizes to Sam. Under the eyes of the weirwoodswhich are on the other side of the Wall, so Jon does get to range beyond the Wall, if even only for this short timeJon and Sam make their vows, with a small escort of rangers even though wildlings have never been seen this close to the Wall. As they begin to pack up, Ghost lopes up with something in his jaws. It's a hand.
Eddard XIVNed, upon waking, sees Lannister guardsmen drilling in the yard. It means Cersei has not heeded his warnings. Shortly after Arya leaves for her last "dancing lesson," Grand Maester Pycelle arrives with the news that Robert has finally given up the ghost. Ned assembles the small council immediately, intending to get them to confirm him as regent. The small council has dwindled further: in addition to Robert being absent due to a fatal case of death, Renly has fled with Ser Loras Tyrell and fifty retainers. Ned now presides over Ser Barristan Selmy, Varys, Pycelle, and Littlefinger, who mentions to Ned that he has done as he was bade. However, before they can ratify, they are summoned by King Joffrey of House Baratheon, the First of His Name. In the throne room, Joffrey is backed by the Kingsguard and twenty Lannister armsmen, but a hundred gold cloaks line the walls, in addition to what remains of Ned's household guard. Joffrey demands his small council swear their oaths of fealty to him today, and that he be crowned within the fortnight. Ned protests that Robert has written a will that... Cersei tears it up, declaring that Westeros has a new king now. She gives Ned one chance to bend the knee and retire peacefully to Winterfell... but Ned insists on staying the course, proclaiming Stannis the true heir. Joffrey demands Ned's arrest, and swords start coming out all over the place. Ned calls for the City Watch topeacefullytake the children into their custody. Instead, the gold cloaks begin killing Stark guardsmen.
Arya IVArya's lesson with Syrio Forel is going well: he has to lie to her to sneak a blow past her, but when she complains, he points out that a water dancer sees what is, not what the opponent wants her to see. The lesson is interrupted by Ser Meryn Trant, resplendent in Kingsguard white, and four Lannister armsmen, who want to take Arya into custody. Syrio Forel fights the delaying action: his swiftness, experience and wooden sword are enough to deal with four mooks, but once it's Ser Meryn, armored head to heel in steel plate and with a longsword to snap the First Sword of Braavos' stick in half it's a different story. Arya flees back to the Tower of the Hand, where she finds many of her father's guards and household slain. In the stables, where her possessions are half-packed, she retrieves Needle, but is happened upon by a stableboy who intends to turn her over to the queen. Overwhelmed, all of Syrio Forel's teachings abandon her, but she still remembers her first lesson: stick them with the pointy end. She retreats into the catacombs beneath the Red Keep, armed with both Needle and the memory of her family, determined to survive.
Sansa IVEver since the fighting started three days ago, Sansa and Jeyne Poole have been sequestered away in Maegor's Holdfast "for their safety." Jeyne has been crying uncontrollably, sure the Lannisters are killing everyone they can get their hands on. This may or may not include the king; the bells started ringing for him on the second day. On the third, Ser Boros Blount comes to take Sansa to meet the small council: Cersei, Littlefinger, Pycelle, and Varys, all done up in mourning colors. Sansa wants to know what's going on, pointing out that she told Cersei about Ned's plans to flee and that this must surely prove her loyalty. Cersei requires one more act of good faith: she requests that Sansa write letters to Catelyn, Robb, Lysa Arryn, and Hoster Tully, proclaiming that she (Sansa) has not been mistreated and urging them (her family) to come to King's Landing and bend the knee. Sansa, pleased to be given an important task and totally unaware of just how completely she's been outplayed, agrees. As she heads back to Maegor's Holdfast, she realizes she has forgotten to ask what became of Arya.
Jon VIIJon, Sam and the other members of the Night's Watch have brought back the corpse which formerly owned the hand. It's Jafer Flowers, and with him Othor two of the men last seen riding north with Benjen Stark. The corpses seem fresh, but Sam stuttering, blubbering, almost unmanned by the bodies points out that there's no blood flowing from where Ghost tore off the hand, nor any scattered around the area (which there ought to be, as both men were cut to ribbons). Additionally, the corpses are neither rotting nor despoiled by any wild animal. And did either Jafer Flowers or Othor have blue eyes when they set out? Lord Commander Mormont orders them brought back to Castle Black for study, and compliments Sam on his wits. All the excitement is wiped away by the news Jon receives when he gets back to the castle though: not only is King Robert dead, but his father has been imprisoned for treason. (Mormont intends to request that Ned be spared and sent north to take the Black instead.) Jon is stunned and distressed upon hearing the news of his father, worrying about his father and sisters, Sansa and Arya, and needs to know more. Mormont gives him all the news he has and tries to assure Jon that his sisters will be well treated. Jon is in a devastated haze, deeply concerned about his father and sisters. Mormont warns Jon not to do anything stupid... but when Jon overhears Ser Alliser insulting his father, laughing about the "traitor's bastard," he attacks with a knife, and is confined to his quarters until Mormont decides how to deal with him. That night, Jon is awakened by Ghost scrabbling at the door; without, the guard has suffered such a Neck Snap that his head is now on backwards. He arms himself with the slain brother's sword and follows Ghost to the Lord Commander's tower, where a cloaked figure is attempting to break in Othor, his eyes glowing blue. Jon hacks off an arm, but the arm keeps attacking, as does Othor. The Old Bear, awakened by the commotion, bursts out with an oil lamp. Jon grabs it from him, sets the drapes on fire, grabs the burning drapes heedless of injury, and hurls them at the wight.
Bran VIBran watches as more and more lords bannermen arrive at Winterfell. His brother is assembling a host twelve thousand strong, and is determined to march south. Bran will not be going with him. Instead, he visits the godswood, where he has been praying for his family. The letter from Sansa was (of course) perplexing, but they know her wolf is dead; so many Starks have gone south recently, and only Lady has returned in any form. At the godswood, Bran and Hodor are visited by Osha, who now works in the kitchens with her legs shackled to prevent her from fleeing. She appears to have no major resentment over her new office. In fact, she asks Bran to pass on a warning: "You tell him hes bound on marching the wrong way. Its north he should be taking his swords. North, not south. You hear me? That evening, Robb dines with his lords, and Bran overhears some of them opining that they would rather die than live crippled. Bran asks Maester Luwin if he can learn magic from the children of the forest, but Maester Luwin tells him not to waste time on fantasies. Two days later, Robb departs. Bran the Broken is now the Stark in Winterfell, lord of a castle staffed only by women, children and old men.
Daenerys VIAfter she and her husband have satisfied themselves with each other's bodies, Daenerys again broaches the idea of taking their khalasar across the narrow sea and conquering Westeros. Khal Drogo is not particularly receptive of the idea ("poison water" and all that), and proclaims, "the stallion who mounts the world has no need of iron chairs. When she informs Ser Jorah of the exchange, he reminds her to be patient; Viserys wasn't, and look where that got him. With Khal Drogo out hunting a white lion, Dany decides to visit the Western Market, which to her smells of home. Ser Jorah abruptly leaves to carry out his own business, but she still has her bloodriders; besides, he reappears when they meet a wine seller from the Seven Kingdoms who, upon learning of Dany's identity, offers her a cask of Arbor red. Ser Jorah demands the cask be broached Daenerys, though uncertain of his intent, backs him without question and then that the wine seller taste it. That's enough for the wine seller, who tries to flee, only to be detained by Jhogo's whip. Afterwards, Jorah shows the letter from Illyrio, which contains King Robert's offer of lands and titles to anyone who kills her. Alone, Daenerys tries hatching her eggs by burying them in a blazing fire, but nothing happens. When Khal Drogo learns of the altercation later that evening, he offers both Jhogo and "Jorah the Andal" the reward of any horse from his khalasar excepting his own and Dany's silver. He also makes a promise to his unborn son Rhaego: to set out across the poison water and reclaim the Iron Throne, on which his mother's father sat.
Catelyn VIIICatelyn arrives at Moat Cailin in good company: not only does she have the Blackfish, Ser Wylis and Wendel Manderley of White Harbor, and their levies to guard her (Ser Rodrik Cassel has been sent ahead to take over the defense of Winterfell), but Robb's host has arrived as well. The Blackfish marvels at how indefensible Moat Cailin seems a few ruined towers in the middle of the nasty swamp called "The Neck," which separates the North from the southron six kingdoms but Catelyn puts him straight, pointing out the alligators, the sucking bogs, the fact that anyone coming up the kingsroad will be exposed to withering attacks from the the towers, and the "crannogmen" who live in the Neck and attack with poisons. Between these things, Moat Cailin has never been taken in battle. Nonetheless, Robb has seen fit to garrison it, and is now meeting in strategy with Lord Jon Umber of the Last Hearth, called "Greatjon," and Lord Roose Bolton of the Dreadfort. Catelyn restrains herself from rushing to enfold Robb in her arms, knowing that this would shame him in the eyes of the men he must lead into battle. Once she can get him alone, they discuss the state of the war: Sansa's letter (which Catelyn immediately identifies as Cersei's words, if Sansa's handwriting), and House Tully's generally poor fates in the war (her brother's garrisons having been scooped up piecemeal, much the way Ned predicted they would be). The Lannisters have nothing to lose from hanging around the Trident and living off the land, so while Robb would obviously prefer to let them come to him at the Neck, he must instead choose to march forth and meet them in open battle and, Catelyn admonishes him, he must choose this, not Roose Bolton or Greatjon Umber speaking with his voice. Robb therefore decides to make a gamble: he will split his army, sending the infantry against Lord Tywin on the kingsroad while his cavalry relieve Riverrun. Robb chooses to lead the cavalry, and Catelyn hears a third man in that decision: Ned Stark, who would always choose the more risky path rather than assign it to a subordinate. When Robb proposes to put the Greatjon, a Boisterous Bruiser not unlike Robert Baratheon, in charge of the infantry, Catelyn points out that they are essentially a Human Shield and would benefit from a more... cautious commander. "Roose Bolton," Robb says immediately, "that man scares me." He then arranges for some riders to escort his mother back to Winterfell... but she insists on joining the cavalry contingent. Her father may be dying in Riverrun, and she will do aught else but go to him.
Tyrion VIITyrion has returned to the inn at the crossroads, where he was first captured by Catelyn Stark, but little else is the same. For one, his father, Lord Tywin, holds the crossroads with a host of at least 20,000 men. Secondly, Tyrion has exchanged his two Lannister attendants for Bronn, a sellsword of no particular allegiance, and an entire honor guard of clansmen. Tyrion proposes that he go in and meet his father alone, but the heads of the clans insist on accompanying him, as does Bronn. Within the inn, Tyrion finds his father and his father's sole living brother, Ser Kevan Lannister, Lord Tywin's Number Two. From his uncle, Tyrion learns that the Lannisters are winning handily; Lord Marq Piper and Lord Karyl Vance have been evicted from the Golden Tooth (the pass that separates the Lannisters' kingdom, the Westerlands, from the Tullys' Riverlands) by Jaime's army, while Lord Tywin's host dissolved Lord Edmure Tully's army and took him captive. Raventree, home to House Blackwood, has fallen, as has Harrenhal under House Whent; Jaime is besieging Riverrun itself, where Lord Blackwood has retreated. Currently, only the Mallisters at Seagard and Lord Frey of the Twins still control their castles. Lord Tywin offers Tyrion command of one of several fronts, where the fighting has all but concluded, but is interrupted by the clansmen barging in, demanding their steel, as well as a messenger who reports that Robb Stark has left the Neck and is coming to meet them in open battle.
Sansa VSansa attends the first court session of King Joffrey Baratheon. Joffrey begins by having Pycelle read a list of everyone who is expected to travel to King's Landing and personally swear fealty to him, or else be named traitors and attainted of their lands and titles. It's a long list, but at the very end Sansa finally hears her own name, as well as every member of her family. The fact that Arya is included gives Sansa hope that she (Arya) might have escaped. Several people are then promoted: Lord Tywin Lannister is named Hand of the King, Cersei is named Queen Regent, Lord Commander Janos Slynt of the City Watch is made a lord in reality and granted the seat of Harrenhal, and all three are seated on the small council. Finally, Sandor Clegane, called "The Hound," is named to the Kingsguard, despite not having sworn the vows of a knight, and Ser Jaime Lannister is named its Lord Commander. This is accomplished by dismissing Old Soldier Barristan Selmy, forcing him into retirement despite the fact that Kingsguard serve for life. Selmy does not go quietly, throwing his sword at Joffrey's feet and suggesting he add it to the ones he's sitting on, and that perhaps it'll be Stannis sitting on them before long. This puts Joffrey in a frothing rage, and he demands Barristan's head (before accidentally nicking himself on one of the swords of the Iron Throne). Finally, the herald calls if there are any who wish to put a matter before the king. Sansa does: Please Spare Him, My Liege! She claims that Ned's denial of Joffrey's birthright was due to delirium, pain and milk of the poppy. Joffrey, ever the gallant, agrees to spare her father if he confesses to his treason, and Sansa promises that he will.
Eddard XVTrapped in an empty, lightless cell that reeks of straw, Ned remembers Robert's uncouth saying "The king eats, the Hand takes the shit" and corrects it to, "The king dies, the Hand is buried." He has had nothing but water for days, and the gaoler does not speak to him. He knows that this whole situation is his fault. He also knows that Robb and Cat will raise the North and the Riverlands, and probably the Vale as well. He remembers the great tourney at Harrenhal, seventeen years ago, where so much happened: Ser Jaime Lannister was named to the Kingsguard, at 15 the youngest ever to do so; Robert kicked ass; Brandon laughed and smiled; and Prince Rhaegar unhorsed Ser Barristan in the joust, winning a tourney for the first (and only) time in his life. But then "all smiles died" as Rhaegar chose for his queen of love and beauty not his own wife, Princess Elia of Dorne, but Lyanna Stark, Ned's sister. Ned remembers his promise to her and wonders if he is going mad. Fortunately, Varys arrives, disguised as a gaoler, to spare his sanity. He has a lot of news. When Ned asks about his daughters, Varys tells him that Arya has escaped, but Sansa has not. Varys informs Ned that Catelyn has lost her hold on Tyrion, who was probably killed by clansmen; Lancel and his endless wine skins were indeed the most direct cause of Robert's Hunting "Accident", but Cersei would have moved sooner or later; and tomorrow Cersei is coming to speak with him; she is afraid of him and what she knows. He is shocked to learn from Varys that Robb is currently leading an army from the North. But Cersei's greatest concern is Stannis: Varys's spies inform him Stannis has been building an army on Dragonstone in recent months, and Cersei fears that while her father and brother deal with Robb, Stannis will take King's Landing, kill her and her children and proclaim himself king. Varys explains that Cersei is willing to make a deal with Ned; if he confesses to treason, denounces Stannis and proclaims Joffrey king and keeps his mouth shut about her incestuous brood, she will spare his life and allow him to take the black and live out his days at the Wall with his brother and bastard (at the mention of his illegitimate son, Ned yearns to see and talk with Jon again). When Ned becomes suspicious of Varys' motives, Varys responds his only priority is the realm, and the realm needs peace. Ned is backing Stannis as the rightful king, but if he perjures himself, he can end this civil war before it truly begins; Varys thus pleads that he do so. It's best for everyone... including Sansa, since as Rhaegar Targaryen's daughter Rhaenys discovered during Robert's Rebellion the Lannisters Would Hurt a Child. And worse.
The choice, my dear lord Hand, is entirely yours.
Catelyn IXApproaching the Twins, Cat reminds herself to be strong: her daughters and husband are captive in King's Landing, her younger sons undefended at Winterfell, but she is with her oldest at the head of his army, and he is the only one her worrying can help. Ahead, the scouts report that a small Lannister host under Ser Addam Marbrand is retreating, that Lord Walder has gathered an army 4,000 strong at the Twins but has not deployed it, that Brynden Blackfish is leaving Lannister scouts strung up from trees, and that any ravensfrom the Twins or notare being brought down; Lord Walder has always been more friendly with House Lannister than Catelyn was comfortable with. The net result is that the late Lord Walder has fortified the only crossing over the green fork of the Trident, and Robb must somehow win his allegiance if he is to cross. The Freys always have a price; Robb and Cat merely need to figure out what it is. To that end, Cat volunteers to go treat with the cantankerous 90-year-old lord. Lord Walder, whom Cat's father once described as the only man in Westeros who could field an army out of his breeches, meets her surrounded by his 21 sons, 36 grandsons, and assorted daughters and bastards. He subscribes to the "Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!!" school of business, combined with a Small Name, Big Ego. He's been snubbed by Targaryens, Baratheons, Lannisters and Starks alike, and he sees no reason to change his mind, none at all! When Catelyn crosses the bridge at nightfall, she has won his allegiance and all but 400 of his men. In exchange, Lord Walder's children will be all over the place: Arranged Marriages between Arya & Elmar Frey and, when the war is over, Robb Stark, heir to Winterfell, & a Frey daughter of his choosing; plus, two of his sons, both named Walder, to be fostered at Winterfell with Bran and Rickon. Robb accepts the bargain that has been made for him.
Jon VIIIThe Old Bear asks Jon how his hand is healing from the burns it suffered. The actual answer is, "third-degree burns halfway to the elbow," but Jon claims that he's fine. Mormont is glad; the cold winds are rising, winter is coming, and undead corpses that can only be re-deaded with fire are just the beginning. Jon asks if there has been any news about his father and sisters, and Mormont tells him about the raven that arrived describing the manhunt for Barristan Selmy, who killed the two men sent to apprehend him and disappeared. Jon does not admit that he knows about Robb going to war, which Sam (who received the raven) told him about. Mormont then asks if Jon is ready to resume his duties. He also presents him with a gift: his family's Ancestral Weapon, Longclaw, a Valyrian-steel longsword (sometimes called a "bastard" sword). Mormont passed it to his son when he (Jeor) joined the Night's Watch, but when the son (Jorah — yes, the Jorah Mormont in Daenerys' Cast Herd) fled in fear of his life, he at least had the honor to leave it behind. It has resided in the Old Bear's possession for five years, but after it was damaged in the fire, Mormont had it re-furnished a wolf's head now, in honor of Jons family, instead of the Mormont sigil of a bear and is gifting it to Jon. Jon, though ambiguous over the gesture — his dreams were of a different father figure, gifting him a different Valyrian steel sword — accepts. Mormont has another gift for Jon: Ser Endrew of Tarth has taken over as master-at-arms for Castle Black, because Ser Alliser Thorne is being sent to King's Landing, with the hand of Jafer Flowers, to plead the Watch's cause before the boy-king Joffrey. These gifts in hand, Jon descends to the yard, where almost everyone that sees him has a kind word for him; Pyp also jokes that Jon may be the first person to have been rewarded for burning down the Lord Commander's tower. (The wight that had been Jafer Flowers was chopped to pieces, but killed Ser Jaremy Rykker and four other men first.) Jon is then summoned by Maester Aemon, who needs help feeding his ravens. While they work, Maester Aemon explains the vows of chastity of the Night's Watch: "Love is the bane of honor," he claims, and honor is all that keeps the men at their posts. There comes a time (he goes on) when every man must choose between love and honor. Maester Aemon sympathizes with Jons worry and love for his family and explains that he, himself, has had to choose three times, and the third was as hard as the first. Each time he chose honor... and, the third time, he had to sit at the Wall while ravens flew in describing the death of his grand-nephew and great-grand-nephew and even the great-grand-nephew's children, babes at the breast...
Once, the old man said. Once. So you see, Jon, I do know... and knowing, I will not tell you stay or go. You must make that choice yourself, and live with it all the rest of your days. As I have. His voice fell to a whisper. As I have...