Special credit to AOL user vbkorik27, whose synopses, archived at A Wiki of Ice and Fire, were instrumental (and, in some cases, copy-pasted outright) in the creation of this Recap.
Prologue — ChettChett — once the steward of Maester Aemon, safe and comfortable in Castle Black — is now on the Fist of the First Men, tending dogs and stoking his vendettas against Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly, whom he believes responsible for his current predicament. He, Lark the Sisterman, Small Paul and several others intend to desert, and murder the Lord Commander while they're at it.
Of the three groups sent out by the Old Bear, only Thoren Smallwood's has returned; Thoren, however, is convinced that the best defense is a good offense because Mance's army is only 10% warriors and 90% civilians. Mormont announces his intention to take the battle to the free folk the next morning. This makes it easier for the deserters to leave ... but the snow that falls overnight makes tracking them just as easy, ruining their plans to escape.
Chett sneaks over to Sam's sleeping roll, intending to murder him just because, but the two are awakened by the blast of a horn (meaning rangers returning) ... and then a second (meaning wildlings en route) ... and then a third, a third not heard in thousands of years. Three blasts signify the reason the Night's Watch even exists. Three blasts means Others.
As the brothers camped at the Fist of the First Men scramble to respond, Chett realizes he needs new breeches.
Jaime IJaime relaxes in a skiff, manned by Ser Cleos Frey and helmed by Lady Brienne of Tarth, which is taking him to King's Landing. He was released from his bonds by Lady Catelyn Stark, after she made him swear a bunch of new vows: not to take up arms against Starks or Tullys, and to honor Tyrion's pledge to release Arya & Sansa.
Jaime made these vows at swordpoint and while grievously drunk, so Questionable Consent is at play, and he thinks it would not be a violation of honor to kill Brienne and make a getaway ... but he's also still bound hand and foot. Once he cannot argue his way out of his chains, he asks Ser Cleos to shave his head: the realm is looking for a beardless blonde, so a man with no hair and whiskers will pass more easily.
Brienne, meanwhile, stops the boat to cut down several women who have been hanged from a tree for sleeping with the enemy. Jaime is happy to point out that, according to a sign adorning one of the slain women, they were executed by northerners — her side, in other words.
However, Brienne is forced to abandon her task when they see a galley bearing down on them from upriver. It's Ser Robin Ryger, sworn to Riverrun, with orders to bring Jaime back. Brienne jumps out of the boat and scales a cliff while Jaime distracts the crew of the galley by challenging Ser Robin to a Sword Fight.
This gives Brienne all the opening she needs: she dislodges a boulder which scuttles the Riverrun ship. As she swims back to them, Jaime thinks to smash her with an oar, but instead finds himself helping her aboard. She rebuffs his thanks, claiming she is driven solely by her sense of duty.
Catelyn ISer Desmond Grell, castellan of Riverrun, has known Catelyn since she was a newborn babe, and cannot bring himself to imprison her for her treason in letting the Kingslayer go. Instead, he confines her to her father's chambers, which Catelyn accepts politely.
Lord Hoster is still having fever dreams; he mumbles about Lysa miscarrying, and promises her there will be other sons. Catelyn knows that Lysa had five miscarriages since wedding Lord Jon Arryn, but now she realizes that there was at least one predating the marriage. This explains why Jon, who had two wives and no children in his past, married Lysa, whose fertility had now been proven beyond doubt; it also explains why their marriage was so stiff. (It does not explain who her sister fornicated with.note )
Lord Hoster is also talking about someone named "Tansy," but Maester Vyman cannot recall a woman of that name ever being employed at Riverrun. He also reveals, a little unwillingly, that Robb was wounded Storming the Castle of House Westerling, though Robb's messages insist it was Just a Flesh Wound.
Catelyn once again sends a raven to the Eyrie, begging Lysa to come make peace with her father, but knows that Lord Hoster will be gone before it even finishes making the trip. When Edmure returns he brings news: the Lannisters held King's Landing against Stannis, and both Highgarden and Dorne have declared for Joffrey.
Edmure chastises Catelyn for letting the Kingslayer go: she may have chosen wisely in putting her faith in Tyrion, not Jaime, but the news is that Tyrion took an axe to the face and may be dead. He promises that he will put things to rights, as he has spread the word that Jaime escaped, but this only furthers Catelyn's despair: if he escaped, there is no way there will be an exchange of prisoners. Edmure has just cost Catelyn her last chance at ever seeing her daughters again.
Arya IArya, Gendry, and Hot Pie are using the map she stole from Roose Bolton to find the Trident. She plans to follow the Red Fork to Riverrun, but they seem to be lost. Fearing pursuit, they ride for long hours and exhaust themselves.
Arya falls asleep and dreams through the eyes of a wolf (implied to by Nymeria, who is leading that giant pack of wolves everyone's been talking about for a book now). In the dream, she and her pack ravage four members of the Bloody Mummers, killing three and tearing off the arm of the Dothraki screamer Iggo.
Tyrion ITyrion is once again living life in his father's shadow. Much of his work over the course of the last book has been undone: Bronn has been knighted (by Lord Tywin's orders, not Tyrion's), and now goes by Ser Bronn of the Blackwater. Lord Jacelyn Bywater was killed by his own men during the battle, and Ser Addam Marbrand, a Lannister bannerman, has replaced him as Commander of the City Watch. Cersei has returned Tommen to the city, and the Kettleblacks, now all knights, are no longer working for Tyrion.
Furthermore, Tyrion's cousin Tyrek still has not been found and is feared dead, Tyrion's clansmen have been chased out of the city, and finally, Tywin has conspired to downplay Tyrion's contributions to the battle — which wasn't hard, since that whole "Renly's Back from the Dead" thing upstaged just about everything. Bronn has no idea who was impersonating Renly, but has it from a number of eyewitnesses that a man wearing his armor did, indeed, fight in the battle and do all that was said of him.
Tyrion asks Bronn to find out all he can about the late Mandon Moore, though he does not say why. When Tyrion goes to visit his lord father, Tywin is writing letters; he has always claims that The Pen Is Mightier at winning wars. One letter goes to Ser Gregor Clegane and Lord Randyll Tarly, who are to intercept Robett Glover and Ser Helman Tallhart as their force approaches Duskendale.
When asked what he wants, Tyrion asks for some due credit, but Tywin disdains him; "Mummers and monkeys require applause." So Tyrion calls in the Heir Club for Men: Cersei, Tywin's eldest, is a woman, and Jaime, as a member of the Kingsguard, is out of the line of succession. Tyrion is the heir to Casterly Rock, and he wants it.
Tywin's only answer is, "Never." He makes it clear that he despises Tyrion, who did a Death by Childbirth to Tywin's beloved wife Joanna, and believes Cersei's reports that Tyrion would be willing to hurt Tommen.
Tyrion protests that he would never hurt his own blood, and Tywin asks how that squared with the whole Matricide thing. He promises Tyrion some sort of reward appropriate to his contributions (Tywin's one compliment is that the chain was "a clever stroke"), but not Casterly Rock. He also tells his son that he has bedded his last whore. "The next one I find in your bed, I'll hang."
Davos IDavos has washed up on the shore of a small island in Blackwater Bay. He remembers swimming beneath the chain boom, and then getting caught by the current and gulping seawater. He has also lost his Good Luck Charm, the little pouch around his neck that contained his fingerbones. But, somehow, he is alive, and believes the Seven still have some use for him.
Despairing over the loss of four of his seven sons in the sea battle, he contemplates dying on the island, but decides instead to live. A ship passes by, and Davos hails it, realizing too late that it might be a Lannister ship. (He Never Learned to Read.) But it's a a Lyseni ship, one of Salladhor Saans fleet. Davos is saved.
Sansa ISansa has been invited to dine with soon-to-be-queen Margaery Tyrell and her grandmother, Dowager Lady Olenna Tyrell, called the "Queen of Thorns" for her manner.
Ser Loras arrives to escort her, resplendent in his Kingsguad whites, but she accidentally upsets him by mentioning Renly's death. They pass through the yard, where Loras' older brother Garlan, called "the Gallant," is fighting three mooks at once; Garlan claims that this is how fights normally go. Loras admits that Garlan is a better Master Swordsman than he is.
The party is being held in the Maidenvaultnote Though Margaery is hosting the party, Lady Olenna dominates the conversation. She denounces her son, Lord Mace Tyrell, as an oaf for agreeing to the Tyrell-Lannister alliance. She also has an ulterior motive: she wants the truth about Joffrey.
Under cover of the fool Butterbumps, who (very loudly) sings The Bear and the Maiden Fair, Sansa admits the truth: "He's a monster." She begs Margaery to renounce Joffrey, but she and Lady Olenna assure Sansa that all will be well. They ask if Sansa would like to come to Highgarden, and possibly even to wed Margaery's elder brother.
Sansa at first thinks they mean Loras, but Margaery is the youngest of four, and Loras out of the line of succession the same as Jaime, while Ser Garlan is already married. In this case, Olenna and Margaery are talking about Willas, the eldest, heir to Highgarden — who was crippled in his first tourney as a squire. Margaery vouches for the goodness of his character, though, and Sansa hesitantly agrees.
Jon IMance Rayder's camp is huge, but unfortified and undisciplined; Ned Stark said that discipline beats numbers 9 times of 10, and Jon files the information away for further use. Of course, this requires him to survive his first meeting with Mance himself; Rattleshirt, and many others, expect the King-beyond-the-Wall to just kill the defector out of hand.
Inside the tent, Jon sees two young lovers, a pregnant woman, a grey-haired man playing a lute, and two obvious warriors, one of whom has lost both his ears. The earless man demands to know who the crow is, and Jon introduces himself, calling the man Your Grace, whereupon the other warrior laughs uproariously and tells him to turn around. The singer rises and introduces himself as Mance Rayder. He does not ask Jon's identity, as he has met him twice before.
Mance asks if Jon truly slew Qhorin Halfhand, and then asks if he should thank Jon for killing his enemy, or curse him for killing his friend. Jon suggests he do both. This pleases Mance, and he introduces the others: the earless warrior is Styr, Magnar of Thenn, and the laughing one Tormund Giantsbane (along with a great number of other appellations). The lovers are Val, Mance's sister-in-law, and her current paramour Jarl; the pregnant woman, Dalla, is Mance's beloved.
Mance sends the others out (save Dalla), and asks Jon if he can place where the two have met. Jon remembers a time when he and Robb were young, and a visiting black brother helped them dump snow on the next unlucky fool to come along. The second time Jon is unable to guess: it was Jon's own first chapter in A Game of Thrones, during the feast for Robert Baratheon. Mance scaled the wall alone, posed as a minstrel, and slipped into the festivities unnoticed.
Mance asks the important question — why Jon turned his cloak — and Jon, to buy time, asks Mance to give his own Back Story, recognizing that he likes the sound of his own voice. Mance doesnote . Jon then gives the only answer to Mance's question he knows will work: If Mance was indeed at the feast, he saw how Jon's trueborn siblings were paraded up to the front of the room. "And did you see where I was seated, Mance? Did you see where they put the bastard?"
Daenerys IIllyrios three ships are sailing for Pentos, and Daenerys is watching her dragons fly over the ocean. Arstan tells her that Balerion was 200 years old when he died during the reign of King Jaehaerys the Conciliator. Arstan then speaks of Rhaegar, how bookish he was as a child, always reading. Then one day he read something in a scroll that made him want to be a warrior, and he began training fiercely.
Arstan admits that Rhaegar was a great warrior, but he won no battles. (He also has trouble lying that Mad King Aerys was a nice person.)
That night, Jorah comes to Dany's cabin, where she is teaching the dragons to breathe fire on command ("Dracarys"), and asks to speak to her privily. He is suspicious of Arstan Whitebeard, who is too well-spoken to be a squire to that oaf of a eunuch; he brings up the three treasons Dany must face ("Once for blood and once for gold and once for love"), and points out that Illyrio Mopatis loves gold.
Instead of letting the ships take them back to Pentos, Ser Jorah recommends they strike for Astapor on Slaver's Bay, and buy themselves some slave soldiers: the eunuch Unsullied, who Feel No Pain and exhibit Blind Obedience. (He then provides an Info Dump on the Back Story of these Super Soldiers.note )
Daenerys agrees, and goes to inform Captain Groleo of the course change ... only to be intercepted by Jorah, who kisses her. Her body responds, but she pushes him away, asserting her status as his queen. (He can't stop looking at her breasts.)
Jorah reminds her that the dragon has three heads, that she will need someone to stand beside her. "You have no brothers, but you can take husbands. And I tell you truly, Daenerys, there is no man in all the world who will ever be half so true to you as me."
Bran IWhile hiding in the Tumbledown Tower, Bran gains the ability to open his third eye at will, and become Summer. Jojen again warns him not to spend too much time as Summer, neglecting his body and forgetting what he should do when in contact with his direwolf.
They have been traveling north; staying away from civilization for fear that Bran might be seen, especially by the ironmen or Bolton men. Jojen insists they make for the Wall so that Bran can find the three-eyed crow, because Jojen can teach him no more, and Bran agrees.
Davos IIDavos returns to Dragonstone, his heart full of hatred towards Melisandre. Khorane Sathmantes, captain of Shayala's Dance, has gotten him up to speed on how Stannis was defeated by the ghost of Renly, and how many of the lords who supported him originally have un-turned their cloaks and gone right back over to the Tyrell banner.
Sathmantes takes him to Salladhor Saan, who is overjoyed to see his friend Back from the Dead. He relates that one of Davos' sons survived, but this does not soften Davos' intent to kill Melisandre; he believes that this is why the gods spared him.
Up at the castle, Davos is forced to wait in Aegon's Garden, where he encounters Princess Shireen chasing the fool Patchface, as well as Edric Storm, King Robert's bastard. They are interrupted by Ser Axell Florent, who has Davos arrested for planning to murder the red woman.
Jaime IIJaime, Brienne and Ser Cleos stop at the Inn of the Kneeling Man, said to be the location where Torrhen Stark bent the knee to Aegon the Conqueror three hundred years ago. The boy at the door greets them with a crossbow, demanding if they are lion, fish or wolf. He's also sensibly curious about why Jaime is manacled. ("Killed some crossbowmen''," Jaime answers.)
The innkeeper feeds them and lets them know that the lightning lord Beric Dondarrion is still loose in the riverlands. Apparently it would be safer for them to travel overland, so Brienne sells him their skiff in exchange for three horses. The stable is piled high with manure, and the innkeeper suggests they take a particular route to avoid brigands. Brienne thanks him ... and promptly ignores his advice. Jaime, who also noticed that the innkeeper seemed to be leading them into a trap, approves.
As she keeps watch, Brienne asks why he accepted the white cloak if he had no interest in keeping his vows, and Jaime has a Flash Back to how Cersei engineered his acceptance into the Kingsguard — and forfeiture of Casterly Rock, not to mention his betrothal to Lysa Tully — so that he could be posted to the capitol and they could be together. (This backfired, as Tywin, incensed at being deprived of his heir, resigned his Handship and took Cersei with him.)
Rather than explain all this, Jaime simply replies that, as a kingslayer herself, Brienne should know. He then dreams of the last battle of Robert's Rebellion, when Tywin Lannister's army was admitted into King's Landing, turned their cloaks, and began attacking.
Jaime had entered the throne room, the last loyal member of the Kingsguard, and put an end to the king. He had intended to vanish, but Lord Crakehall had burst in right then, leaving him caught red-handed. Jaime gave orders to spread word of the Mad King's death to convince any remaining Targaryen loyalists to surrender; when Crakehall asked if they should proclaim a new king too, Jaime considered setting up Prince Viserys or Rhaegar's son Aegon as a Puppet King with his father ruling in truth as Hand of the King, but decided against it for fear the boys had inherited their father/grandfather's insanity. So he sat his arse down on the Iron Throne and waited to see who would come to claim it. As it happened, Eddard Stark did. Ned said nothing, but his disdain was clear all the same. Jaime is jolted from his dreams by a boot, and the three ride on.
Tyrion IITyrion deduces that Varys has whisperers even in the Citadel's most secret meetings.
He also learns that Boros Blount has been restored to the Kingsguard (overruling Cersei, who had him kicked out for being a Dirty Coward), and that Mandon Moore had been brought to King's Landing by Jon Arryn, a friendless man who seemed to care for little more than duty.
Tyrion decides to keep Shae in the city, and resolves to deal with Symon Silver Tongue, the singer who is now his Secret-Keeper, for everyone's safety.
Arya IIArya's party are grubbing for vegetables in an abandoned garden when a party of three bandits announce themselves by singing. The three kids try to hide, but a horse whickers and gives them away.
The three bandits introduce themselves as Tom Sevenstrings, Anguy the archer, and Lem Lemoncloak, and claim to serve King Robert. They decide to bring Hot Pie, "the Bull" and "Squab" back to an inn of their acquaintance; it's Anguy's ranged attacks against Arya's stick sword, so the three surrender.
At the inn, the innkeeper's wife is grumbling about the horses her husband "gave away," while the husband protests that they were supposed to get them back, and besides it would have been unrealistic for him to, by himself, take on a very tall woman warrior, an anointed knight and a man in chains who joked about killing crossbowmen.
Tom tells "Squab" he is buying their horses, presenting a paper I.O.U. in lieu of gold, and Arya realizes how outmaneuvered she is. Gendry, who was watching said horses, bursts in with the news that there are riders approaching; Tom assures her that they are friendly, but Arya tries to fight her way out, to no avail.
When the riders come in, Arya is astonished to recognize Harwin, a member of her father's guard. He doesn't recognize her, of course, until she mentions how he used to lead her pony around the yard at Winterfell. Then, Harwin bows to Arya Underfoot — "Arya Stark, of Winterfell."
Catelyn IIWhen the dogs in the kennels go crazy, Catelyn knows that the returning riders must include Robb. She is sure he will forgive her. As she waits, she reflects on an odd recent scene: Ser Perwyn Frey and forty others of his house left the castle in a squabble, trampling the direwolf banner as they went.
In the Great Hall, Robb appears more grown-up now, wearing his crown more easily; she notices several unknown faces on the dais. Robb is indeed sympathetic, but Lord Rickard Karstark accuses Catelyn of robbing him of his revenge for his sons Eddard and Torrhen, who died defending Robb from Jaime at the Battle of the Whispering Wood. Robb bids him desist, acknowledging that love is not always wise.
After Lord Rickard storms out, Robb introduces some of the people with him on the dais: Lady Sybell Spicer, wed to Lord Gawen Westerling of the Crag, a bannerman to House Lannister who was captured at the Whispering Wood (though he is to be freed immediately); various other family members; and last but not least, a shy, chestnut-haired girl named Jeyne ... Robb's lady wife.
- The first thought that flew across Catelyn's mind was, No, that cannot be, you are only a child.
The second was, And besides, you have pledged another.
The third was, Mother have mercy, Robb, what have you done?
Alone, Robb explains that he was hit by an arrow while storming the Crag, but after the castle yielded, Jeyne was kind enough to nurse him back to health. One evening, the letter from Theon arrived, proclaiming that Bran and Rickon were dead, and "That night she ... she comforted me, Mother." ("Catelyn did not need to be told what sort of comfort Jeyne Westerling had offered her son.")
One Honorable Marriage Proposal and Shotgun Wedding later, Robb had added about 75 men to his cause ... at the cost of some four thousand slighted Freys. Robb is now looking for a way to make amends to a man who wanted his grandson to be a king, and whose aid was predicated solely on that desire; a Young Conqueror Robb may be, but he admits he's screwed up just about everything else about kinging. He also admits that he keeps Grey Wolf away from him now because the wolf seems to mistrust some of his new in-laws.
Robb then adds the Blackfish and Edmure Tully to his conference. The two roundly criticize Edmure's overzealous defense of the riverlands, as he slowed down Lord Tywin long enough for news to arrive that he (Tywin) was badly needed at the Battle of the Blackwater; this also upset Robb's plans to strand the Lannister army in the west and make a peace deal with Stannis once he'd taken King's Landing.
To Catelyn, though, this is all academic: Robb needs Winterfell back, and now. But to do that, Robb needs the Freys ... and, thus, to find a way to soothe the Late Lord Walder's pride.
Jon IIJon is observing Mance's host, taking note of the giants and mammoths that augment the strength of men. Tormund, a Boisterous Bruiser, is telling Jon some tall tales about himself. He questions why Jon is turning down Ygritte's increasingly-unsubtle advances, and Jon realizes he's running out of excuses. He is also growing to understand that, while there are certainly evil men amongst the free folk, most — Tormund, Ygritte, Longspear Ryk — are pretty normal folk just trying to get by.
Rattleshirt has arrived to bring Jon before Mance, this time at the Fist of the First Men, which is littered with dead animals ... but no slain brothers. The king confronts Jon about how many men were at the Fist, and who led. Jon, seeing how many of the Watch died here and realizing Mance may kill him for lying, tells the truth, but feels Mance may still have him killed because Jon lied to him previously about the Night Watch's disposition.
Briefly, Jon thinks about Taking You with Me ... but Ygritte saves him by telling them that they are lovers. The wildlings respect any man who steals his woman, and Rayder informs Jon that he will be leaving with Styr and Jarl on the morrow to climb the Wall. This only leaves the tricky subject of Ygritte, who lied to Mance with her claim:
- "—that we fuck beneath your cloak many a night. I never said when we started, though." The smile she gave him was almost shy. "Find another place for Ghost to sleep tonight, Jon Snow. Its like Mance said. Deeds is truer than words."
Sansa IISansa is being fitted for a new gown provided by Queen Cersei, completely missing the Suspicious Video-Game Generosity inherent in it. While she waits, Sansa thinks about Margaery telling her that she does not fear Joffrey, because her father only conceded her hand in marriage with the provision that Loras was named to the Kingsguard, and her brother will protect her from Joffrey.
When Sansa tells Dontos about the Queen of Thorns's plan to marry her to Willas, the drunk man warns her that the Tyrells wish to wed her for her claim to Winterfell, stating, "These Tyrells are only Lannisters with flowers." Dontos tells her that they will escape, as promised, on Joffrey's wedding day.
Arya IIIHot Pie has decided to stay at the Inn of the Kneeling Man as a baker, while the others depart for Riverrun. Harwin tells Arya the tale of how they first rode out in search of Gregor Clegane, and about all the men they lost when Gregor's men fell on them.
Most of the 120 from the original group are dead. It was all a trap; Lord Tywin had expected Eddard Stark himself to ride out and deal with Gregor. (Jaime was not informed, resulting in Ned's broken leg.) Lord Beric Dondarrion, leading in Ned's stead, should have died at the trap, having been run through with a lance, but Thoros of Myr saved him.
After Tywin became Hand of the King, they became outlaws themselves, but kept fighting in the name of King Robert. They harried the foraging parties and attacked the baggage trains of Tywin's army, and their brotherhood began to grow as many flocked to their cause, mostly commoners uprooted by the war. Later, they meet up with Greenbeard and learn that Jaime Lannister has escaped from Riverrun.
When Arya discovers that they mean to bring her before Lord Beric — the thing about bringing her to Riverrun was a lie — she tries to ride off, but Harwin catches her. Her father's man is now a member of the Brotherhood Without Banners, and answers only to Beric and Thoros' Lord of Light, the god R'hllor.
Samwell IOne step at a time, Sam is trudging south with the fifty-or-so black brothers who survived the Fist of the First Men. They are traveling in a circle, with torches out to keep the Others away (who are pursuing the retreating Watchmen, picking off any who fall behind), but Sam is growing increasingly convinced that freezing to death would be a good way to go, especially compared to what he saw during the battle.
Sam was primarily tasked with sending ravens back to Castle Black with status reports, which he did — at least, until the Others breached the ringwall and he let all the birds go in a panic. He remembers finding a horse, and seeing an undead bear, and Lord Mormont ordering Thoren Smallwood to call in the remaining men so that they can cut their way out, and then the zombie bear ripping off Thoren Smallwood's head; then the cavalry retreat, until someone knocked Sam off his horse and stole it.
Now Sam is in the snow, exhausted, ignoring Grenn and Small Paul's exhortations to get up. Finally, Small Paul picks Sam up, but can't get very far with that much cargo, and they fall behind.
An Other arrives on a disemboweled undead horse. Small Paul and Grenn attack; the Other shatters Grenn's sword and stabs Paul, but Paul's corpse wrenches the Other's sword from its grasp. Sam, marshaling what courage he has, grabs the dragonglass dagger Jon gave him and stabs wildly. The Other screams ... and melts.
After Grenn marvels that the so-called craven was the first to kill an Other, he tells Sam that they can catch up with Lord Mormont. Sam agrees to try.
Tyrion IIITyrion takes his seat at the small council, alongside Master of Ships Lord Mace Tyrell, Master of Laws Ser Kevan Lannister, Master of Whisperers Varys, Master of Coin Petyr Baelish (called Littlefinger), Grand Maester Pycelle (who stays as far away from Tyrion as possible), Queen Regent Cersei Lannister, Hand of the King Lord Tywin Lannister, and Lords Paxter Redwyne and Mathis Rowan, advisors at large.
Tyrion learns that Lancel is still near death, which Cersei pretends to regret, and that Robett Glover and Helman Tallhart were soundly rebuffed at Duskendale. Daven Lannister is rallying yet another army, and Robb Stark will almost certainly head for Moat Cailin: he can scarcely call himself King-in-the-North if he does not, in fact, have the North.
Lord Balon Greyjoy has written, offering an alliance in exchange for a crown, but Lord Tywin does not intend to pay him for what he is doing for free and is content to wait until a better option presents itself (leaving Tyrion wondering what the "better option" is demanding instead).
Littlefinger offers to go to the Eyrie and wed Lysa Tully, thus causing the Vale to choose a side; Tyrion is dismayed to find himself promoted to replacement Master of Coin. Varys has word of things going on in the "ice" and "fire" parts of the story: an army of wildlings threatening the Wall, and a three-headed dragon in the east; Lord Tywin dismisses these as problems for another day (and Mance as a possible Friendly Enemy). He then excuses everyone but his family.
In private conference, Tyrion warns them against trusting Littlefinger, but Kevan points out that Baelish brought them important intelligence: that of the brewing marriage between Sansa Stark and Willas Tyrell. To forestall this, Lord Tywin orders Cersei to marry Willas instead, ignoring her protests. Tyrion is astonished to find himself actually feeling bad for her as she makes her Dramatic Exit.
Of course, Tyrion's feelings take a turn as Lord Tywin orders him to, for the same reason, wed Sansa Stark: he will never be Lord of Casterly Rock, but wouldn't Winterfell be a good substitute? Tyrion tries to beg off, knowing she could never be satisfied with him as a husband, but Lord Tywin tells him flatly that their only concern should be the North.
When Tyrion points out that Robb's sons via his Frey wife will supersede Sansa's claims, Lord Tywin breaks the news of Robb's marriage to Jeyne Westerling. Even Tyrion, who is no stranger to doing silly things for love, thinks Robb Too Dumb to Live for going Honor Before Reason.
He also notes that his father is unaffected by the Westerlings' disloyalty — which is unusual, especially to a family as precariously positioned as they are. Lady Sybell is an unabashed Gold Digger and Lord Gawen foolish enough to wed her anyhow; and this was before they defected, the consequences of which the Tarbecks and the Reynes could possibly speak of, if Lord Tywin had allowed any of them to live. Lord Tywin's only response is that Jeyne Westerling is her mother's daughter.
Catelyn IIIAt the Great Hall at Riverrun, the bodies of Willem Lannister and Tion Frey, squires captured during the Whispering Wood, are laid before King Robb. The perpetrator, Lord Rickard Karstark, is unrepentant, having obtained vengeance for his two sons. He insults the King in the North — "Or should I say, the king who lost the North" — to his face, and Robb sentences him and his accomplices to die.
However, the Karstark men, 300 strong, have already left the castle, as Lord Rickard promised gold (and the hand of his daughter) to whoever might capture the Kingslayer. Edmure urges Robb to hold Lord Karstark prisoner as a guarantee to his men's loyalty, but Robb refuses, feeling betrayed by Lord Karstark's actions, and the next morning executes the man personally.
Afterwards, Catelyn is at some needlework when Queen Jeyne comes to visit. Robb is miserable and angry, she says, and she has no idea how to soothe him. Catelyn, drawing on her own experiences as a southron woman marrying a northern lord, tells Jeyne to let Robb come to her, as he always will. She adds that it would be best if Jeyne were to provide Robb with an heir, and Jeyne promises that her mother has been giving her a posset to increase her fertility, and that she and Robb try to conceive regularly (sometimes more than once a day).
Catelyn sees that Jeyne has a good heart, as Robb had told her. "And good hips, which might be more important."
Jaime IIIThe namesake pond of the town of Maidenpool is clogged with corpses, causing Jaime to break out in the folk song. Brienne ignores him, and Jaime reflects on how different she is than Cersei. The twins have always been close; they were experimenting with each other before they hit puberty, and while their mother tried to put a stop to it, she soon encountered a problem called Tyrion Lannister, leaving the two to their own devices.
Jaime's ruminations are dispersed by some archers, who attack at range. At his orders, he and Brienne charge the wall the foe are hiding behind, and they retreat due to losing the Tactical RockPaperScissors. Unfortunately, Ser Cleos was tossed from his horse and dragged behind it for quite a distance. He's Dead, Jim .
Jaime suggests Brienne let him have his cousin's sword, to help keep watch; when she disagrees, he grabs it anyway, and the two have a fierce Sword Fight. Jaime quickly realizes that Brienne is a Worthy Opponent, and his respect for her continues to increase; she may be a woman (if freakishly tall and strong), but he is manacled and out of shape. In fact, he can't defeat her.
They are interrupted by members of the Brave Companions, who take them captive (regardless of Jaime's protestations that they ought to be on his side, and of Brienne's protestations that they are on her side). Jaime, realizing what Brienne is in for, advises her not to resist, and tries to safeguard her virtue by pointing out she's from the Sapphire Isle — and shushes her when she tries to correct their misconception (Tarth is called that for the blue of its waters).
Brought before Vargo Hoat, Jaime tries once again to reason with them, but Hoat is more interested in sending Lord Tywin a message. He has Zollo the Fat straighten out Jaime's arms; the Dothraki then draws his arakh, and Jaime promises himself that, no matter how they intimidate him, he will not scream.
- Sunlight ran silver along the edge of the arakh as it came shivering down, almost too fast to see. And Jaime screamed.
Arya IVThe Brotherhood Without Banners plan to ransom Arya at Riverrun, but first they visit Lord Lymond Lychester and then the Lady of the Leaves in search of word on Lord Beric Dondarrion's whereabouts. None have seen him, only hearing rumors that he was dead — hanged once, killed by Vargo Hoat, Amory Lorch, and twice by Gregor Clegane. Arya heard similar rumors at Harrenhal, but Lem and Tom know that Beric is still alive.
At High Heart, where the stumps of many weirwoods still remain, the outlaws speak privily with an old dwarf woman (the "ghost of High Heart"). Arya overhears, though: the woman has had terrifying dreams that may or may not qualify as foreshadowing: "a shadow with a burning heart killing a golden stag"note ; "a man without a face, waiting on a swaying bridge, on his shoulder perched a drowned crow with seaweed hanging from its wings"note ; "a raging river and a woman that was a fish... dead with red tears on her cheeks, but when her eyes did open, I woke from terror."note
The only lead they get is at Acorn Hall, where Lady Smallwood informs them that Thoros of Myr has been through recently.
Daenerys IIIn Astapor, Daenerys, protected by Arstan Whitebeard, discusses the sale of some Unsullied with a slave master, Kraznys mo Naklos. They are speaking through a translator, a young slave girl named Missandei, because Ser Jorah suggested Daenerys pretend she doesn't know High Valyrian.
Kraznys harps on the Feel No Pain thing — they drink something called the "wine of courage" — as well as the Blind Obedience thing. He explains The Spartan Way in which the 8,000 available Unsullied were trained; only one in three survives, and only after they kill their own puppies. (According to Kraznys, more of them fail the puppy check than the one where they go buy a slave baby and then murder it in front of the mother's eyes.)
Arstan has been against this idea from the start, claiming that the people of Westeros will unite against her out of moral hatred of slaverynote , but Dany tells the Good Master that she will think on it overnight. She will not go back to Pentos a begger; she saw what it did to Viserys.
That night, her urges awakened by Ser Jorah's unwanted kiss, she begins A Date with Rosie Palms; her handmaiden, Irri, is awakened by the rustle, and wordlessly finishes the job. She says the next morning that it is a privilege, but Dany still feels guilty, and continues to avoid Ser Jorah as best she can.
Still, he finds her, and elicits her hatred of the city and everything it stands for. She is not interested in buying eight thousand murdered infants. But Jorah points out that the Unsullied are a weapon that will go where she points them. In Westeros, they will not rape (they can't), nor pillage, nor murder, if she tells them not to. She points out that she cannot be like Rhaegar, who led with loyalty and love, if she commands men who are bought and paid for.
- "My queen," the big man said slowly, "all you say is true. But Rhaegar lost on the Trident. He lost the battle, he lost the war, he lost the kingdom, and he lost his life. His blood swirled downriver with the rubies from his breastplate, and Robert the Usurper rode over his corpse to steal the Iron Throne. Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought honorably. And Rhaegar died."
Bran IIAs they travel, Bran's party meets someone from House Liddle, who claims that the Bastard of Bolton is offering gold for news of Bran's travel. However, the vast majority of the chapter is a Whole Episode Flashback dedicated to a story Meera tells Bran, one which her father told her: the story of the Knight of the Laughing Tree.
Once Upon a Time, a crannogman left the Neck to learn more of the larger world, and ended up at a giant castle that Bran identifies as Harrenhal. A great tourney is to be held there, which is why the crannogmen is beat up by three squires — one of them a sigil on his surcout that Bran recognizes as the twin towers of House Frey.
The crannogman is saved by a wolf-maid, who takes the crannogman to meet her three brothers: the eldest one laughing, the middle one solemn, the youngest one still following his sister around. At the feast, the eldest wolf had to ask a beautiful lady with laughing purple eyes to dance with his quiet brother, much to the wolf-maid's amusement; of course, then the tables turned when the dragon prince played a beautiful song on his harp and the wolf-maid started to cry.
The crannogman, meanwhile, identified the three squires that beat him, and the wolf pup offered to equip the crannogman to challenge them; but the little man demurred. Meanwhile, the tourney went on, with a lion being named to the Kingsguard. Then, a mystery knight entered the lists: the eponymous Knight of the Laughing Tree, clad in ill-fitting armor made of bits and pieces. (Bran is sure this is the crannogman in disguise, but Meera does not comment.)
The Knight defeats the three knights whose squires so cruelly beat the crannogman, but instead of demanding ransom, the Knight only demanded they teach their squires a kinder way. The Knight then disappeared. The dragon king demanded everyone find him/her/it, and even the dragon prince went looking, but all they found was his shield (the one painted with the laughing weirwood tree).
The dragon prince won in the end. Bran opines that the mystery knight should have won instead and chosen the wolf maid as his queen of love and beauty. Meera replies, "She was, but that's a sadder story." Is Bran sure he's never heard this tale before?, she and Jojen wonder. (Is that why, despite No Names Given, he has missed so much of what this story is about? ... Spoilers!!! More Spoilers!!! )
Davos IIIDavos has been slowly getting over his illness, but assumes they are only keeping him alive so that Melisandre can burn him later. Thus, he is a bit surprised when the red woman comes to visit him.
Davos accuses her of being the "mother of darkness" (see: Magical Shadow Assassin Baby Birth), but Melisandre replies that shadows are servants of light, since they cannot exist without it. She invites him to couple with her: she cannot make another without Life Force to borrow, but they are Cast from Hit Points and Stannis is too low.
She tries to convert him to her religion: to her, there are only two gods, one being R'hllor, the Lord of Light, and the other being "the Great Other whose name may not be spoken, the Lord of Darkness, the Soul of Ice, the God of Night and Terror." She helps Stannis because he is The Chosen One of R'hllor, Azor Ahai come again: "When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone."
A few days later, Ser Axell Florent brings his own brother, Lord Alester Florent — who was lately named Hand of the King — to the cells. Believing the war lost, he went behind Stannis' back to offer terms to Lord Tywin. Davos, loyal til the end, rebukes Lord Alester, and declares his willingness to die for Stannis if he needs to.
Jon IIIThe night before the planned attempt to scale the Wall, Jon tells Ghost that he cannot come with him, and that they will meet again at Castle Black. He reflects on the nights of travel south, and how he promised himself that he would only break his vows with Ygritte once, and how wrong he was. He wonders if Ned felt this weak when he cheated on Lady Catelyn with Jon's unnamed mother.
Styr forces Jon to tell him more about the patrols the Night's Watch use along the Wall. Jarl and Styr plan to climb the Wall between Stonedoor and Greyguard, where a hill rests against the Wall, making for a shorter climb. (There is little chance of them being discovered; there are nineteen castles along the Wall, but at present only three of them are manned.)
Later, Jon and Ygritte spend time in a cavern which supposedly leads from the haunted forest all the way beneath the Wall and beyond, but no one since Gendel and Gorne, the legendary wildling brother kings, knows the way through them. In privacy, Ygritte strips naked, as does Jon, and the inevitable happens — more than once, in fact, allowing him to show her something new when they independently discover the joys of cunnilingus.
Ygritte asks Jon to stay with her and hide in this cavern forever, knowing that leaving would be Tempting Fate to destroy the happiness they have found.
Daenerys IIIThe Good Masters of Astapor are agog at Daenerys' desire to buy all the Unsullied — even the boys not yet through their training. To pay for it all, she offers to sell them all her ships, all her goods, and a dragon. Arstan Whitebeard is appalled, and Daenerys has him ushered out; the Good Masters, certain she is witless, agree to her offer, throwing in the translator girl for free.
Daenerys, though sick at heart, puts on the Queenly Mask and tells Arstan that his counsel is always welcome in private, but not to question her in front of strangers. She then addresses Missandei — in High Valyrian — and frees her, offering her a spot in her retinue, though she warns that it will be dangerous.
Missandei only replies, "Valar morghulis," and Daenerys agrees that "All men must die, but not for a long while, we may pray." She also double-checks with Missandei on the Blind Obedience thing; Missandei can speak of it firsthand, as three of them were her brothers once.
Daenerys sleeps poorly that night, and is awakened by what she believes is Quaithe of the Shadow, but finds no one in the cabin with her. The next morning, she has all her trade goods trotted out for the Wise Masters, then receives a silver whip in exchange for the chain which is attached to Drogon's collar. Daenerys is now the owner of 8,600 Unsullied, and she informs them of this in High Valyrian, but the Wise Masters don't notice because they are too busy trying to figure out why Drogon will not come when they tug on his chain.
Sansa IIISansa is dressing in the gown Cersei had made for her, thinking to herself what it would be like to marry Willas Tyrell. However, her daydreams are shattered when the Queen reveals that she is to marry Tyrion that very afternoon. Sansa does her duty, realizing there is no way out.
Tyrion apologizes to her, saying that it was his father's wish to see them wed; Joffrey, exhibiting his typical charms, tells Sansa that he will still have her in his bed, for he will order Tyrion to bring her to him on pain of death.
Instead of wedding rings, Westerosi custom is for the groom to place a cloak with his house's heraldry on his bride's shoulders, but Sansa is too tall for Tyrion to do this easily; however, despite pitying him, she refuses to kneel. Joffrey solves the problem by making Dontos act as Tyrion's footstool, increasing the embarrassment.
At the feast, Garlan comforts Sansa, saying that Tyrion will make a good husband: "He is a bigger man than he seems."note When it comes time for the bedding ceremony, Tyrion cancels it in anger, and threatens to castrate Joffrey to force compliance, claiming immediately afterwards claiming he was just making a joke.
In bed, Sansa is petrified at the thought of Their First Time, but Tyrion realizes this, and tells her that he will not touch her until she wants him to. But when she protests that she does not want him to touch her ever, he resigns himself to the fact that only whores would love him.
Arya VThe Brotherhood Without Banners are staying at the Peach, an inn (and brothel) in the town of the Stoney Sept. Harwin tells Arya about the "Battle of the Bells," which was fought here during Robert's Rebellion, when Lord Jon Connington, Aerys's Hand of the King, heard that a wounded Robert was hiding here.note
Gendry is interested in one of the girls, particularly one with dark hair named Bella who claims to be the late King Robert's illegitimate progeny, and Arya expresses the reader's dismay (though her irritation is for quite a different reason than the reader's), but the three are interrupted when the Mad Huntsman, another member of the brotherhood, arrives with a captive. A captive Arya recognizes.
Jon IVJon is watching as Jarl's men are competing with the Magnar's to see who will reach the top of the Wall first. Many of the climbers fall to their death, including Jarl, but several eventually reach the top and unreel long rope ladders. (The Wall is seven hundred feet high.)
At the top, Jon notices Ygritte with tears in her eyes. She tells him that Mance's whole reason for congregating in the Frostfangs was a giant Fetch Quest for an ancient artifact called the Horn of Joramun, which (according to rumor) would cause the Wall to crumble with one blast.
Jaime IVJaime's nose is under constant assault: the Bloody Mummers tied his hand around his neck with a rope after they chopped it off, and the stump at his wrist is rotting. It was his right hand — the one that made him a Master Swordsman and a member of the Praetorian Guard, the one that made him The Kingslayer, the one he would use to pleasure Cersei; the one that, in short, made him everything he has ever been — that they chopped off, and Jaime reconciles himself to Death by Despair.
He starts by rescuing Brienne from being raped one night, shouting out "Sapphires" and reminding Vargo Hoat of the value of Brienne's virtue. Finally they arrive at Harrenhal, where Lord Roose Bolton welcomes Jaime and Brienne and has Qyburn, a trained but now-defrocked Maester of the Citadel, attend to the stump.
Tyrion IVTyrion visits Symon Silvertongue, the singer who knows who Shae is. Symon uses this to shamelessly blackmail Tyrion into giving him a place at King Joffrey's wedding as one of the seven invited singers. Tyrion agrees ... And then, outside, tells Bronn to have the singer done away with.
As he returns to the Red Keep, he ruminates on the fact that his Sexless Marriage to Sansa is now common knowledge ... and on how she at best tolerates him, which is still a secret but disturbs him more.
Back at the castle, Lord Tywin shows Tyrion two newly-forged Valyrian steel blades: one for his son (Tyrion does not have to ask which) and one for his grandson, both with ripples of red worked into the grey steel, "like waves of blood on some night-dark shore."
Even Tyrion, untrained at the sword, can tell how well the weapons will handle. He also notes the pleasure on his father's face that House Lannister has two Valyrian steel swords to its name now.note
Tywin orders Tyrion to consummate his marriagenote and mentions that Lord Mace Tyrell actually turned down the offer of Cersei for Willas. Finally, Grand Maester Pycelle arrives with dire tidings from the Wall; the messages are garbled, but it seems as though Lord Commander Mormont is dead.
Lord Tywin orders him to reply that no new men will be sent to the Wall until the replacement Lord Commander is elected ... and, by the way, could the letter please include the crown's regards for the loyal and valiant Lord Janos Slynt of Harrenhal? Hint hint.
Tyrion, Only Sane Man, thinks this is an absurd idea, but Pycelle agrees, and Tyrion sourly wonders why he didn't just kill both him and Slynt when he had the chance.
Samwell IIIn the previous book, two hundred black brothers of the Night's Watch stayed at Craster's Keep; a mere forty-four have returned. Some are grumbling because Craster is unwilling to share his food with them; the Old Bear is too, but more because the Watch has forgotten its purpose. The dragonglass weapons should have been obvious to them, he says; the Wall was raised and the Night's Watch created as a bastion against prehistoric ice demons, not to chase off mere tribal raiders.
Craster, ever an unwilling host, tries to kick the Night's Watch out the next day. This is probably a bad idea against forty-four well-armed men (well, 43 — Bannen died of his wounds) (well, 42 and Sam the Slayer), but it gets well and truly out of hand when the Lord Commander tries to step in and restore discipline. One Mutiny later, Sam is alone with the mutineers, who are helping themselves to Craster's hospitality (and wives), and a dying Jeor Mormont in his lap.
Mormont's Last Request is that his son Jorah know that his father forgives him. Sam is then approached by three of the older wives, with Gilly and her newborn son in tow. The older women tell him to take the Lord Commander's good cloak and good sword and get Gilly someplace warm. After all, the cold winds are rising ... and Craster's sons will come soon.
Arya VIArya and Gendry are kept blindfolded until they arrive beneath the Hollow Hill, the Home Base of the Brotherhood Without Banners. Sandor Clegane is brought bound before Thoros of Myr, and Arya cannot believe how different the red priest looks.
The Hound is to be judged by Beric Dondarrion and hanged if found guilty. Thoros looks different now — no longer the fat priest she remembers — and Lord Beric even worse; the once-handsome man Shows Damage, scars and wounds and part of his head caved in. (It's been said that he has been killed several times; the wounds seem to agree, the fact that he's alive notwithstanding.)
The Brotherhood lay charges against the Hound, but Clegane spits them back as simply part of the fact that War Is Hell; the Brotherhood, he claims (rightly), are Hypocrites who have done much the same. It's Arya who lays the sticking charge: the murder of Mycah, the butcher's boy. (Sandor recognizes her, laughing in amusement.)
So the Hound faces Lord Beric in Trial by Combat, his Knightly Sword and Shield against a Flaming Sword. (Oh great.) The battle ends with the Hound's arm on fire, but his blade cuts Lord Beric almost in half, and Lord Beric dies.
Sandor begs for someone to help him put out the fire, and Arya is astonished to realize that he is crying in fear. She steals a knife and advances on him; the Hound replies that if she wants him dead that badly, she should go for it. But Arya is momentarily halted by the extent of his burns, and in that moment Lem Lemoncloak wrests the knife away.
Catelyn IVHoster Tully, Lord of Riverrun, is receiving his Viking Funeral. His son Edmure Tully, Lord of Riverrun, is tasked to put the flaming arrow into the boat, but misses three times; it's Uncle Brynden, the Blackfish, who makes the shot. Edmure's lack of martial prowess is politely not mentioned by Lame Lothar Frey and Walder Rivers, who have come to negotiate some sort of truce with the King in the North.
The chapter primarily concerns itself with incoming reports: a third of Robb's infantry lost at Duskendale, basically for no good reason; the marriage of Tyrion and Sansa Lannister (née Stark); a raven from the two Walders who were at Winterfell, reporting the death of Ser Rodrik Cassel and their own safe passage to the Dreadfort.
Lothar presents the Late Lord Walder's terms: Robb is to appear at the Twins to make an apology in person, and Lord Edmure Tully is to wed a Frey, Lady Roslin, immediately. ("My father has come to mislike long engagements," Walder Rivers comments. "I cannot imagine why.")
Edmure balks, of course, but Robb and the Blackfish remind him that he promised to make amends for his screwing-up of Robb's plans, and eventually Edmure capitulates.
Davos IVDavos is brought before King Stannis, with whispered imprecations from Ser Axell Florent that Davos had better help him become Hand of the King, or else. Stannis, meanwhile, receives Davos in such a pleasant way that Davos wonders if the king even knew he had been gaoled.
Stannis wants Davos' opinion on a military operation, proposed by Ser Axell, to sack Claw Isle, home of Lord Celtigar, who turned his cloak after the Blackwater. Davos, after a moment's thought, pronounces it cowardly and evil, as it would mostly involve looting and rapine against defenseless women and children, and against an old man who did the only thing that seemed logical when the battle was lost.
Stannis says that it is the duty of any loyal subject to stand for their rightful king, even if their lord does contrary ... and Davos, possessed of rash courage, points out that Stannis did no such thing when Robert rebelled.
After Stannis makes a very angry Ser Axell leave the room, he commends Davos for his Brutal Honesty, naming him Lord of the Rainwood, Admiral of the Narrow Sea, and Hand of the King. He announces that he plans to continue the battle, but not for the throne: Melisandre has seen visions of cold winds rising in the north, men in black on a hill arrayed for battle, and Stannis plans to unite Westeros against that threat.
To that end, Melisandre brings in a dish with three leeches, each fat with blood from the boy Edric Storm — the blood of a king. Stannis throws each of the leeches on the fire, naming them as he does: The Usurper Joffrey Baratheon; the usurper Balon Greyjoy; the usurper Robb Stark.
Jaime VJaime's guards bring him to the bathhouse to clean up; only one bath is in use, but it contains Brienne of Tarth. Jaime slides in with her, laughing that her ironing-board figure could possibly interest him. He makes a joke about how she has let first a king and now a kingslayer be injured on her watch, causing her to stand up and flee; to his surprise, he is aroused by her ironing-board figure, and mumbles an apology.
Jaime wonders why nobody calls Robert The Oathbreaker, just because he rebelled for love, and suddenly finds himself divulging Back Story: at the end of the war, he was the only member of the Kingsguard still near the king, and thus overheard Aerys discussing plans with his Hand — Rossart, a pyromancer — to ignite caches of wildfire that have been planted all over King's Landing, burning down the capitol as one last spiteful Taking You with Me to the realm at large (Jaime also speculates that Aerys was so far gone to lunacy by that point, he thought he would be reincarnated as a dragon by the flames).
Then came the battle itself: Ned Stark was leading rebel forces down the kingsroad; Lord Tywin Lannister arrived with The Cavalry; once inside the city, they performed a Cavalry Betrayal and began the Sack of King's Landing. When Jaime, aware the battle was lost, asked the king's leave to negotiate, Aerys demanded Jaime fetch him his father's head.
Instead, Jaime slew the king's pet pyromancers, and then Aerys himself, putting an end to the potential holocaust. Jaime has always been indignant that he has been vilified for acting on behalf of the innocent, by the same people who applaud Robert for rebelling for "pride, a cunt, and a pretty face." He then, overwhelmed by the hot water and his own ill health, almost passes out; Brienne must save him from drowning, and help him dress, but he stills his tongue on the subject for once.
They join Lord Roose Bolton for dinner. Bolton plans to send Jaime on to King's Landing — after a promise from Jaime that he, Bolton, will not be held responsible for the grisly actions of his (nominal) vassal Vargo Hoat; he also passes on the news that Arya Stark has been found in the capitol and will be sent home, as well as the story of Sansa's marriage to the Imp.
When Brienne asks where this leaves her, Bolton explains that when he leaves Harrenhal and turns the castle over to Hoat, he will turn her over as well.
Tyrion VTyrion, Bronn and Podrick Payne await the arrival of the Dornish contingent, who have come to escort Prince Doran Martell as he takes his seat on the small council. To pass the time, Tyrion has Pod identify the oncoming houses by their banners (including the daughter of Lord Trebor Jordayne of the Tor), but is more concerned by the fact that the party are all riders. Prince Doran Martell has a severe case of gout and cannot sit a horse, needing a litter to get around; if there is no litter, he has not come.
And indeed, the man who has come to join the small council is, instead, Prince Doran's Hot-Blooded younger brother, Oberyn Martell, called the Red Viper: puissant warrior, renowned bisexual, and the man who crippled Willas Tyrell. He and Oberyn trade barbs (with Tyrion reminiscing that Joffrey has taken to telling Dornish-flavored jokes), and Oberyn mentions that he and Elia visited Casterly Rock just after Tyrion was born; they had expected him to be a demon, since Lord Tywin was himself a semi-mythical figure; his largesse was of such renown that he must, or so it was jested, have Solid Gold Poop.
But what the Red Viper really wants to know about something Tyrion promised in his initial offer: justice for Princess Elia of Dorne.note
When the topic of Willas comes up, Oberyn replies that the two are actually Pen Pals now, having developed an Odd Friendship over their shared interest in breeding horses; Willas, looking back, realizes that he was in over his head, having allowed his father to goad him into entering the tourney prematurely, and that Oberyn's minor responsibilities pale in comparisonnote .
Oberyn warns that he is not looking for a Kangaroo Court, but real justice in the matter of Elia; he not only wants the perpetrator's head, but the head of the man who gave the order.
Arya VIIThe Bloody Mummers have taken over a septry, but the Brotherhood Without Banners take it back; Thoros of Myr and Lord Beric lead the attack, Flaming Swords in hand. The Mummers present (and still alive) are hanged, and Arya wishes resentfully that they had done the same to the Hound, instead of letting him go free (after taking all of his gold).
After the battle, Beric asks Thoros how many times Thoros has brought him Back from the Dead, and Thoros disclaimed that he has done any such thing: he simply administered the red god's funeral rite, the last kiss, which normally does nothing, but in Beric's case did something ... Six times. Beric admits that he Came Back Wrong (and wronger) each time, losing his sense of who he was; Thoros tells him that R'hllor is bringing him back for a reason.
Gendry then approaches and asks to be knighted, to join the Brotherhood. Beric agrees happily, but Arya is dismayed that Breaking the Fellowship has claimed the pack she so laboriously built. The solemnity of the ceremony is also disturbed when the Hound breaks in to make fun of them. They send him on his way, but none of them sleep well that evening.
Bran IIIBran and the others reach a small, deserted village on a lake. There is a holdfast tower on an island in the middle of the lake, connected by a secret walkway hidden by shallow water; it was placed there by Queen Alysanne, and Bran tells the others the story of it.
The party is just south of Brandon's Gift, a strip of land south of the Wall to a distance of 25 leagues which was once given to the Night's Watch to support them. The New Gift, given to the Watch by Queen Alysanne and her husband King Jaehaerys I, doubled that distance; they have already passed through it.
They stay in the tower that night during a terrible thunderstorm, and Bran tells them that all the gates through the Wall were sealed when each of the castles had to be abandoned, leaving only those open at each of the manned castles. When Hodor starts to scream in fear of the thunder, Jojen suggests Bran reach out to him as he does Summer, and Bran makes Hodor his Bond Creature for the first time, calming the big man.
Jojen spots men on the shore in the village, and Bran enters Summer to investigate.
Jon VJon is with the Magnars men nearing a village alongside a lake, just south of Brandon's Gift. He realizes that he must somehow escape and reach Castle Black before the raiders do, in order to warn them of the surprise attack the Magnar is planning. He sits with Ygritte on the lake and tells her the story of Queen Alysanne's watch tower — she asks if it's a castle, which Jon has to stop himself from laughing at — but is soon recalled to the town.
The Thenns have captured an old man in one of the ruined houses, and Styr commands Jon to kill the man. Jon balks, so Ygritte does it instead. As Styr begins to command his men in the Old Tongue, a crash of thunder sounds, and suddenly a direwolf is attacking the Thenns. Jon mistakes the wolf for Ghost, and then for Grey Wind when he sees that it is brown like his siblings' wolves, wondering if Robb has returned to the North.
While the direwolfnote slaughters several wildlings, Jon seizes the old mans horse and begins to flee. It's only hours later, when the horse is blown, that he notices that someone tagged him in the calf with an arrow. He forces it through, wondering if it was Ygritte's. Then he gets back on his horse and continues his journey to Castle Black.
Daenerys IVDaenerys and her army of Unsullied — not to mention a huge train of freed Astapori slaves who have attached themselves to her — reach Yunkai, to find the city guarded by a huge force including two sellsword companies. Her commanders — Ser Jorah, Arstan Whitebeard, Strong Belwas, and the leader the Unsullied have chosen from amongst themselves, Grey Worm — assure her that her side will win, but she wants to minimize her casualties.
She invites the sellsword captains, as well as the Yunkish leader, to parley with her. The first to arrive are the three Captains of the Stormcrows. Two of them spurn her offer to join her, and the third, Daario Naharis, says nothing, but he seems to be considering her offer. The Captain of the Second Sons, Mero (called "Titan's Bastard"), also laughs at her offer (throwing in a few misogynistic insults for good measure), but does accept a wagonload of wine to bring to his men. Finally, the Yunkish diplomat, Grazdan mo Eraz, brings Daenerys chests full of gold hoping she will leave Yunkai alone, but she sends him off with his gold and three days to consider his options.
She then tells her captains to ready for an attack overnight: the Stormcrows will be arguing, the Second Sons will be drunk, and the Yunkish will be complacent. Only Ser Jorah tries to dissuade her, citing both his three-times-longer-than-hers lifespan and his Bodyguard Crush, but Daenerys ignores him on the former and sets him straight — firmly, but politely — about the latter.
In total fairness to Jorah, Dany was wrong about the Stormcrows: Daario returns with the heads of the other two, and pledges the sellswords to her — as well as his own promises of eternal love.
During the fight, Dany asks Arstan to tell her more of her brother Rhaegar. Whitebeard explains that the Prince was always melancholy, and a sense of doom hung over him. "He was born in grief, and that shadow hung over him all his days."note
Word arrives that Dany's army won the battle easily during the night, having gone exactly as she predicted. She commands her men to spare any who threw down their swords, and promises to free any slaves. Once again, Daenerys's army swells to even greater size. Daenerys rides on her white mare past all the newly-freed people, who call out to her, "Mhysa,'' a High Valyrian word that becomes her new title:
- "Mother," they called from a hundred throats, a thousand, ten thousand. "Mother," they sang, their fingers brushing her legs as she flew by. "Mother, Mother, Mother!"
Arya VIIIThe Brotherhood have returned to High Heart. Arya watches as the dwarf woman comes out to visit again, full of signs and portents:
- The kraken king is deadnote , and Lord Hoster too;
- The goat sits alone in the hall of kings in a fever "as the great dog descends on him";note
- "I dreamt such a clangor I thought my head might burst, drums and horns and pipes and screams, but the saddest sound was the little bells."note
- "A maid at a feast with purple serpents in her hair, venom dripping from their fangs.note And later I dreamt that maid again, slaying a savage giant in a castle built of snow."note
- She spots Arya and, when told that the child is being brought to Riverrun, says to seek the mother at the Twins. "For there is to be a wedding."
As they travel, Arya speaks with Lord Beric's squire, a boy named Edric — who turns out to be Edric of House Dayne, Lord of Starfall. Edric claims to be Jon Snow's "milk brother": Edric's own mother couldn't nurse him, so instead he was fed at the breasts of a woman who had recently borne the bastard child of Eddard Stark. He also mentions that his aunt Ashara threw herself off a balcony because even though she and Ned had an affair, he still left her to return to Winterfell and his, y'know, actual wife.
Arya is offended at the idea that her father would stray, but Gendry asks where Jon came from. Harwin defends the late Lord Stark by saying that Ned might indeed have fallen in love with Lady Ashara at the great tournament at Harrenhalnote — which would have been okay under the circumstances, as both were single and Ned had not yet had to take his brother's place in fulfilling the Arranged Marriage to Catelyn Tully.
At night, Arya has finally had enough of the brotherhood, and sneaks away... only to be kidnapped by Sandor Clegane.
Jaime VIBefore Roose Bolton departed Harrenhal, leaving it to Vargo Hoat, flying the pink banners of House Bolton, he asked Jaime Lannister to "Give my warm regards to your father;" Jaime replied that Bolton should do the same to Robb Stark.note Now Jaime's heading down the kingsroad in the company of northern soldiers commanded by Steelshanks Walton, an honor guard to get him to King's Landing.
The last time he traveled this way, he realizes, was right after the great tourney at Harrenhal — the one where he was named to the Kingsguard (see "Bran III"). But instead of being allowed to compete, he was sent to the capitol immediately to guard Queen Rhaella and the young prince Viserys, which confronted him with the blunt truth: he had been put on the Praetorian Guard not because he was a Master Swordsman (though he was), but rather to remove him from Lord Tywin's Heir Club for Men, as well as giving Aerys a hostage in the event Tywin ever turned on him.
Qyburn informs Jaime that Lord Selwyn Tarth offered a ransom of 300 gold dragons for his daughter — a perfectly good price for a captured knight, but unlikely to sate a man dreaming of sapphires.
That evening, Jaime dreams of being in the bowels of Casterly Rock, naked — but with his right hand back — and side-by-side with an equally naked Brienne, both holding swords that glow in the black. But the attack comes not from demons or ghosts, but from knights: the five white swords who died during Robert's Rebellionnote , and Prince Rhaegar. They remind him that he promised to guard the king, and his sword goes out.
After Jaime recovers from the Catapult Nightmare, he bribes Walton into taking them back to Harrenhal for something important. Within, Brienne is in the bear pit, facing off with a sword ... a blunted tourney sword that can do no good. It turns out that Vargo Hoat tried to "seduce" her the evening before, and she bit off his ear, resulting in her current predicament.
So Jaime jumps in to defend her ... despite having no sword either, nor a right hand. Fortunately, Steelshanks Walton has a crossbow, and is not interested in losing the reward Jaime promised him. Hoat and his men are outraged at Walton and Jaime stopping their fun, but since Walton's men have them outnumbered, the sellswords don't cause trouble.
With that, Jaime takes Brienne with him on the road to King's Landing. Which, of course, Brienne is thankful for ... but also confused as to why.
- A dozen quips came to mind, each crueler than the one before, but Jaime only shrugged. "I dreamed of you," he said.
Catelyn VThe party of Robb Stark, King in the North, departs for the Twins, with Queen Jeyne bidding her husband farewell thrice — the last time an hour south, as she rides up on a horse and begs that he reconsider his decision to have her stay behind. Robb holds firm, though, and Catelyn knows the wisdom of this: the Late Lord Walder "Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!" Frey would insult her to her face, and Robb would not be able to let it pass.
As the group travels past Oldstones, she finds a tomb belonging to an ancient king of House Mudd, who died during the Andal Invasion. Robb, who is still short an heir, announces that, if push comes to shove, Jon Snow should be legitimized and become the next king. Catelyn protests, citing the ancient chaos started by King Aegon IV, called "the Unworthy," whose legitimized bastards led 65 years of Blackfyre Rebellions until Maelys the Monstrous, the final holdout, was slain 40 years ago (by a rather young Ser Barristan Selmy, as it happens), but Robb sticks to his guns.
That evening, Robb hosts the captain of the Myraham, a sea-going vessel that was held at Pyke for half a year after visiting the Iron Islands (see "Theon I" last book). Apparently, Balon Greyjoy was Killed Offscreen by falling off a bridge — and no sooner had his body washed ashore than his long-exiled younger brother, Euron, called "Crow's Eye," turned up to claim the throne.
Knowing this means a Succession Crisis on the Iron Islands, and that Victarion Greyjoy will leave Moat Cailin to dispute his younger brother's claim (not to mention that Theon and Asha will do the same), Robb orders some of his men to link up with Howland Reed at Greywater Watch and begin to liberate the Neck. He also orders his mother to head to Seagard after the wedding, where Lord Jason Mallister will protect her.
Finally, having made it clear with this genteel exile that Catelyn's word no longer sways him, he asks all present to acknowledge his naming of Jon Snow as his heir.
Samwell IIISam and Gilly have reached what appears to be Whitetree, though Sam, who has No Sense of Direction, can't tell. He and Gilly camp in one of the wildling huts for the night, but Sam is woken by shapes moving within. The corpse of Small Paul comes after Sam, and he tries to stab it with the dragonglass dagger, but it shatters on Paul's armour. In desperation, Sam thrusts a burning stick from the campfire in the wight's mouth, setting it on fire.
Outside the hut, the wights begin to surround Gilly and her infant son after killing their horse, and Sam realizes they're doomed. But a raven lands on Sams shoulder, and suddenly thousands of ravens fly from the branches of the weirwood tree to tear the wights to pieces.
The raven perching on Sam's shoulder speaks, telling him to go, and he and Gilly begin to run south ... on foot, without a horse. Suddenly a voice calls out, "Brother! Here." From the falling snow appears a man dressed all in black astride a great elk. When Sam takes the man's bare hand, it's black and cold as ice.
Arya IXArya attempts to kill the Hound at night while the man is asleep, but he awakens and takes the rock from her hands. They reach Lord Harroway's Town, but find it flooded. Sandor promises to pay some ferrymen to take them across the Trident, but gives them only the IOU Lord Beric had given him promising reimbursement after the war.
Arya tells Sandor that she had once been captured by his brother, and the Hound finds it amusing that the Mountain never knew who he had caught. Clegane says, "Ill be sure and tell him that, before I cut his heart out." She asks why he would kill his brother and the Hound asks if she ever wanted to kill her sibling. Arya, of course, can't answer that honestly.
The Hound admits that he might be a monster for killing so many, but also tells her that he saved Sansa's life during the riot in King's Landing. The Hound informs her that he is taking her to the Twins to ransom her to Robb, and perhaps join the Young Wolfs service, because "even a dog gets tired of being kicked."
Jon VIJon Snow reaches Mole's Town and warns the populace to evacuate. At Castle Black, Jon learns that Jarman Buckwell and his men have returned with tidings of Mance Rayder's army. He discovers that the wildlings have been feinting all along the Wall, and groups of black brothers have been dispersed to counter them.
Maester Aemon also tells him that Jeor Mormont was betrayed and killed, and that only twelve men made it back from Craster's Keep, including Giant, Grenn, Dywen, Sweet Donnel Hill, and Dolorous Edd. Aemon cleans and wraps Jons wound, and Grenn tells him that Winterfell has been burned to the ground and that Bran and Rickon Stark are dead. Jon tells them that there is some kind of mistake, for he saw a grey direwolf at Queenscrown. Jon wonders if Bran lives on through his direwolf.
Catelyn VIAs they approach the Twins, astride a river swollen with rain, Catelyn's paranoia acts up, prodding Robb to make sure he asks Lord Walder for bread and salt, the ritual gifts that establish Sacred Hospitality. In fairness, Lord Walder does nearly forget these gifts himself.
Grey Wind balks at entering the keep, which all notice; Robb assigns Ser Raynald Westerling to mind him, keeping them both out of the Freys' sight. Lord Walder lines up all his daughters and requires Robb to apologize to them, which he does. Then Roslin Frey, the subject of Edmure's Arranged Marriage, is brought up, and Catelyn can see that Edmure is struck with Love at First Sight (Roslin is quite attractive, and Edmure, who cares a lot about appearances, was expecting to be presented with someone ugly).
All in all, the Stark / Tully contingent must admit that they have been treated better than expected. Catelyn finds Robb in conference with Lord Roose Bolton, who has brought news — that Theon Greyjoy is a captive at the Dreadfort, amongst other things — and most of his army. Robb resolves that, after the wedding, they shall strike for the North.
Arya XThe Hound and Arya arrive at the Twins, where Sandor hopes to ransom Arya to her family. To get there, the Hound had robbed a farmer of his wagon and casks; they now disguise themselves as simple farmers who have come to bring pork to the feast, as apparently someone is getting married today.
The castle is closed, so they are sent to the pavilions instead, where the common soldiers are. Arya recognizes a few coats of arms but there is nobody she knows. The soldiers drink to the health of Queen Jeyne, whose name is unfamiliar to Arya. As Sandor wants to ransom Arya, they head to the castle.
Catelyn VIIThe hall is claustrophobic, with poor food, too many revelers (though some of the Freys are conspicuously absent) and music produced by Dreadful Musicians. Edmure seems besotted, as does Roslin, though she is nervous too — as might be any bride facing a consummation, Catelyn reasons.
Lord Walder happily moves the wedding on to that phase, causing Roslin to break down crying, though she does not resist. The musicians (attempt to) play a new song, "The Rains of Castamere." One of Robb's bodyguards, Dacey Mormont, asks Ser Edwyn Frey to dance, and he brushes her off rudely; Catelyn, trying to intervene, discovers that he is wearing armor under his clothing.
Then the musicians reveal why they're so bad at playing: they're actually crossbowmen. From a balcony above the hall, they began to slaughter the Starks. Robb takes two bolts in his leg; more Freys enter, and northmen who have defected, and tear his guards to pieces, armed men against unarmed celebrants in A Fête Worse Than Death.
Catelyn, the only one ignored in the confusion, grabs a knife and then a Frey grandson, Aegon, called "Jinglebell" for his ornamentation, who is slow of wit and serves as Lord Walder's fool. She tells Lord Walder that the Cycle of Revenge is complete, and offers herself and Lord Edmure, Lord of Riverrun, against the lives of her one remaining child and of Jinglebell. The only problem is, Lord Walder turns out to not care very much about the life of one grandson.
- A man in dark armor and a pale pink cloak spotted with blood stepped up to Robb. Jaime Lannister sends his regards. He thrust his longsword through her sons heart, and twisted.
Robb had broken his word, but Catelyn kept hers. She tugged hard on Aegon's hair and sawed at his neck until the knife grated on bone. Blood ran hot over her fingers. His little bells were ringing, ringing, ringing, and the drum went boom doom boom.
Finally someone took the knife away from her. The tears burned like vinegar as they ran down her cheeks. Ten fierce ravens were raking her face with sharp talons and tearing off strips of flesh, leaving deep furrows that ran red with blood. She could taste it on her lips.
It hurts so much, she thought. Our children, Ned, all our sweet babes. Rickon, Bran, Arya, Sansa, Robb ... Robb ... please, Ned, please, make it stop, make it stop hurting ... The white tears and the red ones ran together until her face was torn and tattered, the face that Ned had loved. Catelyn Stark raised her hands and watched the blood run down her long fingers, over her wrists, beneath the sleeves of her gown. Slow red worms crawled along her arms and under her clothes. It tickles. They made her laugh until she screamed. "Mad," someone said, "shes lost her wits," and someone else said, "Make an end," and a hand grabbed her scalp just as shed done with Jinglebell, and she thought, No, don't, dont cut my hair, Ned loves my hair. Then the steel was at her throat, and its bite was red and cold.
Arya XIArya and Sandor try to reach the castle. Arya notices that the gate is opened and armed riders are beginning to come out from the castle toward the pavilions where the Stark host is celebrating the wedding. She hears a wolf howling and music she faintly recognizes.
The pavilions that the Stark host are celebrating in have been rigged to collapse. The riders from the castle attack the northmen, collapsing the pavilions and setting them on fire. Arya and The Hound are spotted by the Frey men and have to defend themselves.
Arya wants to go the castle where her mother and her brother are, but the Hound tells her they are already dead. Arya tries to run to the castle. but the Hound rides her down, bringing his great axe down upon her head.
Tyrion VISansa takes Tyrion's complaints about dinner as a personal reprimand, even though it's the least of Tyrion's worries — what with Tyrells and Martells, who have been Feuding Families for millenia, both crammed into the same castle, to say nothing of the usual grief from Cersei, Joffrey, and Tywin.
After dinner, Sansa goes off to the godswood for one of her frequent prayer visits, while Tyrion tries to make sense of the ledgers left to him by Littlefinger, realising how screwed the crown's finances are. Tyrion is interrupted by a summons from his father to the Hand's tower where Lord Tywin is having a meeting: they have received a raven from the Twins, announcing that the "Red Wedding" went off without a hitch. The river lords are sure to surrender now, with Tywin planning to offer generous terms to accelerate the process, as well as ordering the Mountain to take Harrenhal and put the Brave Companions to the sword to confirm it.
Joffrey interjects, demanding that the Freys send over Robb Stark's head so he can force Sansa to kiss it. Tyrion defends his wife, and the two begin to argue, with Tyrion pointing out that kings have a very high attrition rate these days.
Lord Tywin sides with Tyrion, pointing out that brutalising defeated enemies will only cause problems down the line, and insisting that Joffrey's only concern regarding heads should be Margaery's maidenhead. Joffrey, to everyone's surprise, fires back at Lord Tywin, accusing him of being scared of the Mad King. Lord Tywin, with icy diplomacy, "suggests" that Joffrey be sent to bed, leaving him alone with his children.
Tywin questions where Joffrey got his ideas on how to rule, and Cersei tells him it was Robert's fault. Tywin merely retorts that he does not intend to seat Robert the Second on the throne — though it's Tyrion who corrects the description to "Aerys the Third."
After Cersei is dismissed, the two discuss the matter further: Lord Tywin does not intend to surrender the Mountain to Prince Oberyn's demands for justice, and instead pin the matter on the now-dead Ser Amory Lorch as well as dropping his own justification of what happened during the Sack of King's Landing.note .
Meanwhile, he has won the war at a stroke: for violating Sacred Hospitality, the Freys will have their name cursed; Riverrun is to go to Emmon Frey, Lord Walder's second son (and Lord Tywin's brother-in-law); Roose Bolton is to be named Warden of the North, and his son is to marry Arya Stark.
Tyrion is surprised that his father found Arya, who is surely dead, and Tywin merely replies that Renly Baratheon was too, until the Battle of the Blackwater. He then asks if Tyrion has succeeded in fathering an heir yet.
- "And when do you imagine Sansa will be at her most fertile?" Tyrion asked his father in tones that dripped acid. "Before or after I tell her how we murdered her mother and her brother?"
Davos VDavos listens as Salladhor Saan regales his king with tales about the Red Wedding. He thinks some of it has undergone Gossip Evolution: things like the Freys chopping off Robb's head and replacing it with the head of his direwolf, or Catelyn Stark's body being thrown into the river naked in a mockery of Tully Viking Funeral customs. Regardless, Davos muses that the Freys have damned themselves for all eternity with this monstrous violation of Sacred Hospitality.
Queen Selyse and Ser Axell Florent, by far the most devout of the Holy R'hllors (term coined by Leigh Butler), claim it is the work of the Red God, but Stannis thinks it's more like Walder Frey's handiwork. Most of his court suggest that he take this moment to get back on the Westerosi stage, send a signal to show his power, such as waking stone dragons as Azor Ahai reborn is prophesied to do ... but the way Melisandre suggests doing this is to take Edric Storm, the bastard son of Robert Baratheon, and Kill Him With Fire.
Stannis, who despite being a colossal jerk is not a fundamentally cruel person, dislikes the idea, and sends them away to converse with Davos privily. Stannis doesn't believe that he is The Chosen One of Melisandre's religion ... but can he take the risk? If The Needs of the Many are in the balance, then What Is One Boy's Life in Comparison? But when Davos answers, "Everything," Stannis sends him away too.
Davos seeks out Maester Pylos, wanting advice on being Hand of the King. Davos feels his own inferiority keenly; he Never Learned to Read, much less any of this sort of highfalutin command stuff. So Pylos offers to teach him literacy, in conjunction with Princess Shireen, Edric Storm, and Davos' own son Devan.
One Time Skip later, Davos asks for a letter to stumble through (just for variety), and Pylos gives him one: something in a shaking hand about how a "King-Beyond-the-Wall" has arisen, and Lord Commander Jeor Mormont of the Night's Watch (called "Old Bear"), is dead. Davos remembers the visions Stannis spoke of — men in black atop a hill, fighting against the rising tide of death. But he also remembers the story of Lightbringer, Sword of Heroes, and wonders if Edric Storm is to take the place of Nissa-Nissa.
Jon VIIJon can barely stand, but the wildlings are coming in force, and Donal Noye, the smith who has taken de facto command of Castle Black, puts him on a tower with a longbow. The defense will be difficult: the Watch's castles are defenseless from the south, so that the Stark in Winterfell can sort them out easily if he must, and that is the direction the wildlings are coming from.
Consequently, Noye has arrayed most of the defenders at a makeshift barricade before the crooked wooden stair that leads up to the top of the Wall. Jon watches the battle, sending arrows at friends-turned-foes; at one point he sees a mop of red hair, but his fingers inexplicably refuse to loose the shaft.
There are too many wildlings for the defenders to hold, and they take the stair ... but that's exactly what Donal Noye was waiting for. Jon and the other longbow-wielding defenders set the stair alight with Flaming Arrows; the wood, soaked in oil for this exact reason, takes light easily. The wildlings, caught halfway up the Wall, are killed as the stair crumbles.
Afterwards, Jon takes his crutches and hobbles through the grounds, looking for Ygritte. She has an arrow through her chest; it's not his, though he still feels guilt all the same. Ygritte is glad to have seen a real castle before the end, but Jon insists that Maester Aemon will fix her up like new.
- She just smiled at that. "D'you remember that cave? We should have stayed in that cave. I told you so."
"Well go back to the cave," he said. "Youre not going to die, Ygritte. Youre not."
"Oh." Ygritte cupped his cheek with her hand. "You know nothing, Jon Snow," she sighed, dying.
Bran IVIn his last chapter in this book (yes, seriously), Bran's party arrives at the Nightfort, one of the (many) keeps the Night's Watch has abandoned. It was the brotherhood's original castle, and Bran recalls the many stories he has heard about it.
They sleep near an abandoned well, but are woken by a noise. Bran readies for battle by warging into Hodor ... but it's a (very) fat crow, calling himself "Sam," and a wildling girl bearing a newborn babe. They don't know each other: the girl wants to know if Coldhands is looking for them, but Bran doesn't know who Coldhands is.
The fat brother describes Coldhands as wearing all black, like a member of the Night's Watch; pale and cold, like a wight, but without the blue eyes; unable to come into the castle, as it trips the protective anti-zombie spells woven into the Wall. Jojen declares that Bran is, indeed, the person Coldhands seeks; meanwhile, Samwell Tarly makes the connection between his best friend Jon Snow and Jon Snow's half-brother, Bran the Broken.
Bran begs him to become the Secret-Keeper of his survival, and Sam, despite his own confusion, agrees. He then takes the party down to the gate out of the Nightfort: a giant weirwood tree. The face in the tree speaks, asking for a password, and Sam recites his oath. The tree opens its mouth, and Hodor and Bran pass through, officially going Beyond the Wall ...
Daenerys VThe walls of Meereen are heavily guarded, and Daenerys' mob of freed slaves has grown even larger; she must take the city or watch thousands of her children starve to death. The Meereenese have all but invited her to come; they have adorned their wayposts with the corpses of 163 disemboweled children, each pointing an arm towards the city.
The Meereenese send forth a Hero, Oznak zo Pahl, and Dany has Strong Belwas fight him, reasoning that losing to a former slave would most demoralize the Meereenese (and that she can most afford to spare Belwas, who does little other than boast and eat). The fight goes in the dragon's favor; but one dead champion is only one dead man, and Daenerys calls her council to decide what to do.
None of her captains can come up with anything useful; the best plan is from Brown Ben Plumm, newly-elected leader of the Second Sons, who mentions that he once escaped Meereen via its sewer system. Of course, Dany might be showing him a bit of favor because her dragons seem to like him; Plumm, though admittedly a mongrel, claims to have a Targaryen princess in his ancestry, who married into the Plumm family on account of a six-foot-long penis.
Dany goes to visit her freedmen and is there attacked by Mero, the Titan's Bastard, who disguised himself and joined the mob; however, Arstan Whitebeard defeats him with a staff alone, proving his worth for good and all. Back in safety, Daenerys demands Ser Jorah knight him immediately, but is surprised when she gets a Big "NO!" — from both of them.
Arstan explains that he is already a knight, and that's enough for the "Eureka!" Moment from Ser Jorah, who recognizes the old man: Ser Barristan Selmy, called "the Bold," lately Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Selmy denies nothing, explaining that he came to serve the true queen of Westeros, but wanted to get her measure first.
Ser Jorah wants her to refuse, on account of Barristan having turncoated for King Robert and a second time for her ... but Barristan flings his own betrayals in his face, pointing out that Ser Jorah has been spying on her on behalf of Varys. Jorah denies nothing, explaining that he stopped on account of his Bodyguard Crush ... which was as late as Qarth. (She decides this is one of the three treasons she must endure — "once for gold," since Jorah wanted a royal pardon.)
Daenerys, betrayed by The Only One I Trust (and then some), tries to dismiss them from her service and send them away ... but then she has a better idea.
Tyrion VIIIt's New Year's Day of the 300th since Aegon's Conquest, and the wedding day for King Joffrey Baratheon and Lady Margaery Tyrell.
Tyrion is lying in bed beside his wife. Dreadful details of the Red Wedding have reached King's Landing, about how the Freys mutilated the corpses of Robb Stark and Catelyn Tully; Tyrion has tried to keep those stories from Sansa. He wants to comfort her, but he knows she will never take comfort from a Lannister.
He leaves to visit Shae in the room where the dragon skulls are kept, but he remembers his recent conversation with Varys: the eunuch warned him that if confronted by the Queen, he would tell her the truth about Shae. Tyrion realizes that if he is to save Shae, he must either send her away or marry her off.
After she pleases him, he decides that he will marry her to Ser Tallad, and Cersei will never think to find out who she is.
Sansa IVSansa has learned from Tyrion the fate of her brother and mother at the Red Wedding. She and her husband join many other guests at the Queens Ballroom to give Joffrey his wedding gifts. Tyrion presents his nephew with a copy of Grand Maester Kaeth's Lives of Four Kings,note one of only four copies in existence written by Kaeth himself.
Ser Kevan Lannister describes it as "A book every king should read." Joffrey is disappointed with the gift, and hacks the book in half with the red-and-grey Valyrian steel sword his grandfather had just given him, which he has decided to name "Widow's Wail."
Joffrey remarks that he is no stranger to Valyrian steel. Tyrion suggests a dagger — say, with a dragonbone hilt — which seems to unsettle Joffrey for a moment before he says it is a good idea. but wants one with a gold hilt instead.
Tyrion VIIITyrion guarded the "Eureka!" Moment from basically everyone during the wedding, but now he reflects on it: the Whodunnit of who sent that smelly man to slit Bran Stark's throat two years ago has finally been solved, and it was Joffrey. He must have stolen the dagger from amongst Robert's possessions, knowing the king would never miss it, but not being Genre Savvy enough to send a less conspicuous weapon.
Meanwhile, the actual ceremony is going on. The Queen of Thorns praises Sansa's beauty and reaches up to adjust her hairnet of silver and purple amethysts from Asshai. During the feast, Joffrey calls for royal jousters, and the feastgoers are "entertained" as two dwarfs battle each other. (Tyrion is forced to admit that the slapstick plays well.)
Then the pigeon pie is brought out, and Joffrey and Margaery use a sword to cut it open (there are live pigeons within (?!?), which are intended to fly out). The sword is Ser Ilyn Payne's, and Sansa is stirred from her lethargy to wonder why the royal headsman no longer has Ned Stark's sword Ice.
Joffrey then has his first bite of pie, calling for more wine, which Tyrion is obliged to serve him. Then the king starts choking, clawing at his throat, unable to breathe.
Tyrion regards the goblet of wine and pours it on the floor. Joffrey reaches out a hand to him — to point? To beg for help? Cersei cradles King Joffrey Baratheon, the First of His Name, as he chokes to death. Then she calls on the Kingsguard to arrest her vile brother on charges of kingslaying.
Sansa VAs the bells of the city begin to ring, Sansa dances her way to the godswood, completely overlooked in the chaos. She is happy for Joffrey's death, because fuck him, but she feels bad for Margaery Tyrell, "twice wed and twice widowed." As she changes into escape clothes cached earlier, she notices that one of the purple amethysts is gone from Dontos' "magic" hair net, and wonders if it was all a lie.
But Dontos is there, stinking drunk, awaiting her. She accuses him of using the amethyst to murder Joffrey, but Dontos defends himself by saying the Imp has already been arrested for the crime. Dontos brings her down a hidden path and then rows her out to a ship, where his "friend" is waiting: Lord Petyr Baelish, called "Littlefinger."
When Dontos asks for his reward, Littlefinger has him Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves; he saved Sansa for 10,000 gold dragons and would have sold her out for 10,000 more. He reveals that it was he who wrote the note so long ago, asking her to go to the godswood. Littlefinger also planned for the dwarf jousters at the wedding, and Sansa asks him why he should wish Joffrey dead.
Littlefinger responds, "I had no motive. Always keep your foes confused. Sometimes the best way to baffle them is to make moves that have no purpose... Remember that when you come to play the game of thrones."
He claims he had Catelyn's maidenheadnote and tells Sansa that she could have been his daughter, had he and Catelyn wed, and therefore he must look out for Sansa.
Jaime VIIThe news is all that the king died at the Purple Wedding, but Jaime is more concerned for the boy's mother. He congratulates Brienne on keeping her vow to deliver him to the capitol, but she has been in a bleak silence ever since she learned of her liege lady's fate at the Red Wedding.
When they arrive at the Red Keep, who should they run into but Kingsguard member Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers, who immediately accuses Brienne of kingslaying and demands a Duel to the Death. Jaime, Lord Commander, takes the matter in hand, demanding Loras put away his sword ("Or I'll shove it up somewhere even Renly never found"); however, to humor him, he has Brienne confined to house arrest.
Jaime finds Cersei in the sept, where Joffrey is lying in state, and shows her his stump. The two reunite — up to and including an errant act of carnality on the Mother's altar. She demands he kill Tyrion for kinslaying, but Jaime wants to learn more before passing judgment. Cersei also says that they must be more careful with their father in the castle.
So Jaime goes to visit the Hand of the King. He apologizes for missing the wedding, though he thinks it will be hard to top "Seventy-seven courses and a regicide." Lord Tywin is furious about The Arm And A Leg, but Jaime lays it at the feet of Tywin's own Private Military Contractors. Tywin informs him that Ser Gregor Clegane has taken Harrenhal, and that Vargo Hoat was already dying of an infected ear wound when he did.
Tywin asks if Jaime can fight with his left hand, and Jaime says he can, it's totally fine. Tywin reports that an autopsy reveals that Joffrey was poisoned — there was nothing for him to choke on — and Jaime makes the connection between Renly's death and Joffrey's, but Lord Tywin is dismissive.
Finally, he begins to bend Jaime to his plans: Jaime will resign from the Kingsguard (who traditionally serve for life, but Cersei set a precedent when she fired Barristan Selmy), wed Margaery Tyrell, and resume his position as Tywin's heir and inheritor to Casterly Rock. But Jaime shouts back that he has no intention of abandoning his post: he is Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and that's that. Lord Tywin gives him a Death Glare ... but does not speak.
- The strained silence went on until it was more than Jaime could endure. "Father ..." he began.
"You are not my son." Lord Tywin turned his face away. "You say you are the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and only that. Very well, ser. Go do your duty."
Davos VIDavos and a few hand-picked men, chosen for their Undying Loyalty to Stannis, find Edric Storm in Pylos' solar. They bring Edric in secrecy to a ship belonging to Salladhor Saan, and Davos tells the boy that he must go with Ser Andrew Estermont on an adventure.
With Edric safely away from Dragonstone, Davos goes to face Stannis. He tells the King that Joffrey is dead, and Melisandre states that Tommen will be named king. When she asks Stannis for the boy, intending to work her magic, the king warns her that she will pay with her life if she is wrong. But Melisandre is confident in her prophecies: Stannis is The Chosen One, Azor Ahai reborn, and the comet was his herald.
Davos reveals that Edric Storm is gone, and judges based on her reaction that Melisandre has not foreseen this in her flames. Davos tells Stannis that a king must protect his people or he is no king at all. Davos, having made his choice To Be Lawful or Good, subjects himself to the king's justice. He asks merely to have his last say ... by reciting the words on the letter sent from the Night's Watch.
- Davos fumbled inside his cloak and drew out the crinkled sheet of parchment. It seemed a thin and flimsy thing, yet it was all the shield he had. "A Kings Hand should be able to read and write. Maester Pylos has been teaching me." He smoothed the letter flat upon his knee and began to read by the light of the magic sword.
Jon VIIIThe remaining members of the Night's Watch from Castle Black and several people from Mole's Town man the Wall as Mances army approaches. As the Watch repels attack after attack from their great vantage point, some of the wildlings reach the gate. To his surprise, Jon is left in command as Donal Noye leaves to defend it.
Jon orders fire arrows and oil casks dropped on the giants and mammoths, and the defenders once again repel the wildling attack. In the aftermath of the fighting, Jon goes down into the gate tunnel, to find Donal Noye dead alongside the last giant. When Jon tells Maester Aemon the news, the ancient maester tells him the truth: You Are in Command Now.
- "Donal chose you, and Qhorin Halfhand before him. Lord Commander Mormont made you his steward. You are a son of Winterfell, a nephew of Benjen Stark. It must be you or no one. The Wall is yours, Jon Snow."
Arya XIIArya dreams that she is running with a pack of wolves every night, but by day she is still Sandors captive. The Hound hit her with the flat of his axe to keep her from entering the Twins. Sandor now intends to take her to the Eyrie and ransom her to Lady Lysa.
That night, Arya dreams the wolf dream again, and she watches as the other wolves feast on corpses by the river. She follows a scent that leads her to her mother's body, and pulls it from the river; however, they flee at the approach of men. Arya wakes up.
At some point they encounter a survivor from the Red Wedding, a bowman in service to Ser Marq Piper. The man is mortally injured and they give him water; then, Sandor gives him a Mercy Kill. Later, she and Sandor take on work in a village in the foothill of the Mountains of the Moon, and learn that the Vale mountain clans have grown bolder and now carry steel. The Hound seems comfortable in the village, but the mayor forces him to leave once the labor is done.
Realizing they will never reach the Eyrie, Clegane decides to head back to Riverrun and attempt to ransom Arya to the Blackfish.
Tyrion IXThe news that Tyrion's trial will be presided over by a "balanced" panel of Lord Mace Tyrell (father of the victim's wife), Prince Oberyn Martell (Wild Card), and Lord Tywin Lannister (grandfather of the victim and all-around Abusive Parent) does not give Tyrion great joy. He is given leave to summon witnesses by his uncle, Ser Kevan Lannister. He also asks if he can demand a Trial by Combat; Kevan allows that he can, but Cersei intends to name Ser Gregor Clegane as her champion.
Tyrion turns to Bronn, but the latter has no interest in wagering his life anymore; he is soon to be married to Lollys Stokeworth and become brother-in-law to a Lord (with the implication his in-laws will suffer accidents so Bronn can climb up the ladder of succession). So, after Bronn Puts Himself On A Bus, Tyrion goes to trial. It's a Kangaroo Court, with the only evidence being a slow build of orchestrated hearsay; since Tyrion has no counter-witnesses, he looks quite guilty.
That evening, Kevan encourages him to take the black — despite what happened to Ned Stark when he was made the same offer. But Kevan claims that it was Tywin's idea, and goes on to provide an impassioned defense of Tywin, whose Big Brother Instinct led him to protect the family, and Tyrion realizes that Kevan is not the Yes-Man everyone perceived; there is love between his father and brother, and if Tywin is hard, it is only because Tyrion's grandfather Lord Tytos was a weakling who nearly brought down their family.
It leaves Tyrion with much to think on ... especially when Varys takes the stand the next day and utterly destroys Tyrion. Finally, Oberyn Martell visits. He reveals that Cersei has tried to bribe his judgment, mentioning marriage. He mentions that Dorne, unlike the rest of Westeros, practices absolute primogeniture — the oldest child inherits even if that child doesn't have a penis — and isn't it convenient that Myrcella, now the eldest of Cersei's two living children, is living at Sunspear right now.
He asks about the story Lord Tywin had told him — that it was Amory Lorch who killed Elia and her children. Tyrion admits that Lorch killed Rhaenys ... before adding that it was the Mountain who killed Elia and her son Aegon. The Red Viper then asks if Tyrion needs a champion for trial by battle.
Jaime VIIIJaime has moved into the apartments of the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard in White Sword Tower. He has been ignored by his entire family during the trial. He wonders if The Kingslayer is fit to occupy the title that so many great men have held before him.
Perusing the White Book, which records the deeds of the Kingsguard, he is amused to discover that Ser Barristan actually recorded his own demotion in it before leaving. He notes how paltry his own record seems in comparison, and wonders when he stopped being like Ser Arthur Dayne and more like the Smiling Knight.
He then convenes the six present members. Ser Boros Blount, who refused to die for his king, he assigns as Tommen's food taster. He has no respect for Ser Osmund Kettleblack, but cannot find any holes in his record, and concedes that an upjumped Private Military Contractor will at least know how to fight. Ser Meryn Trant he chastises for punching Sansa just because Joffrey told him to, having learned himself the perils of Blind Obedience to The Caligula. Ser Balon Swann gets asked about his Undying Loyalty, since his brother Ser Donnel has sworn loyalty to four different kings since Robert's death, and Balon may suddenly find himself having to choose between his vows and his family ... much as Jaime once was. (Balon promises that he will not do what Jaime did, which Jaime accepts as a reasonable answer — and Actually Pretty Funny.)
Finally, he confronts Ser Loras Tyrell: Master Swordsman, Even the Guys Want Him, Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy — Jaime himself, in other words, a hand ago. He asks about the Dead Person Impersonation at the Battle of the Blackwater, getting Loras to admit that it was Garlan Tyrell wearing Renly's armor. Loras also explains why they Never Found Renly's Body: he buried it himself, in a place that was secret to the two of them.
Jaime then brings up Brienne. Loras is certain Brienne was derelict in her duty, but Jaime points out that the five knights of the Kingsguard could be called the same in relation to Joffrey, and that sometimes It Can't Be Helped. Loras admits that he investigated Renly's gorget, which was sliced clean through — something even Loras himself could not accomplish. He is still skeptical of the whole Magical Shadow Assassin Baby thing, but since Renly's death was, in itself, accomplished by means that defy the laws of physics, it's as good an explanation as any other — and frankly better than some.
Jaime decides to let Loras question Brienne, making him promise (on his honor as a knight) to do it fairly.
Sansa VISansa is dismayed to discover that the ship is not making for Winterfell; instead, they have landed at Littlefinger's eponymous fief in the Fingers. There, he is to wed Lysa Arryn. Littlefinger insists that Sansa disguise herself as his "natural daughter" (i.e., Literal Bastard), and names her "Alayne Stone."
Over dinner, Littlefinger begins grooming Sansa as a Bastard Understudy, teaching her not only about the game of thrones but about its players. He derides Cersei as utterly predictable, and says that manipulating people comes down to knowing what they want. She asks if he used Dontos to poison Joffrey in this way, and Littlefinger asks who adjusted her hairnet.note
Eight days later, Lysa arrives with a small train, and the two are wed that very night, at her insistence. They also consummate, loudly, driving Sansa outdoors. When she returns, Lady Lysa's favorite singer, Marillion, begins to harass her, until Lothor Brune drives him off.
The next morning she is invited to break her fast with her aunt. Lysa is a Secret-Keeper for "Alayne's" real identity. She speaks of her happiness: Petyr Baelish was her First Love, and she married Jon Arryn (thrice her age) only under duress. She thinks Catelyn was always too snooty, and that Sansa is liable to be similar ... though she would still be happy to wed her to her son Robert.
Jon IXMance's raiders advance under the protection of a giant fortified turtle, but the Night's Watch is able to destroy it. They have been stretched thin, not many of them to man the Wall and the only way up to it now being the slow, hand-powered elevator.
Afterwards, Jon tries to get some sleep, but is pulled out of bed by some men from Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. They bring him before Ser Alliser Thorne and his new friend Janos Slynt. The two accuse Jon of being a turncloak and oathbreaker, and they even use the captured Rattleshirt to support their accusations. Even Maester Aemon cannot persuade Slynt to relent, and the former Commander of the City Watch has Jon thrown into an ice cell, relishing the thought of punishing one of Ned Starks sons.
Tyrion XTyrion wonders if he should just go on and take the black, since it seems he will be punished for the crime even if he isn't convicted.
For the fourth and final day of witnesses, Cersei brings in ... Shae, who systematically makes Tyrion a laughingstock by describing their sex life, particularly that little pet name, "My giant of Lannister." Tyrion finally decides to make a confession: he is indeed guilty ... of being a dwarf. He demands his Trial by Combat, and enjoys seeing Cersei go white when the Red Viper offers to champion him. No matter what, he's thrown a Spanner in the Works of his family's plans: If Oberyn wins, Tyrion gets to live, and if he dies, the Dornish might just throw a revolt and crown Myrcella as Rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
In the morning, he asks leave to attend his champion, and is given it; Oberyn tells a story of when he and Elia, close in age, were taken by their mother to Casterly Rock. The place was all in mourning, due to Joanna Lannister's recent Death by Childbirth; this put some kinks in his mother's plans, as she and Lady Joanna had been friends in their youth, and had intended, as friends do, for Elia to marry Jaime and Oberyn Cersei.
When Lord Tywin heard the offer, he refused it flatly; his daughter would wed Rhaegar Targaryen, he announced, and nothing else was to be said on the matter. Obviously, Elia — who did in fact marry Rhaegar — got the last laugh there ... but so did Lord Tywin, when he allowed her to be killed during the Cavalry Betrayal.note But today, House Martell will complete the Cycle of Revenge.
Oberyn Martell, lightly armored, wielding a spear glistening with oil, takes the field against Ser Gregor Clegane, called "the Mountain that Rides" on account of being close to eight feet tall and weighing nearly 420 lb. A huge crowd has gathered to watch, with sixnote knights of the Kingsguard managing them.
As was Tyrion's first Trial By Battle, it's a Lightning Bruiser against a Mighty Glacier; but this time Oberyn is chanting: "I am Oberyn Martell. My sister was Elia of Dorne. You raped her. You murdered her. You killed her children." Oberyn manages to run Clegane through with the spear; but as he approaches his downed foe, still demanding a confession, the Mountain manages to grapple him and wrestle him to the ground.
- "Elia Martell. I killed her children, then I raped her ... then I smashed her head in. Like this."
Daenerys VIDaenerys sits atop the Great Pyramid of Meereen. Her forces conquered it after a commando mission led by Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan, went in through the sewers and opened the gates. She crucified the former leaders — 163 of them — but wonders now if she should have shown mercy.
Dany meets an envoy from Astapor, sent to represent King Cleon the Great — a former butcher who has deposed the council she left to rule the city, and is seizing boys to enslave as Unsullied; and another from Yunkai who complains about what Cleon the Butcher is doing to his city.
She learns that there are Meereenese citizens at the docks trying to sell themselves into slavery — better the devil you know, and all that. It seems that all she did to free Slaver's Bay is unraveling.
Next, she grants audience to her two knights, a little regretful that they did not die on the Suicide Mission. Barristan speaks of things Daenerys was never aware of: that her father's nickname, "the Mad King," was no slander, and that Viserys, even as a young boy, seemed to be more like Aerys than Rhaegar. "This man knew my grandmother," realizes the Mother of Dragons — a woman who has known no family but Viserys and has never even set foot on the continent she claims as her birthright.
Daenerys accepts Ser Barristan's fealty, but Ser Jorah refuses to admit he has done anything wrong, and she exiles her closest friend, forcing herself not to weep. When her advisors urge her to move on, Daenerys decides that she must learn to rule if she ever wishes to sit the throne of Westeros.
- "I will not march."
"What will you do then, Khaleesi?" asked Rakharo.
"Stay," she said. "Rule. And be a queen."
Jaime IXJaime tries not to fall asleep as King Tommen Baratheon, First of his Name, obligingly signs every parchment Great-Uncle Kevan puts before him — most of them attainting rebels and granting their seats to loyalists. He thinks back to his disastrous sparring session with Ser Addam Marbrand, where Jaime discovered that "I Am Not Left-Handed" is a literal truth in his case. Kevan begs him to reconcile with Lord Tywin, but Jaime refuses, citing the delivery of "mocking gifts."
At the outer ward, Steelshanks Walton is preparing his troops to return to the north; they are also escorting someone who claims to be Arya Stark: Even Jaime, who has met the girl only once in his life, can tell that it's a Dead Person Impersonation.note
He can hear the Mountain's tortured screams, as Lord Tywin has ordered him healed so that he may be executed for his crimes — a desperate attempt to placate Dorne. This is especially worrisome because, according to reports, Stannis Baratheon has all but abandoned Dragonstone. Nobody knows where he's going, but Lord Tywin is doing his best to make sure that, if it's Dorne, Stannis finds himself unwelcome there.
Jaime finds Cersei waiting for him in White Sword Tower (a place they've never been alone together), full of frets: Lord Tywin intends to name her Lady of Casterly Rock and leave Tommen without her guidance (and marry him to Margaery Tyrell, of course).
Jaime refuses to intervene on her behalf and interrupts to question Cersei about Catelyn Stark accusing them of sending an assassin after Bran. Cersei dismisses it, saying that she'd hoped the boy would die in his sleep; when she makes an offhand remark about Robert saying it would be kinder to give Bran a Mercy Kill, Jaime realises Joffrey was responsible in a bid to impress his father. Jaime speculates if this was Tyrion's motive for poisoning Joffrey, but Cersei is uninterested in Tyrion's justification. In a desperate bid to get Jaime on her side, Cersei tries to seduce him, but he sends her away.
Finally, he summons Ser Loras and Lady Brienne. Loras has faced the facts, admitting it's unlikely Brienne actually killed Renly. Once he leaves, she and Jaime compliment each other hesitantly. Jaime tells her about the Fake Arya that's now riding up the kingsroad, as he does not want her haring after this Red Herring.
Instead, he mentions that Sansa Stark is still out there. He gives her a magnificent jeweled sword — Valyrian steel, with ripples of red and black like waves of blood on a night-dark shore; the "mocking gifts" he mentioned earlier — and asks Brienne to swear an oath. Brienne protests that she will not raise her hand against Lady Catelyn's children, but Jaime interrupts her: he wants her to protect Sansa, as Catelyn Stark charged him to in the bowels of Riverrun.
The steel from this sword (and for "Widow's Wail") came when Lord Tywin had his smiths melt down Ice, so Brienne will be protecting Sansa with the family sword. He begs her name it "Oathkeeper." Brienne, honored by his trust, agrees to Take Up His Sword — not to mention what remains of his reputation — and departs. Then Jaime opens the White Book and, in a scrawl that even Tommen would be embarrassed about, begins to edit his own Wikipedia page, bringing it up-to-date on two-and-a-half books' worth of adventures:
- Defeated in the Whispering Wood by the Young Wolf Robb Stark during the War of the Five Kings. Held captive at Riverrun and ransomed for a promise unfulfilled. Captured again by the Brave Companions, and maimed at the word of Vargo Hoat their captain, losing his sword hand to the blade of Zollo the Fat. Returned safely to Kings Landing by Brienne, the Maid of Tarth.
When he was done, more than three-quarters of his page still remained to be filled between the gold lion on the crimson shield on top and the blank white shield at the bottom. Ser Gerold Hightower had begun his history, and Ser Barristan Selmy had continued it, but the rest Jaime Lannister would need to write for himself. He could write whatever he chose, henceforth.
Whatever he chose...
Jon XJon is being sent to treat with Mance Rayder ... but Janos Slynt has charged him to assassinate the King-Beyond-the-Wall at the first opportunity. (Only the advice of Maester Aemon has stopped him from just hanging Jon outright.) It's a Suicide Mission that Jon will not survive, but he decides to put the realm before his own needs.
Tormund escorts him in, apparently holding no malice towards him, and the two drink to Ygritte, kissed by fire. Mance's captains urge him to just execute the crow on the spot, but Mance agrees to talk with him. Within his tent, Dalla is giving birth, assisted by Val. Mance shows him a cracked black horn — the Horn of Winter, the Horn of Joramun, which he did indeed find in the Frostfangs, but has kept secret from almost everyone. If he blows it, he can bring the Wall tumbling down ...
- "But once the Wall is fallen," Dalla said, "what will stop the Others?"
Jon knows that Slynt will never accept such a truce (especially because Mance does not intend to force his wildlings to abide by the laws and customs of the Seven Kingdoms), and tries to help Mance find an offer they will accept, but the parley is interrupted by riders from the east. It's not the Others, Mance says; they never come in daylight. Additionally, reports are of riders clad in steel.
Mance and his soldiers ride off to fight, but are swept from the field by Knights In Shining Armor. After the victory, the name they shout is, "Stannis! Stannis! Stannis!"
Arya XIIIArya tries to convince Sandor not to go into the Inn at the Crossroads, but he doesnt listen. Inside, Arya recognizes Tickler and Polliver, two of Gregors soldiers — and two of the people on her hit list — accompanied by a squire. The locals, sensing trouble, evacuate.
Polliver tells them of Joffrey's death, and that the Imp did it with his wife, that Stark girl, which Arya thinks is stupid (Sansa would never marry Tyrion). He also mentions that the younger one, Arya, is being sent north to marry Roose Bolton, which both Arya and the Hound think is stupid.
The Tickler invites them to rejoin Gregor Clegane's forces, but when Sandor refuses, a fight breaks out. Sandor is not fighting well, having gotten drunk in the meanwhile, but Arya stabs the squire in the belly, Sandor handles Polliver, and when The Tickler starts backing off, Arya has the easiest time stepping up behind him with the knife. She asks him his Torture Technician questions as she stabs:
- "Is there gold hidden in the village? Is there silver? Gems? Is there food? Where is Lord Beric? Where did he go? How many men were with him? How many knights? How many bowmen? How many, how many, how many, how many, how many, how many? Is there gold in the village?"
The Hound decides to make for Saltpans, there to take a ship to the Vale; but he's so wounded that he falls off his horse. Arya treats his injuries, reciting her list of names, feeling strange to leave Joffrey and the Tickler and Polliver off it — feeling strange to realize that she left the Hound off it as well.
She draws Needle and regards the sleeping man silently ... but he wakes up and asks only, "You remember where the heart is?" When Arya hesitates, he goads her: he mentions Mycah's death, he mentions how cruel he was to Sansa, he admits that he was thinking of raping her during the Battle of the Blackwater. He tries not to cry. Arya decides that he doesn't deserve mercy, and leaves him to his fate.
At Saltpans, she tries to get someone to take her to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, but no one is interested in heading to a land of "ice and war and pirates." (She also wants a cabin, but can't afford it.) But she notices that the ship is named the Titan's Daughter, and asks if they are from Braavos. When the captain admits that he is, she gives him the coin from Jaqen H'ghar.
- Jaqen said to say the words too. Arya crossed her arms against her chest. "Valar morghulis," she said, as loud as if shed known what it meant.
"Valar dohaeris," he replied, touching his brow with two fingers. Of course you shall have a cabin.
Samwell IVDalla suffered a Death by Childbirth, so Jon watches Gilly nurse the newborn babe. His smile is sad, and Sam knows that he still grieves for his wildling girl, but at least he's smiling.
As Sam and Gilly walked east from the Nightfort, they were happened upon by a group of brothers coming in the Shadow Tower, and Sam is now up-to-date on Stannis' arrival. Privately, Jon asks Sam about his feelings for Gilly, and Sam, in embarrassment, merely says that she made him feel braver.
The talk is that Melisandre plans to use Mance as fuel for a magic spell, so Sam suggests that he send Gilly to his family's ancestral seat at Horn Hill, where she will pass off her son as Sam's Literal Bastard. (Sam's lord father, Randyll Tarly, despises him as a Non-Action Guy, but the idea that Sam had sired a child on some wildling girl — or, indeed, had sex at all — might sway his opinion.) He longs to tell Jon of Bran's survival, but decides to keep his vows.
Jon goes down to the yard, where (for lack of a suitable replacement) he's been serving as the training master, while Sam ruminates on the upcoming election: with the Old Bear dead, the Night's Watch is voting on a new Lord Commander. The candidates highest in the running are First Steward Bowen Marsh, First Builder Othell Yarwyck, Ser Denys Mallister who runs the Shadow Tower, Cotter Pyke who runs Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, and Lord Janos Slynt ... especially after Marsh withdraws and endorses him.
Pyp mentions that Mallister and Pyke have split 2/3rds of the vote between them; they could win if they combined forces. However, they're unlikely to ally: Pyke is a bastard from the Iron Islands, and the Mallisters of Seagard have hated them for generations. But someone needs to talk to them about it, and Sam admits he would ... were he not such a coward.
Jon XIJon is summoned from the yard by Melisandre, and the two ride up the elevator up. Jon notes that she does not feel cold even though she's still wearing her priestess robes, and that she even smells like fire.
Atop the Wall, Jon and Stannis commiserate for a moment over the loss of Donal Noyenote and agree that he would make a better Lord Commander than anyone currently in the running.
Stannis declares that the true fight for Westeros is here, against what Melisandre calls "the God of Night and Terror." He plans to let the wildlings through the gate, as Mance asked, and to marry Val (The Chief's Daughter) to one of his retainers to solidify the alliance (Jon laughs at the Culture Clash); the final thing he needs is a Lord of Winterfell that is loyal to him.
Tyrion XITyrion assumes that the next person who will come to visit him is also going to escort him to his execution. Therefore, he's a little surprised when Jaime arrives to help him escape. Seeing his injury, Tyrion laughingly dubs them "Handless and Noseless, the Lannister boys."
Jaime has coerced Varys to book Tyrion passage to Essos. He claims he is paying back a debt to Tyrion, for lying to him ... about the whore Tyrion married. She was no such: that was the lie Lord Tywin commanded Jaime to tell. Tysha actually was the Heartwarming Orphan she claimed to be; Tysha truly loved him.
Jaime apologizes for fooling him, insisting Tywin bullied him into it; but Tyrion, livid at the truth, swears a Roaring Rampage of Revenge on both Jaime and their family at large. Jaime demands a truth for a truth: did Tyrion actually kill Joffrey? And Tyrion, too hurt to do anything but lash out at the only person in Westeros who still loves him, lets him have it:
- "You poor stupid blind crippled fool. Must I spell every little thing out for you? Very well. Cersei is a lying whore, and she's been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and probably Moon Boy for all I know. And I am the monster they all say I am. Yes, I killed your vile son." He made himself grin. It must have been a hideous sight to see, there in the torchlit gloom.
Emerging, he finds the bed occupied: Lord Tywin is nowhere to be found, but waiting for him, naked save for the chain of hands that marks the office, is Shae. She protests that she perjured herself under threat of death from the queen, but when he asks her if she ever actually enjoyed servicing him, she answers, "More than anything, my giant of Lannister" — the worst thing she could have said. He strangles her with the chain while she begs for mercy.
Tyrion then fetches and loads a crossbow, and goes to find his father. Lord Tywin is sitting on the privy. Awful father or not, he's got Nerves of Steel: finding a released prisoner holding him at arrowpoint, he insists that Tyrion put the weapon down and talk it out.
Tyrion asks where Tysha went. Tywin doesn't even remember who she was at first, until he recalls Tyrion's whore — Tyrion tells him not to say that word again. But when he asks for her location again, Tywin simply shrugs and answers, "Wherever whores go."
Samwell VStannis has assembled some of the Night's Watch, including those running for office, to express his anger that they have yet to achieve the requisite 2/3rds majority. He threatens to simply choose one of them, but the Watch angrily defends its independence, so Stannis decides to give them just one more vote to straighten themselves out.
He announces that he plans to garrison the abandoned castles on the Wall, and to use the Gift to feed the assembled coalition of Baratheons and Brotherhood. Melisandre explains his actions by mentioning a war "for life itself," and Maester Aemon asks if she means the war for the dawn; and, if she does, where is the prince that was promised? Melisandre declares it to be Stannis.
After the others have left, Aemon asks to have Lightbringer, the sword of heroes, described to him (he's nearly blind), and Sam is awed by it; but, privily, Aemon and Sam notice that they felt no heat from it, though they did see a shimmer. Sam asks if Aemon can do anything about the vote, and the maester, sworn and chained, says that he cannot; Sam then asks if he could do anything about the vote, and Maester Aemon replies, "Why, I dont know, Samwell. Could you?"
And so Sam goes to talk to Cotter Pyke. Pyke — an illegitimate child from the Iron Islands, bearing the traditional surname of the region — admits he doesn't want the job, but thinks it'd be worse off if Denys Mallister got it. Mallister, for his part, is of similar mind.
Sam blurts out that they can all Take A Fifth Option, as there is one amongst the Watch who is of noble blood, who enjoyed (or enjoys) the trust of Maester Aemon, Donal Noye, even the Old Bear. Mallister admits that such a man might be a better choice ... and so Sam lies that Stannis plans to force Cotter Pyke down the Watch's throat if a choice isn't made. And then he goes to Pyke and repeats the same pitch, this time replacing the "Blue Blood" bit with a "Literal Bastard" thing, and claims that Stannis will declare for Mallister.
Jon XIIAfter almost beating one of his recruits to a pulp, Jon realizes he wants Winterfell — always has. But even more than that, he wants the legitimacy of being a trueborn Stark, and he doesn't know if Stannis' word can give him that, not in the privacy of his own heart.
As he passes the bathhouse, he stumbles upon Bowen Marsh and Alliser Thorne trying to get First Builder Othell Yarwyck to endorse Slynt; he leaves them to their plotting. He wanders out through the gate in the Wall (now left permanently open) to think, and realizes he can sense Ghost nearby; the two reunite. Looking into Ghost's eyes — red, like those of the weirwood tree — he has his answer.
So he attends the voting council for the first time. But, to his surprise, he finds out that he himself has been nominated for the position of Lord Commander. Even more than that, Othell Yarwyck announces that, while he had been about to endorse Slynt, he would rather do so for Jon.
Slynt and Thorne, spluttering, call for a vote, and the cauldron is brought up for tokens to be cast; from within it erupts the raven that was once Jeor Mormont's pet, shouting, "Snow! Snow! Snow!" After that, it's all over but the counting. Pyp and Grenn congratulate Sam for orchestrating the entire thing, and also Jon, now the nine-hundred-and-ninety-eighth Lord Commander of the Sworn Brotherhood of the Night's Watch.
- "You best have some wine, Lord Jon. I think youre going to need a lot of wine."
So Jon Snow took the wineskin from [Pyp's] hand and had a swallow. But only one. The Wall was his, the night was dark, and he had a king to face.
Sansa VII"Alayne Stone" awakes in the Eyrie, which she finds cold and frightening; her only companions are a few maids and Robert Arryn, "eight going on three". She sees it is snowing outside, and begins to make herself a castle: Winterfell, the way she used to remember it. She ignores everyone who comes to watch or comment, even Lady Lysa ... except Littlefinger, who gives advice on how to keep the bridges from collapsing.
When they're done, she hits him with a snowball as thanks for bringing her here instead of home; in response, Petyr kisses her. She is realizing that there's no one around to save her when Robert comes storming out. He is delighted with the castle ... and even more delighted to knock it down, using a doll as a giant. Sansa grabs for the doll and accidentally rips off its head.
Robert gets so upset that he falls into a shaking fit, and must be tended to by Maester Colemon. Sansa, still angry, puts the "giant"'s head on a spike and adorns the walls of the castle with it.
That evening, Marillion summons her to the Great Hall of the Eyrie, locking her in with Lysa. Lysa is less concerned with Robert's shaking than with the stolen kiss. She accuses Sansa of taking after Catelyn, as regards being a tease towards Petyr. She tells Sansa of a time when they were teens: Catelyn danced with Petyr six times, causing him to ignore Lysa entirely, but when he went in for a kiss, she laughed at him. That night Lysa snuck into his bedchambers and gave herself to him — even though Petyr, half drunk, called her Cat.note
Lysa actually conceived from this tryst; her marriage to Jon Arryn was to shield her from shame, even though she refused to give up the identity of the father. Lysa demands that Sansa keep her hands off her husband ... and drags her over to the Moon Door to make the point.
Thankfully for Sansa, Littlefinger bursts in at this time, causing Lysa to go full-on Just Between You and Me: she begs Petyr's forgiveness for allowing them to abort their baby (using a potion with "tansy and pennyroyal"), and admits to poisoning Jon Arryn with the Tears of Lys at Petyr's behest. Littlefinger promises to stay by her side for the rest of her life, and promises her that he has only ever loved one woman:
- "Only Cat." He gave her a short, sharp shove.
Lysa stumbled backward, her feet slipping on the wet marble. And then she was gone. She never screamed. For the longest time there was no sound but the wind.
Marillion gasped, "You... you..."
The guards were shouting outside the door, pounding with the butts of their heavy spears. Lord Petyr pulled Sansa to her feet. "You're not hurt?" When she shook her head, he said, "Run let my guards in, then. There's no time to lose. This singer's killed my lady wife."
Tired of Wham Episodes yet? There's only one more ... but it's the biggest one yet. And, considering that it concerns a character who was Adapted Out of the HBO television adaptation, Game of Thrones, you non-readers are in for a treat.
Epilogue — Merrett FreyOn the road up to Oldstones, a hungover Merrett Frey thinks that snow so early in the riverlands is a bad sign. He is on his way to ransom his grandnephew Petyr, called "Petyr Pimple," from the Brotherhood Without Banners. Though he had once aspired to be a knight, a head injury left him a Non-Action Guy whose role at the Red Wedding was to drink Greatjon Umber under the table (and he even failed at that).
The outlaws bind him and bring him to see Petyr ... already hanged — and throw a noose around his neck as well. When Merrett protests that he was not involved (aside from the drinking), the brotherhood ask their arbiter to judge.
- Her cloak and collar hid the gash his brother's blade had made, but her face was even worse than he remembered. The flesh had gone pudding soft in the water and turned the color of curdled milk. Half her hair was gone and the rest had turned as white and brittle as a crone's. Beneath her ravaged scalp, her face was shredded skin and black blood where she had raked herself with her nails. But her eyes were the most terrible thing. Her eyes saw him, and they hated.
"She dont speak," said the big man in the yellow cloak. "You bloody bastards cut her throat too deep for that. But she remembers." He turned to the dead woman and said, "What do you say, mlady? Was he part of it?"
Lady Catelyn's eyes never left him. She nodded.
Merrett Frey opened his mouth to plead, but the noose choked off his words. His feet left the ground, the rope cutting deep into the soft flesh beneath his chin. Up into the air he jerked, kicking and twisting, up and up and up.