By Quick Matthew
By Quick Matthew
First published in 2008, The Silver Linings Playbook is a story about sorrow, denial, acceptance, and, most of all, hope. Exploring classic literature, the importance of community, and “silver linings”, this novel was birthed from Matthew Quick’s personal journey.
In addition, The Silver Linings Playbook is also a tribute to Matthew Quick’s hometown. Matthew was born and raised in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, and is a lifelong Eagles fan. He currently lives in South Jersey, just fifteen minutes away from the Lincoln Financial Field.
As a teenager, Matthew loved to write stories. He dreamed of becoming an author and writing for a living. However, he became convinced by the pessimism of the world that he could not make a living simply being an author. He settled instead for becoming a high school English teacher. As he talked to his students about the importance of following their dreams, and the potential their lives held, he came to realize that he needed to follow his own advice, follow his own dreams he had abandoned so long ago. He decided to set out on a journey across the world – he quit his job, sold his house and traveled around with nothing more than the pack on his back. He went white water rafting and walked across Africa. Eventually, he ended up in his in-laws basement writing full time, and thus The Silver Linings Playbook was born.
The Playbook is filled with hints of Matthew’s own personal journey and discovery. Pat Peoples, in a way, IS Matthew Quick. Pat, like Matthew, was a high school teacher. He gains knowledge and learns lessons though the extensive reading of literature. Pat does not believe in pessimism, but, rather, chooses to believe that there is always some form of hope, however nontraditional and unexpected. He follows his desires to improve himself, just as Matthew followed his desires on his soul searching journey. And just as Pat improves himself through non-stop dedication and work out routines, most of which take place in his parents’ basement, so too did Matthew Quick improve himself through writing, also in his in-laws’ basement. It is no accident that The Silver Linings Playbook was the novel that was finished during this period of Matthew’s life, and presents itself almost as a direct representation of the author.
When Matthew Quick quit his job, people thought he had gone crazy. Who would quit their job, sell their house, and backpack in Africa? They didn’t believe his stories were ever going to amount to anything. He defeated their pessimism, producing a story that not only sold well and became a sweeping motion picture, but also served to illuminate the silver linings people miss in their everyday lives.
Pat Peoples, a former high school history teacher, has just gotten out of the mental institution. He is taken back in by his family and lives his life waiting for his inevitable reunion with his wife, Nikki. He believes that Nikki and he are going through “apart time”, and that if he improves himself enough, he will be able to be with her again.
Pat works out non-stop in his home gym located in his basement and runs ten miles a day at sunset. He always goes at sunset so he can watch the sky, and catch the silver lining on the clouds. This is his way of reminding himself that one day he will get Nikki back and that he can’t give up hope.
When Pat first comes home, his Mom takes care of him and through careful planning, attempts to help Pat become a part of the family again. Soon after Pat’s return home, the first Eagles game of the season comes on television. Pat’s brother, Jake, comes over and gives Pat a welcome home present – a Hank Baskett jersey. Baskett is a new player with a lot of potential, and serves as a model of hope for Pat. Pat’s father is at the game as well, although he doesn’t talk to Pat at first.
On one of his evening runs, Pat is reunited with an old friend from school, Ronnie, who invites Pat over to dinner one evening. Ronnie is married to Veronica, and they have a toddler named Emily. Veronica’s sister, Tiffany, also comes to dinner. Tiffany was married years ago, and her husband died. Pat walks Tiffany home, and they cry about their absent spouses.
Tiffany begins following Pat on his evening jogs, not saying anything, just following. Pat’s therapist, Dr. Patel, or Cliff, encourages Pat to ask Tiffany out. They become friends and enjoy each other’s silent company.
During this time, Pat is becoming closer to his father and brother through the Eagles football. Pat’s Dad talks to him and leaves him the morning paper with the sports pages as a sign of goodwill. Jake takes Pat to see the Eagle’s home games, and Pat becomes friends with many of the other tailgaters. Cliff is also an Eagles fan and becomes Pat’s friend outside of their therapy sessions.
Tiffany reveals that she has been in contact with Nikki, who wants to talk to him through letters. Since there are restraining orders against both people, Tiffany will act as a liaison if Pat helps her win a dance competition. Pat must give up football for one month, and practice with Tiffany in her dance studio. They perform brilliantly, and everyone is proud of him.
Through Nikki’s letters, Pat learns that she is remarried and has no desire to see him again. Pat asks her to meet at the place they became engaged, and Tiffany shows up instead. Tiffany made up the letters in an attempt to give Pat closure.
Pat remembers how he and Nikki separated, how she cheated on him, and he almost killed her lover. He woke up in the hospital with no memory of any of it. He goes to confront Nikki and realizes she is happy with her new family.
Although he gives up hope with Nikki, he realizes that Tiffany accepts him for all his faults, and that the two need each other.
Pat Peoples is obsessed with seeing the silver lining. After he leaves the mental institution, it is that image which represents hope for him. He goes running at dusk every day just so he can see the clouds, and be reminded that everything will work out. This blindly optimistic hope is what allows Pat to become a better person throughout the novel; it is what keeps him going when nothing else does. He eventually realizes that he cannot accomplish everything and that there are some things that can’t be fixed. However, there is always another silver lining to be found in life, even when it is least expected.
Pat’s marriage to Nikki fell apart over the years because he didn’t treat her well. He wasn’t home a lot, never considered her feelings, and was emotionally abusive. Because of all this, she cheated on him, and their marriage ended. When Pat transforms himself, being “kind instead of right” becomes his own personal motto. He consciously thinks about his decision and repeats the phrase to himself over and over. As a result of this, he learns to consider others and opens himself up to new experiences.
One of the first things Pat’s mom says to him when he comes home is that everybody needs friends. Pat learns this throughout the novel, when he becomes friends with Danny, Tiffany, Cliff, as well as the Eagles fans. When Tiffany first starts following him on his jogs, he is annoyed by it. However, they slowly become friends, and, when she stops following him, he ends up missing her. The end of the novel, Tiffany and Pat realize that they need each other; they need someone who can accept them for who they are, problems and all.
It is not clear if Pat was always mentally unstable, or if his instability was brought about by his accident, but, throughout the novel, this is the issue Pat struggles with the most. He has emotional outbursts and trouble controlling his emotions. Tiffany is the only other character who has mental problems, and that is why she can accept and love Pat, because she understands, to some extent, what he’s going through. Pat believes many of the other characters in the novel are cold, and that they can’t understand how a mentally unstable person feels.
Both Tiffany and Pat have problems with denial about their past. Pat is in denial about the fact that Nikki is never coming back and spends his days longing for their reunion. His denial was so powerful, that he forcefully forgot the crime he committed against her lover. His method of humming to distract himself when uncomfortable stimuli remind him of his past with Nikki keeps him in denial. When Tiffany’s husband died, Tiffany was in denial, and had sex with random men, imagining that he was coming back. At the end of the novel, both characters have come to terms with their problems and rid themselves of their denial.
The Silver Linings Playbook does not shy away from showing the troubles of domestic life. This is seen most notably in the relationship between Pat’s Mom and Dad. Dad is emotionally cold and stubborn and doesn’t seem to care about Mom, but she puts up with him anyway. Eventually, she puts her foot down and establishes rules around the house. Tiffany told her husband that she didn’t want to have so much sex, and started a series of events which led to his car crash. Pat caught Nikki cheating, and almost killed her new lover before being bashed in the head.
Throughout the novel, Pat reads the novels that Nikki taught in her American Literature class. There is a strong connection between the life of the authors and the book. For example, Hemingway and Plath’s work mightily depressed Pat, as there were no silver linings at the end. Both of these authors committed suicide; Hemingway shot himself, and Plath stuck her head in the oven. By writing a novel which inspires hope, Matthew Quick draws a link between himself and his novel in a layer of self-reflection.
Pat believes that everyone’s life is a series of movies. People encounter troubles, go through impossible times, and emerge victorious at the end. Pat no longer watches movies, because he is focusing on his own, and his reunion with Nikki will be his ending. There are several points where Pat even uses movie lingo to write his story. The best example of this is Pat’s Own Montage, in which he uses a series of snippet events to mimic a movie montage. In the end, Pat decides the scene of Nikki laughing happily with her new family is a good end for his movie and begins a new chapter with Tiffany.
Pat spends most of his days working out as a way to relieve his strong emotions, good and bad. When he’s elated he runs farther and faster during his evening jog, and when he’s depressed or angry he lifts weights. When he dances with Tiffany, she tells him to channel his sadness into movement. There is also the strong theme of Eagles football throughout. The football games bring Pat together with his family and establish a sense of immediate belonging with fellow fans.
At the heart of this novel lies a traditional journey – not only for Pat, but for the author, as well. The novel chronicles the many transformations that people undergo in their lives. Pat has several distinct transformations during his journey. He begins as an emotionally absent husband, then the mentally ill patient, a man overcoming his denial, and finally a kind individual. Pat’s personal journey made him a better person, and, in the end, he was thankful for everything he went through to get to that point. People never stop changing, and Pat hopes to change for the better.
Pat is a former high school history teacher who, at the beginning of the novel, just came home from a mental institution. He firmly believes that he and his wife are going through an “apart time” that will inevitably come to an end. He believes that if he becomes a decent enough person that Nikki will come back to him. He works out endlessly, running ten miles a day, and practices controlling his anger and being kind instead of right. He comes to realize that Nikki is never coming back, and that he is a better person because of his struggle with mental illness.
Introduced to Pat through her sister, Veronica, Tiffany becomes Pat’s friend when he comforts her. She begins jogging with Pat and gets him to enter a dance competition with her. Eventually, she falls in love with him, and pretends to be Nikki to give him a sense of closure. Not good at communicating with people, she is blunt and straightforward. Her husband died a few years ago, and she became extremely depressed. She understands what Pat is going through and loves him in spite of, or perhaps because of, his illness.
Pat’s ex-wife. She and Pat met in college when they were children, and got married soon after. Eventually, she and Pat’s marriage fell apart, and she cheated on him. She took his assets in the divorce, and is now happily married to another man and has two children. Nikki teaches high school English, and her friends are all literary. In an effort to impress Nikki when apart time is over, Pat begins reading all literature books Nikki taught in her classes. Pat only has one picture of Nikki and keeps it next to his face when he sleeps at night.
Pat’s therapist and a fellow Eagles fan. Pat meets with Cliff every Friday afternoon for their weekly session. Pat thinks of him as the best therapist in the world, because he does not force Pat to be pessimistic. Cliff is part of a tailgating group called Asian Invasion, and he becomes friends with Pat outside of their therapy sessions through the Eagles football games. He seems to genuinely care about Pat and supports him throughout his journey to a better self.
Pat’s mother is, at first, an obedient housewife. She cares deeply for all members of her family, and she was the one who fought so that Pat could leave the mental hospital. She buys him a home gym and takes care of him. She is constantly trying to get the family to be close again. Eventually she learns to stand up to her husband, and have a say about what goes on around the house. Pat knows that his mother will love him no matter what kind of person he is, and her acceptance means a lot to him.
Silent and stubborn, his moods are mostly based on whether or not the Eagles are winning their football games. For the first few weeks Pat is at home, Dad doesn’t even talk to him. He first speaks to him while watching an Eagles game, and, through football, he comes to tolerate his mentally ill son. When he and Pat’s mother begin having serious problems in their marriage, it takes him a long time to cave in to her demands. As a result, however, he must be more present in the family, and talk to Pat every day.
Pat’s brother, also an Eagles fan. When they are reunited, Jake gives Pat his Hank Baskett jersey and season tickets to the football games. Although Pat does not know it at first, Jake is happily married to a musician named Caitlin. He does his best to tell his brother the truth and protects him fiercely when Tiffany pretends to be Nikki. Jake is always there to support Pat when he needs it and is the one who does Pat a monumental favor, driving him to Maryland to see Nikki.
One of Pat’s old friends from school. Ronnie is married to Veronica, and his daughter is named Emily. At first Pat doesn’t trust Ronnie because he never visited Pat and Nikki in Maryland, but Ronnie wrote to Pat while he was in the mental institution, giving him regular updates on his family and daughter. Ronnie is a fellow Eagles fan, and he and Pat bond over football. He also warns Pat about Nikki and tells him that she isn’t normal.
Ronnie’s wife, Tiffany’s older sister, and mother of Emily. Veronica tries to get Pat and Tiffany together by throwing a dinner party. She seems supportive of her sister and realizes that having a friend will be advantageous for Tiffany. Although she is wary of Pat’s involvement with her sister, and worries about Tiffany’s depression getting worse if she is rejected, Veronica ends up thankful to Pat and tells him that he has undoubtedly helped her sister.
Ronnie and Veronica’s daughter. The last time Pat saw her before he went into the mental institution, Emily was just a baby. Now that she is a toddler, Pat feels a strange attraction to her. Every time he sees her, he imagines having children with Nikki. Emily called Pat “pap” and enjoys sitting in his lap. Although she can’t speak much, Emily is a positive force for Pat, and some of his happiest moments in the book are when he is carefree and playing with Emily.
Jake’s wife. Caitlin comes from a family of musicians, and she and Jake are in love. They got married while Pat was in the mental institution, and since Pat couldn’t go to the wedding, no one told him his brother was married. After a while, Jake tells Pat about his wife, and they all go out to lunch. Caitlin is pretty, talented, and wants to be Pat’s friend, if he will let her.
An old friend of Pat’s from school. Scott has season tickets to all the Eagles games just like Jake and Pat. He goes to all the tailgating events, and is happy to see Pat again after so long. Since Pat entered the mental hospital, Scott got married and had two children. Scott and Jake are both popular at the Eagles games.
Pat’s black friend from the mental hospital. When Danny first arrived, he didn’t speak, but eventually he spoke to Pat. Throughout the story, Pat mentions slang that Danny taught him. On Christmas Day, the day after Danny got out of the mental hospital, he finds Pat on his front lawn after Pat was mugged. He takes Pat to the hospital and visits him regularly during his recovery. Their favorite activity is playing board games, and Danny always wins.
Although Dr. Timbers only shows up in the first chapter, he remains a powerful force for Pat throughout his journey. To Pat, Dr. Timbers is the essence of pessimism, which Pat rails against in his search for his silver lining. When he meets Dr. Patel, he is immediately grateful that his new therapist is nothing like Dr. Timbers.
A rookie player for the Eagles, with a lot of potential to be great. Jake gets Pat a Hank Baskett jersey, and from then on Pat and Baskett become linked. During the tailgating events, Pat is often referred to as Baskett, and when Baskett is successful, everyone congratulates Pat. Pat wants Baskett to improve himself, just as Pat wants to improve himself.
Pat is doing push-ups in the courtyard when his mother comes to visit. She asks him if he would like to come home, but he can only leave the institution if he promises not to look for Nikki. Pat wants to get away from the pessimistic doctors, so he agrees to come home, but only until his “apart time” with Nikki ends.
Pat says goodbye to his roommate and his doctor, and then gets in the car with his Mom. They drive back to his hometown, Collingswood, New Jersey. His mom tells him that she worked exceptionally hard to get him out of the institution, so he has to follow the rules carefully, or he will be forced to go back.
Going into town, there are many new buildings and people. Pat begins getting nervous and has to control his breathing to calm down.
As soon as they get home, Pat goes down to the basement. His Mom has filled it with brand-new workout equipment. He is so excited, he begins working out immediately. He spends his days working out and writing in his daily memoir so that when apart time is over, Nikki will know how he’s been spending his days.
All the pictures of Pat and Nikki have been taken down. When he asks his mother, she says a burglar stole them. Pat doesn’t believe her.
He doesn’t see his father, who works a lot and spends time in his study.
Pat decides he wants to start reading books so he can salvage his marriage and impress Nikki’s friends, who make fun of him for being stupid. His Mom uses her library card to get him books, and he asks for The Great Gatsby. He doesn’t like it because the ending doesn’t have a silver lining.
Pat is working out when his Mom comes downstairs and tells him that he has an appointment with Dr. Patel.
In the waiting room, Pat hears “Songbird” by Kenny G. and starts yelling and throwing things around. Dr. Patel and his mother come in. Dr. Patel tells the secretary to turn the music off. Pat hides his face with his hands so they won’t see him crying. Dr. Patel asks Pat to come into his office.
The office has a calming atmosphere, and the two relax in recliners. Pat doesn’t want the doctor to think he’s depressed. They begin talking, and Dr. Patel wants Pat to call him by his first name, Cliff.
Cliff asks about the song, and Pat closes his eyes and counts to ten. Cliff asks again, and Pat clears his mind again. Pat asks why Cliff wants to know about Nikki. Cliff knows that being reunited with Nikki is the main goal of Pat’s life. Pat says he can’t wait until apart time is over. He and Nikki decided to separate, and she was going to come back when she got her life figured out. Pat thinks she left because he was overweight and a workaholic. He wants her to come back soon, but he isn’t allowed to contact Nikki or her family and doesn’t remember why. He just believes that Nikki will come back.
Cliff doesn’t tell Pat that Nikki won’t come back to him like all the other doctors did, so Pat decides he likes Cliff. Pat thinks that life is like a series of movies, with the main character overcoming struggles and improving his life. Right now Pat is focusing on his own movie, and waiting for his happy ending, his reunion with Nikki.
They engage in small talk for a while longer, and Cliff tells Pat that he wants to change his medication.
On the way home, Pat tells his Mom that he thinks Nikki is going to come back soon, and his Mom begins crying.
Back at home, his father is still in his study, so Pat goes back to work out.
Pat goes running every evening. He makes sure to go when the sun is setting, so he can see the silver lining on the clouds. The silver lining reminds him that Nikki is coming back.
Since apart time began, Pat’s lost 50 pounds. He thinks Nikki got mad that he gained weight over the 5 years they were married.
When there are no clouds in the sky, Pat stares straight into the sun.
Pat asks for a Hemingway book because Nikki teaches it in her classroom. He wants one that’s a love story. His Mom brings him A Farewell to Arms.
Pat is devastated by the ending in which the wife dies giving birth. He cries uncontrollably and thinks if Hemingway was alive he would kill him.
When Pat enters Dr. Patel’s waiting room, the secretary turns the music off. In the office, Patel asks about the medicine. Pat says it’s fine, but doesn’t admit he’s spitting them out whenever he gets the chance. Patel asks about any unwanted side effects, specifically, hallucination. Pat says he hasn’t had any.
At home, Pat smells Mom cooking. She is making crabby cakes, Nikki’s favorite food. He hopes that apart time is over, but instead his Mom tells him his brother, Jake, is coming to watch the game.
To clear his head, Pat goes for a run. He passes an old friend named Ronnie, and ignores him. Ronnie never visited Pat and Nikki in Baltimore.
Jake is at the house, and he can’t believe how ripped Pat is. Jake bought him an Eagles jersey, number 84, Hank Baskett. He also bought Pat season tickets to make up for all the time they’ve spent apart.
Father ignores Pat, and everyone starts eating. As they watch, Pat inexplicably remembers people’s names. The Eagles are playing at the Lincoln Financial Field, and Pat thought they played at Veteran’s Stadium. When he asks what happened, Jake tells him the stadium was demolished, and shows him a video of the demoliton. Pat thinks he is hallucinating and is in disbelief when his Mom reveals that it was demolished in 2006, four years ago.
Pat starts freaking out and shakes his Mom, asking her how long he was in the bad place. Jake tells him four years, and Pat lets go of his mother. He hears Mom scream, and his head hits the ground.
Sleeping in the attic, Pat hallucinates that Kenny G. is singing “Songbird” to him. Pat screams for Kenny to stop. His mother and father are restraining him, and his Mom gets knocked to the floor. Dad begins punching him in the face and the hallucination vanishes. Pat starts crying, and his Mom holds him, stroking his hair until he falls asleep.
Pat wakes up with Mom still stroking his hair. She cooks him breakfast, and he takes his pills before starting his morning workout.
In the basement, Ronnie comes to visit Pat. He admires the gym and wants to work out with him sometime. Pat says yes, but thinks Ron won’t keep his promise.
Ronnie apologizes for never visiting him in Baltimore, and invites Pat over to dinner. His wife, Veronica, wants Pat to dress nice for the occasion.
After Ron leaves, Pat thinks what Nikki would say about the dinner, and how much she hates Veronica.
Pat worries about what to wear to dinner. He forgets its Friday, his appointment day with Dr. Patel.
In the office, Pat tells Patel about his problem. Dr. Patel suggests that he wear his new jersey. He tries to ask Pat about Kenny G. again, but Pat keeps avoiding the question. Dr. Patel tells Pat that he was rough with his Mom this week, and, if the outbursts continue, he’ll have to go back to the institution.
Pat cries uncontrollably, saying he wants to be a decent person, and he’ll try harder. He’ll do anything to avoid going back to the bad place.
After lifting and running weights, Pat showers and gets ready for the dinner. His mom suggests he wear a polo shirt instead of the jersey, but Pat doesn’t want to.
Ronnie answers the door in a jacket and tie, but compliments Pat on the jersey. Inside, Veronica is feeding Emily, no longer a newborn. Pat thinks about having kids with Nikki.
Veronica’s sister, Tiffany, is also coming to dinner. Her husband Tommy died a while back. She arrives all dressed up, and Pat tries to make awkward small talk with her, but she walks out of the room.
During dinner, Veronica and Ron do all the talking. They try to make plans for the four of them to go out. Right after dinner, Tiffany says she is tired and wants Pat to walk her home. She lives with her parents down the street. When they get to her house, she says she doesn’t know how this dating thing works, but they can have sex if Pat wants.
Pat says he is married, showing her the ring. She shows him her ring, and they both begin crying.
Back at home, Mom said Ronnie called. Pat doesn’t call him back, and stares at the ceiling until the sun comes up.
Pat has one picture of Nikki, a headshot taken at a photo shoot. It was a Christmas present, and when he got it he didn’t like it. He kisses the glass and thinks about their wedding. He decides he wants to watch the wedding video and asks his parents where it is. They say they don’t have it, but he looks for it anyway. When he can’t find it, he gets angry and works out to burn off some steam.
Pat goes to sleep with the picture of Nikki lying next to his head.
Cliff asks how the dinner party went, and especially about Tiffany. Pat tells Cliff she was slutty, because she asked to have sex. Cliff wants to know why Pat didn’t have sex with her, and Pat says it is because he loves his wife, Nikki.
Tiffany has been following Pat on his jogging route every day. She somehow knows his schedule, and Pat can’t get rid of her. Cliff asks Pat how long it’s been since he’s seen Nikki, and why not give Tiffany a chance. Pat yells at Cliff and then calms down.
Cliff asks Pat if he likes foreign films. Cliff’s wife used to love them, and bugged him all the time about going. After taking her to a few, she stopped asking. He suggests doing the same thing with Tiffany and asking her out on a date.
In the car on the way home, Pat’s Mom offers to give him some money if he wants to take Tiffany out. During their jog, Pat asks Tiffany to dinner, and she agrees to go.
Mom bought Pat new clothes, and makes sure he looks good. She gives him money and tells him to have an enjoyable time. Tiffany is waiting outside her house, and they walk to a diner.
Pat worries about not having enough money, and orders Raisin Bran because it’s the cheapest thing on the menu. He notices that Tiffany didn’t order anything, and offers to share his cereal. She refuses, and Pat leaves the waitress a large tip.
On the walk home, Tiffany takes back what she said to Pat about being able to have sex with her, and then goes inside her house. Back at his own house, Pat ignores his mother and goes up to the attic where the picture of Nikki is. Pat talks to Nikki for a while before falling asleep crying.
It is game day, so Pat gets up early to run. Tiffany is waiting for him, even though he didn’t tell her he was running early. She acts like they never went out to dinner and follows him like normal.
After the ten mile run, Pat takes a shower and puts on his Hank Bassett jersey. Downstairs, his brother, dad, and Ronnie are all in the living room. They begin singing the Eagles fight song, and Pat feels at home for the first time. He’s glad that his father can be in the same room as him.
During halftime, the boys go outside to play catch. Dad keeps nodding approvingly, and Pat is happy the Eagles are ahead. They end up winning, and in the final group chant his father touches him with his arm.
Ronnie wants Pat to walk him home, and they stop at the park for some more catch. Ron asks Pat about Tiffany and warns him that she is odd. He says she’s seeing a therapist and tells Pat why she was fired from her job. Pat thinks the whole time that Ron doesn’t understand what she was going through and that it’s wrong to judge her. He sympathizes with her.
After Ronnie leaves, Pat goes to Tiffany’s parents and knocks on the door. Tiffany’s mom opens the door, and Pat asks if he can see her daughter. Tiffany’s mom questions Pat’s intentions, and Pat insists that they’re just friends and shows her the wedding ring on his finger to prove it.
Tiffany is out back, and Pat asks why she keeps following him. She answers that she’s scouting him, but won’t say what for.
The day after the game, Pat’s father visits him in the basement. He brings Pat the newspaper with the sports section, and wants Pat to follow up on the new players. He is going to leave the newspaper on the top step every morning. It is a tremendous deal, because, as a kid, Dad always took the paper to work with him, and never let Jake or Pat read it.
Mom cooks Pat breakfast, and seems happy. Every night when Dad comes home, Pat hopes he will talk about the Eagles, but he doesn’t.
Pat tells Cliff about the newspaper, but Cliff wants to talk about Tiffany. Pat is going to the beach with Ronnie, Veronica, Emily and Tiffany, and Cliff wants to know if Pat is looking forward to seeing Tiffany in a bikini.
After their session, Cliff does the Eagles chant with Pat, and Pat thinks he’s the best therapist in the world.
Ronnie picks up Pat in the family Minivan. Veronica, Tiffany and Emily are already in. Pat’s Mom tries to make small talk, and Tiffany ignores her. Pat feels like a five year old.
At the beach, no one else is there. Emily gets sand in her eye and begins crying. Tiffany gets upset, and Veronica reminds her about what her therapist said. Tiffany doesn’t want Veronica to bring up her therapist in front of Pat, and storms off. Veronica follows, leaving Emily with Pat and Ron.
Ron falls asleep under the umbrella, and Pat takes Emily swimming. They are floating with the waves, going deeper into the ocean. Emily is laughing, and Pat is happy. Suddenly Veronica is yelling at Pat, who swims back to shore. Emily starts crying when she sees her mother yelling, and Veronica accuses Ron of leaving Emily alone with “him”.
Pat takes off running. He is crying. He was so happy swimming with Emily, and he didn’t do anything wrong. It wasn’t right for Veronica to get so mad. Tiffany passes him, and Pat begins racing her. Pat gets ahead, and they jog together for a while. Tiffany goes out into the ocean, and Pat follows. They float together, not talking, and Pat gets the urge to kiss her.
Back by the van, they tell Veronica and Ron that they want to go home.
Pat wakes up to his Dad by his bedside, shouting the Eagles chant. The big game is today, and Jake and Pat are using their season tickets. Pat gets up early to work out and run before Dad drives him to the stadium. They talk in the car about football, and the importance of putting family first.
At the stadium, there are people in Eagle jerseys everywhere. Pat looks at where the Veteran Stadium used to be, but it isn’t there anymore. He finds his brother at a tailgating tent, and his old friend Scott is there. Since Scott has seen Pat last, he got married and had two little girls. Pat does the mental math in his head, and he hasn’t seen Scott in four years. He decides to ignore this, he doesn’t want to think about it too much.
A man in a Giants jersey walks in, with a little boy. Jake begins calling the man an Asshole and starts up a chant. The boy gets scared and starts crying. The Giants fan singles out Pat, and shoves him, even though Pat wasn’t chanting. Jake tries to get him to stop, but the Giants fan throws him to the ground. Pat sees Jake is bleeding and punches the guy out. Someone says to call an ambulance, and Pat runs away as fast as he can. He keeps throwing up and crying.
Eventually Jake catches up to him; he is on the phone, and the Giants fan wakes up and is pissed. Pat shouldn’t come back to the tent. Pat feels unbelievably guilty about what happened, but Jake told him he was defending his family, and he’s a hero for that.
They go to the game, and the Eagles lose. Back at the house, Pat’s Dad has broken the television set. Pat goes to work out, but keeps thinking about the kid crying, and punching his dad out. He falls asleep and dreams about the crying boy turning into Nikki, who says that she hates him. Pat doesn’t like these uncontrollable actions, and losing his temper.
In the morning, there is a copy of the morning paper on the top step of the basement.
A couple of days after the game, Pat is eating dinner with Tiffany at the diner. They are sharing Raisin Bran. Pat thinks Tiffany looks sad. He tells her about what happened with the Giant’s fan, and Tiffany doesn’t understand why Pat feels guilty. He says it’s because Nikki is a pacifist, and Tiffany says to fuck Nikki. She begins yelling and gets kicked out of the diner for cursing.
Pat pays the bill and goes outside after her, only to see her jogging away. He follows her to her house, but she doesn’t even say goodbye.
Pat tries to read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. It interests him because the main character has mental health problems, and he wants to know how she fixes them. The ending implies that she might get better, but he finds out the book is Plath’s memoir, and she killed herself.
He gets mad, rips the book in half, and goes to work out.
The next day, Tiffany follows Pat on his evening jog as usual, and they don’t say anything about the night before.
Pat spills everything to Cliff about the Giants fan, the crying boy, Tiffany, and Sylvia Plath. Cliff stands up out of his chair, and gives Pat a pep talk about the Giants fan, saying he deserved it. When he sits back down, he says he is the therapist again, and talks to Cliff about finding an alternative to using violence to solve issues. He recommends Pat try the humming technique he uses whenever Kenny G. is mentioned.
Cliff thinks Tiffany is jealous of Pat’s love for Nikki, and that The Bell Jar is an extremely depressing book. Before Pat leaves, Cliff does the Eagles chant with him again.
In the basement, Pat hears a new television. Dad replaced the one he broke, and Mom is upset because they don’t have the money. Pat realizes this is his fault and feels guilty. He hears Mom leave the house, and Dad is watching a game.
Pat goes upstairs, and compliments Dad on the new TV. Dad ignores him. The television is enormous, bigger than the end table and perched precariously. Pat goes jogging, and when he comes back Mom still isn’t home.
At eleven, Pat begins to worry because Mom isn’t back yet. He takes his medications because he wants to please her.
When she pulls in the drive, she is drunk. Pat helps her inside and carries her to his bed. He gets her water and makes her take a Tylenol.
Pat sleeps up in the attic and hallucinates that Kenny G. is standing on top of him. He tries the humming technique, but Kenny G. is still there. He tries it several more times, and Kenny G. disappears. Pat is ecstatic and searches the attic to make sure he’s quite gone. In the corner, he finds a box labeled “Pat”. He opens it, and immediately wishes he hadn’t. He puts it back where it was and tries to pretend he didn’t see it, but now he’s upset at Mom.
Pat wakes up to the smell of something burning. Downstairs, Dad is trying to cook steak. The fire alarm goes off, and Pat searches for his morning pills. Dad begins to watch football, and Pat goes to work out.
Midmorning Mom comes down to the basement. Pat doesn’t want to talk to her, because he is still mad about what he found in the box. Mom says there are going to be some changes around the house, and that she is going out today.
It is game day, so Pat decides to go running early. He wants to see Tiffany, but she isn’t there. Back at the house, Jake isn’t there either, so it is just Pat and Dad watching the game. Dad doesn’t talk to Pat, and, at halftime, they order pizza. The Eagles win, and Dad is in a little better mood. They do the Eagles chant, and Dad leaves without saying anything else.
Pat is practicing being kind, so he cleans up the house. He finds a note with Mom’s handwriting on it. It is for his Dad, telling him to either return the television or spend more time with Pat and Mom. If he doesn’t do one of these things, Mom will go on strike.
Pat calls Jake and a woman answers the phone. She puts Jake on the line, and Jake tells Pat Mom didn’t want him to come to the game. She told Ronnie not to come either, to give Pat and Dad some alone time. Pat reads the note to Jake, and Jake is proud of Mom for standing up to Dad.
Pat is still cleaning when Mom comes home. She tells him he doesn’t need to do that, because they’re not cleaning until Dad gets his act together. Pat asks if Jake has a girlfriend, because a girl answered the phone. Mom says he might, but doesn’t say anything else. Pat wonders if she is hiding even more from him.
It’s game day again, and Pat goes to Jake’s apartment. Jake lives in a high-rise and has a nice television and grand piano. Pat didn’t know Jake played, and Jake tells Pat that it’s Caitlin’s piano. He is happily married, but didn’t want to tell Pat because he knows how much Pat misses Nikki. Jake wants Pat to meet her, so they go to lunch.
Caitlin is a musician, and, over sandwiches, Pat asks about the ceremony and how long they’ve been married. Caitlin’s answer is vague. She wants to become his friend.
On the way to the game, Pat asks what Jake does for a living. He says he trades stock. Pat wants to tell Jake about all his problems, but he doesn’t.
At the tailgating tent, there is a bus labeled Asian Invasion who wants them to move. Pat recognizes Cliff on the bus, and tells everyone to move the tents. When everyone is settled, Cliff brings over food and they end up drinking beer together as friends. They play a Swedish Viking game, and Cliff is Pat’s partner. After the game, Pat gets a ride home in the Asian Invasion bus.
He lifts weights to burn off the tailgating food, and so he won’t think about missing his brother’s wedding.
At Cliff’s office, Pat talks about the upcoming game. The Eagles are playing the Cowboys, and a player called Terrence had a suicide attempt. He used to play for the Eagles, and switched teams. Pat overheard his dad call Terrence a “psychopathic pill popper”, and it hurt Pat’s feelings because he feels sympathy for Terrence.
At the game, everyone is selling homemade anti-Terrence shirts and propaganda, and chanting, making fun of his pill-popping and suicide attempt. Pat is distracted, and Cliff takes him inside the bus, sitting down in the pleather seat. He asks Pat what’s wrong, and Pat tells Cliff that all the anti-Terrence stuff is bothering him. He would feel bad if thousands of people were making fun of his mental problems. Cliff assures him that it’s all in good fun, and Terrence is making lots of money off the publicity.
During the game, Hank Baskett scores his first touchdown in an NFL game. Pat is lifted on everyone’s shoulders, and back at the tailgating area everyone celebrates the Eagles victory. Pat is so happy and is sad when the Asian Invasion bus drops him off at home. Inside, he expected to see his Dad waiting for him, but the house is clean and Mom and Dad aren’t there. Pat knocks on their bedroom door, and realizes he interrupted them.
Pat decides to get out of the house and knocks on Tiffany’s door. They go walking, and Pat tells her about everything that happened that day. Tiffany listens, and, at the end of their walk, she hands him an envelope. She tells him that he has to wait 48 hours to open it, and he has to be in a happy mood when he does. She says she expects an answer soon, and that she can be a close friend, or an enemy. Pat remembers the story Ronnie told him about how Tiffany got fired, and is afraid.
Dad is submitting to Mom’s terms, and Pat, Mom and Dad are sharing a family dinner. Dad is asking Pat questions about the football season and then asks about Tiffany. He is under the impression that Tiffany is Pat’s girlfriend, and he should meet her. Jake told Dad Pat was over Nikki, but Pat gets uncomfortable when Dad asks these questions and goes to lift weights. Pat is disappointed because he wanted to open the letter tonight, but now he’s not in a good mood.
Instead of opening the letter, Pat goes running. He runs faster and faster, motivating himself with his desire to see Nikki. When he gets back to the house, his parents are asleep, and since he is in a jolly mood he decides to open the letter.
At the beginning of the letter, Tiffany has a few points. 1) Pat must read the letter through to the end, 2) After reading the letter, Pat has to burn it, and 3) Pat has to give her an answer within 24 hours of opening it. Pat continues reading.
When Tiffany lost Tommy (her husband) she became mentally unstable. Originally, she thought Pat was going to be a replacement for Tommy, but after seeing Pat’s profound love for Nikki and his all-encompassing desire to see her, she changed her mind. She thinks God sent her to Pat to help the apart time be over.
Tiffany found Nikki’s phone number and has been talking to her for the past couple of weeks. Turns out, Nikki still misses Pat. Not as much as he misses her, but she would like to get in contact with him. Four years ago, Pat committed a crime which he no longer remembers. As a result, Nikki filed for divorce, received all Pat’s assets, and Pat had to go for a checkup at the mental institution. Just when Pat’s doctor was about to release him for being mentally stable, Pat forgot the crime he had committed, and was forced to stay in the hospital much longer than originally planned. After the crime, Nikki’s family filed a restraining order against Pat, and when Pat stayed in the mental hospital, his family filed a restraining order against Nikki. As a result, neither of them are legally allowed to contact the other.
Tiffany is willing to act as a liaison for them to write letters to the other, two per week. Her condition is that Pat must help her win a dance competition. Pat is the strongest man she’s ever seen, and she doesn’t think it’s an accident that they met. She needs a strong man to do the lifts she has in mind during the routine. If they win first place, Tiffany will deliver letters to and from Nikki. If they don’t win, Pat will have lost his only chance. In order to win, Pat must give up the Eagles for the month before the competition, and practice with Tiffany constantly.
After reading the letter, Pat thinks all night. He wonders whether it is true or not; maybe Tiffany is just making up a story to get him to do the dance competition with her. In the end, he decides that it isn’t important – if it’s a chance to see Nikki, then it’s worth everything.
When the sun comes up, Pat jogs over to Tiffany’s house and knocks on her room. She answers the door in a nightgown, and asks Pat if he’s in. Pat says yes.
They go to Tiffany’s dance studio, and Tiffany gives Pat a pair of headphones. She tells him to listen to the song they will be dancing to, and to hold his picture of Nikki. The stronger the connection to the song, the better the dance will be.
The song is painfully sad, and, at the end of it, Pat realizes he is crying. He’s embarrassed, but Tiffany says he needs to put his sadness into movement in order to win.
Pat can’t write in detail about the dance practices, because Tiffany closely guards her methods. Since she is aiming to be a dance teacher, she doesn’t want people to steal her strategies.
Pat is reminded of those sports movies where pictures flit across the screen. In the span of just a few minutes, the audience gets a taste of everything that happens while all the while realizing that a lot of work and time is passing.
At Cliff’s office, Pat asks him what that is called. Cliff answers a montage. The rest of the chapter is short “clips” of Pat’s month – his own montage.
Tiffany and Pat run a little faster every day. He always wins, partly because he’s a guy, but also because he’s a terrific runner.
Dad wants to know why Pat is humming every time Dad mentions football. He thinks Pat is going crazy again.
Jake calls on the telephone; upset that Pat isn’t going to the Eagles game.
Tiffany tells Pat that it’s normal to touch another person while you’re dancing with them. Pat isn’t touching her in a sexual way, it’s just modern dance.
Cliff also is baffled by Pat’s humming. He wants Pat to go to the home game with everybody, and to tell him what is going on.
Mom wants Pat to take a break and says that Pat is undoing all the hard work she put into getting Dad and Jake to like Pat again.
Pat is working out, lifting weights and sweating. He and Tiffany are running farther every day.
Ronnie wants to know what Tiffany is holding over Pat. He warns Pat that she is capable of anything and that Pat shouldn’t trust her.
Tiffany’s dancing is the most beautiful thing Pat has ever seen. It’s so sad and lovely.
Veronica visits Pat in the basement and tells him how much this means to Tiffany. She hasn’t let anyone watch her dance since Tommy’s dance, and she has invited the whole family to the rehearsal.
Pat kisses Nikki’s picture before he goes to bed.
The Eagles have lost three games in a row. Dad is upset and blames Pat for the losses.
Tiffany buys Pat a pair of yellow tights. She also shaves his chest, because he won’t be wearing a shirt. The razor tickles.
Their dance is almost perfect; the only thing missing is a large audience. Tiffany says that the audience can sway the judges.
Pat is working out, lifting more than ever before. He beats Tiffany easily in running.
Pat asks Cliff to come to the dance competition, and Cliff wants to know why. Pat can’t give him an answer because of Tiffany’s conditions, so he says he will tell Cliff after the competition. Cliff says he may or may not come.
Calling Jake, Pat leaves a message on the answering machine. He calls again, and Caitlin picks up the phone. He doesn’t know what to do so he hangs up.
Mom says she’ll come to the competition, but not to get her hopes up about Dad.
Veronica drops Pat and Tiffany off at the hotel. Inside there is a dance hall, with a poster reading Dance Away Depression. As they are waiting to register, Pat is nervous. The other contestants arrive, and they are all young. Tiffany gives the workers the music to play, and they go backstage to change. Pat stays in the supply closet until all the teenage girls are changed. While he’s back there, he worries someone might play a Kenny G. song, but Tiffany assures him no one is.
On stage, everyone is introduced. Pat looks out at the audience but doesn’t see Cliff, Dad or Jake. He hopes Mom will show up. Pat and Tiffany are going last.
Finally, it is their turn to go on stage. Their song starts playing; it is “Turn Around, Bright Eyes.” Pat knows the routine by heart, and Tiffany gives the dance her all. Pat is representative of the sun, and sets when Tiffany “dies”. When the song fades, the applause is thunderous. Pat looks up and sees everyone in the back rows. Jake and Scott brought the whole Asian Invasion to cheer him on.
Backstage, Tiffany kisses Pat and hugs him for a long time. She tells him there is no trophy – she just said that to make him motivated. Pat asks if he can talk about football again, and Tiffany says he can do whatever he wants.
The Asian Invasion has planned an all-night tailgating party for the next day’s game. They stay up late drinking and playing sports.
In the morning, Pat finds out everyone fell asleep on the bus. He is happy to be surrounded by all of his friends.
Pat receives his first letter from Nikki. She says they never got to talk; everything ended so abruptly. They never had a sense of closure. Pat sent Tiffany his entire diary, so Tiffany didn’t get to tell Nikki everything. Nikki complains about working at the high school, and wants Pat to send a shorter letter next time.
Nikki is remarried. She was going to divorce Pat anyway, even before everything happened. He was a lousy husband, never home, not attentive. She cheated on him, which he forgot in the bad place.
She is impressed he read all those books, and is sorry they were depressing. She recommends Huck Finn, because it has a happy ending. She says literature is so sad because real life is sad. She admires the hard work he’s put into getting help.
Pat checked out Huck Finn and read it all in one night. He enjoyed the ending, and thinks Nikki is sending him a message of hope.
When he read her letter, he cried. He knows he was a terrible husband, and he doesn’t blame her for cheating or divorcing him. He tells Nikki he is a better person now and reminds her of the happy times they shared. All he wants is one more chance, and he still loves her.
Nikki can tell he’s downright transformed by his letters. However, there was no hidden message in Huck Finn. She recommends he read Catcher in the Rye because it is about a young boy who has trouble grasping reality.
She believes Pat is going through a second childhood, and she is no longer a child. She loves her current husband, and never wanted to give Pat a second chance; she only wanted to say goodbye.
In all the movies, the main character goes through a point where nothing looks like it’s going to work out. Pat believes this is that time in his story.
Nikki’s letter made him sad. He read some of it to Cliff, who said that Nikki and he were incompatible. Tiffany is a much better match. But Tiffany is not Pat’s true love.
Pat read Catcher in the Rye, and wants to see Nikki face-to-face.
On Christmas Eve, Mom and Pat go to mass. Pat prays for a miracle for Nikki to show up tomorrow. He thanks God for sending him to the bad place, so he could become a better person. He also prays for the Eagles to win this season so his Dad might love him again.
When they get home Dad is asleep, so Mom and Pat hang out by the Christmas tree, and Mom tells stories about all the ornaments. Pat realizes his Mom will love him no matter what, and it makes him feel comforted.
Suddenly the doorbell rings. Pat hopes that it will be Nikki, but it is Ronnie and family come to carol at their door. Mom invites everyone in, and Pat gives presents to Ronnie, Veronica, Emily and Tiffany. They get Pat a picture of Hank Baskett with a personalized signature on it.
As they are leaving, Tiffany kisses Pat on the cheek, and grabs his hand. When she leaves, Pat has a small square piece of paper. When he goes to bed, he unfolds it.
Christmas Day Pat wakes up optimistic. He exercises, and Mom cooks breakfast. They all sit around the Christmas tree and open presents. After, Pat tells his parents that he is going on a run. In truth, he is going to meet Nikki.
He goes out to the garage and changes into one of his father’s old suits, sneaking out of the house and taking a train to Philadelphia. He makes his way through the city, the college campus, until he finally ends up under a tree overlooking a traditional teahouse. It was one of Nikki’s favorite places to go. He waits there until dusk. It gets dark, and Nikki still hasn’t shown up. Pat prays to God as hard as he can and hears a voice.
The voice isn’t Nikki’s, its Tiffany’s. She’s sorry things happened like this, and never thought Pat would go this far. She pretended to be Nikki to try and give Pat some closure, but she says everything in the letter, about Nikki being remarried and the restraining order, is true.
Pat wants to know why, and Tiffany says it’s because she loves him. Pat runs away as fast as he can; Tiffany can’t keep up. He cries and curses God as he runs, until something knocks him over and he is being kicked.
When Pat wakes up, all of his stuff is gone, and it’s hard to move his leg. He looks around; he’s in a pretty crummy neighborhood. He thinks he was mugged because he cursed out God, and his eyes fall on a nativity scene across the lawn. He manages to get over to it and is holding baby Jesus when someone comes out on the front porch.
It is a true miracle – his friend from the institution, Danny. When Danny first came to the institution he wouldn’t talk to anybody, but he talked to Pat. He told him his street name was Map Nipper. He was raised a rapper gangster in Baltimore and was thrown into the river by a bunch of other gangsters. Eventually, he ended up in the institution. He got his speech back, but not his ability to rap.
Danny invites him in for Christmas dinner. When Danny’s Aunt comes in, she immediately takes him to the hospital, where he gets cleaned up and his leg put in a cast. Pat’s family shows up there. Tiffany had called them to tell them what happened, and everyone is mad at her.
Mom, Dad and Jake take Pat out of the hospital. On the drive home, Pat feels guilty for ruining everyone’s Christmas. He thinks the muggers should have gone ahead and killed him, because all he does is cause trouble for his family. He cries and apologizes, but no one says anything.
Pat’s birthday is December 29th. Since his leg has been hurt, he hasn’t done anything but stay in bed all day. Mom has to help him shower, and he doesn’t even want to work out.
At Cliff’s office, Pat tells him everything that happened. The only good thing that happened out of the whole ordeal was Danny comes to visit him now. They spend their time playing board games. Cliff asks Pat if he knows how he lost his memory. Everyone else does, and Cliff thinks Pat does too, he just doesn’t want to admit it. He says although Tiffany’s methods weren’t right, it is true that Pat needs closure because real life is not a movie. Pat gets angry and yells at Cliff.
On the drive home, Pat asks Mom if Nikki is coming to his birthday party today. Mom tells him that Nikki is never coming. However, Jake, Caitlin, Ronnie, Veronica, and Emily all come. Emily draws a picture on his cast, and Pat receives lots of presents. He is thirty-five.
After he’s done opening presents, he asks how Tiffany is. Everyone is silent, and then they start arguing amongst themselves. Pat asks again.
It is New Year’s Eve Day. There is a game today, and Pat goes with Scott and Jake. They say they have to leave early because their wives have plans. Pat guilts Jake into staying. Hank Baskett ends up setting a record for the Eagles, and Pat is proud.
After the game, Jake leaves, and the two hug. Pat gets a ride home on the Asian Invasion bus and eats dinner with Mom and Dad. After dinner Mom and Pat watch the New Year’s celebration at Times Square, and Mom falls asleep on the couch. Pat gets up to get her a blanket and finds his wedding video.
It starts at their reception, and “Songbird” by Kenny G. starts playing. Suddenly, Pat remembers a rainy day driving home in his car. When he enters the house, he hears “Songbird”. In the bathroom the shower is running, and there are two sets of clothes. He strangles Nikki’s lover, and Nikki bashes his head with the CD player. Pat falls, hitting his head on the faucet. He wakes up in the hospital, calling for Nikki, but she doesn’t come.
The tape ends, and Pat is staring at his reflection in the television set.
He gets up and calls Jake. He leaves him a message, saying he needs a whopping favor.
Letter from Tiffany, because she is better at writing than talking to people. She apologizes for what she did, and says that she loves Pat. She wants to tell him the story of her husband Tommy, and how he died.
Tommy was a cop, a good man. He counseled teens and started a anti-drinking-and-driving club at the local high school. Their relationship was perfect, except for one thing – they had sex too much. At first Tiffany loved it, but after ten years having sex several times a day got to be too much. She told him she wanted to enjoy sex again, and he was hurt. He walked out of the house without saying goodbye.
An hour later Tiffany got a call from the hospital. Tommy had died, killed by a drunk driver. In the backseat of his car was a bag full of lingerie, all Tiffany’s size.
Tiffany felt unbelievably guilty that her husband died believing she didn’t want to have sex with him. She began having sex with any man she could, and imagining Tommy coming home.
When she met Pat at the dinner party, she thought he would be an easy lay; but when Pat simply held her when she cried, it turned into something else. Tiffany liked being friends with Pat, and soon became jealous whenever Pat talked about Nikki. Tiffany got Pat’s Mom drunk to learn the true story about what happened, and they ended up becoming friends.
Tiffany misses Pat and wants to still be friends.
It is a week after Pat’s cast has been removed. He’s standing on the bridge at the park, staring into the ice. Part of him wishes he hadn’t regained his memories of Nikki. He sees Tiffany walking towards him in the distance, she accepted his invitation.
When she arrives, Pat asks her why she didn’t come to his birthday. She reminds him that Jake threatened to kill her if she tried to see Pat again. Tiffany apologizes for everything, and is sorry that she isn’t Nikki.
Pat tells Tiffany that he remembered everything, and decided to confront Nikki. Jake drove him out to the old house in Maryland, and Pat saw Nikki outside playing in the snow with her new family. She had a loving husband, and two children and was smiling. Pat decided that was a superb picture for his story to end on, and he left without talking to her.
When he finishes telling Tiffany, he realizes he is crying. Tiffany got him a birthday present. It is a Sky watcher’s Cloud Chart. She noticed when they ran together that he always used to look at the sky.
They lay on the frozen soccer fields, trying to differentiate the different types of clouds. Tiffany tells Pat that she needs him, more than anything.
Pat realizes that, of all the people, Tiffany understands him. She knows how messed up he is, what he’s done, and how many pills he’s on. Even knowing all that, she’s still here in his arms. Nikki would never have done that, not even on her best days.
Pat kisses Tiffany’s forehead and tells her he needs her too.
Robb and his host are leaving Riverrun and setting out for the Twins; Catelyn, Edmure and Lame Lothar are part of his party. His new queen, Jeyne, tries to come along as well, but Robb sends her back to Riverrun. It had been Catelyn who insisted that Jeyne remain at Riverrun; Lord Walder might construe the presence of Robb’s new bride at Edmure’s wedding as an insult.
Only one of the six Westerlings are in Robb’s party, and that is Ser Raynald, Jeyne’s brother, the royal banner-bearer; the rest, like Jeyne, remain at Riverrun, with the exception of Rolph Spicer. Under Catelyn’s earlier suggestion to send Ser Rolph on an errand, Robb has dispatched Ser Rolph to deliver Martyn Lannister back to the Lannisters in exchange for Robett Glover. And with Rolph Spicer gone, Grey Wind is once more at Robb’s side.
Ser Brynden remains behind at Riverrun; Robb has made him the Warden of the Southern Marches and believes him to the best man to hold the Trident.
Robb has thirty-five hundred men in his host, all of whom have survived the many battles that Robb has won.
It is drizzling when they leave Riverrun and the rain only gets heavier as they travel to the Twins. Along the way, Edmure worries about whether his bride-to-be, Lady Roslin Frey, is attractive; Catelyn, fed-up with Edmure’s constant worrying, scolds him by saying that he should be worrying more about whether Roslin has a healthy body, a wise mind and a loyal heart instead. Edmure does not take that well and starts avoiding her for the duration of the journey.
Five days later, the scouts return and warn them that the bridge at Fairmarket has been washed out by the rising waters. Robb sends the host to Oldstones and they reach the ruined stronghold of the ancient river kings eight days later.
Later in the evening, Catelyn finds Robb, standing with Grey Wind in the ruined castle’s yard, studying the sepulcher resting there. He asked her whose grave it was; Catelyn tells her that it is the grave of Tristifer, the Fourth of His Name. Tristifer was the King of the Rivers and Hills thousands of years ago. He won all of his battles, but died in his hundredth battle. The Fifth Tristifer was not his equal, and soon the entire kingdom was lost.
Robb mentions that the Fourth Tristifere’s heir failed him. He then moves on to the topic of his own heir; he reveals that he and Jeyne have been trying to conceive a child, but have not succeeded yet thus far. He goes on to state that a king must have an heir, and says that, should he fall in battle, Winterfell and the North will pass to Sansa. He refuses to let that happen, because if it passes to Sansa, it will also pass to her husband, Tyrion Lannister, and he will never allow Tyrion to have Winterfell and the North.
Catelyn agrees with him and says that Robb should name another heir until such time Jeyne gives him a son. She goes on to say that there are several young lordlings from the Vale who are related to Robb through his great grandfather. Robb cuts her off before she can finish; he says that his father had four sons.
Catelyn knows who Robb is referring to and states that a Snow is not a Stark. Robb counters by saying that Jon is more of a Stark than lordlings from the Vale who have never set foot in Winterfell. Catelyn then states that Jon is now a brother of the Night’s Watch, sworn to take no wife and hold no lands, and those who take the black serve for life. Robb counters again by saying the same thing could be said of the Kingsguard but the Lannisters still stripped Ser Barristan Selmy of his white cloak when they no longer had any use for him. Robb says that the Night’s Watch will find some way to release Jon from his vows if he sends them a hundred men in Jon’s place.
Catelyn states that a bastard cannot inherit; Robb says that a bastard can be legitimized by a royal decree and that there is precedent for such a case. Catelyn concedes that while Robb can make Jon a legitimate heir, there is no way to make him a bastard again and any son Robb may have will never be safe. Robb says that Jon would not harm any son of his. Catelyn mentions Theon Greyjoy killed Bran and Rickon; Robb answers coldly that Jon is no Theon.
Catelyn then asks Robb why he does not consider his sisters. She agrees that the North must not pass to Tyrion, but then mentions Arya as the next trueborn heir after Sansa. Robb states that Arya is dead as no one has seen or heard of her since their father was executed; he says that he wants Jon to succeed as King in the North and had been hoping that Catelyn would support his choice. Catelyn says that she will support him in everything, but not in this matter. Robb leaves, saying that he doesn’t need to ask for her support – because he is King.
After leaving Oldstones, they ride up the Blue Fork and through Hag’s Mire, where the bogs and mires slow them down considerably.
Lord Jason Mallister soon catches up with them; when Catelyn enters Robb’s tent, she discovers that Lord Jason has brought with him the captain of the Myraham, a trading galley from Oldtown. The captain brings good news for Robb and his men: Balon Greyjoy, who had crowned himself King, is dead. He tells Robb and his men that Balon fell off a bridge; he also mentions that Balon’s younger brother, Euron Crow’s Eye is back in the Iron Isles, sitting in the Seastone Chair.
After the captain leaves, Robb and his men discuss the implications of the new they have just heard. They agree that, Victarion, another of Balon’s younger brother, who now holds Moat Cailin with the strength of the Iron Fleet, has to return home to the Iron Islands to contest for the Seastone Chair. And Balon’s daughter, Asha, will most likely sail home to oust her uncle as well, and thus will take more of her men away from Deepwood Motte.
Robb states that securing Moat Cailin will be the key to winning back the North. He believes that Victarion will leave most of his men at Moat Cailin in order to hold it. But Robb has a plan in mind. He tells Lord Jason to give him two longships; Lady Maege Mormont will be on one, while Galbart Glover will be on the other. The two ships will ride upriver into the Neck to find Howland Reed in his ancestral seat of Greywater Watch.
Robb intends to divide his host into three divisions. The Greatjon will lead the attack from the expected south of the Moat, while Roose Bolton will lead the attack from the west. With Howland Reed’s help, Robb intends to the rest of the men through the Neck and then take the ironmen by surprise from the rear.
Robb states that, if they move quickly after Edmure’s wedding, they should all be in position by the end of the year. He then states that Catelyn is to be kept safe at Seagard before the battle. Catelyn protests, saying that she would much rather return to Riverrun. Robb says that Jeyne is in Riverrun, and he doesn’t want his mother and his wife to be in the same place.
Lastly, he has his lords witness his royal decree in which he names his heir. The heir’s name is not mentioned, but it is presumably Jon Snow.
Sam and Gilly step foot into one of the abandoned wildling villages. Sam is hoping that the village is Whitetree; he drew Whitetree upon his map when the Night’s Watch expedition had been making their way north and if the village was indeed Whitetree, then he would be able to work out exactly where they were. Sam tries studying the huge weirwood tree that stands in the center of this village, but he cannot tell whether it is the same one he saw earlier.
Sam and Gilly left Craster’s Keep with two horses, but one of them died three days after that. Sam has taken to walking since then, as Gilly, still weak from childbirth and now carrying her newborn bay, needed the horse more.
They take shelter in the village’s longhall. Gilly prepares a fire while Sam goes out to look for food in the empty hovels; he finds none. When he studies the weirwood once again, he admits that tree isn’t half as big as the one he had seen at Whitetree. He gets on his knees and says a quick prayer to the old gods of the North before returning to the longhall.
Sam warms himself by the fire, then, upon Gilly’s request, sings a song to the newborn baby. They then eat a measly supper and Sam leads the horse into the longhall before retiring for the night.
Sam has a dream that night. In his dream, he has inherited Horn Hill from his father and is holding a feast for all the brothers of the Night’s Watch; however, the men wore bright colors instead of black. He has also inherited his father’s Valyrian greatsword, Heartsbane. And Gilly is now his wife.
Sam is awoken from his dream by an extreme coldness in the longhall. There are many shadows in the longhall. One of the shadows by the door moves; it belongs to a large man. Gilly weeps, saying that the shadow has come for her newborn baby. The shadow stumbles forward, and Sam recognizes it: it is Small Paul.
Sam is deathly afraid, but he gathers his nerves and tells Gilly to go to the horse and lead it outside. He then unsheathes his dragonglass dagger and confronts Small Paul. The wight doesn’t recognize Sam and advances towards him but turns the other way when it hears the horse rearing and lashing out at the air. Sam takes advantage of the distraction and plunges the dragonglass dagger into Small Paul’s back. However, the dragonglass dagger proves useless against the wight and soon shatters. Before Sam can draw his steel dagger, Small Paul’s hands tighten around his throat and begins twisting. In pain, Sam lurches forward; he is heavier than the wight and his heavier weight sends the wight staggering backwards and the two of them go down together.
Small Paul still manages to get both his hands around Sam’s throat again. Sam desperately looks around for a weapon, and sees embers and ashes, all that remains of the fire. His fingers close around a chunk of still-smoldering charred wood, and he smashes it into the wight’s face. The dead man’s face bursts into flames. The wight’s hands released its hold on Sam’s throat and the wight started to burn.
Sam creeps to the door, only to see Gilly with her back against the weirwood, clutching the newborn baby in her arms. A dozen or more wights surround her; they have killed the horse. As Sam looks at the wights, he recognizes their faces; many of them had once been the men of the Night’s Watch that he had marched northwards with.
Suddenly, a raven lands on Sam’s shoulder. He then notices that there are thousands of ravens perching on the nearby trees. The ravens spread their wings and descend on the wights, attacking the dead men with fury. The raven on Sam’s shoulder tells Sam to go.
Sam runs up to Gilly and takes her by the hand. As they are discussing where to run to, a shout cuts through the night air, calling out to Sam as a brother. Beneath the trees, a man dressed in black and grey sits astride and elk and he calls for them to approach him; the hood he is wearing conceals his face.
Sam assumes that the man is a fellow member of the Night’s Watch due to his black clothes and he urges Gilly towards the man. The elk sinks to its knees to let them mount and the rider helps Gilly up, then Sam. Upon touching the rider’s offered hand, Sam notices that the man does not wear a glove, and that the hand is black and cold and hard as stone.
Arya is now Sandor Clegane’s captive. It is raining heavily. She rides in the saddle with him and has been warned not to scream or run off. They reach a large river, which Arya does not recognize. She asks Sandor whether the river is the Blackwater Rush, but the only thing Sandor tells her is that they have to cross the river. Arya thinks that the river is the Blackwater Rush because she assumes that Sandor is bringing her back to King’s Landing to hand her over to Joffrey and Cersei. However, the more she studies the river, the more she realizes that the Blackwater Rush was not quite as wide as this river.
The Hound tells her that the fords along the river are all gone and it would be perilous to try and swim across. He says that they are heading to Harroway town so that they can ride across the river instead.
Upon reaching Harroway, Sandor curses – the rising waters has flooded the entire town. However, the ferry that he is looking for is still there. He tells the ferrymen that he needs them to take him across the river. They say that they can carry him, Arya and the horse, for three gold pieces. Sandor balks at the price, saying that he can buy a ferry for that price. The ferrymen say that the price is as it is because of the river’s current treacherous condition, which also means they have had to hire more men as extra hands on the poles and oars. Sandor eventually agrees to their price, on the condition that they will receive the gold coins only when they successfully bring him to the north bank. When the ferrymen insist on being paid before they take him, Sandor threatens them by subtly implying that he would kill them right then if they refuse to take him. He tells them that he is good for the money, swearing falsely on his honor as a knight; the ferrymen reluctantly agree to take him across.
It is a wild ride; a huge uprooted tree in the river nearly rams into the ferry, and they lose one man to the river after he falls over the railing after one of the tree’s branches strikes the ferry a glancing blow.
When they finally reach the north bank, the ferrymen tells Sandor that he now owes them six gold pieces – three for their original agreement, and another three for the man they lost to the river. Sandor hands them the promissory note Beric gave him and tells them that the note is good for nine thousand gold pieces. He then tells the ferrymen that they can have ten gold pieces, and that he’ll be back for the rest one day.
The ferrymen curse Sandor as he leaves. Sandor then says to Arya that the ferrymen will not take promissory notes in the future, so if Beric and the rest of the outlaws are chasing after the both of them, they’d have to swim across the river instead.
Arya is shivering and sneezing badly so Sandor decides to call for a halt and make camp for the night. As they eat their measly supper, Sandor and Arya trade insults. During their heated conversation, Sandor is surprised to learn from Arya that she had once been a captive of his brother, Ser Gregor; he is even more delighted to learn that Gregor never knew that he had Arya Stark in his hands.
Sandor then tells Arya that he actually saved Sansa’s life in King’s Landing, and that Sansa sang a sweet song for him. When Arya calls him a liar, Sandor scoffs and says that Arya doesn’t know half as much as she think she does. He heaps scorn on Arya’s earlier guessing that the river they crossed was the Blackwater; he tells her that he would never go back to King’s Landing or the Lannisters.
Sandor then reveals to Arya that the river they crossed was The Trident – he is heading for the Twins. He intends to ransom her back to her mother and brother.
Despite his injured leg, Jon pushes his mare hard; he is determined to reach the Wall before the Magnar. He soon spots the kingsroad and has the mare follow the road until they eventually reach Mole’s Town, the closest village to Castle Black. Jon gets the villagers to give him a fresh mount and warns them that wildlings are now south of the Wall and that the villagers need to gather their goods and make for Castle Black. He then continues his journey, heading further North.
When Jon finally arrives at Castle Black, he notes that the entire place appears to be deserted. But he spots smoke rising from the armory so he makes his way there. Opening the door, he finds the one-armed smith, Donal Noye inside. Noye is surprised to see him, telling him they have all heard that he’d gone over to Mance Rayder. Jon asks who told Noye about that; Noye tells Jon that one of the senior rangers spotted him travelling with the wildlings. Jon tells Noye that it is true, but he says that he was acting on Qhorin Halfhand’s last orders.
He then asks Noye as to the whereabouts of Castle Black’s garrison. Noye replies that the men are everywhere along the entire length of the Wall – they’ve spotted the wildlings near the other castles along the Wall. He mentions that the wildlings disappear once they spot the defenders and reappear somewhere else along the Wall the next day. Jon tells Noye that the wildling appearances all along the Wall are feints, to spread Castle Black’s garrison thin; their real target is Castle Black and there are around a hundred and twenty wildlings headed for Castle Black right then.
Donal Noye suddenly notices that Jon’s leg is wounded and he helps support Jon as they both make their way towards Maester Aemon’s quarters.
As they walk, the discuss the situation at Castle Black. Donal Noye reveals that there are forty men left at Castle Black, with most of them being the crippled and infirm and some boys that are still in training. Noye also reveals that although Bowen Marsh named Ser Wynton as Castle Black’s castellan, Ser Wynton was too old and senile to give orders, so Donal Noye is the actual commander of Castle Black.
Noye then asks Jon where his direwolf is and Jon tells him that he parted with Ghost when he had to climb the Wall and had hoped that the direwolf would have made its way to Castle Black. Noye says that he has seen no signs of Ghost.
They finally reach Maester Aemon’s quarters. Aemon immediately begins treating Jon’s arrow wound. As he works, Aemon fills Jon in on what has been happening at Castle Black. Jon is filled with grief when he hears about Lord Commander Mormont’s murder at the hand of several of his own Sworn Brothers at Craster’s Keep. He is surprised to learn that only a dozen of the two hundred men that went North with Mormont have returned to Castle Black. Aemon confirms that Bowen Marsh is the current Lord Commander until the Night’s Watch can hold a choosing. Jon in turn tells Aemon that Mance was searching for the Horn of Winter in the Frostfangs but never found it.
Maester Aemon begins fixing Jon’s wound, and Jon soon passes out from the pain.
When he comes to, Jon is greeted by two of his closest friends, Pyp and Grenn. He asks Grenn whether Sam was one of the dozen men who managed to find their way back to Castle Black. Grenn starts off by telling Jon that Sam killed one of the Others with the dragonglass knife that Jon had given to him, but when Jon presses him, Grenn says that they left Sam back at Craster’s Keep. He tells Jon that Sam just curled up on the ground and lay there without moving and they were not strong enough to drag Sam to his feet, so they left.
Jon tries to sit up but the pain is excruciating. Grenn calls upon Maester Aemon; when the old Maester arrives, he tells Jon to rest in order to heal. Jon asks Maester Aemon whether word of the imminent wildling attack has been sent to Winterfell.
Maester Aemon then breaks the bad news to Jon, telling him about Theon Greyjoy taking Winterfell, then having both Bran and Rickon executed and finally, putting Winterfell to the torch and the Starks’ bannermen tried to retake it. Grenn tries to ease Jon’s grief by saying that Roose Bolton’s son killed all the ironmen and is currently flaying Theon Greyjoy alive for his crimes.
Jon, still in pain and disbelief, mumbles that he saw a grey direwolf at Queenscrown and that it knew him. He wonders to himself whether some part of Bran is living on in his direwolf. Grenn hands Jon a drink to help with the pain and Jon falls asleep soon thereafter.
Robb and his host arrive at the Twins. Catelyn cautions Robb to tread lightly when dealing with Lord Walder Frey. She also tells him that he should not refuse any food that the Freys offer him and if they do not offer him food, he must ask for some. Catelyn explains that, once Robb has eaten of Lord Walder’s food, he will have guest right, with the laws of hospitality protecting Robb while he is beneath Lord Walder’s roof.
Ser Ryman Frey, son of the late Ser Stevron who had been Lord Walder’s firstborn, rides out to meet them. He is accompanied by his three sons. When the Freys are within a half-dozen yards of Robb, Grey Wind growls and leaps forwards. Robb starts calling the direwolf to him, but Grey Wind does not appear to hear him. It is only after Catelyn interposes herself between both direwolf and the Freys does Grey Wind stop its attack, veering away as it appears to finally have heard Robb’s command.
The Freys are none too pleased and treat with Robb in a cold and aloof manner. However, Robb remains the picture of courtesy. The Freys tell Robb that his lords bannermen are welcome to join them inside the Twins; the castles cannot hold so great a host, however, so the rest of Robb’s men will have to take shelter under the feast tents on the far bank.
As they about to enter the Twins, Grey Wind starts to howl and refuses to pass beneath the portcullis. It is only after Robb speaks softly to it does the direwolf enter. The Freys suggest that Robb give Grey Wind over to the Twins’ master of hounds, but instead, Robb charges Ser Raynald Westerling to stay with the direwolf.
When they enter the hall, Lord Walder Frey is there with the many members of his family. Catelyn notes that there is a Frey in the hall that she has never seen before: a man about fifty who looks like a younger version of Lord Walder and wears a fool’s crown. Walder tells them that this is Aegon Frey, the halfwit son of Lord Frey’s now deceased firstborn son, the late Stevron Frey; the Freys call him Jinglebell.
When Edmure expresses an interest in seeing his bride-to-be, Walder sends one of Roslin’s brothers, Ser Benfrey, to fetch her.
He then turns his attention to Robb. As expected, Walder shoots mean-spirited verbal jabs at Robb for breaking his promise of marrying one of Walder’s many daughters. Walder says that Robb is to make his apology to all Walder’s daughters. He wiggles his finger and all of Walder’s daughters, grand-daughters and great grand-daughters flock to the center of the hall. Robb is uncomfortable, but he makes a sincere apology to all the ladies and girls gathered in the hall.
Lord Walder is satisfied with the apology.
Ser Benfrey then returns with his sister Roslin. Much to Edmure’s relief, Lady Roslin Frey turns out to be quite beautiful, more that he had hoped for. Catelyn does note, however, that Roslin has a petite and delicate frame, which might make childbirth a painful ordeal for the girl.
Lord Walder then has Ser Benfrey send Roslin back to her chamber. He then tells Lothar Frey to show Robb and his party to their quarters.
Catelyn, having almost forgotten it, calls out for some food. Lord Walder complies and Robb and his party partake in the meal. Catelyn eats, feeling relieved and safer as they have all now secured guest right under Lord Walder’s roof.
When they are in their quarters, Edmure expresses his happiness of Roslin to Catelyn. Still, he wonders aloud why Lord Walder haven’t given him a choice in the matter of his bride- Edmure asks Catelyn whether there is a possibility that Roslin could be infertile. Catelyn admits that it is possible, but she sees no reason to believe Roslin is infertile. She then retreats to her own room.
After a change of clothes, Catelyn goes to discuss a certain matter with the Twins’ maester. She shares Edmure’s concern about Roslin’s fertility with Maester Brenett. Brenett assures Catelyn that Roslin has no fertility issues, and goes on to state that Roslin’s mother was petite like her, but gave Lord Walder a child every year and had five children who lived past infancy.
Catelyn then goes in search of Robb. She finds him talking to his lord bannermen, and she sees that they have been joined by Lord Roose Bolton. Lord Bolton is brings them word of Winterfell. He tells them that the ironmen burned the castle and the surrounding town but his bastard son, Ramsay Snow, managed to lead some of the Winterfell folk back to Dreadfort, Lord Bolton’s fortress. Catelyn reminds Lord Bolton that Ramsay has been accused of grievous crimes; Lord Bolton agrees with her but also admits that Ramsay can do some good by rooting out any surviving Greyjoy in the North.
When Robb asks whether Theon Greyjoy had fled or been slain, Lord Bolton removes a strip of leather from the pouch at his belt and presents it as a gift to Lady Catelyn. He states that the strip of leather is actually the skin from Theon Greyjoy’s little finger, and is a small token of revenge for what Theon did to Bran and Rickon. Catelyn urges Lord Bolton to put the grisly trophy away.
Robb says that he wants Theon’s head, not Theon’s skin. Lord Bolton says that Theon is worth more as a prisoner, because with Balon Greyjoy’s death, Theon was now the rightful King of the Iron Islands and thus has considerable value as a hostage. He then mentions that whoever won the Iron Islands’ Seastone chair would pay them a handsome amount to execute Theon. Robb reluctantly agrees with Lord Bolton’s decision.
Lord Bolton also tells of his encounter with Gregor Clegane on the Trident. By the time Lord Bolton left Harrenhal, the Trident was already well-flooded. They crossed in boats, but before the last third of Lord Bolton’s army could cross, they were set upon by Gregor and his men; many of the men were cut down or drowned. Lord Bolton mentions that he has left a force of six hundred men at the ford, and as long as the Trident continues running high, Ser Gregor will not cross.
Robb congratulates him for holding off Gregor but Lord Bolton says that he suffered grievous losses, and that Glover and Tallhart suffered worse at Duskendale.
Catelyn then asks Roose Bolton about the number of soldiers that he has brought Robb. Lord Bolton replies that he has five hundred cavalry and three thousand infantrymen, with most of them being his own men from the Dreadfort.
Robb says that Roose Bolton’s men should be enough and that he wants Roose Bolton to have command of his rear guard. Robb adds that he means to start for the Neck immediately after Edmure’s wedding.
Sandor and Arya are traveling on a wagon pulled by two draft horses. Sandor’s warhorse, Stranger, follows from behind, tied to the wagon and wearing no barding or harness. Both Sandor and Arya are dressed as farmers. In the wagon are casks of food. By chance, they had crossed paths with a farmer while traveling the kingsroad. Sandor had bared his sword and forced the farmer to hand over the wagon, draft horses, clothes and casks of food. Sandor tells Arya that, while he wants to hand her over to Robb, he doesn’t want to be dragged in chains or have to cut through men to get to Robb. So the goods he stole from the farmer would allow them to disguise themselves and fool Robb’s men into thinking they were indeed farmers.
As they ride up the Green Fork, heading towards the Twins, a knight and his squires ride towards them. Sandor keeps his eyes down, his face hidden under his hood. When the knight asks him his reason for heading towards the Twins, Sandor answers back politely, saying that he is bringing salt pork for the wedding feast. The knight takes a long and hard look at Stranger, for the warhorse is clearly no draft horse. When asked where he got the warhorse from, Sandor tells the knight that the warhorse is a gift from Lady Whent. The knight waves them on.
It is night when they finally approach the Twins. They see thousands of men, most of them crowding around the three great feast tents facing the castle gates. Even from outside, they can hear the music being played from the two castles. Arya notes that the musicians in the nearer castle are playing a different song than the ones in the castle on the far bank, and comments that the musicians can’t be good. Sandor agrees.
As they get closer to the castle, they are stopped by a band of guards. Sandor tells them the same thing he told the knight but the sergeant in charge state that the castle is closed and that Sandor can unload his casks of food by the feast tents instead. Sandor obeys and sends the horses off towards the tents.
When they reach the tents, Sandor doesn’t stop but instead spurs the horses forward. Arya asks Sandor why they aren’t stopping; she had caught a glimpse of the men inside the feast tents and she tells Sandor that there are northmen in the tents, and most likely Winterfell men. Sandor tells Arya that it is her brother that he wants and whips the horses to spur them onwards.
Catelyn sits inside the Twins, observing the activities going on around the hall as the wedding feast celebration gets underway. The music is too loud and the hall seems too small for the large number of guests. The food is mediocre, poor fare to serve before a king, but Robb eats it without complaining. Edmure is thoroughly enchanted with Roslin, his newlywed wife. Catelyn notes that Roslin’s smile is stiff and appears to be fixed onto her face – she attributes this to Roslin being nervous about the bedding that is to come.
Robb has danced with all of Lord Walder’s daughters and granddaughters as per Lord Walder’s request, giving no room for the Lord of the Crossing to complain. Catelyn notes that, although the food being served is mediocre, Lord Walder is not stingy with the ale, wine and mead; there is a freeflow of drink, and most of the guests are well into their cups. Catelyn sees the Greatjon roaring drunk as he has a drinking contest with one of Lord Walder’s son. She is relieved however, when she sees that the four who are guarding Robb tonight – Smalljon Umber, Robin Flint, Patrek Mallister and Dacey Mormont – are not drinking.
Lord Roose Bolton’s new wife, Lady Walda Frey, also known as Fat Walda, is chatting with Ser Wendel Manderly. She is retelling how, when Lord Walder Frey offered Roose Bolton his bride’s weight in silver as a dowry, Roose Bolton had chosen her. Lord Roose Bolton is seated next to Catelyn and pays the chatter no mind; he sips his drink but eats little.
The sight of two dogs snapping at each other over a scrap of meat reminds Catelyn that Grey Wind was not in the hall with Robb. Robb had wanted the direwolf at his side, but Lord Walder had been adamant that the direwolf was not to be allowed in the hall during the feast. Robb had been furious, but, fully aware that he was at the Twins to make amends, acquiesced to Lord Walder’s request.
The Greatjon outdrinks yet another Frey. Roose Bolton excuses himself as he goes in search of a privy. Robb takes Roose Bolton’s vacant seat and asks Ser Ryman Frey, who sits on Catelyn’s other side, where he could find Olyvar Frey – he has not seen the young Frey the whole night. Olyvar Frey had once squired for Robb. When the Freys learned of Robb’s marriage to Jeyne Westerling and subsequently left Robb’s host in anger, they had taken Olyvar with them, despite the young Frey wanting to remain with Robb. Robb states that he hopes to take Olyvar with him when they head north. Ser Ryman tells Robb that Olyvar is not at the Twins, that the young Frey was away on some duty. Robb does not believe Ser Ryman’s tale, but says nothing and leaves to dance with more of the Frey girls.
A while later, Lord Walder calls out to Robb, saying that they should start the bedding ceremony. Robb voices his agreement, which is greeted by a roar of approval from the guests. The women in the hall start to gather around Edmure and pull at his clothes, while the men and boys did the same with Roslin, with both groups cracking bawdy jokes at the newlyweds. The Greatjon shoves through the other men and throws Roslin over one shoulder, and, with clothes coming off both bride and groom, the small procession leads the newlyweds from the hall. Catelyn notices that Roslin is stiff with terror; she silently hopes that Edmure will be gentle with his bride.
Catelyn sees that Robb and several of his men have not left the hall. Dacey Mormont, who appears to be the only woman left in the hall besides Catelyn, approaches Edwyn Frey and with a light touch on his arm, says something softly in his ear. Edwyn violently wrenches himself away from Dacey, saying loudly that he no longer wishes to dance.
Catelyn, upon witnessing the scene, senses that something is wrong. Not knowing why she is suddenly filled with fear, Catelyn goes after Edwyn Frey. Just at that moment, the musicians in the gallery start playing a more ominous tune – “The Rains of Castamere”, a song about Lord Tywin Lannister’s complete destruction of House Reyne of Castamere and House Tarbeck of Tarbeck Hall when the two Houses dared to rebel against House Lannister.
Catelyn catches up with Edywn and grabs him by the arm; her fear becomes real when she feels the iron rings of the armor he is wearing beneath his clothes. She realizes the danger that Robb and all his men are in – the Freys have betrayed them. All the clues start adding up: how Olyvar and some of the other Freys are absent from the feast, and how Roslin had wept during the bedding ceremony.
Edwyn shoves Catelyn aside. Robb moves to block Edwyn’s way, but is hit in quick succession by two crossbow bolts, fired by the musicians in the gallery, half of whom have switched their instruments for crossbows. Catelyn runs towards Robb, but a crossbow bolt punches her in the back, and she crashes to the floor. Smalljon Umber wrestles a table off its trestles then flings it down on top of Robb. Ser Wendel Manderly rises to his feet, but is killed by a quarrel that enters his mouth and comes out the back of his neck. Smalljon Umber reaches for his sword but a crossbow bolt drives him to his knees. Almost all of Robb’s men are dead, some killed by the Freys in the hall while others fall victim to the deadly quarrels from the crossbowmen in the gallery above. Dacey Mormont escapes the clutches of Young Ser Benfrey Frey and makes a run for the door, but Ser Ryman Frey comes through the door before she can reach it, followed by a dozen Frey men-at-arms; Ryman buries the head of his axe in Dacey’s stomach.
Men were starting to pour in from the other doors, dressed in mail and shaggy fur cloaks. Catelyn’s hope that the northmen are finally here to rescue Robb are quickly dashed to bits when one of them decapitates Smalljon Umber.
Catelyn sees a dagger on the floor and crawls towards it.
Robb struggles to his knees; he has been hit by a third crossbow bolt, this one going through his chest. Lord Walder signals for the musicians to stop playing. Catelyn hears the sound of distant battle, and the wild howling of a wolf that she knows is Grey Wind. Lord Walder proceeds to mock Robb by saying that he’s killed some of Robb’s men but that he will mend the situation by apologizing for it, thus alluding that the insult done to him by Robb not marrying one of his daughters/granddaughters had been too deep to be done away with by Robb’s apology.
Catelyn grabs Jinglebell, the halfwit son of Lord Frey’s now deceased firstborn son, the late Stevron Frey, and presses the dagger to the halfwit’s throat. She calls out to Lord Walder, pleading to the Lord of the Crossing to let Robb go; in return, she swears by the old and new gods that they will not seek vengeance upon House Frey. Lord Walder says that he is not foolish enough to believe Catelyn’s word. Catelyn, growing desperate, offers both herself and Edmure as hostages in return for letting Robb go. She tells Robb to walk out of the hall and to find Grey Wind.
When Lord Walder makes no move to acquiesce to her plea, Catelyn presses the blade deeper into Jinglebell’s throat and swears upon her honor as a Tully and a Stark, that if Lord Walder releases Robb, she will do the same for Jinglebell, with the implied threat that if Lord Walder kills Robb, she will kill Jinglebell as well.
Lord Walder’s reply is filled with disdain, saying that Jinglebell is a grandson and that the halfwit has never been of much use.
Lord Roose Bolton suddenly appears, now in full armor, and steps up to Robb. The Lord of the Dreadfort says that Jaime Lannister sends his regards, and thrusts his longsword through Robb’s heart.
Catelyn keeps her promises and saws through Jinglebell’s throat. As blood spurts everywhere, she goes insane and rakes her own face with her nails. She begins crying, but soon starts laughing and finally her laughs change to screams. Catelyn then hears someone saying that she has lost her wits and calls for an end. Another person then grabs her scalp, and slits her throat.
Arya and Sandor are nearly upon the gates of the Twins. Although the sergeant they encountered earlier had mentioned that the castle would be closed, Arya notes that this is not the case, as the portcullis is drawn upward and the drawbridge has been lowered.
Suddenly, Sandor curses and pushes Arya off the wagon. He then leaps down and arms himself with the sword he’d hidden underneath the wagon seat.
It is only then that Arya sees the riders pouring out of the castle gate, men who are well-armored and carrying weapons, with every one in ten carrying a torch. Arya hears a wolf howling somewhere far off, but she feels rather than hears the rage and grief in the animal’s howl.
The Frey riders knock down the three feast tents and the tents collapse on the men beneath. Using flaming arrows, the riders set all the tents alight. Arya notices that, unlike before, the music being played from both of the Twins’ castles are now the same.
Three riders leave the main column and head towards the wagon. Sandor cuts his warhorse, Stranger, loose from the wagon and leaps onto its back. He engages two of the riders, but the third goes for Arya.
Arya does not understand why the Frey riders are attacking Robb’s men. Since her uncle, Edmure, was marrying one of Lord Frey’s daughters, the Freys should have been friends with Robb. She throws a rock at the third rider but the stone only lands a glancing blow off the rider’s temple. She then runs as quick as she can, putting the wagon between her and the rider then proceeds to run around the wagon three times as the rider chases her. The Frey rider curses but then Sandor arrives and sends the knight flying from his steed with a powerful blow to the back of the knight’s head. Arya notices that Sandor is now carrying an axe; when she looks around, she sees a foot of Sandor’s broken sword jutting from beneath one of the dead riders’ chin.
Sandor then tells Arya to get him his snarling dog’s helm and Arya obeys. Sandor puts it on and states that Arya’s brother is dead, pointing to the carnage going around them as proof, stating that the Freys wouldn’t leave Robb alive if they were out here slaughtering all his men.
Sandor tells Arya that they have to get away from the Twins as fast as possible but Arya responds by saying that both Robb and her mother are in the castle and Arya and Sandor should ride in to get them. Sandor curses and states that if Arya enters the Twins, she will not come out. Arya insists and when Sandor reaches down to grab, she spins away and runs towards the gate.
Sandor rides after her. He soon catches up with her and hits her in the back of the head with his axe.
Sansa and Tyrion are having a quiet supper together. Tyrion is feeling angry and frustrated at Prince Oberyn and his Dornishmen. There has already been a fight between Tyrell men-at-arms and the Dornishmen and an ugly confrontation when the Queen of Thorns, Lady Olenna insulted Prince Oberyn’s paramour, Ellaria Sand, by calling her “the serpent’s whore”. In addition to that, Prince Oberyn is always asking Tyrion when justice will be served every time the two catch sight of each other.
After supper, Sansa asks for Tyrion’s leave to visit the godswood. Tyrion grants it and proceeds to spend the next few hours going through Petyr Baelish’s ledgers. As the new Master of Coin, Tyrion is in charge of finding more money for the crown, but finds making sense of Littlefinger’s accounts a frustrating affair; it seems Littlefinger has been involved in several shady ventures.
Tyrion later get a summons from his father. He enters the Hand’s solar to find Cersei, Ser Kevan Lannister and Grand Maester Pycelle gathering next to Lord Tywin and King Joffrey. Both Joffrey and Cersei seem to be extremely pleased. Tywin passes a rolled parchment to Tyrion. The parchment bears the seals of House Frey and the message from Lord Walder Frey inside states that Roslin has captured Edmure Tully while Roslin’s brothers have given her a pair of wolf pelts for her wedding. Joffrey announces that Robb Stark is dead while Tywin reports that, while Riverrun might still be under Ser Brynden Tully’s control, the Blackfish would not dare mount an attack as long as Lord Walder holds Edmure Tully. Tywin also states that with Robb dead, the river lords cannot hold off the might of the Lannister army for long; he also adds that any castle that yields to them will be spared. Tywin does make one exception, however: he has instructed Ser Gregor Clegane to put Harrenhal to the sword, for he seeks to be rid of Vargo Hoat’s Brave Companions once and for all.
Joffrey begins one of his tirades, declaring that they should execute all of the riverlords instead of allowing them to bend the knee. Tywin tells Joffrey that he should attack his enemies when they defy him but help them back to their feet once they surrender; Tywin says that this is a lesson Aerys Targaryen never learned. Joffrey then escalates the situation further by stating that Tywin had been scared of Aerys Targaryen. Joffrey further insults Tywin by stating that the late King Robert Baratheon, whom Joffrey still takes as his father (as he does not know about Jaime being his father), acted boldly during Robert’s Rebellion, unlike Tywin, who hid under Casterly Rock.
Tywin coldly dismisses Joffrey and assigns Ser Kevan to see the king back to his bedchamber. He also commands Pycelle to go and prepare some dreamwine for Joffrey.
When only Cersei and Tyrion remain in the room, Tywin chastises Cersei for Joff’s behavior and then dismisses her as well.
Alone with Tyrion, Tywin discusses the matter of Prince Oberyn; Tywin has been considering how best to appease Oberyn and the rest of his entourage. Tyrion says that Prince Oberyn might not be satisfied with Ser Gregor’s head alone. Tywin agrees and says that is why he is going to keep Ser Gregor far away as long as Oberyn remains in King’s Landing; instead, he is going to offer Ser Amory Lorch as the murderer of Elia and her children. Tyrion says that Ser Amory Lorch is already dead, Vargo Hoat having fed him to a bear at Harrenhal after Lord Roose Bolton took the castle. And with Amory dead, Tyrion foresees that Oberyn will enquire further, as to who gave Amory the orders to kill Elia and her children. Tywin responds by saying he will tell Oberyn that Ser Amory acted on his own, in the hope of winning favor from Robert Baratheon; after all, with Elia’s children dead, Robert’s throne would be more secure.
Tywin then admits that the death of Elia and her children were done with needless brutality; he says that Elia herself should not have been harmed because by herself she was no threat to Robert. Tywin says that Gregor probably killed Elia because he had not given Gregor express orders to spare her. He also reveals that it was Ser Amory who killed Elia’s daughter but Gregor who killed Elia and her son.
Tyrion then shifts the conversation back to the Freys and the wedding. He states that the Freys, by killing guests who have eaten food under their roof, have violated the ancient and sacred tradition of guest right. Tywin retorts by saying that it is Lord Walder Frey who violated the tradition, and that the blood is on the Lord of the Crossing’s hands, not his own.
Tyrion then states that there is no way Lord Walder Frey would have dared to orchestrate such a thing without the promise of Tywin’s protection. Tywin confesses that the price for the Frey betrayal was cheap: Ser Emmon Frey will get Riverrun once Ser Brynden yields, Ser Kevan Lannister’s elder son and the late Ser Stafford Lannister’s only son will marry Frey girls, while the only daughter of Lord Tywin’s now-deceased youngest brother will wed one of Lord Walder’s natural sons.
Also, for taking part in the Frey betrayal, Lord Roose Bolton will become Warden of the North and the Lannisters will hand over Arya Stark to him so that he can wed Arya to his bastard son, Ramsay Snow. When Tyrion mentions that Arya Stark has been missing for more than half a year and likely dead, Tywin mentions that the same was to be said of Renly, at least until the Battle of the Blackwater. Tyrion asks for further clarification, only to be told that Littlefinger succeeded in finding Arya where Tywin and Varys failed, thus subtly hinting that the Arya Stark to be given to Lord Roose Bolton is an impostor. Tywin goes on to state that he intends for Lord Roose Bolton to fight the Greyjoys for a few years and bring all the northmen to heel. He ends by saying the North will eventually go to Tyrion and Sansa’s son, but cruelly mocks Tyrion for having not yet slept with Sansa, much less gotten her with child.
Stannis is in the chamber of the Painted Table together with Melisandre, Davos, Queen Selyse and Ser Axell Florent. Salladhor Saan is there as well, and he is reporting on what he has heard of Robb’s death. The smallfolk are calling it The Red Wedding; they also mention that Catelyn Stark was killed as well.
Queen Selyse and Ser Axell Florent attribute Robb Stark’s death to the hand of R’hllor. Stannis however, says that the act of killing guests has more the stench of Lord Walder Frey than any god, to which Melisandre replies that R’hllor works in mysterious ways.
Stannis then mentions that he intends to pardon any Northmen or ironmen who swears fealty to him but Melisandre says they will not do so because, through her flames, she has seen that more usurpers to the throne will appear, to replace Robb Stark and Balon Greyjoy.
Melisandre goes on to add that Stannis must now give the realm a sign of his power and that he can do that by handing over Edric Storm to her; in return, she will sacrifice the boy and wake the stone dragons, fulfilling an ancient prophecy in which Azor Ahai, whom Melisandre believes Stannis to be, wakes dragons out of stone. Queen Selyse and Ser Axell Florent sing the same song, agreeing that Edric Storm must die for the greater good of the realm.
Only Davos provides a dissenting voice; he states that no man is as cursed as the kinslayer and goes on to ask Melisandre how she intends to use Edric to wake the stone dragons. Melisandre says that she intends to sacrifice Edric and that despite Edric being Robert Baratheon’s bastard, kings’ blood flows in the boy’s veins. She mentions that Davos has already seen how potent even a little kings’ blood can be, referring to the three leeches that she had burned, each one filled with Edric’s blood. Davos questions the efficacy of Melisandre’s magic, saying that only two kings have died so far, not three. Melisandre says that once Joffrey dies, then it will surely prove the true power of R’hllor.
Stannis dismisses all of them, and they leave, except for Davos, who remains in the chamber. Davos proceeds to plead with the king, calling upon Stannis to spare Edric Storm’s life, for the boy has done no wrong. Stannis starts to get defensive and angry, saying that he doesn’t want the boy to be sacrificed but his first duty is to the realm. He says that Melisandre might call the flaming sword that she has given him by the name of Lightbringer, the fabled sword wielded by Azor Ahai, but during the Battle of the Blackwater, it served him no better than any common sword. He says that Melisandre’s stone dragons would be what they need to win the battle. Stannis then mentions that he knows the cost of sacrificing Edric, that he has been looking into the flames, and saw a king with a crown of fire, burned to ashes. When Stannis asks what is the life of one bastard boy when weighed against an entire Kingdom, Davos replies that it is worth everything. Angered by Davos’ reply, Stannis promptly dismisses him.
Outside, Salladhor Saan approaches Davos. The Lyseni pirate says that he has forgiven Davos for advising Stannis against the attack on House Celtigar. Salladhor also mentions that he has heard Davos has been befriending the men of Dragonstone who still worshipped the Seven instead of taking R’hllor as their new god. He says that he is going back to sea, to catch smugglers sailing across Blackwater Bay. Salladhor warns Davos that Davos had best be careful, because men who reach great heights like Davos have further to fall.
Davos then proceeds to climb the steps to Masters Pylos’ chambers. When Davos had been raised to Hand, he had raised his doubts about his own abilities to counsel Stannis. One of Davos’ concerns was that he was unable to read. Master Pylos offered to teach Davos the art of reading and so Davos has been visiting the Maester every day since.
When Davos arrives at Pylos’ chambers, he sees that Pylos is still having a lesson with the three children. The three in this case is Davos’ own son, Devan, along with Shireen Baratheon and Edric Storm. Pylos tells Davos that the children’s lesson has just finished and sends them off.
Alone with Pylos, Davos asks whether he could practice reading a letter. Pylos hands him an old letter and Davos tries his best to read it. He struggles at first, but makes good progress. As Davos continues reading, he is surprised by what he is reading. The letter comes from the Night’s Watch. It is addressed to “the five kings” of the realm. It states that the King beyond the Wall is marching south with his vast wildling host, heading towards the Wall; Lord Commander Mormont has sent a raven from the haunted forest, warning of the attack to come. The Night’s Watch fear that Mormont and the men he led North of the Wall has been slain.
Davos asks Pylos whether Stannis has seen this letter. Pylos says that he took the letter to Lord Alester Florent, who had been the Hand when the letter reach Dragonstone. Alester Florent had not deigned to send a reply, telling Pylos that Stannis barely had enough men to pit against the Lannisters what more to send to the Night’s Watch.
When Davos asks whether Melisandre has seen the letter, Pylos says that she has not. Pylos then asks Davos whether he should bring the letter to Stannis and Melisandre; Davos says that Pylos doesn’t need to do it, saying that the young Maester did his duty when he presented it to Alester Florent. Davos secretly worries about what Melisandre might do if she reads the letter – he wonders whether Melisandre will advice Stannis to go North to fight the wildlings since it had been Melisandre who had mentioned that the only war out there that matters is the one between R’hllor and the Great Other.
Worried about what the letter may portent for the future, Davos asks Pylos to give him another letter to read instead.
The men of Castle Black wake to the smoke of Mole’s Town burning. Jon’s leg still hurts. Despite Donal Noye insisting that Jon needs to rest in order for his leg to heal, Jon is adamant about taking part in Castle Black’s defense. Noye confesses that they will need every man who can fight; he assigns Jon to the top of King’s Tower, to provide missile fire in the upcoming battle.
Jon finds himself stationed atop the King’s Tower with Deaf Dick Follard and a new boy by the name of Satin. Six scarecrows share the roof with them. The scarecrows had been Maester Aemon’s notion; the hope is that the Magnar and his Thenns might mistake the scarecrows for men of the Night’s Watch when seen from afar, giving Castle Black the illusion that it had far more men defending it and thus make Magnar and his men think twice about attacking the castle.
Standing atop the tower, Jon scans Castle Black’s defenses. The castle has no walls. Jon knows that the reason why the castle has no walls is because the Night’s Watch is pledged to take no part in the quarrels of the realm. In the past, some of the Lord Commanders forgot this pledge and threatened to destroy the Night’s Watch with their ambition. However, the lords and kings of the Seven Kingdoms have always been easily able to quell such ambitions due to the fact that the Night’s Watch’s castles have no walls and are thus indefensible. The Night’s Watch have survived as an order only because the Seven Kingdoms know that the order poses no threat to them. The Night’s Watch’s only foes are those that lie to the north, and to the north of the castles, they have the Wall.
Jon reflects on the fact that now, however, their enemies were coming from the south.
With no walls, Donal Noye has made a crude barricade around the two structures most worth defending: the gate to the north, and the foot of the great wooden switchback stair that leads up to the face of the Wall, supported by wooden beams as big as tree trunks driven deep into the ice.
Three quarters of the Mole’s Town villagers had taken Jon’s warning to heart, making their way to Castle Black for refuge. The villagers are still making the long climb up the Wall. Noye has armed the village men who were fit enough for battle while the women and children were put to work as well. Castle Black’s garrison had yet to return; Jon accepts the fact that the garrison will not return in time.
Midday comes about and still the men catch no sight of the Magnar and his Thenns. As he eats his meal, Jon reflects on the fact that Maester Aemon has sent a lot of ravens out, asking the realm for help against the wildling attack. Jon knows that even if the lords and kings of the realm have sent men to aid the Night’s Watch, they would not arrive that day.
When evening comes about, they share one last meal. Jon then goes downstairs to bar the tower’s door.
The wilding attack comes in the night. Jon, Satin and Deaf Dick Follard take up their positions; Jon is equipped with a longbow while the other two use crossbows. Within moments, the main strength of the wildling army is within sight, and all three of them begin shooting at the moving targets below them.
Sometime later, Deaf Dick Follard yells out to Jon that the wildlings are on the armory roof, with one of the wildlings carrying a torch. Dick hops up onto the crenel for a better shot, but misses. A wildling archer from below manages to hit Dick, however, and Dick falls over the parapet, to his death. Jon looks down and sees that the archer is Ygritte. He tries to but he cannot bring himself to fire at her; Ygritte vanishes into the fray.
By then, the Magnar’s Thenns have joined the battle and Jon sees that the Thenns are storming Noye’s barricade. Jon gets Satin to join him, and they fire down upon the Thenns, who make easy targets since the Thenns have their backs to the King’s Tower when they charge the barricade.
Jon runs out of arrows and goes to get more when he sees the rooftop’s trap door slamming open three feet in front of him. Jon draws Longclaw and drives the sword down on the first head to pop out; the Valyrian blade shears through the bronze helm and the first man crashes back down. Jon calls out to Satin and the second man who comes up drops back down, a quarrel through his cheek. Jon and Satin lift the heavy kettle of boiling oil on the rooftop, placed there before the battle for just such a situation, and poured it down the hole. They hear the screams; Jon kicks the trapdoor shut and places the heavy kettle on top of it.
When they get back to the parapets, Jon and Satin see that the Thenns have now broken through the barricade and fighting with black brothers and villagers alike. There are too few black brothers to hold off the Thenns and they soon lose control of the gate. The Thenns’ bloodlust is up and they charge towards the stairs; the villagers stationed there lose their nerves and start fleeing up the stairs. There are three black brothers on the fourth landing, but they soon fall to the wildling tide.
Jon then tells Satin to bring the torches. Satin goes and brings back four torches – one lit – and a dozen fire arrows.
Styr finally appears, climbing over the barricade. Jon takes pleasure in the fact that the Magnar is too late to save his men, for they have already fallen into the trap.
From the ninth landing, a warhorn sounds. Jon lights up a fire arrow and sends it speeding towards the casks, kegs and sacks that Donal Noye has piled up beneath the steps, casks, kegs, and sacks that are filled with flammable food and material. Jon continues firing all the fire arrows and so too do the other longbowmen from atop all the other tower roofs in range. When Jon runs out of fire arrows, he and Satin start throwing the torches.
The conflagration grows and grows; Donal Noye had drenched the wooden steps with oil, all the way from the ninth landing down to the seventh. The steps feed the fire and the wind does the rest. The wildlings are trapped on the stairs. The casks below have given birth to fire, and so too do the oil-drenched steps above them. The wildlings who go upward or downward die. Some jump from the steps, but the fall kills them. Some stay where they are and die as well. About twenty-odd Thenns remain on the steps when the whole lower third of the stairs breaks off, sending several tons of ice crashing down to the ground below; that is the last Jon Snow sees of Styr, Magnar of Thenn.
With the battle over, Jon leaves the tower and searches for Ygritte. He finds her beneath one of the towers, an arrow between her breasts. Ygritte asks Jon whether Castle Black is a real castle and when Jon tells her that it is, she says that she is happy she got to see a real castle before she dies. Jon tells her that she can see a hundred more castles because she’s not going to die. Ygritte smiles and tells him that he knows nothing and sighs just before she dies.
Bran, Meera, Jojen, Hodor and Summer have arrived at the Nightfort, one of the abandoned castles along the Wall. Bran is afraid, not only because the Nightfort had been the setting for some of Old Nan’s scariest stories but because he has had a dream in which Robb and Grey Wind are dead. The dream scares him but he tries not to think about it; he has not even shared the dream with the Reeds.
Bran had told them that the Nightfort would be abandoned; he remembers his uncle Benjen once telling him that the Night’s Watch had abandoned the Nightfort two hundred years ago. Bran had also previously told them that when the Night’s Watch abandoned a castle, they sealed the gate with ice and stone, and thus, they would find no way through at the Nightfort. Jojen had insisted on seeing for himself, however, saying that his green dream had showed him a way through the Wall and it was there at the Nightfort.
True enough, they discover that the Nighfort’s gate has been sealed. Bran mentions then that they should have followed Jon to Castle Black, but Jojen says that he has already told Bran as to why that would not be a good idea. Bran says that the hundred or so band of wildlings they saw pose a threat to the Wall and the folk south of the Wall. Jojen gently reminds Bran that there are only four of them, and that even helping Jon back at Queenscrown had nearly cost him Summer. The direwolf had been hit by a wildling arrow, in the back leg. The wildlings left the next morning, going north by east, the same direction Jon had taken during his escape. Not long after that, Summer had made his way back to the group and Meera treated the wound, which has been healing well ever since.
Meera suggest that they could find another castle, one where the gate is not sealed. Bran tells her that all the gates are sealed, except for those at the castles where the Night’s Watch currently occupy, namely, Castle Black, Eastwatch and the Shadow Tower.
Upon hearing Bran’s answer, Meera considers and then says that she is going to climb up the Wall to see what she can see from the top. She climbs the icy steps and disappears from sight. Jojen mentions that Meera will have a good look at the top while he and Bran should do the same around the Nightfort.
They spend half the day exploring the abandoned castle but fail to find a way through the Wall. When Meera returns in the evening, she tells them that she did not see a way down the other side of the Wall. She asks Jojen again whether this is the castle he saw in his dreams, and he replies that it is and that there is a gate somewhere in the castle, one that will let them through the Wall.
As night approaches, they decide to take shelter in the castle’s kitchens. The kitchens still have enough roof to keep them dry should it rain, but Bran feels apprehensive about the kitchens’ huge central well. They note that the well has steps built into its side, and goes so deep that none of them could see water at the bottom.
After supper, Jojen says that they should go to sleep. He also hopes that he will have another green dream to show them the way through the castle.
Bran tries to sleep, but his recollections of Old Nan’s ghost stories about the Nightfort keep him awake. Suddenly, he hears a noise; after a while, Bran realizes that that the sound is that of heavy footfalls and that it is coming from the well. He wakes Meera who proceeds to arm herself with her spear and net before movingly silently to the well.
Bran, unwilling to let Meera fight whatever comes out of the well, uses his shapechanger abilities and wargs into Hodor, just like he did in Queenscrown. Hodor is far more difficult to control than Summer, but Bran manages to make Hodor pick up his long sword.
There is a loud wail from the well and a huge black shape heaves itself out from the well; Bran is so fearful that he totally loses control of Hodor and slips back into his own body. Meera, however, keeps her wits about her and throws her net over the black shape, entangling it. She then pokes the black shape with her spear, causing it to stagger and fall.
The black thing begs them not to attack him and says that his name is Sam. Jojen has now woken up and lit a fire, and they see a figure by the well, a pale girl bundled up in skins and fur beneath a black cloak, trying to shush the screaming baby that is the cause of the wailing. Bran studies the black thing caught in Meera’s net and tells them that they are looking at a man of the Night’s Watch.
The black brother tells them that his name is Samwell Tarly. The girl with the baby introduces herself as Gilly and when Jojen asks her where she comes from she mentions that she comes from Craster’s. She then asks Jojen whether he is the one that Coldhands is looking for. Sam, having been freed from the net by Meera, gets up and tells them that Coldhands mentioned that there would be people in the castle.
Jojen demands to know how Sam managed to get through the Wall. Sam’s tells them that he came through a hidden gate, as old as the Wall itself, called The Black Gate. The Reeds realize that Sam’s Black Gate must be the gate that Jojen saw in his dream and they ask him whether they will find the gate at the bottom of the well. Sam tells them that they won’t find the gate, that only he can take them to the gate – because Coldhands told him that only a man of the Night’s Watch can open the Black Gate.
When Jojen, Meera and Bran question him about Coldhands, Sam tells them about how Coldhands saved Gilly and him from the wights with his ravens, and how Coldhands had then brought them to the Nightfort on his elk. Sam says that the man’s name isn’t really Coldhands but Gilly and him called the man that because the man’s hands were as cold as ice. When Bran asks whether Coldhands could be a green man, Sam says that Coldhands had been dressed like a man of the Night’s Watch, and that while he at first thought that Coldhands might have been a wight due to his cold hands, the man actually spoke to them and did not possess blue eyes. When Meera asks why Coldhands had not followed Sam through the Black Gate and up the well, Sam says that Coldhands had told both of them that he cannot pass beyond the Wall because of the powerful old spells woven into the ice and stone.
Jojen then says that Bran is the one they are looking for, the one they were told to bring with them to Coldhands. Sam stares at Bran and then realizes who he is looking at, saying that Bran must be Jon Snow’s brother, the one who fell and broke his legs. Jojen states that Sam is wrong because Bran Stark is dead while Bran warns Sam not to tell anyone. Sam promises that he won’t unveil Bran’s secret. Meera then introduces herself and Summer appears. Seeing that Summer likes Sam, Bran decides that they will all go and meet Coldhands. Sam decides to leave Gilly and the baby in the Nightfort and promises Gilly that he will return for her.
They make their way down the well, their eyes eventually adjusting to the darkness. After many turns, they arrive at the door. The door is made from white weirwood and has an old and pale face on it. When the door asks Sam who he is, Sam replies by reciting the oath of the Night’s Watch. The face on the door then says that they may pass and its mouth opens wide until there is a sizeable hole in the door. As Bran, sitting on top of Hodor, passes through the open mouth, he feels a warm drop of water fall on his head and run down his nose – it is salty, like a tear.
Daenerys and her host stand outside Meeren, another slave-trading city but as big as Astapor and Yunkai combined. Meeren’s defensive structures are formidable and the city’s forces have retreated into the city to take full advantage of that fact. However, a lone rider wearing a pink-and-white cape remains outside the city gates, taunting Daenerys’ host and challenging Daenerys to send a champion to meet him in single combat.
Daenerys’ bloodriders are fighting over who gets to challenge the lone hero but Daenerys is of the opinion that her bloodriders are too valuable to risk so she tells them to ignore the lone hero. Ser Jorah approves of her decision, believing the hero’s challenge to be of no consequence. Arstan Whitebeard, however, disagrees, saying that by allowing the lone hero to taunt them, Daenerys’ troops will suffer a drop in morale while that of Meeren’s forces will enjoy a boost.
The Great Masters of Meeren had withdrawn before her advance, harvesting all they can and burning what they could not. They have also nailed a slave child up on every milepost along the coast road from Yunkai, and the dead children numbered one hundred and sixty-three in total. The sight alone has toughened Daenerys’ resolve and she has pledged to conquer Meeren.
Daenerys convenes a war council. Brown Ben Plumm is the new commander of the Second Sons, the mercenary group Daenerys encountered in Yunkai, and he tells them that the lone hero is Oznak zo Pahl, the nephew of the richest man in Meeren. Ben knows this because he had once served in Meeren and Oznak killed one of Ben’s friends.
Daario Naharis offers to take up Oznak’s challenge but Daenerys declines his offer because she knows that she needs Daario in order to hold on to the Stormcrows. When Arstan insists that Oznak’s challenge needs to be met, Daenerys agrees and finally calls upon Strong Belwas. Unlike Ser Jorah, Daario, Brown Ben and her three bloodriders, the eunuch leads no troops, nor does he plan battles or gives Daenerys counsel; Belwas is the man that she can most easily spare.
Belwas approaches Meeren’s gate, armed with his arakh but wearing no armor. Oznak lowers his lance and charges at the eunuch but Belwas dances aside. Oznak tries the same tactic again, and Belwas dodges it easily. Oznak then charges a third time, but riding past Belwas instead of at him; he swings his lance sideways at the last second to catch Belwas but Belwas anticipates the attack and drops down instead of spinning sideways. Belwas then rolls and brings his arakh around, cutting into the horses’ legs with the blade. The horse falls and takes Oznak with it. Belwas immediately pounces on Oznak, who manages to draw his sword before the attack. After a quick flurry of blows, Belwas’ has a bleeding slash below his breasts while Oznak has an arakh planted on the top of his head. Belwas wrenches his arakh free and proceeds to decapitate Oznak. Belwas returns to Daenerys’ camp to the raucous cheer of the besiegers and Daenerys sends a healer to tend to Belwas’ wound.
The war council continues inside Daenerys’ pavilion. Daenerys mentions that she must take Meeren; she says that the city’s granaries are bursting with food. Ser Jorah says that the landward walls have no apparent points of weakness and that it would take a long while for the men to mine beneath a tower to make a breach, and by that time they would have run out of food. Daenerys asks about the seaward walls but Ser Jorah tells her that it cannot be done because she only has three ships.
Daenerys then asks about the possibility of building siege towers or trebuchets but Jorah tells her that there is no wood to build them because Meeren has burnt every tree within twenty leagues. Ben Plumm adds that it would be difficult to storm the gates with axes as well, because the Meeren men can pour boiling oil down on them from the harpy heads located right above the gates. Daario suggests that the Unsullied wield the axes, saying that he has heard that boiling oil feels like no more than a warm bath to the Unsullied. Grey Worm says that what Daario has heard is wrong, because while the Unsullied might not feel the pain, they can die just like normal men. He then says that the Unsullied are not afraid to die and asks Daenerys to give the Unsullied a ram to batter down the gates. Daenerys decides against it, saying that she does not want to throw away Unsullied.
She then asks about the possibility of starving the city out but Ser Jorah tells her that the city has far more food than her own host and can be resupplied with water. When Daenerys asks Ser Jorah for his advice, he tells her that she will not like it, but when she insists, he says that they should just let Meeren be because Daenerys’ real war lies in Westeros.
Daenerys’ bloodriders all agree, as the Dothraki see all men who hide behind great walls as defeated cowards. Daenerys, however, is determined to conquer Meeren. She says that since Ser Jorah has mentioned they have no food left, her people will die if they march away from Meeren.
Ben Plumm then speaks up, saying that he knows of a way into the city: the sewers. He reveals that when Oznak killed his friend and came after him, he escaped out of Meeren via the sewers. Ben then says that he has no intention of going down in the sewers again, but any man who wants to try is welcome to it. Her bloodriders and Grey Worm all try to speak at once, but Daenerys silences them; she thinks them unsuited for the task. She says she will think about it then dismisses all of them.
Ben Plumm is the last to make his way out of the pavilion but as he is leaving, Daenerys’ white dragon hatchling, Viserion, lands on Ben’s head. Daenerys mentions that Viserion seems to like Ben and Ben says that it might have something to do with his Targaryen blood. When Daenerys presses further, Ben says that somewhere way back in his lineage, during King Aegon’s day, there was a Plumm who married a Targaryen princess. Daenerys, curious, asks which King Aegon Ben is referring to, stating that there has been five Aegons who have ruled Westeros. Ben admits that he doesn’t know and leaves to see to the Second Sons.
After Ben leaves, Daenerys starts thinking about her dragons: she has three, but wonders who would ride the other two when they grew large enough. Her mind starts to wander to Daario; he has been kind to her and makes her laugh. She even wonders what it would be like to sleep with the Tyroshi mercenary.
After a while, Daenerys decides that she needs some fresh air. She decides to ride around the camp and takes Missandei and Arstan along with her. She first rides past the encampment of the Unsullied, seeing them train and bathe with sand. She then looks out and sees her three ships standing out to sea. Daenerys then heads to encampment of the former slaves who follow her, or as she now calls them, freedmen.
As she is smiling and talking to the freedmen, a tall ragged man with a shaved head pulls her off her horse and she falls to the ground. When she tries to get up, she recognizes the man; he has shaved his head and beard but she knows that he is Mero, the ex-commander of the Second Sons who fled from the battle in Yunkai. He is about to kill her but Arstan leaps to her protection. Mero warns Arstan to stay away but Arstan immediately launches attack after attack on Mero and within seconds, breaks one of Mero’s legs. Mero falls and the freedmen are all over him, stabbing, smashing and punching the dying mercenary. Arstan takes Daenerys back to her pavilion.
When Ser Jorah arrives at her pavilion, he says that he has had a closer look at the river wall and is about to make his report when Daenerys cuts him off and tells him about Mero. Daenerys announces that she wants to knight Arstan for his brave deed, but Jorah says no, and, to her surprise, so too does Arstan. Ser Jorah draws his sword and tells Arstan to reveal his true identity, explaining that Mero was quite good at killing but yet Arstan, an old squire with a stick, managed to slay him. Arstan reveals that he is already a knight and when Daenerys accuses him of lying to her when he had told her he is a squire, Arstan says that he has never lied to her, merely withheld some truths, for indeed, he had once squired for Lord Swann in his youth. But he admits that before serving Strong Belwas, he was a knight in Westeros.
Ser Jorah finally recognizes Arstan, saying that while Mero shaved his beard, Arstan had grown one instead. He then announces that Arstan is actually Ser Barristan Selmy, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Jorah also adds that Barristan betrayed House Targaryen to serve Robert Baratheon. Barristan says that Jorah has no right to speak to him of betrayal.
Daenerys, confused, demands to know why Barristan is here and whether he served her or Robert Baratheon. Barristan says that he would serve her, if she lets him. He then tells her that he took Robert’s pardon after the rebellion, and had been a member of King Joffrey’s kingsguard until Joffrey dismissed him and sent men to kill him on the same day. Barristan says that after being dismissed, he knew he had to go in search of his true king.
Barristan then begins to reveal another matter to Daenerys. He says that he has kept his true identity from Daenerys because he does not want the Lannisters to know that he has now joined Daenerys. He mentions that Daenerys is being watched, just like her late brother, Viserys, had been watched. Barristan adds that he heard all the reports about her during his time in Joffrey’s small council, reports given to the council by an informer by Daenerys’ side, one who worked with Lord Varys.
Daenerys is caught by surprise and her initial reaction is to ask Ser Jorah to deny Barristan’s accusation, but Ser Jorah curses Barristan and tells Daenerys that he did it only during the beginning, before he truly knew her.
Daenerys reacts by yelling at Jorah and asking him what he had been promised for being Lord Varys’ informant. Jorah replies that Varys had promised Jorah that he would be able to go back to Westeros.
Daenerys is hurt that both Jorah and Barristan has lied to her. She is also furious, and for a second, almost wishes that she can have her dragons roast them alive. She orders both of them to leave immediately. Barristan asks her where they should go. Daenerys is at a loss as to where to send the two knights. But then she knows.
Tyrion is dressing himself in the darkness, observing his wife sleeping on their shared bed. He reflects on the fact that while they share a bed, that is all that they do. He has already told her of the Red Wedding and her brother’s death. However, she never shares her grief with him, preferring instead to cry when she is alone. He has spared her the more gruesome details of the Red Wedding though, for he has no wish to see her suffer more nightmares.
After his marriage to Sansa, Tywin decided that Tyrion needed a larger living space so he had Tyrion and Sansa moved to larger apartments atop the Kitchen Keep. The move takes Tyrion further away from Cersei’s own apartments, something which makes him happy.
Tyrion leaves his apartments, taking the stairs to go down, until he emerges in a cellar. He waddles along a long dark passageway until he finds the door he wants. Tyrion pushes the door open and enters into a room where the crown keeps the Targaryen’s dragon skulls.
Shae is waiting there for him and they immediately have sex. It is Varys who reluctantly arranged for Shae to be hired as one of Sansa’s maids so that Tyrion could continue seeing Tyrion. Varys has warned Tyrion however, that Cersei might see through the false history he made up for Shae. He also warns Tyrion that if Cersei were to question him regarding Shae, he will tell her the truth because he will not lie to the queen. Varys has also asked Tyrion why a clever man such as Tyrion would risk bringing a whore to King’s Landing with him when Tyrion’s father had expressly forbid it.
After they have sex, Tyrion is wracked with guilt over the danger Shae would be in should her real identity be discovered. He briefly considers telling Sansa about Shae but dismisses the idea because he thinks Sansa cannot be trusted with such knowledge. He then reflects on what he should do with Shae to put her out of harm’s way. He considers sending her to Chataya’s brothel, where she would have all the silks and gems she could wish for. He also considers arranging a marriage for her, with either Bronn, who has now been knighted, or a knight by the name of Ser Tallad, whom Tyrion has seen looking upon Shae wistfully on more than one occasion.
As they both finish putting their clothes back on, the first light of the morning is slowly creeping into the room. It is the first day of the new year, and the first year of a new century. Tyrion knows that there is a long day ahead of him, but he vows to survive King Joffrey’s wedding.
Sansa wakes from a pleasant dream, one in which she is back at Winterfell and her entire family is warm and safe. When she is fully awake, Sansa remembers that all her family members are now dead and that she is all alone in the world now.
She notices that Tyrion is not beside her but she is used to that, having learned that Tyrion is a bad sleeper and often rose before dawn.
Sansa calls for her two new maids, Brella and Shae. The two of them then help to bathe Sansa. Sansa is tempted to drink a cup of wine to calm her nerves. Joffrey’s wedding is to take place at midday in the Great Sept of Baelor. The wedding feast is in the evening, held in the throne room; there will be a thousand guests and seventy-seven courses and much entertainment to be had. But first Sansa has to brave the breakfast in the Queen’s Ballroom. The breakfast in the Queen’s Ballroom is for King Joffrey, the Lannisters and Tyrell men; Margaery and the Tyrell women have their own breakfast gathering.
As the two maids are dressing Sansa, Tyrion and Podrick Payne appear. Tyrion compliments Sansa then goes to change out of his soiled and unkempt clothes. When he returns, both he and Podrick have changed into more handsome clothes. They then make their way to the Queen’s Ballroom to break their fast.
Sansa nibbles at her food while Tyrion barely touches his, preferring to down several cups of wine instead. After the food has been cleared away, Cersei presents Joff with the wife’s cloak that he will drape over Margaery’s shoulders; it is the same cloak Robert Baratheon draped on her and the same cloak Tywin draped on his wife.
After that, the gift-giving starts. It is a tradition from the Reach, where both the bride and groom receive gifts on the morning of their wedding, and the gifts would be for their separate persons; the gifts they receive the day after the wedding would be gifts for them as a couple.
Joffrey starts getting a handful of fantastic gifts, the most notable being a two-hundred-oar war galley from Lord Paxter Redwyne, which Lord Paxter tells Joffrey is currently being built on the Arbor and which will be called King Joffrey’s Valor.
When it is his turn, Tyrion presents Joffrey with a huge old leather-bound with the title Lives of Four Kings. Joffrey is not pleased with Tyrion’s gift, saying that his father the late Robert Baratheon had no time for books and tells Tyrion that if Tyrion didn’t read so much, Sansa would be pregnant by now. Tyrion remains silent and continues drinking.
Lord Mace Tyrell presents Joffrey with a three-feet tall golden chalice, with each of its seven faces glittering with gemstones and each face’s gemstones laid out to form the sigil of the Houses that control the seven kingdoms of Westeros.
Lord Tywin is the last to present his gift. He presents Joffrey with a magnificent longsword; the blade is made from Valyrian steels with red and black ripples all along the blade. Joffrey is ecstatic with Tywin’s gift and starts asking the guests for possible names for his new sword. He eventually settles on Widow’s Wail.
Ser Addam Marbrand warns Joffrey that Valyrian steel is extremely sharp. Joffrey says that he knows and that he is no stranger to Valyrian steel and brings his new sword down on Tyrion’s leather-bound book; half a dozen more cuts and the thick book has been hacked to pieces.
Joffrey tells Tyrion that Tyrion and Sansa owes him a better present. Tyrion stares at Joffrey with his mismatches eyes and then suggest that Joffrey might like a dagger to match Widow’s Wail, made from the same fine Valyrian steel, with a dragonbone hilt. Tyrion mentions this dagger because it is the very same dagger that the assassin who tried to kill Bran Stark wielded – and he has just thought of something in regards to who hired the assassin in the first place.
Joffrey gives Tyrion a sharp look and agrees that the dagger would make for a good gift, but tells Tyrion to have it made with a gold hilt with rubies in it, stating that dragonbone is too plain.
When the time to leave comes, Tyrion takes Sansa by the hand and they leave together. On their way back, they run into Prince Oberyn and his paramour, Ellaria Sand. Oberyn and Tyrion talk briefly about the Lives of Four Kings before Tyrion excuses himself and Sansa.
Tyrion and Sansa get in their litter and there is awkward silence. Sansa then says that she is sorry about what happened to Tyrion’s book but hopes that the dagger will be able to better please Joffrey. Tyrion appears to be distracted, but then turns to Sansa and asks her whether there had been any ill feelings between Bran Stark and Joffrey during Robert Baratheon’s visit to Winterfell. Sansa is confused by the question and says that everyone loved Bran.
Tyrion then asks Sansa whether she knew what happened to Bran at Winterfell. Sansa says that Bran had always been climbing things and that he finally fell; she also states that Theon Greyjoy killed Bran. Tyrion sighs and tells Sansa that her mother had once accused him of wanting to harm Bran. He then states that he never harmed Bran and that he means Sansa no harm as well.
Tyrion then asks Sansa why she has never asked him about the details of Robb or her mother’s death. Sansa says that she would rather not know as the knowing of it might give her bad dreams. Tyrion promises that he will then say no more about the matter.
Tyrion and Sansa are in the Great Sept of Baelor, watching as the High Septon conducts Joffrey and Margaery’s extravagant wedding ceremony. Tyrion had just realized during the morning’s gift-giving ceremony, that Joffrey was the one who sent the assassin to kill Bran Stark, and as the afternoon’s wedding ceremony proceeds, he starts mentally putting all the pieces together.
The biggest clue would be when Joffrey had mentioned that he was no stranger to Valyrian steel. He had considered Jaime and Cersei previously, but realizes that Jaime would never send another man to do his killing while Cersei is too cunning to use a dagger that could be traced to her. But Joffrey – Tyrion thinks that Joffrey is arrogant and stupid enough to have been the one to hire the assassin.
He remembers being in Winterfell, and hearing Joffrey joke about sending a dog to kill a wolf, the dog referring to his sworn shield, Sandor Clegane. However, even Joffrey would not have been foolish enough to send Sandor to kill Bran Stark, as Sandor would have gone directly to Cersei instead. Joffrey must have realized this and thus sought his assassin from among the freeriders and camp followers that followed Robert to Winterfell.
Joffrey would not have been so stupid as to have given his own rather distinctive dagger to the assassin, so he must have gone poking among Robert’s weapons and taken what he wanted. Joffrey would have guessed that the dagger was made out of Valyrian steel; he would not have known, however, that the Valyrian dagger once belonged to Littlefinger.
Tyrion is still at a loss as to why Joffrey would want to kill Bran, but he guesses that Joffrey did the deed simply because of his cruel nature. Tyrion also begins worrying that since he mentioned the dagger at breakfast, Joffrey might now suspect that he knows something about the assassin sent to kill Bran.
When the wedding ceremony ends, Tyrion and Sansa get in their litter to begin their journey back to the castle. Tyrion tries to makes conversation with his wife but Sansa’s replies are short and dutiful and soon the two of them lapse into silence. Upon arriving back at the Kitchen Keep, Tyrion reminds Sansa that the wedding feast will start in an hour. Tyrion retreats to his chambers to drink by the window seat. A while later, Podrick arrives and they both enter the bedchamber. Tyrion sees Shae helping Sansa with her hair; Shae is arranging Sansa’s hair in a delicate silver net winking with dark purple gemstones. Shae asks whether she can go to the wedding feast to serve at the table, but Sansa says that Cersei has already chosen all the servers. Tyrion also adds that the throne hall will be too crowded, but there will be tables in the outer ward with food and drink. Tyrion then proceeds to change into new clothes, with the help of Podrick; once he is done, he leads Sansa to the throne room.
Along the way, they meet many of the other guests. Lady Olenna Tyrell, whom everyone also knows as The Queen of Thorns, totters up to Sansa and tells her that she looks beautiful. She says that the wind has messed Sansa’s hair however, and proceeds to reach up and fuss with the loose strands, tucking them back into place and straightening Sansa’s hair net. Lady Olenna tells Sansa that she is leaving for Highgarden the day after tomorrow and asks whether Sansa would like to come along for a visit.
Sansa declines politely, saying that her place is with her husband. Tyrion then excuses Sansa and himself and they enter the throne room to look for their seats.
They have been seated far to the king’s right, beside Ser Garlan Tyrell and his wife. Joffrey calls for the cups to be filled; his own cupbearer fills the three-feet tall golden wedding chalice that Lord Mace Tyrell presented to him this morning. Joffrey uses two hands to lift it up and when a thousand cups rings together, the wedding feast truly begins.
The first of seventy-seven dishes arrives. Feeling the effects of the wine after drinking a lot of it and not eating enough during breakfast, Tyrion is famished and digs into his food. Sansa however, fiddles nervously with her hair, barely eating.
When the second course is being served, the tournament of singers begins. As the first singer begins singing for, Tyrion muses that the singing tournament is the reason behind Symon Silver-Tongue’s death; his instructions to Bronn were to make sure that no one would ever find the singer’s body.
The entertainment for the feast are many and varied. There are the seven singers of the tournament, a troupe of Pentoshi tumblers, four master pyromancers, a juggler and dancers from the Summer Isles.
After the dancers finish with their performance, Joffrey, now drunk, gets up and calls for his royal jousters.
The jousters turn out to be a pair of dwarves, clad in painted wooden armor, carrying lances and shields bigger than they are. One rides a dog while the other rides a pig. One of the jousters is dressed in the colors of House Baratheon while the other wears the colors of House Stark; their mounts are barded likewise.
After a ludicrous attempt at jousting, one of the dwarves yields to the other. Joffrey declares the winner as the champion, but then says that the winner is not a true champion, because a true champion defeats all challengers. Joffrey jumps up on the table and calls on Tyrion to joust with the dwarf, saying that Tyrion can ride the pig. Tyrion jumps up on the table as well and says that he’ll ride the pig if Joffrey rides the dog. Joffrey scowls, confused, then asks why him, since he is no dwarf. Tyrion says that it is because Joffrey is the only man in the hall that he is certain of defeating. There is a moment of shocked silence followed by a gale of laughter from the guests and a look of blind rage on Joffrey’s face, both of which delight Tyrion.
The musicians begin to play and the guests return to their food. But minutes later, Joffrey is making his way to Tyrion, carrying the three-feet tall golden wedding chalice in both hands. He upends the chalice over Tyrion’s head, drenching Tyrion in red wine. Tyrion keeps his wits about him and says that Joffrey merely spilled the wine while attempting to serve him. Margaery comes over and tries to get Joffrey to return to her seat, saying that there is another singer waiting to perform; Lady Olenna says that the singer is Alaric of Eysen. Joffrey demands that Tyrion refill his chalice and Tyrion calmly agrees to. Tyrion picks up the chalice, grabs a flagon from a serving girl and fills the chalice three-quarters full before handing it to Joffrey. Joffrey drinks from the chalice then sets it on the table. When Lord Tywin calls out that the pie is being served and that Joffrey’s sword is needed, Joffrey returns to his seat, taking Margaery with him.
As Jeff is about to draw his own sword to cut the pie, Margaery says that Widow’s Wail was not meant for slicing pies. Joffrey agrees then orders Ser Ilyn Payne to hand his sword for the pie-cutting. When Ser Illyn Payne offers his greatsword to Joffrey, Sansa stirs in her seat. Tyrion looks at the sword as well, and realizes why Sansa is looking at it strangely: Ser Ilyn’s greatsword resembles Eddard Stark’s greatsword in length and width, but the blade is now too silvery-bright to be Valyrian steel. Sansa clutches Tyrion’s hand and wonders aloud what Ser Ilyn has done with her father’s sword. Tyrion looks at his father; he knows what has happened to Ice, Eddard Stark’s Valyrian steel greatsword. The two swords his father had shown him previously, one which is now Joffrey’s Widow’s Wail and the other which would go to Jaime – the Valyrian steel used to make the blades for those two swords had come from Eddard Stark’s sword.
Joffrey and Margaery join hands to lift the greatsword and cut the piecrust, whereupon doves start bursting forth from the pie. Meanwhile, the servers start serving hot pigeon pie to the guests. Tyrion notes that Sansa is deathly pale; he tells her that he needs to change into fresh clothes and offers her his hand. However, Joffrey is now back and demands that Tyrion serve him his wine. Tyrion reaches for the chalice and offers it to Joffrey who yanks it from Tyrion’s hands and proceeds to drink deeply. Joffrey then reaches for Tyrion’s pie. He tells Tyrion that not eating the pie brings bad luck and proceeds to eat Tyrion’s slice of pie.
Joffrey comments that the pie is dry and starts coughing. His coughs turn more violent. He tries to take another drink of wine but all the wine comes spewing back out. His face starts turning red, whereupon Queen Margaery shouts out that Joffrey is coughing while Lady Olenna screeches out to the men to help their king.
Ser Garlan, Ser Osmund Kettleblack, Lord Mace Tyrell, Ser Meryn Trant and Grand Maester Pycelle try to help Joffrey, but it is no use. Joffrey’s eye meets Tyrion’s and the boy king lifts his hand, reaching for Tyrion. Tyrion’s eyes falls on the wedding chalice, now lying on the floor. He scoops it up. Seeing that there is still a half-inch of deep purple wine in the bottom, Tyrion considers it for a moment then pours it onto the floor.
Tyrion hears Cersei’s scream, and he knows that Joffrey is now dead.
The High Septon starts praying over Joffrey’s body. Margaery’s mother, Lady Alerie, tries to comfort her, saying that Joffrey choked on his pie and that it had nothing to do with Margaery.
Cersei states that her son did not choke to death – no, she says that her son had been poisoned. She calls upon the Kingsguard to arrest Tyrion, claiming that it was Tyrion and Sansa who had killed Joffrey.
Sansa has fled the throne room. Across the city, bells begin to toll, a sign that the king has died. Sansa arrives at the godswood and finds the clothes she had hidden there the night before last; Ser Dontos had advised her to dress warmly and to wear dark clothes. Sansa slips her gown off and begins putting on a wool dress, cloak and flat heels. When she pulls off the delicate silver hair net, she notices that one of the black amethysts is missing from its silver socket. A sudden terror grips her heart as she wonders whether the missing amethyst has something to do with Joffrey’s death; she remembers Ser Dontos telling her that the hair net was magic and that it will help take her home.
Dontos arrives, completely drunk. Sansa accuses him of taking the black amethyst from her hair net to poison Joffrey. Dontos denies it, then tells Sansa that they must be away because the City Watch is looking for her and that her husband Tyrion has already been arrested. Sansa realizes that if they think Tyrion did it, then they must think that, by virtue of being Tyrion’s wife, she had a part to play in the murder as well.
Dontos takes her back to castle, and they descend the stairs until they reach a long gallery. He brings her along that gallery, down another flight of stairs and then finally stops at an oaken door. When Dontos opens the door and Sansa steps outside, she finds herself outside the castle, standing at the top of a cliff, with the Blackwater down below.
Ser Dontos shows her a secret ladder carved into the cliff. Sansa tells him to go first, which Dontos does. Sansa follows him down, forcing herself not to stop or look down. The descent is long and tiring, but eventually they reach the ground.
Dontos leads her to a spot fifty yards downriver, where an old man by the name of Oswell waits for them in a small skiff. They get in and Oswell takes them downstream. When they are finally out in Blackwater Bay, Sansa tries to ask Oswell how much further they had to go, but Oswells warns both her and Dontos to be silent as sound carries over water. Oswell continues rowing the skiff and it is only when the first hint of dawn starts to appear in the sky that they reach a trading galley.
The galley drops a rope and both Sansa and Oswell go up; Ser Dontos remains in the boat. When she reaches the deck, she comes face-to-face with two sailors. She recognizes both of them – Lord Petyr Baelish, and Ser Lothar Brune. She wonders what Lord Petyr is doing in King’s Landing since he is supposed to be in the Vale.
Ser Dontos calls out from the boat, saying that he needs to row back before the City Watch decide to look for him. When Dontos says that he would like the reward of ten thousand gold coins, Petyr Baelish tells Ser Lothar to hand over the reward to Dontos. Lothar Brune does so by dipping his torch; three crossbowmen appear and fire upon Dontos, killing the fool. Lothar then tosses the torch down on Dontos and the little boat starts to burn.
Sansa is horrified that Littlefinger had Dontos killed but Littlefinger tells her not to waste her grief on a man who would sell her for the promise of ten thousand gold coins. He tells her that all Dontos has done for her has been at his behest; the reason he went through Dontos was because he could not be seen to befriend her so openly. Littlefinger also reveals that it was he who sent Sansa the note, the one that told her to come to the godswood if she wanted to go home; he tells her that the godswood was the only place that was safe from Lord Varys’ spies.
He then shows her to her cabin. On the way there, Littlefinger reveals another bit of information: it was he who had hired the two dwarves for Joffrey’s wedding feast. Joffrey hadn’t been keen on the idea until Littlefinger told him that having the dwarves at the wedding feast will annoy Tyrion. Thinking of her husband, Sansa says that Ser Dontos told her that the City Watch has seized Tyrion. Littlefinger only smiles to that and says that widowhood will make Sansa more beautiful.
When they reach the cabin, Sansa realizes that Littlefinger had planned everything in advance and decides to ask Littlefinger why he wanted Joffrey dead since Joffrey did bequeath Harrenhal upon him and even made him Lord Paramount of the Trident.
Littlefinger shrugs, saying that he had no motive for wanting Joffrey dead, that he planned the whole thing merely to keep his foes confused over his next move. He tells her that sometimes the best way to baffle one’s enemies is to make moves that have no purpose.
He then goes on to talk about Sansa’s mother. He tells her that there was once a time when all he had wanted was Catelyn, but her being Lord Hoster Tully’s daughter meant that she was never going to be his wife. Littlefinger then mentions that Catelyn gave him something more precious instead – her maidenhood. He ends by saying that he could not turn his back upon Catelyn’s daughter, and tells her that she is safe with him now, and that they are sailing home.
The chapter opens with Jaime in an inn, listening to the talk of the patrons around him. No one recognizes Jaime so they speak freely. They talk of how Joffrey is dead, but differ on how he died and who killed him.
The next day, Jaime and the men who guard him ride hard towards King’s Landing. They arrive in the late evening. As Jaime enters the city, he finds himself curiously calm; with Joffrey being his son, he had expected to go mad with grief upon learning of Joffrey’s death. He asks himself why he hardly feels anything over his son’s death, then comes to the conclusion that Joffrey had lived and died believing that Robert Baratheon was his father.
Jaime decides to gallop to the back of the party to speak to Brienne. On their journey to King’s Landing, they met a knight by the name of Ser Bertram at Brindlewood who had spoken to them about the Red Wedding. After learning of Robb and Catelyn’s death, Brienne has become listless and miserable. Jaime rides up to her and tells her that she has fulfilled her vow of bringing him safely to King’s Landing. She says that bringing Jaime to the capital was only half of the vows; the other half was that she would bring Catelyn’s daughters back to her, or at least Sansa. But now that Catelyn is dead, Brienne is not sure what to do next. Jaime tells her that he will talk to his father about returning her to Tarth, or if she would rather stay, he might be able to find a place for her at court, perhaps a post with the City Watch. Brienne immediately dismisses the City Watch offer, saying that she will not serve with oathbreakers and murderers.
They continue riding the streets of the capital. Everything is familiar to Jaime, but he begins to realize that no one recognizes him. Steelshanks say that it is because Jaime’s face has changed and he isn’t wearing Lannister arms.
When they reach the Red Keep, they come across three knights of the Kingsguard. Jaime recognizes Ser Meryn Trant, but the other two had not worn white cloaks when he was last in King’s Landing. One is Ser Loras Tyrell, the other is Ser Balon Swann. Ser Balon is the first to notice Jaime’s stump but Jaime just smiles and asks for the whereabouts of his father. Balon says that Lord Tywin is in the solar with Lord Mace Tyrell and Prince Oberyn. When Jaime asks whether Cersei is with his father, Balon says that Cersei is in the sept, praying over King Joffrey’s body.
By then, Loras has spotted Brienne. He immediately confronts her and demands to know why she killed Renly Baratheon. Brienne denies the accusation but Loras presses the attack, saying that there was no one with Renly at the time of his death except for Brienne and Catelyn Stark, and Catelyn Stark was an old woman who couldn’t have cut through Renly’s gorget. Brienne then repeats what she has told Jaime, that there had been a shadow in the tent, a shadow that belonged to Stannis Baratheon, and that it was the shadow that killed Renly. Loras thinks that Brienne is lying and becomes incensed; he draws his sword and demands that Brienne draw hers as well. Jaime steps between them and commands Loras to sheathe his sword. When Loras ignores him, Jaime grabs Loras and repeats the command, saying that he, Jaime, is Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and Loras’ direct superior.
Loras reluctantly sheathes his sword and says that he wants Brienne to be arrested, charging her with the murder of Lord Renly Baratheon. Jaime complies with Loras’ request and orders Ser Balon to escort Brienne to a tower cell and hold her there under guard. He also tells Balon to find quarters for Steelshanks and the rest of the northmen, until such time Tywin can see them. Jaime then heads for the royal sept.
Guarding the sept’s door is yet another knight in white armor who had not been a member of the Kingsguard when Jaime was last in the capital. The knight is Ser Osmund Kettleblack and he treats Jaime rudely until Jaime reveals his identity, whereupon he apologizes and opens the door.
Jaime finds Cersei praying over Joffrey’s bier. Cersei is surprised to see Jaime and is shocked when she sees his stump. She then tells him that Tyrion killed Joffrey and asks Jaime to kill Tyrion. Jaime says that Tyrion is his brother and that he has to first know more about Joffrey’s death. Cersei promises Jaime that he will, telling him that there will be a trial, and that when Jaime has heard all the evidence, he will want Tyrion dead as well.
Cersei kisses Jaime and it leads to the two of them making love right there in the sept. After the deed, Cersei warns Jaime that they have to be more careful because their lord father is in the castle. Jaime says that he is sick of being careful and that if the Targaryens could wed brother to sister, why can’t the Lannisters do the same. He says they can have their own wedding feast and make another son to replace Joffrey.
Cersei scolds Jaime then tells him not to speak as he did. She says that Jaime has changed, somehow. She then says that the two of them will talk again tomorrow because she now has to go question Sansa Stark’s maids; she suggest that Jaime goes to see their father.
Jaime does as Cersei commands, making his way to his father’s solar. Tywin is not surprised to see Jaime, saying that Lord Bolton had sent word that Jaime was heading towards King’s Landing and Lord Varys had earlier informed him of Jaime’s escape from Riverrun. However, when Jaime shows his father his stump, Tywin is shocked and furious. Tywin is quick to lay the blame on Catelyn Stark but Jaime corrects his father, telling Tywin that it was Vargo Hoat and his Bloody Mummers who cut his right hand off. Tywin reports that Vargo Hoat is no longer the Lord of Harrenhal; he has sent Gregor Clegane to take the castle and put all the Bloody Mummers to the sword. When Jaime asks whether Vargo is dead, Tywin reveals that Vargo’s hands and feet have been cut off but Gregor was keeping him alive for a bit because Gregor finds Vargo’s slobbering amusing.
Tywin then asks whether Jaime can wield a sword with his left hand. In reality, Jaime is having difficulty with even the most mundane of tasks, but he tells his father that his left hand works just fine. Tywin is satisfied with Jaime’s answer and is about to present him with a gift but Jaime cuts his father off, turning the conversation to Joffrey’s death instead. He asks how Joffrey died. Tywin replies that the boy died from poison, for he had Joffrey’s throat slit open and the maesters found no obstruction in it.
Jaime then tells his father that Cersei has accused Tyrion of killing Joffrey. Tywin says that Tyrion served Joffrey the poisoned wine with all the guests looking on and that he has since taken Podrick Payne and Sansa’s maids into custody. The City Watch, meanwhile, is searching for Sansa Stark. When Jaime asks Tywin whether he would indeed execute his own son, Tywin says that Tywin has nothing to fear if he is innocent – but first they must consider the evidence for and against Tyrion.
Tywin then starts to steer the conversation towards Jaime leaving the Kingsguard, to take his rightful place as the heir of Casterly Rock. When Jaime counters by saying that Kingsguard serve for life, Tywin says that Cersei replacing Ser Barristan on grounds of age has set a precedent, and that he is sure that a suitable gift to the faith will persuade the High Septon to release Jaime from his vows. Jaime does not waiver, saying that as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, he has a duty to perform.
Tywin interjects, saying that Jaime does indeed have a duty – to House Lannister, as heir to Casterly Rock. He wants Jaime to return to Casterly Rock and assign Tommen as his squire and ward. Tywin also states that he is thinking of wedding Cersei to Oberyn Martell and perhaps offering Jaime himself to wed Margaery, even though the Tyrells are insisting on Tommen being Margaery’s new husband.
Jaime cannot take it anymore and launches into an angry outburst, saying that he doesn’t want anything to do with Tywin’s plans. He states that he is the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and that is all he wants to be.
Tywin doesn’t speak and the silence stretches on for a long while. Finally, Tywin states that Jaime is not his son, and since Jaime insists on being the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and only that, then Jaime had best be off and do his duty.
Davos looks on from the castle as Melisandre leads the nightly prayers to R’hllor down in the yard below. Queen Selyse and Ser Axell Florent are among the devotees, as are Princess Shireen and Devan. Stannis is there as well, although Davos notices that the king is not as fervent in his faith as the rest of the devotees.
Davos’ focus on the nightly prayers is broken when Ser Andrew Estermont touches him on the elbow and tells him that it is time for them to begin their plan. Davos estimates that Stannis and Melisandre will be at the prayers for another hour or more.
His companions for the night’s plan are the men whom he has secretly been meeting and befriending, men who still worship the Seven. They are Ser Andrew Estermont, Ser Gerald Gower and the Bastard of Nightsong. He has warned them that Melisandre might have seen the future in her flames, and thus has been forewarned about their plans. They had suggested killing Melisandre, but Davos told them about how Melisandre seems quick to know any threat to her own person, like how she knew Maester Cressen had tried to poison her. Therefore, his suggestion had been to just ignore Melisandre, since it was surely not possible for her to see everything.
The small group of men head for Maester Pylos’ chambers, where they find the master going through some sums with Edric Storm. Pylos breaks off from the lesson and tells Edric to get his cloak and go with Davos. Edric complies and Davos takes the boy with him.
When Edric asks Davos where they are going, Davos says that he is taking Edric to one of Salladhor Saan’s ships; Ser Andrew Estermont says that he will be going with Edric and that there is nothing to be afraid of. Edric asks why Stannis is sending him away from Dragonstone; he says that he has never displeased uncle Stannis. He then insists on seeing Stannis. Davos says that there is no time and that he, Davos, was the King’s Hand, and thus he speaks with the King’s voice; he says that if Edric did not do as told, he would have to tell Stannis that Edric disobeyed an order and that will make Stannis quite angry. Davos then shows Edric the four fingers that Stannis has shortened, saying that he has seen Stannis’ anger first hand. The threat works and Edric then follows Davos without complaint.
They make their way to the postern gate where another two of Davos’ allies are waiting, two bound and trussed up guards at their feet. They tell Davos that the boat is there, and ready to transport Edric to one of Salladhor Saan’s galley, named Mad Prendos. Davos says his goodbyes to Edric, telling Edric that he is Robert Baratheon’s son and that he knows Edric will be brave. Ser Andrew then leads Edric out of the postern gate, and the rest of the men follow them, all except the Bastard of Nightsong and Davos. Davos then tells the Bastard of Nightsong to place the two guards in a cellar and free them when Edric is safely under way.
Davos then makes his way to the Chamber of the Painted Table, where he then patiently waits. He tries looking out of the north window to see whether he can see Mad Prendos raising sail, but night was already upon them and he sees nothing.
Sometime later, Davos hears Melisandre and Stannis approaching; he hears them discussing Joffrey’s death, with Melisandre insisting that Joffrey is indeed dead. When the two of them step into the chamber, Davos announces his presence by greeting them and saying that what Melisandre mentioned is true: Joffrey is indeed dead. Davos says that Joffrey had either choked on a morsel of food or been poisoned during his wedding feast. Stannis asks Davos whether he knows who the poisoner was, and Davos mentions that it has been said to be Tyrion. Stannis questions the source of Davos’ report and Davos replies by saying that Salladhor Saan still trades in King’s Landing and it was the Lyseni pirate who had reported the news to him.
Stannis says that the Iron Throne is now his but Melisandre says that Joffrey has a brother and the Lannisters will crown Joffrey’s younger brother instead. Stannis says that Tommen might be gentler than Joffrey, but like his brother Joffrey, a product of incest between Cersei and Jaime Lannister. Melisandre then tells Stannis that he can save the people of Westeros by giving her Edric Storm.
It is then that Davos announces that Stannis cannot hand over Edric Storm to Melisandre because Edric is no longer in Dragonstone but aboard a Lyseni galley, safely out to sea. Davos catches the flicker in Melisandre’s eyes and he knows then that Melisandre had not predicted his plan to send Edric away.
Stannis’ initial reaction is to lay the blame on Salladhor Saan, but Melisandre tells him that it is Davos who planned the whole thing. Davos says that Edric is out of Melisandre’s reach. When she asks him whether he knows what he’s done, Davos say that yes, he has done his duty.
Stannis mentions that some might label what Davos has done as treason but Davos is firm in his stand, stating that he has done his duty, because part of the Hand’s duties is to protect Stannis’ people. He says that Edric Storm is one of Stannis’ people and thus deserves protection.
Melisandre chastises Davos, saying that he is meddling in matters he does not understand. Davos admits that there is much that he doesn’t understand and that he has never pretended otherwise, but he states that he knows a king protects his people.
Stannis is starting to getting angry and accuses Davos of mocking him, of being an onion smuggler who is trying to teach kingly duty to the king himself.
Davos says that Stannis may have him executed if he, Davos, has offended Stannis. But he pleads to the king to hear him out first. Stannis brandishes Lightbringer and tells Davos to say what he has to say and to do it quickly.
Davos draws out a letter from his cloak and begins to read. The letter is the one that Maester Pylos had shown him previously; it is the letter from the Night’s Watch that pleads to the kings of the realm to send more men to the Wall in order to help the Watch defend the realm against the King beyond the Wall and his vast host of wildlings.
Jon wakes up from a bad dream; in the dream, he had been in Winterfell’s royal crypt and the statues of the long-dead Stark kings were telling him that he didn’t belong there because he is not a Stark. He had also seen a grey direwolf in the crypt, but it was at that point that he wakes from his sleep.
Jon is in the steward’s cell, located beneath what had once been Lord Commander Mormont’s chambers. Jon had thought that being back in his cell would bring him sweeter dreams, but now all he feels is loneliness, for both Ghost and Ygritte are no longer with him. He burned Ygritte himself and wonders where Ghost currently is.
Jon hears two horn blasts, the signal for a wildling sighting. He straps on his armor, arms himself with Longclaw, finds his crutch and descends down the steps.
It is night outside. Jon walks to the Wall and joins the group of men who are waiting for the cage to descend. The battle with the Magnar’s Thenns had destroyed the stairs below the Wall so the only way to ascend to the top is by taking the cage. When the cage finally comes down, Jon and the men squeeze in and wait as the cage slowly ascends to take them to the top of the Wall.
When Jon reaches the top, he sees that all the weapons and supplies are ready. He reflects on the fact that Castle Black is well supplied in everything except men – the garrison has yet to return. Donal Noye approaches Jon and asks Jon whether he hears something in the darkness down below. Jon says that he hears a mammoth. He also sees the glimmer of distant fires. Jon knows then that they are dealing with wildlings; the Others or wights do not light torches.
One of the brothers wonders aloud how they are to fight the wildings if they can’t see them in the darkness. Donal Noye responds by giving the orders for the men to load the trebuchets with barrels of flaming pitch and send them crashing upon the wildlings below. The burning pitch casts a flickering light upon the ground below, giving Jon a glimpse of slow-moving mammoths; he estimates that there might be a dozen mammoths, maybe more. Noye repeats the order again, and one of the barrels strikes a tree, enveloping it in flames. Jon sees that his earlier guess had been wildly incorrect – the wildlings have at least a hundred mammoths.
Pyp cries out to the men that the wildlings are at the gate.
Hearing Pyp’s cry, Jon reflects on their defenses. The Wall is much too big to be stormed by conventional means like ladders, siege towers, battering rams or catapults. Climbing would prove too perilous, especially in the heat of battle.
But there is the matter of the gate. The gate is the only well for the wildlings to pass through the wall. The gate itself is a small and narrow tunnel through the ice. Three iron grates close the inner passage, and each of the grates are locked and chained and protected by a murder hole. The outer door is made from old oak, nine inches thick and studded with iron; the wildlings will need to assault this outer door, but it will be hard for them to breakthrough. But Jon realizes that Mance Rayder’s mammoths and giants might have an easier time breaking the door.
Noye gives the order and the men start throwing a dozen flaming jars of lamp oil at the wildling force. This is quickly followed by a barrel of pitch, which hits the fires below and kills many wildlings.
Noye follows this with an order to the archers to loose their arrows upon the wildings. When one of the archers complains that he can’t see the wildlings due to the darkness, Noye points north and tells the archers to loose the arrows in that direction; even if the arrows don’t hit, they’ll make the wildlings fretful.
Noye then calls for two bowmen and two spearmen to join him in holding the tunnel down below. Ten men volunteer and Noye chooses his four. Noye then assigns command of the entire Wall to Jon. Jon is caught by surprise but accepts Noye’s decision.
Jon and his men launch arrows, crossbow bolts and rocks against the darkness. They gulp down onion broth during short breaks of rest or between arrows. One of the two trebuchets breaks down from the wear and tear of battle. Donal Noye and the four men who went with him do not return. Jon is firing arrow after arrow from his longbow, barely resting through the battle or the pain in his leg.
When dawn finally comes, Jon and his men look down upon the battleground. They see the corpses. But they also see a vast horde of wildlings standing before the Wall. Jon realizes then that the night attack had just been a tiny portion of the entire might of Mance Rayder’s wildling host, that it had been a probe to see whether the men of the Night’s Watch were prepared for battle. He realizes that the real battle is just starting.
Jon sees the entire fury of the wild coming towards the Wall. He sees a hundred or more mammoths with giants on their backs. He spots a group of giants pushing a battering ram forward and realizes that the ram can easily break through the gate with a few swings. Horsemen, archers, footmen and bone chariots make up the rest of Mance’s wildling army.
Seeing the great host before them, the men begin to despair. Jon knows that he has to say something to the men, so he rallies them together with a rousing speech that focuses on the fact that Mance’s wildlings cannot pass as long as the Night’s Watch holds the gate. By the end of the speech, the men’s morale have been lifted and Jon calls for the battle to begin.
Jon orders the archers to target the giants who are carrying the ram, but they are to shoot only upon his command and not before.
The wildlings’ lack of discipline causes their formation to fall apart as they advance towards the Wall. The wildling archers also shoot as they advanced, but their arrows fall woefully short. When the ram and the giants come within range, Jon gives the command and he and his archers let loose their arrows. They fire volley after volley and soon the giants who were carrying the ram are all dead or dying. One of the men shouts that a mammoth is at the gate, to which Jon replies by ordering Grenn and Pyp to throw flaming barrels of oil over the edge of the Wall. They send three barrels over and the resulting smoke and flames drives the wildlings into chaos – the mammoths start fleeing, followed by the giants, the rest of the wildlings and finally, seeing that they were being abandoned, the horsemen and chariots as well. Jon checks for casualties on his side but there are none.
Jon finally starts to feel the agony in his leg. He decides to inspect the gate and gets Pyp to help him to the cage; he passes the command of the Wall to Grenn. When the reach the ground, Pyp goes in search of Maester Aemon to get the spare key to the gate. He returns later, but Maester Aemon has decided to come as well.
They open the inner gate and make their way into the narrow tunnel. They pass through the iron gates inside and continue along the tunnel; they soon see a faint light ahead, which Jon immediately realizes is bad news. They last twenty feet of the tunnel is a scene of carnage; it is the place where Donal Noye and his men made their stand, and died horribly for it. The outer door has been hacked and broken and torn off its hinges, and one of the giants managed to crawl into the tunnel. The giant had managed to wrench the bars apart from the first iron gate and killed all the men, including Noye. However, Noye managed to kill the giant – they find the big man locked in the giant’s arm, his spine crushed, but his sword lodged deep into the giant’s throat. Jon studies the giant and realizes that he is looking at Mag the Mighty, king of the giants.
Jon walks on, to see what lies beyond the splintered door. He sees that the way into the tunnel is partially blocked by a dead mammoth and three dead giants. Jon then walks back to where the others are waiting and says that they will have to repair the outer gate as best as they can and then block up the tunnel, all the way to the second gate. Jon knows that with Noye dead, command of Castle Black will fall back on Ser Wynton, and so he says that Ser Wynton will need to take command immediately.
Maester Aemon says that Ser Wynton has gone senile and that Jon knows that as well as Donal Noye. Jon knows it is true, so he says that Maester Aemon should be the one to give the orders and lead them. Aemon declines, however, saying that his role as a maester is to give counsel, and not commands. He then says that Jon must lead the men. Jon protests but Aemon says that Jon is the most suitable candidate to lead the rest of the men, and that Jon need not command for long, only until the garrison returns to Castle Black.
Now that her parents and brothers are dead, Arya finds that she has an emptiness inside of her that does not go away. She wants to sleep all day and all night, but Sandor Clegane keeps on pushing her on. The only escape from the pain and loneliness are at night, when she dreams. In her dreams, she slips into Nymeria’s body and leads a large pack of wolves.
Sandor and Arya now travel with two horses, Stranger and a palfrey that they found in a field a day after departing from the Twins. Arya named the horse Craven after Sandor said that the palfrey must have run off from the Twins, just like them. Sandor no longer seems interesting in watching over her as he once did; he doesn’t seem to care whether Arya stays or runs away. Arya briefly considers running off, but with Winterfell now gone, she cannot think of any place to go and so decides to stay with Sandor.
She asks Sandor where they were headed but Sandor doesn’t tell her their destination, only that they are heading away from the Twins. During their journey, Arya and Sandor rarely talk; she observes that Sandor seems to be furious, though at what she couldn’t say. From time to time, they see bands of Frey horsemen riding through the countryside; Sandor tells her that the Freys are hunting stray northmen.
One day, they come across a dying man. The man tells them that he is a northman and that he serves Ser Marq Piper, one of Edmure Tully’s bannermen. He then goes on to tell how he had been at the Twins, celebrating Edmure and Roslin’s wedding. He had been drinking and toasting with another man-at-arms, one who served Lord Roose Bolton; the Bolton man had then attacked him during the wedding, inflicting a grievous wound. Sandor offers the man some water and a merciful death; the man accepts both. After the man drinks the water, Sandor slides a dagger into the man’s heart; he then tells Arya that that is how she is supposed to kill a man, by sending a blade through his heart.
They travel on and after a while, find themselves in the Vale, in the foothills of the mountains of the Moon. Arya asks again where Sandor was taking her, and this time Sandor tells her that he is bringing her to her aunt, Lysa Arryn, in the Eyrie; it is his hope that Lysa will pay Arya’s ransom. Thinking of her aunt, Arya realizes that she doesn’t know her aunt any better than her uncle Brynden. She then tells Sandor that the two of them should go back to the Twins to rescue her mother. Sandor says that he has considered the possibility that Lord Walder Frey might have kept her mother alive to ransom her later, but states that he is not going to rescue her mother by himself. He tells her firmly that they are heading for the Vale.
That night, Arya dreams her wolfdreams again. She slips into Nymeria’s body and finds herself at the edge of a river, with her pack of brothers and sisters. There are dead men floating down the river and bodies on the riverbanks, washed up by the river. The wolves are devouring the dead bodies, as well as any crow that dares to come too near. Arya smells a faint but familiar scent: it is the scent of her mother. The scent is getting stronger. Arya pads down into the river and chases after the scent. When she finally finds it, she drags the pale white body up the muddy bank. Her mother lies there, blood trickling from her throat. She picks up the sudden sound of horses and men approaching and decides to run away, leaving the body where it is.
In the morning, Sandor starts talking about Arya’s mother, but she cuts him off, saying that she saw her mother in a dream and that she finally accepts that her mother is dead. Sandor doesn’t say anything but nods and they ride on towards the mountains.
They reach a tiny isolated village, and Sandor decides to go in, saying that they needed food and a roof over their heads and that the villagers were unlikely to know what had happened at the Twins or know who he is. Sandor goes in and finds the villagers building a wooden palisade around their homes; when they see his size, they offer Sandor and Arya food, shelter and coin in exchange for work.
After the villagers tell him of the frost and snow waiting for them in the highpasses, as well as the shadowcats, cavebears and armed mountain-men, Sandor decides to abandon his plans of bringing Arya to the Eyrie.
Sandor and Arya spend several weeks at the village, but when the wooden palisade was finished, the village elder subtly tells them that they had to leave, with the reason that the villagers are uncomfortable with a man who deals in blood and death like Sandor. Sandor is surprised that they know who he is and tells them that they might appreciate having him around when the mountain clans come raiding and pillaging. The village elder hesitates, saying that he’s heard Sandor has lost his belly for fighting after what happened during the Battle of the Blackwater. Sandor gets angry and tells the elder village that he and Arya will leave once they get paid.
Sandor leaves the village with a pouch of copper coins, and a new sword that he had exchanged for the longaxe he taken back at the Twins. They head back towards the Trident. Sandor tells Arya that they will make their way to Riverrun; he is hoping that Ser Brynden will pay Arya’s ransom. Arya says that her uncle doesn’t know her nor will he know what she looks like; she then suggests that they go to the Wall instead. Sandor laughs at that, asking her whether she intends to join the Night’s Watch but Arya says that her half-brother Jon Snow is on the Wall. Sandor laughs and says that to get to the Wall they’d have to go through the Freys, the ironmen and thousands of northmen. Arya asks whether Sandor is scared of them and whether he has lost his belly for fighting. Sandor says that there’s nothing wrong with his belly and he doesn’t care about what she wants or her brother on the Wall.
Tyrion, having been accused by Cersei of killing Joffrey, is kept locked up in a tower room. His uncle, Ser Kevan Lannister, is telling Tyrion that if indeed Tyrion is innocent, then he wouldn’t have any difficulty proving it at trial. When Tyrion asks, Kevan tells him that the three judges will be Tywin, Mace Tyrell and Prince Oberyn. Tyrion then asks whether he would be allowed to demand trial by battle, to choose a champion to prove his innocence. Kevan advices Tyrion not to go down that route because Cersei intends to name Ser Gregor Clegane as her champion in the event of such a trial.
Tyrion then asks Kevan whether his sister has any witnesses against him; Kevan replies that Cersei has more and more witnesses by the day. When Tyrion mentions that he should have witnesses as well, Kevan tells him that Tyrion can write down the names of his witnesses and Ser Addam Marbrand, Commander of the City Watch, will send his men to find the witnesses and bring them to the trial. Tyrion has another request for his uncle: that he send Podrick Payne to him immediately. Kevan agrees to then leaves.
Tyrion tries to think of witnesses who will for him during the trial, but he cannot think of anyone. When Podrick appears, Tyrion tells him to go find Bronn and bring him to Tyrion’s cell at once. Tyrion then pens down Sansa’s name on parchment as one of his witnesses.
The next day, Tyrion hands over the parchment to Kevan. His uncle is surprised that Tyrion only has one witness and tells Tyrion that the trial is to begin in three days and that Ser Addam is still searching for Sansa Stark.
It is only the next morning before Podrick returns with Bronn. Bronn reveals that he is going to marry Lolly Stokeworth, the lackwit daughter of Lady Tanda. Tyrion realizes that the whole thing smells of one of Cersei’s schemes. He tries to convince Bronn to be his champion, promising to reward Bronn lavishly with gold, but Bronn doesn’t jump for the bait, saying he already has gold to spend. Tyrion goes for a different tack, revealing to Bronn that Gregor has been wounded in his recent battles and that he will be slower due to his wounds. Bronn considers the threat that Gregor poses, saying that while Gregor had never been fast, he is faster than a man you’d expect of his size. He also adds that Gregor has a monstrous reach and doesn’t seem to feel blows the way a normal man would. Bronn then states that the best strategy to use against Gregor would be to dance around the big man and avoiding the man’s blows until he grew tired, then get him off his feet somehow. Bronn is brutally honest and admits that it will be a difficult task, and that he will lose either way since even if kills Gregor, Cersei will snatch his marriage to Lady Lollys Stokeworth away. Tyrion gives up on Bronn and wishes Bronn a happy marriage.
Ser Kevan pays him another visit later in the day and again the day after, but both visits are the same: Kevan says that Sansa has not yet been found, nor has Ser Dontos who vanished the same night, and Tyrion says he had no other witnesses that he wishes to summon. The night before the trial, Tyrion finds it difficult to sleep.
The next day, the trial begins. Tywin, Lord Tyrell and Prince Oberyn sit in judgment. Tywin goes straight for the question, asking whether Tyrion killed Joffrey. Tyrion denies that he did. When asked whether Sansa had done the deed, Tyrion denies that his wife had anything to do with Joffrey’s death.
Lord Tywin calls for Cersei’s witnesses and tells Tyrion that Tyrion’s witnesses can speak after Cersei’s.
The first witness to be called to the stand is Ser Balon Swann. Balon says that he fought with Tyrion during the Battle of the Blackwater and that Tyrion is a brave man. He then says that he simply will not believe Tyrion murdered Joffrey. Tyrion is puzzled by Cersei’s choice, as Balon’s testimony points towards Tyrion being innocent. But then Balon speaks reluctantly of how Tyrion had struck Joffrey on the day of the riot. And then Tyrion begins to comprehends his sister’s plan: Cersei intends to begin the trial by calling upon a man known to be honest, but every witness after Balon will tell a worse tale until Tyrion ends up looking thoroughly guilty.
As the witnesses take the stand, Tyrion sees that he is right about his sister’s plan. Ser Meryn Trant mentions how Tyrion had stopped Joffrey’s chastisement of Sansa Stark and threatened to have Ser Boros Blount killed when Boros spoke up in defense of Joffrey. Next is Ser Boros Blount, who repeats the same story. Then comes the Kettleblack brothers, Osney, Ofryd and Osmund. Osney and Osfryd tell of Tyrion’s supper with Cersei before the Battle of the Blackwater, and of the threats he made to Cersei then. Ser Osmund’s tale is an outright lie, saying that Joffrey had warned him on the day he became a member of the Kingsguard that his uncle Tyrion meant to have Joffrey killed and then replace Joffrey as king.
The trial ends for the day.
Later that night, Kevan visits Tyrion in his tower cell. Tyrion asks his uncle to send for Lord Varys.
On the second days of the trial, Maesters Ballabar and Frenken both confirm that they discovered no pigeon pie or other food lodged in Joffrey’s throat; both also believe that Joffrey died from poison. The next witness is Maester Pycelle, who brings with him a number of small jars, which he proceeds to identify; all of them are poisons. He then claims that Tyrion stole the jars of poison from his chambers when Tyrion had him falsely imprisoned. Tyrion calls out to Pycelle, demanding to know whether any of the poison he had shown could choke off a man’s breath. Pycelle admits that none of the jars of poison could do that; he states that only a rarer poison called “the strangler” could do that. Tyrion then points out Pycelle didn’t find “the strangler” but Pycelle counters by saying that the rare poison hadn’t been found because Tyrion already used all of it to kill Joffrey. Tyrion releases a furious outburst but Tywin threatens to gag and chain him if he speaks up again.
The rest of the witnesses turn out to be men and women, both highborn and humble alike, who had been present at the wedding feast. Their testimonies include seeing Tyrion threaten the king, filling the wedding chalice then dropping something into Joffrey’s wine, and picking up the chalice as Joffrey was dying to pour out the last of the poisoned wine onto the floor.
Later that night Ser Kevan once again visits Tyrion. Tyrion says that he has not thought of any witnesses other than Sansa and then asks Kevan why Varys has yet to visit him. Kevan reveals that Varys plans to testify against Tyrion the next day. Tyrion, curious, asks what convinced Kevan that Tyrion was guilty. Kevan says it was because Tyrion had stolen Pycelle’s poisons, and Tyrion wouldn’t have stolen the poisons if he hadn’t intended to use them. Kevan then advices Tyrion to confess his crimes. He tells Tyrion that Tyrion’s father had sent him with an offer – if Tyrion will confess to murdering Joffrey before the throne and repent for his crimes, his father will not have him executed but instead permit him to join the Night’s Watch.
Tyrion laughs, saying that the terms are the same ones that got offered to Eddard Stark, who had then been executed despite confessing his crimes. Kevan says that Eddard’s execution was Joffrey’s decision and that Tywin had no part in it. Tyrion still declines the offer, saying that he is not going to confess. Ser Kevan reminds Tyrion that he has no witnesses. He then says that whatever the outcome of the trial, Tyrion is better with Tywin’s offer: if he is judged guilty, then going to the Wall will be a better fate then execution and if he is judged innocent, the North will be a much safer place for him than King’s Landing since the common folk, already convinced that Tyrion is guilty, would tear him apart if he dared set foot outside the castle.
Kevan then begins talking passionately about his brother Tywin, saying that while Tyrion might think of his father as a hard man, Tywin is no harsher than he has had to be in order to restore House Lannister’s glory, something that Tywin and Kevan’s father had squandered in the many years before Tyrion was born. Kevan speaks of Tywin with such passion that Tyrion is taken aback. Before Kevan leaves, Tyrion tells him that he will think about his father’s offer.
Tyrion spends the night thinking about it, but he come morning, he still doesn’t trust his father’s offer.
The third day of the trial sees Varys taking to the stand to testify against Tyrion. Tyrion realizes Varys’ testimonial contain half-truths rather than outright lies; the eunuch mentions many things that are taken slightly out of context. He tells of how Tyrion had schemed to part Joffrey from Sandor’s protection and spoken to Bronn about how Tommen would make a better king. Varys also confirms that Tyrion visited Grand Master Pycelle’s chambers at midnight and stole Pycelle’s poisons and potions and that he’d made a threat to Cersei the night where both of them supped together. Unlike the previous witnesses, Varys has documents and parchments filled with notes, details, dates and even whole conversations. And he recites all of them, which take the entire day.
After Varys finishes, Lord Tywin asks Cersei whether they have heard from all her witnesses. Cersei tells them that she has one more witness, whom she intends to bring out on the next day.
That night, Tyrion expects another visit from Ser Kevan, but he receives a most unexpected visitor: Prince Oberyn Martell.
Oberyn tells Tyrion that Cersei has hinted at marriage between Cersei and himself if he condemns Tyrion. However, Oberyn says that Cersei is too ambitious and scheming for him to be interested in her proposition. He does say that he is thankful that Cersei accused him of Joffrey’s murder because otherwise he might have been arrested in Tyrion’s place – after all, he is knowledgeable in poisons, he has reasons to keep the Tyrells far from the crown and by Dornish law, with Joffrey dead, the Iron Throne would pass to the next-eldest child in line, who would be Myrcella Baratheon, who is married to Oberyn’s nephew, Trystane Martell.
Tyrion says that Dornish law does not apply in King’s Landing and that Tywin will certainly crown Tommen. Oberyn then says that he may indeed marry Cersei if she supports Myrcella over Tommen. Tyrion says that Tywin will give Cersei no choice in the matter but Oberyn responds by saying that Tyrion’s father might not live forever.
Oberyn then reveals that Mace Tyrell is quite convinced that Tywin is guilty but that he himself was not as convinced. He then coyly mentions that perhaps Joffrey’s killer had been eaten by a bear, subtly insinuating that he does not believe Tywin’s earlier claim that it had been Ser Amory Lorch who had killed Elia and her children. Tywin then decides that he has nothing to lose by telling Oberyn the truth so he says that while Ser Amory Lorch had indeed been killed by a bear, Amory only killed Rhaenys, while Elia and Aegon were killed by Ser Gregor Clegane. However, when Oberyn presses Tyrion on whether it was Tywin who had given Gregor the orders, Tyrion denies it. Oberyn sees through the lie and calls Tyrion out on it, and Tyrion responds by saying that Oberyn should speak to Tywin about the matter. Oberyn says that Tyrion’s innocence cannot save him, nor can Tywin. He reveals that he can save Tyrion – as Tyrion’s champion in a trial of combat.
Jaime is in the Round Room, which forms the first floor of the White Sword Tower, waiting for his Sworn brothers. He has since moved his belongings to the topmost floor, which has traditionally been the Lord Commander’s apartments. He has been spending his days at his brother’s trials, although always standing at the back of the hall. Few seem to recognize him. His father had disowned him and even Cersei seems to be avoiding him.
Jaime goes through the White Book, a massive book that details the history of the Kingsguard; every knight who had ever served had a page, with their names and deeds recorded for all time. It has always been the duty of the Lord Commander to keep the entries up to date; Jaime realizes that it is his duty now.
Ser Barristan Selmy had been the previous Lord Commander; Jaime finds Barristan’s page, and goes through the old knight’s lost list of accomplishments. Jaime’s own page is scant by comparison.
The door to the Round Room opens and Jaime receives his Sworn Brothers. Jaime goes through a formality, asking them the names of the men who are currently guarding the King while the Kingsguard are having a meeting. Ser Osmund says that his brothers, Ser Osney and Ser Osfryd are guarding Tommen. Loras adds that his elder brother, Ser Garlan is guarding the king as well. The meeting then starts.
Including Jaime, six of the seven Kingsguard are in the room; the seventh, Ser Arys Oakheart, is in Dorne, to guard Princess Myrcella. Jaime studies his Sworn Brothers. He has served with Meryn Trant and Boros Blaunt, both adequate fighters but lacking good character. Ser Balon Swann is well-suited to his white cloak, and Ser Loras is supposedly everything a knight should be. But he knows next to nothing about Ser Osmund Kettleblack.
He first chastises the five for failing to keep Joffrey alive. Jaime then asks whether it’s true that Tyrion poisoned Joffrey. Meryn and Boros are convinced that it was Tyrion, since Tyrion had filled Joffrey’s chalice with wine then emptied the dregs on the floor. Ser Balon is uncertain, saying that there were others who had been just as near to the King as Tyrion and it could have easily been one of them who had poisoned Joffrey’s wine. Loras is sure that the poisoner is Sansa Stark, with the reason that Margaery drank from the same chalice as well and that Sansa was the only person in the hall who could have wanted both Joffrey and Margaery dead. Jaime find Loras’ reasoning sound; he considers looking into Sansa’s disappearance personally at a later time.
Jaime then states that Joffrey is now dead but he intends for Tommen to live a long, long life. He proceeds to address each of the Kingsguard in turn.
Seeing that Boros has grown stout over the years, he assigns Boros the role of Tommen’s food taster. Boros is insulted by the assignment and counters by saying that Jaime should be the food taster instead since Jaime is now a cripple. Jaime only smiles and challenges Boros to a duel, but Boros refuses to take up the challenge and leaves in disgust. Jaime is secretly relieved that Boros is too much of a coward, because he knows that, with his right hand gone, Boros would have made short work of him.
Next Jaime addresses Ser Osmund Kettleblack. He says that he does not know anything about Osmund and asks Osmund where he has served before. Osmund is evasive at first but reveals that he has served in the Stepstone, the Disputed Lands and was once part of a mercenary company called the Gallant Men, who fought Lys and Tyrosh. He also reveals that he was knighted by a Ser Robert Stone, who has since died. Jaime suspects that Ser Osmund’s Robert Stone is made-up but proceeds to dismiss Osmund.
He next turns his attention to Ser Meryn. Jaime says that he has heard of Meryn obeying Joffrey’s order to chastise Sansa; he then states that nowhere in the vows of the Kingsguard do they swear to beat women and children. Meryn defends himself by saying that he was just following King Joffrey’s orders. Jaime replies by saying that going forward, Meryn is to temper his obedience with common sense and that there will be times when he will need to consult either Cersei, Tywin or Jaime himself in order to protect Tommen from himself. Jaime then dismisses Meryn.
Jaime then turns towards Ser Balon. He praises Balon’s valor and calls Balon a welcome addition to the Kingsguard. But he also remarks on how Balon’s brother, Ser Donnel, once rode with Renly, then for Stannis, then for Joffrey and now for Tommen. He then asks what Balon would do if one day Donnel switches allegiance. Balon hesitates but then states that, unlike what Jaime did to Aerys, he would do his duty. Jaime likes Balon’s answer and dismisses him.
Then there is only Jaime and Loras Tyrell in the room. They trade words and Jaime realizes that Tyrell is exactly how Jaime used to be when he had just entered the ranks of the Kingsguard – exceptional but arrogant. He decides to focus the conversation on Renly’s death instead, questioning Loras’ insistence that it was Brienne who had murdered Renly. He says that Brienne mentioned that a shadow had killed Renly; he also states that Brienne is not sly or quick-witted enough to come up with such a strange story, and that Brienne appears to be person who takes her oaths seriously. Loras states that Brienne had fled, with Catelyn Stark, and why would she have done such a thing if she had not murdered Renly. But doubt begins to creep into his voice, and he reveals to Jaime that Renly’s gorget had been cut clean through – he admits that no one could have done that with a sword, not even Brienne, despite her strength.
Jaime tells Loras to go and visit Brienne in her cell, to ask her questions and listen to her answers. If Loras is still convinced that she is guilty, then Jaime will make sure she answers for it. He says that the choice is with Loras and that the only thing he asks of Loras is that Loras judges her fairly. Loras vows that he will and leaves.
Jaime sits in the room, and considers getting himself a gold hand to replace his right hand. He decides that the gold hand can wait, however, for he has other things to do first.
The Merling King has stopped at the Fingers, a rocky coastline located north of the Vale so named because it just out into the sea like slim, slender fingers. Arya, still seasick and has been for most of the voyage, finds the Fingers, with its bleak grey sky, many rocks and forlorn little flint tower, a dismal place. She has thought all along that Petyr Baelish is bringing her back to Winterfell, since he did mention that he would be bringing her home. So she is surprised when Petyr tells her that the ship is sailing off to the east, headed for Braavos, without them. Knowing that Sansa might have expected him to bring her back to Winterfell, Petyr says that Winterfell has burned and sacked; instead, they will be staying at the Fingers, inside the unnamed flint tower that is the seat of House Baelish. Petyr, knowing that Sansa finds the Fingers bleak and dreary, tells her not to worry, as they will be staying there for no more than a fortnight – Lysa Arryn is riding to meet them at the Fingers and that he and Lysa are to be wed, whereupon they will then head for the Eyrie.
They take a boat ashore, accompanied by Lothor Brune and old Oswell. Petyr’s servants come out from the tower to meet them and Petyr proceeds to introduce every one of them to Sansa though he is careful not to mention Sansa’s name. Everyone then makes their way to the flint tower.
The tower turns out to be small, with only three floors to it. The servants live in the kitchen located on the ground level. The next floor up holds a small hall while the bedchambers are located on the topmost floor. Sansa studies a shield that is hanging in the hall, the device being a grey stone head on a light green field. Petyr tells her that it is his grandfather’s shield; he then reveals that his grandfather’s father was born in Braavos and came to the Vale as a sellsword to one of Vale lords, and his grandfather had taken the head of the Titan as his sigil when he was knighted.
When Sansa and Petyr are alone, he tells Sansa that she has to assume a new identity because if word of Sansa Stark being seen in the Vale got out, Lord Varys will hear of it and it would cause all kinds of complications. Petyr decides that Sansa will go by the name Alayne, which had been the name of Petyr’s mother, and that she will be his bastard daughter with the reason being that it is considered rude to pry into the origins of a man’s bastard children. Petyr then concocts Alayne’s history, saying that her mother was a gentlewoman of Braavos who died giving birth to Alayne; Alayne was then entrusted to men and women of the Faith, but started searching for Petyr after deciding that she did not wish to be a septa.
The servants then bring them a small meal, and as they eat, Petyr shifts the conversation to the game of thrones, stating that in King’s Landing, there are two sorts of people: the players and the pieces. Sansa then asks whether Ser Dontos was the piece Petyr had used to poison Joffrey. Petyr laughs and tells her that Dontos could never have been trusted with a task of such enormity. Sansa then asks if Petyr has other pieces in the capital. Petyr responds by summoning old Oswell and asks Sansa whether she knows him. There is something familiar about Oswell, but she says that she hasn’t seen him before. Oswell himself then says that Sansa might not have met him before but that she might have met his three sons. Sansa is caught by surprise as she realizes that she has indeed seen the man’s three sons; she realizes she is looking at father of the Kettleblack brothers. After Petyr dismisses old Oswell, Sansa asks Petyr whether it had been one of the Kettleblacks who poisoned Joffrey. Petyr says that the Kettleblacks are far too treacherous to be of any such scheme and that Ser Osmund Kettleblack has become unreliable since the man joined the Kingsguard.
Seeing that Sansa cannot come up with any more guesses, Petyr reveals that the person who did it is the one who straightened Sansa’s hairnet sometime during the feast. Sansa is caught by surprise, as the Queen of Thorns was the one who did exactly that. Petyr then explains that when he had gone to Highgarden with the marriage proposal that Margaery be wed to Joffrey, Lady Olenna begin asking questions about Joffrey’s character. Meanwhile, Petyr had his own men spreading disturbing tales about Joffrey amongst the Tyrells’ servants. Lady Olenna soon came to realize one thing: her son Mace Tyrell wanted to make Margaery a Queen by marrying a king. But Olenna had figured that although Margaery would need to be married to a king, it didn’t have to be Joffrey – it could just as easily be Tommen.
Sansa starts her new life on the Fingers. Lysa Arryn arrives after eight days. When she finally looks at her aunt, Sansa thinks that Lysa looks ten year older than her mother had looked, even though Lysa is two years younger than Catelyn. Lysa is also plump and clumsy. Petyr introduces Sansa, but as Alayne Stone. He mentions that he hopes to Alayne to the Eyrie but then quickly changes the subject, asking Lysa when both she and he can be wed. Lysa says that she has brought her own septon and singer and that they can be wed right then. Petyr isn’t too pleased, saying that he’d rather wed her at the Eyrie, with her whole court in attendance. Lysa, however, insists that they be married right then and there, and Petyr, not wanting to push the issue too much, gives in. They are married within the hour.
After the small feast, they proceed with the bedding ceremony and soon, the whole tower can hear Lady Lysa’s loud screams as she and Petyr make love on the topmost floor. Sansa goes out of the tower for a while, reminiscing about her own wedding with Tyrion. When she returns to the tower, there are no more screams coming from the bedchambers. Sansa tries to sleep but she is harassed by Lysa’s singer, Marillion. The singer tries to force Sansa to have sex with him, but Lothor Brune suddenly appears and drives the singer away.
In the morning, Sansa gets summoned to the bedchambers. Lady Lysa is still abed but Petyr is getting dressed. He tells Sansa that Lysa wants to speak with her and that he has already told Lysa who Sansa really is. Petyr also adds that they will leave for the Eyrie in the afternoon, and then leaves the room, leaving Sansa alone with Lysa.
The first thing that Lysa says is that Sansa looks too much like Catelyn. She says that Sansa will have to darken her hair before they bring her back to the Eyrie; she does not want word of Sansa’s presence reaching King’s Landing. Lysa then mentions Sansa’s unfortunate marriage to Tyrion, which she compares to her own forced marriage to Jon Arryn. She then asks whether Sansa is pregnant with Tyrion’s child, and when Sansa tells her that she is not, Lysa is relieved. She says that Sansa can get married again once Tyrion has been executed for his crimes – and the man she suggest to Sansa is none other than her own son, Robert Arryn. Sansa is not keen on marrying Robert, but she lies anyway and tells her aunt that she’d love to meet Robert. Lysa then mentions that once Tyrion has been executed, Sansa can wed Robert, but the wedding will be a secret wedding, as she doesn’t want others to know that Robert wed a bastard girl like Alayne. Lysa ends by saying that although Sansa comes from House Stark, Winterfell has fallen and now Sansa is no more than a beggar, and that she will have to be a grateful and obedient wife to Robert.
It is morning and Jon is already awake. He has been having difficulty sleeping, and one contributor to that has been the noise from the continual cutting of trees by Mance Rayder’s wildings. Jon and most of the other men have been sleeping in the warming shed on top of the Wall; it took too long a time to ride up and down in the cage. The ones who remained in Castle Black itself were Maester Aemon, Ser Wynton and men who are too old or ill to fight.
Jon steps out onto the Wall and sees that the wildling archers are already coming towards the Wall. The archers have been doing the same thing for days: they advance forward, hiding behind slanted wooden shields big enough to for five of them to hide behind. The wildlings then fire their arrows through slits in the wood. The first time the wildling archers employed this tactic, Jon had sent fire arrows their way, setting the shields on fire. However, Mance has countered this by covering the shields with raw hides, which makes it impossible for the fire arrows to catch. Due to the long range and the angle being bad, the arrows do not pose much risk, with most of them ending up catching on the scarecrows.
Jon and the men now have the use of Maester Aemon’s brass telescope. Jon peers through it to study his foes. He doesn’t see Mance but does spy Mance’s woman, Dalla, who is heavily pregnant and Dalla’s sister, Val. He then studies the contraption the wildlings have been building, the reason behind them cutting down the surrounding trees. It is the turtle, a wooden contraption that consists of a rounded top, a stout wooden frame and eight huge wheels. The wildlings have lashed the raw bloody hide of a mammoth over the top, yet another layer on top of the sheepskins and pelts.
The turtle is nearly done so Jon figures that the wildlings will bring out the turtle later in the day. He asks Grenn whether the barrels are ready; when Grenn says that they are, he sends Grenn off to get some sleep.
Jon then tries to eat some breakfast but he is too worried to eat much. The men have no more oil or barrels of pitch. They will soon run out of arrows as well. And he has received a raven from Ser Denys Mallister, commander of the Shadow Tower. The raven brings bad news: Castle Black’s garrison has chased the roving wildlings all the way to the Shadow Tower and down into the Gorge, where they had then fought a battle with the wildlings. They killed three hundred wildlings, but paid a costly price by losing a hundred of their own. Bowen Marsh was injured and it will be some time before he and the remainder of the garrison return to Castle Black.
Jon is trying to eat his breakfast but is interrupted by his men telling him that the wildlings are approaching the Wall with their turtle. He gets the men to sound the warhorns to wake Grenn and all the other brothers who are sleeping; Jon knows he needs every men on the Wall in order to destroy the turtle before it can breach the outer gate.
Jon first tries flaming arrows, but the wet hides protects the turtle. Next he tries scorpion bolts and rocks, but both do little damage. Jon sees that the turtle is coming closer and closer; he knows that once the turtle is at the gate, the wildlings will start using their axes to crash through the hastily-repaired outer gates, and once they reached inside the tunnel, it would only take a few hours to clear the loose rubble. Jon realizes that the only way they could destroy the turtle is by dropping boulders on it when it reached the Wall.
They have no boulders, but Jon has devised something just as heavy and effective: barrels filled with gravel, with the water poured into them left to freeze solid overnight. They heavy barrels are the closest things to boulders that Jon and his men can get.
Jon gets Grenn and two other black brothers to line four of the big oak barrels above the gate. When the turtle finally reaches the gate, Jon gives the command to drop the barrels. The four barrels completely destroy the turtle and the wildlings who survive retreat back to their camp. Jon realizes that he is extremely tired. He gives command of the Wall to Pyp then takes the cage down and heads for the King’s Tower in order to catch up on some sleep.
When he wakes up, it is already night. There are four men standing over him, all four wearing the black of the Night’s Watch. They pull Jon from the bed and lead him up to Mormont’s solar. Upon entering, Jon sees Maester Aemon, Septon Cellador and Ser Wynton Stout, who is asleep in a chair. There were other black brothers there as well, but he recognized none of them, except for one – Ser Alliser Thorne.
There is big and jowly man sitting in Mormont’s chair whom Ser Alliser speaks to. Ser Alliser calls Jon a turncloak but Jon denies it. The big, jowly man says that Jon has been charged with oathbreaking, cowardice, and desertion and then asks whether Jon denies that he abandoned his black brothers to die on the First of the First Men and later joined Mance Rayder’s host. Maester Aemon steps in and says that he and Donal Noye had discussed the issues with Jon when Jon first returned to Castle Black and that they were well-satisfied with Jon’s explanations. The big, jowly says that he is not satisfied and wants to hear those explanations for himself. Jon swallows his anger and claims that he abandoned no one, that he left the First with Qhorin Halfhand to scout the Skirling Pass, that he then joined the wildling army under Qhorin’s orders.
The big, jowly man is annoyed that Jon does not address Alliser as Ser Alliser and calls Jon out on it. He then reveals that he is Janos Slynt, Lord of Harrenhal, and that he will be the commander at Castle Black until Bowen Marsh returns with the castle’s garrison. Janos then presses Jon further, trying to get Jon to admit that he is an oathbreaker and turncloak. Jon says that he did indeed ride with the wildlings and slept with a wildling woman, but swears that he never turned his cloak, that he escaped the Magnar as soon as he could and never once took up arms against a black brother or the realm.
Janos studies Jon then gets his men to bring a prisoner into the solar. Jon doesn’t recognize the prisoner at first, but he suddenly realizes that the prisoner looks different without his armor – it is Rattleshirt. Janos asks Rattleshirt to repeat what he has told him, and Rattleshirt tells of how Jon had begged for his life and offered to join the wildlings if they would have him, and of how Ghost had been involved in Qhorin’s death.
Janos and Alliser start to launch more accusations unto Jon, dismissing Jon’s furious protests. Maester Aemon comes to Jon’s defense, saying that Jon Snow held the Wall against the full fury of the huge wildling host, and that Jon was chosen to be Lord Mormont’s own steward and squire because Mormont had seen much promise in his, as had Aemon himself.
Janos refuses to change his mind and provokes Jon by saying that Jon’s father, Eddard Stark, died as a traitor. He says that Eddard died by the sword due to his being a highborn noble, but a noose will serve for Jon; he then orders Ser Alliser to take Jon to an ice cell.
Ser Alliser seizes Jon by the arm but Jon, furious at Janos’ lies about his father, grabs Ser Alliser’s neck with such ferocity that he lifts the knight off the floor. The black brothers in the room come to Ser Alliser’s rescue and pulls Jon off. Ser Alliser then loudly accuses Jon, by dint of his actions, to be a wildling.
Dawn breaks and Tyrion is in his cell, deep in thought. He is still unsure of what action to take once Cersei has called her final witness. He has been considering his father’s offer, of going to the Wall if he confesses to poisoning Joffrey. Tyrion finds that it isn’t the thought of being in the Night’s Watch that angers him, but that he has to confess to a crime he did not commit.
When the trial finally begins and the last witness is called to their testimony, Tyrion is shocked to discover that Cersei’s last witness is Shae. His shock soon turns to anger, however, when Shae proceeds to tell outright lies. Her first lie is saying that Tyrion plotted Joffrey’s murder with Sansa, that Sansa wanted revenge for her brother’s death and that Tyrion was going to kill his father, his sister and then Prince Tommen so that he could be king himself. Her second lie is saying that Tyrion forced her to be his whore after her own lover, a squire, died when Tyrion purposely placed him in the front ranks of Tyrion’s vanguard. She then tells how Tyrion had forced her to call him her giant of Lannister.
Everyone in the throne room starts laughing – except for Tywin. Tyrion calls out to the judge and tells them that he will give them his confession once they dismiss the whore out of his sight. Once Shae is gone, Tyrion admits that he is guilty. When Oberyn asks whether Tyrion is admitting to poisoning Joffrey, Tyrion says that he is innocent of that crime; instead, his admission of guilt was for being a dwarf. Tywin is irritated and tells Tyrion that he is not on trial for being a dwarf, but Tyrion disagrees, saying that he has been on trial for being a dwarf his entire life. He then demands trial by battle.
Tywin is angry with Tyrion’s decision but Cersei is overjoyed, saying that Ser Gregor Clegane will stand for Joffrey in the trial by battle. When Prince Oberyn rises to his feet and announces that he will Tyrion’s champion, there is an uproar in the throne room and even Cersei appears to have doubts. Furious, Tywin calls an end to the trial and says that the verdict will be decided the next day.
Later, back in his cell, Tyrion starts drinking and is in a much better mood. He is happy that he has dashed his father’s plans. If Oberyn wins, Mace Tyrell will see the man who had crippled his son helping the dwarf who almost poisoned his daughter escape his punishment, thus throwing more bad blood between Highgarden and the Dornish. If Gregor Clegane triumphs, then Doran Martell would want to know why his brother had been served with death instead of the justice promised him; Dorne might even crown Myrcella.
Tyrion has a good sleep and in the morning, after a hearty breakfast, he attends to his champion. He finds Oberyn already drinking before combat, and seeks to impress upon the Prince how big and fearsome Ser Gregor is. Oberyn is unimpressed, saying that he has killed large men before and that the trick is to get them on their feet in order to kill them. Tyrion is reassured, until he sees that Oberyn will be fighting with a spear. Oberyn says that using the spear helps him counter Gregor’s longer reach. He lets Tyrion look at the spear’s tip. Tyrion notes that the edges are incredibly sharp and glisten with a black substance – he wonders whether it is poison but does not ask. Oberyn says that there are places where Gregor’s armor doesn’t protect, and he intends to find those places.
Oberyn then tells the story of how his mother had brought both him and Elia to Casterly Rock when they had been children. He says that he has already told Tyrion about his visit previously, but states that his mother had a reason for going to Casterly Rock: she wanted to marry Oberyn and Elia to Cersei and Jaime respectively. Years later, on her deathbed, Oberyn’s mother had told Oberyn that Lord Tywin had refused the offer, saying that Cersei was meant for Prince Rhaegar and offered Tyrion instead of Jaime for Elia. Oberyn then says that when Prince Rhaegar married Elia instead, Tywin took it as an insult and repaid the Martells by having Elia and her children killed. Oberyn then says that Elia and her children have been waiting years for justice and that today would be the day that they get it.
The fight takes place in the outer ward and thousands of people have come to witness the event. Ser Gregor is fully armored, wearing plate over chainmail, employs a huge shield and wields his huge greatsword. In contrast, Oberyn is lightly armored and carries a brightly polished shield in addition to his spear. When the fight begins, Oberyn manages to land many hits, but all of them slide off Gregor’s heavy armor. Meanwhile, Gregor’s sword doesn’t come close to catching the faster and more dexterous Oberyn. As they fight, Oberyn continuously mentions that Gregor raped and murdered his sister Elia and killed her children. Gregor is annoyed by Oberyn’s accusations, but remains silent.
At one point in the fight, the sun comes out from behind the clouds, and Oberyn uses this to his advantage by tilting his metal shield, which causes a shaft of sunlight to reflect off the polished surface straight into the narrow slit of Gregor’s helm. Gregor lifts his own shield against the glare, giving Oberyn the opening he is waiting for; Oberyn sends his spearhead into the gap under the arm, and it punches through mail and boiled leather, wounding Gregor. Oberyn then yanks his spear free and circles behind Gregor. Gregor falls to one knee and Oberyn seizes the opportunity, driving his spearhead into the back of the knee, inflicting yet another deep wound. Gregor collapses face first, then rolls onto his back.
Oberyn, seeing his chance to finish Gregor, falls back to get some distance between him and his fallen foe, then runs at Gregor, driving the spear down with the whole weight of his body. The momentum and force breaks the spear in half and the spearhead now pins Gregor to the ground. Gregor is severely injured and cannot pull the shaft out.
Oberyn grabs Gregor’s greatsword and approaches Gregor’s body, demanding that Gregor says Elia’s name. Gregor responds by shooting out his hand and grabbing Oberyn behind the knee, then pulling Oberyn down on top of him. Gregor then manages to wrap on arm around Oberyn, drawing the Prince tight to his own chest. It is then that Gregor calls out Elia’s name, saying that he killed her son, then raped her, and finally killed her. After Gregor says that, he smashes his huge fist into Oberyn’s head, killing the Prince.
Tyrion retches his breakfast. He is condemned by Tywin and the guards of the City Watch escort him to the black cells.
Daenerys stands on top of Meeren’s Great Pyramid, gazing out at both the city below and the sea and hills beyond the city walls. She is proud to have taken Meeren in less than a day.
She sacrificed her three ships, commanding their captains to drive the ships ashore, where her men then turned the masts into battering rams and tore the hulls apart to build mantlets, turtles, catapults and ladders. Protected by the turtles and making full use of the battering rams, her men had successfully broken through the eastern gate. Even though Daenerys had not joined in the attack, as advised by all her captains, but even from the rear, half a league away, she could hear the defenders’ shouts of defiance changing to cries of fear, and she knew then that the small group of men that she had sent to enter Meeren via the sewers had freed the city’s fighting slaves.
When all resistance had been crushed and the sacking had run its course, Daenerys had entered Meeren. She saw bodies everywhere, but the slaves had cheered and called her “Mother”. In the plaza before the Great Pyramid, she came face to face with the Great Masters of Meeren. Meting out justice for the one hundred and sixty three children that they had nailed to wooden posts all along the cost road from Yunkai, she has the same number of Great Masters nailed to wooden posts around the plaza, sparing the rest.
Although she felt the punishment justified at the time she gave the command, Daenerys is now having doubts; she tries to reassure herself by telling herself that the punishment was just and that she did it for the children.
After breakfast and a bath, Daenerys makes her to the audience chamber, which is one level below. Her bloodriders, handmaidens and Missandei are there, along with Grey Worm, Daario and Brown Ben Plumm. She starts out by asking Ben whether the night has been quiet and he says that it has. Daenerys is pleased with the answer; after the city was well and truly hers, she was determined that the sacking stop so she decreed that murderers are to be hanged, looters are to lose and hand and rapists their manhood. Eight had been hanged, and there was a basket containing hands and manhoods, but Meeren is calm once again.
Daenerys then mentions that there seems to be too many flies in the city and orders Grey Worm and the Unsullied to get rid of the corpses, starting with those in the plaza. Missandei tells Daenerys that the Ghiscari inter their honored dead in crypts below their manses and that it would be a kindness if she returned the bones to their kin. Daenerys agrees and says that it will be done.
Daenerys then turns to Daario and asks him how many are seeking audience with her. Daario replies that there are two. He brings in the first one, an envoy from King Cleon of Astapor. Daenerys is surprised, since she left a council to rule Astapor but the envoy tells her that the council were scheming to restore Astapor’s Great Masters to power and the people back to slavery; Great Cleon exposed their plots and killed the council, whereupon the people of Astapor then crowned him king. Missandei recognizes Cleon’s name and tells Daenerys that Cleon was once a slave butcher and that he could slaughter a pig faster than any man in Astapor. Daenerys feels ill that Astapor is now in the hands of a butcher king but tries not to show it; she then asks the envoy what he wants of her. The envoy says that the Great Cleon wants to propose a pact between Astapor and Meeren, against the Yunkai’i. Daenerys says that since Yunkai has released its slaves, she has promised that the city will come to no harm. The envoy scoffs at this, saying that the Yunkai’i are even now plotting against her. He then says that the Great Cleon and Astapor will not forsake her and that Cleon offers to seal their alliance by marrying Daenerys. Daenerys doesn’t give an answer and tells the envoy that she will think about it.
The second person to seek an audience is the captain who brought the envoy to Meeren aboard his trading ship, the Indigo Star. The captain says that he is looking for slaves, and that he will trade the goods on his ship in return. Daenerys mentions that she has no slaves to sell but Daario steps in and says that the riverside is full of Meereneese who are begging to be allowed to sell themselves to the captain. Daenerys is shocked that these Meereneese actually want to be slaves but Daario says that the ones who want to be slaves are well-spoken and learned, and that they will have a more comfortable life as slaves in the Free Cities than they will in Meeren. Daenerys decides that any man or woman who wishes to sell themselves into slavery can do so, but they cannot sell children or their spouse. Missandei then tells Daenerys that in Astapor, the city took a tenth part of the price each time a slave changed hands. Daenerys agrees to do the same, but says that the tenth part be paid to her in gold or silver only; she assigns Daario’s Stormcrows to the task of collecting the money.
The audience with both the envoy and the captain done, Daenerys dreads the next business at hand. All the same, she commands Strong Belwas to bring in her knights. Ser Barristan has shaved his beard and looks ten years younger; Ser Jorah meanwhile looks guilty and older than his years.
Daenerys tells the two knights that part of her had hoped that she’d seen the last of them when they had gone down into the sewers as part of the small group of men she had tasked with sneaking into the city via the sewers to free Meeren’s fighting slaves. She also recounts the times in the past when they had saved her.
She first turns to Ser Barristan, asking him why he betrayed the Targaryens by abandoning Viserys and bent his knee to Robert Baratheon the Usurper instead. She warns him to tell the truth.
Ser Barristan says that Robert was a good knight and spared the lives of many other men as well. In contrast, her brother Viserys was beginning to show the same madness that was in Daenerys’ father, Aerys, also known as the Mad King. Barristan says that he had used a false name with Daenerys, not only so that the Lannisters wouldn’t catch wind of him joining her, but he wanted to see whether Daenerys has the same madness within her before pledging his sword. Daenerys bristles at the mention of madness in the Targaryen bloodline but Barristan tells her that her own grandfather, King Jaehaerys, once told him that Targaryens are fated to be either great or mad. Barristan then says that Daenerys is the trueborn heir of Westeros and that, if she finds him worthy to bear a sword again, he will serve her to the end of his days. After hearing all that Barristan has said, Daenerys agrees; she hands Barristan’s sword back to him and accepts him into her service.
She then turns to Ser Jorah, knowing that Jorah will be harder to deal with. And sure enough, Jorah starts off by being defensive and unapologetic about his actions. He mentions that he used to send reports to Varys but stopped after a while. Daenerys however, is angry when she learns that he only stopped sending the reports after Qarth. Daenerys gets increasingly furious with Ser Jorah’s attitude and after Ser Jorah mentions that Daenerys has to forgive him, she finally makes her decision and declares that she cannot forgive him. Ignoring his pleas, Daenerys banishes him from her camp, saying that he has until dawn to leave Meeren and that she will have him killed if he does not leave by then. Strong Belwas then drags Ser Jorah away.
Daario immediately approaches Daenerys, saying that she has a kind heart but that Ser Jorah is extremely dangerous. He offers to kill Jorah for her, but Daenerys declines, saying that things are even now.
Later that night, Daenerys tries to lose herself in reading, but she finds that she cannot concentrate, so she walks out onto the terrace to admire her dragons. Ser Barristan approaches her, saying that her father’s secrets now belong to her by right, as is the Iron Throne, and asks her whether she might have any questions for him. She blurts out a question that has been in her head: had her father truly been mad. She says that Viserys had once mentioned that the talk of madness in the Targaryen bloodline was one of Robert’s ploys. Barristan says that Aerys always had a little madness in him but could be charming and generous as well. He then mentions that the madness got worse as the years passes, whereupon Daenerys stops him, saying that she doesn’t want to hear about her father’s madness at the moment, that perhaps it could wait another day. She kisses him on the cheek then dismisses him.
In the morning, she summons her captains and commanders. She tells them that she has been more a horselord than a queen, smashing and plundering the cities in Slaver’s Bay, giving them death and ruin before moving on. She then says that she cannot rule the seven kingdoms of Westeros if she cannot even rule a single city. Turning to her captains and commanders, she tells them that she will stay in Meeren for some time, and rule the city as a queen.
Jaime is in the council chamber, watching as Ser Kevan hands over document after document for Tommen to sign. Jaime is bored and his body is sore, courtesy of the beating that Ser Addam Marbrand has given him in their training session. Jaime had wanted to see whether he could fight with his left hand and chose Adam because he had known Adam since Addam had been a boy, serving as a page at Casterly Rock. Addam gave him a severe beating and Jamie is dismayed at how poorly he performed with his left hand. He starts to doubt whether Addam might have been the best choice, given the risk of Addam boasting about his thumping Jaime should he get drunk during his drinking sessions. Jaime thinks that he should have gone to Ser Illyn Payne instead, since the headsman had no tongue and thus would not be able to tell anyone about it.
Jaime goes up to Kevan and says that his uncle appears to have matters well in hand and with that, he will leave Tommen to Kevan. Kevan agrees but tries to convince Jaime to visit his father, but Jaime says that the breach between his father and him is Tywin’s doing and that Tywin can’t mend it by sending him a mocking gift. Ser Kevan protests, saying that Tywin’s gift was heartfelt, but Jaime doesn’t want to hear anymore and leaves. He walks out from the council chamber and passes responsibility of guarding Tommen to Ser Meryn Trant.
Walking to the outer ward, Jaime catches sight of Walton Steelshanks and his band of northmen saddling their horses. Jaime greets them and Walton says that Lord Bolton is expecting them and that they leave as soon as the lady is mounted. The lady turns out to be a skinny hollow-eyed girl with long brown hair with a pretty face but sad and wary eyes. The girl greets him and Jaime is surprised to learn that she knows him. He is even more surprised when she introduces herself as Arya Stark; Jaime thinks to himself that the girl his father is sending to Bolton looks slightly older than the real Arya Stark. The girl says that she is to marry Ramsay Snow, Lord Roose Bolton’s bastard, whom Roose Bolton has now legitimized; Jaime wishes her well. Once Arya is mounted, the northmen ride out of the castle gate.
Jaime notices that the horses are still avoiding the dark splotch on the ground where the stableboy’s blood had seeped into the earth. He reflects on the fact that Gregor is paying for his cruelty now. It had been Grand Maester Pycelle who had mentioned to the king’s council that the poison coursing through Gregor’s body was extremely virulent, killing even the leeches Pycelle had administered. Pycelle had wanted to detain the rest of the Dornishmen to learn of the substance Oberyn had coated on his spearhead but Tywin forbade it, saying that he doesn’t want relations with Dorne to get any worse. Tywin had then commanded Pycelle to heal Gregor, so that they can deliver the King’s justice upon Gregor, and send his head to Dorne, rather than letting it be known that a poisoned spear killed Gregor. Tywin had even mentioned that Lord Varys’ spies have reported that Stannis and his men have left Dragonstone, and that Stannis might be in Dorne right now, trying to win the Martells over to his cause. That is why Tywin had stressed that they must not doing anything to offense the Martells.
Jaime returns to White Sword Tower, only to find that Cersei is waiting for him in his apartments. Cersei starts telling Jaime about how Tywin is going to send her back to Casterly Rock and how he wants to wed Margaery to Tommen. Jaime is unmoved, and states that Tommen marrying Margaery is a good idea as Tommen has been lonely ever since Myrcella left for Dorne. Cersei pleads with Jaime, asking him to talk to their father, for the sake of Tommen, who is Jaime’s son. Jaime protests, saying that Cersei is the one who told him to take no undue interests in their children. Cersei says that she told Jaime that so that Robert wouldn’t get suspicious but Jaime replies by saying that he should have killed Robert, that he has never been ashamed of loving his sister, just the things that he has done to hide it, liking throwing Bran Stark down the tower window at Winterfell.
Jaime suddenly remembers something that is troubling him about the whole incident at Winterfell; he says that while he had been a prisoner in Riverrun, Catelyn Stark had seemed convinced that Jaime had sent a footpad to slit Bran’s throat, that Jaime had given the footpad a dagger in order to carrying out his job. Cersei scoffs at the subject , and mentions that Tyrion has been asking about that as well. Jaime says that he has seen the scars on Catelyn Stark’s hands and starts asking whether Cersei had indeed done it, but Cersei ridicules the notion, saying that she had only hoped that the boy would die from his fall off the tower and saying that even Robert Baratheon had mentioned how merciful it would be if the Starks just killed Bran instead. Cersei then compares the notion of her sending the assassin to the equally foolish notion of Myrcella being the one who hired the assassin. As soon as Cersei says that, Jaime sees the truth: that it was Joffrey who had done it, all in order to earn some measure of respect from the man he thought of as his father – Robert Baratheon. Jaime reasons out that Tyrion had learned about Joffrey’s involvement in Bran Stark’s assassination, and since he had been accused of the deed by Catelyn Stark and nearly been executed by Lysa Arryn for it, Tyrion had wanted to exact revenge upon Joffrey,
Cersei says that she doesn’t care why Tyrion had wanted Joffrey dead. She then pleads with Jaime once again to convince their father not to part her and Tommen and not to let their father marry her off. She states that Jaime is the only one that she wants in her bed and she says she wants to prove it to him and proceeds to undress him. Jaime feels the lust rising up in him, but steadfastly refuses her advances, saying that he doesn’t want to have sex with her in the White Tower. Spurned, Cersei becomes furious, and says that she regrets coming to see Jaime due to his indifference towards avenging Joffrey. Jaime says that he doesn’t believe that Tyrion killed Joffrey and asks her to leave.
Once Cersei has left, Jaime goes downstairs and orders Ser Boros Blount to fetch Ser Loras and Brienne. When they finally arrive a few hours later, Jaime asks what Ser Loras thinks about Renly’s death now that he has spoken to Brienne. Loras admits that Brienne could be right, that Stannis had something to do with Renly’s death. Jaime then tells Loras that he will speak more of this with him later then dismisses the Knight of Flowers.
When Jaime is alone with Brienne, he tells her that Steelshanks is heading back north, to deliver Arya Stark to Roose Bolton. But he tells her that the Arya Stark that rides with Steelshanks is actually some northern girl dressed up as Arya. He says that he is telling Brienne so that she doesn’t go rushing off to rescue the girl since even Brienne can’t fight two hundred men by herself. Brienne is surprised and says that Lord Bolton will be furious when he discovers that Lord Tywin has sent him a fake Arya Stark. Jaime tells her that Lord Bolton actually knows that Tywin’s Arya Stark is a fake, but no one else would know because everyone the girl had been close with is dead, and even her sister Sansa has disappeared.
Jaime then mentions that Cersei is convinced that Sansa had helped Tyrion murder Joffrey but Brienne says that she does not believe that a gentle girl like Sansa could be a poisoner and insists that it must have been Tyrion. Jaime insists that Tyrion would never have joined him in the art of kingslaying and that Tyrion was keeping silent in order to protect Sansa. Brienne refuses to believe that Sansa is guilty.
Sighing at the impasse, Jaime ends the conversation regarding Tyrion and Sansa and tells Brienne that he has a gift for her. The gift he presents to her is none other than the beautiful Valyrian steel sword that Tywin had made for him. Jaime says that he would be pleased if Brienne could name the sword Oathkeeper. He tells Brienne that he wants her to find Sansa first and to get Sansa to somewhere safe, so that both he and Brienne can make good on their vows to the late Lady Catelyn. He also tells her that his father had Eddard Stark’s greatsword Ice melted down and reforged, and there was enough Valyrian steel from Ice to create two new swords and that Oathkeeper is one of those two swords; so Brienne would be using Eddard Stark’s own sword to defend Eddard’s daughter.
Jaime then asks Brienne to leave, telling her a horse has already been prepared for her. Brienne thanks him for his gift, and vows to keep Sansa self once she finds her, for Lady Catelyn’s sake, and also Jaime’s. She then leaves.
Jaime , sitting alone, opens the White Book and begins writing on his page. He writes of his defeat to Robb Stark, of the time he spent as a captive at Riverrun, of how he had been captured by the Brave Companions and his right hand cut off, and finally of how he had been returned safely to King’s Landing by Brienne. After he is done writing, more than three quarters of his page still remains empty. He gazes at the page, and realizes that going forward, he could write whatever he chooses.
Jon is in a heavy cage, being lowered down the northern side of the Wall.
Janos Slynt, believing Jon to be a turncloak, had consigned Jon to one of the ice cells in the Wall. Jon had truly believed that he would die inside the cell, but after four days, he was pulled out and sent to stand before Janos Slynt once again. Janos revealed that Master Aemon had sent a letter to Cotter Pyke in Eastwatch, protesting Jon’s wrongful imprisonment and because of that Janos could no longer hang Jon. However, both he and Ser Alliser have cooked up another way to be rid of Jon. Mance Rayder has requested a parley with the Night’s Watch, at his own wildling camp, and Janos and Alliser have decided to send Jon. Jon knows that Janos and Alliser are sending Jon in the hopes that Mance and his wildlings will kill Jon when they see him. He tells them that it is a lousy idea to send him as an envoy to Mance because he betrayed Mance. But Ser Alliser says that they are sending Jon not to talk with Mance, but to kill him.
When Jon reaches the ground, he starts walking towards the wildling camp and soon a horseman comes riding out to meet him. Jon recognizes the wildling – it is Tormund Giantsbane. Tormund is surprised to see Jon but treats Jon like a friend despite being on different sides of the battle; they walk back towards the wildling camp. Tormund gives grudging respect to how Jon and his men had defended the Wall and how Mag the Mighty had gone into the gate but never came out. Jon tells him that Mag was slain by Donal Noye. Tormund is amused that Mag the Mighty was slain by a one-armed blacksmith and he and Jon drink to Mag and Donal Noye’s memory. Jon also tells Tormund about Ygritte’s death and they take another drink of mead.
They are soon at the wildling camp and make their way to Mance Rayder’s tent. Mace stands outside his tent, along with Harma Dogshead and Varamyr Sixskins. None of them are pleased to see Jon. Varamyr says that he has taken control of the eagle that once belonged to Orell, another skinchanger that Jon had ambushed and killed at Skirling Pass. Mance continues the conversation by saying that through the eyes of Varamyr’s eagle, they have seen how few brothers of the Night’s Watch are actually defending the Wall, how many black brothers came from Eastwatch, how their supplies had dwindled and how even the stair is now gone and they have to resort to getting on top of the Wall with the cage. Mance then invites Jon inside his tent, telling Harma, Varamyr and Tormund to wait outside.
When Jon enters the tent, he sees Dalla, pregnant with Mance’s child, and her sister, Val. He also sees something that shocks him: a huge warhorn. Mance knows that Jon recognizes the warhorn and confirms that the warhorn is indeed the Horn of Winter, that Joramun once blew to wake giants from the earth. Jon then says that Ygritte had previously mentioned that Mance and the wildlings never found the horn. Mance admits that he never trusted Jon to tell him the truth. Jon then asks Mance why he hasn’t yet used the horn; if indeed the horn is the Horn of Winter, then why did Mance bother with all the battles?
Mance then reveals that he could have sent his man all along the Wall, and taken Eastwatch and the Shadow Tower, or just have his men go to the abandoned castles and use the mammoths to dig out the sealed gates. But he hasn’t done any of that because the Night’s Watch will bleed his host even if he does win the battle and that the wildlings have bled enough. Jon is puzzled and says that Mance’s losses haven’t been that heavy. Mance then reveals that he has lost many men, but not to the Night’s Watch – he has lost men to the Others and their wights, and none of his wildling troops can stand against them. Mance bitterly admits that unlike previous Kings beyond the Wall, he has come to hide behind the Wall. Dalla continues, pointing out that if they did indeed blow the Horn of Winter and the Wall comes crashing down, then they would have no protection against the Others.
Mance then gives his offer to Jon: Jon is to go back to the Wall and tell the men of the Night’s Watch to open their gates and let Mance and his wildling host pass through, and in return, Mance will hand over the Horn of Winter, ensure that the Wall will continue standing until the end of time.
Jon’s next question is blunt: he asks whether Mance can make the wildlings keep the king’s peace and obey the laws should the Night’s Watch allow them to pass. Mance scoffs at Jon’s question, saying that his offer is for the wildlings to pass through the Wall in exchange for the Horn, not to kneel to the Night’s Watch or follow the laws of Winterfell or King’s Landing. Jon’s next question is even more blunt: he asks Mance what would happen if the Night’s Watch did not let them pass. Mance says that if the Night’s Watch turns down their offer, he will have Tormund Giantsbane blow the Horn of Winter three days from then.
Their conversation is interrupted by the sound of warhorns. Mance and Jon leave the tent; outside, the wildling camp is stirring. Varamyr’s eagle is flying high overhead, and he reports that his eagle sees movement coming from the east. Jon asks whether it is the Others but Mance says that the Others never come out while the sun is still up. Mance calls for his horse and armor and sends Harma and Tormund off to prepare for battle.
Varamyr then imparts new information that his eagle has gleaned: that the movement in the east were from men on horses, men who wear steel and men who are dressed in black.
A thin line of rangers emerge from the fringes of the wood three hundred yards away; they are dressed in the black of the Night’s Watch. Mance draws his sword and accuses Jon of knowing about the attack; Jon firmly denies knowing anything about the attack. Mance observes Harma and her raiders smashing into the rangers and he comes to the conclusion that perhaps Jon is telling the truth; he states that the rangers don’t seem to ride well, that they appear to come from Eastwatch. Mance is about to say that Cotter Pyke, the commander of Eastwatch is a fool to attack them because Eastwatch doesn’t have enough men, when suddenly a shout comes from the battle, saying that more men are coming from the forest, a whole host of men in steel armor. Cursing, Mance swings up on his horse, ordering Varamyr to take care of Dalla and to kill Jon if Jon decides to run. He then leads his men into battle.
Varamyr says he sees many golden banners and is about to continue when suddenly he throws back his head and screams. Jon sees the reason for the skinchanger’s screaming: up in the eastern sky, Varamyr’s eagle is burning, wreathed in flames.
Hearing the scream, Val comes out of the tent. She immediately asks for Mance; Jon tells her that Mance has joined the battle. Val then says that Mance can’t be gone now because Dalla’s delivery has just started. Jon tells Val to get back inside the tent and that he will stay there until Mance returns.
More and more men are pouring out of the trees, and Jon observes that there are not only knights, but freeriders, mounted bowmen and men-at-arms. He sees bands of wildlings attempting to stand and fight; the wildlings have the numbers, but the attackers wear steel armor and ride on heavy horses. He sees a wedge of knights smash into Mance’s band, killing Mance’s horse.
Within seconds, the wildlings break and start to flee. Jon has lost sight of Mance but sees someone waving Harma’s head on a pole and that Tormund’s line has broken. The tents in the wildling camp have caught fire. Through the smoke comes another wedge of armored riders on barded horses; they carry large banners. One of the banners is yellow, with long pointed tongues that show a flaming heart, while the other shows a black stag against a field of beaten gold.
Jon recognizes the banners with the black stag against gold -it is the sigil for House Baratheon. Jon’s first thought is that the late King Robert has somehow sent his men to the Wall, but when the trumpets blow again and the armored knights charged forward, they cry out Stannis’ name.
Arya and Sandor stop at an inn. Sandor tells Arya that he is going in for a drink and to learn who holds the ruby ford. Arya briefly thinks about staying with the horses and riding off with them but she changes her mind and enters the inn with Sandor.
In the inn, Arya is shocked to see two of Gregor Clegane’s men: Polliver and The Tickler. There is a boy with them, and from his young age and dress, Arya guesses that he is a squire. Polliver and the Tickler recognize Sandor immediately; Polliver asks whether Sandor is looking for his brother Gregor. The squire boy then starts mocking Sandor, saying that Gregor had mentioned Sandor fleeing King’s Landing when the Battle of the Blackwater got too hot. The boy finally shuts up only after the Tickler twists his ear.
Polliver shares some news with Sandor. He says that Gregor is no longer at Harrenhal, that he has been summoned to King’s Landing by Queen Cersei. He also tells Sandor that Joffrey is dead, with the killer thought to be Tyrion and his wife, Sansa Stark, although he also says that Sansa has fled King’s Landing, leaving Tyrion to take the blame. Arya is surprised to hear about her sister, but doesn’t believe that Sansa married Tyrion. Sandor asks whether Gregor did take Harrenhal and Polliver says that it had been an easy battle as one of the cooks opened a postern gate for them; Polliver also adds that Gregor is keeping Vargo Hoat alive for entertainment.
Sandor continues drinking deeply and changes the conversation to Sansa, saying that it is good that Sansa fled the capital after stirring up trouble for Tyrion. Sandor, knowing that Arya is listening to the entire conversation and that only he and Arya herself knew who she was, jokes that Sansa was a proper lady, not like her little sister. Polliver says that the Lannisters will find Sansa and that they’ve already found Arya, whom is to be wed to Lord Roose Bolton’s bastard. Sandor laughs aloud, knowing that Arya is right there in the inn with him. Polliver asks Sandor as to why he is laughing but Sandor ignores the question and asks one of his own instead: he asks Polliver whether there are any ship at Saltpans. Polliver says that he doesn’t know, as he has heard nothing about Saltpans.
The Tickler then leans forward and asks whether Sandor is indeed leaving without first bidding farewell to Gregor. And then he inserts a subtle warning by mentioning that Gregor would rather Sandor return to Harrenhal or King’s Landing instead. Sandor refuses.
The Tickler shrugs then launches a sneak attack by flinging a knife at Sandor. Sandor gets to his feet in time and the knife ends up buried in the wall. Polliver has drawn his sword and so has Sandor and the two of them begin to fight. Polliver is a good fighter and inflicts several wounds on Sandor as they trade cuts; Arya, seeing that Sandor’s cuts are less precise, realizes that the Hound is drunk. She also sees the Tickler sliding around the room to get behind Sandor. Once the Tickler is in position, he joins the fray and both he and Polliver start ruthlessly attacking Sandor.
Arya is about to help Sandor by throwing the heavy stone flagon on the table, but the young squire grabs a hold of her arm. Arya reacts by reaching for the squire’s knife tied around his belt and sheathing the blade into the boy’s belly. The boy is not wearing armor, so the knife goes right in. Arya then wrenches the Tickler’s knife from the wall.
Sandor has been driven into a corner of the room, behind a bench. He is breathing heavily and bleeding from his wounds. Polliver demands that Sandor throw down his sword and surrender so that they can bring him back to Harrenhal. Sandor tells them to come and get him if they want him. When Polliver attempts to close the distance, Sandor kicks the bench into Polliver’s shins. Polliver just keeps his feet but Sandor dodges his clumsy blow and kills Polliver with a vicious backhand cut.
The Tickler starts backing away in fear, but Arya backstabs him from behind with his own knife. She stabs the Tickler repeatedly until Sandor has to drag her off the man’s dead body. Sandor tells Arya to finish off the boy. Arya goes to Polliver’s body and grabbed the sheathed blade she had seen earlier; it is Needle, the sword given to her by her father, and which Polliver had taken from her when she had first been captured by Gregor’s men. Arya takes Needle and slips it into the boy’s heart, killing him.
Sandor, now exhausted and in pain from his wounds, says that since Polliver and Tickler were drinking at the inn, it must mean that Gregor holds the ruby ford as well. Knowing that, Sandor decides that they will head for the Saltpans instead of Riverrun. At the Saltpans, he says they can take hire a ship to take them to the Vale. He then tells Arya to grab some wine and whatever coins the dead men carried.
They then ride off but angled away from the kingsroad in order to avoid running into the men holding the ruby ford. When they make camp for the night, Sandor gets Arya to help him dress his wounds, using the wine they had taken from inn. Arya disinfects the wounds by pouring the wine over them; Sandor faints when she pours the wine on the raw red flesh where Polliver had cut off most of his ear. She then dresses up his wounds and goes to sleep.
In the morning, they continue their journey; Arya notices that Sandor is still weak and clumsy. Sandor stops riding long before noon, saying that he needs to rest. He falls off his horses and crawls weakly under a tree. Arya brings him some water and sniffs at his bandages; the wound on his thigh smells funny to her.
Arya then decides to draw Needle. She is relieved that Polliver has polished it and kept it sharp. Sandor sees her wielding Needle and asks her to kill him and tries to further provoke her into doing so. Arya says that he doesn’t deserve the gift of mercy and rides off with Craven.
Six days later, Arya arrives at Saltpans. Most of the town has been burned but the port is still there. Arya spots three boats in port; two are small riverboats, but the third boat is a bigger sea-trading galley. Looking at the sea-trading boat, Arya realizes that she needs silver in order to buy her passage; Sandor hadn’t given her any of the coins they had taken from Polliver, the Tickler and the squire boy. So she decides to sell Craven. She manages to find a trader willing to buy Craven, but the woman thinks that Arya has stolen the horse so she gives Arya a purse of silver for far less than what Craven is worth.
Arya then walks back to the port and speaks to the trading galley’s captain. She tells him that she wants to buy passage to the Wall, Eastwatch specifically. The captain counts her silver but Arya can see from the expression on his face that it is not enough. She offers to work for her passage but the captain tells her that he has recently seen a dozen pirate ships heading north and is not risking a trip to the Wall; he says they will be sailing for home.
Arya is at a loss where to go next, but decides to ask the captain the name of the ship. The captain tells her that his ship is called Titan’s Daughter, and that it comes from Braavos. Hearing the origins of the ship, Arya realizes that she has something that she can use to buy her passage. She digs out a coin from her smallclothes, the small iron coin that Jaqen H’ghar has given to her. The captain is surprised to see the coin, but when Arya says “valar morghulis”, the captain responds by saying “valar dohaeris” and tells her that she can have a cabin onboard the galley.
Sam, Jon and Val are looking as Gilly feed Mance’s baby with her own milk. The boy does not have a name yet, and neither does Gilly’s son, as the wildlings only name their children in their third year of life.
Sam is glad to see Jon smiling and reflects on his and Gilly’s journey since they left the Nightfort. From the Nightfort, they had walked to the other abandoned castles, first Deep Lake then Queensgate. A day and a half from Castle Black, they ran into Ser Denys Mallister and his men from the Shadow Tower, along with a wounded Bowen Marsh and Dolorous Edd. It was from them that he had learned about Stannis’ attack. Stannis landed his knights at Eastwatch, and the commander of Eastwatch, Cotter Pyke, led him and his knights through the ranger’s roads to catch the wildling unawares.
When the group finally reached Castle Black, Sam had been devastated to see the damage the battle with the wildings had inflicted on the castle and the surrounding buildings. Sam was however surprised to see so many men in the castle, the large majority of them Stannis’ soldiers. He knew all of the sigils the men wore, save one: a fiery heart. He soon learned that the soldiers who wore that were Queen’s men, except that the Queen in question wasn’t Stannis’ wife, but his sorceress, Melisandre of Asshai. He learned that Stannis had left his wife, daughter and fleet at Eastwatch, but he brought Melisandre of Asshai to Castle Black. He also learned that Stannis has a magic sword called Lightbringer.
Jon had greeted him warmly, proud that Sam has come back and that he managed to bring Gilly with him. But Sam soon learned that even though he captured the Horn of Winter, Ser Alliser Thorne still considers Jon a turncloak. Sam sees that Jon is still grieving for his wildling woman and for his Stark brothers.
Back in the present, Val tells Jon and Sam that she’s heard from the queen’s men that Melisandre intends to burn Mance as soon as he gets well. Jon says that Mance is Stannis’ captive now, and no one know what Stannis will do to Mance except for Melisandre. Val then says that she wants to see Mance, to show Mance his son, and she wants to do this before Melisandre kills Mance. Sam says that no one is permitted to see Mance except for Maester Aemon and Jon says that the best he can promise her is to ask about the possibility of her seeing Mance.
Jon and Sam then leave. As they walk, Jon turns to Sam and says that Sam appears to be in love with Gilly. Sam blushes and admits that he is. Jon replies by saying that Sam cannot keep Gilly as Sam has sworn his vows as a man of the Night’s Watch. Sam says that he is thinking of sending Gilly to his father’s castle, Horn Hill, and having her tell his family that her baby is Sam’s bastard child; he is sure that his mother will find some kind of service in the castle that Gilly can carry out while his father might be pleased to hear that Sam is actually man enough to father a bastard on some wildling girl. Jon says that Sam’s plan could work, but Gilly would have to be able to be consistent with her story and her answers to any questions Sam’s father might ask her.
Sam then asks whether Jon is going to practice yard to train. Jon says that there is nothing for him to do since Bowen Marsh removed him from duty for fear that he is still a turncloak. Sam tries to assure Jon that only Ser Alliser and his friends think Jon a turncloak and that everyone knows just what sort of man Ser Alliser is. Jon says that at least everyone knows that Ser Alliser is a trueborn knight, from a noble line, whereas he, Jon, is the bastard that killed Qhorin Halfhand and who happens to be a warg. Jon is amused, saying that he can’t be a warg since he doesn’t have a wolf now. He then admits that he no longer dreams of Ghost, that his dreams are full of Winterfell’s crypts, where he sometimes hears the voice of his dead father and half-brothers.
Hearing Jon say that, Sam keeps his silence, even though it tears at his heart to do so. He wants to tell Jon that Bran is still alive, that Bran is with his friends and that they are heading north on giant elk to find a three-eyed crow in the depths of the haunted forest. He wants to tell Jon – but he has already given his word to Bran, Jojen and Coldhands, that he not tell anyone about having seen Bran.
Sam tries to comfort Jon by saying that Lord Janos will never be chosen as the Lord Commander. Jon calls Sam a sweet fool and say that’s exactly what’s been happening for days; he then leaves for the practice yard. Sam reflects on the fact that no one had been interested to take up the post of Castle Black’s master-at-arms, so Jon had taken it on himself to train some of the new recruits. And sometimes he would just train alone, for hours on end.
Sam then starts thinking about the choosing of the Lord Commander. To become the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, a man needs two-thirds of his Sworn Brothers’ votes. However, after nine days of voting, no one has come close to that. Of the night before, only seven candidates remained. Ser Denys Mallister remains in the lead, with Cotter Pyke at a close second and Janos Slynt a distant third. However, Ser Denys and Cotter Pykes’ votes have been falling since the third day while the votes for Janos Slynt seems to be climbing a little higher each day.
Sam goes to the rookery to feed the ravens. He is happy when he hears them repeating the word he has been teaching them – “snow”. Sam reflects on the fact that of all the ravens Maester Aemon had sent out to the kings of Westeros, only Stannis had taken his duty as a king to heart.
During supper time, Sam tries to look for Jon but cannot find Jon anywhere; there is to be a another voting after supper. When supper is done, Maester Aemon asks if any of the men would like to speak before they all cast their votes. Bowen Marsh steps up and says that he is withdrawing his name from the choosing, saying that being Lord Commander is too challenging for him, then encourages the rest of the men to throw their support for the more experienced Lord Janos Slynt.
The time of voting comes, and the men of the Night’s Watch cast their votes by going behind a heavy drape, and throwing tokens into a big iron kettle; each candidate is represented by a different token, so if a man wants to vote for a particular candidate, he takes the token associated with that candidate and throws it into the kettle.
When the hall is finally empty, Maester Aemon, Sam and Clydas, another steward, start counting the tokens. The final result is that Ser Denys still leads the pack but has fallen to two hundred and three votes, while Cotter Pyke has fallen as well to one hundred and sixty nine. But Janos Slynt seems to have absorbed Bowen Marsh’s votes into his own, and now is just behind Cotter Pyke with one hundred and thirty seven votes. Maester Aemon says that no one is close to two-thirds needed to win.
Later that night, Pyp, Green and Sam are drinking together. Sam says that Cotter Pyke and Ser Denys might have lost ground, but between the two of them they almost have two-thirds of the votes; he goes on to say that someone should convince one of them to withdraw and support the other. Grenn says that it will be difficult as Cotter Pyke and Ser Denys do not like each other. Pyp then points out that he and Green are ill-suited for the task, then states that Sam is the best person to convince Ser Denys and Cotter Pyke since his father is a lord, he is Maester Aemon’s steward and he has killed an Other. Sam says that he could do it, if only he wasn’t so afraid to face both men.
Jon is training with Satin in the practice yard, but Satin suddenly takes a step backward, and when Jon looks around, he sees Melisandre. She tells him that Stannis wishes to speak with him and that they will wait for him atop the Wall. Jon goes to change into a fresh set of clothes and finds Melisandre waiting for him at the base of the Wall. They ride the cage to the top of the Wall, during which Jon notices that Melisandre is only dressed in her red robes. He asks her whether she feels no cold, and she laughs, saying that R’hllor’s fire burns within her; she touches his cheek and he feels how warm she is.
They find Stannis standing alone on top of the Wall. Stannis turns to study Jon and says he has heard a lot about him. Jon says he know what Stannis has heard: how Jon had slain Qhorin Halfhand so that the wildlings would spare his life, how he rode with Mance Rayder and even took a wildling wife. Stannis says that he has heard all that and even talk that Jon is a skinchanger who walks as a wolf at night; he then smiles as ask whether any of it true. Jon says that he did have a direwolf once, but left Ghost when he climbed the Wall near Greyguard and hasn’t seen the direwolf since. Jon also reveals that it was Qhorin Halfhand who had ordered Jon to join the wildlings, and Qhorin had known that the wildlings would have made Jon kill him. Jon then admits that he indeed broke his vows of chastity with Ygritte, but swears in his father’s name that he never betrayed his sworn brothers.
Stannis says that he believes Jon.
Jon is taken aback, as the answer wasn’t what he expected; he asks why Stannis believes him. Stannis states that he knows what sort of man Janos Slynt is, and that he knew Jon’s father, Eddard Stark, a man whose honor or honesty was beyond doubt.
He then says that he also knows that it had been Jon who found the dragonglass dagger than Samwell Tarly used to slay the Other; Jon says that it was Ghost who found the cache of dragonglass weapons.
Stannis then says that he knows Jon held the gate at Castle Black, otherwise he and his men would have arrived too late. Jon demurs, saying that it was Donal Noye who held the gate and killed the king of the giants. Stannis grimaces and reveals that Donal Noye made his sword for him and opines that Noye would have made a better Lord Commander than any of the current candidates. Jon objects, saying that Cotter Pyke and Ser Denys Mallister are good men who are capable of taking up the position.
Stannis steers the conversation back to Jon, saying that he has not forgotten that it was Jon who brought them the magic horn and captured Mance Rayder’s wife and son. Jon says that Dalla died during the birthing, and that Val and newborn baby did not require much capturing. He then mentions that the wildlings had been too busy fleeing to attack him and the skinchanger Varamyr who had been guarding him had gone mad after his eagle burned; he turns to Melisandre and says that he has heard the burning eagle had been her doing. Melisandre smiles and gives a cryptic reply, saying that R’hllor has fiery talons.
Jon turns back to Stannis and tells him of Val’s request to bring Mance his son before Mance is killed. Stannis calls Mance a deserter of the Night’s Watch and asks why he should do Mance a kindness. Jon has no answer, but says that if Stannis cannot do it for Mance, at least do it for Val, and Dalla’s memory.
Stannis then asks Jon whether there the wildlings have any honor in them. Jon says that the wildlings can be honorable, but in their own way. Stannis asks Jon about some of the wildlings, to find out whether Jon thinks them honorable. Jon says that Mance and Tormund are honorable, in their own way, but he does not think the same about Rattleshirt.
Stannis nods and reveals what he truly intends to tell Jon: that the war with the Others and the one plaguing the realm might be Jon’s war as well, and that he needs Jon’s help. Jon is wary about Stannis’ intention, and says that he has pledged his sword to the Night’s Watch. Stannis says that he needs more from Jon than a sword – he tells Jon that he needs a loyal Lord of Winterfell, one who can unite the north and win over the northmen to his own banner.
Jon realizes that Stannis is offering to make him the Lord of Winterfell. He states that he is a bastard, not a Stark trueborn. Melisandre tells Jon that a king has the power to legitimize a bastard. Jon is hesitant, saying that while that may be true, he has already sworn himself to the Night’s Watch, before a heart tree, and that means he can hold no lands and father no children. Melisandre replies by saying that R’hllor is the only one true god and that swearing vows before a heart tree has no more power than swearing vows to Jon’s own shoes. She tells him to take R’hllor as his god, burn the weirwood trees and accept Winterfell as a gift from R’hllor.
Stannis then tells Jon that he intends to let the wildlings pass through the Wall, as long as they swore fealty to him, pledge to keep the king’s peace and the king’s laws and take R’hllor as their god. He says he intends to settle them on the Gift after he has wrested it from the hands of the new Lord Commander. Stannis then adds that they need to form an alliance with the wildlings in order to face their common foe, the Others. He then reveals that he intends to seal the alliance with the wildlings by marrying the new Lord of Winterfell to Val, the wildling princess.
Jon laughs, saying that Val will not simply be given away as Stannis proposes. Stannis replies by saying that marrying Val will be the price that Jon has to pay if Jon wants the Stark name and Winterfell. He then asks whether Jon is refusing his offer to make him the new Lord of Winterfell.
Jon is still too confused to make a decision, so he tells Stannis that he needs some time to consider the offer. Stannis warns him to think quickly, because he is not a patient man. He also warns Jon not to tell anyone about the offer he has made Jon. He ends by saying that all Jon needs to do is return to him, bend the knee and pledge service to him, and Jon will then be able to rise as Jon Stark, the Lord of Winterfell.
Tyrion is in his black cell, waiting for his death sentence to be carried out. He hears noises through the door of his cell and wonders whether he will simply be executed in his cell. Keys rattle and the door to his cell is pushed open, to reveal a man with a torch in his hand – it is his brother, Jaime.
Jaime shows Tyrion the stump where his right hand had been and Tyrion starts laughing, the hilarity ensuing from the fact that both he and his brother are now disfigured in some way – while Jaime has lost his hand, Tyrion has lost most of his nose.
Tyrion then asks whether Jaime is there to kill him. Jaime says he is there to rescue Tyrion. When Tyrion asks whether it is day or night up in the city, Jaime says that it is three hours past midnight.
As they walk along the corridor, Tyrion nearly stumbles on the guard lying on the stone floor. He turns to Jaime and asks whether the man is dead. Jaime says that all of the guards he had to get through to get at Tyrion’s cells are asleep, courtesy of Lord Varys dosing the guards’ wine with a sleeping drug. He then says that Varys is waiting for Tyrion at the back of the stairs, dressed up in a septon’s robe; Tyrion will then go down into the sewers and from there, to the river, where a galley waits in the bay. Jaime tells Tyrion that Varys has agents in the Free Cities who will see to Tyrion’s funds, but also mentions that Cersei will certainly send men to kill Tyrion.
Jaime then bends down and kisses Tyrion on the cheek. Tyrion thanks Jaime for rescuing him to which Jaime replies that he did so because he owed Tyrion a debt. Tyrion is curious about the debt and tells Jaime to elaborate. Jaime is hesitant to do so but finally caves in when Tyrion insists. Jaime reveals that Tyrion’s first wife, Tysha, was not a whore as he had told Tyrion, that he never bought her. Jaime says that it was actually their father who had forced him to say that Tysha had been a whore; in reality, she was a crofter’s daughter that Jaime happened to meet on the road. Jaime confesses that he did what he had been told to do by their father, that Tywin had claimed that Tyrion needed a sharp lesson, and that Tyrion would thank Jaime for it later. Tyrion is furious at learning the truth, pointing out to Jaime that their father gave Tysha to the Lannister guards, who had then raped her while Tyrion watched. Jaime says that he never knew Tywin would do that.
Tyrion slaps Jaime in anger, but Jaime only feels remorse for having kept the truth from Tyrion for so long. Tyrion then says that he is no longer going to follow Jaime; he asks for the keys and says that he will find Varys on his own. Jaime hands over the keys; he then says that he has already told Tyrion the truth, and that now Tyrion owes him the same. He then asks the question: had Tyrion killed Joffrey.
Tyrion says that Joffrey would have been a worse king than Aerys and mentions that Joffrey even stole Robert’s dagger and gave it to the assassin to kill Bran Stark. Jaime says he had suspected that Joffrey had been the one who hired the assassin. He reminds Tyrion that his question has yet to be answered. Exasperated, Tyrion says that Cersei has been sleeping with Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and that he had indeed killed Joffrey, Jaime’s son.
Jaime turns without a word and walks away. Tyrion immediately feels like calling out to his brother, to tell Jaime that what he had said wasn’t true, but then he remembers what Jaime said about Tysha and continues walking on.
Tyrion finds Varys waiting for him near a flight of stairs. Varys leads him down the stairs, to the fourth level of the dungeons, then through an arched doorway into a small round chamber with five other doors. Tyrion notices that there are rungs on one side of the wall that leads upwards, through an opening in the ceiling. Tyrion realizes that they are below the Tower of the Hand; Varys confirms that he is right. Tyrion looks up the ladder and tells Varys that he has business to settle. He asks Varys for directions to his previous bedchamber, which now belonged to his father. Varys reluctantly tells him and tries to get Tyrion to change his mind, but Tyrion insists that he is going up and tells Varys to wait for him.
During his climb up the shaft, he hears two of his father’s guards chatting about his execution; Tyrion realizes that Varys uses the shaft to spy on others. He follows Varys instructions and soon finds himself coming out from the hearth of what had once been his bedchambers when he had been Hand. He hears a female voice calling out, and it one that he recognizes; he pulls the draperies and finds Shae on the bed. She is naked, with his father’s golden chain of linked hands, the Hand’s chain, about her throat. Shae is fearful of Tyrion and tells him that Tywin would be back soon. Tyrion proceeds to strangle her with his father’s golden chain. After she is dead, he grabs a crossbow from the wall.
Tyrion then walks to the privy tower, where, as he had expected, he finds his father. Tywin is surprised to see that Tyrion has escaped but is unconcerned with the fact that Tyrion is holding a loaded crossbow. He then tells Tyrion that the escape from his black cell is foolish; he says that Tyrion will not be executed, that Tyrion will be sent to the Wall instead as per his original offer. Tyrion then says that he has only one question to ask Tywin, after which he will be on his way. His question: what did Tywin do with Tysha. Tywin doesn’t seem to recognize the name so Tyrion reminds his father that Tysha had been his first wife. Tywin then recalls who Tysha is, saying that she was Tyrion’s first whore. Tyrion warns Tywin that if he says the word “whore” again, Tyrion will shoot him with the crossbow. He asks his father whether he had Tysha killed but Tywin says that there was no reason for that – he says that the steward probably sent the girl on her way. When Tyrion asks for the whereabouts of the place the steward had send Tysha, Tywin claims he does not know and says that the girl probably went wherever whores go. Tyrion keeps to his word and shoots Tywin with the crossbow. Tywin is shocked that Tyrion actually shot him. Tywin quickly dies and at the moment of his death, his bowels loosen, filling the privy with a stink that proves that Tywin Lannister did not shit gold.
Stannis has summoned all the candidates still in the running for the Lord Commander’s seat. Melisandre is by Stannis’ side while the non-candidates from the Night’s Watch side are Maester Aemon and Sam, and Bowen Marsh, who sits as Lord Steward of the Night’s Watch after withdrawing his name from the choosing.
Janos Slynt attempts to curry favor by fawning all over Stannis, but Stannis rebuffs Janos’ effort. Stannis then tells the men gathered in the room that he is displeased over how long it is taking for the Night’s Watch to elect their new Lord Commander. Janos tries to win over Stannis again by saying that perhaps the Night’s Watch could use some guidance from King Stannis in regards to who to elect for their new Lord Commander. The other men are outraged by Janos’ words and Maester Aemon says that the Night’s Watch has always chosen their own leaders, ever since the Wall was built. Stannis says that he doesn’t wish to tamper with the brothers’ rights and traditions. He also berates Janos’ attempt to gain favor with him, saying that Janos might be the first commander of the City Watch to sell promotions to his men. Janos is furious, claiming that all the stories about him are lies. Maester Aemon then states that the past crimes and transgressions of any men who join the Night’s Watch are wiped clean when he swears his vows. Stannis says that he is well aware of that, that it doesn’t matter which man becomes Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, as long as they make the choice soon, because they all have a war to fight.
When Ser Denys Mallister asks whether Stannis is referring to the war with the wildlings, Stannis says he is not; he is referring to the war with the Others and the wights. Ser Denys says that although they are thankful that he came to their aid against Mance Rayder and his wildling host, the Night’s Watch can take no part in helping Stannis gain the Iron Throne. Stannis states that he wouldn’t ask the Night’s Watch to help him claim his throne; he expects them to continue defending the Wall.
Stannis then states that he requires certain things from the Night’s Watch in exchange for his alliance with them – he wants to claim the Gift and all the abandoned castles on the Wall. He tells them that he intends to have all of the abandoned castles garrisoned again within the year, with nightfires burning before their gates. Melisandre then speaks up, saying that the war Stannis has come to fight is not a war for land or honors but for life itself, and that if they fail, the world will die with them. The men do not know what to make of Melisandre’s words, but Maester Aemon speaks up, seemingly aware what Melisandre speaks of: he asks her where is the prince that is promised. Melisandre declares that the prince in the prophecy is none other than Stannis. Sam notices that Melisandre’s words seem to make Stannis uncomfortable. Stannis then dismisses all of them except for Sam and Maester Aemon.
When only Stannis, Melisandre, Aemon and Sam remain, Stannis states that he knows that Sam is the one who killed an Other, and that Sam had done so with an obsidian dagger. Sam confirms that he had slain the Other using the obsidian dagger given to him by Jon. Stannis then mentions that large amounts of obsidian can be found in the old tunnels beneath the mountains of Dragonstone; he says that he has sent word to his castellan at Dragonstone to begin mining as much of the obsidian as he can before the Lannisters seize Dragonstone. Sam reveals that the obsidian dagger shattered when he used it to stab a wight. Melisandre smiles and says that steel and fire are enough to destroy the wights.
When Stannis says that he has heard about Sam and Gilly passing beneath the Wall through a magic gate, Sam reveals that the gate in question was the Black Gate and that it lay below the Nightfort. Stannis reveals that he will be taking the Nightfort as his seat while he fights the war against the Others, and that he will get Sam to show him the way to the Black Gate when the time comes.
Maester Aemon smiles and asks whether he could see Stannis’ magical sword. Stannis is surprised that Aemon wishes to see the sword since the maester is blind, but he agrees to the request and unsheathes Lightbringer. Maester Aemon asks Sam to describe the sword and Sam does so, stating that the sword glows as if it were on fire but there are no flames, yet somehow the steel is yellow and red and orange and flashes and glimmers like sunshine. Aemon thanks Stannis for showing him the sword whereupon Stannis sheathes it and dismisses them, with the warning that they must choose a Lord Commander by that night, otherwise he would make them wish they had.
As Sam is helping to walk Aemon back to the maester’s chambers, Aemon says that he felt no heat from the sword and when he asks Sam whether Stannis’ wood and leather scabbard had been burned and scorched, Sam admits that it had not.
When they each Aemon’s chambers, Sam asks whether there is any way that Aemon can stop Janos from being elected as the Lord Commander. Aemon says that he is a maester, that his duty is to counsel the Lord Commander and that it would not be proper for him to be seen to favor one candidate over another. Hearing this, Sam realizes that even though Maester Aemon couldn’t be seen to show preference for one candidate over another, Sam himself was no maester, so unlike Aemon, he could do something to stop Janos.
Sam first goes to Cotter Pyke. He tells Pyke that he had just come from Maester Aemon’s chambers so that it would seem that Aemon himself was sending a message to Pyke.
He then begins pleading with Pyke to withdraw his name so that the votes to Pyke can go to Ser Denys Mallister and thus give Mallister the two-thirds majority needed to be elected the Lord Commander. Pyke cuts him off, flat-out refusing to stand aside in order to support Mallister. Pyke says that Mallister might be a lordling and a knight, but he is too old and not a fighter, which is what Pyke says the Wall needs at the moment, what with Stannis Baratheon on top of the Night’s Watch. Pyke says he doesn’t want to be Lord Commander and never did, but he refuses to hand over the Night’s Watch to Mallister. Pyke also says that the other candidates are not suitable for the task as well. Defeated, Sam leaves.
He next goes to Ser Denys Mallister, who treats him more kindly than Pyke. The old knight mentions that Sam must have surely come from Maester Aemon’s chambers then asks whether Aemon has any counsel to offer him. Sam plays the same strategy as he had with Pyke, saying that it would not be proper for a maester to be seen influencing the choice of Lord Commander to which Ser Denys smiles and says that that it is the reason why Aemon has not visited him but sends Sam instead. He then tells Sam to say what he has come to say.
After listening to Sam’s plea, however, Ser Denys shakes his head and says that he cannot stand aside to support Cotter Pyke; he says that Pyke should be the one who withdraws instead, since he has less votes. Sam then says what Cotter Pyke had mentioned earlier, that Pyke has proven himself in battle many times. Ser Denys agrees that it is true, but other men of the Night’s Watch have proven themselves in battle as well. He says that a Lord Commander is a lord first and foremost and must be able to treat with other lords, and with kings as well – and that Cotter Pyke is not that sort of man.
Sam is ready this time, and asks whether Ser Denys might support someone else if that someone is more suitable for the task.
Ser Denys says that he has never desired the honor of being Lord Commander for its own sake, that he has always stepped aside gratefully in the past when others were more capable and worthy. He opines however, that the other candidates in the choosing are not equal to the task of being Lord Commander.
Sam then throws out his idea then and there, saying that there is another man who might be well-suited to the task, a man whom Lord Commander trusted, as did Donal Noye and Qhorin Halfhand. A man who might not be as highly born as Ser Denys himself, but who comes from old blood. A man who was castle-bon and castle-raised, learned sword and lance from a knight and letters from a master of the Citadel. A man whose father was a lord and whose brother was a king.
Ser Denys realizes that Sam is talking about Jon Snow and says that Jon might make a good candidate for Lord Commander despite his young age. He does say however, that he himself would be the wiser choice.
Sam then tells a lie, justifying doing so because it is for the right reason. He tells Ser Denys that earlier in the morning, after all of them had left, Stannis had mentioned to Maester Aemon that if a Lord Commander is not chosen later that night, he will name Cotter Pyke as Lord Commander.
Ser Denys says that he has to think about this and thanks Sam, telling him to give his thanks to Maester Aemon as well.
Sam then returns to Cotter Pyke and employs the same strategy. He starts off by first saying that Pyke does not want to withdraw for Ser Denys Mallister, but there is someone else that he might considering withdrawing for. He then says that the person in question is a fighter, that Donal Noye gave this man the Wall when the wildlings came and that he had been Mormont’s squire, and that he is a bastard. Cotter Pyke knows Sam is talking about Jon Snow and he laughs, saying that Jon might not be a bad choice and that it was worth it just to see Ser Denys Mallister getting flustered that a bastard had risen to Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Cotter Pyke says the himself would be better choice though.
Sam lies again, revealing that earlier in the morning, after all of them had left, Stannis had mentioned to Maester Aemon that if a Lord Commander is not chosen later that night, he will name Ser Denys Mallister as Lord Commander.
Jon is training with Iron Emmett, a young ranger who is one of Eastwatch’s best swordsman. Having not had much sleep the night before, Jon is getting a beating from Iron Emmett. When Emmet lands a staggering blow against Jon’s helm, Jon’s memory flashes back to when he and Robb had been young boys in Winterfell; every morning they had trained together, shouting out the names of famous knights that they wanted to be. He remembers one particular morning, where he had called out proclaiming himself the Lord of Winterfell, as he had a hundred times before, but Robb had replied by saying that that he cannot be the Lord of Winterfell because he is bastard born and because Catelyn Stark had said so. The memory drives Jon to anger and he proceeds to give Iron Emmett a thrashing.
Frustrated, Jon leaves the practice yard, and heads to the bathhouse where he loses himself in his thoughts. He is still undecided over whether to accept Stannis’ offer. While bathing, he overhears the conversation between Ser Alliser Thorne, Bowen Marsh and Othell Yarwyck. Ser Alliser and Bowen Marsh are trying to convince Othell to pull out from the choosing to be Lord Commander in order to support Janos Slynt. Othell expresses his doubts on doing so, saying that he does not know Janos well and that Lord Stannis doesn’t seem to like Janos. Ser Alliser says that Lord Tywin will win the war of the kings in the end and Bowen Marsh shows Othell the letter from Tywin that subtly points out that Tywin favors Lord Janos Slynt as the next Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
Jon leaves the bathhouse and, without having a destination in mind, starts walking, eventually going through the tunnel of the inner gate and ends up on the outer side of the Wall. As the afternoon passes into evening, Jon considers his choice. He thinks it likely that Alliser and Bowen Marsh will convince Othell to support Janos Slynt, which will give Slynt two-thirds of the votes and make him Lord Commander; when Janos come into power, he will have Jon hanged for a turncloak. The other option would be to let Stannis legitimize him, marry Val and become the Lord of Winterfell. It seemed an easy choice to make and Jon realizes that he has always hungered and is still hungering for Winterfell. The more he thinks about it, the hungrier he gets, until he starts thinking about chasing deer and elks and filing his belly with fresh meat. It takes Jon a while to understand what is happening but he finally realizes that the thoughts of hunting animals and feeding on them had entered his mind because his direwolf, Ghost, is nearby. He calls out to Ghost and the white direwolf soon comes bounding towards him. Jon is happy to see Ghost again, and as he hugs Ghost, he realizes that the direwolf’s red eyes, red mouth and white fur are akin to the face and body of a weirwood tree and that Ghost must belong to the old gods of the North. He also remembers that out of the six direwolf pups that had been found, Ghost alone was white; the other five pups were meant for the five Stark children, and the white one had been meant for him, the bastard Snow. Jon realizes then that Winterfell is not for him.
He sees Melisandre emerging from the tunnel, with Stannis beside her, to lead the prayers around the nightfire. He leads Ghost around the nightfire to avoid being seen. When Jon is inside, her sees Val standing in her tower window and says inwardly that he won’t be the man to steal Val out of there. When Jon enters the common hall, he is greeted by the sight of chaos. Most of his sworn brothers are standing and shouting. No one is eating because there is no food being served. Janos is shouting about turncloaks and treason, Iron Emmet is standing on top of a table with a naked sword in his fist and a brother from the Eastwatch was trying to restore order but failing miserably.
Pyp whistles to get the men’s attention. As Jon walks towards the tables, a hush falls across the hall. Janos Slynt gasps and calls Jon a warg and says that Jon is not fit to lead them. Confused, Jon asks what has happened. Maester Aemon speaks up from the other end of the hall, telling Jon that his name has been put forth as a candidate for the Lord Commander’s seat. Dolorous Edd admits that he was the one who put forth Jon’s name.
Janos protests, saying that Jon should be hanged for being a warg and for joining Mance Rayder’s wildling host. Cotter Pyke and Ser Denys Mallister both state that Jon’s name was properly put forth as per the Watch’s traditions and rules. The men start talking and shouting again until Ser Alliser Thorne jumps up on the table to tell them Stannis has posted his men at all of the hall’s doors to ensure that the men of the Night’s Watch do not eat or leave until a Lord Commander has been selected. He urges them to vote, and to vote again if needed to, until they have a new Lord Commander. Alliser then calls upon Othell Yarwyck to say something to the men.
Othell gets up and announces that he is withdrawing his name. He then admits that he had thought about asking all those who had voted for him to vote for Janos Slynt instead. Othell then goes on to say that standing up in front of all of them has made him realize that Janos Slynt might not be a good choice since Stannis did not like Janos. He admits that Jon might make for a better choice since Jon has been on the wall longer than Janos has, and Jon Stark is Benjen Stark’s nephew and had once been Lord Commander Mormont’s personal steward.
Janos Slynt is furious at Othell’s words and Ser Alliser has gone pale. The men are soon crying out for the kettle to be brought to the center of the room so that they can throw their votes into it. Sam and Clydas drag the kettle to the table. When Clydas takes the lid off, a huge raven bursts out of the kettle. Sam shouts that he recognizes the bird – it is Lord Commander Jeor Mormont’s raven. The raven lands on the table nearest to Jon and repeats the word “Snow” several times, making it seems as if it is calling for the men to vote for Jon Snow; it then flies to Jon’s shoulder. Ser Alliser laughs mockingly, saying that Sam is playing a trick on them all; he says that Sam has taught all the ravens in the rookery to say “snow”. Alliser says that Mormont’s bird knew more words than just “snow”.
Right after Ser Alliser says that, the raven cocks its head and looks at Jon, then says the word “corn”, a question to see whether Jon had any corn to give it. When Jon gave no answer nor corn, the raven repeats the word “kettle” several times.
Seeing that the raven indeed knows more than just one word, which proves that it is indeed Mormont’s raven, the overwhelming majority of the men vote for Jon Snow. When Jon is announced as the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, his close friends and many of the men come to congratulate him. Even Bowen Marsh comes up to him, saying that he would be glad to continue as Lord Steward if Jon so wishes. Cotter Pyke and Ser Denys Mallister are more reserved but both express their hope that Jon will do a good job leading the Night’s Watch.
Jon walks across the castle, with Ghost at his heels and Pyp, Green and Sam following as well. Pyp and Grenn are amazed that Sam orchestrated the whole thing to ensure that the Lord Commander’s seat goes to Jon and not Janos Slynt, but they wonder when Sam had hidden the raven in the kettle and how could Sam have been sure that the raven would have flown to Jon rather than Janos. Sam insists that he had nothing to do with Mormont’s raven.
Jon laughs and calls them fools. He then takes a swallow of wine, knowing that he can only drink that much, because the Wall is his and he now has to face Stannis.
Sansa is dreaming about her childhood in Winterfell when she suddenly wakes up, and realizes that she is not in Winterfell but in her bedchamber in the Eyrie.
She had dreamed of home, and the Eyrie is not that; there was no place to go, and little to do. Aside from her maid, Sansa’s only companion is the sickly Lord Robert Arryn, a boy eight years of age. Lysa’s singer, Marillion, is at the Eyrie as well, and makes Sansa uncomfortable with his inappropriate remarks. Petyr, on the other hand, is rarely at the Eyrie – he spends most of this time meeting with the lords of the Vale, trying to assert his authority as Lord Protector of the Vale over them. Many of House Arryn’s bannermen resent Lysa’s marriage to Petyr – the Vale is not as idyllic as Lady Lysa had made it out to be.
Sansa realizes that she will not be able to go back to sleep so she gets dressed and walks out into the Eyrie’s garden. The garden is covered with snow and dawn is about to come. Sansa starts shaping the snow on the ground, and before she realizes it, she is building a snow castle, and the castle is Winterfell.
When dawn comes, Sansa is still building Winterfell. She is having trouble keeping the bridges from collapsing, but Petyr appears and tells her to pack the snow around a stick. Petyr then joins Sansa in the snow, helping her with the trickier parts of the snow castle. However, after making progress with the snow castle, Petyr pulls Sansa into her arms and kisses her. Sansa yields to the kiss for a moment but then turns her face away and wrenches free. When Sansa asks Petyr his reason for kissing her, he tells her that he is kissing a snow maid and that she is beautiful. When Sansa points out to Petyr that he should be kissing his wife, Petyr says that he has been kissing Lysa and given her no cause for complaint.
As Sansa protests over Petyr’s words, little Lord Robert Arryn enters the garden. The boy is carrying the cloth doll that he carries everywhere. Robert sees the castle and decides that his doll is to be a giant, and proceeds to swing the doll by the legs, knocking the top off one gatehouse tower after another. Sansa tries to stop Robert by grabbing his hand, but she catches the doll instead and the force rips the doll’s head from its body. The boy begins to wail but this soon develops into violent shakes; Petyr rushes to the boy’s aid and calls for Maester Coleman, the Eyrie’s maester. When Maester Coleman finally arrives, he has the guards lead Robert to his chambers in order to be leeched.
Sansa returns to her bedchambers and considers the consequences of her actions. She has no doubts that her aunt Lysa will soon summon her in order to answer for Lord Robert’s fit. Sansa actually hopes that her aunt will banish her, for the Gates of the Moon far below in the valley seemed a more exciting place than the Eyrie. She decides that she will tell her aunt that she had no wish to marry little Lord Robert. She knows that Lysa will banish her for that, but Sansa doesn’t think that a bad thing as she would be getting away from little Lord Robert’s pouts and shaking sickness, from Marillion’s lingering looks and from Petyr’s kisses.
Later that afternoon, Marillion comes to escort Sansa to the High Hall, where her aunt Lysa waits for her. Upon reaching the carved wooden doors of the High Hall, Marillion tells the guards that no one is to be allowed entry as long as Alayne is with Lady Sansa (Marillion only knows Sansa as Alayne, a bastard girl). Marillion then leads Sansa into the High Hall, bars the door shut from the inside, and waits at the foot of the hall, telling Sansa that Lady Lysa is waiting for her at the back of the hall.
Sansa walks all the way to the back of the hall where she finds her aunt Lysa sitting in the high seat. Lysa says that she knows what Sansa has done. Sansa begins apologizing for ripping the head off little Lord Robert’s doll but Lysa stops Sansa from speaking any further and tells Sansa that she is speaking of Sansa kissing Petyr, not Robert’s doll.
Sansa says that it was Petyr who had kissed her to which Lysa expresses her disbelief and demands that Sansa confess that she threw herself at Petyr. Sansa refuses to confess to the falsehood and insists it was Petyr who had kissed her. Lysa gets increasingly angry and says that many others have tried to take Petyr from her, including her father, Jon Arryn, and most of all, Sansa’s mother. Lysa goes on to elaborate, saying that when she and Catelyn had been girls in Riverrun, Catelyn had toyed with Petyr’s feelings, that she had enticed Petyr with her looks and glances but, during a night of dance and song, had pushed him away when he had tried to kiss her. Petyr had been so hurt that he gotten himself drunk and Ser Brynden had to carry him up to his bed. Lysa had then sneaked into Petyr’s bed to provide some comfort to him in the form of lovemaking. Petyr had taken Lysa’s maidenhead but had erroneously called her by Catelyn’s name before he fell back to sleep; despite that, Lysa had stayed with Petyr in his bed until dawn.
Sansa, starting to feel fear in the face of her aunt’s tirade, begs for Lysa’s leave to go, but Lysa denies it.
Lysa then goes on to tell about how her father, Lord Hoster, sent Petyr away once it was revealed that she was pregnant with Petyr’s child. Lord Hoster had forced Lysa to drink a concoction that killed the baby before it could be born. Her father then had her wedded to Jon Arryn, telling her that she was lucky Jon still wanted her as a wife despite Petyr taking her maidenhood, but Lysa says that she knew Jon Arryn only wanted to marry her in order to win her father’s men for Robert’s Rebellion. Lysa then states that she will never let Sansa steal Petyr.
Sansa, having grown increasingly fearful of her aunt’s wrath, decides to say what her aunt wants to hear: that she won’t kiss Petyr again.
Lysa seizes upon Sansa’s words as her admittance that she had indeed enticed Petyr. She grabs Sansa’s arm, calls out to Marillion to play a song titled ‘The False and the Fair’, and proceeds to lead Sansa to the Moon Door, a white weirwood door halfway down the hall, barred firmly close with three heavy bronze bars. Lysa forces Sansa to open the door and Sansa obeys, hoping that her aunt will let her go if she does as ordered.
When Sansa has yanked all three bars loose, the Moon Door flies open and Sansa sees that beyond the door is nothing but white sky and falling snow.
Lysa pushes Sansa forcefully towards the door, mocking her by asking whether Sansa still wants her leave to go. Lysa pushes Sansa so far to the edge until one of Sansa’s feet slipped out over the void. Desperate, Sansa grabs a hold of her aunt’s hair and both women end up teetering on the edge. Sansa can hear the guards pounding on the door with their spears.
Petyr appears suddenly, having come in through the lord’s entrance located behind the high seat. He demands to know what Lysa is doing, which causes Lysa to turn around and loosen her grip on Sansa. Lysa says that she was going to marry Sansa to her son but that Sansa has now proven that she has no gratitude for the marriage to Little Robert. She then says that Petyr cannot love Sansa because Sansa does not love Petyr the way that she does. Lysa goes on to say that she has always loved Petyr.
Petyr takes another step towards Lysa, telling her that he is there for her and that there is no cause for tears. Lysa states that Petyr had not said the same thing in King’s Landing; he had her put the Tears of Lys, a lethal poison that leaves no trace, in Jon’s wine. She had done it for her son’s sake, and for both Petyr and her’s. And she had written to Catelyn to tell her sister that the Lannisters had killed her husband Jon, just as Petyr had asked. Lysa gets more and more hysterical and keeps on asking why Petyr kissed Sansa.
Petyr sighs and tells Lysa that she has to trust him a little more. He then swears that he will never leave her side again. Petyr then pleads with her to unhand Sansa so that both he and Lysa can share a kiss. Lysa does so happily. Petyr hugs her and then kisses her gently, saying that he has only ever loved one woman. Lysa smiles and think Petyr is talking about her – until he says that the woman in question is Catelyn. Petyr then pushes Lysa out of the Moon Door. Marillion is in shock at what Petyr has done but Petyr merely responds by telling Sansa to let the guards in so that they can report that it was Marillion who killed Lysa.
Merrett Frey is riding for Oldstones; he has been charged by Lord Walder Frey to pay the ransom for Petyr Pimple, who has been captured by outlaws after wandering off with a camp follower. The message from the outlaws stated that they would wait in the ruined castle atop Oldstones and release Petyr Pimple once they receive the ransom amount of one hundred gold pieces. Lord Walder’s disdain for Merrett, his ninth son, is such that Merrett had to beg his father to entrust him with the task of paying Petyr’s ransom. Merrett had once been a squire and was supposed to go on to become a knight, but a vicious blow by a mace to his helm had injured him so badly that he had been forced to give up his dreams of knighthood; he had been sent back to the Twins, thus earning Lord Walder’s disdain.
When Lord Bolton married his daughter, Fat Walda, Merrett had hoped that his luck would finally change, since the Bolton alliance is important to House Frey. However, Lord Walder had disabused him of this notion, saying that Lord Roose Bolton had picked Merrett’s Fat Walda not because she is Merrett’s daughter but because she was fat – Lord Walder had promised Roose Bolton his bride’s weight in silver as a dowry.
Merrett had been handed the opportunity to distinguish himself during the Red Wedding but he had failed in his given task: to get Greatjon Umber drunk. With his reputation as the biggest drinker in the Twins, Merrett had thought that it would be an easy task. However, the Greatjon Umber had drunk enough wine to kill any three normal men and still managed to leave two men wounded, one dead and one who lost half his ear to the Greatjon Umber’s teeth.
The reason Merrett volunteered to be the one to deliver Petyr’s ransom to the outlaws is because he wishes to curry favor with Ser Ryman Frey. With Ser Stevron Frey having been killed while campaigning for the late Robb Stark, Ser Ryman now stands to inherit the Twins after Lord Walder’s death. Petyr Pimple is Ser Ryman Frey’s youngest son, so by bringing Petyr back, Merrett hopes that Ser Ryman will see him as a loyal man worth having about when he inherits the Twins.
Merrett arrives at the ruined castle at the appointed time. He spots the singer, Tom Sevenstrings, sitting above a stone sepulcher. Suddenly, the rest of the outlaws step out from the bushes and surround Merrett; he spots at least a dozen men, and there is a woman as well, wearing a hooded cloak three times her size. Lem, a big man wearing a yellow lemon-colored cloak, asks Merrett whether he has brought the ransom; Merrett tells him that the gold is in his saddlebag. One of the outlaws, a one-eyed man, opens the saddlebag, bites into the coin and tells the other outlaws that the gold is real.
Merrett then asks which of the outlaws is Beric Dondarrion; he hopes to speak to Dondarrion, knowing that Dondarrion had been a lord before becoming an outlaw and thus Merrett hopes that Beric is a man of honor. Tom Sevenstrings says that Lord Beric is not with them as he was needed elsewhere. Merrett then asks the outlaws to hand over Petyr to him. Lem tells Merrett that Petyr is in the godswood and offers to take Merrett there. Merrett reluctantly goes along, walking in silence.
When they reach the godswood, Merrett sees Petyr Pimple’s body hanging from the limb of an oak. His first thought is that he had come too late, but he realizes that he had indeed arrived at the appointed time. And then he realizes something else – that the outlaws had just decided to kill Petyr anyway. Before he can think to act, the outlaws have already bound his arms behind his back and tied a rope around his neck.
Realizing that they are about to hang him, Merrett tries to play on their greed by telling them that Lord Walder Frey will pay for his ransom and that he is worth more in ransom than Petyr Pimple. Tom Sevenstrings says that Lord Walder Frey won’t be fooled twice and will next send a hundred men after them instead of a hundred gold coins. Tom then offers Merrett a way out: he says that if Merrett answers a question, he’ll tell the outlaws to let Merrett go. Desperate to save his life, Merrett agrees.
Tom then asks Merrett whether he saw Sandor Clegane at the Red Wedding; the outlaws have been looking for him and they have learned that Sandor had made his way towards the Twins, with a skinny girl of about ten years of age in tow. Merrett gives an honest answer, saying that he did not see Sandor during the wedding. Tom does not release him and Merrett starts to protest, claiming that Tom had promised to let him go after he answered Tom’s question. Tom says that his actual words were that he would tell the other outlaws to let him go, which he then does, but Lem does not comply, to which Tom shrugs indifferently and proceeds to play a song on his woodharp.
Merrett is growing increasingly desperate and tells them that he has children. The one-eyed outlaw says that Robb Stark will never have children. Merrett then realizes that the outlaws are hanging him due to his participation in the Red Wedding; he shouts out that the Red Wedding was not murder, but vengeance, something House Frey had a right to since Robb dishonored them. Merrett then goes on to state that all he did during the Red Wedding was drink. He then brings Lord Beric into the picture by saying that he’s heard that Lord Beric is a just man and wouldn’t kill a man unless something’s been proven against him; Merrett says that the outlaws have no proof against him, that they have no witnesses.
Tom says that they do indeed have a witness and turns to the hooded woman, the one that Merrett had seen earlier. The woman lowers her hood, and to Merrett’s horror, he sees that the woman in the hooded cloak is none other than Catelyn Stark. He wonders how Catelyn Stark can be alive, since Ser Raymund Frey had slit her throat and they had then thrown her dead body into the river. The Catelyn Stark standing amongst the outlaws resembles a drowned corpse more than a living woman, but she stares at Merrett with hate-filled eyes all the same.
Lem says that Catelyn doesn’t speak since Merrett and his kin had slit her throat. But he adds that she does remember. He turns to the dead woman and asks whether Merrett had a part to play in the Red Wedding. The woman that had once been Catelyn nods and the outlaws proceed to hang Merrett Frey.