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The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

By Gladwell Malcolm

  • Window Douglas’s

Malcolm Gladwell is the bestselling author of The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, and What the Dog Saw. Born in 1963 in London to mathematics professor, Graham Gladwell, and author and family therapist, Joyce Gladwell, he grew up in the Canadian countryside. After graduating from the University of Toronto, he worked as a reporter for the Washington Post for nine years, afterwards becoming the newspaper’s New York City bureau chief. From 1996 onward, he has been a staff writer for the New Yorker. He has been called one the “100 Most Influential People” by Time Magazine.

Gladwell calls The Tipping Point “the biography of an idea.” The book originally grew out of an article written for the New Yorker, and, though he wasn’t entirely sure why he was writing it or who his audience would be, Gladwell was delighted to find that the book took on a life of its own once it had been written. Gladwell mentions several times in the text that The Tipping Point is not just about understanding the underlying causes of epidemic trends but, perhaps more importantly, about using that understanding to shape a better world. And although there are numerous stories of devastating trends that should certainly be heeded as warnings, Gladwell is right in asserting that behind the problems, there lies possibility, the hope of turning things around. This notion is vividly illustrated in some of the stories, and it is apparently this same notion that brought the massive response to the book that Gladwell witnessed in the year following its publication. The hope that it brought is perhaps best illustrated by philanthropist Sharon Karmazin’s gift of three hundred book copies to New Jersey’s public libraries, challenging each of them to come up with a positive idea inspired by The Tipping Point, and promising grants to those who did—just one example of what Gladwell means when he says that he has continued to learn from others about his own book.

Why do some things become epidemics while others do not, and how can we generate and manage epidemics of a positive sort? The Tipping Point is Malcolm Gladwell’s exploration of why some trends turn into epidemic movements while others never seem to get off the ground. The book explores the different elements of epidemic phenomena: among other things, the nature of contagiousness, the various types of key players, the “stickiness” factor, the law of the few, and the book’s namesake, the tipping point.

In analyzing certain epidemic trends—“epidemic” being defined as the phenomenon of rapid, significant change—Gladwell introduces three main factors. The first factor is that ideas, actions, and trends function like viruses in the sense that they are contagious. The second factor is that small changes are capable of producing significant results. Viral behavior is not linear but exponential: it doubles, then doubles again until it has reached proportions far beyond its original starting point. The third factor is the speed with which the shift occurs. Gladwell believes that there is one significant moment that guarantees and impels a new trend, a precise turning point resulting in a sudden, dramatic change in behavior or form. He calls this the Tipping Point, and he considers it the most significant factor of all because of its helpfulness in explaining the other two factors, as well as the epidemic phenomenon as a whole.

Later in the text, when analyzing another example, he adds another component and redefines the two first factors mentioned above in more memorable terms.  In this third example, namely, the rapid spread of syphilis in Baltimore, Gladwell breaks down the important elements into, again, three main factors: the infectious agent itself, the transmitters of the infection, and the environment in which it functions. He then names these factors, respectively, the Stickiness Factor, the Law of the Few, and the Power of Context, thus introducing three of the book’s most central themes.

Gladwell’s first main point in analyzing these three factors is that it takes only a handful of people to create an epidemic, which means that that handful is performing most of the actions that will ultimately “tip” things toward epidemic proportions or dramatic change. These socially exceptional people come in three categories: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. Connectors, as their name suggests, cultivate many different contacts from many worlds; Mavens are the experts who like to help people with their knowledge, which is why they are often the originators of a trend; and Salesmen are highly charismatic people who take over where the Connectors and Mavens leave off, convincing the less easily won people. Gladwell’s second factor, “stickiness,” is defined as something capable of creating enough of an effect that it produces a palpable impact. “Stickiness” can refer to a message, a thing (such as a virus, substance, or item), an idea, or an activity. The third factor, the “Law of Context,” states that epidemic behavior of all types is strongly influenced by the environment and that small alterations in the environment can produce significant shifts in behavior.

The basic proposal of the book is that these three rules can help us to unlock the mystery of epidemic behavior by understanding the underlying laws that lead to a Tipping Point. As the book progresses, Gladwell introduces many different theories and studies to prove his various points, and along the way, we meet many different experts as well as colorful “characters” who embody the concepts outlined above. In his usual storytelling fashion, he describes a variety of real life examples as he analyzes in detail the elements that lead to the Tipping Point that gives each epidemic trend its impetus. But Gladwell’s interest in not merely analytical: ultimately, he believes that by understanding the principles outlined in the book, we can use that understanding to shape and direct change in ways that benefit our world.

The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point is the turning point in a trend or situation that results in a sudden dramatic change. At that point, the momentum of change reaches the level that either causes the trend to “tip” in a new direction, take a new form, or soar to unprecedented heights. Examples include the rapid dramatic decline of crime in New York City, a complete turnaround from its steady increase over the previous few decades; the moment at which rain changes into snow; and the unexpected, rapid surge of a fashion trend.

 

Epidemic Behavior

Gladwell analyzes the phenomenon of rapid, significant—or epidemic—change has having three main factors. The first is that ideas, actions, and trends function like viruses in the sense that they are contagious. The key, as with a virus, is exposure, guaranteeing that at least some of the population will be “infected” and that they in turn will infect others. The second factor is called the Law of the Few, which says that small changes are capable of producing significant results or, in other words, that most of the effects come from just a few of the causes. This applies to both people and phenomena. The third factor, the “Law of Context,” states that epidemic behavior—in fact, behavior in general—is strongly influenced by its environment.

 

Word-of-Mouth Epidemic

In an age characterized by communication overload, word-of-mouth is becoming an increasingly reliable tool for sifting through the masses of information we encounter on a daily basis. For word of mouth to take on epidemic proportions, though, a certain type of socially gifted person is needed. These people fall into three groups called the Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. Connectors have an unusually high list of acquaintances whom they know by name and with whom they maintain ongoing and (for them, at least) satisfying casual relationships. Mavens are experts who like to help people by using and transmitting their knowledge. And Salesmen are unusually charismatic people whose charm and sociability make them capable of generating enthusiasm and conviction in people who would otherwise be on the fence with a particular decision.

 

The Law of the Few

The Law of the Few states that it only takes a handful of people (or actions) to create an epidemic, which means that that handful is performing most of the actions that will ultimately “tip” things toward epidemic proportions. Citing the well-known 80/20 rule that states that 80 percent of the effects are produced by 20 percent of the causes, Gladwell maintains that the balance is even more extreme when dealing with the laws that govern epidemic behavior.

The Law of the Few also means that small changes can produce tremendous results, which is largely explained by the tendency of epidemics to evolve in an exponential rather than in a linear fashion.

 

Connectors

Connectors don’t just know a lot of people: they know them by name, and they actively cultivate contacts. While most of us resist getting too involved with anyone outside our small circle of friends, a classic Connector finds pleasure in occasional interaction, in what is known as the “weak tie.”

Another characteristic of Connectors is that they know a large variety of people. Their versatility enables them to commune with people from all walks of life, socio-economic strata, races, nationalities, ages, and probably any other classification. They typically exhibit such qualities as energy, sociability, curiosity, and confidence, and their interest in people is genuine.

Connectors fulfill a vital role in the epidemic process because of their ability to link people in a variety of ways, including to jobs, ideas, trends, projects, and, of course, other people. Their nature is to transmit whatever grabs their fancy to not just a few but to many people, and because they know so many people, they know whom to contact in relation to whatever the idea happens to be.

 

Mavens

Whereas Connectors specialize in gathering and connecting people, Mavens specialize in gathering and disseminating information. Mavens are precise. They notice and remember small details that others miss, and they fully understand their significance.

What makes a Maven different from an expert, however, is that Mavens have a genuine desire to use their extensive knowledge to help others, which explains the significance of their role in launching word-of-mouth epidemics. We are more likely to trust someone who has our own best interests at heart than someone who is either indifferent or self-serving. That sort of information, designed to help and from a genuine expert on the subject, carries with it the ability to move people to action and may explain why certain people’s words and actions produce epidemic effects while others’ seemingly equivalent messages appear to go nowhere.

 

Salesmen

While Mavens may be the source of a word-of-mouth epidemic and Connectors its facilitators, there is one other type that is vital to the “tipping” of a trend. For a movement to truly take hold, there has to be a certain amount of peer pressure or persuasion, since not all participants will be immediately or readily convinced. Connectors mostly inform and interact while Mavens educate and help, and the ones who take over where the Connectors and Mavens leave off are the Salesmen. Salesmen are the embodiment of the idea that simple, subtle gestures and expressions have more power to influence our opinions than the content itself. They are masters of speech patterns and the minute movements that form the almost imperceptible dance that goes on between human beings, called “interactional synchrony.” Their charisma also puts them in the position of being the “senders” in the naturally occurring empathic interaction of “motor mimicry.” This means that their emotional states will influence the states of the more receptive individuals around them. In other words, salesmen are those among us who are emotionally “contagious.”

 

The Stickiness Factor

Gladwell defines stickiness as the quality that is capable of creating enough of an effect that it can influence a trend or phenomenon in a given direction. In analyzing the formula for stickiness in Chapter 3, Gladwell’s section on Blue’s Clues spells it out most clearly when naming the three components of interactivity, or audience involvement; repetition, which gives the audience a chance to deepen its understanding; and research. The concept of research further includes the notion that small changes can produce momentous effects and should, therefore, be watched carefully and adjusted according to the new information they reveal.

 

Small Things Make a Difference

This simply means that tiny details can make or break a message, trend, or other phenomenon, ultimately determining whether or not it catches on in epidemic proportions. In Chapter 3, Wunderman’s gold box, Levanthal’s map insert with the clinic vaccination schedule, Sesame Street’s unique mix of Muppets and people, the different studies on how children watch television, Bragg’s eye movement analyses, and Blue’s Clues tiny adjustments—the length of the pauses, the order of the clues, and so on—all illustrate that it’s not just what you say, who says it, or even how often you say it but also how it’s said that’s important, and that small things do, in fact, make a difference.

 

The Power of Context

The power of context suggests that our environment shapes our behavior and so, ultimately, our character. The implication is that changes in the environment can produce changes in behavior, and enough changes, even if they are small, can tip a trend in the opposite direction or dramatically alter a person’s mode of interacting. Seemingly little things like clean streets and intact windows, for example, make it easier to resist crime and behave in a decent manner than being surrounded by chaos, crime, and unpleasant circumstances. Experiments have also found that a sudden extreme shift in environment can produce radical changes in behavioral expression, just as minor changes in a situation can influence the expression of character traits such as honesty, previously thought to be more stable.

 

The Rule of 150

Groups are an indispensable aspect of epidemic behavior, but when the group becomes too large, it loses some of its functionality. Because human beings have a limited capacity for processing various types of information, including social relationships, they are better off working in smaller, more intimate groups that allow for a more unified interaction. For human beings, the maximum number for optimum functionality in a group has been determined to be approximately 150. This has been found to be true in circumstances as diverse as military units, Hutterite colonies, indigenous villages, and corporate plants. Splitting the group once it begins to exceed that size allows for more integrated personal and working interactions, better information sharing, and a more relaxed, versatile management style.

The following is an introductory list of just a few of the many people and groups who are featured in The Tipping Point, all of whom are paramount and represent some aspect, accomplishment, or idea out of the different concepts set forth in the book.

 

Roger Horchow (Connector)

A classic Connector, entrepreneur and producer, Roger Horchow had one of the highest scores on Gladwell’s acquaintance survey. Horchow is the founder of the mail order company, the Horchow Collection and has also backed several successful Broadway shows, including Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, and Gershwin’s Crazy for You. Horchow enjoys both talking and listening to people, and although he knows that building relationships is both an art and a skill, his many friendships and acquaintances spring from a genuine, natural love of people.

 

Lois Weisberg (Connector)

Another classic Connector, Lois Weisberg possesses the same gift as Horchow for collecting and connecting people from many different segments of society. Weisberg’s career is by itself remarkable proof of her natural curiosity, gregariousness, and sense of adventure. Beginning in the 1950s, it spanned everything from theater to newspaper publishing to government to flea markets—just to name a few of the things she has done. Weisberg’s interest in people is genuine and without snobbery. Her natural tendency to extend herself to others has ensured an ever widening circle of friends and acquaintances, among them many famous names from the worlds of music, acting, writing, publishing, and government.

 

Paul Revere (Connector and Maven)

According to Gladwell, Paul Revere was one of the key Connectors and Mavens of his time. Aside from being a successful silversmith, he was an extremely busy man with many interests, activities, and social connections as well as a talent for being wherever the action was. Revere enjoyed hunting and fishing, card games, pubs, and theater as well as being a Mason and a member of several elite social clubs. In Paul Revere’s Ride, David Hackett Fisher recounts how Revere would be elected to some relevant post of responsibility whenever there was a significant problem or new development in colonial Boston. One of only two men who belonged to five out of Boston’s seven Whig (revolutionary) groups, he also regularly delivered messages to different revolutionary committees around New England and as far south as Philadelphia. In addition to being a Connector, Revere was also a Maven who kept up-to-date on British moves and motives and used this knowledge to help his fellow colonists. Given all this, it made perfect sense that Revere should have been a central figure in sounding the alarm for the impending British invasion.

 

Mark Alpert (Maven)

When marketing professor Linda Price was still a student at the University of Texas, she happened to ask Mark Alpert where she could buy a ham for Easter. Being Jewish, Alpert avoided ham, yet he knew exactly which deli to send her to and how much she should pay. Alpert is a Market Maven. Gladwell theorizes that even if he were a plumber instead of a marketing professor and researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, he would still be a Market Maven. Alpert seems to know everything about the market, but what makes him a Maven instead of just an expert is his overarching desire to help others; and there can be no doubt that he knows his subject since he studies every in and out—from the mechanics of the product itself to the details of the warranty or the best place to find a deal, to name just a few of his angles. Because of this, his recommendations carry weight, making him a reliable and genuinely helpful source of information.

 

Tom Gau (Salesman)

Tom Gau’s job is financial planning, but for him, selling is not just a job. In fact, Gau no longer needs to work, yet at the time of his interview with Gladwell, he happily continued to put in fourteen to fifteen-hour days. Why? In his own words, he loves his clients, and he loves to help them. As he told Gladwell, he sees them as his second family.

The founder and president of Retirement Planning Specialists, Inc. and one of the top producers in his field, Gau is especially adept at furnishing would-be clients with answers to their doubts and questions. Gau has created a network of specialists to aid in the financial planning process, but he also knows and has thought carefully about his material, so that he is thoroughly prepared from a number of different perspectives.

But Gau also possesses something that goes beyond his level of preparation and even beyond his extraordinary energy, optimism, and charm. Gau is evidently one of those people who have a high degree of mastery of minute gestural movements so that he can quickly draw others into his own rhythm and mode. Gladwell characterizes this as a generalized form of seduction; psychologist David Moine describes it as the ability to build trust in a third of the usual time. But Gau is also highly charismatic, a “sender” to an extraordinary degree. His emotions are unmistakable and remarkably fluid, and they are reflected not only in his gestures and facial expressions but in his vocal range, which Gladwell compares to an opera singer’s.

 

The Sesame Street Team (The Stickiness Factor)

Joan Ganz Cooney is the television producer who introduced the now widely loved children’s television show Sesame Street in the 1960s to counteract the trends of poverty and illiteracy. Cooney and her colleagues, Harvard psychologist Gerald Lesser, Markle Foundation president Lloyd Morrisett, Muppet creator Jim Henson, and (in their early period) research head Ed Palmer harnessed television’s strong points to create an educational tool that has become a household word and made a lasting, positive impression on children and families from all socio-economic segments.

 

The Blue’s Clues Crew (The Stickiness Factor)

Todd Kessler, a former member of the Sesame Street team and one of the producers of Blue’s Clues, the 1990’s children’s show that topped Sesame Street’s ratings, believed that children’s shows often forget that preschoolers lack the verbal skills to process a lot of talk and are therefore liable to lose interest. Kessler also believed that television’s power lay in its visual capacity, something that preverbal young children could more easily grasp.

Blue’s Clues’ aim was to take the Sesame Street idea a few steps further. Its producers—from the Manhattan-based Nickelodeon Network, which included Kessler and Angela Santomero, who was weaned on Sesame Street—felt that preschoolers needed something more tailored to their mentality and capabilities. Avoiding what they felt were Sesame Street’s weak points and committing themselves to three times the research, they focused on interactivity, repetition, and simplification in developing Blue’s Clues.

 

David Gunn and William Bratton (“Broken Windows” and New York City)

The change for the New York transit system began in the mid-1980s, when the Transit Authority’s new subway director, David Gunn, in line with the “Broken Windows” concept, decided to focus on the ubiquitous graffiti issue first. Gunn was strict about maintaining the cars, which meant that any cars arriving at the changeover station with graffiti went out of service until they were cleaned up. Gunn’s actions sent a clear message that vandalism was no longer tolerated.

In 1990, once Gunn’s transit line refurbishment was complete, the Transit Authority installed another “Broken Windows” advocate, William Bratton, as the chief of the transit police. Bratton, like Gunn, began with the small things, tackling the widespread problem of fare-beating first. Bratton’s efforts carried a hidden bonus: a crime that before had seemed barely worth the effort now proved to be a bonanza, since fare-beaters had a history of committing other crimes, as well. The result was that those with criminal tendencies soon got the picture and paid their fare.

In 1994, newly elected mayor Rudolph Giuliani made Bratton the chief of the New York City Police. Once again, Bratton implemented the “Broken Windows” theory, tackling New York’s small “quality-of-life” crimes first, sending perpetrators of these minor, seemingly irrelevant crimes to jail. According to Gladwell, Giuliani and Bratton ascribed the sudden decline in violent crime to the crackdown on small, quality-of-life infractions.

 

Gore Associates (The Rule of 150)

Admittedly not one but many people, Gore Associates nevertheless perfectly represents the Rule of 150 in action. Best known as the makers of Gore-Tex fabric, they also produce a number of items for such technical and scientific industries as the automotive and medical fields. Unlike most large companies, Gore has no noticeable hierarchy and none of the trappings. From titles (everyone is an “associate”) to offices, dress code, and business cards, Gore is a model of democracy and unpretentiousness. The company discovered early on the power of peer pressure in a small environment and has, therefore, deliberately kept each plant at no more than 150 associates. Their method of telling when the plant is getting too large is to take note of when the cars start parking on the grass. Gore’s plants function as units, not as a group of divisions without immediate contact or knowledge of each other. In an innovative high-tech company like Gore, this sort of immediacy and intimacy is a key element in maintaining an efficient and unified operation.

 

DeeDee Gordon and Lambesis (The Maven and the Law of the Few)

Lambesis was the small advertising agency hired by Airwalk to bring their company sales and image to the next level, and DeeDee Gordon was the expert on hip teen innovations who was instrumental in creating the ads and steering the trends that would give Airwalk its unique, unexpected, daring, and often humorous image. Gordon, aside from having a sixth sense for “cool,” cultivated cutting-edge teen contacts all over the world and consulted with them regularly. Gladwell classifies Gordon as a Maven and cites Lambesis’s small size as another example of how a lot can be done with just a little.

INTRODUCTION

 

Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point begins by describing the sudden resurgence of the classic American shoe known as Hush Puppies, a brand that would have been eliminated if Hush Puppies executives Owen Baxter and Geoffrey Lewis hadn’t coincidentally learned that the style was making a comeback in Manhattan dance clubs. In roughly two years, what had started as a retro statement became a high fashion accessory and ultimately a mainstream item, with Hush Puppies’ annual sales shooting from a low of 30,000 to more than 1,750,000 pair.

How does that happen? How does something nearly extinct make such a complete turnaround in such a short time, even winning a notable fashion award in 1996 for best accessory? Gladwell tells us that no one was trying to make it happen in this case, yet once Hush Puppies’ popularity reached a certain level, the momentum for their resurgence was in place. In Gladwell’s words, that was the moment when the trend “tipped.”

A similar sudden shift happened in New York City when the overall crime rate dropped to such an extent that the usual explanations seemed inadequate. Areas such as Brooklyn’s East New York and Brownsville sections, once known for crime rates so high that residents regularly took to their homes by sunset, experienced the most dramatic turnaround. According to Gladwell, large sociological changes such as an aging population, economic improvement, and a reduction in crack trafficking seemed insufficient to account for a two-thirds decrease in the murder rate, down from over 2000 to 770, with remaining crime slashed in half. Even improved police tactics couldn’t quite explain the extent of the change. What then produced it?

Gladwell analyzes this phenomenon of rapid, significant change has having three main factors. The first is that ideas, actions, and trends function like viruses in the sense that they are contagious. A sudden surge or change in behavior can, therefore, be viewed as the equivalent of an epidemic. The key, as with a virus, is exposure, guaranteeing that at least some of the population will be “infected.” He cites yawning as one example of this type of largely unconscious but common reaction, the point being that because our reactions are not conscious, we need to watch carefully if we want to learn to identify and even influence epidemic trends.

The second factor is that small changes are capable of producing significant results. The Hush Puppies trend began with just a few fashionable young people living in Manhattan, but before anyone could tell how, it spread to the rest of the country and beyond. Similarly, the sociological trends mentioned above seemed by themselves insufficient to impact New York City’s more than two-decade-long high crime rate, but together they had an impact. Gladwell further gives the example of a piece of paper which when folded fifty times supposedly produces a distance that reaches to the sun, and if folded once more, can reach all the way back. In other words, viral behavior is not linear but exponential: it doubles, then doubles again until it has reached proportions far beyond its original starting point.

This bring us to the third factor—the speed with which the shift occurs. Gladwell believes that there is one significant moment that guarantees and impels a new trend. He calls this the Tipping Point, and he considers it the most influential factor of all because of its helpfulness in explaining the other two factors, as well as the epidemic phenomenon as a whole and its implications for our world. One of his clearest examples of this is the change from water to snow: the cause may have been nothing more than a tiny shift in temperature, but the result was a dramatic change in form—from raindrops to snowflakes.

According to Gladwell, the phrase “Tipping Point” had its origin in the mid-twentieth century as a sociological term describing the mass movement of whites away from the older Northeastern American cities as the populations of those cities became increasingly African-American. The previous inhabitants would tolerate a racial mix up to a point, but once the percentage of the new influx reached a certain level, there would be a sudden mass exodus of white families from the neighborhood. This describes the concept as Gladwell sees it: a precise turning point in a trend or situation resulting in a sudden, dramatic change.

The introduction ends by leaving us with two questions: Why do some things become epidemics while others do not; and how can we generate and manage epidemics of a positive sort? As Gladwell outlines the colorful array of places and situations he plans to use in demonstrating this concept, it’s clear that The Tipping Point seeks to answer those questions.

EPIDEMICS—THE THREE RULES

 

Baltimore’s syphilis epidemic: three main factors—Chapter 1 begins with a description of Baltimore’s sudden sharp rise in syphilis in the mid-1990s. According to Gladwell,  if we had examined a graph showing the increase of Baltimore’s syphilis rate in 1995, we would have noticed that it virtually rose at a right angle. The Centers for Disease Control analyzed this as resulting from an increase in the use of crack since the drug was known to encourage sexually risky behavior. Johns Hopkins University STD expert John Zenilman had another view: he correlated Baltimore’s increased syphilis rate with the city’s marked decline in medical care for sexually transmitted diseases. City budget cuts translated into an insufficient supply of both medical drugs and staff members, including physicians (who became non-existent), clinicians, and outreach members. The effect was a dramatic reduction in the number of patient visits—from 36,000 to 21,000—and the consequent increase in the spread of the disease in terms of both rate and city area. Epidemiologist John Potterat offered yet another explanation. In the mid-1990s, the city demolished certain 1960s housing projects in East and West Baltimore that had previously functioned as a focal point for the disease, and 50 percent of the row houses in the same areas were abandoned during the same period. The result was that the disease, which had once been contained within the poorer, crime-ridden socio-economic sector of a specific urban area, now dissipated to other sections of the city.

Individually, Gladwell considers none of these explanations overly dramatic. He notes, however, that each highlights an alternative method of spreading an epidemic. He boils the three essential factors down to the infectious agent itself, the transmitters of the infection, and the environment in which it functions. He then names these factors, respectively: the Stickiness Factor, the Law of the Few, and the Power of Context.

 

Rule No. 1: Extraordinary People—The Law of the Few

Gladwell’s first main point in analyzing these three factors is that it takes only a handful of people to create an epidemic, which means that that handful is performing most of the actions that will ultimately “tip” things toward epidemic proportions. Citing the well-known 80/20 rule that states that 80 percent of the effects are produced by 20 percent of the causes, he maintains that the balance is even more extreme when dealing with the laws that govern epidemic behavior.

To support his point, he mentions several instances from different cities relating to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. In each case, only a tiny number of people relative to the city’s population—often only one person—and in a limited number of places were creating most of the problems. The number of individuals would normally be considered disproportionate to the size of the epidemic, and that is precisely Gladwell’s point: people who create epidemics do not act “normally.” The extent of their activities affords at least some explanation of their effect. In the case of STD epidemics, they lead lifestyles that include rampant drug use, an active night life, and multiple sex partners. French flight attendant Gaetan Dugas, a significant early transmitter of the AIDS virus and one of the more extreme examples, was thought to have had as many as 2500 sexual partners.

 

Rule No. 2: Infectious Agents—The Stickiness Factor

Gladwell defines “stickiness” as something capable of creating enough of an effect that it produces a palpable impact. As we saw in the Introduction, the “Stickiness Factor” operates not just in relation to the spread of disease but also in social as well as other contexts. One of those contexts is the area of communications, and the key question here is: How do we create a message that sticks? The Winston cigarette jingle “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should” not only stuck in people’s minds but rapidly outsold all other brands in the US market. Gladwell maintains that we can enhance the stickiness of our communications by making a few key alterations in their presentation, although he does not yet go into detail about what that means in practice.

Sometimes, as in the case of Baltimore’s syphilis epidemic, what Gladwell calls the “epidemic agent” undergoes a significant change which by itself can tip the balance. When Baltimore’s budget cuts forced the city to decrease its medical care, syphilis went from being an acute to a chronic problem, further ensuring the spread of the disease. What before had been an intermittent problem was now ongoing simply because people could not get treated quickly enough. Infectious physical viruses have also been known to increase in virulence, such as the flu virus of the 1918 worldwide epidemic, which began normally enough but eventually resulted in the global deaths of tens of millions of people.

 

Rule No. 3: Environmental Influences—The Law of Context

The third factor, the “Law of Context,” states that epidemic behavior of all types is strongly influenced by its environment. Gladwell gives several examples, including the decrease of reported syphilis cases in East and West Baltimore during the winter as well as the increase during the summer months not just in the above-mentioned sections of Baltimore but also progressing outward along their central roads. The reason has simply to do with the weather: when it’s cold, people stay inside, whereas when it’s warm, they tend to go out more.

Another demonstration of the influence of context is the apparent apathy observed in large cities among multiple witnesses to an emergency. Gladwell first cites the Kitty Genovese incident, a 1964 fatal stabbing of a young woman in Queens, in which thirty-eight witnesses watched from their homes for half an hour without a single one of them calling for help. According to a study by psychologists Bibb Latane and John Darley, of Columbia and New York Universities respectively, what appeared to be big-city burnout was actually a tendency to disperse the responsibility. Their study showed that witnesses to a crime who believed themselves to be alone were likely to act roughly 80 percent of the time while those who were one among many, or believed themselves to be so, acted only 31 percent of the time.

 

Gladwell ends the chapter with a reiteration of the basic proposal that these three rules can help us to unlock the mystery of epidemic behavior by understanding the underlying laws that lead to a Tipping Point.

THE LAW OF THE FEW

 

Chapter 2 opens with a detailed retelling of the events leading up to Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride, the main point being that the efforts of one person in particular were the key factor in transmitting crucial information rapidly, effectively, and even dramatically through word of mouth. The aftermath of this effort, as we know, was that British plans to stem the revolutionary tide instead resulted in the war that would end in American independence. Gladwell calls this type of rapid, effective verbal transmission a “word-of-mouth epidemic,” and though he believes word of mouth by itself to be one of the most effective modes of communication, he asserts that additional factors are necessary if it is to reach epidemic proportions. Again alluding to Revere’s ride, Gladwell notes that another rider, William Dawes, transmitted the same message, traveling an equal distance on the same night, yet his efforts failed to match Revere’s. According to Gladwell, the difference derives from what he calls “The Law of the Few,” which says that most of the results in any endeavor can be traced back to one or two unusually socially talented individuals. He further divides this elite group into three categories: the Connectors, the Mavens, and the Salesmen.

 

Connectors

Stanley Milgram and “six degrees of separation”—Gladwell begins his explanation of these concepts by citing the study performed by social psychologist Stanley Milgram, who experimented with sending one packet each, along with instructions, to 160 addresses in Omaha. All packets were ultimately supposed to arrive at either the office or home of one stockbroker who lived in Sharon and worked in Boston, Massachusetts. Using the chain letter approach, the 160 participants were supposed to mail the packet to whichever friend of theirs could most quickly get the packet to the stockbroker. That friend would do the same, and so on until the stockbroker received the packet. What Milgram found, contrary to expectations which had supposed a much higher figure, was that the number of go-betweens averaged only around five or six. This has since been called “six degrees of separation,” a phrase used to indicate the smallness of the world.

Other psychological studies on personal association, performed in locations as diverse as a northern Manhattan housing project and the University of Utah, have indicated that our close interactions with people result not from any similarity of attitudes or interests but from proximity: we tend to mostly engage with those who inhabit the same space as we do, whether at work or in our living environment. This raises the question of how the stockbroker living in Sharon, Massachusetts could receive the packets originating in Omaha through so few intermediaries. In evaluating the study, Milgram noticed that a handful of individuals seemed to have connections to a large number of people. Specifically, the letters, which had been sent by separate, random individuals in Omaha, eventually all went through one of three people before reaching the stockbroker, with more than half arriving through one man in particular. Gladwell calls people like this “Connectors,” and he maintains that they perform a vital though often unrecognized role in our lives. He challenges us to consider how we know the different people in our lives, asserting that if we think about it carefully, we will find that most of our connections can be traced back to just a few people—often only one.

Qualities of connectors—What differentiates a Connector from the rest of us? For one thing, they know a lot of people by name. Connectors score far above average when asked to match a random list of surnames to the surnames of their acquaintances, and although there was some relationship between a person’s career type, age, and the number of their acquaintances, these factors were not decisive as evidenced by the large range of scores within relatively homogenous groups.

Roger Horchow: cultivating contacts—But Connectors don’t just know a lot of people: they actively cultivate contacts. Businessman and Broadway producer Roger Horchow, for example, genuinely enjoys meeting and talking to people, but he doesn’t stop there. He maintains an organized database of 1600 names along with addresses, birthdates, and the details of first meetings. He sends birthday cards to passing acquaintances and once went to great lengths to track down an old friend from elementary school. Gladwell points out that while most of us resist getting too involved with anyone outside our small circle of friends, Horchow finds pleasure in occasional interaction.

Lois Weisberg: many worlds—Another characteristic of Connectors is that they know a large variety of people. Their versatility enables them to commune with people from all walks of life, social and economic strata, races, nationalities, ages, and most likely any other classification imaginable. Gladwell attributes this to their personalities, which he has observed to encompass such qualities as energy, sociability, curiosity, and confidence. One of the most remarkable individuals of this type encountered by Gladwell is Lois Weisberg, Chicago’s Commissioner of Cultural Affairs until 2011 and the embodiment of all these characteristics. Her success as a Connector could in part be explained by the variety demonstrated in her career, which included, among other things, theater, writing, newspaper publishing, government, activism in favor of parks and railroads, and flea market sales, a clear expression of her open and adventurous personality. And although Weisberg numbered many famous names among her friends and acquaintances, she was said to have been entirely without snobbery, and like Horchow, her interest in people was genuine.

Granovetter’s “strength of the weak tie”—The power of Connectors lies in their ability to effectively cultivate the “weak tie”—the casual acquaintance that most people consider relatively unimportant. Mark Granovetter’s 1974 sociological study on how people get jobs illustrated the usefulness of the “weak tie.” Granovetter found that more than 50 percent of those studied found their jobs through an occasional contact rather than through a friend, agency, or direct effort. His explanation for this is that our occasional contacts move in different circles and are, therefore, privy to information outside our usual limited environment, whereas our close friends tend to have the same information that we do.

But the usefulness of the weak tie doesn’t stop there. Granovetter’s phrase “the strength of the weak tie” illustrates the power wielded by Connectors like Horchow and Weisberg to link people in a variety of ways. As with the Hush Puppies trend and other epidemics, people can be connected to jobs, ideas, trends, projects, and, of course, other people. Connectors fulfill a vital role in this process because their nature is to transmit whatever grabs their fancy to not just a few but to many people, and because they know so many people, they know whom to contact in relation to whatever the idea happens to be. When Horchow’s daughter introduced him to a new restaurant, he let all his contacts in the area know of its existence and his enthusiastic recommendation. When Weisberg needed support for saving first the parks and then the Chicago lakeside railroad, she used her broad circle of acquaintances to solicit the help of anyone and everyone who might be interested in those projects.

Paul Revere: Connector and Maven—This brings us back to Paul Revere, the protagonist who introduced the chapter. According to Gladwell, Revere was one of the major Connectors of his time. Aside from being a successful silversmith, he was an extremely busy man with many interests, activities, and social connections as well as a talent for being wherever the action was. In his book Paul Revere’s Ride, David Hackett Fisher recounts how whenever there was a significant problem or new development in colonial Boston, Paul Revere would be elected to some relevant post of responsibility. One of only two men who belonged to five out of Boston’s seven Whig (revolutionary) groups, he also regularly delivered messages to different revolutionary committees around New England and as far south as Philadelphia. Given all this, it made perfect sense that Revere should have been a central figure in sounding the alarm for the impending British invasion. People knew to contact him with serious pieces of information, and he knew whom to contact in the various towns he visited in order to spread the news in the quickest, most effective manner. Gladwell further conjectures that Revere’s natural sociability would have also led him to spread the news to anyone else he met along the way.

The result of this activity on Revere’s part was an immediate response from the towns along the northern route. William Dawes, on the other hand, appeared to have no such effect on the southern route that was his responsibility. The difference, according to Gladwell, lay in Revere’s talents as a Connector, as opposed to Dawes’s relative lack of gregariousness and his limited social circle, which extended no farther than Boston itself, thus giving him little personal connection to the towns along his route.

 

Mavens

The Maven—Connectors, however, are just one facet of the process that creates a word-of-mouth epidemic. Another vital link are what Gladwell calls “the Mavens.” Whereas Connectors specialize in gathering and connecting people, Mavens specialize in gathering and disseminating information which they in turn use to help others. Mavens are precise. They notice and remember small details that others miss, and they are well aware of their significance.

The “Market Maven”—Gladwell gives the example of the “Market Maven”, also known as a “price vigilante.” This person remembers exact prices from years ago, spots upcoming trends and acts accordingly (in one case, stockpiling $3 cans of coffee following a frost in Brazil, a sure sign of a price increase), complains to the management of borderline deceptive marketing techniques (such as highlighting a “great buy,” even though it’s not a sale), and informs or warns his or her friends.  University of Nebraska marketing professor Linda Price, one of the first to study the “Market Maven,” says that they like to help other consumers by, for example, handing out coupons or taking them shopping. They are, in other words, the connecting link between the average consumer and the marketplace.

Mark Alpert—Gladwell’s prime example of this type is Mark Alpert, a professor of marketing at the University of Texas at Austin. Alpert seems to know everything there is to know about the market in great detail, and he enjoys helping others find the best deals on everything from hotel rooms to real estate to Blockbuster videos, automobiles, and washer/dryers. He studies everything in excruciating detail, to the point that he outdoes Consumer Reports in their own field. He is thoroughly familiar with the items themselves, the warranties, the service, the best personal connections to get a deal, and the intricacies of coupon shopping, and he loves to pass this information along in a way that is naturally and actively caring. Even so, he realizes that this is potentially annoying, so he tries to be as “passive” a Maven as possible by recognizing that people need to be allowed to make their own choices.

The expert helper—This genuine desire on the part of Mavens to use their extensive knowledge to help others in large part explains the significance of their role in launching word-of-mouth epidemics. We are, after all, more likely to trust someone who has our own best interests at heart than someone who is either indifferent or self-serving. According to Gladwell, Revere, in addition to being a Connector, was also a Maven—one who kept up-to-date on British moves and motives and used this knowledge to help his fellow colonists. That sort of information, designed to help and from a genuine expert on the subject, carries with it the ability to move people to action and may explain why certain people’s words and actions produce epidemic effects while others’ seemingly equivalent messages appear to go nowhere.

 

Salesmen

The function of Salesmen—While Mavens may be the source of a word-of-mouth epidemic, and while Connectors may be its facilitators, there is one other type that is vital to the “tipping” of a trend. Gladwell contends that for a movement or activity to truly take hold, there has to be a certain amount of peer pressure or persuasion. Though some participants will be instantly enthusiastic, not all will be immediately or readily convinced. Neither the Connectors nor the Mavens, however, are the ones who play the role of persuading the more hesitant or reluctant people to join in or commit. Although the distinction isn’t always crystal clear in practice, Gladwell seems to suggest that Connectors mostly inform and interact while Mavens educate and help. The third component—the ones who take over where the Connectors and Mavens leave off—are the Salesmen.

Tom Gau: expertise and charisma—At the time of his interview with Gladwell, Tom Gau was happily putting in fourteen to fifteen-hour days at the southern California firm of Kavesh and Gau, one of the top financial planning firms in the US. Yet as Gau asserted, his enthusiasm for his work did not center around money. Gau no longer needs to work: he does so because he loves his clients and he loves to help them. As he told Gladwell, he sees them as his second family.

Gladwell was referred to Gau by psychologist David Moine, who helped Gau to write a script for financial planning salesmen. One of the top producers in his field, Gau is especially adept at furnishing would-be clients with answers to their doubts and questions. For one thing, Gau has created a network of specialists, including lawyers, stockbrokers, and insurance specialists, to aid in the financial planning process. He also knows his material and has thought carefully about his answers, so that when a standard question is broached, he is thoroughly prepared to deal with it from a number of different perspectives. But Gau’s ability goes beyond just a list of answers, no matter how well prepared. Gladwell noticed something initially indefinable about him—something that had do with his extraordinary energy, optimism, and charm, yet was more than any of those qualities.

 

The power of subtle shifts in expression

Brian Mullen and the news: the influence of expression—To explore this question, Gladwell digresses for a moment to examine some psychology experiments on how people’s decisions are influenced by gesture and facial expression. The first was a 1984 study by Syracuse University psychologist Brian Mullen comparing the effect of the expressions of three well-known news anchormen—Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, and Dan Rather—on viewers. The program being covered by the anchormen was the presidential debate between Reagan and Mondale, but this was unknown to the viewers, who were shown isolated snippets from the broadcasts with no accompanying sound. Without knowing why, viewers were asked to rate the emotional expressions on the anchormen’s faces. Both Brokaw and Rather scored evenly, regardless of which candidate they were speaking about; but Jennings’s facial expression apparently shifted significantly: on a scale of 0 to 21, he would supposedly “light up” when reporting on Reagan to the point that his score was a full four points higher than when he spoke about Mondale. Since he scored no higher on the control tests, the testers concluded that he had an obvious preference for Reagan. Mullen and his associates then polled news viewers from several cities on their voting choices. Interestingly, those who watched Jennings were significantly more likely to vote for Reagan—by a minimum of about 13 to as much as 20 percentage points.

Wells and Petty: the power of gesture—In another study under the guise of testing headphones, Gary Wells and Richard Petty, respectively from the University of Alberta and the University of Missouri, tested three groups of students by asking them to listen to some songs followed by a taped editorial favoring a possible tuition hike. The control group was asked to keep their heads still while listening to the editorial while the second group was told to shake their heads from side to side and the third to nod their heads up and down. The songs were a distraction: the real aim of the study was to discover whether something as simple as a gesture could influence opinion—and it did. Those who kept their heads still were indifferent to the editorial; those who shook their heads disagreed, believing that tuition should go down; and those who nodded their heads agreed that a rise in tuition would be beneficial.

The message embedded in these studies is that ordinary, subtle gestures and expressions may have more power to influence our opinions that the content of the message itself. Jennings’s station, ABC, was supposedly the most hostile of all three principal network stations in its attitudes toward Reagan, yet its viewers—Jennings’s audience—were more likely to vote for Reagan. The authors of the headphone study also noticed that television commercials were more successful if they could produce an up-and-down eye movement in their viewers.

William Condon and “interactional synchrony”—A third study done by William Condon in the 1960s analyzed the tiny subtle movements that take place in the course of human interaction by slowing down a 4 ½-second tape of a man, woman, and child at dinner. Condon watched the tape thousands of times, observing every movement in minute detail until he noticed something that he called “interactional synchrony,” the harmonious timing of a person’s tiny facial and bodily movements in relation to his or her own speech as well as to the movements and speech of the other people involved in the conversation. These actions that take place within fractions of a second and involve minute initial movements followed by holding, stopping, reversing direction, and finally restarting the process, formed a kind of dance that became apparent in slow motion. The same sort of thing applies to speech patterns. Human beings, including infants, naturally harmonize and balance the rhythm, tone, pitch, and volume of their speaking patterns, even if they start out differently.

Emotional Contagion and “motor mimicry”—The fourth element Gladwell mentions is called “motor mimicry.” This means that being a naturally empathic species, we instinctively imitate each others’ expressions and movements. Hatfield, Cacciopo, and Rapson, the authors of the book Emotional Contagion, assert that “motor mimicry” can be used to transmit emotion from one person to another—in other words, that the instinctive imitation of a physical gesture, such as a smile, can trigger the actual emotion. Some people, called “senders,” transmit emotions more readily, while others are more inclined to receive them.

Howard Friedman and the Affective Communication Test—UCLA psychologist Howard Friedman took this concept of emotional contagion one step further by devising an Affective Communication Test, which measured people’s emotional expressiveness and then, after separating the high scorers into different rooms, paired them with two low scorers each. Participants were allowed to look at each other, but they were prohibited from speaking. Friedman found that the emotional states of the charismatic “senders” remained unaffected by the low scorers, whereas low scorers picked up on the moods of the high scorers.

 

Super Salesman Tom Gau revisited

How does all this apply to Tom Gau? Gau is evidently one of those people who have a high degree of mastery of minute gestural movements so that he can quickly draw others into his own rhythm and mode. Gladwell characterizes this as a generalized form of seduction; Moine describes it as the ability to build trust in a third of the usual time. But Gau is also highly charismatic, a “sender” to an extraordinary degree. His emotions are unmistakable and remarkably fluid, and they are reflected not only in his gestures and facial expressions but in his vocal range, which Gladwell compares to an opera singer’s. Out of Friedman’s 117 questions testing emotional charisma, with an average score being 71 and a high score over 90, Gau scored 116.

 

The chapter ends as we return to Paul Revere, who managed through his energy, social skills, and up-to-date knowledge to set the events in motion that would mobilize an army of militia from the various towns surrounding Boston. Revere was a Connector and a Maven; and though Gladwell never says who the Salesmen were who inspired the men from these towns to drop everything and hasten to join the battle, these Salesmen were clearly there, lending their energies to help generate the epidemic activity that ultimately won the American revolutionaries their freedom.

THE STICKINESS FACTOR

 

The origin of Sesame Street—Chapter 3 begins with the story of television producer Joan Ganz Cooney, who introduced the now well-known and widely loved children’s television show Sesame Street in the 1960s to counteract the trends of poverty and illiteracy. Originally, people were skeptical. Television was incapable of providing the tailor-made flexibility of a live instructor, and it was considered “low involvement” on the part of viewers. Its overall effect was thought to be “in one ear and out the other,” and all these factors promised to make it a less than perfect educational tool. In spite of these misgivings, Cooney and her colleagues, Harvard psychologist Gerald Lesser and Markle Foundation president Lloyd Morrisett, were undeterred. Through their own and others’ imagination and resourcefulness and by harnessing television’s strong points, including clues from advertising along with the talents of celebrity entertainers, they managed to create an educational tool that has become a household word and made a lasting, positive impression on children and families of all social and economic strata. Cooney and her colleagues managed to create a unique and memorable educational epidemic.

 

Small Things Go a Long Way

Making the message stick—In Chapter 2, Gladwell focused on the importance of the messenger in creating the phenomenon known as an epidemic; but in Chapter 3 he affirms the obvious point that the message or thing itself needs to be worth spreading. No amount of knowledge or charisma or connectedness can turn a bad or dull idea into something worth remembering and acting on. The question then becomes: assuming that the thing itself is worthwhile, what methods can those with average means—that is, those lacking the advertising budget of a huge conglomerate—use to make their message stick and take off? And do we have to shout multiple times, whether vocally or visually, to make sure our message is noticed and remembered?

Lester Wunderman and the gold box—Lester Wunderman, the direct marketer who created the highly successful advertising campaign for the Columbia Record Club understood just what to do in these circumstances. When Columbia wanted to supplement their advertising by hiring McCann Erickson, a top-rated New York advertising firm, Wunderman decided to challenge their decision: McCann’s advertising campaign against his, and whoever did best would win the entire account. After a month, Wunderman’s television ads outdid McCann’s by 60.5 percent, winning Wunderman the account.

What was different about Wunderman’s ads that made them so successful? McCann had the funds to spend far more money on their ads, which ran during prime time while Wunderman’s ads were relegated to late-night television. What set Wunderman’s ads apart was the use of a little gold box, a treasure hunt concept that promised viewers who sought and found the box in either their TV Guide or Parade magazine that they could request any record for free. Wunderman believes that it was this interactive element that drew his 80 percent response rate against McCann’s 19.5.

Inoculations, inserts, and incentive—In a 1960s social psychology experiment whose purpose was likewise to test response rate, Howard Levanthal gave several groups of Yale seniors varying information sheets on the perils of tetanus and the importance of inoculation. One version in particular played up the fear factor, using graphic illustrations of tetanus’s impact while others were less dramatic in their portrayal. All groups ended up being equally well informed, with the “high-fear”-version recipients being more convinced of the dangers; but the response rate in terms of actually going to the clinic to be inoculated was a disappointing three percent. The “high-fear”/“low-fear” approach may have produced an increase in intellectual and emotional reactions, but it had no effect when it came to acting on the information. Interestingly, of those who did act, an equal number were from either group. It wasn’t until Levanthal inserted a map with the clinic’s vaccination hours that the response increased to 28 percent. By including this simple insert, Levanthal changed the tetanus information sheet from abstract learning material—something Yale students were well used to—to a practical possibility.

 

Getting Things to Stick—The Challenge of Sesame Street

Lorch and Anderson: preschoolers and strategic TV viewing—Sesame Street’s basic premise was that children were teachable if you could succeed in holding their attention. Back in the late 1960s, when children’s education and television were just beginning to be brought together, what that meant in practice wasn’t yet clear. The first fallacy to be overcome was the notion that children (and adults) watched TV in a zombielike mode. But researchers soon discovered that young children were actually more likely to watch in short spurts while they simultaneously played with their toys. In fact, when they compared children who had only a TV to watch with those who played with their toys at the same time, they found that the two groups had learned exactly the same amount—roughly 85 percent. One of these researchers, psychologist Elizabeth Lorch of Amherst College, noticed, in addition, that if you changed the order of the program in a way that didn’t make sense, the children stopped watching. Her work with University of Massachusetts television researcher Daniel Anderson revealed that children watch strategically, focusing on the parts that they understand and find useful and ignoring the parts that confuse them, which explains why distractions failed to impede the learning process.

Ed Palmer and the “Distracter”—During its early period, Sesame Street’s research head was a man named Ed Palmer, a psychologist who was one of the first to study children’s educational television. Palmer’s job was to discover the stickiness level of Sesame Street’s programming, and he did this by means of what he called “the Distracter,” a highly varied slide show that would change slides every 7 ½ seconds. Two children at a time would be seated in a room with a television showing Sesame Street episodes next to the “Distracter” slide show while researchers noted which parts of the show held the children’s attention and which didn’t.

The “Distracter” gave the show’s producers an exact tool to work with, enabling them to correct and streamline the programming. They discovered, for example, contrary to expectation, that children did not enjoy watching animals or lots of simultaneous noise. In the second case, the producers thought it would be exciting, but the kids just found it confusing. One of Palmer’s most vital discoveries, however, occurred early in the show’s history and became one of Sesame Street’s hallmarks. On the advice of child psychologists, the show originally separated the Muppet scenes from the street scenes, which focused on adult conversation and activities. The psychologists felt that mixing fantasy and reality would give children the wrong impression; the problem was that the adult street scene sections of the show made virtually no impression—the kids simply weren’t interested, and the show was losing viewers. To keep their audience interested, the producers decided to ignore the psychologists’ advice and rewrite the program, incorporating Muppets into the street scenes and in the process creating one of the most successful television shows ever.

Barbara Flagg: eye movement and learning—The question still remained, however, as to whether the children were actually learning or whether they were simply being entertained. To answer this, the show’s producers brought in Harvard University psychologist Barbara Flagg and her team to study the children’s eye movements in order to determine exactly which aspects of an episode segment were capturing their attention. What they discovered was that, between two different reading segments that both scored phenomenally well on Distracter tests, only one succeeded in accomplishing its goal of teaching them to read. In the other, the Muppet—Oscar—was simply too distracting, and the letters were placed too low on the screen since people typically fixate on the center of the screen.

 

Blue’s Clues: Improving upon Sesame Street

Improving upon Sesame Street: eliminating the negative—For all its success, Sesame Street left some people unsatisfied and wondering whether it couldn’t be improved upon. It’s wide success is certainly a testament to the benefits it has provided for the last five decades, but it does contain some flaws in relation to the goal of educating preschoolers, a few of which were based on misunderstandings of how young children think. They are as follows:

 

  • It is a magazine show, constructed from three-minute snippets not necessarily related to each other. The premise for this was that young children had short attention spans, a notion based in part on the show’s research using the Distracter method as well as what types of shows children typically watched. This facet of Sesame Street was also influenced by the short, targeted format of commercials, and it was no coincidence that the Muppets’ creator, Jim Henson, had previously been in advertising.
  • It does not take advantage of the story framework, a critical aspect of how young children process the world.
  • It was designed to appeal to both children and adults in order to solve the problem of a presumed lack of educational interest and support in lower-income families.
  • It included things that eluded children, such as puns and references that only adults could understand as well as concepts that are inaccessible to preschoolers, such as the idea that a single entity could have more than one classification or that it could change its name without changing its identity or nature. The example given in this case was of Big Bird, who realized that he was the only one with a name that was nothing more than a description of what he was and, therefore, wanted to change it to “Roy,” a concept that evidently would leave preschoolers feeling confused because they are at a stage where they are still learning to label the world around them.
  • It probably included too much talking. According to Todd Kessler, a former member of the Sesame Street team and one of the producers of Blue’s Clues, the 1990’s children’s show that topped Sesame Street’s ratings, children’s shows often forget that preschoolers lack the verbal skills to process a lot of talk and are, therefore, liable to lose interest. Kessler believed that television’s power lay in its visual capacity, something that preverbal young children could grasp more easily.

 

Blue’s Clues’ producers —Blue’s Clues’ aim was to take the Sesame Street idea a few steps further. Its producers, from the Manhattan-based Nickelodeon Network, which included Kessler and Angela Santomero (who had been weaned on Sesame Street) felt that preschoolers needed something more tailored to their mentality and capabilities and that, as an educational tool, television had more to offer than had so far been explored.

Improving upon the positive—So how was Blue’s Clues different from Sesame Street? Here are some of the features that assumed a different learning mode for preschoolers than that supposed by Sesame Street:

 

  • Instead of being a full hour, it was only half an hour. Kessler believed that young children had a longer attention span than the three minutes that seemed to work best for the Sesame Street producers. His concept was that children could sit still and learn for half an hour if the material was presented correctly.
  • Instead of a whole cast of actors, there was only one—Steve Burns, the young man who was the show’s host.
  • Rather than having many short snippets, the show featured the ongoing adventures of a cartoon dog named “Blue,” with only one story per episode.
  • Instead of the constant variety and change of a Sesame Street production, the pace was relatively slow, with long pauses geared toward preschooler timing.
  • The material was considerably simplified. Whereas Sesame Street is known for its puns and clever references, Blue’s Clues believed in straightforward simplicity. For instance, characters names matched what they were: the mailbox, for example, was named “Mailbox.”

 

As Gladwell observes, all this simplification might seem like a step backward from an adult perspective, yet it captured the children’s attention and as mentioned earlier, outdid Sesame Street in the ratings. It worked, too. According to educational researcher Jennings Bryant of the University of Alabama, within a six-month period, children who regularly watched Blue’s Clues had significant cognitive advantages relative to their peers in terms of learning, memory, problem solving, and the flexibility of their thinking processes.

Blue’s Clues overall form was true to its concept of remaining simple and straightforward. The show was predictable in that it always began by introducing a puzzle. The host and Blue, the cartoon dog, would engage the audience in trying to solve the puzzle as the episode unfolded. Blue would leave clues along the way, and there would be mini-puzzles to solve as the animation magically shifted from one scene to the next. In the end, Steve would return to the “living room,” where the show began, and ponder the meaning of the clues as he sat in his “Thinking Chair.”

This much was different from Sesame Street, but there was a lot about the earlier show that worked, too, so Blue’s Clues’ producers took those elements and enhanced them. In Gladwell words, they made them “stickier.”

 

So just what were these fundamental aspects adopted by the new show?

Interactivity—A big element used by Blue’s Clues was interactivity, something that Sesame Street never fully capitalized on but that Blue’s Clues adopted as a fundamental aspect of its approach. Steve, the host, would consequently address the kids most of the time, in addition to taking long pauses adapted to preschoolers’ response needs.

Repetition—Another overriding factor was repetition, which proved to be a highly effective learning tool. When Sesame Street employed James Earl Jones to pronounce each letter of the alphabet, his booming rendition proved so effective that the producers repeated it again and again. Rather than boring the children, it engaged them to the point that they were soon shouting out the letters before Jones. Blue’s Clues decided to make repetition a fundamental part of its approach by running the same show five times in one week before introducing a new episode. Again, instead of boring them, all but the oldest children became increasingly engaged with each showing as they learned and mastered new layers of understanding each time.

Research—Research was yet another element that Blue’s Clues adopted from Sesame Street, again taking it several steps further by testing their shows three times as opposed to Sesame Street’s once. Gladwell accompanied the research team on one of its testing excursions, watching as the three young women presented the script in storybook form to a group of Greenwich Village preschoolers. Each woman took a different set of children and went through the story and the questions with them. What they found on reviewing their notes was that the order in which the clues were presented made a monumental difference in the level of mystery and suspense that could be generated. In this case, the clues as written in the original script, which were “ice,” “waddle,” and “black and white,” worked better when given in reverse order. The answer, which was “penguin,” was simply too obvious if the children were given “ice” and “waddle” as their first two clues, thus breaking the suspense too early in the show.

 

 

Summary

Gladwell concludes the chapter by summarizing the notion that tiny details like the ones above are what make or break a message, determining whether or not it catches on in epidemic proportions. Wunderman’s gold box, Levanthal’s map insert with the clinic vaccination schedule, Sesame Street’s unique mix of Muppets and people, and Blue’s Clues tiny adjustments—the length of the pauses, the order of the clues, and so on—all illustrate that it’s not just what you say, who says it, or even how often you say it but also how it’s said that’s important, and that small changes can make a significant difference.

THE POWER OF CONTEXT (1)—“BROKEN WINDOWS”

 

Bernie Goetz and the New York subway—Chapter 4 opens with the harrowing story of Bernhard Goetz’s 1984 vigilante New York subway shooting of four rowdy black youths who asked him for five dollars and were supposedly acting as though they might have had guns in their pockets. In fact, three of them were carrying screwdrivers, but only Goetz was carrying a gun, and he used it without apology on each of the four teenagers, severely wounding Darrell Cabey so that he was paralyzed from the waist down. Goetz, himself unsure as to why he did it except that the youths triggered something in him, later turned himself in but was acquitted of the charges.

In 1984 in New York City, where crime had been a significant problem for decades and negotiating the subway system could easily be viewed as a form of hell, Goetz’s actions were seen by many as an act of heroism. News headlines were slanted in his favor, and his acquittal came easily. In 1990, though, the tables began to turn: crime fell at an unprecedented rate, making New York now one of the nation’s safest large urban centers. The subway, which used to feature cars covered in graffiti and the perpetual presence of thugs and panhandlers, has since been cleaned up. The cars are no longer sweltering in the summer and cold in the winter, people pay their fares (formerly a serious problem), and the trains run at a reasonable rate. In this setting, Goetz’s actions would have seemed nonsensical.

What made New York’s crime rate shift so suddenly? Violent crime had decreased nationwide due to an aging population, significant economic revival, and a decline in the crack trade; but with the exception of the latter, which had been ongoing for some time, New York still suffered economically, and 1980s immigration patterns had created a younger population. What then caused the sudden, dramatic change?

Wilson and Kelling’s “Broken Windows” Theory—To answer that question, Gladwell refers us to criminologists James Wilson and George Kelling’s “Broken Windows” theory, which maintains that a disorderly environment acts as an invitation to crime while an orderly one discourages it. Even a small thing like a broken window or aggressive panhandlers, if ignored, can create an epidemic effect leading to an increase and worsening of crimes and an overall decrease in the quality of the environment.

David Gunn and the subway system overhaul—The change for the New York transit system began in the mid-1980s, when the Transit Authority took Kelling’s consulting advice and decided to implement the “Broken Windows” theory. Its new subway director, David Gunn, in line with the “Broken Windows” concept, decided to focus on the ubiquitous graffiti issue first. Graffiti, in his mind, was like a broken window: its presence suggested that no one cared. He knew that the multi-billion dollar renovation of the system would be fruitless if this issue was ignored, so despite protests that the transit system had more pressing problems, Gunn set about to clean up each of the city’s subway lines one at a time.

Gunn was strict about maintaining the cars, which meant that any cars arriving at the changeover station with graffiti went out of service until they were cleaned up. His technique at Harlem’s 135th-St. station illustrated his determination to make his point. Train workers would let the graffiti artists go through their entire three-night routine of first painting the train white, then outlining the design, and finally painting in the colors. Once they were done, the transit crew would walk over to the train car and paint right over the graffiti design. According to Gunn, the kids would be in tears, but the action sent a clear message that vandalism would no longer be tolerated.

William Bratton: tackling small offenses first—In 1990, once Gunn’s transit line refurbishment was complete, the Transit Authority installed another “Broken Windows” advocate, William Bratton, as the chief of the transit police. Bratton, like Gunn, began with the small things, tackling the widespread problem of fare-beating first. Bratton wasn’t shy about making his agenda known, and fare-beaters were handcuffed and left standing together until the day’s work was done. The situation was further streamlined by turning a city bus into a mobile station so that offenders could be processed efficiently. His efforts carried a hidden bonus: a crime that before had seemed barely worth the effort now proved to be a bonanza since fare-beaters had a history of committing other crimes, as well. The result was that those with criminal tendencies soon got the picture and paid their fare.

In 1994, newly elected mayor Rudolph Giuliani made Bratton the chief of the New York City Police. Once again, Bratton implemented the “Broken Windows” theory, tackling New York’s small “quality-of-life” crimes first, such as public drunkenness and urination or “squeegee men” who forced their services on New York drivers. Perpetrators of these minor, seemingly irrelevant crimes didn’t just receive a slap on the hand or a fine either—they went to jail. According to Gladwell, Giuliani and Bratton ascribed the sudden decline in violent crime to the crackdown on small, quality-of-life infractions.

The influence of environment—The four youths from the Goetz shooting were all from the same housing project in an area of the South Bronx known for its high incidence of crime, drug use, and poverty. Goetz’s own background possessed elements that were potentially conducive to the type of sudden uncontrolled, violent behavior displayed on that fateful day: a strict father with a bad temper, a lonely childhood, racism, ongoing authority issues, a decided vigilante attitude, and a tendency to gravitate toward unhealthy environments. Several years before the shooting incident, Goetz had been the victim of a mugging, and there is some conjecture that he may have burned down a dilapidated vacant newsstand that had been a source of obvious irritation for him.

Goetz’s biographer, Lillian Rubin, maintains that Goetz chose his environment because it provided him with a suitable target for his rage. Rubin’s idea is that Goetz’s actions in the subway in 1984 were only partly directed at the people standing immediately in front of him: they were merely the present physical representatives of an unresolved troubled past. By standard psychological theories which posit that the driving forces behind people’s actions come from within, namely, from a previously developed mentality based on past experiences, the location of the shooting was unimportant. As Gladwell puts it, in that case, it could just as easily have happened in a Burger King.

The power of context—But is this, in fact, true? As the title of this chapter suggests, another name for the “Broken Windows” theory is “the Power of Context.” In the 1960s, that was understood to mean that sweeping social and economic reforms would provide the solution to crime. But Bratton and Giuliani saw it differently: in their view, the way to reverse the pattern of crime was to start with the small things, to create an environment that was no longer conducive to it. According to Gladwell, this view holds that the 1984 subway shooting incident occurred because the chaotic environment of New York’s subway system at the time permitted and even fostered that sort of behavior.

In the section on Salesmen in the previous chapter, we learned how exposure to the expressions and moods of charismatic individuals as suggested by subtle shifts in facial or other movements could easily influence other people’s states of mind. Gladwell’s point in this chapter is that environments function similarly, influencing our mental and emotional states in ways that we might not notice or comprehend.

Philip Zimbardo and the simulated prison—To illustrate this point, Gladwell describes several studies, the first of which was performed by Stanford social scientist Philip Zimbardo and his team. Zimbardo’s group simulated a prison setting and then recruited 21 of the healthiest, most balanced volunteers out of the 75 who applied. The group was then randomly and evenly divided into guards and prisoners, and the prison situation was mimicked as closely and realistically as possible, including having actual policemen arrest the “prisoners,” blindfold them, and bring them to the mock jail. What shocked Zimbardo was the speed and intensity of the changes that occurred in the behavior of those playing the different roles. Regardless of their previous dispositions, the men in the role of guards began almost immediately to exhibit cruelty while the prisoners became rebellious, hysterical, depressed, anxious, and enraged. The experiment, which was supposed to have lasted two weeks, had to be terminated after six days, with some prisoners being released even earlier because of severe emotional upset. Gladwell quotes several of the men as mentioning their amazement at the changes that took place in their personalities and how little control they seemed to demonstrate over themselves. What Zimbardo deduced from the study was that no matter what sort of environment and training an individual may have been previously exposed to, certain types of situations and places are capable of producing a disorienting degree of forceful and rapid changes in behavior.

Hartshorne and May: the relative nature of character—Another set of studies performed in the 1920s by New York researchers Hugh Hartshorne and M.A. May was a series of tests given to students to evaluate their level of honesty in different situations. One example of these tests presented the students with an impossibly short time frame for completing the questions followed by a test asking them to grade their own work. Hartshorne and May found that though there were some predictable patterns, such as intelligent students cheating less than relatively unintelligent ones, honesty levels in terms of cheating on tests varied more with the situation than with any personal characteristics or type of background (a stable home, for example).

The common denominator of these two experiments is that both of them reveal that what we believe ought to be stable personality traits, such as honesty, might not be so stable after all—that personal characteristics might depend more on situational and environmental factors than previously suspected. A radical change in situation, as in the mock jail experiment, might, therefore, produce a radical shift in personal behavior.

Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE)—Related to this issue is the tendency on the part of many to analyze behavior in terms of supposedly stable personality characteristics without taking environmental and situational elements into consideration. One of the examples Gladwell gives is of two sets of basketball players, the first in a well-lit gym and the second in a gym with poor lighting, which naturally increased the number of shots missed. When people were asked to compare the players’ skills, they inevitably gave the first group a better rating without considering the lighting as a factor. This sort of unthinking analysis is called Fundamental Attribution Error, or FAE, by psychologists, and it is a common problem. According to Gladwell, most human beings are prone to attribute others’ actions to underlying personality characteristics rather than to situational issues. Yet much of what is called “character” is, in fact, learned and habitual, and whatever stability we may seem to exhibit results from maintaining control over the external factors of our lives. A sudden unexpected shift in situation or environment would, therefore, theoretically produce a similar shift in “character” as the person grapples with whatever new issues he or she is suddenly faced with. The example Gladwell gives from his own life is his enjoyment of dinner parties, which he, therefore, throws frequently. Because of his enjoyment, his friends view him as being fun; but faced with a less enjoyable situation, he might not seem like such a fun person after all.

 

Summary

To sum things up, the law of the power of context suggests that our environment shapes our behavior and character. Psychologist Judith Harris, author of The Nurture Assumption, has observed that the larger environment—the neighborhood and the school—wields more influence over shaping a person’s character than the family environment. Seemingly little things like clean streets and intact windows make it easier to resist crime and behave in a decent manner than being surrounded by chaos—for example, by fare-beating, graffiti, poor climate control, and the stench of urine. Gladwell considers it no wonder that Goetz suddenly lost it when confronted with four rowdy youths who seemed to be threatening him. Their behavior merely tipped what the environment had set up.

THE POWER OF CONTEXT (2)—THE MAGIC OF 150

 

The importance of groups in epidemic trends

Rebecca Wells and the Ya-Ya Sisterhood Groups—Chapter 5 is about the importance of groups in tipping a movement toward epidemic proportions. It begins with the story of Rebecca Wells’ book Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, published in 1996, which started out slowly in terms of sales. Within two years, though, sales began to pick up dramatically. Wells’s readings were now attracting hundreds rather than single-digit numbers, and in 1998, Ya-Ya Sisterhood, hit the bestseller lists.

What caused this epidemic reaction? Ya-Ya’s audience was mainly women, but they were women of all ages and generations, many of them related, if not by blood, then by friendship.  But there was another factor: the people attending the readings came in groups that were mostly book groups, and these book groups were so successful that what had started as reading relationships blossomed into friendships. Women were asking to have not only their book copies signed but also the photographs of their group together at the beach or each others’ homes. The women were living out the story of friendship as told in the book itself, often creating their own Ya-Ya Sisterhoods.    

John Wesley and the spread of Methodism—The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, clearly understood the importance of groups in creating epidemic behavior. In the late 1800s, Wesley traveled thousands of miles by horseback to spread Methodism by establishing multiple societies in England and America, swelling the denomination’s numbers from 20,000 to four and a half times that number in a few years. Like the Ya-Ya Sisterhood book reading groups that turned into friendships, the societies gave people a context to experience what they were learning in real life, which in turn strengthened their enthusiasm for the idea.

 

The Rule of 150

But the word “group” can mean many things, and Gladwell’s next endeavor is to explore exactly what kind of group is most conducive to the creation of optimum social behavior. At this point, Gladwell introduces us to the phrase “the Rule of 150,” the subtitle and main idea of the chapter.

 

Human limitations: the channel capacity, the rule of 150, and the neocortex ratio—Before delving into what that means, Gladwell first mentions something called the “channel capacity,” a term used by cognitive psychology to denote the limited ability of most people to process information into more than six or seven categories at a time. This limitation applies to all types of information, from musical tones to degrees of sweetness in iced tea, the two examples given by Gladwell in the book; and the tendency to be overwhelmed past a certain amount relates to not only intellectual but to emotional and social capacities, as well. Emotionally, in terms of close, caring relationships, most people seem to gravitate to the number twelve while socially—that is, in the context of larger group interactions—the most functional number of people appears to be around 150. This has been found to be true in such diverse contexts as the Hutterite colonies (similar to the Amish) of Europe and North America, which divide into two upon reaching 150; military units, which have found that controlling groups of more than 200 men ceases to be practical; and hunter-gatherer cultures from Australia to South America, whose villages tend to average close to 150. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar has moreover found a direct correlation between the size of various primates’ and humans’ neocortices—the part of the brain involved in complex reasoning—and the size of their social groups. He has even managed to devise a “neocortex ratio,” a formula that can calculate a fairly exact estimate of maximum group size for optimal interaction based on the size of the neocortex of a given species. The neocortex ratio for human beings results in the number 147.8, or approximately 150.

What does all this have to do with epidemics? Gladwell argues that if we want our message to thrive—to grow to epidemic proportions—we need to make sure that it does this in groups smaller than 150. If we don’t attend to this simple factor, there is a decent chance that the group dynamic will become dysfunctional.

Gore Associates and the magic of 150—One of the prime examples of this concept in action is Gore Associates, best known as the makers of Gore-Tex fabric, although they also produce a number of items for such technical and scientific industries as the automotive and medical fields. Unlike most large companies, Gore has no noticeable hierarchy and none of the trappings. From titles (everyone is an “associate”) to offices, dress code, and business cards, Gore is a model of democracy and unpretentiousness. Like the Hutterites, the military, and indigenous villages worldwide, the company discovered early on the power of peer pressure in a small environment and has, therefore, deliberately kept each plant at no more than 150 associates. One of Gore’s long-term associates, Jim Buckley, compared the experience with another plant he had recently visited, the Lucent Technologies plant. With 650 employees, Buckley’s observation was that no one within a certain department knew anyone outside of that department, which made their work experience relatively insular. That sort of insularity didn’t happen at Gore, where things were much more holistic. Because everyone knew each other, they had the sense of working together towards the same goal, albeit in different departments—which brings us to the next advantage of small environments.

The bonus of transactive memory—In relationships that foster an intimate knowledge of the other person or people, such as the relationships in families or couples, a type of shared memory evolves called “transactive memory.” Transactive memory operates according to the “divide and conquer” theory: different individuals specialize in different aspects or types of knowledge, and everyone else in the group knows where to go to find that information or expertise. The important thing to remember, though, is that the group functions as a unit, not as a group of divisions without immediate contact or knowledge of each other. In an innovative high-tech company like Gore, this sort of immediacy and intimacy is a key element in maintaining an efficient and unified operation.

 

Conclusion

Gladwell’s concluding point is that the basis of a large-scale epidemic is many small epidemics: Gore’s multiple small plants, Wells’ many different Ya-Ya fan groups, the Methodists’ numerous societies. And although the overarching concept may be a single idea, within the different subgroups are variations of that idea that make each experience of the epidemic unique—what Gladwell calls “the paradox of the epidemic.”

CASE STUDY 1—THE AIRWALK INNOVATION

 

The Law of the Few in action

From skateboards to super cool—The company Airwalk was once synonymous with skateboarding, and at $13 million a year, they did quite well focusing on the teenage skateboarding market. Early in the 1990s, though, Airwalk decided to expand, and it used a variety of avenues to do so. It widened its focus to include other sports, sponsored athletes, worked with retail outlets, and even had rock bands wearing their shoes in performance. But according to Gladwell, their most significant move was to hire the ad agency Lambesis. Within just a few years, Lambesis brought Airwalk from its former high of $16 million to $175 million.

How did Lambesis and Airwalk manage such a dramatic sales increase in such a short time frame? Lambesis’s ads were outstanding in many ways: specifically targeted at the youth market, they were “cool,” unusual, funny, and unexpected. A young man wearing a shoe on his head while the barber clipped the shoestrings or a girl in leather using a shiny Airwalk shoe as a make-up mirror was not what you would normally expect from a athletic shoe ad. But Lambesis’s success specifically came from their understanding and use of the underlying principles that drive epidemics.

Geoffrey Moore and the diffusion model—The first principle has to do with the “diffusion model,” a sociological concept that identifies the roles of the different types of people involved in setting a new trend. The model begins with the Innovators, the “wild” ones who are the first to try new things. Next it moves to the Early Adopters, a more studious type of risk-taker, often respected in the community. These are followed by the Early and Late Majority, both of whom are averse to risk until finally the movement embraces the Laggards. According to Geoffrey Moore, a business consultant who studied the diffusion model in relation to the high-tech industry, there is a wide gulf between the first two groups and the groups following them. He sees the first two as having an entrepreneurial mentality, willing to try things before they’ve been substantially tested. The majority groups, on the other hand, fit into the big business mentality, and partly because of the size and complexity of what they deal with, they take a more conservative approach. The gap in style and thinking between these two large groups is what often stops a trend in its tracks. What then, Gladwell asks, did Hush Puppies and Airwalkers do to bridge that gap?

The Law of the Few revisited: trend bridgers—The answer lies with the Law of the Few: in this case, the Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen of the teenage world. Lambesis’s head of market research at the time, DeeDee Gordon, gives the example of the bike messenger who duct-tapes the bottoms of his jeans. He plays the role of the Innovator. Then one or more people from the three groups embraced by the Law of the Few function as the Early Adopters, but they don’t just adopt the idea: they translate it into something more acceptable to the larger group, for example, by using an item with Velcro instead of something as raw as duct tape.

Gordon Allport and rumor spreading—In another example, Gladwell likens the epidemic process to the way rumors are spread. Sociologist Gordon Allport describes the process in his book The Psychology of Rumor. The rumor undergoes three stages of distortion: leveling, sharpening, and assimilation. “Leveling” means that crucial details that would cast doubt on the truthfulness of the rumor are omitted. This is followed by “sharpening,” which introduces new, erroneous details to make the rumor more memorable. Finally, it is “assimilated” into a context more familiar to those spreading the rumor so that it fits their preconceived notions more readily. Thus, in Maine in 1945, a Chinese teacher on holiday who politely asks about the location of particularly picturesque hill becomes a camera-toting Japanese spy. Never mind that the “camera” he was carrying was actually a guidebook and that he was making no effort to conceal himself. The point is that because the reality made little sense to the residents of rural Maine in 1945, the actual facts were adjusted to match their own mentality rather than the other way around. In the same way, a wild new idea is tweaked by the intermediaries who make it more viable and acceptable to their more conservative neighbors.

Johns Hopkins’s needle-exchange opportunity—Another telling example of how one particularly well-connected group of people can bridge the gap between two vastly different worlds comes from Baltimore’s drug culture. When researchers from Johns Hopkins University accompanied the needle-exchange van with the thought of interviewing the addicts who handed in their dirty needles, they found that only a few addicts were showing up every week with sacks full of hundreds of needles which they exchanged, afterwards selling the free clean needles for a dollar each. At first the researchers were taken aback, but they soon realized that these people were presenting them with an opportunity. The world of most addicts is too far removed from the medical world that wants to help them, but these individuals could bridge the gap between both worlds. They knew the ins and outs of Baltimore’s drug scene and were in touch with a lot of people, but unlike most addicts, they were also organized enough to meet with the van on time in order to get a new supply of needles, and though the motive was money, the researchers sensed a desire to help, as well. What if, the researchers reasoned, they could hand out free condoms, too, thereby helping to stop the spread of AIDS?

 

DeeDee Gordon: cool teen Maven

How does all this relate to Airwalk’s campaign? Lambesis decided that they would play the role of intermediary. With the right research, they could serve as the go-between for Airwalk, bridging the gap between cutting-edge teen culture and the greater majority of youth. To make sure they got it right, Lambesis brought DeeDee Gordon on board, a woman whom Gladwell describes as a Maven for whatever happens to be cool at the moment and with a sixth sense of where to find it. Gordon set herself up with a global contact group of young Innovators, people who saw themselves as different, even outcasts. “Different,” to Gordon, doesn’t necessarily mean wild hair and outlandish clothing. It might even look like what to most would seem “normal,” the crucial distinction being that it’s different within its own context. She gives the example of “Joe Regular Guy” in a coffeehouse thoroughly populated by people with blue hair. Gordon has found that those who are willing to stand out, regardless of style, have a larger, more passionate outlook than their peers, whose thoughts tend to gravitate more towards their own immediate concerns.

Gordon’s research consisted of interviewing these contacts several times during the year to find out about their current thoughts, tastes, goals, and activities, including the clothes they were wearing, their dreams and ideas, and their current tastes in music and television. By studying trends across the country and elsewhere in the world and then comparing them to mainstream behavior, she could predict which trends could potentially connect with mainstream culture. Lambesis’s method for the Airwalk campaign was that if they noticed a trend appearing all over the country, they would incorporate it into the Airwalk ads. Trends ranged from Tibetan monks to James Bond to country clubs, futuristic technology, and aliens, and the ads would then be tailored to each trend in some quirky way (in the country club ad, for example, the shoe was being whacked with a tennis racket). By staying on top of each new trend a year or so before it hit the mainstream, advertising and production—which took about a year—could be timed to come out just as the trend got going, assuming it took at all. But Lambesis also played an active role in establishing the trends in mainstream youth culture. The ad agency had noticed that the trends that took showed up in all aspects of living—clothing, music, television, and so on. So Lambesis planted images everywhere, mixing the trendsetter ideas with concepts from mainstream youth culture, such as using a skateboard as part of a martial arts move. As Gladwell says, it was no wonder that Airwalk shoe sales soared.

Uncool mistakes—Unfortunately, Airwalk was unable to sustain its momentum. Production couldn’t keep up with demand, and in spite of the cool marketing, the shoes themselves had lost their edge. The Airwalk concept was still based on innovation, but the shoes no longer fit the bill. Airwalk’s former president, Lee Smith, pointed out an additional issue. Airwalk had always maintained a dual supplier strategy: boutique shops were promised a higher-quality version of the same shoe while the mainstream outlets settled for the advantage of brand recognition, even though the design, materials, and durability were not as strong. When Airwalk decided to break that rule, it lost the loyalty and enthusiasm of its retailers. The Innovator brand had sold out to the mainstream, and as a result, Airwalk was no longer cool.

CASE STUDY 2—SUICIDE AND TEEN SMOKING

 

Micronesia: trying out suicide

Suicide among young Micronesian males—Chapter 7 begins with the strange anecdote of a young Micronesian boy named Sima who takes his own life because his father yelled at him and threw him out of the house. At least, that was the ostensible reason. In fact, suicide had become something of a trend in Micronesia among teenage boys and young men, to the point that it had practically become trivialized. The ages of suicide victims had become younger and younger, and the reasons included such nonsensical attitudes as simply wanting to try it out. Fifty years ago, suicide was virtually unheard of in Micronesia; by the 1980s, the islands had the highest ratio of young male suicides in the world.

David Phillips: suicide, “permission,” and contagiousness—UCSD (University of California at San Diego) sociologist David Phillips argues that suicide can be contagious. Phillips found that whenever a story about suicide headlined in the local papers, suicide incidents and traffic accidents for that area would increase for the next ten days, after which the situation would return to normal. Just as with many other things, the act of a person—especially of a famous person—can function as a form of permission for someone who is mentally or emotionally unstable and possibly, though often unconsciously, looking for a solution to ongoing pain.

One of the things that Phillips’s studies revealed was that the “permission” given through the prior action of another person was understood in a remarkably specific way. Phillips noticed, for example, a direct correlation between the age of the suicide victim and the ages of the victims of traffic accidents following the suicide announcement. The type of accident was also reflected in the type of death: murder-suicides would result in multiple victims while a single suicide would occasion the death of the driver alone. In England in the 1970s, a rash of self-immolation suicides totaling around 80 in number followed the announcement of a single suicide of that type; and another team of English researchers in the 1960s discovered a strong social link between 135 people who had attempted suicide.

All this information dovetails neatly with the suicide trend among young males in Micronesia. The trend began in 1966, with one suicide by a young man in May of that year followed six months later by the suicide of the heir of a wealthy family, a highly charismatic young man who had just fathered two children by two different women and couldn’t make up his mind as to what to do. That incident spawned a rash of suicides among the young men of the islands, one of which was a close imitation of the heir’s own circumstances.

 

Similarities to teen smoking in the US

Gladwell subsequently points out that the Micronesian suicide trend is in many ways not that different from the teenage smoking epidemic in the United States. The anti-smoking campaign has had the reverse effect on teens, with 73 percent more of American youth smoking now than in 1988. Most smokers are already aware of the risks, so approaching the question from a rational angle does not seem to be the answer. Add to that the rebellious streak present in so many teenagers and we are left with the baffling question of how to fight the trend.

Intro to smoking: pleasant memories and cool people—Gladwell was curious to see whether the same permission-giving logic applied to cigarette smoking, so he devised his own admittedly non-scientific test, which he administered to several hundred urban dwellers, most of them around thirty years old. What he found was remarkably consistent: smoking for many was a trigger that brought up fond memories from their childhood and teenage years. Sometimes the memories were of smells or scenes or specific objects, but more often than not they were associated with a particular person who signified coolness or sophistication. There was Maggie, the sexy au-pair whose bikini top would fall off every time she dove into the pool, and Billy G., who always seemed to be the first to do whatever was happening or dangerous. There was the sophisticated mother with the tapered fingers and full lips, and the woman in black with the impossibly long cigarette holder, or the gregarious grandfather whom you half expected to pull the tablecloth off the table without upsetting anything. In fact, British psychologist Hans Eysenck has identified a specific personality type that he relates to hard-core smokers. He maintains that smokers are highly sociable extroverts who like action and excitement and are open about their feelings, caring little about others’ opinions. They are often impulsive, have strong sex drives, are more prone towards rebelliousness and risktaking, and generally spend far more on beer and coffee than non-smokers. Using certain standard “lie” tests, Psychologist David Krogh likewise affirms that they are more honest than their peers, possibly because they care relatively little about what others think.

What Gladwell draws from this is that smokers don’t smoke to be cool but because they already are cool, assuming that “cool” is defined as being the same set of traits that make up the classic smoker’s personality. Those characteristics—the impulsiveness, the rebelliousness, the sociability, the strong sex drive, and so on—are what make them pick up the cigarette to begin with, and the same traits also happen to be strongly associated with the teenage years. Gladwell’s contention is that the anti-smoking campaigns have missed the point: in the war against smoking, they have been focused on the “cool” aspect of smoking when all along it’s been the smokers themselves who are cool. And because of their charismatic personality traits, smokers have inadvertently acted as role models and, consequently, permission-givers, which in turn has fostered the ongoing teen smoking epidemic.

 

Smoking: to stick or not to stick—highs, genes, and “chippers”

Difference between contagiousness and stickiness—At this point in the chapter, Gladwell pauses to make a differentiation between contagiousness and stickiness. Contagiousness, he maintains, has to do with the people who transmit the thing or idea, while stickiness has to do with the thing itself. Maggie the au pair and Billy G. are contagious; smoking is sticky.

Varying levels of smoking and nicotine addiction—Or is it? A number of different studies have shown that the level of stickiness attributed to smoking and even nicotine varies considerably among individuals. A University of Michigan study discovered that although most people had a negative reaction to their first cigarette, there seemed to be a correlation between the level of smoker the person would become (heavy, light, former) and whether the initial experience of smoking was pleasurable or gave the person a “buzz.” In other words, as the level of the smoking habit increases, the percentage of those in that category who felt a buzz the first time they smoked also increases.

“Chippers”—Among regular smokers, too, the addictiveness of cigarette smoking seems to vary. The term “chippers,” for instance, describes someone who smokes more than half the time but no more than five cigarettes a day. Chippers, unlike many heavy smokers, also have no problem abstaining and claim to experience virtually no side effects.

Alan Collins: mice, nicotine, and genes—What accounts for these differences? University of Colorado researcher Alan Collins believes that it may be related to genes. Collins did a study using nicotine on different strains of mice, and found that some strains had a higher tolerance level while others had severe reactions. Collins also found that those with a higher tolerance found it pleasurable and for that reason were more inclined to ingest it.

But, as Gladwell points out, people are not mice, and though genes may explain some of the behavior around smoking, he does not believe that they account for all of it. He notes, for example, that people smoke more under boring or stressful circumstances because of nicotine’s ability to alleviate these states.

 

Contagiousness versus stickiness

Gladwell’s point in raising all these issues, though, is not for their own interest value but to determine how best to approach the war on smoking. So far he has managed to deduce that the contagious element of smoking—what makes it attractive—is not the same as what makes it stick as a long-term habit, so he divides the following analysis into two sections, each dealing independently with one of those aspects.

The power of peer influence and the teen mentality—Gladwell first briefly examines the possibility of preventing the most charismatic, rebellious teens—the “permission-givers”—from smoking at all, but he dismisses the idea almost immediately as being completely unlikely. He then examines the concept of the power of peer pressure at greater length: can teenagers be dissuaded from looking up to role models like Maggie and Billy G. and instead be persuaded to listen to their parents? Gladwell thinks that this is also probably unlikely, not least because the home is less influential in shaping a young person’s mentality than we have commonly believed.

What then are the prime influences? According to the Colorado Adoption Project, a 1970s study that followed 245 biological families and 245 adoptive families, genes play a large role, accounting for at least half of a person’s development. But as mentioned before, when it comes to the “nurture” aspect of personality development, the larger environment—a person’s peers and neighborhood—seem to outweigh family influences. Psychologist Judith Harris uses the example of how immigrant children fail to retain their parents’ accents or how the children of deaf people learn to speak normally regardless of their parents’ hearing and speech deficiencies.

In fact, both Harris and another psychologist, David Rowe, author of The Limits of Family Influence, place particular emphasis on the peer group. Rowe is convinced that the contribution of the family is primarily genetic, and studies of adopted children seem to bear this out in that no clear correlation exists between the parents’ habits and the child’s ultimate choices as an adult. Peer influence, on the other hand, is significant: the experience of smoking is, for many, part of being a teenager—part of the experimentation, the excitement, the rebellion against authority. Obviously, then, approaching the issue from an authoritarian adult angle won’t work.

Patches versus puffs—Having exhausted the contagiousness angle, Gladwell next moves to examine which element of the stickiness factor might yield. He acknowledges that the nicotine patch has helped many, but the patch only ameliorates part of the issue, namely, the craving for nicotine. The problem with the patch is how it delivers the nicotine: the steady stream of the drug delivered throughout the day can’t compare with the buzz that smokers get from a cigarette.

Smoking and emotional issues—Another angle is the apparent connection between smoking and depression as well as other psychiatric disorders, a correlation made by psychologist Alexander Glassman of Columbia University. Smoking has also been strongly linked to alcoholism and schizophrenia (roughly 80 percent of the former and 90 percent of the latter smoke), and the overall conclusion from several different studies suggests that it is becoming increasingly focused in the most problematic segments of society, including teenagers as young as twelve. Possible reasons for this correlation include personality or situational issues such as self-esteem problems or a difficult home environment.

Smoking and mood: missing brain chemicals—A third possibility that Gladwell explores in more detail is the possible connection between smoking and genetic deficiencies relating to the brain chemicals serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, all of which are mood regulators that in adequate doses can help to maintain confidence and other positive feelings. According to the unspecified but relatively recent research, nicotine is capable of raising dopamine and norepinephrine levels, helping the depressed smoker to achieve a feeling of well-being.

This particular side effect of nicotine may be one reason why smoking can be so difficult to quit. But Gladwell suggests that it might also provide an answer: if a smoker’s depression can be targeted and resolved in some other way, the smoking issue may also be resolved. In 1986, the pharmaceutical firm Glaxo Wellcome hit upon this by accident. Reports on their new antidepressant bupropion[1] repeatedly mentioned a decrease in smoking or the desire to smoke. The company quickly figured out that the bupropion was substituting for nicotine by releasing dopamine and norepinephrine to the brain, just as nicotine had.

Benowitz and Henningfield: legal nicotine limits—Another possible solution in the war against teen smoking is to catch young smokers before they become addicted. This brings us back to the chippers. According to UCSF (University of California at San Francisco) addiction expert Neil Benowitz, teen smokers tend to all be chippers. Those who go on to become heavy smokers do so gradually and generally don’t reach that level until they are in their twenties. Addiction, then, doesn’t happen overnight, and there is presumably a threshold of about five cigarettes (four to six milligrams) a day before the nicotine habit turns addictive. Benowitz and Jack Henningfield, another leading nicotine expert, have, therefore, recommended imposing a legal requirement on cigarette companies to lower the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to such an extent that even heavy smokers could still derive pleasure from smoking without running the risk of addiction.

 

Final recommendations

As Gladwell points out, our countless efforts to win the battle against teen smoking have been made from all angles; but he emphasizes that this is not necessary, that all that is necessary is to work with the key elements—nicotine levels and depression—in order to tip the results of those efforts in the right direction. Gladwell’s second point is that teen experimentation is inevitable and that trying to fight that tendency can only prove to be an exercise in futility. But he also argues that the statistics on drug experimentation versus ongoing drug use do not point to a dangerous situation. Of those who do experiment, only a small fraction claim to be regular users, and the number of heavy regular users, according to the 1996 Household Survey on Drug Abuse, is generally less than 1 percent. Given these circumstances and the teenage desire to explore, Gladwell believes that our efforts should be primarily aimed that keeping their experimentation as safe as possible.

[1] Bupropion has since been associated with increasing the same symptoms (irritability, aggression, and hostility in addition to suicidal tendencies as well) that it was said to prevent when used in connection with stopping smoking.

CONCLUSION

 

Stylists and breast cancer—Chapter 8, the conclusion to The Tipping Point, opens with the story of San Diego nurse Georgia Sadler, who attempted to spread the word about breast cancer and diabetes to women in the black churches, with little success. People seemed too tired or busy, and consequently, out of a possible 200, only twenty would show, and that twenty was already informed. Sadler decided that she needed a new, more relaxed venue as well as a more effective mode of transmission. With her meager resources, she realized that her choices were limited, so after thinking carefully about her situation, she opted for hair salons, with the stylist filling the role of messenger. Using the story as a framework, Sadler hired a folklorist to train the stylists on how to present the material. Her plan worked. The relaxed setting and the natural ability of stylists to converse and inspire trust opened up the women to new ideas and to making the necessary changes.

Band-Aids: a little used well can go a long way—The point of the preceding story is the same point which has been repeated throughout the book: that much can be accomplished with few resources when those resources and their matching efforts are intelligently focused. What those resources are matters less than how they are used, whether they refer to a person, like the Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen we met throughout the book; a simple idea, like Wunderman’s Gold Box; a tight budget, as in Georgia Sadler’s case; an ingenious approach, such as that taken by DeeDee Gordon and the small ad agency Lambesis; or a strategy that tackles the small things first, such as Gunn’s and Bratton’s tactics that revolutionized New York’s subway and streets. In every case, the thread was creativity, intelligence, and focus.

Gladwell notes that some people might liken such efforts to Band-Aids. A Band-Aid, however, is the perfect metaphor for the Law of the Few: it accomplishes a lot by fulfilling a variety of needs with little effort and expenditure of either time or money. Its simplicity is a symbol of the unassuming little things that can cause an entire movement or circumstance to tip in a new direction, of the small causes that can create enormous effects—the essence of the Tipping Point.

Test, observe, understand, shape—As Gladwell says, though, to master this concept, we need to rethink our view of things, to understand the different patterns, motives, and limitations that underlie our actions and interactions—the surprising and sudden shifts in behavior but also the common, even global, patterns. Understanding these patterns and tendencies can help us to anticipate the significant changes and phenomena that seem to otherwise elude us. Relying on our intuition is not enough: we need to observe and test and then repeat the process until our observations accord with reality.

 

Summary

Gladwell’s summarizing point is that we are highly suggestible and sensitive to our environment. This may make us seem unpredictable, but it also means that large-scale positive change is a real possibility. We do not have to bow to the idea that the universe is an intractable place. Instead, given the right approach to a situation, we can learn to shape it in ways that are useful and beneficial to all.

AFTERWORD

 

The Tipping Point doesn’t end with the Conclusion. Chapter 9, the Afterword, talks about its aftereffects, the reasons Gladwell wrote it, and some of its implications for our lives.

 

Motivations and Aftereffects

One of Gladwell’s main reasons for writing the book was to articulate the idea that even small circumstantial changes could have pronounced effects. The book itself was one such change, creating a wave of responses among a variety of people, some of whom set out to influence others in their communities. One example of this was Sharon Karmazin, a philanthropist who distributed a copy of the book to each of New Jersey’s three hundred public libraries, guaranteeing grants for any new ideas the book inspired.

Another of Gladwell’s motivations was to explore the word-of-mouth phenomenon, especially in an age when communication has become so easy and widespread. He believes that precisely because we are flooded with communications, we are being driven to seek out more personal word-of-mouth means of obtaining information through Mavens, Connectors, and Salesmen. In Chapter 9, he focuses on three crucial factors related to this situation: isolation, immunity, and the role of the Maven.

 

The Dangers of Isolation: Trends in Teen Mass Violence

Gladwell begins this section with the exploration of another teen trend, the rash of mass shootings that began in 1999 with the Columbine, Colorado incident. Like the Micronesian suicide epidemic, he sees one of its roots as being the “closed world” of the teenager, now ironically intensified by the advent of internet and cell phones, which enable them more and more to isolate themselves in their own world apart from adults. Like the wealthy Micronesian youth’s suicide, the Columbine incident seems to have caught the imaginations of other susceptible teenagers who then followed suit. But unlike other examples of epidemics described in the book, Gladwell warns us avoid trying to decipher these strange movements among teenagers according to external circumstances or broader trends. He instead likens these situations to the hysteria that causes waves of people to fall ill for what appear to be emotional rather than clear-cut physical reasons, even though they attribute their illness to something physical. Yet Gladwell maintains that although the causes may be emotional, they reveal an underlying anxiety that should not be ignored. He feels that the isolation of the teenager from the adult world—the result of allowing them more money, time, and independence—has increased the power of peer pressure and, consequently, the susceptibility to word-of-mouth trends.

 

Information Immunity

The second factor Gladwell discusses is our growing immunity to the flood of communications that is the product of the various communications devices we all now own. We have increasingly learned to block this flood of unwanted messages, and what we don’t block, we have learned to process with efficient one- and two-liners. The irony is that we are also reverting to the older—in Gladwell’s words, more primitive—mode of information-getting through our network of personal contacts, from those whose opinions we trust. This is, of course, where the Mavens, Connectors, and Salesmen come in. In this chapter, Gladwell focuses on the Maven as a key component in word-of-mouth trends.

 

Importance of the Maven

In discussing the importance of the Maven, Gladwell approaches the subject from an advertising and selling point of view. He tells us how he laughs every time he sees the 800 number on the back of an Ivory soap bar, encouraging customers to call if they have questions. Who, he wonders, would have questions about Ivory soap? The answer, of course, is a soap Maven—a small but powerful group, simply because it’s these people that the rest of us consult when we need help making choices. Lexus, the makers of the luxury car, picked up on this, as well. Early on, when they needed to recall the cars for repairs, they realized that the people who bought Lexus automobiles would have to be car Mavens, and since Lexus understood the worth of that distinction, they treated their customers accordingly, even flying a repair technician to Anchorage from Los Angeles for one of their customers. ITT Financial also understood this when, instead of targeting the wealthy with their new IRA, they chose teachers as their first market. Once convinced of the benefits, the teachers would naturally teach others. Gladwell calls this kind of thing a “Maven trap,” an affirmation of the power of the personal touch transmitted through word of mouth to antidote the increasing threats of isolation and information immunity. It is just one example of how the principles in The Tipping Point can operate in our daily lives.

Ponyboy is confined to his bed for seven days, which he does not like because he wants to be more active. One day he is looking through a yearbook, and he sees someone named Robert Sheldon who looks familiar; he realizes that it is Bob. He begins to wonder about who Bob was as a person, and who he was as Cherry’s boyfriend and Randy’s best friend. The more he looks at the photo the more he begins to see the Bob that he knew; the scared, cocky, and reckless kid. Darry comes in the room to tell Ponyboy that Randy has come to see him, and Pony tells Darry to send him in. Randy tells Pony that he is going to tell the cops exactly what happened the night that Bob died because his father wants him to.  He tells Pony that he has actually allowed himself to feel since Bob died and it’s the first time he can remember feeling anything in a long time. Pony realizes the only thing he has been feeling lately is fear, mostly fear of his court hearing and possibly being taken away from Darry. Randy asks Pony how his parents have reacted to everything that has happened and Pony tells him that his parents are dead; he lives with only Soda and Darry. Randy tells Pony not to worry about anything because he is not the one who killed Bob, Johnny is. Pony tells Randy that Johnny did not kill Bob; he had the switchblade and he killed Bob himself. Randy insists that he saw Johnny kill Bob himself and Johnny is now dead. Pony refuses to believe that Johnny is dead and refuses to admit that Johnny was the one who killed Bob, rather than himself. Darry comes in and tells Randy that it is time to leave and in the hallway Pony hears Darry tell Randy not to talk to Pony about Johnny because he is not ready to deal with it yet. Pony is now convinced that Randy is a typical Soc and is a bad guy just like all the rest of them.

Pony is at the hearing, and he sees less people there than he though there would be; himself, Darry, Soda, Cherry along with her parents, Randy along with his parents, and two of the boys who witnessed Bob’s death. Darry tells Pony not to speak out of turn, no matter what other people say. He listens as the boys are questioned, and tell the judge that Bob was drinking, he started a fight, and Johnny stabbed him. The judge does not ask Ponyboy anything about the night that Bob was killed but rather asks him if he likes living with his brothers and how he does in school. The judge decides to acquit Pony of the charges, and he is sent home, but things do not go back to normal for him. Pony starts doing poorly in school and has anger management issues. He is told by his English teacher that he needs to write a final paper that touches on his own personal experiences to bring up his grade enough to pass the class, but he does not know what to write about. He thinks about his parents and his brothers, and even the horse Mickey Mouse. He writes his name and his brothers’ names on a paper and draws a picture of a horse, but he has nothing else to say.

One day Soda comes upstairs after getting the mail and throws himself on the bed but will not talk to Pony about what is bothering him. At dinner, that night Darry and Pony get into an argument and Soda snaps; he gets up from the table and storms from the house. Darry and Pony find that Soda has dropped a letter on the ground; it is a letter he wrote to Sandy that was returned to him. Darry tells Pony that Sandy was pregnant when she was sent away, and it was not Soda’s baby, but he wanted to stay with her anyway. When they finally catch up with Soda he is crying and tells them that he is sick of always being in the middle of their fighting. At home, that night Pony finally picks up the book from Johnny and decides that he is going to stop pretending Johnny did not kill Bob. He finds a letter from Johnny inside of the book telling him that he is happy he could give his life to save the more promising lives of the kids that were trapped inside; he also understands the meaning of the Robert Frost poem that Pony recited for him. He also tells Pony to hold on to what makes him innocent and to find out what he wants to do and hold on to it. He wants Pony to tell Dally that as well, though he cannot tell Dally anymore. He realizes that someone needs to tell the story of the boys, who fight in the streets, and he calls his teacher to ask if he can write a longer paper. He sits down and begins to write, starting from the day he walked out of a movie theater into the sun, thinking about Paul Newman and wishing he had a ride home.

Old Dan stands at the bottom of the tree while Little Ann patrols the fence, both still in search of the coon.  The Pritchards want Billy to admit his loss, but Billy is convinced that the search is not yet over.  Finally, Billy hands over the money, but just after he does Little Ann starts barking like mad by a fence post that Billy finds is hollow; the coon is inside and it launches itself at the tree when Billy pokes it with a stick.  Billy climbs the tree to get the coon, but the coon lets out a cry that convinces Billy not to kill it.  He tells the Pritchards that the coon will not be killed by Little Ann and Old Dan and the boys threaten to beat Billy up.  Suddenly the Pritchards’ dog appears, dragging a limb from the tree to which it was tied.  Billy asks the boys for his money back, realizing that the coon’s safety is out of his hands now, and they attack him.  Suddenly Billy and the other boys realize the dogs are fighting, and the Pritchards’ dog is losing.  Rubin takes Billy’s ax and heads toward the dogs, but he trips and falls to the ground.  Billy ties up his dogs, and when he turns around he sees Rainie standing over Rubin, who is on the ground with the ax sticking out of him; he had apparently landed on the ax when he fell.  Rainie runs away, and Billy pulls the ax from Rubin at his request, which quickly kills him.  Billy heads home and tells his parents what happened, and Papa decides to gather some people from the neighborhood to tell the Pritchards what happened.  Billy is not blamed for what happened, but he still feels the guilt.  He collects some flowers and lays them on the grave the Pritchards dug for their son.  Billy hides out and sees Mrs. Pritchard find the flowers; she is obviously touched by the gesture though she does not know who did it.

It has been a few days since the accident, and Billy received word that Grandpa wants to see him at the store.  Billy mentally prepares himself for the meeting because he knows that his grandfather will want to know what happened, and he is right; as soon as Billy enters the store Grandpa asks for all the details.  Grandpa feels like it is his own fault because he encouraged the bet, but he feels better when Billy tells him that he won the bet and the Pritchards still kept his money.  Grandpa changes the subject now and tells Billy about a hunting competition that he has heard about; he wants to enter Old Dan and Little Ann and Billy is flattered.  Grandpa is going to pay the fees, and he has already told the competition committee of all the coonskins the two dogs have logged just this one hunting season.  Grandpa tells Billy that the competition is only six days away, and he has already booked a buggy to take the two of them and Papa to the hunting grounds.

Billy is not the only one excited about the contest; when he gets home his family is ecstatic, as well.  Over the next couple days, Billy makes sure the ladies of the house have enough supplies to last until the end of the competition.  Time comes for Billy and his father to head out; when they get to the store the buggy is ready and is equipped with groceries and hay beds for the dogs.  Billy is surprised to see his ac there as well; Grandpa had collected it from the spot where Rubin died and had cleaned it for Billy.  The three men set off on their journey.

The guys travel all day and when night comes they stop to rest.  Around the fire, Billy and Papa tell stories about the dogs and how remarkable they are.  Old Dan looks out for Little Ann and will not eat anything until she has gotten a chance to; he even will bring her food if he sees it first.  Grandpa thinks that the bond the dogs have is the reason they are such a strong hunting team.  Billy takes a few minutes away by himself with the coffee Grandpa had made him.  Billy had never been allowed to drink coffee before, and he thinks that the gesture now signals that Billy is being seen as a man rather than a boy.  Billy does not sleep well that night, and he hears the screeching of two owls, which is supposedly a bad sign though Grandpa shrugs it off when Billy tells him.

At the site of the competition, all three men are surprised by the number of hunters and dogs that are present.  Billy can hear murmurs about him and his dogs and is happy that his reputation has gotten around.  Billy enters Little Ann into a sort of beauty pageant for the dogs at the urging of Grandpa and even uses Grandpa’s grooming kit to get her ready.  Little Ann wins, to Billy’s surprise.  There are twenty-five teams of dogs which will hunt in groups of five on different nights and the winners will compete against one another; Billy’s group will hunt on night four.  Everyone is excited when the first night of hunting begins until Grandpa notices some of Little Ann’s hairs in his own brush; Billy hides until Grandpa calms himself.

It is Thursday, and Billy is finally getting the chance to hunt.  Billy hopes that the hounds will catch a scent early in this new un-hunted area, and they do.  Billy, Papa, and Grandpa set off after the hounds along with the judge, though Grandpa falls back when he gets tangled in the brush.  When the dogs chase through the campground everyone is cheering.  Soon the dogs get the raccoon in the tree and Billy is able to kill it, earning him his first pelt.  The judge seems particularly impressed with Dan’s and Ann’s abilities.  The dogs soon set off after another raccoon and it takes no time at all for them to catch it; Grandpa falls into the water on the way there and has to stop by a fire to dry off.  Almost immediately the dogs catch yet another scent; they are able to catch the third and final raccoon just before the end of the hunt.  The judge is amazed with the dogs, as are the people around the camp who hear of their success.

After the fifth night of competition ends, Billy learns that he has earned the ability to hunt in the final night; he is one of only three teams, which will compete.  Billy is nervous that Dan and Ann will be competing with the best of the best, but he is still excited at the prospect of possibly winning.  Billy desperately wants to win and feels pressure to do so, both for the glory and the monetary prize that has been gathered.  When the final round begins Old Dan, and Little Ann catch the scent of a raccoon that Billy can see is old and has many tricks.  Despite its best efforts and a noble fight, the dogs manage to kill the old raccoon.  Both dogs have injuries, but they lick their wounds and get ready to go again.

Billy is anxious to get another coon and it seems that Old Dan and Little Ann are as well, but the weather takes a turn for the worst as a blizzard begins.  The judge suggests heading back to the campsite, but Billy does not want to turn back and he certainly will not leave his dogs, which he has lost sight of.  As the storm gets worse Papa suggests going back as well, and Billy is just about to give in when he hears Dan’s howling.  Billy asks his father to fire the gun to signal the dogs to come back and sure enough Little Ann appears, anxious to lead Billy to Old Dan.  After trekking through the dangerous conditions, Billy finally sees Old Dan at the bottom of a tree barking that he has caught coons.

Billy notices that Papa and the judge are looking elsewhere; Grandpa has gone missing again and Little Ann helps to find him.  Grandpa is face-down in the snow, and his foot is swollen, so he is brought into the gully at the base of the tree where a fire is lit; they will stay put until daylight comes.  When everyone is settled, the dogs head back to the tree, determined to get the coon.  Papa chops the small tree down, and three raccoons run out of its hollow.  Dan and Ann chase down, fight, and kill two of the raccoons, but Billy wants them to go for the third because he knows he will need more to win.  Billy feels anxious when he sees his dogs set off; he feels that they will almost certainly die in the storm.

Daylight comes, and the blizzard settles, though the dogs have been gone all night and Billy dos not know where they are.  A group of rescuers finds Billy and his hunting crew, insisting that they have been looking for them all night after the horses from their wagon returned without them.  Billy states that his dogs are out trapping a coon and everyone is amazed that they are still going; someone else got three pelts, so Billy does, in fact, need one more to win, just as he thought he would.  One of the other hunters in the competition comes and says that he has seen the dogs, and they are “frozen”, which makes Billy feel sick.  The man clarifies that they are not dead, only covered with ice, and Billy sets out to find them.  Sure enough, the dogs had been circling the tree where the coon is trapped all night to be sure they did not freeze to death and are covered in ice and snow.  Once the dogs are thawed by the fire a man fires a shot that scares the raccoon out of the tree and the dogs gets it, securing a win for Billy.  Back at camp Billy is awarded, the trophy and three hundred dollars and Grandpa is carted off to the doctor back home.  When Billy and Papa get home, the girls are so happy to see them, especially the littlest one who Billy gives the gold cup to.  Mama is in tears because she is so happy for Billy.  She tells them that Grandpa only has a sprain, and he will heal just fine.  Mama sets off to cook a delightful dinner for the family in honor of their prayers being answered.  Later on Billy sees his mother visit the dogs and give them food; she drops to the ground in front of the doghouse and prays.

Billy and the dogs soon get back into their normal hunting routine.  One day they track something that Billy can tell is not a raccoon; he thinks maybe it is a bobcat, but soon learns the terrifying truth that it is a mountain lion.  The lion has been treed, and Old Dan wants to keep it that way, but Billy knows that he must drag his dogs away from the tree to save them.  As Billy gets closer the lion attacks and begins fighting brutally with Dan and Ann.  Billy grabs his ax and starts swinging at the lion, but that only makes the large animal set its sights on him rather than the dogs.  Just as the mountain lion lunges at Billy the dogs jump in front to save him.  While they are fighting Billy grabs his ax and hits the lion on the head, killing it.

Billy checks out his dogs’ wounds and sees that while Little Ann is not badly injured, Old Dan is in rough shape.  He runs home to tell his family what has happened, and they help him tend to the wounds.  Shortly after being fixed up Old Dan dies.  Billy is beside himself with grief.  Little Ann cannot function without Old Dan; she sleeps next to his dead body the first night and stops eating after that.  One morning Billy finds Little Ann lying next to Old Dan’s grave; she has died too.  Mama wants Billy to pray, but he says that he cannot because he has lost too much.  That night Papa tells the family that they have saved enough money to move to town where the kids can go to school, but Billy feels nothing at this news.  Billy’s grief is overwhelming as he buries Ann next to Dan and finds markers for their graves.

In the springtime,  the family prepares to move to town.  Billy sets off to visit the graves of Little Ann and Old Dan one more time before they move and then he gets there he sees a miraculous sight; a red fern has grown between the graves.  Billy has heard legends that red ferns only grow on sacred ground and are planted by angels.  Billy calls for his family to come and see what has happened and they are in awe of the fern and what it symbolizes.  Billy decides that God has placed the fern there to help him accept the deaths.  Everyone leaves Billy alone with the graves for the last time and he notices flowers covering each one.  Billy tells the dogs that he loves them, he will never forget them, and they will live forever with God.  Billy gets on the wagon to leave and takes a last look at his home as they drive away; he even sees the old cat Samie wandering around.  Mama notices that the red fern can still be seen from quite a distance, and Billy thinks it is beautiful.

Billy, now an older man, remembers Little Ann and Old Dan fondly.  Since the day he left his home in the Ozarks he has never returned, but he dreams of it.  He has a sudden and desperate need to go back to that place where he grew up and where he made so many fantastic memories.  He would enjoy going through the woods to find things he may have left behind and to relive the moments he spent with his beloved pups.

Katniss camouflages the opening to the cave and tries to sleep for a bit, forming a plan to kill from afar before she heads in the get the pack, knowing she will be attacked on her way to retrieve it. She thinks about her family and Gale watching the feast the next day, and wonders what Gale thinks about her and Peeta.

Three hours before sunrise Katniss decides to head out to the open arena, and gives the sleeping Peeta a kiss before she leaves, to please the audience. As the sun comes up Katniss remains hidden to see who will show up and when the backpacks rise from the ground Foxface jumps out of the cornucopia and grabs her pack; Katniss is upset that she did not think to hide there. Katniss runs for her pack and dodges a knife thrown at her by Clove from District 2 and sends an arrow back, hitting Clove in the arm.

As Katniss grabs her pack she is sliced in the head by a knife from Clove, who tackles Katniss to the ground. Katniss calls Peeta’s name to give the impression that he is hunting down Cato, but Clove does not believe her and slices her face as she threatens to kill her just like they killed Rue.

Thresh appears, furious about Rue, and crushes Clove’s skull with a rock. Katniss tells Thrush that she was friends with Rue and killed the person who killed Rue, so Thresh lets her go and tells her they are even. Katniss gets back to the cave and sticks Peeta with the needle full of his medicine before she passes out, wounds gushing.

When Katniss wakes she is dizzy and Peeta is nursing her wounds, seemingly not angry at her for the sleep serum. Katniss tells Peeta everything that happened at the cornucopia and feels like she wants to cry when she thinks about Thresh, who has died. Katniss tells Peeta that she just wants to go home.

Katniss goes back to sleep and she, and Peeta eat the rest of their food when she wakes. As it is raining outside, and Katniss and Peeta are both recovering, they stay in the cave for the day and Katniss decides to get a little romance going for the cameras. She takes Peeta’s hand and apologizes to him for the sleep serum, and he jokingly tells her she better not ever do anything like that again.

Katniss and Peeta kiss and it is the first time that Katniss really feels something and genuinely wants to continue kissing. They sleep that night in the sleeping bag together and the next day wake up starving. As it is still raining out, Katniss and Peeta spend the day talking in the cave; Katniss asks Peeta when he first realized his crush. Peeta tells Katniss that he fell for her on the first day of school, and knew that he was hooked forever the first time he heard her sing; he also tells her that his father wanted to marry her mother.

Katniss is happy with Peeta’s story but feels as though it sounds too real and wonders if maybe he was telling the truth rather than playing for the cameras. Katniss is confused and does not know what to do so she kisses him and then hears a sound outside the cave. Katniss sees a silver parachute has delivered some lamb stew.

Katniss and Peeta eat only a small amount of the stew because they do not want to make themselves sick and continue flirting with one another for the cameras. Katniss teases Peeta for liking a girl from the Seam but Peeta reminds her that if she wins she will live in the Victor’s Village next to Haymitch; they joke about Haymitch for the cameras, knowing the audience probably loves it. Katniss feels like she and Haymitch understand one another, even if they do not particularly like one another.

Katniss and Peeta take turns resting, and Katniss wonders what will happen to her life if she wins, she wonders if she and Peeta will still be friends, and she wonders about Gale. Katniss and Peeta eat the rest of the stew and head out to hunt, though to Katniss’ dismay Peeta is very loud in the woods. They decide to split up so Katniss can hunt and Peeta can collect berries; Katniss teaches Peeta a whistle they will use as a signal. After a while, Katniss whistles to make sure Peeta is ok but when he does not answer she worries and goes to find him.

Peeta is reprimanded by Katniss for not answering her, and Katniss notices that Peeta has collected poisonous berries and some of their food is missing. A cannon sounds near them and they realize that Foxface has stolen some of their food and must have eaten the berries.

Katniss realizes that Foxface must have seen Peeta gathering food and stolen some berries; she decides that they should keep some berries to see if they can fool Cato with them, as he is the only other tribute left. They figure that Cato must know where they are because of the cannon and rather than run they set a fire and cook some food to see if he shows up.

Katniss wants to climb a tree to sleep but Peeta cannot so Katniss, reluctantly, agrees to head back to the cave. They eat in the cave and Peeta falls asleep while Katniss wonders about Cato, and thinks that he may actually be insane from what she has seen. She wonders if Cato is as smart as Foxface, who died because of a mistake on Peeta’s part.The next day they head to the stream, but find it dried up and Katniss knows that the gamemakers must be trying to bring all of the tributes together at the lake so that is where they head.

Cato is not at the lake, so Katniss sings to the mockingjays which carry her tune. Suddenly Cato comes running out of the woods covered in body armor, though rather than running for Katniss and Peeta he is running from some strange creatures; Katniss and Peeta run after him.

The creatures appear to be giant wolves that have been genetically mutated by the Capitol. The three remaining tributes struggle to climb up the cornucopia, Cato getting there first. Just as Katniss is about to shoot Cato with an arrow, she hears Peeta scream as the wolves are about to get him so she abandons her plan to kill Cato and help Peeta climb instead.

Katniss notices that the eyes of the wolves are the eyes of the dead tributes; the Capitol has turned the tributes into killer wolves. As Peeta and Katniss fight off the wolves, Cato gets Peeta in a headlock. Katniss does not want to kill Cato because if he falls down into the pack of wolves he will take Peeta with him.

Peeta signals to Katniss to shoot Cato in his hand so he will release Peeta, which works, and Cato falls into the wolves. The wolves tear at Cato and he does not die right away, Katniss and Peeta are forced to listen to Cato moaning in pain.  Peeta’s leg is bleeding badly, and Katniss makes a tourniquet for him with her shirt sleeve and an arrow, aware he may lose his leg but intent on saving him.

The cannon fires, signaling Cato’s death and the wolves are gone, but there is no announcement that Peeta and Katniss have won. Back down at the lake Templesmith announces that there has been another change in rules and only one of them can win.  Katniss knows she cannot kill Peeta, and he will not kill her so she takes out the poisonous berries and gives some to Peeta, who immediately catches on to her suicide idea. Suddenly Templesmith’s voice breaks in and announces them both winners, as Katniss knew he would do because the Capitol would rather have two winners than no winner.

Katniss and Peeta both spit out their berries and flush their mouths with water to be sure there is no lingering poison. A hovercraft takes them away and Peeta is taken away to be worked on by doctors; Katniss is not allowed in the room, but she hears his heart stop beating twice.

Katniss tries to launch herself through the glass door to get to him, but she is jabbed by a needle and passes out. Katniss awakes in a room where she is totally naked and can see that her wounds and scars have all disappeared, and she has regained her hearing. Katniss asks an Avox if Peeta is alive and the Avox nods yes, leaving Katniss with some broth. Katniss is happy she will be returning home soon and drifts back into unconsciousness. This cycle of drifting in and out of consciousness happens for a few days until Katniss wakes one day to find she is not hooked up to any needles. She gets dressed and reunites with Effie, Cinna, and Haymitch who all hug her.

Katniss does not see Peeta because their reunion is to be televised. Cinna dresses Katniss in an innocent looking yellow dress which he says Peeta will like, though Katniss can tell Cinna has other motives that he does not share. Haymitch informs Katniss that the Capitol is upset with her for the fake suicide thing, and she must really play up her love for Peeta because being crazed with love is her only defense now. Katniss asks if Peeta knows this and Haymitch says Peeta is “already there”, alluding to the fact that Peeta is in love with Katniss though Katniss still does not realize it.

Katniss and Peeta are reunited on the stage of Caesar Flickerman’s show, and they run right to each other and kiss passionately for quite a while. They settle onto a loveseat, and Katniss takes the cue from Haymitch to get more comfortable so she kicks off her shoes and cuddles up next to Peeta. They have to watch the three-hour recap of the Games, which documents Peeta’s and Katniss’ love affair thoroughly and convincingly.

President Snow appears and presents half of a crown to each of the victors, though he is smiling Katniss sees venom in his eyes. That night Katniss wants to talk to Peeta before their final interview the next day, but she is locked in her room. The next morning Katniss is ushered onto the love seat at Flickerman’s show for the final interview. Peeta and Katniss get comfortable together, and Peeta does most of the talking because he is effortless in his social skills and very charming.

Flickerman asks Katniss when she knew she loved Peeta and Katniss stumbles over her words until Flickerman suggests it was perhaps the night she yelled his name out. While talking about injuries Katniss learns that Peeta’s leg was amputated, and he has a prosthetic now, which she blames on herself. Flickerman asks about the berries and Katniss and Peeta agree that they could not bear the idea of being without one another. Katniss gets ready to return to District 12, feeling herself in her own clothes and feeling uncomfortable with Peeta’s arms wrapped around her.

Haymitch reminds them to act like they are in love until they get back to the district, which confuses Peeta because he thought Katniss’ feelings were real. Katniss has no idea what she feels, and Peeta tells her to find him when she figures it out. As the train pulls in to District 12 Peeta takes Katniss’ hand one more time, “for the audience”, and they step off the train.

Daenerys

Daenerys is standing before the rulers of Astapor, collectively known as the Good Masters of Astapor. The eight men are all slave-masters of the highest status; Kraznys mo Naklaz is one of the eight.  Daenerys notes that four of them are named Grazdan, after Grazdan the Great who founded Old Ghis; the oldest of the Grazdans is the highest ranking and thus most powerful slave-master in Astapor. While the Good Masters have their slaves to attend to them, Daenerys has brought her own band of attendants consisting of her two handmaidens, her bloodriders, Strong Belwas, Arstan Whitebeard and Ser Jorah.

Daenerys has just told the Good Masters that she wants to buy all the Unsullied. Kraznys tells her that they have eight thousand and six hundred Unsullied, and there are another four hundred in training, whom, once their training is complete, will make it nine thousand in total. Daenerys says she will take all nine thousand Unsullied. The Good Masters discuss the matter among themselves and soon come to a decision: they cannot sell the four hundred half-trained boys, since they are not yet Unsullied and would shame the Good Masters if they fail in battle – Daenerys can only have the eight thousand and six hundred Unsullied. They offer her another two thousand Unsullied if she comes back in a year’s time.

Daenerys rejects the Good Masters’ offer, stating that in a year’s time, she would be in Westeros; she needs the Unsullied today. She then proposes a counter-offer: she will take the eight thousand and six hundred Unsullied, the four hundred still in training, and all the little boys who have yet to begin their brutal training.

The Good Masters reject her offer. Daenerys offers to pay them double, as long as she gets all the Unsullied. Some of the Good Masters drool at the offer, but one of the Grazdans informs Daenerys that their men have gone through her gold and trading goods and that she only has enough to buy one thousand Unsullied; and since Daenerys offered to pay double, she can now only afford five hundred Unsullied.

Daenerys throws in all three of the ships that were supposed to take her and her Dothraki band back to Pentos – the Good Masters tell her that, for her,  all gold and trading goods and all three ships, she can get two thousand of the Unsullied.

Frustrated that she doesn’t have enough to buy all the Unsullied, Daenerys does something that she’s thought long and hard about, something that she truly hates doing but is forced to do so because she knows she has no other choice: she offers the Good Masters one of her three dragons.

The Good Masters are besides themselves with greed. Arstan Whitebeard starts to protest, but Daenerys quickly orders Ser Jorah to remove the old squire from her presence; she then tells the Good Masters that she awaits their answer.

The Good Masters do not take long to make their decision: they agree to the new terms. Daenerys is to get all the Unsullied in exchange for her gold, her trading goods, the three ships, and Drogon, her largest and healthiest dragon. Both Daenerys and the Good Masters agree to the trade; the Good Masters also decide to make a gift of the slave girl who has done all the translating for them, Missandei, as a token of a bargain well struck.

Daenerys and her small band begin their journey back to the ship. Daenerys tells Arstan that he is free to speak his mind to her in private, but he should never question her in public. Next, she offers Missandei her freedom, but the soft-spoken girl, without any family or place to go, makes the decision to continuing staying on as one of Daenerys’ handmaids. Daenerys then starts asking Missandei questions about the Unsullied, chief among them regarding their obedience. Missandei replies that the Unsullied know only obedience, and she confirms what Daenerys wants to know: yes, should Daenerys resell any surviving Unsullied after she has conquered Westeros, those Unsullied will still attack her if commanded to do so by their new masters – the eunuchs obey without ever questioning. Therefore, in order to avoid the possibility of such a situation happening, Missandei suggests that Daenerys could instruct the Unsullied to fall upon their swords when she is done with them. The girl later confesses that she hopes that it doesn’t come to that though – three of the Unsullied Daenerys is about to buy were once her brothers.

Later that night, Daenerys awakes from a dream, only to realize that there is someone in the cabin with her. She sees only the faintest outline of a shape, but the shadow speaks with a woman’s voice. The woman reminds Daenerys to head for Asshai; it is then that Daenerys realizes the woman must be Quaithe of the Shadow, whom she met in Qarth and who had advised her then of the same thing. But the woman who would be Quaithe is no longer there when Daenerys springs out of bed.

The next day, Daenerys and her small band return to Astapor, and this time, they bring with the three dragons and all eighty-three of the Dothraki who have followed them thus far. The streets of the city are crowded with slaves and servants alike, all wanting to glimpse Daenerys’ dragons. The Good Masters have gathered all the Unsullied at the Plaza of Punishment fronting Astapor’s front gate; when Daenerys points out the racked and flayed bodies that were hanging from wooden platforms, Missandei tells her that the Good Masters placed the bodies there so new slaves can see them first thing upon entering the city.

All the Good Masters are there to greet her. Daenerys’ people start to stack all her trading goods before the slavers, and while the payment is being made, Kraznys offers her a little advice: he tells her that the Unsullied she is buying are still inexperienced, so he suggests that she bloods them early by sacking a few cities between Astapor and her eventual destination of Westeros.

When the all the trade goods had been piled up in front of the Good Masters, Daenerys tells them that the rest of the trading goods were too heavy to carry and are on the ships, and of course, the Good Masters get the three ships, as well. Daenerys then passes the final payment to the Good Masters – Drogon, her black dragon.

As soon as Kraznys mentions that the Unsullied are now hers, Daenerys mounts her silver horse and gallops among the ranks of her new army. She shouts at the top of the lungs that that they have been bought and paid for and now belong to her. She then rides back to the slavers, where she sees Kraznys is having some difficulty with Drogon – the black dragon will not budge, no matter how many time he tugs its leash.

Daenerys mentions that the reason Kraznys can’t get Drogon to move is because dragons are not slaves. She then sings out the command, “dracarys”, and Drogon starts spewing out fire, with the first person to go up in flames being Kraznys himself.

Daenerys’ handmaids release her two other dragons, Viserion and Rhaegal, and then, all three dragons are  in the air, breathing fire down upon the slavers. Her bloodriders and Strong Belwas are by her side, there to deal with Astapor’s city guards. One of the Good Masters, the oldest Grazdan, shouts out a command to the Unsullied, ordering them to protect all the Good Masters. The Unsullied do not so much as move, which is the thing Daenerys had hoped for – the Unsullied are now hers.

She rides out among them once again, and orders them to kill every Good Master, soldier and slaver in the city, but to harm no children and to strike off the chains off every slave they see. She shouts out the word “Dracarys” at the end of her command and repeats it several times more.

The Unsullied take up her battle cry and are soon carrying out her orders.

Sansa

Sansa is being fitted into her new gown while Cersei looks on. Sansa is enjoying herself until a maiden’s cloak is fastened about her neck, but by then it is already too late – Cersei announces that that the septon and wedding guests are waiting for them, to witness Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion. Sansa is in a state of shock; she had been expecting the Tyrells to bring her to Highgarden to marry Willas. Cersei has two of the Kingsguard, Ser Meryn Trant and Ser Osmund Kettleblack escort Sansa to the sept; Sansa, seeing that there is nothing she can do to stop the wedding, meekly go along with the two Kingsguard.

Upon reaching the sept, Tyrion, handsomely dressed, speaks with Sansa privately. He apologizes for the wedding being so sudden and secret; his father, Tywin, felt that it was necessary for reasons of state. He reveals that, like Sansa, he did not ask for this marriage, but that Tywin would have wed her to Lancel Lannister had Tyrion refused to marry her. In a moment of kindness, Tyrion asks Sansa whether she would prefer to marry Lancel instead, stating that Lancel is more comely and closer to Sansa’s age. Sansa, meanwhile, has come to the conclusion that it doesn’t really matter whether it is a Tyrell or Lannister she marries because all anyone is interested in is her claim to Winterfell. Upon hearing Tyrion’s offer for her to marry Lancel instead, Sansa, resigned to her fate, says that she is a ward of the throne and as such, it is her duty to marry whoever the king commands. Tyrion mentions that he might not be the man young girls like Sansa dream of marrying, but he is also not a monster like Joffrey.

To Sansa, the wedding ceremony seems to pass by quickly, almost as if it were a dream; soon the septon proclaims Tyrion and Sansa man and wife. A small wedding feast is held, and among the fifty or so guests who attend are Margaery Tyrell and Lady Olenna; Margaery gives Sansa a look of sadness, but the Queen of Thorns does not so much as look at her.

Tyrion drinks heavily but eats little during the feast. Sansa desperately wants to seek some solace in dancing, but when she tries to get Tyrion to dance with her, he declines her invitation. Ser Garlan Tyrell comes to the rescue, however, and asks Sansa for a dance; Tyrion gives his consent and both Ser Garlan and Sansa proceed to dance and sway to the music. During their dance, Ser Garlan offers her some comfort and a word of advice: that her new husband is not a bad husband, that Tyrion is a bigger man than he seems. The dance continues and Sansa dances with a slew of partners, including Mace Tyrell, Ser Kevan Lannister, Prince Tommen and King Joffrey.

Soon, the dance is over, and Joffrey announces that the time of the bedding is upon them. The bedding is a ritual where the men at the feast would carry the newly-wed lady up to her wedding bed, undressing her along the way while making crude jokes as to the fate that awaits her; the women do the same with the newly-wed lord. Tyrion tells Joffrey that he wants to dispense with the bedding. When Joffrey insists that the bedding takes place, Tyrion threatens to geld Joffrey. Lord Tywin resolves the situation before it can escalate further, granting Tyrion permission to dispense with the bedding, and mollifying Joffrey’s petulance by stating that Tyrion’s threat is not to be taken seriously seeing as how Tyrion is heavily drunk. Tyrion admits that he is drunk and leaves the hall with Sansa, but not before mentioning in front of everyone that he is going to be bringing Sansa back to their wedding bed for a private bedding.

Later in the bedchamber, Tyrion tells Sansa to undress; when she does, Tyrion admires her beauty and admits that he wants to make love to her. He tries to comfort her by saying that he will treat Sansa well, but Sansa remains quiet throughout. Tyrion then tells her to get onto the bed, and then he proceeds to undress himself. However, after getting onto the bed with her, Tyrion confesses that he cannot proceed with the bedding – he says that the two of them will wait, for however long it takes for Sansa to get to know him better and to trust him, even if just a little. He promises that he will not touch her until Sansa wants him to. When Sansa then asks Tyrion what would happen should she never want him to touch her, Tyrion climbs off the bed, saying that such a situation would be the reason why the gods made whores for people like him.

Arya

Arya and Gendry, along with their traveling companions, Harwin, Lem, Anguy, Tom and the rest of the outlaws, find themselves in the town of Stony Sept. It is the biggest town Arya has seen since King’s Landing, and the town looked as if it’s seen some fighting recently; the town appears to be well-defended.

When the group enters Stoney Sept, they learn that the townsfolk have adequate food supplies; in fact, the town has suffered a few attacks exactly because there are those who want to steal what they have. The town also reports that, outside the town’s walls, there seem to be many men who roam the countryside, scavenging, plundering and even raping. There is even talk of men searching the Riverlands for Jamie Lannister; the rumors are that he escaped from Riverrun and is making his way to King’s Landing. One of the townsfolk, known by the moniker “The Huntsman” has taken his dogs to join in the hunt for the Kingslayer.

They make their way to the market square, where they see several men being held inside iron cages that hung from creaking wooden posts; three of the men are on the brink of death, but most are already dead. The townsfolk tell them that these men are northmen who committed rape and murder in one of the Riverlands towns. The men who are still clinging on to life call out for water, and Arya complies, an act of mercy for these men who hail from the North, like her. Lem says that the townsfolk should have hanged the men – Lord Beric frowns on leaving caged men to die of thirst. Anguy settles the issue by firing his arrows, killing all three northmen.

The group then make their way to an inn, the Peach, where they are greeted warmly by a red-haired female innkeeper by the name of Tansy. Tansy appears to know the men quite well; she offers them beds for the night and sends them for baths while she prepares a meal for them.

After the meal, Arya notices that there are a lot of serving girls in the inn. When evening comes around, a lot of men start to come and go at the Peach, and the men do not stay in the common room for long; instead, they would choose a girl and take her upstairs. With these two observations, Arya surmises that the Peach is actually a brothel.

During the night, Arya overhears Lem and Harwin talking to Tansy, about how Lady Catelyn Stark freed Jamie Lannister from the dungeon at Riverrun. An old man starts taking an interest in Arya, but hurriedly backs off after Gendry steps in and claims that Arya is his sister. After the old man leaves, Arya asks Gendry why he would say such a thing, since he is not her brother; Gendry angrily replies that he’s too lowborn to be related to her and tells her to go away. Arya, furious at Gendry’s reaction, leaves, heading straight for bed.

During her sleep, Arya dreams that she is her direwolf, Nymeria, hunting in the forest with her pack brothers and sisters.

Morning comes around, and Arya is woken up from her sleep by the barking of dogs. Gendry, Lem and Tom were also sleeping in the large bed, so Arya hops her way to the window by the bed. Outside, down in the square, she sees a tied-up prisoner surrounded by many dogs; the man’s captor taunts the prisoner, telling him that they are going to put him into one of the cages, to leave him to rot.

Tom goes to the window, and when Lem asks as to what’s going on down in the square, Tom says that the Huntsman has returned, with another man for the hanging cages. Arya hears the captor mention the name Lannister, but when she finally catches sight of the prisoner’s face, she realizes that he is not Jaime Lannister. It is, however, one of the men whose name she has been reciting every night before she sleeps.

 

Chapter 30 – Jon

The small wildling raiding force, numbering some hundred and twenty men, are beginning their preparations to scale the Wall. Jarl, an experienced raider who has already gone over the Wall more than a dozen times in the past, picks a advantageous spot to scale the Wall – along the edge of a long granite ridgeline where the dense woodland not only provided substantial concealment from the eyes of any of the Watch’s patrols but also allowed the raiders to get ascend the first few hundred feet via the trees instead of risking it on the icy surface of the Wall.

Jarl is one of the twelve raiders who have been chosen to go over the Wall. They divide themselves into three teams of four; Jarl leads one of the teams while the others are led by a blonde-haired raider called Grigg the Goat and a thin man named Errok. Before they start climbing, Jarl mentions that Mance has offered them a great incentive: every man in the first team to reach the top will get a sword, a weapon rarely found amongst the wildlings due their inability to forge steel weapons.

Jarl’s well-chosen spot, with its strategically-placed trees, gives them a significant head-start in the race to the top. They are well-ahead till noon, whereupon they then come across a patch of bad ice and experience a set-back, allowing Grigg’s team to almost draw even with them. However, after recovering from the unexpected set-back, Jarl’s team is soon up ahead again, with the gap between his team and Grigg’s widening.

Disaster strikes in the sixth hour: a huge chunk of ice breaks off from the Wall, tumbling down the icy surface and sweeping all before it. After he and Ygritte narrowly avoid being hit by the ice chunks, Jon looks up at the Wall again – Jarl and his team are no longer on the Wall. Jon, Ygritte, Styr and his Thenns go look for Jarl and find the young raider impaled upon a tree branch. One of Jarl’s men survived the fall but broke his legs, spine and most of his ribs during the fall; one of the Thenns gives the man the gift of mercy by smashing the injured man’s head with his stone mace.

Grigg and his men reach the top of the Wall, and Errok’s team soon join them. Each of the climbers had brought up long coils of hemp with them, and they tie all the hemp together into a long rope and toss it down to the raiders below. The raiders tie a whopping woven hemp ladder to the climbers’ rope, and the climbers haul it up again and staked it to the top. The raiders have four more ladders, so the entire process is repeated four more times.

After all the ladders have been staked, everyone below starts the long climb to the top. Two of Styr’s men fall from the ladder to their deaths, but there are no further casualties during the climb. By the time Jon and Ygritte finally reach the top, it is close to midnight. Ygritte has tears in her eyes, saying that she nearly fell on three occasions during the long climb. When Jon tells her that she doesn’t need to be frightened because the worst is already behind them, Ygritte tells him that she isn’t crying because she was frightened during the climb, but because Mance never found the Horn of Winter in the Frostfangs. Mance and the wildlings had opened up many graves and released many of the wights in the process, but yet they did not find the fabled artifact. Ygritte mentions that if they did have the Horn of Winter with them, then they wouldn’t have to waste so many hours and lose so many lives climbing the Wall – they could have just used the Horn to bring the entire Wall crashing down.

Jon

The small wildling raiding force, numbering some hundred and twenty men, are beginning their preparations to scale the Wall. Jarl, an experienced raider who has already gone over the Wall more than a dozen times in the past, picks a advantageous spot to scale the Wall – along the edge of a long granite ridgeline where the dense woodland not only provided substantial concealment from the eyes of any of the Watch’s patrols but also allowed the raiders to get ascend the first few hundred feet via the trees instead of risking it on the icy surface of the Wall.

Jarl is one of the twelve raiders who have been chosen to go over the Wall. They divide themselves into three teams of four; Jarl leads one of the teams while the others are led by a blonde-haired raider called Grigg the Goat and a thin man named Errok. Before they start climbing, Jarl mentions that Mance has offered them a great incentive: every man in the first team to reach the top will get a sword, a weapon rarely found amongst the wildlings due their inability to forge steel weapons.

Jarl’s well-chosen spot, with its strategically-placed trees, gives them a significant head-start in the race to the top. They are well-ahead till noon, whereupon they then come across a patch of bad ice and experience a set-back, allowing Grigg’s team to almost draw even with them. However, after recovering from the unexpected set-back, Jarl’s team is soon up ahead again, with the gap between his team and Grigg’s widening.

Disaster strikes in the sixth hour: a huge chunk of ice breaks off from the Wall, tumbling down the icy surface and sweeping all before it. After he and Ygritte narrowly avoid being hit by the ice chunks, Jon looks up at the Wall again – Jarl and his team are no longer on the Wall. Jon, Ygritte, Styr and his Thenns go look for Jarl and find the young raider impaled upon a tree branch. One of Jarl’s men survived the fall but broke his legs, spine and most of his ribs during the fall; one of the Thenns gives the man the gift of mercy by smashing the injured man’s head with his stone mace.

Grigg and his men reach the top of the Wall, and Errok’s team soon join them. Each of the climbers had brought up long coils of hemp with them, and they tie all the hemp together into a long rope and toss it down to the raiders below. The raiders tie a whopping woven hemp ladder to the climbers’ rope, and the climbers haul it up again and staked it to the top. The raiders have four more ladders, so the entire process is repeated four more times.

After all the ladders have been staked, everyone below starts the long climb to the top. Two of Styr’s men fall from the ladder to their deaths, but there are no further casualties during the climb. By the time Jon and Ygritte finally reach the top, it is close to midnight. Ygritte has tears in her eyes, saying that she nearly fell on three occasions during the long climb. When Jon tells her that she doesn’t need to be frightened because the worst is already behind them, Ygritte tells him that she isn’t crying because she was frightened during the climb, but because Mance never found the Horn of Winter in the Frostfangs. Mance and the wildlings had opened up many graves and released many of the wights in the process, but yet they did not find the fabled artifact. Ygritte mentions that if they did have the Horn of Winter with them, then they wouldn’t have to waste so many hours and lose so many lives climbing the Wall – they could have just used the Horn to bring the entire Wall crashing down.

Jaime

The Brave Companions are taking Jaime and Brienne to Harrenhal. Jaime has been in a world of pain ever since the Companions cut off his right hand; he is suffering from a fever, blood and pus is seeping from his stump, and he feels agony where his hand used to be.

One morning, an opportunity presents itself and Jaime manages to get his hands on a sword; his attempt to fight, however, is pathetic, given his illness and inability to wield the sword properly with his left hand. One of the mercenaries flings him aside and kicks the sword from his hand. Vargo Hoat warns Jaime that he may just cut off another hand, or foot, if Jaime tries to escape again.

The loss of his right hand and consequently, the loss of his fighting skills, sends Jaime into a spiral of depression. Feeling utterly useless, he is about to give up on life when Brienne rouses his stubborn side by calling him a craven for wanting to die. Shocked by the accusation that he is a coward, something that no one has ever accused him of being, he asks her what else can he do but give up and die. Brienne tells him that he should continue living and continue fighting so that he can one day take his revenge.

Jaime, emboldened by her words, decides to do just that. He starts finishing all the food the Companions feed him and does his best to make it through every day, despite the constant dull throbbing and pain.

A few nights later, it is Jaime’s turn to save Brienne. Several of the Companions come and approach a bound up Brienne, with the intention of raping her. Brienne intends to fight back, a move that Jaime knows will get her killed. So he quickly shouts out the word “sapphires”, and sure enough, Urswyck and Vargo Hoat himself arrive at the scene, warning the others not to so much as touch Brienne; they believe Jaime’s earlier bluff that raping her will mean they cannot get her weight in sapphires when they ransom her to her father. After that night, they put guards around Jaime and Brienne, to protect them from their own men.

Finally, they arrive at Harrenhal. Vargo Hoat forces Jaime and Brienne to enter the huge castle on foot, parading the both of them for all to see. Brienne points out the banners that hang from the castle wall to Jaime – it is the Boltons, bannermen to House Stark, who now hold Harrenhal. Vargo Hoat starts leading them to see the current Lord of Harrenhal and the head of House Bolton, Roose Bolton.

Along the way, they come across a group of Frey knights. When Brienne tries to get their attention by saying that she is sworn to House Stark just as they are, they spit at her feet, claiming that Robb Stark has betrayed their faith in him.

Just then, Roose Bolton appears. He shares some of the latest news of events taking place in the kingdom, most of them in regards to the Battle of the Blackwater and its aftermath. Roose Bolton then admonishes Vargo Hoat for cutting off Jaime’s hand and the attempted rape of Brienne; Vargo Hoat wisely keeps silent. Roose Bolton then tells Brienne that she is a guest in Harrenhal, under his protection, and has one of the servants lead her to her quarters. He has one of his soldiers escort Jaime to Qyburn.

Qyburn is an ex-Maester who is also a Brave Companion. Having served with Vargo Hoat, Qyburn is no stranger to stumps – he looks at the rotting flesh and pus and advices Jaime to take the whole arm off. Jaime warns Qyburn that if he saws off any more of his arm, he’ll strangle Qyburn. Qyburn relents, going with Jaime’s intention of only cleaning the stump and sewing it up, although he says that if anything goes wrong, it would be on Jaime’s head. Jaime insists on not taking painkillers, but due to the intense pain and agony during the operation, he eventually loses consciousness. When he comes to, he discovers that Qyburn kept his word – his stump has been cleaned and sewn up, nothing more.

Tyrion

Tyrion and Bronn are inspecting the riverfront at King’s Landing; nothing remains after the Battle of the Blackwater but already there are people living in ramshackle houses near the city walls. Bronn suggests taking a few of the City Watch and going down there to kill all the poor folks who have decided to make the waterfront their new home. Tyrion tells Bronn to leave the waterfront folk alone; however, should they decided to throw up their hovels and huts against the wall again, like they did before the Battle of the Blackwater, then Bronn must pull all of it down. The task of rebuilding the docks and reopening the river and port was supposed to have gone to Ser Kevan Lannister, but Tyrion’s uncle is grieving over the loss of his son, Willem, who was brutally murdered by Lord Rickard Karstark and his men after being taken captive by Robb Stark. Kevan’s other son, Martyn is a captive of Robb’s as well, while the elder brother, Lancel, is still recovering from a wound he received during the Battle of the Blackwater.

Tyrion’s recent moods have been black, with the main cause stemming from his marriage to Sansa Stark – half the castle appear to know that he has yet to claim his young wife’s maidenhood. Sansa is ever courteous when they sleep, but he can see the revulsion in her eyes when she looks at his naked body. Even his whore, Shae, is not too concerned about Sansa, saying that Tyrion will impregnate Sansa sooner or later and come back to her; Tyrion had hoped for less indifference from Shae, but he is starting to wonder whether he can ever find true love.

The inspection of the riverfront is not the sole reason Tyrion and Bronn are out on the streets; after the inspection, they make their way to the poorer part of the city. Bronn halts at the mouth of an alley, and tells Tyrion that the wine sink he is looking for is nearby. Tyrion tells Bronn to stay where he is and make sure that no one enters or leaves the alley till he returns.

Tyrion makes his way to the wine sink, to meet the singer called Symon Silver Tongue. Symon has entertained Shae on occasion, and because of that, Tyrion knows that Symon’s tongue and woodharp is deadlier than any sword: should his father get wind of Tyrion’s relationship with Shae, he would hang her without an ounce of hesitation. And that is why Tyrion has thirty gold coins with him – he tells Symon that the singer should ply his skills in the Free Cities, saying that a year in each of the nine cities will suffice and that he would be happy to pay for Symon’s passage.

Symon, however, has other ideas. He sings a new song that he has composed, and Tyrion realizes that the song is about his relationship with Shae. Symon subtly threatens Tyrion by saying that he might be singing the song to Cersei or Tywin. Tyrion says that Symon has more to gain from being silent than from singing his songs. The singer smiles and tells Tyrion his price – Cersei is organizing a tournament of singers at King Joffrey’s wedding feast, but Symon hasn’t received an invitation to the tournament. Tyrion gets the hint and tells Symon that he will arrange for an opening at the tournament for Symon. Tyrion then leaves the wine sink.

When he rejoins Bronn outside, he tells the mercenary that three days from now, Bronn will go to meet Symon and inform him that he is to replace another singer in the tournament. When Symon follows Bronn to be fitted for new clothes for the tournament, Bronn is to kill Symon and make sure that his body is never found.

Tyrion returns to his chambers, only to discover that his father has summoned him. When he enters his father’s solar, he discovers his father has had the master armorer make two new swords. Both swords are magnificent and made from Valyrian steel. The lighter and more ornate sword is to be Tywin’s wedding gift to Joffrey while the larger and heavier of the two swords is to be given to Jaime.

After admiring the swords, Tywin and Tyrion get down to business. Tywin starts by asking Tyrion for a report on the riverfront. When Tyrion replies that he will need quite a lot of gold in order to rebuild the docks and reopen the port again, Tywin says that Tyrion will find the gold that is required. When Tyrion points out that the treasury is empty and that the crown is paying half of all the expenses for Joff’s incredibly extravagant wedding, Tywin points out that the wedding needs to be extravagant to demonstrate the power and wealth of Casterly Rock and that if Tyrion cannot find the coin for both the wedding and the waterfront, he will be replaced by a new master of coin who can. Tyrion, unwilling to be dismissed after so short a period of time as the master of coin, acquiesces to Tywin’s request.

Tywin then moves on to the issue of Tyrion not consummating his marriage with Sansa Stark; he reminds Tyrion that a marriage that has not be consummated can legally be set aside. Tyrion, angry that his father has raised the issue, demands to know why the focus is on his marriage and not Cersei’s impending one. Tywin then reveals to Tyrion that Mace Tyrell has refused his offer to marry Cersei to Mace’s eldest son, Willas Tyrell. Tywin seems to think that Lady Olenna, also known as the Queen of Thorns, was the one who convinced Mace Tyrell to turn down Tywin’s offer. Tyrion is feeling much better after hearing the news, but Tywin reminds him that Cersei must never know of it and that everyone will be much better off by forgetting that the offer was ever made.

Just then, Maester Pycelle enters, bearing a letter from Castle Black. The letter is from Bowen Marsh, castellan of Castle Black. Bowen tells of how he has received a letter from Lord Mormont, telling of an attack on the group of men who went on the ranging north of the Wall. No men from the ranging has yet to return to the Wall, so Bowen fears that the wildlings have killed all the men who went North; and that means the Night’s Watch has too little men to defend the Wall against the wildlings, whom Bowen expects to attack the Wall next. In his letter, Bowen makes a plea for all the five kings of the realms to send as many men as they can to the Night’s Watch.

Pycelle wonders whether they should convene the King’s council to address the issue of sending men to the Wall, but Tywin mentions there is no need to do so. Tywin states that the men who make up the Night’s Watch are all thieves and killers, but the order of sworn brothers could prove useful to the Crown if the new Lord Commander, the one who replaces Lord Mormont, was loyal to King Joffrey. Tywin orders Pycelle to write a letter back to Bowen Marsh, stating that Joffrey is unable to send any men at the moment, not until he clears the battlefield of rebels and usurpers – however, once the throne is secure, Joffrey might send some men to the Night’s Watch, provided he has full confidence in the order’s leadership. Tywin tells Pycelle that the letter should close with a subtle hint that Joffrey’s sending of men to the Night’s Watch would hinge on the order electing Janos Slynt as the new Lord Commander.

Samwell

Lord Mormont, Samwell Tarly and the rest of the survivors from the Fist of the First Men have made it to Craster’s Keep. Several of the men are suffering from severe wounds, but their sworn brothers can do little for them – the medicines and herbs they had brought along with them for the expedition had been left behind during their escape from the Fist.

Craster’s Keep has proven to be a safe haven for them to rest: there have been no attacks from either the wights or the Others. Craster has provided food, fire and shelter for the men of the Night’s Watch. However, some of the men are complaining about just how little food Craster gives them; some even complain  about the harsh, brutal way he treats his many wives. But none of them do so within Lord Commander Mormont’s hearing; the senior rangers also remind them of the fact that Craster has always been a friend to the Night’s Watch and that since they are taking shelter under his roof, they have to follow his rules. And all the men know that means they are not to touch Craster’s wives and to speak to them as little as possible.

Some of the sworn brothers have taken to calling Sam by a new moniker – instead of Ser Piggy, they now call him Sam the Slayer, on account of Sam retelling his tale of how he killed one of the Others with his dragonglass dagger. Most of the men doubt his story, but Mormont is too wise to throw away what could be an advantage – he asks Sam to gather all the dragonglass weapons he has. Sam does so, and they come up with two daggers, a spearhead, an old broken horn, and nineteen arrowheads. The spearhead they attach to a hardwood shaft to create a spear, which is passed from watch to watch, while the nineteen arrows made from the dragonglass arrowheads are divided among the best bowmen.

Mormont talks to Sam about the dragonglass – he laments the fact that the current Night’s Watch knows next to nothing about dragonglass and how it could be used against the wights and Others. He says that the order must have known about it in the past, and that the Wall was meant to guard the realms of men, not from other men, which the wildlings are, but from creatures like the wights and Others. Mormont asks Sam where they can find more dragonglass, but when Sam replies that the children of the forest will know, Mormont scoffs and tells Sam that the children of the forest are all dead.

Before Mormont and Sam can take their discussion any further, Craster emerges from his hall and tells them that his young wife, Gilly, has just given birth to a baby boy. When Mormont grudgingly offers his congratulations, Craster mentions that he’ll feel better too if Mormont and the rest of the survivors could move on as well, as he feels that they’ve overstayed their welcome, and he can no longer feed them now that he had a new mouth to feed. Sam mentions that if Craster doesn’t want the baby, the men could take it with them when they leave. Sam knows what happens with the sons – Craster’s wife, Gilly, has been telling Sam that Craster leaves his newborn sons in the woods, sacrificing them to the cold, and that is why there were no boys or young men at Craster’s Keep, only wives, and daughters who grow up to become his wives.

Craster is angered by Sam’s suggestion, but Mormont leads Sam back into the hall before he can say anymore. Inside the hall, Mormont admonishes Sam, telling him that even if they did take the baby with them, it would be dead before they could reach the Wall. Mormont sends Sam away, to tend to one of the wounded rangers, but when Sam gets there, he discovers that the man has already died.

Later that evening, the sworn brothers have a small funeral service for the dead man; they burn his corpse and Mormont says the order’s ceremonial rites. Sam is so hungry, and he begins to salivate when he realizes that the burning corpse smells like roast pork. However, the idea of eating one of his brothers causes him to throw up. He is later informed by one of the stewards that Mormont has called for all of them to ride out tomorrow morning.

Craster, upon hearing the news that the men of the Night’s Watch will be leaving with the morning, is immediately in a better mood and even calls for a small feast for the night. However, when the feast begins, there is some horsemeat, and onions, but several of the men are angry when they find out that they are only getting two loaves of bread for the entire meal. They start to behave rudely towards Craster, accusing him of being niggardly and withholding food from them; several of the men point out that Craster must have a lot of food hidden somewhere, otherwise he and his wives would never make it through the winter. Mormont gets angry and calls for the men to be silent, but one of the men replies with a rude remark instead. This further infuriates Mormont and he reminds them that he is the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and he gives them a command to sit down and shut up.

There is silence, and it looks as if the men are about to obey Mormont’s command, but Craster stands up, axe in his hand, and tells every single man who called him niggardly to leave the hall, for he will not feed them or let them sleep under his roof tonight.

One of the men calls Craster a bastard. A furious Craster lifts up his axe and moves with surprising speed towards the man; however, one of the rangers manages to grab Craster by the hair, yanks the wildling’s hair back and opens up his throat from ear to ear. Craster’s wives start wailing and cursing. Lord Commander Mormont stands over Craster’s body, fuming, saying that they have committed the foulest of crime by killing a host who has given them shelter and food.

The ranger who killed Craster grabs one of Craster’s wives, and threatens to kills her unless she shows him where Craster has hidden all the food. Mormont commands the ranger to let the woman go, but finds his way barred by two other rangers who have drawn their swords. They warn him to back off, but when Mormont reaches for his dagger, one of the rangers moves with lightning speed to shove a knife into Mormont’s belly.

Chaos ensues. Sam cannot remember what happens next; it is only much later that he finds himself on the floor, cradling Mormont’s head in his lap. The men who were loyal to Mormont have fled; the men who incited the mutiny were still in the hall, either eating or raping Craster’s wives.

Mormont is about to breathe his last, but he one last order for Sam: he tells Sam to ride for the Wall, and tell the remaining Night’s Watch about everything that has happened so far – the battle at the Fist, the army of wildlings, the dragonglass, Craster’s murder and everything else. He adds on a dying wish: he wants Sam to tell his son, Jorah that he forgives him and to tell Jorah to join the Night’s Watch.

Two of Craster’s older wives approach Sam, with Gilly between them; Gilly is bundled up in skins and cradling her baby. The two older wives tells him to take Mormont’s sword, fur cloak and his horse, and to take Gilly away; they tell him that they know he promised to take Gilly away when he had been here earlier, before Mormont had taken them to the Fist. When Sam asks where should he take her, both wives say they should take him to someplace warm. Gilly cries and tells him that her baby is a boy, and if Sam doesn’t take the both of them away, they will come and take him instead. When Sam asks who Gilly is referring to, the two older wives say that it is Craster’s sons who will come for the boy.

Arya

Arya and Gendry are being taken by the outlaws to one of their secret hideouts. The outlaws have placed hoods over both their heads, and they only take the hoods off upon reaching the hideout. Arya and Gendry discover that they are in a large cave that is part of an underground tunnel system. The outlaws are all there, and they point out the red priest, Thoros of Myr, to her. However, this is not the fat, bald priest Arya remembers – the man she sees is a thin man with droopy folds of skin, with a full head of shaggy grey hair. When the Huntsman and his captive appear, Thoros makes his way towards both men.

The red priest welcomes the captive by pulling off the hood over the man’s head. The Huntman’s captive is Sandor Clegane; the Huntsman caught him while Sandor was sleeping off a drunk spell under a tree. Sandor recognizes Thoros but remarks on how the priest’s appearance has changed; Thoros says that the year he spent in the wild has melted off all his fat and, as for the hair, it was because he lost his razor in the woods.

Thoros mentions that he is no longer a false priest – he worships the Lord of Light now. Sandor makes a caustic comment regarding the company Thoros keeps, saying that the group of outlaws resemble swineherds more than they do soldiers.

A man who had been sitting on a stairway made from weirwood roots on the far side of the cave begins to speak, and as he does so, he descends the tangle of steps towards the cavern floor.  He tells the story of how a hundred and twenty men had rode out of King’s Landing, on a mission to arrest Sandor’s brother, Ser Gregor Clegane. However, they fell into an ambush laid out by Gregor. In the ensuing battle, eighty of the men lost their lives, and the rest barely escaped. All was not lost; other men soon began to join the survivors’ ranks. With the assistance of the new men, the brotherhood without banners continues fighting, loyal to Robert Baratheon.

When Sandor mentions that Robert Baratheon has is long since dead,  the man says that while Robert might have died, the brotherhood continue to defend Robert’s realm.

The man who has been speaking finally becomes visible, and Arya sees that one of his eye sockets is empty and there is a dark black ring all around his neck. Sandor calls the man by his name: Dondarrion. It is then that Arya knows who the scarred man is: Beric Dondarrion. This is the man that Ser Gregor Clegane and his men have been scouring the Riverlands in search of. The man that Gregor has killed twice already, but who has cheated death many times.

The outlaws call themselves the brotherhood without banners. And Tom says that they also call themselves knights of the hollow hill. Sandor laughs at the fact that the outlaws call themselves knights, for only Dondarrion is a true knight. Dondarrion replies by saying that a knight can make other knights, and he has knighted every man in the cave. Sandor scoffs at the idea and says that if they want to murder him, they better do it quickly, because he can’t stand to listen to any more of the outlaws’ ridiculous preaching.

Thoros tells Sandor that they are not going to murder him, but he’ll be dead soon enough anyway. Thoros and the outlaws begin reciting a litany of names, and it goes on for some while until Sandor gets angry and tells them that the names mean nothing to him. The outlaws tell him that the names belong to the people who have killed by men from House Lannister. Sandor gets even more angry and says that he did not kill any of the people mentioned, that other men who served the Lannisters murdered those people. He continues by saying that he shouldn’t be guilty of the crimes other men committed. He tells the outlaws that they have no right to call him a murderer when they themselves have killed before, as well.

Arya screams out that Sandor is indeed a murderer – it was he who killed her friend, the butcher boy named Mycah. Sandor is surprised to find Arya alive, but he replies by telling her he had to kill Mycah because the butcher’s boy attacked Joffrey, who was then a prince of the crown. Arya shouts out that Sandor is lying, because she was the one who had hit Joffrey, not Mycah. When Lord Beric Dondarrion asks Sandor whether he actually saw the butcher’s boy attack Prince Joffrey, Sandor replied that he hadn’t and that he had taken Prince Joffrey’s account of what happened as truth – it was not his place to question Prince Joffrey.

Thoros draws Lord Beric aside, and they confer briefly before Beric announces the verdict: Sandor stands accused of murder, but since no one in the cave knows the truth or falsehood of the charge, only the Lord of Light can judge Sandor and hence, Sandor is to be sentenced to a trial by battle. Sandor is to battle Beric himself – if Sandor manages to kill Beric, he is free to leave.

Sandor and Beric then equip themselves with swords and shields. Sandor wants armor, but Beric says that Sandor’s innocence must he his armor. Beric is just, however. when Sandor complains that this gives Beric an unfair advantage, Beric removes his own breastplate. Arya and Gendry both see the crater scar on his chest and the matching one upon his back – the point where Gregor’s lance went through him.

The outlaws say a prayer to the Lord of Light and the trial of battle begins. Sandor taunts Beric, but Beric replies by drawing the edge of his longsword against the palm of his left hand, drawing out blood, which washes over the steel. And which then sets the entire blade on fire. Sandor curses – he has always been deathly afraid of fire ever since his brother Gregor shoved his face into a brazier when they were children. There is fear on his face, but Sandor charges in anyway.

Dondarrion proves to be a capable fighter, matching the Hound in speed and skill. Beric has an edge with his burning sword, however. After a few rounds of savage hacking and slashing, Dondarrion lands so powerful a blow on Sandor’s shield that it sets the entire shield on fire. Sandor hacks down on his shield, destroying it. But some pieces still cling to his arm; his efforts to free himself only fans the flames and soon his entire left arm is on fire, as well. The outlaws shout out for Dondarrion to finish the Hound, and the scarred knight rushes in to deliver the coup de grace.

The Hound screams and launches a wild, desperate attack, raising his sword with both hands and bringing it crashing down upon Lord Beric. The scarred knight blocks the cut easily but the Hound has placed all of his strength into his last, reckless attack, and his strength is such that it snaps Dondarrion’s sword in two and sends Sandor’s blade burrowing into Dondarrion’s flesh, right where the shoulder joins the neck. The blow is so savage that it cleaves Dondarrion down to the breastbone.

Lord Beric falls to his knee and topples forward into the dirt. Sandor however, flings away any remnants of his shield and is rolling on the ground, trying to put out the fire that is running down his entire left arm; he is crying piteously, begging for someone to help him. Thoros sends a woman to see to Sandor’s burns; the outlaws drag Lord Beric’s body into one of the dark tunnels and Thoros follows thereafter.

Arya is growing increasingly frustrated with Sandor’s escape from death; she had hoped that Lord Beric would kill the Hound in combat but now it seems like Sandor will be free to leave the hideout. Unwilling to let that happen, Arya nimbly grabs one of the outlaws’ daggers from out of its sheath and rushes in to stab the Hound.

Sandor’s eyes meet her and he tells to kill him if she actually wants to that badly; he would rather die a quick death than to suffer the agony caused by his burns. Before Arya can shove the dagger into the Hound, Lem manages to grab her wrist and wrench the dagger away.  Angry that the Hound will live, she screams at Sandor, cursing him to go to hell.

A voice behind her tells her that Sandor is already in hell. When Arya turns around, she sees Lord Beric standing behind her.

Catelyn

Lord Hoster has finally passed on; Catelyn watches as the men and women of Riverrun prepare her father for his final send-off. They place his body in a wooden boat, clad in his armor and the finest of clothes. Seven men have been chosen to push Lord Hoster’s funeral boat into the river; Robb is one of them.

However, among the seven chosen for the task is Lame Lothar Frey; Lord Walder Frey sent Lothar and Walder Rivers, the eldest of his bastard-born children, to Riverrun within hours of Lord Hoster’s passing. Despite being fully aware of the enmity between Robb and House Frey, Edmure is furious that Lord Walder has sent a cripple and a bastard to treat with them. Robb, on the other hand, treats both the Freys with the utmost of respect and courtesy.

The seven men push the boat out into the Tumblestone River, and it sails serenely into the rising sun. Edmure, who is now Lord of Riverrun, is given the task of shooting a flaming arrow at his father’s boat, but misses. He tries another two times but both attempts fall shy of the mark. Disgusted at himself, he hands the bow over to his uncle, Ser Brynden.

Ser Brynden swiftly nocks, draws and releases the flaming arrow; the arrow finds its mark, and sets the sails on fire. Together they watch as the fire spread and the flames caused the fog to glow pink and orange; the fire grows smaller as the burning boat recedes in the distance, and soon the boat and its fire are gone.

Edmure walks off as soon as the burning boat vanishes from sight. Ser Brynden escorts Catelyn to where Robb and his bannermen are. The men are offering Robb their consolations but Catelyn pays special attention when Lothar Frey approaches Robb. Lothar apologizes for intruding upon Robb’s grief and follows this with a polite request for an audience with Robb later in the evening. Robb agrees to the audience, stating that he never intended to sow hatred between his host and the Freys. Lothar says that he understands and that his father, Lord Walder Frey, was young once and remembers what it is to lose one’s heart to beauty, as Robb lost his own heart to Jeyne Westerling’s; Catelyn highly doubts that Lord Walder has said any such thing, but she keeps silent in the face of the compliment.

After Robb has spoken to each of the men who wanted a word with him, he asks Catelyn to walk with him. As they walk, Catelyn can see the fatigue and frustration in Robb’s face and body language – a lot of things had happened lately, and almost all of them has been bad news for Robb. He lost a third of his infantry soldiers in the battle at Duskendale; one of his loyal bannermen, Robett Glover, had survived the battle but was captured shortly thereafter. Robb intends to offer the Lannisters Ser Kevan Lannister’s son, Martyn Lannister, in exchange for Robett’s release.

There had been more dire news: the Greyjoys have taken over Winterfell and Moat Caitlin, and Theon Greyjoy has killed Bran and Rickon.

And Robb shares another piece of bad news, one that Catelyn hears about for the first time: the Lannisters have wed Sansa to Tyrion. The news is a big shock to Catelyn, who mentions that Tyrion promised to return both her daughters if they returned his brother Jaime to the Lannisters. She laments on Sansa’s fate, wondering how the Lannisters could be so cruel as to force her to wed Tyrion. Robb says that the Lannisters did so because they knew that Sansa will be heir to Winterfell should Robb fall in battle.

Robb’s statement fills Catelyn with dread; she begs him to bend the knee to Joffrey. She says that the Lannisters will not want to conquer or rule the North, so if Robb bends the knee to Joffrey, that would allow Robb to drive the Greyjoys out of the North without having to worry about the Lannisters attacking his host from behind. Robb refuses to entertain the idea, saying he will never bend the knee to those who killed his father. Seeing that she cannot convince Robb, Catelyn takes her leave.

Later in the evening, Catelyn attends supper. She notes that Robb is cool and her brother Edmure, the new Lord of Riverrun, is in a surly mood; Lame Lothar however, is the model of courtesy.

After the supper is over, Robb holds his audience with Lothar and  Walder Rivers. Before Lothar mentions the business that brings both himself and Walder Rivers to Riverrun, he shares yet more bad news with Robb: Winterfell has been burned to the ground. Theon Greyjoy burned the Starks’ ancestral castle when he saw that it was impossible for him to hold on to Winterfell against the host of northmen who were marching north to reclaim it. The ironmen killed many of the castle-folk, but some women and children escaped, along with Lothar’s nephews, the two Frey boys who were wards of Winterfell. It was Lord Bolton’s bastard, Ramsay Snow, who rescued the women and children; they remain safe at the Dreadfort, the seat of House Bolton. Lothar has no news on Theon, but says that Lord Bolton might know what happened to Theon.

Lothar then goes on to apologize for bringing such bad news, and suggest that they might continue their audience tomorrow morning. Robb declines however and urges Lothar to continue.

Lothar gets on with business and announces that Lord Walder Frey will consent to a new marriage alliance between House Stark and House Frey with two conditions: the first is that Robb must apologize to Lord Walder Frey in person, and the second is that Edmure must immediately wed Lady Roslin, one of Lord Walder’s daughters. Robb is wary but tells Lothar that he will make the face-to-face apology. Edmure, however, is reluctant to marry Lady Roslin without first meeting her. Walder Rivers tells Edmure that he must accept Lady Roslin as his wife now and that the marriage is to take place immediately, otherwise Lord Walder’s offer of a marriage alliance will be withdrawn.

Robb dismisses Lothar and Walder Rivers and then convenes with Catelyn, Edmure and Brynden to discuss Lord Walder’s terms. Edmure is furious and says that he is now Lord Walder’s liege lord and that, like Robb, he should have been given a choice to choose his bride from among Lord Walder’s daughters. He insists on sending Lothar back to House Frey with the term changed so that it allows him to choose his own bride. Robb says that he cannot be sitting idly by, waiting for a wedding that might or might not happen – he has to march north immediately. Catelyn and Brynden agree, with Brynden adding that Edmure did mention earlier that he was willing to make amends for attacking the Lannister army in the Battle of the Fords, which went counter to what Robb ordered him to do.

Edmure curses, and finally gives in.

Davos

Ser Axell Florent makes his way to Davos and Lord Alester Florent’s cell. Alester immediately asks Axel whether he has been summoned by the King or the Queen – but Axell says that it is Davos who has been summoned. Axel releases Davos; when Davos asks whether he is being taken to Melisandre, Axell tells him that it is King Stannis himself who summoned Davos.

They make their way up the stairs, and are soon out of the dungeons. Before taking Davos to meet with Stannis, Axell stops to have a few quick words with the Onion Knight. He tells Davos that if it were up to him, he’d burn both Alester and Davos because he considers them both traitors. He goes on to say that, like Melisandre, he can now see the future when he looks into fire, and in his visions, Stannis Baratheon sits on the Iron Throne. Axell says that he knows what has to be done – he has to be made King Stannis’ Hand, and orders Davos to tell Stannis the same thing. He goes on to state that the Queen and the pirate Salladhor Saan are behind his appointment as King Stannis’ new Hand. Axell then gives Davos two choices: if Davos tells King Stannis to name Axell as the new Hand of the King, Axell will give him a new ship when they set sail; however, if Davos chooses to betray Axell instead, then Axell will get one of the men from the garrison to kill him when he least expects it, and the whole thing will look like an accident because Axell is the castellan of Dragonstone.

Ser Axell and Davos then go to meet Stannis. Davos’ surprise upon seeing the King, is immediate: Stannis looks as if he has aged ten years since Davos last saw him. Stannis greeting is friendly, and he tells Davos that he has missed Davos’ honest counsel – and he immediately asks for it by asking Davos to tell him the penalty for treason.

Davos wonders whether Stannis is asking him to condemn himself or Lord Alester Florent. He replies honestly, stating that the penalty for treason is death. Stannis states that he is not a cruel man but a just one, and then goes on to list several cases in the past, where those who committed treason against their rightful kings were executed for their crimes. Davos realizes then and there that Stannis is referring to Lord Alester’s actions, not his.

Stannis then reminisces about his late brother, Robert. He states that Robert had a gift for inspiring loyalty, even in his foes, and laments the fact that he can only inspire betrayal in his own allies, as in the case of Lord Alester.

Ser Axell, who is brother to Lord Alester, requests that Stannis gives him a chance to prove that not all Florents are so weak-minded. Stannis tells Davos that Axell has come up with plans for battle, and then tells Axel to tell Davos about those plans, because he wants to hear Davos’ counsel on Axell’s plans.

Axell lays out his plan, a plan that both he and Salladhor Saan have devised. They will take a fleet consisting of Salladhor’s fleet and those men who had survived the Battle of the Blackwater, and then proceed to sail to Claw Isle, the seat of House Celtigar. After dealing with the measly garrison, they will then sack Claw Isle, then put the castle to torch and the people of Claw Isle to the sword. The reason for doing this is to punish the head of House Celtigar, Lord Ardrian Celtigar – Lord Celtigar under King Stannis’ banner at the Battle of the Blackwater, but when he was captured, he immediately bent the knee to King Joffrey and even now remains in King’s Landing. Axell’s reasoning is that the sacking and burning down of Claw Isle will serve as a warning to those who serve under Stannis – to warn them of what will happen if they ally themselves with Joffrey and House Lannister.

Stannis then speaks. He mentions that Ser Axell’s plan could be carried out, with little risk. The plunder from the attack will keep Salladhor Saan satisfied while the fall of Claw Isle will serve as a notice to Tywin Lannister that Stannis was not done fighting. Stannis then asks for Davos’ honest thoughts on Ser Axell’s proposal.

Davos speaks the only way he knows how: honestly. He tells Stannis that Axell’s plans reeks of folly and cowardice. Ser Axell’s is fuming at Davos’ answer but Stannis tells the Onion Knight to continue.

Davos reminds Stannis that Lord Celtigar came to serve Stannis when Stannis called for an army, that he even stood by Stannis’ side at Storm’s End when they were facing the far superior numbers of Lord Renly’s host. Davos says that Celtigar’s men had fought in the Battle of the Blackwater, with many of them being burned alive by the Lannisters’ wildfire – and that is the reason why only women, children and old men hold Claw Isle now. He goes on to state that it would be cowardice to attack women and children – why should they be punished when they have done no treason.

Ser Axell counters this by saying that not all of Lord Celtigar’s men died on the Blackwater – hundreds were captured along with Lord Celtigar, and they all bent their knees to King Joffrey when Celtigar did. And that means the men’s women and children are traitors, as well. Davos replies by saying that Celtigar’s men bent the knee only because their own lord did. They were after all his sworn men – what could they have done differently?

Stannis disagrees, stating that it is the duty of every man to remain loyal to his rightful king.

A recklessness suddenly takes hold of Davos, and he blurts out that Stannis did not remain loyal to his king, King Aerys Targaryen, but instead fought on his brother’s side when Robert raised his banners to overthrow King Aerys’ rule.

Ser Axell is furious and draws his weapon but Stannis commands Axell to remove himself from the hall. Axell reluctantly obeys; Stannis orders Axell to send Melisandre to the hall.

Stannis, alone with Davos, then speaks of the Iron Throne, how it was a hard decision to choose between remaining loyal to King Aerys or fighting under Robert’s banners, and wondering aloud why his brothers had wanted to sit on the Iron Throne so badly when it is such an uncomfortable throne to sit on. When Davos asks him why he wants to sit on the Iron Throne just as badly, Stannis replies that it is not a question of wanting, but of the law: the Iron Throne belongs to him since he was Robert’s heir. He mentions that to sit on the Iron Throne is his duty and that once he has won the throne, he intends to start his reign by serving justice to Cersei and her children, Lord Varys and Jaime Lannister; he intends to scour the court clean.

Stannis then turns to the Onion Knight and asks Davos why he had planned to murder Melisandre. Davos says that four of his sons died in the Battle of the Blackwater – Melisandre took their lives with her flames.

Stannis replies by saying that Davos has wronged Melisandre, that the wildfire was not her work but that of Tyrion Lannister and the pyromancers of King’s Landing. He goes on to state that it was Melisandre herself who asked for Davos’ release.

Stannis then takes the conversation to an altogether different turn: Edric Storm, Robert’s bastard whom they have since moved from Storm’s End to Dragonstone. Edric is sick, but Maester Pylos is tending to him; Stannis states that Edric is important to his plans because, being Robert’s bastard, king’s blood flows in the boy’s veins – and Melisandre has mentioned that there is power in king’s blood.

Stannis then brings the conversation back to Ser Axell’s plans. He declares that he shall bring justice to Westeros, and Ser Axell’s war-plans held no justice in it; it was an evil thing of revenge, exactly as Davos had mentioned. Stannis then does something that completely stuns Davos – for providing him with honest counsel, Stannis wants to make the Onion Knight his new Hand. Davos protests but Stannis commands Davos to kneel; after touching Davos’ shoulder with the glowing sword, Lightbringer, Stannis then commands Davos to rise and announces him as Lord of the Rainwood, Admiral of the Narrow Sea, and Hand of the King.

Davos is at a loss for words; he says that he is content being one of Stannis’ knights, that there surely must be other men who are far more worthy to be Stannis’ Hand. He confesses that he is only an upjumped smuggler, that he can’t even read and right and that surely one of Stannis’ bannermen would make for a better Hand. Stannis mentions that there are a few good men who could possibly be his new Hand – but he trusts none of them like he trusts Davos. He wants Davos to be the one who stands beside him for the battle.

Davos, thinking Stannis is talking about another battle with the Lannisters, counsels against this, stating that Stannis lacks the strength for another battle with them.

It is at this moment that Melisandre glides into the hall; she is carrying a covered silver dish. She tells Davos that Stannis is not talking about battling the Lannisters – he is talking about the great battle between the Lord of Light and the Great Other. Stannis then confesses to Davos that he had seen it in Melisandre’s flames: he had seen a high hill in a forest, with snow everywhere, and men in black fighting shapes that were moving in the snow. Melisandre announces that the great battle has already begun, and that Stannis is the Lord of Light’s Chosen, and that all of Westeros must unite behind him.

Stannis questions whether he is worthy to be the Lord of Light’s Chosen, when Robert and even Renly might have been more suited to the role. Melisandre mentions that it is because Stannis is a righteous man.

Stannis then touches the covered silver dish Melisandre is carrying and says that he is a righteous man who makes use of leeches. Melisandre tells him that the magic she is about to perform with the leeches might not work properly; she tells him that the surer way would be to hand over Edric Storm to her and to make a sacrifice of the boy to the Lord of Light for the king’s blood that flows in the boy’s body is the only way to wake the stone dragons. Stannis refuses to give up Edric Storm, saying that the boy is his own blood; he also says that dragons are gone from the world and even the Targaryens failed to bring them back.

Melisandre resigns herself to what is coming up next. She lifts the lid of the silver dish to reveal three large black leeches underneath, each engorged with blood. As soon as he sees it, Davos knows that the leeches are fat with Edric Storm’s blood.

Melisandre tells Stannis to say the names. Stannis then tosses each of the three leeches into a brazier, mentioning a name before he tosses them in. The names he mentions are: Joffrey Baratheon, Balon Greyjoy and Robb Stark.

Jaime

Lord Bolton has invited Jaime to have dinner with him. Jaime heads to Harrenhal’s bathhouse to have a bath in order to look presentable. He finds Brienne in the bathhouse and decides to hop into the same bath with her. Brienne protests but Jaime says that he’s only interested in bathing. While scrubbing himself, he shoots a vitriolic comment at Brienne: she should be pleased he has lost the hand that killed King Aerys. He then adds another hurtful comment, saying that it was no surprise that Renly Baratheon died since she was the one in charge of guarding him, thus implying that Jaime lost his hand because Brienne failed in her duty to protect him.

Jaime’s accusation is like a slap to Brienne and she is at a loss for words. However, Jaime has a change of heart and sincerely apologizes to Brienne saying that his remark was the result of him being bitter over the loss of his hand and that she protected him as well as any man could have, and better than most. Jaime says he is tired of fighting with her all the time, so he suggest that he and Brienne make a truce. Brienne has misgivings, however, and says that she finds it hard to trust Jaime, considering he killed King Aerys.

Jaime sighs, lamenting on how his act of killing King Aerys Targaryen earned him the reputation of being an oathbreaker. He asks why no one calls Robert Baratheon an oathbreaker since Robert tore the realm apart during his rebellion against the Targaryens.

Brienne says that Robert did all he did for love; Jaime scoffs at the idea, saying that Robert started his uprising because of pride.

Jaime then reveals the full story behind King Aerys’ death.

After losing several battles to Robert Baratheon’s forces, King Aerys finally realized that Robert was no mere outlaw but the greatest threat to the Targaryen dynasty. Aerys called upon House Lannister, who had always been loyal to the Targaryens, but received no reply. Suspecting that all his allies were about to betray him, fear started gripping his heart and he commanded his cadre of alchemists to place caches of wildfire all over King’s Landing.

When Aerys’ son and heir, Rhaegar Targaryen, the Prince of Dragonstone, was killed by Robert at the Battle of the Trident, Jaime overhears Aerys revealing the truth behind his wildfire plan to Rossart, his pet alchemist- Aerys would rather burn the city to the ground than let Robert have it.

Injured at the Battle of the Trident, Robert sent his vanguard, with Eddard Stark in command, racing down south to King’s Landing.

But it was the Lannisters who arrived first. The King called for the gates to be opened, convinced that Tywin Lannister, his Warden of the West, was there to help him defend the city. But that was a mistake on Aerys’ part – his Warden of the West had been brooding during the war, wondering whether he should fight for his king, or join in Robert’s Rebellion; Tywin was determined that House Lannister would be on the winning side. The Battle of the Trident decided Tywin and House Lannister switched sides.

Jaime knew that he could not hold King’s Landing against his father’s forces, so he requested for Aerys to make terms. Aerys refuses to yield and tells Jaime to slay Tywin. Jaime, knowing full-well that Aerys had already ordered his pet alchemist Rossart to execute his desperate wildfire plan, decides to go against Aerys’ orders; instead, he betrays his king, slaying both Aerys and Rossart in order to prevent them from setting the city on fire.

When Jaime finishes the telling of the tale, Brienne asks him why, if the tale is true, does no one know about it. Jaime tells her that since he is a knight of the Kingsguard, he is sworn to keep Aerys’ secret. He also states that Eddard Stark would not have been interested in his reasons for slaying Aerys anyway.

When Jaime tries to climb out of the bath, he experiences a bout of dizziness and accidentally smashes his stump against the rim of the bath. Brienne catches him before he falls and the guards hurriedly leave to fetch Qyburn. The Bloody Maester tends to Jaime, saying that there’s still some poison in Jaime’s blood and that the Kingslayer is a little malnourished. Qyburn then leaves to fetch clean clothing for their dinner with Lord Bolton; Brienne finishes cleaning Jaime. Qyburn returns shortly thereafter, with a strengthening licorice potion for Jaime and the fresh clothing for both the Kingslayer and Brienne.  A half-hour passes before Jaime feels stronger again, and they both head off to the great hall for dinner.

Lord Bolton welcomes them to dinner; he is a gracious host, offering them food and drink. As they eat and drink, Lord Bolton shares some news with them: Lord Edmure Tully’s offer of a thousand gold coins for Jaime’s recapture, Lord Karstark’s promise of the hand of his daughter to anyone who brings him Jaime’s head, Robb Stark marrying Jeyne Westerling and Edmure’s subsequent marriage to Lady Roslin Frey, and Arya Stark being found and being sent back to the north.

Lord Bolton then arrives at the question of just what to do with Jaime. Brienne insists that Lord Bolton allow her to continue with her quest to bring Jaime to King’s Landing in order to exchange him for Lady Catelyn’s two daughters. Lord Bolton assures Brienne that he means to send Jaime on.

But Bolton then mentions that Lord Vargo Hoat has created one small problem for him.  Vargo abandoned House Lannister because Lord Bolton had offered him Harrenhal, a prize greater than any  he could hope to get from Tywin. Vargo hoped that Stannis would go on to win the Battle of the Blackwater for then Stannis would be able to confirm Vargo’s possession of Harrenhal. However, because Stannis lost the Battle of the Blackwater, Vargo realized that only a Stark victory can save him from Lord Tywin’s vengeance. Now, Vargo intends to bring Jaime to Lord Karstark, to take up Lord Karstark ‘s offer of marriage to his daughter, and to ask for safe refuge – Karhold might be smaller, but it lies further north, well beyond the reach of House Lannister. But the Riverlands had been full of men searching for Jaime, so Vargo had to return to Harrenhal to hold Jaime safely. But in Harrenhal, Vargo and his Brave Companions are outnumbered by Lord Bolton’s men and he feared that Lord Bolton would send Jaime either back to Riverrun or back to Tywin Lannister.

Therefore, Vargo cut off Jaime’s sword hand – in order to diminish Jaime’s value to Lord Bolton, and to ensure that Jaime wouldn’t exact vengeance on him. Since Vargo now serves Lord Bolton, his crime of cutting off Jaime’s hand has thus become Lord Bolton’s crimes, or may seem so, to Lord Tywin. And that, is where Lord Bolton’s predicament lies.

Jaime knows that there is only one answer he can give to prevent Lord Bolton from giving him back to Vargo Hoat: he says that when he gets sent back to the Lannisters, he will absolve Lord Bolton of any blame. Lord Bolton says that he will trust Jaime’s word and send him off to King’s Landing when Qyburn says he is strong enough to travel.

Brienne thanks Lord Bolton and states that Lady Catelyn’s daughters will be under her protection when she exchanges Jaime for them in King’s Landing. Lord Roose Bolton then turns to Brienne and tells her that he will not be depriving Lord Vargo Hoat of both his prizes: Jaime will continue on to King’s Landing, but Brienne will continue being Vargo’s prisoner.

Tyrion

Tyrion is standing on the banks of the Blackwater, waiting for Prince Doran Martell and his entourage to arrive. With him are Podrick, Bronn, a small number of guards from the City Watch, and a small contingent of courtiers from King Joffrey’s court; they are all gathered there to escort Prince Doran and his entourage across  the river.

Tyrion soon spots Prince Doran and his delegation in the distance. The first thing that catches his attention is the number of banners: there are far more than he expected. With Bronn’s sharp  eyesight, and Podrick’s knowledge of Dornish heraldry, Tyrion surmises that Doran has brought with him formidable companions – all nine of the banners represent the greatest Houses in all of Dorne.

Just then, Pod spots something else that gives Tyrion pause: the delegation from Dorne travel without a litter. This disturbs Tyrion: Prince Doran is a man of fifty and suffers from gout. Tyrion tries to come up with reasons as to why Prince Doran might not have traveled in his litter, but the waiting gets to him and he signals for Podrick, Bronn and the rest of his party to follow him as he rides forward to meet the Dornish delegation.

When they finally come face-to-face, Tyrion recognizes the Dornish leader: it is Prince Oberyn Martell, Doran’s younger brother. Oberyn informs Tyrion that Doran has sent him to join King Joffrey’s council in his stead. He then introduces the Dornish delegation to Tyrion – Oberyn’s paramour, Ellaria Sand, is part of the delegation as well. Tyrion introduces his own contingent as well, although he knows that it is not as distinguished or formidable as Oberyn’s – and that Oberyn knows it as well.

As all of them head towards King’s Landing, Tyrion tries to figure out what to do with Oberyn, for the Red Viper of Dorne is a different creature altogether compared to his elder brother Doran. The Red Viper has a fearsome reputation; he is said to have traveled the Free Cities, is knowledgeable in the dark art of poison, formed his own mercenary company, sleeps with both men and women, and he has fathered bastard daughters all over Dorne. And Tyrion is certain that Oberyn’s arrival at court will be met with an icy reception from the Tyrells as it was Oberyn who had accidentally crippled Mace Tyrell’s eldest son and heir, Willas Tyrell, in a jousting tourney.

During their ride, Oberyn tells Tyrion that the two of them have met before. Oberyn had been around fourteen or fifteen, and his sister, Elia, a year older; the two of them had gone with their mother to visit Casterly Rock. Tyrion had just been born. However, Tyrion’s mother, Lady Joanna, had died giving birth to him, which saw Casterly Rock in mourning. Tywin Lannister had been hit especially hard by the death of his wife, so it was Kevan Lannister who entertained the Martells.

It was the talk of the town, that Lady Joanna had given birth to a monster before she died, that it was an omen that foretold of Lord Tywin’s fall. However, when a young Jaime and Cersei Lannister showed their new brother to the Martell siblings, Oberyn says that he was mightily disappointed, as Tyrion only turned out to be an ugly baby with stunted legs, not the horrible monstrosity the talk of the town had made him out to be.

Oberyn then turns the discussion to the recent tax Tyrion has placed on whoring; Tyrion confirms that he did indeed implement such a tax but questions as to why Oberyn would want to frequent whores when he had his paramour Ellaria traveling with him. Oberyn’s answer is that both he and Ellaria intend to find and share a beautiful blonde whore between the two of them.

Oberyn’s next change of topic comes abruptly: he starts by telling Tyrion that he’s heard there are seventy-seven dishes being served at Joffrey’s wedding feast – but he hungers for justice instead of food. He then asks Tyrion when justice will be served.

Tyrion knows what Oberyn means – the Red Viper wants vengeance for death of his sister, Elia Martell, and her two children, all three brutally murdered by Ser Gregor Clegane during Robert’s Rebellion. Oberyn intends to deliver justice upon Gregor, but vows to gets some answers out of Gregor before he kills him, mainly the answer to the question of who gave Gregor the orders to kill Elia and her children in the first place.

Tyrion responds to Oberyn’s thinly-veiled threat by saying that Oberyn might have brought three hundred men in his retinue, but King’s Landing had many times that number behind its wall, and part of that number includes at least fifty thousand Tyrell men-at-arms. He then rides past Oberyn.

Arya

Lord Beric and his band of outlaws ambush a group of Brave Companions at a septry, striking just before dawn. Arya and Gendry watch the ambush from a distance, guarded by two of Beric’s men.

The outlaws make use of flaming arrows during their ambush; the walls of the septry are wooden so the ensuing smoke successfully draws the Brave Companions out. With the advantage of surprise and darkness on their side, the outlaws score a resounding victory and the battle is soon over. Many of the Brave Companion have been killed in the battle, and those that are still alive are men who have thrown down their weapons in surrender. Lord Beric has allowed two of the mercenaries to escape, however, to carry word of the ambush to Harrenhal; Beric hopes that the news will drive a little fear into both Lord Roose Bolton and Vargo Hoat.

The outlaws manage to save eight brown brothers from the burning septry. The brown brothers are septons who have chosen to live a monastic lifestyle; there were originally forty-four of them, but after Lannister soldiers and mercenaries like the Brave Companions attacked and raided their quiet community, only eight remain.

Lord Beric commands his men to prepare the captive Brave Companions for trial. When the trials commence, they go by swiftly, with the outlaws coming forward to tell of the mercenaries’ many crimes. All of the surviving Brave Companions are judged guilty; the outlaws hang them one by one.

The septry has collapsed due to the fire, so the outlaws take shelter with the brown brothers in a brewhouse beside the river. The brothers have a cache of food hidden in the stables, which they share with Beric and his men.

During the meal, Beric notices that Arya is looking at him warily, so he calls her to come closer and asks whether the sight of him frightens her so much. Arya says that she thought Sandor Clegane had killed Beric during the trial by combat and is wondering how Beric is still alive. Beric tells her that Thoros healed his wound; Thoros humbly responds by saying that it was really the Lord of Light, R’hllor who brought Beric back to life and that he, Thoros, is just an instrument. Thoros also reveals that he has brought Beric back to life six times; Beric mentions that he can hardly remember anything of the life he lead before his many deaths.

When Arya subtly asks Thoros whether he can resurrect her father, the red priest tells her that he cannot resurrect the dead – it is the Lord of Light who appears to have brought Lord Beric back to life, in order to fulfill some purpose known only to R’hllor himself.

Beric sympathizes with Arya’s grief for her father. He tells her that Eddard Stark was a good man, but that he and his outlaws will still demand ransom for her return to her brother, the King in the North, Robb Stark; the outlaws need money for food, weapons and steeds.

Later in the evening, Gendry makes an announcement that catches Arya and the outlaws by surprise: he wants to smith for the outlaws. Beric tells Gendry that they cannot pay him for his services while Lem warns him that an outlaw’s life is short and dangerous. Gendry listens but is still insists on joining; the other outlaws support his joining because they badly need a smith to help them repair armor and weapons.

Beric agrees to let Gendry join and, as part of the initiation ritual for all of the men who follow him, knights Gendry with his sword.

Just at that moment, Sandor Clegane appears, mocking Beric for knighting yet another outlaw. When Beric asks him why he has followed them, Sandor replies that after his trial by combat with Beric, the outlaws took all his gold and now he has come to get his gold back. Lord Beric mentions that he has already given Sandor a promissory note, but Sandor says he considers the note worthless. Beric reveals that he has already given Sandor’s gold to some of his men who are traveling south to buy grain and seed. Sandor insists that he is not leaving without his gold but when the outlaws start drawing their weapons, he changes his mind and leaves.

Beric tells Anguy that he and another outlaw by the name of Beardless Dick are to take rear duty tomorrow and if they see Sandor following them, they are to kill his horse. Some of the outlaws say they should kill Sandor instead, but both Thoros mentions that Sandor won his life in the trial by combat, which means that the Lord of Light is not yet done with Sandor Clegane.

The next morning, the outlaws continue on their way to Riverrun.

Bran

Bran, Summer, Meera, Jojen and Hodor are out of the mountain. The terrain changes to open grasslands and Bran knows the terrain remain flat and open until they reach the Wall. As they come upon their first village since leaving the foothills, they startle a few deer and Summer quickly chases after the fleeing beasts.

As the remaining four members of the party walk into the village, they see a tower standing upon an island located in the centre of a lake. Jojen asks Bran to whom the piece of land belonged to. Bran says that the village and the surrounding land belongs to the Night’s Watch: all the land fifty leagues south of the Wall belongs to the Night’s Watch. Those fifty leagues are called the Gift, the first twenty five being a gift from Brandon the Builder and the second twenty five a gift from the Good Queen Alysanne.

But they soon discover that the village is abandoned. When Jojen enquiries as to why the villagers would leave such good land behind, Bran says that the Night’s Watch isn’t as strong as it used to be and places nearest the Wall get raided so much that the villagers decided to move into the lands further south of the Gift.

Jojen, seeming to use some form of weather sense, announces that a storm is coming their way. Seeing that most of the buildings are in ruins, Bran suggest that they take shelter in the tower on the lake; when Meera points out that they have no boat, Bran says that there is a secret stone causeway hidden just under the water. When asked how he knows this, Bran says that he learned of the causes from Old Nan, the old woman at Winterfell who used to take care of the Stark children and would reach them all sorts of wild stories from beyond the Wall.

True enough, there turns out to be a causeway just under the water. The four of them slowly make their way towards the island. They enter the tower’s unlocked strongroom, but discover that the stairs upwards are blocked by iron grates. Hodor tries to smash the grates open but they do not budge even under his strong blows. They discover another way to up the tower when Brian manages to remove a rusty iron grating Bran from one of the murder holes in the ceiling. They then boost themselves to the next level and explore the upper levels of the tower.

As they stand upon the roof, Bran asks Jojen how all of them were going to get past the Wall in order for them to start looking for the three-eyed crow. Jojen says that there are many abandoned castles along the Wall and that one of these castles may give them a way through. When Bran mentions that his Uncle Benjen told him that the gates of the abandoned castle are sealed with ice and stone, Meera says that they will just have to open those sealed gates again. Bran protests, worried that bad things might come through from the other side; he suggests that they head for Castle Black instead, and ask the Lord Commander to let them pass. Jojen disagrees, saying that they should avoid Castle Black because the men there will be sure to recognize them, and some might even forswear their oaths to sell the secret of Bran’s continued existence to either the ironmen  or Ramsay Snow.

Just as Bran is about to put forth another argument for going to Castle Black, Jojen points out across the lake, towards the setting sun – it is a man on a horse, making for the village. At that moment, a heavy rain begins to pour, and the four of them retreat back into the tower. Meera later goes to the balcony to check on the lone horseman; when she returns, she tells the others that the man has taken shelter in the ruins of the inn.

The heavy rain poured well past dusk. Lightning begins to flash across the sky; the thunder that follows scares Hodor and causes the big man to yell out his name repeatedly. At the moment, Jojen looks out across the lake and sees that there are now many men in the village, not just the lone horseman. They start to worry about the men in the village, afraid that they might make their way to the tower.

As the thunder gets stronger, Hodor starts roaring and moaning. They try to get him to calm down, but all to no avail. Scared that Hodor’s shouting will reveal their hiding place to the men in the village, Bran reaches for Hodor the same way he reaches for Summer, and for half a heartbeat, he actually manages to control and be Hodor. The experience leaves him shaken, but it has managed to calm Hodor.

Bran then realizes that the men who were gathering in the village couldn’t get to them, not unless they had a boat or knew about the causeway hidden under the water. Meera and Jojen are relieved but Jojen warns that the men might stay until morning, with the danger of the men being able to spot the causeway left unsaid.

Bran feels Summer’s fear. He opens up his third eye and enters Summer’s body, essentially becoming Summer. The direwolf has kept out of sight and is moving silently around the underbrush, cautiously studying the group of men. Summer hears them talking, and also smells the sharp stench of fear.

Jon

The small wildling raiding force that Mance Rayder has sent to examine the Wall’s defenses have descended the south face of the Wall. They did so at Greyguard, one of the Castles on the Wall long since abandoned by the Night’s Watch. In order to avoid the Watch’s patrols, the Magnar has marched them deep into the Gift; they have avoided the few inhabited villages that remain and now march in the hills and plains.

The Magnar and his Thenns intend to attack Castle Black; at the end of each day’s march, the Magnar summons Jon and questions him about Castle Black’s garrison and defenses. Jon has tried lying and feigning ignorance, but he is sparing with both, knowing full well that getting caught in a lie will reveal his true allegiance. But, Jon knows the real truth behind the matter – Castle Black has no defenses, and of the four hundred men that remain, most are builders or stewards, not rangers. The Magnar and his Thenns, on the other hand, are disciplined and seasoned warriors – Jon concludes that if Styr and his men take Castle Black unawares, it will be a bloody massacre. He knows that the lives of his sworn brothers depends on his reaching Castle Black before the Magnar, but with Styr and his men watching him so closely, an opportunity to escape has not yet presented itself.

As they travel through the Gift, Ygritte is awed by the roundtowers she sees, as are most of the wildlings, who mistake them for castles. When Ygritte mentions that it seems strange that there seem to be so little people living off the land, Jon tells her that most of the people who once lived in the Gift have gone further south to avoid the constant wildling raids. Ygritte is enraged at Jon’s accusation that it is the wildings who steal; she says that it is the kings South of the Wall who steal – they came and built the Wall and claimed all the land south of it as theirs, and only those who kneel before them can live off of it.

As they each continue justifying the ways of their own people to the other, Jon realizes that, despite having  spent a considerable amount of time together with Ygritte, the two of them ultimately come from different worlds.

Ygritte continues arguing with Jon, claiming that men cannot own the land, no more than they can own the sea or the sky, and that Mance Rayder will come and teach all of Jon and his people this lesson. Jon replies by saying that Mance cannot win the war because, while the wildlings may be brave, they lack the discipline of the men of the Seven Kingdoms – he warns her that all of the wildlings will die, including her.

Ygritte’s reply comes in the form of a fiery kiss, saying that Jon was one of the wildlings now and that death comes to all men so they must first live. Jon kisses her back, thinking of how he has come to love her but how she is also wildling to the core. He wonders how Ygritte will react if she knew that he was still a man of the Night’s Watch in his heart. Jon realizes that the fact that he has come to not only love Ygritte but gotten to know some of the wildlings he traveled with will make betraying them all that much harder.

As the sun is about to set, a wildling with the gift of foretelling the weather warns the Magnar that a bad storm is coming. Styr takes up Grigg the Goat’s advice that they find shelter at a nearby village.

By the time they arrive at the village, it is already night time and the storm is raging fiercely. The village appears to have been abandoned a long time ago. The wildlings proceed to scout the surrounding area, and discover an old man and his horse in the ruins of the village’s inn. The old man’s fire had given away his position; Styr and his men easily capture the old man and began looting his saddlebags.

Jon decides to walk away from the scene, not wanting to stay and watch because he knows that the Magnar will kill the old man. He walks towards the edge of the village, where there is a lake and a roundtower on an island in the middle of the lake. When Ygritte comes upon him, she finds him staring at the tower. She tells him that some of the Magnar’s Thenns heard shouting coming from the tower. Jon tells her that he knows where they are and that they should make their way to the tower and investigate. When Ygritte laughs at the notion of swimming in the storm, Jon tells her that they need not swim – they can get to the tower by walking. He tells her that this village is called Queenscrown and is telling her about the history behind the village’s name when one of the Magnar’s Thenns comes and tells Jon that the Magnar has summoned him.

Jon and Ygritte find the Magnar at the inn, along with his captive. Styr tells Jon that the old man must die, and commands Jon to do the deed. Jon draws his sword, but cannot bring himself to kill the old man. Ygritte urges him to do the deed in order to prove to the wildlings that he was no longer a man of the Night’s Watch. When Jon refuses to kill the old man, Styr calls Jon a “crow”, a derogatory term the wildlings call the men of the Night’s Watch; he calls Ygritte a “crow wife” as well. The insult infuriates Ygritte, who then draws out her own knife and slits the old man’s throat; she then throws the blade down at Jon’s feet in anger.

Styr shouts out a command in the Old Tongue; Jon wonders whether the Magnar has commanded the Thenns to kill him but before he can find out, a wolf leaps in among them the wildlings, killing two men within seconds. Jon thinks that Ghost has returned, but when the lightning flashes, he sees that the direwolf attacking the wildlings is grey, not white.

With death all around him, Jon realizes that he will never have a better chance to escape. He grabs the old man’s horse, cutting down two wildlings in the process; he then sends the horse galloping away, and it is all he can do to hold on.

Hours later, Jon finds an arrow in his right thigh. He stops the horse and proceeds to pull the arrow out, then binds the wound with a strip of cloth torn from his cloak. He rests for a while, and then gets back on the horse. Using the stars to guide him, Jon sends the horse north, towards the Wall and Castle Black.

Daenerys

Daenerys and her army stand before Yunkai, a slave-trading city just like Astapor. And she intends to do the same thing she did in Astapor – take the city and free the slaves. Standing between her and the city, however, is the five-thousand strong Yunkai host. The Yunkish hold the center, while two mercenary companies hold the flank – the Stormcrows and the Second Sons. Ser Jorah mentions that Daenerys’ forces can easily defeat the army that stands before them, but Daenerys says that the victory might come at such a cost that they won’t have enough men to take city after the battle.

Daenerys considers the Yunkai host before her. She notes that the sellswords from the two mercenary companies are ahorse – having lived among the Dothraki, she knows that the mounted warriors could prove a sizeable threat to her Unsullied. She formulates a plan in her mind and commands Ser Jorah to send word out to the Yunkai and the captains of the mercenary companies that she will like to meet with them to talk, but tells Jorah that he is to invite them separately.

Daenerys then rides back to her own host, where she meets with one of the Unsullied by the name of Grey Worm; when she had instructed the Unsullied to choose officers form amongst themselves, Grey Worm had been their overwhelming favorite for the highest rank.  When she mentions that the Wise Masters of Yunkai have assembled a slave army, Grey Worm tells her that the slaves of Yunkai are trained in the arts of lovemaking while the Unsullied master the way of the spears. Daenerys tells Grey Worm to spare any of the Yunkai slaves who run or throw down their weapons; she also asks him to be at her tent when she treats with the mercenary captains and the Yunkai.

Daenerys then looks out at the second encampment that lies beyond her own – tens of thousands of former slaves from Astapor, now free men and women. Daenerys left Astapor in the hands of a council made up of former slaves, led by wise and just men. But even then, many of the now-free men and women chose to follow her to Yunkai rather than remain behind in Astapor. Few of them are skilled in battle and they eat the land bare, but Daenerys could bring herself to abandon them, despite being urged to do so by Ser Jorah and her bloodriders.

An hour later, three captains of the Stormcrows arrive at Daenerys’ tent; the three men claim they are of equal rank. There is a thickset Ghiscari, a man with a twisting scar on his cheek, and a flamboyantly dressed Tyroshi. Daenerys tries to convince them to change sides, stating that she has greater number than the Yunkai host, but the thickset Ghiscari turns down her offer and all three captains then get up to leave; however, the Tyroshi, Daario Naharis, glances back at her as he leaves.

Next to arrive is the commander of the Second Sons, a towering Braavosi named Mero, but who calls himself the Titan’s Bastard. Mero immediately makes sexual overtures towards Daenerys, but she quickly takes control of the situation, offering to pay him coin if he switches sides. Mero appears to give it some thought, subtly suggesting that he might switch sides if Daenerys gives him a kiss and sleep with him. Daenerys’ reply is suggestive – she says that Mero might just get his wish. She then asks him to think of her offer and give her an answer tomorrow; she sends him off with an entire wagon of wine as a gift.

The envoys from Yunkai arrive at the end of the day. Their leader is Grazdan mo Eraz, who warns Daenerys that Yunkai will not be an easy conquest. As a gesture of conciliation, he presents Daenerys with a chest containing fifty thousand gold marks and offers it as a gift in exchange for her leaving Yunkai alone. Daenerys refuses to accept the gift; instead, she tells them have three days to fulfill her request – all of the slaves in the city are to be freed and her Unsullied will be allowed to enter the city to make certain that no more slaves remain in bondage. If the Yunkai do this, Daenerys promises them that she will leave the city alone.

Grazdan says that she is mad, whereupon Daenerys commands one of her three dragons to spit flame at the envoy, singeing his  clothes. She then tells Grazdan to take his gold and leave, reminding him to take her message to the Wise Masters of Yunkai. She also gives him one final warning: the Wise Masters have three days to acquiesce to her request – she states that she will be in Yunkai, whether they open the gates for her or not.

After the envoys from Yunkai leave, Daenerys tells Ser Jorah and her bloodriders that they are to mount an attack against Yunkai host an hour past midnight. When Ser Jorah is surprised by her sudden decision to attack, Daenerys says it is the best time to attack because they will take the enemy by surprise – the Stormcrows will be arguing about her offer,  the Seconds Sons will be drunk on the wine she gave them, and the Yunkai’i believe they have three days to come to a decision. Ser Jorah and Arstan Whitebeard applaud her strategy and they begin working out the finer details of the attack.

Before midnight comes about, Daenerys learns that one of the sellswords was caught trying to sneak into the camp – it is one of the three captains of the Stormcrows, the Tyroshi, Daario Naharis. When Daenerys confronts Daario, the flamboyant Tyroshi declares that the Stormcrows will now fight on her side, as will he. Daenerys expresses doubt and asks Daario what the two other captains had to say about her offer. Daario replies by opening the sack that he carries with him, and the heads of the two other captains spill out – he offers their heads as a gift to her. Daenerys is pleased with Daario’s gift and accepts the Tyroshi into her service. Despite Ser Jorah’s objections about Daario’s loyalty, Daenerys sends Daario back to the host with a mission: the Stormcrows are to strike the Yunkish rear when Daenerys’ attack begins.

After Daario leaves, Ser Jorah still voices out his objections against giving Daario Naharis any role to play in the forthcoming battle. Daenerys starts getting angry, and reveals that she is weary of Jorah trying to push every other man in the world away from her just so that she has to rely on him only. She tells him that she respects and cherishes him, but she does not desire him and that sending away every other man will not make her love him any better. Ser Jorah reacts stiffly to the rebuke and leaves soon thereafter to lead Daenerys’ army into battle.

Midnight comes and Daenerys tries to sleep, but she grows increasingly restless, knowing that her men have already launched into battle against the Yunkai host. She summons Arstan to her pavilion and asks him to tell her more about the elder brother she never knew – Rhaegar Targaryen. She says that her now deceased brother, Viserys, mentioned that Rhaegar had won many jousting tournaments.

Arstan reveals that, although Rhaegar’s fighting prowess was unquestioned, he did not love battle like some of his peers, and he seldom entered tournaments; Arstan adds that men used to say Rhaegar loved his harp more than his lance. When Daenerys presses Arstan on whether Rhaegar actually won any of his tourneys, he tells her that Rhaegar did indeed win one – the tourney of Harrenhal, the greatest tourney of them all. Daenerys is surprised by that as she states that the tourney of Harrenhal was the tourney in which Rhaegar crowned Lyanna Stark as the queen of love and beauty, rather than his own lady wife, Elia Martell. She goes on to state that Rhaegar must have been unhappy with his wife since he later went on to steal Lyanna from her betrothed, Daenerys states that if she had been born earlier, closer to Rhaegar’s age, then Rhaegar could have wed her, as per the Targaryen practice of marrying sisters to their brothers – she could have made Rhaegar happy and things might have worked out differently.

Arstan, however, voices out his reservations regarding Daenerys’ statement. He mentions that Prince Rhaegar never seemed truly happy; there was always a melancholy about Rhaegar, and Arstan surmises that it had something to do with the tragic event of a place called Summerhall.

Just then, Ser Jorah enters the tent. He brings good news: they have won the battle. The Stormcrows turned their cloaks, as Daario mentioned they would, the Yunkai’i slaves threw down their spears and ran, and the Second Sons were too drunk to fight. The number of casualties for the enemy number two hundred, with most of that being the Yunkai’i slaves; they also have several thousand captives. Their own losses number only about a dozen or less. Ser Jorah also adds that Grazdan was bringing Daenerys message regarding the freeing of the Yunkai’i slaves to the Wise Masters, and Mero, the leader of the Second Sons, managed to escape the battle.

The next day, Daenerys and her army marched to the doorsteps of Yunkai; she has Ser Jorah and Grey Worm deploy her men, and then she sits down and waits.

On the morning of the third day, the city gates swung open and all the slaves of Yunkai begin streaming out. As they pass, Missandei tells them that they owe their freedom to Daenerys. The newly-freed slaves begin shouting out one word, over and over again: “Mhysa”. Missandei tells Daenerys that is the Ghiscari word for ‘Mother’.

They run towards her; Ser Jorah advices her to retreat for her own safety, but Daenerys says that the newly-freed slaves will not hurt her because they are all her children. She rides out to them and they part before her, calling out to her, brushing their fingers against her legs.

Arya

Arya, Gendry and the outlaws have returned to High Heart, the high hill with the ring of weirwood stumps at its peak. They reach the top of the hill by sunset and make camp for the night. The outlaws build a great fire atop the hill. Arya notices Thoros gazing deep into the flames, and asks Lord Beric’s squire, Ned, as to what Thoros saw in the flames. Ned replies that when the red priest looks into the flames, he can see both the past and future, and things that are happening far away. When Arya then asks Thoros on whether he can truly see the future in the flames, the red priest says that on some days he can, but not this time.

Gendry, dubious, points out that his master, the master-armorer Tobho Mott, used to say that Thoros is a fraud. Thoros is amused at the accusation, and tells them a little about his origins, of how he was the youngest of eight and his father had given him over to the Red Temple. He had proven to have a gift for seeing things in the flames, but the Red Temple eventually decided to send him to King’s Landing to bring the Lord of the Light’s teaching to Westeros. Thoros states that he did indeed buy swords from Tobho Mott and then set them on fire so that he could wield a flaming sword in the melee tournaments, and he admits that doing so destroyed the swords. Just then, Lord Beric mentions that fire consumes, until there is nothing left, and mentions that six times is too many, alluding to the fact that Thoros has brought him back from the dead that many times.

Later that night, when most of the other outlaws were fast asleep, Arya spots a small, old woman with thin white hair entering the camp. The outlaws that are not sleeping, which include, Anguy, Lem, Tom, Thoros and Lord Beric himself, seem to know the old woman and they are soon conversing with her by the fire. In exchange for wine and a song from Tom, the tiny old woman share her portents and dreams with the outlaws. She tells them that the kraken king is dead and so too is Lord Hoster Tully. She speaks of a few other things as well: (1) of a goat sitting alone in the hall of kings while the great dog descends on it (2) a wolf howling in the rain without anyone around to hear its grief (3) a clangor of drums and horns and pipes and screams interspersed with the sad sound of little bells (4) a maiden with purple snakes in her hair attending a feast and (5) the same maiden later slaying a savage giant within a castle made of snow.

After mentioning these dreams, portents and visions, the old woman turn towards Arya, spotting the young girl in the darkness of the night. She studies Arya for a moment before beginning to sob in fear, saying that Arya smells of death and bids Arya to leave. Lord Beric assure the old woman that Arya will be leaving with the outlaws the next day for they are taking her to Riverrun. The old woman tells them that Ser Brynden, the Blackfish, holds Riverrun now, and that if they want to find Arya’s mother, they should head to the Twins, where a wedding is to take place. She then requests for her payment and Tom complies by singing her a song.

It rains throughout the night and continues to pour all the way into the morning. The outlaws break camp and head for an abandoned village half a day’s ride to the north. As they ride, Arya and Ned, Lord Beric’s quire, get into a conversation. As they talk, Arya discovers that Ned and her own half-brother, Jon Snow, are milk brothers; Ned says that when he was little, his own mother had no milk for him, so he was instead nursed by a woman named Wylla, who served Ned’s family and whom Ned states is Jon Snow’s mother. Curious, Arya presses Ned to tell her who he really is; Ned reveals that he is Edric Dayne, Lord of Starfall and Head of House Dayne.

Arya says that she know of Arthur Dayne, remembered by all as one of the finest Kingsguard in history. Ned states that he is Ser Arthur’s nephew and the Lady Ashara Dayne was his aunt; he then reveals that he never got to know his aunt because she threw herself into the sea before he was born. When Arya asks Ned as to the reason Lady Ashara would want to kill herself, Ned says that it is because his aunt’s heart had been broken by a lover, revealed by Ned to be Eddard Stark, Arya’s father. Arya gets visibly upset at the mention of her father loving another woman besides her mother, and rides off in a huff.

Harwin eventually catches up to her and asks her what is bothering her and she is about to repeat what Ned told her but Harwin immediately tells her that he knows of the tale. Harwin doubts the truth of the story but goes on to say that, even if the tale were true, there is no stain on her father’s honor – because when Eddard met Ashara, Eddard’s elder brother, Brandon Stark, was still alive and betrothed to Lady Catelyn. When Arya points out Ashara’s death, Harwin says that Ashara could have given in to the grief she felt after losing her brother, Arthur Dayne. Harwin then pleads to Arya to let the story lie, for all of the people in the story have already died.

The outlaws finally reach the abandoned village and they immediately make camp. Thoros builds a fire and is soon looking into the flames, as he did atop High Heart. This time, however, he sees a vision in his flames, and he hurriedly shares it with Lord Beric and the other outlaws: an island in a sea of fire, and the flames were leaping lions with crimson claws, and they had roared mightily. Thoros believes the island to be Riverrun and the lions to be the Lannisters, who will soon have Riverrun under siege. He also mentions that he did not see either Robb or Catelyn stark in the flames and surmises that they are probably attending the wedding at the Twins, as mentioned by the old woman at High Heart.

Lord Beric then asks Arya whether her uncle, Ser Brynden Tully, who currently holds Riverrun, knows her by sight. Arya can only shake her head, having never met her uncle before. Lem says that they should go to Riverrun  to try and get the gold from Brynden for Arya’s ransom, just so that that can be done with her. Tom interjects by saying that the Lannisters might catch all of them if they do decide to enter Riverrun.

Lord Beric says that they will head for Riverrun, but not before their scouts have gathered  sufficient information regarding the location of both the Lannister and Stark armies; in the meantime, he tells the outlaws that they are to head to the Acorn Hall once again, to seek shelter under Lady Smallwood’s roof.

Arya’s emotions are in turmoil. She doesn’t want to go to Acorn Hall; she wants to go to Riverrun to see her mother and brother. She runs off out into the rain, and runs as fast as she can. She is soon soaked to the bone and tries to find shelter from the rain – but instead she finds Sandor Clegane, disguised as one of the outlaws’ sentries. He tells her that she now belongs to him, and drags her back to his horse.

Jaime

Jaime’s stump has been healing well so Roose Bolton makes the decision to send Jaime on to King’s Landing. He sends Qyburn along in order to look after Jaime’s wound during their journey to the capital. Roose Bolton gives the command of Jaime’s escort to one of his soldiers, Steelshanks Walton.

Roose Bolton and his host are also setting out. One of the Freys who had been at Harrenhal, a Ser Aenys Frey, departed three days before, heading for the Twins – Roose Bolton intends to follow after Ser Aenys. Lord Bolton asks Jaime to give his warm regards to Tywin Lannister. Jaime agrees as long as Lord Bolton delivers his regards to Robb Stark; Bolton says that he will.

A small group of Brave Companions gather in the yard to watch them leave. Jaime tells them that he will be back to settle matters with them.

Jaime and his 200-strong escort follow Roose Bolton’s host about six miles away from Harrenhal, turning south to follow the lake road. Walton says that he intends to avoid the Kingsroad on their journey to King’s Landing. He tells Jaime that while following the tracks and game trails along God’s Eye may be slower, he intends to bring Jaime back to the capital safely, without risking being attacked on the more open Kingsroad.

Qyburn falls in besides Jaime and enquires as to whether Jaime enjoyed his visitor last night. In truth, Jaime had sent the girl away, but he doesn’t mention this and merely asks Qyburn whether he sent girls to all those that he had leeched. Qyburn then mentions that it is Vargo Hoat who sends the girls to him, to examine them for diseases. He mentions that the girl he had sent to Jaime was healthy; he also mentions that Brienne of Tarth had been sent to him for examination and she turned out to be a maiden. When Jaime presses Qyburn further, he mentions that Lord Vargo had sent Brienne of Tarth to him. Vargo had received a bird from Lord Selwyn offering him three hundred gold dragons for Brienne’s safe return, but Vargo feels that Selwyn is holding out on him.

The road leads them to a burned village. Walton wants to stop for a rest and some food but Jaime says that he mislikes the place and that they should ride on. By evening, they have left the lake behind and make camp in a wood of oak and elm.

As Jaime sleeps, he finds himself caught up in a vivid dream. In his dream, he has his right hand again; he also finds himself deep within the bowels of Casterly Rock. Cersei and Tywin appear, but they act coldly towards him and soon leave him all alone in the darkness of a watery cavern. However, when he turns around, he finds Brienne of Tarth next to him. Like him, she has a sword as well. They move forward slowly and cautiously. Suddenly, six riders appear out of the darkness. Jaime recognizes all six of them; they have all died, but still they ride towards him. Five of them had been his brothers, his fellow Kingsguard. And the sixth rider is Rhaegar Targaryen. The riders each accuse Jaime of abandoning his oaths, of killing a king that he had sworn to protect. They advance upon Jaime and Brienne, at which point Jaime wakes up, to find Qyburn and Walton standing over him, concerned as to why he cried out in his sleep.

Jaime tells them that it was only a dream. He then tells Walton that he has left something back at Harrenhal and that he wants to go back there immediately. Walton is at first reluctant to return, stating that Lord Vargo and the Bloody Mummers now hold Harrenhal, but he finally agrees to go when Jaime promises that he’ll be getting a sizeable amount of gold when they eventually reach King’s Landing.

They reach Harrenhal by noon; the guards take a while to open the gates for them but eventually they enter the castle. Jaime hears cheering and sends his horse galloping into the yard only to see that the Bloody Mummers have placed Brienne in the castle’s bear pit. She is unarmored and has a wound on her left arm. Jaime also notices that although the Mummers have given her a sword, she appears afraid to get in close to attack the bear.

Jaime spots Vargo Hoat and commands Vargo to pull Brienne out of the pit. Vargo tells Jaime to stay out of it and that Brienne is in the pit because she bit his ear. Jaime looks on as the fight goes on in the pit and he sees Brienne strike a clean blow – but there is no blood. He then realizes that the Mummers have armed Brienne with a blunted tourney sword. Jaime offers to pay Vargo whatever he wants, but Vargo tells Jaime to go and pull Brienne out of the pit if he wants her.

And Jaime does just that. He tells Brienne to get behind him and kicks her legs out from under her when she doesn’t listen. Just then, the bear charges the two of them – but Walton and his men have arrived just in time and quickly bring the bear down with a barrage of crossbow bolts.

Vargo Hoat and his men are furious, but Walton threatens to shoot them as well if they give him trouble. Jaime tells Vargo that he will still pay Brienne’s ransom, and, even though some of the Bloody Mummers are raring for a fight, Vargo knows he is outnumbered and acquiesces to Jaime’s request.

Brienne thanks Jaime for rescuing her, but wonders why he came back, considering that he was already well away. Jaime shrugs and tells her that he dreamt of her.

Catelyn

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.

Samwell

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

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.

Jon

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.

Catelyn

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.

Arya

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

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

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.

Tyrion

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.

Davos

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.

Jon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Jaime

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

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

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.

Arya

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

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

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.

Sansa

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.

Jon

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.

Tyrion

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

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

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

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

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.

Samwell

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

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

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.

Samwell

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

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

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.

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