Using the saddle Tyrion designed, Bran rides outside of Winterfell’s walls with Robb and other Winterfell men. Robb tells Bran how Jaime attacked Ned. Robb and Theon have considered calling on the houses loyal to Winterfell to prepare for war. After Theon and the other men fall behind, Robb leaves Bran to find their direwolves. While Bran is alone, six wildlings find him. They plan to steal Bran’s possessions and likely kill him. Robb and the wolves return just in time to defend Bran. The fight that follows ends with one wildling holding Bran at knifepoint. Theon finally returns and kills the wilding from behind with an arrow. At Luwin’s suggestion, Robb spares the life of Osha, the only surviving Wildling.
In a cell high up in the Eyrie, Mord the jailer torments Tyrion. The cell has only three walls, and the front opens to the sky and a six-hundred-foot drop down to the rocks below the Eyrie. Tyrion remembers how he mocked Lysa when she accused him of killing Jon Arryn as well as trying to kill Bran. In his cell, Tyrion also wonders how his siblings managed to kill Jon Arryn so subtly yet did such a poor job of assassinating Bran. He wonders if there was a third party that tried to kill Bran. He also realizes that his imprisonment offers his family a strategic advantage that they will probably ignore due to their pride. Tyrion bribes Mord to tell Lysa he wants to confess his crimes. When he is brought before Lysa and Robert Arryn, he instead confesses to petty crimes like whoring and demands a trial by combat to decide the accusations of murder. Bronn volunteers to fight on Tyrion’s behalf, and Lysa commands Ser Vardis to fight on behalf of the prosecution.
Ned regains consciousness six days after breaking his leg. Jaime has fled the city. Robert and Cersei come to visit Ned, and Ned reasserts that Catelyn is blameless because she acted at Ned’s command. Cersei accuses Ned of getting drunk at a whorehouse and confronting Jaime, and Ned tells Robert that he was visiting Robert’s bastard. Ned asks for leave to pursue Jaime, and Robert refuses. Ned is angry at the king’s inability to do justice. Cersei insults Robert and tells him that she should be the one ruling. Robert hits her across the face. She leaves, and Robert miserably tells Ned that Rhaegar seems to have won the war after all. Robert reinstates Ned as Hand.
Catelyn learns that Tywin Lannister is building an army at Casterly Rock and that the Tullys and men loyal to them have prepared their own defenses. Catelyn tries to convince her sister not to go through with Tyrion’s trial by combat, and she reflects on how inconstant and obnoxious her sister has become. From a strategic standpoint, Catelyn realizes that Tyrion is most valuable if he remains a prisoner. She also wonders which of the Lannisters really killed Jon Arryn. In the duel, the quick and lightly armored Bronn defeats the slower, older, heavily armored Vardis. Lysa wants to kill Tyrion nonetheless, but he reminds her of the Arryn words: “As High as Honor.” Though Tyrion is set free to travel from the Eyrie, it seems almost certain that the mountain tribes will kill him, since Lysa provides no escort.
A new batch of recruits are about to arrive at the Wall, so Jon and his friends are to be promoted to full membership as black brothers of the Night’s Watch. But Sam is not promoted, and Jon worries that without anyone left around to protect Sam, Thorne will have the new recruits hurt Sam. Jon goes to Aemon and asks the old maester to consider promoting Sam as a steward. Jon compares the Night’s Watch to the chain Aemon wears as a maester. The chain is composed of links of all different sorts of metals to signify a maester’s many different types of learning. Jon argues that, like a maester’s chain, the Night’s Watch needs many different types of men. He points out that Sam is literate and good at math, and therefore he would be quite useful to Aemon.
On the high road from the Eyrie, Bronn wants to ride as fast as possible by night and hide by day in order to avoid the mountain clans. Tyrion disagrees and plans to wait for the mountain clans to come to them. While they wait, he says that though Bronn is lowborn scum and loyal only to people who pay him, Tyrion respects him for being smart and competent. He remembers how surprised Mord was when Tyrion paid him for carrying his message to Lysa. Tyrion tells a story about a time when his father Tywin was cruel to him as a child. He bitterly repeats the saying that a Lannister always pays his debts. When the clans arrive to kill Tyrion and Bronn, Tyrion convinces the clansmen to join them. He says he will pay the mountain clans not only with money, but also with the entire Vale of Arryn.
Robert is gone hunting, and as the newly reinstated Hand, Ned deals the king’s justice from the Iron Throne. Aegon the Conqueror built the Throne after he united the Seven Kingdoms. He ordered his blacksmiths to melt down the swords surrendered by his enemies and use them to construct the Throne, since he believed a king should never sit easy. Ned listens to reports that troops of armed men have been killing commoners and burning towns near Riverrun. The survivors give descriptions that match Gregor and Lannister men. The council hesitates to act against the Lannisters. Ned sentences the absent Gregor and his men to death. Since he is injured, Ned sends other men to carry out the orders. Though Loras volunteers, Ned turns him down because he believes Loras primarily wants revenge on Gregor.
Sansa and Jeyne discuss Ned’s decision not to send Loras to kill Gregor. At dinner, Arya says that the Hound and Jaime deserve to be executed as much as Gregor. Sansa disagrees. She says the Hound was protecting Joff when he killed the butcher’s boy. The girls bicker and are sent to their rooms. Later, Arya says she is sorry, but Sansa will not accept the apology. Ned tells the girls he is sending them back to Winterfell for their safety and swears them to silence about his plans. When Sansa protests that she cannot leave since she must marry Joff, Ned tells her the marriage is a mistake. Sansa and Arya begin to bicker again, and Sansa yells that Joff is nothing like his old drunk father. Ned realizes she is right.
Ned wonders what he should do regarding his realization about Joff. He knows that Robert will be furious, but Ned must tell him. Ned wishes to do whatever he can to limit the harm Robert will do to Cersei and her children. He arranges a meeting with Cersei in the godswood and tells her he knows the truth that Jon Arryn died for: that Jaime—not Robert—fathered Joff, Myrcella, and Tommen. Cersei admits that Jamie is the father and that she and her brother tried to kill Bran. Ned tells her to flee with her children so that Robert will not kill them when he finds out the truth. Cersei says she will do no such thing and scolds Ned for not claiming the Iron Throne when he had the chance at the end of the revolution against the Targaryens. She tells Ned, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”