Catelyn rides northwest from the Eyrie to Moat Cailin, where Robb’s army is stationed. Though Catelyn fears for her son, she knows he must be a strong leader. Tywin has smashed the royal force that Ned sent to stop Gregor and his men. Robb plans to march south and split his army once they arrive south of the Neck. One half, his footmen, will continue south and engage Tywin in battle. The other half, the men on horseback, will cross the Green Fork of the Trident River and ride to Rivverrun to break Jaime’s siege on the castle. Robb plans to lead the horsemen and leave the fearless Greatjon to lead the footmen. Catelyn advises him against it and tells Jon that being fearless is, in fact, not always best. Robb reconsiders and chooses the shrewd, calculating Roose Bolton to lead the footmen instead.
Tyrion arrives at the Inn at the Crossroads with his force of mountain clans. His journey has taken longer than expected. His father, Tywin, is stationed at the Inn with his army. Tywin tells Tyrion that he thinks Tyrion is responsible for the coming war. When Catelyn captured Tyrion, Tywin was forced to defend the pride of House Lannister. Tywin suggests he will give Tyrion a small force to deal with what remains of the men that Ned sent against Gregor. Tyrion scoffs at how little his father trusts him to do and says he would prefer his mountain clans to his father’s men. With some cunning flattery, Tywin helps convince the clansmen to follow Tyrion into battle.
As Cersei’s prisoner, Sansa tells herself that Cersei loves her and Joff will still marry her. In the throne room, Joff calls on nearly every family in Westeros, including the Starks, to swear loyalty to him or be deemed traitors. Cersei relieves the aging Barristan from his post as Commander of the Kingsguard, even though members of the Kingsguard take their oaths for life. Barristan is appalled. He points out that Jaime, Barristan’s replacement as commander, broke the Kingsguard’s oath when he killed Aerys. Barristan throws down his armor and sword in contempt. Joff promotes the Hound to the Kingsguard. The Hound accepts the position though he refuses to be knighted. When the royal business is done, Sansa asks for mercy for her father. Joff agrees on the condition that Ned confess his treason.
In a filthy cell in the dungeon of the Red Keep, Ned blames himself for the deaths of his men, the danger his family is in, and his fate as Robert’s Hand. He imagines Robert scolding him for his foolish pride and honor. Varys visits Ned and gives him news about the Stark family. Varys implies that Cersei poisoned Robert’s wine before he died. Varys asks Ned why innocents always suffer most when high lords play at the game of thrones. He tells Ned that he does not serve Cersei or Littlefinger. He serves only the realm, and his only goal is peace. He tells Ned that, when he leaves his cell, he has a choice: Ned can maintain his loyalty and duty to Robert by insisting that Joff is not the true king, in which case Sansa may be executed along with Ned; or, for the love he bears Sansa, Ned can confess to a crime he did not commit.
Robb’s horsemen arrive at the Green Fork of the Trident. They need to cross the river by passing through the Twins, the name for the bridged castles of Walder Frey. Catelyn tells Robb that for six hundred years the Freys have never failed to exact a toll from people who wish to cross through the Twins. On Robb’s behalf, Catelyn negotiates with the aging Lord Frey for the right to cross. Frey is very old and notoriously late to choose a side during conflicts. Since he hates Tywin, Frey lets the Starks cross. His price for the crossing is that the Starks take two Frey children as wards, another as a squire to Robb, a fourth as a husband for Arya, and a fifth as a wife for Robb. Though the last two parts of the bargain are not appealing, Robb agrees.
In return for saving his life, Commander Mormont gives Jon a sword called Longclaw that has been in the Mormont family for five hundred years. Its last owner was the exiled Jorah Mormont. Later, Aemon summons Jon to talk. He explains to Jon that the men of the Night’s Watch are forbidden to marry because love is the bane of honor and the death of duty. Aemon knows that Jon is torn between his duty to the Watch and his love of his family, and that the boy would rather ride south to help Ned and Robb than stay at the Wall. Aemon reveals that he is Aemon Targaryen. He tells Jon about the three times he was tempted to leave the Wall to help his family as they were all slain by their enemies. Aemon does not advise Jon to go or to stay. He only tells him the price of honor.
Daenerys rides through the ruins of the town of the Lamb Men. A rival khal and his men had been attacking the town when Drogo and his khalasar joined the battle. Drogo’s men defeated the rival khalasar and the Lamb Men and captured thousands of slaves, which they can sell to buy the ships and men needed to sail to Westeros. Daenerys sees the Dothraki hurting and raping the defeated people and orders them to leave the women alone. Jorah tells Daenerys that she reminds him of Rhaegar. When Daenerys finds Drogo, he has a deep wound from fighting. Drogo’s men are not happy that Daenerys has prevented them from raping women, but Drogo sides with Daenerys. Mirri, a priestess Daenerys has spared from rape, says she knows a good deal about healing. The Dothraki do not trust Mirri, since she is a maegi, or witch, but Daenerys convinces Drogo to let Mirri treat him.
Tywin equips Tyrion’s band of mountain clansmen with weapons and assigns them the lead of the left-side charge in the coming battle. Tyrion is insulted when he learns that he will be fighting under Gregor’s command. During the battle, Tyrion’s three hundred clansmen fight well, though half of them die. Tyrion realizes that Tywin meant for Tyrion’s forces to be easily defeated. The ploy was part of Tywin’s strategy to wait in the reserve, draw Robb’s men forward with an easy victory, and then defeat them with a surprise attack. After the battle Tywin admits this is true, since he expected Robb would be more brave than wise. A messenger arrives and tells Tywin that Robb was not even in the battle. Robb and his horsemen are riding fast to break the siege at Riverrun.
Robb uses clever battle tactics to surprise Jaime and his men. Jamie’s army is three times as large as Robb’s, but Jamie’s men are more spread out. Brynden knows Jamie is impatient, so Robb waits to attack until Jamie rides well away from the castle. Robb’s forces surround him and make a surprise attack. They capture Jamie and three other members of the Lannister family. In the fight they lose one man to every ten of Jamie’s men killed, according to Theon. Despite Theon’s urging to kill Jamie, Robb knows he is more useful alive. Tywin still has a large army waiting at the Trident River, and Cersei still has Ned as her prisoner. Furthermore, though Jamie is captured, his forces still hold Riverrun in siege.