Tyrion is entertaining Janos Slynt, plying the butcher's son-turned-knight with food and wine -- especially wine. And when Slynt addresses him as "Lord Tyrion," he reminds him, "I'm not a lord, as you are. A simple Tyrion will suffice for me, Lord Janos." He is ostensibly discussing whom to name as Slynt's successor as Commander of the City Watch. Slynt's candidate is Allar Deem, his "right arm." Tyrion says that he had been leaning more toward Ser Jacelyn Bywater, who isn't on Slynt's list of recommended candidates. Slynt objects that Bywater "thinks overmuch of himself and his honor." Tyrion observes, however, that Deem is unpopular because of an incident that took place in a brothel, in which he not only killed a baby but also the mother who has trying to protect the child. Slynt thinks this shows Deem's loyalty: "Doing for a babe, and her still on the tit, that takes a certain sort. Not every man'd do it. Even if it was only some whore and her whelp."
The phrase "only some whore" sticks with Tyrion, who thinks of Shae and of the woman he married years ago. But when he asks who commissioned the killing of the infant, Slynt gets wise to what Tyrion is trying to find out. "Never a question, and never a word afterward, not with me," Slynt replies. So Tyrion shifts tactics. Slynt will be a hard man to replace, he says to him, just as Jeor Mormont is going to have a hard time grooming a replacement for his job as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. "He'd sleep easier if he had a man like you, I imagine. Or the valiant Allar Deem."
Slynt doesn't quite follow, but he allows that there's a small chance that he would ever take a job like Mormont's. Tyrion persists: You never know what turns you'll take in life, just as Eddard Stark surely never imagined he'd wind up being beheaded "on the steps of Baelor's Sept." This amuses Slynt, especially when Tyrion adds, "A pity I wasn't here to see it. They say even Varys was surprised." It especially amuses Slynt to have outwitted Varys, the master of covert intelligence. Tyrion continues that Varys thought he had persuaded Cersei to grant a pardon on the condition that Eddard be allowed to join the Night's Watch.
Well, Slynt says, the decision was the king's. Who is thirteen years old, Tyrion observes. But he's still the king, Slynt persists, "The Lord of the Seven Kingdoms." Tyrion replies, "Well, one or two of them, at least," and then asks to see the miniature spear, tipped in red, that fastens Slynt's cloak. When Slynt hands it over, Tyrion observes that the workmanship is inferior, and then asks, "Tell me, my lord, did you drive the spear into the man's back yourself, or did you only give the command."
Slynt objects: Eddard Stark was a traitor who had tried to buy his services in a revolt against King Joffrey. "Little dreaming that you had already been sold," Tyrion retorts. Slynt protests at having his honor questioned. Tyrion scoffs at the idea of Slynt's honor, and tosses the ornamental spear back at him. It falls to the floor as Slynt rises in protest, calling Tyrion "Imp" and then "dwarf."
"I am Tyrion of House Lannister, and someday, if you have the sense the gods gave a sea slug, you will drop to your knees in thanks that it was me you had to deal with, and not my lord father. Now, how many sons do you have?"Slynt grows frightened. He has three sons and a daughter, and he begins to beg. Tyrion reassures him that no harm will come to his children, but that he won't be inheriting the castle at Harrenhal. He will sail in the morning to join the Night's Watch. Slynt recovers from his fear when he finds out he isn't going to be executed. "We shall hear what Joffrey has to say about this. And Littlefinger and the queen, oh, yes, Janos Slynt has a good many friends." He turns to leave, but when he opens the door he is met by Ser Jacelyn Bywater, whom Tyrion introduces as "our new Commander of the City Watch."
Ser Jacelyn tells Slynt that a litter is waiting to take him to the ship. As the guards take Slynt away, Tyrion hands Ser Jacelyn a list of six others who will accompany Slynt on the journey, and tells him that one of them is Allar Deem. "Tell the captain it would not be taken amiss if that one should happen to be swept overboard before they reach Eastwatch."
Before long, Varys appears and congratulates Tyrion on his coup. Tyrion is in no mood to enjoy what he has done. "I told them to throw Allar Deem into the sea. I am sorely tempted to do the same with you." It was Varys who had informed on Slynt, though he hadn't mentioned what Tyrion hs deduced: "It was my sister. That was what the oh-so-loyal Lord Janos refused to say. Cersei sent the gold cloaks to that brothel." The baby who was killed was Robert Baratheon's illegitimate daughter, and hence another bit of evidence that Robert is not Joffrey's father. Varys claims that it was "a hard thing to tell a man, my lord. I was fearful how you might take it." But Tyrion regrets that he is unable to punish Cersei the way he has dealt with Slynt and Deem. Varys also tells him, "There was another bastard, a boy, older. I took steps to see him removed from harm's way ... but I confess, I never dreamed the babe would be at risk. A baseborn girl, less than a year old, with a whore for a mother. What threat could she pose?" (Thus Varys lays claim to Gendry's escape.)
Tyrion is preoccupied with the thought of the fate of the infant's mother, who reminds him of Shae, now housed in opulence. But he comments that at least Cersei seems not to have been responsible for Eddard Stark's death. "We have my nephew to thank for that madness." Yes, Varys says, Joffrey gave the command and Slynt and Ser Ilyn Payne carried it out. "...almost as if they had expected it," Tyrion concludes.
Then Varys brings up his riddle. Tyrion admits he has thought about it: "The king, the priest, the rich man -- who lives and who dies? Who will the swordsman obey?" It is a question of power, and Varys presents the solution: "Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less." So it depends on whether the swordsman believes the power resides in the law (the king), the gods (the priest) or wealth (the rich man). Power is "'A shadow on the wall,' Varys murmured, 'yet shadows can kill. And ofttimes a very small man can cast a very large shadow.'" Tyrion says he is "growing strangely fond" of Varys. "I may kill you yet, but I think I'd feel sad about it." Then he asks the eunuch, "Who cut you, Varys? When and why? Who are you, truly?" But Varys postpones the answer for another time.
They discuss a variety of other matters of treason and misconduct before Varys takes his leave. On the way out he meets Bronn, and tells him of Slynt's fate. "Varys would have me believe that I have replaced one of Joffrey's men with one of my own. More likely, I have replaced Littlefinger's man with one belonging to Varys, but so be it." Then he asks Bronn if he commanded him to kill and infant at her mother's breast, would he do it. "'Without question? No.' The sellsword rubbed thumb and forefinger together. 'I'd ask how much.'" Tyrion "wanted to laugh; he wanted to weep; most of all, he wanted Shae."
Yoren and the recruits have been forced to take back roads to avoid not only the gold coats pursuing Gendry but also the crowds streaming southward. Their pace has consequently slowed. As a consequence of the revelation that the queen wants Gendry's head, he has become a celebrity among the boys, and one night Lommy says, "I bet he's that traitor's bastard," which incenses Arya, who has to leave the group to keep from saying too much.
Yoren tells them that they are nearing Gods Eye, which means they're getting close to the Trident. Until then, they will have to continue to avoid the kingsroad. Unfortunately, the slow pace means that they have consumed most of the food they brought with them, and now have to forage. Arya manages to kill a rabbit with her wooden sword, which goes into a stew.
They detour around a camp of armed men, and they encounter farmers who have taken to patrolling their fields to prevent raiders and scavengers. One evening the sun seems to set in the north, but they realize that it's the light from a burning village. The next day they find its ruins and the bodies of people who have been impaled on stakes and burned alive. Gendry has taken to wearing the helmet he made when he was apprenticed to the armorer.
Because of the lack of food, Arya begins drinking water to fill her stomach, and one night she wakes needing to urinate urgently. She slips away from the camp into the forest, but as she's urinating she sees a pair of glowing eyes. A wolf comes out from the trees and bares his teeth at her, but then he turns and runs back into the forest. She returns to the camp and tells Yoren there are wolves in the woods. He tells her to go back to sleep, but as she lies there she hears the wolves howling, "and another sound, fainter, no more than a whisper on the wind, that might have been screams."
Melisandre has ordered the burning of the seven gods: the Maid, the Mother, the Warrior, the Smith, the Crone, the Father, and the Stranger. Davos watches as the figures burn, and hushes his sons Allard and Dale when they quietly voice their protest. "Dragonstone's sept had been were Aegon the Conqueror knelt to pray the night before he sailed," but Queen Selyse has supported Melisandre in her desire to destroy the building and smash its stained-glass windows. Davos has never been religious, "though like most men he had been known to make offerings to the Warrior before battle, to the Smith when he launched a ship, and to the Mother whenever his wife grew great with child. He felt ill as he watched them burn, and not only from the smoke." He had seen Maester Cressen slip something into the cup he drank from with Melisandre, so he knows about the attempt to poison her that ended in Cressen's death. He thinks that Cressen would have opposed the burning.
But Davos still owes his loyalty to Stannis, who made him a lord "for the price of a few finger joints," the bones of which he wears in a little pouch around his neck. He watches as Melisandre invokes her god R'hallor, and as Stannis, wearing a protective leather cloak, enters the flames to take the sword away from the effigy of the Mother. Melisandre proclaims it "Lightbringer," and treats it as a sign. Stannis sticks the sword into the ground and beats out the flames that have caught onto his clothing. "The Red Sword of Heroes looks a proper mess, thought Davos."
The port of Dragonstone is full of ships and sailors, and after the fire has died down and the crowd disperses, Davos heads for an inn for a drink. For luck, he pats the weathered head of a gargoyle that sits outside the inn and enters, where he meets Salladhor Saan. "The Lyseni was a smuggler himself, as well as a trader, a banker, a notorious pirate, and the self-styled Prince of the Narrow Sea." Davos had recruited him to serve in Stannis's navy. Saan says he didn't go to watch the burning of the gods because the red priests are always burning things in Lys and he's bored with their fires.
Saan has heard the news from King's Landing that Tyrion has replaced Janos Slynt as head of the gold cloaks. He thinks the city is poorly defended. "A swift strike, like a hawk plummeting at a hare, and the great city will be ours. Grand us wind to fill our sails, and your king could sit upon his Iron Throne by evenfall on the morrow." Davos assures Saan that Stannis will make good his promises to pay him and the other hired seamen handsomely when that occurs.
Saan has also heard that Stannis's brother, Renly, is marching toward the city "with his fair young queen, his flowered lords and shining knights, and a mighty host of foot." Davos is surprised to hear that Renly is taking his wife with him. Saan tells Davos that he has already informed Stannis of that fact. But Saan scoffs at the notion that the sword Stannis pulled from the fire was Lightbringer, the burning sword of prophesy, and tells Davos the legend of the forging of Lightbringer, in which it was tempered in the blood of the hero Azor Ahai's wife. "Such is the tale of the forging of Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes."
After Saan leaves, Davos remembers being in King's Landing with Stannis a year ago when Thoros of Myr, the red priest, waved a burning sword about in the melee, but "in the end his fire had guttered out and Bronze Yohn Royce had brained him with a common mace." And he thinks of his wife Marya and tries to imagine stabbing her with a sword to forge it. "If that was the price of a magic sword, it was more than he cared to pay." On the way out of the inn he pats the gargoyle again for luck.
Davos is summoned to meet with Stannis, and on the way he talks with Ser Axell Florent, who is the leader of the queen's men. He tells Davos that when he watched the "false gods" burning he saw in the flames "a dozen beautiful dancers, maidens garbed in yellow silk spinning and swirling before a great king." He takes it as a prophecy of "the glory that awaits His Grace after we take King's Landing." Davos, knowing that dancing girls are not to the dour and puritanical Stannis's taste, tells him he saw only fire.
Davos finds Stannis in conference with Maester Pylos, who has been drafting a letter asserting his claim to the Iron Throne on the grounds that Joffrey is not Robert's son but the product of the incestuous relationship between Cersei and Jaime. Stannis suggests a few corrections and then tells Davos that he plans to send one hundred seventeen ravens, each with a copy of the letter, throughout the Seven Kingdoms, and that he wants Davos to sail north, and his son Dale to sail south, carrying copies "to every port and holdfast and fishing village. Nail them to the doors of septs and inns for every man to read who can." Pylos points out that that won't be very man, and suggests they be read aloud. So Stannis says he can spare a hundred knights to read them. He also wants Allard to sail "across the narrow sea, to Braavos and the other Free Cities" and deliver the letters there. "The world will know of my claim, and of Cersei's infamy."
After Pylos leaves, Davos points out that Stannis has no proof of Cersei's incest with Jaime. But Stannis says that Robert left a bastard, Edric Storm, at Storm's End. "He is said to be the very image of my brother. If men were to see him, and then look again at Joffrey and Tommen, they could not help but wonder, I would think." Davos points out that he's at Storm's End, not at Dragonstone or King's Landing, and Stannis admits that's "a difficulty. One of many."
Davos points out another difficulty: The letter has a phrase at the end that refers to Melisandre's new god. He thinks it might be revised to "the gods old and new.... Your people will not love you if you take from them the gods they have always worshiped, and give them one whose very name sounds queer on their tongues." Stannis says he stopped believing in gods when his mother and father died. "I know little and care less of gods, but the red priestess has power."
Theon is returning to Pyke, his home, after ten years as Eddard Stark's ward, a hostage after the defeat of his father by Robert Baratheon. He is carrying a letter from Robb Stark to his father. On the way, Theon has seduced the daughter of the captain of the ship, the Myraham. Theon is full of high expectations for the plan he has hatched.
He is met when the ship lands by his Uncle Aeron, who is a priest with a grim and chilly manner. This surprises Theon, who remembers Aeron Greyjoy as "the most amiable of his uncles, feckless and quick to laugh, fond of songs, ale, and women." Instead, Aeron makes him bow and then anoints him with seawater. He asks Aeron if his sister and mother will be at Pyke, and Aeron tells him his mother lives on Harlaw, another island, with her sister, and that his sister, Asha, has gone to Great Wyk to deliver messages from their father.
Other than describing his conversion -- "the sea washed my follies and my vanities away" -- Aeron is close-mouthed. When Aeron won't answer his questions, Theon reminds him that he is "heir to Pyke and the Iron Islands," but Aeron responds, "As to that, ... we shall see." Theon angrily protests that his brothers are dead. "Your sister lives," Aeron says. Asha is three years older than Theon, who is twenty. He protests that a woman can't inherit unless there is no male heir and warns Aeron that he won't be cheated out of his rightful inheritance. But Aeron tells him to be silent, "And you are a great fool if you believe your lord father will ever hand these holy islands over to a Stark."
Theon broods on this. "As if ten years in Winterfell could make a Stark." He had not been treated as an equal there. "Even the bastard Jon Snow had been accorded more honor than he had." He seethes with resentment, and realizes that the old grudges against Eddard Stark were still alive. He reminds Aeron that Robb Stark is Lord of Winterfell, but his uncle says, "One wolf is much like the other." Theon says that the red comet heralds a new age, and Aeron replies, "It is the flame the Drowned God brought from the sea, and it proclaims a rising tide. It is time to hoist our sails and go forth into the world with fire and sword, as he did."
When they reach Pyke, Aeron leaves. An old woman tells him that his father is waiting for him in the Sea Tower after he rests from his trip. She shows him to "a suite of chilly rooms ceilings so high that they were lost in gloom." It is the Bloody Keep, where enemies had been hacked to pieces a thousand years ago. The furnishings in the rooms are mildewed and musty. "The damp went bone deep." He orders hot water, but it's tepid seawater." He dresses in his best clothes and makes his way to his father.
Balon Greyjoy is "Bone thin and bone hard," and when Theon refers to himself as "Your blood and your heir," Balon grunts, "We shall see." When he sees Theon's clothes, he asks, "Did Ned Stark dress you like that? ... Was it his pleasure to garb you in velvets and silks and make you his own sweet daughter?" He observes the gold chain around Theon's neck and asks "was it bought with gold or iron?" Theon remembers, "In the Old Way, women might decorate themselves with ornaments bought with coin, but a warrior wore only the jewelry he took off the corpses of enemies slain by his own hand. Paying the iron price, it was called." When he admits it was paid for, his father yanks it from his neck. "'My daughter has taken an axe for a lover,' Lord Balon said. 'I will not have my son bedeck himself like a whore.'"
He gives Balon the letter from Robb. It outlines the plan of attack and proposes to restore the crown the Greyjoys had lost in their rebellion if they aid in the conquest of the Lannisters. "I will lead the attack myself, if it please you," Theon says. As my reward I would ask that you grant me Casterly Rock for my own seat, once we have taken it from the Lannisters."
Balon takes the letter and tosses it on the fire in the brazier, where he has already thrown Theon's gold chain. "The boy will give me a crown. And what is given can be taken away." Theon protests, and his father backhands him. "I am the Greyjoy, Lord Reaper of Pyke, King of Salt and rock, Son of the Sea Wind, and no man gives me a crown. I pay the iron price. I will take my crown, as Urron Redhand did five thousand years ago."
"I mean to carve out a kingdom with fire and sword ... but not from the west, and not at the bidding of King Robb the Boy. Casterly Rock is too strong, and Lord Tywin too cunning by half. Aye, we might take Lannisport, but we should never keep it. No. I hunger for a different plum ... not so juicy sweet, to be sure, yet it hangs there ripe and undefended."