From the river, Jaime spots an inn and points it out to Brienne and Ser Cleos, who remembers stopping there once. It appears to be deserted, but they pull up to its dock to see if there is any food left in it, and possibly to shelter there for the night. Cleos identifies it as "the Inn of the Kneeling Man," built on "the very spot where the last King in the North knelt before Aegon the Conqueror to offer his submission."
Then they hear the whinny of a horse from the stable, but when Jaime opens the door of the inn he is confronted by "a chunky boy of fifteen" aiming a crossbow at him. Jaime says that if the boy shoots him, Ser Cleos will kill him before he can reload, and Brienne assures him that they have money to pay for food and drink if they have any. A man comes up from the cellar and says they have horsemeat to sell.
The man says he found the innkeeper dead and buried him out back, so he and his wife moved in. The boy showed up and they took him in after their own sons died. The boy's mother was killed by the Bloody Mummers. As he feeds them, he asks where they are headed and calls them fools when Jaime says they're going to King's Landing. "Last I heard, King Stannis was outside the city walls. They say he has a hundred thousand men and a magic sword." Brienne tells him that she plans to sail down the Trident to the sea, then go overland by way of Duskendale and Rosby to avoid the worst of the fighting. But the man tells them that the river has been blocked by sunken boats thirty miles downriver and outlaws have been attacking anyone who tries to go that way. Also, "the lightning lord," Beric Dondarrion, has been ranging through the area, accompanied by Thoros of Myr, "the red wizard." And Roose Bolton has been controlling the fords to the rivers.
He advises them to go overland from the inn, avoiding the roads and sheltering in the woods at night. Brienne says they would need horses, and Jaime mentions that he heard one in the stables. He says they're not for sale, but agrees to show them anyway. There is a big plow horse, a gelding with only one eye, and a grey palfrey. Brienne offers him three gold pieces for them, and throws in their skiff when he shows reluctance.
Although the man offers them beds for the night, and Ser Cleos is eager to take him up on it, Brienne insists that they ride on, and Jaime agrees, having sensed that the "innkeeper" can't be trusted. He also points out that he can't ride with his feet shackled, so Brienne strikes them off. He tries to persuade her to remove the wrist chains as well, but she ignores him. As they start to ride off, their host tells them to avoid the road that leads to Ser Warren's towerhouse and to follow the path through the woods. Brienne says that they will do that.
She takes the plow horse, and gives the palfrey to Cleos, leaving the one-eyed gelding for Jaime, preventing him from riding away from them. When they reach the fork in the road, Brienne takes the one to the towerhouse rather than the one through the woods that the man had recommended. Jaime is surprised that she made the same decision he would have, and thinks, "Well, she may be ugly but she's not entirely stupid." When Cleos protests, she tells him that the man was much too interested in what route they would take, so he may have been directing them into a trap.
When they reach the towerhouse, they give it a wide berth, riding through the fields and returning to the road only when it was well behind them. They find a place to stop for the night, and Brienne offers to take the first watch. Ser Cleos falls asleep immediately but Jaime stays awake with her. He asks if she has any brothers and sisters, and she replies, "No. I was my father's only s--child." He laughs at the fact that she almost said "son," and says, "You make a queer sort of daughter, to be sure."
Wordless, she turned away from him, her knuckles tight on her sword hilt. What a wretched creature this one is. She reminded him of Tyrion in some queer way, though at first blush two people could scarcely be any more dissimilar. Perhaps it was that thought of his brother that made him say, "I did not intend to give offense, Brienne. Forgive me."She rejects the apology: "Your crimes are past forgiving, Kingslayer." He asks why she keeps throwing that epithet at him, and she asks why he put on the Kingsguard's white cloak if he meant to dishonor it. He replies that he was only fifteen, an answer she rejects. He thinks, "You would not like the truth," which is that he had joined the Kingsguard because he was in love with his sister. Their father had brought her to court to marry her off; meanwhile, he had served as a squire. When he visited her at King's Landing, she told him that their father was planning to have him marry Lysa Tully, but there was an opening in the Kingsguard and "if Jaime took the white, he could be near her always." It would mean giving up his right to inherit Casterly Rock, too. They spent a night of passionate lovemaking in an inn, and he was so intoxicated by it that he agreed. She said she would take care of persuading King Aerys to choose him: Their father would never consent to it, but if the king chose him there was nothing Lord Tywin could do to oppose him. A month later, he was summoned to take his vows. His father was furious, since this meant that the alliance with the Tullys wouldn't happen. But he prevented Jaime and Cersei from being together by resigning as Hand and taking her back to Casterly Rock with him. Jaime was left to guard the mad King Aerys.
In response to Brienne's charge that he dishonored his vow to guard the king, he says, "You are not old enough to have known Aerys Targaryen...." She says that she knows he "was mad and cruel," but that doesn't invalidate his oath to protect the king. Jaime retorts, "We're both kingslayers here, if what I've heard is true." She denies that she killed Renly, and when she tells about the shadow that slew him, he mocks the story: "When they found me standing over my dead king, I never thought to say, 'No, no, it wasn't me, it was a shadow, a terrible cold shadow.'" He hopes to provoke her into attacking him: "A step closer, and I'll snatch that dagger from her sheath and bury it up her womb." But she refuses to take the bait, but further provocations about her wish to be a man only increase her loathing for him, and she walks away, leaving him alone.
He hopes to dream about Cersei, but his mind turns to the murder of Aerys Targaryen. Jaime had killed Rossart, the last of Aerys's Hands, before entering the throne room to confront the king, who "lost control of his bowels" when he realized that Jaime had murdered Rossart and was now about to kill him. Jaime thinks, "Queer that they never ask who killed Rossart ... but of course, he was no one, lowborn, hand for a fortnight, just another mad fancy of the Mad King." Several of his father's knights had entered to see the end of the king's murder, so Jaime had no way of escaping or denying it, but they weren't surprised: "Jaime had been Lord Tywin's son long before he had been named to the Kingsguard." Jaime had sat down on the Iron Throne and waited "to see who would come to claim the kingdom. As it happened, it had been Eddard Stark."
He dreams of fighting with the dead, "gowned in swirling green flames, ... but for every one he struck down two more arose to take his place." Brienne wakes him and they ride on before dawn.
Varys is surprised to find Tyrion waiting for him in his own quarters. Tyrion has searched Varys's room for secrets and passageways, but found nothing. He asks Varys if it's true that Grand Maester Pycelle, whom he had imprisoned, has been reinstated on the small council, and Varys says it is: The archmaesters of Oldtown had insisted on it because only their Conclave can discharge a Grand Maester. The Conclave had met and chosen a new Grand Maester, "a Tyrell of Highgarden. When I told your lord father he acted at once" and reinstated Pycelle. Tyrion observes, "better a Lannister toad than a Tyrell toad, no?" On the other hand, Varys points out, Ser Boros Blount is being restored to the Kingsguard after "Cersei had stripped Ser Boros of his white cloak for failing to die in the defense of Prince Tommen when Bronn had seized the boy on the Rosby road," so one of Cersei's enemies has also regained power.
Varys wonders if Tyrion's visit has anything to do with his inquiries into the relationship of his would-be assassin, Ser Mandon Moore, and Cersei. Tyrion admits that Bronn has been unable to turn up anything about Ser Mandon except that he "seems to have been quite friendless." Varys agrees, "Lord Arryn brought him to King's Landing and Robert gave him his white cloak, but neither loved him much, I fear." Even his brothers in the Kingsguard found him cold and aloof, devoted to duty. Varys adds, "'And he died as a knight of the Kingsguard ought, with sword in hand, defending one of the king's own blood.' The eunuch gave him a slimy smile and watched him sharply."
Tyrion is disappointed not to find "a link to Cersei, some sign that Ser Mandon had been his sister's catspaw," so he changes the subject. He wants Varys to bring Shae to him. Varys replies, "The dear sweet child. It would be such a shame if your father hanged her." Tyrion isn't surprised that Varys knows about Lord Tywin's threat, but says that he wants "to see her one last time before I send her away." He says that he suspects that he's being watched, and Vary confirms that "The Kettleblacks report frequently to your sweet sister." He adds that Cersei has been flirting with Ser Osmund to secure his loyalty. Tyrion has other enemies as well, including Janos Slynt's sons and Littlefinger, who has spies in the brothels: "Should you be so unwise as to visit any of them, he will know at once, and your lord father soon thereafter." And of course, Varys adds, he's spying on Tyrion too.
Tyrion laughs, and though he knows he can't trust Varys, the eunuch already knows enough about Shae that if he wanted to inform his father he could do so. So he arranges for Shae to be brought to him in the only place in the castle that he knows to be safe: Varys's own quarters.
They make passionate love, but Tyrion is forced to tell her it will be the last time. She seems to ignore his fear, telling him that she isn't afraid of his father. She asks if she can have her jewels and silks again, and how much longer she has to say with Lollys now that he's well. "'Have you been listening?' Tyrion said. 'You can stay with Lollys if you like, but it would be best if you left the city.'" She persists, however, asking if she can go to the king's wedding feast, about which she's heard from the singer Symon. Tyrion is alerted by this, and worries about the singer: "One careless word in the wrong ear,, and Shae would hang." She proposes to dress up like a lady, and says, "No one would know I wasn't."
She arouses him again, and after they make love another time, she continues to plead with him and he continues to insist, "it is not safe."
For a time she said nothing at all. Tyrion tried to speak of other things, but he met a wall of sullen courtesy as icy and unyielding as the Wall he'd once walked in the north. Gods be good, he thought wearily as he watched the candle burn down and begin to gutter, how could I let this happen again, after Tysha? Am I as great a fool as my father thinks? Gladly would he have given her the promise she wanted, and gladly walked her back to his own bedchamber on his arm to let her dress in the silks and velvets she loved so much. Had the choice been his, she could have sat beside him at Joffrey's wedding feast, and danced with all the bears she liked. But he could not see her hang.When the candle burns out, he lights another and looks for secret entrances and exits. She tells him that there are steps under the bed, which rises up when Varys touches a certain spot. He gets ready to leave, telling her to wait for Varys, and she tells him that she knows she can't go to the wedding feast, but she wants to stay. "I like being a whore for you, Tyrion. Just keep me, my lion, and keep me safe."
He says that he will, but silently berates himself: "Why did you say that? You came here to send her away!" He returns to his room and sends Podrick to fetch Bronn, who, when he arrives, is annoyed at having been called away from Chataya's brothel. He tells Bronn to find "a singer who calls himself Symon Silver Tongue." He wants to tell Bronn to kill him, but instead says, "Find him before someone else does."
Arya and Hot Pie are digging up carrots and cabbages from an abandoned garden, and Gendry is sleeping when she hears someone singing. As the song grows louder, Hot Pie says they have to hide. There's no safe place nearby, so she tells Hot Pie to wake Gendry and take the horses behind the remaining wall of the ruined cottage. She'll hide behind a tree, and she draws her sword.
Unfortunately, as the singer gets nearer, one of the horses whickers, and the singer stops. "Did you hear that?" a voice asks, then a second voice answer and then a third. Arya can't see them, but she hears one of them say he could fire some arrows over the wall and see if anyone comes out from behind it. So Arya steps out and says, "Don't," showing them her sword. The singer is a small man about fifty, and with him is a man who looks like a soldier wearing a hooded yellow cloak and a younger man, red-haired, with a bow and a row of arrows stuck in the ground before him.
The singer addresses her as "Boy," and tells her to put her sword away. "Anguy here could put three shafts through you before you could hope to reach us." She denies that and adds, "I'm a girl." She tells them to keep on walking down the road and she won't kill them, which makes Anguy, the archer, laugh. "Lem, she won't kill us, did you hear?" Lem is the one with the yellow cloak. The singer says this is "No place for a little girl to be wandering alone."
Gendry, riding his horse from behind the wall, says "She's not alone." Hot Pie is behind him, leading her horse. The singer asks where they stole the horses, and Arya says, "They're ours." The singer asks their names, and Hot Pie blurts his out, making the singer say, "It's not every day I meet a lad with such a tasty name. And what would your friends be called, Mutton Chop and Squab?" Gendry asks why they should give their names when they haven't told them theirs. The singer says he is "Tom of Sevenstreams, but Tom Sevenstrings is what they call me, or Tom o' Sevens. This great lout with the brown teeth is Lem, short for Lemoncloak. It's yellow, you see, and Lem's a sour sort. And young fellow me lad over there is Anguy, or Archer as we like to call him."
Arya doesn't want to give her name, so she says, "Squab, if you want," and Gendry says, "I'm the Bull." Tom Sevenstrings observes that they escaped from Lord Bolton's kitchen: "You bear his sigil on your chest, little one." Arya realizes that she has forgotten this. When Hot Pie says they were at Harrenhal before Bolton came, Tom asks if they are "lion cubs" -- i.e., Lannister supporters. Hot Pie says, "We're nobody's men. Whose men are you?" Anguy replies, "We're king's men," and when Arya asks, "Which king," Lem says, "King Robert."
Gendry, who doesn't know that he's Robert's bastard, says, "That old drunk? ... He's dead, some boar killed him, everyone knows that." Arya doesn't believe that they're any king's men. "They looked like outlaws, all tattered and ragged," and they have no horses. Hot Pie, to Arya's fury, blurts out, "We're looking for Riverrun." She tells him to shut up, but the damage is done. Tom says it's a long way, but "There's an inn not far ahead kept by some friends of ours. We could share some ale and a bite of bread, instead of fighting one another."
Arya doesn't trust him, but the thought of food is irresistible. Gendry wants to know what sort of friends these are. Tom tells him the innkeep is named Sharna, and she has a husband "and an orphan boy they took in." We have been there before. He tells them to bring along the vegetables they "stole from Old Pate's garden." He buried Old Pate himself, he says, and they have "no wish to bury you, I swear it on my harp. Archer, show her." And before Arya knows it, Anguy has sent an arrow whizzing past her and into the tree she had been hiding behind and has notched and drawn a second one. "She'd thought she understood what Syrio meant by quick as a snake and smooth as summer silk, but now she knew she hadn't." She realizes now that they have no choice but to trust the three of them.
Arya gets on her horse and tells Hot Pie to bring the carrots and cabbages, and they ride along behind the three on foot. Along the way, Anguy kills a duck, which they take with them, and Hot Pie joins in with Tom in singing. When they reach the inn, Arya notices the skiff docked in front and suggests to Gendry that they could take it and sail up the river to Riverrun. Gendry is skeptical about the idea. When they stable the horses, Gendry volunteers to stay and watch them, even though Tom says they'll be safe.
Sharna greets them crossly, and calls her husband up from the cellar to give him the duck to hang for a few days. They'll eat rabbit, she says, and Arya offers the carrots and cabbages. She has the boy bring them ale while she goes off to cook. The husband comes in to say that there are horses in the stable, and Tom says they're "better horses than the three you gave away." He replies that he sold them and got a skiff in the bargain. "Anyways, you lot were supposed to get them back."
Arya thinks, "I knew they were outlaws." Lem says, "They never came our way," but the husband insists that he sent them in their direction. (Jaime and Brienne had been right in not taking his advice.) They argue among themselves for a while, and then Tom offers to buy their horses. Arya realizes that they can take the horses if they want, so she offers to trade them for the "boat outside. But only if you can show us how to work it." The offer provokes general laughter until Gendry bursts in to say there are soldiers coming down the river road. Hot Pie jumps up in alarm and spills his ale.
But Sharna tells them not to worry. "Whatever harm's been done you, it's over and it's done and you're with king's men now. We'll keep you safe as best we can." Arya reaches for her sword, but Lem grabs her wrist. She grabs the tankard and swings it at his face, breaking his nose and blinding him with the ale, but not so much that he can't grab her when she starts to run. Tom pulls a dagger and stops Gendry from coming to her aid.
The door opens and a huge, bearded Tyrioshi enters, followed by two crossbowmen helping a wounded man, then others, including "a spearman in a lion-crested helm, an older man with a limp, a Braavosi sellsword...." And then Arya recognizes Harwin, "Hullen's son, who used to lead her pony around the yard, ride at quintain with Jon and Robb, and drink too much at feast days." She weeps at seeing him, and says, "Harwin, it's me!" He doesn't recognize her at first, and is confused by the sigil on her doublet: "who are you, some serving boy to Lord Leech?" She insists, "You have to know me! You used to lead my pony when I was little."
His eyes went wide, "Gods be good," he said in a choked voice. "Arya Underfoot? Lem, let go of her."
"She broke my nose." Lem dumped her unceremoniously to the floor. "Who in seven hells is she supposed to be?"
"The Hand's daughter." Harwin went to one knee before her. "Arya Stark, of Winterfell."