Robb has arrived at Riverrun, and Catelyn is eagerly awaiting her son. She can't go to meet him because she is still denied the run of the castle, and the return of Ser Robin Ryger after his boat was sunk by Brienne, foiling the recapture of Jaime, has only put her in more disrepute. Moreover, some news has come that caused a stir, making about forty men leave the castle in what seems to be anger, but no one will tell her what it was.
Finally the summons comes to meet Robb in the Great Hall. It's crowded when she arrives, and she has an uneasy feeling as she moves through the crowd. Robb, on the dais, looks harder and leaner and battle-worn, but also regal. There are several people on the dais she doesn't recognize, including Robb's squire. She wonders if they are prisoners, but realizes that they wouldn't be on the dais with Robb. As she approaches him, "it seemed to her that it was not anger she saw in her son's eyes, but something else ... apprehension, perhaps? No, that made no sense. What should he fear? He was the Young Wolf, King of the Trident and the North."
Ser Brynden Tully, the Blackfish, comes down from the dais and hugs her, and Robb greets her as "Mother." He tells her about the wound, an arrow through the arm, that he suffered, and assures her that it has healed. And she says, "They will have told you what I did. Did they tell you my reasons?" He knows it was an attempt to rescue his sisters, and she says, "I had five children. Now I had three."
But Lord Rickard Karstark comes forward to remind her of his sons, killed by Jaime, and to say, "You have robbed me of my vengeance." Jon Umber, the Greatjon, interposes himself between Catelyn and Karstark to say, "It was a woman's folly. Women are made that way," but Karstark rejects that excuse: "I name it treason." Robb cries out, "Enough," and Catelyn tells Karstark she "would gladly make amends" for what she did. But Karstark is not satisfied, and leaves the hall angrily.
Robb tells her they must talk and signals for the steward, Utherydes Wayn, to dismiss the audience. As the company leaves, she realizes what she has been missing in the hall: Grey Wind, Robb's direwolf, is not there. Finally she is there with only Robb, her three uncles, and the six strangers she had seen on the dais. Robb presents the Lady Sybell Westerling, her brother Ser Rolph Spicer, her son Ser Raynald Westerling, his sister Elenya, his brother and Robb's new squire Rollam Westerling. And finally a shy young woman: "'Mother,' he said, 'I have the great honor to present you the Lady Jeyne Westerling, Lord Gawen's elder daughter, and my ... ah ... my lady wife.'"
Catelyn thinks first that Robb's only a child, second that he is already pledged to marry one of Lord Walder Frey's daughters, and third, "Mother have mercy, Robb, what have you done?" But she has no choice except to welcome her new daughter-in-law, and to remember that the girl is now a queen. At least, she observes, she has "good hips" and "should have no trouble bearing children, at least."
When the Westerlings have left, Catelyn observes that Lady Jeyne's father, Lord Gawen, is sworn to Tywin Lannister and is now imprisoned by Jason Mallister, held as a hostage at Seagard. "We wed without his consent, I fear," Robb admits, "and this marriage puts him in dire peril." She also observes that by the marriage, he has lost the allegiance of the Freys, and asks how many swords he gained by the marriage.
"Fifty. A dozen knights." His voice was glum, as well it might be. When the marriage contract had been made at the Twins, old Lord Walder Frey had sent Robb off with a thousand mounted knights and near three thousand foot. "Jeyne is bright as well as beautiful. And kind as well. She has a gentle heart."Catelyn is flummoxed by what she sees as Robb's stupidity, but she just asks him "how this came to be." He replies that when they took the Crag, the Westerling castle, he was wounded and the wound festered. Jeyne nursed him through the fever, and when the news came of the fall of Winterfell and the deaths of Bran and Rickon, "That night, she ... she comforted me, Mother." "And you wed her the next day," Catelyn says.
Robb insists that "It was the only honorable thing to do" and that he's "made a botch of everything but the battles." She agrees that he has: "Not only have you broken your oath, but you've slighted the honor of the Twins by choosing a bride from a lesser house." Robb replies that the Westerlings are "an ancient line, descended from the First Men," but Catelyn says this will only make Lord Walder angrier: "It has always rankled him that older houses look down on the Freys as upstarts."
Brynden Blackfish diplomatically interrupts these recriminations and suggests that they go somewhere more private. As they are leaving, she asks Robb where Grey Wind is. He says he is outside, and that "Jeyne's anxious around him, and he terrifies her mother." This doesn't make Catelyn feel any better about the marriage: "He is part of you, Robb. To fear him is to fear you." And when he tells her that Grey Wind bares his teeth when Jeyne's uncle, Ser Rolph, come around, Catelyn is even more concerned: "Send Ser Rolph away. At once." When Robb resists, she insists:
"Robb." She stopped and held his arm. "I told you once to keep Theon Greyjoy close, and you did not listen. Listen now. Send this man away. I am not saying you must banish him. Find some task that requires a man of courage, some honorable duty, what it is matters not ... but do not keep him near you.... Any man Grey Wind mislikes is a man I do not want close to you. These wolves are more than wolves, Robb. You must know that. I think perhaps the gods sent them to us. Your father's gods, the old gods of the north. Five wolf pups, Robb, five for five Stark children."Robb reminds her there was a sixth, for Jon, whom Catelyn has conveniently omitted. And he argues that he stopped believing in the wolves when he heard of Bran and Rickon's deaths: "Small good their wolves did them." But he agrees that he'll find some pretext for sending Ser Rolph away, "Not because of his smell, but to ease your mind. You have suffered enough."
When they are in private, it is Edmure Tully's turn to be scolded, first by the Blackfish and then by Robb. Edmure had been commanded only to defend Riverrun, and not to wage a campaign against the Lannisters at the fords, which Edmure had been boasting about. Robb's aim had not been to attack Lannisport or Casterly Rock, but to lure Lord Tywin further west, and distract him from what was happening at King's Landing: "'Lord Stannis was about to fall upon King's Landing,' Robb said. 'He might have rid us of Joffrey, the queen, and the Imp in one red stroke.'" When Edmure delayed Lord Tywin it gave time for word to reach him about what was happening in the east, so that he could turn and rescue King's Landing.
Once the wedding of Joffrey and Margaery is over, Robb says, the Lannisters will turn their attention to him instead, and they'll have the Tyrells on their side, and possibly the Freys. Catelyn says that Robb's "first duty is to defend your own people, win back Winterfell, and hang Theon in a crow's cage to die slowly. Or else put off that crown for good, Robb, for men will know that you are no true king at all." Robb says that the last news he had had was that Ser Rodrik was about to retake Winterfell, and that he may have done it already. "We must win back the Freys," he says. "I am willing to give Lord Walder whatever he requires ... apologies, honors, lands, gold ... there must be something that would soothe his pride...."
"'Not something,' said Catelyn. 'Someone.'"
He is watching giants riding mammoths. The giants are "more bearlike than human," as much as fourteen feet tall, covered with hair. "Their sloping chests might have passed for those of men, but their arms hung down too far, and their lower torsos looked half again as wide as their upper." They also smell very bad, "but perhaps that was the mammoths." Tormund, who is with Jon, is full of tall tales about the giants and of his other exploits, but he is also teasing Jon for not having sex with Ygritte, who has been sleeping next to him every night and making her availability plain. But Jon is still trying to keep his vow of chastity, and he has tried to get Ghost to sleep between them. He is also shocked by the sexual mores of the wildlings, who don't regard bastardy as a stigma. He gives as his excuse for not having sex with Ygritte his determination not to bring another bastard into the world.
He is coming to know the various subcultures among the wildlings, most of whom, he has discovered, have never even seen the Wall and don't speak the Common Tongue of Westeros. He is following Qhorin Halfhand's order to "Ride with them, eat with them, fight with them.... And watch." He is becoming more aware of the difficulty of his task, and of the possibility that he may have to kill their leader, Mance Rayder, "a man he half admired and almost liked," to save Winterfell and the north from "Rattleshirt and Harma Dogshead and the earless Magnar of Thenn."
He knows they are drawing near to the Fist of the First Men and that "Mormont will not run.... He is too old and he has come too far. He will strike, and damn the numbers." He also knows that it's not the thousands of wildlings they need to kill but just one: Mance Rayder. "The King-beyond-the-Wall was doing all he could, yet the wildlings remained hopelessly undisciplined, and that made them vulnerable." The vast majority of them are on foot, not on horseback or on mammoths.
He is riding beside Ygritte, and she and others have been singing a song, "The Last of the Giants," when suddenly she cries out: "JON!" There is the sound of wings and "Blue-grey feathers filled his eyes, as sharp talons buried themselves in his face." He falls from his horse, but the eagle clings to his face, flapping and pecking. When he comes to, Ygritte is bending over him and the eagle has disappeared. He can't see out of one eye, but Ygritte tells him it's blood from the lacerations to his face. Tormund is there as Rattleshirt rides up and the eagle reappears and settles on the giant's skull he wears as a helmet. He orders Jon to come with him to see Mance Rayder.
As they ride, Jon sees the Fist of the First Men rising above the trees, and wonders if Mormont has attacked the wildlings. But as they get closer, he sees first one dead horse and then another. Blood is everywhere inside the garrison, and ravens are flapping around the dead animals. Jon wonders what has happened to Sam. A few tents are still standing, and Mance Rayder is in one of them. He gives Jon a "grim and cold" look as he enters, and says, "tell me how many they were. And try and speak the truth this time, Bastard of Winterfell."
With the pain from his wounds, Jon finds it hard to think, but he decides that his only recourse is to stick to the truth: "There were three hundred of us." Rayder says he should never have lied to them, and asks whose tent this was. Jon says, "You did not find his body?" Rayder says, "The next time you answer me with a question, I will give you to my Lord of Bones." As Rayder moves closer, Jon's hand moves toward his sword, but Rayder notices. Finally, Jon tells him: "The Old Bear." And when Rayder asks who is commanding at Castle Black, Jon tells him that Bowen Marsh is, which elicits derision from Rayder. But he also admits that if he had tried to storm the hill, he would have lost five men for every one defending it.
Rayder also knows that the garrison has been attacked by the wights, and "when the dead walk, walls and stakes and swords mean nothing," so the Watch may have done him a favor by drawing their attention away from his own forces. He dispatches various of his men to see if the wights can be located, making sure that they all have torches.
Rattleshirt wants to kill Jon, but Ygritte steps forward to defend him. He asks Jon if he and Ygritte are lovers, and Jon lies, "Yes." So he says they are to go with Jarl and Styr, "Over the Wall. It's past time you proved your faith with something more than words, Jon Snow." Styr protests, but Rayder points out that Jon "knows the Watch and he knows the Wall, ... and he knows Castle Black better than any raider ever could."
Rattleshirt threatens Jon, but Ygritte points out Ghost on top of the ringwall, glaring at Rattleshirt, so he moves off. When they are alone, Jon says he didn't ask her to lie for him, and she says didn't. She said "that we fuck beneath your cloak many a night. I never said when we started, though." And then she tells him to find another place for Ghost to sleep that night.
Sansa is being fitted with a new gown, and is surprised to hear that the orders have come from Cersei and not from Margaery or her grandmother. She has been spending time with the ladies of the Tyrell court and enjoying herself, though she feels a little superior to them: "Their dreams were full of songs and stories, the way hers had been before Joffrey cut her father's head off. Sansa pitied them. Sansa envied them."
Margaery has been talking to her about her brother Willas, and calling Sansa sister, which has led her to give Margaery more warnings about Joffrey's cruelty. But Margaery dismisses her fears: She has her brother Loras to protect her, she says. Sansa is not so sure:
Joff might restrain himself for a few turns, perhaps as long as a year, but soon or late he will show his claws, and when he does ... The realm might have a second Kingslayer, and there would be war inside the city, as the men of the lion and the men of the rose made the gutters run red.She has also been warned by Ser Dontos not to marry Willas: "I tell you, these Tyrells are only Lannisters with flowers." He wants her to go through with their plan to escape: "The night of Joffrey's wedding, that's not so long, wear the silver hair net and do as I told you, and afterward we make our escape." But Sansa says she doesn't want to escape now. Ser Dontos tries to make her see reality: The Tyrells want her to marry Willas because it gives them a claim to Winterfell. She leaves him and avoids the godswood after that, but he has planted a doubt in her mind. She assures herself that Robb will get married and produce an heir. "Anyway, Willas Tyrell will have Highgarden, what would he want with Winterfell?"
She fills her head with romantic images of being married to Willas, though occasionally she brings herself back to reality: "Willas Tyrell was twice her age, she reminded herself constantly, and lame as well, and perhaps even plump and red-faced like his father. But comely or no, he might be the only champion she would ever have." And then she dreams she marries Joffrey instead and on their wedding night he turns into Ilyn Payne, the headsman. She worries again about Margaery and when she goes to the sept she prays to the Mother to protect Margaery and to the Warrior for Loras.
Then she thinks of the new dress Cersei has ordered for her, and assumes it is for the wedding. "She could scarcely wait to wear it."