Jon and Stonesnake, a ranger of the Night’s Watch, ascend a mountain toward a small wildling camp. They sneak up on three wildlings and kill two of them. The third, a woman named Ygritte, yields, and Jon spares her over Stonesnake’s objections. Ygritte tells them that thousands of wildlings have gathered in the Frostfangs, but she will not say why. Ygritte tells them the story of a former King-Beyond-The-Wall, Bael the Bard. She says the current Starks are descended from Bael. Jon is unsure what to make of the story. In the morning, Qhorin and the rest of the men arrive, and Qhorin tells Jon that he must kill Ygritte. Qhorin leads the rest of the men away as Jon prepares to slay her, but at the last minute he lets her go.
Dontos tells Sansa that plans are underway for her escape. After, Sansa runs into the Hound, who berates her for her romantic notions about knights. The next morning, Sansa discovers that she has gotten her period. Terrified that Joffrey can now bed her, she tries destroying her sheets, but the servants discover what happened. Sansa meets with Cersei, who tells her that she has entered into womanhood, which is messy and full of pain, and that love is a poison.
Qhorin tells Jon that Mance Rayder was once a great ranger of the Night’s Watch, and that the wildlings should not be underestimated. Qhorin knows that Jon spared Ygritte. In a dream that night, Jon is a direwolf and sees the mass of people Mance has gathered. An eagle attacks him in the dream, and he wakes and tells what he saw. The men suspect that Jon is a warg. The party moves on and notices an eagle that seems to be watching them. They discover Ghost nearby, recovering from an eagle attack. Qhorin says they have been spotted and orders them to retreat. Squire Dalbridge, one of the men, stays behind to defend a pass. They hear a wildling horn in the distance.
Tyrion receives news from the north that Theon killed Bran and Rickon Stark. Tyrion tells Cersei that Joffrey needs to be seen during the coming battle with Stannis, though she wants to keep him safe inside the castle. Cersei tells Tyrion that she has Shae and that she suspects he wants to kill Joffrey and Tommen, which he denies. Cersei brings her captive in. Unbeknownst to her, the captive is not Shae, but a prostitute from the brothel. Tyrion plays along and warns Cersei that he will get revenge on her. Tyrion returns to his room, where Shae is waiting.
Catelyn tells Brienne that Theon killed Bran and Rickon and mounted their heads on the Winterfell walls. Rodrik is marching on Winterfell to reclaim it. Catelyn says that Robb will avenge his brothers, but that Sansa and Arya are unprotected. Catelyn confronts Jaime Lannister. Jaime tells her that he will answer her questions truthfully if she does the same for him. Jaime admits that he is Joffrey’s father and that he pushed Bran from the window, but he denies having anything to do with the attempted assassination of Bran with Tyrion’s dagger. Catelyn realizes he is telling the truth and that Littlefinger must have deceived her. Catelyn gives Jaime the updates on the war that he asks for, and Jaime tells her the brutal way that Aerys Targaryen, the king he killed, murdered Eddard’s father and brother. Jaime taunts Catelyn about Jon Snow, Eddard’s bastard, and Catelyn calls for Brienne’s sword.
Theon has nightmares about killing Bran and Rickon. The people of Winterfell hate him, and several of his men die in mysterious circumstances. Asha arrives with twenty men, far fewer than Theon needs to hold the castle against Rodrik. Asha mocks Theon for killing children. Theon says the boys defied him, but inside he is tormented. Asha leaves with half her force. Reek offers to go raise as many men as he can to defend the castle, and Theon accepts, though he distrusts Reek. That night, he dreams of the dead and of Robb and Grey Wind coming for him. When he wakes, he realizes that he does not belong at Winterfell. Theon looks at the heads on the wall. He reflects that once they were tarred, no one could tell that they were not actually Bran and Rickon, but the miller’s sons.