Tyrion asks Grand Maester Pycelle to send two copies of a letter to Doran Martell, the Prince of Dorne. While Pycelle is out of the room, Tyrion steals a potion. Pycelle tries to find out the contents of the letters, but Tyrion tells him nothing. Tyrion meets with Bronn, his trusted sellsword. Bronn describes the royal subjects waiting to ask favors of Tyrion, revealing a worsening situation in the city as a result of food shortages. Tyrion encounters Cersei, who complains about the inadequacy of the defensive preparations in King’s Landing and tells him again to have Tywin bring his army to the city. Tyrion refuses, reflecting on how Stannis and Renly could combine forces to take the city.
In his chambers, Tyrion meets with Littlefinger. Tyrion wants Littlefinger to go to Lysa Arryn, Catelyn Stark’s sister, and betroth Myrcella, Cersei’s daughter, to Lysa’s son in exchange for Lysa’s help against Stannis and Renly. In return, Tyrion will make Littlefinger the Lord of Harrenhal. Littlefinger accepts. Tyrion meets with Varys to explain that he means to offer a seat on the royal council to Doran Martell for his allegiance and will back up his promise by sending Tommen, Cersei’s youngest son, to live with the Martells. Tyrion tells Varys to keep this plan a secret from Cersei.
Sansa has received an unsigned note telling her to go to the godswood at night if she wants to go home. She fears it may be a trap but decides to go. She finds Dontos, the knight whose life she convinced Joffrey to spare, waiting for her. To pay her back for saving him, Dontos promises to be a true knight and vows to send her home. Returning to her room, Sansa runs into the Hound, Sandor Clegane, who is Joffrey’s chief bodyguard. The Hound disbelieves her tale of going to the godswood to pray. On the way to her room, they encounter Ser Boros Blount, a member of the Kingsguard, who tells them that a small riot occurred outside the castle. The Hound tells Sansa, whom he calls a little bird, that one day he will make her sing him a song.
Arya, Gendry, Lommy (who is wounded), Hot Pie, and the orphan girl, now known as Weasel, travel north. From a tree, Arya spies a fishing village that seems to be inhabited. Lommy suggests that they yield to whoever is there, but Gendry decides that he and Arya will scout first. As the two of them walk through the forest, Gendry reveals that he knows that Arya is a girl, and she tells him her real identity. They split up when they get to the village. Gendry gets captured. Arya goes back to camp and convinces Hot Pie to help her rescue Gendry. As they approach the village, however, Hot Pie yields to a soldier and Gregor Clegane, the Hound's brother and a fearsome Lannister raider, takes him and Arya prisoner. They make Arya and Hot Pie lead them to their camp, where they kill Lommy. Weasel has escaped into the woods.
Tyrion goes to a cellar where royal pyromancers have stored jars of wildfire, a flammable liquid that is near impossible to extinguish once lit. Tyrion orders 10,000 jars produced. He then meets with Jacelyn and Cleos Frey, who offers Robb Stark’s peace terms. Tyrion plans to reply with peace terms of his own, granting Robb enough to keep the Starks from attacking while the Lannister forces grow stronger. He finds Cersei in his chambers. Cersei is furious about Tyrion’s plan to send Myrcella to Doran Martell. Tyrion tells her that Myrcella would be safer there, and he reassures her that Tywin’s decision to hold the bulk of his forces at Harrenhal is a good one, since Robb cannot attack there and the more time passes the weaker Robb’s army becomes. He gives her Robb’s peace terms, offering them as proof that this strategy is working. Tyrion also reflects that he now knows which of the three royal councilors is an informer for Cersei.
Bran hosts the lords of the north at a grand feast. Luwin and Rodrik tell him that he has done a good job as the lord of Winterfell. Bran recalls how much has changed since the last feast in the great hall, when King Robert came to ask Eddard Stark to become the Hand of the King. Meera and Jojen Reed—a teenage girl and her younger brother from the swamplands of the Neck—arrive and swear their allegiance to Winterfell. Their father, Howland Reed, once saved Eddard Stark’s life. That night, Bran dreams that he is his direwolf Summer. Meera and Jojen approach him and Shaggydog in the godswood. Meera is afraid, but Jojen is confident that he will not die. Jojen also says that Shaggydog is wild and scared, but that Summer is more powerful than he knows. When Jojen pets Summer, Bran’s dream changes and he feels himself falling.
The political maneuvering in King’s Landing reaches new heights in this section as Tyrion plans an elaborate scheme to both shore up support for the Lannisters and find out who on the royal council he can trust. The novel adeptly mimics this maneuvering in the storytelling itself by revealing some, but not all, of the thoughts and motivations of the characters. The reader, therefore, sees how characters behave, but only learns later what their intentions were, much as the characters in the novel often do. Here, for instance, the novel does not say what the contents of the letter are Tyrion asks Pycelle to send to Doran Martell. It becomes apparent only in the second Tyrion chapter that he must have offered Myrcella to Doran in the letter, and that Pycelle revealed this information to Cersei. The reader suddenly becomes aware that the letters were a trap. This method of storytelling reinforces the idea that nobody can be trusted to be totally transparent in their motivations and behavior. Much like the characters in the novel, the reader is often left trying to figure out the real intentions behind the actions she sees.
In addition to showing the success of Tyrion's plot to out Cersei's informer on the royal council, the second Tyrion chapter also gives attention to the military strategy that plays a role in the book. At present, readers do not know what Tyrion plans to do with all of the wildfire he has ordered, just as they do not know what he plans to do with the giant chain he has the city’s blacksmiths making. Nonetheless, some sort of plan for defending the city clearly has entered his mind. Moreover, through Tyrion's conversation with Cersei we learn of Tywin's strategy in his fight against Robb Stark. It looks as though Tywin simply waits at Harrenhal, but Tyrion explains that the appearance of doing nothing can be deceptive. Time is the Lannisters' ally, in this case, and by doing nothing he is actually allowing Robb's forces to grow weaker. With this conversation, the novel gives readers a sense of the vast and complicated strategic game that is playing out in Westeros. But there is irony here too: just as the assumption that Tywin is doing nothing is false, the assumption that Robb is idling away at Riverrun—an assumption that Tyrion willingly embraces—may not be true either.
The novel continues to chip away at Sansa's naïve and idealistic worldview in this section. Sansa has long believed in the romantic songs of heroic knights and beautiful ladies she has heard all her life, and she hopes that the note she received means that she will be rescued by a valiant knight. Having her would-be rescuer turn out to be the drunken fool Dontos, however, forces Sansa to consider whether her reality will ever match the fantasies she believes in. Dontos tries to win Sansa's trust and faith by appealing to her romantic nature and casting himself and Sansa in the roles of Florian and Jonquil, respectively, two characters from a popular song. But the effect is essentially the opposite of what Dontos intends: Sansa sees how great a divide there is between the fable and her reality. Her faith in stories hasn't yet entirely eroded though, and she accepts Dontos as her would-be rescuing knight, albeit perhaps more because she feels she has no other choice if she wants to escape King's Landing.
Arya’s situation goes from bad to horrible in her chapter as her safety becomes less and less secure. Not only do she and her companions get captured (or killed, in Lommy’s case), she also discloses the secret of her identity to Gendry. The ruse that she was an orphan boy named Arry was one of the few things keeping her safe from pursuit by the Lannisters, and now someone else knows her real identity. That Gendry knows isn't necessarily dangerous to Arya in itself, but his capture by Lannister-backed raiders means Arya's identity could become known to them as well. The novel shows the wanton cruelty of the Lannister forces through the bodies hanging from the gibbet and their cold-blooded murder of Lommy, suggesting they would have no qualms about harming Gendry as well. These events all imply that Arya's identity could soon come out. Heightening the suspense further—and again highlighting Arya's strong sense of morality—Arya decides to rescue Gendry rather than flee as quickly as possible.
Bran continues to grow up fast, and his chapter suggests some new developments may soon significantly shape the course of his growth. Despite his young age, Bran finds himself now hosting a great gathering of northern lords with confidence and aplomb. He is mature enough, in fact, to recognize that the cheers of the northern lords are not really for him, but for his family and the idea of regional unity. But the arrival of Meera and Jojen Reed may be the most important event for Bran. Like Bran, Jojen seems to have a mystical ability, as revealed by his comment about knowing that he will not die that day. Jojen’s remarks about the direwolves deepen the sense that Bran and Rickon have some connection to the wolves beyond merely having them as pets, a sense that is only emphasized by Bran's dream of Summer. Moreover, Jojen's comment that Bran is more powerful than he knows indicates that Bran will soon find an unexpected strength that will likely be linked to Bran's connection with his direwolf.