Two weeks after Bran’s fall, the royal party is about to leave Winterfell for King's Landing. Jon, meanwhile, prepares to head north to the Wall. Catelyn has been by Bran’s bedside day and night since he fell and entered a coma. Jon braves her scorn to say goodbye to Bran, and Catelyn tells Jon that he should have been the one to fall from the tower. Before leaving, Jon embraces Robb, then finds Arya to give her a sword he had made for her as a parting gift. It is very thin and light, and Arya decides to name it Needle, a joke about how much she hates sewing. Jon also gives Arya her first lesson: He tells her to stick her enemies with the pointy end.
In Pentos, Jorah Mormont swears loyalty to Viserys on the night that Daenerys is wed to Drogo. Viserys is impatient for Drogo to repay him with an army so that he can reclaim the Iron Throne of Westeros. Daenerys tries her best to hide her terror during her wedding. The Dothraki people feast, drink, dance, and have sex in public, as is their custom. As wedding gifts, Viserys gives Daenerys three of Illyrio’s handmaids, Jorah gives her books from Westeros, an Illyrio gives her three ancient dragon eggs. The eggs have turned to stone, but they are still priceless. Drogo gives her a beautiful silver horse. Before Daenerys and Drogo ride away at sunset, Viserys threatens his sister and orders her to please Drogo. When the time comes to consummate their marriage, Daenerys finds Drogo more gentle than she expected.
While on the road south to King’s Landing, Robert tells Ned that Jorah has sent him news of Daenerys’ marriage. Five years earlier, Jorah broke the law by selling poachers into slavery, but he fled across the eastern sea before Ned could arrive to sentence him. Jorah now serves as a spy in order to earn a pardon. Robert wants to assassinate Daenerys and Viserys for their family’s crimes, but Ned disagrees. Robert reminds Ned how Rhaegar Targaryen, the brother of the former king, raped Lyanna, and how Aerys killed Ned’s older brother, Brandon. Robert worries that when the Targaryen children grow up, they will sail across the Narrow Sea with a Dothraki army. Ned tells Robert that the Dothraki will never sail, and that the Lannisters’ treachery is a far more immediate and realistic threat. He reminds Robert of how the Lannisters betrayed the last king, Aerys Targaryen.
On the journey north to the Wall, Tyrion and the rest of the party join up with Yoren, a man of the Night's Watch, and two convicted rapists who are joining the Watch rather than remain in prison. Jon asks why Tyrion reads so much, and Tyrion explains to Jon that he reads because, as a dwarf, his mind is his only weapon. Tyrion talks about his family and how he fantasized about the deaths of his father, Tywin, and his sister, Cersei, when he was younger. Tyrion points out that the Night’s Watch is composed of the scum of society and is not the noble calling Jon thought it was. Though Jon disagrees at first, he admits that Tyrion is right. Tyrion compliments the boy’s honesty, saying “Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it.”
Back at Winterfell, Robb offers to handle the castle affairs while Catelyn keeps watch over Bran. Suddenly, Robb notices a nearby building on fire and leaves to help. Just after he goes, a man enters the room with a dagger to assassinate Bran. Catelyn protects Bran, grabbing the dagger with her bare hands, until Bran's direwolf shows up and kills the assassin. Later, Catelyn wakes up with her hands bandaged. She feels ashamed at how she has neglected everything but Bran. Catelyn knows that Bran was a skilled climber, that Jaime did not join Robert’s hunt on the day of Bran’s fall, and that the assassin carried a weapon far more expensive than befit a man of his clothing and appearance. She concludes that the Lannisters pushed Bran from the tower and then tried to assassinate him because the boy had learned something he was not supposed to. She and Rodrik depart for King’s Landing in order to warn Ned.
Daenerys’ wedding gifts reveal a little about each of the men who offer them to her. Viserys gives her slaves provided by Illyrio. Viserys boasts that they are no common servants, revealing his pride and self-absorption despite his inability to afford a gift for the sister he has sold into marriage. Jorah humbly presents a stack of books on the history of the Seven Kingdoms, written in the Common Tongue. His books reflect his and Daenerys’ shared longing to return home. Illyrio gives her three fossilized dragon eggs. Daenerys knows they are very expensive, but she also knows that Illyrio could easily afford them. The eggs are the immature, unborn forms of dragons, the symbol (or “sigil” in the language of the novel) of the Targaryen family. By offering the eggs to an immature Targaryen who has just wed a powerful man, Illyrio might be indicating that he expects great things from Daenerys. She will grow into a dragon herself one day. Daenerys’ last gift is a stunning silver horse from Drogo. Among the Dothraki horse tribe, the beautiful young female horse could be a sign of respect or a necessary tool for riding with the tribe.
Ned has already noticed that Robert has changed from the man he used to know, and their interactions on the kingsroad highlight a few of the differences between them. Robert’s decadence and lax morality highlight Ned’s serious demeanor and strict adherence to principles like loyalty and justice. Where Robert is quick to laugh and enjoy life’s pleasures, Ned is stern and reserved. Perhaps more importantly, the two men hold drastically different concepts of justice. Robert seems to be more lenient with regard to Jorah’s desire to return to Westeros, but Ned’s commitment to duty and honor will not let him forgive the man. Yet Ned can forgive the Targaryen children of their family’s crimes, while Robert would rather pursue and kill the last of his enemies’ family. In other words, Robert judges individuals by the actions of their broader house and family, and so a Mormont deserves forgiveness for a crime and a Targaryen deserves death even if he or she has done nothing wrong. Ned judges individuals by their own actions. Though Robert and Ned were raised together, the two men act as foils for one another.
Tyrion’s observation about people’s aversion to facing difficult truths applies beyond just Jon Snow, relating in fact to many of the major characters in the book. Robert does not want to admit that Ned has valid reasons for mistrusting the Lannisters, and so he chooses not to see the clear signs pointing to their treachery. Ned, meanwhile, has difficulty admitting that Robert has become an unjust ruler, even though it is clear to him. Tyrion, on the other hand, is extremely honest with himself and others, confronting his own difficult truths and pointing the difficult truths he sees others struggling with. Through his mismatched eyes of green and black, Tyrion sees things as they are, whether he is literally slapping sense into Joff or reminding Jon that he is a bastard recruit among outlaws. This clarity of vision serves him well, and the novel suggests it is perhaps his greatest virtue. It allows him to know his weaknesses, but also his strengths, which he can then use to their full advantage. It also reiterates the motif of sight. When Tyrion asks Jon what he sees when he looks at him, Jon answers that he sees Tyrion Lannister rather than saying something about seeing a dwarf or a small man. In doing so, Jon and Tyrion’s conversation builds on the symbolic link between sight and truth that was introduced by the spyglass Lysa Arryn sent to Winterfell.
At Bran’s bedside, Catelyn faces her own conflict between love and duty. Whereas Ned chose his duty to serve Robert over his love of his family, Catelyn chooses her love of Bran over her duties as head of the Stark household. She neglects everythying else in order to stay with Bran, allowing the day-to-day management of the household to fall apart until Robb volunteers to take on that responsibility. Only the attempt on Bran's life brings her back to her senses, prompting her to leave Bran and sail to King's Landing to warn her husband. Significantly, it is Catelyn's hands that are injured when she fights off the assassin trying to kill Bran. Hands are a symbol of duty in the novel, the most prominent being Ned's role as Hand of the King. Catelyn's main duty, as she sees it, is to protect her family, and her injured hands appear to make her realize that she had not been fulfilling that duty. From that point forward, her priority changes, and like Ned, she resolves to carry out her duty, uncomfortable as it might be. As she leaves for King's Landing, she tells Robb she is leaving Bran in order to protect her family.