When Jaime rides toward King’s Landing, he hears news of Joffrey’s death, as well as the many rumors of murder. Brienne is uncertain what she will do next, now that Jaime is safe and Catelyn is dead. When Jaime enters King’s Landing, he realizes that the city does not mourn Joffrey’s death, and the people are indifferent to his arrival. When they reach the castle, a Northman named Ser Loras accuses Brienne of murdering King Renly Baratheon. (In A Clash of Kings, readers learned that it was Melisandre and Stannis who killed King Renly, using an animated shadow, but many blamed Brienne for the crime). To protect Brienne, Jaime pulls rank and has her arrested. Jaime finds Cersei at the sept, where she mourns the death of Joffrey, who is secretly Jaime’s son as well. Cersei insists that Tyrion killed Joffrey. Jaime seduces Cersei, and they make love in the sept, next to Joffrey’s coffined body. When Jaime proclaims his love, Cersei is frightened and sends him away. Jaime meets with his father, and Tywin commands him to reside in Casterly Rock, where he will train young Tommen, Joffrey’s younger brother and the future king, now that Joffrey is dead. Tywin also offers Margaery to Jaime, but Jaime refuses all his father’s commands, insisting that he only wishes to command the Kingsguard. Tywin icily complies.
As Melisandre recites incantations for Edric’s sacrifice, Davos enters the chambers of Edric Storm and escorts him away. Maester Pylos is complicit in the rescue, and Davos greatly respects him for his help. Maester Pylos smuggles Edric onto a ship and he disappear into the night. Davos stays behind to face King Stannis. While he awaits the king, he reflects on his modest needs and wants, and he wishes to return to a simpler life. When Stannis and Melisandre meet Davos, they demand Edric, but Davos informs them that the boy is gone and admits his responsibility. He claims that sending Edric away was part of his duty to the throne. Facing possible execution, Davos draws a letter from his cloak and reads it.
Jon awakens to find the vast wildling army arrayed for battle outside the Wall. He realizes that they will try to break down a gate at the bottom of the Wall, which yields to a narrow corridor. If the gate opens, the wildlings can pass through the Wall and invade. Noye goes to defend the gate and the tunnel, and he leaves Jon in command, a decision that shocks Jon. As the battle ebbs and flows, Jon fulfills the role of commander and leads the Night’s Watch. After the battle, Jon inspects the gate, where he finds Noye and many other men dead. He concludes that they were killed fighting a giant, who is also dead. They begin to repair the gate, but Jon realizes that he is in command of the Wall indefinitely.
The transformation of Jaime’s character continues in this section as he reunites with his family but finds his values have changed. Jaime’s loss of his sword hand has caused him to question his identity and worth, and when he sees his family again after his long absence, he finds his opinions of them are also altered. Where in previous books of the series Jaime’s family was of paramount importance to him, he now seems detached from them. On learning of Joffrey’s death, for example, he’s surprised to find that he doesn’t much care, even though he knew Joffrey was really his son, not Robert Baratheon’s as everyone else believes. He also no longer seems to hold Tywin in the same esteem he once did, and he turns down the marriage to Margaery Tyrell despite his father’s insistence. His relationship with Cersei is slightly more complicated. He’s still in love with her and now wants to be with her openly, but there are also hints that he’s begun to find her personality and morals reprehensible, though the two of them used to seem perfectly aligned in that regard. Mostly Jaime appears interested in returning to and leading the Kingsguard, and he apparently no longer has the same interest in his family members, indeed seems no longer to like or approve of them.
Davos finally makes a decision in the matter of the Edric Storm, and as one would expect from the dutiful Davos, he prepares to deal with the consequences head on. Stannis decided to sacrifice Edric in the hopes that it would prompt Melisandre’s to come to pass, and Davos felt conflicted over whether to carry out Stannis’s orders or to defy Stannis and do what he thought was right. As we learn, Davos has chosen to follow his conscience, and he manages to help Edric escape with the aid of Maester Pylos. Rather than run himself, however, he remains at Dragonstone to tell Stannis of his actions personally. The move is very much in keeping with Davos’s character. Davos never fails to tell Stannis his honest opinion, even if he knows Stannis will not like it, because he feels it is his duty to do so. For Davos, it is a way of demonstrating his loyalty, and it’s for this quality perhaps more than any other that Stannis named Davos his Hand. Davos suspects helping Edric escape could mean his own death, but as always, he tells Stannis directly why he thinks sacrificing Edric is the wrong decision. In fact, Davos genuinely believes his actions are in Stannis’s best interests as well, so even in defying Stannis he still manages to serve him. Essentially he chooses to sacrifice himself rather than Edric out of loyalty to his king.
Jon Snow demonstrates his abilities as a leader in this section, earning him the respect of his brothers and ultimately making him the interim commander of the Wall. To Jon’s surprise, Donal Noye leaves him in charge of the Wall as he goes to defend the gate below. Despite initially feeling out of his depth, Jon remains calm and collected, and he quickly settles into the role. He responds to each new challenge smartly, mounting an effective defense, and as he does so, he also manages to maintain the morale of his men. When dawn comes and the men on the Wall see the vast number they are fighting, which includes giants and mammoths in addition to an innumerable horde of wildlings, many feel frightened. But Jon maintains composure by pointing out the huge advantage they possess and trying to rally their sense of bravado. In doing so he’s able to keep them focused, and they manage to ward off the attack, at least for the time being. When it becomes clear that Donal Noye has died protecting the gate, Jon is the first choice to serve as commander of the Wall until another garrison of brothers arrives. He was groomed for leadership by serving as steward to Lord Commander Mormont and he demonstrated his capacity to lead in the battle. Now, as Maester Aemon phrases it, it is Jon or no one.