After leading the Night’s Watch through lengthy battles, Jon finally allows himself to sleep. When he awakens, the Watch must defend the Wall from a moving enclosure, almost like a fortress, called a “turtle.” They manage to destroy it and scatter the garrison housed within. Jon sleeps again, but when he awakens, Ser Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt accuse Jon of treason and arrest him.
Tyrion considers confessing guilt. When he goes to trial, he listens to Shae testify against him. Her stories are mostly false or exaggerated. Tyrion interrupts her to confess his guilt, but not to murdering Joffrey: He confesses to “being born a dwarf.” He demands trial by combat and names Oberyn his champion. Before the battle, Oberyn tells Tyrion about his close relationship with his sister. He drinks wine and boasts of using a spear instead of a sword for the ordeal. Tyrion notices his hands are slick and suspects the spear tip is poisoned. During the fight, Oberyn calls out Gregor’s crimes over and over and deals him numerous minor injuries. Eventually Oberyn seriously wounds Gregor, but he lets his guard down, and Gregor kills Oberyn first. Tyrion thus loses his trial, and he is taken to the black cells, where condemned men await execution.
Ser Jorah and Barristan (formerly Whitebeard) lead an expedition into the sewers, and they manage to open the city gates from the inside. Daenerys’s army successfully takes the city and liberates the slaves. She brutally executes many of the citizens of Meereen. Her victory is bittersweet, however, when Daenerys learns that the cities of Yunkai and Astapor are now becoming chaotic, and many freemen are selling themselves back into slavery. Barristan admits his guilt to Daenerys, and she pardons him. Ser Jorah pleads his innocence, but Daenerys can’t forgive him and banishes him. Deciding not to press on to Westeros, Daenerys resolves to stay in Meereen and rule as queen.
Jaime is bored by the administrative work he has to do as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. He sees Steelshanks Walton before Walton departs to see Roose Bolton, and Walton presents a girl he says is Arya Stark. Jaime, however, doesn’t believe it’s really Arya. Jaime meets with Cersei, and he professes his love for her. But Jaime’s plan for them to get married terrifies Cersei, and they leave each other angry. Jaime has Brienne sent to see him, and he gives her the sword Tywin gave him. He says the weapon was recast from the steel of Ned Stark’s sword, and Brienne should use it to protect Sansa, wherever she is. He tells her to name it Oathkeeper, then sends her away. Jaime goes back to the White Book and ponders his future.
Janos Slynt and Alliser Thorne realize that they cannot execute Jon, so they send him on a mission to murder Mance Rayder. Mance meets with Jon in the privacy of his own quarters, and he reveals a massive horn, which he claims is the Horn of Winter. Jon is still uncertain whether the horn could actually destroy the Wall, as prophesied. Mance admits he cannot destroy the Wall, because it is the only thing that will keep the Others at bay and he wants to see the wildlings through to the other side. Suddenly an army invades the wildling camp, and Jon realizes that the soldiers belong to King Stannis, who successfully defeats the wildling ranks.
The motif of betrayal figures prominently in this section, as several characters must defend themselves against accusations of treason. In each case, the protagonist undertakes some sort of trial or endeavor to prove himself innocent. In the Essos storyline, Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan must prove their loyalty to Daenerys by sneaking into Meereen through the sewers to open the city gates. But while they’re successful and Daenerys is able to forgive Ser Barristan’s dishonesty, she can’t forgive Ser Jorah’s betrayal. Jon faces a similar challenge when, standing accused of betraying the Night’s Watch, he’s sent on a mission to kill Mance Rayder to prove his loyalty. The outcome here is vastly different, of course, as Jon never even has the chance to carry out his objective. Lastly, Tyrion is also accused of treason, and he faces a literal trial to clear his name. While Tyrion tries to prove he didn’t betray his family and his king, he himself is betrayed by Shae, who essentially lies in her testimony against him. Realizing he’ll lose the trial, he elects trial by combat, in a sense undertaking an endeavor by proxy to prove his innocence. But even in this he is defeated when his champion, Oberyn Martell, is killed by Gregor Clegane.
When Jon Snow meets with Mance Rayder he learns that the wildlings need the Wall as much as anyone in Westeros, suggesting a possible alliance with the wildlings in the future. While living among the wildlings, Jon learned that Mance was looking for the mythical Horn of Winter, which supposedly has the power to bring down the Wall. Jon worried that Mance might find it and use it to defeat the Night’s Watch, and when he sees Mance in his tent he sees that Mance may have, in fact, found the horn. He hasn’t used it, however, because the Wall is the only thing that can keep out the Others. Mance hopes that perhaps if he agrees to hand over the horn to the Watch, he and the wildlings will be allowed through to the other side of the Wall, where they would be safe. It implies that Mance has brought all the wildlings south for that reason and not for the sole intent of attacking. Jon suspects the current leaders of the Watch would reject the idea immediately, but his response suggests that he would be open to that tradeoff. Being that he knows the wildlings better than anyone, and that he’s become influential among his brothers, it suggests he might be instrumental in brokering such a deal. What exactly might happen is unclear, however, as Stannis’s troops appear suddenly and seem to defeat the wildling army.
Jaime continues working to restore his honor as first he rejects a sexual advance from Cersei and then sends Brienne to save Sansa with a new sword, Oathkeeper. In the past, Jaime has been quick to deride the notion of honor and the sense of formality it sometimes requires. But when Cersei tries to seduce him in the White Sword Tower, Jaime refuses her. The idea of having sex in the quarters of the Kingsguard’s Lord Commander clearly makes him uneasy because he feels it would tarnish the honor of the office and his own honor as well. Immediately after, he meets with Brienne and gives her the sword Tywin gave him, which was made from Eddard Stark’s greatsword. Jaime reveals that he wants Brienne to uphold the oaths they both made to Catelyn to find and return Sansa, and he suggests she call the sword Oathkeeper. Upholding one’s oaths is integral to honor, and Jaime sees saving Sansa as a way for both of them to regain some of the honor they lost in killing, or at least allowing to die, the kings they were sworn to protect. Jaime even makes the connection explicit when he tells Brienne, “Sansa Stark is my last chance for honor.”