Sandor takes Arya to an inn, where they spot Polliver and a man known as the Tickler, two of Gregor Clegane’s henchmen. Both men are on Arya’s hit list. The men want to take Sandor back to Gregor, and a fight breaks out. Sandor kills Polliver, and as he faces the Tickler, Arya sneaks up and stabs the Tickler to death. She also kills the men’s squire, and she recovers her sword, Needle. After they leave, Sandor, who was seriously wounded in the fight, is too weakened to go on. He begs Arya to kill him, but Arya leaves him to die slowly. She reaches the seaside town of Saltpans, where she sells her horse, but she makes little money. She hopes to take a ship away from Saltpans, but the captain at first refuses her passage. Then she takes out the iron coin she received from Jaqen H’ghar (in A Clash of Kings). She says the phrase Jaqen taught her, “Valar marghulis.” The captain recognizes the coin and phrase, and he takes her aboard his ship.
The battle is over, and Gilly and Samwell are safe with the Night’s Watch. Jon is exhausted from fighting, but he greets Samwell and reminds him that he cannot marry Gilly or share her child. Samwell tries to assure Jon that Janos will not become the new commander of the Night’s Watch, but Jon has already resigned himself to the likelihood. The men of the Watch begin voting on their new commander, but the choosing is inconclusive. Samwell’s comrades suggest that Samwell could do something about the election, but he feels too cowardly to do so.
Melisandre summons Jon from his sword practice to meet King Stannis. Stannis reviews the accusations of treason leveled against Jon and dismisses them. After Stannis explains his plan to become king of all Westeros, he offers to make Jon Lord of Winterfell. He plans to marry Jon to a wildling woman, to unite their realms. Jon hesitates and asks for time. Stannis allows this, but says he is not patient.
Jaime visits Tyrion’s cell. At first Tyrion think the call is social, but Jaime opens the gates. Before they can flee, Jaime admits to lying to Tyrion about his first wife, Tysha. At their father’s command, Jaime told Tyrion that Tysha was a whore, when really she was just a crofter’s daughter. Tywin had her raped repeatedly in front of Tyrion to punish Tyrion for marrying the girl. At the revelation, Tyrion flies into a rage and swears revenge against Jaime. Then he claims to have killed Joffrey, who he knows was Jaime’s son. The eunuch Varys helps Tyrion through the catacombs, but Tyrion stops to visit his father’s bedchamber. On the way he finds Shae, who claims to still love him, but Tyrion strangles her. He picks up a crossbow, then finds his father in the bathroom. He asks Tywin what happened to Tysha, but Tywin is indignant and cannot remember. Tyrion shoots him with the crossbow, killing him, and then flees.
Arya, despite her young age, has embodied the theme of the need for revenge, and in this section she is able to tick several names off her list while also managing to free herself completely for the first time. Among the list of those she wants vengeance against, whose names she often recites to herself, are King Joffrey, Sandor (the Hound), Polliver, and the Tickler, whom Arya witnessed routinely torturing innocent people during interrogations. When she and Sandor see Polliver and the Tickler, she learns that Joffrey has died. Then, during the fight that breaks out, Sandor kills Polliver. When the Tickler forgets about Arya as he faces Sandor, she takes the opportunity to stab him repeatedly, all the while repeating to him the questions he often asked of his victims. Finally, Sandor is so critically wounded during the fight that Arya could easily kill him, but chooses to leave him to die slowly instead. In that short span her revenge list is nearly cut in half, and as she rides away from Sandor to Saltpans, she is no one’s captive for the first time in the novel.
Tyrion also gets revenge against those he feels betrayed him after learning the truth about a particularly painful episode in his past. For years Tyrion believed that Tysha, the woman he fell in love with and married when he was young, was actually a prostitute whom Jaime hired so that Tyrion could lose his virginity. But Jaime reveals that Tysha wasn’t a prostitute after all, and the implication is that she didn’t marry Tyrion for money as Tyrion was led to believe. Tyrion never forgave his father for having his soldiers rape her in front of Tyrion, even during all the years he was under the impression that Tysha had lied about loving him. But when Jaime reveals that the story was a lie, Tyrion feels extraordinarily betrayed. To make matters worse, when he goes to find his father, he discovers Shae, who in several ways served as Tyrion’s substitute for Tysha and who recently betrayed Tyrion as well. First, she more or less abandoned him when he was arrested. Second, she essentially lied about him during his trial. And third, she obviously just had sex with Tywin, whom she knows Tyrion hates. The betrayal he feels from all sides is clearly too much for him to bear. He brutally strangles Shae, and then after confronting his father about Tysha, murders him as well by shooting him with a crossbow.
Jon again faces an internal conflict and is essentially forced to decide who he wants to be. Stannis offers to make Jon the lord of Winterfell, which is the Starks’ ancestral home. Since Jon is a bastard, he’s technically not a legitimate heir to Winterfell, which has always been a sore point for him. Catelyn generally treated him like an outsider rather than part of the family, and knowing he could never rule Winterfell was yet another reminder that he’s not fully a Stark. Stannis, however, can undo all that. As King of Westeros (assuming he ultimately proves victorious against the Lannisters), he can legitimize Jon and make him Lord of Winterfell, finally giving Jon the social status he always wanted. But Jon has made a vow to the Night’s Watch, and he feels torn between the two. He’s found a home in the Watch and become attached to his brothers there. Moreover, honor demands that he uphold his oath. The choice Jon faces is essentially between being the version of himself he always yearned to be, a true Stark and Lord of Winterfell, or the version of himself that he already is, which is a respected and honorable brother of the Night’s Watch.