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In a secret refuge, Arya and the Brotherhood meet with the priest Thoros of Myr. They interrogate their prisoner, Sandor, who denies any wrongdoing, and an ad hoc trial commences. The Brotherhood accuses Sandor of many war crimes and murders, but Sandor is unmoved. Unable to determine guilt or innocence, Beric Dondarrion challenges Clegane to trial by combat. After a long swordfight, which includes magic fire, Sandor defeats and kills Beric, seeming to prove his innocence. After the fight, though, Sandor confesses to all his crimes, but he is already absolved. Strangely, Beric appears again, alive and bloody, and it turns out he has been resurrected many times before.
Catelyn’s father is now dead, and the Starks send him away on a funeral ship, which is designed to be set ablaze with a burning arrow. Catelyn’s brother Edmure is given the honor of firing the arrow, but he misses the first time. Afterward, Lothar Frey arrives to negotiate a new agreement between the Starks and Freys. Privately, Robb informs Catelyn of Sansa’s unfortunate marriage to Tyrion. Catelyn suggests that Robb could surrender to the Lannisters for amnesty, but Robb patently refuses. When they return to Lothar, he offers a 16-year-old Frey daughter, Roslin, to Edmure. This offer discomfits Edmure, who seems unready to marry a stranger, but he finally agrees.
Davos is taken from his cell to the Chamber of the Painted Table, where he finally meets with King Stannis, with Melisandre present. Stannis’s knight, Ser Axell, unveils a plan to attack Claw Isle. The goal is to punish past traitors and demonstrate the might of King Stannis’ armies. Davos argues against the plan, and when Stannis dismisses Axell, he asks why Davos wishes to kill Melisandre. Stannis insists that Melisandre is innocent of meddling in the Battle of Blackwater, and he promotes Davos to Hand, an office Davos feels unfit for. Melisandre then reads the future in a fire and names their enemies.
Jaime and Brienne share a bathtub, to their mutual discomfort, but they talk about current events, and Jaime describes a battle he fought at King’s Landing, when he killed King Aerys. According to Jaime, he slew Aerys before the king could use wildfire to destroy the entire city, burning everyone alive. This revelation about why Jaime killed Aerys surprises Brienne. Soon after, Jaime passes out in the tub, but he is revived without harm. He dines with Lord Bolton, who promises to return Jaime to the Lannisters as long as he promises not to accuse Bolton of cutting off his hand. Bolton also reveals to Brienne that Sansa and Tyrion are married, which ruins her sworn exchange of prisoners.
A van of Dornishmen arrives at King’s Landing, and Tyrion quizzes his squire, Podrick, on the many different banners and coats-of-arms. When Tyrion meets their leaders, the anticipated Prince Doran is not among them, substituted by Prince Oberyn. Oberyn is openly hostile to Tyrion, and he recalls that when he met Tyrion as a baby, he was disappointed that Tyrion was not more monstrous. Oberyn demands justice for Gregor Clegane’s crimes against Dorne. The meeting turns sour, but Tyrion is unconvinced that the Dornishmen could defeat the Lannisters.
The need for revenge is a major theme of the novel, and it appears in this section as different characters seek justice for past crimes committed against their families and friends. But justice is often elusive in the series, and here it proves so again when Sandor Clegane, more commonly called the Hound in the novel, wins his trial by combat. The idea of trial by combat is that the gods will see to it that the fighter with the most just cause prevails. Leaving the soundness of the concept aside, it’s a means of judgment that is widely accepted and practiced in Westeros. Arya has been craving revenge against a number of individuals, with Sandor Clegane one of the chief among them, and it looks for a moment like she will finally see him punished for his numerous crimes. But Sandor, a massively strong man and tremendously skilled fighter, defeats Beric Dondarrion, and in so doing earns the right to go free. At this point in the series, there is no doubt that Sandor is an unrepentant murderer, so that he escapes punishment says something about the moral universe of the novel. It suggests that there is no benevolent overseer, like a set of gods for instance, guiding events, and consequently justice is by no means assured.
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