Cressen, the maester of Dragonstone, watches a red comet. He wonders if it is an omen, like the raven that brought news that summer, which had lasted ten years, has ended. Pylos, his assistant, brings in Shireen, the daughter of King Stannis Baratheon, and her fool, Patches. On his way to the king’s chambers, Cressen meets Davos, a former smuggler whom Stannis knighted. Davos says that the lords he went to see will not pledge loyalty to Stannis and that many have sided with Renly, Stannis’s younger brother, who also claims to be king.
Cressen urges Stannis to form an alliance with Renly or Robb Stark, the King in the North, against the Lannister faction at King’s Landing. Stannis refuses. Queen Selyse arrives. She wants Stannis to attack King’s Landing on his own and suggests they assassinate Renly. Cressen objects but is dismissed to his chambers. Cressen realizes that Melisandre, a priestess from Asshai, and her foreign religion are at the heart of Stannis’s troubles and resolves to poison her that night.
At the banquet, Stannis announces that Pylos will take over Cressen’s duties. Cressen tries again to convince Stannis to form an alliance, but Stannis refuses and Melisandre says her god, the Lord of Light, is all the help Stannis needs. Melisandre and Selyse make Cressen put on Patches’s fool’s crown, although Stannis stops them when they try to make Cressen sing. Cressen takes advantage of the distraction to slip poison into the wine he offers to Melisandre. After drinking, Melisandre returns the cup to Cressen so that he can drink. Cressen dies, while Melisandre, unharmed, stands over him triumphantly.
Arya Stark marches north from King’s Landing with other recruits bound for the Night’s Watch at the Wall. Yoren, the chief recruiter, has convinced Arya to pretend that she is an orphan boy named Arry and has promised to drop her off at Winterfell, her family’s home in the North. Lommy and Hot Pie, two boys in the party, try to steal Needle, Arya’s sword and a gift from her half-brother, Jon Snow. But Arya knocks Hot Pie to the ground. Yoren pulls Arya away and beats her, telling her that Hot Pie did not kill her father and that she should not turn on her new brothers. At night, she remembers her father’s execution at King Joffrey’s command and dreams of home.
Sansa Stark attends the tournament being held in honor of King Joffrey’s name day. Joffrey tells her that Viserys, the last son of King Aerys, has been killed in the lands across the narrow sea, and he speculates on how he should kill Sansa’s rebel brother Robb. Joffrey grows irritated as the tournament knights put on a poor display. When a knight named Ser Dontos shows up drunk, Joffrey calls for him to be killed. Sansa convinces Joffrey to spare Ser Dontos’s life by making him a fool instead. The tournament is interrupted by the arrival of Joffrey’s uncle, Tyrion Lannister, and his gang of wild mercenaries, fresh from battle. Tyrion speaks more gently to Sansa than Joffrey does, but Sansa still feels that he is untrustworthy since he is a Lannister.
Tyrion delivers a letter to his sister Cersei, Joffrey’s mother and the Queen Regent. In the letter, Tywin Lannister, Tyrion and Cersei’s father, instructs the council to recognize Tyrion as the Hand of the King until Tywin himself can arrive in King’s Landing. Cersei objects, as she wanted Tywin to bring his armies to the city to protect the Lannister claim to the throne. Tyrion explains that he has come to help her and to try to free Jaime, Cersei’s twin and lover, whom Robb Stark has captured in battle. Cersei notes that they have Sansa Stark and that she has spread the rumor that they also have Arya, but in truth they lost Arya and she's likely dead.