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Tyrion lies in a bed in the castle, recovering from his wounds. He dreams of all the men who died as a result of his battle, of a great victory feast, and his first love. He wakes and gets the maester attending him to remove his bandages. Tyrion suspects that Cersei ordered Mandon to kill him during the battle. He learns from the maester that Tywin and the Tyrells saved the city. He asks for Podrick, his page. Tyrion tells Podrick to find a more trustworthy maester to attend him and to locate Bronn. Podrick tells him that he drowned Mandon. Tyrion tells Podrick to say nothing to anyone.
Qhorin sends some men to ride to the Old Bear while he, Jon, and Stonesnake go another way to draw off the wildlings. Qhorin sends Stonesnake across the mountains alone, to tell the Old Bear what Jon saw in his dream and that the old powers are waking up. He orders Jon to pretend to join the wildlings, but actually to spy on them. Jon does not want to, but he agrees. Later, wildlings surround them and Jon yields. Ygritte is with them, and she speaks on Jon’s behalf. To prove that that it is not a trick, they order Jon to kill Qhorin. Jon and Qhorin battle. Ghost attacks Qhorin, and Qhorin seems to deliberately let his guard down, which enables Jon to kill him. Jon realizes that Qhorin must have sacrificed himself. The wildlings accept Jon, and Ygritte tells him that Mance has marched on the Wall.
Bran, through Summer's eyes, sees Winterfell burning. Meera calls Bran back to his human body. They are in a place of total darkness. Bran asks how long he was in Summer, and Jojen tells him it was three days and cautions him about staying in the wolf for so long. Bran now has the power to enter Summer whenever he wants. Bran says they must go see Winterfell, and Osha lights a match. They are in the Stark family crypts beneath the castle. Something blocks the door leading out, but Hodor forces it open. Winterfell is just as Bran saw, burned and empty. Summer and Shaggydog trot up to them. They search the castle and realize that Theon was overrun. Summer leads them to the godswood, where they find Luwin, severely wounded.
Luwin tells them about the hostilities all over the north and says that Osha must separate Bran and Rickon for their safety. Luwin asks Osha to put him out of his misery, which she does after sending the boys away from the godswood. They find some supplies in the kitchens, and Osha takes Rickon and Shaggydog one way, while Bran, Hodor, Jojen, Meera, and Summer go another. Bran asks whether they will go to the Reeds’ home, but Jojen says that their way is north. As they leave, Bran looks back at Winterfell and realizes that, like him, it is damaged but not destroyed.
In his fever dreams, Tyrion acknowledges the human cost of his defense of the city, and his feelings reflect the great chasm that has opened between him and his family. Tyrion feels he did what was necessary to save the Lannisters and Joffrey's reign as king of Westeros, but the death he brought on sits heavily on his conscience, as he dreams of the dead and the dying. Notably, when Tyrion asks himself why he did it, he feels he doesn't know anymore. By this point, it is clear Tyrion thinks Joffrey a poor king. Tyrion recognizes that Joffrey is cruel, arrogant, and immature, and those qualities are not likely to change as he ages. To make matters worse, it is Tywin and Cersei who are essentially doing the ruling, with Joffrey merely carrying out their wills. At best Tyrion distrusts his father and sister, and at worst he feels outright hostility toward them. Thus, when Tyrion thinks of all the lives spent preserving the Lannisters' reign, he can't easily justify the cost, as the Lannister reign hardly seems worth maintaining. This feeling suggests that the divide that already exists between Tyrion and his family will likely own widen as the series progresses.
Tyrion’s choices were already made and he must live with the consequences, whereas Jon is faced with a horrible choice and must decide how much he is willing to sacrifice for the Night’s Watch. Qhorin’s command that Jon yield to the wildlings and join them strikes Jon as antithetical to everything he has trained for, even if it is ultimately a ruse. Jon has come very far from the boy who ran away from the Wall in Game of Thrones. His vows to the Night’s Watch and his sense of honor have become crucial parts of his identity. The thought of violating those duties horrifies him, but he has become mature enough to see that he must do the thing he wants least to do in order to defend what he values most. Mercifully, Qhorin refrains from presenting Jon with the most difficult choice until the last moment. When Jon kills Qhorin and realizes that Qhorin knew it would end this way, he understands the full depth of Qhorin’s commitment. Joining the wildlings and pretending to be a traitor to the Watch becomes Jon's way of honoring Qhorin's commitment and, ironically, proving his own.
In his final chapter, Bran regains a sense of his own strength and identity as he his now able to inhabit Summer at will. Bran, who had grown up dreaming of being a knight, struggled with despair after his fall left him paralyzed, but the opening of his “third eye,” as Jojen calls it, gave him a new source of hope and strength for his life. Significantly, it is in the depths of the Stark crypt, where generations of the Starks are buried, that Bran is able to fully gain control over his newfound ability. With the Stark sigil being the direwolf, Bran's supernatural connection to his own direwolf as well as the location where that connection is firmly established imply that Bran has fully become a wolf of the north, so to speak. In other words, he has embraced his identity in all its aspects, and the last lines of his chapter foreshadow for the reader that though he, like his family's ancestral home Winterfell, has been damaged, he is not destroyed.