Ned questions Pycelle about Jon Arryn’s death. He learns that Jon Arryn had been reading a book on noble house lineages, and that his last words were “The seed is strong.” When Ned tells Pycelle he suspects Jon Arryn was poisoned, Pycelle seems uncomfortable. He claims that the death was nothing unusual, but Ned notes that Pycelle chose to send Maester Colemon away while Colemon was treating Jon Arryn. Ned wonders whose interests Pycelle is truly serving. After he leaves Pycelle’s tower, Ned speaks with Arya, and he remembers keeping a vigil with her and Sansa after they received news that Bran was alive. Later, Littlefinger visits Ned in his tower and suggests four more people Ned should question for information. Looking out the window, Littlefinger also points out the men that Varys and Cersei have hired to spy on Ned. Ned thanks Littlefinger and admits he was wrong to distrust Littlefinger. Littlefinger says distrusting him is the smartest thing Ned’s done since arriving in King’s Landing.
While Jon and the other boys are training at the Wall, Sam Tarly arrives. Thorne immediately orders Sam to fight Halder, and Halder easily dominates the fat, scared new recruit. Sam yields, but Thorne orders Halder to continue the beating. Jon steps forward to defend Sam, and at Thorne’s orders Halder, Rast, and Albett fight—and lose—to Jon, Pyp, and Grenn. Sam admits that he is a coward, and Jon respects the boy for his ability to face a hard truth. Later, Sam tells Jon that he came to join the Night’s Watch because his father wanted his youngest son to be his heir, so he told Sam he had to leave for the Wall or he would murder him. Jon shares a story with Sam about a recurring dream in which Jon walks through a deserted Winterfell until he ends up deep inside the castle’s crypts. That night, Jon convinces the other boys to go easy on Sam in training because the boy is such a poor fighter.
As the Hand’s tournament approaches, Ned resents that it is being held in his honor when he disapproves of it and that it is causing so many problems in King’s Landing. Though there have been fights, riots, and deaths in town, Pycelle and Littlefinger point out that events like the tournament can be an economic boon for many commoners. Ned has been reading the very old book Jon Arryn was interested in, titled The Lineages and Histories of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms, With Descriptions of Many High Lords and Noble Ladies and Their Children. He questions Hugh, Jon Arryn's former squire, trying to get insight, but Hugh arrogantly refuses to answer any questions. Ned then discovers that Jon Arryn and Robert’s brother Stannis once visited a brothel together, which seems odd. Ned tells Jory to search for the brothel. Ned goes into town to find a blacksmith’s apprentice named Gendry that Jon Arryn was interested in. Gendry does not know who his parents were, but he says his mother was blonde. By looking at Gendry’s face and dark hair, Ned realizes Gendry is Robert’s bastard son.
Catelyn and Rodrik ride north on the kingsroad, trying to draw as little attention as possible in order to hide their identities. They stop at the Inn at the Crossroads, which is not far from Catelyn’s old home at Riverrun. While she and Rodrik are eating, Tyrion enters and notices Catelyn after Marillion, an annoying singer, calls his attention. Tyrion identifies her as Lady Stark to the people in the room, who are shocked that a noble lady is among them. Catelyn addresses the room, identifying men of houses that are loyal to House Tully and asking them to confirm their loyalty. Once she is done, she accuses Tyrion of attempting to murder Bran. She calls on the men loyal to her house to arrest him and escort him to Winterfell to await the king’s justice.
With the Hand’s tourney underway, Sansa enjoys the royal pageantry around her. Gregor kills Jon Arryn’s former squire, Hugh, in a joust, but Sansa is unfazed. At the feast later that night, Robert gets extremely drunk and screams to Cersei that the following day he will fight in the melee. Throughout the feast, Joff’s courtesy captivates Sansa, but immediately after Robert’s outburst Joff abandons her and orders the Hound to escort her to her room. While they walk, the Hound frightens Sansa with his brutal honesty. He tells her that his brother, Gregor, killed Hugh intentionally. He also tells her how his face came to be scarred: his brother pressed it into hot coals when they were young.
With the death of Hugh, Ned has lost an important source of information in the mystery of Jon Arryn’s death. Ned and Barristan manage to convince the overweight Robert that he cannot fight in the melee, since no man would dare strike the king. Ned worries about the fact that Robert’s squires are Lannister boys. Robert again admits that he hates being king, but the thought of Joff and Cersei ruling the realm is the only thing that keeps him from leaving the throne. In the semifinal round of the jousting that day, Ser Loras defeats Gregor. Enraged, Gregor attacks Loras, but the Hound defends Loras until Robert calls the skirmish to a halt. Later that night, Varys, in disguise, visits Ned. He tells Ned that the nobility in King’s Landing are either loyal to themselves or loyal to the realm, and after this morning, Varys says he certain he can trust Ned. He says the Lannisters had plans to kill Robert, that Hugh poisoned Jon Arryn, and that Jon Arryn was killed for asking questions about Robert's children.