Several characters additionally learn that they will likely have to marry someone for strictly strategic purposes. To shore up his alliance with the Freys, Robb wants his uncle, Edmure Tully, to marry one of the Frey girls. The marriage would hopefully make up for Robb's breaking his promise to marry a Frey girl and would secure Walder Freys support of Robb's cause. Tywin, meanwhile, reveals that he has marriages planned for Cersei and Tyrion. He wants Cersei to marry Willas Tyrell for a few reasons: One, it will prevent Sansa from marrying him, and will thus prevent any alliance between the Tyrell and Stark houses. Two, it will help quash the rumors (which are true) that Cersei is carrying on a sexual affair with her brother Jaime. Finally, Tywin proposes that Tyrion marry Sansa. That marriage has one particular advantage: it would entitle Tyrion to Winterfell. With Robb having been declared a traitor and Bran and Rickon thought dead, whatever man marries Sansa will become lord of Winterfell.

Samwell, meanwhile, overcomes his cowardice in what is a significant step for him personally, and in the process he makes an important discovery about one of the vulnerabilities of the Others. Samwell is almost perpetually frightened of something, whether it's the Others or wildlings or any other threat. He is known among his brothers in the Watch as a coward, and in fact he regularly identifies himself as a coward. Yet as he and a few of his brothers come under attack from a lone Other as they make their way back to Craster's Keep, Samwell musters the courage to run at it with his obsidian dagger in hand. He plunges it into the Other and falls over with the creature, and when the Other quickly dies with its blood boiling around the dagger's obsidian blade, Samwell recognizes immediately that the Others must be vulnerable to the substance. Samwell tells one of his brothers to take the dagger because the brother isn't a craven like Samwell is, and the brother points out that no craven could have killed an Other like that.

Jaime and Brienne both gain a great deal of respect for one another in the course of their brief battle. For his part, Jaime is surprised to discover that Brienne is a strong and tireless fighter, and that she's excellent with a sword. Like most of her opponents, Jaime assumed that Brienne, because she is a woman, wouldn't be able to hold her own in a fight, but Brienne proves that prejudice wrong. Brienne, on the other hand, finds Jaime to be a much more skilled fighter than she had anticipated. She had heard of his prowess with a sword before, but even restricted by manacles and weakened from an extended period being held in a cell, he is still surprisingly quick and strong. For both, skill with a sword is a trait that they respect, as both make their livings by their swords. Since they are equally matched, both can't help but respect the other, even if they still dislike one another. The section ends, of course, with Jaime losing his sword hand at the command of the outlaw Vargo Hoat. While the repercussions of that loss remain to be seen, it is clear they will have a profound effect on Jaime.