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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.
The need for revenge appears again in Tyrion’s chapter when Oberyn Martell demands retribution against Gregor Clegane for his crimes against the Martell family. A number of years earlier, Gregor murdered Oberyn’s sister, Elia, and her children in a particularly vicious manner. Oberyn and indeed all of the Martells have never been able to get revenge against Gregor, but neither have they ever forgotten his crimes against their family. Oberyn in his meeting with Tyrion makes it clear that he still intends to get his revenge on Gregor, but he also wants revenge against the person who gave Gregor the order to kill his sister and her children. He intimates that this person was Tywin Lannister. At this stage it isn’t entirely clear how Oberyn’s desire for revenge will play out, but as is evidenced by the fact that he and the Martell have harbored their grudge for several years, that desire is will not soon fade.
Jaime’s revelation regarding why he actually killed Aerys ties into the theme of honor in the novel and also causes Brienne, and perhaps the reader, to reevaluate his character. Jaime is widely renowned as a dishonorable person for killing King Aerys since he was part of Aerys’s kingsguard when he killed him. It was Jaime’s sworn duty to protect the king and it was considered an honor for him to have been named to the guard at so young an age. Even though Aerys was widely unpopular, his murder besmirched Jaime’s name and honor permanently, and he became known as the Kingslayer. Brienne looks down on Jaime for this reason, but Jaime may have in fact done what was best in killing Aerys. As we’ve learned in the past, Aerys was a brutal and sadistic king who would roast his enemies alive, earning the nickname the Mad King. Here, Jaime reveals that Aerys was also stockpiling a volatile incendiary weapon called wildfire, which was the cause of the widespread destruction in the final battle of the previous novel. If Aerys’s enemies seemed likely to take the city, he meant to detonate the wildfire and reduce the city, and its inhabitants, to ashes. Moreover, he wanted Jaime to prove he was no traitor by bringing Aerys the head of his father, Tywin. In this light, Jaime’s decision to kill Aerys was at least understandable and not as dishonorable as it has been made to sound.
Robb and Catelyn continue to deal with the fallout from Robb's decision to marry Jeyne Westerling instead of a daughter of Walder Frey. Without being able to rely on the support of the Karstarks or Freys, Robb’s cause is in jeopardy—so much so that Catelyn evens poses the possibility of Robb surrendering to the Lannisters. Robb refuses, but he knows he has already lost if he can’t regain the backing of the Freys. To accomplish this feat, he first has to make it clear that his decision to wed Jeyne Westerling was not meant as a slight on the honor of the Frey family, which he’s attempted to do by suggesting the decision was a result of his youth and impulsiveness. In other words, he’s tried to take the dishonor of the situation upon himself. But more importantly, he now needs to provide the Freys with another marriage, which is where Edmure Tully comes in. The Freys offer Roslin Frey, who is just sixteen years old, to Edmure for marriage, and Edmure is initially outraged. He has never met the girl and has no interest in marrying her. But the strategic importance of the union is so great that finally he accepts. The whole episode again shows the importance of honor and family alliances in the novel.