King Joffrey Baratheon celebrates his nameday in King's Landing by ordering his knights to fight to the death for his entertainment. Ser Gregor "The Hound" Clegane makes short work of his opponent, but when the next fighter, Ser Dontos Hollard, takes to the field drunk, Joffrey demands that he be drowned in wine. Sansa manages to save the man's life by suggesting Joffrey take him on as a court fool, but then the festivities are interrupted by the arrival of Tyrion Lannister.
After greeting his newly crowned nephew, the dwarf heads straight to a meeting of the Small Council, where he presents a scroll declaring him acting Hand of the King in the absence of his father, Lord Tywin Lannister. His sister and queen regent, Cersei Baratheon, is furious and orders the council members from the room so she can talk to her brother. Tyrion rebukes her for allowing Joffrey to execute Lord Ned Stark and then losing his daughter Arya Stark. "It must be odd for you," he tells her, "to be the disappointing child."
As the oldest Stark at Winterfell, Bran assumes the responsibility of ruling the family seat, listening to the many requests of his bannermen as Masester Luwin advises him. Bran is distracted, however, by a dream he had of walking through the Godswood in his direwolf's body. Beneath a red comet looming in the sky, Bran, Hodor and Osha retrace the steps he took in his dream and discuss the falling star's portent. "A red comet means one thing, boy," Osha says. "Dragons."
A world away, across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen and her fledgling dragons cross a vast desert known as the Red Waste. Running short of food and water, Daenerys watches as her people starve and her horse Silver collapses. As a last hope, she sends her three best riders off in different directions to search for civilization.
The men of the Night's Watch march north beyond the Wall, stopping at the keep of a wildling named Craster to enjoy what little shelter is available in the far north. The man's home is overrun with women - he's married all his daughters, who in turn have given him more daughters. Jon wonders to his friends, "What does he do with his sons?" Commander Jeor Mormont sits down to hold court with Craster, offering him steel and wine in exchange for his roof. But Jon loses his temper and speaks out of turn when Craster calls them "southerners." Angry, Mormont chastises his young steward, asking, "Do you want to lead? Then learn how to follow."
On the island of Dragonstone, ruled by Lord Stannis Baratheon, the red priestess Melisandre leads a bonfire. The island's inhabitants gather on the beach as the idols they've worshipped their entire lives - the seven aspects of one god - blaze in the night. The house maester, an old man named Cressen, tries to convince Stannis' adviser Davos Seaworth that Melisandre will bring ruin to their lord. But Stannis believes the Iron Throne is his by rights, and he thinks Melisandre will deliver him the power with which to seize it. Cressen goes so far as to try and poison Melisandre, drinking from the cup first to earn her trust. But while Cressen convulses and dies, the strange priestess remains untouched.
At his war camp in the Westerlands, Lord Robb Stark meets with his prisoner, Ser Jaime Lannister. He makes it clear that he knows Jaime is Joffrey's true father and that the Lannisters killed Ned and tried to kill Bran to protect the secret. Jaime responds with his own verbal jabs, but the Stark boy's direwolf inspires a fear that not even Jaime can hide.
Robb leaves Jaime and joins his bannermen, giving his peace terms to Ser Alton Lannister to carry to King's Landing. Robb knows that the king won't agree to any of his demands, but he capitalizes on one more opportunity to invite his enemy's underestimations.
After the meeting, Theon Greyjoy tells Robb that the war won't end until they have the ships to take King's Landing - ships that his father, Balon Grejoy, could provide. When Robb tells his mother that he's sending Theon to the Iron Islands with the proposal, she balks: "He's not trustworthy. Your father had to go to war to end his rebellion." She wants Robb to trade Jaime Lannister for his sisters, but the situation is far more complicated than that - and they both know it. Instead, Robb tells her to ride south to negotiate with Renly Baratheon to join forces against Joffrey.
Cersei approaches Joffrey as he has his throne room redecorated, asking him to send men to find Arya Stark so they can trade her and her sister Sansa for Jaime's freedom. Joffrey is suspicious of her interest in his uncle - he, too, has heard the rumors of his true parentage - and he knows that King Robert Baratheon had other children outside his marriage with Cersei. "I'm asking," Joffrey says, "if he f**ked other women once he grew tired of you?" Without thinking, Cersei slaps him across his face, immediately realizing the mistake she's made. The act is punishable by death, Joffrey tells her: "You'll never do it again."
Later, at Littlefinger's brothel in King's Landing, some gold cloaks force their way into the room and rip a baby from the arms of its mother. As she screams, the City Watch commander himself, Janos Slynt, kills the infant - one of many of Robert's bastards that the gold cloaks murder. At the smithy of Tobho Mott, the guards hold his face inches above his forge fire, demanding to know where the man known as Gendry ran off to. Mott reveals that he joined the Night's Watch, and rode toward the Wall. Leagues to the north, along the King's Road, the young man travels toward Castle Black, along with a disguised Arya Stark.
To Cersei's dismay, Tyrion takes up his post as acting Hand at King's Landing. At Dragonstone, Stannis Baratheon proclaims allegiance to Melisandre's new god and lays public claim to the Iron Throne, revealing Joffrey's bastardry. As this news reaches the capital, the Gold Cloaks slaughter Robert's bastards. Having won three victories, Robb Stark offers the Lannisters peace in exchange for the North's independence, sending Theon to gain Balon Greyjoy's support and Catelyn to seek Renly Baratheon's. Beyond the Wall, the Night's Watch find shelter with the Wildling Craster and his daughter-wives. In Essos, as her people slowly die in the Red Waste, Daenerys sends out riders to look for help.
To Cersei's dismay, Tyrion takes up his post as acting Hand at King's Landing. At Dragonstone, Stannis proclaims allegiance to Melisandre's new god and lays public claim to the Iron Throne, revealing Joffrey's bastardy. The latter orders the soldiers to slaughter Robert's bastards, one of whom named Gendry manages to escape King's Landing along with Arya. Having won three victories, Robb offers the Lannisters peace in exchange for the North's independence and Sansa's return, sending Theon to gain the support of Balon, his father, and Catelyn to seek alliance with Renly, who also claims the throne. Beyond the Wall, the Night's Watch finds shelter with Craster and his daughters/wives. In Essos, as her people slowly die in the Red Waste, Daenerys sends out riders for reconnaissance.
Sandor Clegane kills his opponent in a duel for King Joffrey's nameday celebration. When Joffrey asks Sansa how she thought the Hound's kill was, she repeats what the king said. The king points this out angrily, and she quietly backs down and admits he is right. The next duel is called, between Lothor Brune, a freerider in the service of Petyr Baelish, and Ser Dontos Hollard, a knight. Lothor Brune awaits his opponent, and finally Ser Dontos arrives, his helmet in his arms and stinking drunk. Joffrey asks if he is drunk, and Ser Dontos admits that he only drank two cups. Joffrey says that Ser Dontos should have as much as he likes, and gestures. He is grabbed by two members of the Kingsguard, and a funnel is forced down his mouth, and a barrel of wine poured in. He is drowning when Sansa calls out that Joffrey can't do this. Shocked at her comment, Joffrey demands to know what she said, before saying he can do whatever he likes. Sansa says that it's bad luck to kill somebody on your nameday, and Joffrey dismisses this until Sandor Clegane says the girl is right. Reluctantly Joffrey tells them to stop drowning him, and Sansa suggests that he be made a fool instead, and Joffrey agrees. Suddenly, Tyrion Lannister and his entourage of Bronn, Lannister soldiers and hill tribesmen arrive. Tyrion greets his niece Myrcella and nephew Tommen before congratulating Joffrey on his nameday and saying he is sorry for Sansa's loss. Joffrey balks at this and says her father was a confessed traitor, to which Tyrion agrees, but says he was still her father, and that Joffrey should sympathize, having so recently lost his own father. Tyrion walks past Joffrey, saying that there is work to be done. In the Small Council chamber, Grand Maester Pycelle announces that summer has officially been declared over by the Citadel. Littlefinger says that they have enough wheat for a five year summer, but anything longer and they'll have fewer peasants. Janos Slynt announces that King's Landing is overrun with refugees fleeing from the war, to which Cersei tells him to close the gates to the peasants. Tyrion enters the chamber while whistling the Rains of Castamere and greets everybody. Cersei demands to know what he is doing there, and he tells her that he's the Hand of the King. She demands proof, to which Tyrion hands over a letter to Varys, who reads out that Lord Tywin has appointed Tyrion to act as Hand in his stead while he fights the war. Cersei angrily dismisses everybody and demands to know how Tyrion tricked Tywin into allowing this. Tyrion tells her that she brought this on herself by letting Eddard Stark die, to which Cersei claims she tried to stop it. Tyrion tells her that the entire north has risen against them because of this, but that they still have Ned Stark's two daughters. Cersei reveals that Arya Stark escaped the city, and Tyrion is angry at this, claiming that their enemies hate each other almost as much as they hated them. Tyrion says that it must be odd for Cersei to be the disappointing child, to which she is silent. Later that day in Tyrion's chamber in the Tower of the Hand, Shae remarks how she loves the smell of the city. Tyrion warns her that they must be careful so that nobody is aware of her presence. Tyrion says that King's Landing is full of many types of liars, and that he isn't from the city, so he isn't among them. When he climbs on the bed with Shae, Tyrion remarks how uncomfortable it is, and pities Ned Stark. He and Shae then kiss. Cersei confronts Littlefinger in a courtyard. She says that her spies have no idea where Arya Stark has fled to, and that they need her if they are going to make a truce with the Starks. Littlefinger says that she could ask Varys, though he warns her not to trust him, as he himself mistrusts eunuchs. Cersei notices the mockingbird sigil on Littlefinger's chest and realizes he made his own, before remarking that it's appropriate, since he is a self-made man with many songs to sing. Littlefinger says that some are fortunate enough to be born into a wealthy and prestigious family, and others must make their own way. Cersei unsubtly starts talking about Littlefinger's past in which he grew up among the Tully's in Riverrun, and was in love with the eldest daughter, but she was promised for another. Littlefinger responds to this by implying he knows about the incestuous relationship between Cersei and her brother Jaime. Littlefinger says that knowledge is power. Cersei gets angry with him and orders her guards to seize Littlefinger. She orders them to cut his throat, but swiftly changes her mind. She makes her guards follow very specific instructions before telling Littlefinger that power is power. She reminds him to find Arya Stark before leaving with her guards. Cersei enters the throne room surprised to see it under construction. She inquires with Joffrey about this, and he tells her that he is redecorating it, so the room looks like it should, and that the Targaryens knew how it should look. Cersei tells her son that they can't find Arya Stark, and that they need her if they ever want to trade the Stark girls with Jaime, which she doubts they will do as it is. Joffrey says he thinks they might, as they value their women too much. When Cersei suggest Joffrey might ask Lord Tywin for more men, he tells her that king's command, not ask, and he shows that he is displeased that his grandfather lost against Robb Stark in the field of battle in the first place, resulting in Jaime's capture. Joffrey says that he heard a disgusting rumour about his mother and his uncle Jaime. Cersei dismisses this as enemy lies, but Joffrey says that somebody believes it. He asks her if his father "fucked other women when he grew tired of you." When Joffrey asks how many bastards there are running around, Cersei slaps her son. The throne room grows silent, and Joffrey stares at his mother in shock. He tells her that what she did is punishable by death, and warns her not to do it again. He dismisses her and climbs the steps to the Iron Throne. Inside one of Littlefinger's brothels, a whore vigorously rides a male whore, while screaming. Ros, now in a position of authority in the brothel, instructs the female whore to "ease into it" before telling them both that they're working that night. Ros tells Daisy, a new whore from Haystack Hall, that they do things differently here, and that this is a very upscale and proper brothel. She warns Daisy not to call Lord Baelish 'Littlefinger,' as he doesn't like it. When Daisy notices Armeca lead away a customer, Ros tells her that she pretends she's exotic, but really she's from down the road in Flea Bottom. When Daisy calls her beautiful, Ros dismisses this and says she's actually a "dumb slut." Suddenly, Lord Janos Slynt and a column of gold cloaks enter. Ros greets them and asks what they're doing here. Doors are kicked in and gold cloaks search through rooms. Ros asks Slynt if he realizes that the brothel is owned by Lord Baelish, since he puts coin in many pockets. Slynt answers that he has orders from somebody that doesn't care what Littlefinger thinks. The whore Mhaegen is dragged out crying as she holds her baby, Barra. Slynt confirms that this is the one they're looking for, and orders one of his men to kill the baby. When he cannot bring himself to do it, Slynt takes out a dagger and murders the child, as Mhaegen screams. Gold cloaks are dispatched across the city to hunt down and murder Robert Baratheon's bastards. One is stabbed in the chest in his own house, while another younger boy is drowned outside. A baby is carried away while a crowd yell and protest. A gold cloak watches this in fury, clearly not approving. Janos Slynt has the master armorer Tobho Mott questioned as to where the bastard Gendry is. He reveals that he was taken as a recruit of the Night's Watch, and was traveling on the Kingsroad. He makes mention of the bull's head helmet that he made himself. Slynt commands the bastard to be found. A local farmer comes before Bran, who is acting as Lord of Winterfell while Robb is away fighting, and complains that the walls of his holdfast are in ruin, and blames the war for taking all the working men away. Bran reminds him that they went to war to avenge Eddard Stark and fight for independence, and that Robb Stark was the king now. Maester Luwin grants the man four masons for a week, to help with repairs. The man is grateful and walks away. Bran and Luwin agree that they didn't like the negative way in which the man talked about Robb. Luwin reminds Bran that listening to people he'd rather not is one of his duties as the Lord of Winterfell. As Bran sleeps, he dreams of Summer walking through the godswood and looking up at the Red Comet in the sky. The next day, Bran, Osha and Hodor visit the godswood, where Osha picks out some weeds and herbs for a tea Bran must drink to help with the pain. When he remarks that he has no pain, Osha mutters that he is lucky. When Osha says that Bran's been having "those" dreams again, he denies it. Osha tells him everyone dreams, to which Bran says he doesn't. Bran comments that some of the men have been talking about the comet, and how it means Robb will win a great victory in the South. Osha says that she has heard differently, like how it means it's Lannister red, meaning they will seize control of all seven kingdoms soon. Osha also says that she heard a stableboy say that it was red to mark the death of Eddard Stark. Osha says that the only thing a red comet really means is dragons. Bran says that all the dragons are dead. Daenerys leads her small, weary Khalasar through the massive Red Waste, with no end in sight. Drogon sits perched on her shoulder. Doreah asks what Viserys said about dragons, when Drogon refuses to eat some meat. Daenerys says that her brother didn't know anything about anything. As Daenerys puts Drogon back in his cage, her horse Silver collapses onto the ground. Dany and Ser Jorah rush over to the animal. Daenerys remarks that the horse was Khal Drogo's first gift to her. Daenerys helplessly says that she promised her people safety, but that she can't save them from starvation. Dany asks if the Red Waste ever ends, to which Ser Jorah says it does, though he has never been this far east. When Dany asks if there is any other way, Jorah says there isn't, as every other way as perils and troubles of their own. Daenerys calls over her three bloodriders and sends them to scout ahead in different directions, looking for cities, people or water. As Dany farewells Rakaro and he rides away, she looks around hopelessly before staring up at the Red Comet. The Night's Watch arrive at Craster's Keep, deep in the Haunted Forest beyond the Wall. As the column of riders approach the house, Jon and his friends stand off to the side. Jon asks how Sam's going, to which he answers that nothing has killed him yet. Grenn complains that Sam broke the sledge, as he allowed Sam to ride on it so he would shut up about his blisters. As they look at the keep, Dolorous Edd says in his usual resigned tone that he grew up in a similar place, before later falling on hard times. Sam is curious about all the girls, to which Edd answers that they are Craster's daughters, and his wives. The others are disgusted that Craster marries his daughters and has more daughters from them. Edd says that since all the other wildlings in a hundred miles have disappeared, Craster must be doing something right. Jon wonders what Craster does with the sons he has. Inside the keep, Lord Commander Jeor Mormont asks if Craster knows where Benjen Stark is, to which he answers that he hasn't seen him in three years, and that he didn't care, since Benjen always treated Craster like scum. When Craster remarks that 'you' southerners make good wine, Jon interrupts, saying that they aren't southerners. Craster inquires after Jon's name before telling him that since they are south of the Wall, they are southerners to him. Craster warns Jeor about Jon talking to his daughters, and Jeor promises that he won't. He then tells Jon to sit down and shut up. Jeor tells Craster that they'd passed through six abandoned wildling villages on their way to Craster's Keep. Craster says that they've all gone north to join up with Mance Rayder, the King beyond the Wall, before marching south to assault the Wall. Jeor warns Craster that it's a dangerous time to be living out here, but Craster dismisses this and calls for one of his wives, Gilly who tells them that they're content living where they are, since Craster protects them. Craster then mocks Jeor, saying that he must be jealous seeing him with all these women, knowing that he can't have any due to his vows. Craster allows the Night's Watch to stay at his keep, provided that they don't talk to or touch any of his women. Any man that does, he warns, will have his hand cut off. He threatens Jon again, and Jeor says that under his roof, they will follow his rules. Outside, Jeor throws Jon against a wall and demands to know who he is. Jon says that he is the Lord Commander, and that he is his steward. Jeor tells Jon that if he wants to lead one day, he must learn how to follow. Maester Cressen runs along the beach shore of Dragonstone to witness the burning of the idols of the Seven. Melisandre of Asshai is leading the prayer. She offers these false gods to appease the Lord of Light, the one true god. Cressen tells Ser Davos Seaworth that they must stop her, but he refuses to do anything at that moment. Frustrated, Cressen pushes through the crowd and demands that this madness stop. He asks everybody if they are so willing to watch the gods of their ancestor's be desecrated, to which nobody responds. Melisandre challenges Cressen to stop her, but he does nothing, and walks back into the crowd, resigned. Melisandre calls forth Stannis Baratheon, the true king of Westeros and the warrior of light, chosen by the Lord of Light. He rips out a flaming sword from one of the burning idols and marches with it in his hand, before uttering the prayer "the night is dark and full of terrors." As Stannis leads away the crowd, Cressen warns Davos that Melisandre will lead Stannis into a war he cannot win. Davos affirms his loyalty to Stannis, despite not agreeing with Melisandre or her preachings. Cressen asks Davos to tell the king the truth, but Davos dismisses this and leaves Cressen alone on the beach. In the Chamber of the Painted Table, Stannis holds a council. There, he instructs Matthos, Davos' son and the king's squire, to draft a proclamation, saying that Joffrey Baratheon, and his siblings Tommen and Myrcella, are born of incest between Cersei Lannister and her brother, Ser Jaime Lannister the Kingslayer. Davos suggests that maybe Stannis should make peace with Renly, so they can deal with the Lannisters together. Stannis dismisses this, saying that he will not make peace with Renly while he falsely calls himself king. Davos then suggests making peace with Robb Stark, but Stannis also dismisses this, claiming that the boy serves thieves, and he will not have the top half of his kingdom in someone else's hands. Maester Cressen slips a poison into his wine before raising a toast to Melisandre, and apologizing for his lack of faith. He takes a sip of the wine before handing it to Melisandre. Cressen begins bleeding from the nose, but despite this, Melisandre still takes a sip after him. Cressen collapses onto the floor, to the shock of everybody, but Melisandre is uneffected by the poison. She stands over him and reminds him that the night is dark and full of terrors, but the fire casts the darkness away. Robb Stark visits Jaime Lannister, who is caged up in a holding pen. Jaime mockingly refers to Robb as the King in the North, before inquiring as to why he is being dragged around the countryside, instead of being left in a castle. Robb says that this is because if he did this, the lord holding the castle would receive a raven from Lord Tywin Lannister offering a reward for his son's release, and threatening them with death should they defy him. When Jaime calls Robb a smart boy, he mocks Robb by saying that he doesn't like being called 'boy.' Jaime notices that Robb's direwolf Grey Wind is stalking around the pen. He enters and stands next to Robb, who says that Jaime is only insulting himself, since he was defeated by a boy and captured by one. He then proceeds to explain that Stannis Baratheon has send letters to all the lords in the realm declaring himself as the true king and naming Joffrey Baratheon as incest spawn between Jaime and Cersei. Jaime remarks that this is incredibly convenient, as it would make Stannis the first in line for the throne. Robb says that his father must have learned the truth, as he was executed by Jaime, though the Kingslayer reminds him that he was his prisoner when Ned Stark died. Robb counters by saying it was his son that did it, however, and that Jaime was the one to throw Bran from the tower that he was climbing when he saw Jaime with the queen. Robb says that he's sending one of Jaime's cousins to King's Landing with peace terms, though Jaime says Robb is a fool if he thinks Tywin will negotiate with him. He tells him that three victories don't make him a conqueror. Robb replies by saying that it's better than three defeats, which is what the Lannisters have suffered so far. Grey Wind lunges at Jaime and nearly bites him, but stops inches from his face, before turning and leaving the pen with Robb. Jaime turns his face and closes his eyes in fear before the direwolf leaves. Robb Stark holds a council where he meets Ser Alton Lannister, a cousin to Jaime Lannister and the queen. Robb reads his terms, which are that the Lannisters must release his sisters and return them to him, and that the bones of his father and all his father's men must be returned as well. Robb's final term is that the Iron Throne must release the North from all their dominion, as the north is now a free and independent kingdom. Robb warns that if the king and queen do not accept these terms, he will litter the south with dead Lannisters. When Alton remarks that Joffrey is a Baratheon, Robb mockingly questions this. Robb calls an end to the council, and the lords and Ser Alton leave. Theon Greyjoy stays behind, and asks 'Your Grace' for a word. Robb says that Theon doesn't have to call him that in private. Theon says that the Lannisters will reject his terms, but Robb says he already knows this. Theon also points out that to finally defeat the Lannisters they need to take King's Landing, and they can't do this without ships. Theon says that his father, Balon Greyjoy, has plenty of ships and men who know how to sail them. Robb points out that Balon and his men fought his own father in rebellion years ago. Theon reminds Robb that they are also rebelling as they speak. Theon's confident that Balon will not refuse him, as he is his last remaining son. He says that though he wasn't born a Stark, he was raised an honorable man. Theon says that he and Robb will together avenge Ned Stark. Catelyn warns Robb that Balon Greyjoy is not a trustworthy ally, but Robb says that he needs his ships, which apparently number at two hundred. Catelyn reminds Robb that Balon Greyjoy once rebelled against Eddard Stark, but Robb reminds her that they are rebelling right now, and his father rebelled against the throne before him. Robb says that he can't release Jaime Lannister, as he is too valuable and the lords won't be happy. Catelyn is worried for the wellbeing of Sansa in King's Landing, and the fact that they haven't heard anything about Arya. She says that it's about time she returned to Winterfell, since it's been months since she's seen Bran and Rickon. Robb says she won't be going to Winterfell, as he needs her to go to the Stormlands to negotiate with Renly Baratheon. It's said that he's rallied one hundred thousand soldiers to his cause, thanks in part due to his marriage to Margaery Tyrell, binding Mace Tyrell and Highgarden to his cause. Robb says that he doesn't trust any of his other lords to do this, and once Renly is on their side, they can defeat the Lannisters and get Arya and Sansa back. Catelyn reluctantly agrees.Gendry helps Arya Stark onto a cart as they travel with the rest of the Night's Watch recruits down the Kingsroad.