Arya is angry. She’s angry at Cersei and Robert, at Joffrey and the Hound, at Sansa and her father. Arya has a sword and she wanted to learn how to use it, how to stick people with the pointy end before they stick you and watch them die, so she took a stick and gave a second one to Mycah, the butcher’s boy. She didn’t stick him and she didn’t watch, but he’s dead anyway and in that list of people Arya hates, she hates herself the most.
Winterfell may be the dark and cold place in the eyes of the south, but for the Stark children it was a happy family home, especially for Arya, and there hasn’t been much reason to be happy once she left it. When she runs off from dinner and locks herself in her room, Ned comes to talk to her. Arya reveals that she made sure Nymeria ran away by chasing her off and Ned also discovers Needle, though Arya doesn’t give Jon away as the one who gave it to her. They have a good heart-to-heart, where Arya senses how tired and sad her father is (preparations for the tournament are in full swing, from which we can infer that Ned was not successful in convincing Robert not to waste the money) and is eager to ease some of his burdens. Ned, on his part, is doing his best to explain that he’s not just trying to force Sansa and Arya to make up for his own peace of mind, but that hardships are coming and the family will weather them better together. Wolves die alone and survive in a pack during winter, as he puts it. And winter, as we all know, is coming.
Ned also mentions his sister Lyanna in a way that I probably skipped over the first time I read this, but am picking up on now. Ned calls Arya’s temper “the wolf blood” and says that his siblings, Brandon and Lyanna, had it too and look where it got them (dead, dead, so very very dead). It could be nothing, but it could be used as support for the theory that Lyanna ran off with Rhaegar willingly (as opposed to Lyanna being abducted and raped by him, as is the established version of events) and Ned knows this. Granted, it could easily mean nothing of the sort. Maybe Lyanna just insisted on riding off on a hunt without enough guards and made it easy for Rhaegar to snatch her. Make of it what you will, I can already hear GRRM laughing.
Ned’s being a good father to Arya, a prepubescent tomboy, but I can’t help but think that he’s not being the parent Sansa needs. He’s not likely to understand the position he put Sansa in by engaging her to Joffrey and then by asking her to testify against him. Sansa could really use her mother at this stage in life.
The father-daughter bonding bears fruit when Arya makes more of an effort to be civil to Septa Mordane the next day and Ned hires Syrio Forel of Braavos to give Arya proper lessons in swordfighting with a rapier.
I said earlier that being a khaleesi wouldn’t be any more horrible for Dany than being with Viserys, but things do start out rather badly. The khalasar is trekking eastward, to Vaes Dothrak. Dawn-to-dusk riding and unromantic, basically impersonal sex with Drogo was wearing Dany down. Then she got to her breaking point and had a dream about being consumed and renewed through a dragon’s flame-breath, and things started improving. She absolutely loves her horse, nameless per Dothraki custom, has learned to ride it and finds true joy in doing so. Since she rides at the head of the mass of people, she gets to see all the beautiful sights before they’re trampled. The Dothraki Sea is a grass-filled steppe. Dany, through Mormont, commands her riding party to stop and wait for her and then rides off to enjoy the beautiful day in the tall grasses. The main reason she leaves people behind is that her party includes Viserys, who refused to stay behind in Pentos and wait.
Dany dismounts and takes off her boots so she can commune with nature and Viserys catches up. She’s integrated, dressed like a Dothraki, loving the riding and the steppes. Viserys is… Well, he’s Viserys, the perpetual fuckwad. He’s still wearing silks and ringmail and pretending to be a Westerosi king. He catches up with her, this time bitching that he doesn’t have to follow her commands. When he assaults her, Dany has had enough of his bullshit and pushes back. Before Viserys can continue to abuse her like he’s used to doing, the rest of the party catches up to them. Jhogo, one of Dany’s khas, her personal guard, strangles Viserys with a whip. Dany doesn’t let Viserys get killed here, although she’d save this book some whining and bitching if she did, but does make him walk back to the khalasar on foot, which is the biggest burn in the Dothraki book of burns.
On their way back, Mormont and Dany talk about Viserys’s chances of regaining his father’s crown. In summary: chances are nonexistent. Mormont also clues Dany in that not a single fuck is given by the peasants of Westeros as to whose ass gets to polish the Iron Throne. Also, Viserys sucks. The important thing is that Dany has begun to think of Westeros as the “home” she wants to regain, without Viserys underfoot. Maybe Robert isn’t such a dumbass for considering her a threat to his rule.
That night, Dany conferences with her three slave-girls re: the origin of dragons and the mythology of the moon. The Dothraki girls, Irri and Jhiqui believe in a basic moon-goddess/sun-god dichotomy, but the Lysene sex-slave Doreah knows a legend that there used to be two moons, one came too close to the sun and the heat made it hatch like an egg and release dragons into the world. Dany likes the story and Doreah wins the grand prize: have dinner with the khaleesi and teach her how to ride her khal like a bull at a rodeo. Yee-haw! After dinner, Dany puts her new theoretical khal-riding skills to practical use. By the time the khalasar reaches the far side of the steppes, two things happen: Dany realizes she and Drogo made a little khal (aww!) and she turns fourteen (… I’ll be in my bottle).