Catelyn, guarded by thirty knights, is waiting for the fighting to end one way (in Robb’s favour) or the other (in Jaime’s favour) and ruminating on all the times she had to wait for her men to come home: her father, Brandon Stark, Ned Stark, now Robb. It’s all very archetypally mediaeval, the fair maiden on the battlements, the men riding off to war. Catelyn is content with waiting, and that makes one of us, because I am bored to tears. Time to skim until something actually happens!
The only interesting bit in the wall of exposition that is Robb’s preparation for battle is that one of his personal guard is a woman — Dacey Mormont (the Lord Commander’s niece, Jorah’s cousin, daughter of Maege Mormont, current Lady of Bear Island). Thankfully, not the last female fighter we’ll see in these books.
Robb prepares a strategic trap into which Jaime readily rides. Catelyn can see bits, but not much, instead she listens to the fighting. It ends with Robb’s victory and Jaime’s capture. Amazingly, no one we care about died this time around. Oh, plenty of people died, including characters whose names have been mentioned, but not Robb, Grey Wind, or even Theon. Plenty of non-Jaime Lannisters and Lannister bannermen have been slain or captured as well. Look, I’ll just take Theon’s word for it: “our” side won. Yay.
Catelyn cools off both Theon’s triumphant joy and Robb’s grief over the deaths of his retainers by pointing out that one battle won still leaves them with the rest of the war to fight. They still have to free Riverrun from its siege.
Daenerys is watching flies buzz around Drogo, the half-dead khal. He didn’t like MMD’s cures and opted for the care of the khalasar’s herbwomen. Drogo falls off his horse, so I think it’s safe to say whatever medical care he’s getting, it’s not working out so well.
Drogo’s bloodriders are all kinds of unhappy about this de-horsing incident, but Dany tries to cover it all up by declaring everyone is tired and ready for camp. Dany’s trying to get MMD involved again, Qotho resists some more, but gives in to Dany’s will of steel. If only she used it in a more productive manner. Ah well, every epic protagonist needs to undergo some character-building tragedies.
When Jorah arrives inside the newly-erected tent, he sends the slaves away, lifts Drogo’s bandage to reveal that the wound has festered, declares that khal as good as dead, and immediately starts plotting to run away with Dany. I’m sure he has only the best intentions as to her safety at heart, but let’s face it, poor Dany attracts creepy older men like Drogo’s wound attracts bloodflies.
Dany’s unsure why she should flee even if Drogo dies, she’s still carrying his heir. Jorah patiently explains that this isn’t Westeros and being a dead khal’s mewling infant is not sufficient qualification for leading a nation; it is, however, sufficient reason to be promptly killed by the khos (a khal’s captains, each of whom leads a section of the khalasar) who will fight amongst themselves to fill the power vacuum. Dany thinks back to the deaths of Rhaegar’s children and thankfully only asks a stupid “but why?” question once. Drogo’s bloodriders won’t protect her either, their post-Drogo duties will be to bring Dany to Vaes Dothrak where she will become a dosh khaleen and then they will commit ritual suicide to follow their khal into death. Basically, Dany has a lot of reasons to try and keep Drogo’s alive.
Enter MMD, ever ready to state the obvious re: the state of Drogo’s wound. Yes, thank you, we know it’s bleeding pus, the question is, can you do something about it? Before anyone in the book asks her any questions, Drogo’s bloodriders accuse her of making Drogo worse and when Dany interferes, they turn on her as well. They back down from the stand-off, with an audible “for now” hanging in the air. Jorah goes away to put on armour and get ready to fight if need be. Dany asks MMD to do something, but Drogo is beyond medicine. He is, according to MMD, not yet beyond magic. Dark magic. Dangerous magic. Be afraid, Dany, be very afraid, etc.
(I haven’t never seen the capital letter D used as often as I have used it in the previous paragraph. The Dothraki Sea is where the letter D goes to die.)
As any necromantic spell worth its salt, the spell to save Drogo will cost a life. Dany’s even willing to consider dying for Drogo (which is ridiculous, where’s Jorah to save her from herself when he’s actually needed?), but MMD assures her it’s not her life that is the price. Dany’s apparently relieved enough to not ask anymore. So much stupid within such a short span of time.
Drogo’s horse is brought in to be slaughtered, one of Dany’s bloodriders begs her to reconsider, but she’s going to see her bad decision through to the end. MMD gets ready to perform the spell itself and sends everyone out of the tent. Jorah’s appropriately horrified at Dany’s horseblood-soaked appearance and poor decision-making. Drogo’s bloodriders are more determined than ever to put a stop to the dark magic, so swords are finally drawn. Qotho and Jorah fight bloodily and Jorah wins, but by then it’s chaos with Drogo’s people fighting against Dany’s. Realizing that this isn’t going to be as neat and cheap as one horse’s blood, Dany tries to put a stop to it, but it’s too late. Jorah and her bloodriders are successful in holding Drogo’s bloodriders off, but the khalasar is already breaking up.
Dany’s gone into labour, but all the midwives have fled. Her slavegirls suggest taking her to MMD, but even though Dany now knows this would be a supremely bad idea, she’s either too dazed or too wounded or too something to say so. So Jorah takes her inside the tent where MMD is wailing and blood magic is doing bloody, magical, scary things.