The novel spans mostof the year 299 After the Landing.
In the Seven Kingdoms
The civil war in the Seven Kingdoms complicates further when the Greyjoys make their entrance. Robb Stark's attempts to secure an alliance with the Greyjoys are rebuffed and answered with a massive assault along the west coast of the North. Ironborn raiders seize control of Moat Cailin, Torrhen's Square and Deepwood Motte, whilst raiding the Stony Shore.
At Winterfell, Bran Stark is left in charge of the castle and begins suffering from strange dreams.He finds two new friends when Jojen and Meera Reed, children of Eddard Stark's close friend Lord Howland, arrive from Greywater Watch and take an interest in his dreams.
Meanwhile, Stannis Baratheon declares himselfKingof Westeros with the support ofthe lords ofthe Narrow Sea and Melisandre, a red priestess of the eastern god R'hllor. Enraged when his brother Renly also makes a claim for the throne, Stannis chooses to besiege his own home castleof Storm's End to force Renly to march east and treatwithhim. Catelyn Stark, who has journeyed south to discuss a possible alliance against the Lannisters, also accompanies Renly. The ensuing parley ends in acrimony and Renly resolves to destroy his brother with his larger army. However, withoutwarning a mysteriousshadow comes to life in Renly's own tent andkills him. Shocked,Catelynand the only otherwitness,the warrior-maid Brienne ofTarth, flee the scene. Having lost Renly, the StormLords have no choice but to declare for Stannis. Storm's End itself only falls, however, when Stannis' loyal Ser Davos (a former smuggler) sneaks Melisandre below the castle in a small boat. To his horror,Melisandre 'gives birth' toa 'shadow' which enters Storm's Endandslaysits stubborn castellan.
In King's Landing, Tyrion Lannister arrives to act as Hand in Lord Tywin's stead. Whilst intriguing against his sister Cersei, Tyrion improves the city's defenses.Learning of Renly's death, Tyrion resolves on two courses of action. Knowing that the Tyrells will not be happy following Stannis, he decides to make them a betteroffer. He also resolves to bring the Martells of Dorne into the waronhis side.He sends Littlefinger to treatwiththe Tyrells andsends other messengers to Dorne. He wins Littlefinger's support by promising to make him the Lord of Harrenhal. The negotiations are solidified by marriage arrangements. Lord Mace Tyrell agrees to wed his daughter Margaery to King Joffrey, whilst Prince Doran Martell agrees to marry his son Trystane to Joffrey's sister Myrcella.
Theon Greyjoy leads a small force of ironmen north and captures Winterfell, taking Bran and Rickon Stark captive. Theon's sister Asha suggests he raze the castle and flee before othernorthmenarrive toreclaim it, but Theon petulantly tries to hold ontohis newcastle. Eventuallya strong force of northmenarrive anddiscoverwhat appear to be the corpses of Bran and Rickon Stark. However, as the disgusted besiegers begin to mount theirassault on Winterfell, the contingentof House Bolton, led by Lord Roose Bolton's bastard son Ramsay Snow, turn on the other northmen and drive them off. Theon eagerly opens the gates to his new 'allies', only to be betrayed and taken captive. Winterfell is burned and the Boltons return tothe Dreadfort. Shortly after, Bran and Rickon emerge from hiding, unharmed and decide to split up. Osha, a wildling woman serving in Winterfell, agrees to take Rickon to safety, whilst Bran and the Reeds travelnorth to the Wall.
Robb Stark leads his northern army into the Westerlands and emerges victorious from a numberofbattlesagainst Lannister forces, winning a battle at Oxcross and storming Ashemark and the Crag. Tywin reluctantly emerges from Harrenhal and attempts topassthe fordsnearRiverrun, where he is stopped by Edmure Tully, Catelyn's brother and the infirm Lord Hoster's heir. Although thisprevents the Lannisters from falling on Robb's rear, it allows them to rapidly march south to join their new allies, the Tyrells.
Arya Stark, posing as a boy named Arry,is takennorthby Yoren as a new recruit for the Night'sWatch. However, they are attacked by Lannister freeriders led by Ser AmoryLorch and Yoren is killed on the shores of Gods Eye. Arya escapes, along with Gendry, Hot Pie, and LommyGreenhands, and in the process saves the lives of Jaqen H'ghar, Rorge, and Biter, three criminals Yoren was bringing to the Wall,who run off on their own.Shortlyafter,Arya, Gendry,andHot Pie are capturedbymenunderthe command of Gregor Clegane; Lommy, whowas wounded, is killed. Theyare taken to Harrenhal and put to work as servants in the undermanned castle.
Whilst Arya poses as a servant at Harrenhal, going by the name "Weasel", H'ghar, Rorge, and Biter reappear as members of the Brave Companions. Forsaving his life during the attack,H'gharpromises torepayAryabykilling three men of her choice. Forher three choices,Aryaselects Chiswyck, a soldier in Gregor Clegane's forces, Weese, her servant overseer, and Jaqen H'ghar himself. The first two murders he carries out withoutquestion;inlieu ofthe third choice, Arya leverages H'ghar to help her slay the Lannister soldiers guarding RobettGlover, who had been taken prisoner by the Brave Companions.AfterGloveris freed,the Brave Companions turn theircloaks andjoinwiththe North. Control of Harrenhalis cededto RooseBolton, whom Arya serves as cupbearer.
H'ghar gives gives Arya a mysteriousiron coin andtells her to find him in Braavos if she should ever desire to learn his secrets. He then adopts a newidentityandleaves. Bolton executes Lorch inthe castle's bearpit andorders a Northern foot army to advance on Duskendale to threaten King's Landing from the north, informing them that the orders come directly from Robb Stark. Arya kills one of Roose's guards and escapes HarrenhalwithGendry andHot Pie.
Stannis Baratheon'sarmyreaches King's Landing and a combined assault is launched by bothland andsea.Tyrion traps the Baratheon fleetinthe mouth ofthe Blackwater Rush with a huge chain and destroys Stannis' fleet by detonating barrels of wildfire on nearby ships. Despite heavy losses, some of Stannis' men establish a foothold on the north shore until a brave sally led by Tyrion dislodges them. Tyrion is nearly killed when he is betrayed by one of the Kingsguard, Ser MandonMoore, but is saved by his squire, Podrick Payne. The battle ends when Stannis is unexpectedly flanked by Tywin and the Tyrells and barely manages to escape with a few thousand soldiers anda handful of ships.
In Riverrun, Catelyn's grieves over the supposed death of her sons, Rickon and Bran.While questioning the captive Jaime Lannister, she reaches for a sword and...
On the Wall
The Night's Watch advances northwards from the Wall into the Haunted Forest. They stop at Craster's Keep, wherea wildling man named Craster serves as an informant for the Watch. They continue north and make campat a ruined fortress known as the Fist of the First Men, which serves as a strong defensive position.Concerned aboutthe whereabouts and activities of the King-beyond-the-Wall Mance Rayder, Lord CommanderJeorMormont sends Jon Snow and Qhorin Halfhand on a reconnaissance mission through the Skirling Pass.
In the pass, Snow and Halfhand discover much wildling activity in the mountains. However, theyare cornered and Halfhand commands Snow to infiltrate the wildlings by pretending to betraythe Watch. In order to convince the wildlings, Snow is forced to kill Halfhand. A wildling girl named Ygritte, agrees to speak on Jon's behalf to Mance Rayder, who is advancing on the Wall with an army in the tens of thousands.
In the East
Despite her three infantdragons, DaenerysTargaryen's followers have been much reduced.The vast Dothrakiarmy formerly commanded by her husband, Khal Drogo, has broken into individual factions and she is left with only her bloodriders, Ser Jorah Mormont, and a hundredorso others. Nevertheless, theyproclaimher the 'Mother-of-Dragons' and 'the Unburnt' andswear tofollow her.
Daenerys strikes east across the forbidding Red Waste and loses many of her followers to the harsh conditions before stumbling uponthe ancient,abandoned cityof Vaes Tolorro. They find clean water and fruit and enjoy a much-needed respite. Daenerys' bloodriders scoutthe surroundingregion and find a safe route to the great trading cityof Qarth on the Jade Sea. The Qartheen dote on Daenerysandher dragons, but her attempts tosecure help claiming the throne of Westeros do not succeed. She goes to the House of the Undying to form an alliance with its powerful warlocks, but instead she is shown confusinganddisturbing images. Her dragon Drogon burns down the House ofthe Undying, sparkingthe enmityofthe Qartheen and encouraging Daenerys to leave the city. An assassin hired by the warlocks attempts tokill Daenerysinthe city's harbor, but it is thwarted by the arrival of two strangers: a fat warrior named Strong Belwas and his squire, an old but hale warrior named Arstan Whitebeard. They claim to be agents of Illyrio Mopatis, come to take Daenerysbackto Pentos. Daenerysagreestoaccompanythem backtothe Free Cities.