In King's Landing, Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell, the Hand of King Robert Baratheon, is surrounded by enemies. Some are openly declared, such as Ser Jaime Lannister and his sister, Queen Cersei. Others are hidden in the shadows. Still others wear the smiling mask of friends. But all are deadly, as Eddard is about to discover. Nor is the enmity between Eddard and the Lannister siblings the sole source of friction between these powerful noble families. For Tyrion Lannister, the Imp, whose stunted, twisted body houses the mind of a genius, has but lately won his freedom from Lady Catelyn Stark, Eddard's wife, who had accused him of attempting to murder her youngest son, Brandon. Now he seeks out his father, his restless thoughts bent on revenge. Far to the north, the bastard Jon Snow, newly sworn to the Night's Watch, takes the first faltering steps toward a destiny stranger than he could ever dream, a destiny that will bring him face-to-face with unspeakable horrors from beyond the edge of the world. While across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen, wed to the great Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo, and pregnant with his child, a son prophesied to conquer the world, will see her own destiny take an unforeseen turn.