|Lord Commander Jon Snow and Ghost|
The chapter starts with Ghost feeding on his prey and running through the woods somewhere south of the Wall, supposedly in the surroundings of Castle Black. He listens to other wolves howling at the moon, which is constantly whispering “Snow”. As the whispering continues and the wolf gets irritated, we recognize together with Jon that it’s the Old Bear’s raven who croaks “Jon” all the time and wakes him up. Jon is seated in the old quarters of Donal Noye since Stannis occupies the King’s Tower and the Lord Commander’s Tower burned down in the battle. His personal steward at the time is Dolorous Edd, who is gloomy as ever. On the table rests a document that, if signed, would give all castles except the three currently garrisoned over to Stannis to as he pleases. Clearly, Jon doesn’t want to sign it.
He immediately leaves for Stannis, who requested his presence. First he passes the stockades in which over a thousand wildlings is currently held. These wildlings were the ones who were either captured in the battle or have yielded since. Stannis intent is to settle them in the gift, but no move has been made so far. As Jon crosses the yard, he gives advice to some recruits currently being trained there and gets himself a challenge by a knight from Stannis’ retinue, one Ser Godry Farring, styling himself Godry Giantslayer since he killed a giant in the battle. Jon refuses him however, being taunted by the knight.
On the steps up, he runs into Sam, who mentions that Stannis got word from another of the northern lords, obviously without good news. Jon cuts Sam off before he can indulge in details that he shouldn’t know anyway and muses about the Karstarks on the way up, being the only ones having declared for Stannis so far, and the silence or refusals from the other lords. Instead of a greeting, Stannis starts complaining about Lyanna Mormont, a ten year old girl which wrote the letter to him declaring that Robb Stark is the only king that house Mormont means to bow for. Jon tries to explain the northern mentality, but is cut off.
Stannis wants instead to know if he has signed the paper yet. Jon tries to defuse the situation and offers Stannis that he might garrison the remaining castles with all the men he can spare, even wounded and crippled ones, as long as he accepts officers of the Night’s Watch as commanders. Stannis accepts this compromise under the premise that if not all 19 castles are manned within the year, he will take the castles no matter what. He then quickly turns to the business of Val, the sister of Mance Rayders dead wife Dalla. Stannis intends to marry her to some lord to gain his loyalty and proposes Manderly. Ineffectively, Jon tries to explain that the wildlings don’t regard Val as a princess, not accepting heritage and blood as legitimating for leaders, but Stannis doesn’t comprehend it and angrily dismisses Jon. Before he leaves, Jon declares his intent to send Gilly and her babe south. Stannis, first suspicious, is easily convinced once Jon mentions the dubious heritage of Gilly and the babe, being born of incest.
On his way back, Jon is accompanied by Melisandre, who warns him about his foes. Jon dismisses this at first, but Melisandre insists that he has more than he believes and that the most dangerous foes are hidden and seem to be allies. She also declares that she sees him in her visions all the time, not knowing yet what it inclines. With some cryptic remarks, she leaves Jon, and the chapter ends.
The first interesting thing is the warg-condition of Jon. It is not entirely clear if the moon is calling his name or simply means snow, and if it was the raven all along or if it just interferes with some kind of vision. Something that Jon also notes, however, is that Ghost is able to sense his siblings and knows that Greywind is dead. The Red Wedding has left some deep gashes on Ghost’s consciousness as well. Ghost is also able to feel his siblings over great distances and can locate them fairly exact. He knows that Summer is beyond the Wall and that it’s very cold where Summer is, colder than in the surroundings of the Wall itself. This is a strong inclination that they are in the area of the Others, since it’s much colder where they are (and the next chapter shows that’s true).
The next thing is about Karstark. They are the only ones to have openly declared for Stannis, and Jon sees the reason in that because they defied the Iron Throne and Robb Stark both. But as we know, that is not the whole truth. Arnolf Karstark, who is uncle to the late Rickard Karstark, is only castellan. Technically, it’s not his business to declare the house to anyone, and that Stannis accepted shows hid desperate situation. He doesn’t give that any more thought, which is a grievous error. Of course, Jon is not an expert in politics at all and Stannis glad about every help he can get. It would have been worthwhile, however, to think twice about this.
Already in the first Jon-chapter Jon is hard-pressed with demands about marrying off Val. Stannis and his whole knights and nobles simply don’t get that being sister to the wife of the king doesn’t mean anything for the wildlings. Jon will continuously try to explain that to them throughout the novel, without any success. Stannis is blind to the realities once more. He wants Karstark to declare for him, therefore all has to be right. He wants to marry a wildling princess to some lord, therefore Val has to be a princess. This stubbornness will lead to many problems that could have been avoided, and Stannis will later make an utter fool of himself around the wildlings when he accepts the dubious offspring from Raymun Redbeard.
Jon shows great cunning and real stones when he sells Gilly leaving the Wall to Stannis, however. Mentioning her heritage from Craster was a clever move with Stannis, who is instantly disgusted by the whole matter and would her leave better now than later. That way, no one will look twice at the child she is taking. Jon mentions as another reason that Gilly’s babe is strong and always pinches and hits Mance’s baby, but if I recall correctly from “A Storm of Swords”, Gilly mentioned there that it is Mance’s baby that’s so strong and aggressive. Jon takes this up and turns it, so that the operation doesn’t fail over some detail. This talent will prove useful to him later when organizing far more delicate operations and predicting their future inclinations.
The whole conversation with Melisandre in the end has to be seen under a whole different view knowing what fate will befall Jon in the end. The enemies he has in the Watch are very real, and dangerous are not the ones that defy him openly in the face – Janos Slynt and Aliser Thorne, who both play no role at all in the book since Jon disables them quickly – but the ones who smile and take his orders, but secretly plot his downfall. She also explains to dream of ice, daggers in the dark, blood, frozen red and hard, and cold steel. This all leads to the assassination of Jon in the end, clearly enough. Her closing remark, however, remains mysterious: “It was very cold.” Jon then replies “It’s always cold on the Wall”, which is answered by Melisandre with: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” Knowing that in the end, “there is only cold”, this vision of Melisandre gets a whole new meaning.