August 04, 2011


Lord Commander Jon Snow and Ghost
Jon and Dolorous Edd are standing atop the Wall, trying to see some sign of life and failing. Jon commands Edd to make ready ten seasoned rangers and to arm them with dragonglass. When Edd asks who'll lead the venture, Jon answers that he'll do so himself. After telling Edd that he won't be on the ranging, the steward shows clear relief. Jon makes clear that Ghost will be with him and expresses confidence that the wolf will keep him safe.

When word of the venture spreads, Bowen Marsh comes upon Jon, complaining that the new recruits could take their vows south of the Wall in the sept, but Jon replies that they are not only believers in the old gods, but that it is old tradition to do it in the weirwood grove and that such traditions bind the Watch together and make them brothers. He then gives command over the Wall to Marsh until he returns.

When they are safely underway, Ghost proves to be restless. Jon's mind drifts to the six new recruits they want to swear in. One of them is Satin, who will go to the stewards, and two of them are wildlings in their forties, the first to decide taking the black. Jon talks to Iron Emmett, who is accompanying them, about Hardin's Tower, where some spear wives made their home, and a failed try of some black brothers raping them who are now confined to the ice cells. Emmett says that such things were bound to happen and will happen again, and Jon tells him that he means to move all spearwives under his command to a new castle, sending Dolorous Edd as second in command with him. Emmett is not especially eager about the job, but he takes it. It becomes clear from their conversation that the wildlings in Castle Black provide trouble by their sheer existence, and Jon expresses his hope to garrison more castles with them as early as possible, but most builders are caught up in restoring the Nightfort still.

When they reach the wildling grove, one of the rangers reports to Jon that nine wildlings are there, one being a giant, all sleeping beside a fire. Jon seperates his men in three groups, encircles the grove and wakes the wildlings. They are clearly in no position to fight, but when Jon calls on them to surrender, the giant wakes up and slams his maul in the ground. The new wildling recruit Leathers speaks up in the Old Tongue, telling the wildlings that they want no fight and are there just for prayer. Jon then talks to the wildlings, offering them safety at the Wall, but they are conspicious and fear to be burned by Melisandre. Jon resents her at this moment, but he soothes their worries and finally manages to win them over. The recruits then take their oath, while Jon prays silently that they are kept safe and life long.

Jon takes the wildlings, the giant and the corpses with him, forbading them to be burned since he has a plan with them. When they finally arrive in Castle Black after a long marsh back, Jon finds a letter from Stannis in his chambers, wherein Stannis tells him that he won over the support of the Mormonts, who ambushed the Ironmen trying to get to their ships, and that his swelling force numbers more than 5.000 now. He means to march on Winterfell, where Ramsay Bolton shall be wed to Arya Stark, and to join Mors Umber and Arnolf Karstark on the way. Jon muses about the strategic position of Winterfell, which is strong even in its desolate state, He fears that Ramsay doesn't have Arya, and that it's a trap, and he doesn't trust Mance or Melisandre one bit. With Jon noursing doubts, the chapter ends.

The strategic outlook that Jon takes is certainly sound: he integrates the wildlings as best as possible in the Watch, and makes use of their strengthes while neutralizing their weaknesses. However, he is too fast and too uncaring for the feelings of both sides most of the time, not recognizing that most black brothers didn't accept the wildlings as living allies in the battle against the cold as he does. This disregard will be his downfall. Until then, however, the Watch gains multiple assets, like brothers speaking the Old Tongue or a giant.

Jon also has some good ideas about strengthening the economic position of the Watch by buying glass and constructing glass gardens, but lacks the gold. This theoretical thinking will provide useful when the Braavosi banker appears since Jon then is determined to take the opportunity beside the financial risks, which certainly is the right decision to make. However, he has still to get rid of some boy dreams. His passion for ranging, still hunting after the missed opportunity of becoming a ranger back in "A Game of Thrones", will seriously hinder his leading abilities to the point of a fault, when Jon will decide to lead the ranging to Hardhome, which is just utterly stupid.

There are many side notes to be found in this chapter. First, it is an interesting question how the wildlings feel taking the vow to safe the realms of men. Do they already feel themselves being part of them, after being shut out for millenia? Secondly, Jon certainly is making the rationale decision when he sends his best and most reliable men to the most difficult tasks, but he berefts himself of friends he will miss direly when Marsh tries to kill him. Third, the fate of the Ironmen remains a bit ominous since some of them could have escaped. Fourth, Stannis' numbers are really reassuring. He should number at least a force equal to the Bolton's, who can't really rely on the Manderlys. The intended treason of Arnolf Karstark will be the greatest uncertainty. Fifth, Ghost is established again as vital to Jon's security. It is only when he is confined to quarters that the assassination attempt is made.

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