Please note: All characters, locations and events are copyright George RR Martin and the events that take place during this game can and will deviate from series canon.
The Story So Far: It is Year 296 since Aegon’s Landing. After a caustic argument in the wake of House Luxon‘s return of stolen blades and his training of his little sister in swordplay, Jon Snow left Winterfell for the Wall on his own. It was Goddard Luxon and his captain, Samsun, who brought him back, but not before Ser Allister Thorne insulted the visitors and fought Samsun in the yard. They have returned to Winterfell, and while Samsun recovers from his wounds, Jon and his direwolf pup Ghost prowl the godswood…
“Only those worthy of the name of Stark carry these. And you are neither worthy, nor a Stark.”
Ghost could sense his mood. The direwolf pup was only as tall as his shin but he still brushed up against Jon Snow’s boot as he made his way around the godswood. It was a quiet evening, the air cool as it always was in Winterfell, and Jon half-expected to see his little brother hanging from one of the pale white branches above their heads. It would have been a welcome distraction from his thoughts.
The words of his mother rang in his head. Step-mother. He reminded himself of that. Catelyn may have been the only mother he’d ever known, but she’d made it clear on several occasions that she did not see him as her son. No; Robb, Bran and Rickon were her sons, not Jon Snow. He was another woman’s issue. Yet Jon tried to please her, to live up to the name of his father and all the Starks before him. Was it impossible, as she seemed to think it was?
He hadn’t been looking at the swords for himself, in truth. Yes, some of the blades that came back to Winterfell with the Luxons of Moat Cailin were very fine, but none suited for his purposes. He wanted to spar with Arya on even terms, her with Needle and himself with a similar blade, not just with harmless sticks. She needed to know how dangerous it could be. She wouldn’t shrink from it, of course, and he loved her for that. But Catelyn had other ideas.
“Arya will study with her sister to be a proper lady of a noble House. I will not have you putting ideas in her head that she’s suited for anything else. It’s hard enough on Septa Mordane as it is without your interference.”
Jon kicked a small stone. Ghost loped after it. Sighing, the dark-haired young man looked up at the twilight sky. The stars were beginning to emerge through the branches of the weirwood, but they did not seem as clear here as they had at the Wall. He’d talked of joining the Night’s Watch, to remove himself from Cat and the drama of his House rather than cause more strife, but that too had been a disaster. He hadn’t been able to get past the master of arms’ prejudice and scorn, and when Goddard Luxon and Samsun Cray arrived it’d been even worse.
I could have chosen to stay. I could have tried harder. But I picked the easy route. I ran away.
Because of his choice, Samsun had a broken arm and more than a few bruises and scrapes. It’d taken Lord Goddard and the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch to convince Thorne and Samsun to use practice blades. Had they not, Samsun might now be dead, only because Jon had leaped at the chance to escape from the Wall.
He was on his third or fourth circuit of the godswood when he heard the soft sound of stone on metal. He turned around the trunk of a tree to see his father sitting beneath the heart tree, a sword in his lap. Jon assumed it was Ice. He moves quietly to get closer, Ghost his inspiration as the pup stayed beside him.
“I know why you’re out here.”
Jon rolled his eyes. Of course his father knew.
“Father… am I a coward?”
The stone stopped. Eddard Stark raised his eyes to look at his son in disbelief.
“I ran away from here. And then I ran from the Wall. I thought I’d have a place there but all I got was more scorn. I have enough of that here.”
Ned sighed. “Jon. Come and sit down.”
“You can’t tolerate being thought of as less than what you are. I know men who’d lash out in anger when their self-image is challenged. And you’ve yet to prove yourself in the eyes of those that need it. The Wall may have been a place to do it, but your uncle sent a raven telling me not to let you stay. He doesn’t want you near that’s happening there. He worries about you.”
“I can take care of myself!”
Ned lay a hand on Jon’s shoulder. “I know you can. That’s why you’re going to Moat Cailin. They are drawing attention from people in the South, and if trouble comes from there, that castle is where it will begin. Benjen’s on one border of our charge, and now you’ll be on the other. I’ll feel better having a Stark both on the Wall and on our gate to the South.”
“I know, and I think I can do better there than on the Wall, but… I’m afraid. I’m afraid I’ll run away again.”
“I’m not. I know you won’t.”
The moon emerged from behind the clouds. Jon’s eye was drawn to the sword in Ned’s lap. It was shorter than it had seemed at first, it’s grip suited for only one hand, the leather embroidered with wolves chasing each other. The pommel was large, like a plumb weight slightly smaller than Jon’s fist, to balance the blade and provide a place for the off-hand in the instances of a two-handed swing. The moonlight played on the smokey waves that seemed to deepen the steel.
“That isn’t Ice.” But it could be Ice’s little brother.
Ned followed his gaze and smiled. “No, it’s not. This is Snowfang. My father gave it to Brandon the same day he gave me Ice. That was before they left for King’s Landing.” Ned paused, the smile fading. “It was the last day I saw either of them alive.”
Jon swallowed. He didn’t like seeing his father dwell on the past. Yet his next question would have him doing exactly that.
“Was that before you met my mother?”
Ned said nothing. Instead, he got to his feet. He seemed to tower over Jon in the darkness, a giant come down from beyond the Wall. For a moment, he loomed there in silence. Then, he picked up the scabbard for Snowfang, sheathed the blade, and handed it to Jon.
“I give you this sword, Jon Snow, so that you may carry the honor and courage of the House of Stark with you everywhere you go.”
Jon blinked, taking the sword with numb, disbelieving fingers. “Mother will…”
“She’ll disapprove. I know. You let me deal with that. You have other tasks ahead of you.” Eddard knelt in front of his bastard son, looking him in the eye. “Listen to Lord Goddard and follow his example. Be ever at his side as much as possible. Observe. Learn. Have their maester send ravens to me when you can. You are my eyes in Moat Cailin and aimed at the South. I will not be blind to what comes from there no matter how dire things become at the Wall. You remember our words.”
“Winter Is Coming.”
“And it comes from more directions that just the land beyond the Wall. Things are changing, Jon. I can feel it in my bones. If we do not change with them, this House will fall.”
Jon’s grip tightened on Snowfang.
“I won’t let that happen, Father. I give you my word.”
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Next: The Green Boy