It’s still Friday. Really.
Jon 4 (26)
Jon is practicing swordwork with his new comrades, when a new recruit enters the practice yard. It is an extraordinarily chubby boy, who is obviously intimidated by his surroundings. Ser Allister Thorne orders him to get equipped at the armory, where the armorer Donal Naye had to completely customize armor to fit his girth. When the boy was finally equipped, Ser Allister set him to fight against Halder, a former stonemason apprentice. The newcomer is completely destroyed by Halder, and yields; but Thorne tells the boy to get back up, and incites Halder to strike him until he does. At this point Jon intervenes, and prevents Halder from attacking the boy further. Incensed, Ser Allister calls two more people, Rast and Albett, to join Halder; unbidden, Pyp and Grenn reinforce Jon, and it becomes a 3 vs. 3 battle. Jon fights Halder, and in exchange for a heavy blow to his shoulder, he breaks Halder’s balance and defeats him. Grenn is holding his own against Albett, but Pyp is hard-pressed against Rast. Jon intervenes with a strike to Rast’s helm, and Pyp is able to take advantage to defeat the bigger man. Jon turns to help Grenn, but Albett surrenders rather than face two opponents. Furious, Ser Allister stalks off.
The new boy introduces himself to Jon as Samwell Tarly. Jon, Pyp, and Grenn introduce themselves, and Grenn asks why Sam didn’t get up and fight. Sam tells them that he was too afraid, and that he was a coward; the other boys are shocked by this confession, and the four quickly separate.
Recruits at Castle Black are set various tasks, and Jon’s task today is to spread gravel on top of the Wall. It is tedious work, but he doesn’t mind it; the silence allows him to think. He finds himself wondering what Tyrion Lannister might have thought of Samwell Tarly, and his strange bravery in proclaiming his own cowardice. Jon’s shoulder is bothering him, so it takes him a long time to complete his task. Eventually, he watches the sunset from atop the wall, and then goes down to dinner. He enters late, and instead of sitting with his friends, he invites Samwell to chat with him outside.
They chat a little bit, but Jon quickly confronts him with the main question: why did Sam decide to take the black, when he seems to be afraid of everything? Sam immediately breaks down in tears, but Ghost starts licking his face to comfort him, and both he and Jon eventually start laughing together. Jon starts telling Sam about Winterfell, and about a dream he keeps having about the castle: he is trying to find someone, but there is no one around. He eventually himself in front of the crypts, where he knows the Kings of Winter are wait, but they are not what he is afraid of. He descends into the darkness, but always wakes before he reaches the bottom.
In return, Sam tells Jon about his home, Horn Hill. Sam had been his father’s heir, but when he grew up fat and weak, his father grew increasingly impatient. After failing to toughen Sam up with various torturous methods, he gave up on the boy, and begin cultivating his younger brother as the heir. Finally, on Sam’s fifteenth name day, his father gave him a choice: take the black, removing himself from the succession, or be ‘accidentally’ killed during the next day’s hunt.
Jon listens in silence, and after hearing the tale invites Sam to return to the common hall. However, Sam decides to go to bed, knowing he would be singled out by Ser Allister again the next day. Jon returns to the hall by himself, and finds the other recruits mocking Samwell. He stops them, and through a combination of persuasion, shaming, and threats, he gets the others to agree to his plan. Only Rast defies him, but later that night, Jon, Pyp, and Grenn hold Rast down while Ghost threatens to rip out his throat, effectively ending his resistance. From then on, no matter what Ser Allister says, no one will seriously attack Sam, and the boy thanks Jon for helping him and being his friend. Jon tells him that they are not friends, they are brothers.
[…beyond the End of All Things, take the form that I have prepared! Fang of Shadow!]
…I am here, Lord.
Ah, Fang of Shadow. I’m not interrupting anything, am I?
Fang of Shadow: Nothing of consequence. Why have you called me today? Have you a part for me to play?
Nah, it’s just more of my Game of Thrones review.
Fang of Shadow: Disappointing. But allow me to comment.
Yeah, that’s why you’re here. So, another chapter with Jon up on the Wall. I’m not sure whether to admire the kid, or just laugh at him.
Fang of Shadow: Hm. He appears to be some sort of hero at the moment.
I know, right? Protecting the weak, becoming a leader, maturing as a person…all very nice, but I can’t help but notice that the world around him is not very conducive toward heroics. At least not of the sort that Jon practices. So, want to bet on how many chapters it takes for the small stable life he’s gained to fall down around his ears?
Fang of Shadow: I’m not sure what you mean by that, but I can hear your cynicism.
Hey, just working to my strengths. Moving on from Jon the Misplaced Hero, we have the new kid, Samwell. Honestly, I like this new character. I don’t think he has much life expectancy, even with Jon looking out for him, but he’s interesting, even setting aside his place in the plot.
Fang of Shadow: Oh? What do you mean by ‘place’?
Well, his function in this chapter is to inspire Jon to seize control of the rest of the boys. In a way, Ser Allister was kinda right, although the admission makes me throw up a little; Sam is kinda being a princess character for Jon to rescue. Well, whatever. It’s nice to have a character who’s honest about his fear; he’s more mature than Jon, in that respect.
Fang of Shadow: I see. Incidentally, you didn’t mention it in your summary, but Jon is very concerned about the status of his uncle, Benjen.
Ah, yes, somehow I skipped it, but Benny is still missing. Gee, I wonder what could have happened to him? (*cough*CthuluIceElves*cough*)
Fang of Shadow: …
Well, I’m sure he’ll be back safe and sound any chapter now, and Jon will be able to stop obsessing over it. And hey, maybe his creepy dreams will stop too! And all his family will come home safely to Winterfell! It could happen, right?
Fang of Shadow: …Lord. I’ve been wondering this for a while, but are you in a bad mood?
…kinda. Sorry. For various reasons, I haven’t been accomplishing everything I want to, and it makes me even more sarcastic than usual.
Fang of Shadow: Maybe you should take a break?
No, I need to get this done. Let’s see, what else does this chapter have in it…
Fang of Shadow: Hm. The other young recruits of the Night Watch get character traits.
I suppose. Pyp and Grenn are basically becoming Jon’s henchmen, but I’m still inclined to treat them as extras. We’ll see what accomplishments they get in the future, I guess.
Fang of Shadow: Nothing big, then.
Nah, in a way, it was kind of a low key chapter. Important, maybe, but somehow not very interesting. Just preparation for later events, really.
Fang of Shadow: Yes, I begin to anticipate certain endings…
Now, now, no cheating. Don’t look too far ahead. Mr. Martin could still surprise us, after all.
Fang of Shadow: Oh? Have you been surprised by anything so far, Lord?
…Let’s move on. So, pursuing my strategy of pushing my schedule ahead, I’m going to aim to post another chapter of this by Monday.
Fang of Shadow: If you aren’t feeling well, you really shouldn’t push yourself, Lord. You can reach the end in your own time…
No, I’m getting impatient. I’m going to push ahead.
Fang of Shadow: …as you wish, Lord.