The sun had broken through near midday, after seven days of dark skies and snow flurries. Some of the drifts were higher than a man, but the stewards had been shoveling all day and the paths were as clean as they were like to get. Reflections glimmered off the Wall, every crack and crevice glittering pale blue.
Seven hundred feet up, Jon Snow stood looking down upon the haunted forest. A north wind swirled through the trees below, sending thin white plumes of snow crystals flying from the highest branches, like icy banners. Elsewise nothing moved. Not a sign of life. That was not entirely reassuring. It was not the living that he feared. Even so…
The sun is out. The snow has stopped. It may be a moon’s turn before we have another chance as good. It may be a season. “Have Emmett assemble his recruits,” he told Dolorous Edd. “We’ll want an escort. Ten rangers, armed with dragonglass. I want them ready to leave within the hour.”
m’lord. And to command?”
“That would be me.”
Edd’s mouth turned down even more than usual. “Some might think it better if the lord commander stayed safe and warm south of the Wall. Not that I’d say such myself, but some might.”
Jon smiled. “Some had best not say so in my presence.”
A sudden gust of wind set Edd’s cloak to flapping noisily. “Best go down, m’lord. This wind’s like to push us off the Wall, and I never did learn the knack of flying.”
They rode the winch lift back to the ground. The wind was gusting, cold as the breath of the ice dragon in the tales Old Nan had told when Jon was a boy. The heavy cage was swaying. From time to time it scraped against the Wall, starting small crystalline showers of ice that sparkled in the sunlight as they fell, like shards of broken glass.
Glass, Jon mused, might be of use here. Castle Black needs its own glass gardens, like the ones at Winterfell. We could grow vegetables even in the deep of winter. The best glass came from Myr, but a good clear pane was worth its weight in spice, and green and yellow glass would not work as well. What we need is gold. With enough coin, we could buy ‘prentice glass-blowers and glaziers in Myr, bring them north, offer them their freedom for teaching their art to some of our recruits. That would be the way to go about it. If we had the gold. Which we do not.
At the base of the Wall he found Ghost rolling in a snowbank. The big white direwolf seemed to love fresh snow. When he saw Jon he bounded back onto his feet and shook himself off. Dolorous Edd said, “He’s going with you?”
“A clever wolf, him. And me?”
“A clever lord, you. Ghost’s the better choice. I don’t have the teeth for biting wildlings anymore.”
“If the gods are good, we won’t encounter any wildlings. I’ll want the grey gelding.”
Word spread fast at Castle Black. Edd was still saddling the grey when Bowen Marsh stomped across the yard to confront Jon at the stables. “My lord, I wish you would reconsider. The new men can take their vows in the sept as easily.”
“The sept is home to the new gods. The old gods live in the wood, and those who honor them say their words amongst the weirwoods. You know that as well as I.”
“Satin comes from Oldtown, and Arron and Emrick from the wester-lands. The old gods are not their gods.”
“I do not tell men which god to worship. They were free to choose the Seven or the red woman’s Lord of Light.