A Game of Thrones-Chapter 60
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Jon is presented with the Valyrian steel sword Longclaw by Lord Commander Mormont. Jon attempts to refuse, but the commander insists. Later, Jon gets a message that Maester Aemon wants to see him. The maester knows that Jon is divided between his duty and his family loyalties and explains that he sympathizes. When Jon rejects his empathy, the old man reveals that he is Aemon Targaryen, son of King Maekar I.
Jon lies that he is well when asked by Lord Commander Mormont. His right hand is swathed in bandages halfway to the elbow and pains him constantly. When he threw the burning curtains onto the wight of Othor, Jon burned his hand more seriously than he realized, but Maester Aemon has assured him that there will be no permanent damage aside from the scars. Jon is glad, however, that only Ghost can see him writhe and weep from the pain at night. Yet, when he does manage to sleep, Jon has nightmares of battling a wight with his father’s face that are far worse.
Jon notices that the Lord Commander looks old and grumpy without his beard, which has been shaved after it was badly singed in the fire. Mormont explains to Jon that the rangers’ search has found no sign of his uncle or more wights; two of those were bad enough. Still both Mormont and Maester Aemon are sure there will be more because the cold winds are rising.
Jon states there was a bird last night, saying he hoped for news of his father. Mormont assures Jon that he would have told him if there was. This message brought word that Ser Barristan Selmy has been cast out of the Kingsguard and is now wanted for treason, having killed two gold cloaks sent to arrest him. Mormont’s distaste is plain for men who would send gold cloaks to arrest a knight as renowned of Ser Barristan the Bold. The Lord Commander goes on to lament that they have white shadows in the woods, undead stalking the halls, and a boy on the Iron Throne.
Mormont notes that Grand Maester Pycelle did not include any news about Jon’s sisters; they only tell the Night's Watch what they want them to know. Jon thinks that he is only told what Mormont want him to know; he has heard nothing of his brother Robb Stark in the south.
Mormont asks when Maester Aemon believes Jon will be able to resume using his hand. Jon says soon and the Lord Commander brings out a sword, declaring that Jon is ready for it. Jon is puzzled but is told to take the sword. He recognizes it as a bastard sword of Valyrian steel. Mormont explains that the sword is named Longclaw and has belonged to House Mormont for five centuries. After it was burned in the fire in his tower, Mormont has had the pommel remade into the likeness of a white wolf's head with red garnets for eyes.
When he was young, Jon dreamed of doing great deeds and being granted Ice in reward for saving his father’s life, but he knew it was a folly. Now the memory that he might wish to steal his brother’s birthright shames him. Jon does not feel that he deserves Longclaw either and attempts to decline, but Mormont insists he has earned it with his quick thinking to use fire to destroy the wight. Jon accepts, but reminds himself that Mormont is not his father and he still dreams of Ice.
Mormont tells Jon that he will now have to practice his two-handed strokes as well, suggesting that Ser Endrew Tarth from the Shadow Tower, who will assume the duties of master-at-arms, can help him. Ser Alliser Thorne has been sent to King's Landing with the hand of Jafer Flowers to attempt to get the boy king’s attention. Mormont explains that a message from an anointed high-born knight should get more attention than from an old crow. It also puts a thousand leagues between Jon and Ser Alliser.
Mormont insists, however, that none of this means that he approves of Jon’s actions: it takes a man to wield Longclaw and he expects Jon to act the part. Jon agrees, thinking again that it is not the blade he would have chosen, but a fine one. He is also glad to be free from Ser Alliser. Then Mormont sends Jon to fetch his supper. As he leaves, Jon sees the guards smiling; one man comments on the sword’s quality and another tells Jon he earned it. Jon is angry but cannot say why.
Outside, Jon’s friends are waiting for him, wanting to see the sword. Pyp jokes that Jon is probably the only man in the entire history of the Night’s Watch to be rewarded for burning down the Lord Commander's Tower. Even Jon has to smile; no one blames him for setting the fire that destroyed the wight, even if it did gut the top two floors of the tower. The other wight was hacked to pieces, but not before killing Ser Jaremy Rykker and four other men. The thought of the wights sours Jon’s mood and he quickly leaves his friends to get the Lord Commander’s supper. Jon is deeply affected by facing the wight, but does not blame his friends for not understanding. They cannot understand; they did not see the pale glow of the blue eyes or feel the cold black hands. They also do not know of the fighting in the riverlands.
Ghost is lying beside the door to his room. Jon thinks back to when he found the direwolf hidden in the snow. He shows Ghost the pommel of the swords, stating it is him. Then Sam arrives. He does not want to see the blade, stating he has seen his father’s Valyrian steel blade and it was so sharp he feared he might hurt one of his sisters. Sam then announces that Maester Aemon wants to see Jon. Jon is puzzled since it is not time for his bandages to be changed, but then accuses Sam of telling the maester that he knows about the riverlands. Sam insists that he thinks the maester knew anyway. Jon tells Sam that he will find the maester himself.
Clydas is helping Maester Aemon in the rookery when Jon arrives. The maester dismisses Clydas and asks Jon to assist him with feeding the ravens. As they work, Aemon explains that although other birds can be trained to fly messages the Night's Watch has always preferred ravens. The old man goes on to explain that the sworn brothers do not wed because love is the bane of honor and duty, which the Night’s Watch cannot afford; they must be totally committed to defending the realm from the darkness to the north.
When Jon fails to understand, the maester explains that in every man’s life there comes a day when he must choose between his duty and his family, and only one man in ten thousand is strong enough to choose duty. Jon questions if the maester believes this is his day. Maester Aemon only replies that he knows the choice is always hard. Jon insists that the old man does not know what it feels like to be in his situation.
Maester Aemon sighs and sadly tells Jon that his vows have been tested three times: once as a boy, once in his prime, and once as an old man. The old maester elaborates that the last test was just as hard as the others, regardless that he was blind, frail, and helpless. He recalls how it grieved him to sit forgotten as his ravens brought news from the south of the ruin of his House and the death of his brother’s grandson, and his son, and even the little children.
Jon asks who Maester Aemon is, almost in dread. The old man insists that he is only a maester of the Citadel bound to Castle Black and the Night’s Watch, but that his father was Maekar, the First of His Name, and that his brother Aegon ruled after their father in his stead. Jon is astounded. Aemon declares that he does know how Jon feels, and so he will not tell Jon to stay or go. Jon must make his own choice, and live with it for the rest of his days as Aemon has.