A Game of Thrones-Chapter 21
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Tyrion dines with high officers of the Night's Watch and promises Lord Commander Mormont that he will speak to the king of their need. Afterwards, while paying a final visit to the Wall, Tyrion meets Jon Snow, who asks Tyrion to do what he can to help his brother Bran.
Tyrion is dining with the high officers of the Night's Watch on his last night at Castle Black. Lord Commander Mormont proclaims Tyrion a cunning man and asks him if he must leave so soon, saying that the Wall needs men like him. Tyrion brushes off the suggestion with an offer to scour the Seven Kingdoms for dwarfs. An offended Ser Alliser Thorne claims that Tyrion mocks the Watch, but Tyrion counters that he is only mocking Ser Alliser. Thorne demands that Tyrion make his japes with steel in hand. Tyrion replies that he already has steel in his hand: a fork, which he brandishes against Thorne in a mock attack. A roar of laughter rises from the other officers and Ser Alliser leaves in disgust.
After claiming Ser Alliser’s meal as his spoils of victory, Tyrion comments that a man like Ser Alliser should be mucking out the stable, not drilling the recruits. Mormont takes the opportunity to complain about the quality of his men; Ser Alliser is one of the few living knights to have taken the black. Ser Jaremy Rykker goes on to explain that both he and Thorne fought for King Aerys II Targaryen during the Sack of King's Landing and were forced to take the black or be executed by Tyrion’s father, Lord Tywin Lannister. Tyrion’s only comment is that his father is indeed very fond of heads on spikes.
Tyrion asks for more wine and Bowen Marsh comments that he has a great thirst for a small man. Maester Aemon states that Tyrion is a giant among them at the edge of the world. Tyrion, speechless at being called a giant, calls the maester kind, which leaves the maester equally amused.
When they retire to the fire, Mormont informs Tyrion that he will receive an escort as far as Winterfell. Tyrion soon realizes that the Lord Commander is working his way up to asking a favor and so cuts right to it by asking if there is any way he can repay the Watch’s kindness. Mormont beseeches Tyrion to speak to King Robert about the condition of the Night’s Watch and its need for men. Mormont goes on to elaborate on the high rate of disappearance among their ranging parties, including Ser Waymar Royce and Benjen Stark. The Watch’s strength is now under a thousand men, leaving only three men to guard each mile of the Wall. Then Mormont laments that he is old and there is no one qualified to take over command because the Watch has become an army of sullen boys and old men. He has maybe 20 men that can read, and fewer who can think or lead. Tyrion promises that he will tell the King, his father, and his brother but he knows that it will do no good.
Mormont then asks Tyrion how many winters he has seen. When Tyrion replies with nine, Mormont adds that they have all been short. The long summer is ending and portents say a long winter is coming. When Tyrion suggest the fabled endless summer may have come, Mormont insists the days are already growing shorter. Mormont then confides to Tyrion that the wildlings are massing and moving south, running scared from something worse than just the cold. Tyrion, bored by Mormont’s dark words, reiterates his promises and leaves.
Outside it is bitter cold. As he walks the castle ground, Tyrion is taken by a whim to climb the Wall one last time. His legs are cramping too much to climb the stairs, so Tyrion takes the winch cage up. At the top he meets Jon Snow with Ghost. As they walk, Tyrion asks how the recruits are doing under Jon’s instruction. Jon tells him that they are getting better.
Tyrion offers to carry any messages that Jon might have south to Winterfell and is rewarded with a torrent of requests. Most of all Jon wants Tyrion to help his crippled brother Bran. At first, Tyrion denies that has anything to offer Bran, but Jon insists that words will be enough. When Tyrion agrees, Jon thanks him from the heart and calls him “friend.” Tyrion, deeply moved by the gesture, quips that while many of his kin are bastards, Jon is the first that he could call a friend, and they shake hands.
They both look out over the Haunted Forest north of the Wall. As they watch, Jon says that he has been watching for his Uncle Benjen. Tyrion assures Jon that Benjen will return one day. When Jon declares that if his uncle does not come back he and Ghost will go north to find him, Tyrion wonders who will go out searching for Jon and shivers at the thought.