(For those curious as to what Jon would look like in Yi-Tish armor, here is a close representation of it: https://www.deviantart.com/p154/art/Jon-Snow-Japan-Version-701867234)
Jon leaned against the wooden wall of his cell, his legs tucked against his chest and forehead resting on his knees, as the idleness of his current circumstances made him go mad. He thought about the times he spent in the training yard as he sparred with Robb and Ser Rodrik providing instruction, the time he spent training Bran on the bow before his fall from that tower, and the excursions he took in the wolfswood, the last one where he found Ghost and the direwolf litter.
Jon hated being idle, even more because Lady Catelyn imposed so many restrictions on what he could do and where he could be in Winterfell. Even Theon was allowed more freedom of movement in the castle and the grounds despite being a hostage, and such forced idleness was part of what motivated Jon to travel to Castle Black and become a brother of the Night’s Watch. At least, he would have been with his uncle Benjen and the Watch would give him plenty to do at the Wall.
But such plans were not meant to be. Before he could take his vows, Jon was called to the solar of Maester Aemon, who he learned was Aemon Targaryen, son of King Maekar the first of his name. What he and Benjen had to say made him hesitate to carry on his vows before the weirwood and he found a ship at Eastwatch that took him eastwards. Now, Jon was stuck in a wooden cage within a stone castle in a foreign land after gods knew how many moons he spent traveling from port to port before being shipwrecked and taken to prison.
Despite his frustration in trading one place where he was idle for another where he felt the same, Jon had to appreciate how overt his current situation was. At the very least, he could see the bars keeping him inside and saw clear markers of being confined. Here, he had no illusions of what and where he was, unlike at Winterfell where the boundaries were unclear and he felt conflicts everyday on what he should have called home. But it’s not really my home, not from the start .
Jon felt himself pulled out from his stupor when a tune broke through the silence of the cell. He pulled his head from his knees and turned to his left, where he saw Sam blowing away at his recorder as he played a somber tune, one he never heard before. He never saw Sam as the musical type, but after Sam bartered for that recorder at Volantis, playing that thing was the one thing he did to pass the time. Out of the all the things that they took from him, they couldn’t have taken away his blasted pipe ?
“Sam, could you please stop playing?” Jon interrupted him.
Sam took his lips from the mouthpiece. “Is there a problem?”
“Yes,” Jon nodded with indignation. “How could you think of playing that thing when we’re in a cage?”
“Not like we have anything to do at the moment, Jon,” Sam shrugged.
“Can you please not play that thing?” Jon asked again.
“Let him be.” Jon turned to his right and saw Benjen also leaning back against the wooden wall, but was much more relaxed than his nephew from how he outstretched his legs and rested his hands behind his head. “We could use some tunes to stop your brooding, Jon.”
“Come on, Uncle Benjen,” Jon protested. He is still my uncle, even after what he and Uncle Aemon told me .
“I’ve been through a lot of silence beyond the Wall, Jon, and I’m not as inclined to brooding as Ned. Silence has its uses, but too much of it leads to inaction and boredom, which can be just as deadly as swords and arrows,” Benjen explained.
“But out of all the tunes Sam could’ve chosen, why does he have to choose a sad one?” Music was the last thing Jon needed at the moment.
“It’s not exactly sad, Jon,” Sam countered. “The man who sold this to me taught me how to play it and it was the first one I learned. He said the tune was like a lamentation of some sort.”
“That’s another word for sadness, Sam,” Jon pointed out.
“Lamentation can point to sadness or reflection, depending on the mood you seek,” Sam explained. “The man told me this tune was created by a man who was a slave trying to understand what freedom is but doesn’t see the difference between the world of freedom and slavery.”
Jon raised an eyebrow. “Someone could do that kind of thinking through music?”
“I don’t know, Jon,” Sam simply replied. “I’m just trying to pass the time and I don’t know much about music.”
Jon sighed, resigned to Sam persisting in his playing. At the same time, how Sam described his tune made him think on what people said about his father. They say that he could brighten the mood at Flea Bottom with his songs and many maidens swooned over his voice. But were some of his songs also lamentations ?
Jon relaxed as Sam continued playing his recorder. What slightly bothered him was how the other cells began to pay attention. The only clear barriers between the cells were wooden bars, but all of the prisoners could see or even talk to each other. In their case, they were not of this land and thus unable to exchange one word with them. But the prisoners and even some of the guards, their hands on the pommels of their swords, were paying close attention to Sam’s tune and seemed entranced by it.
Jon let out an exhale, resigned to having to hear Sam’s tunes as he couldn’t stop him playing without having the other prisoners and the guards who listened throw a fit. But he took comfort in how warm the cell felt. There was a brazier outside of the cell, but they were far enough to not allow any of its sparks from igniting the hay that cushioned them from the solid wooden floor. Even though it was still in the summer years, the prison that the three was in the outskirts of a port city and the cold air blowing from the sea was enough to have the three shiver despite the brazier.
Hearing a door open, Jon saw the door to their cell open, with a boy entering with a plate of food for them to eat while escorted by one of the guards. Sam immediately stopped playing as he grabbed at one of the bowls on the plate and stuffed the sticky white grain into his mouth.
“At last, something to eat,” Sam said with his mouth full.
“You don’t know even what that stuff is,” Jon pointed out.
“It doesn’t taste bad compared to the others,” Sam responded. “First bit of food today and I’ll eat anything they give.”
Benjen grabbed at the other bowl. “Eat up, Jon. You’ll need your strength and there is no telling what will happen to us.”
Jon gave up and grabbed the last bowl, stuffing the steamed white grains into his mouth his fingers. Some of them fell onto his overgrown beard, quickly frustrating him with how they just stuck onto it. Would it too much to ask if they gave forks ?
While Sam merely pushed the white grains into his mouth, Benjen was more dignified about it as he took a small bit at a time and was careful to not let any of it fall onto his beard, which had also overgrown like Jon’s and Sam’s. They didn’t receive food until their second day in the cells and water until the third day. Well, if one could call it water. The moment the steaming liquid entered his mouth, Jon struggled to not spit it out, as it both burned his tongue and had a strong taste to it. However, it was the only water that they could get and he just carried on with it.
The one time that Jon, Sam, and Benjen got any decent food was thirty days into their captivity, when the boy entered their cell with a plate of grilled pork slices and boiled chicken pieces, which they all demolished in a matter of moments along with the white grains that came with it and drunk through the spirits that the guards provided. Jon looked out the window of their cell and saw bright explosions in the night sky over the port. He could only surmise that a major celebration was occurring and that must’ve meant that even prisoners could get good food and drink.
But sixty days had passed since that celebration and they were forced to return to simple bowls of sticky white grain and cups of steamed water. Jon noticed that he got thinner as the days passed by, but not in a healthy sense since he felt more sluggish than he was back in the North. The same happened to Benjen, who looked paler than usual and Jon could swear that he could see some of his bones show through his skin.
However, Jon was most worried about Sam, who looked much thinner than he did before they all went on their journey. Even though he had enough energy to play his recorder, he could see that he was much more lethargic and talked much slower than he usually did. He also took a shit more often than he did at the Wall and because they were no latrines in the cell, Jon and Benjen had to endure the smells that came whenever Sam relieved himself in their only bucket. Oh, gods, Sam , Jon silently complained while covering his nose tightly.
Jon also thought on Ghost, who had came with them on their journey to this strange land. However, he was not allowed to be in the same cell as they were and the last he saw of Ghost three moons ago, he saw the guards chain his direwolf to a steel post. I hope he’s okay .
What Jon was most thankful for was that the three of them did not have chains locked on their limbs. The prisoners could move about freely in their wooden cells and the hays were quite comfortable to sleep on. However, it was still a prison and they’ve been stuck in that cell for three moons. Jon looked up to the ceiling and whispered, “Father, mother, if you can hear me, please get us out of this cell. I don’t know if we can keep on eating the same shit.”
“I’m pretty sure she’ll respond, Jon,” Benjen said to Jon. Right, he’s next to me. Of course he’d listen in .
“You know, it’s strange, Uncle Benjen,” Jon scratched his head. “I always saw Ned Stark as my father and the one thing I wanted from him besides being a Stark was who my mother was. And yet, I don’t feel at all comforted with the knowledge of where I really come from.”
“And you shouldn’t, Jon,” Benjen replied, which surprised him. “Your secret, well not exactly a secret to us anymore, is something that people would kill for. You may come from two great families, but Ned never revealed what you really were because Robert would have killed you then. And you saw what he became when he came to Winterfell.”
Jon nodded, remembering his disappointment when he looked upon the “Demon of the Trident,” a king who had become such a fat ass that he needed stairs to get off of his damn horse.
“Do you remember what Maester Luwin told you about what Aegon Targaryen said about the Iron Throne?” Benjen continued.
“‘A king should never sit easy,’” Jon answered.
“Exactly, and the same thing applies to where you come from. I think the greatest mistake that any king makes is when he becomes complacent, to the point where he ignores the most obvious threats to his rule. That is what cost your hero, Daeron the Young Dragon, his life when he let his guard down and the Dornish cut him to pieces.”
Jon shifted uneasily at how Benjen described the Young Dragon. Out of all of the great heroes and figures he learned about under Luwin’s tutelage, Daeron was one of the few that stood out. He accomplished what no Targaryen king had ever done before, the subjugation of Dorne, and it was only the bungling on part of his subordinates that undid everything. Would that be my fate if I rested easy ?
“And that’s why you told me to keep my identity hidden even here?” Jon looked at Benjen straight in his eyes.
Benjen nodded. “We may be in a strange land, but there is no telling what will happen when word gets out on who you are. Best we keep the important information close to our chest, at least until we come across trustworthy people, if that happens.”
Jon sighed before giving his uncle a smile. He was glad to have him by his side even if they were all in a cell, as he was the closest thing to a hero and a father right now. He was worried about Benjen leaving the Wall, since he knew he had worked hard to rise to become First Ranger and was afraid that leaving would force Ned Stark to kill his own brother out of honor like he did with the deserter. However, Benjen was released from his vows after some convincing on part of Aemon Targaryen to Jeor Mormont and after Jon saved the Lord Commander from that wight.
“I still remain surprised that you agreed to come with me, Uncle Benjen,” Jon said. “I would have expected that you insisted on staying at the Wall, especially since after you returned from that ranging.”
“And I would have, had it not been for Maester Aemon and Lord Mormont. Seeing what Othor had become made me think about Will when he claimed to have seen the White Walkers.” Jon briefly remembered the black brother that Ned Stark personally beheaded with Ice, a bleak memory before they came upon the direwolves. “And Aemon told me something about the importance of family and that you would need someone to guide you as we departed the Wall. But what really did it was when the Lord Commander told me something that I never thought of before.”
“And what would that be?” Jon was genuinely curious.
“He said that for those who take them seriously, vows could be adhered to no matter where one ends up. The Night’s Watch guards the realms of men, but it’s up to other people to challenge the Long Night when it comes. He then talked about how I served the Watch with honor and commended my service as First Ranger and so on. But given what he was made privy to regarding your heritage, he said, ‘The rightful Lord of the Seven Kingdoms needs someone to protect him and you would have fulfilled your oath to the Night’s Watch when you all come back with the help Westeros needs. This is a lesson that I have only learned after seeing how cavalier our esteemed Lannister guest was, which makes me afraid of how the realm will act when the Long Night does come.’ I couldn’t argue with the Lord Commander after that.”
Jon stared at his uncle, having not heard him speak of how the Lord Commander convinced him to go with him and not expecting the Old Bear to be so flexible.
“But that’s not all, is it, Uncle Benjen?” Jon pressed.
Benjen merely stared back at Jon, and that was the first time since their arrival in this strange land that he saw pure fear in his eyes. Jon knew he was being sincere with the incident with the wights and what Lord Mormont said to him, but he decided to drop the subject after remembering his uncle explanations on how he was able to return to Castle Black while the two rangers, Othor included, were found dead.
“I was surprised myself, Jon, when they revealed who your father was to me,” Sam finished his steamed tea while thankfully switching the topic. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think of being in the same cell as a Targaryen—”
“Quiet, Sam!” Benjen scolded the Tarly heir. “We don’t know who might be listening to us talk now.”
“I doubt they can understand us,” Sam reasoned.
“Best not to take that chance, Lord Tarly,” Benjen warned. “Who knows what people will do if they find out that royal blood runs through Jon’s veins?”
“So, it’s best if we continue the illusion that the rightful king of the Seven Kingdoms is a northern bastard?” Sam asked.
“For now,” Benjen responded. “We don’t know if any of the people in this land might be connected to King’s Landing. Until we meet people who we can trust, we must not say a word about Jon’s heritage, understood?”
“Yes, my lord,” Sam nodded.
“Drop that shit, Sam. Just call me Benjen. Any friend of Jon’s is a friend of mine,” Benjen warmly smiled.
“As you wish… Benjen,” Sam complied.
Before they said any more words, the door to their cell opened, but this time with the guards there instead of the boy that brought them food. They were shouting at them in a tongue that none of them understood, but from their hand gestures, Jon could tell that they were ordering them to stand up and follow them. Jon, Sam, and Benjen obeyed their commands and followed the guards out as the door to their cell closed.
Jon noticed that these weren’t the same guards he saw through the wooden bars of the cell before. While the guards he was familiar with had simple tan robes with swords tucked on their left side, these two wore armor, their heads and faces were shaven, headbands wrapped around their foreheads, and looked far deadlier with the swords that was inserted in their waists. He also noticed that both guards carried two swords each, one shorter than the other. Who needs two swords ?
They were led outside of the cells to an open area on the outside. Jon had to cover his eyes when they were fully bathed in natural sunlight and as he readjusted, he remembered that the prison was more of a complex, with cells concentrated in one area and other buildings in another area.
Jon’s vision was cleared just in time for him to look upon this magnificent structure, which was more than five levels high and each floor being smaller than the last. It was where the guards were leading them all. What’s going on here ?
Each of the floors had its own roof, sloped and curved like the rest of the buildings he’d seen so far and made from a soft grey wood. The balconies, pillars and archways were made from a type of red-colored wood and the whole building was topped off with a golden sculpture of what looked like an eagle at the peak of the building. Are they bird worshippers here ?
They reached the front of the building along with the two men and followed them in. Jon had underestimated the size of the structure and stood shocked by the vast interior, which included clean white screens that seemed to block out the view from the outside and were on each of the walls. He also saw they could be slid open to let fresh air flow through. Low tables and cushions spread around the room, not a chair or stool in sight. Why does this room feel more open than the rooms I’ve seen before ?
The guards led them into a small room that was screened off and motioned for them to sit on three of the cushions. As they came further into the room, they came across two men sitting on one side of a low table, with teacups in their hands. One of the men was dressed in turquoise robes and wore a large cylindrical hat with wide brims and a bead chain running from it to the man’s lap. He also had brown eyes and a well-maintained beard, which looked as if the man shaved it every few minutes. Jon ascertained that he must’ve been important from how sat and looked at the three of them with certainty.
But what caught Jon’s attention was the other man. Unlike the other, he didn’t have a hat but had a shaven head and a short beard that only covered his jawline, upper lip, and chin. He wore more elaborate robes of blue and white, with the torso adorning strange symbols. He also had a short sword at his side, which looked similar to the short swords carried by the guards. Regarding his eyes, Jon saw steel behind those brown irises, a kind that not even Ned Stark could match behind his grey ones. While he had to give credit to his lord uncle for keeping him a secret for so long despite his seemingly bad ability to lie, here was a man that intimidated Jon almost immediately.
This man was like Ned Stark, whose face betrayed years of experience that came with ruling over one’s own lands and people. However, unlike Ned Stark, Jon instantly felt that this man would not hesitate to string him up and leave his corpse to rot while hanging from a tree branch if he crossed him.
After Jon, Sam, and Benjen sat down in their cushions, the turquoise-robed man poured them tea. However, all were anxious as to why they were in front of these two men.
Then came the biggest surprise since their arrival in this land. “What are your names?” the one with the short sword asked while speaking the common tongue with a heavy brogue.
Joon Kitara had no intention of spending part of his day at a prison, for he had duties to attend to as directed by the emperor. However, remembering that his old comrade was the governor there, he decided that a visit would not be harmful to his obligations and thus diverted his escort to the prison.
As expected, the prison governor, Cheon Huynh, greeted him warmly and with open arms.
“Been too long, my friend,” Huynh said.
“Likewise, Cheon,” Joon replied. “I believe as the owner of this place, you should invite me in for a cup of tea.”
“Of course. Come in,” Cheon urged him inside.
Joon left his main sword and armor in the prison’s armory, but was allowed to take his short sword with him in closed spaces. Following his old friend to the governor’s keep, he was surprised to see a large white wolf chained to a steel pole, the same pole that would be used when caning unruly prisoners.
“What is that creature?” Joon inquired the prison governor.
“I don’t know,” Cheon shook his head. “However, a prisoner said that creature was called a direwolf.”
“A direwolf?” That caught Joon’s attention. He had only heard of direwolves from his readings of Westeros and from what he remembered, there were no sightings of direwolves south of the great ice wall of Westeros in two centuries.
“And that prisoner who said it was a direwolf, is he from Westeros?” Joon continued.
“I believe so. How did you figure that out? And there are three of them here.”
“Three?” Joon was even more surprised. “How long have they been here?”
Joon nodded, curiosity growing. “Tell me more about them.”
After settling in the main quarters of the governor’s keep, Joon heard everything from his friend. The three men from Westeros, whose names they did not know due to them not speaking the language, had been found on the shores near the port city of Leng Yi on the island of Leng. Besides the three men, they found remnants of a ship broken apart by a severe storm and they seemed to be the only survivors, them and the large white wolf.
“And because they don’t speak our language, we don’t exactly where they’re from and how they ended up in our lands?” Joon asked, but it was more of a statement.
“Am I correct to believe that you’ll inform the local commissioner soon?”
“Yes. Any foreigner who ends up on our shores and is not claimed by the end of three moons must be turned over to the nearest imperial official. You know the rules, Joon.”
“Then, you wouldn’t mind if I spoke to these men in person before you do?”
Cheon sighed. “Look, Joon. I can understand your curiosity and I know that you can speak the common tongue better than anyone I know, but foreigners on our shores is a matter only concerning those safeguarding our lands.”
“Does my current title not involve me keeping our lands safe, Cheon?”
“This is not the northern frontier, Joon. You should know that you don’t mess around here and at Yin. If you try to interfere with my duties and those of the commissioner, you’ll end up in serious trouble. I don’t like it, but that’s the way it is?”
“I just want to talk to them, Cheon. Is that too much to ask?”
“In this situation, yes. I would have to report these prisoners to the commissioner, and then I would have to inform him that you spoke to these men. You understand where this is going?”
“Come now, Cheon. We go back a long way. You would truly inform on your friend, the one who saved your life from those Jogos Nhai bastards?”
“If I don’t comply with procedure, I’ll lose my post. I can’t make another mistake like I did in Yin, because if I do, I’ll lose my head.”
Joon sighed, remembering his friend’s incident back in the capital. He was tempted to say that it was his own fault since it was a case of embezzlement regarding military funds, and that his demotion from an officer in the imperial guard to prison governor in a backwater posting was really a light punishment, given that most cases of embezzlement ended with one’s hands severed and their ears and eyes filled with melted gold.
“If I agree to take responsibility for anything that might happen with these three Westerosi, would you at least let me talk to them?” Joon hoped that this would be enough, as he was getting increasingly frustrated with his old friend’s obstructing a simple request.
“As in, you’ll protect me from any negative repercussions on my end?”
“Yes,” Joon nodded his head.
Cheon smiled. “Fine. I’ll have them brought before us.”
“Now, was that so hard?”
Cheon avoided his question as he stood up and opened his drawers. “Before you meet them, there are some things that you should be aware of. These men came with more than a large white wolf.” He laid out three swords, two of which Joon recognized as Valyrian steel from the black ripples on the blades, a black leather journal, a heavy silver necklace with star sapphires and emeralds, and the most shocking thing, a red-colored dragon egg. Joon picked up the dragon egg, feeling his fingers along its curves and the cold surface. How do these men have two Valyrian steel swords and a dragon egg ?
Joon also examined the Valyrian steel swords more closely. Both were of a Westerosi design, one a longsword and the other a bastard sword, from what he remembered of how Westerosi termed their weapons. The longsword had dragon cross-guard and single ruby while the bastard sword had a simple curved cross-guard and a white wolf’s head as its pommel. He didn’t know anything about the bastard sword, but Joon swore to himself that the longsword seemed familiar of him. The only knowledge of Westeros that he had was gleaned from books and scrolls that were translated from the common tongue to the three tongues of this land, but he knew enough to know that until recently, dragonlords ruled the entire continent and one of them carried a longsword that looked exactly like this sword. And that’s when it him. This is Dark Sister, the long lost sword of Visenya Targaryen! How did they find this ?
Such questions were why he had to speak with the Westerosi, as he had a feeling that these were not ordinary men that just happened to be stranded on their shores.
After two of his men had the three men seated on the cushions in front of Joon and Cheon, the former took a moment to take in the Westerosi in front of him. All had dark hair, overgrown beards, and looked as if they haven’t bathed in moons. One looked stout and looked the most apprehensive, but Joon could tell that his worries were mostly because he was nervous in front of strange men and not from being in a foreign land. It looked as if he was content in a place unlike wherever home was to him. Interesting…
Another man, who looked older than the other two, was a type that Joon had seen before: a warrior who had been weathered by the hardships of life and the dangers that existed in the world. He also looked similar to one of the men that sat before them, which Joon interpreted as them being father and son or a close relative.
But the man in the middle looked more striking than the other two. Sharing the raven hair and grey irises of the older man, Joon could see some distress behind his eyes, as if he was confused as to where he belonged in the world. His youth and inexperience might have contributed to the uncertainty that he was sure filled the young man’s mind, but he also something else. Joon had been in court enough times to know when people held a secret that others would kill for, and he could recognize that exact look in that young man’s eyes. What are you hiding ?
Deciding that he would get better answers by talking with them, Joon spoke to them in the common tongue. “What are your names?”
The eyes of the young man in them middle widened in shock, as did the stout man’s and older man. “You speak the common tongue?” the young man asked.
The man nodded. “Yes. I assumed all of you were from Westeros. Now, what are your names?”
The three exchanged glances with each other, unsure of how to proceed now that they knew at least one of natives in this land spoke their tongue.
“I am Samwell of House Tarly, eldest son of Randyll Tarly, Lord of Horn’s Hill,” the stout man started.
“I am Benjen of House Stark, youngest son of Rickard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North,” the older man introduced himself.
The young man took in a breath and exhaled. “My name is Jon Snow, bastard son of Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell, Warden of the North, and older brother of Benjen Stark.”
Joon translated what they said to Cheon before switching back to the common tongue. “This is the governor of the prison, Cheon Huynh. He told me that they found you all shipwrecked on our shores. Now, normal practice would call for the prison governor to report your presence to the local commissioner and after that, no one knows what will happen to you.”
“So why not do that?” Jon asked. “And I am sorry, but we don’t even know your name.”
Joon chuckled. “Oh, how rude of me. My name is Joon Kitara, Lord of Kushiro and Governor of the Northwest Province.”
Jon dipped his head in respect, as did Sam and Benjen. “My lord.”
He knows to respect his elders. Very good , Joon mused. “And given from how you three addressed yourselves, I must ask how and why Westerosi highborns have come to our dominions?”
The young man hesitated. “We originally come from the Wall, if you know where that is.” Joon bobbed his head, as he was very familiar with the ancient wall made of ice. “We were attempting to secure transport from Eastwatch to Essos, possibly one of the Free Cities. However, the only transport that was available was captained by someone hailing from the Slaver’s Bay and our aim was to sail there and possibly find work as sellswords.”
He’s not lying but also not telling the truth , Joon thought. However, he allowed Jon Snow to continue talking.
“However, just before we could reach Yunkai, we were set upon by slave raiders and our captain said that they needed to make port at Qarth. A storm hit us and our ship was steered off-course. The next thing we remember, we were washed up on these shores.”
He’s not lying , Joon felt.
“You seem to have an interesting story to tell, Jon Snow, and I am sure the same applies to your friends,” Joon answered. “But why should I believe it?”
Jon immediately got nervous before he calmed down. “My lord, I must ask first where my direwolf is?”
“Ah, the white one? It’s still here,” Joon answered.
“Then, should that not be proof of where we come from?” Benjen asked Joon. “You seem to know much about Westeros, my lord, so I trust you know that direwolves are creatures unique to Westeros.” Joon nodded. “But if you still don’t believe the story Jon told you, then we’ll take our chances with the commissioner.”
Joon sighed. “I wouldn’t be so optimistic of your chances with the commissioner, as after that, I won’t be able to control what will happen to you and your white wolf. I have one more question before I make my decision.” Jon, Benjen, and Sam gave him confused looks as Joon brought out Dark Sister. “Where did you get this blade?”
“Do you know of it, my lord?” Sam asked.
“Any man who is at least acquainted with Westeros’ history would know that this is Dark Sister, the sword held by Queen Visenya Targaryen. No one has seen it since a man they call Bloodraven took it to your wall and hasn’t been seen since. Is that where you got this blade?” Jon nodded. “How exactly did you get it?”
“A man had kept it secret, a man who was old enough to have witnessed a few of the Blackfyre Rebellions, if you know what they were,” Jon answered and Joon silently confirmed that he was aware of them. “He gave it to me for safekeeping because he felt that he was in danger and wanted the sword kept out of the clutches of those who would do him harm.”
Another word coming from his mouth, that is neither a lie or truth .
“And was this man a Targaryen?” Joon asked, which prompted more surprised looks from Jon, Benjen, and Sam.
“Yes,” Jon nodded. “His name was Aemon Targaryen, son of Maekar Targaryen.”
Joon knew who that was, and who his father was. A man who gave up the chance to become a king is worthy of any respect in my mind, which is more than what I could say for those at court .
“And what is your relationship with this… Aemon Targaryen?”
Before Jon could answer, Sam spoke up. “We were his stewards, my lord. He entrusted Jon with that sword after helping him with many delicate tasks and I only left Aemon Targaryen’s side because he told me to.”
“I take it you are friends with Jon Snow?”
“Yes, my lord.”
Joon turned to the older man. “And you, Lord Benjen. I assume you’re his uncle?”
Benjen bobbed his head. “Yes, my lord. I came with Jon because I wanted to protect my nephew.”
“An uncle who becomes a father to his nephew honors his family very much,” Joon stated.
Benjen smiled. “Thank you, my lord.”
So, we have two young men who were gifted a Targaryen heirloom because they helped probably the last living member of the dragonlords and an uncle who journeyed all this way just to keep his nephew safe . Joon knew that there was more to their story than they were telling and he was determined to get to the bottom of it, but to do that, he had to make sure Cheon didn’t report them to the commissioner.
“Before I make my final decision,” Joon said as he held up the red dragon egg. “Tell me, how is it possible for three men like yourselves to have something like this in your possession?”
Jon gulped. “Another heirloom, my lord, from Aemon Targaryen.”
How is it that this young man is able to say words that not complete lies and truths at the same time ?
Joon wanted to press further into how they have a dragon egg and a Targaryen blade, but he decided to leave it at that. “My men will take you outside. I’ll call you back in once I’ve made a decision on what to do with you all.” Jon, Benjen, and Sam followed the guards that brought them to the governor’s private quarters outside. Once he was sure they were out of earshot, Joon switched back to goryeomal, which was the tongue most spoken in the eastern provinces.
“Cheon, is it possible that you don’t report them?”
“What?” Cheon was more than confused.
“I’ll take them off your hands, Cheon. I’ll bring them to my estate in the northwest and you’ll never have to deal with the commissioner.”
“You do realize what you’re asking, right?”
Joon didn’t want to spend one more second trying to persuade his old friend, so he reached for his pouch and laid out ten paper notes on the table in front of him. “I know you’re having some money problems, so these are the new gold notes that the emperor just issued to the empire. These are the not the silver ones that you’re used to, as the only thing you need to do is take them to the local treasurer and he’ll give you gold bullion in the amount that you see here. Unlike the silver notes, you are guaranteed some collateral should the treasurer fail to pay you in full. So, take them.”
Cheon raised an eyebrow. “And in exchange for these notes, you want me to release these men into your custody?”
“I have a feeling that they’re more than what they said of themselves, and I don’t want the commissioner to ruin a great chance I have here of knowing these strangers better. All I ask in return for these notes is that you erase any mention of them from your records and keep the guards quiet about them.”
Cheon pondered Joon’s offer, seemingly torn between his obligations and his financial difficulties. However, he gathered up the notes and held up his teacup. “We have a deal, old friend.” Joon clinked his cup with his, satisfied with the outcome but disgusted that the corruption that become rampant in the mainland had affected his old friend.
While Cheon left the private quarters to count his money and fulfill his end of the bargain, Joon called the three men back in and switched to the common tongue. “I have talked with the governor, and he has agreed to release you all, on one condition.”
“And what is that condition?” Benjen asked with apprehension.
“All of you are to be handed over to me. I will take you to my estate in the northwest and you shall live as my guests. But don’t expect your stay to be free. You will be assigned to tasks throughout my lands as I deem fit and I expect you all to fulfill them to the best of your abilities. In exchange, I will give you food, shelter, and a stipend to be given each moon and to be spent as you wish. Would that be agreeable?”
“Yes, my lord. Thank you,” Jon nodded quickly, as did Sam and Benjen.
“Excellent,” Joon nodded. “I’ll have some servants bring you all a bath and some clean clothes. You need it.”
“My lord, what about Ghost?” Jon inquired, which confused Joon. “That’s the name of my direwolf.”
“I see,” Joon said. “He shall come with us as well, but you’ll have to feed him yourself. After all, he’s your beast and not mine.”
Jon nodded his thanks before servants came and led them out of the private quarters.
“My lord, before we go, may I ask where exactly are we?” Sam asked.
Joon grinned. “Welcome to Yi-Ti, Lord Tarly.”
They had been traveling northwards for over a moon, not including the two days they spent crossing back to the mainland, but their delay was mostly because of Lord Kitara’s duties. Jon correctly assumed that his title as Governor of the Northwest Province must’ve been quite important and that his guardian was a very powerful man in Yi-Ti from the way he spoke to the various city leaders he visited.
And there were so many cities, more than Westeros had. They disembarked at Asabhad, which sat between Qarth and the Yi-Tish capital of Yin. He thought White Harbour was a city, but Asabhad easily put such thoughts to shame, as Jon was struck by how crowded it was, how spread it was, the various buildings of every shape and size, shops and businesses running day and night, and goods and traders from all over the known world. It was a start of a journey into a world that Jon had never seen before, with Asabhad’s brightness, color, and cacophony of voices in its streets almost drowning out his thoughts.
Sam was the most excited about being in Asabhad. Having been spared a potential lifetime full of suffering in the frigidity of the Wall, he went out of his way to look at the many stalls, inns, and what looked like gambling houses they passed by. When Lord Kitara had to meet with the leader of one of Asabhad’s many quarters, Sam took the liberty in sampling each dish served to their table. There were deep-fried fish and dough dishes with meat and vegetable fillings, grilled meats, boiled vegetables, and rich wines and spirits alongside the steaming rice. Even though Sam didn’t know the tongue or tongues, his approval of the food and drink offered to them was enough for Lord Kitara and the other guests smile.
But what Jon, Benjen, and Sam all struggled with was how to actually eat the food offered to them. There were no forks or knives offered to them, with their only utensils being a pair of wooden sticks that Lord Kitara called “hashi.” Jon was tempted to simply do away with propriety and stuff the food in his mouth with his fingers, but Benjen warned him that to do so might embarrass their host. So, Jon was tortured with having to slowly pick up each bit of food from the table with the hashi. Gods, I miss Gage’s pies already .
Jon had to fight off the curious when they got too close to Ghost. Some were foolish enough to try to hold him down so that they could skin him for his fur. That was probably the first time Jon felt the dragon emerge, as he snatched Longclaw from Lord Kitara’s horse and easily killed the wolf poacher.
“Jon Snow!” Lord Kitara scolded him. “You do not bare steel without my explicit permission.”
“They were trying to kill Ghost, my lord,” Jon reasoned.
“And you had the right of it, but a foreigner swinging a sword in a public space? Next time, tell me first before you draw your sword. That way, I’ll be explain more easily to the city leader and thus avoid complications. Do you understand?”
Jon saw that Lord Kitara wasn’t scolding him for killing those poachers and only asked that he seek his permission first, which made him greatly appreciate the lord that got them released from prison. “Yes, my lord.”
“Good. Now, give me the sword,” Lord Kitara held out his hand. Jon returned Longclaw to him. “You’re not ready for Valyrian steel yet. You’re good with a sword, but let a proper swordsman teach you to how to properly fight,” and Lord Kitara cracked a smile at Jon before returning Longclaw to his horse.
After a few days in the port city, Lord Kitara next took them to Tiqui, which Jon learned was a city that sat on the edge of his province and they were now in the lands under his direct rule. It was also a city where many of Yi-Ti’s emperors, specifically those from the purple dynasty, had been born and ruled the country before they were ousted in a manner similar to the Targaryens in Robert’s Rebellion. It’s still strange that my ancestors were kings who came from old Valyria, even if I had come to terms with the Mad King being my grandfather .
But such thoughts had to wait for another time, as Lord Kitara was there to collect taxes on behalf of the current emperor. He found out Samwell was good with sums, so he had him help counting the amounts each citizen paid to his tax collectors. Many of the city folk was unsurprisingly bothered at a foreigner counting their coin, but Sam only understood the numbers even with their slight differences and thus Lord Kitara knew that there would no lying or miscalculation from him. After seeing him maximize the numbers recorded in the tax books, Lord Kitara had Sam assist his tax collectors throughout their three-day stay in Tiqui.
Jon passed by the ruins of the past purple emperors, Tiqui now just a market town. He had only heard stories of the Red Keep, having never seen King’s Landing in his life. He did not know if he should be glad that the physical symbols of House Targaryen remained or that those same symbols had been reconverted to Baratheon use. Dragonstone belonged to Stannis Baratheon and he didn’t want to think about what Robert was doing in the Red Keep after seeing him for the first time at Winterfell. Would this be the fate of my family in a thousand years? Will ruins also be what define House Targaryen many years from now ?
Thankfully, they left soon and traveled due slightly southeast. After over a moon, Jon looked upon the castle that he assumed was Kushiro, Lord Kitara’s keep.It was a much more magnificent structure than the prison governor’s pavilion, as there was one pavilion that was seven levels high and a larger one being fourteen level high. Each floor was smaller than the last, but not by much, and its own roof, sloped and curved like the rest of the buildings he’d seen so far and made from a soft grey wood. The balconies, pillars and archways were made from a dark black wood and walls surrounded the two pavilions. Now that’s a castle .
But as they entered the courtyard, Jon noticed how white the walls were and there were many trees with blossomed flowers filling the courtyard. Judging from what he saw of Yi-Tish buildings, he knew that would be plenty of room for them in Kushiro.
Lord Kitara dismounted his horse, as did Jon, Sam, and Benjen. As they handed their horses to stable hands, a woman and three children emerged from the ground level of the large keep and stopped before them before bowing to Lord Kitara. He hugged the eldest, a boy, and kissed the top of the heads of the two youngest, girls. He took a moment with the woman, with them merely exchanging smiles. Jon could hear that they were talking, but couldn’t understand them.
Lord Kitara turned around. “Lord Snow, Lord Stark, and Lord Tarly, may I present my family? This is my wife, Myung,” he pointed to the woman. “My son, Seong,” he gestured to the boy. “And my daughters, Karasa and Komo.” He motioned to the girls. “If I am not here in Kushiro, you can talk to any of them regarding any needs you have. Spend the rest of today getting settled in. Tomorrow, you’ll be put to work. Understood?”
Jon nodded, as did Benjen and Sam.
“Good. I shall retire now. My son Seong will take over now,” and Lord Kitara went into the pavilion with his lady wife walking besides him.
Even though Seong didn’t speak the common tongue, the three of them were able to understand what he was saying from his many hand movements. They walked up to the what Jon felt like was the fifth level of the pavilion and they had to slow down for Sam, who was struggling to go up one flight of stairs. After setting their effects down and Seong left them in the room, each man fell onto the thick sheets laid out on the wooden floor.
“I’m so tired,” Sam managed.
“Rest, boys,” Benjen relaxed on the sheets. “We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so let’s enjoy the last bit of respite we might have for a while.”
Jon sighed. “What did we just get ourselves into?”
“I don’t know, Jon,” Benjen replied. “However, all I know is that the gods might have played a part in us being here.”
“I think you’re talking too soon, uncle.”
“Maybe, but Lord Kitara has been kind to us so far. What’s more, we wouldn’t have lasted this long without him. Whether he has good intentions for us or not is still to be seen, but it’s possible that the gods willed us to be here.”
“I wish that were true, uncle.”
“At the same time, Jon, don’t get too comfortable here. Remember why Aemon and Jeor allowed us all to leave. No matter what, we have to return to face the Long Night.”
“But we should’ve ended up more west. We should’ve met up with my aunt and worked together to return to Westeros.”
“Maybe the gods want all of us to take some time before that happens. You are young and inexperienced, Jon. You’re not going to be of much help to Daenerys and I get the feeling that it cuts both ways. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have ended up with the Dothraki.”
Jon sighed heavily, sad at how the last true Targaryen was sold off by her brother. When they made port at Volantis, he heard that no one knew where Viserys Targaryen was after threatening the khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea. I hope he’s dead. I never met him, but no brother should ever sell his sister off to horselord savages .
“It may be years we spend in Yi-Ti, uncle,” Jon talked despondently.
“But it’ll be years that we should spend well, Jon,” Benjen replied. “Let us use the time here to learn what we can and maybe get the support we need to go back to Westeros and face the threat north of the Wall. And remember, we must come back.”
Jon nodded, purpose filling him once again. “Thank you, uncle.”
“I’m here for you, and so is Sam and Ghost. But remember, we must return,” and Benjen slipped into a deep slumber.
As Jon closed his eyes, he was taken back to the Wall, to the time when the world he knew came tumbling down.
Jon was leaning on the railings that overlooked the training yard of Castle Black. While he was glad that Sam was going to assist Maester Aemon in the library and rookery and thus putting his true talents to good use, he was frustrated at not being assigned to the rangers, despite being the best swordsman and rider among the new recruits. He was relieved that Uncle Benjen had returned from his ranging despite losing two men, but was saddened when he reminded him that the worth of every man on the Wall is based on what they did and therefore, he could not help him.
“Steward Jon,” Jon scoffed. He remembered the look in Ser Alliser’s eyes and how he took pleasure in Jon being denied his choice of post. He still remembered when his argument with Dareon, who essentially told him that Jon had a choice in going to the Wall while he himself didn’t due to a false accusation. He was tempted to complain to the Lord Commander, but after seeing Jeor mete out humiliating tasks whenever recruits or black brothers complained, he decided that it was better to keep his mouth shut. However, he did contemplate leaving.
"There is no shame in being a steward," Sam said.
"Do you think I want to spend the rest of my life washing an old man's smallclothes?"
"The old man is Lord Commander of the Night's Watch," Sam reminded him. "You'll be with him day and night. Yes, you'll pour his wine and see that his bed linen is fresh, but you'll also take his letters, attend him at meetings, squire for him in battle. You'll be as close to him as his shadow. You'll know everything, be a part of everything . . . and the Lord Steward said Mormont asked for you himself!” Then Sam talked about how his father made him stand beside him during all meetings before he was replaced by his younger brother Dickon, meaning that he was effectively eliminated from his father’s counsel.
Jon was taken aback. It was true, Ned Stark had often made Robb part of his councils back at Winterfell and that made him think. "I never asked for this," he said stubbornly.
"None of us are here for asking," Sam reminded Jon. And that’s when he fully saw Sam in a different light. Craven or not, the deposed heir of Horn’s Hill had found the courage to accept his fate like a man. On the Wall, a man gets only what he earns, Benjen Stark had said the last night before he went on his ranging. He heard it said that bastards grow up faster than other children. On the Wall, a man grew up or perished.
Jon let out a deep sigh. "You have the right of it. I was acting the boy."
"Then you'll stay and say your words with me?"
"The old gods will be expecting us." He made himself smile.
They set out late that afternoon. The Wall had no gates as such, neither here at Castle Black or anywhere along its three hundred miles. They led their horses down a narrow tunnel cut through the ice, cold dark walls pressing in around them as the passage twisted and turned. Three times their way was blocked by iron bars, and they had to stop while Bowen Marsh drew out his keys and unlocked the massive chains that secured them. Jon could sense the vast weight pressing down on him as he waited behind the Lord Steward. The air was colder than a tomb, and more still. He felt a strange relief when they reemerged into the afternoon light on the north side of the Wall.
Sam blinked at the sudden glare and looked around apprehensively. "The wildlings . . . they wouldn't . . . they'd never dare come this close to the Wall. Would they?"
"They never have." Jon climbed into his saddle. When Bowen Marsh and their ranger escort had mounted, Jon put two fingers in his mouth and whistled. Ghost came loping out of the tunnel.
The Lord Steward backed away from the direwolf. "Do you mean to take that beast?"
"Yes, my lord," Jon said. Ghost's head lifted. He seemed to taste the air. In the blink of an eye he was off, racing across the broad, weed-choked field to vanish in the trees.
Once they had entered the forest, they were in a different world. Jon had often hunted with his father and Jory and his brother Robb. He knew the wolfswood around Winterfell as well as any man. The haunted forest was much the same, and yet the feel of it was very different.
The sun was sinking below the trees when they reached their destination, a small clearing in the deep of the wood where nine weirwoods grew in a rough circle. Jon drew in a breath, and he saw Sam staring with his eyes widened. Even in the wolfswood, one never found more than two or three of the white trees growing together; a grove of nine was unheard of. The forest floor was carpeted with fallen leaves, blood red on top, black rot beneath. The wide smooth trunks were bone pale, and nine faces stared inward. The dried sap that crusted in the eyes was red and hard as ruby. Bowen Marsh commanded them to leave their horses outside the circle. "This is a sacred place, we will not defile it."
When they entered the grove, Sam turned slowly looking at each face in turn. No two were quite alike. "They're watching us," he whispered. "The old gods."
"Yes." Jon knelt, and Sam knelt beside him.
But before Jon could say his vows, he saw Benjen dismount his horse walk up to him. “First Ranger,” Bowen Marsh addressed him.
“Lord Steward. I apologize for interrupting the ceremony, but Maester Aemon told me to fetch Jon. He also asked me to bring Sam along.”
“But First Ranger, we’re about to induct two new brothers into the Watch. Can it not wait?”
“I’m sorry, Lord Steward, but it can’t. Maester Aemon said it’s urgent.”
Bowen Marsh sighed before nodding in resignation. “All right. Jon, Sam, if you want to take your vows at another time, let me know by the end of the week.”
“Yes, Lord Steward,” Jon and Sam replied before following Benjen back through the Wall to Castle Black.
Benjen led them to the library, where Maester Aemon was waiting in his chair as he went through different pieces of parchment.
“Close the door, Sam,” Aemon told him, which Sam did. “Sit down, both of you.” Again, they complied.
“Maester Aemon, I must know why you had us come here when we were about to take our vows,” Jon said. “I wish to start my duties to the Watch as soon as possible.”
“Ah, you have taken my words to heart, young Jon?”
“Yes,” Jon nodded. “And I wish to commence my time here at the Wall.”
“Tell me, did you ever wonder why the men of the Night's Watch take no wives and father no children?”
Jon was confused as to why Maester Aemon asked that. “No.”
“So they will not love. Love is the death of duty and the annals of history all point to the great tragedies when one casts his duty aside. We’ve seen with it with Duncan Targaryen, we almost saw it when Jaehaerys defied his mother to marry Alysanne, and we’ve seen it with Rhaegar Targaryen,” Maester Aemon said.
“Hold on,” Jon did not know what prompted him to say that, but he felt that he had to stop this. “What do you mean by that last one? Rhaegar kidnapped and raped my aunt Lyanna…”
“Jon, let him finish,” Benjen reprimanded him. Jon quieted.
“But what most people don’t realize is that there is a strength that comes from love, a kind that no amount of time or amount of steel can ever hope to break. Duty can only take someone so far before it finally fails him, but with love, a person can hope to go on despite the insurmountable obstacles. Jaehaerys married Alysanne and he helped usher in a new era for Westeros. Aegon loved his sisters and with them at his side, he conquered Westeros. And had circumstances been different for my great nephew, Rhaegar could have brought this continent back from the brink with the women beside him.”
“What are you talking about? Why are we hearing this?” Jon was getting very distressed.
“Jon, what Maester Aemon is trying to say is that… we know who your mother is,” Benjen jumped in.
Jon looked at his uncle, water forming in his eyes. Sam was also shocked, as he Jon didn’t know who his mother was, until now.
“Who?” Jon asked as he gulped.
“Jon, before we say that, just know that Ned and I kept this a secret from you because we wanted to keep you safe and it was what she made Ned promise to do,” Benjen said.
Jon was close to exploding from impatience. “Who. Is my mother?” he pressed.
“Your mother is your aunt Lyanna,” Jon turned back to Maester Aemon as he finally revealed what he knew. “And your father was Rhaegar Targaryen. That means you’re my nephew.”
Jon heard a pin drop, as the frustration leaked out of him and he felt himself sinking through the floor.
“No… it can’t be true…” Jon managed to say. But looking upon Benjen and Aemon, he didn’t see that they were lying. “Please…”
Joon Kitara (Ken Watanabe)