A Clash of Kings-Chapter 13
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|A Clash of Kings chapter|
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Jeor Mormont leads his contingent of the Night's Watch on a ranging. They pass through four villages without finding a single wildling, and the game has also disappeared. Mormont sends another raven and continues north.
Jeor Mormont has lead a large contingent of the Night's Watch to the village of Whitetree, Beyond the Wall. The village of four houses is as empty as the other three villages they have passed through. None of the villages appear to have been attacked. This village is dominated by the largest tree Jon has ever seen, a heart tree. He finds the tree disturbing because its face has a jagged hole for a mouth large enough to swallow a sheep. When Mormont notes that it is an old tree, Jon adds that it is powerful. When Thoren Smallwood states he would like to take an axe to the tree because of its face, Jon replies that his father claimed no man could lie before a heart tree, and Mormont agrees his father said the same. Mormont asks Jon to hand him the blackened skull in the ashes inside the hollow. Jon finds another skull under it. Mormont states that the wildlings burn their dead and wishes there were a few around to ask the reason; Jon is certain he knows the reason.
Mormont orders the houses to be searched, and Jon is paired with Eddison Tollett, nicknamed Dolorous Edd. As they search, Dolorous Edd states that with the dead walking, Mormont now wants them talking too. Entering one of the houses, Jon notes it is a dismal place to live, and Dolorous Edd tells him that he was born in such a house, and then fell on hard times. When Jon asks what he thinks happened here, Dolorous Edd responds he does not want to know since it is probably really bad.
Chett is using the hounds to search, and he is cursing them with anger in his voice. When Jon meets Chett’s eyes, Jon can tell that there is no love lost.
Thoren Smallwood, now dressed in Ser Jaremy Rykker’s armor and cloak, and looking more finely dressed than Mormont, states there were wildings here a year ago. Jarman Buckwell replies that a year ago, the realm was at peace. Ser Mallador Locke then adds that fewer wildlings mean fewer worries. Then Bedwyck, who has climbed up into a tree, tells them he can see a lake to the north. With three hours of light left, Mormont decides to go north and writes a note for Maester Aemon. He then gives Jon the note and tells him to find Tarly to send the message. Jarman Buckwell’s scouts ride out first, followed by Thoren Smallwood’s vanguard, next the main force, the baggage train under Ser Mallador Locke and finally the rear guard under Ser Ottyn Wythers. A total of 200 men and 300 horses.
Along the journey, it has been unusually quiet. Not only the wildlings have disappeared, but so has the game and this makes the men of the Night’s Watch uneasy. As they ride, Jon takes off his glove to exercise is horribly scarred fingers; he can not afford to let his sword hand get stiff and clumsy.
Jon approaches Sam, who is with the ravens, and asks if he is teaching the ravens to speak. Sam tells him that he has taught three of them to say “snow.” After Sam sends Mormont’s letter with one of the ravens, telling the raven as it flies away that he wishes it could carry him back. When Jon asks about him being afraid, Sam replies that at first he could not sleep fearing every noise was a wildling creeping up on him, but now he does not worry about them since they are obviously not around. However, he is sore from riding and sleeping on the ground. Sam then tells Jon that he is working on maps and Jon responds that they will make a ranger of him yet, jokingly threatening to tell Mormont that Sam has lost his fears, an idea that does not please Sam. Sam then admits he hoped they would stay in the village so he would have a roof over his head, but Jon explains that there were not enough houses for all their men.
Ghost, who has been hunting well away from the line of march, appears. He has been having no more luck with game than they have. Jon remembers telling Dywen that they were probably frightening away the game, but he insisted that they are being frightened away by something else.
When Jon joins Mormont again, he tells him that Sam is teaching the ravens to talk, and Mormont snorts back that he will regret that, as they make a lot of noise but say nothing worth hearing. After riding in silence for a while, Jon states that if his uncle has also found the villages empty, he would have pushed on to find out why, and Mormont continues that whatever it was may not want them to know why. He then points out that when Qhorin Halfhand joins them, they will be 300 men, and not easy to deal with. He reassures Jon that they will find it, but Jon wonders if it will find them.