02 A Clash of Kings by George R R Martin


02 A Clash of Kings by George R R Martin

Author:George R R Martin [Martin, George R R]
Format: epub
Published: 0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00


JON

The hill jutted above the dense tangle of forest, rising solitary and sudden, its windswept heights visible from miles off. The Wildlings called it the Fist of the First Men, rangers said. It did look like a fist, Jon Snow thought, punching up through earth and wood, its bare brown slopes knuckled with stone.

He rode to the top with Lord Mormont and the officers, leaving Ghost below under the trees. The direwolf had run off three times as they climbed, twice returning reluctantly to Jon’s whistle. The third time, the Lord Commander lost patience and snapped, “Let him go, boy. I want to reach the crest before dusk. Find the wolf later.”

The way up was steep and stony, the summit crowned by a chest-high wall of tumbled rocks. They had to circle some distance west before they found a gap large enough to admit the horses. “This is good ground, Thoren,” the Old Bear proclaimed when at last they attained the top. “We could scarce hope for better. We’ll make our camp here to await Halfhand.” The Lord Commander swung down off his saddle, dislodging the raven from his shoulder. Complaining loudly, the bird took to the air.

The views atop the hill were bracing, yet it was the ringwall that drew Jon’s eye, the weathered grey stones with their white patches of lichen, their beards of green moss. It was said that the Fist had been a ringfort of the First Men in the Dawn Age. “An old place, and strong,” Thoren Smallwood said.

“Old,” Mormont’s raven screamed as it flapped in noisy circles about their heads. “Old, old, old.”

“Quiet,” Mormont growled up at the bird. The Old Bear was too proud to admit to weakness, but Jon was not deceived. The strain of keeping up with younger men was taking its toll.

“These heights will be easy to defend, if need be,” Thoren pointed out as he walked his horse along the ring of stones, his sable-trimmed cloak stirring in the wind.

“Yes, this place will do.” The Old Bear lifted a hand to the wind, and raven landed on his forearm, claws scrabbling against his black ringmail.

“What about water, my lord?” Jon wondered.

“We crossed a brook at the foot of the hill.”

“A long climb for a drink,” Jon pointed out, “and outside the ring of stones.”

Thoren said, “Are you too lazy to climb a hill, boy?”

When Lord Mormont said, “We’re not like to find another place as strong. We’ll carry water, and make certain we are well supplied,” Jon knew better than to argue. So the command was given, and the brothers of the Night’s Watch raised their camp behind the stone ring the First Men had made. Black tents sprouted like mushrooms after a rain, and blankets and bedrolls covered the bare ground. Stewards tethered the garrons in long lines, and saw them fed and watered. Foresters took their axes to the trees in the waning afternoon light to harvest enough wood to see them through the night. A score



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