Tower of the Hand

Book 4, Chapter 6.
Sam, Gilly, and Maester Aemon depart Castle Black for Oldtown.
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Sam is in the library reading various books and folios. He has been there most of the night. One of the last books he read was ''Annals of the Black Centaur'' by Septon Jorquen detailing the nine year term of Orbert Caswell as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. He finally gathers up a stack of books and scrolls and emerges from the tunnels beneath Castle Black. The Wall is abuzz with activity as men work to build a new stairway to replace the one destroyed when the wildlings attacked.1 He thinks of the Targaryens that visited the Wall on their dragons two hundred years before, first Queen Alysanne and later King Jaehaerys I, and wonders if Silverwing left an egg at the Wall. Even if she had, he has no clue how Stannis hopes to quicken it when several Targaryens had failed before him.

Dolorous Edd hails Sam and tells him Jon wants to see him. Pyp and Grenn come around the corner as well and tease Sam about missing dinner and not showing up for archery practice with Ulmer. Jon has instituted daily archery drills for the entire garrison; he feels that the Watch pays too much attention to the sword and too little to the bow. This attitude developed when one brother of every ten had been a knight rather than one of every hundred. They tease Sam about Val too, who often watches them from the tower where she is held, until Sam says he has to see Jon. Pyp and Grenn are unhappy with Jon because he never has time for them anymore. What little free time he has is always spent practicing the sword; Jon explained to Sam that he feels he must become worthy of Longclaw. Sam takes his leave.

With the Lord Commander's Tower gutted and Stannis residing in the King's Tower, Jon has taken up residence in Donal Noye's old quarters behind the armory. As Sam approaches, Gilly rushes out of Jon's quarters looking wan and frightened. Sam catches her, dropping two of his books as he does, and tries to talk to her, but she runs off with tears in her eyes, leaving Sam perplexed.2 He inspects the books he dropped, Colloquo Votar's Jade Compendium and Maester Thomax's Dragonkin, Being a History of House Targaryen from Exile to Apotheosis, with a Consideration of the Life and Death of Dragons, and finds that the former is undamaged while the latter now has several muddy pages. He curses himself for his clumsiness and reflects on how Gilly raises certain urges in him that a brother of the Night's Watch should not have.

Hairy Hal and Mully stand guard outside Jon's chambers and tell Sam that the Lord Commander is waiting. As Sam runs through the armory, Ghost watches him pass. As he enters Jon's solar, Lord Commander Mormont's raven flies at him demanding corn. When Sam proffers some from a sack by the door, the crow pecks his hand hard enough to draw blood. Jon shows him a letter written by Maester Aemon addressed to King Tommen. It states that the Watch is not taking sides in the war for the throne and only helps Stannis to defend the realms of men then goes on to ask for aid. Jon does not think it will work. Sam worries that Tywin may march on Stannis and destroy the Night's Watch, while Jon hopes that Stannis can rouse the North and still win. Stannis has sent birds to all the great northern houses asking for support, but so far only the Karstarks have declared for him. Jon signs the letter and tells Sam to make sure it is sent. Sam asks about Gilly, and Jon says Val sent her to plead for Mance's life; rumor is that Stannis means to give him to the flames because Melisandre claims king's blood has the power to wake a dragon. Jon thinks the notion foolish, as Mance was not really a king. Jon also tells Sam that he is sending Gilly and her boy away.

Sam tells Jon a few things he learned in the library. He has found records of four Lord Commanders younger than Jon when they were chosen, including an Osric Stark that was chosen four hundred years ago at the age of ten and served for sixty years. Jon, however, points out that they were all sons, brothers, or bastards of the Kings in the North. Sam was researching the Others as well, but found very little information about them. The oldest histories of Westeros were only written after the Andals came to the continent, as the First Men only left runes on rocks. As such, what little info is known about the Age of Heroes, the Dawn Age, and the Long Night comes from accounts written by septons thousands of years later. These tales of figures such as Brandon the Builder, Symeon Star-Eyes, and the Night's King speak of kings ruling for hundreds of years and knights riding around before any could have existed and are doubtful from a historical perspective. For example, while the Watch traditionally states there have been nine-hundred and ninety-eight commanders of the order, historical records indicate there may have been far fewer. In regards to the Others, Sam read that during the Age of Heroes, the children of the forest would give the Watch one hundred obsidian daggers every year and that the Others come when it is cold and hide from the light of the sun, emerging only at night. Some accounts speak of Others riding dead animals, while still others mention giant ice spiders. Their armor is supposed to be proof against ordinary blades and their swords are so cold they shatter steel, but they do not like fire and are vulnerable to obsidian. Finally, one account of the Long Night speaks of the last hero slaying an Other with a blade of dragonsteel. Jon wonders if this could be Valyrian steel, but while Sam had the same thought as well, he cannot be certain.

Sam says there are still hundreds of books to go through and that he needs more time to find out more, but Jon says he must go to Oldtown with Gilly. Maester Aemon will accompany them as well. Sam points out that Aemon is too old for travel, but Jon responds that if Melisandre needs king's blood for her spells then Aemon is in grave danger. Dareon will also join them at Eastwatch to begin life as a wandering crow. The Blackbird will take them to Braavos, where they shall arrange their own passage to Oldtown. Jon wants Sam to become a maester. Sam is terrified because he wanted to be a maester as a child and Lord Randyll chained him in the dungeon for three days and nights to dissuade him from that thought because a Tarly is not a servant. He tries to explain to Jon, but the lord commander does not care. He orders Sam to go and to no longer call himself craven. Sam delivers Jon's letter for King Tommen to Maester Aemon as instructed and repeats his fears, but Aemon merely states that his own father3 raised similar objections when his grandfather, Daeron II bundled him off to the Citadel, but Daeron knew that too many Targaryen heirs could be as dangerous as too few. Aemon knows his grandfather was right and believes Jon is right to send Sam to the Citadel as well.

The next day, an hour before dawn, Sam joins a guard of a dozen rangers including Black Jack, Kedge Whiteye, and Left Hand Lew in the lichyard. Aemon arrives soon after, escorted by Clydas, followed by Gilly and the baby. Jon arrives with Dolorous Edd to see them off. Aemon tells Jon that he left the Jade Compendium in his chambers for him, a book written by Volantene adventurer Colloquo Votar about his travels in the lands of the Jade Sea, and that he has marked a passage that Jon should find particularly interesting. Gilly, eyes red from crying, tells Jon that he must find a wet nurse for Dalla's baby like he promised and not name him until he is past two years old.2 Jon remembers when he first saw Gilly after Ghost got into her rabbit hutch and laments that it was him she should have feared rather than the direwolf. Sam responds that Gilly has more courage than she knows, and Jon replies that Sam does as well.


Active Characters

  1. Aemon Targaryen - He is now one hundred two.
  2. Gilly - She is dark-haired and slim with big brown eyes.


  1. Others - According to the records of the Night's Watch, the Others are dismayed by fire and are vulnerable to dragonsteel, possibly a reference to Valyrian steel.
  2. The Night's Watch - The Watch used to have a ratio of one knight to every fifty men at its height; now there is only about one knight for every hundred men.


Warning: Footnotes may contain spoilers from later chapters or books.