Tower of the Hand

Book 5, Chapter 11.
Stannis burns Mance Rayder and offers any wildling who swears fealty sanctuary. Jon sends all his friends away from Castle Black.
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Jon watches as Mance Rayder is brought forth to die. He is being led behind Ser Godry Farring's horse to where Melisandre awaits by a wooden cage suspended over a large fire pit. When Mance sees the cage, his courage fails and he begins to beg, claiming he is not the king,1 but he is ignored and locked in the cage. Stannis and Val are also with Melisandre, who preaches to the wildling prisoners that Mance is a false king, theirs are false gods, and Stannis is their savior and Azor Ahai reborn. The Horn of Winter sits next to the pit as well, and Melisandre sets it alight first and tosses it into the pit to ignite the kindling. As the flames rise, Mance begins denying his whole life and ranting of witchcraft until the flames reach him, and he begins to scream. At a signal from Jon, Ulmer, Sweet Donnel, Garth Greyfeather, and Bearded Ben loose arrows to spare Mance the horror of burning to death.

As Mance dies, Melisandre proclaims him a false king and calls on the wildlings to flock to Stannis, their true king. At the same time, Stannis draws Lightbringer, which glows brighter than Jon has ever seen, and tells the wildlings they can serve him or die. Ser Clayton Suggs and Ser Corliss Penny order the guards to open the gates of the cages, and Jon signals Dolorous Edd to open the gate in the Wall. A torrent of wildlings begin trudging towards the Wall and safety. Each one is given a piece of a weirwood to throw into the fire as an offering to the Lord of Light as they pass. About one in ten chose to flee into the Haunted Forest, and one man had to be killed when he attacked the guards, but most chose to come through. Sigorn, the new Magnar of Thenn, was the first to kneel to the king, followed by Rattleshirt, two clan chiefs of the Hornfoots, a wisewoman revered by the people living along the Milkwater, the twelve-year-old son of Alfyn Crowkiller, and Halleck, the brother of Harma Dogshead. After they kneel, Horse, Satin, and a half dozen others lead them through the Wall.

As the wildlings file through, Bowen and Ser Alliser comment that the Watch will not be popular for letting the wildlings in. Jon worries about Alliser, who has become more circumspect since Lord Janos was executed, but is still dangerous. Jon considered giving him the command at Greyguard that Janos refused, but ultimately decided to keep him close and give the command to a steward from the Shadow Tower. He hopes the new garrisons will help, but the Watch does not have the numbers to halt another attack if Tormund tries the Wall again. He feels he must send out rangers to learn where the wildlings are, but he worries that anyone he sends may not make it back. After the last of the wildlings file in, Stannis tells those who remain, including four giants, that they are free to go and pass the word that all are welcome if they kneel and acknowledge him as king.

After the king departs, Bowen continues airing his displeasure about the wildlings. While he understands they have a common foe in the Others, he believes they should just turn all the wildlings out to fight them in the Far North and seal the gates in the Wall with ice. While some raiders may be able to climb the Wall, Tormund would never be able to get his whole host over to threaten them. Jon does not want to lose the ability to send out rangers, but Bowen points out that Mormont's last ranging cost them a quarter of their strength. When Jon points out that Stannis will never let them seal the gates, Bowen also states that many of the men fear Jon is becoming to friendly with Stannis, who is technically a rebel against the true king. He says they cannot afford to back the losing side, but Jon thinks that with Lord Tywin dead the outcome is far from certain.

Jon returns to Castle Black and decides to take dinner with the men. When he arrives at the mess, he sees Pyp mocking Melisandre as Grenn, Toad, and Satin look on. Jon chastises him, but Pyp remains unrepentant. Grenn asks Jon to eat with them and has Owen make a place, but Jon declines, for Eddard always told him it was a bad idea to be friends with those you command and may one day have to sit in judgement on or send out to die. Jon exits and spies Val atop the King's Tower. She has not been an easy prisoner, mocking her guards as "kneelers" and attempting escape three times. As he passes the Lord Commander's Tower, Ghost joins him. He goes to the rookery and chats with Clydas about the day's events. Jon remarks that he read the Jade Compendium as Maester Aemon suggested and that the book described Lightbringer as giving off intense heat and causing the blood of those slain with it to boil. Stannis's sword is cold to the touch. Jon returns to his chamber and writes letters to Ser Denys and Cotter Pyke. Both have asked for more men, so Jon sadly sends Halder and Toad to Denys and Pyp and Grenn to Cotter.


Warning: Footnotes may contain spoilers from later chapters or books.
  • 1 - This footnote contains details from a later chapter (ADWD 32). Click to show.