authorsnote: post christmas update, first of 2022!

minor edits: 16/05/2022

god I am on a slog of trying to get everything updated before the end of jan, here we gooo!

I do hope you enjoy, do leave a review and let me know watcha think.

songrecs: Kneel for No Man – GOT Season 5 Soundtrack


'It's dangerous being free, but most come to like the taste o' it'

—Ygritte to Jon Snow

-x-

He had thought the road would be long, had been tired on the road to Castle Cerwyn, but had presumed things would pick up, they'd stop at various keeps and make a good pace … he'd presumed.

Gods, how wrong he had been.

It felt like they were creeping along at a snail's pace. The wheelhouse had to stop many a time to navigate a poor patch of road, the riders on horseback trotted along, no urgency behind them, and the King had to stop every hour to guzzle down wine and stuff his face.

Jon felt like he might go mad. Robb was called to dine with the King often, and he was left to it, which he preferred, but it was still a little bitter to know he was being shunned for something that was no longer true.

He knew he hadn't come to terms with his bastard status, he knew he was still struggling with having said status especially now he knew it wasn't true, but there were some perks he was thankful for, not dining with drunk royalty being one of them.

And so, he had a good amount of time alone, and he spent that constantly on guard, the book tucked in his breast pocket, sword at his side, dagger in his boot and another at his hip, always prepared, ready for a fight, ready to defend himself and Robb.

That was the path he'd chosen, and though he still felt a horrid pang of guilt when he thought of Uncle Benjen, he knew he'd made the right choice, he knew picking Robb was the right choice and he knew he'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Brothers in all but blood, that was what they were and Jon wasn't going to lose him again.

Once Jon had stayed back, had stayed at the Wall and not ran to his brothers side. That may have been the right choice then, but it wasn't now, he knew that.

Choices, life was all about that, and the book emphasised that. The book was a guide, a tool, but it wouldn't fix things for him, take a magic quill and scroll of parchment and fix history, no, it would guide him but the choices were still his and his alone, he just had to make the right ones.

It was another day where it had been frustrating making progress, the royal family stopping twice to dine and 'take a walk'. It was nearing evening already, their camp being slowly set up, the air bitter, the party complaining of the cold, and Robb, eyes rolling called away to dine again.

"Rather him than me" Jory japed, and Jon cracked a grin.

Younger him would have been furious, bubbling with resentment. Part of him still held onto that bitterness but a lot of it was gone, and so it was easier to eat his own dinner in silence, relegated to the fireside, than it would have been.

There was even a slight peacefulness to it, the fire crackling, the Northerners around him mocking the 'soft southerners' as they pitched tents, prepared bed rolls and ate her deer that had been caught, and the clear sky overhead, no snow tonight, just frigid air.

Still, the cold hardly bothered Jon anymore, thanks to his heritage, his time at the Wall, he was used to it. But the further South they got the warmer it was and in truth Jon wasn't sure he didn't just prefer the chill.

His Targaryen Southern heritage aside he knew he was a Northerner, to his bones, to his being. He'd always be more comfortable in Winterfell, in the cold, that was who he was.

Who he would always be.

He finished his food, cleaned his hands, and debated settling down for the night. One of his daily quests was about reading, and he quickly checked it:

Quest Alert!

Knowledge is Power

Read through one of Maester Luwins suggested books on Northern Battles.

Reward: +5 Tactics, +5 Strategy, +50XP

Failure: -10 Tactics

He could maybe settle in, get a read on it and make some progress. He'd been neglecting his daily quests; it had been five days since they'd left Castle Cerwyn and he'd only completed 2.

Quest Complete!

An Apple A Day…

Practice your archery and hit the apple off the stump.

Reward: +10 Combat: Bow and Arrow, +50XP

(That one had taken a few tries, and he had resolved to practice more with the bow, useful at long range after all).

Quest Complete!

Ride Along

Race with Robb on horseback and beat him!

Reward: +5 Combat: Horse Riding, +5 Silver Stags, +50XP

He had also failed one, which had him gritting his teeth.

Quest Failed!

Take on three opponents at once, and win using only a dagger.

Failure: -5 Combat: Dagger, -50XP.

Clearly his dagger skills, whilst good hadn't been up to snuff as his sword skills, after all, once he'd lost to Jory, and two of the Winterfell guards, he'd demanded a rematch with sword and quickly won.

And so, in the net, he was up to 450/2500XP until his next level, which seemed far away, but he knew he'd just need to work at it, and do more of his daily quests, instead of getting caught up in the journey.

The journey that was ever plodding along.

They were closer to the White Knife junction now, and part of him felt a pang to take the Northern fork, back past Winterfell, up to the Long Lake and onto the Wall.

The Wall, his other home. It seemed so far away now, and not just in geographical distance; it was more than that. It was almost like an ache, the further they moved away from it, it felt a million miles away, as though it was further than Asshai itself.

Would he ever return to it? Meet his brothers? Ygritte. He hoped so, but he doubted it more and more each day.

He felt the book then, and glanced around, thankfully he was alone, many of the Northerners drinking and still getting set up for the night, and so he felt no worries in opening it up, the words materialising on the page.

Quest Alert!

Home Again

Return to the Wall

Reward: +20 Beyond the Wall (Map), +5 Warging, +10 Bravery, +10 Combat: Dragonglass Weapons, +10 Old Tongue (Talking), +500XP.

Failure: -20 Bravery, -10 Old Tongue (Talking), -10 Warging, -500XP.

This is an active quest; active quests are ongoing and do not have to be selected, thus they are hard to fail. Failure will only be determined if the quest becomes impossible to achieve.

His heart fluttered at that - a return to the Wall? He barely even paid attention to the rewards. Instead a warmth spread through him, and something that felt like hope. Maybe he wouldn't be a brother again, maybe he wouldn't be a member of the Nights Watch, but maybe, just maybe he'd return to his old home again.

He thought of the quests they involved the Wall, quickly flicking through the pages:

Quest Alert!

Obtain a Valyrian Steel sword.

The possible sword's you may obtain are as follows;

Longclaw – Quest: The Nights Watch.

Dark Sister – Quest: Egg.

Blackfyre – Quest: The Merchant.

New! Brightroar – Lost in Valyria.

Reward: A Valyrian Steel sword, and +10 to Valyrian Steel skill, +10 reputation with all people (excluding pacifists), +1000 XP.

Failure: -20 to Valyrian Steel skill, -1 AGI, -1 LUC.

Quest Alert!

The Lands of Always Winter.

Explore the Lands of Always Winter.

Reward: Unlock the Lands of Always Winter on the Map, gain the bonus 'Complete Resistance to Cold', +5 END, +5 INT, +5 MAG, Trigger the Quest 'Winters Heart'.

Failure: The Lands of Always Winter and its secrets remain a mystery to you resulting in deadly consequences. -10 LUC, -10 MAG.

Quest Alert!

A Continent of Steel

Map out the Valyrian Steel swords of Westeros. Not all will be able to be acquired but some surprising ones will!

Reward: All Valyrian Steel spots will show approximate location. +10 Valyrian Steel Sword skill, +1 LUC.

Failure: Valyrian Steel spots only show nearby location, -1 LUC

The last was loosely related, and the first he had many options, but the 2nd would see him return, and now this new one too.

He smiled then, before tucking the book away. Perhaps there was hope, there was much to do at the Wall after all, it seemed wise to return.

And maybe he'd see them again, Ygritte


"Oi what's that?!" A shout rang through camp ten minutes later, as Jon had gone to return to his tent, making sure he was ready to read and hopefully have a restful night's sleep. That didn't seem likely now though, as he hurried back into, the open, to find Jory, and several others with swords out, facing the forest opposite them.

"What is it?" Jon asked, glancing at the trees, whistling Ghost to his side, Grey Wind followed, never allowed to accompany his master to dinner but instead following his litter mate.

"Bandits probably, maybe wildlings" Jory said, hand on sword, "Possibly following"

Jon nodded, bandits wouldn't be a problem, not likely to mount an attack on such a large party, but could and likely would follow along and rob from them. Better dealt with now.

But wildlings … he hoped it wasn't. Once Jon would have seen them as no different than the bandits: needing to be dealt with, but now anymore. He had broken bread with the freefolk, had understood them, had fought for them, had lived with them and bled for them.

He thought back to the Perk the book had given him:

PERK

Wildling Sympathiser (Perk!)

You naturally sympathise with the ways of the freefolk and will be more accepted by their kind. Be careful though a tolerance for barbarians may see you at odds with others! +5 Bravery, Unlock the ability to learn and see the stats on 'The Old Tongue' – Reading, Writing, Talking, +5 to The Old Tongue Talking, Higher relationship with all Wildlings.

Aye it was true now. It was a lot easier to sympathise with people when you realised, they had just been born on the wrong side of the Wall and were all simply doing what everyone else was: trying to survive.

What had Val said to him once?

'Free folk and kneelers are more like than not, Jon Snow. Men are men and women women, no matter which side of the Wall we were born on. Good men and bad, heroes and villains, men of honour, liars, cravens, brutes, we have plenty as do you'

It rang truer to him now than ever. The free folk hadn't wanted to be born on the frigid side of the Wall, threatened by the Others, scraping to survive whilst their neighbours sunned themselves and drank wine. They had been stuck there, by his ancestors, and hadn't deserved said fate.

"There!" One of the men called, and Jon could see it too, about five of them, but as soon as they heard the shout they scattered, but the Northern men followed.

Jon did pause, he didn't want to kill free folk, he wouldn't, not unless they threatened him, but then the book glowed and he near let out a groan as he quickly read the text.

Quest Alert!

Free or not?

Deal with the freefolk. How you chose to do so is up to you!

Reward: ?

Failure: ?

Hmm, he had never seen the rewards and failures hidden before. He supposed this was like the turning point, in which he'd chosen to follow Robb rather than his Uncle Benjen, the outcome of either depended on his choice, and would again here.

Did he help? Or stop them? Did he want to explain to the Northerner's why he'd helped the free folk? Or was it easier to just cut them down and say no more?

'Do what is right, not what is easy'

Maester Luwin had said that to him once, and he knew it rang true, choosing the easier path was the coward's way out, and he was no coward.

Decision made then, and the same word from earlier echoed in his head: Choices.

Everything depended on them, the choices he made, the decisions he took, and clearly the book was showing him that too. The book would guide him, people would help him, but ultimately his choices, they came down to him.

And so, into the forest he went, Ghost and Grey Wind at his heels.


"Stick together" Jory calls out as the Northerner's make their way into the trees; swords held aloft. The pack of them, almost like wolves, walk side by side, arm to arm, in normal circumstances Jon would be with them, proud to be a part of the group, proud to be acting like a Stark.

But these aren't normal circumstances, they haven't been since he returned from death.

And so, as soon as they pass into the cover of the trees, darkness shifting over them, the lights of the fires and moonlight faded, does he break away, only the direwolves following him, a pack yes, but smaller.

The pack, who is that to him? The Stark's, his brothers at the Wall.

'The lone wolf dies but the pack survives'

His Uncle had said that once, and it has always resonated with him, especially now. His pack is small, scattered, but will survive, must survive, he'll make sure of it.

A snap of a tree branch to his left catches his attention, and in the dark he can see the ears of his companions stand up, on alert, as he is.

Jon knows he's a good fighter, quick with a blade, agile, but he doesn't have the stamina and strength he once had. It's returning, bit by bit everyday, but more training is needed. He realises, five on one? Might not be the best odds.

Hopefully it doesn't come to that though.

Free or not?

Deal with the freefolk. How you chose to do so is up to you!

That was what the book had said, he just hoped the free folk would understand his way of dealing with them was the best way, the only way.

Wildling sympathiser, free folk lover, that's what he'd be called, mocked, perhaps even tried if he was caught letting them go. A pang in his chest then, at what his Uncle would say … but his resolve hardens as he steps forward; the way of law isn't always the right way, he's learnt that by now.

PERK!

No Law, No Order.

You know that law does bring order, but it can also bring injustice. You do not see yourself as bound by the laws of men, but by the laws of your own morality. This is admirable but will get you into trouble no doubt!

+1 PER, +10 Persuasion.

Initially he was annoyed at the glow from the book, he didn't have time for this now! But then, the writing allowed him to spot a hand against a tree. He took just a second to read what it said, and he knew he'd ruminate on the warning later, but for now he stepped forward, sword in hand, but hopeful he wouldn't have to use it.

He stepped forwards, and could hear two on the left, three in front. They were too loud, a branch snapped here, a brush against some twigs jostling them. They were used to the snow of Beyond the Wall that masked all sounds, they didn't have that luxury here.

"Don't move" He whispered, glanced over his shoulder, luck was on his side, the Northern pack had gone in the opposite direction … for now. "You're being hunted"

"By you" One shot back, on his left, and Jon knew actions here would speak louder than words. It would be brash and showy, but necessary.

And so, quickly he darted to the left, his hand closing around the arm of one of the wildlings, as they had been standing right where he had predicted, he was glad to know his mind for fighting was as sharp as ever, even if his reflexes weren't quite there yet. Still he was fast enough, quickly he grabbed the boy, who couldn't have seen past his 16th nameday, and placed his sword to his neck, on the side, and yet he did not slice, only held.

"If I wanted you dead, I'd have cut through the five of you before you knew I was here" He hissed. He hated the show of arrogance, but knew it was necessary. Wildlings responded to strength, to action, to decisiveness, they wouldn't just listen to talk, that was not how it worked, in some ways it was easier, in others, not.

"Then what do you want Southerner?" One of them spat out, stepping into the patch of moonlight. They were all young, not one having seen more than an 18th nameday … escaping their fate Beyond the Wall, he was thankful he was not the man he was, blindly cutting them down, not anymore, not ever again.

"You need to run" He said, sheathing his sword again, waving a hand so both direwolfs would sit, showing he was no threat, and he was thankful when they all seemed to ease, just a touch, but still on alert - good, maybe they'd survive. "Now"

"Why?" One asked, "Why help us?"

Jon paused, why was he? It was simple to him, these people didn't deserve this, to be murdered, massacred simply by chance of birth, just as he didn't deserve to be mocked and looked down upon for the apparent circumstances of his, only one of them had it worse.

He had gone to the Wall planning to guard it from the free folk, to cut them down, and he had many of them, but then he had tried to save them.

And been killed for it.

If anything, though that had made him understand it more. People were scared, unsure, they had believed something for so long; on both sides they didn't realise that the wildlings were just like them, just more desperate, more afraid.

Why should they die for that?

He heard a shout then, the sound of feet on the ground, and he turned back to the pack of boys, one girl, all young, all free folk, free in a sense, trapped in so many others.

"It doesn't matter" He said, and nodded his head to the East of him, "Go through there, you'll hit the Sheepshead Hills, you can hide there" He said, "Go"

"Thank you" The girl said, she was even younger, 15 maybe, her hair red … like Ygritte. He had never been surer in a decision before, to let them go.

"Go"


It was only minutes later that the Northern pack came crashing through the trees, and Jon turned to them, attempting a bashful expression.

"Jon?" Jory asked, checking him over before glancing past him, "What happened?"

"Thought I saw them" Jon said, trying to sound sheepish, "Went after them myself"

"Stupid boy" One of the guards sneered, "They'd have gutted you like a fish"

Jon nodded, knowing any other explanation or expression would look suspicious, he could take the hit to his pride, "Guess it's a good thing I was wrong"

The Northerners grumbled but they nodded, before making their way back, having cleared the area and having found nothing. None paid him any notice as they returned, and Jon didn't let himself smile until he was in his tent, out of relief, out of doing a good deed, and even more when the book glowed.

Quest Completed!

Free or not?

Deal with the freefolk. How you chose to do so is up to you!

Reward: Unlock the PERK 'Friend of the Wildlings', +150XP = 600/2500XP

PERK!

Friend of the Wildlings

You have unlocked a further Perk from 'Wildling Sympathiser'. You more than sympathise with the wildlings, you are a friend to them! +10 Old Tongue: Talking, much higher relationship with all wildlings, possibility to unlock Wildlings as Allies (but not quite yet!).

And so, as Robb returned, grumbling about dinner and the Queen and how dull it was to dine with stuck up Southerners Jon laughed and smiled, feeling a little warmer, a little better, and a little more at ease.


Until the next morning, when he saddled his horse, climbed atop and the wheelhouse broke down again within the first stretch, the King stopped four times for more drink, and Jory shot him an odd look or two, that Jon tried to ignore.

His smile returned a touch though as the party came to a stop for a better reason: they'd reached The White Knife, onto White Harbour they would go, and then down to Moat Calin, the Neck and then to the South.

Onto the Trident, where he knew the quest awaited him.

Quest Alert!

Rubies of the Trident

Find Rhaegars lost rubies in the waters of the Trident. They will reveal powerful secrets about your Fathers heritage and last moments!

Reward: Unlock your Fathers heritage page, +500XP, +1 LUC, See your Fathers last moments!

Failure: Your Fathers heritage page remains locked, -1 PER, -1 LUC, You do not see your Fathers last moments.

The one bright spot on this journey, his journey.


sooo thoughts?

I do hope you enjoyed! clearly our boy jon has not forgotten his past experiences, nor what he learned as a man of the watch!

anywho, do review lemme know your thoughts, and here is to 2022 being the year of regular updates! I'm aiming for minimum once a month (I have waaay too many WIP's I know, 18 to be exact, so one a month for each is 4.5 a week, hmmm ... well, heres to trying!

also just a reminder I love your reviews! but lets be constructive, 'you suck', or 'you should write the story like *insert a completely different story, plot and direction*' are not helpful.

speak soon