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Chapter One Bran The morning had dawned clear and cold, through a crispness the hinted in ~ the finish of summer. They collection forth at daybreak to watch a male beheaded, twenty in all, and also Bran rode amongst them, nervous v excitement. This to be the first time he had actually been considered old enough to go with his mr father and also his brothers to see the king"s righteousness done. It was the 9th year of summer, and the saturday of Bran"s life. The man had been taken exterior a tiny holdfast in the hills. Robb thought he to be a wildling, his knife sworn to Mance Rayder, the King-beyond-the-Wall. That made Bran"s skin prickle to think of it. That remembered the hearth tales Old Nan said them. The wildlings were cruel men, she said, slavers and slayers and thieves. Lock consorted with giants and ghouls, stole girl youngsters in the dead of night, and also drank blood from polished horns. And their women lay v the others in the long Night to sire disastrous half-human children. yet the man they discovered bound hand and foot come the holdfast wall awaiting the king"s justice was old and scrawny, not lot taller than Robb. He had lost both ears and a finger come frostbite, and also he dressed every in black, the very same as a brothers of the Night"s Watch, other than that his furs were ragged and greasy. The breath of man and horse mingled, steaming, in the cold morning air together his lord father had actually the man cut down native the wall and dragged before them. Robb and Jon sat tall and also still on your horses, v Bran between them ~ above his pony, trying to seem older 보다 seven, trying to pretend the he"d seen all this before. A faint wind blew through the holdfast gate. Over your heads flapped the banner the the Starks that Winterfell: a grey direwolf racing across an ice-white field. Bran"s father satellite solemnly on his horse, lengthy brown hair stirring in the wind. His closely trimmed beard to be shot with white, making him look older than his thirty-five years. He had actually a grim actors to his grey eyes this day, and also he appeared not at every the man who would sit prior to the fire in the evening and also talk softly the the age of heroes and the children of the forest. He had actually taken off Father"s face, Bran thought, and also donned the face of lord Stark that Winterfell. over there were questions asked and answers offered there in the chilled of morning, yet afterward Bran can not recall much of what had actually been said. Finally his mr father provided a command, and two that his guardsmen dragged the ragged male to the ironwood stump in the center of the square. They compelled his head under onto the tough black wood. Lord Eddard distinct dismounted and also his ward Theon Greyjoy lugged forth the sword. "Ice," that knife was called. It was as vast across together a man"s hand, and also taller even than Robb. The blade was Valyrian steel, spell-forged and also dark together smoke. Nothing hosted an edge prefer Valyrian steel. His dad peeled off his gloves and handed them to Jory Cassel, the captain that his family members guard. That took host of Ice v both hands and said, "In the surname of Robert that the home Baratheon, the first of his Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the first Men, mr of the 7 Kingdoms and Protector the the Realm, by words of Eddard the the house Stark, lord of Winterfell and also Warden the the North, I execute sentence you come die. " the lifted the greatsword high over his head. Bran"s bastard brothers Jon Snow moved closer. "Keep the pony fine in hand," that whispered. "And don"t look at away. Father will understand if you do. " Bran kept his pony fine in hand, and did no look away. His dad took off the man"s head v a solitary sure stroke. Blood pce out across the snow, together red together surnmerwine. One of the horses reared and had to it is in restrained to save from bolting. Bran can not take his eyes turn off the blood. The snows roughly the stump drank the eagerly, reddening together he watched. The head bounced turn off a special root and rolled. It come up near Greyjoy"s feet. Theon was a lean, dark youth that nineteen who uncovered everything amusing. The laughed, placed his boot on the head, and kicked it away. "Ass," Jon muttered, low sufficient so Greyjoy did no hear. He put a hand ~ above Bran"s shoulder, and also Bran looked end at his bastard brother. "You did well," Jon told that solemnly. Jon was fourteen, one old hand at justice. it seemed chillier on the lengthy ride earlier to Winterfell, despite the wind had died by then and the sunlight was higher in the sky. Bran rode v his brothers, well ahead that the key party, his pony struggling tough to save up v their horses. "The deserter passed away bravely," Robb said. That was huge and large and growing every day, v his mother"s coloring, the fair skin, red-brown hair, and also blue eyes of the Tullys of Riverrun. "He had courage, in ~ the least. " "No," Jon Snow claimed quietly. "It was no courage. This one to be dead the fear. You could see it in his eyes, Stark. " Jon"s eye were a grey so dark lock seemed almost black, but there was little they did not see. He to be of an er with Robb, however they did no look alike. Jon was slender wherein Robb to be muscular, dark whereby Robb was fair, graceful and quick where his fifty percent brother was solid and fast. Robb was no impressed. "The Others take his eyes," that swore. "He passed away well. Race you to the bridge?" "Done," Jon said, kicking his steed forward. Robb cursed and also followed, and they galloped off down the trail, Robb laughing and also hooting, Jon silent and intent. The hooves of their horses kicked increase showers of eye as castle went. Bran did not shot to follow. His pony could not store up. He had seen the ragged man"s eyes, and also he was reasoning of castle now. After ~ a while, the sound of Robb"s laughter receded, and also the woods thrived silent again. for this reason deep in believed was he that he never ever heard the remainder of the party till his father moved up to ride next to him. "Are friend well, Bran?" he asked, no unkindly. "Yes, Father," Bran called him. That looked up. Covering in his furs and leathers, placed on his good warhorse, his mr father loomed over him like a giant. "Robb states the man died bravely, but Jon says he to be afraid. " "What execute you think?" his dad asked. Bran thought about it. "Can a male still it is in brave if he"s afraid?" "That is the just time a man deserve to be brave," his dad told him. "Do you know why ns did it?" "He was a wildling," Bran said. "They lug off women and also sell them come the Others. " His lord father smiled. "Old Nan has actually been informing you stories again. In truth, the male was one oathbreaker, a deserter native the Night"s Watch. No man is more dangerous. The deserter knows his life is forfeit if that is taken, therefore he will not flinch from any kind of crime, no matter exactly how vile. But you wrong me. The concern was not why the man had actually to die, but why I must do it. " Bran had no answer because that that. "King Robert has a headsman," he said, uncertainly. "He does," his dad admitted. "As did the Targaryen kings prior to him. Yet our method is the larger way. The blood the the first Men still flows in the veins of the Starks, and we host to the belief that the man who overcome the sentence have to swing the sword. If you would take a man"s life, you owe it to him to look right into his eyes and hear his last words. And also if you cannot bear to do that, then probably the male does no deserve to die. "One day, Bran, you will be Robb"s bannerman, holding a save of your own for your brother and your king, and justice will loss to you. As soon as that work comes, you need to take no satisfied in the task, yet neither must you watch away. A ruler who hides behind payment executioners shortly forgets what fatality is. " that was once Jon reappeared on the crest of the hill before them. That waved and shouted under at them. "Father, Bran, come quickly, view what Robb has actually found!" climate he to be gone again. Jory speak up alongside them. "Trouble, my lord?" "Beyond a doubt," his lord father said. "Come, let us see what mischief mine sons have actually rooted out now. " He sent out his horse into a trot. Jory and Bran and also the rest came after. They uncovered Robb ~ above the riverbank phibìc of the bridge, v Jon still an installed beside him. The late summer snows had actually been heavy this moonturn. Robb stood knee-deep in white, his hood pulled back so the sunlight shone in his hair. He was cradling other in his arm, if the boys talked in hushed, excited voices. The riders picked their means carefully with the drifts, groping for solid footing ~ above the hidden, uneven ground. Jory Cassel and also Theon Greyjoy to be the an initial to reach the boys. Greyjoy was laughing and also joking as he rode. Bran heard the breath go the end of him. "Gods!" the exclaimed, struggling to keep manage of his equine as he reached for his sword. Jory"s knife was currently out. "Robb, obtain away native it!" he referred to as as his equine reared under him. Robb grinned and looked increase from the bundle in his arms. "She can"t ache you," he said. "She"s dead, Jory. " Bran was afire v curiosity by then. He would have actually spurred the pony faster, however his dad made castle dismount beside the bridge and approach top top foot. Bran jumped off and ran. By then Jon, Jory, and Theon Greyjoy had actually all dismounted together well. "What in the 7 hells is it?" Greyjoy was saying. "A wolf," Robb called him. "A freak," Greyjoy said. "Look at the size of it. " Bran"s heart to be thumping in his chest as he moved through a waist-high drift to his brothers" side. Half-buried in bloodstained snow, a huge dark form slumped in death. Ice had developed in its shaggy grey fur, and also the faint smell that corruption clung to it prefer a woman"s perfume. Bran glimpsed remote eyes crawling with maggots, a wide mouth complete of yellowed teeth. However it to be the size of it the made the gasp. It to be bigger 보다 his pony, double the dimension of the biggest hound in his father"s kennel. "It"s no freak," Jon claimed calmly. "That"s a direwolf. They prosper larger 보다 the other kind. " Theon Greyjoy said, "There"s not been a direwolf sighted south of the wall surface in 2 hundred years. " "I view one now," Jon replied. Bran tore his eyes away from the monster. The was once he i found it the bundle in Robb"s arms. He offered a cry that delight and also moved closer. The pup was a tiny sphere of grey-black fur, its eye still closed. It nuzzled blindly against Robb"s chest together he crib it, looking for milk among his leathers, make a sad small whimpery sound. Bran reached out hesitantly. "Go on," Robb called him. "You can touch him. " Bran gave the pup a quick nervous stroke, then turned together Jon said, "Here girlfriend go. " His fifty percent brother placed a 2nd pup into his arms. "There are five of them. " Bran sat down in the snow and also hugged the wolf pup come his face. Its fur was soft and warm versus his cheek. "Direwolves loose in the realm, after so numerous years," muttered Hullen, the understand of horse. "I prefer it not. " "It is a sign," Jory said. dad frowned. "This is only a dead animal, Jory," that said. However he appeared troubled. Eye crunched under his boots together he moved around the body. "Do we recognize what killed her?" "There"s other in the throat," Robb told him, proud to have found the answer prior to his father also asked. "There, just under the jaw. " His dad knelt and groped under the beast"s head through his hand. He provided a yank and also held it increase for every to see. A foot of not correct antler, tines snap off, every wet with blood. A sudden silence descended over the party. The men looked in ~ the antler uneasily, and no one dared to speak. Even Bran might sense your fear, despite he did not understand. His father tossed the antler come the side and cleansed his hands in the snow. "I"m surprised she live long sufficient to whelp," the said. His voice damaged the spell. "Maybe she didn"t," Jory said. "I"ve heard tales . . . Maybe the bitch was already dead as soon as the pups came. " "Born through the dead," an additional man put in. "Worse luck. " "No matter," claimed Hullen. "They be dead soon enough too. " Bran provided a wordless cry of dismay. "The sooner the better," Theon Greyjoy agreed. He attracted his sword. "Give the beast here, Bran. " The little thing squirmed versus him, together if the heard and understood. "No!" Bran cried out fiercely. "It"s mine. " "Put away your sword, Greyjoy," Robb said. For a moment he sounded as commanding together their father, favor the lord he would one day be. "We will store these pups. " "You cannot perform that, boy," claimed Harwin, that was Hullen"s son. "It be a mercy to death them," Hullen said. Bran looked to his mr father because that rescue, but got just a frown, a furrowed brow. "Hullen speaks truly, son. Much better a swift death than a tough one indigenous cold and starvation. " "No!" He might feel tears welling in his eyes, and he looked away. The did not want to cry in front of his father. Robb resisted stubbornly. "Ser Rodrik"s red bitch whelped again critical week," that said. "It was a little litter, only two live pups. She"ll have milk enough. " "She"ll rip them apart when they try to nurse. " "Lord Stark," Jon said. It to be strange to hear him call Father that, for this reason formal. Bran looked at him through desperate hope. "There are 5 pups," the told Father. "Three male, 2 female. " "What the it, Jon?" "You have five trueborn children," Jon said. "Three sons, two daughters. The direwolf is the sigil of your House. Your youngsters were expected to have these pups, my lord. " Bran saw his father"s confront change, saw the other guys exchange glances. He loved Jon with all his heart at the moment. Also at seven, Bran interpreted what his brother had actually done. The count had come appropriate only because Jon had omitted himself. That had consisted of the girls, included even Rickon, the baby, yet not the bastard that bore the castle Snow, the name that custom decreed be provided to all those in the phibìc unlucky enough to it is in born with no name of their own. their father construed as well. "You want no pup for yourself, Jon?" that asked softly. "The direwolf graces the banners of home Stark," Jon pointed out. "I to be no Stark, Father. " Their mr father pertained to Jon thoughtfully. Robb rushed into the silence he left. "I will certainly nurse that myself, Father," he promised. "I will certainly soak a towel with heat milk, and give him suck indigenous that. " "Me too!" Bran echoed. The lord weighed his boy long and carefully v his eyes. "Easy to say, and also harder come do. I will not have actually you wasting the servants" time with this. If you want these pups, you will certainly feed them yourselves. Is the understood?" Bran nodded eagerly. The pup squirmed in his grasp, licked in ~ his face with a heat tongue. "You must train them together well," your father said. "You need to train them. The kennelmaster will have nothing to carry out with these monsters, i promise you that. And also the gods assist you if you overlook them, or brutalize them, or train lock badly. These space not dog to beg because that treats and also slink off at a kick. A direwolf will rip a man"s arm off his shoulder as easily as a dog will kill a rat. Room you sure you desire this?" "Yes, Father," Bran said. "Yes," Robb agreed. "The pups may die anyway, despite all you do. " "They won"t die," Robb said. "We won"t permit them die. " "Keep them, then. Jory, Desmond, gather up the other pups. It"s time us were ago to Winterfell. " It to be not until they were mounted and on their way that Bran enabled himself to taste the sweet wait of victory. By then, his pup to be snuggled within his leathers, warm versus him, safe for the lengthy ride home. Bran was wondering what to name him. Halfway throughout the bridge, Jon traction up suddenly. "What is it, Jon?" their lord father asked. "Can"t friend hear it?" Bran might hear the wind in the trees, the clatter of your hooves ~ above the ironwood planks, the whimpering that his hungry pup, yet Jon was listening come something else. "There," Jon said. That swung his steed around and also galloped back throughout the bridge. They watched him dismount where the direwolf lay dead in the snow, watched that kneel. A moment later he to be riding earlier to them, smiling. "He must have actually crawled far from the others," Jon said. "Or been thrust away," their father said, looking in ~ the sixth pup. His hair was white, where the rest of the litter to be grey. His eyes were as red together the blood the the ragged guy who had died that morning. Bran thought it curious that this pup alone would have opened his eyes while the others were still blind. "An albino," Theon Greyjoy claimed with wry amusement. "This one will certainly die also faster 보다 the others. " Jon Snow gave his father"s ward a long, chilling look. "I think not, Greyjoy," he said.

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"This one belongs to me. "