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Chapter One Bran The morning had dawned clear and cold, through a crispness that hinted at the finish of summer. They collection forth at daybreak to watch a man beheaded, twenty in all, and also Bran rode among them, nervous via excitement. This was the initially time he had been considered old sufficient to go via his lord father and also his brothers to watch the king"s justice done. It was the ninth year of summer, and the seventh of Bran"s life. The man had actually been taken outside a tiny holdquick in the hills. Robb believed he was a wildling, his sword sworn to Mance Rayder, the King-beyond-the-Wall surface. It made Bran"s skin prickle to think of it. He remembered the hearth tales Old Nan told them. The wildlings were cruel guys, she said, slavers and also slayers and thieves. They consorted with giants and also ghouls, stole girl youngsters in the dead of night, and also drank blood from polished horns. And their women lay through the Others in the Long Night to sire destructive half-human kids. But the man they uncovered bound hand also and also foot to the holdrapid wall awaiting the king"s justice was old and scrawny, not a lot taller than Robb. He had actually shed both ears and a finger to frostbite, and he dressed all in babsence, the very same as a brvarious other of the Night"s Watch, except that his furs were ragged and grstraightforward. The breath of guy and horse mingled, steaming, in the cold morning air as his lord father had the male cut down from the wall and dragged before them. Robb and Jon sat tall and still on their equines, with Bran in between them on his pony, trying to seem older than salso, trying to pretfinish that he"d seen all this before. A faint wind blew through the holdquick gate. Over their heads flapped the banner of the Starks of Winterfell: a grey direwolf racing throughout an ice-white area. Bran"s father sat solemnly on his horse, long brvery own hair stirring in the wind. His closely trimmed beard was shot through white, making him look older than his thirty-5 years. He had a grim actors to his grey eyes this particular day, and also he seemed not at all the male who would certainly sit prior to the fire in the evening and also talk softly of the age of heroes and the children of the woodland. He had actually taken off Father"s confront, Bran assumed, and also donned the challenge of Lord Stark of Winterfell. Tbelow were questions asked and also answers offered tright here in the chill of morning, however afterward Bran can not recall much of what had actually been said. Finally his lord father provided a command also, and also two of his guardsmen dragged the ragged male to the ironwood stump in the facility of the square. They required his head dvery own onto the hard black timber. Lord Eddard Stark displaced and his ward Theon Greyjoy brought forth the sword. "Ice," that sword was referred to as. It was as wide throughout as a man"s hand, and taller even than Robb. The blade was Valyrian steel, spell-forged and dark as smoke. Nopoint organized an edge favor Valyrian steel. His father peeled off his gloves and handed them to Jory Cassel, the captain of his family members guard. He took hold of Ice with both hands and also said, "In the name of Robert of the Housage Baratheon, the First of his Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Salso Kingdoms and also Protector of the Realm, by the word of Eddard of the Housage Stark, Lord of Winterdropped and Warden of the North, I carry out sentence you to die. " He lifted the greatsword high above his head. Bran"s bastard brother Jon Snow moved closer. "Keep the pony well in hand," he whispered. "And do not look away. Father will certainly recognize if you carry out. " Bran preserved his pony well in hand, and did not look ameans. His father took off the man"s head with a single sure stroke. Blood sprayed out across the scurrently, as red as surnmerwine. One of the equines reared and also had actually to be restrained to keep from bolting. Bran can not take his eyes off the blood. The snows around the stump drank it eagerly, reddening as he watched. The head bounced off a thick root and also rolled. It came up close to Greyjoy"s feet. Theon was a lean, dark youth of nineteen that discovered every little thing ammaking use of. He laughed, put his boot on the head, and also kicked it ameans. "Ass," Jon muttered, low sufficient so Greyjoy did not hear. He put a hand on Bran"s shoulder, and also Bran looked over at his bastard brother. "You did well," Jon told him solemnly. Jon was fourteen, an old hand at justice. It seemed colder on the long ride ago to Winterfell, though the wind had actually died by then and also the sunlight was greater in the skies. Bran rode with his brothers, well ahead of the major party, his pony struggling hard to keep up via their steeds. "The deserter died bravely," Robb said. He was significant and wide and thriving eincredibly day, via his mother"s coloring, the fair skin, red-brvery own hair, and also blue eyes of the Tullys of Riverrun. "He had courage, at the least. " "No," Jon Snow sassist quietly. "It was not courage. This one was dead of fear. You might view it in his eyes, Stark. " Jon"s eyes were a grey so dark they seemed almost babsence, however tright here was little they did not check out. He was of an era with Robb, yet they did not look achoose. Jon was slender wbelow Robb was muscular, dark wright here Robb was fair, graceful and also quick wright here his half brother was solid and also rapid. Robb was not impressed. "The Others take his eyes," he swore. "He passed away well. Race you to the bridge?" "Done," Jon sassist, kicking his horse forward. Robb cursed and complied with, and they galloped off down the trail, Robb laughing and hooting, Jon silent and intent. The hooves of their steeds kicked up showers of scurrently as they went. Bran did not try to follow. His pony might not keep up. He had viewed the ragged man"s eyes, and also he was thinking of them now. After a while, the sound of Robb"s laughter reyielded, and also the woods thrived silent again. So deep in thought was he that he never before heard the rest of the party till his father moved up to ride alongside him. "Are you well, Bran?" he asked, not unkindly. "Yes, Father," Bran told him. He looked up. Wrapped in his furs and also leathers, placed on his great warequine, his lord father loomed over him like a gigantic. "Robb states the male passed away bravely, yet Jon claims he was afrassist. " "What execute you think?" his father asked. Bran assumed around it. "Can a male still be brave if he"s afraid?" "That is the only time a man have the right to be brave," his father told him. "Do you understand also why I did it?" "He was a wildling," Bran sassist. "They bring off womales and offer them to the Others. " His lord father smiled. "Old Nan has actually been informing you stories again. In reality, the male was an oathbreaker, a deserter from the Night"s Watch. No guy is even more dangerous. The deserter knows his life is forfeit if he is taken, so he will certainly not flinch from any type of crime, no issue exactly how vile. But you mistake me. The question was not why the guy had actually to die, however why I should perform it. " Bran had no answer for that. "King Robert has actually a headsmale," he sassist, unabsolutely. "He does," his father admitted. "As did the Targaryen emperors before him. Yet our way is the older method. The blood of the First Men still flows in the veins of the Starks, and we hold to the idea that the male that passes the sentence must swing the sword. If you would certainly take a man"s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to execute that, then maybe the man does not deserve to die. "One day, Bran, you will be Robb"s bannerman, holding a keep of your very own for your brvarious other and your king, and also justice will loss to you. When that day comes, you must take no pleasure in the job, but neither need to you look amethod. A ruler who hides behind paid executioners quickly forgets what death is. " That was when Jon reshowed up on the crest of the hill before them. He waved and shouted down at them. "Father, Bran, come conveniently, view what Robb has actually found!" Then he was gone aobtain. Jory rode up beside them. "Trouble, my lord?" "Beyond a doubt," his lord father shelp. "Come, let us view what mischief my sons have rooted out currently. " He sent his horse into a trot. Jory and Bran and the rest came after. They found Robb on the riverbank north of the bridge, via Jon still installed beside him. The late summer snows had actually been hefty this moonrotate. Robb stood knee-deep in white, his hood pulled earlier so the sunlight shone in his hair. He was cradling somepoint in his arm, while the boys talked in huburned, excited voices. The riders picked their means very closely via the drifts, groping for solid footing on the hidden, uneven ground. Jory Cassel and also Theon Greyjoy were the initially to reach the boys. Greyjoy was laughing and joking as he rode. Bran heard the breath go out of him. "Gods!" he exclaimed, struggling to store control of his horse as he reached for his sword. Jory"s sword was already out. "Robb, get away from it!" he referred to as as his steed reared under him. Robb grinned and looked up from the bundle in his arms. "She can"t hurt you," he shelp. "She"s dead, Jory. " Bran was afire through curiosity by then. He would have spurred the pony quicker, but his father made them dismount alongside the bridge and approach on foot. Bran jumped off and ran. By then Jon, Jory, and Theon Greyjoy had all disinstalled too. "What in the seven hells is it?" Greyjoy was saying. "A wolf," Robb told him. "A freak," Greyjoy said. "Look at the size of it. " Bran"s heart was thumping in his chest as he puburned via a waist-high drift to his brothers" side. Half-hidden in bloodstained scurrently, a huge dark shape slumped in death. Ice had developed in its shaggy grey hair, and also the faint smell of corruption clung to it choose a woman"s perfume. Bran glimpsed blind eyes crawling through maggots, a large mouth complete of yellowed teeth. But it was the size of it that made him gasp. It was bigger than his pony, twice the size of the biggest hound in his father"s kennel. "It"s no freak," Jon shelp calmly. "That"s a direwolf. They thrive larger than the other type. " Theon Greyjoy shelp, "There"s not been a direwolf sighted southern of the Wall surface in two hundred years. " "I view one now," Jon replied. Bran tore his eyes ameans from the monster. That was once he noticed the bundle in Robb"s arms. He gave a cry of delight and also relocated closer. The pup was a tiny bevery one of grey-babsence fur, its eyes still closed. It nuzzled thoughtlessly versus Robb"s chest as he cradled it, in search of milk among his leathers, making a sad bit whimpery sound. Bran got to out hesitantly. "Go on," Robb told him. "You deserve to touch him. " Bran provided the pup a quick nervous stroke, then turned as Jon shelp, "Here you go. " His fifty percent brother put a 2nd pup into his arms. "Tbelow are 5 of them. " Bran sat down in the snow and hugged the wolf pas much as his face. Its hair was soft and also warm versus his cheek. "Direwolves loose in the realm, after so many type of years," muttered Hullen, the master of equine. "I favor it not. " "It is a sign," Jory said. Father frowned. "This is only a dead animal, Jory," he sassist. Yet he appeared troubled. Snow crunched under his boots as he relocated around the body. "Do we recognize what eliminated her?" "There"s somepoint in the throat," Robb told him, proud to have discovered the answer prior to his father even asked. "Tright here, just under the jaw. " His father knelt and also groped under the beast"s head with his hand also. He offered a yank and organized it up for all to watch. A foot of shattered antler, tines snapped off, all wet via blood. A sudden silence descended over the party. The males looked at the antler unconveniently, and also no one dared to soptimal. Even Bran could feeling their are afraid, though he did not understand. His father tossed the antler to the side and also cleansed his hands in the scurrently. "I"m surprised she lived lengthy enough to wassist," he shelp. His voice broke the spell. "Maybe she didn"t," Jory said. "I"ve heard tales . . . perhaps the bitch was currently dead once the pups came. " "Born with the dead," another guy put in. "Worse luck. " "No matter," sassist Hullen. "They be dead shortly sufficient also. " Bran offered a wordmuch less cry of dismight. "The sooner the much better," Theon Greyjoy agreed. He drew his sword. "Give the beastern right here, Bran. " The bit point squirmed against him, as if it heard and construed. "No!" Bran cried out fiercely. "It"s mine. " "Put ameans your sword, Greyjoy," Robb sassist. For a minute he sounded as commanding as their father, prefer the lord he would someday be. "We will certainly keep these pups. " "You cannot execute that, boy," said Harwin, that was Hullen"s child. "It be a mercy to kill them," Hullen sassist. Bran looked to his lord father for rescue, however gained just a frown, a furrowed brow. "Hullen speaks truly, child. Better a swift death than a hard one from cold and starvation. " "No!" He can feel tears welling in his eyes, and also he looked amethod. He did not want to cry in front of his father. Robb resisted stubbornly. "Ser Rodrik"s red bitch waided aacquire last week," he said. "It was a little litter, just 2 live pups. She"ll have milk sufficient. " "She"ll rip them apart as soon as they attempt to nurse. " "Lord Stark," Jon shelp. It was strange to hear him speak to Father that, so formal. Bran looked at him through despeprice hope. "There are five pups," he told Father. "Three male, 2 female. " "What of it, Jon?" "You have actually 5 trueborn kids," Jon sassist. "Three sons, two daughters. The direwolf is the sigil of your Housage. Your kids were expected to have actually these pups, my lord. " Bran observed his father"s face adjust, saw the other men exadjust glances. He loved Jon with all his heart at that minute. Even at seven, Bran understood what his brother had done. The count had come ideal only bereason Jon had actually omitted himself. He had actually included the girls, consisted of also Rickon, the baby, but not the bastard that bore the surname Scurrently, the name that tradition decreed be provided to all those in the north unlucky sufficient to be born via no name of their own. Their father taken also. "You want no pup for yourself, Jon?" he asked softly. "The direwolf graces the banners of Housage Stark," Jon pointed out. "I am no Stark, Father. " Their lord father concerned Jon thoughtfully. Robb rushed into the silence he left. "I will certainly nurse him myself, Father," he promised. "I will certainly soak a towel through warmth milk, and offer him suck from that. " "Me too!" Bran echoed. The lord weighed his sons long and also carefully with his eyes. "Easy to say, and harder to perform. I will certainly not have you wasting the servants" time through this. If you desire these pups, you will feed them yourselves. Is that understood?" Bran nodded eagerly. The pup squirmed in his grasp, licked at his face with a warm tongue. "You must train them as well," their father said. "You should train them. The kennelmaster will certainly have nopoint to perform with these monsters, I promise you that. And the gods help you if you overlook them, or brutalize them, or train them badly. These are not dogs to beg for treats and sconnect off at a kick. A direwolf will rip a man"s arm off his shoulder as conveniently as a dog will kill a rat. Are you sure you desire this?" "Yes, Father," Bran said. "Yes," Robb agreed. "The pups may die anyway, despite all you perform. " "They will not die," Robb sassist. "We won"t let them die. " "Keep them, then. Jory, Desmond, gather up the various other pups. It"s time we were back to Winterdropped. " It was not till they were mounted and on their method that Bran permitted himself to taste the sweet air of victory. By then, his pup was snuggled inside his leathers, warm against him, safe for the long ride home. Bran was wondering what to name him. Halfmeans across the bridge, Jon pulled up all of a sudden. "What is it, Jon?" their lord father asked. "Can"t you hear it?" Bran could hear the wind in the trees, the clatter of their hooves on the ironhardwood planks, the whimpering of his hungry pup, but Jon was listening to somepoint else. "Tbelow," Jon shelp. He swung his horse roughly and also galloped earlier throughout the bridge. They watched him dismount wbelow the direwolf lay dead in the scurrently, watched him kneel. A minute later on he was riding back to them, smiling. "He should have crawled ameans from the others," Jon sassist. "Or been moved amethod," their father shelp, looking at the sixth pup. His fur was white, where the rest of the litter was grey. His eyes were as red as the blood of the ragged guy who had actually passed away that morning. Bran thought it curious that this pup alone would certainly have opened up his eyes while the others were still blind. "An albino," Theon Greyjoy sassist through wry amusement. "This one will die even quicker than the others. " Jon Scurrently provided his father"s ward a long, chilling look. "I think not, Greyjoy," he sassist.

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"This one belongs to me. "