Above White Harbour, the skies were turning a dark grey, darker than what the North was used to at least. The air was deathly calm, and many of the smallfolk within the city had already fled indoors for their own safety. Jon could feel the climate changing as it prepared for what promised to be one of the largest storms the North had seen in years.
At fourteen years of age, this was the furthest Jon had travelled, and the most south he'd been as well. His father, Lord Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North had decided that Jon, as well as his brother Robb needed to see more of the kingdom that Robb would one day be ruling. As a bastard Jon had no idea why he'd been asked to come along, but he had readily agreed as it meant that he'd be away from the cold criticism of Father's wife Lady Catelyn for a few weeks. That being said, Jon did miss his other half-siblings, especially Arya.
The small entourage of Winterfell men arrived at the main gate of New Keep, the home of House Manderly. Awaiting them were a score of men and women, with the two men at the front enormously fat like the walruses that dwelled on the island of Skagos. Jon recognised them as Sers Wylis and Wendel Manderly, sons of Lord Wyman Manderly from their visits to Winterfell. They were both fat to the point of absurdity, though their reputations as fierce warriors stopped anyone from outright mocking them. Unless one was good friends with the Manderlys of course, which gratefully the Starks were. After all, it was the old Kings of Winter who gave the harbour to the Manderlys after they were driven from the Reach centuries ago.
Pleasantries were exchanged before Father and the Manderlys, during which Father introduced Jon and Robb to Sers Wylis and Wendel. By now most of the Lords of the North had come to accept that Jon was a permanent fixture in the Stark household, even if he was a bastard and that Lady Catelyn hated him, so the Manderlys were neither offended nor surprised at his presence. They were, however, rather keen to speak to him about his swordsmanship and watch him, for whatever reason Jon couldn't fathom.
(It wasn't until later that night that Robb told him that his skills as a swordsman were already starting to spread, even though he'd yet to see any real combat).
Per Lord Wyman Manderly's reputation, he put on a spectacular feast that had every man and woman’s bellies full of good food and ale. Lord Wyman's granddaughters Wylla and Wynafryd were both pushed in Robb's direction not-too discretely, no doubt in a bid for one of them to catch the heir to Winterfell's eye for a potential match between the two Houses. Jon had no hope for that kind of life as a bastard, but in a way it gave him a lot more freedom, for example to marry for love instead of duty on day.
However, that was the last thing on Jon's mind. Throughout the feast, the howling winds and rain picked up in noise and intensity, and it seemed like he was the only one noticing. Even Father, ever quiet and observant of everything around him was too engrossed in conversation with Lord Wyman and Ser Wylis to notice the raging storm.
“Ease up Snow, it's not every day one gets to enjoy a feast held by the mermen,” said Robb with an easy laugh. The Manderly girls giggled at his joke, but Jon suspected that they merely laughed to gain his favour.
“Do you not hear the storm outside brother?” asked Jon worriedly. Even as he said that, thunder crackled above the hall, rattling the large room slightly. However, Robb seemed nonplussed.
“Don't worry about it. We're safe in the castle,” he said.
“And what about the smallfolk living in walls less sturdy than this?” retorted Jon.
When Robb didn't answer right away, Jon had enough and felt compelled to leave the feast, so he abruptly stood up, much to Robb's confusion and slight annoyance and departed the hall. Jon didn't know where he was going, but he followed his feet until he was suddenly outside. The rain was light hut falling hard, hitting his skin with a slight sting and within a minute his breeches and tunic were soaked, as well as his long dark hair. The guards on duty ignored him as he walked along the outer walls of the New Castle until he was facing the turbulent ocean. Jon couldn't see much through the tempest, but he knew where the White Knife and Seal Rock were located. In the distance, he could make out the outline of the great fortress/turned prison of the Wolf's Den. Jon felt some sympathy for the men being forced to guard Seal Rock and the outer walls of the city, as they were the ones most likely taking the brunt of the storm's impact.
The waves were churning powerfully, some so large that they almost tumbled over the great outer walls of the harbour, white water foaming and splashing dangerously. Ships docked on the harbour rocked back and forth precariously, looking like they were about to capsize any minute even if they were great big galleons built for shipping huge amounts of goods or for warfare. Jon didn't think that anyone would want to be out in the open ocean at this time.
However, in the distance just off shore, beyond the outer wall, Jon saw a flickering light. He squinted his eyes and brushed the hair out of his face, and saw it again. Somehow, he could make out a ship of strange design being tossed through the winds and waves, looking battered and on the verge of sinking. The light Jon had seen must have been from torches or lanterns impossibly still-aflame. It looked like at any second the ship was going to sink, killing everyone on board.
“Guards! Guards!” shouted Jon as he felt a dread feeling of panic come over him. He wasn't sure if anyone could hear him over the howling wind, but an alarm needed to be raised. Thankfully a passing guard saw him shouting and came over to see what was wrong.
“What is it boy?” he asked in a slightly annoyed tone, his wet face cpntorted into a scowl.
“There! There's a ship in danger of sinking!” screamed Jon. He pointed to where he could see the ship being jostled closer to the harbour shore, near some jagged rocks at the bottom of the outer wall.
“Seven Hells!” swore the guard before taking off, disappearing into the darkness. Jon waited impatiently for the guard to return, his eyes never leaving the ship as it neared the rocks dangerously.
The very second the ship splintered to pieces against the rocks, the loud bell began chiming.
The guard returned and grabbed Jon by the arm roughly and said, “You need to lead us to the ship seeing as you know where it is.”
Jon didn't even hesitate before following the man towards where a group pf assembled guards were waiting with ropes and grapple hooks. They waited for the guard to explain why Jon was with him before they took off together, leaving the New Castle completely.
It was extremely difficult to get through the town due to the slippery roads and strong winds that threatened to sweep every man off their feet, and every second that passed by Jon's feeling of urgency mingled with dread grew. They needed to find the ship and help any survivors as quickly as they could before they either drowned or were bashed against the sharp rocky cliffs. Eventually, after almost twenty minutes at least, the rescue party arrived at where Jon saw the ship crash.
Even through the darkness and rain, Jon could tell that the scene was a mess. Wood was splintered everywhere, either strewn across the rocks or being swept out to sea. There were boxes, crates and barrels amongst the destruction, as well as a few bodies that were quickly recovered by the rescue party. Jon tried his best to help recover the bodies, but while doing so he noticed that there was something peculiar about the people and ship.
Many parts of the ruined ship was made of a strange, flexible yet strong-looking wood that Jon had never seen before. The wood was round and thin, slightly hollow and had natural ridges that ran at even intervals around the circumference of the outside. The people were even stranger. Some were wearing strange, loose-fitting clothing similar to what sailors wore, but seemed more simple yet comfortable. Others, who were clearly warriors had strange armour that was loose and plated, and looked to be made out of a combination of steel, leather and wood in a design Jon had never seen before. Even their characteristics were different: hair black as night, pale skin and short in stature. So far, only one man had been found to be alive, and he’d tried to put up a fight before collapsing from exhaustion.
Who are these people? Where did they come from? thought Jon. He spotted what looked to be a sword sheathed in its scabbard, connected to another, shorter sword wedged in between some rocks. He went over and pulled the swords out of the rock, then drew the longest one out of its scabbard. It was shorter than a longsword, with a single edge and moderately curved blade. When lightning flashed above Jon, the blade gleamed slightly, but he saw the unmistakeable rippling patterns in the steel, indicating that the sword was made out of Valyrian steel. Once again, Jon wondered who these strange people were.
He didn't a chance to dwell on that however, because lightning flashed through the sky again, and this time, Jon saw something else, or rather, someone else. Jon jammed the two swords into his belt without a thought and ran over to the unmoving person while being careful of the slippery rocks. He reached the person and rolled the body over, but gasped in shock. Every other body found so far had been male, but this person was a female, and not just a female, but a girl who looked no older than Jon himself. She was in a dress as strange as the clothes worn by the others, and Jon thought she was dead like the others until she suddenly started to cough out water. She looked up at Jon briefly before falling unconscious again, but Jon saw how dark her eyes were.
Jon looked around to see if any of the rescue party was around, but they all seemed far too distracted by removing the bodies and whatever cargo they could salvage before the sea claimed them. Jon sighed, but he hoisted the girl up into his arms, and was only briefly surprised that he had picked her up so easily like she weighed less than nothing. But that wasn't his main focus right now. What he needed to concentrate on was getting this girl and himself out of harms way. It proved to be trickier going up the rocks than down with the added weight of the girl as well as having both hand occupied holding her, and a there were a few moments when Jon slipped and scraped his knees against the sharp rocks. However, he succeeded and brought the girl to safety.
“You found someone else... wait, is that a girl?” said one of the men who saw Jon.
Jon, too tired to speak, merely nodded his head in response as he held the girl protectively. He may be young, but Jon knew that there were some men in the world who preferred it when their women were vulnerable. And the girl in his arms was very vulnerable right now.
Fortunately, all the other men seemed too tired themselves to try any sort of bad things, so they left Jon and the girl be while tending to the others. Once they had secured as many people and items as they could, the rescue party headed back to New Castle. Somebody must have gone ahead to warn the keep's inhabitants of what had transpired, because upon arrival they were immediately swarmed by servants and other men, who relieved the tired rescuers of their burdens.
Jon, however, wouldn't let go of the unconscious girl in his arms when one of the guards tried to take her from him.
“No! I can take her,” he said vehemently.
“You look tired and cold boy,” argued the guard.
“I said I can-“ began Jon.
“Jon!” called out a voice. Jon groaned on the inside as he turned around to see his father and Robb coming towards him. They faltered slightly at the sight of the girl in his arms, but Father's face retained that icy expression that often made Jon scared as a little boy.
“Give the man the girl Jon,” ordered Father.
“I can look after her,” argued Jon.
“You can look after her once you yourself are rested and warmed up,” said Father.
“I can let you know where the girl is, if you’d like my lord,” offered the guard in a hopeful voice.
Father nodded to the guard, and Jon reluctantly let the man take the girl from him. He watched as the guard disappeared with the girl in his arms, before Father put a hand on his shoulder.
“What were you thinking Jon?” he hissed quietly. “It was reckless and dangerous of you to go out there into the middle of the storm and risk your life for that rescue.”
“I was the one who saw the ship crash!” said Jon indignantly.
“You put your life in danger!” snapped Father.
Jon opened his mouth to continue arguing, but then snapped it shut. He knew that Father was right, but at the same couldn't find it in himself to be sorry for what he had done. So he straightened his back and did his best to force his body to remain still, in spite of the fact that he was now freezing cold and shivering. Father and Robb both looked a little surprised at Jon's silent display of defiance.
“If you must punish me my lord, then so be it. But I shall not apologise for helping a person in need,” he said.
A strange look passed over Father's face briefly before it disappeared, and he shook his head.
“Just be more careful next time,” he said in a tired voice before walking away to talk with some of the men helping with the rescue's aftermath. In the meantime, Robb sidled up next to Jon and pointed at the swords tucked into his belt.
“What have you got there?” he asked.
In truth, Jon had completely forgotten about the swords, but now that Robb had pointed them out, he couldn't miss them.
“Come with me,” he said before grabbing Robb by the arm and dragging him away from the busy courtyard.
They entered a room before Jon closed the door, then before Robb could say anything, he drew the two blades from their sheathes. In the torchlight, it was easier to see the rippling patterns in the blades that indicated it was made by the ancient dragonlords. However, in the better lighting, Jon noticed that the patterns were darker and thicker than what he had seen on his lord father's greatsword Ice. He wasn't sure if that was a design flaw or if it was intentional, but it made the blade seem all the more sharper.
“Wow,” said Robb appreciatively. “Where did you find it?”
“With the destroyed ship,” answered Jon. He gave the longer sword a twirl in his hands, relishing in how light the weapon was. However, it was balanced differently to what he was used to and he almost dropped it, then grunted in annoyance.
Robb laughed, but then quickly grew sober and said, “I've never seen weapons like this in my life, or in any book I've read. And from what I saw of the people, they're definitely not Westerosi.”
Jon's mind went back to the girl he had rescued. Her clothes, pale skin, black hair and petite frame were definitely not anything he hadn't seen before, but her overall characteristics were not familiar to him. Jon silently extended his hand out, asking Robb to hand the smaller blade back.
Robb reluctantly did so, but asked, “What do you plan on doing with those?”
“I'm going to give them back to the owner if he's still alive,” answered Jon. He didn't want to, Valyrian steel was so rare and valuable that lords were willing to sell their entire lands and birthright for just a small piece. However it wasn't fair for Jon to take the prized weapons unless the owner had been killed in the shipwreck.
Robb looked disappointed in his answer, but mentioned it no more. What he did do though was order his half-brother to go take a steaming hot bath and warm up, as his lips had turned an unhealthy shade of purple from the cold. Jon did as his brother suggested, but his mind was still on the girl he had saved when he fell asleep later.
That night, he dreamed of a wrathful monster made of ice and death chasing a young maiden whose countenance shined like the sun through a frostbitten forest. The maiden tripped and fell to the ground and screamed as the ice monster pounced upon her, but she was saved by three beasts that forced the ice monster to retreat from their fury.
The first was a large white wolf with blood-red eyes that stood as tall as the girl from the shoulder. The second, a dragon, white as snow like the wolf but had blue eyes, its wings glittering in the moonlight like blue diamonds. And the last beast, a lion with fur black as night, but had silver stripes running along its back like a tiger. It stood much taller than the wolf but smaller than the dragon, yet was undoubtedly the most fearsome of them all. When it turned its great maned head away from the maiden to look at Jon, its eyes glowed like the moon, white and powerful.