The Mad King was obsessed with [wildfire]. He loved to watch people burn, the way their skin blackened and blistered and melted off their bones. He burned lords he didn’t like. He burned Hands who disobeyed him. He burned anyone who was against him. Before long, half the country was against him. Aerys saw traitors everywhere. So he had his pyromancer place caches of wildfire all over the city… beneath the Sept of Baelor and the slums of Flea Bottom. Under houses, stables, taverns. Even beneath the Red Keep itself. Finally, the day of reckoning came. Robert Baratheon marched on the capital after his victory at the Trident. But my father arrived first with the whole Lannister army at his back, promising to defend the city against the rebels. I knew my father better than that. He’s never been one to pick the losing side. I told the Mad King as much. I urged him to surrender peacefully. But the king didn't listen to me. He didn’t listen to Varys who tried to warn him. But he did listen to Grand Maester Pycelle, that grey, sunken cunt. “You can trust the Lannisters,” he said. “The Lannisters have always been true friends of the crown." So we opened the gates and my father sacked the city. Once again, I came to the king, begging him to surrender. He told me to bring him my father’s head. Then he turned to his pyromancer. "Burn them all,” he said. “Burn them in their homes. Burn them in their beds." Tell me, if your precious Renly commanded you to kill your own father and stand by while thousands of men, women, and children burned alive, would you have done it? Would you have kept your oath then? First, I killed the pyromancer. And then when the king turned to flee, I drove my sword into his back. "Burn them all," he kept saying. "Burn them all." I don’t think he expected to die. He… he meant to… burn with the rest of us and rise again, reborn as a dragon to turn his enemies to ash. I slit his throat to make sure that didn’t happen.
I have a realistic grasp of my own strengths and weaknesses. My mind is my weapon. My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer, and I have my mind… and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge. That’s why I read so much, Jon Snow.
Jory had been captain of the household guard at Winterfell since before Bran was born. “They killed Jory?” He remembered all the times Jory had chased him over the roofs. He could picture him striding across the yard in mail and plate, or sitting at his accustomed place on the bench in the Great Hall, joking as he ate. “Why would anyone kill Jory?”
Swift as a deer. Quiet as a shadow. Fear cuts deeper than swords. Quick as a snake. Calm as still water. Fear cuts deeper than swords. Strong as a bear. Fierce as a wolverine. Fear cuts deeper than swords. The man who fears losing has already lost. Fear cuts deeper than swords. Fear cuts deeper than swords. Fear cuts deeper than swords.
At the center of the grove an ancient weirwood brooded over a small pool where the waters were black and cold. “The heart tree,” Ned called it. The weirwood’s bark was white as bone, its leaves dark red, like a thousand bloodstained hands. A face had been carved in the trunk of the great tree, its features long and melancholy, the deep-cut eyes red with dried sap and strangely watchful. They were old, those eyes; older than Winterfell itself. They had seen Brandon the Builder set the first stone, if the tales were true; they had watched the castle’s granite walls rise around them. It was said that the children of the forest had carved the faces in the trees during the dawn centuries before the coming of the First Men across the narrow sea.
He was who he was; Jon Snow, bastard and oathbreaker, motherless, friendless, and damned. For the rest of his life—however long that might be—he would be condemned to be an outsider, the silent man standing in the shadows who dares not speak his true name. Wherever he might go throughout the Seven Kingdoms, he would need to live a lie, lest every man’s hand be raised against him. But it made no matter, so long as he lived long enough to take his place by his brother’s side and help avenge his father.
So many vows… they make you swear and swear. Defend the king. Obey the king. Keep his secrets. Do his bidding. Your life for his. But obey your father. Love your sister. Protect the innocent. Defend the weak. Respect the gods. Obey the laws. It’s too much. No matter what you do, you’re forsaking one vow or the other.