“He is not a lord,” a child’s voice put in. “He’s in the Night’s Watch, stupid. From Westeros.” A girl edged into the light, pushing a barrow full of seaweed; a scruffy, skinny creature in big boots, with ragged unwashed hair. “There’s another one down at the Happy Port, singing songs to the Sailor’s Wife,” she informed the two bravos. To Sam she said, “If they ask who is the most beautiful woman in the world, say the Nightingale or else they’ll challenge you. Do you want to buy some clams? I sold all my oysters.” “I have no coin,” Sam said. “He has no coin,” mocked the fair-haired bravo. His dark-haired friend grinned and said something in Braavosi. “My friend Terro is chilly. Be our good fat friend and give him your cloak.” “Don’t do that either,” said the barrow girl, “or else they’ll ask for your boots next, and before long you’ll be naked.” “Little cats who howl too loud get drowned in the canals,” warned the fair-haired bravo. “Not if they have claws.” And suddenly there was a knife in the girl’s left hand, a blade as skinny as she was. The one called Terro said something to his fair-haired friend and the two of them moved off, chuckling at one another.
“She has more courage than she knows,” said Sam. “So do you, Sam. Have a swift, safe voyage, and take care of her and Aemon and the child.” The cold trickles on his face reminded Jon of the day he’d bid farewell to Robb at Winterfell, never knowing that it was for the last time. “And pull your hood up. The snowflakes are melting in your hair.” ― Jon II, A Dance with Dragons.
“Sam,” he admitted. “He was not at table tonight.”
“It’s not like him to miss a meal,” Pyp said thoughtfully. “Do you suppose he’s taken ill?”
“He’s frightened. We’re leaving him.” He remembered the day he had left Winterfell, all the bittersweet farewells; Bran lying broken, Robb with snow in his hair, Arya raining kisses on him after he’d given her Needle. “Once we say our words, we’ll all have duties to attend to. Some of us may be sent away, to Eastwatch or the Shadow Tower. Sam will remain in training, with the likes of Rast and Cuger and these new boys who are coming up the kingsroad. Gods only know what they’ll be like, but you can bet Ser Alliser will send them against him, first chance he gets.”
Selected by Senator Ned Stark as the nation’s model foster kid, Jon grew up between two worlds. But then the news breaks: Jon isn’t an orphan after all. He’s the son of President Rhaegar Targaryen. Not just that—he’s the product of a secret affair that has the whole world talking.
The president goes on damage control, inviting Jon to his mansion for Christmas dinner. Jon is sick of being used as a publicity stunt by powerful men. All he wants to do is disappear from the public eye forever—but maybe he can use the Targaryen influence to help fix things for foster youth in Washington, once and for all.
And maybe dinner won’t be so bad. After all… Sansa will be there.
The prince that was promised.
That’s what they were calling Jon. Gossip magazines. Clickbait articles. He was even trending on Twitter.
All he wanted to do was hole up in his dorm and hide until the new year. But even here, he couldn’t avoid the attention. Reporters stood outside his house with parkas and earmuffs, coffees in hand, waiting him out. Sam kept peeking out the window and Jon had given up telling him to stop.
“I’m just nervous, you know, that Gilly won’t be able to make it through the crowd,” Sam said for the fourteenth time.
Jon didn’t reply.
Sam turned away from the window, letting the ugly brown curtain fall back down. The room was shrouded in darkness. “It’s a little exciting, don’t you think?” he asked, unable to keep the smile off his face.
“No,” Jon snapped. “It’s not exciting.”
The silence hung between them. Sam’s smile slipped away and Jon sighed, trying to relax his shoulders. It wasn’t that Sam wasn’t used to his moods, but…
“I’m sorry, Sam.”
“It’s all right.” Sam shrugged. “It’s just that… well, it’s all I ever dreamed of as a boy. Finding my real family. And they’re rich. I think I always saw my father as more of a Mace Tyrell, though.”
It was what Jon had dreamed of as a boy, too. But he’d stopped being a boy a long time ago. He’d learned how the world worked in Washington, DC. There were some families, like the Targaryens, Lannisters, and Starks, that were just better than other families. And then there were those who didn’t have families. Sam, handed over to social services when he was old enough to know his parents’ faces. Gilly, a runaway who took off after her dad called her his girlfriend.
And Jon, of course. Abandoned as a baby. Grew up in the same group home as Sam and Gilly and a rotation of other kids. Some of them were fostered for a time—some were even adopted. But most of them came back. Jon was fostered once, by a kindly old man named Mr. Mormont. But after he died, it was back to the home for Jon.
Now listen to me! The old man is the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. You’ll be with him day and night. Yes, you’ll clean his clothes. But you’ll also take his letters, attending him at meetings, squire for him in battle. You’ll know everything, be part of everything. And he asked for you himself! He wants to groom you for command!