Two weeks prior to departure.
A young steward approaches Atric, an officer and great builder located at Greyguard, atop the Wall. Atric had momentarily lost himself in the great vastness of the Wild, a hammer hangs at his side swinging ever so slightly against his hip. He has never been away from the Wall, he never really felt the need to leave either, but sometimes he wondered what was out there, what they were even building the Wall to keep out — or in.
A meek “Um… Ser…” jolts Atric back into his body. The lad, clearly frightened at being so close to the edge of the Wall, shakily hands off the letter to Atric, mumbles a polite “Ser,” bows stiffly and then very cautiously begins to step away, as if the Wall was bound to crack under his boots. Atric places a large but gentle hand on the boy’s shoulder and assures him the Wall is safe. “I would know, I build it,” he says with a smile. The boy nods and smiles back, then scurries off.
The letter reads as follows:
Atric of Greyguard
You are hereby summoned to meet
with the me in one week’s time
to discuss preparations for an
upcoming recruiting expedition.
Pack little and less.
More shall be told on your arrival.
Lord Commander Arther Rosby
Liam Madson, Head Trainer at Eastwatch-By-The-Sea, and Granger Greyjoy, Shipmaster for the Night’s Watch sit together in the long hall where they take their meals. The meal is a typical of Eastwatch, who welcome the bounty of the sea: Seaweed and gull egg soup, and a plate of smelts fried and served with crusty bread and butter. Liam’s common is very poor, but he and Granger haven’t much to say to each other besides grunts and a few insults.
Granger boasts having been the best blade in Westeros back in his day (and probably Essos, too, he says), and it’s true that few of the men at Eastwatch can even scratch him with a sword. Liam is one of those few, he has even bested Granger on a number of occasions, and so Granger has taken a good liking to him. They are friends by no definition, but rather rivals that respect and admire one other, truly like brothers.
The pair are eying each other over the last smelt when Red Tom, a tall, lanky hedgeknight with a tangle of red curly hair, arrives at the head of the table and snatches it. He speaks, the fish’s little tail dangling from between his teeth “The boss wants to see you. Both of you, I mean.”
“What we do now, old man?” Liam says with a smirk as he pushes himself up from the table. They leave the hall together, Liam’s cat-like stride looking all the more graceful beside Granger’s stomping gait. Granger spits in his wake, cranky over missing out on the last few bites of crunchy fish. Liam chuckles to himself at Granger’s displeasure. Granger grunts.
They arrive at Commander Leroy Brown’s quarters. The Commander greets them, but does not ask them to sit. He says that a raven has come from Castle Black. Liam and Granger have received express orders from the Lord Commander himself. Brown catches himself, remembering Liam’s lack of mastery of the common tongue, and slowly and very loudly asks if Liam understands. Liam nods and rolls his eyes, as the Lord Commander does this every time they talk. Liam doesn’t speak the language well, but he understands most of it.
Granger snatches the letter from Brown, mumbling about not having all night and, knowing Liam cannot read common, reads it aloud in his gruff, salty voice:
Liam & Granger
Happy spring! As you well know, the winter has not been kind.
Our recent census shows our numbers have dwindled to just below four thousand.
If we are to open Sable Hall on schedule, we must have more recruits!
And so, I am sending a few good men to petition lords across Westeros for men and aid.
We will be sending you, by ship, to King’s Landing.
The King always has a few dozen bread stealing lads
and free speakers in the dungeon. From there you will travel
by land gathering what men you can. Greenboys, old goats,
the lame; it matters not. All hands are good hands in the Night’s Watch.
You have two weeks to prepare for the journey at which time
the remainder of your party will have arrived at Eastwatch.
You will be given supplies and coin out of our stores.
Lord Commander Arther Rosby
Erasmus, a former Maester of the citadel currently acting as Head Maester for the Night’s Watch, is summoned to Lord Commander Arther Rosby’s quarters, as he has been a thousand times before. This time, however, it is not so that Erasmus may scribe a letter or discuss bits of lore Arther finds intriguing. But, rather, something far more interesting:
Bones, as Arther is most often called, tells Erasmus that he will be part of a great expedition to wander the land gathering new Brothers to help replenish those lost in the winter. “Just like in those stories we love too dearly!” he spouts, his mustache wiggling. Erasmus is to report on the recruits gathered, the conditions and news around the realm, and, most importantly, he is to act as the ambassador between The Night’s Watch and the Lords of the Great Houses. Erasmus protests weakly, claiming there must be someone more suited for the job than himself, but Bones insists that his upbringing in a noble house and his education by the Citadel will greatly aid their efforts. Erasmus gives a defeated sigh, and contemplates the many aches he will gain from sleeping on the hard, lumpy ground.
One week prior to departure.
Atric & Erasmus
Atric packs only the ivory comb that had belonged to his mother and makes the journey to Castle Black with the supply train. He hikes the whole way, staying quite close to the Wall. He is displeased to find a lot of the unmanned lengths are in disrepair.
Upon his arrival, he is immediately summoned to the Lord Commander’s chamber. There he finds Bones and Erasmus waiting. Bones greets him warmly with a smile and a shake of his hand, his mustache squirming like a caterpillar. Erasmus, much less eccentrically, does the same. The Lord Commander sets to talking, telling Atric why he was chosen to join the expedition. He says he needed someone with a keen eye to find promising new builders, and he thinks it’s about time Atric got to see some of the world, anyway. Atric isn’t exactly sure what that means or if he even wants it, but he will always obey the Lord Commander’s orders. All the while, Erasmus sits by the fire, hands folded neatly. He seems to be studying Atric, his brow furrowed, his jaw set, as if he were trying to memorize every detail.
Atric and the Lord Commander hit it off quite well, and they chat like old friends for several hours while Erasmus observes and tends the fire. After well past midnight Erasmus excuses himself for bed. The Lord commander apologizes and dismisses Atric as well, he says, “When you get as old as I am you don’t need to sleep as much. You begin to forget your manners when the hour grows late and you’re the only one not nodding off in your chair.”
On the journey to Eastwatch, Erasmus spends most of his time seated in the back of a supply wagon pouring over maps and scribbling notes and numbers in a brown, leather-bound journal. He comes to the conclusion that their time at sea should take between 7.25 and 9.8 days, and that their land journey could take between 72.75 and 328 days if they remain on foot, depending on the path they choose to take and leaving some room for trouble. It could take between 45.3 and 212.44 days if they immediately picked up horses, given the same variables. He also calculated for riding part way in the back of wagons, if their hypothetical horses died along the route, if they took boats through legs of their journey, and many combinations of them all. In short, Erasmus figures state that it should take no less than 50 days and no more than 350 days for them to complete their mission.
Erasmus and Atric, though friendly, don’t speak more than formalities after their initial meeting in the Lord Commander’s office.
Liam & Granger
Granger has spent the past week prepping the chosen vessel, Hawkeye, for the first leg of their journey. It is swift schooner, with a black hull and black sails traditional of the Night’s Watch. He handpicked the six man crew who have been diligently scrubbing the boat up and down, patching holes and cracks with pine tar, and mending the fraying sails.
Liam has handed over his training duties to the Master of Arms. He spends most of the next week wandering the forest just beyond the Wall, consumed with thoughts of his wife and children. He will be so close to them soon. In his excitement, just after he found out he was to be headed to King’s Landing, he sent a raven to his wife, stating simply: “See you soon, my love.” He is not necessarily needed for the preparations, but his absence is noted.