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Alex13

Besides joining the Night's Watch, what other alternatives did Jon Snow have?

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Could Jon have married another noble bastard, a merchant's daughter or just a peasant? And could Ned have legitimized him and given him a keep and lands, such as Tumbledown Tower or Queenscrown, and the funds to re-establish/repair them? And if he was legitimized, could he have married a noble's daughter? 

And how come Ned didn't foster and/or squire him with a lord, either outside of the North or with a lord from the North? I imagine that Ned was aware of the tension between Catelyn and Jon, and that that could have been solved if Jon would have fostered and squired, especially if he would have done that in a kingdom south of the Neck and "converted" to the Faith of the Seven and become a knight. I believe that could have lessened some of Catelyn's fears of Jon stealing her children's birth rights, due to him being a knight and following the seven, which the lords of the North, would not have liked. 

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42 minutes ago, Alex13 said:

Could Jon have married another noble bastard, a merchant's daughter or just a peasant? And could Ned have legitimized him and given him a keep and lands, such as Tumbledown Tower or Queenscrown, and the funds to re-establish/repair them? And if he was legitimized, could he have married a noble's daughter? 

I doubt he would have legitimized him, that would cause tremendous trouble with Cat. But Ned did plan to settle land in The Gift, and Jon even reveals that he would likely get a castle there, so that was an option (and that makes me wonder why did Jon join the Night's Watch thinking it was his only choice). Jon could have married into a lesser house, maybe mountain clan, I don't think they would mind it, and maybe even a more important house if he had lands in The Gift. He would no longer be a Snow, but that doesn't mean he would be a Stark, he would likely get his own name. Ghostark? Whitestark? I assume something stupid like that.

 

48 minutes ago, Alex13 said:

And how come Ned didn't foster and/or squire him with a lord, either outside of the North or with a lord from the North? I imagine that Ned was aware of the tension between Catelyn and Jon, and that that could have been solved if Jon would have fostered and squired, especially if he would have done that in a kingdom south of the Neck and "converted" to the Faith of the Seven and become a knight. I believe that could have lessened some of Catelyn's fears of Jon stealing her children's birth rights, due to him being a knight and following the seven, which the lords of the North, would not have liked. 

I have wondered this many times. I doubt that Ned would purposely drive Jon away from his Gods, and also he had no allies in the south except for Jon Arryn and Robert Barathon, but KL is no place for a bastard, tho he likely had many friends in The Vale that could foster Jon, and the Daynes seem to like him. And in The North he had many allies who would likely love to foster Jon: the Cerwyns, the Umbers, the Karstarks, the Reeds, the Flints, the Glovers and the Mormonts seem like loyal supporters. 

I think that well find out why he didn't foster him. If he's Lyanna's son maybe the promise he made would require for Ned to keep Jon close, tho that makes no sense, since he abandoned him and he could have had him fostered instead of sending him to The Wall; maybe if Jon is Ned's biological son and his mother died he felt guilty bc the kid would have no parents, or maybe Jon was Brandon's son and he felt he should stay in Winterfell as the rightful heir.

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Ned can’t legitimise anyone, he’s not a king, as per Martin

“As to what is and is not moot... the key point is, only a =king= can legitimize a bastard......“

Irt what other options were available for Jon, I sure there were a few, but then we’d be reading a different story. :)

 

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With his education and level of fighting skills he could have became a hedge knight (if he accepted the Faith of 7), or a sellsword (either in 7K, or in Essos), or a scribe for hire (because not many people, besides highborn, could read or write, and when they need to, they have to ask for help from a local maester, who works for a local Lord. But if there is no maester, if their settlement isn't big, then they don't have a maester or a septon. So, if they have money, they can hire a traveling scribe, if someone like that will be passing near their settlement. Or they can send one of them into a bigger settlement, to bring from there someone who can read and write. Jon could have done something like this).

Or he could have became a house guard for a minor Lord, or something like Brynden Tully was for Jon Arryn, some sort of "administrator". Eitherway he would have been a servant, either settled in someone else's household, or traveling as a hireling for people with money. He's not good enough to become a professional tourney knight. He's not smart enough to become some sort of official, like a councellor to some Lord, or what Littlefinger did for Jon Arryn at Gulltown's port.

If he went to Essos, given time, ten or so years, he would have had his own sellsword's company. Because he has charisma and potential. Eventually he could have became someone like Tattered Prince. Some sort of Magister or Archon in Essos could have offered him to marry with their younger daughter, or something like that.

He has potential to become the First Sword of Braavos. Or he could have defeated a Khal and became a Dothraki warlord. Considering that he's a warg, he could have went to Asshai to study more magic. Though none of it would have been "his cup of tea".

Joining Night's Watch was his best choice. Because that way he stayed in 7K, and also it was more fitting to his personality.

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34 minutes ago, CamiloRP said:

I doubt he would have legitimized him, that would cause tremendous trouble with Cat. But Ned did plan to settle land in The Gift, and Jon even reveals that he would likely get a castle there, so that was an option (and that makes me wonder why did Jon join the Night's Watch thinking it was his only choice). Jon could have married into a lesser house, maybe mountain clan, I don't think they would mind it, and maybe even a more important house if he had lands in The Gift. He would no longer be a Snow, but that doesn't mean he would be a Stark, he would likely get his own name. Ghostark? Whitestark? I assume something stupid like that.

 

I have wondered this many times. I doubt that Ned would purposely drive Jon away from his Gods, and also he had no allies in the south except for Jon Arryn and Robert Barathon, but KL is no place for a bastard, tho he likely had many friends in The Vale that could foster Jon, and the Daynes seem to like him. And in The North he had many allies who would likely love to foster Jon: the Cerwyns, the Umbers, the Karstarks, the Reeds, the Flints, the Glovers and the Mormonts seem like loyal supporters. 

I think that well find out why he didn't foster him. If he's Lyanna's son maybe the promise he made would require for Ned to keep Jon close, tho that makes no sense, since he abandoned him and he could have had him fostered instead of sending him to The Wall; maybe if Jon is Ned's biological son and his mother died he felt guilty bc the kid would have no parents, or maybe Jon was Brandon's son and he felt he should stay in Winterfell as the rightful heir.

Yeah, he could have established his own house. Perhaps Jon joined the Night's Watch, because Ned didn't make any concert plans on settling the Gift and it was more of a plan for the future or he didn't tell Jon that he was planning on giving him a keep, simply implied that it will happen sometime in the future. And once the king arrived and asked Ned to be his Hand and Ned accepted, the plan to settle the Gift was further delayed and perhaps Jon also lost his patience and didn't want to bet on a uncertain future. 

And yeah, Ned had plenty of friends and allies in the North and the Vale that could have fostered and squired Jon and if the Vale lords would have been reluctant to squire a bastard, Ned could have asked Jon Arryn to help with that. 

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1 hour ago, Megorova said:

He has potential to become the First Sword of Braavos. Or he could have defeated a Khal and became a Dothraki warlord. Considering that he's a warg, he could have went to Asshai to study more magic. Though none of it would have been "his cup of tea".

Jon becoming the First Sword of Braavos or defeating a Khal and gaining a khalasar would have been interesting to see. Although i imagine that going to Braavos and eventually becoming the First Sword or getting involved in their military, would have been easier, then getting his own khalasar.

Plus, if he would get a khalasar, i imagine that he would have made changes to how the dothraki operate and treat those they defeat, which would have cause issues for him. 

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In regards to him holding a holdfast on the gift we are given this in Jon V in Storm:

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His lord father had once talked about raising new lords and settling them in the abandoned holdfasts as a shield against wildlings. The plan would have required the Watch to yield back a large part of the Gift, but his uncle Benjen believed the Lord Commander could be won around, so long as the new lordlings paid taxes to Castle Black rather than Winterfell. "It is a dream for spring, though," Lord Eddard had said. "Even the promise of land will not lure men north with a winter coming on."
If winter had come and gone more quickly and spring had followed in its turn, I might have been chosen to hold one of these towers in my father's name. Lord Eddard was dead, however, his brother Benjen lost; the shield they dreamt together would never be forged. 

So it seems that winter approaching combined with Ned going south to be hand would have likely led to both Jon and Ned believing that was no longer an option. Combine that with his knowledge that life with Cat and no Ned to protect him would have been unbearable and we can see how Jon decided:

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Robb would someday inherit Winterfell, would command great armies as the Warden of the North. Bran and Rickon would be Robb's bannermen and rule holdfasts in his name. His sisters Arya and Sansa would marry the heirs of other great houses and go south as mistress of castles of their own. But what place could a bastard hope to earn?

There aren't lots of castles and lands free for the taking, and Bran and Rickon would take priority in getting any available seats. Add to that the fact that he doesn't know who his 'mother' is, and is scared to marry or have a child for fear of accidentally committing incest, and also dreads the possibility of fathering a bastard and a celibate order where he can earn a high rank despite all that starts sounding pretty good. Especially since he doesn't know that only the north sends men voluntarily and that the rest of Westeros uses it as a prison work camp. And that the conditions are so deplorable there.

As for why Ned didn't foster him, well if you believe he's Lyanna's it could be one of the promises, or it could be that he just wanted to keep the last thing he had of his sister close. Then Ned chose the watch only because he mistakenly believed it was what Jon really wanted and Cat backed him into a corner, and he didn't have enough time to find someone he trusted to take him in. Remember Cat sprung her refusal to keep him in Winterfell on Ned in a moment when he was already under duress from the news of Jon Arryn being murdered, her pushing him to be hand, then lastly she mentioned the Jon thing. And he was then told Jon had talked to Benjen about joining, so he may have believed that Benjen explained the reality to him. Or he himself may be unaware of how bad the conditions there really are. If the kids have never been to the wall, that implies Ned likely hasn't been there in the last 14 years at least, if ever, since he would likely have taken at least Rob with him, since he's his heir and their is no way Rob wouldn't have told Jon what he saw. And Benjen ins't really the type to complain, or share openly, so Ned may believe the same as his kids. Noble calling, and all that.

In Kings landing Ned does empty the dungeons, this is true. But he also makes announcements asking for volunteers so he may be unaware that criminals are all that the south sends there. He could believe that the wall was full of knights a soldiers who fought for the Targaryens in Roberts rebellion, not just a couple knights, two lords and hundreds of criminals. Or he believes what Cat said about Benjen treating Jon as a son, and never expecting Ben to just blow him off the moment they arrive. 

Add to this that he talks of thinking Jon would stay with Rob, and we know that the current head of the Winterfell guard, the Cassels, don't have any young men after Jory who is old enough that if he were to marry and have kids he would have done it by now, and I could see that Ned may have intended to have Jon literally stay with Rob in that capacity, forever. Then his two sons stay together, and Jon always has a home. I could see him thinking that this was a solid plan. No need to foster him, or find him a keep.

To bad we never hear what he was intending for Jon in the future prior to him dying. But, I find Jon staying at Winterfell with Rob in some capacity to be the most likely thing for Ned to have wanted; and, it explains why Ned had no plan when Cat insisted that Jon had to leave. He stated that he thought Jon would stay with Rob, simple as that. And his wanting them to stay together would have prevented him from forming other plans that would normally be standard for high born bastards, such as ward, household guard (elsewhere), etc. And arranging something on short notice, without risking causing offence to the houses that don't receive the honor of being given their lord paramount's natural son would be problematic. Or they could mistreat him, as they would worry about him being sent to spy on them while their lord was away taking it as a sign that they aren't trusted. There are risks with sending him somewhere in a rush. Placing wards is a diplomatic thing, that takes time and careful planning to avoid giving offence in some way. I suspect this is why other options were not given to Jon. 

We all know that Manderly, for example, would have loved to have him and could have given him the knightly training he would have desired. But do we know how the Glovers, Umbers, etc would react to it not being them? Think of how fussy they were about the marching order when going to war. These guys are prickly. Send him to a clan, the offence to the great lords would be huge. Same with sending him to Howland, or the Vale. Send him south, and whomever gets him will be the subject of rumors about if he was sent to his mothers family, with the exception of the Tully's who wouldn't want him. Sadly, given the rushed time frame, I don't think there were many options.

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2 hours ago, Megorova said:

He's not good enough to become a professional tourney knight.

Couldn't his skill improve for this? I'm not sure how good their education with regards to horse riding and hitting with a lance was or if it's different from the education received in the south, although Jon does say that Robb is better with a lance then him. 

Plus, the North also shuns tourney's, although i imagine that the education/training for a tourney knight is the same with that for charging with lances. 

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5 hours ago, Alex13 said:

Could Jon have married another noble bastard, a merchant's daughter or just a peasant? And could Ned have legitimized him and given him a keep and lands, such as Tumbledown Tower or Queenscrown, and the funds to re-establish/repair them? And if he was legitimized, could he have married a noble's daughter? 

And how come Ned didn't foster and/or squire him with a lord, either outside of the North or with a lord from the North? I imagine that Ned was aware of the tension between Catelyn and Jon, and that that could have been solved if Jon would have fostered and squired, especially if he would have done that in a kingdom south of the Neck and "converted" to the Faith of the Seven and become a knight. I believe that could have lessened some of Catelyn's fears of Jon stealing her children's birth rights, due to him being a knight and following the seven, which the lords of the North, would not have liked. 

 

I think Ned wanted to keep an eye on him. Hence keeping him close at Winterfell.

He had plenty of options. The Nights Watch being easily the single worst one. He is the son of the one of the most powerful rulers in the world; who owns half a continent. For all the “woe is me” that he gives he seriously downplays the options he had open to him. You could easily find any number of Northern Houses, who adore Ned and House Stark, who would marry Jon. 

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1 hour ago, Alex13 said:

Couldn't his skill improve for this? I'm not sure how good their education with regards to horse riding and hitting with a lance was or if it's different from the education received in the south, although Jon does say that Robb is better with a lance then him. 

Plus, the North also shuns tourney's, although i imagine that the education/training for a tourney knight is the same with that for charging with lances. 

Jon isn't tall, or exceptionally strong, and he has zero tournament experience. In matters of stamina he has no chance against opponents such as Jaime, the Hound, the Mountain. Opponents such as Barristan Selmy or Oberyn Martell (both have many wins under their belt) have significally more experience. Also winning in tournament is not all about being good horserider, or being able to hit a moving target with a lance. In some tournaments, when the opponent falls off his horse, the combatants continue to fight, either on swords or using other weapon of their choice, like a warhammer or a mace. Now imagine Jon competing against someone like the Mountain. If he won't get killed by a lance's hit, then he will be defeated in a subsequent swordfight. Also tournament competitors could use underhanded methods, like Lancel did in the Hand's tourney (he brought a mare in heat, and the Mountain's stallion went crazy over her), or Uther Underleaf in Whitewalls' tournament (he hit Dunk's head, which is against the rules. Head strikes don't get penalties, but they also are not rewarded with poins. So there's no sense in aiming to strike the opponent in his head, unless the attacker's aim is to incapacitate the opponent. Which was Uther's intention in his joust against Dunk. He got paid to get rid of him). Jon wouldn't be able to win against opponents like that, against schemers. And because tournaments are a competitive professional sport with big money prizes, it attracts all sorts of people, either those that are exceptionally good in it and have a lot of experience, or those that are aiming to win using any methods. Jon has no chances against opponents from both of those categories. Thus professional competing in torunaments isn't for someone like him. He's not good enough for it, or not cunning enough.

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50 minutes ago, Megorova said:

Jon isn't tall, or exceptionally strong, and he has zero tournament experience. In matters of stamina he has no chance against opponents such as Jaime, the Hound, the Mountain. Opponents such as Barristan Selmy or Oberyn Martell (both have many wins under their belt) have significally more experience. Also winning in tournament is not all about being good horserider, or being able to hit a moving target with a lance. In some tournaments, when the opponent falls off his horse, the combatants continue to fight, either on swords or using other weapon of their choice, like a warhammer or a mace. Now imagine Jon competing against someone like the Mountain. If he won't get killed by a lance's hit, then he will be defeated in a subsequent swordfight. Also tournament competitors could use underhanded methods, like Lancel did in the Hand's tourney (he brought a mare in heat, and the Mountain's stallion went crazy over her), or Uther Underleaf in Whitewalls' tournament (he hit Dunk's head, which is against the rules. Head strikes don't get penalties, but they also are not rewarded with poins. So there's no sense in aiming to strike the opponent in his head, unless the attacker's aim is to incapacitate the opponent. Which was Uther's intention in his joust against Dunk. He got paid to get rid of him). Jon wouldn't be able to win against opponents like that, against schemers. And because tournaments are a competitive professional sport with big money prizes, it attracts all sorts of people, either those that are exceptionally good in it and have a lot of experience, or those that are aiming to win using any methods. Jon has no chances against opponents from both of those categories. Thus professional competing in torunaments isn't for someone like him. He's not good enough for it, or not cunning enough.

I see.

But would it not be possible for Jon to get better, stronger and increase his stamina? Provided that he hasn't reached his limit/apex while growing up and training at Winterfell.

And if jousting would be out of the question, would it not be possible for him to join the melee? I know that the melee has a lower prize then the joust, but if he wins or places high enough, he could make a decent living.

And would it not be possible for him to join smaller tourney's and gain some experience in jousting and then go for the bigger ones? Or will he be required, to participate at the bigger ones, based on the knight he is squiring for? In which case, he would be faced with the people mentioned above, plus with squires/knights like Loras and Harrold Hardyng, and he will most likely lose.

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17 hours ago, kissdbyfire said:

Ned can’t legitimise anyone, he’s not a king

But his best buddy Bobby B is B)

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16 hours ago, Alex13 said:

I see.

But would it not be possible for Jon to get better, stronger and increase his stamina? Provided that he hasn't reached his limit/apex while growing up and training at Winterfell.

And if jousting would be out of the question, would it not be possible for him to join the melee? I know that the melee has a lower prize then the joust, but if he wins or places high enough, he could make a decent living.

And would it not be possible for him to join smaller tourney's and gain some experience in jousting and then go for the bigger ones? Or will he be required, to participate at the bigger ones, based on the knight he is squiring for? In which case, he would be faced with the people mentioned above, plus with squires/knights like Loras and Harrold Hardyng, and he will most likely lose.

I see issues aside from skill for Jon being a tourney knight. First is we are shown in Dunk and Egg that if you lose you must ransom your horse and equipment back from whomever defeated you, unless the knight asks for a different boon for their victory as in the Knight of the Laughing tree--but ransoming seems standard. So it is said to be quite costly to enter the lists unless you are certain to win more than you lose. An average knight would net zero, as they would lose as often as they win.  And Jon didn't love the lance, he loved the sword so would likely never become a top jouster. Melee, as you said previously has less of a prize, but also more risk of injury and damaged equipment needing replacement or repair. Making this option not great either. We do hear of the odd death of an inexperienced jouster, but for the most part they are fine. But in Dunk and Egg we see first hand how dangerous the Melee can be. This is one of the reasons Ned and Barristan are so opposed to Robert entering the Melee. His condition being the other, clearly.

Next some tourneys you must be a knight, not all it's up the host, but some. Jon isn't a follower of the Seven, and despises the thought because he associates it with Cat, so while I believe he would love to receive the training of a knight, and does get trained this way the same the as all high born boys and acknowledged high born bastards who's parents wish that training to be given, he would never become a knight, and this would limit the tourneys he could enter.

Then he was taught not to love tourneys, and we see this in how he reacts to Stannis's men when they arrive at the wall. He will train with any man who treats it seriously, nights watch, wildling, even Mance when he believes he's Rattleshirt. But, when Stannis's men want to spar for fun, just to see who's better, he says no and considers them southron fools. Not the attitude of someone who would enjoy life as a tourney knight. He has no respect for the tourney knights he meets, so why would he want to be one? Even Cat who was raised in the south surrounded by them thinks this way after being at Winterfell so long, showing us how ingrained that belief is in Winterfell. The men he spars with are defending people against the Others and Wights, or training for that purpose not sparring with each other for vanity and money. We see by his treatment of Tyrion and Sam that vanity has never been a core motivation for him (yes he wanted to be better than the other recruits at first, but even when he won every day it didn't make him happy showing that it was age and desire to prove himself not vanity that drove him, especially given how quickly he changed once it was pointed out). Think how some of those tourney knights would have been in his place, reveling in beating them and mocking them to boot, (think of Waymar and Thorne,) and he would likely be even more miserable as a tourney knight than he was at the wall as it wouldn't take long for any victories to feel hollow to him, and for him to feel really alone and isolated surrounded by people he didn't like and couldn't relate to.

So could he try to be a tourney knight, I suppose, but is it something he would want to do? is it something Ned would want him to do? I don't think so. Same goes for going to Essos. It's fighting for money, hollow victories. He tells us his driving force is prove that bastards can be as honorable as people claim highborns are. He can't do that in tourneys or as a sellsword.

 

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Most of Jon's opportunities were entirely set by Ned.   

Ned could have married him off to some minor house's landed daughter to keep their house going.  Ned could have paid to get him fully equipped as a Knight and sent him south.  Ned could have sent him to the citadel.  Ned could have even just said "damn the rules, I'm the Stark," and given him a small holding somewhere in the North.  It's empty enough.  Recruit some peasants from King's Landing and set Jon up as a minor lordling in the back country.  Who is going to tell him no?

Of course had Jon wanted, he could have set off on his own and sold his sword, or found other work.  With his upbringing he'd have probably done all right for himself.  Intelligent and effective warriors will always be in demand in a land as anarchic as Westeros.

Part of the problem is we don't get to see much diversity in the ranks and privileges of various noble houses.  Logically they should be more separated by rank, prestige and power than they appear to be.

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23 hours ago, kissdbyfire said:

Ned can’t legitimise anyone, he’s not a king, as per Martin

“As to what is and is not moot... the key point is, only a =king= can legitimize a bastard......“

Irt what other options were available for Jon, I sure there were a few, but then we’d be reading a different story. :)

 

I don't doubt for a minute that Robert would have zero qualms legitimizing Jon if Ned asked. Ned wanting to risk the ire of his wife and the king's notice on Jon would be another issue though. 

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2 minutes ago, Lord Lannister said:

I don't doubt for a minute that Robert would have zero qualms legitimizing Jon if Ned asked. Ned wanting to risk the ire of his wife and the king's notice on Jon would be another issue though. 

I agree. The point was, Ned can’t legitimise anyone. 

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14 minutes ago, Lord Lannister said:

I don't doubt for a minute that Robert would have zero qualms legitimizing Jon if Ned asked. Ned wanting to risk the ire of his wife and the king's notice on Jon would be another issue though. 

I think the problem would be that that Jon and Robb are too close in age, and a fully legitimate Jon could offer legal challenge to Robb for inheritance.   That would piss off the Tullys enormously.   And of course it might bring up questions about exactly who was Jon's mom, which right now Ned can just not discuss at all if he wants.

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Honestly there's no reason he shouldn't be able to get a decent marriage, at some point he's gonna be the close brother and confidant to the Lord of the North. So what if he can't inherit he's still part of the ruling family of the North and even if he couldn't get a decent marriage he'd live his life in comfort at Robb's court, probably with some position of importance. 

The name is overrated, throughout history families have schemed to have their daughters be the mistresses of kings. They're not the queen but the influence is invaluable. 

Edited by Trigger Warning

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I'm not much good at musing some of these lower level questions woven into the whole crazy history of Ned Stark.  He was easy to like and I have to agree, kept Jon close; very close.  I never read clues that were buried in Ned's stories that made me think he was anything but wonderful in a very macho way--an older tribal way.  For his flaws, Ned was a rare White Hat actor in this play.   He was compelling.  He lacked so many of the things that annoy us about people.  And he was a lovely piece of a real nobility that could only be harvested in some fond imagination of wholly masculine gallantry and mystery.   I digress, Ned wasn't a bad guy.  He wasn't a perfect guy, but he was a good guy, hard justice and beheadings be damned.   And Robb is good and Jon is good and that comes from somewhere despite all these characters' flaws.  So I have wondered what Ned really had in mind for Jon.  People were so loyal to Winterfell--let me add Manderly to that list of faithful Stark bannermen--an old secret is still kept and Ned isn't stupid.   What could he have possibly planned for Jon?  I don't think the Night's Watch was a bad option in either Jon or Ned's conversation and thoughts.   Naivete?  Were they really that far removed from the NW with Benjen in such high regard there and a 1st Ranger to boot.    AGOT opens with Waymar Royce, third son of Bronze Yohn, proudly taking his own command (because of who he was, no doubt).  While the Royce folk aren't on the same level as the Starks, but they are an ancient bunch.  And not bums--The Royce family is the most powerful family in the Vale after the Arryns and Baelishs.  Any of the scenarios we've thought up for Jon could have even more easily applied to Waymar.   It seemed to me the Royce were proud to send and somehow felt they owed the Nights Watch their young.   High road stuff of immense sacrifice and convenient disposal.  And honor, though to what I couldn't say.  Creepy and mysterious and faintly tinged with a hint of a clue maybe?  Do the Royce understand why they owe anything to the Nights Watch?  What do their armored runes say?   Is this magic?  Old Gods magic of some sort?  A part of one of the many many legends of the Long Night, maybe a time before the Andals when the First Men had some memory of the event?  I dunno, it's creepy and deep and so full of possibility in a very scary fairy tale type of telling.   So what was Ned doing with Jon outside of maybe just wanting this only child of his sister and only nephew he might ever have near him out of love and duty.   Even I wouldn't want to see Cat's face as Jon grew older and never went away.  There had to be a plan, but there sure didn't seem to be one.  That's why I think the Nights Watch was a viable option for Jon.  Honor.  Protection.  Still part of his heritage.  Fulfilling some horrible son sacrificing oath made thousands of years back before a horrible bleeding face carved into some ancient weirwood tree.   

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