Jon was taken by surprise. “He told me his father was king, but not . . . I thought him perhaps a younger son.”
“So he was. His father’s father was Daeron Targaryen, the Second of His Name, who brought Dorne into the realm. Part of the pact was that he wed a Dornish princess. She gave him four sons. Aemon’s father Maekar was the youngest of those, and Aemon was his third son. Mind you, all this happened long before I was born, ancient as Smallwood would make me.”
“Maester Aemon was named for the Dragonknight.”
“So he was. Some say Prince Aemon was King Daeron’s true father, not Aegon the Unworthy. Be that as it may, our Aemon lacked the Dragonknight’s martial nature. He likes to say he had a slow sword but quick wits. Small wonder his grandfather packed him off to the Citadel. He was nine or ten, I believe . . . and ninth or tenth in the line of succession as well.”
Maester Aemon had counted more than a hundred name days, Jon knew. Frail, shrunken, wizened, and blind, it was hard to imagine him as a little boy no older than Arya.
Mormont continued. “Aemon was at his books when the eldest of his uncles, the heir apparent, was slain in a tourney mishap. He left two sons, but they followed him to the grave not long after, during the Great Spring Sickness. King Daeron was also taken, so the crown passed to Daeron’s second son, Aerys.”
“The Mad King?” Jon was confused. Aerys had been king before Robert, that wasn’t so long ago.
“No, this was Aerys the First. The one Robert deposed was the second of that name.”
“How long ago was this?”
“Eighty years or close enough,” the Old Bear said, “and no, I still hadn’t been born, though Aemon had forged half a dozen links of his maester’s chain by then. Aerys wed his own sister, as the Targaryens were wont to do, and reigned for ten or twelve years. Aemon took his vows and left the Citadel to serve at some lordling’s court . . . until his royal uncle died without issue. The Iron Throne passed to the last of King Daeron’s four sons. That was Maekar, Aemon’s father. The new king summoned all his sons to court and would have made Aemon part of his councils, but he refused, saying that would usurp the place rightly belonging to the Grand Maester. Instead he served at the keep of his eldest brother, another Daeron. Well, that one died too, leaving only a feeble-witted daughter as heir. Some pox he caught from a whore, I believe. The next brother was Aerion.”
“Aerion the Monstrous?” Jon knew that name. “The Prince Who Thought He Was a Dragon” was one of Old Nan’s more gruesome tales. His little brother Bran had loved it.
“The very one, though he named himself Aerion Brightflame. One night, in his cups, he drank a jar of wildfire, after telling his friends it would transform him into a dragon, but the gods were kind and it transformed him into a corpse. Not quite a year after, King Maekar died in battle against an outlaw lord.”
Jon was not entirely innocent of the history of the realm; his own maester had seen to that. “That was the year of the Great Council,” he said. “The lords passed over Prince Aerion’s infant son and Prince Daeron’s daughter and gave the crown to Aegon.”
“Yes and no. First they offered it, quietly, to Aemon. And quietly he refused. The gods meant for him to serve, not to rule, he told them. He had sworn a vow and would not break it, though the High Septon himself offered to absolve him. Well, no sane man wanted any blood of Aerion’s on the throne, and Daeron’s girl was a lackwit besides being female, so they had no choice but to turn to Aemon’s younger brother—Aegon, the Fifth of His Name. Aegon the Unlikely, they called him, born the fourth son of a fourth son. Aemon knew, and rightly, that if he remained at court those who disliked his brother’s rule would seek to use him, so he came to the Wall. And here he has remained, while his brother and his brother’s son and his son each reigned and died in turn, until Jaime Lannister put an end to the line of the Dragonkings.”
“King,” croaked the raven. The bird flapped across the solar to land on Mormont’s shoulder. “King,” it said again, strutting back and forth. “He likes that word,” Jon said, smiling.
“An easy word to say. An easy word to like.”
“King,” the bird said again.
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