Ahead he glimpsed a pale white trunk that could only be a weirwood, crowned with a head of dark red leaves. Jon Snow reached back and pulled Longclaw from his sheath. He looked to right and left, gave Satin and Horse a nod, watched them pass it on to the men beyond. They rushed the grove together, kicking through drifts of old snow with no sound but their breathing. Ghost ran with them, a white shadow at Jon’s side.
The weirwoods rose in a circle around the edges of the clearing. There were nine, all roughly of the same age and size. Each one had a face carved into it, and no two faces were alike. Some were smiling, some were screaming, some were shouting at him. In the deepening glow their eyes looked black, but in daylight they would be blood-red, Jon knew. Eyes like Ghost’s."
'“All those who wish are welcome to return with us. There is food and shelter at Castle Black, and the Wall to keep you safe from the things that haunt these woods. You have my word, no one will burn.”
“A crow’s word,” the woman said, hugging her child close, “but who’s to say that you can keep it? Who are you?”
“Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and a son of Eddard Stark of Winterfell.” Jon turned to Tom Barleycorn. “Have Rory and Pate bring up the horses. I do not mean to stay here one moment longer than we must.”
“As you say, m’lord.”
One last thing remained before they could depart: the thing that they had come for. Iron Emmett called forth his charges, and as the rest of the company watched from a respectful distance, they knelt before the weir-woods. The last light of day was gone by then; the only light came from the stars above and the faint red glow of the dying fire in the center of the grove.
With their black hoods and thick black cowls, the six might have been carved from shadow. Their voices rose together, small against the vastness of the night. “Night gathers, and now my watch begins,” they said, as thousands had said before them. Satin’s voice was sweet as song, Horse’s hoarse and halting, Arron’s a nervous squeak. “It shall not end until my death.”
May those deaths be long in coming. Jon Snow sank to one knee in the snow. Gods of my fathers, protect these men. And Arya too, my little sister, wherever she might be. I pray you, let Mance find her and bring her safe to me.
“I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children,” the recruits promised, in voices that echoed back through years and centuries. “I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post.”
Gods of the wood, grant me the strength to do the same, Jon Snow prayed silently. Give me the wisdom to know what must be done and the courage to do it.
“I am the sword in the darkness,” said the six, and it seemed to Jon as though their voices were changing, growing stronger, more certain. “I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men.”
The shield that guards the realms of men. Ghost nuzzled up against his shoulder, and Jon draped an arm around him. He could smell Horse’s unwashed breeches, the sweet scent Satin combed into his beard, the rank sharp smell of fear, the giant’s overpowering musk. He could hear the beating of his own heart. When he looked across the grove at the woman with her child, the two greybeards, the Hornfoot man with his maimed feet, all he saw was men.
“I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”
Jon Snow was the first onto his feet."
Excerpt from A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
He makes everything beautiful in its time . . . Ecclesiastes 3:11