The frost-crusted wooden cage was carrying me to my death. I didn't know that for sure, but something just didn't feel right as the winch kicked into gear and the empty square of Castle Black retreated from my feet. My knees buckled as I began to ascend the 700-foot Wall. The floor rattled beneath my boots and I had to reach out to steady myself against the side of the ramshackle elevator. There was nothing beyond the stone battlements that the Night's Watch calls home. Well, not nothing exactly. There were a few towering pines and squat rocky mountains whose lower reaches were blanketed in thick featureless snow. Their peaks, if you could call them that, were black stains smeared across the blinding white expanse of the Kingdom of the North. As I climbed higher, the cool breeze turned into an icy gale and my collar flapped against my neck like a sail in a storm.