At first there was a commotion in the courtyard and then chaos raged over Black Castle like a storm. She could hear the princess crying while trying to hide behind her mother, who was as much afraid and hysterical as her daughter. Fools, the whole lot of them.
The red priestess lighted her fire. If only the boy had listened to me. But he never heard to a single word she said, not after her crucial mistake about a grey girl on a dying horse. The little sister that never came. Arya Stark was Melissandre’s gravest mistake, Jon Snow’s doom and if no one took the Wall and got the wildling under control, soon she would be the end of the Night’s Watch itself.
Tormund had gutted Bowen Marsh with his own hands and soon all of his men were clashing swords against dark shields. They never understood a word about the wildling, despite the Lord Commander’s best efforts, nor even Melissandre and her fires. He was right about something. They would never kneel to a king, or a cause, unless they could respect it. They never kneel to King Stannis, to the Night’s Watch or even to the Lord Commander. They kneel to a clever and cunning boy named Jon Snow, and now that the boy was dead there was about four thousand wilding warriors at the Wall and none of them had much love for the men in black or the Southern King.
While the screaming in the courtyard grew and the sounds of the slaughter filled the night, the Red Priestess lighted her fire in an effort to foresee the end of such a bloodbath. A glimpse of her king and light’s champion, who was taught to be dead by the hands of Bolton’s men, a flash of light and hope maybe. Anything that could tell her that they would all be alive by the end of such a dreadful night. ‘Couse the night is dark and full of terrors, indeed.
The flames danced before her, casting shadows at the wall of her chamber, while both queen and princess hanged at each other in a fool attempt of protection.
“What do you see, lady Melissandre?” The queen asked in a childish and desperate tone. “Do you see my husband, the king? Is he alive?!”
She prayed for a sign. She prayed and asked R’hllor to show her Azor Ahai reborn, but nothing came. Only darkness and cold. Only knifes in the night, blood and treason. Snow stained with blood and then a funeral pyre. A man in flames, but never getting burned by them. His sword glowing, his armor made of ice.
A howl cut the night like a knife distracting her from her fire. A lonely wolf howling in the woods. A Ghost hunts this place, and soon there will be corpses enough to secure him a banquet. The wolf growled this time, and by the sound of screams and shouts, she guessed that the beast had joined the fight to avenge his master’s death.
Not his master, his other half is more likely.
“What do you see?!” The queen shouted again and Melissandre smiled lightly.
“I see salvation.”
Dawn came and with it came silence. Someone knock at the door of the priestess chamber. The queen fell asleep, holding the princess Shreene in her arms. She looks like a mother at least. Her steward opened the door giving passage to a young man. Jon Snow’s steward. The boy whore they called Satin.
The beauty of his youthful face had been severely beaten. His eye were bruised and swollen, his lip cut and he couldn’t walk properly. He was alive at least and that was enough luck for anyone in Castle Black. He bowed clumsily to her.
“What news you bring?” She asked right away.
“The Lord Commander, Jon Snow, is dead. Treason, my lady. Killed by his own men. The wildlings rebelled and now there’re very few men of the Night’s Watch.” Nothing she didn’t know.
“How many dead?”
“So far we counted eighty or near enough to make no difference, but I’m afraid that this number will keep rising. A few queen’s men were killed to.” The boy answered modestly. “I was sent here to ask my lady to perform the funeral. Many were devoted to your Red God, and even those who weren’t deserve a funeral, especially one that lives no chance for the dead to rise again, if my lady understands what I mean.”
“Of course.” She agreed promptly. “May I ask who controls the Wall?”
“A raven was sent to Eastwatch-by-the-sea summoning Cotter Pyke, if he’s still alive, to take the temporary control of the Wall, until my brothers are able to assemble an election.” The boy was diligent to say, but Melissandre could few the troubles behind his words.
“You don’t approve of the choice.” It wasn’t a question and Satin knew it, but it wasn’t his place to question such decision. Even though the boy was young and unprepared to be a man of the Watch, he was wise enough to see what a gunpowder barrel Castle Black became. If anything, Cotter Pyke would be nothing but the sparkle that would explode the Wall.
“With all due respect, my lady, we need someone who knows how to deal with the wildling and no men of the Night’s Watch understands their ways. They say that Jon…I mean, the Lord Commander broke his vows as should be burned without a proper funeral of a man of the Night’s Watch, but I don’t agree with it, nor do the wildling. They respected him, and they would follow him, if we deny the honor of a ritual I’m quite sure that they will take their weapons against us and we will be at great danger. We are at such disadvantage now that I feel we are all Tormund’s hosts.”
“I see.” Melissandre nodded while considering what the steward just said. “Prepare the pyres for the funeral. It must be done until dawn. Make sure to bring the direwolf and invite the chiefs among the wildlings.”
“The wolf is beyond control, my lady. The beast killed four men last night and it’s still thirsty.” The lad said promptly.
“Bring it anyway. Use chains if you must, but I don’t think it will be necessary. The wolf will come.” It was her final answer and her face was too determinate for Satin to argue. “You may go now.”
“Very good, my lady.”
Satin left her chambers to deliver her requests to his superiors. There would be another commotion, she knew. Even when her fire wasn’t helping a single bit, Melissandre could smell something in the air. There was something different in the way the wind was blowing, colder than usual and much more unforgiving. The magic at the Wall, she could feel it in her bones. The Lord of Light had settled the stage for a grand performance. Something was about to change.
The queen approved the funeral, but it wasn’t a surprise by any standards. She knew better than to cross the Red Priestess and Selise Baratheon had no intention to fall from the Lord of Light’s grace. She was dressed in her finest robes to face both rangers and wildlings. It was a gloomy day for sure. Too much hate and sorrow in each face and none of them was particularly fond of Stanis’ wife. What would become of them without Jon Snow’s support and with the king missing, no one could say.
The corpses were placed in the pyres, forming a perfect circle. Jon Snow’s body was placed in the central pyre, which stand higher than the others. Melissadre climbed it with the help of a lather before every gaze. She could hear the wildings whispering, and the man of the Watch complaining. Jon Snow had never worshiped the Lord of Light, or the Seven. He was more primitive in his faith, choosing the ancient gods carved in the trees.
His face was untouched by death and the fatal wounds were sewed. For the first time he was richly dressed in a dark armor, his hair combed and his beard cut short. A handsome face for a young man. He was holding Longclaw with both hands, despite all the complains she heard previously. Many had stated that the sword was made of valyrian steel and it belonged to the Mormont’s of Bear Island. A priceless blade, for sure, but Melissandre insisted that the Lord Commander should carry it to the other world.
His face should have been cold, but everything in the Wall was colder than him. Melissandre touched his face gently. I would have enjoyed your warmth in the cold nights, but you never wanted me. The thought was bitter since she wasn’t used to rejection. Even though she was beautiful and powerful enough to make him desire her body, seduction had little effect in hearts already conquered. Who was that one you wanted? Your lost wildling wife, your handsome whore boy, or was it someone else? You never seemed to care for anyone else besides your duty, except for your little sister.
The thought came to her like a lightening. What a wicked thing to assume even though his longing for this lost sister had always been plain enough. Would you ever give her away to another man, even an honorable one or one of her choice? Have this thought hunted you, Lord Snow? No word came out of his mouth in answer, but she heard the approximation of the beast.
Ghost was brought in chains. His teeth bare and his temper wild, but he calmed at the sight of his master’s body close to Melissandre. She couldn’t contain a smile.
She turned to face the spectators. Tormund Giantsbane was in front of his men, with a stern face and a blade at his waist. His son was no less frightening. Every man at the Wall was ready for a war that could start at any minute. The sun was setting down in the horizon, it was time to start.
“Night gathers and now his watch ends!” The men of the Night’s Watch said in unison.
“Oh R’Hllor, Lord of Light, let the ones who died to reborn in the splendor of your Light. Take them into your grace and embrace them with your mercy.” She climbed the ladder down with the help of Davo’s boy. Satin offered her the torch and Melisandre held it firmly. The ruby at her throat was shining like the fire itself. “For the night is dark and full of terrors.”
“For the night is dark and full of terrors!” Those faithful to the Lord of The Light shouted in answer and Melisandre lighted the pyre.
Soon the flames were high and the smell of burned flesh could be felt at distance. Solemn faces were everywhere to be seen. She stared at Jon’s pyre but this time she hadn’t asked for a sight. She simply waited.
The flames sung a song of their own and danced in the cold winter night casting shadows upon each face. Melissandre could feel something different in the air, a fire consuming her within as if she was being bathed in light. Suddenly a sound of a crack, then a wolf’s howl followed by thousands of voices muttering in shock and terror.
The Red Priestess turned to face the pyre, to face a dead man burning, but what she saw made her fall on her knees praising her Red God.
A man surrounded by flames. Not dead and not burning.