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little raven

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It was supposed to be the younger son. The boy would fall and fly and finally claim his destiny. They had chosen him, certain he would weather the trials ahead, certain he would find his way to their servant.

But even gods can be surprised, and surprised they are when they cast their gaze ahead and see the dead rising sooner than expected, when they see just how many ways the living could fail, could be defeated by their own petty infighting and own petty prejudice.

The people of Westeros must be forewarned, must know the true threat far earlier than expected, and they cannot wait. They cannot wait for the boy to fall, cannot wait for him to meet the raven.

Luckily the strings of fate are cut far more easily than any mortal would dare to dream. Luckily it is the work of a moment to whisper through the trees to the girl in grey, to dizzy and disorient her, to leave her wandering through the forest in the pouring rain.

The girl in grey catches a fever, just as they know she would. The girl in grey catches a fever, and it takes next to nothing to creep into her mind, to whisper secrets and plant knowledge, to give her the power that manages to be a curse and a blessing all at once.

Sansa knows she is dreaming.

She isn’t sure how she knows, not really, but something tells her it doesn’t matter. Something tells her it doesn’t matter as she walks through the snow, driven on and on until she finally reaches the heart tree, gazing up and into its carved eyes.

“A terrible burden,” a voice dry as dust whispers then, cutting through the silence, and she turns quickly, looking around.

“Up here!” The voice calls again, and she looks up and up until her eyes catch at the raven perched on the upper branches, the raven that peers down with three black eyes.

The raven rustles its wings once, twice, before swooping down, landing on the ground in front of her. Slowly, cautiously, Sansa kneels down, suddenly aware of her bare feet as the cold seeps into her skin, as the snow stains her pretty new dress.

“Young for such a terrible burden,” the raven mutters, hopping forward to look up at her. “Young, but our only chance.”

“What?” She asks, confusion obvious, but the raven only sighs, its eyes glittering with an emotion she cannot decipher.

“The gods are not cruel,” the bird replies instead, “remember that, no matter what comes next.”

“Which gods?” the girl asks, startling a wheezing laugh from the raven.

“The only gods that matter, little bird. The gods of your father and his fathers’ before him.”

The bird still makes no sense, still talks in circles, so Sansa merely frowns, merely catches on what matters most.

“I’m a wolf,” she insists, “not a bird.”

The raven caws again, the wheezing laugh echoing, before darting forward, beak catching a lock of her bright hair and pulling just sharp enough to sting.

“It matters not what you call yourself, child. You are a raven now, until death comes for you as it will come for me.”

“I don’t understand,” Sansa finally admits, a flicker of shame welling up at failing what seems to be a test, but the bird only laughs a third and final time, something like sadness caught in its voice.

“You will.”