Melisandre gave the signal to light the fires that ringed the bier.
As the flames shot up, Sansa could see their red glow reflected in the priestess’ eyes. She glanced sideways at Sam whose normally genial face was tight with anxiety. She reached out to squeeze his hand and mouthed words of thanks.
The air had become moist and heavy. Dark clouds invaded the previously tranquil sky and the wind was rapidly gaining strength. Night appeared to have fallen and yet the moon had not dared show its face. Instead, the North Star beckoned as it glowed with the intensity of a thousand suns in the pitch black sky. And in the distance she could swear she heard the distant rumble of thunder.
Melisandre raised her hands high, her red cloak flapping in the wind.
“We are gathered here to banish darkness”, she began, “for the night is dark and full of terrors while the day is bright and beautiful and full of hope”.
Sansa gazed steadily at Jon’s body while Melisandre raised high a steaming goblet.
“I compel the power of R’hllor to release from death he who was promised”, she chanted. The ruby at her throat pulsated like a red beacon. She brought the cup to her lips and drank deeply.
The snow began to fall softly, almost aimlessly at first. Then, as Melisandre tossed the goblet to the ground, the snow began to intensify. Sansa saw a flash of light beyond the trees and resounding clap of thunder a few minutes later. She pulled her hood closer around her face to shield her against the now driving snow.
The shadows on the walls danced manically as the flames roared higher. Melisandre mounted the bier and sat astride the dead man’s chest. Her red hair swirled around her head as she leaned down to cup Jon’s face with her hands.
“I deliver fire, the gift of life”, she breathed as she delivered a kiss upon his cold dead lips. Then she sat up again and raised her arms to the blackened sky.
“Rise up, Lord Snow”, she shouted above the screech of the wind, “for you are the Lord’s chosen one, his warrior of fire”.
Sansa held her breath in anticipation.
It was imperceptible at first, her view obscured by the snowstorm raging around them, but as Sansa drew closer to him she swore she could see small wisps of steam rising from Jon’s frozen body.
She turned to Sam.
“You must fetch him now”, she hissed. Sam nodded and hurried away.
She continued to draw closer. The red woman lowered her gaze to meet Sansa’s eyes.
“There is life”, she declared triumphantly as she drew Sansa’s attention to Jon’s right hand where a single finger began to twitch.
Sansa stared, scarcely believing what she was witnessing. Jon’s other fingers began to move slightly and his feet started to sway. She rushed towards him and snatched up his hand as the red priestess climbed down from the bier. The hand was still cold but it throbbed with life.
“Where is the wolf?” asked Melisandre as she looked around the yard expectantly.
“The maester has gone to fetch him from the nursery”, replied Sansa as she impatiently pushed away a stray lock of hair that had fallen over her eyes.
Breathe, Jon, breathe, she silently willed him.
She heard Sam shout her name. When she looked up she saw him returning with Ghost at his heels.
“Hurry, Sam!” she yelled back.
They trotted across the yard, Sam with his head lowered against the force of the wind and snow.
“Does he live?” puffed Sam.
“I…I don’t know. His limbs move but I have yet to see his lungs fill with air”, replied Sansa.
The red woman grabbed Sansa’s hand and placed it on her husband’s chest.
“Can you feel the life returning to him now?” Melisandre asked, her eyes fixed on Sansa’s. “Can you feel his body gradually thawing as the power of R’hllor breathes new life into him?”
Sansa closed her eyes and focused on the small movements in Jon’s chest. She thrilled when she finally felt the gentle swell under the palm of her hand as his body took its first hesitant breath.
She laid her head on his chest and listened to the faint beating of his heart. She stood up, grabbed Ghost by his ruff and leaned down to look into the direwolf’s eyes.
“It’s time, Jon. Your body needs you”, she said as she wrapped her arms around his neck. She felt Ghost shiver uncontrollably for a fleeting moment before she heard Jon cough as he sucked in a lungful of air.
Her hand flew to her mouth and she began to laugh and cry simultaneously. She took Jon’s hand and held it to her breast and leaned over him to whisper in his ear.
“Can you feel my heart beat, my love? I swear it’s going a mile a minute”, she murmured.
After a few seconds she saw his eyelids flutter open. But then her heart sank when his eyes looked vacant and unfocused as they stared unblinking at the sky until he slowly turned towards her.
“Sansa”, he whispered hoarsely. He ran his tongue over his dry, chapped lips.
“Sansa”, he repeated after clearing his throat, “I told you I’d come back”.
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