They half dragged him into the kitchen as his legs were still somewhat stiff and unyielding.
“Water”, he croaked as they set him down on a chair. “My throat burns”.
Sansa placed a goblet of water in his shaky hands. He raised it to his lips, two-fisted, slopping the water down his chin and chest as he drank it in greedily. Then he choked and vomited up some of the water. Sam patted him firmly on the back while Sansa knelt down in front of him.
“Take it slowly, Jon”, she said. He began to shiver violently and his teeth chattered.
Sansa straightened up and spoke to the kitchen maid cowering in a corner.
“Go to Lord Snow’s chambers and fetch him clean, dry clothes”, she commanded the young girl.
The girl remained frozen in place, her face a mask of fear. The cook, exasperated by the girl’s inertia, turned to her and chucked her under the chin.
“He’s not a bloody wight, girl”, she admonished the maid. “Get on with you”.
The girl lowered her eyes and scurried from the kitchen. While they awaited her return, Sansa and Sam helped peel off Jon’s damp clothes while the cook stoked the fire until it roared. As she removed his shirt, Sansa gasped when she saw that his upper back and shoulders were covered with black and blue bruises.
“Oh, Jon”, she cried out with dismay, “did they beat you?”
Jon looked confused.
“I…I don’t recall any of them striking me…”he replied as he unconsciously reached up to rub his left shoulder.
“It’s called lividity, Sansa”, intervened Sam quietly. “It happens when the blood no longer circulates through the body after death. Instead it pools in one spot. I expect the marks will fade over time”.
The maid returned with a change of clothing and was dismissed immediately with instructions to make arrangements to prepare a hot bath for Jon and a make up a room for Melisandre.
Then Sansa wrapped warm blanket around Jon’s shoulders once he was dressed in the fresh clothes while the cook tried to coax him to drink some mulled wine.
As they fussed over him, Melisandre rose and stood next to the fire.
“Do you remember the circumstances that led up to your death, my lord?” she inquired.
“Jon, you don’t have to…” intervened Sansa. Jon shook his head and set the goblet of wine on the table.
“We rode for what felt like hours with Ghost loping behind us and the North Star constantly within our sights. Eventually we arrived at a cave, the mouth of which was illuminated by the star. I could see brilliant blue crystals lining the walls. And in each facet I could see my face multiplied a hundred times. Then they dragged me deeper into the cave which was dank and dark as night. All around I could hear cracking noises echoing through the chamber”, he said.
He closed his eyes briefly and took a deep breath.
“They brought me to the edge of a precipice. I could hear water rushing below, the damp rising and seeping into my bones. The air was filled with a cold, penetrating mist…so cold that it almost felt like I was being showered with ice crystals. And as I stood there imprisoned between two of them, with my heels hanging over the edge, balanced on the edge of oblivion, I was being silently watched by a set of malevolent blue eyes glowing in the gloom”.
“Did they ever speak?” asked Sansa.
Jon shook his head.
“I may have been blind at that point but I could see that they never intended to discuss terms…it was clear they brought me there to kill me”, he continued. “And if I thought that my death would bring an end to this bloody conflict then I would have willingly sacrificed myself for the good of the realm. For what is one life worth compared to millions of innocents. Instead my death was meant to rectify an oversight because I should have died with Daenerys and the dragons”.
“Oh, Jon…”murmured Sansa.
“I could feel their cool disregard for me as if I was an irritating fly that would take one blow to eradicate. So I silently prayed to the old gods for succor and knew they had answered me when I sensed Ghost’s presence in the cave. And when I realized that I could smell the fear wafting from my body before they gave it that final shove I knew that I had slipped into his skin. Once we saw it fall we turned tail and ran out the cave as fast as we could. We didn’t even wait to hear the splash”, he concluded.
He turned to Sansa.
“I don’t know how I ended up in the pond in the godswood nor how you knew to find me there”, he said with a slight shake of his head.
“I know”, said Melisandre firmly. She turned away from the fireplace and stood behind Jon’s chair.
“ My lady…your message through your maester indicated that in return for my services you would be prepared to offer whatever terms I demand”, she continued. “You were meant to be found and resurrected to fulfill a prophecy, Lord Snow. The Lord of Light has great need of you so when the time comes I insist that you heed his call”.
“How will we know when and what that is?” asked Sansa looking up at her with a mixture of fear and curiosity on her face.
“You’ll know”, replied Melisandre.
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