Sansa stood behind Jon for what felt like an eternity while he cradled the dead woman in his arms. She watched the crows warily as they congregated one by one on the blood spattered snow, their beady eyes bright with anticipation. She leaned over to whisper in his ear.
“Jon”, she said as she laid a hand on his shoulder, “we need to remove the body”.
She felt him stiffen and then he looked up at her with such wounded eyes that her breath caught in her throat. I will never begin to understand their relationship, she thought, but clearly there was a depth to it that I never realized.
Sam reached down and grasped Longclaw with both hands and wrenched it free from the red woman’s chest. The blood oozed slowly from the open wound and then froze. Sam then passed the sword to one of the men with instructions to have it cleaned and returned to Lord Snow’s chambers.
Jon gently laid the body on the ground and rose to his feet. Then he gave Sam a hard glance before bending down to slip his arms under Melisandre to lift her up.
“Jon…” protested Sam as he gestured to the two men standing nearby ready to retrieve the body.
“No”, replied Jon vehemently, “she’s my responsibility”.
And the guilt over her death, feared Sansa, will forever be his burden.
He carried her into the ice house and laid her on the same slab where his own body had lain only days before.
Sansa and Sam stood quietly off to the side as he tenderly closed the woman’s eyes and rearranged her arms across her breast to cover the wound.
“Jon…” said Sam haltingly.
Jon turned to him.
“I expect you’re pleased now”, snarled Jon. “You never did approve of her”.
Sam flushed and held up his hands in a placating manner.
“Jon, that’s not fair”, said Sam hoarsely. “I know I didn’t believe in her and her…ways. But I never wished her dead, especially by her own hand”.
“Jon”, said Sansa sharply, “I know you’re grieving but that is no excuse to lash out at Sam”.
Jon stood silently for a minute or two, his eyes blazing and his nostrils flaring. He struggled to control his emotions before awkwardly sticking out his hand to Sam.
“I’m sorry, my friend”, he mumbled. “That was uncalled for. Forgive me?”
Sam gripped his hand in return and laid the other on Jon’s forearm.
“Always”, replied Sam with a small smile.
Sansa placed a hand on Jon’s shoulder and pulled him close.
“We’ll give her a worthy send off”, she reassured him.
As they walked back to the castle, Sansa looped her arm through Jon’s and leaned in close.
“Jon, who is Azor Ahai and why did she call you by that name?” she asked.
Jon swallowed before replying.
“Azor Ahai is a legendary hero of Asshai”, he said with some hesitation. “She once believed that Stannis was the man reborn”.
Sansa faltered in her steps.
“Tell me more”, she insisted.
“Melisandre declared that as the resurrected hero, Stannis was destined to be the Lord of Light’s champion when a cold darkness descended upon the world after a long summer. It was prophesied that Azor Ahai alone would stand against the Others and that darkness would flee before him”, he continued.
“When did she start believing that it was you instead of Stannis?” she asked quietly.
“When I was Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch”, he replied. “But none of that is important now. It was just another of her pointless prophecies”.
Sansa stopped short and yanked on his arm.
“Jon, the woman just killed herself believing you to be the resurrection of this legendary hero so I hardly think it pointless. Why did she find it necessary to die by your sword?” she asked.
Jon shook his head and looked down at his feet.
“I don’t know”, he replied.
Never mind, thought Sansa, Sam will know.
She found Sam making arrangements to have a bier assembled. She pulled him aside.
“Tell me more about the legend of Azor Ahai...in particular his sword”, she inquired.
Sam raised his eyes to the sky as he searched his memory.
“I recall Melisandre calling the sword Lightbringer. As the story goes, Azor Ahai made two abortive attempts to temper the sword until finally he drove it into the beating heart of his wife Nissa Nissa. It was then that Lightbringer was created…a fusion of steel and soul, the Red Sword of Heroes”, he answered, the sad realization dawning on his face.
“Do you think it’s possible?” he whispered. “I know I have always been her biggest detractor but lately I have witnessed enough to completely turn my belief system on its head”.
Sansa shook her head.
“It doesn’t really matter what we believe”, she replied. “What is more important is that Jon has no faith in the prophecy. And yet…what if he is wrong?”
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