As the light began to fade, a small crowd began to gather outside for the ceremony. Many of the free folk had come to watch the red witch burn with the grim satisfaction of knowing that the woman who had burned their own king alive was now gone. Others came in hope of seeing the woman resurrect herself and rise from her burning bed of straw and twigs. This, they decided, was a spectacle not to be missed.
Jon stood beside the bier with his head bowed and his hands clasped loosely together. Melisandre’s body lay on the bier, as pale in death as she was in life. Jon gestured for silence from the onlookers.
“Grant, oh Lord of Light”, he spoke as he raised his arms slowly, “your faithful servant, Melisandre, eternal rest and peace as we consign her body to the flames. May your perpetual light shine upon her”.
Then he lowered his hands and stared at the corpse briefly before nodding to the torchbearer who stood nearby.
As the bier was lit, Sansa watched the flames slowly lick at the wood frame and the black smoke drifting in the breeze. She could smell the scent of pine from the boughs that served as tinder.
She felt Torrhen tug on her hand. She turned and knelt down so that he could whisper in her ear.
“Papa sad”, he said as he pointed at his mournful father. Sansa nodded.
“Mayhaps you could comfort him”, she suggested.
Torrhen stood with uncertainty clouding his face until Sansa gave him an encouraging smile and a gentle push. He toddled over to Jon and took his father’s hand, patting it gently. Jon managed a small smile and bent down to kiss the top of his son’s head. Then they stood silently together, hand in hand, their solemn faces lit up by the funeral pyre.
As the heat built up and the flames climbed higher, Sansa noticed subtle changes in Melisandre’s visage. Her face, so youthful in life, had begun to age visibly. Sansa could see the crows’ feet emanating from her closed eyes and the lines forming around her mouth. Her cheeks began to sink and her jowls started to sag. Then the ruby that hung from her neck pulsated with life for a few seconds before fading into darkness. Within minutes the whole bier was consumed by fire.
As the skies darkened and the flames dwindled the crowds began to disperse. Sansa could see that Torrhen was starting to sag with fatigue. Jon must have sensed it, too, because he reached down to hoist his son up. Torrhen threw his arms around his father’s neck and laid a weary head against his shoulder. Within minutes his eyes drooped and his lips parted in slumber.
Sansa sidled up to Jon’s side and slipped her arm around his waist. She raised herself up on tiptoes as he leaned down to give her a kiss and murmur thank you.
“You’re welcome”, she whispered back.
The evening meal was subdued. While Sansa chatted with the other diners, Jon sat brooding in silence. Sam had been conspicuously absent from the funeral ceremony and now had not appeared for the meal. Sansa leaned over and tapped Jon on the arm.
“He really has forgiven you”, she said in a low voice.
“I know”, replied Jon while absentmindedly pushing his food around his plate. She placed a gentle hand over his to still it.
“There is a plate of food prepared for him in the kitchen”, she said. “Why don’t you take it up to him and stay …to talk”.
She could see his eyes brighten. Then he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it softly.
He pushed back his chair and rose to his feet. She caught his hand before he left.
“I’ll join you both later”, she said conspiratorially. “The three of us have some things to discuss”.
After the children had been fed and put to bed, Sansa made her way to the maester’s tower. As she approached the Sam’s door she could hear the low rumble of laughter. Her heart lightened with the belief that they were on the road to repairing their friendship. Jon’s relationship with Melisandre had strained their friendship to the brink at times over the past two years. Mercifully, with her death, she hoped that they could become the united front they once were.
As she entered the room she could see that although the food on Sam’s plate had only been partially eaten, several skins of wine had certainly been consumed. Sansa sighed inwardly. Clearly now was not the time for any serious discussion.
They both raised their goblets of wine as she planted herself on her favourite chair.
“To my beautiful and understanding wife”, saluted Jon.
“Here, here”, slurred Sam in agreement.
She rolled her eyes as they both broke down in guffaws.
Sam poured Sansa a goblet of wine which she raised to her lips and sipped slowly.
“And here’s to Lord Commander Mormont…may he rest in eternal peace”, declared Sam as he gulped down another mouthful.
“The Old Bear”, mumbled Jon into his cup.
Oh gods, thought Sansa, they’ll be drunkenly reciting their Night’s Watch vows next.
“Gentlemen”, she said setting the goblet aside and rising to her feet. “I leave you to enjoy the rest of your evening. I have had a very long and eventful day so I bid you both good night”.
Jon rose unsteadily to his feet and swayed briefly before planting a wet, sloppy kiss on her cheek. She smiled sweetly at the pair of them before leaving them to their revelry.
She paused at the door when she heard Jon unsheathing Longclaw amidst peals of laughter. Oh no, she thought soberly, there will be no inebriated waving of swords this evening. As she turned to put a stop to any dangerous shenanigans she heard Sam’s voice pipe up.
“Jon, I know I’m drunk…but I swear I have never seen Longclaw glow red before”, he said with a hiccup.
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