“How much?” asked Sam, gripping Jon’s arm with one hand and brandishing a knife with the other. “Do I need to open a vein?”
Jon looked alarmed.
“She only took a few drops so a nick to a finger should suffice”, he replied quickly as he splayed his digits.
“Right then…” replied Sam as he swiftly spliced open Jon’s third finger and tipped it over so that the blood dripped into the basin below.
“You might have warned me first”, muttered Jon as he made a face. Sam grinned back at him.
“I find it easier this way”, he replied, “in, out…there…all done”.
He passed Jon a piece of clean silk to wrap up his wounded finger.
“Would you like a sweetmeat?” asked Sam, his voice dripping with honey. “Sometimes I offer the children sweets when I treat their injuries”.
Jon gave him a withering look.
“That won’t be necessary”, he replied blandly. Sansa tittered until Jon silenced her with a scowl.
“What now?” she asked as she peered over Jon’s shoulder at the unappetizing stew of blood and herbs in the basin.
Sam picked up a small pouch and handed it to Sansa.
“On my command, I need you to sprinkle the powder inside this pouch over the contents of the basin”, he said as he reached for a smudge stick. Then he lit the stick using one of the wall torches and held it over the bowl.
“Now”, he said. Sansa upturned the pouch and shook out the contents into the liquid. The mixture instantly began to bubble up and steam. Sam lowered the lit stick slowly until the contents of the basin caught fire.
Sansa recoiled in fear as the flames shot almost as high as the rafters. Jon grabbed her arm and pulled her to a safer distance. Only Sam remained in place, stock still, his eyes rolling to the top of his head. Small beads of sweat began to form on his forehead as he raised his arms, his face glowing red in the firelight.
When he appeared to have slipped into a trancelike state, Sansa was tempted to shake him, to bring him back into the here and now but Jon grabbed her hand and shook his head.
“It’s part of the ritual, Sansa”, he warned. “If you disturb him then the spell will break”.
She pulled back and clutched at Jon’s arm. Sam lifted his face to the ceiling and opened his mouth and strange sounding words poured from his lips. Sansa strained to understand them but they sounded like gibberish to her ears. Jon leaned over to whisper in her ear.
“High Valyrian”, he explained.
The room began to fill with black, foul-smelling smoke. Sansa waved it about and coughed violently until Jon charged across the room to throw open the shutters. Sam continued to chant, oblivious to the choke-filled air, the pitch of his voice rising higher as the words spilled out at an increasingly rapid pace.
As the fire began to die back, Sam gradually lowered his arms and his speech slowed down to assume a more normal cadence. The contents of the basin were reduced to a greasy, black ooze with a few flames still dancing on the surface. Sansa coughed a few more times and then buried her face in Jon’s chest to try to escape the stench that seemed to permeate everything in the room.
“Sam!” yelled Jon.
Sansa reeled around in time to see Sam sinking to his knees. When he hit the floor his limbs began to twitch violently and foam bubbled up on his lips.
“Jon”, she cried. “He’s having a fit. Protect his head before he injures himself”.
Jon rushed to Sam’s side and knelt down to cradle his friend’s head and neck while Sansa fetched a wet cloth. She hovered anxiously over Sam as his limbs flailed and his eyes rolled to the back of his head. Jon looked up at her with fear in his eyes.
“She didn’t react this way when she cast the spell”, he said hoarsely. He struggled to keep Sam from banging the back of his head on the cold, stone floor. Sansa reached out tentatively to daub at Sam’s flushed face and wipe away the spittle that oozed from his mouth. Then she leaned over him.
“What should we do?” she asked. Jon shook his head helplessly.
“We wait”, he replied.
Jon hung on to him grimly until his movements gradually slowed down and he finally lay perfectly still. Sansa watched his chest continue to rise and fall while Jon loosened his grip on his head. Then Sam’s eyes began to roam about the room and his tongue darted out his mouth to lick his lips. He glanced up at Jon.
“I saw it”, croaked Sam, his voice barely above a whisper.
He struggled to rise. Jon slipped his arms underneath his and helped him to his feet. Sam swayed slightly and hung on to the edge of the table while Jon steadied him. Sansa pulled up a chair and guided Sam on to it. Then she knelt next to the chair while Jon remained steadfast by his side.
“What did you see, Sam?” she asked.
“The green dragon…Rhaegal…large as life and twice as frightening”, he replied. “It was making a meal of a goat that it snatched up from some poor farmer’s herd. For a brief moment, I feared I would be its next course. It bore down on me, its eyes bulging and its teeth bared. I cringed and waited for the blast of fire that would cook me to my core but it stopped short. It regarded me for a few minutes, sniffing at me tentatively as if I was somehow familiar”.
He paused and looked at Jon.
“It must have smelled your blood”, he said nervously plucking at his sleeve. “It let out an awful screech and then it rose in the sky”.
Jon and Sansa exchanged glances over Sam’s head.
“Does this mean…?” asked Sansa with some hesitation.
“Oh, yes”, replied Sam. “Rhaegal has answered the call and is winging its way here”.
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