Jon — A Chapter from ASOIAF

He knew the wind was chilly, but on his cheeks he felt nothing. Cold didn’t bother him anymore; he was made of ice after all. His black hair waved like a flag over his black cloak and Jon Snow could see his enemies in the distance. Led by his silver haired aunt seated on the back of the largest of the three dragons, flanked by the other two, lesser beasts on each side.

He closed his eyes for a moment and remembered his oath- I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. His aunt’s presence had disintegrated the darkness, the wall stood no more and the realms of men were dead; it was a single realm of a woman. His oath was void. He was a crow no more.

I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. Ygritte was his unspoken wife, he ruled the Land of Always Winter, the ice children were his and on his head, he wore a crown of ice. And today was going to decide the fate of his glory. Jon Snow was not a bastard anymore, he wasn’t a Stark or a Targaryen, he wasn’t the prince that was promised nor was he Azor Ahai returned. Jon was not even a man anymore. He was a god, he was the Great Other.

He sensed the uneasiness in the hearts of his ice children as they stood behind him, ready for battle. A twitch in his brow and he turned his head to see his army. An army of a handful of white walkers, of wights, of the children of the forest and wild men turned to the one true god; him. On his right stood the leader of the white walkers, the king from whom Jon Snow had escaped at Hardhome not very long ago. On his left stood what was once Jon Snow’s uncle, the one everyone presumed dead, now leading the army of wights. His two most trusted lieutenants seemed calm and wore the face of victory. The Great Other relaxed. His victory was certain. R’hllor was just the god of life and light; but life ultimately ends in death and lights eventually go off. R’hllor was fleeting, The Great Other was permanent.

***

Melisandre felt warm as always, and yet a shiver ran down her spine. She had been so wrong, wrong about everything from the beginning. Her Lord of Light showed her Jon Snow in the flames not because he was Azor Ahai, but because he was The Great Other. R’hllor had been trying to warn her about Jon Snow, not affirm him as the prince that was promised. And Azor Ahai was never going to return in the first place. He wasn’t the last hero anyway. The Last Hero was his wife, Nissa Nissa. It was her soul that gave Lightbringer its legendary prowess after all. She had been so wrong. But at least, Nissa Nissa had returned.

“The Lord of Light beckons victory in your way my queen. It is time,” she said turning to Daenerys Targaryen as she saw the sun rise behind her enemies’ backs. The mother of dragons looked beyond regal on the back of Drogon, her child. Fumes bellowing from his nostrils, wings stirring, eager to take flight and breathe fire. The fire that would bring light and disperse darkness. Valyrian steel was forged in the fires of the dragons, and this dragon’s soul was that of his mother’s. This time, Lightbringer would not be wielded, it would be ridden upon. This time Nissa Nissa will not die, she will rule.

“What shall be our strategy ser?” Daenerys turned left to face Jorah Mormont. The exiled knight squinted at the rising sun right in front of him. The sun seemed to follow his queen lately. He hadn’t slept in the dark of night for weeks now. But he dared not admit that he missed darkness.

“There is no strategy here my queen. We are dealing with outlaws and those risen from the dead, wicked beings who do not follow the laws of men. We are not dealing with beings of light, but agents of darkness. I say we charge them head on. Let loose Drogon and Viserion on Jon Snow and his band of ice monsters. Their fire will melt the White Walkers in an instant. We will take care of the Children of the forest.”

“Spoken like a brave knight, but not like a wise commander,” said the man seated on Viserion’s back. Daenerys turned right to heed the words of the man who had brought her all the way here. Tyrion might have been short in built, but he was the tallest in wisdom among all the men of Westeros. As hand of the queen and Daenerys’ half-brother, Tyrion had done what seemed impossible not long ago; he had single handedly conquered all of Westeros for his queen. All of Westeros, but the North.

“You cannot kill what is already dead ser. Fire may burn the corpses, but you forget that they have The Great Other. A god ser, they have a god with them. You cannot simply fly your dragons over a god and get away with it. We don’t even know what he is capable of.”

Melisandre stirred and berated, “We too have THE god on our side my lord Tyrion. The one true god has manifested himself through Queen Daenerys, and her victory is assured. She will bring the light that will sweep the darkness away. This battle is the final battle between R’hllor and The Great Other and though the night is dark and full of terrors, the fire will burn them all away.”

“Indeed, it is the final battle my lady. And that is why it must be won, not thrown away,” replied Tyrion, focusing his attention on his queen now. And while The Great Other himself comes to battle in the final struggle, your lord of light chooses only to send his champions. He thought to himself, never fully believing in the power of the one true god. Never fully believing that legends could be facts. Tyrion steadied Viserion as his dragon got eager to fly as well, never fully believing he was half Targaryen.

***

It wasn’t difficult to make out the silhouette of the man seated on the smaller dragon. The dwarf was easily distinguishable. Why and how Tyrion Lannister joined the Targaryen forces would always remain a mystery to Jon Snow. But I am not Jon Snow.

He did not care about anyone else in his enemy’s army. He had never trusted the Red Woman and he did not trust her now. What really intrigued him was the rider-less dragon and Tyrion Lannister. Let me give you some advice bastard. Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you. He wasn’t going to forget what he was; in fact, the whole world will remember what he was.

“What are they thinking Bran?” The Great Other asked one of the children of the forest standing right behind him. Bran’s voice echoed in his head.

“They are uncertain. They fear you. But it’s more likely that she will listen to her half-brother than anyone else.”

Jon smiled. Of course they fear me. “What is the imp’s strategy?”

He could sense the disappointment in Bran’s voice. Tyrion surely deserved more respect. But he was a dwarf nonetheless. He wasn’t going to forget it, nor would the world. “His plan is to tread the waters before diving in. They are at the head of an army of more than 100000 strong. Dragon fire and wild fire are their chief weapons. The Red Woman is their only source of magic. He wants the men to charge in batches. To see how strong and powerful our men are. And use magic if his men fail. When the time comes for dragons, Rhaegal will be the first one to charge. He’s unridden and untamable and thus sacrificial. But that will be their biggest mistake.”

Bran was just a boy when Jon Snow had left him. But now he spoke like a man. More than a man, he spoke like the chief of the weirwoods that he was. Bran, the boy who could not even walk could now fly. He could now see where no one else could. He was The Great Other’s chief source of intelligence. Brandon Stark was Bran the Builder reborn. Only this time, he was going to rebuild the world as it once was; before the coming of the men.

Sending Rhaegal will be their biggest mistake indeed, thought Jon. He looked at the dragon from this distance. Named after his father, Rhaegal looked smaller than the other two. But Jon knew the reason why the dragon was unridden, untamable. In spirit, he was The Great Other, but in form he still had the blood of the dragon. The third head of the dragon would never come up. Not all prophecies can be fulfilled.

He turned left and spoke to a dead Benjen Stark, “We cannot wait for their first move. R’hllor is a slow cunt and we have time while he sits behind us. It’ll be a few hours before he can blind our eyes with his light. We must take advantage of this and draw the first blood. Once night falls, I will unleash terror.”

“Fucking coward. Not even today will he change his course. He’s sent his champions to die,” said the night’s king with a sly grin on his face.

Benjen Stark wondered what had happened to the boy he had left at Winterfell. What stood next to him looked like his nephew, but was something entirely different. A chill went down his dead spine with the sudden realization that he was standing next to a god, his god.

“Send forth the men, let them kill and let them die,” the voice of his nephew startled Benjen Stark back to reality. He looked at Jon with surprise.

“Why do you want to send the men alone? What will we gain if they die?” he asked his god.

“What is dead may never die,” replied the Great Other. Somewhere deep in the recesses of his memory, Benjen Stark knew these words. He could not recollect where they came from. But the reply came effortlessly to his lips.

“But rises again, harder and stronger.”

“Indeed,” said Snow. “I drowned in the river of death once. And rose again, to become the god of death. The Drowned God is what they called me,” he scoffed. “Once these men die, they shall rise again. R’hllor can control life, but I control everything beyond it. I can make the dead work the way I made you Benjen Stark. The men of Westeros cannot kill what is already dead.”

“What about their dragons? They will burn the wights. And we cannot come back without our bodies.”

Jon Snow looked at his uncle with such ferocity that even a dead Benjen Stark took a step back. He was scared; he had forgotten for a minute that Jon Snow wasn’t Jon Snow anymore.

“Do not doubt my powers, uncle. And remember, men and women used to die on both sides of the wall. And on the other side, they were never burned.”

Uncle, his ears had forgotten that word. How much he loved this bastard nephew of his. But he knew the Great Other used that word on purpose. To remind him that he wasn’t the uncle of Jon Snow anymore. And then he realized what his god meant. Daenerys was sandwiched between two armies. And the army to her south was far stronger than the one to her north. The southerners had not burned bodies for thousands of years. And now all those dead stood like an army, waiting to hear from their lord; their own Lord Commander.

He managed a smile out of whatever face he had remaining. Took a few steps forward and bellowed orders for the men to attack. There was no need of formation, no need of planning and no need of strategy. All he wanted was chaos, and death.

***

“Valar Morghulis,” all men must die.

Arya woke up ­from what she thought was a dream. Her grip on Needle tightened. The reply came naturally to her, “Valar Dohaeris.” All men must serve.

“A girl dreams about real events. What does she want to see? What does she see?” Jaqen H’ghar was wearing the face that Arya had first seen on him. She knew something important was going to happen today.

“I see Westeros. I see Jon and Daenerys fighting and killing. I see my uncle, he’s dead but alive. I see war and death,” said Arya, turning her face away from Jaqen and staring at nothingness, resuming her vision of Westeros, fiddling with Needle.

“A girl tells me what she sees. She does not tell me what she wantsto see.”

“I want to see what there really is. Is this the end of Westeros Jaqen?” she asked. Jaqen H’ghar’s first face reminded her of how they had helped each other so long ago. It also reminded her that there was no Jaqen H’ghar in the first place.

“Yes it is. This is what will be known as the Doom of Westeros.”

“Like the doom of Valyria?” Arya sounded like a child for a moment.

“Yes girl. Like the doom of Valyria. When empires become too big and too corrupt, the many-faced god has his own ways of cleaning up this world,” he replied nonchalantly.

“But the many-faced god does not have power over Westeros. How can he bring about its doom?” she asked surprised.

Jaqen scoffed. “So many days in his service and yet a girl is silly. R’hllor and The Great Other and the seven and the old gods and everything that men worship are nothing but the faces of the many-faced god. It is his face that decides life and it his face that decides death. Your brother has become the face of The Great Other, while R’hllor chooses the face of the sun and Daenerys as its champion. Ice is not death, and fire is not life. These are just games for the only god that truly exists; the only god whom we serve.”

Reality struck Arya like lightning. Her entire life she had been witnessing the unfolding of nothing but a great plan by the many-faced god; a spectacle to feed his appetite. It was a song he started. And it was time to end it.

“Indeed, it was a song he started. And now he wishes to end it.” Arya was taken aback when Jaqen spoke the words in her head. She had no idea that he could read her thoughts. She didn’t question though, there was no point.

“It was a song of ice and fire,” he said. “All the prophecies and signs were mere words of his great song. This is the coda. It’s a song of ice and fire, girl. And when ice meets fire, all that is left is water. The ice melts, the fire is extinguished.”

She cried for the first time after a very long time. She had forgotten when the last time was. She turned to face Jaqen H’ghar, but saw Sansa instead.

“This is what you really wanted to see Arya, you want to see death,” said Sansa with unblinking eyes. Then suddenly, it was Bran. Then it was Rickon, then Robb, then Catelyn, Joffrey, Cersei, Tyrion, The hound, Tywin, Jamie and everyone whom she had ever met. Everyone telling her the same thing, “this is what you really wanted to see.” She did not know what she wanted to see anymore. She just wanted to see Jaqen. She just wanted to see Jon. But Jon never came, and Jaqen never was. And then finally, came the face she most wanted to see.

“Are you afraid, Arya?” spoke Eddard Stark with dead eyes. Arya nodded. She had never been more afraid her life.

“So this is when you are brave, my little cat.”

Her eyes welled up with tears and she reached out for her father. But her hand touched her own cheeks as she saw herself smiling at her. She felt her cheeks were dead cold. And then she felt the icy tip of Needle inside her. She looked down at the blood and the neat wound her own sword had made, wielded by herself. This is how the song ended. And then she heard herself speak to her.

“Valar Morghulis.”

The reply never came.