Chapter 1- ValEverything was chaos. Amidst all the shouting and confusion, Val elbowed her way through all the ruined people. Some called for the queen Selyse, who pleaded for news of her husband from anyone who could listen. Others called for the Red Witch and her fires, desperate to know what would happen in the winter ahead. The same people who had scorned her god and power before now turned to her when all hope was lost. Louder than all the calls of the crows and the army were the shouts of Tormund Giantsbane, demanding revenge for the death of Lord Snow.
Val could just about make out where he died; where he was stabbed in the chest by his own brothers. His body had been removed, presumably by someone still loyal to him. Even the Lord Commander must be burnt, for sake of what might happen if he rose once more. The blood still remained, however. A red smear discoloured the snow; a reminder of the betrayal the crows showed their lord.
The nine hundred and ninety-eighth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, he was called. Jon Snow was like as not the youngest, too; she doubted he’d seen more than three winters. Perhaps his death was a good thing, Val wondered. The winter ahead would be the worse of them all, and what came with it would be even worse. It was said to be eight thousand years since the last of the Others had been seen, and now they would appear again.
And no Lord Commander to protect them. Val’s mouth tightened. “The shield that guards the realms of men,” the words of their vow read. She knew the brothers here loathed her, just as she loathed them. By murdering one of the few decent fighters that still belonged to this crumbling shield, they had doomed themselves and all others of the realm. She couldn’t believe their stupidity. They murdered their boy lord for showing kindness, for showing protection like he was supposed to do, just because for all of their history they’d fought the wildlings with all of their strength. While they still had strength.
/'Fleeing the winds of winter, losing all loyalty. Where will we go now?'/
Becoming aware of her surroundings once more, Val noticed the men began to regain some order. A group of crows stood off to one side, while another positioned themselves in between Stannis’s men and the wildlings. She watched as a man left the group of the king’s soldiers to stand directly on the red snow. Gradually the voices drifted off as all attention turned to whoever this was.
“Men of the Night’s Watch,” he began, “Soldiers of King Stannis Baratheon, free folk. A miracle has occurred with the dawn of today, graced by the Lord of Light.” Ah, it’s one of Lady Melisandre’s followers. “The false Lord Commander is dead, and we can finally begin to rebuild what was lost-“
“Who murdered Lord Snow?” the booming voice of Tormund Giantsbane interrupted.
“Irrelevant,” the unnamed man continued. “This… boy wished to disrupt the relations of the realm and the wildlings, and such political situations should not be interfered with by mere children-“.
This time, he cut himself off. A man who couldn’t have been much older than ten-and-seven was shoving his way through the crowd, hand on the hilt of a dagger and an almost terrifying look on his face. Wasn’t he the Lord Commander’s steward? Val thought. Satin? He had a bastard name, that was all she knew. It was no secret that Jon and Satin were close, and there were even rumours around Castle Black that there was more between them than that. Val doubted that, though. She never met Ygritte, but it was obvious that Jon still loved and was loyal to her. He broke his sacred oath for her, after all. Her, and always her.
“You don’t tell us what to do.” Satin spoke in a calm, emotionless voice. “We are the Night’s Watch, and we take no part in the wars of the realm. You may be a soldier of your king Stannis, but we do not follow you.”
Brothers called out in agreement, but silenced themselves after a few seconds to continue listening.
“We are the Night’s Watch,” Satin repeated, his voice gradually rising, “and we take orders from no one but ourselves. Word has it King Stannis Baratheon died at the walls of Winterfell, or is imprisoned by the Bastard of Bolton. Where’s your king now, soldiers? His magic sword broke and now his quest is over! We take no orders from dead men! We FIGHT dead men!”
Val joined the loud chorus of agreement led by Tormund Giantsbane. His loud voice echoed of the stone walls of Castle Black and carried around the open space. The sounds of support were soon joined by shouts of anger, largely from Stannis’ army. Soon, however, the deafening noise stopped as a third person joined the soldier and Satin. Lady Melisandre captured all attention with her flowing red robes in a contrast to the dark stone and the white snow. How is she not cold? Val thought to herself. Winter is coming, said the words of House Stark, and that was true now more than ever.
Melisandre spoke in a soft voice with a hard edge to her words. “Are you so sure, Satin Flowers? What do you know of our true lord? Azor Ahai has been reborn as Stannis Baratheon, and he is the one to save us from the dark night. The Lord of Light offers his wisdom and visions, and soon you will regret turning your back on our saviour. The flames have shown me our future.”
“To hell with your flames!” called out a crow. “Those lying-“
Melisandre turned on him. “The flames never lie, ser. The errors are my own, not those of the Lord of Light. I saw the daggers; I tried to warn your Lord Commander. He failed to listen.”
“Does that make Jon’s death his fault?” Satin screamed. “Who could believe a dream of fire?”
“We must, ser. Without the true god there is no life and we must trust in him.”
“Our Lord Commander is dead, and you want us to sit around staring into flames? Winter is coming, and your precious visions won’t protect us. Whatever gods may be out there don’t care about us. We have only each other.” Satin raised his dagger and glared around at the surrounding people.
/'Soon more blood will darken the snow,'/ Val realised. /'This madness must end.'/
How long had they spent out here, fighting pointlessly over matters that could not be resolved? Dawn had come, but the sky was still shrouded by the fog hiding the drifts of snow falling.
“Is there nothing you can do?” Satin addressed Melisandre desperately. “You have your magic and spells, can you bring Jon back? Please.”
“There is nothing, I am afraid. He must be burnt like the rest of the corpses, and let us pray another strong man will take his place.”
And suddenly, that was it. All attention was lost and the groups began to disperse. If Jon could not return, was there any hope at all for those who remained at Castle Black? The wildlings were set to leave, to stay at the crumbling, former strongholds of the Watch. Stannis’ army would most likely retreat from the far north, perhaps to Winterfell or even further south. In fact, Val could see men already preparing horses. That wasn’t important, however. She had to find Melisandre.
Val could tell that the witch was lying. Her eyes dimmed to a darker red and she seemed distracted, as if trying to remember something. Searching frantically through the chaos that appeared once more, Val caught sight of Melisandre striding back inside with her robes dragging in the snow. She pushed her way through the crowd and ran after her, almost tripping over a crow trying to pull out a sword frozen in ice.
“M’lady,” she called, gasping after stumbling to a halt. Melisandre turned to look at her, raising her eyebrows. “There is something you can do. I know that. Please, m’lady. We need Jon Snow.”
For the first time Val could remember, Melisandre looked uncomfortable. Her eyes shifted around the room, always glancing back to the fire that never seemed to go out.
“There- there might be something,” she whispered, walking over to the door and shutting it with more force than Val thought necessary. “A spell has been used before to resurrect a man, but his personality shattered…” She drew to a halt and reached for a book and began flicking through it. Val watched with fascination as she chanted under her breath in an incomprehensible language.
“Here!” Melisandre spoke suddenly, pointing to a page in the book. “This could work, if the Lord of Light wills it.”
“I can’t read, m’lady. What do you need to do?”
“That doesn’t matter now. We must do this soon. Where do they keep the bodies to be burnt? Do you know?”
Val had never seen the Red Woman in such a state; usually she was so calm and collected.
“I, uh, I don’t know. Satin should know, but I don’t know if he’ll want you near Jon.”
Melisandre flung open the door and called out for Satin, who appeared almost immediately from the gate to the left of the room.
“Where’s the bodies? Can you show me?”
“Uh, what for?” Satin asked suspiciously, narrowing his eyes at her.
“She could be able to bring back Jon,” Val explained. “We have to do this soon. Please, Satin, this is our last chance.”
“Follow me.” He set off at a fast pace, closely followed by Melisandre. Val walked a few steps behind them, looking out for anyone who might wish them harm.
Satin stopped suddenly, and pointed without looking. “There. Is there anything I can do to help?” Val noticed what seemed like longing in his voice, though his face remained neutral.
“Help carry him.” Melisandre said, reaching out to pick up Jon’s legs.
Together, they carried Jon back to Melisandre’s room unnoticed by anyone else. Val and Satin stood close together while Melisandre prepared whatever she used for her magic. Val didn’t know what it was and she didn’t care; if there was some slight, slight chance that this might work she wasn’t going to doubt it already.
Melisandre began chanting in the same language as before, never once removing her eyes from the flames. She rubbed liquids over the stab wounds in Jon’s chest which sparked and smoked and at one point even turned bright blue. That worried Val, but his eyes were still brown and lifeless rather than blue and cold. And then, and then they weren’t.
She didn’t know what happened, but suddenly Jon was sitting up and coughing and spluttering. Melisandre gasped and fell back, her energy completely drained. Satin was laughing out of shock and joy while Val rushed to Jon’s side.
“Jon?” she gasped, “Are- you- what? Are you okay?”
He coughed violently and choked out, “Val?”
And then Satin was there too, holding Jon’s back while he held a cup of water up to his mouth. Jon drank like a man lost in the Red Wastes of Essos, swallowing the water without taking a breath.
“I’m- I’m okay,” he coughed again, raising a hand to rub his forehead. “What- how- what happened?”
“What do you remember?” urged Satin, reaching out for Jon’s arm.
“I died. I don’t remember anything after that. It was just- darkness. Nothing more. They… they stabbed me. My brothers. How could they do that? I just wanted to help…” Jon’s voice drifted off as he stared blankly in front of him, a look of broken betrayal on his face.
“They’ll pay for this, Jon.” Satin told him, glaring into the fire. “This won’t go unpunished.”
Melisandre pushed herself off the floor and gripped onto the edge of the table Jon was sat on. “You have to leave here,” she said, breathing hard. “Even former friends will distrust you, believing you to be a demon or monster. It’s not safe.”
“My watch isn’t over. It’s treason to abandon the Night’s Watch. I’ll be executed.” Jon said, still with the same blank expression.
“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death.” Satin chanted. “See? Your watch ended once you died, so now you are free to leave.
“I pledge my life and honour to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.” Jon replied. “I may have died, but I’m not free of my oath. I must serve, whether as Lord Commander or otherwise, until my last night.”