Fast-Friend: Transcribed & Noted.

“He’d prowl until he found a dark, then trap it. Then he’d go outside and merge. And
he’d join Melissa after all. Brand, fast-friend. Yes, he would have his stars.”

Hello and welcome to the book club. Like each book club story on this blog, the reading and commenting is done at your own pace. Have fun and enjoy!

I have started a book club re-read for the older works of George R.R. Martin for purposes such as research, scholarship, and teaching. I own all copies of material that is used for this book club. If you have not yet a story listed, please check with your local bookstore for your own reading material to purchase. (Indie Bookstore Finder) The full list of GRRM stories outside of the A Song of Ice and Fire series that I have read can be found on this page here.

What is it about?

Written in December of 1973 (some sources say 1976) around the time George R.R. Martin was creating other stories such as…

  1. Night Shift (1973)
  2. Override (1973)- the idea that Bran is stronger than Bloodraven in his talents. No genetics issues at all. Greenseeing is Enlightenment.
  3. A Peripheral Affair (1973)- The Peripheral Affair is the story of Admiral Jefferson Mandel, a space captain who is assigned to investigate the disappearance of a ship from the fleet of humans. This disappearance can be taken almost like a declaration of war of other alien races, and no sexy times.
  4. Slide Show (1973)
  5. With Morning Comes Mistfall (1973)
  6. Fast-Friend (1973) Some sources say this story was written in 1976, but the copy I have says 1973.
  7. F.T.A. (1974)
  8. Run to Starlight (1974)
  9. A Song for Lya (1974, Hugo Award winner)

Fast-Friend is a SciFi story that tells two concurrent tales in one; the first is the experience of the human heart in conflict, the second is the Thousand Worlds Universe world-building that expands on the knowledge of humans figuring out how to travel the stars.

 In this story, humans discovered these ‘dark’ creatures in space that can be joined with humans (molecular merging, transmogrification), allowing the humans and darks to become these ‘Fast-Friends’ to travel the stars for the humans. The crux of the story explores how one man, Brand, is afraid of his dreams which brings about an abrupt change in his life-choices which takes a toll on his relationship because he can not follow his love, Melissa. It is very much like the Jenny of Oldstones we have in ASOIAF, but also (and maybe more so) how it shows Tyrion’s self-delusion about finding Tysha.

At 7920 words (without my notes), it is a quick read and one I recommend for those who are looking to explore deeper meaning and issues with the GRRM concept of greenseeing-touching, gravity, netting (trapping) a potential mate, long-term skinchanging, becoming the next Three-Eyed Crow. That said, you can probably guess by now that this story starts to develop the ideas and experiences of Bran Stark and how he will have to come to grown-up terms with this own future. This concept is also explored in detail in another Martin story I transcribed titled For A Single Yesterday. I would say that a much stronger (if less stranger) comparison is actually to Euron Greyjoy: the ship, the angel, the whisperjewel enslavement, the twisted icy-ness, the failed merging (failed greenseer?), and so much more to be discussed.

But Martin doesn’t stop there with the A Song of Ice and Fire prototyping. We need to explore both sides of this coin, therefore, the other characters we should be looking at are the “fire women” such as Catelyn, Cersei, Daenerys, and especially Rohanne Webber. You can find a significant amount of prototyping of these fire-spider women in Martin’s story This Tower of Ashes as well.

Last, but not least, what does this say for our “godly” incest man, Craster? He does pray to cold gods. Is there anything in this story to be gleaned for Craster and his sons?

  • A Clash of Kings – Jon III

    “For the baby, not for me. If it’s a girl, that’s not so bad, she’ll grow a few years and he’ll marry her. But Nella says it’s to be a boy, and she’s had six and knows these things. He gives the boys to the gods. Come the white cold, he does, and of late it comes more often. That’s why he started giving them sheep, even though he has a taste for mutton. Only now the sheep’s gone too. Next it will be dogs, till . . .” She lowered her eyes and stroked her belly.

    “What gods?” Jon was remembering that they’d seen no boys in Craster’s Keep, nor men either, save Craster himself.

    The cold gods,” she said. “The ones in the night. The white shadows.”

  • A Storm of Swords – Samwell II

    Downwind, other brothers were skinning and butchering the animals deemed too weak to go on… Nights were the bad time. When it got dark. And cold.

    There had been no attacks while they had been at Craster’s, neither wights nor Others. Nor would there be, Craster said. “A godly man got no cause to fear such. I said as much to that Mance Rayder once, when he come sniffing round. He never listened, no more’n you crows with your swords and your bloody fires. That won’t help you none when the white cold comes. Only the gods will help you then. You best get right with the gods.”

    Gilly had spoken of the white cold as well, and she’d told them what sort of offerings Craster made to his gods. Sam had wanted to kill him when he heard. There are no laws beyond the Wall, he reminded himself, and Craster’s a friend to the Watch.

Updating to add this part that somehow missed the first publishing. The title and premise of this story makes me reexamine each time in ASOIAF the phrase “fast friend” is used with a fresh set of eyes.

  • A Storm of Swords – Tyrion III

    “But can he?” asked Lord Redwyne. “Jon Arryn’s son is Lord of the Eyrie now. The Lord Robert.”

    “Only a boy,” said Littlefinger. “I will see that he grows to be Joffrey’s most loyal subject, and a fast friend to us all.”

Description inside jacket.


Brand woke in darkness, trembling, and called out. His angel came to him.

She floated above him, smiling, on wings of soft gauze gold. Her face was all innocence, the face of a lovely girl-child, softness and light and wide amber eyes and honeyed hair that moved sinuously in free-fall. But her body was a woman’s, smooth and slim and perfect; a toy woman fashioned on a smaller scale.

“Brand,” she said, as she hovered above his sleep-web. “Will you show me the fast-friends today?”

  • The name Brand has many definitions, but all seem to be associated with fire/burning. One definition is to cauterize, as in to fix a deep wound via heat. The wound of love theme is strong in this story, as well as the idea that Val with the help of other free folk and Bran+Ghost will help heal Jon (who probably isn’t Ned-Dead.)
  • Another definition of the name Brand is to stigmatize by way of marking (with heat), and we have the ever prejudiced, religious zealot Janos Slynt tell Jon he has the “mark of the beats”:
    • A Dance with Dragons – Jon II

      Dolorous Edd took hold of Slynt by one arm, Iron Emmett by the other. Together they hauled him from the bench. “No,” Lord Janos protested, flecks of porridge spraying from his lips. “No, unhand me. He’s just a boy, a bastard. His father was a traitor. The mark of the beast is on him, that wolf of his … Let go of me! You will rue the day you laid hands on Janos Slynt. I have friends in King’s Landing. I warn you—” He was still protesting as they half-marched, half-dragged him up the steps.

  • Speaking of marking, Ghost marks the territory of the wall by peeing on the fiery symbol the blue-flame Weeper/other has left.
    • A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre I

      The spears were eight feet long and made of ash. The one on the left had a slight crook, but the other two were smooth and straight. At the top of each was impaled a severed head. Their beards were full of ice, and the falling snow had given them white hoods. Where their eyes had been, only empty sockets remained, black and bloody holes that stared down in silent accusation.  […and then] “Could be a hundred of them out there,” said the black brother with the dour face. “Could be a thousand.”

      “No,” said Jon Snow. “They left their gifts in the black of night, then ran.” His huge white direwolf prowled around the shafts, sniffing, then lifted his leg and pissed on the spear that held the head of Black Jack Bulwer. “Ghost would have their scent if they were still out there.”

He smiled up at her, his dreams fading. “Yes, angel,” he said. “Yes, today, I’m sure of it.
Now come to me.”

But she moved back when he reached for her, coy, teasing. Her blush was a creeping tide of gold, and her hair danced in silken swirls. “Oh, Brand,” she said. Then, as he cursed and reached to unsnap his web, she giggled at him and pouted. “You can’t have me,” she said, in her child’s voice. “I’m too little.”

  • Quick note about the use of ‘web’ here. Across most of Martinworld he uses webs in more than one way- painful timeride web, sleep web, entrapment games of the mind; this time is the use of a sleeping web. You can say that this has to do with greenseers/dreamers, and you you would be correct, but not everyone who uses them is a greenseer as some fail and some are there just to emphasize the other plot elements in the main story line.

Brand laughed, grabbed a nearby handbar to pull himself free of the web, then whipped
himself around it toward the angel. He was good in free-fall, Brand; he’d had ten years of practice. But the angel had wings.

  • A Clash of Kings – Bran I

    “Shall I have Hayhead carry you to your bed?”

    I can get to bed myself.” Mikken had hammered a row of iron bars into the wall, so Bran could pull himself about the room with his arms. It was slow and hard and it made his shoulders ache, but he hated being carried. “Anyway, I don’t have to sleep if I don’t want to.”

    “All men must sleep, Bran. Even princes.”

They flowed and rippled as she darted to one side, just beyond his reach. He twisted around in midair, so he hit the wall with his legs. Then, immediately, he kicked off again. The angel giggled and brushed him with her wings as he flew by. Brand hit the ceiling with a thump and groaned.

“Ooo,” she said. “Brand, are you hurt?” And she was at his side, her wings beating quickly.

He grinned and put his arms around her. “No,” he said, “but I’ve got you. Since when is my angel a tease, eh?”

“Oh, Brand,” she said. “I’m sorry. I was only playing. I was gonna come to you.” She was
trying to look hurt, but despite her best efforts, a tiny smile escaped the corner of her mouth.

He pulled her to him, hard, and pressed her strange coolness against his own heat. This time there was no reluctance. Her delicate hands went behind him, to hold him tight while he kissed her.

Floating, nude, they joined, and Brand felt the soft caress of wings.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys VI

    She believed him. “I swore that I should wed Hizdahr zo Loraq if he gave me ninety days of peace, but now … I wanted you from the first time that I saw you, but you were a sellsword, fickle, treacherous. You boasted that you’d had a hundred women.”

    “A hundred?” Daario chuckled through his purple beard. “I lied, sweet queen. It was a thousand. But never once a dragon.”

    She raised her lips to his. “What are you waiting for?”

* * *

When they were finished, Brand went to his locker to dress. The angel hovered nearby, her wings barely moving, her small breasts still flushed with gold.

“You’re so pretty,” she told him, as he pulled on a dull black coverall. “Why do you hide,
Brand? Why can’t you stay like me, so I can see you?”

  • A Dance with Dragons – Bran III

    “The secrets of the old gods,” said Jojen Reed. Food and fire and rest had helped restore him after the ordeals of their journey, but he seemed sadder now, sullen, with a weary, haunted look about the eyes. “Truths the First Men knew, forgotten now in Winterfell … but not in the wet wild. We live closer to the green in our bogs and crannogs, and we remember. Earth and water, soil and stone, oaks and elms and willows, they were here before us all and will still remain when we are gone.”

    “So will you,” said Meera. That made Bran sad. What if I don’t want to remain when you are gone? he almost asked, but he swallowed the words unspoken. He was almost a man grown, and he did not want Meera to think he was some weepy babe. “Maybe you could be greenseers too,” he said instead.

    “No, Bran.” Now Meera sounded sad.

“A human thing, angel,” he said, hardly listening to her chatter. He’d heard it all before. His boots made a metallic click as they pulled him to the floor.

“You’re beautiful, Brand,” the angel murmured, but he only nodded at her. Only angels said that of him. Brand was close to thirty, but he looked older; lines on a wide forehead, thin lips set in a too-characteristic frown, dark eyes under heavy eyebrows, and hair that curled tight against his scalp in sculptured ringlets.

When he was dressed, he paused briefly, then opened a lockbox welded to the locker wall. Inside was his pendant. He took it out and stared. The disc filled his hand, a coolness of polished black crystal with a myriad of tiny silver flakes locked within. The pale silver chain it hung from curled up and away, and floated in the air like a metal snake.

  • Oh-so-much in this one paragraph!

He remembered then how it had been, in the old days, under gravity. The chain was heavy then, and the crystal stone had a solid heft to it. Yet he’d worn it always, as Melissa had worn its twin. And he wanted to wear it now, but it was such a nuisance in free-fall. Without weight, it refused to hang neatly around his neck; instead it bobbed about constantly.

  • Whisperjewels from Martinworld, specifically introduced in the Thousand Worlds Universe, but Martin reuses his own ideas as needed. Read about whisperjewels on this page here.

Finally, sighing, he slipped the chain over his head, pulled the crystal tight against his neck, then twisted the chain and doubled it over again and again. When he was finished the stone was secure, now more a choker than a pendant. It was uncomfortable. But it was the best he could do.

  • Now we have imagery of a tight chain and choker with a jewel; the maesters chain and the jeweled choker Melisandre wears, both signs of some sort of enslavement. The fact that Melisandre is described as having a heart-shaped face makes the connection of her unwavering devotion to the red god R’hllor (of whom is said the priests/esses are slaves to).
  • Sam and Bran will work as the breaker of maester chains.

The angel watched him in silence, trembling a little. She’d seen him handle the black crystal before. Sometimes he’d sit in his sleep-web for hours, the stone floating above him. He’d stare into its depths, at the frozen dance of the silver flecks, and his face would grow dark, his manner curt. She avoided him then, lest he scold her.

  • A Game of Thrones – Tyrion II

    “You did?” the boy said suspiciously. Perhaps he thought Tyrion was making fun of him.

    “Oh, yes. Even a stunted, twisted, ugly little boy can look down over the world when he’s seated on a dragon’s back.” Tyrion pushed the bearskin aside and climbed to his feet. “I used to start fires in the bowels of Casterly Rock and stare at the flames for hours, pretending they were dragonfire. Sometimes I’d imagine my father burning. At other times, my sister.” Jon Snow was staring at him, a look equal parts horror and fascination. Tyrion guffawed. “Don’t look at me that way, bastard. I know your secret. You’ve dreamt the same kind of dreams.”

  • A Storm of Swords – Davos VI

    “Lord of Light, defend us. The night is dark and full of terrors.” Queen Selyse led the responses, her pinched face full of fervor. King Stannis stood beside her, jaw clenched hard, the points of his red-gold crown shimmering whenever he moved his head. He is with them, but not of them, Davos thought. Princess Shireen was between them, the mottled grey patches on her face and neck almost black in the firelight.

    “Lord of Light, protect us,” the queen sang. The king did not respond with the others. He was staring into the flames. Davos wondered what he saw there. Another vision of the war to come? Or something closer to home?

    “R’hllor who gave us breath, we thank you,” sang Melisandre. “R’hllor who gave us day, we thank you.”

But now he was wearing it.

“Brand,” the angel said as he went toward the door panel. “Brand, can I come with you?”

He hesitated. “Later, angel,” he said. “When the fast-friends come, I’ll call you, as I
promised. Right now you stay down here and rest, all right?” He forced a smile.

She pouted. “All right,” she said.

Outside was a short corridor of gray metal, brightly lit; the sealed airlock to the engine
compartment capped one end, the bridge door the other. A few other closed panels broke the spartan bleakness: cargo holds, screen generators, Robi’s room, Brand ignored them, and proceeded straight to the bridge.

Robi was strapped in before the main console, studying the banks of viewscreens and
scanners with a bored expression. She was a short, round woman, with high cheekbones and green eyes and brown hair cut space short. Long hair was just trouble in free-fall. The angel had long hair, of course, but she was just an angel.

Robi favored him with a wary smile as he entered. Brand did not return it. He was a solo by nature; only circumstances had forced him to take on a partner, so he could complete the conversion of his ship. Her funds had paid for the new screens he’d installed.

  • A very similar concept showing the struggle between ice and fire “dragons, symbolizing corporate and governmental control as GRRM wrote about in his story titled Slide Show.

He moved to the second control chair and strapped himself down, his expression businesslike. “I’ll take over,” he said. Then he paused, and blinked. “The course has been altered,” he stated. He looked at her.

“A swarm of blinkies,” Robi said, trying her smile again. “I changed the program. They’re not far out of our way. A half-hour standard, maybe.”

Brand sighed. “Look, Robi,” he said, “this isn’t a trap run.” His hands moved over the
controls, putting new patterns on most of the scanners. “We’re not bounty hunting, remember? We’regoing to the stars, and coming back. No detours.”

Robi looked annoyed. “Brand, I sold my Unicorn to invest in this scheme of yours. A bounty or two would be nice, in case the gimmick doesn’t work, you know. And we’re going out to the Changling Jungle anyway, so we might as well bring a dark or two with us, if we can trap some. That swarm is right on top of us, nearly. A couple darks have got to be nearby. So what’s the harm?”

“No,” Brand said, as he wiped off the program she’d fed into the ship’s computer. “We’re too close to fool around.” He checked the console, reprogramming, compensating for the swerve she’d fed in. The newly christened Chariot was two weeks out from the orbital docks on Triton, where she’d been overhauled. A few short hours ahead, out toward the dark, the Changling Jungle swung around the distant sun, a man-made trojan to Pluto.

“You’re being stubborn and unreasonable,” Robi told him. “What do you have against money, anyway?”

Brand didn’t look up. “Nothing. The idea will work. I’ll have all the money I need then. So
will you. Why don’t you just go back to your room, and dream about how rich you’re going to be.”

She snorted, spun her chair around, unstrapped, and kicked off savagely. If it had been
possible to slam a sliding panel door, she would have done that too.

Brand, alone, finished his reprogramming. He hardly thought twice about the argument. Robi and he had been arguing since they’d left Triton; about bounties, about the angel, about him. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered, nothing but his idea, the Jungle ahead, and stars.

A few hours, that was all. They’d find fast-friends near the Jungle. Always there were fast-friends near the Jungle. And somehow, Brand knew he’d find Melissa.

Unconsciously, his hand had gone to his neck. Slowly, slowly, he stroked the cool dark

* * *

Once they’d dreamed of stars together.

It was a common dream. Earth was teeming, civilized, dull; time and technology had
homogenized it. What romance there was left was all in space. Thousands lived under the domes of Luna now. On Mars, terraforming projects were in full swing, and new immigrants flooded Lowelltown and Bradbury and Burroughs City every day. There was a lab on Mercury, toehold colonies on Ceres, Ganymede, Titan. And out at the Komarov Wheel, the third starship was a-building. The first was twenty years gone, with a crew who knew they’d die on board so their children could walk another world.

  • Again, this takes us back to the 1973 story Slide Show by Martin, which also has a ton of space-spider information within.

Yes, it was a common dream.

But they were most uncommon dreamers.

And they were lucky. They were born at the right time. They were still children when the
Hades Expedition, bound for Pluto, came upon the blinkies. Then the darks came upon the Hades Expedition.

Twelve men had died, but Brand felt only a child’s thrill, a delicious shiver.

  • Last Hero. Legends of the north state the last hero and his companions went in search of the children of the forest during the Long Night, thousands of years ago. The only survivor of the company after attacks from giants, wights, and Others, the last hero eventually reached the children and gained their assistance. The Night’s Watch then formed and won the Battle for the Dawn.

Three years later, he and Melissa had followed the news avidly when the Second Hades
Expedition, the lucky one, the one with the first primitive energy screens, made its astonishing discoveries. And a crewman named Chet Adams became immortal.

He remembered a night. They’d walked hand in hand, up a winding outside staircase atop one of the city’s tallest towers. The lights, the glaring ceaseless lights, were mostly below. They could see the stars, sort of. Brand, a younger, smooth-faced Brand with long curling hair, wrapped his arm around Melissa and gestured.

Up. At the sky.

“You know what this means?” he said. The news had just come back from Hades II; dreamers were everywhere. “We can have the stars now. All of them. We won’t have to die on a starship, or settle down on Mars. We’re not trapped.”

Melissa, whose hair was reddish gold, laughed and kissed him. “You think they’ll find out how it’s done? How the darks go ftl?”

  • ftl= faster than light.
  • Melissa is displaying the very common fire woman coloring along with the kissing detail. Melissa also has a typical fiery name variant that follows Melisandre, Cath Melane, Morgan full of Magic, Ananda Cain, and many others.
  • This also seems to be a foundation to the plot detail of Daenerys following the red comet (shierak qiya, meaning “Bleeding Star”) to Vaes Tolorro in A Clash of Kings.

Brand just hugged her and kissed her back. “Who cares? I suppose ftl ships would be nice. But hell, we can have more now. We can be like him, like Adams, and the stars can all be ours.”

Melissa nodded. “Why fly an airplane, right? If you could be a bird?”

For five long years they loved, and dreamed of stars. While the Changling Jungle swelled, and the fast-friends sailed the void.

* * *

Robi returned to the bridge just as Brand activated the main viewscreen. Surprise flashed across her face. She looked at him and smiled. Above, the picture was alive with a million tiny lights, pinpoints of sparkling green and crimson and blue and yellow and a dozen other colors. Not stars, no; they shifted and danced mindlessly, constantly, blinking on and off like fireflies and making the scanners ping whenever they touched the ship.

  • Viewscreens (any variant) in Martinworld are the SciFi version of the flames in ASOIAF.
  • A few fire dancing examples:
    • A fountain of burning jade rose from the river, the blast so bright he had to shield his eyes. Plumes of fire thirty and forty feet high danced upon the waters, crackling and hissing. For a few moments they washed out the screams.
    • Drogo tossed in the belt and watched without expression as the medallions turned red and began to lose their shape. She could see fires dancing in the onyx of his eyes.
    • The heat of the fires was making the Wall weep, and the flames danced and shimmered against the ice. The steps shook to the footsteps of men running for their lives.
    • Side by side they leapt the ditch.

      Two went into the flames.” A gust of wind lifted the red woman’s scarlet skirts till she pressed them down again. “One emerges.” Her coppery hair danced about her head. “What fire joins, none may put asunder.

      “What fire joins, none may put asunder,” came the echo, from queen’s men and Thenns and even a few of the black brothers.

She floated herself to her chair, strapped down. “You kept my course,” she said, pleased.
“I’m sorry I got so angry.” She put a hand on his arm.

Brand shook it off. “Don’t give me any credit. We’re dead on. The blinkies came to us.”

“Oh,” she said. “I might have known.”

“They’re all around us,” he said. “A huge swarm. I’d guess a couple cubic miles, at least.”

Robi looked again. The viewscreen was thick with blinkies in constant motion. The stars,
those white lights that stood still, could hardly be seen. “We’re going right into the swarm,” she said.

Brand shrugged. “It’s in our way.”

Robi leaned forward, spread her hands over the instruments, punched in a few quick orders. Seconds later, a line of flashing red print began to run across the face of her scanner. She looked up at Brand accusingly. “You didn’t even check,” she said. “Darks, three of them.”

“This is not a trap run,” Brand said, unemotionally.

“If they come right up to us and ask to be trapped, I suppose you’ll tell them to go away?
Besides, they could eat right through us.”

“Hardly. The safe-screen is up.”

Robi shook her head without comment. The darks would avoid a ship with its safe-screen up.So, naturally, you couldn’t trap them that way. But Brand wasn’t trapping this time.

“Look,” Brand said.

The viewscreen, suddenly, was empty again; just a scattering of stars and two or three lost blinkies winking a lonely message in blue and red. The swarm was gone. Then, with equal speed, it came into sight again. Far off, growing smaller; a fast-receding fog of light.

Brand locked the viewer on it; Robi upped the scopes to max magnification. The fog expanded until it filled the screen.

The blinkies were fleeing, running from their enemies, running faster than the Chariot or any man-built ship had ever gone or could ever hope to go, unaided. They were moving at something close to light-speed; after all, they were mostly light themselves, just a single cell and a microscopic aura of energy that gave off short, intense bursts of visible radiation.

Despite the lock, despite the scopes, the viewscreen was deserted less than a second after the blinkies began to run. They’d gone too far, too fast.

Robi started to say something, then stopped. Instead she reached out and touched Brand by the elbow, squeezing sharply. Up in the viewscreen, the stars had begun to dim.

You can’t see a dark, not really, but Brand knew how they looked, and he’d seen them often enough in his imagination and his dreams. They were bigger than the blinkies, vastly bigger, almost as big as a man; pulsing globes of dark energy, seldom radiating into the visible spectrum, seen only by the drifting flakes of living matter trapped within their spheres.

Bsut they did things to the light passing through them: they made the stars waver and dim.

As they were dimming now, up on the screen. Brand watched closely. Briefly, oh so briefly, he thought he saw a flash of silver as a flake of darkstuff caught the tired sunlight and lost it again. The old fear woke and clutched at his stomach. But the dark was keeping its distance; their safescreens were up.

  • The faded-white Areo Hotah as he chases Darkstar, the most dangerous man in Dorne.
  • Very similar in many details to the readers first introduction to the Others in the prologue of ASOIAF. They also emerge from the darkness (another realm), they wear light reflecting “chameleon cloth” ( hunter’s camouflage) as it is referred to in Martinworld, and they have light dancing with their icy blades:
    • “We should start back,” Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them.
    • Until tonight. Something was different tonight. There was an edge to this darkness that made his hackles rise.
    • “Can’t you feel it?” Gared asked. “Listen to the darkness.”
    • A shadow emerged from the dark of the wood. It stood in front of Royce. Tall, it was, and gaunt and hard as old bones, with flesh pale as milk. Its armor seemed to change color as it moved; here it was white as new-fallen snow, there black as shadow, everywhere dappled with the deep grey-green of the trees. The patterns ran like moonlight on water with every step it took.
    • The Other slid forward on silent feet. In its hand was a longsword like none that Will had ever seen. No human metal had gone into the forging of that blade. It was alive with moonlight, translucent, a shard of crystal so thin that it seemed almost to vanish when seen edge-on. There was a faint blue shimmer to the thing, a ghost-light that played around its edges, and somehow Will knew it was sharper than any razor.

Robi looked over at Brand. “It’s begging,” she said, “it’s practically begging. Let’s drop
screens and trap it. What’s the harm?”

Brand’s face was cold. Irrational terror swirled within him. “It knows,” he said, hardly
thinking. “It didn’t go after the blinkies. It senses something different about us. I tell you, it knows.”

  • The ASOIAF series tells us that there is a chance undead-wighted Othor remembers something about his living life, that Catelyn as Lady Stoneheart remembers something from her living life, and in A Dance with Dragons Jon, acting a tad more altruistically, keeps two wights to see if they can teach something to the living:
    • Septon Cellador drank some wine. Othell Yarwyck stabbed a sausage with his dagger. Bower Marsh sat red-faced. The raven flapped its wings and said, “Corn, corn, kill.” Finally the Lord Steward cleared his throat. “Your lordship knows best, I am sure. Might I ask about these corpses in the ice cells? They make the men uneasy. And to keep them under guard? Surely that is a waste of two good men, unless you fear that they …”

      “… will rise? I pray they do.”

      Septon Cellador paled. “Seven save us.” Wine dribbled down his chin in a red line. “Lord Commander, wights are monstrous, unnatural creatures. Abominations before the eyes of the gods. You … you cannot mean to try to talk with them?”

“Can they talk?” asked Jon Snow. “I think not, but I cannot claim to know. Monsters they may be, but they were men before they died. How much remains? The one I slew was intent on killing Lord Commander Mormont. Plainly it remembered who he was and where to find him.” Maester Aemon would have grasped his purpose, Jon did not doubt; Sam Tarly would have been terrified, but he would have understood as well. “My lord father used to tell me that a man must know his enemies. We understand little of the wights and less about the Others. We need to learn.”

She gave him a curious stare. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked. “It’s only a dark. Come on. Let me trap it.”

Brand mastered himself, though the fear was alive and walking, the Hades fear, the trapper’s companion. Creatures of energy, the darks ate matter. Like the blinkies they swept clean the scattered dust and gas on the fringes of solar space. And they moved through blinkie swarms like scythes, carving tunnels of blackness in those living seas of light. And, when they found a lonely chunk of nickel-iron spinning through the void, that too was food. Matter to energy, converted in a blinding silent flash. An incandescent feast.

A hundred times Brand had faced the fear, when he sat before his computer and prepared to drop his screens. When the ship was naked, when the screens were down, then only the mindless whim of the dark said if a trapper lived or died. If the dark came slow, moving in leisurely towards its sluggish steel meal, then the trapper won. Once the dark was in range, the safe-screens would blink on again, covering the ship like a second skin. And, further out, the trapping screens would form a globe. The dark would be a prisoner.

  • This is pretty much how Rohanne Webber, Lady of Coldmost, used the trees to create a trap to steal/divert the water, which brought her (first) Dunk, then Eustace Osgrey, then finally Gerold Lannister. She is, a red widow, after all.

But if the dark moved quickly….

Well, the blinkies ran at light-speed. The darks fed on the blinkies. The darks ran faster.

If the dark moved quickly, there was no way, no defense, no hope that man or woman or
computer could raise the screens in time. A lot of trappers died that way. The First Hades Expedition, screenless, had been holed in a dozen places.

  • The hunters become the hunted, a common theme in GRRM’s works, especially his werewolf and vampire stories.

“Let me trap it,” Robi said again. Brand just looked at her. Like him, she was a trapper. She’d beaten the fear as often as he had, and she had luck. Still, maybe this time that luck would change.

He unstrapped, pulled himself up, and stood looking down on her. “No,” he said. “It’s not
worth the risk. We’re too close. Leave the dark alone. And don’t change course, you hear, not five feet. I’m going down to angel.”

“Brand!” Robi said. “Damn you. And don’t bring that thing up here, you understand? And….” But he was gone, silently, ignoring her.

She turned back to the viewscreen and, frustrated, watched the dark.

* * *

Asleep, awake, it never mattered. The vision would come to him all the same. Call it dream, color it memory. There were four of them, inside Changling Station, on the wheel of rebirth. It was a doughnut, the Station; brightly lit, screened. Around it, in all directions, ships—trapper ships with their catch, bait ships hauled by timid trappers, supply ships out from Triton, couriers from Earth and Mars and Luna with commissions for the fast-friends. And derelicts. Hundreds of ill-fit hulks, holed, abandoned, empty, filling up the Jungle like hunks of cold steel garbage.

  • This seems to be the same location, or a similar one, to the spot George wrote about in A Peripheral Affair.

Between the ships moved the fast-friends.

The airlock where they donned their spacesuits had had a window in it; it was a large, empty chamber, a good place for long looks and last thoughts. Brand and Melissa and a fat blonde girl named Canada Cooper had stood there together, looking out on the Jungle and the fast-friends. Canada had laughed. “I thought they’d be different,” she said. “They look just like people, silly naked people standing out in space.”

And they did. A few stood on the hulls of derelicts, but most of them were just floating in the void, pale against the starlight, small and stern and awesome. Melissa counted fourteen.

  • Daenerys is GRRM’s new Pale Child Bakkalon and she was just fourteen when she became pregnant and soul-switched Rhaego during her process to birth dragons (vessels to carry to her Westeros).
  • waiting for content.. wink wink

“Hurry up,” the government man had said. Brand hardly remembered what he looked like, but he remembered the voice, the hard flat voice that whipped them all the way out from Earth. They were the candidates, the chosen. They’d held to their dream, they’d passed all the tests, and they were twenty. That was the optimal age for a successful merger, the experts said. Some experts. Adams, the first-merged, had been nearly thirty.

  • Just a quick sidenote: the term for the (potentially) first human that was changed into an Other or wight has always been referred to as the “Adam”. This idea goes back several, several years in the fandom and is not show related by any means (pre 2001 and before).

He remembered Melissa as she put on her suit, slim and clean in a white coverall zipped low, with her crystal pendant hanging between her gold-tan breasts in the imitation gravity of the spinning Station. Her hair was tightly bound. She’d kept it long, her red-blonde glory, to wear between the stars.

They kissed just before they put on helmets.

“Love you,” she said. “Love you always.” And he repeated it back to her.

Then they were outside, them and Canada and the government man, walking on the skin of Changling Station, looking down into the Pit. The arena, the hole in the doughnut, the energy-screened center of the whole thing, the place where dreams came true.

Brand, young Brand, looked down at where he’d have to go, and smiled. There was nothing below but stars. He’d fall forever, but he didn’t mind. They’d share the stars together.

“You first,” the government man said to Melissa. She radioed a kiss to Brand, and kicked off toward the Pit.

She didn’t get far. There were darks in there, three of them, trapped and imprisoned. Once she was beyond the screens, one came for her. The sight was burned deep in Brand’s memory. One moment there was only Melissa, suited, floating away from him towards the far side of the Station. Then light.

Sudden, instantaneous, quick-dying. A flash, nothing more. Brand knew that. But his memory had elaborated on the moment. In his dreams, it was more prolonged; first her suit flared and was gone and she threw back her head to scream, then her clothes flamed into brilliance, and lastly, lastly, the chain and its crystal. She was naked, wreathed in fire, adrift among the stars. She no longer breathed.

But she lived.

A symbiote of man and dark, a thing of matter and energy, an alien, a changling, a reborn creature with the mind of a human and the speed of a dark. Melissa no longer.


He ached to join her. She was smiling at him, beckoning. There was a dark waiting for him, too. He would join it, merge. Then, together, he and Melissa would run, faster than the starships, faster than light, out, out. The galaxy would be theirs. The universe, perhaps.

  • I know what you are thinking at this point, that Danerys will become the Night’s King Corpse Queen figure in ASOIAF, and I agree and that she has been in this process process since A Game of Thrones. Yes, I agree that there are secondary and tertiary NKCQ figures, but in the end there is only one.

But the government man held his arm. “Her next,” he said. Fat Canada kicked free of the place where they stood, hardly hesitating. She knew the risks, like them, but she was a dreamer too. They’d tested and traveled with her, and Brand knew her boundless optimism.

She floated towards Melissa, chunky in her oversize suit, and reached out her hand. Her radio was on. Brand remembered her voice. “Hey,” she said, “mine’s slow. A slow dark, imagine!” She laughed. “Hey, little darkie, where are you? Hey, come to mama. Come and merge, little…”

Then, loudly, a short scream, cut off before it started.

And Canada exploded.

The flash was first, of course. But this time, afterwards, no fast-friend. She’d been rejected. Three-quarters of all candidates for merger were rejected. They were eaten instead. Except, this time, the dark hadn’t enveloped her cleanly. If it had, then, after the instant of conversion, nothing would have been left.

  • This is sounding quite a bit like dragontaming in ASOIAF, including Quentyn Martell’s experience trying to get Viserion.

But this dark had just sheared her off above the waist. Her legs spun wildly after the
explosion of violent depressurization. Her blood flash-froze.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon VIII

    “My tongue is too numb to tell. All I can taste is cold.”

    “Cold?” Val laughed lightly. “No. When it is cold it will hurt to breathe. When the Others come …

    The thought was a disquieting one. Six of the rangers Jon had sent out were still missing. It is too soon. They may yet be back. But another part of him insisted, They are dead, every man of them. You sent them out to die, and you are doing the same to Val. “Tell Tormund what I’ve said.”

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon XII

    “I know,” said Jon Snow.

    Tormund turned back. “You know nothing. You killed a dead man, aye, I heard. Mance killed a hundred. A man can fight the dead, but when their masters come, when the white mists rise up … how do you fight a mist, crow? Shadows with teeth … air so cold it hurts to breathe, like a knife inside your chest … you do not know, you cannot know … can your sword cut cold?”

It was only there for a second, less than a heartbeat, a pause between breaths. Then another flash, and emptiness. Just Melissa again, her smile suddenly gone, still waiting.

“Too bad,” the government man had said. “She did well on the tests. You’re next.”

Brand was looking across at Melissa, and the stars behind her. But his vision was gone.
Instead he saw Canada.

“No,” he’d said. For the first time ever, the fear was on him.

Afterwards he went down into the Station and threw up. When he dreamt, he woke up

* * *

Brand left Robi with her dark, and sought the comfort of his angel.

She was waiting for him, as always, smiling and eager for his company, a soft-winged
woman-child. She was playing in the sleep-web when he entered, singing to herself. She flew to him at once.

He kissed her, hard, and she wrapped her wings around him, and they tumbled laughing
through the cabin. In her embrace, his fears all faded. She made him feel strong, confident, conquering. She worshiped him, and she was passionate, more passionate even then Melissa.

And she fit. Like the fast-friends, she was a creature of the void. Under gravity, her wings
could never function, and she’d die within a month. Even in free-fall, angels were short-lived. She was his third, bred by the bio-engineers of the Jungle who knew what a trapper would pay for company. It didn’t matter. They were clones, and all alike, more than twins in their delicate sexy inhuman angelic simplicity.

Death was not a threat to their love. Nor fights. Nor desertion. When Brand relaxed within her arms, he knew she’d always be there.

Afterwards, they lay nude and lazy in the sleep-web. The angel nibbled at his ear, and
giggled, and stroked him with soft hands and softer wings. “What are you thinking, Brand?” she asked.

“Nothing, angel. Don’t worry yourself.”

“Oh, Brand.” She looked very cross.

He couldn’t help smiling. “All right then. I was thinking that we’re still alive, which means Robi left the dark alone.”

The angel shivered and hugged him. “Ooo. You’re scaring me, Brand. Don’t talk of dying.”

He played with her hair, still smiling. “I told you not to worry. I wouldn’t let you die, angel. I promised to show you the fast-friends, remember? And stars, too. We’re going to the stars today, just like the fast-friends do.”

The angel giggled, happy again. She was easy to please. “Tell me about the fast-friends,” she said.

“I’ve told you before.”

“I know. I like to hear you talk, Brand. And they sound so pretty.”

“They are, in a way. They’re cold, and they’re not human anymore, but they are pretty
sometimes. They move fast. Somehow they can punch through to another kind of space, where the laws of nature are different, a fifth dimension or hyperspace or what-you-will, and…”

  • And we are back to the Others in the prologue of AGOT. This is most likely very closely related to how the Others move through their darkness, and why they bring their own specific type of deep, deadly cold. A cold so cold it hurts to breathe…. like outer space.
  • Additionally, the line in the Night’s Watch vows that says they are, “the shield that guard the realms of men,” means just that for this reason. This vow is not limited to earthly territory, but the spaces from where the Others emerge as well. I have yammered on about this on my page discussing how the NW vows are altered history.

But the angel’s face showed no comprehension. Brand laughed, and paused. “No, you
wouldn’t understand those terms, of course. Well, call it a fairyland, angel. The fast-friends have a lot of power in them, like the darks do, and they use this power, this magic, for a trick they have, so they can go faster than light. Now, there’s no way we can go faster than light without this trick, you see.”

“Why?” she asked. She smiled an innocent smile.

“Hmmm. Well, that’s a long story. There was a man named Einstein who said we couldn’t,
angel, and he was a very smart man, and…”

She hugged him. “I bet you could go faster than light, Brand, if you wanted.” Her wings beat, and the web rocked gently.

“Well, I want to,” he said. “And that’s just what we’re going to try to do now, angel. You
must be smarter than you look.”

She hit him. “I’m awful smart,” she said, pouting.

“Yes,” he laughed. “I didn’t mean it. I thought you wanted to hear about the fast-friends?”

Suddenly she was apologetic again. “Yes.”

“All right. Remember, they have this trick, like I said. Now we know they can move matter— that’s, well, solid stuff, angel, like the ship and me and you, but it’s also gas and water, you see. Energy is different. The darks are mostly energy, with only little flakes of matter. But the fast-friends are more balanced. A lot of smart men think that if they could examine a dark they could figure out this trick, and then we could build ships that went fast too. But nobody has been able to figure how to examine a dark, since it is nearly all energy and nearly impossible to hold in one place, you see?”

“Yes,” the angel lied, looking very solemn.

“Anyway, the fast-friends not only move energy and little flakes of matter, they also move
what once were the bodies of the human members of the symbiosis. You don’t understand that, do you? Hell, this is… ah, well, just listen. The fast-friends can only move themselves, and whatever else they can fit inside their energy sphere, or aura. Think of it as a baggy cloak, angel. If they can’t stuff it under their cloak, they can’t take it with them.”

She giggled, the idea of a baggy cloak evidently appealing to her.

Brand sighed. “So, the fast-friends are sort of our messengers. They fly out to the stars for us, real fast, and they tell us which suns have planets, and where we can find worlds that are good to live on. And they’ve found ships out there, too, in other systems, from other kinds of beings who aren’t men and aren’t fast-friends either, and they carry messages so that we can learn from each other. And they keep us in touch with our starships, too, by running back and forth. Our ships are still real slow, angel. We’ve launched at least twenty by now, but even the first one hasn’t gotten where it’s going yet.”

“The fast-friends caught it, didn’t they?” the angel interrupted. “You told me. I remember.”

“Yes, angel,” he said. “I don’t have to tell you how surprised those people were. A lot of
them were the sons and daughters of people who’d left Earth, and when their parents left there were no fast-friends, and they hadn’t even found out about the blinkies yet, or the darks. But now the fast-friends keep all the ships in touch by running back and forth with messages and even small packages and such. Once we have colonies, they’ll link them too.”

“But they’re crippled,” angel prompted.

“For all their speed,” Brand continued, smiling, “the fast-friends are strangely crippled. They can’t land on any of the planets they sail by; the gravity wells are deadly to them. And they don’t even like to go in much further than the orbit of Saturn, or its equivalent, because of the sun. The darks and the blinkies never do, and the fast-friends have to force themselves. So that’s one drawback.

“Also, frankly, a lot of men want to travel faster than light themselves. They want to build
ships and start colonies. So whoever finds a way to do what the fast-friends do, so that regular men can do it without having to merge and maybe die, well, they’ll make a lot of money. And be famous. And have stars.”

“You’ll do it, Brand,” the angel said.

“Yes,” he said. His voice was suddenly serious. “That, angel, is why we’re here.”

* * *


The word had haunted him, its echoes rolling through his dreams. He’d thrown away his stars, and his Melissa.

  • A Game of Thrones – Daenerys VIII

    They stretched Drogo out on a woven mat. “No,” he muttered in the Common Tongue. “No, no.” It was all he said, all he seemed capable of saying. […and then…] The maegi nodded solemnly. “As you [Daenerys] speak, so it shall be done. Call your servants.”

    Khal Drogo writhed feebly as Rakharo and Quaro lowered him into the bath. “No,” he muttered, “no. Must ride.” Once in the water, all the strength seemed to leak out of him.

He couldn’t force himself to go back to Earth. Melissa was gone, off to the stars on her first commission, but he loved her still. And the dream still gripped him tightly. Yet he would not get another chance. There were more candidates than darks, and he’d failed his final test.

He worked in Changling Station for a while, then signed on a supply run from Triton to the Jungle and learned to run a ship. In two years, he saved a substantial amount. He borrowed the rest, outfitted a derelict drifting in the Jungle, and became a trapper.

The plan was clear then. The government wouldn’t give him another chance, but he could make his own. He’d prowl until he found a dark, then trap it. Then he’d go outside and merge. And he’d join Melissa after all. Brand, fast-friend. Yes, he would have his stars.

A good trapper could support himself in fine style on four catches a year. On six he gets rich. Brand was not yet a good trapper, and there were months of fruitless, lonely search. The blackness was brightened only by the far-off lights of distant blinkie swarms, and the firmness of his vision, and Melissa.

She used to come to him, in the early days, when she wasn’t out among the stars. He’d be on his tedious prowl when suddenly his scanners would flash red, and she’d be there, floating outside the ship, smiling at him from the main viewscreen. And he’d open the airlock and cycle her in.

But even in the best days after, the very early ones, it wasn’t the same. She couldn’t drink with him, or eat. She didn’t need to; she was a fast-friend now, and she lived on stardust and blinkies and junk, converting them to energy even as a dark did.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre I

    “Does my lady wish to break her fast?” asked Devan.

    Food. Yes, I should eat. Some days she forgot. R’hllor provided her with all the nourishment her body needed, but that was something best concealed from mortal men.

She could survive in an atmosphere, and talk and function, but she didn’t like it. It was
unpleasant. The ship was cramped, and it was a strain to keep her aura in check, to keep from converting the molecules of the air that pressed on her from every side.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre I

    She made it sound a simple thing, and easy. They need never know how difficult it had been, or how much it had cost her. That was a lesson Melisandre had learned long before Asshai; the more effortless the sorcery appears, the more men fear the sorcerer. When the flames had licked at Rattleshirt, the ruby at her throat had grown so hot that she had feared her own flesh might start to smoke and blacken. Thankfully Lord Snow had delivered her from that agony with his arrows. Whilst Stannis had seethed at the defiance, she had shuddered with relief.

The first time, when she’d come to him in Changling Station, Brand had pulled her lithe body hard against him and kissed her. She had not resisted. But her flesh was cold, her tongue a spear of ice when it touched his. Later, stubborn, he’d tried to make love to her. And failed.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon X

    Alys Karstark leaned close to Jon. “Snow during a wedding means a cold marriage. My lady mother always said so.”

    He glanced at Queen Selyse. There must have been a blizzard the day she and Stannis wed. Huddled beneath her ermine mantle and surrounded by her ladies, serving girls, and knights, the southron queen seemed a frail, pale, shrunken thing. A strained smile was frozen into place on her thin lips, but her eyes brimmed with reverence. She hates the cold but loves the flames. He had only to look at her to see that. A word from Melisandre, and she would walk into the fire willingly, embrace it like a lover.

Soon they gave up trying. When she came to his ship in those months of hunt, he only held her hard, slick hand, and talked to her.

“It’s just as well, Brand,” she told him once, in those early days. “I wanted to make love to
you, yes, for your sake. I’m changed, Brand. You have to understand. Sex is like food, you know. It’s a human thing. I’m not really interested in that now. You’ll see, after you merge. But don’t worry. There are other things out there, things that make it all worthwhile. The stars, love. You should see the stars. I fly between them, and, and… oh, Brand, it’s glorious! How could I tell you? You have to feel it. When I fly, when I punch through, everything changes. Space isn’t black anymore, it’s a sea of color, swirling all around me, splashing against me, and I’m streaking right through it. And the feeling! It’s like… like an orgasm, Brand, but it goes on and on and on, and your whole body sings
and feels it, not just one little part of you. You’re alive! And there are things out there, things only the fast-friends know. What we tell the humans, that’s only a little bit, the bit they can understand. There’s so much more. There’s music out there, Brand, only it isn’t music. And sometimes you can hear something calling, far away, from the core stars. I think the call gets stronger the more you fly. That’s where the first-merged went, you know, Adams or whatever his human name was. That’s why the older fast-friends sometimes vanish. They say it’s wearying after a while, playing messenger for the
humans. Then the fast-friends go away, to the core stars. Oh, Brand, I wish you were with me. It would be the way we dreamed. Hurry, love, catch your dark for me.”

  • This sounds near exactly like Lya as she merges with the flame-Greeshka in the GRRM story A Song for Lya.
  • Also this sounds much like the warning given in ASOIAF about staying too long inside an animal’s skin as a skinchanger; eventually you lose your human-self.

And Brand, though strange chills went through him, nodded and said he would.

And finally he did.

For the second time the fear came. Brand watched his scanners as they shrieked of dark
proximity. Five times his finger paused over the button that would kill his safe-screens. Five times it moved back. He kept seeing Canada again, her legs a-spin. And he thought of the Hades I.

Finally, his mind on Melissa, he forced the button down. The dark came slowly. No need to hurry, after all. This was no light-fast blinkie swarm; just dead metal creeping through the void.

Brand, relieved, trapped it. But as he put on his spacesuit, the fear hit again.

He fought it. Oh, he fought it. For an hour he stood in the airlock, trembling, trying to put on his helmet and failing. His hands were shaking, and he threw up twice. Finally, slumped and beaten in the fouled lock, he knew the truth. He would never merge.
He took his catch back to the Changling Jungle for a bounty. The Station offered its standard fee, but there was another bidder, a middle-aged man who’d run an old supply ship out here on his own. As dozens did each year. Brand sold the dark to him, to this hopeful, unqualified, test-failing visionary. And Brand watched him die.

Another derelict, abandoned, joined the Jungle, floating in a crowded orbit with all the other hulks, the debris of other dreams.

Brand sold his dark again, to Changling Station. A month later, when Melissa returned, he told her. He’d expected tears, a storm, a fight. But she just looked at him, strangely unmoved. Then he asked her to come back to him.

“Maybe we can go back to Earth,” he said. “We’ll stay in orbit, and the scientists can look at you. They might be able to un-merge you, or something. They’ll certainly welcome the opportunity. Maybe you can tell them how to build ftl ships. But we’ll be together.” His words were a child’s hopeful gush.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Bran III

    “So will you,” said Meera. That made Bran sad. What if I don’t want to remain when you are gone? he almost asked, but he swallowed the words unspoken. He was almost a man grown, and he did not want Meera to think he was some weepy babe. “Maybe you could be greenseers too,” he said instead.

    “No, Bran.” Now Meera sounded sad.

“No,” Melissa had said, simply. “You don’t understand. I’d die first.”

“You said you loved me. Stay with me.”

“Oh, Brand. I did love you. But I won’t give up the stars. They’re my love now, my life, my
everything. I’m a fast-friend, Brand, and you’re only a human. Things are different now. If you can’t merge, go back to Earth. That’s the place for men, for you. The stars belong to us now.”

No!” He shouted it to keep from weeping. “I’ll stay out here then, and trap. I love you,
Melissa. I’ll stay by you.”

Very briefly, she looked sad. “I’ll visit you, I guess,” she said. “When I have time, if you want me.”


And so she did. But as the years went by, the visits came less often. Brand, more and more, hardly knew her. Her gold-tan body turned pale, though it kept the shape of a twenty-year-old while he aged. Her streaming red-blonde hair became a silvered white, and her eyes grew distant. Often, when she was with him in orbit near the Jungle, she wasn’t there at all. She talked of things he could not understand, of fast-friends he did not know, of actions beyond his comprehension. And he bored her now, with his news of Earth and men.

  • A Storm of Swords – Bran II

    “Some people hurt others just because they can,” said Jojen.

    “And it wasn’t Theon who did the killing at Winterfell,” said Meera. “Too many of the dead were ironmen.” She shifted her frog spear to her other hand. “Remember Old Nan’s stories, Bran. Remember the way she told them, the sound of her voice. So long as you do that, part of her will always be alive in you.”

    “I’ll remember,” he promised.

Finally the talk stopped. There was nothing left but memories then, for Melissa did not come at all.

* * *

Robi rang him on the intercom, and Brand dressed quickly. “Now,” the angel said eagerly.
“Can I come now?”

“Yes,” he told her, smiling again his fond, indulgent smile. “I’ll show you the fast-friends
now, angel. And then I’ll take you to the stars!”

She flew behind him, through the panel, up the corridor, into the bridge.

Robi looked up as they entered. She did not look happy. “You don’t listen, do you? I don’t
want your pet on the bridge, Brand. Can’t you keep your perversions in your cabin?”

The angel quailed at the displeasure in Robi’s voice. “She doesn’t like me,” she said to
Brand, scared.

“Don’t worry, angel, I’m here,” he replied. Then, to Robi, “You’re scaring her. Keep quiet. I
promised to show her the fast-friends.”

Robi glared at him, and hit the viewscreen stud. It flared back to life. “There, then,” she said savagely.

The Chariot was in the middle of the Jungle. Brand, counting quickly, saw a good dozen
derelicts nearby. Changling Station was low in one corner of the screen, surrounded by trapper ships and screens. Near the center was a larger wheel, the spoked and spinning supply station Hades IV, with its bars and pleasure havens.

Floating close to Hades, a group of fast-friends were clustered, six at least, still small and
white at this distance. There were others visible, but they were closest. They were talking, even in the hard vacuum of the solar fringe; with a simple act of will, the fast-friends could force their dark aura up in the range of the visible spectrum. Their language was one of lights.

Robi already had the Chariot headed toward them. Brand nodded toward the angel, and
pointed. “Fast-friends,” he said.

The angel squealed and flew to the viewscreen, pressing her nose against it. “They’re so
little,” she said as she hovered there, her wings beating rapidly.

“Increase the magnification,” Brand told Robi. When she ignored him, he strapped down
beside her and did it himself. The cluster of fast-friends doubled in size, and the angel beamed.

“We’ll be right on top of them in five minutes,” Brand said.

Robi pretended not to hear.
“I don’t know about you, Brand,” she said in a low serious voice, so the angel would not hear. “Most of the men who buy sex toys like that are sick, or crippled, or impotent. Why you? You seem normal enough. Why do you need an angel, Brand? What’s wrong with a woman?”

“Angels are easier to live with,” Brand snapped. “And they do what they’re told. Stop prying and get on the signal lights. I want to talk to our friends out there.”

Robi scowled. “Talk? Why? Let’s just scoop them up, there’s enough of them there….”

“No. I want to find one, a special one. Her name was Melissa.”

“Hmpf,” Robi said. “Angels and fast-friends. You ought to try having a relationship with a
human being once in a while, Brand. Just for a change of pace, you understand.” But she readied the signal lights as she talked.

  • Using lights to “communicate” while setting a trap sounds like the Night Lamp theory by Cantuse where he proposes in The Winds of Winter, Stannis will use his false Lightbringer sword to confuse the Freys and trap them in the ice lake. Read it here.

And Brand called, out across the void. One of the fast-friends responded. Then vanished.
“She’ll come,” Brand said firmly, as they waited. “Even now, she’ll come.”

Meanwhile the angel was flitting excitedly around the bridge, touching everything she could reach. Normally she was not allowed up here.

“Calm down,” Brand told her. She flew down to him, happy, and curled up in his lap.

“What are the fast-friends doing?” she asked, with her arms around him. “Are they going to tell us their trick, Brand? Are we going to the stars yet?”

“Soon, angel,” he said patiently. “Soon…”

Then Melissa was there, caught in the viewscreen. Brand felt a chill go through him.
Her skin was milk-white now, her hair a halo of streaming silver. But otherwise she was the same. She had the firm curves of a twenty-year-old, and the face that Brand remembered.

  • A Clash of Kings – Jon III

    “For the baby, not for me. If it’s a girl, that’s not so bad, she’ll grow a few years and he’ll marry her. But Nella says it’s to be a boy, and she’s had six and knows these things. He gives the boys to the gods. Come the white cold, he does, and of late it comes more often. That’s why he started giving them sheep, even though he has a taste for mutton. Only now the sheep’s gone too. Next it will be dogs, till . . .” She lowered her eyes and stroked her belly.

    “What gods?” Jon was remembering that they’d seen no boys in Craster’s Keep, nor men either, save Craster himself.

    “The cold gods,” she said. “The ones in the night. The white shadows.”

He shooed the angel from his lap, and turned to the console. He hit some buttons.

Outside, the stars began to flicker. The bright dot of the distant sun dimmed. The hulks of the Jungle, the Hades wheel, Changling Station; all darkened slightly. Only Melissa and the other fast-friends were unchanged.

Caught within the globe.

Robi smiled, and started to speak. Brand silenced her with a look. His signal lights called
Melissa. When she acknowledged, he cut the safe-screens to let her through.

He met her in the corridor after the airlock had cycled her in. Robi stayed up on the bridge.

They stood ten feet apart. They did not touch or smile.

“Brand,” Melissa said at last. She studied him with ice-blue eyes, from a cold and steady
face, and her voice had a husky quality he had not remembered. “You… what are you doing? We are not… not darks. To be trapped.” Her speech stumbled and halted awkwardly.

Have you forgotten how to talk, Melissa?” Brand said. As he spoke, the bridge panel slid
open behind him. The angel flew out and hovered.

  • A Game of Thrones – Prologue

    Then Royce’s parry came a beat too late. The pale sword bit through the ringmail beneath his arm. The young lord cried out in pain. Blood welled between the rings. It steamed in the cold, and the droplets seemed red as fire where they touched the snow. Ser Waymar’s fingers brushed his side. His moleskin glove came away soaked with red.

    The Other said something in a language that Will did not know; his voice was like the cracking of ice on a winter lake, and the words were mocking.

“Oh,” she said to Melissa. “You’re pretty.”

The fast-friend’s eyes flicked to her quickly, then dismissed her and went back to Brand.
Some, I’ve forgotten. Ten years, Brand. With stars, the stars. Not… I’m not a human now. I’m elder now, an elder fast-friend. My… my call comes soon.” She paused. “Why have you screened us?”

  • Craster worships “cold gods“, which is ASOIAF seem to be very old, but are not the old gods, just something… alien.
  • As we discuss mergers, we have the flip side of the coin with the merger of Brynden Bloodraven Rivers with a weirwood tree, who is now a 125 year old elder, and previously a black crow. He also seems to have forgotten how to talk (but not to love), a near exact detail GRRM used for a teacher/ship pilot in The Stone City. From Bran II, A Dance with Dragons:
    • “Are you the three-eyed crow?” Bran heard himself say. A three-eyed crow should have three eyes. He has only one, and that one red. Bran could feel the eye staring at him, shining like a pool of blood in the torchlight. Where his other eye should have been, a thin white root grew from an empty socket, down his cheek, and into his neck.

      “A … crow?” The pale lord’s voice was dry. His lips moved slowly, as if they had forgotten how to form words. “Once, aye. Black of garb and black of blood.” The clothes he wore were rotten and faded, spotted with moss and eaten through with worms, but once they had been black. “I have been many things, Bran. Now I am as you see me, and now you will understand why I could not come to you … except in dreams. I have watched you for a long time, watched you with a thousand eyes and one. I saw your birth, and that of your lord father before you. I saw your first step, heard your first word, was part of your first dream. I was watching when you fell. And now you are come to me at last, Brandon Stark, though the hour is late.”

“A new kind of screen, Melissa,” Brand said, smiling. “Didn’t you notice? It’s dark. A
refinement, just developed back on Earth. They’ve been doing a lot of screen research, and I’ve been following it. I had an idea, love, but the old screens were no good. This kind, well, it’s more sophisticated. And I’m the first one to realize the implications.”

“Sophisticated. Implications.” The words sounded odd, foreign, alien on Melissa’s tongue.
Her face looked lost.

“We’re going to the stars together, Melissa.”

“Brand,” she replied. For a moment her voice had an almost-human tremor. “Give it up,
Brand. Give up… me. And stars. They… they’re old dreams, and they’ve gone sour on you. See? Can’t you see?”

The angel was swooping up and down the corridor, coming closer to Melissa each time,
clearly fascinated by the fast-friend, but afraid to come too close. They both ignored her.

Brand was looking at Melissa, at the dim, far-off reflection of a girl who’d loved him once. He shook it away. She was just a fast-friend, and he’d get his stars from her.

“You can take me to the stars, Melissa, and other men after me. It’s time you fast-friends
shared your universe with us poor humans.”

“A drive?” she asked.

“You might…”

But the angel interrupted him. “Oh, let me, Brand. Let me tell her. I know how. You told me. I remember. Let me talk to the fast-friend.” She’d stopped her wild circles, and was floating eager between them.

Brand grinned. “All right. Tell her.”

The angel spun in the air, smiling. Her wings beat quickly to underscore her words. “It’s like horses,” she told Melissa. “The darks are like horses, Brand said, and the fast-friends are like horses with riders. But he’s got the first chariot, and the fast-friends will pull him.” She giggled. “Brand showed me a picture of a chariot. And a horse too.”

“A star chariot,” Brand said. “I like the image. Oh, it’s a cartoon analogy, of course, but the
math is sound. You can transport matter. Enough of you, locked into a dark screen, can transport a ship this size.”

Melissa floated, staring, shaking her head slowly back and forth. Her silver hair shimmered. “Stars,” she said softly. “Brand, the core… the songs. Freedom, Brand. Like we used to talk. Brand, they won’t… no running… they won’t let us go… can’t chain us.”

“I have.”

And the angel, emboldened by Melissa’s sudden stillness, flew up beside her. In a childish, tentative way, she reached out to touch, and found the phantom solid. Melissa, her eyes on Brand, put an arm around her. The angel smiled and sighed and moved closer.

Brand shook his head.

And the angel suddenly looked up, childish pique washing across her face. “You fooled me,” she said to Brand. “She’s not a horse. She’s a person.” Then, brightly, she smiled again. “And she’s so pretty.”

  • I tend to believe that Lyanna and her wild beauty was skinchanging the horse in the Knight of the Laughing Tree situation. Lyanna the Grey Feathered Horse.

There was a long, long silence.

* * *

The bridge panel slid shut behind him. Robi was waiting. “Well?” she asked.

Wordlessly Brand kicked himself across the room, strapped down, and looked up at the
viewscreen. Out in the darkness, in the screen-dimmed gloom, Melissa had rejoined the other fast-friends. They spoke with staccato bursts of color. Brand watched briefly, then reached up to the
console and hit a button.

The stars flared cold and bright, and the flanks of Hades shone.

Before Robi had a chance to speak the fast-friends had vanished, spinning space around them,
moving faster than the Chariot ever would. Only Melissa lingered, and only for a second. Then emptiness, and the derelicts around them.


He smiled at her, and shrugged. “I couldn’t do it. We would never have been able to let them outside the screens. They’d be animals, draft animals, prisoners.” He looked sheepish. “I guess they’re not. Not people either, though, not anymore. Well, we always wanted to meet an alien race. How could we guess that we’d create one?”

“Brand,” Robi said. “Our investment. We have to go through with it. Maybe we can use

He shook his head. “No. We couldn’t get them to understand what we wanted. No. Fast-friends or… nothing, I guess.”

He paused, and looked at her. She was staring up at the viewscreen, with an expression that shrieked disgust and exasperation. “I’ll make it up to you,” Brand said. He took her hand, gently. “We’ll trap. We’re well equipped.”

Robi looked over. “Where’s the angel?” she asked, and her voice sounded a shade less angry.

Brand sighed. “In my cabin,” he said. “I gave her a necklace to play with.”

  • Brand gave up his whisperjewel, signifying that, at minimum, he has let Melissa and his infatuation/love for her go to be free among the stars.
  • Speaking of ‘old stones’, Jenny of Oldstones was the wife of Duncan Targaryen, the Prince of Dragonflies. There are many songs written about her, including Jenny’s song, which the ghost of High Heart always wants to hear. This symbolism of an unattainable woman associated with an emotionally psi-etched stone/jewel is a common theme across much of Martin’s work, told most clearly in the story Dying of the Light (1977- text pictured below).

Screen Shot 2019-10-09 at 4.56.13 PM

What to read next…

Thank you for taking the time to read along here. I await feedback and different perspectives in the comments section below. After that, try one of these stories:

  1. The Steel Andal Invasion– A re-read of a partial section of  The World of Ice and Fire text compared to the story …And Seven Times Never Kill Man. This has to do with both fire and ice Others in ASOIAF.
  2. A Song for Lya– A novella about a psi-link couple investigating a fiery ‘god’. Very much a trees vs fire motif, and one of GRRM’s best stories out there.
  3. For A Single Yesterday– A short story about learning from the past to rebuild the future.
  4. This Tower of Ashes– A story of how lost love, mother’s milk, and spiders don’t mix all too well.
  5. A Peripheral Affair (1973)When a Terran scout ship on a routine patrol through the Periphery suddenly disappears, a battle-hungry admiral prepares to renew the border war.
  6. The Stone City– a have-not surviving while stranded on a corporate planet. Practically a GRRM autobiography in itself.
  7. Slide Show– a story of putting the stars before the children.
  8. Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark– rubies, fire, blood sacrifice, and Saagael- oh my!
  9. A Night at the Tarn House– a magical game of life and death played at an inn at a crossroads.
  10. Men of Greywater Station– Is it the trees, the fungus, or is the real danger humans?
  11. The Computer Cried Charge!– what are we fighting for and is it worth it?
  12. The Needle Men– the fiery hand wields itself again, only, why are we looking for men?
  13. Black and White and Red All Over– a partial take on a partial story.
  14. Fire & Blood excerpt; Alysanne in the north– not a full story, but transcribed and noted section of the book Fire & Blood, volume 1.
  15. The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr – Discarded Knights guards the gates as Sharra feels the Seven while searching for lost love. Many Sansa and Ashara Dayne prototyping here as well.
  16. …And Seven Times Never Kill Man– A look into a proto-Andal+Targaryen fiery world as the Jaenshi way of life is erased. But who is controlling these events? Black & Red Pyramids who merge with Bakkalon are on full display in this story.
  17. The Last Super Bowl– Football meets SciFi tech with plenty of ASOIAF carryover battle elements.
  18. Nobody Leaves New Pittsburg– first in the Corpse Handler trio, and sets a lot of tone for future ASOIAF thematics.
  19. Closing Time– A short story that shows many precursor themes for future GRRM stories, including skinchanging, Sneaky Pete’s, catastrophic long nights…
  20. The Glass Flower– a tale of how the drive for perfection creates mindlords and mental slavery.
  21. Run to Starlight– A tale of coexistence and morality set to a high stakes game of football.
  22. Remembering Melody– A ghost tale written by GRRM in 1981 that tells of long nights, bloodbaths, and pancakes.

If you want to browse my own thoughts and speculations on the ASOIAF world using GRRM’s own work history, use the drop-down menu above for the most content, or click on the page that just shows recent posts -> Recent Posts Page.

Want more analysis of GRRM and how he is setting up the spider trap that is the Others? Try this essay by SweetSunRay found her blog The Mythological Weave of Ice and Fire where everything about the science, nature, and the blue blood of the Others is put into perspective.

Thank you for reading the jambles and jumbles of the Fattest Leech of Ice and Fire, by Gumbo!

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