Bitterblooms- Book Club Re-Read

Hellooo and welcome back 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 read 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.

Reminder that anything and everything in Martinworld is openly discussed, including notes from other stories, quotes and interviews by George R.R. Martin, notes from Dreamsongs 1&2 anthologies, etc.


What’s this all about?

First published in the November 1977 issue of Cosmos, consisting of approximately 10,358 words, Bitterblooms was written during a time when GRRM was creating other parts of the his Thousand Worlds Universe such as:

  • Starlady (1976)
  • This Tower of Ashes (1976)- A failed relationship… and white spiders queens.
  • The Stone City (1977)
  • Weekend in a War Zone (1977)- A story about how bloodlust and war can change a (hu)man into an unrecognizable terror.
  • Dying of the Light (1977)

George mentioning Bitterblooms in Dreamsongs I and how it fit into his life back then:

  • In 1977 a new science fiction magazine named Cosmos was launched, edited by David G. Hartwell. David asked me for a story, and I was pleased to oblige. If “Bitterblooms” has a certain chill to it, that may be because it was one of the first things I wrote after moving to Dubuque, Iowa, where the winters were even more brutal than those I’d weathered in Chicago. Over the years I have done a number of stories inspired by songs. “Bitterblooms” is one of those as well. (Anyone who can tell me the name of the song that inspired it will win … absolutely nothing.) Hartwell liked the story well enough to feature it on the cover of the fourth issue of Cosmos. Unfortunately the fourth issue of Cosmos also proved to be the last issue of Cosmos. (It wasn’t my fault.) I had headed for Dubuque in the spring of 1976, to take a job teaching journalism at a small Catholic woman’s college. Though my writing was going well, I was still wasn’t earning enough from my fiction to support myself as a full-time writer, and the chess tournaments had all dried up. Also, I had married in 1975, and had a wife to put through college. The position at Clarke College seemed the perfect answer. I would only be teaching two or three hours a day, after all. Four at the most. That would leave me half of every day to write my stories. Wouldn’t it?
verdal
Suzanne Verdal, the woman in the song.

According to GRRM, the Leonard Cohen song “Suzanne” was the inspiration for Bitterblooms for the antagonist character Morgan Le Fay, and then later a bit for Melisandre of Asshai.

The lyrics first appeared as the poem “Suzanne Takes You Down” in Cohen’s 1966 book of poetry Parasites of Heaven (possibly also linked to Aerea Targaryen and her Creeping Eruptions). The song lyrics describe the rituals that Cohen and Suzanne enjoyed when they met: Suzanne would invite Cohen to visit her apartment by the harbour in Montreal, where she would serve him Constant Comment tea, and they would walk around Old Montreal past the church of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, where sailors were blessed before heading out to sea.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon VI, as she is magicking Ghost to like her.

    “Yes, but …”

    “Ghost.” Melisandre made the word a song.

    The direwolf padded toward her. Wary, he stalked about her in a circle, sniffing. When she held out her hand he smelled that too, then shoved his nose against her fingers.

Martin has many a fire woman across his Martinworld world of works; A Song for Lya, Proctor Wyatt, a Steel Angel, and Saagael of Only Children are Afraid of the Dark. Even in Armageddon Rag, Martin has a character names Ananda. This lovely fire woman, who serves waffles but doesn’t eat food herself (a dark fey offering food), is related to both a bloody heart and a prophecy that could kill a young woman (Shireen in ASOIAF).

Fey food. The food aspect is important to keep in mind as well. GRRM loves to write about big meals and greasy drippings. However, sometimes when a character is offering food, no matter how small the offering, it’s good to pay attention to the “fey food” gesture to see who eats and does not eat. Human food is what keeps life going in a human body; fairy food is what keeps life going in a fairy body. When a human has once entered into such relation or communion with the Otherworld of the dead, or of fairies, by eating their food, the human body by a subtle transformation adjusts itself to the new kind of nourishment, and becomes spiritual like a spirit’s or fairy’s body, so that the human cannot re-enter the world of the living.

However, the most clear parallels to Melisandre are propagated directly from this story Bitterblooms as the  red-haired, charlatan witch who lives in a giant brass brazier looking spaceship, sees visions on her screen that are false while manipulating the protagonist and bending them (temporarily) to her will using fey food and sex, all the while happening during a long winter and where special blue flowers grow. Oh, and a “vampire” shrike attacks the protagonist from above, like R’hllor’s fiery hand. This witch is named Morgan Le Fay and is based on one of the common aspects of the trickster enchantress Morgan le Fay of Arthurian legend, and this also brings us back to Cohen’s “Suzanne” plus the zealotry of Red Rahloo (Zoroastrianism) blended to create Melisandre. And like Melisandre, Morgan embodies an immortal fey using her magic to aid or trick mortals that enter her domain, to many she remains a menacing witch that lurked in that darkest corner of the medieval mind.

“When truth and legend disagree, print the legend.” George R.R. Martin 2014, source.

Martin making mention of Bitterblooms in a 2015 Not A Blog post titled Three Tales, Three Women, One Film:

  • “There is a girl who goes between the worlds.””You can buy anything you might desire from Gray Alys. But it is better not to.””When he finally died, Shawn found to her shame that she could not even bury him.”Some of my younger fans and readers may not realize that my career did not begin with A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. Truth be told, I had been a professional writer for twenty years before I typed the first lines of the as-yet-untitled story that would grow to become A GAME OF THRONES. I had published four novels and half-a-dozen collections, won the Hugo and the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award, written science fiction, horror, and high fantasy. Most of it in the form of short stories.The lines above were the openings of three of those short stories:
    — “The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr,”
    — “In the Lost Lands,”
    — “Bitterblooms.””Laren Dorr”…
    “In the Lost Lands” …”Bitterblooms” was science fiction rather than fantasy, set on a distant planet in the far far future, and part of my Thousand Worlds sequence… albeit somewhat tangentially. There is a starship in the story, but it’s a derelict, no longer capable of flight. The setting is a world locked in the grip of a deep winter, a winter that lasts for years.

***

Ultimately it comes down to what sounds right. And I struggle with that, finding the right name for a character. If I can’t find the right name I don’t know who the character is and I can’t proceed.”George R.R. Martin

Melisandre of Asshai, also known as Melony lot seven, is black honey; corrupt and of the shade. Long explanation short, I don’t think Melisandre is an intentional villain. Rather, I think her corruption is that as a slave to R’hllor, she is being used and in turn is using people along the way to do what she assumes is her bidding. Road to hell paved by “good” intentions, as the songs sings.

GRRM developed this Melisandre type character a few different ways in stories past. Characters of Martin’s literary past that are the fire-hand zealot types include the Greeshka recruiting priests from A Song for Lya, Proctor Wyatt, a Steel Angel, and even Saagael of Only Children are Afraid of the Dark. Even in Armageddon Rag, Martin has a character names Ananda. This lovely fire woman, who serves waffles but doesn’t eat, is related to both a bloody heart and a prophecy that could kill a young woman (Shireen in ASOIAF). I won’t quote all of it on this page, but I do go into more direct comparison’s between Morgan Le Fay on the blog-page Selyse + Mel = Shireen Fire.

“The Last Defender of Camelot” is the second segment of the twenty-fourth episode of the first season of the American television series The Twilight Zone. It was based on the short story of the same name written by Roger Zelazny, and was adapted by Martin for television. In this story, Zelazny re-imagines Morgan Le Fay in a different light, and then in order to allow for a book to television script to fit, Martin had to edit down Morgan a tad.

Morgan_le_Fay
Morgan Le Fay. A supervillain of Marvel Comics.

And followers of this blog or George R.R. Martin info in general know how much GRRM attributes Stan Lee as an erly and major inspiration for his own works. Morgan le Fay is a fictional supervillain appearing in Marvel Comics. The character, created by Stan Lee and Joe Maneely, is loosely based on the Morgan le Fay of Arthurian legend. In this version of the character, she is the half-faerie half-sister of the mythic King Arthur. Her elven heritage granted her immortality, and she used this time to master the mystic arts. She occasionally tries to take over the world.

***

“In A Song of Ice and Fire, I take stuff from the Wars of the Roses and other fantasy things, and all these things work around in my head and somehow they jell into what I hope is uniquely my own.” –GRRM

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Melisandre is regarded as a beautiful woman by many, and specifically mentioned as not being like the old gods, but rather like a walking inferno herself. She has long hair the color of deep burnished copper, unsettling red eyes, and pale, unblemished skin. The priestess is slender, graceful, and taller than most knights. Melisandre has full breasts, a narrow waist, and a heart-shaped face. She has a deep voice which sounds melodic and might make a listener envision anise, nutmeg, and cloves. Melisandre speaks the Common Tongue with rich accents of the Jade Sea and Essos. She sings loudly and clearly. These are all elements that can be found across many of the fiery characters in ASOIAF, but also noted specifically when Melisandre tricks Ghost into liking her.

Of course, we can once again see the parallels between the ice dragon Others and the fire dragon-Dragon Targaryens. Typically what applies to one is also found in the other. Both are the “greater and more dangerous threats to Westeros” as Martin says in this video here.

Now, on with the story. Per usual, I have added my notes along the way as a means for talking points to start conversation… or to be skipped. These are in no way all of my notes (I do want to attempt a reasonable post length), so I await great additions and discussion in the comments below.


Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Cairn_in_Snow_-_Google_Art_Project
Cairn in Snow by Caspar David Friedrich, 1807.

Bitterblooms – by George R.R. Martin

When he finally died, Shawn found to her shame that she could not even bury him.

She had no proper digging tools; only her hands, the longknife strapped to her thigh, and the smaller blade in her boot. But it would not have mattered. Beneath its sparse covering of snow, the ground was frozen hard as rock. Shawn was sixteen, as her family counted years, and the ground had been frozen for half her lifetime. The season was deepwinter, and the world was cold.

Knowing the futility of it before she started, Shawn still tried to dig. She picked a spot a few meters from the rude lean-to she had built for their shelter, broke the thin crust of the snow and swept it away with her hands, and began to hack at the frozen earth with the smaller of her blades. But the ground was harder than her steel. The knife broke, and she looked at it helplessly, knowing how precious it had been, knowing what Creg would say. Then she began to claw at the unfeeling soil, weeping, until her hands ached and her tears froze within her mask. It was not right for her to leave him without burial; he had been father, brother, lover. He had always been kind to her, and she had always failed him. And now she could not even bury him.

  • This story starts out as GRRM did with the Hedge Knight when Dunk has to bury Ser Arlan of Pennytree.
  • This is also akin to Arya and her group burying a dead man and planting a tree seed acorn in with the body.
    • A Clash of Kings – Arya II

      Come morning, when Praed did not awaken, Arya realized that it had been his coughing she had missed. They dug a grave of their own then, burying the sellsword where he’d slept. Yoren stripped him of his valuables before they

      threw the dirt on him. One man claimed his boots, another his dagger. His mail shirt and helm were parceled out. His longsword Yoren handed to the Bull. “Arms like yours, might be you can learn to use this,” he told him. A boy called Tarber tossed a handful of acorns on top of Praed’s body, so an oak might grow to mark his place.

Finally, not knowing what else to do, she kissed him one last time—there was ice in his beard and his hair, and his face was twisted unnaturally by the pain and the cold, but he was still family, after all—and toppled the lean-to across his body, hiding him within a rough bier of branches and snow. It was useless, she knew; vampires and windwolves would knock it apart easily to get at his flesh. But she could not abandon him without shelter of some kind.

She left him his skis and his big silverwood bow, its bowstring snapped by the cold. But she took his sword and his heavy fur cloak; it was little enough burden added to her pack. She had nursed him for almost a week after the vampire had left him wounded, and that long delay in the little lean-to had depleted most of their supplies. Now she hoped to travel light and fast. She strapped on her skis, standing next to the clumsy grave she had built him, and said her last farewell leaning on her poles. Then she set off over the snow, through the terrible silence of the deepwinter woods, toward home and fire and family. It was just past midday.

By dusk, Shawn knew that she would never make it.

She was calmer then, more rational. She had left her grief and her shame behind with his body, as she had been taught to do. The stillness and the cold were all around her, but the long hours of skiing had left her flushed and almost warm beneath her layers of leather and fur. Her thoughts had the brittle clarity of the ice that hung in long spears from the bare, twisted trees around her.

  • Val has been in GRRM’s writing toolkit for a very long time. She is not new to ASOIAF by any means. A short-long list example here.
  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon XI

    “Did you follow me as well?” Jon reached to shoo the bird away but ended up stroking its feathers. The raven cocked its eye at him. “Snow,” it muttered, bobbing its head knowingly. Then Ghost emerged from between two trees, with Val beside him.

    They look as though they belong together. Val was clad all in white; white woolen breeches tucked into high boots of bleached white leather, white bearskin cloak pinned at the shoulder with a carved weirwood face, white tunic with bone fastenings. Her breath was white as well … but her eyes were blue, her long braid the color of dark honey, her cheeks flushed red from the cold. It had been a long while since Jon Snow had seen a sight so lovely.

    “Have you been trying to steal my wolf?” he asked her.

As darkness threw its cloak over the world, Shawn sought shelter in the lee of the greatest of those trees, a massive blackbark whose trunk was three meters across. She spread the fur cloak she had taken on a bare patch of ground and pulled her own woven cape over her like a blanket to shut out the rising wind. With her back to the trunk and her longknife drawn beneath her cape, just in case, she slept a brief, wary sleep, and woke in full night to contemplate her mistakes.

The stars were out; she could see them peeking through the bare black branches above her. The Ice Wagon dominated the sky, bringing cold into the world, as it had for as long as Shawn could remember. The driver’s blue eyes glared down at her, mocking.

It had been the Ice Wagon that killed Lane, she thought bitterly. Not the vampire. The vampire had mauled him badly that night, when his bowstring broke as he tried to draw in their defense. But in another season, with Shawn nursing him, he would have lived. In deepwinter, he never had a chance. The cold crept in past all the defenses she had built for him; the cold drained away all his strength, all his ferocity. The cold left him a shrunken white thing, numb and pale, his lips tinged with blue. And now the driver of the Ice Wagon would claim his soul.

And hers too, she knew. She should have abandoned Lane to his fate. That was what Creg would have done, or Leila—any of them. There had never been any hope that he would live, not in deepwinter. Nothing lived in deepwinter. The trees grew stark and bare in deepwinter, the grass and the flowers perished, the animals all froze or went underground to sleep. Even the windwolves and the vampires grew lean and fierce, and many starved to death before the thaw.

As Shawn would starve.

  • The Long Night when the ice dragon Others arrive. Night’s King Corpse Queen supposedly claims “seed” and soul.
  • The Others bring their own extreme cold. From TWoIaF: “Yet there are other tales—harder to credit and yet more central to the old histories—about creatures known as the Others. According to these tales, they came from the frozen Land of Always Winter, bringing the cold and darkness with them as they sought to extinguish all light and warmth. The tales go on to say they rode monstrous ice spiders and the horses of the dead, resurrected to serve them, just as they resurrected dead men to fight on their behalf.
  • Also in the prologue the fact that in the A Dance with Dragons prologue, Thistle is transmogrified elementally from green-tree-free folk to and ice-other-watcher: “And in the pits where her eyes had been, a pale blue light was flickering, lending her coarse features an eerie beauty they had never known in life.
Constellation Draco, Dragon, night star sky
Constellation Draco. Not unlike the constellation Ice Dragon in ASOIAF. The ice dragon Other does bring blue-flame death.

They had already been running three days late when the vampire attacked them, and Lane had had them eating short rations. Afterward he had been so weak. He had finished his own food on the fourth day, and Shawn had started feeding him some of hers, never telling him. She had very little left now, and the safety of Carinhall was still nearly two weeks of hard travel away. In deepwinter, it might as well be two years.

  • Carinhall does sound a lot like Harrenhal, and the fact that at this point in both Bitterblooms and ASOIAF this “hall” is currently a dark place with dark history. The Creg information discussed a little later will show why.
  • The weeks to “years” of travel in Deepwinter is very much how Asha reports on the situation as she travels as captive with Stannis’ (actually the Queen’s Men) crew in A Dance with Dragons.

Curled beneath her cape, Shawn briefly considered starting a fire. A fire would bring vampires—they could feel the heat three kilometers off. They would come stalking silently between the trees, gaunt black shadows taller than Lane had been, their loose skin flapping over skeletal limbs like dark cloaks, concealing the claws. Perhaps, if she lay in wait, she could take one by surprise. A full-grown vampire would feed her long enough to return to Carinhall. She played with the idea in the darkness, and only reluctantly put it aside. Vampires could run across the snow as fast as an arrow in flight, scarcely touching the ground, and it was virtually impossible to see them by night. But they could see her very well, by the heat she gave off. Lighting a fire would only guarantee her a quick and relatively painless death.

Shawn shivered and gripped the hilt of her longknife more tightly for reassurance. Every shadow suddenly seemed to have a vampire crouched within it, and in the keening of the wind she thought she could hear the flapping noise their skin made when they ran.

  • This is exactly how the ice dragon Others are described in ASOIAF, especially in the AGOT prologue. The Others bring their own brand of extreme cold and darkness as they travel the land.
  • I have talked many times about how the ice dragon and the fire dragon in Martinworld represent the forms of corporate-governmental overarching systemic repression of the smallfolk. Greenseeing means Enlightenment.
  • A Game of Thrones – Prologue

    Gared dismounted. “We need a fire. I’ll see to it.”

    “How big a fool are you, old man? If there are enemies in this wood, a fire is the last thing we want.”

    “There’s some enemies a fire will keep away,” Gared said. “Bears and direwolves and … and other things …”

Then, louder and very real, another noise reached her ears—an angry high-pitched whistling like nothing Shawn had ever heard. And suddenly the black horizon was suffused with light, a flicker of ghostly blue radiance that outlined the naked bones of the forest and throbbed visibly against the sky. Shawn inhaled sharply, a draught of ice down her raw throat, and struggled to her feet, half-afraid she was under attack. But there was nothing. The world was cold and black and dead; only the light lived, flickering dimly in the distance, beckoning, calling to her. She watched it for long minutes, thinking back on old Jon and the terrible stories he used to tell the children when they gathered round Carinhall’s great hearth. There are worse things than vampires, he would tell them; and remembering, Shawn was suddenly a little girl again, sitting on the thick furs with her back to the fire, listening to Jon talk of ghosts and living shadows and cannibal families who lived in great castles built of bone.

  • Blue flame is present in ASOIAF when the “magic” of the ice dragon is being called upon, such as we see with Thistle (mentioned above) and Varys:
    • A Clash of Kings – Tyrion X

      [Varys] “One day at Myr, a certain man came to our folly. After the performance, he made an offer for me that my master found too tempting to refuse. I was in terror. I feared the man meant to use me as I had heard men used small boys, but in truth the only part of me he had need of was my manhood. He gave me a potion that made me powerless to move or speak, yet did nothing to dull my senses. With a long hooked blade, he sliced me root and stem, chanting all the while. I watched him burn my manly parts on a brazier. The flames turned blue, and I heard a voice answer his call, though I did not understand the words they spoke.

  • The Unsullied wear a type of “brazier” as a helmet to show Martinworld fiery mind control.
  • The ‘draught of ice down her raw throat‘ is another example of the existential crisis Martin puts his characters through. I briefly discuss this Cup of Ice/Cup of Fire decision in World Building.
  • This Old Jon is the storyteller as Old Nan, Meera, Barristan, and Ygritte are in ASOIAF. There is also an old storyteller by the name of Gumbo Granny in The Needle Men.

As abruptly as it had come, the strange light faded and was gone, and with it went the high-pitched noise. Shawn had marked where it had shone, however. She took up her pack and fastened Lane’s cloak about her for extra warmth, then began to don her skis. She was no child now, she told herself, and that light had been no ghost dance. Whatever it was, it might be her only chance. She took her poles in hand and set off toward it.

Night travel was dangerous in the extreme, she knew. Creg had told her that a hundred times, and Lane as well. In the darkness, in the scant starlight, it was easy to go astray, to break a ski or a leg or worse. And movement generated heat, heat that drew vampires from the deep of the woods. Better to lay low until dawn, when the nocturnal hunters had retired to their lairs. All of her training told her that, and all of her instincts. But it was deepwinter, and when she rested, the cold bit through even the warmest of furs, and Lane was dead and she was hungry, and the light had been so close, so achingly close. So she followed it, going slowly, going carefully, and it seemed that this night she had a charm upon her. The terrain was all flatland, gentle to her, almost kind, and the snow cover was sparse enough so that neither root nor rock could surprise and trip her. No dark predators came gliding out of the night, and the only sound was the sound of her motion, the soft crackling of the snow crust beneath her skis.

  • Craster, a person working in cahoots with the ice dragon Others, explains what “the bite” is, and it is that of the Others sword blade, aka, the extreme cold they bring.
  • There is another link here between the ice dragon and the fire dragon and it is that they are both provided via incest, and Craster follows GRRM’s naming theme of a ‘Cr’ name being associated with northern incest. This includes Cregan Karstark.

The forest grew steadily thinner as she moved, and after an hour Shawn emerged from it entirely, into a wasteland of tumbled stone blocks and twisted, rusting metal. She knew what it was; she had seen other ruins before, where families had lived and died, and their halls and houses had gone all to rot. But never a ruin so extensive as this. The family that had lived here, however long ago, had been very great once; the shattered remains of their dwellings were more extensive than a hundred Carinhalls. She began to pick a careful path through the crumbling, snow-dusted masonry. Twice she came upon structures that were almost intact, and each time she considered seeking shelter within those ancient stone walls, but there was nothing in either of them that might have caused the light, so Shawn passed on after only a brief inspection. The river she came to soon thereafter stopped her for a slightly longer time. From the high bank where she paused, she could see the remains of two bridges that had once spanned the narrow channel, but both of them had fallen long ago. The river was frozen over, however, so she had no trouble crossing it. In deepwinter the ice was thick and solid and there was no danger of her falling through.

  • The gradual decline of the castles along the wall, Bran and friends seeking shelter at Nightfort, which also features in the Martin werewolf story The Skin Trade.

As she climbed painstakingly up the far bank, Shawn came upon the flower.

It was a very small thing, its thick black stem emerging from between two rocks low on the riverbank. She might never have seen it in the night, but her pole dislodged one of the ice-covered stones as she struggled up the slope, and the noise made her glance down to where it grew.

It startled her so that she took both poles in one hand, and with the other fumbled in the deepest recesses of her clothing, so that she might risk a flame. The match gave a short, intense light. But it was enough; Shawn saw.

A flower, tiny, so tiny, with four blue petals, each the same pale blue shade that Lane’s lips had been just before he died. A flower, here, alive, growing in the eighth year of deepwinter, when all the world was dead.

They would never believe her, Shawn thought, not unless she brought the truth with her, back to Carinhall. She freed herself from her skis and tried to pick the flower. It was futile, as futile as her effort to bury Lane. The stem was as strong as metal wire. She struggled with it for several minutes, and fought to keep from crying when it would not come. Creg would call her a liar, a dreamer, all the things he always called her.

She did not cry, though, finally. She left the flower where it grew, and climbed to the top of the river ridge. There she paused.

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Shawn and the brazier-ship in Bitterblooms. artist: Mark Poole

Beneath her, going on and on for meters upon meters, was a wide empty field. Snow stood in great drifts in some places, and in others there was only bare flat stone, naked to the wind and the cold. In the center of the field was the strangest building Shawn had even seen, a great fat teardrop of a building that squatted like an animal in the starlight on three black legs. The legs were bent beneath it, flexed and rimed over with ice at their joints, as if the beast had been about to leap straight up into the sky. And legs and building both were covered with flowers.

There were flowers everywhere, Shawn saw when she took her eyes off the squat building long enough to look. They sprouted, singly and in clusters, from every little crack in the field, with snow and ice all around them, making dark islands of life in the pure white stillness of deepwinter.

Shawn walked through them, closer to the building, until she stood next to one of the legs and reached up to touch its joint wonderingly with a gloved hand. It was all metal, metal and ice and flowers, like the building itself. Where each of the legs rested, the stone beneath had broken and fractured in a hundred places, as if shattered by some great blow, and vines grew from the crevices, twisting black vines that crawled around the flanks of the structure like the webs of a summer-spinner. The flowers burst from the vines, and now that she stood up close, Shawn saw that they were not like her little river bloom at all. There were blossoms of many colors, some as big as her head, growing in wild profusion everywhere, as if they did not realize that it was deepwinter, when they should be black and dead.

She was walking around the building, looking for an entrance, when a noise made her turn her head toward the ridge.

A thin shadow flickered briefly against the snow, then seemed to vanish. Shawn trembled and retreated quickly, putting the nearest of the tall legs to her back, and then she dropped everything and Lane’s sword was in her left hand and her own longknife in her right, and she stood cursing herself for that match, that stupid, stupid match, and listening for the flap-flap-flap of death on taloned feet.

It was too dark, she realized, and her hand shook, and even as it did the shape rushed upon her from the side. Her longknife flashed at it, stabbing, slicing, but cut only the skincloak, and then the vampire gave a shriek of triumph and Shawn was buffeted to the ground and she knew she was bleeding. There was a weight on her chest, and something black and leathery settled across her eyes, and she tried to knife it and that was when she realized that her blade was gone. She screamed.

Then the vampire screamed, and the side of Shawn’s head exploded in pain, and she had blood in her eyes, and she was choking on blood, and blood and blood, and nothing more.…

  • Morgan Le Fay was said to be a shapeshifter and over time is someone to becomes enchanted with the dark arts. This violent act of smashing someone upside the head in order to capture and mentally enslave them to the benefiet of one’s greed is associated in ASOIAF with bells in the head. A cognative confusion.
    • A Storm of Swords – Jon XI; “keep the shield up” is anlogous with keep your mental wits and don’t let yourself get fooled.

      “It’s too heavy,” the Oldtown boy complained.

      “It’s as heavy as it needs to be to stop a sword,” Jon said. “Now get it up.” He stepped forward, slashing. Satin jerked the shield up in time to catch the sword on its rim, and swung his own blade at Jon’s ribs. “Good,” Jon said, when he felt the impact on his own shield. “That was good. But you need to put your body into it. Get your weight behind the steel and you’ll do more damage than with arm strength alone. Come, try it again, drive at me, but keep the shield up or I’ll ring your head like a bell . . .”

  • Battle of the Bells
  • The Dothraki with (death) bells in their hair/head.
  • What was the fourth knife at Jon’s mutiny attempt?
Bitterblooms 1
Bitterblooms. Shawn fighting a winged black vampire with her skies. Art by Michael Wm Kaluta.

***

It was blue, all blue; hazy, shifting blue. a pale blue, dancing, dancing, like the ghost light that had flickered on the sky. A soft blue, like the little flower, the impossible blossom by the riverbank. A cold blue, like the eyes of the Ice Wagon’s black driver, like Lane’s lips when last she kissed them. Blue, blue, and it moved and would not be still. Everything was blurred, unreal. There was only blue. For a long time, only blue.

Then music. But it was blurred music, blue music somehow, strange and high and fleeting, very sad, lonely, a bit erotic. It was a lullaby, like old Tesenya used to sing when Shawn was very little, before Tesenya grew weak and sick and Creg put her out to die. It had been so long since Shawn had heard such a song; all the music she knew was Creg on his harp, and Rys on her guitar. She found herself relaxing, floating, all her limbs turned to water, lazy water, though it was deepwinter and she knew she should be ice.

Arya Face Mask by Spider Wee
Arya Stark with a face mask and Needle. Art by Spider Wee.

Soft hands began to touch her, lifting her head, pulling off her facemask so the blue warm brushed her naked cheeks, then drifting lower, lower, loosening her clothes, stripping her of furs and cloth and leather, off with her belt and off with her jerkin and off with her pants. Her skin tingled. She was floating, floating. Everything was warm, so warm, and the hands fluttered here and there and they were so gentle, like old mother Tesenya had been, like her sister Leila was sometimes, like Devin. Like Lane, she thought, and it was a pleasant thought, comforting and arousing at the same time, and Shawn held close to it. She was with Lane, she was safe and warm and … and she remembered his face, the blue in his lips, the ice in his beard where his breath had frozen, the pain burned into him, twisting his features like a mask. She remembered, and suddenly she was drowning in the blue, choking on the blue, struggling, screaming.

The hands lifted her and a stranger’s voice muttered something low and soothing in a language she did not understand. A cup was pressed to Shawn’s lips. She opened her mouth to scream again, but instead she was drinking. It was hot and sweet and fragrant, full of spices, and some of them were very familiar, but others she could not place at all. Tea, she thought, and her hands took it from the other hands as she gulped it down.

  • Again, Shawn is given the Cup of Ice/Cup of Fire literary treatment.
  • This “blurry” scene is a fiery version of what Bran experiences as he wakes from his coma-dream, his liminal-dreamspace. Bran is blurred and confuses a crow with a raven-haired woman that he knows from Winterfell.
    • A Game of Thrones – Bran III

      “What are you doing?” he shrieked.

      The crow opened its beak and cawed at him, a shrill scream of fear, and the grey mists shuddered and swirled around him and ripped away like a veil, and he saw that the crow was really a woman, a serving woman with long black hair, and he knew her from somewhere, from Winterfell, yes, that was it, he remembered her now, and then he realized that he was in Winterfell, in a bed high in some chilly tower room, and the black-haired woman dropped a basin of water to shatter on the floor and ran down the steps, shouting, “He’s awake, he’s awake, he’s awake.”

      Bran touched his forehead, between his eyes. The place where the crow had pecked him was still burning, but there was nothing there, no blood, no wound. He felt weak and dizzy. He tried to get out of bed, but nothing happened.

She was in a small dim room, propped up on a bed of pillows, and her clothes were piled next to her and the air was full of blue mist from a burning stick. A woman knelt beside her, dressed in bright tatters of many different colors, and gray eyes regarded her calmly from beneath the thickest, wildest hair that Shawn had ever seen. “You … who …?” Shawn said.

The woman stroked her brow with a pale soft hand. “Carin,” she said clearly.

Shawn nodded, slowly, wondering who the woman was, and how she knew the family.

“Carinhall,” the woman said, and her eyes seemed amused and a bit sad. “Lin and Eris and Caith. I remember them, little girl. Beth, Voice Carin, how hard she was. And Kaya and Dale and Shawn.”

“Shawn. I’m Shawn. That’s me. But Creg is Voice Carin.…”

The woman smiled faintly, and continued to stroke Shawn’s brow. The skin of her hand was very soft. Shawn had never felt anything so soft. “Shawn is my lover,” the woman said. “Every tenthyear, at Gathering.”

  • Gathering is something GRRM uses in a few stories, including ASOIAF, that is the opposite of incest. It is a way to spread the genes, to not interbreed, and to bring in “fresh genetic stock” as it is often put. I detail this in Downfall of a Dynasty = Incest. The same is happening with both dragons in ASOIAF- ice dragon Others and the Targaryens (and a few smaller examples as well).
  • A Dance with Dragons – Prologue; a skinchanger gathering, aka, orgy.

    Not all skinchangers felt the same, however. Once, when Lump was ten, Haggon had taken him to a gathering of such. The wargs were the most numerous in that company, the wolf-brothers, but the boy had found the others stranger and more fascinating. Borroq looked so much like his boar that all he lacked was tusks, Orell had his eagle, Briar her shadowcat (the moment he saw them, Lump wanted a shadowcat of his own), the goat woman Grisella …

Shawn blinked at her, confused. She was beginning to remember. The light in the forest, the flowers, the vampire. “Where am I?” she asked.

“You are everywhere you never dreamed of being, little Carin,” the woman said, and she laughed at herself.

The walls of the room shone like dark metal, Shawn noticed. “The building,” she blurted, “the building on legs, with all the flowers …”

“Yes,” the woman said.

“Do you … who are you? Did you make the light? I was in the forest, and Lane was dead and I was nearly out of food, and I saw a light, a blue.…”

That was my light, Carin child, as I came down from the sky. I was far away, oh yes, far away in lands you never heard of, but I came back.” The woman stood up suddenly, and whirled around and around, and the gaudy cloth she wore flapped and shimmered, and she was wreathed in pale blue smoke. “I am the witch they warn you of in Carinhall, child,” she yelled, exulting, and she whirled and whirled until finally, dizzy, she collapsed again beside Shawn’s bed.

  • Morgan, “came down from the sky”, and Daenerys tells us that, “Dragons always preferred to attack from above,” so this is where I once again add What will happen to Bowen Marsh and the Fourth Knife at Jon’s Mutiny Attempt.
  • Morgan is swirling around in her dress like blue-fire. The same thing happens with Ananda Cain from Armageddon Rag, as well as the Greeshka priests from A Song for Lya.
  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon VI

    The thought came unbidden, seizing him with iron teeth, but this was not a woman he cared to be indebted to, not even for his little sister. “Dalla told me something once. Val’s sister, Mance Rayder’s wife. She said that sorcery was a sword without a hilt. There is no safe way to grasp it.”

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon VI

    Jon glanced over his shoulder. The shadow was there, just as she had said, etched in moonlight against the Wall. A girl in grey on a dying horse, he thought. Coming here, to you. Arya. He turned back to the red priestess. Jon could feel her warmth. She has power. The thought came unbidden, seizing him with iron teeth, but this was not a woman he cared to be indebted to, not even for his little sister. “Dalla told me something once. Val’s sister, Mance Rayder’s wife. She said that sorcery was a sword without a hilt. There is no safe way to grasp it.”

    “A wise woman.” Melisandre rose, her red robes stirring in the wind. “A sword without a hilt is still a sword, though, and a sword is a fine thing to have when foes are all about.

No one had ever warned Shawn of a witch. She was more puzzled than afraid. “You killed the vampire,” she said. “How did you …?”

“I am magic,” the woman said. “I am magic and I can do magic things and I will live forever. And so will you, Carin child, Shawn, when I teach you. You can travel with me, and I will teach you all the magics and tell you stories, and we can be lovers. You are my lover already, you know, you’ve always been, at Gathering. Shawn, Shawn.” She smiled.

“No,” Shawn said. “That was some other person.”

“You’re tired, child. The vampire hurt you, and you don’t remember. But you will remember, you will.” She stood up and moved across the room, snuffing out the burning stick with her fingertips, quieting the music. When her back was turned, her hair fell nearly to her waist, and all of it was curls and tangles; wild restless hair, tossing as she moved like the waves on the distant sea. Shawn had seen the sea once, years ago, before deepwinter came. She remembered.

The woman faded the dim lights somehow, and turned back to Shawn in darkness. “Rest now. I took away your pain with my magics, but it may come back. Call me if it does. I have other magics.”

Shawn did feel drowsy. “Yes,” she murmured, unresisting. But when the woman moved to leave, Shawn called out to her again. “Wait,” she said. “Your family, mother. Tell me who you are.”

The woman stood framed in yellow light, a silhouette without features. “My family is very great, child. My sisters are Lilith and Marcyan and Erika Stormjones and Lamiya-Bailis and Deirdre d’Allerane. Kleronomas and Stephen Cobalt Northstar and Tomo and Walberg were all brothers to me, and fathers. Our house is up past the Ice Wagon, and my name, my name is Morgan.” And then she was gone, and the door closed behind her, and Shawn was left to sleep.

***

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Morgan Le Fay by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope c.1880. She is wearing a red dress and languidly brushing her long hair. Flowers litter the grown and furniture around her.

Morgan, she thought as she slept. Morganmorganmorgan. The name drifted through her dreams like smoke.

She was very little, and she was watching the fire in the hearth at Carinhall, watching the flames lick and tease at the big black logs, smelling the sweet fragrances of thistlewood, and nearby someone was telling a story. Not Jon, no, this was before Jon had become storyteller. This was long ago. It was Tesenya, so very old, her face wrinkled, and she was talking in her tired voice so full of music, her lullaby voice, and all the children listened. Her stories had been different from Jon’s. His were always about fighting, wars and vendettas and monsters, chock-full with blood and knives and impassioned oaths sworn by a father’s corpse. Tesenya was quieter. She told of a group of travelers, six of family Alynne, who were lost in the wild one year during the season of freeze. They chanced upon a huge hall built all of metal, and the family within welcomed them with a great feast. So the travelers ate and drank, and just as they were wiping their lips to go, another banquet was served, and thus it went. The Alynnes stayed and stayed, for the food was richer and more delightful than any they had ever tasted, and the more they ate of it, the hungrier they grew. Besides, deepwinter had set in outside the metal hall. Finally, when thaw came many years later, others of family Alynne went searching for the six wanderers. They found them dead in the forest. They had put off their good warm furs and dressed in flimsies. Their steel had gone all to rust, and each of them had starved. For the name of the metal hall was Morganhall, Tesenya told the children, and the family who lived there was the family named Liar, whose food is empty stuff made of dreams and air.

  • The difference between Tesenya’s stories and old Jon’s is akin to the difference between old Nan and Luwin both providing Bran with information:
    • A Storm of Swords – Bran IV

      Bran wasn’t so certain. The Nightfort had figured in some of Old Nan’s scariest stories. It was here that Night’s King had reigned, before his name was wiped from the memory of man. This was where the Rat Cook had served the Andal king his prince-and-bacon pie, where the seventy-nine sentinels stood their watch, where brave young Danny Flint had been raped and murdered. This was the castle where King Sherrit had called down his curse on the Andals of old, where the ‘prentice boys had faced the thing that came in the night, where blind Symeon Star-Eyes had seen the hellhounds fighting. Mad Axe had once walked these yards and climbed these towers, butchering his brothers in the dark.

      All that had happened hundreds and thousands of years ago, to be sure, and some maybe never happened at all. Maester Luwin always said that Old Nan’s stories shouldn’t be swallowed whole. But once his uncle came to see Father, and Bran asked about the Nightfort. Benjen Stark never said the tales were true, but he never said they weren’t; he only shrugged and said, “We left the Nightfort two hundred years ago,” as if that was an answer.

  • Bran’s Bowl Movement- What’s in the paste?

Shawn woke naked and shivering.

Her clothes were still piled next to her bed. She dressed quickly, first pulling on her undergarments, and over them a heavy blackwool shift, and over that her leathers, pants and belt and jerkin, then her coat of fur with its hood, and finally the capes, Lane’s cloak and her own of child’s cloth. Last of all was her facemask. She pulled the taut leather down over her head and laced it closed beneath her chin, and then she was safe from deepwinter winds and stranger’s touches both. Shawn found her weapons thrown carelessly in a corner with her boots. When Lane’s sword was in her hand and her longknife back in its familiar sheath, she felt complete again. She stepped outside determined to find skis and exit.

Morgan met her with laughter bright and brittle, in a chamber of glass and shining silver metal. She stood framed against the largest window Shawn had ever seen, a sheet of pure clean glass taller than a man and wider than Carinhall’s great hearth, even more flawless than the mirrors of family Terhis, who were famed for their glassblowers and lensmakers. Beyond the glass it was midday; the cool blue midday of deepwinter. Shawn saw the field of stone and snow and flowers, and beyond it the low ridge that she had climbed, and beyond that the frozen river winding through the ruins.

“You look so fierce and angry,” Morgan said, when her silly laughter had stopped. She had been threading her wild hair with wisps of cloth and gems on silver clips that sparkled when she moved. “Come, Carin child, take off your furs again. The cold can’t touch us here, and if it does we can leave it. There are other lands, you know.” She walked across the room.

  • The cold can’t touch them because they are in a firey brazier ship (a dragon, like the ship Nightflyer from the story Nightflyers, ship details here).
  • Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen is known to wear bells in her hair for the victories she has won. Even if a khalasar is not glimpsed, the sound of the warrior’s bells tells their foes that the Dothraki are near.
  • Again, this is very much the same archetypical fire woman that GRRM likes to use, including Ananda Cain from Armageddon Rag.

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Shawn had let the point of her sword droop toward the floor; now she jerked it up again. “Stay away,” she warned. Her voice sounded hoarse and strange.

“I am not afraid of you, Shawn,” Morgan said. “Not you, my Shawn, my lover.” She moved around the sword easily, and took off the scarf she wore, a gossamer of gray spidersilk set with tiny crimson jewels, to drape it around Shawn’s neck. “See, I know what you are thinking,” she said, pointing to the jewels. One by one, they were changing color; fire became blood, blood crusted and turned brown, brown faded to black. “You are frightened of me, nothing more. No anger. You would never hurt me.” She tied the scarf neatly under Shawn’s facemask, and smiled.

  • A Clash of Kings – Prologue

    “Maester,” said Lady Melisandre, her deep voice flavored with the music of the Jade Sea. “You ought take more care.” As ever, she wore red head to heel, a long loose gown of flowing silk as bright as fire, with dagged sleeves and deep slashes in the bodice that showed glimpses of a darker bloodred fabric beneath. Around her throat was a red gold choker tighter than any maester’s chain, ornamented with a single great ruby. Her hair was not the orange or strawberry color of common red-haired men, but a deep burnished copper that shone in the light of the torches. Even her eyes were red . . . but her skin was smooth and white, unblemished, pale as cream. Slender she was, graceful, taller than most knights, with full breasts and narrow waist and a heart-shaped face. Men’s eyes that once found her did not quickly look away, not even a maester’s eyes. Many called her beautiful. She was not beautiful. She was red, and terrible, and red.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre I

    Does he dream of death? Could the enemy have touched him? Death is his domain, the dead his soldiers. “You shall have work for your steel soon enough. The enemy is moving, the true enemy. And Lord Snow’s rangers will return before the day is done, with their blind and bloody eyes.”

    The wildling’s own eyes narrowed. Grey eyes, brown eyes; Melisandre could see the color change with each pulse of the ruby…

  • A Storm of Swords – Tyrion IV

    As he entered his lord father’s solar a few moments later, he heard a voice saying, “. . . cherrywood for the scabbards, bound in red leather and ornamented with a row of lion’s-head studs in pure gold. Perhaps with garnets for the eyes . . .”

    Rubies,” Lord Tywin said. “Garnets lack the fire.”

Shawn stared at the gems with horror. “How did you do that?” she demanded, backing off uncertainly.

“With magic,” Morgan said. She spun on her heels and danced back to the window. “Morgan is full of magic.”

“You are full of lies,” Shawn said. “I know about the six Alynnes. I’m not going to eat here and starve to death. Where are my skis?”

Morgan seemed not to hear her; the older woman’s eyes were clouded, wistful. “Have you ever seen Alynne House in summer, child? It’s very beautiful. The sun comes up over the redstone tower, and sinks every night into Jamei’s Lake. Do you know it, Shawn?”

“No,” Shawn said boldly, “and you don’t either. What do you talk about Alynne House for? You said your family lived on the Ice Wagon, and they all had names I never heard of, Kleraberus and things like that.”

“Kleronomas,” Morgan said, giggling. She raised her hand to her mouth to still herself, and chewed on a finger idly while her gray eyes shone. All her fingers were ringed with bright metal. “You should see my brother Kleronomas, child. He is half of metal and half of flesh, and his eyes are bright as glass, and he knows more than all the Voices who’ve ever spoken for Carinhall.”

“He does not,” Shawn said. “You’re lying again!”

  • Morgan is lying about who is her family. Joachim Kleronomas is a very Bran-Bloodraven-Weirwood-like historic figure in the Thousand Worlds Universe. He is talked about often in a few stories, but only in The Glass Flower does a version of him appear on page. Additionally, never in any of the other Thousand Worlds stories is this familial connection made or confirmed.

“He does,” Morgan said. Her hand fell and she looked cross. “He’s magic. We all are. Erika died, but she wakes up to live again and again and again. Stephen was a warrior—he killed a billion families, more than you can count—and Celia found a lot of secret places that no one had ever found before. My family all does magic things.” Her expression grew suddenly sly. “I killed the vampire, didn’t I? How do you think I did that?”

“With a knife!” Shawn said fiercely. But beneath her mask she flushed. Morgan had killed the vampire; that meant there was a debt. And she had drawn steel! She flinched under Creg’s imagined fury, and dropped the sword to clatter on the floor. All at once she was very confused.

Morgan’s voice was gentle. “But you had a longknife and a sword, and you couldn’t kill the vampire, could you, child? No.” She came across the room. “You are mine, Shawn Carin, you are my lover and my daughter and my sister. You have to learn to trust. I have much to teach you. Here.” She took Shawn by the hand and led her to the window. “Stand here. Wait, Shawn, wait and watch, and I will show you more of Morgan’s magics.” At the far wall, smiling, she did something with her rings to a panel of bright metal and square dim lights.

Watching, Shawn grew suddenly afraid.

Beneath her feet, the floor began to shake, and a sound assaulted her, a high whining shriek that stabbed at her ears through the leather mask, until she clapped her gloved hands on either side of her head to shut it out. Even then she could hear it, like a vibration in her bones. Her teeth ached, and she was aware of a sudden shooting pain up in her left temple. And that was not the worst of it.

For outside, where everything had been cold and bright and still, a somber blue light was shifting and dancing and staining all the world. The snowdrifts were a pale blue, and the plumes of frozen powder that blew from each of them were paler still, and blue shadows came and went upon the river ridge where none had been before. And Shawn could see the light reflected even on the river itself, and on the ruins that stood desolate and broken upon the farther crest. Morgan was giggling behind her, and then everything in the window began to blur, until there was nothing to be seen at all, only colors, colors bright and dark running together, like pieces of a rainbow melting in some vast stewpot. Shawn did not budge from where she stood, but her hand fell to the hilt of her longknife, and despite herself she trembled.

“Look, Carin child!” Morgan shouted, over the terrible whine. Shawn could barely hear her. “We’ve jumped up into the sky now, away from all that cold. I told you, Shawn. We’re going to ride the Ice Wagon now.” And she did something to the wall again, and the noise vanished, and the colors were gone. Beyond the glass was sky.

Shawn cried out in fear. She could see nothing except darkness and stars, stars everywhere, more than she had ever seen before. And she knew she was lost. Lane had taught her all the stars, so she could use them for a guide, find her way from anywhere to anywhere, but these stars were wrong, were different. She could not find the Ice Wagon, or the Ghost Skier, or even Lara Carin with her windwolves. She could find nothing familiar; only stars, stars that leered at her like a million eyes, red and white and blue and yellow, and none of them would even blink.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys IX; as she is about to ride the dragon for the first time.

    In the smoldering red pits of Drogon’s eyes, Dany saw her own reflection. How small she looked, how weak and frail and scared. I cannot let him see my fear. She scrabbled in the sand, pushing against the pitmaster’s corpse, and her fingers brushed against the handle of his whip. Touching it made her feel braver. The leather was warm, alive. Drogon roared again, the sound so loud that she almost dropped the whip. His teeth snapped at her.

  • The Dothraki worship a horse god. The Dothraki believe that, when someone dies, the horse god parts the grass and claims the deceased for his starry khalasar, so the deceased can ride the nightlands. The Dothraki further believe that the moon is a goddess, and that she is the wife to the sun.  In addition, they believe in hell.
  • A Game of Thrones – Daenerys IX

    They led Khal Drogo back to her tent, and Dany commanded them to fill a tub, and this time there was no blood in the water. She bathed him herself, washing the dirt and the dust from his arms and chest, cleaning his face with a soft cloth, soaping his long black hair and combing the knots and tangles from it till it shone again as she remembered. It was well past dark before she was done, and Dany was exhausted. She stopped for drink and food, but it was all she could do to nibble at a fig and keep down a mouthful of water. Sleep would have been a release, but she had slept enough … too long, in truth. She owed this night to Drogo, for all the nights that had been, and yet might be.

    The memory of their first ride was with her when she led him out into the darkness, for the Dothraki believed that all things of importance in a man’s life must be done beneath the open sky. She told herself that there were powers stronger than hatred, and spells older and truer than any the maegi had learned in Asshai. The night was black and moonless, but overhead a million stars burned bright. She took that for an omen.

Morgan was standing behind her. “Are we in the Ice Wagon?” Shawn asked in a small voice.

“Yes.”

Shawn trembled, threw away her knife so that it bounded noisily off a metal wall, and turned to face her host. “Then we’re dead, and the driver is taking our souls off to the frozen waste,” she said. She did not cry. She had not wanted to be dead, especially not in deepwinter, but at least she would see Lane again.

Morgan began to undo the scarf she had fastened round Shawn’s neck. The stones were black and frightening. “No, Shawn Carin,” she said evenly. “We are not dead. Live here with me, child, and you will never die. You’ll see.” She pulled off the scarf and started unlacing the thongs of Shawn’s facemask. When it was loose, she pulled it up and off the girl’s head, tossing it casually to the floor. “You’re pretty, Shawn. You have always been pretty, though. I remember, all those years ago. I remember.”

“I’m not pretty,” Shawn said. “I’m too soft, and I’m too weak, and Creg says I’m skinny and my face is all pushed in. And I’m not …”

Morgan shushed her with a touch to her lips, and then unfastened her neck clasp. Lane’s battered cloak slipped from her shoulders. Her own cape followed, and then her coat was off, and Morgan’s fingers moved down to the laces of her jerkin.

“No,” Shawn said, suddenly shying away. Her back pressed up against the great window, and she felt the awful night laying its weight upon her. “I can’t, Morgan. I’m Carin, and you’re not family; I can’t.

“Gathering,” Morgan whispered. “Pretend this is Gathering, Shawn. You’ve always been my lover during the Gathering.”

Shawn’s throat was dry. “But it isn’t Gathering,” she insisted. She had seen one Gathering, down by the sea, when forty families came together to trade news and goods and love. But that had been years before her blood, so no one had taken her; she was not yet a woman, and thus untouchable. “It isn’t Gathering,” she repeated, close to tears.

Morgan giggled. “Very well. I am no Carin, but I am Morgan full-of-magic. I can make it Gathering.” She darted across the room on bare feet, and thrust her rings against the wall once more, and moved them this way and that, in a strange pattern. Then she called out, “Look! Turn and look.” Shawn, confused, glanced back at the window.

  • This is another repeated theme in Martinworld where people/beings use a viewscreen or mirror of some sort to spy on and manipulate those others in the story they are trying to submiss. Visions in the flames is the fantasy ASOIAF version of this viewing wall, as is the Wall of the Night’s Watch as well.
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From ‘A Song for Lya’. Artist; Jim Odbert

Under the double suns of highsummer, the world was bright and green. Sailing ships moved languidly on the slow-flowing waters of the river, and Shawn could see the bright reflections of the twin suns bobbing and rolling in their wake, balls of soft yellow butter afloat upon the blue. Even the sky seemed sweet and buttery; white clouds moved like the stately schooners of family Crien, and nowhere could a star be seen. The far shore was dotted by houses, houses small as a road shelter and greater than even Carinhall, towers as tall and sleek as the wind-carved rocks in the Broken Mountains. And here and there and all among them people moved; lithe swarthy folk strange to Shawn, and people of the families too, all mingling together. The stone field was free of snow and ice, but there were metal buildings everywhere, some larger than Morganhall, many smaller, each with its distinctive markings, and every one of them squatting on three legs. Between the buildings were the tents and stalls of the families, with their sigils and their banners. And mats, the gaily-colored lovers’ mats. Shawn saw people coupling, and felt Morgan’s hand resting lightly on her shoulder.

“Do you know what you are seeing, Carin child?” Morgan whispered.

Shawn turned back to her with fear and wonder in her eyes. “It is Gathering.”

Morgan smiled. “You see,” she said. “It is Gathering, and I claim you. Celebrate with me.” And her fingers moved to the buckle on Shawn’s belt, and Shawn did not resist.

***

melisandre_and_ghost_by_nekoeevee-d5arj51
Melisandre magicking Ghost by EvaMariaToker

Within the metals walls of Morganhall, seasons turned to hours turned to years turned to days turned to months turned to weeks turned to seasons once again. Time had no sense. When Shawn awoke, on a shaggy fur that Morgan had spread beneath the window, highsummer had turned back into deepwinter, and the families, ships, and Gathering were gone. Dawn came earlier than it should have, and Morgan seemed annoyed, so she made it dusk; the season was freeze, with its ominous chill, and where the stars of sunrise had shown, now gray clouds raced across a copper-colored sky. They ate while the copper turned to black. Morgan served mushrooms and crunchy summer greens, dark bread dripping with honey and butter, creamed spice-tea, and thick cuts of red meat floating in blood, and afterward there was flavored ice with nuts, and finally a tall hot drink with nine layers, each a different color with a different taste. They sipped the drink from glasses of impossibly thin crystal, and it made Shawn’s head ache. And she began to cry, because the food had seemed real and all of it was good, but she was afraid that if she ate any more of it she would starve to death. Morgan laughed at her and slipped away and returned with dried leathery strips of vampire meat; she told Shawn to keep it in her pack and munch on it whenever she felt hungry.

  • 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.

Shawn kept the meat for a long time, but never ate from it.

At first she tried to keep track of the days by counting the meals they ate, and how many times they slept, but soon the changing scenes outside the window and the random nature of life in Morganhall confused her past any hope of understanding. She worried about it for weeks—or perhaps only for days—and then she ceased to worry. Morgan could make time do anything she pleased, so there was no sense in Shawn caring about it.

Several times Shawn asked to leave, but Morgan would have none of it. She only laughed and did some great magic that made Shawn forget about everything. Morgan took her blades away one night when she was asleep, and all her furs and leathers too, and afterward Shawn was forced to dress as Morgan wanted her to dress, in clouds of colored silk and fantastic tatters, or in nothing at all. She was angry and upset at first, but later she grew used to it. Her old clothing would have been much too hot inside Morganhall, anyway.

  • This is the same tactic Ananda Cain from Armageddon Rag uses on Edan Morse to keep him embroiled in the firey war to come. Edan comes to the realization that Ananda is the cause of the uprising problems, not the solution. This is very much like the relationship between Stannis and Melisandre (with Selyse added in). Once these terran-tree symbol men move away from the fiery people, the glamour wears off. Detailed most specifically in the Martin story …And Seven Times Never Kill Man.
  • This is why clues lead more to Selyse and Mel burning Shireen, not Stannis as he has moved away fromt the fiery influence.
  • Morgan Le Fay in the Arthurian legend sends Arthur a supposed offering of peace in the form of a rich mantle cloak; Morgan’s messenger maiden is made put on the cursed gift and it burns her to cinders.

Morgan gave her gifts. Bags of spice that smelled of summer. A windwolf fashioned of pale blue glass. A metal mask that let Shawn see in the dark. Scented oils for her bath, and bottles of a slow golden liquor that brought her forgetfulness when her mind was troubled. A mirror, the finest mirror that had ever been. Books that Shawn could not read. A bracelet set with small red stones than drank in light all day and glowed by night. Cubes that played exotic music when Shawn warmed them with her hand. Boots woven of metal that were so light and flexible she could crumple them up in the palm of one hand. Metal miniatures of men and women and all manner of demons.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre I

    “Lord Snow.” The wildling grinned at them through a mouth of brown and broken teeth. The ruby on his wrist glimmered in the morning light like a dim red star.

[and then]

Melisandre touched the ruby at her neck and spoke a word.

The sound echoed queerly from the corners of the room and twisted like a worm inside their ears. The wildling heard one word, the crow another. Neither was the word that left her lips. The ruby on the wildling’s wrist darkened, and the wisps of light and shadow around him writhed and faded.

The bones remained—the rattling ribs, the claws and teeth along his arms and shoulders, the great yellowed collarbone across his shoulders. The broken giant’s skull remained a broken giant’s skull, yellowed and cracked, grinning its stained and savage grin.

Morgan told her stories. Each gift she gave to Shawn had a story that went with it, a tale of where it came from and who had made it and how it had come here. Morgan told them all. There were tales for each of her relatives as well; indomitable Kleronomas who drove across the sky hunting for knowledge, Celia Marcyan the ever-curious and her ship Shadow Chaser, Erika Stormjones whose family cut her up with knives that she might live again, savage Stephen Cobalt Northstar, melancholy Tomo, bright Deirdre d’Allerane and her grim ghostly twin. Those stories Morgan told with magic. There was a place in one wall with a small square slot in it, and Morgan would go there and insert a flat metallic box, and then all the lights would go out and Morgan’s dead relatives would live again, bright phantoms who walked and talked and dripped blood when they were hurt. Shawn thought they were real until the day when Deirdre first wept for her slain children, and Shawn ran to comfort her and found they could not touch. It was not until afterward that Morgan told her Deirdre and the others were only spirits, called down by her magic. Morgan told her many things. Morgan was her teacher as well as her lover, and she was nearly as patient as Lane had been, though much more prone to wander and lose interest. She gave Shawn a beautiful twelve-stringed guitar and began to teach her to play it, and she taught her to read a little, and she taught her a few of the simpler magics, so Shawn could move easily around the ship. That was another thing that Morgan taught her; Morganhall was no building after all, but a ship, a sky-ship that could flex its metal legs and leap from star to star. Morgan told her about the planets, lands out by those far-off stars, and said that all the gifts she had given Shawn had come from out there, from beyond the Ice Wagon; the mask and mirror were from Jamison’s World, the books and cubes from Avalon, the bracelet from High Kavalaan, the oils from Braque, the spices from Rhiannon and Tara and Old Poseidon, the boots from Bastion, the figurines from Chul Damien, the golden liquor from a land so far away that even Morgan did not know its name. Only the fine glass windwolf had been made here, on Shawn’s world, Morgan said. The windwolf had always been one of Shawn’s favorites, but now she found she did not like it half so well as she had thought she did. The others were all so much more exciting. Shawn had always wanted to travel, to visit distant families in wild distant climes, to gaze on seas and mountains. But she had been too young, and when she finally reached her womanhood, Creg would not let her go; she was too slow, he said, too timid, too irresponsible. Her life would be spent at home, where she could put her meager talents to better use for Carinhall. Even the fateful trip that had led her here had been a fluke; Lane had insisted, and Lane alone of all the others was strong enough to stand up to Creg, Voice Carin.

  • Kavalaan, or High Kavalaan, is much like Valyrian or High Valyrian mixed with the Dothraki. This society features prominently in Martin’s story Dying of the Light.High Kavalaan is a human world on the Fringe, colonized during the Double War by refugees and miners from Tara. Hrangan raids destroyed most of the original colony; survivors evolved modern Kavalar holdfast civilization. Kavalar society is regimented and individualistic at the same time; the culture places strong emphasis on both loyalty and personal honor. Close to barbaric when rediscovered by traders, the Kavalars are now industrializing rapidly, educating their young, and acquiring their own fleet of starships. High Kavalaan, which claims legal jurisdiction over the rogue planet Worlorn, was one of the driving forces in the Festival of the Fringe.

Morgan took her traveling, though, on sails between the stars. When blue fire flickered against the icy landscape of deepwinter and the sound rose up out of nowhere, higher and higher, Shawn would rush eagerly to the window, where she would wait with mounting impatience for the colors to clear. Morgan gave her all the mountains and all the seas she could dream of, and more. Through the flawless glass Shawn saw the lands from all the stories; Old Poseidon with its weathered docks and its fleets of silver ships, the meadows of Rhiannon, the vaulting black steel towers of ai-Emerel, High Kavalaan’s windswept plains and rugged hills, the island-cities of Port Jamison and Jolostar on Jamison’s World. Shawn learned about cities from Morgan, and suddenly the ruins by the river seemed different in her eyes. She learned about other ways of living as well, about arcologies and holdfasts and brotherhoods, about bond-companies and slavery and armies. Family Carin no longer seemed the beginning and the end of human loyalties.

  • By now and with more to come you should be picking up on the fact that Creg is an incest forcing suppressor to Shawn and clan Carin.

Of all the places they sailed to, they came to Avalon most often, and Shawn learned to love it best. On Avalon the landing field was always full of other wanderers, and Shawn could watch ships come and go on wands of pale blue light. And in the distance she could see the buildings of the Academy of Human Knowledge, where Kleronomas had deposited all his secrets so that they might be held in trust for Morgan’s family. Those jagged glass towers filled Shawn with a longing that was almost a hurt, but a hurt that she somehow craved.

  • Avalon was the last story in the Thousand Worlds Universe that GRRM started to write about before he put that story away and began with Bran finding the wolf pups in the snow.
  • Again, Kleronomas is the quintiscential Bran-Bloodraven-Jon archetype GRRM uses over and over, expanding them from the one to the three for ASOIAF. The weirwood ‘net’ is the biggest library in the ASOIAF world.

Sometimes—on several of the worlds, but most particularly on Avalon—it seemed to Shawn that some stranger was about to board their ship. She would watch them come, striding purposefully across the field, their destination clear from every step. They never came aboard, though, much to her disappointment. There was never anyone to touch or talk to except Morgan. Shawn suspected that Morgan magicked the would-be visitors away, or else lured them to their doom. She could not quite make up her mind which; Morgan was so moody that it might be both. One dinnertime she remembered Jon’s story of the cannibal hall, and looked down with horror at the red meat they were eating. She ate only vegetables that meal, and for several meals thereafter until she finally decided that she was being childish. Shawn considered asking Morgan about the strangers who approached and vanished, but she was afraid. She remembered Creg, whose temper was awful if you asked him the wrong question. And if the older woman was really killing those who tried to board her ship, it would not be wise to mention it to her. When Shawn was just a child, Creg had beaten her savagely for asking why old Tesenya had to go outside and die.

  • Fey food. Eat and become trapped in thi Otherworld forever.
  • This is very Arya-like when Arya thinks of her friend Mycah the butcher’s son being butchered during a “hunt” at the request of a fiery queen Cersei.
    • A Game of Thrones – Arya II

      Only that was Winterfell, a world away, and now everything was changed… They’d been her friends, she’d felt safe around them, but now she knew that was a lie. They’d let the queen kill Lady, that was horrible enough, but then the Hound found Mycah. Jeyne Poole had told Arya that he’d cut him up in so many pieces that they’d given him back to the butcher in a bag, and at first the poor man had thought it was a pig they’d slaughtered. And no one had raised a voice or drawn a blade or anything, not Harwin who always talked so bold, or Alyn who was going to be a knight, or Jory who was captain of the guard. Not even her father.

      He was my friend,” Arya whispered into her plate, so low that no one could hear. Her ribs sat there untouched, grown cold now, a thin film of grease congealing beneath them on the plate. Arya looked at them and felt ill. She pushed away from the table.

  • The weirwood paste in Bran’s bowel is weirwood, and by that I mean Bloodraven. Read about it here. It’s the northern-tree way to give oneself up in order to let the next generation survive. It serves for the many.
  • In ASOIAF, it is the “fire god” that is said multiple times to be the jealous, hungry, wanting to eat, fickle diety that always consumes. It serves the self.
  • Hazzea is the whisperjewel Drogon sent to Daenerys.
  • A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre I

    Melisandre paid the naked steel no mind. If the wildling had meant her harm, she would have seen it in her flames. Danger to her own person was the first thing she had learned to see, back when she was still half a child, a slave girl bound for life to the great red temple. It was still the first thing she looked for whenever she gazed into a fire. “It is their eyes that should concern you, not their knives,” she warned him.

Other questions Shawn did ask, only to find that Morgan would not answer. Morgan would not talk about her own origins, or the source of their food, or the magic that flew the ship. Twice Shawn asked to learn the spells that moved them from star to star, and both times Morgan refused with anger in her voice. She had other secrets from Shawn as well. There were rooms that would not open to Shawn, things that she was not allowed to touch, other things that Morgan would not even talk about. From time to time Morgan would disappear for what seemed like days, and Shawn would wander desolately, with nothing outside the window to occupy her but steady unwinking stars. On those occasions Morgan would be somber and secretive when she returned, but only for a few hours, after which she would return to normal.

  • Melisandre does have hazy memories of her childhood as she was sold as a slave child to the priests of R’hllor as Melony Lot Seven.
  • The number 7 is important to ASOIAF because of its multiple links to fire.
  • Ananda Cain from Armageddon Rag also does not like to talk about her origins and it is a running sub-theme of the story surrounding her.
  • Daenerys also has what is arguably a flawed or mis-remembered childhood in parts.

For Morgan, though, normal was different than for other people.

She would dance about the ship endlessly, singing to herself, sometimes with Shawn as a dancing partner and sometimes alone. She would converse with herself in a musical tongue that Shawn did not know. She would be alternately as serious as a wise old mother, and three times as knowledgeable as a Voice, and as giddy and giggly as a child of one season. Sometimes Morgan seemed to know just who Shawn was, and sometimes she insisted on confusing her with that other Shawn Carin who had loved her during Gathering. She was very patient and very impetuous; she was unlike anyone that Shawn had ever met before. “You’re silly,” Shawn told her once. “You wouldn’t be so silly if you lived in Carinhall. Silly people die, you know, and they hurt their families. Everyone has to be useful, and you’re not useful. Creg would make you be useful. You’re lucky that you aren’t a Carin.”

  • Melisandre has the bad problem of getting “true” visions, but interpruting them rather incorrectly. One example is how she keeps confusing Azor Ahai as being a “good guy” and then confusing who this prophetic person is; Stannis or Jon (she hasn’t met Daenerys yet 😉 )
  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon VI

    “Lord Snow.” The voice was Melisandre’s.

    Surprise made him recoil from her. “Lady Melisandre.” He took a step backwards. “I mistook you for someone else.” At night all robes are grey. Yet suddenly hers were red. He did not understand how he could have taken her for Ygritte. She was taller, thinner, older, though the moonlight washed years from her face. Mist rose from her nostrils, and from pale hands naked to the night. “You will freeze your fingers off,” Jon warned.

    “If that is the will of R’hllor. Night’s powers cannot touch one whose heart is bathed in god’s holy fire.”

Morgan had only caressed her, and gazed at her from sad gray eyes. “Poor Shawn,” she’d whispered. “They’ve been so hard to you. But the Carins were always hard. Alynne House was different, child. You should have been born an Alynne.” And after that she would say no more of it.

  • A Game of Thrones – Jon II, as he says his farewell to coma-Bran and (fiery)Catelyn is there.

    “Yes?” he said.

    [Catelyn] “It should have been you,” she told him. Then she turned back to Bran and began to weep, her whole body shaking with the sobs. Jon had never seen her cry before.

    It was a long walk down to the yard.

Shawn squandered her days in wonder and her nights in love, and she thought of Carinhall less and less, and gradually she found that she had come to care for Morgan as if she were family. And more, she had come to trust her.

Until the day she learned about the bitterblooms.

***

hydrangea-frost-snow-macro-wallpaper-preview

Shawn woke up one morning to find that the window was full of stars, and Morgan had vanished. That usually meant a long boring wait, but this time Shawn was still eating the food that Morgan had left out for her when the older woman returned with her hands full of pale blue flowers.

She was so eager; Shawn had never seen her so eager. She made Shawn leave her breakfast half-eaten, and come across the room to the fur rug by the window, so that she could wind the flowers in Shawn’s hair. “I saw while you were sleeping, child,” she said happily as she worked. “Your hair has grown long. It used to be so short, chopped off and ugly, but you’ve been here long enough and now it’s better, long like mine. The bitterblooms will make it best of all.”

“Bitterblooms?” Shawn asked, curious. “Is that what you call them? I never knew.”

“Yes, child,” Morgan replied, still fussing and arranging. Shawn had her back to her, so she could not see her face. “The little blue ones are the bitterblooms. They flower even in the bitterest cold, so that’s why they call them that. Originally they came from a world named Ymir, very far off, where they have winters nearly as long and cold as we do. The other flowers are from Ymir too, the ones that grow on the vines around the ship. Those are called frostflowers. Deepwinter is always so bleak, so I planted them to make everything look nicer.” She took Shawn by the shoulder and turned her around. “You look like me now,” she said. “Go and get your mirror and see for yourself, Carin child.”

  • Ymir is one of the Thousand World planets, but GRRM has borrowed heavily from Norse myth when creating this planet. Ymir (pronounced roughly “EE-mir;” Old Norse Ymir, “Screamer”) is a hermaphroditic giant and the first creature to come into being in the Norse creation myth. Ymir was born when fire from Muspelheim and ice from Niflheim met in the abyss of Ginnungagap.
  • Morgan using a “twinning” method and mirrors is very mych how GRRM uses mirrors associated with dragon-Skinner beings all across Martinworld. Mirrors are the liminal-thin space where dragons enter the realms of men.

“It’s over there,” Shawn answered, and she darted around Morgan to get it. Her bare foot came down in something cold and wet. She flinched from it and made a noise; there was a puddle on the rug.

Shawn frowned. She stood very still and looked at Morgan. The woman had not removed her boots. They dripped.

And behind Morgan, there was nothing to be seen but blackness and unfamiliar stars. Shawn was afraid; something was very wrong. Morgan was looking at her uneasily.

She wet her lips, then smiled shyly, and went to get the mirror.

***

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Val vs Melisandre. Artist Morgainelefee.

Morgan magicked the stars away before she went to sleep; it was night outside their window, but a gentle night far from the frozen rigor of deepwinter. Leafy trees swayed in the wind on the perimeter of their landing field, and a moon overhead made everything bright and beautiful. A good safe world to sleep on, Morgan said.

Shawn did not sleep. She sat across the room from Morgan, staring at the moon. For the first time since she had come to Morganhall, she was using her mind like a Carin. Lane would have been proud of her; Creg would only have asked what took her so long.

Morgan had returned with a handful of bitterblooms and boots wet with snow. But outside had been nothing, only the emptiness that Morgan said filled the space between the stars.

Morgan said that the light Shawn had seen in the forest had been the fires of her ship as it landed. But the thick vines of the frostflowers grew in and around and over the legs of that ship, and they had been growing for years.

Morgan would not let her go outside. Morgan showed her everything through the great window. But Shawn could not remember seeing any window when she had been outside Morganhall. And if the window was a window, where were the vines that should have crept across it, the deepwinter frost that should

have covered it?

For the name of the metal hall was Morganhall, Tesenya told the children, and the family who lived there was the family named Liar, whose food is empty stuff made of dreams and air.

Shawn arose in the lie of moonlight and went to where she kept the gifts that Morgan had given her. She looked at them each in turn, and lifted the heaviest of them, the glass windwolf. It was a large sculpture, hefty enough so that Shawn used two hands to lift it, one hand on the creature’s snarling snout, the other around its tail. “Morgan!” she shouted.

Morgan sat up drowsily, and smiled. “Shawn,” she murmured. “Shawn child. What are you doing with your windwolf?”

Shawn advanced and lifted the glass animal high above her head. “You lied to me. We’ve never gone anywhere. We’re still in the ruined city, and it’s still deepwinter.”

Morgan’s face was somber. “You don’t know what you’re saying.” She got shakily to her feet. “Are you going to hit me with that thing, child? I’m not afraid of it. Once you held a sword on me, and I wasn’t afraid of you then, either. I am Morgan, full-of-magic. You cannot hurt me, Shawn.”

“I want to leave,” Shawn said. “Bring me my blades and my clothing, my old clothing. I’m going back to Carinhall. I am a woman of Carin, not a child. You’ve made a child of me. Bring me food too.”

Morgan giggled. “So serious. And if I don’t?”

“If you don’t,” Shawn said, “then I’ll throw this right through your window.” She hefted the windwolf for emphasis.

“No,” Morgan said. Her expression was unreadable. “You don’t want to do that, child.”

“I will,” Shawn said. “Unless you do as I say.”

“You don’t want to leave me, Shawn Carin, no you don’t. We’re lovers, remember. We’re family. I can do magics for you.” Her voice trembled. “Put that down, child. I’ll show you things I never showed you before. There are so many places we can go together, so many stories I can tell you. Put that down.” She was pleading.

Shawn could sense triumph; oddly enough, there were tears in her eyes. “Why are you so afraid?” she demanded angrily. “You can fix a broken window with your magic, can’t you? Even I can fix a broken window, and Creg says I’m hardly good for anything at all.” The tears were rolling down her naked cheeks now, but silently, silently. “It’s warm outside, you can see that, and there’s moonlight to work by, and even a city. You could hire a glazier. I don’t see why you are so afraid. It isn’t as if it were deepwinter out there, with cold and ice, vampires gliding through the dark. It isn’t like that.”

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon VII

    They rode the winch lift back to the ground. The wind was gusting, cold as the breath of the ice dragon in the tales Old Nan had told when Jon was a boy. The heavy cage was swaying. From time to time it scraped against the Wall, starting small crystalline showers of ice that sparkled in the sunlight as they fell, like shards of broken glass.

    Glass, Jon mused, might be of use here. Castle Black needs its own glass gardens, like the ones at Winterfell. We could grow vegetables even in the deep of winter. The best glass came from Myr, but a good clear pane was worth its weight in spice, and green and yellow glass would not work as well. What we need is gold. With enough coin, we could buy ‘prentice glassblowers and glaziers in Myr, bring them north, offer them their freedom for teaching their art to some of our recruits. That would be the way to go about it. If we had the gold. Which we do not.

“No,” Morgan said, “No.”

“No,” Shawn echoed. “Bring me my things.”

Morgan did not move. “It wasn’t all lies. It wasn’t. If you stay with me, you’ll live for a long time. I think it’s the food, but it’s true. A lot of it was true, Shawn. I didn’t mean to lie to you. I wanted it to be best, the way it was for me at first. You just have to pretend, you know. Forget that the ship can’t move. It’s better that way.” Her voice sounded young, frightened; she was a woman, and she begged like a little girl, in a little girl’s voice. “Don’t break the window. The window is the most magic thing. It can take us anywhere, almost. Please, please, don’t break it, Shawn. Don’t.”

Morgan was shaking. The fluttering rags she wore seemed faded and shabby suddenly, and her rings did not sparkle. She was just a crazy old woman. Shawn lowered the heavy glass windwolf. “I want my clothing, and my sword, and my skis. And food. Lots and lots of food. Bring it to me and maybe I won’t break your window, liar. Do you hear me?”

And Morgan, no longer full of magic, nodded and did as she was told. Shawn watched her in silence. They never spoke again.

  • Shawn mentions many times that Morgan full of magic-lies is “old”. I do not think this  means GRRM is ageist, just that there is something to question in the character. In my opinion this brings to question the age of Melisandre as well, especially considering that Jon mentions that the moonlight washes away the glamourous facade.

***

Arya-Stark-and-Nymeria
Arya Stark and Nymeria by monsterling.

Shawn returned to Carinhall and grew old.

Her return was a sensation. She had been missing for more than a standard year, she discovered, and everyone had presumed that both she and Lane were dead. Creg refused to believe her story at first, and the others followed his lead, until Shawn produced a handful of bitterblooms that she had picked from her hair. Even then, Creg could not accept the more fanciful parts of her tale. “Illusions,” he snorted, “every bit of it illusion. Tesenya told it true. If you went back, your magic ship would be gone, with no sign that it had ever been there. Believe me, Shawn.” But it was never clear to her whether Creg truly believed himself. He issued orders, and no man or woman of family Carin ever went that way again.

Things were different at Carinhall after Shawn’s return. The family was smaller. Lane’s was not the only face she missed at the meal table. Food had grown very short while she had been away, and Creg, as was the custom, had sent the weakest and most useless out to die. Jon was among the missing. Leila was gone too, Leila who had been so young and strong. A vampire had taken her three months ago.

  • Here we start to see some (small) signs of inbreeding depression, along with the tough times of the deep winter in an unaturally long season.
  • Again we see GRRM using this snowy-northern idea of sending the old out to die in order for the younger generation to survive.

But not everything was sadness. Deepwinter was ending. And, on a more personal level, Shawn found that her position in the family had changed. Now even Creg treated her with a rough respect. A year later, when thaw was well under way, she bore her first child, and was accepted as an equal into the councils of Carinhall. Shawn named her daughter Lane.

She settled easily into family life. When it was time for her to choose a permanent profession, she asked to be a trader, and was surprised to find that Creg did not speak against her choice. Rys took her as apprentice, and after three years she got an assignment of her own. Her work kept her on the road a great deal. When she was home in Carinhall, however, Shawn found to her surprise that she had become the favored family storyteller. The children said she knew the best stories of anyone. Creg, ever practical, said that her fancies set a bad example for the children and had no proper lesson to them. But by that time he was very sick, a victim of highsummer fever, and his opposition carried little weight. He died soon after, and Devin became Voice, a gentler and more moderate Voice than Creg. Family Carin had a generation of peace while he spoke for Carinhall, and their numbers increased from forty to nearly one hundred.

Shawn was frequently his lover. Her reading had improved a great deal by then, through long study, and Devin once yielded to her whim and showed her the secret library of the Voices, where each Voice for untold centuries had kept a journal detailing the events of his service. As Shawn had suspected, one of the thicker volumes was called The Book of Beth, Voice Carin. It was about sixty years old.

  • A Feast for Crows – Samwell I

    “The younger four all being sons, brothers, or bastards of the King in the North. Tell me something useful. Tell me of our enemy.”

    “The Others.” Sam licked his lips. “They are mentioned in the annals, though not as often as I would have thought. The annals I’ve found and looked at, that is. There’s more I haven’t found, I know. Some of the older books are falling to pieces. The pages crumble when I try and turn them. And the really old books . . . either they have crumbled all away or they are buried somewhere that I haven’t looked yet or . . . well, it could be that there are no such books, and never were. The oldest histories we have were written after the Andals came to Westeros. The First Men only left us runes on rocks, so everything we think we know about the Age of Heroes and the Dawn Age and the Long Night comes from accounts set down by septons thousands of years later. There are archmaesters at the Citadel who question all of it. Those old histories are full of kings who reigned for hundreds of years, and knights riding around a thousand years before there were knights. You know the tales, Brandon the Builder, Symeon Star-Eyes, Night’s King . . . we say that you’re the nine hundred and ninety-eighth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, but the oldest list I’ve found shows six hundred seventy-four commanders, which suggests that it was written during . . .”

    “Long ago,” Jon broke in. “What about the Others?”

Lane was the first of nine children for Shawn. She was lucky. Six of them lived, two fathered by family and four that she brought back with her from Gathering. Devin honored her for bringing so much fresh blood into Carinhall, and later another Voice would name her for exceptional prowess as a trader. She traveled widely, met many families, saw waterfalls and volcanoes as well as seas and mountains, sailed halfway around the world on a Crien schooner. She had many lovers and much esteem. Jannis followed Devin as Voice, but she had a bitter unhappy time of it, and when she passed, the mothers and fathers of family Carin offered the position to Shawn. She turned it down. It would not have made her happy. Despite everything she had done, she was not a happy person.

She remembered too much, and sometimes she could not sleep very well at night.

During the fourth deepwinter of her life, the family numbered two hundred and thirty-seven, fully a hundred of them children. But game was scarce, even in the third year after freeze, and Shawn could see the hard cold times approaching. The Voice was a kind woman who found it hard to make the decisions that had to be made, but Shawn knew what was coming. She was the second eldest of those in Carinhall. One night she stole some food—just enough, two weeks’ traveling supply—and a pair of skis, left Carinhall at dawn, and spared the Voice the giving of the order.

She was not so fast as she had been when she was young. The journey took closer to three weeks than two, and she was lean and weak when she finally entered the ruined city.

But the ship was just as she had left it.

Extremes of heat and cold had cracked the stone of the spacefield over the years, and the alien flowers had taken advantage of every little opening. The stone was dotted with bitterblooms, and the frostflower vines that twined around the ship were twice as thick as Shawn remembered them. The big brightly colored blossoms stirred faintly in the wind.

Nothing else moved.

She circled the ship three times, waiting for a door to open, waiting for someone to see her and appear. But if the metal noticed her presence, it gave no sign. On the far side of the ship Shawn found something she hadn’t seen before—writing, faded but still legible, obscured only by ice and flowers. She used her longknife to shatter the ice and cut the vines, so she might read. It said:

MORGAN LE FAY

Registry: Avalon 476 3319

Shawn smiled. So even her name had been a lie. Well, it did not matter now. She cupped her gloved hands together over her mouth. “Morgan,” she shouted. “It’s Shawn.” The wind whipped her words away from her. “Let me in, Morgan. Lie to me, Morgan full-of-magic. I’m sorry. Lie to me and make me believe.”

There was no answer. Shawn dug herself a hollow in the snow, and sat down to wait. She was tired and hungry, and dusk was close at hand. Already she could see the driver’s ice blue eyes staring through the wispy clouds of twilight.

When at last she slept, she dreamt of Avalon.

Dubuque, Iowa

January, 1977

***

Bitterblooms Interior Fattest Leech
My copy of Bitterblooms with original interior artwork by Vincent DiFate.

Thank you for sticking with me this far. Hope you enjoyed the read. — TFL


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 read a story listed, please check with your local bookstore for your own reading material to purchase (Indie Bookstore Finder or Bookshop.org). 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.

books sculpture write reading

It takes a while to transcribe and then note each story for research purposes, even the really short ones, so this page will be quietly updated as each re-read is added. Make sure you subscribe for updates. The main, always updated, book club page is here.

If there is a story in particular you would like to ask about, feel free to do so in comments below.


  1. Bitterblooms– In the dead of deep winter, a young girl named Shawn has to find the mental courage to escape a red fiery witch. Prototyping Val, Stannis, and Arya along with the red witch Melisandre.
  2. 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.
  3. …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.
  4. The Last Super Bowl– Football meets SciFi tech with plenty of ASOIAF carryover battle elements.
  5. Nobody Leaves New Pittsburg– first in the Corpse Handler trio, and sets a lot of tone for future ASOIAF thematics.
  6. Closing Time– A short story that shows many precursor themes for future GRRM stories, including skinchanging, Sneaky Pete’s, catastrophic long nights…
  7. The Glass Flower– a tale of how the drive for perfection creates mindlords and mental slavery.
  8. Run to Starlight– A tale of coexistence and morality set to a high stakes game of football.
  9. Remembering Melody– A ghost tale written by GRRM in 1981 that tells of long nights, bloodbaths, and pancakes.
  10. Fast-Friend transcribed and noted. Written in December 1973, this story is a precursor to skinchanging, Bran, Euron, Daenerys, and ways to scheme to reclaim lost love.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. For A Single Yesterday– A short story about learning from the past to rebuild the future.
  14. This Tower of Ashes– A story of how lost love, mother’s milk, and spiders don’t mix all too well.
  15. 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.
  16. The Stone City– a have-not surviving while stranded on a corporate planet. Practically a GRRM autobiography in itself.
  17. Slide Show– a story of putting the stars before the children.
  18. Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark– rubies, fire, blood sacrifice, and Saagael- oh my!
  19. A Night at the Tarn House– a magical game of life and death played at an inn at a crossroads.
  20. Men of Greywater Station– Is it the trees, the fungus, or is the real danger humans?
  21. The Computer Cried Charge!– what are we fighting for and is it worth it?
  22. The Needle Men– the fiery hand wields itself again, only, why are we looking for men?
  23. Black and White and Red All Over– a partial take on a partial story.
  24. Fire & Blood excerpt; Alysanne in the north– not a full story, but transcribed and noted section of the book Fire & Blood, volume 1.

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.


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

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