Story

The Return of the Hand: Chapter Two

walker_by_bzartt-d5ou28zThe wind whips around Sanson with all the fury of the North. Ahead of him, the shambling shape of Fodor is almost lost in white.

Sanson gathers his garments and skins tightly around his body, trying desperately to trap in what heat remains to him. Fodor looks back, sees his master’s predicament and stops.

We must start a fire.

Sanson hesitates. “Won’t a fire hurt you?”

Not this kind.

The White Walker removes a metallic sphere from somewhere in its rags and hurls it at the ground. Green fire erupts and burns, without tinder, without branches or wood of any kind.

Sanson reaches out his hands, grateful for the warmth. Then he and Fodor sit beside the verdant, flickering flames.

We are near to where I was “born.”

Sanson detects the shift in the Walker’s voice on the word born. “What do you mean?”

This is where the Night King raised me.

“You mean as a servant in the army of the dead?”

Yes. But I was different. I retained my human purpose. The Night King could sense it somehow and drove me away, far from its army.

“Where did you go?”

I hid. In caves. There is one nearby. I have weapons there. And armor. You will need a shield. I will take one of the spears I have won from the other Night Kings I have slain.

Sanson’s eyes widen. “How many have you slain?” he asks.

I have lost count. It does not matter. Another always takes its place.

The two sit in silence, except for the howling wind. When Fodor senses the warmth has returned to his master’s body, the Walker extinguishes the flames with his hands. Sanson wonders why the flames do not harm the creature, but does not ask the cause.

The two continue onward through the cold and the ice. The sky is gray. The snow does not fall but merely hurtles across the desolate wastes and down the rocky crevices of the North.

Eventually they come to Fodor’s cave, a jagged wound in a low-lying outcropping. The wind dies down as Sanson and the Walker delve farther within the winding passageways.

In a kind of central chamber, Fodor stops and lifts a large, flat stone. Sanson isn’t sure even he could lift such a heavy burden, but it seems to give the Walker little trouble.

Beneath the stone are weapons, some made of black glass, some made of a brilliant, silvery metal. Breastplates and shields lie piled up beneath them. Fodor takes a shield made of leather—banded with metal—and hands it to Sanson. It is surprisingly light, given its obvious strength.

Against one side of the hidden cavity are spears, crystalline and shining. Fodor takes one of these and sets it aside. Then the Walker closes the cache, sliding the massive stone with great ease back into position.

We should not stay long.

“Why not?”

There is a warrior named Oberyn. His body lies slain and discarded in Blackwater Bay. We must meet him soon.

“I don’t understand.” Sanson says, as the two of them begin to retrace their steps back out of the Walker’s cave. “You just said he lies slain.”

And so were you, until I found you.

Sanson hesitates. “I heard a voice. I thought it was the source of the voice I heard that raised me.”

It was. Where do you think my power comes from?

Sanson goes silent. The prospect of such a source—described by no religion known to Sanson—overwhelms him. He follows Fodor out of the cave and down the sloping, ice-covered rocks, headed south again.

When they have walked for several miles without speaking, Sanson asks, “How will we get past the Wall?”

I know a way through.

“Won’t the Night’s Watch stop us?”

They do not know this way. I carved it out of the rock myself. It took a hundred years.

Sanson shakes is head. “Your patience and power are remarkable, to say the least.”

The Walker stares back at Sanson dispassionately. The creature’s green eyes smolder but give off no heat of anger or disdain.

It is nothing. So long as the Night Kings are no more, I will rest at peace.

Sanson reaches out to embrace his friend but fears to touch the Walker’s seemingly rotting form. The Walker seems to ignore Sanson’s gesture, and they move on.

Before long the towering bulk of the Wall comes into view. Fodor does not seem daunted by its gargantuan height but shambles onward, spear held at the ready. They come to a stone archway that penetrates the outer rocky surface, and Fodor leads Sanson inside.

The passageway is smooth but cold, the rock polished by whatever power Fodor used to carve it. When the light of the entrance begins to fade, Fodor thrusts the butt end of his spear against the ground and green flame ignites it. Their way lit by this unusual light source, Sanson presses on behind Fodor.

After several hours of dull progression through the dismal tunnel, finally another archway appears, first as a lozenge of light, and then it is almost within reach. Sanson almost rushes ahead of his guide but waits until the two of them emerge together. As they pass through the archway, Fodor knocks the butt end of his spear against the ground again, and the green flame vanishes.

Now on the other side of the Wall, the air feels warmer in Sanson’s lungs but still chill. The pine trees have no ice on them but are merely laden with snow. Sanson can already sense that he is nearer to his home, to Winterfell. He almost begins to think of himself as Hodor again. Or even Wylis, the stableboy he once was. Then he looks down at the body he is not yet accustomed to seeing. No. In truth, Hodor is dead. Wylis too.

He is Sanson, and his quest is clear. He must find the boy named “Hot Pie.” However humble-sounding the name, the voice made it clear the future of Westeros—and perhaps the world itself—is at stake.

TO BE CONTINUED

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