Story

The Return of the Hand: Chapter Three

waterway_by_jjpeabody-editAs they hike over the ice-choked streams and snow-covered crags, Sanson cannot shake the pull of his old home. Winterfell calls to his soul in some silent language, but he knows he can never return there, at least not until he finds Sansa and repairs the rift between them, though it is a rift formed through no fault of his own. The people of Winterfell would only fear him now, and try to destroy Fodor with fire or chain him up or otherwise abuse the creature who Sanson has come to think of as his closest friend and companion, however silent and emotionless.

“We’re going to need to find you a cloak to hide in,” Sanson says to Fodor, who continues to shamble steadily around lichen-covered tree roots, following paths cleared by deer and avoiding the snow-covered mouths of rabbit warrens.

There is no need. There is nothing any mortal hand could do to harm me while I am in your service.

Sanson frowns, still worried. “At least hide your features enough so no one is afraid who sees you.”

If you ask it. I will, of course, obey. But first we must find a boat.

“Why?”

We will meet Oberyn by the sea.

“Oh, right. Blackwater Bay.”

Fodor changes direction when they reach the Wolfswood, following as direct a path to the Bay of Ice as possible. When it senses its master is tired, Fodor stops and lights a campfire with a seemingly endless supply of the mysterious spheres the Walker removes from somewhere within the creature’s disheveled rags. The days and nights begin to blend together, and Sanson loses track of time. Eventually, the two of them reach Sea Dragon Point, where the waves whip themselves into white foam against the clawlike rocks.

Now we wait.

“For what?” Sanson asks.

A skiff will arrive soon from Bear Island. Its pilot is sick. Dying. He will be too late to reach the shore and find the medicine he seeks.

Sanson frowns. “So we’re just going to take his boat? I will not steal from anyone, even the dead.”

Then allow me. Your fate is far beyond thoughts of stealing or of lying, Sanson, Hand of God, Lord of Light.

Sanson bristles at the title. “Don’t call me that. I’m no Lord.”

As you wish. But Lord you are, and Light you have become.

Sanson doesn’t know what to say, merely stands beside the White Walker and waits while the waves thunder and the wind howls. Soon a shadowy crescent comes into view and then its sail. It is a simple vessel, easily piloted by one man. There is a figure slumped at the tiller. As the boat touches ground, Sanson can hear the sound of coughing, loud and coarse, sickly.

Fodor moves to claim the vessel. Sanson follows, feeling guilty for such disrespect. The pilot is obviously too ill to save. Blood trickles out of the corners of his mouth, staining his gray beard and shirt.

Sanson tries laying his hand on the dying man, wondering if whatever power has brought him back can restore the pilot to health, but nothing happens. Soon the pilot wheezes horribly and a prolonged gasp escapes between his blood-stained lips.

He is dead.

“We should bury him.”

No. Let the sea have him.

Before Sanson can stop the Walker, Fodor heaves the now lifeless corpse into the water. Sanson grabs the man’s cloak at the last minute, saving it from sinking along with the corpse.

“Put this on. Please, Fodor. Others will fear you and merely bar our passage.”

By your command, Exalted One.

“I wish you would stop using all these titles.”

What shall I call you then?

“Just Sanson.” Sanson touches his chest then he touches Fodor’s chest, covered now by the dead man’s cloak. “I’m Sanson. You’re Fodor. That should be enough.”

Fodor nods but does not speak. The creature sits where the pilot had been at the tiller and steers the vessel back out to sea.

The water churns and splashes. Overhead, the gulls soar, occasionally crying meekly as the skiff sails steadily by. Fodor catches fish and fries them with its strange fire. It does not eat anything itself but merely provides them to Sanson.

“Thank you, Fodor. I do not know that I have ever had such a companion.”

Fodor merely gazes rigidly back into the gray mists and currents that surround them, steering the ship on its course south, along the coast of Westeros. When they reach Blazewater Bay, other ships join them. Some of the sailors cry out to them but most ignore them, busy with their own tasks and journeys.

Fodor steers the skiff past the towering rocks of the Iron Isles. Sanson fears the stormy weather for which they are known will halt their progress. Strangely, though, the weather remains calm as they pass by the Isles’ sheer cliffs and eroded battlements. From there, the ship sails smoothly into Iron Man’s Bay. They leave the skiff marooned on the bay’s stony sore and hike toward the Blue Fork of the Trident. Outside Wendish Town, Fodor commandeers an abandoned rowboat—much to Sanson’s chagrin—and rows the two of them downriver toward the conflux of the three forks near Harrenhal.

Near nightfall, when they can see the lights of Harrenhal in the distance, Sanson notices a pack of wolves moving through the woods along the Trident’s shore. Among them is a wolf of massive size, and Sanson wonders if it is not one of the Stark’s direwolves.

Fodor gestures with a withered hand. Behold the future.

“What do you mean?” Sanson asks.

Mankind will not rule these lands alone for long. The wolves ascend.

“Ascend? What do you mean?”

Your kind is too arrogant and short-sighted to rule without another race, at least, to check it’s greed and violence. The wolf race will be the first. Believe me when I say there will be others.

“Others? You mean, like dragons?”

They are already rulers of the air. And their numbers will increase. Then the sea will belong to the whales and sea serpents, kraken and dolphins.

“Would that I could live to see that day,” says Sanson, wondering what it would be like to live alongside wolves and dragons as intelligent as men.

Fodor’s gaze remains blank, eyes smoldering green. Live no. But see it, you will.

Sanson wonders at the White Walker’s meaning. But he lets the matter go, not wanting to know more than he already does about what powers and forces shape his fate and the fates of all men.

As they glide along the Trident’s shore, Sanson watches the turtles slip into the muddy waters. The hawks and the kingfishers wait for prey. The doves and sparrows perch on branches seeking berries and grubs. Occasionally, Sanson and Fodor pass fishermen and women washing clothing. These wave at them, and Sanson waves back. Fodor remains steady and unmoving, except for the tireless regularity of his sculling.

After many days journeying, finally the crashing waves of the Narrow Sea greet them. Fodor steers the ship past Claw Isle and the towers and battlements of Dragonstone until the mouth of a cave, skirted by stones and blue-gray sand appears before them.

Fodor brings the rowboat to rest on the mossy rocks then rests his arms in his lap. Now we wait.

TO BE CONTINUED

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