Story

The Return of the Hand: Chapter Four

sea_cave_by_stephengarrett1019-editOberyn jerks upright. His body feels numb and cold. All is dark. He feels for a blindfold or an executioner’s hood, some reason for the darkness. He can feel air moving around him. So he knows he is in no closed room, no coffin, no prison cell.

“Hello?” he calls out. “Can anyone hear me?”

A distant rumbling is the only answer he receives. Oberyn listens attentively, and soon it is clear: the sound is of the ocean.

Oberyn feels around for some clue as to what has happened to him. He is naked—no robes, no leather armor, not even a silk sheet to protect him from the cold salt air.

“I can’t see,” he says, although he is still uncertain if this is true. He could easily be in a sea cave somewhere along the rocky coast of Blackwater Bay. “I could use some help.”

His cries go unanswered. Oberyn tries to recall what might have happened to leave him—a prince of Dorne—naked, shivering on a heap of cold, wet stones, caressed only by what feels like sea weed.

The pain of death returns to him. Gregor Clegane—the Mountain—goring his eyes out with meaty thumbs—an ignoble end Oberyn burns to think of. How shameful.

“My own damn fault,” he curses, under his breath. “How many times did my maester say not to show off?”

Oberyn chokes back a sob. There is no one to pity him, but still the sense of humiliation threatens to overwhelm him.

Oberyn almost feels a need to pray to some god. But what god? The ghost of Nymeria? Oberyn scoffs at the idea. He has never been one to seek divine aid, even in the most dire of circumstances.

He tries to stand. His legs shake violently, and the cold cuts him to the very marrow of his bones.

“What god would bring heat?” Oberyn wonders. “Probably the Lord of Light.”

Oberyn spits at the thought of the Lord of Light, a deity he has always despised. The taste of iron fills his mouth from the blood still caked on his face, and he thinks of the Iron Isles and their Drowned God. There is no way in hell he would pray to that god, either, though the thought crosses his mind that it is indeed the Drowned God who has restored him to life. What a bitter irony that would be. Oberyn laughs harshly as he considers the possibility.

A scraping sound startles him. Oberyn turns to try and find its source and almost collapses in terror. While he can see nothing else, a White Walker approaches him, spear in hand, eyes burning. Oberyn squints out of habit, though he can feel no eyes in the sockets of his skull. The eyes of the White Walker burn a bright green. Oberyn’s face tightens with confusion.

Then Oberyn’s worst fear faces him. It is the Lord of Light after all. Tall as the Mountain but shining with all the light of the Dornish sun at noon.

“So you raised me,” Oberyn says, unable to keep the scorn from his voice.

“No,” says the Lord of Light. “Your fate is your own. I have merely been led here by Fodor.”

Oberyn shakes his head. “Who is Fodor?”

The Lord of Light motions to the White Walker. Oberyn cannot help but feel a sick fear in his chest and belly. The White Walker does not attack, though, despite the gleaming spear in its hand.

Oberyn hears a voice hiss in his mind. It sounds not unlike the battle cries of his daughters.

My duty to you is now complete, Master. I wish you success and swift victory, Sanson, Hand of God, Lord of Light, Whom Death Could Not Drown, Now Returned.

“Fodor,” says the Lord of Light—or rather, Sanson—reaching out his hand. “Don’t go.”

But the White Walker is already beginning to dissolve—like a pillar of sand in a fierce wind. As the White Walker disappears, the bright green energy inhabiting the creature’s eyes enters Oberyn with all the force of a hail of sinuous arrows, lifting him off his feet and into the air.

When the energy subsides, Oberyn gasps. His eyes have returned. He can see the mouth of the sea cave he has been in the whole time and also a small creek. He stoops to peer into this, and his eyes widen. The green glow of the White Walker’s eyes now apparently belong to his own, as brilliant as any viper’s.

“I can see again,” Oberyn laughs.

Sanson smiles and pats him on the shoulder. “Now you know what it is like to lose something dear.”

Oberyn stands and scoffs at the giant’s—Sanson’s—statement. “Surely dying at the hands of the Mountain counts for that.”

Sanson chuckles. “True. Who could argue with that?”

“My sister, for one,” says Oberyn.

Sanson chuckles again. Then the giant sighs. He reaches down and picks up the spear left behind by the White Walker.

“Fodor,” Sanson mumbles, sadly.

“How can you care what happened to a Walker?” Oberyn asks.

Sanson lays his hand on Oberyn’s chest. A warmth spreads there like hot brandy or spiced wine. Suddenly Oberyn feels the sorrow that he has been ignoring.

“You knew it for such a short time and yet you felt such kinship?” Oberyn asks, impressed.

Sanson nods. “It found me when I thought I was dead, guided me, brought me here. We spoke little, but I felt I understood it.”

Oberyn nods. He eyes the spear. “That’s a fine weapon.”

Sanson hands it to Oberyn. “It’s yours.”

Oberyn isn’t sure whether or not to trust this giant—Sanson—who appeared to him even when Oberyn had no eyes. Now looking more of flesh and blood, Oberyn wonders whether or not he should kill Sanson on the spot, run him through with the Walker’s spear and make his way back to Dorn. The sword at the giant’s side makes Oberyn hesitate.

“Every weapon needs a name,” Oberyn says in place of an assault. “Does that sword have a name?”

Sanson gazes for awhile at the sword at his hip, until a tender expression crosses his face. “Brangard.”

Then Sanson nods at the spear. “And what of your weapon?”

Oberyn looks away from the giant, thoughts straying through the decades. “Obadya,” he says, his voice cracking momentarily. “The name of my first daughter, or that would have been, had she not been stillborn.”

Sanson turns toward the entrance to the sea cave. “We must go to King’s Landing, Oberyn.”

Oberyn cannot hide his surprise. “How do you know my name?”

Sanson purses his lips and shrugs. “Fodor told me.”

Oberyn shakes his head. What point is there in questioning such things when one has just risen from the dead? He sniffs the air. “We can’t be far,” he says. “This is indeed Blackwater Bay. May I ask what you intend to do in King’s Landing?”

“Find the rightful King of Westeros,” says Sanson. “Who is currently a humble chef calling himself Hot Pie.”

Oberyn wrinkles his nose. “Not a very kingly name.”

“No,” says Sanson. “But it is an honest one. For an honest king.”

“I hope you don’t mind, but could we take a little detour?”

“What is that?” Sanson asks.

“I could use a fresh set of clothes. Or any clothes, for that matter.”

Sanson laughs. “Not used to the cold, are you?”

Oberyn looks down. “Apparently not.”

TO BE CONTINUED

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