GEORGE R. R. MARTIN
A DANCE WITH DRAGONS
The white wolf raced through a black wood, beneath a pale cliff as tall as the sky. The moon ran with him, slipping through a tangle of bare branches overhead, across the starry sky.
“Snow,” the moon murmured. The wolf made no answer. Snow crunched beneath his paws. The wind sighed through the trees.
Far off, he could hear his packmates calling to him, like to like. They were hunting too. A wild rain lashed down upon his black brother as he tore at the flesh of an enormous goat, washing the blood from his side where the goat’s long horn had raked him. In another place, his little sister lifted her head to sing to the moon, and a hundred small grey cousins broke off their hunt to sing with her. The hills were warmer where they were, and full of food. Many a night his sister’s pack gorged on the flesh of sheep and cows and horses, the prey of men, and sometimes even on the flesh of man himself.
“Snow,” the moon called down again, cackling. The white wolf padded along the man trail beneath the icy cliff. The taste of blood was on his tongue, and his ears rang to the song of the hundred cousins. Once they had been six, five whimpering blind in the snow beside their dead mother, sucking cool milk from her hard dead nipples whilst he crawled off alone. Four remained… and one the white wolf could no longer sense.
“Snow,” the moon insisted.
The white wolf ran from it, racing toward the cave of night where the sun had hidden, his breath frosting in the air. On starless nights the great cliff was as black as stone, a darkness towering high above the wide world, but when the moon came out it shimmered pale and icy as a frozen stream. The wolf’s pelt was thick and shaggy, but when the wind blew along the ice no fur could keep the chill out. On the other side the wind was colder still, the wolf sensed. That was where his
brother was, the grey brother who smelled of summer.
“Snow.” An icicle tumbled from a branch. The white wolf turned and bared his teeth. ” Snow! ” His fur rose bristling, as the woods dissolved around him. ” Snow, snow, snow! ” He heard the beat of wings. Through the gloom a raven flew.
It landed on Jon Snow’s chest with a thump and a scrabbling of claws. ” SNOW! ” it screamed into his face.
“I hear you.” The room was dim, his pallet hard. Grey light leaked through the shutters, promising another bleak cold day. “Is this how you woke Mormont? Get your feathers out of my face.” Jon wriggled an arm out from under his blankets to shoo the raven off. It was a big bird, old and bold and scruffy, utterly without fear. ” Snow, ” it cried, flapping to his bedpost. ” Snow, snow. ” Jon filled his fist with a pillow and let fly, but the bird took to the air. The pillow struck the wall and burst, scattering stuffing everywhere just as Dolorous Edd Tollett poked his head through the door. “Beg pardon,” he said, ignoring the flurry of feathers, “shall I fetch m’lord some breakfast?”
” Corn, ” cried the raven. ” Corn, corn. “
“Roast raven,” Jon suggested. “And half a pint of ale.” Having a steward fetch and serve for him still felt strange; not long ago, it would have been him fetching breakfast for Lord Commander Mormont.
“Three corns and one roast raven,” said Dolorous Edd. “Very good, m’lord, only Hobb’s made boiled eggs, black sausage, and apples stewed with prunes. The apples stewed with prunes are excellent, except for the prunes. I won’t eat prunes myself.