WINTER SEASON'S GREETINGS (XMAS, YULE/SOLSTICE, HANUKKAH...) TO ALL OF YOU ONCE MORE, DEAR READERS!
And, as usual, here is this year's traditional Westeros fantasy AU.
For this Christmas, I will be doing something completely different from my usual Westeros fairytales, but that still fits the hashtag #OnceUponWesteros.
Rather, this will be a collection of poems inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses, with various pairings and retellings of the Ovidian stories.
"Right, let us begin! And, when we have reached the end
of this story, we'll know so much more..."
Thus does HC Andersen open his Snow Queen.
What will our descendants say about us
after we are deceased?
Which songs shall the children of decades to come sing?
How will they remember us, if they ever remember?
These are stories that have endured for two millennia,
perfectly preserved like bugs encased in amber.
Sing, Muses, of those that came before us,
of hope and despair, of friendship and illusions,
of tragedy and trauma...
of life itself.
For Marina Sorel, for both her birthday and Christmas
The Lannisters were proud and clever;
the Starks were righteous and honest.
The Lannisters were blond and green-eyed;
the Starks were dark-haired and blue- or grey-eyed.
The Lannisters thought the Starks were old-fashioned
with those notions of honour and honesty;
while the Starks thought the Lannisters were ruthless,
without any thought not of their own greatness.
It came as no surprise that both Great Houses
had always been at each other's throats,
and even declared war on one another.
Lancel was but a Lannister of a cadet branch,
a nephew to Lord Tywin, yet one could see
by his golden hair and peridot eyes
from which stock he came. Nevertheless,
he was a comely stripling,
without the more mature beauty of Ser Jaime or of
their elders before midlife set in...
Sansa was a hostage brought from the North,
who had just arrived at Casterly Rock:
in spite of having her mother's Tully features
(those aqua orbs, those fire-red locks, those cheekbones...),
one could find she had a Stark's will and mettle,
which, added to her loveliness,
felt like a silk brocade gown concealing steel.
She was given a bedchamber in the same tower
as Ser Kevan's children,
and chance would have it
that there was a hole in the partition wall
between her chamber and Lancel's,
and, on each side, one could see
a bright and friendly eye:
a green orb on the left, a blue one on the right.
As time went by, they grew closer and closer,
putting their faces closer to that hole,
asking one another questions,
as Lancel began to feel a little twinge
for the orphan of enemy stock
and Sansa's heart began to open up
to the stripling of foemen's descent.
And thus, they gradually began
to pour one another's lives into their ears:
it was the same yearning,
the same weariness,
the same warm feelings of youth at heart,
as he listened to her Northern songs
and she watched him go to bed every evening,
not knowing that he was thinking of her,
dreaming of her,
having shed unmanly tears for her misfortunes...
Sansa herself had put into those songs all her sorrows,
her dreams of courtly glory turned to chains and ashes,
and never had she expected a courtier or (worse?) a Lannister
to feel truthfully sorry for her.
So they came to trust each other,
laughing and crying like children once more,
then finding out that it hurt when they parted,
in the middle of the chest and a little to the left.
And they became one another's keeper
of that painful, blazing secret.
Why was he a Lannister and she a Stark?
Or, more importantly,
could their love hold the key to peace at last?
And those were lovely days, and lovely nights,
and lovely twilight hours,
whenever his parents did not find out;
yet all good things must come to an end:
Ser Kevan and Lord Tywin had had a talk
of what to do with the cadet Lannisters;
the stern patriarch had spoken of a calling
within the walls of septs for his eldest nephew
(lest Lancel reached the heights of royalty
which Tywin's own children had risen to);
there was talk of the Great Sept in King's Landing...
As soon as the stripling heard of this plan,
a shudder ran down his spine:
to leave Sansa, and never to make love,
sworn to the Gods for life?
So that evening, pale as a lily-petal,
he told her of what his elders had chosen
so treacherously behind his back:
they would leave for the capital within three days
(whether by land or by sea was not certain yet);
"Rather than offer incense to the Maiden,
I would burn myself for you..."
The Stark girl looked at him, tears in her eyes,
without anyone else within her heart,
and thus, a counter-scheme was forged:
what could Lord Tywin's worldly power do against young love?
Through the breach in the partition, she would receive
a set of his spare clothes,
including a bonnet to hide her copper locks,
and, knowing every passageway within Casterly Rock
(which Lannister children, while playing hide-and-seek,
always caught a rough grasp of),
they would stealthily steal, next evening, for the docks,
and board a carrack bound for Dorne.
That plan was ostensibly flawless;
Sansa got her boy's clothes, and a hairpin of hers
was soon twisted into a lock-pick.
Lancel would also get it, slipped through the gap,
after Sansa was done prying the keyhole.
The next step, their promised land of free love!
And now came the fated evening of the tryst,
and she, already clad in doublet and hose,
having picked the lock and passed the hairpin
to the golden-haired lad,
Sansa stole past the guards, leaned on the wall
and on their spears, lips stained with Dornish red;
knowing they would be drunk,
she set her bonnet right and ran away,
knowing more or less where the docks were,
thanks to Lancel's directions.
Given wings by her youthful enthusiasm,
descending down endless flights of spiral stairs,
she was suddenly startled;
off fell the bonnet, she heard marching steps
and saw lions of gold
glittering in the twilit staircase, approaching.
Was her true self revealed? And what awaited her?
So frightened was Sansa Stark
that she turned around, and, losing her footing,
she suddenly fell backwards,
screaming as she was thrust
reeling down the stairs.
The soldiers, however, did not spot the bonnet;
they just stopped mid-way across the staircase,
turning left, into their barracks,
right as Sansa fell backwards down the stairs.
However, someone heard the scream and the thud of her fall,
and picked up the fine, puffy, scarlet headdress
trimmed with that golden ribbon:
arriving through a shortcut,
a golden-haired stripling, fearing the worst.
"How dare the jealous Stranger wrest her from me?
This fate's not ours by right!
Why did I not come first to save her life?
The fault was neither hers nor mine at heart:
all we were was young folk making mistakes!"
Then, drawing steel, a shortsword he'd taken for self-defence,
at first hesitantly, young Lancel Lannister
plunged it into his own left side as from his lips
sprang foam with a known taste of salt and steel;
the blade soon pierced the left half of the heart,
and the stripling's form reeled downstairs as well,
down to the step where, rising finally,
not feeling her left arm anymore
since it cracked and the pain racked her as if it were torn off
when she fell down the stairs,
fair Sansa Stark heard a thud in the twilight,
and, leaning closer, catching but a glimpse
of golden hair and those lovely features,
his mint-green eyes no longer glittering, and on his lips
a dried-up bloody stain...
a bloodless form, as pale as her childhood snows...
she cradled him only with her right arm,
seeing the pommel of the sword on his left side
(a wound so deep that she knew
his lover's heart was broken twice);
she had expected to see foreign lands
and live anew with Lancel by her side;
yet her dreams were as shattered as her left shoulder;
she dried up her tears on his blood-stained sleeves,
tearing at her Tully-red hair,
kissing his ice-cold, pallid features
while remembering Winterfell...
"He saw the bonnet and heard me fall down,
and thus, left me for dead...
out of chance arose that painful mistake
that filled my love with dread...
So bold it was, I'd never thought that you
should dare to take your life;
let the Maiden give strength to these weak hands
and sever me from strife!"
And thus, wishing their elders could accept
that painful wish of hers,
she drew the sword a little from his side,
and slit her wrists across,
first the left, then the right, across the blade...
No joy or hope was left
for the fair stripling or the red-haired maid
who were, next day, together in state laid,
though he was buried as a Lannister
and her remains by Winterfell and Riverrun
were claimed; at the end of the day,
a decision was made as peace was signed.
Come to Pinkmaiden Castle,
where Westerlands and Riverlands conjoin,
and, within the Pipers' sept, you shall find
a carved stone on the floor, at the Maiden's feet,
with an inscription mourning two young lovers:
"Both alike in dignity,
torn by ancient enmity,
short his and her life.
Love of Lannister and Stark,
tragic, overthrew the dark,
harsh ancestral strife."
...game, set, and match
For Liza Pluijter Izquierdo
I am writing this letter by a warm fireside,
sucking the quill's end, wrapped in my dark green
officer's pelisse, inlaid with gold lace,
with golden wings on my shoulders
and a single rose on each sleeve;
the mark of a freshly-baked lieutenant.
Perchance this is my last letter to you,
a letter from the war front,
on the eve of the first and maybe last battle that I
have ever fought for real.
I hope you are all right,
that the courtiers or your in-laws do not tear you to shreds,
and that Joffrey will be at least a decent spouse.
After all, he is the heir to the whole realm...
and still, Renly, while still a vassal prince,
was far lovelier and surpassed your bridegroom,
as you know, in all possible ways.
Renly Baratheon, that charming young man,
who never gave his heart to a maiden...
When I first appeared at Storm's End,
sent as a page from Highgarden,
it became as obvious as the light of day
that, with liveliness and loveliness extreme,
I won his heart, and he won mine in return.
What was that throbbing feeling in my left side,
and why did he feel like that as well?
There was no mistake.
Sometimes he would play with my golden curls,
remarking that they were like springs,
or I ran lithe fingers through his straight raven hair,
as my rosy cheeks flushed even more...
Oh, how pleasant conversation,
how lovely string duets,
in the shade of the wisteria arbour,
sometimes crowning one another with its flowers;
while he neglected his lordship duties
and had to be reminded by his guardians
every now and then...
They saw it as friendship; only we knew the secret.
And how far did he send those balls!
Seriously, it was as tennis partners,
whether shirtless or in shirts,
both of us with our hair tied in a queue,
that we had our best afternoons together...
all it took was one of us waving a racket
and winking a friendly eye,
sometimes a honey eye of mine, sometimes Renly's, bright blue,
for the other to understand...
during the match, we forgot everything else...
after the match, no matter who had won,
all flustered, and thirsty, and burned out,
after having drunk and as our heartbeat had settled,
we went off into the godswood pool,
all glittering with perspiration,
to wash and to refresh ourselves, undressed,
and my curls would turn dark and limp,
and I would trace Renly's chest, his throat, his limbs...
while he washed my back,
that of the little stripling who felt
something stronger than admiration
for his twentyish liege lord.
And then it was my turn to wash his back,
after he'd rubbed my rear clean,
which always made me chortle...
Right, but then came all these concerns,
including that Renly must have a bride,
and I showed him that portrait of you in the locket...
Needless to say, both our households approved
of a Baratheon-Tyrell betrothal.
It was like a story of wishes come true,
yet how often has wish-fulfillment
often taken a turn for the worse,
like the shock of reality
after a wonderful dream?
You know the wedding:
a Friday in springtime,
our friends, our family, Renly's guardians,
all of us in our holiday best
(the bride and groom, in the best of the best,
as well as yours truly, the best man and brother of the bride),
a cool drink of champagne on ice,
and then, a lot of spare time after the wedding
and before the feast...
and the bridegroom excusing himself to relieve himself,
then returning, racket in hand as usual.
I meant... why, I was up for tennis!
And our friends and relatives from the Reach
would surely like to see it from up close,
as well as all those Stormlanders had done...
Right. So I fetched my own racket,
and off we headed for the tennis court.
And, right before, I still remember their encouragement:
for Reacher pride, and to defeat that Stormlander,
and whatever not.
I swear Renly must have been told the same
but in reverse. For Stormlands pride...
Now both of us played that match in shirts,
but still wearing our cravats;
apparently, Renly was too fond of his cravat pin to part with it.
So we were warming up,
and, while I'm tying my queue ribbon,
I notice he's still wearing that cravat, with a golden Reach rose pin...
so stubborn, so headstrong, that I didn't want to say no.
After all, it was a whim on his wedding day!
So, it was Baratheon to serve...
and there I stood, racket ready,
Tyrell returns the ball, now Baratheon,
now Tyrell... I mean, we were all focused
on nothing more... it's just like warfare,
but without casualties;
and then I thought that all wars could be solved
by giving each commander-in-chief a racket...
So the first set is over... now I take his place across the net
and he takes mine in turn (who had won the set?
Little I care, but all I remember
is that it all boiled down to the match point)...
It all gave the impression of a fencing match on stage,
with each one of us striking the ball in turn,
racket always ready,
hop, step, jump, forehand, backhand,
both of us pressed into finding new tricks,
sometimes missing, sometimes throwing
the other off-kilter...
When it all boiled down to the match point,
to break the tie that kept us at one-one...
I mean, it was Tyrell to serve...
it was Tyrell to serve...
and there he was, all tense,
his shirt glued to the skin with perspiration...
and he was still wearing that cravat
with that golden rose pin...
oh, and it was Tyrell to serve...
(At this point, I am wavering)
And there was this rally, not unlike those in the sets before,
and it's Tyrell to...
it's Tyrell with the sun in his face, squinting, at a disadvantage,
the thwack of a racket striking a ball...
yet, instead of the more familiar thwack response,
what came was a thud,
and there, across the net, his grip leaving the racket,
was Renly, lilywhite, reeling as if drunk,
a rosy foam bubbling from his lips,
staining a shirt he'd nevertheless had to change.
And the tennis ball at his feet.
It really made my blood curdle.
Well, I was in such a state of shock...
I just leapt over the net and cradled him as he fell,
as he softly tilted his pale head to the right
like a wilting flower
and a gurgle could be heard inside his chest...
for he could not breathe
and was drowning in his own blood;
I had nailed the cravat pin into his throat!
Once, that hot blood had throbbed in a heart
full of intense love, and passions, and inspiration,
of youthful impulse, rêverie...
until right before that instant.
So cold, so pale, beyond the surgeons' skill,
there he lay, uncannily tranquil,
eyes closed and heart stopping,
right when both of us had all life before us...
and it was my fault,
a heartbreak, a betrayal, beyond reason,
caused by my own right arm... the blame is mine,
if love or zeal in sports could be called guilt...
and, ever since, I have never loved again
or ever wielded a racket ever since.
During my last stay at court,
when he lay in state, in that glass case,
I just couldn't confront the truth.
The shock of reality was too much for
a heart already half-turned to ice.
So, when there was talk of war in the North
against the dark forces that threaten
all the lands of Westeros,
I could not say no.
And so, maybe in fields of gold
in a lovely afterlife,
Renly Baratheon will not have to wait,
and he will surely forgive what I have done.
Keep your dearest brother, dearest Margaery,
within your heart, like I keep Renly
until a gunshot or a bayonet
finally bridges the distance across us.
Put your bravest face on at the royal court,
and never let them grind you down
or eat you alive.
I know you can play it like a primadonna.
Yours truthfully and sincerely,
your brother and your late husband's love,
Lieutenant Loras Tyrell.
...two halves of a whole
I am writing this letter with a wavering pen,
not thinking aught but of you...
though we are siblings,
we are no longer children,
and a kiss means no longer the same...
neither does an embrace...
neither does "I love you..."
The Targaryen royals that came before us
have, after all, always married that way,
brother-husbands to sister-wives,
and so have done the Warrior and the Maiden...
why should we Lannisters not do as gods
or kings and queens?
The Maiden herself seems to have decreed
that your heart should be mine and mine be yours...
I am sitting in a room hung with gilded mirrors
all over the walls,
yet none of their reflections please me at all;
I am longing for my reflection of flesh and blood...
I feel so cold, so lonely, on my own...
Though I feel so ashamed of telling you my name,
and I leave it to you to solve the riddle...
surely, you may find out who wrote this letter
in her own blood, from a broken heart,
leaving her bled-dry face as pale as ice,
drying up her tears for them not to strike the ink...
that's too vast an ocean for these peridot orbs.
How often has this broken heart sighed...
Remember how I would clasp your slender waist,
and steal a kiss from those parted lips?
Though we are siblings,
we are no longer children,
and a kiss means no longer the same...
neither does an embrace...
neither does "I love you..."
Yet my heart is still ablaze,
a searing fever keeps me awake for nights...
The Maiden be my witness,
I tried to claim the reason wrested from me
by these passions, yet my struggle was in vain;
so I flew, for a white flag, this blank sheet
ere I bled ink right there, right here...
Captive and disarmed, I fall at your feet,
rather collapsing than bending the knee,
pleading for mercy and telling you the truth.
Only you, dear reader, can win or lose me,
and you're free to decide, Ser Jaime.
Thus pleads someone closer to you
than anyone else,
wishing to tighten the tie that binds the two of us
even more, so your skin joins my skin...
Let elder lords choose right and wrong in laws;
we are young, and our summer calls for frenzies,
to quench our thirst with forbidden fruit!
Still young as we are,
no longer children, not yet grown up,
the world is our oyster,
nothing is wrong and everything is right
(or at least feels right).
Neither our stern lord father nor the whispers at court
will ever stop us;
should there be a suspicion, why should they wonder
in seeing the Lannister siblings kiss one another?
I have the right... no, rather full powers
to speak to you alone, to clasp your waist,
to steal even a peck from your lips...
How long until we move to darker games?
Feel mercy upon the author of this confession,
real mercy (not the one you always pretend in jest),
since she would never write it if not seared
by such a blaze; and never feel
the guilt of your name written on my grave;
why would a Kingsguard of all men ever bring
about such a tragedy?
Yours truthfully and sincerely,
Someone you know well, yet a stranger to your heart.
The eldest daughter of Riverrun,
after wedding the Lord of the North,
had every reason to be proud
of her loving lord husband
and their five trueborn children;
five like the fingers of a hand,
like the arms of a seastar,
like the petals of a jasmine flower.
And Lady Catelyn was proud of them all,
for one reason or another,
as proud and loving as any mum should be.
Robb, the eldest,
was a dashing young man,
with flashing azure eyes
and a heart full of bravery:
the Warrior incarnate, in sooth.
He married for love
and lost his head for that decision
at the Freys' wedding.
Second came Sansa,
the fire-haired and rosy bluebird,
whose voice spoke of skill in music;
always yearning for a more exciting life
since Winterfell had become too narrow...
the lovely maiden's wish at length came true,
but the constraints of courtly life
became a corset and a gilded cage.
Third was Arya, the wild black cat,
the polar opposite of her older sister;
always messy-haired and up to something...
who thought that, after her father's execution,
when she vanished into thin air,
her mother would also miss her?
Fourth was Brandon, or Bran for short,
always climbing treetops and walls
to feed the crows and the pigeons...
it came, therefore, as no surprise,
that he should lose his footing and fall,
and, though alive, be a broken boy,
his legs no longer carrying him.
And fifth and youngest was Rickon,
who had just been weaned, and thus,
was literally the closest one to Catelyn's heart.
She's neither heard of Bran nor Rickon
since the fall of Winterfell,
when their home was taken by storm.
Now who can paint the sorrow
of a mother who has lost her children?
There is no blood left in her heart.
She's but a shadow of her former self.
The heart of the home, the blooming bride...
both of them are long gone.
No tears left in the lady's eyes, she cannot bleed:
her heart is now of stone.
...the girl in the black one-piece
When the foreign child came to Winterfell,
a wartime orphan taken in for charity's sake,
the Starks had only had Robb and Jon Snow,
two boys about the age of the little foreigner.
Eddard Stark had found the waif alone,
in a ruined holdfast, on the war front,
during that repression on the Iron Islands,
without anyone near, so young that his memories
were as hazy as the battlefield itself.
At first, Catelyn winced; "First, you bring me Jon,
and now, yet another frontline dalliance?"
Quite unexpectedly, she understood that her husband
was actually telling her the truth;
and, from on then, the foreign waif, Theon, was raised
with the Stark children as one of them...
yet, deep inside, he understood, as he grew up,
that somehow he didn't fit in.
Even Jon Snow himself was more Stark-ish than Theon,
the latter with shiny black eyes like beads of obsidian
and dark hair sleek, without a single curl.
It was also as plain as his foreign features
that, upon reaching the closing threshold of childhood,
he already towered over both Jon and Robb,
and was far more slender of both shoulders and waist,
even though he devoured and quaffed his supper
and his training was rarely over;
his strength burned out way later than his brothers'.
For every day, the stripling felt more left out,
no matter how many snowball fights and races
against Robb, or how much chaperoning Sansa
seemed to be part of his short life,
or how much wit shone in his eyes and the corners of his smile,
making the maids swoon at the dashing Theon's comments;
there was always the feeling
that his rightful place was not at Winterfell,
that it was elsewhere.
He was but eighteen when he went forth
in pursuit of his rightful place,
without horse or carriage, on his own,
in his finest doublet and puffy breeches,
his raven hair whipping his back in a queue,
the longsword scabbard on his left thigh,
heading westward, towards the coast,
since his first memories were of the seaside...
would he find a clue there?
However, he had still a bit to get to the North coast
when one day everything dawned for him:
his surname, and how he, for so short time a man,
would become a boy once more.
Or maybe even not a boy, but a non-human thing...
The pool had been hewn out by glaciers
long time ago, surely during the Long Night.
It shimmered like a sheet of steel,
its icy coverlet cracked at some points,
surrounded by heather in autumn bloom,
like an ocean of purple buds...
Hither the young man, thinking to rest,
was instantly drawn one equally clear day,
enticed to refresh his throat and his face,
reeling, and drenched with perspiration:
drinking as deeply as he quaffed life itself,
enjoying the cold shock
in his throat, on his face, upon his sleeves...
resting his weary limbs on the ripe heather,
just resting like that, on his own,
when she came, a maiden as tall and dark,
clad in what looked like a black one-piece suit,
taking bold strides towards the frightened young man...
In the horizon, a black flag fluttered
from a half-crumbled holdfast;
she came closer, winking a wistful eye
as black as darkest midnight,
and her features were just like his own.
Though her hair was cut short, just like a boy's,
one could tell by her ripe bosom and lean waist
that it was a she;
and lean, and tall, and sharp of features was she.
And, closing in, as she came to drink herself,
she called him by his name...
"Theon! Is that really you?"
Though he could not remember her,
still she seemed familiar,
winking an eye with that same witty smile...
She said she could use some glad company;
after all... Esgred... Estrid... she gave an ironborn name,
as they now stood face to face...
he clasped her in his arms, yet, as she bent for a kiss,
his face retreated awkwardly;
it didn't seem quite right.
"L-leave m-me al-lone!" he stammered, wavering
for the first time in a short life.
The ironborn maiden said,
in response, chortling slightly:
"Theon... how dare you... what happened to you
when those landlubbers came?
Don't tell me they raised you as their own,
you pansy, you fool of a pansy!
Look at the heir of the Iron Islands...
So costly dressed as a princess bride!
No surprise that the brother shuns his sister like this...
Wonder what your parents, our parents, will have to say!"
And Theon just stood speechless.
So he was not an orphan after all,
yet perchance it would have been better
than having one's parents alive, yet unforgiving...
She resumed her tirade, her fingertips
latched onto his shoulders like sucker cups,
and her arms, like a cephalopod's, tying up his slender waist:
"Besides, don't tell me you do not remember;
my name's not Esgred, or Estrid...
there was this little girl called Asha-Yara...
and yes, that's your surname, you pansy!"
He was in such a state of shock...
That little girl, on those cliffs, whom their real mother, Alannys, tore away
into the keep as the enemy marched through the village...
that little girl who looked just like he did...
and five-year-old Theon left behind, all alone, in the crossfire...
Recalling those first memories...
and his whole world falling apart.
No longer a Stark, yet neither raised
for being an ironborn,
one of the wicked enemies across enemy lines,
whether at home on Pyke or at home at Winterfell.
So he ran away,
pursued by his sister and the men she led,
hardy seamen with hearts as hard as their axe-blades...
In comparison, he was but a stripling,
supple, brittle, clad in brocade,
yet sharing their same features and the same blood...
part of both households, and yet of neither one...
Right when he could no longer breathe at all,
at the twilight of the last day,
as they closed in, someone waved, beckoning,
into the darkness under ground;
he had no choice but to follow,
no matter how dreadful the fate
that within the Dreadfort did await.
Tied to a cross on all four of his limbs,
to weary to writhe for his freedom,
ere he shut downcast eyes,
the last thing he saw was the flash of a blade
careening towards the excess between his legs.
A short, sharp shock.
He would not awaken within days,
and, when he did, he would realise
that his wish had come true for better or worse:
that he was no longer Theon Greyjoy, neither Theon the waif,
not even a man anymore.
For Lidia Lucía Franco (Lidia de Tinta)
The berries were cherry-sized, shiny black as midnights,
standing out against a platter as white and round
as the full moon.
Still, Sansa, as she put the first one to her lips,
had already forgotten the name of that fruit,
the fruit of the fair ruthless lady,
whose scientific name, if translated into French,
would yield "la belle dame sans merci".
The strong sharp flavour made her wince,
and so down her throat that capsule of darkness
followed by a second, a third, a fourth.
How long had she been kept at the Dreadfort,
the scene of her childhood nightmares,
ever since the dark rider in a face-concealing cloak
had uprooted her like a rosebush
as she picked daffodils during a pause, en route for King's Landing?
Here, the windows were narrow and draped in black,
leaving only the thinnest threads of light within,
and rendering the thought of day and night impossible.
In he came, her captor, the Bolton boy --not yet a man,
no matter how serious his pastimes,
though he had never flayed her alive,
but rather taken her into his bedchamber every night
right from the dungeons
and fed her some of those midnight berries
that made her heart race out of her chest,
her eyes fill with tears,
her speech become slurred and her limbs falter,
as if she were drunk.
And, little by little, the things she knew,
her parents, her friends, her dreams,
even Arya when she got annoying,
faded away into oblivion,
as she saw her dreams become reality,
dire holdfast walls turned to grand palace halls
full of high officers and court ladies,
and Ramsay as a prince... no, maybe a boy-king
in full regalia, showering her with attention
in that ostentatious ballroom,
and in a canopy bed with drawn silk curtains.
Though nought of this was real except within the mind's eye
of the drugged, entranced maiden.
Not even the Stranger knows
what had watered those bushes...
She was his sole content and respite
after all the sorrows he'd been through,
all the rage he needed to free,
lashing at others with the same thorns
that once at his heart had torn...
Though others were his playthings, she was not...
Queen of the Dreadfort, at a court of flogged
maids and eunuchs, where the light dares not
enter; a bride half-dead and half alive,
pale, pining away, yet full of elation.
Would she run out into the light
and shy away from her captor
if she ever found out the truth?
Her whole frame tensed like springs under pressure,
awaiting the starting gun,
ready to spring up at once at the gunshot
that could come any second;
she would only settle for gold.
A blaze of fiery curls tied into a queue,
then upwards into a half-topknot,
glittered in the summer sun
like a fire in the nighttime;
every ligament, every vein in her freckled limbs,
in both her arms and her legs, as if chiselled,
throbbing with tension... her face already so flustered
that the intense flush of excitement made the freckles vanish...
Looking over her shoulder, just for an instant,
she caught a glimpse of her opponent,
that raven-haired and pale young man, with that
fine moustache, his own messy curls done in a queue,
seeming to pierce her, to sound her, with those steel-gray eyes...
Looking down again, she shut her eyes
and concentrated on the crowd of supporters:
"Y-GRITTE! Y-GRITTE! Y-GRITTE!"
her name was being cheered to the rhythm
of her own heartbeat,
and that encouragement was usually
needless to give her wings;
but now she needed it more than ever;
yet she could also hear them calling for his sake:
"JON SNOW! JON SNOW! JON SNOW!"
Could this be the day that made her or unmade her;
her Waterloo, Poltava, or something like that?
Ygritte felt at least the stabbing gut feeling
of her first defeat,
yet she coldly shook it off.
After all, was she running away
from commitment as usual?
In that case, it was a flight forwards
(ironic as the expression might seem),
reinforcing her own independence,
not to lose her own self to another,
and celebrating that she'd left them behind
--the only female who competed in those races,
and for a good reason:
other girls had always been out of her league,
their strides too short, their hearts not as hot-blooded
as Ygritte's own.