The dark city by the Shadow is a city steeped in sorcery. Warlocks, wizards, alchemists, moonsingers, red priests, black alchemists, necromancers, aeromancers, pyromancers, bloodmages, torturers, inquisitors, poisoners, godswives, night-walkers, shapechangers, worshippers of the Black Goat and the Pale Child and the Lion of Night, all find welcome in Asshai-by-the-Shadow, where nothing is forbidden. Here they are free to practice their spells without restraint or censure, conduct their obscene rites, and fornicate with demons if that is their desire.
She had no time for sleep, with the weight of the world upon her shoulders. And she feared to dream. Sleep is a little death, dreams the whisperings of the Other, who would drag us all into his eternal night. She would sooner sit bathed in the ruddy glow of her red lord’s blessed flames, her cheeks flushed by the wash of heat as if by a lover’s kisses.
“Well, now I’ll never unsee that,” Stannis grumbled.
Melisandre smiled, and took a sip of her wine. ”And you say that I have no power over you,” she teased. ”I have a powerful—great and terrible. I can make you imagine Davos dressed as Santa Claus. And don’t you dare try and tell me that it’s not a delightful image. He even has the beard for it. Why would you even want to unsee it?”
Stannis made another grumbling noise deep in the back of his throat.
It was a fun image—he had to confess. Davos, in a red suit, stuffed with a pillow in the front to make him more festively plump—presents for Shireen delivered with a jolly chuckle and a pat on the head….
“You’ve got a look on your face,” said Melisandre.
“It’s nothing,” he said, shaking himself.
“It’s not nothing.” It was her turn to grumble now.
But Stannis hardly cared. He was already planning, strategizing how best to get Davos to dress up as Santa at Christmas.
She feared the dark. It took him far too long to understand that. She had warned him often enough about the coming darkness, about the long night that would never end, but those were meant figuratively, he had always believed, referring to the forces of the Great Other triumphing over her Lord of Light.
It had not occurred to him before, that what she feared more was literal darkness, the absence of light that was not merely a figure of speech to imply the lack of faith, but an actual, tangible, palpable non-presence.
There she sat, by the dancing flame, her eyes searching, always searching. There he was, in her bed, pretending to sleep, his eyes watching, always watching. A gust of wind blew strong through the half-closed window, and suddenly, they were both completely in the dark.
He laughed, a mirthless scoffing sound that echoed in the silent room. “What omen does that portent, my lady? If a mere gust of wind could put out your god’s flame, then what hope do we have against the forces of true darkness?”
She always had an answer, before. She always had a reply ready, to whatever hole he attempted to poke in her faith, in her god, in her flame. It was as if she already knew the words he would speak while he was still rearranging them in his head, while those words were still half-formed, incomplete.
But not this time. This time, her tongue was strangely silent.
He knew fear. He could smell fear, on grown men, women and children alike. But more than that, the quality of her stillness was painfully, and horribly, familiar. This was him standing beside Robert at the parapet watching the gathering storm finally broke, nails dug deep into his own palm, muttering silent prayer to the Stranger with each heartbeat – no, not yet. You must not take them just yet, my mother and father.
When he reached her side, she turned her face away, this woman who had taken his face in her own hands, whose fingers had stroked and soothed him back to sleep night after night when the dreams, the screams and all the blood adamantly refused to leave him be.
He did not know the words, or the gestures. “I should not have laughed,” he finally said, the apology implied but not spoken, aware that he was failing spectacularly at something she had done for him far too many times to count.
“I will lit a candle,” he said, about to move away.
“No. Stay,” she said, but her hand did not reach out for him, and her face was still turned away, determinedly.
They sat in the dark, together, as close as you could possibly be without actually touching, and for once, his eyes left her be, ceased watching and examining her face looking for any crack, any sign of doubt, any trace of uncertainty.
→ Myers-Briggs Personality test: INFJ// Requested by accioandrea I – Introversion preferred to extroversion: INFJs tend to be quiet and reserved. They generally prefer interacting with a few close friends rather than a wide circle of acquaintances, and they expend energy in social situations (whereas extroverts gain energy).
N – Intuition preferred to sensing: INFJs tend to be more abstract than concrete. They focus on the big picture rather than the details, and on future possibilities rather than immediate realities.
F – Feeling preferred to thinking: INFJs tend to value personal considerations above objective criteria. When making decisions, they often give more weight to social implications than to logic.
J – Judgment preferred to perception: INFJs tend to plan their activities and make decisions early. They derive a sense of control through predictability.
INFJs are conscientious and value-driven. They seek meaning in relationships, ideas, and events, with an eye toward better understanding of themselves and others. Using their intuitive skills, they develop a clear and confident vision, which they then set out to execute, aiming to better the lives of others. Like their INTJ counterparts, INFJs regard problems as opportunities to design and implement creative solutions. INFJs can adapt easily in social situations due to their complex understanding of an individual’s motivations; however, they are true introverts. INFJs are private individuals who prefer to exercise their influence behind the scenes. Though they are very independent, INFJs are intensely interested in the well-being of others. INFJs prefer one-on-one relationships to large groups. Sensitive and complex, they are adept at understanding complicated issues and driven to resolve differences in a cooperative and creative manner.
“So this is why you’ve found faith in your old age! You’re a human after all!” Robert clapped a hand heavily on Stannis’ shoulder.
Stannis gritted his teeth.
“It’s hardly my old age,” he stated matter-of-factly, taking another sip of his Virgin Bloody Mary. "And I’ve been going to church for many years now.“
"Yes—but I’ve never heard you talk about church the way you talk about it now.” Robert waggled his eyes in a very suggestive way that made Stannis rather want to rip them off his brother’s face. ”And now that I see your Red Woman, I can understand.”
"She’s hardly my ‘Red Woman’,” Stannis growled, “She’s a dear friend of Selyse’s. And there are a great many things you’ve never heard me talk about, Robert. Largely because you never listen to me when I try.”
“Yes, yes. If you say so,” Robert replied lightly. "Though I have always wondered where your faith comes from and now I understand.“
"You’re being repetitive,” Stannis snapped. "And I—" He stopped. Melisandre was there, standing tall—almost as tall as Robert, he realized suddenly, her neck arched in such a way that made him notice the way that it connected her shoulder and head for the first time.
“You are Robert?” she asked, her eyes piercing into Robert. Robert’s jaw dropped.
“I am, Miss….” he trailed off, the unasked question of her name floating in the air. She ignored it.
“You are a rather poor specimen in comparison to your brother,” she said with narrow eyes. "Highly immoral.“
Robert’s jaw, if it hadn’t been connected to his face, would probably have hit the ground already. It almost made Stannis smile.
"Stannis,” she said, turning her attention to him, “If you would join me and Selyse in the kitchen. We need help with the lobsters.”
She took his wrist and led him across the living room and into the kitchen.
“Thank you,” he said.
“You looked in need of rescuing,” she shrugged. "Your brother is a swine.“
"You don’t need to tell me that,” he agreed.
“Truly nothing compared to you.”
He could have kissed her for that alone. He could have pushed her up against the counter of the empty kitchen, damn the thirty people in his living room and taken her right there next to the lemons they should be slicing to let the guests squeeze over the lobster meat.
“Where is Selyse?” he made himself ask.
“She asked me to help with the lobsters while she helped the wheelchair-bound Stark boy with the bathroom.”
She was so close to him, and they were so very alone.
“I’m not as good a person as you think I am,” he confessed, hardly daring to look at her, but somehow unable to break eye contact.