Chapter Twenty-Six

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Lyanna was sadder to hear that, thinking that the Reeds may go soon, she didn't want them to go, she and Bran will be lonely.

The moon was a black hole in the sky. Wolves howled in the wood, sniffing through the snowdrifts after dead things. A murder of ravens erupted from the hillside, screaming their sharp cries, black wings beating above a white world. A red sun rose and set and rose again, painting the snows in shades of rose and pink. Under the hill, Jojen brooded, Meera fretted, and Hodor wandered through dark tunnels with a sword in his right hand and a torch in his left. Or was it Bran wandering? Lyanna was too wondered around in the tunnels alone.

The great cavern that opened on the abyss was as black as pitch, black as tar, blacker than the feathers of a crow. Light entered as a trespasser, unwanted and unwelcome, and soon was gone again; cookfires, candles, and rushes burned for a little while, then guttered out again, their brief lives at an end.

The singers made Bran a throne of his own, like the one Lord Brynden sat, white weirwood flecked with red, dead branches woven through living roots. They placed it in the great cavern by the abyss, where the black air echoed to the sound of running water far below. Of soft grey moss they made his seat. Once he had been lowered into place, they covered him with warm furs.

The moon was a crescent, thin and sharp as the blade of a knife. Snowflakes drifted down soundlessly to cloak the soldier pines and sentinels in white. The drifts grew so deep that they covered the entrance to the caves, leaving a white wall that Visenya had to dig through whenever she went outside to join her pack and hunt. Lyanna did not oft range with them in those days.

"Not only your wolf you can control" Lord Brynden told Lyanna, "others as well, animals as such. As long you make a bond with them"

"Can she fly too?" Bran asked him.

"Yes,"

Bran smiled, looking excited "We'll fly together, Lyanna."

It sounded wonderful to Lyanna, but she questioned how, The Lord told her she has to make a bond with other animals. She's not like Bran because he can easily enter the minds like Hodor, Lyanna wouldn't, the Lord told her she can choose which raven she wanted to bond with.

"Do all the birds have singers in them?" Bran asked the Lord.

"All," Lord Brynden said. "It was the singers who taught the First Men to send messages by raven ... but in those days, the birds would speak the words. The trees remember, but men forget, and so now they write the messages on parchment and tie them round the feet of birds who have never shared their skin."

Old Nan had told her the same story once, Lyanna remembered, but when she asked Robb if it was true, his brother laughed and asked her if she believed in grumkins too. She wished Robb were with them now. I'd tell him Bran could fly, but he wouldn't believe, so I'd have to show him. I bet that he could learn to fly too, him and Arya and Sansa, even baby Rickon and Jon Snow. We could all be ravens and live in Maester Luwin's rookery. That was just another silly dream, though. Some days Lyanna wondered if all of this wasn't just some dream. Maybe she had fallen asleep out in the snows and dreamed herself a safe, warm place. You have to wake, she would tell herself, you have to wake right now, or you'll go dreaming into death. Once or twice she pinched her arm with her fingers, really hard, but the only thing that did was make her arm hurt.

"Only one man in a thousand is born a skinchanger," Lord Brynden said one day, after Bran had learned to fly, "and only one skinchanger in a thousand can be a greenseer."

"I thought the greenseers were the wizards of the children," Bran said. "The singers, I mean."

"In a sense. Those you call the children of the forest have eyes as golden as the sun, but once in a great while one is born amongst them with eyes as red as blood, or green as the moss on a tree in the heart of the forest. By these signs do the gods mark those they have chosen to receive the gift. The chosen ones are not robust, and their quick years upon the earth are few, for every song must have its balance. But once inside the wood they linger long indeed. A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, wisdom deep as the roots of ancient trees. Greenseers. "

Lyanna did not understand, so she asked the Reeds. "Do you like to read books, Bran?" Jojen asked her.

"Some books. I like the fighting stories. My sister Sansa likes the kissing stories, but those are stupid."

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one. The singers of the forest had no books. No ink, no parchment, no written language. Instead they had the trees, and the weirwoods above all. When they died, they went into the wood, into leaf and limb and root, and the trees remembered. All their songs and spells, their histories and prayers, everything they knew about this world. Maesters will tell you that the weirwoods are sacred to the old gods. The singers believe they are the old gods. When singers die they become part of that godhood."

Bran's eyes widened. "They're going to kill me?"

"No," Meera said. "Jojen, you're scaring him."

"He is not the one who needs to be afraid."

What's happening to you, Jojen? Lyanna wanted to ask.

The moon was fat and full. Visenya prowled through the silent woods, a long grey shadow that grew more gaunt with every hunt, for living game could not be found. The ward upon the cave mouth still held; the dead men could not enter. The snows had buried most of them again, but they were still there, hidden, frozen, waiting. Other dead things came to join them, things that had once been men and women, even children. Dead ravens sat on bare brown branches, wings crusted with ice. A snow bear crashed through the brush, huge and skeletal, half its head sloughed away to reveal the skull beneath. Visenya and her pack fell upon it and tore it into pieces. Afterward they gorged, though the meat was rotted and half-frozen, and moved even as they ate it.

Under the hill they still had food to eat. A hundred kinds of mushrooms grew down here. Blind white fish swam in the black river, but they tasted just as good as fish with eyes once you cooked them up. They had cheese and milk from the goats that shared the caves with the singers, even some oats and barleycorn and dried fruit laid by during the long summer. And almost every day they ate blood stew, thickened with barley and onions and chunks of meat. Jojen thought it might be squirrel meat, and Meera said that it was rat. Lyanna did not care. It was meat and it was good. The stewing made it tender.

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