In the dark depths of Catelyn’s dungeon space, there is a huge, hulking mass of a spirit. It used to be a man. Words were never its strong suit, but there are even fewer of those left now. If you listen very carefully, you can make out a faint muttering. It used to be clearer. Now only fragments remain. “raped …murdered …children.”
Oberyn: You have done some excellent work with him, Lady Stark.
Catelyn: I thought he would have been harder to break. But when he arrived, he was so confused. That poison did much of my work for me.
Oberyn: And yet he walks below.
Catelyn: Part of him, anyway.
Oberyn bows, turns away from the wreck in front of him, and leaves Catelyn to her ministrations. As he rejoins the others, he spots Tywin and hisses. Tywin shrinks away. Far to his right, his brother and his children are still arguing. Oberyn rolls his eyes and leaves them to it. It is the same argument that they have been engaged in for some time, with the same points circling round and round. Vengeance, duty, the ‘long game’… It is tedious. And yet there had been so much potential.
Oberyn: [to himself] Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. That’s what we were meant to be. Not this.
A movement to his left draws his eye. Margaery smiles at him.
Margaery: Are you here to watch the great quest beyond the wall?
Oberyn: Of course.
Margaery: I feel I should warn you of something. He’s organised a wager.
Oberyn: Who has?
Margaery: Who do you think?
Oberyn chuckles to himself.
Oberyn: Is everything a joust to him?
Margaery: Apparently so. The stakes have changed for him now. But there are few pleasures left to any of us, now we are merely watchers.
Oberyn: There is the pleasure of seeing our enemies destroyed.
Margaery: Naturally. Though I think we are focusing on heroes this week. Would you care to join me?
Oberyn: It would be my honour.
They approach the excited crowd. Above the cacophony of voices, they can hear the booming tones of Robert Baratheon, calling out the names of the northbound heroes.
Margaery: It’s a bit morbid, isn’t it?
Oberyn: Just think, my rose, if they fall in battle, they will join us.
Margaery: I suppose that does offer some comfort.
Olenna: [approaching them] It’s the only comfort I can find in all this misery.
Oberyn: There are a few comforts to find back there, courtesy of Lady Stark. If you don’t mind the screaming.
Olenna: The screams of traitors are music to my ears.
They smile at each other, and look over to where Robert is holding court.
Robert: Final wagers then. When I call the name, wave your hand if you think they will die horribly. Ser Jorah! Tormund! Thoros! Beric! The Hound! Jon! Right, there’s no going back now.
Stannis: You missed one.
Robert: No, I didn’t.
Stannis: I counted 6. There are 7. You omitted that bastard of yours.
Robert: ANYONE WHO VOTES FOR HIM IS DEAD TO ME.
Stannis: We’re all dead, brother.
Robert: He’s not an option, and that’s my final word on the matter.
Stannis: Anyone can die, brother. And everyone will eventually.
Robert: Look, according to that bloody Frog woman, I was meant to have 16 children. I’ve only got one left, that I know of. And I’ve just found him again. I WILL NOT EVEN IMAGINE HIM GETTING KILLED. Just because—
He stops. Stannis flinches.
He opens his mouth to carry on, but the words won’t come. Flushed, he walks away.
Robert: Seven hells. That’s awkward.
Olenna: [Pointing at the heroes] So are all these conversations. Half of these so-called heroes seem like they want to murder each other.
Oberyn: It is not unknown for strange alliances to be made for the greater good.
Margaery: Of course. Necessity can make strange bedfellows of us all.
They smile at each other.
Margaery: There is a lot of history between our heroes. How kind of them all to remind us.
Robert: That business with Mormont and Jon’s sword… Mormont’s a goner, surely? Who’s got Mormont?
Several hands are raised. The ghosts watch, tense and focused. As the action moves to Winterfell, Ned becomes uneasy.
Ned: Oh no.
Olenna: This is Littlefinger’s doing.
Ned: Not all of it. Arya has always thought the worst of her sister. [He sighs, heavily.] I told her. I told her that they needed to protect each other, look after each other. My sweet girl. She has learned so much, but—
He tails off.
Olenna: She never learned to lie. Not properly.
Ned: It’s one of the skills she learned at The House of Black and White.
Olenna: There is a difference between lying for a short time to complete a task, and lying as a way of life. She never learned about politics. We had very different approaches to raising girls, Lord Stark. Sansa learned about lying at King’s Landing. She got better at it, and it kept her alive.
Margaery: Arya can change her face, but Sansa can control her own. Which requires the most skill?
Oberyn: A face as lovely as yours should never change, my rose.
Ned: She needs to think of the pack.
He looks around, seeking his ghostly pack. His wife is doing her work. His sons are distant; they are smiling and laughing together. His eldest son looks close to moving on. His youngest child, always the wildest of the pack, looks as if he might follow. The wildling woman with him is like a mother to him, and Robb was like a father. They don’t need him any more. But his girls do. Once again, he feels the pang of separation.
Ned: If only Bran could show them.
Robert: That son of yours is a bit odd. But you’re right. That boy knows everything. Why aren’t they talking to him?
Ned: They have been apart for so long. They are still lone wolves. They need Jon to come home again.
Robert: I think he’s a safe bet to come home again. He’s already died once. I doubt he’d come back from that just to die out there in the snow.
Olenna: Tormund and Brienne of Tarth! Any children of theirs would certainly conquer the world. [She chuckles.]
Robert: She’s fond of Jaime Lannister, as I recall.
Olenna: Oh no! The wilding is much better. Jaime is more handsome, but you’d never pry his golden hand away from Cersei’s undergarments.
Robert laughs hysterically, and Oberyn joins in.
Olenna: Why is Tyrion still wringing his hands over the Tarlys?
Ned: He’s got a point about the nature of power, though.
Olenna: This is hardly the time to talk to her about the succession.
She calls to Viserys, who joins them reluctantly.
Olenna: Are there any other Targaryens that you know of?
Viserys: Other than the Stark half-breed? There was once a rumour of a Targaryen baby hidden away, supposedly my nephew Aegon, but that’s not been mentioned for a long time.
Oberyn: My nephew might be alive?
Viserys: I think it was an imposter. There are probably some Blackfyres around somewhere. That’s the sort of thing they would do. [He shrugs.]
Olenna: And your sister can’t have children?
Viserys: That’s what the witch told her. I wasn’t there at the time, of course, having been betrayed and brutally murdered by a savage, for no reason.
Margaery: It does seem a little insensitive to mention naming an heir then. Especially after criticising her. It makes him look like he is seeking a replacement. Someone less ‘impulsive’.
Ned: Is he proposing a vote for a leader instead?
Mance: [calling over to Ned] That’s what I heard. Who would have thought it? Democracy in the Seven Kingdoms.
Olenna: I heard a rumour, long ago, that Rhaegar survived and went into hiding.
Robert: Rubbish. I caved his chest in myself.
Olenna: Did you see him die? Have you seen him here?
Robert: I heard he’d moved on.
There is an awkward silence. Mance attempts to break the tension by singing an old wildling song, but then the ghosts glimpse a shape in the fog.
Robert: WHAT IN THE SEVEN HELLS IS THAT?! A BEAR?!
Margaery: Is anyone else more certain than ever that this was a terrible idea?
Robert: WHO HAD THOROS?
Some ghosts raise their hands.
Robert: Oh wait. No. He’s fine. Carry on.
The ghosts look disappointed.
Ned: What is Sansa doing now?
Olenna: Is she listening to Littlefinger? I take it back. She has not learned at all.
Ned: Maybe she’s just pretending to listen.
They keep watching.
Mance: Wights die when a white walker is killed? That’s not what happened at Hardhome. Careful; keep the wight quiet… Too late.
Robert: Gods, did you hear that?
Ned: This isn’t good.
Robert: Jon’s protecting Gendry! BUT WHY CAN’T HE TAKE HIS HAMMER? I swear by the old gods and the new, if anything happens to him, I’m going to make Catelyn Stark look gentle.
Margaery: The ice is cracking!
Mance: Look at the size of that army. This is what I was talking about. Snow was the only southerner who listened.
Margaery: They are safe on those rocks for now.
Ned: Gendry’s collapsed.
Margaery: It’s all right, Ser Davos has him.
Robert: WHO HAD THOROS? Looks like he’s on his way up here, after all.
Mance: No more resurrection for the heroes. Not with their priest gone.
Margaery: Do you really think that the whole army of the dead will fall if they kill the Night’s King?
Mance: Who knows? I don’t know if you can kill him. Worth a try, I suppose. But I can’t imagine it would be that easy.
Ned: Gods, what is Sansa doing now?
Olenna: At least she is refusing to obey the summons personally.
Ned: But Brienne is there to protect her.
Margaery: Perhaps she is protecting Brienne? Maybe she thought Littlefinger was threatening her before.
Olenna: It wouldn’t be out of character for that little weasel.
Margaery: Or perhaps she is protecting Arya. Littlefinger suggested that Brienne would have to kill her if she posed a threat to Sansa.
Ned: You both have kind ways of looking at it. I’m not that hopeful.
Olenna: Now this is more like it: Daenerys Targaryen, taking her dragons to war.
Margaery: And wearing a fabulous coat, too.
Mance: Do we need to add Daenerys and the dragons to the wager?
Olenna: Don’t be absurd.
Ned: Even the most loyal and magical beasts can be killed, Lady Olenna.
At his feet, Summer howls.
Robert: Quiet! Here it comes, everyone!
They are tense as the army of wights begins to approach the rocks.
Robert: WHO HAD JON? Oh, wait, he’s fine. WHO HAD TORMUND? No — he’s fine as well. WHO HAD — wait, who was that? Did he have a name?
Olenna: Oh come along, Jon Snow. There isn’t time to stand around and contemplate the horror of war.
Viserys: Here come the dragons!
Olenna: That was fast.
Robert: SEVEN BLOODY HELLS, THIS DOESN’T GET OLD! LOOK AT THEM! Oh, what I would give to have that kind of firepower…
Viserys: Aren’t they the most beautiful things you have ever seen?
Robert and Viserys are cheering, and then, suddenly, in shock, they stop.
The other ghosts watch, mouths agape. There are no words. They watch soundlessly.
Viserys: Which one was it? WHICH ONE?
There is a very awkward silence.
Viserys: It was my one, wasn’t it? It was Viserion. WHY DOES EVERYTHING BAD ALWAYS HAPPEN TO ME?
Robert: [Quietly, clearly not finding this as much fun any more] Who had Jon? [A Pause] Oh, thank the gods. He’s all right.
Mance: Don’t thank them yet. He’s alone, freezing, and facing an army.
Ned: [gently] He’s not alone.
Robert: Where did your brother come from?
Ned: I find it’s best not to ask too many questions.
Robert: Looks like we’ll be able ask him ourselves when he gets here. Did anyone have Benjen? No? We’re not very good at this game anymore, are we?
Olenna: Jon Snow looks good with his shirt off.
Oberyn: He really does.
Margaery: Daenerys thinks so, too.
Viserys: She was looking at those knife wounds.
Margaery: Oh, of course she was.
Robert: Ned, I’m still not clear on how this face-changing thing works, but that girl of yours is terrifying.
Ned: I’ve waited so long for my girls to be together again. And all they are doing is fighting each other.
He can no longer bear to watch. He stands, and walks away to wait for the arrival of his brother.
Mance: Jon Snow, King in the North, kneeler to the Dragon Queen. Figuratively, anyway.
Olenna: Which part of that do you have strong feelings about, exactly? Kneeling? Jon Snow? Or the Dragon Queen?
Mance: It’s complicated.
The silence that follows is interrupted by Viserys screaming again.
Viserys: NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! LEAVE HIM ALONE!
Robert: Oh no.
Margaery: No. They wouldn’t.
A horrified pause.
Margaery: Oh gods, they did.
Robert: Bloody hell.