As the ghosts wait, the King Beyond The Wall holds court. Even before he had a court, this was one of his favourite things to do. He has always enjoyed the sound of his own voice. And now, he has a captive audience, no force to stop him, and most importantly of all, the vindication of having been right all along. He’s been saying this for years. And now, finally, everybody listens.
Mance: There was an idea — you know this —- an alliance of the free folk. The idea was to bring together a group of diverse tribes… See if they could become something more. See if they could work together when the North needed them to, to fight a battle they never could hope to face on their own. I died still believing in this idea. In life. In freedom. In brotherhood. Heroes… who don’t need to bend the knee. An old fashioned notion? Perhaps. But our enemy is as old as time. He was a man, once. But so were we. There were two Kings beyond the wall, and both of us crossed over. One died in fire, the other lives in ice. And Winter has finally fallen…
He falls silent. The silence stretches before them like eternity, and Mance sighs.
Mance: Maybe the sun will rise, maybe it won’t. We’ll know soon enough. Come, let’s have a song.
The Dornishman’s wife was as fair as the sun,
and her kisses were warmer than spring.
But the Dornishman’s blade was made of black steel,
and its kiss was a terrible thing.
Pyp and Grenn join in, leading the fallen men of the Night’s Watch:
The Dornishman’s wife would sing as she bathed,
in a voice that was sweet as a peach,
But the Dornishman’s blade had a song of its own,
and a bite sharp and cold as a leech.
As he lay on the ground with the darkness around,
and the taste of his blood on his tongue,
His brothers knelt by him and prayed him a prayer,
and he smiled and he laughed and he sung,
“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done,
the Dornishman’s taken my life,
But what does it matter, for all men must die,
and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!”
The ghosts smile at each other and for a moment, the tension has lifted.
Robert: I always liked that song.
Oberyn: We sing it differently in Dorne.
Robert: You do a lot of things differently in Dorne… [smiles wistfully] Did you ever make the eight, Prince Oberyn?
Oberyn: [mischievously] Eight? Try sixteen, your Grace… Many times.
Tywin: [looks disapproving]
Oberyn: Unlike some, I know my way around a lady… [he winks at Margaery]
Oberyn: …and a man… [he winks at Loras]
Stannis: Oh… Sixteen…
Mance: Unsullied, Dothraki, wildlings, Northmen, Knights of the Vale, Crows, a Hound, Dragons, a wolf and a Raven…
Ned: And a deadly assassin.
Robert: And the bravest and fiercest little bear the kingdoms have ever known.
Mance: Them too. Have you ever seen anything like it?
Mance: And a witch, it would seem.
They turn to look at Stannis, who shifts uncomfortably.
Tywin: She has power. And she fights for the living. She’s not the only person there who has murdered a child.
Cat: Nor the only one here.
Robert: I can’t see a bloody thing.
Robert: That’s better. Look at them, Ned! Thousands of Dothraki screamers, swords blazing! Those wights don’t stand a chance!
Pyp: We could have used that sort of power at the Wall, eh?
Grenn: Too right.
Shireen: Oh, my sweet Onion Knight…
Robert: Looks like we’ll be seeing your Red Woman soon, brother.
Stannis looks down.
Robert: Here we go! CHARGE! Gods, is there anything more beautiful and deadly than a cavalry charge? The POWER! The FORCE! That wolf is the size of a horse too, Ned—
His face falls.
Mance: You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?
Robert: But… all of them?
Mance: A few of them have made it back. Ser Jorah is a hard man to kill.
Shireen: What happened to Ghost? Is he here?
She walks away, calling for him, with Lady and Ser Pounce at her heels.
Ned: Here they come.
Robert: My GODS! The dead are rolling over them like a wave!
Margaery: Jaime just saved Brienne!
Viserys: Don’t fly the dragons into freezing fog, Dany!
Olenna: Jon hasn’t got much better at dragon-riding. My old eyes do appreciate the flames though.
Pyp: Edd! You magnificent bastard! You saved—
They stare aghast.
Mance: Courage, lads. This is just the beginning.
A shocked and dishevelled ghost suddenly appears. He’s greeted with a roar from his friends.
Edd: So this is where we go? This is it?
Grenn: You get used to it.
Edd: There are worse ways to die, I suppose. Not many. But some.
Pyp: You saved Sam!
Edd: We’ve been saving Sam the Slayer for years. I dreamt that I was torn apart by wights, so really, it could have been worse.
Grenn: Come on, come and watch the battle with us.
Edd: Lots of fancy folk here…
Pyp: Yeah, you get used to them, too.
Robert: Oh gods, are the Unsullied all going to die now too?
Ned: [smiles fondly] That’s my girl.
Robert: She’s got good aim.
Robb: She was this good even before she left Winterfell.
Robert: Her aunt was the same.
Cat: Why did I ever try to make her sew?
Olenna: [leaning forward] Somebody light the bloody trench!
Cat: Does the Red Woman always move so slowly?
Olenna: She’s old, my dear. The cold plays havoc with the joints.
The ghosts cheer as a ring of fire appears around Winterfell.
Olenna: I’m starting to like this woman.
Margaery: I still think Tyrion and Sansa made a good match.
Ned: He really was the best of them.
Cat: That isn’t saying much.
Olenna: Ooh, that handmaiden has had enough of Sansa. How delicious.
Cat: Is Sansa wrong?
Olenna: Probably not. But I do enjoy a war of words. And that foreign girl has landed a hit.
Edd: That burning trench worked well, then.
Olenna: Men and their plans…
Robert: My boy! Seeing him fighting like his father never gets old.
Renly: Your daughter is incredible, Ned!
Robert: She’s so—wait. Oh gods. No. No. Not the little bear.
Shireen: Ghost isn’t here. I think he’s alive. What’s happening?
Renly: Don’t look, sweet girl.
Robert: SHE’S SO BRAVE! Charging a giant! On her own! [To Pyp And Grenn] How many of you did it take to kill a giant, eh? And how many Boltons?
Stannis: The battlefield is no place for a girl.
Robert: She wasn’t scared of you, either. Oh, that little bear. Where is she? Is she here yet?
Ned: Her mother was just as fierce.
Robb: Her sisters, too.
Ned: What was it they used to say?
Cat: “We’ll dance on our graves, with our bodies below.”
Robert: They make them tough on Bear Island…
The ghost of Lyanna Mormont appears. Though air no longer passes through her lungs, she is wheezing. Her form shudders. As her eyes scan the space, her face seems bewildered. She sees the Starks, and falls to her knees.
Robert: Oh my brave little bear!
Ned: Rise, rise. You kneel for no man now.
The spirits cheer for their newest member.
Shireen: It’s alright now. Don’t be afraid.
Lyanna: My mother? My sisters?
Ned: Waiting for you with open arms on the other side, my lady. Maege Mormont’s not one for looking back.
Robert: Come sit with me, Little Bear.
Lyanna: I’m not little.
Robert: You are fierce and bold, Little Bear, and even more so because you are so little. You just killed a giant! And look at the size of you! You’re worth 10 men, Little Bear.
Dickon: [quietly to Lyanna] It’s a good name, my lady, I’d let him have it.
Cat: [suddenly] Arya is in danger.
Robb: There’s trouble outside the crypts. Don’t let them in, Sansa!
Lyanna: Cowards. They should stand and fight!
Cat: Remind me to thank Sandor Clegane when I see him. For protecting our girls.
Ned: Beric will be joining us soon.
Cat: Blue eyes…. I wonder…
Ned: [softly] Not today…
Robert: Where is she going?
Ned smiles but doesn’t answer his friend.
Viserys: DRAGON FIGHT! Yes, Dany! Wait —- is Rhaegal alright? Has she lost two dragons now?
Olenna: Losing one is unfortunate. Losing two looks like recklessness.
Viserys: Burn him, Dany!
Robert: How in seven hells did he survive that?
Edd: Well, they’re well and truly fucked now.
Ned: [looking around] Where’s Beric? I thought he would be here by now.
Robert: That bloody Lord of Light is probably making sure he’s dead this time.
Olenna: The Night King looks very pleased with himself.
Stannis: Is Jon really going to try and take him down one on one?
Lyanna: My King is brave.
Robert: [indulgently] Of course he is, Little Bear. Ignore my brother. As you did when he was alive. [Pause] Oh no. He’s doing that thing with his arms again.
Stannis: My gods.
Cat: Oh no.
Edd: I spoke too soon. Now they’re well and truly fucked.
Olenna: Remind me, where are the women and children?
Margaery: Oh no…
Viserys: Don’t land among the wights, Dany!
Shireen: Shake them off, Drogon!
Robert: MY BOY!
Olenna: Days like this, I really miss wine…
Robert: Gods, here they come.
Ned: Theon has done all he can…
Robb: He dies a Stark.
Robert: Prepare yourself, Cat. Bran is all alone.
Ned: Is he?
Robert: No-one’s left to save him…
There is a collective intake of breath, then rapturous cheering.
Robert: She’s bloody done it!
Ned: Never underestimate little girls, my friend.
He smiles at Lyanna and Shireen, then turns to walk away.
Robert: Where are you going?
Ned: There’s someone we need to meet.
The Starks walk into the darkness. A spirit appears before them, shy and unsure. He is whole again. He tries to speak, but the words won’t come. He looks into the eyes of the ones who were never quite his family. He hasn’t been forgiven, not fully, but he is greeted with sad, understanding smiles. He doesn’t need to say anything. They know it all. This is it, then, he thinks. This is how it feels to try and make things right. This is love. This is family. He had made his choices in life, and they couldn’t be unmade, but the last one he made was right. In the airless space, he is close to something that completely escaped him below: peace.
Mance: Shall we have another song for our new guests? How about a Song for the Dawn?
As he sings, more spirits start to arrive. It is a busy morning in the afterlife. The warrior has left his flaming sword behind, and is finally allowed to rest. Hordes of Dothraki appear, demanding to know where their horses are. The Unsullied finally break formation. They fought for freedom, for hope and for life; here, they are finally at ease.
Some strange spirits arrive. They are confused, without speech, possessing neither name nor house. With them is a spirit who hasn’t been a man for millennia. He remembers little of the time before, only fear, cold and pain. Without any of those things, he is lost. Dazed, he stumbles through the veil. Perhaps he will find some answers there.
Suddenly, there is a flame. It spreads, and the smoke twirls around itself, in coils and ribbons, until it forms the shape of a woman. The night is dark and full of terrors, but the dawn has come now. She looks out at the others gathered there, seeking her Lord of Light. But she sees only ghosts. All look away, avoiding her gaze. Except one. She smiles. It is time to face her mistakes. She is ready.
Melisandre: Hello, Princess.
Far away, in the murky gloom, a lone spirit stares out at the world below, at the woman weeping with his body in her arms. He regrets nothing; he would do it all again in a heartbeat if he could. He would die a thousand deaths for her. He only wishes he’d had the chance to say goodbye.
Header Image Source: HBO