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The cell was warmer than any cell had a right to be.  It was dark, yes. Flickering orange light fell through the ancient iron bars from the torch in the sconce on the wall outside, but the back half of the cell remained drenched in gloom. It was dank as well, as might be expected on an isle such as Dragonstone, where the sea was never far. And there were rats, as many as any dungeon could expect to have and a few more besides.  But Davos could not complain of chill. The smooth stony passages beneath the great mass of Dragonstone were always warm, and Davos had often heard it said they grew warmer the farther down one went. He was well below the castle, he judged, and the wall of his cell often felt warm to his touch when he pressed a palm against it. Perhaps the old tales were true, and Dragonstone was built with the stones of hell.  He was sick when they first brought him here. The cough that had plagued him since the battle grew worse, and a fever took hold of him as well. His lips broke with blood blisters, and the warmth of the cell did not stop his shivering. I will not linger long, he remembered thinking. I will die soon, here in the dark.  Davos soon found that he was wrong about that, as about so much else. Dimly he remembered gentle hands and a firm voice, and young Maester Pylos looking down on him. He was given hot garlic broth to drink, and milk of the poppy to take away his aches and shivers. The poppy made him sleep and while he slept they leeched him to drain off the bad blood. Or so he surmised, by the leech marks on his arms when he woke. Before very long the coughing stopped, the blisters vanished, and his broth had chunks of whitefish in it, and carrots and onions as well. And one day he realized that he felt stronger than he had since Black Betha shattered beneath him and flung him in the river.  He had two gaolers to tend him. One was broad and squat, with thick shoulders and huge strong hands. He wore a leather brigantine dotted with iron studs, and once a day brought Davos a bowl of oaten porridge. Sometimes he sweetened it with honey or poured in a bit of milk. The other gaoler was older, stooped and sallow, with greasy unwashed hair and pebbled skin. He wore a doublet of white velvet with a ring of stars worked upon the breast in golden thread. It fit him badly, being both too short and too loose, and was soiled and torn besides. He would bring Davos plates of meat and mash, or fish stew, and once even half a lamprey pie. The lamprey was so rich he could not keep it down, but even so, it was a rare treat for a prisoner in a dungeon.  Neither sun nor moon shone in the dungeons; no windows pierced the thick stone walls. The only way to tell day from night was by his gaolers. Neither man would speak to him, though he knew they were no mutes; sometimes he heard them exchange a few brusque words as the watch was changing. They would not even tell him their names, so he gave them names of his own. The short strong one he called Porridge, the stooped sallow one Lamprey, for the pie. He marked the passage of days by the meals they brought, and by the changing of the torches in the sconce outside his cell.  A man grows lonely in the dark, and hungers for the sound of a human voice. Davos would talk to the gaolers whenever they came to his cell, whether to bring him food or change his slops pail. He knew they would be deaf to pleas for freedom or mercy; instead he asked them questions, hoping perhaps one day one might answer. “What news of the war?” he asked, and “Is the king well?” He asked after his son Devan, and the Princess Shireen, and Salladhor Saan. “What is the weather like?” he asked, and “Have the autumn storms begun yet? Do ships still sail the narrow sea?”  It made no matter what he asked; they never answered, though sometimes Porridge gave him a look, and for half a heartbeat Davos would think that he was about to speak. With Lamprey there was not even that much. I am not a man to him, Davos thought, only a stone that eats and shits and speaks. He decided after a while that he liked Porridge much the better. Porridge at least seemed to know he was alive, and there was a queer sort of kindness to the man. Davos suspected that he fed the rats; that was why there were so many. Once he thought he heard the gaoler talking to them as if they were children, but perhaps he’d only dreamed that.  They do not mean to let me die, he realized. They are keeping me alive, for some purpose of their own. He did not like to think what that might be. Lord Sunglass had been confined in the cells beneath Dragonstone for a time, as had Ser Hubard Rambton’s sons; all of them had ended on the pyre. I should have given myself to the sea, Davos thought as he sat staring at the torch beyond the bars. Or let the sail pass me by, to perish on my rock. I would sooner feed crabs than flames.  Then one night as he was finishing his supper, Davos felt a queer flush come over him. He glanced up through the bars, and there she stood in shimmering scarlet with her great ruby at her throat, her red eyes gleaming as bright as the torch that bathed her. “Melisandre,” he said, with a calm he did not feel.  “Onion Knight,” she replied, just as calmly, as if the two of them had met on a stair or in the yard, and were exchanging polite greetings. “Are you well?”  “Better than I was.”  “Do you lack for anything?”  “My king. My son. I lack for them.” He pushed the bowl aside and stood. “Have you come to burn me?”  Her strange red eyes studied him through the bars. “This is a bad place, is it not? A dark place, and foul. The good sun does not shine here, nor the bright moon.” She lifted a hand toward the torch in the wall sconce. “This is all that stands between you and the darkness, Onion Knight. This little fire, this gift of R’hllor. Shall I put it out?”  “No.” He moved toward the bars. “Please.” He did not think he could bear that, to be left alone in utter blackness with no one but the rats for company.  The red woman’s lips curved upward in a smile. “So you have come to love the fire, it would seem.”  “I need the torch.” His hands opened and closed. I will not beg her. I will not.  “I am like this torch, Ser Davos. We are both instruments of R’hllor. We were made for a single purpose - to keep the darkness at bay. Do you believe that?”  “No.” Perhaps he should have lied, and told her what she wanted to hear, but Davos was too accustomed to speaking truth. “You are the mother of darkness. I saw that under Storm’s End, when you gave birth before my eyes.”  “Is the brave Ser Onions so frightened of a passing shadow? Take heart, then. Shadows only live when given birth by light, and the king’s fires burn so low I dare not draw off any more to make another son. It might well kill him.” Melisandre moved closer. “With another man, though... a man whose flames still burn hot and high... if you truly wish to serve your king’s cause, come to my chamber one night. I could give you pleasure such as you have never known, and with your life-fire I could make...”  “... a horror.” Davos retreated from her. “I want no part of you, my lady. Or your god. May the Seven protect me.”  Melisandre sighed. “They did not protect Guncer Sunglass. He prayed thrice each day, and bore seven seven-pointed stars upon his shield, but when R’hllor reached out his hand his prayers turned to screams, and he burned. Why cling to these false gods?”  “I have worshiped them all my life.”  “All your life, Davos Seaworth? As well say it was so yesterday.” She shook her head sadly. “You have never feared to speak the truth to kings, why do you lie to yourself? Open your eyes, ser knight.”  “What is it you would have me see?”  “The way the world is made. The truth is all around you, plain to behold. The night is dark and full of terrors, the day bright and beautiful and full of hope. One is black, the other white. There is ice and there is fire. Hate and love. Bitter and sweet. Male and female. Pain and pleasure. Winter and summer. Evil and good.” She took a step toward him. “Death and life. Everywhere, opposites. Everywhere, the war.”  “The war?” asked Davos.  “The war,” she affirmed. “There are two, Onion Knight. Not seven, not one, not a hundred or a thousand. Two! Do you think I crossed half the world to put yet another vain king on yet another empty throne? The war has been waged since time began, and before it is done, all men must choose where they will stand. On one side is R’hllor, the Lord of Light, the Heart of Fire, the God of Flame and Shadow. Against him stands the Great Other whose name may not be spoken, the Lord of Darkness, the Soul of Ice, the God of Night and Terror. Ours is not a choice between Baratheon and Lannister, between Greyjoy and Stark. It is death we choose, or life. Darkness, or light.” She clasped the bars of his cell with her slender white hands. The great ruby at her throat seemed to pulse with its own radiance. “So tell me, Ser Davos Seaworth, and tell me truly - does your heart burn with the shining light of R’hllor? Or is it black and cold and full of worms?” She reached through the bars and laid three fingers upon his breast, as if to feel the truth of him through flesh and wool and leather.  “My heart,” Davos said slowly, “is full of doubts.”  Melisandre sighed. “Ahhhh, Davos. The good knight is honest to the last, even in his day of darkness. It is well you did not lie to me. I would have known. The Other’s servants oft hide black hearts in gaudy light, so R’hllor gives his priests the power to see through falsehoods.” She stepped lightly away from the cell. “Why did you mean to kill me?”  “I will tell you,” said Davos, “if you will tell me who betrayed me.”  It could only have been Salladhor Saan, and yet even now he prayed it was not so.  The red woman laughed. “No one betrayed you, onion knight. I saw your purpose in my flames.”  The flames. “If you can see the future in these flames, how is it that we burned upon the Blackwater? You gave my sons to the fire... my sons, my ship, my men, all burning...”  Melisandre shook her head. “You wrong me, onion knight. Those were no fires of mine. Had I been with you, your battle would have had a different ending. But His Grace was surrounded by unbelievers, and his pride proved stronger than his faith. His punishment was grievous, but he has learned from his mistake.”  Were my sons no more than a lesson for a king, then? Davos felt his mouth tighten.  “It is night in your Seven Kingdoms now,” the red woman went on, “but soon the sun will rise again. The war continue............
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