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The Tale of Brandon

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Hear now of Brandon / braver than Winter
Father of all Starks / the canny stone-stacker
Who crafted the Wall / with cunning and skill
In his earliest days / at great Durran's side
He ended the storms / that struck down each castle
The wrath of the gods / for fair Elenai's ruin
Six strongholds fell / but the seventh was stronger
Build with the warnings / of young Brandon's wit
And the aid of the Children / the ancients of old
Whose runes wrought their magics / on rock and on rainstorm
Young Brandon listened / and learned from their words
But Durran the Storm King / cast them aside
Waged war on the old gods / and would not be warned
Affronted, they fled / and young Brandon followed
Into the Neck / the narrows and northwards
He lived there among them / learning their ways
Singing to nameless gods / song-prayers and secrets
He grew there to manhood / great was his might
Wealthy in wisdom / he wore his wit lightly
Northways he traveled / treading the long road
To the land of the wildlings / the last of the wanderers
Jarl there was Joramun /strong arm of justice
Who held in his hand / the great horn of Winter
Banded with irons / all burnished so brightly
Whose shattering call / shook the bones of the earth
Fair was his daughter / the maid all in furs
Brandon desired her / brought her love-tokens
But the girl scorned him / scowled at his smiles
She never would wed one / who could not out-wit her
Out-fight her and woo her / with force of his arms
Brandon beseeched her / but she was obstinate
She would not stay with him / unless he stole her
Away from her father / the fierce lord of wildlings
Long he considered / and used all his cunning
Then called for a hawk / and brought his hounds to heel
Ventured out hunting / that very day
Seeking the one they name / world-shaker, winter's horse
Hunting the mammoth / the mightiest of beasts
Twelve men would stalk it / trick it with traps
Lure it to cliff-edge / to clefts in the mountain
And tumble it over / to turbulent death
But Brandon went alone / to hunt one most boldly
Despite all the wildlings / who warned him of danger
Long did he search / in the stark, silent snow
Far into the Frostfangs / along the Frozen Shore
For the footprints the span / of five hands together
Until his hounds faltered / and hawk flew away
Finally, near frozen / he found the fell herd
Far down in a valley. /From his high vantage,
He drew himself up / and dropped down upon one
Clutching the broad back / though the beast bellowed
Knotted his fists / in the gnarls of its fur
Binding himself / to the back of the mammoth
Then with the skill of / a forest skin-dancer
Slid his mind into / the mind of the mightiest
Saw through its eyes / and settled its feet
Empty his soul-shell / hung safe and suspended
Across the strong shoulders / of his new steed
Then journeyed the strange pair / to Joramun's hall
There he lifted himself / body light as a feather
Down from the back / of his new beast of burden
And laid himself softly / in the deep snow
Hid his body from sight / Hoping for its safety
Then turned on the hall / and the glow of its hearth-light
Trampled the door down / and made the walls tremble
Sought there the spear-maid / the spouse he desired
The wildling lord's warriors / wounded the skin-walker
Pierced him with arrows / and spears sharp with anger
Fierce was the fighting / but fighters grew fearful
For the beast acted oddly / not as it ought to
Behind the beast's eyes / Brandon also was anxious
For the sake of his true-self / left still in the snow
Then came forth the spear-maid / fearless and fair
Steady before him / she stood in the hall
Her hand on the haft / of her heaviest weapon
Before she could cast it / he clasped his trunk round her
And cast her out quick / to the cold and the dark
The point of her spear / pierced his eye deeply
So roaring with pain / he returned to his body
And stood there before her / stiff from the frost
Inside her father's hall / fierce was the battle
But outside she clasped / Brandon close in her arms
Together they fled / feet flying fleetly
Away from her home / and the comforts of hearth
They came to the Heart-tree / and build there a holdfast
Swore there their love / with the stars as their witness
Years melted like snowflakes / and she bore him younglings
A handful of lads / and one lovely lass
As fair as the summer / so splendid was she
Then fell the Long Night / the last light soon faded
And out of the North / poured Others unnumbered
Mounted on snow-spiders /scurrying on swift legs
Carrying with them / the white cold of Winter
Skin white and frozen / like stone would not shatter
Beneath the strong blows / of blades by the hundred
Frosted those swords / with their swift-freezing fingers
Blue glow of ghost-light / gleamed in the night
Not a clean death / for those cleft by their blades
But thralldom undying / before Winter's throne
Mounted on beasts / as dead as their masters
Skin taut to bone / or torn wide and gaping
Eyes like blue stars / staring at nothing
Deaths beyond number / they bought with their blades
But certain girl-children / they carried away
Brandon's sweet daughter / they swept up and vanished
He swore on his sword / he would save her from them
Then Brandon, beset with grief / begged of his elders
The dark forest's children / the old gods' first chosen,
A boon that would be / the bane of the ice-walkers
The wood-witches huddled / cast runes on the wind
Sought wisdom in twigs / as they twisted in water
Then grave grew the / greenseers, wisest of all,
And whispered their wisdom /wound tightly with warnings
They showed him the spells / he could spin against Winter
And gave to him blades / of the blackest glass
Sharp as a splinter / these shards that he carried
One hundred knives / new-crafted and gleaming
But none there could reckon / the cost he risked paying
From their grove he departed /grown desperate with rage
And the greenseers / grieved for his loss as they
Watched through their / weirwoods and wept
Then north rode the Warden / a war there to wage
His spear-wife stood with him / strong in her wrath
And slowly but surely / soldiers they gathered
Men who had lost / all that made life worth living
Their wives and their wains / vanished with the white-walkers
Sons laid in the lichyard / but living once more
In a mockery of life / limping onward forever
These brothers in mourning / bravely joined Brandon
Clad all in black / with their blades at their sides
Battled their way / beating back where they could
But never enough / to know victory was near
For their foe were too many / the northmen too few
Then Brandon's wife / beseeched her brave father
And kinsmen to join them / and kill there together
Forgiveness was granted / reluctant and grudging
And wildlings and Warden / waged war side-by-side
Joramun hefted / his horn to his lips
And blew on it bravely. /Its blast shattered ice
And woke from the earth's / womb the earliest giants
A second call sounded /and set them to slaying
Laying wights low / with their weighty fists
And with the third wind / the white-walkers trembled
Then Brandon drew /his daggers of dragonglass
With one clasped in each fist / he strode into the fray
As each sharp shard struck / and shattered to pieces
His enemies melted / like snow in the morn
Before him they fled / so fierce was his face
Blue on the white snow / flowed their pale blood
Nine-and-ninety he slew / and wights beyond number
But then came the hundredth / and kill her he could not
His only dear daughter / her eyes blue as diamonds
Stood there before him / and smiled so sweetly
She held out her hand / hope flared fast within him
But cruelly she clasped him / close to cold skin
Her fingers left burns / like the bite of the frost
Her face was like summer / so suddenly frozen
His dagger dropped useless /down to the snow
As in her embrace / his anger waned
In slow surrender / to a sleep eternal
Then her sharp scream / shattered the silence
His wife stood beside him / her spear tipped with fire
And drove back their daughter / to cold and to darkness
Tears froze on their faces / as fast they retreated
Knowing they would / never see her again
Then Brandon, bereft / brought forth a new plan
A wall he would build / to hold back the Winter
With Joramun's horn / to call aid from the giants
The great stones were laid / from one sea to the other
And Brandon the sorcerer / spun subtle spells
Wove into its weight / wards against wights
And creatures of evil / so they could not pass
He froze to the bone /fingers near splintered
Raising the ice-stone / in a race against ruin
To drive back the darkness / of Summer's deep death
Then up rose the wall / as wide as a king's road
As tall as a tower / too treacherous to climb
And fortresses too / he fashioned along it
To station the ones / who would watch in the night
Then home to his wife / who was patiently waiting
And his sons who stood by him / so strong and so bold
And raised Winterfell's walls / warm against winds
Veined them with water / to keep out the visions
Of his child's cold smile / and the chill of her touch