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Faces in the Flames

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“Why did you help us?”

Jaime had known Thoros the Priest during their time in King’s Landing. To guard the king more often than not meant to guard his drinking mates, and Thoros was the only man who could drink Robert under the table. Jaime liked him well enough, he reminded him a little of Tyrion, and the man had proved his mettle more than once. But when it came to faith, Thoros’s religion was something of a joke. Mainly for the lack of it, and back in King’s Landing, Thoros used to laugh the loudest.

Now, Thoros had the drawn and sombre look of one who had made the decision to believe there was more to life, something greater and fiercer, than ale and indulgence. A stupid decision, really, disastrous for any who wishes to pass the days pleasantly. The poor man had found religion. He spent the days staring into his flames, searching for divine truth in their flickering shapes. It was lucky the men of the Quiet Isle were so tolerant of differing faiths. Just not men and women sharing a roof.

“I did not do it to save you,” Thoros said softly, the flame of the candle burning bright in his eyes. “Don’t flatter yourself Lannister.”

“Alright then, why did you save them?”

“Is their innocence not enough?”

“It wasn’t for the others. The boy is a Lannister squire, Brienne carries Tommen’s seal. IS that not guilt enough?”

“Perhaps I am tired of hangings, guilty and innocent. Soon we will all be facing an enemy like no other, we ought not fight against each other.”

Jaime sat down on the opposite side of the fire, warming his hand. “Go on then, oh mighty seer. What do danger do you see in your flames?”

“I see ice.”

“I have had a raven telling me winter has started, that is hardly a great drain on your prophetic skills.”

“I see monsters of ice, great giants throwing the world under its shadow-”

“Oh and Grumpkins and Snarks.”

“And dragons.”

Jaime froze. “Dragons.”

“She comes from the East, and the North, and the West, and the South. She comes from a storm.”

“And she brings dragons?” The Targaryen girl. Aerys’s daughter. Rhaegar’s sister. The baby. Rhaella’s daughter, her baby girl. Jaime’s mouth was dry, his jaw clenched beneath the tangled thicket of his beard. “And are these dragons our salvation against the Ice giants, or is it fire and ice alike that dooms us? Should we be investing in coal or catapults? ”

Thoros smiled wryly. “They are only flames Ser Jaime. I am afraid they do not go into depth as to the recommended battle plans.”

“Pity.” Jaime leaned back against a tree. “And this girl from the West, the East, the South, the North and the storm, do the flames tell us anything about her? Other than that she is evidently well travelled.”

Thoros chuckled. “I see her sailing under a giant. But that is all.”

“Aerys was not so dreadful at the start of his reign. But by the end his beard came to his knees and his fingernails were as long as claws. Tell me, does the Targaryen girl have claws for nails?”

“The girl changes. She has different faces.”

“Might she be different girls then, perchance?”

“Aye,” Thoros said thoughtfully. “Perchance.” He met Jaime square in the eye. “It very well could be. Does that answer your first question.”

Jaime blinked, his brain a dozen miles behind. “What…you mean. Brienne?”

“She is from the storm, is she not? She bears a Valyrian steel sword, and when the noose was placed around her neck, I saw it burn.” 

“But she’s just a child,” Jaime hissed.

“She is a woman grown. And younger than her will have heavier weights placed upon their shoulders before we are done. Your Brienne will play her part, as we all will.” Thoros took up a skin of ale, taking small sips. “You gave her that sword.”

“I did.” 

“Have you heard of a legend from the Stormlands, of Galladon and the Fair Maid.” Thoros offered him the skin.

Jaime frowned. “Vaguely. I know there was a sword, and a dragon.” Jaime thrust away the skin. “These are fairy stories. What have they to do with Brienne?”

“Maybe everything, maybe nothing. But watch over her. She matters more than you know.”

Jaime rose to his feet. “I don’t need any gods or flames telling me what she matters,” he hissed. “And I don’t need them telling me to protect her.” He turned, striding towards Brienne’s sick hut. If he could not pass the threshold, he could damn well guard it.

“He did once before.”

Jaime froze. He did not ask the mad man why he said that, or how he knew. That didn’t matter. Only one thing mattered now.

He will not have to do so again,” he said coldly. 

Thoros raised the skin. “I do not doubt it, Ser Jaime. I do not doubt it at all.”