Death was coming for him, as certain and unchangeable as the coming of winter.
Six times, the Lightning Lord thought. The next will be the seventh. Seven was a powerful number, he knew; there were Seven Kingdoms, and once, several lifetimes ago, he had worshipped seven gods…
Now he supposed he only believed in one, if he believed in any at all- the fiery red god of Thoros. It was Rh’llor who had brought him back to life again and again, Thoros insisted; it was Rh’llor who kept him on earth to wage war against the darkness.
“It is you, my friend,” the red priest had said when Beric had told him that death was near. “When you die the seventh time you shall not die at all, indeed; you shall be reborn as Azor Ahai to fight the Great Other with the flaming sword of heroes.”
Beric never replied to that; he preferred to stay silent and allow his old friend to believe what he would. In truth, he welcomed death. He had not the energy to fight this battle as he once had- this battle to protect and defend and deliver justice in a land where justice had grown frighteningly scarce. In his first life, before Thoros had revived him on that field, Beric Dondarrion would have seized upon the chance to become a mythical hero. He tried to recall that time, when he had been young and whole and Eddard Stark had sat the Iron Throne in the stead of the king they all served… but his memories grew fainter every day. Once he had been betrothed, to a lovely maid with purple eyes. Once, he had been the lord of a comfortable holdfast in the balmy south, and had dreamed of training his own sons in the practice yard while Allyria and their daughters cheered them on from a window above…
Had that truly ever been his life at all, or had he dreamed it all in the haze of some fevered sleep?
The Brotherhood was making its way slowly down the banks of the Trident, searching for wandering smallfolk to bring to safety, when they came upon the carnage. The great wide river ran red with blood, and bodies rushed down on the current one after another, like broken branches after a storm.
The heart of the marcher lord beat with a strange, dull urgency that he had not felt for several lifetimes, and he knew- he knew. This is the place I will die.
He moved forward silently, sending crows into flight, screaming angrily, as he did so. As he approached her some dim sort of recognition flickered in the back of his mind, but the knowledge of where he had seen the woman before eluded him. But she is important.
There was something strangely peaceful about her form in death that had surely not existed there in life, though her face was torn to bloody ribbons, and her skin was as white as her hair. But somehow the lines still visible on her once-handsome visage- lines of worry and sorrow and loss- had gone when her life had. Bizarrely, Beric thought of his mother. She was nothing but a blurry red-haired shadow, now, but his mind went to her nevertheless.
He raised his gaze from the dead woman’s face to the carnage around him. Justice, he remembered suddenly. Who will deliver justice when I am gone?
“Thoros,” he called, calm as still water. The priest glanced backwards at him, face expectant. The Lightning Lord tried to smile, but he found he did not remember how to. “The Brotherhood must not die. Westeros still has need of it.”
Thoros’s face was puzzled as his half-dead friend knelt slowly into the sandy banks of the river, but comprehension dawned over his features as Beric leaned over the corpse of the dead mother. “Beric, no!”
My final gift. Beric Dondarrion pressed his lips against the woman’s, eyes already closed as if in sleep, and was gone.
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