June 18

(Soon after midnight of the evening in which the events of the Epilogue of Book 2 occurred)

Moqorro knew it wrong that he preferred the Night to the Day, for had the Red God not warned since the dawn of time and the start of the eternal struggle that 'the Night is dark and full of terrors?' He pondered that question often and deeply, none more so than now; reflecting upon his worthiness as he searched for the boy now shown in every fire spread out across the vast floor that once housed dragons to keep the faithful warm from the descending chill.

In his fiery heart he never believed himself to be a secret, unwitting emissary of the Frozen God of Death. He had slit the throat of more than one of those. No. Red Priests more devout than himself had first set him on the acolyte's path, trained him, and increasingly trusted him with both great and little matters of the soul and of the world. Until that day many years past, when the far seeing Benerro, younger than himself but blessed vastly more by R'hllor, had chosen him as his deputy in the Red Temple of Volantis. His infatuation with the Night was not a trap.

But was it the sin of faithlessness that drove him to it? A physical need for the warmth of fire and the guiding light of stars as proof of R'hllor's tangible grace; dispensed to guard both believer and non-believer against the consuming blackness of the Great Other. For though even he knew doubt, which his stern, unyielding face revealed to none; only a fool never doubted. Were the embers in his fiery heart so faint that they required reassurance?

Or did the sin of pride drive Moqorro to stay awake when most slept ignorant of the danger about them? Because he had always seen R'hllor's path best in the Night. He was skilled, few better at it. Not that he claimed perfection in reading the visions that flickered in the dancing hot reds and whites and blues and oranges. In many ways, the errant illusions sent by the unnamable enemy to test and trick the Lord of Light's priests prepared them best for the unending war.

The white haired, black skinned, fire tattooed man had long since become used to not being surprised. The blessed gift of the God of Flame and Shadow had seen to that. His affinity for the Night and visions was simply the fate of the path R'hllor blessedly granted him the moment he was born in that squalid hut on the savannahs of distant Sothoryos. And decades ago the flames had revealed to Moqorro that his path would end and he would join the Heart of Fire on a Night of great sacrifice.

There. Finally, he spied the flesh of the child among the slumbering throngs who sought a full belly and a fuller spirit in the ruins of this once magnificent, cavernous structure. A street waif bundled up in a ratty blanket beside a banked fire; sleeping the last innocent moments of his path. A dangerous, twisting path that with R'hllor's mercy would outlast Moqorro's own rapidly closing one.

Upon first gazing at King's Landing across the bitter water from the Volantene cog, Moqorro had instantly known he would never leave this strange, foreign, heathen land. Over his many years the flames had falsely shown him to die in many ways in hundreds of places: at sea in a great storm, by the terrible magic of a great horn, beneath the soaring pyramids of Meereen; so many. The Mentors in the Temples always cautioned new acolytes against the dangers of searching out their demises. Yet men and women, being weak sinners, never listened. Moqorro had not. And here, with the three hills jutting up behind huge walls, each adorned with its own mighty edifice; yes, his fiery heart had recognized where his service in this world would cease.

That had left only the exact time of it for the Red God to unveil as the last gift for his service.

A gift not so readily glimpsed.

From the moment that Moqorro and his acolytes stepped ashore, the fate setting power of Azor Ahai reborn had warped the very ability of the flames to reveal the truth. The most obvious distortion being the invisibility granted to the fleshly sheath named Eddard Stark; his presence only detectable by the absence he cast. Some paths started clear, then hazed over as they neared the nexus that was the human and the divine made one; only to solidify again as distance and time provided prospective … and ultimately a false path. The true paths entered the haze and never emerged; at best offering a flickering hint through the gloom if they were not swallowed too deeply; like the bastard with royal blood.

This had left Moqorro in the vexing position of being a Red Priest of the Order of the Secret Fire assigned by the Flame of Truth himself to deduce the path of the world's salvation. Again, the absence of things cast in the light of the flame had guided him as best he could fathom in creating this community of believers in the ruined home of R'hllor's most cherished and cursed beasts.

Then, a mere hour ago, the aura, the absence cast by Azor Ahai reborn had astonishingly thinned; gaping rents slashed in the veil of destiny. In horror, Moqorro thought he was watching the destruction of the Heart of Fire's promise to his children and the beginning of the Great Other's Long Night. Spellbound, he had barely breathed as he extended himself farther than ever before into the heat and colors and images.

And as the flesh made divine's existence hovered between life and death, the flames revealed to him the fool who never doubted. It was her work, her shadow binding skills, her venom, her utter certainty, nestled as a parasite invisible within the fate maker's aura that had risked all; temporarily draining the last of her glamours as she struck. In those precious seconds before the blade in the Priestess' left hand slew the blade in her right hand, much was confirmed.

Even the most talented ignorant in the Lord of Light's flock was his tool.

And the exact time that Moqorro's path ended was at last laid bare. Tonight, for R'hllor willed it. And he could only willingly accept.

The imposing, large bellied man from another land knelt down and gently nudged the slumbering, white skinned orphan. "Boy, wake up," he urged compassionately.

Big, round brown eyes blinked up at him in confusion. "Master?" a soft, sleepy voice answered.

"The Red God calls you to great duty tonight."


"You must make a great journey, child. Farther than you could ever imagine. Beyond the walls of this city?"

Awareness and fear began to flitter across the unwashed, soot stained face of the urchin. "Wwwhy?"

He caressed the child's cheek. "Because the God of Flame and Shadow has marked your fiery heart for great service. You will travel alone, but all of our spirits shall watch over you from this night on."

The apple in the thin, bony neck bobbed heavily. "Where must I go?" he sniffled, attempting bravery.

"To the Riverlands."

"So far. I … I don't want to," his courage wilted at the impossibility even his youthful ignorance recognized.

"What is your name?" he asked kindly, as if the boy was his own grandson.

"Adrik, master."

"It is written in the flames, Adrik. And so you must go. I, Moqorro, priest of this temple have seen it. You will witness wonders not seen in millennia. Azor Ahai will bless you himself," he said with wonder. A lesser man than himself would have felt jealousy, but he knew his R'hllor granted fate and was well satisfied.

"How … how do I get there?" the child asked with curiosity mixed in with the fear.

"I will show you, Adrik, the secret exit out of the Dragonpit from my chambers. Then you must hie yourself to the Old Gate. You know the Old Gate, do you not?"

The waif nodded his understanding and then was clever enough to ask, "But its dark, the gate will be closed."

"R'Hllor will provide, child." There was no sense frightening him with how the Lord of Light would provide the needed distraction. "Free of the city, you must follow the path of the setting sun. R'Hllor and our spirits shall guide you. Seek the Stoney Sept. Search for the lord whom the Red God stays from death. There is a message he must hear," Moqorro said urgently.

Brown eyes grew wider.

"Remember these words: 'Lord Stark is Azor Ahai reborn. Protect him, for the Lady Melisandre yet lives and seeks his destruction.' Can you remember that, Adrik?"

The scruffy urchin nodded.

There was so much more information he yearned to share with the Defender of the World, for he saw the child's path merge with that of the Lightning Lord and his dissolute priest; disappearing into the miasma of the divine to never emerge again. But the Heart of Fire had chosen this unremarkable boy, the flimsiest of his vessels to carry the necessary warning. He must therefore limit it to its barest essence.

"Then repeat the words for me, my strong believer," he commanded gently.

"Lord Stark is the Azor Ahai. Protect him. The Lady Meli..meli..melisandre still lives and wishes to kill him."

"Good enough, Adrik, for we are all tools of the Fiery Heart's love. Remember that too, child, on your path. Now follow me," Moqorro commanded kindly, standing back up; casting a long shadow in the flickering lights illuminating the vast insides of the newest temple of the Red God – once called the Dragonpit.

The priest, the acolytes, the Fiery Hand, and the faithful who had chosen not to flee stood proudly, facing the bonfire built within the middle of their barely consecrated holy place. Everything that could be burned had been scavenged for the flames that now leapt almost as high as the vaulted, holed, partly coppered temple ceiling.

Tempted as he had been to turn the whole of the former Dragonpit into both a pyre and a last loving offering, he could not do that to the poor, suffering smallfolks who lived in the foul, fetid slums strewn about the Hill of Rhaenys. They deserved better. Enough of them would burn regardless. And they would remember the sacrifice made on their behalf. So like the seeds of a desert flower at the end of a long drought, belief would one day take root and flower and flourish again.

The first distant thunder reached his ears; time to lead the remnants of his flock in one last round of prayers. "Lead us from the darkness, O my Lord. Fill our hearts with fire, so we may walk your shining path . . . " he began the call.

"Lord of Light, defend us!" they answered him.

"R'hllor, you are the light in our eyes, the fire in our hearts, the heat in our loins!"

"The night is dark and full of terrors!" they chanted.

"Yours is the sun that warms our days, yours the stars that guard us in the dark of night!"

"Lord of Light, protect us!" they replied.

"R'hllor who gave us breath, we thank you!"

"We thank you for the sun that warms us!" they cried.

The thunder of Melony's clever malice was almost upon them; screamed cries and the beating of hooves.

"R'hllor who gave us day, we thank you!"

"We thank you for the stars that watch us!" they prayed

Then, Moqorro joined his voice to theirs. "We thank you for our hearths and for our torches, that keep the savage dark at bay!"

And then it began rolling over them; born slave, born freeman, born noble, born of love, born of rape … all become children of R'hllor's vast love.

This assembly of believers was the sacrifice she had made in her foolish ignorance to remain hidden from Azor Ahai reborn, but he made his own fate. And all, even a former slave girl, were simply R'hllor's tools. She could not escape the Red God ordained end of her path.













'Yes, for Azor Ahai reborn,' Moqorro agreed silently, watching calmly as those believers nearest the gates he had ordered to be left wide open began to fall beneath the steel onslaught of enraged Northmen; believers, in their own misguided way, of the Lord. He forgave them all; for many of them would one day stand as their Lord would, on that distant, towering wall of ice, against the start of the Long Night. What more could one of the Faithful hope from heathens?

Proudly he noted that barely a one flinched at death. And as their senior Priest, he could do no less; to show his last, ultimate devotion to the Lord of Light's will before he ascended to the Hall of Light.

As the horse and the swinging sword swept at him, Moqorro stood rock still to meet the end of his path.


He barely felt the pain of the huge wound ripped into his chest and side.

Moqorro toppled over, his body and necked crooked in such a way that his fading eyes stared up to the flickering light and shadows dancing on the few remaining faded copper panels of the battered ceiling.



A slight sense of disappointment.

Moqorro would have liked to have had one last chance to see the Night stars dancing their defiance at ...