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A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
"You belong to the god now," Aeron told him. The other drowned men gathered round and each gave him a punch and a kiss to welcome him to the brotherhood. One helped him don a roughspun robe of mottled blue and green and grey. Another presented him with a driftwood cudgel. "You belong to the sea now, so the sea has armed you," Aeron said. "We pray that you shall wield your cudgel ﬁercely, against all the enemies of our god."
Only then did the priest turn to the three riders, watching from their saddles. "Have you come to be drowned, my lords?"
The Sparr coughed. "I was drowned as a boy," he said, "and my son upon his name day."
Aeron snorted. That Steffarion Sparr had been given to the Drowned God soon after birth he had no doubt. He knew the manner of it too, a quick dip into a tub of seawater that scarce wet the infantís head. Small wonder the ironborn had been conquered, they who once held sway everywhere the sound of waves was heard. "That is no true drowning," he told the riders. "He that does not die in truth cannot hope to rise from death. Why have you come, if not to prove your faith?"
"Lord Goroldís son came seeking you, with news." The Sparr indicated the youth in the red cloak.
The boy looked to be no more than six-and-ten. "Aye, and which are you?" Aeron demanded.
"Gormond. Gormond Goodbrother, if it please my lord."
"It is the Drowned God we must please. Have you been drowned, Gormond Goodbrother?"
"On my name day, Damphair. My father sent me to ﬁnd you and bring you to him. He needs to see you."
"Here I stand. Let Lord Gorold come and feast his eyes." Aeron took a leather skin from Rus, freshly ﬁlled with water from the sea. The priest pulled out the cork and took a swallow.
"I am to bring you to the keep," insisted young Gormond, from atop his horse.
He is afraid to dismount, lest he get his boots wet. "I have the godís work to do." Aeron Greyjoy was a prophet. He did not suffer petty lords ordering him about like some thrall.
"Goroldís had a bird," said the Sparr.
"A maesterís bird, from Pyke," Gormond conﬁrmed.
Dark wings, dark words. "The ravens ﬂy oíer salt and stone. If there are tidings that concern me, speak them now."
"Such tidings as we bear are for your ears alone, Damphair," the Sparr said. "These are not matters I would speak of here before these others."
"These others are my drowned men, godís servants, just as I am. I have no secrets from them, nor from our god, beside whose holy sea I stand."
The horsemen exchanged a look. "Tell him," said the Sparr, and the youth in the red cloak summoned up his courage. "The king is dead," he said, as plain as that. Four small words, yet the sea itself trembled when he uttered them.
Four kings there were in Westeros, yet Aeron did not need to ask which one was meant. Balon Greyjoy ruled the Iron Islands, and no other. The king is dead. How can that be? Aeron had seen his eldest brother not a moonís turn past, when he had returned to the Iron Islands from harrying the Stony Shore. Balonís grey hair had gone half-white whilst the priest had been away, and the stoop in his shoulders was more pronounced than when the longships sailed. Yet all in all the king had not seemed ill.
Aeron Greyjoy had built his life upon two mighty pillars. Those four small words had knocked one down. Only the Drowned God remains to me. May he make me as strong and tireless as the sea. "Tell me the manner of my brotherís death."
"His Grace was crossing a bridge at Pyke when he fell and was dashed upon the rocks below."
The Greyjoy stronghold stood upon a broken headland, its keeps and towers built atop massive stone stacks that thrust up from the sea. Bridges knotted Pyke together; arched bridges of carved stone and swaying spans of hempen rope and wooden planks. "Was the storm raging when he fell?" Aeron demanded of them.
Excerpted from A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin Copyright © 2004 by George R. R. Martin . Excerpted by permission of Spectra, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.