Somewhere in the space between the heavens and time – that space where the gods dwelled and, for most of their eternal lives, chose whether or not to intercede in the lives of mortals, at their leisure – there was a conversation taking place between the Seven as they sat around their floating table to discuss a matter that had recently come to their attention.
“This is a mistake of the gravest kind,” the Crone was saying, her weathered yet ethereal skin appearing as thin as the finest gossamer made by mortals. Her long robe draped over her slight frame, belied the strength held in a body as old as time beneath the fraying fabric.
“I agree,” chimed the father, as did several others who hovered over non existent chairs. He continued, “We judge not one another, but this must be fixed.”
His pointed stare fixed upon the Smith, who hung his head just enough that his guilt was apparent even without a verbal admission. After all, it was he who had been in charge of this family line, and his blunder meant the Maiden and Mother were unable to fully deliver their fates to the mortals in question.
“An abomination,” the Stranger growled loudly, his heavy palm crashing to the table’s surface. His countenance – ever a mystery to all beings both mortal and immortal – seemed to glow red from within his cavernous hood.
“You’ve made it so that I am unable to properly discern which mortals to take and which to leave.”
His voice lowered and the others at the table bristled, the Stranger’s temper once again finding its way into a gathering.
“I demand you make this right. He – ” he stopped abruptly, his hood swinging left and right as he looked upon the other faces at the table. When he spoke again, his voice had a softness to it the others had not heard in several hundred years.
“I am… particularly fond of this one.”
“Aye, me as well,” piped up the Warrior, who was the only god who chose to stand at the table.
Always at attention, he took his role seriously, emulating the behaviors he wished to see when a soldier prayed for courage in battle, or for a wife who prayed that her husband come home unharmed.
There were a few nods of agreement – the Crone included – which pointed to the gravity of the situation, for the gods were known to have favorites and it was obvious the Smith had wronged one of their very dearest.
“Yes, yes,” he admitted, nodding, his eyes finally dropping to his dirty hands, folded as they were on the edge of the table.
“And the woman as well,” the Maiden reminded him softly, her smile so feminine and gentle that the smith coughed and turned away, though unable to completely hide the blush that arose on his dark cheeks.
“Yes,” he agreed with a terse nod, “the woman as well.”
“She is, after all, where the true mistake was made,” she prompted.
When the Maiden reached over to place a slender hand on the Smith’s arm, the differences between their appearances were striking. Her flesh glowed with white innocence, the surface of her ethereal body having no scars, no hairs, no freckles; not a single wrinkle that spoke of her true eternal age. She was the embodiment of beauty, while the Smith; the spirit of hard work, of creation and craftsmanship, had palms dirty and grimy; callused and scarred. It spoke volumes that a magnificent woman such as she would act so freely as to allow her skin to come into contact with his.
He turned a shy smile towards her, and all at the table knew once again she had managed to break through his serious wall and convince him to amend this wrong without having to argue for several centuries about it.
“Tonight,” the Mother offered from across the table, her wise and aged face showing she was the mother of all humanity, and a voice of wisdom when it came to matters of succession and lineage.
The Smith’s eyes rose to hers as well, and he nodded.
“I have a plan, and it will work.”
But something in his face darkened, and the Maiden’s hand fell away as too did the smile on her face. A round of gasps circled the table as the collective thought was shared amongst the seven.
“But not without pain,” the Stranger said, knowing.
The Crone, too, nodded in understanding.
“Aye, pain and heartache,” she said sagely. “But it cannot be helped if this situation is to be fixed.”
The Father sighed, but his nod was wise and certain. All at the table knew his job in this matter would not be an easy one, but in this case they were all certain he knew what had to be done.
After a long moment wherein his broad chest expanded and contracted, over and over as he inhaled purpose and exhaled judgement, he spoke again to a quiet group, all of them focused on his carefully spoken words.
“So be it,” he judged, his voice deep and resonating through the bottomless space that surrounded them.
“Do what must be done, and we will all –” he sent a pointed look around the circular table, “– handle this in the best way possible. Be prepared for prayers coming in, and deal with them in such a way that this comes to the conclusion we have all agreed upon.”
Nods came from everyone, as the Father vanished in a puff of cloudy haze, signalling the end of the gathering. One by one the gods followed suit, until the Stranger sat alone at he table.
A single wave of his hand and the center of the round table turned murky, then liquid, and on its rippling surface an image appeared of a soldier. His face was scarred, his beard a jagged edge on his cheek where the path of his life had taken an altered course from what the Stranger had originally wished for him.
With the other gods gone, the Stranger felt free to release the sigh he had been holding. As he watched, the soldier swung his sword, laying waste to the untrained farmers and young boys who rose up against the battle–seasoned warrior.
“An honorable death,” the Stranger said cryptically, even to himself.
It almost confused him, this plan the Smith had hatched. But with many of the details still lost to all of them but the Smith, the Stranger knew it would all end with the right end, the one that meant their mistake would not be perpetuated through the centuries.
With heavy thoughts he reached through the watery surface with his mind. Just as a sparrow abruptly flitted through the small space between man and boy, the god imagined his hand around the soldier’s neck, just enough that the man would pause in his swing. The boy beneath the sword froze, his arms coming up to cover his face as he waited and screamed, expecting the sword to fall and impale him somewhere about the torso.
The sparrow paused, flapping his wings in a manner that kept him hovering nearby for just a heartbeat’s worth of time, before turning and flying off.
But the soldier sheathed his sword instead, frozen as he was for a moment staring first in the direction the bird had flown off to, and then down at the boy who couldn’t have been any older than twelve.
Then he turned and strode away, and the Stranger retreated back into the ethereal realm, but not before blowing a puff of breath over that boy that had him belatedly soiling himself. He had just escaped death by the notorious Hound, the most feared warrior in all of Westeros. It was not something to take lightly, and the Stranger made sure the boy’s breeches knew it.
The portal closed and he sat back in the space where his chair should be.
Satisfied, he nodded to himself as he began to disappear.
With each incarnation their creations required precise planning, definitive plans for their lives, and ends to their mortal lives that left nothing in doubt for the people and events that came after them. To leave those proverbial loose ends in the fabric of time would be to throw all of the gods’ work into chaos; be it a slow forming storm that swept surely through the mortal dimension, or an immediate failure resulting in the sudden and complete eradication of the entire human realm.
Either way, it would leave the gods to bicker amongst themselves over whose fault it was before they rubbed their hands together and wove their thoughts and wishes once again into mortal beings in a system constructed of human interaction and industry.
Though the incarnations were designed to have no interaction, one was always based off all that had come before. Any error in planning on the gods’ part would be disastrous; resulting in the catastrophic end to mankind.
And none of the gods wished to be a party to the recreation thereof. Eons had already been spent devising the humans they had all come to know deeply, and to begin the process from the beginning meant the level of entertainment and emotional accomplishment they had achieved would be erased from all but their memories.
No, Sandor Clegane would not roam the world angry and alone forever. He would not be forced to always wonder what the future held for an outcast such as himself. Yes, more was meant for this man, and with a haphazardly smile, the god dissipated before he found himself envious of the Maiden and the Mother for their hands in the love lives of mortals.