As it was World Book Day yesterday (1st March) and across the UK we are gripped by snowy weather then it came to mind to attempt a Game of Thrones inspired post about depression and the battles we fight with it.
For those unaware of the Game of Thrones story, it is a series of books by George RR Martin (and come on George publish the next book!) which was turned into a hugely successful TV series by HBO. It tells of the warring families fighting for the kingdom of Westeros…but while they battle, scheme and double cross each other the true danger is coming from the frozen, wintery Northern wastes with the army of the Night King. The Kingdom is protected by a gigantic ice wall manned by the Night’s Watch…
The man stood atop the Wall, looking out across the snow and frozen land below. The snowflakes settled upon his black fur lined cloak, the wind blowing his long, curly hair. Somewhere out there, was the Night King, with his army of wights, bringing eternal winter with them. If they weren’t stopped the despair and sadness would overwhelm Westeros.
He was joined by a portly member of the Nigh’s Watch, who fumbled along the slippy walkway. “Jon, Maester Aemon wishes to talk to you” As he spoke his breath misted in the air, carried away with the swirling snowflakes.
Jon Snow, new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, turned and nodded. “Alright Sam, I’m coming”
The old Maester was lying in bed, a fire trying to keep the chill from taking over. He turned his head towards the sound of them entering the darkened room.
“You still intend to go beyond the Wall then Lord Commander?”. His voice gentle and inquiring.
“To do so will be to step into the face of winter, to accept the pain and torment. To question yourself, to wonder if you are good enough, worthy enough. What will you do if it overwhelms, if the emotion is too much and you fall….the snow will cover you and Jon Snow will be no more. You will be a Wight, full of despair and sadness, no hope or vitality” His sightless eyes seemed to peer directly into Jon.
“They are my friends.” As Jon spoke his hand tightened around the handle of his sword.”They would come for me. To support me”
“Then you know what must be done. To follow your values will bring you pain, but within your pain you will find your values. You must stop brooding , doubting your future, haunted by your past. Remember this Jon Snow, when out in the storm. The darkness, the fear the Witch King brings can only hurt if you forget to be you, to stay true to yourself. Meet the despair with compassion. Meet the pain with kind acceptance. Look for hope when it all looks hopeless. Deep inside you will find the strength. Go save your friends.”
The old man paused, sensing the troubled look on Jon’s face. “Go save yourself”
Sam walked with Jon to the gate that sealed the tunnel running through the Wall.
“I don’t like you going alone Jon, perhaps it would be better if..”
“No” the curtness of Jon’s reply stopped Sam. “No, not this time my friend”, he added more gently. “They are your friends too but I need to do this alone. It is enough to know you are here when I need you. ”
Jon sighed, a half-smile appearing. ” Know that I couldn’t do this without your support.”
They clasped hands and then Jon turned, calling “With me Ghost”as the tunnel gate was opened. Sam watched as the man and dire wolf disappeared into the snow.
Jon trudged through the deep snow. Two days after leaving the Wall and he had now lost their tracks, walking in the direction that he hoped that Grenn and Edd taken. The falling snow was getting thicker, the wind whirling around. Ghost was away, hunting. He felt alone in the world. Those familiar doubts and worries came into his head. What was he doing, out here, yet again playing the hero, playing the Lord Commander role? He stopped, the rumination threatening to overwhelm. How much of an idiot was he? The only one that could do this? Of course not, there were better men.
Staring woeful around he suddenly spotted a hint of something black, lying in the snow , several metres ahead. He had experienced several false hopes already, but as he pushed his way through the snow he could feel the hope rising. Reaching what he had spotted he realised it was a the cloak of the Nights Watch, almost all buried in the snow. Quickly digging he pulled the body under the cloak over, to face him. It was Grenn, still alive. Just. And there lying just a short distance away, almost fully covered by snow and ice was Edd. Jon scrambled over to him and brushed the snowfall off his face. As he did Edd’s eyes opened and Jon was relieved to not see the bright blue of a Wight in them.
“Took your time” Edd muttered through frozen lips. Jon quickly dug his friend out and half carried, half dragged him over to Grenn. Before Jon could do much more he suddenly became aware of the silence around him. Even though the snowstorm had increased the wind noise had dropped.
Part of the snowfall paused and opened, to reveal a figure. Tall and imposing, full of ice and malice, the bright blue stare of the Night King bore into Jon.
“You are a fool to come here.” Jon heard the words in his head, not spoken aloud by the Wight. “Didn’t you learn last time? When I left you weakness, crying on the floor, with the truth laid bare to you. Your failings, your unworthiness. You are not who you say you are.”
Each word was a hammer blow inside Jon’s head, driving him to his knees, down into the snow, next to his friends, who lay in the snow staring with horror.
“Lord Commander? The Bastard of Winterfell -ha. You are nothing but a cheap sword, protecting your fellow humans behind a wall that I will break. Those you protect don’t even like you. Why do you do this to yourself. Lie there, down in the snow”
Jon felt his last strength go and fell face down in the freezing snow.
“How easy it is, just lie there and let the snow take you? No-one will care, no-one will miss you. The Night Watch will be better off without you. The world will be better off without you. Let go.”
Jon felt the tears freezing in his eyes, his rasping breath misting over his body. He heard a muttering to his side.
“Jon, don’t listen … he is lying, we need you…”He couldn’t tell if it was Grenn or Edd. He knew they cared, he knew the Night King was showing him an illusion. But it was so hard…
And at that last minute, as the snow covered him and his world was ending Jon saw a blurry shape launch into the side of the Night King, knocking him sideways and breaking the spell. Jon slowly climbed to his feet, drawing his long sword and facing his foe, as Ghost circled around it, growling.
“Go back” he shouted, his voice ragged and hoarse. “Go back. Away from humans. Keep your despair and despondency to yourself. Your critical voices won’t reach us anymore. Our towns and villages are full of more love and compassion than you can ever imagine. Aye, even in Flea Bottom there is more hope than you will ever know.It won’t be our swords, arrows or even dragons that will stop you. It will be when we realise you tell stories to frighten us. The illusions that you make us think. That we are not good enough, that we don’t have a place in the world, that we are meaningless. Leave here now, I am strong enough to match you. ”
The Night King had completely faltered from the blow by Ghost, the snow seemed to be surrounding it, pulling it away. Jon realised that somehow Grenn and Edd had managed to stand, next to him. Friends supporting friends, at time of greatest need.
“Until next time Jon Snow. We will meet again”
“Aye, reckon we will.” Jon stood as straight as he could. “And I will be waiting, with kindness, compassion and understanding. Your power is weakening, each time you attack I grow stronger. Stronger at managing the Wall that prevents you from taking over my life. Go back to your dark halls, with your self-doubt and dreams of a perfect life. I may not be the best Lord Commander, I may make mistakes and be flawed.”
He pointed the sword towards the receding figure, as it was taken away by the snowstorm.
“But know this….I am human and I am loved. You will never be.”
The alarm bell rang from the top of the wall. Sam, with several Night Watch guards rushed to the tunnel gate as the three figures, Ghost loping alongside, staggered towards the Wall.
“Quick, open the gate” shouted Sam. He and the guards ran out to meet their comrades. Sam caught Jon as he staggered into his arms.
“It’s alright Jon, you made it. Did you see him?….You know, I mean the Night King ” Sam looked around nervously as he said the words.
“That I did.”Jon looked him in the face. “And for now I beat him.”
Hope that worked, love to hear any feedback. Chris
All characters are created by George RR Martin. Cover image via Pixabay.