The king wore lambswool breeches and a quilted doublet, yet somehow he looked as stiff and uncomfortable as if he had been clad in plate and mail. His skin was
pale leather, his beard cropped so short that it might have been painted on. A fringe about his temples was all that remained of his black hair. In his hand
was a parchment with a broken seal of dark green wax.
Jon took a knee. The king frowned at him, and rattled the parchment angrily. “Rise. Tell me, who is Lyanna Mormont?”
“One of Lady Maege’s daughters, Sire. The youngest. She was named for my lord father’s sister.”
“To curry your lord father’s favor, I don’t doubt. I know how that game is played. How old is this wretched girl child?”
Jon had to think a moment. “Ten. Or near enough to make no matter. Might I know how she has offended Your Grace?”
Stannis read from the letter. “Bear Island knows no king but the King in the North, whose name is STARK. A girl of ten, you
say, and she presumes to scold her lawful king.” His close-cropped beard lay like a shadow over his hollow cheeks. “See that you keep these tidings to yourself, Lord
Snow. Karhold is with me, that is all the men need know. I will not have your brothers trading tales of how this child spat on me.”
“I’m going to show you how dangerous tigers are,” hecontinued. “I want you to remember this lesson for the rest ofyour lives.”He turned to Babu and nodded.
Babu left. Mahisha’s eyesfollowed him and did not move from the door he disappearedthrough. He returned a few
seconds later carrying a goat withits legs tied. Mother gripped me from behind. Mahisha’s snarlturned into a growl deep in the throat.
Babu unlocked, opened, entered, closed and locked a cagenext to the tiger’s cage. Bars and a trapdoor separated thetwo.
Immediately Mahisha was up against the dividing bars,pawing them. To his growling he now added explosive,
arrestedwoofs. Babu placed the goat on the floor; its flanks wereheaving violently, its tongue hung from its mouth, and its eyeswere
He untied its
legs. The goat
got to its feet.
Lady Melisandre stirred. “Tell me, Lord Snow … where were these other kings when the wild people stormed your Wall?”
“A thousand leagues away and deaf to our need,” Jon replied. “I have not forgotten that, my lady. Nor will I. But my father’s bannermen have wives and children to
protect, and smallfolk who will die should they choose wrongly. His Grace asks much of them. Give them time, and you will have your answers.”
“Answers such as this?” Stannis crushed Lyanna’s letter in his fist.
“Even in the north men fear the wroth of Tywin Lannister. Boltons make bad enemies as well. It is not happenstance that put a flayed man on their banners.
They north rode with Robb, bled with him, died for him. They have supped on grief and death, and now you come to
offer them another serving. Do you blame them if they hang back? Forgive me, Your Grace, but some will look at you and see only another doomed pretender.”
“If His Grace is doomed, your realm is doomed as well,” said Lady Melisandre. “Remember that, Lord Snow. It is the one true king of Westeros who stands before you.”
Jon kept his face a mask. “As you say, my lady.”
I could feel Mother’s hand pressed against my poundingheart.
The trapdoor resisted with sharp cries. Mahisha was besidehimself – he looked as if he were about to burst through thebars.
He seemed to hesitate between staying where he was, atthe place where his prey was closest but most certainly out
ofreach, and moving to the ground level, further away but wherethe trapdoor was located. He raised himself and started snarlingagain.
The goat started to jump. It jumped to amazing heights. Ihad no idea a goat could jump so high. But the back
was a high
“As you command, Sire.” Maege Mormont had ridden south with Robb, Jon knew. Her eldest daughter had joined the Young Wolf’s host as well. Even if both of them
had died, however, Lady Maege had other daughters, some with children of their own. Had they gone with Robb as well? Surely Lady Maege would have left at
least one of the older girls behind as castellan. He did not understand why Lyanna should be writing Stannis, and
could not help but wonder if the girl’s answer might have been different if the letter had been sealed with a direwolf
instead of a crowned stag, and signed by Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell. It is too late for such misgivings. You made your choice.
“Two score ravens were sent out,” the king complained, “yet we get no response but silence and defiance. Homage is the duty every leal subject owes his king. Yet
your father’s bannermen all turn their back on me, save the Karstarks. Is Arnolf Karstark the only man of honor in the north?”
Arnolf Karstark was the late Lord Rickard’s uncle. He had been made the castellan of Karhold when his nephew
and his sons went south with Robb, and he had been the first to respond to King Stannis’s call for homage, with a raven
declaring his allegiance. The Karstarks have no other choice, Jon might have said. Rickard Karstark had betrayed the direwolf and spilled the blood of lions.
The stag was Karhold’s only hope. “In times as confused as these, even men of
honor must wonder where their duty lies. Your Grace is not the only king in the realm demanding homage.”
Babu exited the cage in the same careful way he had enteredit. The cage had two floors, one level with us, the other at
theback, higher by about three feet, that led outside to the island.
The goat scrambled to this second level. Mahisha, nowunconcerned with Babu,
paralleled the move in his cage in afluid, effortless motion. He crouched and lay
still, his slowlymoving tail the only sign of tension.
Babu stepped up to the trapdoor
between the cages andstarted pulling it open. In anticipation of satisfaction, Mahishafell silent. I heard two things at that moment: Father saying”Never forget
this lesson” as he looked on grimly, and thebleating of the goat. It must
bleating all along,
hear it before.
Castle Black seemed a bleak and forlorn place in the pale dawn light. My command, Jon Snow reflected ruefully, as much a ruin as it is a stronghold. The Lord Commander’s Tower was a shell, the Common Hall a pile of
blackened timbers, and Hardin’s Tower looked as if the next gust of wind would knock it over … though it had looked that way for years. Behind them rose the Wall: immense, forbidding, frigid, acrawl with builders pushing up a
new switchback stair to join the remnants of the old. They worked from dawn to dusk. Without the stair, there was no way to reach the top of the Wall save by winch. That would not serve if the wildlings should attack again.
“How well, though?” Ser Godry drew his own blade. “Show us. I promise not to hurt you, lad.”
How kind of you. “Some other time, ser. I fear that I have other duties just now.”
“You fear. I see that.” Ser Godry grinned at his friends. “He fears,” he repeated, for the slow ones.
“You will excuse me.” Jon showed them his back.
“Yes, it is,” said Father, annoyed. “It may very well savetheir lives.”Save our lives! It was no longer a small alarm bell thatwas ringing in my head – they
were big bells now, like theones we heard from Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, not farfrom the zoo.
“But Piscine? He’s only eight,” Mother insisted.
“He’s the one who worries me the most.””I’m innocent!” I burst out. “It’s Ravi’s fault, whatever it is.
He did it!””What?” said Ravi. “I haven’t done anything wrong.” Hegave me the evil eye.
“Shush!” said Father, raising his hand. He was looking atMother. “Gita, you’ve seen Piscine. He’s at that age when boysrun around and poke their noses everywhere.”Me? A run-arounder? An everywhere-nose-poker? Not so,not
so! Defend me, Mother, defend me, I implored in myheart. But she only sighed and nodded, a signal that theterrible
“Come with me,”
Boy was not the worst of the things that Jon Snow had been called since being chosen lord commander. He ignored it.
“Snow,” the voice insisted, “Lord Commander.”
This time he stopped. “Ser?”
The knight overtopped him by six inches. “A man who bears Valyrian steel should use it for more than scratching his arse.”
Jon had seen this one about the castle—a knight of great renown, to hear him tell it. During the battle beneath the Wall, Ser Godry Farring had slain a fleeing giant, pounding after him on horseback and driving a lance through his back,
then dismounting to hack off the creature’s pitiful small head. The queen’s men had taken to calling him Godry the Giantslayer.
Jon remembered Ygritte, crying. I am the last of the giants. “I use Longclaw when I must, ser.”
Countless stories are told of them. They are the pendants ofthose “vicious”, “bloodthirsty”, “depraved” animals that inflamethe ire of the maniacs I have
just mentioned, who vent theirspite on them with walking sticks and umbrellas. In both caseswe look at an animal and see a mirror. The obsession
withputting ourselves at the centre of everything is the bane notonly of theologians but also of zoologists.
I learned the lesson that an animal is an animal, essentiallyand practically removed from us, twice: once with Father andonce with Richard Parker.
It was on a Sunday morning. I was quietly playing on myown. Father called out.
“Children, come here.”Something was wrong. His tone of voice set off a smallalarm bell in my head. I quickly reviewed my conscience. Itwas clear. Ravi must be in trouble again. I wondered what hehad done this time. I
“Ravi, Piscine, I have a very important lesson for you today.””Oh really, is this necessary?” interrupted Mother. Her facewas flushed.
I swallowed. If Mother, normally so unruffled, so calm, wasworried, even upset, it meant we were in serious trouble. Iexchanged glances with Ravi.
walked into the living room. Mother wasthere. That was unusual. The disciplining of children, like thetending of animals, was generally left to Father. Ravi
all over his
Iron Emmett’s lads were well at it in the yard, blunted swords slamming into shields and ringing against one another.
Jon stopped to watch a moment as Horse pressed Hop-Robin back toward the well. Horse had the makings of a
good fighter, he decided. He was strong and getting stronger, and his instincts were sound. Hop-Robin was another tale. His clubfoot was bad enough, but he was
afraid of getting hit as well. Perhaps we can make a steward of him. The fight ended abruptly, with Hop-Robin on the ground.
“Well fought,” Jon said to Horse, “but you drop your shield too low when pressing an attack. You will want to correct that, or it is like to get you killed.”
“Yes, m’lord. I’ll keep it higher next time.” Horse pulled Hop-Robin to his feet, and the smaller boy made a clumsy bow.
A few of Stannis’s knights were sparring on the far side of the yard. King’s men in one corner and queen’s men in another,
Jon did not fail to note, but only a few. It’s too cold for most of them. As he strode past them, a booming voice called after him. “BOY! YOU THERE! BOY!”
Just beyond the ticket booth Father had had painted on awall in bright red letters the question:
DO YOU KNOW WHICH IS THE MOSTDANGEROUS ANIMAL IN THE ZOO?
An arrow pointed to a small curtain. There were so manyeager, curious hands
that pulled at the curtain that we had toreplace it regularly. Behind it was a mirror.
But I learned at my expense that Father believed there wasanother animal even more dangerous than us, and one thatwas extremely common, too,
found on every continent, in everyhabitat: the redoubtable species Animalus anthropomorphicus,the animal as seen through human eyes. We’ve all met
one,perhaps even owned one. It is an animal that is “cute”,”friendly”, “loving”, “devoted”, “merry”, “under-standing”.
Theseanimals lie in
ambush in every
toy store and
“Three corns and one roast raven,” said Dolorous Edd. “Very good, m’lord, only Hobb’s made boiled eggs, black sausage, and apples stewed with prunes. The apples stewed with prunes are excellent, except for the prunes. I won’t
eat prunes myself. Well, there was one time when Hobb chopped them up with chestnuts and carrots and hid them in a hen. Never trust a cook, my lord. They’ll prune you when you least expect it.”
“Later.” Breakfast could wait; Stannis could not. “Any trouble from the stockades last night?”
“Not since you put guards on the guards, m’lord.”
“Good.” A thousand wildlings had been penned up beyond the Wall, the captives Stannis Baratheon had taken when his knights had smashed Mance Rayder’s patchwork host. Many of the prisoners were women, and some of the
guards had been sneaking them out to warm their beds. King’s men, queen’s men, it did not seem to matter; a few black brothers had tried the same thing. Men were men, and these were the only women for a thousand leagues.
“Two more wildlings turned up to surrender,” Edd went on. “A mother with a girl clinging to her skirts. She had a boy babe too, all swaddled up in fur, but he was dead.”
“Dead,” said the raven. It was one of the bird’s favorite words. “Dead, dead, dead.”
“Religion will save us,” I said. Since when I could remember,religion had been very close to my heart.
“Religion?” Mr. Kumar grinned broadly. “I don’t believe inreligion. Religion is darkness.”Darkness? I was puzzled. I thought, Darkness is the lastthing that
religion is. Religion is light. Was he testing me? Washe saying, “Religion is darkness,” the way he sometimes said inclass things like “Mammals lay eggs,”
to see if someone wouldcorrect him? (“Only platypuses, sir.”)”There are no grounds for going beyond a scientificexplanation of reality and no sound
reason for believinganything but our sense experience. A clear intellect, closeattention to detail and a little scientific knowledge will exposereligion as
superstitious bosh. God does not exist.” -Did he say that? Or am I remembering the lines of lateratheists? At any rate, it was something of the
sort. I had neverheard such words.
“Why tolerate darkness? Everything is here and clear, if onlywe look carefully.”He was pointing at Peak. Now though I had greatadmiration
for Peak, I had
of a rhinoceros
as alight bulb.
Jon pissed in darkness, filling his chamber pot as the Old Bear’s raven muttered complaints. The wolf dreams had been growing stronger, and he found
himself remembering them even when awake. Ghost knows that Grey Wind is dead. Robb had died at the Twins,
and his wolf had perished with him. Bran and Rickon had been murdered too,
beheaded at the behest of Theon Greyjoy, who had once been their lord father’s ward … but if dreams did not lie, their
direwolves had escaped. At Queenscrown, one had come out of the darkness to save Jon’s life. Summer, it had to be. His fur was grey, and Shaggydog is black. He
wondered if some part of his dead brothers lived on inside their wolves.
He filled his basin from the flagon of water beside his bed, washed his face and hands, donned a clean set of black
woolens, laced up a black leather jerkin, and pulled on a pair of well-worn boots. Mormont’s raven watched with shrewd
black eyes, then fluttered to the window. “Do you take me for your thrall?” When Jon folded back the window with its thick
diamond-shaped panes of yellow glass, the chill of the morning hit him in the face. He took a breath to clear away the cobwebs of the night as the raven flapped
away. That bird is too clever by half. It had been the Old Bear’s companion for long years, but that had not stopped it from eating Mormont’s face once he died.
I was more afraid thatin a few words thrown out he might destroy something that Iloved. What if his words had the
effect of polio on me? Whata terrible disease that must be if it could kill God in a man.
He walked off, pitching and rolling in the wild sea that wasthe steady ground. “Don’t forget the test on Tuesday.
Studyhard, 3.14!””Yes, Mr. Kumar.”He became my favourite teacher at Petit Seminaire and thereason I studied
zoology at the University of Toronto. I felt akinship with him. It was my first clue
that atheists are mybrothers and sisters of a different faith, and every word theyspeak speaks of faith. Like me,
they go as far as
the legs ofreason
will carry them –
and then they leap.
They had free folk drifting in most every night, starved half-frozen creatures who had run from the battle beneath the Wall only to crawl back when they realized there was no safe place to run to. “Was the mother questioned?” Jon
asked. Stannis Baratheon had smashed Mance Rayder’s host and made the King-Beyond-the-Wall his captive … but the wildlings were still out there, the Weeper and Tormund Giantsbane and thousands more.
“Aye, m’lord,” said Edd, “but all she knows is that she ran off during the battle and hid in the woods after. We filled her full of porridge, sent her to the pens, and burned the babe.”
Burning dead children had ceased to trouble Jon Snow; live ones were another matter. Two kings to wake the dragon. The father first and then the
son, so both die kings. The words had been murmured by one of the queen’s men as Maester Aemon had cleaned his wounds. Jon had tried to dismiss
them as his fever talking. Aemon had demurred. “There is power in a king’s blood,” the old maester had warned, “and better men than Stannis have done
worse things than this.” The king can be harsh and unforgiving, aye, but a babe still on the breast? Only a monster would give a living child to the flames.
He spoke again. “Some people say God died during thePartition in 1947. He may have died in 1971 during the war.
Or he may have died yesterday here in Pondicherry in anorphanage. That’s what some people say, Pi. When I was yourage, I lived in bed, racked with
polio. I asked myself every day,‘Where is God? Where is God? Where is God?’ God nevercame. It wasn’t God who saved me – it was medicine. Reasonis my
prophet and it tells me that as a watch stops, so wedie. It’s the end. If the watch doesn’t work properly, it must befixed here and now by us. One day we will take hold of themeans of production and there will be justice on
earth.”This was all a bit much for me. The tone was right – lovingand brave – but the details seemed bleak.
I said nothing.
fear of angering
Recently, a Dutch court ruled against a lawsuit by Fujian villagers of China
against Dutch Tibetans for reclaiming the statue of Master Zhang sitting in the body of Buddha, on the grounds that it was unclear whether the villagers’Committee of China had the right to file a lawsuit.
A lot of Chinese people are angry when news of the verdict comes out. This is the logic of robbers. The Buddha is ours. It also says that we have no right to appeal to the law. That’s a wonderful reason.
Maybe some netizens don’t know what happened. One night in December 1995,
the guard of Lin’s ancestral temple in Yangchun Village, Wushan Township,
Datian County, Fujian Province, fell asleep and the ancestor Zhang, who was enshrined in the ancestral temple, disappeared.
Zhang Gongzu, known by villagers in Yangchun Village, Fujian Province as
“the benefactor of Kaishan”, is a Taoist monk. Zhang Gongzu sat down and
became a Buddha. The ancestors of Yangchun Village in Fujian made it into a
body sitting Buddha, which has been enshrined in Lin’s ancestral temple.
In October 2014, the Hungarian Museum
of Natural Science held an exhibition “Mummy World”, where a statue of Chinese Buddhist and monk’s body,
labeled about 1100 A.D., was also displayed.
Some people are surprised to find that this Chinese Buddha statue is very similar to the body treasure of Zhang
Gong-liu Quan, who was stolen in the Song Dynasty in 1995. Moreover, there are some words on the Buddha cushion,
such as “this hall’s general seal of Zhang
this Buddha statue on display is the stolen Buddha statue in Yangchun Village.
So the villagers of Yangchun Village, Wushan Township, Datian County,
Fujian Province, submitted evidence to the Dutch court, saying that the
mummies in the exhibition were the Buddha statues they had lost.
According to Dutch media reports, the owner of the Buddha statue is an
architect in Amsterdam. He said his collection of Buddha statues is indeed very similar to those lost in Yangchun
Village, Fujian Province. However, the Yangchun village Buddha statue in Fujian Province was stolen in October of the Lunar calendar in 1995, and his
collection of Buddha statues was earlier than this time, that is to say, the possibility of the two Buddha statues
being the same is small. However, such collectors claim
that if it can be proved that the
Buddha was the one claimed
stolen by Fujian villages,
he would return the Buddha.