Stump in the Road
“Firststump is an unremarkable town but for the cathedral in its midst called the ‘Sept-Over-The-Stump’,” Ser Herbert remarked as they rode along the Goldroad. He nodded, grinned and pointed towards the town as it came into view, “You can see it from here. It’s made almost entirely of white stone, well maintained and even polished.” The cathedral indeed stood out from the rest of the surrounding buildings. Its seven spires were easily the tallest feature in Firststump, and they almost glinted in the sunlight.
Kevan Manning commented, “What is this stump?”
A snort, “Tsk, tsk, Ser Kevan. Did you not pay attention to your speta as a child?” Etan Hogg presented a derisive smile as he shook his head.
“Septas teach us manners as well as histories, Ser. Wouldn’t you agree that both are worth our attention?” Kataerina smiled politely at Etan.
Forcefully restraining from rolling his eyes, Etan offered a cordial nod, “Yes, my Lady,” and withdrew from the conversation.
Kat gave a brief pause as Etan dropped back, “Ser Kevan, as the town is built around the sept, the sept is built around the stump of a weirwood. A weirwood said to be the first felled in this region after being struck by lightning when an Andal lord prayed for such in the name of The Seven. It is said that all the town’s inhabitants were instantly converted at the sight and thus moved to erect a great sept around the weirwood’s remains.”
“There’s a stump under the sept?” Aaron joined the conversation, asking with mild confusion.
“Not under. The sept is built around it. If you visit the sept you can see it on display, nephew.”
Perhaps it was curiosity, perhaps more, but Aaron was drawn to see the Sept and the weirwood stump. The morning after securing accommodations, he and his party made their way to view this oddity. Nearer the Sept, the street grew thick with pilgrims. Soon they came to a queue that filed well outside the Sept’s main doors; all waiting for a glimpse of the inside. Gerbold muttered something about hating waiting in lines and made his way to the front to secure the party’s unhindered entry into the Sept. A few minutes and stags later, they had bypassed the queue and were inside.
The Sept was impressive. While not as large as the Great Sept at King’s Landing, it was not far off. Despite the masses of pilgrims shuffling their way in, it was far from full. Voices echoed here and there despite the best efforts of the Septons’ and Septas’ constant ‘shushing’. Only a single septa who’s age could have rivaled that of the Old Crone herself dared approach them and press a finger to her lips.
They made their way to a round railing and looked over into what appeared to be a pit and there it was. The unmistakable bone white bark had turned more of an ash grey, but the face said to have been carved into each by the ‘Children of the Forest’ was still present. However, the eyes were black instead of red. A Septon acting as a guide of sorts simply whispered that the notorious red sap of the weirwood turned black when the tree was dead.
While the rest of the party moved on, Aaron lingered at the railing. He stared at the face and tried to imagine it as it once had been. That was when he saw something, a glimpse of a child with a shiny black knife carving the face. A girl, he thought, dressed much like the urchin that he had encountered in Barfess. But when she looked up at him she had a dark skinned face with tiny white dots painted on. She waved her hand, put her finger to her lips and shook her head slowly. And Aaron swore he heard her voice in his mind, though he could not understand what was said. A wave of dizziness came over him and he held the railing for support. It passed in seconds. When he looked down at the stump again, the girl was gone.
Aaron meant to tell the others what he saw, at least Gerbold, but by the time they had left the Sept it all seemed like a dream the details of which fade quickly as one wakes. Only upon arriving in Deep Den had he been able to piece it together; and convinced that it must have been the same girl.*******
“Imagine hiding your gods’ work and charging the faithful to see it.” Gerbold grumps with a dismissive sound. “What a farce.” that he’d intimidate the party’s way to the front of the line aside, did not cure the disgust he felt at this blasphemous display. The weir wood is indeed dead and he may the only one here who can sense the life that once resided within the wood. It makes sense to him, that the slaves of the seven would strike down such a marvel, for the life in weir woods is real and a powerfully moving force. It would frighten the worshippers of such petty, small gods. But even they shall pass from this realm and only the land will remain.
The Knight scowls openly at the shushing, withered hag. ‘You think your tiny gods do not feel false pride to hear their worshippers thrilling and gawping, at their supposed handiwork?’ he then provides the old woman with a rude gesture… at least, that’s his desire. In reality, if she has any sense at all, she knows he is mocking her by his glare. That these people treat this abomination like some piece of art to be gawked makes him sick. ‘Ignorant slaves!’ he thinks and moves on.