Tower of the Hand

Book 5, Chapter 14.
Bran meets Bloodraven, who promises to instruct him in magic.
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Coldhands warns of wights nearby. Bran, Summer, Hodor, Meera, and Jojen are with him at the base of a hill that they must climb before nightfall to avoid the wights. The wolves Summer encountered previously are still following them as well. The only other way into their destination is a sinkhole three leagues north, but Hodor would not be able to climb down while carrying Bran, and Jojen has been unable walk for three days. The cave they must reach in the hillside is warded, so the wights will be unable to follow. Coldhands cannot pass through the wards either. The party has gone five days without much food. Twelve days ago, Coldhands' elk collapsed for the third time and would not rise, so Coldhands and Meera killed and butchered it. The steaks lasted seven days.

The party begins the ascent. Coldhands takes the lead, followed by Hodor and Bran, then Summer, then Meera half carrying and half dragging Jojen. About sixty yards from the cave entrance, wights burst out of the snow. Coldhands is quickly surrounded, while Bran is knocked off Hodor and barely saved from disembowelment by Summer. Bran wargs into Hodor to fight off more wights and to force him to resume climbing with Bran in his arms. Meera catches up with the others and does her best to fight off wights as well. As he watches her, Bran thinks of how he loves her.

Up ahead, Bran sees that many of the wights are now on fire. Hodor loses Bran again, and the boy watches through Hodor's eyes as a wight approaches him. Ravens pour out of the cave, while a little girl moves among the wights, burning them. Bran returns to his own body to see a flaming wight coming nearer. Suddenly, the snow on the trees above him falls, burying him.

Bran wakes up some time later and realizes he is in the cave. Meera states she pulled him from the snow, but it was the girl who saved them. Bran looks at the girl and realizes she is one of the children of the forest.1 She confirms her identity stating that is the name given to them by men. The giants called them woh dak nag gran, or the squirrel people for their size, speed, and fondness for trees, while in their own language, which they call the True Tongue, they are known as "those who sing the song of earth." She claims they have been in Westeros for ten thousand years before the Old Tongue was first spoken. She herself was born during the reign of the Targaryens and traveled Westeros for two hundred years, which is how she knows the Common Tongue.

The child of the forest leads the party deeper into the caves. As they progress, they notice there are weirwood roots all around them as well as bones of many animals, humans, giants, and children of the forest. At last, they arrive at an underground river beside which is a pale, skeletal man in rotted black finery with weirwood roots growing right through him.2 The man states that he has visited Bran in his dreams and watched him with "a thousand eyes and one" ever since he was born. Bran asks if the man can fix his legs. He cannot, but he promises to teach Bran to fly.



Warning: Footnotes may contain spoilers from later chapters or books.
  • 1 - Her name is Leaf.
  • 2 - From the physical description here, the reference to "a thousand eyes and one," and his name, given later as Brynden, this must be Bloodraven.