The door opened slowly with an ominous creak that seemed to last forever. Toten Lanncaster stepped through the door and closed it gently behind him. He stood, looking over at the bed. Lons looked toward him, a weak smile showing the deep creases age and happiness had put in his features. Toten searched, but couldn’t find anything to say, so he said the only thing he could.
The former maester paused before responding, as he always did, as if intrigued by some deep passing thought.
The lord of Rockfall moved closer and sat next to his friend, eyes taking in the blood stained bandages and bedding, the paleness of Lons’ skin. The wounds would have killed anyone else, far sooner. But not the Melee Maester. Not Toten’s friend. Tears welled of their own accord as the two sat for a moment in silence.
They didn’t need words. They knew what was in each other’s hearts and minds. Their friendship was deep.
“I heard you lamed a horse getting here,” Lons said finally, breaking their reverie.
“I’d have lamed a thousand if I’d had to,” Toten replied, fierce emotion in his voice.
Lons smiled again.
They talked for a time about a great deal of things. What had happened in the city, Natan, Saul, tournaments, life, and for awhile it was just as things had been for decades, two friends talking and enjoying the company of the other for as long as they had it.
Lons coughed, a wet sound deep in his chest. His eyes fluttered and he struggled weakly, his hand searching.
Toten took it, his strong grip holding tightly to Lons. The moment passed, but Toten could see that something had gone through the hand of the king.
“You know,” Toten began slowly as Lons settled his head back on his pillow. “I’ve never been a great storyteller. But I have been spending quite a bit of time with Robrik lately.” Lons’ smile returned, and managed to clear some of the pallor that had settled over it, though it was somehow sadder.
“Have I ever told you,” Toten began, though something seemed to be choking his speech here and there. “The story of the greatest maester, man, and best friend I’ve ever known?”
Lons’ smile widened and his hand tightened on Toten’s. “I don’t think I’ve heard that one, Toten,” he said, his voice small.
Toten nodded. “It all started with a boy just back from war, who only needed a friend, and a young maester, fresh from the citadel, who was there for him…”
Toten began speaking and the world melted away, replaced with vistas from the past, castles and woods and people. The experiences of two lives, bound in friendship and tested beyond any doubt. Tales of sadness and pain, of joy and happiness. Near thirty years of family. And a lifetime of love.
All through it, Toten guided them on a sea of memories, steering their course through all of their adventures and hardships, right up to the moment they still shared.
“And that man,” Toten said, wearing a proud smile. “The best friend I’ll ever have, is Lons Lanncaster.”
Lons reached to his side and pulled up an object. “I have…” he breathed. “One last thing for you, Toten.” He pressed his cane into Toten’s free hand.
Toten gripped it tightly and Lons let out a breath that should have been a chuckle. “There must always be a cane…in Rockfall…”
The former king opened his mouth but found it so hard to speak.
“I love you, Lons,” he managed quietly.
“As I love you, Toten,” he replied, barely more than a whisper.
Stonewing, who had been silent nearby, fluttered down to land between them. The raven touched his beak to their hands and looked sharply between them. It uttered one clear word, and flew from the window into the evening.
He wasn’t sure how long had passed, but Toten noticed a sudden stillness in the air, as gentle as someone closing a curtain.
Tears streamed down his cheeks and into his beard. Hard, silent sobs shook the former king’s shoulders, and still, he held Lons’ hand. His friend’s hand.
A hand squeezed his shoulder gently. Toten hadn’t heard the door open, but somehow knew it was Dany. He looked to her, not hiding his grief.
“He never lost it, you know,” the lord of Rockfall said, his voice raspy, gripping the weathered cane tightly in his fist. “He never lost it…”
The two remained, sharing in their grief, as Lons, ever on the quest for knowledge, went forward, undoubtedly, to learn about the next great adventure as the word Stonewing crowed hung proudly in the air.