He is dead and I, the self serving coward that I am, still live. Life is not fair. There is no pattern. People die at random. Something everyone knows, but no one truly believes. They think that when it comes to them there will be a lesson, a meaning, a story worth telling. That death will come to them as a dread scholar, a fell knight, a terrible emperor.Death is a bored clerk, with too many orders to fill. There is no reckoning. No profound moment. It creeps up on us from behind, and snatches us away while we shit.
He looked around at that one room, and the few things in it. He'd always thought retiring would be going back to his life after some nightmare pause. Some stretch of exile in the land of the dead. Now it came to him that all his life worth living had happened while he was holding a sword.Standing alongside his dozen. Laughing with Whirrun, and Brack, and Wonderful. Clasping hands with his crew before the fight, knowing he'd die for them and they for him. The trust, the brotherhood, the love, the knit closer than family. Standing by Threetrees on the walls of Uffrith, roaring their defiance at Bethod's great army. The day he charged at the Cunmur. And at Dunbrec. And in the High Places, even though they lost. The day he earned his name. Even the day he got his brothers killed. Even when he'd stood at the top of the Heroes as the rain came down, watching the Union come, knowing every dragged out moment might be the last.Like Whirrun said - you can't live more than that. Certainly not by fixing a chair.
The man is a monster. The worst I have ever seen, in fact, since I last looked in the mirror. The truth? I am rotting too. I am buried alive, and already rotting. If I was not such a coward I would kill myself, but I am, and so I must content myself with killing others in the hope that one day, if I can only wade deep enough in blood, I will come out clean.
One day you're something, so promising and full o' dares, so big the world's too small a place to hold you. Then, 'fore you know it, you're old, and you realise all them things you had in mind you'll never get to. All them doors you felt too big to fit through have already shut. Only one left open and it leads to nothing but nothing.
That's what courage is. Taking your disappointments and your failures, your guilt and your shame, all the wounds received and inflicted, and sinking them in the past. Starting again. Damning yesterday and facing tomorrow with your head held high. Times change. It's those that see it coming, and plan for it, and change themselves to suit that prosper.