Prologue Summary

Cressen is the aged maester of Dragonstone, a place where Stannis Baratheon has recently declared himself King of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and now prepares for war. Cressen watches a comet that streaks across the sky and wonders what it means. The Citadel in Old Town has sent a white raven to him, declaring the end of summer and the coming of winter. Maester Pylos, a younger man who is to take Cressen's place, announces that Stannis's daughter and Patchface, a fool that survived drowning, would like to see it. Cressen is happy to see them, particularly since he feels guilty for not protecting Shireen from greyscale when she was young. Pylos also informs him that Ser Davos Seaworth has returned. Normally, Stannis would have summoned the old maester, but now he must go and present himself. Stannis rules from the top of a tower, inside of which is a table shaped like Westeros. Cressen climbs up the stairs and meets Ser Davos, who is descending. Ser Davos admits that no lords are interested in joining Stannis's cause. They have all joined Stannis's younger brother, Renly. When Cressen finally makes his way to Stannis, the maester tries to encourage him to find allies in the Arryns or the Starks. Stannis refuses to seek allegiance among the lords that should rightfully kneel before his claim to the Iron Throne. Instead, Stannis has placed his faith in Melisandre, priestess to R'hllor, the Lord of Light, the Heart of Fire, the God of Flame and Shadow. She is a shadowbinder from Asshai. Cressen decides to poison her so that she cannot spread her ways. However, when he arrives at supper that evening, Cressen finds that Pylos has been given his seat, already thwarting his plan. Cressen improvises and proposes a toast to Melisandre's god. They both drink from the same cup, but Melisandre's magic protects her from the poison. Cressen dies.