Melisandre and Cersei reach the outskirts of Crakehall village just as the first glimmer of dawn stabs the horizon. Cersei moves far slower than Melisandre, her once beautiful body worn to weakness by captivity.
“I need to rest,” she says, panting and leaning against an ugly wooden church.
“We don’t have time to rest. Any minute now the villagers will wake up.”
“Surely you don’t think they’ll recognize us?” Cersei asks with a bitter laugh. “Even Jaime wouldn’t know me now, much less some peasants.”
“None the less, we shouldn’t chance it.”
“I need to rest,” Cersei insists, a trace of her former authority shining through. Cersei turns to inspect the church doors. A long iron bar has been pushed under both door handles, locking the church from the outside.
“Strange. They’ve been barred shut. Why would they do that?”
A frayed piece of parchment nailed to the left door of the church catches Cersei’s eye, and she begins to read. She pales and recoils.
“What does it say?”
As if in answer, a muffled whimper comes from the other side of the door.
“Plague. This is a quarantine.”
Melisandre backs away.
“We need to leave.”
She turns and stalks away. Cersei moves to follow her, then pauses. She has an idea. A powerful, terrible idea. The sort of idea Cersei thought she might never have again.
Cersei moves back to the door. She pushes the iron bar with all her might, willing it to move with every fiber of her being, summoning every last reserve of strength. When the bar creaks to movement, finally falling onto the grass with a heavy thud.
“You must come now!” Melisandre calls. “Day is breaking.” And so it is.
Cersei turns and walks after Melisandre. She doesn’t look back. She doesn’t see the wan, wasted fingers curling around the church door. She only sees the morning light.
It is going to be a beautiful day.