Artwork by Fantasy Flight Games
“There is power in a king’s blood,” the old maester had warned, “and better men than Stannis have done worse things than this.” The king can be harsh and unforgiving, aye, but a babe still on the breast? Only a monster would give a living child to the flames. (ADWD, Jon I)
“Sacrifice is never easy or it is not true sacrifice” underpins the central struggle between Stannis, Melisandre and Davos in A Storm of Swords. Where Stannis wonders aloud, “what is the life of one bastard boy against a kingdom”, Davos responds with “everything.” The context of this conversation is the fate of Edric Storm, bastard nephew to Stannis. And while readers find resolution in the survival of Edric Storm in A Storm of Swords, the question that Stannis poses and Davos answers doesn’t conclude with Edric Storm.
While Game of Thrones showed us a version of that conclusion with the burning of Shireen Baratheon, this will likely not be the extent of the dynamic of human sacrifice in A Song of Ice and Fire. Instead, George RR Martin has laid down significant groundwork in the extant material for a similar conflict to erupt early in The Winds of Winter — with Melisandre, a Davos archetype and the life of a bastard boy set against the fate of a kingdom.