“What worries me the most,” she continued, “is the opposite, the possibility that they’re not trying. They could communicate with us, all right, but they’re not doing it because they don’t see any point to it. It’s like…”—she glanced down at the edge of the tablecloth they had spread over the grass—“like the ants. They occupy the same landscape that we do. They have plenty to do, things to occupy themselves. On some level they’re very well aware of their environment. But we don’t try to communicate with them. So I don’t think they have the foggiest notion that we exist.” A large ant, more enterprising than his fellows, had ventured onto the tablecloth and was briskly marching along the diagonal of one of the red and white squares. Suppressing a small twinge of revulsion, she gingerly flicked it back onto the grass—where it belonged.
— Contact, by Carl Sagan
“I bet my buttons that was your sister. Don’t want her to steal all the glory, do we? Come on, everybody! Let’s give a big round of applause to our newest tribute!” trills Effie Trinket. To the everlasting credit of the people of District 12, not one person claps. Not even the ones holding betting slips, the ones who are usually beyond caring. Possibly because they know me from the Hob, or knew my father, or have encountered Prim, who no one can help loving. So instead of acknowledging applause, I stand there unmoving while they take part in the boldest form of dissent they can manage. Silence. Which says we do not agree. We do not condone. All of this is wrong.
— The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
From up here, she could see a small wooded island off to the northeast. Thirty yards from shore, three black swans were gliding over the water, so serene… no one had told them that war had come, and they cared nothing for burning towns and butchered men. She stared at them with yearning. Part of her wanted to be a swan. The other part wanted to eat one.
— Arya Stark; A Clash of Kings, by George R. R. Martin
“Lord Slynt,” Tyrion called out, “I believe you know Ser Jacelyn Bywater, our new Commander of the City Watch.”
“We have a litter waiting for you, my lord,” Ser Jacelyn told Slynt. “The docks are dark and distant, and the streets are not safe by night. Men.”
As the gold cloaks ushered out their onetime commander, Tyrion called Ser Jacelyn to his side and handed him a roll of parchment. “It’s a long voyage, and Lord Slynt will want for company. See that these six join him on the Summer’s Dream.”
Bywater glanced over the names and smiled. “As you will.”
“There’s one,” Tyrion said quietly. “Deem. Tell the captain it would not be taken amiss if that one should happen to be swept overboard before they reach Eastwatch.”
“I’m told those northern waters are very stormy, my lord.” Ser Jacelyn bowed and took his leave, his cloak rippling behind him. He trod on Slynt’s cloth-of-gold cape on his way.
And then, with a thump and a great gasp of smoke, it ended.
I saw almost nothing of the dragon’s actual death, to my chagrin: firstly because of the smoke, and secondly because one of its black fire bursts had caught me just above the knee and burned a divot of flesh and Dragoon armor clear away. That the armor had been seared as easily as mortal flesh disturbed me. If I had been any slower, no doubt I would have lost the entire leg. At the exact moment that either Zieg or Rose dispatched the monster—I believe it was Rose’s doing, because Z. would never have shut his mouth if it had been his own kill—I was on the ground, trying to staunch the bleeding, and getting crusty bits of my own burned flesh all over my hands. In retrospect, Shirley’s company would have been a blessing.
Z. glanced around to verify that I was alive. The spirit of the Dragoon faded from him, leaving him in his dusty red armor. Rose was flushed and breathing hard, but unharmed. I had been so proud of her when she upended her soup on Z.’s head; I was so proud now. There was nothing in all of Endiness that my beautiful one could not overcome.
She walked into the thickest part of the smoke. I did not hear what she said to the dead monster, but when she emerged, in her fist shone an ember light that hurt my eyes even after I shut them. I bit my lip to choke down an agony of triumph and longing. Z. must have done the same.
“Extinction or war,” she said—to Z., I think—and then the light grew brighter and the day darker, and all the hair on my arms and neck stood on end as if a ghost had breathed upon me. The air smelled of smoke and magic. Something reached into my chest and held my heart from beating for one moment, two, three. Then the world lurched; I gasped for air, Zieg grunted as if he’d been stabbed; and a Dark Dragoon stood where my Rose had been. She was sleek in ebony armor, plated like the dragon’s hide, and her wings glowed like old bones in the sunlight.
At that moment, when she turned her black eyes upon us like strangers, she made the mountains tremble.
Belzac sat at her bedside, lending his shoulder in place of a pillow. A few tears had dampened it over the hours. She had come out of her first transformation not only weak and ill, but blind.
“It will pass,” he reassured her, as he had for hours.
“You can’t know that, Belzac. We don’t know anything about dragons. We’re all blind about what we’re doing.”
He touched her radiant hair; she moved into his touch like a troubled child. “I can still hear her mourning,” she whispered. “Never a mate, now, never children, always alone…”
“You aren’t alone here, Shirley. You have us.”
“Yes - us three in the whole world. And what are we? Monsters? Madmen? Are we even human? Are we mortal?”
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “But whatever we are, we’re the same now.”
After another little space, she said, “I haven’t forgotten your offer.” She moved away from him, sightless eyes turning toward the feel of the night breeze through the gap in the wall. She had been a handsome woman before; as a Dragoon, divine.
“I didn’t forget asking it,” he answered. “I never will. But I wouldn’t be a man, much less a friend, if I forced you to answer.”
“I can answer you now.”
“Don’t,” he said after a thought. “Enough has died today.”
Catelyn waited until they had quieted. “My lords,” she said then, “Lord Eddard was your liege, but I shared his bed and bore his children. Do you think I love him any less than you?” Her voice almost broke with her grief, but Catelyn took a long breath and steadied herself. “Robb, if that sword could bring him back, I should never let you sheathe it until Ned stood at my side once more… but he is gone, and a hundred Whispering Woods will not change that. Ned is gone, and Daryn Hornwood, and Lord Karstark’s valiant sons, and many other good men besides, and none of them will return to us. Must we have more deaths still?”
“You are a woman, my lady,” the Greatjon rumbled in his deep voice. “Women do not understand these things.”
“You are the gentle sex,” said Lord Karstark, with the lines of grief fresh on his face. “A man has a need for vengeance.”
“Give me Cersei Lannister, Lord Karstark, and you would see how gentle a woman can be,” Catelyn replied.
— A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin