“I am like this torch, Ser Davos. We are both instruments of R’hllor. We were made for a single purpose—to keep the darkness at bay. Do you believe that?”

Melisandre says this to Davos in Davos’s cell after she’s had him arrested. Davos arrives on Dragonstone with the intent of murdering Melisandre. He blames her for the deaths of his sons in the Battle of the Blackwater that concluded the previous book, and he also worries that she has too much influence on Stannis. In this scene, Melisandre tries to convince Davos that she’s not the enemy, and the quote speaks to her entire worldview. Melisandre repeatedly insists that her purpose is to destroy the Other, a nameless evil god who opposes her own god, R’hllor. No earthly matter is more important than this divine battle between the two opposite forces of death and life, represented by the Other and R’hllor respectively. She also claims Stannis is the reincarnation of Azor Ahai and that he will save the world from darkness.

But it’s never certain how sincere she is. More specifically, it’s unclear whether she actually believes what she says about Stannis or whether she’s just manipulating him for her own ends. It’s no small matter as she has more influence over Stannis than anyone else, and since Stannis commands a sizeable army there are thousands of lives at stake. Davos in particular suspects her, not least because in A Clash of Kings she gives birth to some sort of supernatural shadow in his presence. Since, he has both feared and despised her, and he thinks she is more likely evil than good. In response to her question of whether Davos believes what she says about her purpose, Davos states directly that he doesn’t and calls her the “mother of darkness.”