This time, when wolves take the Crag, Jeyne is ready.
It’s not the clash of steel that wakes her, nor the shouts. In truth, the preceding silence rings louder in her ears, and as she shivers in her bed, some intuitive understanding grasps hold of her, and she knows. (She remembers waking, frenzied and shuddering, to a feeling of dread that thudded through her like a drumbeat. She remembers walking a tightrope of apprehension for days afterwards, trying desperately to ignore the music which wouldn’t leave her head, which sounded suspiciously like ‘The Rains of Castamere’. She remembers how something broke inside of her when the raven came, the tiny gasping sob that had escaped her because she knew, without reading it, the nature of the message.)
Letting them in is easier than it should be. The castle’s garrison is stronger than it was when Robb took it- that much is thanks to the Lannister men that prowl her home-turned-prison, now that House Westerling is a threat. Now that I’m a threat. Nevertheless, she knows the castle better than any Lannister guards, and she knows which of the seemingly abandoned gates will still open.
She hides out in Rollam’s bedchamber while the battle washes over them, clutching his hand like it’s the anchor that holds her to shore (or maybe I’m the anchor). There will be lions prowling around her own chambers, she knows, poised to slit her throat if it looks as if the fighting may turn against them. Fools, she thinks, you’ve already lost. She can feel it in her bones. When Rollam asks her what’s happening, she tells him rescue.
Afterwards, the northern soldiers who come to bring her before their queen find her in that same room, sitting beside her little brother’s now sleeping form. She turns to wake him when they arrive, but one of the men shakes his head- it’s only her they’ve come for. Standing, she follows them from the bedchamber and towards the Great Hall, where the wolf queen awaits her.
But when she reaches her destination, she meets a ghost instead.
Her heart stops and she stands as if suspended in time, hardly daring to breathe. Because those are Robb’s eyes that meet her own across the room, and that auburn hair burns as bright as her dead husband’s. For an instant she wonders if her life has taken her full circle.
Then the moment is gone, and Sansa Stark moves forward to greet her.
Her face is still as she takes Jeyne in, the picture of icy composure, but there is compassion in her gaze, and curiosity as well. For all her youth, she has an undoubtedly regal air about her, and it is easy to see why so many follow her. She calls Jeyne queen and says her name like it’s a blessing, and not the curse so many of Robb’s bannermen had whispered that she was, when their king wasn’t in earshot. Jeyne feels a rush of gratitude and affection as Sansa takes both her hands and leans in to kiss her cheek.
This isn’t just rescue, she realises then, it’s salvation.
Sansa’s host rests at the Crag for only a few days before setting off to take back Riverrun. The march is strenuous with the Riverlands in the clutches of winter, but the Starks were built for winter, and the people have faith in their queen. And as the host winds its way around snow drifts and frozen rivers, slow but steady, Jeyne watches Sansa with a strange fascination.
There is something of her brother in her, of that much Jeyne is sure. It is the fierce bravery, the determined resolve. It is the wolf blood in her, the prowling grace with which she moves although there is no direwolf stalking beside her (dead, she remembers Robb telling her, slain by the Lannisters).
She bears a certain likeness to her mother as well. Jeyne can see it in the way she holds herself, all dignity and quiet strength, as though she is armoured on the inside. Jeyne had looked up to Lady Catelyn, had admired her and sought her advice, but she is dead now too, just like Robb. She wonders if anyone else sees the ghosts living inside their wolf queen, as she does. Am I the only one who is haunted?
Still, for all that the queen resembles those that came before her, there is something uniquely Sansa about her- a charm that can be seen reflected in the love, the loyalty, the respect of her people as much as it is visible in Sansa herself. It draws people to her, and Jeyne knows she is no exception. She can feel the pull whenever she looks in Sansa’s direction.
The two of them grow closer as the march goes on. Sansa invites Jeyne to share her royal tent most nights, and it is only then that either of them let their guard down, allow themselves to breathe. To the world they appear a pair of queens, but when they are alone they are no more than two girls. (Robb was the same, she remembers, more a boy than a king when they were alone in their chambers).
It is on one such night, as they lie awake sharing whispers, that Sansa suddenly blurts, “He was supposed to come save me, you know.”
Jeyne does not have to ask who she is speaking of, for who else could it be but Robb? She turns on her side to look at Sansa, and finds the other girl looking back at her, her eyes brimming with what Jeyne recognises all too well as grief. She is haunted too, she knows then.
Not knowing what to say in response, she lets Sansa continue.
“He was supposed to be my hero. He was my big brother.” Her voice cracks on the last word, and she blinks back tears. Still trying to be strong. “But I suppose in the end, there are no heroes.”
Oh Sansa, don’t you see? Jeyne thinks, though she is not brave enough to say it, you are the hero.
After they take back Riverrun, Sansa settles herself in the chambers that Robb had once taken for his own, and it is there that Jeyne joins her that night. The room is so very familiar to her, though she had only occupied it for a short while. It feels more like home than her chambers in the Crag had for a long while, ever since her return to her family’s once great castle.
Sansa, evidently, does not share this sense of familiarity. “It’s strange,” she comments, “my mother grew up in this very castle, yet this is the first time I’ve seen it.”
“Do you know much of your mother’s House?”
Sansa shrugs. “Only what she told me of it. I’d never even been South of Winterfell until…” she swallows before changing the subject abruptly. “What about your family? Tell me of your history.”
“House Westerling is something of a spent power. We lost most of our money years ago.” She perches on the end of the bed, and Sansa joins her. “My mother’s house is relatively new. My great grandmother was a maegi from Essos.”
“Like a witch,” Jeyne explains, “She made prophecies.”
Sansa looks curious at that. “I should like to have my fortune told. I don’t suppose you inherited her gift?”
Jeyne is taken aback. “I- I don’t know. I’ve never done it.” She wets her lips. “I could try.” She takes Sansa’s hand. “I’d need to- to taste your blood. Just a drop.”
It seems a strange request to be making, but Sansa appears unperturbed. She reaches for a needle and pierces her skin with it, just barely. Jeyne brings the finger to her mouth, darting her tongue out hesitantly.
She gasps. The visions come instantly, and they seem to jar with the present. Blinking rapidly, she tries to focus, to let the images wash over her.
“Jeyne? What do you see?”
“I see- you’re on the throne in- it must be in Winterfell. You’ll win the war.” It sounds clumsy, not cryptic or flowery or at all how a prophecy should sound, but it’s the best she can do.
The visions are still coming. They flow more smoothly now, and she does her best to interpret them to Sansa. Then-
“Oh.” She grips Sansa’s arm.
“What is it?” Sansa asks, looking concerned.
But there’s no need for concern. “Sansa, your brothers- Bran and Rickon- they’re alive. Their deaths were faked. They’ll come home.”
Sansa’s eyes widen. “You’re sure?”
She nods, breathless. “Positive.”
Then they’re both laughing, elated, hardly daring to believe it but believing it anyway, and Jeyne realises it’s the first time she’s heard Sansa laugh. She thinks it’s the best sound she’s ever heard.
She’s not sure who initiates the kiss, only that it happens suddenly. The most absurd feeling of guilt washes over her for an instant, like this is a betrayal somehow. But it soon passes, and the lips pressing against her own are soft and warm, and in that moment she knows that Sansa Stark is no ghost.