Now that they were down from the Eyrie, and safely quartered at the Gates of the Moon, Sansa thought she should be able to relax, if only a little. It was not quite so cold at this lower altitude, and House Royce had made them welcome, well aware of the advantages of doing so. Still, Petyr had told her, it might be advisable in time to move about from one great house of the Vale to another, so that they did not wear out their welcome with Nestor Royce, and so that the Lords Declarant could see that Sweetrobin was still alive and well.
Oh, gods, Sweetrobin. The journey down from the mountaintop had exhausted both him and her, and he had actually borne it better than she had feared he would. When he had whinily insisted on going to bed with her, she had agreed, thinking that he should be rewarded and comforted a little; when he had further insisted on nursing at her breast she had simply been too tired out to remonstrate or try to distract him, as she usually would. He had latched on and suckled as if sheer persistence would make her bear milk, mashing her nipple between his teeth and tongue, and they both fell asleep that way.
Sansa was woken by her bladder a while later, and found that her nipple and the circle of skin around it were sore and red, smelling sourly of spit. There was some water left in the basin on the washstand, and she made a dab at washing off the smell before returning to bed. She got back under the heavy, warm quilt beside the sleeping child and lay watching him, trying to feel motherly or at least cousinly tenderness, but chiefly feeling resentment and a weary, pitying contempt. At last she fell asleep.
She could not relax. Sometimes she wondered if she would ever feel really peaceful again. Perhaps, as an adult, you never did. Her breast was still red in the morning, not really a bruise but a mark like the ones serving-girls sometimes had on their necks and bosoms, where their sweethearts had kissed them too vigorously. It looked lopsided and made her quite angry, but she concealed the mark and the feeling and spoke gently to Sweetrobin, coaxed him out of bed and got him to eat a decent breakfast.
An awful thought occurred to her as she wiped runny egg yolk off his chin; why did good-natured, mostly healthy little boys like her brothers Bran and Rickon have to die, while a poor creature like Robert, who was miserable and brought misery to all around him, lived on? And how much longer would he live like this? She tried to imagine an adult Robert Arryn, and simply could not. Without directly stating it to herself until now, she had known for some time that she was simply taking care of him until he died. There it was; she was waiting for a child to die, and knew quite well that her own prospects depended upon it. Her intended, Harrold Hardyng, was only chosen for her because he would inherit the Vale on Robert’s death, and she knew Petyr was thinking, if not of the immediate future, at least of the near future when he had made that choice.
Robert seemed fairly well this morning, not shaking or twitching, so there seemed no need for another dose of sweetsleep. That should be a relief to Maester Colemon, with his worries about accumulation.
That evening, when Petyr called her to his solar, he looked at her with eyes shrewder than Sweetrobin’s or the Maester’s and saw the fatigue there.
‘Come and give me a kiss, Alayne,’ he said affably, holding out his hand. ‘I’ve been puzzling at dry papers all day, and you’re a welcome sight.’ She went to him and pressed a dutiful kiss to his cheek. He clucked his tongue and shook his head at her like a disapproving septa. ‘Now, now. I’ve told you about this before. A proper kiss, or people will think Alayne Stone doesn’t love her poor old daddy.’ He crooked his finger under her chin, lifting it, and kissed her on the mouth, lightly but very deliberately. Sansa thought of her true father, and his kisses; a warm pressure on top of her head, muffled by her thick hair, or a stubbly brush against her cheek, so that she squirmed away and giggled, telling him he would spoil her complexion. None of that had had anything to do with the way Petyr kissed her now, and required her to kiss him, and she thought he knew that she knew it. Was he waiting for her to say so?
Even with all the doubts he inspired, he was her protector and her friend, and it was some comfort to be kissed, to know that someone in all the cruel cold world was fond of her and would use her kindly. His lips were warm and the neatly trimmed hairs of his little beard and moustache prickled at her lip and chin without scratching.
‘Something’s troubling you. Come and sit, and tell Daddy.’ He drew her over to a settle, and onto his knee. ‘Daddy’ was an endearment that smallfolk’s children used; she had always known her father as Father, although she had said ‘Papa’ when she was too small to pronounce the tricky ‘f’s and ‘th’s clearly. Alayne was meant to be baseborn; perhaps Petyr was trying to remind her of that, and of the part she must play as a simple bastard daughter. Perhaps he simply liked the sound of it. On the whole, she would rather call him Daddy than Father.
‘I’m tired,’ Sansa admitted. ‘I’m so tired of Robert.’
‘I don’t blame you, sweetling, but you’re doing so well with him. I need you to keep that up.’ He put one arm around her waist, and patted her knee with his other hand.
‘For how long?’
‘Until I tell you to stop, of course.’
‘Daddy...’ She tested out the word.
‘Yes?’ An encouraging smile, and the hand on her knee stroked soothingly.
‘Maester Colemon is worried about his medicine. The sweetsleep. He says that it never really leaves the body, and if Robert goes on taking it...’
‘He’ll sleep sweetly. It won’t hurt him at all.’
‘Alayne, not many years before you were born, a little prince and princess were stabbed and bashed to death and their bodies presented to the new king. And in the war we’ve just had, how many little children do you think were killed? Stabbed, clubbed, cut to pieces, burned alive? Think of the pain and the fear they felt. Is it very terrible for a sick child to slip away in a gentle sleep?’
‘No,’ Sansa whispered. She thought again of Bran, a sick, sleeping child when she had left Winterfell for King’s Landing. She had been so excited that she had brushed aside any worries about him. Serious misfortune had simply not seemed real in those days. He had woken from his long sleep, but she had never seen him again before he was murdered. Perhaps it would all have been kinder to Bran if he had just slipped away. But then, he had woken up, and by all accounts had been learning to get around and live life without the use of his legs. Was it possible that Robert could live with occasional fits, and grow stronger, perhaps if he were well fed and could be persuaded to play outdoors with other children? She could not think. The idea of trying to persuade him to play was so exhausting that she put her head down on Petyr’s shoulder and closed her eyes. He was warm, and smelled of clean man and the fine soft leather of his doublet.
‘Daddy loves his little girl,’ he murmured, and kissed her cheek, nuzzling against the fall of her hair. ‘It will be all right, sweetling, you’ll see. Be brave, and play your part.’ His stroking hand had crept higher, reaching to the middle of her thigh before retreating to her knee. She was wearing a soft gown of russet-brown velvet, and it whispered as his hand moved. The skin beneath the velvet and linen felt very warm; she imagined a wide reddish-pink stripe on her thigh. She thought of the mark on her breast and her face grew warm too, and a hidden place low in her tummy.
‘I’d better go and put Sweetrobin to bed,’ she said.
When she undressed in her own room (if the gods were good, Robert would stay in his all night) there was no mark on her thigh; it had been only imagination. The redness around her nipple was fading. Soon her breasts would match again, round and high and so milk-white that the blue veins could be faintly seen through the skin. She looked at them critically in the glass propped on the washstand. Surely they would grow some more. Perhaps then the nipples wouldn’t look so odd; they seemed overly large and puffy to her. The hair between her legs was quite thick now, wirier than the hair on her head but much the same colour. She pulled her nightgown over her head, glad of the extra warmth, and curled up on her side in bed, pulling the quilt over her shoulder up to her ear.
That morning he kissed her at breakfast, and gave her waist a pinch, saying that she had grown thin and was to eat up - and Robert too.
It was a trying day, and when a servant called her to his solar in the evening it took her a long moment to summon the will to go. He kissed her warmly, and that seemed to put a little life back into her.
‘Dear little Alayne, why is your hair damp? You’ll catch cold going about like this.’
I was drying it by the fire when you summoned me, she thought and didn’t say. ‘I had to wash it just now. Robert was sick on me.’ They had actually been having fun, rolling a ball back and forth between them, a baby’s game really, and when he hid the ball from her she had tickled his tummy. That had made him giggle and wriggle, but then the wriggling had become twitching, and spasms had gone through him, she had tried to hold and soothe him, and the next thing she knew her hair was plastered with milky vomit. He had cried hysterically, and the only way to calm him had been a touch of sweetsleep in a cup of hot honey and lemon-water. He was in bed now, and she was shamefully glad that she would have another unbroken night.
‘Come and sit by the fire,’ he said. He guided her to sit on the hearthrug, a large shadowcat skin, and pulled up a chair so that he could sit just behind her. ‘Lean your head back against my knee. That’s a good girl.’ She felt him combing his fingers through her hair, fanning it out across his lap, and closed her eyes. ‘You have such lovely hair, Alayne. By this light, I can see a little of the fire in it.’ He must mean the Tully red, Sansa thought; she was still using the special rinse to colour it brown, but the thorough scrubbing she had just given it might have washed some of that away. ‘Just like your mother’s.’ His voice was a low murmur. Tears prickled at the corners of Sansa’s eyes; an image rose up unbidden in her mind, her poor mother with her long auburn hair clotted with blood. She took a deep breath and pushed it away, telling herself to concentrate on here and now. The fire was hot; it crackled and popped merrily, and she could smell the woodsmoke rising up the chimney. The fur of the catskin was thick and plush beneath her hand. Petyr’s hands were kind, stroking and smoothing her hair, letting the warmth of the fire dry it.
‘I really shouldn’t say this, but there are times when I envy Harry.’
‘Because he’ll get the Vale?’ That would be an end to Petyr’s time as Lord Protector; he would need to find some other role in which he could make himself indispensable. It would be her place to help him secure it.
‘Because he’ll get you.’ A gentle tweak at her ear.
‘I’m not such a prize. I’m only a bastard girl.’
‘You are my bastard girl; be proud of that.’ Petyr bent double, bringing his lips down to her ear, and whispered very softly ‘And you will be Queen in Winterfell.’ He kissed her ear, just as softly, before he straightened up.
‘I’m not sure I will be a good wife,’ Sansa said, purely for something to say, because her heart was beating oddly. Alayne had never been married, but of course Sansa had, if you counted a marriage that was never consummated. She had not been a good wife to Tyrion, not that she had wanted to be; she had only wanted him to let her alone and not hurt her. She had been too frightened and miserable to think very much of his feelings, even if he had been quite kind. By disappearing when she had, she had left him with some very difficult questions to answer. Still, how else could she have escaped?
‘You will be a superb wife. Beautiful, fresh and young and strong, patient and sweet, loving and yielding.’ He had resumed stroking and finger-combing her hair, and sometimes his fingertips trailed down her neck. Sansa could not quite tell whether these words were meant as encouragement, reassurance that she already had the qualities she needed, or as instructions. You will be these things, or else. Even with her eyes closed, the doubt must have showed on her face, because he laughed and pinched the tip of her nose. ‘I’ll teach you just how to be. Sweetness comes naturally to you, and patience you’ve certainly learned. Loving and yielding, now, I might provide you with some instruction on those.’ His fingertips skimmed the side of her neck, trailed down to the notch at the base of her throat, then up to the point of her chin, where he gave her a light tap. These taps and tweaks kept her off balance; was he caressing her or only playing? ‘Come and sit in my lap again.’
She did as he said, shaking her hair back from her face.
‘Now. This is what we do when we want something from Harry the Heir, something nice for us or for poor Daddy. We sit in his lap, like so. We put our arms about his neck, like so. We lean against him and press our pretty little breasts against his chest, like so - there, so he feels how soft they are. Perhaps we wriggle our pretty little bottom, too, just a little - we don’t grind, not at this stage, anyway. And we pout. Like this.’ He set his forefinger and thumb at the corners of her lips and pinched in, lightly, so that her lips puffed out between them. ‘And we say, “Oh, please, Harry”.’
‘Oh, pwease, Hawwy,’ Sansa managed to say, his fingers still forcing her pout. She twisted her face away from his hand, giggling, and he caught her chin and made her face him again. His grip was not exactly hard, but she could feel that it easily could be.
‘Oh, please, Harry.’ She tried to sound as sweet and wistful as she could.
‘Very good. And now we kiss him, like so.’ The usual kiss, Sansa thought, until she felt the tip of his tongue brush her lower lip. He still held her chin, and he pressed with his thumb to pull it down, opening her mouth, slipping his warm wet tongue right in. She sat motionless, her heart thumping, as he probed her mouth, stroking the vault of her palate and the bed of her tongue. Her face felt flaming hot, and that warmth low in her tummy had begun again.
‘Kiss back, girl,’ he muttered, the words sharp against her lips, and she tried her best, lifting her tongue to lap against his. ‘It’s a good thing I’m teaching you,’ he said. ‘You kiss like a puppy-dog. Now, I’m going to show you what to do. I’ll do it first, then you follow me exactly. Understand?’
‘Yes.’ She was hurt to be called a puppy-dog, but determined to learn to do this properly. Clearly, it could be very important. It was like learning a dance, she told herself, being shown a step, repeating it, learning to put the steps into sequence to move across the floor. Dancing could make her heart beat fast and her cheeks flush hot, but didn’t make her lips tingle and this strange, tight, hot feeling grow in her tummy, spreading down, making her feel that she needed to pee, growing warm and damp in the cleft between her legs. Her nipples had gone hard, as if she were cold, but she was so very warm, beginning to sweat under her arms; was that sweat down there too? And his tongue moved, and her tongue followed; lips, teeth, tongue, flick, swirl, nip, and her heart pounded the beat of the dance.
His hands moved as he kissed her, stroking her hair, her neck, her shoulders, sliding down her back and unpicking the laces of her dress, loosening and spreading the back of it, then darting up between them to pull down the bodice and expose her breasts.
‘My poor dear,’ he said, breathlessly, staring at them and tracing the red bruise with his fingertips. ‘Who’s been champing at your pretty little teat?’
‘Sweetrobin,’ Sansa said bitterly.
‘If Lysa had only weaned the wretched child at a sane age... no matter. Daddy will kiss it better.’ He bent his head and pressed his lips to the mark, soft wet lips and prickling moustache making her gasp. ‘All better,’ he breathed, and drew her nipple into his mouth and sucked softly. Sansa squeaked in shock; it felt nothing, nothing like Sweetrobin’s slurping, and it sent pulses of sweet heat down into her tummy and below. He released it and moved to the other breast, caressing the bud of her nipple with his tongue, circling it as he sucked, then pressed them together with his hands so that he could kiss both nipples at once. ‘My lovely little girl... oh...’
‘Will Harry do this?’ Sansa asked faintly.
‘If he has any sense.’ He glanced up at her face and smiled smugly, and she wondered what he saw there. ‘Well, I think that’s enough for tonight. If I try to teach you too much at once, you’ll forget most of it. Perhaps we can have another lesson tomorrow.’
‘Er - yes. Thank you. Daddy.’ Sansa felt utterly flustered, suddenly aware of how silly she must look with her hair all ruffled and her face red and her breasts hanging out of the front of her dress. How could he stop now? Puppy-dog, she thought, and her face grew hotter. I’m being trained. She tugged her bodice back into line, trying to cover her confusion along with her bosom.
‘Turn around, sweetling, and I’ll lace you back up.’
‘Thank you.’ Sansa faced the fire, her cheeks burning, and held her hair out of the way as he refastened her gown.
Back in her own room, she could not calm down. He had kissed her good-night, gently on the cheek like a good father, and seemed quite untroubled. She was still burning, her mouth and her breasts and her sex, and it was not fair. In the mirror, her breasts were unmarked except for Sweetrobin’s bruise, and that seemed wrong; those kisses should be printed on her skin. She pulled on her nightgown and jumped into bed, trying not to think about it, but it was useless; she could think about nothing else, and the heat built and boiled inside her, until in desperation she stuffed a pillow between her thighs and rode it until she felt a great trembling burst of joy and relief.
She slumped over, panting, becoming aware that the roots of her hair were wet again, the backs of her thighs and her calves, pressed together as she knelt astride the pillow, were running with sweat. The pillow was damp too. She would need another bath in the morning, she thought vaguely, as she pushed it out from under her, stretched out her legs and snuggled down to sleep.
The unhealthy intimacy between 'father' and 'daughter' continues to develop.
Sansa did not get another lesson the next night, though she sat up late waiting, her needlework in her lap. He didn’t even send someone to tell her not to wait. Eventually she nodded over her embroidery and ran her needle into her thumb. She went to bed sucking it and fuming.
When Petyr put in an appearance at breakfast that morning, affably smiling and nodding, she gave him a frosty look and a ‘good morning’ with ice on it.
‘I see winter is coming,’ he quipped, and sat down beside Sweetrobin. ‘Good morning, Lord Robert. I hope you are well today.’
‘My head aches,’ Sweetrobin grizzled, pushing his honeyed porridge about with his spoon. ‘It’s Alayne’s fault. She doesn’t love me and she’s mean.’
‘Of course I love you, Sweetrobin!’ she protested. ‘I’m sorry I frightened you. I know it was only an accident that you pulled my hair, and it was only an accident that I cried out.’
‘It can’t have hurt your hair as much as it hurt my ear.’
‘I’m so sorry,’ she said, longing to throw him over her knee and give him a good spanking. See if that hurt.
‘Perhaps you can make it up to Lord Robert,’ Petyr suggested. ‘Kiss it better.’ He twinkled his eyes at her and stole a bit of bacon from her plate.
‘You may kiss me, Alayne,’ Sweetrobin said, with gracious condescension, and held out his arms. She had to kiss his ear, and then he insisted on a kiss for his mealy little mouth, all dabbled with porridge, while Petyr smirked at them and stole her toast too.
It was a tiresome day. Sweetrobin refused to go out and see his new surroundings, no matter how she coaxed. She changed her tack and tried to persuade him to let her cut his hair.
‘NO,’ he said, glaring. ‘No knives! No scissors!’
‘But you know I would never hurt you, Sweetrobin.’
‘You hurt me just this morning!’
‘I would be ever so careful. Come on, please. You’ll look so much more handsome.’
‘I look all right now!’
‘But you’re getting to be such a big boy now. Wouldn’t you like a grown-up, short haircut like Lord Petyr?’
‘Do you think he’s handsome?’ Sweetrobin asked, wrinkling his nose.
‘Huh.’ And to her very great surprise, he plunked himself into a chair in front of her and said ‘Go on, then. But if you even scratch me I’ll scream and scream until I make myself sick.’
‘I’ll do my best,’ she promised. She snipped with great care until his wispy curls were neat, the back just brushing his collar, and held up the glass for him to see. ‘Do you like it?’
‘It’s all right,’ he pronounced gravely, and actually gave a small smile. He was in a good mood for a while, and helped her to gather up the cut locks, tie them up with little twists of ribbon in the Arryn blue and cream, and give them to the maidservants as mementoes. He presented one to Sansa and she carefully tucked it into a locket Petyr had given her, a silver oval with an engraved mockingbird on it.
‘There,’ she said, hanging the locket around her neck, ‘I’ll wear it near my heart every day.’ Sweetrobin gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek, and since his face was actually clean at the time and his nose wasn’t running it was quite pleasant. The good mood soon wore off, though, and he whined and sulked and rejected every suggestion she made to pass the time. Then he lay on the floor and drummed his heels and groaned that he was bored.
‘Well, if you won’t play, and you won’t try your lessons, and you won’t go out of one musty room, of course you’ll be bored!’ Sansa snapped. ‘Go and take a nap, if you don’t want to do anything else.’
‘You have to go with me. Cuddle me so I have good dreams.’
Sansa lay holding him as he slept, telling herself that it was far, far better to be tired and annoyed all the time than to be terrified all the time. She tried to count her blessings. No Queen Cersei looking at her as if she were a sort of useful cockroach. No Joffrey with his stupid fat lips and beastly golden curls and evil little mind. No horrible false knights hitting her and tearing her clothes whenever Joffrey was angry. No Hound muddling her with a stomachful of fear and pity. (Was he all right? She hoped he was, though she couldn’t see how.)
Oh, but if only she could have gone with the Tyrells, and lived in a flower garden, and married Willas even if he did have a bad leg; everyone said he was kind and clever, and a husband with a bad leg had to be better than one with two short twisted legs and half a nose.
Then she wouldn’t have been with Petyr, though.
Or if she had never left home, if she had stayed at Winterfell... though perhaps then she would have died with Bran and Rickon.
Whatever has happened, however painful it has been, she told herself, I have survived it so far. And I can keep on surviving. Petyr will teach me how. He’ll teach me how to make my husband happy, and get what I want from him, so I don’t have to be at his mercy.
When a servant came to tell her Lord Petyr wished to see her in his solar, she slipped her arm out from under Sweetrobin, tucked his blanket around him, and went quickly to her room to brush her hair and give herself a once-over before the glass.
‘Dear Alayne. They tell me you succeeded in shearing our little lamb today,’ Petyr said, looking up from the papers on his desk as she slipped into the room.
‘It wasn’t easy,’ she said, with feeling.
‘And... something to the effect that you persuaded him by saying he would look handsome like me?’ He raised one eyebrow quizzically.
‘Something like that. He looks up to you, of course.’
‘Of course.’ A richly sarcastic smile. He closed the ledger in front of him and got up. ‘I thought we might celebrate your victory.’ There was a jug of wine and two silver cups on the table; he poured one and offered it to her. ‘Do you like Arbor gold?’
‘Yes, thank you.’ She accepted the cup and waited while he filled his own.
‘To Alayne Stone, who achieves with soft words what I could not with a big stick.’ He made her a half-mocking little bow of his head, and clinked their cups together before drinking deeply. Sansa drank, feeling a trickle of golden sun go down her throat and into her tummy. ‘Come and sit with me, and we’ll talk.’ He took her hand and led her over to the settle by the fire. She expected to be pulled into his lap, but he sat down beside her, still holding her hand. He turned it over and stroked the palm with his thumb, slowly circling. Sansa sipped her wine and waited for him to speak.
‘Nice?’ he asked her after a moment.
‘It’s very good wine.’
‘Ah, good.’ He let go of her hand and reached for her hair, gathering it together and draping it over her shoulder, away from him, so that he could see her neck. Little gooseprickles fluttered up her nape.
‘What did you want to talk about, Daddy?’
‘I would have called you to me last night, but I was bailed up by Lord Nestor. Matters of business. Fearfully dull.’
‘I understand.’ It wasn’t an apology, but then, why should it be? He had promised nothing. She sipped her wine again and almost spilt it when Petyr leaned over and kissed the back of her neck.
‘What do you remember of your last lesson? Time to recite. No, better, perform.’
Sansa leant forward and set her cup on the low table beside the settle. It clattered only a little; her hands did not shake much. She straightened, turned towards Petyr, wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him with great care. She nudged lightly at his lower lip with her tongue-tip, slipped it softly in, and gently explored his mouth, her heart pounding. His arms twined and tightened around her waist, and he bit her lip and made her shiver.
‘Dear oh dear, Alayne.’ He made a face of disappointment.
‘I did it all right, though!’ She was sure she had.
‘You forgot the very first step. My lap is quite empty. How do you account for that?’
‘Oh! Sorry.’ She quickly shifted her bottom, and looked at him hopefully.
‘My little puppy. We’ll need to practise more, won’t we?’
‘Try again. Mmm... yes, that’s better.’ He drew her back in, kissing her slowly and with deliberation, and slid one hand down to squeeze her hip. ‘Lucky Harry.’
‘Do you think he’ll be pleased?’
‘Very well pleased. He should thank me every day for being prepared to part with you.’ He pulled out the pins fastening the sides of her hair and tucked them into his pocket. ‘You dress your hair beautifully, but you’re prettiest with it hanging loose.’ Winding a strand around his forefinger, he added ‘While I love the hint of red, I must insist that you use the brown wash again tomorrow. We mustn’t be sloppy.’
‘I’ll do it first thing in the morning,’ Sansa promised.
‘Depending on whether we still need to call you Alayne when you marry, I suppose we may have to use it down here as well.’ He patted her lap. ‘Are you red here as well?’
‘Oh! Yes. I never thought of that.’
Her face burned, but she lifted her skirts, bundling the fabric up to her tummy, exposing her stockinged legs, her bare white thighs, the triangle of dark red curls between them. He looked down at her avariciously, his eyes glinting.
‘I’m so glad you match,’ he said. ‘Not that I would have been disappointed if you didn’t, but it’s so much nicer.’ He combed his fingertips through her pubic hair, fluffing up the curls. ‘We might get away with it. Red can surprise you. Now my dear, how much do you know about what you have here?’
‘I’m not sure what you mean.’
‘Septas are so very good for teaching young ladies courtesy and deportment, but just useless at teaching them to manage their own cunts. I’m sure you keep it nice and clean, but its inner workings are a mystery to you.’
‘What do I need to know about it?’ Sansa asked warily. It had always seemed to her that it managed itself. Once a month it bled for a few days and then it went back to not bothering her.
‘Here. Lean back on me. Good. Now, legs apart. Further than that, sweetling.’ He slipped his hands behind her knees and spread them apart, lifting them up. ‘Now keep them just like that. Put your feet on my knees if it helps. Good girl. It may feel a little funny at first, but you’ll get used to it. And here.’ Petyr produced a small square mirror. It had been lying on the seat of the settle; he had been prepared to do this, Sansa realised. He held it between her legs, angling it just so. ‘Have a good look. Have you ever looked at it before?’
‘No, of course not.’ She had looked at herself in the mirror, but never thought to sit and open her legs. ‘Is it supposed to look like that?’
‘Of course it is. They vary widely, but yours is quite lovely. Some say it’s like a flower - pink rose petals. And others say it’s like a little shellfish, a clam or an oyster. What do you think? A fleshy little flower?’
‘I don’t know.’ She was furiously embarrassed, and tingling besides.
‘Now, you should know the parts. I’ll tell you the maesters’ names, and some of the more common ones. Listen carefully, because I’ll test you later. Up here, where the hair grows so prettily, is the mons, or in the common tongue the mound. I’ve heard it termed the tump, the muff, the muffin, the pudding... well, enough of that. The area below, in general, is the vulva. I’ll part the hair so you can see better.’ He slid two fingers down and apart, and Sansa covered her mouth with her hand, as if to compensate.
‘Look, Sansa. Really look. Some people will tell you this is where a woman’s power comes from. Those people are idiots - your power comes from the same place as mine, from your mind - but there are so many idiots in the world that you really can use it that way. Stupid men will ruin themselves for the chance to lick your cunt. You may not want your cunt licked by stupid, ruined men, but it’s useful knowledge all the same, my dear.’
‘It’s very pink,’ Sansa ventured.
‘Mm. So are your cheeks and lips, sweetling. Now these are your other lips. Labia, lips. See how soft and pouty they are?’ He ran his fingertip along the frilled edge of one. ‘There’s a nasty old story that on some women, witches, these lips hide another set of teeth, sharp teeth to chop a man’s cock off at the moment of ecstasy. I’ve known a few women who made me wonder... what do you think about Cersei Lannister?’
Sansa giggled nervously; she was too fascinated by the sight of his finger tracing up and down her puffy nether lip to think of anything to say.
‘Now where the lips meet at the top, do you see this little soft pink hood? Under here is a little treasure, a little pink pearl.’
‘The pearl in the oyster?’
‘Clever girl.’ He touched it and she gasped. ‘And that’s nice, isn’t it? That’s your clitoris. Take good care of it and it will take good care of you. Listen to me, Sansa. Are you listening? Open your eyes. Every night, every morning, I want you to polish that little pearl with your fingertips. You can look at it in the mirror if you like, too, but I insist that you rub it until you get your reward. Just like this. What do you say?’
‘Yes, Daddy,’ she breathed. She had understood perhaps one word in three; she only wanted him to keep rubbing.
‘And as you rub, as you get all excited and your little heart beats fast, you’ll find your cunny gets very wet and slippery. That’s your body getting ready for a good fucking. Keep watching, sweetling, I’m doing this for your benefit.’
‘Please just rub a little more, Daddy... please, Daddy...’
‘Later. Look here. When I part your lips, you see how wet and shiny they are inside? You see? Ready for fucking.’ He pressed a rough kiss into her neck. All her attention had been on the mirror and the sweet burning in her cunny, but she suddenly realised the pressure on her lower back must be his cock. Ready for fucking. Is he going to - but - but if I’m going to be married - oh, I don’t want him to stop, though. ‘Look, Sansa. Your hot wet little cunt, spread open.’
‘Butterfly wings,’ she said, surprising herself. ‘It’s a pink butterfly!’
‘Yes. Yes. Now, inside here, where it’s so wet and secret, we find two holes. This little wee one here, this is where you piss from, and below it is your cunny, your vagina, your lovely tight little cunt - sweetling, have you ever put your fingers in here?’
‘Of course not...’
‘Then let Daddy be first.’ His long middle finger slipped inside her and he kissed her neck again, biting her nape. ‘Oh, Sansa... my little girl, my darling...’ She could hear him panting for a moment, hot breath gusting against her ear, before he mastered himself again and grew quieter. ‘A little bit of a hymen, I can feel it, but nothing to worry us. Do you know, though, some girls do retain their hymens after the first fuck? They stretch without breaking. And there are girls in the whorehouses who have sold their maidenheads half a dozen times. You only have to go “ow” at the right moment and be quick with a little phial of blood hidden under the pillow. If Harry needs to see a bloody sheet, we can see that he does. Or we can tell him my little Alayne was riding before she could walk... or she had a little accident climbing over a fence...’
‘Or her daddy fucked her.’ She hadn’t meant to say it out loud, and she squeaked as he pushed his finger in hard.
‘No, we won’t be saying that. Eyes on the mirror, good girl. Test time. What am I tickling now?’
‘Oh... oh, it’s... lipia?’
‘Labia. Close. Here?’
‘Clitoris clitoris clitoris. Ah!’
‘I don’t know. I don’t think you said. Pee hole.’
He started to laugh. ‘Oh, Sansa, a sweet little lady like you saying “pee hole”... I’m very much afraid I may have corrupted you.’
‘You didn’t say,’ she protested. ‘It’s not fair.’ He was still tickling the little opening, teasing just below her clitoris, and it was maddening. ‘Please rub the clitoris again. Please, Daddy?’ She turned her head to kiss him and sucked at his tongue, heard him grunt with surprise and pleasure, felt the hard thing dig into her back as his hips rose.
‘Piss for me first,’ he said breathlessly.
‘You heard, sweetling. Piss for me. Right now, and I’ll rub your little clit till you scream.’
‘I - but - why - I can’t.’
‘Yes, you can. Piss for Daddy. Come on.’ His eyes were fever-bright.
‘But I’ll make such a mess...’
‘Doesn’t matter.’ His finger brushed the taut little bud and slid away.
‘I’ll try, but I don’t know if I even can...’ He was spreading her again with his two fingers, the mirror reflecting glistening pink. She bit her lower lip; she had never tried to pee with her hips tilted like this, but the feeling of pressure was there, perhaps she could... a thin trickle escaped, then she knew she could and a hot stream shot from her and splashed off the mirror.
‘Oh, Sansa!’ He ground against her, and she managed to squeeze out one more strong spurt, then a weak gush that drizzled down and soaked into her petticoat. It was shameful, she thought he was mad, but if he would touch her like that again... and he did, he kept his word, he was rubbing and she was melting, arching and squirming, he dropped the mirror and thrust his fingers inside her, and she could hear her own voice, squealing, as a great hot sweet wave rolled through her and dumped her back in his lap.
‘Precious little Sansa,’ he breathed against her neck. The bulge at her back was gone. ‘Daddy loves you so.’ He drew his fingers out of her cunt and, to her shock, sucked them clean. Sansa was too limp to object; she lay and basked in the warmth of the fire before them and his body behind her, with lovely little flickers going through her thighs and tummy, and dying down in her clitoris. That, she thought, had absolutely nothing to do with teaching me to please Harry. Petyr was stroking her tummy, drawing idle spirals around her navel. She stretched out her legs and put her feet on the floor.
‘Broken - you broke the mirror - ow, oh, my foot!’ Her shoe had fallen off, and she had lowered her stocking foot on a shard of glass; it went right into the soft arch.
‘Hold still. There, now.’ He drew her foot up into their shared lap and neatly plucked out the triangle of mirror-glass. Blood was already soaking into the stocking and more ran out once the glass was removed. Sansa whimpered and clutched at her foot. I was feeling so lovely and now this. Nothing is ever just nice.
‘Poor little love,’ said Petyr. He loosened her garter, pulled off the stocking and inspected her foot. ‘It’s not a deep cut. I’ll wrap it up quickly, then get rid of this glass and take care of you properly.’ He pulled out a handkerchief and bound it around her foot, then lifted her off his lap, helping her to put her legs up on the settle.
‘Will you call the maester?’
‘Do you think the maester needs to see you freshly fucked with your skirts all soaked with piss?’ he asked brusquely. ‘Keep your foot raised; it’ll bleed less that way.’
Sansa lay there, not really crying, but with tears dribbling down her cheeks and her foot throbbing, as, without looking at her, he swiftly cleared up the broken glass, wiped the urine and spilled wine from the floor with the cloth draped over the wine tray, and went away to fetch warm water and a bandage. When he came back he was kind again, gently bathing her foot, checking that there was no glass left in the wound, dabbing it with ointment and wrapping it snugly in a clean bandage.
‘I gave you this tonight,’ he said, taking a necklace from his pocket. It was a thin string of pink freshwater pearls. He dropped it into Sansa’s palm. ‘When you tried it on, I held up a mirror for you to see it, but dropped it by accident. We thought we had picked up all the pieces, but missed one. When you stepped on it later, it gave you such a fright that you unfortunately wet yourself. I took care of you, not calling the maester or a servant, because you were so embarrassed.’
‘Right,’ Sansa said, nodding as she committed the story to memory. ‘I didn’t have my shoes on,’ she added, ‘because I slipped them off sitting down by the fire.’
‘Yes, but say that only if someone asks how the glass went through your shoe. Never give too much detail when you first tell a lie. It rings false. The first thing that you say, if someone notices you limping or sees your bandage, is that you hurt your foot by stepping on a bit of broken glass. Often, that will be enough. Only let the rest be drawn out of you by questioning. Be shy, and reluctant to tell the whole thing.’ He was holding her bandaged foot in his lap, and petting her instep as if it were a kitten.
She nodded earnestly, and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. The necklace was quite lovely; she wondered if he would really have given it to her this evening or simply kept some trinkets in reserve, should he need them.
‘Sansa,’ he said, his voice changing, dropping low, as if he were admitting to something he was ashamed of. ‘I didn’t plan the - the piss part. You make me do things I haven’t planned. Do you understand?’
‘You can’t help it any more than I can.’ He smiled wryly. ‘Or any more than I had planned to push Lysa that day. My plans for her were much more careful, much less daring. I’m afraid I misjudged her... quite how far gone she was in her mind. You can’t account for everything, and you must be ready to rearrange your plans on the turn of a moment. A plan that’s too rigid soon becomes a trap for its maker.’ His hand stroked up her shin. ‘You, though, are an indispensable part of my plans.’
Sansa smiled at him wanly. A little voice low at the back of her mind said ‘Yes, until I become more trouble than I’m worth,’ but she wanted to believe that it was wrong, that she was misjudging him. He did say he loved her, not just when he was pretending she was Alayne.
‘Now, I’ll help you back to your room. Your maid will need to hear the full version of the story, to account for your wet gown - I’ll help you tell it, too. In fact, I’ll do most of the talking - you blush and hang your head.’
‘But I want to stay with you.’ She was surprised how much.
‘All night? I’m sorry, sweetling, I can’t see any way to manage that. We should wait a few days before our next lesson, too.’ He leaned forward and kissed her brow. ‘In the meantime, polish your pearl, and think about what you want Daddy to do to you next time, hmm?’
As I said in response to one comment, the scale of this story is domestic (and somewhat claustrophobic - it's intentional that we encounter hardly anyone but Petyr, Sansa and Sweetrobin) because I haven't got an epic kind of mind and can't handle the sort of international plotting that is such a key part of ASOIAF. If the references to outside events are inaccurate or mismatched, I beg your indulgence.
Sansa polished her pearl diligently, far less because he had told her to, far more because it felt wonderful and gave her relief and escape from everything around her. She was astonished at what she had here, how it changed and responded to touching, how wet she got, how deep inside her fingers could reach. She had assumed (for how long? always? or just since she learned to associate Joffrey with pain?) that when she had to give up her maidenhead it would be horribly painful to endure, that there couldn’t be much space inside her, that a cock would tear her open, but now she wondered.
In her bed and in the privy she frigged herself breathlessly, whimpering, until joyful shocks ran through her and the wetness dribbled down her thighs. She knelt in the little godswood of the castle and prayed for guidance and strength, as well as she could while distracted by the way her swollen nether lips brushed together. She dreamed that she and Petyr were in the godswood of Winterfell, in one of the hot spring pools, and he was kissing her neck and fingering her cunny, so the warm water flowed inside her. She wanted to see his body, but the water was too dark. She lay at night and tolerated Sweetrobin sucking at her breast, pretending it was Petyr, her hand between her thighs, fingers diddling and flicking and pinching until she trembled with barely suppressed pleasure.
Standing at a casement and looking out at the landscape she would never explore while tethered to Sweetrobin, she didn’t realise she was absently rubbing her mound on the windowsill until Petyr stepped up behind her and put a light hand on her hip, stilling the motion. He stood just beside her, fatherly arm around her, and murmured ‘Control yourself, Alayne. You’re like a cat in heat.’
Whose fault is that? ‘Did anyone else notice?’ she whispered, feeling her face flush hot. There were a couple of other people in this corridor, only servants passing back and forth.
‘Only Daddy. We must teach you to master your blushes, somehow. Wouldn’t it be marvellous if you could blush on purpose?’ A door closed at the end of the corridor, they were alone for a moment, and his hand snaked up and pinched her breast before dropping back to her hip. ‘I’d be so very proud of you.’
‘When can we...’ Sansa began faintly.
‘Be patient, pet. I’m aching for you too.’ He goosed her quickly and strolled away, leaving her hot and indignant.
It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair! He can’t be aching in the least. It’s a joke to him. Oh, I should be able to cope without him, but I want to be kissed, and not by Sweetrobin. If only I had someone else, but I can’t trust anyone else. And I want him.
She stared at the mirror trying to make herself blush on purpose, and discovered that she could do it quite simply by remembering her urine hitting that other mirror. Perhaps in time that would lose its power, but then perhaps in time she would have done something more shameful to replace it. She left Sweetrobin making and demolishing towers of wooden bricks and loitered in the corridor outside Petyr’s solar, and caught him by the sleeve when he emerged.
‘Look at this,’ she demanded, cast her eyes down, blushed, then looked up at him shyly through her lashes.
‘Clever girl!’ he exclaimed, a startled, unstudied smile dawning on his face.
‘Get in here a moment.’ He gripped her upper arm and hustled her into the solar, shut the door, pushed her hard against it and kissed her roughly, his tongue plunging into her mouth. She moaned in delight and pushed her hips against him.
‘Yes - Daddy - now...’
‘No.’ He pulled back, breathing hard, his hands on the door either side of her face. ‘It’s an excellent little trick, but I have to see Lady Waynwood in ten minutes. Harry’s making some sort of fuss about wanting to see you before he agrees to marry you.’
‘He can see me,’ Sansa said. ‘Just tell her that.’ The thought of meeting Harry the Heir made her nervous, but it would be good to know what he was like.
‘Well, he can’t see you like this, panting like a slut. And I’m waiting for a few other pieces to slide into place before I introduce you. She’s bringing an artist she trusts to paint your portrait. Try to look modest, won’t you?’
‘Of course I will!’
‘Eight, nine minutes,’ Petyr said to himself, closing his eyes for a moment. Abruptly he dropped to his knees and shoved up her skirts. Sansa caught them and bundled them up against her chest; she couldn’t see what he was doing and squeaked with shock as his mouth touched her cunny, sealing and sucking, tongue sliding into her slit and flicking up against her clitoris. She flattened the bundle of fabric with her arms and stared down at him, at his sharp green eyes gazing up at her, crinkling into a wicked smile at her confusion, and then everything was his tongue, her legs were shaking, she was gasping, joy was swelling inside her and her cries were half laughter. Then the burst came, and she fell back against the door, her legs turning to jelly and her head whirling.
‘Oh! Oh, Daddy!’
‘There. Better?’ He wiped his neat little beard on her petticoat and tugged her skirts down, smoothing them out for her.
‘It is ridiculously easy to make you come.’ He got smoothly to his feet and kissed her on the cheek, his moustache still wet. ‘What a state you must have been in!’
‘I’ve tried to tell you,’ she sighed.
‘Will that hold you for a while, do you think?’ He gave her mound an affectionate slap through her skirts.
‘A little while...’
‘Quickly, now. Do I have any quim-cream in my moustache? I wouldn’t want to outrage Lady Waynwood.’
‘Spinach in my teeth?’ A brief grin.
‘You look perfect.’
‘Off I go, then. You can rest here until you regain your composure.’ And he was gone, like that, making her stagger forward when he opened the door she was leaning on. Sansa passed a shaky hand over her hair, finding to her surprise that it was still perfectly intact, and went to sit down and get her breath back. She chose the chair behind the wide table Petyr used as his desk, and laid her head down on her folded arms on the tabletop. When her heartbeat was more steady and gentle, she sat up and looked at the papers on the desk. They were laid out in a way that she realised, after examination, was actually a system, though it might not look that way to a casual glance. Almost a spiral, newer things towards the centre, older things spiralling out to the edges of the desk.
There was, of course, nothing left lying out that couldn’t safely be seen by anyone who wandered in. Petyr received letters from all over Westeros and the surrounding lands, keeping him informed of the latest developments. These would be the ones that anyone could know about, containing no secrets, only events that had been witnessed by many and would be widely reported and discussed. She wondered where he kept the more private ones. Perhaps he didn’t keep them at all, but committed the important points to memory and destroyed the originals. Or they were in a code that no-one but Petyr would be able to read. Perhaps, too, there were details in these ordinary news-letters that were significant only if you knew about the rest. She skimmed over them, looking for familiar names and places, and stopped in astonishment.
Margaery Tyrell was in terrible trouble, accused of treasonous adultery to little King Tommen. How could it be? Margaery was sensible. Even if she fell in love, she wouldn’t do anything foolish. Besides that, she had her family all around her to protect her, Ser Loras, Lord Mace. No, over here, Loras had been badly wounded in battle on Dragonstone, and burned by boiling oil. Burned by boiling oil! Sansa pressed her hands to her mouth. In her head the Knight of Flowers and the Hound seemed to blur together, Loras’ beautiful curls frizzled and his lovely fresh face melted and scarred. Stupidly, she thought Please, not his face. It wouldn’t matter if Ser Loras’ face was unharmed if he died of his wounds.
She wished she could fly to his side and help nurse him back to health, though she had only the vaguest idea of what that would involve, or to Margaery’s and comfort her. She could not even send her a letter, in hiding as she was. Perhaps, by Petyr, she could get a message to the Queen of Thorns and she would pass it on? What good, though, could that do? What could she say? Dear Margaery, I am so sorry you are in the same situation I once was, but even worse. By the way, I unwittingly helped to kill your second husband. Oops. Petyr’s sarcasm was rubbing off on her. She shook her head and decided to try to go through all the papers properly, in order, from oldest to newest.
It took some time, and by the end she was more confused than at the beginning. Part of the problem was that several documents referred obliquely to events the writers must have described properly in earlier messages that were no longer on the desk. There was so much going on, and so many names, and she thought that if she were ever actually a queen or anyone of importance, she might pass a law against anyone else being called Walder, ever. Everything was such a mess, all over the Seven Kingdoms and everywhere else. Daenerys Targaryen sounded utterly terrifying, yet she was supposed to be a girl close to Sansa’s own age.
The most startling thing that she learned was that Tyrion, who had been apprehended for Joffrey’s murder, had somehow escaped from the dungeon and killed his own father, Lord Tywin, before disappearing into thin air. She wondered if Petyr had had anything to do with that, helping Tyrion make his getaway; if he was keeping him safe somewhere, tucked away like her; if it would be better, from Petyr’s and her points of view, for Tyrion to die so that she was cleanly widowed, or if he could be more helpful still alive. Their marriage could probably be annulled for non-consummation. It would be easy to prove, since Petyr said her hymen was still there (she felt his fingers inside her again). It would be embarrassing, but on the whole, less shaming than people thinking she had been deflowered by a parricidal dwarf.
It was more complicated than that, of course. She did not hate Tyrion, or even despise him, but physically he frightened and repelled her. Under completely different circumstances she might have liked him. He had been kind to her. But then, would a truly kind man have murdered his own father? Even if he hadn’t really murdered his own nephew. And even if she was fairly sure that murder was the work of Lady Olenna, who had also been kind to her. And how much had poor Ser Dontos actually known about it, and about the hairnet? Had Margaery known? Would she not have needed to know, to avoid being poisoned by drinking from the same cup as Joffrey?
It made her head ache. Part of her wanted to give up trying to understand it, to say ‘I am just a young girl and all I want is to listen to pretty songs and eat lemon cakes and perhaps be lightly fingerfucked from time to time,’ but the greater part knew that it was crucial that she keep trying. In the life Petyr was trying to prepare for her, and to prepare her for, she would have to contend with the likes of Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, perhaps, if circumstances turned, Olenna or Margaery Tyrell. She must know what was going on, understand how it had happened and what people wanted and what they were likely to do, or she would end up poisoned or thrown into a dungeon or even eaten by a dragon.
She drew a piece of scrap paper towards her, picked up a pencil and wrote
To Find Out
- How did things get like this?
- What do people want?
- Based on 1 and 2, what are people likely to do? Have Plans.
- FOOD TASTER.
She folded the paper and put it in her pocket, noticing that there had been one other letter under it. She read it, then re-read it. Then she clutched it to her chest and kicked her legs up in the air and all but cackled in glee. Oh, poor Queen Cersei! Whyever hadn’t Petyr told her? She had to get up and do a little hopping, sore-foot-sparing dance around the table, clapping her hands, before she could be calm again. She told herself in a good, kind septa’s voice that it really was wrong to take pleasure in another’s misfortune, and this was very sad for little King Tommen, who in his innocence must love and trust his mother, but her heart was singing IT SERVES HER RIGHT.
She went back to Sweetrobin in great good spirits and was happily building a Red Keep for him to knock over (they didn’t have quite enough red blocks, so it was the Red and Orange Keep) when Petyr, Lady Waynwood and a good-looking young man with painty cuffs came to see them. Everyone made their greetings first to little Lord Robert, who was stamping back and forth over a Blackwater made of Sansa’s black rain cape, then Petyr said ‘Lady Anya, you remember my Alayne.’
Sansa made a deep curtsey, glad that she had retouched the brown wash this morning.
‘Of course.’ Lady Waynwood walked around her, looking her up and down. ‘Have you grown since the last time I saw you, Alayne?’
‘Outward,’ said Petyr, before she could answer, ‘slightly.’
‘I’m sure Alayne can speak for herself,’ she replied, casting him a wry look.
‘I think I may be a little bit plumper, my lady,’ Sansa said. ‘We have been eating well since we came down from the Eyrie.’
‘Good. Slim is all right, but I don’t want you skinny. This is Ivor Flowers, a painter. He’ll be making your betrothal portrait for Harrold. Of course, I’ve brought one for you, as fair exchange.’ From her pocket she drew a small oblong item about the size of her hand. It was a picture-case, hinged like a book, covered with cream leather and bound in thin strips of gold, with a chain and clasp to hang it from one’s girdle. Sansa accepted it with a polite bob, taking it carefully in both hands. She wasn’t sure if it would be proper to open it and have a look now, but Lady Anya settled that for her. ‘Open it. I’m sure you’re curious.’
Inside was a miniature portrait, very well done and lifelike. Without seeing Harry himself, Sansa couldn’t know if it was a true likeness, but it did look like a real person, unlike many pictures she had seen. There was a little ‘I’ and a daisy in one corner, almost too small to make out, presumably Ivor’s signature. She looked carefully at the square, handsome face, topped by curly brown hair. The painted Harry had merry grey eyes and rosy cheeks, and a wide, generous-looking mouth. She thought of Petyr’s tongue in her cunt, and blushed for Lady Anya’s benefit.
‘Thank you very much, my lady,’ she murmured. ‘I’ll treasure this.’
‘It’s a fair likeness,’ Lady Anya said. ‘Be sure you do as well with Alayne, Ivor. You’ll stay here until the portrait is complete.’
Sansa realised, during the first sitting, that Ivor was not just intended to paint her portrait. He was a test of her virtue. He was handsome and charming and flirtatious, and he touched her far more than was really necessary to arrange her into quite a simple seated pose, with the picture-case open in her hands. It was an interesting experience both to be flattered and flustered by his attentiveness, and to have a quiet, thoughtful part of her mind sitting back and saying to the rest of her ‘He’s doing that on purpose, you know. Whether he really likes you or not, it’s part of his job.’
Then she had only to sit still and look pretty, in a modest, pure way, while he sketched and painted on a big canvas and chatted to her about everything and nothing. They mostly discussed old songs and tales. Ivor confessed (calculatedly, the new, shrewder Sansa-voice said) that he had always had a sentimental tendency to imagine himself as the knight in shining armour, to aspire to save the sweet maiden just as she thought all hope was lost. Sansa thought of poor Ser Dontos and smiled at Ivor. For all that Petyr said Dontos had sold her and would have sold her again, and for all that his drunken wet kisses had made her uncomfortable, he had saved her from the Lannisters, and at least part of him had done it for true chivalry.
‘Still, I can’t expect to be a hero of songs when I am just a bastard, and I wield a pencil and a brush far better than a sword or a lance,’ Ivor said with a self-deprecating smile.
‘If you make beautiful things,’ Sansa said, ‘I think you are doing something just as good as the knights who fight to protect beauty. And bastards may rise.’
‘Yes, they may, my lady,’ he said, twinkling his eyes at her. ‘Why, there’s a bastard in command of the Night’s Watch, now - not that I should wish to rise as high as the Wall.’
‘I hear it’s terribly cold up there,’ she said, and shivered.
‘That, and I should never marry!’ Ivor said with a look of mock horror.
Sansa giggled appreciatively, and thought about it all.
Sweetrobin sulked about the hours she spent sitting for Ivor each day. ‘You should be playing with me,’ he said. ‘What if I’m ill, all alone? You’d be sorry then.’
‘You would never be all alone,’ Sansa assured him. She was giving him his bath, something he had forbidden the servants to do, rubbing his skinny little back with a soapy washcloth. ‘Everyone in the Vale loves you and wants to take care of you,’ she added, scooping up water to rinse off the suds. His back, she thought, was not quite straight; certainly, the knobs of his spine stuck out more than she thought was normal. His ribs were visible from the back and the front, although his tummy protruded. He was such an awkward, ill-made little boy, as if he were assembled from parts meant for different children.
‘But Alayne...’ He paused, and frowned, puzzling. ‘You’re having the picture made for that Harry boy, aren’t you?’
‘Harrold Hardying, yes, my betrothed.’
‘Betrothed means you’re going to marry him.’
‘But then how will you look after me? You’re supposed to be my new mother. If you get married you’ll go off and have babies of your own and you won’t be my mother any more.’ He looked up at her and his lip was trembling. His nose was running, too, a snail-trail slithering down to his upper lip. He looked so tiny with his hair wet and slicked down.
‘Oh, no, Sweetrobin!’ She wiped his nose with the corner of the washcloth. ‘I promise, I won’t go off and leave you. Harrold can come and live here, with us, or perhaps we’ll all go and live somewhere else together. He’ll help me look after you. And,’ she went on, ‘we won’t have any babies of our own until you’re big enough not to need me so much. Then you might like having little brothers and sisters - or cousins, really, I suppose. You can teach them things, and they’ll look up to you.’
‘Why would you want to have other babies when you have me?’ Sweetrobin asked. ‘Mother always said I was enough all by myself, and everything she could wish for.’
‘Well, you were her own baby, born from her own body, so of course she felt that way. Don’t you think I might like to have a baby that way? And Harrold might like to have sons to carry on his name?’
‘I don’t see why you can’t just wait for me to grow up and then marry me,’ Sweetrobin complained.
‘Boys can’t marry their mothers, even pretending mothers.’
‘King Tommen is a boy, and he’s got a wife, so we needn’t even wait. You should just marry me now. Then you’d be Lady of the Vale even though you were born a bastard, and everyone would bow to you.’
‘Lord Robert, I’m very, very honoured and grateful that you would think of me, but I simply can’t. I’ve already given my word. Harrold is a good match for me, a new-made knight. You should marry a highborn lady, perhaps a princess. Lord Petyr is looking for someone to suit you.’ That was a fib, but fibs told in kindness - and to prevent a tantrum that might turn into a fit - seemed increasingly acceptable to Sansa.
‘Will she be kind?’ Sweetrobin asked anxiously.
‘Of course. He’s particularly looking out for someone very kind and loving. And beautiful, too. Far prettier than me. A princess with golden hair, like Myrcella Baratheon. Come now, the water’s cooling off, and I don’t want my Sweetrobin to catch cold.’ He clambered out of the tub, and she wrapped him in a towel warmed by the fire and carried him to bed.
Perhaps because the warm bath had soothed him, he fell asleep easily and didn’t cling to her. She left him hugging his doll and crept away to her own room. She had sent her maid away for the night, and was sitting up in bed, her nightgown tucked under her chin and a hand-mirror between her legs, when the door opened soundlessly and Petyr slipped in. She squeaked and pulled her skirt down like a tent over her knees before she saw clearly who it was.
‘Why didn’t you knock?’ she whispered, scandalised.
‘Precisely because I hoped to find you doing something like that,’ he said, smirking. ‘It was a very pretty picture, even if you had given yourself a double chin holding your nightie.’ He sat down on the side of the bed and leaned over conspiratorially. ‘Why not take it off altogether?’
‘I’d get cold.’
‘You don’t look cold. You look rather flushed. I’ve had a look at the portrait-in-progress, and you look pretty rosy there too.’
‘I think he’s quite a flattering painter.’
‘You don’t require flattery. I must commend you on the blush you produced when you first looked at Harry’s picture. Will you do another when you meet him?’
‘Just like this,’ Sansa said. Eyes down, blush, up through the lashes.
‘He will be enslaved. How are you doing it?’
‘I don’t think I’ll tell you,’ she said, smiling to herself. ‘I’d like to have a secret. Anyway, why have you come?’
‘Does a fond father need a reason to kiss his little girl goodnight? Lie down.’ He stroked her bare foot. ‘All better?’
‘I take the bandage off at night to let it breathe. It’s still a bit sore, but it’s healing.’ Sansa settled back against her pillows and let him take her foot into his lap, still petting it.
‘Let Daddy see.’ He lifted her foot and examined the sole, then kissed the arch just beside the small cut. ‘Just a little pink scar, I think. A little... pink... slit.’ He laid her foot down again and ran his palm up from her instep to her shin, taking the hem of her nightgown with it, over her knee and up her thigh to her hip. ‘A pink, puffy slit.’ He pressed a kiss onto her pubic hair, and she caught her breath thinking he would do that again, but instead he slid both his hands up from her waist, pulling her nightgown up over her tummy and breasts, her head and arms, dropping it on the floor and sitting back to look at her.
There seemed no point in trying to cover herself up now. She lay and waited to see what he wanted now, her heart beating a little faster.
‘Spread your legs, please.’
Sansa obeyed, thinking of the way he’d held her on the settle, lifting her knees as she parted them. She was already wet from playing with herself, and the air felt cold on her lips. Her cheeks were burning again.
‘I’d like a picture of you just like this. Do you think Flowers would oblige? No, don’t answer that - I’m sure he would. Just as I’m sure he feels the pulse in his cock as he paints your pretty lips, poor fellow. Are you encouraging him?’
‘I’m not discouraging him,’ Sansa said cautiously. ‘But I’m being sensible.’
‘Oh, so no frigging yourself on household objects while he’s around?’
‘That was once,’ Sansa protested. ‘I didn’t even notice I was doing it.’
‘While he’s painting you, and gazing at you, and flirting with you, is your cunt wet?’
‘Yes, if I’m thinking about you,’ she said boldly, although her voice shook and spoiled the effect.
‘Excellent answer,’ he replied gravely.
‘There are all sorts of things I want to ask you, but we haven’t had a chance to talk.’
‘About your cunt?’ A flicker of a smile; he stroked her ankle.
‘About what’s going on in the world. The war, and the rival kings, and what all the houses want - I want to try to understand it, the way you do, to see the whole picture.’
‘Hmm.’ He kept stroking, up towards her knee. ‘I had a different kind of lesson in mind for tonight, you know. Still, if that’s what you’re really interested in!’ He folded his arms and assumed a thoughtful expression. ‘Hmm, where to begin, I suppose we might start with the Ninepenny Kings...’
‘No, I didn’t mean that...’
‘But perhaps that isn’t far back enough,’ Petyr said, putting his forefinger to his chin. ‘Let’s go right back to Aegon the Conqueror. Aegon, you see -’
‘No no no!’ Sansa scrambled into his lap and flung her arms around his shoulders. ‘Please, Daddy.’ She kissed him eagerly, earnestly, and felt his hands close on her back, sliding up and down as he slipped his tongue into her mouth. A little sound rose up in her throat, a soft moan, and she pressed closer to him, feeling the raised embroidery on the front of his tunic rub her breasts. ‘Am I doing it better now?’
‘Much better. I would almost think you really wanted me.’
‘I do really want you.’
‘Can you still do this if Harry doesn’t make you feel quite this way, though?’
‘I’ll think of you.’
‘Ah, but don’t slip and say “Daddy” or “Petyr” when he’s inside you. Perhaps you should practise calling me Harry.’
‘No. Just Daddy.’ She kissed him again; it felt almost natural now. She wondered how it had changed; when he had begun kissing her it had made her freeze, her lips numb. What had turned over in her? She wasn’t as afraid now, but she couldn’t say it felt safe. His hands slid down to her hips, his thumbs kneading into the tops of her thighs; then up her spine again, holding her, rolling her onto her back and lowering himself on top of her, reaching down to part and lift her legs, guiding her to wrap them around him, still kissing her, softly biting her lips, breathing deeper now.
‘When he’s on top of you, you must wrap your legs around him. As if you can’t hold him close enough with your arms alone. Lift your hips, press your cunt up to me, I want to feel it kiss my belly. Good girl.’
You won’t feel it with all your clothes on, Sansa thought, but he was kissing her again and it felt too wonderful for her to object. She hitched her hips against him and whimpered at the sweet friction. Then he was sliding down, covering her neck with kisses, none too gentle, sucking and lightly biting, and on to her breasts, sucking her nipples and stretching them upward.
‘I hope he has the sense to work on your teats. They’re wonderfully responsive. If you were going to stay mine, I’d pierce them, just little silver rings with a fine chain between them.’ He bit her right nipple, very precisely, and she caught her breath sharply.
‘What for?’ Sansa was well out of her depth; she didn’t even have pierced ears.
‘It looks pretty. And done correctly, it increases their sensitivity and keeps them excited. Perhaps I’d hang little silver bells from them, so you’d jingle when I fucked you.’
Are you ever going to fuck me? Oh, I hope it doesn’t hurt! She arched her back as his mouth moved onward, down the centre of her midriff, backing up on his knees to print a wet trail of kisses over her tummy, nuzzling into her pubic hair.
‘Oh! Oh, are you going to...’
‘Did you know men did that to women?’ He rested his chin on her mound, looking up at her.
‘Of course not...’
‘Women do it to women too.’
‘I love you, Sansa.’ Without anything like a proper explanation, he slipped his tongue into her cleft, parting her lips with his thumbs. It was slower and sweeter this time, and it made her squirm with joy, lifting her bottom from the bed, clenching her toes in the sheets, pressing both her hands over her mouth to muffle the high-pitched sounds she could not keep in. Now his fingers were inside her, stroking, beckoning, his tongue was fluttering rapidly against her clitoris, and she half-screamed as the wave broke. She lay panting, with stars bursting in her head, a great open-mouthed smile on her face.
‘Oh, I want more of that, and all the time!’
Petyr kissed the inside of her thigh, prickling the tender skin with his whiskers, and chuckled. ‘You look so pure.’
‘I bet I don’t now.’
‘No, you still do. Pure and sweet and ripe.’ He flexed his fingers again, producing a wet lapping sound. ‘Listen to your greedy little cunny suck.’
‘You say terrible things, Daddy.’
‘I am a very bad man.’ He slipped his fingers out, sucked them clean, and planted a kiss on her tummy. Rolling off her, he swung his legs off the side of the bed, got up and pulled the covers over her, and dropped another kiss on her forehead. ‘Good night, sweetling.’
‘But -’ Sansa stared at him.
‘I don’t know if there’ll be time for your history lesson tomorrow, but I promise I’ll let you know when we can do it. Sleep tight.’ And he blew out her candle and padded away in the dark, towards the faint hallway light coming from under the door.
Sansa lay there staring into blackness, bewildered and indignant and hurt. How could he just stop everything like that? Didn’t he understand how she felt, or did he simply not care?
But then, it occurred to her, he had never said that he was going to fuck her, or make love to her, or anything of the sort. He talked about it, talked around it, but never made any statement of intent. She rubbed her hands over her face, pressing the heels of her hands into her eyesockets. In a way, actually, he was being sensible, was being kind. She should still be a maiden when she married; he wasn’t doing anything to endanger her virginity. But it was utterly unkind to toy with her this way, surely.
She crept out of bed and felt her way to the curtained privy alcove, where she sat down with her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands. Her labia were so tender that the warm urine seemed to burn. Why won’t he take his clothes off? she wondered. Is his body all horrible underneath? Covered in scars or birthmarks or moles? Or is there something wrong with his cock? Is Littlefinger an even crueller nickname than I thought? At least if it were little like a finger it wouldn’t hurt me. Oh, I don’t know! I don’t understand half of what he says or does. Bells on my nipples? What would he do to me if he weren’t trying to keep me nice for Harry?
She blotted between her legs with one of the clean rags in the basket alongside and went back to her bed, curling up into a tight little knot with the covers drawn up to her ears. Her chest ached, and a few tears leaked out, trickling across her face as she lay on her side. It’s all wrong, she thought, sniffing, and I must be really strong and tell him so, tell him I won’t do it any more. I won’t wait for him to send for me, I’ll go and see him, and I’ll tell him. I’ll still marry Harry and do whatever else he says, but not that.
After that she managed to fall into a troubled sleep. She dreamed that somehow, it turned out her parents were still alive. This ought to have been joyful, knowing that she once again had them to protect her, but it all went wrong. They came and found her and she was sitting in Petyr’s lap, he was kissing her breasts and fingering her, they saw and walked away. He lifted his head and said to her ‘You’re going to have to explain that.’
She woke very early in the morning, in an agony of dread, trying to think what she could possibly say to get her parents to understand and forgive her. The realisation that it had only been a dream brought a great wash of relief, followed by miserable guilt. How could she feel relieved to remember that her parents were dead? She renewed her resolve to stand up to Petyr, but could not act on it for quite some time. Sweetrobin woke up with a cold, in addition to his perpetual sniffle, and needed even more attention than usual: a special blanket, a hot honey-and-lemon drink, a pile of fresh handkerchiefs, a favourite doll that he had abandoned somewhere, he couldn’t remember where, so she must look for it, but not go away for too long, he needed her.
When his immediate needs were met, she fetched her workbasket and some remnants of cloth and sat by his bed.
‘What are you doing?’ he croaked.
‘You wait and see,’ she told him, and began one of his favourite stories as she worked. It made her feel rather like Old Nan, who used to knit while she told them stories, her needles clicking away without the slightest need to look at them. She spun the story out, with descriptions and digressions, as she snipped and stitched and stuffed, and when she had finished it she held up the object she was making. ‘Now, what do you think it’s going to be?’
‘A doll. I’ve got lots of dolls.’
‘This is a special one. What story would you like next?’ As she talked on, and Sweetrobin wanly listened, occasionally blowing his nose with much snuffling, her hands were busy. She used pink and blue embroidery floss to stitch a face, and a whole skein of brown floss to make hair. Lastly, she cut out and sewed a simple little dress and popped it onto the doll.
‘There. Now, who does it look like?’
‘You,’ Sweetrobin said, with a ghost of a smile.
‘Exactly. This is a special Alayne doll to take care of you any time I have to go away for a while. She loves you just like I do.’ She made the doll wave its little round hand. ‘Hallo, Sweetrobin! May I give you a hug?’
‘All right.’ Closer to a proper smile now, and Sansa bobbed the doll over the coverlet to him and made it hug his scrawny little chest.
‘Now, little Alayne, I want you to take very good care of our precious Sweetrobin,’ she told the doll, wagging her finger at it. ‘Comfort him and give him kisses and hugs.’
‘But you still won’t go off for long, will you?’ he asked plaintively, tucking the doll under his arm.
‘I promise I won’t. But I do have to go and speak to my father about something very important, and I didn’t want you to be lonely.’
‘You can go if when you come back, you make a me-doll too,’ Sweetrobin bargained. ‘Me when I’m big and a brave knight.’
‘I promise,’ Sansa said again. She tucked him up warmly and kissed his cheek. He felt a bit clammy, and smelt sour. She thought she should ask Maester Colemon to look in on him in the afternoon. ‘Try to sleep a bit, darling.’
She walked to Petyr’s solar with her hands clenched so tightly her nails bit into her palms, telling herself, ‘Be brave, be brave, be brave.’ It was only when she reached the door that it occurred to her that he might be somewhere else, and she wouldn’t know where to find him; she simply didn’t know enough about what he did. She bit her lip and knocked anyway.
‘Come.’ His voice beyond the door, distracted and business-like. She opened the door and went through, trying to keep her head up despite an urgent wish to look at her feet.
‘Alayne. What is it?’
‘I wanted to talk to you, please.’ She closed the door behind her and crossed to stand in front of his table, clasping her hands tight behind her back.
‘I’m rather busy.’ He gestured at the sheaf of papers he was holding. ‘Can it wait?’
‘It won’t take long. I have to say something private.’ Her voice sounded high-pitched and brittle to her.
‘Very well.’ He put down the papers, laying a quill across the top page to mark his place, and looked at her expectantly.
‘It’s about what happened last night. I - I won’t do that any more. I don’t want you to do it any more, either. Please.’
‘What’s brought this on?’ he asked, folding his arms.
‘I - I just think it’s a mistake, we shouldn’t. It’s wrong. Especially as I’m going to marry Harrold Hardyng.’
‘But those lessons are to prepare you for your marriage.’ He raised his eyebrows as if surprised she should object.
‘I’m grateful, but... could we just have the other sort of lesson? That I asked for last night? I think that would be more helpful.’
‘Come here,’ he said, waving her around the table. She went, apprehensively. Although he was sitting and she was standing, she felt overpowered. ‘You want me to teach you statecraft, is that right? History, strategy, the unwritten rules of the game of thrones?’
‘You do ask for a lot, Sansa. I’ve promised you many gifts, which you know are in my power to give when the time is right, but you come to me demanding more. At some stage you have to pay for the things you receive. My time is valuable, you know.’
‘I don’t have anything,’ she said in dismay. ‘You know I have no money. Do - do you want Winterfell?’
‘Of course not, you foolish girl. I have Harrenhal and the Vale. There are limits to even my avarice. If you want one kind of lesson, you’ll pay for it by submitting to the other.’
Sansa’s heart sank. ‘Please, no.’
‘Really, what did bring this on? Last night, you were all over me. There wasn’t a hint of reluctance or discomfort. I quote, “I want more of that, and all the time.” Has someone said something? Frightened you? Tell Daddy, and I’ll deal with them.’
‘No-one said anything. I thought of it myself. Please, I’ll do anything else you want.’
‘Those are my conditions. I won’t teach your mind without teaching your body as well. There’s nothing else I want from you.’
She closed her eyes, praying silently, hopelessly. If she could provide nothing he wanted, perhaps he would think of some other plan, perhaps he would decide she wasn’t indispensable after all. Perhaps she would be cast out to wander, or worse still, handed over to someone else who did want her.
‘Don’t look so tragic,’ he said impatiently. ‘No harm will come to you. You know how important you are to me. Come and sit on my knee, and no more of this silliness.’
She sat down and hid her face on his shoulder, and he hugged her close, patting her back. Her stupid body grew warm and tingly, and her heart beat faster. ‘You’ll teach me properly?’ she whispered. ‘So I can understand the game?’
‘I’d always intended to. All this fuss has been unnecessary. I noticed you’ve been through my papers; one thing I’ll have to teach you is how to search a desk or a room without making it obvious.’
Sansa nodded, her forehead still pressed to his shoulder.
‘Well done for looking. What conclusions did you draw?’
‘I don’t have any conclusions yet. Just questions.’ Sansa sat up, wiped her eyes on her sleeve, and took the folded paper from her pocket. ‘These were the main ones.’
‘Hmm.’ He unfolded it, read, chuckled at the underlined ‘FOOD TASTER.’ ‘You’re asking the right questions. May I add something, to steer you in the right direction?’ He tapped number two. ‘What do people want? Get it. Make them need you. That’s what I do, and what you’ll need to do too. It may be money, land, treasure, a person, it may be simply information. You must make yourself needed if you’re to survive. Even if nobody likes or trusts you one bit, ensure that everyone knows they would be worse off without you around. Love and loyalty will only make people stick their necks out so far, but you’d be amazed at the lengths they’ll go to to avoid inconvenience.’
‘There are people,’ Sansa began, and faltered. ‘There are people who would do anything for loyalty. For duty.’
‘I know,’ he said, not unkindly. ‘And how long do they last, little one? Have them on your side, by all means. They’ll serve you well. But have the bastards too. The cheap and mean, the ruthless and vengeful, the ambitious and the grasping. You have one already.’ He lifted her hand and kissed it.
‘You’re not a bastard.’
‘You’re my little bastard,’ he said fondly. ‘And you’re going to be a magnificent bitch. Give Daddy a kiss.’
She kissed him, knowing he could taste the tears that had run into the corners of her mouth, and felt his hand stealing into her lap, rubbing through her skirts, sending a warm throb into her. Her guilt was all the stronger because she told herself he hadn’t left her any choice, and that meant it was all right to give in.
Sweetrobin recovered from his cold, although he had acquired a dry little cough that seemed to be here to stay. He played happily with the Alayne doll and the ‘Ser Robert’ one, sending them on adventures in which Alayne was imperilled, Ser Robert rescued her, and she showered him with grateful kisses. Often he set up little play-weddings for Ser Robert, in which an assortment of dolls and small wooden animals, assumed to be female, competed for his favour and he chose one, then another, to be his bride. The rest, with great generosity of spirit, then gathered around to celebrate the marriage.
This kept him occupied while Sansa puzzled over the books and lists and maps Petyr gave her. They were heavy reading, and much less of a pleasure than the collections of songs and stories she would read given her choice. She gnawed at the top of her pencil and wrote pages of muddled notes, trying to piece the different sources together to arrive at the truth. Sometimes they contradicted one another completely. Everything she had heard growing up indicated that Prince Rhaegar had abducted her aunt Lyanna and raped her so cruelly that she died. Other sources made it sound as if he had been in love with her and they had eloped together; Lyanna’s dying had simply been misfortune. She wished she could talk with Lyanna, who she was sure was the only person who really knew.
One day, will one lot of people say that Sansa Stark fell in love with Petyr Baelish, and another that he seduced and corrupted her? It was not a thought she could dwell on. When she met with Petyr at the end of each day, he expected her to be ready to summarise what she had learned and explain its causes, importance and effects. Then he would argue with her until all her opinions had changed. If he was feeling particularly exacting, he would assign her a position arbitrarily and make her defend it while he argued the opposite. It was awful. She had never had to think so hard in her life - and she had thought she did a lot of thinking in Maegor’s tower, but that was really just wondering and worrying, quite a different thing. Sometimes she held her own, sort of, but most of the time she ended up sputtering, unable to justify her point or even keep events in the right order, while he smirked at her and stroked his little beard.
‘You’re terrible, but you’re getting better,’ he pronounced. ‘You must try not to get so flustered. Put your own feelings aside for the time being. You saw your brothers practising with their master-at-arms, didn’t you? Nobody was really trying to wound or kill anyone. They didn’t feel the fear or rage of men in battle. They concentrated on trying to improve their form. I’m your master-at-minds. Think of it that way.’
‘I wish you used a blunted sword,’ Sansa complained.
‘I do! Or a blunted tongue, I suppose.’
‘It doesn’t feel like it.’
‘Shall I put my tongue to better use, little one?’
That was the post-script to every lesson. He might use his hands one day, his mouth another; sometimes there was a sort of smooth curved rod that he slipped inside her and used to put pressure on places that made her gasp. She grew resigned to the fact that he would never take his clothes off, would never expose himself to her. His whole pleasure seemed to lie in reducing her to a shuddering mess; the closest he ever came to giving himself to her was to rub against her, always her back or her bottom. At least, at those moments, when he panted and ground against her and finally collapsed, she felt a little measure of power to move him.
She couldn’t help it; she looked forward to it. It was a relief after the debating to be mindless, just a body that responded with joy. Afterwards, for a short time, he would be tender with her, stroking her hair or doodling patterns on her skin with his fingertips as she lay in his lap or on his desk. All too soon, though, he would make her straighten her clothes and send her off with a fresh stack of reading for the morning and a swat on the bottom.
‘They tell me you’re a very virtuous girl,’ Ivor Flowers said as she sat down before his easel.
‘Do they? If people are to talk about me, I suppose that’s a good thing for them to say.’ She gave him a mild smile and folded her hands, hoping her eyes didn’t look too red or shadowed. She had hardly slept the night before, because Sweetrobin had had a terrible stomach upset and she had spent hours sitting beside him as he whimpered on the privy, holding the basin when he had to be sick, wiping his face with a wet cloth and stroking his hair back from his face.
‘The thing that puzzles me is, weren’t you the one who didn’t want to become a septa? And yet you don’t make merry with the lively Randa Royce and her household. You spend all your time shut away in study, or taking care of little Lord Robert.’
‘Which do you think will make me a better wife for Ser Harrold? Making merry, or improving my mind and learning to care for a child?’ A poor miserable child who’s sick all the time. The smell in that privy! I was almost sick myself.
Ivor shrugged, dabbing his brush in white paint to add highlights. ‘Harry’s quite merry himself. You could tell that from my portrait, couldn’t you? He hardly stopped talking long enough for me to paint his mouth.’
I’m an idiot, Sansa thought. It never occurred to me that I could ask Ivor about Harry. ‘What does he like to talk about?’
‘Oh, I can’t repeat all of it to a young lady,’ Ivor said, chuckling. ‘Some of it was a bit racy. Still, I can tell you that he loves hawking, hunting, jousting - he loves to dance, so I hope you can.’
‘I enjoy dancing too,’ Sansa said. ‘And I’ll certainly cheer for him when he jousts.’
‘You’ll have all the furs you can wear and all the venison you can eat. All the antlers you can wear, too, if you happen to feel like it.’
‘I could start a fashion.’ She giggled at the thought. She was beginning to imagine a life with Harry, daring to hope that it might actually be rather fun. Dancing and tourneys, hawking and hunting... could it actually be as pleasant as it sounded, or would there turn out to be some dreadful downside? Would Harry be cruel, or neglectful, or a drunk? ‘What would you say of his character?’
‘Perhaps I’m not the best man to ask. He’s my oldest friend, so I’m biased. And I will confess, here and now, that I’m taking notes on your character for his benefit.’
‘And what will you say?’
‘A quiet, sweet-natured girl. Seems gentle and kind. Tolerated my attempts at humour passing well. More beautiful than I can show in my picture - your face is pretty in repose, but it’s the life in it that makes you really lovely, the changes of your expression and the light in your eyes. Eyes like the sky on a clear winter day, skin like cream sprinkled with nutmeg, a braid of hair like polished walnut. Does that sound all right?’
Sansa cast her eyes down, smiling modestly. ‘It sounds very generous. Will you tell him also that I long to meet him?’
‘That I will.’
Perhaps marrying Harry will put things right with me, she thought as she went to check on Sweetrobin, who was sleeping off his broken night. A merry, lusty young husband to joust with my favour on his arm, and swing me around in a dance till I’m breathless and laughing, and take me to bed and make love to me until I forget I wanted Petyr to do it first. The sooner we meet and marry the better, especially with Sweetrobin so ill lately. The little lord was still sleeping, his dolls tucked in around him, and she went to her own room, to lie on her bed and look at Harry’s portrait and try to imagine him as a real, breathing young man who could touch her, kiss her, wrap her up in his arms and make her his own. She hoped he was tall and strong, that he could lift her off her feet.
She bundled up the front of her skirts and slipped her fingers between her thighs, trying to imagine his kisses, that warm, wide mouth on hers. She would need to be hesitant at first, shy and sweet, and only gradually part her lips. It would be no good to kiss Harry the way Petyr now expected of her. No, I’m not thinking of Petyr. Would Harry know how to touch her? He should, surely, and she thought she could show him if he didn’t. Here, Harry... stroke me here... oh, that’s lovely. The slow, sweet burn was beginning now, she was growing wet and her fingers were sliding in it. Yes, Harry, sweet Harry, inside me, please.
The door opened, and she bolted upright, slapping down her skirts.
‘Really, my dear? In the middle of the day, too?’ Petyr was smirking at her, closing the door behind him.
‘You should knock,’ she said, slumping back against the pillows.
‘I really see no need. I forgot to give you this last night; I noticed it and thought I’d drop it by.’ He strolled over and tossed a small book on the end of the bed.
‘Not more about where all the money comes from,’ Sansa lamented. ‘Is it really so important?’
‘Extremely important. The great lords want you to think it’s all done with spear and sword, but the smiths don’t make those for love. They say Daenerys Targaryen will take back her kingdom with dragons, the kind that roar and breathe fire. I say she’ll need the kind that fit in your pocket and go clink.’ His hand suddenly darted out and he plucked the little picture-case off the pillow, looking into it with a grin. ‘Harry, do you know what a dirty little girl you’re marrying? Still, I expect you’ll like that.’
‘May I have that back, please?’ Sansa asked, with all the dignity she could muster. She was bounced against her will when Petyr flung himself down beside her, resting on one elbow.
‘I find myself unexpectedly at leisure. Do you want an extra lesson? You look like you need it.’
‘Isn’t that rather dangerous?’
‘Not if people knock. Then all they’ll find is you looking a bit flushed and me explaining the importance of the Iron Bank of Braavos. Besides, I take it your door does lock. Go and lock it, if you would.’ Sansa obeyed, a little resentfully. As she turned back to the bed, he held up a hand to stop her. ‘Stand just there, please. Turn around, slowly.’
‘Why?’ She did it, though, with care, trying to hold herself gracefully.
‘Simple appreciation of your loveliness. You should do this for Harry too.’
‘Daddy, does Harry know he’s marrying me? Sansa?’
‘I admit the mummer in me does want to wait until the moment of truth. You step forward in your grey and white cloak, pull back your hood and shake out your shining red hair in a beam of sunlight that has descended just for the purpose. Every jaw in the hall drops, Harry’s included. That’s how it would be in a song, don’t you agree?’
‘You’re not answering my question, Daddy.’ She pouted slightly.
‘He doesn’t know. Yet. The time isn’t right to tell him, but yes, I plan to before the marriage takes place.’
‘Good. You talked once about pretending I was still Alayne when I married him, so I wasn’t sure.’
‘To be honest, I said that to have an excuse to talk about the fluff on your pretty little mound. Still, for now, the fewer people who know, the safer you are. Undo your hair.’
She undid the velvet ribbons that bound it and unravelled her braid, shaking it loose.
‘And now, unlace your gown. Turn away from me.’
Sansa faced the window and reached behind her, untying the laces and loosening them from the bottom up, gradually spreading open the back of the dress. The window looked out only on a rocky hillside, too steep for anyone but goats and shadowcats to climb it, but she wished she’d drawn the curtain after locking the door.
‘Pull it down slowly from your shoulders. Let it fall to the floor,’ he directed her. The soft lambswool gown crumpled and pooled around her ankles, leaving her in her shift. ‘Smallclothes too. Wait - first, sweep your hair off your back, over your shoulder. Now drop the shift. Lovely. Bend forward, and push your bottom out. Show me your cunny. Frig yourself, slowly.’
Sansa closed her eyes, hating and loving how much wetter she already was with his eyes on her and his words moving her. I will feel just like this with Harry. Or better. It will be all right. She sighed, slipping two fingers into softness, hearing the lapping sound, pulses of shame and pleasure spreading into her centre. ‘Won’t you please touch me, Daddy?’ She looked back over her shoulder pleadingly.
‘Spread your lips with your fingers.’ He was sitting up on the edge of the bed, leaning on his hands, his face unreadable but intent.
‘Exactly. Oh, lucky Harry. Such a luscious little cunt. Enough display, now. Come here.’ He pulled her into his lap and kissed her slowly and thoroughly, his tongue tracing the borders of her lips before he delved in.
‘Oh, Daddy!’ She squirmed closer to him, straddled his lap and clasped her legs around him, kissing him feverishly as he massaged her thighs, his thumbs kneading and circling.
‘I remember when you were shy,’ he murmured. ‘I hope you remember how to act like a virgin on your wedding night.’
‘I am a virgin.’
‘Show me now.’ He rolled her onto her back, kissed her neck, bit at her collarbones.
‘Oh! Oh, Harry, please... be gentle...’ She tried to infuse just the right mixture of excitement and fear into her voice.
‘Precious little mummer-girl. That’s very, very good.’
‘You’re so big...’ She hitched her mound against him, willing him to rub back, and felt his hips stutter for a moment, making her heart thump. ‘Oh... please...’
‘You won’t be a virgin much longer if you carry on like that.’ His voice was thick and hoarse.
‘You want me to rob poor Harry?’
‘You want Daddy to shove his cock into your sweet little cunt?’
‘But he’s right here watching us.’ He fumbled the picture-case from the pillow and held it for Sansa to see. ‘Harry, do you see what a wanton your little wife is?’
‘I don’t think Harry minds. He’s smiling.’
‘Gods, you’re tempting.’ Holding her hips, he rolled onto his back. ‘Undo me, then.’
Her fingers were clumsy as she unlaced his tunic, her breathing rapid and fluttery. He helped her to pull it and his shirt off over his head, throwing them aside and pulling her down into a tight embrace, his tongue plunging into her mouth and the wiry hair on his chest prickling her breasts.
‘Stop, I want to see you.’ She sat up, breathless, pushing back her hair. There was nothing horrible about his body, no birthmarks, some pale, shiny old scars, a few moles but not ugly ones; just a lean, compact body with quite a lot of dark hair on the chest and belly, scattered with early grey like the hair on his head. She pushed her fingers into it, wonderingly, feeling how thick and springy it was, and sank down to kiss him again. He grunted softly and rolled them again, dragging down the coverlet so they lay on the sheets, pressing down on her, slowly grinding his hips against hers, letting her feel the bulge of his erection against her vulva.
‘Last chance to change your mind,’ he breathed against her lips, open, panting.
‘Just... please... oh, Daddy, please do it.’
‘Hold still.’ He rose up on his knees, fumbling with the laces of his breeches, yanking them open and down from his hips. His cock swung free and Sansa stared at it, startled by its redness. ‘That can’t be the first you’ve seen,’ he said.
‘Brothers don’t count.’ They had been little boys and babies, and their privy parts had been small and pale pink and hairless, certainly not veined like this, with that great swollen head.
‘Actually, I was thinking of your first husband.’ He lowered himself over her on his elbows, dragging the tip of his cock over her tummy. ‘I know it’s morbid, but I wonder, was it horribly malformed?’
‘I tried not to really look at it,’ Sansa admitted. ‘I don’t really remember, except I thought it looked sore.’ She reached down between them and hesitantly lifted the shaft with her fingertips. It felt heavy and very warm, and she was surprised at how soft the skin was, almost velvety.
‘Reproduce that look of awe exactly for Harry.’ He kissed her deeply and took his cock in hand, guiding it to rub the head up and down her cleft, making her whimper as he swivelled it against her clitoris. ‘You’re so wet.’ Nudging in between her swollen labia, stretching her tender cunny.
‘I don’t think it’s going to fit.’ It felt so thick and round; she felt tiny by comparison. Little whimpers rose up in her throat.
‘Oh, it will fit, one way or another.’ He gripped her thigh and shifted the angle of her hips. ‘Better... the head’s the hardest part.’ He eased his way forward, frowning in concentration, and Sansa felt a slight sting and a yielding, and then he was sliding in so deep and far it shocked her into silence for a moment.
‘Was that all?’ she asked faintly.
‘It didn’t hurt! It was just a pinch!’
‘Good.’ A deep, hard kiss and he rolled into her, and she up to him, gasping. He pulled her legs up around his waist, quick and rough, braced his arms on the pillow either side of her head, and began to thrust in earnest. Sansa’s voice cracked as she cried out in joy. She grabbed his shoulders, fingers digging in, and thrust back urgently, pleasure building and burning with every stroke, his body so hot against hers, slicked with sweat wherever their skin pressed together, his flat belly hard against her soft tummy, his fingers curling and clenching in her hair.
‘Oh, Daddy! Daddy!’ He slowed his stroke, sealing his lips to her neck, groaning low in his throat as he churned into her. ‘Daddy... Petyr... yes... oh! Oh! Fuck me!’ He grunted sharply and quickened again, and each stroke drove her closer and higher, until she was overwhelmed by blissful quivering convulsions. Still he thrust, hard and savage, reaching his climax with a curse and collapsing.
Sansa lay there bathed in sweat, pressed flat beneath his weight, wreathed in dreamy smiles. She knew quite well that what she had just done had been stupid and dangerous, but the relief and satisfaction of it had been huge. Not just that he had taken her virginity and she didn’t have to worry about it any more, not just that it had been painless and joyful, but that she had been able to draw him in and feel that he was all hers. He didn’t control everything after all, and he needed her for reasons that had nothing to do with wealth or power. He’d said so, more or less, but she felt this proved it.
‘My little girl,’ Petyr sighed. ‘Are you proud of yourself? I am.’
‘Yes. I’m especially proud of your glorious little cunt.’
‘It really didn’t hurt. It was so lovely!’
‘I hope Harry’s cock doesn’t hurt you either, but may I recommend that you never, never ask him “Was that all?” when he fucks you?’
‘I’m sorry, Daddy, but I was so surprised.’
‘I wasn’t. You all but sucked me in. Ah, Sansa. We shouldn’t have done it, but I can’t be sorry.’ He kissed her softly, for him, and eased himself back and off her, leaving her feeling empty and sticky. ‘Now I think Daddy should make you a nice strong cup of moon tea.’
‘Noo-oo. Stay here and cuddle me.’ She threw her arms around his neck and pulled him in, pressing his forehead to hers.
‘A little longer. Then you have to take your medicine. The last thing we need is for you to get married pregnant.’ He lay down beside her and patted her tummy lightly.
‘Harry will want to make me pregnant as soon as he can, won’t he?’ Sansa asked in a deliberate effort to divert her thoughts from becoming pregnant by Petyr. My Daddy’s baby, growing inside me, maybe starting right now.
‘Of course he will. Marry you, get you with child, then if he’s ambitious, try to take back Winterfell before the baby’s born.’ He drew a circle around her navel with his fingertip, then smoothed his palm up over her tummy to her breasts. ‘I think I’ve given you a rash.’
‘You have. All pink where your chest hair scratched me.’
‘Do you have a high-necked gown you can wear till it fades?’
‘Yes, though it makes me look a bit young.’
‘That might be just as well. Could put me off for a while.’ He traced a spiral around her nipple, drawing in and smiling as it stiffened and darkened. ‘If I tried to pretend you were younger... no, can’t, you’re just too ripe.’ He kissed her breast, sucking her nipple and swirling his tongue around it.
‘Thank you. Now I’m not afraid to do it with Harry.’ I must try to turn my thoughts towards that.
‘Ah, so poor Daddy is just practice to you. Cast aside once you have your Harry.’
‘You could hardly go on having me after I marry him.’
‘That depends, doesn’t it? Not like this, obviously; not until you are pregnant. But until then there are ways and means. You’ll still have lessons with Daddy. I think Harry will accept his wife’s love of learning; it never hurts to have a wise woman by your side when you go to war.’
Of all the shocking ideas in that little speech, Sansa managed to close in on one. ‘Can you? When you’re pregnant?’
‘Yes, of course. It’s as well to be gentle, and to have the woman on top, but there’s no reason why not.’
‘Can the woman go on top?’
His eyes glinted and he laughed. ‘Now, of course, I have to show you. I love your little face when you’re puzzling over too many new ideas at once. Almost as much as your little face when you come.’
‘I like your face when you’re about to kiss me,’ Sansa said shyly. ‘And I think you’re very handsome.’ It was the first time she’d said any such thing to him.
‘Give me your hand, little one.’ He guided her to touch his cock, soft and smaller now, still wet and sticky. The head, in particular, had retreated into a sheath of crumpled skin. ‘Hold it like this, firmly but not too tight, and pump up and down. Nice and slow to start. Milkmaids do this well, but of course my little lady’s never milked a cow. Squeeze down the length of it. Stretch it a little.’
‘It’s going stiff.’
‘You’re fascinated, aren’t you?’
‘Of course. I never had such a good look at it before.’ It was thickening in her palm, and the head was beginning to peep out. ‘The way it grows is like magic.’
‘You’ll give me a swelled head.’ He was smiling indulgently at her curiosity. ‘Not that I mind.’
‘Why didn’t you ever get me to do this before?’
‘The pupil shouldn’t question the teacher’s methods. Such soft hands. Someone’s very pleased with herself.’
‘I’m making it all big and red! It makes me feel awfully special.’ He kissed her, and she could feel the suppressed laughter in the quiver of his lips.
‘Here, let me return the favour.’ Fingers between her legs, gently twiddling her clitoris, making her whimper sweetly. ‘And I suppose, yes, feeling you get all wet for me makes me feel special too.’
‘My strong, handsome Daddy.’ She felt his cock surge in her hand, fully hard now, the bare head glistening.
‘Now touch the tip of it. Cup your hand over it and swivel your palm. Yes. Did you feel that? If a little wet comes out, you’re doing very well. Now.’ He rolled onto his back, his cock outstretched against his belly. ‘Get astride me, on your knees. Good girl. Take my cock again. Use it to tickle your cunny.’
‘The tip feels so nice and... I don’t know... it’s not soft but it’s... oh it’s lovely...’ Her hips twitched involuntarily, and with a little shameful shiver she felt warm liquid leak out of her.
‘It’s all right. Let Daddy’s cum run out. It’ll help me get in again. Now, put me in. Set the tip of it against that little opening and press down. Just a bit. Gods... you’re tight...’ He scrunched his eyes closed, breathing heavily.
‘What if it won’t go in again?’
‘Of course it will. We just need to get the thickest bit of me through the narrowest bit of you. Wiggle your hips till you find the right angle. Keep bearing down. There! Yes!’
She sank down on him with an ecstatic shudder, needing to support herself with both hands on his chest.
‘And that,’ Petyr said faintly, ‘is how the woman goes on top. What do you want to do now? What’s your body trying to do?’
‘Move like... oh...’
‘Yes. Good. Grind down and around. Feel how deep that is!’ He pressed his palm to her lower tummy, just above her mound, making her gasp at the pressure on a tender spot inside her. ‘Next... next time we’ll do it in front of a mirror. You need to see your face. Fuck...’
‘Oh no... no, Daddy...’
‘See your face all pink and your mouth open... panting like a perfect little whore... bouncing on Daddy’s cock... squeeze me, Sansa, squeeze me in your cunt.’
‘As if you’re trying not to piss. Yes! Hard, like that! Now - now squeeze, and lift up, let go and down...’ Sweat was springing out in beads on his face and neck, and he was gripping her thigh so tight his fingers made deep dents in the flesh. ‘You’re milking me, see? Milking... milking Daddy, keep going, up and down.’
The sense of power was astonishing. This is how he feels making me squirm, Sansa realised abruptly, and she moved faster, though her thighs were trembling from the unaccustomed effort. The pressure on her tummy was producing an astonishing sensation, his cock stroking over and over something that pulsed and burned, and her panting grew into high-pitched little breathless cries. She could not believe how wet and messy this felt, what shameful noises were coming from her cunt, squelching, and how little she cared. She came with a little strangled scream and fell forward as Petyr thrust up into her, drawing up his legs and bracing himself, pumping roughly and briefly before he spent and fell limp too, his heaving chest lifting and dropping her as he caught his breath.
‘Oh... oh, sweet little Sansa... precious little whore...’
‘Mnotawhore,’ Sansa murmured.
‘You fuck just like one. If you didn’t have another destiny awaiting you, you could make your fortune with that cunt.’ He kissed her shoulder, as if that softened what he’d said.
‘I suppose... really, I’m going to. Marrying Harry...’ She felt Petyr’s arms tighten around her.
‘My lovely little cynic. Daddy’s so proud of you.’
‘But that is it, really, isn’t it... it’s the only thing I’ve got, besides my name.’
Petyr tapped the side of her head. ‘Never think that. You’re my clever girl.’
‘No-one but you has ever told me I’m clever.’
‘They must have missed it. I see it because I’m clever myself.’ He smoothed his hands down her spine and over her bottom. ‘I would love to stay inside you, but I need to piss, and probably so will you.’
‘Oh...’ Sansa sighed and lifted herself up.
‘You did bleed after all.’
She looked down in shock at his cock streaked with red, thick blood smeared around his groin and on the sheet beneath them. ‘But I don’t hurt at all.’ Giving her the lie, she felt a cramp inside her. ‘No... I think it’s moonblood. I didn’t expect it till tomorrow or the next day... oh, Daddy, I’m sorry.’ She flopped down beside him and covered her face with her hands.
‘What for? I don’t care. I’d fuck you any day of the month. Blood washes off. I’ll still give you that moon tea, though.’ He gave her a slap on the bottom and got off the bed, going to the privy, where he didn’t bother to close the curtain behind him.
‘You don’t have to ask Maester Colemon for it?’ Sansa lay face down, blushing to hear him piss, the sound making her aware of how swollen her own bladder felt. It seemed to go on and on.
‘It’s not a complicated recipe. All common herbs. Daddy knows a thing or two, sweetling, and he’ll teach them to you. You know they’re claiming it as evidence of Margaery’s treason that she asked that old fart Pycelle for moon tea? That need never happen to you.’ He came back to bed and settled beside her, his arms folded behind his head.
‘Is there anything we could do to help Margaery?’ Sansa asked hesitantly, sitting up.
‘All my resources are taken up helping you. Besides, I think she’s going to be all right. Cersei has been riding for a fall and everyone would far rather see her go down than little Marge who’s never hurt anyone. In fact, she’s a very clever girl herself, winning friends and earning the smallfolk’s love. You’ll need to do that too, so think about how she’s done it.’
‘I probably shouldn’t seem as merry as Margaery does, though. Not at first.’
‘True. Sweet and a little sad, the survivor of a tragedy who has yet not lost her faith in the goodness of men. But then, of course, merry Harry teaches you to laugh and love again. He’ll win tourneys and name you queen of love and beauty every time. Roses and lemon cakes all round. Go and piss, you must be bursting.’
‘Do you want to watch me?’ she asked diffidently.
‘I’ll just listen. Keep talking to me, too.’
‘I don’t know what to say,’ she admitted, padding across the room.
‘You were speaking of Margaery. Don’t worry about her - either she’ll be able to clear her name, or they’ll find a reason to forgive her without too harsh a punishment.’
‘Even when you’re promised mercy, it doesn’t always work out,’ Sansa reminded him. The sound of her water falling seemed awfully loud.
‘If you’re promised mercy by a savage little shit like Joffrey, no. Joffrey was very much his mother’s son. That’s another reason why I suspect she’ll fall. Nobody wants to see her make another one out of Tommen. If she can be safely removed, whether she’s executed or perhaps sent off to the silent sisters, something like that, he can be brought up to be something like an adequate king - though of course he’ll be a puppet for his uncle and Mace Tyrell. Kevan is a good deal brighter than Mace. Kevan is one to watch - and this new High Sparrow who Cersei thought she could use to dispose of Margaery. While building him up with this absurd revived order of holy knights! Watching Cersei try to be cunning is painful. I’m glad I don’t actually have to watch it. I sit there reading reports muttering “No, no, no, you stupid bitch!” even though I want her to make a hash of things.’ He looked over at her and smiled. ‘I’d ask you to take notes, but you’re hardly equipped.’
Sansa cleaned herself as well as she could, and began to make a pad of rags to bind up between her legs.
‘Don’t bother with that. Just come back.’
‘I’ll make a mess, though...’
‘Sheets can be washed.’ He patted the spot beside him.
‘I hate going through on the sheets,’ Sansa explained, dithering beside the bed. ‘The first time it happened, the first time I bled, I was so frightened I burned the sheets. I was trying to burn the mattress when they found me. I still don’t like to see it.’
Petyr looked up at her thoughtfully. ‘Because now you’d flowered, you thought they’d give you to Joffrey.’
‘You dodged an arrow there. I don’t say it was good luck for you to be married to the Imp, but it was better than it might have been. Certainly better than what Joff and his dog might have done to you.’
‘You don’t mean...’
‘I’m afraid I do. Joffrey didn’t like you himself, and I dare say he would have thought it very funny to order the Hound to fuck you and you to take it. Don’t look like that, Sansa, it’s never going to happen now. Joffrey’s certainly dead and his dog most likely is too. You’re safe with me.’ He held out his arms and she scrambled back onto the bed, hiding her face against his shoulder.
‘Please, please don’t talk about things like that.’
‘All right,’ he said, sounding genuinely surprised, ‘not if it bothers you.’
‘I am still scared,’ she whispered. ‘About Harry, not about whether we can - about him being my husband. What if he’s cruel?’
‘If he is, you’ll tell me, and we’ll find a way to deal with him. There are always ways and means. But I chose him carefully. It doesn’t serve my interests to arrange an unhappy marriage. Far better if you two get on well and lead a unified house; if Harry loves you, and thus, through your sweet influence, I can ensure that he doesn’t do anything stupid.’ He kissed the crown of her head. ‘Better?’
‘Better...’ she murmured. She clung to Petyr for what comfort he offered, uncertain though it was.
Ivor Flowers completed his portrait of Alayne Stone, signed it with an I and a daisy, and took it away, bidding Sansa a sweet and flirtatious farewell. Now that she no longer saw and sat for him, her life revolved around Sweetrobin and Petyr. She thought she knew why he had taught her so little before about how to please him; when he did that, he had given her power. Sometimes, when he was sitting beside her at the big desk, lecturing her on the finer points of balance sheets and family trees, which he said had more in common than she might think, she would slide her hand up his thigh and squeeze him, and smile at his indignation, and still more at the fact that he could not bring himself to get properly cross with her, only to call her an insatiable slut and pull her into his lap with a sharp slap on her bottom.
Perhaps in an effort to reclaim his dominance over her, he taught her to please him with her mouth, but this didn’t have quite the effect he might have meant. She understood how it made him feel powerful, sitting in his big chair with her kneeling between his legs, filling her mouth with his cock, but then, it made her feel powerful to see how she could move him and work him, not just with her lips and tongue but with her eyes, gazing up at him. When he came she felt utterly smug.
At irregular intervals, he would come to her room late at night, once even staying in her bed almost until morning, taking her again and again until they lay in an exhausted tangle. He made moon tea for her and mint tea for himself, and they sipped in a companionable silence as the sky turned grey.
‘Is that why your mouth tastes like mint?’ Sansa asked, nodding to his cup.
‘I chew the leaves. Old habit. I don’t feel right without it.’
‘Your one great weakness: you must have mint.’ She gave him a little smile.
‘My one great weakness.’ He smiled back, wryly.
Sweetrobin was not much better. He still refused utterly to meet, much less play with, any of the other children living at the Gates of the Moon, although Sansa had once or twice seen him watching them from a window, playing down in the central courtyard in the snow.
‘Why don’t you go down and join them?’ she suggested, bobbing down beside him to speak at his level. ‘I’m sure they would like to meet you. I can come too, if you’d like.’
‘No. It looks cold and nasty down there. And they look like nasty, rough boys.’
‘Would you like to play with some girls, then? Girls are usually gentle and nice.’ Unless they’re Arya, she thought. She would have given anything to see Arya’s grubby face and stringy hair down in that courtyard, another child pelting around in the snow. Could she still be alive, somewhere? Her chances weren’t good, but nor had her own been.
‘I’ve got you,’ Sweetrobin said moodily, tucking Alayne-Doll’s head under his chin. ‘And I suppose one day my wife. Is my stepfather going to have Princess Myrcella brought here for me?’
‘I don’t actually know that it will be Princess Myrcella,’ Sansa said carefully. ‘She’s a possibility.’ Myrcella was tucked away rather like herself, off in Dorne, and she very much doubted that she would be available to Sweetrobin anyway. ‘Nothing is decided yet. But yes, when we’ve found the right bride she’ll come to wherever you are to meet you.’
‘Good. I don’t like travelling. It tires me.’ He wandered off from the window and sat listlessly, slouched on a padded chair, trotting a little wooden horse back and forth along its arm. He coughed, tiredly, habitually. His complexion was waxy, his nose and eyes runny. Sansa felt a sudden stab of pity for him. She went to him, lifted him up in her arms, and sat down holding him on her lap. He snuggled in with his cheek on her bosom, his head under her chin, and played with a lock of her hair, twisting it around his fingers. ‘Alayne,’ he asked, ‘why is it so cold? I thought when we got down from the Eyrie it would be warm.’
‘I’m sorry, darling. It’s just how winter is. It may be cold for a long time. We’ll just have to bundle up and keep each other warm.’ There was a knitted blanket draped over the back of the chair. She pulled it over her shoulder and arranged it over herself and Sweetrobin, tucking in the sides. ‘Better?’
‘A bit.’ He sniffed and wiped his nose on a ruffle on the front of her dress.
A cold rain fell over the next two days and melted some of the snow, though it was likely to re-freeze and turn everything icy. Sansa stood at a window, looking out at the grey curtains of water hiding the world from her. She felt grey too, worn out. She had been up all night trying to ease Sweetrobin’s cough. Maester Colemon had provided a linctus that gave a little relief, and a warming poultice for his chest, and advised that he breathe the steam from basins of hot water with strong-smelling medicinal oils added. This made him comfortable enough to get to sleep for a while, but it was only a short time before he coughed himself and Sansa awake again. He began to cry from sheer tiredness, and as his agitation grew, he began to twitch and jerk until a full fit was upon him. Crying herself, Sansa gave him a tiny dose of sweetsleep in honeyed milk, which knocked him out and, remarkably, seemed to ease his breathing too.
She felt a light touch on her wrist and turned, startled. A young man, a servant by his clothes, was smiling at her. She was about to ask what he thought he was doing when she recognised his face. At first she almost called him Harry, but managed to bite that back in a gasp, then say ‘Ser Harrold?’
‘Shh,’ Harry said, putting his finger to his lips, his eyes sparkling. ‘Alayne, isn’t it?’
‘What are you doing here?’ she whispered. ‘Why are you dressed like that?’
‘I thought I’d come in disguise, and meet you quietly without any fuss. It’s Ivor’s fault. He talked so much about how much lovelier than the portrait you were, I just had to come and see. And he was right!’
Sansa blushed, and it was genuine. Harry in person was an overwhelming experience, very tall and broad and rosy, with long eyelashes that fluttered excitably. He seemed to have more vitality in him than most people, and it shone out of his face. ‘I should tell my father you’re here,’ she said.
‘Please don’t. I just want to meet you, and get to know you a little. Won’t you come and walk with me? Somewhere quiet, so we can talk without being overheard?’
Sansa hesitated. She had no reason to think Harry was the kind of man who would take a girl off to a quiet place and assault her, but then, she had no proof that he wasn’t. ‘We can’t go far,’ she stalled. ‘I must be where someone can find me if Lord Robert should wake and need me.’
‘Come on,’ he said, offering her his arm, a gesture quite inappropriate for a servant. Perhaps he simply wasn’t keeping up an act now that he had found her, but she was surprised that he had made it this far without being spotted as an impostor. Not that he would get into any serious trouble, being who he was, but she found that she wanted this to remain secret, at least for now so that she could talk to him. She laid her hand lightly on his arm and let him lead her along towards a doorway that let out on a small balcony, sheltered by a little eyelid of stone. The rain hissed down, the air cold and damp, and she shivered. Harry immediately pulled off his coat and wrapped it around her shoulders. ‘You’re such a little thing,’ he said, drawing the thick felted wool in around her.
‘Compared to you,’ Sansa said, truthfully. She was tall for her age, tall enough to look Petyr right in the eye. She had to tip her chin up to meet Harry’s gaze, and she did it for only a moment before looking down shyly. ‘I don’t know what to say. You’ve taken me by surprise.’
‘Say you think you could like me. I’m quite in love with you already, at least through Ivor.’ He took her hands between his and rubbed them warm.
‘Of course I could like you.’ She was rather touched by how solicitous he was, although he was clearly as incorrigible a flirt as Ivor was.
‘Then I have hope!’ Harry beamed at her as if he had to gain her hand by winning her heart. He glanced down and saw the picture-case hanging from her girdle, and his eyes brightened still further. ‘You’ve kept it with you.’
‘Of course,’ Sansa said again. ‘I look at it all the time.’ She produced another blush and bit her lip.
‘Your portrait hangs in my room, where I can see it every morning when I wake and every night before I go to sleep.’
Do you play with yourself looking at it? Sansa thought, and felt ashamed of herself; then, to her surprise, a little tingly at the thought of this handsome, burly young man rubbing his cock for her. ‘Ser Harrold...’
‘Call me Harry. Or Hal. Is there any pet-name you like to be called? Aly or Laynie?’ he asked earnestly.
‘I’ve only ever been Alayne.’
‘I’m sorry,’ he said, with a sheepish laugh. ‘I’m in far too much of a hurry, aren’t I?’
‘A little bit,’ she said, smiling back. ‘But I think I would like to be Aly.’
‘Aly,’ he repeated happily. ‘Please, tell me something about you. I want to know the real girl, not just the face.’
‘I don’t know where to begin. I - er - I like lemon cakes.’
‘Then we’ll have them at our wedding feast. A tower of them.’
‘And I like songs and stories. Did Ivor tell you about that?’
‘We’ll have a singer, too. The best we can find. I want so much to make a good start with you, Aly.’
‘And you - you like hunting, don’t you?’
‘Do you, too?’
‘I’ve never been. My father... isn’t much of a hunter.’ My father used to take my brothers, but I was never interested, she had almost said. She couldn’t imagine Petyr riding out with hounds.
‘I’ll take you out hawking. I’ve got the prettiest little red-tailed hawk, perfect for a beginner.’
‘I would love that.’ Going out to kill small animals didn’t really sound like her idea of fun, but it was important to adapt herself to Harry’s tastes. At least they were wild animals that had a chance to escape, not poor little castle cats.
‘And you will look so beautiful with the wind in your hair and your cheeks glowing.’ He touched her face lightly. How kind he is, or how silly he is, thought Sansa, to think I look beautiful when I’m this tired and my hair needs a wash. ‘I don’t want to offend you, but I have to go soon before I’m missed, and Ivor’s really not very good at excuses... may I have one kiss, to take home with me?’
Sansa hesitated. She mustn’t make him think she was too easily won, but on the other hand, she wanted him to feel that she was strongly attracted to him, and to tell the truth, she was, a bit. ‘One kiss,’ she agreed, turning up her face. ‘Just one.’ He touched her face again, very softly, his fingers a little coarse and calloused, and kissed her just as gently. She found that she missed the taste of mint, but a pleasing warmth spread through her skin.
‘I don’t want to ask for too much, but could I have some little favour, something of yours to keep until I see you again?’
‘All right,’ Sansa said, trying to think what she had that she could give. Everything she had on was a gift of Petyr’s, and she found she wanted to give Harry something that was truly just hers. She put her hand in her pocket for ideas and found her little gilded embroidery scissors. That would do. She stretched out a lock of the loose hair that fell on her shoulders and cut off about an inch. ‘Will this do?’
‘That would be wonderful. I don’t have anything to keep it in, though.’
‘Then here.’ She brought out her handkerchief, too, a new one that she had just embroidered with a border of brown and grey pebbles for ‘Stone,’ with an ‘A’ in one corner, and folded the lock into it.
‘I’ll keep it next to my heart,’ he promised, beaming and tucking it into the front of his tunic. ‘What can I give you?’
‘May I?’ she asked, lifting the scissors.
‘Of course.’ He bent his head for her, his brown curls falling forward. She chose a lock from just behind his ear. His eyes were fixed on hers, his lips a little parted, and somehow, this felt more intimate than the kiss had. Snip, the faintly crunchy feeling of hair parting under scissor-blades, and the curl was loose and wrapped around her finger.
‘Thank you.’ She opened her mockingbird locket and tucked the curl in with Sweetrobin’s. The three men of my life now, hanging around my neck, she thought. ‘Next to my heart,’ she said with a small smile as she snapped the locket closed.
‘Dear Aly,’ he breathed, and kissed her again without asking. Her heart gave a gentle bump against her ribs. ‘I’d better go. Will you promise to think of me?’
‘I already do.’
He led her back inside and she gave back his coat.
‘I’d like to leave it with you to keep you warm,’ he said, ‘but it’s borrowed and I don’t want to leave my man Hob short of his winter coat.’ He held her hands between both his and pressed a kiss to her fingers. ‘Goodbye, sweet Aly, until we meet again.’
‘For the first time,’ she said, smiling. She watched him go, twirling the locket on its chain. When he had disappeared down the corridor and around a corner, she hurried off to Petyr’s solar. Fortunately, he was alone, no need to make excuses, so she quickly slid the bolt of the door home and rushed to his desk.
‘What is it? You look flurried.’ He set down his pen, in the middle of writing a letter. She couldn’t help noticing that he laid it to obscure her view if she tried to read it upside down, something he’d been teaching her to do.
‘Harry was just here,’ Sansa announced, planting her hands on the tabletop. ‘He sneaked in dressed as a servant to meet me!’
‘How bold, impulsive and romantic,’ Petyr said, plucking at his beard. ‘I hope he didn’t ravish you while he was at it.’
‘Of course not. I gave him a lock of my hair.’
‘From your head?’ he asked, smirking.
Sansa stuck her tongue out at him briefly and went on ‘And he gave me one of his. He seems very keen! I thought you should know as soon as possible.’
‘Well, I thank you for the news. If he comes again, you’ll inform me, won’t you?’
‘You don’t think there’s any need to be concerned, do you?’
‘Not at present. I do think, though, that it would be wise for you to make a start on your maiden’s cloak. I’ll have the materials brought to you.’
Sansa sat in her room, looking at the bolts of fine grey and white woollen twill, unwilling to start. Her first maiden’s cloak had been made for her, when she actually was a maiden. She knew Petyr wanted her to do this job herself, because that was more discreet, if not entirely secret, but she was not sure she could do it. She had never made more than small pieces of fancy-work; what was a handkerchief but a square of soft cambric cut out, its edges rolled and stitched? She was good at embroidery, not dressmaking.
Come now, she told herself. A cloak is really just a big square too. She took other cloaks out of her wardrobe, spread them out flat on her bed and examined them to make sure she understood how it should be cut out, what pieces would be needed. What she wanted, in fact, was not a big square but a sort of semi-circle. She felt daunted to realise that, but cut out a pattern in rough calico and made a practice run before she began working with the wool. Her work was uncertain and often interrupted by demands from Sweetrobin for attention. She let him play with his dolls on the floor of her room while she sewed, because that way he whined less.
He took her by surprise, though, when he looked up and asked her ‘Why are you doing it grey and white? Isn’t that Stark?’
‘Grey for stone,’ Sansa said quickly. ‘White for snow, because it’s a winter wedding. I suppose they are the same colours, but it isn’t House Stark without the direwolf.’ She would have to do that part of the work at night when he couldn’t see. It would be easiest to make the wolf separately and then sew it on as an appliqué.
‘I had cousins in House Stark,’ Sweetrobin said, taking an offcut bit of calico and tying it over Alayne-Doll’s head like a scarf. ‘I think something bad happened to them, though. There are a lot of bad men out there, and they must have got them. It’s a pity, or I could have married one of the girls.’
‘It is a pity,’ Sansa agreed, stitching. Her eyes prickled, but she kept her voice calm. The Starks were nothing to do with Alayne Stone; she had never met any of them or wept for their deaths. Without meaning to, she imagined how disgusted Arya would have been to marry Sweetrobin and had to bite the inside of her cheek not to laugh. What’s the matter with me? she wondered.
The lessons, the proper intellectual ones, continued too, and she was finally beginning to hold her own in their debates. Her command of the facts was firmer, and she was starting to see patterns and order where before there had been only a jumble of information. Instead of ‘this happened and this happened and this happened,’ it was ‘this happened because this happened, and meanwhile this happened, which would later make it possible for this to happen.’ She actually grew excited by these moments of recognition, and Petyr made fun of her for bouncing in her seat when she hit on one.
‘I don’t care, because I actually do feel clever,’ she said, delighted. ‘It’s as if the inside of my head is getting bigger!’
‘I wonder if this is what it’s like actually having a daughter, and seeing her learn things,’ Petyr mused. ‘Without, obviously, the desire to throw you across my desk and fuck you with your legs in the air.’
‘You do say terrible things,’ Sansa said, shaking her head at him.
‘Say some back,’ he challenged her.
‘Hmm,’ she said, putting her chin in her hand and regarding him through narrowed eyes, a small smile curling the corners of her mouth. ‘You can fuck me with my legs in the air if you lick my cunny first.’
‘Bargaining, eh? I need to teach you more about negotiation.’
‘It sounds like a good deal to me.’
‘But I’ll enjoy it too. There’s very little I like better than the taste of your cunt. You should hold out for something that requires a sacrifice from me.’
‘I can’t be bothered.’ She sprang out of her chair and hopped up onto the tabletop in front of him. ‘And isn’t a good bargain one that gives both sides what they want?’
‘A good compromise leaves everyone a little unsatisfied.’
‘I didn’t ask for a compromise, though.’ She pulled her skirt up to her knees, leaned back on her hands and swung her legs.
‘Some would say you’re asking for a smacked bottom.’ He tweaked at her garters and unrolled one stocking, kissing her on her bare knee, bruised and scratched from the day before last when he had had her on her hands and knees on the rush-strewn stone floor. ‘How goes the maiden’s cloak?’
‘Quite well...’ Stitching the direwolf crest was slow going; she had to stop often to blot away tears before they could fall on it and stain the heavy silk. Another kiss on the soft skin just beside her knee, on the inside; then he drew a little pinch of flesh into his mouth and kneaded it between his teeth and tongue until it bloomed red.
‘I must stop leaving marks on you. They’ll all need to have healed before I give you to Harry.’ He pushed her knee up a little, slid her skirts up her thigh, and imprinted another love-bite an inch higher up.
‘Then why do you keep going?’
‘Because you taste so nice.’ He bit her lightly and moved on, licking up the soft white inside of her thigh as he lifted her skirt, leaving a long flushed pink line. ‘Especially your cunt. A little salty, a little... almost milky. Ah, there she is. Put your legs over my shoulders. Good girl. Mm...’
Sansa closed her eyes, breathing in deeply, letting her mind go blank. Nothing was real, and nothing mattered, except her body and the way it felt. Papers rustled under her shoulderblades as she stretched out comfortably; papers covered with news that meant nothing as long as he was kissing her. Little soundless sighs parted her lips, and her fingers languidly curled and uncurled.
‘Silky, milky Sansa.’ He slipped a finger inside her, curling it as he nuzzled at her clitoris. ‘Feel that?’ In and out, producing that lapping sound he loved to embarrass her with.
‘Mmm...’ She lifted her hips, pressing up to his caressing, invading mouth. ‘Up a bit...’
‘Inside or outside?’
‘Do you think Harry will make you feel like I do?’
‘Of course not. Please don’t stop.’ He had lifted his head, though, and his fingers were still.
‘Did he kiss you?’
‘When he visited. Did he kiss you? I don’t see the bold and passionate Harry going away without so much as a kiss for his trouble.’
‘Well... yes...’ She hadn’t thought it mattered. Just one kiss, after all, to keep him keen. He’d taken more, but not in a rough or unkind way.
‘Did you like it?’
‘It was all right. Daddy...’ She flexed against his fingers, squeezing them slightly, giving him a pleading look.
‘Did you open your mouth for him?’
‘No. Of course not.’ She might have if he’d tried, but he hadn’t.
‘But you will, won’t you.’
‘Well... of course... I’ll have to...’ A strange thought occurred to her. ‘Are you jealous?’
He shot her a wounded look. ‘The girl I love is going to marry another man and bear his children. You ask me if I’m jealous?’
Sansa was perplexed. Part of her wanted to ask what exactly he meant by ‘the girl I love,’ or what he was upset about when he had arranged that marriage. You could have married me yourself, surely, if you really wanted to. That part was bewildered by the idea that he might need her much more than she had realised, that he might have feelings of a kind she’d assumed he simply didn’t feel, in his cynical, amused way. The greater part, though, would say anything to get him to go on with what he had been doing, to give her the feeling she needed now. She propped herself up on one elbow and reached out to stroke his face.
‘Daddy... I can never love him the way I love you.’
‘Do you promise?’
‘You’ve never said it before. That you love me. I was beginning to wonder.’ He kissed her mound, nuzzling into her hair, closing his eyes.
‘Of course... of course I do...’ Lick, please! Or frig me! Something! ‘Daddy... Petyr, I love you so much... You’re the only one, the only one I love...’ Yes, his tongue was sliding back in between her labia, stroking her clitoris, surging over it, sealing his lips over it and sucking, tongue swirling. ‘Petyr!’ Her voice rose into a squeak, her hips twitched sharply, bliss. She fell back, gasping, laughing a little with the relief of it, the sweet ticklish twitches running through her.
‘Right,’ he grunted, straightening up, lifting her legs against his body. ‘My turn.’ He entered her with a moan, closing his eyes and holding still for a long moment before he began to thrust. ‘And my girl... gods, I wish I could tell other men about you. Really boast. There she is, my Sansa. Look at that fiery hair, and those ripe little teats, and those long slim legs. And in between them, the finest little cunt in the Seven Kingdoms, wet and pink and tight enough to suck. And I taught her to fuck... and she loves it like nothing else... begs for it... little slut... darling little slut... loves her Daddy... loves his cock...’
‘I do, I do, I do!’ She was an inch from being able to come again when he groaned and slumped over her, his cock twitching and spurting deep inside. ‘Oh... Daddy...’ Like this, though, she could rub against him, his pubis, and she clutched at him and ground against him until she was there, shuddering sweetly and uttering a squeaky little gasp. Her legs slipped down and wrapped loosely around his waist.
Petyr kissed her neck drowsily, licked at the sweat. ‘I love your dirty little sounds. It’s like a kitten being fucked.’
‘By a big tomcat, I suppose?’ she asked when she could breathe again.
‘If you like...’
‘You’re not like a cat, though. I think... I think you’re a grey fox.’
‘Not a mockingbird?’
‘Grey fox,’ she said, shaking her head, the papers beneath rustling.
‘You’re not much of a wolf, either. You could be my little red fox, though.’
‘The Florents might be cross.’
‘Fuck the Florents,’ he murmured, and ground his hips lazily against hers. ‘I say we’re foxes, grey and red, and the lions should look to themselves.’
‘Foxes.’ She kissed him softly. ‘Harry’s a bear, I think. A big brown bear.’
‘Good. You be the maiden fair with him, and he’ll lick the honey from your hair. But really, really you’re my little red vixen, my little fox-bitch, with a soft red brush and sharp little white teeth.’
‘I’ll be a skinchanger.’ She nipped at his lower lip and soothed it with her tongue.
‘Sansa... oh... this was a mistake.’
‘What was? Making me feel so lovely? No.’
‘Teaching you to be so perfect for me. What will I do without you?’
‘You won’t have to do without me.’ She brushed the tip of her nose against his. ‘You’ll always find ways for us to be together. I know you will. My clever Daddy. After all... you’re Lord Protector of the Vale, so you want to keep Harry the Heir close, don’t you? And you want to see that I’m all right, that your... your niece is safe and well. I still count as your niece. For the love you bore my mother, and my aunt, you’re trying to be a good uncle and watch over me. Yes?’ Mentioning her mother and her aunt send a cold trickle of discomfort into her tummy, spoiling the comfortable warmth there. She wished she hadn’t. My aunt, who he killed for me.
‘Yes. Good girl. Don’t forget the love I bear you.’
‘The love I bear you,’ she repeated.
The day had come for the formal introduction of Alayne Stone and Ser Harrold Hardyng. Sansa had a new dress, an icy-blue velvet that reflected her eyes, the bodice embroidered with seed pearls. She had prepared herself with great care, bathing in scented water, refreshing the brown wash in her hair, brushing it to a smooth gloss and arranging the top and sides in a coronet of braids, the rest falling down her back in thick ripples. She had very lightly powdered her bosom, neck and face, and applied a touch of a rosy salve to her lips and cheekbones, just enough to make sure that if she was pale, they would not be. There was not one mark of shame on her body except the scar on the sole of her foot and a suck-mark on the underside of her right breast, made by Sweetrobin in his sleep. Her breath was fresh and sweet with mint, and she hoped and prayed the sweat she could feel under her arms was not making dark circles on her gown. She was making a great effort to breathe slowly and calmly as she sat on a chair in the hall of the Gates of the Moon.
Not far from her, Petyr was standing talking to Nestor Royce; their voices were low, and she heard them laugh at some little joke. Myranda Royce was seated beside her.
‘Don’t worry,’ Myranda said, leaning over and patting her arm. ‘You look lovely.’
‘Thank you,’ Sansa said. Her throat felt thick and tight; her voice did not come easily.
‘I wish you’d let me do your hair.’
‘Is there something wrong with it?’ Sansa asked in dismay. She’d done it in a style that had been the latest fashion in King’s Landing, but perhaps styles had changed and she didn’t know; perhaps Harry wouldn’t like it and Myranda knew that.
‘No! Only that it would have been fun. I do wish you wanted to be friends, Alayne. Perhaps now? There are things you really should know before you marry, and you can’t expect your lord father to teach you. I can tell you all about it. The fun parts, too.’ Myranda’s eyes twinkled roguishly.
Sansa kept her face a lifelike mask. ‘Thank you. Perhaps later?’ I bet I know things you don’t know, Randa Royce.
There was a sound outside, and a herald entered, taking up position beside the great door. Sansa took a deep breath and pressed her lips together hard.
The formal meeting passed in a blur of unreality. Her head felt light and there was a faint buzzing in her ears. She had not been able to face breakfast, and she was afraid her stomach would growl. Harry bowed to her, took her hand, kissed the backs of her fingers, and looked up at her, his gaze so merry and intimate that she blushed quite spontaneously, and a warm shiver ran through her tummy. Oh, I want to be alone with you.
There was a feast to get through first, though, hospitality, duty, honour. She made herself eat a bit from each dish that was offered to her, though the food felt strange in her mouth, and the wine went straight to her head. Harry sat beside her and chatted to her, and she answered him pleasantly, and minutes later could not recall what either of them had said. His knee was pressed against hers under the table, and she could feel her heartbeat between her legs. What if I reached out right now and grabbed his cock? He would think I’d gone mad. I think I might be mad!
At long last, they were not alone, but it was just the two of them and their guardians, Petyr and Lady Anya in Petyr’s solar. A civilised, private meeting. Harry and Sansa sat on the settle by the fire, Lady Anya in a high-backed chair, Petyr standing, leaning his elbow on the mantelpiece. Harry was sitting closer than he had to, his hip touching hers, and she wanted to turn to him and say, quite conversationally, ‘Do you know, this settle is the place where Petyr first made me come? I come very easily, he says. Would you like to try?’
‘I think this is going rather well,’ Petyr said, smiling affably. ‘Our two love-birds make a pretty picture, wouldn’t you say, my lady?’
‘Very pretty,’ Lady Anya said judicially. ‘Alayne looks well in blue.’
‘Do I look well too?’ Harry asked cheekily. ‘I’ve been fretting about that.’
‘Hush, Harry; grown-ups are talking.’
‘What do you think, Aly? I only care about your opinion,’ Harry whispered in Sansa’s ear, his warm breath tickling her cheek, her neck. Her heart bumped hard and she clasped her hands together.
‘I think you look very handsome,’ she whispered back, hoping her breath had a similar effect on him. A beseeching glance when their faces were close together, up from under her eyelashes, and she thought she saw a spark in his eyes.
‘Time enough for that later,’ said Petyr, a little sharply. ‘Lady Anya, are we in agreement that the union of this girl and this young man is to the mutual advantage of our houses? That it should proceed?’
‘Certainly,’ Lady Anya said, slowly nodding her head. Harry took Sansa’s hands between his and squeezed them.
‘And you give your word to that. This girl, and this young man.’ He pointed to them in turn.
‘Excuse me a moment.’ Petyr went to the door and made sure it was bolted fast. ‘I don’t want to be interrupted. I have something important to discover to you.’
Sansa’s heart began to flutter. She turned her hands in Harry’s, taking his and holding them tight, her palms sweating. Petyr crossed the room to the settle, laid his hand on her shoulder. The neckline of her gown was wide and low, and the edge of his hand, his little and ring fingers, rested on her bare skin, making her shiver.
‘Are you all right, Aly?’ Harry asked her.
‘That’s a very sweet pet-name, but I’m afraid you’ll have to think of another,’ Petyr said. ‘You see, this girl is not Alayne Stone. I’m afraid Alayne Stone never was. It’s sad for me, because I couldn’t have wished for a sweeter daughter, either side of the blanket. Your betrothed’s name is Sansa Stark.’
Sansa’s heart pounded now, so hard and fast she thought it must show through her chest. Please still want me please still want me please still want me. If Petyr’s plan didn’t work, she had no idea what might become of her.
Harry’s face fell in open, almost comical surprise. His soft mouth opened and Sansa wanted to kiss him. Lady Anya, though, began to smile, a broad, satisfied smile.
‘Oh, well done, Lord Petyr,’ she said. ‘Where did you get her?’
‘I’m sorry,’ Sansa whispered to Harry. ‘I’m so sorry I had to deceive you. It wasn’t safe yet.’ She looked into his face earnestly. ‘The only thing, the only thing I lied about was that I was Alayne. Everything else I said was true. I think about you all the time.’
‘And you do like lemon cakes?’ he asked, with an attempt at a smile.
‘She’d eat nothing else, given the chance,’ Petyr said, smirking.
‘Please,’ Sansa said, looking up at Petyr. ‘Can we talk alone? Ser Harrold and I?’
‘I think we can allow that. Lady Anya, will you walk with me?’ Petyr offered his arm to the woman, and led her from the room.
‘You’re Sansa Stark. From Winterfell,’ Harry said, haltingly.
‘Your parents were Eddard Stark and Catelyn Stark.’
‘And... oh, Sansa, what a terrible time you must have had.’ His broad brow creased with worry for her.
‘But it’s all right. I’m safe and well. Lord Petyr has been taking care of me, and I know you will, too.’
‘They made you marry the Imp, didn’t they?’
‘Yes - but I’m still a maid. He never did anything to me.’
‘Never?’ He looked anxious, and she realised he was doubting her word.
‘Would it make you feel better,’ she asked, gently, stroking his hand, ‘if I saw a maester, or a septa, and they examined me to see?’
‘No, no. Of course that’s not necessary. It’s just hard to understand, when you’re so lovely. He must have wanted to.’
Sansa couldn’t help a rueful smile. ‘He was enough of a gentleman not to force me.’
‘I won’t force you into anything either. Do you truly want to marry me?’
‘Yes. Yes, of course I do.’ How sweet, and how naïve, that he truly thought she could say no now.
‘Is there anything else... anything I don’t know?’
‘My hair’s really red. I hope you don’t mind.’
‘I love red hair,’ he said earnestly.
‘Oh Harry - I’m so glad!’ Without meaning to, Sansa began to cry. He would marry her, it would all be all right, she hadn’t failed Petyr, she wouldn’t be at the mercy of cruel people any more. The relief was so great it was painful.
‘Darling Sansa! Please don’t cry - oh don’t - please, you weren’t really so worried about your hair, were you?’ He wrapped his arms around her and held her close to his broad chest. He felt like a wall of warm muscle, completely different from wiry Petyr.
‘Not my hair at all,’ she managed to say, hiccupping and fumbling for her handkerchief. ‘Everything!’ She found the wretched thing at last and hid her face in it, hoping she wasn’t too red and blotchy.
‘Sansa,’ he repeated, resting his cheek on top of her head. ‘Sansa-sansa-sansa. I can’t see what I can make out of that... I’ll think of something. Now look at me.’ He framed her face with his big, slightly rough hands and nudged it up out of the handkerchief. ‘I’m going to be a good husband to you. I give you my word.’ He kissed her, slid his arms around her and kissed her again, his mouth warm and firm, a touch of stubble on his upper lip and chin scratching her lightly. ‘All you need do is be my good, sweet wife, and be happy. Do you think you can?’
‘I’ll try. I’ll try very hard.’ She laid her head down on his shoulder and closed her eyes. ‘I feel safe here.’
‘Good.’ He hadn’t finished kissing her, though; he lifted her chin and began again, more insistently, his tongue prodding into her mouth. She was doubtful, but let him, with a murmur of surprise. Here was the really hard part, to move her own mouth as if she wasn’t used to this, though it helped that she wasn’t used to Harry. She made little startled ‘ah’s and little pleased ‘mm’s and slowly moved her hands to his shoulders as he pressed her against the back of the settle. His hand moved to her breast, cupping and kneading, and she froze; surely she shouldn’t let him do that, but how could she tell him not to? None of Petyr’s lessons had ever covered saying no.
‘It’s all right,’ he breathed. ‘You’re so beautiful... oh Sansa...’
‘We - we’re not married yet... so...’
Harry laughed, not unkindly. ‘I’m not going to try to make love to you here. The “grown-ups” might be back at any moment.’ He cupped her breasts in both hands, pressed them together and kissed the cleavage, grey eyes twinkling up at her.
‘Then shouldn’t we stop?’
‘I don’t want to stop until I hear the door open.’ Another kiss, and her nipples made little hard bumps in the blue velvet. ‘And you like it, too.’
‘I do, but - I’m scared. I’ve never -’
He cut her off with a kiss. ‘You’re always safe with me.’
Sansa decided that the best course for now was to yield, whimpering softly as he massaged her breasts, his tongue probing her mouth, just beginning to venture a little stroke of her own. He didn’t stop when she heard the door open, perhaps because he didn’t hear it at all; she had to slap his shoulder to get his attention, and Petyr was already smirking at them. She wanted to cover herself with a blanket, perhaps pull it right over her head.
‘I think they like each other,’ Lady Anya observed drily. ‘Harrold, please remember that Sansa is a lady.’
‘Sansa would do well to remember the same,’ Petyr said, going to his desk. ‘Lady Anya, would you care to put your name to the requisite papers? I do regret that these formalities are necessary.’
‘I’m sure you do.’ She dipped the quill and signed, standing back as Petyr solicitously shook fine sand over the wet signature and tapped off the excess, then added his own.
‘How soon can we marry?’ Harry asked, smiling unrepentantly and tucking a strand of Sansa’s hair back behind her ear.
‘We would like to wait for Sansa’s fifteenth name-day,’ Petyr said affably. ‘In the meantime, nothing must be said about her identity; that remains in this room. Only a month to go, which gives her time to complete her trousseau and to prepare a wedding-gift for you.’
‘The finest gift is Sansa herself,’ Harry said gallantly.
‘Yes. Certainly.’ For just a moment Sansa thought she saw a flicker of irritation in his eyes. When the pleasantries had been concluded, and Harry had given her one final hungry kiss goodbye, the door finally closed behind them and Petyr turned to her. ‘Well done, my dear. You certainly have him on the hook.’ He reached out and pinched her breast, the bump of her nipple still showing. ‘What a show of enthusiasm.’
‘I can’t help it,’ Sansa protested. ‘They do that all by themselves.’
‘Not like your blushes, then? Though I thought I saw a genuine one when we came in and found him groping you.’
‘Aren’t you glad, though? That it went so well?’ she asked plaintively. ‘I’ve tried so hard.’
‘Of course I am.’ His voice softened, and he stroked her cheek. ‘You’re wonderful. Your performance today has been everything I required and more. Come and sit with Daddy.’ He drew her into his lap on the settle and kissed her collarbone.
‘At kissing me.’ She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and nuzzled at his lips.
‘There would be something pleasingly perverse about celebrating your successful engagement by fucking you on the hearth-rug. What do you think?’
‘Run and lock the door then, puppy.’
Sansa had to begin work on her trousseau in earnest, and Myranda Royce offered her help and her ladies’. There was no reasonable way to say no, though all the time she was with sharp-eyed Randa she was anxious lest she let something slip. Together they hemmed and embroidered bed and bath linens with borders of the Hardyng red and white diamonds.
‘A pity to spend so much time on the diamonds,’ Randa said, threading her needle, ‘when soon enough, I suppose, you’ll be wanting falcons and moons.’
‘Not too soon, I hope,’ Sansa said primly, ‘and perhaps never, if the gods are good.’
‘We’ll want an extra sheet,’ said Randa, ‘for your wedding night; you may not bleed, but if you do, it’ll be cut up for lucky pieces.’
‘Did - did you bleed?’ Sansa asked timidly. ‘Was it very bad?’
‘It was awful,’ Randa said frankly. ‘When I got up afterwards, there was so much blood I thought I was going to die. It hurt for days, particularly if I sneezed. And yet, I ended up taking to it like a duck to water.’ She went on to give Sansa a surprisingly helpful outline of what to expect, what problems she might experience, and what to do about them.
‘This is just to get you through the first few nights, you understand. I don’t want to muddle you by telling you more complicated things.’
‘It sounds complicated enough as it is.’
‘Well, if, after a week or so, it still really hurts, come and talk to me and I’ll work out what he’s doing wrong and how you can work on him to make it better. You have to be a little bit subtle and devious, because they never like to be told they aren’t perfect lovers.’
‘I’ll try, but you have to tell me what to say,’ Sansa said earnestly. ‘I hardly know how to talk to him. He’s so different from my father or, well, from Lord Robert. And I’ve never known any other boys or men well, at all.’
‘He may not need you to talk to him very much. Admire him. Praise him. Ask him about himself. That way, too, you’ll find out what he likes to talk about, if he is a talker. You needn’t say much about yourself unless he asks. Whether he asks is one of the ways you’ll know what sort of husband he’ll be. The ones who aren’t interested in you aren’t necessarily bad ones.’
‘Do you mean - they let you have peace and quiet?’
Sansa thought of her parents as she stitched, small, neat, even stitches. She had thought, when she was little, that this was the normal way for a marriage to be, full of fondness and devotion, husband and wife valuing and trusting one another, utterly loyal. What she had seen of life since then had made her wonder, not merely if that was actually a very rare form of marriage, but if the Starks’ marriage had not really been like that at all. If they had shown a united front to their children, but had been bitterly divided in their hearts. Perhaps, truly, the best you could hope for was a husband who would let you alone.
There was one division she knew of between her parents, Jon Snow. She had only had glimpses of it, but she knew her mother was hurt and angry that her father had not only got a bastard, but brought him to live with them. The rumour was that Harry had at least one bastard. How would she feel if that child was brought to her home?
Actually, she didn’t think she would care. Jon Snow had never hurt their family. Theon Greyjoy had, and he was nobly born. Birth counted for far less than people said. If such a child were brought to her household, she supposed, she would try to treat it kindly and gain its loyalty. If its mother appeared, too? That had not been a problem with Jon; she thought his mother was dead. She would need to ask Petyr’s advice, she supposed. How to make it quite clear that she would be kind, but would not let anyone abuse her kindness. If Harry kept a mistress, he would keep her away from Sansa and from any children the two of them might have.
But I don’t think he will. Truly, I don’t think he will. I have to believe that he will be kinder than that, that he will really love me. I will put that thought into every stitch I make and when we go to bed on these sheets that will make sure of it.
She thought especially hard about it while she worked on her wedding-gift to Harry, a piece that only she worked on. It was a soft bed-robe made of fine red woollen felt, warm for the winter. She worked the collar and cuffs in red and white diamonds, and across the back, in honour of his nickname ‘the Young Falcon,’ a white falcon with its wings outstretched. It kept her busy; in the last few days before the wedding, she made it her excuse to hole up in her room and see no-one but Sweetrobin and Petyr. While she was still working on the bed-robe, and putting the finishing touches on her maiden’s cloak, she was also washing her hair repeatedly to get rid of the brown dye.
Two nights before her name-day Petyr came to see her. In the morning, she had told him the brown wasn’t washing out fast enough; he had twinkled his eyes at her, said ‘Not to worry; Daddy always has a plan,’ and shortly afterwards slipped her a bottle of red dye. Now she was lying on the hearthrug wrapped in her own blue bed-robe, her hair fanned out on a towel to dry in the warmth of the fire. While Petyr’s hearthrug was a shadowcat skin, her own was a warm woollen mat, striped in green and brown.
‘Good evening, sweetling. Don’t get up,’ he said, and slid the bolt on the door. Sansa had lifted her head a little, but let it drop back on the towel she had folded into a pillow.
‘Hello,’ she said, and drew up one knee so that the front of her robe slid apart and her bare white leg was on display.
‘Minx,’ he said in passing. ‘Did it work?’
‘Tell me what you think.’
He crossed the room and stood over her, fingering his little beard thoughtfully. ‘I call it a success. It looks just as I remember it. A lovely rich auburn.’
‘It seems like a funny kind of cheating. To dye my hair back to the colour it should be, really.’
‘It wouldn’t be the strangest imposture I’ve ever pulled off.’
‘Hmm?’ He sat down beside her and lightly stroked her shin, ruffling up the fine red-gold hairs and then smoothing them down.
‘When you tell enough lies, do you forget the truth?’
‘Ah. You see your hair as a metaphor.’ Up over her knee and down her thigh to her hip where the front of the robe crossed over; back up. ‘Well. I’ve never had that problem. Perhaps I haven’t yet told enough lies. Tell me, how do your freckles maintain themselves? I’m sure these ones don’t ever see the sun.’
‘I don’t know. Do you know what Ivor Flowers said? My skin was like cream sprinkled with nutmeg. Doesn’t that sound pretty?’
‘Was he looking at the inside of your thigh when he said it?’ Ticklish fingertips traced up and down.
‘No, I’m afraid he was looking at the tops of my breasts.’
‘The dirty little bastard. Still, it’s not a bad description. You must keep an eye on him, you know. If he’s attracted to you, he could be helpful, or a serious liability. Men like him gain access to privy places easily; as an artist he is trained to observe, and he may be able to tell you many useful things. The trick will be to manage him; to lead him on without making him feel it. Don’t fuck him without my permission.’
‘I never thought I would!’
‘Good girl. I can’t believe I’ll be giving you away the day after tomorrow. I must be mad.’ He bent and kissed her inner thigh, lightly to avoid leaving a mark. ‘To think Harry gets all this...’
‘Do you think you’ll marry again?’ The thought had only just occurred to her. How would she feel if he were somone else’s husband? Jealous? Sad? Relieved?
‘Hmm? Well, perhaps, if it seems the best thing to do. I have no-one in mind at present.’ He untied the cord that belted her robe, and it slid apart over her tummy, the red of her pubic hair coming into view. ‘Ah, there. You match again. Little fox, little red brush.’
‘You shouldn’t look at it. Won’t it make you feel worse?’
‘We’ll have one last night of sin. Then virtue will reign. Give Daddy that much.’ He kissed just above her navel.
‘Mmm... all right.’
‘Your inner struggle was palpable.’ His tongue dipped in and probed, making her squirm. ‘I love you after a bath... so fresh and warm and soft. Your brush is still a little damp.’ His fingers were combing through the curls, tight and springy with the moisture, drawing one out and letting it bounce back. ‘Spread and show me your little cunny.’ She parted her legs and drew up her knees, and he nestled down on his elbows, face between her thighs, nuzzling her mound. Her breath hitched as his tongue stole down into the cleft, over the hood of her clitoris, and flicked up. ‘And I love how, when it’s all clean, your cunt tastes of nearly nothing... and then as you get wetter, and wetter, the salt blossoms out.’
Sansa closed her eyes, feeling heat well up. Oh, I hope Harry does this too. She imagined those merry grey eyes looking up over the slight curve of her lower tummy, that generous mouth kissing her labia, and felt a sweet twitch inside, then a wetness slipping out, as Petyr lapped at her, his tongue soft and then firm. She arched up to him, sighing, ran her hand over the crown of his head and combed her fingers into his hair. ‘Oh.... Daddy... ah!’
‘Give me that towel from under your head,’ he murmured, holding up his hand. She passed it down, and he lifted her hips, sliding the folded towel under her bottom. ‘Now, why don’t you piss for Daddy again?’
‘What?’ It had been so long since that first time, she had thought it had been just that once, something he wanted to do because she was so new and flustered that it pleased him more to shock her and shame her. Surely now that she was shameless he didn’t need that any more.
‘Come on. Piss for me.’ His tonguetip flickered against the little hole and she felt a moment’s hot leakage.
‘I don’t need to,’ she lied. So much for being shameless; her chest and her face were burning.
‘Yes, you do.’ Flick, flick, flick.
‘Please - oh don’t -’
‘Want Daddy to leave you alone?’
‘No - but - oh - all right! All right...’ She closed her eyes tight and let it spurt, hot, soaking the towel under her bottom, shuddering.
‘Good,’ Petyr muttered, hitching up on his knees, arching over her and kissing her hard, his moustache rasping her upper lip and his tongue churning in her mouth. Some fumbling and his cock was nudging into her, in with a deep, smooth lunge. He lowered himself on his elbows and ground his hips against hers, and she whimpered sharply. ‘Hurt?’
‘No - oh -’ She wrapped her legs tight around him, bucked up, clutching at his buttocks, feeling how they clenched and twitched. He was so hot and thick inside her, it was so sweet, she was quaking, her hips jerking. She clawed at his backside, squeaked and gasped and came furiously, twice before he was finished. They lay slumped together, panting, hearts drumming and heads pounding, until they could breathe steadily again.
‘Little bitch,’ Petyr murmured, mock-biting the corner of her jaw. ‘You’ve torn my butt to ribbons.’ Sansa lifted her hand and saw the blood under her nails, on her fingertips.
‘Oh... I’m sorry.’ She had done that before, though mostly to his back. ‘If you had taken your shirt off...’
‘You’d have scratched higher up? Thank you. How will I sit through your wedding now?’
‘They’re only little scratches.’
‘People will see the tears in my eyes and think oh, what a fond father. Little will they know.’
‘But by then they’ll know you’re not my father.’
‘Ah, well. I loved you like a father, clearly.’ He swivelled his hips against hers, kissed her cheek, then pulled out.
‘Daddy needs to piss. Be patient. At least you don’t have to.’ He pulled the wet towel out from under her and dropped it with a smack on the floor as he got up. ‘See how I take care of you?’
Sansa rolled onto her side as he walked away, then sat up, shrugging out of her robe. Her hair felt dry now, at least along its length; the roots were damp again with sweat. She found her hairbrush and got into bed, sitting up to brush out her hair, smooth and soft as it fell down her bare back. Red again, her own hair. She remembered, for a moment, her mother brushing out her hair, telling her how pretty it was and how she must take good care of it, and pushed that memory away.
My parents would be proud of this marriage, though, she told herself. They would approve of Harry. My father would like him. He’s so much better than Joffrey, there’s no comparison. So it doesn’t matter about Petyr.
And perhaps Petyr will marry someone else. Perhaps he’ll love her, and not want me any more. That would be best. Both of us happily married. His spunk was leaking out of her now, making a little sticky wet blot on the sheet beneath her. Why does it leak out, she wondered, if it’s supposed to get up to my womb to make a baby? Moon tea again in the morning, the last time for a while, she supposed. It was so very strange to think that after she was married, she would be trying to fall pregnant. She laid her hand on her tummy, trying to imagine when this small curve would swell out, how it might feel, but imagination failed her.
Petyr strolled back from the privy, pulling his tunic and shirt off over his head and dropping them on the end of the bed. His breeches were still on, unlaced in the front, his penis small and soft now and bobbing slightly as he walked. She took care not to laugh or smile, but she did think it was funny when it was soft; really, it was cute, but the one time she’d said so he’d been terribly offended and explained that she must never, ever say that to Harry. He glanced at her, smiled, and sat down on the side of the bed to take his boots off.
‘My Tully girl,’ he remarked, bending down with a grunt.
‘Stark girl,’ she corrected him.
‘Tully hair.’ He dropped his boots and stood up to push his breeches down. Sansa winced sympathetically at the red stripes on his buttocks.
‘Hardyng girl soon.’
‘Actually, you’ll still be Stark. Harry is going to announce during the wedding that because there must always be a Stark in Winterfell, he’s going to take your name, and then take back your castle for you. It’s going to be wonderfully affecting. Tears may well be shed. I’m certain cheers will be raised; I’ll start them myself if need be.’ He crawled into bed beside her, got behind her with his legs either side of her body, and took over the brushing, dropping a kiss on her shoulder.
‘Really? Can he do that?’
‘Of course he can. For you and your children. Hardyng is a sturdy, serviceable name, but it’s no Stark. That is a name with legends attached. Doesn’t Harrold Stark sound heroic? He might have decided to call himself Harrold Arryn when he inherited the Vale, but that just sounds silly. Harry Arry? I think not.’ He gathered her hair together at the nape of her neck and twisted it loosely, coiling it around his hand.
‘But I’ve made him a lovely bed-robe in Hardyng colours! I wish you’d told me before I did all that work.’
Petyr chuckled. ‘I’m sure he’ll like it anyway. Love in every stitch, and all that. You’ve never made me anything.’ He drew steadily down on the loop of hair in his hand, pulling her back to rest against him.
‘I didn’t know you wanted me to.’
‘But Sansa. Girls are supposed to think of these things... to anticipate the little wants of the men they love. Mm?’
‘Well, I thought I was giving you what you wanted.’ She wriggled her hips a little, making herself comfortable and rubbing against him at the same time. ‘Would a pair of slippers have made a great difference?’
‘Slippers are for old men.’
‘Nice soft felt slippers with mockingbirds worked on the toes. Or PB.’ She leaned her head back on his shoulder and smiled up at him, then lifted up a little to kiss him. His arms wrapped around her waist and he slid a hand between her thighs, cupping and squeezing her mound.
‘I’d like to put PB on this. Mine.’ The other hand slipped up to hold her breast, and he kissed the soft side of her neck. ‘Mine.’
The day before the wedding was taken over entirely by Randa Royce and her ladies. They dove whooping and giggling into Sansa’s room before she was properly awake, so it was a mercy that Petyr had left while she was sleeping, and cleaned up the signs of his presence as he went. They tumbled her into a bath and then spent the day grooming her and gossiping. Apart from the fact that she didn’t know any of them well, or entirely trust them, she rather enjoyed it. They ate sweets and played games, truth-and-lies and a rude version of come-into-my-castle, which made the married girls scream with laughter and the maidens protest that they had no idea why it was supposed to be funny. They tried her hair in ten different arrangements before choosing the one for the morrow.
It didn’t matter that her hair was red; Petyr had decided that Lord Royce and by extension his daughter could be let that far into the secret.
‘Naughty Sansa, but clever Sansa, to keep a secret so well,’ Randa said, and tapped her on the nose as if she were a disobedient kitten. They oohed and aahed over her maiden’s cloak and the fine embroidery on the direwolf appliqué. Clever, clever Sansa, was the consensus. The politics of it didn’t seem to matter to them at all, compared with the glamour and excitement. Randa gave her some rather shrewd looks, but said nothing to match.
Randa slept in her bed with her that night, together with one of her favourite maidens; the rest slept on beds made up on the floor by maidservants, and giggled and chattered on until Randa told them all to shut up so that Sansa could sleep.
‘She won’t be sleeping tomorrow night, after all!’
Sleeping with Randa and the other girl, Mia, was smothery warm; there was no part of the bed that was clear. Sometimes, long ago, she had slept with Jeyne Poole, and they had whispered and giggled together about what their lives might be when they were grown - who they would marry, where they would live, what they would wear, and how beautiful it would all be. Sometimes they had slept with their arms around each other. Sansa had told Jeyne, ‘Whoever I marry, we’ll find one of his knights to marry you - somebody brave and handsome. That way we’ll always be together.’ They’d fallen asleep with their heads full of dances and tourneys and beautiful songs. A few tears leaked down her face as she lay on her side; they ran into the corner of her mouth and she sniffed hard.
‘Don’t cry,’ Randa murmured, and slung a sleepy arm over her. ‘It won’t be too bad.’
The wedding day itself was full of the same light-headed feeling of unreality as the day of their formal introduction. She had not been alone with Harry once between that day and this, and now she was to marry him. Randa and the girls bathed her, dressed her, brushed and plaited and pinned up her hair, while she sat unresisting, staring at herself in the glass. Her wide eyes looked dark, the pupils were so large. Once she was laced into her new silver-grey velvet gown, her breasts pressed together and up, her deep breathing made them rise and fall quite dramatically. She tried to eat some breakfast, toast and honey, but her mouth could not understand why she was putting these things into it. The crisped bread felt rough and pointy, hurting her palate.
‘I’m saving room for the feast,’ she told Randa, pushing the plate away.
‘Right,’ said Randa, pushing it back. ‘Eat that up. Do you know how it spoils a wedding if the bride faints before she can finish her vows?’
An uncertain time later, she was standing in the little side-room off the vestibule of the sept. Randa and Mia worked around her, cooing to her like ministering doves, arranging the drape and folds of her cloak just so.
Everyone is waiting for me. She could hear the suppressed murmur of the congregation inside the sept. Her heart was thumping and her throat felt constricted; sweat was springing out under her arms and breasts and down the centre of her back. She could feel droplets springing out on her upper lip and the flanks of her nose, and Randa darted in with a handkerchief to blot them away and dust on powder.
There was a tap at the door, and Petyr popped his head in. ‘May I have a last word with my little girl?’
‘All right,’ Randa said, ‘but be brief. She’s nervous enough as it is.’
‘Oh, I’m not nervous,’ Sansa said, and smiled.
‘I take your point,’ said Petyr, shooting Randa a quick grin. ‘I’ll try to settle her down.’ He held the door for her and Mia, shut it tight and wrapped his arms around Sansa. ‘You look as if you’re about to float away like thistledown.’
‘Hold me down,’ she said, with a shaky laugh. She felt as if she were really in her body again. ‘I do feel as if my head is floating above my shoulders.’
‘You look beautiful. Too pale, but beautiful.’ He briskly pinched her cheeks to remedy that, and kissed her hard. ‘Better. Think nasty, dirty thoughts to keep that colour, all right?’ Through her gown, he pinched and twisted her nipples. ‘Much better.’
‘I wish you could fuck me now,’ she whispered. She thought, as she always did, how harsh it sounded; but what other word for it was there?
‘It’s a lovely thought, but I don’t want you walking up the aisle with cum running down your leg. You’re going to be all right, Sansa. You’re going to make me very, very proud.’ A gentler kiss, and he framed her face with his hands, pressed one final kiss to her forehead like a blessing. ‘Now. Time to dazzle everyone.’ He pulled up the hood of the cloak, carefully, not to disturb her hair.
The congregation were faces floating in a jumble of colours. It was a bright, cold day and sunlight lanced through the stained glass windows, painting everyone with rainbows. She entered the sept on Petyr’s arm, then stepped away, walking forward to the spot they had planned, where the yellow window’s golden light pooled.
They were all staring at her, so many eyes. She stared beyond them to the altar, where the septon stood and Harry waited. She raised her hands, drew back her hood, and let it fall. The crowd, as if they had become one big heavy-breathing animal, drew in a soft murmur. She reached up, pulled out the two long pins anchoring her hair, and shook it loose. Randa’s careful work unravelled and cascaded down her back, and the murmur became a hubbub of voices. She could not let herself look to left or right, only straight ahead, or she would fall. Harry was smiling; she could see it as a while slice across his rosy face in the distance, and she walked towards the white. The people behind her could see the direwolf on her back now, and the hubbub became a roar, rippling up from the rear, pushing her along like a rising tide.
Harry had a real face now. She managed to focus her eyes on his and return his smile. He held out his hand and she took it, stepping up beside him before the altar, their joined hands at chest height between them. Her heartbeat drummed in her chest and her temples as the roar peaked and died away.
The septon stepped forward, announced that the marriage of the Lady Sansa Stark and the reviled Imp Tyrion Lannister was invalid, that he was satisfied that it had never been consummated, and therefore Sansa was a maiden free to wed. He had taken her word for it; there had been no need for an examination when Sansa spoke with him under Petyr’s supervision. The roar rose and fell again. She was actually floating now, or so it seemed; she had lost contact with the stone step beneath her feet, but she could feel Harry’s hand warm and solid around hers, and held tight to it so that she wouldn’t drift up and away in front of everyone.
He squeezed back, gave her a warm look, and stepped forward slightly. He had a fine, strong voice, she realised when she heard it raised to carry to the back of the sept, where Petyr still stood. He announced his decision about their names and Winterfell in clear, bold, simple terms, then stepped back to her side, let go her hand, lifted the side of her cloak and draped it over his own shoulder, smiling down at her.
The noise was so loud now it was beating on her head and her face like a thousand slapping hands, clapping hands, they were all clapping, those cries were cheers, and Harry drew her closer and kissed her. The kiss earthed her, brought her right back into her body with a jolt, and the ground was hard under her feet, his lips were hot against hers and his breath tickled her cheek. She forgot all her rehearsal and rose on tiptoes, throwing her arms around his thick neck, kissing back for all she was worth, and the cheers were deafening.
After that, the marriage service itself was something of an anticlimax. They spoke the correct words, the septon blessed their union, and Harry kissed her again, picked her up and swung her around, her cloak flaring out around them, and some helper of Petyr’s stationed behind the altar released a cage of white doves that burst out over the heads of the crowd, their wingbeats adding to the clapping.
Sansa felt a little closer to real during the feast. There was the promised tower of lemon cakes, all drizzled and glistening with honey; Harry fed her one from his hand, and kissed her while her lips were sticky. Singers performed and a troupe of children, garlanded with ribbons for lack of flowers, danced and tumbled.
‘Will you be all right without me for a little? I’ll leave you with Ivor,’ Harry said. She felt a pat on her shoulder and registered for the first time that Ivor Flowers was sitting beside them, smiling happily.
‘Yes, but where are you going?’
‘You’ll see.’ He kissed her cheek, got up, and vaulted over the table, springing down into the performance space in the middle of the open oblong of trestle tables, and strode over to the singer who had just finished ‘Let Me Drink Your Beauty’ and was enjoying his bows.
‘May I?’ Harry asked, gesturing to his harp.
‘Of course, m’lord,’ the man said, handing it over with a look of surprise. Harry held it deftly, and ran his fingers lightly over the strings, making a ripple of sound that hushed everyone.
‘My lords, ladies and gentlemen!’ he declared, smiling broadly. ‘Thank you so much for joining us on this joyful day. I cannot tell you how glad I am to have lovely Sansa at my side. May I interrupt your meal with a story? You see, when I was but a lad, I met an old servant, a wildling man called Hob. He had come south of the Wall on a raid, but had separated from the rest of the party when they met the Night’s Watch. He said he could not go home, though he never said why, and he kept going south, eventually taking work as a serving man, and taking a local wife.’
He plucked a light run of notes, a sound like laughter. ‘Hob helped to teach me to ride, to hunt and to fight. He told me no end of wild stories of the wastelands beyond the Wall. I never knew his wife, who had passed away before I met him, but he told me she had a great bush of red hair. “Young Harry,” he told me, “if you can, marry a girl with red hair.” Up North, he said, red-headed girls were considered lucky. Men said they had been kissed by fire. Hob told me such women were brave, strong, generous, fine mothers, and by all the gods, they kept their menfolk warm at night!’
Laughter everywhere; Sansa’s cheeks burned and tingled, and she looked into her lap.
‘Need I say, my friends, that Hob approves very much of my wife?’ More laughter, and down at the end of one table, a serving-man with a thick grey beard, carrying a jug of wine, raised it and cheered. ‘Hob taught me many wildling songs, too,’ Harry went on, ‘and I wish to sing this one in honour of my lovely Sansa.’
He picked out a spare, lilting tune, very simple, and began to sing, his voice deep and warm. Sansa didn’t understand the words; they must be in some barbaric tongue from the far North.
Ivor leaned over and spoke close by her ear. ‘I can’t really make it rhyme,’ he said, ‘but he’s saying his wife has hair red like the sunset, red like the fire in the evening. The man in the song. The song paints a picture. They’re together in their little house. It’s a dark, cold night outside, not fit for man nor beast. But in there it’s so warm, and she’s sitting by the fire, half-asleep, with their baby at her breast. And the babe has that red hair too. And it’s perfect. That picture, that moment. Whatever else happens, and bad things will happen, in the dark of winter, that moment is perfect. So he folds it up inside his heart.’
Sansa nodded, slowly. ‘I see.’ This moment was perfect - her handsome young husband, her knight, singing for love of her, and he was even a good singer - and in a way it felt too perfect. Something that beautiful, she now thought, must surely be flawed underneath, and yet she reproached herself for thinking it. Because it was perfect, here and now, and she should try to fold it into her heart, and let nothing change it.
After Harry’s song, there was general applause. Handing the harp back to the singer, he bounded back to the top table where Sansa sat. Because the table was up on a dais, he couldn’t vault back up the way he had vaulted down, and so he flipped up the tablecloth and crawled under. A gust of laughter went through the hall, and Sansa felt his hand on her knee as he pulled himself out from under the cloth. He looked up at her, laughing, his hair all askew, and she caught him by the front of his tunic and kissed him firmly.
‘I didn’t know you could sing! Or play! And you did it so beautifully!’
‘I wanted to surprise you,’ he said with a mischievous smile, getting back into his chair at her side.
‘She went all pink,’ Ivor reported, laughing too. ‘It was quite lovely.’
‘Ivor translated for me,’ Sansa said. ‘It’s a sweet song. Oh, Harry, dear!’ She tried to smooth down his hair, and kissed him again, impulsively.
At the end of the high table there was a clatter and a high-pitched, indignant cry. Little Lord Robert Arryn had knocked over his cup of watered wine and was shouting ‘Shut up! Shut up, I want to say something!’ He was standing up on the seat of his chair, and his face was red. Quiet fell, an uncomfortable quiet full of sidelong glances.
‘That girl lied to me,’ Sweetrobin said shrilly, pointing at Sansa. ‘She said her name was Alayne and she was my stepfather’s daughter. Really her name’s Sansa and she’s my cousin. But whoever she is she’s mine, all right? She’s to take care of me. So all of you should stop making a fuss of her and that big boy! She’s got to keep taking care of me and you’ll give her a swelled head.’ Breathing heavily, he glared at Harry. ‘You can be her husband but if you ever upset her or do anything so she can’t take care of me, I’ll take you up the mountain and I’ll make you fly. D’you hear?’
‘My lord Robert,’ Harry said, looking startled, ‘the last thing I want is to upset Sansa - or to do any harm to you.’
‘Sweetrobin,’ said Sansa pleadingly. She got up and went to him, edging behind Lady Anya’s chair, Lord Royce’s and Petyr’s, and put her arms around him as he stood there, trembling slightly. ‘My sweet, sweet cousin,’ she whispered in his ear, ‘you don’t know how hard it was to lie to you. I’ll never leave you. Please don’t worry.’
‘Good,’ said Sweetrobin, his lip sticking out and his nose running. She kissed his waxy cheek and stroked back his limp hair.
‘Now won’t you sit down and enjoy the feast? Everything will be back to normal soon. All this fuss is only for a couple of days. I wouldn’t have it, but there’s nothing I can do; it would be so rude to say no.’ She kept her voice low and coaxing, and although he still looked truculent, he sat down and accepted a new cup of watered wine. Sansa thought longingly of sweetsleep, and kissed and cajoled him, never showing how furious she was that he was spoiling the feast, the day, that he was keeping her from Harry. He couldn’t help it, she told herself, he was only a little boy, and spoilt (and I have kept on spoiling him). Besides, if she was determined to keep a moment perfect in her heart, she shouldn’t let the very first challenge she met defeat her.
Eventually, to her great relief, Sweetrobin decided on his own that he was tired and wanted to go to his room and rest.
‘I’ll send Maester Colemon to make sure you can sleep,’ Sansa promised him, kissing his forehead. ‘The dancing after the feast might be noisy, so he’ll make you a nice bedtime drink with warm milk and honey.’
‘All right,’ Sweetrobin said ungraciously, and went off with his Ser Robert doll tucked under his chin. Sansa returned to her seat, sliding apologetically behind the chairs again. Petyr stopped her briefly with a hand on her wrist.
‘Well done,’ he said quietly. ‘All of it.’ He let her go, and she sank down gratefully beside Harry.
‘You were gone so long,’ he whispered, kissing her cheek. ‘I pined for you.’
‘He didn’t touch his food,’ Ivor said cheerfully. ‘Is little Lord Robert always like that?’
‘No,’ Sansa said. ‘Sometimes he’s worse.’ They laughed, and she felt rather guilty, but pleased, too, that they were laughing for her.
At last the tables were pushed back against the walls, the benches shunted away, and the troupe in the minstrels’ gallery fortified themselves with hot spiced wine. They struck up a lively tune as the dancers formed up sets. Soon Sansa’s head was whirling, her heart drumming, as she skipped and twirled from hand to hand; now Harry swung her around, now Ivor, now a parade of beaming gentlemen all murmuring blessings and good wishes to her. Some of them called her ‘Lady Stark,’ which startled her; she still thought Lady Stark was her mother. She was briefly paired with Petyr, and that surprised her too, that he had joined the young people, but he danced quite well and handed her on to Harry with a smile. The roots of her hair were wet again, and she knew there were circles under her arms and a streak down the middle of her back, but didn’t care. In the whirl of the dancers, Harry pulled her into his arms and kissed her deeply, and she would have let him take her there on the trampled rushes if he’d tried. He was sweating too, and the kiss tasted strongly of salt. She pressed herself up to him, and his arms tightened eagerly around her.
‘Now now, not here!’ Ivor shouted out, to general ribald laughter.
‘But perhaps it’s time!’ Randa cried, appearing from the throng with her cheeks flushed with wine and high spirits. ‘Girls! Help me catch my lord Harry!’
‘Oh, help!’ said Harry. ‘Good luck, Sansa!’ He ducked away as Mia tried to tackle him, and Sansa was seized around the waist and thrown over Ivor’s shoulder.
‘Time for bed!’ someone bellowed, and cheers went up around the hall. Sansa was jounced about and bundled from one set of arms to another, a good deal less gently than during the dancing, although Ivor kept pace and shouted directions.
‘Easy there! We want to bed her, not break her!’ They were bearing her off towards a staircase that would take them to the upper floor where the marriage bed had been prepared for her and Harry, in a grand room that would have been given to a visiting king on progress. She looked around a little wildly for Petyr, but he was nowhere to be seen.
‘Up the stairs!’ Ivor cried, and she was plunked down into a seat of his joined hands and the serving-man Hob’s. Hob grinned at her and kissed her cheek with a great wet beardy smack. ‘Lucky girl!’ he growled, though Sansa didn’t know whether he meant she was lucky to marry Harry, or he would gain luck by kissing her.
‘You cheeky bugger!’ Ivor was laughing at Hob as they stumbled crabwise up the stairs, the other men bringing up the rear, shouting and singing and laughing. ‘How dare you kiss my lady!’
‘You’re a cheeky bastard,’ Hob replied in his strong Northern burr, ‘and we’re both squeezing her arse anyway.’ Sansa hung onto both their shoulders and prayed not to be dropped; falling down a stone staircase would certainly ruin her wedding night. She felt giddy and feverish.
There was the door of the bedchamber, and Hob kicked it open. He and Ivor staggered in and almost dropped her on the floor, the rest of the men pouring in behind them. Harry and the ladies were not yet there, though there was another door through which they could enter; this was one reason why the room had been chosen.
‘Strip her!’ someone shouted, and Sansa’s heart clenched. It was all supposed to be jolly bawdy fun, but she did not want to be stripped naked by a crowd of mostly strange men. Yet how could she say so? It was what brides had to put up with, and it was sheer luck that it hadn’t happened when she married Tyrion.
‘My lady,’ said Ivor politely, and to her shock he cut the laces at the back of her gown with a knife. They had been under strain as she panted with the exertion of dancing; they flew apart and the front of the dress flopped forward and down, exposing most of her bosom, to roars of approval. She crossed her arms over her chest reflexively, telling herself it was not like when Joffrey had her stripped, it was not.
‘My lady!’ shouted someone else, and pulled on her sleeve. Breathless and protesting, she was tumbled around among them as they pulled her gown down from her shoulders and hips, and she stumbled out of it in her sweat-damp shift. Her shoes were pulled off and carried away as trophies. People kept pinching her and kissing her with cries of ‘Luck!’ and she thought she would be sick at any moment. Someone dove under her skirt to tear down her stockings and emerged shouting ‘I’ve seen it, lads! The carpet matches the curtains!’ Her tummy lurched.
‘Now, now! Let her breathe!’ Ivor was bawling, and the man gripping her arms loosened his hold. Just beyond Ivor, Sansa saw the bed, its covers turned down invitingly, the sheets scattered with sweet-smelling herbs. She twisted desperately, lunged past Ivor and leapt onto the bed, yanking the coverlet up over her head.
‘Awww!’ cried the men, as if she had spoiled their game.
‘You can’t go to bed in your smallclothes, my lady!’ someone shouted. In herby-smelling darkness, Sansa squirmed out of her shift and threw it out over the pillows. They cheered raucously. She could hardly breathe, and struggled up, poking her tangled head out into the air. She put out one arm and clamped the covers tightly to her chest.
‘There,’ she said. ‘I hope you’re satisfied.’ To her great surprise, they gave her three cheers, without rancour; the menace she had felt a moment ago seemed to have evaporated. Before she could get her breath back, the other door burst open and Harry fell through, at the head of a crowd of laughing women, his shirt torn open and hanging from his waistband. His broad chest and flat stomach were furred with brown curls, and he had a pink scar across his left bicep.
‘Ladies, please!’ he panted, laughing, staggering towards the bed.
‘Get his breeches!’ Randa shouted, and two girls pounced on him, holding his legs, while a third, a married lady, tore at his laces.
‘Sansa! Save me!’
‘I can’t!’ she shouted back. ‘I’ve got no clothes on!’
‘Don’t look at me.’ Ivor had collapsed to the floor, sitting with his legs sprawled out before him. The laces gave way and Harry’s breeches were jerked down to his knees. His cock, half-hard and very pink, bobbed out and swung against his thigh.
‘Please, Randa, just send him over to me,’ Sansa called out.
‘Whoa-ho! Now she sees it!’ shouted some idiot, and Randa shooed her girls away and gave Harry a smart push in his back. He hopped forward, hobbled by the breeches, and fell onto the bed with a thump, laughing helplessly. When he had got his breath a little he rolled over, kicked off his boots and skinned out of his breeches, then crawled under the covers beside Sansa.
‘There,’ he said, grinning, ‘and that’s all the show you’re going to have! Be off with you!’
‘Give her a kiss!’ someone shouted from the back of the crowd; by the sound of it, Hob.
‘One!’ Harry shouted back, and pinned Sansa down to the pillows with a voracious kiss, his tongue plunging into her mouth. She grabbed his shoulder and tried not to moan too loudly. There was a further round of applause, and cheers, and wishes, and then they were all trooping off, the ladies and the men, Ivor closing the door last with a cry of ‘Good night! Sweet dreams!’
Harry eased off her and stroked her tumbled hair back from her forehead. ‘I hope that wasn’t too much,’ he said, ‘but I’ve been wanting to kiss you like that all day and all night.’
‘It was fine,’ she said breathlessly. Fine was a poor, weak word for it. She was so excited that it was agony to have to act as if she didn’t know what to do and needed to be taught.
‘That part of the bedding can be a bit rough, but I promise the next part is nicer.’
‘Randa told me...’
‘Take that with a pinch of salt,’ he said, smiling. ‘Gods, you look lovely, all rosy and shiny.’
‘You look lovely too,’ she said bravely.
‘Do I? I’m so glad.’ He traced his fingertips over her collarbones, and down to the mockingbird locket that hung between her breasts. ‘Am I still in here?’
‘Of course you are.’ Their bodies were only half touching, the covers crumpled between them, but she could feel his legs against hers, big feet with calloused soles brushing her small soft ones.
‘May I take it off? Just because I’d like to see you really and completely naked, not even a chain or a ring.’
‘Yes...’ She sat up a little and lifted her hair out of the way so that he could unclasp the chain. He closed it again and set the locket aside on the bedside table, then slid his hands into her hair, cradling her head as he kissed her slowly and gently, his half-open lips moving softly against hers.
‘My Sansa. My wife,’ he breathed. ‘I’ve never had a wife before. It’s exciting.’ He lightly touched the coverlet, still clamped under her arms and across her chest. ‘Would you let me uncover you?’
Sansa closed her eyes briefly, looked up at him and whispered ‘Yes?’ Shy, but not reluctant, I hope that’s how it sounds.
‘Thank you, darling wife.’ He drew the covers down, exposing her breasts and her tummy. He went on, folding the sheet back, so she was bare to his eyes down to her knees. ‘You are exactly as beautiful as I thought you’d be... so creamy white... so burning red.’ He wrapped her up in his arms again and kissed her, softly, deeply, sighing happily as she put her arms around his neck. Such a thick, muscular neck; his shoulders, too, his back, thick and powerful. When he moved against her she could feel such strength in him that it made her a tiny bit nervous; he might hurt her without even meaning to, might squash her under his bulk. Why was that exciting?
‘Tell me,’ he whispered against her lips, ‘tell me if you like this, tell me if it doesn’t feel right... and don’t be shy to make noises if you can’t make words. We do have to do it tonight, but I’ll make it as easy for you as I can. Oh, Sansa... have I said I love your name? I don’t want a pet-name, I want to say Sansa, Sansa, Sansa.’ He bent his head and kissed her neck, working slowly over it, guiding her to tip up her chin and offer the curve of her throat.
‘Harry,’ she said faintly. ‘I...’ She wanted to say something but didn’t know what it could be. I want you was too bold. I love you was too soon. ‘I’m a bit scared... but I trust you.’
‘Good... good, sweet girl...’ His hands curved around her breasts. She’d thought she noticed, but now she was sure. They’d been rough in the past, the fingertips coarse and dry, small callouses on the palms. He’d done something about that, perhaps used a cream the way she did. The callouses were still there but his fingers were smooth and soft. The kindness of it made a warm twist low down in her tummy, or perhaps that was the way he was massaging her breasts as he kissed her.
‘Little pink tips,’ he mumbled, and his mouth travelled down, soft wet warm suction, his tongue going over and over her nipples, making her gasp and sigh, hot twitches descending into her cunny.
‘How does that feel?’
‘Good... oh...’ His mouth stayed at her breasts, one hand still stroking and kneading, but the other smoothed down over her tummy, fingers brushing through her pubic hair.
‘This will feel a bit funny at first,’ he breathed, his voice muffled, and the thick fingers nudged down between her thighs. She let him feel a moment’s resistance before she parted them. ‘You’re so wet already!’ he said, sounding delighted as his fingers slipped deeper. Sansa bit back a yelp as he pushed his middle finger into her.
‘Did it hurt?’
‘No - no, it just feels - it feels funny, it’s - ooh...’
‘You’re holding yourself stiff, sweetling. Try to relax. Your little pussy is so soft...’ He flexed his finger, still kissing her breasts, and she relaxed her muscles little by little, afraid she would feel too loose to him. ‘Ah, there...’ He slipped his forefinger in alongside the middle one, and she caught her breath. ‘And here... let me show you something nice...’ He drew his fingers out, coated with her wetness, and up to lightly stroke her clitoris.
‘See?’ He rubbed a little more, dipped his fingers back into her cunny, then back up to rub again, until she was pushing her hips up to his hand. ‘Now let’s try...’ He began to put his leg over her.
‘It’s all right... I promise...’ He was panting eagerly and his eyes were a deep dark grey.
‘Just... please, can I see you too?’
‘Of course. Of course!’ He gave a little laugh of relief and rolled back on his hip, pulling the covers down. ‘Here I am. I hope you like me.’
Sansa stared. ‘That can’t possibly go into me,’ she said, without thinking. ‘It’s far too big. It won’t work.’ His cock looked huge, not only long but thick and curvy, the head a purplish-red mushroom cap. Petyr’s wasn’t small, but it was nothing like this monster.
‘It’s all right,’ Harry said again. ‘It will hurt a bit at first, but you’ll get used to it, I promise.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘The other -’ Harry began, then stopped. The other girls did? Sansa thought. ‘The other lads say so,’ he said, and smiled hopefully. Harry is a bad liar, but the kind sort of liar.
‘All right,’ she said, her tone still doubtful, but trying to trust.
‘Here.’ He put his big hands on her knees and guided them apart, till her thighs were fully spread. ‘Don’t be embarrassed. It’ll be easier like this. You can watch me put it in, or look away, whatever you like. Um. I think it’s easier to push it in quick, the hurt’s over faster that way.’ He positioned himself over her, on his knees, one hand by her hip for balance. He held his great red cock with the other and brought it down between her thighs, touching the tip to her labia. ‘Do you want to help me?’
‘Here... put your hand on it. That’s good. Hold it... don’t be scared. Help me put it in. Line it up. Your little hand’s so soft... oh...’ He kissed her mouth, hard, with a little grunt as he started to push. ‘Sansa? If it hurts, if it’s too much, bite my shoulder, just bite down as hard as you can.’ Then he was bearing down and in, and she thought he really was too big; she was stretched tight with only the tip, the broadest part of the head still outside her. She was wet but he was huge, and there was pain, real pain, down at the bottom of the opening, shocking her. Something gave way, not like the yielding she’d felt with Petyr; that had been a stretching and this was a splitting, a tear. Tears sprang out in her eyes and she twitched her hips back, away from the pain.
‘It’s all right,’ he moaned. ‘Just bite.’ He pushed his shoulder up to her face, grabbed her hip and held it, pushing harder. She bit, hard, and he grunted, giving a sudden shove that tore into her. Sansa tasted blood, smothering a scream. He was in her, so deep, thrusting deeper, pounding, and then coming, collapsing on her so hot and heavy she thought he would smother her. She opened her mouth, her jaw aching, and gasped for air.
‘I’m sorry,’ Harry moaned. ‘I’m sorry, I tried to make it quick. Oh, Sansa!’
‘Please - take it out, please.’
‘I’m so sorry.’ He pulled out, sharply, and rolled onto his back, his chest and belly heaving as he panted. There was blood all over his cock, sagging now, and when Sansa pushed herself up on her elbows she could see a red, sodden blot, still spreading, on the sheet. She dropped back on the pillows, her vision blurring and her ears ringing. It wasn’t quite a faint, but it was some time before she could lift her head.
And Harry was kind. He brought her a cup of water, he wiped his blood from her lips with a corner of the sheet, he pressed a soft clean towel between her legs to stop the bleeding there. He lay and held her in his arms, stroking her back, soothing her.
‘Hardyng diamonds all over the place,’ Sansa said, a little hysterically; everywhere she looked there was red and white.
‘It’s all right. It’s all, all right, my Sansa, my darling little wife. I knew it would be hard, I’m big and you’re little, but the worst part’s over.’
‘Why didn’t you warn me?’
‘Because it would only have scared you and made it worse.’ He peeled back the towel and checked. ‘I think it’s stopped bleeding. I’ll clean you up properly.’
A clean towel for her to lie on, covering the bloody patch, and he dabbed another one in water, wrung it out and used it to tenderly wipe away the blood from her thighs, rolling her onto her side so he could get the smears off her bottom, finally, using a small, clean corner, bathing her cunny.
‘Is it all torn up?’ Sansa asked, not daring to look.
‘No. No, it looks fine. It’s just a bit puffy. Still beautiful. The torn place is inside.’ He kissed his fingers and touched them softly to her labia. ‘I’m sorry, pussy.’
‘It’s all right,’ she said wearily. Something had to be wrong with Harry, after all. Kind and brave and handsome and musical; just with a cock that made her cunt feel like an open wound. He took away the basin of water and the damp towels and came back to bed, pulling the covers up around their shoulders, and nudged her onto her side, curling himself around her, broad and warm at her back with his arms around her waist.
‘Go to sleep,’ he whispered, and kissed the top of her head. ‘We don’t have to do it again until you feel better.’
He was quickly asleep after that, and Sansa lay wakeful, her cunny sore and tingling and her mind racing.
I bled. I bled a lot, like a real maiden. I didn’t think I could - I thought I would have to rely on everyone accepting my word. But now! Anyone who doubted the septon can be shut up by showing them the sheet. What’s more, Harry knows for certain that I was a maid when he had me first. He will never believe that anyone else had me before him. I’m safe! I’m so safe! Joy and relief bubbled up inside her, and the ache receded a bit. She rolled over and hugged Harry, pressing herself close to his furry chest. He didn’t wake, but he murmured and tightened his arms around her. She fell asleep there, and the bedside candle had burned down two inches before she woke.
She lay squinting at the candle flame, making sense of the feeling of Harry behind her again. She had rolled over in her sleep. Her bladder was bursting, and she eased herself away from him.
‘Mnurr,’ breathed Harry, trying to hold her back.
‘I have to... um, have to pee.’
‘Hrmmm.’ He let her go, and she padded around the unfamiliar room until she found the privy. Peeing stung, and a trickle of blood ran down her thigh after she had wiped herself. She made a pad of rags and pressed it there, checking from time to time until she was sure the bleeding had stopped again. When she emerged from behind the curtain, Harry was sitting up, blinking sleepily.
‘Hello, wife,’ he said fondly. ‘Come back to bed.’
‘All right, husband.’ He lifted the covers for her and she nestled in beside him, in the place he made for her, her head on his shoulder and her hand on his chest.
‘Feeling better?’ he asked. ‘You were so white before, but your colour’s come back.’
‘Yes... thank you. It’s not so bad. I - I liked parts of it.’
‘What parts?’ He kissed her hair, stroked her cheek with the backs of his fingers.
‘The kissing. Your hands.’ She interlaced her fingers with his.
‘Then I promise lots of kissing. And hands everywhere.’ He nuzzled against her cheek and brought their joined hands up to his lips. ‘And when you’re ready, we can try again.’
‘We... we could try again now.’
‘But if it hurts...’
‘I need to get used to it. And you need it, don’t you?’
‘Not that much. I’ll wait.’
‘No. Let’s.’ She kissed him on the lips, reached up to stroke his hair. Behind his ear she could feel the little short tuft where she’d cut away a lock.
‘All right,’ he said, a slow smile spreading across his face.
They tried again twice that night. The first time the pain was almost as bad, and she bit him again. This time, she tried to take care of him too, to clean the bite, though he laughed and protested that he didn’t need that.
‘But I made you bleed too. It’s only fair.’ She dabbed off the blood, noticing that beside her two overlapping bite marks was a faint shiny scar, semi-circular, not quite matching because it had been made by a different set of teeth.
The second time, the third time in total, something had changed. Perhaps it was only that she was more comfortable, but now there were surges of pleasure in amongst the jabs of pain. They slept after that, but when they woke in the morning they rolled together easily, and this time, though there was still pain, to her astonishment, he made her come. It knocked the wind out of her, and she lay panting and beaming until he asked her if she was all right, she had gone so quiet.
‘I’m all right! I’m all right I’m all right I’m all right!’ She grabbed him by the ears and kissed him ecstatically.
‘I think I did something right,’ Harry said, bemused and smiling.
They went down to breakfast late, and were greeted with a clamour of cheers and good-natured cat-calls. Over the meal, it was decided that Harry and some of the other men would ride out hunting today; it was another bright clear day and there was word of a fine stag in the woods nearby.
‘Will you come with us, little wife?’ he asked Sansa. His arm had been around her waist all through the meal, so that he ate one-handed.
Sansa leaned close and whispered in his ear. ‘I’d like to, but I don’t think I could ride a horse today.’ Harry laughed and kissed her, a warm smack on her cheek, and promised her venison for dinner.
She saw them off from the courtyard at mid-morning, then excused herself from Randa, who clearly expected a good gossip about the wedding night, and went upstairs to pay an appeasing visit to Sweetrobin. He was still fast asleep, though, thanks to Colemon’s ‘bedtime drink,’ and she decided to let him remain so for now. Instead, she went along to Petyr’s solar. He wasn’t there, but she sat down at his desk, gingerly. She had been too concerned with her dignity to let the soreness show in the way she walked, but there had been a few winces she was unable to suppress, and they had drawn knowing laughter and offers of cushions.
After about half an hour, during which she read his letters, Petyr came in.
‘Oh,’ he said, raising his eyebrows. ‘I was looking for you, as it happened.’
‘Is something wrong?’
‘I only wanted to see if you were all right. Do you know they’ve hung up your bridal sheet in the great hall, like a banner? Such an edifying sight. It looks as if he half killed you.’ His tone was crisp and cross.
That must have been done since she left after breakfast. She thought she would rather not see the sheet, the blood dried brown; she would ask Randa if it could be taken down once everyone had had a chance to look at it. ‘No, I’m quite well. Don’t worry.’
‘Good. Then get up and let me sit down.’
‘What about me?’
‘Sit on my lap. I can hardly sit on yours.’ They rearranged themselves, Petyr’s arm around her waist possessively. ‘Tell Daddy.’
‘What do you want me to tell?’
‘Report. I see he was chewing on your neck.’ He looked at the love-bites she had powdered over with distaste. ‘Why was there so much blood? Some trick? You didn’t have to, and I wish you’d discussed it with me.’
‘It wasn’t a trick. I really did bleed. I’m awfully sore today. Harry’s very, um, he’s very big.’
‘Oh. I had no information on that, I’m afraid,’ he said stiffly. ‘But you survived the ordeal?’
‘Yes, I survived. He isn’t as clever with his tongue and his fingers as you are,’ she said, hoping to appease him.
‘So few men are.’ He wound a lock of her hair around his forefinger and tugged lightly. ‘This was a great success. Shaking it loose was a masterly touch. The maiden fair, the sunlight glinting in her hair. You looked so simple, so fresh and untouched... newly fallen snow. We’ll take our time, of course, marshall our forces and make sound plans... but if you had stood at that altar and called upon them to ride upon Winterfell that very hour, with your maiden’s cloak as their banner, they would have done it.’ He stretched out the curl and let it bounce back. ‘Perhaps they’ll also ride under your maiden’s sheet, eh?’
Sansa crinkled her nose. ‘I’d rather they didn’t. I wish it could be more private. Like us.’ She put her head down on his shoulder, tracing the embroidered pattern on his tunic with her forefinger.
‘Ah, but we are private because we must perforce be secret.’ He touched the tip of her nose. ‘Look at the bright side. You can hang upon your Harry, kiss him and fondle him, make much of him, and nobody will think it odd. The new bride, giddy in love, as you’ve never been with me.’
‘Don’t say that, Daddy - you must know I love you.’
‘But I shall never be your dashing young husband, the Young Falcon, avenging you through feats of blood and steel.’
‘If you avenge me through feats of ink and gold, I’ll be just as avenged. And just as grateful.’ She played with his silver mockingbird brooch, twisting and straightening it.
‘A mockingbird is as good as a falcon? Kind of you, my dear.’
‘I’ll still always wear this,’ she said, touching her locket. Whoever I am, and whatever I’m called.’ You are being just like Sweetrobin, she thought. I shouldn’t have to spend so much time coaxing both of you. I care far more for you than for him, I do love you in a way, but I need you to help me and teach me, not sit here and whine.
She touched his chin and kissed his lips, slowly, giving him her tongue very gradually in little feather-strokes. ‘How can I show you? Mmm?’
‘Do you kiss Harry like that?’
‘Of course not. I kiss him like this.’
‘And which one do you really mean?’
‘I mean them both, of course.’
‘That’s my good girl. Suck Daddy, and we’ll put all this behind us.’
When she left him, she meant to go back to check on Sweetrobin, but she was waylaid by Randa Royce in the corridor.
‘How are you? All right?’ Randa asked, linking her arm into Sansa’s and drawing her along to an alcove where they could sit down on a curved stone bench.
‘I think so, yes. I’m - I’m a bit sore. Down there,’ she added, dropping her voice to a whisper. ‘But it wasn’t all bad, and the hard part is over, isn’t it?’
‘Of course it is. Come along - I want you to see the maester, just to make sure everything’s in order.’
‘Oh no. No, there’s no need, surely!’ Despite her protests, she ended up in the room that had been allocated to Colemon for his medicines and books, lying on a high bench with her knees drawn up and apart and her skirt up around her waist. It was so close to how she had been lying on Petyr’s table not a quarter of an hour earlier that it made her skin break out in guilty prickles of sweat. Could a maester tell that she had just come, that a man not her husband had been licking her? She shouldn’t have let him do it, should have left after satisfying him, but he’d insisted, saying that it was only fair, particularly since she’d mentioned that Harry hadn’t done this for her. All that was just a pretext for how much he enjoyed the reactions he could get out of her, she was sure.
The reactions Colemon got out of her with a cautious examination were mainly winces and flinches. ‘There’s no serious damage,’ he concluded, more to Randa, who was sitting beside her and holding her hand in a proprietorial way, than to Sansa herself. ‘The hymen is torn, and there’s minor bruising about the vulva, but there are no other injuries. It should heal cleanly over the next few days, my lady. If the discomfort increases or if you notice any unusual discharge or odour, come back to me.’ He drew her skirts back down and turned away fastidiously, washing his hands in a basin.
‘Will I have a baby now?’ Sansa asked, sitting up. She hoped it wasn’t too naïve a question; she wanted to appear only rather naïve.
‘Only time will tell,’ Colemon said, drying his hands. ‘We must wait to see whether your monthly courses proceed as usual. If they don’t come for a month, we may suspect; if you miss two months’ blood, we may feel pretty sure; when you have missed three months we’ll know. It may take some time for you to conceive - you shouldn’t worry about it. In the meantime, I’ll give you a tonic to build you up.’
‘When are you due?’ Randa asked.
‘Er - in a fortnight.’ Sansa counted quickly on her fingers to be sure.
‘Plenty of time, then,’ Randa said with a grin. ‘But don’t be in too much of a hurry. Enjoy being a newlywed while you can.’
‘My lady Myranda, might I speak with Lady Stark in private?’ Colemon asked. When she had gone, he turned to Sansa with a worried expression. ‘Have you seen Lord Robert today?’
‘Yes - that is, I checked on him, but he was still sleeping. He seemed fine, only tired.’
‘He will grow harder and harder to rouse of a morning. This is what I warned you about, my lady. Prolonged use of sweetsleep will lead to a sleep from which there is no waking. I really think that we must find another way to treat his fits.’
‘What other way is there?’ Sansa asked, feeling hopeful for a moment. If there was another medicine that did the same more safely, of course Sweetrobin should take that.
‘I don’t know. I must write to the Citadel, consult with experts.’
‘You must not write to the Citadel. Not without Lord Baelish’s leave. He is still Lord Robert’s Protector and must make these decisions. Word of his illness could become a very dangerous rumour.’
‘I have served House Arryn for years. I couldn’t save Lord John. I must save Lord Robert. You understand, don’t you, my lady? Your own house is all but extinct. You know how it is.’
‘House Arryn has an heir,’ Sansa said coolly, ‘and soon, so will House Stark. Producing that heir is my chief concern now. I urge you to discuss your concerns with my lord - Baelish.’ She had almost said my lord father.
Driven partly by guilt, and partly by the fact that she needed to occupy herself until the hunting party came back, Sansa went to sit at Sweetrobin’s bedside. She instructed a maidservant to inform her as soon as the hunters returned, then settled down with a bit of needlework, a stack of handkerchiefs in need of falcons on their corners. Sweetrobin tended to just wipe his nose on his sleeves, but perhaps if he had nicer handkerchiefs he could be reminded to use them. She stitched away, glancing up from time to time to see if he showed signs of waking, but he slept heavily for more than an hour, only once rolling over and snuggling into a new position.
There was a light tap at the door, and she perked up as she called ‘Come in,’ but it was only a servant asking whether she would like some luncheon brought up to her. She ate a little bread, cheese and cold meat from last night’s feast. There was even a leftover lemon cake, and she wafted half of it under the little boy’s nose to see if it tempted him awake. It worked like magic, and he sat up and scoffed it down with a cup of milk.
‘Is all the fuss over now?’ he asked her plaintively.
‘Nearly,’ Sansa said, blotting a dribble from the corner of his mouth with a napkin. ‘A few more days, and then people will forget all about it, and we can have peace and quiet again.’ At least until I have my first baby... or until we all set off to take back Winterfell... or whatever is going to happen. Would she go along on any such venture, or be expected to stay here in relative safety? They would need to discuss it, she, Petyr and Harry, perhaps Lady Anya as well, the other lords that they would need to get on side. When would Harry be back from his hunt? Oh, she wanted to see him, to be back in bed with him, sore as she was. Sweetrobin drowsed again, and she went back to her needlework, daydreaming of Harry and all the things she wanted to do with him. Things, of course, she couldn’t possibly know about, unless perhaps she told him she went to Randa Royce for advice on how to please her new husband. Indeed, in case he ever mentioned it to Randa, perhaps jokingly, or he mentioned it to a friend who then mentioned it to her, it would be well if she had really done so.
Accordingly, she went and had a little heart-to-heart with Randa, and managed to winkle out of her most of what she wanted.
‘You’re very keen,’ Randa said, sounding half admiring, half worried.
‘Harry’s so lovely,’ Sansa gushed. ‘So big and strong but so gentle too. I just want him to be very, very happy, and never regret choosing me.’
‘I know, but... let him feel he’s the one to teach you. He’ll enjoy that more.’
Sansa was dozing half asleep in her chair by Sweetrobin’s bed when a servant gently nudged her awake with the news of the hunting party’s return. Snow was falling and the sky was iron grey, a red sun sinking on the horizon, as she scurried down to meet them in the courtyard. They were just riding in, the horses’ hooves clattering and kicking up the snow, Harry’s cheeks cherry-red and his eyes sparkling as he swung down from the saddle and rushed to embrace her, lifting her off her feet and spinning her around before he gave her a great smacking kiss.
‘Your nose is cold!’ she exclaimed; it was like an icicle pressed into her cheek.
‘You’re lovely and warm. Look what a fine buck we’ve got! Too late in the day for him to be tonight’s supper, I suppose, but he’ll be all the better for hanging a while.’
‘Harry, you’re all over blood - are you hurt?’
‘It’s not my blood,’ he said, laughing. ‘You’ve seen men come back from the hunt before, haven’t you?’
‘Yes, but you’re my precious new husband! It would be terrible if you were hurt even a little.’
‘Well,’ he said, nuzzling her cheek, ‘perhaps if we go upstairs I can show you that I’m not hurt even a tiny little. Shall we?’
‘Should we?’ she asked, all aquiver.
‘I’ll need a hot bath before I’m fit for company.’
‘You’ve got company now, or can’t you tell?’ Ivar said, laughing loudly and clapping Harry on the back. ‘They’re blind and deaf to all but each other,’ he shouted to the rest of the men, who guffawed and cheered and made gestures that made Sansa hide her face in the front of Harry’s cloak. They only roared louder when he scooped her up in his arms and carried her inside, and she could feel his own laughter through his broad chest.
Up in their room he held her on his knee and kissed her hungrily while blushing, giggling maidservants rushed in and out with buckets of hot water for his bath. Sansa tried her best to ignore them, to concentrate only on Harry’s mouth, his eager hands undoing her hair, the urgent bulge of his cock under her bottom. He whispered in her ear that he was hard from the moment he saw her come running down to the courtyard, that he wanted nothing and no-one more than her.
‘My beautiful girl,’ he breathed against her neck. ‘Have they gone at last?’
‘I think so. May I undress you?’ He nodded and she began, carefully clumsy, frequently interrupted by wet kisses. She unlaced and peeled off his bloody doublet, his sweat-damp shirt, the smell of his body hot and sharp and oniony. He helped her with his breeches, to manoeuvre them over his great stiff cock, springing up all rosy-pink, the head gleaming wet. Sansa took a deep brave breath and touched it gently, running her fingertips along its length, and he gave a little grunt of delight.
‘Will you hold it?’ he murmured. ‘Just like this.’ He guided her hand to wrap around the shaft, grasping it underhand, and she bit her lip as she rubbed it up and down. ‘Ohhh... oh, darling wife, sweetest girl!’ He groaned in dismay as she got up to pull off his boots and tug his breeches down over his feet.
‘Don’t you want your bath?’ Sansa chided him.
‘I only want my bath if you are in it too.’ He beamed up at her, sprawled in the big chair with his ruddy cock up against his flat, brown-furred belly.
‘Oh, all right,’ she said, with a pout that turned into a laugh, and made a start on unlacing her gown.
‘No no no, let me!’ He bounded up and fumbled with her laces, thick eager fingers picking at the bow. She helped him untie it and loosen them, helped him skin her out of the gown and her smallclothes, fell into his arms again laughing and naked except for her stockings. He dropped to his knees to pull them down, lifting one foot, then the other, pressing a kiss on each instep before he set it down and gazed up at her. Sansa had covered her breasts with her arms, but she lowered them, producing a blush that became genuine when he kissed her pubic hair.
‘We’d better get in the bath before the water is cold,’ she faltered.
‘We had.’ He helped her into the tub, ever the gentleman, and they sank into the hot water together, Sansa leaning against him.
‘I should wash you,’ she protested as his big hands cupped and squeezed her breasts.
‘I’ll soak clean.’
‘Noooo, you need soap. I’ll scrub you till you’re all clean and pink.’ She did her best, until he managed to slip his fingers between her thighs, and she gave in, draping herself over him and moaning softly as the sweetness grew. ‘Oh... oh Harry...’
‘Here, like this - here...’ He guided her down, slipped his cock into her, pushing through the slight resistance that remained. ‘Ssssansa... oh...’
By the time he came they had sloshed half the water out of the bathtub. Sansa was whimpering still, and longing for the way Petyr would have made her come by now.
‘Not yet, little wife?’ Harry panted.
‘Not... not quite...’
‘Mmm... soon though.’ He helped her up, wrapped her in a warm towel, rubbed her down and tumbled her into bed.
‘What about supper?’
‘Don’t want supper, want you,’ he mumbled, burying his face between her breasts. ‘Sweet little wife!’ He drew her nipple into his mouth and sucked deeply, moving his hand between her thighs, stroking and rubbing, thick strong fingers different from Petyr’s slim nimble ones, but getting her there, lifting her hips, arching up with little squeaky gasps until the tension burst in great wet pulses, stars in her head.
‘I love how you’ve taken to it,’ Harry said fondly, stroking her tummy as she caught her breath. ‘I was worried... you’re so little...’
‘Perhaps soon I’ll be big,’ she breathed, laying her hand over his. ‘Do you think...’
‘Perhaps... shall we keep trying?’
Trying was the word; life was trying when she was spread so thin between the three of them. Sweetrobin needier and more peevish than ever, because he knew, as how could he not? that all the time she was with him she wanted to be with Harry. Petyr demanding too, insisting that she spend hours closeted with him at her lessons. He allowed her to sit in on the councils between himself, Harry, Lady Anya and the various lords and bannermen that they were gradually bringing on side for the march on Winterfell. The Vale having stayed out of the war to date, resources were plentiful, and the only obstacle to overcome was an understandable reluctance to risk them now.
‘It’s good for you to be there; you are the damsel in distress,’ he said. ‘Let them see you. Look soulful; those lovely blue eyes with just the faintest gloss of tears.’
She was even allowed to speak, within certain bounds. It was best if she only asked questions, guiding the direction of the conversation while appearing simply to need things explained to her. Harry looked at her admiringly when she spoke up this way, and held and stroked her hand on top of the table. Sometimes, on the other side, she would feel Petyr’s foot touch hers, encouraging or warning.
When they were alone together, he would give her notes on her performance, and interrogate her about what passed between her and Harry in private until she was weary of it and tried to distract him with kisses.
‘Now then.’ He pushed her back. ‘I must know these things, Sansa.’
‘You couldn’t know any more unless you slept in between us,’ she protested. ‘Please, Daddy... I get so tired.’ She plucked at the front of his doublet and pouted up at him.
‘Your moonblood’s due soon, isn’t it?’ he asked briskly.
‘Well, I hope not,’ she said. ‘But yes, if it comes, it will be in the next two or three days.’
‘Harry’s certainly pumped enough of his seed into you. Perhaps we’ll see results.’ He patted her tummy. ‘I think you’re a little rounder, but that’s only from good eating.’
‘You do say unkind things sometimes.’ She walked away from him and sat down on the edge of his desk. ‘I have tried so hard to do everything you want, but you aren’t pleased with me.’
‘Of course I’m pleased. You’re a good girl. There.’ He spoke briskly still, but his expression softened a little. ‘And a good little wife. I can see how blissfully happy Harry is. Hence my... discontent. Which I realise, before you say anything, is quite unreasonable.’
‘I understand it, though.’
‘But you don’t feel the same way. You’re in love with him.’
‘You wanted me to fall in love with him,’ Sansa protested. ‘Remember? For a happy union and a strong house?’
‘Precisely.’ Petyr drew nearer, resting his hand lightly on her knee. ‘And, I’m sure, many strong sons and pretty daughters. All of them bright and brave and... big, like Harry.’
‘Daddy, don’t be nasty.’ She gave him a smile, though, to placate him, and draped her arms around his shoulders.
‘Do you think there’s one in here right now?’ He touched her tummy again, more gently.
‘I don’t know what it would feel like. I thought I felt a bit queasy this morning, but I wasn’t ill.’
‘Breasts tender?’ he asked, his hand straying upward. ‘Let Daddy check. Ah - they are, a little, aren’t they?’
‘That’s good, yes?’
‘Very good.’ He pinched through her bodice and made her catch her breath. ‘Now. Any other news?’
Sansa sighed and racked her brains. ‘Harry gave me a falcon. A little red-tailed hawk. I’ve called her Alayne.’
‘Fond of the name, were you?’ The corner of his mouth curled, and he twined a strand of her hair around his forefinger.
‘He’s teaching me to train her. She’s pretty, I suppose, although she has fierce eyes. Sweetrobin is quite afraid of her, but he tries not to show it before Harry. The funny thing is that he will actually leave his rooms and venture outdoors, to do things with us, because he hates Harry so.’
‘Are you sure it’s not that he admires Harry, and wants to follow him about?’
‘Oh no! He hates him! You should see the filthy looks he gives him. And Harry keeps being so kind and nice to him, because he’s sorry for him, and that only makes Robin loathe him more. Yesterday he actually said to Harry “She was mine first, you know”.’
‘Ah, little does he know.’ Hands back down to her knees, sliding upward, dragging the heavy velvet of her skirt with them.
‘Well, Sweetrobin doesn’t understand anything about that.’
‘Thank all the gods he isn’t a few years older, or he’d be following you around trying to get his tiny prick wet.’ He had it up over her knees now, and was fingering the little soft place just inside and behind her knee, where he well knew she was ticklish.
‘He would. Who could blame him? He’ll share my predicament; a lifelong infatuation with redheads.’ Hands behind her knees, he lifted them, guiding her to sink back and lie on the tabletop, resting her heels on his shoulders. ‘And little red cunts... with soft little pink lips.’ He bent and kissed her tummy just above the dark-red hair.
‘Do you know... I’m not sure Harry has ever done this... he’s never kissed my cunny at all. And I can’t tell him he should, because how would little Sansa know?’ She felt his warm breath stirring her pubic hair, his lips and the tip of his nose pressing into her mound as he kissed her, then his tongue softly swishing against her outer lips.
‘Mmm... fool... doesn’t he know how good you taste?’ Slow, soft strokes against her labia, breathing deeper.
‘I s’pose not... ah...’ She tilted her hips up, reaching down to stroke his head, combing her fingertips through his hair. ‘Oh... where could I get the idea?’
‘Don’t. Just get it from me.’
‘Your cunt licked.’ He nuzzled deeper, flicking his tonguetip over her clitoris. ‘I like the idea... can only get it from Daddy... mmm...’ Tongue flickering rapidly, making her pant and shiver, fingers curling in his hair.
‘Oh, but... oh...’ Her slipper dropped off her foot as her toes clenched, falling on his back. ‘Daddy...’ She squeaked faintly as he slipped two fingers inside her, beckoning. ‘Oh, Petyr, yes...’
‘Want Daddy to fuck you?’
‘Yes, but... but what good does it do... let’s not... aah...’
‘Let me just rub it there... I’ll come on your belly. I promise, Sansa.’
‘Oh... oh all right.’ She lifted her head to watch him. Such a lovely relief to feel his cock there again, shaft rubbing up and down, up and down, his head tilted back and his mouth dropping slightly open, sharp eyes gone vague and hazy with desire, and seeing that look and feeling the same need she grew stupid and whispered ‘Put it in.’
‘I’ll still... oh Sansa... gods...’ He was surging inside her, grunting, and oh, he felt right there. She slipped her legs around his waist, wrapped them tight, arched up to him and let the growing joy roll through her. ‘My beautiful... sweet, sweet little creature...’
‘Ah!’ There was a part of her that knew, the whole time, how madly foolish it was, as she was sure there was part of him, but those weren’t the parts making these decisions, the parts feeling so overwhelmingly good that she could have screamed; she had to clench her jaw, and only a strangled groan escaped as it all burst inside her. Petyr pulled out with a gasp, and slumped over her. She lay under his heavy, sweating weight, catching her breath, dizzy and joyful.
‘Tell me I’m better than Harry,’ he mumbled into her shoulder. ‘Tell me.’
‘Better than Harry,’ she breathed. ‘So... so better.’
‘Seasoned older man, mm?’
‘Mmm.’ She could feel a sticky mess on her tummy; he had kept his word. It was true and not true. Better and worse. ‘Sometimes... sometimes I wish you had just married me yourself.’
‘It would hardly... Sansa, we can’t undo... ugh. Don’t ruin it, sweetling.’ He lifted himself on his arms and pushed his hair back from his forehead, shiny with sweat. ‘Well. We shouldn’t do this again. Very weak of me. I don’t blame you.’
‘Maybe once we’re sure I’m pregnant...’
‘Ah, then hurry up.’
That night, after Harry had made love to her repeatedly and fallen asleep with a cherubic little smile on his face, she lay awake thinking. Yes; Harry made love to her, Petyr fucked her. That did not bother her. She liked both; it was only awkward that she couldn’t have both from one man.
But why did she like both? Fucking was degrading. Calling her lover ‘Daddy’ was degrading. Being asked to suck his cock, or to piss for him on command, all that was thoroughly degrading and shameful, the type of thing that a poor girl in a brothel would do, only because she was desperate for the money, or because she would be beaten if she refused. He had taken advantage of her when she was lonely and afraid; it was wrong. She knew all this when she deliberately thought about it, but most of the time she simply did not think of it. Why?
What would have happened if she had refused him? Would he have harmed her? She realised she had no idea. She believed that he truly cared for her, but knew also that he could be truly ruthless. Would he simply not have helped her? No, surely not; he had made his plans for her and Harry, and offered them to her as a gift, well before she had given herself to him.
But he had begun kissing her, and requiring kisses from her in return, before that.
Sansa rolled out of bed, wrapped her bedrobe around her and padded to the privy, where she emptied her bladder, her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands. She could feel Harry’s seed leaking from her cunny, a warm squishy seepage. Did she already have a baby in her womb - a tiny, oh so tiny baby that would grow into a real child? A sweet, loving Harry-baby with big grey eyes and soft brown curls? Or perhaps auburn hair like hers and her mother’s; perhaps it would even look like her poor father, a grandchild he would have been proud and glad to have. If she had a boy, she would ask Harry if they could call him Eddard. For a girl, it might be a good idea to name her Anya, though she did not especially like the name.
Instead of returning to bed, she went and sat on the hearthrug, a wolfskin in this room, and poked at the embers of the fire, feeding it a few little pieces of wood. The wolf’s pelt was thick and warm, coarse and shaggy, quite different from the sleekness of shadowcat fur. Sansa sat twining strands of it around her fingers, unable to quieten her mind.
Why did she still want Petyr? She should be going to him reluctantly now, giving in only to oblige him, not itching for him. It was not as simple as the fact that he could make her come more easily and reliably than Harry could (and Harry was getting better and better at that). She was certain that she was not in love with him; she was in love with Harry. She loved him, though not without doubts and reservations. Why did she love him? He had taken care of her when no-one else would, but so had Tyrion and that had not made her love him. On the other hand, if Tyrion had been a normal height with a handsome face, or at least a plain face, rather than an ugly and disfigured one, might she have loved him? What if, and this was a squirmingly uncomfortable thought, the Hound had not been ugly and disfigured too? No, he had still been wrong inside, frightening - more frightening than Petyr, who had pushed her aunt out the Moon Door before her astonished eyes?
Harry was a good man. He was kind-hearted and honest.
As far as she knew. So far.
Was she, Sansa, a good woman?
Just because other people did bad things to you didn’t mean you were good.
She heard Harry murmur as he woke, then the bedding rustling and the bedstead creaking as he sat up and swung his feet to the floor.
‘Little wife?’ he said, his voice husky and blurred with sleep.
‘Over here,’ she replied.
‘I missed you,’ he said, shuffling over to join her, sitting behind her with his long legs stretched out on either side of her. ‘In my sleep I missed you. Where’s sweet warm soft little Sansa, I thought?’ He wrapped his arms around her, burying his face in the tumble of her hair. ‘Mmm. Smell so nice. I have the best-smelling wife in the seven kingdoms.’
‘You haven’t smelt all the wives,’ Sansa said, kissing the back of his wrist. ‘At least I hope not.’ She was relieved to be distracted, especially if Harry was in a silly mood.
‘That’s true. I haven’t smelt the Dornishman’s wife.’
‘The song is about tasting her, not smelling her.’
‘You taste lovely too. You taste so clean... your tongue is like a little fish.’
‘Are you saying I taste like fish?’
‘No no no, it’s all clean and smooth and slick and darts like a little fish. And fresh fish is clean and fresh, not smelly or... fishy. You are my fresh little fish. Freshy fishy.’
‘I am only tolerating that because of my Tully ancestors,’ Sansa said haughtily.
‘I love you, pretty little wife.’
‘I love you too, big strong husband.’ She twisted around and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, her legs around his hips, and kissed him softly and leisurely.
‘What would you like to do tomorrow?’
‘Um... I would like you to wake me up with kisses... I would like to have hot bread and honey for breakfast... and I would like to take little Alayne out to stretch her wings.’
‘What happens in between the kisses and breakfast?’
‘I would need to wash my face and brush my hair and get dressed.’
‘In between the kisses and washing your face?’
‘You want me to say something naughty.’ She smiled shyly and slyly.
‘It’s not naughty. We’re married, so it’s very good.’
‘Then... I would like you to wake me up with kisses... on my forehead, and on my cheeks, on my mouth, on my neck... I would like you to stroke my breasts, and kiss them too...’
‘I’m going to kiss you on your nose, too. It’s a pretty nose.’ His hands idled between her shoulders and elbows, gliding up and down.
‘You may kiss my nose.’
‘I might kiss your breasts too, and suck the little pink tips.’
‘Yes, please. And stroke my tummy... and my legs... and rub...’
‘Just rub your legs?’ He slipped his hands under her arms and traced up and down the sides of her body, settling on her hips.
‘What else likes being rubbed?’ He leaned in, smiling, his eyes dark and shining.
‘Don’t be shy, my lovely darling. Where do you like me to rub?’
‘My pussy,’ she whispered in his ear.
‘Dear little pussy.’ One hand gliding down over her tummy, cupping her mound, fingertips in the cleft. ‘How does she like to be rubbed?’
‘Very gently to start with.’
‘Mm...’ She kissed his cheek, nuzzling as his fingers nuzzled against her lips. ‘Oh, Harry...’ The soft little lapping sound began.
‘There are warm springs under Winterfell, aren’t there?’
‘There’s one under here, too.’ His middle finger slipped in, and she sighed. ‘It wells up.’
‘Harry, I was wondering.’
‘It feels so nice... when you kiss here... and here... here... what if you kissed there too?’
He looked up at her, his face blank with surprise. ‘Really?’
‘Not if you wouldn’t like to. Not if it would be nasty for you,’ she said hastily.
‘No, no, no. All right.’ He still sounded hesitant. ‘Lie back, little wife.’ She did, with a sinking feeling that she was inveigling him into something he didn’t like. She felt a few hesitant dabs of his lips before he said ‘I’m sorry Sansa, no. It’s not your fault. I can taste my - my stuff. It’s not clean.’
‘I could have a wash...’ she said forlornly.
‘Don’t. It’s all right. Here.’ His fingers inside her again, his thumb massaging her clitoris. ‘That’s nice, isn’t it?’
‘That just isn’t a good place to kiss, but I do still love it very, very much.’
‘Your warm spring?’
‘My warm spring.’ He moved over her, came up to suckle at her breasts.
‘We used to soak in them. In the godswood. Will you - when we go there - when it’s ours - will you do that with me?’
‘Every day, if you want to.’ Fingers moving faster, the lapping sound a rhythmic sucking now.
‘Oh... oh Harry...’
‘And I swear by your warm spring, I’ll bring you to the godswood, and we’ll ask the blessing of your family’s old gods for our marriage and all our children.’
‘Ah!’ Sansa arched up to him, her hips twitching.
‘Yes, yes now!’
‘Oh, my sweet little wife.’ He pushed into her with a groan, settling his weight on her, holding her hips, covering her mouth with his. They rolled together, Harry’s deep, breathy grunts counterpointing Sansa’s mews and squeaks. ‘Lovely...’
She wrapped her legs tight around him, panting, lost in swelling joy, until the pleasure burst into sweet little shivers. When he was still and heavy on top of her, she traced little fingertip patterns on his back, curlicues in sweat.
‘I love my wife,’ Harry breathed. ‘I love our baby.’
‘We don’t have a baby yet.’
‘Soon, though. Hmm?’
To her shock, her moonblood came the next morning, when Harry was out riding with Ivor - but it was only a trace that had stopped by midday. Hurriedly drying her face, she went to Maester Colemon.
‘What does it mean?’ she asked.
‘It may mean nothing at all,’ he said, peering critically at her vulva. ‘Has it always been regular before?’
‘Always. It lasts for four days, five at the most. It doesn’t stop and start.’
‘In some cases, light or irregular bleeding still occurs in the early months.’
‘I never knew that. I thought it just stopped.’
‘In most cases it does.’ He turned away to wash his hands.
‘You might have told me.’
‘There was no need to confuse you with excessive detail.’
‘I don’t understand,’ Sansa wailed. ‘Is there a baby or not? What should I tell Harry?’
‘Don’t tell him anything yet. Wait and see, and if anything changes, tell me immediately. Have you been taking your tonic?’
‘Yes, of course. Please, Maester, you’re not answering my question. Is there a baby?’
‘I do not know. There may be. Would that I could simply look inside you and see.’
Sansa repaired to the sept, where she knelt before the image of the Mother, praying over and over for a clear and unmistakable sign.
‘Please. Please. I have no mother now, be my mother, tell me what to do.’
After a while she fell silent and simply knelt there, gazing at the floor. Petyr found her there.
‘Are you all right?’ he asked, his voice quiet, more out of discretion, she thought, than reverence.
‘Yes,’ she said flatly.
‘I have never felt particularly attuned to the Mother, I must say,’ he remarked, sitting down beside her. ‘Not surprising, of course, as I’m a man; but then I don’t feel all that close to the Father, Warrior or Smith either.’
‘She saved me once,’ Sansa said.
‘I never knew you had a religious experience.’
‘During the battle on the Blackwater... the Hound came to see me in my room in Maegor’s Tower. He had been calling me little bird, and he said I had to sing for him, and he backed me onto the bed... I thought he might rape me. He was so frightening. I sang him a song of the Mother, that we had sung in the sept earlier... and he went away.’
Petyr gave a muffled laugh. ‘You sang him a hymn, and he repented of his evil designs on your maidenhead and tore off into the night?’
‘It’s not funny. I felt sorry for him.’
‘But you thought he would rape you.’
‘You can be afraid of someone and sorry for him too.’
‘I wonder if he was in love with you.’
‘I have no idea.’ She looked up at the Mother again. ‘Say a prayer, please.’
‘Really? Do you think it will do any good, coming from me?’
‘If you love me, it should.’
‘Of course I love you. If not as a father, as a particularly devoted uncle by marriage.’ He cleared his throat. ‘O Mother, I humbly pray to you. Please watch over my beloved Sansa. Keep her safe and well, and help her to bear a strong, healthy child, the first of many.’
‘Not too many. A good number.’
‘What number would you like? Let’s not be vague. Vague prayers will get us nowhere. The Mother can’t work without clear instructions.’ He gave her a crooked little smile and she could not help smiling back.
‘I think two boys and two girls. Perhaps one more boy in reserve.’
‘Best if the first is a boy, O Mother. A strong, healthy, bright boy. I personally would like him to have his mother’s eyes, but then, my preferences are not paramount.’
‘I would like him to look like his father,’ Sansa said. ‘I wonder how soon I can know?’
‘Generally it’s necessary for the child to be born. You probably would not enjoy having a spyglass poked up there.’
Sansa smothered a laugh. ‘I mean how soon can I know that there’s a baby. I think there might be, but perhaps I’m imagining it because I want it so much.’ She darted a sidelong glance at Petyr. ‘Do you have any children? Real ones?’
‘Not to my knowledge. I’ve tried to avoid it.’
He shrugged. ‘I’ve never married, and bastards are a weak point. One that many men have, it’s true, but I prefer to be unencumbered.’
‘I haven’t asked you this before, but I expect you know. Is it true that Harry has one, or perhaps two, already?’
‘One that I am sure about. The other... the wench says it’s his, but I have doubts. She’s known to be a little too free with her favour.’
‘Good,’ Sansa said firmly. ‘That means there’s nothing wrong with him.’
‘That’s the spirit.’
‘Does he provide for them?’
‘Yes; discreetly. As a matter of fact, he asked my advice on ensuring they will be taken care of when we make for Winterfell.’
‘Waiting for a few more hands. Recalcitrant bannermen. I’d like you to give them the big blue eyes again.’
‘All right... will I go with you to Winterfell?’
‘Oh, yes, of necessity. The men mustn’t forget what they’re fighting for.’
‘We couldn’t bring Sweetrobin, though. Not on a journey like that... he wouldn’t survive.’
Petyr leaned over and whispered in her ear, ‘All the more reason to bring him.’ Hearing her intake of breath, he went on. ‘In our concern for his wellbeing and safety, naturally we bring him along.’
‘But he would be safer here,’ she whispered back, a shiver creeping up her spine. ‘Lord Nestor...’
‘Will be riding with us... you know that. A witness... as we’ll have many witnesses... that every care will be taken. But the boy is not strong. The strain of travel... the cold as we go further north, and winter deepens...’ His breath was tickling her ear.
‘Sansa. I would never kill a child.’ His voice was so quiet it was almost the voice of her own thoughts. ‘I don’t have to.’
‘She can hear you,’ Sansa blurted, glancing up at the image of the Mother.
‘Do you think so?’ Petyr flicked his gaze up at the kindly face. ‘I have my doubts.’