He’s walking through the walls of the inner keep when Lord Varys finds him, and the spider has to hurry to keep up with his long strides, for he refuses to slow down. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to temper his penchant conversation.
‘She has asked for you.’
The soft, girlish voice puts him on edge. Fucking dishonest bastard. He’d like nothing more than to run him through with his sword, to shove it up his arse and roast him over a spit, like a prize sow.
‘I know,’ he replies. She has asked for him twice now, but he won’t go. He pretends it’s because he can’t get away, his days now full with endless questions and trials and the protection of the new king. But really, he knows he can’t bear to see her in chains, miserable and squalid and covered in filth. He continues onwards, the spider shuffling alongside, rubbing his hands, one over the other, as he speaks, only Sandor doesn’t hear.
He’s angry, angrier than he’s ever been in his entire life. What the fuck was she thinking? Slipping the poison into his wine right at the high table, where everyone could see her? The girl had completely taken leave of her senses. And where would she have gotten the poison? From the Imp, most probably, he thinks. Such a pretty, timid little thing. She wouldn’t have acted alone in this.
He catches Varys next words. ‘She names you her champion.’
That makes him stop. He shouldn’t be surprised, but he is. He thought she’d name some young, handsome knight to be her champion, perhaps that Tyrell whelp. Hearing that she has named him makes him bark out a laugh. Of course, she would assume that he’d come running when she clicked her fingers, he thinks. Just like one of those true knights that she loves so much. Stupid little bird. True knights don’t exist, he’s told her before. He feels rage boiling inside of him, that she would raise him on a pedestal to such heights. She thinks I’m going to act the gallant knight for her, and charge in on a white horse just like those fucking songs. He snorts with derision.
‘I should tell you,’ Varys continues, ‘that Queen Cersei intends to name your brother Gregor as her champion.’
The mention of his brother brings forth a rush of hot anger, yet he answers Varys with disinterest. ‘What business is that of mine?’ he rasps.
Varys eyes widen slightly and he shoots a knowing glance in Sandor’s direction. ‘The Lady Sansa stands accused of regicide. Surely you must know if you do not champion her, she will most likely be found guilty and executed.’
The thought of a dead Sansa Stark makes his chest clench and bile rise in his throat, but he manages to demand a question of Varys, something that had been plaguing his mind since the spider had come to him the day before with the little bird’s request to see him.
‘Why are so you keen to see her freed?’ he challenges. ‘You know as well as I that she’s guilty.’
The Spider lets out high-pitched giggle that makes Sandor want to smash his fist into that pale, powdered face. ‘Guilt… innocence…’ Varys sighs softly. ‘They are often two sides of the same coin, are they not?’
He scowls and remains quiet, his disdain for the Master of the Whisperers ever growing by the second. Veiled comments, hidden meanings, ulterior motives. For the thousandth time, he curses his decision not to leave Kings Landing months ago, when the mouth of the Blackwater burned green with wildfire. He thought then that he would stay and protect her, and he had. But he can’t anymore, not now that she’s gone and done something so fucking stupid.
‘Tell her…’ he trails off as Varys waits, head cocked to the side, eyes inscrutable. He thinks of the little bird, of her presumption that he’d champion her, of her unfailing belief that he was a good man, and a true knight. Well he knows what he is, and it isn’t that. Bloody foolish girl. The fury wells up in him once more, a fire so fierce it almost burns through his skin to consume the man in front of him. ‘Tell her no. She can fucking rot in that cell for all I care.’
Sansa stares down at the ground, unable to raise her head; the bright sunshine hurts her eyes after the oppressive darkness of the black cells. She absently wonders whom they have found to fight for her. Doubtless some greedy sellsword, whose pockets would be lined with gold when they drag him from the arena, thick, dark blood pumping from his wounds. She knows that she should look up now, to at least glance at the man whom they have found to defend her. It would be the ladylike thing to do, to acknowledge such a sacrifice. But everyone has deserted her, and she will most likely die on the morrow. She cannot muster the will to be courteous. She no longer cares.
The crowd roars, and Sansa knows that the Mountain has made his appearance. Even though she is still fixated on her own feet, she can see figures moving before her from under her lashes. There is no mistaking that gigantic, monstrous shadow, lumbering around with as much grace as a bull. Raising her head slightly, Sansa gives him a quick glance. Covered head to toe in steel and leather, Gregor Clegane looks every inch the unconquerable warrior. His greatsword is planted in the ground before him, his iron covered fist wrapped around the hilt. The thing is huge, most definitely longer that Sansa stands tall. So this is the man to proclaim her death sentence. She wants to cry, to scream, to curl into a ball and weep from the unfairness of it all, but finds that she cannot. Instead, she just about catches the prayers of the High Septon over the din of the crowd.
Ser Osmund Kettleblack moves forward to strap a shield to the Mountain’s arm. The screams of the crowd grow louder; they echo in her ears, reverberate through her entire body. With a jolt, she realises they are crying out, desperate for blood, her blood, and her breath comes faster, her heart pumps harder, until a great hush falls over the keep and a deep, cruel laugh booms out.
‘So you’ve come to die little brother?’
Her head whips up. There he stands, his familiar, towering figure insignificant in comparison to his opponent. His snarling dog helm is open; dark eyes a blaze of fury. She thinks she sees them flicker over to where she is sat, but a second later they are looking away again, so she must have imagined it. A wave of warmth swells in her chest, and a queer feeling settles in her stomach as she waits for his retort to his brother. He says nothing, however. Somewhere in the distance, a horn is blown.
He slams his visor shut, and her heart is in her throat.