Come to the godswood tonight, if you want to go home.
She'd burned the parchment that bore those words, but still they ran through her head, over and over and over again.
The godswood. Tonight. Home.
Sansa wanted to go just as much as she didn't want to go, and when she heard the shouts and saw the bridge suddenly undefended...it was as if the decision had been made for her.
Once she was surrounded by the trees a strange stillness enveloped Sansa, and she found herself praying to the old gods she'd generally ignored for most of her life. Help me. Send me a friend, a true knight to champion me...
She moved deeper into the godswood, running her fingers across the trees as she passed them, wondering who this person was, where this person was, whether it was a trap after all...
"I don't know if I should be glad that you're here, or call you stupid for responding to a summons without knowing who it was from," a familiar voice rasped.
The Hound stepped out of the shadows, and Sansa breathed a sigh that was part shock, part disappointment...and part relief.
Well, that was that - the little bird was a complete and utter fool. He'd suspected, of course, but now he knew for sure.
More fool you, for participating in this buggering farce.
He almost hadn't come. Wouldn't have, in fact, if it weren't for all that wine. A gift for helping the girl, the note had said. He knew who it came from and shouldn't have trusted the person or the drink, but he'd ingested the damned stuff anyway and now here he was.
And if she's an arse for obeying that note's instructions, you're an arse for getting involved in this at all.
The little bird had been silent for some time, but finally she whispered, "It...it was you?"
Sandor backed up, stumbling a bit as he leaned against the closest tree and folded his arms across his chest. He assumed she meant the note, and while he'd neither written nor delivered the thing, she needn't know who had. "Aye."
"Wh...what do you want from me?" the girl stuttered. Sandor rolled his eyes.
"To help you, I suppose," he grunted.
Sansa Stark bit her lip and cut her eyes at him, then immediately looked away. As usual. "You're drunk, aren't you?"
He shrugged. "And what of it? Do you want my help or not, little bird?"
She seemed to be fingering something that was tucked up her sleeve, and quick as lightning Sandor reached out and took hold of her wrist with one hand, using the other to extract the little knife from her grip. He chuckled at the shock and fright that flashed across her face. "Did you think to kill me, girl?" he asked, but deep within he felt a stab of respect for even this little bit of intelligence and courage on her part.
"N-no, my lord...pardons...I never...I didn't know who would be here..."
"Like as not you thought it would be some handsome knight. Or at least hoped it would be. Well, instead you've got me. No lord, no knight, here on a fool's errand and drunk to boot." He laughed again and the little bird cringed and tried to wriggle out of his grasp. "Have no fear, though, little bird. Isn't there a song about a fool who was greater than any true knight, or some such nonsense?"
Sansa Stark stiffened in his grip. "Florian," she murmured. "Florian and Jonquil."
"If you say so. You'd know the song better than I, girl."
"How...how will you take me home?" was all that she said in response.
"Have to get you out of the castle first, but then a ship, I suppose. That would be easiest anyway." In all truth he hadn't much thought about the how. Didn't think much about the why either, but then what good would it do you if you had?
"Could we go now?" she asked, and the obvious hope in her voice caused him to release her hand as if she'd stung him.
"Now?" Sandor replied incredulously, again thinking what a fool this girl was. "This isn't a thing to be done immediately, girl." He eyed the small blade in his hand for a long moment, then thrust it back toward her, hilt-first. "Put this away. I'll get you home, I can promise you that, but it'll be done on my time. And remember, if we need to meet or talk it will be here and only here. And don't expect me to be suddenly kind or courteous to you, little bird. The wrong look, the wrong word, the wrong move, and the king and his bitch mother will have both our heads. Like they did your father's. Understand?"
Sansa Stark's chin trembled, but she nodded and no tears spilled from her eyes. "Please..." she finally begged. "Please, make it soon."
He almost responded to that. Almost. But the harsh words stuck in his throat and instead Sandor only rasped, "You should return to your chambers. Before you're missed. Come." He gestured toward the path and the little bird turned tentatively toward it. Only when Sandor placed his hand on her back, between her shoulder blades, and gave her as gentle a push as he could manage did she move.
Sandor remained silent as they walked, knowing that if he said anything this entire situation would unravel quick as that little shit of a king's temper did when things didn't go his way.
Don't think about Joffrey, he told himself. You and your sword belong to her now.
Most of their walk back to Maegor's was quiet - until they came upon Ser Boros guarding the drawbridge. Sansa stopped automatically, flinching against the Hound's hand when he tried to continue pushing her forward. He moved his hand to her shoulder, though, and after a few rude words with Ser Boros they were on their way again. What if he hadn't been there? she thought, trying to breathe through her panic.
"Why do you let him call you a dog, when you won't let anyone call you a knight?" she finally asked him, hoping that a conversation, any conversation, would calm her.
"You think I want to be on the same level with the likes of him?" The Hound jerked his thumb back at Ser Boros. "I like dogs better than knights. But you...you like your knights, I know. The ones in the songs, the same songs that you chirp because that's what you were taught to do. Why don't you sing me a song? Maybe that one you mentioned before about the fool and his cunt?"
His harsh words scared her, but Sansa stood her ground. "Florian and Jonquil," she corrected him, surprised at the steely tone her voice took on just then. "I will sing it for you gladly."
He snorted in derision. "Spare me. You're a pretty little bird and a very bad liar. A dog can sniff out a lie, you know. And a dog won't lie to you, either. Die for you, maybe, but never lie to you. And mark my words - one day I'll have a song from you, girl."
The Hound left her outside of her chambers then, and when she entered them Sansa lay down on her bed and wept. His horrible scars, rough voice and angry words were nothing like she'd imagined in the one who was to rescue her from this place...so how could he be her Florian, really and truly?
He'd not meant to visit the godswood quite so often as he did.
Sometimes the little bird was there, sometimes she wasn't. But Sandor did know one very important thing - she came when she could, and that was, in fact, quite a bit. More often than not they didn't speak at all, but rather she knelt before the trees, her lips moving in silent prayer, while he pretended he wasn't watching her, though in fact...
Sandor wanted to hate Sansa Stark, to scoff at her as he did all knights and lords and ladies, but even he could not help but notice the innocence with which she repeated the little chirpings taught to her by her mother and her septa. She's no Lannister he slowly realized. She was beautiful, and looked a woman grown, but really she was just a silly child doing as she was told. By Joffrey, by Cersei, even by himself.
Once in a while the little bird would work up the courage to ask if they would go soon. Sandor would grunt dismissively, but the problem was that he often wondered this himself. He'd had little or no contact with the one who'd set this in motion, and patience had never been Sandor's strong suit. That, and having to witness Joffrey continuing to beat Sansa Stark down - with words more often than the fists of his kingsguard now, but still doing it nonetheless - was a constant strain on Sandor's self control. He'd already been warned - "Hold your temper, your words, and your sword. If you act out against the king, even to protect her, everything will be ruined. Joffrey will have your head and she will be left to her own devices. You know as well as I that in such a situation, she will not last very long."
That last bit, though...wasn't necessarily true. Sansa Stark sometimes had a glint in her eye as she considered doing something she shouldn't, or steel in her voice when spoke out against the king. Sandor would never forget the day Joffrey had forced her to accompany him to the battlements, the day that Sansa had threatened that maybe her brother Robb would give her Joffrey's head, and then minutes later had very obviously considered pushing the king to his death. And thank any and all gods who exist that I'm the only one who witnessed that, Sandor continually found himself thinking.
Still, she was best not left without any protection at all, so Sandor held his tongue and stayed his sword and watched over Sansa Stark as she moved through the Red Keep like a pale and icy ghost of the girl she'd once been.
Though the Hound rarely spoke to her, and though at times she still felt uncomfortable around him, Sansa had almost become used to his presence.
Especially in the godswood.
At times he even reminded her of her father - when he was being quiet and stern, in moments when his gray eyes weren't flashing in anger. But Sansa was not quite so silly as the Hound thought, and she knew he was nothing like the honorable Lord Eddard Stark.
Yet he will help me all the same.
Sansa's life was something of a blur. When she was able, she hid herself away in her chambers or the godswood, away from Joffrey's sickening smirks and the Queen's cold stares, away from the Imp's curious looks and the lecherous grins of the men at court who noticed that her dresses no longer fit her, the fabric straining across her chest, so uncomfortably tight that she had to take heaving breaths - though she knew that doing so just made everything worse.
The Hound never looks at you like that.
He didn't. He didn't. Sometimes he gave her ugly smiles, sometimes his lip would twitch, but he never smirked, never looked at her as if she were...a piece of meat, or a whore. She knew that he watched her as she prayed in the godswood, as she witnessed Joffrey hold court, but his gazes were mostly thoughtful, never hateful or strangely curious. He simply saw her, guarded her.
Even when they did converse, the Hound still wouldn't tell her who had sent him to do so, when they would leave, how they would leave.
Yet despite it all, Sansa found herself trusting him.
He was with the king when the news came of Oxcross, and Sandor knew that this did not bode well - mostly for the little bird, but for him, also. There was danger in Joffrey's eyes when he ordered his dog to fetch his betrothed.
As Sandor strode away from the bailey and the archery butts, a voice whispered from the shadows, "Fetch her, Clegane. Bring her here. Otherwise, keep quiet."
The corner of Sandor's mouth twitched madly.
When he knocked on the door to Sansa Stark's chambers, she looked first shocked, and then excited. "Now?" she breathed, and for a moment he wanted to say yes, wanted to scoop her up and take her away from here and save her like a knight in one of her songs or stories would do...
Instead he shook his head. "The king commands your presence."
Her face fell and went pale all at once. "I...I should..." She gestured helplessly and he assumed she meant to change her gown, brush her hair, make herself pretty for Joffrey fucking Baratheon.
"The longer you keep him waiting, the worse it will go for you," Sandor warned. The little bird gave a small, stiff nod and shut herself in her chambers, exiting several minutes later in a new gown, her hair brushed smooth. He turned abruptly and began walking, so that she had to hurry a bit to walk by his side.
"Tell me what I've done," she pleaded.
You've done nothing, but you'll be punished anyway. "Not you. Your kingly brother."
"Robb's a traitor," the little bird intoned. "I had no part in whatever he did."
Unbidden, a noise that was something between a scoff and a snort left Sandor's mouth. "They trained you well, little bird."
The fools of the court were gathered around the archery butts, where the little shit king had apparently just impaled a cat with his crossbow. The little bird picked her way around the dying animal and was accosted by the fool Dontos. Sandor felt his stomach twist in anger when that arse laid a hand on Sansa's arm and whispered something to her, but while Sansa cringed from the fool's touch she also forced a smile at his words, before approaching Joffrey and falling to her knees before him. Sandor felt his hands clench into fists at this display, but somehow he forced himself to remain stoic as the king snapped at her, causing the little bird to chirp weak protests about how she had no part in her brother's actions.
"Get her up!" Joffrey commanded, and before one of the other kingsguard could touch her Sandor was there, lifting Sansa Stark to her feet in as gentle a manner as he could muster.
Lancel Lannister was called upon to describe the events of Oxcross, and Sandor had to choke back a laugh when the boy blamed the Lannister loss on an "army of wargs". Robb Stark had beaten Stafford Lannister fair and square, but it was just like Joff to believe that the only way a Lannister could be slain was by "vile sorcery".
Now the girl was arguing about that damn wolf Cersei'd had killed, and Sandor wanted nothing more than to tell her to keep her mouth shut. Didn't she know that saying anything other than her pleasant little chirpings would cause more harm than good? Sure enough, Joffrey began bragging about the peasant he'd killed the night before - one of many men and women who'd come begging at the walls for bread. "I shot the loudest one right through the throat," the king smirked.
"And he died?" Sansa Stark's voice was shaky and weak with fear, and she obviously couldn't take her eyes off the crossbow that was pointed at her head.
"Of course he died, he had my quarrel through his throat." Joffrey's tone said quite plainly how stupid he thought the little bird was, but as he continued talking about the people he'd shot with his crossbow he did thankfully lower the weapon.
For a moment Sandor breathed easy - just for a moment. But then there was something about punishment and the unmistakeable command - "Dog, hit her."
Time stopped for Sandor, just then. Somehow Joffrey had never uttered those words, or anything like them, before - and Sandor had counted himself lucky, because he knew that he could not hit this girl just as he knew that disobeying the king's orders would mean the end of everything he'd known for going on sixteen years.
And now he stood frozen, comprehending the words but unable to follow through with them - and it was Dontos the fool who saved him, saved her, and in that moment Sandor wasn't sure who he hated most - Joffrey, Ser Dontos, or himself.
The fool on his broomstick began hitting the little bird over the head with a melon, and Sandor thought, hoped, wished, prayed, even, that the king would laugh. But he didn't. "Boros. Meryn."
For a moment there was a surge of something like thanks that rose in Sandor's chest - just for a moment. He hadn't been called upon to beat her, but doing so was not something that Ser fucking Boros and Ser fucking Meryn would shy away from.
He'd never stopped it before, but this time, this time...she screamed, yet they kept beating her, and before Sandor even knew what he was doing the word "Enough" had escaped his lips, and it was all he could say but not all he wanted to say and he had never despised himself more than he did right then, when Joffrey said, "No it isn't," and, "Boros, make her naked."
Ser Boros tore the little bird's dress from her and all the while Sandor stood there, every loyalty he'd known for over half his life fighting with the only loyalty that had ever had any worth, loyalty to her, to her innocence and her sweetness and how she reminded him of the sister he'd lost so long ago and -
"What is the meaning of this?"
Sandor had never been so relieved to see that fucking Imp in his life. Relieved, but beneath that feeling anger was bubbling. There was a roaring in his ears and through it he heard Tyrion Lannister, that seven-times-damned dwarf, chastising Boros and Meryn for beating the girl. You could have done that, you should have done that...
"Someone give the girl something to cover herself with," the Imp ordered.
This, Sandor did do. It was something, wasn't it, though not nearly enough. He unfastened his white kingsguard cloak. He wanted to carry it to her, place it over her shoulders, give her a reassuring touch or word...
She's as frightened of you as she is of them, dog.
He tossed the cloak to Sansa Stark, and had to look away as she clutched it to her bare chest. Then Tyrion ordered his sellsword and that Burned Man that was always hanging around to bring the little bird away, and she was gone, and Sandor was left there, left to dwell on what he'd just allowed to happen, left to realize that he'd japed about being the girl's Florian when nothing could be farther from the truth.
If he could not even outright refuse to hit her, if he could not force those fucking knights to stop doing so, how could he ever think to take her away from this place, or to protect her once that was done?
And just like that, her trust in the Hound was gone.
Part of Sansa screamed there was nothing he could do! - while something else inside of her cried out that a cowardly drunk fool had helped her more than Sandor Clegane had. A cowardly drunk fool, and then a dwarf. The Imp, nonetheless, who was himself a Lannister.
Tyrion had been kind to her, and had seen through some of her lies...but he had not understood her. Claiming that he had wanted to be away from Lannisters as well, when he was young...thinking that was one of few things she could want...but she wanted so much more. She wanted Robb to vanquish all of their enemies, she wanted Joffrey to die, she wanted to return to the home she'd once, unbelievably, longed to leave.
She wanted to flee to the godswood, wanted the Hound to be there, wanted him to take her away from here once and for all.
At least the Imp did believe her lie about why she didn't want to stay in the Tower of the Hand. Nightmares she may have, but they weren't specific to that Tower.
How could they be?
With the sellsword Bronn and the Burned Man Timett trailing behind them, Tyrion Lannister escorted Sansa back to her chamber in Maegor's. When he left her at the door, the Imp gazed up at her, cocking his head so that his dark eye focused on her, seemed to cut through her, to see through her. "I am sorry for today, Lady Sansa. Take care of yourself. Be careful."
It seemed to her that there was a deeper meaning to his words, but he couldn't know...could he? Sansa nodded weakly and thanked him, but waited until he turned and beckoned to his men before she reached to open the door to her room. For a moment she could have sworn she saw a movement, a large dark shadow, out of the corner of her eye, down the hall in the direction opposite that which the Imp was leaving...but then she blinked and it seemed to be gone, and with a sigh Sansa let herself through the door and barred it behind her.
When morning came Sansa's entire body ached, and there were ugly bruises across her legs where Boros Blount had laid the flat of his blade. She wanted to weep, but strangely enough the tears would not come. Instead she pleaded illness and kept to her bed, that day and the next and the next, until Tyrion Lannister sent a kindly note that begged her to allow herself to be seen around the Keep. "Hiding away will not make Joffrey forget you are here, but I promise that if you come to court I will not let anyone harm you. Go to the godswood and say your prayers; I know that it comforts you to do so."
She had not seen Sandor since that day by the archery butts in the bailey; she was not sure she could count that shadow that may or may not have existed, may or may not have been him. Does he still plan to take me away from here? she wondered.
Do I still want him to?
So Sansa finally ate the food that had been sent to her room. She called the maids to bathe her and when their eyes widened and their eyebrows arched over the slowly fading bruises, she glared at them and set her chin. I will wear my hurts proudly, and when they run to Cersei to tell her how I am they will have nothing of import to say.
Sansa dressed in her least revealing gown; something that got more and more difficult with the passing days. Even when she ate little, she grew anyway, and as she was a prisoner, daughter and sister to traitors, the Lannisters obviously saw no reason to keep her in proper garments. One foot in front of the other, Sansa made her way to the godswood, her heart pounding in her chest, trying not to look behind her or to either side for fear that she was being followed, or for fear that if someone saw something they didn't like, she would be followed. It wasn't until she stepped down the path that led into the trees and was enveloped, the noise of the Red Keep muffled by this sacred old place, that Sansa took a deep, shuddering breath and allowed herself to relax - just a bit, just a little bit.
As she knelt in front of one of her usual trees, there was a rustle behind her, the sound of heavy footfalls, but somehow she wasn't afraid. Somehow she knew that it was him.
"Will we leave soon?" she asked, as she had so many times before.
The Hound made an exasperated sound, a sort of rumble low in his throat. "I don't know yet, little bird."
Every spare moment of every day since he'd watched her get beaten and stripped and done next to nothing about it, Sandor had returned to the godswood in hopes that the little bird would be there. He'd waited for her outside her chambers that very night, but then the fucking Imp had been with her and she'd locked herself inside her room before he could show himself. She'd been in there ever since, he knew, and now that she'd finally stepped outside Sandor almost didn't care about the why.
The day after Sansa Stark's terrible beating, with sword in hand Sandor had gone to the person who'd been pulling his strings, demanding to be given the means to take her away - immediately. But there was no fright in the eyes of this puppeteer, and the only answer Sandor received was, "Not now, but soon. I cannot and will not tell you exactly when - but I promise you that you will know. And when that time comes you best follow the instructions I've given you. Now go. We shouldn't be seen together."
Of course the little bird had to ask him if they could leave soon. Of course. He hated himself all the more - if that was even possible - for not being able to give her the answer she wanted. She'd not even turned to look at him - or in his direction, rather - when she'd asked; and instead of responding to him she remained silent and continued to kneel facing the tree.
Several long moments passed. Sandor could feel his fingers itching to touch her, but if he did...would she cry out? Would she strike his hand away? Or would she simply ignore him and bear in silence a touch that was sure to horrify her? He took a tentative step forward; she didn't move. He found himself staring at a lock of hair that had caught on the neckline of her gown, the only piece of that auburn beauty that was out of place.
Sandor reached out and gently pinched the lock between his thumb and forefinger, the tip of the latter brushing against the bare skin above her gown as he did so. The little bird remained as still as could be - until he dropped the chunk of hair and tentatively placed his large hand on her shoulder, so similar to the way she'd touched him the night he'd told her how he'd gotten his scars.
And that's when she stood and spun to face him, moving so abruptly that Sandor nearly lost his balance. Damn wine. After avoiding the stuff in hopes of seeing her that first day, and wanting to have his wits about him if he did, Sandor had quickly turned back to drinking - only stopping when he had to be at Joffrey's side, or while he caught the few scant hours of sleep he allowed himself each night. Just now he'd swallowed down three wineskins waiting for her in this damned godswood, and -
"Why?" Sansa Stark was asking, tears welling in her eyes. "Why are you here? Why did you ever send me that note? Why did you get my hopes up and say you would take me away from this place, when clearly you never meant to do so? Why did you stand by and...and..." She had begun beating on his chest; not that her small girlish fists could cause him pain, and in his shock at her outburst Sandor let her do it for a moment, two, three, before finally reaching up and catching her wrists in his hands.
He wanted to apologize, wanted to say he was sorry, wanted to clasp her against him and hold her...but he looked into those Tully blue eyes and was lost.
When the Hound grabbed her wrists his grip was cruel as usual, but when he looked into her eyes his expression was...abashed. Almost sad. For what seemed quite a long time, they stared at each other in silence.
"You're hurting me," Sansa finally whispered, wriggling in his grasp. The Hound released her, fairly flinging her hands away from him - almost as if they were on fire. She rubbed at her wrists and stole a glance at him, but he'd turned away and was pacing amongst the trees. "I'm sorry for hitting you," she heard herself say. Part of her was sorry...but mostly she just didn't want him to be angry with her.
Sandor Clegane spun on his heel and suddenly he was kneeling in front of her, his eyes trained on the ground between them. Sansa waited, but when he spoke it was not an apology of his own. "You were in your rights," he said, and the misery in his voice was plain as day. She opened her mouth to reply, to argue, perhaps - but before she could he continued, "It will be soon."
It was a fact, not a promise - Sansa heard that in his voice as well - and she would take what she could get. She moved to touch him, suddenly wanting to cup his cheek in her palm, to make him look at her, to see into the gray eyes that reminded her of Arya when they were angry, and of her father when they were not. But as she reached for the Hound he stood and backed away, avoiding her touch and her gaze as he turned to leave. For just a moment he stopped, turning his head toward her so that she could see the unburnt side of his face, the sun filtering through the trees to highlight his heavy brow and hooked nose. Not handsome features, no; but strong.
"Soon," he rasped. And then he was gone, leaving her alone with her trees and her prayers, her memories and her hopes.
Everything he did was wrong, wrong, wrong. He'd touched her and hurt her, and then her courtesies had led her to apologize to him. It was more than he could bear. He'd had to leave her there in the godswood, and he hadn't been back since. The little bird continued to keep to her chambers more often than not; when she did emerge he saw her only at court, though at times he followed her about. Always at a safe distance, where she wouldn't see him, wouldn't have to speak to him or suffer through him touching her in any way.
The day that the princess Myrcella sailed from King's Landing, Sandor and Sansa both were required to attend the farewell on the docks. Sandor watched as Marcella - a far better child than her older brother had ever been - waved her goodbyes from the deck of the Seaswift, while weak little Tommen sobbed and Joffrey cast insults and the little bird stood up for the sweet younger prince. When they were finally able to mount and make their way back to the Red Keep, the only thing between Sandor and Sansa Stark was Joffrey on his horse. It was the closest Sandor had been to her since that day in the godswood, nearly a fortnight ago.
As they rode the dirty peasants crowded close - too close for Sandor's liking. There was hunger in their eyes, starvation even, along with things he recognized - anger, and hatred. When one woman thrust her dead baby at the king Sandor thought this won't end well - but then the little bird chirped in Joffrey's ear, and he actually flung a coin at the peasant.
But before Sandor could even think to breathe a sigh of relief, Queen fucking Cersei had to speak out - and then the peasant dropped the body of her dead child and began screaming insults and before he knew it the king's hair was full of shit - literally - and Joffrey was ordering him to find the man who'd thrown it. Sandor swung down from his horse, but the crowd had pushed close and before he could move any further the Imp commanded, "Clegane, leave off. The man is long fled."
Sandor would have gladly listened to Tyrion Lannister - for once - but Joffrey would not let it go. "Dog, cut through them and bring - "
The king was cut off by a roar of noise from the peasants as they yelled out more insults and took up the cry for bread, bread, bread, stones and rotten food and gods only knew what else suddenly flying through the air - at Joffrey, his uncle, their guards and the little bird, the little bird, fuck, I have to keep her safe...
Fools, the lot of them, for coming out here knowing that the city wanted food. In wanting food, wanting it like this, they'd also want blood. How did they not understand this? Sandor heard the Imp yell, "Back to the castle! Ride!" and when he turned they were barreling through the crowds, his horse alongside them. Curses flew from Sandor's mouth then, but when he spun to knock back the peasants who'd come too close he saw that Sansa Stark was not so far away, and still on her horse thank the gods, whether they exist or not... Her hair had been pulled loose and a trickle of blood ran down her face but she was safe, safe -
And then he saw it. Some filthy fucking fool reaching for her, grabbing her, and Sandor charged forward, was at her side in the work of a moment, his sword hissing through the air and slicing off the man's arm, just so.
Sandor wrapped one hand in the reins of Sansa's horse and swung himself up in front of her, didn't even have time to relish the feel of her arms wrapped tight about his waist before he saw Santagar being beaten to death with a rock mere feet away. "Don't look!" he yelled, and he felt the little bird bury her head against his back as he ran his sword through one of Ser Aron's attackers.
It hit him, then, the words coming back in a rush - "soon...I cannot and will not tell you exactly when - but I promise you that you will know...and when that time comes you best follow the instructions I've given you."
The king and his mother, the damnable Imp, the other members of the kingsguard, the lords and ladies of court forced to attend Myrcella's send-off - they had all fled, or died, and he was alone with Sansa Stark.
Outside the walls of the Red Keep.
If now wasn't the time, Sandor didn't know when could ever be better.
He dug his heels into Sansa's chestnut courser, and did what he did best - followed his orders.