Chapter 1: The Age of Heroes
There’s always sunshine for Winterfell, even in the winters or raging storm. The sunlight would come down in panes of white, sometimes a beam of yellow and gold, other times they were streaks of ice blue or burning orange-red, and as a child, she used to watch the way they scattered and casted over the walls, the towers, around clothing and over skins—she was entranced by the sort of that spectacle.
But it had seemed like thousands of years ago when she had last seen a ray of light. In these trying times, darkness may just as well have lasted for generations. She forgot the sensation of radiance on her skin; the cold had seen to it as the chill and snowflakes piled atop her, weighing her furs and silks down, pinning her on the ground. She was lying on a field of snow, for hours or days, she could not tell. She could not even care to start thinking, could not bear remembering how the horror started. She was tired, her breathing ragged, and the cold had spared her from going numb, which was cruel when she’s suffering several wounds, deep cuts they were, throughout her body that a pool of red, bloody as her hair-color, surrounded her and stained the grounds of pure white.
The air was still, suffocating; she wanted to sleep but could not and would not. It seemed as if she was waiting for someone to come. But who could it be, when all she knew had perished from the monsters that used to inhabit her childish dreams, now come alive and had stolen her family, her home and her soul?
She moved some, began flexing her fingers and toes but that was all she did, the last time she tried to get up, pain shot through both her legs and ankles, her left side and her head had throbbed most furiously that the ground seemed to sway underneath. She opened her mouth once to hear her own voice but just a soft grumble escaped from her lips, and she did not repeat the process again for dread that she may have lost it. They said I have the sweetest voice, she thought, biting back a sob. Her lord husband and sons loved it when she sang songs and told them stories. She pressed her eyes closed for a while, she did not want to cry again, her tears have frozen and stuck on her face and she had enough of it, but she was taken aback when unbidden scenes flashed in her head—she saw her sons screaming, dragged by servants raised from the dead, watched as her lord husband became mad and was slashing at her with his priced dagger, noticed half of their household and the small folk fled while the other half were brought to the unlife—towed away she was by the loyal men that wanted to escort her to one of their liege lords, she saw herself running, or more like dragging her feet, she did not want to leave, she wanted their band to stop on the road, find her sons and bury them, but her men and her women would hear none of it, she asked most graciously and pitiable, “No, m’lady, it isn’t safe, these are dangerous times,” they all said, and so she screamed at them and begged them to leave her be but they did not pay heed all the same, the fifth night on the road they were attacked, dead against the living, a dance of life and death where the Others were inhuman and perilous and cold, cold, cold, while her fellow and kinsmen warm and all the more helpless—they leave her be in the end.
She woke some place in the North, alone and lying on her own blood, some frozen and crystal-like. Maybe she had walked some, had fallen or tripped. She could not be far from Winterfell but there’s no way of saying she was right either.
Everything’s coming back and she did not want it, did not want to linger on it, did not want to feel it but the cold has not made her numb enough. She choked back another sob and prayed to the gods of the Children. Take me, take me, take me, end this please, she crooned, pleaded and bawled inside her head. When she opened up her eyes she was staring directly into black orbs, darker than the sky. She was startled and so was the man whose suspicious eyes bore deeply on her. Her eyes glanced past his face and up to his arms where he was clutching a glass-spun blade aimed just above her throat and she knew, she just knew this was the one she was waiting for, the one her broken body held on for.
She mustered all her strength to talk but it came out whispery and hoarse, “P–please, e–end this… please.”
The young man, dressed all in frayed tattered clothes, stiffened. He slowly put the dagger away and heaved deeply. “Star-blue eyes,” he whispered not unkindly, “Strange and beautiful,” he spat, “What have they been thinking to describe Others as such?” His long face was grim and he did not look to be saying those words at her face, more like he was complaining to someone he knew. He stared down at her again and realized that she was still looking at him, her eyes oddly transfixed to his face. He looked struck when he realized that she wasn’t half delirious as he thought she was; he became conscious to what he had said and blushed furiously.
She watched him silently as he assessed her body, wincing at the number of bruises and cuts, “Gods be good, none of these are fatal but the open wound on your side may have gone deep in your ribs,” then he started unclasping his cloak around his shoulders with a sense of urgency and wrapped it around her. “You lost lots of blood m’lady. I have to get you to a Maester and fast,” he muttered more to himself, avoiding her eyes. He placed his dagger back to his belt, hunched over her and placed his arms under her to secure her to him.
“No… please, e–end—” she was about to say but the man cut her off with a grunt.
“I heard you the first time, and I can’t. I won’t.”
She studied his face, a scruffy looking man with dark curls and dark eyes and dressed in all black, who looked solemn and stubborn. A crow. She could certainly say he was of the North. Her mother used to say that dark wings bring dark words, but the messenger who came for her has nothing but gentle terms. She wanted to ask where he exactly came from, how he found her, whose lord he was serving, instead she hissed “I want to die and you were just about to kill me earlier.”
He stiffened again. “Aye, but thanked the Gods I haven’t or that would be a grave error in my part,” he answered softly.
“Still, I would as like die,” she gritted her teeth and controlled herself not to let out a whimper or shriek in pain when he lifted her up, for a moment she was puzzled that she was feeling a bit warm again. His hands, strong though lean, were steady under her shoulder and legs and she could feel him radiate heat, skin to skin despite all the clothes they were bundled in. She squirmed when the man started walking. “There’s no life after me to wherever place you’re going to take me to.”
He looked down on her for some time, studied her face as she did to him earlier. He had found something in her face that seemed to still him, that seemed to ease weariness in him. “I would as like not have to kill you. I slew a dozen this day alone, both stranger and kin. You’re the first I encountered that the Others didn’t turn as wight, I would have you know I didn’t enjoy the task.” He twitched the ends of his lips as if to give her a dark reassuring smile.
She stayed silent after that.
“I – I,” he broke the hush in between his long strides, “I came too late m’lady. And even though you don’t want to be saved now, I’ll foolishly insist. Let me help you find a cause to live, give me a year or two and if nothing else bloomed after your grievances, I’ll grant your death wish.”
She considered. She tried to glance around and saw nothing but snow for yards away; she could not tell if it’s morning, midday, or night already. It had always been dark. She considered his words again, they seemed hollow to her.
But she found she would gladly cling unto that. Her battered body did hold on for a long time, surely it must stand to something? She finally let her eyes rest, let the tears flow freely; she snuggled closer to him, basking in the sunlight the young man brought to her, the warmth that she thought was lost several thousand years ago.
Chapter 2: The Andal Invasion
She liked to splash in the shallows on hot summer mornings same as this, but the water underneath their vessel most definitely wasn’t shallow. She spun on her heels and looked up to the high-masts, large white sails and figureheads carved in the shape of birds, all were useless since they’ve becalmed at dawn. Both men and women were restless in their stations. They’ve been left behind by most of the galleys, longships and carracks.
She lowered her eyes then and saw him first, storming out of the cabin. He was not hard to miss, what, with his raven curls atop his head amongst their fair-haired kin? He walked limping; his shoulders and lips were taut and his face still fresh from sleep. Finally he saw her (for she wouldn’t be easily missed too, she has long red curls so unlikely to be seen on their realm) and his eyes immediately darkened.
He swallowed some before he spoke, “Sister.”
“Brother,” she said while curtsying.
He glanced around, noticed how crowded their ship were, noticed that all eyes were on them no matter how they tried to hide it, so he settled for a whisper, a bit harshly to her liking, “You… you’re not supposed to be here. Last night…” then his breath hitched and he avoided her eyes.
Last night, she wondered if her eyes shone with mischief. “I never meant to lie,” was all she said to him, what she too had said to him a thousand times last night, evading his questions and playing him a mummer’s farce.
“But you did, a lie is a lie,” he said dejectedly, still, his eyes wouldn’t linger on her. He played a fool for her last night, had amused her with stories and wine, but now’s the moment of truth, and she could just as well tell that he saw it fit to do on the deck with dozens of people around; he, unsullied from the comforts of his bed, they haven’t even broke their fast yet.
“You and Arya’s supposed to be on board the Andalos, where is she?”
He made it a point to talk at his right and so she moved where he was looking to block his line of vision. “She wanted to board the Warrior Hills and I the swan ship so Robb helped us on the eve of departure.”
His brows furrowed, he wanted to wheel away but she knew she has a hold on him so long as she caught his gaze. “And it’s a bother for me to be let on the plan?”
“You were with Father that night, or did you forget?”
He flushed. “I remember. And I remember all too well that I’ll be the one to answer this waywardness, as I often had. Where’s Robb?”
That was her turn to blush.
“He’s with Theon on board the Faith, wasn’t he?” he was flexing his right hand now which was a sign that he’s not taking anything too well.
She couldn’t lie anymore than she did last night so she nodded. “And so are Bran and Rickon.”
He took that hard as she thought he would, she was starting to feel guilty now.
“It’s too dangerous for Arya to be on a war galley. Bran and Rickon too, in a longship like Faith. Robb and I are supposed to command the archers on the swan ships; this is madness I tell you. We’re about to invade lands…” and he trailed off. His face was a grave statue resembling the Father.
“And what of me in a swan ship?”
“What?” for a while he looked lost.
“What of me in a swan ship? You didn’t make a comment on that.” She didn’t mean to tease him so when he was thinking hard about his responsibilities and their safety, it was only that he blushed so red—a beautiful flaming red like last night as she removed the hood of her dress and revealed her face to him—brighter than her hair that she had an urge to do so.
The two of them weren’t even that close as children to begin with. Bastard born they may all be, their father was King Ruben of the Andals, a direct descendant of King Hugor of the Hill. Her and Robb’s mother was of the Flatlands while his, Arya’s, Bran’s and Rickon’s all came from Pentos.
He didn’t fail her expectation on that though. He was red as a pomegranate now. “You know I wouldn’t let any harm befall on you long as I stay on command of this ship.”
She smiled and reached for the hand he was flexing earlier, enclosed it with hers and said, “I know. The Seven would help us all though. And you’ve been my wonderful champion last night.”
The blood on his face wouldn’t circulate down and she felt his hands softened at her touch. A dark cloud passed over his long face. “I was plainly drunk. Why else would I brave the knights and archers board on this for a fair maiden’s company only to find out it was you all along?”
And mayhaps, she too, was drunk in levity, else why did she permit Osha and Asha’s provocations and even goaded Mya to raise the stakes for the men to win her hand?
A kiss! A kiss! And a night in confinement!
She even raised the hood a little, teasing the knights with her lips and her voice as she sang to them some verses from her favorite songs. Oh, how bold she has been! Arya may just as well kneel eagerly to the Seven if she only knew.
“Why indeed?” and they held their gazes for more than a little while.
Jon slightly shook his head and smiled at last.
Of course he knew it was her under the entire masquerade.
She knew that he was well aware of her reason on coming to the ship that he commands, and though there’s nothing more she’ll like than for him to voice out that he knew what she knew of this arrangement, of his actions last night, and what’s truly inside their hearts, she decided that it was fine.
There’ll be few confrontations left on the morrow and the next, and the next one after that, just as he saw it fit to do.
Chapter 3: Age of Valyria
He was keeping an eye on her, lying on her stomach near the cliff overlooking the immense chain of volcanoes commonly known to them as the Fourteen Fires. Half of her red hair was teased and twisted elegantly atop her head while the other half flowed in ringlets below her shoulder. The wind caught it and swayed it into the air and he pulled his upper body up and shot his right arm to grab hold of it. Three of his fingers intertwined with the red tufts before they freely loosen themselves from his grasp.
Smooth and oiled, just as what Father said the men from the Empire prefer of their hair. Though they did find her from the ancient city Ghis, they could all tell she was no Ghiscari due to her pale creamy skin. Father had once said to him that they had thought of her as the harpy come alive, after they had discovered her in the ruins of the burned city; and so she was spared from working neither in the mines nor as a bed slave.
He could hardly believe it though, Sansa was the most beautiful creature he has ever seen that thinking of wings of a bat, legs of an eagle and a scorpion’s tail that could sprout from her body anytime seemed wholly a droll.
The girl seemed to have felt his fingers since she turned her head and looked above her shoulder to him. A hint of a smile was playing on her lips.
“Pretty,” he said to her. He had never been much good with words though he had inkling that she understood him all the same. Sansa could pick up some of their Valyrian tongue after all. He suspected it was because the Ghiscari Empire had needs of learning their tongue if they meant to conquer them and win their dragons.
“Good, boy,” she said in a thick dialect in their tongue though not of High Valyrian, and she bobbed her head down, her own way of saying thanks to him.
“I won’t be a boy any longer. I’ll be ten-and-six soon as my nameday comes,” he stared at her then. She has such a young face, he wasn’t sure if she’s a girl or one who’s lived a long life, if words of his Father and their folk were to go by.
He propped himself and went to lie next to her near the cliff. “When’s your nameday? Do you know when’s your nameday?”
She contorted her brows and shook her head.
“Birth? The day you were born?” he tried some more.
Again, she shook her head and turned her head away from him to continue looking over the dragons’ lair. She released a small sigh, then.
“What are you thinking of Sansa?” he asked another.
“The Gods, and slavery they do not commend,” she answered him at last, her fingers clutching the end of the precipice as if to peer down and see the hot mines underneath.
That again. “But the Empire did have slaves,” he pointed out to her.
He was met with a sharp turn of her head and a raised eyebrow. “Belong to them I do not, you and your kin know that well.”
And you won’t tell me where you came from either. And whoever your Gods may be. “We free-holders need them to mine gold and silver, to built roadways and cities.”
“They suffer,” she said as a matter of fact, chin turned up. Her dazzling blue eyes were clearly challenging him.
He lowered his eyes and acquiesced; he had nothing to refute back with. His kith and kin used to be a minor civilization of peaceful sheep-herding folk for hundreds of years until they learned of dragons, magic and the art of war. And there had been numerous revolts from the past years; he had asked Father once if there was no other way for all of them to compromise but his answer was only brief, that it had always been that way, and so he repeated that to her.
Her lips curled into a frown and immediately he wanted to take it back, wishing he had said something more clever and reassuring. After some time she snapped her left hand away from the precipice and placed it over one of his hands.
“Jon, please, please listen,” Sansa said serenely. “Want to save you, I do.” Her eyes spoke something urgent that it stirred something inside him.
“What do you mean?” he moved closer to her.
She clutched his hand a little more forcefully, “Leave all this behind.”
“You… want for me to run away?” he wasn’t sure if that’s what she really meant to say.
She nodded gravely; her clear eyes seemed to consume every ounce of intensity in him.
“With you?” he heard himself say.
She bit her lower lip and looked sideways before bobbing her head down. “Dream of misfortune, I had. Of Valyrian Freehold no more… please Jon, take heed.”
“But I…” he trailed off. What of my family and fellows? The Valyrian Freehold… we are the most powerful race in the realm, surely nothing could make us all fall down?
But Sansa’s dreams have always come true, though it’s a secret to just the two of them.
His free hand reached towards her and cupped her forlorn face. “You know full well I can’t.”
“If b – become the harpy, I did… and grew wings and snatch you away from them?” Sansa appealed with tenacity.
He smiled softly at her. “Then I have to fight you,” his thumb ran lazy circles along her left cheek. “Though not without a broken heart, I promise.”
She pressed her lips tight and then said afterward, “Hate you but want to save you all the same.”
He chuckled and had closed the gap between them. Her offers have been nothing but tempting, to leave all behind and just be with her. He pressed his forehead to hers. “Our Gods and your dreams make cruel jests, but I want to save you too.”
They have just found each other and already the world wanted for them to part. A cruel jest, indeed.
Chapter 4: The Seven Kingdoms
Heavily inspired by the song Fairy Tale by Shaman. Go check it out but not if you don't want to get spoiled ;)
She’s standing on the edge, infinitely sad, infinitely weary.
She remembered seeing him hovering and tittering beside her—the children they used to be, who both loved the high white cliffs of the Storm’s End overlooking the sea. He liked being perched on the high window of his Mother’s solar to stand over the frame and watch the sea always in turmoil below, while she liked the feel of the double course stones underneath her feet and the smooth and curving sense of the window on her palms.
She could hear his voice as clear as those days of her visits when they’re sitting on the window with stolen fruits and bread from the kitchens, and he’d tell her the story of King Durran who built the castle and won the love of Elenei, the daughter of their sea god and wind goddess. He knew she had loved how Durran Godsgrief declared a war on the gods after they destroyed his keep and killed his and Elenei’s wedding guests, persisted every time the gods tear down what he has constructed, until the seventh castle stood in place and resisted the storms of Shipbreaker Bay, so he’d gladly tell the story to her over again on her next stay on his lands.
But that finally stopped when her Father’s business in the Stormlands has been completed.
His first trip to her lands came several years later; she was a grown maid and he was far from the boy she used to teach of courtesies. She remembered how there was a jump in her steps as she rushed to meet him. She brought him to their godswood then, her most favorite place in their castle, the same as he did back in the days of her visits.
He took a look to their godswood, and the bright and airy garden of redwoods, flowers, nesting birds, streams, and slender, carved weirwood reflected back on his eyes.
“Will you make me a crown of flowers,” he asked her, looking up at her with amusement and tease in his eyes, “As befits a knight, if it pleases you?”
“More than that, as befits a King,” she told him as she started gathering the finest flowers of colors she thought suited him best; she then stroked the fragile petals and committed to memory how soft they were.
She remembered that on the third day of his visit, they’ve been drunk from a drinking game of Dornish wine. He was chasing her around the godswood, remembered how red he was and the beaded sweats stuck on his face that made her hands closed around him. She hugged him to her chest, whirling and laughing aloud. Ever so fast, she kissed the corner of his mouth and jerked her head back an instant before his lips would have found her face.
“How would you want to die, Jon?” she had asked him on the last day, as his deal on her domain was concluded, and just before he packed his things and travel back to the Stormlands. They were sprawled on the grass, watching the sunset fade away in darkness.
“By your hands,” he said not a beat too late, all in earnestness.
She rolled her eyes as she rolled to face him, “You mock me!”
He responded with quiet laughter, and then he snatched her hands and pressed them to his chin and cheek. “I do not.”
And then suddenly she said, “My hand is promised to another…”
His eyes darkened as if they were never black in the first place. He kissed both of her hands for a longer while, “I know, and that’s why my business here is done.”
Jon was sent to broker a marriage of alliance between her and his brother Arrec but her Father promised her to an Ironborn. They never saw each other after that, not even when the Stormland invaders came and put a siege on their castle. She remembered how her heart had been in turmoil then, just like the sea below Jon’s Mother’s chambers.
She thought he’d never see him again, and was actually thankful for it, else she’ll never know what will happen to her or to him if she ever acted out her grief and fury on him, but alas, it seemed as if the gods declared a war on her when they found him hiding in the godswood and was brought to her feet, with a few of his men to rescue Arrec from the Ironborn invaders.
“I will not kill a man for loyalty, nor for fighting well,” her brother Robb declared, but her husband only spit on the ground and stalked off, not after he made clear that he’ll have his head on the morrow.
Jon was beaten so badly she couldn’t almost recognize the face she loved all those years, if not for his dark solemn eyes and broken smile suggesting he recognized her as well.
“Sansa,” he said as he choked on his own blood. “I will not yield… better to kill me now.”
“How would you want me to kill you, Jon?” She demanded, obviously trying for dismissive and reserved but coming off petulant and more than a little fuming for the years she resented him, but then her voice trembled like the child she claimed she no longer was. Her resentment wasn’t enough to cover her love for him.
“Q – Quickly and too late for me… to ever think what hit me,” his unfocused eyes scanned her face as he answered her.
Her brother stirred on his spot but she raised her hand to stop him. Eventually he retreated after placing a Valyrian steel at her side, with the knights and Stormland prisoners in tow. The Ironborns followed reluctantly, then.
She kissed him as soon as they were alone. He did not stop her; he only raised a weak hand to fist around her auburn hair. She consumed his mouth long and needy. She pressed chaste kisses and ardent ones on his forehead, his nose, his chin, and both to his eyes—too fast, too short they were, not enough for the times she spent wondering how her tragedy all came to be—before burying the dagger deep within his chest in one swift ungainly move, same as those times his deep gazes used to prick her.
His fingers held steady around her hair, their eyes finally locked. By your hands, he seemed to say and then the light within him gave out; hers, followed almost concurrently.
She remembered everything as if they all happened yesterday.
She’s standing on the edge atop the Wheel Tower. She looked up, not so thrilled with the shining stars placed up above but with the darkness of the sky that reminded her of Jon’s eyes.
Everything was clear, but then they all blur at one point and such in her case, when tears obscured her vision.
Chapter 5: The Targaryen Dynasty – 209 AL
He had almost forgotten how Flea Bottom reeked like pigsties and stables mixed with winesinks and tanner’s sheds once he had found himself walking along the downtrodden area. Old Wisdom Rulf who keeps an inventory of the food supplies of the Guild has sent him for an errand to the Street of Flour and a letter for Angmar the Baker asking for a three moon’s supply of bread with the consent of the Royal Household. He had gone with a purse full of copper pennies and an official financial document declaring the transaction for the breads and now he’s dragging a handcart back to the Guildhall full of spices, preserves and linen, the pastries to be delivered every fortnight.
Below the Street of Flour lay a maze of twisting alleys and cross streets and it’s small wonder he turned down Flea Bottom when his head’s been pretty occupied of the fact that the time for him to make—
His head was deep in thought with green light and magic and though he was looking ahead of the street to turn and lead the handcart around, he wasn’t really seeing and so something had caught his elbow in a tangle and he stumbled over someone judging by the soft flesh, frills and silks beneath him. He looked back and saw that the handcart was turned upside down and he breathed a sigh of relief when the linen saved the bottles of spices and preserves from breaking, and his ear from receiving a clout by Wisdom Rulf.
“If you would please…” a soft voice squeaked underneath.
He turned his head and glanced down, large pretty blue eyes looked up at him. A girl. She was frightened. Her bright red hair was in disarray and her cheeks were wet with tears. That girl!
Immediately, he pulled himself up, “I–I’m sorry… sorry… Are you hurt?” then he helped the young girl back on her feet. Her hands were so soft compared to his calloused ones; he couldn’t help but shy away from the contact.
She shook her head. “I’m sorry too,” she said as she lowered her eyes whilst combing her hair and arranging her dress, “I didn’t look where I was running. You were most kind to help me stand up. I trust nothing broke from your carriage?” She peered at his side to look at the upturned cart and bottles that lay on the cobblestones.
“None m’lady,” he heard himself say, though he was busy looking at all of her for he wasn’t quite believing his luck meeting her here of all places.
She smiled at that, a charming smile from a charming face. She took a kerchief from the inside pocket of her dress and wiped the tears away. “You have called me a lady,” she said as if he had just given her the highest praise.
“Judging by the looks o’ you and your words…” He wouldn’t admit to her but he has seen her several times when she and her family would visit the town. They’d pass the Street of Sisters and their Guildhall since she live near Rhaenys’ Hill and they’re just below the way. And her hair was hard not to notice especially how it shone when the sun would catch it.
“Highborn like you live on the other side from here. How’d you come around here? Did some scare you off?” She really looked surprised and panicky earlier.
“Some,” she answered before moping when she related the rest of her story, “We were at the market square when my brothers felt a sudden wickedness. They’ve been hearing about the tale of the bowl of brown and set up a contest among them. Whoever managed to finish a bowl first would be a King for a week. That is, the losers will act as the winner’s servants. The alleys down here are confusing as my brothers look for the most sinister-looking pot-shop. I got left behind and I was about to ask someone for help but the old man mistook me for… for…” and then her cheeks grew redder and the young man restricted his lips from curling to a smirk. A habit he had gotten from other boys of his age in the Guild.
He then contorted his face into a frown and said, “I bet your brothers are worried sick.”
She pursed her lips at that. “Let them be. They’d feel all the more sorry when Father hears of this.”
“If they aren’t sorry first for setting a contest just to eat those nasty bowls,” he snickered. Then he quickly glanced at her, realizing what he just said and wondering if she took any offense at that.
The girl only giggled and cocked her head to the side prettily, “Do you live here?”
“Used to, until the alchemists went here one day and looked for ‘prentices and I volunteered. So now I’m living beneath Rhaenys’ Hill, at the foot of Visenya’s Hill and along the Street of Sisters.”
“Y–You belong to the guild that makes wildfire?” that seemed to have caught her interest and her blue eyes flashed with curiosity and recognition. “You’re a p–pyromancer then?”
He flushed, “No, at least not yet, m’lady. Come along now, I’d best lead you home.” He arranged back the food supplies that spilled on the road and carried the handcart again. “Might be good if you seat on the cart, I’d carry you along with the spices and preserves if it pleases you.”
The redhead girl was a bit hesitant, “I’m not sure if… do ladies,” she trailed off.
He looked down on his feet and on his hands carrying the end of the handles, somewhat understanding her meaning, “I’m stronger than I look m’lady. And this may be a poor coach for the likes o' you but at least it’d serve well for a ride on the way home and won’t get no blisters on your feet.”
She looked at her own feet and it dawned on her that somewhere she had lost her sandals, and was barefooted. “I… how…” she looked up at him, face flushed again and nodded her assent.
On the road they have talked about a lot of things, she was a very inquisitive girl and asked him things that concerned wildfire and the Alchemist’s Guildhall and so he told her that the process of making it is highly a secret but he’s sure they’re made with magic and spells, so says Wisdom Hadrian, the one in charge of its production; he narrated to her the rooms filled with sand and the floors below with enchantment and all sorts of mischief he encountered from trying to glimpse how wildfire are really done, mostly though he’d suffer clouts in the ear for the Wisdoms chastise him, say they’re not fit for the eyes of a boy of ten-and-two, the clouts were so hard he often saw green flames in his head, and she laughed at his expense. It made no matter to him; he already liked the sound of her laugh and giggles. She also asked what the true contents of the bowls of brown were and he had truthfully answered her that they were mostly made from meats of rats and dogs and thankfully he hasn’t eaten any parts of murder victims yet. That silenced her for a long while he thought he had offended her again in some way, but then she blurted out suddenly that if she’s back home and found that her brothers continued their contest on it she would not kiss any of them ever again. They both had laughed to that. Then he asked her of her family and what her hobbies were and she answered that she has a perfect lady mother and her lord father was very stern but would stole two lemon cakes for her after every dinner (He looked puzzled at the mention of it and she looked offended that he hasn’t heard nor had lemon cakes, “Would that I could bring you some for when me and my brothers visit you in the Guild,” she said) and that she may have loved her brothers more if they don’t act stupid all the time and would attend their lessons faithfully. She told him she liked needlework the most and then she reached for her kerchief once again, said she made it herself, and she tied it to his arm as token of her gratitude for he had been her champion this day. He felt his face and neck burn and was thankful his back was on her so she wouldn’t see the stupid look on his face when she did it. She had wiped the sweat off his collar thrice, every time he’d bark at her “Stop that m’lady,” she’d laugh loudly that some people turn at them as they pass. Maybe she had seen his stupid look after all though he couldn’t tell how. She started telling him stories then, of knights and tourneys and the songs that were made after them with a fiery passion. Some he had heard already but he urged her on. He liked it when she’s animated like that. They talked some more, would linger on some merchant stalls and marvel at different sorts that were for sale before the young boy realized that the sun was already high. Old Wisdom Rulf expected him to be back a few hours ago and so he warned the girl to hold on tight on the cart while he made a dash towards Visenya’s Hill.
“I’ll find my own way here,” the girl said to him as she climbed down the poor coach. “Thank you again for your help, may the Gods bless you,” she smiled sweetly and bowed before him. They were at the foot of Visenya’s Hill by now and have to part ways, he for the Guildhall and she for her manse along Rhaeny’s Hill.
“I… your feet,” he started, catching his breath; he’s not quite sure how to deal with this parting. He avoided her eyes and her hair, she was made of sweetness and had enjoyed her company greatly, and it seemed as if they’ve been friends for long. He didn’t know how to say goodbye nor ask if he could see her again, that would seem most insolent of him. “Could you walk like that?”
“I could manage,” she said a bit stubbornly. She twisted and knotted her tresses and tousled her dress this way and that, “And I have a role to play and a story to tell,” and she winked at him after that.
The boy then understood and had only shouted, “Make them pay!” after she had moved forward.
The girl turned, raised her hand to him and waived it before she trudged on without looking back. The sunlight caught her hair once more and it shone beautifully; he decided he loved the red glow of flames more than what the wildfire’s colors were. He didn’t linger after that since he didn’t want to watch her go; already he felt a little sadness in his chest and since his head has been flying for most of the morning (so was his heart), he set his chore as his priority.
He had hoped of seeing her again, too many times that it had been a subject of mockery in the Guildhall, but not in the likes of that. He had even dreamed of seeing her again, too many times that it almost seemed true, but not in a cruel way like that.
He was ordered to guard the entrance of the Dragonpit and assist in bringing small jars of pottery that contain wildfire inside. Bodies from high-born and low were delivered indoors and that’s where he had caught a glimpse of her. He had suffered a blow at the pit of his stomach and his eyes sting as he went to her side. That’s her hair, her nose, her lips, her cheeks, her chin, her hands. He dropped to his knees and sobbed, That can’t be her, no; he opened his mouth and felt dizzy, he wanted to call after her but he didn’t know her name.
It had only been just a week when the plague epidemic struck the city so swiftly. Lord Brynden Rivers, Hand of the newly crowned King Aerys I, ordered the bodies killed by the sickness be brought to the building. It was their duty to burn them, but he found he had no strength left for any duty at all. Some of his fellow acolytes noticed him and three of them began dragging him away; he managed to free himself and dash out back to her body only to be yanked by a relatively young Wisdom, but older than him still. The Wisdom whose name he didn’t care to remember cuffed him four times that air had left him at once. He was carried off outside and one acolyte younger than him was made to guard him from entering back. He lost consciousness after that.
When he came to, the light of the wildfire pyres loomed over him. Its green glow danced on the dark starless night. Somewhere inside that cavernous building, she’s turning into ashes in those blazing flames. He retched and that’s the only time he had noticed he has company. The younger boy was looking at him with pity and he wanted to punch those eyes away.
I loved a maid as fair as summer, with sunlight in her hair, he had heard the singers sang, once as he had passed an old tavern along Pigrun Alley.
It was wrong. Everything was wrong. Flames shouldn’t have colors like that, he staggered as he rose to his feet. He knew he’s screeching but couldn’t seem to hear his own voice. She’s too young. I’m her champion. He’s been considering leaving the Guild to find a knight he could squire for. It was wrong.
The song was wrong for him too and he didn’t stay too long to hear the singers sang the verse: he loved a maid as red as autumn, with sunset in her hair.