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You Win or You Die

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It all started on a normal day in Winterfell.

I woke in the servant's quarters and got dressed before getting an apple for breakfast. Then, I went to Sansa's room to wake her for the day.

"My Lady...It's time to wake up" I cooed sweetly.

The redhead opened one eye to look up at me from her face down position on the bed. "Since when do you call me that, Y/N?" her muffled voice murmured into the pillows tiredly.

"Since I decided to be nice before I yank the covers off you. Now, get up, before I get a bucket" I threatened teasingly before going to the wooden table on the other side of the room to get the cup of tea from the tray I'd brought with me.

"Fine" She sighed as she turned over and forced herself to sit up, taking the cup of tea when I offered it to her.

"Did you sleep well?" I asked, eyeing the top of her head with a sly grin.

"Very. Why?" She asked after taking a sip, looking at me out the corner of her eye.

"Your hair answered that question before I thought to ask it" I teased with a quiet laugh.

Her eyes widened as she realized what I meant, her hand shot up to feel the ravens nest her beautiful red hair had turned to in the night. "Oh no, it's worse than yesterday" She groaned with a pout.

"Oh hush. It's nothing I haven't dealt with a hundred times with my own hair" I said scoffed with a small smirk, running a hand over the long H/C braid that rested on my shoulder.

"Sometimes I wish long hair wasn't considered Ladylike so I could cut it" she muttered, causing me to lift a brow.

"You would look very strange with short hair, Sansa" I said as I stood and went to to her vanity to get her hairbrush.

"Yes, but at least it wouldn't get in the way like this" She said, setting aside the cup of tea to come sit on the bench in front of her mirror.

"I love your hair just the way it is" I said as I started to gently work the knots and tangles out of each lock in my hands.

By the time I was done with Sansa's hair, pulling it back into a popular Northern style, breakfast was about to start. So, I followed her down to the Main Hall where the rest of her family was, standing off to the side in case I was needed for anything.

After that, it was time for Sansa and Arya's lessons and the like, so I went with them and listened as Septa Mordane taught them histories and edicate. Smiling softly at Arya as Septa complimented Sansa's sewing skills. I understood the girl's inclination for more boyish activities. I was, and still am, much the same. I just know how to hide it better.

It was when I heard the laughing of men and the swish of arrows outside that I went over to her.

"Go on. I'll cover for you" I whispered with a knowing smile.

She grinned. "Thank you, Y/N" she said before getting up and sneaking away.

Later Sansa and Arya were called by their father, Lord Eddard Stark, for something, he'd said it was a surprise. And a surprise it certainly was, when he presented the two girls with Direwolf pups, still small and yipping. I smiled widely at the two of them when they held the small, wiggling, creatures.

"They're wonderful, father!" Arya said happily as her pup licked her chin playfully.

"Adorable" Sansa giggled and she planted a soft kiss on the head of hers.

"What will you name them?" I asked as I watched the scene before me.

"Nymeria" Arya said decidedly.

"After The Queen of Dorne?" I asked, already knowing that I was right as Arya nodded happily.

"What about you Sansa?" Ned asked looking to his eldest daughter.

Sansa held up the pup to look at her properly. "Lady" she said quietly with a short nod.

"That's a lovely name" Catelyn Stark said as she entered the room. She clearly didn't approve of the chosen pets for her children but was letting it
go.

"My Lady" I said curtsying lightly in her direction.

"Hello, Y/N" she said with a soft smile. She'd always liked me, I've never known why but I assumed it had something to do with out close I was with her daughters. Perhaps it was that I was a good example for both girls. But I never asked and she never said.

Later that day a raven came with a message. The King and Queen where coming to Winterfell with their three children and the Queens brothers, Jaime and Tyrion.

Sansa was ecstatic to get to meet Prince Joffrey, something about just hearing his name gave me a bad feeling in my gut, the Prince was bad news. But I didn't say so as I didn't want to bring down Sansa's excitement.

During the preparations for their arrival I was sent to the Butchers to see what they had and what they would need, so the hunters and farmers could be contacted if necessary.

Of course, it was just my luck that one of the butchers also handled hair cuts and shaving for the men of Winterfell. And when I arrived I was met with the sight of Rob, Theon, and Jon, all shirtless and muttering about the royal family.

"I hear the Prince is a right royal prick" I heard rob say just before I walked through the door.

"Imagine all the Southern girls he gets to stab with his right royal prick" Theon said as I walked through the door.

"What a lovely thought, Theon" I said sarcastically as I handed the other butcher the list that Lady Catelyn wrote.

"Give you any ideas, Y/N?" the Greyjoy flirted shamelessly.

"Not with you it doesn't" I answered smugly, forcing myself not to look at Jon as I said it.

"One day I'll get you in my bed" Theon said like he was making a promise.

"Only in your dreams, Theon" I replied, now leaning back on the butchers table as Rob stood from the stool he'd gotten his face shaved on.

"Go on, Tommy, Sheer him good!" Rob said slapping Jon on the back as the Bastard went to sit where Rob had been. "He's never met a girl he likes
better than his own hair" The Stark continued as he and Theon started to laugh. I looked at Jon to find him looking at me, I looked away quickly, my
cheeks burning lightly.

I guess I should mention that I was hopelessly head over heels for Jon Snow. We'd grown up together and were best friends till we turned 14, then
we began to grow up and grew apart. Then he decided that he wanted to join the Nights Watch when he was older and I distanced myself even further from him, not wanting to get in the way of his dream.

After the Butcher wrote down what he had I went back to Lady Catelyn to give her the list before going to look for Sansa, who I spent the rest of the day with.

A week later we where all preparing for the King and his family to arrive. I was in Sansa's room helping her pick out a dress to wear and deciding what to do with her hair. "Sansa stop fidgeting! I can't tie this if you keep moving" I scolded as I tied the laces to the back of her under dress.

"I can't help it! I'm going to meet the King and his family! I want to make a good impression" She said, clearly nervous. Then she went quiet for a moment before murmuring. "What if they hate me?"

"Don't talk like that" I said firmly, turning her to face me so I could look her in the eye. "They'll love you. You're a right proper lady and anyone who doesn't like you is a fool, King or no" I said, maintaining my firm tone.

She smiled sweetly at me before wrapping her arms around me. Only 13 years old and already taller than not only me but most of the boys in Winterfell, but beautiful as well, prettiest girl in the North.

"Thank you, Y/N..." She said quietly.

"You're welcome, little wolf" I whispered back, using the nickname I gave her when she was born, though now she was almost a woman I still saw
her as the sweet little babe that I met when I was a small child. "Now. Let's get you ready to meet the Royal Family" I said as we turned to her
wardrobe.

Shortly there after I stood behind Sansa, between Theon and Jon, as she stood in a line-up of her siblings and parents, all save for Arya, who I knew was outside the wall watching the solders ride by. Catelyn looked around for a moment.

"Where's Arya?" She asked before looking to Sansa. "Sansa, where's your sister?" She asked. Sansa shrugged before glancing over her shoulder at me, knowing that I knew, but I didn't say anything. One of the reasons Arya liked me so much was because I only ratted her out when I knew she could get hurt doing something, the rest of the time I let her do as she pleased, as it usually did no damage to anyone or anything.

The missing girl soon ran up, a too-large helmet on her head. Her father stopped her and took it off her head, asking why she had it before sending over to stand between Sansa and Bran, ordering Bran to move rather harshly as she did, I didn't approve of her sudden harshness but my opinion wasn't important and her attitude was a conversation for another time.

Just after that the Royal caravan trotted up, a few guards and Jaime Lannisterfirst, then Joffrey Baratheon with the Hound riding beside him, a snarling dog helmet on his head concealing his face. As the men on horses lined up I saw Sansa looking at the Prince with a smile, and when I looked at the Prince I saw him smiling back. I didn't trust the boy, no matter who his father was or what he would one day become.

The carriage that I assumed contained the Queen, Prince Tommen, Princess Myrcella, and all the queen's handmaidens came to a stop, then came King Robert on a horse, surrounded by solders.

We all knelt as he rode his horse closer before stopping and climbing off. We all knelt and he strode toward where Ned was with an expression that looked almost angry, for a moment I was scared that something was wrong, then he gestured for for Ned to stand up and we all followed suit, I found I couldn't stop looking at the King, I'd never been so close to such as important person before. I mean sure, I was practically raised by the great Stark's of Winterfell but that was different than seeing the King of all Westeros in front of me.

"Your Grace" Ned said with a slow nod, being respectful despite the fact that the two men were basically bestfriends.

King Robert looked at Ned for a moment before he spoke. "You got fat" He said, sounding dead serious.

Ned glanced at the Kings rather 'out there' gut before looking back a his face. The Kings expression didn't change for a moment before he burst into laughter, Ned joining him as they hugged like the old buddies they were.

Then he looked to Catelyn. "Cat!" He said happily as he pulled the woman into a hug. She managed a polite 'Your Grace' before he released her.

The King ruffled Rickon's hair before moving back to Ned. "Nine years. I haven't seen you? Where the Hell have you been?" He asked good-naturedly.

"Guarding the North for you, Your Grace" Ned answered happily.

That was when I noticed the Queen stepping out of her carriage with her Handmaidens. They all wore such bright colors and had such pretty hair that I found I was a bit jealous of them, but at the same time they looked very cold in their thin Southern dresses and I found I was happy that I was used to the cold of the North.

Arya looked to Sansa. "Where's the Imp?" She asked, looking genuinely curious.

"Would you shut up?" Sansa said with the same harshness that Arya had when speaking to her brother a moment before, I made a mental note to speak the the redhead about it later.

I leaned down so I could whisper to Arya. "I hear that he's a lecherous one. He may be off doing what men like him do with women of low stature" I said quietly before standing up again, making myself unnoticed as I was meant to be.

The King approached Rob and shook his hand as he spoke. "What have we here? You must be Rob" Then he walked by Sansa. "My, you're a pretty one" He said before looking down at Arya. "And your name is?" He asked.

She looked up at him. "Arya" She answered simply.

Then he looked at Bran. "Oh, show us your muscles" He said and Bran smiled before 'flexing' the muscles in his arms. The King gave a little laugh.
"You'll be a solder" He said, sounding half like he was just trying to make Bran smile and half like he was serious. Either way I smiled at the little display as I watched it.

Then Arya noticed Jaime Lannister taking off his helmet, letting loose his long blond hair. "That's Jaime Lannister, the Queens twin brother" She said quietly.

"Would you please shut up" Sansa all but whined at Arya. I had to roll my eyes as her. As much as I loved Sansa she could really get on my nerves sometimes.

That was when Queen Cersei approached Ned and lifted a hand. Ned took it on his own before kissing her knuckled lightly. "My Queen" He said before Catelyn gave a curtsy.

"My Queen" She said. The Queen gave a small tired smile before King Robert spoke again.

"Take me to your crypt. I wanna pay my respects" He said looking to Ned.

"We've been riding for a month, my love. Surely the dead can wait" The Queen said, sounding as if she were spitting a curse when calling the King her 'love'.

"Ned" Was all the King said before walking off, Ned followed after sending the Queen an apologetic look.

Then I saw Arya look to Sansa. "Where's the Imp?" She asked, probably thinking that she was being quiet.

The Queen looked in her direction before going back to where her twin was. "Where is our brother? Go and find the little beast" She said with distaste.

After that I assisted in taking the Royal Families things to their rooms, I may have been Sansa's handmaiden but there were only so many servant's in Winterfell.

Then I went to Sansa's room, where I found both her and her mother. Catelyn was fixing her hair and I walked in just in time to hear her ask her mother a question. "Do you think Joffrey will like me? What if he thinks I'm ugly?" She asked worriedly.

"Then he is the stupidest prince that every lived" I answered, making my presence known. Sansa lifted the mirror in her hands to look at herself.

"He's so handsome. When would we be married? Soon or do we have to wait?" She asked excitedly, whether the question was to me or her mother I wasn't sure, but it was her mother that answered.

"Hush now. Your father hasn't even said yes" She said.

"Why would he say no? He'd be the second most powerful man in the Kingdoms" Sansa said, sounding genuinely curious as to why her father might refuse the offer to be the Hand of The King.

"He'd have to leave home. He'd have to leave me" She said, looking like that thought was only just occurring to her before snapping out of it and continuing with Sansa's hair. "And so would you" She continued.

I hadn't thought about what Sansa marrying Joffrey would mean for her living situation. The girl would go to live in Kings Landing and I would remain in Winterfell. I'd probably never see her again. I was saddened by the thought but didn't let it show.

"You left your home to come here. And I'd be Queen someday" Then her expression turned to one of realization and she turned to look at her mother. "Please make father say yes" She begged.

Her mother began to say her name in a placating manner only to interrupted by Sansa. "Please, please. It's the only thing I ever wanted" She pleaded. I couldn't resist rolling my eyes, only thing she ever wanted my ass. I have been her confidante since she was born and I happen to know that there are plenty of things she's wanted, she just never begged quite like this for them.

Catelyn looked down at Sansa before looking to me, as if asking for help. I sent her a look that told her that I didn't know what to say.

We all finished getting ready for the feast and went to the Main Hall, where many tables had been set up and there was music playing. Even though I have no noble blood I was seated with Sansa, but I soon found that the rowdy atmosphere of the Hall was a bit too much for me and excused myself.

I walked outside just in time to hear Jon ask Benjin Stark to convince Ned to let him take the Black and become a Brother of the Nights Watch.

I was about to make my presence known when another voice spoke and I chose to stay hidden to hear what the Imp had to say to Jon.

"Your uncle's in the Nights Watch" He said as he left the shadows, a wine skin in his hand.

"What are you doing back there?" Jon asked suspiciously.

"Preparing for a night with your family" He said before taking a drink, walking closer to Jon. "I've always wanted to see the Wall" He said leaning back against a small column for a chain barrier.

"You're Tyrion Lannister. The Queens brother" Jon stated.

"My greatest accomplishment" Tyion said sounding disappointed that that was how people knew him. Then he looked to Jon and I got a bad feeling, like Tyion was about to insult Jon. "And you, you're Ned Stark's Bastard aren't you?" He said, sounding more like a statement than a question.

Jon looked down at him, clearly irritated but didn't say anything as he turned to go back to his sword and practice dummy.

"Did I offend you? Sorry" Tyrion said, much too quickly for it to be real as he followed Jon. "You are the Bastard though" He said.

"Lord Eddard Stark is my father" Jon confirmed.

"And Lady Stark is not your mother. Making you, The Bastard" Tyrion summarized. Jon looked away with an irritated blink. "Let me give you some advice, Bastard. Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor and it can never be used to hurt you" He said before
turning to walk away.

That was when Jon decided to stop playing the mute. "The Hell do you know about being a Bastard?" He asked incredulously.

Tyrion turned and looked at Jon. "All dwarfs are Bastards in their fathers eyes" He said before walking away, taking another swig from his wine skin.

Jon went back to his sword and laid into the practice dummy angrily.

I slowly walked over to where Jon was, staying far enough back to be out of reach of his blade. "He knows nothing" I said surely.

Jon turned to look at me. "You heard that?" He asked, barely looking at me.

I nodded. "I heard everything from when you asked Benjin to take you to the Wall" I said as I leaned against a pillar to the wall-less structure that the dummy was set up under.

"What do you think?" He asked, looking down at his sword, or anywhere that wasn't me to be honest.

"Of what?" I asked, unsure if he was asking about the Wall or what Tyion said.

"Of me wanting to be a Brother of the Nights Watch" He clarified, now looking at me.

I was quiet for a few moments as I thought. I didn't like it. If Sansa went to Kings Landing and Jon went to the Wall I would be left alone. Sure, I
would still have Catelyn, Arya, Rob, Bran, and Rickon. But I was far closer to Jon and Sansa and without them I'd, for all intents and purposes, be alone.

But it wasn't my life, and it wasn't my decision to make. "I don't know" I said. "I know that you're young and shouldn't go making vows before you truly know what you want in life. You could want to have a family one day and you won't be able to if you take that vow" I said slowly, thinking over every word I said.

Jon seemed to think about my words for a moment. "I know what I want" He said decidedly. "And what I want is to take the Black and become a
Brother of the Nights Watch" He said standing straight and looking me in the eye.

I gave a quiet sigh. "You know nothing, Jon Snow. I hope you're happy with it 10 years from now" I said before turning and walking back to the Main Hall.

I took my seat next to Sansa and put a smile on my face so as not to worry the girl with my personal problems. Then another servant came over, saying that the Queen wanted to speak with Sansa. She smiled and stood, taking my hand as she went. I looked at her confusedly but followed her lead as she went and stood before the Queen, I stopped a few feet behind her, like a good handmaiden should.

"Hello, Little Dove, but you are a beauty. How old are you?" She asked, sounding very friendly, but I didn't trust it. No one who reaches her level of power gets there the honorable way, her husband didn't, though I'm told that it was for the best.

"13, Your Grace" She answered, sounding proud. That pride brought a smile to my face.

"You're tall. Still growing?" The Queen asked. And my smile dropped. Oh dear...That's never a good question coming from a woman like her.

"I think so, Your Grace" Sansa answered, sounding only slightly less proud.

"And have you bled yet?" She asked. I could see the nerves suddenly take over Sansa and I wanted to pull her away. But I couldn't.

I watched as Sansa looked to her mother before looking back at the Queen. She shook her head slowly. "No, Your Grace" She answered.

Then the Queen seemed to jump tracks. "And your dress, did you make it?" She asked, sounding sweet again.

I saw the pride light up Sansa again as she nodded. The Queen smiled. "Such a talent. You must make something for me" She said, the way she spoke made it sound like a kind request and not an order, for that I was happy.

Sansa started to walk back to our seats, grabbing my hand again as she went. "Did you hear what she said?" Sansa asked excitedly.

"Yes, I did. She seems to like you" I said as we sat. I sipped at the wine in my cup as we chatted with the other girls at the table.

Then she looked toward Joffrey, I looked as well and found that he was watching her. "He's looking at me" She whispered to me.

I nodded. "That he is" I said as I eyed him carefully.

Then my attention was pulled back to Sansa as a spoon full of food hit her face, launched at her by Arya. The redhead gasped and started to whine at Arya for being annoying and for ruining her favorite dress. I helped her clean up as Rob came and whisked Arya away, stating that it was bedtime.

Hours later I was helping Sansa get ready for bed. Brushing her hair before braiding it so it wouldn't knot up in her sleep. "Are you sure this will work?" She asked impatiently as I tied off the braid.

I chuckled. "Yes, I'm sure. It's what I do every night. And even during the day. Keeps the hair out of the way so I can work. And it keeps your hair in one place so it would be a ravens nest when you wake up" I answered, lightly teasing her as I let the braid rest against her back.

"Now, you best get to sleep, My Lady. Long day tomorrow and you'll want to look nice for the Royal Family" I said as I went to take my leave.

"Good night, Y/N" Sansa said as she laid down on her bed.

"Good night, Sansa" I said as I closed the door.

I made my way back to the servant's quarters and prepared for bed before laying down and letting myself drift off, wondering what was to come of all the things that seemed to be falling into place.

Chapter Text

The next day, when I when passed through the keep to get to Sansa's room, I was met by the Hound, Sandor Clegane.

The man was far taller than me but I found that I didn't fear him. He may be bigger but I was faster and there is no way that he would be able to catch me should I decide I didn't want him to. He was leaning against a wall next to the dogs kennels lazily and looked at me when I got closer. I would be lying if I said I found the scars attractive but at the same time they weren't anywhere near as bad as some make them out to be. They covered the upper left fourth of his head and looked uncomfortable seeing as scarred skin tends to not have much in the way of feeling.

"Ser Clegane" I said, giving a small nod of acknowledgement.

"Not a Ser" He said gruffly, only barely looking at me.

"What?" I asked, not understanding him.

"I'm not a Knight. Just a soldier" He clarified, still just as gruff as before.

"Right. Well, I'll remember that next time Mr. Clegane" I said politely before going to walk away.

As I walked I could feel his eyes on me but I didn't look back.

When I reached Sansa's room I found that she was already awake and dressed, trying to make herself look pretty for the Prince.

I sighed and rolled my eyes. "You look fine, Sansa. Stop primping so much" I said as I pulled her over to the table and made her sit down.

"I can't help it. Prince Joffrey is somewhere in Winterfell right now and I could see him at any moment" She said as she fidgeted in her seat.

"Well, he won’t see much of you if you don't leave your room. And I should hope that he isn't coming here" I said, only half teasing.

She smiled at me and sighed. "You're right. Shall we go find Septa and start my lessons for today?" She asked as she stood.

I nodded and stood before following her out of her room.

On the way to find the Septa I found out that Ned and King Robert were going to go on a hunt, which could last anywhere from a day to two weeks, possibly longer.
But I wasn't worried, Lord Stark was a smart and careful man. And the King went on so many hunts it was silly to worry for him at this point.

We didn't get far into the lessons before Arya came running in, coming from Gods know where, saying that Bran was hurt.

I stood. "What happened?" I asked worriedly, looking down at the girl.

"Maester says he fell from a high ledge. That's all they would tell me" she answered, tears starting to brim in her eyes.

I pulled the girl into my arms. "It'll be okay. Your brother is strong. He's a Stark and it takes a lot more than a fall to kill a Stark" I said as I held the crying girl. I looked up at Sansa and found that she too had tears in her eyes. I lifted an arm, offering to hold her as well. She didn't hesitate to accept.

A week later Bran continued to sleep and Lord Stark had accepted the job to be the Hand of The King. I thought he was mad for taking such a job, seeing as Hands seem to have a tendency of dying, but it wasn't my place to say anything about it, so I didn't.

I was helping Sansa pack for the trip to Kings Landing, still thinking that I would be staying in Winterfell. "I think that we're almost done packing, Sansa" I said as I placed an under dress in her trunk.

"What about you? Have you even started packing?" The redhead asked, eyes on the dress she was folding.

"Why would I be packing?" I asked as I placed an already folded dress in the trunk.

"Because, you're coming with me" She said, now looking at me.

I turned to her with wide eyes, almost unable to believe what she'd just told me.

“I am?” I asked, dumbfounded.

“Yes! Did you really think I would leave my bestfriend?” She said, laughing lightly at my surprise.

I let out a laugh of my own as I hugged her tight. “I guess I should go pack my things then” I said after a moment.

“Yes, you should. Go on, I can handle the rest of this on my own” She said before lightly pushing me in the direction of the door.

I all but ran back to my room, finding a well-made new trunk sitting on my bed. I started to pack my meager possessions, folding the few dresses I owned and setting them aside to be put in the trunk.

Then, I reached the bottom of the small box I’d been storing them in, finding an old dagger that I was given by my mother when I was young. She’d given it to me with a warning about people being dangerous and to use it to keep myself safe. I was very young at the time and the warning had taken on a new meaning when I got older.

Now I realized how much I might truly need it. Kings Landing was a dangerous place, whether one is Noble or not. If someone of high standing decides they don’t like me for whatever reason then I might need to protect myself.

I took the sheathed dagger in my hands and looked it over. It wasn’t large but it was big enough to kill a man if I used it right. The simple brown leather sheath had two small loops at the top and bottom, and the pattern of a thorny vine stamped onto it. I pulled the blade from the sheath and looked it over; the handle was iron wrapped in black horse-skin leather that had been tanned smooth while the blade was a simple double edged iron one that came to a triangular point at the tip. I gently ran my thumb along the side of the edge to see how sharp it was, so I could get a whetstone before I left if necessary, and felt that it was plenty sharp.

I sheathed it and was about to put it in my trunk when I hesitated. If I put it in the trunk I wouldn’t be able to get to it if I needed it. So, I set it next to the trunk and began digging around to for a loose strip of cloth.

Upon finding one I made sure that my door was closed and locked before going I started to string the loose cloth through the loops on the sheath. I lifted my skirt, resting my right foot on the edge of my bed. With my thigh bared, I started to tie the dagger to my leg, making sure it was lose enough that it wouldn’t be uncomfortable but tight enough that it wouldn’t fall off, I even jumped around and tried walking and running in the small space to make sure it was secure.

When I was sure that it would stay, I went back to packing.

My possessions barely filled half the trunk but I wasn’t concerned about it, I was too busy being happy that I was going with Sansa.

Once my things were packed I went back to Sansa’s room to see if she needed anything before I started helping get things ready to leave, she didn’t need anything.

So, I went outside to help the other servants load the Royal Family’s and the Starks, Ned, Sansa, and Arya, luggage onto the carriages. I was rather surprised when I was told that Arya was coming with us too but I wasn’t going to complain, she was good company and I knew that she would enjoy herself in Kings Landing.

Once everything was loaded and put away, my own things included, I was given the option of riding in the carriage with Sansa, or riding horseback. I would have chosen horseback without hesitation but I would have had to ride behind one of the men, seeing as all the horses had riders already, and the only man that would even consider the idea of me riding with him was Sandor, the Hound, and I think that’s only because he wanted to leave already.

Now, I should reiterate that I have no problem with the Hound. I wasn’t scared of him, and I wasn’t repulsed by him either. I was just worried about annoying him, as he seemed the easily annoyed type.

In the end, I chose to ride in the carriage with Sansa and Arya, who had wanted to ride horseback but was forced into the carriage by her father.

We still had some time till we were going to leave so I took the chance to go see Bran.

When I entered his room, I was met with the sight of the sleeping boy in his bed, his Direwolf lying next to him, and Catelyn sitting in a chair at his bedside making small dolls for a prayer wheel to The Seven.

“Lady Stark” I said quietly as I opened the door and entered slowly. “I came to see Bran before we leave” I continued, looking between the sleeping form of Bran and her.

She nodded tiredly, bags under here watery eyes made her look older than she was and she was pale with fatigue. I approached the bed slowly and sat on the edge,
Bran looked so peaceful that it almost brought tears to my eyes.

“Get well, Bran. You’re a strong boy and you still a lot left to do in this world. So, don’t go leaving it just yet” I said quietly before leaning forward and placing a soft kiss on his forehead. I stood and turned to Catelyn. “My Lady, I hope to see you again” I said with a slow curtsy.

I watched as Catelyn stood and came to stand in front of me. For a moment, her expression was unreadable. Then that melted away into a tired but genuine smile as she pulled me into a tight hug. “Take care of them, Y/N. That place is where good people die” She said, almost pleaded.

I wrapped my arms around her. “I will. You have my word, Catelyn, I will keep them safe” I vowed. We let go of each other and I walked out the door.

I was walking past the Blacksmith when I saw Jaime Lannister talking to Jon. I waited till the blond had walked away before approaching. “What did the Lannister want?” I asked as I watched the retreating figure, arms crossed over my chest.

Jon looked between me and a small sword that the Blacksmith was polishing. “I’m not sure” He answered.

“The Lannister’s are a strange bunch. Very hard to read. But you can almost always guarantee that they have an ulterior motive” I said, now looking at Jon. Then my eyes landed on the sword. “Bit small for you, isn’t it?” I asked teasingly.

Jon gave a small chuckle before leaning toward me slightly. “It’s for Arya” he said in a hushed tone.

I nodded as I looked back at the blade. “She’ll love it. I swear, if she could turn herself into a boy, she would. Remember when we were her age and I was the same?” I asked, now reminiscing.

Jon nodded. “I do. You were always muddy. It drove Septa mad” he said, a fond smile finding his lightly bearded face.

“We leave today…Are you ready to go to Castle Black?” I asked, changing the topic.

Jon was quiet for a few moments, looking at the ground, clearly thinking about what he was about to say. “Yes. I believe I am” he answered, looking at me.

I nodded. “Be careful. There’s more than just Wildlings in the woods beyond the Wall” I warned before walking away without saying goodbye.

I hated ‘goodbyes’. They were too final. I never knew my father, as I was the product of a single night of young passion after one too many cups of wine, but my mother told me that he’d had the decency to at least say goodbye before walking out the door. My mother said goodbye when she died of a fever that ran so hot I couldn’t touch her skin. In my experience the word ‘goodbye’ was a ill omen that brought death. So, I didn’t say them.

We’d made all the final preparations and I was about to climb into the carriage with Sansa when I caught sight of Jon and Robb hugging, it brought a small smile to my face. They may only be half-brothers but they are brothers none-the-less.

“Y/N? Are you coming?” Sansa called from inside the carriage.

“Yes, Lady Sansa” I said, mentally reminding myself to use formal titles while in public, as I climbed the rest of the way in and sat next to Arya, who seated between
Sansa and I, pouting because she hadn’t been allowed to ride outside with the men.

We got comfortable for the day’s ride ahead of us and rode out of Winterfell. I looked out the window back at Winterfell and saw Robb watching us go. I lifted a hand and gave a small wave, which we were still close enough for him to see, he returned it and I watched as the Keep shrank from view.

Further down the road we reached the turn off for the Wall and the men that were going broke off from the group to go down the path. I glimpsed Ned talking to Jon and wondered briefly what was being said. Then, as Ned rode off to catch up with the group, Jon’s eye caught mine through the window. I gave a small nod, as if to say that I’d see him again, and watched as he did the same before riding to catch up with the Wall bound group.

I felt a small tear slide down my cheek at how final it all felt, but quickly wiped it away so as not to worry Sansa or Arya.

I’d lost track of how long we’d been traveling, a few days at least, when we stopped at a large Inn.

The Kings Caravan made camp on the outside while The Royal Family and the Starks stayed inside, Sansa insisting that I stay with her made sure that I had a bed inside as well.

Sansa said she wanted to take Lady for a walk and asked me to go with her as she tied a leash to the Direwolf.

We walked for a while before she caught sight of the Queens handmaids doing their hair and giggling among themselves, Gods how I hated Southern girls.

Sansa slowed to watch them as she walked and almost walked into an older man, who had stepped in her way intentionally.

“Pardon me, Sir” She said with startled politeness. I didn’t like this man, he was trying scare Sansa for no reason.

He stared as her as she slowly backed up only for the Hound to appear behind her and place his hand on her shoulder.

She turned to look up at him as he spoke. “Do I frighten you so much, girl?” He asked before looking at the man from before, who perked up when the Hound looked at him. “Or is it him there making you shake?” he asked, Sansa looked at the other man. “He frightens me too. Look at that face” he said, sounding serious but I knew
he was making a, rather self-deprecating, joke.

Sansa turned to the other man again. “I’m sorry if I offended you, Sir” She said.

He started at her and almost seemed to hiss in his throat at the Hound as he walked by.

Sansa and Sandor watched him walk away for a moment as she asked why he wouldn’t speak to her only to interrupted by Sandor. “He hasn’t been very talkative these last 20 years. Since the Mad King had his tongue ripped out with hot pincers” he said, being bluntly honest.

At that moment, Prince Joffrey walked up. “Speaks damn well with a sword though. Ilyn Payne, The Kings Justice, The Royal Executioner” He said, gazing at Sansa as she gazed back, he brushed his fingers over Sansa chin. “What is it, Sweetling?” he asked, caringly, before looking up at Sandor. “Does the Hound frighten you? Away with you dog. You’re scaring my Lady” he ordered as Sandor bowed and walked away.

It was moments like this that made me really dislike the Prince.

I curtseyed to him as I was expected to, remembering myself as I’d gotten lost in the moment. “My Prince” I said quietly, hoping he would do what most nobles do and ignore me.

“Who’s this?” he asked Sansa as he eyed me.

“My handmaiden, Y/N” she answered, sending me a smile, which I returned.

“Pleasure to meet you” he said, sounding genuine but I knew the truth that came with all nobles from the South. He couldn’t care less about having met me.

He looked up the sky before looking at Sansa. “The sun’s finally shining. Come walk with me” he requested, the underlying order not lost on me.

Sansa smiled and looked down at Lady. “Stay, Lady” She ordered the Direwolf before looking to me.

“Shall I stay with Lady, My Lady?” I asked looking to Sansa.

She looked at me for a moment before looking to Joffrey. “Can she come with us?” she requested and Joffrey looked at me.

It was obvious to me that he didn’t like that idea but let it go and nodded with a small smile. “Of course, whatever My Lady wants” he said.

Sansa smiled back at him and they began walking. I patted Lady’s head as I walked past her sitting form.

I stayed a few paces behind them as we walked, they chatted idly till we reached the river.

There we found Arya and the Butchers son play dueling with sticks, the clacks of wood meeting wood could be heard before we could see them.

Somewhere along the way Joffrey had picked up a wineskin and took a drink from it before offering it to Sansa. “I probably shouldn’t have any more. Father only lets us have one cup as feasts” She said, trying to politely decline.

“My Princess can drink as much as she wants” He said before offering the wineskin to her again, a bit more forcefully this time. She accepted it with a small smile and took a drink, making a face that Joffrey didn’t see because he was looking toward where Arya and the Butchers son were play fighting.

Sansa looked over too and I felt like my stomach had plummeted down to my feet. Something bad was about to happen and I couldn’t do anything about it.

Joffrey looked to Sansa again. “Don’t worry, you’re safe with me” He said as he began to approach them.

I took this chance to discreetly reach under my skirt to retrieve my dagger from its place on my thigh, hiding it in my long loose sleeve so it wouldn’t be seen. I
wanted to be ready in case I needed it but didn’t want to be accused of being a danger to the Royal Family for having it to begin with.

We heard the boy say. “I’ll get you!” playfully as we approached and they swung and blocked with their sticks.

“Arya!” Sansa said scolding. Causing the girl to look our way, the boy using the chance to give her a smack to her arm.

“Ow!” She said sending the boy a look before looking at her sister. “What are you doing here? Go away” she said irritated.

This was one of those times that I really wished that Sansa and Arya would get along.

Joffrey glanced at Sansa. “Your sister?” he asked, to which Sansa responded with a nod.

Sansa stopped walking but Joffrey kept going, approaching the boy in an almost predatorial way. “And who are you, boy?” He asked.

“Mycah, Mi Lord” He answered, dropping his stick.

“He’s the Butchers boy” Sansa said, practically growling through her teeth. At this I decided that it was time I sat Sansa down and had a very serious talk with her about her unnecessary and ridiculous anger at her sister all the time. Of course, I would have to have a talk with Arya about teasing Sansa as well but that is all in due
time.

“He’s my friend!” Arya said glaring at her sister.

“A Butchers boy who wants to be a Knight eh?” Joffrey asked teasingly as he approached. Mycah looked to the ground, clearly scared. “Pick up your sword Butchers boy, let’s see how good you are” he said as he drew the sword that had been hanging from his hip the entire walk.

“She asked me to, Mi Lord, she asked me to” Mycah said defensively, trying to avoid whatever punishment he was sure was coming.

“I’m your Prince. Not your Lord. And I said, ‘pick up your sword” Joffrey ordered.

I could tell that this was spiraling out of control very quickly and I gripped the handle of my dagger a little tighter.

“It’s not a sword, My Prince. It’s only a stick” he said, hoping that Joffrey would stop threatening him.

“And you’re not a Knight. Only a Butchers boy” he said as he raised the tip of his, very real, sword to Mycah’s face. “That was My Lady’s sister you were hitting. Do you know that?” he asked, sounding like he was scolding the boy.

“Stop it!” Arya said angrily.

“Arya, stay out of this” Sansa ordered, just as angry.

I’d honestly had enough this whole thing but there wasn’t much I could do beside defend Sansa or Arya if the Prince went after either of them.

“I won’t hurt him…Much” Joffrey said as he pressed the blade to Mycah’s cheek and drug it down a bit, leaving a deep cut.

Arya screamed and swung her stick at Joffrey, hitting his back, as Sansa screamed her name.

Mycah ran away as Joffrey started to swing his sword at Arya, who managed to dodge each swing.

Sansa was standing off to the side yelling at both of them to stop and saying that Arya was spoiling everything, much like she always does when things don’t fit her
overly imaginative plans.

Arya made one more dodge but lost her balance and fell to her back as Joffrey pointed his sword at her. “I’ll gut you! You little cunt!” he shouted.

I was about to intervene when Nymeria ran up and bit Joffrey’s arm, holding it in her mouth and growling, she wasn’t doing much damage but Joffrey was sent to the ground by the sudden attack and screamed.

Sansa screamed Arya’s name and the girl stood, pulling Nymeria off Joffrey. She picked up his sword and pointed it at him, a good foot away from him, where it was little more than an idle threat, though she looked like she really was debating hurting the Prince.

The Prince begged her not to hurt him while Sansa ordered her to leave him alone, both of which she seemed to be ignoring.

“Arya. Don’t” I said calmly from my place by Sansa. I knew there was a good chance she may ignore me, but there was also a good chance that she would listen.

She pulled the sword away from Joffrey and went to the river, throwing it into the water before running away, Nymeria at her side.

Sansa went to Joffrey’s side. “My Prince. My poor Prince. Look what they did to you” She said worriedly as Joffrey tried to keep her from looking at him. “Stay here, I’ll
go back to the Inn and bring help” she said before moving the caress his cheek.

“THEN GO!” He growled. “Don’t touch me” he said, quieter, sounding like the spoilt child he was.

I would admit that he had a right to upset after getting bitten by a Direwolf but it wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been so cruel to Mycah and hadn’t tried to kill Arya.

Sansa and I went back to the Inn and told the Guards that the Prince was hurt and that Arya was missing before being sent to Sansa’s room.

Once we were alone and the door was closed I turned to Sansa. “You and I need to have a talk” I said firmly from my place by the door.

“I don’t want to talk” She said, sitting on the edge of her bed pouting.

“Too damn bad. Sansa, you need to stop blaming everything on Arya. And you must stop yelling at her every time she speaks to you. And before you say that you
don’t yell at her I’m here to tell you that: Yes, you do. Very harshly I might add” I scolded, making sure that Sansa understood how serious I was. “I get it. Sometimes
she does things that are annoying and sometimes those things are done with the purpose of annoying you. But, that is not every time she speaks to you and you need to learn not to get mad when she just wants to ask you something or talk to you” I said, starting in the same harsh tone but slowly softening, but remaining firm.

I moved over to kneel in front of her. “She is your sister. Your only sister. And I know that you love her but you need to show it or she’ll end up hating you when you’re both older. And, trust me, that’s not something you want” I said, my hands rest on her knees as I looked up at her.

“But she’s so annoying” Sansa whined and I rolled my eyes.

“I’ll talk to her about it too. But this problem comes from both of you. You need to be nicer and not get angry at her so much, and she needs to not tease you so much. Something that I’m sure I can convince her to do” I said, a small smile finding my face before it dropped. “But first we need to solve this little problem” I said, referring to what happened by the river.

We were silent for a few moments, neither of us moving, when I asked the most important question that I could possibly ask at this moment. “Do you still like him? After everything that just happened. After he tried to kill your sister. After he hurt an innocent boy for no reason. Do you still want to marry him?” I asked, honestly worried that she would say yes.

She looked down at me, looking genuinely lost. “I don’t know” She said quietly.

“Then I’ll help you figure it out” I said as moved to sit next to her on the bed, pulling her into my arms and holding her.

Hours later, well into the evening after the sun had gone down, Sansa was summoned by the Queen, being told to come to the Main Hall of the Inn. “Please, come with me” She all but begged me.

“Of course, Sansa” I said with a nod as we followed a guard to the Main Hall.

As we got closer we could hear the voices of the King, Queen, Ned, Joffrey, and Arya.

“Sansa, come here, darling” The Queen called as we both walked in.

Sansa gripped my hand as I followed just behind her, I have her hand a small reassuring squeeze as we approached them.

The King gestured for her to come closer. “Now, child. Tell us what happened. Tell it all, and tell it true. It’s a great crime to lie to a King” He said, sounding very much done with this whole thing.

Sansa looked to her father before looking to Joffrey. “I don’t know. I don’t remember. Everything happened so fast. I didn’t see” She lied. I sighed and gave my head a little shake.

“LIAR! Liar liar liar!” Arya screamed as she grabbed Sansa’s hair, still chanting the mantra of ‘liar’ as Ned tried to separate them.

I looked at the Queen for a moment and saw her smirking. In that moment I would have been willing to accept the punishment that would come if I’d hit her, just to wipe that smirk off her face.

“She’s as wild as that animal of hers. I want her punished” The Queen said, still smirking.

“What would you have me do, whip her through the streets? Damn it, children fight. It’s over” The King asked irritably, clearly not in the mood to put up with any nonsense from his wife.

“Joffrey will bare these scars for the rest of his life” She said, sounding calm but clearly irritated herself.

King Robert looked from his wife to his son. “You let that little girl disarm you?” He said, sounding more like a statement than a question.

Joffrey tried to glare at his father as the people in the room began to murmur before looking away humiliated.

King Robert looked to Ned. “Ned, see to it that your daughter’s disciplined. I’ll do the same of my son” he said.

“Gladly, Your Grace” He said as he turned to Arya.

The King had only just gotten up and was about to walk away when the Queen opened her mouth again. “And what of the Direwolf? What of the beast that savaged your son?” She asked, looking smug. Once again, I felt my hand itch to hit her.

We all looked to King Robert and he looked tired. “Forgot the damned wolf” He muttered before turning to his head guard.

The man straightened up. “We found no trace of the Direwolf, Your Grace” He said.

“No? So be it” He said, about to let the whole thing go and leave.

Then the fucking Queen opened her mouth again. “They have another wolf” She said. For a moment, I wondered if she was aware that Lady wasn’t there and was the
most well behaved of the entire litter but judging from the expression on her face she didn’t care.

Instead of telling the Queen to drop it, King Robert looked over his shoulder at her and just gave a tired look. “As you will” He said before once again trying to walk away.

Ned looked at him. “You can’t mean it” He said hoping that Robert wasn’t serious about killing Lady.

The King looked at Ned. “A Direwolf’s no pet. Get her a dog, she’ll be happier for it” He said, continuing on.

“He doesn’t mean Lady, does he?” Sansa asked, practically whimpering the words. “No, no. Not Lady. Lady didn’t bite anyone! She’s good!” She yelled, tears filling her eyes.

“Lady wasn’t there! You leave her alone!” Arya said, looking at the Queen dead on.

The Queen simply looked at them, still with that smug expression, like she enjoyed bringing them pointless pain.

Sansa grabbed her father’s arm. “Stop them! Don’t let them do it! Please! Please! It wasn’t Lady!” She begged looking to the Prince and Queen, who both looked far too smug for the situation.

Ned turned to where the King had yet to leave the room. “Is this your command, Your Grace?” He asked, hoping beyond hope that the King would say no.

King Robert didn’t respond as he walked out of the room.

The Queen looked to the guard from before, looking all too giddy. “Where is the beast?” She asked.

“Chained up. Outside, Your Grace” He answered.

She made an almost bounce-like motion with her torso as she turned to look at the Executioner. “Ser Ilyn, do me the honor” She ordered.

The mute man was about to fulfill his orders when Ned stopped him. “No. Jory, take the girls to their rooms” He ordered before turning to the Queen. “If it must be done. I will do it myself” He said.

“Is this some trick?” The Queen asked. I had the feeling that she wanted to drag out the pain as much as possible so she could keep enjoying it.

“The wolf is of the North. She deserves better than a Butcher” He said before walking away to go do what he had no other choice but to do.

Jory and I took Sansa and Arya to their rooms and I stayed with Sansa, holding her as she cried in my arms till she fell asleep.

I slept in Sansa’s room that night. I didn’t want to leave her alone should she wake in the night. And as I slowly let myself slip into the dark hands of sleep I made a silent vow that I would make the Queen and Prince suffer for what they’ve done.

Chapter Text

A month after leaving Winterfell we all arrived at Kings Landing.

Arya, Sansa, Septa Mordan, and I rode in on a large wagon while Ned rode a horse ahead of us.

People called and pointed, some leaning towards others to whisper, but we were all too entranced by the sight of the Castle before us.

The tan walls that seemed almost high enough to block the sun brandished red flags that had the crowned stag crest of the Baratheon’s.

Once we were inside the outer walls we came to a stop and Ned dismounted his horse as a man approached him.

“Welcome, Lord Stark. Grant Maester Pycell has called a meeting of the Small Counsel. The honor of your presence is requested” The man said.

Ned turned to where we were. “Get the girls settled in. I’ll be back in time for supper. Jory, go with them” He said to Septa Mordan and I before
looking to Jory.

We both nodded as Jory gave a quick “Yes, My Lord”.

Ned turned back to the man. “If you’d like to change into something more appropriate” The man said.

Ned only responded by looking at him as he removed his gloves.

The man seemed to get the picture and turned to lead Ned away.

“Come on, girls. Let’s get you settled” Septa said giving Sansa a light pat on the leg before climbing off the wagon, the three of us following after.

A few servants came to help us unload the trunks, only stopping to ask Septa or I who’s they were.

After everything was unloaded and taken to the girls rooms we were taken to them, Septa went with Arya and I went with Sansa.

Sansa’s room was lovely and fully furnished with a beautiful bed and vanity, as well as a table for her to take meals at when she ate in her room, a
large wardrobe that had Sansa’s luggage in front of it, and a writing desk with quills, parchment, and ink.

“It’s this lovely, Sansa?” I asked as I looked around. I knew that my quarters wouldn’t be anywhere near this nice but they would most likely be nicer than what I had at Winterfell.

“It’s okay” She said, still upset about what happened to Lady, and very angry at her father.

I sighed. “Sansa, you’re in Kings Landing. You have a bedroom far nicer that what you had in Winterfell. And you’re saying that it’s just ‘okay’?” I asked as I came to stand in front of her, taking her hands in mine. “I know you’re still mad at your father, and I know you miss Lady. But this is an
amazing experience, and you’re missing it” I said softly.

“I’d rather be at home with Lady than here with father” Sansa said, tears welling in her eyes.

“I know, Little Wolf. But you have a chance to be Queen, even if the Prince is an arse” I said, whispering the last part so only Sansa and I could hear it. The last thing I needed was to get in trouble because some nosy servant heard me insult the Prince.

The corners of Sansa’s lips twitched slightly as she blinked, knocking loose the tears that had filled her eyes. “I miss her…I miss her so much” She sobbed.

“I know…” I said as I pulled her into my arms and let her cry, much like I had every night since Lady’s death. “I wish there were something I could have done to save her. And I know your father would have if he could too. He couldn’t disobey the Queen without an order from the King to do so.
You know that” I said, practically speaking over her shoulder as our heads were right next to each other.

We stayed like that for a while before Sansa let go and wiped her eyes. I gave her a small smile and got her some water. As she drank I suggested that we start unpacking, which she answered to with a nod, rim of the cup still in her mouth.

We opened the trunks and started to take things out. First was her clothes, we put those in the wardrobe, her shoes followed and were placed along the bottom. Then were the books she’d brought, we put those on the writing desk in a neat stack. This process went till the trunks were empty and everything was put away.

When dinner rolled around Sansa and I made for the terrace, where we found Arya and Septa waiting.

“Your father will join us soon” Septa said, giving us the go ahead to start eating.

Not long into the meal Arya pushed her half empty plait aside and started to stab the table with her knife.

“Enough of that, young lady. Eat your food” Septa ordered.

“I’m practicing” Arya said, not stopping.

“Practicing for what?” Sansa asked, only slightly less irritable than normal.

“The Prince” Arya answered honestly. Sansa looked at her wide eyed.

“Arya, stop!” Setpa scolded.

“He’s a liar and a coward! And he killed my friend!” She said.

“The Hound killed your friend” Sansa defended.

“The Hound does whatever the Prince tells him to do!” Arya retuned, still stabbing the table.

“You’re an idiot” Sansa said.

“You’re a liar! And if you’d told the truth Mycah would be alive!” Arya said with one final stab into the table.

“Enough!” Septa said as she stood from her seat and pulled Arya to her seat, telling her to go to her room without saying anything.

“What’s happening here?” Ned said as he walked into the room.

“Arya would rather act like a beast than a lady” Septa said, looking at Arya, who had stopped when her father made his presence known.

They looked at each other for a moment before Ned spoke. “Go to your room, we’ll speak later” He said.

Arya walked away and Ned looked at Sansa, who was silently eating her food, he placed a bundle on the table. “That’s for you, love” He said before
taking his seat.

Sansa unwrapped the bundle and found a lovely doll from the royal toymaker. “The same dollmaker makes all of Princess Marcella’s toys” He said, clearly hopeful that she would like it.

I looked between her and him, waiting for her response.

She looked less than impressed.

“Don’t you like it?” He asked.

“I haven’t played with dolls since I was eight” She said, tone sharp. She looked to Septa. “May I be excused?” She asked.

“You’ve barely eaten a thing” Septa replied, clearly a bit concerned.

“It’s alright” Ned said rubbing his eyes.

Sansa stood and I followed, leaving the room. I looked back to give him an apologetic look.

Sansa didn’t speak much with her father for the next few days, no matter how much I tried to persuade her to.

Days passed and All was quiet…Till the tournament came.

Chapter Text

I walked with Setpa and Sansa in the Throne room.

“Someday, your husband will sit there. And you will sit by his side. And one day, before too long, you will present your son to the court. All the
Lords of Westoros will gather here to see the little Prince” Septa said.

I bit back a sigh. As much as I liked the old woman, she really needed to learn when to read the room. Sansa was just beside her trying not to freak out under all the pressure that was suddenly coming to her attention.

“What if I have a girl?” She asked, her eyes on the Iron Throne.

Septa chuckled lightly. “Gods be good, you’ll have boys and girls. And plenty of them” She said.

“What if I only have girls?” Sansa asked, still looking at the Throne.

Septa looked at her calmly. “I wouldn’t worry about that” She said.

Sansa turned and looked at her. “Jane Paul’s mother had five children and all of them girls” She countered.

“Yes, but it’s highly unlikely” Septa said, finally realizing how worried Sansa was about these things.

“But what if?” Sansa sighed.

“Well, if you only had girls I suppose the Throne would pass to Prince Joffrey’s little brother” Septa explained.

“And everyone would hate me” Sansa said.

I chose this moment to step in. “Nobody could ever hate you, Sansa” I said, my hand resting on her shoulder.

“Joffrey does” She answered quickly.

“None sense! Why would you say such a thing?” Septa asked.

“Maybe because he’s an asshole and wants to see Sansa in pain?” I thought.

Septa and Sansa just looked at each other for a moment before Septa got a look of realization. “That business with the wolfs! Sansa, I told you a hundred times that a Direwolf is not” Septa started but was interrupted by Sansa.

“Please, shut up about it!” Sansa snapped and started to walk away. I followed behind her without a word.

“Do you remember your lessons?” Septa asked and Sansa turned and looked at her.

“Who built the Iron Thone?” Septa asked, looking at the ugly thing.

“Aegon The Conqueror” Sansa answered.

“And who built the Red Keep?” Septa asked.

“Maegor the Cruel” Sansa answered. I couldn’t help but wonder where Septa was going with this as she continued to speak.

“And how many years did it take to build the red” Septa was interrupted again.

“My Grandfather and Uncle were killed here, weren’t they?” Sansa asked, though it sounded more like a statement than a question.

Septa hesitated to answer her question but did anyway. “They were killed on the orders of King Aerys, yes” She answered.

“The Mad King” Sansa said, there was no mistaking it for a question.

“Commonly known as The Mad King” Septa begrudgingly confirmed.

“Why were they killed?” Sansa asked. I wanted to step in and usher Sansa away but felt it best that she hears the answers she seems to want.

“You should speak to your father about these matters” Septa responded.

“I don’t want to speak to my father. Ever” She said. I sighed at her words, knowing that all this goes back to him having no choice but to kill Lady.

“Sansa, you will find it in your heart to forgive your father” Septa said.

“No, I won’t” Sansa responded before walking away.

I sighed again and looked at Septa. “I told you not to speak of Lady. She needs time and your nagging about how she shouldn’t have had Lady isn’t
helping. If you really care about Sansa then you’ll accept and heed that” I said before turning and walking away to catch up with Sansa.

I escorted Sansa back to her room, realizing when I got there that her wash basin was empty, as was her fruit bowl. Excused myself and took the fruit bowl to refill first.

I was half way to the kitchen when I heard footsteps behind me. I looked to see who it was out of habit and saw Lord Varys not far behind. I stopped and bowed, as was protocol. “My Lord” I said quietly, expecting him to pass me by without a word.

“I’m not a Lord young lady” He replied, coming to a stop next to me.

“I’m not a lady” I said with a quiet chuckle. “Can I help you with something?” I asked after a moment, realizing that he wasn’t walking away.

“Are you the older Stark Girls Handmaiden?” He asked, leaning a little closer, his tone quieter than before.

I nodded. “I am. Why do you ask?” I replied.

“As the Master of Whispers, I feel that I should have connections with not only all Lords and Ladies but their children as well. I was hoping that you
might be willing to be my connection to Lady Sansa” He explained, all calm voice and gentle demeanor.

I took a step back, now a bit wary of Lord Varys. “Sansa means more to me than anyone. Give me one good reason why I should spy on her for you”
I replied, my tone clipped but not harsh.

“You misunderstand. I’ve no interest in hurting Sansa, quite the contrary. There are elements in Kings Landing that would see her not only hurt but
killed. Her position as the Princes betrothed and the daughter of The Hand are all that’s keeping her safe. If you kept me up to date on whatever goes on with her then I could warn you should it become needed” He answered.

I thought for a moment. He has no reason to want to hurt Sansa, it wouldn’t benefit him in any way. And he could help me protect her from those who would gain from her pain.

“If I agree to help you then you have to help me” I said.

“Of course. I would owe you, you need only say the word” He said.

I nodded. “Fine. I’ll help you. What do you want to know?” I asked.

“Nothing for now. But should she, or you, express concern or distrust of anyone in the Red Keep, let me know” He said.

“Very well. Thank you, Lord Varys” I said before curtsying.

“You needn’t thank me, and please, just Varys is fine” He said with a small friendly smile.

I turned and continued in the direction of the kitchens, slowly navigating the winding corridors and hallways of the Red Keep, making sure to
remember every turn I make so as not to get lost.

Upon reaching the kitchen I should one of the cooks that I needed more fruit for Lady Sansa’s room and gave him the bowl. He returned a few minutes later with bowl, now full of apples, oranges, bananas, pears, and grapes.

With a quick thank you I walked out the door and started back for Sansa’s room.

I was, thankfully, uninterrupted in my journey, as there were few that I could think of that would have anything pleasant to say should I encounter them while alone.

When I walked through Sansa’s door I found her sitting by the window with a book in her hands. I silently thanked the seven that she was able to occupy herself in a way that took her mind off Lady.

I placed the bowl of fruit on the table and picked up the washbasin, quickly leaving to refill it.

I didn’t have to walk as far to fill the basin and was back in Sansa’s room soon after.

Days passed in a similar manner. Sansa was either silent, crying, or cursing her father.

Then the day of the Tournament arrived.

We all sat in the stands to the right of the royal family, Sansa seated in front of me next to Septa and her sister. Sansa looked over toward where the
Prince sat and made eye contact with him. She sent him a small smile and he looked away. I rolled my eyes, the little prick doesn’t know how lucky he is to have Sansa’s favor like he does.

Then Lord Baelish walked up to us. “Lover quarrel?” He asked, half teasing.

We all looked up at him but it was Sansa that spoke first. “I’m sorry do I…?” She left the end of the question unsaid as Septa began to speak.

“Sansa, dear, this is Lord Baelish. He’s known…” She said but was interrupted by Lord Baelish.

“An old friend of the family. I’ve known your mother a long, long, time” He said as he took the empty seat next to Sansa.

“Why do they call you ‘Littlefinger’?” Arya asked quickly, with all the genuine curiosity of a girl her age.

“Arya!” Sansa scolded, seeing the question as rude.

“Don’t be rude!” Septa followed.

“No, it’s quite alright. When I was a child, I was very small. And I come from a little spit of land called The Finger, so you see?” He chuckled, I could
see there was something very dark in that chuckle, and in his eyes. “It’s an exceedingly clever nickname” He continued.

“I’VE BEEN SITTIN HERE FOR DAYS! START THE DAMN JOUST! Before I piss meself” King Robert shouted drunkenly as he stood and then sat back on his seat, handing of goblet off to be refilled.

The Queen looked disgusted and embarrassed as she stood and walked away. “Good” I thought. “The bitch deserves that and more for what she
did.” But I would never dare to say such things out loud. I didn’t have a death wish.

Then an armor-clad rider on a muscular black horse rode onto the track and stopped in front of the stands where we sat.

“Gods…Who is that?” Sansa asked as she watched him.

“Ser Gregor Clegane. They call him The Mountain. The Hounds older brother” Baelish answered.

Ser Clegane open the front of his helm, looked at the King, and bowed as the other knight next to him on his white horse did the same.

“And his opponent?” Sansa asked.

“Ser Hugh of the Vale, he was Jon Arryn’s Squire. And look how far he’s come…” Baelish explained.

“Yes, yes, enough of the bloody pomp. Have at him!” The King ordered.

Both riders went to their ends of the track and took their lances as a horn was blown.

They took off toward each other and I anticipated bloody contact but neither of them was hit, so they turned around and made another pass.

The crack of wood splintering and the squelch of blood and flesh filled the air as Sansa screamed.

I stood and covered her eyes so she would have to watch Ser Hugh choke on wood and his own blood as he died on the ground.

The Mountain rode to the end of the track and waited as they removed Ser Hugh’s body from the path. When he was gone I moved my hands from
Sansa’s eyes. She looked up at me, now three shades paler, and gave me a look that said, ‘thank you.’ I nodded and sat back in my seat.

Baelish looked at Sansa again and leaned toward her slightly. “Not what you were expecting?” He asked, though it was more of a statement. Then he leaned even closer to her, so close that I wanted to push him away from her and tell him to never speak to her again. “Has anyone ever told you the
story of The Mountain and The Hound?” He asked.

Sansa looked up at where the Hound was standing by the Royal Family.

“A wonderful tail of brotherly love. The Hound was just a pup, six years old maybe. Gregor, a few years older, already a big lad, already getting a bit of a reputation. Some lucky boys just born with a talent for violence. Once evening, Gregor found his brother playing with a toy by the fire. Gregor’s toy. A wooden knight. Gregor never said a word, he just grabbed his brother by the scruff of his neck and shoved his face into the burning coals.
Held him there while the boy screamed, while his face melted” He said before leaning back a bit to look at her. “There aren’t very many people who know that story” He continued.

“I won’t tell anyone, I promise” Sansa said, her voice quivering.

“No, please don’t. If the Hound so much as heard you mention it I’m afraid all the knights in Kings Landing wouldn’t be able to save you” He said, fully leaning away to sit in his seat like normal.

I placed a reassuring hand on Sansa’s shoulder so as to calm her.

There was still more to the tournament for the day, and even more tomorrow, so she couldn't leave yet...Sadly.

Chapter Text

The next day we were back at the jousting track.

This time, instead of sitting behind her, I was seated next to Sansa, Septa seated on my other side and Ned seated next to Sansa. Arya was nowhere to be seen.

Ned leaned toward Sansa slightly as he looked around. “Where’s Arya?” He asked.

“At her dancing lessons” Sansa answered, not looking at her father. Then a smile found her face as Ser Loras approached with a rose in hand, his
favor. “The Knight of Flowers” Sansa said, light excitement in her voice.

I found myself smiling at her joy.

Soon he stopped in front of Sansa and reached out to hand her his favor, a red rose in full bloom.

“Thank you, Ser Loras” She said quietly.

He gave a faint smile before his eyes traveled up to where I knew Lord Renly was seated and that smile turned into a slight smirk. I’d seen Lord Renly around, as well as Ser Loris, and had the sneaking suspicion that there was something going on there. I couldn’t care less what people did behind closed doors, but such a thing can be socially and physically dangerous for someone of as high a standing as Lord Renly.

As Ser Loras rode off, Sansa turned to me with an excited smile. She’d never been given a Knights favor before and had fantasized about such things for many years.

Ser Loras stopped in front of the King and gave a graceful bow, the King nodded, and Ser Loras and the Mountain went to ride to their sides of the track. But the Mountain was struggling to keep control of his horse. I’d spent enough time around horses to know a mare in heat and that was clearly what was happening to Ser Gregor’s horse.

He managed to get back over to his side of the track and get his shield and lance in place.

Sansa watched Ser Loras as he prepared and wrapped her hand around her father’s arm worriedly. “Don’t let Ser Gregor hurt him” She quietly begged her father.

Her father placed his hand over her own and gave a placating “Hey” in the hopes of calming her.

“I can’t watch” She said as she watched Ser Loras put his helmet on.

Then I heard Baelish from behind us say. “A hundred Gold Dragons on The Mountain”

“I’ll take that bet” Lord Renly said, sounding sure of himself.

“Now what will I buy with a hundred Gold Dragons?” Lord Baelish wondered tauntingly. “A dozen barrels of Dornish wine? Or a girl from the pleasure
houses of Lys?” He continued.

“You could even buy her friend” Lord Renly offered.

Sansa gripped her father’s arm tighter. “He’s going to die” She practically whimpered.

“Ser Loras rides well” Ned said to comfort Sansa.

Nothing else could be said before the trumpet sounded and the Joust began. The two knights charged at each other and as Ser Loras’ lance met Ser Gregor’s shield it splintered and the mare lost her footing, sending Ser Gregor toppling not only to the dirt, but onto the divider. The crowd gasped, Lord Renly laughed as he won the bet, and a simple glance toward the Hound showed that Sandor was fighting the urge to laugh or smile at his brother’s misfortune.

“Such a shame, Littlefinger. It would have been so nice for you to have a friend” Lord Renly taunted.

“And tell me, Lord Renly. When will you be having your friend?” Baelish asked, gesturing to Ser Loras.

Then I saw Baelish lean toward Sansa and Ned, his hand on Sansa’s shoulder. “Loras knew his mare was in heat. Quite crafty, really” He said.

Ned gave Baelish a look that told him to get his hands off Sansa and I wanted to thank Ned for doing so.

“Ser Loras would never do that. There’s no honor in tricks” Sansa said.

“No honor but quite a bit of gold” Baelish replied before leaning back.

Then Ser Gregor threw off his helmet and shouted for his sword.

Gregor’s squire ran up with it and Gregor pulled it from its sheath before heaving it up and then swinging down on his horses’ neck, going most of the way through as the poor creature collapsed on the ground dead with a pained whine.

The crowd gasped again as Gregor made his way toward Ser Loras and knocked him from his horse.

Ser Loras used his shield to block a few hits from Gregor’s sword. I felt my heart begin to thump with the fear that Sansa would have to watch yet another death.

Then a call of “Leave him be” was heard as Sandor leapt from the stands where the Royal family were seated and used his sword to block his brothers. Gregor pushed away and glared at his brother, panting heavily, before charging at him with a growl, Sandor met him head on with his own sword. They fought for a few moments before the King stood.

“STOP THIS MADNESS IN THE NAME OF YOUR KING!” Robert shouted.

Sandor, without hesitation turned and knelt, his hand on the hilt of his word and the end of the sword to the ground, the blade of Gregor’s sword only narrowly missing Sandor’s head.

Gregor growled as he threw his sword to the ground and went to storm away, only slowing when two guards got in his way, but a call to let him go from the King made them move, and Gregor kept going.

Sandor stood and Ser Loras approached him. “I owe you my life Ser” He said breathlessly.

“I’m not a Ser” was all Sandor said as Ser Loras grabbed his hand and lifted it into the air, declaring Sandor the Champion.

The crowd cheered and clapped. Sansa stood and clapped with a wide smile on her face. Most would probably say that they were cheering for Sandor but in truth they were all cheering for Ser Loras.

All except for me, as I stood and clapped I didn’t cheer, or even smile. I just looked at Sandor, head down and face mostly obscured by his hair as he looked around embarrassedly.

His eyes met mine and I continued to clap as my heart jumped into my throat, beating so hard that I thought it would break my ribs. The look in his eyes was confused, as if he didn’t understand why I was looking to directly at him. I just stared back as I continued to clap, not understanding the feeling that’s twisted its way into my gut.

We soon left the jousting track and returned to the Red Keep, continuing the day like it was any other, though I found myself thinking about Sandor a lot, and the feeling that continued to twist in my gut when I did.

I’d never felt such a thing before and the only thing I could liken it to was the one time I ate cheese that was a week too old, only less painful and more nervous. When I would find myself dwelling on this thought I would shake my head and continue with whatever I was doing.

The next day I was told by Sansa was I would have that day off from my duties to do with as I pleased.

I decided that I would wonder about the Red Keep and explore, not having had the time to truly see the place since we arrived.

I walked about till I reached the Throne room.

I saw Baelish standing there looking at the Iron Throne and quickly ducked behind one of the pillars so he wouldn’t see me.

Then the sound of Varys’ voice echoed through the room. “The first to arrive and the last to leave. I admire your industry” He said, I could just barely hear his footsteps as he walked closer Baelish.

I mentally cursed, there was no way I would be able to leave till Varys left, the man was too perceptive to sneak past and he wouldn’t be able to hide having seen me from Baelish, who is rather perceptive himself.

“You do move quietly” Baelish said in response.

“We all have our qualities” Varys replied.

“You look a bit lonely today. You should pay a visit to my brothel this evening. First boy is on the house” Baelish said in a way that made it seem like an offer, but anyone who knew how men like him worked could tell that it was a taunt.

“I think you are mistaking business with pleasure” Varys said, probably trying to look like the statement hadn’t bothered him.

“Am I?” Baelish asked, and I could hear heavier footfalls, telling me that Baelish was walking closer to Varys. “All those birds that whisper in your ear, such pretty little things. Trust me, we accommodate all inclinations” Baelish said. I gagged at what was being insinuated but managed to keep it quiet.

“Oh, I’m sure” Varys said. “Lord Redwin likes his boy very young, I hear” He continued.

“I’m a purveyor of beauty and discretion, both equally important” Baelish said.

“Though I suppose beauty is a subjective quality no?” Vary asked, but it was a rhetorical question. “Is it true that Ser Marlin of Tumblestone prefers amputees?” He asked, a real question it seemed.

“All desires are valid to a man with a full purse” Baelish responded.

“And I heard the most awful rumor about a certain Lord with a taste for fresh cadavers. Mush be enormously difficult to accommodate that inclination. The logistics alone, to find beautiful corpses before they rot” Varys said.

Again, I gagged but this one was a bit harder to keep quiet, such a thought…It was disgusting and made my stomach lurch.

“Strictly speaking such a thing would not be in accordance with the Kings laws” Baelish said, and I could hear the smirk on his face.

“Strictly speaking” Varys said before the sound the light footsteps echoed, telling me that Varys was walking away.

“Tell me, does someone somewhere keep your balls in a little box?” Baelish asked, much louder than needed.

At the angle that Varys was at and where I was standing I could see him close and lightly clench his eyes as the words. That explained a lot. Why such a high standing man talked, and acted the way he did. It honestly made me trust him a bit more, knowing that he wasn’t driven by those desires in any way.

Varys turned and looked at Baelish as he continued. “I’ve always wondered” He said.

“Do you know that I have no idea where they are, and we had been so close” Varys seemed to joke, Baelish giving a light chuckle. “But enough about me. How have you been since we last saw each other?” he asked.

“Since you last saw me or since I last saw you?” Baelish asked.

“Now, the last time I saw you, you were talking to the hand of the King” Varys said.

“Saw me with your own eyes?” Baelish asked

“Eyes I own” Varys answered.

“Official council business” Baelish drug out the S at the end. “We all have so much to say to Ned Stark” He continued.

“Everyone is aware of your enduring fondness for Lord Starks wife. If the Lannister’s were behind the attempt on the Stark boy’s life, and it was discovered that you helped the Stark come to that convulsion…” Varys trailed slightly. “To think, a simple word to the Queen…” He continued.

“One shutters at the thought” Baelish said. “But you know something? I do believe I’ve seen you even more recently than you’ve seen me” He continued.

“Have you?” Varys asked.

I felt my chest clench with worry, did Baelish know about my deal with Varys to keep Sansa safe?

“Yes, earlier today I distinctly recall you talking to Lord Stark in his chambers” Baelish said.

“Was that you under the bed?” Varys teased.

“And not long after that is when I saw you escorting a certain…Foreign dignitary. Counsel business? Of course, you would have friends from across the Narrow Sea. You’re from there yourself after all. We’re friends, aren’t we, Lord Varys? I’d like to think we are. So, you can imagine my burden, wondering if the King might question my friend’s sympathy’s. To stand at a crossroads where turning left means loyalty to a friend and turning right loyalty to the Realm” Baelish said.

“Oh please” Varys scoffed.

“To find myself in a position where a simple word to the King” Baelish started again but was interrupted by Lord Renly entering.

“What are you two conspiring about? Well whatever it is you best hurry up, my brother is coming” Renly said as he walked by, going in the direction of the council chambers.

“To a Small Council meeting?” Baelish questioned.

“Disturbing news from far away, hadn’t you heard?” Varys said as he followed Renly.

Baelish soon followed and I emerged from my hiding place with a relieved breath.

“That could have ended badly…” I breathed, almost silent.

I quickly walked out and made for the servants exit, deciding that I’d had enough of the Red Keep for the day.

I wondered the city for a while and, just as I was about to turn around and go back, I came across what I knew to be a brothel. But it wasn’t what the establishment was that caught my attention. It was Jaime Lannister and some Lannister soldiers fighting Ned and his guards from Winterfell.

I watched from around a corner. Watched the Lannister men kill the Northmen. Watched Ned fight Jaime.

And when I saw a spear go through Ned’s knee I turned and ran back to the Red Keep.

I went straight to Arya’s room and told her to come with me before going to Sansa’s room, meeting two of Ned’s guard that remained in the Keep, all but begging them to come with me.

When I reached Sansa’s room I told her and Arya to stay there while I told the guards what happened to Ned and That I wanted them to stay with
Arya and Sansa to make sure no one tried to hurt them.

I wasn’t worried for myself, I still had my dagger and I was prepared to use it should I need to.

But I knew one thing: Nothing good can come of this.

Chapter Text

No one came for Arya or Sansa, save for a servant that came to say that their father was injured and being looked at by a Maester, but was expected to live.

I breathed a sigh of relief. If Ned dies then Arya, Sansa, and I are well and thoroughly fucked. We’ll be at the mercy of the Queen, who no doubt sent her brother to hurt Ned in the first place.

Over the next few days several things happened. Ned woke up. The King went on a hunt. I asked Varys to send a raven to Winterfell for me. The note would explain what was happening here to Robb.

Sansa had a day of studies and attending court with her father. So, after I helped her dress and prepare for the day I was released to do as I pleased.

I went to the walk ways that over looked the sea and watched the ships that bobbed lightly in the swells.

I stood there, breathing the fresh air and feeling the warm sun on my face.

It was peaceful.

But such peace is not meant to last.

“Standing out here with your eyes closed. It’s like you’re asking to get stabbed in the back” A voice said from behind me.

I didn’t need to look to know that it was Sandor standing behind me.

I opened my eyes and turned non-the-less and looked directly at him. “I’m asking no such thing. And even if I were, I wouldn’t be worried about it”
I responded, my eyes never deviating from his.

That seemed to throw him off a bit, though he tried not to show it. “Why are you out here anyway? Shouldn’t you be in there with your Lady?” He asked, gesturing to the Red Keep.

Now it was my turn to be surprised, I assumed he would remember me from the Tournament, but I didn’t think he would remember who I served or even who I was. “She doesn’t need me right now. And it’s part of my job not to go where I’m not needed” I answered before turning back around and looking back at the water.

I heard the sound of his footsteps and the light clanking of his armor as he came to stand next to me, about four feet away.

“What about you? Shouldn’t you be guarding the Prince right now?” I asked after a little bit.

“He said he didn’t need me and sent me away. Figured I’d stay close by in case he changed his mind” He replied, not looking at me.

I looked up at him, studying him. Not just his face but the look in his eyes, the air he was giving off. Everything that was Sandor in this moment.

For a few moments, he didn’t seem to notice. Then he looked down at me and seemed surprised to find me already looking at him.

“You aren’t scared of me, girl?” He asked, almost self-deprecatingly.

“No” I answered. “I see no reason why I should be. You can’t do anything to me that I don’t want you to” I continued, self-assuredly.

At that he turned to face me, brows furrowed. “And what makes you think that? You aren’t armed and even if you were you probably can’t lift anything that would get through my armor. So, what makes you think that I can’t hurt you?” He asked. His tone was agitated and confused, his words seemed to almost turn into a rant.

“You can’t hurt me because I wouldn’t let you. You’re large and slow, I’m small and fast. And you should never assume that someone isn’t armed just because you can see the weapon” I said before chuckling lightly. “And I wouldn’t need to get through your armor. I see lots of gaps that a blade small enough would fit right through. All it takes is one well-placed stab or slice to take even the biggest giants down” I continued, not moving an inch.

“You’re awfully confident” He said, shrinking the four-foot gap into a little under a foot.

“Yes. I am” I stated before turning my head back to look at the sea.

“Are you some kind of witch?” He asked suddenly.

I snorted a laugh, looking at him out the corner of my eye. He looked dead serious. I shook my head. “No, I’m not a witch. What would make you think I was?” I asked, lifting a hand to tuck a loose strand of hair behind my ear.

He didn’t answer.

He just turned back to the sea and the only sound that we could hear was that of the leaves in the breeze and the distant crashing of the waves on the rocks.

The silence wasn’t awkward or uncomfortable. It just…Was.

“My name is Y/N, by the way” I said quietly.

“I didn’t ask” He said confusedly.

“I know. But I know your name and I figured it wouldn’t do any harm for you to know mine” I replied.

The silence returned and stayed for another few moments.

“Why were you looking at me during the Tourney?” He asked, looking down at me once again.

“Because I was clapping for you. Not Ser Loras” I said, looking up at him.

Our eyes met again and, just like before, my gut twisted and my heart jumped into my throat.

“I’m not worth clapping for” He said.

“I believe I can judge that for myself” I said, a small smile gracing my features.

He furrowed his brows in confusion. “Why are you being so…” He seemed to be looking for a word. “Kind?” He finished.

It was my turn to be confused. Why was I being so kind to him? I know it wasn’t pity. Men like him didn’t get pity from me, they didn’t need it and often didn’t want it. I didn’t like him all that much, I didn’t really know him well enough to like him. So, why was I so kind to him?

“I don’t know. I haven’t figured that out yet” I said. “Why do you make conversation with me when you avoid it with others?” I asked in return.

He was quiet for a while, like he didn’t know how to answer that question.

“Think on that. Maybe you’ll have an answer next time we speak” I said before taking a step away and making my way back toward the Red Keep, noticing that it was getting late and I needed to help Sansa get ready for bed.

I could feel his eyes on me as I walked away, and felt the after effects long after I was out of his sight.

I went right to Sansa’s room and the moment she saw me she ran over and pulled me into an excited hug.

“Y/N! You’ll never believe what happened!” She cheered.

“Try me” I said with a lifted brow.

“Joffrey came to see me. He said he was sorry and gave me this” She said, gesturing to the necklace around her neck, it looked almost exactly like the one the Queen wears.

“It’s beautiful Sansa. I’m happy that everything is good between you two again” I said with a small smile.

“That’s not all” She said, pulling me over to her bed to sit down.

I watched her patiently, waiting for her to tell me what had her so excited.

“He kissed me” She whispered joyfully.

My smile slowly dropped but before she could become worried I forced it back. “T-That’s wonderful, Sansa. Rather inappropriate but I’m happy for you” I said.

That little prick kissed her? I sure hope he understands that she isn’t some common whore that he can fuck and toss aside. She is to be his wife, no matter how much I hate the thought, so he better keep his hands to himself till they marry.

Then a knock came to the door.

Sansa called a come in and the door opened to reveal one of her father’s men.

“Your father wishes to speak with you and your sister in his chambers” He said before leaving.

“I wonder what he wants” Sansa said as she and I stood.

“Best go find out” I said, following her.

We reached Ned’s room quickly and Arya was already there when we entered.

“Sansa, please sit” Ned said from behind his desk.

Sansa did as told and I remained standing nearby.

Ned came around his desk and stood in front of his daughters, cane in hand and every step looking painful.

“I’m sending you both back to Winterfell” He said.

“What?!” Sansa asked.

“Listen” Ned started but Sansa didn’t let him finish.

“What about Joffrey?!” She questioned.

“Are you dying because of your leg? Is that why you’re sending us home?” Arya asked, truly worried for her father’s life.

“What? No!” He gasped.

“Please, father, please don’t!” Sansa begged.

“You can’t! I’ve got my lessons with Syrio! I’m finally getting good!” Arya said in protest.

“This isn’t a punishment. I want you back in Winterfell for your own safety” Ned explained.

“Can we take Syrio back with us?” Arya asked.

“Who cares about your stupid dancing teacher? I can’t go! I supposed to marry Prince Joffrey! I love him and I’m meant to be his Queen and have his
babies!” Sansa ranted.

“Seven Hells” Arya said. I had to fight a laugh at that.

“When you’re old enough I’ll make you a match with someone who’s worthy of you. Someone who’s brave and gentle and strong” Ned said.

“I don’t want someone brave and gentle and strong. I want him!” Sansa said. Arya giggled at Sansa’s words and Ned cracked a smile, I did the same.

“He’ll be the greatest King that ever was. A golden lion and I’ll give him sons with beautiful blond hair!” She said. Ned seemed to realize something and I furrowed my brows.

“The Lion’s not his sigil, idiot. He’s a Stag like his father” Arya said.

“He is not. He’s nothing like that old drunk King” Sansa said.

Ned wasn’t listening to anything they were saying, too lost in his thoughts.

“Go on girls. Get your Septa and pack your things” He said with finality.

“Wait!” Sansa protested.

“Come on!” Arya said grabbing her sister’s wrist and dragging her from the room.

“But it’s not fair!” Sansa said as they exited.

I stayed behind, they would be fine without me for a bit. I needed to speak with Ned.

“You have something on your mind. Does it involve Sansa?” I asked, approaching the desk.

Ned sat down. “It might” He said distractedly as he pulled a large book in front of him.

I went around and stood behind him and looked down at it.

The cover said, “The Lineage and Histories of the Great Houses of The Seven Kingdoms” on the cover and the first page in large, neat, script.

He skipped a few pages and ended up on the Targaryen page. He leafed through a few more pages till he reached the Baratheon pages.

He placed his finger at the first name and read it out loud. “Lord Orys Baratheon, black of hair” He said, moving to the next. “Axle Baratheon, black of hair” Then the next. “Lionel Baratheon, black of hair” Next. “Stefan Baratheon, black of hair” He flipped to the next page. “Robert Baratheon, black of hair” Then he moved down to the one that would make the point hit home. “Joffrey Baratheon, golden haired” He said.

I took a shutter breath as I realized the implications behind this.

“If Joffrey isn’t Robert’s son, then he had no claim to the throne…This information could start a war” I said.

“Yes. It could” Ned said, looking ahead for a moment before looking at me. Then he stood, as quickly as his injured leg would allow, and grabbed my arm. “You are not to say anything about this to anyone” He said, more serious that I’d ever seen him before. “It could get you killed” He continued, as if I needed convincing.

I nodded. “You have my word Lord Stark. I will not breath a word of this to anyone” I said. He let go of my arm and I took my leave, going to Sansa’s room to help her pack and get ready for bed.

I did not sleep much that night.

Chapter Text

Over the next three days I helped the girls pack their things, much to both their dismay, and we were almost ready to leave when the news came on the day we were meant to leave.

King Robert was mortally wounded on his hunt, and they couldn’t save him.

I had a feeling in my gut that told me something very bad was about to happen and I needed to speak with Ned.

So, I went in search of him, leaving Sansa in the care of Septa.

When I found him, he was hobbling away from the Kings chambers.

“Lord Stark!” I called as I ran to catch up with him.

“Y/N? Is something the matter? Are the girls okay?” He asked worriedly.

“They’re fine. I needed to speak with you about the King. I have a bad feeling. Something terrible is about to happen” I said, my tone quick and
quiet. I was worried that someone would hear and tell the Queen.

“The King is about to die. I’d say that something terrible has already happened” Ned said, not understanding what I meant.

“No, Ned. I mean something far worse. We need to leave Kings Landing. Now. Or I fear what may happen” I said, trying to convey what I can’t put into words.

“Y/N, listen. Go stay with Sansa until I send word. I have everything under control” He said, placing a hand on my shoulder in a fatherly manner.

I sighed and nodded. “Very well, My Lord” I said before turning to walk away. He did the same and I stopped and turned back. “Ned” I called. He turned to look back at me. “Be careful. Please” I said, almost pleading. He nodded and turned back.

I went back to where Sansa and Septa were having lunch.

“Y/N, what going on? You look frazzled” Septa asked.

“The King is hurt and there’s nothing that the Maesters can do to help him. He’s going to die” I explained.

Septa gasped and placed a hand over her heart.

“But that doesn’t explain why you look so scared” Sansa said.

I went over to her and placed my hands on her shoulders. “It's complicated” I explained.

Sansa nodded and went back to her food, though she was only picking at it now.

As the day went on, a messenger was sent to inform us that the King had passed.

With the sinking feeling I had getting worse I went in search of Varys, soon finding him in his office in the Red Keep.

“Varys. I need you to send a raven for me” I said after closing the door behind me.

“Whatever for?” He asked, clearly concerned for me, as I knew I looked terrified.

“I’m going to write a raven scroll and I need you to send it, you can read it before you do but I need it sent” I said.

He nodded and handed me a quill and a small blank raven scroll.

I wrote as quickly as I could while keeping it legible.

It read. “Robb. King Robert is dead and I fear for the lives of your sisters and father. I don’t know what will happen but I think the Queen wants us all dead. If you don’t hear from me in the next three months, assume I’m dead. Y/N”

I rolled it up and handed it to Varys. “Thank you, Varys” I said.

He nodded. “I’ll have it sent by this evening” He said, tying a length of string around it and tucking it into his pocket.

I returned the nod and left.

I needed to be with Sansa right now. Who knows what the Queen has planned for her.

I guess it’s true, what they say about the game of thrones…

Chapter Text

On my way to find Sansa I saw Lannister soldiers killing all the Northmen that had come with Ned.

My brisk walk turned into a run, fearing that they would come after me.

I soon found her and Septa but before I could say anything the sounds of fighting were heard ahead of us.

“Hush!” Septa said so she could hear the noise. “Go back to your room. Bar the doors and do not open them for anyone you do not know” She ordered.

“What is it? What’s happening?” Sansa asked, scared.

“Do as I told you. Run!” Septa whisper-yelled to us.

I nodded to her and followed Sansa back to her room.

We were almost to her room when Sandor rounded a corner and got in our way, I pushed Sansa behind me.

“Don’t do this, Sandor” I said evenly, not showing how scared I was.

“Stay away from us. I’ll tell me father. I’ll-I’ll tell the Queen” Sansa stuttered.

He slowly assented a small set of stairs, a smirk finding his face before he chuckled. “Who do you think sent me?” He asked.

He moved quicker than I thought he could as he grabbed my wrist with one hand and threw Sansa over his shoulder with the other. I screamed and shouted for him to let me go, and would have drawn my dagger but I couldn’t reach it.

We were both thrown into Sansa’s room and the door locked from outside.

“Something is very wrong” I said, pacing the room while Sansa was seated at the writing desk.

Sansa seemed like she was about to say something when the door was opened.

A Lannister soldier entered. “The Queen wishes to speak with you, Lady Stark” He said.

Sansa nodded to him before turning to me and them back to him. “Can she come with me?” She asked.

The soldier looked conflicted, probably not expecting such a question, before he nodded with a. “Very well” And turned to wait for us to follow.

We were taken to the Queens chambers, where Sansa was seated in front of the Queens desk and I stood behind her.

Not only was the Queen there, but Varys, Maester Pycelle, and Lord Baelish were all standing behind her.

“Your father has proved to be an awful traitor, my dear” Varys said. I glared at him for saying such a thing.

“King Robert’s body was still warm when Lord Eddard started plotting to steal Prince Joffrey’s rightful throne” Maester Pycelle said. I glared at the
old man too, the old pig shouldn’t still have the power he has.

“He wouldn’t do that. He knows how much I love Joffrey. He wouldn’t” She said, looking to Pycelle. Then she looked to the Queen. “Please, you
Grace, there’s been a mistake, send for my father, he’ll tell you” she pleaded. “The King was his friend” She finished.

“Sansa, sweetling, you are innocent of any wrong, we know that. Yet you are the daughter of a traitor. How can I allow you to marry my son?” Cersei asked.

“A child born of a traitor’s seed is no fit consort for our King. She is a sweet thing now, your Grace, but in ten years, who know what treason she may hatch” Pycelle said. I had to fight a snarl at him for suggesting that Sansa would ever do anything of the sort.

“No, I’m not! I’ll be a good wife to him. You’ll see, I’ll be a Queen just like you, I promise. I won’t hatch anything” Sansa pleaded.

Cersei looked like she was thinking for a moment when Baelish spoke. “The girl is innocent, you Grace, she should be given a chance to prove her loyalty” He said. I wasn’t sure how to feel at this moment. I was hoping they would just send her home.

Cersei sighed. “Little Dove, you must write to lady Catelyn and your brother, the eldest, what’s his name?” the Queen asked as she placed a piece of parament before Sansa.

“Robb” Sansa answered.

“Word of your fathers arrest will reach him soon no doubt, best it comes from you” Cersei said.

I looked at Varys, asking with my eyes if he sent the raven I’d asked him to, and he gave a small, almost unperceivable nod.

“If you would help your father, urge your brother to keep the Kings Peace” Cersei continued as she placed an inked quill by the parchment. “Tell him to come to Kings Landing and swear his fealty to Joffrey” She ordered.

“If-If I could see my father, talk to him about” She stopped herself at the look on the Queens face.

“You disappoint me, child” Cersei sighed. “We’ve told you of your fathers treason. Why would you want to speak to a traitor?” She asked and I wanted to smack her, she was intentionally trying to keep Sansa away from her father.

“I only meant that…What will happen to him?” Sansa asked.

“Well, that depends” Cersei answered.

“On-On what?” Sansa asked.

“On your brother” Cersei answered picking up the quill. “And you” She finished.

Sansa had no choice and took the quill and began writing what the Queen told her to.

When she was done we were sent back to her room.

We both stayed there, as I was not allowed to leave, we took our meals there, and slept there, for multiple days before Sansa was summoned to come to the court. Not once did we see or hear of Septa, or Arya, and I feared the worst, thought I didn’t say so as I dressed and prepared Sansa.

I escorted her to the throne room and stayed with her. While Maester Pycelle read a list of rewards that various men were receiving for their work with the City Watch and Kings Guard, Sansa moved to stand among the small crowd that was gather before the throne.

Many of the men it the crowd stared and glared at Sansa, often only moving out of her way when she couldn’t go any further.

Both the Queen and Joffrey Sent her small smiles when they saw her but I knew that neither were real.

“In the place of the traitor, Eddard Stark, it is the wish of his Grace that Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock, and Warden of the West, be appointed Hand of the King” Pycelle said. The crowd murmured at this but that wasn’t what caught my attention. It was Joffrey looking at Sansa with a smile before shifting and focusing back on what Pycelle was saying. “Lastly, in these times of treason and turmoil it is the view of council that the life and safety of King Joffrey be of paramount importance” The old man finished before rolling the scroll he was reading from.

“Ser Barristan Selmy” The Queen summoned as she stood from her seat next to Joffrey.

Ser Barristan moved from the line of Kings Guard that stood between the crowd and Joffrey and stood facing them. “You Grace, I am yours to command” He said as he knelt before them.

“Rise, Ser Barristan” The Queen said, Barristan obeyed. “You may remove your helm” She continued, he did. “You have served the Realm long and faithfully, every man and woman in the Seven Kingdoms owes you thanks. But it is time to put aside your armor and sword, it is time to rest and loo back with pride on your many years of service” She said.

Barristan looked confused and baffled. “Your Grace, the Kings Guard is a sworn brotherhood. Our vows are taken for life. Only death relieves us of our sacred trust” He said.

“Whose death, Ser Barristan? Yours or you Kings?” The Queen asked.

“You let my father die” Joffrey said. “You’re too old to protect anybody” He said leaning forward in his seat.

Ser Barristan started to address the King again but Cersei interrupted him. “The council has determined that Ser Jaime Lannister will take your place as Lord Commander of the Kings Guard” She said.

“The man who profaned his blade with the blood of the King he was sworn to defent!” Barristan started.

“Careful, Ser!” Cersei scolded.

“We have nothing but gratitude for your long service, good Ser. You shall be given a stout Keep beside the sea with servants to look after your every need” Varys said.

“A hole to die in. And men to bury me” Barristan said disdainfully. He started to remove his cloke. “I am a Knight. I shall die a Knight!” He said as he threw it on the floor with his helmet and gloves.

“A naked Knight apparently” Baelish said, causing the men in the throne room to laugh, adding insult to injury.

Ser Barristan drew his sword, causing all the other men of the Kings Guard to draw theirs. “Even now I could cut through the five of you like carving through a cake!” He said. Then he suddenly threw it on the floor, causing Joffrey to jump, much to my entertainment. “Here boy! Melt it down and
add it to the others!” He said as he turned and walked out of the throne room with his head held high.

“If any man in this hall has other matters to set before his Grace, let him speak now, or go forth and hold his silence” The Harold said.

The room was silent as Cersei and Sansa made eye contact. Then she spoke. “Your Grace” Sansa said. The echo was almost painful.

“Come forward, My Lady” Joffrey said, seemingly happy at getting to talk to Sansa.

“The Lady Sansa of House Stark” The Harold addressed as she walked forward to stand before Joffrey. I followed as close as I could, stopping at the edge of the crowd.

“Do you have some business with the King and the council, Sansa?” Cersei asked with a smile.

“I do” Sansa stated before sinking to her knees. “As it please your Grace. I ask mercy for my father, Lord Eddard Stark who is Hand of the King” She
said. I held in the fearful gasp at her words, if they decide to punish her for this then there is nothing I can do but watch.

“Treason is a noxious weed! It should be torn out! Root-!” Pycelle started, but was interrupted by Joffrey.

“Let her speak. I want to hear what she says” He ordered.

“Thank you, you Grace” Sansa said.

“Do you deny your fathers crime?” Baelish asked.

“No, my Lords. I know he must be punished, all I ask is mercy. I know my Lord father must regret what he did, he was King Robert’s friend and
loved him, you all know he loved him. He never wanted to be hand until the King asked him. They must have lied to him, Lord Renly or Lord Stannis
or somebody, they must have lied!” She pleaded.

“He said I wasn’t the King, why did he say that?” Joffrey asked, seeming genuinely confused.

“He was badly hurt, Maester Pycelle was giving him Milk of the Poppy” She offered as explanation.

“Such sweet innocence. And yet they say that wisdom oft come from the mouth of babes” Varys said.

“Treason is treason!” Pycelle said. Seriously someone knock him out or put rag in his mouth or something to shut him up!

“Anything else?” Joffrey asked.

“If you still have any affection in your heart for me, please, do me this kindness, you Grace” Sansa begged.

Joffrey leaned back on the throne with an expression that looked like he was actually considering it. “Your sweet words have moved me. But you
father has to confess. He has to confess and say that I’m the King, or there’ll be no mercy for him” Joffrey said.

Sansa gave a small nod. “He will” She said before standing.

“Anyone else?” The Queen asked as Sansa came back toward me.

When no one answered Joffrey declared us adjourned and we all left.

May the Seven have mercy on us.

Chapter Text

Over the next few days I did everything in my power to help Sansa, which ultimately came down to bringing her lemon cakes with her lunch and dinner to make her feel better and staying with her as much as was possible.

I begged Varys to look for Arya, who had gone missing and hadn’t been seen for multiply days since the Lannister men slaughtered all Ned’s remaining men.

Last I’d heard she was with her dancing teacher, whom was killed by the Lannister men, and had run off to escape capture. No one had any idea of where she could be and I begged the Seven to keep her safe. Part of me hoped that she had left Kings Landing and made for Winterfell, while another hoped that she would be found and returned to my side so I could keep her safe with her sister.

The day before everything truly went to shit Sansa and I had been in her room trying to pass the time anyway we knew how. Which meant I was reading to her while she practiced her embroidery, though I could tell she was getting bored and tired of pricking her fingers on the needle because her mind was elsewhere.

“Shall we go for a walk?” I suggested, laying the open book on my lap.

“Yes, please” She all but pleaded as she placed her needlework aside and stood.

I closed the book and set it on my chair as I stood and followed her out the door.

We walked paths that over looked the sea silently as they wind blew our hair and brought the scent of the sea to our noses while the sound of crashing waves filled out ears.

“They’re going to kill him…” Sansa whispered, her tone showing how terrified she was of the very thought.

“No, Sansa, your father is a smart man who will do what must be done for you and your family. He will admit to his…Crimes if that is what must be
done…” I said, hesitating to say what I had no choice but to say while in public. I knew what Ned was really in trouble for. He found out the Queens
little secret and tried to do something about it and now she will see to it that he can’t oust her.

But I couldn’t tell Sansa that. I couldn’t tell anyone that. If I did I would be next and I couldn’t leave Sansa at the mercy of these people.

Sansa didn’t say anything after that and we went back to silently walking.

We stayed like that for what felt like hours before Sansa let out a sigh. “I’m going back to my room” She said turning around.

“Would you like me to join you?” I asked, knowing that she didn’t.

“No, I’d like to be alone for a while” She said. I nodded and continued.

I made it to a secluded part of the gardens and sat on a bench that was situated there.

I closed my eyes and let the sounds of birds singing and the leaves rustling relax me.

“Every time I see you your eyes are closed. Do you sleep sitting up or are you just strange like everyone thinks you to be?” A familiar gruff voice rang
out.

I opened my eyes and found Sandor standing there looking at me, an expression that looked like he was trying not to smirk at me on his face. “I was unaware that everyone thought me strange” I said as I stood and slowly made a wide circle to get to the exit of the little garden nook. I didn’t want to be near Sandor, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t angry at him for what happened when Ned was arrested.

“I thought you weren’t scared of me” He said, sounding almost disappointed…Almost.

“I’m not” I answered shortly.

“Then why are you trying to run away?” He asked as he quickly began to approach me. I took multiple steps back, till my back reached the tall hedges that dwarfed even Sandor. He stopped a few inches from me and scoffed. “That looks like fear to me” He said, I don’t know if he was sad at that fact or not.

“It’s not fear. It’s distrust. Now get out of my way” I said angrily as I glared up at him.

“It was foolish of you to trust me to begin with” He said, not moving.

“You’re right. It was” I said before sidestepping and walking away.

I had only just barely reached the leafy archway that lead out when the sound of clanking armor and a hand grabbing my arm stopped me. A fear
like ice in my veins gripped me and I stooped low, grabbing my dagger from my calf, where I’d moved it, and brought it up to point between where the breastplate ended and the underarm started. All of this happened in the span of a couple of seconds, far too fast for the person grabbing be to see it coming and react.

When my vision and mind cleared I was left face to face with Sandor, whom had a shocked and bewildered expression on his face, which was parallel to mine as he was hunching a bit. He’d obviously never had a woman do such a thing to him before.

I was tempted to drive the blade home and wound him for what he’d done to Sansa and I but a voice in the back of my mind told me that I’d regret it if I did. So, instead, I pulled the blade back and just stared at him. I was certain that the expression that was on my face wasn’t far from the one he was still making.

“I…I-I’m sorry…I don’t…” I croaked, unable to move or string together full sentences. Why had I panicked? I knew that Sandor wouldn’t hurt me yet I almost hurt him…What had caused that fight or flight instinct to kick in like that?

I don’t remember moving my free hand, nor do I remember placing it on his scarred cheek, but that’s where it ended up. The skin was surprisingly soft to the touch, not rough or leathery like one would think, it felt like the flesh of a scar that adorned one of my knees from a fall I had when I was younger. Soft but not like normal flesh.

What I do remember is when our lips met, it wasn’t a slow lean forward till they found each other. But it wasn’t a sudden, hard, clash that made our teeth clack together from the force either. It was him holding back the urge to move quickly and me trying not to move too slow. It was the scratch of the stubble on his cheeks and the roughness of his lips, dry and slightly cracked. It was the clatter of my dagger hitting the ground as my other hand came to rest on his other cheek to pull him closer while his own hands gripped at my waist like I was his lifeline.

Then, like all things in life, it ended. We pulled away and I looked up at him, lips parted as I panted lightly. His expression was unreadable as he stepped away and ceased all bodily contact. He didn’t smile or smirk, he didn’t say anything. He just started walking away.

I had to take a deep breath and swallow the lump in my throat as I tried not to let the feeling of rejection settle in my soul. If I let that feeling take over I would do something stupid and right now I needed to focus on Sansa’s wellbeing, not my love life.

Once he was out of sight I replaced my dagger and started for Sansa’s room once more.

When I arrived, I found her already sleeping in her bed. I took that as permission to take my leave and went to my quarters for the evening.

As I lay in bed waiting for the abys of sleep to claim me, I wondered when my affections for Jon faded and when they reappeared for Sandor. It didn’t make sense how feelings that I’d had for almost 10 years could be changed so easily.

I forced my mind away from it as I turned to face the wall and went to sleep.

The next day, while I was getting Sansa ready for the day a knock came at the door.

I covered Sansa in her dressing robe and opened the door. Behind it stood a guard.

“King Joffrey sent me to tell you that it’s time for your father to confess or die” He said before walking away.

I wondered what he meant for a moment as I closed the door and finished getting her ready, but in more publicly appropriate attire.

I hadn’t expected this day so come so quickly. Nor had I expected it to be so sudden, at least a days-notice would have been nicer than this.

I shook the thoughts away as the sound of the Red Keeps bells ringing started and we rushed to the Sept of Baelor, where a stage had been set up and the Queen and Joffrey already stood.

Sansa took her place to the left of the Queen and I sent to stand next to Sandor, whom stood behind the King, so I wouldn’t be in the way or mistaken for being more important than I am.

The bells continued to chime as that brought Ned out and the crowd shouted and booed, as if they knew that he had done something wrong when many of them just wanted someone higher than them to hate.

He was dragged through the crowd and brought to the stage.

“I am Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell, and Hand of the King” Ned started before looking to Sansa, whom nodded hopefully.

I started praying that the Seven would make him put aside his honor and make him say what the Queen wanted him to.

“I come before you to confess my treason, in the sight of Gods and Men. I betrayed the faith of my King and the trust of my friend Robert. I swore to protect and defend him children. But before his blood was cold, I plotted to murder his son and…” He swallowed stiffly. “Seize the Throne for
myself” He finished.

The crowd began booing again and I looked out over them and to the large statue in the center. The sound that almost left me would have caused an even bigger scene than what was already taking place as I saw Arya kneeling next to the legs of the tall statue.

I thanked the Old Gods and New that she was alive, albeit dirty and clearly scared, but alive no less.

A rock flew up and hit Ned in the side of the head and I heard Sansa gasp as I too let out a wince at the sight. Ned staggered and Sandor set him right again before returning to where he’d been before.

“Let the High Sept and Baelor The Blessed bear witness to what I say” Ned started again before taking another hesitant gulp. “Joffrey Baratheon in the One True Heir to the Iron Throne” He said.

Joffrey looked happily at his mother and Sansa, like a child getting a toy that they really wanted, and I let out a relieved breath that Ned did what he needed to do for his family.

“By the grace of all the Gods, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm” He finished.

The crowd once again started to shout and boo at him and Sansa looked scared that they may try to hurt him.

Then Grand Maester Pycelle stepped forward. “And as we sin, so do we suffer. This man has confessed his crimes in sight of Gods and Men. The
Gods are just but Blessed Baelor taught us that they can also be merciful” Pycelle said in his halting manner before turning to Joffrey. “What is to be done with this Traitor, Your Grace?” He asked.

The crowd started again and Joffrey raised his hand to silence them. “My mother wishes me to let Lord Eddard join the Knightwatch. Stripped of all titles and power so he would serve the Realm in permanent exile. And my Lady Sansa has begged Mercy for her father” He said looking at Sansa, who sent him a thankful smile. “But, they’ve the soft hearts of women. So long as I am your King, treason will never go unpunished!” He declared.

I felt my heart drop into my gut and my throat go dry in fear of what he was about to do.

“Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!” He ordered of the mute headsmen.

Both Sansa and the Queen tried to make him stop and a guard grabbed Sansa. I wasn’t going to have a man lay his hands of Sansa so I went over and held her back myself, she may be taller but I am far stronger.

She begged Joffrey to change his mind as Ned looked our way.

Two guards forced Ned to his knees as Ser Ilyn donned his hood and drew his sword. Silent tears ran down my face as I held the distraught redhead.

And then, in a matter of seconds, Ser Ilyn brought his sword down on Ned’s neck and it was done.

Sansa collapsed in my arms and I couldn’t hold her deadweight so I sank to the floor myself and held her.

All I could do was beg the Gods to have the mercy that I knew others wouldn’t.

Chapter Text

After the execution, a guard helped me get Sansa back to her room and as soon as he’d laid her on her bed I’d shooed him away with every bit of malice that I couldn’t show Joffrey or his mother.

After barring the door, I sat on Sansa’s bed and held her unconscious body in my arms as I wept, hard, gasping sobs that rattled my bones, left my throat sore, and my head pounding. Sansa didn’t wake.

I stayed there that night, as I didn’t want to leave Sansa by herself and I didn’t know when she’d wake.

I didn’t catch a glimpse of those blue eyes till morning was half over.

She slowly sat up in her bed and looked at me, her eyes asking the question that her mouth didn’t dare form. I nodded slowly in answer and I watched as she broke down into sobs of her own.

With speed like that of a worried mother I wrapped my arms around her and pressed her face to my shoulder to muffle the sounds. If someone heard her crying for her father then it could spell even more trouble for the both of us and I didn’t dare risk it, but I didn’t dare tell her to stop either.

“Why?” She asked, more begging than anything else, gripping me like I was the last thread that held together her sanity.

“Because he’s as mad as the King before his father and those who serve him are just as wicked” I answered, my tone low so only she could hear me.

“I want to go home…” She sobbed lowly, her nails digging into my dress-sleeve.

“I know. I do too. And I will make it happen. I swear to you, Sansa. I will get us home” I said, the determination burning in my eyes as my own grip grew tighter.

She was about to say something else when a knock came at the door followed by a gruff voice. “You are summoned to court by His Grace” they said before the sound of footsteps echoed away.

I sighed and looked down at Sansa. “Let’s get you dressed and looking presentable” I said as I helped her stand and went to her closet.

After getting her dressed and cleaning up her face, getting rid of as much redness as I could, I escorted her to the Throne Room.

I lost track of time as we stood at the balcony and listened to the people come and go. When I tuned back into what was happening I noticed a man sitting on the floor with a stringed instrument on his lap.

“The boar’s great tusks, they boded ill, for good King Roberts health” He sang, and I could already see this ending badly. “And the beast was every bit as fat as Robert was himself. But our brave King cried ‘Do your worst! I’ll have your ugly head! You’re nowhere near as murderous as the Lion in my bed!’” I fought the urge to both laugh and shake my head at the poor fool down there as he continued. “King Robert lost his battle and he failed his final test. The Lion ripped his balls off and…” He hesitated to finish, seeing the Queens expression. “The boar did all the rest” He said with a few final strums, looking like he knew he was in for it.

The Joffrey started clapping, and everyone else joined in, Sansa and myself included.

“Very amusing” Joffrey started, looking amused on the surface. “Isn’t it a funny song?” He addressed the crowd. “Thank you for your rendition. I
imagine it was even better received at that tavern” He said, now more clearly irritated.

“I’m so sorry, Your Grace” The man said as he slowly stood, his instrument in his hands. “I’ll never sing it again, I swear” He promised.

“Tell me, which do you favor? Your fingers or your tongue?” Joffrey asked.

I could see the man’s heart drop to his toes at the question.

“Your Grace?” he questioned as if he didn’t understand.

“Fingers or your tongue. If you got to keep one, which would it be?” Joffrey clarified. The man struggled to answer. “Or I could just cut your throat”
Joffrey continued a little quieter than before.

“Every man needs hands, Your Grace” The man finally answered.

“Good!” Joffrey perked up at the man answering. “Tongue it is!” He said as guards approached the man while the man tried to beg Joffrey not to.
“Ser Ilyn, who better than you to carry out the sentence?” Joffrey beckoned and Ser Ilyn took out his dagger and a pair of plyers before holding them
over the fire.

“Your Grace, please! I beg you! I’ll never sing again!” The man pleaded.

“I’m done for the day” Joffrey said as he stood and removed his crown. “I leave the rest of the matters to you, mother” He said handing it off to
Sandor.

The man continued to beg as Joffrey approached us. “You look quite nice” He said to Sansa, though I wondered what he was talking about as Sansa
looked terrible, despite my best efforts.

“Thank you, My Lord” Sansa said.

“Your Grace” He corrected quickly. “I’m King now” He said. Behind him she watched Ser Ilyn start to cut the man’s tongue out. “Walk with me, I want
to show you something” He ordered.

“What of the handmaiden?” One of his guards asked.

“She’ll join us” Joffrey said, looking at me.

“Yes, Your Grace” I said with a curtsey.

Joffrey walked past and Sansa watched him go, till Sandor stopped in front of us. “Do as you’re bid child” He said, looking at Sansa before looking at
me. I started back with narrowed eyes and teeth gritted so tight my jaw ticked. To say I was mad at Sandor would be an understatement but there’s
not much to be done for it. The feelings that I’ve developed for him matter little when put against my need to protect Sansa.

Sansa started walking, me following close behind, with the guards behind me. I didn’t like it.

As we walked he talked about the wedding. Then we started getting closer to our destination, as he started to slow his gate. “And as soon as you’ve
had your blood I’ll put a son in you. Mother says that shouldn’t be long” He said as he stopped and looked up at the tops of the outer walls.

The sounds of Flies buzzing and the smell somehow hadn’t reached me till that moment but when it did I had to fight a gag as the contents of my
stomach tried to escape.

“No, please, no!” Sansa begged when her eyes landed on what I now saw to be her father’s head on a spear. One of the guards grabbed her so she
couldn’t run away and I could feel Sandor standing behind me, probably for the same reason.

“This one’s your father, this one here” Joffrey said pointing. Sansa wasn’t looking, I didn’t blame her. “Look at it and see what happens to traitors”
Joffrey ordered.

“You promised be merciful” She whimpered, still looking away.

“I was. I gave him a clean death” Joffrey said, looking up at Ned’s head then back at Sansa. “Look at him” He ordered, his could have been
misunderstood as being gentle if not for the words themselves.

“Please, let me go home, I won’t do any treason I swear it” Sansa begged, looking at the floor.

“Mother says I’m still to marry you, so you’ll stay here and obey” Joffrey said firmly. It was quiet for a moment before he seemed to get more irritated. “Look at him!” He shouted.

Sansa slowly looked up and I could see her spirit die a little more. It angered me that there was nothing I could do and it made me hate Joffrey, the
Queen, Meryn, and everyone else more.

“Well?” Joffrey prodded, as if he was expecting her to be proud of him.

“How long do I have to look?” Sansa asked, eyes still on her father’s head.

“As long as it pleases me” He answered, his proud smirk dropping. “Do you want to see the rest?” He asked, sounding almost like a child showing
off their toys.

“If it please You Grace” She answered.

“That’s your Septa, there” He said pointing.

It was my turn to gasp, I hadn’t seen her since she told Sansa and I to run, I didn’t know what had happened to her, now I do and it’d worse than I’d
imagined.

I fought the urge to cry and turned my sorrow into determination to protect Sansa and rage to kill Joffrey.

“I tell you what, I’m going to give you a present. After I raise my armies and kill your traitor brother, I’m going to give you his head as well” He said.

“Or maybe he’ll give me yours” Sansa said in return, still looking at up at the heads on the wall, then she looked at Joffrey with a kind of defiance I’d never seen on her before. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud but her timing wasn’t the best.

“My mother tells me a King should never strike his Lady” Joffrey said before looking at Ser Meryn, who was holding Sansa still. “Ser Meryn” Joffrey said.

Ser Meryn turned Sansa and struck her once on one cheek then again on the other. I ground my teeth and went to approach him but a hand from
behind me took my arms and kept me in place.

Sansa turned back to face Joffrey and looked very much the broken-hearted child she was. She looked down at the multiple stories below the platform that Joffrey and her currently stood on, then she looked back at Joffrey with an expression that spelled death for the blond in front of her. I
knew what she was thinking and was about to move to stop her when Sandor moved from behind me and grabbed her shoulder.

“Here, girl” He said wiping the blood from her lip with a ragged cloth, leaving it in her hands after.

“Will you obey now? Or do you need another lesson?” Joffrey asked. Sansa didn’t answer as her hands fiddled with the cloth. Joffrey must have not
wanted to wait for an answered and walked off with a “I’ll look for you in court” before disappearing, Ser Meryn right behind him.

Sandor leaned a little closer to her. “Save yourself some pain, girl. Give him what he wants” He said before moving to walk away. Sansa went to give him back his scrap of cloth but he refused. “You’ll be needing that again” He said before turning away, now facing me. “You watch yourself. Not all the Kings Guard are as nice as I am” He said like he was joking but I knew he was serious. I didn’t say anything as he walked away.

Now alone, I approached Sansa and wrapped my arms around her as she looked once more up at her father’s head before looking at me. “Take me to my room” She begged and I nodded as I guided her back.

That night when I went back to my room I was met with a raven scroll placed neatly on my pillow. I rushed to it, thinking it to be a reply and was
met with a blank piece of parchment then I noticed the other note next to it. I picked it up and read it silently.

“Y/N, please write something to send to Robb so he knows you and his sister are alive. -Varys”

I sighed and took up a quill as I thought of what to write. Then the words started to flow.

“Robb.

Sansa and I are alive but far from well, they aren’t torturing us but Joffrey is getting as close as he can. I long for the days back in Winterfell when everything was simple and made sense but those times, I fear, are gone forever. They killed your father in cold blood and Arya is missing, or they’ve done something to her. I’ve not heard from her since the day your father was arrested but she is a smart, strong, girl who, I’m sure, is trying to find her way home. Please come for us soon.

-Y/N”

I tied it up with a piece of string and placed it on my night stand with the plan to take it to Varys as soon as possible.

I lit the candle next to my bed and burned the note from Varys, as I didn’t want him to get caught helping me, before changing into my bed clothes and laying down.

I laid in bed for hours before I finally fell into a fitful sleep that left me far from well rested.

The next day Sansa had nothing she needed to do and didn’t want to leave her room so she sent me out to do as I please, I wanted to stay with her but she said she wanted to be alone so I had no other choice than to do as she wished.

I was going to pass through the Throne Room on my way out of the Keep but was caught by the sight of Baelish looking up at the Throne again.

Then I saw Varys approach him and I was once again forced to hid behind a pillar to avoid being caught listening in.

“When you imagine yourself up there, how do you look?” Varys asked. “Does the crown fit? Do all the Lords and Lady simper and bow, the ones that sneered at you for years?” He continued.

“It’s hard for them to simper and bow without heads” Baelish answered simply.

“A man with great ambition and no morals, I wouldn’t bet against you” Varys said.

“And what would you do, my friend, if you found yourself sitting up there?” Baelish asked.

“I must be one of the few men in this city who doesn’t want to be King” Varys answered.

“You must be one of the few men in this city who isn’t a man” Baelish quipped.

“You can do better than that” Varys said sounding more disappointed in the badly picked jab than hurt by it. The sound of light footsteps told me
Varys was walking.

“When they castrated you, did they take the pillar with the stones? I’ve always wondered” Baelish asked as he followed Varys till they were walking
together.

“Have you? do you spend a lot of time wondering what’s between my legs?” Varys asked in response.

“I picture a gash, like a woman’s. Is that about right?” Baelish asked.

“I am flattered, of course, to be pictured at all” Varys answered.

“Must be strange for you, even after all these years. A man from another land, despised by most, feared by all” Baelish said as they both passed the
pillar I was hidden behind.

“Am I? That’s good to know. Do you lie awake at night fearing my gash?” Varys asked, I had to keep from laughing at the joke.

“But you carry on, whispering in one Kings ear, and then the next” Baelish continued as if Varys hadn’t spoken at all. Then they stopped walking. “I
admire you” He finished.

“And I admire you, Lord Baelish. A grasper from a minor House with a talent for befriending powerful men and women” Varys responded.

“A useful talent, I’m sure you’d agree” Baelish said and Varys hummed in agreement.

“So, here we stand, in mutual admiration and respect” Varys said.

“Playing our rolls” Baelish said.

“Serving our new King” Varys finished as new footsteps filled the hall and I tensed in fear that I would be caught.

“Long may he reign” Baelish said. “My King” He continued.

“My King” Varys said.

“My Lords” Joffrey said as he seemed to completely bypass them. “Shall we begin?” He continued.

When they left the hall, I sighed in relief. That was twice now. “I need to stop coming in here when court isn’t in session…” I murmured as I went on
my way.

That day was spent wondering the city till late in the evening when the sun was on the horizon.

Then I returned to the place where Ned’s head was on the wall. I looked up at it and kneeled.

“I swear to you Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell, I will see your daughter home. No matter what it may cost me. I swear on my life” I said. I’d never
made an oath before but there was no other that I’d be willing to make.

They want a Game of Thrones? They’ll get a Game of Thrones.

Chapter Text

Months passed and soon Joffrey’s Name Day came. Sansa and I found ourselves at the celebration, which consisted of a fighting tournament and a feast.

I stood behind Sansa’s seat at the tournament and watched as men fought and died for our amusement, I found it disgusting and a waste of good fighters, what with the war that Joffrey was waging against Robb, but at the same time it was removing fighters from their ranks. It’s a conflicting feeling, wanting these men dead but also not.

Sandor was pit against most of the fighters, per Joffrey’s orders, and he won against all of them, which was no surprise to anyone.

I watched as he knocked yet another dead man over the balcony and into the small court below.

Joffrey stood from his seat and went to the ledge to watch as the body was dragged away, the crowd clapping and cheering for Sandor’s victory. “Well struck…” He said before looking up at where Sandor stood. “Well struck, Dog!” He called as Sandor removed his helmet. Joffrey looked at
Sansa with an almost giddy smile before pointing down at where the man had landed. “Did you like that?” He asked her, like he was expecting her to get the same rush that he clearly got from watching someone die.

She looked up at him from her seat. “It was well struck, your Grace” She said, sounding almost like she was in a trance.

“I already said it was well struck” Joffrey scoffed, clearly annoyed that she was agreeing so easily.

“Yes, your Grace” She replied before looking back toward Sandor, her tone unchanging.

It broke my heart to see her so numb. Her eyes had lost that innocent shine that she’d always had and her skin was paler than ever. She didn’t talk about it but I knew she wasn’t sleeping, and when she did it was fitful and left just as tired when she woke and when she laid down.
Joffrey continued to look at her like she was stupid for a moment longer before turning back to the area where they were fighting.

“Who’s next?” He called.

“Lothor Brune! A freerider in service to Lor Bealish!” The announcer called as the man stepped into the fighting area. “Ser Dontos The Red! of House Hollard!” He announced, but the man didn’t show, so he called his name again, clearly trying to get the man’s attention.

“Here I am!” Ser Dontos called as he descended the stairs to our left, the wrong set of stairs for where he needed to be. His armor was half on and his helmet was off, his weapon was held precariously under his arm, dragging against the ground and clinking with every stair he went down. He managed to get down the stairs only to drop his helmet clumsily. After grabbing it and placing it back on his head he stands before us with his head bowed. “Sorry, your Grace” He said, trying to make sure his helmet was on the right way. “My deepest apologies” He continued.

“Are you drunk?” Joffrey asked, though it was clear that the man was, at least a little, drunk.

Ser Dontos removed his helmet quickly and looked at Joffrey. “No” He answered quickly. “Ah- No, your Grace. I had two cups of wine” He answered, like that would make it better.

“Two cups?” Joffrey repeated and the man nodded. “That’s not much at all” He said before gesturing to the small table under the tent we were under, on it was a few cups, some full, and a pitcher of wine. “Please, have another cup” He offered. Joffrey was never this generous so the sight was more than a little confusing.

The clearly picked up on the odd offer. “Are you sure, your Grace?” He asked.

“Yes. To celebrate my Name Day. Have two, have as much as you like” Still looking and sounding like he was doing this out of the kindness of his heart, of which there was none.

“I would be honored, your Grace” Ser Dontos said with a small smile and a short bow.

Joffrey looked to Ser Maryn and I knew where this was going. “Ser Maryn, help Ser Dontos celebrate my Name Day” He ordered, the kind smile that he’d had melting into a disdainful look. “See that he drinks his fill” He orders.

Ser Dontos clearly wasn’t hearing the malic in Joffrey’s voice, as he nodded and smiled like he’d won something amazing.

Ser Maryn and two other Kings Guard grabbed Ser Dontos and drug him over so we could see him better, the crowd gasping and murmuring, as Joffrey returned to his seat.

One solder held him still while the other grabbed a full cask of wine and Ser Maryn got a funnel. The funnel was forced into his mouth as the cask was opened and wine was pour into the funnel. Ser Dontos made sickening gurgling sounds as he choked on the wine, unable to swallow it fast enough.

“You can’t!” Sansa cries, watching the scene.

Joffrey’s gaze snapped to her. “What did you say?” He asked in a sharp but quiet tone. Her gaze slowly shifted to him, she clearly hadn’t meant to say that out loud. “Did you say I can’t?” He asked, daring her to confirm it.

“I only meant, it would be bad luck to kill a man on your Name Day” She says, though there’s no such saying.

“What kind of stupid peasant superstition…?” He muttered looking back at Ser Dontos.

“The girl is right. What a man sows on his Name Day, he reaps all year” Sandor pipes up, confirming the falsehood.

Joffrey sighs. “Take him away. I’ll have him killed tomorrow, the fool” He ordered.

Ser Maryn and the other two guards let him go and he felt to his hands and knees, vomiting up the wine that was forced down his gullet, it looked like a sickening red fountain that made me want to gag.

“He is a fool, you’re so cleaver to see it” Sansa started and I could tell she was up to something that may save the man’s life. “He’ll make a much better fool than a knight. He doesn’t deserve the mercy of a quick death” She said, looking at Joffrey.

Joffrey looked at Sansa then at Ser Dontos. “Did you hear my Lady, Ser Dontos?” He asked before standing. “From this day, you’ll be my new fool” He announced proudly.

Ser Dontos looked our way and gave a little bow. “Thank you, your Grace. And you, My Lady, thank you” He said, more thankful to Sansa than to
Joffrey.

Ser Maryn and the other two took him away as a call of mock joy came from the other direction. “Beloved nephew!”

We all looked over and were met with the sight of Lord Tyrion approaching us, still wearing his Lannister red armor. The crowd murmured and gasped at seeing him, I was a bit surprised myself, I didn’t think he would come back when he was sent to fight in the war.

“We looked for you on the battle field” He said as he reached the tent. “And you were nowhere to be found” He continued, looking very smug as he poured himself a cup of wine.

“I’ve been here, ruling the Kingdoms” Joffrey said, sounding defensive.

“And what a fine job you’ve done” Tyrion said, sounding sincere but anyone with a brain could sense the sarcasm, then his gaze shifted to Myrcella and he let out a gasp, like he was surprised at how lovely she looked. “Look at you” He said affectionally as he moved to kiss her cheeks, she was smiling just as much as he was, happy to see her uncle. “More beautiful than ever” He said before looking to Tommen. “And you! You’re going to be bigger than the Hound!” He said earning a large smile from the boy. “But much better looking” He added, sending a look to the hound, getting a giggle from both children.

I felt a small smile tug at my lips at the display. I may hate Cersei and Joffrey, I may be unsure about Tyrion, and I may hate the insults constantly hurtled at Sandor, but Myrcella and Tommen are good kids, sweet and kind hearted. And the scene of a familial love was sweet all the same.
Tyrion looked to one of the men than had come in with him. “This one doesn’t like me” He informed before taking a drink from his cup.

“Can’t imagine why” The man replied with unmasked sarcasm.

“We heard you were dead” Joffrey said, sounding almost disappointed that it wasn’t true.

“I’m glad you’re not dead” Myrcelle said, glancing at her older brother.

Tyrion sent her a look that spoke of his agreement. “Me too, dear. Death is so boring, especially now, with so much excitement in the world” He
said, slowly walking across the tent, toward Sansa.

When his eyes landed on her they took on an expression of pity. “My Lady, I’m sorry for your loss” He said, his sincerity was refreshing.

Sansa was about to reply but Joffrey looked between them confusedly. “Her loss? Her father was a confessed traitor” He said, looking at Tyrion like he was stupid.

“But still her father, surely having so recently lost your own father beloved father you can sympathize” Tyrion said, sounding like he wanted to hit the boy king.

Joffrey was quiet for a moment before turning to Sansa, clearly expecting her to back him up.

“My father was a traitor; my mother and brother are traitors too. I am loyal to my beloved Joffrey” She said, having repeated it a hundred times to dozens of different people who tried to express sympathy for her.

“Of course, you are” Tyrion said, the corner of his mouth turning upward slightly, as if he were proud of how strong she is. Sansa looked away from him and he downed the rest of his wine. “Well, enjoy your Name Day, your Grace. Wish I could stay and celebrate, but there is work to be done” He
said as he walked away into the Keep.

“What work?” Joffrey asked confused as he stood once again. “Why are you here?” He asked as we all watched a group of mountain men and Lannister solders walk in to the Keep behind Tyrion.

The day went on and the celebrations continued well into the evening. When they ended I found myself unable to rest, and with Sansa already in bed and getting what little rest she could, I was unneeded and without purpose for a few hours.

I went to the kitchens and asked one of the cooks if I could have a cup of the unfinished wine, which would be tossed out anyway. The man, who knew whom I served, gave me a small understanding smile and allowed. I thanked him and left with the cup.

I went to the walkways that overlooked the coast, sitting on one of the stone benches that dotted the area. I looked out over the dark sea as I sipped from the cup. I lost myself in my thoughts as the winds blew through my hair and over my skin, giving me a chill that the wine quickly remedied.

I’m not sure how long I sat there before the sound of small and slow footsteps reached my ears. I looked over and felt my heart drop into my gut, I stood quickly, putting the glass down and curtseying low as Tyrion approached me. “My Lord. Forgive me, they were going to throw it out and I didn’t think it would matter if I had some” I said quickly, hoping that he didn’t tell Cersei or Joffrey that I’d ‘stolen’ wine.

He let out a quick “Ha!” As he stopped a few feet away and turned to look at the sea. “Who am I to get angry at someone enjoying a cup of wine?” He asked, looking up at me with a small smirk.

I remained silent as I returned to my seat and picked the cup back up, taking a quick sip. “Is there something I can do for you, My Lord?” I asked, confused as to why he was even here.

“She’s a strong girl, Sansa” He said, ignoring my question, and not even looking at me.

I nodded. “She is” I agreed, eyeing him carefully, what was he after? Did he come to get information about Sansa from me? Did he know about the raven scrolls that Varys was helping me send?

“I understand your mistrust in me. I am a Lannister after all” He said, sending me another smirk.

“Is there something I can do for you, My Lord?” I asked, a bit firmer than before, making it clear that I wasn’t going to say anything else till he made his motives clear.

“Not at all. I just wanted to meet the handmaiden that followed Sansa all the way from the North, and continues to take care of her despite the obvious danger to her life” He said, now facing me.

I took another sip of wine, my eyes not leaving him for a moment. “And why is that, My Lord?” I asked. Why would he want to meet me? I’m not important, nor do I hold any political sway, even with my ties to Varys.

“Because if Sansa is as strong as she is, how strong must you be to be the one that protects her” He said taking half a step toward me.

“I’m no guard. I dress her and tend to her, that’s all” I lied. I’ve not had the chance, or occasion, to have to fight on her behalf but I would in a heartbeat, and I would die if that’s what it took.

Tyrion smiled like he knew I was lying and I believed he did. “Of course, you do” He said before looking back at the view. “In any case, I have something for you” He said taking out a small pouch with a note tied to it.

He handed it to me as I set down the cup again and I read the note cautiously. It read “Use as needed” with no signature or initial to say who it was from. Inside the pouch I found dozens of unmarked gold coins, a few were split in half and some halves we split as well. My brows furrowed in confusion as I looked back at Tyrion.

“In case you change your mind about being a guard” He said, still smiling, then he started walking away.

I stood quickly, the pouch still in hand. “Why?” I asked hastily.

He turned and walked backwards as he spoke. “Because I can” He answered, like it was the simplest thing in the world.

I watched him go and when he left my sight I downed the rest of the wine in the cup before I made for my room, clutching the pouch so tightly in my hand that it crumpled the note.

I had the frame of mind to drop the cup off at the kitchen on the way, careful to hide the pouch as I did, and when I reached my room I split the contents of the pouch into small groups, which I wrapped in small swatches of cloth and hid at different points in my room, even if someone found a few, they would never find all of them.

I resolved to look for someone who could help me learn to fight in the city next time I had the chance. Whoever I found would have to teach me under the cover of darkness, so none of Cersei or Baelish’s spies could report it back to them, but it would be better than nothing.

It wasn’t till after I hid all the gold that I noticed the raven scroll and the note on my bed. I picked up the note and it read “From the North”. Varys had stopped signing his notes weeks ago so anyone who saw it, and wasn’t supposed to, wouldn’t know it was from him.

I picked up the scroll and opened it. It read “Y/N. We have been fighting hard to get you and Sansa back. We’ve heard no word on where Arya is but we have men on the lookout for her. Stay strong, and keep Sansa alive till we come for you both – Robb”

I let out a shaky sigh as I read and reread the words on the slip of parchment. How much more would Sansa have to go through before they came for us? I’ve been lucky enough not to have drawn any real notice, they don’t know who I am to her. But if, or when, they do, I’ll be as good as dead…Or worse…

I rerolled the scroll and tucked it into a hole in my ratty pillow before burning Varys’ over a candle. I’d have to burn the scroll as well but I’d show it
to Sansa first, she needed the encouragement right now.

I removed my dress and put on my thin, threadbare, nightgown before moving to lay down in bed, intending to rest for the night, but then a knock came at my door. I stood and grabbed my, equally thin and threadbare, robe, putting it on as I approached the door.

I slowly opened the wooden barrier just enough to peek out, finding Varys on the other side, looking as calm as ever. “My Lord. Is there something you need?” I asked as I opened the door to let him in, pulling my robe around myself a little tighter.

He walked in silently and waited till I’d closed the door before he spoke. “One of my little birds saw you talking to Tyrion Lannister. What did he say?” He asked me, his tone didn’t speak of any urgency, but I knew he was just trying to keep from concerning me too much.

“He didn’t say much…He said that Sansa was strong, that he wanted to meet me because I’m still here with her, then he gave me a purse of gold” I answered quietly, ears are everywhere in the Keep, even on the other sides of doors, no matter how thick they are.

Varys looked confused, of his down turned lips and furrowed brow was anything to go by. “Gold? Why would he do that?” He asked, more to himself than to me.

I shook my head. “There was a note attached to it that said to use it as I needed. I plan to buy fighting lessons with it” I explained. I had no reason to keep that information from Varys, I had expressed the desire to learn to him before and he understood.

“You must be careful using Lannister gold for such a thing” He warned.

“It’s unmarked. No stamps, just blank coins, half coins, and quarter coins” I said, moving to one of the hiding spots and grabbing them to show the man.

His brows furrowed further as he looked at them. He was clearly still struggling to understand Tyrion’s motives. “Be careful using these none-the-less. Unmarked gold is uncommon in Kings Landing, and he may try to use it to track you” He said, looking at one of the coins before placing it
back in my hand.

I nodded and watched as he left, telling me write another scroll for Robb as he went. I bid him goodnight before closing, and baring, my door.

I threw my robe off and tumbled into bed gracelessly, wrapping myself with the single blanket and letting myself fall asleep.

The next day I had intended to go looking for someone to teach me to fight, but the news that Lannister solders were killing, seemingly random, people made me rethink that. Something told me that they weren’t random, they always had a reason for killing someone, whatever it may be, and I
wasn’t going to risk it by going out there and taking the chance.

I would save it for another day.

Chapter Text

Over the next few days, after the Lannister solders stopped killing people, I would go out as often as I could and ask around for someone who would teach me to fight.

In return I got a number of propositions to teach me…Other activities, a few orders to go fuck myself, many eyerolls, and so many people simply ignoring me that I lost count.

I was about to end my fifth day of no luck when I was beckoned by a man to speak with him in private. I was wary and made a point of grabbing my dagger from its sheath discreetly before following him down an alleyway.

He lead me down many streets before taking me into a building and into a small room, where I found Varys waiting for us.

“My Lord? What’s the meaning of this?” I asked, confused as to why he would meet me in this manner, rather than wait till I went back to the Keep and meeting with me like normal.

“Y/N, I heard from my little birds that you were asking around for someone to teach you, and took it into my own hands to find someone” He said before gesturing to the man, whom I was only just getting a good look at.

He had green eyes and short light brown hair, his skin was tanned from working in the sun, and I could see he was well muscled through his loose shirt, he was taller than both Varys and myself but far from being as tall as Sandor. And he was older, around the same age as Ned was.

“Lars, Lars Waters” The man introduced himself. I noted that he had the name of Waters, the surname of bastards in the region.

“Y/N L/N” I replied with a slight nod, still wary of this new person.

“He’s agreed to teach you what you want to know in exchange for a half coin each lesson, which will last as long as you deem necessary” Varys explained, looking at me.

I thought it over for a moment, I wasn’t likely to get a better deal from anyone else. Most everyone in the city, rich or poor, would try to get as much gold out of me as they can, and while Tyrion had given me quite a bit, there wasn’t enough for what most would ask. And he looked like he could do the job well enough.

I nodded. “Very well. But I require full discretion. Anything we discuss, and the lessons themselves must be kept between us three and no one else” I requested, looking between the two men sharply.

“Of course. Lord Varys has already payed me to keep quiet about this. I don’t need to know why you need to fight, and I don’t care either, not my business, not my problem” Lars said with a curt nod.

“When is the soonest we can start?” I asked, half hoping he would say that day, but also knowing that I needed to get back to the Keep soon.

“Whenever you’re ready. Simply say the word” He answered simply.

“We’ll train every other day, starting tomorrow after dark. There’s a place by the coast that few travel” I said, knowing the few who do go there are
the children who use that path to bring news to Varys.

“We’ll meet here and you can show me, after that we will meet there. We can work out any other details tomorrow” He said, his tone focused and to the point.

“I must go now. I’ll see you tomorrow” I said to Lars. “And I’ll see you as well, Lord Varys” I said, giving a short curtsey to Varys for show.

I then left the building and made back for the Keep.

The next evening, I met Lars at the building as planned and lead him to the place we would use to train. It was a place on the coastal path that was round and large enough for our purposes.

He turned to face me. “Now, do you have anything in specific you want to learn?” He asked, holding his arms behind his back, he looked like he’d been a solder at one time. If he was as old as he looked then he probably fought in Roberts Rebellion.

“I want to learn everything you can teach me” I answered, mimicking his stance. I’d asked one of the stable boys to procure a pair of trousers, a shirt, and a pair of boots for me in exchange for a half coin and whatever was left after he paid for the clothes. So, I now stood in a loose long-sleeved shirt, with the sleeves rolled up to my elbows, brown trousers that fit better than I was expecting, and dingy boots that, again, fit surprisingly well.

“Then we’ll start simple. No weapons, just hands” He said moving closer. He raised one hand with his palm facing me, looking like he was waiting for something. “Hit my hand. As hard as you can” He ordered.

I took the stance I’d seen when watching Jon and Robb take when they would train back in Winterfell, lower half side facing and upper half turned toward Lars. I lifted my fists and threw one toward his hand, a sharp exhale leaving through my nose.

He watched me for a moment after my hand retracted and he gave a little nod, like I’d answered a question for him. “Clench your fist tighter, your fingers were too loose, if you’d been hitting anything harder than my hand then your fingers would have been broken, and make sure your elbows face out from your body, you’ll have more control and a harder hit. Your stance is good but bend your knees a bit more, put your weight on your toes, you’ll be able to move quicker. When in your stance keep your fists up, blocking your face” He demonstrated what he meant, taking the same stance and putting his hands up, all I could see past them were his eyes.

I nodded, absorbing everything he said like the words of a holy text.

“Try again” He ordered, lifting his hand again.

I took the stance again and made the corrections he told me to before hitting his hand again. This time when my knuckles met his palm he grabbed my fist and pulling my arm around, so the inside of my elbow was facing up. My fight or flight instincts took over as I thought he’d turned on me, so my foot immediately flew up to kick him in the groin but his other hand grabbed my ankle before it reached him.

“Good reaction time. You were quick to realize the threat and acted without hesitation. And your choice of weak point was smart, if expected” He said as he let go of my ankle and hand.

My brows furrowed, was he testing me? Seeing what I knew?

He watched me for a moment as I thought, he looked almost amused by the confusion as I pieced together his reasoning.

“Shall we continue?” He asked, his tone taking on the amusement I saw in his expression.

“Yes. We shall” I answered, my determination echoing quietly off the water.

The training followed that pattern till I was too tired to continue. I paid him for that day and left for the Red Keep.

I checked on Sansa, whom was sleeping in her bed, before going back to my room.

As I approached my door I was met with the sight of a figure leaned against the wall next to it. From where I was it was too dark to see who it was
but when I got closer I saw that it was Lord Baelish.

I knew what the weasel of a man had done when Ned tried to stop Joffrey from being King, Verys had told me about the dagger that he’d put to Ned’s throat when he betrayed him.

“Lord Baelish” I said when I reached the door, giving a courteous nod.

“Y/N, I was looking for you. I’ve something we should discuss” He said, gesturing to my door.

I didn’t want to be in the same place as him, let alone in my bedroom with him by ourselves. But I didn’t have a choice in the matter, if I said no he could very well have me killed with one word to Cersei or Joffrey, or he could just kill me himself, I doubt he’s above it. And whatever he had to say
could be important, it could help me get Sansa out of Kings Landing, or better yet, it could help me kill Cersei and Joffrey for their crimes.

I nodded and opened the door, allowing him to come in before I closed it behind him. “What did you wish to discuss?” I asked, not taking my eyes off him. Anyone with a brain could tell that I didn’t trust him, so he knew, but it didn’t seem to care, probably because he didn’t trust me either.

“I saw you at the coast tonight. With someone. And if I didn’t know better I’d say you were fighting him. Care to explain?” He asked, making himself comfortable on the edge of my bed.

“I don’t see how what I do is of any consequence to you” I replied sharply. If he thought I tell him anything then he was well and truly mad.

He chuckled quietly. “You misunderstand. I have no desire to harm you, or Sansa. I actually want to help her” He said, that damned smirk, that he probably thinks makes him look trustworthy, painted across his face.

“If you want to help her then help me get her home” I answered, moving to sit on the chair in the corner of the room.

“I wish I could. But the Queen has so many eyes on her at all times that it’s simply impossible” He said, shaking his head slightly.

“Then tell me, Lord Baelish, how does you knowing what I was doing by the coast help her? How does you knowing what I do in my spare time help her?” I asked, surprising myself with how blunt I was being with a man who could have my head on a plate if he wanted it.

“I know that you want to protect her. I know that you care about her. I understand, I care about her as well” He said but I cut him off.

“Do you? Then why did you betray her father? Why did you hold a knife to his throat and let the Lannister men take him?” I asked, my tone dripped venom and my tongue was sharp as the dagger tied to my leg.

“I have my own goals, and I was simply seeing to it that they could be met” He answered, a slight shrug pulling at his shoulder.

I rolled my eyes. “I’ve nothing to tell you. I’ll never have anything to tell you. Now, My Lord, if you would please, I have an early morning tomorrow and must rest” I said as I stood and went to open the door for him, praying to the old Gods and the Seven that my rudeness didn’t come back to
bite me in the ass later.

He gave that same smile as he too stood and moved to the door. “If you change your mind. You know where to find me” He said before leaving.

As soon as the door was closed behind him I let out a breath that I hadn’t realized that I was holding. My heart was hammering against my ribs but felt like it was sitting in my stomach like a rock.

I laid in bed that night for what felt like hours before I fell asleep, from which I woke frequently, covered in sweat and gasping like I’d been running.

When morning came it was a relief.

After getting dressed, tucking the scroll into my bust so I could show it to Sansa, and procuring an apple from the kitchen for breakfast I made for Sansa’s bedroom.

She was still sleeping when I entered so I set about getting her clothes ready so she could get ready for the day.

When I woke her, she looked like she hadn’t slept in days.

I ran my hand over her hair as I looked down at her. “I have a surprise for you” I said quietly.

She slowly sat up, her brows furrowed in confusion. “What is it?” She asked, pulling her red, braided, hair over her shoulder.

I went back to the door and bared it before pulling the scroll out and handing it to her.

I watched her expression as she watched and she smiled slightly as her eyes grew dewy, her eyes reading the words over and over, like I had, before
returning to me.

“Thank you, Y/N…I needed to see this” She said quietly, her voice quavering slightly.

I nodded. “Of course, Sansa” I said as I sat on the edge of her bed. “Sadly, I have to burn it the next chance I get so the Queen doesn’t find it” I said looking at the slip of parchment.

Sansa nodded and handed it back to me. I rerolled it and put it away before standing and helping her get dressed.

I prayed to the Seven and the old Gods that day, more than I ever have before, that Robb came soon.

Chapter Text

Days passed and I went to train on every day that Lars and I had agreed on. I was already getting better, I was able to not only throw a good punch or a good kick, but I’d learned a few submission holds and how to use my small stature to my advantage against larger enemies. Soon I’d be learning how to fight with a weapon, namely a knife or dagger, per my request.

It was an evening that I didn’t have training that Cersei requested Sansa have dinner with her and the prince and princess. I had to stay in Sansa’s room, pacing the floor worried for what that evil lioness was saying to my little wolf.

When Sansa returned I almost jumped out of my skin. “What happened?” I asked quickly.

She sighed. “It was quiet mostly. Myrcella asked about the wedding…Tommen asked if Joffrey was going to kill Robb…” She answered, her eyes were locked on her reflection in her mirror. “I feel like I’m losing myself…” She whispered.

“I’m not going to let that happen” I said, placing my hand on her shoulder. “I’ll get you out of here before that can happen” I said. I saw her gaze move to mine through the refection.

It was quiet for a moment. Then a few knocks came at the door and sliced through the silence.

“Come in” Sansa called as we both turned to face the door.

The door opened and in walked a woman. She had dark brown curly hair and light, fair, skin. Her dress was odd and I haven’t seen any of the other women of the Red Keep wear anything like it.

“Who are you?” Sansa asked as we both eyed her.

“I’m Shae, Mi Lady. Your new Handmaiden” She answered, looking between Sansa and myself.

Sansa and I shared a confused look. “I didn’t know I needed a new Handmaiden. You’re not from here” Sansa said, showing how observant she is.

“No” The woman confirmed simply.

It was quiet for a while as Shae just stared at us and us at her.

“What are you doing?” Sansa asked confusedly.

“Waiting for you to tell me what to do” Shae answered, like it was the most obvious thing she could be doing.

I felt the corners of my mouth tug upward as a laugh bubbled up in my throat, she was so clearly not a handmaiden that it was truly entertaining.

“I shouldn’t have to tell you to do things, you should just do them” Sansa said, growing more confused as to why this self-proclaimed handmaiden
didn’t seem to know how to do her own job.

“What things?” Shae asked.

“Change the linens, wash my clothing, scrub the floors, empty the chamber pot, brush my hair” Sansa said, listing the very basic jobs that a
handmaiden did.

Shae looked between Sansa and I for a moment before turning and closing the door. She wordlessly started for the vanity and got Sansa’s hair
brush. My brows shot up at her lack of knowledge about timing and when to do certain jobs.

“No!” Sansa said exasperatedly.

“You said to brush your hair” Shae said, just as exasperated.

“Not now!” Sansa corrected.

I’d never seen a woman look more frustrated than Shae did in the moment when she put the brush down. She looked toward Sansa’s chamber pot
before looking at Sansa. “Your chamber pot is empty” She pointed out.

“Clean the table” Sansa ordered and we watched as she did as ordered.

I saw her slip a grape in her mouth as she picked up a plate. I let myself crack a smile at that, I’ve done the same on more than one occasion.

“Have you ever been a Handmaiden before?” Sansa asked, already knowing that the answer was no.

“Yes” Shae lied as she picked up wiped the table with a rag.

“For whom?” Sansa asked, meeting my eyes as we both knew she was lying.

“Lady Zuriff” Shae answered. I didn’t recognize the name, as far as I knew there was no such person.

“Lady Zuriff?” Sansa questioned.

“Lady Zuriff” Shae repeated, getting irritated at all the questions.

“There is no Lady Zuriff in this city” Sansa said.

“She wasn’t in this city” Shae clarified.

“Well I don’t know how they did things in that city, but in this city handmaidens wait on Ladies, not the other way around. And I don’t have time to
answer a thousand questions and teach you how to do your job” Sansa said. I could see her eyes misting, this wasn’t about Shae not knowing how
to do her job. This was about everything else she was going through, and a new person on top of it all.

Shae gazed at her and I could see that part of her thought that all Sansa was is the spoilt daughter of a Lord who was just being difficult. But part of her also saw that Sansa was going through a lot of things and was trying to process them.

“Do you want me to leave” Shae asked, there was a sincerity in her voice that made me think that perhaps she understood that she shouldn’t push Sansa.

Sansa was quiet for a few moments, clearly trying to compose herself. “Just brush my hair” She ordered as she went to sit at her vanity.

Shae put the plate down and went over, grabbing the hair brush and running it through Sansa’s red locks.

The night continued like that for a little long before I helped Sansa to bed and both Shae and I left.

As we both stood in the hallway I grabbed her arm and pulled her to a more secluded place.

“I don’t know who you are or who sent you. But Sansa has enough on her mind without having to worry about you. I don’t care who sent you. But know that if you do anything to hurt her, I’ll kill you” I said, my tone quick, quiet, and sharp.

Shae just looked at me for a moment before speaking. “I have no interest in hurting her. And I don’t work for anyone” She said then sighed quietly.
“I can’t tell you how I came to have this job, but I’ve never been a handmaiden before” She confessed, rolling her eyes.

I lifted a brow and scoffed. “I know. You clearly don’t know what you’re doing” I replied. I looked off to the side as I tried to find a remedy for the situation. “I’ll teach you. Tomorrow morning, meet me in the kitchens and I’ll tell you how to be a handmaiden” I said before moving to walk away,
but stopped after a few steps and looked back at her. “And my threat stands. Do anything to hurt her, and I’ll kill you” I said before continuing on my way.

I decided to make for Varys’ office to see if he knew anything about Shae.

I knocked on the door and received a gentle “Come in” in return. I entered and closed the door behind myself.

“Lord Varys” I greeted.

He sat behind his desk and looked up at me confusedly. “Y/N? Is there something wrong?” He asked, I rarely visited him in his office, and I must
have looked quite worried.

“What do you know about Sansa’s new handmaiden, Shae?” I asked quickly.

Varys’ brows furrowed. “Handmaiden?” He questioned before standing. “I know of Shae, but this is news to me” He said, coming around to the front
of his desk and leaning back on it.

“You know of her? Who is she? Can she be trusted?” I asked, my tone still fast and worried.

Varys placed a calming hand on my shoulder. “She can be trusted, for now at least. She has no interest in harming Sansa, she probably didn’t know anything about her till today” He answered in his calm, almost soothing manner.

“Then who is she? I would think that we would get some warning before her arrival…” I said, crossing my arms over my chest tightly, my discomfort was more than obvious to anyone who bothered to look.

“She’s Lord Tyrian’s lover. My little birds have seen her going in and out of his chambers since he returned from battle. She’s Lorathi and a prostitute by trade, it’s no mystery how she met Lord Tyrion. She’s no one to be worried about, though it is quite strange how she’s suddenly
Sansa’s Handmaiden” He explained.

“Good…I’ll be keeping a close eye on her regardless. I’ll be teaching her how to be a Handmaiden, so it won’t be difficult…” I sigh, running my hand over my face, rubbing my eyes tiredly. “And I’ll come to you with whatever I learn” I add before turning to the door to leave.

“Before you go” He said quickly, causing me to stop and turn back to him, my hand resting on the hand of the still closed door. “I’ve heard word that Lord Baelish has started taking an interest in you, possibly due to your connection to Sansa, tread carefully. He’s not to be trifled with” He
advised.

I nodded slowly. “He’s visited me once, asking for my trust and assistance in ‘protecting’ Sansa. I told him that I had no interest in his help. He didn’t seem to believe me, but it doesn’t matter what he believes” I replied.

Varys nodded slowly. “If he comes to you again, let me know immediately” He orders.

I gave a short nod. “Of course. And I’ll keep an eye out for his spies” I said before opening the door any leaving.

By the time I made it back to my bedroom I was so tired that I felt like I would fall asleep standing if I stayed still long enough. So, I changed quickly and fell into bed unceremoniously, falling into the sweet dark embrace of sleep far faster than I had in what felt like months.

I didn’t find myself thinking about any of my troubles till the next morning.

Chapter Text

LAST WARNING: READER GETS BEAT REALLY BAD IN THIS CHAPTER!!! IF THAT BOTHERS YOU THEN SKIP THIS CHAPTER!!!

Weeks passed, and Sansa and I found ourselves watching the proceedings of courts in the throne room, as we often did, when suddenly the guards grabbed her and took her before the throne, forcing her to her knees, I tried to follow but only got as far as the front of the crowd behind her before I was held back by two guards, each holding one of my arms as I pulled against them as much as I could. I knew with the training and the combat skills I’d learned I could kill both of them in the time of a single breath, but I couldn’t reveal that I was that dangerous, it would guarantee my death.

Joffrey had a crossbow trained on her as he spoke. “You’re here to answer for your brother’s latest treasons” He said authoritatively.
Sansa’s face was red, and tears ran down her cheeks as she looked up at him, desperation etched into her beautiful features. “Your Grace, whatever my traitor brother has done, I had no part. You know that, please” She begged but Joffrey didn’t let her finish.

“Ser Lancel, tell her of this outrage” Joffrey ordered.

“Using some vile sorcery, your brother fell on Stafford Lannister with an army of wolves. Thousands of good men were butchered. After the slaughter, the Northmen feasted on the flesh of the slain” Lancel said, clearly taking advantage of his moment of attention.

Joffrey was silent for a moment, as if thinking over his options. “Killing you would send your brother a message…” He mused, causing Sansa to let out a few pitiful sobs, before he sighed. “But my mother insists on keeping you alive” He lowered the crossbow. “Stand” He ordered with a gesture of his hand. Sansa does as told as he sets the bow aside and sits on the throne. “So, we’ll have to send your brother a message some other way” He said. The room is quiet for a moment, save for the sounds of the fires crackling. “Meryn!” He said suddenly.

The disgusting man approached Sansa and I started fighting against the men holding me even harder, I could feel the whimpers trying to fight their way up my throat, but I forced them down, I couldn’t draw any more attention to myself.

Before Meryn could do anything Joffrey once again spoke up. “Leave her face” Meryn looked back at him. “I like her pretty…” He added.

If not for the fact that it was already there, my heart would have dropped into my stomach.

Meryn grabbed her shoulder and turned her toward him. Then launched his fist into her gut. The crowd gasped as she let out a gasped whimper,
the air forced from her body.

I let out a quiet, angered, grunt as I looked on with wide fury filled eyes, they were only trained on Meryn for a moment before they darted up to
Joffrey, finding him looking back with slightly confused amusement before. He looked back at Sansa as Meryn drew his sword and used the flat part
to smack the back of Sansa’s thigh. He was sheathing it when Joffrey spoke.

“Meryn, My Lady’s overdressed….Unburden her” He ordered as he stood and walked to the end of the stage that the throne sat upon.

Meryn didn’t hesitate to walk behind Sansa and rip the back of her dress wide open. She whimpered and covered herself with her hands and what was left of her sleeves on her arms.

“If you want Robb Stark to hear us, we’re going to have to speak louder!” Joffrey said as Meryn redrew his sword and was about to strike Sansa with it.

“What’s the meaning of this?!” Called a voice from the other end of the room. Everyone froze, and the crowd split as Lord Tyrion walked in, quickly approaching Sansa. “What kind of Knight beats a helpless girl?” He spat, glaring at Meryn.

“The kind who serves his King, Imp” Meryn spat back.

“Careful now. We don’t wanna get blood all over your pretty white cloke” Lord Tyrion’s friend, who’s name I learned was Bronn.

“Someone get the girl something to cover herself with” Tyrion ordered as he slowly climbed the stairs before the throne. “She is to be your Queen.
Have you no regard for her honor?” Tyrion asked, glaring up at his nephew.

Sandor wordlessly left his place by the throne and went to Sansa, pulling his cloke from his back and draping it over her shoulders.

At that moment I realized that he’s not so cruel…Sure he was ordered to do so but he didn’t seem to mind doing it. He looked like he’d wanted to.

“I’m punishing her!” Joffrey defended.

“For what crimes? She did not fight her brothers battles you halfwit” Tyrion retorted.

“You can’t talk to me like that! The King can do as he likes!” Joffrey shouted before walking back to the throne.

“The Mad King did as he liked. Has your uncle Jamie ever told you what happened to him?” Tyrion asked rhetorically.

“No one threatens His Grace in the presents of the King Guard!” Meryn said, placing his hand on the hilt of his sword.

“I’m not threatening the King, Ser, I am educating my nephew” Tyrion replied before turning his head slightly. “Bronn, next time Ser Meryn speaks,
kill him” He ordered before looking at Meryn. “That was a threat. See the difference?” He asked, tone full of angered snark.

Everyone was quiet as Tyrion approached Sansa, his eyes flitting to me for a moment before going back to her. He offered his hand to her and she, albeit hesitantly, accepted his assistance and took his hand as she slowly stood, Joffrey noisily stood from the throne in anger but didn’t say anything. Once she was on her feet he turned to me. “Release her” He ordered of the guards holding me. They obeyed and let go, I didn’t hesitate to rush to her side, pulling Sandor’s cloke tighter around her.

“I apologize for my nephew’s behavior” Tyrion said quietly as we walked out, a few other Handmaidens, who served the Keep at large joining us.
“Tell me the truth, do you want an end to this engagement?” He asked. I wondered if he knew that the engagement was the only thing keeping
Joffrey from torturing her further.

“I am loyal to King Joffrey, my one true love” She answered, a strong air of dignity about her.

He stopped as we left the room, but I could still hear him. “Lady Stark…You may survive us yet…”

I shooed the other Handmaidens away before we even reached her chambers, telling them that she was overwhelmed and didn’t need all of us,
adding on that since she knew me better I should be the one to stay and tend to her. They accepted with minimal resistance, they were clearly
happy to get out of working for a while.

As soon as Sansa and I entered her room I bared the door and turned to her, my arms wrapped so tight around her that I half worried she couldn’t breath, but the sobs that fell from her lips told me otherwise.

“I’m so sorry, Sansa…I’m so, so sorry…” I whispered as I stood there holding the girl. “I should have done something…I should have helped you…” I said, my gaze was over her shoulder, but not locked onto anything, unfocused and still filled with rage.

“They would have killed you…I’d rather go through that again than lose you…” She said through her tears.

I let go of her and placed my hands on her wet cheeks, making her look me in the eye. “I’ll kill them all before I see that happen again. I swear it. My life is forfeit, it doesn’t matter. But yours? Yours is worth more than all the gold the Lannister’s boast. If it means that you get to go home, I’ll die” I said, no uncertainty or questioning to be found in my face or voice. I let go of her face and looked her over. “Let’s get you redressed then…” I said quietly as I removed Sandor’s cloke from her shoulders, soon followed by her ruined dress, she had a large blue-purple bruise on her belly that was clearly sore, and a long, thin, shallow cut surrounded by bruising on the back of her right thigh.

I helped her get dressed and resting in her bed. I sat next to her as she went back and forth between reading one of her books and falling asleep,
my eyes locked on the cloke sitting folded on the table. The events replayed in my head over and over. What I could have done differently, how I could have kept it from happening…Ultimately, I concluded that there was nothing I could have done to change what happened.

She didn’t settle enough to stay asleep till that evening, and when she did I left to take the cloke back to Sandor.

I got three steps out the door before I realized that I didn’t know where his chambers were. Luckily a guard was situated not far down the hall, I knew that he worked for Joffrey, but he could still tell me where to go. So, I approached him and asked.

“The Hound’s chambers are in the western tower” Was the answer I received. I gave a quick ‘thank you’ before walking away.

The sun was halfway hidden when I reached the thick wooden door that separated Sandor’s room from the rest of the Keep.

I raised a fist to knock but found myself hesitating. Did I really want to see him? What if I catch him at a bad time?

I didn’t have time to ponder those questions because I heard a voice behind me speak.

“There a reason you’re at my door?” It was gruff, deep, it sent a shiver down my spine.

I turned to be met with the sight of Sandor, still in his armor, still with his sword on his hip.

“I was just returning this” I said holding up the bundle in my arms.

A crooked smirk found Sandor’s lips as he scoffed a chuckle. “Shouldn’t you be tending to your Lady?” He asked as he took a few steps forward. I moved to the side, so he could go to his door, and watched as he opened it and stooped low to enter.

“She’s sleeping” I answered, staying outside of the room. I wasn’t going to enter without his permission.

He grunted in response and started removing his armor, revealing the off-white shirt and brown trousers underneath. It wasn’t till he had all the metal off that he realized that I was still standing there. “Are you going to come in or just stand in the door all night?” He asked, fully facing me.

I’d known that he was muscular, but without the armor I had a better idea of just how muscular. His shirt must have been huge to hang as loosely on his frame as it did.

I nodded and walked into his room, stopping to stand only a couple feet away from the door. “What do you want me to do with this?” I asked, holding up the bundled cloke.

He looked at me and was silent for a moment before walking toward me. I didn’t take my eyes off him as the memory of the kiss we’d shared ran through my mind. I felt my face get warm when he took the fabric from my hands, his rough fingers brushing mine. He stood less than a foot away as he looked down at me, had I been any taller he’d be looking at our, still closely positioned, hands. But as my eyes locked on his and I found that, somehow, even after all the times I’ve looked into his eyes, I never noticed their warm brown coloring. I was always so intent on seeing the emotions in them that I never took the chance admire the sunflower seed brown that had been looking down at me.

Neither of us seemed to know what to say as we stood there silently looking at each other. I wanted to ask him why he’d kissed me. What had that expression he wore afterward been? I had so many questions to ask him, but they all died in my throat as I looked up at him.

Soon the eye contact seemed to be too much for him as he averted his gaze and stepped back a couple paces, I felt a pang of disappointment but didn’t show it as I watched him set his cloke on the small wooden table next to the small window.

“Was that all you wanted?” He didn’t look at me as he spoke, but I nodded anyway.

“Yes…I’ll be taking my leave now” I said before turning and leaving the room. I could feel his eyes on my back as I walked away.

I went back to Sansa’s room to check on her before making my way back to my own. What I was met with made my heart jump into my throat and drop to my feet all at once.

There, right at my door, stood two Lannister guardsmen who seemed to be waiting for me. When I reached them they both turned to me. “His Grace wishes to see you in his chambers” One said before grabbing my arm and leaning me away while the other followed.

I felt dread fill my chest as we walked, was it about when our eyes met in court? Was he going to kill me? Torture me? Rape me? He was King, and he could get away with it, especially with me.

When the door was within sight we saw it open and out walked two women who I could tell were whores. Well, one of them was walking, the other was being carried by another guard. They both looked like they’d just been put through Hell and I couldn’t tell if the one was just unconscious or if
she was dead. I don’t know which would have been more to her benefit.

We reached the still open door and I saw King Joffrey standing by the window, staring out at the view that I couldn’t make out from this side of the room. “Your Grace. The Handmaiden you wished to speak see” The guard holding my arm spoke.

Joffrey turned and looked at me with the most unimpressed expression I’d ever seen grace a person’s face.

“Leave us” He ordered the guards with a wave of his hand as he slowly sauntered toward me.

“Is there something I can do for you, You Grace?” I asked, fully intending to give him whatever it was he wanted if it got me away from him sooner.

“You’re close to Sansa yes?” He asked, pouring himself a cup of wine.

“I’m her Handmaiden, if that’s what you mean” I answered. I didn’t want to admit to having any kind of relationship to beyond that.

“Your reaction to her punishment in court today made it seem like more than that” He said, leaning back against the table where the pitcher had
been with the cup in hand, taking a drink from it after speaking.

“I am charged with taking care of her and her needs…I was…worried” I answered, looking down at the toes of his boots, his feet were crossed at the ankle.

Joffrey hummed as he stood straight and set the cup down and strolled toward me. “I think it was more than that. I know you traveled here with her from Winterfell. I saw you tending to her there, and I saw you sitting together at the feast the day we’d arrived. I think you two are close friends, and
care deeply for each other” He said as he came closer and closer to me, only stopping when there were little more than a few inches between us. As
a servant I wasn’t allowed to meet his eyes, but he was too close for me to look at his boots again, so I settled for locking my eyes on his chest.

He knew that she and I are close. He knew that I wanted to protect her. He saw the fight in my eyes when we looked at each other in court. He was going to kill me to torment Sansa.

“I have a feeling that if I did anything to you, it would hurt Sansa much more than what I did today, and I never got to finish punishing her for her brother’s treasons” He said before slowly starting to walk around me, looking me up and down. “Perhaps I should give you the rest of her
punishment and let her see what happens when people cross me” He mused as he stopped in front of me once more.

My thoughts flitted to the dagger on my calve, I could stoop, grab it and have it buried in his neck before he even knew what hit him. Then I could escape out the window, everyone would know it was me, but I’d be long gone before they could catch me, I could go back to Winterfell and work to get Sansa home there, with Robb, Catelyn, and Theon.

My path of thought is interrupted by a sudden force colliding with my gut, knocking the wind out me, much like what had happened to Sansa earlier that day. I managed to stay on my feet better than she had as I looked up at Joffrey, he was holding some kind of club, which he’d clearly just hit me with.

He looked at the end of the club with mild interest before looking down at me. “Filthy bitch, you should know better than to look upon your betters!” He yelled before cracking me over the head with the club.

My head pounded, and the room spun as I fell to my knees. I saw the club fall to the ground before I took what felt like a foot to my cheek, sending me fully to the floor, then the same foot launched itself into my gut, hit the same spot from before almost dead on, causing me to instinctively curl in on myself, a whimper leaving my lips. “I’ve seen how you look at my Hound. Maybe I should give you a matching scar…I wonder if your Lady would still love you if I made you a monster, Gods know I can’t make her one” He mused as he walked around me before launching another kick into my back, making me arc forward away from the pain.

I felt his fist grab the front of my dress and lift my to my knees before his other fist collided with my mouth, making me bite my lip hard enough to fill my mouth with blood, which immediately started leaking down my chin as I coughed. Another fist met my face before he dropped me and went back toward the table, picking up his cup of wine and taking a drink from it as he gazed down at the table, at what I couldn’t tell, till he picked it up that is.

The blade gleaned in the fire light as he inspected it. It was little more than a dinner knife, sharp enough to cut meat but nothing special beyond that. His gaze moved from the knife to me and a wicked smirk spread over his face. “Let’s give my Hound a Bitch worthy of him” He said as he started toward me.

Once more grabbing the front of my dress he hoisted me to my knees, so I was balanced enough that he wasn’t holding me up like before as he drug the blade lightly over my skin, a contemplative expression taking over his features, like he was trying to decide what to do.

Then the blade dug into my flesh at my hairline over my right eye, I let out a drawn-out sound that was somewhere between a squeak and a grunt of pain as he dragged it down, around my eye, and to my jawline. The blood poured down my face, I could feel it drip down onto my chest, staining my dress red. He pulled the blade back and looked at his work before bringing it back to my cheek and digging it back into the soft skin, dragging horizontally till it crossed the first one and almost met the corner of my mouth, causing a sound closer to a shriek to echo in the room as my vision faded in and out. But I forced myself to stay awake. I forced myself to look up at the boy who saw it fit to mutilate me for no reason other than his boredom and stare him in the eye, so he could see all the hatred and intent to kill that now marred my own. He dropped the blade and me to the floor carelessly before landing one more kick to my gut, a low grunt followed by a few wheezing coughs forced out of me.

He panted as he walked toward the door and opened it, calling in a guard. “Take her to a Maester. I want her to live, I want her to serve as a living torment for My Lady” He ordered as the guard came and picked me up.

My vision continued to go in and out as I was carried to my room and placed on my bed, soon seeing an older man over me with a chain around his neck. “Shae…I-I have to s-speak to S-Shae…” I rasped as I pushed his hands away from me weakly. He seemed to get that I wasn’t going to let him
do anything till he brought her to me, and he sent for her.

When she arrived, Bronn was trailing behind her, probably sent by Tyrion to not only keep an eye on her but to find out what had happened. He winced when he saw me and gave a pitying look as he stayed by the door, ushering the Maester out for a moment so “The ladies can talk” as he put it.

Shae rushed to my side and sat on the edge of the bed. “(Y/N)…What happened?” She asked quietly.

I coughed, a stream of blood ran out the corner of my mouth. “Joffrey…” I answered before shaking my head slowly. “D-doesn’t mat-tter…K-Keep an eye on S-Sansa w-while I heal…D-don’t let B-Baelish g-get close to her…T-tell Lord V-Verys wh-what happened...” I begged, grasping her soft hand desperately, my vision blurry as I fought to stay awake.

She nodded. “I will” She promised before standing to let the Maester back in.

The first thing the man did was give me Milk of the Poppy, so I would sleep. And sleep I did.

For three weeks.

Chapter Text

Over the course of my three weeks slumber I did occasionally wake, to eat or take more Milk of the Poppy, before going back to sleep for a few more days, only to repeat the process all over again.

At various times when I woke I would be met with Sansa sitting at my bedside with tears in her eyes, or Shae coming to check on me for Sansa. Once I was visited by Tyrion, who spoke to me, but it didn’t reach me through the haze that sat over my mind. Another time it was Verys, who told me that he’d passed the news to Lars that I wouldn’t be at training for a while.

And when I slept I was plagued with dreams so vivid I thought they were real.

When I’d first fallen asleep I was flying like a bird over the sea, on it was a small rowboat that held a man and a woman. The man looked worried and reluctant, the woman looked serine as she studied the man with her eyes. The she spoke. “Are you afraid, Onion Knight?” She asked, her voice was low and sultry.

“Someone once told me that the night is dark and full of terrors.” He answered, and she smiled, which made me think it was an inside joke of some kind.

“You’ve carried more unpleasant cargo in your time.” She said, but he didn’t answer. “Are you a good man, Ser Davos Seaworth?” She asked, her tone as she spoke was calm, like a teacher asking a student a question.

“I’d say my paths are mixed, Mi Lady, good and bad.” He answered, looking at her for the first time since I’d started watching them.

“If half an onion is black with rots, it’s a rotten onion.” She stated. “A man is good, or he is evil.” She continued as she looked down at the water idly.

“Which are you?” He asked, almost like he was trying to be scathing.

“Good. I’m a Knight myself, of sorts.” She answered. “A Champion of Light and Life.” She added.

The man sighed. “Well that must be very nice for you.” He said, sounding like he didn’t really care or believe her as he started to bring the boat ashore.

The woman removed her hood as she watched him move about. “You love your wife?” She asked simply.

“I do.” He answered in the same manner.

“Yet you have known other women.” She stated. It sounded like she wanted to get him riled up, like she wanted him to dislike her.

“Don’t talk about my wife.” He ordered as he picked up a lantern.

“I’m not. I’m talking about other women. Like me, Ser Davos.” She said, smirking as he helped her out of the boat. “You want me. You want to see what’s beneath this robe.” She stated. He glared at her and she continued to smirk. “And you will.” She said as she leads him into a cave.

I found myself unable to keep from following them, something was about to happen, and I needed to see it.

They walked for a while before he spoke again. “Strange that this Lord of Light asks you to work in the shadows.” He said, sounding almost like he was asking a question.

“Shadows live in the dark, Ser Davos. They are servants of the light, the children of fire, and the brighter the flame, the darker they are.” She answered as he came to a locked gate, blocking them from going further.

“These weren’t here before. They’ve barred the passage.” He informed as he examined them.

The woman chuckled as she removed her robes, her back to him. “They can’t bar our passage.” She as she turned and faced him, completely naked and very pregnant. The man hesitated as he looked at her, he seemed surprised to see her not only nude but pregnant.

“Gods protect us.” He murmured.

“There’s only one God, Ser Davos, and he only protect those who serve him.” She said as the lantern behind him suddenly grew brighter, lighting the room as if there were ten more lanterns there, he gasped and moved away from it fearfully.

She laid her robe down and sat on it in a birthing position and began to gasp, as if in pain. This went on as the man, Ser Davos, sank to the ground fearfully by the wall next to her. Her cries grew louder and more pained as she continued to push whatever she was pregnant with from her body.

Soon an inky black creature pulled itself from her body, unearthly cries and howls emanating from it. She watched, panting, as the creature stood to the height of a grown man before flying through the bars of the gate, extinguishing the light from the lantern as it went.

Ser Davos was quick to pull himself to his shaky feet and help her up. Once she’d redressed and they were about to leave she turned and looked directly at me. “There is another here.” She said, her cold blue eyes not leaving me.

“After whatever devilry you’ve preformed, I’m not surprised. We must go.” He said, ushering her out, though her eyes continued to watch me till they’d left the cave.

All went black, then I was in a tent, there I saw a man with a crown, a large blond woman in armor, and Cate. The sight of Cate made me want to cry, it had been far too long, and she looked as if the war and worry for her children had aged her.

Cate was sitting with the man at a table while the blond woman stood behind him, a heavy wind outside caused the tent doors to flap noisily, and I could hear the calls of men from out there.

“Swear it?” The man asked.

Cate nodded. “By the Mother. My son had no interest in the Iron Throne.” She assured in her strong manner.

The man picked up the cup in front of my and took a drink from it, watching Cate carefully as he did. “Then I see no reason for hostility between us.” He said as he put the cup down. “Your son can go on calling himself the King in the North, the Starks will have dominion over all lands North of Moat Cailin. Provided he swears me an oath of fealty.” He said.

Cate’s expression immediately turned to confusion. “And the wording of this Oath?” She asked.

“The same Ned Stark swore to Robert 18 years ago.” He quickly explained. Cate looked reluctant, like she didn’t want to risk a repeat of what had happened to Ned. “Cate, their friendship held the Kingdoms together.” He said, trying to convince her.

Cate continued to look reluctant for a moment longer before her expression changed to one of understanding. “And in return for my son’s loyalty?” She asked.

“In the morning I’ll destroy my brother’s army. And when that’s done, Baratheon and Stark will fight their common enemy together, as they have done many times before.” He said as he stood and made his way to a mirror on the other side of the tent, where the blond woman started helping him out of his armor.

Cate stood before she started speaking. “Our two houses have always been close, which is why I am begging you to reconsider this battle. Negotiate a peace with your brother.” She implored.

“Negotiate with Stannis?” He scoffed. “You heard him out there, I’ll have better luck debating the wind.” He said as his breastplate was removed. “Please bring my terms to your son.” He turned to face Cate. “I believe we are natural allies, I hope he feels the same.” He said with a smile that seemed genuine. “Together we will win this war in a fortnight.” He said as he turned back to the mirror.

Just then an unearthly wind blew into the room, and with it, the same black shadow that had been in the cave with the woman and Ser Davos. It took the shape it had before as it stood behind the man and thrust a blade into his back. The blond woman gasped before letting out a pained shriek before the man fell into her arms, dead. The shadow dissipated into nothing as calls came from outside and two guards ran in, swords drawn. “You’ll die for this!” One of them shouted when they saw the man in the blond woman’s arms.

Cate tried to defend the woman but was shoved aside. The blond woman drew her sword and struck the men down when they attacked her, then she fell to her knees over the man, tears running down her face.

My heart ached for her, for what I saw in her face was true heartbreak.

Cate rushed over to her. “You’ve got to leave.” She said before glancing back at the door. “They’ll hang you for this!” She pleaded as the woman cried. “Now.” She said as she tried to pull the woman to her feet.

The woman grabbed Cate’s arm and looked her on the eyes. “I won’t leave him.” She whimpered.

“You can’t avenge him if you’re dead.” Cate said as she helped the woman the rest of the way to her feet.

Cate went to lead her out through the front, but the woman stopped her. “Not that way.” She said before leading Cate out through an opening at the back of the tent.

Then it all went black again.

I had some peace for what felt like a while before I found myself in a room with a large table with five men seated at it and one stoking the flame in the fireplace. On the wall hung a banner with the Lannister lion emblazoned on it.

“The Starks have over extended their lines, now that summer’s over they’ll have a hard time keeping their men and horses fed.” Said the man that was standing as he went and sat at the table.

“The Starks understand Winter better than we ever will. Cold ones, be them” Said an older man at the head of the table.

“Our spies report growing discontent among the Northern Lords. They want to return home and gather the harvest before the crops turn.” Another man said from near the head of the table as a young boy placed a plate of food before the man at the head.

“And I’m sure those same spies snuck into our own encampments they would report a growing discontent among the Southern Lords. This is war, no one’s content.” The older man said, sparing a glance for the boy.

Then I got a better look at the boy’s face. That was no boy, that was Arya. What was she doing with these men that obviously worked for the Lannister’s?

The room was quiet for a moment before the older man spoke up again. “We’ve underestimated the Stark boy for too long. He has a good mind for warfare and his men worship him. And as long as he keeps winning battles, they’ll keep believing he is King in the North. You’ve been waiting for him to fail, he is not going to fail, not without our help.” The older man said, looking at each man at the table with a look of growing irritation. “So, how do we stop him?” He asked to the table at large.

The man who’d been standing before looked uninterested in the conversation. “We’ve worked through the night, My Lord, perhaps we’d profit from some sleep.” He suggested rudely as he looked at the older man.

“As I think you would Reginald, and because you’re my cousin I might even let you wake from that sleep.” The older man snapped angrily, the table was quiet as the men looked between each other. “Go! I’m sure your wife must miss you.” He snapped again.

“My wife’s in Lannisport.” The man protested.

“Well, then you better start riding.” He said, and when the man hesitated he spoke again. “Go, before I change my mind and send her your head.” He said. The man stood but didn’t take his eyes off the older man. “If your name wasn’t Lannister, you’d be scrubbing out pots in the cook’s tent Go!” He ordered, and the man left.

Arya came around with a pitcher and started to pour wine into one of the men’s cups when the older man stopped her. “Not wine, water. We’ll be here for some time.” He said, still irritated but much gentler than he’d been before, he must think she’s some commoner rather than a Stark. Arya nodded and went to get the pitcher for water but stopped when the older man addressed her again. “Girl, where are you from?” He asked.

Arya didn’t hesitate to answer. “Maidenpool, My Lord.” She said, and I couldn’t help but wince when she said, ‘My Lord’ rather than ‘Mi Lord’.

“And who are the Lords of Maidenpool, remind me.” He ordered.

“House Mooton, My Lord.” She answered.

“And what is their Sigil?” He asked. Arya was quiet, and I could see she was trying to remember, she’d always struggled with that Sigil. “A red Salmon. I’d think a Maidenpool girl would remember that.” He answered for her. She was quiet, looking very much like the child caught in a lie. “You’re a Northerner, aren’t you?” He asked, knowing he was right. Arya nodded. “Good. Now, one more time, where are you from?” He asked.

“Barrowton, My Lord. House Dustin, Two crossed long axes under a black crown.” She answered.

The older man looked pleased that she’d been able to answer him that time. “And what do they say of Robb Stark, in the North?” He asked.

Arya looked confused for a moment before answering. “They call him the Young Wolf.” She said.

“And?” The man coaxed.

“They say he rides into battle on the back of a giant Direwolf.” She answered. The older man looked at the other men as if he were trying to prove a point. “They say he can turn into a wolf himself when he wants. They say he can’t be killed.” She said, unable to keep a small proud smile from her lips.

“And do you believe them?” He asked, clearly expecting another wistful answer.

“No, My Lord.” She answered, and the older man looked satisfied, then she said. “Anyone can be killed.”

She held his gaze for a moment before he spoke. “Fetch that water.” He ordered, and Arya went.

As curious as I was about what the men would say, I needed to watch Arya more. So, I followed her as she went to get the water.

I watched her duck past soldiers and down crumbling hallways, till she reached the place where the water barrel sat and found a helmet sitting on top of it.

Then a man with long reddish-brown hair that a single white streak in it and dressed in Lannister armor came from around the corner. “A girl says nothing?” He asked with a strange accent. Arya gasped and took a step back from him. “A girl keeps her mouth closed.” He said as he leaned on the wall next to the barrel. “No one hears, and friends may talk in secret, yes?” He added. Arya nodded nervously. “A boy becomes a girl.” He noted.

“I was always a girl.” She replied.

“And I was always aware, but the girl keeps secrets. It is not for a man to spoil them.” He responded.

“You’re one of them now.” She said, sounding almost betrayed as she picked up and the helmet and put it in his hands. “I should have let you burn.” She said.

“And you fetch water for one of them now. Why is this right for you, and wrong for me?” He asked.

“I didn’t have a choice.” She answered.

“You did. I did. And here we are.” He said as he took a few steps toward her. “A man pays his debts. A man owes three.” He said, holding up three fingers.

“Three what?” She asked.

“The Red God takes what is his, lovely girl, and only death may pay for life. You saved me, and the two I was with, you stole three deaths from the Red God, we have to give them back. Speak three names, and the man will do the rest, three lives I will give you, no more, no less, and we’re done.” He said.

“I can name anyone? And you’ll kill him?” She asked.

“A man has said.” He confirmed.

“The one who tortures everyone.” She answered with little hesitation.

“A man needs a name.” He said looking slightly confused.

“I-I don’t know his name, they call him The Tickler.” She replied, a little worried that he wouldn’t be able to do it.

A slight smile found the mans face. “That is enough. Go now, girl, your master’s thirsty.” He said, nodding in the direction she’d come from.

Arya watched him carefully as she passed him before scurrying off in a manner that reminded me of when I would help her sneak out of her lessons back in Winterfell, only her expression was less jovial.

I was about to follow her when the man looked at me, much like the woman from the cave had. I wondered if he could see me, as Arya and Ser Davos didn’t seem to have been able to.

He gave me a calm smirk before walking away.

That was when I woke for the second time, only to be given Milk of the Poppy and sent back to sleep a few moments later.

This time I was next to a river, trees everywhere, it seemed peaceful. When I turned around I saw the blond woman from the tent, and Cate.

The blond woman was tending to a horse when she looked at Cate. “It looked like Stannis.” She said, clearly referring to the shadow creature.

“To me it just looked like…” She went quiet before turning to the woman. “A shadow in the shape of a man.” She finished, looking shaken and confused.

“In the shape of Stannis.” The woman said, sure in her observation.

Cate didn’t say anything in response to the woman’s words as she turned and went to her horse. “We should reach my sons camp tomorrow.” She said.

The woman led her horse closer to Cate’s. “Will you stay there long, My Lady?” She asked as she tied her horse to a think branch on a tree.

“Only long enough to tell Robb what I have seen.” Cate answered as she dug into a pack on her saddle to get her water skin. “After that, I will leave for Winterfell. My two youngest need me, I’ve been away from them for far too long.” She said with a gentle shake of her head.

The woman moved a bit closer to Cate. “I never knew my mother.” The woman said, almost losing herself in thought.

“I’m sorry. My own mother died on the birthing bed, when I was very young.” She said before going to the small fire they’d made and sitting down.

“It’s a bloody business.” The woman noted simply.

“What comes after is even harder.” Cate replied, showing her wisdom in such matters, as she sat on a moss-covered rock next to the fire.

“Once you’re safely back amongst your own people, will you give me leave to go, My Lady?” The woman asked, looking like she had many plans for where she would go and what she would do.

“You mean to kill Stannis?” Cate asked knowingly, though it was closer to a statement.

“I swore a vow.” The woman answered.

“But Stannis has a great army around him. His own guards are sworn to keep him safe.” Cate countered, trying to dissuade the woman.

“I’m as good an any of them.” The woman said before shaking her head. “I should never have fled.” She said, more to herself than to Cate.

“Renly’s death was no fault of yours.” Cate said, sounding much like she did when she had to lecture Arya about something. “You served him bravely.”

The woman looked close to tears. “I only held him that once. As he was dying.” She said.

Cate stood quickly. “He’s gone, Brienne. You serve nothing and no one by following him into the earth.” She scolded. “Renly’s enemies are Robbs enemies as well.” She said, holding the woman, Brienne’s, gaze for a moment before sitting back down.

“I do not know your son, My Lady. But I could serve you.” She said surely, catching Cate off guard. “If you would have me. You have courage, not battle courage perhaps, but, I don’t know, a woman’s kind of courage. And I think, when the time comes, you will not hold me back, promise me that you will not hold me back from Stannis.” She said, many different emotions showed in her face and voice, it was hard to name all of them.

Cate seemed to think it over for a second as she gazed at Brienne. “When the time comes, I will not hold you back.” Cate promised.

Brienne drew her sword and placed it at Cate’s feet as she knelt before her. “Then I am yours, My Lady. I will shield your back and give my life for yours if it comes to that. I swear it by the Old Gods and the New.” She swore, her tone steady and sure.

Cate took her hand and held her gaze, blue meeting blue. “I vow that you shall always have a place in my home and at my table. And that I shall ask no serves of you that shall bring you dishonor. I swear it by the Old Gods and the New.” She said with the same surety that Brienne had.

I didn’t get to see anything else before it all went black again.

I had many more dreams that felt far too real, but none were of anything of note, mostly flying like a bird over snowy mountains and rivers, the occasional farm where the sheep or cattle went about their daily habits, but nothing of any true interest.

When I woke for good I woke to the sight of a Keep Handmaiden looking down at me with a mix of apathy and pity, which turned into just pity when she saw I was awake.

“Good to see you’re awake. Maester said you would soon, said you didn’t need to stay asleep anymore. But if you need more Milk of the Poppy for the pain to let him know. You don’t need the bindings anymore, but it’ll still hurt for a while.” She listed before helping me sit up in the bed.

“How long has it been?” I asked quietly as I felt the cloth on my face and winced, pulling my hand away quickly.

“Three weeks is what I heard.” She answered as she picked up a small hand mirror and set it on the side of the bed. “Do you want help getting those off?” She asked, to which I nodded, and she sat forward on her seat and reached out to help me peal the cloth from my face.

Because of the sticky salves and the natural secretions of a wound the cloth stuck to the cuts like tar and pulled painfully as we pealed it off. I grunted in pain with each gentle tug till my face was free, the air felt like it did in Winterfell against my face now that there was nothing covering it.

I didn’t hesitate to scoop up the mirror and lift it, but my eyes clenched. There was the sound of footsteps as the other Handmaiden stood and went to the door before leaving, giving me my privacy.

I took on a shaky breath and let it out before opening my eyes looking at myself. A choked whimper punched out of me as I took in the damage done to my face. My jaw was bruised a sickly yellow and I had a cut on the right side of my lower lip that was mostly healed but would obviously leave a scar, there was a small cut that sliced through my right eyebrow that was scarring as well, I could only assume that it was caused by one of Joffrey’s rings. But what caused me to break down in tears that stung my face and only caused me to cry harder was the long jagged half-healed scar that ran down the right side of my face, and the crosshatch that segmented it. When he’d said he would make me a monster, he’d been truthful, and he’d succeeded.

I brought a slow, shaky, hand up to graze the puckered pink flesh along the line of my cheek, only to pull it back sharply a second later.

I dropped the mirror back down onto the mattress of my bed as I started to shake, sobs and cries leaving me as my eyes stared into space, pain and rage filling me before I let out a scream, my fists gripping the blanket covering my lap so tightly that my knuckles turned white.

I lost track of time after a while but eventually I managed to pull myself from my bed and strip my sleeping dress off. I looked down at myself and saw the same sickly yellow bruises marring my stomach and I could feel the one on my back, everything ached. I put on a clean dress and brushed my hair, which had been left to hang while I slept, which meant that it was a tangled mess. Once my hair was brushed I brought it over to the right side of my head, using the natural waves to cover the scars before braiding it loosely and letting it sit on my shoulder.

I made myself stand straight before exiting my room. It looked like it was only noon, so that meant I had to go to Sansa.

The walk to her room was a long one, filled with doubts about how she’d react to seeing me without bindings covering my wounds.

When I reached her room, I knocked and waited for her voice to tell me to come in. Upon opening the door, I found her sitting on the bench by the window with a book in hand, but she was looking at me. She sprang from her seat and darted to me, wrapping her arms around me tight, which caused me to wince and make her loosen. “I’m so happy you’re okay” She said after taking a step back to look me over.

“Takes more than that to kill me…” I managed with a small half smile. She gave me a pitying smile and nodded.

Her hand came up slowly to brush my hair out of the way, so she could see my face, her fingertips brushed the tender skin and I flinched, but she continued to tuck the hair out of the way. With it all on display she gasped quietly, and I couldn’t bring myself to meet her eyes. “Is it that bad?” I asked, though I knew it was.

“It looks like it hurts…” She said, moving like she was going to touch me again but stopped herself, I would have let her, she wouldn’t hurt me like he had.

I nodded. “Like a son of a Whore. But I can handle it…I’m sorry you have to see me like this.” I said, shifting on my feet uncomfortably. I wanted to cry again, I wanted to scream again, I wanted to gut Joffrey and feed him to the ravens.

Sansa’s gentle hand came up to tilt my chin up, so I had to look at her. “I’m just thankful that you’re alive…” She whispered, her Tully blue eyes watering.

I wrapped her up in my arms and let myself cry again as she held me, much like I have before. “I’ll kill him…I swear…I’ll kill him with my own two hands…For both of us.” I seethed through my tears.

The door opening caused us to pull away quickly to be met with the sight of Shae closing it behind her. “Good to see you on your feet.” She said, not even making a face when she looked at mine. “How do you feel?” She asked, sounding genuinely curious.

“Well enough to help tend to our Lady.” I answered my gaze shifting to Sansa. At this point I had no doubt that Shae knew how much I cared about Sana, nor did I doubt that I could trust her to some degree. But for appearances sake, I would keep to formal terms when she’s around.

That day went on as most others would. Shae and I tended to Sansa, though neither of them would let me do much, they were both worried that I’d push myself too hard and make myself worse if I wasn’t careful. But what they didn’t know was that I needed to push myself, I needed to carry that large tray of food, I needed to turn down Sansa’s bed on my own. I needed everything to go back to the way it was. I needed to take care of Sansa, for my own sanity.

When evening came I was dismissed and asked, with no small amount of persuasion on Sansa’s part, to go rest in my room till the next day. I, being forever unable to deny the redhaired girl, did as asked and went straight to my room. When I got there, I was met with Verys sitting on the chair still positioned at my bedside.

“Lord Verys. I was planning to come see you soon, I need to know what I missed while I was sleeping.” I said after closing the door.

The bald man stood and turned to face me, looking over my face openly and showing the slightest amount of pity. “I’m happy to see you alive and, mostly, well. I’d ask how you’re feeling but you’ve probably been asked that a number of times today and, well, no use beating a dead horse. Please, sit and I’ll fill you in on everything you missed.” He said, gesturing to my bed before sitting back down on the chair.

I sat on the edge of my bed slowly, my stomach and back protesting harshly to the movement, but the pain quieted once I was settled. I looked at Verys and patiently waited for him to speak.

“Lord Renly is dead. Some say Brienne of Tarth did it, others say that it was something else, something darker.” He started, and my breath left me.

“What do you mean by ‘something darker’?” I asked, my heart in my throat.

“Some rumors speculate that Stannis had a woman called the Red Witch kill him, a priestess of The Lord of Light, a faith that has shown to be quite dangerous if the whispers that have reached me are to be believed.” He explained.

I wanted to tell him of my dream, but this was in no way proof that my dreams had been true. “What does this mean for Sansa and I?” I asked, hoping my worried expression would be taken as fear for Sansa and I’s safety.

Verys sighed. “It means one less ally for Robb and Lady Stark to make, which means it may take longer for them to come for you.” He answered. My heart fell at that, but I couldn’t let myself despair. Sansa needed me, I had to stay strong, no matter what.

“Anything else?” I asked quietly, half hoping that he would tell me something that contradicted my dreams.

“Lady Stark returned to Robb with Brienne of Tarth. After Renly’s death they both fled. Robb continues to win battles, but it is a slow war that the council fears will extend into winter. And I have this, it came a day ago, it’s from Robb. I’ve kept it on me and safe since its arrival.” He said pulling a raven scroll from within his sleeve and handing it to me.

I took it and unrolled it quickly. “(Y/N), I received word from your ally of your injuries at the hands of Joffrey. We continue to fight to get you and Sansa home, but it is slow going and many men are losing hope. But I would storm the Red Keep alone if it meant I’d get you two back. Stay strong and keep her safe. Robb” It read, and another sigh fell from my lips.

“Is that all?” I asked, ready to sleep for another three weeks.

“I took the liberty of informing Lars that you would be returning for training the day after tomorrow. I’ll leave you to rest.” He said before standing and walking to the door, but he stopped and turned back to me. “I am truly happy that you are alive, (Y/N).” He said.

I nodded. “So am I.” I answered quietly before he left.

I changed into my sleep dress and laid in bed staring at the walls for so long I lost track of time.

My body still ached, and my chest clenched every time I felt the scars on my face tug or pull.

I fell asleep wondering if, by the end of this war, I would even recognize myself.

The next day went by just as the one before it and soon I found myself at the meeting spot with Lars.

I hadn’t hesitated to tie my hair back completely, putting my mostly scarred wounds on full display. Lars made a face but didn’t comment on it as he threw me a practice sword and started at me with his own.

He lunged at me, going high, and I blocked with my own sword before moving to strike him low, while his mind was still on its previous move, but I mispredicted what he was going to do and took his sword to the upper back. “Close, try again.” He ordered.

I hissed at the sting but nodded and did as told. This time I stuck first, swinging my sword around, aiming for his shoulder, but he was quick to dodge and hit me in the calf. I growled as I circled him slowly. “Don’t get angry, focus!” He ordered sharply.

I lunged forward, and he blocked with his blade before pushing me back and hitting me in the side. I groaned, and he was clearly getting irritated with me. “You’re better than this! I know you are, I’ve seen it! Again!” He ordered once again before swinging it me, aiming for my unmarred cheek. I blocked with my sword and shoved him away before planting a hard kick to the middle of his chest, sending him to the ground in an ungraceful sprawl. He coughed a couple times as he sat up, a smile uncharacteristic of someone who just their ass handed to them on his face. “Better. Now, do it again.” He said as he got up and we continued.

Chapter Text

Weeks passed, and my wounds closed, leaving only puckered pink scars in their wake.

The bruises faded quickly, and I was finally able to sleep without discomfort, though the pulling of the tight flesh of the scars that adorned me would take quite a bit of getting used to.

I had yet to see Sandor since I received the beating and I found myself dreading the very thought. I knew he wasn’t the kind of man to suddenly turn his back on me for a few ugly scars, but the worry of how he would react still lingered.

I continued to have strange dreams, but much like the last ones I’d had during my recovery, they showed nothing of note, though now I wasn’t seeing the farms and rivers, just snowy mountains.

It was the day of Princess Myrcella’s departure for Dorne.

Sansa and I stood with the Royal Family at the coast as she was ferried to the ship she would be leaving on, I found myself feeling truly sorry for the girl, she may have Lannister blood but she’s a good child, better than her mother and far better than her father, the living one and the dead one.

I noticed when we’d gotten there that Sandor was with Joffrey as he always was and when I came to stand behind Sansa his eyes met mine. I had my hair covering my face like it had been when I’d first gone to see Sansa afterward. So, I knew he couldn’t see the scars, save for the one that marred my lip, but his gaze was so intense that it felt like he could see through the hair.

I watched Prince Tommen cry as his sister was taken from him for a moment, before my attention was drawn to Joffrey.

He stood in front of Sansa looking far from interested in what was happening. “Sounds like a little cat mewling for his mother. Princes don’t cry.” He scoffed, his arms crossed over his chest.

“I saw you cry.” Sansa said quietly, looking at him with her intense eyes.

“Did you say something, My Lady?” He asked, dropping his arms and turning to face her.

“My little brother cried when I left Winterfell.” She corrected, knowing where her previous statement would get her.
“So?” He asked, clearly not quite understanding what she was saying.

“It seems a normal thing.” She stated simply.

“Is your little brother a prince?” He asked sharply.

‘Depends on who you ask’ I found myself thinking as I watched the scene unfold before me.

“No.” She answered.

“Not really relevant then is it?” He asked rhetorically before walking away.

I shared a look with Sansa as he called Sandor to follow him.

On the way back to the Keep we were walking through the streets with a large accompaniment of guards, but I’d never felt less safe in my life. We made a turn down a particular street and were met with a man shouting from a balcony above us.

“Hail Joffrey! Hail to the King!” He laughed loudly. Something about it didn’t sit right in my gut. “Seven Blessings on you, Your Grace!” He shouted as other started to join in, they were all sarcastic and full of malicious intent.

Then they started saying that was a Bastard born of incest and that he shouldn’t be on the Iron Throne, they started shouting about how they’re hungry and begging him for food.

I saw Tyrion turn and say something to the guards behind him before they ushered Prince Tommen away. I felt my heart drop to my toes as they took another path back to the Keep.

Then, suddenly, someone threw a wad of shit at Joffrey’s head, and hit. He made that whimpering sound that I remember hearing when Tyrion had hit him in Winterfell all those months ago.

The Fool King started spouting about how he wanted the man who threw it brought to him and killed as the people started swarming.

I took Sansa’s hand as we watched this unfold and Tyrion started ordering us to move. The guards ushered Cersei back to the Keep and Sandor grabbed Joffrey and started dragging him after.

I tried to lead Sansa to follow them, but I lost hold of her hand and was being pushed by the crowd and guards to keep going.

“Sansa! Sansa!” I shrieked for her as I looked around desperately for her but had lost sight.

In a blur of movements and noise I was back within the Keep.

I turned every which way looking for her, screaming her name desperately.

“Oh, you blind bloody fool!” Tyrion shouted at Joffrey.

“You can’t insult me!” Joffrey growled.

“We’ve had vicious Kings and we’ve had idiot Kings! But I don’t know we’ve ever been cursed with a vicious idiot for a King!” Tyrion shouted as he approached his nephew.

“You can’t!” Joffrey tried to argue.

“I can, I am!” Tyrion retorted.

“They attacked me!” Joffrey defended.

“They threw a cow pie at you, so you decide to kill them all! They’re starving you fool! All because of a war you started!” Tyrion said, getting into Joffrey’s shit covered face.

“YOU’RE TALKING TO A KING!” Joffrey screamed furiously only to be met with an open palm to the face.

“And now I have struck a King! Did my hand fall from my wrist?” He asked before turning from his nephew and looking around. “Where is the Stark girl?” He asked a guard who didn’t answer.

“Let them have her!” Joffrey ordered.

“If she dies you’ll never get your uncle Jamie back! You owe him quite a bit you know!” Tyrion replied before turning to Meryn Trant. “Take some men and go and find the Stark girl.” He ordered.

“I take my orders from the King!” The disgusting man replied. Tyrion looked back at Joffrey, but the little shit just got up and walked away.

The Tyrion turned to me, finally noticing my frantic search for the girl I’d sworn to protect. “(Y/N)! Did you see where she went?” He asked walking up to my frantic form.

“I had her hand but then I lost her. I think I saw which way she went.” I said before my eyes met Sandor’s. I didn’t say anything as I pushed my way back out into the streets and went in search of her, Sandor following behind me silently.

I heard her whimpers and the shouting of men around a corner and my pace sped till I was sprinting toward them.

I rounded the corner and was met with a group of five men attempting to rape Sansa. In one fluid motion as I ran I stooped to grab my dagger and spun, using the momentum I sent it flying through the air to lodge in one if the men’s head as Sandor picked up the one undoing his trousers by his neck and gutted him before grabbing another and stabbing him in the back of the neck. Another tried to run away but Sandor caught him and slit his throat.

I took my dagger from the man’s head and went to the last. I didn’t hesitate as I slit his throat too.

I turned and saw Sandor picking up Sansa. “Alright now, Little Bird. You’re alright.” He said in a gentle tone that I’d never heard him use before. He threw her over his shoulder and we walked back to the Keep in silence, I’d only just barely remembered to put my dagger away before we got back.

When we returned he set her down against a pillar and the other Handmaidens swarmed, but I shooed them off quickly.

“Are you hurt, My Lady?” Tyrion asked worriedly, to which Sansa replied with a shake of her head.

“Little Bird’s bleeding, someone take her back to her cage. See to that cut.” Sandor ordered as Shae and I helped her stand. I met Sandor’s eyes once more.

“Well done, Clegane.” Tyrion thanked.

“I didn’t do it for you.” He replied, still looking at me, before walking away.

Shae and I rushed Sansa back to her room and helped her get changed. It was so quiet in there after all the shouting.

“Let me see your face, Sansa.” I said tilting her chin, so I could see the small cut on her eyebrow. “Shae, bring the wash basin and a clean rag.” I requested as I gentle started undoing her hair, which had become a mess during the events of the day.

Shae put the large bowl of water on the table next to me and a small stack of rags next to it. I immediately grabbed one and started cleaning the blood from her face. “Sansa? Can you hear me?” I asked quietly, trying to get her to look at me. But she wouldn’t, she just kept staring into space. I sighed and looked to Shae. “Can you have a bath drawn for her please, Shae?” I asked quietly before looking back to my poor Little Wolf.

Shae nodded and left to do as I asked.

I ran a brush through Sansa’s hair slowly before helping her undress and put on a bathrobe.

Shae returned soon after and we silently escorted her to the bath before helping her clean up. Afterwards we took her back to her room and helped her into her sleep dress.

I was making her a plate of food as Shae wiped a bit of blood from her cut when Sansa made the first sound I’d heard from her since we got her back to her room. A quiet ‘ow.’

Shae shushed her quietly before pulling the rag from her face. “It’s not deep.” She said.

“I thought they were going to kill me.” Sansa said, her voice shaking.

“They thought so too.” Shae answered as she moved back to the wash basin to rinse the rag.

“He hated me, the man who hit me…I saw it in his eyes. Hated me. He never met me before but…He wanted to hurt me…” She said, confusion clear in her voice.

“Of course, he did.” Shae replied simply, and I scoffed quietly.

“Tact Shae…Tact.” I muttered as I came to stand next to Sansa’s seat.

“Why? Why would a stranger?” She asked.

“You are everything he will never have.” Shae said as I started to braid Sansa’s wet hair. “Your horse eats better than his children. It doesn’t matter now, he’s dead.” She finished.

“I would have given them bread if I had it. I hate the King more than any of them!” She said, and Shae and I rushed to silence her.

“Don’t say these things, if the wrong people hear you.” Shae scolded.

“But you’re not the wrong people.” Sansa retorted.

Shae walked back to the table and put the rag down. “Don’t trust anybody. Life is safer that way.” Shae said, and I met Sansa’s eyes and shook my head, silently telling her to disregard the dark-haired woman’s words.

“I can handle everything from here, Shae. Have a nice night.” I said, not leaving any room for argument.

Shae huffed and nodded before leaning as I turned to Sansa. “Don’t listen to her. She’s never had someone she can trust like you and I. She is right about those men though. They hated you because they could never be you. Don’t let it get to you, or it will drive you mad.” I said before helping her into bed. “Do you want me to stay till you fall asleep?” I asked as I ran my fingers through the loose hairs on her forehead. She nodded, and I stayed.

Once she was asleep I took my leave and made my way back to my room, only to be met with the sight of a fully armored Sandor leaned against my door.

I didn’t hesitate to approach him and stopped when we were a few inches away from each other. “Of all the people to appear at my door, you’re the first not to carry a feeling a dread with them.” I said quietly.

Sandor didn’t say anything as he stood straight and opened the door, waiting for me to enter before closing and baring the door.

If I were anyone else, I would be scared to be alone in a bedchamber with the Hound. I’d be terrified. But all I felt was peace.

He approached me and stopped at the same distance I had before lifting his hand to brush my hair away from my face, giving him his first clear view of the scars that mar my skin. “A Bitch worthy of the Hound.” I said, repeating the words Joffrey had said to me weeks ago.

Sandor’s brows furrowed as he looked down at me. “What?” He asked confusedly, his hand not moving from where it holds my hair.

“That’s what he said…Before he started cutting me. He said he’d seen how I look at you, that he’d make me a Bitch worthy of his Hound.” I explained quietly, my expression blank as I tried not to get lost in the memory of that night.

Sandor sighed and dropped my hair, letting it fall back to where it had been, though I didn’t let it stay there long before I brushed it behind my ear.

“The little cunt doesn’t know what kind of Hell he’s released on himself.” He said. I knew he wasn’t talking about himself. He was talking about me. “I can see it in your eyes, you wanted him dead before, for what he’s done to the Little Bird, but now you want him to suffer. I can respect that.” He said with a slow nod.

“All I want is to take Sansa home. Nothing else matters to me.” I said. It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t the whole truth either. And I knew that he knew that.

“Lies are unfitting of a woman like you.” He said, taking half a step forward, closing the last of the space between us, my skirts now brush against his legs, and all he would have to do is flinch his hands for them to be touching me. His closeness sent my stomach stirring in a way that I was wholly unfamiliar with.

“It’s not a lie…As much as I want to see Joffrey’s head on a spike and his innards fed to dogs, I have bigger concerns.” I said, slowly starting to breathe a little heavier. I’d never been this close to a man without the intent to kill or while being at training. I could smell him, it was a heady smell of alcohol, sweat, and a hint of blood, but there was something else under it, something musky that drew me in. It reminded me of home, the scent of the trees in the Godswood, baking bread and cooking meat in the kitchen. “Why did you come here?” I asked quietly, my eyes still locked on his.

“Where did you learn to fight like that?” He asked. There was something in his tone. A quiet growl that wasn’t normally there, it sent a shiver running down my back.

“We all have our secrets, Sandor Clegane. Why did you really come here?” I repeated, I had a feeling I knew at this point what he wanted, but I needed to hear him say it.

He sighed quietly, irritation echoing within the sound, as he looked up at the ceiling before looking back down at me. “I don’t bother with the pussy shite that other men do. I don’t talk about feelings like a woman. But when I saw your face, when I saw you fight, when I saw you kill. I felt like I’d always been told I would when I fell in love. I don’t believe in love, it’s all shite that men like Ned Stark turn to when they feel bad for killing.” He ranted, an uncomprehending anger etched into his face, like the sensations of his feelings confused him. “So, why is it that my chest gets tight when I look at you? Why is it that the ground tries fall out from under me at the thought of you in pain?” He asked before going quiet for a moment. “Why do I love you?” He asked, sounding more like he was begging for an answer.
I didn’t have one for him.

I was too in shock at the fact that he’d just told me he loved me.

For a moment all I could do was stare at him. “Because the Gods have a terrible sense of humor.” I said quietly. “And, apparently, so do I…” I said as I raised my hand and placed it on his burnt cheek.

His eyes slowly closed, as if my touch was soothing a stinging pain he’d suffered from for many years. It was at that moment that I figured it out. The look he’d given me when we’d first kissed, he hadn’t understood the feelings he’d been experiencing.

His eyes opened again and neither of us spoke before our lips met again, it was the same as the first time. There was no clashing of our teeth or slow lean in. Just like the first time, it was me trying not to go too slow for him, and him trying not to go too fast for me.

His gloved hands gripped my waist tight, like he feared I would fly away if he didn’t, while my own hands threaded up into his hair, pulling him closer.

Eventually the need to breath forced us to part. As we panted for breath he looked like he wanted to say something but couldn’t find the words. I wanted to invite him into my bed, ask him to ravish me like I’d been told men do. I wanted to beg him to fuck me till he did. But the words didn’t feel right, it wasn’t their time yet, if ever.

Sandor seemed to see these thoughts in my face as he nodded understandingly and pressed him lips to mine once more before taking a step back and turning to leave.

Without him the room suddenly felt very cold, and the stirrings in my stomach began to disappear as I stood there looking at the closed door.

I soon shook my head and started to prepare to go to bed, knowing that I would be having dreams of him, rather than the vivid ones, that night.

Chapter Text

Days passed, and Sansa was plagued by nightmares and visions of her attack, she would wake screaming and shaking with fear. She told me of an attempt to thank Sandor and how she was met with contempt; it didn’t surprise me, he may not want her dead, but he doesn’t exactly like her either. She went on for an hour about how hateful he was and how he’d all but threatened her, which caused me more than a little alarm, but when she said that he’d told her that she’d be thankful for the hateful things he did when she’s Queen and he’s all that stands between her and Joffrey. I was quick to correct her, telling her that it wasn’t a threat, just grim honesty.

“You won’t find much of it in Kings Landing, so you should heed it when you do.” I’d said before going to get her lunch.

Everything continued like that for a few more days before it all got turned upside down again.

It was early morning and I was on my way to Sansa’s room, meeting Shae along the way, and we had just reached her room to find her kneeling on her bed with a dinner knife in hand and blood on her sleep dress as she whimpered in panic.

All at once I felt my heart pound so hard in my chest that it hurt, but also drop into my feet as my stomach lodged itself in my throat. Shae and I shared wide eyed looks, we both knew what needed to be done as he both came to stand on either side of her bed.

Shae wrapped a gentle hand around Sansa’s wrist. “It’s alright. Give me that.” She said taking the knife from Sansa’s hand.

“If the Queen sees, I can have Joffrey’s children now…” Sansa whimpered desperately.

Shae looked to me and I shook my head, this was bad. “We’ll take care of it.” I said as I helped Sansa off the bed.

She thought for a before looking at both of us. “Help me flip it over.” She ordered, and Sansa and I took handfuls of the bed and started trying to lift it.

Then, because the Gods enjoy tormenting us, one of the palace handmaidens walked in. They all know that Shae and I take care of Sansa and we don’t need their help, nor do we want it, so why she was there I can’t fathom.

The woman looked between the bloodstain on the bed, Sansa, me, and Shae before turning and walking out. Shae, Sansa, and I shared looks before I chased after her.

I followed her down the stairs. “Where are you going?” I asked, trying to sound more curious than concerned.

“To tell Her Grace.” The woman informed me.

I grabbed my dagger, then I grabbed her and pushed her against the wall with the blade to her throat. “You’ll say nothing, to anyone. Do you understand?” I asked dangerously. She nodded as best she could with a knife to her throat and I let her go, watching her run away for a moment.

I ran back to Sansa’s room to find Sansa and Shae sitting on the bench at the foot of the bed, Sansa was crying, and Shae looked more than worried. But what made my heart meet my stomach in my throat was what had them both so scared. Behind them, looking down at the bloodstain, was Sandor.

I straightened my posture and sighed. I knew he would tell the Queen, he had no choice. I wanted to be angry, I wanted to hate him for the fact that he was going to something that could, and most likely would, do harm to Sansa. But I found that I couldn’t. I know that he truly didn’t have a choice in the matter, free will had been in short supply all his life, and now was no different.

Cersei summoned Sansa to her chambers after she’d cleaned up, I had to teach her how to use a cloth to catch the blood in her smallclothes, as Catelyn hadn’t thought she would flower so young and hadn’t been able to teach her herself.

I wasn’t allowed in the room with her, and neither was Shae. I had no doubt that Sandor would leave out the part where we tried to hide it, so I was far from concerned about that.

I waited on one of the garden terraces, expecting to be left alone with my thoughts as few came out here unless it was a special occasion.

It was these moments of solitude, when the only company I had was the wind blowing through my hair and the sounds of the ocean a hundred feet below, that made the encroaching darkness that flouted in my mind force its way to the forefront. Thoughts of running away for my own safety.

Thoughts of worse things.

Things that would put me in a rather bad light with The Seven. Things that would not only leave Sansa all alone but would ruin her in a way that might just be worse than anything Joffrey could ever do to her…But I found myself so tired…Tired enough for the very idea to even find me in the night when sleep was shallow and more of way to pass the time than for rest, which was most nights.

I possessed no desire to die, but when everything around you looks and feels as dark as it did...You think of doing a lot of things you don’t really want to do…

I was close to truly losing myself to these thoughts when I was startled from them.

“Threatening maids…Not the person I thought you were.” I heard a voice behind me say, it wasn’t Sandor, I knew that much. I turned and looked to find Tyrion standing there alone.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, My Lord.” I lied, my tone icy.

“Of course not. The penalty for trying to hide Lady Starks flowering is death. Then again most penalties anymore are…” He said as he slowly came to stand next to me.

I turned back to the view before I spoke next. “Was there something you needed, My Lord?” I could feel my hands shaking, whether it was because of the thoughts of Sansa marrying Joffrey flying through my mind or something else I couldn’t be sure, but I clenched them around each other all the same as I tried to keep my composure.

“No. But when I heard of Lady Starks flowering and a handmaiden whimpering about a ‘crazy Northerner’ I figured I should see if there was anything you knew of it.” He said as he came to stand next to me.

“Shae and I were the first to find her this morning. And who knows how many Northerners there are in Kingslanding, it must have been one of them.” I answered shortly, not exactly in the mood to speak with a Lannister, no matter how helpful he’d been up to this point.

“Must have…Where is Lady Stark? Surly you didn’t leave your post at her side.” He said, looking up at me curiously. If there was one thing I could say about Tyrion Lannister, it was that he had quite the thirst for knowledge, and not just from books, knowledge about everything, and everyone.

“The Queen Mother wished to speak to her privately. I am waiting for them to be finished.” I answered simply, what harm could it possibly do for him to know that Sansa was with his sister?

I saw him nod out the corner of my eye. “You must enjoy these moments alone, when your Lady doesn’t require you.” He said offhandedly as his gaze shifted from me to the view before us.

I wanted to tell him it was the exact opposite, that I hated these moments, not just because of the evil my mind conjured for itself, but because of how far from the only thing that matters to me is, how little I can do to protect it in the end.

But what came out instead was. “I care about Lady Stark, I would be content if I never had time alone.” It came out so much lighter than I felt. My chest was tight with worry, my hands were clammy, and my nails were digging into my palms painfully. I felt the need to run back to Sansa’s chambers to see if she was back, there was a desperation that filled my whole being that I could do nothing about.

Tyrion’s only response was a contemplative hum.

It was silent for a while before I heard my voice asking him a question that had been nagging at me for weeks. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why did you give me that gold?” I had turned my head to look down at him.

“Because I could.” Was what he said, but there was something in his voice, something in his face, that told me it went so much deeper than that.

“I don’t think I thanked you…” I murmured, looking down at the small space between us.

He turned to look at me. “No need. I don’t wish to know how you use it. I honestly don’t care. Something about you makes me think that you will, and have been, using it for something worthy.” He said before giving me one of those little half smiles that are more of a sad little tick than a true smile.

Neither of us said anything else before he turned and walked away just as Shae was approaching, I saw them look at each other and I saw their expressions for what they were.

“She is back in her room.” Shae informed me. I wasted no time in making my way there.

When we arrived, I asked Sansa what Cersei said, and she explained that all they really talked about was what would happen when she had Joffrey’s children.

I’m not sure why, but at that moment I remembered a moment that happened months ago, though it felt like years, when I asked her if she still wanted to marry Joffrey, after he had attacked Arya and injured the Bakers boy, Mycah, just before they’d killed Lady. Then the answer had been unclear to her. Now all one needed to do was look at her to see it. She wanted nothing to do with the boy king.

“They can’t wed you to him yet…There are too many other things happening right now for them to even think about it.” I assured as Shae and I went about preparing her midday meal.

I only hoped I was assuring her of the truth…

The next day Sansa had wanted to stay in her room and relax, what little she could while in Kings Landing at least, so there we stayed. Sansa was buried in her book, Shae was off doing other things, I’m not sure what, and I was gazing out the window and day dreaming.

I’m not sure how long I’d been like that before I was suddenly somewhere else.

I was on a large hill, practically a small mountain, there was snow everywhere.

But what drew my attention was the two-people sleeping on the ground, one clothed in what looked like the furs of wild animal, the other in all black furs and armor.

I quickly recognized the one in black as Jon, I hadn’t seen him since the Kingsroad when he’d left to join the Nights Watch. The other was a woman with red hair that I didn’t know, but she wasn’t from the Nights Watch, they only allowed men to join their ranks, and judging from the fact that she was tied up, she wasn’t someone he wanted roaming around.

They were huddled together on the ground, he was pressed up behind her with one arm around her, it would be a lie if I said I didn’t feel a pang of jealousy toward her, but the feelings I had for Sandor were more than anything I’d ever felt for Jon.

He shifted in his sleep, his arm wrapping around her a little more, which caused them both to wake up.

“Did you pull a knife on me in the night?” She asked teasingly, which made him pull away and stand quickly. “What’s the matter? Can’t be the first time you’ve pressed your bone against a woman’s ass.” She said nonchalantly.

He looked down at her. “Let’s move.” He ordered before helping her to her feet and starting to untie her.

“It is the first time…How old are you boy?” She asked, she almost seemed excited to have something new to pick fun at him about.

“I’m a man of the Nights Watch.” He replied sharply before stooping to untie her feet.

“You’re a boy who’s never been with a girl.” She said, sounding like she was getting lost in thought. “Don’t your stones start to hurt in your bone never gets-.” She started but Jon quickly turned her to face him.

“Don’t call them that.” He ordered. If they could hear me, they’d hear me laughing till my gut hurt, he never was particularly tactful when talking to women, and even worse at it when they teased him.

“What? Stones? Or Bone?” She asked, still teasing him.

“Neither…Both…” He said as he finished untying her, leaving her hands bound together. “Move!” He ordered as he pulled her along by the rope.

I was quick to follow them, wondering how this conversation would end.

They started down a slope when she spoke again. “I heard they get all swollen and bruised if you don’t use them, course maybe that’s just what the lads say when they want me feeling sorry for them, as if I’d feel sorry for them…Are there no girl Crows?” She asked, glancing back at him.

“There are no women of the Nights Watch, no.” He answered with a sigh.

“So, the lads just do it with each other?” She asked, sounding less appalled by the thought than most probably would, she seemed more surprised.

“No.” Was the only response she got from Jon.

“Never?”

“Never. We swore an oath.” He explained.

“Do you have sheep at the Wall?” She looked back at him, his expression was unimpressed. “With your hands then. No wonder you’re all so miserable.” She said before he quickly yanked the rope and forced her to face him.

“Would you please shut up?” He asked angrily.

“Would you please shut up?” She mocked, trying to mimic his voice. “You think you’re better than me, Crow. I’m a free woman!” She started.

Jon yanked the rope again. “A free woman?”

“I might be a prisoner but I’m a free woman.” She retorted, showing that she had as much bark as any man.

“If you’re my prisoner, you’re not a free woman, that’s what prisoner means!” He said, his feathers more ruffled than I’d ever gotten the chance to see while we were growing up.

“And you think you’re free? You swore some stupid oath and now you can never touch a girl?”

“It was my choice to say the words.”

“So, you don’t like girls?”

“Of course, I like girls.”

“But you chose never to touch them!”

“That’s the price you pay if you want to be a man of the Nights Watch!”

“So instead of getting naked with a girl, you chose to invade our lands-.” She started but Jon was quick to cut her off.

“Invade your lands?! Wildings raid our lands all the time, some of them tried to kill my little brother, a crippled boy!” He had more to say but she stopped him.

“They’re not your lands! We’ve been here the whole time! You lot just put up a big wall and said it was yours!” She said passionately.

I’d never thought about it before, but she wasn’t wrong, they’d done plenty of bad to us, but how much bad had we done to them before then?

“My father was Ned Stark, I have the blood of the first men, my ancestors lived here, same as yours!” He said, but she looked thoroughly unimpressed.

“So why you fighting us?” She asked before turning and continuing to walk, Jon stayed there for a moment, but when the rope in his hands started to get too long he followed without a word.

I was about to continue following them when a hand on my shoulder pulled me from the sight. Suddenly I was back in Kings Landing, in Sansa’s chambers. I looked up at her standing over me with a worried expression.

“Are you okay, (Y/N)?” She asked quietly.

I nodded and rubbed my eyes. “Yes, I’m fine, just got lost in thought…” I replied with a small smile.

“Are you sure?” She asked, her brows furrowed.

“Don’t worry about me.” I said before looking back out the window and seeing that it was time for the midday meal. “I’ll go get you something to eat.” I said before getting up and leaving.

I’d never experienced these dreams while awake before, it was strange, and all together unwelcome. What was happening to me?

Chapter Text

Over the next few weeks every able-bodied man was working to bolster the city walls for the arrival of Stannis Baratheon’s siege.

Over the course of that time I met with Lars every day, rather than every other day. With the encroaching need for the skills he was teaching me, I decided I needed to expedite the lessons. As it was I was learning very quickly, I had a natural talent for fighting as it turned out.

The meeting place was one of the only three places I found myself often enough to be noteworthy during that time, the other two being with Sansa, and meeting with Varys so he could keep me privy to everything that could threaten Sansa’s safety.

It was during one of my lessons that Lars pointed out something that I remembered Arya mentioning when she would come from her ‘Dancing lessons.’

“You look more like your dancing with your weapon than fighting with it.” The man said with a slight chuckle, like something about that fact entertained him.

My brows furrowed in confusion and I looked down at the short sword in my hand. “Is…That bad?” I asked, worried that I would have to work on correcting an established habit.

He laughed quietly and shook his head. “Not at all. Some will tell you it is, but there are whole fighting styles based off the art of dance, mostly from faraway places, men here look at dancing and think it a thing for women and girls. What they don’t see is how dangerous it can be when used to it fullest potential.” He explained before beckoning me to him with a gesture.

Usually when he did that it meant he was going to correct my posture or how I was holding my weapon. This time when he stood behind me, feet and arms in the same positioning with his hand holding my wrist, he led my hand through slowly graceful movements that moved the blade through the air, it reminded me of a Highborn Lady’s skirts when she spun, watching the sliver metal move in the moon light.

“Work with the weight of the blade, not against it…It’ll make your movements more fluid and easier to transition between, and it can make it easier to come back after taking a hit…Assuming you don’t die first that is.” He said quietly as he moved my hand to twist and move the blade. It felt like it was part of my arm, not just a thing I was holding.

He took a few steps back from me and watched as I continued doing what he’d been leaning me through. “You have a talent for this, had you been a Highborn Lady, you’d have been known for your dancing skills.” He noted.

“Hardly…I have two left feet…And I can’t keep a rhythm…” I scoffed before ending the almost-dance with a low swish.

“I think that’s enough for tonight. Are we meeting again tomorrow?” He asked as he packed up the things he’d brought to teach me that night.

I nodded as I handed him back the short sword. “Yes, I expect to meet every night till we can no longer get down here.” I answered as I used a scrap of cloth to wipe the sweat from my brow.

“Good. I will see you then.” He said before walking away.

I watched him go and when he was out of sight I turned and looked out at the moon reflecting off the strangely calm water. No one would disturb me here, no one knew where here was but me, Lars, and Varys. But I’ve learned that being alone like this can be dangerous, especially when one’s worst enemy is themselves.

I turned from the water and made my way back into the palace. With Sansa already in bed I had nowhere I needed to be, nothing I needed to do.

So, I just walked.

I let my feet carry me where they wanted me to go as my mind stormed with all the worries that followed me now.

This led me all over the palace, through the gardens, past the kitchens, through various hallways, and finally up a familiar tower. Though I’d only been there once before, I found myself strangely comfortable there, like it was where I was meant to be, though, I suppose, in the end, it was.

My hand had rapped lightly, but almost desperately, on the wooden door before I realized what I was doing, if it was even something I’d wanted to do.

Did I really want to see him? Did I really want to speak to him?

The door opened to reveal an armor-less Sandor, looking like he was about to tell off whoever was at his door so long after dark, but when his eyes landed on me, they softened, and his frown lifted slightly. Any doubt of wanting to see him disappeared as my eyes met his.

“(Y/N)…” He murmured quietly. The sound of his voice saying my name made my chest both swell and feel tight.

“Sandor…” I breathed in response. His eyes closed as he let out an exhale, like hearing me say his name had the same effect.

“What are you doing here? It’s the middle of the night.” He questioned in his gruff manner.

I could only look up at him with wide eyes as I slowly shook my head, why was I there? What was I looking for?

He leaned through the door a bit and looked around before taking a step back and opening the door wider, beckoning me in wordlessly.

My movements were not my own as I entered his room for the second time.

“I…My mind is a mess…I don’t know what to say, or do, or think…I don’t know why I came here…Nothing makes sense…” I rambled, my voice growing quieter with each word I spoke.

Sandor’s expression looked as close worry as I’d ever seen it as he came closer to me, only a few inches of space between us.

My eyes remained locked on his chest for a moment before I realized why I went to him. “Help me escape my own mind…I need to get out of my head and focus on something…Please, Sandor…Help me…” I begged, my voice quiet and pleading.

His brows furrowed as he comprehended what I was asking for. “Do you even know what you’re asking? I’m not a gentle man.” He warned, his voice a low rasp that only made me surer in my desire.

I knew he was full of shit, and even if he wasn’t, I wouldn’t have minded, I knew what I was getting into when I told him I loved him.

“I don’t care…” I whispered as I pulled him down into a kiss that bordered on bruising, my hands cradled his cheeks as I begged him to give me what I needed.

His hands met my waist tightly as he pulled me to him, seemingly just as desperate for me as I was for him.

A moment later his grip on me tightened a bit more and he lifted me off the floor. I instinctively wrapped my legs around his hips, feeling the forming hardness in his trousers press against me, as he walked toward the small table in the corner of the room and set me down on it.

His hands slipped down to pull my shirt from where it was tucked into my trousers as his lips continued to ravish my own.

My hands threaded up into his hair as I tried to pull him ever closer to me.

We parted as he yanked my shirt over my head and threw it behind himself. The only thing that was under the shirt were the makeshift wrappings that I used to keep my breasts from getting in the way during training. Sandor looked at the wrappings with a kind of confusion that I couldn’t help but find amusing as I reached back to pull them loose before unwrapping them slowly.

Now in the cool open air, my breasts came to peaks that had his eyes darkening as he positioned himself between my thighs and claimed my lips once more. I could feel his excitement press against my heat through our trousers and it pulled a moan from my lips as I hooked my legs around his to pull him closer.

My hands tugged desperately at his shirt as I kissed him, and he was quick to throw it from himself. I looked at his body, I knew he was muscular, but the hair caught me off guard a little, the only times I’d seen shirtless males were when I was very small, before they thought it needed to separate the girls and boys to bathe. My gaze was intense, and I could tell it made him uncomfortable, but when my eyes returned to his I felt the corners of my lips turn upward before I pulled him back down to me.

Then he decided it was time for my trousers to meet the floor and I felt his hands move down to unlace them and tug them down, my boots getting caught and slipping off with them in a tangled mess. I looked up at him with a lifted brow as if to ask, ‘was that necessary?’ but he just smirked back at me before lifting me again and moving to the bed.

I would have been embarrassed or shy about my nudity if not for the fact that he wasn’t really looking at me, and I’d always had a confidence in myself that many others lacked or looked to outsiders for. And the thought of him seeing me didn’t leave me with that stir of shame that I’d always been told I should feel by Septas when I became old enough to feel attraction of any sort, instead it gave me a feeling of nervousness at what he might think of me, would he find me as physically attractive as I find him? But also, a giddy feeling. It was a conflicting sensation, but I’d felt worse.

He sat on the edge of his bed with me on his lap, my knees pressing into the bed on either side of his legs, as he lavished my neck with bites and kisses, quiet sighs and whimpers falling from my open mouth as I clung to him with a desperation I’d never felt before.

I was prepared for him to fuck me like a whore. I was prepared for him to be rough and uncaring. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the sound of his deep, rolling, voice asking me a question that sounded so utterly unlike anything I could have ever imagined coming out of his mouth.

“Have you ever been with a man before?” He’d asked against the skin between my neck and shoulder.

I felt my face become even hotter than it had been before as I slowly shook my head, a breathy “No…” all I was able to answer with as I continued to cling to him, hoping that my answer wouldn’t make him change his mind and tell me to leave.

He made a low growling sound somewhere between his chest and his throat and I could swear that I’d heard him mutter something to effect of “Mine.” Which, even as just a figment of my imagination, was enough to send shivers down my spine.

He’d been gripping my hips tight as he lavished attention on my neck but then one of them released its hold and drifted down to the apex of my thighs, where he ran his callused fingertips over my dripping heat, slow and gentle, like he was caressing the petals of a flower blossom. It pulled a sigh from my kiss swollen lips and had my hips pressing against his hand, silently asking for more, which he seemed happy to give, if the extra pressure his fingertips exerted was anything to go by.

His lips drifted over my jawline and down my neck, stopping to gently nip or bite, only hard enough to leave a red mark that would be gone by the morning, till they reached my breasts. He nuzzled into the space between them, inhaling so deeply that I wondered what I smelled like to him. After he seemed to have breathed his fill for the moment he turned to my right breast, brushing his lips over the peak before his tongue traced where his lips had, pulling a quiet gasp from me that quickly turned into a moan when he began to suck.

Moments later his fingertips ceased their caresses and were replaced by a single fingertip pressing into me, slow and tentative, as he was scared he would hurt me if he moved too fast. The sensation was foreign and odd, but at the same time it sent my already fast heart thundering and caused tingling heat to blossom over my skin. At some point my eyes had closed as I’d tried to understand all the sensations I was experiencing, and it seemed to heighten all of them, but I needed to see him, to look at him.

So, I did, and what I found was as close to a look of reverence as I’d ever seen on his face, like I was a Goddess in the flesh. I brought my hands up to hold his cheeks softly as I gazed back at him, meeting his eyes without hesitation, just as I always have.

He pressed that one fingertip in till it reached the second knuckle as he slowly began to move it, pressing here and there like he was looking for something. Then a harsh shiver of pleasure darted through my body, like all the things he’d been doing wrapped into one amazing sensation. My head fell back as a gasped moan of his name left me. He took the chance to lavish my neck with attention as he teased that one amazing spot within me, soon adding a second finger, there was an uncomfortable stretching sensation, but as slow as he was moving it was hardly noticeable.

What was noticeable, however, was his manhood pressed against my thigh through his trousers.

I decided to take pity on him, though I was almost too distracted to do much else than moan and shiver over him, and wrapped my hand around his wrist, asking him to stop. His expression, though lustful, took on a worried note as he pulled his hand from between my thighs.

“My turn…” I breathed as my hands, which looked so small compared to his, lowered to untie the laces of his trousers just enough for one to slip into and wrap around his hot flesh. I could feel him pulse against my palm, hot and heavy, as he let out a low grunt that sounded pleased. My gaze was locked on his face as he closed his eyes and tilted his head back, like I had a moment before. My movements were slow and hesitant as I trailed my hand up and down, silently marveling for a moment at the sheer girth of him, and surprising softness of the skin itself.

I continued my ministrations till he had his own hand wrapped around my wrist, forcing me to stop. I met his eyes and found them half lidden and clouded with lust, yet so clear. I must have looked confused because the next thing I heard was his deep rolling voice saying. “I’m planning to fuck you…And I can’t if you keep that up…”

The words, though simple, sent a wave of heat through my body that had muscles between my legs clenching in anticipation.

The only response I gave was a nod and he moved his hands down to cradle my ass before he lifted me, just enough to turn us and lay me on my back on the bed, my hair, which had fallen loose from it braid, splayed out around my head. After my back met the fabric he stood straight and looked down at me in all my nakedness, even with his eyes directly on me, taking in every mark and curve, I felt no fear, no shame, only lust, passion, and a deep craving that I hadn’t felt before.

I gazed back up at him, watching him as he took in my form, then his eyes met mine once more, neither of us flinching away from each other at the unhindered sight of our scars. Now that I was able to truly see him, I could see the scars that littered his chest and arms from battles he’s fought, though some looked much older, almost invisible in the low light of the candles place about the room, I didn’t need to ask to know that those were received when he was a child.

He held my gaze for a moment longer before stooping to remove his boots. Once those were kicked under the bed he stood over me again and moved his hand to the top of his trousers, he hesitated for a moment, looking at the space between his feet and the bed like he was thinking deeply about something.

I sat and placed a gentle hand over his as I looked up at him, hoping that my expression was reassuring about my desire to see him…Feel him.

I silently beckoned him to move his hands and he obeyed without hesitation, letting his hand fall to his sides. My eyes didn’t leave his as I unlaced his trousers the rest of the way and slowly pushed them down till they fell freely to the floor. In my peripheral vision I could see his manhood standing hard and proud, but I knew that if I looked directly at it, I would be too intimidated to continue as I so wished.

So, I moved up the bed slowly and laid back against the straw filled pillows, my knees raised a bit to show him every part of myself, trying to look enticing, though if the look in his eyes was anything to go by, I already did.

From there I could see him as a whole, every curve and ridge of his body, every scar and bruise, everything that made up Sandor Clegane was right there before me. And I loved every bit of it.

I lifted my hand to beckon him to me and he knelt on the bed before crawling closer, till he was hovering over me, looking at me with the same intensity that I possessed just moments before.

His lips met mine much slower and more passionately than all our previous kisses had been, his hand resting on my bare hip, so warm and rough, and so gentle, the very thing he said he wasn’t. My arms wrapped around his neck, pulling his closer as he slotted between my thighs, fitting so perfectly it was like he was made to be there.

Our kiss broke as we both remembered that we needed to breath, his expression asked the question he couldn’t bring himself to voice, was I sure about this? In response I nodded and rested back against the pillows.

He shifted, and I watched his free hand disappear between us, followed by the feeling of his cockhead meeting my womanhood.

Oh, so slowly he pushed in, taking his time for both our sakes, his eyes never leaving my face. The stretch of his fingers was nothing compared to the stretch I was feeling then, at moments it bordered on painful, but he would stop moving before it became too much.

Once he was fully seated in me he held still as I got used to the sensations that were coursing through my body like a hurricane. It was like he was a cup of cold water after weeks in the dry deserts of the Essos.

But soon the need for more was all I could feel, and my hips began to move against him, causing a sound like a gasp and a moan to fall from his lips as he bucked against me slightly, making a similar sound leave me.

His name fell from my lips like a prayer as he started a slow, but no less hard, rhythm. His hands gripped my hips so tight that I knew they would leave bruises, but I didn’t care, I wanted his marks on my skin, I wanted to wake up and see the evidence of what we’d done.

With each thrust there was the sound of his animalistic grunts and low moans, my whimpers of his name and high cries for more, which he was happy to obey, and his thighs slapping into the backs of mine.

Soon I felt pressure begin to build in my gut, light a spring coiled too tight and getting tighter, I felt the muscles in my thighs begin to shake and my breathing grew faster as the pressure built and built.

“Sandor…Sandor…Please…More…” I whimpered against the skin between his shoulder and neck as my nails ran down his back.

His thrusts became impossibly harder as he rasped my name, like it was the only thing keeping him from going mad, I could feel his nails dig into my hips, but the pain was dulled to almost nonexistence by everything else I felt.

Eventually, almost too soon, the coil in my belly snapped and I was overcome with wave after wave of pleasure as my vision went white for a moment, my head thrown back into the pillows as a cry left my lips that was probably far too loud, if the soreness I felt in my throat later was anything to go by, my eyes clenched shut as my whole body went rigid. Sandor went still a second later but continued to roll his hips as the pleasure ebbed away.

My body went slack as we both panted against each other’s skin, hot puffs of air that left tingles in their wake.

Sandor rolled both of us to our sides, his manhood slipping free as we went, leaving me feeling almost uncomfortably empty. I was keenly aware of the mess that was slowly slipping from between my thighs, but I didn’t care as I wrapped my arms around him and tucked my head under his chin.

Sandor went still in my arms, and I felt my heart thump painfully in my chest, was he about to tell me to leave? He’d told me he loved me but what if that was just an attempted to get me to let him bed me?

Then his muscular arms wrapped around me and I felt the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding leave me.

“I love you…” I breathed against his chest. I wasn’t expecting him to say it back, I didn’t need him to.

His only response was the tightening of his hold on me.

That night I was free of my dreams and the worries they brought with them.

Chapter Text

The day after my night of passion with Sandor I woke in his bed, half on top of him and his arms wrapped around me. There was a silent comfort as we both got dressed, we didn’t need words to know that neither of us regretted the night before.

After leaving his room I went to Varys’ office, I needed to remedy to ensure that I wouldn’t become pregnant, the last thing I needed to think about was an infant, I wasn’t even sure I ever wanted to have children.

I was surprised to find that the secretive eunuch already had a bottle of the very remedy I needed waiting on his desk, when I asked why he would need something like that he gave me a knowing smile and explained that he knew what I’d been up to the night before with Sandor and figured I wouldn’t want to go to the perverted old Maester for it.

Red-faced I insisted on giving him some gold to thank him for helping me, even though he didn’t have to. After he explained how to use it I returned to my room to take a dose and change into a dress before going to Sansa’s room.

It was during the walk to her room that I finally noticed the soreness between my legs and from the bruises on my hips, I would be lying if I didn’t say I liked it, it was uncomfortable, but it reminded me that I hadn’t dreamt it.

Sansa quickly noticed my discomfort and asked what had happened, quickly jumping to the conclusion that Joffrey had hurt me again, but I laid that to rest and told her what had happened, though I was reluctant. She was more than surprised that I’d not only spent the night with a man but with Sandor of all people. Shae didn’t anything but didn’t hide her worry, I wanted to tell her to worry for herself, she was, after all, the secret lover of a Lannister.

Soon the day of Stannis Baratheon’s siege came. I was sitting in Sansa’s room with her when the warning bells began to ring, telling us that Stannis’ ships had been spotted. I felt my heart jump into my throat.

Sansa looked at me fearfully. “What do we do?” She asked quietly, her voice quivering.

“We’re going to stay right here till they tell us where to go, they won’t leave you out in the open. And if Stannis wins, and is smart, we’ll have nothing to worry about.” I said as I wrapped my arms around her.

Soon Shae came and stayed with us, soon followed by a Lannister soldier who told us that Joffrey had ordered Sansa to the throne room to see him off.

The torches and braziers were lit, and people were running about getting ready for the battle to come, it left me with a sick feeling in my stomach, but I hid it for fear of worrying Sansa.

Once we were there we were approached by Tyrion. “Lady Sansa, (Y/N), and uh…Shaela.” He said pretending not to know Shae’s real name, clever man.

“Shae.” She corrected, looking down at him with an air of irritation.

“Shae, yes. Surely my sister has asked you to join her and the other Highborn Ladies in Maegor’s Holdfast?” He asked, sounding confused as to why she wasn’t already there.

“She has, My Lord, but King Joffrey sent for me to see him off.” Sansa explained before we heard the doors to the council chambers open.

“Sansa!” The King called as he approached, Sandor and a few other Kings guard following behind him.

“He’s always been a great romantic, my nephew.” Tyrion said as he watched Joffrey’s approach with us.

“Sansa, come here!” The boy ordered.

Sansa went to obey but turned back to Tyrion. “I will pray for your safe return, My Lord.” She said in her earnest manner.

“Will you?” Tyrion asked, clearly confused as to why a Lannister captive would pray for a Lannister.

“Just as I pray for the Kings.” She answered before turning to Joffrey.

I stayed back with Shae and heard Tyrion tell her to stay safe, calling her his Lady, and she returned the sentiment, calling him her lion. After Tyrion had walked away with his Squire I sent her an understanding look, no matter how much I may not trust her or dislike her, I understood worry for a lover.

Our attention turned back to Sansa and Joffrey as they spoke. “Your King rides forth to battle. You should see him off with a kiss.” He said as he drew his sword and held it out between them. “My new blade, Heart-Eater I’ve named it.” He explained. Sansa looked confused at him for a moment before he spoke again. “Kiss it.” He ordered, looking much too smug.

Sansa hesitated for only a second before bending down and pressing her lips to the blade, I half feared he would take the chance to slash at her and hurt her, but he didn’t.

“You’ll kiss it again when I return. And taste my uncles blood.” He said as he sheathed it, I fought a gag at the mental image.

“Will you slay him yourself?” Sansa asked, sounding more confident than I’d heard her sound in weeks.

Joffrey looked confused as he spoke. “If Stannis is fool enough to come near me.” He answered as he shifted on his feet.

“So, you’ll be outside the gates fighting with the Vanguard?” She asked, a subtle smirk at the corners of her lips that one would only notice if they knew her as well as I did.

“A King doesn’t discuss battle plans with stupid girls.” He snapped irritably.

“I’m sorry, Your Grace, you’re right, I’m stupid.” She said with a roll of her eyes. “Of course, you’ll be in the Vanguard. They say my brother, Robb, always goes where the fighting is thickest, and he’s only a pretender.” She said, that slight smirk widening a little. I fought a smirk of my own as I realized her game, attempting to undermine his confidence to fight.

“Your brothers turn will come, and you can lick his blood off Heart-Eater too.” Joffrey said, his voice as close to a growl as it would ever get, before walking away with his guards following.

As they passed I locked eyes with Sandor, ordering him to come back with a look. He lowered his head only slightly in response and we both looked away.

Sansa returned to where Shae and I stood as we watched them leave. “Some of those boys will never come back.” Shae said quietly.

“Joffrey will…The worst ones always live.” Sansa said, the confidence she’d had a moment before gone.

I shushed her, and Shae and I escorted her to the Holdfast.

The Holdfast was small and crowded with women, there were tables and bunkbeds scattered throughout the room.

The last to enter was Cersei and Tommen, I felt bad for the boy, he must have been very scared.

Cersei almost looked like she was expecting to fight, if the breastplate she wore was anything to go by, I wanted to scoff, she was far too much of a coward to fight.

“I don’t know why she wants me here…She’s always saying how stupid I am, she hates me.” Sansa whispered to Shae and I as Cersei sat at a table and her handmaiden poured her a cup of wine.

“Maybe she hates you less than she hates everyone else?” Shae suggested, I wanted to say that it was because they needed Sansa, but I knew better.

“I doubt it.” Sansa said in reply.

“Maybe she’s jealous of you?” Shae tried.

“Why would she be jealous?” Sansa asked, her voice lowered even more than it had been.

“Sansa?” Cersei called from her place across the room. Sansa stood and went to her. “I was wondering where our Little Dove had flown.” The Queen said, that same smug look she’d had when she killed Lady on her face. “You look pale child, is your red flower still blooming?” She asked.

“Yes.” Sansa answered quietly, she’d confided in me that she didn’t like talking about it, whether it was because of the shock of the morning it started or because she was embarrassed I don’t know.

“Fitting isn’t it? The men will bleed out there and you’ll bleed in here.” Cersei said before grabbing the extra cup from the table and holding out to her handmaiden.

“I’m not thirsty, Your Grace.” Sansa tried to decline.

“So? I didn’t offer you water.” She retorted as she handed the full cup to Sansa.

Shae and I shared a look, I didn’t like the idea of Sansa drinking while so much danger surrounded us.

Sansa looked to the side of the room and I followed her gaze, Ser Ilyn stood there, silent as ever. “What’s he doing here?” She asked, I don’t blame her for her hatred of the man, he was, after all, the one to carried out Joffrey’s sentencing on her father.

“Ser Ilyn? He’s here to defend us.” Cersei answered, but I could tell it was a lie. “When the axes smash down those door, you may be glad to have him.” She continued.

“But we have guards to defend us.” Sansa countered quietly.

“Guards we have paid. Should the city fall, they’ll be the first ones out of the doors.” She explained before taking a drink from her cup.

Just then the door opened, and a man came in. He stood before Cersei and bowed before speaking.

“The lads caught a groom and two maids trying to sneak away with a stolen horse and some gold cups.” He informed, looking for her sentencing.

“The battles first traitors.” Cersei muttered before taking a deep breath. “Have Ser Ilyn see to them, put their heads on spikes outside the stables as a warning.” She ordered.

The man looked surprised but bowed and gather Ser Ilyn before leaving.

“The only way to keep the small folk loyal is to make sure they fear you more than they do the enemy. Remember that, if you ever hope to become a Queen.” She informed before taking another drink.

“You said he was here to protect us…” Sansa said noting how quickly she sent him away.

“He is.” She affirmed. “Traitors are a danger to us all.” She explained before moving her cup back to her handmaiden. “More wine.” She ordered without taking her eyes from Sansa.

Hours passed, and I could faintly hear the sounds from outside, I found myself wondering if Sandor was already fighting, but shook the thought away, I needed to focus on what was in front of me.

I sat next to Sansa while we prayed with some of the other Highborn Ladies, a man stood in the corner and I recognized him as Ser Dontos, the man Sansa had saved from Joffrey’s wrath on his Name Day months ago, who’d been made the court fool.

Cersei finished yet another cup of wine before looking to Sansa, a strange smile on her face. “Sansa, come here, Little Dove.” She ordered, her voice like glass shattering in the quiet of the room, sounding almost drunk. Sansa left her prayer circle and went to stand before Cersei, I stood and went to sit next to Shae, so I could listen in while the others scooting closer to each other to continue praying without us.

“My Queen?” Sansa questioned.

“What are you doing?” The woman asked, pointing with the cup to the prayer circle.

“Praying.” She answered simply.

“You’re perfect, aren’t you? Praying?” Cersei asked, sounding more than a little scornful, she was definitely drunk. “What are you praying for?” She asked.

“For the Gods to have mercy on us all.” Sansa answered.

“Oh.” Cersei croaked. “On all of us?” She asked, lowering her face toward her cup.

“Yes.” Sansa answered quietly.

“Even me?” She asked, looking smug again, was that the only expression that woman could make?

“Of course, Your Grace.” Sansa answered, a confused chuckle mixing into her words.

“Even Joffrey?” The Queens smile dropped as she asked the question.

I could tell by the air Sansa kept that she amused confusion had turned sour. “Joffrey is my-.” She started only to interrupted my Cersei.

“Oh, shut up, you little fool.” Cersei muttered.

I felt Shae wrap her hand around my wrist, whether it was to keep me or herself seated I don’t know.

“‘Praying to the Gods to have Mercy on us all.’” She mimicked Sansa’s voice mockingly. “The Gods have no mercy, that’s why they’re Gods. My father told me that when he caught me praying.” She explained before taking a deep breath. “My mother had just died, you see, I didn’t really understand the concept of death, the finality of it…I thought that if I prayed very, very, hard, the Gods would return my mother to me…I was four.” She continued before taking a gulp from her cup.

“Your father doesn’t believe in the Gods?” Sansa questioned confusedly, it was a strange thing to hear, no one didn’t believe in them, not even the Maesters with all their knowledge.

“He believes in them, he just doesn’t like them very much.” She answered, setting down her cup in favor of the one she’d had filled for Sansa earlier and had it filled again. “One for her.” She ordered. Once it was filled she held it out to Sansa with a quick. “Here.”

Sansa took it, if only because she had too, and Cersei tossed a pillow in the step next to her table. “Sit. Drink.” She practically ordered as she picked her own cup up again and watched Sansa take a sip from hers. “Not like that. Drink, girl.” She corrected, and Sansa took what was almost a gulp from her cup. Cersei sighed. “I should have been born a man. I’d rather face a thousand swords than be shut up with this flock of frightened hens.” She said.

“They’re your guests, under your protection. You asked them here.” Sansa said.

“It was expected of me, as it will be of you if you ever become Joffrey’s Queen. If my wretched brother should somehow prevail, these hens will return to their cocks, and crow of how my courage inspired them, lifted their spirits.” Cersei ranted, gesturing with her cup over the room.

“And if the city should fall?” Sansa asked, worry clear in her face.

Cersei watched Sansa for a moment before she leaned forward a bit. “You’d like that wouldn’t you?” She returned, her voice lowered. “The Red Keep should hold for a time, long enough for me to go the walls and yield to Stannis in person. If it were anyone else outside those gates I might have hoped for a private audience, but this is Stannis Baratheon.” She said his name mockingly. “I’d have a better chance of seducing his horse.” She finished, looking like she was trying to be funny, then she leaned back a bit in her seat. “Have I shocked you, Little Dove?” She questioned before inhaling sharply. “Tears aren’t a woman’s only weapon…The best one’s between your legs, learn how to use it. Drink.” She ordered, and Sansa obeyed.

“Do you have any notion of what happens when a city is sacked? No…You wouldn’t, would you?” She continued, and I wondered if this woman ever shut up, no wonder Robert looked so annoyed every time she spoke to him. “If the city falls, these fine women…Should be in for a bit of a rape.” She said, and my heart dropped into my gut, she’d brought us all here like lambs to the slaughter. “Half of them will have bastards in their bellies come the morning, you’ll be glad of your red flower then…When a mans blood is up anything with tits looks good, a precious thing like you would look very, very, good. A slice of cake, just waiting to be eaten.” She said, finally done terrifying Sansa. I wanted her dead before, now I wanted her to suffer like she’s made Sansa suffer. Sansa drank the rest of her wine and Cersei all but told her to go away, I guess she was no longer having fun tormenting her.

Sansa came to sit between me and Shae and we didn’t hesitate to hold her, I looked at Cersei and found her looking back at me, so I looked to the floor quickly, trying to see less like a threat.

All it would take is one wrong look and the Lannister bitch would have me dead.

As time went by I found myself dazing off, my mind was on the battle outside, on the men dying and the commanders barking orders.

Then, suddenly, I was there.

Men jumped from long boats with swords drawn, a gate opened and out poured men from within the Keep.

I saw Sandor at the lead. “Any man who dies with a clean sword, I’ll rape his fucking corpse!” He shouted as he marched out, attacking the first Baratheon man he saw.

After that was chaos. Throats slashed, innards spilling between armor plaits, screams of death. I had never seen Sandor look more in his element. I won’t say that it was attractive, it wasn’t. I was repulsed by him for the first time since I’d met him. Seeing him covered in blood and sweat, yelling as he brought his sword down on a man’s head, it almost made me rethink my feelings for him. But then I remembered that this was war, no man was pretty during a battle, battle itself isn’t pretty. That’s just how it was.

A hand on my shoulder pulled me from my vision and I looked to find Shae gazing at me with an odd expression.

Neither of us said anything to the other, we just stayed quiet and waited.

Hours passed, most were asleep, and Cersei called Sansa over again, seemly calmer this time. “When we were young, Jamie and I, we looked so much alike that even our father couldn’t tell us apart. I could never understand why they treated us differently, Jamie was taught to fight with sword, and lance, and mace. And I was taught to smile, and sing, and please. He was heir to Casterly Rock, and I was sold to some stranger like a horse to be ridden whenever he desired.” She mused bitterly.

“You were Roberts Queen…” Sansa defended weakly.

“And you will be Joffrey’s, enjoy…” She retorted as she took a gulp of wine before looking toward where Shae and I sat. “I don’t think I know this one.” She said pointing at Shae before she stood and made her way over. “Pretty.” She mused as Shae stood and shakily bowed. Cersei chuckled. “That’s the worse curtsey I’ve ever seen. Here, it’s not difficult, I mastered it when I was four.” She offered, sounding strangely friendly now. “Straighten your back and then bend.” She said as she demonstrated gracefully.

Shae mimicked perfectly, and I couldn’t help but note how fast a learner she was.

“Better, you learn fast.” Cersei said as turned and walked back to where she’d been seated the whole time. “How long have you been in Lady Sansa’s service?” She asked.

“A few weeks, Your Grace.” Shae answered, only just barely remembering to add the title and her accent glaringly obvious.

“And when did you leave Lorath?” She asked, and Shae smiled at someone recognizing her accent. “I had a Lorathi Handmaiden once.” She offered in explanation for her recognition of the accent. “But she was nobleman’s daughter, you’re not.” She added, and Shae’s smile slowly dropped. “When did you come to Westeros?” Cersei asked.

“10 years ago, Your Grace.” Shae answered.

“From Lorathi commoner to the Red Keep in 10 years, all without learning how to curtsey?” The Queen said, a statement rather than a question. “I imagine that’s a very interesting story.” She said, a wide smile finding her face. “What’s your name?” She asked.

“Shae, Your Grace.” Shae answered, sounding more serious than I’ve ever heard her sound.

“Tell us a story, Shae.” The Queen ordered.

“When I was 13 I-.” Shae started but was cut off by the door bursting open and a man walking in.

I recognized him as Ser Loras, the Knight of Flowers, he’d jousted at the Tourny before Ned died. “Your Grace!” He called, and Shae and Sansa came and sat back down with me.

“What news?” Cersei asked as she stood to meet him.

“The Imp had set the river afire, hundreds of ships are burning, maybe more, Stannis’ fleet is destroyed but…” He looked at the rest of us before lowering his voice. “But his troops have landed outside the city walls.” He whispered.

“Where is Joffrey?” She asked, just as quietly.

“On the battlements with Lord Tyrion.” He answered.

“Bring him back inside at once.” She ordered, not even looking at him.

“But, Your Grace.” He started.

“What?” She asked sharply.

“The Kings presents is good for moral.” He argued.

“Bring him back to his chambers now.” She ordered dangerously.

“Not here?” He asked.

“With the women and children, do you want him to be mocked as a coward for the rest of his life?” She asked, daring him to answer wrong.

“No! But I-.” He started again.

“Now!” She ordered with finality.

Loras didn’t say anything more as he walked away.

Cersei went back to her seat. “When I told you about Ser Ilyn earlier, I lied.” She said as she sat down. “Do you want to hear the truth? Do you want to know why he’s really here?” She asked as she held her cup out to be refilled. “He’s here for us. Stannis may take the city, he may take the throne, but he will not take us alive.” She explained. And this it all made sense, she would sooner die than let Sansa go free…

Sansa looked down at her cup, then at Ser Ilyn. She drank what was left in her cup before setting it back on the table and come back to sit with Shae and I.

Not long after Ser Loras came back. “The battle is lost, Your Grace. Stannis’ troops are at the gates. When the gold clokes saw the King leaving, they lost all heart” He informed.

“Where is my son?” She asked. She was more worried about that than the hundreds that are going to die because she ordered him to his chambers?

“I want to escort him back to the battle.” He said, annoyed with her stupidity.

“Why do I care what you want? Bring me-.” She started.

“Now, listen to me, we need-.” He started but she stood and punched him in what looked like an arrow wound, causing him to cry out loudly and collapse to the floor. The sudden noise caused a number of women to cry out in fear.

She took Tommen and walked out the door quickly, leaving a groaning Loras on the floor.

All of the women in the room looked around and chattered fearfully and Sansa went to them. “Don’t be afraid! The Queen had raised the drawbridge, this is the safest place we can be.” She assured, she was so good with people, she truly made me proud. “Joffrey’s not hurt, he’s fighting bravely, his knights have rallied behind him, they will save the city.” She continued. “Should we sing a hymn?” She asked, and the women looked between themselves, unsure as to if they should listen to her. “Gentle Mother, font of mercy, save our sons from war we pray…” She started and got the others singing before Shae and I grabbed her.

“You must go. Run to your chamber and bar your door, Stannis won’t hurt you, this one will.” Shae said as she glanced at Ser Ilyn.

We started to lead her toward the door, but she stopped and turned back to Shae. “Come with me.” She said.

“I need to say goodbye to someone.” She declined.

“The Queen said they’d rape everyone.” Sansa countered.

“No one is raping me.” She said as she lifted her skirt and showed us the tiny dagger tied to her calf, far smaller than my own, closer to a pig sticker, but enough to do the job. “Go. Run!” She ordered, pushing us both toward the door. “Stay with her.” She said to me.

I gave her a nod and followed Sansa, the guards opened the doors for us and we ran to her room and locked it first thing.

Then I went to the small lamp that sat on her table, still going from when we’d been there hours before. We could hear men crying out and fighting outside, but we were safer here than anywhere else.

She was trying to catch her breath when she looked over and saw the doll Ned had given her right before he died, she been so disinterested in it before, but now it matter more than anything.

Then a familiar voice broke the silence. “The Lady’s starting to panic.” Sandor said from the other side of the room, where he’d been sitting in the shadows.

“What are you doing here?” Sansa asked, her voice quivering.

“Not here for long. I’m going.” Is what he said, but what I heard was. “I’m leaving.” And my chest clenched.

“Where?” Sansa asked, a bit louder than she needed to.

“Some place that isn’t burning.” He answered simply. I could only just make out the blood on his face and armor in the dark. “North, maybe, could be.” He said, finally looking at us, before opening the wineskin in his hands.

“What about the King?” Sansa asked, more concerned with him leaving than Joffrey’s safety.

“He can die just fine on his own.” He said before taking a gulp from the wineskin, then he looked back at us. “I can take you with me, both of you. Take you to Winterfell.” He said before standing, his bloody armor clanking as he moved toward us. “I’ll keep you safe. Do you want to go home?” He asked.

I mentally begged Sansa to say yes, I wasn’t going to leave her alone, and if she stayed then there was a chance I would never see him again…But I would give up the man I loved for the girl I helped raise, the girl I swore to protect.

“I’ll be safe here…Stannis won’t hurt me.” She said, not looking at him.

The he took a sudden, loud step toward her, closing the four-foot distance between them in a single step. It caused me to take a step of my own toward them as she whimpered fearfully, begging any God that was listening not to make me kill the man I love to protect her.

“Look at me.” He ordered as she looked at his chest but didn’t really see it. When she finally looked at him he spoke. “Stannis is a killer, the Lannister’s are killers, your father was a killer, your brother is a killer, your sons will be killers someday, even your handmaiden is a killer. The world is built by killers, so you better get used to looking at them.” He explained, and I wondered if he realized that the first and only time I’ve ever killed was when we saved her.

The fear in her expression melted away into a shaky confidence. “You won’t hurt me.” She said, a quiet surety in her voice.

“No, Little Bird, I won’t hurt you.” He affirmed before tuning and walking out the door, glancing back at me for a second before walking down the hall.

I stared at the doorway for only a second before my gaze moved to Sansa. “Stay here, I’ll be back.” I said before following him.

Once in the hall I saw him near the end. “Sandor!” I called as I walked quickly toward him.

He stopped and looked down at me, I couldn’t keep the tears from my eyes as I approached him, and when I stood before him, they slipped free.

Neither of us said anything before I grabbed his face and pulled him down, crashing his lips into mine. I didn’t care about the blood, sweat, and alcohol. I just cared about what was probably the last kiss I would ever get from him. He returned it without hesitation, his hands gripping my sides with the same desperation I felt.

When it finally broke I looked up at him, I couldn’t ask him to stay, and I couldn’t go with him, so I memorized his face, every dip and curve, the shape of his scar, and the exact shade of brown that made up his eyes.

We released each other, and I took a step back, taking a deep shaky breath as I went. “I love you…” I said, a strength in my voice that I didn’t feel.

He looked down at me and seemed to understand that I needed to hear him say it this time, it could be the last chance we would have, and we both needed to take it. “I love you too.” He said before turning and continuing in the direction he’d been going.

I stood there alone for longer than I should have, watching him disappear, then wishing he would come back as the tears raced down my cheeks.

Eventually I returned to Sansa’s room and she looked at my tear stained face. “(Y/N)…” She whispered, and it was like a blacksmith hammer through glass, I fell to the floor and let the pain out, cries and sobs ripped themselves from my throat, my face so screw up that it pulled at the tight flesh of my scars. And Sansa held me, through all of it, she held me.

Just like I had held her so many times when she was in pain, she held me as my heart broke.

Chapter Text

Days passed, and the battle grew further and further into the past.

The first day after I woke in my own chambers and felt a painful numbness that I’d never experienced before, like a piece of me had been ripped from my body.

I desperately wanted to stay locked in my room, but I had work to do, and someone to protect. So, I buried my pain deep and ignored it.

Two days passed and Joffrey’s grandfather, Lord Tywin, was sworn in as the Hand of the King, I honestly felt bad for Tyrion, no one recognized the good he did during the battle, how well he’d held off Stannis and his men before Lord Tywin and his men arrived.

I stood in the throne room with Sansa watching the ceremony for Lord Tywin.

I watched at the old man rode in on a horse, seemed a bit much to me but whatever they think is necessary.

It wasn’t till he came to a stop that I recognized him from the dream I’d had of Arya. He was the older man at the head of that table. Arya had been with Tywin Lannister in my dream…But I’d never seen him before, how had I been able to dream of his face if I’d never seen it?

I shook myself from the thoughts as Joffrey started to speak.

“I, Joffrey of the House Baratheon, first of my name, the rightful King of the Andals and the first men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and protector of the Realm do hereby proclaim my grandfather, Tywin Lannister, the Savior of the City, and the Hand of the King.” Joffrey said as Tywin rode closer. When he finished a barer came with a red pillow and Joffrey put the Hand pin on it, the barer took the pin to Tywin and he picked it up, he looked at it for a moment before bowing as low as he could on his horse.

“Thank you, Your Grace.” He said before turning his horse and riding back up the aisle.

Before Tywin was even halfway out Joffrey spoke. “Lord Petyr Baelish, step forward.” He said, and the disgusting man did as ordered, kneeling before Joffrey. “For your good service, and ingenuity in uniting the Houses of Lannister and Tyrell, I declare that you shall be granted the castle of Harron Hall with all its attended lands and incomes to be held by your sons and grandsons from this day until the end of time.” He announced, pulling many gasps and murmurs from the crowd.

“You honor me beyond words, Your Grace, I shall have to acquire some sons and grandsons.” Baelish said, causing the crowd to laugh, before moving back to where he had been.

“Ser Loras Tyrell!” Joffrey called.

The man looked less than interested in talking to Joffrey, probably still angry at the boy’s cowardice during the battle but knelt before his nonetheless.

“Your House has come to our aid, the whole realm is in your debt, even more so than I, if your family would ask anything of me, ask it, and it shall be yours.” Joffrey said.

“Your Grace.” Loras stated before clearing his throat. “My sister, Margaery, her husband was taken from her before…She remains innocent.” Loras explained, and Joffrey sat a forward in his seat a bit, his interest peaked. “I would ask it in your heart to do us the great honor of joining our Houses.” He finished, I could tell he was trying not to cry at the loss of the man he’d loved, most thought that Loras and Renly’s relationship had been solely for sex, but I could tell that Loras truly loved Renly.

Joffrey looked to the woman stood next to where Loras had been, her lovely blue dress was the first thing to catch one’s eye as the front was cut quite low, the next would be her beautiful face framed by long brown hair.

“Is this what you want, Lady Margaery?” Joffrey asked as Cersei looked Sansa’s way with a smug expression, like she knew that this would happen.
Margaery stepped forward as she spoke. “With all my heart, Your Grace. I have come to love you from afar. Tales of your courage and wisdom have never been far from my ear, and those talks have taken root, deep inside of me.” She said, clearly stroking Joffrey’s ego, I had to fight the urge to roll my eyes and fight a gag.

“Well, I too have heard tales. Of your beauty and grace, but the tales do not do you justice, My Lady. It would be an honor to return your love, but I am promised to another, a King must keep his word.” Joffrey said.

Cersei looked like she was trying to keep from laughing as she spoke. “Your Grace, in the judgement of your Small Council, it would be neither proper nor wise for you to wed the daughter of a man beheaded for treason.” She said. Every woman, the same women who Sansa had calmed in the Holdfast, looked at her like she’d been the one to do something wrong. “A girl whose brother is in open rebellion against the throne as we speak. For the good of the realm, your counselors beg you.” She looked directly at Sansa. “To set Sansa Stark aside.” She finished.

The murmurs were loud, and a few people called out, but whether it was in the affirmative or the negative I couldn’t tell.

Joffrey stood quickly with his hand up, silencing them all. “I would like to heed your wishes and the wishes of my people, but I took a holy vow.” He argued, probably because he thought that Sansa would leave if they were no longer betrothed and he wanted to keep tormenting her. As he spoke I saw Margaery look at Sansa with a strange expression, one that I wasn’t sure I could trust.

“Your Grace.” Maester Pycell called. “The Gods do, indeed, hold betrothal solemn, but your father, blessed be his memory, made this pact before the Starks revealed their falseness. I have consulted with the High Septon and he assures me that their crimes against the realm free you from any promise you have made to them in the sight of the Gods.” He informed in his halting slow manner, how did anyone listen to this man at length? He never shut up and he spoke so slowly.

Cersei smirked at Sansa again and I wondered what she had in mind, how could she possibly hurt Sansa more than she already had?

Joffrey sighed. “The Gods are good. I am free to heed my heart.” He announced. “Ser Loras, I will gladly wed your sweet sister.” He agreed as Loras stood, Margaery grinned. “You will be my Queen, and I will love you from this day, until my last day.” He said, looking strangely happy.

The crowd clapped joyously as Margaery looked Sansa’s way, her smile dropping, Sansa looked more than a little shocked, how was she supposed to react to such a thing?

Sansa turned and walked away, I quickly followed her and caught the grin that slowly made its way to her face at being free from him, along with the joyful tears, then a chuckle that could have been mistaken as a sob left her. We were almost to the door when someone called her from behind.

“My Lady.” It was Baelish, I quickly curtseyed as he came closer. “My sincerest condolences.” He said, only stopping when he was much too close to an unwed, and now unbetrothed, girl.

“They’re right. I’m not good enough for him.” She said, playing the part amazingly.

“You shouldn’t say that. You’ll still be good for many things, he’ll still enjoy beating you, and now that you’re a woman, he’ll be able to enjoy you in other ways as well.” He explained, I wanted to hit him for taking away the first little bit of joy she’d has in months, but I knew he was right.

“But…He’s not marrying me, he…” She started.

“He’d let you go home?” Baelish questioned, a quiet scoff left him before he shook his head. “Joffrey’s not the sort of boy who gives away his toys.” He said and placed his hand on her arm, it was a gentle thing, but it still made my hand itch to grab my dagger and cut it off. “You have a tender heart, just like your mother did at your age, I can see so much of her in you.” He said, and then I understood his interest in her, he was in love with Cate, and now he’s after Sansa. “She was like a sister to me, for her sake, I’ll help get you home.” He promised. At what price I wondered.

Sansa looked hopeful for a moment before it disappeared. “Kingslanding is my home now.” She said quietly.

“Look around you, we’re all liars here. And every one of us, is better than you.” He said before turning and walking away.

I escorted Sansa back to her room. “Why didn’t you take his offer? He can take you home.” I asked as I prepared her a plate for lunch.

“Because he’ll want something in return.” She answered as she sat at the table.

“They all do, but at least you can pay them back later, or never, these are uncertain times, they could die before you can.” I said as I set the plate in front of her.

“Are you a liar?” She asked, not even looking at her food.

I met her gaze. “Only to protect you.” I answered simply.

“Why didn’t you go with him? When he left during the battle.” She asked, referring the Sandor, but knowing better than to say his name.

I was quiet for a while. “Because you matter to me more…” I whispered, it wasn’t a lie, but it’s far from the whole truth.

“You can have the rest of the day to yourself, I don’t intend to go anywhere.” She said as she ate.

I nodded. “I’ll return at dinner time.” I said before stopping in the door way. “You should accept Baelish’s offer to take you home.” I said before leaving. I hated the man, but he seemed to be the only way for Sansa to get home, and that made him important.

I didn’t know where to go.

In the past I’d have gone to the gardens in the hopes that maybe I might encounter him, but I couldn’t do that anymore.

I sighed and decided to go there anyway. There was nowhere else to go, and I wasn’t going to leave the Keep in case Sansa needed me.

I wondered in the gardens till I reached the small nook where I’d first kissed Sandor. It seemed so dim now, like the sun wasn’t fully reaching it.

I took in a shaky breath and closed my eyes.

“(Y/N)?” A voice questioned from behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw Tyrion’s Squire.

“Yes?” I questioned as I turned to fully face him.

“I’m Podrick, I was asked by Lord Varys to ask you to meet him in his office.” He said, standing awkwardly before me.

“Aren’t you in service to Lord Tyrion? Why would you take orders from Lord Varys?” I asked.

“I am, but Lord Varys asked nicely, and Lord Tyrion doesn’t really want to see anyone right now.” He explained, clasping his hand uncomfortably.

I nodded, I’d heard that Tyrion had been injured, it was nice to know that he’s alive. “Thank you for letting me know.” I said before turning to walk away.

“Is it true what they say about you?” He asked suddenly.

I stopped and looked back at him over my shoulder once more, with a lifted brow. “Is what true? What do they say?” I asked.

He visibly gulped. “That you’re scarred like the Hound, and just as dangerous.” He said, starting out confident in his question but growing quieter as I gazed at him.

I sighed. “No one is as dangerous as him.” I said before walking away.

I made my way to Varys’ office and found him sitting in wait at his desk.

“Varys. Why did you call me?” I asked after closing the door, something which had long since become a thoughtless action.

“I had my little birds keeping an eye on Lars, in case he wasn’t as trustworthy as we thought, and they’ve reported that during the chaos of the masses during the battle, he was killed.” He informed as he stood from his seat.

I sighed deeply. “Damn it…” I muttered, what was I supposed to do now? I doubted there were any other men in this city that would be willing to risk teaching me to fight.

“I met with him a few days before the battle and he told me that there wasn’t much else for him to teach you. While tragic, his death is less inconvenient than it would otherwise be.” He said as he leaned back against his desk.

I could only nod in response. “Was there anything else?” I asked, I needed to be alone, at least for a while.

“Not quite. I’ve received word from Winterfell. It seems that when Robb sent Theon to Iron Islands to enlist Lord Greyjoy to join his side of the war, Theon decided to side with his family line and take over Winterfell…Last I heard, he killed Bran and Rickon…” He explained.

I thought my heart ached when Sandor left, but this news made the air flee my lungs, it made my knees feel weak, my blood pounded in my head. Varys guided me to sit before I fell.

I gasped for the air that seemed to be evading me. How could Theon do this to us? I know he was a ward of war, but we raised him, we loved and fed him. And he chose to return the favor by killing two innocent boys that weren’t even alive when he arrived?

“How long…?” I wheezed, my eyes unable to leave the floor.

“Theon took Winterfell a month ago…And the boys a few weeks after that.” He answered quietly.

I managed to get my breath back, and with it came a rage I never knew I could feel, it made my chest burn and my eyes go dark. “And I’m only just hearing about this? Surely Robb has had word of this and would have sent a raven to inform me!” I said, trying to keep my voice down, but unable to mask my fury.

Varys sighed, ever the pillar of calm. “Robb has been preoccupied with war efforts. If he could have, I’m sure he wouldn’t hesitate.” He said, trying to sound reassuring. “And some reports say that it was a cover for the boys escaping with the large man and a wildling.”

My eyes darted to him. “And you didn’t think to start with that?” I sneered.

Varys gave me an apologetic look that had me sighing and rolling my eyes.

“Anything else I should know?” I asked, my face resting in my hand.

“I have taken on a partner, someone you may know. She’s known as Ros, she comes from a brothel near Winterfell” He informed. I recognized the name immediately, Theon went to see her often, and I’d met her more than once.

“I know of her, and I’d seen her a few times, but we’ve never spoken. Last I heard she still worked in that brothel.” I said, looking up at him through my fingers.

“She’s been in Kingslanding for a while, almost as long as you have. She works in Baelish’s brothel, and now she works for me as well.” He said, sounding almost smug, probably happy to get one up on Baelish, as he moved back around his desk to sit down.

“Can she be trusted?” I asked, more concerned that she’ll give information to Baelish that I don’t want him to have.

“I think she can. To a certain degree, at least. Everything she learns will come to me before it reaches him.” He explained.

I nodded before a sigh forced itself from me. “What of the Tyrells? They’re a rather influential house, I’m doubtful that they can be trusted, but do I need to be looking over my shoulder for them?” I asked. Margaery seemed nice, and she was certainly pretty, but I’ve learned that one should never take looks as a sign of trustworthiness.

“I have yet to speak to any of them, but I don’t think they wish Sansa, or you, ill.” He said.

“Good…Please let me know, Margaery seems like a good enough sort, but then, so did Joffrey.” I said before standing from the seat.

“I have little birds everywhere, not just in Kingslanding…I can have keep an eye out for your Hound, if you wish…” He offered quietly.

I was tempted to accept his offer, I would know if he were alive or not, I would know where to find him when Sansa and I finally escape. But he wouldn’t want to be followed or watched, and I shouldn’t invade his privacy…No matter how I feel.

I was already facing the door when Varys spoke and had to keep my face blank to keep from showing all the pain I was carrying as I turned and shook my head. “Thank you for offering, Lord Varys, but I must decline.” I managed, my throat tight, before I turned back to the door once more.

“(Y/N)?” He called, and I halted with my hand on the door handle, turning my head to look at him over my shoulder, waiting for him to continue. “I’m sorry.” He said. He was being earnest, but I didn’t want pity, I didn’t need it.

I didn’t reply as I opened the door and walked away.

I was so lost in thought that I found myself back at my room before I knew it.

And there I stayed till dinner time came around and I went back to Sansa’s room to do my work, then I returned and stayed there for the rest of the night.

My bed felt cold, and I’d never felt so alone in my life.

But even at my darkest, my dreams wouldn’t leave me be.

Suddenly I was standing on a snowy cliff, the cold flakes falling around me like heavy rain. I looked around for a moment before I looked below my perch, and what I saw took my breath away.

Thousands of men, women, even children and animals, walked slowly by. I couldn’t see their faces, but something in the back of my mind, some primal piece of me, knew what I was seeing was the dead. I knew that if I were closer I would see an icy blue looking back at me.

I knew that what I was seeing, were Wights.

The dead were coming.

Chapter Text

As time passed and the damages of the battle were repaired, I found myself growing colder and colder to all but Sansa, who proved to be the only ray of light in the city.

I’d received word through Varys that the House Bolton was helping Robb and Cate take Winterfell back. As good as that news was, it left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, I’d never liked the Bolton House, anyone who thinks a flayed man makes for a good house sigil wasn’t worthy of true trust, and the fact that Roose, the current head of the House of Bolton, had a bastard son by rape simply made me dislike them more.

But it wasn’t my place to question it, and I wouldn’t have been able to change anything even if it were.

I’d just served Sansa her lunch when a Lannister guard came and told me to follow him.

A pit formed in my stomach as I nodded and followed him, sending Shae a look that said not to leave Sansa’s side as I went.

The man led me to an office that I’d never seen before.

He knocked on the door and a muffled call of “Enter” came from the other side.

The door opened, and the guard led me in, stopping before a large desk with a man standing behind it. But it wasn’t just any man. It was The Hand of the King, Tywin Lannister.

“The Handmaiden you wished to speak to, My Lord.” The guard said as he bowed.

“Good. Leave us.” The older man ordered, not even looking up from the parchments on his desk.

The guard bowed again and walked out without another word.

“My Lord.” I said as I curtseyed. “Was there something you needed of me?” I asked quietly, trying to keep my hands from shaking as I clasped them in front of me.

“You are the Handmaiden that came from Winterfell with the Starks, yes?” He asked, still not looking up at me. “I ask simply because I don’t trust the fools that call themselves guards in this Keep.” He added a second later, sounding like he’d had to deal with several foolish mistakes from his men.

This was my chance to lie and say I wasn’t, but he would eventually figure out, and the last thing I needed was to get in trouble for lying to a Lord, let alone this particular Lord.

“Yes, My Lord, I am.” I answered, keeping my eyes locked on the edge of his desk, I doubted that this man was like his grandson, but the last time I was alone with a Lannister it hadn’t ended well for me.

“Good.” He said, finally looking at me. “I had a few questions for you.” He stated as he sat in his chair and gestured for the one on my side of the desk.

I sat and continued to look downward respectfully, as much as I hated the Lannister’s, this one was worthy of some respect. “What do you wish to know?” I questioned.

“First, you’ll look at me when you speak.” The order was stiff, but not harsh, it felt more like a father scolding his child for a small mistake rather than a Lord correcting a servant.

I looked up at him, meeting his eyes. “My apologies, My Lord, I didn’t mean to offend.” I said, my tone now more confident.

He gave half a nod, clearly satisfied with my response. “It is my knowledge that it was my Grandson that gave you those scars. Is that true?” He asked, there were no hesitations in his words, it wasn’t a true question, it was the confirmation of a fact already known.

My eyes didn’t leave his as I nodded. “Yes, My Lord.” I said simply.

“Why?” He questioned. As before, it wasn’t a true question, he wanted confirmation of what he already knew.

“His Grace thought that my hurting me, he was punishing Lady Stark for her brother’s transgressions on the battle field. But, I’m just a Handmaiden, it’s true that I’ve seen to Lady Stark for a long time, but I’m no more than any other servant.” I said, half lying, there was no reason not to tell him exactly why Joffrey had hurt me, it was what he wanted to know, after all.

“You must hate him for doing such a thing to you.” He stated. The simplicity of the statement caught me off guard a bit.

“Of course not. His Grace had simply misunderstood my significance to Lady Stark. And I survived on his orders, I’m more thankful to him than anything else!” I responded quickly, trying to sound like a skittish little maiden.

Lord Lannister’s expression turned to something that I could only describe as amusement, his brow lifted, and his blue eyes held something that looked like mirth as they examined me. “If not for the simple fact that those words would be a lie no matter who said them, I would have believed you.” He said plainly, like the fact that I’d lied to him didn’t bother him. “I know what my Grandson is, and where he takes his joy. You may go, you’ll not be punished for lying.” He said in a quick and clinical manner before looking back at the parchments on the desk.

“Yes, My Lord.” I said as I stood and curtseyed and scurried out of the room.

As I made my way back to Sansa’s quarters I couldn’t help but wonder what in the seven hells just happened. Why bother asking me questions that could be confirmed by many others? What was his game?

I shook the thoughts from my mind as I reached Sansa’s room, happy to find both the redhead and Shae still there. “Just in time, Shae and I were about to go to the Keep docks.” Sansa said with a small smile as she moved about the room, slipping her shoes on and such.

“You two go, I have things I need to do here.” Shae said as she cleared the plate from Sansa’s lunch. I couldn’t help but lift a curious brow at her words, she’d never taken this level of initiative before, while she was better now than when she’d first arrived she still needed to be reminded of many things.

“Are you sure? I have a game we could play that you might enjoy.” Sansa questioned turning to the Lorathi woman.

Shae nodded. “You two go ahead.” She answered simply.

Sansa and I shared a look, though hers leaned more toward curiosity while mine leaned more toward suspicion. “Alright, we’ll see you when we return.” Sansa said before we walked out of the room, though I couldn’t help but look back at Shae.

Sansa and I found ourselves on a small stone dock, well observed by Lannister guards, as she explained the game she’d previously mentioned.

“I’ll go first.” She said before looking to the ships, she pointed at one. “Dorne, it’s going to Dorne.” She stated simply.

“Why Dorne?” I asked, unable to keep the amused smile from my lips.

“It’s carrying silk, and it’s supposed to bring back wine in exchange.” She answered before looking at the Lannister soldier nearest us, but still out of hearing range, with a sigh before looking at the ships. “But it’s not coming back. The captain tired of risking his life so Kings Landing Lords and Ladies can get drunk on better wine than they deserve.” She said, having a quiet rant. “He’s going to stay in Dorne, wait out the Winter where it’s beautiful and warm.” She finished.

“I wonder if everyone in Dorne is as beautiful and warm as they say the land is.” I mused, half trying to keep her in the now but also trying not to ruin the good mood we had managed to create.

“Your turn.” She said before pointing at another ship. “What about that one there?” She said, sounding a bit excited to hear what I thought it carried and where it was going.

I inhaled quietly as I thought. “It’s going to Volantis.” I answered.

“Why?” She asked curiously.

“Well, I saw a ship a lot like that one at the Kings Landing pier a few month ago when I went to get my shoes fixed.” I said, the reason I’d seen it was a lie, that had been when I was looking for a fighting teacher. “It’s carrying workers to help repair the city.” I said a second later, the one I’d seen at the pier had been taking people to Volantis, it only made sense that it would bring people here.

“That’s a good one, it makes sense. Shae had told me she didn’t want to play, I’m happy you are.” She said with a small smile, something that was in short supply these days.

“We haven’t had any time together since the battle, I’m glad we have some now.” I replied before the sounds of footsteps reached my ears.

“Lovey day for it!” Said a voice that I’d come to know better than I wished. Sansa and I both turned and looked at the man who spoke, Baelish, and a woman stood behind him at the start of the dock. “Watching the ships.” He added when neither of us said anything.

Sansa lowered her eyes as I tracked him with mine. “Lord Baelish.” She said curtly.

He stopped closer to the end of the dock and turned to us, looking directly at me as he spoke. “Might I speak with Lady Sansa alone for a moment?” He asked. I knew it was more of an order, but I looked to Sansa for her say, to which I received a nod.

I nodded back and stood, making my way to stand next to the woman at the other end of the dock. As I got closer to her I recognized her red hair, and then I recognized her face, I remembered her name to be Roz. She was a whore from a brothel near Winterfell, Theon had frequented her and hadn’t been sparing with the details when he got drunk, or when he was sober for that matter.

Once I’d come to stand next to her I greeted her with a short nod. “Roz, it’s been a while.” I said as I turned to face Sansa and Baelish.

“I’m surprised you remember me.” She said with a pleasant smile.

“Considering you were the only person I could trust to know where Theon was when I was sent to find it, is it truly that surprising? Besides, you were always nicer to me than the others, quite a catty bunch that was.” I noted idly, then I remembered what Varys had said about getting ears on Baelish, those ears had belonged to Roz. “I heard you’ve stepped up in the world.” I said in what I hoped sounded like a jovial tone.

“I help manage his affairs.” She answered, I noted the entertaining choice of words.

“He’s an important person.” I said, trying to make it sound like I was noting how good it was that she was working for him as more than a prostitute.

“So is she.” She replied quickly. “Do you remember the day she was born?” She asked. How could I forget? It was the day my best friend and the closest thing to a sister I have was born.

“Yes, they rang the bells from sunrise till sunset.” I answered, forcing myself not to get lost in the memory.

“We’ve both done rather well, you and I.” She said. I wondered what she could have possibly been talking about, I was still a handmaiden, just in a new Keep. If anything, I’d dropped in the world.

“I suppose so.” I answered somewhat sharply.

“I know he told you of our arrangement. I’ll listen for anything that involves her.” She promised as we watched Baelish start back toward us. “Watch out for her.”

“I always do.” I answered simply.

“Watch out for her with him.” She specified before I started to make my way toward Sansa, receiving a slimy smirk as I passed Baelish on the way.

Once I was next to her I acted like we were just admiring the view. “What did he say?” I asked, being extra quiet in case the guards had moved closer without my noticing.

“He said he can take us home, but we have to be ready at a moments notice.” She answered. I didn’t like it, but I doubted that he would be able to do much once we got what we wanted, and I would make sure we did.

That night when I went to retire for the night I found myself restless, like my very bones couldn’t be still.

I got up and redressed before wondering out of my room.

Much like my night with Sandor I didn’t realize I was at his door till I was pushing it open. Inside was exactly like when I’d last been in there. The bed was unmade, there was a burnt down candle sitting on the table, long since gone cold. I closed the door behind myself as I walked in and sat on the bed, my hand running over the fabric of the mattress and the think blanket before it met one of the two pillows that still held indentations of someone’s head, no, his head. I picked it up and brought it to my nose, breathing deep and thanking the Seven or the Old Gods, whichever was listening, that it still held his scent. It made my heart ache and ease all at once.

That night I didn’t realize I’d fallen asleep till I woke, but I still remembered my dreams.

Chapter Text

Days passed and plans for the royal wedding were slowly made.

I found myself in Sansa’s room with her and Shae. The day was warmer and prettier than one might expect with Winter so close, but we were glad for it no less.

Shae and I were helping her get dressed when Shae asked what Baelish had wanted when we’d been at the docks, I’d told her of the encounter when she’d expressed worry for the mans interest in Sansa. The red-haired girl told Shae what she’d told me, adding on that he’d not asked for any kind of payment, a fact that she’d neglected to share with me after it had happened.

“I still don’t believe it.” Shae said as she draped the under-scarf around Sansa’s neck, pulling her hair free as she went.

“He didn’t. He didn’t want anything, he just…Takes an interest because he loved my mother.” Sansa said, looking back at the two of us in the mirror.

“Men only want one thing from a pretty girl.” Shae said before getting the over-dress from the table.

Sansa looked back at the Lorathi woman with a disbelieving smile. “Little Finger’s not in love with me.” She said, her voice carrying a mirthful note.

“Love in not the thing he wants.” Shae clarified, and Sansa’s smile dropped a bit as she figured out what she’d meant.

“But he’s too old.” She said, not quite understanding how little such things matter when it comes to Lords and Ladies being wed.

“They never see it that way.” Shae said as she got the dress-pin and came around in front of Sansa, where I had been getting the dress properly lined up. “He didn’t ask you to do something for him? Spy on someone or…?” She asked as she started tying the laces.

“No…” Sansa answered, looking a bit worried now.

“If he does ask you for anything, or try anything, or touch you, I want you to tell me or (Y/N).” Shae said, being entirely serious. She and I had talked at length about Baelish’s odd interest in Sansa, and had agreed that if need be, we would step in.

Sansa’s smile returned. “Why? What will you do?” She asked jokingly.

“We will make him stop.” I said, the same seriousness present in my tone as in Shae’s, any other time I would have let Sansa find the conversation humorous, but this was important, and she needed to understand that.

Sansa looked like she was starting to understand what we were talking about when three loud knocks came at her door. “Ser Loras Tyrell, My Lady!” Called the guard on the other side.

“Um, send him in.” She said to Shae while I quickly made sure her dress was properly tied and placed.

Shae went to the door and the man walked in, last time I’d seen him, he’d been eye-fucking Renly Baratheon.

He had a pleasant smile on his face as he looked at Sansa. “Lady Sansa.” He said politely.

“Ser Loras.” Sansa said in reply, the affinity she had for him when she’d seen him at the Tourney when we’d first arrived in Kings Landing was clearly still very present.

“My sister Margaery invites you and your Handmaiden, (Y/N), to take the air with her and our grandmother, the Lady Olenna, in the gardens.” He said before making a slight gesture with his hands. “May I escort you to them?” If not for his preference for men I would think he shared Sansa’s attraction, but I knew better.

Shae looked at Sansa with concern before her gaze moved to me, I gave her a nod and a slight gesture with my hand to let her know that it was okay and that I’d keep an eye on our Lady.

Sansa smiled and walked out the door, I had to take long steps to catch up to her.

Ser Loras offered her his arm as they walked, and I stayed in step a few paces behind them.

They were both quiet till we reached the gardens. “I believe you grow more beautiful every day, Lady Sansa.” He noted sweetly, he was good at pretending to like women.

“You are too kind, Ser Loras.” She said in response, sounding like the love-struck girl I knew she was. “You probably don’t remember the first time we met.” She said after a few moments. He looked confused for a moment but seemed to be trying to remember the time she was referring to. “At the Hands Tourny, you gave me your favor.” She offered, but he still didn’t seem to remember. “A rose, a red rose.” She explained.

He smiled. “Of course, I did.” He said, it was clear that he still didn’t remember, but was playing along for her, I appreciated that he did.

We soon reached where we’d be meeting Margaery and Lady Olenna, and quickly saw the former speaking to one of the other Noble Ladies, but when she saw us she turned her full focus to us.

She smiled at her brother. “You’re such a dear.” She said sweetly.

“I’ll, uh, take my leave, Lady Sansa.” Loras said before walking away.

“Thank you, Ser Loras.” Sansa said as she watched him go for a moment.

Margaery placed her hand on Sansa’s shoulder. “Come.” She said pleasantly as she guided Sansa and I toward the pavilion where Lady Olenna was seated, passing many Highborn Ladies as we went, each smiling and giggling as they had their own conversations.

“Lady Sansa, it is my honor to present my grandmother. The Lady Olenna of House Tyrell.” She said as we approached an old woman who was seated comfortably amongst the Ladies.

“Kiss me, child. It’s so good of you to visit me and my foolish flock of hens. And your Handmaiden is welcome as well, (Y/N) was it?” She asked as she offered Sansa her hand, which the girl quickly gave a kiss to the ring on her finger. I curtseyed low when I was addressed.

“Yes, My Lady, it is an honor to meet you.” I said quietly, half wishing I’d had the time to loosen my braid to hide my scars, most Lords and Ladies didn’t like seeing them.

“I’m very sorry for your losses.” She said turning her attention back to Sansa.

“And I was sorry when I heard of Lord Renly’s death, Lady Margaery, he was very gallant.” Sansa said in reply, still unable to accept any condolences given for her family, lest she arouse suspicion.

“Gallant, yes, and charming, and very clean. He knew how to dress and smile, and this somehow gave him the notion he was fit to be King.” Olenna said bluntly, I’d heard stories of the Queen of Thorns, but I’d never expected this, I found I quite liked her.

“Renly was brave and gentle, Grandmother. Father liked him and so did Loras.” Margaery defended. I wondered if she knew just how much her brother had liked him, she had to have, secrets like that are hard to keep from one’s siblings when they are as close and she and Loras seem to be.

“Loras is young and very good at knocking men off horses with a stick, that does not make him wise. As for your fathead father…” Lady Olenna started again.

“Grandmother! What will Sansa think of us?” She lightly scolded her grandmother with a chuckle.

“She might think we have some wits about us, one of us at any rate.” The older woman said as she relaxed back in her seat. “It was treason, I warned him. Robert has two sons and Renly has an older brother, how can he possibly have any claim to that ugly iron chair? He should have stayed well out of all this if you ask me. But once the cows been milked there’s no squirting the cream back up her utter, so here we are to see things through, what do you say to that, Sansa?” She ranted, I had to fight not to let out a chuckle at her words. Sansa looked uncomfortable and unsure what to say but the older woman beat her to it. “Shall we have some lemon cakes?” She offered.

Sansa smiled. “Lemon cakes are my favorite.” She replied, trying to keep her excitement under control.

“So, we’ve been told.” Olenna said, sounding like a doting grandmother, it made me wonder if she was like this with Margaery and Loras. “Are you going to bring the food, or do you mean to starve us to death?” She asked of a male servant that had been by one of the tables behind us. “Here, Sansa, come sit with me.” She said as she stood from her seat.

I didn’t know if I was meant to follow, but Margaery was quick to place her hand on my shoulder and guide me in the direction the other two had gone, her gentle smile seemed genuine, but I wouldn’t be swayed by it.

“I’m much less boring than these others.” She said as we approached the set table under the pavilion. “Do you know my son, The Lord of Highgarden?” She asked as they all sat down, there was a fourth empty seat next to Sansa’s, but I chose to stand behind Sansa, till Margaery gestured for me to sit in it. I’d never been told to sit with a group of Highborn Ladies that I was so unfamiliar with before, so I was hesitant, but my desire not to get in trouble for being disobedient won and I slowly sat in the seat.

“I haven’t had the pleasure.” Sansa answered the older woman.

“Oh, no great pleasure, believe me. Ponderous oaf. His father was an oaf as well, my husband, the late Lord Luthor. He managed to ride off a cliff whilst hawking, they say he was he was looking up at the sky and paying no mind to where his horse was taking him. And now my son in doing the same, only this time he’s riding a lion instead of a horse.” Lady Olenna recounted.

Sansa looked between me and Margaery as the older woman spoke, and I was doing much the same with both of them, I’d never been so uncomfortable while sitting in my life.

“Now. I want you both to tell me the truth about this royal boy, this Joffrey.” Olenna said looking at both of us.

Sansa and I shared a look before Sansa spoke. “I-I…” She struggled.

“You, you. Who else would know better? We’ve heard some troubling tales. Is there any truth to them? Has this boy mistreated you?” Olenna asked, glancing at her granddaughter as she spoke.

I wanted to scream that yes, there was truth to them, the proof laid on my face, but I technically wasn’t addressed directly, so I held my tongue.

When neither of us said anything Olenna spoke again. “Has he ripped out your tongues?”

“Jof-King Joffrey, he…His Grace is very fair and handsome and as brave as a lion.” Sansa tried to lie convincingly, but Little Finger was right about one thing, Sansa is a terrible liar, and everyone else is better at it.

“Yes, all Lannisters are Lions, and when a Tyrell farts it smells like a rose.” The older woman said sarcastically. “But how kind is he? How clever? Has he a good heart and a gentle hand?”

“I’m to be his wife, I only want to know what that means.” Margaery said, her tone gentle.

Before any of us could say anything, the male servant came back with a tray of lemon cakes, which he placed on the table.

“Bring me some cheese.” Olenna ordered as she reached for the tray.

“The cheese will be served after the cakes, My Lady.” The man replied.

“The cheese will be served when I want it served, and I want it served now.” The woman ordered, meeting the man’s eyes.

The man nodded and walked off quickly, if he was scared I wouldn’t have blamed him.

“Are you frightened child? No need for that, we’re only women here, tell us the truth. No harm will come to either of you.” Olenna said to Sansa, who had been watching the man walk away, as she offered her a cake from the tray, which Sansa accepted, forever unable to say no to lemon cakes.

“My father always told the truth.” Sansa said quietly.

“Yes. He had that reputation, and they named him traitor and took his head.” Olenna said, I wondered if she was trying to push Sansa into speaking the truth by pressing on matters that still upset her.

“Joffrey.” She said suddenly, close to tears. “Joffrey did that.” She continued, her lower lip quivering slightly, I took her hand under the table, hoping the other two women wouldn’t notice. “He promised he would be merciful and he cut my fathers head off, and he said that was mercy. And he took me up on the walls and made me look at it.” Sansa explained, trying to keep what little composer she had.

Margaery watched her with a concerned but gentle expression. “Go on.” She coaxed quietly.

Sansa looked at her, then to me, I gave a slight nod, hoping she would tell them all of it. “I-I can’t. I never meant-…My father was a traitor, my brother as well, have traitors blood” She inhaled deeply. “Please, don’t make me say any more.” She begged.

“She’s terrified, grandmother, just look at her.” Margaery said quietly.

Olenna leaned forward in her seat a bit. “Speak freely, child, we would never betray your confidence, I swear it.” She said, and I believed her. There were people who were bad at lying, like Sansa, and there were people who were good at it but easy to tell when they told the truth, Olenna was one of those people.

Sansa was quiet for a moment before she finally looked at them. “He’s a monster.” She said.

The Olenna looked at me. “And what about you?” She asked.

I met her gaze unflinchingly. “He did this to my face, because he thought it would hurt My Lady. He almost killed me in the process.” I answered, my voice stronger and angrier than Sansa’s. “He is a monster.” I confirmed with a sharp nod.

All was quiet for a few moments.

“Ah, that’s pity.” Olenna said, looking to her granddaughter, who seemed completely unaffected by the news that her betrothed was a horrible human being.

“Please, don’t stop the wedding.” Sansa begged, fearful that he would take her back if Margaery back out of the marriage.

“Have no fear. The Lord Oaf of Highgarden is determined that Margaery shall be Queen. Even so, we thank you for the truth. Ah! Here comes my cheese.” She said as she saw the servant return again with a tray of various cheeses, which he placed on the table before stepping back and waiting patiently for another order.

“Now then. Would either of you like some tea? We’ve brought it from Highgarden.” Olenna asked as she lifted her cup, waiting for the servant to fill it with the tea.

Everything after that was…Surreal. Both Margaery and Lady Olenna acted as if we hadn’t just told them that the King was a mad man who liked to hurt people for his amusement.

When they were done in the garden Sansa and I went back to her chambers.

Shae was nowhere to be found, but I was sure she would appear soon, the midday meal was approaching, and she was usually present for it.

“Sansa? Are you alright?” I asked as I watched her sit on the bench under her window.

“What if they tell?” She asked quietly.

I sighed quietly. “They won’t. I don’t know much about the Tyrell’s, but I do know when someone is lying, and neither of them lied to us.” I assured her as I sat next to her.

We were both quiet for a while before Sansa looked at me with an odd expression. “Are you okay?” She asked, and I was reminded of why I loved this girl so much, even with so many trying to hurt and use her, she was still worried about others.

I gave her a small smile. “Don’t worry about me. I can handle myself.” I answered as I placed my hand to her cheek, even after everything, she was still beautiful.

The rest of the day passed uneventfully, and that night I was free of my dreams.

Chapter Text

Days passed and there was no sign that the Tyrells had told anyone what Sansa and I had told them, which confirmed my belief that they’d been telling the truth when they said they wouldn’t say anything.

I had many more dreams though, some of the peaceful snow-covered mountain tops, some of the sea, mostly calm things. But there were other, less pleasant, dreams in the mix. More visions of the dead walking through a thick snow storm. Of men made of ice and magic riding dead horses. I always woke from those gasping, dreading what I would find when I looked out the window, only to find no peace of mind when I found a bright sunny day.

Sansa was invited to many more meetings with Margaery and Lady Olenna, they seemed to genuinely like her, and I was thankful that I was serving them instead of sitting with them.

That didn’t stop them from pulling me into their conversations, I’d never seen a pair of Ladies more interested in my opinion, Sansa not included. I’d always been taught that a Handmaiden was to do her duty silently and quickly, and that was what I’d always done when others were around, but these two seemed determined to throw that ideal to the wind.

Everything seemed to be going peacefully for a while, Shae and I would tend to Sansa and I’d occasionally visit with Varys for news on the war and word about what Baelish could be planning.

I’d been making one of my regular visits to Varys after tending to Sansa all day, it had been a long one and I was tired, but when Varys informed me of Theon’s kidnapping I was immediately awake and listening.

“What do you mean kidnapped?” I’d asked, I may hate him for what he’d done to Bran and Rickon, but I couldn’t help but feel a pang of worry for the boy I’d grown up with.

“It is as it sounds. He’s been taken, no one knows by whom, but he’s gone. Even my little birds couldn’t find out what happened.” Varys explained, looking truly unhappy that his spies were unable to learn anything.

“Any other news?” I sighed quietly.

“During the Small Council meeting today, Lord Tywin, told Little Finger to go to the Veil and try to win Lady Arryn’s affections. They want him to be acting Lord of the Veil.” He informed, sounding a bit like he found the idea entertaining.

“Do they really thing that once he had control of the Veil that he’ll still stand with them? And isn’t he the Master of Coin? How is he planning to do that job if he’s all the way in the Veil?” I asked incredulously, Tywin was no fool, it’s one of the reasons I respected him, so he must have some kind of plan or contingency in case Baelish turns on them.

“That’s why Lord Tyrion had been named the new Master of Coin. It would seem that Lord Tywin thinks his son would be good in the role.” Varys sounded like he agreed with the sentiment.

I shook my head slowly as I let out a tired breath. “Anything else?” I asked as I rested my forehead in my hand.

“Robb got married.” He answered simply.

My eyes darted back to the eunuch. “What?”

“Yes, a few months ago, Robb wed a woman from Volantis that had been tending to the wounded on the battlefield.” He elaborated.

I let out a chuckle, this was some of the best news I’ve heard in far too long. “You didn’t say any titles, is she Lowborn?” I asked, confused as to why Cate would let Robb marry a woman that wasn’t a Lady.

“From what I could find, she was from a minor House in Volantis, that’s all. It would seem they wed in secret, not even Lady Catelyn was present.” He answered, a small smile finding his face as he watched a wider one spread over my face.

“That’s wonderful. I’ll have to tell Sansa tomorrow, she’ll be thrilled.” I said, trying to keep my voice quiet.

“Indeed, she could use the good news. Have you heard anything new from the Tyrells?” He asked, he’d yet to speak to any of the alone and was desperate to.

“No, they don’t seem to have told anyone of what Sansa and I told them, and they’re still quite friendly with her…And me for some odd reason.” I said, finally get the chance to vocalize my discomfort with the attention.

“From everything I’ve heard, the Tyrells are a chummy bunch. But I will agree that it’s odd for them to focus so much on a servant. If you learn anything let me know, and I’ll do the same.”

I gave a nod and left. I’d planned to go back to my room and go to bed, but I ended up getting a lit candle and walking straight to a familiar tower.

There was something there. Something calling to me, and I needed to know what it was.

When I got there, I found it still vacant, but someone had come in and cleaned up, made the bed and such, it was clearly uninhabited.

But there was still a pull.

I closed my eyes and started taking small steps, hoping that by not thinking about where I was going, I would instinctually follow the feeling that I had.

I felt something solid bump into my knees and opened my eyes to find the bed in front of me.

I couldn’t keep the confused expression from my face as looked down at it, it didn’t make sense, I could feel that I was right next to whatever it was, so where was it?

Then I set the candle on the nightstand and started pushing the bed to the side, thankful for the thin rug that sat on the floor under it, so it didn’t make any noise.

Once the bed was moved I flipped the end of the rug up, so it was resting on the bed. There I found a spot in the stone floor where a brick had come loose, there was none of the cementing material around the sides of the brick.

I grabbed the candle and set it on the ground near the brick and wedged my fingers around it and started trying to lift it, it was heavy, but not so much that I wasn’t able to lift it just enough to set it aside.

Underneath I found a thick wooden box, it was old and weathered, like it had been moved and put in many places that were not gentle on it. I gently picked it up and I could feel it thrumming with some kind of energy, like there were many emotions and memories attached to it.

I set it down next to me before moving the brick back into its place before placing the candle back on the nightstand and replacing the rug, I would worry about the bed when I was done here.

I sat on the edge of the bed with the box in my lap, there was a latch on the front to hold it closed, but it wasn’t locked, so I lifted it and slowly opened the box.

Inside I found a few things. One was a small toy soldier, it was old, and the paint was heavily chipped, it gave off very negative feelings. Another was a patch of faded yellow fabric with three black dogs on it, it looked old and made me feel like I shouldn’t touch it, let alone look at it. The third was the pin for a cloke, it looked like a hound, it must have been what he wore before he was a Kingsguard. The final looked like a metal pendent from a necklace, it was a circle that had been pressed, like a wax seal, in it was a hound looking up at three stars.

I reached into the box, took the toy soldier in my hand with the utmost care, then I was suddenly somewhere else.

It was a large stone house, almost big enough to be a small Keep, in front of me was a fireplace and a boy sitting on a bearskin rug, playing with some toy soldiers. I didn’t need to guess to know that the boy was Sandor.

He seemed so happy, so carefree, playing with the small wooden soldier.

Then there was the sound of a door opening and closing from behind me, the boys head shot up to look behind me and when I turned I saw another, larger, boy, I didn’t have to guess to know that the bigger boy was Gregor. The bigger boy didn’t say anything, didn’t even look angry, but I was filled with a feeling of fear and dread the was not my own.

I looked back the Sandor and saw the fear I felt reflected on his face.

Then Gregor strode toward Sandor, grabbed him by the back of his shirt, living him like it was nothing, and pushed the smaller boys face into the flame of the fire place. Screams like I had never heard filled the room, it sounded like a demon from the Seven Hells had been unleashed, and I felt the side of my face burning, as if I were the one in the fire, I let out a cry and gripped my face as I watched the scene before me unfold.

Sandor’s arms and legs were flying every which way, trying to hit or kick or get free of his older brother, as he continued to scream in pain.

The screams seemed to have drawn the attention of some servants because suddenly six men and two women were in the room, the men pulling Gregor away from Sandor, and the two women trying to tend to the injured boy, who was still howling in pain and writhing.

I didn’t see anything more before I was suddenly back in the Red Keep in Sandor’s tower, panting, sweating, and hoping I hadn’t screamed out loud. I felt the side of my face and found that it was unburned, and only held the scars that it had before.

I looked down at the soldier in my hand and finally understood the negative energy it gave off.

I put it back in the box and looked toward the patch that held the Clegane Sigil. I wasn’t sure I should touch it, the feelings that the toy held were nothing compared to what I was feeling from the patch.

I swallowed thickly and rested the tips of my fingers to it.

Rather than the visions I’d had before I got flashes, they were quick, but I knew exactly what I was seeing.

Each flash was a different sight, but each was horrible and made me sick. Images of the thick of battle, men laying bloody and dead on the ground, men getting their throats slashed by a sword, getting their limbs cut off, getting their head cuts off or split, blood everywhere and a constant din of screams and moans of the dying.

I pulled my hand from the patch quickly, my whole body shaking as I looked down at it with wide, fearful, eyes. Why would Sandor want to keep something like that? His fatalistic world view suddenly made so much sense, he had this evil thing under his bed, filling him with negative, evil, thoughts when he slept.

My gaze then turned to the metal pendent, this one had a gentler energy, there was a lot of good attached to it.

I picked it up and got flashes of a woman with dark hair smiling. She was holding an infant that was reaching up to her with a sweet toothless grin.

The vision made my heart feel warm.

I came back to the tower feeling lighter than then I had with the patch and the toy.

All that was left, was the cloke pin.

I wondered what I would see if I touched it, would it be another memory, or would I get flashes? There was only one way to find out. With slow, hesitant, hands I picked up the pin and suddenly I was in the back of a carriage riding down a road through the woods.

In the carriage with me were two men, one I didn’t recognize, the other had a bag covering his head, but I would know that armor anywhere, the man with the bag was Sandor. He was tied up and the other man looked like he wanted to be anywhere but where he was. When I looked out the back of the carriage I saw a procession of people on horses and walking, some wore armor, other wore peasant clothes.

Where was I? Who was Sandor with?

The carriage hit a harsh bump that caused Sandor to hit his head on the ceiling. “Buggering fuck!” He growled, making the other man let out an amused chuckle. “You won’t be laughing when I get loose.” Sandor muttered lowly.

“Good thing you won’t be getting loose then.” The man said.

The vision ended, and I looked down at the pin in my hand, then down at the box, before tucking the pin into the pocket of my dress and closing the box.

I pushed the bed back into position and took the box and candle back to my room.

When I got there I took the pendent out of the box and put it and the pin in my bedside drawer, then I put the box, which still held the patch and the toy, into a small alcove on the other side of the room where I kept some of the gold that Tyrion had given me, maybe it being there will keep the evil things attached the patch from effecting me.

I redressed in my sleep dress and got in bed.

I fell asleep to the hope that the vision meant that Sandor was still alive and had no dreams.

Chapter Text

The next day was as normal as any other at the start. I woke, broke my fast with an apple from the kitchen, made sure Sansa was dressed and had eaten, and tended to her and her quarters idly till after lunch.

Then she turned and looked at me from her place next to her window, where she’d been practicing her needlepoint. “I want to go pray.” She said quietly, almost like she was embarrassed at the request.

Shae and I both turned to look at her, I knew my expression read as shocked, but Shae’s was unchanged from how it normally was when she was seeing to her duties.

“Then pray you shall.” I replied with a small smile. I knew she hadn’t gone to pray since shortly before her father died, and I also knew that she needed something other than me to hold on to with so much darkness all around her, faith would work perfectly.

“I don’t think they’ll let me go to the Sept.” Is what she said, the “I don’t want to go to the Sept.” remained unsaid.

I was quiet for a few moments as I thought, then I remembered a place that I had visited during one of my walks that had made me feel like I was closer to the Gods. “I know of a place.”

Shae decided to remain in Sansa’s room to finish the few things that we’d yet to do that day while I escorted Sansa to the cliff balcony just past the gardens.

When we arrived, we found two Lannister guards stationed there, probably to keep people, namely Sansa, from throwing themselves from the cliff and into the ocean.

There was a small shelf of stone there that was shaped and positioned perfectly for prayer. Sansa walked over to it and knelt, resting her clasped hands on it. I stood a foot or so behind her and watched her, intending to stay right there, but then she looked up at me. “Will you pray with me?” She asked quietly.

Without hesitation I nodded and went to kneel next to her, she quickly clasped my hands in both of hers before closing her eyes and beginning to pray silently. I followed her lead and closed mine as well.

I’ve never known what I believe in. I’ve prayed to the Old Gods and I’ve prayed to The Seven, and I’ve sworn multiple oaths to both, but I don’t have the slightest clue which I believe in more, or if I even believe in either. What I do believe in is that there is something out there that over sees us all, but whether that something is benevolent or malevolent, I’ve yet to see.

So, as I knelt there with Sansa with my eyes closed, I sent out to whomever was listening a request for she and I to make it home, for the war to end, and for Arya, Bran, and Rickon to be alive and safe.

For a while the only sounds to meet our ears were that of the waves and the sea birds that flew overhead, then someone cleared their throat and both Sansa and I looked up to see Lady Margaery standing between the two guards.

I started to stand a second before Sansa did, giving the woman a silent curtsey.

“I didn’t mean to disturb you.” The brunette said sweetly.

“You haven’t.” Sansa replied as she straightened her dress a little.

The Margaery looked to the two guards. “We’d like some privacy, please. If you wouldn’t mind waiting back inside the Keep.” She said. The two men looked at her then to each other and back to her but remained where they were. Then she got a slight smirk. “Or if you’ll be kind enough to give me your names, I’ll as the King to speak with you himself.” She said as she walked closer to us. I assumed she’d meant me to leave as well, as much as I didn’t like it, and curtseyed before going to leave. But then she spoke again. “Please, stay, (Y/N).” She requested. The simple fact that she remembered my name caught me off guard, but I didn’t show it.

“Yes, My Lady.” I said quietly.

When she was half a foot away from Sansa she stopped. “What did you pray for?” She whispered in a jokingly conspiratorial tone, a pleasant smile resting on her lips.
Sansa returned the smile. “I can’t tell you.” She replied.

“Why not? I’ll tell you what I prayed for in the Sept this morning.” She said as she hooked her arm with Sansa’s and started walking with her, I was quick to keep up with them. “Let’s see…For my family’s health and happiness, for an end to the war, for a short Winter. Boring and traditional, I’m afraid. And you?” She said. I wondered for a moment if her pleasant personality was real or if it was all for show, it felt real.

“I’m sorry, I just…Can’t.” Sansa replied with a gentle shake of her head.

Margaery lead us to a long set of stairs that lead down to a lower cliff balcony. “My cousin Alana was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. When I was twelve I was all elbows and knees and Alana looked like a Goddess sent to torture me. Pig-face, she called me.” She said, pulling a laugh from Sansa.

“Pig-face? But that ridiculous.” She said through her giggles as she shook her head at the absurdity of it.

“I think it had something to do with my nose. Whenever she passed me in the halls she’s oink.” She said before giving a snort to demonstrate, pulling another laugh from Sansa, and somehow a smile from me. “So, I prayed she’d catch a horrible skin disease. A week after that she came down with Porridge Plague.” She continued as we came to a stop on the stairs.

Sansa turned to look at her with a mix of shock and confusion, I couldn’t help but be a bit confused myself as there was no such illness. “Porridge Plague?” Sansa questioned.

“Oh, you don’t have it in the North? You skin starts to look like boiled oats, and eventually your face slides off and you die in agony.” She explained, looking very serious about what she was saying.

“But that’s awful.” Sansa said, clearly wondering why one would wish that on anyone.

Margaery nodded mournfully before a smile worked its way onto her face and she broke into a laugh.

Then Sansa caught on. “You’re-.” She let out a half scoff. “I believed you! Porridge Plague, I’m an idiot.” She laughed as we started descending the stairs once more.

“Don’t say that, no you’re not.” Margaery replied sweetly. I was happy to hear someone other than myself and Shae say that to her for once.

“So, what happened to Alana?” Sansa asked curiously, watching her feet and skirts so she wouldn’t trip.

“Oh, she grew up to be the most beautiful woman, and married a handsome Lord, and they have darling children, and they live in a castle by the sea. It’s all terribly frustrating.” She explained with mild exasperation.

We reached the bottom of the stairs and they continued till they were closer to the edge of the balcony.

“I’m sure she’s jealous of you now. You’ll be married here in the capital, and she’ll have to come watch and pretend to be happy that you’re Queen.” They both giggled.

I tried to keep the normal distance that a servant would, but Margaery took my hand and pulled me closer with a smile, which I awkwardly returned.

She released one of my hands and took one of Sansa’s with it. “I want us to be friends, good friends.” She said looking between us. Part of me wanted to ask why I would want to be friends with her when I have Sansa, who is already a bit of a fulltime job, not that anyone will hear me complaining.

Sansa smiled at both of us. “That would make me very happy.”

Margaery returned her smile. “You must see Highgarden. You’d love it there I know you would. We have a great masquerade the night of the harvest moon, you should see the costumes, people work on them for months.” She said enthusiastically, still looking at both of us.

“Uh…I don’t think the Queen would let me leave Kings Landing.” She replied, voicing both our thoughts.

Margaery looked to me and I gave a slight nod to confirm Sansa’s words.

“The Queen Regent, you mean? Once I marry Joffrey, I’ll be Queen.” She said as a smile found Sansa’s lips at the thought of getting to see Highgarden. “And if you were to marry Loras…” She suggested, causing Sansa’s smile to widen. “Oh, your place would be at Highgarden, wouldn’t it? We would be sisters, you and I. And you would be welcomed like family as well, (Y/N). Would you like that?” She asked looking between us and pulling me back into the conversation with yet another statement that caught me off guard.

Sansa was close to tears as she nodded, the sight almost put me in the same position, but I reined it in. Margaery pulled Sansa into a hug and gave my hand, which she was still holding, a squeeze.

After that we all walked back to the Keep, making idle chatter as we went. Well, they made idle chatter, I remained quiet unless I was addressed.

Once inside Margaery went her own way and I escorted Sansa back to her quarters.

Shae was no longer there so I assumed that she’d gone to get Sansa’s dinner, and the moment the door was closed behind us Sansa turned to me with a wide smile. “Am I going mad or did she suggest I marry Ser Loras?” She asked excitedly.

I nodded. “She did indeed.” I answered with a smile of my own before schooling my features. “Sansa, before you make any rash decisions you should know that if you pursue this, you won’t be going home, you’ll probably never see your family again. I won’t say that it isn’t safe, for all I know, it is. Ser Loras seems an honorable sort, as does his family, but do you really want to chance it? After all of this?” I asked her seriously. “I will continue to follow where you go, and I will honor your choices. But I will also make sure you have all the facts and see as many outcomes as possible.” I continued as I took her hands in mine.

Sansa nodded. “You’re right, (Y/N). I will think more on it, and I will learn more about him and his family.” She promised, sounding more grown up than I’d ever heard her.

“That’s all I ask.” I said before pressing a kiss to her forehead.

That evening, after Sansa had had her dinner and the sun had started to go down, Sansa said that I could go for the evening, when I attempted to protest Shae said she could handle what was left for us to do for the day.

I’d let out a sigh and nodded. “Very well. Let me know if you change your minds.” I said before leaving.

During the walk back to my room my mind was filled with questions about Sansa and I’s interaction with Margaery earlier.

Why does she speak to me as if we are equals? It isn’t possible for her to not know that I’m nothing but a handmaiden. Does it have something to do with Sansa? Or maybe what Joffrey had done to me?

When I reached my quarters, I shook the thoughts from my mind, resolving to speak to Varys about it tomorrow. I sat on my bed and quickly found the silence of the room deafening, I almost got up and took a walk when I felt that same pull I’d felt that lead me to Sandor’s room days ago, but this time it was leading me to my bedside table, where the pendent and pin still sat.

I couldn’t tell which one it was that was calling to me, so I closed my eyes and reached out, much like I had when I was trying to find the box, and a moment later my hand touched one of them. I opened my eyes and saw it was the pin.

I picked up and held it for a moment before closing my eyes and letting myself get swept away in the vision it gave me.

Suddenly I was in a large cave that was lit by firelight, there were torches on the walls and in the hands of men, there were braziers scattered around the room, and what made the bulk of the light was the large firepit in the center of the cave. But what drew my attention the most, was one corner of the room where there was another fire, but the whole area was shrouded in a dark fog, it looked like the morning mist that settled on leaves as dew, only it was black and inky. It made me feel cold.

I pulled my attention from that corner and I saw many men entering the cave, with three people with black bags on their heads, one I recognized as Sandor by his armor. The bags were removed from the other twos heads and I recognized one as Arya, what was she doing with these men? What was she doing with Sandor?

“What is this place?” The young man next to Arya asked as he looked around.

“Somewhere neither wolves nor lions come prowling around.” The man next to them said as he approached Sandor. The man reminded me of the Red Woman from the cave, his clothes had the same red tint and he possessed the same dark and knowing smile she’d had.

One of the men removed Sandor’s hood and he flinched back from the fire they’d put him next to as best he could with the ropes tied around him, a sight that made my heart ache for him, then he gained a mocking smirk as he looked around at all the men in the cave. “You look like a bunch of swineherds.” He mocked as he breathed a chuckle.

“Some of us were swineherds, and some were tanners, and masons. That was before.” Another man who held a bow and a quiver of arrows replied.

“You’re still swineherds, and tanners, and masons. You think carrying a crooked spear makes you a soldier?” Sandor retorted in that manner he used when he thought he was talking to a moron.

“No, fighting in a war makes you a soldier.” Said a man that stood in the dark corner. As he stepped forward I realized that it wasn’t the corner that had been dark, it was him. The black mist was attached to him, like he and it were one being.

“Beric Dondarrion? You’ve seen better days.” Sandor seemed surprised to see this one-eyed man, I wondered what had happened last time they met.

“And I won’t see them again.” The dark man replied looking up at Sandor with a smirk.

“…Stark deserters. Baratheon deserters. You lot aren’t fighting in a war. You’re running from it!” Sandor growled as he looked at the men that surrounded him.

“Last I heard you were King Joffrey’s guard dog, but here you are a thousand miles from home. Which of us is running?” Baric said, sounding almost smug.

“Untie these ropes and we’ll find out.” He threatened. “What are you doing, leading a mob of peasants?” He spat the question.

“Ned Stark ordered me to execute your brother in King Roberts name.” He replied as if that answered the question.

“Ned Stark is dead. King Robert is dead. My brother’s alive.” Sandor said before spitting on the ground at the mention of his brother. “You’re fighting for ghosts.”

“That’s what we are, ghosts, waiting for you in the dark, you can’t see us, but we see you, no matter who’s cloke you wear, Lannister, Stark, Baratheon, you prey on the weak, the Brotherhood Without Banners will hunt you down.” Baric said, sounding every bit as confident as a Lord rallying his men before a battle.

“You’ve found God, is that it?” Sandor sneered.

“Aye. I’ve been reborn in the light of the one true God, as have we all, as would any man who’s seen the things we’ve seen.” Baric answered proudly.

“If you mean to murder me then bloody well get on with it.” Sandor growled, clearly tired of hearing the man speak.

“You’ll die soon enough, dog, but it won’t be murder, only justice.” The Red Man said, looking as smug as Baric had sounded a moment ago.

“And a kinder fate than you deserve. Lions you call yourselves. At the Mummer’s Ford girls of seven years were raped, and babes still on the breast were cut in two while their mothers watched.” The archer from before spoke, clearly thinking that Sandor had had something to do with that.

“I wasn’t at the Mummer Ford. Dump your dead children at some other door!” Sandor responded, sounding almost offended that they were accusing him of being there.

“House Clegane was build upon dead children! I saw them lay Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaenys before the Iron Throne.” The Red Man said, looking much too smug for a man speaking of murdered children.

“Do you take me for my brother? Is being born Clegane a crime?” He asked the cave at large.

“Murder is a crime.” The archer answered, seeming far too invested in killing Sandor not to have some kind of stake in it.

“I never touched the Targaryen babes! I never saw them! Never smelled them! Never held them! Never heard them bawling! You want to cut my throat?! Get on with it! But don’t call me murderer and pretend that you’re not.” He shouted, sick of being accused of crimes he didn’t commit.

The room was quiet for a second before Arya spoke up. “You murdered Mycah, the butcher’s boy, my friend. He was twelve years old, he was unarmed, and you rode him down, you slung him over your horse he like was some deer.” She said as Baric walked slowly toward her, listening to every word she said.

“Aye, he was a bleeder.” Sandor responded.

Beric looked back at Sandor. “You don’t deny killing this boy?” He asked, looking and sounding far too happy to have a reason to kill Sandor.

“I was Joffrey’s sword shield; the boy attacked the Prince.” Sandor answered.

“That’s a lie! I hit Joffrey! Mycah just ran away.” She said, giving the defense she’d been kept from giving so long ago.

“Then I should have killed you. Not my place to question Princes.” He responded.

Baric watched Arya for a moment longer before speaking. “You stand accused of murder, but no one here knows the truth of the charge, so it is not for us to judge you. Only the Lord of Light may do that now. I sentence you to trial by combat.”

“So, who will it be? Should we find out if your fire God really loves you priest?” Sandor taunted the Red Man. “Or you archer? Are you worth with a sword in your hand?” He turned to the smaller man. “Or is the little girl the bravest one here?” He asked, nodding Arya’s way with a mocking smile on his face.

Baric looked back at her before he spoke. “Aye, she might be.” He said before turning back to Sandor. “But it’s me you’ll fight.” He continued, and Sandor actually looked a little worried.

Then there was a flurry of activity as all the men started to move things and clear space for the fight.

Once everything was ready the Red Man stood before a fire and started to pray out loud. “Lord, cast your light upon us.”

“Lord of Light defend us!” All the men around said in unison as another cut the ropes that held Sandor.

“Show us the truth. Strike this man down if he is guilty and give strength to his sword if he is true. Lord of Light give us wisdom.” The Red Man continued. “For the night is dark and full of terrors.” He finished.

“For the night is dark and full of terrors.” The other men chorused as they gave Sandor a sword.

The Red Man then presented a sword to the kneeling form of Baric, who lifted his hand and let the man cut his palm before taking the sword in his other hand.

The only sound in the room for a moment was the fires crackling as Baric brought the bloody blade back to his hand, then suddenly he ran his cut hand up the blade and it burst into flames with a loud ‘whoosh’ that had Sandor take a staggering step back. A man came and gave Baric a shield as another gave Sandor one.

Sandor looked scared but was clearly trying not to focus too hard on it, I felt a spike of cold fear in my chest, much like I had when I’d watched the vision of when Sandor was attacked by his brother as children, I now realize I was feeling Sandor’s fear, then and now again as he prepared battle this dark man.

Baric moved his sword about as he prepared for Sandor to attack and I could hear unearthly sounds coming from the flames, no one else seemed to notice them.

Sandor didn’t waste a second more as he lunged at Baric with a yell, but Baric dodged and blocked the attack, Sandor swung his sword high but was blocked again, so he attempted to jap with the tip of the sword but met more metal. Baric gave a strangely graceful spin before swinging high, Sandor only barely managed to block but couldn’t keep his fear from his face as he gazed at the fire that danced off the sword. Baric came at him with a slew of swings that Sandor could do little more than block with his shield as he backed away, forcing the men to move out of the way to keep from being hit.

Baric swung high again and Sandor blocked with his blade before shield bashing him, forcing him back and closer to the firepit. They both swung high and metal met metal before both swung low, Beric swinging behind himself, before he gave another oddly graceful spin and switched places with Sandor.

Sandor swung high and Baric blocked, but Sandor forced Beric’s sword down onto a space of cave rock before Sandor gave a great and wide swing that Beric had to duck under, the swing ended up hitting a makeshift shelf and breaking it. Sandor gave another high swing but this one was harder and faster than the others and it made part of Baric’s shield break, Sandor tried to hit Baric with his shield but Baric ducked again and he managed to hit Sandor’s back with what was left of his shield, which forced Sandor forward and into one of the smaller fires.

An almost audible gasp left me at the sight of Sandor trying to stumble out of the low flames and sparks. Once he stood on dirt again he kicked a pile of pots and baskets toward Baric.

Baric swung his sword and Sandor blocked with his shield before swinging at Beric and hitting the other man’s shield and using the opening to deliver a hard kick to the smaller man’s chest, sending him a few paces back.

Sandor tried to charge Baric, but he dodged to the side and forced further forward, the Red Man pulling Arya out of Sandor’s path with a harsh “Get back!” as Sandor fell to where she’d been.

Beric tried to hit Sandor while he was on the ground, but Sandor managed to turn and block with his blade, they did this twice as the Red Man shoved Arya to a place where she would be safer.

Sandor shoved Baric away long enough for him to get back to his feet and Baric wasted no time in lunging at Sandor again, but he blocked the blows and managed to get behind him quick enough to shield bash him before delivering three hard blows to the man’s shield before knocking it completely out of his hand on the fourth.

Now, with only his flaming sword, Baric gave six swings on Sandor, all of which he managed to block before the final one sent him to the ground, where he had to block another swing with his shield. There was another hit to his shield that set it ablaze as the men around them started chanting “Guilty!”

Sandor swung his sword and shield wildly, trying to dislodge his hand from the hold of the shield. I heard Arya give a cry of “Kill him!” as she watched.

Beric swung high and Sandor used the burning shield to block it before Baric tried to jab forward, but Sandor dodged to the side and elbowed him in the gut, sending him back a couple feet, where he fell to his knee.

Sandor gave another cry as he swung high again and Baric tried to block with his sword as he had before, but Sandor’s blade went through it and sliced into his shoulder, almost cleaving the man’s arm and shoulder from his body.

The room went quiet at Baric fell to the floor, dead.

The Red Man didn’t hesitate to run to Baric’s body and all but throw himself over it as he started praying quickly. “Lord, cast your light on this man, your servant, bring him back from death and darkness, his flame has been extinguished before his-.” The rest of the man’s prayer was drowned out by Sandor’s cries as he tried to free his arm from the burning shield.

The only other time I’d ever felt this useless was when I had watched Sansa being beaten in the throne room, but it gave me the same heart wrenching pain in my chest, and I could swear I felt the heat of the fire on my own arm.

I watched as Arya grabbed one of the men’s dagger and try to use Sandor’s moment of weakness to kill him, a cry of “Arya! Don’t!” Came from the man she’d been with earlier, as he grabbed her and held her down, she cried and scream to be let go but he held her fast.

“I guess the God likes me more than your butchers boy.” He taunted. Had I been there I would have hit him myself, but all I could do was watch.

“BURN IS HELL!” She shrieked.

“He will.” Said a voice none of us expected to hear. “But not today.” Beric said as he knelt where he’d been before Sandor had struck him down.

I’d wanted to see more but I was suddenly back in my quarters in the Red Keep. I clutched at the pin almost frantically. “No, no, no…Show me more…Please, show me more…” I begged it quietly, clenching my eyes shut, hoping I would see him again, but nothing happened.

For the first time since he’d left, tears streaked down my face.

I don’t remember falling asleep, but I remember dreaming I was running through dark snowy woods, tall trees flying past me so fast they were a blur.

My four feet moved so quickly I was practically flying.

I didn’t stop till I came upon an icy pond surrounded by small bare bushes.

When I gazed down into the water the eyes that looked back at me were such a bright red that they almost glowed in the darkness, the white fur around them blew slightly in the gentle breeze.

Then I was suddenly back in my quarters again, the sun was shining outside my window and the birds were singing.

Through my confused haze only one word registered in my mind.

“Ghost…”