Sansa woke to bitter cold, crackling flame, and screaming pain. Her skin felt stretched; too hot and too thin all at once. Every bone in her body felt like it had been broken and then set wrong. Something dark and viscous roiled in her belly, and she rolled over and retched black bile onto snow-covered stone.
Sansa looked down, she was clothed only in skin painted the color of death. She raised her fingers to her naked belly and the red-brown flaked away under her nails like rust, like day old moon blood.
Sansa was unclothed, covered in blood, her memory a ruin - it was not the first time.
Sansa had passed her sixteenth nameday in the Eyrie under a full moon, the wolf's moon they had called it at Winterfell. There had been no celebrations. Alayne Stone, motherless sept raised bastard, would not know when in the year she'd been born.
"Mayhap we should give Alayne a nameday, hmm?" Alyane's father had hummed into her ear. He had coaxed and commanded her to sit on his lap, and raised his goblet to her mouth until she had no choice but to swallow lest the wine spill down her chin and onto her gown. "And then she might have a treat."
Behind Alayne's teeth Sansa Stark howled at the indignity. Behind Sansa something else just howled.
The wine made Sansa's head fuzzy and she had known nothing else until the next morning when she woke up bare-skinned in the pantry, the room a ruin as though it had been the site of a violent struggle.
Sansa had wrapped herself in an empty sack that still smelled of turnips. She had somehow made it back her bedchamber unseen, where she had called for a bath of boiled snowmelt and scrubbed at her skin until it was red raw.
Sansa tried to push herself up, but her palms were blistered and burned and she fell forward onto her nose with a pathetic yelp.
The waycastle known as Snow had foundations of stone and was built directly into the mountain, but three of its walls were timber and had burned all too easily. Sansa had a fleeting memory of racing through the ruined castle, flames licking at the pads of her— at the soles of her feet.
Sansa curled her hands into fists and pushed herself up on her knuckles, managing to get her legs under her. Her feet were burned too, but the blizzard howling through the ruined waycastle had covered the floor with snow and ice, and a black and worrying numbness kept the pain at bay.
Sansa took a step, stumbled over something half-buried in the snow, and was brought to her knees again. It was Alayne's father; his skin alternately black and cracked from the fire and blue and frozen from the ice.
Mayhap Alayne, as Petyr's natural daughter, would have wailed and torn her garments, but Sansa had no garments to rend and felt nothing at Petyr's demise but a distant sort of relief.
Near Petyr lay Harrold Hardyng; Harry of the sweet words and bruising touches. The Young Falcon had died with a sword in his hand, unbloodied though it was. Beyond Harry was Myranda Royce, her skirts torn and hiked above her waist, her thighs bloody, and her throat slashed.
Sansa looked away from the dead that she knew to those that she didn't. Lannister men mostly; their cloaks red from fine Lannister dyes, brown from blood and shit.
Sansa rose to her feet again; she sniffed the cold air, and smiled a wolf's smile.
On the morning following the second wolf's moon after her nameday Sansa had woken up in the Eyrie stables curled against Mya's faithful mule. The creature's eyes had been glassy and lifeless, its belly torn open, and a rope of its gut wrapped around Sansa's bare ankle.
Sansa had kicked viciously and opened her mouth to scream, but then her stomach had caught up with her eyes and she'd choked on the blood and bile filling her mouth.
It had been after that occasion that Myranda had found Sansa emptying her guts into her chamberpot. Sansa had clutched the pot close to her belly, shielding its contents; she had nothing but Old Nan's stories with which to explain the partially digested chunks bone and sinew.
Myranda had misread the shame and panic in Sansa's face. "Oh, you poor thing," she'd said, real delight shining through feigned primness. "I'm told the sickness passes after the first month or so."
Sansa had found nothing to say to that but to hunch forward and vomit again.
Sansa was not the only thing living in this ruined waycastle.
The man-mountain's legs were pinned by fallen stone, his breastplate caved in, and his gorget crushed as though in the maw of some monstrous beast like a mountain lion or a—
Sansa's mind skittered sideways.
What flesh Sansa could see was rotten and festering, but his eyes were alive, filled with hate and something like fear.
Sansa cocked her head; she could hear the sound of distant horns skirling on the wind.
Cersei had once forced Sansa to her knees in a disused chamber of Maegor's holdfast and made her look at the spot where Elia Martell had been defiled and cleaved in two by the Mountain That Rides; a spot that no amount of scrubbing would ever make clean again.
She could well imagine the scene that would greet the horn-blowers upon their arrival: the Mountain and a naked, bloodied girl, mute with horror.
The tale wrote itself.
The storm hadn't reached this far into the waycastle and small fires still smoldered. Sansa readily found a burning brand.
"Do you know," Sansa's voice was cracked, her throat felt ill-used, "what wolves do to dogs?"
The Mountain spat cruor - viscous, black blood - at Sansa. She wiped her face, smearing the blood, and looked down at the dead man, this defiler of princesses. She shoved the brand through the monster made crack in his gorget, lips pulled back in a silent snarl.
The flames leapt up inside the Mountain's greathelm; his huge hands tried to slap them out but succeeded only in spreading them to the padding of his gloves.
The Mountain That Burned roasted in his armor; old, dead blood sizzled and spat onto ruined plate, and a foul, rotted stench filled the air. Sansa felt sick. Sansa felt ravenous.
Sansa's... illness had gone unnoticed only because the men of the Eyrie had greater concerns. Cersei Lannister had grown weary of Littlefinger's games and sent men to reclaim the Vale, and he and Harry disagreed about the best course of action. Alayne's father had wanted to retreat back to the Eyrie, a castle that had never been taken by direct assault; Harry had felt that they could be too easily starved out up there, and should make their stand at the fortified waycastle known as Snow.
"My lord," Alayne's father had said, "I'm not sure that you understand - my spies say that the queen has sent the Mountain That Rides."
Harry had laughed at that, and taken Sansa's hand. "If he tries to take the Vale I'll turn him into the Mountain That Fell."
It was later that night that Sansa had been woken by warhorns, and screams, and the ringing of steel. In her panic she had wrapped herself in furs from her bed and run blindly. She remembered fleeing, her heartbeat rabbiting behind her breast; she remembered passing a window where the wolf's moon, cold and bone white, was rising behind the mountain. She remembered darkness. She remembered red.
Sansa left the twice-dead corpse to burn to ash.
It wasn't much further into the waycastle that Sansa came across the wolfskin. It was the coverlet from Sansa's bed, the one she'd wrapped herself in when she'd been woken by the attack, lost or discarded. It was tacky with blood, and Sansa draped it over her shoulders, petting the sticky fur.
The blizzard called to Sansa. The boots she found to wear were too large and still warm, and her mind shied away from the memory of taking them. Sansa walked out into the snow, naked but for a wolf's skin and a dead man's boots.
The horns sounded louder outside.
Petyr had told her that he'd called for reinforcements; someone who would come only to the aid of Sansa Stark. Sansa's mind had skipped through the possibilities, however improbable, from Willas Tyrell to Jon Snow to the Hound himself.
The horns were so close now, whoever it was, ally or enemy, would be breaking the line of pine trees any second.
Sansa fell to her knees on the snow and opened her mouth to call for aid. Help me, she meant to cry. Please. I'm here. Instead she tipped her head up to the moon, and howled.