The train's whistle blew, waking Sansa as it pulled into the station. Her glasses were smudged from being pressed against her face, and she cleaned them quickly. She hadn't meant to fall asleep, hadn't meant to lose her vigilance. Had anyone seen her? Had anyone noticed and reported her to the authorities? A dog in the crate beside her chuffed at her, pressing its cold, wet nose through the plastic slates to get a better sniff. She held her hand up to the dog and received a lick as a reward. She had always liked dogs, but now more so than before. She wondered what happened to that sad, old hound that had rescued her from Joffrey's wrath. Was he ok? Had Joffrey killed him in her place? She said a small prayer to the Mother for him. She hoped that, if he was dead now, that he had gone down with a fight. He had been a good dog, her only friend.
She kissed the crated dog on the nose, and as soon as the train pulled to a stop, she was out of the luggage car, mingling with the paying passengers as they gathered their things. Arya had taught her this trick, long ago. It was probably the same way she escaped King's Landing, Sansa mused. She often thought of her sister nowadays. Arya would not have put up with Joffrey. Not one bit. And she would have died for her "sins" against him. Sansa sighed and pulled the scarf around her head a little tighter. She continuously glanced at her reflection in windows to make sure her red hair was not visible as she made her way out of the train station.
The search for lodging proved difficult. Every place she stopped at was either full or out of her price range. Maybe Maidenpool wasn't the best choice… But it had been the easiest path to stowaway for the trains. Trains to the North were heavily guarded ever since the War of the Kings started. Joffrey had put out a warrant for her arrest, but his eccentricity of not allowing pictures of her had backfired on him. The wanted poster had a vague drawing that could have been anyone, really, though she tore down the ones she saw. She could have gone farther south, but she also knew she would have stood out like a sore thumb. A pale Northerner in Dorne or Oldtown was rare, to say the least. At least Maidenpool was on the way to the North, and while her red hair was still uncommon, it was less so than King's Landing or farther south. She had at least seen other redheads here, while she had been "exotic" in the capital.
If her mother's family was still in charge of the Riverlands, she would have braved the checkpoints to reach them, but the Freys, with the blessings of the Royal family, had disposed of them. She would find no help there.
She suddenly felt eyes on her. Cautiously, she looked around. Two women were pointing at her and whispering furiously. In a panic, Sansa ducked into the first open door she found. The scarf and wearing her glasses instead of contacts helped disguise her, but they weren't foolproof.
"Can I help you, miss?"
Sansa turned to see the shopgirl looking at her curiously. A sign behind the register proclaimed the place to be EZ'S THRIFTY. "Oh, I… I seemed to have stepped into the wrong building. I do apologize."
"Oh, what were ya looking fer, den?" The girl's accent became thicker as she relaxed.
"Lodgings. Cheap lodgings," Sansa said.
"Oh! Ya might be tryin' ta find The Quartheen, just a little ways do'n. They serve e'ryone from khals ta beggars. But if ya need any decent, and cheap, clothin', this is da place for ya, Miss." The girl smiled, exposing a missing tooth in her grin. Sansa tried to smile back, since the girl had been kind, but her anxiety from the two women outside had her heart beating quickly.
She nodded in thanks, and slipped out the door when the women were looking away.
"Cheapest rooms are two silvers per week, payment is expected upfront, and at the beginning of the week if you stay more than one week," the front desk clerk said. He was a pale man with deep blue lips that were set in a frown as he stared down at Sansa menacingly through the intricate bars that separated him from her.
"Oh… that's… um…" It was the cheapest she had found, but still out of the budget she had figured out for herself. I suppose I could try to find a job, but I wanted to try and limit my exposure outside, she thought.
"Not good enough? Fine. Three silvers a week."
Her heart sank.
"Pyat, do shut your mouth. I determine the price of the rooms, not you." A woman in a red mask walked up behind the gaunt man. "Go check inventory if you're going to be useful."
The man grumbled and slunk off, muttering about how wizards were always looked down on.
"My apologies, he is a new hire and I'm starting to wonder about the references he previously gave. How may I help you?"
"I was looking to get a room, but your prices, while very fair, are still a bit steep for my wallet," Sansa said.
"What is your budget?" the woman asked kindly.
"I can afford one silver a week, if I stretch it out."
The woman stared at Sansa. Then she looked at the keys for the vacant rooms hanging on the wall, each one labeled with a room number. Her eyes trailed up to the top row, where a single room was available. "We do have one room that I can let for less than that price, but… the room is cursed. People who tend to stay in it, they end up going mad and dying, either by taking their own lives or winding up dead in a freak accident. You would need to sign a waiver, to not hold the inn responsible, should anything happen to you."
"I'll take it!"
"Child…" the woman said, though Sansa had already seen twenty-four namedays, "you know not what you are jumping into."
"Nothing can be worse than the curse I'm already under," Sansa told her. "Please, I'll sign whatever you want, and I will pay upfront."
The woman sighed, and reached below the desk to get the waiver. Sansa signed it quickly and pushed it towards her. "How much?"
"One silver, and it will cover you for a whole month."
It was Sansa's turn to stare at the woman.
"As I said, the room is cursed. The entire floor is currently empty, though it consists of your room, the laundry room, a utility room that has been sealed shut due to hazardous conditions, and a small patio area. Most of our tenants prefer to use the downstairs facilities, as the entire floor gives them a 'creepy' vibe." The woman scoffed, giving Sansa the impression that she didn't think much about those tenants. "We do serve food, but at a cost. Each room comes fitted with a refrigerator, a kitchenette, and basic cookware. There is the Penny Circular available on Mondays, down here in the lobby, which has job listings, if you find yourself in need of that." She pointed to a small stack of folded newspapers on the desk.
Sansa took one. It wouldn't hurt to browse through it. It looked like there was also local news stories and games.
"Since we haven't rented out that room in a while, or expected to, I apologize beforehand on its conditions. You can change it about as you see fit. Paint, wall hangings, I am not as particular to that room as the others." She lead Sansa to the elevator and handed her a key. "It's the top floor. Might be a bit drafty, but just let me know and I will have something done. Oh, and child," she said, grabbing hold of Sansa's arm, "be careful."
Sansa crawled into bed, her body trembling with exhaustion. Her small bag had been unpacked, everything put in place. Old habits died hard, and her mother had always stressed "a place for everything, and everything in its place."
He can't find me here. He won't find me here, she told herself, over and over, with the thin sheet pulled tightly around her. Maybe if she said it enough, she'd start to believe it.
A noise came from the closet, and the door creaked as it opened of its own will. Sansa jumped up, a gun in her hand. A good luck gift from the woman who had replaced her. Margaery had her family, had connections. She was protected, while Sansa had no one.
A shadow moved. Sansa shook harder. The air was suddenly heavy and she felt like she couldn't breathe, but she had to ask, had to know. "J-j-j-Joffrey…?"
The tension in the air released and Sansa could breath again.
"Must have been my imagination…" she mused softly. She squeezed her eyes shut tight. "He won't find me. He won't find me…"
She lay back down, the gun placed on the nightstand.
"He won't find me… he won't find me…" she kept whispering to herself until she fell into a restless sleep.