After the battle, if you could even call it that, was a certain kind of calm.
It had been a massacre in all truth. A bloody and tragic massacre which forced friend into foe and turned their army into their enemy. It was evident in the eyes of the soldiers who had fought, that the effects of that night would linger on in the minds of the survivors for decades to come.
Red snow. Black daggers. Blue eyes.
It did no one any good to dwell on these things however, and while the castle still shook with screams and tremors each night, people were trying their best to forget the nightmare. There was something in the air, in the early morning movement of maids and sentry guards which carried the idea that things might one day return to normal. Or as normal as things could be.
When the Dragon Queen had not returned from the battle there was a brief moment of panic and confusion. She had been the link which brought them all together and now she was gone, thrown from the black beast in the last moments of the fight. The Dothraki, what was left of them anyway, were entirely lost without their Khaleesi, in this frozen graveyard far away from the sands and long grasses which signaled home for them. They were not alone in their struggle however, as the Unsullied too were now without a queen, or a commander. Grey Worm’s body had been burnt in that final blaze and now all that was left of him was a kiss on the lips of Missandei and a helmet which she had kept to remember him.
Those soldiers who had come back brought with them trinkets and tokens from the bodies of their friends. There would be no true burials in Westeros for at least a century, for fear is a powerful thing, and this fight would not become a harmless myth until a long while had passed. Instead burning ceremonies would become the norm, and families would gather round pyres built for their loved ones. At the burning of the Winter Queen, many years from now, thousands of people would gather at Winterfell to see the fires burn, and lay winter roses onto the ashes.
That is a story for anther day.
For now, there are dead to morn, and a world to rebuild.
Initially people looked to Jon, whom they had chosen as their King not long ago, who had led the first assault on the dead, and who had been closest to the Dragon Queen. They did not care about his heritage when he was a bastard of Ned Stark, so why should they care if he was the bastard of Rhaegar Targaryen? Surely, this man would sit on the empty throne, and lead them out of this mess. He had seemed the obvious choice and had proven that he was willing to fight and die for his people. Jon had the respect and the authority, but after all he had been through, he had nothing left to give.
He could never leave Winterfell again, could never dream of it. Call it paranoia, or insanity, but Jon Snow would never leave this place again. As a boy he had abandoned this castle, and his family in search of glory and honour and a purpose, and how naive he had been. All these things could be found within the grounds of Winterfell; the only purpose he could envisage for himself now was protecting his family. Their safety was his greatest wish and devoting his life to that cause was the only possible way for him to imagine achieving any glory or honour in this world.
Nowadays Jon could be found in one of three places: he sat in the Godswood as Ned Stark had done years ago, sharpening Long Claw – which was forever on his person – and revelling in the solitude and silence of that place. He would never fully understand why Ned had not told him the truth of his parentage, but being here, Jon felt closer to the man he still regarded as a father. If he was not there, he was outside the chambers of the Queen, as her guard, her confidante, her friend. And there was the rare occasion that he would be in neither place however, as sometimes Bran would sit beneath the wierwood, and his presence would prove too unsettling, and it would be Lady Brienne’s shift to watch over their Queen, it was at these times when Jon could be found with his sister. She would never be his cousin, would always be his sister. Arya was certainly different to the little girl he had left behind long ago, but the years of sibling bonding, of being the outcast duo had left a mark. Their relationship had been strained at first, decisions made in the war sat between them like a wall, but their easy friendship came back; slowly they regained that ease and comfort of their early years.
It was a rare but oh so welcome sight, to see Arya Underfoot and the Bastard of Winterfell chase each other through the castle once again, their laughter filling the courtyard with life.
No one had truly known where to turn, when it became clear that Jon would never again bear the weight of a crown upon his head. And so, it was a blessed relief for the people, when Sansa Stark placed a crown upon her own head.
This was not the crown of her brother Robb, or her cousin Jon. No, this was a crown of her own, created by Gendry Waters in the half-destroyed forges of Winterfell. It was misshapen and not very pretty, made of that same glittering black rock which had been one of their only weapons against the dead. But the way that it shone of the auburn hair of the Queen was breath-taking.
She had not fought in the battle, her hands had never held a blade. Instead she spent days in the crypts with the other women and children, and Varys, who was entirely too selfish to fight. It reminded her very much of the Battle of Blackwater, when she had been a helpless little girl, too young to imagine the horror on the other side of the walls.
The women who had been down there with her would go on to tell tales of the Queen’s bravery, how she had sung to the frightened children, and told them stories about her family’s adventures to cheer them up. These children would grow up to idolize her, much like the rest of the North.
In the blackness of the crypts it had been impossible to know when a new day began, or how the fighting was going. Every noise, every shadow would become fuel for waking nightmares, and daydreams in which Sansa imagined those undead creatures invading their safe space and –
No. She would not think of those things now.
Sansa had felt the pull of the power vacuum keenly after she heard the news of Daenerys’ death, and taking the crown for herself had felt like destiny. It had felt to her, as if this moment was what her life had been leading up to, as if all the pain and suffering had led her to this. When she had Gendry make that crown, on Arya’s recommendation, she had imagined it upon Jon’s head, but upon seeing him after the fighting had stopped had forced her to think again. He had no life in his eyes. But she did. Sansa had the motivation and the drive, she had learned from the best and from the worst, and she was ready. The crown had fit her perfectly.
She remembered the way Joffrey’s crown was slightly too big, and how the Iron Throne used to cut him, as if deeming him unworthy. Who would sit there now? Sansa had no interest in that metal chair, the modest wooden throne in Winterfell’s great hall suited her just fine. Let the lords and ladies of the South squabble over that cursed Iron Throne, she was the Queen in the North, and she could not care less about what happened south of the neck.
The day of her coronation she had made a dress for herself, grey and northern in style, but for one feature. She had left her back bare. Her auburn hair was pulled over her shoulders, so that her people could see how she had bled for them. Some scars were old, left by the blade of Meryn Trant, and some were so new that they had barely healed; Ramsay had liked to use her back as a canvas, weaving around her old wounds. There were gasps and whispers and the people were horrified. She saw Arya’s mask of indifference give way to confusion. Good she thought, let her see that I have not been left unscathed by the years. Sansa had not fought the dead, no, she had fought the living, and she would let people see.
And as she sat in that most modest of thrones for the first time as Queen Sansa Stark, first of her name, she felt very much at home.