Dragonstone Island was a dreary place, everyone said so. Sansa had hoped the rumors were exaggerated to better fit the island’s infamous inhabitants but as she peered over the rail, she found that not to be the case. The land was barren. Huge cliffs of black charcoal colored rock jutted out of the ocean to form the isle. A stench of sulfur and brimstone mixed with the salty sea air and seemed to only grow in strength the closer the ship neared the island. Her spirits sank. Not only was she to be locked away from her family but from society as well.
The trial was supposed to send Joffrey and the Lannisters to prison , not me , she thought bitterly as she clutched the rail tighter.
Still , Sansa mused, trying to find a bright side. This is the last place the Lannisters would think to look for a hidden socialite.
As the ship rounded the corner a harbor came into view. The large volcano that gave life to the island loomed in the background. Against its face, was the ancient stone fortress of House Targaryen. A shiver ran up Sansa’s spine.
Everyone knew of the Targaryens, though few thought of well. Once they had been the absolute rulers of Westeros. But the glorious dragon riders of Westeros were long gone. The dynasty had not an ounce of real power for centuries. And after the scandalously vicious Aerys II, the last remnants of wealth had dwindled as well. Nowadays they were little more than disgraced paupers clutching to a dead title, a product of a bygone era.
“Dragonstone Island.” the words escaped Sansa’s lips in a murmur and followed with a sigh.
"Your home. Quite a sight, isn't it?" the voice of Dontos Hollard, the agent assigned to escort her, broke through Sansa's thoughts.
“Winterfell is my home.” Sansa countered. A sense of pride filled her chest and she reveled in her last chance to say those words aloud.
“Winterfell was Miss Stark’s home, but you are Miss Stone.”
Sansa turned from the rail to face Dontos, who stood on the deck behind her. A cigarette hung from his mouth.
“And Miss Alayne Stone was born in Gulltown 1922 to a shop owner and his wife who are tragically now deceased.” she recited her script perfectly. Her eyes shifted towards the horizon. “This isn’t her home either.”
Dontos didn’t offer a response. Instead, he came to her side and leaned lazily against the rail. Even from this distance, Sansa could smell the alcohol on his breath. But that was nothing new. Dontos was often drinking. He meant well, but truth be told Sansa had little faith in him as a bodyguard. Still she preferred him to his superior Mr. Baelish, whose motives rarely seemed sincere and whose face she could never read. Dontos was usually cheery and kind, although today his spirits seemed dampened. Perhaps it was the weather or, on a more serious note, the severity of the situation. After three weeks of being sequestered in a highly secure hotel room, this was the first time Sansa had stepped foot into public. It was the first time she was vulnerable.
During the trial there had been three witnesses who suddenly “disappeared”. The first two, what remained of them at least, had been found floating in Blackwater Bay in the coming weeks and the third still remained unaccounted for. Only fools thought he was still among the living. The events triggered the Federal Investigation Bureau to take extraordinary measures in protecting the remaining witnesses from further Lannister aggression. Even after the trial, the danger hadn’t cleared. There was a high chance it would never clear given the family’s vindictiveness. And so Sansa Stark was renamed to Alayne Stone and sent off to live in secret.
The ship pulled into port and Sansa stepped onto the stony pier with Dontos’ assistance. There were a sprinkling of small buildings onshore, mostly inns and taverns for the sailors whose ships visited the island often to carry mineral shipments of Dragonglass to the mainland.
“Will I be staying at one of the inns?” Sansa asked nervously. The things she’d overheard some of the sailors say during her journey mortified her and made her pale cheeks flush pink with embarrassment. She couldn’t imagine living in such close quarters with the likes of them.
“No, there’s a cottage up on the outskirts of town.” Dontos led Sansa down the pier. “I’m afraid it’s not what you’re used to.”
Sansa caught the prick of shame in his voice. She quickened to think of a compliment.
“A cottage? It sounds cozy and charming.”
“Charming, eh?” Dontos let out a laugh. “Well I’m not sure I’d call it that. It’s in need of some repairs, truth be told. And it’s only got the one bedroom.”
“I’m sure it’s lovely.” Sansa assured politely.
“We’ll have to walk. There aren’t many automobiles on Dragonstone. No railways or trams neither.”
“How does everyone travel then?”
“Mostly they don’t. Nowhere on Dragonstone worth goin’ outside of town. Not unless you work in the mines or fancy a visit to the Targaryens or Baratheons. None of which you need to worry your pretty head about.”
“The Baratheons?” Sansa asked. She knew of the Targaryens of course, but while the second name sounded vaguely familiar, she struggled to place it.
“The Baratheon Mining Company drives the economy of Dragonstone. Stannis Baratheon bought the rights to all mining activity on the island from none other than Aerys Targaryen himself.” Dontos explained, adding a laugh. “The mad fool thought the dragonglass was worthless. Baratheons have made a fortune mining it ever since.”
“ But why live here? It’s such a...” Sansa paused, thinking of the word to describe the island best. She felt a pang in her heart. “Lonely place.” she finished with downcast eyes.
“Well Stannis is rarely away from King’s Landing, on account of business, but that wife and daughter of his are here alright. Can’t say why. Strange bunch though. Between them and the Targaryens, it’s hard to say who’s worse.”
Sansa suddenly remembered why the name sounded familiar in the first place. She had known a man called Renly Baratheon once. He was one of the most handsome men she’d ever met with his tall stature, muscular build, and dark black hair. Sansa had always liked black hair. They had played in the same high society circles and attended the same parties for a time. But those days were gone. The last thing she wanted was to be recognized.
If such news ever got back to the Lannisters… Sansa didn’t even want to think about how they might respond.
“They wouldn’t happen to be related to Renly Baratheon, would they?” Sansa asked, her tummy filling with dread.
“Renly is Stannis’s little brother.”
“I-- Sansa ,” she caught her mistake and corrected it quickly. “Used to know him. They were only briefly acquainted, but…”
“Don’t worry, Renly’s not here. And he’s not likely to show up. That one never leaves King’s Landing. Besides,” Dontos continued. “You don’t look at all like Miss Stark. Why would he pay any mind to you?”
It was true. Sansa’s hair had once fallen past her shoulders like film star Veronica Lake. But now her auburn locks had been cut short and dyed a chocolate brunette. Her opulent gowns and stylist outfits had been swapped to simple frocks of plain material. A pair of spectacles sat on the bridge of her nose accomplishing nothing besides altering her appearance. In the end, she didn’t look at all like herself. That was the whole point, after all.
“Baelish has arranged a job for you. The local librarian needs an assistant.” Dontos said.
“I understand.” Sansa nodded. She’d never done a day’s work in her life, but she knew that would have to change once she arrived on Dragonstone. Everything would change on Dragonstone.