“Riverrun,” she said simply, sitting back in her chair demurely, to take a sip of her wine.
Robb sighed from his seat beside his sister, his closest confident, since his father’s head was taken and his mother, his dear, sweet mother, succumbed to fever during his campaign. So much had been lost on his journey to secure the North, the avenge his father’s death, and now they wanted Sansa.
They sat in her solar, in front of the hearth, as they did most evenings. Her name-day had not long since past, his beautiful sister was ten and seven, and he had only had her back for a few years.
He first laid his eyes on her on the morning after his wedding, when the Kingslayer and Lady Brienne rode furiously to the Twins with their Northern Princess between them, determined to fulfil their vow to Lady Catelyn, unknown to them she had since met her Gods.
Robb had been roused from his sleep, his pretty new wife still tangled amongst him, by Theon pounding on his door. Robb had run to the yard in his tunic and breeches and collided with his sweet sister, in a heap on the floor. Not very kingly, but he couldn’t give a damn.
Arya joined them, having returned to him just before his wedding, riding in with her hands bound with her vicious looking companion, “had to bind the little bitch, because she kept trying to escape,” the Hound had barked at him.
The three Starks, a king and his two princesses stayed locked together on the ground in a riot of grey and red. The howls of anguish and relief between them were soon joined by Greywind and his lonely brother Ghost, who lamented in the woods afar for Lady and Nymeria, who had not returned with his sisters. The sight in that muddy yard brought a tear to the eye of many a stoic Northerner that day, and Robb had loathed to let them out of his sight since.
Robb would be forever in the debt of their rescuers, the Hound, despite his prickly nature, had even tried to convince Sansa to leave the capital with him those moons ago. He offered them roles in his council and riches at his disposal as way of thanks, but all they wanted was to continue to serve and protect his sisters.
Jaime Lannister received a full pardon for his past crimes. This in itself was a feet of diplomacy. Lady Brienne and Sansa had stood in his defence at his trial, as he laid his sword at Sansa’s feet and swore himself to her for the end of his days. It was difficult for even the most disgruntled Northern Lord to argue with that. Brienne had followed shortly after.
The Hound swore no vows, but he remained all the same, training and chasing after Arya, railing and cursing savagely to anyone who so much as looked at him, all except Sansa, the poor fool, like so many others, seemed utterly tamed by the Rose of Winterfell.
The early days of his marriage had suffered, that first night he had left his Queen’s bed at the sound of Sansa’s screams. Jaime stood grimly at her door, hand on the pommel of his sword as he guarded her.
“How often, the nightmares?” Robb had asked with anguish, eyes fixed on the door.
“Every night,” Lannister replied.
Robb spend his remaining time at the Twins, sitting at the foot of her bed, Sansa and Arya sleeping together, hands clasped. His sweet wife Roslin, was understanding to a fault, but he didn’t know her then, and it took more time that needed. He was not free in his affections, for his sisters were his priority.
But it was different now. Time, as the tales say, is a great healer. Their kingdom was safe, and the North was free. They had returned to Winterfell after the taking of King’s Landing. His alliance, although tentative, with the Targaryen girl and her kin, had been fruitful.
He had little from them when Lord Varys, the odious man, and Tyrion Lannister had rode into the Twins not one week after Sansa’s return, except the decimation of Joffrey and his foul mother. He had little care for who sat on the wretched Southern chair. So, an accord was struck, he would join forces with the Dragon Queen and help her secure her prize, then he could return home, end the years of brutal war, as long as he had three things.
Robb demanded an annulment of the marriage between Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister. Tyrion, in Robb’s temporary council chambers, had the bravery to argue for two minutes that a marriage between the wolf and the lion might be fruitful for all, the Kingslayer had drawn his sword on his brother there and then, and Greywind has snarled. It was not mentioned again and the annulment, on the grounds of non-consummation was hastily arranged.
The second of his conditions, was that, should the opportunity arise, he would pass the sentence on Joffrey Baratheon himself. This was readily agreed.
The third, was that the North would remain and independent kingdom, as it had been for thousands of years, alongside the Vale and Riverrun, which had declared themselves in Robb’s cause. Together the three kingdoms would become one, under a new North. The Dragon queen could keep the rest. This took some contention. She would not be happy, the argued, to which he stoically replied it was that or nothing.
“It will not be the last we hear from her, even if she agrees to this Robb,” Sansa had told him, for a girl so young her political mind was fierce, another kind gift from her time in the South, “she will want something more, for cutting the kingdom she believes is hers in two, mark my words brother.”
Nevertheless, the peace treaty between the Dragon and the Wolf was signed.
The battle, some moons later, was bloody and fierce. Arya had stole away with him, in a baggage train, much to his chagrin, but Sansa had gone to Riverrun with Roslin, Ghost and Lady Brienne as their guard.
Robb had known magic, the blood of the First Men ran through his veins, he could even see through his direwolf’s eyes, but the first time he laid his eyes on a dragon had awed him completely. He could appreciate their strength and majesty, but he didn’t trust them, the three dragons, which Daenerys Targaryen hailed as her children unnerved him in a way he had never felt before.
The woman in question, their so called ‘mother’, although beautiful, was far less impressive than Varys and Tyrion had led him to believe, from what he could gleam, the slight woman had little mind for politics, but had amassed a loyal following, and he could not fault her fierceness on her dragon. His heart clenched for his lost brother’s, Bran and Rickon, who would have loved to have seen such a sight.
Her fellow dragon rider, her nephew and a cousin to the Starks, if the stories were led to be believed was another revelation. Jon Targaryen, who had shunned his Valerian name, to honour the one his own Lord father, Ned Stark had given him, had none of the features of his Southern heritage, there was little dragon in Lyanna’s son, except for his ability to ride and bond with his dragon.
The sacking of King’s Landing took three days. The dragons had destroyed the royal fleets and port. The Northerners had been adamant that the people within the city walls not be harmed, Sansa had led that particular argument. The dragons, all three of them had destroyed the most prominent gates into the city, a strategy of Robb’s, allowing the armies to pour in.
Robb fought where the fighting was thickest, as he always did, with Greywind and his fellow Northmen at his side. He had never felt such hatred in his bones than when he was the first to storm the throne room, his face covered in blood and filth, with his wolf at his side, he looked like a barbarian, as all the Southern tales told and he relished in the look of horror on the simpering Joffrey’s face as he cowered on his throne, the realisation of his defeat all too clear.
Robb had taken a moment as he came across the children, Tommen and Myrcella, who his siblings had played with once, as they lay dead in the arms of Cersei, the bottles of poison in shards at her feet. Jaime Lannister, overcome with grief and rage at the sight, took his sword to his own sister. He let him have this moment, he would never understand the Lannisters, who one moment could lay with one another and the next slay them, but he did not intervene. Jaime had been free from her clutches for long enough.
He took great pleasure in throwing Joffrey Baratheon from his ghastly throne, spitting on the ground where he lay as he ordered his men to see him in chains, “you will be dead come the dawn, for my father, for the scars you placed upon my sister, may your gods judge you,” he told him solemnly, he would speak no further words to him.
He took little interest in the Dragon Queen, who preened on her new throne once she made her way into their red castle, it was of little consequence to him, he kept to the rooms they had hastily arranged for him. He sat with his closest men, as they regaled their tales of battle. Robb sat silently in their company, sharpening his sword in preparation for the morn with Jon Targaryen at his side. It seemed the man had little care for the new Southern court, he had done his duty, that was all he wanted. Robb had attained a kinship with his cousin in the weeks they had spent together.
The following morning, on the steps where his father had met his end, after saying the old words, he took the head of Joffrey Baratheon, with thoughts of Eddard and Catelyn, and his brothers still lost to him in his mind.
“Have him burned,” he cautioned the Unsullied around him, “The North remembers.” Arya had repeated the words after, as she stood beside him.
The pretty Dragon Queen had requested he remain, to see the new age she would begin, that she said would be great and just. He politely declined, eager to return to his wife and Sansa in Riverrun, and finally make their way back to Winterfell, after so many years away.
He left, with his army and his wolf, the very same day, as the blood of the King who killed his father dried on his blade. Winter was coming, and he had no love of the South.
“Riverrun,” Sansa repeated. He tore his eyes from the flames of the hearth, leaving his memories of past events behind him as he returned to his sister, to the present.
“No, Sansa,” he said firmly, “I will not allow it, I will not have you taken from me, not at the request of a Targaryen.”
“You will, you must. You are a king, you have seen what lays beyond the wall, you have seen the dead men who still walk, one was brought into our very hall for our inspection. We have a kingdom to protect, and we need her Dragons and her dragon glass, if this is what it takes, if a marriage is what she asks for, then I will consider it.”
He smacked his hand to his leg in frustration, scrunching the scroll from Tyrion Lannister in his other palm, the meaning was quite clear. The South would aid them in their fight against the Night King if he gave them a Stark bride, another Lyanna. His Lyanna would be Sansa, his beloved, favourite sister who has not long returned to him.
“All women of my birth know such a fate Robb,” she said gently, “I will do what is required, Winter Is Coming, and the dead come with it, we shall do what we must to survive.”
He sighed in exasperation, the weight of his crown metaphorically heavy above him, to use his sister in trade of provisions, of fire, it made him sick to his stomach.
“And anyway,” Sansa continued, “I have only agreed to meet with him, with the council, to discuss it further…” she paused, “but I will not journey further than the Riverlands, I vowed to not step back in the South again, they must meet us there, we shall take Brienne, Sir Jaime, the Hound, and a few loyal nobles, and of course Ghost and Greywind, we will be back in time for the birth of your sweet babe, your heir.”
He reached across, bridging the gap between their chairs and clasped her hand in his, “everyday I curse myself that it was not I who saved you from them, I thank the gods for Ser Jaime and Lady Brienne, but I vowed to protect you until the end of my days, I will not give you lightly to someone you do not want…”
“My sweet king,” she teased, “your safe reign is the best protection I have, Roslin will give us a litter of Stark pups,” he grinned involuntarily at her as she continued, “and I will do my part too, I cannot swing a sword of dragon glass or command an army, but politics and alliances have a role to play too, besides, we couldn’t possibly subject the poor fool to Arya, Targaryen or not, it would be cruel,” she finished primly, turning back to the flames.
He barked a laugh once before releasing a deep breath, “does it not get tiresome, always being right?”
She removed her hand from his and smacked it off the arm of her chair in reply.
“Riverrun then, I will reply to their missive tomorrow. But, just to meet, to talk with them, I will promise nothing more, you are a Princess of the North, the Rose of Winterfell, no man will ever be worthy of you sister…”
She smiled at him sweetly, it was a true smile, but it didn’t reach all the way to her eyes, they never did anymore. Not after what she had seen, he imagined she hadn’t laughed freely or smiled from her toes to the tip of her copper tresses since the moment she watched their father die. The girl full of songs and tall tales was long gone, he hoped he would meet her again soon, but he would do everything in his power, as a king, as a brother, as a protector, to see her happy once more.