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And the Birds sing no more

Chapter Text

Finally, after weeks of traveling and enduring hardships, the ancestral home of her mother appeared on the horizon. The castle of Riverrun, at the junction of the Red Fork and the Tumblestone, with its bright sandstone walls and its shingle covered towers looked like one of the castles in the stories she had once loved.

Even the sun had broken through the thick layer of clouds that had been their companion for the last couple of days, after the rain stopped. It nearly seemed to Sansa that even the weather wanted to celebrate her return to her family.
Today, Sansa would finally see them again. She hadn’t seen any member of her family since the day her father had lost his head on the steps in front of the sept of Baelor, and the last time she had seen her mother and brother had been at Winterfell the day she had traveled south with her father and Arya.

Sansas heart swelled at seeing the direwolf banner flying proudly above the towers in the wind.
Sandor slowly led his horse on the muddy wooden bridge that led to the drawbridge.

“Who goes there?” a guard yelled down.

Sandor pulled his horse to a halt.

“The bloody Hound, Sandor Clegane. I demand entrance, to return Princess Sansa Stark to her mother and brother.”

The drawbridge didn’t move and the guard didn’t give an answer back.

“Do you think they don’t believe you?” Sansa asked carefully, turning around in the saddle to face her companion. He looked down to her.

“If they didn’t believe us, we would be dead by now little bird.”

He pointed to battlements and Sansa eyes widened at the sheer number of crossbows pointed at them.

“Open the gates!”

The drawbridge slowly started to lower. Sandor slowly rode into the castle. Sansa looked around and saw many curious eyes on them, trying to spot her mother and brother.

Sandor stopped his horse and dismounted. He grabbed her by the waist and gently lifted her off his black beast.

“Sansa?” a warm female voice called from behind. Sansa immediately knew it was her mother when she turned around.

“Mother!” Sansa squealed and ran towards her mother, flinging herself into her arms. Sansa felt tears well in her eyes and the feeling of her mother’s embrace.

Sansa loosened her embrace when she felt another hand on her back. When she turned, she saw the face of her elder brother.

He had changed. He now had a beard and a bronze crown rested on his head. Sansa flung herself in his arms.

“You are safe now, Sansa.”

She felt him loosen the embrace and Sansa saw a woman she didn’t know.

Sandor hadn’t moved, and was still holding the reigns of Stranger.

Robb turned to Sandor and eyed him from head to toe.

“Put him in chains and throw him in the dungeons.”

Sansa desperately grabbed Robb’s arm.

“No!” Sansa yelped. “Please Robb, he saved me!”

“He can’t hurt you anymore, Sansa”, Robb said looking at her like she had grown a second head.

“No Robb, please let me explain, he…”

Robb interrupted her.

“We won’t talk here about it. Bring my sister to my solar.”

Her mother grabbed her hand and led her to the entrance of the keep. When Sansa looked around, she saw that everybody in the courtyard was watching them.

“Great Uncle, bring Clegane, but keep him in chains.”

A tall man that must be her great uncle, the Blackfish, walked over to Clegane and Sansa shook her head lightly when Sandor’s hand wandered to the pommel of his sword.
Sansa only could hope Sandor wouldn’t do anything stupid. She would explain everything to her mother and brother.
Her mother led her through the corridors and halls of Riverrun up to the solar, that probably had belonged to her grandfather before.
They entered the solar and the auburn haired man and unknown woman followed them. While Robb took his place at the large table, the auburn haired man came over to her and kissed her hand.

“It’s nice to finally meet you, Sansa. I am you uncle Edmure.”

Of course, Sansa should have known it.

“It is good to meet you, uncle. I am glad to finally be here.”

“And this is my wife Talisa, Sansa,” Robb said from the table with the woman besides him.
“Your grace,” Sansa said kindly with a courtesy.

“Please call me Talisa, Sansa. We are family, after all.”

The door opened and her great uncle entered with Clegane in tow. He had shackles tying his hand and legs, restricting his movement. It made Sansa’s heart clench to see him in chains.

“Please Robb, it’s not necessary to chain him up. He means no harm.”

“Sansa, he is your King. Show him that much respect,” her mother reminded her sharply.

“Don’t worry about me, little bird.” Sandor said. Robb folded his hands at his chin.

“Why are you here, Clegane?”

“What does it look like? I brought back your sister.”

“If this is the doing of the Imp or Cersei Lannister to get back the Kingslayer, I must disappoint you. He is already gone.”

Sandor laughed. “I don’t give a shit about the Kingslayer, wolfboy.”

“Watch your tongue, Clegane, or you will lose it”, Robb said in a frosty voice.

“Please Robb, Sandor helped me to escape during Stannis Baratheon’s attack on King’s Landing.”

“I didn’t ask you, Sansa, and he is Clegane to you. What is it you want, Clegane? Gold?”

“Bugger your gold. I didn’t save your sister for money. I ask to become her shield, to keep her safe like I did in King’s Landing and during our travel.”

Robb jumped out of his seat.

“You are the Lannister dog and nothing more. You have been the shield of the murderer of my father. I would never make her the shield of my beloved sister! She now has her family to keep her safe.”

Sandor snorted.

“Where was her damn family when the boy king had her look at your father’s head on a spike? Where was her family when he had her beaten at court or when the mob went after her? I kept her safe while you played king, boy, and I will continue to do so.”

Sansa saw that Robb fists clenched as he glared daggers at Sandor.

“You will leave now. I will give you a bag of gold, because of Sansa’s return to us. Take it or leave it, I don’t care, but you will leave and should I ever see your scarred face in the Riverlands or the North again, I will put your ugly head on a pike.”

This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen, Sansa thought desperately. The whole time during their travel, Sansa had tried to convince Sandor to stay with her when they reached Riverrun, until he finally promised he would stay and ask to become her shield. She had told him that her mother and brother would listen to her.

“Robb, please…” Sansa pleaded.

“Enough, Sansa. Stop it,” her mother hushed her in a sharp tone.

Sansa desperately looked around for someone to support her pleading. Hot tears of desperation started to pool in her eyes. She felt like she was back on the steps of the sept of Baelor, when she had pleaded for her father’s life, but no one had stepped up to save him. No one would help her now.

“I don’t want your gold,” Sandor finally said calmly in a defeated tone. “I only ever wanted her to be safe and happy.”

Sansa felt her heart clench at these words, because she knew he really meant them. He had never lied to her. Before Sansa knew what she was doing, she ran towards Sandor and flung her arms around his neck crying angry tears against his neck.

“Sansa!” her mother called out, shocked.

“There, there, little bird,” Sandor whispered only for her to hear, trying to rub her back as well as his shackles allowed it.

“Please Sandor, take the gold, for my sake. It will gladden my heart to know I could at least give you something in return once,” Sansa said, her voice heavy with emotions for everyone to hear.

“Aye, I will take it, but only because you want me to, little bird.” His eyes held sadness and resignation.

“Uncle, bring a bag of gold and lead him to his horse.” Robb declared.

“Yes, your grace,” Edmure said and led Clegane out of the solar.

When the door had closed she tried to address her brother again. “Robb, I plead with you, Sandor is a good and loyal man. He will keep me safe and ...”

Her mother interrupted her again. “Stop it, Sansa! Your brother is the King and he has decided. Clegane is lucky he is allowed to live. You are much too close to this man. Throwing yourself at him like a harlot, it seems you have completely forgotten everything Septa Mordane and I taught you about the behavior of a lady. I hope that was only a reaction to the exhausting travel.”

“I apologize, mother,” Sansa said. She had no energy left for another fight.

“May I at least go to the gates and watch his departure?” Sansa asked.

“I don’t see why not,” Robb said with a shrug. “Take our great uncle with you. I will see you at the feast to celebrate your return.”

“Your grace,” the Blackfish said and offered Sansa his arm.

Sansa gave her brother and mother a curtesy, before taking her great uncle’s arm and walked with him to the battlements above the main gate.

“It’s good you are back, Sansa. Your mother and brother missed you horribly.”

“Really? It doesn’t seem that way for me,” Sansa said with some sadness in her voice.

“You came back with the Lannister Hound, after all. His brother committed unspeakable atrocities in the Riverlands in the name of Joffrey.”

“Sandor isn’t his brother. He did nothing but help me since the day my father lost his head and now the only appreciation he gets is a bag of gold and an exiling,” Sansa said bitterly.

“You must understand your mother and brother. They have had a difficult time lately.And your mother caused tension between the Karstarks and Robb by freeing the Kingslayer in exchange for you and Arya ”

“Arya hasn’t been seen since the day the Lannisters massacred our household.”

Sansa still remembered the day. Septa Mordane had sent Sansa to her rooms, when they first heard the sound of the fights. When Sansa had reached the room Sandor had already awaited her and locked her in with crying Jeyne Poole.

“How did Robb and Talisa meet?”

“She was a nurse and they met after the Battle of Oxcross. It was a foolish move to marry her, but I think they fell in love right there.”

Sansa sighed. “Good for Robb. He fell in love after his victory, while I was punished for it in King’s Landing.”

Her great uncle looked intensely at her awaiting further explanation, but stopped when the drawbridge lowered below them.

Sansa saw Sandor slowly ride over the drawbridge. When he reached the other side, he turned to give the castle one last look. She waved at him and he waved back at her giving her a sad smile. Sandor turned around and kicked Stranger to a gallop and rode off into the dying daylight. Sansa felt like a part of her heart and soul was leaving in this moment too.

***

Sansa didn’t care about the large feast held in honor of her return, but she smiled and greeted everybody, as was expected of her. The Northern lords all told her how much she looked like her mother and Sansa accepted every compliment they gave her for being that brave to go with the Hound.

Sansa unenthusiastically pushed around the food on her plate. After nearly two months of dried meat and stale bread and some hares if they were lucky, she should be excited to eat trout wrapped in bacon with buttered vegetables, but having to say goodbye to Sandor earlier had made her stomach turn into a knot.

Even her mother presenting her a plate of fresh lemon cakes couldn’t lift her mood. Some musicians started to play and Robb and his wife opened the dance.

Patrek Mallister asked for the honor and Sansa danced with him and then with Robin Flint. When Sansa was dancing Smalljon Umber, he made compliments about her beauty and braveness.

Once his words might would have made her fall for him with the blink of an eye, but now Sansa wasn’t that easy to impress anymore. Sandor had taught her that looks aren’t everything and that sweet words can come out of the mouths of the vilest people.

The whole time during her dance with the Smalljon, Sansa couldn’t stop thinking on how she would have liked to dance with Sandor at least once.

The thought of never seeing him again, pained her heart for some reason. Shouldn’t she be happy? She was finally reunited with her mother and brother and as far away from Joffrey and Cersei as possible. Still she didn’t feel as she thought she should be.

***


Later after the feast was over her mother brushed out her hair, like she had done it when she was a young girl in Winterfell.

 

“I am glad you are back, Sansa,” her mother said while brushing the auburn curls falling down her back.

 

“I am as well, even if I dearly hoped Sandor would be allowed to stay as my shield.”

Catelyn sighed. “Sansa, it’s improper to have him as your shield and stop calling him by his name or people will start to talk and ruin your reputation.”

Sansa didn’t answer, but enjoyed the feel of the brush against her hair.

“How did they treat you in King’s Landing. Uncle Brynden mentioned you told him you were punished for Robb’s victory at Oxcross.”

Sansa remembered the day vividly. Sandor had come to her room to make her hurry, so she wouldn’t let Joffrey wait too long.

“Yes, I was punished,” Sansa simply said.

“What punishment did they give you? After all, you were a royal hostage.”

“Joffrey ordered a member of the Kingsguard to tear my dress to shreds. Then, he ordered them to beat me with their swords in front of the whole court.”

Sansa felt the movement of the brush stop.

“Is this true, Sansa?” Catelyn asked horrified.

“Yes, mother. Lord Tyrion stopped it and Sandor gave me his cloak to cover myself after this humiliation. And it wasn’t the only time Joffrey had me beaten by the Kingsguard. Sandor was the only one who never beat me.”

“We didn’t know Sansa. Ser Cleos told us you were healthy and well, when he saw you.”

“Who is Ser Cleos?”

“A Lannister Robb sent to transmit his conditions for peace, but Cersei never agreed to them.”

“Why didn’t he simply exchanged me for Ser Jaime? You had him for so long.”

“Robb couldn’t. It would have weakened his position, to exchange the Kingslayer for a girl.”

For a girl, Sansa thought bitterly. Too bad I was just his sister and not his brother.

“How did it come you left with the Hound then?” her mother asked while continuing the brushing.

“During the battle of the Blackwater, I was with Cersei and the other noble ladies in Maegor’s Holdfast. It wasn’t clear who would win and at some point we got the news that the city was falling to Stannis and panic broke out. Cersei left and I feared Ilyn Payne would take my head. Cersei had told me this wouldn’t be a victory for the North, so I fled to my room and Sandor was already there waiting for me.”

“Why was he waiting for you?” Catelyn asked scandalously.

“Lord Tyrion used wildfire, setting the whole Blackwater ablaze and Sandor fought until he saw that the battle was turning against the Lannisters.”

“You didn’t answer my question. Why was he in your room?”

“He helped and saved me before, so he waited for me to tell me he would leave and could bring me to you. And I choose to take my chance.”

Sansa let out the part in which he held a knife to her throat and wanted to hear a song of her. They hadn’t talked about it during their journey, but Sansa knew that Sandor was disgusted with himself for his behavior that night.

“I need to know some things, Sansa,” Catelyn said placing the brush on the dressing table.

“What is it, mother?”

“Have you flowered during your time in Kings Landing?”

Sansa blushed at this question.

“Yes, shortly before the battle,” Sansa said shyly.

“I am sorry I wasn’t there for you. It’s a time a mother should be there for her daughter.”

“When I saw the blood I was horrified. You always told me it was something magical, but it wasn’t. I panicked and tried to cut the bloody stains out with a knife to keep it a secret. That was when Sandor found me and calmed me down before escorting me to Cersei.”

Sansa had to smile a bit at the memory how he had always treated her like a raw egg, when she got her moonblood during their journey, asking her all the time if she was alright, or needed a break or something else.

Her mother moved the chair she was sitting in, so Catelyn stood right in front of it. Sansa didn’t like the intense look her mother gave her, like she was looking for some flaw.

“You mention Clegane pretty often. Did he ever take liberties with you?”

“Never, mother! Sandor never laid hand on me, he always behaved honorably. I am still a maiden.”

Sandor never had tried anything with her. He had been more honorable than any knight she had ever met. He is no knight, but he saved me all the same, she thought.

“Don’t dare to lie to me, Sansa. You wouldn’t be the first girl to lie about her maidenhood.”

“Mother, he never did anything. He is even the reason I still have my maidenhead. He saved me from being raped in the capital during the bread riots. He was the only one that came back for me.”

“I am glad to hear that, but a maester and a septa will still examine you tomorrow to be sure.”

Sansa was shocked by that. “Why? Don’t you believe me, mother? I am still a maiden.”

“We need to have it official confirmed, to shut any possible talk down. Now off to bed with you, tomorrow will be a busy day.”

After Catelyn had left the room Sansa had been given, Sansa lay in her bed, unable to sleep. The mere thought of being examined horrified her. Silent tears ran down her face. The whole reunion with her family felt wrong and she already missed the feeling of safety she had in Sandor’s presence. She tossed and turned for many hours until she finally drifted off into a nightmare haunted sleep.

Chapter Text

Sansa awoke from her unrestful sleep. The shutters of the windows were still closed and the fire in the fireplace had burned down. It took her a moment to remember where she was. In Riverrun. With her mother and brother. Safe.

Sansa pulled the blankets closer around her. Even with thick castle walls and her brother’s army around her, Sansa didn’t felt completely safe. She missed Sandor’s presence. The sound of his breathing, that had made her feel safe even in the darkest night in the deepest woods.

There was a short knock on her door and her mother strolled in opening the shutters to let in the light of a new day.

“Sansa wake up,” her mother said warmly lightly touching her shoulder with her hand. Sansa only buried her face deeper in the pillow. “Sansa, you need to get up. Now. Maester Vyman is here to examine you.”

Sansa stomach turned into knot.

“Mother, I am a maid. Why don’t you believe me?” Sansa said quietly, trying to fight back the tears that had started to pool in her eyes.

Her mother sighed.

“Stop behaving like a child, Sansa,” her mother said in a stern voice. She pulled away Sansa’s blanked and Sansa jumped up at the cold air hitting her skin.

“Maester Vyman, do what has to be done, I will wait in front of the door. Sansa do what the maester requests of you.”

Sansa nodded defeated. This was a fight she couldn’t win. Her mother left the chamber, leaving her alone with the maester and a septa that accompanied him.

“My lady, would you please so kind to lie down on the bed.”

Sansa did as bid and the septa pushed her nightgown up to her hip, spreading her legs with her hand. She winced at the feel of the septa's hands.

“You don’t have to be afraid, my lady.” Maester Vyman said kindly, but it didn’t ease Sansa's discomfort.

Even if this maester was sworn to her brother, Sansa couldn’t stop thinking on the day Maester Pycelle had examined her after her father’s death. How his hands had traveled all over her body, while a septa had held her down.

“I will begin now, my lady. It won’t take long.”

Sansas hands grabbed the sheet, when she felt Maester Vyman’s fingers at her most private place. She shut her eyes and silent tears ran down her marble skin. Sansa had no idea how long the maester and the septa examined her, but it felt like an eternity, when the septa suddenly stood up and went to the door and her mother entered again.

“And?” she asked the maester.

The maester nodded to her. “Your daughter is a maid, Lady Stark.”

“Thank you, maester.”

The maester nodded and left with the septa in tow. When the door locked, Sansa immediate pulled down her nightgown to cover her bare legs and woman’s place again. Sansa crawled up to the head of the bed and hugged her legs to her chest.

“I told you I was a maid,” Sansa whispered, eying her mother.

“We needed to be sure, Sansa, please understand that.” Catelyn sat down on the bed next to her. “I ordered a bath and some food for you. A handmaiden will help you. We have guests requesting an audience; it would be good to have you at this meeting.” Her mother kissed her forehead and then she was gone again. Sansa had no idea what guests her mother talked about. Sansa’s grandfather Hoster had only died a week ago and the funeral had been only days before she had arrived.

 

***

 

Shortly after her mother left, the handmaiden arrived to help with her bath. Once refreshed, she dressed and braided her hair in a simple northern way. Her mother entered her chamber, just as the handmaiden tied the last lace of her dress.

She was escorted to the solar by her mother, where Robb, her uncle Edmure and the Blackfish, already had taken seat at a long table. Two men she didn’t knew sat on the opposite side. Their sigils showed a bridge and Sansa knew that had to be Freys. Like all Stark children, she had learned the sigils and mottos of all the important houses of Westeros.

Servants had just poured them wine, when her mother took her seat right of Robb and gestured to Sansa to take the empty chair right of her.

“Thank you for riding here so quickly. I know travel isn't easy in these times,” Robb said.

“The roads are crawling with cutthroats and bandits, but when the King of the North summons us, we come.”

“Our father has instructed us to tell you that his alliance with the North can continue if his terms are met. Lord Frey requires a formal apology for your violation of your sacred oath to marry one of his daughters.”

Her brother nodded. “Of course. He deserves as much. I was in the wrong.”

“As restitution for this betrayal, he demands Harrenhal and all its attendant lands,” the one Frey said.

Sansa had never been to Harrenhal. She had only seen it once in the distance with Sandor. “I don't think that's…” Uncle Edmure started.

“We are fighting for the North. Harrenhal is not in the North. It is his once the war is over and we have no further strategic need for it,” her brother interrupted him.

“And there's something else.”

“We will do whatever we can to give Lord Frey what he needs.”

“Not what, whom.”

Sansa felt her heartbeat quicken, but the Frey wasn’t looking at her. He looked at her uncle, as well as Robb and the Blackfish did.

“What? No…No,” Edmure muttered.

“Our father requires Lord Edmure to wed one of his daughters…Roslin.”

“How old is she?” Sansa’s uncle asked.

“Nineteen”, they Frey said plainly.

Only three years older than me, Sansa thought.

“Could I see her first?”

“You want to count her teeth?” Sansa was shocked that this man talked about his sister like she was a piece of cattle. “We depart for the Twins in the morning. We need an answer before we leave and a wedding not more than a fortnight thereafter or this alliance is at an end.”

“Your father does realize we're in the middle of a war?” her great uncle asked.

“Father is old. It will put his heart at peace if he could see her wed to a good husband. And his recent experience has made him wary of long engagements.”

“He has every right to be,” Robb said.

“My Lords,” her mother spoke up. “When I negotiated the crossing of the Twins at the beginning of this war, Robb wasn’t the only one promised. Your father agreed to the betrothal of Elmar Frey with Arya. Arya is lost to us, but Sansa has returned to us. She is a flowered maiden of six and ten. I suggest a betrothal to one of Lord Walders sons.”

Sansa suddenly felt cold. Her mother couldn’t marry her off to a Frey.

“No, mother!” Sansa yelped.

“That’s good. A maid for a maid,” her brother declared.

Sansa couldn’t believe her brother was agreeing to it. The Freys eyed her and it made Sansa squirm to feel their eyes on her.

“Please excuse us while we discuss it and deliver our offer of the hand of my sister to your father.”

The Freys bowed and quickly left the solar, although one of them had a limp. As soon as they had left, Sansa turned to her mother and brother.

“You can’t…” Sansa cried desperately. Robb lifted his hand.

“We don’t discuss that now. Mother, please escort Sansa to her chamber, we will discuss it later.” Robb said, not even turning to her.

“Robb…” Sansa pleaded.

“Come, Sansa,” her mother said, grabbing her arms and leading her out of the solar.

Sansa heard her uncle mutter something behind her, before the door closed again. The whole time, while her mother lead her back to her chamber, she ignored Sansas attempts to talk to her. Sansa entered her chamber and her mother told her she and Robb would talk to her later.

Sansa felt lost and betrayed. A sob escaped her lips and she threw herself onto her bed and buried her face in the pillow. Sobs made her entire body shook while the tears fell freely. How could her mother and brother do that? Wasn’t this whole war about getting her and Arya back and returning to Winterfell?

Sansa pulled the handkerchief out of her sleeve, that Sandor had given her once. It’s the only thing I have of him, she sadly thought, clutching it to her heart.

 

***

 

Sansa must have dozed off. She awoke when her mother and Robb entered her room. Much to her disapproval Talisa also entered the room. Sansa sat up in the bed and her mother and brother stood in front of her, while Robb’s wife waited next to the door, after she had closed it.

“Please don’t make me marry a Frey,” Sansa pleaded.

“Sansa…” her brother started.

“Sansa, must I remind you of the duty to your family?” her mother said sharply, “You are a highborn maiden. Your family expects you to marry for the benefit of alliances, whether you like it or not.”

“But why do I have to secure this alliance, if Robb had broken his promise. Doesn’t this duty for the family also apply to him?” Sansa looked at Talisa.

Robb sighed.

“Look Sansa. We need the Freys to help us take back the North and Winterfell. Without them we won’t be able to get back our home.”

“But it won’t be my home anymore! I will be a Frey at the Twins!” Sansa yelled at him.

“Sansa,” her mother started, “You always knew you would have to leave your home someday, when you would marry.”

“But not so shortly after I returned to you!” Sansa yelped. “Wasn’t this whole war to get back Arya and me?”

“It’s more complicated and you should know it!” Robb yelled at her. Sansa was taken aback. Robb had never yelled at her. She felt her eyes water.

“You can't make me!” Sansa said stubborn. “I will starve myself! I will die before I have to go there!”

“No you won't. Should Lord Frey agree you will be wedded and bedded like every highborn maiden before and after you,” her mother said. Sansa let another sob escape. “I know, Sansa, it is not like in one of your songs or stories, but your uncle also swallowed his pride and agreed to marry the Frey girl.”

“But mother…” Sansa cried.

“No, Sansa, we won't discuss this any further. We love you, but you will stop your childish behavior and do your duty as expected.” Sansa had never seen her mother that stern.

“Please try do understand, Sansa”, her brother said before leaving with Talisa.

“Mother…please…” Sansa whispered, when her mother was closing the door, but her mother didn’t even react.

After the door had locked, Sansa buried her face in her pillow and cried openly until exhaustion took over.

Sansa dreamed of the night Sandor had agreed he would stay, when they reach Riverrun.

“And what would I do in Riverrun, little bird, should your kingly brother, by some miracle, decide against take off my ugly head right away?”

“You will be my shield,” Sansa had told him, smiling over the small fire he had built to roast the hare he had caught.

“And what makes you so sure they will allow it?”

“My mother and brother love me; they will listen to me. When they see me safely back with them, they will reward you with everything you want. If you ask them, they will allow it, I know it. Especially if I tell them how you saved me.”

“I hope you are right, little bird.”

“I know it, Sandor. With you as my shield, nothing bad can happen to me.”

Chapter Text

Sandor had ridden for three days straight, much to Stranger's disapproval. He tried to bring as much distance between himself and the young wolf.

But with every one of Stranger's steps, the distance between him and Sansa grew and, at the same time, the feeling of having betrayed her. He had promised he would stay.

Bugger her damn mother and brother. They were probably just glad to have her back in time to forge some new alliances with her.

Bugger all of them, Sandor thought angrily. The little bird should have known they wouldn’t allow him to stay. Stranger became moodier with every minute. Sandor had to take a break soon.

 

He heard some swearing close by, and saw that a carriage was stuck in the muddy road. One elderly man tried to push the cart, while the sorry creature he called horse tried to pull with all his strength. The cart was loaded with several casks.

“Need a hand?” Sandor asked.

“Need about eight hands, to maybe have a chance.”

Sandor dismounted and started to push the cart. After a while the cart started to move and suddenly the cart was free again.

“Many thanks, ser,” the elder man said kindly.

“I am no ser. What's on your carriage?”

The man petted one of the heavy casks. “Wine and ale for the wedding. I have to hurry and take the ferry at Harroway, if I want to reach the Twins in time.”

Sandor snorted. “Has Lord Frey survived another wife, so that they celebrate a wedding?” Sandor asked ironic.

“Not this time,” the man said laughing. “Lord Edmure will marry one of Lord Walders daughters and the sister of the young wolf is going to marry one of his sons.”

Sandor's facial expressions must have changed at hearing this.

“Are you alright, ser?” the man asked carefully.

“Yes. Can I buy some wine?”

“No. Take as much as you want. That’s the least I can do for your help.”

Sandor only nodded and took the seven wineskins the man handed him.

“With seven blessings, good man.”

While the cart rumbled away, Sandor led Stranger on his reins into the nearby woods and tied him at a tree, before Sandor sat down and pulled the cork from the first skin.
“Fuck,” he muttered. What the hell was wrong with him. Before he would have simply killed that man to get the wine and now he would have paid him. Damn the little bird had changed him. He quickly gulped down the first skin of sour red.

Fuck the mother and brother of the little bird, Sandor thought while unplugging the second skin. He only saved her from the clutched of the lions, so that she was sold off like cattle.

After the second skin, he cursed about the little bird. She had to know that she wasn’t more than a piece in the greater game, even for her brother.

After the fourth, he tried remember the tiny smiles she had started to give him during their journey.

At the fifth, Sandor thought on how much he wanted to be her shield, even if it only was to see her every day and hear her soft voice.

When he reached the sixth, he only wanted to forget, he would never see her again.

At the seventh he passed out.

 

***

 

When he awoke, he had no idea where he was. His headache was killing him and he couldn’t see anything. His hands were tight and he had a sack over his head. He was on a cart, that much was clear.

Fuck, Sandor thought. The young wolf sent his men after me to bring him my head.

When the cart stopped he was pulled down and someone poked in his back to make him walk. He heard voices around him.
The young wolf wants a spectacle when he executes me, Sandor thought.

The sack was pulled of his head, but instead of seeing a Stark man, he saw the face of Thoros of Myr.

“So good to see you again Clegane,” he said.

“Thoros? The fuck are you doing here?”

“Drinking and talking too much. Same as ever. A pretty prize, lads.”

Bugger me, Sandor thought as three people tried to move pass him as quick as they could.

“Hey, girl…” Sandor called. She stopped and turned back to Thoros.

“What in seven hells are you doing with the young wolf's sister?” Sandor spat at him.

Thoros looked surprised at the little wolf. He obviously hadn't known.

Shortly after the sack was put above his head again and he was led back to the cart.

The little wolf hadn't been seen since the day her father had been stupid enough to deny Joffrey's claim openly in the throne room. Sandor had to give her credit to make it that far on her own. Most men didn’t survive longer than a few days in the wilderness, but this young girl had made it for over two years by now.

Sandor had no idea how long they had driven, but when the sack was again pulled off his head they were in a large cave. Huge fires burned in several large fireplaces. “You look like a bunch of swineherds.”

“Some of us were swineherds. And some of us tanners and masons. That was before,” one man with a bow said. Sandor knew him. He had won the trophy as the best archer at the tourney of the little bird's father.

“You're still swineherds and tanners and masons. You think carrying a crooked spear makes you a soldier?”

“No. Fighting in a war makes you a soldier.” Sandor knew this man. The man that was sent to kill his brother.

“Beric Dondarrion? You've seen better days.”

“And I won't see them again.”

Sandor looked around. “Stark deserters…Baratheon deserters…you lot aren't fighting in a war. You're running from it.”

“Last I heard, you were King Joffrey's guard dog. But here you are Which of us is running?” Dondarrion said.

“Untie these ropes and we'll find out. What are you doing leading a mob of peasants?” Sandor growled back.

“Ned Stark ordered me to execute your brother in King Robert's name.”

“Ned Stark is dead! King Robert is dead! My brother's alive. You're fighting for ghosts.” Sandor spat in the dirt at his feet.

“That's what we are; ghosts waiting for you in the dark. You can't see us, but we see you. No matter whose cloak you wear; Lannister, Stark, Baratheon. You prey on the weak, the Brotherhood without Banners will hunt you down.”

“You found god? Is that it?” Sandor never had liked people that were overly religious. He'd rather trust in his strong arm and his sword than prayer at the sept.

“Aye. I've been reborn in the light of the one true god. As have we all. As would any man who's seen the things we've seen.”

“If you mean to murder me, then bloody well get on with it.”

“You'll die soon enough, dog. But it won't be murder, only justice. And a kinder fate than you deserve. Lions you call yourselves. At the Mummer's Ford, girls of seven years were raped and babes still on the breast were cut in two while their mothers watched.”

Sounds like my brother’s work, Sandor thought. He had heard rumors about it at court.

“I wasn't at the Mummer's Ford. Dump your dead children at some other door.”

“House Clegane was built upon dead children. I saw them lay Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaenys before the Iron Throne.”

“Do you take me for my brother? Is being born Clegane a crime?” He retorted.

“Murder is a crime!” the archer yelled.

“I never touched the Targaryen babes. I never saw them, never smelled them, never heard them bawling. You want to cut my throat, get on with it! But don't call me murderer and pretend that you're not.”

“You murdered Mycah. The butcher's boy. My friend. He was twelve years old. He was unarmed. And you rode him down. You slung him over your horse like he was some deer,” the little wolf threw in.

“Aye, he was a bleeder.”

Sandor still remembered that day. Not because of the damn butcher boy, but because it had been the first time he had spoken to the little bird. The day she had lost her wolf.

“You don't deny killing this boy?” Beric asked.

“I was Joffrey's sworn shield; the boy attacked the prince.”

“That's a lie! I hit Joffrey! Mycah just ran away!” Arya yelled.

“Then I should have killed you. Not my place to question, princess. Your father learned this the hard way.”

“You stand accused of murder. But no one here knows the truth of the charge, so it is not for us to judge you. Only the Lord of Light may do that now. I sentence you to trial by combat.”

“So, who will it be? Should we find out if your fire god really loves you, priest? Or you, archer? What are you worth with a sword in your hand? Or is the little girl the bravest one here?”

“Aye. She might be. But it's me you'll fight.”

Good, Sandor thought. Beric was a good fighter but not as good as he was.

They cut Sandor's ties and handed him a sword and a wooden shield. He tested the weight of the sword. Not as well balanced as my own, but it will do, Sandor thought. He could kill Beric with his bare hands if it came to that.

“Lord, cast your light upon us. Lord of Light, defend us. Show us the truth. Strike this man down if he is guilty. Give strength to his sword if he is true. Lord of Light, give us wisdom. For the night is dark and full of terrors,” Thoros of Myr preached.

“The night is dark and full of Terrors,” all other men repeated.

Sandor was ready. He had fought countless times for his life. This time was no difference.

Suddenly Berics sword stood in flames and pictures of the burning Blackwater and of the day he got his scars forced themselves into his mind.
Fuck it, Sandor thought and started to hack onto Berics shield until it fell off in pieces. With every swing he felt the heat radiate from Berics blade.
Sandor barely heard the yells of the surrounding people.

He felt the heat rise, when his shield started to burn. The smell of burned flesh reached his nose and he felt the same panic rise in him, as Gregor had pressed his face into the burning coals.
Sandor desperately hacked into his shield, trying to get it off. Ambers surrounded him, while he tried to parry the swings Dondarrion gave him.
Desperation rose in him and he saw the little bird face giving him one of the tiny smiles he liked so much, even if he had never told so, in his mind’s eye.
If he wanted to have the tiniest chance to ever see that smile again he must win. He put all his strength in his strike and Berics swords shattered and Sandor buried his sword deep in Dondarrions shoulder.

Dondarrion collapsed on the ground. Blood spurting everywhere, filling the cave with the smell of iron. Thoros knelt down and muttered some kind of prayer, while Sandor rolled on the ground trying to extinguish the fire on his left arm.
The little wolf tried to stab him but was stopped by the boy that had accompanied her.

“Let me go!” the little wolf yelled.

“Looks like their god likes me more than your butcher's boy.”

“Burn in hell!”

“He will. But not today.”

Sandor was taken aback. How can this be? He had killed Beric and now he was alive again.

“The gods declared him innocent. Tent to his arm and give him back his belongings. Write him a promissory note for his gold.”

Not the gold, Sandor thought. It had been Sansas gift to him.

“Not the gold, I earned it by a good deed”, Sandor rasped, through his teeth as one Brotherhood man bandaged his burned arm.

“And what good deed could this be?” the archer asked teasing.

“I brought the daughter of your beloved Ned Stark back to her family. She made me accept this gold.”

“Liar!”, Arya yelled hatefully.

“Look at the coins it doesn’t bare the face of King Robert or Joffrey. It’s the young wolf.”

Beric and Thoros looked at the coins, whispering to each other.

“We leave you half the gold.”

Normally, Sandor would have argued for it, but now he only wanted to get as far away as possible.
The little birds sister gave him a hateful stare, when he was led out of the cave.

They put the sack again over his head and tied his hands. When he sat on Stranger and hit him so he rode off without Sandor knowing where he was.
It took him only a few minutes until he had freed himself of the ties when Stranger had stopped.

Sandor had to think what he would do now. He had enough gold to buy a passage to the free cities. A sellsword could always find work in the east.
He moved his burned arm a little and he had to think on Sansa again. He couldn’t simply leave her. If he would bring the young wolf the other sister too, he would might allow him to become Sansas shield and if he would take Sandors head it wouldn’t matter anyway if he refused again.

It wasn’t difficult for Sandor to find the cave again. He waited for the evening. Maybe in the darkness, he would be able to take the wolf bitch.
When heavy rain began to fall Sandor cursed the gods for his luck, only to thank them shortly after when Arya stormed out of the cave pursued by men of the Brotherhood.
He grabbed her in one swift move and covert her mouth with his hand so she couldn’t scream. She was kicking the whole way back to Stranger, so he gagged and tied her up.

 

***

 

He rode without break to the morning, before he pulled Stranger to a halt.

“Will you behave and not run away, or do I have to keep you this way?”, Sandor asked the tied bundle that sat in front of him in the saddle.

The wolf bitch glared at him, but then nodded.
Sandor loosened the gag and the ties.

“Is that the Blackwater?”, the wolf bitch asked pointing to a large river a few miles away.

“The Blackwater? Where do you think will take you?”

“To Joffrey and the queen.” The girl said confused.

“Fuck Joffrey, fuck the queen. That’s the Red Fork. We will cross the Trident at Harroway and I will bring you to your mother and brother and sister.”

“Did you really brought Sansa home?”

“Aye, the little bird escaped her cage in the Red Keep and I brought her back. And if you keep yourself from killing me we might get to them in time before the wedding at the Twins.”

Sandor kicked his horse and the large warhorse started to move again.
Faster Stranger, Sandor thought, the little bird is waiting.

Chapter Text

They were traveling for three weeks now. The non-stop rain made their travel to the Twins a toilsome business. Lord Frey had accepted her mother’s offer of her hand for one of his many sons. Of course he had, Sansa thought bitterly.

Sansa had cried the whole day her mother had told her, after the raven from the Twins arrived and desperately wished for her dead direwolf. Her mother had told Sansa that her hand in marriage would show Lord Frey that the Starks were trustworthy allies once again.

They day before they had left Riverrun, Talisa had announced to them that the was with child. Her mother and Robb had been beside themselves with joy. Sansa wasn’t sure she could share their happiness.

Sansa's mother had suggested they could sew her wedding dress and maidenscloak in the evenings during her journey, so her mother could sew it like Sansa would want it. Sansa had told her she didn’t care about it. Since she hadn’t any say in her wedding, why should she now care about the dress she would be forced to wear. Her mother had told her to stop her childish behavior and behave like the lady her mother had raised her to be. Catelyn hasn’t visited her tent after that evening during her journey.

Most of the time during the day she was alone. Simply riding every day from sunrise to sunset, only with short breaks. Her mother rode most of the time with Talisa, while Robb rode with different Lords every day. Sometimes Uncle Edmure or Granduncle Brynden would spent some time with her trying to cheer her up. Her uncle always joked that the wasn’t alone in her misery, but Sansa had simply told him that it was different from him than for her, since he would return home after the wedding, while she would spend the rest of her life at the Twins.

Every evening when they made camp, some soldiers built her tent and Dacey Mormont always brought her dinner. Dacey often gave her sad smiles when she left.

Sansa had finished her dinner of a thick stew with chicken and vegetables. She sat down to work on the embroidery of a handkerchief she has been working on for weeks now. At first, Sansa had only worked on it to kill time, but over the sennight of traveling in the rain, she enjoyed these small moments of peace in her dry tent in the evening. When she started, Sansa hadn’t known what she was making with the thread, but over the time she ended up with a black dog that looked more like a wolf with a little red bird in the corner.

“Sansa?” a soft voice called.

Sansa raised her eyes from the handkerchief in her lap, to see that Talisa had entered her tent. “Your grace,” Sansa said plainly not giving any emotions away.

“I felt like we somehow had a bad start. I want us to become friends. Please call me Talisa.”

“I think that will not be necessary, your grace, since we will not see each other ever again soon enough. But you know that better than me, since you are the reason I will never see my home again,” Sansa said in sweet voice.

Talisa sighed and rolled her eyes. “I am not the reason you won’t see your home again, Sansa. Your mother and brother offered your hand in marriage, not me.”

Could this woman really be that ignorant?

“And why do I have to marry a Frey? Oh right. My brother broke his vow to Walder Frey to marry one of his daughters. You knew that he was promised to another and you nevertheless married him.”

“Your brother did it out of love for me.”

“Do you think that is an excuse!?” Sansa yelled at her.

“There is no reason to be this angry, Sansa. I have done nothing to you.”

Sansa felt the anger rise in her at hearing this. Talisas child would run around in the halls of Winterfell, while Sansas would run between the towers of the Twins. It wasn’t just.

“You should go, your grace. I wish to be alone.”

Sansa had a hard time to keep the hate she felt at the moment out of her voice. Hate for Talisa, hate for her mother and brother and hate for the gods that would allow something like this to happen.

“You should really grow up, Sansa. After all you will be a married woman soon.” Talisa said in an arrogant voice while leaving the tent. Sansa stared daggers at her back and wished Sandor were here with her.

Sansa angrily took her embroidery again, but her hand was shaking so much she didn’t want to risk ruining it. She needed some air. She grabbed her cloak and looked outside the tent. Luckily it had stopped raining, so she stepped outside to make a stroll through the camp.

The air was cool and humid. Sansa pulled her cloak closer around her frame. Even in the evening, the camp was still restless. Soldiers drank and gambled. Others cooked their meals on open fires. Most men didn’t recognize her, only a few bent their heads in respect. The fresh air made her feel calm again.

“Princess,” a booming voice called her from behind. She turned around and starred at the widely smiling Lord Umber.

“Lord Umber,” Sansa warmly said with a curtsy.

“Is there a reason you are wandering around alone in the camp?” he asked, not unkindly.

“I just needed fresh air. I will head back to my tent now.”

“I can escort you, my lady.”

“Thank you my lord, but I would prefer to be alone. After all, I will be surrounded by Freys soon for the rest of my life,” Sansa said with some resignation in her voice.

“You brother loves you princess,” the Greatjon said smiling warmly at her.

“I will try to remember when I watch him ride North with his wife and mother, while I stay back,” Sansa said her voice dripping with bitterness.
Lord Umber luckily didn’t say anything further, but simply nodded understanding.

“I wish you a good night, princess,” he said while bowing his head.

“You as well, Lord Umber.” Sansa walked back to her tent. Her path leads her past the tent of her mother. When she walked by she could clearly hear the voice of her mother and brother.

“Are you sure Robb?” her mother asked.

“Yes, I am. With Bran and Rickon dead, Sansa is the heir to Winterfell until I have a son. Should anything happen to me and Talisa, I won’t allow that Winterfell fall to a Frey or someone else.”

“But Arya too?”

“She is probably dead, but should she be alive somehow, she could be married off to anyone to get claim to the North.” There was a short pause. “You were right mother. I should have traded the Kingslayer for Sansa.”

Yes, you should have, Sansa thought.

“I would have married her to some Tyrell and all the strength of Highgarden would be with us now instead of the Lion and we wouldn’t have to crawl back to that old man.”

Sansa was appalled. Robb never cared about getting her back home. He would have sold her off for swords all the same. Back then she might would have been happy to marry Ser Loras, but since she knew Sandor better, she didn’t want a knight in a shining armor anymore, she wanted…she really didn’t know what she wanted right now besides getting home to Winterfell. Smelling the fresh air of the North, with its cold winds and summer snow.

“You know, I didn't like the idea at first,” her mother spoke up again. “But you are right to disinherit your sisters, we can't Winterfell fall to anyone else than a Stark. When will you announce it?”

“In the war council before the wedding. I prepared a letter…”

Sansa felt the tears pool in her eyes. Her own brother and mother would take away any chance to ever get back home. She was really just a pawn for everyone. She stormed back to her tent, not hearing what her mother said in the tent she was leaving behind. Sansa entered her own tent, threw herself on the bed and cried until sleep overtook her.

 

***

 

Two days later, they reached the Twins. The rain had stopped in the morning, but the sun hadn't managed to break through the thick clouds.
So this will be my home, Sansa thought sadly, when she saw the castle. It lacked the beauty Winterfell had. Some of Lord Walder's family greeted them and escorted them into the castle. Sansa could see that an army had made camp on the other side of the river. That must be Lord Bolton with the rest of Robb's army he had led North from Harrenhal. Some peasant had told her and Sandor during their journey that the flayed man had the command in Harrenhal.

As soon as they entered the castle, Robb's wolf was locked into the kennels. Sansa didn’t like it. Last time a direwolf had been chained, it hadn't lived for long after. Sansa felt a sting of sadness in her heart at the memory of Lady.
When they entered the keep, her stomach turned into a tight knot. They immediately went into the great hall, where Robb would apologize for breaking his promise. The hall was filled with people that had to be Lord Frey’s children, grandchildren and grand grandchildren. Some trays with bread and salt were handed around. The bread tasted stale and the salt hadn’t the best quality either.

“My honored guests, be welcome within my walls and at my table. I extend to you my hospitality and protection in the light of the Seven,” Lord Frey said.

“We thank you for your hospitality, my lord,” her brother said. He stepped forward. “I have come to make my apologies, my lord, and to beg your forgiveness.”

“Don't beg my forgiveness, your Grace. It wasn't me you spurned, it were my girls.” He gestured and a dozen women and girls stepped into the hall and stood left and right of the large chair in which the lord of the crossing sat.

“One of them was supposed to be queen, now none of them are.” He introduced them all one after another and even forgot the name of one of them. “And here's my youngest daughter, Shirei, though she hasn't bled yet. Clearly you don't have the patience for all that.”

“My ladies. All men should keep their word, kings most of all. I was pledged to marry one of you and I broke that vow. The fault is not with you. Any man would be lucky to have any one of you. I did what I did, not to slight you, but because I loved another. I know these words cannot set right the wrong I have done to you and your house. I beg your forgiveness and pledge to do all I can to make amends so the Freys of the Crossing and the Starks of Winterfell may once again be friends.”

You should beg my forgiveness, Sansa thought to herself at her brother’s words.

Lord Frey sent women away. “There she is. Come closer, let me have a look at you.” Talisa stepped a few steps forward. “Still can't see you. Old eyes,” he said with a smirk. “Love. That's what the Starks of Winterfell call it, eh? Heh. Very honorable, I call it a pretty face. Mmmm, very pretty. Prettier than this lot, that's for sure. Very shapely as well. Oh, you try to hide her under that dress. If you wanted to hide her, you shouldn't have brought her here in the first place, heh.”

He leaned forward and licked his lips. “I can always see what's going on beneath a dress. Been at this a long time. I bet when you take that dress off, everything stays right where it is. Doesn't drop an inch.”

Sansa saw that Robb was tensing besides her mother. “Your king says he betrayed me for love. I say he betrayed me for firm tits and a tight fit.” Sansa was horrified to hear these words. This man would soon be her goodfather. “And I can respect that. When I was your age, I'd have broken fifty oaths to get into that without a second thought. And you must be the king’s sister.”

The eyes of the old man had found her. Her mother’s hand on her back pushed her forward until she stood alone in front of him.

“This one has the Tully look, heh.” Sansa felt uncomfortable with the eyes of the old man on her. He gave the young woman that stood next to him a clap on the butt, making her jump a little. “Too bad I am already married, heh, or I would have made you the next Lady Frey. Much too pretty for the breed of mine if you ask me.” He liked his lips while he smirked and Sansa had felt the bile rise in her throat.

“Luckily, I still have an unmarried son in the fitting age, or you would have to marry my grandson Sandor, but I guess you don’t want another Sandor in your life again, hehe.”

I would give anything to have my Sandor here right now, Sansa thought.

The people started to chuckle and even some Northmen join in. Lord Frey stood up and clapped. “Well, I've enough room in the hall for you lot. We'll set up tents outside with food and ale for the rest of your men.”

“Thank you my lord,” her brother said the anger clearly in his voice. Probably more for his wife than his sister, Sansa thought.

“Well, let's get ready. The wine will flow red and the music will play loud and we'll put this mess behind us.” Lord Frey finally said clapping his hands.

Chapter Text

They had ridden the whole night. In the morning they had met an old man needing help with his cart loaded with salt pork. Sandor had knocked him out to get the cart. It was the perfect disguise to get close to the Twins. He would have killed that fucker, but the little wolf had stopped him. Maybe she was right. The little bird wouldn’t like it, if he killed some man just to return to her.

They stood up on a hill and could see the Twins right in front of them. They would reach it before nightfall. A large camp had been erected before it. Sandor could see that little wolf starred at it in awe. Of course she does. That’s the closest she had been to her family since Illyn Payne took her father’s head. His stomach rumbled, but he wouldn’t stop until he had reached the castle. He grabbed some pork feet from the cart and moved on.

 

***

 

Her mother and Talisa helped Sansa into the dress her mother had sewn for her during their travel to the Twins. It was made out of fine grey and white wool. Sansa needed all her strength to keep herself from crying, while her mother laced up her dress.

Sansa had often dreamed of her wedding. She had always pictured it as the happiest day in her life. Her father giving her away to someone brave, gentle and strong, while her mother and siblings watched them with the other guests. Everyone was smiling for her in her dreams. She didn’t know why, but the man waiting for her with wasn’t the knight in the shining armor anymore. Sansa unfortunately never could remember who was waiting for her in her dreams. She only knew it wouldn’t be the Frey that would await her today.

“You should smile, Sansa,” Talisa said.

“Talisa is right, Sansa. Wendel Frey isn’t a bad match for you. He is in your age and was page in Seaguard. Maybe he will soon be a squire and then you will be married to a knight someday. You always wanted to marry a knight, Sansa, when you were young.”

“I hate knights,” Sansa whispered. Sansa still remembered the beatings of the Kingsguard. She hated knights as much as Sandor did.

Her mother must have been annoyed by her words, since she tied the last lace tighter than the ones before. Sansa turned to her mother desperate tears in her eyes. “Please mother, don’t make me marry him.”

“Sansa, we won’t talk about this anymore. You may come along quietly and say your vows as befits the lady we raised you to be, or you may struggle and scream and make a spectacle for everybody to titter over, but you will end up wedded and bedded all the same.”

“Please…” Sansa whispered weakly, he lower lip quivering.

Her mother simply turned to Talisa. “The cloak,” her mother said, annoyed.

Talisa handed her a long cloak of white velvet heavy with pearls. A fierce direwolf was embroidered upon it in silver thread. Her mother fastened the cloak on her shoulders.

A knock on the door and her brother entered. He wore a black wool tunic. His cloak was fastened by two direwolf heads. “Come now, they are already waiting,” he said offering her his arm.

Sansa took it weakly and her brother lead her to the castle sept. Lord Frey already awaited them with another woman on his arm. That must be Roslin. The girl her uncle would marry. Sansa couldn’t see her face since it was covered by a veil but she could see that Roslin was a bit shorter than her. She didn’t make a sound.

“Ahh, the other bride arrives. Wendel is already excited for you, heh,” Lord Frey said with a smirk licking his lips.

Sansa clutched Robb's arm. “Please, Robb, don’t make marry him.”

“Stop it, Sansa, you embarrass me and our family,” he said harshly, not meeting her pleading eyes.

The door to the sept opened and all four started to enter. On the left of the aisle stood all the Freys, while on the right side stood all the Northern and Riverland lords and ladies. All eyes turned to them as they walked down the aisle. Maege Mormont and Galbard Glover had left the Twins earlier today after the war council with specials order from Robb. Sansa hadn’t been in the war council. She had waited in the chamber she had been given to rest some before her mother returned from the council to get her ready for the wedding.

Dacey Mormont wore a green dress instead of her usual armor. She nodded to Sansa, while the Greatjon and his son gave her warm smiles, but Sansa could see that behind their smiles was pity.
Sansa feared to lift her eyes half way to the septon and the two men waiting.

Her uncle looked good in his tunic, the Tully cloak around his shoulders. Sansa heart sank and she felt tears run down her face when she saw the man she would have to marry now.
More a boy than a man, Sansa thought. Wendel Frey shared the weasel appearance that ran strong in his family. He was nearly a head shorter than her and had pale pimply skin. He looked like he couldn’t even hold a sword properly. Some fluff covered his face at some places, always interrupted by pimples ripe to squeeze out.

Be brave, a voice rasped in her head. Sansa took a deep breath. I am a Stark, yes, I can be brave.

Sansa wanted very much to look brave, but she couldn’t stop the tears from running down her face.

They had reached the septon and the grooms. Lord Frey pulled away the veil and revealed Roslins face. She didn’t share the Frey look. She had very white skin, a pretty face with a small chin, delicate nose, and big brown eyes. Robb raised an eyebrow and Lord Frey just smirked back at him. Robb and Lord Frey returned to their places between the other guests.

Roslyn knelt down in front of Edmure. “Lord Edmure, I hope I’m not a disappointment to you,” the girl said shyly.

Edmure helped her up. “You’re a delight to me, my lady.”

The girl smiled at him.

“You may now cloak the bride and bring her under your protection,” the septon said. Roslin immediately turned her back to Edmure. Sansa turned to the crowded people and gave her mother and brother one last pleading look, to prevent this marriage from happening, before turning around as it was expected of her. No one would come to save her.

I wish Sandor would be here, she thought sadly, while Wendel Frey loosened Sansa's maiden's cloak and fastened his own displaying the Twins. The septon tied the hands of Edmure and Roslin before doing the same with Sansa's and Wendel’s.
“In the sight of the Seven, I hereby seal these two souls, binding them as one for eternity. Look upon each other and say the words.”

They turned towards each other. Sansa tried as best she could to hold back her tears and to not show how miserable she was. Wendel Frey looked bored at her, not showing any kind of deeper emotion.
“Father, Smith, Warrior, Mother, Maiden, Crone, Stranger. I am his and he is mine from this day until the end of my days,” Sansa said the words without thinking about them, while the others said theirs.

The kiss Wendel Frey pressed to her lips was as wet and unpleasant as Joffrey’s had always been. Suddenly, Sansa remembered the kiss she had shared with Sandor during the Blackwater before she had left with him. Sansa regretted she had never spoken with him about it.

The crowd cheered after the kiss and they left to the great hall where the feast would be held. The night was quickly approaching and torches lighted the corridors to the great hall.
The hall itself was lit by dozens of candle holders. Sansa and her husband had her seat at the high table, alongside her uncle and his bride with Lord Walder Frey. Servants came and brought food and drink and the feast began.

 

***

 

Catelyn didn’t eat much. Mostly, she watched Sansa at the high table pushing around the food on her plate, not looking or speaking with her husband.

“She looks unhappy,” her uncle, the Blackfish, said from her side.

“Happiness has nothing to do with that,” Catelyn said plainly. “It’s the duty of a lady to marry for the benefit of her family. I did, Lysa did and every other maiden in Westeros does so. Look at Roslin, she does her duty as expected of her. Sansa instead brought shame on the Stark name. Crying through the whole ceremony. What a pathetic sight.”

Catelyn remembered her own wedding to Ned, after her beloved Brandon had been murdered. She didn’t love Ned back then, or even know him. But Catelyn did her duty to her family as expected. She hadn’t cried during the ceremony and given him her maiden's gift in that night like it was expected of her.

Catelyn and Septa Mordane had done everything to make Sansa into a lady as dutiful as herself.

“Don’t be too hard on her Cat. She had just returned after a long time among the Lannister’s and Roslin is three years older than Sansa.”

“She has never been that stubborn. The Sansa I raised would have done her duty as expected. It must have been Clegane during their journey to make her that willful to question her brother’s decisions. We can at least be glad she is still a maiden and didn’t came with Clegane’s bastard in her belly.”

Her uncle didn’t answer. Catelyn had to think on Rickon and her beloved Bran. Her sweet boy that always liked to climb. Both dead and Arya lost. And the daughter that was left didn’t behave like it was expected of her.
Roslin fed Edmure strawberries giggling like a little girl.

“He complained about this marriage the entire ride from Riverrun and now look at him. The gods love to reward a fool.”

“Uncle,” Catelyn said with a chuckle.

“What? He’s my nephew, I love him. And he’s a damned fool.”

A servant filled their goblets again, but Lord Bolton refused by placing his hand over the cup.

“Don’t you drink, Lord Bolton?”

“Never do, my lady. Dulls the senses,” he said in his low voice.

Lord Bolton had proven himself to be a good advisor for her son. He had held Harrenhal, while they had been in Riverrun for the burial of her father. Should Lord Frey have refused Sansa's hand, Catelyn would have offered Sansa for Lord Bolton's son, as sign of appreciation for his service and loyalty. Now she would probably offer Arya for Ramsay, should she ever return home.

“That’s the point. Didn’t you marry one of these Frey girls?” her uncle asked.

“Aye. Lord Walder let me choose any of his granddaughters and promised me the girl’s weight in silver as a dowry. So I have a fat, young bride.”

Lord Bolton smiles and her uncle laughs. “I hope she makes you very happy.”

“Well, she’s made me very rich.”

“Pardon, my lord, my lady. I need to find a tree to piss on,” her uncle said and left the table. Catelyn returned to watch her daughter.

 

***

 

Sansa pushed around the food on her plate. Her uncle was laughing with his bride, feeding each other strawberries. She shot a short glance to Wendel besides her. He only drank one cup of wine after another. He hadn’t spoken to her during the feast.

Sansa's stomach had turned into a tight knot and her heart was starting to race at the thought of what was still expected of her later. She saw the Blackfish leave the hall and Robb and Talisa laughing about something together, while her mother watched them, smiling. At least they are happy, Sansa thought. Sansa thoughts drifted off to Sandor. Where is he right now? Does he think on me? Does he care at all? Maybe he was half a world away in the free cities now drinking dornish red in some brothel.

Her thoughts were interrupted when Lord Frey stood up and called for her brother.

“Your Grace.” The guests started to cheer and knocking on the tables with their fists and cups. “The Septon has prayed his prayers, some words were said and Lord Edmure and my son have wrapped my daughter and your sister in their cloaks. But they are not yet man and wife. Swords need sheaths.” The crowed laughed. “And a wedding needs a bedding. What does my sire say?”

Sansa suddenly felt cold. Everybody in the hall was cheering and yelling. “To bed! To bed! To bed!”

Robb stood up and the cheering calmed down.

“If you think the time is right, Lord Walder, by all means, let us bed them,” her brother said widely smiling.

The crowd started cheering and yelling again the musicians played loudly while men came to the table to pick her and Roslin up.

“Come princess,” the Greatjon howled with his roaring voice, while he picked her up as if she wasn’t weighting anything. While Sansa was carried out of the hall she looked once back and saw her mother talking with Lord Bolton.

The men were yelling around her pulling and shredding on her gown, with their strong battletested hands. The Greatjon made one lewd joke after another, when he wasn’t yelling the text of the bear and the maiden fair.

Sansa felt hands all over her body. Groping and pinching. She remembered the day the peasants had pulled her off her horse, holding her down. The garlic breath hitting her face. Sandor had saved her then. Sansa closed her eyes and tried to fight back the tears welling in her eyes when the lacings on her back ripped the biggest part of her dress was pulled of her body.

Papa, she silently sobbed, wishing for the strong, warm arms of her father she remembered to protect her every time she had been scared.

When she was a young girl, the talk about the bedding ceremony had something mysterious and exciting, but now that she had to endure it, she just wanted it to end. Wendel was just carried into the chamber they had been given by some of his family members. The Greatjon sat her down in the chamber and left, closing the door behind him.

 

***

 

The camp was celebrating. Soldiers were wrestling in the mud, while other cheered for them. Ale was floating freely.

No one had stopped them so far. Sandor was glad for it. He eyed his surroundings curious when he saw heavily armed soldiers between the celebrating men.

Maybe just a precaution, Sandor told himself.

Sandor felt a shiver run down his spine when he heard that the Rains of Castamere was played pretty often in the camp.

He knew that song from his youth and he knew too well what it meant.

 

***

 

****

The door had closed behind her. Now she was alone with Wendel Frey. The men had made a short work of Sansas wedding gown. Only her shift and her smallclothes were left on her. The cold air made goosebumps run over her body. Wendel stood only in his breeches, pouring himself another cup of wine from the pitcher on a small table.

Sansa looked around in the room and felt another set of tears run down her face. The room was shabbier as the room she had been given in King's Landing. A large bed stood at the wall and a single chair stood at a small table. The furniture pieces looked like they hadn’t been exchanged for a long time. The bedclothes were white, so the proof that she was maiden would be visible for everyone in the morning.

Her mother had explained to her earlier during her bath what was expected of her in the bedchamber.

Her mother had told to her she had to lay with her husband as often as he wanted to. She didn’t want to tell Sansa too much, so her husband wouldn’t question if she was a maiden, by her knowing too much about it. Her mother told her to simply do what her husband wanted. She had told Sansa would do best to simply lie still, while her husband did his duty.

Catelyn had reminded Sansa that it was the right of her husband to do with her whatever he liked and she shouldn’t question his desires. She had also told her the first night would be painful and that the bloody sheet would be examined the next morning to show the world she had been innocent.

“You may not love your husband, but you will love his children”, her mother had told her. Sansa had told her she sounded like Cersei. Her mother had become angry at her words and refused to answer any question Sansa came up with.

Music that Sansa had often heard at the court, rang through the window. “Can you do something else?” Wendel asked while drinking his goblet.

“My lord?” Sansa asked.

“You cried for the whole day now.”

“I am sorry my lord,” Sansa said, wringing her hands, to keep them from shaking.

Wendel sounded as much as he looked like the boy he was and Sansa was painfully reminded on Joffrey. His arms and chest were skinny and not a single scar covered his weakly pale skin. He has never held a sword in his life, Sansa thought.

“My father said you are a virgin?” Wendel asked in his boyish voice with a smirk similar to his father.

“Yes,” Sansa said in a tiny voice, feeling the heat creep up her neck at this question.

“You really think I believe that?”

“I am a maiden. I was examined in Riverrun.”

“Do the Starks really think us that stupid to think the Maester wouldn’t say what his Lady would want to hear? You can’t really expect me to believe that you are innocent after traveling with the Lannister dog for so long.”

“I am a maiden, my lord,” Sansa said close to a whisper, blinking away some tears. All the indignities she had to endure about her maidenhood and still no one believed that Sandor had never touched her.

“Whatever,” he said with a shrug.

“Get rid of the rest of you clothes. Time to see what the wolf has to offer.”

Sansa looked to the ground as she hesitantly grabbed the hem of her grey silk shift and slowly pulled it over her head and letting her smallclothes fall to the ground. She instinctively tried to cover her breasts and her woman's place, with her hands. The cold air that came through the window made her shiver.

Wendel walked around her like she was prey and he was the predator. He gestured to her to put her arms down to her sides and Sansa hesitantly obeyed. It’s your duty, her mother’s voice called in the back of her head.

Duty, Sansa thought bitterly again. Everyone keeps telling her that it’s her duty to give her body to her lord husband so he can take his pleasure.

Sansa jumped a little when Wendel’s finger ghosted over a healed welt on the backside of her leg, right under her butt cheek. The welts she had once had on her back had healed and disappeared completely thanks to the tinctures Shae had rubbed on them every day. Only a few on her legs had never disappeared completely.

Wendel now stood right in front of her. His eyes wandering over her body. Sansa had to force herself from squirming under his look. Sansa closed her eyes when she felt his hand cupping her right breast, lightly squeezing it and pinching the nipple.
It felt so wrong to have his cold hands on her, pinching and squeezing as he liked. It’s your husbands right and a lady has to obey, Mordane´s voice reminded her.

“I guess you will do. Get on the bed,” Wendel said, bored. The smell of wine hitting her face, while he spoke.

Sansa crawling onto the bed, lying on her back. The sound from the outside the window was getting louder. The soldiers of her brother seem to have a good time. Sansa barely remembered the last good time she had and in a few moments she would be a Frey for true the rest of her life.

She heard her husband untie his breeches. After he freed himself of his breeches, he crawled into the bed towards her. Sansa glanced shy looks at his stiff member in the thick nest of bristly hair.

He parted her legs with his cold hands and Sansa felt his member at her entrance. “Please be gentle my lord,” Sansa beseechingly said while Greywind howled outside the keep in the kennel he had been locked into. Wendel's only answer was a snort.

Her mother had told her it would hurt, but nothing had prepared her for the sting of pain that shot through her, when he broke her maidenhead. Sansa gasped and shut her eyes, but her tears still forced their way down her face. Wendel started to move inside her and with every thrust a new shot of pain went through her. Sansa just lay still hoping it would be over soon. Several times her Frey husband touched her breasts making her flinch in surprise.

His thrusts became quicker and more erratic, before he stilled inside her. He was growling and buried himself even deeper inside her two times more. Sansa felt his member twitch and pulse inside her while he spilled his seed, before Wendel collapsed on her breathing heavily.

He rolled off her and shortly after was snoring besides her.

Sansa felt some warm sticky liquid run down her legs. Sansa curled up under the part of the blanket her husband wasn’t lying on. Sansa winced at the sore feeling between her thighs. Pain was still pulsing through her every few seconds. Sansa carefully touched her sore flesh with her left hand and hissed at the feeling and at the sight of the blood covering her fingers and thighs.

Now I am Frey for true sealed in blood, Sansa thought as soft sobs made her body shake. Sansa didn’t know how she was still able to cry, but it didn’t matter, the tears simply came.

****

 

***

 

The bolt in her shoulder pained her so much. Shortly after the bedding ceremony the massacre had begun. Talisa was lying on the ground, her hand on her belly, punctured by countless stabs. Robb, hit by several crossbow bolts, was leaning over the dead body of his wife and unborn child.

All over the great hall lay the dead bodies of the great lords of the North and the Riverlands.

Smalljon Umber and Dacey Mormont had died trying to defend their king when the Freys had turned on them. Robb tried to stand up.

“The King in the North arises, heh heh,” Lord Walder said.

Catelyn saw Lord Frey's wife hiding under the table looking scared. She swiftly grabbed a dagger and emerges from under the table. She grabbed Lord Frey's wife by the hair and drags her out from under the table, holding the knife at her throat.
“Lord Walder! Lord Walder, enough! Let it end! Please! He is my son! My first son! Let him go and I swear that we will forget this! I swear it by the Old Gods and New! We will take no vengeance!” Catelyn yelled at him.

“You already swore me one oath right here in my castle. You swore by all the Gods, your son would marry my daughter!”

“Take me for a hostage, but let Robb go! Robb, get up! Get up and walk out! Please! Please!”

“And why I would let him do that?” the lord of the crossing asked, slightly amused.

“On my honor as a Tully, on my honor as a Stark, let him go or I will cut your wife’s throat!” Robb had completely risen by now.

“I’ll find another.” Lord Frey said simply with a smirk.

“Mother…” Robb weakly said.

Roose Bolton walked to him. “The Lannisters send their regards.” He drove his dagger into Robb's heart.

The world was collapsing around her, when Robb's body hit the ground. With all the hate and desperation Catelyn had, she cut the throat of the woman she had at dagger point.
All dead. Her father dead. Her beloved Ned dead. Robb dead. Bran and Rickon dead. Arya probably also dead. And Sansa...

Gods Sansa… Catelyn thought, … what have we done. Her last thoughts circled around Sansa. Someone had stepped behind her. May the gods forgive me, Catelyn thought, before the cold bite of steel made her world turn black.

 

***

Arya had just seen how some Stark men that had celebrated had been slaughtered by surprise by some Frey’s. She had no idea what was going on here. Shouldn’t the Freys be on her brother’s side? The howl of a direwolf caught her attention. Arya hadn’t seen Greywind since she had left Winterfell.

Robb's wolf had been locked into wooden kennel and the wolf desperately tried to get free.

Arya just wanted to make her way too free him, when a handful of Freys soldiers came with crossbows and merciless shot the wolf. Arya had to see how the light left his eyes and she knew her family had been betrayed.
Somewhere in this keep must be her mother and brother and Sansa. Arya ran towards the entrance of the keep when, a strong hand grabbed her. Arya turned and saw the ugly face of the Hound.

“It’s too late.”

Arya wanted to break free, but a knock on her head made her hit the ground.

When Arya awoke she was sitting in front of the Hound on his giant black stallion. She looked up in his ugly face and saw that he was staring at something. Were that tears she saw in his eyes? She followed his line of sight and saw a body sitting on a horse with a direwolf head instead of its own.

“The King in the North! The King in the North! The King in the North!” the soldiers yelled and Arya realized it was her dead brother they were mocking.

The Hound turned the horse around and rode through the chaos around them as fast as he could. All around her Bolton and Frey men slaughtered her former comrades without mercy.
Arya had no idea why, but she clutched onto Clegane’s arm around her middle, while they rode into the night leaving the chaos behind.

 

***

 

Wendel didn’t seem to be disturbed the sobs that continued to make her body shake. He simply snorted beside her on the bed. The soldiers on the outside still seemed to celebrate loudly. Sansa thought she sometimes heard ´the king in the north´.

There she was now. Married to a Frey for the rest of her life. Having to obey his wishes and bear his children. She at least hoped her duty in the marriage bed would be more tolerable in the future.

Someone knocked on the door and Wendel stirred beside her. Sansa didn’t move. Whoever was on the other side, probably didn’t want to talk to her.

“Fuck off,” Wendel yelled, sleep drunk and wine drunk all the same, at the door. Sansa felt like laughing at his boyish voice, but after hearing Sandor yell everybody sounded like a boy compared to him.

“Father demands your presence and the one of your wife. Now get your ass moving before we drag you into the hall.”

“Alright, alright, Walder…”

He got out of the bed and put on his breeches before throwing a dressing gown at her.

“Get up,” he simply said, annoyed.

Sansa got up and put on the night gown as fast as she could. Wendel opened the door and Black Walder awaited them and pushed her forward while the walked to the great hall.

“What is the meaning of this?” she heard her uncle yell as two men dragged him through the corridor. Sansa felt panic rise in her when she saw blood on the floor. Every step hurt her due to the soreness between her legs, but every time, she slowed down, she felt an armored hand in her back pushing her forward.

“What’s going on uncle?” Sansa asked her uncle, who was only wearing his breeches.

“I don’t know, Sansa.”

When they were pushed in the great hall they knew what was going on. Bodies everywhere and some men knelt in chains between the blood and gore. Patrek Mallister and Marq Peiper just looked as if they had given up. Greatjon Umber was mourning over his decapitated sons body. Dacey Mormont, who had smiled at her only a few hours ago, lay on the ground with an axe in her stomach coloring her green dress red and countless others cut down or peppered with crossbow bolts.

The Greatjon turned to her and she saw that he was crying openly. “My lady…” he started, but then Sansa already saw it.

Her mother’s dead body, with her throat slit to the bone, lying in a pool of blood, besides Talisa’s. Talisa’s hands clinching around the cut off head of her brother. His body nowhere to be seen.

Sansas eyes widened in horror and she tried to scream, but not a single sound escaped her lips. Sansa tried to catch breath at the horrific sight. She felt her legs go weak and the world turned black before she hit the floor.

Chapter Text

She is dead. She has to be dead. They killed her brother and mutilated his body, while slaughtering their whole army like sheep. There was no chance they would have let the little bird live, if they killed everyone else.

The thought that the little bird, no, Sansa, was gone filled his heart with pain and hate. He would never see her little smiles again or hear the tittering of her courtesies.

How can you be gone, if you are still in my heart? Sandor asked himself while he led his stallion through a small pinewood forest.

Sandor and the little wolf had ridden the whole night to get as far away from the Twins as possible. During the night the little wolf had clutched to his arm, quiet in her pain and sorrow. Sandor had no idea where he should go now or what he should do at all.

Sansa was dead. What was life worth, if the little bird wasn’t in it? The silence of the forest was interrupted by some Frey soldiers sitting around a fire roasting some hares.

“I'm telling you, that's what she did. Sounded like a cow in heat,” one of them said. Sandor thought they probably spoke about Lady Stark.

“Aye, not for long.”

“That's right. Black Walder shut her up right quick,” another said laughing.

“None of the Starks had much to say about the end of that meal, besides that red headed Stark bitch that got married.”

“Aye, too bad they sent her back to King Joffrey. She is a pretty thing to look on.”

What? Could by some mercy of the gods Sansa still be alive?

“I'll tell you what, though. The hardest thing was getting that wolf's head to stay on the body.”

“You sewed it on?”

“I did.”

“I bet there were thousand men claiming they were the one.”

“It was me…and Malcolm and Talbott. Well, the thing was so heavy, it fell off the first time. Took the skin right with it. What we ended up having to do was hook the needle right under the collarbone.”

Caught in his thoughts, Sandor hadn’t recognized how the little wolf had jumped of the horse.

She was talking to the man that just had told the story how he had sewed the wolf's head onto his body, when she suddenly started to stab his throat countless times.
Sandor got off Stranger in a swift move and came just in time to cut down the two Freys that just wanted to kill Arya. He left the fourth man alive, after he had disarmed him. Sandor needed some answers. The man that was stabbed by Arya just gave his last death rattle, when Sandor started to question the man lying on the ground in front of him, the tip of his sword on the man's throat.

“Is Sansa Stark alive?” Sandor asked right away.

“W…what?” the man stammered.

“You talked about the red headed Stark and that she is to be sent back to Joffrey. Tell me everything and I will give you mercy, on my honor as knight.”

“Yes, she is to be sent back to King's Landing. King Joffrey demanded her alongside the young wolf's head. Lord Wendel wasn’t happy to lose his bride so soon but he will enjoy her very much during the journey before they reach the capital.”

“When do they leave the Twins?!” Sandor growled at him, pressing the blade into his flesh.

“Within the next two days. Please, Ser, mercy.”

“I am no Ser,” Sandor growled pressing his blade into his throat.

Blood spurted from the mortal wound and the little wolf murmured some words beside him he didn’t understand, while they watched the life spurt out of him. Sandor grabbed the knife Arya held in her hands. “Next time you do something like this tell me. Now come we need to save your sister.”

“Why should I come with you? What do you care about Sansa?”

“Do what you want wolf bitch. You might hate me, but if I have the chance to save your sister, I will. Come with me or stay behind. I will find you when I saved her.”

“Fuck off. She is my sister, I hate you, but I will help you.”

Sandor lifted the little wolf into the saddle, before mounting behind her.

He turned around Stranger and kicked him into a gallop and rode back to the Twins.

 

***

 

It only took them a few hours to reach the Twins again. They kept their distance to the castle and watched what was going on. The fields around the castle were covered in bodies, burned down tents and supply carts. Soldiers were busy throwing the bodies into the river or pile them up to large pyres. Countless crows flew above the scenery cawing to celebrate the feast below them. The wind blew the smell of burned flesh over to where they were hiding. It painfully reminded Sandor of the day Gregor had burned him.

He is no true knight,” Sansas soft voice reminded him in the back of his head. It was as if he could feel her hand on his shoulder. They had no chance, if they tried something so close to the Twins.

“What is the plan?” the little wolf asked.

“We can’t simply go into the castle and kill everyone, even if I would like to slaughter ever damn Frey I can find for what they have done.” Sandor watched the scenery for a while. “Alright. They will take the Kingsroad south. The river is too dangerous with all the floods. We await them somewhere south the Kingsroad and then look for a chance to free your sister.” Please gods, don’t let them have hurt her. Fuck, Sandor though. Now he was even praying to gods he despised, because of Sansa.

“And what if they are too many?” the little wolf asked with some hint of concern in her voice.

“Then we have to get creative.”

“I hope you are right hound.”

“Me too, wolf bitch.”

 

***

Sandor and Arya left the Twins and the feast for crows behind. Sandor had hoped he would find a good place to await the entourage that would escort Sansa back to King's Landing only a few hours away from the Twins, but his hopes had been crushed when they hadn’t found a good place at sunset.

It made no sense to continue riding during the night and he and Arya were exhausted anyway. They hadn’t slept for nearly two days.

They had found a few trees at the river that gave them enough cover for the night, but still allowed them to see the Kingsroad.

Sandor knew it wouldn’t make any sense to take watches this night, since both would fall asleep anyway. He just wanted to lie down when he heard a splashing sound from the river.

Sandor pulled his sword and handed the little wolf one of his daggers. Some shape crawled out of the water and Sandor grabbed him swiftly pushing him against the nearest tree, sword at his throat. In the last light of the day, he finally could see who this man was.

“Bugger me with a hot poker. Never thought you Tullys could really swim like a trout.”

“Clegane, is that you?” the Blackfish asked, crawling out of the river.

“It’s me. How the hells are you still alive?”

“Took a piss, when the Freys and Boltons started to slaughter everyone that wore the wrong colors. Jumped into the river and drifted with the stream. What the hell are you doing here, Clegane. King Robb was serious when he told you, that you should never come back to the North or the Riverlands and who is that boy with you?”

“The young wolf is dead. As is your niece. He will have a hard time taking my head and this is no boy, but the second daughter of Lady Stark. I wanted to bring her back to you, but the slaughter started before we entered the castle.”

“Arya?” the Blackfish asked surprised.

“Great-uncle,” she simply said.

“Did he really wanted to bring you back?”

“Yes. I was with the Brotherhood. He took me from them and I first thought he would want to return me to the Lannisters, but he went straight to the Twins and never laid hand on me and he can't stop talking about Sansa.”

The Blackfish nodded. “You were there, how bad was it?”

“The young wolf is dead as is your niece like I said. They sewed the head of his wolf on his body and his army is annihilated.”

“Gods be good. And Sansa? Edmure?”

“Don’t know about your nephew, but Sansa is alive, at least.”

The Blackfish buried his face in his hands. “Gods, Sansa, what have we done…”

“They bringing her to King's Landing on Joffrey’s demand alongside her brother’s head.”

“How do you know that?”

“We overheard some soldiers talk about it. They wanted to leave the Twins within the next two days. That’s why we are here. We are looking for a good position to ambush them. Will you help us or will you only interrogate us further?”

“Of course I will. I can never forgive myself for not stopping this wedding, even when Sansa pleaded with all her heart.”

Sandor felt a sting of pain in his heart and soul at the Blackfish words. Gods, Sansa was really his only weakness.

“We have to free her,” Sandor said after a while of silence.

The Blackfish and Arya nodded and the three settled down for the night.

“Little bird,” Sandor whispered, touching the hair ribbon Sansa had gifted him during their journey, before exhaustion took over.

Chapter Text

Sansa didn't know how long it had been since she passed out in the great hall at the sight of her murdered mother and brother. She had been brought back to the room she and Wendel had been given.

She woke alone in the bed and she was glad for it. She couldn’t bear the thought that she had to share the bed with Wendel that night again. Her whole body hurt. Sansa quickly washed away the blood and the remains of her Frey husband, with a rough rag and cold water, hissing at the feel of her sore flesh.

Sansa returned to the bed and saw that someone had changed the bloodied sheets with fresh ones. She shut her eyes and tried to keep the pictures of the massacre out of her head, but every time she did so, she saw the mutilated body of her brother and her mother with her cut throat.

At some point, exhaustion must have taken over. She awoke hours later when Wendel was shaking her shoulder. Sansa flinched at the sight of her Frey husband.

“Get up, Lord Frey wants to tell you something,” he said in his bored voice. He threw a plain grey wool dress onto the bed next to her. “Dress. Father doesn’t like to wait.”

Sansa hesitantly started to dress, while Wendel watched her with crossed arms at the door. Sansa hated the feel of his eyes on her. But now she was his and would have to endure it for the rest of her life. She was wedded and bedded in the light of the seven. She was a Frey now.

After she was dressed, Wendel left the room and Sansa followed him a few meters behind. Two soldiers walked a few steps behind her in full armor. When they entered the great hall, Sansa saw Lord Frey, her father in law, talking with Lord Bolton. Some servants cleaned up the blood on the floor.

“They handed him over, trussed and hooded. But Ramsay... well, Ramsay has his own way of doing things...” Lord Bolton said before turning around to them.

“Ahh, the newlyweds arrive, heh,” Lord Frey said with a smirk.

“Father, you wanted to see us?” Wendel asked, bored.

“A letter came from the capital,” Walder Frey said, pulling a raven scroll out of his sleeve.

“King Joffrey demands your wife. He wants back what his Hound has stolen from him, alongside the head of the Young Wolf. King Joffrey also demanded the head of Lady Stark, but Black Walder threw her body in the river and the head of the Young Wolf is nowhere to be found.”

Sansa felt her legs start to shake and her stomach turned into a tight knot at hearing this. Joffrey wants his plaything back. It took all the strength she had to keep from crying openly.

“Too bad the king wants you back. You would have made a fine bride for Ramsay,” Lord Bolton said in his emotionless voice, his cold eyes focused on her. “But the son of the Warden of the North needs a maidenly bride,” he continued.

Sansa felt her anger rise, despite the fear and sorrow she felt right now. “The North will never follow a traitor Lord Bolton. The Warden of the North will always be a Stark,” Sansa said in a low voice.

“Too bad the last Stark died when I drove my dagger into your brother’s heart and you are a Frey, my lady,” Bolton answered with a cruel smile.

Sansa tried to keep her facial expression calm. She wouldn’t let him see how hurt she was by this truth. Sansa was the last of the Stark family, but by law of the gods, she was now a Frey. “The North remembers, Lord Bolton, and someday I will see you die.” Sansa said in a frosty voice.

“Unlikely, since you will be in Kings Landing, heh,” Lord Frey said.

“When will she leave father?” Wendel asked in his boyish voice.

“You two will leave tomorrow morning, with some men as guard. The high septon will annul the marriage, since Joffrey wants her for himself and I won’t let a Frey become the Kings whore, heh.”

“Do I really have to go?” Wendel asked.

“Yes, you have to and enjoy your wife on the way. It would be a shame to give the king an inexperienced whore, hehe,” Lord Frey said with a smirk, licking his lips.

 

***

 

They left the Twins the next morning. Besides her and Wendel Frey, their group consisted of Black Walder, lame Lothar Frey, Ryman Frey and half a dozen soldiers.

Sansa now saw the whole extent of the massacre. The whole field where her brother’s army had made camp was covered with bodies. Tents were burned down and in between Sansa could see the burned remains of horses and supply carts.
Frey and Bolton men piled up the bodies to giant pyres or simply threw them into the river. Countless crows flew in the sky.

“Want to have a last look at your brother?” Black Walder asked teasingly and pointed to a stake, where the body of her brother was tied onto, the head of Greywind still on his shoulders. Crows had already started with their feast on them.

“The King in the North”, Black Walder said mockingly.

Sansa adverted her eyes and silent tears ran down her face. Her hands were tied up, so she could only hold the reigns. But escape was impossible since her horse was also tied to the one of Lame Lothar, so she couldn’t even try to ride off.

And even if she would manage to escape, where could she go? Her family was dead. Her only relative was thousands of miles away at the Wall, probably not even caring what happened to her. Sansa couldn’t even blame Jon. Sansa had never been the sister she should have been to him. And Sandor was gone. She would never see him again, but too soon she would see Joffrey and Cersei again. Sansa felt like death would be a gift soon, but she also knew Joffrey wouldn’t let her die this easy.

You are a Stark, Sansa forced to remind herself. If you die, let it happen as a Stark.

They rode the rest of the day. They always found bodies, again of soldiers that had escaped the initial massacre, but had died of their injuries later. Only once had they found a man wearing the sigil of House Glover, close to death and begging for mercy. They had ignored his pleading and simply ridden on.

Sansa wasn’t used to ride astride and she quickly became sore. Since she wasn’t able to change her position in the saddle without taking the risk of falling of her horse, she bit back the pain. She wouldn’t give the Freys the satisfaction of seeing her falling off her horse.

No body spoke to her during the day. Sansa was glad for it, as she didn’t want to speak to any of them. Neither the murderer of her mother and sister in law, nor to the boy that had bedded and taken her maidenhead, while her family, Lords and men of the North, had been slaughtered like sheeps.

Sansa sometimes had the feeling like they were watched, but she quickly dismissed the thought as childish hope that someone would save her. No one could save her. She would die in Kings Landing for the pleasure of Joffrey and his cruel mother, and tonight her husband would demand his right like his father had told him.

When the sunlight slowly started to fade away, they made camp in a small forest near the Kingsroad. The Green Fork must be close. Sansa could hear the rushing of the river.

Sansa was roughly pulled off her horse by Black Walder and Wendel led her into a small tent the soldiers had erected. Wendel cut her ties, only to tie her hands immediately again behind her back. He pushed her into the tent. Sansa stumbled and fell onto the horse blanket that lay on the ground.

“Until later, wife,” Wendel said, not even trying to help her up. Sansa didn’t like the smirk on his face. He left without another word and Sansa started to fear the upcoming night.

Chapter Text

Sandor woke when the first light of the new day had lightened the landscape. Some birds were chirping above him in the trees. The Blackfish and the little wolf were still snoring. Sandor decided to let them sleep, while he started to look out for riders on the Kingsroad south.

Fuck, please let them take this route, Sandor thought desperately. He had never felt that way before. Even after his father had denied to tell the world the truth about his injuries, he hadn’t been that desperate.

Shortly before midday Sandor spotted a group of riders on the road south. Sandor woke up the other two.

“Riders on the road,” Sandor said, when the Blackfish opened his eyes. Brynden Tully and the little wolf quickly got up and stood next to Sandor watching the rider come closer. The banner with the Twins flying in the cold air.

“I count eleven horses,” the Blackfish said.

“Aye,” Sandor growled.

Six riders made up the van, while the other four surrounded a fifth rider.

The sun broke through the heavy clouds for a short moments and he could clearly see a bunch of auburn hair shining fiery red in the light.

Sansa. His little bird. Surrounded by these Frey bastards. Sandor clenched his hands to fists.

If they laid one finger on Sansa, he will tear them to pieces, Sandor thought.

“They have Sansa,” Sandor whispered.

“We should attack them,” Arya said.

“We can’t, Arya,” her great uncle said. “We stand no chance against ten men in an open fight.”

“Aye, we need to follow them and wait for a chance. Maybe if they make camp.”

 

***

 

Sandor and the others waited half an hour before they followed the tracks of the column. Luckily, it wasn’t too hard to follow. Sandor let Arya ride on Stranger's back, while he and the Blackfish walked.

“You really care for Sansa, don’t you?” the Blackfish asked him.

“Aye. Someone has to, if her family doesn’t do it. You don’t even know the half of the shit she went through in Kings Landing.”

The Blackfish adverted his eyes and nodded. They followed the tracks until the evening, when they finally left the road and followed them into the forest. Sandor nearly wanted to give up, when they finally heard voices and saw the weak light of a fire.

They tied Stranger to a tree and Sandor handed each of them a dagger. The trio carefully sneaked up to the camp, but stayed in save distance, so that they could observe and listen.

The Freys felt safe and shielded to prying eyes, so they didn’t even try to keep their voices down. Sandor gestured for the others to be quiet.

Sandor had been on enough tourneys to recognize Black Walder Frey and Ryman Frey. “That’s lame Lothar and the boy is Wendel Frey,” whispered the Blackfish next to him.

“Sansa's husband…” he added after a pause, bitterness resonated in his voice.

“She will be a widow soon,” Arya said, frosty.

“You're damn right,” Sandor added.

The other six men had already laid down on their bedrolls, close to where they had tied up their horses. Sandor couldn’t see the little bird and that made fear rise in him.

Black Walder handed the boy a wineskin.

“Now tell us, Wendel, how is the Stark bitch in bed? Is she as fierce as a wolf?” Black Walder asked.

Wendel Frey snorted. “Every whore I've had before has had more fire than her. She just lay there crying the whole time and she was as dry as the Dornish desert,” he said with a shrug taking a gulp from the wineskin.

Sandor tensed. All he wanted was to rip that boys head off for hurting Sansa.

“Of course, she was you idiot. She was a fucking maiden.” Lothar said.

“As if she was a maiden. Father gave me leavings of the Lannister dog. Everybody knew that the Hound had brought her back,” Wendel said in a dull way.

“Gods, you are really an idiot. Would you have looked at the sheet once you fucked her on, you would have known the truth. That damn thing looked like you slaughtered a hare on it,” Ryman said with a chuckle.

“Huh… that would at least explain her pathetic begging for me to be gentle.” Wendel Frey raised from the place where he had sat. “Alright, Father said I should enjoy her as long as I have her and that I will do now. See you tomorrow,” Wendel declared scratching his beardless pimply cheek.

“Make her scream, so we have something to enjoy, too,” Black Walder called after him. Wendel walked off to the four small tents that had been erected.

“You know I will,” Wendel called back.

“We need to hurry,” Sandor whispered.

“I need to piss,” Black Walder declared and walked into the darkness.

He stopped at a tree close by and started to fumble around with the laces of his breeches. Sandor snuck up to him, grabbed him in a swift move and broke his neck with a silent crack.

The Frey twitched two times before going completely limp. Sandor pulled the sword out of Black Walders sheath and handed it to the Blackfish.

“Alright, simple plan,” Sandor said. He pointed to himself and the Blackfish. “We take care of the two remaining Freys at the fire. After that I go find Sansa, while you and Arya continue to silently kill the sleeping soldiers. After that, we meet where I tied Stranger.”

The Blackfish nodded and they snuck up to Lothar and Ryman Frey, staying in the shadows.

“Why do you take so long, Walder?” Ryman asked into the darkness.

“He won’t come,” the Blackfish said, but before they could stand up or draw their swords, the swords of Sandor and Brynden Tully took off their heads. Sandor nodded to him and stormed off to the tents, while the Blackfish handed Arya a sword and started to sneak up to the sleeping men that had no idea they death was upon them.

When Sandor came close to the tents he could already hear the characteristic sound of clothing being shredded.

“No! Leave me be!” the little bird's voice pleaded through the cold night’s air.

“Stop being so unruly, wife. Didn’t your bitch mother teach you to obey your husband. I will remind you of your duty, bitch.”

“No! Please!”

Sandor entered the tent with his sword drawn and saw Sansa lying on her back, her hair tangled. Her hands tied behind her back, she was squirming under the touches of her Frey husband, desperate tears streaming out of her red rimmed eyes.
Sandor pulled the Frey off her.

“What the fuck…” he asked in his boyish voice and Sandor knocked him out with the pommel of his sword.

Sandor knelt down to Sansa. She tried to crawl away from him. “Little bird,” Sandor said as softly as he could.

Sansa stopped. “Sandor?” she asked in an unbelieving voice.

“Aye, it’s me.” Sandor cut Sansa's ties and she flung her arms around his neck, sobbing openly in the crook of his neck. Sandor rubbed his hand slowly on her back. “There, there little bird, you are safe now,” Sandor whispered in her ear.

“Sandor…he hurt me,” she sobbed and Sandor felt her wet cheeks against his skin.

No one will hurt you again, or I'll fucking kill them, he had told her in the night they fled. Sandor carefully left Sansa's embrace and walked over to now stirring shape of Wendel Frey.

“No, please, Ser,” he desperately pleaded in his boyish voice. Sandor hadn’t forgotten his words from before.

“He is no Ser,” Sansa said in a tiny voice behind him, before he could.

Sandor's right fist met his face and he could feel the bone crack under his hand, while Wendel Frey moaned, racked with pain. He would have loved to take his time with this bastard. He would have made him suffer for every second he hurt Sansa, but they had to leave quickly.

Sandor drove his sword deep into Wendel's guts and watched him desperately try to stop the blade with his hands from cutting deeper into him. Wendel whimpered a few times before he went silent. Sandor pulled out his sword, wiped the blood on his steel away with Wendel's clothes and sheathed his blade.

Sandor turned back to Sansa and held out his hand to her. She took it and Sandor easily picked her up.

“You're alright now, little bird. You're are alright.”

Sansa flung her arms around his neck and Sandor held her close to his chest when he left the tent and Sansa's dead husband behind.

When Sandor stepped out in in the dark, he looked over to the sleeping men and saw that the Blackfish had just cut down the last of them.

“Take their horses, we will need them,” Sandor said to the Blackfish and Arya before heading back to where he tied up Stranger.

He put Sansa down, when he untied Strangers reins from the tree. Sansa jumped a little, when Arya and the Blackfish appeared with the two horses they had taken.

“Arya?” Sansa asked unbelieving, before pulling her sister in a fierce embrace. “I am so sorry for everything, Arya. I was so stupid and mean to you.”

The little wolf returned her hug. “There is nothing to forgive, Sansa. I wasn’t too nice to you back then either.”

“Mother and Robb are dead,” Sansa wept.

“I know, Sansa. But, at least Uncle Brynden is alive. He escaped before the massacre,” the little wolf sobbed back.

Sansa lifted her eyes and found her great uncle. “Edmure is alive, too. He is being held prisoner alongside other Lords from the North and the Riverlands.”

The Blackfish knelt down besides the girls and pulled the girls into an embrace. “I am so sorry, Sansa. I should have prevented your wedding.” Sansa didn’t answer, but her sobbing increased slightly.

“We should get moving,” Sandor growled.

“Aye, you are right, Hound,” the Blackfish said and turned back to Sansa. “You can ride with me, Sansa,” her great uncle told her.

“No!” Sansa yelped, grabbing Sandor's hand, “I will only ride with Sandor.” She looked up to him and Sandor could see tears shimmer in her eyes.

“Of course, little bird.”

“Alright, let’s go,” the Blackfish said, but Sandor could see that he was slightly hurt that Sansa didn’t ride with him. The Blackfish and Arya mounted their horses. Sandor loosened his cloak and wrapped it around Sansa. She was frozen and he didn’t want her to get ill. Sandor mounted his black stallion and lifted Sansa up in front of him.

The group left the dead Freys behind and Sandor had his arm around Sansa to keep her from falling off the horse, while she leaned against his chest, clutching to his arm.

 

***

 

The had ridden for a few hours now and only the moon lightened the nightly landscape. “I am sorry, Sandor.” The little bird whispered clutching her arm tighter.

“Shhh, little bird. You have no reason to be sorry. If someone should apologize, it should be me for not having fought to stay with you,” Sandor whispered against her hair.

“I should have known Mother and Robb wouldn’t listen to me. I was so stupid and naïve. A stupid little girl with stupid dreams that had to learn the hard and painful way again, that I am only a pawn for everyone,” Sansa said between soft sobs.

“No, Sansa, you are not stupid. You couldn’t know how the war has changed your family and I should have fought for the right to stay as your shield.”

“No, Sandor. They would have killed you and then I would be alone now, in the clutches of the Freys… and…and my husband's,” she said, close to a whisper in the end.

“Don’t think on them, little bird. They are dead.”

“Sandor, he…I…” she sobbed quietly.

“Shhh, little bird, you don’t need to explain anything right now. The only thing that matters now is that you are safe and free of him.” Sandor tried to comfort her.

“Please never leave me, Sandor,” the little bird pleaded.

“I won’t, Sansa. I promise,” he rasped as soft as he could manage and Sansa pulled his cloak tighter around her frame and snuggled closer against his chest.

In the early hours of the morning, Sandor and the Blackfish decided to make camp. Arya just murmured a ´thank gods´, nearly falling asleep in her saddle, while Sansa leaned against his chest, sleeping relatively peacefully. Sometimes she had stirred and murmured, but Sandor never could understand what she said. Sandor didn’t even want to imagine what atrocities Sansa had seen in the Twins.

They had found a relatively hidden place near a small stream. They must still be close to the river, since its rushing could be heard in the distance over the silence of the forest. The Blackfish jumped down his horse and started to collect some wood for a small fire. Arya climbed down her horse and took the reins of her great uncles horse and tied it alongside her own at a nearby tree, before simply lying down wrapped in her cloak.

Sansa had woken up and yawned, still wrapped in his cloak. Sandor climbed off his horse and lifted Sansa off his black beast.

“We make camp, little bird,” Sandor said and Sansa nodded, and sat down next to the small fire her great uncle had built. Sandor tied his horse up and sat down next to Sansa. She looked pale in the glow of the fire.

The Blackfish sat on the other side of the fire, while Arya was already snoring in the dirt. “You should sleep, Sansa,” her great uncle suggested kindly.

“No! I…I…don’t want to sleep. I am not tired at all,” Sansa said, but Sandor knew it was a lie.

“Sleep, little bird. I will be right next to you whole time.” Sansa looked at him with her huge blue eyes and nodded in the end. She lay down and Sandor saw that she quickly fell asleep.

The Blackfish nodded approvingly over the fire. Sandor and the Blackfish rotated with the watch every few hours so the other one could sleep. Sansa always searched for his hand with hers when he slept on the ground besides her.

Shortly before midday, the group slowly woke up. The Blackfish had just lit a new fire and handed bread and dried meat around he had obviously taken from the Freys last night.

They ate in silence. The little wolf was gnawing on a dried sausage, while the little bird ate tiny bits of bread. Her puffy, red rimmed eyes focused on the burning twigs in the fire. She looked even paler in the daylight. Sandor's cloak was tightly wrapped around her and some of her fiery hair had escaped her braid.

“What are we going to do now?” Arya asked, still chewing on the sausage.

“We can´t go south,” Sansa said, “Joffrey sent a letter to Walder Frey demanding me. They will send men to search for me should I not reach the capital.”

Sandor could clearly hear the fear in her voice. “Your aunt Lysa is still in the Vale with your cousin Robin. She could keep you safe,” the Blackfish suggested.

Sandor had to chuckle at that. “Where was your damn niece when the young wolf needed her swords? She hid herself the whole time to breastfeed her weakly offspring. Tell me you are sure she wouldn’t sell the girls to the Lannisters.”

“Family. Duty. Honor. Lysa hasn’t forgotten about her family words.”

Sandor saw Sansa tense up at the word ´duty´ and snorted. “Especially when she was bedded by Littlefucker, right?” Sandor said, teasing.

The Blackfish seemed taken aback by these words. “From whom in the seven hells did you hear that from, Hound?”

“From whom? Littlefucker, of course. He is boasting to everyone that he bedded both Tully girls and your niece never denied it. She does everything Littlefucker tells her to do.”

“They were close as children, when Petyr was the ward of my brother, but he would never do that,” the Blackfish said sternly.

“Aye, that’s why Littlefucker held the dagger to Ned Starks throat. He can’t be trusted and your niece can also be not trusted with him influencing her.”

“So, not the Vale,” the Blackfish said.

“Jon is at the Wall,” the little wolf suggested.

Sandor remembered the stern young man from his visit in Winterfell with King Robert. He had stood behind the little bird at the welcoming in Winterfell's courtyard.

“He is the only brother we have left,” Sansa said in a tiny voice. “He is all we have left.”

The Blackfish nodded. “Aye, but I won’t accompany you to the wall,” their great uncle told them.

The two girls looked at him questioningly and even Sandor was surprised. He turned to Sandor.

“Riverrun is still in our hands. The Freys probably know by now that I escaped and if they hear that Sansa wasn’t delivered to Joffrey, they will think she is with me and they will first search in Riverrun. I will hold the castle as long as I can.”

“They will kill you if they take the castle. You know that right?” Sandor growled.

“Aye, but first it’s my home and I won’t let them take it without a fight. With Edmure prisoner, it’s even more important, and second, if it helps my great nieces to get North to their brother, I am willing to die for it.”

Sandor nodded, approving.

“Best you ride to Maidenpool or Saltpans and try to find a ship. You won't be able to cross the Neck with the Ironborn still in Moat Cailin,” the Blackfish said.

They decided it would be best to set off soon. Brynden Tully and Sandor prepared the horses, while Sansa and Arya split up the food they had taken from the Freys equally for their journey ahead.

“Clegane, I never thought that I would once say it, but I am glad you will keep my great nieces safe. I already thank you for that.” He held out his hand to Sandor and he shook it.

“Are you really sure you won’t come with us?” Sandor asked.

“I am sure. I should have talked my niece out of the idea of Sansa's marriage. But I didn’t and I won’t forgive myself for it. I ignored Sansa's desperate pleading and begging. I thought her mother must know better than me. If dying is the price I have to pay so my great nieces can be safe, I will gladly pay it.”

“No one will fucking hurt Sansa or the little wolf, or I will kill them,” Sandor growled.

“Good,” the Blackfish said and stepped closer to him, so the girls couldn’t hear his next words. “Make sure you somehow get some moontea for Sansa. I didn’t prevent her from being wedded and bedded by a Frey, but I will make sure she doesn’t have to bear his child.”

Sandor nodded. “Aye. I will get it for her. I promise. I will do everything to make the little bird smile happy again.”

The girls came over to them. Arya held the bags while Sansa had Sandor's cloak still wrapped around herself, not looking lifting her eyes.

The Blackfish said his goodbye to the girls while Sandor mounted Stranger. He watched him whispering something in Sansa's ear and Sansa nodded weakly, before their great uncle gave each of them a hug.

Sansa walked over to Sandor and he pulled her up in the saddle in front of him.

It felt good to have Sansa so close to him. It felt like a part of him that had gone missing was back. The little wolf had mounted her horse and was waiting next to Stranger.

“May the gods watch over you,” the Blackfish finally said, before riding off west towards the Green Fork on his way to Riverrun.

Fuck the gods, Sandor thought. Sansa had him to keep her safe.

Chapter Text

Sansa still felt sore, but the closeness to Sandor made it endurable. It has been a week since their great uncle left them and they hadn’t run into trouble so far. Every evening when they made camp, Arya told her of her journey and what friends she had made during her journey. Sansa was glad that Arya hadn’t been alone in the wilderness.

When Arya had asked after Robb and mother, Sansa had not the heart to tell her how both had given her up and even disinherited her to be sure that she couldn’t be used to get claim to Winterfell. Sansa was sure Sandor knew she was lying when she told Arya that her mother and brother had been sure Arya would return to them. Sansa hid the fact how her mother has sold her off to the Freys, since Arya couldn’t be found to marry Elmar or whatever his name was.

Arya had once asked her, why she had ended up married to a Frey, but Sandor had fortunately changed the topic. Sansa wasn’t sure she was ready to talk about it. She still felt betrayed by her mother and brother. Every night as soon as Sansa closed her eyes, she could see the massacre and the dead mutilated bodies of her mother, brother and sister in law. The dream then changed and she couldn’t move, while she felt Wendel’s touches all over her body, heard the laughing of Walder Frey as he mocked her for her weakness.

Usually, she awoke at some point, disoriented and crying, but Sandor was always at her side in the blink of an eye to comfort her. His deep voice always managed to calm and make her feel safe again.

Arya luckily never said anything the next morning. Arya dealt differently with the loss of her family. She always recited a list of names before sleeping. Sansa didn’t know how to console her sister in her grief.

Every village they had passed had been burned to the ground, and unfortunately, their food was slowly running out. They hadn’t had the chance to buy anything.

They made a short break at a stone bridge crossing a brook to water their horses.

“Where are we?” Arya asked, chewing on a radish she had found.

“Half way to Saltpans, I would say,” Sandor said petting Stranger, who was still drinking next to Arya’s horse. Sansa was sitting at the edge of the brook washing her face and hands with the cold water.

“Seven blessings to you,” an elderly man called down from the bridge, sitting on a cart loaded with hay.

“What do you want?” Sandor asked.

“What do I want? This is my land.”

“If I'm standing on it, it's my land,” Sandor growled.

“We were just watering the horses,” Arya said.

“We'll be on our way. Forgive my...my husband. He was wounded fighting in the war,” Sansa said.

“Which house did he fight for?” the man asked curious.

“The Tullys of Riverrun and the Starks of Winterfell. He was the shield of the eldest Stark daughter,” Sansa said and tried to sound convincing.

The man nodded and started to smile warmly at them. “I heard she was married to a Frey. That poor girl.” He looked up in the cloudy sky. “There's a storm coming. You'll be wanting a roof tonight. There's fresh hay in the barn. And Sally here makes rabbit stew just like her mom used to do. We don't have much, but any man that bled for House Tully or Stark is welcome to it,” he said, smiling kindly gesturing to his daughter next to him.

They followed the man back to his house. It was a plain small stone house. Some chickens were running around and some smoke came out of the chimney. Sandor and Arya tied the horses, and Sandor helped the man with the hay on the cart, while Arya and Sansa tended to the horses. Stranger seemed to have taken a liking in her since he didn’t try to bite off any of her fingers.

They had just finished with the horses, when the first drops of rain fell outside the stable. They hurried into the house and were greeted by the delicious smell of stew and fresh bread.

The steaming pot stood on the table and they all sat around it. “We ask the Father to judge us with mercy accepting our human frailty. We ask the Mother to bless our crops so we may feed ourselves and all who come to our door. We ask the Warrior to give us courage in these days of strife and turmoil. We ask the Maiden to protect Sally's virtue to keep her from the clutches of depravity,” the man prayed. Sansa was way too hungry to care for it. She shot a glance to Sandor and felt that he was annoyed by it, but intertwined her fingers with his to keep him from saying anything. They were guests here and have to honor the rules of the host.

“We ask the Smith to strengthen our hands and our backs so we may finish the work required of us. We ask the Crone to guide us on our journey from darkness to darkness. And we ask the Stranger not to kill us in our beds tonight,” the man finished and filled each of their bowl.

“Here, little bird,” Sandor said handing her some bread.

Arya was already wolfing down her bowl not caring about any manner she had once learned. “Really good,” Arya said, swiping her mouth with her hand.

“Did you fight at the Twins?” the man asked.

“Call that a fight? Slaughtering livestock more like,” Sandor simply said. Sansa tensed and unwanted pictures forced themselves into her mind.

“The Red Wedding they're calling it. Walder Frey committed sacrilege that day. He shared bread and salt with the Starks. He offered them guest right.”

“Guest right don't mean much anymore,” Sandor said, refilling his bowl.

“It means something to me. The gods will have their vengeance. Frey will burn in the seventh hell for what he did, especially since he was tied to the Starks and Tullys by marriage. Things were different when Hoster Tully ruled the Riverlands. We had good years and bad years, same as anyone. But we were safe. Now raiders come plundering, steal our food, steal our silver. I was going to send Sally north to stay with my brother, but the north's no better. The whole country's gone sour,” he told them.

Sandor must have sensed her unease and slightly touched her hand and it made Sansa’s dark memories disappear. “Are you alright, little bird?” he asked concerned.

“Yes, yes…it was just…it’s nothing,” Sansa told him with a small smile.

“You look like you could really swing that sword. A real warrior with proper training. Those raiders wouldn't stand a chance against you. How would it be if you stayed on till the new moon? I could use a man to help with the farm work. Sally does what she can, but she can't lift a bale of hay and if any thieves came looking for easy pickings, one look at you, I'd bet they'd run the other way.

“Meaning no offense, but you must have been the best warrior if the King in the North chose you to be his sister’s shield,” the man said kindly.

“The princess chose her shield by herself,” Sansa said and all eyes turned to her, but Sandor spoke before anyone else could say something.

“Aye, she did. We would stay and help, but I need to bring the…my wife and her sister to her brother in the North. We need to get a ship before the winter storms come.”

“I see,” the man said, “Too bad, but I and Sally will manage the work somehow.” Sally nodded, widely smiling.

“What happened to your wife, if you allow the question,” Arya asked grabbing another piece of bread.

“She died a few years ago. She was the local midwife of the surrounding villages. Maybe Sally will someday follow her mother’s steps. My Myra wrote down everything she knew,” the farmer said with some sadness in his voice.

They finished their meal and returned to the stables. Their bellies filled with stew, Arya immediately fell asleep in the soft hay, while Sandor removed his armor.

Sandor and Sansa just lay on the soft hay, listening to Arya’s breathing next to them.

“Why did you tell him I am your husband, little bird?” Sandor asked in a whisper.

“I don’t know. You make me feel safe and I thought that’s how you should feel around your husband,” Sansa whispered back. “With Wendel…” Sansa started, but couldn’t form the right words.

“Shh, little bird. Tell me about it when you are ready. I will be there for you. Let us try to get some sleep,” Sandor whispered as softly as he managed.

“Every time I close my eyes, I see them. The bodies of my brother and mother and everybody else,” Sansa whispered, feeling tears well up in her eyes.

Sandor pulled her to his chest and she felt the warmth of his body through his tunic. His hand drew circles over her back and Sansa felt the tension leave her body again. “Try to think on the happy moments you had with you mother and brother in Winterfell, little bird.”

Sansa remembered how often her mother had brushed out her hair and how she had played knight and maiden with Robb in the godswood.

“I miss them, Sandor,” Sansa whispered. “They made me marry a Frey, but I still miss them.”

“I know little bird. I know,” Sandor said and Sansa snuggled closer up to him. To be this close to him and the happy memories of her childhood in Winterfell made her finally drift off to sleep.

The next morning Sansa woke up by the crow of a cock. She slowly opened her eyes and saw Arya still deeply asleep next to her. Sansa rolled over, but Sandor wasn’t lying next to her.

Sansa felt a short moment of panic, but seeing his armor still lying in the corner made the panic fade away.

Sansa got up and left the stable and heard Sandor’s voice from inside the house. The window was open so she could clearly hear what he was saying.

“Thanks for letting us stay and share your food with us,” Sandor said.

“That goes without saying,” the farmer said.

“You said your wife was a midwife…” Sandor started.

“Aye, she was, Ser. My Myra helped many women to bring their children into this world and also helped them with other things. Many of her potions and herbs are still here.”

“Is there the slightest possibility there is still some moontea left?”

Sansa eyes widened at hearing his words.

“For my…my wife,” Sandor continued.

Sansa placed her hand over her lower belly.
Gods be good, Sansa thought looking down to her hand resting over her belly, Wendel has spilled his seed in me. I could be with his child right now.

Sansa felt her stomach tighten in fear. She raised her eyes and looked through the open window again. The farmer was eying Sandor curious.

“You aren’t her husband, are you?” the farmer asked carefully.

Sansa entered the house and both men turned to her. “No, he is not.” Sansa said.

“Little bird…” Sandor started.

“I think we can trust him, Sandor,” Sansa told him before turning back to the farmer, “I am Sansa Stark, eldest daughter of Ned Stark and Catelyn Stark, the eldest daughter of your late liege Lord Hoster Tully. The other girl is my sister Arya Stark. This man is Sandor Clegane, formerly known as the Hound. He is my… my savior.”

The mouth of the farmer fell agape. “Milady, that means you are…” he started.

“Yes. I was married to a Frey at the Red Wedding,” Sansa tried to say without emotions, but her memories of the wedding and bedding broke free.

“I beg you, good man, to give us some moontea if you have. I…I can’t have a Frey child,” Sansa desperately cried. Sandor was at her side within a second pulling her into an embrace.

“Of course, milady. I will look right away if there is some left and you don’t have to fear I will tell anyone about your whereabouts.” The farmer went into the next room and started to search for the desired herbs between many others jars and pods on a dusty shelf.

Sandor’s embrace made her calm down again. “Sorry, Sansa. I didn’t want you to hear about the moontea this way, but I didn’t know how I should have brought up the topic,” Sandor whispered still holding her.

“I know, Sandor. You were right to ask for it. I didn’t think of the possibility to be with child until I heard your words and I remembered how Wen…” The words got stuck in her throat. “My moonblood should start soon if I counted right. I am scared, Sandor.”

“We will find some moontea for you, little bird. I promise,” Sandor said and Sansa nodded against his chest.

“Ahh, here we have it,” the farmer called and came back with a claypod. A moon was marking it and Sansa could already smell the herbs. He also handed them a small book.

“Here the herbs for the tea. I never saw how it’s made, but my wife wrote it down in this book. I need to wake up Sally and take care of the horses. Use whatever you need for it milady.” With that the farmer was gone.

“What do we need for it, little bird?” Sandor asked and Sansa started to read the description in the book.

They started with heating up water and adding in the herbs, when bubbles started to appear. The smell of herbs filled the room. Sansa had a cup full of steaming tea and took a sip and grimaced at the bitter taste.

Sandor put some honey into the tea and that made it more palatable.

“When do we know it worked?” Sandor asked. Sansa read the part that described the effect.

“If the tea works, my moonblood should start as usual.”

Sandor nodded. “I will look for some clothes you will need. Maybe you can wake up your sister. We should move on soon.” Sansa nodded and made her way back to the stable to find Arya already awake, rubbing her eyes yawning.

“Where have you been?” Arya asked her.

“I was with Sandor. We…we had to take care of something.”

Her sister eyed her closely. “I see,” she finally said and got up. Sandor entered the stable and handed Sansa a bunch of linen clothes.

“Here, for later. We should get moving so we make good time today.”

Sansa nodded and put the clothes away in one saddlebag. They readied the horses and had a quick breakfast with the farmer and his daughter.

Sansa thanked him for all he had done for them. The farmer simply said that it was an honor to have such a fine lady and her sister under his roof. Sally even made a clumsy curtsy, when they said their goodbyes.

Sandor mounted Stranger and pulled Sansa in front of him. “May the seven watch over you, milady,” the farmer said.

“Thank you. Over you and your daughter too”, Sansa answered.

They continued their journey south to Saltpan. Sansa leaned back against Sandor’s chest, her right hand resting over her lover belly. When the first cramps started Sansa smiled for the first time in her life about the arrival of her moonblood.

Chapter Text

They had ridden for an hour, when her moonblood finally started. Sandor started to make short breaks for her needs every few hours, like he had always done during their journey to Riverrun, when her moonblood was upon her.

It was shortly after midday, when Sansa’s stomach started to growl. Sandor must have heard the sound since he lightly chuckled.

“Hungry, little bird?” he asked.

Sansa felt the heat rise up her face, before she turned around to face him.

“Yes, but I know we don’t have anything to waste. I will wait for dinner,” Sansa told him. The farmer had offered to give them some food, but they had refused. After all, he had to come through the winter with it.

“What about you, little wolf? Hungry?” Sandor called over to Arya on the other horse.

“Starved,” she called back.

Arya had stopped giving Sandor hateful glances, since Sansa had apologized over and over again for not telling the truth what had happened at the Trident with Joffrey. She didn’t accuse him anymore of killing her butcher boy. Arya, on the other hand, had also apologized for hitting Sansa, so that Cersei had a reason to demand Lady's death. Sansa still missed her direwolf. She would have grown as big as Grey Wind had been.

“I know an inn close by. If we are lucky it is still there,” Sandor said.

He rode off the path they followed for days. He led the way with Stranger, while Arya followed behind them. Sansa felt his breath at her ear.

“Maybe they even have some lemon cakes, little bird,” he whispered and Sansa turned around and felt herself smile at him. Sansa felt a strange sensation at seeing him smile back at her. After a while they spotted the inn. Smoke coming out of the chimney.

Some horses were tied outside. Sandor gestured to get of the horses. They tied them at a nearby tree.

“We better watch out first for who is in there. Horses mean soldiers.” They hid between the bushed at the treeline and watched the inn. Arya slowly became impatient.

“I'm hungry. You're hungry. Sansa is hungry,” she said.

“Five horses, five men. More than I feel like killing on an empty stomach,” Sandor growled. The door opened and two men stepped outside to made water.

“I know him. The small one. His name is Polliver. He captured us and took us to Harrenhal. He killed Lommy,” Arya told them.

“What the fuck's a Lommy?” Sandor asked.

“He was my friend. Polliver stole my sword and put it right through his neck. He's still got it,” Arya continued.

“Got what?” Sandor asked.

“My sword Needle.”

“You have a sword,” Sansa asked her sister.

“Yes. Needle was a goodbye gift from Jon, when we all left Winterfell.”

“Needle? Of course you named your sword,” Sandor said, still eyeing the men.

“Lots of people name their swords,” Arya said as if Sandor just had questioned an unspoken law.

“Lots of cunts,” Sandor murmured, while the men returned into the inn. He turned to Sansa.

“It's too risky. We don’t know…what are you… get back here,” he said, but Arya was already half way to the inn door. Sandor ran after her and Sansa tried to keep up with them.

“My brother gave me that sword and I get it back,” Arya said stubbornly.

“Get back here,” Sandor growled when he caught up with her.

“He killed my friend.”

“I don't care if he ate your friend. We're not going in there…”

The door opened and a man in Lannister armor stared at Sandor, before slowly retreating into the building. Now that they have been seen, they had no chance to leave the place without seeming suspicious. Sandor entered the inn and the girls followed close by.

Four men were eating and drinking, while a fifth was groping on a girl around Sansa's age. She was obviously the innkeepers daughter.

The men were eying them curiously. Sandor walked towards a table as far away from them as possible.

“Please, she's a good girl,” the innkeeper said.

“Shut your mouth and pour us more ale and we may not take her with us when we're done with her,” the one that has Arya's sword said, before turning to Sandor and the girls.

“I know you. You're the Hound. Pour our new friend some ale,” he said and walked over to the table where they sat and Sansa felt fear rise in her.

“What brings you so far north?” Polliver asked.

“I could ask the same of you. What are you doing up here?” Sandor asked, taking a sip of his ale.

“Just keeping the king's peace,” Polliver said.

“No need. The war's over,” Sandor said plainly.

“So I've heard. Stannis defeated at the Blackwater. Robb Stark killed at the Twins. And where am I for all of it? Stuck with your brother. Meaning no offense,” Polliver said with a smirk. Sansa tensed at hearing her brother's name and she reached for Sandor's hand under the table to keep the emotions from breaking through her mask.

“None taken,” Sandor said.

“He's good, the Mountain is. Best at what he does. But torture, torture, torture, torture. You spend enough time putting the hammer to people, you start to feel like a carpenter making chairs. Drains the fun right out of it. And what's life without a little fun?” Polliver said chuckling and then eyed Sansa closely, making her squirm slightly.

Polliver looked at her like Lord Frey had, Sansa thought.

“But I don't need to tell you that, eh?” he said liking his lips.

Sandor didn’t say anything, but took another sip of his ale.

“You know what? You should come with us. Inn keepers, they've always got something hidden away somewhere. Gold, silver, more daughters. Always something if you know how to make them talk. And there's plenty of him between here and King's Landing. You could do well for yourself. We certainly have been,” Polliver suggested.

“I'm not going to King's Landing,” Sandor said in a low voice.

“Think about it. We could do whatever we like wherever we go. These are the king's colors. No one's standing in his way now. Which means no one's standing in ours.”

“Fuck the king,” Sandor spat in his face, before taking another gulp of his ale. The room was suddenly completely silent.

“When I heard that Joffrey's dog had tucked tail and run from the Battle of the Blackwater with the Stark bitch in tow, I didn't believe it - but here you are.”

“Here I am. Bring me one of those chickens,” Sandor pointed to the chickens roasting over the fireplace.

“You got money to pay for it?” Polliver asked.

“You paid for it?”

“No,” Polliver said laughing, “But we're the king's men. So, you got money?”

“More than enough, but still won’t pay and I'll still take that chicken.”

“Tell you what. We'll trade you. One of our little chickens for your redheaded one. Give us a go at the Stark bitch. We heard rumors she married a Frey not long ago. Lowell there likes them a bit broken in.”

Sansa felt a shiver run down her spine at the looks these men gave her.

“You're a talker. Listening to talkers makes me thirsty”, Sandor said and grabbed the horn of Polliver and emptied it in one gulp, “Ah, and hungry. I think I'll take two chickens.”

“You don't seem to understand the situation,” Polliver started.

“I understand that if any more words come pouring out of your cunt mouth about the Stark girl, I'm gonna have to eat every fucking chicken in this room after I killed you and your fucking friends over there,” Sandor said calmly, but Sansa knew that he was ready to fight.

“You lived your life for the king. And now you going to die for some traitor’s bitch?”

Sansa felt Sandor loosen his grip on her hand under the table. “I am,” Sandor said and the room became even more silent, if that was possible, but Sansa felt a small smile play around her mouth.

Polliver made the first move, but Sandor knocked the table over and pulled his sword.

Sansa hid in a corner and whispered one prayer after another to the old gods and the new to give Sandor's arm strength. She couldn’t find the strength to watch the fight. She only heard the shouts and grunts, before the room turned silent. She heard her sister's voice and Sansa peeked out of her hiding spot behind table.

“Something wrong with your leg, boy?”

“What? What do you mean?” Polliver stammered.

“Can you walk? I've got to carry you?” Arya asked.

“Carry me?”

“Fine little blade. Maybe I'll pick my teeth with it,” Sansa's sister said, while pressing the tip of the blade into Pollivers throat. He gasped and gurgled while dying.

Sandor just gave the deathblow to the last Lannister man, when the inn keeper came down the ladder to the second floor, where he and his daughter had fled to, when the fight started. Sandor just sheathed his sword, when Sansa saw that he had a cut on his right leg. Sansa ran towards him.

“Ohh no, Sandor, you're hurt.”

“Its nothing little bird. Just a scratch. I had worse,” Sandor tried to calm her.

“Ser, how can I thank you? Without you, I and my daughter would have been lost,” the inn keeper said happily. Sandor flinched, obviously being in pain.

“You might could help us out with some food and wine. And it would be very welcomed if you could keep silent about what happened here.” Sandor pulled out five gold dragons and handed them to the inn keeper. “Here, for your inconveniences,” Sandor growled and the inn keeper nodded.

“I will tell everyone that the men were killed by the Brotherhood Without Banners.”

“You can tell that the Stranger himself came here, I don’t care, as long as you leave us out of it.”

“I will, ser. I promise.”

“Good, now pack us the food and make sure there is chicken and lemon cakes, if you have any, and make your daughter bring some clean sheets,” Sandor growled and the inn keeper started to do as he was bid.

“Fuck,” Sandor muttered as he eyed the cut in his leg.

“We need to wash the cut and I can sew it up Sandor,” Sansa told him.

“Later, little bird. First, we need to get as far away from her as we can. Just bandage it.” Sandor cut the sheets the inn keepers daughter brought into pieces and Sansa bandaged his wounds as well as she could.

“What did you think you were doing?” he growled at Arya standing nearby her eyes cast to the ground.

“I wanted my sword back,” Arya said ruefully.

“And you nearly killed us with that idea. Next time…fuck it, you won't listen anyway.”

The inn keeper came back with several large bags filled with food and wineskins. They quickly left and rode back the way they had come to the path they had followed for days now. They were eating in the saddle and Sandor handed her a half chicken. Sansa had never eaten anything better. She enjoyed every bite and licked the fat off her finger, before she took one of the few lemon cakes they had.

***

They made camp earlier than usual this evening. Sandor didn't say much, but Sansa knew he was biting away the pain in his leg.

“Sandor, please, let me take care of your leg now,” Sansa said after Sandor had lifted her off the horse.

“Alright, little bird,” he said and sat down at a large tree. Sansa and Arya tied the horses and Arya started to collect some wood for a fire.

Sansa knelt down next to Sandor. The bandage they had made had become bloody. Sandor's hair was sticking to his sweaty forehead.

“I have needle and thread in my saddlebag, little bird,” Sandor said.

Sansa searched the saddleback for it, while Arya had started a small fire. After Sansa had found the needle and thread she returned to Sandor, who was taking gulps from one of the wineskins. Sansa carefully loosened the bandage and shredded Sandors breeches around the cut. She flinched at the nasty sight of it.

“Here, make the wine boil in the helmet,” Sandor told Arya and she did as bid.

“It won't be enough to wash the wound with boiling wine, Sandor. We need to burn it out to stop it from festering, before I can sew it up,” Sansa told him.

“No fire!” he yelped.

Arya came over with his helmet full of hot wine and a burning stick.

“We know you don’t like fire, but it will only take a second an…” Arya said.

“NO FIRE!” Sandor yelled back at her.

Sansa saw the fear in his eyes. She grabbed his chin and made him looked at her. “Sandor, I will be here for you,” she said and he slowly nodded.

Sandor put a piece of leather between his teeth. Sandor nodded and Arya poured the wine over the cut making Sandor cry out. Sansa squeezed his hand to show him she was still with him. She used one of her clean linen clothes to clean the wound of dried blood and dirt. Arya came with the burning stick and looked at Sansa with uncertainty.

Sandor was breathing heavily and his skin was sweaty. Sansa pulled him into an embrace and buried his face against her chest.

“Do it,” Sansa simply said to Arya and she put the flame to the wound.

Sandor was roaring in pain trying to get out of Sansa's embrace, before he finally lost consciousness. Sansa leaned him back against the tree and started to sew up the cut.

“Septa Mordane would praise you for your stitches,” Arya japed, making Sansa chuckle. Sansa bandaged the leg again and covered Sandor with his cloak to keep him warm.

Sansa sat down next to Arya at the fire, sharing one cold chicken with her. “He told me he saved you in Kings Landing several times. Is it true?” Arya asked.

“Yes. He was the only one who cared for me in King's Landing. One time, after Robb had a great victory in the west, Joffrey had me brought in front of the court to answer for Robb's crimes.” Sansa paused shortly listening to the cracking of the fire. “He threatened to kill me and send Robb my head, but in the end he had me stripped and beaten by the Kingsguard. I still have some scars from Meryn Trant's sword on the backside of my legs.”

“Another reason for me to kill him,” Arya said.

“Sandor came and gave me his cloak to cover myself. And only a few weeks later, when Myrcella was sent to Dorne, a riot started in Fleabottom on our way back to the Red Keep.” Arya looked at her listening closely. “I was separated and some peasants hunted me and I ended up in a dead end of a tiny street. I tried to fight them, but they pushed me to the ground and two of them held me down, while a third man with garlic breath started to tear my skirts apart.”

Sansa looked over to Sandor's sleeping form.

“And then Sandor was suddenly there, pulling the men of me and killing them. He carefully picked me up and told me I was safe now and carried me back to the keep,” Sansa said in a bit of a dreamy voice.

“And then he fled with you?” Arya asked, taking another bit of the chicken.

“Yes, we fled in the chaos of the battle of the Blackwater.”

“He really cares for your safety and wellbeing. Even I can see that.”

Sansa smiled back at her. “We should get some sleep. I hope he is better tomorrow,” Sansa said.

“Me, too,” Arya said before lying down.

 

***

 

The next morning Sansa woke up to find Sandor trying to get up the ground. “You did a good job with the cut, little bird,” he said holding onto the trunk.

Sansa got up and felt his forehead. It was hot and sweaty.

“I think you have fever, Sandor,” Sansa said, concerned.

“I will be fine little bird. We should get moving.” They broke up their camp, but Sansa could see that Sandor moved slower than usual.

Sansa's concern only grow over the next few hours feeling Sandor getting shaky in the saddle behind him.

“Little bird…” he whispered behind Sansa, when she felt him slip out of the saddle.

“Sandor!” Sansa yelped when he hit the ground. Sansa jumped off Stranger and desperately shook Sandor's shoulder. “Sandor…Sandor!” Sansa cried and she already felt the first tears fall. “Wake up! You can't leave me! I need you! You promised! You promised, Sandor!”

Sansa hadn't even realized that Arya stood next to her. She looked up to Arya, but only saw her shake her head slightly. Both sisters were startled when they heard the sound of a cart rumbling closer.

“Help me. We need to get him off the road,” Sansa said to Arya, trying to move Sandor.

“He is too heavy for us, Sansa.”

“Seven blessings,” a voice behind them called and both girls turned around. Arya drew Needle.

“What do you want?” Arya asked bluntly.

“I heard your voices and thought you might need help,” the man said. He was a tall man, but not as tall as Sandor. He wore the robe of a septon and had bare feet. “I am Septon Meribald. I travel through the land to spread the word of the Seven and help people in need and you two look like your friend could need some help.”

“He was wounded,” Sansa said. “We tried our best, but he has fever.”

The septon knelt next to Sansa and touched Sandor's forehead. “He needs real medicine. Come with me, milady. I know a man that will know what to do.”

Sansa didn’t know if she could trust this septon, but they had no other options if Sandor should survive. She nodded and helped Septon Meribald lift Sandor onto the donkey cart, between some sacks of vegetables.

“How do you know we can trust this man?” Arya asked her in a whisper.

“We simply have to. I can’t let Sandor die and let’s not forget whose fault it was in the first place that he got injured,” Sansa whispered sharply back. Arya had the decency to look guilty.

“You don’t have to fear anything, girls. I am a real septon. I am here to help.”

Sansa tied Stranger to the cart and rode with him sitting next to Sandor, who was stirring sometimes. Arya rode behind them. Sansa heard the sound of rushing water and they suddenly stood at the edge of a river.

“Where are we?” Sansa asked.

“That’s the mouth of the Trident. You see that island in the middle? That’s our destination,” Septon Meribald said.

“How can we reach it? I don’t see a ferry,” Arya said.

“There are hidden paths under the water. Only a few people know about these shallow paths. Stay close to me and you will be fine.”

They followed the hidden ways for hours. Sometimes it seemed they were walking away from the island rather than getting closer, but in the end they had finally reached it. They were greeted by a tall man with a shaved head.

“Welcome to the Quite Isle, Septon Meribald. It's good to see you again. I see you have brought guests this time.”

“Yes, the companion of this two lovely girls needs your knowledge, Elder Brother.”

“I see. Bring him in and I will see what I can do.”

Chapter Text

Elder Brother and Meribald carried Sandor into one of the smaller buildings next to the sept. The two men were obviously having trouble carrying him in full armor.

“Your friend is pretty heavy,” Meribald said.

“Brother Narbert, bring me my herbs and tools,” Elder Brother told one of the few hooded men that watched the spectacle. The men bowed and went to get what Elder Brother demanded without saying a word.

“Arya, maybe you can tend to the horses,” Sansa suggested and Arya nodded.

They entered the building and placed Sandor onto the bed that stood at the wall. With skilled hands Elder Brother freed Sandor of his armor and put it aside.

“Little bird…” Sandor said. It pained Sansa to see him that weak.

“I am here, Sandor,” Sansa said, kneeling next to the bed.

“He can’t hear us, milady,” Elder Brother said, “The fever speaks out of him. He doesn’t know who he talks to.” He turned to Septon Meribald. “I think I don’t need your helping hand anymore, Septon. Brother Rawney will soon have the dinner ready. Today he has cooked Sister´s Stew with fresh crabs.”

“Sounds delicious, brother,” Meribald nodded to Sansa and left. Elder Brother handed her a small phial with a white liquid.

“Milk of the Poppy. It will ease the pain for the things I will have to do,” Elder brother said.

Sansa held the phial to Sandor's mouth. “Here. Drink, Sandor. It will help you.”

Sandor took a few sips, while Sansa brushed some strands of his hair off his sweaty forehead. Elder Brother loosened the bandage on his leg.

“We cleaned the wound with boiling wine and burned it out,” Sansa told him.

“These are excellent stitches. Your septa must have been proud of you.”

Sansa was startled and didn’t know what to say. “I…” Sansa began.

“Don’t fear milady. You are not the first noble woman that came to this island.” He smiled warmly at her. “The cut has started to fester. I need to open it again and cut away the dead flesh. If the gods are merciful the herb tinctures I will apply will stop it and lower the fever.”

Elder Brother took a small knife and started to cut the stitches and Sandor started to moan.

“The little bird… when I first saw her…” Sandor whispered, his thoughts far away.

“What is he talking about?” Elder Brother asked, not looking away from the wound.

“…she looked so pretty…”

“I think he is talking about me…” Sansa said a bit surprised.

“…I only stood there in my white cloak, while they beat her…I should have helped her…”

“Talk to him. I think I don’t need an additional hand right now.” Elder Brother said starting to cut away festered flesh. Sansa knelt next to Sandor.

“But you did, Sandor. You gave me your cloak, while everybody else was just staring at me,” Sansa said, while stroking his head.

“…I always watched her when she thought she was alone…kept an eye on her…I wanted a song from her… I didn’t want to scare her, but she feared me…”

Sansa remembered the night the sky was green from the wildfire. The feel of his blade against her throat, when she sang for him. Sansa knew he would never have hurt her. Not after he had kissed her first. The wildfire had scared him.

“Alright, I cut away the dead flesh and applied the ointments. I only have to sew up the cut. The rest lies with the mercy of the gods.”

Sansa looked into Sandor's glassy eyes and saw tears form in them, when Elder Brother made the first stitches. Sandor's breath became heavier.

“…I only want the little bird to love me like I love her…” Sandor weakly sobbed and Sansa felt her mouth fell agape at his words.

She knew he had a soft spot for her and she thought they had developed some kind of special friendship over the months of their journey. Sansa had never expected he would ever say that he loved her. Sansa had stopped dreaming that someone would love her a long time ago. Everybody only saw her as pawn and tool to further his or her power. Nobody would ever love her for herself.

But Sandor doesn’t care about titles and land, Sansa thought.

Sandor dozed off after Elder Brother had just made the last stitch. “He will sleep now. If the gods are good, he will awake within the next few days. You should rest, too. You look exhausted.”

“I can sleep here. I want to watch over him.” Sansa said.

“My lady, on this island men and women sleep separated. It would be different if you are married. Are you?”

“No, but I thought…”

“I will watch over him. We have cottages for our female visitors. They are simple, but clean. I will call you should he get better or worse.”

Sansa didn’t like it, but she had to obey the rule. She went to the hut she and her sister had been given. Arya already awaited her with two loafs of bread filled with steaming stew and a pitcher of cider.
Sansa sat down at the table and took a deep gulp of her cup. She had never drunk cider before. In the North, most people drank ale and in Kings Landing, Sansa had preferred the sweet summer wines.

“How is he?” Arya asked over the table, spooning up her stew.

“Elder Brother has tended to his wound. Now he is sleeping,” Sansa simply said.

“Will he make it?”

“I don’t know. Elder Brother says it's up to the gods if he lives or dies.” A sob made Sansa's body shake. “I don’t know what to do if he dies,” Sansa cried.

Arya came around the table and pulled her in an embrace. “I am sure he will be fine. He is the toughest man I know.”

Her sister's words calmed her and they ate their dinner in silence.

“It looks like we have to share a bed,” Arya said lightly, obviously trying to lift the mood. She pointed to the single large bed that stood in the corner of the room.

“You could use a bath,” Arya continued, wrinkling her nose smiling at her.

Sansa chuckled. “You don’t smell like lilac either,” she said.

“Alright, I get the hint. I asked Elder Brother if they have a tub and soap for us. I saw a well behind the hut with some buckets. We can heat the water over the fireplace,” Arya said, before leaving the hut.

Sansa poured herself another cup of cider and drank it in small sips, while listening to the cracking of the fire. Arya returned quickly with two of the silent brothers. They carried a copper tub and placed it near the fireplace, before bowing and leaving without another word. Arya and Sansa started to heat several buckets of water over the fire filling the tub.

“Here I even got some lilac soap, by one of the brothers,” Arya said, handing her the soap bar before she locked the door.

“You go first,” Arya said. “If I go first, you will leave the tube dirtier than you go in.”

Sansa nodded. “Can you help me with the laces, please?” Sansa asked and turned around.

Arya started to loosen the lacings and chuckled. “I can't even remember the last time I wore a dress.”

“Me neither,” Sansa said, laughing lightly. Sansa's gown fell to the ground, and she got out of her smallclothes and shift before sinking in the tub.

“Gods that feels good.” Sansa said with a happy sigh. The hot water soothed her sore muscles.

“I think I had my last bath in Harrenhal, when I was a servant for Lord Tywin. And you?”

“That must have been at the day of my…” Sansa said. “…wedding,” she added in a whisper, sinking deeper into the tub. Sansa immediately felt the memories of the wedding and all what happened that night come up again.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to…” Arya whispered.

“I know. It's alright.”

Arya helped her wash her hair before helping her out of the tub. Arya got out of her clothes and got into the tub sighing as happy as she had. Sansa dried herself and pulled on a simple gown that she was able to tie without help.

Arya dived under and stayed under water as long as she could.

“I am sorry I called you horseface in Winterfell,” Sansa said, handing her the soap that was next to the tub.

“It's alright, Sansa. We were children. Most of the time, it was Jeyne who mocked me. You only did when I was teasing you and I know I was teasing you a lot.”

“Still. You don’t have a horseface. To be honest you are becoming a lovely young lady,” Sansa said kindly.

Arya turned around in the tub. “Do you really think so?” Arya asked and Sansa could hear the uncertainty in her voice.

“Yes, I do. I think you are pretty,” Sansa said and smiled warmly at her. Arya smiled back at her.

“You also look prettier, than you have been. You look like so much like mother. You have really grown into the beauty everyone always said you would be,” Arya said in honesty.

“Yes my beauty is all people value in me, besides some other parts…” Sansa said with hints of sarcasm and resignation in her voice. She still remembered how Joffrey had told Trant he shouldn’t hit her face, so she stays pretty.

A knock on the door draw their attention. “Its me, Elder Brother. I just wanted to make sure you have everything you need.”

Sansa stood up and unlocked the door, before stepping out in the chilly evening air. “Yes, thank you. It's most generous to help our friend and let us stay,” Sansa told him.

“It's an honor, Lady Stark, and we won't tell anybody about you or the Hound.”

Sansa was startled and fear crept into her. “But…but…”, Sansa stammered.

“Care for a stroll? I will explain everything to you,” Elder Brother offered warmly and Sansa nodded.

Their walk was short and they ended near the water. Sansa could see lights on the other shore. “What are these lights,” Sansa asked.

“That’s Saltpans. You want to know why I recognized you?”

“Yes,” Sansa said.

“We might be isolated here and many people don’t even know we exist, but we hear rumors, too. We heard of the scarred Lannister Hound stealing the red haired betrothed of the King and we also heard that this maiden apparently returned to her family and married a Frey.”

Sansa hugged herself.

“I am sorry for what happened to your family. It was a sin against the gods and the responsible people will get their punishment. I assume you are a widow now.”

“Yes and I am not sorry for it,” Sansa said.

“I don’t judge you my lady. On this island, we can all make decisions that changes our lives forever.” He gestured to a stone bench. And sat down. Sansa followed his lead. “I once saw your father, my lady.”

“Really? When?” Sansa asked surprised.

“During the battle of the Trident. I was the thirdborn son of a family of knights. I fought for House Targaryen that day. I saw your father fight besides Robert Baratheon. I was knocked out and thought dead. I floated downstream and reached this island. I spent my first ten years in silence to think about my sins. This island means the start of a new life section.”

“I see,” Sansa said. “Who is with Sandor right now?”

“Meribald watched for the time I wanted to speak with you. He is still sleeping.”

Sansa nodded.

“My lady you are welcome to stay on this island as long as you wish. We won't tell anyone about your whereabouts and it will give your friend time to recover. You are completely safe on the Quiet Isle.”

“Thank you, Elder Brother. I should head back to the hut. It is getting late.”

“And I will go back to watch over your friend. I will have a brother bring you food in the morning to break your fast.”

“Thank you, Elder Brother,” Sansa said warmly and made her way back to the cottage.

Sansa walked back to the cottage. Arya was just adding a few wood logs to the fire, when Sansa entered.

“What did he want?” Arya asked. She was wearing a simple wool shift and smallclothes, matching the one Sansa was wearing under her gown.

“He wanted to tell me that we can stay as long as we need.” Sansa said, unlacing her gown.

“And Sandor?” Arya asked carefully.

“He is still sleeping.” Arya nodded and crawled into the bed. Sansa followed her and pulled the blanket over them.

“You remember, when we shared a bed in Winterfell?” Arya asked.

“Yes,” Sansa answered, rolling over to face her sister.

“Do you think we will ever see it again?” Arya asked and Sansa saw that she had tears in her eyes. Sansa reached over to her sister and grabbed her hand.

“We will see Winterfell again someday. I know it,” Sansa said.

“Sansa…” Arya said.

“Yes?”

“There is something I want to ask you for a while now.” Arya took a deep breath.

“What made the Hound change so much? I can barely believe it's him. He actually is kind to people now. At least as long as they don’t try to do anything to you.”

“I guess it was the journey back to Riverrun with me that changed him.”

“What happened during your journey? I can't imagine traveling alone with the Hound,” Arya said, curious.

“At first, I didn’t know what to expect of him during the travel. When I chose to go with him during the battle of the Blackwater, it was more a reaction rather than a decision. I could have stayed during that night, but I didn’t know if Stannis or the Lannisters would win, and in the end, I would have been a prisoner nevertheless, so I chose to go with Sandor that night. I simply trusted him back then, even in his drunken state he was in that night.”

“Why?” Arya simply asked.

“Like I said before, he was the only one who cared for me in Kings Landing. Lord Tyrion, too, but I think it was more because he feared what would happen to his brother should Robb hear of my state.”

Sansa recalled the memories of the night she and Sandor fled. By some miracle they had escaped the Red Keep without being noticed and not run into the fast advancing forces of Tywin Lannister when they had passed the city gates.

“At first, he behaved strange around me during the journey. He barely talked to me. I thought that he saw me as unnecessary burden that slowed him down. After all, he had indeed looked out for me in Kings Landing, but at the same time, he had always growled and mocked me for my ´chirping´, how he called it,” Sansa continued. Arya still looked at her, eager to hear what she had to say.

“After a week or so, I finally gathered the courage to ask him straight in the face what his problem was and he told me that he believed he had forced me to come with him. He didn’t remember much of the conversation we had in my room. For a whole week he thought I was hating him. I told him that I chose to come with him and that I knew he wouldn’t hurt me. When I asked him why he cared for me at all, he said that he simply doesn’t like to see me getting hurt. I guess over the daily conversations we had during the weeks of travel we developed a kind of friendship, I guess, and in the end he also agreed to my suggestion to stay with me.”

“After Sandor caught me from the Brotherhood he talked about you all the time. He sounded like he is completely fallen for you,” Arya said. Sansa felt a blush heat up her face and Arya gave her a curious look.

“There is more, isn’t it?” Arya asked with a smirk and Sansa gave her a tiny nod.

“He…he said he loves me…” Sansa said, close to a whisper.

Arya mouth fall slightly agape. “When?” Arya asked.

“Earlier today, when Elder Brother took care of the cut. The fever spoke out of him and he talked about me.”

“And what are your feelings for him?” Arya asked. It felt strange to talk to Arya about these things.

“I don’t know…I mean, yes, I feel something for him, but I don’t know if that’s love. After all, I once thought myself with Joffrey in love.”

“That’s true, but he isn’t Joffrey.”

“What do you know about these things, anyway?” Sansa asked teasing and Arya blushed. Sansa had never seen her sister blush.

“Tell me,” Sansa said with a smirk.

“Only if you promise you wont laugh.”

“I promise. Tell me.”

“I told you that I traveled with a man from the Night's Watch and the recruits he wanted to bring to the Wall. There was one boy that knew I was a girl, but didn’t told anyone. His name is Gendry. He was a blacksmith and was only a few years older than you. He fled with me from Harrenhal. He has no family and I told him he could come stay with me when I would return to Robb. I told him I could be his family and he told me I wouldn’t be his family, but his lady.” A shy smile played around Arya's mouth.

“That’s kind of sweet,” Sansa said.

“He said he would stay with the brotherhood and I got angry and ran out of the cave they were hiding in. That’s when I was caught by Sandor. I often think of him. His black hair. His strong muscles.” Arya's voice became a bit dreamy in the end.

“You sound like you are in love,” Sansa said, teasingly poking her sister's arm.

“Shut up,” Arya said playfully and another flush crept up her face.

“So I guess I know pretty well how you feel, Sansa, and now I also understand, why you were so smitten with Joffrey at first,” Arya said. “I guess it was love with Gendry, but I will never see him again, so it doesn’t matter,” Arya said and Sansa could hear the sadness in her voice.

“Many things can happen between now and never. I thought I would never see Sandor or you again, too,” Sansa said.

“I really hope Sandor gets well again,” Arya said.

“Me too. I am glad you are here with me. I love you.”

“I love you, too, Sansa. You have changed so much, but only to the better.”

“You, too,” Sansa said and Arya yawned.

“We should try to sleep. It has been a long day.”

Arya nodded and buried her face deeper in the pillow. Sansa pulled blanket up higher. She quickly prayed to the old gods for Sandor's recovery before drifting off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Sandor slowly woke up. He hesitantly opened his eyes and tried to take in where he was. He was in a featherbed, in a room he didn’t recognize.

Sandor tried to remember the last thing he knew. He had been wounded. The little wolf had come closer with the boiling wine and a burning stick. He remembered Sansa’s soft words and her hands pressing him close to her chest shortly before the sharp pain in his leg had made him pass out.

He tried to remember anything after that, but he only remembered that he dreamed of an angel-like voice talking to him.

He tried to move his leg and Sandor groaned in pain.

“Ohh, good. You are awake,” someone said and Sandor turned to the voice.

“Who the fuck are you? Where am I? Where are the girls I traveled with? I swear if you have laid one hand on them, I will…” Sandor growled.

The man lifted his hand. “I am Elder Brother. Your two friends brought you here. You were close to death, to be honest with you, but I was able to stop the festering. You have slept for nearly two days. The auburn haired girl sat by your side every day. You will recover, Sandor Clegane.”

“From whom did you hear my name?” Sandor growled.

The man chuckled. “We might be isolated here on the Quiet Isle, but even we have heard of the fearsome Hound. As did we hear of him taking the princess of the North with him.”

“I am sure of that. After all, that face is very noticeable.”

“Lady Sansa seems to like it. She didn’t leave your side, while I tended to your leg,” he said, smiling genuinely at him.

“I don’t remember too much. I only recall I was dreaming of a woman. I couldn’t see her face and she was surrounded by light. But…her voice… she sounded familiar.”

Elder brother chuckled. “That’s because it was Lady Sansa you spoke to.”

“What?” Sandor asked, unbelieving. Could it really have been Sansa? He had thought it was one goddess that would bring him in the afterworld. Gods, he had confessed all his sins and other things he never thought he would be capable of to say out loud.

“Yes, you spoke in fever. It seems you like her a lot, if she is the only thing you talk about so close to death.”

She is everything I ever wanted, Sandor thought. “Yes, I do,” he said instead.

Elder Brother touched his forehead and nodded. “Good. Your fever has gone down a bit. I think we can bring you over to one of the guest cottages.”

“Where are the girls staying?” Sandor asked.

“In one of the other cottages. Men and women only sleep under one roof on this island if they are married.” Elder Brother got one of the silent brothers and both helped Sandor up and out of the room.

The sun was shining and Sandor looked around. Stranger and the little wolf’s horse were in a stable. Some brothers walked to the wooden sept. A windmill was slowly turning in the light breeze. Sandor saw another bigger building made of wood and simple stones that probably was the main hall and where the silent brothers lived. Some of them were working in the gardens.

They left the building behind and some small cottages came into sight. “Where are my armor and my weapons?” Sandor asked.

“You will get them back when you leave us. You are completely safe here. Nearly nobody knows this place and even less know the paths hidden under the water.”

“Sandor!” Sansa squeaked as she ran towards him and flung her arms around his neck.

“Little bird,” Sandor said and buried his face in her hair.

“It’s so good to see you getting better,” she said.

“It’s good to be back, little bird.”

“He still needs time to heal completely my lady, but I think he will be able to walk on his own in a few days,” Elder Brother said.

They continued their walk to the cottage Sandor had been given. “Where is your sister, little bird?” Sandor asked.

“She is probably exploring the island. You know her, she can’t sit still for long,” Sansa said laughing. Sandor huffed. They reached the cottage and helped Sandor into the bed. Sansa opened the shutters, while the silent brother that had helped him left.

“Is there something you need?” Elder Brother asked.

“Something to eat would be nice. I am starving.”

“I will bring you something to eat,” Sansa said smiling and left with Elder Brother. Sandor could hear the rushing of the water and the seagulls flying above the island.

A peaceful place in this world of chaos and violence, Sandor thought. Sansa returned after a while with a plate. Two loafs of bread filled with steaming fish stew.

“You will love that stew, Sandor. The silent brothers often eat stews with fish and crabs. I helped the brother this morning to make the bouillon,” Sansa said, smiling warmly and handing him one of the loafs with a spoon.

“Its already smells great, little bird,” Sandor said and Sansa’s smile grew even wider. Sandor tasted the stew and nodded, satisfied.

“Tastes delicious, little bird. Never ate anything better,” he said and smiled at her. Sansa blushed a little while she ate her stew.

“Did they treat you and the little wolf well?” Sandor asked after a while.

“Yes. They are all kind to us. Well, the only one speaking with us is Elder Brother and Septon Meribald, before he left for Maidenspool yesterday, since the others have sworn to stay silent,” Sansa said and Sandor nodded.

“What are we going to do now?” Sandor asked.

“We stay here as long as it takes for you to get completely well again. Elder Brother said it would be alright. He knows who we are, but he won’t tell anyone. Then we go to Saltpans or Maidenspool and try to find a ship to the Wall.”

“And then we will find your brother,” Sandor added and Sansa nodded.

Sansa spent the rest of the afternoon with Sandor. It felt good to have his little bird around. She didn’t mention the things he had said during his fever dream. When the sun started to go down the little wolf came and told him how good it was to see him getting better. He never thought the little wolf would actually be glad he was alive.

They had a simple dinner with bread and butter, one of the silent brothers had brought them and Arya told them of the isle and what she had discovered.

After the girls went to bed, he lay in his bed and stared at the ceiling. Sandor hoped the little bird was sleeping better now than she had after they had rescued her from the Freys. She had never slept really deep and often woken up in panic. Sandor had always managed to calm her down, but it still pained his heart to see her like that.

Sandor hoped Arya would be able to calm Sansa down, should she have nightmares, until he could do it again.

The next two days, Sansa came and spent the days with him. She told him stories of her childhood in Winterfell and that he would like the North. Sansa told him, smiling, that he even had the look of the North. Sandor saw that she looked tired. When Sandor asked her, she told him that she hadn't slept well. She didn’t need to tell him why, because he already knew.

He felt better with every day. The fever was gone completely and his leg was healing better than Elder Brother had expected.

On the advice of Elder Brother, Sandor started to make short strolls so he wouldn’t develop a limp in his leg. Sansa always walked with him and mused how beautiful this isle was, but Sandor only wanted to tell her how beautiful she looked.
Sansa had offered Elder Brother that she could sew some of the silent brothers clothes as repayment for all the help and shelter they got.

On the third day after Sandor had awoken, he and Sansa had strolled at the water, when they found some bodies that had been rinsed ashore. They had obviously been in the river from sometime since they were bloated, but the colors they wore still told who they have been. Sansa must have seen the colors on their surcoats, too. Northmen that must have been killed during the Red Wedding. Sandor quickly pulled Sansa into an embrace to hide her view before she could take in the detailed, gruesome picture. She didn’t need new pictures for her nightmares.

Sandor had spoken to Elder Brother about the dead and that he could help the other brothers to bury them. Elder Brother thanked him for the offer and told him it would help his leg to do some straining work.

Sansa was quiet during the dinner, but when Arya asked what was going on she told her about the bodies and that they must have died during the Red Wedding.

Sleep came slowly that evening. Sandor couldn’t stop thinking of Sansa sleeping in the cottage next to his. He didn’t even want to imagine what was going on in her head after being reminded of the wedding at the Twins at seeing the dead bodies.

Sandor was nearly asleep, when the door of his cottage opened slowly. Sandor was awake within a blink of an eye.

Sansa hesitantly entered and simply stood there hugging herself. She wore a simple nightgown and her hair were a bit tangled. She shivered lightly and the dying light of the fireplace made her hair shine. The light also revealed her red rimmed eyes and her tear stained face.

“Little bird,” Sandor said, sitting up in the bed, alarmed by the sight.

“I…I can't sleep. C…Can I stay here?” Sansa carefully asked and looked at him pleadingly with her huge blue eyes. How could Sandor refuse her. Bugger the rules of Elder Brother.

“Of course, little bird,” he softly rasped and moved to get out of the bed so Sansa could sleep.

“No, please stay,” Sansa said quickly. She closed the door and got into the bed next to him.

Sandor nearly thought he was dreaming. He had never dared to even think of the possibility that Sansa would ever want to be that close to him. He moved a little to give Sansa more space in the bed, but instead Sansa snuggled closer to him.

“Gods, little bird, you are frozen,” Sandor said, pulling the blanket around them.

“Can you hold me?” Sansa quietly asked.

“Of course little bird. I will hold you as long as you wish.” They lay still for a while and Sansa slowly stopped shivering.

“I lost your handkerchief,” Sansa whispered.

“What handkerchief little bird?” Sandor asked.

“The handkerchief you gave me, when I wanted to push Joffrey off the battlement. I kept it with me all the time. After mother and Robb sent you away, I always used it to remind myself of you. Mother took it from me before I could hide it when they made ready me before the wedding.”

Sandor remembered that day. He had saved the little bird from a slow and painful death should she have succeeded with throwing Joffrey off the wall. “I didn’t expect you would really keep that thing,” Sandor said.

“I did. I also embroidered a gift for you during the journey to the Twins, but I couldn’t finish it.”

“You made me something, little bird?” Sandor asked a bit surprised.

“Yes. I don’t even know why I started it, because I thought I would never see you again. I embroidered a black dog and a little red bird.”

“So basically, us two,” Sandor said, looking at her. “I, the black dog, and you, the little red haired bird.” Sansa smiled back at him.“Do you want to speak about what happened after I had to leave Sansa?” Sandor carefully asked. He felt that she might want to speak about it.

Sansa didn’t answer right away. Her head still lay on his shoulder and she absently stroked with her hand over his arm. Sandor started to fear that it had been a mistake to ask her if she wanted to speak with him.

“I really thought they would listen to me,” Sansa suddenly peeped up. “I told Mother and Robb about everything you have done for me, but Mother's only concern was why I called you by your name and if you had taken liberties with me. I told them you were the most honorable man and had never laid hand on me, but Mother didn’t believe me and had me examined the next morning.”

Sansa took a deep breath. “She told me they had to make sure I was still a virgin. Later that day, I got to know why she was so interested. Robb wanted to arrange a match between uncle Edmure with a Frey daughter, since my brother decided to break the promise he made to Lord Frey. The terms had been discussed and the contract was basically signed and sealed already, when mother mentioned that Arya had also been promised to a Frey. Since she couldn’t be found my mother offered me instead. ´A maid for a maid,´ Robb declared, thrilled.”

“The little wolf was originally promised to a Frey?” Sandor asked.

“Yes and I replaced her as a pawn. Please don’t tell her, Sandor. I don’t have the heart to tell her that Mother and Robb had already given her up,” Sansa said, grabbing his hand.

“I won't tell her, Sansa,” he said.

“I pleaded to them both to not make me marry a Frey, since it was my brother that had broken his promise. But they didn’t listen to me, Sandor,” Sansa said desperately.

“Mother only told me to stop my childish behavior and Robb only said that it would help to retake Winterfell. Both didn’t want to listen to anything I had to say. I didn’t matter how much I pleaded. I wished so much for you to be with me.”

Sandor's heart clenched at her words and he pulled her closer to him.

“I was so scared when Robb walked me down the aisle. Mother had told me about what would be expected of me in the bedchamber. ´Duty´ she called it. The duty to lie as often with my husband as he desires. The duty to have to endure everything my husband would desire.”

Sandor silently cursed Sansa's mother for telling her all these things.

“I tried so much not to show how afraid I was, but when I saw Wendel and imagined what mother told me was expected of me…” Sansa sobbed.

"During the bedding ceremony, I craved for my father’s strong arms to save me from what I knew was coming next..."

“Shhh, little bird. You don’t have to tell more,” Sandor tried to comfort her, but Sansa spoke up again.

“It hurt so much, when he…when we…I dream every night of it. I begged him to be gentle, but he didn’t care. His eyes wandering over me and his hands testing and pinching. I can't stop thinking about the fact that my family and the Lords of the North were slaughtered, while I was bedded. I heard them scream and yell through the window during… I thought they were celebrating, but they were slaughtered.”

Sandor felt the hate rise in him. If he hadn't slaughtered Wendel Frey already, Sandor would like nothing more to hunt him down now to tear him apart with his bare hands now.

“After a while, they called for me and my uncle to the great hall, where I saw what they had done to my mother and brother. That’s when I passed out. Every night, I experience the wedding again,” Sansa sobbed.

“I am so sorry I wasn’t there for you little bird,” Sandor whispered. “I should have…”

Sansa pressed her finger to his lips to silence him. “You are here for me now, Sandor. You make me feel safe and you have no reason to be sorry.”

“I will always be there for you, Sansa. I wont leave you again,” Sandor said.

Sansa snuggled close to him and hummed in agreement. With the little bird safely nestled in his arms both quickly fell asleep.

***

The next morning, they woke up at the first light shining through the window shutter.

“Good morning, little bird. Slept well?” Sandor softly rasped.

“Good morning. Yes, I did. Thank you for listening to me. It's good I could tell you,” Sansa said.

“Of course, little bird.”

“Can I sleep here tonight again? Arya has her name list she repeats every night and that makes her sleep like a stone,” Sansa said.

“Of course you can sleep here, Sansa. Bugger Elder Brother and his fucking rule.”

Sansa laughed a little. “I missed your colorful language,” she said smiling. “Come over to our cottage. We can break our fast there.”

Sandor nodded and Sansa left his cottage. He quickly dressed up and went to the other cottage. The little wolf wished him a good morning, while she carried a tray with food back to the cottage she shared with her sister.

They broke their fast and Sandor saw that the little wolf was giving Sansa strange glances from time to time.

After they had finished, Sansa went to Elder Brother to sew whatever the silent brother might had. Arya disappeared to explore the island again and Sandor went to the graveyard.

Some brothers had already brought the bodies on a cart. Sandor spent the whole day digging the graves. It felt good to have something to do. It was the closest he had come to training in ages. His leg was a bit stiff, but Sandor had trust in Elder Brothers that his leg would heal completely.

The whole time Sandor couldn’t stop thinking how good it had felt to have Sansa snuggled up against him. After the sun had gone down he and the girls ate in the main building with the other silent brothers.

Elder Brother had mentioned that more bodies had washed ashore and Sandor had promised he would bury them the next day. Elder brother had also mentioned that Septon Meribald might return tomorrow from his journey to Maidenspool. Sandor hoped he might have information on what was going on in the city.

After they returned to the cottages, Sandor quickly washed off the dirt and sweat of the day at the well behind the buildings.

Sandor went back to his cottage and kicked off his boots and pulled off his tunic. He kept his breeches on and went to bed. Sansa came shortly after wearing the same nightgown she wore last night.

Sansa went to bed and looked at him. “Thank you for last night. It really helped to talk with you. To share these memories with someone.”

“I will always listen to your fears and thoughts little bird.”

Sansa smiled at him. “Is there something I can give you Sandor? I want to give you something to show my gratitude.”

“You don’t have to give me anything, Sansa. I do it for you and not get something out of it,” he told her.

“I want to.”

“You could sing me the song, that you promised me once, since the you sang a hymn for me in Kings Landing,” Sandor said, smirking. Sandor still remembered Sansa's singing voice from the night they fled Kings Landing.

Sansa smirked at him. “I guess nothing of Florian and Jonquil,” she said teasingly and Sandor had to chuckle.

“I know a song from the North I particularly like.” Sansa sat up in the bed looking at him. She grabbed his hands before she raised her voice.

“I will go into the firs,
There where I last saw her,
But the evening is throwing a cloth upon the land,
and upon the ways behind the edge of the forest,
and the forest rises so black and empty,
Woe to me, oh woe,
And the birds sing no more

Without you I cannot be,
without you,
with you am I also alone,
without you,
without you count ' I the hours,
without you,
with you the seconds stand,
They aren't worth it without you

On the branches in the ditches,
it's now silent and without life,
and breathing falls me oh so heavily,
Woe to me, oh woe,
and the birds sing no more

Without you I cannot be,
without you,
with you am I also alone,
without you,
without you count ' I the hours,
without you,
with you the seconds stand,
They aren't worth it without you
and breathing falls me oh so heavily,
Woe to me, oh woe,
and the birds do not sing no more

Without you I cannot be,
without you,
with you am I also alone,
without you,
without you count ' I the hours,
without you,
with you the seconds stand,
They aren't worth it without you!”

Sandor felt something wet run down his cheeks and a tiny ´little bird´ escaped his lips. Sansa leaned forward pressed her soft lips against his.

Chapter Text

His beard tickled a little, but his lips felt even better than she remembered. Sansa felt Sandor pull her closer to him and they deepened the kiss. The corner of his mouth was a bit rough from the scars, but nothing for a long time had felt so perfect.

Sansa had hoped he would ask for a kiss as repayment for all he did for her, but instead he had asked for a song. People had always praised her for her singing skills and her melodic voice since she was a young girl. She had always hoped her father or mother would pay a singer to give her lessons, but the only singer had stayed for a few months before leaving to the south. No other had come after him.

Sansa had always loved the songs about knights and fair maidens. But these songs were stupid and only taught Sansa only lies about knighthood and how the world worked.
The man that lay in front of her, for whom she had just sung one of the few songs of the North that were about love, had never lied to her. He had always been honest to her and showed her in his rough way that the world wasn’t like in the songs. He was no knight but he had saved her all the same.

When she saw him listening to every word leaving her lips she felt that strange sensation build up in her she had felt before, when she was that close to him. To see tears run down his cheeks after the last word of the song she had just kissed him. It felt right to do, in this moment.

Sansa felt him open his lips a little and she gasped a little when their tongues met.

“Sansa,” Sandor softly rasped as they broke the kiss and Sansa looked at him smiling.

Sansa stroked his burned cheek with her hand. She focused on his grey eyes and saw that they held some uncertainty. She had not forgotten his words he spoke in fever.

“I love you, Sandor,” Sansa whispered and Sandor's mouth fell slightly agape.

“What?” he asked, unbelieving.

Gods, Sansa though frustrated, did he really just asked ´what´?

“I said I love you. I have for a long time now. I can't stand to be without you, Sandor.”

“I can't be without you either, little bird,” Sandor said. “I felt miserable the moment I left the gates of Riverrun and only felt better when I had you back in my arms. I…I love you, Sansa.”

“I know. You already said so when Elder Brother took care of your leg. The way you spoke the words…I simply knew you meant them.” Sansa's finger stroked over his burned cheek.

“It was really you I spoke to,” Sandor said. “I didn’t believe it at first when Elder Brother told me. But it had to be you since you look far more beautiful than every goddess that would want to speak with me.”

Sansa felt a blush redden her face, while his words made warmth spread in her chest at the same time.

Sansa crawled under the blanket close to him and lay her head on his shoulder. “That one was even better than the first one,” Sansa mused.

“The first?” Sandor asked, putting his arm around her.

“The first kiss you gave me in the night we fled,” Sansa said and looked at him slightly confused.

“I didn’t kiss you, little bird,” he said frowning.

“You did. I still remember. You pulled me closer to you and I closed my eyes for the kiss. I still remember. I held onto that memory when I had to kiss Wendel.”

Sansa still remembered the sloppy kiss Wendel gave her during the wedding. It had reminded her so much on Joffrey's.

“I wanted to kiss you that moment little bird, believe that. When you closed your eyes, I thought you couldn’t stand the look of my face and I didn’t kiss you,” Sandor softly rasped.

Could Sansa really have just imagined the kiss? It had felt so real, but Sandor would never lie to her about it.

So the feel of his lips had been an illusion, when Wendel had kissed her, Sansa thought to herself. The thought made Sansa sad. Sandor must have felt it since he was kissing the crown of her hair.

“Everything alright little bird?” he whispered against her hair.

“Kiss me again. I want to…” Sansa said, but was interrupted by Sandor already kissing her. Sansa tried to take in every feel she could. Sandor's scrubby but fluffy beard. His lips being a bit rough on the burned side. His scent of wood and leather and something else Sansa only could describe as masculine.

“Happy, little bird?” Sandor asked, after their lips left each others.

“Yes,” she said a bit breathless. She felt that strange sensation again in her lower belly. “That was like I remembered it,” Sansa mused, stroking her finger over his chest.

Gods, Sansa thought, he is built like the warrior himself. Where Wendel has been skinny and smooth, Sandor was muscled and hard. Sansa traced one of his many scars with her finger lying underneath his hairy chest. She felt his heartbeat under her hand.

“I imagined what it would have been like to be with you during my wedding night,” Sansa whispered, still stroking her finger through his hairy chest.

“You did?” Sandor asked, a bit surprised.

“Of course I did. I regretted so much to never have asked you about the kiss you didn’t give me. When I saw Wendel for the first time in the sept, I remember what my father told me shortly before King Robert died and hell broke loose.”

Sansa took a breath. It still pained her heart that she had been that stupid to want Joffrey back then.

“I was so stupid back then to think myself in love with Joffrey, but Father told me that he would make me a match worthy of me. He said he would find me a man that is brave, gentle and strong. It took me a long time to understand what Father meant with this words, but when I saw Wendel that day I knew he wasn’t was Father had wanted for me. You are what Father would have wanted for me and don’t even try to deny it.”

Sansa lifted her head off his shoulder and looked at him.

“You are brave and strong and I know you will always be gentle with me as you will be unforgiving at everyone that hurts me, my love.”

Sandors facial expression softened even more. “My love…I never expected anyone to call me that,” he whispered in his rough voice.

“Better get used to it,” Sansa said smiling.

“I will, little bird.”

Sansa laughed lightly.

“I love when you call me 'little bird'.”

“And I love your chirping, even back in Kings Landing.”

“You did? I thought I was only an annoying little bird for you. Chirping nonsense all day,” Sansa said, a bit surprised.

“You were the only pure soul in this rotten city and I feared you would lose it over the need to chirp your pretty lies every day. But I was wrong, you stayed the way you are.”
“I still remember when you told me that I would be glad of the hateful things you would do should I become queen.”

“I am sorry Sansa. I shouldn’t have said that your father enjoyed killing. He was a honorable man. Too honorable for King's Landing,” Sandor quickly said.

Sansa regretted how unthankful she had been, when her father had gifted her the doll. Sansa had taken it with her when they fled, but she had left it behind in Riverrun when she traveled to the Twins.

“I honestly don’t know if Father liked killing or not. I only know he always retreated into the godswood after he had to kill someone. But you were right, I would have been thankful. When the bedding started and the lords ripped of my clothes I remembered your words and what they would have meant for me.”

“Little bird…” Sandor started, but Sansa interrupted him.

“It would have meant I wouldn’t have had to do my duty and I would have been thankful for it that night. I would gladly have given my maidenhead to you instead.”

Sandor stroked her cheek lightly with his finger. “Please stop calling it your duty, Sansa. It never should be your duty to lie with a man, husband or not,” Sandor said.

“Septa Mordane and Mother always taught me it was my husband's right to take me as often as he wished and that it was my duty to obey,” Sansa whispered.

“No, Sansa. It should always be yours to decide if you share your bed with a man. It's your body and yours alone. It's not your duty and will never be as long as I live,” Sandor said in earnest.

Sansa leaned in and pressed her lips against his again. Gods I love to kiss him, Sansa thought. Her heart was racing and she felt warmth spread through her whole body.

“And what if I have decided I want to share my bed with you Sandor?” Sansa asked.

Sandor looked at her surprised.

“You are the only man I want in my bed Sandor. I love you and…and I want you to make love with me now,” Sansa said, a bit shy and felt herself blush.

“Little bird, you really want me?” Sandor whispered and Sansa heard the uncertainty in his voice.

“I do, Sandor…is something wrong? Am I not to your liking?” Sansa asked carefully.

Sandor pulled her closer and kissed her forehead, before burying his face in her hair. “Sansa, you are everything I ever wanted. You are smart, you are the most beautiful woman I know. I want you more than I want life itself, but I don’t know this feeling to have someone that wants me, too,” Sandor said into her hair.

Sansa grabbed his hand and gave it a light squeeze. “I want you, Sandor. I want all of you, my love.”

“I love you, little bird,” Sandor said, his voice choked with emotion.

“And I love you,” Sansas spoke, pulling him into a tight embrace.

She trailed his back with her finger and traced every scar she found. Sansa loosened her embrace, when Sandor placed another kiss on the crown of her hair.

In his grey eyes, she could see true desire, not only lust. The look in his eyes made her heart beat faster than it already had. True desire for her, not her name or her claim that came with it. Desire only directed towards her as person.

He placed another soft kiss on her lips, before kissing alongside her jawline and down her throat. A soft moan escaped Sansa's lips.

Sandor's hands started to carefully travel alongside her rib cage. Even with her nightgown, the feel of his hands made a shiver of excitement run down her back.

Sansas gasped lightly when Sandor's thumb accidentally stroked her breast. She tensed at the surprising touch. It reminded her of Wendel and Sandor immediately stopped and locked at her with concern in his eyes.

“You have nothing to fear, Sansa. You are in control, say one word and we will stop,” he rasped softly and Sansa knew he meant it.

“I know, Sandor and I know you will be gentle with me, it's just…I don’t know what to do... how to proceed with you know...” Sansa said, slightly nervous.

“Don’t think about what you think you must do, just follow your instincts,” Sandor said and Sansa nodded, throwing her arms around his neck starting to kiss him again.

“I love you,” Sansa breathed between kisses.

“I love you, too,” Sandor muttered, kissing her collarbone. Sansa threw back her head to give Sandor more access to her throat and he eagerly started to kiss, making Sansa moan. She felt a strange sensation between her thighs and her smallclothes felt somehow damp. Sansa had never had such a reaction from her body. She hoped it was normal.

Sandor's hand wandered to the lacings of her nightgown and he started to untie it.

Sansa bit her lower lip and Sandor looked at her, while she carefully pushed her nightgown of her shoulder.

The cold air made goosebumps appear over her chest and she felt herself flush as Sandor's eyes wandered over her.

Sansa let her eyes travel over his chest in return. The Warrior himself couldn’t be built stronger, Sansa thought.

“There can't be anyone more beautiful than you in this world, Sansa,” he said and Sansa eyed him, curious what he planned to do.

Sansa gasped and moaned lightly, when he started to kiss her left breast, gently sucked on it, while teasing her nipple with his tongue.

He cupped her right with his large hand and started to knead it carefully, while flickering his thumb over her nipple.

Sansa melted under his touches until she lay on her back in the soft featherbed. Sandor was still caressing her breasts and Sansa noticed the visible bulge in his breeches.

Sandor let go of her breast and kissed his way down her stomach. Sansa spread her legs, thinking it was what he wanted, but instead he gestured her to shrink them and slowly pulled down her smallclothes.

Sandor carefully touched her leg and Sansa spread her legs again. Sandor kissed his way down her leg and his beard tingled against the sensitive skin of her inner thighs.

Sansa saw him smirking when he had reached the auburn curls that were crowning her sex. She could see that they were damp by the wetness she had felt pooling.

Sandor traced his finger alongside her folds and Sansa's breath quickened.

One of his finger touched a small nub above her slit and Sansa ached her back moaning.

“That’s it, little bird. Sing your song for me,” Sandor rasped and the rough sound of his voice made another wave of wetness pool between her legs.

Sandor buried his face in her southern curls and started trailing along her fold with his tongue, interrupted by licking and sucking on the small nub that made her see stars.

Septa Mordane had always told her she shouldn’t touch herself down there, because it wasn’t what a lady should do. Her head would rotate on the spike now if she could see Sansa with the Hound's face buried between her thighs.

It didn’t take long Sansa felt a warmth she hadn't known before spread through her whole body in waves and she arched against Sandor's mouth, moaning his name wantonly.

Gods, this feels glorious, Sansa thought, when she slowly came down from her peak. Sansa inwardly cursed her mother again for not telling her a woman could feel that kind of pleasure in bed.

“That felt incredible,” Sansa whispered, still breathless.

A light layer of sweat covered her body and her woman's place still pulsed with need. Sandor was still kneeling between her legs, carefully nipping on her leg.

Sandor sat up and started to unlace his breeches looking at her face. Sansa always shot glances down to his breeches, where lace after lace was untied.

Sansa had no idea what to expect. The only member Sansa had ever seen had been Wendel's and it had only brought her pain. What if Sandor's was even be larger? Would it hurt even more?

Sandors cock sprang free and Sansa saw that his member was larger than Wendel's, but it wasn’t as large as Sansa had feared it would be considering Sandor's size.

Sandor crawled close to her and pressed his lips to her mouth.

“Look at me,” he said in a softness she had never expected him capable of.

Sansa felt his tip at her entrance and Sandor trailed his cock along her fold coating it in her wetness. Sansa looked at him. One arm thrown around his neck, while her other hand caressed his burned cheek.

Sandor slowly entered her and Sansa mouth fell agape and a moan escaped her lips. She saw concern for her wellbeing in his eyes and she pulled him down for a kiss to sooth his concerns.

Sandor buried his face in the crook of her neck and slowly started to thrust into her. His pace increased soon enough and Sansa's soft moans filled the room and the nightly silence. Sansa wrapped her legs around him and she started to feel her next peak building up in her.

Sandor's breath became heavier and Sansa knew he was getting close to his own release.

Sansa reached her next peak and her toes curled and her body was shaking, while wave after wave of pleasure hit her. She pressed her fingernails into his shoulders.

She moaned a soft ´Sandor´ and that brought him over the edge of his own release.

“Sansa…” He moaned into the crook of her neck, while Sansa felt him spill his seed in her.

They stayed in this position for a few minutes to catch their breath again, before Sandor rolled off her. Sansa curled up close to him and lay her head on his shoulder, while his arm embraced her.

They were both sweaty and exhausted. Sansa was humming to herself while she traced her finger absently through the hair on his chest.

“Sorry, Sansa, I shouldn’t have spilled myself in you,” Sandor said after a while.

“No need to be sorry, my love,” Sansa said and looked at him, meeting his gaze.

“I saw that Elder Brother has all kind of herbs. I will ask him if I can have some, to brew some moontea. I can't risk getting with your child until we are safely back in the North.

“Do you really want my child someday, little bird?” Sandor asked, looking a bit surprised.

“Of course, Sandor. I love you and someday I want to see our sons or daughters running through the halls of Winterfell,” Sansa answered smiling.

“I love you so much, little bird” Sandor said and pressed a kiss into her tangled hair.

Sansa hummed in agreement and nestling closer to him.

“That felt glorious, Sandor. Is this how its supposed to be between a man and a woman?” Sansa asked.

“Yes, little bird. I was concerned for a moment that I was hurting you,” Sandor said.

“No, you didn’t hurt me, you were as gentle as I expected. Thank you for that,” Sansa mused.

“No need to thank me, my love.” Sandor pulled the blanket over them and snuggled up to each other. Sleep soon came.

Chapter Text

Arya awoke alone in the bed. Sansa hadn't returned yet. Arya didn’t like at first how close Sansa and Clegane had become, but to see how miserable her sister was when it wasn’t certain that he would live had made her reconsider. Clegane had been nothing but kind to them both.

Over the few days Sandor had slept, her sister had always tossed and turned in the bed and awoken sobbing quietly. Arya pretended to be asleep during the nights. She felt bad about it, but Arya had no idea how she could comfort her sister. It hadn't been a big surprise for her that Sansa had sneaked out of their cottage a few days after Clegane had awoken.

Yesterday, Sansa had left the bed as soon as she Arya had pretended to be asleep. Arya even thought she had heard something like moans that night.

Her sister really seemed to be in love with Clegane and this time it wasn’t like a when she had said she was in love with Joffrey. Sansa had changed so much. As young girl, she always mused about beautiful things and princes and fair maidens and so Joffrey had fit into her dreams of songs and tales. Arya thought it had to real love if Sansa would choose a man nearly twice her age with that face and Clegane was fallen for her sister too.

Arya had to think about Gendry and how he was now. Maybe he was still with the brotherhood.

Arya thoughts were interrupted when the door opened slowly and Sansa sneaked back into the room.

Sansa's hair was tangled and her cheeks were slightly reddened. Her sister bit her lip to keep her from smiling widely. She is glowing, Arya thought to herself.

“Good morning,” Arya said and Sansa froze in her movement.

“Good morning,” Sansa muttered and adverted her eyes as she flushed at being caught by Arya.

“Had a peaceful night?” Arya asked slightly teasing.

“Yes,” Sansa said not looking at her but her flush only deepened.

Sansa had never been good at lying and her flush told Arya immediately that Sansa and Clegane had done more than just sleeping. Septa Mordane would rotate in her grave at the thought of the perfect lady she had raised Sansa to be crawling into the bed of the Hound.

And what Mother would say about it, Arya couldn’t even guess. But Mother was dead and as far as Sansa had told her, Mother and Robb had married her to Wendel Frey against her will to get the support of house Frey again after Robb broke some kind of promise. Arya had heard what Wendel and the other Freys had said at the campfire and Arya wouldn’t blame her sister for the man she chose. After all, Mother, Robb and Mordane wouldn’t have accepted Gendry either at her side.

“I'll get us some food,” Arya said and her sister nodded.

Arya left the cottage and walked the path to the main building, where the kitchen was located. She met Clegane on the way.

“Good morning,” Arya said, smirking.

“Good morning, little wolf,” he said, avoiding her eyes.

“Want to join us for breakfast?” Arya asked.

“Not today, I promised Elder Brother to help with the bodies washed ashore. It will take the whole day to bury these fuckers and I want to look after Stranger before is start. I'll join you for dinner.” They reached the main building and Arya got some bread, butter and cheese. She also got some apples.

Arya returned to the cottage. Sansa was sitting at the table. She had dressed and brushed out and braided her hair. They ate in silence, until Arya couldn’t contain herself anymore.

“And?” she asked.

“What?” Sansa asked looking at her plate.

“You know exactly what I mean,” Arya said, teasing and Sansa lifted her eyes and flushed.

“Arya!” Sansa said embarrassed.

“Come on. I am just concerned about my sister. After all, you were with the infamous Hound last night,” Arya said as innocent as she could.

“Hmmm, sure. You only want to know how it was with Sandor,” Sansa answered challenging.

“That would do, too,” Arya said and another flush crept up Sansas neck.

“It was good,” Sansa whispered.

“Only good?” Arya asked with a smirk.

“It was more than good,” Sansa said hesitantly. “And I won't say anything else to that topic now,” Sansa added sternly.

“Alright, alright. I only wanted to make sure my sister is in good hands.”

“She is in very skilled hands,” Sansa said.

Arya grimaced. “Ahh, too much information,” she said and both girls laughed. They finished their breakfast and Sansa told her she had to get some herbs from Elder Brothers herb garden.

Arya spent her day like she had the last few. The Quiet Isle didn’t have much to explore. She had found every interesting location within a few hours. Now she spent her time practicing with Needle. She tried to remember the things Syrio had taught her.

In the early afternoon, she saw that someone was coming using the hidden paths under the water.

Arya watched them coming closer and she recognized the cart of Septon Meribald. Two riders were accompanying him. One was wearing armor and sword. Arya decided she would stay close and try to find out what they want and if they would be a threat.

Elder Brother already waited for the newcomers and Arya stayed hidden close by.

“Septon Meribald. Good that you are back. Whom did you bring this time?”

“The lad is Podrick Payne. And this is Lady Brienne, known as the Maid of Tarth,” Meribald said. "Lady Brienne is a warrior maid hunting for the Hound."

"To what end?" Elder Brother asked.

The woman touched her sword hilt. "His," she said.

Aryas hand instinctively went to Needle.

She followed the group in some distance as they walked towards the buildings.

Fuck, Arya thought, Clegane is digging graves at the moment. They would definitely see him.

“Who is this?” The warrior woman asked and pointed to Sandor's digging a grave. Sandor turned around to look at them and Arya relaxed a bit. He had his hood pulled up and a scarf covered his face well enough so his scars wouldn’t be visible.

“That’s our latest guest that is staying here until he is healed. He offered to dig the graves for the bodies that get washed ashore from the Red Wedding.”

They walked towards the main hall but sat down on some stone benches in front. Arya stayed hidden between some bushes and listened.

“Why are you here, Lady Brienne?” Elder Brother asked.

“I am looking for the Hound. He has an auburn-haired maid of ten and six abducted,” she said straight.

“So you are looking for Sansa Stark, Lady Brienne,” Elder Brother said.

Brienne looked surprised.

Elder Brother chuckled. “We might be on this isle, but even we heard of the Hound taking Lady Sansa with her when he left Kings Landing. So why are you looking for them?”

“I swore Lady Catelyn Stark a holy oath to escort the Kingslayer to Kingslanding and exchange him for Lady Catelyn's daughters. When we reached the capital, we heard that she was taken hostage by the Hound during the battle of the Blackwater and apparently sold back to her mother and brother. Shortly after that, she married a Frey at the Red Wedding and the King demanded that she was to delivered to him.”

“The King will wait long for her, I guess,” Elder Brother said.

“King Joffrey is dead. He was poisoned at his wedding.” Arya was taken aback. Joffrey was really dead. “The Kingslayer wanted to bribe the Freys and I wanted to keep Lady Sansa safe and bring her to her aunt in the Vale. But when we received a raven from Lord Frey telling that the escort had been killed, I concluded that the Hound must have taken her for himself. I must find her,” Brienne said sternly.

“You will have a hard time finding the Hound Lady Brienne. The Hound is dead. I saw him die. Sandor Clegane is at rest,” Elder Brother said kindly.

Lady Brienne was taken aback.

“But if the Hound is dead, where is Lady Sansa?” she asked.

“She is with safe with the man she loves. And he loves her,” Elder Brother said and Brienne started to laugh.

“Apologies, but I have a hard time to believe that the Lady Sansa Lady Catelyn told me of would run away with some man after the Hound died. Lady Catelyn told me she was always dutiful.”
“Be it as it may Lady Brienne. You are welcome to stay here.”

“We only stay for the night Elder Brother. We continue our search at Saltpans and I won't rest until I've found her,” Brienne declared.

“I will show you and your companion the place you can sleep tonight,” Elder Brother said and left with both in tow.

 

***

 

“What did that warrior lady want?” Sandor asked gnawing on his lamb at dinner.

“I saw you sneak after them,” he said. Sansa looked at her, chewing on a piece of bread.

“She is hunting after you two. Her name is Brienne of Tarth and apparently, mother sent her with the Kingslayer to the capital to exchange him for us.”

Sandor and Arya turned to Sansa. “Uncle Brynden told me that mother had freed the Kingslayer to get us back.”

“After the Red Wedding, the Kingslayer wanted to pay the Freys so you could go with Brienne. She planned to bring you Aunt Lysa, but now she thinks Clegane has abducted you.”

“And what did Elder Brother told her about us?” Sansa asked, slightly afraid.

“He told the truth. He said the Hound died and you are with the man you love,” Arya said with a shrug. She grabbed one lamb leg and sank her teeth into it greedily. The fat was running down her chin. “She will only stay for the night. She leaves for Saltpans tomorrow.”

“Maybe we should also consider leaving. My leg is nearly completely healed and I want to reach the Wall, before the autumn storms come,” Sandor said.

“I guess you are right. But the only harbors close by are Saltpans and Maidenspool,” Sansa said.

“I wouldn’t want to go to Saltpans. That Tarth wench will not go down without a fight,” Arya told them with her mouth full of food.

“Aye, you are right, little wolf. Let's try our luck with Maidenpool.”

“Maybe Sansa can sing the song of Florian and Jonquil, when we are around,” Arya said, teasing and Sansa cheeks reddened lightly. Clegane eyed her sister over the table and his eyes held warmth.

“Aye she might. She can sing the most beautiful songs.”

Chapter Text

The had left the Quiet Isle the next morning after some brothers had started to row the warrior Lady and her companion over to Saltpans.

Elder Brother had given them some food and said that they could always return here should they need. He returned Sandor's armor, gold and weapons.

Septon Meribald had told them that Maidenpool had been retaken by Randyll Tarly after it was first sacked by the Lannisters and after that by the Northmen. Meribald had also offered to lead them over the hidden path to the mainland.

Arya was riding on her white horse and Sansa was riding with Sandor like she had before. She leaned back against his chest and he had one of his arms around her waist, to keep her from falling off the horse.

Sansa felt Sandor kiss the crown of her hair and she smiled. Sansa linked her finger with the hand that was around her and she smiled at the memory how his touch had felt on her skin and how safe and warm she had felt sleeping in Sandor's arms.

“You know, Septon Meribald could have married you,” Arya said teasing, obviously watching Sandor's show of affection for Sansa.

“I know,” Sansa said. “If I ever decide to marry again, it will be in front of the old gods. I was forced to marry in the light of the Seven and none of the Seven helped that night. So I don’t care about them anymore.”

“In Winterfell, you always liked to go in the sept with mother,” Arya said, still teasing.

“I liked many things in the past,” Sansa said absently, not looking at her sister.

Arya didn’t say anything further.

They were riding for a few hours already, when the city appeared on the horizon. From the distance, the city looked untouched by the war surrounded by its fields and trees that slowly started to show the rich colors of the autumn. When they came closer to the city they could see the first signs of the battle that had happened here.

The walls of the city showed traces of fire, the fields in front were interrupted by trenches that had filled with water from the rains of the last months. They passed by several graves near the muddy road on their way to the gates.

“Pull up you hood,” Sandor rasped pulling his hood and scarf up. Sansa pulled her hood up and Arya followed her lead.

Many people with carts were waiting in front of the gate. Soldiers were checking the people and the carts. Sansa watched the banner flying in the wind above the gate. A red huntsman on a green field. House Tarly. A house from the Reach.

Sansa still remembered the lessons with Maester Luwin in Winterfell. Like all her siblings, she had learned the names of the houses and their banner and whom their loyalty belonged to. Sansa had especially had been eager to learn the houses of the Reach. She had always thought the Reach to be the part of Westeros, where knights behaved like in the songs and were only looking for a fair maiden to save.

If Maidenpool now was in the hands of House Tarly it could only mean that House Mooton wasn’t in charge of the city anymore.

Sandor stopped the horse.

“Sandor, House Tarly is loyal to the crown,” Sansa said with concern in her voice.

“I know little bird, but we have to risk it,” he said.

“Can't you bribe them?” Arya suggested.

“I could try, but they still could sell us to Lord Tarly,” Sandor said thoughtful.

“Give me some gold dragons. I have an idea,” Arya said and jumped off the horse handing the reins over to Sansa still sitting in front of Sandor.

He pulled out a handful of gold dragons from a saddlebag and looked at her curiously. Sansa watched her sister, while she ran off to a group of women. Arya showed them the gold dragons and said something to him while pointing to the soldiers at the gate. The women laughed and walked off to the gates, while Arya returned to them.

“That clever little wolf,” Sandor muttered chuckling.

“Who are these women?” Sansa asked curiously.

“Whores, Sansa. They will distract the soldiers, while we pass the gates,” Arya said and mounted her horse.

Sansa eyes went wide and she felt herself blush, that she hasn’t seen the obvious. They rode through the gate and Sansa adverted her eyes at the sight of the women throwing herself at the soldiers. The other people that had waited at the gates also took their chance and entered the city.

The streets were dirty and most buildings were damaged one way or another. Some had broken windows and others had broken doors.

“So this is the city of the famous song,” Arya muttered.

“Aye, the fool and his cunt,” Sandor told her. They rode past the pool, where some women were washing clothes.

“That must be the pool, where Florian watched Jonquil,” Sansa said. “I always dreamed of seeing it once,” she added.

“And is it what you expected little bird?” Sandor asked.

“No, not really,” she said.

“Let's find a place to stay,” Sandor rasped and rode down a street towards the harbor. They finally found a shabby little inn that still had a room for them. Stranger and Arya's horse were tied outside. She still hadn't decided what name could fit her horse.

The wife of the innkeeper led them into the room. It seemed that the gold dragon Sandor had paid had done the trick and so it was the largest room of the inn.

The room offered little comfort. One bed stood at the wall with a small window. A table with one chair and one stool was all the room had on extra furniture.

“Is there something else you need, Ser?” the woman asked.

“Some food, wine and some hot water if you have it,” Sandor said, looking around in the room.

The woman nodded. “Right away, ser.”

The woman left and Sandor turned to the girls as soon as the door locked.

“Alright, listen, we stay in this room. The city is full of soldiers and my face is way too famous to go unrecognized. I'll go to the harbor and try to find a passage for us. Lock the door as soon as the food is brought and don’t open for anyone else, but me.”

The girls nodded and Sandor started to leave when Sansa flung her arms around his neck and pulled him down for a kiss. “Be careful, my love,” Sansa said and Sandor stroked her back his hand.

“I will, little bird. I'll be back as soon as possible,” he said giving her another kiss on her forehead.

Sandor left and closed the door. Sansa turned to Arya, who was smirking at her with crossed arms. “What?” Sansa asked and felt heat rise up her neck at being watched when she showed this affection for Sandor.

“Nothing,” Arya said, chuckling and jumped onto the bed.

Sansa sat down next to her and smoothed her skirts. She hated the grey wool dress she was wearing. It was the one she had been given by the Freys on the morning after the Red Wedding, but Sansa hadn't had the chance to sew something new. On the Quiet Isle, the brothers hadn't had that much fabric to sew a new dress. The dress reminded her everyday of what had happened.

“Food is here,” The voice of the innkeepers wife called through the door.

Sansa opened the door and took the plates from the woman. The woman had also brought a bowl with steaming water and a rag. Both sisters sat down at the table and started to eat from the pea stew. It wasn’t well seasoned, but it was hot and Sansa was surprised that she even found some sausage and fried bacon in it.

Strong hands knocked on the door and both sisters looked at each other before looking at the door. “It's me, little bird,” Sandor rough voice said.

Sansa opened the door and Sandor gave her a kiss on the forehead, before locking the door behind him. He sat down on the stool and helped himself with some stew.

“And?” Arya asked chewing on a piece of bread.

“I have good news and bad news,” he said.

“The good news first,” Sansa said picking up another piece of bread.

“I found a ship. It leaves at the first light tomorrow. I got a passage for us, but I had to pay a lot so Stranger could come with us.” He said.

“And the bad news?” Arya asked carefully.

“I couldn’t find a ship that directly heads to the North. The ship is heading towards Braavos. But it's better than nothing and we can find a passage North from there.”

Sansa had only heard stories of the free cities. She had never thought that she would actually see one of them in her life.

“Really, Braavos?” Arya asked, excited.

“Yes, Braavos, little wolf. I know it's not the way it was planned, but it's better to get as far away as possible for now and we have a good chance to find a ship that can bring us North.”

“It's fine, Sandor,” Sansa assured him, smiling.

They spent the rest of the meal in silence, before they went to bed early.

Arya said her usual name prayer and quickly snored besides them in the bed. The bed was too small for all three of them so Sansa more or less slept on Sandor.

“You have ever been to Braavos, Sandor?” Sansa asked quietly.

“No, little bird. I often thought of going to Essos, when nothing would hold me here, but I never planned to go to Braavos specifically.”

“When was the last time you wanted to leave Westeros?”

“After your brother sent me away. I drank myself into stupor that day. I couldn’t stand the thought of knowing I would never see you again and I wanted to be as far away as possible.”

“I felt similar that day. They held a feast in my honor and everybody kept telling me how brave I have been to flee Kings Landing with you, but I only could think of you,” Sansa whispered sadly.

“You were brave to come with me that night, Sansa,” he whispered back against the crown of her hair.

“That wasn’t a brave decision. I simply knew you wouldn’t hurt me.”

“I still think you a brave little bird.”

Sansa felt warmth spread in her chest at his word. To hear the bravest man she knew call her brave meant so much for her.

“Thank you, my love.”

“I love you, Sansa.”

“I love you, too.”

In each others arms, sleep soon took over.

 

***

 

Sansa didn’t remember what she had dreamed off when Sandor's voice gently tried to wake her up.

“Little bird, wake up.”

Sansa rolled around and grunted in disapproval.

“Sansa, it's time, get up.”

Sansa kept her eyes closed.

“Little wolf, time to go,” She heard Sandor rasp at her sister.

“Alright, alright,” Arya murmured sleep drunken.

They got up and Sansa rubbed her eyes. It was still dark outside. Maidenpool was still sleeping. They quickly packed up their belonging and left the inn as quietly as they could. Sandor led Stranger on his reins through the streets. They didn’t meet any people.

A black cat stopped for a short moment and looked at them, before rushing back into the darkness. Sansa had a hard time keeping her eyes open. She simply grabbed Sandor's warm hand and made one step after another.

When they reached the harbor they heard the voices calling each other. Sansa lifted her eyes and saw a ship with a mermaid as figurehead.

A man with black hair and a black beard greeted them.

“Good morning, my friend. I see you are here in time and these two must be your companions.”

“Aye. You still leave at sunrise?” Sandor asked.

“Yes, but there was a complication. I had to bribe one of Lord Tarly's officers so we can leave. You will have to pay more if you want to come with us.”

“I already paid you more than usual for passage for each of us.” Sandor growled.

“I know, but we take a high risk here.” The captain tried to calm Sandor.

“You say you are from Braavos?” Arya suddenly said.

“Aye, I am from Braavos. I was born there and hope to retire there someday. But what do you care?” the captain said. Arya pulled out a strange coin from her belt and showed it to the captain.

“Where did you get that?” the captain asked surprised, looking at Sansa's sister.

“Valar Morghulis,” Arya said.

Sansa had no idea what these words meant. Maester Luwin had translated some texts in High Valyrian when she was child with her, but she had never learned to speak fluently.

“Valar Dohaeris,” the captain answered. “Of course, no additional payment is needed. Please come, you get the best cabins,” he added and gestured for them to come on board.

Men were busied all over the deck to ready the ship. The captain showed Sandor the box where he tied up Stranger, before he showed her the cabins they had. Sandor and Sansa had been given the larger one, while Arya got her own. Sansa felt excitement to sleep alone with Sandor again.

When the first rays of the sun lightened the world up, they left the harbor. They stood at the railing on the rear deck while they left the harbor and the city behind.

Chapter Text

Sandor didn’t like to be on a ship. Not that he hated water or couldn’t swim. He simply hated the feeling of have no way to escape should anything go wrong.

During the first Greyjoy rebellion, he luckily already had been the shield of Cersei Lannister's first bastard spawn so he stayed behind in King's Landing when King Robert left to put Balon Greyjoy back in his place supported by the little bird's father.

After they have left Maidenpool behind, they had retreated to their cabins to get some additional sleep. Sandor pulled Sansa close to him and she purred in agreement falling asleep in each other’s arms.

 

***

 

Sandor awoke a few hours later to Sansa exploring his chest with her delicate fingers. She traced one of his countless scars with her index finger.

“Like what you feel and see little bird?” Sandor asked and Sansa flushed at being caught exploring him.

Sandor loved when the little bird blushed. It always made her even more beautiful. It still made his heart flutter that this pure soul loved him.

Sansa bit her lip, but didn’t give him an answer, but give him a shy nod.

“Then keep going. I am all yours to explore,” Sandor rasped gently and Sansa blushed even more.

He slowly leaned forward and carefully placed a kiss on her lips. Her hands slowly started to wander over his body again. He deepened the kiss and took in the taste of her lips. He had never bothered with kissing women before, but on the other hand, women before only had wanted his Lannister gold. But Sansa wanted all of him.

His cock was already painfully hard in his breeches. Sansa must have felt his state since her hand lingered above the hem.

Sansa looked a bit hesitant at the bulge in his breeches. Sandor didn’t say anything. This was Sansa's turn to decide what she wanted to do. Sansa looked up in his face and gave him a mischievous smile before pressing her lips against his.

Sandor felt her hand wander into his breeches after she loosened some of the laces. He gasped, when Sansa wrapped her finger around his cock and slowly started to stroke him.

“Am I doing it right?” Sansa asked, uncertain.

“Yes…” He answered a bit breathless kissed her while she smiled.

Sansa tightened her grip and raised her pace. Sandor let his own hands wander over her body. She had been sleeping in her dress so he couldn’t touch her silken skin, but she still moaned when his large hand wandered over her breast.

Her sweet moan and the feel of her fingers around his cock brought him over the edge and he released his seed onto her hand.

Sansa continued to stroke his twitching cock a few times before she loosened her grip and pulled her hand out of his breeches eyeing the white stains on her finger a little curious testing its consistency.

“Sorry little bird,” Sandor said a bit embarrassed. “I didn’t plan to finish that quick.”

He pulled one cloth out of one of his saddlebags lying next to the bed and handed it to Sansa who started to clean off his seed off her hand.

“That’s alright, Sandor. Maybe you could…” She started and a new flush reddened her cheeks, while she bit her lip.

Sandor leaned over to her to her ear. “What is it you want, Sansa. Tell me,” he rasped.

“Maybe you could do what you did with your mouth again,” she whispered and stroked his cheek with her hand.

“You want me to make you sing your song again?” Sandor whispered against her skin, while he kissed down her throat.

“Yes…” Sansa husked while Sandor already untied the lacings of her dress.

Sansa wriggled out of her dress until she lay on the bed in only her shift, small clothes and stockings. Sansa eyed him while he kissed down his way to her smallclothes. They were already damp, when he pulled them off.

When she lay bare in front of him, Sandor couldn’t stop thinking how he deserved someone like Sansa. She was as pure as the first snow of winter with her silken ivory skin and her fiery auburn hair.

“I love you, Sansa,” he said as he got down.

“I love you, too,” Sansa moaned as he traced her folds with his tongue.

Sandor concentrated his effort on the small nub at the top of her slit, like he had done on the Quiet Isle.

Sandor had never before done this until he had lain with Sansa for the first time. He had often heard Lords at court refer to it and Kind Robert had often boasted openly how he had tasted several chambermaids of the queen.

Sandor had never felt the desire to do it, least of all with some whore, whom half of the capital already had paid a visit. He hadn't had the wish to end up like Illyn Payne, should his tongue fall off.

But with Sansa it was different. Maiden or not, she was still his little bird and he wanted to explore every inch of her. Sandor had never understood the fuss the nobility made about the maidenheads of their daughters. He had seen enough highborn daughters over his years at court that played the shy maiden at their wedding, but had already fucked half the knights at court.

Sansa's hand grabbed his hair, while she moaned every time his tongue flickered over her nub.

Sandor spread her lips with his fingers, while he started to gently suck on her nub. He carefully pushed two finger inside her and moved them in and out rhythmically until Sansa cried out aching her back panting his name over and over again.
Sandor gave her little nub one last kiss before he pulled Sansa close to him. She snuggled closer to him and gave him a kiss on his burned cheek.

“Thank you, Sandor,” she said smiling at him.

“You sang the most beautiful song again, little bird,” he answered, burying his face in her hair taking in her scent.

They drifted off into sleep again, snuggled up to each other in the soft movement of the ship and listening to the sound of the waves.

Arya woke them up a few hours later to tell them dinner was ready. While they ate their meal of stew Arya told them that the captain had told her that they had made better progress than expected, because the wind was in their favor.

 

***

 

Over the next days the waves got higher and the movement of the ship more rough. The captain told them they sailed close to the coast until they would turn east to Braavos.

While the little wolf enjoyed the stormy journey and spent most of the day either talking to the crew or watching that strange coin, that secured them the passage, Sansa got seasick and couldn’t keep anything with her.

Sandor held back Sansa's hair while she puked that little bit of breakfast she had managed to force down this morning back up into a bucket they had been given.

He stroked circles over her back, while she puked and coughed.

“There little bird. Feeling a bit better?” he said and she looked at him with her red rimmed eyes. Sandor stroked her pale cheek with his finger and stroked one strain of hair behind her ear.

“A little,” she said, taking some deep breaths in and out.

“Maybe some fresh air will help,” Sandor suggested and Sansa nodded. The went onto deck and she had her cloak tightly wrapped around herself. The wind was cold and humid. The coast was barely visible a few miles port side.

“Where are we do you think?” Sansa asked holding onto his arm to keep herself steady.

“No idea, little bird.”

“These are the Fingers,” the captain said from behind and both turned to him. “The wind is in our favor so we already reached them a few days earlier than I expected. Soon we will turn east to Braavos and if the wind stays that way we should reach it within the next ten days,” he continued.

“Some hot wine with ginger will help your stomach, milady. I will let the cook heat some up for you,” he said to Sansa with a warm smile.

“Thank you,” Sansa said and the captain bowed before leaving them alone again.

“So this is where Littlefinger was born,” Sansa said, turning back to the coast, slightly hidden behind fog and rain.

“How do you know this is where Littlefucker was born?” Sandor asked.

“He told us at Father's tourney, when Arya asked why he was called Littlefinger.”

Sandor still remembered the tourney. When he had defended Loras Tyrell against his brother, Sansa had been the first to cheer for him.

“No wonder that he became that kind of plotting cunt being born in this shithole of Westeros.”

Sansa held onto his arm a bit stronger. “I always felt uncomfortable around him,” Sansa said.

“Aye, he was obsessed with the Tully look. I still remember the rumors he spread in the court about your mother and aunt.”

“What rumors?” Sansa asked.

“He always boasted that he was the one that deflowered both daughters of Lord Hoster Tully.”

Sansa looked at him shocked. “That must be a lie,” Sansa said.

“I don’t believe it either. With your aunt, it was true. I saw how she chased after him at every chance at court, when Jon Arryn was still alive, but your mother was all about her family words. But that's what Littlefucker does. Lies and plots. Nobody should ever trust him. Your father made the mistake and paid the highest price.”

“What did he do?” Sansa asked.

“I don’t know everything, but I was there in the throne room, when the Lannisters started to slaughter your father's men and how Littlefinger pressed his blade against his throat.”

“It's all my fault. I went to Cersei and told her Father's plan to send us home,” Sansa said and a sob escaped her.

“It's not your fault, little bird. Cersei already knew about your father's plans to deny Joffrey the throne. She told me I should made sure you were in your room.” Sandor tried to soothe her.

“I miss Father,” Sansa quietly whispered.

“I know, Sansa, the people who have wronged your family will pay for it. I promise,” Sandor said, pulling her into an embrace and kissing her forehead.

“I love you,” she said, getting on her tiptoes kissing his lips in return.

“I love you, too, little bird.”

Her cheeks had gotten some rosy color back. They went back below deck and Arya joined them in their cabin for the evening. Arya had gotten some playing cards from one of the sailors. When the evening slowly took over and the weather got slightly better, they played cards while they ate their dinner.

The hot ginger spiced wine helped to sooth the little birds stomach and brought some color back to her face.

The sisters laughed while playing cards and Sandor excused himself for a moment to check on Stranger.

His horse didn’t seem to be bothered by the rough sea and silently ate his hay.

When he returned to the cabin he saw that both sister were already asleep on the bed. He covered them with the blanket and smiled to himself. He got himself the blanket from Arya's room and slept on the little space the sisters have left him.
Sandor pulled Sansa close to him and hoped the they would reach Braavos soon.

Chapter Text

His shoulder hurt where the arrows had pinched through the thick layers of fur into his body. Jon had barely made it back to Castle Black after he got shot by Ygritte. Maester Aemon and Sam had fought for several days to keep him alive.
After he had awoken, the officers of Castle Black had granted him a few days, before they wanted to question him about his whereabouts that lead him back to the Wall.

Today they would decide if he would live or die. Sam had come this morning and Jon immediately knew that something was wrong. The way Sam behaved gave away the burden on his shoulder.
At the beginning Sam didn’t want to tell him, but in the end he had told him.

A raven had arrived spreading the news that Robb and his mother had been murdered in cold blood alongside his army and many Northern Lords.
Sam had also told him that Winterfell had been burned to ground by Theon Greyjoy after he murdered Bran and Rickon.

"I was jealous of Robb my whole life. The way my father looked at him, I wanted that. He was better than me at everything…fighting and hunting and riding and girls,” Jon said, while pulling his tunic over his head. “Gods, the girls loved him. I wanted to hate him, but I never could,” he continued.

“Sometimes I want to hate you,” Sam said and Jon looked at him.

“Well, you're better than me at everything. Except reading,” he added, trying to lift Jon's mood.

“Lady Catelyn had never been a mother to me, she always made me feel like the bastard I was, but she has always been a loving mother for her children,” Jon told Samwell, who listened interested.

“Bran always loved to climb. No building was too high for him and Rickon was a little hellion. Always running around laughing. I simply can't believe they are dead. Theon was like a brother to us.”

Jon had never thought Theon to be capable of killing two innocent children. Should Jon ever see him again, he would kill him right away.

“My sister Arya and I were the only ones who looked like our father. I always called her little sister and tousled her hair. When she left Winterfell, I had the blacksmith make a sword for her. She always wanted to be a warrior, much to the dismay of her mother and septa.”

Samwell laughed lightly.

“So similar to me, when I once suggested to my father to become a Maester,” Samwell said, making Jon chuckle.

“And Sansa, my other sister, looked exactly like her mother, but everybody always said she would become an even bigger beauty. She always behaved like a lady since she was three and tried to follow the lead of her mother in everything. She was the only one of my sibling, that always only said I was her half-brother, but it wasn’t a big deal for me. I still remember how she loved to play knights and maidens with Robb and me in the godswood. She was so excited when she heard that the King would visit Winterfell and then later travel to the capital, when father agreed to betroth her to Joffrey.”

Jon sighed. “And now she is in the clutches of the Lannisters, while everybody else of her family is either missing or dead,” Jon said.

Sam was looking to the ground and was fidgeting with his hands.

“What?” Jon asked.

“You sister, Sansa. Apparently, she was brought back to your brother by the Hound…I mean Sandor Clegane, but was married to a Frey during the Red Wedding alongside her uncle Edmure Tully,” Sam hesitantly said.

“That can't be” Jon said shocked. He didn’t even want to imagine his sister in the clutches of the murderer of their family, least married to one.

“It is true, Jon.”

“Any other news on her?” Jon asked and feared the answer.

“The raven that brought the news of Joffrey death also contained a bounty on your sister's head. It seems Joffrey ordered her to be brought to King's Landing after the Red Wedding, but she somehow escaped and now they hunt after her.”
Gods, Jon thought. How could Sansa survive something like that. Jon couldn’t imagine her surviving on her own in the wilderness while people hunted her.

“I hope she is fine,” Jon said. “In a few minutes, Sansa might will be the last Stark alive, if Ser Alliser gets his will.”

Jon got up and left for his hearing in front of the Nights Watch officers.

Chapter Text

The captain had been right. They reached Braavos sooner than expected.

Sansa held onto Sandor's arm, standing next to Arya while they passed the Titan of Braavos. Sansa had read about the Titan, but she had never expected to actually see it once. All three watched in awe as they drove between his legs into the city.

“Have you ever seen something as gigantic?” Sansa asked Sandor.

“Never. Pretty impressive,” he said.

 

***

 

After they had docked in the harbor, they thanked the captain and Sandor paid him some gold dragons for his kindness.

The streets were crowded and merchants praised all kind of spices and exotic food. Sansa took a deep breath and was surprised that the air lacked the disgusting notes that were always present in Kings Landing.

The captain had told them a good tavern where they could stay. Sandor led Stranger on his reins until they found the tavern. The ´Roaring Kraken´ tavern had a small stable in which Sandor tied up Stranger. A woman with a brown tanned skin greeted them when they entered.

“Welcome in the ´Roaring Kraken´. A room for the night?” the woman asked kindly.

“We don’t know how long we will stay,” Sandor said and the woman nodded.

“That’s no problem. One room or two?” she asked.

“Two,” Arya said immediately and the woman nodded.

“But make sure they are next to each other,” Sandor added.

The woman nodded again and took the keys and led them to their rooms.

“Does the horse cost extra?” Sandor asked while they walked up the stairs.

“No ser. Animals are free in this tavern.”

 

***

 

Sansa entered the room she would share with Sandor and was surprised and impressed at the same time. The room was better than most rooms of the Red Keep.

A large featherbed with white sheets dominated the wall of the room. Its frame was made of fine ebony wood and ornaments were worked into the posts. The floor was made out of marble and two candle holders stood on both sides next to the bed on small nightstands. A door led to a second room, where a privy and a marble tub was located. A table with two chairs stood in one corner of the room.

“I can order that a tub with hot water is brought up if you like,” the woman said, while Sansa and Sandor still admired the room.

“Yes thank you. I would like to have a bath later,” Sansa said kindly.

Arya came over from her own room and obviously was as impressed as Sansa.

“I could stay here for a while,” Arya said, grinning widely.

“Aye,” Sandor said.

Sansa sat down on the bed and smiled at the feel of the soft sheets. She smoothed her skirts and looked at Sandor, who was eying her curiously.

“We should go to the market,” Sandor said. “Maybe we'll hear some news.”

They left the tavern and Sandor told the tavernkeeper something, before they were heading to the great market. Sansa had never seen a market like that before. Fruits and spices she never even heard of were presented and small shops that offered all kinds of things were next to each other.

Arya had wandered off a little. Sansa wasn’t concerned for her safety. She had her needle to keep her safe. Sansa stopped at the shop of seamstress and eyed one dress in particular. It was made of a lilac colored silken underdress and the rest was made of light purple brocade.

Sansa looked down at herself and the grey wool dress she had gotten by the Freys. It had stains and the skirts that had been shredded by Wendel on the night when Sandor had saved her were sewed back together by her as best she could.

“Like that dress?” Sandor asked next to her.

“Yes, it's beautiful, but we should save the gold Robb gave you,” Sansa said, a little sad, because she knew she was right.

“I'll buy it for you, little bird. We have enough gold left and I also still have my tourney winnings and you should have every dress you want,” Sandor said smiling warmly at her.

Sansa got on her tiptoes and pressed her lips to his. “Thank you Sandor. I cant wait to get rid of this Frey dress,” Sansa said, plunking on her dress.

“Order every kind of clothing you need, little bird,” Sandor said as they entered the shop.

“I saw a cloth trader earlier,” Sansa said. “I can make you and Arya new clothes if you like.”

“A new tunic would be great,” he said and Sansa grabbed his arm while they stood in the shopping room.

An elderly woman appeared from the backroom. “Welcome,” she said. “What can I do for you?”

“The woman I love would like to have one of your dresses and everything else she might want,” Sandor said and Sansa flushed a little.

Sandor watched her, smiling and sitting on a chair at the wall, while Sansa explained to the seamstress what she needed. The woman measured up Sansa and she immediately started to work on what Sansa wanted.

Sansa sat down next to Sandor with the dress she had seen folded on her lap. Sansa didn’t want to wait to have one made for her specific. Her sewing skills were good enough to make the necessary changes herself.

Sansa's finger touched the finely woven material and she smiled. She remembered how excited she always had been back then in Winterfell, when it was her turn to get a new dress. Back then, she always wanted to have more, but now she was just happy to have this one and the man at her side.

“I love your smile,” Sandor whispered close to her ear.

Sansa turned to him and kissed him. “Thank you, Sandor. For everything,” Sansa said, leaning her head on his shoulder.

“No need to thank me, my love,” he gently said.

They left the shop when the woman and her apprentices had finished what Sansa wanted.

Sansa had gotten a new pair of stockings, two pairs of fine woven cotton smallclothes and two new silken shifts. Sansa also had ordered a new underwear for her sister. Sansa had guessed her size and would change the clothing if needed.

Arya had told Sandor that she would meet them back in the tavern.

They shortly stopped at the cloth trader and Sansa bought the fabrics she would need. Sansa and Sandor strolled back to the tavern and took a route alongside one of the countless channels that traversed the city, while the sun went down behind the Titan.

Back in the tavern, Arya immediately ran towards them telling them she heard news from Westeros.

Sandor told the tavernkeeper to bring hot water and the woman. Servants started to bring several buckets of steaming water to fill the tubs in both rooms.

“It's incredible, how they have a privy and a tub for every room here, while most inns in Westeros don’t even have a privy at all,” Sandor said.

After the servants have left all three went into their rooms, to wash up before dinner.

“You can bath first, Sansa,” Sandor said.

Sansa bit her lips and took his hand, pulling him with her into the bathroom. “The tub is large enough for both of us,” she said, feeling heat creep up her neck.

“The she-wolf wants to bath with the hound,” Sandor said in a husky voice.

“Yes, she wants.” Sansa made a sniffing sound. “My hound could use a bath.”

“Is that so?” Sandor asked, chuckling. Sandor closed the door after they entered the bathroom. The air was already humid from the steaming water in the tub. Sansa lightly tugged on Sandor's tunic and he pulled it over his head revealing his broad muscled torso.

Sansa's eyes traveled up his body. She turned around to reveal the lacing and Sandor's fingers started to untie the lacings until she could push the hated dress off her shoulder. Sandor pressed a kiss to her shoulder. He kicked of his boots and let his breeches fall to the ground.

Sansa watched him how he sank into the tub.

She quickly got rid of the rest of his clothes too and stepped into the tub in front of Sandor.

Sansa sighed happily at the feel of the hot water on her skin and leaned back against Sandor's chest. His left hand rested on her belly, while the fingers of his right were intertwined with hers. Sandor pressed a kiss to her throat, making Sansa smile.

“I could get used to that little bird,” Sandor said and the feel of his breath on her skin made her shiver lightly.

“Yes, me, too,” Sansa said in a hoarse voice.

The moment felt so perfect, with the warm water surrounding her and the man she loved.

“I love you,” Sansa said in a dreamy tone.

“Can you wash my hair?” Sansa asked and Sandor grabbed a nearby pitcher off the small table next to the tub, where several soaps and oils have been placed. He filled the pitcher with water and poured it over her hair washing away all the dust and filth of the last weeks.

Sandor took a small bottle of the table and pulled the cork out of the bottle. The smell of lilac filled the room. He carefully poured the oil into her hair and massaged her hair and her scalp with his large fingers. Sansa sighted happily at the feel of his fingers on her head. Sandor poured another pitcher of water over her head.

“Thank you, Sandor. I can wash yours in return,” Sansa said, smiling at him.

“Aye, that would be nice.” Sansa turned around to face him and poured water over his head. “I hope I don’t smell like the knight of flowers in the end,” he said teasing, making Sansa giggle. Sansa couldn’t believe now that she had once thought Ser Loras handsome.

Sansa poured the cedar oil in his wet hair and massaged his scalp in return. She also poured some in his beard. She emptied another pitcher of water over his head, to wash away the remaining oil.

Sansa let her finger ghost over his scared cheek and rested her forehead on his before she finally leaned in for a kiss. Their tongues met and Sansa felt heat spread in her body and she felt a shiver run down her spine and the feel of his hands on her back. He deepened the kiss and she felt his stiff member pressing against her. Her heart fluttered at the thought that she could cause this reaction on this seasoned warrior.

“I love you, little bird,” he husked, kissing down her throat.

“I love you, too,” Sansa said and a moan escaped her.

Sansa changed her position a bit to give Sandor better access. His hand cupped her breast and gently caressed her nipple while he nipped on her shoulder. She moaned and leaned back against his chest. Sansa wrapped her finger around his member and slowly started to stroke him.

“Sansa…” he rasped against her ear and his other hand traveled down her stomach under the waterline until he found the nest of auburn curls between her legs.

Sansa moaned and closed her eyes while his fingers explored her folds. Sandor slowly teased her pearl with her finger, making her whimper every time his callused finger found her sensitive bundle of nerves.

Her breath quickened and she bit her lip as her peak build up inside her. “Sing for me,” Sandor rasped at her ear, while she was still stroking him.

His rough voice and another stroke of his finger over her pearl brought her over the edge and she arched against his hand, while his other held around her chest.

“Sandor…” She moaned while waves of pleasure flooded through her body. Her back fell against his chest he breathed heavily against her ear as she increased her pace to send him over his own edge of pleasure.

Sansa smiled to herself as she felt his cock twitch in her hand, while he spilled his seed. They stayed like this for a few minutes, coming back to their senses, when Sandor kissed her cheek.

“Thank you little bird. Bathing was good idea,” he said.

“Yes,” Sansa said, smiling like a cat that just got the cream.

“We should get ready for dinner, or your sister will start looking for us,” he said and moved to get out of the tub. Sandor held out his hand to her and Sansa took it to climb out of the tub. He held out a large towel for her and she wrapped it around herself to dry up.

Sandor quickly dried up and dressed and told her he would tell Arya he would get dinner for them.

Sansa took her time and clothed herself in her new underwear and new dress. It was a bit tight around her chest, but Sansa would be able to stitch it up like she needed. Her hair was still a little damp, but it quickly dried, when she started to brush it out until shone. Sansa braided a simple braid and left the bathroom.

Sandor and Arya were already awaiting her sitting at the table. His hair was still a little damp as he eyes her from head to toe, smiling. “That dress looks beautiful on you little bird,” he said and she smiled back at him, while she took her place at the table.

Arya still wore her old clothes, but she had washed her hair and braided a simple braid herself. Some hair had escaped her sister's braid and fell in her face.

“Yes, it's pretty,” Arya agreed with Sandor.

“Thank you,” Sansa said, flushing a little. “I will make you two some new clothes as soon as I can.”

“I hope no dress,” her sister said teasing and Sansa shook her head laughing.

On the table were several large plates with six chickens. The smell of fresh bread reached Sansas nose and made her mouth water. Some smaller bowls with some kind of red sauce emitted a spicy smell.

“The tavernkeeper said that red sauce is made out of chili and garlic. I heard in Dorne they often eat chili. The woman warned its pretty hot,” Sandor said and served each one of them a chicken.

Sansa watched as Sandor dipped a chicken leg into the sauce and pushed it into his mouth only to start coughing and greedily gulp down a cup of wine. Both Stark sisters had to laugh.

“Gods, that's not for me. I don’t need to get burned from the inside, too,” he said, drinking another cup.

Sansa dipped a piece of her chicken into the sauce. She actually liked the spicy taste. Sansa never had eaten something like that. The North didn’t have many spices for their food, least something as exotic as chili.

“You said you heard news from Westeros,” Sandor said to Arya, gnawing on his chicken.

“Yes, I eavesdropped on a merchant that has just arrived from King's Landing.” Arya made a short pause to fill her cup with the sweet wine from the Summer Island. “Tywin Lannister is dead. Supposedly murdered by the Imp after he was sentenced guilty for the murder of Joffrey. His champion lost the trial by combat against the Mountain, but the Mountain died screaming a few days later, by the poison the Prince of Dorne used on his spear. Tommen has married Margaery Tyrell, but Cersei is the one reigning. The Imp disappeared the night of the murder and Cersei offers hundred gold dragons for his head.”

Sandor seemed to be taken aback by the news. “That’s not good that the old lion is dead. He was the one that kept the madness of his daughter in check,” he growled.

“It's good your brother is dead,” Arya said. “Another name off my list. Even if I would have liked to kill him myself.”

“Aye,” Sandor growled back.

“Anything else?” Sansa asked dipping another piece of her chicken in the sauce.

“Stannis Baratheon has left Dragonstone with all his remaining troops. Some say he sails North.”

“Why should he sail North?” Sandor asked and Arya just shrugged.

Sansa had often asked herself how the fate of her family would have been if Stannis would have won the battle at the Blackwater. The rest of the dinner went in silence. Sansa managed to eat a whole chicken and some of a second. Lovemaking obviously makes one hungry, she thought to herself.

 

***

 

Later that evening she laid snuggled up to Sandor under the sheets.

“Are you mad that you couldn’t kill your brother yourself?” Sansa asked Sandor. He stayed silent for a moment and Sansa thought he wasn’t going to answer.

“No, I am not. I haven’t thought on him for a long time. I only think of you, little bird,” he said and pulled her closer to him.

“I love you, Sandor,” Sansa said sleepily, her head resting on his chest.

“I love you, too, Sansa,” he said.

His steady breathing and the sound of his heart pumping in his chest made her quickly fall asleep.

 

Sansa awoke the next morning to Sandor's hand shaking her shoulder. “Sansa, wake up, Arya is gone,” he said in a serious tone.

“What?” Sansa asked unbelieving rubbing her eyes.

“I wanted to wake her so we could go to the harbor looking for a passage North, but she is gone. Her little sword is also with her. The only thing she left was this note,” Sandor said and handed her a small piece of paper.
Sansa read loudly.

Love you, but I need to go. Valar Morghulis – Arya” Sansa felt tears pool in her eyes. “We need to find her, Sandor,” Sansa said, choking on emotions. She couldn’t lose Arya, too. She had already lost so much.

Sandor pulled her in a tight embrace and kissed the crown of her hair.

“We will, Sansa. We won't leave, before we searched every corner of the city.”

 

***

 

They searched every street and every tavern Braavos had over the next few weeks. They had even looked at the House of Black and White. An elderly black man had told them that no girl had been seen matching their description of Arya.

Sansa felt desperate. She couldn’t accept to lose Arya again. Sansa held onto the hope that she was still in the city, when Sandor told her he thought he might have seen her for a short moment at the harbor pushing a cart filled with oysters, clams and cockles. Before Sandor had the chance to see the face of the person, she or he had disappeared into the crowd of people at the harbor.

Today, Sansa had suggested they should separate to look for Arya. Sandor hadn't liked the idea at first, but Sansa had persuaded him. He was looking at the docks, while she was looking around the Iron Bank of Braavos. The sun was burning down on her head without mercy, while she walked over to the large piazza in front of the bank building.

Sansa spotted a shady corner of the piazza with a public fountain. She went over to make a short break before continuing her search. Sansa washed her face with the cool water.

“Fuck me sideways. The Stark whore,” she heard a voice she knew say and she turned around, only to stare into the face of Meryn Trant.

A knock on her head made her world turn dark.

Chapter Text

Sandor was desperate. Sansa had now disappeared, too.

He cursed himself for allowing her search separately from him. When he had looked for the little wolf at the docks, he had immediately noticed the large ship with the Lannister and Baratheon sail.

He had rushed to the piazza where Sansa had wanted to search, but couldn’t find her. He had asked a beggar if he had seen something and he had told him about a strange man wearing a white cloak knocking a woman unconscious before carrying her off. He had given the beggar a silver stag to refresh his memory of the man and Sandor was pretty sure he had described Meryn Trant to him.

Meryn fucking Trant, Sandor thought angrily. This time he wouldn’t survive to harm his little bird.

But Sandor still had no idea where he should start to search. Braavos was larger than King's Landing and he and Sansa had spent weeks looking for Arya and still had only managed to search on the most public places and squares.

Sandor sat down to think. Trant wouldn’t be alone here. A Kingsguard would only be here if some high Lord of the small council had something to do here.

Sandor had never really bothered to talk more than necessary with his other ´brothers´ of the Kingsguard, but he still remembered that Boros Blount once mentioned that Trant preferred his whores disgustingly young.

Sandor got up asked some whores near the harbor, which brothels offered this kind of service. Several times he got ´The Smiling Oyster´ as an answer. The evening was already upon the city as he entered the brothel. It was well populated and he walked into the backrooms as someone collided with him.

“What the…” Sandor said, when he saw that it was Arya with the clothing of the fish trader.

He swiftly grabbed her covering her mouth and quickly left the brothel and walked into a nearby alley.

Sandor put her down, but still held her by the arm. “The fuck you think you doing?!” Sandor yelled at her.

“Trant is in there and I will kill him for the murder of Syrio Forrel.” She stubbornly said.

“You can't kill him. He has Sansa,” he growled.

“Why does he have Sansa!” she yelled back at him.

Sandor got close to her face. “He has her, because you ran off and we spent the last few weeks looking for you. If you kill him, we will never get your sister back.”

“He is raping a new little girl every night here” Arya said. “I have to kill him.”

“He will die, but he will lead us to the place he is staying first.” Arya nodded. “Why did you ran off after all?” Sandor asked, but she didn’t answer him.

 

***

 

They waited for about an hour, before Trant and two Lannister soldiers walked out and walked down the street.

Sandor and Arya held their distance until they reached a house near the harbor.

“How do we want to make it?” Arya asked.

“You still have your needle?” He asked.

“Not here right now.”

“Fuck,” Sandor muttered and handed her a dagger. He carefully opened the door as silently as he could.

“Trant is mine,” Arya said.

“I don’t give a shit who kills him, I only want Sansa back,” Sandor whispered.

“I am sorry. I didn’t want Sansa to get in this situation. Are you still at the same tavern?” Arya asked.

“Aye. You can tell her yourself later.” The had finally reached the only room where light was shining through under the door. “Swift and no mercy,” Sandor growled and Arya nodded.

Sandor kicked as hard as he could against the door and it nearly broke out of the wall.

“What the…” One soldier said, turning around, but Sandor's sword was already splitting his skull in two and Arya had rammed the other soldier her dagger in the throat.

Trant pulled his sword.

“You?!” he yelled, unbelieving.

“Where is she?” Sandor growled at him.

“So it's true. When you ran away with your tail between your legs, you grabbed the Stark bitch by the pussy and took her with you.”

Sandor pulled his own sword. “Tell me where she is and this doesn’t have to get bloodier than it need to be,” he growled in a low voice.

“I will get my reward for bringing her back to the queen,” Trant yelled and strapped on his shield.

Sandor laughed. “So this little shield is your trump?” Sandor asked and started to let his sword rain down on him. Sandor had no idea which stuttering fool had the idea to give Trant the white cloak. Even the little wolf could fight better than this cunt. It didn’t take long until Sandor had disarmed him and Trant's sword fell clattering to the ground. His shield had been hacked into pieces.

Sandor let his fist merciless rain down on Trant's face. “Where is she!” Sandor yelled and hitting Trant's face again and again.

Trant only groaned in pain.

“Where!” he yelled.

“Attic…” Trant groaned and Sandor got up.

“He is all yours, little wolf,” Sandor said as he stormed out of the room towards the staircase that led to the attic. He opened the door in fear of what he would find. “Sansa?” he asked into the room.

“Hmmmm,” he heard as answer. Sansa lay gagged and tied up on a pallet. He cut her loose and she flung herself in his arms. Sandor loosened the embrace to look at her. Her braid had come undone and a bruise was blooming on her cheek, tainting her pale skin. He carefully stroked it with his finger and she winced lightly. “Are you alright, little bird? Did he…?” he carefully asked.

“No, he didn’t. He said I was too old. He only slapped me unconscious,” she said.

“I found Arya. She is downstairs dealing with what is left of Trant,” he growled and Sansa's eyes widened in surprise.

“Really?”

“Yes. I found her when I was looking for Trant. I saw the royal ship in the harbor.”

“Yes, they talked about Lord Tyrell to deal with the Iron Bank.”

Sandor pressed his lips to her. “I love you, Sansa,” he whispered as their lips parted.

“I love you, too, Sandor. I was so afraid. Sorry I demanded to separate for the search,” Sansa said ruefully.

“Nothing to forgive, little bird. Can you walk?”

“Yes, I am fine.”

They walked down but Arya was gone again. Trant lay in a pool of his own blood, his eyes cut out, throat slit.

Sansa took in the picture without flinching. It was getting late and they decided it made no sense to search for Arya now. They returned to the tavern and Sandor carefully washed Sansa's face with a wet rag and handed her a cool cloth to bring down the swelling.

Sandor felt that Sansa was still under the influence of today’s happenings and held her close to his chest as they laid in bed. He slowly rubbed his hand over her back.

“You are safe, little bird. You are safe,” he murmured to her.

“I know, its just…he surprised me at a fountain. I didn’t even recognize him until he was right behind me and then I froze in fear of the memory of his beatings in King's Landing.”

Her hand wandered to the back of her leg.

“I still have some marks on my legs that never disappeared completely like on my back,” she sadly whispered.

“Don’t think on them. We all have our marks that show what we have been through. And don’t even think that they make you ugly, Sansa. They are part of you and I love you,” he said and Sansa nodded against his chest.

Her finger traced through his chest hair until they were exactly over his heart. “I love you, Sandor.”

They lay in silence for a while, only listening to the sound of each other breathings.

“How did she look?” Sansa asked and Sandor knew she meant her sister.

“She looked healthy. She somehow got new clothes, so she wasn’t running around in her old clothes anymore. She wasn’t dressed like a lady either,” he said chuckling.

Sansa laughed. “No, that wouldn’t be her. I feel she will return to us when she is ready,” Sansa said, sleepy.

“Yes, I think you are right,” he answered.

 

***

 

The next couple of weeks they spent with exploring the city without really actively searching for Arya. Sandor shared Sansa's opinion that Arya would return to them on her own, since she has asked if they still lived in the same tavern.

They visited the Arsenal of Braavos and the Palace of the Sealord and many other places.

In the evenings, he watched her while she altered her dress and started to sew a new tunic with experienced stitches. She sometimes looked up from her sewing, biting her lip smiling. Sandor always smiled back at her and he had to smile even more at the blush that always reddened her cheeks when she adverted her eyes.

Sansa had just finished her dress and put it on to show off her work.

“Beautiful, little bird,” Sandor said in awe and Sansa smiled widely. Gods, he loved Sansa so much.

She sat back down and started to work on the tunic again, she was sewing for him. “I have seen a placard that a theatre troupe is in the city with a play thy call ´The bloody hand´. I thought we might could see it,” Sansa said, not looking up from her stitches.
“Aye, we might.” Sandor said and Sansa smiled at him.

 

***

 

The next day they went to the play. Sandor was wearing his new black tunic. He had to agree he looked dashing in it. Sansa had spent several evenings with the embroidery of three yellow hounds and the small red bird sitting on the shoulder of one of them. Sandor thought the hounds looked more like the direwolf that ran across the Stark banner, but he liked it all the same.

They had placed during the play and had a clear view onto the stage.

To both their surprise the play was about Sansa's father as Hand of the King.

Sansa held onto his arm while they watched the play. The first act was about King Robert visiting Winterfell and asking Sansa's father to become his Hand.

The girl that played Sansa looked nothing like his little bird besides her haircolor. She lacked the charm and grace Sansa already had possessed at the age of thirteen.

The second act started with Robert's hunting accident. “Oh, murdered by a boar. The great big hairy whore. He dug in his tusks and dug out my guts and soon I am no more,” the actor said.

The set changed to King Robert's deathbed. Sandor had to snort at the Joffrey display. Joffrey hadn't given a shit about his ´fathers´accident.

“Oh, come, Father, in bed you must lie. I love you, Father. Please don’t die.”

Joffrey got a slap and Sansa giggled next to him. “Shut up, you swine! Cersei, more wine,” Robert yelled.

The actor portraying Joffrey falls to his knees in the front of the stage. Cersei appeared on the stage and walks to him. “I feel the winds of winter as they lick across the land. And our son alone on that cold, cold throne without a guiding hand. Who will teach him strength? Who will teach him grace? To whom will he turn when it’s time to learn to look darkness in the face?” Cersei asked. Sandor had a hard time to believe that Cersei was even capable of saying something like that.

“Ned Stark will do fine. Now bring me more wine.”

“I die! I die! And here I now must lie. Oh, woe. Oh, no. Oh, I am about to go.” Robert said and died making a farting noise.

“Will you stay on as Joffrey’s Hand?” Cersei asked.

“The Iron Throne’s what I demand,” Ned Stark said.

“That’s a lie. My father never wanted the throne,” Sansa said next to him. He could clearly hear the anger in her voice.

“Aye,” he growled back. This whole mess started with the question, who had put his seed in Cersei's cunt. The actor that played the Imp held his knife to Ned Stark's throat.

“But we had a deal all done and dusted. I’m starting to think you can’t be trusted,” Ned Stark said to the Imp before he was carried off the stage.

As they change the scene, Joffrey and Cersei enter the stage. Cersei crowns her son. The actress that played the little bird entered the stage. Ned Stark's head was resting on a chopping block
“Save my father,” she pleaded.

He felt Sansa held tighter onto his arm. He still remembered how she had pleaded in front of the throne, while every lordling and lady of the court suddenly ignored Sansa.

“Truly you should. Killing the man will do you no good.” Cersei said.

“Save him, please,” the actress pleaded again.

“Show him mercy. Show the people what a good king should be,” Cersei said again and agreement was murmured in the crowed.

“Good people, you may all relax. My father’s friend shall be spared the…” Joffrey started, but the executioner swung his axe, after the Imp gave him some gold.

“Father! No! Oh, father,” the little bird's actress cried. She took the wooden head. Sandor pulled Sansa close to him and kissed the crown of her hair rubbing circled over her back.

“You want to leave?” Sandor asked gently. He would understand if she wouldn’t want to relive the day her life turned into a nightmare.

“No. But please hold me,” she said.

To Sandor surprise there was even an actor that played him.

“Fuck the Kingsguard. Fuck the city. Fuck the king,” the actor yelled at the Tyrion actor, before he stormed off.

“Did you really said this?” Sansa asked smiling at him.

“I indeed did. That bloody Imp wanted me to go outside the gates again, to fight burning men,” he growled. Sandor still remembered a burning man running towards him. The sellsword of the bloody Imp had saved him.

The scene changed and it showed his counterpart yelling at the Sansa actress cowering her ears.

He ribbed the front of the actress’ dress revealing her breasts before throwing her over his shoulder and storming off.

“Our escape was far more romantic,” Sansa mused, smirking.

“Aye, if you oversee that I put a knife to your throat,” he said, sarcastic.

“I know the truth about the night, Sandor. The wildfire scared you,” she gently said.

“Aye, and your song brought me back.”

Sansa smiled at him and pulled him down for a kiss. The final act started and obviously showed Joffrey's wedding. Joffrey had just drunk the poisoned wine and Cersei was crying over his dead body.

“My son. My firstborn son. My child king, hush. Listen to the gods, for you they sing. Fight no more, sweet child. Your wars are won. The wolves are buried and the false stag done. Shut your blue eyes, my love. Let the crown fall. The Father above beckons you into his hall. In Seventh Heaven, I’ll see you once more. But now I seek vengeance on my brother the Imp who killed his own king. Born amongst lions, our curse from within. I will slay him, I swear. With noose or with knife, though it take me a fortnight, a moon, or my life.” She mourned.

The crowed started to cheer and clap and Sansa also started to clap. Sandor followed her lead. He had to agree that the actress that played Cersei was very talented.

 

***

 

The returned to the tavern and ate dinner.

“The actress that played Cersei was pretty good,” Sansa said, dipping some bread in her stew.

“Aye, even if Cersei has never acted like in that play her whole life.”

“Yes, she only once showed me true kindness,” Sansa said.

“And when was that?” Sandor asked curious.

“The day I flowered. After you found me and brought me to her. Maybe she saw herself in me that day,” she said. “Why were you around my rooms at all that day?” Sansa added.

Sandor took a gulp of his wine. “Joffrey was up to something that day and my duty began around midday, so I wanted to make sure I was close to your rooms should he come up with one of his ideas for you in the morning. Then I heard your crying and saw your handmaiden storm after the one that spied for the queen,” Sandor said.

“So you even then looked after me,” she said smiling.

“Aye. You were a little bird in the lions' den.”

“I love you,” she said.

“I love you.”

 

***

 

The next morning, they were woken up pretty early to furious knocking on their door. The had only fallen asleep a few hours ago after they had made love for a second time that night.

Sandor opened the door only to catch Arya falling into his arms. She had a nasty stab wound in her belly.

“Sansa, get up it's Arya! We need wine and clothes!” he yelled and Sansa immediately got up. They placed her in bed and Sandor examined the wound after washing away the blood. He placed her Needle next to the nightstand. “Alright, the wound is not mortal,” he said. “I don’t think she has internal wounds.”

“You are lucky, little wolf,” he said to Arya, who was breathing heavily. Sandor held the wine skin with the dornish red to her mouth. “Here, drink. We unfortunately don’t have any milk of the poppy. We have to sew the cuts up and bandage your belly.”
Arya took some deep gulps and nodded weakly.

“Sansa, can you sew her up. My stitches are not nearly as good as yours,” he said and Sansa nodded.

“Here, bite on that,” he told Arya, putting a stripe of leather between her teeth. Sansa's hand was shaking and she had trouble threading the needle. He took her hand to stop her shaking. “Look at me, little bird,” he said and Sansa looked at him with her huge blue eyes. “You can do this. Nobody sews like you,” he said, kissing her forehead.

Sansa started to sew up the stabbing wounds and Arya groaned in pain until she passed out. When Sansa had finished the last stitch, they bandaged Arya and pulled the blanket over her.

“You did great, Sansa,” he said.

“Will she really be alright, Sandor?” Sansa asked with concern in her voice. Tears were welling in her eyes.

“If she doesn’t get fever, she should be alright. I have seen a lot of wounds during my life and she is one of the toughest people I know.”

Sansa nodded and embraced him burying her face into his tunic. They sat next to the bed for several hours hoping that Arya would wake up.

Sansa swiped away the sweat on her sisters forehead with a wet rag. Arya moaned in pain while she slept.

“Stay here,” Sandor said. “I ask the tavern keeper if they have some milk of the poppy.” Sandor left the room and went down to the tavernkeeper.

“Hello, is there something you need?” The woman asked kindly.

“Aye. You might have some milk of the poppy?” he asked.

“Yes, indeed we have some.” The woman disappeared into a backroom only to return moments later with a small bottle, filled with the white liquid.

“Thank you,” Sandor said.

He walked back to the room, but started to run when he heard Sansas yelling at someone. He pulled his sword as he entered the room. A blond woman with a dagger stood between him and the bed, where Arya was lying. Sansa stood next to the bed. Her hands holding Arya's little sword.

“Don’t come closer!” Sansa yelled at the unknown woman.

“A girl has taken the wrong life. A girl must pay. The many faced god demands it,” she said calmly and took another step towards the bed.

Sansa's face showed a fierce determination, lifting up Arya's needle.

“Leave or you will die,” Sandor growled and the woman turned to him smirking.

She attacked Sandor furiously and he had trouble dodging the fast attacks. Luckily, he had fought against enough opponents to know their weaknesses after a few attacks.

His opponent unfortunately was swift and avoided every one of his attacks. He made one sloppy attack and the woman ducked away under his sword and was suddenly behind him. Before he could turn around, she kicked him in his leg and he went down to his knees.

The woman raised her dagger, but stilled when a thin blade pierced through her belly. Sandor didn’t hesitate and swiftly pulled a dagger from his belt and buried it into the woman's throat. She collapsed and blood was spurting from her throat.

Sansa stood next to him. Needle still in her shaking hand. Her facial expression was calm.

“Sansa,” Sandor said and carefully took the bloodied blade of her hand.

“I couldn’t let her hurt you,” she said. Her voice was slightly trembling.

“Thank you, my brave little bird,” he said and gave her a kiss. “Here, stay with your sister. I'll get rid of the body,” he said and Sansa returned to her seat next to the bed.

He flung the body over his shoulder and left the room. Much to his surprise, the tavern keeper told him she would take care of the body. It seemed it wasn’t unusual that murder happened in Braavos. The woman told him to bring the body to the backyard and someone would come to take it away.

The tavernkeeper also offered to send someone to wash away the blood off the floor, but Sandor said they could do it themselves. He handed her some coins for her trouble and returned to the room.

After he had cleaned up the floor, he sat down next to Sansa and watched over Aryas sleeping form for several hours until the hour of the wolf.

“Go to bed, little bird. I watch over her,” he whispered to Sansa, who had trouble staying awake. They kissed each other and Sansa went to Arya's room.

Sandor watched the dark haired girl in the bed in front of him and swiped her sweaty forehead with a cool rag.

Sandor couldn’t stop asking himself what his children with Sansa would look like. Would they share her fiery hair or would they share his dark hair. Would they look like Arya?

Arya stirred and groaned. She slowly opened her eyes. Her eyes looked around until they found his face. Sandor held a cup of water to her lips. “Here, drink,” he quietly rasped and Arya took some gulps.

Arya groaned and moved a bit to sit higher in bed. “What…what happened?” Arya asked, breathing heavily.

“You stumbled back here and your sister and I took care of your wounds. You slept since.”

Arya carefully touched her bandaged belly. “Where is Sansa?” she asked.

“I told her she should sleep for a while. She sat by your side the whole time and even defended you with your needle, when some strange woman came to finish you off. Do you know who she was?” Sandor asked her.

“She is one of the Faceless men. I failed my tests over and over again. First when I murdered Trant and the second time I didn’t murdered the actress that played Cersei in the play you watched,” she said.

“You were there?” Sandor asked.

“Yes. I saw you with Sansa,” Arya said, smiling weakly. “Did Sansa really stand up for me?”

“Yes, she showed her fangs. She even stabbed that woman with that blade of yours so I could finish her off,” Sandor said, chuckling.

“My lady sister swinging a sword,” Arya said, chuckling and groaned at the pain from her wounds.

Sandor held her the small bottle with the milk of the poppy to her lips.

“Here, drink. The milk of the poppy will help with the pain.”

Arya drank a few sips and sighed. “Thank you, Sandor,” she said and Sandor was slightly taken aback. Arya had never called him by his first name. At least not when he was present.

“Try to sleep, little wolf. Your sister wants to see you getting better soon,” Sandor said and pulled the blanket tighter around her frame.

“I will try and then we can leave Braavos. I am done with this city, I want to go home,” she said.

“Me, too.”

“I am glad that you are with Sansa,” she said, sleepy as the milk of the poppy took over.

Sandor stroked a strand of her hair out of her face that has been sticking to her forehead. “Aye, me, too,” he whispered, but Arya was already asleep. He watched over her for the rest of the night until Sansa returned to him. He told her that Arya had woken up for a while.

“Sansa…” Arya murmured as she slowly woke up.

“I am here,” Sansa said and stroked her hand over her sister's hair.

“Thank you. Sandor told me you defended me,” she said weakly.

“Nobody hurts my sister as long as I can still breath,” Sansa said smiling.

Arya smiled back at her. “I love you, Sansa,” she said.

“I love you, too, Arya,” Sansa told her, smiling.

It took Arya about a week until she could leave the bed for the first time and another ten days until they finally found a ship that sailed to Widow's Watch.

The captain, an elderly man with a long white beard, had agreed to sail them to Eastwatch if Sandor could pay for it. Sandor had paid that man and when he saw that the gold coins wore the face of the young wolf he said that he would do it for the half amount of gold.

He was from the North. His father had been a fisher at the Stony Shore. With the first light of the next day, they finally left Braavos and set course to the North.

Chapter Text

Sandor brushed down Stranger and his black beast neighed in contentment. His stallion didn’t seem to care if he stood on solid ground or on a shaking and rolling ship, as long as he had fresh hay and a brush down every few days.

Sandor returned back on the deck and was greeted by cold rain in the stormy wind. It was their second week on the sea.

The first two days after they had left Braavos behind the sea had been calm and the weather had been good. Sandor had silently prayed that they would reach the Wall before the heavy autumn storms would hit them. Sandor had been wrong and the first storm had hit them a few days before they reached Widow's Watch.

The captain had tried to sail farther North, but the weather became so bad that he had to change the course.

He had told them he set course to White Harbor. Sandor didn’t like it, but the captain had told him in all honesty, that they would sink if they continued North during these storms.

As he had told the girls the news, Sansa had said that the Manderlys have always been loyal to the Starks and that they could expect help.

Sandor hoped she was right.

Even after they changed the course, the weather didn’t become better, quite the opposite. The waves still threw around the ship and the wind blew merciless.

Sansa became seasick again and the fact that her moonblood had started this morning didn’t help her either. Sandor did his best to make it for Sansa as comfortable as possible under the given circumstances. Sansa had been pale as snow this morning and her skin had felt ice cold.

Sandor had tucked her tightly into the blankets and told her he would get her some hot wine with ginger to warm her up and help with her seasickness. He had no idea if there was something he could do to sooth the cramps in Sansa's belly. He hated to see her in pain. He always felt so helpless.

Sandor walked over the deck and nodded to some members of the crew that had their cloaks tightly wrapped around them to protect them from the cold wet air.

He had nearly reached the stairs that led down to the deck on which their cabins were, when he saw Arya standing at the railing, wearing the new clothes Sansa had sewn for her. She held onto it with one hand, while her other was pressed onto her belly. It seemed she was doubled over in pain.

“Are you alright little wolf? Getting seasick?” Sandor asked her, concerned.

“No, I am fine. It's nothing,” she said, but Sandor wasn’t convinced.

“Does your wounds pain you?” He asked. They had taken care of her wounds and up to now, they had healed nicely.

“No, my wounds are fine, it's… I got my moonblood for the first time. I know, the best time possible. In the middle of the ocean during heavy sea. Don’t bother yourself with it,” she said.

Sandor sighed. What had he done to make the gods decide to let the Stark girls flower every time he was around, he thought to himself.

“I am no bloody septa,” Sandor said. “But I think you should talk to Sansa about everything you need to know. Come, it's not the first time I have to deal with that.”

He held out his hand to her and led her to the cabin he was sharing with Sansa. Arya had again asked for a cabin of her own.

Sansa still lay tightly wrapped in the blanket, but got up when he closed the door.

“Is something wrong?” Sansa asked with concern in her eyes, as she eyed them.

“Well…no…I mean…just talk to your sister. I will get your wine,” Sandor said, stumbling over his tongue.

Sansa frowned, but patted the bed next to her for Arya to sit. Sandor left so Sansa and Arya had their privacy. He went to the kitchen and got a full pitcher of hot wine and drank a cup of it, before he put the ginger in. He returned to the cabin and knocked on the door and waited until Sansa told him to enter.

“Everything sorted out?” Sandor asked, pouring Sansa a cup of the wine.

“Yes,” Sansa answered, still sitting next to her sister on the bed. She turned to her sister. “You can talk openly to Sandor about it. After all, he also was present when I flowered,” Sansa said kindly to her sister and Arya nodded.

Sansa took a few sips of her wine and sighed, pleased. She handed Arya her cup and she took a few sips herself. There was not much to do, so he and the girls played cards and Arya told them about that mysterious man she had met in Harrenhal, that had helped her and two friends to escape. He had given her that coin and told her she could learn the skills of a faceless man in Braavos.

In the evening, they ate a simple dinner of a beef stew with bread before crawling into their beds hoping to reach White Harbor soon.

“How can you be this warm?” Sansa asked, slightly unbelieving while she pressed her back again his belly. He had one arm around her middle section, his fingers link with hers, resting over her belly. Their legs were tangled and the blanket was tightly wrapped around them.

“I don’t know little bird,” he said, kissing her head, taking in the scent of her hair.

“It's not fair. You are from the South and I am of the North and still, I am freezing, while you are warm,” she complained snuggling even closer to him.

“Well, you are a little bird, but you´re a wolf too, you will get used to the cold again,” he said.

“As a girl, I always wanted to become a great lady of a southern house. Now I only want to get home,” she said with sadness in her voice.

“I know, little bird.” Sansa groaned a little and pressed her and his hand to her belly. “Still got cramps, Sansa?” Sandor asked.

“Yes, but they've gotten better since morning. To feel warm in your arms helps, too,” she mused, smiling.

“Have you ever been to White Harbor?” Sandor asked.

“No. Father traveled there a few times with Robb and Jon. He never took me or Arya with him, no matter how much she always begged for it. Robb told me the city is completely build with white stone, making it seem like it's build out of snow.”

“That sounds like it’s a pretty place.”

“Yes, it’s the only place in the North that comes close to a real city.”

“I hope we don’t get into trouble until we reach your brother,” Sandor said.

“Me, too. I hope Jon doesn’t hate me,” Sansa said quietly.

“Why should he hate you, little bird?”

“I've never been the sister I should have been for him. I was always cold to him and treated like my mother used. Arya was the better sister. I couldn’t even blame him if he would be happier to see Arya again than me,” she said in a tiny voice.

“I am sure he won't hate you. He will be happy to be reunited with his sisters.” Sandor tried to sooth Sansa's fears.

Sandor pressed a kiss into her silken hair. “Everything will be fine, my love,” he whispered in her ear before they both slowly drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text

The wind felt cold on her face as Sansa stood at the railing of the ´Northern Pearl´ as the ship sailed into the harbor of White Harbor with the evening tide. Its sails were rippling with every gust of wind.

Sandor and Arya stood by their side as they watched the white washed stone walls of the city getting bigger with every passing moment. Sansa took a deep breath and the cold salty air in her lungs finally made her feel like she was getting home.

The pier was bustling with activity. A dozen ships were docked and unloading their freight. The merman banner was flying proudly on every tower of the city.

What Sansa immediately noticed was the smell of the city. While King's Landing had always stunk, White Harbor smelled just like the sea.

Sansa saw the Wolf´s Den, the ancient castle once build by King Jon Stark and later been given to House Manderly when they sought refuge after they had to flee the Reach. Now they lived in the New Castle, that could be seen over the roofs of the houses build with white stone.

After they had docked, they had thanked the Captain for the safe journey.

They had their hoods pulled up, while they walked through the straight cobbled streets. Sandor led Stranger on his reins until they reached the large cobbled square with a large merman fountain.

“So what are we going to do now?” Arya asked.

“Getting to the Wall and find your brother. Maybe we'll have the chance to buy one or two additional horses,” Sandor told them.

“Maybe Lord Manderly can give us horses and also supplies,” Sansa suggested.

“I don’t think we can expect help here, little bird. I saw the Lionstar in the harbor earlier with its black and gold hull, her figurehead is a lion with an upraised paw. If a ship of the royal fleet is here we aren’t safe. I think I also saw a banner that looked like the Twins,” Sandor told them with concern in his rough voice.

Sansa tensed at hearing that Freys might be in the city. She immediately remembered Wendel, the Red Wedding and everything else. Sandor kissed her forehead and that brought her back out of her bad memories.

“We have to leave,” Sansa said. “We can find horses and supplies on the way to the Wall. We both have bounties on our heads, Sandor. If the Manderlys really betrayed us and are loyal to the crown, we have to get a way as far and quick as possible.”

“Aye,” he growled.

“Then let us go, I feel we are being watched,” Arya said, looking around nervously. They walked through the crowded streets towards the northern gate and tried to be as inconspicuous as possible.

As inconspicuous a huge man with his black beast of warhorse could be, Sansa thought.

Sansa's heart started to beat faster as they saw the gate in front of them. Only a few more steps and we are safe, Sansa thought.

Two soldiers with spears stood guard, who looked bored on their posts. They walked past them without trouble.

They were halfway through the gate, when both portcullis crashed down trapping them. Soldiers stormed out of doors left and right of them and before they had the chance to react, they were gagged and their hands tight up. Sansa tried to get one last look at Sandor, but a sack was already put over her head.

Chapter Text

His head hurt. He had fought against the soldiers that had trapped them in the gatehouse, but a hard knock to the head had made his world go dark. He still had the sack over his head. His ankles were hurting by the rough ropes.

“Get up,” an unfriendly voice said and he was roughly pulled onto his feet.

“Walk,” the same voice said and he simply walked, while someone was leading him by the arm. He wasn’t gagged, but he stayed quiet and hoped to hear Sansa or Arya's voices. He couldn’t hear them unfortunately.

I have failed Sansa again, was all Sandor could think of. She had laid all her trust in him and he had lead them into this mess. He should have insisted to sail North.

He heard the sound of a heavy door opening and a hand on his back pushed him forward. The sack was pulled off his head and Sandor shut his eyes and had to blink a few times to get them used to the bright light.

He obviously was in the great hall. The fattest man he had ever seen sat on a cushioned throne in front of him. That must be Lord Wyman Manderly. Sansa had told Sandor about him. He had visited Winterfell a few times when she was a child.

The whole hall was crowded with people. Most were women, but he could also see some men. He couldn’t see either Sansa or Arya. It was a good sign he hoped. He also saw some Freys with their weasel faces and the Twins proudly on their chests. The mere fact that Freys were present was evidence enough for Sandor that Lord Manderly wasn’t their friend.

He recognized another man standing right next to him. “The fuck are you doing here?” Sandor growled at him. He knew that man. Sandor had often seen the Onion Knight at King Robert's court, since he was one of Lord Stannis men.

“I could ask you the same, Hound,” the Onion Knight answered him.

The maester next to the fat lord spoke up. "You stand before Wyman Manderly, Lord of White Harbor and Warden of the White Knife, Shield of the Faith, Defender of the Dispossessed, Lord Marshal of the Mander, a Knight of the Order of the Green Hand," he said. "In the Merman's Court, it is customary for vassals and petitioners to kneel."

“I do not kneel in front of traitors,” Sandor growled.

"I have not come as a petitioner," Davos replied. "I have a string of titles, too. Lord of the Rainwood, Admiral of the Narrow Sea, Hand of the King."

“Stannis did not like the answer his ravens brought him, so he has sent this … this smuggler. An admiral without ships, a hand without fingers, in service to a king without a throne,” Lord Manderly said.

Stannis must indeed be in the North if the Onion Knight is here on his behalf, Sandor thought.

"If it please my lord, I would request a privy audience," Davos Seaworth said.

"I keep no secrets from my kin, nor from my loyal lords and knights, good friends all."

"My lord," said Davos, "I would not want my words to be heard by His Grace's enemies … or by your lordship's."

"Stannis may have enemies in this hall. I do not," the fat lord said sternly.

“You do, you fat traitors cunt,” Sandor growled.

"Not even the men who slew your son?" Davos pointed. "These Freys were amongst his hosts at the Red Wedding."

“I won't hear this lies about my friends anymore,” Lord Manderly said. “Ser Marlon, bring the Onion Knight back to the Wolf´s Den and take of his head so my son Wendel can finally return safely.”

The Onion Knight was dragged away and murmurs could be heard within the crowd. One of the Freys stepped forward, a knight long and lean of limb, clean-shaved but for a grey mustache in his weasel face. He spoke up.

"The Red Wedding was the Young Wolf's work. He changed into a beast before our eyes. He would have slain my lord father, if Ser Wendel Manderly had not put himself in the way."

Lord Wyman blinked back tears. "Wendel was always a brave boy. I was not surprised to learn he died a hero."

Sandor's roaring laughter echoed through the hall. “So, you claim the young wolf slaughtered Lord Manderly's son?” Sandor asked.

“And many more. When Stark changed into a wolf, his northmen did the same. Luckily Lord Bolton and his men stood by our side. My brother Wendel was luckily able to tame the young wolf's sister in his wedding bed as he did his duty, but when he escorted her to King's Landing on order of our beloved King Joffrey, she slaughtered him and his companions and is now hiding within Riverrun with the Blackfish. Soon enough, she will pay for her crimes," the Frey continued.

Sandor felt his anger rise at hearing these lies about the woman he loved. Sansa will never be tamed, he thought angrily. “What your name?” Sandor growled.

“Ser Jered of House Frey.”

“You are lying cunt, Jered of House Frey! You and all of your weasel family!” Sandor yelled at him.

“I was there, when you and the Boltons started to slaughter the guests under your roof. I was there when you paraded the mutilated body of the young wolf around. And I was the one the that slaughtered your damn cunt of brother for raping the young wolf's sister, while her family was slaughtered! And I enjoyed every moment of it, as he died by my blade, before he could ravish her again!” Sandor continued and gasps could be heard in the crowd at his words.

Ser Jared pulled his sword. “I won't stand here and listen to these lies out of the mouth of a mad dog!” he yelled.

The fat lord raised his hand. “I'll have no bloodshed in the Merman's Court. Put up your steel, Ser Jared, else I must ask you to leave my presence.”

Ser Jared sheathed his sword. "Beneath your lordship's roof, your lord-ship's word is law … but I want his head for the lies he tells and the murder of my kin. Do it or I will do it by myself, by my honor.”

Sandor snorted. “What do the Freys know of honor?” Sandor mocked and some of the other Freys started to move towards him, but Lord Manderly stopped them by raising his fat arm again.

"Step back, my friends. I deal with him. So, no one can deny our loyalty to the crown. Before he was murdered by his wretched son, Lord Tywin offered White Harbor full pardon for our support of the Young Wolf. He promised that my son would be returned to me once I paid a ransom of three thousand dragons and proved my loyalty beyond a doubt. Roose Bolton, who is named our Warden of the North, requires that I give up my claim to Lord Hornwood's lands and castles but swears my other holdings shall remain untouched. Walder Frey, his good-father, offers one of his daughters to be my wife, and husbands for my son's daughters here behind me. These terms seem generous to me, a good basis for a fair and lasting peace. And you dare to insult the Freys in my presence? Name them traitors?” Lord Manderly said.

“They are traitors,” a high, thin voice peeped up standing next to the fat lord. Everybody turned to girl around Sansa's age. Her green colored hair was braided.

“First, they killed Lord Eddard and then they murdered King Robb and his mother, while his lady sister was ravished by her Frey husband,” she said. “He was our King! He was good, he was brave and he fought for our freedom and they murdered him!”

He pulled her close to him. “Wylla, every time you open your mouth you make me want to send you to the silent sisters,” he said.

“I only said…” the girl started.

“We all heard what you said," said the older girl that must be her sister. “A child's foolishness. Speak no ill of our friends. One of them will be your lord and husband soon.”

“No!” The girl yelped. “I won't! They murdered our King!”

“You will. When the appointed day arrives, you will speak your wedding vows,” Lord Manderly said.

“So I can be tamed the same way Lady Sansa had to endure?” the girl yelled.

“You don’t know what you are talking about,” a woman that could be her mother said.

That girl had more balls than every man in this hall, Sandor thought.

“I know about the promise! A thousand years before the Conquest, a promise was made, and oaths were sworn in the Wolf's Den before the old gods and the new. When we were sore beset and friendless, hounded from our homes and in peril of our lives, the wolves took us in and nourished us and protected us against our enemies. The city is built upon the land they gave us. In return we swore that we should always be their men. Stark men! Now they are all gone, because they murdered them,” the girl yelled.

“This girl has more honor in her than anyone of you here,” Sandor said.

“Lord Wyman, if I may?” another Frey spoke.

“Rhaegar. We are always pleased to hear your noble counsel,” Lord Manderly said and Sandor thought he heard something mocking his voice.

“Lady Wylla, loyalty is a virtue. I hope you will be as loyal to Little Walder when you are married. As to the Starks, that House is extinguished only in the male line. Lord Eddard's sons are dead, but his daughters are alive, and the younger girl is coming north to wed brave Ramsay Bolton."

That’s impossible, why should they marry the younger girl to the bastard, if they had Sansa? Something didn’t fit into the picture, but Sandor decided to stay quiet.

“Ramsay Snow!” Wylla Manderly threw back. “A vile bastard will be your Lord of Winterfell. He won't ever be my lord! He married Lady Hornwood, then shut her in a dungeon and made her eat her fingers!”

Rhaegar Frey smirked sardonic. "His enemies say that, aye … but it was Robb Stark who betrayed us all. He abandoned the north to the cruel mercies of the Ironborn to carve out a fairer kingdom for himself along the Trident. Then he abandoned the riverlords who had risked much and more for him, breaking his marriage pact with my grandfather to wed the first foreign wench who caught his eye. The Young Wolf? He was a vile dog and died like one.”

The court had grown still. And Sandor felt like the winter had just come.

All of sudden Lord Manderly spoke up. "A dog, aye. He brought us only grief and death. A vile dog indeed. Say on."

“Lies!” Wylla Manderly yelled and stamped her foot.

“Be quiet,” her mother said and pulled her by her braid, out of the hall.

“Wylla has always been a willful child,” her sister said. “I fear that she will make a willful wife.”

Rhaegar shrugged. “Marriage will soften her, I have no doubt. A firm hand and a quiet word.”

“Probably tamed the same way Lady Sansa was,” Sandor growled and his voice was dripping with distaste.

“Enough!” the fat Lord yelled at him. “Bring this vile dog back to the kennels, where he stays until he meets justice.”

Sandor spit on the ground in front of the lord, before he was dragged out of the hall a sack back over his head.

 

***

 

He was pushed into a cell in the Wolf´s Den. He rubbed his sore ankles after his ropes had been cut lose.

A guard brought him a loaf of dry bread. The last light of the day was falling through the small window. He looked outside and saw that a tarred head with an onion in his mouth was sticking on a spike. A hand without fingers right next to it.

Lord Manderly doesn’t waste time, Sandor thought.

He sat down on the straw pallet. This would be the end. He wasn’t afraid of the death. As a soldier, he had learned to die a long time ago. He was afraid for Sansa and the little wolf, wherever they were now.

“Little bird,” Sandor whispered as he buried his face in his hands. His heart ached that he would never see Sansa again. Never feel her soft lips on his again. Never smell her sweet scent again. He felt like the world was collapsing around him.

Sandor simply stared at the mossy wall. He didn’t know for how long, but time had lost any value for him. It must have been the whole night since the light of a new day was lighting his cell through the window.

He heard steps come closer.

It will be all over soon, he thought.

The door opened and a tall man, with a deeply lined face and a shock of grey-brown hair. A longsword hung from his hip, and his deep-dyed scarlet cloak was fastened at the shoulder with a heavy silver brooch in the shape of a mailed fist. “Sandor Clegane, we do not have much time. Please, come with me.”

Sandor was confused by the ´please´. Why should somebody say please if he would lead somebody to his execution.

“Who the fuck are you?” Sandor growled.

“Robett Glover. Now please come with me,” he said.

“Glover? Like the Glovers of Deepwood Motte?” Sandor asked.

“Indeed. My brother Galbart is the current Lord.”

“So, Lord Manderly now lets me be executed by the man that lost to my brother, how fitting.” Sandor mocked.

“You won't die today, Clegane, and now come.”

They walked down a long spiral staircase that led into a long corridor. Sandor feared to ask what happened to the girls. They reached a door and light shone through under the door.

“Where are we?” Sandor asked.

“Under the New Castle.” Lord Glover said, not looking at him.

Lord Glover opened the door and Sandor entered.

The room was warm and comfortably furnished, with a large carpet on the floor and beeswax candles burning on a table, tainting the room in warm light. A fire was roaring in the fireplace.

Sandor immediately spotted the two girls sitting by the fire.

“Sandor!” Sansa squealed and ran towards him. She flung her arms around his neck and she pressed her lips to his.

Chapter Text

Sansa felt tears of happiness in her eyes, as she pressed her lips to his.

“I love you,” Sandor rasped as their lips parted. Sansa wasn’t ready to let go of the man she loved and rubbed her cheek against his burned one.

“I love you, Sandor. I was so afraid for you,” she whispered against his ear.

“I was afraid for you and the little wolf, too, my love.”

Sansa let go of him. Sandor turned to Lord Glover who looked slightly awkward at the scene that had just unfolded.

“What is this all about?” Sandor growled.

“I apologize for the show in the great hall yesterday,” Lord Manderly said as he came through the door and sat down and sighed happily at being able to sit again.

Sansa remembered his visits in Winterfell, when he had sat with her father at the high table.

“Please sit,” Lord Manderly said kindly. Sandor sat down in a large cushioned chair large enough for both of them after he had ruffled Arya's hair, when she asked him if he was alright.

Arya sat down in a chair next to him.

“I apologize for the unusual welcoming. Are you hungry? Maybe some wine?” Lord Manderly said after Lord Glover had sat down.

“We first would like to know why you took us prisoner, my Lord.” Sansa said sternly.

After they had been caught, she and Arya had been locked in a tower of the Wolf´s Den. It wasn’t a cell, but a very nice guest room, yet they had been locked in nevertheless. Sansa had somehow managed no to cry out the fear she had for Sandors safety.

“I have treated you most shamefully, I know. I had my reasons, but … please, sit and drink, I beg you, my lady. Drink to my boy's safe return. Wylis, my eldest son and heir. He is home. That is the welcoming feast you hear. In the Merman's Court, they are eating lamprey pie and venison with roasted chestnuts. Wynafryd is dancing with the Frey she is to marry. The other Freys are raising cups of wine to toast our friendship.”

They could hear the feast that was held in the rooms above them.

"I have just come from the high table," Lord Wyman went on. "I have eaten too much as usual and my friends of Frey will not question a lengthy visit to the privy, we hope. Robett, wine for Lady Sansa and her companions, if you will be so good.” Lord Glover poured all of them a cup of wine. “Lady Sansa you have nothing to fear from us. Nobody knows that you are here and everybody else thinks the Hound now dead, same like the Onion Knight,” Lord Manderly said.

“I saw his head on a spike” Sandor said.

“Your head is also on a spike by now, but he is as dead as you. The two heads belong to some rapists. I have set him free yesterday so he can return back to his King and tell him, that he can't expect any support from White Harbor.”

“Because you already support the Freys and the Boltons?” Sandor asked mockingly, sipping his wine.

“Don’t insult me, ser.”

“I am no fucking ser. I heard you at court,” Sandor growled. Sansa placed his hand over his and he calmed down slightly.

“I might be fat, but I am not stupid. I only put on a mummer's farce to please our friends of Frey.”

“You were pretty convincing. I apologize if I have insulted you,” Sandor said.

“Because you called me fat? I am fat. It is well known and no secret. Have you seen how brave my granddaughter Wylla was? She spoke out of her heart, but I had to lie to ensure that my heir can return safely. Lord Tywin Lannister wrote me himself to say that he had Wylis. If I would have him freed unharmed, he told me, I must repent my treason, yield my city, declare my loyalty to the boy king on the Iron Throne … and bend my knee to Roose Bolton, his Warden of the North. Should I refuse, Wylis would die a traitor's death, White Harbor would be stormed and sacked, and my people would suffer the same fate as the Reynes of Castamere. My lady tell me honest, what happened at the Red Wedding? What happened with my son and who is this other girl with you?” he asked Sansa.

Sansa soothed her skirts. “My Lord, this girl is my sister Arya. Sandor saved her and had just reached the Twins to bring her back, like he brought me back when the massacre on the outside started. The last time I saw your son alive was when Lord Frey called for the bedding ceremony.” Sansa swallowed. “Then the massacre started on the inside while I was…by the time I was led into the great hall they were all dead.”

“So its true what Clegane said in the court. I didn’t want to believe it. I hoped it were just exaggerations by the Hound. I am so sorry, my lady,” Lord Manderly said in honest.

“Lord Manderly, I must insist you stop calling Sandor Clegane the Hound. He is a loyal man of the North. I wanted him as my shield, but my brother didn’t listen to me. If you are loyal to me and my family, you won't call him by the degrading name the Lannisters gave him and don’t question my relation to him,” Sansa said serious.

“My Lady, we are loyal to you and House Stark. Is there anything else?”

“Lord Bolton himself killed my brother. He told me so the morning after, when they told me I was to be sent back to King's Landing. Some Lords were taken prisoner. Lord Umber is under them,” Sansa said.

Robett Glover turned to Lord Manderly. “That’s good that the Greatjon is alive. His son?” he asked.

“Dead,” Sansa plainly said and Lord Wyman looked angry.

“My son Wendel came to the Twins a guest. He ate Lord Walder's bread and salt, and hung his sword upon the wall to feast with friends. And they murdered him. Murdered, I say, and may the Freys choke upon their fables. I drink with Jared, jape with Symond, promise Rhaegar the hand of my own beloved granddaughter … but never think that means I have forgotten. The north remembers, Lady Stark. The north remembers, and the mummer's farce is almost done. My son is home. The Manderlys will never betray the House Stark.”
“What were your plans, my lady, if the question is allowed?” Lord Glover asked.

“Our brother Jon is at the Wall. We planned to head to Castle Black,” Sansa said.

“We don’t have much time, the Freys will soon question where I am,” Lord Manderly said.

“Roose Bolton invited all Lords of the North to Winterfell to witness the marriage of his bastard with Arya Stark, but since Arya Stark is obviously sitting right here, he tries to use a pretender. Right now, they are still besieging Moat Cailin from the North and the South. He tries to get claim to Winterfell and tries to legitimize himself. But his plot won't have success. You, Lady Sansa, are the eldest true born child. The North will rally around you and your sister. I would suggest…” Lord Manderly said.

Sansa lifted her hand to stop him.

“I guess you want to suggest I should marry, to forge an alliance. After all, that’s my duty right? My mother and brother told me lengthily what my duty was with Wendel Frey, because my brother broke his promise to Lord Frey. Let me tell you something, my lord. If I am really the head of my House I will chose my husband myself and right now, I don’t have the wish to remarry. Your council is welcomed though,” Sansa said in a frosty voice. She would never allow anyone to make decisions for her.

“You are right, my lady. I apologize. Have you any knowledge of Lady Mormont's and Lord Galbart Glover's mission?” Lord Manderly asked.

“No. I only noticed they left the Twins a few hours before the Wedding.”

“They are at Greywater Watch. King Robb gave them a special mission. Lord Robett will ride for them as soon as possible. I have to attend the wedding in Winterfell. Roose Bolton's army is too strong with the support of the Freys. We only have a chance if all Houses unite against them.”

“What about Stannis?” Sandor asked.

“Stannis sent ravens that he stopped a wildling invasion at the Wall and now tried to bring the Northern Houses to his side to attack the Boltons and declare him the rightful King of Westeros. The North will never again kneel before a southerner. Should it be true that all of your brothers are dead you will be crowned Queen in the North as soon as the North is liberated. I still have most of my heavy cavalry and all my swords are yours.”

Sansa had never thought of becoming Queen, but she hadn’t forgotten her brother’s words he had overheard before her wedding. Maybe Robb hadn’t disinherited at all.

“Some Lords have apparently declared for Stannis and are going to march with him to attack Winterfell, while others are loyal to the Boltons,” Robett Glover said.

“Ride to Greywater Watch with me, my lady. Reunite with Lady Mormont and my brother, we will be able to raise an army and Lord Manderly will bring other houses to your cause, while staying close to the traitors. Should it come to the battle they will switch side and we will slaughter all the traitors like they slaughtered your brother and mother,” Lord Robett continued.

Sansa thought about it.

“What about our brother Jon?” Arya asked.

“Alright, we will ride for Greywater Watch and find out what that secret mission was, then we will ride north to the Wall to contact our brother, he might be able to help us and then we can plan further,” Sansa finally said.

“My Lady, White Harbor is on your side. The North remembers, but now I have to return to the feast, before the Freys get suspicious. I wish you good luck. May the old gods watch over you and your sister.”

“I thank you, Lord Manderly. I am sorry about the loss of your son, but he will be avenged, like the whole North,” Sansa said and Lord Manderly smiled widely.

“My Lady, your father would be so proud of you. You and your sister are true wolves. Robett knows how to get out of the city the best way. Best you ride this night,” he said before he left.

They stayed behind with Lord Glover.

“I still remember you two when I and my brother visited Winterfell a few years ago,” he said. “I am glad to see you alive, my ladies.” He turned to Sandor. “When Lord Manderly told me you were here I wanted to kill you, because of your brother, but then I heard your words in the great hall. I was hidden on one of the galleries. Your words were harsh, but true. My brother Galbart wrote me that you were the one that brought Lady Sansa back.”

“Yes, he did. He also freed me of my Frey husband,” Sansa said.

Lord Glover held out his hand. “I wish I knew more men as loyal as you. Your fighting skills will be needed,” Lord Glover said as he shook Sandor's hand. Sandor simply nodded.

“When do we leave?” Arya asked, taking a sip of her wine.

“Tonight when the city is asleep. We have to ride fast if we want to avoid the Bastard of Bolton and the men he leads to Moat Cailin from the North.”

“Lord Glover, who is the girl they pass off as my sister?” Sansa asked.

“It's not known,” he said, looking to the ground. “Many Lords will only make the travel to Winterfell, because they will think it’s the little girl of their beloved Ned Stark.”

“Poor girl,” Sandor rasped.

If the rumors of the Bolton Bastard were true, the girl would soon hope for a quick death, Sansa thought to herself.

“Stay here,” Lord Glover said. “I will return later when we ride. I will also bring you your weapons, Clegane.” With that, he left them.

“So Greywater Watch,” Arya said. “We should go to the Wall. Jon is there.”

“Yes, but Stannis too,” Sandor growled.

“We will get to the Wall, but sooner or later, we have to make plans and we need the Lords on our side,” Sansa said.

“You showed the fat lord your fangs, little bird.” Sandor said chuckling.

“I will never again have someone else decide for me. I did my duty. I did what was expected from me. Never again,” Sansa said in a serious tone and leaned against Sandor's shoulder. Arya stood up and added another log to the fire. “And I won't force your hand either, Arya, to forge alliances.” Sansa said.

Arya smiled at her before returning to her place.

“Did they treat you well after they caught us yesterday?” Sandor asked. “If not, I swear they will regret it.”

“Yes, they treated us kindly. And you?” Sansa said.

“Aye, good enough. I really thought Lord Manderly was a traitor.”

They spent the next few hours in that room until Robett Glover returned.

They quickly packed their things and went to the stables. They all had their own horses. Sansa would have preferred to ride with Sandor, but they would be able to travel faster that way.

Sandor pulled her and Arya to the side, before they mounted.

“Should we get attacked and have to flee, you stay close with me and we ride as quick as we can North. You understand?” Sandor rasped and both girls nodded.

The moon stood high above their heads and it was around the hour of the wolf when they left White Harbor. A small ferry rowed them to the other side of the White Knife and Sansa took a deep breath of the cold air and Sansa smiled in the darkness of the night.

The wolves are back in the North.

Chapter Text

It felt good to be back in the North, with its large dark pine woods and endless fields.

As a young girl, Sansa had always prayed to leave the North and live in the South, where she thought everything would be like in the stories. She would have married some brave knight or high lord and would have his children, while living in a castle like in the songs. But now she while the cold wind hit her face, she couldn’t feel happier to be back where her ancestors have lived.

Four days ago, they had left White Harbor and ridden west until they had crossed the Kings Road and then south until the swamps of the Neck began. Lord Reed would send them guides to lead them safely through the swamp to Greywater Watch.

Sansa remembered the Neck from their journey South with Father, King Robert and Septa Mordane. Arya had always played within the swamp and always returned stained with mud from head to toe. Back then, Sansa had been so annoyed by it, because Father didn’t even scold her for it.

At first, it felt strange to have Robett Glover around, but her father had always said that the Glovers were one of the most loyal bannermen.

Sansa was glad that Lord Glover didn’t behave hostilely towards Sandor. Maybe it was because he didn’t allow himself to question Sansa's decisions towards Sandor, since she was the Lady of Winterfell.

Let's see how long I am Lady of Winterfell, Sansa thought while she rode behind Lord Glover. If Robb really had disowned her, she wouldn’t be anything. She would just be the widow of Wendel Frey. She wouldn’t even be a Stark anymore, since she had been wedded and bedded in the light of the Seven.

At the first evening of their journey, when they had made camp for the night at the edge of a small forest, she had accompanied Sandor, while he had laid some traps. Arya had stayed behind with Robett Glover to start the fire.

Sansa had told him about her concerns if she really was able to be the head of house Stark. Sandor had told her she should believe in herself and the decisions she would make. He had told her that he would be at her side whatever might happened now and in the future. The thought that he would stay at her side, even if she would be alone and without a home warmed her heart.

With every hour they had ridden today, they came closer to the Neck and the landscape changed from the usual endless fields, with some small woods, to the thickly overgrown and humid swamps.

They followed a narrow path into the swamp. The branches of the trees nearly touched their heads. Robett Glover signaled them to stop.

“My brother wrote Lord Reed's guides would await us here, my lady,” he said and got off his horse.

Sandor jumped off his horse and helped Sansa off her white mare. Sansa's horse was the only one that Stranger tolerated around himself. Silence surrounded them deep in the swamp. Only the croaking of a toad disturbed the silence. Arya was kicking some stones into the water.

“Are you really sure they will await us, Lord Glover?” Sansa asked.

“They should await us, my lady. I don’t know why they aren’t here yet,” Lord Glover said.

“We are here,” a voice suddenly said and two men appeared out of the swamp. They were short and wore simple leather clothing. Their faces were painted with mud. They were carrying spears.

“We only watched you for a while to make sure you are who we waited for,” one of them said.

“Please follow us,” the other one said. They followed them for hours over small muddy paths. Sometimes they crossed small ponds that looked deep, but were shallow.

The light was slowly fading away and it started to get foggy. Sansa stayed close to Sandor, while she held her mare by her reins. She didn’t want to get lost in this fog.

“How far is it?” Arya asked, slightly impatient, but she didn’t get an answer.

Sansa felt the cold slowly creep into her bones, when finally lights appeared in the fog. A large ferry awaited them at the edge of a larger pond, which rowed them towards the light. Sansa was astonished when she saw whole wood buildings drifting on the water.

Old Nan had told them tales of Greywater Watch. That the crannogmen could build swimming buildings. Sansa had never believed it to be real. They docked at one of the large buildings and servants took care of their horses. They were led into a large hall, were several turf fires were burning in fireplaces.

Three people were already awaiting them. A short man clothed in green with a black lizard-lion on his chest stepped forward. “Welcome to Greywater Watch. I am Howland Reed. I knew your father. He was a good man,” he said.

“Lady Sansa, you are the radiant image of your mother,” he said and kissed her hand. “And my Lady Arya, you look your aunt Lyanna at your age,” Lord Reed said and also kissed her hand. Sansa thought she might saw a light blush cover her sister's cheeks.

“Thank you, my Lord, for your hospitality,” Sansa said, representing for her sister and Sandor.

“Of course, House Reed stands loyal to House Stark. I assume you already know Lady Mormont and Lord Galbatt Glover?”

“Yes, my Lord. It's good to see you again, my lord, my lady,” Sansa said.

“It's also good to see you safe and healthy,” Lady Mormont said widely grinning and pulled her into a bear hug.

“I am sorry for your daughter,” Sansa said quietly.

“My Lady, we can talk later about what happened. First, it's good that you and your sister are here. I guess Sandor Clegane had his part in keeping you two safe I assume,” Maege Mormont said.

“Yes, he has,” Sansa said.

“It's good to see you again, brother,” Lord Galbatt Glover said, while hugging his brother.

“Likewise,” Robett Glover said.

“Alright,” Lord Reed said. “I guess it was a tough journey for you. I have food being brought to my solar. Servants will show you your rooms afterwards. Tomorrow we will talk about what happens next.”

“Thank you, Lord Reed,” Sansa said as they walked to Lord Reeds solar.

They took their seats around a large table and servants brought a large plate with a grilled lizard-lion. Sansa was glad that the rumors were wrong, and the crannogmen ate something else other than frogs.

“Grilled lizard-lion is a delicacy in the Neck,” Lord Reed said. “Its meat tastes like chicken.”

Lord Reed was right the juicy meat really tasted like chicken. They mostly ate in silence. Lord Reed only mentioned once that his children Jojen and Meera had traveled to Winterfell during the war to be present during the harvest feast. He hadn't heard anything of them since the sack of Winterfell.

 

***

 

After dinner, servants brought them to their rooms. She didn’t say anything when they found out that Sandor's room was on the other side of the building.

The room she shared with her sister had one large bed for two and a table with two chairs.

“Do you mind if I go to sleep in Sandor's room?” Sansa asked.

“No it's fine. I love having such a large bed for myself,” she said grinning. “But make sure to keep the noise down,” Arya added, teasing. Sansa felt herself blush at being called out for being too loud with Sandor.

Sansa opened the door and looked outside to make sure nobody was there before sneaking out and closing the door behind her.

She carefully walked down the corridor until she reached the railing at the edge of the boat. The swamp around Greywater Watch was completely quiet, only some frogs were croaking and some crickets were chirping. Several torches were lighting the swimming castle and the surrounding boats with other buildings.

“My Lady, what are you doing out here at the hour of the wolf?” a voice asked her from behind. Sansa turned around and looked into the face of Maege Mormont. The Lady of the Bear Island was smiling warmly at her.

“I just needed some fresh air, my lady,” Sansa lied.

“You going to Clegane's room, aren’t you?” She asked with a smirk around her mouth.

“Yes, I am,” Sansa simply said. It was nothing she should feel ashamed about.

“You love him and he loves you, my lady. That is clearly visible for everyone with eyes. I don’t disapprove, if you thought that. After all, my very own daughters were born out of love. As are the children of my daughter, Alysanne,” Lady Mormont said.

“I heard their father was a bear,” Sansa said. Everybody in the North knew that story.

Lady Mormont laughed. “That’s a nice tale, but no. Would you like to sit with me for a while?” Lady Mormont asked kindly.

“I would actually like that,” Sansa answered giving her a warm smile.

They sat down on a small bench that stood near the railing, giving sight of a huge tree that stood on a small island. Sansa hadn’t noticed before, but all boats surrounded that tree. The moon was shining through its branches.

They just sat there in silence for a while before Sansa finally spoke up. “I am very sorry that you lost Dacey.” Sansa said and remembered how Dacey Mormont laid in her own blood at the Twins.

“And I am sorry that you lost your mother and brother, my lady. Do you know how my daughter died?” Maegen Mormont asked.

“I don’t know. I wasn’t present during the massacre, it happened…” Sansa choked back the emotions and looked to the ground. Maege Mormont took her hands in hers. Every time she spoke about it, the pictures and memories of that night forced their way into her mind.

“You don’t have to say anything more, my Lady.”

“Please call me Sansa,” Sansa insisted.

“Only if you call me Maege, like your father,” Lady Mormont said and Sansa nodded.

“You don’t have to say anything more, Sansa,” she said, smiling sadly at her.

“You have the right to hear it. The last time I saw your daughter was when I was carried off for the bedding. The massacre happened during the bedding. After I was bedded, I was led back into the great hall and saw what they had done. Your daughter died like a warrior defending her king, I imagine,” Sansa said.

“My lady you should know that not every Lord agreed with the decision of your mother and brother to marry you to a Frey. Dacey always told me how miserable you looked when she brought you dinner during the journey to the Twins,” Lady Mormont said, hints of sadness in her voice.

“I was miserable. Nobody understood or believed what I had to endure in King's Landing, except the man I wanted to have as my shield. Everybody only saw him as the Lannister Hound. Mother and Robb didn’t want to listen what I had to say about him. I had to endure the humiliating questioning of my honor by my mother, but in the end my Frey husband didn’t even believe me either,” Sansa told her. He just snorted at my begging to be gentle before he took my maidenhead, Sansa thought bitterly.

“Lord Glover and I discussed the topic of your marriage lengthily during our journey to Greywater Watch. He and I believe it wasn’t just that you had marry, because of your brothers broken marriage pact. Especially after just returning to your family. Many Lords thought that way, but didn’t want to speak up against your brother, since he was our King and we thought it family business. I apologize Sansa, we should have spoken up against the marriage of your brother in the first place.”

“No need to apologize, Maege. You only did what you thought was right, as did my mother and brother when they reminded me of the duty I had towards my family and husband. And I did my duty as it was expected of me with my Frey husband, while my brother had refused to do his.”

Sansa felt a sting in her heart at the memory how her mother and brother had sold her like a piece of cattle. And for what? For a woman from Essos her brother had met and married instead of a Frey, while she had been beaten and humiliated at court for his victories.

“Sansa, you don’t have to answer, but how did you escape? Galbatt and I heard about a week after we left of the Red Wedding.”

“Joffrey ordered that I was to be brought back to King's Landing, because he wanted back what his Hound has stolen from him. He wanted his plaything back. Lord Frey sent me with my husband and some other Freys, like Black Walder. Lord Frey wanted to annul the marriage, because he didnt want a Frey become Joffreys whore. My granduncle had escaped the Twins and Sandor, who had found my sister at the Brotherhood Without Banners, waited for us and freed me after the Freys had made camp. Sandor killed Wendel just as he wanted to take his husbandly rights again.”

Sansa told her how the Blackfish told them he would distract the Freys by holding Riverrun as long as he could to give them a change to escape, because he felt guilty for not having stopped her wedding. Sansa also told her how they had finally gotten North after a short stay in Braavos.

“And now we are here,” Sansa finally said.

“A difficult journey. I must say I had my difficulties to believe Clegane to be a decent man, but from your story I have to say he seems to be most loyal to you.”

“He is. He never asked anything from me. He was the only one that never hurt me in King's Landing and he saved me over and over again. You don’t even know half of the times where Sandor saved me. In the end, he kept me and my sister safer than our own family,” Sansa told her.

“Lady Sansa, like I said before, I can see how deeply you feel for each other. It reminds of the way your father looked at your mother. You have endured more pain and sorrow than most men and women endure in their whole life. Clegane obviously helps you to sooth the wounds nobody can see. I know what it means to be the Lady of a great House and being torn apart by what the heart wants and what is your duty to your house. You are still young Sansa, but I think the man you choose to be at your side is worthy of you. I will support you,” Maege said kindly to her and Sansa was glad that Lady Mormont didn’t disapproved of Sandor.

“My lady, I cant tell you how happy I am that you don’t disapprove or hate me for my choice. I know it seems strange that I would chose a man like Sandor Clegane, but I can tell you he is what my father wanted for me before he was murdered,” Sansa said and Maege Mormont smiled at her, curious to hear about Ned Stark.

“Father wanted to send me and my sister home from King's Landing, but I begged him to stay, because I thought myself in love with Joffrey. Father told me he would make me a match with someone brave, gentle and strong when the time was right. And Sandor is all of that,” Sansa told her smiling.

“It's good to know my liege lady and future Queen has a man at her side that treats her the way she deserves,” Lady Mormont said.

“Thank you, Maege. It was good to talk to you about it. I feared what would happen if I revealed my love to Sandor. After all, my brother and mother didn’t even approve of my friendship to him, before it turned into love,” Sansa said pressing Maege Mormont's hand.

“My Lady, I served your father as I served your brother and now I serve you. I saw you miserable after you returned to Riverrun, when you were so happy as you rode into the courtyard. I prefer to see you happy with a man that looks strange at the first sight, but has a good heart, than miserable with a man that mistreats you. I will support your choice and everything we spoke here tonight will stay between us,” she said warmly smiling at her.

Sansa felt her heart clench, that this seasoned warrior lady supported her decision, while her own lady mother would have despised her. They stood up from the bench and Lady Mormont took a deep breath of the cold air. As she breathed out, breath clouds could be seen.

“It's getting late and cold, sweet girl,” she said. “Crawl into the bed of your man to get warm,” Maege Mormont said in a warm voice, giving her hand an encouraging squeeze.

“Sleep well, Lady Mormont and thank you,” Sansa said and both chuckled, since they both had trouble to break the habit of being formal while talking.

“My lady,” Lady Mormont said bowing her head and walking off to her own room.

 

***

 

Sansa walked to Sandor room and quietly entered. Sandor sat on his bed and was sharpening his sword.

“Little bird, I nearly thought you wouldn’t come,” he said, looking up from his sword. Sansa closed the door and sat down next to him.

“Of course, I would come. It's been a while since we were able to share a feather bed,” Sansa said, giving him a mischievous smirk biting her lower lip.

“Indeed, little bird,” Sandor said, putting away his sword.

Sansa flung her arms around his neck and started to kiss him, while she felt his experienced hands starting to untie the laces of her dress. Sandor pushed the dress of her shoulder and started to pepper her throat and collarbone with kisses. Sansa lightly pulled on his tunic and he pulled it over his head, revealing his muscled torso.

By the time they were completely on the soft feather bed caressing each other, Sandor only wore his smallclothes, while only a thin silken shift was all that covered Sansa's body.

The cold air of the northern night made her shiver a little and goosebumps spread over her ivory skin. Sansa already felt the dampness pool between her legs as she kissed her way down to the bulge in his smallclothes. She placed a kiss on every scar she found on her way south.

Sansa looked up to Sandor as she had reached her target and slowly started to pull down his smallclothes until his member sprang free. Sandor watched her, curious, with his mouth slightly parted.

Septa Mordane would be horrified at what she planned to do, Sansa thought amused. When they had looked for Arya in Braavos, Sansa had accidently stumbled into a building she had thought to be a tavern, but in the end, it had been a brothel instead. Sansa had quickly noticed her mistake, especially after she had immediately stumbled over a whore having the member of a costumer in her mouth and the keeper welcoming her in the ´Bad Pussy´. Sansa had blushed furiously and stormed out of the building, not daring to look back.

Sansa had been shocked at first to think about it, but her curiosity had quickly taken over to do the same with Sandor. After all he had always tasted her, why not him in return?

Sansa wrapped her soft fingers around his cock and placed a small kiss on its tip, making it twitch in her hand, while he gasped a little.

She watched his facial expression, before taking him into her mouth and started to gently suck on it while she stroked up and down his length.

“Sansa…” Sandor moaned as she swirled her tongue around the tip. Sansa raised her pace and cupped his balls with her free hand. “Sansa I am close, so if you don’t…” Sandor started, but Sansa hollowed her checks while sucking and with one additional swirl of her tongue she brought him over the edge.

“Fuck,” he groaned as he spilled his seed in several spurts in her mouth. She continued to suck and stroke his twitching member, while he was breathing heavy. Sansa was surprised by the light salty taste as she swallowed his load. She gave his member one last lick before wiping her lips with the back of her hand. She crawled up to him and Sandor immediately pressed his lips on hers.

“Damn, little bird,” He hoarsely rasped as their lips parted. “That was incredible.”

Sansa smiled at him. “I am glad you liked it. I wasn’t completely sure if I did it right, I only saw it once by accident,” Sansa said, blushing lightly.

“When did you saw someone do it?” he asked, curious, pulling her to him for another kiss.

“In Braavos, as we looked for Arya. I stumbled into a brothel I thought was a tavern,” Sansa said, slightly embarrassed at her mistake.

“Let me guess. It was that day, you suddenly started to stammer that you haven’t seen anything when I asked you,” he said teasingly and Sansa nodded feeling another blush creep up her face. “Well, now it is my turn,” Sandor rasped and started to kiss down her body until he reached her nether lips.

Soft moans escaped Sansas lips as he started to tease her folds with his tongue, until he finally started to suck on her pearl. “Sandor…” she wailed in need as he started to push two of his fingers in and out of her.

It didn’t take long her to feel her peak coming close and her left hand traveled through Sandor's hair, grinding her mound against his face. Sansa's back arched and her toes curled as she felt the waves of her release washing over. Sandor held her gently by her hips as she rode the last waves of her peak, before giving her little nub one tiny kiss.

He kissed his way back up to her face and Sandor gently pulled her close to him, while she simply smiled, trying to calm down her breathing. “What will the Lords say if they knew you are sharing the bed with the Hound?” Sandor asked stroking her cheek with his finger.

Sansa licked her lips before turning to face him. “I don’t care what the Lords say about us,” Sansa said. “They will expect me to marry again for the benefit of alliances and do my duty again as wife.”

Sansa cupped his cheek with her hand, feeling his scarred skin under her fingertips. “Never again I will I do something because someone call it my duty,” Sansa said sternly. “You are the only man I want at my side and in my bed for the rest of my life.”

Sandor smiled sadly at her. “And what if your Lords don’t agree with your decision? You can't rule the North against the nobility. Your brother did and you know how it ended,” he said.

“That’s something different. I haven’t broken any marriage promise for some foreign man and the Lords had their chance to speak up against my wedding to Wendel if they wanted me as a bride for the North,” Sansa told him.

“That’s true,” he rasped. “But I am still a southerner, so I guess you could call me foreign in the North, little bird.”

“Lady Mormont knows about us. She told me as I was on the way to you earlier. She said that many lords didn’t agree with my brother’s and mother´s decision of me marrying a Frey and that she supports me in my decision to have you at my side, since she chose a man she loved as father of her children herself,” Sansa said.

“And I don’t think I will rule the North after tomorrow, Sandor,” she added, making him frown.

“What makes you think so?” He asked.

“I think I have a rough idea what Robb's secret mission is. I guess it will be his last will in which he disinherits me and Arya. I overheard him talk with Mother about it one evening in his tent, when we traveled to the Twins,” she said plainly.

Sandor leaned in and gave her a kiss resting his forehead on hers. “I don’t care if you are the Lady of Winterfell or Queen. You are my little bird and nothing will separate us,” he whispered in his raspy voice.

“Nothing, my love,” Sansa said and already started to attack his mouth with hungry kisses and she felt the heat start to pool again in her lower belly. She felt his member poke against her and he gestured her to straddle him. Sandor guided himself inside her and Sansa throw her head back moaning at the feel of him inside her.

Sansa had never done it in this way and so Sandor at first guided her movement with one hand at her hip, while his other cupped her breast, carefully caressing her nipple. Sandor's breathing was becoming quicker and she knew he was getting close.

She quickened the pace she was rolling her hips and she felt herself clench around him. With a deep growl, he reached his release shortly after her, spilling himself deep inside her. Sansa buried her face in the crook of his neck breathing heavily, humming to herself, feeling completely spent but happy.

Sandor hand was ghosting over her sweaty skin as they just lay silent for a while enjoying the feel of each others' skin.

“I love you, Sansa,” Sandor said.

“I love you, too, Sandor,” Sansa mused with closed eyes. Sansa shivered a little at the cold air coming through the window shutters.

Sandor pulled the blanket and the furs over them and Sansa snuggled up to him happily sighing and the feeling of warmth and closeness to the man she loved. Sandor placed a kiss onto her temple, making Sansa smile while her eyes were already closed.

“Sleep well, my little bird,” Sandor whispered against her hair.

“Sleep well, my Sandor,” Sansa dreamingly mused, smiling to herself, while the exhaustion soon took over sending her into a restful sleep.

Chapter Text

Sandor awoke early with Sansa still safely nestled against him. He heard and felt her soft breathing on his skin. He carefully stroked a strand of her fiery hair out of her face and she moved a little closer to him. Her lips curled into a soft smile.

“Good morning,” she said with her eyes still closed.

“Good morning, little bird,” he said and kissed the crown of her hair taking in her scent.

“Slept well?”, he asked.

“Always, with you at my side.” She mused back stroking his chest with the tip of her fingers.

“We should probably get up,” she said pouting. “The lords will soon want to meet.”

“Aye,” Sandor said and got out of the bed stretching his arms and legs. They quickly dressed and Sandor watched Sansa, while she braided her hair. They met Arya on the way to the great hall.

Sandor had to admit he had never seen a place like Greywater Watch before. All buildings were swimming on boats around one huge weirwood tree that stood on a small island. Hanging bridges connected all buildings and boats.

The place had awoken and the fishers and hunters were rowing away into the swamp with small boats, while servants ran around and the guards patrolled.

They entered the great hall and Lord Reed and the three other northern Lords were already sitting at a large table. They took their seats and servants brought them food. Sandor ate a bowl of porridge, while Lord Reed asked the girls if they had a restful night.

Both answered that they had a very restful night and Sandor could see that Sansa was giving him short glances with a tiny smirk playing around her lips as she answered Lord Reed.

They all ate their breakfast, before the Lord of Greywater Watch suggested to retread to his solar to discuss the matters of Robb Stark's secret mission for Lord Glover and Lady Mormont.

 

***

 

They took their seats at the table that stood in the solar and Lord Galbart Glover pulled a letter out of one of his bags. He placed it on the table and it was sealed with black wax and the direwolf emblem.

“King Robb gave me and Lady Mormont this letter a few hours before his early death. During the war council, he ordered us that this letter contained information that should be brought North to Winterfell and being opened in case should something happen to him, before Queen Talisa would have born a healthy son,” Galbart Glover said and Sandor noticed Sansa flinch slightly at hearing the name of her brother's wife.

“The seal isn’t broken for everybody to see,” Lady Mormont said and everybody nodded in agreement.

“Lord Reed, if you would be so kind to break the seal and read the last order of our King,” Robett Glover said.

Lord Reed took the letter and broke the seal. He unfolded the letter and started to read.

“Last Will of King Robb Stark the first of his name, son of Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and warden of the North and Lady Catelyn Stark né Tully, witnessed and confirmed to be written by his own hand by his mother Lady Catelyn Stark, daughter of Lord Hoster Tully and Lady Minisa Tully né Whent and his wife Talisa Stark né Maegyr.

I, Robb, by the law the gods and men King in the North and of the Trident, Lord of Winterfell, hereby declare that I revoke my beloved sister, Sansa Frey né Stark, claim as my heir. I disinherit her of all claims to my titles, the throne and lands of the North. Neither my sister, Sansa Frey né Stark, nor her future children with Wendel of House Frey will have any claim to the ancestral home of House Stark.

Furthermore, I declare that I revoke the claim of my beloved sister, Arya Stark, as my heir. Should she be alive, by the mercy of the gods, I won't allow her to be used by the enemies of the North. I hereby declare that I disinherit Arya Stark of all claims to my titles, the throne and lands of the North. Neither my sister, Arya Stark, nor her future children will have any claim to the ancestral home of House Stark.

Due to the death of my beloved brothers Brandon Stark and Rickon Stark, by the hand of the traitor Theon Greyjoy, son of Balon Greyjoy, I hereby declare that my brother Jon Snow is named my heir until my beloved wife, Queen Talisa, will have born a healthy son.

I release Jon Snow from his vows to the Nights Watch and hereby legitimize him as Jon Stark. He will inherit my titles, the throne, the lands of the North and Winterfell. He will become Lord of Winterfell and King in the North, should I die without a male heir. His children shall follow him on throne after.

That is my will.

Robb I. Stark, King in the North and the Trident and Lord of Winterfell.”

Lord Reed put the letter down on the table and silence had fallen over the gathered people in the solar.

Sandor looked over to the little bird and the little wolf. Sansa looked pale, her look far in the distance, while Arya looked like she was about to burst in anger. Sansa had been right, Sandor thought angrily. The cunt she once thought her brother had really robbed her and her sister of their childhood home.

“Our King had made his last will clear. He wants his bastard brother to follow his steps,” Robett Glover said slowly after clearing his throat.

“But what about his trueborn sisters?” Lady Mormont threw in.

“King Robb made clear in his will that he doesn’t want another family to get claim to the North,” Robett Glover continued.

“Aye,” his brother Galbart said. “But he made the decision, thinking one sister lost and mostly dead, while the other one to be married soon into the Frey family.” Lord Galbart Glover seemed to be thoughtful.

“Still it’s the last will of our King. We have to fulfill what he wanted, if we like it or not,” Robett Glover said.

“Never in the history of the North has a bastard come before a trueborn child,” Galbart Glover argued and Lady Mormont nodded.

“We have to ride North and find the man our late King wanted as his successor.” Lord Reed said calmly. “We don’t know about his whereabouts, if he is still alive, he is our new king. If, what we don’t hope, he is dead, by right the throne should go over to Lady Sansa, because she is the eldest, but it's complicated, since King Robb made it clear he didn’t want her sisters to inherit anything. Let us hope that Jon Snow is alive.” Lord Reed turned to the girls. “Have no fear, my ladies. I am sure your brother will have a home for you,” Lord Reed added kindly.

Yes, Sandor thought angrily. Safely married off to some son of a buggering Lord, so they can breed like it’s their duty.

“And if not, you are always welcome to stay on the Bear Island,” Lady Mormont said warmly, and Sandor saw Sansa giving a tiny nod, not looking at the she bear.

“We need to ride as soon as possible,” Robett Glover said.

“And what about Stannis?” Sandor asked and everybody turned to him. “As far as we know, Stannis Baratheon is still at Castle Black with his army. Do you really think he will sit around idly, while you name a new King, while he is around? He will take off your heads as traitors to his claim of the Iron Throne, as soon as you speak of making Jon Snow your king,” he continued.

“You are right, Clegane, but he won't stay there forever,” Lord Reed said.

“We can't ride North right now anyway.” Everybody turned to Howland Reed again.

“Are you going to ride with us, Lord Reed?” Lady Mormont asked, curious.

“I will. Let's say I have a personal interest in speaking to Jon Snow. But we can't ride now. I received word earlier today, that Moat Cailin has been taken from the Ironborn. The Bastard of Bolton has taken the castle from the north and flayed all Ironman he found there. Their flayed bodies are displayed alongside the dam. Roose Bolton is marching the dam north will all the forces he had with him in the south and the remaining Northmen. Mostly Karstarks. He also has several thousand Frey soldiers with him and the imposter of Lady Arya for her wedding with the bastard. It will take several days until they have passed the Neck and we can leave safely,” Lord Reed told them.

“Damn this traitor,” Lord Robett Glover said.

“Aye,” Lady Mormont murmured.

“I guess everything has been said,” Lord Reed said and stood up. “I will inform you as soon as I hear news.”

 

***

 

They all left and the solar and Sandor follows Sansa back to her room. Sansa held her head high, but had her mouth pressed into a tight line, while Arya was tensed in anger. They didn’t say a word until they had reached the room and closed the door behind them.

“Why would Robb do that!” Arya yelled immediately. “That must be a mistake! He loved us, he wouldn’t have made this on his own.”

“Better believe it,” Sansa said plainly. “He wasn’t the brother we knew as children when I returned.”

“But Mother, she wouldn’t have allowed it!” Arya yelled.

“Arya. Robb and Mother both decided it. I overheard them talking about it one evening,” Sansa said and Arya turned to her anger clearly visible.

“What? You knew about this?!” Arya asked, unbelieving.

“I suspected it.”

“You suspected it?! And you didn't say anything!?” Arya accused her sister.

“I wasn’t sure how to tell you that Mother and Robb already thought you dead and had given up on you,” Sansa said calmly.

“You lie, like you have done before! You only hate Mother and Robb for marrying you to fucking Wendel Frey instead of your handsome prince! You hate them like you hated Father for wanting to send us back home and for killing Lady!” Arya yelled at her sister and Sandor felt himself tense. Sandor had not forgotten how broken Sansa had been after the death of her father and how sad she had always become, when she told him of her direwolf.

Sansa tensed herself and stared daggers at her sister. “You really dare it?” Sansa asked in a frosty voice close to a whisper that made a shiver run down his spine. Even Arya was slightly taken aback by her frosty voice. “You really accuse me of lying about Mother and Robb? You really accuse me of hating our Father?” she continued in her frosty tone.

“I only wanted to protect you from the feeling of betrayal I felt towards Mother and Robb!” Sansa suddenly yelled with a force Sandor had never expected her to have. Arya was taken aback by her sister suddenly showing her fangs to her.

“But since you want to know the truth, let me tell you another truth your bad lying sister has kept from you! Mother and Robb had already sold you off to a Frey long before Sandor brought me back to them!” Sansa yelled and Arya looked horrified.

“They had already betrothed you to Elmar Frey when they marched south, when father was still alive! The only reason I ended up married was that you weren’t there! Mother and Robb forced me take your place as consolation prize! Robb was really excited about it. ´A maid for a maid´ he called it! So, the next time you better remember that it easily could have been you that ended up in the position I have been and think about how you would have felt! And now leave!” Sansa yelled forcefully.

Arya looked like she wanted to say something.

“I said leave!” Sansa yelled again and Arya stared daggers at Sansa before storming out slamming the door shut.

“Little bird?” Sandor asked carefully standing behind Sansa, who was looking at the now shut door. He carefully touched her arm.

“What!” she yelled at him, whirling around to face him, but quickly realized she had just yelled at him.

“Sorry, Sandor, I didn’t mean to yell at you,” she said sounding remorseful.

“I know. Are you alright?” Sandor asked gently.

Sansa nodded at first, but when angry tears started to force their way into her eyes, she shook her head. “No, I am not alright,” she whispered.

Sandor pulled her into an embrace and Sansa buried her face into his tunic. A sob made her chest shake as Sandor stroked over her back, kissing the crown of her hair. Sandor knew that it must have been hard for her to hear for real that she had no home anymore, even if she had expected it before.

“Everything will be fine, you're are not alone, little bird,” he whispered against her hair.

“I know, it's not about that, Sandor. It's about what Robb wrote in his will,” she sobbed.

“He called me a Frey already, even before the wedding. Robb and Mother had already accepted that I wasn’t one of them anymore. No Stark anymore. I thought up to the point I had to say my vows with Wendel that they at least thought of me as Stark. But they didn’t and that hurts,” she continued and he held her close to his chest.

“And now it official. I am nothing more than Sansa Frey,” she sobbed and it fueled Sandor's anger against Sansa's mother and brother. Even dead, they still managed to hurt the feelings of the woman he loves.

Sandor loosened the embrace and swiped away the tears that ran down her face with his thumbs. “Look at me,” he said warmly and she looked at him with her huge blue eyes that he loved so much.

“You are Lady Sansa Stark of Winterfell. You are and will never be a Frey. You are a wolf. You are my wolf,” he said, looking her straight in the eye and she nodded slowly. He leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers.

“I love you Sandor.” She said after their lips parted and she swiped away some last tears that had escaped her eyes, with her sleeve.

“I love you, too, Sansa. Smile, everything will be alright,” he warmly rasped and she nodded again, smiling up.

“Thank you, Sandor,” she said, getting on her tiptoes to give him a small kiss on his cheek.

“Should I look for your sister?” Sandor asked, but Sansa shook her head.

“No, don’t go. You won't find her anyway. She always hides and needs time for herself after we argued. She always did it back in Winterfell.”

 

***

 

The little bird was right. They didn’t see much of Arya the next few days. She always stayed in her room or walked away when she saw that Sandor or Sansa crossed her way.

Lord Reed's scouts still reported that the Neck was still crowded with Bolton troops, so Sansa had decided to spend her time in his room sewing herself a new dress, more appropriate for the northern climate.

Sandor watched her in awe for hours, while she cut fabric, made stitches and embroidered with practiced hands. Sansa sometimes looked up from her work and gave him the tiny smiles he loved so much.

Right now, it was a knock on the door that made her look up. Sandor opened the door and stared into the face of the little wolf.

“Is Sansa here? I need to talk to her,” she asked and Sandor nodded. He stepped aside to let her in and Sansa put down her needle.

“Well, I'll leave you alone for your talk,” Sandor said and left the room, hoping the girls could sort everything out. He didn’t like the two sisters to have an argument.

Chapter Text

How could they, Arya thought angrily. The whole time during her journey through the Riverlands she had thought, her mother and brother would do anything to get her back. Instead they had betrothed her to a fucking Frey.

I was his damn princess, she thought angrily as she remembered her talk to Elmar in Harrenhal that day she fled with Gendry and Hotpie, after Lord Bolton had requested the cupbearer of Tywin Lannister to become his.

She had spent the last three days thinking. Arya felt betrayed by her mother and brother. She could now understand completely how Sansa had felt. Arya now regretted her hateful words towards her sister.

Arya suddenly remembered the words her father had once said to her. So if you must hate, Arya, hate those who would truly do us harm. Sansa is your sister. You may be as different as the sun and the moon, but the same blood flows through both your hearts. You need her, as she needs you.

Arya went to Sandor's room and knocked nervously. Would Sansa hear her out at all? After all, she had said very hurtful things. The door opened and she stared at the face of Sandor.

“Is Sansa here? I need to talk to her,” she asked and Sandor nodded. He stepped aside to let her in and she entered the room. Sansa sat on the bed with something she was sewing. Piles of fabric and other things were placed all over the bed.

She put down her needle and thread and looked at her.

“Well, I'll leave you alone for your talk,” Sandor said and left. Arya felt uncomfortable in her skin.

As children, she always had been forced to apologize by her mother or septa. She had never done it on her own before. Sansa looked at her, not showing any hints of what she was thinking.

“I am sorry, Sansa,” Arya started. “I didn’t mean to yell at you and say the nasty things I did few days ago. I know you didn’t hate father. It wasn’t right to say that.”

Sansa didn’t say anything, but continued to look at her.

“You were right. I feel betrayed, like you have felt. The thought that Mother and Robb were waiting for me and the thought that they wanted to have me back made me survive the journey and Harrenhal. I am sorry, I was thinking about what you said the last few days and I realized you only tried to protect me from the feeling of betrayal I now feel.” Arya took a deep breath. “I should not have been mad at you, especially after you had to take my place and marry a Frey, while your heart obviously lay elsewhere. I am sorry for that. It wasn’t my place to assume you were still the girl that wanted Joffrey. I love you, Sansa, and I am sorry.”

Arya nearly feared Sansa wouldn’t say anything, but then she finally spoke up.

“I love you, too, Arya. I know you didn’t mean the words. You spoke them overwhelmed by emotions. I was at the same point, only with the difference that I was alone with the feeling of betrayal. I was alone in my tent and cried myself to sleep and I was alone when it came to take your place at the wedding. Every time I spoke up, Mother and Robb shut me down by telling me it was my duty. I am also sorry that I yelled at you,” Sansa said.

“No, you had every right to yell at me. You were nothing but kind to me since we met again after the Twins and again and again, I brought you trouble, first in the Inn and then in Braavos. And then I yell and say nasty things at you, after all you had to endure, like it was your fault that Mother and Robb decided the way they did. Can you forgive me?” Arya asked carefully.

Sansa started to smile and pulled her into an embrace. “There is nothing to forgive, Arya. I love you, know that Arya. We and Jon are all that is left of house Stark, we can fight battles amongst ourselves. We have so many enemies now,” Sansa said warmly, while she held Arya in a tight embrace.

Arya suddenly missed the hugs of her mother and father and she tightened her arms more around her sister. “We are a pack” Arya said. “The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. We are a pack. Three wolves and a hound.”

“Yes, a pack,” Sansa said loosening the embrace, smiling. “And we will take back our home and make everyone pay that did us wrong,” she said in the frosty voice, Arya didn’t know her sister possessed. Arya nodded.

“What are you sewing?” Arya asked her sister, looking curious at all the fabrics.

“A new dress. More appropriate for the weather. Winter is coming after all.”

Arya had never liked her sewing lessons. Her stitches had never been nearly as perfect as Sansa's had been. She had always envied Sansa for her talent with needle and thread.

“I also started to make something for you,” Sansa said.

“Really?” Arya asked, slightly surprised, she hadn't expected her sister to sew anything for her, after their argument a few days earlier.

“Yes. It's not finished yet, but I hope you will like it. It's no dress, so don’t be nervous about it,” she said a little teasing, making Arya chuckle.

“Thank you,” Arya said, giving Sansa another hug.

“Thank me when you see what I have been making for you.”

The door opened and Sandor entered again, looking at them curiously. “Sorted everything out?” he asked.

“Yes, the pack is reunited,” Sansa declared, squeezing Arya's hand.

Arya nodded to Sandor and it looked like he was relieved to hear that. She had to think of Gendry and of how it would have been to have him as part of their pack. She hoped that someday she would find out.

“I am hungry,” Sandor said. “Want to check if they might have some chickens in this place, while your sister continues her sewing?” he asked her and Arya nodded. Sandor gave her sister a kiss before turning back to her. “Then let's go.”

They left the room and Arya felt happy. Her pack was whole.

Chapter Text

He was brooding over several maps of the North, planning his next move to finally take what was his by right.

Even with the usurper Joffrey Baratheon dead, no, a Lannister after all. He was the bastard of incest between his Queen Cersei and her brother, the Kingslayer. Even with Joffrey dead, his brother Tommen now usurped Stannis's throne.

Stannis didn’t even blame the boy. He hadn’t chosen to be in the position he was now was. He was just a puppet of his mother's desire for power. Maybe he would allow the boy to continue his life as a Waters, when he had taken the throne.

With the usurpers Robb Stark and Balon Greyjoy dead, now was the perfect time to strike and take the throne, and yet he wasn’t able to do it. His troops had been annihilated at the Blackwater by the forces of Tywin Lannister and Mace Tyrell.

With the four thousand men he had left, he couldn’t even hope to conquer one of the Seven Kingdoms on his own. Luckily, Ser Davos had been able to convince the Iron Bank to lend him gold, so he could at least enroll two sellsword companies and horses for his army.

He still had less than eight thousand men, but he was sure Ser Davos would return with more from White Harbor. Uncommon for Ser Davos not to send any note should he have been successful, Stannis thought as he watched the map marker on the map in front of him. Davos was probably the closest things Stannis had to a friend.

Lord Commander Snow had told him he should try to convince the mountain clans to fight for him, since they had always been close to the Starks, and after that, free Deepwood Motte from the Ironborn. That would show the North he isn’t a conqueror, but a liberator.

Too bad Jon Snow was an honorable man like his father, that believed his vow to the Nights Watch higher than the offer to become Jon Stark and take back Winterfell for House Stark.

Winterfell belongs to my sister Sansa, he had said.

Stannis had pointed out that Lady Frey wouldn’t become the head of Winterfell under his reign.

Too bad that Robb Stark hadn’t bent the knee to him. Stannis would have offered one of his knights as fighting husband for Lord Starks sister. Maybe he would have suggested a Florent, but that chance was gone. Stannis had no idea about the whereabouts of Jon Snows sister. She apparently had disappeared after the Red Wedding and even after Stannis told him that she was probably dead he wasn’t interested in taking the lordship.

Neither Stannis nor Lady Melisandre had been able to convince him after talking for hours with him and he was even proud of it. Stannis had even lent him grudgingly his ships to save the remaining Wildlings north of the Wall. A foolish try to save lives that sooner or later will die anyway.

When Stannis had asked when Jon Snow planned to sail from Eastwatch by the Sea, the Lord Commander had told him as soon as he was leaving as well.

Too bad, Stannis thought, the bastard of their beloved Ned Stark would probably have brought one or another Lord to his side.

It definitely would have brought that Mormont brat back to her senses. He wouldn’t forget that disrespect in the letter he had received by Lyanna Mormont. Maybe he would marry her off to one of his knights, when he was finally sitting on the throne.

His thoughts returned back to the map and to his current main problem. Winterfell. He needed to take the castle to take the North. He had to crush the Boltons and that would hopefully bring the Northern Houses to his course in the end. Only with the North by his side, he would be able to take the throne.

Since Jon Snow was to stubborn to realize the generosity of his offer, Stannis now would either have to offer the castle and the wardenship to one of his men or he would name one of the Northmen that already have sworn allegiance to him the new warden. Maybe Arnolf Karstark. The Karstarks had at least a little Stark blood left in their line.

His thoughts were interrupted as his daughter entered the room he had moved into. She closed the door. She smiled as she walked over to a nearby dresser and began to play with the additional mapmarkers Stannis had put on top of it.

“Are you lonely?” he asked.

“Just bored,” she said, not looking at him.

Stannis continued to study the map. “My father used to tell me that boredom indicates a lack of inner resources.”

“Were you bored a lot, too?”

Stannis sighed. “I know Castle Black is no place for a child, but I…”

“I like it,” she said kindly, walking over to the table he was sitting at. “I thought I'd be left at home. I know Mother didn't want to bring me.”

“Why do you say that?”

“She told me,” Shireen simply said and Stannis knew it was the truth. Selyse never had been the mother she should have been to their daughter.

“She shouldn't have said that.”

“Are you ashamed of me, Father?” she suddenly asked and Stannis stopped studying the map. He looked up and Shireen adverted her eyes.

“When you were an infant,” he said, standing up and walking around the desk. “A Dornish trader landed on Dragonstone. His goods were junk except for one wooden doll. He'd even sewn a dress on it in the colors of our House. No doubt he'd heard of your birth, and assumed new fathers were easy targets. I still remember how you smiled when I put that doll in your cradle and you pressed it to your cheek. By the time we burnt the doll, it was too late. I was told you would die. Or worse, the grayscale would go slow. Let you grow just enough to know the world before taking it away from you. Everyone advised me to send you to the ruins of Valyria to live out your short life with the Stone men, before the sickness spread to the castle. I told them all to go to hell.”

Shireen smiled at him.

“I called in every maester on this side of the world. Every healer, every apothecary. They stopped the disease and saved your life. Because you did not belong across the world with the bloody Stone men. You are the Princess Shireen of House Baratheon. And you are my daughter.”

Some tears ran down his daughters face and Shireen flung her small arms around Stannis. At first hesitant, he hugged her back.

“When will we leave, Father? Ser Davos told her me he would go to the crypt of Winterfell with me,” his daughter said.

“I will leave soon. But you will stay behind in Castle Black with your mother and Lady Melisandre. I will send for you as soon as we have taken Winterfell. Until then, the knights I will leave with you, will keep you safe,” he said.

“Father have you heard anything of Ser Onion Knight?” Shireen asked hopefully.

“No, I haven’t. He will return from White Harbor, I am sure about that.”

“I hope you are right, Father.”

“Me, too. Now go and teach that wildling girl reading, I need to work on some things before I leave tomorrow. I heard she is kind to you.”

“Yes, Gilly is alright. She learns quick.” Shireen gave him a small peck on his scrubby cheek and left.

I will take the Iron Throne for you, Shireen, Stannis thought as he went back to his table to plan his campaign.

Chapter Text

It took a whole week for Lord Bolton and his army, consisting of his own men, Northmen that had been scattered in the Riverlands, and his Frey allies, to march the causeway north and leave the Neck. Lord Reed had sent out scouts every day to make sure they didn’t even try to find Greywater Watch.

Sansa had spent the time finishing her new dress. While the one Sandor had bought her in Braavos was beautiful, she needed a dress more appropriate for the harsh weather of the North. Lord Reed had given her several rolls of different fabrics.

She made the new dress of black fabric with long sleeves. In the right light, it showed some green and blue tones. The dress accentuated her womanly form, but didn’t show any cleavage. Sansa had spent several hours to embroider the hearttree and the elaborate direwolf on the front. She had added a wolf pelt to her cloak.

She hadn’t showed it to Sandor yet, but she was curious how he would like it.

This morning, she had given him the new, warmer tunic she had sewn. He had also exchanged the armor he had worn for as long as Sansa could remember for one of the leather armors many men of the North, including Robb had worn. It gave a little less protection than his old one, but he could wear thicker and warmer clothes underneath without losing any mobility. Sandor even told her he would be more agile in it. He looked like a real man of the North.

For her sister, she had asked Lady Mormont how the clothes of warrior ladies on the Bear Island looked like. The Lady of the Bear Island had described it in detail to her and Sansa had altered one leather armor to Arya's size. She had also sewn her sister a warm quilted tunic and a new pair of warm breeches and embroidered a direwolf onto the chest of her tunic and leather armor.

Arya had hugged her fiercely when Sansa had showed it to her and told Sansa that it was the best clothing she had ever gotten.

Sansa smiled to herself at the memory of the endless discussions between her mother and Arya, when it came to new clothing. Their mother had always insisted that Arya got new dresses, while Arya only wanted a pair of breeches so she could play outside, without ruining her dress in the mud. Sansa still remembered the long lecture Arya had gotten by Septa Mordane for that. Looking back, Septa Mordane had never thought them anything useful, but instead only reminded them all the time about the duty of a lady.

Sansa had braided her hair in a simple northern way and just tied the last lacing of her dress when Sandor entered her room.

He stopped and eyed her from head to toe in awe.

“Do you like it?”, she asked and felt herself blush at seeing him being unable to start a coherent sentence.

“Yes,” he finally muttered. Sansa walked over to him and gave him a kiss.

“It's beautiful little bird. You are the smartest and most beautiful woman in the world,” he said as their lips parted before he pressed his lips against to hers again.

“I love you,” he said as her mouth left his.

“I love you too, Sandor.”

“The Lords are waiting,” he said and Sansa nodded.

“Yes. I can't wait to reach the Wall.”

They left the room and made their way through Greywater Watch until they reached the large ferry, where Arya and the Lords were already waiting with the horses.

“You look stunning, my lady. The radiant image of your mother,” Lady Mormont said and the other lords nodded in agreement.

“Thank you, Lady Mormont,” Sansa said and a light blush reddened her cheeks.

The ferryman rowed them away from Greywater Watch. The air was humid and cold. Lord Reed had taken four of his soldiers with him. He said it would be safer that way. After all, they had a long way ahead.

“You really outdid yourself, Sansa,” Arya said looking down on herself.

“Thank you, I am glad you like it. I wasn’t sure if it would be to your liking,” Sansa said.

“It fits perfect. I don’t remember that I ever had such finely made clothing.” Arya said.

“Maybe because you always rolled around in the mud,” Sansa said teasingly, making her sister laugh.

“True. Remember when Bran and I awaited you with dozens of snowballs in the morning, when you left the keep?” she said smirking.

“Yes, I remember very well. That was so mean of you two, but I remember that I caught you in the end and rubbed snow all over your face,” Sansa said chuckling.

“Yes, and Jory had to separate us. Gods, the scolding we got by Mother still rings in my ears,” Arya said laughing.

“Yes, I even got an additional one by Septa Mordane, because it wasn’t the dutiful behavior a lady should show.”

“Really?”

“Yes, but Father came in the end and told Septa Mordane it was alright, so it was fine in the end.”

Arya stepped closer to her and pointed over to Sandor, who was stroking Stranger. “Sandor looks like a real Northmen.” Arya said.

“Yes. He even has the looks of the North without the clothing.”

“You know that better than me,” Arya said teasingly and giving her a knowing look, making Sansa blush. Sansa hit her arm lightly.

“You know what I mean,” Sansa said.

“Yes, he does indeed. He looks more of the North than you do,” Arya said laughing, touching her sisters braid and Sansa laughed back.

As they had reached the edge of the large pond where Greywater Watch was located, Sandor helped her onto her white mare.

Lord Reed lead the way and Sansa rode close to Sandor, while they followed the hidden paths for hours until they found a fitting place to make camp for the night.

They all sat around peat fires and ate their meager dinner. Later that evening, Sandor had offered to take the first watch and Sansa give him some company. The swamp of the Neck lay in silence and the cold wind made Sansa pull her cloak tighter around her. Sandor laid his arm around her shoulder and Sansa rested her head on his shoulder while they listened to the cracking of the fire.

“I love you, Sandor,” Sansa said looking into the fire.

“I love you, too, little bird,” he gently rasped, his breath making clouds in the air.

“Winter is coming,” she whispered and made clouds with her breath too.

“Aye,” he said and looked into the sky. “Do you think these stars look like a wolf?” he asked and pointed into the starry sky to a formation that was named ´the fierce wolf´.

“A little. Old Nan always told us that stars are only holes in the eye of the giant Macumber. That we live in his blue eye and that this is the reason the sky is blue.”

“Maybe, who knows, little bird. Those are questions for the maesters in Oldtown with their dusty books.”

“I still remember Maester Luwin teaching us reading, writing and math. He always had answers to all the questions.”

“He seemed to be a smart man.”

“He was. He always had some treats in his sleeves for us,” Sansa said smiling.

Sandor chuckled in return. They watched the stars for hours, trying to find pictures in the stars, until Lady Mormont took over the watch. Sandor held her close to his chest under their blanket to keep her warm until the first light of the new day was drenching the Neck into pale green colors.

It took them another day until they reached the edge of the Neck and could start to ride north. They spent two weeks riding east of the Kingsroad to avoid any trouble. They didn’t meet any people on the road and soon enough they found the reason for it.

They passed several crosses with flayed bodies.

“Lord Bolton doesn’t waste time to show the North who is in charge,” Lord Glover muttered under his breath as they saw the bodies. They continued on the Kingsroad after they had been far enough North of Winterfell.

On the third week of their journey they could finally see a white line on the horizon that must be the Wall as the weather once cleared up for half a day.

For a week, the snow fell without mercy on their heads and Lord Reed even suggested to ride to Last Hearth until the weather got better, but Sansa and the others had refused.

Arya had told her that it was strange that they hadn’t met a single soul on the road, but Sansa didn’t want to think about if it was a good or a bad sign. Two days after they had spotted the Wall for the first time they finally met someone. A man of the Nights Watch traveling to White Harbor with a cart. He was accompanied by a woman and a baby. He had introduced himself as Samwell Tarly.

He told them that Lord Commander Snow had sent him South to become a maester, after their old maester had died. Of course, Samwell had immediately recognized all of their sigils and asked if she and Arya might be the sisters of Jon Snow. They hadn’t denied it and Sam had said that he was a close friend of Jon and that he probably couldn’t wait to be reunited with his sisters.

The wall was still three days away as their ways separated, but Sansa was as excited as Arya to be finally reunited with their brother.

Chapter Text

The snow fell unrelentingly on their heads as the High Lords of the North that had made the travel to Winterfell for the wedding of Arya Stark with Ramsay Bolton walked their way through the ancient castle of House Stark towards the entrance of the godswood.

Lord Manderly had arrived this morning with his men. He had brought five hundred soldiers with him. He still kept his heavy cavalry hidden as reserve should the time come to end this mummers' play.

The first act had already ended. The Freys that had traveled with him were too impatient and had ridden ahead of his track.

Wyman Manderly had taken the change and ordered riders to go after them. Now only the wolves would feast on them in some ditch along the road.

At least his granddaughters would be spared a match with a Frey. After Lady Sansa's stories of her short time of being a Frey, he wouldn’t allow that to happen to Wylla and Wynafryd.

When his track had approached Winterfell this morning, the castle had stood as proud as it had over many thousand years. Only when they had come closer he had seen the signs of the sack. The wooden parts of the keep had been burned and had been repaired with new wood.

Lord Manderly still remembered how often he had visited his Liege Lord. He had always respected Lord Eddard Stark for his honorable and just reign over the North. It had been good times. Winterfell had been a place of laughter and happiness.

He remembered the first years of Ned Starks lordship very well. He had taken his place as Warden of the North with his young bride at his side.

He had fought alongside Ned Stark at the Trident to avenge his father and brother and fight for the justice against the Mad King and mourned bitterly when he had heard of his death in Kings Landing.

When they had finally entered the castle, some Freys had immediately started to question him about the whereabouts of the Freys that had traveled with him. He couldn’t care less if they were slowly freezing to death or were already a feast for the crows.

Lord Bolton had told the Freys that their kin could simply have gotten lost and would maybe reach Winterfell later.

He had never trusted the leech lord and now he was more dangerous as ever, since he had the total control over the North.

Medger Cerwyn, his wife, and brother had already lost their lives for defying his position. He had sent his bastard to collect taxes and had returned with three flayed bodies.

Lord Manderly could still see them swinging from the highest tower. He adverted his eyes from the gruesome sight and entered the godswood. The light of the day was slowly fading away as the ceremony began in front of the weirwood tree.

He looked around to assess which Lords might could be turned against the Boltons should the time come. Hother Umber looked as grim as ever. His grand nephew has been murdered by the Freys and his nephew was still in their captivity. He had more than enough reason to hate the Boltons and Freys.

Lady Barbrey Dustin on the other hand would probably be loyal to Roose Bolton.

Her sister had been his second wife.

Arnolf Karstark had sided with Lord Stannis, but his sons Cregan and Arthor had made the journey to Winterfell. Maybe they wanted to be on good terms with the new Warden of the North and hoped that one of them could get hands on Karholt. Some people had spoken that they had brought Lord Bolton a special gift to show their loyalty.

Unfortunately, Rickard Karstark still had a trueborn daughter whose claim was stronger than her uncles or cousins. Whoever would get her hand could claim Karhold.

Lord Manderly wasn’t sure if they could be counted on if it came to battle against the traitors.

The pathway to the weirwood tree was lit by dozens of lanterns and the rest of the godswood lay in silence. Lord Bolton stood in front of the tree with his hands crossed in front of him. Besides him stood his bastard. If only a fraction of the rumors about him were true, he deserved to die the most horrible death.

Lord Manderly stood on the right side of the aisle while the Freys stood on the other side. All eyes turned to the bride that was led down the aisle by the turncloak, Theon Greyjoy. He didn’t look as cocky as the last time Lord Manderly had seen him when he had visited Winterfell.

He had betrayed the young wolf and murdered his little brothers in cold blood. Lord Manderly couldn’t deny that Theon looked like the shadow of the man he had once been.

The girl on the other hand clinched to his arm as if her very life depended on it.

All lords had their eyes on the young girl's in the white dress with the direwolf stitched on her cloak, probably all pitying the youngest daughter of the beloved Ned. Lord Manderly was glad that the real Arya Stark was safely with her sister.

Roose Bolton stepped forward. “Who comes before the Old Gods this night?”

“Arya of the House Stark comes here to be wed. A woman grown and flowered, trueborn and noble. She comes to beg the blessings of the gods. Who comes to claim her?”

Nobody spoke a word and everybody watched the bride and the groom.

“Ramsay of House Bolton. Lord of Hornwood and heir to the Dreadfort and Winterfell. Who gives her?”

“Theon of House Greyjoy. Who was… who was her father’s ward.”

Lord Bolton looked at the girl. “Lady Arya, will you take this man?”

Arya took a moment to look at Ramsay who looked right back at her, with her huge brown eyes. She glanced over to the lords with a pleading look for someone to stop the wedding.

Lord Manderly thought that this must have been the same when Lady Sansa had been forced to the septon. You don’t have have a choice anymore, poor girl, he thought bitterly.

"I take this man," the bride said in a whisper.

Ramsay Bolton gave the poor girl a cruel smirk. They walked back to the great hall, where the feast was held. The hall was crowded with people ale and wine flow freely.

The imposter of Arya Stark sat quietly next to her husband at the high table. The banner of house Stark behind her. Roose Bolton bid them drink to Lady Arya. "May her children make our two ancient houses become one and the long enmity between Stark and Bolton will be ended."

His voice was so soft that the hall grew hushed as men strained to hear.

"I am sorry that our good friend Stannis has not seen fit to join us yet," he went on, to a ripple of laughter, "as I know Ramsay had hoped to present his head to Lady Arya as a wedding gift." The laughs grew louder. "We shall give him a splendid welcome when he arrives, a welcome worthy of true Northmen. Until that day, let us eat and drink and make merry … for winter is almost upon us, my friends, and many of us here shall not live to see the spring."

The Lord of White Harbor had furnished the food and drink, black stout and yellow beer and wines red and gold and purple, brought up from the warm south on fat-bottomed ships and aged in his deep cellars. The wedding guests gorged on cod cakes and winter squash, great round wheels of cheese, on smoking slabs of mutton and beef ribs charred almost black, and lastly on three great wedding pies, as wide across as wagon wheels, their flaky crusts stuffed to bursting with carrots, onions, turnips, parsnips, mushrooms, and chunks of seasoned pork swimming in a savory brown gravy.

Lord Manderly eat much and drank even more. He couldn't let it happen that someone got suspicious, only because he didn’t eat as much as usual.

Roose Bolton rose to his feet, pale eyes shining in the torchlight, after a soldier handed him a small raven scroll.

The hall went silent.

"My friends, Stannis and his knights have taken Deepwood Motte. Apparently, the clans of the northern hills are with him. If the weather holds, they could be on us in a fortnight. And Crowfood Umber marches down the kingsroad, whilst the Arnolf Karstark approach from the east. They mean to join with Lord Stannis here and take this castle from us."

Murmurs broke out within the hall, but the leech lord lifted his pale hand again.

"The hall is not the place for such discussions, my lords. Let us adjourn to the solar whilst my son consummates his marriage. The rest of you, remain and enjoy the food and drink," he said and left the hall, followed by the Freys.

“Reek to me,” Ramsay said and the sorry creature Theon Greyjoy had been once stumbled towards his master.

“Bring my bride to my chamber,” Ramsay said. Theon led the girl out of the hall and she shot the guests one last pleading look.

The fat Lord followed the other Lords to Lord Bolton's solar. This has been Ned Starks solar once, he thought angrily and he was sure many other lords felt the same.

The leechlord opened the window shutter and cold nights’ air filled the room.

He rolled out a large map of the North and a shiver ran down his spine when he saw it was painted on human skin.

The Lords of the North listened for hours what plans the Lord of the Dreadfort had made to defeat Stannis, while the screams of an innocent girl could be heard all over Winterfell through the cold air of the North.

Chapter Text

Two days ago, they had met the fat brother that traveled south to become a maester.

So that is the son of Randyll Tarly, Sandor thought to himself. Lord Tarly was a fearsome and battle tested commander, but this young man looked like he couldn’t kill anything.

Sansa and the little wolf were getting more excited with every hour they rode towards the large white wall of ice that stretched alongside the whole horizon.

Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, Sandor thought. That boy seems to have courage if he was elected into the highest position at his age.

Lady Mormont had mentioned to him that if the brother of Sansa and Arya had really become Lord Commander it could only mean that her own brother, Jeor, must be dead since he was the last Lord Commander.

Sandor had offered the old she-bear his condolences for her loss. Lady Mormont had thanked him, but said at the same time, that her brother had chosen the life at the Wall for himself, so his son Jorah could take the lordship.

Sandor respected Maege Mormont. She was a true woman of the North. He noticed that she often watched him, as he sat next to Sansa at the fire, when they made camp in the evening.

Sandor could already see Castle Black at the foot of the Wall. Only a few hours more and the girls would be reunited with their brother. They had just made a short stop, to have a quick lunch, when a rider came from the North.

Sandor and the other adults pulled their weapons and the little wolf pulled her Needle too.

“Stop immediately and name your intentions!” Robett Glover yelled and the rider pulled his horse to a full stop.

“I am Eddison Tollett. I am a brother of the Night's Watch. The officers of Castle Black have mutinied and murdered the Lord Commander. Some other brothers loyal to Jon Snow have locked themselves with his body, before the mutineers get to him. I am riding to get help.”

Sandor could hear the girls gasp at the news that their brother has been murdered. Sandor felt Sansa grab his hand.

“Where are you heading to get this help?” Lady Mormont asked warily.

“Lord Commander Snow has friends under the Wildlings he saved beyond the Wall.”

“He let Wildlings through?!” Robett Glover asked shocked. “They are the enemies of the North!”

“Maybe he had reasons,” Lord Reed said placatory, before he turned to Edd Tollett. “Tell us, why are wildlings south of the Wall?”

“We don’t have much time, but all legends about the White Walker are true. We fought them and their army of the dead North of the Wall at the Fist of the First Men. Lord Commander Mormont wanted to return to the Wall to prepare for the upcoming storm, but he was murdered by his own men at Crasters Keep. Jon Snow avenged him and defended the Wall against the Wildlings until Stannis Baratheon came. We have no chance against the White Walkers, if we don’t fight united. I was with Jon Snow when he led ships north to Hardhome to save the remaining wildlings before they become flesh in the army of the dead. He was murdered for doing what was right.”

“White Walkers? Nonsense,” Robett Glover said.

“My brother wouldn’t lie about them and he was murdered by his own men,” Lady Mormont said.

“Your brother?” Edd Tollett asked.

“Yes, I am Maege Mormont, Lady of the Bear Island. This is Lord Glover with his brother, Howland Reed of Greywater Watch and the girls are the sisters of Jon Snow. We are heading to Castle Black to find him.”

“Well, he is dead. Murdered last night, but one of Stannis´ men, this Ser Davos, thinks the Red Woman can maybe bring him back, but only if his body isn’t burned like the mutineers plan to do.”

“Then lead the way,” Lord Reed said.

They mounted their horses and since they had to ride quickly, Sandor lifted Sansa on Stranger and mounted behind her after tying her white mare to his horse.

“I don’t like that, Maege. The Wildlings have always been our enemies. Don’t you remember how they stole Mors Umbers daughter?” Galbart Glover whispered.

“I haven’t forgotten, but my brother wouldn’t lie about the White Walkers and if they are really marching on the Wall, we really need every human being on our side.”

Sandor guessed they rode for about an hour, when they reached the camp of the wildlings.

“That’s all that is left of the Free Folk. Everybody else is meat in the army of the Night's King.” The Nightswatch men said.

“Gods,” one Glover murmured when he saw that only a few thousand were left.

Edd Tollett met up with some red haired Wildling that seemed to be one of their leaders.

“Are you alright, little bird?” Sandor asked in a whisper.

“Jon can't be dead. That can't happen. He is all we have left,” she whispered in a tiny voice.

The red bearded wildling had gathered about fifty or sixty men around him. Sandor couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the giant that accompanied them. They left the camp and made their way back to Castle Black. The gate was closed, but the giant made quick business with it and the wildlings stormed the castle. The Glovers and Lady Mormont entered alongside Edd Tollett. Sandor, Lord Reed and the girls stayed a little behind, in case it would come to a bloodshed.

“Attack!” one of the mutineers yelled, but nobody of the Night's Watch moved. Only one man made the mistake to shoot his crossbow on the giant and payed for this foolishness with his life by getting smacked against the castle wall.

Edd Tollett moved closer to the man of the Night's Watch that seemed to be the head of the rebellion.

“You fucking traitor,” the Night's Watch man said.

“The only traitors here are the ones who shoved their knives into their Lord Commander’s heart.”

“For thousands of years the Night’s Watch has held Castle Black against the Wildlings,” Alliser said.

“Until you, Ser Alliser.”

A young boy shouted and stormed towards the red bearded wildling, but the wildling grabbed and disarmed him, then tosses him to another man who restrained him. Two men took Alliser Thorne by the arms.

“Throw them into the cells where they belong,” Tollett said.

“Wait,” Arya said and everybody turned to her.

“Which of you gave the death strike to my brother?” she asked the officers and the young boy.

“I did! He was a trait…!” the young boy yelled and before he could finish his sentence, Arya's Needle already entered his heart, ending his life.

The boys winced once, before remaining still. The traitors were led away and on the gallery the men that had locked into the room. Ser Davos was under them and he looked surprised to see him again, after the last time in Whiteharbor.

“Bring us to our brother,” Sansa said and Edd lead them into the room, where Jon Snow was laid out on a table, his direwolf lying by his side on the ground. As soon as the girls saw their brother, the tears they had held for hours broke free and they sobbed openly next to the body. Sandor stood behind the girls and laid his hands on their shoulders.

“Took a lot of knives. I’ll have my men get the wood for a fire,” the wildling that went by the name of Tormund said, standing on the opposite side of the table next to Ser Davos and Edd Tollett. The Lords and Lady Mormont stood around Sandor and the girls.

“The Red Woman. She might be able to bring him back,” Ser Davos said. “I have seen her do things I didn’t think possible.”

“That’s just saying,” Lord Glover said.

“No,” Sandor rasped. “I saw it with my own eyes. You, too, little wolf, when Thoros of Myr brought back Beric Dondarion.”

“Yes, that’s true. I saw it,” Arya said.

“Then bring this Red Woman. What are you waiting for?” Lord Reed said and Davos led them outside towards the Kings Tower.

Sandor didn’t give a shit about the gods, but now he was praying that the woman could bring Jon Snow back. He couldn’t stand the thought of the girls losing another family member.

Chapter Text

By the gods, Sansa thought. Please make that Red Woman have the power to bring back our brother.

As soon as Sansa had seen Jon's body, she immediately remembered the gruesome picture of the Red Wedding and everything that came with it. Only Sandor's strong warm hand on her shoulder had kept her from breaking down completely.

Jon looks like a younger version of Father, Sansa thought.

Please, make the Red Woman have the power to bring him back. If not, I will never forgive myself for my bad behavior towards him as a child, Sansa thought as they left the room and crossed the courtyard towards the Kings Tower.

The light was slowly starting to fade away. She held onto Sandor's arm while they walked.

The door of the tower opened and a tall woman with large ears came out, followed by ten men in armor. They all wore the flaming heart of Stannis Baratheon. The Red Woman waited at the door.

“Who is this?” Sansa asked Sandor in a whisper.

“Selyse Baratheon, Stannis´ wife with her mustache in all her splendor. I heard she is even a bigger fanatic than her husband.”

“Who are you?” Lord Glover asked.

“Ser Axell Florent, hand of the queen. You have the honor to stand before Queen Selyse of house Baratheon. The wife of our rightful King Stannis Baratheon.”

“I know that man,” Selyse Baratheon said and pointed to Sandor. “He is the Lannister dog!”

The knight's hand wandered to the pommel of his sword. “Who are you and what do you want?” Ser Axell asked.

“My name is Howland Reed, Lord of Greywater Watch and this is Lady Mormont of the Bear Island. And these two are Galbart and Robett Glover of Deepwood Motte. And our presence is not your concern, ser.”

“And who are these girls with the Lannister dog?”

The lords looked uncertain at them. “That auburn haired girl must be Lady Frey, I suppose. We heard the rumors that she ran off with the Lannister Hound.” Selyse said. “My husband will be thrilled that the key to the North stumbled right into my arms. She will make a fine bride for Godry Farring or Justin Massey when they return. Bring her.”

A knight came towards her, but Sandor pulled his sword and pushed her gently behind him. “Touch her and I will end you,” Sandor growled and the Glovers pulled their swords. Lord Reed and his men held their spears ready and Lady Mormont stood next to Arya, who had her Needle pulled, with her spiked mace.

“You northern scum!” Selyse yelled. “Your loyalty belongs to King Stannis. Hand over Lady Frey or there will be violence.”

“Our loyalty belongs to House Stark and we swore to protect Lady Stark and her sister,” Lord Glover said sternly.

“That’s her sister? Even better. Get them both, they are now wardens of the crown,” Selyse said and another knight walked towards Arya, who held her head high and her Needle tight in her hands.

“Come on, step closer to Lady Arya and it will be your last,” Lady Mormont said and her voice left no room for misunderstandings.

“Get out of the way wench,” the knight said and made another step closer to Sansa's sister. Without a moment of hesitation, Lady Mormont's sank her mace in the unprotected head of the southern knight.

The knight fell to his knees and Maege kicked against his chestplate to free her maze with an ugly crack out of the knights skull. The knight fell into the snow and twitched a few times before laid still. The blood tainted the fresh snow red.

“This is madness,” Ser Davos said.

“Ser Axell, bring me the heads of these traitors for the murder of Ser Narbet Grandison and bring me those girls!” Selyse yelled and the other knights pulled their swords.

The knight in front of Sandor made an attempt to grab Sansa's arm, but Sandor hacked his arm off before taking his head with one swift stroke.

The knights stormed into battle, but they underestimated the ferocity of Northmen defending their people and one knight after another fell to their swords until only three were left and two wounded.

They retreated to their Queen, while Sandor just freed his blade out of the shoulder of one knight that sigil showed a blue five-pointed star, he had nearly split in half when the knight had attempted to grab her sister, while Maege Mormont was fighting another knight.

“My husband will take your heads for what you did when he returns!” Selyse yelled and retreated into the tower with her remaining knights.

“That was a show,” the red bearded wildling commented. He and his wildlings had watched the whole scene.

“Lady Melisandre, we need you,” Ser Davos said and the Red Woman came over from where she had stood the whole time. She hadn’t followed her Queen back into the tower.

The Red Woman followed them back into the room where Jon lay. Sansa felt a chill run down her spine in Lady Melisandre’s presence. The Red Woman wasn’t sure if she could do it but she tried.

Sansa felt her tears fall freely down her face, while she held Arya’s hand next to her.

The Red Woman spoke prayers in High Valyrian and cut off some of Jon's hair and beard, after she washed his wounds. She spoke the prayers over and over again, but nothing happened.

The Lords whispered their condolences to her, but Sansa didn’t really hear them as they left alongside Tormund, Edd and Davos.

Sandor stayed with them as she held her little sister, who was openly crying, in her embrace. Ghost seemed to grieve too. He laid still on the ground and didn’t move.

Sansa had to think of Lady and that she would have become that large. Her thoughts were interrupted when Ghost lifted his head and looked at the body of his master.

Suddenly, Jon opened his eyes and desperately gasped for air. All three were staring unbelieving at Jon.

He sat up, but when he tried to get up, he nearly collapsed again, but was caught by Davos who had returned. Davos wrapped him in his cloak.

“Easy, easy. Easy,” Davos said. “What do you remember?”

“They stabbed me,” Jon muttered. “Olly...he put a knife in my heart. I shouldn’t be here.”

“The lady Melisandre brought you back,” Davos said.

Jon looked up and noticed her and Arya’s presence.

“Arya?” he asked unbelieving. “Sansa?”

“Yes, Jon, it’s us,” Arya said sobbing and laughing at the same.

Jon lifted his hand and ruffled Arya's hair. “Little sister. I missed you,” he said and looked over to Sansa.

Is he happy that I am here? Does he only see the cold sister he had in me?

“Sansa, I am so glad you are here too,” he said smiling. And Sansa was relieved to hear his words. Jon pulled them both into an embrace, still sitting on the floor, and Sansa felt her tears still flow freely, but now out of happiness.

Jon loosened the embrace slightly. “I remember you,” he said. “You came with King Robert to Winterfell. You were the shield of Joffrey.”

“Aye, I was, but these days are long gone,” Sandor said.

“Where are they?” Jon asked Davos.

“Edd put them in chains, but your sister already killed Olly with that little sword of hers.”

Jon looked at Arya and touched the pommel of her sword that hang around her hip. “You still have Needle,” Jon said admiring.

“Yes, and Sansa still has her sewing needles,” Arya said laughing.

 

***

 

Jon ordered that he wanted to deal with the traitors quickly. Sansa and the others waited in the courtyard, while Jon dressed up. In the meantime, Edd and the other Night's Watch brothers brought the remaining mutineers outside and built gallows.

Jon came outside and everybody turned to him as he walked down the stairs to the courtyard. The red bearded wildling walked to Jon. “They think you’re some kind of god. The man who returned from the dead.”

“I’m not a god,” Jon answered.

“I know that.” Tormund moved closer to Jon and whispered to him. “I saw your pecker. What kind of god would have a pecker that small?”

Jon and Tormund both chuckle. Jon spotted Edd, they embraced.

“Your eyes are still grey. Is that still you in there?”

“I think so. Hold off on burning my body for now.”

Edd laughed lightly. “That’s funny. You sure that’s still you in there?”

Jon laughed again and Edd clapped his shoulder. Jon finally headed to the gallows where the traitors were already waiting. Sansa stood next to her sister and Sandor had his arm placed around her shoulder.

“If you have any last words, now is the time,” Jon said.

“You shouldn’t be alive. It’s not right,” the first man said.

“Neither was killing me.”

“My mother's still living at White Harbor. Could you write her? Tell her I died fighting the wildings,” the second one, an older man, said.

“I had a choice, Lord Commander. Betray you or betray the Night’s Watch. You brought an army of wildlings into our lands. An army of murderers and raiders. If I had to do it all over knowing where I’d end up, I pray I’d make the right choice again,” Ser Alliser said.

“I’m sure you would, Ser Alliser.”

“I fought, I lost. Now I rest. But you, Lord Snow, you’ll be fighting their battles forever.”

Jon cut the rope without hesitation and the platform is pulled out from under the traitors’ feet. They fidget for a while before hanging still. The cold wind made the bodies swing lightly.

“We should burn the bodies,” Edd said.”

“You should,” Jon answered and took off his cape and handed to his friend.

“What do you want me to do with this?”

“Wear it. Burn it. Whatever you want. You have Castle Black,” Jon said as he walked down the stairs towards his sisters. “My watch is ended.”

Chapter Text

He was here. He shouldn’t be here. He had been dead. Murdered by the men he had thought his brothers. Murdered for doing what was right. Now he watched the men that murdered him swing on the gallows.

“My watch has ended,” he had told Edd. He had lived and died on his post. He owed the Night's Watch nothing. His sisters had returned to him and they were the family he now owed responsibility to.

After handing the responsibility of Castle Black over to Edd, one of the Lords that has arrived with her sisters, told him they need to speak with him. Jon knew that man. Lord Galbart Glover had often traveled to Winterfell to visit his father. Father in return had taken Jon and Robb on visits to Deepwood Motte.

Another Lord that had introduced himself as Howland Reed had told they could talk the next day, so he could properly reunite with his siblings.

Before he had returned to his room with his siblings, he had told Lady Mormont his condolences for her brother. He had told her the stories of how Lord Commander Mormont had chosen him to be his steward and gifted him Longclaw after saving him from a wight.

Now he was sitting in the room of the Lord Commander close to the fire with his sisters he had believed he would never see again.

Jon didn’t miss how Sansa always stayed close to the Hound. Before Hobb had brought them dinner, Arya had told him how Queen Selyse had wanted to take them prisoners for her husband and how it had played out.

Sansa was sitting next to the Hound, while Arya was sitting next to him.

“This is good soup. Do you remember those kidney pies Old Nan used to make?” Sansa asked.

“With the peas and onions?” Arya asked in return.

“Mmmm.”

“We never should have left Winterfell,” Jon muttered.

“Don’t you wish we could go back to the day we left? I want to scream at myself, “Don’t go, you idiot,”” Sansa said.

“How could we know?” Arya asked.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about what an ass I was to you. I wish I could change everything. I wasn’t the sister I should have been to you.”

“We were children,” Jon said warmly and couldn’t stop wondering what Sansa must have been through to change her so much, that she apologized for things he barely remembered to have happen.

“I was awful, just admit it,” She said.

Arya and Jon had to chuckle.

“Can you forgive me?” Sansa asked carefully. Was she really thinking I would be angry about her?

“There’s nothing to forgive, Sansa.”

“Forgive me,” she said again.

“All right. All right, I forgive you,” Jon said chuckling and took a sip of his ale.

Sansa held her hand out to Clegane and he handed her his horn of ale, after a brief moment of surprise.

Sansa took a sip and then coughed at the taste.

“Not used to the taste of ale, little bird?” the Hound asked Sansa and Jon had to wonder what was going on between them, if he had a pet name for her.

Sansa handed him his horn back, still making faces.

“You’d think after thousands of years, the Night’s Watch would have learned how to make a good ale,” Jon said.

They spent most of the evening together and Sansa and Arya told them of their time in the south with Father and what had happened to them. How they lost their direwolves and Arya told the story of how Yoren had tried to bring her back to Winterfell, but was killed before.

The whole time during the stories of his sisters, he had the feeling Sansa was letting parts out. Maybe he could ask Arya later about it.

Jon in return told them of his beginning in the Night's Watch and how he had a hard time at first to make friends, but in the end found Sam, Edd, Pip and Grenn.

He also told them of the White Walkers and that they were coming. He saw how Sansa's hand searched for Clegane's when he told them of Hardhome and how the Night's King had revived thousands of corpses at the same time.

The sun had disappeared behind the horizon hours ago and the night had fallen over Castle Black, when Sansa said she was getting tired and wanted to go to bed. Jon wished her a good night and she left with the Hound in tow.

Arya stayed with him saying, that she wasn’t that tired yet. Jon ruffled her hair like he had done so often Arya had been a young girl.

But his sisters weren’t girls anymore, Jon had thought as he had watched his sisters playing with Ghost. Both had grown a lot since the last time he had seen them in Winterfell. Arya had grown into a pretty young lady and Sansa looked like a far more beautiful version of Lady Catelyn.

Arya must be fifteen now, since Sansa had mentioned during their talk this evening, that Clegane and Arya had organized a little feast on the ship that had brought them to White Harbor for her seventeenth nameday.

“I missed you terribly,” Arya said.

“I missed you, too, little sister,” he said and ruffled her hair again.

They sat in silence for a while only listening to the cracking of the fire in the fireplace, while Arya absently stroked through Ghost's fur.

“Can I ask you something?” Jon asked.

“Yes, sure.”

“I felt earlier that you two left some parts out of your story and why does Sansa basically cling to the Hound?” Jon asked right away.

“If you can’t see it, then you know nothing Jon. Sansa loves Sandor and he loves her.”

“What?” Jon asked unbelieving. “How is that even possible? She always wanted a knight in a shining armor or a high lord, but never the Lannister Hound.”

“Please stop calling him the Hound. Sansa doesn’t like it and I don’t like it anymore, too. He saved us over and over again. He is an honorable man. And to answer your question. Sansa's wish to marry a knight was beaten out of her in Kings Landing.”

“What do you mean?” Jon asked, unsure. Arya couldn’t really mean it literally for sure.

“Exactly what I said. While I could flee King's Landing, Sansa stayed behind and was at the mercy of Joffrey and he made her bleed for every victory Robb had. She wasn’t an honored guest, but Joffrey plaything. She had to watch Father's head on a spike after witnessing how he died right in front of her eyes. It even went so far that she was stripped and beaten bloody in front of the whole court after what Sansa told me. Sandor was the only one that gave her his cloak to cover herself. She later fled the city, during the battle against Stannis.”

“The last news I heard was that she married a Frey. What was that about? Is it true?”

Arya sighed and rubbed her face. “I will tell you, but only because she would tell you anyway, but it's still painful for her to speak about.”

“Has is something to do, why the Glovers and the others have accompanied you to Castle Black?” Jon asked.

“You will hear why they are here early enough,” Arya said.

“So what is this all about with Sansa?”

Arya started to tell him how Sandor had brought Sansa back to their mother and brother, only to be sent away immediately and how mother thought that the he might have defiled Sansa on their journey.

“I swear if he laid hand on her I will…” Jon said right away, but was interrupted by Arya.

“He never did anything to her,” Arya said to stop him. “He actually saved her from being raped back in King's Landing, she told me. No, they needed her maidenhead intact, to make up for Robb's mistakes,” Arya said with a hint of sadness and anger in her voice. How could Sansa's maidenhood make up for Robbs mistakes? Arya seemed to know what he wanted to ask.

Arya continued to tell him how Lady Catelyn had arranged a match between Robb and one of Lord Freys daughters in exchange for crossing the river and his support in the war.

“And Robb broke that promise?”

“He did. With a woman from Volantis he met on the battlefield. Robb lost all the Frey soldiers and when the Lannisters and Tyrells made an alliance, he had to crawl back to Lord Frey to get the soldiers, so he could ultimately triumph against the Lannisters, after taking back the North from the Ironborn.”

“So he offered Sansa?”

Arya sighed and continued to tell him how their uncle Edmure was to marry a Frey, but how their mother offered Sansa, ignoring all her begging and pleading, to show Lord Frey the Starks could be trusted again. She also told him how excited Robb was that these matches came together.

“Gods, I nearly don’t recognize Robb by your tale anymore. I can't believe he changed so much he would make his sister miserable, because he made a mistake,” Jon said and scratched his beard. “And in the meantime, the Ho…I mean Clegane brought you back to the Twins?” Jon asked.

“Yes. Gods, I can tell you he couldn’t stop talking about Sansa. Little bird here, Sansa there,” Arya said chuckling. Arya face suddenly became stern, when she started to tell him how she experienced the Red Wedding. Jon cringed as she spoke of Sansa's bedding as the Stark army was decimated. How she could hear the screams through the window.

“By the Gods. You two have been through so much.” Jon said. “But how did you free Sansa then?”

“We first thought her dead alongside Mother and Robb, but then we overheard soldiers speak off how Sansa should be sent south, because Joffrey demanded her. We found our great uncle, who had luckily escaped the Twins and we waited for the Frey train. We managed to kill them as they made camp that night. Sandor killed Sansa's husband, who was more boy than man, after he boasted how he ravished his Stark bitch.”

Jon felt the anger rise in him and clenched a fist, to keep himself from breaking something. How could someone willingly hurt such a gentle soul as Sansa had been?

“I see,” Jon said. “It's good that Clegane watched over you. And when did it become more between Sansa and him?”

“Don’t know. I guess they loved each other for a long time by then, but they first admitted it, as we had to stay on the Quiet Isle, after Sandor got wounded, protecting us. It was my fault. I wanted to get Needle back, from the man that had stolen it, after they killed Yoren.”

“And is he good to her?” Jon asked. He wouldn’t allow either of his sisters to ever be hurt again. Both had suffered enough, one way or another and he had to make sure that Sansa was in good hands.

“Just watch them and see for yourself. You will see that Father would agree with him, even if he sometimes has a colorful language sometimes.”

“I still have a hard time to imagine Sansa with someone like him,” Jon said.

“She isn’t the girl we both knew in Winterfell anymore. The girl that fancied Joffrey and couldn’t sleep for a month, when she heard of the royal visit is gone. The girl that wanted a handsome prince, high Lord or knight in shining armor as husband has disappeared. As am I not the girl I was in Winterfell, too. We both have grown into women, formed by pain and sorrow,” Arya said with a hint of sadness and Jon felt a sting of pain in his heart, because he knew it was true.

His sisters weren’t the girls anymore he had known. “You are right.” Jon said. “You both have changed so much. I only remember you to arguing all the time.”

Arya laughed. “Yes, that’s true, Sansa and I talked a lot about it. We now see that we have to be a pack to survive in this world. The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. We are a pack, Jon. Three wolves and a hound.”

“Three wolves and a hound,” Jon said. “I missed you both so horribly.”

“We missed you, too,” Arya said widely grinning and Jon ruffled her hair again.

Arya yawned. “It's getting late,” she said, getting out of her chair. Arya flung her arms around his middle and he felt the soreness of his half healed stabbing wounds. He still couldn’t believe he had been dead this morning.

“It’s good you are here, little sister,” he said and kissed the crown of her hair, before she left his room.

 

***

 

The next morning, he broke his fast with his sisters and Clegane. He really seemed to make Sansa happy, since she always gave him small smiles and blushed lightly when he noticed it.

After the breakfast, they met with the Lords in his old working chamber. Lord Robett Glover started. “Jon Snow, we are here on the behalf of King Robb. He gave my brother Galbart and Lady Mormont a letter to be opened should something happen to him before his wife gave birth to a healthy son. It contained his last will.”

Lord Glover handed him the letter and Jon read quickly.

Jon couldn’t believe what he read. Robb had disinherited his own sisters. He shot them a short glance and saw that they didn’t look surprised. They obviously had already known. Gods, he thought, Robb had already called Sansa a Frey. Then it suddenly it dawned on him what he had read.

“…declare my brother Jon Snow my heir,” he murmured.

“Yes, your king legitimized you as Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell and King in the North,” Lord Glover said.

“But how could he?” Jon asked unbelieving. He was never meant to become Lord of Winterfell. He was just a bastard. He had often dreamed how it would be for him to be Lord of Winterfell, but not if that meant his sisters were disinherited.

“Jon, Robb wanted you as his heir,” Sansa said calmly. “You are the new King in the North, since Robb didn’t want us to have any claim to Winterfell, but we hoped we could at least stay in Winterfell, until we have found a home.”

“This is madness…” Jon muttered. How could his sisters even think that he wouldn’t let them stay?

“You are the new King,” Lady Mormont said.

“It's not just. Winterfell belongs to Sansa. She is the eldest trueborn child. Winterfell belongs to her and Arya. I told so King Stannis and I tell you the same now,” Jon said sternly.

“But your brother…” Robett Glover started.

“I don’t care about my brother's will. It wasn’t just to punish my sisters by taking their home, because he married the wrong woman. I won't allow it,” Jon said seriously.

“You may call me your king, but I will name Sansa and Arya my heir and then abdicate immediately.”

“You would give up Winterfell for your sisters?” Lord Reed asked.

“I will. I will fight for my family against the Boltons, but you won’t convince me to steal the home of my sisters, because of my brother’s sins,” he said and smiled at his sisters, who looked like a wonder had just happened right in front of their eyes.

The Lords shared looks and then Lord Reed stood up. “Then it's decided. King Jon Stark, abdicates his crown for his heir, Sansa of House Stark,” Lord Reed declared.

“The North will fight behind you, Lady Stark. As soon as the Boltons have paid the price for their treachery you will be crowned in Winterfell.”

“Aye!” The other lords and Lady Mormont yelled and Jon nodded to his sisters, who had tears in their eyes.

Chapter Text

Sandor was impressed. Both from the Wall as well as the behavior of Sansa's brother. He really was as honorable as Sansa's father had been. He knew no man that would give up the chance of becoming king or a lord of a great house. Least of all for his sister.

Sandor wasn’t too sure if the Lords were as happy with the development as the girls were, but maybe Sandor had yet to know many things about the North and its people. In the south, they would never fight for the birthright of a woman, if she didn’t have a strong lord at her side.

Sansa had told him that the North and its people were different from the rest of Westeros. She had even told him how a man once took the Stark name when he married the only Stark daughter that was the heir, when Sandor had asked her one night during their travel how the law of the North would handle their relationship, should they ever marry someday.

Sansa had smiled widely at him, when she had asked him if he would take the Stark name. Many men only cared about their legacy and that their name existed further, but Sandor didn’t care about this. He didn’t care if the Clegane name would die out and he didn’t care that he would only become Sansas Prince Consort, when she would be crowned. Sandor only cared about his little bird and of course he would take the Stark name for her.

After the meeting with the Lords, Jon had led them to the top of the Wall and showed them the land north of it.

It was pretty impressing to stand on top of the world, even if the weather didn’t allow it to look to far in the distance.

The whole time he made sure that Sansa and the little wolf were close to him. He didn’t trust the brothers of the Night's Watch. It was well known that many of them were rapists that had preferred the Wall over gelding. Should one of them only give one of the girls a look he would make up for it.

The Wildlings on the other hand were mostly decent men as far he could see. That Tormund seemed to keep them in line properly.

They were just walking back to the great hall where they would eat lunch, when a former brother of Jon Snow came running to him and handed him a letter that had arrived by raven.

Jon frowned at seeing it sealed with the flayed man. They called the Lords and Ser Davos to the hall and broke the seal. Sandor sat next to Sansa as Jon read.

To the traitor and bastard Jon Snow,
You allowed thousands of wildlings past the Wall. You have betrayed your own kind and you've betrayed the North. Winterfell belongs to House Bolton, bastard, come and see.
Your brother Rickon is in my dungeon. His direwolf's skin is on my floor, come and see.
Your false king is dead. I want the false king's queen. I want his daughter and his red witch.
Send her to me, bastard, and I will not trouble you or your wildling lovers.
Keep them from me and I will ride North to slaughter every wildling man, woman, and babe living under your protection. You will watch as I skin them living. You will watch as my soldiers take turns raping your sister. You will watch as my dogs devour your wild little brother. Then I will spoon your eyes from their sockets and let my dogs do the rest. Come and see.
Ramsay Bolton, Trueborn son of Roose Bolton Lord of Winterfell and the Dreadfort Warden of the North.”

“So, Stannis has been defeated,” Lord Reed simply said.

“What sister is he talking about?” Jon asked.

“They brought a girl north that they married to the bastard saying it is your sister Arya, to legitimize their claim to Winterfell,” Lady Mormont explained.

“I will have to tell Queen Selyse,” Davos muttered before leaving the room.

Sandor had never liked Selyse Baratheon back in King's Landing. She had been as crazy as Lysa Arryn.

“What now?” Arya asked.

“We need an army and we need to know whats going on in Winterfell,” Galbart Glover said.

“I will send ravens to Bear Island. Maybe my daughter has heard news of the Northmen that had marched with Stannis,” Lady Mormont said.

“I told Stannis to travel over the mountain clans and then retake Deepwood Motte from the Ironborn.” Jon said.

“Let’s hope Stannis didn’t burned everything down.” Lord Glover said.

“He wrote he has Rickon,” Sansa said and everybody turned to her.

“Could be a bluff. Your brothers are dead, aren’t they?” Robett Glover said.

“Yes, they have been murdered by Theon, but why would he write it explicitly in the letter if everybody believes them dead anyway?” Sansa threw in.

“The little bird has a point,” Sandor growled. “Why mentioning their brother if he is dead?”

“Maybe it’s just a bait by the bastard. It is well known that he has a liking for games. Maybe he wants us to make rush into a trap,” Lord Reed said. “After all, he somehow tricked the Ironborn at Moat Cailin into surrendering, only to flay them alive. Lord Bolton might have ordered him to lure out Stark supporter.”

“Aye, we might wait until we get answer from the Bear Island,” Lady Mormont said and the others nodded in agreement.

Loud voices could be heard from the outside and suddenly Edd Tollett stormed into the room breathlessly explaining they had a situation outside at the tower where Selyse Baratheon was living.

The group left the main hall and already saw Ser Davos with his sword in his hand in front of the door, where most of the remaining knights of the Queen where guarding the door. They were ready to fight obviously.

“What is that about?” Jon yelled as they crossed the yard.

“She is just a girl!” Davos yelled at the knight right in front of him. “Her father wouldn’t allow that!”

“We are doing this for the Lord of Light,” The knights answered sternly.

“Davos! What is going on?” Jon asked.

“The Red Woman. She wants to burn Shireen alive as sacrifice for the Lord of Light! Queen Selyse agreed to it before she stabbed herself with a knife, after hearing of her husband’s defeat and the knights threw me out of the tower!” Davos said desperately.

“Step aside, Ser!” Jon yelled.

“Fuck off, bastard. You and your northern scum won't disturb the work of the Lord of Light,” Ser Whitewater said and grabbed his sword tighter.

Jon unsheathed his sword and drove it deep into the knight's guts. The Valyrian steel completely ignored the heavy armor of the knight. Davos killed the second knight standing guard and both men entered the tower.

Sandor kissed Sansa on her forehead and pulled his own sword storming into the tower. If he had the chance to save that young girl from a horrible death in flames, he had to do it.

He ran up the stairway until he reached the highest floor. The sound of fighting could be already heard on half way up, always interrupted by the desperate screams of a girl to stop this.

As Sandor reached the top floor, he immediately drove his blade in the back of a knights that had tried to attack Jon from behind.

Lady Melisandre had built some kind of pyre out of furniture’s and Shireen was lying upon the pile. Her hands and legs were tied up.

“Get the girl!” Sandor yelled to Jon.

Sandor and Davos took care of the remaining knights and as he turned to the pyre, he saw the red woman lying in a pool of her own blood, with Jon kneeling next to her.

“I saved you,” the red woman said, as Davos cut the girls ties and held her in his arms.

“You did and I am thankful you for it, because of my sisters, but I couldn’t allow this to happen,” Jon said.

“The real war is about to start Jon Snow. I saw it in the flames.”

“I guess you saw many things in the flames,” Jon said and the body of the red woman slumped.

They left the tower and Jon ordered some men to burn the bodies and take the weapons and armor for the Watch.

Davos took care of Shireen and carried her off to take care of her.

 

***

 

That night he lay in his bed with Sansa safely nestled in his arms. “Why did you help Jon and Davos?” Sansa asked absently, stroking her delicate fingers over his chest.

“Nobody deserves to die by burning and that girl least of all,” he said.

“You knew her from your time in Kings Landing right?”

“Aye. Joffrey that little shit always liked to torment her for her face. Always compared her to me and told her she would become his second dog, when he was king.”

“And nobody said anything?”

“Her father was never present when it happened and when she told him, Joffrey always said it were lies and that cunt Cersei always stood on the side of her breed. Her mother wasn’t a great help either. Selyse never cared about her daughter. She was fanatic to give Stannis a son. She was nearly as crazy as your aunt Lysa,” Sandor said.

“In the end, I always tried to keep Joffrey as well away from her as possible, so they only saw each other on family activities, where he couldn’t torment her without risking his uncle’s wrath.”

“That poor girl,” Sansa said sadly.

“Aye, but Davos will take good care of her. He was the father to her Stannis never was.”

“I hope so, Sandor,” she said and snuggled closer to him. Sandor stared at the ceiling and Sansa must have felt his restlessness. “What is on your mind Sandor?” The little bird asked and her finger ghosted over his scared cheek.

“Do you think children we might have someday, won’t be accepted because they have my blood? After all the Clegane blood isn’t known to carry the best features.” Sandor started.

“They will be accepted my love. Every time the North will look at our children, they will only see your traits and mine in them. You are not your brother, Sandor, and the Lords that have accompanied us can see that too.” Sansa said warmly.

“I just don’t want them to be treated strangely, because someone might think them the children of the Lannister dog.”

“That won’t happen Sandor. They will be Starks” Sansa said. “And you will be a Stark too. We are a pack and don’t think that you will be less Stark, because you only took my name. My father would tell you the same if he could.”

“How do I deserve someone like you at my side?” Sandor said.

“I am exactly who you deserve Sandor.” She said and kissed his cheek.

“Will you marry me before we leave Castle Black?” Sansa asked.

“You sure you want to marry me here? Not in Winterfell, when we took it back?”

“We both know that it’s not clear we are going to make it. Our campaign could be our downfall. Either way I want you to be my husband.” Sansa said. “So, will you marry me?”

“Of course, I will, little bird. I love you so much.” Sandor said and Sansa smiled up.

“I love you, Sandor.”

Sandor placed a small kiss on her lips. “My little bird.” He buried his face in her hair as she placed her head on his shoulder, the thick furs over them. He heard Sansa, nearly asleep, murmur ´my brave and gentle Hound´ before they both fell asleep, safe and sound, tangled with each other.

 

***

 

The next morning Sandor wasn’t really hungry and told Sansa he would give Stranger a good brush, after all the weeks on the road, while she wanted to break her fast with her siblings and tell them that they wanted to marry.

His black beast wasn’t happy that he hadn’t gotten the attention he thought he deserved, so he was unrulier than usual. “If you bite my nose or finger off, I can promise you that the little bird will do the same to you,” Sandor murmured to the horse as he just dodged the horse snapping after his hand when he had tried to brush Strangers shoulder. “And I can tell you the little bird has sharp talons. She doesn’t often show them, but I promise you, they are sharp and can hurt.”

He still couldn’t nearly believe what a lucky man he was. He still often thought himself in a dream every morning he awoke with Sansa nestled against him. And now she would become his wife.

He heard someone enter the stable and he looked over his shoulder and saw that it was Sansa's brother, who had come to visit him.

“What can I do for you, Jon Stark?” Sandor rasped as he returned to brush down his black beast.

“My sister told me that you want to marry.”

“Aye.”

“Both my sisters speak highly of you. They both told me what you have done for them and I saw myself how you care for them. Arya also told me about Sansa's treatment in King Landing and what Lady Catelyn and Robb did.” Jon walked over to him. “It's good to know that my sister has someone that doesn’t hurt her or only wants her for her claim. I still don’t know you too well, but if my sisters think you an honorable man I believe them.”

Jon held his hand out to him and Sandor shook it.

“We are both now part of the Stark family now Cle…I mean Sandor.”

“Aye. We will take back Winterfell. For your sisters,” Sandor said and Jon nodded seriously.

“Open the gates!” the guard on top of the gate yelled.

“What the hells?” Jon asked and went outside followed by Sandor. The provisionally repaired gates opened slowly and a single rider slowly rode into the courtyard.

The rider stopped and the courtyard filled with curious eyes.

Sansa and Arya had come out of the great hall accompanied by the Lords.

The rider climbed off the horse and threw back her hood revealing the long yet pretty face of a brown-haired girl. She must be around Sansa's age Sandor guessed. She had blue-grey eyes and her mattered hair was braided into a simple northern braid, the way Sansa now preferred her hair. Her cloak was held together by silver brooch showing the northern sun.

She seemed to recognize Jon, since she turned to him. “My name is Alys Karstark and I beg for help.”

Chapter Text

“Alys Karstark?” Jon asked, surprised.

“Yes, we met before. My father Rickard visited Winterfell when we were younger,” Alys said in a hopeful voice.

“I remember Lady Alys,” Sansa said and then she turned to Sansa, obviously surprised to see her. “You danced with my brother Robb and I danced with one of your brothers during the feast.”

“By the gods. Lady Sansa. I would have never expected you here,” Alys Karstark said. “I rode as fast as I could from Karhold.”

“Then please come inside Lady Alys, you are nearly frozen,” Jon said and led the way.

Sansa held onto Sandor's arm as they walked the way into the great hall.

“You know her, little bird?” Sandor asked in a whisper.

“Yes, Father once told me that her father planned to make a match between her and Robb. Robb was eight and she was six. Mother made me dance with one of her elder brothers. With Harrion or Torrhen, I don’t remember anymore,” Sansa said.

“Did you think him gallant?” Sandor asked teasing.

“Of course, but back then I was a stupid child and I didn’t know you,” Sansa said laughing.

They entered the great hall and sat down at the large table. A Night's Watch brother brought them all spiced wine to warm them up and Edd Tollett brought a bowl of hot stew for Lady Alys.

“Lord Glover, Lady Mormont, I wouldn’t have expected you here either,” Alys said kindly. “I don’t know you unfortunately,” she added a little embarrassed.

“This is my sister Arya, Lady Alys. You might remember her from your visit. This is Lord Howland Reed,” Sansa said.

“Lady Arya?” Alys said slightly unbelieving. “But if you are here, who is the girl in Winterfell?”

“Some girl the Boltons presented as my sister. Why are you here Lady Alys?” Sansa asked.

“You are my only hope, Lady Sansa. In your father’s name, I beg you. Protect me,” she said desperately, tears pooling in her grey-blue eyes.

“But from whom, Lady Alys?” Lady Mormont asked warmly.

“My family. My uncle and my cousins,” she said and a sob made her shake. “My uncle Arnolf wants to force me to marry my cousin Cregan, so he can steal Karhold from me. Cregan is a cruel old man. He will kill me, when he has his heir.”

Jon grabbed her hand over the table, much to everyone’s surprise. “We will protect you my lady,” Jon said seriously.

“Of course we will, but why does your uncle want you to marry your cousin?” Sansa said.

“My uncle is a traitor!” she said. “He is allied with Roose Bolton. As are his sons.”

“But he marched with Stannis Baratheon against the Boltons,” Lord Reed questioned.

“He plans to turn on Stannis and the other Northmen, should it come to battle.” Alys admitted.

Lord Glover had his arms crossed in front of his chest.

“This must be the reason Stannis lost against the Boltons. He was one of the best commanders in Westeros.” Galbart Glover said frowning.

“The battle already happened?” Alys yelped.

“Yes, my lady, why are you asking?” Lord Reed said and Alys turned to Sansa and Arya, who was sitting left of her.

“I am so very sorry, my ladies. My cousins gave your little brother to the Boltons as wedding gift for Ramsay Bolton.”

“So its true what the bastard wrote,” Sandor rasped behind her.

“How did he end up with your family, my lady?” Sansa asked seriously.

“I am so sorry, my lady, I didn’t know we had him. Since my father marched south with your brother Robb, with my three brothers, my uncle didn’t allow me much freedom. One day a servant told me a wildling woman with a young boy stood at the gates with a large dog. When I asked my uncle he said he had dealt with them. I only recognized that it had to be your brother, because I saw him for a brief moment, when my cousins marched to Winterfell for the wedding. He looked like your brother Robb at that age. I am so sorry, my ladies,” Alys pleaded desperately, probably fearing the anger of the present people.

“Lady Alys,” Sansa started and the girl looked at her like she feared she would order to take of her head.

“You have nothing to fear from us. We will protect you and bring the traitors to justice and you will be the official Lady of Karhold,” Sansa said and the other Lords agreed.

“Thank you, Lady Sansa, thank you. I will always be loyal to House Stark,” Alys declared relieved.

“What's the plan?” Arya asked. “We cant let Rickon die by Bolton hand.”

“Aye, but we have no army and we have no idea if any Northmen that marched with Stannis are still alive,” Robett Glover said.

“We have the wildlings,” Jon said.

“That can only be a bad jape, Jon Stark,” Galbart Glover said. “They are our enemies.”

“Still they helped us to get Castle Black back,” Sansa said to Lord Glover.

“They are just humans like you and me Lord Glover. We both worship the same gods and in our veins, floats the same blood of the first men. The only difference is that we are south of the Wall and they were born north,” Sansa continued. “And when the White Walkers come, we need all the help we can get. If they swear to accept the laws of the North, they will be allowed to settle in the new gift.”

Somebody knocked on the door of the hall and a man of the Night's Watch looked inside. “A raven arrived for Lady Mormont,” he said and handed over the raven scroll to the Lady of the Bear Island.

While Lady Mormont broke the seal and read the letter, Alys leaned over the table towards Sansa. “My lady, I thought your brother was a Snow?” she asked in a whisper.

“He was but our brother Robb legitimized him before his death and disinherited me and my sister,” Arya said, before Sansa had the chance. “But Jon renounced the crown after he made Sansa his heir, so she could become the rightful lady of Winterfell again.”

Alys seemed to be taken aback. “Your brother is an honorable man.”

“He is,” Sansa said smiling and Jon, who had listened to them, looked sheepish.

“The letter is from my daughter Lyanna,” Lady Mormont declared.

“She doesn’t write much, but my other daughter Alysane apparently wrote her that she and the remaining Northmen managed to retreat to Deepwood Motte.”

“Then, the course is clear. We ride to Deepwood Motte and unite our forces,” Robett Glover said.

“Jon, can you bring Tormund here?” Sansa asked and Jon nodded and left the room.

“I agree Lord Glover, but we might need every man we can get to win this war. We should follow Stannis´ steps and visit the Mountain Clans, we will need them on our side. They might have given Stannis men, but they probably will still have some left. We need them,” Sansa explained and got acknowledging nods by the Lords.

“We should also visit the Bear Island. Might be there will still be some warriors left I suppose,” Lady Mormont said. “This war is a fight to win or to die. There is no middle ground against the Boltons. If we lose, we die. If we win, they die.”

“Our ancestors made the mistake to allow House Bolton to exist. I will make up for that mistake,” Sansa declared.

Jon returned with Tormund. “I have already explained the situation to him, Sansa,” Jon said.

“Lady Stark,” Tormund began. “Will the freefolk become part of the North, if we help you?”

“If you respect the laws of the land and its people, the freefolk will become a part of the North. I swear it on the old gods,” Sansa said.

“Then we have a deal, Lady Stark,” Tormund declared and clapped Jon shoulder.

“We should try to ride today. We can’t afford to waste any time and give Lord Bolton time to build a strong defense,” Lord Reed said.

“Aye, you are right, Lord Reed,” Robett Glover agreed.

“No.” Sansa interrupted and all eyes turned on her. “We ride tomorrow. Today we have to celebrate a wedding.”

Sansa turned around and grabbed Sandor's hand. “Victory or death are the only options in this war. If we die, I want to have him as my husband. Marry me. Today,” Sansa said to the man she loved.

“Hear hear,” Lady Mormont said.

“Lady Sansa, are you sure about this?” Robett Glover asked.

“I am. Sandor Clegane will become my lord husband and he will become Sandor Stark. You have all seen how loyal and brave he is.”

“Aye, we have,” Galbart Glover said and clapped his brother on the shoulder.

“Cheer up, Robett. Clegane might be an unusual choice, but he is better than a Frey and House Stark will continue.”

“There is a weirwood a mile north of the wall, where the men that believe in the old gods swear their vows.”

“Good, then its decided,” Lord Reed said.

“I will have Hobb make venison roasts for the feasts. It's not much, but for the sister of Jon only the best,” Edd said.

“Don’t get yourself into troubles. We can celebrate the large feast, when we take back Winterfell. Until then some warm food will do,” Sansa told him, smiling.

“Lady Mormont, it would be an honor for me if you would lead the ceremony,” Sansa told the warrior lady.

“It will be an honor my lady. I will gladly do it,” Lady Mormont declared, happily smiling.

“Jon, could you ask Ser Davos if he and Shireen want to attend? It might distract her a little from the latest events. You, Lady Alys, are of course also welcomed to attend,” Sansa said, smiling kindly.

Lady Alys started to smile and nodded happily. It felt strange for Sansa that this young woman on the other side of the table owed her fealty, even if she was the same age.

 

***

 

A few hours later they rode beyond the Wall to the weirwood, where she would marry for a second time.

After she had been freed of Wendel, she couldn’t stand the thought of marrying again, but this time she would marry the man that loved her as much as she loved him. A man that showed her respect, not because she was the lady of a great house, but as a woman.

Sandor already waited at the weirwood next to Lady Mormont, Ser Davos behind Shireen. The girl looked as good as the circumstances allowed. The Glover brothers stood next to Lord Reed and Arya stood next Alys Karstark.

The four men Lord Reed had taken with him waited with the horses.

Sansa held onto Jon's arm as she walked down the aisle to the three.

The last time she had held on the arm of her brother it had been Robb and she had been anxious of the things, with this unknown man, no Wendel has been a boy, Robb and Mother had forced her to marry, ahead of her.

But this time it was different. Instead of fighting back tears of fear and anger, when she had seen Wendel, she now smiled widely as she saw Sandor waiting for her smiling himself.

I hope you watch this moment, Father, Sansa thought as she walked the last steps.

“Who comes before the Old Gods?” Lady Mormont asked.

Jon spoke up. “Sansa of the House Stark comes here to be wed. A woman grown and flowered, trueborn and noble. She comes to beg the blessings of the gods. Who comes to claim her?"

“Sandor of House Clegane. Who gives her?"

Sansa smiled. She had taught Sandor the right words for the ceremony on their ride to the weirwood.

“Jon of House Stark, her brother. But Lady Sansa gives herself to this man.”

“Lady Sansa, do you take this man and make him Sandor Stark?"

Sansa fixed her blue eyes with Sandor's grey ones. “I take this man,” Sansa smiling at him. Sansa stepped in front of Sandor.

Traditionally Sandor would now cloak her and they would speak a short prayer in silence to the gods, but since Sandor was taking the Stark name Sansa instead handed him a token as sign of her accepting him in her family.

Sansa gave him a handkerchief she had embroidered in secret while they stayed in Greywater Watch. It was similar to the one she had made for him, while she had traveled to the Twins. The one that her mother had found as she and Talisa had made her ready and thrown into the fireplace.

Sandor traced the delicately embroidered black dog and red wolf with his large finger. Their noses touched, so it looked like they were kissing. He put it away into his sleeve, before he placed a gentle kiss on Sansa's lips to end the ceremony and make them officially husband and wife.

The people present started to cheer and applaud. Arya looked happy and Alys Karstark had tears in her eyes, while she applauded happily. Lady Mormont gave her a hug and congratulated the new Lord Stark. Jon and Arya embraced her widely smiling and Sansa's heart filled with warmth that this time she was surrounded by happy people.

Sansa held onto Sandor's arm and couldn’t stop smiling widely as the other Lords and Lady Alys congratulated them. Davos congratulated her in honest and Shireen made a curtsy as she gave her congratulation.

They just wanted to make their way back to the horses, when the bushes behind the weirwood rustled.

The Lords had also heard the sound and turned around with their hands on their weapons. Some shapes came around the tree and Sansa's eyes widened.

“By the Gods,” was all that escaped her mouth.

Chapter Text

Sansa couldn’t believe her eyes, as she saw her little brother, in the strong arms of Hodor, stepped out of the bushed behind the weirwood.

“By the gods,” she heard herself murmur.

“That can't be,” Arya murmured.

“Hello, sisters,” Bran said. “It's been a long time.”

“Father?” the young woman that stood next Hodor asked, wearing wildling clothing.

“Meera?” Lord Reed asked and walked towards her. The girl dropped her baggage and ran into the arms of her father.

“Hodor, put me down,” Bran said.

“Hodor,” the large man answered and sat Bran carefully down. Arya and Sansa immediately throw themselves in their little brother's arms and Jon hugged all three of them.

“We all thought you were dead,” Sansa said and had trouble to fight back her tears.

“I know. Rickon and I escaped Winterfell with the help of Osha, a wildling woman. I sent Rickon away with her to hide in Skagos or Karhold, until Robb came back,” Bran said.

“Robb is dead, Bran, as is Mother and Rickon in the hands of their murderer,” Arya said, her voice choking with emotions.

“I know I saw it. As I saw many other things.”

“Then it's true, what Jojen told me,” Lord Reed said, still hugging his returned daughter. “You are a greenseer.”

“I am sorry for your son, Lord Reed. He died to bring me to the three-eyed raven.”

“I know. He told me he wouldn’t return, but had to go.”

Bran looked at his sisters and Jon before turning to Lord Reed. “Have you told him already?” Bran asked cryptic and Sansa had no idea what he was talking about.

“No. Jojen told me I should wait for you,” the Lord of the Neck said.

“Tell whom what?” Sansa asked and her brother smiled at her.

“Later,” he said and looked to Sandor who stood next to the others watching the reunion in front of them.

“Congratulations on your wedding, Sansa. We didn’t want to disturb the ceremony, but we watched it,” Bran said happily.

“We should go back to Castle Black and talk,” Lord Reed suggested and everybody agreed.

As they rode back to the Wall, Arya asked Bran where Summer was.

“He sacrificed himself so we could flee the cave of the three-eyed raven as the Night's King attacked,” he said sadly.

 

***

 

Before they planned to head to the main hall, where they would hold a large dinner for everybody in Castle Black as a kind of replacement for a large feast, they decided to meet in Jon's former Lord Commander chamber.

“My Lord, your presence changes everything,” Lord Glover said as he had closed the door behind him. Besides the Glover brothers, Lord Reed and Lady Mormont, Lady Alys as rightful Lady of House Karstark was also present. Davos wasn’t present, because it was a business of the North.

“How so?” Bran asked.

“Robb wrote a last will and made me his heir after disinheriting Sansa and Arya, because he thought you and Rickon dead,” Jon said and handed him Robb's last will to read.

“I laid down the crown for Sansa and Arya, because it wasn’t just,” Jon continued.

“But with me reappearing its now in question who is in charge of House Stark.” Bran concluded.

“Exactly, my lord.” Galbart Glover said. “If it goes after the will your brother Robb wrote, your sister Sansa is head of House Stark, with your sister Arya as heir until she has children of her own, because your other brother Jon laid down the crown. But by the law of the land you as, trueborn son of Eddard Stark would have a stronger claim than your sister.”

Sansa hadn’t thought about what it meant that Bran had returned.

“It's all a mess thanks to the young wolf and his stupidity,” Sandor growled, clearly annoyed by the whole situation and Sansa agreed.

“It is,” Bran said and rubbed his face.

Sansa spoke up. “The north will more likely follow the trueborn son of Lord Eddard Stark. We don’t know if they will respect me, because I am a woman or if they believe at all that Arya is the really our sister, since Roose Bolton claims to have her. Bran should be the rightful Lord.”

“Very noble of you, Lady Sansa,” Lady Mormont said.

“I am not interested in power, Lady Mormont. I only want my home back,” Sansa said in honest.

“Then it is decided. Brandon Stark will be the Lord of Winterfell and new King in the North as soon as the Boltons are defeated,” Lord Galbart Glover said.

The Lords and Ladies swore their loyalty to Bran and Sansa was on one hand glad to be freed of the pressure on her shoulders, on the other hand it felt strangely familiar to be cast aside, because she was no man.

Sansa felt Sandor hand on her shoulder and the warmth of feeling loved and safe spread in her chest again.

“My Lord,” Robett Glover said. “As new lord of Winterfell and head of House Stark, you are the only one that can offer your sisters' hands in marriage. Your sister married by her own choice today, but it's still up to you to give consent.”

Sansa looked at Bran and felt nervous. Would he think like Robb? Would Arya and I only be pawns for him?

“I consent to her marriage and name Sansa and Arya my heirs. We don’t know if I will ever be able to father children on my own and after me should come Sansa and her children and after her, Arya and the children she will have,” Bran declared and all Lords and Ladies nodded in agreement.

“I further declare that Jon will continue to bear the Stark name, as will Sansa's new husband,” Bran said and Sansa could only wonder, how he could know of her first marriage.

Bran sighed. “Lord Reed, I think its time,” Bran said.

“Shouldn’t we talk about that in small circle, your grace?” Lord Reed asked.

“No, the more lords and ladies hear of it, the better.”

“What is this about?” Arya asked and everybody else was looking around to get a hint.

“As you all probably know,” Bran started. “Lord Reed accompanied my father to rescue my aunt Lyanna at the edge of the Red Mountains, where Rhaegar Targaryen hid her. It is also known that my aunt died and my father returned North with her bones and his bastard son.” Jon shifted a little on his seat. “The truth is, that it wasn’t his bastard son.”

Murmurs started within the gathered people. “But whose son am I, if I am not the son of Ned Stark?” Jon asked.

“You are the son of our aunt Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen.” Some people gasped in surprise to this information.

“Is it true?” Sansa asked unbelieving. Her father had known all these years and still allowed their mother to treat him badly. And much to Sansa's shame, she had followed her mother’s lead without even thinking about it.

“It is,” Lord Reed said. “I was there and had to swear that I would never tell the world of his existence, shouldn’t it be safe. Lord Eddard feared that the infant would be slaughtered like the other Targaryens. Lyanna Stark told her brother on her dying bed that she had married Rhaegar in secret. Jon Stark is the last son of crown prince Rhaegar and the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.”

“My mother…” Jon said. “And my father…I don’t want the Iron Throne…I am no Targaryen…I am a Stark.”

“You are a Stark to us,” Arya said.

“Why do you reveal this secret now, Lord Reed?” Lady Mormont asked, but Bran answered right away.

“We will need the connection of ice and fire in the wars to come,” Bran said, cryptic.

“I know that this is a lot of news at once, but it's necessary that you know, Jon. You are a Stark and a Targaryen, but you already have chosen who you want to be. I think I speak for me and my sisters when I say that you will always be our brother, even if you are our cousin in truth,” Bran said and Jon nodded, clearly overwhelmed. Bran turned to the Lords. “I am sure the North won’t think Jon as Targaryen, but as Stark,” he said.

“We value a man by his deeds and not by the blood that floats in his veins,” Lord Glover said.

“Your Grace, we planned to march tomorrow to the remaining Northmen that had marched with Stannis in Deepwood Motte after your sister’s wedding. We planned to visit the mountain clans and then a brief visit on the Bear Island to gather all men, before taking back Winterfell and bring the Boltons to justice,” Lord Reed said and Bran nodded in agreement.

“Alright then,” Bran declared. “Enough serious topics for today. This day we celebrate my sister’s wedding. Let us go to the hall and eat and drink and celebrate that my sister found a man worthy of her. Tomorrow we will take back the North.”

“Hear hear!” Lady Mormont cheered.

The group left the chamber of the Lord Commander and went to the great hall. The few remaining men of the Night' s Watch and the wildlings Tormund had brought were already celebrating as they entered the hall and all men raised their cups to the health of bride and groom.

While Sansa as child had always wanted the most exotic meals and drinks at her wedding, she now instead was happy with the juicy venison roast Hobb had made for all of them, the dark ale and the spiced wine.

Sansa still couldn’t really believe that her little brother had returned to them, as she smiled watching him talk to Arya. “Not the feast you would expect for the wedding of a high lady, don’t you think little bird?” Sandor said next to her.

“No, but I don’t care about these things anymore since a long time. I only wished there would be some Dornish Red for you,” Sansa told him, smirking.

“You remember my liking in it?” he asked, a little surprised.

“Of course, ´A flagon of sour red, dark as blood, all a man needs. Or a woman.´ you told me once,” Sansa said. “I will make sure you will have Dornish Red when we take back Winterfell.” She leaned close to his ear. “Until then you will have make up with the taste of your little bird,” she whispered.

“I like the taste of my little bird even more than the one the best Dornish Red so I will be fine,” he whispered chuckling.

“I hope so,” Sansa said, biting her lower lip, feeling a blush warm her cheeks.

Tormund came over to where they sat with a pitcher and the three cups. “A lovely pair you are.” Tormund said laughing. “Did you know that beyond the Wall, a man has to steal his woman to make her his wife?” He poured them each a cup of what looked like milk.

“It's funny that you mention it,” Sansa said. “Sandor already stole me more than once.”

“Hah, then he is truly worthy of you,” Tormund said. “Here, that’s what we drink beyond they Wall.”

Sansa took a sip of the sour goat milk and had to made a face at the taste, making Sandor and Tormund chuckle.

“Better stick to your wine, little bird,” Sandor teased, before giving her a peck on the cheek.

They feasted on everything Castle Black had to offer. Sansa smiled that Shireen looked happy as she talked with Bran and Meera. It was good to see the young girl smile. Sansa only knew too well how that girl must feel at this moment.

Sandor sat with Jon, Alys Karstark and Lady Mormont and was laughing at something the lady of the Bear Island had said, as Hodor put down Bran on the chair next to her.

“It's good to see you happy, Sansa,” Bran said.

“I am happy. I am glad you gave consent, even if you didn’t know Sandor well yet.”

“I know him better than you think Sansa. I am a greenseer. The three-eyed raven showed me many things. He showed me Arya chasing cats in the Red Keep and her time in Harrenhal, but he also showed me how Sandor watched out for you in King's Landing and how he took care of you.”

Sansa was intrigued by Brans visions. “What else did he show you?” Sansa asked.

“I saw your first wedding and how Robb and Mother ignored your pleading, but I also saw how Sandor treats you. He truly is what Father wanted for you and I know he will make a good husband for you. Because of Robb's and Mother's mistakes, our family nearly got annihilated. I love them and I miss them, but to make you and Arya pay for their mistakes wasn’t right, by all means.”

“He had all the chances to exchange me for the Kingslayer and Robb didn’t do it,” Sansa said bitterly. “He had him for so long, but in the end, Mother had to free him, but instead of being happy I was brought back, they sent Sandor away and sold me off as it was my duty.”

Her little brother took her hand and squeezed it lightly. “I know, sweet sister, but now you have someone worthy at your side,” Bran said, smiling warmly at her.

Her little brother was wise beyond his years Sansa thought. “You will be a good Lord of Winterfell,” Sansa told him.

“I hope so. After Robb marched south, I often sat with Maester Luwin and listened to petitions. I hope I will be a worthy lord of Winterfell and King in the North,” he said.

“I am sure you will. You also still have Jon, Arya and me to help you and hopefully Rickon if we can free him,” Sansa said.

“You are right. The wolves are back in the North and we will make Father proud.”

Sansa nodded smiling at him. Arya, Jon and Sandor came over at sat down next to her and Bran.

“Having a good time, little bird?” Sandor asked.

“I am,” she answered widely smiling, as Sandor pressed a kiss to her cheek.

“Is it alright if we leave quietly without a bedding ceremony?” Sansa asked Sandor.

“Of course, if that’s what you want,” he said and Sansa nodded quickly. She couldn’t stand the thought of having her dress ripped off her body, like it had happened at the Twins.

“Good, it would be a shame if your dress would be torn apart, after working on it for so long,” Arya said teasing and the ´siblings´ laughed.

“Have a good night, Sansa,” Jon said before leaving and sitting at the table where Alys sat.

Sansa hugged Arya and Bran, wishing them a good time at the feast, that would probably continue until the ale was gone, before Sandor pulled back her chair and offered his hand to take.

Sansa held onto Sandor's arm as they strolled towards the Kings Tower, where the room they shared was located. The snow fell in silence over Castle Black and the giant wall of ice crunched in the darkness of the northern night.

They entered the chamber and Sansa shivered at the cold air. Since they were in Castle Black, there was no servant to start a fire in the fireplace and lighten up candles in the chamber like it was common for newlyweds on their wedding night. The bed wasn’t the largest, but Sansa didn’t care, since it would mean she could sleep even closer snuggled up to Sandor.

Sandor started the fire in the fireplace and warm light started to flood the room. He came back to her and pressed his lips to hers. Sansa stroked through his beard with her fingers, while she tasted the spiced wine on his lips.

“You're a shivering little bird,” Sandor said with a hint of concern in his raspy voice. Sansa loved that Sandor was always concerned with her wellbeing. Be it when her moonblood was on her and the cramps in her belly plagued her, or when she had become seasick. He always had taken care of her like she was the most precious thing in his life.

“I am just cold, my love,” she said in honesty.

“Then I will see to it that you get warm quickly,” he said with a mischievous smirk and Sansa bit her lower lip as his hands wandered to the lacings of her dress.

He gestured her to turn around so he had access to her lacings. Sansa loosened her simple braid and pulled her hair over her shoulder to reveal the laces.

Sandor kissed his way down her neck, while his fingers slowly undid lacing after lacing. His beard tingled on her skin and Sansa already felt heat spread in her body at the feeling of his hands on her.

This is how my wedding night was supposed to be, Sansa thought. When she had been a girl at the brink of womanhood and started to plan the wedding of her dreams in her head with Jeyne Poole over and over again, she had always imagined her wedding night as the most exciting moment of her life.

Back then, she had no real idea what happened between men and women and she and Jeyne had always giggled about the gossip of the servant girls about that topic.
Sansa had always imagined how the handsome Lord or brave knight she would marry would kiss her like in the stories, before he would whisper sweet words of love in her ear while he would take her maidenhead. Then, she would have his beautiful sons and live as his lady in his castle, like in the songs.

Back then, she had been a naïve little girl and her dream of her wedding night couldn’t have been farther away from her actual wedding night. Forced by her mother and brother to marry a boy she didn’t want and who didn’t care for her wellbeing at all when he took her maidenhead, after jeering at her pleading to be gentle.

Sandor, on the other hand, had always been gentle with her. He had always cared for her feelings and cherished her like Sansa had always dreamed off. Sansa had often thought about how it would have been, if she had given her maidenhood to Sandor.

He had just finished untying her last lace and pushed her dress of her shoulder until it pooled around her feet. Sansa felt his hot breath on her skin as he continued to kiss her throat down to her shoulder, while his left hand traveled up her rip cage under her shift to cup her breast.

She shivered in excitement as her gently started to knead her breast, while his other hand started to wander over her belly down into her smallclothes, where she already felt dampness pool since he started to undo her lacings.

Sansa moaned as Sandor's finger started to explore her folds. Sandor kept her upright as her knees started to shake as he started to tease her pearl with slow strokes of his callused finger.

Sansa started to grind herself against his hand and her breath quickened with every stroke of his finger, until she moaned his name over and over again as she reached her peak.

“Your song is still sweeter than the best Arbor Gold, little bird,” Sandor rasped against her ear, while her heavy breathing still made her chest lift up and down.

Sansa squeaked in surprise as Sandor carefully picked her up and walked over to the bed before he gently placed her on the soft mattress. Sandor carefully pulled Sansa's boots of her feet, before Sansa sat up and pulled her shift over her head. She started to unbuckle the straps of his leather armor and Sandor let it fall to the ground next to the bed. Sandor kicked off his boots and pulled his tunic over his head, revealing his muscled chest. Sansa bit her lower lip as she let her hand travel over his chest down to the lacing of his breeches.

Just as she wanted to untie the laces, Sandor put his hand on her.

“Not yet, little bird. This is your wedding night. This night is for you,” he said and gestured her to lie on her back.

Sandor kissed her belly as he slowly pulled down her small clothes before doing the same to her warm stockings.

Sandor crawled on the bed and pressed his mouth to hers and Sansa stroked through his hair. She moaned softly as his lips wandered over her throat down to her collarbone, until they finally found the nipple of her right breast. He teased her nipple with his tongue and gently sucked on her breast, while he cupped her other breast with his palm and teased her nipple with his thumb.

“Sandor…” Sansa moaned and she pouted a little in disagreement as his mouth left her breast and traveled down her stomach down into the auburn curls that were already damp by her arousal.

Sandor kissed her inner thighs, before his tongue started to explore her folds. Sansa watched him, while he started to concentrate his effort with his tongue on her nub, while he pushed two finger inside her and gently started to stroke her inner walls.

“Sandor…please…” She wailed in need as he brought her close to edge of her peak for the third time.

Sansa felt him chuckle against her woman's place and he intensified his effort on her nub, finally bringing her over the edge of her second peak that night. Her toes curled and she grabbed the sheets with all her strength as the waves of pleasure were making her body shake.

Sandors strong hands held her by her legs, while she rode out her peak.

The fire in the fireplace had warmed up their chamber and thin layer of sweat covered her ivory skin, while she tried to calm down her breathing again.

Sandor gave her sensitive pearl some tiny kisses before he crawled up to her face. While Sandor pressed his lips to hers, she couldn’t stop thinking what a fortunate woman she was, to have a man at her side, that didn’t only care about his own satisfaction, but instead enjoyed to make her find her own.

Sansa felt his hard member in his breeches and she started to fumble with his lacings.

“I want all of you, Sandor,” she rasped breathless and he started to undo the lacings of his breeches until his member sprang free.

Sandor pulled off his breeches and small clothes, before he crawled back into bed. He took himself in hand and guided his member to her entrance. He rubbed his member against her folds coating himself in her juices.

Sandor's eyes didn’t leave hers as he slowly guided himself between her folds inside her. Sansa's mouth fell slightly agape and the feeling of being filled by the man she loved. Sansa's soft moans filled the room as he continued to kiss her throat, while he slowly thrust in and out of her.

“Sandor…” she moaned in sweet agony as he started to raise his pace slightly, burying his face in the crook of her neck.

Sansa felt herself coming close to the edge of her next peak and she wrapped her legs around him. He also must have felt that she was close and he started to thrust quicker into her, until she felt her inner walls clench around him and waves of pleasure made heat spread from her core through her whole body, while she held onto his strong shoulders.

Sandor groaned into her neck, as he reached his own peak moments after her and spilled his seed deep inside her. He collapsed completely exhausted on her, his face still buried in the crook of her neck.

They stayed like that for a while and Sansa drew small circles over his sweaty back as they listened to the cracking of the wood in the fireplace.

“I love you so much, Sandor,” Sansa purred, completely exhausted as she felt his softening member slipped out of her as he moved slightly.

This is how I always imagined my wedding night, Sansa thought.

Sandor lifted his face out of the crook of her neck and rubbed his nose lightly against hers, before he pressed his lips to hers.

“As I love you, Sansa.” He rolled off her and she snuggled up against him laying her head on his shoulder. Sansa hummed as his fingers ghosted over her sweaty skin and she slowly stroked through his chest hair.

He kissed the crown of her tangled hair and Sansa's lips curled into a soft satisfied smile.

“I love you so much, my little bird. My smart and strong she-wolf,” he whispered against her hair.

“And I love you, my strong, brave and fierce yet gentle Hound.” Sansa felt herself slowly become sleepy, safely nestled in his strong arms. She softly yawned and rubbed her cheek against his skin, while he carefully pulled the furs around both of them.

“Sweet dreams, little bird,” Sandor whispered against her hair.

“You too, my love,” Sansa whispered back, nestled safe and sound against him moments before sleep took over.

Chapter Text

Sandor slowly awoke from a restful sleep and was greeted by cold air. He pulled the furs a little higher and he felt Sansa snuggle closer to him. He looked at Sansa's sleeping form and remembered the last day. Sansa was his wife. He rolled the word around on his tongue. He had never dared even to think he would ever have a wife and now his wife was sleeping in his arms.

Her fiery hair was tangled and he remembered how she had glowed with happiness as she had fallen asleep in his arms yesterday.

Sandor had sworn to himself that he would make up for Sansa's first wedding and make her remember it as a happy event. She deserved her wedding to be as beautiful as it was in all the songs and tales Sandor despised so much.

He felt her soft breath on his skin and he stroked away a strand of her hair that had fallen into her face and he had to smile as her lips curled up into a soft smile.

She started to stir in his arms and she slowly opened her eyes. “Good morning, husband,” she said smiling, her deep blue eyes focused on his.

“Good morning, little bird,” he said and gently pulled her closer to give her a kiss. After their lips separated, she lay her head back on his shoulder with a happy sigh. “Is my wife happy?” he asked and ghosted with his finger absently over her shoulder.

“I am. I love you.”

“I love you, too. You deserve all the happiness in the world, Sansa,” he said and Sansa gave him a kiss on his scared cheek.

Sansa huffed and buried her face in the pillow.

“It's so cold and I don’t want to get up yet,” she said pouting.

“Then don’t, my love. Are you hungry?” he asked and she hummed in confirmation. He kissed her cheek. “Then I will get you something. I´ll be right back.”

He got out of the warm bed and started a new fire in the fireplace, before he dressed and left their chamber. He walked down the staircase of the tower and stepped outside into the cold morning air that filled the courtyard.

Much to his amusement he saw that not so many of the current inhabitants of Castle Black had awoken and the ones that were already awake looked like they had the worst kind of hangover.

“Ahh, the newlyweds have awoken,” Tormund said chuckling, standing by a trough of water.

“Aye. You don’t look so well,” Sandor said teasingly and Tormund splashed some water on his face.

“That one warrior woman that came with you can drink more than any man I have ever seen,” he said and Sandor laughed heartily at the picture of Tormund being drunk under the table by the Lady of the Bear Island.

Sandor went into the kitchen and meet Arya and Jon, who were already wolfing down their breakfast. “Good morning,” Jon said surprised to see him. “Where is Sansa?”

“Still tired from last night and didn’t want to leave the warm bed yet. I offered to bring some food,” Sandor said in honesty and Jon averted his eyes, much to his amusement.

“Lord Reed said we want to ride after midday,” Arya said, gnawing on her crispy sausage.

“Aye. Time to get rid of the Boltons,” Sandor growled.

 

***

 

Sandor returned to the tower with a tray filled with fresh bread, boiled and fried eggs, some fried sausages and crispy bacon. Hobb had also given him a pot of steaming tea.

He reentered their chamber and saw Sansa already sitting at the head of the bed with the furs pulled under her chin, widely smiling at him.

He sat down next to her on the bed and they started to break their fast.

“I can't believe Bran has returned to us,” Sansa said smiling as she ate some fresh bread with butter, egg and bacon.

“I am happy for you, that he returned.”

“If we now can somehow free Rickon, our family is nearly whole again,” she said.

“I am sure we can somehow free him,” he said.

They both took their time with their first breakfast as husband and wife, before Sansa got out bed and dressed up. Sandor tied the lacings of her dress and watched her as she brushed out her hair, before she braided it in the simple northern style.

Around midday they waited in the courtyard with their horses, while Jon said goodbye to his friend Edd. Jon hugged him, before he returned to the group.

Sansa's little brother sat with Shireen on the cart, he would travel on. The daughter of Lord Reed held the reins sitting next to the big friendly caretaker of the young lord Stark.

Sandor helped Sansa onto her white mare, before he mounted his black stallion.

He gave the Wall one last look, before he followed the others out of the gate to take back the North and the little bird's home.

Chapter Text

They were on the road for nearly three weeks now as they reached the foothills of the northern mountains. The weather had held luckily and only the constant fall of the snow was their companion.

After they had left the Wall, they had first visited the Wildlings in the Gift. Tormund had brought all the leaders to their side and they had all agreed to obey the laws of the North as long as they were allowed to settle in the Gift and live their life peacefully.

All the Wildlings that were able to fight had gone ahead of them, and would meet up with them to fight against the Boltons. During the weeks of the journey, Sansa saw that Bran found a true friend in the daughter of Stannis Baratheon. She always watched her brother talking and laughing with her during the day. It warmed her heart to see her little brother laugh like he had done back in Winterfell before his accident.

Sansa had spent time with Shireen in the evenings. She was a kind girl. Shireen told her she was grateful that they were kind to her. Sansa had told her that she knew how she felt and Shireen had told her how strange it was to see how the fearsome Hound treated her. The young girl had told her that she liked to read and had actually taught Ser Davos how to read. Sansa had told her of the library of Winterfell and the little girl asked shyly if she would be allowed to visit the library if they took back Winterfell.

Sansa had told her she would be free to move around in Winterfell and didn’t had to fear anything from them. Sansa had even taught her a few basic things about sewing and embroidery, since Queen Selyse had never taught her daughter.

When she was a young girl, Sansa had probably preferred to have a sister like Shireen over Arya, but now she would want Arya to change the slightest bit.

Sansa and her siblings were intrigued by the visions Bran told them of in the evenings.

Bran had told them that he could see the past and sometimes could glimpse into the future. What intrigued them most was that Bran had also told them he sometimes could see different variants of their lives, if things had played out differently.

He had told them that he once saw Sansa being married to the Greatjon by Robb and being the Lady of Last Hearth, while he lived in Winterfell with the Frey daughter that had become his wife, and later to Sandor. Meanwhile Arya was married to the heir of Karhold.

In another vision, Bran told them how their grandfather Rickard had visited Clegane Keep and taken Sandor as a ward to Winterfell. How he became a close friend to their father, riding with him into Robert's Rebellion, becoming the friend and protector of the Stark children, ultimately falling in love with Sansa and marrying her in Winterfell. In this variant, their father had revealed the identity of Jon's mother and Lady Catelyn had accepted him as her child, knowing the truth.

Bran told them of many variants how their lives could have played out. In some, Sansa had escaped Kings Landing with Sandor, in others she had stayed. In most of them she had ended up married to Tyrion Lannister for a while and in some she had stayed married to him, but in one, Bran had told her, she had Joffrey told she would prefer to marry his Hound than his uncle and Joffrey had thought it a good way of humiliating her.

Sandor had chuckled and said that Joffrey would really have reacted that way.

In another one, she had taken back the North and ended as queen of Westeros.

The variant that scared Sansa the most had been one in which she had escaped King Landing with the help of someone Bran didn’t know and had ended up in Winterfell, married off to Ramsay Bolton by him. Bran had told her that Sandor in this variant had followed her to save her, after Arya had ran off to Braavos. Bran hadn't been explicit about what happened to her, but he had said that she had to endure many atrocities, before she was reunited with Sandor.

Luckily, this were only many variants of what could have been and Sansa was sure that Bran had let out many details and possible variants he had seen in his visions.

Sansa often thought how different her life would have been if this or that had changed, but in the end, she was glad in some way that her life had lead her into Sandor's arms.

A week ago, Sansa, Arya and Sandor had separated from the others and continued their travel to the mountain clans with Lady Mormont and Lord Reed.

The others would take the direct route to Deepwood Motte to reunite the Wildlings with the remaining Northmen. Jon and the Glovers would make sure that the Northmen were aware of the alliance they had forged. The Lords would swear their fealty to Bran as new Lord of Winterfell and soon to be king and they would reveal that Arya Stark wasn’t in the clutches of the Boltons.

After they had reached the mountains, it took their small group nearly another two weeks before they finally approached the small keep of the Flints. On their way, they had passed the villages of the Burleys and Harclays. The villagers, mostly old men and women, but also some young mothers, had told them that their Lords had taken all fighting men with them to aid Stannis Baratheon and free Arya Stark. They had heard the same when they had visited the small keep of the Wulls. Lord Hugo Wull had taken all men he could find with him. Lord Reed had told them that he had fought alongside Theo Wull who had died at the Tower of Joy, where Jon had been born at the end of the war.

The first keep where they had actually met the Lord had been in a small village at the foot of a large mountain. Lord Brandon Norrey had greeted them warmly and had been excited to actually have the daughters of Ned Stark under his roof. Sansa remembered that Owen Norrey had been slayed at the Red Wedding and Sansa had told him her condolences about it. Lord Norrey had answered that the Red Wedding would be avenged and that his son Brandon took most men with him to assist Stannis to defeat the Boltons and free Arya Stark. He would have marched himself, but he was too old to fight. Instead he had offered them to support their campaign with supplies, he would send to Deepwood Motte as soon as they would leave his keep to visit the last of the Mountain Clans.

The keep of the Flints of the Mountains was built of simple rough stones and thick ice picks hung from the roofs of the towers. The snowfall had become a storm by now.

After they had entered the keep, they were lead into the main hall, where Lord Torghen Flint was already awaiting them.

“Who comes to my keep during these winter storms?” he asked.

“Lady Sansa Stark, with her husband and her sister Arya Stark,” Lord Reed said.

“By the gods,” he said. “The daughters of my friend Ned.”

“My lord,” Sansa said kindly and Lord Flint kissed her hand, before doing the same with Arya.

“And who is this huge fellow?” the clansman asked.

“That’s my husband, Sandor Stark.” Sansa still loved the feeling of excitement every time she called Sandor her husband.

“Welcome, my Lord. I guess it's good to know that Ned's precious daughter has such a fierce husband,” he said, before turning to Lady Mormont and Lord Reed.

“It is my Lord,” Lady Mormont said. “Lord Sandor is a fierce but loyal man, that kept the daughters of Ned Stark save for a long time.”

I am no Lord,” Sandor whispered grumbling to her.

“Well, actually you are now. With marrying me you are allowed to wear my titles,” she whispered back into his ear, before giving him a kiss on the cheek.

They told Lord Flint about Stannis´ fate and that they planned to take back the North. Lord Flint didn't have many men to spare, but he would send every man he could that hadn't already left with his son to Deepwood Motte. He even offered to participate in the war, even if it was going to kill him, but Sansa had told him his support would never be forgotten by House Stark.

Lord Flint had told her that since their great grandmother had been a Flint sharing her name with Arya, that he would be honored to have them as guests under his roof for one night. The group had kindly accepted the offer, since the weather hasn’t gotten any better and the night was quickly approaching in the mountains. Lord Flint had also offered to organize a small feast to their honor, but Sansa had kindly refused and offered him to come to Winterfell after they took it back. It warmed Sansa's heart that night to know that the Northerners were so loyal to her family and had really loved their father.

The next morning they left Flint's keep and rode north to the coast of the Bay of Ice. The cold weather didn’t allow them to travel quickly and so it took them around a week to leave the mountains.

Lady Mormont lead them through several small villages at the coastline, where she hoped to find a ship to the Bear Island.

Sansa thought it amusing how Lady Mormont had approached her several times during their journey and asked her if she needed to talk about things she would have liked to ask her mother about marriage. Sansa had thanked her in honesty and told her she would come back to her offer if necessary.

Sansa had often secretly wished for her mother’s presence to answer some questions Sansa had about marriage and the interaction between men and woman, but with Sandor she wasn’t afraid to make any mistakes. They both knew that it was unknown territory for each of them. Sansa was glad that she knew Maege as friend.

Finally, after three days of passing half a dozen villages the group finally found a village, where a fisher offered them to bring them to the Bear Island. They set sails at late afternoon and the fisher told them they would probably reach the home of the she-bear the next day, if the wind stayed in their favor.

Much to Sansa's annoyance she felt sick the next morning even if the sea wasn’t particularly rough. Sansa blamed it on a travel by sea in general and on the colt weather they had to travel through for more than a month now.

While Arya seemed to take the cold weather way better than her, she had caught a cold and snuffled the whole time in the most unladylike manner. Lady Mormont had told them they could expect warm food and a hot bath as soon as they reached the castle.

Around midday of that day they finally reached the Bear Island and Sansa took in the sight of the high pine trees, waterfalls and snowy mountains. They rode the last few miles from the coast to the Mormont Castle, lying in a small vale between mountains, on top of a hill, close to a river with a waterfall. They rode through the gates and all the soldiers bowed their heads in respect as they saw their Lady returning home after so many years.

“Welcome to Bear Island,” the she-bear said and jumped off her horse.

Soldiers took their horses by the reins and lead them to the stables. How tame Stranger can be, Sansa thought amused. Sandor's horse usually was a mad beast and didn’t allow anyone but Sandor to touch him. For a while during their travel, after they had escaped King's Landing, he had tolerated Sansa around him, but now he was nearly as kind as every horse, as long as Sansa's friendly mare was around.

Sansa held onto Sandor's arm as Lady Mormont lead them into the wooden keep. The keep had the typical northern charm of simplicity. No lavish extras like the keeps in the south used to have. Once Sansa had dreamed of the lavish décor of the Red Keep, but now she couldn’t wait to see Winterfell again.

All the soldiers they passed on their way to the main hall bowed their head in respect for their Lady. As they entered the main hall, a girl, only a few years younger than Arya, sat with a maester and an elder soldier at the high table.

“Mother!” the young girl exclaimed jumping out of her chair, knocking it over in the process, running into the arms of Lady Mormont. The sight warmed Sansa's heart and she remembered how happy she had been, when she flung herself in the arms of her own mother back in Riverrun.

“Lady Mormont, welcome home,” the maester said as he walked over with the soldier, probably the master at arms of the keep.

“Good to be home, Maester Alfryd. Ser Baldwyn, are the men eager to bath in Bolton blood?” the lady of the Bear Island asked.

“Aye, my lady. Most fighting men left with your daughter Alyssane to fight the Ironborn in Deepwood Motte. She also took Jorelle and Lyra with her, my lady,” the knight said.

“And they left me behind,” said Lyanna Mormont, pouting.

“Aye, they did, but you were a good Lady. I read your letter to Stannis Baratheon. I am proud of you,” Maege said. “Lyanna, may I introduce you to Sansa Stark and her sister Arya Stark?”

“Dacey wrote me she was about to marry a Frey. Isn’t she a Frey now?” the girl asked and Sansa felt a shiver run down her spine at hearing that.

“No, Lyanna, Lady Sansa is a Stark and never call her a Frey ever again, you understand? Lady Sansa paid the highest price for her brother’s mistake, as did Dacey,” the she-bear said in a serious tone.

“Yes, mother. Apologies, Lady Sansa,” the girl said quickly.

“How many warriors are still on the Island?” Lady Mormont asked her master at arms.

“Sixty-two in the castle and maybe a hundred more on the whole Island, my Lady.”

“Call them all. We leave the Island as soon as possible, to reunite with the Northern army at Deepwood Motte, to take back Winterfell and bring the Boltons to justice.”

“I will call them immediately,” Ser Baldwyn said and left the hall.

“Maester, prepare rooms for our guests and order the servants to prepare hot baths for all of us, it's been a cold travel. Lyanna, tell the cooks to prepare the dinner,” Maege said and the Maester bowed his head and left, his chain rattling with every step.

The rooms they were given were simple, but cozy. A big fire was already roaring in the fireplace. The servants brought a large wooden tub and filled it with hot steaming water. Sandor helped her with the lacing of the dress and Sansa sunk into the hot water with a happy sigh. She felt like the warmth return into her deepest core after traveling in the cold for weeks.

While Sansa soaked in, Sandor took the opportunity and trimmed his beard a little, sitting a nearby table with a mirror.

“If you let your beard grow a little more, I can start to braid it, like the Dothraki do,” Sansa had told him teasingly and Sandor chuckled to himself.

After they both had bathed, they went back to the great hall and Sansa was surprised to see Maege Mormont sit with two young children on her lap.

“Lady Sansa, dinner will be here soon. These are the children of my daughter Alyssane. The boy is Brandolf and the girl is Alwina,” the seasoned warrior lady said laughing and the children squealed, laughing on her lap.

The others arrived and servants brought plates filled with all kinds of dishes that Bear Island had to offer. The food was simple, but hearty and Sansa enjoyed every bit of it. Ser Baldwyn told his liege lady that he had called all remaining warriors to the castle and that they would be prepared on the next day. Lady Mormont had been pleased to hear that and told her daughter that she would also come with them.

The maester had asked if she was sure about that, but the she bear had told him, that this was a total war. They would either win and defeat the Boltons or would die fighting. She wanted all daughters she had left close to her. Alyssane's children would stay behind with their wet nurse and if the worst happened to them on their campaign, hid them under the smallfolk.

Much to the maesters surprise, Maege told him he would accompany them too, since the wounded men would need his knowledge.

The dinner was a happy affair. Arya had a good time with Lyanna Mormont. They had talked the whole evening over the different fighting styles, depending on the weapon. Arya had preferred her Needle, while Lyanna always countered that she would teach her a lesson with her axe.

 

***

 

They left the Bear Island the next day and two days later they sat on the coast a few miles north of Deepwood Motte.

As the keep came in sight, the surrounding area showed signs of the fights that had happened here. Most trees were cut down around the castle and trenches crisscrossed the ground filled with muddy water. Some of the puddles had frozen.

They rode on the snowy and muddy road until they reached the castle gates. The army had made camp all around the camp and countless tents had been erected. Not nearly as many as Robb had, when he traveled to the Twins, Sansa thought to herself. The men she saw looked tired, but still ready for battle.

They entered the castle and were greeted by a lady with two children.

“I am Sybelle Glover. Welcome to Deepwood Motte. It's good to see you again, Lady Mormont. I assume your companions are Lady Sansa and Lady Arya. My brother in law is already awaiting you with my husband. They are in his solar, with the other lords right now. I will lead you to them.”

Lady Sybelle lead them through the keep to the solar. They entered and were immediately greeted by Galbart Glover. Jon stood next to Alys Karstark and Bran was sitting on a cushioned chair. Sansa and Arya hugged both their brothers and Lady Mormont hugged the daughters she was now reunited with. Sansa saw that the arm of one of them was bandaged.

Besides the two Glovers, Jon, Bran and Alys Karstark, there were also a dozen lords of several minor houses in the room. Davos and Tormund were also present. An old man as large as Sandor came over and kissed her hand, introducing himself as Mors Umber.
Lord Umber updated their knowledge on what happened at Winterfell, after Sansa had asked why so few men where left.

“The march took a great toll on Stannis´ men. He lost a great deal of them in the snowstorms and his sellswords deserted and later changed sides to the Boltons. When we finally had reached Winterfell, the Boltons attacked us before we had the change to lay siege on the castle. Stannis had lost most of his weakly southern horses and we didn’t stand a chance against the cavalry charge of the Boltons and Freys as soon as we had left the Wolfswood. Stannis tried to form a line of defense in the woods as Arnolf Karstark attacked us from behind. We tried an organized retreat, but Stannis was killed by some strange woman, who we took prisoner. She is now in the dungeons next to Asha Greyjoy.”

“Who was she?” Sansa asked.

“She said her name was Brienne of Tarth. Apparently, she swore to your mother an oath to keep you save, but she had to fulfill an oath to avenge Renly Baratheon. Complete madness. After Stannis' death, chaos broke loose and the Boltons overran our lines. We managed to retreat under heavy losses while the Boltons slaughtered Stannis´ men.”

“Do we know the situation in Winterfell?” Lord Reed asked.

“Our scouts report that the Boltons have retreated behind the walls of Winterfell again, with the Freys and Karstarks. They probably await us for another attack.”

“Any word from Lord Manderly?” Sansa asked.

“Unfortunately not. Maybe he can’t risk it,” Lord Glover said.

“We have to march quickly. He has our brother and with every hour that passes, they have the chance to prepare for our next attack,” Jon said, and some of the Lords nodded in agreement.

“We still need to know what's going on inside Winterfell,” Lady Mormont threw in.

“Maybe someone can come up with an idea, we can contact the loyalists within the castle,” Davos said.

“Aye. We meet again later and discuss ideas, how to contact Lord Manderly,” Lord Glover said and the lords started to leave the room.

“Lord Glover,” Sansa started. “I would like to speak to Lady Brienne.”

“As you wish my lady. She had also a squire with her. Podrick Payne,” he said.

“I remember him. He was squire of Tyrion Lannister back in King's Landing,” Sansa said.

Lord Glover lead her down to the dungeons accompanied by Sandor and Arya. She finally wanted to have a word with that woman that claimed she wanted to protect Arya and her. Torches lit the hallway, where several cells were located. The air was cold and humid. Every time she breathed, small clouds could be seen midair.

“It’s the last one on the right side. Here are the keys. I guess you don’t need a guard, since you have your husband,” Lord Glover said.

“Yes, I guess he will do,” she answered joking. “In worst case, I still have my sister as back up.”

Lord Glover laughed heartily as he left them. Sansa looked into the cell and saw Brienne sitting on the pallet, her hands cuffed with shackled.

Sandor opened the door and Sansa stepped inside, followed by her sister and Sandor. The tall woman lifted her eyes of the ground. “By the gods, Lady Sansa, is that you? You look just like your lady mother.”

“It's not the first time I hear this,” Sansa said plainly. “Why are you in the North, Lady Brienne?”

“I heard of the wedding of Arya Stark with the Bastard of Bolton. I wanted to save your sister.”

“My sister doesn’t need saving. She is right here with me.”

Brienne's eyes focused on Arya and then on Sandor. “What is the Hound doing here? Maybe we could speak alone?” Brienne asked.

“Why should I sent away my husband, Lady Brienne?” Sansa asked.

Your husband?” Brienne asked unbelieving.

“Yes, my husband. We have already met before, Lady Brienne. On the Quiet Isle. We were there when you stayed there for a short time,” Sansa said.

“Why didn’t you say anything? I could have saved you from him.”

“We didn’t need saving from him,” Arya said. “He kept us safer than our own family.”

“And why should I need saving from the man I love? From the man that protected me in King's Landing, while my brother played war? From the man that saved me out of the clutches of the boy my mother chose to become my husband?” Sansa added questioning.

“Lady Sansa, what would your mother say, if she could now see you, married to the Hound?”

“I guess she would call me an undutiful whore, for marrying out of love,” Sansa said simply. She was pretty sure her mother would even use those exact words. If she had called her a harlot for hugging Sandor as a goodbye in Riverrun, she would probably call her a whore for actually marrying him.

“Your mother only wanted you both safe and happy. She even freed Ser Jaime against the will of your brother so I could bring you back. That’s how much she wanted you back.”

“Lady Brienne, our mother primarily cared for the safety our brother Robb. Arya and I were just pawns for her. She betrothed Arya to Elmar Frey on their way south and me to Wendel Frey, when I was brought back to them, by the man you obviously despise to see at my side. I know very well first hand why she wanted us back. To do our duty.” Sansa took a deep breath. “Brienne, you seem to be a loyal woman. After all, you avenged a long dead and cold King, and traveled all the way north after hearing of my sister’s apparent fate, but know this Brienne: Our lady mother would have accepted my sister and I to be miserable, if that would have meant that Robb is safely at home.”

“My lady, I swore a holy oath to your mother to protect you. And I will continue to fulfill the order she gave me and I simply can't believe you chose the Lannister dog on your own. Your mother told me, when she heard of your younger brothers' death, that she always wanted a knight or high Lord for you,” Brienne said stubbornly.

I don’t care what you think of me and my husband. He is what my father wanted for me,” Sansa sighed. “Lady Brienne the choice is yours. You either serve me and my siblings or you continue to serve the wishes of our dead mother, but then there will be no place for you with us, because I won't leave the man I love.”

“My lady…” Brienne started but Sansa interrupted her.

“We leave soon to take back Winterfell. We either take back our home or die in the attempt. You have time to decide until then.” Sansa left the cell and Sandor locked it again.

“You sure she will serve us?” Arya asked. “I don’t think she will stop trying to save us from Sandor.”

“She can try, but it won't end well for her,” Sandor growled.

“I think she will come around. She seems to be a stubborn, but loyal person,” Sansa said.

They left the dungeon and went to the rooms they had been given for lunch. Sandor was wolfing down his third bowl of beef stew, while Sansa was just starting with her second. The stew was thick and spicy and the large pieces of meat fell apart on her tongue.

“I could do it,” Arya suddenly said breaking a piece of bread apart.

“Doing what little wolf?” Sandor asked.

“I could go to Winterfell and contact Lord Manderly.”

Sansa nearly dropped her spoon. “Are you crazy? It’s too dangerous,” Sansa said horrified.

“I could do it. I learned how to move on enemy territory when I was with the Faceless Men in Braavos,” Arya said.

“And how do you think you can get into Winterfell? Simply knocking on the gates, saying you want to have a word with Lord Manderly?” Sandor asked mockingly.

“There are ways to get into the castle that aren’t known. In the godswood, there are ways to climb the castle walls. Bran once showed me,” Arya said.

“And what if you fall and end up like Bran? Or when they catch you? You have the slightest idea what they are going to do with you?” Sansa said desperately.

“I know it's dangerous, but what choice do we have? We need to know what is going on inside our home, Sansa, and I am the only one of us that knows how to sneak in and contact Lord Manderly.”

Sansa hated the thought of her little sister sneaking into Winterfell, but she was right. If they couldn’t contact Lord Manderly they would be lost. “Alright. You might go, but please don’t try anything stupid,” Sansa said.

“When have I ever done something stupid?” Arya asked teasing and Sansa rolled her eyes.

“Alright, I promise. I won't do anything stupid and return as soon as I contacted Lord Manderly,” Arya said.

 

***

 

Later that day, they told the lords of Arya's offer. Arya explained to them what she had learned from the faceless men. At first the Lords had been skeptical, but in the end they all had agreed that it was a necessary risk.

“What shall I tell Lord Manderly?” Arya asked the gathered group.

“We need to know how many fighting men the Boltons have left and if there are any plans to lay ambushes for us,” Lord Reed said.

“And if he has any allies within the other Lords that are in Winterfell,” Lord Umber declared.

“Most important is that we fight them on open field. We can't lay siege on Winterfell for long. Not during the winter,” Lord Flint said concerned.

“Aye and we need to know what he plans to do with his cavalry. We need to know how many horses he has. Stannis cut through us like piss through snow,” Tormund said concerned.

“Alright, I will tell Lord Manderly all these things, but what if he isn’t alive anymore?” Arya asked concerned.

“Then find out what you can and get the hell out of there,” Sandor said.

“I will bring you to the edge of the Wolfswood,” Robett Glover said. “I will wait for you to return then.”

“Alright,” Arya said.

“Take some of our mountain horses. They are more used to the snowy weather,” Lord Wull said.

The next morning Sansa held onto Sandor's arm in the cold morning air as they watched Arya ride off to Winterfell and she desperately hoped her sister knew what she was doing.

Chapter Text

Arya jumped down the wall as she was only a few feet of the ground. The thick layer off snow made a crunching sound as she landed on it. She had made it. She was back in Winterfell for the first time in several years.

She took a deep breath. The cold air hurt in her lungs, but the scent of the snow and the goodswood made up for it.

Arya and Robett Glover had ridden for ten days until they reached the edge of the wolfswood and could see the ancient castle of House Stark in front of them.

The army would have left Deepwood Motte a few days after them, so they were already on the march when they reached Winterfell. It was an all or nothing plan. If Arya failed, the loyalists would march into battle without any intel.

Lord Glover stayed behind in the wolfwood and waited for her return. Arya had approached the wall at the godswood in the darkness of the last night and climbed up at the point next to the tower Bran had fallen off, where the wall was so old that she could easily climb it up on the rough granite stone.

She had to be careful. Lord Bolton might be able to remember her face, if he saw her. She hadn't liked how intensely he had stared at her back in Harrenhal as he had told her she was to become his cupbearer, because she had done it for Tywin Lannister before.

She walked through the godswood and passed by the large weirwood standing peacefully next to the frozen pond like it had for thousands of years. She stopped for a brief moment to remember how her father had always sat in front of the tree.

Luckily the snowstorm had started again and so nobody noticed her with her hood up sneaking through the crowded courtyards.

I have no fucking idea where I should look for the fat lord, Arya thought to herself. She couldn’t simply ask someone where the Lord of White Harbor was. That would only raise questions.

Arya walked past a cross where the flayed body of an elderly woman was displayed.

The Boltons will pay for everything they have done, Arya thought angrily and didn’t even saw the person she ran into.

“Watch out where you are going,” a voice, that sounded familiar, said. “Nan? What are you doing here?” she was asked and was surprised to stare into the face of her former betrothed Elmar Frey. Arya hadn't expected him to be here, but maybe she could use it to her advantage.

“I could ask you the same. My sister sent me here, when she heard I had the chance to be the cupbearer of Lord Bolton, but had ran off in Harrenhal. Now I want to make her proud. I was told to serve Lord Manderly while he is here, but I can't find him,” Arya lied. She hoped Elmar was still as stupid as he had been in Harrenhal.

“The fat Lord is in the guest barrack,” he said.

“What are you doing here?” Arya asked him, not really interested, but it would keep him from getting suspicious.

“Father sent me north to accompany my former betrothed here for her wedding. I nearly feared I might end up like my beloved brother Wendel,” he said. “The Stark women aren’t normal the people say. Dark magic and shit. And after what that red haired Stark slut did to Wendel, Black Walder, Lothar and Ryman alongside their men, I start to believe it.”

Arya had a hard time to bit back her anger.

“Have you seen your betrothed?” Arya asked. She was curious who she was.

“Yes, when she married Lord Ramsay. If you listen closely, you can hear her crying over the wind,” he said. Arya listened closely and could indeed hear the sound of a weeping girl over the cold wind. Arya felt a shiver run down her spine at the thought that she could have been the girl in the tower.

“A pretty thing to look on, I have to admit, but not as pretty as the Stark whore my brother married. She was an eye-catcher, I can tell you, with her tits and nice ass. The leavings of the Lannister dog of course, but still nice to look up on.”

With every one of his words, Arya felt the anger rise in her.

“Too bad Father undid the marriage. Wendel promised me a night with her, after he had properly broken her in as compensation, that I couldn’t fuck my own Stark bitch. I already looked forward to fuck her bloody.”

Something in Arya snapped and she pulled her dagger, from her hidden sheath and drove it deep into this green boy's throat. She wouldn’t listen for a single moment more to his filthy words about her sister and herself.

She continued to stab him until he wasn’t moving anymore. The snow soaked in his blood.

“Elmar? The fuck takes you so long?” someone called out in the distance.

Fuck, Arya thought. She had to hid the body or she might get caught. Arya dragged Elmar's body behind the wooden cross. Luckily, he was lighter than she had expected. She covered the body as good as she could with snow and tried to clean away the blood that had gotten onto her sleeve.

Arya listened for anyone that was might coming closer, before she swiftly walked away towards the guest barrack.

She was nearly there when bells started and turmoil filled the courtyards.

Men ran towards the place, where she had hidden Elmar's body and she briefly spotted Lord Manderly walk with other men towards the scenery.

Arya followed in some distance and could see several Frey's yell at some Northmen bearing the sigil of House Dustin.

“One of you northern scum murdered Elmar!” one Frey yelled.

“Calm down friend,” the leech Lord said. “We will find whoever is responsible for this murder and he will pay the price.”

“I will flay him and feed the rest to my girls,” a young man with cruel cold eyes said, widely grinning. That must be Lord Bolton's bastard, Arya thought.

She saw the Lord of White Harbor witnessing the whole scene, standing between several of his soldiers.

How the fuck am I supposed to talk to him without being seen, Arya thought frustrated. Her whole plan had sounded so simple back in Deepwood Motte, but now it seemed it could get more difficult then she thought.

“My Lords, let us return inside and whoever knows something about Elmar Frey's murder can expect five silver stags for any information,” Lord Bolton said before he walked back to the keep, followed by most of the Northmen.

Suddenly Arya had an idea. It might be a stupid one, but probably the only chance to make her presence known to the fat Lord without telling anyone else.

She saw how the fat lord waddled back to the guest barrack and Arya took a shortcut to get there before him. She waited for him to get closer before she ran towards him, trying to look like she was in a hurry. She crashed into Lord Manderly and dramatically fell into the snow.

“Watch out where you are running boy,” one of Lord Manderly's soldiers said and pulled her roughly to her feet.

“No harm done,” Lord Manderly said.

“Apologies, my Lord,” Arya said staring directly into Lord Manderly's face. “I was just heading to the godswood.”

“Let him go,” Lord Manderly said and Arya quickly moved on to the entrance of the godswood, while the lord entered the warm building.

She desperately hoped Lord Manderly had remembered her face, or all would have been for nothing.

She leaned against the trunk of one tree that stood next to one of the hot pools.

Arya was staring at the steaming what, while she thought about possibilities to contact Lord Manderly shouldn’t he have recognized her.

“Child?” a voice carefully asked in the distance and Arya carefully looked around the trunk of the tree to see Lord Manderly in thick cloaks looking around.

Arya stepped around the tree.

“Thank gods,” she said. “I feared you hadn't recognized me.”

“I recognized you immediately,” he said with a bow. “What are you doing here?”

“We don’t have much time, my lord,” Arya started and then gave him a quick summary of what has happened since they left White Harbor.

“And I offered to contact you. We need information how many men the Boltons still have and if you have found Lords that will turn with you against them, when the time comes. You also have to somehow convince the Boltons to fight us on open field. We can't lay siege on the castle for long.”

“Aye, I have allies inside. Hother Umber will fight with me, as will some smaller houses. The Karstarks on the other hand have betrayed us. They fall us in the back.”

“We know, Alys Karstark came and told us they even gave our younger brother Rickon to Ramsay as wedding present.”

“By the gods. That boy is your brother?” he asked.

“Yes, is he still alive?”

“Yes he is. The bastard keeps him in the kennels.”

“Thank the gods,” Arya murmured. At least Rickon was still alive for now. “How many men does the Boltons have left after the battle against Stannis?” Arya asked.

“More than enough, unfortunately. Lord Bolton sent the Freys against the Baratheons and the Karstarks did the rest as they switched sides. Lord Bolton's still has nearly five thousand men plus about three thousand Freys. Arnolf Karstark also still have fifteen hundred men left.”

“And how many have you and the loyalists inside the castle?” Arya asked.

“Eighteen hundred maybe. But I still have my heavy cavalry hidden near Castle Cerwyn. Nearly two thousand men, I will write them to reunite with your army. I will write an order, so you can send it when you return to your sister. How many Northmen have escaped the massacre of Stannis' forces, my lady?”

“More than you could possibly hope for, but we barely have more than the half of what our enemies have,” Arya said.

“Good, good. We might be able to win if we take the Boltons by surprise during the battle. I will do my best to provoke the bastard, so he convinces his father to crush the last of northern loyalists. His father is to careful, he would rather sit it out behind the walls.”

Cruel screams could be heard over the silence of the castle.

“Who is this?” Arya asked. The face of the fat Lord darkened.

“The Bastard just visits his bride. He does so every night since he married her and sometimes during the day after he flayed someone.”

“It will all be over soon,” Arya said.

“Aye, my lady. I will leave the letter for my men in a leather bag near the weirwood, if that’s alright for you.” He said.

“It is. Robett Glover is waiting for my return at the edge of the forest,” Arya told him.

“You are a brave to come here. Your father would be proud of you and your siblings.”

“Thank you, my lord, but we just do what's necessary to take back our home.”

“Good luck, I hope to see you again soon and congratulation to your sister for her wedding with Clegane.”

Arya nodded and the fat lord started to waddle out of the godswood.

She left the godswood, too, and used the time she had to sneak into the kitchen. Everyone ignored her like she was used to and so she could easily get herself a loaf of bread.

Since the snowfall had gotten stronger nobody was walking around in the courtyards and Arya could walk freely without anyone seeing her.

She saw that the little sept her father had built for her mother had been burned to the ground. When they were young, Sansa had always been the one to accompany their mother to pray in the sept, but nevertheless it saddened Arya's heart to see the place their mother had held so dearly destroyed.

Arya went back to the godswood to check the weirwood and she indeed found a little leather bag with a sealed letter from Lord Manderly. She headed back to the part of the wall where she had climbed up, but then hesitated.

There was one thing she had to do, before she could leave.

She quickly went into the kennels and carefully walked down to the end of the building, looking into every cell.

That must be the dogs, the bastard used to hunt people, Arya thought as she saw the mean beasts in their cells.

She nearly feared Rickon wouldn’t be here, when she finally saw him in the last kennel on the left side.

He was lying on some dirty straw and his hair and face were dirty. He wore rags like the wildlings used to.

“Rickon,” Arya whispered and her little brother stirred. “Rickon, it's me, Arya.”

“Arya?” he asked unbelieving and came closer to the iron bars.

“Arya? But how? You are married to him,” he whispered.

“That’s not me. It's an imposter,” she said and tried to hug her brother as well as she could through the bars.

“Rickon, listen, Sansa, Bran and Jon are coming with an army to take Winterfell. We have not forgotten you,” Arya said. The hounds started to bark. Someone was coming. “Rickon, we love you. Hold on,” Arya said with tears in her eyes and Rickon nodded.

She quickly left the kennels just in time.

“My girls are hungry,” she heard the bastard of Bolton declare excited, just as she managed to hid behind a barrel of oil outside the kennel.

Close, to close, Arya thought and didn’t stop until she had reached the wall in the godswood again, but she had to see her little brother at least once to tell him they would save him. She looked up the wall and to the cloudy sky and the constant rain of snow, before she made the first step to climb up. Arya took her time.

Better slow than too quick, she thought, she had made it so far, no need to die on the last few meters.

As she had reached the top of the wall, she only looked back once to her home, before she started to climb down the wall on the other side to return to Lord Glover.

Chapter Text

They left Deepwood Motte three days after Arya and Robett Glover. The snow fell constantly as they left the castle behind and started the march with less than five thousand men.

Asha Greyjoy was coming with them. She had asked for an audience with the Starks a few days ago and explained that her father Balon had been giving the order to attack the North. She said that she wanted to lead the Iron Islands into a future where the Ironborn wouldn’t attack their neighbors all the time.

She had told them that Theon was probably in Winterfell, since he was a prisoner of Ramsay Bolton. Asha had explained to them how she had tried to free her brother in the Dreadfort, but how her brother had changed during his imprisonment.

She offered an alliance between the North and the Iron Islands, if she was allowed to come with them to take back Winterfell and would be allowed to leave for the Iron Islands with her brother, should he still be alive.

Sansa and Jon had been against it, because Theon's betrayal of Robb had been the start of their brothers downfall, but Bran had allowed it, because he had seen in one of his green dreams what had been done to Theon. Bran told them he had paid for his sins.

Lady Mormont had ordered her daughter Alyssane to keep an eye on her during their march to Winterfell. While Bran had made an alliance with her, the other northern lords didn’t completely trust her and then there was still Brienne.

Sansa had nearly thought Brienne wouldn’t talk to her again, but yesterday she had asked to speak with her. The answer hadn't been exactly what Sansa had hoped for. While Brienne had told her she would serve Sansa and her sister, but she hadn't yet sorted out if she could accept Sandor at her side, because her former Lady wouldn’t agree with it.

Sansa had told her she had an order for her that would give her enough time to think about if she would be able to accept Sandor in Sansa's life.

Brienne had left a few hours later with Podrick Payne to ride to Riverrun and give their great uncle a letter. The latest news from the South confirmed that the Freys were still besieging the castle.

Sansa hoped that Brienne would somehow be able to enter the castle. She knew it was a risk, because if the Freys that besieged the castle would find the letter, then they would know she was still alive, but Sansa didn’t care, because by the time they would send somebody north, they would either already have taken Winterfell back or were lying dead in the snow and it wouldn’t matter anyway.

Since Brienne didn’t believe her oath fulfilled to her mother she gave Sansa her sword, that had been forged out of her fathers sword Ice.

Brienne said she didn’t deserve a sword named ´Oathkeeper´ if she didn’t keep her oath to Lady Catelyn. Sansa and her siblings had become pretty emotional, when Sansa had told them what had become of their father's sword. Bran had decided that ´Oathkeeper´ should become Sandor's new sword, since Arya had already her Needle and Jon had Longclaw. A blacksmith in Deepwood Motte had changed the golden Lion pommel to simple one that displayed a wolf, similar to Jon's sword, but still different.

“A sword worthy for the husband of my eldest sister,” Bran had said.

They moved quicker towards Winterfell than Stannis had been able to, since the Northerners were used to traveling in ice and snow, so it took them only two weeks until they had reached the prior camp of Stannis Baratheon, only a few hours away from Winterfell.

Arya and Lord Glover had meet with them about on half the distance to Winterfell. They had immediately sent a rider with Lord Manderly's order to his men near Castle Cerwyn.

Sansa and her siblings had been glad that Rickon was as well as the circumstances allowed it and the Lords were glad that they indeed had allies within the castle.

To everyone’s surprise, no tensions appeared between the wildlings and the other Northmen. Jon had given a flaming speech about the true danger for the north by the White Walkers.

It seemed Lord Manderly had done good on his word and managed to convince the Bastard that he had to crush the loyalists once and for all to be respected in the North as Lord Bolton's son. And so the Bastard had somehow convinced his father that it was necessary to crush their enemies for the whole north to see, because the Bastard sent word he would want to talk before the battle.

Sansa sat next to Sandor on her horse accompanied by Lord Reed, Lady Mormont, the two Glover brothers, Mors Umber, Tormund Giantsbane, Davos Seaworth, Jon, Alys Karstark and the young Lord Cerwyn, who had brought Lord Manderlys cavalry with him, while they watched the small group of rider come to them. Winterfell stood proudly behind the coming rider, like it had for thousands of years. The direwolf banner was flying in the cold wind like the banner of the flayed man was for the other group.

“You don’t have to be here, little bird,” Sandor silently rasped.

“Yes, I do.” Sansa simply answered holding her head high, trying to compose her facial expression. She hadn't forgotten how Lord Bolton had mocked her the day after the Red Wedding, that she was going to return to King's Landing. How he had told her that she wasn’t a Stark but a Frey.

Bran and Arya had stayed behind in their camp. They didn’t want to risk Bran's safety by bringing him and they wanted the Boltons to think, that they really thought Arya in Winterfell.

The Boltons stopped a few paces away from their group and Sansa could see Lord Bolton accompanied by a man that could only be his bastard. A shiver ran down Sansa's spine at the memory of how Bran had told her she had ended up married to him in one of his visions.

They hadn't come alone and Sansa recognized Hosteen and Aenys Frey and a man that could only be Hother Umber. Sansa saw that Alys tensed in her saddle when the eyes of her uncle and cousins fell onto her. Lord Manderly was nowhere to be seen, but it was well known that he was too fat to ride. Sansa expected he had stayed behind in Winterfell.

“Lady Frey, it surprises me to see you here,” Roose Bolton started, clearly wanting to mock her.

“Sorry to disappoint you,” Sansa said in a frosty voice.

“You will pay for what you did to Wendel,” Hosteen Frey yelled at her.

“Now, dismount and kneel before me, surrender your army and proclaim me the true Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. I will pardon you for deserting the Night’s Watch. I will pardon these treasonous lords for betraying my house. There’s no need for a battle. Get off your horse and kneel. I’m a man of mercy,” Lord Bolton said.

“As merciful as you were, when you drove your knife in Robb Stark's heart?” Lord Glover asked.

“Alys, come here to your family,” Cregan Karstark said.

“You are no family of mine. You are traitors, just like Lord Bolton and his Bastard!” Alys yelled back at her cousin.

“No one calls me bastard, bitch.” Ramsay said. “You will all watch while I fuck the two Stark girls, with the blood of their wild little brother on my hands and then I will flay and feed you to my dogs. Your sister starts to bore me, I'll you have to know.” He gave Jon and Sansa a cruel grin, but both Starks held their cool composure.

“My son is a little overzealous, but this is your last chance to bend the knee,” Lord Bolton said in a quiet voice.

“You are going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. Sleep Well,” Sansa said looking him straight in his cold emotionless eyes.

Sansa turned around her horse and rode back to the camp. Soon the other riders of her group had caught up with her. Tomorrow the battle would happen.

 

***

 

They returned to the camp and Jon told their siblings what had happened at the meeting. Sansa had no knowledge about battle strategies and tactics and so she simply listened as the Lords talked about battleplans for the next day.

It seemed there were some disagreements between the Lord how they should use Lord Manderly's cavalry. Some pledged they should use them in the initial attack, while others said they should be the reserve.

In the end from what Sansa understood, they agreed they would let the Boltons attack and then somehow try to surround them. Sansa hoped the men knew what they were doing.

Later that evening she lay in her tent next to Sandor, stroking her finger over his chest.

“Why did you come with us today, Sansa?” Sandor asked.

“I had to see Lord Bolton,” Sansa started. “I have never told you, but after the Red Wedding, when Walder Frey told me I was to be send back to Joffrey, Lord Bolton was there and mocked me for not being a Stark anymore. I answered him that I would someday watch him die and that day is tomorrow. I needed him to know that I haven’t forgotten.”

Sandor kissed her cheek. “I love when you show your fangs. You are my brave little bird,” he mused.

Sansa chuckled lightly.

“Do you think we can win tomorrow?” Sansa asked.

“I am sure we will, but it will be a tough fight. Many men will die tomorrow.”

“Better make sure you return safely to me, my love. Our child will need a father,” Sansa said and waited to let the words sink in.

“Our child?” he asked.

“Yes, Sandor,” Sansa told him smiling. “I am with child.”

Chapter Text

“Our child,” Sandor said letting the words sink in while Sansa still smiled at him.

“Yes, Sandor. I am with child,” she told him, smiling wildly, and Sandor pressed his lips to hers.

“Since when…” Sandor asked.

“The last time I bled was before we reached Castle Black, that was more than two months ago. The last time I drank the rest of the moontea was after we left Greywater Watch. I first suspected it, when I felt sick on the way to the Bear Island, even when the sea was calm and the Maester of Lady Mormont confirmed my suspicion.”

Sandor placed his large hand carefully over her lower belly and she covered his hand with hers. “Our child,” Sandor said. He had never thought to become father and now his child was growing in his wife's belly.

“Yes, my love. Are you happy?” she asked.

“I am more than happy, Sansa. A little wolf is growing in your belly,” he said and kissed her. “Does anyone else know?” Sandor asked as his little bird snuggled closer to him.

“No. I wanted to wait until Winterfell is back in our hands. I didn’t want to distract everyone, but I wanted you to know, my love. After all, it’s a part of you that had taken root in my womb,” she said and stroked over her lower belly.

“I love you so much. You make me the most fortunate man in the entire world, my smart and brave little bird.”

“And you make me the most fortunate woman, my brave and gentle hound,” Sansa said and Sandor kissed her forehead stroking with his fingers through her silky auburn hair.

“Tomorrow, I will make sure we take back your home. For you. Our pup and for your siblings,” Sandor said determined.

Sansas soft fingers stroked over his burned cheek. “It's your home, too, Sandor. Tomorrow we fight for our home,” she said.

“Aye. Our home.”

 

***

 

The next morning, he was sitting on Stranger. Sandor, Galbart Glover and the young Lord Cerwyn had the command of the two thousand men Lord Manderly had kept hidden.

They waited inside the Wolfswood, hidden from prying eyes, until they would attack. They had planned in detail how they wanted to fight the Boltons.

Sandor had given Sansa a deep kiss this morning before he had left and promised he would return to her, before falling onto his knees and kissing her belly, where his child was growing within his smart and beautiful wife.

They would let the Boltons attack their lines frontal, before retreating their center, to allow their wings to surround the enemy. The retreat of their center would be the signal for the allies within the Boltons to turn on them, while Sandor and his men would surprisingly crush into the enemy forces.

It was a good plan and that was why Sandor was pretty sure it wouldn’t work.

No battle plan, no matter how good it was, survived the first moment of battle.

“Ever seen anything like that?” Lord Glover asked next to him.

“Never,” Sandor said and watched the two armies stand before each other.

The Bolton army had taken position in front of Winterfell on a hill. Sandor couldn’t even see all of the army, so many men were waiting there. The loyalist army looked tiny against the massive amount of Boltons. The Boltons had lit several crosses with bodies on fire and the smell of burned flesh stained the cold morning air.

Sandor tried to distract himself from the smell, by thinking of Sansa and his pup, who were safely back in the camp with Arya, Alys, Bran and Shireen, the daughter of Lord Reed, Hodor and their brother's direwolf. To her annoyance, Lyanna Mormont had also been told to stay behind by her mother. Lady Mormont had chosen ten loyal men to also stay in the camp as well. In case they lost, they would take the girls to the Bear Island before sailing all the way to the Free Cities.

 

***

 

For a while it seemed like no one was going to make the first move in this battle, until Sandor could see that a single rider came forward leading someone on a rope.

“Who is this?” Lord Cerwyn asked.

“Ohh, fuck no,” Sandor murmured. “That must be Rickon Stark.”

Suddenly Sansa's youngest brother started to run towards the loyalist army and Jon ran to his horse to and rode towards him.

Don’t, Jon, that’s exactly what the Bolton Bastard wants, Sandor thought.

“Fuck,” Lord Glover said as the boy was hit by an arrow through the back and Sandor heart clenched at the sight of Sansa's baby brother dying in the muddy snow.

The Boltons sent their men and the loyalist army stormed into battle. The first wave of men the Boltons sent were men of House Umber and Manderly and several others minor northern houses. As both armies met in the middle of the battlefield, they, of course, didn’t start to slaughter each other since they were both on the same side and Sandor realized that this was what the Boltons had expected and exactly wanted.

Several salvos of arrows crushed down onto the loyalists, before the men of the Freys and Karstarks crushed into them.

From where he was Sandor could hear the screams of wounded and dying men and horses, while the Boltons still let rain down salvo after salvo of arrows, not caring if they hit their own men.

“We should attack,” Lord Glover told him and Lord Cerwyn nodded, while the men became restless.

“No. We have to wait until the Boltons sent the rest of their men or we wont be able to breach their line,” Sandor said seriously.

The piles of dead were getting higher and higher before the bastard finally sent the rest of his men into battle, probably trying to surround the loyalists.

“Now is the time,” Sandor said and Lord Glover nodded to one of the men to blew the horn to signal the attack.

The loyalist reserve stormed into battle and crushed into the Bolton men just running into battle to their great surprise. Sandor thought he could hear the cheer of the loyalists as they met the enemies.

Sandor lowered his lance and drove it through the chest of the Bolton right in front of him. Stranger reared up a smashed several heads with his hooves, while Sandor threw away his broken lance and drew his sword.

While Sandor hacked his way through countless men, he tried to find the Bolton Bastard.

The Boltons had obviously not expected to be attacked from the flank and so their lines quickly broke and turned to retreat back to Winterfell.

He saw the bastard turn his horse around and riding back to Winterfell while the rest of his army was still slaughtered.

Jon suddenly was by his side, splattered with blood and mud.

“With me!” Jon yelled and several hundred men followed him to Winterfell.

“Wun Wun, the gate,” Tormund said and the giant started to take care of the massive gate, while arrows rained down from above him. The wildlings' archers took care of every Bolton that dared to look over the battlements.

The gate opened and the wildling archers and northmen stormed the castle after Wun Wun.

The Boltons quickly sent all the men they had left to take back the gate, but they were quickly overwhelmed by the loyalists. More and more loyalists flooded through the gate and stormed every corner of the castle.

Jon was punching a man over and over and Sandor saw that it was the Bolton bastard that had shot his baby brother in cold blood. He only stopped when Sandor placed his hand on his shoulder and Jon nodded at him, getting of the barely alive son of Roose Bolton.

Lord Manderly waddled over from the great hall, Roose Bolton in chains between his men. The main courtyard was filled with men and the last fighting sounds died down in the distance.

“The castle is ours!” Lord Reed yelled holding up his spear and the men started to cheer and yell.

“Stark! Stark! Stark!” and “Winterfell!” calls could be heard everywhere and Sandor finally felt some of the tension leave his body. He had survived and would see his little bird again.

They had won, but to what price?

Chapter Text

Jorelle and Lyra Mormont had come around midday, to tell the people that had stayed behind in the camp that they had won the battle and that Winterfell was under their control.

The happiness Sansa and her siblings had felt quickly turned to ash, when the two Mormont sisters had given their condolences for their baby brother's death.

Rickon's death had always been a possibility, but Sansa had hoped so much they somehow could save him. There wasn’t much talk on their way to Winterfell.

Lyanna Mormont asked her sisters, if their mother and older sister were alright and how the battle in general went. Sansa was glad to hear from the talk that Jon and Sandor were alive, but the death of Rickon still darkened her thoughts.

Sansa tried to remember the face of her baby brother, when he had stood next to their mother as she had left for Kings Landing with Father and Arya. It seemed that Rickon's death hit Arya especially hard since she had been able to talk to him not long ago.

As Winterfell finally came in sight Sansa saw the whole scale of the battle. Countless crows flew on the sky and feasted on the thousands of dead bodies beneath them. Men were looking between the dead for wounded or gave enemies the quick gift of mercy and the smell of death lingered over the battlefield.

Sansa remembered that the last battlefield she had seen, had been at the Twins after the Red Wedding, with Robbs mutilated body tied to a stake.

They rode through the gate and already passed several wounded men lying on improvised beds, waiting for the maesters to arrive, groaning in agony. The maesters jumped off their horses and started to take care of the wounded. Jon stood next to Sandor in the courtyard and Sansa and Arya jumped off their own horses and rushed to them.

Arya flung herself in Jons arms and sobbed into his chest, while Sansa did the same with Sandor. She felt him kiss the crown of her hair, rubbing his hands over her back.

“I am so sorry, little bird.”

“Who did it?” Sansa asked close to a whisper.

The Bastard. Before the battle. Jon tried to get to him, but…” Sandor said against her hair, but the words got stuck in his throat.

Hodor brought Bran over to them and Jon told him how very sorry he was that he couldn’t get to him. Alys Karstark hugged Jon and told him how very sorry she was for all of them.

“Jon, where are they?” Sansa asked in a frosty voice.

“In chains alongside the other prisoners,” Jon said. “We deal later with them, like with everything else. First, we bury Rickon in the crypt.”

They went to the crypt entrance like they had done so often before as children. Sandor and Jon were carrying Rickon's body on a stretcher. Arya held onto Sansa's hand and was silently sobbing at seeing her dead baby brother. Bran was carried by Hodor and even the kind giant seemed to grieve Rickon's death.

The air was cold and humid, as they passed by the countless graves of their ancestors and their granite statues. Sansa had lit a candle as they had entered the crypt and she lit all the candles they passed until they had reached the graves of their grandfather Rickard and their uncle Brandon's and aunt Lyanna's grave.

It must be strange for Jon to stand at the grave of his mother for the first time, Sansa thought as she lit the candles. She found a feather on the ground and placed it in her aunt's cold stone hand.

They passed by the grave of their father. His statue showing that it wasn’t as old as the others. Sansa wasn’t sure if her fathers bones had somehow made it back to Winterfell.

They saw two empty graves next to their fathers that still waited for Robb's and Mother's bones. Sansa was sure they would stay empty forever.

Mother had found her last rest in the rivers of her homeland, Sansa thought. She didn’t even want to start thinking what the Freys might have done with the bones of her brother.

They placed Rickon's body in the empty grave next to their father's. It pained Sansa's heart to see her baby brother in his grave long before his time should have come. Someone had washed his face and his body was wrapped in Shaggydog's fur, that had been found in the bastard's room.

The group simply stood there and looked at the dead body. Sandor had his hands on her and Arya shoulder, as they all spoke a silent prayer for the youngest Stark.

Sandor and Jon pushed the massive stone plate over the grave and Sansa let some wax drip on the plate and placed the candle on it.

“It's my fault.” Jon suddenly said. “I could have gotten to him.”

“No,” Sandor said. “You tried your best to get to him. The bastard played his games with you. He could have killed him right there where he stood, but he wanted you to think you had the chance to get to him.”

I knew Rickon would die,” Bran suddenly whispered from Hodor's arms and they all turned to him.

I saw it,” Bran whispered. “In every vision I had, where Mother and Robb died at the Twins, I saw Rickon die one way or another. I am sorry,” he sobbed.

“Hodor,” Hodor said, as if he wanted to sooth Bran.

“You have such heavy burden on your shoulder,” Jon said. “Maybe Rickon was the price the gods wanted us to pay to get back our home.”

Bran nodded tears still running down his face.

“He won't be forgotten, when we rebuild our home,” Bran said and they all nodded in agreement.

Sansa grabbed Sandor's hand.

“I know it’s a day of sadness and happiness all the same, but Sandor and I want to tell you something,” Sansa started and her sibling turned to her curious what she wanted to say. “I am with child,” Sansa said and the other siblings needed a moment to let the words sink in.

“By the gods, Sansa,” Jon said. “That are really good news today.”

Arya gave her a hug. “That’s great, Sansa,” she said.

“I am happy for you two,” Bran said Sansa smiled at him.

“I know, it’s a sad day, because of Rickon, but I thought you should know,” Sansa said.

“No. You were right to tell us. Rickon would be happy for you too, as he would be happy that we got our home back,” Bran said.

 

***

 

They left the crypts and went back to the main courtyard just as the Bolton banners dropped from the wall and the fierce direwolf one more flew over Winterfell.

Asha Greyjoy came to them with a sorry shadow of a man next to her.

By the gods, Sansa thought, that must be what is left of Theon.

“Lord Stark,” she started, obviously addressing Bran. “I fought by your side to take back your home. Am I now allowed to leave for my home with my brother?”

“You are,” Bran said. “Take fresh horses and supplies for your journey. I hope you do good on your intentions for a peaceful future, between our houses.”

“I do,” she answered. “I swear it on the Drowned God.”

They watched them as they rode through the gates. Sansa still couldn’t believe that this man had once been Theon Greyjoy.

Theon Greyjoy who had always been cocky and probably dreamed of the day Sansa's father would betroth her to Theon. The Theon Greyjoy that had stolen some sloppy kisses from her when she had been a young girl only to be beat up by Robb for it.

“My lords, my ladies,” Lord Manderly said as he came over. “It's so good to see you have made it. I am so sorry for your brother.”

“Thank you, my lord. How bad are our losses?” Bran asked.

“We lost many men, but not as many as it would have been if your sister's husband surprise attacked the Boltons in the right moment,” he declared, acknowledging Sandor.

“And whom have we taken prisoner?” Jon asked.

“Lord Bolton and his Bastard. Lord Bolton's wife had unfortunately been killed by one of the Wulls, as revenge for the Red Wedding. Arnolf Karstark and one of his sons. The other one died in the battle. Aenys Frey died by the hand that red bearded wildling, but Hosteen Frey had been taken alive. Several other Freys and some minor lords that have sworn loyalty to the Boltons. Lady Dustin decided to end her life by her own hand when she realized the battle was turning against the Boltons,” the fat lord told them.

“Alright, we will deal with them after the declaration of Bran becoming new King,” Jon said.

“We also found the girl they claimed was Arya Stark. We found her locked into her chamber, with a woman that claimed to be her handmaiden, but other servants accuse her of being the bastards bedwarmer, that liked to accompany and participate his hunts on young women and other atrocities. The imposter is with the maester right now. The bastard did unspeakable things to her,” Lord Manderly said, his voice dripping with distaste.

Again, a shiver ran down Sansa's spine, that she or Arya could have been in her place.

“Do we know who she is?” Arya asked.

“No, but she claims she had lived here.”

“I want to see her,” Sansa said and Arya told her she would come with her.

“What shall we do about the bastards bedwarmer?” Lord Manderly asked.

Hang her. We wont allow crimes to go unpunished,” Jon said and Lord Manderly nodded.

“Alright, we'll see you then at the declaration,” Bran said and Hodor carried him off.

“Where is the girl?” Sansa asked Lord Manderly.

“In the maester's tower.”

“Thank you, my lord.”

They walked to the entrance of the tower that had belonged to maester Luwin their whole life and she held onto Sandor's arm as they entered. They carefully entered the chamber and the maester bowed his head. He was the maester of Deepwood Motte that had followed his lord into war.

The girl sat on a chair only in her mattered shift. Her arms were covered with bruises and cuts. On her neck Sansa thought she could see bite marks.

“By the gods,” Sansa muttered and the girl turned shyly around. Sansas eyes widened in shock as she locked her blue eyes with the brown of the girl. “Jeyne?” Sansa asked and Arya frowned next to her before her mouth fell open as realization hit her too.

“By the gods, Jeyne Poole,” Arya whispered.

“I know you,” Jeyne whispered. “Sansa? Arya?”

“Yes, Jeyne, it's us. By the gods,” Sansa said.

Sansa hadn’t seen Jeyne since the day Cersei told her to write the letter to Robb, to ask him to bend the knee to save father. Sandor had locked her and Jeyne in, but when Sansa had returned to her room in the Red Keep. Jeyne had been gone.

“I remember you too,” Jeyne said and pointed to Sandor standing behind Sansa. “You took me from my room and brought me to Sansa's.”

“Aye, that I did.”

“Will she be alright, maester?” Sansa asked.

“She will need time. Her injuries will heal, but about her memories I don’t dare to make any assumptions. She needs rest.”

Sansa didn’t even dare to imagine what her old childhood friend had been through, but Arya had told them how she has heard the crying and the screams throughout Winterfell.

“He hurt me,” Jeyne whispered. “He made Theon watch while he hurt me.”

Sansa carefully took Jeyne's hand. “We know. But now you are safe. He can't hurt you anymore. He will pay for what he did.”

Sansa turned to the maester.

“Take good care of her, maester,” Sansa said.

“Of course, Lady Stark.”

 

***

 

They left the tower of the maester and headed to the great hall.

“By the gods can you believe it's Jeyne?” Arya asked.

“Not really. Do you know how she ended up here, Sandor?” Sansa asked, turning to her husband.

“I don’t. I only put her in your room so she didn’t get slaughtered like the other people of your father's household, but I don’t know what happened after she disappeared,” he said in honesty.

The hall was filled with all lords and ladies of the North that had survived the battle. Sansa nodded to Maege Mormont, who was sitting with her daughters, who lifted her horn of ale as greeting. Alysanne had a bandaged hand, but wasn’t injured further. The two Umbers sat next to the two Glovers and drank from a horn while talking. Lord Manderly sat next to Davos Seaworth. Shireen and Alys Karstark sat with Meera Reed and her father. Tormund and several other wildlings chieftains were sitting next Lord Wull, the young Lord Cerywn and several other lords. Servants brought bread and bowls with salt.

Sansa and the others took their place at the high table and she felt the excitement flood through her to finally be here in the hall of her ancestors again. She stroked her fingers over the wooden table, to make sure that this wasn’t a dream, but the reality.

“Who was the girl, they said was Arya?” Jon asked as they sat down.

“It's Jeyne Poole,” Sansa said.

“The daughter of Vayon Poole? Your best friend?” Bran asked and Sansa nodded.

“By the gods,” Jon said.

“The maester is taking care of her,” Arya said, as she sat down.

“Good,” Bran said from his seat in the center of the high table. Left of Bran sat Arya with Jon and on his right, Sansa and Sandor.

“My lords and ladies,” Lord Manderly declared standing up and the talk in the great hall died down. “The North remembers and the Red Wedding has been avenged. The wolves are back in Winterfell where they belong.”

The crowd cheered and yelled agreement.

“It's time we name a new king,” Lord Manderly said and pulled his sword. “King Brandon. The King in the North!”

All the other lords and ladies of the North stood up and pulled their weapons if they had.

“The King in the North! The King in the North! The King in the North!” The gathered crowd cheered and Sansa felt tears in her eyes and grabbed Sandor's hand under the table at the sight of the North standing once again united behind them.

Bran lifted his hand and the crowd sat down again.

“My lords, my ladies. The North is once again united. With winter nearly upon us, we need to stand together. The dead are marching on the Wall and we need to be prepared for it. House Stark won’t forget the loyalty all the houses gathered in this hall have shown today. The North stands together like we have always done,” Bran spoke and everybody listened intensely what the new king had to say.

“Our father always said, who passes the sentence must swing the sword. And the traitors still must face justice. I am not able to swing a sword, but my brother and brother in law are. We deal with the traitors today and leave the past behind us for a better future.”

“The King in the North!” came as answer from the crowd. They left the hall into the main courtyard, while the traitors were brought outside.

From the Freys, only Hosteen Frey was still alive. The other Frey they had caught alive, had died of their injuries.

A piece of weirwood was brought and Jon stepped forward, nodding to Bran who had been placed on a chair by Hodor, so he didn’t have to be carried.

“Hosteen Frey,” Jon started. “For participating in breaking the sacred guest right and murdering guests under your protection, I, Jon of House Stark, sentence you to die. Do you have any last words?”

Hosteen Frey didn’t say anything, but spit on the ground before Jon. Robett Glover kicked him in the back, to force him down on the block.

Jon draw Longclaw and chopped of Hosteen Frey's head with a single stroke. Sansa didn’t advert her eyes. Her father would have wanted her to see it.

Next, Arnolf and Cregan Karstark were brought forward. Arnolf was glaring at everybody, while Cregan had his eyes adverted to the ground.

“Arnolf and Cregan Karstark, for betraying the North and House Stark, I, Jon Stark, sentence you to die. Have you any last words?”

“Your brother Robb betrayed the North when he murdered my brother and married that foreign whore. I only did what was right, may the gods curse you and your damn family,” Arnolf said before getting on his knees placing his head on the already bloodied block. Jon took off his head and he called for Cregan's last words. Cregan looked at his cousin Alys, who was standing next to Lady Mormont and her daughters.

“Please, Alys. Tell them to show mercy. We are family,” Cregan pleaded.

“That didn’t stop you from plotting to take away my home and handing over Rickon Stark to the Boltons,” Alys said sternly.

Robett Glover forced Cregan Karstark on his knees and the man started to sob as his head lay on the block. Jon let Longclaw fall down onto Cregan Karstark's neck and the last male member of House Karstark found his death.

Jon wiped Longclaw clean with a cloth before sheathing his blade and walking over to Alys Karstark, embracing her, while the bodies of her uncle and cousin were carried away. He whispered something in her ear and she nodded, but Sansa couldn’t hear what he said.

Now only Lord Bolton and his Bastard were left. Bran had said on the way out that their execution would fall to Sandor, to show the North that the husband of Ned Starks eldest daughter would honor the northern traditions like her father had done before.

First came the bastard that was fighting his chains. Sandor gave her a kiss on the cheek and stepped forward, pulling his sword, that had been forged out of the ancient family sword Ice.

How fitting, Sansa thought, that Roose Bolton and his bastard would find their end by the sword of House Stark, even if was only half of it.

Sandor didn’t want to name the sword, because he thought it ridiculous, but Arya and Sansa had insisted, that the sword needed a name. Since Jon's valyrian steel sword was named Longclaw, Sansa had suggested to name Sandor's sword Wolf Fang.

The bastard looked at the crowd of people like the mad dog he was.

Ramsay Snow…” Sandor started, but the bastard interrupted him.

“I am no Snow!” he yelled at Sandor. “I am…” Sandor backhanded him sending him down into the bloodied mix of snow and mud.

“You are a vile bastard and nothing more,” Sandor growled, as the bastard spit out blood and broken teeth.

“Ramsay Snow, for crimes against the North and its people and for the murder of Lady Hornwood, I sentence you to die. Any last words, bastard,” Sandor growled and let the bastard roll slowly over his tongue.

The bastard only spat insults at everyone, even as he was forced down on the block. Sandor lifted his sword and took the head of the bastard with a single stroke.

Now only Roose Bolton was left. The courtyard was completely quiet. Only the cold wind could be heard. Roose Bolton stepped forward and his cold eyes locked with hers.

I told you back at the Twins that I was going to see you die someday,” Sansa said with a frosty voice.

That you did, Lady Sansa,” Roose Bolton said. “My house might disappear today, but yours will follow soon after. A crippled boy at the head of a great house and two girls as heirs will undoubtedly lead to House Stark's final downfall. Especially with the Lannister dog as family member.”

No, it won’t,” Bran said from his chair.

“Roose Bolton for planning the Red Wedding, murdering King Robb by your own hand and betrayal of the North, I, and the North, sentence you to die. Do you have any last words?” Sandor rasped.

Lord Bolton didn’t give an answer but simply got down on his knees and laid down his head on the weirwood block.

Sansa held her head high and didn’t even blink as Sandor chopped of Roose Bolton's head. And so, the last member of a thousand of years old blood line found his end. With his death, the house of the Red Kings of the Dreadfort finally disappeared from the North forever.

Nobody said a word after Roose Bolton's head had left his body.

The North Remembers,” Lady Mormont whispered and the other people hesitantly repeated the sentence until it was a steady chorus.

“Burn the bodies,” Bran ordered. “Send the head of Bolton and his bastard to the Dreadfort. They can bend the knee or share their lord's fate.”

“Stark! Stark! Stark!” The crowd cheered as they returned inside.

Sansa gave the dead body of Roose Bolton one last look, before she linked her arm with Sandor's and followed the others back inside.

The Starks were finally at home.

Chapter Text

Sansa lay safely nestled against his body under the warm furs, in the room that had once been hers before she had left her home after Robert Baratheon's visit. After they had dealt with the traitors, they had returned to the great hall.

Servants had brought enough food and drink for everyone. As far as Sandor has noticed, all servants were happy that they weren’t serving the Boltons anymore. Finally, they didn’t have to live in fear of getting flayed for a minor mistake.

The whole castle was celebrating and Bran had given orders that every man that had fought would have enough to eat and drink. The stockpiles were well supplied for a long siege and so they could eat and drink without fearing that it would be missed in the winter.

The last time Sandor had been in Winterfell he had eaten with the simple soldiers in the barracks, while the nobility had feasted in the great hall and now he was sitting here. At the high table, with his wife and her siblings.

The hall had been filled with laughter and joy the whole evening. Some of the wildlings even played some music.

To Sandor's surprise, the little bird wanted to dance with him even after he had told her that he wasn’t a good at it at all. She had dragged him to the dance floor nevertheless, where Alys was already dancing with Jon, and Lady Mormont with Tormund, between other lords that had asked the daughters of Lady Mormont.

Sansa had smiled happily during her dance, even as he accidentally stepped on her toes a few times.

The feast went on for hours until the people started to leave for the rooms they had been given.

The Starks went to their old childhood rooms, since the chamber of their mother and father was still full of Bolton possessions. But for tonight, their old rooms would do.

Sansa had proudly presented the chamber she had lived in for so long to Sandor. At first, Sandor had wondered, how it was possible that the chamber was warm even without a fire in the fireplace. Sansa had taken his hand and placed it on the wall and at feeling the warmth of the wall he remembered what Sansa had once told him about warm water floating through the castle walls.

This winter he wouldn’t spent freezing in the barracks of the simple soldiers.

Sansa's childhood bed was way too small for both of them, but they didn’t care, because they enjoyed the closeness of each other and they were dead tired.

“That was a nice feast, despite Rickon's death,” Sansa said with a hint of sadness in her voice, trying to move a little closer to him.

“Aye, little bird, that it was, even if I still don’t know why you wanted to dance with me. I nearly crushed your feet. There were better dancers in the room than me, you could have danced with one that know how to do it,” Sandor said.

“I wanted to dance with you for a long time and I don’t care if you stepped on my toes. During the feast in Riverrun, I danced with several bannermen, but I only wanted to dance with you,” Sansa mused. They both looked up to the canopy of the bed. “As girl I often lay here during the night and looked up, dreaming about my future husband. And now I am here with my husband,” Sansa said. “I love you, Sandor. We are finally back home, even if it will need time to be completely rebuild again.”

“I love you, too, Sansa. We will rebuild the Winterfell of your childhood. For you, your siblings and the little wolf in your belly,” he said and placed his hand over hers that was resting over her lower belly.

 

***

 

The next day, the castle was still in turmoil, removing all signs of the Bolton regency and the debris of the sack.

They had a brief meeting with the lords this morning. Everyone had agreed that that the wounded should be brought back to their homes as soon as possible, while the bodies on the battlefield should be burned. The Mountain clans had also asked if they were allowed to return home, to make preparations for the winter.

Bran had allowed that every lord would be allowed to return to their homes if they wished. Many lords wanted to leave to see their own families again and prepare for winter.

Lord Manderly said he would return to White Harbor, but would ensure that a steady flow on supplies would be sent to every keep of the North and the Glover brothers wanted to see their family at Deepwood Motte again and repair the damage done by the Ironborn. The Umber brothers offered to bring the heads of Roose Bolton and his bastard to the Dreadfort and afterwards tell the garrison of Karholt that they had a new lady. Lady Mormont and her daughters wanted to stay, as did Alys Karstark and Lord Reed, while his daughter would return to Greywater Watch.

Word that the Starks were back in Winterfell spread quick within the smallfolk of the North and craftsmen were coming from several villages asking if their help was needed.

Sansa's brother had thanked them for their offer, but told them, that they hadn't any money to pay them, since all the gold the Starks had in Winterfell had been stolen during and after the sack of Winterfell.

Bran had told them House Stark would pay for their work as soon as they had a steady income once more.

Sandor had suggested using his own money. From the bag of gold Sansa's brother Robb had given him after he sent him away, he still had some gold left, and from the few tourney winnings he had in Kings Landing, they had nearly used nothing during the long journey. The lion’s share of his tourney winnings, the forty thousand gold dragons of the tourney to honor Sansa's father, were still safely in the Iron Bank. Since the crown hasn’t been able to pay him out, he had gotten a parchment by the Iron Bank over the whole amount of money, after he had saved the bloody knight of flowers from his brother.

Lord Manderly had said he would contact the Iron Bank on his behalf so the money was brought to Winterfell.

After the meeting, Sansa strolled with him through the godswood. He had never been before in a real godswood.

The godswood in the Red Keep had been more like a garden, rather than in the original sense.

Sandor had always spit on the gods, but since Sansa had stepped into his life, he had called for them from time to time. He wasn’t religious by all means and he could never bring himself to like the pompous ceremonies in the Faith of the Seven, but he had to agree that the godswood had a calming atmosphere.

“I am thankful that you offered to use your tourney winnings so we can rebuild Winterfell,” Sansa said, holding onto his arm and strolling deeper into the wood of old trees.

“Like you said. It's our home. And you and your siblings accepted me as one of yours and even allow me to bear your father's name. If my money helps to rebuild our home its well invested,” Sandor softly rasped and Sansa smiled at him.

The snow crunched under their boots as they reached the large weirwood in the center of the wood. The red tears that leaked out of the carved wooden face had frozen in the cold air.

“My father loved to come here. Every time he had to execute a deserter or criminal he would sit on this stone next to the tree and clean Ice with a leather cloth,” Sansa said, clearly imagining her father sitting there.

“I will try to honor that tradition, my love,” Sandor said and Sansa smiled up at him.

As they wanted to move on Sandor nearly stumbled over some kind of metal chain that lied hidden under the snow.

“Whats this?” Sandor asked and started to shovel the snow away until he had a maesters' chain in his hand with something that might have been a maesters robe once.

Sansa touched the chain with her delicate fingers.

“That is the chain of Maester Luwin. He must have been killed here, when the castle was sacked,” Sansa said sadly. “He brought me, Arya and Bran into this world and taught us reading and writing. He was always there for us if we needed help.”

“I am sure he is watching over you and your siblings right now. He would be happy and proud to see what a smart young woman you have become,” Sandor warmly rasped at her and pulled her into an embrace and Sansa nodded against his chest.

Sandor placed the chain of the maester at the base of the three, after he had loosened his embrace. Sansa led him further through the godswood to the famous glass gardens he had already heard of.

“By the gods, they have destroyed everything,” Sansa muttered as they reached the glasshouses. Most windows had been broken and the hot earth steamed in the cold air.

“We will rebuild it, Sansa, and soon we will have fresh vegetables and maybe even lemons for you,” he said, trying to lift her mood after seeing this special place destroyed.

Sandor noticed a small pile of stones, next to one of the broken glass houses. Some of the stones had fallen of the pile. Sandor knelt down and put the stones back on the pile. Sansa knelt next to him and handed him some of the stones.

Sandor changed the positions of some of the stones and frowned as he saw a pink silken ribbon lying under one stone, protected from the surrounding. Sansa took the ribbon and traced it with her finger, before clutching it to her chest.

“Sansa, what's wrong?” Sandor asked and she looked at him with heavy tears pooling in her blue eyes.

“That was Lady's ribbon, Sandor. That’s my direwolf's grave,” she said and the heavy tears started to run down her face.

Sandor remembered the day he had talked to her on the Kingsroad near the Trident for the first time, when she had lead around her direwolf in the camp. Sandor swiped away the thick tears with his thumb before pulling her into and embrace kissing the crown of her hair. “I remember your wolf, little bird. She was a kind creature, just like her master,” Sandor whispered against her hair.

“Yes, she was. I still miss her every time I see Ghost. But every time, I also remember the words King Robert said to my father, when he was forced to kill my wolf. He told my father that a direwolf was no pet, he should get me a dog, I would be happier for it,” she looked up at him and smiled with her still tear wet cheeks. “I am quite happy with my brave Hound.”

“As am I with my direwolf,” he said, placing a gentle kiss on her lips. Sandor pulled the handkerchief Sansa had given him for their wedding out of his sleeve and dried the last of her tears with it, before putting it away in his sleeve again. Sandor gave her another kiss, making her cheeks blush lightly. They decided to walk back to the keep, since it was nearly time for lunch.

Sansa held onto his arms while they walked their way back.

“The day I lost Lady, was the first day you spoke to me,” Sansa said.

“Aye, I remember,” Sandor softly rasped.

“When you grabbed my shoulder, I first thought it was my father, because it felt just as careful and protective as if it had been fathers hand,” she said and smiled warmly at him.

“Aye, I had to be careful or I might would have hurt the little bird,” Sandor rasped.

Sansa chuckled.

“Even back then you could have never hurt me,” she said and grabbed his arm tighter.

They had just left the godswood, when they crossed path with Arya. “I’ve been looking for you,” she said. “Bran wants to see us. He says they found something interesting in between the letters of Roose Bolton.”

Chapter Text

Sansa, Arya and Sandor had reached the floor where their father's solar was. Bran, Jon, Lord Reed and Davos had spent the morning looking through the paperwork of Roose Bolton and to clean the solar of everything that remained of the Boltons.

Sansa opened the door to the solar and entered, followed by her sister and Sandor.

Bran sat at the table, that once been their fathers and looked through a stack of papers, with Lord Reed standing behind him, explaining parts Bran didn’t understand. Jon and Davos were sorting out the papers that seemed to have importance, before throwing the unimportant into the fire.

“Bran,” Sansa greeted her brother. “Arya said you found something important.”

“Yes, indeed. Please have a seat,” he said and they sat down in the cushioned chairs that stood at the table.

“We nearly finished looking through all the papers and letters. Most of them are not important, but we also found a letter from Walder Frey, that’s only a few weeks old,” Bran said and Sansa tensed slightly at hearing the name of her former father in law.

“What does that old wrinkled cunt want?” Sandor growled.

“He has written Lord Bolton the latest news from the south. It seems Riverrun is still under siege and it seems that Lord Frey still believes that granduncle Brynden gives you shelter in Riverrun,” Bran said to Sansa.

“Furthermore, he writes that capital is in chaos. Walder Frey writes that the crown is in war with the Tyrells and Martells. Cersei Lannister has named herself Queen of Westeros, after her son Tommen died under unknown circumstances.”

“What?!” Sansa asked. She didn’t want to believe that Tommen was dead. He has always been a kind boy. He had nothing of the cruelness and madness of his brother. That Cersei had named herself Queen wasn’t a real surprise though. Cersei had always been hungry for power. Sansa still remembered the conversation they had during the Battle of the Blackwater, when Cersei had told Sansa how unfair she thought the idea why her brother was raised to rule, why she was raised to breed.

“Fuck me with a hot poker,” Sandor growled. “The mother of madness as Queen of Westeros. She has always been pissed that she hadn’t been born with a cock between her legs.”

“She is mad, when she thinks that she can name herself Queen of Westeros without the support of Westeros,” Davos said.

“She always thought herself Tywin Lannister with tits. She will try to destroy everyone that stands in her way,” Sandor said.

“She will most likely come for us when she hears of our whereabouts,” Jon threw in.

“With the Tyrells and Martells as enemies, she will be quite busy, I imagine. After all, the Lannisters have been at war for years now and their resources aren’t endless,” Lord Reed said. “But if they come, we still have Moat Cailin and the Neck as first line of defense.”

“Can your men hold the Neck?” Bran asked.

“Yes, your grace. Nobody will come North that we don’t want to come North,” Lord Reed assured.

“Cersei is mad, if she thinks she can conquer the North,” Arya said.

“She will try nevertheless when she hears that the Starks are back and especially if I am here,” Sansa pointed out. “She has always hated me. She probably thinks I had my hands in Joffrey's death somehow.”

“That sounds like Cersei,” Arya added.

“The Blackfish is still holding Riverrun,” Davos said.

“Just like he promised us,” Sandor said and Arya and Sansa nodded.

“We need to help him,” Arya declared.

“We need to prepare for the White Walkers,” Jon objected.

“I gave Brienne a letter for Uncle Brynden. I wrote him, that we will send him help as soon as we can,” Sansa said and hoped that Brienne somehow would be able to deliver the letter, if she really was that loyal as she claimed to be.

“We will help him if we can, but first we have make sure the North is prepared for the winter and the upcoming storm,” Bran said.

“Well, at least we now know what is going on in the south,” Sandor growled.

And the others agreed, before they all left for lunch.

Chapter Text

He had come a long way. Born as son of a minor Lord on the Fingers, then foster son of Hoster Tully in Riverrun. After that, all the way up to Master of Coin, and finally Lord of Harrenhal and Lord Protector of the Vale.

Chaos had been his ladder and he knew how to play the game to not miss a single rung on his way up. Convincing stupid Lysa to poison Jon Arryn and then write to her sister to convince her the Lannisters had murdered the old friend and foster father of King Robert and Ned Stark had been easy. Petyr had known that the husband of his beloved Cat would have been that stupid to believe it.

Cat, he thought, his beloved Cat that he had fought that rough Northmen for, only to be nearly killed by him. And just when he thought that Cat had come to soothe away his pain, Lysa had crawled into his bed, causing her father to send him away.

He still remembered how he had drunk himself into a stupor after he had heard that Cat had married Brandon's brother after his death.

From that moment, he had played the game to have Cat at his side, when he would take the Iron Throne for himself. He had planted his seeds carefully, having his eyes and ears everywhere in the Seven Kingdoms.

Ned Stark had been an honorable fool and had made every step like he had planned. He had carefully fueled his mistrust in the Lannisters, by telling them the dagger the assassin had used to try to kill their son had been the Imp's, which had led to Cat capturing the bloodied Imp, starting the war that brought chaos over the land.

He had whispered into Joffrey's ear that a King never can let traitors live. With the boy king ordering for the head of Ned Stark, the next step had been made.

He had hoped to convince his Cat with the bones of her Ned to finally marry him back in the camp of Renly Baratheon. He would have made her his queen, but he had underestimated the love for this honorable fool.

He had shifted his ambitions to Cat's eldest daughter instead. The girl was the spitting image of her mother, but at her young age already far more beautiful.

Petyr had brokered the alliance between the Lannisters and the Tyrells against Stannis Baratheon. If Sansa was free of her betrothal to Joffrey, he would be able to steal her away and bring her back to her mother. If that wouldn’t convince Cat of his love…

It didn’t matter. His plans had been crossed by the Lannister dog. That ugly brute, had stolen away his prize and sold her back to her mother.

Again, Petyr had adjusted his plans and agreed to marry Lysa Arryn to bring the Vale back into the realm. It wasn’t the first time he did something he hated to get what he wanted and if fucking that disgusting woman was the price for power, then so be it. He had married her, endured her and waited for better opportunities to arise.

And better opportunities had arisen, when the Red Wedding had happened.

Cat was lost to him, but her daughter was still alive. He whispered the words to Joffrey, that he should get back what his dog had stolen from him and like he had expected, Joffrey wanted his plaything back and wrote the letter to Lord Frey demanding Sansa, before the blood that had been spilled at the wedding had dried.

With Olenna Tyrell demanding Joffrey's death to protect her own precious granddaughter Margaery, he had forged the plan to steal Sansa away during the wedding, when the murder would happen, with the help of this disgusting drunkard Dontos Hollard.

He would save Sansa like the knights in the stories girls liked so much. With the key to the North in his hand, he would be easily able to overthrow the Boltons, since the Stark daughter that had been given to Roose Bolton was a pretender.

Petyr would have been the hero in Sansa's life. He would have given her Winterfell and made her his queen, but again his plans had been crossed as Sansa had disappeared on her way to King's Landing from the Twins.

With Lord Tywin's death by the hand of the bloody imp and the desire of his daughter for power, he had an easy play to wage chaos. He had watched from the safety of the Eyrie as the chaos in the capital had unfolded with the tension between the crown and the sparrows.

Lysa though had become a problem, with her constant refusal to let the Vale become part in the greater scheme. Her accident with the moondoor had been tragic and the singer that had been jealous of her love for Petyr had been quickly dealt with. Robin loved his uncle Petyr and did everything Petyr wanted him to do and so the Lords of the Vale didn’t do anything against him, even if some like the Bronze Yohn Royce probably suspected that Lysa Arryn's death hadn’t been an accident.

Cersei might think herself a player, but she had acted just as Petyr had expected, though he had to admit that he hadn’t thought that she would burn down the whole Sept of Baelor with all her enemies and people she didn’t trust inside.

The mad king would be proud of Cersei's work, Petyr had thought as he read the letter by Olyvar, about the happening and the coronation of Cersei Lannister as Queen of Westeros.

The war that these events had started would be the catalyst for next rung he would climb, and the news he had heard from the North couldn’t have been better for him.

He sat on the opposite side of the table from Cersei Lannister. Her giant, mute guard standing behind her. The hand of the Queen, Qyburn, stood next to her.

She was writing some letter, not caring for his presence. Petyr enjoyed this pathetic display of power. Cersei might though herself the mightiest person in Westeros, but the truth was that the crown was bankrupt, the Lannister goldmines had dried years ago. She had no allies and the Lannister army was exhausted from fighting nonstop for several years now.

“What can I do for you, Lord Baelish? What brings the Lord Protector of the Vale all the way to the Capital?” Cersei finally asked after she had folded and sealed the letter, giving it to Qyburn, who left to send it away.

“Something so urgent, I couldn’t trust the words to a raven. You once charged me with finding Arya Stark. To my shame, I failed you, your grace,” Petyr started and saw how visibly Cersei enjoyed to be called ´your grace´. “But instead I found Sansa Stark.”

He let the information sink in, before he continued. “She is alive and well back in Winterfell with the Hound, alongside her sister and the brothers she has left. They have taken back the castle with the help of the Houses of the North and named Brandon Stark the new king after executing the Boltons.” He happily noticed how the anger and hate was boiling right under Cersei's skin.

“That traitor slut with her coward dog,” Cersei said angrily.

“My sources further confirm that she has also married Joffrey's former shield,” he continued.

“I want their heads!” Cersei yelled. “I fed that Stark bitch at my own table, clothed her and let her play with my children even when she was only the daughter of a traitor. And how does she thank me my generosity? By running away with Joffrey's shield!”
Petyr smirked inwardly at her fit. Just like her bastard son, he thought satisfied.

“I want the head of that coward dog for leaving my son, when he needed him most. Had the Hound been here, my bloody brother wouldn’t have been able to poison Joffrey's wine. And I simply know Sansa, that bitch, had her finger in Joffreys murder. She and the Imp must be working together. He always had that soft spot for that dense bitch. I want all of their heads and Winterfell burned to the damn ground!”

“Then you should probably send an army North to deal with the traitors before the winter fully arrives. Maybe your brother Jaime could command them,” Petyr suggested, knowing that Cersei would never sent her brother and lover north.

“Jaime is busy ending the siege at Riverrun and after that, to deal with the Tyrells and Martells,” Cersei said.

“Perhaps I can help. The Knights of the Vale are some of the best fighters in Westeros, trained to battle in the ice and the snow,” Petyr said.

“Forgive me, Lord Baelish, you have a reputation as a money lender and brothel keeper, not a military man,” Cersei said arrogantly. She made the same mistake most powerful men and women had made in his life, when it came to him. They all underestimated him.

“You wouldn’t risk a single Lannister soldier or a single coin from the Royal Treasury. What do you have to lose, a brothel keeper?“

“And what if is it you want for your service to the crown?” Cersei asked.

“Name me Warden of the North.”

“If you had put all the heads of the traitors on spikes and slaughter every damn Stark and that coward dog, I will grant you the title,” Cersei declared and probably thought herself generous.

“I’ll not rest until the lion flies over Winterfell, your grace,” Petyr said and Cersei dismissed him with a wave of her hand.

“Your grace,” Baelish said and bowed before he left the solar.

He returned to his destroyed brothel, where Olyvar was already awaiting his return. “Prepare my ship to the Vale, Olyvar,” Petyr ordered.

“As you wish, my Lord,” his man replied and left to the harbor.

Olyvar had been very useful to him in the past. He had been the one that had given the High Sparrow the intimate information that had led to Loras Tyrell's imprisonment. And since Olyvar knew what had happened to Ros after showing that she had been a bad investment, Petyr knew that Olyvar would never betray him.

Everything had worked out in his favor. With a royal decree in his hand, he would take the North with the knights of the Vale. A detailed plan was forming in his head while he waited for Olyvar's return. If everything would go as he imagined, he would be a big step closer to the Iron Throne with Sansa as his wife at his side.

Chapter Text

Brienne was riding towards the gates of Riverrun and shot one short glance at Lord Edmure on his gallows, before she reached the moat and the drawbridge. Brienne and Podrick had reached Riverrun this morning, the home of her former lady.

When they had approached the castle, they saw that not only the Freys had laid siege to the castle, but the Lannisters too.

Brienne immediately spotted Jaime on his horse in the camp, overseeing the siege. Some Lannister knights had brought her to Jaime. The man she met, though, wasn’t the same that had sent her to find Sansa Stark, to fulfill his promise to Lady Catelyn. The man she now saw only cared for his own sister.

Jaime had told her he would take that damn castle, even if he had to kill everyone inside. He had asked her if he she had managed to find Sansa and Brienne had told him, that she sent her here to bring the Blackfish a letter.

She left out the parts about the Hound and her siblings.

Brienne was glad that Jaime allowed her to enter the castle and Brienne told him she would try to convince the Blackfish to surrender peacefully and go North. She hoped that maybe he would be able to convince his grandniece that her relationship with the Hound was a mistake.

“Who comes there?” a soldier yelled down the gate.

“Brienne of Tarth, I come in name of Sansa Stark, Brynden Tully's grandniece.” Brienne called back and after a few moments the drawbridge slowly started to lower.

As the drawbridge had lowered, she saw that the Blackfish was already awaiting her with two dozen battle tested men. Brienne and Pod slowly rode into the castle and the drawbridge immediately was pulled back up again.

“Ser Brynden,” Brienne greeted him.

“Lady Brienne, the last time I saw you was before my niece ordered you to bring the Kingslayer back to King's Landing, in return for my grandnieces. You have failed since Sansa was brought back by Sandor Clegane,” the Blackfish said plainly.

“I know, I heard of the Red Wedding, when we reached the capital and Ser Jaime wanted to bribe the Freys to hand Lady Sansa to me instead of Joffrey. I wanted to bring her to your niece in the Vale,” Brienne said in honesty. “When she disappeared Ser Jaime sent me to find her, since we didn’t believe that she was hiding here with you.”

“And have you found her?”

“I did. In the North with her sister and Sandor Clegane,” Brienne said and hoped the Blackfish would look distressed by the news.

“Let us talk inside, Lady Brienne,” he said and led her to the solar.

Soldiers were everywhere, but they didn’t look concerned, like you would expect at seeing to massive armies surrounding your castle. They looked bored instead.

They entered the solar and as soon as the door had closed, Brienne spoke up. “I told you, you two grandnieces are with the Hound, and furthermore, their younger brother, too,” Brienne said.

“That’s good. I knew he would keep them safe,” Brynden said satisfied.

“What do you mean?”

“I sent him away with the girls after we freed Sansa, so he would keep them safe on their way north and it seems he did as he promised. Furthermore, even their younger brother is alive.”

“But…but they are with the Hound. Lady Sansa has even married him at the Wall,” Brienne said and tried to sound appalled.

“Well…” Brynden started. “If Sansa chose him, she will know what she is doing.”

“You can’t really mean that, Ser Brynden. Your own niece, Sansa's mother, wouldn’t have approved that,” Brienne said, shocked.

“No, my niece, would probably not agree, but Sansa once did as it was expected for her. Her happiness was sacrificed by my niece for the sake of the family and I think Sansa deserves happiness. If Clegane makes her happy than I have no right to object.”

“But…but…” Brienne stammered. She had to convince the Blackfish that Sansa didn’t know what was good for her.

“But, what Brienne? Do you want me to tell she has a duty to her family? If you do, then I ask you why you are running around in an armor instead of doing your duty to your house.”

Brienne was taken aback by the Blackfish.

“Why did Sansa send you?”

“She gave me a letter for you,” Brienne answered and handed him the letter Sansa had given him.

He broke the seal and read in silence, before he spoke up. “She writes, just like her mother,” he said, smiling. “Thank you, Lady Brienne.”

“What did she write, if you allow me the question?”

“She writes that she and her siblings are going to take back the North and Winterfell. She hopes that I am well and tells me to hold the castle. She will send help as soon as she can,” Ser Brynden said with respect in his voice.

“Ser Brynden, you should surrender the castle. I spoke to Ser Jaime. He will allow you to go north to help your niece's children,” Brienne pleaded.

“No, Lady Brienne, this is my home. I would rather die for it than having to witness how our enemies take it. I will hold the castle until Sansa sends help. I have trust in my grandniece,” the Blackfish said sternly.

Ohh, Lady Catelyn, if you only could see all this folly, Brienne thought.

 

***

 

Later that day, Brienne wrote Lady Sansa that she had delivered her letter, when there was turmoil outside the castle.

“Who goes there?!” a guard yelled.

“Edmure Tully, son of Hoster Tully, and the rightful Lord of Riverrun. I demand entry.”

Brienne heard the drawbridge lower after a few moments. She left her room and when she reached the courtyard she saw the Lord of Riverrun just enter. He was dirty and his hair mattered.

“Uncle,” he said as he spotted the Blackfish.

“Did the Kingslayer sent you?” the Blackfish asked.

“You would have let them kill me,” Edmure said in an accusing tone.

“I couldn’t let them take the castle.”

“Give me one good reason, why my life is less valuable, than this castle?” Edmure asked challenging.

Sansa.”

Sansa?” Edmure asked.

“Come, we need to talk. In your father's solar. Brienne, please come with us.”

They returned to the solar.

“What has Sansa to do with it?” Edmure asked right away as they entered the room.

“The Freys think I have her. I freed her with Clegane. Clegane had also found Arya. I sent them both North to their bastard brother. I had to hold the castle to make sure they wouldn’t be searched.”

“Sansa is alive? And Arya too? By the gods. The last time I saw Sansa, was after the bedding.”

“They are currently trying to take back the North with support of the northern Houses,” the Blackfish told his nephew. “Lady Brienne can confirm it.”

Edmure looked at her and Brienne nodded.

“Edmure, why are you here?” His uncle asked.

“The Kingslayer told me I either surrender the castle or he will launch my wife and son into Riverrun with a catapult.” Edmure said. “Uncle, Roslyn is a good woman. She didn’t know what her father had planned.”

“Edmure, if we surrender the castle, we will die and the Freys will know that Sansa isn’t here. We need to hold the castle until Sansa sends help.”

“Then my wife and son will be killed,” Edmure said.

“I might speak to Ser Jaime.” Brienne suggested. “He might listen to me, if I ask him to not do it.”

“You can try, Lady Brienne, but he won't listen to you. He wants the castle, so he can get back to his sister in Kings Landing,” Edmure said.

“I will try nevertheless, for Lady Sansa,” Brienne said.

 

***

 

Brienne rode the next day to back to Jaime, but instead of talking to him, she found his camp in departure.

“Ser Jaime, I need to talk to you,” Brienne said as she entered Jaime's tent. He was quickly packing up papers.

“Not now, Brienne, I need to get back to King's Landing. My sister needs me.”

“And what about Riverrun?” Brienne asked.

“Fuck Riverrun, the Freys can continue here as long as they want, I don’t give a shit if the Blackfish wants to stay inside the castle forever and now leave me alone, I need to hurry.”

Brienne left the tent and went to Podrick, who had waited with the horses.

“Pod, I have a task for you.”

“What is it, my lady?”

“Ride back north and tell Lady Sansa her mission is completed,” she said handing him the letter she had written.

“Won’t you come with me?”

“Pod, I can’t. I swore to Lady Catelyn that I would protect her daughter, but I can’t serve her, if she can’t see that the Hound isn’t what her mother wanted for her. I have to keep my oath to Lady Catelyn, so I cannot return. I will return to Tarth, to see my father. After you completed the task, you are free to either stay in the North or return to me, I will continue to teach you fighting if you want, or you can go where ever you want Pod. You are a good squire.”

“My lady, are you sure?”

“I am Pod. I am sure we will see each other again.”

Brienne watched how Pod rode off North, while Jaime and his army left for King's Landing. The Freys complained they would be let down by the Lannisters, but Jaime didn’t care at all, while the Tully soldiers cheered from the battlements.

Brienne hoped Lady Catelyn would understand her reasons, as she rode off to the Stormlands.

Chapter Text

Two weeks had passed since Winterfell had become their home again. The rebuilding made progress every day. Many of the wounded men had already started to return to their own homes.

Even Jeyne got better with every day that passed. The progress was slow, but steady. Sansa tried to visit her as often as she could and even tried to convince her to come into the great hall for dinner, but Jeyne still preferred to be in her chamber.

Jeyne and Sansa had talked about what had happened to each other, but Jeyne could not remember the name of the man that had kept her in one brothel and handed her over to the Bolton's in name of the crown. Jeyne at first feared that Sansa and the others would hate her for pretending to be Arya, but Sansa had assured her that nobody hate her.

Jeyne had carefully asked her why she had married the Hound, who had always scared Jeyne back in King's Landing. After all, he wasn’t like the handsome knight or lord they had always imagined when giggling together as girls.

Sansa had told her that Sandor was much better than any lord or knight she had ever met. Despite all that had happened to her, Jeyne still seemed to have some of the girlish dreams of the past in her.

Sansa awoke slowly and she felt the warmth of Sandor's chest against her back.

She felt his warm breath against her skin, while his large hand rested over the small swell of her belly that had begun to show. Sansa placed her hand over his and she felt him stir behind her.

“Good morning, little bird,” he whispered behind her and he pressed a kiss to her shoulder.

“Good morning, my love,” Sansa whispered back and snuggled closer to his body.

Her childhood bed was creaking under their weight as they moved a little.

“I can't wait for the new bed,” Sandor rasped.

“The carpenter said he would finish it today,” Sansa mused.

The bed in Sansa's room was way too small for both of them. While Sansa could lay in it relatively comfortable, Sandor's feet always hung over the edge. They had ordered the carpenters to build them a new bed, large enough that two people as large as Sandor could easily sleep in it and still have some space left.

“To wake up with every morning, is still like a dream for me, my love,” Sandor said and peppered her shoulder and neck with soft kisses.

“For me, too, Sandor. I sometimes still dream of the Red Wedding, but when I wake up, I always feel your presence next to me,” Sansa said warmly.

“And I will never leave you,” Sandor warmly rasped and his stomach growled.

“It seems you are hungry,” Sansa said with a giggle.

“Aye, it seems so.”

Sansa sat up on the edge of the bed and immediately felt the morning sickness. Lying in bed, it had been endurable, but now she already felt the bile rise in her throat.

She reached the chamber pot just in time before the vomit forced its way up.

Sandor was by her side in an instant, like he always was, holding her hair back. He stroked circles over her back, while she vomited and coughed.

Sansa still remembered how her mother had told her that she felt unwell in the mornings, when she had been pregnant with Bran and Rickon, but she hadn’t expected it to be like this.

Lady Mormont had enlightened her about the morning sickness and how long it would probably go on. Sansa was glad that Maege had decided to stay with her daughters, though Alysanne had decided to return to the Bear Island to see her own children again. Maege had answered all the questions Sansa would have asked her mother about pregnancy, if she was still alive.

But only, if it would have been Wendel's child, Sansa thought bitterly. With Sandor's child, she would probably have forced the moon tea down my throat herself.

“Thank you, Sandor,” Sansa said weakly, as the last bit of vomit has left her mouth.

“Feeling better?” Sandor asked warmly and Sansa nodded. He went to the table and poured her a cup of water, from the pitcher standing there.

Sansa took a sip and rinsed her mouth, before spitting the water into the chamber pot.

Sandor took the chamber pot and called for a servant to take it away.

“My lady, do you wish a bath or help for dressing?” the servant girl asked kindly.

“No thank you, I will dress myself,” Sansa said, still sitting on the edge of the bed.

Sandor closed the door and came back over to her, sitting down next to her, making her old bed creak. She felt his hand stroking a strand of hair out of her face.

“Are you really feeling well, or should I call for a maester?” Sandor asked, his concern for her clearly in his rough voice.

“No, Sandor. I am alright. Maege told me it was nothing uncommon to feel that sick in the morning,” she told him and kissed his cheek. “Can you help me dress?” Sansa asked as she got up and changed her shift.

“Of course, little bird,” he warmly rasped and helped her to tie up the lacings of her dress.

“Later you can untie them again, when we break in our new bed,” Sansa said as Sandor just finished the last lace.

“I look forward to it,” Sandor rasped into her ear and she felt herself blush a little at the feeling of his hot breath on her skin.

Sansa sat down at her dressing table and started to brush out her hair until it shone like copper, while Sandor dressed and then watched her smiling, sitting on the bed as she braided it into the simple northern style.

“My love,” he said as he offered his arm to her and she took it smiling. They walked to the great hall and found Bran, Arya and Jon already at breakfast.

“Good morning,” Bran said as he saw them coming. Ghost was sleeping on the ground next to the table. The smell of fresh mint tea mixed with the smell of fried bacon, fresh bread and scrambled eggs. The table was filled with all kind of jams, honey and fried sausages.

“Good morning,” Sansa greeted them all warmly as Sandor pulled out her chair, before sitting down himself.

“Slept well?” Arya asked, while she let some honey drip on her buttered slice of bread. Servants placed new plates for Sansa and Sandor.

“As good as you can in such a small bed,” Sandor said. “I can't wait for the carpenter to finish the new one.” Sandor handed Sansa some bread, while she poured herself a cup of tea.

“Me neither,” said Arya. “Whoever slept in my bed, while I was gone has completely worn it out. My back hurts as if I have fallen of my horse.”

“The carpenter said, he and his men should finish the new furniture today.” Sansa said as she took a small sip of her tea.

The hot tea helped her stomach to calm down again and she ate some bread, eggs and bacon. She even stole some of the bacon Sandor had on his plate. She had taken a liking to it lately.

“How are your plans for today?” asked Jon.

“Shireen and I want to look through the old library, see which books have survived the sack, since nobody came for petitions and Ser Davos rode to White Harbor this morning. The Iron Bank sent a representative with Sandor's money and he will ensure that it arrives to us safely,” Bran said. “Yours?”

“Lyanna and her sisters wanted to spar with me,” Arya said. “Let's see how my water dance works against them.”

“We have nothing planned in particular,” Sansa said, putting some of the spicy sausages on her plate. “I might wanted to show Sandor the rest of Winterfell. We had so much to do, since we are back here, that he hasn’t seen everything of our home yet.”

“And you Jon?” Arya curiously asked.

“No plans at all. I might show Alys the godswood. She seemed to be interested in it,” he said.

After breakfast, Sandor wanted to tend to Stranger first, before Sansa would show him the parts of the castle he hadn’t really visited yet.

His black beast of stallion was in the same stable as the kind white mare she had finally named Snowflake.

Sandor brushed down Stranger, while Sansa fed some carrots to her horse.

“As girl I always hated the stables. Too dirty and smelly,” Sansa said.

“And now, little bird?”

“Now I like it. It’s part of my home.”

After Sandor was finished with Stranger, he helped Sansa brushing down Snowflake. “So what parts of the castle haven’t I seen yet, little bird?” he asked curious, as they left the stable.

“You haven’t seen the hot pools yet and several other places.” Sansa declared excited as she led him into the godswood.

The weather over the last few weeks hadn't been as bad as it had been during their travel to Deepwood Motte and only light snow was flying in the air. Sometimes even the blue of the sky could be seen above them. They both only wore light cloaks over their clothing.

The thick layer of snow though crunched under their booted feet as Sansa led him deeper into the forest until they reaches the steaming pools, in which she and her sibling had so often bathed as children.

Sandor knelt down at the edge of the pool and let his hand stroke through the water to test its temperature.

“The warm water is the same, that runs through Winterfell's walls,” Sansa explained to him. “It's nice and soothing to bathe here.”

“Then we should probably do it someday,” Sandor suggested with a smirk and Sansa blushed lightly at the thought of him and her in one of these pools.

“We might do that,” Sansa said, biting her lower lip lightly.

“This is a wonderful place, little bird,” Sandor said looking around.

“It is. We used to bath here as children, even if Septa Mordane didn’t liked the thought of Arya and me bathing here naked, where someone could have seen us,” Sansa said. Sansa tried to imitate the scolding voice of her old septa. “It's not the behavior of a lady.”

“She probably only wished that some man would ask her to bath with him here,” Sandor said chuckling and Sansa had to laugh. After the pools, Sansa showed him several other places where she and her sibling had played as children.

“And soon our children will play here,” Sansa said.

“Aye, and Winterfell will again have the laughter of children inside its walls,” he rasped and placed a gentle kiss on her lips.

“Would you like a son or a daughter more?” Sansa asked curious and nervous all the same. She had been raised in the believe that men preferred to have sons over daughters. That sons would be the beloved heir, while daughters were only a burden that had to be dealt with until you could marry them for the purpose of alliances.

Sansa's father might have been one of the few exceptions in Westeros, that he had loved his daughters as much as his sons, but men, or at least lords preferred sons over daughters.

She still remembered how she once had asked Septa Mordane in the throne room of the Red Keep, what would happen, if she would only bear daughters to Joffrey. Mordane had tried to sooth her fears by saying that this was unlikely, but Sansa had suspected everybody would hate her. After all, Jeyne Poole's mother had five daughters.

And daughters would become costly someday when they married and had to bring a dowry into the marriage. Sansa always thought it kind of odd, why the woman had to bring something into the marriage, but septa Mordane had told her it was tradition.

Her mother had always jested, when she had brushed out Sansas hair in the evenings, that her father would have to offer a larger dowry for Arya than Sansa someday, when he would be making matches for her and Arya, since everybody would see what a dutiful lady Sansa already was.

Dutiful, Sansa thought, yes, I was dutiful and what did it do for me mother?

Back then Sansa had taken it as compliment, but now she knew that her mother implied that she was more worth than Arya.

A week ago, servants had found old chests, filled with some of possessions of their mother and eldest brother. The Boltons obviously hadn’t any use of old brushes, combs and dresses.

Their mother had always told Arya and her that when they would marry, she would give them some of her personal belongings, so they would remember her in their new home, wherever that might would have been.

Sansa had chosen the brush, her mother had always used for her hair, made of fine ebony wood. As far as she knew Arya had chosen an ivory comb.

“I am fine with both, little bird. I am happy if we have a little baby boy, but I am also happy if we have a baby girl. I don’t give a fuck, that men are supposed to love their sons more,” Sandor rasped and got on his knees before her, placing a kiss on the swell of her belly that was outlined under her dress. “I will love every girl we might have as much as the sons we might have,” Sandor rasped against her belly and Sansa felt warmth spread in her chest at hearing this words.

“What would you like more, little bird? A boy or a girl?” he asked, kissing her cheek after getting on his feet again.

“I am fine with both, too. As long as its healthy,” Sansa spoke and Sandor nodded. “Come,” she said and led him down into the crypt.

Sansa lit up every candle on the way to the graves of her parents and brothers. The statues for Lady Catelyn and Robb's grave had been finished a few days ago. Robb stood tall with his hand on Grey Wind's head. Sansa's mother, on the other hand, stood tall and dutiful, as she had always been in life.

Sansa hadn't been down in the crypt since the day they buried Rickon down here.

“Sansa, why are we here?” Sandor asked.

“You might think me stupid, but down here in the crypt, the ghosts of the dead Starks can hear you and I have to tell them some things I wanted for a long time now,” Sansa said and linked her hand with his.

“I could never think you stupid, Sansa. You are my smart and brave wolf,” he said and gave her hand a light squeeze. Sansa smiled at him.

She turned to the statues of her mother and elder brother. “Mother, Robb. I only wanted to tell you that despite your effort to separate me from Sandor, he came back for me. That is more than you two ever did for me. He loves me like nobody had before and now I am proud to say that his child grows in my womb. Would you not have been that blind towards him, you might would be still alive,” Sansa said calmly. “I only want you to know that I am happy again, despite all your efforts to make me unhappy.”

Sansa turned to her father’s grave.

“Father,” Sansa started. “I want to let you know that your wish for me came true. I made myself a match with a man that is brave, gentle and strong. I know you would approve of him, if you knew him like I do. I am sorry you won’t be around to welcome your first grandchild, but I am sure you will see him or her. I am happy, Father. As happy as you always wanted me to be.”

Sansa kissed her finger and then pressed them to the cold granite lips. The candle in front of her father’s statue flickered a little and Sansa smiled.

“I love you, Sandor. Let us go back up,” Sansa said, turning to him. They went back up and wanted to stroll back to the godswood entrance, when they saw Ghost lying at the weirwood tree. “What are you doing here boy?” Sansa asked. “Where is Jon?” She scratched the huge wolf behind the ear.

The direwolf lifted his head and walked off, but stopped after a few steps, as if he was waiting for them to follow. Sansa and Sandor followed him curiously, until they saw Jon and Alys kissing against a tree. Ghost poked Jon with his nose and Jon averted his eyes of Alys and spotted Sandor and her.

“Sansa,” he gasped in surprise and Alys jumped at being caught and blushed prettily, not daring to look at Sansa or Sandor.

“What are you doing here?” Jon asked, looking visibly uncomfortable.

“Your wolf led us here,” Sandor said in honesty.

“Do you think we should tell them?” Jon asked Alys and she nodded a little.

“They already saw us anyway, they would hear it later today anyway,” the lady of Karhold said.

“Alright,” Jon said and took a deep breath. “Alys and I want to marry. We just wanted to go to Bran to tell him.”

Sansa smiled up. “I am happy for you two,” Sansa said hugging Jon and Alys.

“Thank you, princess,” Alys said.

“Please call me Sansa, Alys,” Sansa said and the girl smiled.

“Well, go on then and tell Bran, Jon,” Sansa said and Jon offered Alys his arm to take.

Sansa and Sandor watched them walk off arm in arm, while she linked her arm with Sandor's. “She actually makes Jon smile,” Sansa said.

“Yes, you would barely think that this man at her side is the always pouting cousin of yours,” he said with a chuckle.

“They are in love with each other, I suspected it for a while now, when I watched them,” Sansa explained. They slowly strolled back to the godswood entrance.

“It’s nice, that Jon found someone. He always stood in the shadow of Robb, when it came to the affection of girls.”

“Aye, she actually makes him smile,” Sandor joked.

Sansa laughed lightly and playfully hit his arm. “Yes, and House Stark and Karstark will be once again untied.”

They left the godswood and were just about to enter the keep, when they saw some servants carry out their old bed. “I think the carpenter really finished our new bed,” Sandor rasped.

“Yes, it's perfect. I feel a bit tired, how about you?” Sansa said smirking.

“Aye, we should retreat into our chamber for a while.”

They quickly walked up the stairway to the floor, where their chamber was located and they had a hard time not running to get there quicker.

Sandor opened the door and Sansa entered, smiling mischievous at him. He entered right behind her and locked the door, so nobody would disturb them.

After the carpenters had set up the new bed, servants had obviously already put new sheets on it. Sandor pulled away the furs and sat down, testing how comfy the bed was.

Sansa loosened her braid and pulled her hair over her shoulder to reveal the lacings.

“I need help with my lacings, my love,” Sansa mused biting her lower lip as she smirked at him.

“Then I will give you a helping hand, little bird.” He got up from bed and started to undo her lacings like he done so often before. His soft kisses on her neck and throat combined with the feeling of his strong hands slowly untying lace after lace let the heat already start to pool in her lower belly.

As he had finished untying her dress, he carefully pushed it off her shoulders until it pooled in a heap around her feet. Sansa turned around and flung her arms around his neck pulling his face down to hers. While their lips met and their tongues carefully teased each other, she stroked over his burned cheek.

She carefully tugged on his tunic and he pulled it over his head revealing his strong chest to her. They both kicked off their boots as they were stumbling to the bed, not stopping to kiss each other in the process.

Sansa squeaked in surprise as Sandor picked her up and placed her carefully onto their new bed.

Sandor slowly kissed his way up her leg until he reached her already dampened smallclothes.

“Let's see if your song is even sweeter in our new bed,” he rasped as he pulled down her smallclothes.

“Make me sing, Sandor,” Sansa purred, blushing a little.

Sandor smirked and buried his face in the auburn curs between her legs. Sansa's hand stroked through his hair as he started to let his tongue travel through her folds. Soft moans escaped her lips as Sandor started to suck on her nub, while pushing two finger inside her stroking her inner walls.

“Sandor…please…” Sansa moaned as she felt herself come close to her peak.

Sandor smirked against her woman's place and started to flick his tongue over her nub, while pumping in and out of her with his fingers. Sansa's breath quickened and she arched her back, as she ground herself against his face, while riding out the waves of pleasure.
Sansa's cheeks were deep red as she slowly came back to senses. Sandor gave her woman's place some last kisses, before he wiped his beard with the back of his hand.

“Aye, I think your song sounds sweeter in this bed,” he rasped smiling.

“I love you, Sandor,” Sansa said, still a little breathless. “Let's see if the carpenters knew what they were doing,” Sansa purred as she started to undo the lacing of his breeches.

“Lie down,” Sansa commanded and Sandor obeyed, smirking.

Sansa wrapped her slender fingers around his length stroking his hard and hot member a few times, before she placed a gentle kiss on the tip, making it twitch in her hand.

“Fuck…” Sandor muttered, but couldn’t take his eyes of her.

Sansa licked his length from the base to the tip, before wrapping her soft lips around it, slowly starting to suck on it, her tongue slowly teasing its tip. Her left hand slowly stroked his length, while her right carefully squeezed his balls.

“Fuck, little bird, you are torturing me…” he rasped, breathless and Sansa smiled.

Sansa let go of his member and pulled her shift over her head revealing herself completely to her husband. Sandor looked at her in awe.

“You are the most beautiful woman in the world, Sansa,” he rasped and Sansa felt a new wave of wetness pool between her legs at his declaration.

Sansa crawled up to his face and kissed his lips hungrily. They tasted each other on their lips and Sandor's hand stroked over her back.

Sansa sat up and straddled him, positioning his hardness at her entrance. Sandor moaned as she slowly guided his member between her folds into her core. She slowly started to move her hips and Sandor's large and warm hands traveled from her thighs up until he cupped both of her breasts.

Since her first signs of pregnancy had showed, her breasts had become more sensitive and Sandor knew exactly how he had to massage them to make shivers of excitement run down her spine. Sansa had one hand over the swell of her belly, while her other rested on Sandor's chest right over his racing heart.

Sansa increased her pace she threw her head back and moaned his name loudly as Sandor carefully rolled her nipples between his finger.

Sandor sat up and pulled her to his chest, while she still ground herself against him. The feel of his muscled chest against her sensitive breasts made shivers run down her spine.

“Sandor…I am close…” she moaned against his ear.

“Me too, my love.” He breathed against her collarbone as he started kiss it. The feel of his hot breath on her sweaty skin brought her over the edge and she felt herself clench around him.

“Little bird,” Sandor groaned as he found his own completion a few moments after her, releasing his seed inside her. Sandor fell back on the soft bed and pulled Sansa with him on his chest. Both their chests were heaving quickly and Sansa rested her head on his shoulder. Her tangled auburn hair was sticking to her sweaty back.

“I think the carpenters…did their job well, little… bird, don’t you think?” Sandor rasped still breathless. Sansa purred in agreement.

Sansa moved off his chest, but still snuggled up to him. “I love you, Sandor,” Sansa mused rubbing her cheek against his chest. She felt completely spent, but her mouth curled into a happy smile.

“As I love you, Sansa.” He kissed the crowed of her hair. “Do we have to leave this chamber today again?” Sandor asked.

“Only for dinner. No petitioner and nothing else planned.”

“Good, because I wouldn’t want to leave this bed with you at the moment for anything in the world. And bugger the poor soul that should dare to disturb us,” Sandor growled.

Sansa laughed lightly and stroked her finger over his chest absently. She felt herself getting sleepy and she yawned softly adjusting her position a little closer to his frame.

“I think I want to spent the day here with you until it’s time for dinner,” Sansa mused sleepily and Sandor hummed in agreement.

Sandor pulled the furs around them and stretched himself, before gently pulling Sansa to him. Safely nestled against him with his strong arms around her, under soft and warm furs, in the warm chamber of Winterfell, she finally felt like she was at home completely.

Chapter Text

Two weeks had passed since Jon and Alys had announced they wanted to marry.

The castle had been busied with preparations ever since. The Umbers and Glovers had returned, alongside many other Lords of the North to celebrate the wedding of the Lady of Karhold to Jon Stark of Winterfell.

The Umbers brought news that everybody at Karhold was happy that the rightful Lady was in charge. The Dreadfort had also bent the knee at seeing the heads of Roose Bolton and his Bastard. All the men had laid down their weapons and a small Umber garrison held the castle until Bran would decide what would happen with the stronghold.

Lord Manderly had traveled all the way from White Harbor with his granddaughters and son. He brought thirty carts filled with supplies, both for the wedding and to restock the stockpiles in Winterfell.

Sansa had told him she had asked Lord Manderly via raven, if he could also bring several barrels of Dornish Red and other wines and ales to restock the cellars underneath Winterfell.

Much to Sandor's surprise a week ago, Samwell Tarly had appeared at the gates accompanied by Podrick Payne. The young man had finished his maester's chain in record time and had met Pod on his way North. Jon had been happy to be reunited with his friend and Sam had been shocked, when Jon had told him how he had been murdered at Castle Black. Samwell had told him, he had learned a lot, but nearly nothing about the White Walker. All information he got was already known.

When Samwell had asked if Gilly could stay in Winterfell, when he returned to the Wall, Maester Wolkan, the former maester of House Bolton, had asked if he instead could take Samwell's place at the Wall. He had no desire to ever return to the Dreadfort.

Bran had accepted Maester Wolkan's offer and Bran relieved Samwell from his oath to the Night's Watch. Jon was glad that his friend would stay in Winterfell.

Podrick Payne had brought the news that he and Lady Brienne had brought Sansa's letter to her grand uncle in Riverrun, and that the Blackfish was still holding the castle against the Frey siege. Sandor was glad that the Blackfish was still alive. Sansa had told him about the content of the letter she had written to Brynden Tully. Sandor hoped he would indeed hold on long enough for them to send help.

When Sansa had asked where Lady Brienne was, Pod had answered a little awkwardly that she still had not decided if she could serve Sansa if Sandor was around, and that she would visit Tarth until she had sorted out. Pod had also said that he was either to return to her or to do whatever he liked. Pod had awkwardly asked if he would be allowed to stay in Winterfell until he had decided what to do.

Sansa had of course allowed it.

Sandor had busied himself the last two weeks with the training of the new recruits that wanted to become part of the new garrison of Winterfell.

Sandor and Jon made sure that only the best would guard the ancient castle of House Stark.

In the meantime, Sansa and Shireen helped Alys sew her wedding dress. Sometimes even Sansa's childhood friend, Jeyne, helped. He had no idea how Sansa managed to sew that fast. Sometimes he thought that she finished one new piece of cloth every day.

As Jon had once tried to get a look at Alys dress, Sansa had apparently shooed him away. Lady Mormont had laughed heartily, when Jon had told the story during their daily sparring after breakfast.

Sandor had finished his daily sparring and was just watching how Arya gave Lyanna Mormont a tough match.

Her water dance seemed to work out well enough against the little bear, Sandor thought amused.

“Lyanna, you can do better,” Lyra said laughing, standing next to her sister Jorelle.

“Shut up,” the little she bear yelled at her sisters, as Arya helped her back on her feet. Sandor chuckled to himself next to Maege Mormont.

“They are so cute, when they are young,” the Lady of Bear Island told him laughing. “But you will know that soon enough.”

Sandor grunted in acknowledgment. He liked Lady Mormont. She had been the first supporter of him and Sansa. She and Sandor had shared several horn of ales over the weeks after they had taken back Winterfell. He nearly dared to say she had become a friend of him.

“Is Lady Sansa well?” She asked.

“Aye. She still feels sick in the morning, but the Maester said it would pass,” he said.

Sansa looked more beautiful with every day that passed. To see her grow every day with his child warmed his heart.

“It will pass over the time. At least for me it was that way, with my daughters,” Lady Mormont said. “Ned would really be happy if he could see how you take care of his daughter. Most men should take an example from how you treat your lady wife.”

“I only try to prove that I am worthy of her every day I live,” Sandor rasped.

“You are doing a good job, my lord. Everybody sees the love between you two. It reminds me of the way it was between Lord Eddard and Lady Catelyn,” Maege said.

“Please call me Sandor. I know that you have been the first supporter of me and Sansa, when everybody only saw the Lannister dog in me,” Sandor rasped.

“But only if you call me Maege,” she said laughing.

“I will.”

Sandor saw how Sansa came over from the Keep, the swell of her stomach clearly showing underneath her dress. The sun was making her hair shine like a fiery halo around her face.

“Little bird,” Sandor softly rasped and gave her a gentle kiss to welcome her.

“Lady Sansa,” Maegen Mormont said respectful.

“What makes you come out into the cold, Sansa?” He asked.

“Bran called for meeting. Lord Manderly brought interesting new from White Harbor,” Sansa said. Sandor, Maege and Arya followed Sansa back into the keep.

In Bran's solar, they were already awaited by Lord Manderly, the Glovers and Umbers and Jon and Alys. Lord Reed and Davos stood left and right of Bran's chair. Sansa sat down on one of the cushioned chairs and Sandor took his place behind her.

“Lord Manderly brought news from a merchant,” Bran started.

“Daenerys Targaryen has conquered Dragonstone. She has three dragons, a large fleet and an even larger army. Apparently, Tyrion Lannister serves as her hand,” Lord Manderly said. “The Martells and Tyrells have declared for her, and her army is marching through Dorne north.”

The room was silent, while the news sank in. The idea of giant flying creatures breathing fire, made a shiver run down Sandors spine.

“What do we do now?” Robett Glover wanted to know.

“We won’t bend the knee to the dragon again,” Lady Mormont said sternly.

“If we reach out to her first, we have the position to negotiate an alliance. We need her dragons in the North,” Bran said. “We have to act soon, or it could be too late. The dead are already on their way.”

“Should we send a raven?” Lord Manderly asked.

“No, we need to send representatives who speak for the North,” Bran said.

“Who do you have in mind?” Sansa asked.

“Jon is the best for this job, after all Daenerys is his aunt,” Bran said.

“What if she doesn’t believe me?” Jon threw in.

“Lord Reed and Ser Davos will accompany you. You have to convince her that the true danger lies beyond the Wall. If she helps us with the White Walkers, we will in return help her taking the Iron Throne,” Bran told him.

“What if she doesn’t allow an independent northern kingdom?” Ser Davos asked.

“Highest priority has to be to convince the Dragon Queen to help us. If it comes at the cost of the crown, I am willing to pay that price. I wouldn’t be the first Stark to bend the knee to the dragon, but maybe it will be avoidable.”

“When shall we travel?” Lord Reed asked.

“Tomorrow,” Bran simply said.

“But…we marry today and tomorrow you shall leave me?” Alys asked Jon.

“I know it's not common, but it's necessary, Lady Alys,” Bran said placatory.

“I will be fine, Alys. I promise, and before you even know I am away, I will be back in your arms, my love,” Jon said warmly to his wife to be. Alys nodded.

Sandor felt Sansa grab his hand from where she sat and he asked himself if he and Sansa looked like Alys and Jon from the outside.

“Alright, then it's decided,” Bran said. “Let's finish the preparations for the wedding. Today shall be a happy day.”

The gathered people left to prepare for the wedding ceremony that would start in a few hours.

Sansa ordered for a bath and servants filled the large copper tub that had been brought to their room. She shooed away the servants, like she did most of the time, when she was bathing and Sandor helped her out of the dress. Sandor smiled at the sight of where his child was growing every day.

Sansa sank into the tub and Sandor helped her wash her silken hair. Sansa hummed in agreement as he poured some lavender oil in her wet hair and lightly massaged her scalp with his hands.

After he had helped his wife out of the tub, he got in and washed himself, while Sansa sat at the dressing table in her bathrobe, brushing her hair.

“I hope Daenerys won't be like her father,” Sansa said.

“Aye, we had enough mad royalty in these last years,” Sandor murmured and dived under the water.

After Sandor had left the tub and dried himself, Sansa presented her the new tunic and breeches she had made for him. The clothes fit him perfectly and he traced in awe the stitched direwolf sigil on its chest that resemble the ones Sansa had on all her dresses. Sansa had also stitched this sigil on his leather armor.

“Can you help me?” Sansa asked holding up the new dress she had made for herself.

It was similar to the one she had made, as they had been in Greywater Watch. It was made of deep blue fabric and her direwolf sigil was stitched on its front, with silvery thread.

Sandor helped her putting it on and tied the lacing on its back.

“Thank you, Sandor,” she said warmly and kissed his cheek after he was done.

Sandor dressed, while Sansa braided her hair. The sun was slowly disappearing behind the horizon as the bells were announcing that the ceremony was about to start in the godswood.

“You should go, Sandor. Alys will be already waiting for you,” Sansa said warmly, giving him another kiss. “I'll see you in the godswood.”

Sandor left their room and headed to the chamber of Alys Karstark. Alys had asked him a few days ago, if he would be willing to take her father's place during the ceremony and walk her down the aisle. Sandor, of course, had accepted and told her that it was an honor for him.

He knocked on the door of Alys chamber and a servant girl opened. “I am here to escort Lady Alys to the godswood,” Sandor explained and the servant opened the door completely.

Alys already awaited him in her snow white dress. Her brown hair braided into a crown. Soft furs covered her shoulders and the black cloak with the white northern sun of the Karstarks hung around her shoulder.

“My lady, you look beautiful,” Sandor said in honesty and a light blush reddened her pale skin. He offered his arm and she took it.

“Thank you, my lord,” she said and they left the room to head to the godswood.

Sandor felt that the girl was nervous, like probably most highborn women were before their wedding and Sandor tried to sooth her nervousness.

“You don’t have to be nervous, Jon is a good man,” Sandor rasped warmly.

“I know, Sansa said the same, but I am still nervous about tonight,” Alys said.

“Don’t be, my lady. Jon will be good to you,” Sandor said in honesty. He could only understand too well why Alys was that nervous about her wedding night. She probably had been taught exactly the same shit about duty in the bedchamber by her septa like Sansa had.

“You are right, my Lord.”

In the godswood they were already awaited by the guests. Lanterns stood left and right of the aisle to the weirwood tree. Bran sat in front of it in his specially made chair with wheels, so he didn’t have to be carried all the time.

Jon stood next to him. Sansa was standing next to her sister between the guests, both of her hands resting over her growing belly. Much to Sandor's surprise Arya had somehow been convinced to wear a dress to this occasion.

“Who comes before the Old Gods?” Bran asked.

Sandor spoke up. “Alys of the House Karstark comes here to be wed. A woman grown and flowered, trueborn and noble. She comes to beg the blessings of the gods. Who comes to claim her?"

“Jon of House Stark. Who gives her?"

“Sandor of House Stark.”

“Lady Alys, do you take this man?”

She shyly looked at Jon, before a small smile started to show around her mouth. “I take this man.”

Jon carefully unfastened the Karstark cloak and put the cloak with the wild direwolf around her shoulders. House Karstark disappeared and once more became House Stark. Both knelt down into the snow and spoke short silent prayers to the old gods before Jon helped Alys up.

Jon gently cupped Alys left cheek, before he placed a gentle kiss on her lips to end the ceremony. The gathered guests started to cheer and applaud as Jon led Alys out of the godswood on his arm to the great hall, where servants were already preparing everything for the feast.

Sansa held onto Sandor's arm as they entered the great hall and took their place at the high table. Lord Manderly had brought every kind of food anybody could wish for, and ale and wine flow freely.

While Sandor drank his first cup of Dornish Red in ages, he smiled at Sansa as she filled her plate again for the third time with the juicy boar roast.

“It seems the wolf in your belly makes you hungry, little bird.”

“Your child is hungry. It seems your child already want to become as big as his or her father,” she said smiling and he chuckled.

The musicians Lord Manderly had brought with him started to play and Jon and Alys opened the dance. More people started to dance and Sandor saw that one of Lord Manderly granddaughters was dancing with young lord Cerwyn, while Lady Mormont was dancing with Tormund again. It seemed Maege had taken a liking in that Wildling.

Much to Sansa's and Sandor's amusement, Arya was asked by several young men if she wanted to dance.

Sansa asked him if he wanted to dance and he followed her to the dance floor. Sandor did better than the last time and only accidentally stepped on her toes once, thanks to the lessons Sansa had given him in their chamber.

Sansa didn’t mind and stayed close to him the whole time, before they returned to their seats. The feast continued for hours, even after Bran announced on wish of Jon and Alys that they would retreat to their chamber, without a bedding ceremony.

Sansa was smiling the whole evening next to him and it warmed his heart that she was happily within the walls of her home.

Chapter Text

Jon couldn’t believe how his life had changed. Grown up as the motherless bastard of Winterfell, in the shadow of Robb, the trueborn son and heir to Winterfell. Despised by the wife of the man he thought his whole life was his father rather than his uncle. Always dreaming how it would be to be a Stark rather than a Snow.

Then member of the Night's Watch and finally all the way up until he was Lord Commander, only to be murdered and brought back by a red priest.

He had never dared to even dream about the idea of having a wife someday. The girls only used to talk to him to ask him about Robb. They all wanted Robb. The heir. The trueborn son. The future Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. Not the Bastard of Winterfell.

He wished nobody that life and so he even had refused to bed Ros, when Theon had taken him and Robb down into Wintertown to the local brothel for the first time.

And now after he had been brought back by Lady Melisandre, he had everything.

His siblings had returned to him. He had gotten the Stark name and got to know who his mother and real father have been and now he had actually married. And he hadn’t married a simple lowborn woman or the fifth daughter of a minor lord or landed knight.

He had married a beautiful highborn maiden of the North instead a few hours ago. The Lady of Karhold.

After Ygritte had died in his arms, he thought he would never again be able to love a woman, but then Alys had ridden into the courtyard of Castle Black.

While Sansa, Arya and Sandor had been visiting the Mountain Clans with Lady Mormont and Lord Reed, Alys had confessed to him that she had found him much more interesting than Robb, even back when they had been children and her father Rickard had tried to make a match between her and Robb.

Both got to know each other during their journey to Deepwood Motte and before the battle of Winterfell had happened, he had told her that he loved her and she had told him in return she felt the same.

Jon could never forget the first kiss they had shared in his tent, before he had ridden into battle against the Boltons.

He felt the warmth of Alys hand through his tunic that Sansa had made for his wedding, while they walked to the chamber, they had been given for the night, after they had left the feast.

“Was the feast to your liking?” Jon asked and Alys beamed at him.

“Yes. It was more I’ve ever expected for my wedding. Before his death in the south, I was betrothed to Daryn Hornwood and my father had already told me that I wasn’t to expect any big wedding. Thank you for all of that,” Alys said smiling shyly.

Jon opened the door to their chamber and entered after his bride. The chamber they had been given was one of the best guest rooms Winterfell had to offer.

A fire was cracking in the fireplace and several candle holders were casting warm light into the room. A pitcher of wine stood on the table next to small wheel of cheese. A bowl with honey cakes was placed next to a bowl with fresh grapes and pears.

Alys stood next to the large bed, tracing the soft warm furs that covered the white sheets with her fingers. Jon knew why Alys seemed to be a little nervous to be with him in alone in this room.

Sansa had come to him a few days ago and told him about the fear every maiden had on her wedding night and what most girls are taught about their duty to their husbands.

Jon had assured his sister that he would never hurt Alys or force her to do anything, when they were alone. Sansa had been glad to hear that and told him to be particularly gentle with her, when he would take her maidenhead.

It felt awkward to talk with Sansa about that topic, but he could understand her reason to care about Alys. Especially since Arya had told him what they had heard Wendel Frey say about Sansa's wedding night.

Jon would never dare to hurt Alys. She was a kind and gentle soul and he loved her with all his heart. Jon poured each of them a cup of wine and Alys turned to him. “Come my lady, let us drink a cup of wine,” he said warmly and held out the cup to her.

Alys took the cup and sat down on the chair at the table. Jon sat down too. He watched her while she took little sips out of her cup.

“Alys,” Jon started. “I know you are a bit nervous, but I assure you, you don’t have to be nervous about anything.”

“I only fear that I am not to your liking, because you probably had dozens of women and I am just an inexperienced maiden,” she whispered over her cup.

Jon grabbed her hand and squeezed it carefully. “You don’t have to fear that. I only have been with a single woman before. All this is still as new for me as it is for you,” Jon assured her warmly and see seemed to be surprised by that.

“I always thought that you would have to fend off the girls running after you.”

Jon chuckled. “No, that would have been Robb. I was only good enough to get asked questions about my brother,” Jon said and offered Alys one of the honey cakes. “I love you, Alys,” he said while she put down her cup of wine and took the honey cake from his hand.

“I love you, too, Jon,” She said and took a tiny bite of the sweet treat. They sat for a while in silence only listening to the cracking of the wood in the fire, drinking their wine in between eating the honey cake.

“My septa told me it was going to hurt to lie with a man,” Alys said quietly. “But Sansa told me it could be wonderful with the right man instead.” She looked at him through her lashes and a light blush reddened her cheeks, making Jon smile.

“Then let us find out together,” Jon said warmly and offered his hand to her.

Alys took his hand shyly smiling and he pressed his lips to hers as she was back on her feet. At the taste of her lips, he already felt his breeches become uncomfortable tight. He let his hand travel up her rib cage, as he was hungrily kissing her jawline and then down her slender throat.

He felt Alys hesitantly pulling on his tunic and grabbed the hem and pulled it over his head. Alys eyes widened at the sight of his bare torso and he chuckled lightly as she blushed again. Jon kicked his boots off and Alys loosened her braid, letting her brown hair fall freely down her back.

“Would you like to undress me, or should I do it myself,” she asked and instead of giving her an answer, Jon started to untie her dress until he could push it down her shoulders.

Alys pulled her boots off her feet and got rid of her stockings. Jon's cock twitched at the sight of Alys only in her thin silken shift and smallclothes. Jon untied his breeches and pushed them down, alongside his smallclothes until his cock sprang free.

Alys shyly looked at his member before getting rid of her smallclothes and finally pulling her silken shift over her head revealing herself to him in all her beauty. Jon's cock twitched at the sight of Alys standing as naked as her nameday in front of him. His eyes traveled over her body and she chewed on her lip hesitantly looking up and down on his own body.

“There can't be anyone more beautiful in the world. I love you, Alys.”

She blushed at his words. “You aren’t too bad to look upon, too.”

Jon pulled her against him while he pressed hungry kisses her. At the feel on her breasts pressed against his muscled chest, he nearly thought he would finish right where he stood.

As their lips left each others, Jon carefully pulled back the furs on the bed and picked up Alys and carefully placed her down on the featherbed.

“Kiss me again, Jon,” Alys whispered.

“I intend to do much more,” he whispered back.

He kissed her down the her throat, over her collarbone until he reached her breasts. He gently cupped her right breast, while sucking on the other one, teasing her nipple with her tongue. Small moans escaped Alys and his cock throbbed every time her soft moans filled the silence of the night.

He continued to kiss his way down over her belly.

“Jon what are you…?” She wanted to ask, but Jon had already reached the soft brown curls and he buried his face between her legs, kissing and liking her folds like he had done with Ygritte back in the cave in the North. “My gods…” Alys moaned as he was teasing her nub with his tongue.

Jon held her by the legs and she grabbed his hair as her back arched when she found her completion. Jon traveled her folds a few additional times and he felt the warmth of her woman's place against his face.

Alys chest was heaving quickly, while she tried to calm down her breathing. A thin layer of sweat glistered on her pale skin.

Jon kissed his way up again to her face and she touched his cheek smiling.

“That was wonderful,” Alys mused.

“That was the Lord's kiss, my lady,” Jon told her smirking.

The Lord's kiss,” she said smiling and rolling the word over her tongue. Jon leaned down again to kiss her and his painfully hard cock brushed against her thigh. “Jon, make me yours completely,” Alys whispered.

Jon took himself in hand and positioned himself at her entrance. He felt her tense. “Do you trust me?” Jon asked, looking into her blue-grey eyes.

“I do, my love,” she said and flung her arm around his neck pulling him down for another kiss.

Jon slowly pushed inside her, whispering soothing words as her facial expression showed signs of discomfort. “I am sorry, Alys,” Jon whispered and kissed her forehead.

“It’s alright Jon, it’s just foreign,” she breathed.

Jon slowly started to move in her and soon her soft moans could be heard again. He buried his face in the crook of her neck and kissed her throat, while he raised the pace of his movement.

Alys held onto his shoulder as she started to moan is name.

He felt her inner walls clench his cock as she reached her completion again and the feel brought himself over the edge and he groaned into her neck as his own waves of pleasure washed over him, while spilling his seed deep inside her.

Jon rolled off her and breathed heavily in exhaustion. He shot Alys a glance heavily breathing herself, but her face showed a satisfied smile.

She looked at him with her huge grey-blue and he held an arm out and pulled her close to him. She leaned her head on his chest and placed her hand over his heart.

Jon kissed her forehead and saw a small stain of blood, where she had laid a few moments ago.

“I am sorry, my love. I could have been more gentle with you,” Jon apologized to her pressing another kiss to her forehead, before pulling the soft furs over them. Alys shot a short glance over to the bloodied sheet and shock her head.

“No, Jon, you were perfect. The blood only shows I was actually a maiden,” she said stroking over his chest.

“Still, if I would have been more gentle, there would have been no need for blood. I need no proof that you came as maiden to my bed.”

She rubbed her cheek against his skin and he kissed the crown of her tangled hair. “I don’t like that you will leave tomorrow,” she whispered.

“I know my love, but it’s necessary. We need her dragons against the White Walkers.”

“I know, but… but please be careful. I don’t want to lose you,” she said and Jon pulled her closer to him.

“I will be careful, Alys. I promise,” Jon told her.

“We only have this one night,” Alys whispered and let her hand travel over his torso and Jon felt his cock already harden again.

“Aye.”

“We should make it count, shouldn’t we?” she whispered and kissed his chest, before he moved back between her legs.

 

***

 

The next morning he said his goodbye to his siblings and promised he would sent a raven to tell them how the negotiations went.

If I will be still alive to send a raven, he thought to himself. The last time a Stark had visited a Targaryen, it ended with a dead Stark.

Alys had tears in her eyes as she said her goodbye.

“Goodbye my love,” she said. “Please return quick and safely.”

“I will, my love,” Jon said back and kissed her deeply. “I will count the days until I am back in your arms.” He broke the kiss. “And back in our bed,” he added teasingly and Alys blushed lightly only for him to notice.

Lord Reed and Ser Davos were already waiting for him with twenty men, as he mounted his own horse.

He looked into the cloudy sky into the northern sun, before he shot one last look to his northern sun, standing next to Sansa, before he kicked his horse to a gallop and rode through the gate.

Chapter Text

Jon had left Winterfell six days ago towards White Harbor. By now, they might already have reached the city and left with a ship towards Dragonstone.

After Alys and Jon wedding, the castle had returned to their normal business within a few days. Most guests had left the castle within the first few days to return and finish the preparations of their land, before the storm came.

Lord Manderly sent as much supplies as he could to every corner of the North from White Harbor, as long as the weather allowed a relatively safe travel.

Arya was sparing alone with Lyanna Mormont this morning. Lyanna's mother and sisters had left with Sandor and Tormund early in the morning towards the Wolfswood to hunt.

Bran was in his solar with Shireen Baratheon and Maester Samwell, looking through the books that had survived the fire in the library as Winterfell had been sacked.

Sansa was spending time with Alys this morning. Sansa had asked Arya, after she had visited Jeyne, if she wanted to attend, but Arya had told her kindly that she had to give Lyanna a lesson the sparring field.

Even if Lyanna Mormont was a few years younger than Arya, she had the same passion for fighting and riding.

When she was younger, Arya had often wished for a sister like Lyanna. Someone to fight and ride with, not a sister like Sansa that liked to embroider and sew and do all the ladylike things. But now Arya wouldn’t change Sansa at all.

Usually Arya and Lyanna, were pretty even in their fighting skills, with a slight advantage for Arya due to her age, but today she lost several times against the young bear. Today Arya wasn’t really focused.

“Everything alright?” Lyanna asked. “You seem distracted today.”

“It's nothing, I don’t want to bore you with it.”

“You can tell me. I grew up with four elder sisters, I know what it looks like if someone needs to talk about something.”

Arya sighed. “All my sibling have someone in some form or another,” Arya started, slowly starting to spar with Lyanna again. Luckily, they were alone in the courtyard or Arya wouldn’t probably have started to speak at all.

“Sansa has Sandor, Jon is now married to Alys and Bran found a new friend that shares interests with him in Shireen. And I am just here, not necessarily unhappy, but… I don’t know,” Arya said.

“But you are longing what your siblings have, am I right?” the young she-bear asked.

“I guess so, but it's highly unlikely that I will see the person again that could have been the one for me.”

Stupid Gendry, Arya thought angrily. He should have come with me, but he chose to stay with the Brotherhood instead. He was probably already dead. Hung on a tree as lawless.

Arya tried to force the memories of his raven black hair, that had clung to his sweaty forehead when he had stood in the forge of Harrenhal, out of her head.

“You can't know that,” Lyanna said.

“When Mother left for war with your brother Robb, I also thought I would never see her again. Especially after we heard of the Red Wedding, but she returned. It must have been the same for your sister when you returned, or for Jon as you two suddenly appeared at the gates of Castle Black.”

“I guess there is a small chance,” Arya said.

“Or there are still the sons of the lords that wanted to dance with you at the wedding,” Lyanna said, teasing.

Arya had been surprised when some sons of lords had asked her at Jon's wedding if she wanted to dance. Usually, when they had been younger, only Sansa had been asked to dance during feasts.

Arya had to admit that the sons that had asked her were not bad looking, but they weren’t Gendry either.

Maybe Lyanna was right and she would see Gendry again. This time she wouldn’t let him get away. She also still had the hope that she would someday see her wolf again.

Arya hadn't forgotten about Nymeria. She hoped that she was still alive and might would return to her someday.

They continued their sparing until Lyanna's family and Sandor returned from the hunt with several dead boars and stags to refill the stocks with fresh meat.

Sandor ruffled her hair, like Jon used to do and he asked her if she was alright. Arya told him everything was fine and they both went inside the keep to look for Sansa.

Chapter Text

The Defender of the Vale!” Petyr declared as he left the carriage. He had reached Runestone after weeks of travel via ship to Gulftown and then after a short stop at Ironoaks to Runestone.

“Uncle Petyr!” the sickly young boy, that by some miracle had survived long enough to become Lord of the Vale, declared, letting the bow he had just used fall to the ground. Robin Arryn ran towards him and flung himself in his arms.

“My lord. Come and see,” Petyr said. Littlefinger ushered Robin to the rear of the carriage. “I missed your name day. Go on.”

Robin pulled a sheet from the back of the carriage, revealing a cage with a falcon inside. The falcon squawked and Robin gasped.

“A falcon!” the boy declared.

“A gyrfalcon. The greatest and rarest of birds.”

The Bronce Yohn walked over to him. “The last time we spoke, you suspected the daughters of Ned Stark to be in the North and wanted to gather further information,” Lord Royce said.

“Indeed, my Lord,” Baelish started. “And I did gather further information and the Queen mother, no, Queen Cersei was rather keen to tell them to me. Her hate for the North and Sansa Stark in particular is well known.”

After Lysa had her accident with the moondoor, the Lords of the Vale had interrogated Petyr, why the Lady of Vale should suddenly throw herself out of the moondoor.

Petyr had shown the lords a letter he had written himself, saying that Arya Stark was back in Winterfell. Baelish had told the Lords that Lysa had lost her mind thinking about the poor daughter of her beloved sister in the clutches of the murderer of her brother. That she couldn’t stand the thought and threw herself out of the moondoor.

Back then, the Lords had openly discussed plans to free Arya Stark by force for their old friend Ned, not knowing that it was only an imposter sent to the Boltons by Baelish himself on order of the crown. Baelish had suggested patience, since he wanted to gather further information on the rumors of Sansa Stark.

Of course, he had only said that so his plans could be ripe to start the next phase.

“It seems the Lords of the North have taken back Winterfell from the Boltons and freed Arya Stark.”

“That is good news, Lord Baelish.”

“Indeed, my sources further tell me that the Hound has sold Sansa Stark to them after he had abducted her on her way from the Twins to Kings Landing. The northern lords, unfortunately, doesn’t intend to give the power of the North back to the Starks. They keep Arya prisoner and have forced Lady Sansa to marry the Hound. The Northerners use the Hound to control Lady Sansa to rule the North on their own.”

Lord Royce looked shocked and angry.

Perfect, Baelish thought.

“Why would the Northerners do that? They all loved Eddard Stark,” he said.

“After the stupidity of the Young Wolf in the War of the Five Kings, I assume the love for the Starks is a thing of the past.”

“Ned Stark was my friend. I won't let his daughters be prisoners in their own home.”

“I think the same, and our brave lord would probably agree to save his cousins, wouldn’t you Robin?” Petyr asked the boy that had been busy eyeing the falcon the whole time.

“I guess so. They are family after all,” the sickly boy said, still more interested in the falcon.

“All Knights of the Vale should be called to save their friend's daughters,” Petyr said. “And after we freed them, I suggest an alliance by marriage between the North and the Vale.”

“What marriage do you have in mind, Lord Baelish?” the Bronce Yohn asked.

“Lady Sansa is the elder and as future Lady of Winterfell, the perfect bride for Harrold Hardyng. Harrold shares blood with Lord Robert and so the North and the Vale would be tied as one family.”

As Baelish had stayed in Ironoaks for a few days, he had already convinced Harry the Heir to agree to the marriage.

Baelish had convinced him by saying she was a great beauty and even if she was the leavings of a Frey and the Lannister dog, it would strengthen his position as future Lord of the Vale, if he marries and beds her and hopefully soon puts a son in her. Both men expected Robert to die within the next few years. And if not by natural causes, then by others.

Harry was an arrogant young man, eager for glory and power. And the idea of marrying a Stark and become Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North through her, before becoming Lord of the Vale and Warden of the East later, was an offer nobody would decline.

Petyr even fueled his desire more by mentioning that he would also get claim to the Riverlands, since she was half Tully. Baelish had seen the greed for power in the young man’s eyes.

Harrold, of course, wouldn’t stay faithful to Sansa after their wedding, but that was part of Petyr's plans for her. First, he would have Harry play the gallant knight, that most girls look for, for her and he would tell her that he has already fallen for her.

He would allow Harrold to have his fun with her until he starts to visit the beds of other women, like he had done before, and then Petyr would start to plant the seed in Sansa's mind, how better her life would be if she would be rid of Harry as her husband. Petyr would have Sansa see one of his bastards every day and if she was like her mother, she would see it as daily insult to her.

If the Tully was as strong in her as he hoped, she would be easy to manipulate, just like her mother and aunt had before.

The North was a dangerous place and if Harry slipped on the stairs during the icy winter, nobody would even think that it wasn’t an accident.

If Sansa by then had given birth to a son, he would make him Lord of Vale and Winterfell, allowing Baelish to have strong alliances over several of the seven Kingdoms.

By then, the Lannisters would be so weakened by the war against the Tyrells and Martells that the forces of the Vale and the North would have no trouble overtaking them as revenge for Jon Arryn and Ned Stark. With Sansa at his side, he would get the Iron Throne.

“And Ser Harrold agreed to that?” Lord Royce asked.

“He did, as did Anya Waynwood, since he is her ward. Our young falcon is most eager to free Sansa Stark and claim her as bride. We must act rather quick my lord, before the winter is upon us. Call all Knights of the Vale. The time has come to join the fray.”

Chapter Text

Jon stood on deck of the Seawolf next to Davos Seaworth as they approached Dragonstone, the ancient Targaryen castle that stood tall and unbroken against wind and sea.

Jon was nervous about meeting his aunt. Would she believe them that he was truly the last son of Daenerys' brother Rhaegar, or would she simply tell their dragons to burn them all?

Jon tried not to think too much about it, but instead tried to think on Alys, who had safely stayed behind in Winterfell, with his siblings. He tried to remember the feel and taste of her lips on his as the cold wind made him shiver.

“Does it feel strange to you, to return to this place?” Jon asked Davos.

“A little. I served Stannis here nearly half of my life. He made me everything I am today. I only hope that dragon queen sees reason. We have had enough mad rulers.”

“Aye.”

The ship was anchored, and Jon, Davos, and Howland Reed got into a small boat with a dozen soldiers that would row them to the beach.

As they reached the beach, they were already awaited by about forty men that must be Dothraki. Much to Jon's surprise, he saw Tyrion Lannister wait for them between the foreign warriors.

He had changed from the last time he had seen him. He had a beard and was wearing the pin of the hand of the king on his chest. “Jon Snow. I didn’t expect you to be the representative of the North,” Tyrion Lannister said as they had reached the beach.

“It's Jon Stark now. My brother Robb gave me the Stark name, before he was murdered at the Red Wedding alongside his mother and the nobility of the North,” Jon answered.

“You have risen high in the world,” Tyrion said. “As did you, Davos Seaworth, and you must be Howland Reed, if your sigil is correct. One of the two that survived the legendary encounter at the tower in Dorne.”

“Indeed, Lord Lannister,” Howland Reed said.

“I assume you want to see the Queen?”

“Yes, we do,” Jon said.

“Then, follow me.” Tyrion Lannister lead them into the castle and through the richly ornamented corridors until they reached a room where a large carved table showed all of Westeros. A blond woman sat at the head of the table, next to her stood a young dark skinned woman.

Daenerys Targaryen looked like you would a Targaryen to look like.

“Your grace, the representatives of the North have arrived,” Tyrion said and took his place next to his queen.

“You have the honor to stand before Daenerys of House Targaryen, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons, Queen of Meereen,” the young colored woman said.

“Jon Snow,” Danerys started. “Theon Greyjoy told me lengthily, when his sister made an alliance with me, about how honorable you are.”

“Actually, it's Jon Stark now, my brother King Robb allowed me to bear the Stark name, before he was murdered under the guest right by the Freys.”

“You mean the usurper Robb Stark,” Daenerys told him plainly. “Why are you here?”

“We are here on behalf of King Brandon Stark, to negotiate terms of an alliance between the North and you.”

“The terms are easy. The North will bend the knee or my dragons will burn everything to the ground until you do. My Hand, though, councils to give generous terms so I will give you the same terms as I gave Asha Greyjoy. Your brother will be allowed to keep his crown, if he bends the knee to me. The North will support my claim to the Iron Throne,” Daenerys declared and Jon shared looks with his companions.

“Your grace, we are not just here to discuss terms for an alliance, but also ask for your help,” Jon said.

“And what help could the North demand from the Dragonqueen?” Tyrion asked.

“Winter is upon us and the dead are marching on the Wall. If you don’t assist us with your dragons, you won't live long enough to claim the Iron Throne,” Jon explained.

Daenerys gave Tyrion a questioning look.

“So it's true. The White Walkers are coming,” Tyrion said. “I remember how Joffrey received the hand of a wight.”

“The wight I killed to save Lord Commander Mormont,” Jon said.

Mormont, like Jorah Mormont?” Daenerys asked.

“Aye, the former Lord Commander was his father.”

“Does my hand believe them, that the dead are marching on the Wall?” Daenerys asked.

“I do indeed, your grace. Lord Commander Mormont wouldn’t lie about it and Maester Aemon confirmed it,” Tyrion said, scratching his beard.

“After I take the Iron Throne, I will assist you,” Daenerys declared.

That will be too late, Jon thought desperately.

“Your grace, we must act quickly or the Wall will fall. And if the dead cross the Wall, they won’t stop until we are all meat in their armies,” Jon said.

“Your grace, I must agree with Jon Stark. You don’t need to bring your army north. They can continue to their way north through the Stormlands to King's Landing, while you and your children assist the Northerners.”

“If my Lord Hand thinks this the best way, I will agree,” Daenerys said and Jon was relieved that Tyrion was able to influence her and she wasn’t deaf to advice.

“Your grace,” Howland Reed started. “On behalf of Brandon Stark, I must tell you something that will probably unsettle you.”

“Go on,” Daenerys said curious and Howland Reed explained Jon parentage to her and how she was Jon's aunt. Lord Tyrion confirmed that it was well known that only Ned Stark and Howland Reed had survived the encounter at the Tower of Joy and that Ned Stark indeed would do something as honorable as taking Jon as his bastard son, to keep him from getting killed by Robert Baratheon's wrath.

“By birth Jon Stark has a higher claim to the Iron Throne as you, since he is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen,” Lord Reed finished.

Before Daenerys could say anything, after letting the information sink in, Jon spoke up. “Your grace, I have no interest in the Iron Throne. My place is in the North with my family.”

Daenerys didn’t say anything for a moment, but looked at him intensely. “I need time to think about, what I just heard. I will let you know what will happen now later,” she said and left the room with the young woman in tow.

“Lord Tyrion, is there a chance that the former rooms of Stannis Baratheon and his family are still untouched?” Davos asked.

“We heard rumors that Stannis Baratheon is dead,” Tyrion said.

“Yes, as is his wife. But his daughter is still alive in Winterfell. She asked me, when she heard I was going to Dragonstone, if I might could bring some of her belongings back north,” Davos explained.

“Good that Shireen is alive. She is a kind girl. I guess her rooms are still untouched. I assume you will find the way yourself.”

Ser Davos left and Lord Reed excused himself to look after the well being of the soldiers they had brought with them. Jon also left the room and stood on the battlements looking over the sea.

He didn’t even realize that Tyrion walked up to him, was standing next to him, until he spoke. “Jon Stark,” he said. “That has a nice ring to it.”

“Aye.”

“I am sorry what happened to your brother Robb. I assure you, I didn’t know it was happening. It was my father's doing,” Tyrion said.

“I believe you, from what I know, Robb brought his downfall on him, by his own mistakes, but my sisters paid for his stupidity,” Jon said.

“Beg pardon, but have you any intel about your sisters? I tried to help Sansa, by negotiating an exchange for her against my brother, but Robb Stark rejected the offer. The Hound abducted her during the Blackwater and the next thing we heard was that she was married to a Frey. And when my rotten nephew demanded his toy back, she was apparently abducted again by him.”

Jon chuckled and Tyrion frowned. “Your reports are wrong, though not entirely, since Sansa was indeed married to a Frey, by her mother and brother as compensation for Robb's broken marriage promise, but Sansa went with Sandor by her own will during the Blackwater and later he freed her after he had found Arya. He brought them both north to the wall,” Jon explained to him.

“Furthermore, Sansa chose him as her husband and married him at the Wall, before we left to take back Winterfell. And now they are expecting their first child.”

Tyrion looked at him, like he had just grown a second head. “Never thought Clegane a family guy, though I have to admit that I suspected he had a soft spot for Sansa, when he saved her from being raped by the peasants during the Bread Riot,” Tyrion told him. “But I would never have expected Sansa to choose Clegane. You know, he is the Hound, after all.”

“He isn’t a Clegane anymore, my sister married him, before Bran returned and so she wanted him to take the Stark name.”

“And the northern Lords doesn’t argue against the marriage?” Tyrion asked curious.

“Everybody has accepted Sandor as one of them. They see how he treats his wife and their family, and how fierce he has fought for the North.”

“I must honestly say I am impressed. Give Sansa and Clegane my congratulations when you see them again. I am honestly happy for you and your family that you have Winterfell back.”

“We paid dearly for it,” Jon simply said and had to think of Rickon lying cold and dead in the crypt. Neither man had noticed how Daenerys had walked over to them.

“Your grace,” both men said at the same time.

“I have thought about the things Lord Reed told me. Do you really have no interest in the Iron Throne?”

“I don’t. I don’t feel like a Targaryen. I was raised as Stark. My place is in the North.”

“Then we won't have any problems with each…nephew,” she said smirking and Jon nodded, relieved.

“The Targaryens of the old days would have suggested a marriage between us to strengthen the alliance, between the North and the Crown,” Daenaerys said.

“I have to disappoint you, your grace. I am already married to the Lady of Karhold and I can't wait to have her back in my arms,” Jon said in honesty.

“When did you marry?” Tyrion asked surprised.

“The day before I traveled here.”

“Congratulations, Jon Stark,” Tyrion told him and shook his hand.

“Indeed, congratulations,” Daenerys said warmly. “I expect you and your companions to dine with me tonight, so you might as well tell me everything I need to know about the North and its families. My armies will conquer the south while I assist you with my dragons in the North. And as soon as the White Walkers are defeated, I expect the North to assist me in taking the Iron Throne, by marching south. Do we have a deal?”

“We have your grace.”

Chapter Text

With every day that passed, Winterfell got its former glory back. Window by window. Stone by stone. Nail by nail.

All workers did their best to restore Winterfell into the state they had known before the War of the Five Kings had begun.

The stables had been repaired and the glass gardens had been restored to their former beauty, thanks to the glass Lord Manderly had sent from White Harbor.

Wun Wun the giant had helped to rebuild walls and towers that had been damaged and Sansa couldn’t stop herself from thinking that it was like in the legends of the beginning of House Stark, back in the Age of Heroes, when Bran the Builder had built Winterfell with the help of giants.

Since Jon had left, Sandor had begun to drill the new soldiers. In the evenings, he always told her how he trained them with the support of Lady Mormont and her elder daughters.

Sansa spent her days overseeing the repairs, if she wasn’t with Bran to help him with the daily business of the castle and letters, since Ser Davos and Lord Reed weren’t present.

Sansa still remembered all the lessons Maester Luwin and Septa Mordane had given her about running a castle, since it would have been her duty to manage her husband’s castle someday, besides the duty of giving him heirs.

Shireen and Alys were often with them, while Arya spent her time with Lyanna Mormont and Podrick Payne. Arya had told her that Jeyne sometimes watched them sparing, before returning to her room. Sansa was glad that her old friend was slowly getting better.

Since Lord Manderly sent more than enough supplies, Sansa made sure that every worker and soldier in Winterfell had enough food and drink every day.

After the dinner in the great hall, Sansa and the others had developed the habit to meet in Bran's solar afterwards, to talk about how their day was and drink warm spiced wine, while playing a game of Cyvasse or cards. Sometimes Sansa and Alys sewed or embroidered and tried to teach Shireen one or another trick.

Sandor sometimes simply watched her, while she embroidered, sipping his wine. He had told her it was relaxing for him to watch her do something she liked.

Over a month has passed since Jon left. The last time he had written had been when he and the others had left White Harbor to Dragonstone.

Sansa was still plagued by the morning sickness, though it got more bearable over time. Every morning she awoke with her back against Sandor's chest, while his large hand rested over her belly.

Sansa loved how protective Sandor was towards her and their child. Sandor always kissed her and her belly, before starting his daily duties.

Even Ghost seemed to sense that she was with child and always accompanied her during the day, if Sandor couldn’t.

Sansa still remembered with amusement how Ghost had sniffed her belly when he first had recognized that she was changing, and then had stood up on his hind legs licking her face with his rough tongue.

Sansa had just finished overseeing the sowing of the first vegetables in the newly erected glass gardens, when Shireen came to tell her that a raven from Dragonstone had arrived. On her way to Bran's solar, she collected Arya, Sandor and Lady Mormont, while Shireen looked for Alys.

As Sansa had reached Bran's solar with the others, her brother asked them to take a seat.

“Jon wrote a letter,” Bran started. “We have an alliance with Daenerys Targaryen.”

“That is great news,” Sansa said and Alys sighed in relief. “What conditions did she want?”

“The North is allowed as an independent Kingdom within her realm, as long as we accept her on the Iron Throne. Furthermore, the North will support her in taking the Iron Throne as soon as she has helped us against the White Walkers.”

“Are they coming home now?” Alys asked in a hopeful tone.

“Jon writes he is currently sailing North to the Wall with Daenerys and Lord Reed and her dragons. He writes that Davos is currently on a scouting mission to King's Landing. He will soon return north, while Tyrion Lannister, the Hand of the Queen, stays on Dragonstone. Daenerys' army is currently marching North from Dorne, conquering the Stormlands,” Bran continued.

“Let's hope her dragons will defeat the White Walkers,” Lady Mormont said.

“Aye,” Sandor said.

“There is something else,” Bran said. “Lady Lyessa Flint wrote me that hundreds of ships had been sighted near Widow's Watch. Furthermore, several villages near Widow's Watch have been raided.”

“Could that be sellswords from Stannis who deserted?” Lady Mormont asked.

“Why should they come with ships then?” Sandor asked.

“Ser Davos had this one friend from Braavos, Salladhor Saan. Maybe it was his ships,” Shireen said.

“Apparently survivors told Lady Flint, that the men rode under the sky-blue falcon.”

“Why should the Knights of the Vale attack the North?” Alys asked. “Isnt your aunt the Lady of the Vale?”

“Yes, but she didn’t aid Robb in his war when he needed her,” Sansa said.

“Aye, she is crazy. We have to assume she is still serving the crown, so she can live in peace, feeding her weakly offspring,” Sandor growled.

“Aye, they must have heard of Bolton's downfall and now they want to take the North before the Winter comes and we are still licking our wounds,” Lady Mormont told them.

“What shall we do?” Bran asked. “Jon is on his way North, probably Eastwatch and then Castle Black. We don’t know when he returns, or where our enemies are going.”

Sansa saw that her little brother was really afraid of not knowing what to do. He might wear the crown and could see things of the past, the future and other realities, but he had never lead an army.

“Your Grace, I would advise you to call the banners,” Lady Mormont suggested.

“Aye. If they are on order of the crown in the North, they will try to take Winterfell,” Sandor said.

“We don’t have enough men to fight the Knights of the Vale,” Arya declared.

“No, we don’t, but we will still fight them if necessary,” Lady Mormont told her.

“Our father used to say, that a hundred men can hold Winterfell against ten thousand,” Bran threw in.

“We have enough stocks to hold on for years if necessary,” Sansa said and Alys nodded. She and Alys had made sure that the stocks were always completely filled, since they had taken back the castle.

“Then it's decided, I will call the banners,” Bran said and called for Maester Samwell to write to all houses of the North, explaining the situation.

 

***

 

Later that day, Sansa stood next to Sandor on the battlement and watched how the ravens took off into the northern sky. Sansa asked herself if it had been the same, when Robb had called the banners to free Father and his sisters.

“I am afraid,” Sansa whispered and Sandor pulled her into an embrace, stroking her back in slow circles through her cloak.

“I know,” he whispered against her hair. “I won't let anything happen to our family.”

“I know. I still think it strange that the Lords of the Vale agreed to attack the North,” Sansa said.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean some of them grew up alongside my father and Robert Baratheon in the Eyrie. Why should they suddenly help the Lannisters?”

“I guess we will soon find out,” Sandor said and both returned into the warmth of the keep.

 

***

 

The bannermen answered the call quickly and only two weeks later, Sansa, Sandor, and Bran stood above the gate on the battlements and watched how the lords and their men arrived.

Lord Manderly had been the first to arrive, followed by the Glovers and Lord Cerwyn. The Umbers came last. They even brought three hundred men from Karhold accompanied by the new castellan of Karhold to serve their new Lady.

Alys had told them that he was an honorable man, that he served her father well his whole life and had despised Arnolf Karstarks attempt to steal her home from her, to make one of his sons lord of the castle.

“When Robb had called the banners, I stood here and watched with Maester Luwin how the bannermen arrived with their armies,” Bran said.

“Back then, I wanted to ride with him. To save you, Arya and father. Lord Tyrion had given me plans for a saddle so I could ride a horse like a normal person.”

“Robb was right to leave you behind,” Sansa said. “You were too young and who knows what would have happened if you went with him.”

“You are probably right, though I have never seen me going south in any of my greendreams.”

As they left the battlements to go back to the keep to meet with the lords and discuss the current situation in detail, Alys Karstark came towards them. No, she is a Stark now, Sansa reminded herself,
“Sansa, do you have a moment? I need to speak with you,” Alys said and Bran looked at her questioning from his wheelchair pushed by Sandor.

“Yes, of course,” Sansa said and turned to her brother. “We will come right after to your solar. You can start without us.”

“We will see you then. We will wait for you two,” Bran said and Sandor pushed him along to the keep.

“What is it, Alys?” Sansa asked.

“May we speak in private?”

“Of course, let's go to my room.”

Both young women went to Sansa's room and after they had entered Sansa's chamber, she offered Alys a seat near the fireplace.

“Would you like a cup of water or wine?” Sansa asked as she was pouring herself a cup from the pitcher that stood on a table next to the cushioned chairs.

“No, thank you,” Alys said and soothed her skirts with her hands. Alys wore her new dress she had begun to sew after Jon had left after their wedding.

Alys had used Sansa's dress, the one she had made in Greywater Watch, as pattern for her own dress. Instead of the direwolf and the weirwood tree Sansa had chosen to embroider as her sigil on the chest, Alys had chosen the Wintersun of the Karstarks with a black direwolf running over it.

She and Alys had become good friends over their time together, when they sewed or embroidered. Sansa and Arya were closer than they had ever been and Sansa could talk with her sister about everything, but it was still different to have a friend the same age as herself, who shared mutual interests. Jeyne was still her friend too, but despite everything that had happened to her, Jeyne sometimes still seemed to be the girl waiting for the knight in the shining armor.

Sansa was glad that Alys was happy with Jon and that she had told her how kind and gentle Jon had been with her on their wedding night.

It was good that Jon had taken Sansa's advice to heart. At least one of my elder brothers listened to me, Sansa had thought.

“What do want to talk about?” Sansa asked as she took her seat.

“I might be with child, Sansa,” She said.

“Are you sure? After all, you spent only one night with Jon,” Sansa asked.

“Well, my moonblood didn’t start for the second time, so I went to Maester Samwell and he told me that the absence of my moonblood would be the first signs that I might be with child.”

“And do you want a child yet? After all, you two have basically just married.”

“It's expected of me to give my lord husband children,” Alys said and Sansa felt like she was just listening to one of the countless lectures of hermother or septa about the duty of a lady.

“That doesn’t mean that you want to have a child now,” Sansa said. “Nobody will force you to have this child if you wish to wait to have one.”

“But…but you have been with child shortly after you married.”

“Yes, but Sandor and I have been together for a while before and we knew it wasn’t safe to have children until we are back north, so I drank moontea until we reached Castle Black,” Sansa explained to her.

“And Sandor agreed to you not having his child for so long?” Alys asked surprised.

“Sandor never held any claim over my body. He assured me from the beginning that everything regarding my body was my decision and he would always support me,” Sansa said and took Alys hand. “As will Jon, I am sure. They are both honorable men and Jon will understand your reasons if you decide that you don’t want to have a child yet.”

“I am not sure. What if something happens to Jon at the Wall? Then his child would be the only reminder of our love,” Alys said clearly afraid of Jon.

“Whatever you do, Alys, I am sure Jon will support you. He is an honorable man, you said so yourself. Think about it and then decide,” Sansa said warmly and Alys nodded. “And when you have decided, we will write to Jon.”

Alys smiled at her and Sansa smiled back at her. “Thank you, Sansa. You are a good friend.”

“As are you Alys. I am happy that Jon has found someone with you who loves him deeply.” Sansa got up out of her cushioned chair. “Come. The Lords will wait for the Lady of Karhold,” Sansa said kindly and both left Sansa's warm chamber to go to Bran's solar.

Chapter Text

Sandor sat on Stranger's back, next to Lady Maege Mormont, Robett and Galbart Glover, the two Umbers and young Lord Cerwyn. Even Lord Manderly, despite the rumors, sat on a horse awaiting the small group of riders coming towards them from the massive army the Vale had brought North to whatever reason.

Sandor glanced over his shoulder back to Winterfell, where Sansa and her siblings stayed behind with within its strong Walls with the army of the North.

They had prepared the castle for a siege. It would be a folly to fight the Vale on open field. The North currently hadn’t enough men to face the thirty thousand men the Vale had brought North.

Bran had suggested that they should try to negotiate with the men of the Vale first to find out what their ambitions in the North were.

Six riders came towards them and Sandor wished he knew the sigils and houses as well as his little bird.

While he knew the sigils of the great houses and many of the West, he was at loss when it came to most houses of Westeros. Sansa, on the other hand, knew even the sigils of the smallest houses in Westeros with details to their history and their motto. Sandor admired Sansa for her knowledge.

Sandor tensed in the saddle, when he saw Littlefucker under the approaching riders.

Of course, Littlefucker must have his filthy hands in it, Sandor thought. The riders stopped a few paces away.

“Friends,” Lord Manderly began. “What brings you North?”

“We are going to reestablish justice in the North,” a young man with sandy hair and deep blue eyes said. He looked like an arrogant prick. The sort of prick that thought himself better than everybody else and always reminded everyone that he was a Ser.

“No need for that,” Lady Mormont said. “Justice has already returned to the North long before you sat your feet on our land.”

“We heard something else.”

“And what did you hear, Lord Royce?” Robett Glover asked.

“That you took Winterfell back and married Eddard Stark eldest daughter off to the Lannister Hound to rule in her name, while she is a prisoner in her own home alongside her sister,” Lord Royce said.

“That’s a lie!” Lord Manderly said.

“The presence of the Lannister dog says something else,” that arrogant prick said.

The whole time Littlefucker said nothing, but sat smirking on his horse eyeing all present people.

“Lord Sandor didn’t force Lady Sansa to anything,” Maege said.

“They even rewarded him with a lordship for his service it seems,” Littlefinger said smirking.

“It seems so,” Another Vale lord said.

“Give up, my Lords. Surrender Winterfell and the Stark girls. We will allow you to return to your castles and Lady Sansa will be married to the heir of the Vale right here. A match fitting her rank,” Littlefinger said and pointed to that arrogant fucker.

“Only over my dead and cold body, Littlefucker,” Sandor growled.

“That can be done,” the arrogant knight said and Sandor had to restrain himself from pulling that fucker off his horse and beat that smug smile out of his face.

“Surrender, my Lords. The army of the Vale is stronger that everything you have. You don’t have to die here,” Littlefinger said. “Just give us what we want and you will be allowed to live. Of course, the Lannister Dog will meet justice for his crimes.”

“We won't surrender. We will fight and die for the Starks like we have done for thousands of years. Lord Sandor is one of us and we will fight to the death for him and the Stark siblings,” Lady Mormont said sternly.

For a few moments, nobody said anything. Only the cold wind made the banner fly in the chilly air. The fierce direwolf on one side and the Arryn falcon on the other.

“You northerners are all about honor. Then, let us handle this in the old way. One of you against one of us,” the arrogant knight said and pointed to every one of the northerners.

“Who has the balls to fight against me? The mighty Umbers? The proud Glover? Maybe the virago is man enough to face me, with all her ugliness?” the knight said.

“I will show you…” Maege started angrily, but Sandor interrupted her.

“No Maege. He is mine,” Sandor growled and jumped off his horse.

“Perfect, at least my future wife won’t have to see you die later then,” the knight said jumping off his own horse. “I hope you haven't worn her out. I prefer a tight fit.”

Sandor tried to hide the anger that rose in him. It felt like the old Hound had been reborn that moment. He hadn’t felt like this since he had heard Wendel Frey's words about Sansa back then after the Red Wedding.

“You will never lay hand on her and for every word about her that leaves your cunt mouth, your end will come slower and more painful,” Sandor growled and pulled Wolf Fang out of its sheath. The valyrian steel gleamed like ice and only the rippled patterns of the steel interrupted the evenly color of the sword.

“A nice blade. I think I will keep that, too,” Harrold Hardyng said and pulled his own sword.

“When I have driven it into your guts, will be the closest moment you come to that sword,” Sandor growled in a low voice.

Sandor and Harry started to circle each other. Sandor was taller than him, but Sandor could see that the young man had excellent footwork.

He would let the knight do the first move. Sandor wouldn’t make the mistake he had made in Braavos and underestimate his opponent. Their blades met for the first time testing each other’s defense.

“Ser Harrold, do you think this a good idea?” Lyn Corbrey asked, slightly concerned.

“That will be over rather quickly, he is just a vile dog.”

Sandor used that short distraction and started to attack him with countless furious blows of his sword. Even with all the skill the knight of the Vale obviously possessed, he had visibly difficulties to counter Sandor's attacks.

Sandor could see that the knight had problems keeping up with Sandor's movement because of his heavy plate armor.

“What the problem, ser?” Sandor asked mockingly. “Not enough stamina?”

The knight obviously wanted to end the fight quickly and attacked with more furor, causing him to make mistakes. With one swift move Sandor moved around him and quickly cut his Achilles' tendon with one stroke, forcing the knight on his knees.

Harry tried to raise his blade to defend himself, but Sandor easily disarmed him, sending his sword flying into the snow.

Mercy,” the knight suddenly begged, but Sandor's free fist met his jaw, with a bone crunching sound, sending him into the snow.

“Stop this at once,” Littlefucker yelled.

Or what?!” Sandor asked in return, pulling Harry back on his knees.

Sandor places the tip of his sword on Harrys collarbone, when he heard a horse approaching. Sandor lifted his eyes and saw Sansa gallop to them from Winterfell. Her hair, that wasn’t braided flying freely in the cold wind, shining like copper in the northern sun.

“Little bird,” Sandor whispered as he sank the blade into the collarbone of the knight, letting the blood spurt freely over the chest plate.

Sandor pulled his sword out of the knight letting the heir of the Vale fall dead into the snow. Sansa jumped off her horse and walked over to her as fast as she could.

“Sansa, what are you doing here?” Sandor asked but Sansa hit his chest with her soft fists. She looked furious.

“You stupid oaf, what were you thinking to risk your life in a stupid one against one?!” she asked angrily.

“Little bird, I…” Sandor wanted to start, but Sansa interrupted him.

“Don’t 'little bird' me,” she said and pulled his face down to hers and she kissed him deeply.

“Don’t risk your life that reckless, my love,” she whispered only for his ears to hear.

“I wasn’t in real danger, that prick overestimated his skill.”

“He just murdered the heir of Lord Robin. Kill him!” Littlefinger yelled, but none of the present Vale lords reacted.

Sansa turned to Lord Royce, still holding Sandor's hand.

“Lord Royce, we met when you came to Winterfell. You were escorting your son, Ser Waymar, to the Wall,” Sansa said.

“Aye, I remember, you look like the spitting image of your lady mother,” Lord Royce said. “We came to rescue you and your sister and give you back your birthright.”

“My sister and I don’t need rescue. We took the castle and our brother Bran is the new King. We are neither prisoners nor am I married against my will.”

“Your younger brothers are dead. We were told they were murdered by Theon Greyjoy and that you were the last Starks here in captive.”

“From whom have you heard that?” Sansa asked and Lord Royce and the other Vale Lords turned their heads to Petyr Baelish.

“My Lady, my sources must have been mistaken then. I only acted in the interest of your safety. Your mother and I were close friends during our time at Riverrun,” Baelish said. “After I heard of the Red Wedding, I did everything possible to find out about your whereabouts, to protect you.”

“I don’t need the protection of the man that betrayed my father,” Sansa yelled at him.

“I never betrayed your father. I tried to help him and convince him to support Stannis´ claim to the throne,” Baelish muttered.

“That’s a lie, Littlefucker. I was in the throne room, when you held the dagger to Ned Stark's throat,” Sandor growled next to Sansa.

The Northerners pulled their weapons.

“You believe the words of this vile dog?” Baelish asked the northern lords.

“Aye, we do believe the husband of our beloved princess,” Mors Umber roared.

“I am still the Lord Protector of the Vale, you can't kill me, without risking the wrath of my stepson Robin Arryn. The cousin of your king!”

“Lord Royce,” Sansa said. “You and the Lords are welcome in Winterfell as guests, to see my brother, the king, with your own eyes and to convince yourselves that your assistance isn’t needed.”

“Your father was a fine man and a good friend. I need to know that the children of my dead friend are safe.”

“Then come my Lord. You will be honored guests of the North,” Sansa said and turned around to mount Snowflake.

Chapter Text

Sansa walked back to Snowflake and gave her kind mare a few strokes.

“It was dangerous to come here, Sansa,” Sandor suddenly rasped behind her.

“Not more dangerous than you fighting against some knight. I watched the whole scene with Arya and Alys on the battlements and suddenly you begin to fight with him,” Sansa said in an accusing tone.

“I was perfectly fine and this fucking knight insulted you,” Sandor began.

“Yes, but what if something would have happened, Sandor?”

“And what if something would have happened to our child, during your wild ride here?” Sandor said concerned.

“I am just pregnant. Not an invalid,” Sansa said and stroked his cheek.

“I know, but…I love you and I couldn’t live with the thought that something happened to you or our wolf pup, something that I could have prevented.”

“I know, Sandor. I promise, I won’t do something like that today again, if you promise me not to risk yourself in stupid fights, for my honor,” Sansa said.

“If you could have heard, what that cunt said,” Sandor rasped. “I had to do it. I promise I won’t risk my head lightly anymore, but I can’t promise you that I will stand idly when someone talks shit about the woman I love.”

Sansa blushed and smiled at him. He leaned down to her and pressed his lips to hers.

“I love you,” she whispered as his lips left hers.

“I love you, too, little bird.” He gently stroked a strand of hair behind her ear, stroking her cheek with his thumb.

“Let me help you,” he said and helped her to mount Snowflake.

Sandor mounted his stallion and rode next to her as the lords of the North and the Vale returned to Winterfell.

“My Lady, your husband defended your honor bravely and mine as well,” Lady Mormont said.

“I only did what was right, Maege. I couldn’t stand there and listen for one moment longer how this knight prick talks shit about people I hold dear,” Sandor said.

“I feel honored, Lord Stark,” Lady Mormont said chuckling.

Sandor leaned closer to her and Maege Mormont. “Keep an eye on Littlefucker. I don’t trust him. I bet his lies brought us to the brink of war,” Sandor said and Maege nodded.

“Aye. The Vale had always been close to us and suddenly they think we would turn against House Stark?” Maege agreed.

“That smells like Littlefucker's doing,” Sandor growled and shot a short glance to Baelish riding between Yohn Royce and Lyn Corbray.

As they entered the courtyard Bran and the others already awaited them. “Welcome to Winterfell,” Bran said.

“Thank you your grace,” Yohn Royce said. “We only came here because we heard obviously false information about the whereabouts of the North.”

While Bran explained the whole situation to the Vale lords and the Northern lords confirmed it, Arya came over to them.

“I have never seen you ride that fast, Sansa,” she said teasingly.

“Well I never before had to reach my destination that fast,” Sansa retorted jokingly.

“I know him,” Arya said and pointed to Lord Baelish.

“Well, we met him before. Once during Father's tourney in King's Landing, the day we were there with Septa Mordane and several other times in the Red Keep,” Sansa said.

“No, I met him after I fled the city. He came to Lord Tywin when I was his cupbearer. He said he met Mother in Lord Renly's camp and told her that we both were in the capital. And I remember he mentioned some kind of alliance he had brokered with the Tyrells,” Arya continued.

“That piece of shit,” Sandor murmured. “Only because of the Tyrells and Lannisters' alliance was your brother forced to beg that wrinkled old cunt at the Twins for help.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Sansa saw Jeyne cowering at the wall, her face buried in her hands. “Arya, something is wrong with Jeyne,” she said and pointed to Jeyne.

“Ohh, she was fine before you returned.”

Sansa and Arya walked over to her with Sandor, and Sansa knelt down in front of her childhood friend. Sansa saw that sobs made Jeyne body shake. She carefully touched her friend's shoulder.

“Jeyne? Are you alright? What is it?” Sansa asked warmly stroking her friends shoulder.

Jeyne looked up to her and Sansa saw the fear of death in Jeyne puffy red eyes.

“I…I…he…” Jeyne stammered between sobs.

“Slowly, Jeyne. Nobody is going to hurt you,” Arya said, kneeling next to Sansa.

“It's… it's… him.”

“Who Jeyne?” Arya asked.

The man that…that told me I…I… had to be Arya Stark or I would be considered a bad investment…the man…that gave me to the Boltons…” She sobbed.

“Who was it, Jeyne?” Sansa asked. Jeyne lifted her hand shaking and pointed to Lord Baelish. “Lord Baelish gave you to the Boltons?” Sansa asked and Jeyne weakly nodded.

“He…he hid me in one of his houses, after…after I was taken from…from the Red Keep…and…he had me do things…he…told me I had to learn…before he told me I was Arya Stark…he said I was either Arya…or…or they would kill me…”

Sansa felt the anger rise in her and she got up and quickly walked up to Baelish who was still standing with the other lords next to Bran.

Baelish turned to her and smirked at her. “Sweetling, what can I do for you?” he asked, before Sansa slapped his face with all the strength she possessed.

Her hand hurt from the slap, but Sansa didn’t care. The slap had brought the attention from the lords and Bran to her.

“Seize him!” Sansa yelled and pointed at Baelish.

“Sansa?” Bran asked.

He gave Jeyne to the Boltons! He was the one that betrayed our father! He was the one that lied to our mother about Arya and me being in King's Landing, giving her false hope, starting events that led to the Red Wedding! Seize him!” Sansa yelled again.

The Umbers moved to seize Baelish.

“That girl is obviously crazy. Must run in the family. Her aunt Lysa showed the same symptoms before she committed suicide,” Baelish said and Sansa slapped him again.

“You heard my sister. Seize him,” Bran said and Mors and his brother grabbed Baelish.

Arya and Sandor had walked over with still sobbing Jeyne Poole.

“I am the Lord Protector of the Vale,” Baelish yelled as he was dragged away to the dungeons. “When Lord Robin hears of this…!”

“What is this about, Lady Sansa?” Yohn Royce asked.

“He betrayed your friend Ned Stark,” Sandor said. “I was in the throne room as the goldcloaks changed their side and Littlefucker himself held the dagger to Lord Starks throat.”

“And who is this girl?” Lyn Corbray asked.

“She is the daughter of our old steward,” Sansa said. “Lord Baelish gave her to the Boltons in the name of the crown. She was meant to be an imposter for my sister and was forced to marry the Bolton Bastard. I won’t mention what he did to her.”

“And it seems,” Sandor rasped. “As if Baelish also tried to wage war between the Vale and the North for whatever reason. Littlefucker does nothing that doesn’t help his own agenda in one way or another. I still remember how Lysa Arryn hung onto him like a lovesick child. I even would go so far that he might have killed her after she had fulfilled her use to him.”

Murmurs started between the Vale Lords.

“Aye, there are many inconsistencies in Lysa Arryn's death and that he now can give orders in the name of Lord Robin,” Lord Royce said thoughtful. “Maybe he was the one that convinced Lady Lysa not to send the Knights of the Vale to your brother’s support, even if he called several times for aid.”

“And now the heir of the Vale is dead, because of Baelish's scheming,” Lyn Corbray added.

“Lord Baelish has harmed the North, the Vale and all of Westeros,” Sansa said. “He needs to be punished.”

“And what about Lord Robin?” Another Vale Lord asked.

Lyn Corbray turned to Bran. “It’s time for a formal betrothal for him. Maybe to princess Arya?”

No,” Sansa said right away and everybody turned to her. “My only sister won’t be sold like a piece of cattle as I was. I will not allow it.”

“My sister is right. Arya won’t be betrothed to our cousin, I would rather see him being fostered by you, Lord Royce, until he comes of age,” Bran said.

“Aye, that boy needs to learn what it needs to become a man, or he will have to wed a wet-nurse to still his needs,” Lord Royce said.

“And what about Baelish?” Lady Mormont asked.

“I never liked him,” Lyn Corbray said.

“Aye, he only spun his scheming under the protection of Lord Arryn,” Lord Royce said.

“So, you wouldn’t be too sad, if he should meet his end, I assume,” Sandor rasped.

“His betrayal and scheming nearly led to a war between us and we were willing to fight against our old friends,” Lord Royce said and the Vale lords nodded. “Let him meet justice, for the sake of our friendship.”

Bran ordered Lord Baelish to be brought outside again.

The two Umbers brought him back from the dungeons.

“I hope you realize you made a mistake. When Lord Robin hears of my treatment by his cousins, he won’t be amused,” Baelish said in a threatening tone.

“He will never hear about it, Lord Baelish,” Lord Royce said.

“What is this about?” Baelish asked, but one of the Umbers forced him onto his knees.

Justice for our father and the North,” Sansa said frostily.

“I tried to help your father for the sake of the friendship I had with your mother. I tried to convince Cersei to let you return to your mother and brother.”

“You are lying,” Sansa said. “We know about your crimes. I once been told that a dog can smell a lie, but wolves can do it, too.”

“Sansa, your mother…” Baelish started.

“Don’t dare to mention our mother,” Sansa said and Mors Umber gagged him.

“Sandor, would you do the duty in honor of our father?” Bran asked and Sandor pulled his sword.

“Aye, it would be an honor,” Sandor said.

A wooden block was brought and the Umbers forced Lord Baelish unto it, still fighting to free himself somehow.

“Petyr Baelish, for crimes against the North and House Stark, I, Sandor of House Stark, sentence you to die in memory of my father-in-law, Eddard Stark,” Sandor said and Sansa felt proudness swell in her heart at hearing Sandor mention her father's name.

I know you watch this moment, Father, Sansa thought.

Sandor lifted his sword and took off Baelish's head with a single stroke.

“Burn the body,” Bran ordered and what was left of the greatest schemer of Westeros was carried way.

Bran lead the lords of the Vale and Lords of the North inside to discuss further matters, as Sandor came over to her.

He gently took her right hand and only then she realized how much her hand hurt from the slaps she had given Baelish.

The palm of her hand of her hand was red and Sandor carefully examined if any damage was done to the bones.

“It seems your hand is alright, little bird,” Sandor said and kissed her knuckles.

“You slapped littlefucker so hard I feared you could really hurt your hand,” he said.

“I didn’t even feel the pain my love,” Sansa said. “He deserved it.”

“Aye, he did little bird,” he said kissing her knuckles again.

 

***

 

Later that day the friendship between the Vale and the North was restored in an official ceremony. Bran received a raven during the feast that was held afterwards that, that Jon had arrived in Eastwatch by the Sea with Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons.

After the feast had ended they met in Bran's solar to spend some time without privy eyes. Bran sat with Arya and Sandor, while Sansa, Alys and Shireen embroidered by the fireplace, with Jeyne who had calmed down again.

Sansa wanted Jeyne to know that Winterfell was her home and she had people to rely on, who would protect her.

“I never liked Lord Baelish,” Shireen said. “Father and Mother didn’t like him.”

“Aye, he always schemed and only cared for his own benefit,” Sandor said drinking his ale.

“It was good that you mentioned Father, in your conviction of Baelish, Sandor,” Bran said.

“Your father was an honorable man. He didn’t deserve what happened to him because of that scheming cunt.”

“Still, Father would be glad to have you as his son,” Bran continued and Arya agreed with him, refilling her horn.

“I've always wanted to see dragons,” Shireen said. “I always liked to read about the Dance of Dragons.”

“Me, too,” Arya said.

“Do you think that Daenerys might comes with her dragons to Winterfell, Bran?” Shireen asked him.

“I hope not,” Sandor said, chuckling. “Don’t desire fire breathing creatures close to me.”

“Shireen,” Bran said and the girl put down her needle and looked at him. “Another letter came today from Ser Davos. He has completed his scouting of King's Landing and returned to White Harbor. He writes that he has possessions of yours from Dragonstone with him and something else he found in King's Landing. Don’t know what he means, but I think we will find out soon enough.”

“Ohh, that’s great. Can’t wait for Ser Davos to return. Thank you, Bran,” Shireen said kindly smiling and Sansa saw that her little brother blushed a little, while muttering a ´you’re welcome´.

Sansa smiled to herself while she continued to embroider her piece of cloth at the thought of her little brother might be falling in love without even knowing.

Chapter Text

Castle Black finally came in sight. Jon still remembered how he had first seen the Wall when he had left Winterfell with Uncle Benjen, after King Robert had visited.

He still remembered how he had once looked back to Winterfell and then to his sisters sitting on the cart with their septa. Back then he had been sure he would never see either his home nor his sisters ever again.

It felt strange to return to this place where he had been murdered. Even after all these months since they left the Wall, he still often dreamed of the cold bite of the daggers in the night.

And, of course, his scars where his daily reminder that it had really happened. Jon missed Alys. He missed her smile. He missed her laughter. And he missed the soft feel of her lips on his. Every time he saw the scars on his body, he remembered how Alys had traced them with her delicate fingers on their wedding night.

He would return to his wife, Jon swore himself. Even if he had to slay the Night's King with his own hands.

“So, this is the famous Wall,” Daenerys said next to him on her horse. Cotter Pyke had given them the horses as they had landed in Eastwatch by the Sea, nearly two weeks ago.

“Aye, erected by Bran the Builder, the founder of House Stark,” Lord Reed explained to her.

“As Torrhen Stark bent the knee to your ancestor, Aegon visited the Wall with his dragons to learn from the former King in the North what importance it had for whole Westeros,” he added.

“I will follow the lead of my ancestor,” she said and turned to Jon while they continued their travel to the castle.

“You mentioned you allowed the Wildlings to settle in the New Gift, as you had been Lord Commander.”

“I did,” Jon said. “They are people just like us. They share the same blood as most northerners. Their only fault was to live on the wrong side of the Wall and the Night's King doesn’t distinguish between a man, woman or child living north or south of the Wall, your grace. It was the right thing to do.”

“Indeed,” Daenerys said and pulled her fur trimmed cloak tighter around.

Her dragons could be heard roaring in the sky above them and Jon hoped that they would make the difference against the army of the dead.

They reached the castle a few hours later and were greeted by Edd Tollet wearing his Lord Commander cloak, standing next to Maester Wolkan, who had become the new Maester of Castle Black, by his own will.

“Jon Stark,” Edd said as Jon dismounted his horse.

“Edd,” Jon said smiling and gave his old friend a hug.

“It's good to see you again, my friend,” Edd said.

“Same. I hope you don’t disagree with my decision to allow Maester Wolkan take Sam's place as Maester here.”

“No. Sam wasn’t made for the Night's Watch. He belongs in some castle, surrounded by countless books, not here in this cold shit hole of place,” Edd said.

Daenerys came over with Howland Reed.

“Edd, may I introduce you to Queen Daenerys Targaryen,” Jon said.

“Your grace, it's an honor. It's been a long time since the last king bothered to visit the Wall,” Edd said.

“I am here to assist you against the danger behind from behind the Wall,” She said. “After I have taken the Iron Throne, I will make sure the Night's Watch gets all the support it needs.”

That sounds similar to what Stannis promised, Jon thought to himself.

“We are not known for our kitchen, but Hobb just finished venison stew for lunch. I imagine you are hungry after your journey,” Edd said and Daenerys smiled kindly at him.

“I would be grateful for a warm meal,” she said and they left for the great hall.

“How are your siblings?” Edd asked.

“They are happy that we took Winterfell back, even if we the lost Rickon,” Jon said, the sadness for his youngest brother clear in his voice.

“I am sorry about him. Maester Wolkan told me about it.”

“Also, my sister Sansa is expecting her first child.”

“Well, congratulations to her and what about the other lass? The one that arrived on horse after your sisters arrived?” Edd asked curious and Daenerys also listened interested.

“I married her, before we left Winterfell to Dragonstone,” Jon said and Edd clapped his shoulder.

“Always thought you too sulking to marry,” Edd said teasing and both men started to laugh. They sat down in the great hall and Edd explained to Jon what had happened since he and his siblings had left.

Edd had sent scouts North and they had returned several times, telling that they had spotted wights. He further told Daenerys how the whole situation of the Wall and Night's Watch was regarding manpower and supplies, while they ate.

Maester Wolkan returned at some point handing Jon two letters that had arrived by raven.

One were sealed with the direwolf of House Stark and the other one showed the sigil, Alys had chosen to become his and hers. The northern sun of House Karstark with a direwolf running on it.

He first broke the letter from Bran and read how it had nearly come to war between the Vale and the North.

Lord Reed was appalled by the news and Jon continued to read how it all had apparently been a scheming by a man named Petyr Baelish. Bran wrote how he had been the one to betray their father in King's Landing and how he had been the one to send Jeyne Poole into the hell of the marriage to the Bastard. Jon was satisfied that Bran also wrote how Sandor had taken his head and how the North and the Vale had once against sworn friendship.

“Will the Vale accept my rule? After all, they also fought against my mad father,” Daenerys asked.

“The Vale Lords want peace, just like the Lords of the North. They rebelled for the same reason against your father, like the North, the Stormlands and Riverlands. To fight injustice. If you are really the ruler you say you are, the Lords of the Vale will fight for your cause,” Lord Reed explained.

Daenerys nodded, while Jon opened the letter of his wife.

“Good news?” Lord Reed asked.

Jon smiled at the words he read in the perfect handwriting of Alys.

“Yes,” Jon said. “Alys writes she might be with child.”

Jon nearly couldn’t believe it. He had never dared to think of the possibility to father a child. After all, he had only been a bastard and he didn’t allow himself to might father one with some poor serving wench or whore, that would of course take the chance to spent a night with the bastard of a great and wealthy Lord.

“Congratulations,” Daenerys said.

“Thank you, your grace.”

If Lady Catelyn could see him now, Jon thought, satisfied. He had the Stark name and was now becoming a father. He now had all Lady Catelyn feared him to get someday.

A horn blast could be heard. “Probably the scouts I sent this morning,” Edd said.

Another horn blast could be heard and Edd looked Jon in the eyes over the table.

A third horn blast made a shiver run down his spine, while Daenerys looked questioning at him.

“The Night's King is here,” was all Jon said and Edd nodded.

Chapter Text

Arya awoke slowly just as the servant woman closed the door quietly behind her after starting a new fire in the fireplace in the morning.

Sometimes Arya was annoyed by the servants in the morning. She was completely capable of starting her own fires, but she still enjoyed not getting up to start a new one. Arya stretched in her new bed under her warm furs and buried her face again in the pillow.

Satisfied, she noticed that her moonblood had finally ended. The last few days her cramps had been bad enough that she couldn’t even really spar with anyone. While she listened to the sound of the fire, she smiled to herself how glad she was to be in Winterfell. She thought of Jon and hoped that he was alright at the Wall.

With her siblings around, it was nearly as it was before they had left and all the horrible things had happened to their family.

To see Sansa grow with child every day and seeing how Sandor cared for her, reminded her of how her father had been around their mother as she had been pregnant with Rickon.

Today wasn’t a normal day. Today was her sixteenth nameday. By the law of the land she was now a woman grown. She didn’t feel any different than she had yesterday, but again she was glad that Sansa had promised her more than once that she wouldn’t allow her to be married of against her will, like she had been by Mother and Robb.

Arya had often feared what would happen when she reached her sixteenth nameday. Most maidens were already betrothed or married by then and even if her father loved her as much as all his other children, he would have had to make a match for her.

While Sansa couldn’t wait for the day she would marry, Arya had always feared the day she would be led to the weirwood or sept by her father, only to be forced to speak the vows and become the wife of a stranger.

While the marriage of her parents had been one build on respect and love, even as girl she knew well enough that most of the times this wasn’t the case.

Septa Mordane and her mother didn’t do much to soothe her fears that she would be at the mercy of an unknown man her father would choose for her, only to be forced to bear him children and obey his wishes, while he did as he liked.

But she was free. Nobody would choose a husband for her and force her hand in marriage. Sansa would make sure of that and she loved her elder sister for that.

While she enjoyed the freedom of not having to do the ladylike things, she often thought that a marriage like the one between Sansa and Sandor wouldn’t be that bad.

Arya sighed.

Maybe someday. Or more likely not, Arya thought as she sat up in bed and again stretched her arms and massaged her shoulders lightly.

She walked over to the door and locked it, before pulling her nightgown over her head and walked to the washbasin near the fireplace.

She washed herself with the hot water the servant had brought, before she started to dress.

Sansa had made several tunics and breeches for her over the last few weeks and Arya was grateful for every one of them.

She didn’t exactly hate to wear dresses, but she preferred to wear breeches and tunics on a daily basis. Her sister had sewn her one dress for feasts or more representative occasions, but had also made her a pair of breeches and a tunic out of fine black wool, if she preferred to wear these over her dress.

Arya couldn’t thank the old gods enough, that she had a sister like Sansa and she was glad that Alys was similar to Sansa.

Arya had never told anyone, but one of her biggest fears had been, after they had taken back their home, that all the teasing and mocking of her would start again. She had not forgotten the hurtful words she had often heard as young girl, by her septa and the other girls during their sewing lessons and how often she had cried in her chamber afterwards.

But Arya had also not forgotten the words of Sansa as they had been on the Quiet Isle. How she had apologized and told her she was a pretty young lady. These words had meant everything for Arya.

She belted on Needle and left her chamber and went to the great hall, where her siblings, Sandor, Alys and Shireen were already sitting at breakfast.

“Happy nameday,” Sansa said, widely grinning at her and the others followed her example.

“Thank you,” she said and sat down and Sandor handed her the plate with bacon.

“Remember how Mother had always make the cooks prepare the favorite meal for the person that had nameday?” Bran asked. He had asked them a few days ago if they would be alright with Shireen sitting at the high table with them, even if she wasn’t a member of the family.
“Of course,” Arya said. “Sansa always wanted endless amounts of lemon cakes, but Mother only allowed them after we ate our proper meals.”

Sansa laughed lightly. “Yes, I remember,” she said. “I still remember when you were two or three and I thought you my personal doll for some time.”

“Really?” Arya asked laughing.

“Yes. Father thought it funny and cute, but Mother and Mordane didn’t liked it that much. Especially after I tried to cut your hair.”

“I don’t remember,” Arya said.

“Trust me. It’s better that way,” Sansa said chuckling and the others laughed.

“What are your plans for today?” Bran asked Arya sipping on his tea.

“Nothing specific. It’s just a normal day. Probably sparring since I couldn’t the last few days,” Arya said.

“Ohh, maybe Sandor can spar with you,” Sansa said and smirked in a strange way at Sandor.

“Yes, of course, but only if the little wolf, that isn’t that little anymore, wants to,” he said.

“Yes, why not. Let’s see if you are still up to the task of protecting my sister, or if you had become soft Hound” Arya said teasingly.

“Aye, I will show you how soft I have become,” Sandor said.

After the breakfast, Sansa kissed Sandor's cheek as she, Alys and Shireen made their way to Bran's solar, where they wanted to sew.

They went to the training yard, where Lyanna Mormont, her mother and her sisters, Jorelle and Lyra were already awaiting them, congratulating her to her nameday.

“Show me what you have learned, little wolf,” Sandor said and handed her one of the practice swords.

They spared for a while and Arya had to admit that Sandor's movement was flawless.

Jorelle and Lyra were cheering, while she spared with Sandor.

“You are good, little wolf,” Sandor said.

“Thank you, but you are also not to be underestimated.”

He chuckled and lowered his practice sword as Shireen came walked over to them.

Arya liked Shireen. While she reminded Arya of a younger version of Sansa with her liking in sewing and other ladylike activities, she also shared Arya's interest in history and dragons.

Arya had talked a whole evening with her and Bran about the Dance of Dragons.

“Bran asks you to come to his solar,” Shireen said kindly and Arya and Sandor went back into the keep followed by Lady Mormont and her daughters.

When they reached the door of Bran's solar, Sandor stopped and gestured her to open the door.

Arya had no idea what this was about, so she opened the door curiously.

Much to her surprise Sansa and Alys awaited her with a large cake, widely grinning and everybody suddenly said ´happy nameday´ at the same time.

Arya was speechless. She had not expected anything like that.

“I don’t know what to say,” Arya said sheepish.

“You don’t need to. Happy nameday, little sister,” Sansa said.

Suddenly Arya understood. Sandor had distracted her today with the sparing, so Sansa and the other had been able to prepare this surprise for her.

“How long…?” Arya asked.

“A few weeks we are planning this in secret. The sixteenth nameday should be something special,” her sister answered and Arya felt overwhelmed.

She hadn’t expected anything like that at all.

Arya gave Sansa a hug.

“Thank you so much,” Arya said.

“You're welcome. Who wants some cake?” Sansa said. Sansa and the others had really outdone themselves. They even had a small present for her.

Arya looked in awe at the dagger her siblings had ordered the smith to forge for her.

The dagger's look was similar to her Needle.

Lyanna curiously looked at it and begged her mother that she wanted that kind of dagger too for her next nameday. Everybody laughed at the wish of the little bear.

Somebody knocked on the door.

“Come in,” Bran said and the door opened. Ser Davos entered and bowed his head and Shireen stood up and gave him a hug.

“Ser Davos, it's good you returned. I hope your mission for Daenerys Targaryen was successful?” Bran said.

“It was indeed your grace. I asked her if she would allow Shireen to become the rightful Lady of Storm's End and she agreed if I would scout out the situation in King's Landing. I did as she wished and I found somebody I didn’t expect to find.” Davos loosened his embrace of Shireen. “I brought you some of your books from Dragonstone, but I also bring you your cousin.”

“My cousin?” the girl asked.

“Aye.”

Davos went over to the door and opened it again and a young man walked in.

Arya’s eyes grew wide at seeing the raven black hair and deep blue eyes. She jumped off her seat and ran towards him and flung her arms around his strong neck.

A ´m´lady´ was all that escaped Gendry's mouth before her lips met his.

Chapter Text

Today Jon would return to Winterfell with the Dragon Queen. A rider had brought a message that the Night's Watch had defended the Wall with the help of the Daenerys Targaryen in a battle that lasted for three days against the White Walkers and their army of the dead.

The rider had been one of the men Jon had taken with him, when he had traveled to Dragonstone with Davos and Howland Reed.

He had told them that Daenerys´ dragons had burned hundred thousand of whights within a few hours. One of Daenerys dragons had been killed as it had flown to low, while another had been mortally wounded and died two days later, but the largest, the one the Queen apparently rode, had survived and burned the Nights King himself.

Westeros was saved and now the Targaryen queen was on her way.

Sandor wasn’t too eager to meet her and her Dragons. For one thing, it was because she rode a giant black beast that breathed fire, and second, it had been his brother that had murdered her niece and nephew before raping and murdering their mother.

If she had some of the madness of her father, he might end up as a roasted snack for her dragon.

The rider had brought them a letter from Jon, too, explaining that Daenerys wasn’t mad like her father, but Sandor didn’t want to find out.

The nameday of the little wolf was a few days ago, but Sandor couldn’t forget when the little wolf had thrown herself at Robert Baratheons bastard, much to everyone’s surprise.

Arya had blushed deep red after she had realized what she had just done in front of everyone and started to explain that she knew him from their journey. Of course, Sandor remembered him after she had told them who the boy was. He had been there in the cave, when he had fought against Beric Dondarion.

Shireen had introduced herself like a proper lady to her newfound cousin and Gendry had told her how nice it was to meet her. Davos told them that he had asked Daenerys to make Shireen the rightful Lady of Storm's End, since she was the last trueborn Baratheon.

Gendry had assured her that he had no interest in ruling or power. He told them that he was only a simple blacksmith, hoping to just find a place safe to live. Bran had offered that, since he was a friend of Arya, he could stay in Winterfell as long as he wanted.

Sandor had noticed how Sansa had smirked at Arya, when Bran had said that.

Arya had never seemed as happy as when that Baratheon bastard had entered the solar.

Sansa had told him the same evening on trust, that Arya had been in love with that young man for a long time and had thought she would never see him again.

So the little wolf is in love, Sandor had thought amused, Sansa safely in his arms.

The next few days, Arya had always made sure that they sparred in the courtyard next to the forge.

Of course, Sandor wasn’t blind to the fact that the little wolf only wanted to have a good look at her smith while he was hammering on the anvil, revealing his muscled body.

He indeed looks like a young Robert Baratheon, Sandor thought. Let's hope he isn’t a whoremonger like his father.

He wouldn’t allow that boy to break the little wolfs heart by whoring around. Arya wouldn’t become a second Lyanna, he swore to himself. He nearly couldn’t believe that Arya had once wanted him dead and sometimes in return. Sansa's little sister reminded him of the sister he barely remembered he once had, until Gregor had murdered her cold blooded.

Sandor would definitely keep an eye on the smith to make sure he wasn’t treating Arya in the wrong way.

Bran on the other hand seemed to be happy that the boy had been brought to them by Davos. Bran had simply said that ´things have come to a full circle´. He often said things like that, but never gave further explanation.

Sansa had told him what Bran had told her during their journey from Castle Black, about the different lives and fates he had seen for them in each and how scary some of the variants had been.

Just to hear her say how she once had been married to Ramsay in one of Bran's visions had made the hate rise in him.

There was still some time, before Jon was expected to return with the Dragon Queen, and so Sandor was sparring with the little wolf in front of the forge again.

Lady Mormont and her daughters weren’t with them. The Lady of Bear Island had told her daughter to dress like the high born ladies they were for once, now that the Dragon Queen came to visit.

“Stop getting distracted by the smith,” Sandor told Arya as she again was distracted by Gendry hammering on the anvil and had trouble to parry one of his attacks.

“I am not distracted!” the little wolf yelled back at him and their practice swords met again in the cold air.

“That looked different to me,” Sandor said, testing her foot work with a quick series of attacks. “I nearly thought you would drag him to your chamber when you threw yourself at him on your nameday.”

Arya blushed and looked pouting. “It was just a kiss, nothing more,” she said and Sandor huffed.

“That’s why it looked like you would devour him with skin and hair,” he said teasingly.

“Ohh, shut up!” she said and attacked him furiously. Sandor's roaring laughter echoed through the courtyard.

“I am just teasing, little wolf. Why don’t you tell the smith how you feel about him?”

Arya blushed again and let him make the next attack. “And why would I do that?” she asked.

“Because I know what it’s like to not accept how you feel towards a person. It will eat you up from the inside. I don’t want that for you, little wolf.” Arya deflected one of his strikes. “You look at him like the only thing you want is to drag him into the stables and ride the bull until he gives up.”

Aryas mouth fell agape at his words.

“You really think I would do that?” Arya asked, faking shock at his words. “I am a lady after all!” she said sternly, but couldn’t contain her laughter in the end, when Sandor raised an eyebrow at her words.

“Alright, alright, I might not be a lady like Sansa, but I am a warrior lady, like the Mormonts.”

“That you are, little wolf and Sansa and I are with you, when it comes to your decisions towards Gendry,” Sandor rasped.

“I am glad to hear that, Sandor. I always feared to be married someday, but to see you and Sansa, and Jon and Alys now, it doesn’t seem to be that bad,” She said.

“Aye, it isn’t and should the smith ever break your heart, I will break every of his bones, if Sansa doesn’t rip his head off first,” Sandor said and Arya chuckled.

“Or I simply stick him with the pointy end.”

He might stick you with the pointy end first,” Sandor teased and Arya attacked him again with a series of quick strokes, blushing heavily and Sandor couldn’t contain his laughter.

They continued to spare until the bells announced that Jon and the Dragon Queen would arrive soon.

Sandor and Arya left for their rooms to wash and change clothes quickly, before Jon returned.

 

***

 

Sandor stood next to Sansa in his leather armor, Wolf Fang at his hip.

Sansa stood to the left of him, holding onto his arm, next to Bran in his wheelchair. Sansa had chosen one of the new warm dresses she had made. Arya wore the breeches and tunic Sansa had made for official receptions. Next to Arya stood Alys, with Ghost at her side.

On Bran's head rested the bronze metal ring, with little swords. The crown of the North. Sansa and Arya wore smaller bronze crowns, too, showing their status as princesses.

With her braided fiery hair, crown, and dark blue dress, Sansa looked every bit like a goddess of winter.

Lady Mormont and her daughters stood behind the Stark family, with the other high lords of the North and the Vale. While Lady Mormont wore her usual armor, her daughters wore dresses and looked, much to Sandor's amusement, not comfortable with it.

The gates opened and Jon rode in, followed by a young woman and Lord Reed. They were accompanied by a dozen soldiers.

The silver blond hair of the woman didn’t let any room for speculation that she was truly a Targaryen.

Jon dismounted his horse, followed by Daenerys, and they walked over to the waiting Stark members.

“Your grace, I may introduce you to my brother, King Brandon,” Jon said.

“It's been a long time since the last Targaryen visited Winterfell,” Bran said. “I am sure we will come to an agreement that benefits everyone.”

“I am sure we will,” the Dragon Queen said.

“This is my sister, princess Sansa, with her husband, Sandor Stark,” Jon said and Sansa made a perfect curtsy, while Sandor bowed his head.

“I already heard a lot about you and your husband, Princess Sansa,” Daenerys said and her purple eyes focused on Sandor. “I heard how most brave your husband is and that he hates his brother more than I do.”

“That’s true, your grace,” Sansa said and the Targaryen Queen walked on.

“And this my sister, princess Arya.”

“Jon told me many stories about you,” Daenerys said and Arya made a curtsy. I wasn’t as perfect as Sansa's had been, but the Dragon Queen smiled at her doing it.

“And this is my wife, Alys,” Jon said and Alys curtsied.

“Now I can see why you didn’t agree to my suggestion to stay in the south with me.”

“Aye,” Jon said looking at his wife, who blushed under his gaze.

“Your Grace,” Bran said. “We might go to my solar to discuss the terms of an alliance.”

Daenerys agreed and followed Bran, who was pushed by Hodor, into the keep. The lords and ladies of the North and the Vale followed them inside, and Arya went inside with Davos and Shireen.

Before Sandor followed with Sansa, he saw that Jon and Alys shared a deep kiss, before she whispered something to him and he placed his hand over her belly in return.

Alys had obviously just confirmed that she was indeed carrying his child.

 

***

 

“What do you think of Daenerys?” Sansa asked as they walked to Bran's solar.

“I don’t know, little bird. She hasn’t burned me for being born a Clegane and hasn’t yet burned down our home, so I would say she is alright. Let’s wait to see what terms she offers,” he rasped.

In Bran's solar the others were already awaiting them. Sansa sat down in one of the chairs and Sandor chose to stand behind her.

“What terms do you offer the North and the Vale for their loyalty to you?” Bran asked kingly.

“The same I offered Asha Greyjoy,” Daenerys started. “You will be allowed to keep the crown of the North and are allowed to rule over the land north of the Neck. In return for my help against the White Walkers, you swear your fealty to me and will assist in taking the Iron Throne. The Vale will do the same and young Lord Arryn will be allowed to keep the title Warden of the East,” Daenerys declared and murmurs started within the lords of the North and the Vale.

“Furthermore, the Tullys will be given back the right to rule the Riverlands after they have been conquered. These are my conditions.”

Sandor scratched his beard. These were more generous terms than Aegon the Conqueror had offered.

“I accept these terms for the North, but I won’t decide anything for the Vale or the Riverlands,” Bran said.

“I will speak for the Vale and young Lord Arryn,” Yohn Royce declared and the other lords of the Vale nodded. “We will accept these terms and fight with you against the Lannisters.”

Daenerys nodded satisfied and Sandor was relieved that it had not ended in a burned down castle.

Later that day, after they had all drank to the newly forged alliance between the North, Vale, and Iron Throne, Daenerys asked for a private dinner, so she could get to know the Starks better, since through Jon she was now connected to the as family.

Bran and Arya listened, curious, while Daenerys told them about the east and how she had conquered the Slaver's Bay. Sandor had to admit that Daenerys had an impressive story to tell.

Sandor listened quietly, gnawing on his honeyed chicken, next to Sansa. Jon and Alys were busy sharing little kisses between their bites.

Sandor couldn’t blame them, if he had to leave Sansa right after their wedding he wouldn’t be able to sit at the dinner table, instead of devouring his wife in the privacy of their chamber.

Arya was just peppering Jon with questions about the fight against the White Walkers, when Maester Samwell knocked and begged pardon for intruding.

He handed Daenerys a letter that had arrived by raven. The wax sigil was the Hand of the Queen. Daenerys broke the seal and started to read. It seemed as if she got paler with every word she read.

“Bad news your grace?” Bran asked carefully and the others turned their attention to Daenerys.

“News from the south, from my hand, Lord Tyrion.” Daenerys put down the letter and rubbed her temple. “The Lannisters have sacked Highgarden. House Tyrell is extinguished. House Tarly has decided to side with the Lannisters against the Lord Paramount,” she said and sighed.
“Furthermore, the Lannister and Tyrell army defeated my Dothraki, while trying to ambush the train of Lannisters and Tarlys on their way back to King's Landing. Lord Tyrion writes, the Dothraki took heavy losses and have to retreat to Dorne. Meanwhile, Asha Greyjoy also had to retreat, after her uncle forced her into battle near Old Town. Tyrion doesn’t write how many ships she has left but, I assume she had severe losses.”

“By the gods,” Jon said.

“If I had my other two dragons still, I would burn down the Lannister army and be done with it, but I can’t risk Drogon,” Daenerys said. “I only have my Unsullied on Dragonstone. I need the army of the North, the Vale and hopefully then the Riverlands to take King's Landing. Can I rely on your promise to help me?” she asked Jon and Bran.

“Aye, your grace. We Northerners stand to our word,” Bran said and Daenerys visibly showed that she was relieved.

She must have been betrayed many times in the past, Sandor thought.

“As soon as you leave, your grace. The army of the North and the Vale will march south,” Jon said.

“Good I will leave as soon as I can. If the cold weather reaches the south, my soldiers will have an even harder time to fight against my enemies,” Daenerys said.

“I have to say something,” Arya suddenly said and the attention focused to her.

“I…I mean we…I mean Gendry and I have decided that we want to marry,” Arya said, slightly nervous.

“That’s great,” Sansa said immediately and Sandor agreed.

“Aye little wolf.”

Jon, Bran and Alys were happy too.

“Who is Gendry, if the question is allowed?“ Daenerys asked.

“He is one of Robert Baratheon bastards. Davos found him in King's Landing, when he was on your scouting mission,” Bran explained.

“Isn't it common in Westeros that brothers marry off sisters?” Daenerys asked curious and Sandor grabbed Sansa's hand under the table, to keep the memories away from her how her own brother had married her off like cattle.

“It is, your grace, but I decided that my sisters will have their own say in that matter. My brother Robb thought differently, as did my mother and father, but my sisters have endured enough in their young lives, so these decisions lie with them. My sister Sansa chose her husband and my other sister has done so, too. Both of them are smart enough to know what's good for them,” Bran explained.

“I was married off to my first husband Khal Drogo by my brother Viserys, so he would get my husband’s army, so I respect you even more for allowing your sisters their own say in that matter.”

“I have no right to tell my sisters what to do,” Bran said.

“I congratulate you, princess,” Daenerys said and Arya nodded.

“There is one thing I ask of you though,” the Dragon Queen started and Sandor was curious to hear what she might want. “I want House Stark to be strong in the North again. Jon told me that he and his wife founded a new branch of House Stark in Karholt again, after the Karstark family returned to the Starks. I would ask that princess Arya does the same with her husband, if possible,” she said.

“That will be the decision of my sister, if she chooses to become a branch of House Stark, but if so this new branch will have its seat in the Dreadfort, the former castle of House Bolton. It might be renamed, but House Stark would again have most of the North under their own rule,” Bran said.

“I…I don’t know yet, where we will live…or… or what we will do… we only know that we want to marry,” Arya stuttered, overwhelmed by all the sudden developments.

“You don’t have to decide now, Arya,” Bran said warmly. “You will have enough time to think about it, after you have married your strong blacksmith.”

Arya blushed lightly and smiled shyly.

“If it's allowed, I would like to attend the wedding,” Daenerys said. “I have heard many things about northern weddings and I would like to see it for once, with my own eyes.”

“It would be an honor, your grace,” Arya said and the Dragon Queen smiled at her.

Bran raised his cup. “Then it's decided. The north will have another wedding.”

Chapter Text

Today was the day Sansa had never expected to see. Today her sister would marry.

During her sewing lessons with Mordane, Sansa and Jeyne had always joked how Sansa's father would never be able to find a match for her, and Jeyne had often said that Arya would most likely end up married to a horse.

Today, Sansa still regretted her mocking of Arya, knowing how much it had hurt her sister. But today was Arya’s great day.

Since all lords of the North were already present because of Daenerys Targaryen's visit, as well as the lords of the Vale, it was decided that the visit was to be celebrated within two weeks after Arya told them. A few days later, the army of the North and the Vale would march south to assist Daenerys in taking the Iron Throne and ending the reign of Cersei Lannister.

Sansa hadn’t been surprised that Arya would decide to marry Gendry, after she had shared that passionate kiss with him on her nameday, after seeing him.

Sandor told her how her sister now always chose the courtyard next to the forge to spar, so she could watch Gendry while he worked and Sansa found it amusing to see her sister being in love with that young man so deeply.

Sansa had silently thanked the old gods, for leading the smith back into her sister's arms. Arya deserved to be as happy as Sansa was with Sandor.

During the week of preparations, they got to know Gendry pretty well, since they ate together every evening. Gendry was a kind and well-mannered young man, a bit shy maybe around all of them, but that could be caused by him thinking that he was to lowborn to sit with them. Sandor had told her he would tell him that this wasn’t the case.

It was interesting to see how Gendry and Arya were around each other. There were like counterparts of each other. Where Arya was wild and direct, Gendry was quiet and formal.

They will complement each other perfectly, Sansa thought.

Shireen was happy that she had found another member of her family.

Gendry had told them how he had been sold to the Lady Melisandre and how Shireen’s father had used his blood for some ritual, saying names of people that should die, by the power of the Red God.

Sansa had seen the power of the Red God with her own eyes, when Melisandre had brought back Jon, but she didn’t really believe that Robb's death was caused by a leech filled with the blood of a royal bastard.

Robb had brought his downfall on himself, by refusing to do his duty by keeping his marriage promise. It was his own stupidity, Sansa thought, not the power of a blood-filled leech.

Sansa somehow suspected that Bran had already known that Gendry would return to Arya. He had probably seen it many times in his visions.

Bran often went to the weirwood, after the daily business of the North was done. Bran never spoke freely of what he saw, but only gave hints of the things he got to know.

 

***

 

Sansa felt Sandor’s breath against her hair and she pressed her back against his chest under the thick warm furs. Sansa hummed as Sandor kissed her exposed shoulder.

“Good morning, little bird,” he softly rasped against her ear.

“Good morning, Sandor,” Sansa said and snuggled up closer to him.

“Big day today.”

“Yes. I thought I would never see the day that Arya marries by her own will,” Sansa said chuckling. “I always imagined that Father would have to drag her kicking and screaming to the septon or the weirwood.”

“Aye, I can imagine that,” Sandor said chuckling, while stroking over her arm with his hand. “How is our wolf pup?” Sandor asked.

“Feel for yourself,” Sansa said taking his hand placing it over the swell of her belly. She placed her hand over his and they both felt how their child moved inside her body.

“Your son or daughter is very awake this morning,” Sansa said. Sandor slowly stroked over her belly with his hand.

“Give your mother a break, tiny wolf,” Sandor rasped still rubbing over her belly. “Your mother has quiet a busy day ahead.”

“Yes, she does indeed,” Sansa said and rubbed her back against Sandor, already feeling his hardness pressed against her backside.

“The little bird wants to start the day more exciting than usual it seems,” Sandor rasped against her ear and she bit her lower lip at the feel of the heat already spread in her body.

Sandor gently pushed her nightgown down her shoulder and kissed his way down her throat to her exposed shoulder.

Sansa reached under the furs and lifted her nightgown over her hips, while Sandor freed himself of his smallclothes.

Sansa ground herself against him, as he took himself in hand and rubbed himself against her already slick folds, before he guided himself into her core, letting a soft moan escape Sansa's lips.

Sandor's right hand intertwined with hers as he slowly thrust into her. His left hand traveled up her ribcage, while he continued to kiss her exposed shoulder. Sandor's calloused hand cupped her left breast and she moaned a soft ´Sandor´ as he started to gently work on her breast, while caressing her nipple.

Sansa's breath became quicker, as she felt her peak build up in her.

“Sing your song, my love,” Sandor rasped against her ear as he started thrusting quicker into her.

Sansa's toes curled up and she squeezed Sandor's hand as she felt herself clench around him, as waves of pleasure flooded through her body. As she came down from her height, she felt Sandor groan against her hair as he reached his completion.

“I love you,” Sandor breathed against her neck as his breath had calmed down a little.

“I love you too, Sandor,” Sansa said and turned around to face her husband.

Sandor stroked a strand of hair out of her face, before he leaned in to kiss her. Sandor leaned back against the pillows and Sansa laid her head on his shoulder.

“That was a good way to start the day,” she said, smiling.

“Aye, it was.”

“We should probably get up. The others will probably be already in the great hall for breakfast,” Sansa said and sat up in bed, pouting at the thought of leaving the warm bed.

“Aye, you are right,” Sandor said getting out of bed, starting to dress after poking the fire back to life in the fireplace.

“What are your plans for today? It's still hours until the ceremony begins,” Sandor asked pulling the boots over his feet.

“I will tend to Arya, like I promised her. Help her with her preparations and be there for her if she has any questions or fears,” Sansa said sitting at her dressing table, brushing her hair. “You know, doing what Mother would be supposed to do, if she was still alive and I intend to be there for my sister, unlike Mother was for me.”

Even after all this time, Sansa still felt hurt by her mother, leaving her in the dark with so many things. Sansa wouldn’t do that to Arya.

“You are a good elder sister, little bird,” Sandor said.

“I try my best.”

 

***

 

Later that day, Sansa went to Arya's room. She had spent several days on sewing her sister’s wedding dress, that Arya, much to every one’s surprise, asked Sansa to sew.

Sansa had happily done it and sewn it exactly the way Arya wanted it to be, with a direwolf and a bull encircling each other on the front, like they were playing with each other.

When Sansa has asked her sister why she wanted a dress for her wedding, instead of some breeches and a tunic, as she had her sister expected to ask for, Arya had told her that she was sure that Father's ghost would be watching and she wanted to make him proud, by showing him that she would like a lady on her wedding.

After that she had added with a blush, that Gendry also liked if she looked like a lady. Sansa thought it sweet that Arya wanted to look like a lady for Gendry.

Queen Daenerys had offered to legitimize Gendry so he could take the Baratheon name, but he had rejected the offer, because he didn’t care for titles and old names. He said he was happy enough to be a Waters, since it would allow Arya to keep the Stark name, just like Sansa had.

The Dragon Queen had been visibly impressed by that young man refusing to get power, but instead chose to make the woman he loved happy.

Sansa knocked on the door of Arya's room, and her sister opened the door. She looked a little surprised and was only wearing a woolen bathrobe.

“Sansa, what are you doing here?” Arya asked curious.

“I have your dress and wanted to assist you with the last preparations like I promised,” Sansa said.

“I just asked the servants to bring hot water and a bathtub and I appreciate your help very much, Sansa.”

Sansa entered the warm chamber and placed Arya's new dress on her bed. Arya sat down on a chair next to the table at the fireplace and Sansa sat down next to her. A bowl with pears stood on the table, next to a pitcher with water.

“Today is your great day,” Sansa said, taking one of the pears.

“Yes,” Arya said. “I never thought it would actually happen, and if it did have to happen, I didn’t think I would actually want it.”

Sansa chuckled. “Yes, I always imagined that Father would have to lead you kicking and screaming to the weirwood or into the sept that day, dear sister.”

Arya laughed. “Yes, that would have been very likely how it would have happened,” Arya said with a hint of sadness in her voice. “I miss Father and Mother,” she added in a whisper and Sansa took her hand.

“Me too, but I know they will watch over you today,” she said and gave her sister's hand an encouraging squeeze.

“I love you Sansa.”

“I love you too, Arya,” Sansa said and took a bite of her pear.

The servants came back with a copper bathtub and left to bring the water.

“How is the little wolf in you faring?” Arya asked.

“He or she likes to move lately and kick me every time just as I get comfy in bed, don’t you little one?” Sansa said placing a hand on her belly.

The servants returned with several buckets of steaming water and filled the tub.

“Would you like our help, princess?” a young woman, that also served Sansa, asked.

“No thanks, Sera, my sister will assist me,” Arya said kindly and the two servant women bowed.

“Call for us if you need something, princesses,” Sera said and left.

Arya untied her bathrobe and got into the tub, sighing as the hot water embraced her. Arya dived under the water to wet her hair and leaned back against the edge of the tub. Sansa knelt down on a pillow next to the tub.

“Isn’t it kind of strange?” Arya asked with closed eyes.

“What do you mean?”

“When we were young, you always dreamed of having a huge wedding, with a lot of lords and ladies as guests, and now I, who never thought would marry, have a wedding like that, while you had a modest one at Castle Black,” Arya said.

“Yes, it is kind of ironic, I agree. It doesn’t matter if it’s a large or a small wedding. What's important is that we are happy,” Sansa said warmly, stroking through the water with the tips of her fingers.

“I am happy. To see you with Sandor every day and now Jon with Alys, that made me long for that too with Gendry,” Arya said.

“It is good he returned. You two look happy every time you are together,” Sansa said and her sister smiled back at her. “I will wash your hair,” Sansa added and Arya nodded.

Sansa rubbed the soap into her sister’s hair and massaged her scalp with her slender fingers, making Arya hum at the feeling.

Sansa took a pitcher with fresh water and started to wash out the soap and poured some lilac oil into her sister’s hair, rubbing it in, before washing out what was too much.

“Are you nervous?” Sansa asked her sister.

“Yes. You were always meant to be a wife. I never wasted a second thought on it.”

“Yes, Mother and Septa Mordane raised me to be a dutiful wife, but what it meant to really be with someone that you are meant to share your life with, is something I didn’t learn until I and Sandor came together. You don’t need to be nervous about marriage. You and Gendry will learn together what you want and need in your marriage,” Sansa said warmly, wringing out her sister’s hair. “And I am sure it will be a happy marriage.”

Arya finished her bath and Sansa helped her out, awaiting her with a large towel.

She dried herself up and got dressed in a silken shift and smallclothes, and sat down at her dressing table.

“Can you help me with my hair, you always had a talent for it,” Arya asked.

“Of course, how would you like it?” Sansa asked taking the brush.

“Don’t know, what do you think would look good?” Arya said playing with one still damp strand of her hair.

“I guess some variation of the northern style would fit you well,” Sansa said. “I will brush it and then braid it. I think you will like it.”

“Ohh and can you somehow include the comb?” Arya asked and pointed to the ivory comb lying on the dressing table. “It was Mother's and I would like to have something that belonged to mother with me today.”

“Of course, I will do my best,” Sansa said and started to brush Arya damp hair until it was dry.

“You know, Arya, if you have questions about tonight, you can ask me, since Mother isn’t here,” Sansa told her sister.

“I know what happens between men and women. I saw enough, while I traveled through the wilderness and I heard you and Sandor often enough when we were on the ship to Braavos and White Harbor,” Arya said with a chuckle and Sansa blushed.

“You know what I mean. I just want you to know more than I did, when I married Wendel. Mother didn’t want to answer my questions, fearing that Wendel wouldn’t think me a maiden by knowing too much,” Sansa explained. “But he didn’t believe me,” she added in a whisper.

“I am glad you are here with me,” Arya said and gave Sansa's hand a squeeze.

Arya’s hair was dried and Sansa began to braid it, when Arya suddenly spoke up, hesitantly at the beginning.

“What is it like? To be with a man?” Arya asked.

“It can be wonderful, with the right person,” Sansa began. “It feels like you become part of the other person. You both open up to another person and allow him to become a part of you. It can really be wonderful.”

“Is it true that the first time will hurt? Mordane once mentioned it and I heard it several times, by many people,” Arya asked quietly.

Sansa remembered how painful it had been, when Wendel had broken her maidenhead.

“It can be different for everyone, but yes, it can be uncomfortable or utterly painful,” Sansa explained in honest. “For me, it was the later one, but that was with someone I didn’t love and he didn’t love me in return.”

“So, you think it will be different for me?”

“I can’t promise that, but with someone who loves you, he won’t go on, when he sees you in pain,” Sansa assured her.

“How do I know, what I need to do in bed?” Arya asked, just as Sansa placed the comb in Arya’s hair and braided it into the braids.

Lie still and let your husband do as he likes and don’t question his desires, Sansa heard her mother’s voice in her head.

“You don’t need to do anything you don’t want to in bed. Otherwise, follow your instinct and tell Gendry if you like something he does in particular,” Sansa told her.

“I feel Mother would have answered differently,” Arya said.

“She would have. She kept many things from me, but I won’t do that to you. You deserve to know everything there is to know and I will answer all your questions you might come up with as well as I can.”

“I don’t want a bedding ceremony,” Arya said.

“Then you won’t have one. I talked to Bran about it and he is considering banning that tradition from North, like it was done with the Lords right of the first night. We also won’t examine the sheets the next morning. It’s nobody’s business if you are a maiden or not,” Sansa said, just as she fastened the last braid. “Alright, I am done with your hair. What do you think?” Sansa said as Arya inspected her work in the mirror, carefully touching the ivory comb of their mother that Sansa had worked into the several braids that united to one in the end.

“It's fantastic,” Arya said in awe. “I can't tell you how thankful I am.”

“Wait until you wear your dress,” Sansa said laughing.

Sansa helped her sister into the dress, she had sewn out of fine white wool and brocade. Sansa tied the laces on the backside.

“Tell me if it’s too tight,” Sansa said.

“No, it’s alright. Just feels a little strange to wear a dress again,” Arya said as Sansa had just tied the last lace. Arya touched the dress and the direwolf and bull Sansa had embroidered for her on the chest. She turned a little in front of the mirror. “It’s incredible beautiful, Sansa,” Arya said and gave her sister a hug. “I can’t thank you enough. I love you Sansa and I am so incredible happy to have you as my sister.”

Sansa returned the hug as well as the swell of her belly allowed it.

“You are welcome, Arya. You look beautiful by all means,” Sansa said in honesty and Arya blushed lightly.

There was a knock on the door and Jon entered after Arya asked him to come in. Arya had asked him to lead her to the weirwood. Bran would lead the ceremony.

He was wearing his leather armor, over fine woolen breeches and tunic, Longclaw around his hips.

“Little sister,” he said. “You look beautiful.”

“Thank you,” Arya said with another blush.

“Ohh, wait, the cloak,” Sansa said and fastened the maidencloak Sansa had made for her around her shoulder, proudly presenting the fierce direwolf.

“See you shortly,” Sansa said and left for her own room to change clothing.

Sandor was already awaiting her. He was wearing the new black tunic she had made for him under his leather armor.

He helped her to change into dark blue dress she had tailored a little to give her belly more space.

She had just finished braiding her hair, when the bells signaled the ceremony would begin shortly. Sansa held onto Sandor's arm, while they walked the way into the godswood. From the kitchen, the smell of roasted meat and fresh bread already lingered over Winterfell.

Bran was already sitting in his wheelchair in front of the weirwood, next to Gendry, who looked dashing in the clothes Sansa and Alys had made for him.

Similar to Jon and Alys wedding, lanterns lit the path. The lords were already awaiting the bride.

Queen Daenerys stood next to Alys and Ghost, while Lady Mormont and her daughters stood behind them, next to Shireen and Davos. The Umbers and Glovers stood on the other side of the aisle with several other lords.

Lord Manderly, stood next to the Lords of the Vale with his son Wylis, who had come for the wedding with his wife and two daughters.

It was good to meet Lord Manderly's granddaughters again. The last time had been at Jons and Alys wedding.

Wylla reminded her in many ways on Arya, and Lord Manderly maybe hoped that Arya's wedding would show her that marriage doesn’t meant the end of the world for her. Wynafryd on the other hand had told her how happy she was to finally see the young wolf's sister again.

The two granddaughters of Lord Manderly had spent some time embroidering with Sansa and Alys the last few days and they had told Sansa and Alys how brave they had been in taking back the North and how they admired them.

Sansa was happy to see that Jeyne also stood between the guests. It gladdened Sansa's heart to see her friend slowly starting to attend events like that.

Jeyne stood next to Podrick Payne and if Sansa wasn’t completely mistaken, she had seen them sometimes walk together in the godswood over the last few weeks. Podrick was a good lad and Sansa was sure he would never try anything with Jeyne.

She and Sandor took their place next to Alys and waited for Jon and Arya to come.

“You look beautiful, little bird,” he softly rasped.

“Thank you. You look good, too,” Sansa said. “Have you done as I bid you?”

“I did, little bird, but Jon also wanted to speak with Gendry earlier today,” Sandor rasped.

“I hope you haven’t scared him, Sandor.”

“Not more than usual, my love,” he jested and Sansa hit his arm playfully. “Alright, alright I only gave him some brotherly advice for tonight.”

“Good,” Sansa said and all guests turned to the bride who had arrived, holding onto the arm of Jon.

Light snow fell from the sky as Arya walked down the aisle to the weirwood.

Arya gave Sansa and Sandor a smile as she passed by and Sansa smiled back, while Sandor simply nodded.

“Who comes before the Old Gods?” Bran asked.

Jon spoke up. “Arya of the House Stark comes here to be wed. A woman grown and flowered, trueborn and noble. She comes to beg the blessings of the gods. Who comes to claim her?"

“Gendry Waters. Who gives her?"

Sansa smiled and at the memory of her own wedding with Sandor.

“Jon of House Stark, her brother. But Princess Arya gives herself to this man.”

“Princess Arya, do you take this man and make him a Stark?"

“I take this man,” Arya said without a moment of hesitation in her voice.

Just like at her and Sandor's wedding, Arya gave Gendry a token as sign of her accepting him into her family.

Arya pulled out a small dagger and handed it over to Gendry. He looked at the little blade for a short moment before adding it to his belt.

Gendry cupped one of Arya cheeks with his hand and leaned forward and placed the kiss that ended the ceremony on Arya's lips.

As their lips parted, Sansa was the first to applaud and the other guests followed her lead.

Arya's cheeks had a rosy color as she turned to the guests and started to walk to the great hall with Gendry.

 

***

 

Bran sat next to Daenerys at the high table. To the left of them sat the bride and groom with Shireen, while Sandor and Sansa sat on their right with Alys and Jon.

The feast went on for hours and the hall was filled with laughter and music. Sansa watched the people dance and saw Wynafryd Manderly dance closely with the young Lord Cerwyn. Sansa thought it amusing that both couldn’t stop looking at each other.

“I guess there could be another wedding in the near future,” Sandor said chuckling next to her, who had watched them too.

Everybody enjoyed the feast, though Sansa saw amused that some of the sons of Lords who had danced with Arya during Jons and Alys wedding looked a little sullen. They probably had hoped to see themselves at the high table, rather than a blacksmith, that by chance was the bastard of the former king.

Sansa asked Queen Daenerys what she thought of the northern wedding and if it was like she had expected it to be.

The Dragon Queen said it was a nice ceremony and told Sansa of her own wedding with her first husband and the Dothraki traditions.

Sansa had to admit that her and Daenerys first marriages came to happen under similar circumstances. Two brothers that used her younger sister to get an army. And both times it didn’t work out for the elder brothers.

The last dance had just ended and Arya came over with her husband. “We want to leave the feast,” Arya said in a muffled voice, a little blush creeping up her throat.

“Alright, sweet sister, leave before someone comes up with stupid ideas,” Sansa said and kissed her sister's cheek. “Have a good night. See you tomorrow.”

Arya nodded and left the great hall with her husband, before any of the guests even noticed them leaving. Sansa watched her sister until the door closed behind her.

See, Father, Sansa thought. We are all as happy as you wanted us to be.

Chapter Text

Arya's heart was racing. Equally in excitement and nervousness. Gendry was finally hers and nobody would ever take him away from her.

Gendry looked dashing in the new breeches and tunic Sansa and Alys had made for him.

My husband, Arya thought to herself as they walked the way to chamber, the servants had prepared for them. She had never thought that she would actually be able to say these words someday. He is my husband and I am his wife, Arya thought. It still had a strange ring to it in her mind.

All these months during their travel, when she had wished to have Gendry around, be in his arms, hear his voice, came to an end tonight.

They had finally reached the chamber and Arya pushed open the massive oak door. She grabbed Gendry by his hand and pulled him with her into the chamber locking the door behind them.

Here she was, with Gendry, her husband. Arya felt a strange sensation at the idea what they would be doing soon. Arya was glad that Sansa had answered all the question she had come up with, but she was still slightly nervous.

The fire was cracking in the fireplace and the room had been decorated with pine branches and dozens of candles, casting warm light. The smell of the North filled the room. A pitcher with wine and two cups stood on a cupboard, with a place of fruits, close to the large bed, covered with soft furs.

Gendry seemed to be nervous, too. He had told her a few days ago, that she would be his real first woman to lie with. He didn’t count the short interlude with the Red Woman, since she only had wanted his blood for her strange magic.

Arya's hands fiddled with her dress, while they both stood a little awkward in the room, not knowing how to make the next step.

“Was…was the feast to your liking?” Arya asked, not knowing what else to ask.

“It was m'lady,” he awkwardly answered.

“Stop m’lady-ing me,” she said, hitting his arm lightly.

“A lady isn’t supposed to hit her husband, is she?” he ask her teasing.

“Well, better get used to it, because your lady will, if you m’lady her further,” Arya said and pulled his face down to kiss him.

Arya felt her legs shake at the excitement of the feel of his lips on hers.

“Arya…” he breathed as their lips parted and Arya smiled shyly at him.

“You look beautiful,” he said and she felt herself blush.

“You look good, too. More than good, actually,” Arya said and bit her lip at the memory of his strong chest, muscled and glistening with sweat as he stood in the forge, hammering on the anvil.

Her heart felt like it was about to burst from her chest as she traced with her hand over his chest, feeling his heart race as much as hers in his chest. Arya pulled out the comb of her hair and loosened her braids, letting her hair fall freely down her back, before pulling his face down again to kiss him.

Now I understand why Sansa kisses Sandor all the time, Arya thought.

Gendry's hands hesitantly wandered over he back and Arya wanted to feel his hands on her bare skin rather than through the fabric of her dress.

“Don’t you want to get rid of that?” Arya asked tugging on his tunic.

“If my lady wants that?” he asked teasing, before giving her another kiss.

“She wants to see her smith in all his glory,” she said blushing and Gendry pulled his tunic over his head.

Gods, he even looks stronger than back in Harrenhal, Arya thought at the sight of his broad chest.

Arya turned her back to Gendry. She wants his hands on her.

“Please help me with the laces,” she said and Gendry started a little clumsy at first, then she felt her dress loosen quickly, but Gendry didn’t push it off her shoulders and Arya turned to him questioning.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, uncertainty in her voice.

“If I would ever have laid hand on a highborn lady before, my hands would have been chopped off,” he said.

“But now you are allowed. I am your wife and you are my husband, as strange as it even sounds to my ears. We are allowed to touch each other and I wouldn’t even care if it wasn’t allowed. I love you, Gendry. You hear me, I love you, you dense, stubborn bull and I have desired you for longer than I can imagine. Now stop holding back and undress me. I want to feel your hands on my skin,” Arya said sternly, but feeling a blush creep up her face at saying these words out loud.

“I love you, too,” Gendry said. “I missed you for so long Arya,” he said kissed her. His hands finally pushed her dress of her shoulders and she stood only in her silken shift, small clothes and stockings.

Arya and Gendry had moved over to the bed without noticing it while kissing and Arya hesitated for a moment before she pulled her silken shift over her head to reveal herself to him completely.

Arya blushed at the sight of Gendry's mouth falling agape, as his eyes traveled over her body.

He got rid of his boots as she quickly and she got rid of her warm stockings before she let her small clothes fall to the ground.

Gendry blushed at seeing her as naked as her nameday. Arya blushed in return and felt goosebumps cover her skin. She couldn’t remember the last time someone had seen her completely naked.

Arya bit her lip as her eyes traveled over his body and followed the trail of dark hair that went from his navel down into his breeches that were already bulging out.

“Shouldn’t you get naked too?” Arya asked smirking at him.

It wouldn’t be the first time for her to see his cock. After all, she had gotten some glances at his member, as she had traveled with him and the new recruits of the Night's Watch, before she had revealed her identity to him.

Arya sat on the edge of the bed and watched him loosen the laces of his breeches until his cock sprang free. Arya felt her face heat up at the sight of his cock standing proudly out of a nest of raven black hair.

Arya pulled him down onto the soft furs that covered the bed and started to hungrily kiss him.

To feel his body against her sent shivers down her spine and she felt a strange tingling in her woman's place.

His hands started to explore her curves and she felt his hard cock pressing against her leg. Arya let her hands wander over his body, as he started to kiss her collarbone. One of his hands cupped her breast and much to her own surprise, a small moan escaped her lips at the feel of his hand. His calloused thumb brushed over her nipple and another moan escaped her.

Arya felt warmer than ever before and a strange wetness started to pool between her legs. His cock was still brushing against her leg and Arya remembered something Lhara had mentioned back in Braavos, when she had sold her oysters in the morning, when she had been on her way home.

“Remember sweet girl, nothing makes you hungrier than sucking a man’s cock the whole night.”

It hadn’t been the first time Arya had heard a whore talk about taking a man’s member in her mouth. Arya took all her courage and wrapped her fingers around Gendry's member, making him gasp in surprise.

She was surprised how soft the skin was. She hadn't expected something so hard could be that soft all the same.

Arya, hesitantly at first, gave his cock some careful strokes and was surprised to see that the tip of his cock looked different after she pulled back the soft skin.

“Fuck, Arya…” Gendry muttered breathlessly with closed eyes.

Arya's heart was pounding like mad as she leaned down and pressed her lips on his tip, making his cock twitch much to her surprise in her grasp.

Gendry seemed to like what she was doing and so she became bolder and completely wrapped her lips around his tip, exploring it with her tongue, while she slowly continued to stroke his length with her other hand.

“Arya…wait…” Gendry gasped and gently trailed his finger through her hair, gesturing her to stop.

“What? Why?” Arya asked a little uncertain. “Am I doing it wrong?”

“No, Arya, it felt amazing, but I don’t want to finish yet,” Gendry said and pressed his lips to hers.

Arya fell back on the soft furs, while Gendry started to explore every inch of her skin with his lips. Her soft moans filled the room as his mouth focused on her breasts for a while.

Gods, Arya thought, how could I have ever thought this would be something dreadful.

The feel of his touches let another wave of dampness pool between her legs and Arya was curious, when he intended to take her maidenhead.

Gendry's hand traveled on the inside of the thighs and her breath quickened at the feel of the touch of his calloused hand on her soft skin.

His hand stopped before he reached her woman's place and he looked at her with his blue eyes, asking for permission to continue his exploration of her most private parts.

Arya smirked at him and gave him a tiny nod for permission. Her breath hitched as his finger traveled alongside her folds and she started to grind herself against his strong hand.

Arya's back arched and she moaned when he stroked over a small nub above her slit.

“Are you alright?” Gendry asked a little awkward.

“Yes,” Arya breathed. “Touch me again there,” she said and guided his hand back through her brown curls to the small nub, that touch had felt amazing.

Arya bit her lips as he slowly caressed her nub with his finger, while kissing her throat.

Can it feel even better? she asked herself as he suddenly stopped and instead started to use his mouth on her pearl after kissing all the way down over her belly, over the scars, she had gotten by the Waif back in Braavos. Gendry kissed each one of her scars before he continued to kiss his way down to her brown curls.

Arya grabbed his raven black hair as he continued to lick and suck on her most private place.

“Don’t stop,” Arya whimpered as she overwhelmed by waves of pleasure that flooded through her body.

As she came down from her height, Gendry had crawled between her legs and placed some kissed alongside her jawline.

Arya felt his cock brush against her folds for a brief moment and she cupped his cheek with her hand, making him look at her.

“Take me, my love,” Arya said and pulled him down to meet his lips.

Gendry guided his cock to her entrance and carefully started to guide himself between her folds into her hot and wet core. Arya felt some discomfort and shut her eyes for a short moment biting on her lip, as it hurt a little more, but then he was completely inside her.

He started to move, first slowly and clumsy, but he quickly found his rhythm and the initial discomfort quickly lessened until she felt a similar feel arise within her, like it had when he had his mouth on her woman's place.

Arya held onto his strong shoulders, while he had buried his face in the crook of her neck. She could feel his hot breath on her sweaty skin and her breathing turned into moans every time her buried himself inside her.

Gendry's movement became more hectic, until he groaned her name into her neck as he stilled inside her, only slightly grinding against her, while she felt his cock twitch inside her. He only shortly lied on her with his whole weight, before rolling of her, lying heavily breathing next to her.

Arya felt something warm and sticky leak out of her and run down her thighs and she realized that this must be his seed.

That wasn’t too bad, Arya thought as she swiped away a strand of hair that had fallen in her face, linking her dry lips, even if she felt like she had been close to experience that overwhelming feel of pleasure again. Maybe she would ask her sister tomorrow if it was possible to have that more than once during a coupling, after all she had offered to answer all her questions.

Now I know what all this fuss is about, Arya thought satisfied.

“I love you, Arya,” Gendry still breathless said and turned his head to her.

Arya smiled back at him from where she laid.

“I love you, too,” she happily said. She gave in to the urge of wanting to snuggle up to Gendry and she laid her head on his chest, her hand absently traveling over the sweaty skin of his chest.

Gendry pulled the furs over them and she felt him bury his face in her hair, taking in her scent. They simply laid tangled with each other, enjoying the closeness of each other’s body.

“Thank you,” Arya whispered.

“I should thank you, Arya.”

“I always thought it would be horrible to be married, but with you, I think it will be wonderful,” she said and rubbed her cheek again his skin.

“I will do everything to make you happy, Arya,” he said kissing the crown of her hair. “You are my lady.”

Arya chuckled and breathed a sleepy ´I love you´.

“I love you, too,” he said and buried his face deeper in her hair.

Arya rubbed her cheek again against his skin and snuggled up closer, feeling his strong arms around her holding her close to him. Her lips curled into a smile.

See Father, Arya thought before falling asleep, wedded and bedded, who would have ever expected that.

 

***

 

Daenerys Targaryen left on the back of her dragon around midday the day after Arya's wedding. Arya watched from the window of her chamber as she disappeared on the horizon.

The castle was busy with the last preparation of the departure of the armies of the North and the Vale.

Gendry and Arya had spent the morning after their wedding in bed, after the servants had left them a tray with food. They had taken their time, to explore every inch of each other for hours and ended making love for two more times before midday.

When they had finally left the chamber to eat lunch in the great hall, Arya had to blush every time Sansa looked at her and shot her a knowing smirk. Luckily, nobody dared to say anything at her blushing.

Bran asked Jon when he intended to leave for the south to help Daenerys take the Iron Throne. Jon told Bran he wanted to march within the next few days, since the weather had held for a week now and no new snow had fallen in masses.

Arya was surprised when Sansa told Bran that Sandor was leading the northern army with Jon. Arya had expected that Sansa would want him to stay, since it was only a few months until their child would be born.

Sandor and Jon explained, that they intended to attack the Twins and afterwards continue to march to Riverrun and lift the siege of the castle. Together with the Blackfish and their uncle, they would help Daenerys take the throne and finally bring the seven kingdoms to peace.

“I will go with you,” Arya declared. “I will kill Walder Frey myself for what he did to our family and the North.”

“No, Arya, you will stay here in Winterfell,” Jon told her.

“Why should I? I am as capable of fighting like you, Sandor, or Maege Mormont,” Arya harshly said.

“Arya, it's not that…” Jon tried to pacify her, but Arya interrupted him.

“Is it because I am a woman?” Arya asked him infuriated. “That’s it, isn’t it? Now that I am married you expect me to stay behind!”

Arya got up from the table, flipping over her chair storming out of the hall, ignoring Jon, Bran and Gendry calling after her.

Arya ran into the godswood, feeling angry tears welling in her eyes.

I knew it was too perfect, she thought angrily, as she reached the weirwood her father had loved so much. I am as capable of fighting as the daughters of Lady Mormont, but I have to stay here, while all of them, besides Lyanna, march south to war.

She heard someone coming closer until her sister’s husband stood next where she sat.

“Little Wolf, I knew I would find you here,” Sandor rasped.

“What do you want?” Arya asked still angry, not looking at him, from where she sat.

“Why did you ran off?” he asked.

“You know why. You still treat me like a little girl, more now even after I am wedded. You know how good I can fight,” she said. “I am better than Maege's daughters, but they are going to war. I have as much right to fight for the North and avenge our family against the Freys as you or Jon.”

Sandor sat down on the ground next to her.

“You really think that?” He said chuckling and Arya punched his arm.

“Don’t laugh at me!” she said serious.

“You really think we would want to leave you behind, because of you being a woman or because we didn't think you capable of fighting?” he asked.

“You do, don’t you?” she asked, becoming uncertain.

“No, little wolf. We want you to stay here, because of your capability to fight,” he warmly rasped, surprising her.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

I ask you to stay, Arya. For your sister. I only trust you to keep Sansa and the tiny wolf in her belly safe,” he rasped. “As does Jon with Alys. We want you to have the command over the garrison of Winterfell. You know this castle better than anyone else. Keep our home safe, while Jon and I avenge your family.”

“Why do you go? You should stay here with Sansa. It's only a few months before she will give birth,” Arya said.

Sandor placed his hand on her shoulder.

“I promised Sansa to avenge your family and I will. I promised you, too. No Frey will be left, when we are done with them,” he rasped. “So will you stay?” he asked.

Arya sighed and reluctantly nodded in the end.

“I will. I won’t let anything happen to my sister or her child. I will do the same for Alys,” Arya said sternly. “This castle won’t fall under my watch, but you better make sure the Freys pay dearly for what they have done.”

“They will, little wolf,” he said and squeezed her shoulder encouraging. “And cheer up. You still have your handsome smith to warm your bed in the nights, while I and Jon will freeze in our tents.”

“Ohh, shut up,” Arya said trying to hit him, but Sandor moved quickly enough.

“I just tease you, little wolf. I am happy for you.”

 

***

 

Two days later, the army was to depart, but Arya wanted to speak with Sandor and Jon before they left. She found them both in the armory, where they were just putting on their armor.

“Good, I find you here,” Arya said, with her new sword at her hip.

Gendry had made her a larger version of Needle as present for her as wedding gift.

“What do you need, little sister?” Jon asked and ruffled her hair.

“You have to promise me that you will return. If you dare to die, I will find your sorry asses, drag them all the way with me until I find a red priest and make them bring you back, so I can kill you again,” she said, serious.

“We promise, Arya. We will return,” Jon said and Arya turned to Sandor, poking his chest with her index finger.

“And you better make sure that you return before Sansa has her child, because you don’t want to find out what I will do to you if you aren’t here,” Arya said seriously, letting no room for misinterpretation. “Sansa will need you, when the time comes.”

I know,” he said. “I promise. As soon as we are done in the south, I will turn Stranger around and won’t stop until I am back home.”

“Good,” she said and left the armory.

After Sansa and Alys had said their goodbyes to their husbands, she watched the army of the North and Vale depart south from the battlements, with Sansa, Alys and Bran.

“When Robb called the banners back then, to free Father, I was right here with Maester Luwin and watched the bannermen arrive. I still remember how I asked him how many knights House Karstark brought,” Bran said.

“And I remember how my father and brothers left Karholt to follow the call,” Alys said.

“They will return,” Bran said. “I know it.”

They watched the trail of men for hours until the last had disappeared on the horizon and Arya hoped that Bran meant that he had seen Jon's and Sandor's safe return in one of his dreams.

Chapter Text

The march south had been an uneventful affair so far. Lord Manderly had departed for White Harbor, but his son, Wyllis, led the Manderly men that marched with them south.

At the sight of the fierce direwolf flying in the cold air, many men of the smaller villages decided to take up arms and go with them south.

The weather had held, luckily, and so they reached the other side of the Neck in less than a month.

He missed Sansa more with every step Stranger took in the snow.

During the cold nights, when he laid alone in his tent, he often touched the embroidered handkerchief Sansa had made for him and given him on their wedding as sign of her acceptance of him as member of her family.

He liked to trace the embroidered wolf and hound with his finger and tried to remember how Sansa's finger had felt on his skin.

Sandor hoped Sansa was well. On the morning of their departure, he had placed his head on Sansa's belly and had whispered to his child that he or she should wait for his return to come into this world. He nearly felt Sansa's fingers stroke through his hair as he had spoken the words against the swell of her belly.

He would have preferred to stay in Winterfell with Sansa, but she had convinced him that he had to go and be one that would avenge House Stark at the Twins, since she couldn’t be there.

Sandor was sure Arya would take good care of her sister and keep Winterfell safe. Jon had assured him that Maester Samwell, knew what he was doing and that Payne boy seemed to be a good lad, too.

“Everything alright, Lord Stark?” Ser Davos asked him. Sandor hadn't even noticed him riding next to him.

“Yes, just strange to go south after such a long time,” he said in honesty.

After they had passed the Neck, the weather had changed. South of the Neck it was still late in the autumn. Sometimes snow flew in the air, but it was never enough to cover the land in the white dress of winter.

The knights of the Vale commanded by Lord Yohn Royce had traveled ahead to the Ruby Fort, strengthening their ranks with fresh soldiers from the Vale and supplies.

The Northmen continued their journey to the Twins. Jon and Lord Reed had taken half of the men, nearly four thousand, through the Neck on the other side of the Green Fork, to attack the Twins from the western shore, while Sandor would attack from the east shore with the other half of the army.

“I know what you mean, Lord Stark. When I first was back in King's Landing, I nearly didn’t recognize it anymore.”

The rushing of the Green Fork could already be heard in the distance. Soon they would arrive at the Twins. Scouts had reported this morning that only a small garrison held the Twins and they didn’t expect any attack.

“The last time I was here was during the Red Wedding,” Sandor told Davos. “My wife and her sister haven’t forgotten what has happened here. Me and the northeners neither.”

“I was with Stannis when it happened and we got the news. It was a terrible crime, but now justice is coming,” Davos said.

“Aye. The Freys still have prisoners, we need to free them, if they are still alive,” Sandor told him. “I have a special task for you when we storm the castle.”

“What is it, Lord Stark?” Davos asked. Sandor still thought it strange to be called Lord Stark, even after all these months.

“When we storm the castle, there won’t be any mercy for the Freys. Nearly every family has lost loved members and the North hasn’t forgotten the murder of their king and his mother. And they haven’t forgotten what they have done to his sister. The precious daughter of their Ned Stark,” Sandor explained. “When the slaughter starts, it won’t end until every Frey is dead. The women and children, too. House Frey will disappear forever.”

“I see,” Ser Davos said, not giving away any emotions of what he thought about the coming slaughter of women and children.

“The wife of Sansa's uncle is in the Twins. Sansa asked me to make sure that she was to be protected, for the sake of Lord Edmure. My wife believes she had no idea what was going to happen during the Red Wedding.”

“And you want me to look for her?” Davos asked.

“Aye. Take as many men as you need and find Lady Roslin and keep her safe until the massacre is over.”

“I will, try my best to find her, but what if I am too late?”

“Let’s hope you are not. My wife asked me to bring Lord Walder a message from her myself, so the responsibility for Lady Roslin lies in your hands.”

“I won’t disappoint you, my lord.”

 

***

 

On the morning of the next day, the castle of House Frey finally came insight. The fields around the castle nearly didn’t show any signs on the massacre that had happened here about a year ago. The ground where the Freys and Boltons had burned the bodies only stood out of the grass, since they still hadn’t overgrown again.

The sound of battle could already be heard from the other side of the river, where, Jon and Lord Reed were already attacking from the western shore. The eastern castle wasn’t expecting to be attacked.

Before the Freys knew what was happening, the Northmen had already overcome the moat and rammed in the gate.

Before Sandor followed into the castle with the second wave of men, his eye got caught by a wooden post on the field.

The mortal remains of a man were chained to it. Some bones were missing and the body looked like wild animals had feasted on it. The head was missing, but the skull of a wolf, big enough to only be the one of a direwolf lay in the ground with a bronze crown nailed onto it.

Sandor felt the Hound reawake in him at the sight of what the Freys had done with the remains of Sansa's brother.

“See what they have done to your king!” Sandor yelled, standing next to Maege and Mors and Hother Umber, and the men surrounding them yelled in agreement.

“Let's go kill them all!” Sandor continued, raising Wolf Fang into the cold air.

“Aye!” the men yelled in agreement and they stormed into the castle.

As they entered the castle, men were still fighting in the courtyard, but it was obvious that they Freys were outnumbered.

“Ser Davos! Find Roslin, take Mors and Hother with you!” Sandor ordered and Davos ran off with the two Umbers and several men to find the wife of Sansa's uncle.

“Maege, with me!”

“Alysane, you come with me. Jorelle and Lyra take the rest of our men and support the attack on the other castle with Lord Reed.”

“Yes, Mother,” Jorelle said and they stormed off with a few hundred men crossing the bridge.

Sandor and Maege, entered the keep with the men and fought their way to the great hall, where he expected that old cunt to be.

They didn’t meet much resistance and the few men that were foolish enough to stand between them got cut down without mercy.

They had reached the doors to the great hall and the men kicked it open. The hall was empty besides Walder Frey, sitting at the high table in his large chair, and a few armed men, that only could be some of his spawn, considering their weasel looks.

“Defend your lord!” the old cunt yelled and the men attacked Sandor and the others. Sandor drove his sword into the guts of the first Frey that came to close and Maege crushed the skull of another with her mace.

Lord Frey quickly realized that nobody would come to save him now.

Lord Frey,” Sandor said mockingly, walking closer to the table.

“The Lannister Hound, heh,” the wrinkled cunt said.

“You are going to die for what you did in this very hall,” Sandor rasped in a low voice. Sandor had walked around the high table and turned Lord Frey's chair so he was now facing Sandor.

Your former daughter-in-law sends me,” Sandor growled and Lord Frey's eyes widened as he realized whom Sandor was speaking off.

Sansa Stark sends her regards,” Sandor said and drove his sword into Lord Freys chest with such force it out of the back the thick oak chair.

Walder Frey gasped a few times before he died. Sandor pulled his sword out of the dead Frey patriarch and turned to Maege and the other men in the hall that had watched the play.

“The North remembers,” Sandor said and the men repeated his words like a prayer.

Sandor left the high table and went to where Maege was standing with her eldest daughter. She was looking around in the hall.

“This is where Dacey died,” she said and hugged her daughter. “Here these cowards murdered her.”

“I know, Mother, but now they are dead,” Alysane said. “All Freys are all dead. Dacey is avenged.”

“Aye,” the Lady of Bear Island said and turned to Sandor.

“Sansa said the Freys had prisoners, they might still be alive,” she continued.

“Aye,” he rasped and turned to Alysane Mormont. “Go and find Jon Stark, tell him the eastern castle is secured and Walder Frey is dead.”

“Right away, my lord,” the warrior lady said and left the hall

He and Maege went to the dungeons of this keep.

The whole time as they walked through the corridors he couldn’t stop thinking about if Sansa might have walked right here or if one of the chambers they passed on their way were the one where she had been forced to lie with Wendel Frey.

Sandor felt the urge to burn down this whole wretched castle and all memories with it.

They reached the dungeons and started to look in every cell until Maege called him to the only one on this side of the river that had a prisoner.

“Over here,” Maege said. “I think it’s the Greatjon.”

Sandor opened the cell door with the keys they had found at the entrance to the dungeons and Maege entered the cell first.

The man they found looked filthy. His long beard and hair mattered and felted.

“Maege, is that you?” he asked in a booming voice.

“Aye, Jon it's me. The Twins are ours and all Freys are dead. Your uncles are here, too,” she said as she unchained him and helped him up to the feet.

“Looks like you can’t break your chains like the giant on you banner, can you Jon?” Maege asked jesting.

The eyes of the Lord of Last Hearth landed on him.

“What is the Hound doing here, Maege?” he asked.

“Many things have happened, Jon. I will explain everything what happened to you later, but for now it's enough to know that Sandor is a man of the North and husband to Lady Sansa,” she said.

“By the gods, many things must have happened while I was in this rathole,” the Greatjon said.

“I am happy to see you too, Lord Umber,” Sandor growled. “We return to the great hall, Maege. Jon and Lord Reed will probably already await us.”

“Aye, lead the way, Sandor.”

Sandor started to leave the dungeon and ignored Lord Umber questioning Maege Mormont, why she called him by his name.

Back in the great hall Jon and Lord Reed already awaited him with the two Glovers. The two Umber uncles hugged their long-lost nephew and the other Lords welcomed Lord Umber, while Jon greeted him.

“Good to see you,” Jon said.

“Aye, same for you. The plan worked fine. They had no idea what was happening until it had already happened,” Sandor told him and clapped Jons shoulder.

“What a massacre,” Lord Reed said. “Many Freys preferred to end their life by their own hand, when they saw there would be no escape. We found a room with twenty women that had poisoned themselves and their children.”

“Aye,” Lord Glover said. “But House Frey is extinguished. The Mallisters sent their men from Seaguard when they heard that the direwolf marches south and we found Marq Piper in the dungeons. Its good to see you found the Greatjon.”

Sandor nodded, before turning to Jon. “Outside the castle, the Freys had the bones of the Young Wolf displayed on a post alongside his direwolf's skull,” Sandor told Jon. “We should send his bones back to Winterfell.”

“Aye. He should rest in the crypt of Winterfell,” Jon said. “I will have men bring Robb's bones home.”

Sandor nodded and noticed Ser Davos enter the great hall with a young woman, who shyly looked around with her huge brown eyes, staying close to the knight. She held a baby in her arms.

So, this is Roslin Frey, Sandor thought, she doesn’t have much Frey in her considering her look.

“Lady Roslin, my Lord,” Davos said.

The girl fell on her knees before him.

“Please, my lord, mercy for my son,” she begged with tears in her eyes. “Kill me if you must, but please spare my son.”

Sandor gently helped her back on her feet and he could see the fear of death in her eyes.

“You and your son won’t be harmed, Lady Roslin,” Sandor rasped, trying to calm her fear. “Lady Sansa asked me to keep you and your child safe, for my wife’s uncles sake.”

“Lady Sansa is your wife?” she asked carefully.

“Aye, she is. She believes you had no idea what was going to happen at the Red Wedding and that you hadn’t been given any choice by your family either,” Sandor explained to her.

“I didn’t know. I swear it. I first got to know what happened, when my husband was pulled out of our wedding chamber,” Roslin said and Sandor knew she wasn’t lying.

“Have…have you killed Wendel and my other brothers after the Red Wedding on their way to King's Landing? I heard rumors of their death,” Roslin hesitantly asked.

“I did,” Sandor simply said and waited for the young woman’s reaction.

Good,” she whispered immediately. “Wendel always had been an unfriendly boy and every woman had to fear being raped by Black Walder even if they were kin. I won’t cry a single tear after them. I still remember Lady Sansa crying through the whole ceremony. I felt bad for her having to marry Wendel and I understand why you had to do today what you did. There weren’t many of my family I actually cared about, but their deaths are on my father.”

Sandor believed Roslin.

“Lady Roslin,” Jon said next to Sandor. “Your husband is in Riverrun with his uncle, still under siege. We are going to lift the siege and bring you back to your husband.”

“Thank you,” Roslin said relieved kissing the head of her son. “Thank you so much. Lord Edmure…I really love him and if I could undo what has happened here I would. You must believe me.”

“We believe you, my lady. You were just a pawn in your father's plotting with the Boltons and the Lannisters,” Robett Glover said.

 

***

 

They left the Twins on the morning of the next day. They hadn’t lost many men during the attack on the Twins. Less than two hundred men had died on the western shore, while they had lost less than fifty during the attack on the eastern castle.

Sandor didn’t necessarily approve of the murder of every Frey that had been in the Twins, but he could understand the need of the Northerners and Riverland men for revenge. He had always hated being compared to his brother and how he had murdered and raped Princess Elia and her children.

They crossed the Blue Fork at Fairmarket and the people yelled and cheered as the banner of House Frey was replaced with the trout of House Tully once more.

Four days later, they marched through the Whispering Wood, where the young wolf had his first victory in the war over the Kingslayer.

Back then, Sansa's brother had the chance to end the war immediately by brokering a peace treaty with the old lion. Sandor was sure the old lion would have given the young wolf everything he wanted, if it meant he would get his golden son back. Land, gold, his sisters…

It didn’t matter now.

Lord Reed's scouts had reported that the Frey soldiers weren’t expecting to be attacked.

They hadn’t dug trenches or had men looking out for potential attacks from behind, and so, they reached the surrounding lands of Riverrun undetected within two days. Everybody agreed during the war council that they would have the advantage of surprise.

Lord Reed's men had made rafts over the course of the night and so the army parted to attack from the north and south at the same time, afterwards they would take care of the Freys on the peninsula where the castle stood.

This time Jon would be with Sandor during the attack on the southern shore, alongside Howland Reed, Maege Mormont and Greatjon Umber.

The Glovers would lead the attack on the Northern shore with Wyllis Manderly.

While they rowed over the river to the other shore, the Greatjon had come to Sandor, to tell him that Maege had explained everything that had happened after the Red Wedding to him. He had thanked Sandor for freeing him and for taking care of the daughters of his old friend Ned. Maege obviously had told him what Sandor had done for Sansa and what part Sandor had in retaking the North in the Stark name.

The Greatjon had also added that Ned Stark would be happy to have him as a goodson, before jumping off the raft as they reached the shore.

The three blows of the horn in the cold morning air gave the signal for the attack.

The Freys, obviously still drunk and exhausted from the prior night, were completely caught by surprise and their lines quickly broke under the fierce attack of the Northmen. Every man that tried to flee was cut down without mercy, under the cheers and yells of the men on the battlements of Riverrun.

As the Freys on the peninsula noticed what was happening, it was already too late and while they tried to prepare an improvised defense line alongside the river shores against the Northmen that were already crossing the fords of the Tublestone and the Red Fork, the Blackfish led an attack from inside Riverrun and quickly overwhelmed the Freys.

The men started to cheer as it was clear they had won.

“Blackfish,” Sandor said as Bryden Tully rode over to him and Jon, after they had found each other after the chaos of battle.

“Clegane, or should I say Stark? Sansa wrote you took her father's name as you married. Congratulations. I wish could have been there,” Ser Bryden said. “I knew you would keep Sansa and Arya safe and that she would send help.”

“Aye, even if the little wolf made it difficult sometimes,” Sandor jested. “This is Jon, Sansa's and Arya cousin.”

The Blackfish frowned.

“A long story, for later today,” Jon said. “Lord Edmure's wife should be here soon. I ordered men to bring her here.”

“Edmure will be happy to hear that. He feared what would happen to his wife.”

“Blackfish!” the Greatjon yelled in his booming voice and clapped Ser Bryden's shoulder.

“Lord Umber, good to see you in one piece,” Brynden said relieved. “I feared the Freys would get rid of you, after Sansa told me that they had you prisoner.”

“Aye, I thought so too, but they kept me alive and only threw in food every few days into my cell.”

It didn’t take the men long to bring Lady Roslin and she slowly rode closer.

“Ser Bryden, it's good to see you again,” she timidly said.

“You, too, sweet child, you husband missed you terribly,” Bryden said. “And he is eager to finally meet his son.”

Roslin shyly gave him a smile.

“Let's go inside, the men will take care of the rest,” the Blackfish said and turned around his horse riding back to the castle through the remaining of the former Frey camp.

As they crossed the drawbridge, Sandor felt moved back to the day when Sansa had sat in front of him in the saddle, excited to finally return to her mother and brother, after weeks of travel through the wilderness.

Right now it felt like that day was an eternity ago.

“Everything alright, Sandor?” Maege asked next to him on her horse.

“Yes, it's just that I was reminded of a day I would rather forget,” he said.

“You remember the day you brought Sansa back and was sent away afterwards, am I right?” she said warmly.

Sandor nodded.

“I remember it, too. I watched with Dacey from the wall, when you rode into the courtyard. Don’t think on that day, Sandor. Sansa is safe at Winterfell and nobody will send you away this time,” Maege told him.

I miss her,” he confessed to the seasoned warrior lady.

“I know, my friend and I know she does, too,” she said. “Come. Let's head inside.”

They continued to ride into the castle and the Tully soldiers shot him curious, as well as surprised, glances. Some of them had obviously been here when he had brought Sansa back.

The other lords had already dismounted and were greeted by Lord Edmure. Sandor dismounted Stranger and tied him up, telling the stable boy to keep away from his horse if he wanted to keep all of his fingers. Sandor would take care of Stranger himself later. He and Maege went over to the others, just as Lady Roslin reunited with her husband for the first time since the Red Wedding.

“Roslin…” Edmure breathed and pulled her into an embrace, careful not to crush the child in Roslins arms, kissing her passionately.

“My lord, I missed you terribly,” Roslin said. “You must believe me that I had no idea what was going to happen during the wedding.”

“I never believed you knew what was going to happen, Roslin,” Edmure said. “I feared for your and our child’s safety.”

“I feared I would never see you again, especially when the Twins were stormed by the Northmen, but Lady Sansa asked her husband to make sure I was safe,” she said and shot Sandor a short glance. “Edmure you haven’t met your son yet. This is Hoster,” Roslin said, having her son on her arm.

“Hoster…” Edmure said and Roslin carefully handed him over their child. “My son, I am your papa,” he said in a voice choking with emotion and everybody in the courtyard was visibly moved.

“Let’s go inside,” the Blackfish suggested and the lords went inside the keep to Lord Edmure's solar, where Jon and Sandor explained why they were in the south and how the alliance with the Dragon Queen against the Lannisters came to be, while servants brought wine.

Lord Edmure agreed to help Daenerys Targaryen and call his bannermen to support her in taking the Iron Throne.

Later that evening, at the great feast to celebrate their victory over the Freys and the end of the siege, Lord Edmure officially introduced Roslin as the new Lady of Riverrun to the castle staff. Afterwards, Sandor and Jon sat in the solar with Edmure and the Blackfish.

The Blackfish was most eager to hear about his travels with Sansa and Arya, and of how they finally had taken back Winterfell and put the Boltons to justice.

Lord Edmure had been reserved to Sandor and Jon at first, after all, he only knew him as the Hound and he probably only saw Jon as the Bastard that had hung as a dark shadow over his elder sister’s marriage to Ned Stark.

Both Tullys were shocked by the truth of Jon's parentage, but in the end Brynden said that it made sense.

Both men had been more than surprised to hear about Littlefinger's doings and how he had tried to start a war between the North and the Vale and what part he had in the betrayal of Ned Stark.

“Tell me Cleg…Sandor,” Edmure began. “How are my sister's children, honestly?”

“Bran does good work as king, he listens to all options and isn’t afraid to ask for other people’s opinion on certain matters,” Sandor said.

“And he became a friend to Stannis Baratheon daughter,” Jon explained further. “Arya is as wild as always, even after she married,” Jon continued.

“Arya is married?” the Blackfish asked. “Who did she marry?”

“The last of Robert Baratheon's bastard sons. They met each other as she escaped King's Landing, after her father got arrested,” Sandor explained, taking a sip of his wine. “The little wolf is happy about it, you can be sure about that.”

“And Sansa?” Edmure asked. “I haven’t seen her since Lord Frey had us brought to the great hall to see what he had done.”

“The little bird is happy, she has her family and home back,” Sandor said. “And she is carrying my child.”

Brynden Tully was the first to answer. “Well, congratulations then. Has she everything she needs?” he asked.

“Yes, my friend Samwell Tarly is the new maester at Winterfell. He knows what he is doing. He will take good care of Sansa, as he does for my wife and child,” Jon said.

“And Lady Mormont lent her an ear for every question Sansa had, which she couldn’t ask her mother anymore,” Sandor added.

“How far along is she?” Edmure asked.

“In only a few moons a new Stark will come into this world,” Sandor said and could see Sansa in his mind's eye, with her hands resting over the swell of her belly.

“Let's drink to that,” the Blackfish declared and filled their cups again. “On the new generation of Starks,” he said raising his cup.

“Aye,” the other three men responded and drank deeply.

 

***

 

Two days later, the responses of the Houses of the Riverlands arrived and the army of the North prepared to march to Harrenhal, where they would reunite with the army of the Vale, that by now should have crossed the Trident at the Ruby Ford.

Sandor was glad that they finally left Riverrun. Not that he despised the idea of sleeping in a featherbed for a few days, but he could stop thinking about Sansa everywhere he went in the castle.

Sandor was just saddling Stranger as the Blackfish came to him.

“It feels strange to call you Lord Stark,” Ser Brynden said.

“Aye, it also feels strange to be called Lord Stark, I don’t feel like a lord,” Sandor said. “Bugger that. Call me Sandor, since I am not Clegane anymore and Sansa doesn’t like when I call myself Hound.”

“Alright. Sandor then.”

“Is there something you need, Ser Brynden?” he rasped.

“I have something for Sansa,” he said and he pulled out a small wooden doll with straw as hair. “My niece made Sansa leave it behind, when we traveled to the Twins. I thought she might want it back. Maybe for her own child.”

He handed the doll over to Sandor and Sandor traced the details of the face with his finger.

“Sansa got the doll from her father. On the night we fled, she insisted that we take it with us, since it was the last gift she had from him,” Sandor said, remembering that conversation with Sansa vividly. “She will be happy to have it back.”

Horns could be heard, signaling that the army was ready to march.

“It seems it's time,” the Blackfish said.

“Aye, let us lift the dragon back onto the throne.”

Chapter Text

Yesterday the raven had arrived carrying Sandor's letter from Riverrun, telling her that House Frey had been extinguished.

Sansa wouldn’t cry a single tear for House Frey. Some of the Freys might have been innocent, but they wouldn’t have spared any of the northern families either if they had had the chance to extinguish them.

Sandor had further written her that her uncle's wife had been saved and reunited with her husband. Sansa was happy for Edmure. After all, he and Roslin had looked rather happy during the wedding.

Sandor further wrote that he missed her terribly and couldn’t await the day they would be reunited. Sansa felt the same, every morning she missed the feeling of Sandor's warm body next to hers under the furs.

Her morning sickness had finally stopped, but now she felt like she had to make water the whole time. The pain in her feet and back didn’t help either.

She placed her hand over her belly and felt her child move a little.

Soon you will be out here with us, Sansa thought every time she stroked over the swell of her belly.

Sandor had also added a letter of her great uncle and uncle Edmure.

They wrote that they were relieved that she is safe and has her home back with her siblings. They congratulated her on her wedding and pregnancy, and also wrote they would try to visit her as soon as the war was over and the weather allowed it.

She hoped she would really see her uncle and great uncle again.

The winter had returned with all his strength after Sandor and Jon had left with the army. Snow fell day and night over the last ten days and no petitioner had made the travel to Winterfell today.

Bran had gone to the godswood with Hodor after the breakfast. He said he had to watch over some things. Bran had behaved like that before. He went to the godswood and spent the whole day in his visions, not caring about anything else.

Sansa had decided to spend her day sewing clothes for her child in the solar. Alys, Shireen and Jeyne accompanied her.

By now the swell of Alys' belly was clearly visible under her dress and she had told Sansa that she was now suffering from the morning sickness.

Arya had decided to spend her day with sparring against Lyanna Mormont, after overseeing the castle guards and the defenses.

Sansa though Arya did a splendid job. All men respected her and followed her orders without questioning.

Gendry spend most of his time in the forge. Bran and everyone else had assured him that he didn’t have to continue his work as smith, but Gendry told them that he loved it and wouldn’t stop doing it, even if he was a Stark by name now.

Arya and Gendry seemed to be more than happy together.

Who would have thought that Arya would someday be happily married, Sansa always thought amused, when she saw her sister and her husband.

The fire was roaring in the fireplace and servants had brought them a plate with fresh baked honey cakes and a pot of still steaming tea. The smell of fresh mint filled the room, as Sansa had just finished a little pair of socks, made out of warm and soft wool.

Alys was sewing a blanket for her own child, sitting in a cushioned chair. Ghost was sleeping at her feet, only sometimes looking up, when the mate of his master spoke in her soft voice.

Jon had decided to leave Ghost behind to take care of Alys. It warmed Sansa's heart that Ghost had become as protective over Alys as he had become to her, when he noticed her carrying a child. Maybe even a little more since Alys was the mate of his master.

Jeyne was busy embroidering a handkerchief. Jeyne had declared that she would give it away as token, but hadn’t answered Alys as she had asked who was the lucky person to get it. Jeyne had just bit her lip and blushed a little. Sansa was happy for her friend, that after all she had to endure, the loss of her family and being married to Ramsay Bolton, she might be in love with someone.

Shireen, though, seemed to be distracted. Usually, she happily chatted during their joint sewings. Shireen had talent for sewing and embroidering and she quickly adapted to the things Sansa and Alys taught her, but today her mind seemed to be occupied with other things.

Sansa liked Shireen dearly. She was kind, smart and interested in many things. Shireen had told her that she hadn’t had any lessons since Maester Cressen had died on Dragonstone, so Sansa had asked Maester Samwell if he could finish what Cressen had started.

“Shireen, what are you making today?” Sansa asked her and the girl looked up from her work.

“I make new gloves for Ser Davos, as a gift for when he returns,” she said. “And after that, I wanted to make a new cloak for me. Mine is torn at some places and too small anyway. And you?”

“Now that I finished the socks, I might though I embroider a blanket for the crib.”

“Do you pray for a son or a daughter, Sansa?” Alys asked taking one of the honey cakes.

“No, I asked the gods that the child is healthy and nothing more. I talked with Sandor about it and for him it doesn’t matter if it’s a girl or a boy,” Sansa said. “And you? Did you talk with Jon about it?”

“We did. He says he is fine with both, too, but I don’t know if would like to have a daughter or son first.”

“Maybe you will have twins,” Shireen threw in.

“Maybe, but Maester Samwell says my belly isn’t big enough for twins,” Alys said stroking over her belly.

Ghost lifted his head of the wooden floor just before the door opened and Arya and Lyanna entered the room. They clearly had been training, considering how exhausted they looked.

“Tired already?” Sansa asked as Arya poured herself a cup of water and took one of the pears out of the bowl that stood next to the pitcher of water. Usually she trained until nobody was left that wanted to spar or the sun went down.

“No, but Arya is,” Lyanna said smirking. “Her smith seems to keep her from getting enough sleep, but it seems she doesn’t mind,” she said chuckling to herself, while Arya told her playfully to shut up, while a light blush reddened her cheeks.

“I think I'll do another round with Podrick. He is still up to the task. See you later Arya,” Lyanna said and turned to leave the solar after grabbing a pear herself.

“Tell Gendry I visit him later,” Arya told Lyanna.

“I am sure you will,” she answered laughing, closing the door behind her.

Arya turned to Sansa and the others, who looked at her, smirking.

“What?” she asked. “I like to watch him swing his hammer.”

“I am sure you do,” Sansa said as innocent as she could, but she couldn’t keep herself from smirking as did Alys, while Shireen and Jeyne only giggled.

Arya just rolled her eyes and made herself comfortable in a free chair next to where they sat. After all the teasing, she had gotten from Arya, it was just fair that she teased her a little in return.

“What are you making?” Arya asked sipping on her cup.

“I am making a blanket for the crib,” Sansa told her and handed her the blanket she was just embroidering with many little wolves.

Arya examined Sansas work and smiled at the little direwolves.

“Your stitches are perfect as always,” she said smiling. “How is the tiny wolf behaving today?”

“Can’t wait to see her or his warrior aunt,” Sansa said warmly, stroking her belly.

Arya smiled and gave Sansa the blanket back. Sansa continued to embroider, while Arya told her about the report of the castle guards. Nothing special had happened and so Arya just sat with the others for a while simply enjoying a moment of recreation.

Sansa let her thoughts wander to Sandor and where he might be at this very moment in the south. Would he even pass by some of the places where they had made camp during their own journey through the Riverlands?

Arya had excused herself after a while to go to Gendry and to give Lyanna a lesson on the training field for earlier. Jeyne left with her to give the handkerchief she had made to the mysterious person Jeyne refused to reveal.

Alys said she felt a new wave of nausea hit her and she excused herself to rest a little before dinner. Sansa asked her if she should send for the maester, but Alys told her that it was just the usual malaise from her pregnancy. Sansa was glad that she had only felt the sickness in the morning.

Now only Sansa and Shireen were left in the room. Shireen was focused on the last few stitches she had to made to finish the first glove and Sansa used the moment to watch her.

Sometimes Sansa forgot that Shireen was as old as Arya, when she saw her laugh with Bran.

Apart from the marks the greyscale had left on her face, she was a lovely young lady. Luckily for her, her father’s traits had won over her mother's, when she had flowered from a girl to a maiden.

Her hair was nearly as dark as Gendry's and she had it braided in a simple way, to keep it out of her face.

“Are you alright Shireen? You seem to be distracted lately,” Sansa asked her warmly. Sansa only knew too well how it felt to keep all emotions to yourself.

“I only miss Ser Davos. He is the closest person I have left of my family,” she said plainly, but Sansa could hear the hints of sadness behind her words.

“I know Shireen, he treats you as if you were his own daughter, but you have more family than only Ser Davos. You have Gendry,” Sansa said warmly.

“Gendry doesn’t know me, we are just about to get to know each other…” Shireen said but Sansa interrupted her.

“And you have Bran,” Sansa said and Shireen looked up surprised. “Don’t look so surprised. He clearly likes you and I noticed how well you get along with each other,” Sansa continued and Shireen's cheek reddened slightly.

“I know and I like him too, but…can I ask you something, Sansa?” Shireen said uncertain.

“Sure, you can always ask me anything.”

“How was it with you and Sandor? Did his scars keep you from loving him?”

So, this is what all of this is about, Sansa thought.

“You think, Bran won’t ever love you, because of your face?”, Sansa asked and she could see that that guess had been correct, considering how Shireen adverted her eyes.

“My mother always told me that no man would ever love me with that face and when I flowered, shortly before we left north to the Wall, she said that if I wouldn’t be my fathers heir, she would send me to the silent sisters, so nobody would have to endure my face,” Shireen said.

Sansa got up from her chair and sat down in the one next to Shireen and took her hand in hers. “Your mother shouldn’t have said that, Shireen,” Sansa told her warmly and she saw a tear run down Shireen's cheek.

“But it's true,” Shireen sobbed. “My father tried to make countless matches for me, but none ever came to happen. Some lords didn’t even answer his letters. Nobody will ever love me.”

“That’s not true,” Sansa said and squeezed her hand. “Shireen, listen to me. You are a kind and gentle soul and your greyscale marks don’t determine who you are. It’s the same with Sandor. Most people only see his scars, but I know the man underneath them and now I don’t even see them anymore. They are part of him and I love him. It is the same with you, Shireen. Whoever can’t love you with your scars isn’t worthy of you, you hear me?”

Shireen nodded weakly, drying her cheek with her sleeve. “And Bran?” she asked uncertain, another tear running down her cheek. “Do…do you think he might come to love me someday?”

Sansa had seen the way Bran looked at Shireen so Sansa was pretty certain was already starting to fall in love with her.

“I am sure he will,” Sansa told her smiling. “How couldn’t he come to love you? You share his interested in books and reading. You love history just like him and I honestly don’t think he was ever bothered by your scars at all, as you were by him being unable to walk.”

“Bran was the first boy, that didn’t mock me for my scars,” Shireen said. “At court, Tommen and your cousin Robin were always scared by them, while Joffrey always mocked me for them.”

“Sandor told me about it and how he had always tried to keep Joffrey away from you,” Sansa told her. “Should somebody here say anything about your scars, tell me and I will make it stop.”

“I will, Sansa, but everybody is kind to me here. Even the servants. In King's Landing, or even Dragonstone, all servants used to snigger behind my back.”

“The servants I had during my captivity in King's Landing all reported back to the queen apart from one,” Sansa told her.

“Thank goodness we are lucky to be rid of them,” Shireen said smiling and both young women laughed.

“Thank you, Sansa,” Shireen told her squeezing her hand.

“No need to thank me. You can always come to me, when you need to talk about something. I only know too well how it is to have nobody to talk to, before I got Sandor. And even after that, sometimes you need another woman to talk about certain things,” Sansa told her warmly. “You can always come to me, when you feel the need.”

The door opened and Lyanna returned. “Ohh,” she said. “Am I disturbing something?”

“No, we just had a little talk. Where is Arya and Jeyne?” Sansa asked.

“Arya dragged her smith with her to her rooms and I don’t want to guess what they are currently doing and Jeyne went with Podrick to the Godswood for a stroll, after Bran came back from the Godswood with Hodor,” Lyanna explained and Sansa only knew too well, what Arya was probably doing at this very moment. Jeyne taking a stroll with Podrick only confirmed Sansa's suspicion regarding Pod being Jeyne's love interest.

Pod was a good lad and had asked Sansa if he was allowed to serve her at Winterfell, since he believed that Lady Brienne was behaving wrongly regarding Sandor. Of course, Sansa had allowed it and even told Podrick she would see to it that he could get his knighthood by a knight of White Harbor.

Sansa could see why Jeyne saw in him her knight in a shining armor.

“And Bran?” Shireen asked.

“He went to his rooms, he said I should tell you he will see you at dinner,” Lyanna said, while pouring a cup of water. She drank it in a few gulps, before turning to leave. “See you at dinner, I need to change clothes,” she said and left without saying another word.
“I guess we should get ready for dinner, too,” Shireen said and got up.

“Yes, you are right,” Sansa said and stretched her back a little.

Both girls left the solar and made their way to their rooms. They passed by Sansa's chamber first and Shireen gave her a hug, as well as the swell of her belly allowed it.

“Thank you, Sansa, see you at dinner,” Shireen said and Sansa was happy that her mood had lifted.

“You're welcome,” Sansa replied, smiling, and watched Shireen turn around the corner where rooms where located.

Sansa felt her child move slightly and Sansa placed her hand over her belly.

Sansa smiled to herself at the thought what a great match Shireen and Sansa's brother would make, as she entered her chamber and closed the door behind her.

Chapter Text

The army of the North had reunited with the army of the Vale south of the Ruby Ford. The march through the devastated Riverlands had been uneventful. Every village or small city they passed had seen the war and the people eyed them warily as they continued on until they spotted the trout of House Tully.

They had easily taken Harrenhal from the small garrison Sandor's brother had left behind, before leaving for King's Landing and finding his end by the spear of the Prince of Dorne.

Sandor had heard rumors of the atrocities the men had committed throughout the Riverlands and so everyone was executed as soon as the giant castle had been taken. Since House Whent had been extinguished in the War of the Five Kings, the castle and its lands were taken into the possession of House Tully.

The army of the North had then marched east to meet up with the army of the Vale, while Lord Edmure and the Blackfish led the army of the Riverlands around the western shore of the Godseye, to prevent the Lannisters from sending fresh supplies and men from the Westerlands.

Lord Yohn Royce hadn’t met any resistance at the Ruby Ford and Lyn Corbray had taken Maidenpool from the few hundred men Randyll Tarly had left behind as he had marched south.

As if that city hadn’t seen enough of the war already, Sandor thought. First, sacked by the lions, and later by the wolves, only to be taken again by Lord Tarly, and now again being taken by the army of the Vale.

At least this time, the smallfolk wouldn’t be harmed.

All lords of the North, Vale and Riverlands made sure that none of their soldiers plundered or raped. Everybody caught doing so was executed on point.

As the united army marched down the Kingsroad to King's Landing, they didn’t meet any resistance. The Lannister army refused to fight. Scouts reported daily that they retreated back to King's Landing, burning everything behind them, so the northeners would only have burned land.

Daenerys' Unsullied had sailed from Dragonstone and landed in Duskendale and taken castle Stockworth without much resistance.

Jon had received a letter from the Dragon Queen, updating him on the overall situation.

Daenerys' fleet had a huge victory over Euron Greyjoy's fleet, burning hundreds of his ships with her dragon.

Euron had retreated to King's Landing with the few ships he had left.

Meanwhile, the Dothraki had regrouped in the south after their defeat near Highgarden and marched back North driving all Tarly and Lannister forces out of the Reach north-west to the capital.

The Dornish had taken the Stormlands and convinced the few houses that were left to fight for the daughter of Stannis Baratheon, who had sided with Daenerys. There weren’t many houses left in the Stormlands, but every soldier could make the difference in the upcoming battle.

Two days away from King's Landing, the first skirmishes happened between two hundred riders of Karholt and a hundred men of House Rosby, who guarded the Kingsroad. The men were taken by surprise and so none of the northerners lost their life this day. On the same evening, Daenerys landed with her dragon in the camp, accompanied by Tyrion Lannister.

“Welcome your grace,” Jon greeted her friendly and all men bowed their head in respect for that young woman.

“Jon Stark, good to see you,” Daenerys said, her silver blond hair falling freely down her back. “You already know my Hand,” she said and gestured to Lord Tyrion.

“Lord Tyrion,” Jon greeted the Imp.

“Jon Stark, it's been a while,” The imp said grinning. Tyrion turned to Sandor. “If I remember correctly you said I should eat shit, before you left the battle, isn’t that correct?”

“Aye, it is,” Sandor simply said. “The last time you still had a whole face,” Sandor said gesturing to Tyrion’s scar.

“Indeed. A little gift from Mandon Moore. Congratulations on your marriage. It's good to know that Lady Sansa is safe and happy,” Tyrion said.

“Thank you, Imp, and if we end this war soon, I might get home in time for the birth of my child,” Sandor rasped.

“Indeed,” Daenerys said. “Let's plan the strategy.”

Jon lead Daenerys, Tyrion, Sandor and the other commanding lords into his tent, where a large table of King's Landing and the surrounding lands was already displayed. Markers showed where the armies currently stood.

The lion heads and walking marksman dominated the lands around Kings Landing, while some black krakens were on the Black Water next to the city.

Wolf and falcon figures dominated the Crownlands north and east of the city, while on the southern shores of the Blackwater, horse figures and the sun of the Martells stood next to some stags of House Baratheon.

The trout of House Tully had its place northwest of King’s Landing on the other side of the river that flow from the Godseye and joined the Black Water.

King’s Landing was completely surrounded. Here was where the last battle would take place.

“The Lannisters have refused to face us in battle yet,” Jon said. “Do you think they will, or are they preparing for a siege?”

Tyrion scratched his beard. “Hard to say. My brother and Lord Tarly will probably council to stay in the city, since we have the numbers, but they can’t have a long siege, since stocks won’t ever last this long with a city full of smallfolk,” Tyrion explained.
“When did your sister ever care for the smallfolk?” Sandor asked right away.

“True enough, she is just like Joffrey, when it comes to the smallfolk. You know that first hand.”

“Maybe Lord Tarly is willing to bend the knee, if you offer him generous conditions,” Lord Reed suggested to Daenerys.

“He has nothing to win,” Lord Royce said. “He turned against his own liege. He doesn’t have any friends in the Reach, even if he is allowed to rule. He won’t turn against the hand that gave him power.”

“We need to attack the city from all sides at the same time, to make sure the defenders are occupied,” Robett Glover said.

“Aye and we must be careful about the wildfire,” Davos threw in. Sandor tensed at the memory of the green flames on the Blackwater.

“Who knows how much Cersei Lannister still has left. Enough certainly that she could burn down the Sept of Baelor.”

“My sweet sister would certainly use everything she has against us,” Tyrion said concerned. “She would burn down the whole world if she needed to.”

“And what does my hand suggest?”, Daenerys asked.

“We must take the city swiftly, before Cersei can do something foolish,” Tyrion said and pointed to the wall near the Mudgate. “Here. There is a hidden patch into the city. I used it during the Battle of the Blackwater to lead an attack on Stannis Baratheons man who attacked the gate. If we attack the city from the north, east and west at the same time, Yara Greyjoys ships might have enough time to ferry over the dothraki and Martells from the southern shore and lead them into the city.”

“What about Euron Greyjoys ships? He won’t sit idly while we bring troops on the other side of the river,” Lord Manderlys son said.

“Maybe her grace can assist with Drogon,” Tyrion said and Daenerys nodded.

“I don’t want a slaughter on the civilians like it happened when city was sacked by your father’s men,” Daenerys said to Tyrion.

“I understand your grace. We should avoid a battle within the citywalls like it happened during the Battle of the Bells, during Roberts Rebellion,” Tyrion said.

“Maybe we can lure the largest part of the Lannister army into battle outside the wall, like we have done with the Boltons,” Jon suggested.

“Aye, but this time we don’t have someone inside the walls to provoke the defenders,” Sandor rasped.

“We have you,” Tyrion said smirking.

“What do you mean, Imp?”

“You weren’t in the city, after you fled with Sansa,” Tyrion said. “Cersei was furious about your betrayal towards her and her sadistic offspring. If she believes she can take revenge on you, she will.”

“So, I shall be the bait?”

“Bait sounds so dramatic, but yes,” Tyrion said, smirking.

“And you really think your brother or Lord Tarly won’t think it’s a trick?” Jon said, concerned.

“Ohh, they certainly will, but if they think the northern host small, my mad sister will insist on taking you down,” Tyrion explained further.

“And how do we expose his presence?” Daenerys asked.

Sandor sighed and scratched his beard.

“We will attack the farms and fields around King’s Landing and will let the smallfolk know that the Hound is back. The Lannisters have a bounty on my and Sansa’s head. If the smallfolk see me, they will definitely try to get their share of money for information about my whereabouts.”

“That could actually work,” Maege said.

“Alright then, the plan is clear. Tyrion and I will fill in Asha Greyjoy, the Tullys and the Martells. If Lord Sandor is successful and the Lannister army goes after him and the Northeners, the Vale and the North will crush them, while I and Drogon take care of Eurons fleet. In the meantime, Grey Worm and his Unsullied will attack the Iron and Dragon gate, while the Tullys and Riverlords will attack the Gate of the Gods. My Dothraki will attack the Lionsgate and the Kingsgate. The attack on the Mudgate will only be a distraction by the Dornishmen and Stormlords while they take Lord Tyrion’s secret entrance and try to open the gates for the others and taking the city,” Daenerys explained and all Lords nodded in agreement. “Should the Lannister army be crushed, the Oldgate will be the target for the Northerners and Vale men.”

“It looks like we have a plan,” Tyrion said. “Let’s end this war once and for all.”

 

***

 

Within the next couple of days every farm within an hour from the city wall was burned by Sandor and the three hundred riders that accompanied him.

Maege and the Greatjon rode with him during this task.

Sandor felt bad for the peasants losing their homes, but it was collateral damage and Daenerys would make sure that everything was rebuilt. For now, it was necessary.

They had just torched the last farm and the farmer was spitting insults at them.

“The Queen will take your heads for this!” he yelled.

“Cersei and her rancid cunt can try, but I guess she is too busy fucking her brother!” Sandor spat back, hoping that the farmer would tell Cersei exactly these words.

And it seemed he had done exactly that, since Lord Reed’s scouts reported a large part of the city garrison had left under the banner of the proud lion and walking huntsman.

Sandor successfully lured the Lannister army down the road to Rosby, and before they even knew what had happened, they were surrounded from three sides.

The cornfields and small farms were the perfect cover and the commander of the Lannister army couldn’t really spot, where the bulk of the northern army was located. Lord Reed’s archer let salvo after salvo of arrows rain down on the Lannisters, while they desperately tried to get into a battle formation.

The territory, with its several farms, fields, small woods and hedger, gave the northerners the perfect ground to single out smaller Lannister troops and slaughter them before the bulk of the Lannister army even noticed from where the attack came.

With every skirmish and small battle the Lannisters were driven closer to where the Northerners and Vale men wanted them. Jon, Yohn Royce and the Greatjon had scouted the area and found a large field that was perfect.

A small brook right next to the field protected the left flank of the Northmen’s army, while several farming buildings with hedges protected the right.

Jon had the command of the bulk of the northern army.

As the Lannisters finally entered the field and saw the center of the northern army, they attacked without assessing the situation correctly, expecting a swift victory.

The muddy ground and the fact that they had to run up a small hill exhausted the Lannisters. The Northerners held their position on top of the hill.

A few hundred red cloaks tried to attack the right flank of the Stark lines, held by soldiers of House Glover.

“We need to take them out,” Sandor said and the Greatjon agreed.

They lead a furious charge and the Lannisters were surprised by the ferocity of the attack.

Just as they had cut down the last men that had tried to retreat the horns of the knights of the Vale filled the air and the Lannister army tried to retreat back to King's Landing, but they were caught between the Northmen in the north and the knights of the Vale attacking from the south.

The hedges and Sandor's soldiers made it impossible for them to turn west and so the Lannisters tried in panic to cross the brook to the east. As soon as the first men had crossed the cold stream, the infantry of the Vale awaited them and cut everybody down, without mercy.

As soon as the battle had ended, Sandor noticed that sounds of battle could be heard in the distance. The attack on King's Landing had begun.

The Northmen and Lords of the Vale quickly assessed their losses against the Lannisters, and Lyn Corbray volunteered to take care of the wounded and the aftermath of the battle, while the remaining Northmen and knights of the Vale marched towards King's Landing as quickly as they could to assist in the attack.

It only took less than three hours and King's Landing came in sight. It had been more than a year since Sandor had last seen the city and again this time it was during a battle. Billows of smoke hung over the city from the Blackwater where hundreds of ships were burning.

The screeching roar of Daenerys' dragon could be heard in the sky above the city and as the Northmen approached the Oldgate, Sandor were relieved to see that the Targaryen Dragon was already flying on it next to the Tully trout.

They entered the city and made their way to the Red Keep. The streets were filled with dead gold and red cloaks, and in between Sandor saw dead wearing the sigil of House Martell and Tully.

It seemed most of the city had already been taken, only from Fleabottom could the characteristic sounds of battle be heard.

They reached the wall of the Red Keep. The drawbridge had been pulled up, but no defender was on the battlement. Hundreds of archers eyed every potential movement above them.

“Sandor, Jon, it's good to see you have made it here alive,” the Blackfish greeted them.

“Aye, the Lannister army wasn’t expecting a well prepared trap and it seems our plan has worked since the city is ours,” Jon said.

“Aye, the Dothraki and Unsullied are currently taking Fleabottom. It seems some of the sellswords that Cersei has hired are making their last stand there,” the Blackfish continued.

“What’s the plan now?” Maege Mormont asked.

“Maybe the bloody Imp has more secret passages,” Sandor suggested mockingly.

“Unfortunately not,” Tyrion suddenly said behind him. “The Queen will be here soon, she just landed on the Dragonsquare.”

After Daenerys had arrived they met in the building of an inn, where Sandor had used to drink himself into stupor as he had been still Joffrey's shield. He even had fucked one or another wench here, but those days were in the distance past, even if one of the wenches thought, she had a chance with him again, now that he was a Lord. Sandor had let her know that she wouldn’t get a single coin, nor anything else from him. He would never allow himself to shame Sansa openly, like many other lords did with their whores.

Sansa, his little bird, awaited him in Winterfell with his pup in her belly and the only thing that stood between him and his return to her was the Red Keep.

The Lords and the Dragon Queen discussed ideas for hours on how to take the Keep without burning it down with dragonfire or losing countless men in the attempt to storm the walls.

The sun started to disappear behind the horizon and the light of the dying day made the stone of the keep shine like it was painted with blood.

Just as Daenerys was about to dismiss the meeting and have them prepare the siege of the keep turmoil started outside and men yelled commands as the drawbridge slowly lowered.

The lords and the queen left the inn and a half hundred archers aimed for the drawbridge, ready to kill everything that would come towards them.

A single man, more boy than man still, came out with his hands up.

“Stop and name your intentions!” a man yelled at him and he stopped.

“I know this boy,” Sandor growled. “It's Brad Lannister. He was my squire.”

Sandor made his way to Brad, followed by the other Lords. Brad had left the drawbridge and it was pulled back up a little, so nobody could enter.

“Brad, the fuck are you doing here?” Sandor asked right away.

“I didn’t expect you to see you here either. Still no ser I assume,” Brad said.

That boy got bolder, Sandor thought. He had to give him that. Back as his squire he had often ´ser-ed´ him.

“I am a lord now actually. Don’t ask how that happened.”

“Why are you here, boy?” Daenerys asked.

“I am here as representative of the garrison in the keep,” He started. “Queen Cersei is dead. As is her brother Jaime.”

Gasps could be heard all around.

“How?” Tyrion asked, clearly hurt by the reveal of his brother’s death. Sandor had been with the Lannisters long enough to know that the Kingslayer had been the only one that had treated Tyrion like the family he was.

“The queen wanted to burn down the city with wildfire, but your brother compared her to the Mad King. Your sister ordered her hand Qyburn to do it, but Jaime said he had prevented it once and he would do it again and had killed the man where he stood, before killing his sister, telling her he should have done it long time ago.”

Brad made a short break before he continued.

“The queen's giant mute guard then killed Ser Jaime, but was killed in return by that strange woman from Tarth, who had come a month ago as the war started. She said she was here to make sure Ser Jaime would keep some strange promise he apparently gave to Catelyn Stark never to take arms against the Starks or Tullys again. She was mortally wounded though and with her last breath she told me what had happened and that I should hand over the Keep to you in return of mercy for the men who had only done their duty.”

“I will grant you and the other men mercy,” Daenerys declared and Brad was visibly relieved.

Shortly after, Sandor and Jon led the first wave of men into the Red Keep. All of the men they met laid down their weapons and were guarded in one corner of the courtyard by several Dothraki.

As they reached the throne room, they found the Lannister twins still in their pool of blood at the stairs that lead to the Iron Throne.

Brienne had a peaceful expression on her face lying next to the giant body wearing the armor of a kingsguard. Sandor only knew one man that was that large. He pulled the helmet off and saw the deformed face of his brother.

So, the Tarth wench had done what I dreamed of for half my life, Sandor thought.

Sandor thought he would feel bitterness that he wasn’t the one to end his brother’s life for good. In the past, he wouldn’t have cared if it would have cost his life to kill his brother, but now he had Sansa, her siblings and their pup to live for.

While they waited on Daenerys, Brad explained to him that this strange Qyburn seemed to be the reason why his brother had survived the poisoned spear of Oberyn Martell. It didn’t matter now. Gregor was dead and Sandor was alive. Sandor respected Lady Brienne that she had the guts to face his brother and even killed him.

A dutiful death for this warrior lady, Sandor thought.

Daenerys entered the throne room and slowly walked towards the Iron Throne. The bodies had been dragged out of the room and only the puddles of blood remained of what had happened there. There would be an official coronation, but this moment was for what the men and women of the North, the Vale, the Riverlands, the Stormlands, Dorne and the Iron Islands had fought so long and sacrificed so many lives for.

Jon stood next to Sandor as Daenerys slowly ascended the stairs to the Iron Throne and hesitantly touched the metal blades. She turned to the waiting lords and ladies and Tyrion Lannister gave her a small nod. Daenerys slowly sat down and for the first time in twenty years a Targaryen sat on the Iron Throne.

Chapter Text

Within hours after the city had been taken and the mad queen died, ravens were send out in all corners of Westeros, spreading the news that Daenerys Targaryen, the first of her name, has taken the throne.

The citizens of King's Landing were celebrating the end of the Lannister tyranny and the men celebrated the end of the war.

Sandor stood on the roof of Maegor's Holdfast where he stood so often in the nights as he had served the Lannisters. He took a sip from his skin of Dornish Red he had taken from the kitchen before coming here. The sound of the celebrations in the city could still be heard, even this high above everyone.

Sandor let his eyes drift over the Blackwater rush, where the wrecks of hundred ships were still burning in the upcoming night. The last time he had been on this roof, he had watched the army of Stannis Baratheon wait for the arrival of his ships on the other shore.

Asha Greyjoy had killed her uncle in battle, though her brother Theon had been badly wounded. The maesters were still fighting for his life, at this very moment.

Jon was busy with overseeing the loss reports that were coming for hours by now.

The battle of King's Landing had a great death toll. Thousands of Daenerys' loyalists had died. Ten thousand of the Lannister supporters had died in return.

Brandon Tallhart had died in the battle against the Lannisters, as had Lord Bole and all of his three sons. Hother Umber has lost one of his eyes to an arrow, but had already japed with the Greatjon that he was now looking like his elder brother Mors.

Lyrra Mormont had a bad wound on her leg, as she had saved her sister Alysane from a man of House Tarly. The Blackfish and Lord Edmure were unharmed and the Riverlords had only met light resistance, so their losses were small.

As planned, most of the remaining Lannisters in the city had concentrated their efforts to defend the Mud gate, so the other gates had only been guarded by a few hundred men.

The Greyjoys, Martells and Stormlords, on the other hand, had paid the highest death toll.

As expected, Cersei had used wildfire against the attacking ships, until Daenerys had burned the catapults with her dragon.

Thousands had died, crossing the rush, while Euron Greyjoy's ships fought with his nieces.

What a massacre, Sandor thought, taking another sip, looking over to the giant pile of rubble that had once been the Great Sept of Baelor, where this war had started with the death of Sansa's father all these years ago.

This battle might had been the largest in the history of the seven kingdoms.

His thoughts drifted to Sansa far in the North. As soon as the coronation is over, I will ride back to you, Sandor thought and smiled at the thought of having his little bird back in his arms. His heart longed for her.

“Here you are,” he heard Maege call from behind from the entrance to the stairways.

“Yes, I often came here, when I was still Joffrey's dog,” he said and could nearly hear Sansa's soft voice remind him that she doesn’t like it when he calls himself a dog. “It's quiet and a good place to think,” Sandor continued.

“Aye, it certainly is. Care if I join you?” Maege asked and Sandor handed her the wineskin as answer. The she-bear sat down with a satisfied sigh and took a deep gulp, before handing the wineskin back.

“Where are the others?” Sandor asked.

“Lord Tyrion is in the castle sept, holding the deathwatch for his brother. Daenerys and Jon are with the Spider right now. Galbart and Robett are with Lord Edmure and Wylis Manderly raiding the wine cellar. Davos and Howland were with Lord Cerwyn and some of the Vale lords in the kitchens,” she said and Sandor handed her the skin again.

“It seems the men have a good time,” Maege pointing towards the city.

“Aye, they certainly have. Where is the Blackfish and your daughters? How is Lyrra's leg?” Sandor asked.

“Ohh, Jon definitely has a good time. He and his uncles dragged the Blackfish and Yohn Royce with them to search for a brothel. They asked me if I want to participate, but I declined, while Asha Greyjoy happily joined them,” Maege said chuckling taking another sip. “Lyrra is fine, thanks for asking, the cut on her leg looked worse than it is. Alysane wanted to find the private wine stock of the mad lioness with her and two of the Sandsnakes accompanied them.”

“Yes, Cersei certainly has one,” Sandor said laughing. “And your other daughter?”

“Well,” Maege started scratching the back of her head. “The last time I saw her was, how she pulled that boy who was your squire, Brad was his name, wasn’t it, towards guest quarters with that one crazy Sandsnake. The one with the whip. I guess we both know what they are up to.”

“A she-bear and a sandsnake,” Sandor said laughing. “Let's see if the boy is up to the task.”

“Aye,” Maege laughed heartily. “And you?” Maege asked. “Not in the mood to celebrate?”

“No, not really,” he said. “This place holds memories for me I would rather forget.” Sandor pointed over to where the great sept had stood. “This is where Ned Stark died, in front of his daughters, while I stood there and did nothing,” Sandor explained to Maege, who listened with concentration. He still remembered how Joffrey had ordered him to carry the unconscious little bird back to the keep.

Sandor pointed over to the battlements above the maingate.

“There was where Sansa tried to kill Joffrey, as he made her look at the head of her father and septa,” Sandor explained further and remembered that day vividly and how Trant had hit her for the first time and how he had given him hell the next day on the training court.

“Sansa tried kill Joffrey?” Maege asked admiring.

“Yes, she wanted to push that little shit of the battlements after he had one of his knights backhand her, as she told him that her brother Robb would might give her his head. I saved her that day from doing something stupid,” Sandor said.

“That little bastard,” Maege said and spit on the ground.

“Aye, that was the just the beginning,” Sandor said bitterly, taking another sip. The skin was nearly empty. Luckily, he had a second one. “I tried to look after her as well as I could. I even watched over her when she prayed in the godswood. She never knew,” he said and unplugged the second skin. “From this side of the roof you could watch the godswood. I was often here in the nights and watched the little bird sneak out of her nest and pray for her brother and mother to save her.”

“You are a truly good man, you know that right?” Maege told him in honest. “Not many would have kept an eye on Sansa without bad intentions.”

Sandor nodded and handed the skin over to Maege. “You see these are the memories that come back since I entered the city,” Sandor said and took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of smoke, death and what made King's Landing unique.

“Don’t worry, Daenerys mentioned that the coronation was to be held tomorrow and then you can return to Sansa,” Maege said warmly.

“Aye.”

They sat for a while in silence handing the wineskin back and forth, listening to the sound of the waves hitting the cliffs below the Red Keep. Some of the ships were still burning on the Blackwater and tainted the darkness of the night with their light.

“Maege?” Sandor asked.

“Hmm,” the she-bear gave back.

“Can you ride with Jon and me, tomorrow after the coronation?” Sandor asked. Sandor and Jon had decided to ride as soon as possible, to get back home before their children were born. Jon would tell Daenerys today. Lord Reed and Lord Glover would be given the command of the northern forces and would lead the men back North as soon as possible.

“Why do you ask?” Maege asked handing the skin back to him.

“The pup will come soon and I know she will be afraid. Even if Sansa never told me, I believe that she would want her mother with her, if she would still be alive,” Sandor began. “Maege, you have been a mother for Sansa when she needed one, after the Red Wedding. Can you please be with the woman I love this time, too?” Sandor knew that Sansa would want someone with her, who knew what she was going through.

“Of course, I will ride with you to be there for Sansa. I know how important it is for a girl to have her mother with her,” Maege said. “I was there for Alysane and I will be there for Sansa.”

Sandor was relieved. “Thank you Maege,” he said in honesty. “Will your daughters accept you going home earlier?”

“Alysane will understand. She is a mother, too, after all,” Maege said. “She will have the command of the men and Lyra and Jorelle will understand, too. It won’t be for long, anyway, until we all go home. After all there are no enemies left and winter is coming. The city can’t feed this many people.”

Sandor nodded and handed her the wineskin. Maege was right. Soon, all men would return to their homes, to prepare for when the winter finally crossed the Neck south.

“We ride as soon as we can tomorrow after the coronation,” Sandor said and Maege nodded.

He and the she-bear stayed on the roof and handed the wineskin back and forth until it was empty, before they left for their rooms to finally get well-deserved sleep.

 

***

 

The next day around midday the throne room was filled with all high and low lords of Westeros.

Sandor had the place next to Jon in the first row of the left side in front of the Iron Throne. Maege and her daughters stood next to Sandor and he had been amused to see that Jorelle looked more exhausted than the day before. The other lords of the North, the Riverlands and the Vale stood on the left side behind them.

The lords of the Stormlands, Dorne, Iron Islands and what was left of the Reach stood on the right. Bronn, the sellsword that had become a knight, who was now had the commander of Lord Tyrion's personal guard stood in the first row.

After Sandor had left, Brad had become his squire and it seemed Bronn had done a good job.

Jon had told him this morning, that Daenerys had, of course, allowed them to leave the same day.

Tyion stood to the right of the Iron Throne, with the crown he would be using to crown Daenerys, who would arrive soon. Varys stood next to him, with a smug smirk on his face.

The commander of the Unsullied stood to the left of the Iron Throne, where Sandor had stood so often.

“So, this is the room where my father was betrayed by Baelish,” Jon said next to him, looking around in awe at the size of this hall.

“Aye,” Sandor said and pointed to where Greyworm stood. “And there was where I stood and had to watch how Sansa was punished for her brother's victories.” It didn’t matter how often Sansa had told him how grateful she had been that he had given her his cloak after telling Joffrey that it was enough, he still felt he should have done more.

“Arya told me about it,” Jon mentioned next to him. “This place hasn’t been good to the Starks in the past.”

“Aye, I can’t wait to leave.”

The large doors to the room opened and Daenerys came walked in surrounded by four of her Dothraki.

She wore a black gown, with a blood red cloak around her neck. Her silver blond hair was in a complicated braid and some strands fell freely on her shoulder as she walked towards the Iron Throne with confident steps.

The Dothraki stopped at the stairs and Daenerys walked up to the throne of her ancestors. She paused for a moment, standing in front of the throne, touching one of the swords with her finger.

The whole crown of people was were silent as she turned around and looked to the lords and ladies of her realm. She slowly sat down, and Tyrion Lannister put the crown, a ring of silver with several red orbs, on her head.

“All hail Daenerys, the first of her name, Lady of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm. Long may she reign!”

“Long may she reign!” the crown yelled, then started to clap and cheer. Daenerys lifted her hand and the crowd become silent again.

“My lords and ladies. The Seven Kingdoms have seen a long period of war and sorrow. This ends today. Today marks the beginning of a new era of peace and prosperity. The last time the dragon ruled, it ended in fire and blood. This time, the realm will be ruled by justice and reason,” Daenerys declared and everybody listened closely.

“I and my Hand, Tyrion Lannister, will ensure that peace and justice will return to this land. Winter is here and now we all must stay together and work together. It doesn’t matter if we are from the North, Dorne or the Iron Islands. It doesn’t matter in which gods we believe. We are all people and if we work together we can make lead the seven kingdoms into a glorious future.”

The crowd cheered and Sandor was honestly impressed by the dragon queen's speech. After the official coronation was over, servants came with wine. The lords came forward to Daenerys to introduce themselves, even if they already had been introduced.

Sandor, Jon, and Maege went to Daenerys, after Edmure and Bryden Tully had introduced themselves to the new queen for the first time.

“Sandor and Jon Stark, I won’t forget what the North did to make it possible that I now can sit here,” Daenerys said kindly. “I assume you now want to say goodbye before leaving north again, because of your two wives.”

“Indeed, your grace,” Jon said.

“My Hand and I wish you a safe journey and best of health to your wives and children. Tell King Bran my best wishes, and I know you will inform me if the North needs any support from the south in the winter.”

“Thank you, your grace,” Jon said. “We will send word as soon as we reach Winterfell.”

Sandor, Jon, and Maege left the throne room after saying goodbye to everyone necessary and went to ready the horses, while the dozen men they would take with them did the same.

“Sandor?” he heard the Blackfish call from behind.

“Aye?” he asked.

“A safe journey for you three and good luck to Sansa from me and her uncle,” Ser Brynden said.

“I will,” Sandor rasped. “And thank you.”

“We have come a long journey, haven’t we?” the Blackfish asked. “It still feels like it was yesterday that I saw you ride into Riverrun with Sansa.”

“Aye, time flies.”

“Tell Sansa and the others, Edmure and I will come to visit as soon as we can.”

“I will tell her. I am sure she will be happy to see you again,” Sandor said in honesty.

Sandor mounted Stranger, after Jon and Maege had already mounted their horses and waited for him at the gate. Sandor led the group out of the Keep and through the city, through the same streets he had rode through, when he had fled with Sansa during the battle of the Blackwater.

After they had left the city walls, Sandor stopped once and looked back to the city, before leaning down to Stranger's ear. “Time to get home,” he whispered to his black beast of stallion. “The little bird is waiting.”

Stranger neighed and Sandor kicked him into gallop and rode north.

North. Back to his little bird and pup.

Chapter Text

Weeks had passed since Sandor letter arrived that the siege of Riverrun had been lifted and her Uncle and Great Uncle were safe. Sandor had also written that her uncle's wife had been saved as the Twins had been sacked.

The day the letter arrived, saying that House Frey had been extinguished, Bran had ordered Maester Samwell to write letters to every northern house telling them the good news, that the Red Wedding had finally been avenged.

Edmure and the Blackfish had also written her. They wrote that they hoped she was healthy and happy. Sandor had written that they would continue their campaign the day after he wrote this letter.

The letter was already weeks old when the raven had arrived, so by now the battle of King's Landing must have happened. No news had arrived by raven because of the storms that had held the North in its frosty grip for weeks.

Sansa and Alys had gone to the godswood every day, to pray for their husbands' safe return, and a swift, decisive victory in the South.

Today was the first day after the snowstorm had ended and Sansa awoke alone in her and Sandor's large bed. Even after all these months, it felt strange to wake up without the feeling of Sandor’s warm body next to her. Sansa sat up in bed, stretched her limbs and sighed, looking down on the swell of her belly. Her time would soon come.

Please Sandor return to me, Sansa thought. I want you with me.

Sansa got up and called for her chambermaid Lynara to help her. Lynara was the eldest daughter of Robin Flint, who had died during the Red Wedding. His widow had written Sansa to ask if she would allow her eldest daughter to serve as her chambermaid and stay at King Brandon’s court. Sansa, of course, had allowed it. Lynara was three years younger than her and a kind girl.

Maybe her mother only hoped that she would find a good husband at Winterfell’s court, but nevertheless Sansa was glad to have her. Especially now, since Sandor couldn’t help her anymore with her dresses.

After Lynara had helped her she went to the great hall to break her fast with the others. Arya and Gendry were inseparable and she always spend several hours every day in his forge.

With winter getting rougher with every storm that hit them, less and less people came to petition in person. If the lords or ladies had an issue, they sent a raven, but even that became more unreliable every day.

Wintertown, though, was bursting with people again, looking for shelter from the winter.

Luckily, Lord Manderly's supplies still came through every few weeks to supply the people at the small village. Bran had not much to do because of that, since he hadn’t to listen to petitions and only had to answer a few letters at most. If the weather allowed it, he went to the godswood with Hodor to have his greendreams, but otherwise, he mostly frequented the library and read through the countless books with Shireen and Maester Samwell.

Maester Samwell seemed to become more nervous with everyday that passed as her childbirth came closer. Jon had assured her that Samwell was a good Maester, but Sansa would still be the first woman he assisted in giving birth.

Sansa wished Maester Luwin was still alive. He had brought all of her siblings except Robb and Jon into this world, without complications.

Shortly before midday, Bran called her to his solar with Alys.

The swell of Alys' belly was clearly visible under her dress. She still had several moons ahead before her time would finally come. They entered the solar and Bran sat at his table.

“Ohh good, you came quickly. Please have a seat,” he offered them warmly. Sansa and Alys sat down in the cushioned chairs on the other side of the large oak table. Bran sat where their father had once sat.

Every scratch in the desk had its history and reminded each Stark child of the father they had lost too soon.

“Why did you call for us, Bran?” Sansa asked, smoothing out her skirts.

“A raven arrived from the capital during breakfast,” Bran said and held up two parchments. “One is from Sandor the other one from Jon.”

Bran handed her the letters to Sansa and Alys and broke the seal and read.

“To my smart and brave little bird, The battle is over and Cersei Lannister is dead alongside her minions. The capital is under Daenerys control and I write you these words, while the dust of the battle still has not settled and the smoke burns in my eyes. Jon and I are well, as are your uncle and the Blackfish. I miss you and our tiny wolf and can’t await to have you back in my arms. My heart longs for your presence. I am dead tired and I can’t wait to leave this wretched place tomorrow after Queen Daenerys' coronation. I love you, Sansa, and soon I will be back in your arms. Your Sandor.”

Sansa felt warmth spread in her heart reading these words by Sandor’s hand.

“Jon writes that they plan to ride the day of the coronation,” Alys said, putting her letter down. It was obvious that she had similar content to Sansa's.

“Sandor writes the same,” Sansa said and put down the letter. “The war is over. Daenerys is queen.”

“Long may she reign,” Bran said and Alys and Sansa nodded. Bran looked at the date of the letters.

“Look, the dates,” Bran pointed out. “The raven needed almost a month to reach us. Jon and Sandor will probably arrive soon.”

Sansa got up from her seat. “I hope you are right, because I think…” she said, but paused as she felt a strange feel in her belly and suddenly felt something wet run down her legs.

“Sansa, are you alright?” Bran asked concerned.

“I…I think my water just broke,” Sansa said and suddenly realized what it meant. “The child is coming,” she yelped.

“Quick, Alys, get Maester Samwell and tell him the child comes,” Bran said. Alys got up to find the Maester when Sansa grabbed her by the arm.

“And find Arya,” Sansa demanded. “I need my sister.”

“I will bring her,” Alys said. “I will also find you a chamber maid.”

Sansa sat down in the cushioned chair again, not caring for her wet dress.

“Sansa, what can I do?” Bran asked and Sansa could see that her brother was afraid of not knowing what to do.

“Unless you can bring Sandor back to me, there is nothing you can do,” Sansa said plainly.

Alys returned with Maester Samwell and Lynara in tow.

“Where is Arya?” Sansa asked, feeling the first light cramps in her belly.

“I couldn’t find her, I will look for her immediately, I thought the Maester was more important right now,” Alys said and Sansa nodded at her friend who left again to find her sister.

“Maester, what now?” Sansa asked, looking at him with pleading eyes to tell her what to do.

“Best we first bring you to your chamber. Once there, I can properly take care of you,” Maester Samwell said and Lynara helped her back to her chamber.

It seemed half of the castle was already aware of the events that happened since turmoil seemed to arise within the walls. Shireen crossed their path. Her face was red and she was breathing quickly. She obviously had run to find them.

“Sansa, I just heard,” she breathed. “What can I do?”

“Stay with Bran,” Sansa told her. “He is afraid. Please be a friend for him.”

“Of course,” Shireen said and squeezed her hand before leaving to find Bran.

They had reached Sansa's chamber, just as Alys arrived with Arya.

“You're not really having your child now, are you?” Arya asked.

“I fear I didn’t had a say in it,” Sansa said, frowning as a slightly stronger contraction hit her. They entered the chamber and Sansa could her sister mutter something under her breath, that she was going to cut someone’s balls off.

“What can I do?” Arya asked.

The maester turned to Lynara. “We need fresh sheets, clean linen, and warm water,” Maester Samwell said. Sansa could clearly hear how nervous he was. “My lady you need to get out of the dress. I need access, so…you know.” Maester Samwell's face was Lannister red by the end of the sentence. He obviously had learned about childbirth in Oldtown, but to help the sister of his friend was something different.

Lynara left to get some servants to bring the linen, water and change the sheets.

“I need to get some herbs from my tower,” Maester Samwell said, not able to look in her face. “You can keep your shift on, but your smallclothes must be gone.”

He quickly left and Sansa pressed her hand to her belly as another cramp appeared.

“Arya, please help me with the dress,” Sansa groaned and held onto the table. “Alys, in my trunk there is a longer shift I made for today.”

Alys went over to her heavy cedar trunk and looked for the shift Sansa had described.

“Please stay with me,” Sansa whispered with tears in her eyes, as Arya began to untie the laces of her dress.

“I won’t leave your side, Sansa,” Arya assured her, rubbing her hand over her back. “I will be here the whole time.”

While Arya and Alys helped her to change into her longer wool shift she had made for this day, she wished for her mother to be here. Mothers are supposed to help their daughters, Sansa thought sadly.

Lynara returned with three servants and they swiftly put new sheets on the bed and Sansa got onto it with her back against the back of the bed, awaiting what would happen next.

She barely remembered when her mother had given birth to Arya, Bran or Rickon. Septa Mordane had always taken care of them, while Maester Luwin had tent to their mother. Their father had always paced around in front of the door of the birthing chamber, until he was called inside.

Sandor, why aren’t you here yet, Sansa thought desperately. You were supposed to sooth my fears as a mother should.

Samwell returned and put down the herbs on the table as Lynara filled a small copper basin with warm water.Sansa thought she could hear horses ride into the courtyard.

“Arya, can you look what is going on?” she asked, groaning at the feel of another contraction.

Arya went over to the window and looked outside.

Was about time,” was all she said before storming out of the room, leaving them all questioning what was going on.

Sansa closed her eyes and tried to prepare herself before the next contraction would arrive.

Little bird,” she heard the voice of the man she loved rasp and Sansa opened her eyes as he entered the room, followed by Arya, and to her surprise, Maege Mormont.

“Sandor!” she breathed, relieved, and Sandor swiftly came over to her and pressed his lips to hers, letting his pack fall to the ground and she took in his familiar scent of the North.

“You came back, just like you promised,” Sansa said.

“I promised you, didn’t I, little bird?” he softly spoke and kissed her again.

“Did Jon come with you, too?” Sansa asked and Sandor nodded. Sansa told Alys that she should go to see her own husband. Lynara would tell them all if something happened.

“I asked Maege to come with us,” Sandor rasped against her ear. “I thought you might want your mother and she was there for you when you needed her.”

Sansa felt her eyes water, that Sandor was so considerate. “Yes, Sandor,” Sansa groaned, because of a new contraction and a sob escaped her lips at the same time. “I want my mother.”

Sandor kissed her forehead and Maege came over, still in her armor.

“Maege,” Sansa said. “I am so happy you are here with me.”

“I know sweet girl,” Maege said and stroked her cheek. “Every girl should have her mother with her, during the first birth, at least.”

“Thank you,” Sansa said warmly.

“When did you go into labor?” Maege asked.

“My water broke less than an hour ago,” Sansa said.

“Alright, then you unfortunately have the worst still ahead of you, sweet girl,” Maege said in a motherly tone. “You. Help me out of the armor,” Maege said to one servant and the woman helped Maege to open up the buckles and straps.

“What can I do?” Sandor asked her.

Stay with me, Sandor, I am scared,” she pleaded and Sandor quickly got rid of his armor and sword and sat against the back of the bed behind her. She could feel the warmth of his body through his tunic against her back.

“I won’t go anywhere, Sansa. I am here and I won’t leave your side for a single moment,” he warmly rasped against her ear.

“My lord, this is not common for a lord to stay with his lady wife during labor,” Maester Samwell said.

“I don’t give a shit if it's common or proper,” Sandor growled. “I rode for weeks without break to get here in time for my wife and I won’t leave her now in the moment she needs me most.”

“I love you, Sandor,” Sansa groaned leaning back against him squeezing his hand lightly.

“I love you, too, little bird,” he whispered and kissed the crown of her hair.

“Have you looked how far Lady Sansa is?” Maege asked Maester Samwell.

“Not yet, my lady.”

“Let me do that, while you get some hot water.”

“We have warm water,” Samwell pointed out.

“My piss is warmer than this water. Bring it boiling and bring soap too. If this is the shit you learn in the south, it’s no wonder why so many women die a wretched death in childbed,” Maege said, while she rolled up her sleeves.

“My lady, I read every book about childbirth in the citadel,” Samwell tried to appease her.

“And how many children have you brought into this world?”

“I watched Archmaester Ebrose when he brought a child into this world…” Samwell started.

“So, none. Listen lad, I have given birth to five healthy daughters and helped my daughter to bring two children into this world so if I say that the water has to be boiling and we need soap, you better listen to me, because I won’t let an amateur risk the life of my princess and her child,” Maege said sternly and Maester Samwell seemed to be intimidated by her.

“Yes, my lady,” he said and quickly left to follow Maege's demands with the servants.

As soon as he closed the door, Maege sighed.

“Does he know what he is doing?” Arya asked, concerned sitting next to Sansa on the edge of the bed.

“He is not bad, even if it seemed that way a moment ago. Most maesters don’t even know that the water has to be hot,” Maege explained. “Most maesters are just butchers that have been knighted with the citadel's chain, but don’t give a shit if women die in childbed, as long as their lord gets his heir.”

“Thanks, Maege,” Sandor rasped and kissed Sansa's temple as she pressed herself against his chest when a stronger contraction hit her.

“My lady, if you allow, I would like to look how far along you are?” Maege asked kindly and Sansa nodded.

Maege lifted Sansa's shift carefully and she was glad that it was her friend and not Maester Samwell.

While Sansa trusted Maester Samwell, since he was Jon’s good friend, Sansa had never forgotten the feel of helplessness and embarrassment, when she had been examined by Grandmaester Pycelle and later by Maester Vyman in Riverrun on order of her mother.

She feared to feel that way ever again, but with Maege tending to her, with Sandor and Arya at her side, she felt as comfortable as possible in the given moment.

Maege let her down her shift again gently rubbed her leg.

“You aren’t far yet,” Maege said. “This will be a long day.”

 

***

 

And it was indeed a long day. And a long night.

In the early hours of the next day, when the first light finally started to appear on the horizon, Maege finally told her it was finally her time to push.

Sandor hadn’t left his place behind her for a single moment during the long hours in which her contractions became harder to endure each time they made her womb cramp.

Sandor whispered encouraging words into her ear while stroking strands of hair out of her face, which was clinching to her sweaty forehead. Arya had wiped her forehead with cold rags and Maege had placed some cloth drenched with herb tinctures on her belly telling her it would help.

The smell of herbs, sweat and blood lingered in the room.

Sansa intertwined her fingers with Sandor’s and squeezed his hands as she pressed with all her strength. Her pained screams could probably be heard all over Winterfell.

“My lady, one more time,” Maege said. “I can already see the head.”

Soon, it's done, Sansa thought and collected all her remaining strength she had. As she felt the next contraction hit her, she pressed with all her strength and squeezed Sandor’s hands, until she finally felt the sudden relief of the child leaving her body. Sansa fell back against Sandor’s chest and breathed heavily. She felt him kiss the crown of her tangled hair.

Maege wrapped the babe in a fresh blanket after cutting the naval string and the screams of a newborn filled the room as Maester Samwell washed the child in a nearby basin.

“Sandor…thank you for staying with me,” Sansa spoke exhausted, breathing heavily and Sandor kissed her temple.

“Of course, my love. You did great, little bird,” he softly rasped and wiped her sweaty forehead with the handkerchief she had made for him as token on her wedding.

“Thank you, too, Arya,” Sansa said and grabbed her sister's hand and her sister smiled back at her.

Maege came over to them with a small bundle in her arms. “My lady, my lord say hello to your little daughter,” the she-bear said and carefully placed the bundle in Sansa's arms.

“Sandor, we have a daughter,” Sansa said, looking in awe at the little human in her arms, feeling tears of joy in her eyes.

“Aye, little bird,” Sandor said, his voice choked with emotions.

While Maege and Maester Samwell examined Sansa, making sure everything was alright, her daughter opened her eyes and looked at Sansa with the grey eyes of her father.

“Hello, tiny one,” Sansa said and stroked her tiny hand with her finger. “Look who is here. There is your papa and your aunt Arya.” Her daughter wrapped her tiny fingers around Sansa's index finger and Sansa felt tears of happiness run down her face.

“My lady, everything is alright,” Maege said, smiling tiredly. “No bleeding or other complications. Congratulations.”

“Thank you, Maege,” Sansa said. “Thank you for being here for me. I couldn’t have made it without you.”

“You're welcome, sweet girl,” she said and placed a blanket over Sansa's legs, after cleaning her up with a soft rag and taking off the extra sheets, she had been lying on.

“Thank you, Samwell,” Sansa said warmly and Maester Samwell bowed his head with a ´my lady´ and left with the other two servant girls in tow.

“Arya, can you fetch the others? I guess they all want to say hello to the newest Stark,” Sansa said, kissing her daughters head, which showed a few strands of auburn hair.

“Of course,” her sister said and left and returned with Jon, Alys, Gendry, Bran and Shireen in tow. Maege excused herself to finally see her daughter and closed the door behind her.

“Jon, I am glad you are back,” Sansa said.

“And I am glad we made it in time,” Jon said tiredly, but smiling warmly, holding Alys around her middle section. Gendry went over to his wife and they both embraced each other after being reunited after so many hours.

“We were afraid when we heard your screams,” Bran said, sitting in his wheelchair next to Shireen.

“Aye,” Sandor told them. “The little one didn’t make it easy for your sister.”

“Does she already have a name?” Shireen asked.

“Yes,” Sansa said, looking into her daughter’s face. “Serena. What do you think Sandor?”

“Aye, Serena it is,” he softly rasped behind her.

“Serena Stark. Daughter of Sansa and Sandor Stark. A pretty name,” Bran said and the others agreed.

Serena didn’t seem to mind all the people giving her attention and yawned making Sandor chuckle behind her.

“Your daughter has the right idea,” Arya declared, laughing lightly. “We should all try to rest, especially you, Sansa.”

“Yes, let’s give the new parents some time alone,” Jon said.

“Aye,” Bran said. “I will order the men to ring the bells to tell everyone the North has a new wolf.”

Jon kissed Sansa's forehead before taking his leave and Arya embraced her carefully. After they all had left, Sansa and Sandor watched the sleeping form of their daughter in Sansa's arms.

“She is perfect, isn’t she?” Sansa asked in a whisper.

“Aye, she is, little bird,” Sandor whispered back. “I am so glad I arrived in time. I feared every day that I would come too late.”

“But you didn’t, my love. You came at the perfect time.” Sansa turned a little around, careful not to wake up Serena and Sandor pressed his lips to hers.

“I missed you so much, Sansa,” Sandor rasped, his voice choked with emotions. “Every day I dreamed of being back in your arms.”

“Me too, but I knew you would come back to me. You always did,” Sansa said, smiling and Sandor kissed her again.

“I have something for you,” Sandor said and carefully got out of the bed and started to look through his saddle bag, before he returned with his hands behind his back.

“What is it?” Sansa asked, curious and Sandor presented her the doll her father had gifted her all these years ago in King's Landing, when she had been still grieving for Lady. When they had fled, Sansa had insisted to take it with them, but her mother had ordered her to leave it behind in Riverrun, when they had traveled to the Twins.

“How did you get it back?” Sansa asked in awe, as Sandor took his place behind her again.

“The Blackfish gave it to me, before we headed towards King's Landing,” he said. “I shall tell you that your uncle and the Blackfish want to visit Winterfell as soon as they can to see you again. And now they will even be able to meet the tiny wolf.”

“I look forward to see them again. It’s been such a long time,” she said. “Here, Sandor, take your daughter.” Sansa carefully handed the small bundle over to Sandor.

“She has your hair,” Sandor mused, rocking Serena lightly in his arms.

“And she has your eyes,” Sansa mused. “She is half of you and half of me.”

“Aye,” he softly rasped.

The bells had started to ring outside the window shutters telling the whole world of the birth of the newest Stark. Serena stirred and woke up crying. Sandor handed her back to Sansa.

“She is probably hungry,” Sansa guessed and exposed her left breast to feed her daughter. Their daughter didn’t seem to be disturbed by the sound of the bells, since she already fell asleep again while drinking.

Sansa dressed again and now felt the exhaustion of the last day take over, too. She leaned back against Sandor’s chest and Sandor held her close.

“Sleep, little bird. I will watch over you and our tiny wolf,” he rasped against her ear.

Sansa closed her eyes and she barely heard the bells through the window shutters. The exhaustion and Sandor’s warm body against her back, combined with his breath brushing against her head made her quickly fall asleep, her daughter safely nestled in her arms.

Chapter Text

A few months had passed since the day the bells of Winterfell had rung for the whole day, telling the whole world the good news. Sandor was so glad to be home, even if the first few months after Serena had been born, had been exhausting at first.

He loved his daughter with all his heart, but he had cursed more than once, when she had either decided to wake up in the nights again just as he and Sansa had fallen asleep after feeding her, waking up the half keep or when she had decided only to sleep when either he or Sansa were walking around with her in their arms.

Still, he loved the tiny wolf, with her soft fiery hair, even if she had thought it more than amusing to make water on him more than once, when he had changed her nappies in the nights, so Sansa could sleep before she would have to feed Serena the next time.

Jon had decided not to go to Karholt with Alys until she had given birth and the weather allowed a safe travel. Alys water had broken on suddenly during breakfast a month ago.

Maege had agreed to stay in Winterfell until her other daughters returned from the south and so she had again assisted during the childbirth. Much to everyone’s surprise, Alys had given birth not only to a son, but also to a little daughter.

Again, the bells had rung a whole day. At first, it had seemed as if Jon's daughter might not make it through the first night, but in the end, she had survived and her strong lungs could definitely compete with Serena's.

In memory of their parents, Alys had named her daughter Lyanna, after Jon's mother, and her son was named Rickard, after her own father.

They had written to Daenerys to inform her of news of the births, and that children and mothers were healthy. Daenerys had written back herself, congratulating the North and the new parents. She also informed them that the northerners had left the capital and were on their way back home.

Sandor, Jon and Maege had ridden to Moat Cailin two weeks ago to welcome the rest of the northern lords. Every lord had congratulated them on the growth in the Stark family after such a long time of losses.

As they had finally set course back North, Jon's direwolf had run away for several days into the swamps of the Neck. Jon had had no idea what had driven Ghost to do that, and Sandor and Jon had nearly feared for the worst when he had suddenly returned one evening when they had made camp. Though he hadn’t returned alone. Another huge direwolf had accompanied him.

“That must be the direwolf of the little wolf,” Sandor had immediately concluded. He knew from Sansa that Arya had set her wolf free after the incident at the Trident so she wouldn’t end up as trophy for the Lannisters.

Sandor was expecting a wild beast, since Arya's wolf had spent years in the southern wilderness, but it seemed the wolf knew her mistress was in the north again. Sandor was even more surprised when Nymeria had trotted over to him and sniffed on his hand before licking his fingers.

Maybe the wolf could somehow sense, that he was close to Arya and her sister, or maybe she had just sniffed the scent of her mistress, that by some miracle still lingered on Sandor's hand after weeks of travel.

Luckily, the weather wasn’t too bad and so they returned to Winterfell relatively quick.

Yesterday afternoon, they had finally ridden into the courtyard and were already greeted by their wives and children awaiting them in thick furs. Bran had ordered to hold a large feast to celebrate the return of the Lords from the south.

It would be a long time until they would be able to hold a large feast again. Winter worsened with every storm that hit the North, always interrupted by short periods of a few days or weeks when the weather was more stable and it only snowed without end.

Arya, though, hadn’t cared about the snow when she had thrown herself at her wolf and rolled around in it, happily reuniting with her old friend. The wolf obviously hadn’t forgotten her master.

While Sandor saw Sansa smiling for her sister reuniting with her wolf, he could also see hints of sadness in her eyes, at the memory of her own wolf.

 

***

 

Sandor was lying in bed their bed in the night after the feast. Sansa had just finished feeding Serena, who was had just fallen asleep again and was now lying between him and Sansa.

Sansa and Sandor watched their daughter in her peaceful sleep.

“I love you, Sandor,” Sansa whispered over to him.

“I love you too, little bird,” Sandor softly rasped. “And you, too, my tiny wolf,” he said and gently placed his hand on Serena's belly.

Sansa covered his hand with hers. “You are a good father, Sandor,” Sansa whispered and Sandor looked at her.

“You think so?” he asked. Sandor had never expected to become father. He had no idea what it meant to be a father, and furthermore, he had feared that any potential child would always be scared by his face. More likely seeing a monster than a father.

But when Serena had laid on his chest earlier today, her tiny fingers had curiously explored his scars and pulled on his beard, without hesitation.

“I do, Sandor,” she said smiling and stroked the back of his hand with hers. “And Serena loves her strong papa.”

“Aye and I love my two she-wolves.”

Sansa smiled at him and they just watched Serena for a while in silence, as her tiny hands were sometimes moving while she dreamed.

“I saw the Greatjon talk to you earlier during the feast for a moment,” Sandor said. Sandor had seen the Greatjon come over to where Sansa had sat, as Sandor had just shared a horn of ale with Maege and her returned daughters.

“Yes, the last time I saw him was at the Red Wedding, after the massacre,” Sansa said. By now, Sansa had learned to speak about what happened without getting crushed by the memories of that cursed night. Sandor was glad for it. Sansa had told him once, that she could only do it, because she knew that he would be there if the memories should overwhelm her again.

“He wanted to tell me in person, how sorry he was for what had happened in the Twins, since he wasn’t able to tell me back then,” Sansa told him. “And he wanted to tell me that my father would be proud of what a fine lady I have become and he especially praised the braveness of the husband I have chosen for me,” she said smiling and caressed his cheek.

“That husband of yours is for sure the most fortunate man in the world, little bird,” Sandor said and kissed her knuckles. “Because he has the privilege to be loved by the smartest, bravest and most beautiful woman in the world, who has also given him a perfect little daughter.”

Sansa smiled widely at him, visibly moved by his words. “This man also makes his wife the most fortunate woman, because he loves her not for her looks nor the power that comes with her name,” she said. “He loves her for herself and was kind and gentle to her when everybody else only wanted to hurt her. I love you so, Sandor.”

“As I love you, Sansa.”

Serena was cooing a little. She obviously had woken up from their speaking, but had silently listened to her parents talk. “Look who has woken up,” Sansa said and picked her daughter up.

“Were your parents too loud for you to sleep?”

Sansa put Serena down in her crib next to their bed on Sansa's side. “Papa and mama will be quiet now, my love,” Sansa said, stroking her daughters head.

Serena wasn’t too eager to fall asleep again and started to cry, when Sansa wanted to get back in bed. Sansa started to sing one of the lullabies she knew and her soft angelic voice filled the room.

“Sleep, my little princess, sleep,
The sheep and the birdies rest,
The garden and the meadow are quiet,
Not even a little bee buzzes anymore.
Luna, with a silverly glow
Looks in through the window,
Sleep by the silvery glow,
Sleep, my little princess, sleep,
Sleep, sleep!

By now, all are in bed in the castle,
All lulled into a slumber,
No more mice stir,
The basement and kitchen are empty.
Only in the maid's chambers
There sounds a languishing sigh!
What might this sigh be for?
Sleep, my little princess, sleep,
Sleep, sleep!

Who is happier than you?
Nothing but pleasure and peace!
All trinkets and sugar,
And a trotting stage-coach.
Everyone's anxious and ready
That my little princess will just not cry.
But what will the future bring?
Sleep, my little princess, sleep,
Sleep, sleep!”

As Sansa was finished, Serena was deep in the land of dreams and Sansa quietly returned into their bed. Sandor was nearly asleep himself by the song. Sansa snuggled up against him and Sandor held her tight to his body as he fell asleep with the knowledge that his family slept peacefully next to him.

Chapter Text

So, this is the winter Father always told us about, Arya thought, rubbing her hands together, as she walked with Lyanna Mormont through the corridors towards the kitchens.

The weather was so cold the last few days that nobody wanted to stay outside for long. Least to say spar. Even close to Gendry's forge, you rather stayed near the fire than outside in the snow.

And this could last for years, Arya thought annoyed.

As a child, the tales about winter told by old Nan had always sounded exciting and Arya always wanted to see winter.

Ohh, what an innocent summer child I have been, Arya thought and stroked her finger through Nymeria's fur, who was trotting next to her master. When Jon and Sandor had returned with her, Arya nearly hadn't believed her eyes.

Since that day all those years ago at the Trident, she had dreamed and secretly hoped that Nymeria would someday return to her. She had become so large, Arya could easily ride on her if she wanted.

Nymeria had recognized her immediately and happily rolled around in the snow with her, licking her face with her rough tongue. While Arya was profusely happy that her direwolf was back with her, Gendry had not been that excited.

Especially when the huge wolf had decided to sleep in their bed that night, staring at him intensely until Arya explained to her that Gendry was allowed in her bed since he was her mate.

Nymeria had nevertheless decided to sleep between them that night, maybe to make sure that Gendry was really her mate.

“Gods, your wolf is huge,” Lyanna said next to her. “And each one of yours had one?”

“Aye, though Sansa's and mine were the only females. Father had to kill my sister's on the order of King Robert, as we traveled south,” Arya explained as they entered the kitchen.

“And the ones of my other brothers' died unfortunately, too.”

The cooks were already busy with their preparations for dinner, so nobody gave them a second glance, even though some of the kitchen boys nearly pissed themselves as Nymeria's eyes landed on them, much to the amusement of Arya and her friend.

“Princess, is there anything you need?” one of the cooks asked, chopping meat.

“We are just looking for a snack, don’t bother yourself with us. We will find something,” Arya explained and the cook bowed his head, before he continued with his work.

Arya swiftly grabbed a fresh loaf of dark bread and several of the smoked sausages, while Lyanna took to pitcher of dark ale and a huge ham on the bone for Nymeria.

They left the kitchen and found a nice, quiet place near the forge, where the wood was stored for the winter. The stocks were full and if needed, they could easily be refilled from the Wolfswood.

Arya sat down on a pile of wood and broke the bread in half, handing Lyanna one half of the loaf. The she bear took the bread after tossing the ham to Nymeria who was already greedily devouring the ham large enough to feed several men. The bread was still warm as Arya ate a piece, washing it down with the dark ale.

“You must be happy to finally see your sisters again,” Arya said cutting a slice of one sausage, with her dagger.

“Aye, I guess Mother is even more happy to see them again in the North,” Lyanna said. “Mother says she wants to leave soon for Bear Island, now that your sister and Alys have had their children,” Lyanna continued. “She wants to get home before my sister has her child.”

Arya frowned. “Your sister's child?” she asked.

“Yes…Jorelle…she told Mother she is with child,” Lyanna said.

“Well, congratulations, I guess,” Arya said lifting her pitcher of ale. “Who is the father?”

“Jorelle refused to tell us, but it seems that Mother has a certain idea who it might is.”

“Is she mad at you sister?” Arya asked curiously and Lyanna chuckled.

“A little, since she would have preferred a Northman to be the father, I guess.”

“So, I guess there will be another tale of a child fathered by a bear then,” Arya said smirking.

“Indeed,” Lyanna answered and lifted her pitcher. Both girls laughed, while drinking.

“I guess there will be a goodbye then soon,” Arya said, a little sad.

“Aye, but I am sure we will see each other again. The winter won’t last forever and I think there might be some occasions where we meet,” Lyanna told her. “And Mother might allow me to visit or stay in Winterfell for some reason during winter. Maybe to find a husband at your brother’s court like a fine southern lady.”

Both girls laughed so loud at this suggestion, that Nymeria interrupted her ham dinner and looked at them both, making them even laugh harder.

The bell tower signaled that it still was two hours until dinner and Lyanna told her that she would see her at dinner.

Arya went to Bran's solar, where she assumed to find her other siblings. As she entered the solar, she saw Bran sitting on a cushioned chair, next to Shireen with little Lyanna in his arms.

Alys sat with Sansa and Jeyne near the fire, embroidering. Rickard slept peacefully in a basket next to Ghost's sleeping form, who only opened his eyes briefly to watch who had come. Sansa smiled and greeted Arya as she noticed her.

Sandor and Jon were sitting on a cushioned bench. Jon was sipping from a cup, while Sandor rocked Serena in his arms. It was more than strange to see the former fearsome Hound rocking his daughter in his arms.

Nymeria slowly walked over to Sandor and sniffed on Serena, before licking her tiny hands, who curiously tried to grab after her fur, making the little girl giggle at the feel of the rough and wet tongue.

Arya smiled at the sight. She loved all of her nephew and her nieces, but Serena was special to her. Maybe because Sansa and Sandor had made her godmother with Maege Mormont. Maybe it was how the little girl had smiled at her, when Sansa had put her in Arya's arms for the first time.

Arya sat down next to Nymeria and Jon poured her a cup of wine. She watched Sandor with his daughter, while remembering the first months after Serena had been born. She barely remembered the time when their mother had just given birth to Rickon and even less when she had born Bran.

Arya had never really payed attention, she had to admit. It nearly seemed like her little brothers had simply appeared out of nowhere from her memory.

When Septa Mordane has started to give her the same proper education of a lady and told her of her duty to her lord husband, to give him heirs, she had sworn to herself that she would never want to have children.

She had known that sooner or later, her father and mother would have married her to some lord or knight and she wouldn’t be given a choice if she wanted or not and just the mere thought of having a slobbering and crying baby, always send shivers of horror down her spine.

But to see Sansa and Alys every day with their children made her think that it might not be the end of the world to become a mother.

Maege and Alysane were mothers as well, after all, and it didn’t keep them from fighting and going to war. And Jorelle was now becoming a mother, too.

Arya still had a hard time to imagine herself becoming a mother, but someday it would probably happen. After all, she and Gendry didn’t live like septon and septa. Though Gendry tried to spill his seed as often as he managed on her belly he spilled himself often enough inside her that the possibility of a child was real enough.

She could drink moontea though, like Sansa had done during their travels, but it was difficult to get her hands on the herbs in winter.

If the gods want it to happen, it will happen, Arya thought, sipping on her wine, watching Serena become sleepy.

But, hopefully not too soon, she thought to herself and felt a blush creep up her neck at the thought of what she and Gendry were doing pretty often.

Serena yawned and made some smacking noises, while settling in her father's arms, making Arya smile. Maybe someday, she thought, sipping her wine. Maybe someday.

Chapter Text

Castle Cerwyn was in sight. Luckily, it was only one day travel away from Winterfell. After the victory in King's Landing, young Cley Cerwyn had asked Wylis Manderly for the hand of his eldest daughter, Wynafryd.

Lord Wylis and his father had accepted, and later today, the ceremony was to be held in the godswood of the castle two months after the armies of the North had returned home.

Sansa was traveling in a wheelhouse with Alys and Shireen. The children were sleeping in a large basket at their feet under a warm fur blanket. Bran had decided to ride today, with the special saddle Lord Tyrion had designed for him. He had said that the people needed to see that their King wasn’t always bound to a wheelchair.

Sandor, Jon, an