Torrhen screwed up his face and let out a mighty roar. Sansa stopped swaying and leaned down to kiss his forehead tenderly.
“Are you hungry, little man?” she whispered as he squirmed restlessly in her arms.
“Would you like me to feed him again, milady?” asked the young mother who had been caring for Torrhen in Sansa’s absence. “You must be exhausted”.
Sansa shook her head.
“Right now I think I need him more than he needs me”, she replied, laying a hand on her engorged breasts.
An old crone who had been dozing in a chair by the hearth struggled to rise to her feet.
“Here, milady, you must sit down by the fire and rest yourself. You’re no good for the sweet babe nor yourself if you don’t get off your feet”, she said as she gestured to the chair.
Sansa accepted graciously and nestled into the large armchair. As she unlaced her stays, another woman draped a shawl across her shoulders.
“A lady such as yourself deserves some privacy from prying eyes, milady”, she said arranging the shawl across Sansa’s exposed breasts.
Sansa thanked the women for their assistance and leaned back as Torrhen fed quietly.
The room was quiet as some watched intensely the events unfolding outside while others slumped on the floor, too tired and numb to move. Some of the children nibbled on the food that had been stored in Sam’s quarters while others played hand games to pass the time.
Sansa’s eyes grew heavy as she struggled to stay awake. She tried to keep them focused on Ghost and was rewarded when she saw one of his ears perk up.
“Jon’s coming”, she called out to Sam.
Sam was about to ask how she knew when he saw Ghost rise up on his hind legs, panting and pawing at the door with excitement.
Seconds later there was a sharp rap on the door and the voice of Jon demanding entrance.
He looks as tired as I feel, thought Sansa, looking upon her husband’s weary visage as he entered the room. Within a few strides he had crossed the room and knelt by her side, leaning over to kiss her deeply and caress his son’s face. Torrhen gripped his father’s thumb while he continued to suckle his mother’s teat.
Jon was hot, sweaty and reeked of sulphur and yet Sansa had never been so happy to see him.
“Welcome back, my love”, she murmured as she playfully tugged on his curls. “I had almost given up hope”.
“Don’t ever give up on me, Sansa”, he replied earnestly. The smile faded from her lips as she searched his face. Then she leaned forward and pressed her lips tenderly to his.
“I will always have faith in you, Jon Snow”, she whispered, her voice husky with emotion.
There was a scraping noise as one of the men dragged a chair across the room towards Jon but he waved it aside.
“I can’t stay long. I’ll need a party to sweep the castle for wights and the dead will have to be burned. But first, I need to know how they managed to get inside the walls so repairs can be made quickly,” he said rising to his feet.
“They came through the crypts, Jon”, answered Sansa, her face colouring with guilt. “They must have followed the underground streams that Old Nan said flow beneath us”.
She stared at the floor and chewed on her lower lip.
“People died because of my failure”, she said, turning away to hide her tears.
Jon placed a hand under Sansa’s chin and turned her stricken face towards his own.
“Who knew that any of Old Nan’s tales were more gospel than fable? I never gave them much credence. And I certainly never heard mention that Winterfell could be accessed through the crypts,” he declared rather loudly.
Liar, thought Sansa. We all knew…we just chose not to believe.
While Sansa finished feeding Torrhen and reluctantly turned him over to the nursemaid, Jon gathered a group of men and women together to tackle the more imminent tasks. The groups separated as they left the tower with Jon and Sansa heading to the yard to assess the damage.
Sansa was shocked to see the number of burned and mutilated bodies that littered the ground. A number of outbuildings smoldered while others verged on caving in. The walls of Winterfell were blackened with soot. Sansa was reminded of the sad state of disrepair Winterfell was in when she returned to the north to reclaim her birthright.
Viserion flew overhead, never straying very far. Jon is not assuming that this is over yet, thought Sansa uneasily.
Sansa scanned the horizon for signs of the other dragons but she could see only the one.
“Where are they, Jon?” she asked.
“They flew north and northwest to rout and burn more wights”, he replied as he stooped down to pick up a rock. He passed it from hand to hand before pitching it over the wall with a grunt.
“They intend to return before the darkness comes again”, he added gazing into the sky as the morning sun broke through the gloomy clouds of night.
“Who is the third rider?” she asked.
Jon hesitated before answering.
“My brother”, he replied with a catch in his throat.
Sansa held her breath for a second. Surely he can’t mean Bran or Rickon…they were no longer his true brothers. But they, along with Robb, would always occupy a special place in his heart. He saw the quizzical look on her face.
“Aegon Targaryen…my father’s firstborn son”, he explained.
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