“Did you promise that woman a northern army at her back when she begins her march on the iron throne?” demanded Sansa angrily.
Jon raised his eyes towards the ceiling.
“And don’t try to lie to me, Jon Snow”, she fumed, “because I will know if you are”.
She could see his jaw muscles working before he finally answered her.
“Yes”, he replied.
“And you didn’t think it necessary to tell me?” she asked between gritted teeth.
“I was waiting for the right time and place but she got to you first", he answered.
“Tell me what happened”, she said with a sigh as she sat down.
Jon sat down next to her and took her hand.
“She would not come, Sansa”, he explained. “I offered all your arguments and a few of my own. And she just sat there looking bored and disdainful. I was desperate and she knew it. And so I offered her the one thing I knew would pique her interest…an army of war-hardened northerners to support her in her cause”.
Sansa stared back at her husband and lamented his lack of guile.
“She played you”, she conceded.
“Well, let’s make sure she fulfills her part of the bargain first”, she asserted vehemently.
The next morning, Daenerys announced that she and Aegon would remain in Winterfell for a fortnight before relocating to White Harbour as guests of Lord Manderly. There they planned on purchasing provisions and equipment in preparation for the arrival of Daenerys’ army.
The sooner they leave the better, muttered Sansa under her breath.
Over the next couple of days, Daenerys, Aegon and sometimes Jon convened in the library to pore over maps to determine their next course of action. Meanwhile, Sam was run ragged as news of the dragons spread and the ravens began to arrive in larger numbers bearing messages of sightings of wights and the Others from all over the north. By the end of the second day Sam had worn a shiny path between his quarters and the library.
A sharp rap and her door cautiously opening awoke Sansa shortly after midnight.
“I’m sorry to wake you, milady”, called out the nursemaid in an urgent voice, “but the maester told me to fetch you. The babe is poorly”.
Sansa threw back the furs and reached for her dressing gown. She and the nursemaid hurried down the corridor to the nursery. As she neared the room she could hear the plaintive cries of her son.
Sam stood by the cradle holding Torrhen who was red-faced and clinging to Sam’s nightshirt. Sansa reached out her arms to take hold of the fussy child.
He was hot…so very, very hot. She looked at Sam anxiously.
“When did it start?” she asked.
“A couple of hours ago”, replied Sam. “We tried bathing him and I gave him a wet cloth to suck on but he needs his mother’s milk before the fever consumes him”.
Sansa nodded as she lowered herself into the chair. She rubbed Torrhen’s back in a soothing manner to get him to calm down so he could feed properly. He banged his face against her chest, his lips parted and his eyes half-closed.
As she guided him to her breast, she posed the question she had been dreading to ask.
“Any sign of…pox?”
Sam shook his head.
Sansa felt some relief although admittedly it could be early yet. Torrhen fussed in between drawing milk before abruptly pulling away to vomit up his feed. She placed him against her shoulder to pat his back gently while the nursemaid tried to clean up the mess as best she could.
For the next couple of hours they continued to try to coax Torrhen to feed while Ghost paced uneasily as if he was an expectant father. In between, they bathed him in cool water while he cried piteously and grew more listless.
“Sansa, we should fetch Jon”, implored Sam.
Not yet, not yet, not yet, screamed Sansa internally. Sending for Jon would be admitting that our son is dying and I am not ready to give him over to the Stranger yet. She shook her head.
“No”, she gasped, “let’s give it more time”.
Sam looked at her doubtfully.
“I could try giving him some watered down milk of the poppy. If we can bring down the fever enough for him to take some milk we might be able to turn him around”.
Normally Sam would not recommend such a powerful medication for one so young. But hope for a recovery was growing faint.
Sansa gave her permission and Sam administered a tincture of the medication through a small dropper. And then they waited.
She bathed him once more. Sansa blew gently on his skin causing tiny goosebumps to rise on his little chest and arms. She stroked his damp curls and kissed his forehead. She could swear that it felt cooler and placed the back of her hand against it. Torrhen turned his head restlessly before opening his blue eyes and smiling at her. Her own eyes misted in return.
“Sam, come quick”, she called out, “tell me if you think his fever has abated”.
Sam examined Torrhen and then nodded.
“Try feeding him again, Sansa”.
She carried him over to the chair and encouraged him to latch on one more time. He screwed up his face and turned away so she stroked his cheek softly.
“Please, sweetling”, she whispered, “please don’t give up”.
He turned back to his mother’s teat and took it in his mouth. He sucked slowly and hesitantly as if summoning up the strength to continue. Sansa kept her eyes locked on him for fear that if she looked away he would stop.
After a few minutes he began to suck more rapidly, more efficiently. Sansa finally leaned back against the chair, bleary-eyed and exhausted. She hummed an old nursery song while Torrhen kept hold of her gown in his tiny fist.
The milk stayed down and after another bath Sam was satisfied that the worst was over.
“Get some rest, Sansa”, he begged, “I’ll send for you if there is any change and when he is ready for another feed”.
Sansa dragged herself from the nursery to return to her chambers. As she approached the rooms where Daenerys was quartered she saw the door opening slowly, its rusty hinges groaning. Sansa heard low voices speaking indistinctly, although it was clearly those of a man and woman. Sansa withdrew around the corner and lay in wait. A man emerged from Daenerys’ room, his clothes in disarray and his hair in need of combing. He disappeared behind the door for a few seconds longer before re-emerging to head down the corridor, away from Sansa. Sansa waited a couple of beats after the door closed before heading towards her own rooms.
Well, wondered Sansa as she entered her bedchamber, how did I miss that earlier?
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