The dream came unbidden but not unanticipated. She saw the flecks of foam gathering at the corners of Joffrey’s malignant mouth as he sentenced her father to die. She saw the shocked expression on Cersei’s face and the panic and dismay on Varys’ as he rushed towards Joffrey with his arms waving frantically. But Joffrey waved him away with a flick of his hand.
Sansa found herself rooted in place, mute and helpless. But she could see and hear everything. She heard Joffrey summon Ilyn Payne to carry out the king’s justice. She saw the executioner raise Ice, her father’s own sword, glinting in the harsh sunlight, high above his head before lowering it in one smooth, swift motion. She listened to the sound of the great sword cutting through flesh and bone. And she watched as her father’s head tumbled from his neck and his body went limp.
Forgive me, Father.
She looked down in horror at the skirt of her pretty gown and saw that it was splattered with his blood.
Forgive me, Father.
She tried to scream in anguish but no sound escaped her lips.
Forgive me, Father.
Her heart was beating so hard that it felt like it was trying to escape from her chest. The pain was so burning hot she could scarcely breathe.
She sat bolt upright in her bed, gasping for air. She heard a rap at the door.
“Pardon me, milady, but the maester is asking for you to return to the nursery”, said the maid from the other side of the door. “But if you are indisposed I can certainly fetch one of the other mothers”.
“No”, replied Sansa rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she grabbed her dressing gown. “I’m coming”.
She hesitated for a minute to compose her face and smooth back her hair before hurrying down the corridor.
She faltered in her steps as she entered the room when she saw Jon standing there with Torrhen cradled in his arms. One look at Sam’s open face told her all she needed to know. Sam was always loyal to Jon first.
She reached out to take her son from his father’s arms and sat down in her customary chair. Jon sat down opposite them, leaning forward with his arms resting on his thighs, his look a mixture of anger and sorrow. She was shamefaced and reluctant to meet his gaze until he spoke.
“When were you going to tell me that our son was possibly dying…or were you going to inform me after he passed?” he asked.
Sansa was shocked at the cold fury in his voice. Jon had never spoken to her like this before.
“Jon”, she whispered as she plucked nervously at Torrhen’s furs. “It wasn’t like that. I would never shut you out of our son’s life. I…I can’t explain my actions because I don’t fully understand them myself. Call it superstition, call it blind faith, call it what you will but I assure you that it will never happen again”.
She reached out and grabbed his hand.
“Forgive me?” she asked, searching his face for absolution.
He was silent as he withdrew his hand and stood up. Then he bent down and kissed her forehead, lifting the strands of her hair that fell loosely around her shoulders and letting them cascade through his fingers. Then he crouched down and kissed his son’s feverish brow.
“Of course I forgive you”, he replied, his voice breaking.
She smiled gratefully and then started to titter uncontrollably. Jon looked on her with concern as her hand flew to her mouth to smother her giggles. She desperately tried to adopt a more serious mien.
“Dear gods, Jon”, Sansa hiccupped, “I think I may be going mad”.
“It’s no wonder…the stress you’ve been under would have crushed a lesser being”, he smiled in sympathy. “But you’ll be relieved to know that Daenerys and Aegon are planning on leaving for White Harbour tomorrow. We received the raven early this morning that their armies are close to coming ashore.
Sansa exhaled slowly. This was indeed good news for now.
“I’ll stay with him once you are done feeding him”, urged Jon. “Go get some more rest and I’ll send a maid to fetch you if anything changes”.
Sansa nodded in relief. She knew Jon was as good as his word.
As she dragged her weary body back to her rooms, she made an impromptu decision.
“A word, your Grace”, requested Sansa after she had been admitted to Daenerys’ solar.
“In private”, she added as she glanced at the maid who was adding more wood to the fire in the hearth. Daenerys drew her furs closer and nodded at the maid. The maid curtseyed quickly and left the room silently, closing the door behind her.
Daenerys gestured to Sansa to take a seat near the fire and then pulled up a chair to join her. Sansa opened the conversation without preamble.
“I was in the corridor early this morning when I spied Aegon leaving your quarters”, she stated bluntly.
Daenerys’ lips twisted in amusement.
“Well, I knew there was somebody watching but I just assumed it was one of the servants”, she replied coolly.
“What are your intentions regarding him?” asked Sansa with all seriousness.
Daenerys uttered a high, brittle laugh.
“What are you…my mother?” she replied, her lips curling with disdain. She leaned forward.
“Maybe I was lonely”, she purred.
“I highly doubt that, your Grace”, countered Sansa boldly. “If he’s Rhaegar’s son then his claim to the Iron Throne is better than yours. So, I ask you again…what’s your endgame?”
Daenerys sat back and blinked rapidly. Then she slowly smiled, showing all her pretty white teeth.
“Shall I tell you the truth about Aegon Targaryen?” she whispered in a conspiratorial tone. “He is no more Rhaegar’s son than you are”.
Sansa’s face must have registered some surprise as Daenerys adopted an air of smugness as she continued.
“Oh, there is no doubt that he has Targaryen blood…otherwise he would be unable to ride a dragon. But he has no legitimate claim to the throne”, she added.
“Then why support his claim that he is Rhaegar’s son?” asked Sansa. “Why not expose him as a fraud?”
“Because he has the support of several powerful and wealthy people who choose to believe that he is Rhaegar’s son”, Daenerys replied,” and I need their help and the loyalty of the Golden Company. So I choose to keep him close to me…as close as possible”.
The truth dawned on Sansa.
“He’s a Blackfyre”, she murmured. Daenerys nodded in confirmation.
“Does Jon know?” asked Sansa warily.
Daenerys shook her head.
“I don’t think so. Jon is so keen to believe that he has a living, breathing brother that he is willing to accept it as gospel…at least for now”, she replied.
“And what if Aegon decides to take the throne?” asked Sansa.
Daenerys gave her a dark look.
“Fate has a way of dealing with pretenders, Sansa”, she answered ominously.
Sansa struggled not to look shocked.
“I have made a number of mistakes in my journey to take back what is mine”, continued Daenerys, “and I have learned from each and every one. The naysayers dismissed me at first. I was just a little girl, they laughed, who couldn’t possibly have the authority and gravitas to command an army and rule a kingdom. And, yet here I am with an army at my back and dragons under my control, so close to my goal that I can almost smell the stench of Kings Landing from here. I will not let a small matter such as a boy who was born on the wrong side of the blanket prevent me from getting there”.
“And what of Jon?” asked Sansa fearfully.
“Jon is still a bastard, no matter who is father is”, Daenerys snapped. “Any legitimacy he enjoys is due to his marriage to you. Besides, he has no interest in ruling Westeros. But, after the northern campaign is over he has pledged to continue south while in command of the northern forces. I need reliable commanders and there is nobody more loyal than Jon”.
“And when you have secured the throne…what of him then?” Sansa asked with trepidation. Will this demanding and exacting woman expect him to stay in the capital and help her rule?
I can’t ever return to the south, thought Sansa frantically. If I do I will wither and die.
Daenerys’ face softened as she watched Sansa’s face churn with emotion.
“Jon told me what the usurper did to you. He made me promise not to expect him to remain in the south once the seven kingdoms have been secured. I will release him when the time comes and instruct him to return home to his wife and son. And I might let him keep Viserion”.
There must be a catch, worried Sansa, with monarchs there is always a catch.
“To do what exactly?” she asked meekly.
Daenerys flashed a brilliant smile.
“I expect him to rule the north for me”, she replied with a flourish of her hand.
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