The sight of the bloody strips of meat lying on the butcher’s block had Sansa reaching for the scrap bucket placed on the floor nearby. As she retched into the bucket, she heard the scrape of a chair being dragged across the floor towards her.
“Here, milady”, said one of the kitchen maids softly, “you’d best sit down”.
Sansa lowered herself while keeping the bucket placed under her chin as her stomach still roiled. The cook wiped her hands on her apron and bustled over to attend to her mistress.
“Shall I have one of the girls fetch the maester, lovey?” she asked with concern.
“No need”, Sansa panted after she spat up more bile, “he already knows”.
The cook nodded knowingly and gently held Sansa’s hair back as she leaned forward to heave into the bucket once again.
“How many moons have passed, my dear?” she enquired.
“Almost three”, replied Sansa while wiping the spittle from corners of her mouth with a clean cloth provided by one of the kitchen maids.
“And does his lordship know?” she asked while rubbing Sansa’s back.
Sansa shook her head.
“No, I want…I need to tell him in person”, she replied.
I need to seek the look of awe on his face again when I tell him the news, thought Sansa hungrily. I need to feel his warm breath on my cheek and his large hand resting lightly on my belly. I need to hear the words…the sweet words of love and reverence once more from a man who never dared believe that he would ever father a child.
The cook clucked sympathetically and shook her head.
“Then let us hope and pray that he returns home soon”, she murmured. She patted Sansa’s shoulder and then returned to rolling out the pastry.
As the evening meal began, Sansa noticed that Sam was absent from the room. This was not unusual since Sam sometimes failed to show for the meal when he was finishing up his duties or engrossed in a book. Sansa made a mental note to have a plate sent up to him later if necessary.
Halfway through the meal Sam appeared at last but instead of taking his usual seat at the table he wound his way through the hall until he stood across from Sansa. The meaning of the look on his face was clear so she rose and politely made her excuses to leave.
They silently made their way to Sansa’s solar. When the door had been closed she reached out to him for the piece of paper he held in his hand.
“My Dearest Sansa”, the note began…
“I regret to inform you that Aegon, my brother in all but blood, is dead. We found his body in the early morning three days ago, propped up under a tree. His throat had been cut with his blood staining the snows that piled up around him. When news spread of his death the remnants of the Golden Company packed up their belongings and left immediately. I don’t know if Daenerys had anything to do with his demise. During the funeral she wept openly but I swear they were nothing but mummer’s tears. Rhaegal is agitated more than usual, no doubt sensing the loss of its rider.
We still have not engaged the enemy. Daenerys grows impatient and insists that we push further north in search of them. I am very uneasy with this decision as that puts us squarely in unfamiliar enemy territory. But, this is her army to command as none of the northerners has joined us in our cause. Either they have no hope or they think we are all dead or close to death. And so they would rather die defending their own lands with their families by their sides.
The plague is still upon us but takes away fewer victims every day. If the risk of spreading the disease passes then I might be able to come home for a brief visit.
Kiss Torrhen for me. I miss you both so much.
All my love,
Sansa carefully folded the letter and placed it in a small wooden box that her mother had given her on her tenth nameday to store her trinkets. Then she sat down by the fire and gestured to Sam to join her.
“It just gets worse”, she said in a hoarse voice.
“Aye”, Sam agreed.
“I feel so helpless”, muttered Sansa. “All we do is watch and wait…wait and watch. It’s like we are frozen in place. Mayhaps that was their plan in the first place…strike at us with massive force, weaken our defenses and then withdraw north so that we would give chase until we met again on their turf”.
She laughed bitterly and buried her head in her hands.
Sam laid a hand on her shoulder.
“Sansa”, he said with concern, “you look exhausted. Are you sleeping all right?”
She lifted her head and struggled to smile.
“No worse than anybody else, I expect”, she answered with faux cheer.
“Sansa, in your condition…” he replied. He stopped when she raised a hand.
“I understand. As soon as I have put Torrhen to bed I will retire myself”, she promised.
After repeatedly assuring him that she would take better care of herself, Sam finally left her to complete her duties before she retreated to her bedchamber.
She heard the scratching and pawing at the door just as she had slid beneath her furs. Seven hells, she thought irritably, what does Ghost want at this time of night?
As she crossed the floor she felt a sharp pain in her lower abdomen. As she drew closer to the door the pain became more acute and she felt wet between her thighs. She looked down in horror at the red stain spreading on her pristine white nightrail.
Sansa staggered towards the door and wrenched it open. And as Ghost licked her fingers, she leaned heavily against the door frame, sobbing in shock and disbelief.
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