Sansa doubled over and leaned with one hand braced against the wall and the other placed on her swollen belly. It felt like a giant had wrapped his hands around her middle and was squeezing her tightly. She closed her eyes and breathed steadily while she evaluated the severity of the discomfort.
She felt a light touch on her shoulder.
“Are you alright, miladay”, asked one of the chamber maids. “Shall I fetch the maester?”
Sansa shook her head.
“That won’t be necessary”, she gasped as she slowly straightened up. “It appears to be only false labour”.
“Do you need some help, milady?” asked the maid.
“I think it’s time for me to have a rest so I would appreciate your assistance in accompanying me to my chambers. I’m feeling a little lightheaded at the moment”, replied Sansa.
The maid offered her arm with a cheerful smile.
As they walked towards Sansa’s chambers, the maid prattled on about the births of her younger siblings.
“My mama had a lot of false labour with my youngest brother. It went on so long that she stopped paying attention to the pains. And then, one night she went to the privy and out popped my brother. She screamed when she realized that he had fallen into the muck so my papa had to crawl through shit to rescue him”, she said.
“Oh, dear”, commented Sansa, “was the baby alright?”
The maid shrugged.
“Well enough, I suppose… he’s seven years old now and he doesn’t mind shoveling the manure on the farm. Says the smell doesn’t bother him”, she replied.
Seven hells, thought Sansa with a sigh, why do people feel compelled to share their birthing horror stories with pregnant women.
Sansa tried to rest but sleep would not come. As the baby moved and kicked she shifted around on the bed, trying to find a comfortable position until she finally gave up.
The mid afternoon sun was spreading a lurid red pool of light as it slowly died in the sky, casting long ominous shadows on the frozen expanse. There were small snatches of conversation and laughter as people bustled about putting away their tools and began preparations for the coming of night. The watch changed as the sky changed into a purple wintery twilight. And then the world outside was dark and silent.
Sansa felt unaccountably uneasy. She rose and headed to the maester’s tower seeking comfort in Sam’s company.
He was putting away some books when she entered.
“Any word from Jon?” she asked as she plopped down in one of his oversized chairs. She drew her feet up under her and smoothed out her skirts.
He blew away some dust from an ancient tome as he removed it from the shelf.
“Nothing today…perhaps he is just too far north for the ravens”, he replied as he carefully turned the pages. “The elements and the unknown terrain can affect their navigational instincts”.
Sansa tilted her head to look at the title of the book that Sam was slowly perusing.
“Legends of Essos and the Far East”, she read on the spine. “What are you looking for, Sam?”
“Hmmm?...oh, information about the Great Other”, he answered absently as he turned another page.
Sansa scoured her memory for fragments of stories from childhood but could recall no reference to such a being.
“What is it?” she asked.
“The followers of R’hllor claim that it is the antithesis of their god…a god of darkness, ice and death. They say that the Others worship it and do its bidding”, he replied as he closed the book. “I was hoping to find out more details but I’m not having much success. Perhaps I need to consult the red priestess”.
“You won’t get any unbiased details from her, Sam. She’s a true believer of R’hllor”, she said as she slowly uncurled herself and rose unsteadily from her chair. Sam leaned forward to take her hands and pull her gently to her feet.
“Thank you”, she huffed, her face red with the exertion. “Will you be joining us for the evening meal?”
“But don’t wait for me…there are a few other books I want to check first”, he answered as he pulled another musty book off the shelf.
As she walked towards the door she felt a dull ache in her back. She stopped to lean back and stretch, rubbing her lower back to help ease the pain. Then she felt a trickle of moisture creep down her legs.
“Sam!” she called out sharply.
He looked up from his book and saw the wet stain spreading between her legs. He closed the book in a panic and shoved it back on the shelf.
“Sansa…I…I…” he stammered as he awkwardly grasped her shoulders.
“Help me to my bedchamber, Sam”, she said leaning against him for support. “She’s coming”.
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