It had been a rare period of peace and tranquility. After spending a significant part of the morning happily digging together in the glass gardens, Sansa took Torrhen outside to teach him how to feed the birds that wintered over.
She showed him how to hold his arm straight out, palm up and fingers close together. He giggled as she sprinkled the seeds on to his hands and then she told him to remain very quiet and still.
At first, all they could hear was the breeze as it rattled the bare branches of the trees. She could see that his arm was beginning to tire so she offered words of encouragement.
“The best things are worth waiting for”, she promised.
His eyes grew big as he heard its saucy song. A small chickadee was flitting from branch to branch, moving ever closer to the child who waited patiently.
He grinned broadly at his mother as the bird landed on his hand and began to rapidly eat the seeds. Then it flew off to a nearby tree and chirped inquisitively.
Sansa shook some more seeds into Torrhen’s hand.
“Chick-a-dee-dee-dee”, sang Torrhen as he mimicked the little bird’s song. The bird lit on to his hand once more to peck at the seeds before flying off into the forest.
Sansa ruffled her son’s curls in praise before taking him back inside the castle walls.
When they arrived in the nursery, Lyra was just beginning to stir.
As she sat on the floor with her daughter at her breast and the sun warming her back, she contentedly watched Torrhen haul his toys out from a small wooden chest.
He toddled back and forth between his mother and the chest, each time bearing one of his toys as a gift and laid them at her feet. Sansa thanked him warmly as he brought over a brightly painted block, a small boat and a crudely rendered wooden horse.
“Thank you, sweetling”, she murmured, “your sister will cherish these treasures”.
Then he cackled wildly as he swept his hands back and forth rapidly over the toys and sent them skittering across the floor. The nursemaid was none too pleased.
“Master Torrhen”, she scolded him, “that was very rude”.
Sansa suppressed a smile and motioned to her son to sit in her lap.
He eyed his sister nursing and tugged at the neck of his mother’s gown. He glowered when his mother shook her head and said no.
Then she leaned down to speak to him in a loud whisper.
“I have heard tell that the cook has set aside some lemoncakes from last night’s supper”, she said conspiratorially, “and that she might be willing to share them with a nice, polite little boy who is sweet to his mother and sister”.
She looked at the nursemaid to see if she understood the meaning of her words.
The nursemaid nodded and held out her hand.
“Come along, little lord”, she said. “We’re going to go visit the kitchen”.
His face lit up like the sun and he threw his arms around his mother’s neck. He gave her and the baby each a quick peck on the cheek before scrambling to his feet. Then he waved goodbye over his shoulder as he and the nursemaid departed the room.
Sansa and the baby retired to her solar. Lyra dozed in her arms while Sansa quietly sang songs from her childhood.
She heard the scratching at the door and rose to let Ghost in.
The direwolf panted and paced nervously about the room. Sansa frowned and was about to order him out when she heard a knock and Sam’s voice.
“You’ve received bad news, haven’t you?” she asked as she admitted him.
Sam swallowed and nodded.
“The ravens…the ravens have been arriving all morning”, he replied. “There have been more sightings of wights…everywhere, it seems”.
“And…the dragons?” she asked with apprehension in her voice.
“There…there has been no sign of them”, he answered with his head hanging down.
Sansa swore under her breath as Lyra opened her blue grey eyes and peered at her mother.
“Tell the men to begin making preparations for another siege”, she ordered brusquely.
Seven hells, Jon, she seethed, where are you and that damnable woman?
Sansa spent the afternoon supervising the harvesting and storage of food in anticipation of an even longer assault.
She stopped when she saw Sam’s face and the message clutched in his fist.
“What is it?” she asked impatiently.
“It’s from Jon. He’s in White Harbor”, he replied as he thrust it towards her.
She felt some momentary relief that at least he was still alive.
It was a brief note:
All is lost. I am coming home.
Your loving husband,
Sansa crumpled up the message and stood too stunned to move, torn between happiness and dread. Then she turned to one of the maids.
“Make up his lordship’s bed….he will be returning anon”, she said as she threw the message on the fire.
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