“Sansa, wait!” puffed Sam as he ran after her. But Sansa was in no mood to tarry, not even for Sam’s sake.
“Assemble a group of three to four men and tell them to meet me in the godswood”, she shouted breathlessly as she sprinted from the yard.
He paused shaking his head and returned to the castle.
They found her standing by the weirwood tree, flushed and agitated.
“He’s in there, Sam”, she said pointing to the pond. “I know it”.
The other men looked uneasily at each other until one of them spoke up.
“Are you sure, milady?” he asked, “Because there’s no sign of anybody having trod on this ice recently. The snow appears to be untouched”.
She glared at him, her chest heaving.
“Give me your sword”, she demanded.
After a moment’s hesitation Sansa lunged at him and pulled the sword from its sheath.
“Milady!” he protested.
Sansa dragged the sword the edge of the pond. Then she raised it with both fists and began banging on the ice with the sharp tip. The men shrugged and moved to join her in chipping away at the ice.
But the ice was thick and impenetrable, as hard as a diamond after months of freezing cold weather.
“Stand aside!” yelled Sam as he shouldered his way through the small band. He raised high an ax and brought it down with all his might. After a few more blows the ice showed signs of cracking. The other men moved in to work away at the gaps forming in the ice until it began to break up into pieces.
The men withdrew to the castle and returned minutes later with farming implements. Using hoes and shovels they bashed away at the ice that hugged the bank. Sansa peered anxiously at the black water that revealed itself as the chunks of ice drifted farther apart.
Then one of the men stopped and straightened up. His shoulders drooped momentarily and Sansa could see him girding himself before plunging into the icy water. Immediately some of the other men began to point and shout while others waded into the water after him.
They pulled together and lifted the body out of the water before dragging it to the bank of the pond.
Sansa knelt before him to touch Jon’s stone cold face and frozen hair. Hot tears fell on him as she broke into loud wails. Sam wrapped his arms around her heaving shoulders and she could feel him shake with silent grief.
She gathered Jon up in her arms in the vain hope that her warmth might magically revive him but his pallor remained grey and his body stiff.
“My love, my love”, she cried. The pain was unbearable and she felt her heart fill with sorrow.
Sam gently pulled her off Jon’s body so that the men could gather him up and carry him back to the castle.
“We’ll place him in the ice house until we can assemble the bier”, said Sam as he slipped a hand under her elbow. She nodded dumbly as she was too numb to reply.
They placed him on a slab and a guard was posted outside the door.
“Coming?”asked Sam as he held out a hand.
Sansa shook her head and dried her tears on her sleeve.
“No”, she replied huskily. “I…I want to stay with him a while longer. You go ahead…let everyone know”.
“Aye, they will want to pay their respects”, he responded.
Sam returned moments later bearing a chair and bade her sit. Then he left her alone with her grief.
She sat in silence for a few minutes, hearing only the wind whistling through the cracks in the boards and the restless shuffling of the guard’s feet. She took up Jon’s cold limp hand in hers and spoke quietly from the core of her being.
She spoke of her enduring love for him and how grateful she was to have their children, a legacy of their love. Then she reminisced about growing up together in Winterfell, remembering stories of playing Capture the Keep, making snow forts and chasing each other through the corridors.
“You’ve always been a part of my life, Jon…the best part”, she whispered. Tears stung her eyes as she lowered her head to kiss his hand.
She felt him brush up against her as he came up from behind. He was as silent and white as the north itself but his breath was warm and comforting.
“Thanks, boy”, she said as she ruffled his fur. He licked at her salty tears and nuzzled her neck. She uttered a rueful laugh and held his long snout between her hands.
“We’ll miss him together, Ghost”, she sighed as she looked into his red eyes. And then she saw something change. At first she dismissed it as a trick of the light. But as she stared at Ghost’s face, she became more and more convinced that what she saw was no mere reflection of the dim interior of the hut.
Ghost’s eyes had turned dark grey…the dark grey of a stormy, northern sky…the colour of Jon’s eyes.
She called out to the guard.
“Fetch the maester immediately”, she ordered him. Then she rested her head against Ghost’s and wrapped her arms around him. The direwolf vibrated with life.
She looked up when Sam arrived a few minutes later.
“Tell me…does the red woman still live?” she asked.
He looked at her with curiosity.
“She does. She still lives in the small keep that Jon gifted her”, he replied.
“Put together a party of men and go to her immediately”, said Sansa. “Tell her I need her and am willing to offer whatever terms she demands”.
Sam’s eyes flitted for a second to Jon’s body and then back to Sansa.
He shook his head.
“Sansa”, he stammered, “is this wise? I miss him, too, but this…this would be an abomination”.
She held up a hand to halt his protest.
“Whatever terms she demands”, she repeated through gritted teeth.
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