I dreamt of you again last night, wrote Jon. Your unbound hair cascaded about your shoulders and your eyes glowed in the stillness of the moonlight. You smiled at me and raised a finger to your ruby lips as if you were about to divulge a deeply held secret. I woke up just as I was reaching out to touch you, to run my hands through your burnished hair and stroke your rosy cheek.
Sansa sighed and set the letter aside. For a man who claimed to be rubbish with words, he could be remarkably eloquent when putting quill to paper. She had read it already many times, mostly at night when she ached with loneliness. The first time she read it her breath caught in her throat. How could Jon have known when she had only recently reasoned it out herself? Then she realized that she was being foolish. After all, it was just a dream born out of separation and longing.
She carefully folded up the letter and placed in the engraved box that she kept on a shelf in the wardrobe. The box was almost at capacity, filled with small treasures and more of Jon’s expressions of love.
She reached for the cup of brewed herbs that lay cooling by her bedside. It helped to settle the roiling in her belly. As she sipped her drink she probed her breasts, noting the tenderness that lingered. At first she believed her moon’s blood would finally begin to flow. When it didn’t, she knew then what her body was trying to tell her.
Oh, Jon, she thought resignedly, yet again you’ve gone away and left me with child.
She could hear the roars in the corridor getting louder as they approached her door. She sat up in bed and braced herself for the expectant knock.
“I’m so sorry to disturb you, milady”, said the flustered, red-faced nursemaid, “but she has been screaming for a while now and there’s just no comforting her”.
Sansa reached out to take her daughter into her arms. Lyra firmly planted her feet in her mother’s lap and stood up fiercely, hanging on to her mother’s hands, sniveling and hiccupping all the while. Her face brightened as Sansa smiled and began to sing a familiar song. Soon Lyra was pumping her legs and chortling with delight.
“She wants to move about on her own but she’s frustrated because she can’t yet”, said Sansa calmly as she lowered her daughter to the bed to sit independently. She kept one hand braced against Lyra’s lower back while her daughter waved her arms about excitedly.
“Just put her on the floor with Torrhen and some toys…she needs the challenge of trying to keep up with him. Sometimes she just doesn’t want to be held. Don’t worry about the crying jags…hopefully they will stop as soon as she starts to crawl and walk around holding on to the furniture”, she continued as she made faces at Lyra to her daughter’s delight.
“I’ll give it a try”, replied the nursemaid doubtfully as she reached for the baby. Lyra began to whimper and clutch at her mother’s arms.
“Leave her with me, then”, said Sansa with a sigh as she took back her daughter.
“Only if you’re sure, milady”, replied the nursemaid with some relief. Sansa dismissed the girl after rising to don her dressing gown.
“You, little one, are not at all like your brother”, she said to Lyra as she planted the child on her hip.
Whereas Torrhen was shy and somewhat introverted like his father, Lyra was loud and demanding. She reminded Sansa of Arya at times but even Arya’s cries weren’t loud enough to reach the great hall of Winterfell. Lyra’s cries were the screeches of a little dragon, Sansa suspected, and she will be a little spitfire when she is able to walk and run. And woes betide anybody who gets in her way.
After spending the better part of the morning amusing her daughter, Sansa returned her to the nursery for a nap. She had just retired to her solar to finish some mending when she heard Sam requesting admittance from the other side of the door. He was holding a message in his hand.
“Another letter from Jon”, he confirmed.
He sat down just as she poured him a goblet of wine. She could see the curiosity in his eyes when he noticed that she didn’t bother to pour one for herself. He knew that wine soured in her stomach when she was expecting. He also knew her well enough to notice that she had not come down for breakfast the past few mornings. And no doubt he listened to the tittle-tattle of the servants who had heard of how the mistress had been heard vomiting several days in a row. Now that couldn’t be due to just a piece of poorly cooked meat, they had concluded. She tilted her head to one side and smiled fondly at him.
“I can see the question on your face, Sam”, she said as he opened his mouth to voice his concerns. “And the answer is yes…I am again with child”.
He smiled broadly at the news. Then she could see him mentally reckoning how far advanced was the pregnancy.
“When will you tell him?” he asked, patting her hand.
“Soon…if he can find the time to come home then I will give him the news in person”, she replied as she set her mending aside. “So, what is the news from the edge of the world?”
Sam unfurled the message and read it aloud. Most of Jon’s notes were straightforward accounts of troop movements and battles won and lost. Sam had set up a war table in the library where tokens representing each faction were moved around like the pieces in a game of cyvasse. Jon was represented by a green dragon that Sam carved and painted himself. And it was Torrhen’s privilege to move his father’s token around the board according to the latest updates.
“He reports that the Riverlanders have finally arrived and have joined forces with the crannogmen”, he read. He quickly scanned the message and chuckled heartily.
“He says that the Blackfish and Lord Reed love nothing more than swapping war stories. But as the garrulous old codgers get deeper into their cups, their stories become more outlandish in the telling…to the point when Jon says there is no point trying to separate fact from fiction. He says you just have to sit back and enjoy the company”, he laughed.
He read further.
“He says the free folk volunteers have finally elected a commander. After soliciting a list of names to be put forward, a free vote with a show of hands was held. Jon says he was relieved that they elected a man, a tinker in his former life, who reminds Jon of Donal Noye”, he reported.
A good choice, thought Sansa, as Donal had been the blacksmith and one of Jon’s mentors at Castle Black.
“The spearwives have decamped to Sable Hall and formed their own unit”, read Sam. “Theirs is a more co-operative style of governance which differs from the military style of command and control. Jon says it was a bit of adjustment for him to determine whom he should be dealing with on a daily basis. Nevertheless, it was made easier by a familiar face”.
“Who?” asked Sansa.
Sam looked up.
“Val”, he replied looking somewhat uncomfortable.
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