Sansa watched with amusement while the saddler, clearly ill at ease, fiddled with the straps while Jon maintained a steady hand on one of Viserion’s haunches. When the dragon suddenly snorted smoke and swivelled its head the saddler stumbled backwards a few steps before fleeing to the relative safety of the nearby stable. It’s just as well that it doesn’t need shoes, too, thought Sansa, because the farrier would no doubt be soiling himself at the thought of being so close to the scaly creature.
“It’s a good fit, milord”, shouted the saddler from the doorway. “It should keep you secure for the duration of your journey”.
Jon ran his fingers under the saddle checking for slack and any potential points of irritation. He knew that being thrown from a horse was dangerous but being tossed off a dragon in full flight meant almost certain death. When he was satisfied that the saddle passed inspection, he set his foot in the stirrup and hauled himself up to mount the dragon.
Viserion immediately bucked and reared up while Jon held his grip on the saddle horn. Sansa’s hand flew to her mouth as she stifled a small cry. I mustn’t panic, she thought…I have to believe that Jon knows what he’s doing. But Ghost was having none of it as he charged at Viserion, snapping and bristling with fury. Viserion turned swiftly and let out a loud hiss which had Ghost halting in his tracks and then backing away slowly. Jon leaned forward to stroke and pat the dragon’s brow while Ghost stood motionless, watching intently.
“Ghost…to me”, called out Sansa sharply when she saw the look of appeal in Jon’s eyes. Ghost reluctantly returned to her side. She grabbed his ruff and held on to it tightly with a shaky hand, more for her own sense of security than for Ghost’s protection.
“I promise we won’t be long”, said Jon, taking hold of the reins. “We will only go as far as the cave and back”.
The dragon took a few steps back and began flapping its wings. Sansa was forced to shield her eyes as snow and dead leaves began to swirl about her. She watched silently as the fearsome beast rose gracefully into the sky with Jon leaning into its neck. It paused briefly to get its bearings before taking flight, heading out beyond the Godswood until it was lost to sight.
She sighed and let go of Ghost’s fur as she turned to enter the castle. She stopped by the kitchen to check on meal preparations before retiring to her solar to work on the accounts. She concluded that doing something routine and mundane would help alleviate her inner turmoil. As she did her sums, she listened to the hum of people going about their daily activities. It all seems so calm and normal, she mused, and yet my husband rides a dragon and we are under threat by supernatural forces bearing down on us.
Her reflections were interrupted by a rap on the door and a voice requesting permission to enter. It was the nursemaid bearing a restless baby in her arms. He was a welcome distraction for his mother. As Sansa guided Torrhen to her breast, the nursemaid crossed the room to the window.
“There’s a storm sweeping down from the north, milady”, she remarked as she closed the shutters against the waning light. Truer words were never spoken, brooded Sansa. She fervently hoped that Jon would make it back before the snows started to fly.
Sansa insisted that everyone gather in the great hall for the evening meal. We’re all in this together, she reasoned, so we need to be together whenever possible. She sent out food, drink and extra furs to the men on watch as the skies blackened and the winds whipped up the already fallen snow. Then, with Torrhen nestled in her arm, she poured herself another flagon of wine and raised it in a silent toast. Here’s to faith, she saluted, because it gives us the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. Something, she pondered with amusement, that I am in desperately short supply.
The shouts from the men on watch alerted Sansa to Jon’s return. She turned over the now sleeping baby to the awaiting nursemaid with instructions to put him to bed and made haste to greet her husband. The blizzard had intensified so that Jon had to lower his head against the driving snow as he hurried across the yard. An unencumbered Viserion then took to the sky with a mighty screech to return to its northern lair.
Sansa helped him brush the snow from his hair and cloak as he stamped the snow from his boots. In truth, she wanted to feel him to assure herself that he was well and whole. Jon’s relationship with the dragon played with her emotions. The dragons are surely our salvation, she thought, but I still struggle with my beliefs.
Wordlessly, she took his face in her hands and kissed his chapped lips. His face was damp but warm, almost feverish, despite the cold, and his eyes glittered. She reached up and pressed the back of her hand against his forehead, fearful that he might have taken ill.
“Are you well?” she asked with concern in her voice.
“Never better”, he replied. “But I must confess that we ventured further than the cave. I needed to reassure myself that we would be effective in battle when the time came so we flew north following the Kingsroad until we found some”.
“Some…what?” asked Sansa.
“Wights”, he replied, his tone emotionless.
“Are you sure they weren’t just…people?” she responded uneasily.
He stared at Sansa briefly before replying.
“I can tell the difference between the dead and the living, Sansa”, he said. “We flew close enough to confirm it”.
“What did you do with them?” she asked, feeling somewhat foolish.
“We burned them, of course, reduced them to ashes”, he replied in a flat voice.
Sansa noted the use of the pronoun “we”. They have become one, she concluded, a natural outcome of warging. She was accustomed to Jon’s wolf dreams… she still remembered her own from when she had Lady. But she wasn’t sure if she was prepared for a similar relationship with a fire-breathing dragon.
“There weren’t very many”, he continued, “maybe about twenty five to thirty of them. A mere trickle before the onslaught begins”.
“Will you leave for Meereen, soon?” she asked.
“At first light tomorrow”, he replied. “We cannot delay this any longer”.
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