Two men were ushered into Sansa’s solar. The other members of their party were left under the watchful eye of Winterfell’s sentries after having surrendered their weapons.
As they shrugged off their furs, Sansa examined them more closely. The younger of the two men had a swarthy complexion, dark hair and even darker eyes which darted about the room. His left hand hovered nervously over his empty scabbard. The older man was fair with light brown hair, a heavily lined face and eyes which appeared to have seen much sorrow. Their clothing was somewhat foreign-looking, more brightly coloured than the usual dark, heavy Westerosi garments.
Sansa bade them sit while she offered them refreshments. As she poured them each a goblet of wine, Jon loomed behind her with a scowl on his face.
“I believe introductions are in order, sers”, she said. The older man nodded as he reached inside the pocket of his tunic to retrieve a folded letter.
“This should serve as an introduction, my lady and my lord”, he replied as he handed it to her with a perfunctory bow. His deep voice was smooth and modulated, and inflected with an accent she couldn’t quite place.
Sansa scanned the letter quickly with eyebrows raised in surprise before passing it to Jon. Then she patted the seat of the chair next to her as a gesture for Jon to sit down. Then she leaned forward.
“Please forgive my husband’s air of hostility but this is not the first time he has received mysterious visitors of late”, she said. “May I ask what brings a couple of Dornish merchants to Winterfell? More importantly…why the subterfuge?”
The two men looked at each other briefly. Then the younger man nodded, indicating that the older man should be the one to tell the tale.
“We’ve recently journeyed from White Harbour where we were the guests of Lord Manderly”, he explained. “We were in the process of arranging some business transactions when we received word from Dorne that we should depart posthaste to deliver an important message to both of you”.
“And what might that be?” asked Sansa with curiosity.
The man’s eyes darted to Jon’s face.
“We’ve come to warn you of a plot to have Lord Snow assassinated”, he replied.
Jon’s face darkened in anger and he clenched his fists.
“Who is the instigator of this plan?” he asked bluntly.
“The threat comes from the Queen Regent, my lord,” he answered.
Jon rose up suddenly and began to pace the floor while Sansa looked ill at ease.
“How credible is this information?” she asked. ‘Who is the source?”
The man hesitated before replying, uncertain as to whether he should be passing on such details.
“Let me just say that the source is credible, my lady”, he replied, “Dorne has spies deep within the Red Keep”.
“Why?” demanded Jon as he stopped to face the men.
“Your reputation is growing by leaps and bounds, my lord. The small folk sing praises of your prowess and there is talk, albeit idle, of it being high time to return to the glory days of the Targaryen Empire. And…meanwhile, Lord Tywin is dying”, he explained. “Word has it he won’t live beyond the turn of the next moon. In a flurry, the Queen Regent is consolidating her power and tightening her control over her son. She has already dismissed or imprisoned many of the advisors appointed by her father and replaced them with men loyal to her.”
Sansa rose to her feet.
“Is there more?” she asked. The two men looked at each other before shaking their heads in reply.
“Thank you for this information, sers”, she said as she proffered her hand. “My husband and I will now have to discuss a course of action in private”.
The older man seized her hand and shook it warmly.
“Please believe me when I say that whatever you decide to do, Dorne will stand behind you. We have no love for the Lannisters…we pray for their downfall for what they did to Princess Elia and her children”, he said. “Dorne will get its revenge in the end”.
“I don’t doubt it”, replied Sansa. “Please join us anon for the evening repast. We are holding a feast in celebration of today’s match. I will also make arrangements for your accommodation for the evening”.
The two men gave a short bow.
“We would be honoured to attend, my lady”, the older man replied. “And we are grateful for your hospitality”.
“It’s the least we could do under the circumstances”, said Sansa as she clasped his hand with both of hers in a gesture of gratitude.
After the door closed, Sansa leaned against it and regarded her husband silently. His face was black as thunder and she could almost swear that she could see smoke unfurling from his nostrils.
“What do you want to do?” she finally asked. Jon glanced up.
“Right now?” he raved. “Right now I would love nothing more than mount Rhaegal, fly to King’s Landing and burn the bitch alive”.
She watched his hand hover above the pommel of his sword, his fingers flexing unconsciously.
Sansa shook her head.
“That would be…unwise”, she replied mildly.
Jon swore an oath and threw his empty goblet to the floor.
“And acting like a child who has been relieved of his favourite toy won’t help us either”, she commented as she crossed the room to take him in her arms.
He wrapped his arms around her tightly and she could feel him shaking slightly with barely contained rage.
“Then what would you suggest because I’m too fucking angry to think rationally right now”, he growled, his voice muffled as he buried his face in her shoulder.
“I…I may have a solution”, she whispered into ear, “but it begins with a confession”.
He pulled back and looked at her with curiosity.
Sansa flushed as she studied the floor. Then she straightened up and looked Jon square in the face.
“I lied”, she blurted out. “I lied when I told you that I told you that it was Ser Donnel Waynwood and his men who accompanied me home to Winterfell. In truth, it was Jaime Lannister who released me from the Eyrie and brought me home”.
Jon searched her eyes with intensity and she could see his upper lip curled in an expression of disgust. His hands still rested on her shoulders but he had backed away from her slightly.
“Did you lie to preserve your feelings or mine?” he asked.
“Both, I guess”, she replied with a sigh. “I…I know how much you hated him…how much we hated him for what he did, what they all did to my father”.
“What compulsion drove him to find you and take you home?” he asked as he dropped his hands to his side.
Sansa reached out, took one of his hands and squeezed it gently.
“He was honouring an oath he made to my mother to seek me out and return me to her”, she answered.
Jon looked to the ceiling with a roll of his eyes.
“I didn’t think he had an honourable bone in his body”, he scoffed.
“He felt a need to atone for all the misery he and his family had caused. His journey to take me home was his path to redemption”, she explained.
She gave him a few seconds to absorb this admission before continuing her tale.
“He stayed at Winterfell for a couple of moons to help me start the process of rebuilding. And, who knows, he might have stayed longer or he might have moved on. In the end, the decision was made for him the day he was beset by a pack of wolves, led by a large she-wolf, and he was torn to pieces. It was a gruesome sight…his bloody limbs were strewn across the forest floor, half-gnawed in a frenzy. We gathered up what we could find and laid his bones to rest near the sept with a cairn of rocks piled on top to mark the grave”.
She caught her breath while Jon uttered a short, brittle laugh.
“Ironic isn’t it?” he chortled. “…the lion devoured by wolves”.
She nodded silently, gulping back her tears, before continuing her story.
“I went through his possessions and found a packet of letters tied up with ribbons of red and gold”, she said as she looked up. “They were letters from Cersei to Jaime. They were brittle but still intact. My heart was racing as I read them”.
He looked at her blankly, clearly not fully comprehending the significance of her find. She grabbed a fistful of his shirt and pulled him towards her.
“Jon…listen to me”, she said carefully. “We can use them to stop her”.
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