Sansa could hear the screeches in the corridor growing louder until the door burst open and Lyra flew into the room. Her hair was in disarray and her gown was soiled.
“Lyra”, she scolded her, “keep your voice down or you’ll upset the babies”.
The wet nurse looked up from the corner where she was feeding Alysane and smothered a smile. Lyra was a favourite amongst some of the wildling women as they loved her loud, brash and uncompromising attitude. Sansa merely sighed and shook her head, knowing full well that she had her work cut out turning her wild daughter into a proper lady.
As Sansa laid Edwyn in his cradle, Lyra peeked over the rail and reached in to help her mother tuck the furs around his tiny body. Then she skipped over to the wet nurse’s side just as Alysane was being raised to the woman’s shoulder to be burped. Lyra patted her sister’s back enthusiastically until Alysane let out a loud belch. Lyra giggled at the noise before plopping down in the little rocking chair nearby and held out her arms in expectation.
The wet nurse glanced at Sansa who nodded her approval. Then the woman knelt down to lay Alysane in Lyra’s arms, ensuring that the little girl held the baby appropriately. Then she leaned back on her haunches to watch keenly as Lyra gently rocked back and forth, cooing nonsensical words into her sister’s ear.
Sansa straightened up just in time to greet the nursemaid who had returned from the kitchen. After some final instructions, including a reminder to Lyra to behave herself, she left the nursery to find out if Sam had received any more news.
She found him at the entrance to the maester’s tower, deep in conversation with Jon. Torrhen, bored with the exchange of hushed words between the adults, was absently stroking Ghost’s fur as he leaned against him.
Ghost’s tongue lolled to the side of his mouth as he panted quietly, patiently waiting for Jon to finish.
“Torrhen, sweetling”, she said as she bent down before her son, “Lyra is in the nursery and could use a playmate just now”.
Torrhen made a face and looked as if he was about to express his objections when Jon looked at him sternly.
“Do as your mother tells you and run along”, he said as he gave Torrhen a gentle push. “It’s one of your duties as the oldest to keep your sister out of trouble”.
They watched Torrhen as he reluctantly dragged himself down the corridor until he was safely out of sight. Then Sansa turned to the other two.
“What have you heard?” she asked.
“Dorne is ready”, replied Sam. “They have troops massed along the border and they await your signal to invade, if necessary”.
She turned to Jon.
“And Robert?” she asked.
Jon’s lips quirked up in amusement.
“He has reluctantly agreed to join the fray this time”, he replied. “The Eyrie will not retreat into splendid isolation for this fight”.
Sansa nodded with satisfaction.
“And what of Dickon”, she enquired of Sam.
Sam hesitated before replying.
“It’s…it’s difficult for him to ally himself with the north, this time”, he stammered slightly. “The Lannisters control the west completely. But…he says he will support us in whatever way he can as long as his actions are covert”.
Well, thought Sansa, I guess that is the best we can expect under the circumstances.
“So”, she said as she glanced at each of them, “are we ready?”
“Aye”, replied Jon. “Though I still believe I should just feed her to Rhaegal”.
“We have to think long term”, she said. “Though I admit it would have been a very satisfying sight to see Cersei Baratheon disappear into the maw of a dragon”.
They began to make the ascent to Sam’s quarters in the tower.
“What of Asha Greyjoy?” Sansa suddenly remembered.
Sam turned the key in the lock and pushed open the door.
“She has upped her price but Jon’s supporters have agreed to it”, he replied as removed a pile of books from one of the chairs. “She will recruit enough privateers to blockade any ships sent by the Crown in the event of an invasion”.
“With any luck we won’t require her services but we can’t take that chance right now”, replied Sansa.
Sam crossed over to a cabinet to withdraw a packet of yellowed letters and laid them on a table, smoothing out the folds carefully. He picked one up and passed it to Sansa.
“I think it would be appropriate to release this letter first”, he said as she and Jon scanned the letter quickly. “It definitely indicates an unusual amount of affection between the two of them without being too damning”.
He looked uncomfortable before continuing.
“Maester Qyburn will attest to the letters being in her handwriting. He still has many samples of requests of a sensitive medical nature written in her hand for comparison. I have contacts at the Citadel who can expedite the validation process but it would still take time that we don’t have. In the meantime, we will have to rely on a disgraced maester to attest to their validity”, he said.
“We use what resources we have at hand first”, he said as he passed the letter back to Sam. “She’ll regret denying him the way she did”.
Sam nodded and folded up the letter.
“We will keep the originals here for safekeeping. A copy will be forwarded to the High Septon. The church takes a dim view of relations outside of marriage by consorts of kings so this should be sufficient to arouse their suspicions. I will then let the Queen Regent know that any further attempts on Jon’s life will cause her world to come crashing down around her as we will release all the damning evidence that her children were fathered by her brother and not her husband. If she has any sense left at all, she will do her utmost to keep these letters under wraps and urge her son to support the secession of the north”, said Sam with great relish.
“Aye”, added Jon, “but if the Crown refuses and sends troops north they’ll find themselves squeezed between two fronts. And if they come by sea then they’ll be up against Asha’s privateers who will make hay against the Royal Navy in retaliation for years of harassment and imprisonment”.
Sansa leaned against her husband with a smile of satisfaction on her face.
“It’s finally coming together, Jon”, she whispered fiercely. “Cersei’s threat is our gain”.
She poked a finger in his chest.
“But don’t get too complacent about protection”, she said. “Ghost must continue to be at your side at all times. She might be reckless enough to send another and we can’t risk almost losing you again”.
The attempt on Jon’s life had come so swiftly, not long after the Dornishmen had departed. The assassin had come in the form of a seemingly poor farmer, offering a few sacks of grain in return for some paltry livestock. If not for Sansa’s insistence that Jon keep Ghost with him constantly, the knife might have found its place between Jon’s shoulder blades. Instead, Ghost ripped out the man’s throat and savagely tore him apart.
This is no jape, thought Sansa. The woman is crazed with a lust for power that won’t be sated until Jon is dead and she had complete and utter control of Westeros through her juvenile son.
“It’s time for us to leave, Jon”, Sansa said darkly.
Jon narrowed his eyes, mistaking her words.
“What…Winterfell?” he asked in surprise.
“No”, she replied, “the realm”.
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