Sansa leaned against the wall, closed her eyes and let the music wash over her. The harpist played such sweet tones that the listeners stood by like mesmerized fools, watching his fingers weave through the strings with determination and agility, filling the great hall with his tones. When he finished with a great flourish, the hushed audience burst into spontaneous applause. It was a rare moment of civility in the rough and tumble world of the north.
As the clapping and whistles of approval began to die down, she felt a gentle tap on her shoulder. She reluctantly opened one eye to behold her great-uncle standing before her, resplendent in his finest clothes, his red and blue cloak fastened with a silver trout.
“Has your man not asked you to dance yet?” he asked with a concerned look on his face.
She opened her other eye and glanced at Jon who was supping from a tankard of ale, surrounded by a group of men who were laughing and slapping him on his back.
“My man is too busy basking in the approval of his subjects”, she replied drily.
He shook his head and expressed dismay over Jon’s neglect then held out his hand, palm up, with a little bow.
“Then, please…allow me the honour of being your partner for this next dance”, he begged.
Sansa agreed and curtseyed gracefully before he led her on to the dance floor. The musicians struck up a lively song in three-quarter time to which the dancers skipped and leapt in a jig. When the music finished, Sansa breathlessly thanked her great-uncle for the dance as they retreated to the sidelines.
She caught Jon’s eye as she sat down to nurse the toes that the Blackfish had inadvertently stepped on more than once. He smiled at her with so much love and joy that she flushed with pleasure under his steady gaze.
She heard the scrape of the chair as the Blackfish returned with wine for her and ale for himself. He sat down beside her and leaned in.
“I wish you could have been there, my dear”, he said before taking a swig of drink.
“As do I, nuncle”, she sighed as she fiddled with stem of her goblet.
“It was a stirring, sight, my girl”, he said with relish. “There we were, arrayed before a parade of king’s men…all dressed in their gleaming armour and brandishing their polished swords and silver tipped arrows…facing a ragtag army of hairy northerners threatening them with the gods know what as a weapon…battleaxes, clubs, spears, war hammers. And there was Howland stood at the forefront holding up a ridiculously long staff and declaring that none shall pass. They must have thought us mad to think we could take on such a fearsome force and win. And then, he rose up behind us on that dragon and the eyes of the king’s men grew round as saucers and their mouths formed a perfect “o”.
He took another drink and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth with a look of complete satisfaction on his face.
“Oh they had heard the tales from others but it was clear that none of them had ever witnessed such a sight before. And when Jon had the dragon lay down a long streak of fire and set the grass ablaze as a warning for them to advance no further you could see them start to sweat and quake in their boots. I could almost swear that their leaders’ hands were twitching over their horsewhips, prepared to beat their troops into lurching forward”.
“Surely by then they were also aware that Dornish troops were streaming across the border and that Robert was closing in from the east”, she said.
“Aye”, he replied, “but there was no way that woman’s pride was going to take a beating at the hands of some northern secessionists. Her orders must have been clear…pummel the northern bastards into submission or die trying”.
He shook his head as he threw back more ale.
“But, a dragon as a weapon of war will always prevail”, he said. “They fought back as best they could… firing a few desultory arrows at the dragon which were immediately destroyed in one fiery breath. Then they rushed at us through the burning blaze, roasting in their fine armour as Jon had Rhaegal lay down more fire”.
Sansa momentarily thought of her grandfather and his horrible death. She felt some stirrings of sympathy for the foolish men.
“In the end, they broke ranks, turned tail and ran…scattering to the four winds with no chance of survival”, he continued. “We chased most of them down and showed them no mercy”.
Her attention was diverted by cries rising up through the din.
“King of the north”, they began shouting repeatedly. They beat their fists on the tables and stomped their feet as Jon wound his way amongst them towards Sansa and the Blackfish.
Sansa rose up and held out her hands in greeting, brushing her lips against his amidst whoops of approval.
“My queen”, murmured Jon as he wrapped his arms around her. She suppressed her giggles in a valiant attempt to look regal. His eyes were glassy and unfocused and she realized that he was quite drunk.
“Not an auspicious way to begin your reign, my liege”, she remarked as she laid a finger against his lips. He nipped at her finger and then sucked it slowly before removing it and laying her hand against his chest.
“There will be time for sober reflection tomorrow but tonight we celebrate”, he said with a rare hazy grin.
Then he dragged her into the middle of the dance floor to swing her around in time to a fast reel as the musicians struck up another tune.
She gasped and clutched at his hands as they whirled around, bumping into the other dancers, murmuring their apologies. But nobody seemed to mind as the drink had dulled their senses and loosed all their inhibitions.
Sansa laughed with wild abandon as tendrils of auburn hair freed themselves from her elaborate hairstyle and clung to her forehead. She felt as if she could fly and when the music ended Jon scooped her up in his arms and carried her off tenderly as if she was as light as a bird.
As he stumbled she patted him gently on his shoulder.
“Put me down, Jon”, she advised him. “You’re too far gone to be carrying me much further”.
He set her down and draped his arms across her shoulders.
“We did it, Sansa”, he whispered triumphantly.
“Aye”, she replied with a smile, “and so it was a Targaryen king with dragons who forced the north to surrender and unified the continent under his rule. And now, centuries later, it is a Targaryen king with a dragon who has taken the north out from under the thumb of southern rule and restored its independence”.
Then she looked at him with some uncertainty.
“But are we sure that she will not come at us again?” she asked.
“Sam has learned that she has been taken in by the Silent Sisters”, he replied, “and not willingly. But it was either that or risk execution for treason. We made it clear that we were prepared to release the letters which prove that the Kingslayer fathered all her children. So…I believe that her day is done. She isn’t so mad that she’ll risk having her remaining children declared bastards and have Tommen removed from the throne”.
Sansa was relieved that Myrcella would not have to suffer the humiliation. And Tommen, young as he was, could still prove to be a worthy leader if coached and nurtured by wiser advisors. His grandfather was mercifully dead and his great-uncle Kevan was proving to be more in favour of brokering peace with an independent northern kingdom as opposed to his obsessively vengeful grandfather.
“So…are you ready to be crowned King Jon II of Winter?” she asked.
“Do I have much choice?” he asked solemnly.
She shook her head and mouthed the word “no” with a smile.
“You will not deny me the opportunity to see you wear that lovely crown I had commissioned for the occasion”, she retorted sharply.
He leaned in and gave her a long, lingering kiss.
“It should have been you”, he murmured as he pulled away. “Queen Sansa, first of her name”.
She pouted briefly.
“I’ll still be queen…it just won’t be my name affixed to the bottom of warrants and proclamations”, she replied.
“But we all know who the real power is behind the throne”, he said as he brushed her hair from her face.
“I’m your partner, Jon”, she breathed, “in everything”.
“And I wouldn’t have it any other way”, he replied.
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