“Jon, are you listening to me?” complained Sansa.
She had been sharing a particularly juicy piece of gossip she had overheard earlier in the day, in between bites of her meal, when she realized that he was being unresponsive. At first she took his silence to be a sign of moodiness until she glanced up and saw that he was staring into the middle of the room. She followed his gaze for a minute, swallowing down the lump of jealousy that rose like bile in her throat, before elbowing him in the ribs.
“Who is she?” she demanded as she watched the serving girl circulating amongst the guests, dispensing food and drink.
She was a small in stature, pretty with dark hair and lively eyes. She laughed and japed as she refilled their goblets and passed out platters of meat and bread.
“I don’t know”, he muttered, his eyes unwavering as he followed the girl closely. “But I do know that she was at the Eyrie during the summit. She looks different somewhat but I know it’s her”.
Sansa watched his eyes narrow as the girl crossed the room and exit through the doorway leading to the kitchen. Then he leaned back in his chair and folded his arms, looking pensive. Sansa leaned over.
“Are you sure it’s the same girl?” she asked tapping him on his arm.
“At times it felt like she was stalking me. Sometimes when I looked up I caught her staring at me. Other times I could hear somebody dogging my footsteps and when I turned I caught a glimpse of her slipping into the shadows”, he murmured. “This happened more than once so I know it wasn’t just my imagination or a trick of the light”.
Sansa smiled and tucked her arm around his.
“Perhaps she was infatuated with you. After all, you are a living legend…handsome, powerful…a king, no less”, she said, her voice calm despite the emotions churning inside of her.
“And I swear she was in my room my last night in the Eyrie”, Jon blurted out as he turned to her. “I…I couldn’t see her but I know she was there. But by the time I fumbled with the candle she was gone”.
Sansa paled and tightened her grip on his arm. Jon patted her hand before gently disengaging it. Then he pushed back his chair and began to rise up.
“Where are you going?” Sansa hissed.
Jon gave her a quizzical look.
“I’m going after her. I want to know what she’s playing at”, he replied.
Sansa reached up and tugged on his arm.
“Jon, if you go chasing after her then you’ll set the tongues wagging. Send one of your men after her or better yet…let me deal with it. I’m the one who oversees the domestic staff so let me speak to the master steward about her first. We don’t want to go about confronting some poor besotted girl in front of everyone”, she counseled him.
He paused for a few seconds before sitting back down with a huff. He sat in his chair, glowering and drumming his fingers impatiently.
Sansa sighed and rose up.
“I’ll go speak to him now”, she said in a tone of resignation.
“Thank you”, he muttered before taking another swig of wine.
She found the master steward supervising the maids who were making up beds for some of the guests who were staying the night. She pulled him aside.
“I need you to identify one of the girls who was serving in the great hall this evening”, she said in a low voice. She offered a description of the girl while he searched his memory. He threw out a few names of women who fit the girl’s description but Sansa was already familiar with them.
“No, no, no”, said Sansa. “She must be very new because I have never seen her before”.
The master steward frowned and shrugged helplessly.
“Then I am at a loss, Your Grace”, he replied. “We haven’t taken on any new female serving staff for nigh on three moons now. I don’t know whom you saw in the hall but she wasn’t hired by me”.
Sansa made a few more inquiries of the other staff but apart from a few sightings of the girl, none knew her name nor where she had come from. It was almost as if she had been a figment of their collective imagination.
“She’s a shadow on the wall…a specter”, announced Sansa as she crawled into bed. “Nobody has seen her since she disappeared after the evening meal”.
Jon laid aside the book he had been reading and wiped his eyes with the palms of his hands.
“With any luck she’s gone for good if she knows we’re on to her”, he said as he blew out the candle.
Sansa moved closer to him and laid an arm across his chest.
“I’ve posted a guard outside the room so there will be no visitors tonight”, she said with a yawn.
When she heard the voice in the night she thought maybe she had been dreaming. She awoke to silence, apart from the low rumbling from Jon’s parted lips, but instinctively she knew somebody was there. She glanced around the room, lit only by the fire burning low on the grate, and searched the shadows for signs of an intruder.
“Who’s there?” she called out tremulously. She half expected a figure to step out of the gloom but the room was eerily quiet.
There was a tap at the door as the sentry on duty asked if she needed his assistance. She felt Jon began to stir as she called out for the man to enter and bring a torch.
As Jon and Sansa sat up in bed, the sentry waved the torch into the darkest corners of the chamber but could find no sign of anybody else in the room. Sansa thanked him before dismissing him to resume his vigil outside the door.
“I know somebody was here in the room, Jon”, she insisted. “I could sense her presence”.
Jon swung his legs over the side of the bed.
“I’ll go fetch Ghost from the nursery”, he said as he donned his dressing gown. “She’ll hightail it out of here if she returns and finds him present”.
“What I want to know is how in seven hells she got in here in the first place”, Sansa muttered as Jon left the room.
The rest of the night passed without incident.
The next morning when Sansa entered Jon’s solar, she discovered him engrossed in a message recently arrived from her cousin, Robert.
“They found Ser Meryn Trant’s body dashed upon the rocks below the Eyrie”, he announced as he scanned the message for more information.
Sansa felt her knees begin to buckle and her breathing became laboured. Jon looked at her in alarm before reaching out to grab her before she sank to the floor.
“I’m so sorry, my love”, he murmured as he held her close. “I didn’t realize that the mere mention of his name would have this effect on you”.
The daily beatings, being stripped bare in front of the whole court…the weight of all the humiliation and pain she had suffered at the hands of Meryn Trant came crashing down on her. She struggled to get hold of her emotions.
“How?” she gasped.
Jon shook his head.
“All I know is that he accompanied Tommen to the summit as part of the Kingsguard. But when he failed to appear on the last day without cause, we all assumed that he must have deserted his post and would be hunted down and tried for treason. Now it appears that something more nefarious had taken place”, he explained.
She sobbed against his chest as the horror of Kings Landing overcame her.
He placed a finger under her chin and tipped her tear-stained face upwards.
“Would you like me to call one of your ladies to accompany you to your chambers?” he asked softly.
She shook her head.
“No”, she said, “I just want to stay here with you”.
He offered her his handkerchief and held her tight, rocking back and forth, until she decided that she no more tears to shed.
“That is the second death in recent days for which I am grateful”, she said as she daubed away at her cheek. “The gods are going to think I’m a vindictive little bitch”.
Jon kissed her forehead.
“They deserved to die for what they did to you, Sansa”, he whispered soothingly. “We should make an offering of thanks to the gods for heeding our prayers”.
Sansa excused herself when Sam came to the door, armed with ledgers and papers that needed Jon’s attention. She spent the rest of the morning attending to the children until finally retiring to her solar to do some embroidery.
After the chaos of the nursery, her solar was the epitome of serenity. After shedding her shawl, she picked up the wooden hoop and snapped the fabric into place. Then she searched through her collection of threads for ones that would be suitable for her embroidered garden.
“Sansa”, said a disembodied female voice. She paused and looked up. She was uncertain if she heard somebody speak or if, in her heightened state of awareness, she had imagined it.
“Sansa…it’s me”, said the voice.
Sansa glanced around the room systematically, trying not to panic.
“Show yourself, whoever you are, before I call for the guard”, she called out imperiously.
She heard a rustle and then saw a young woman emerge from behind a floor to ceiling tapestry that hung near the darkest corner of the room. She was a small in stature with long, dark brown hair and grey eyes like Jon’s.
Sansa was stunned into silence, unsure if the vision she saw before her was really true.
“Arya?” she asked hesitantly.
The corners of the girl’s mouth turned up into a big grin.
“In the flesh”, she replied.
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