Sansa choked back sobs as she witnessed the carnage before her. Men, women and children were dying as the wights pushed through the yard and slaughtered anyone in their path. They bore their way towards the main gate to open it to their compatriots who were banging on it, demanding entrance. Sansa urged her man to sound the retreat once more while she beckoned wildly and shouted.
“Follow me to safety”, she pleaded repeatedly.
To her surprise, nobody heeded her cry. Instead, they continued to fight back with whatever they could find at hand. Sansa looked on helplessly.
“Why do they not retreat to the tower?” she demanded as she turned to the horn blower. “We agreed that we would escape to the maester’s tower until the dragons arrive”.
“No disrespect to Lord Snow, milady”, he replied gazing to the sky, “but I don’t see any dragons coming to save us…do you?”
One of the kitchen maids rushed towards her, dragging her young son behind her, and pushed him into Sansa’s arms.
“Take the children to the tower, milady”, she begged. “We will continue to hold out until we know they are safe”.
“Don’t wait too long to flee”, she replied placing a gentle hand on the woman’s shoulder. The woman gave her grim smile and disappeared into the melee. The boy’s grew big as saucers as he silently watched his mother fade away. Sansa maintained a firm grip on his hand.
“Help me gather up the others”, she whispered, squeezing his hand gently.
They wound through the ranks rounding up the children. Sansa ordered the older ones to go ahead and follow the pre-arranged escape route to the tower where she knew Sam would be waiting to help them up the final leg. Some of the children, especially the older ones, were reluctant to leave their parents, eager to continue fighting for their families. But a promise to follow in due time and a quick shove ultimately convinced them to run to safety.
Sansa and her band of children hurried towards the tower. Sam appeared above them, extending a helping hand as the children scrambled up the wall. Sansa lifted the younger children to Sam’s waiting arms. As she waited to pass the last child to Sam, a girl of about seven years of age, she caught sight of a solitary figure seated on a horse on the hill just beyond the wall. It was a white, wraithlike creature with piercing blue eyes that seemed to glow in the moonlight. Sansa was mesmerized by the apparition.
Sam followed her gaze and frowned.
“He’s one of the Others, Sansa and no doubt there are more nearby. We have to hurry”, he said urgently.
What has wakened you from your long slumber, wondered Sansa, as she waited for the boy ahead of them to climb up the wall? What compels you to use our dead to attack and destroy us?
Suddenly the child in her arms let out a loud shriek and Sansa felt a bony hand grip her right shoulder. The girl slid to the floor as Sansa writhed and twisted frantically in a futile attempt to escape as the wight hung on tenaciously.
Sansa caught sight of Sam swinging his legs over the side of the wall to rush to Sansa’s aid. Sansa screamed for him to stay with the children as she struggled with the wight.
“Go!” hissed Sansa to the little girl, urging her on.
But she could see by the girl’s narrowed eyes and the pugnacious set of her jaw that she wasn’t going to run away. In one quick motion, the girl scooped up a rock and threw herself at the wight. The tiny ball of fury was enough to render the wight off balance so that it staggered and loosened its grip on Sansa, enough so that with one firm shove she was able to send it to the floor. The girl then threw herself on top of the wight and began to pound the rock between its eyes mercilessly until it was too stunned to move.
“”That’s enough”, said Sansa hoarsely as she stilled the girl’s hand with her own. “We must get away before it awakes”.
Satisfied that she had won this small skirmish, the girl climbed off the wight and looked at Sansa with a triumphant smile. She reminds me of Arya, thought Sansa, her heart breaking with longing for her lost sister.
They wasted no time in scaling the wall with Sam waiting to pull them to safety.
“Well done, lass”, he said as he ruffled the girl’s hair. She grinned broadly at him, proud of her prowess in defending the lady of Winterfell. Sansa held her close and whispered her heartfelt thanks before releasing her to join the others.
As Sansa paused to smooth her skirts she sensed a disturbance in the night air.
She felt them before she could see them. The winds picked up suddenly, shock waves of cold air blasting from the east. Sansa craned her neck eagerly, searching the dark expanse for signs of his return. She was rewarded by the sight of fire streaking across the sky and a shadowy figure descending upon the castle.
“Jon has returned”, she cried, the relief in her voice palpable.
Sam tugged on her arm.
“Come, Sansa”, he said urgently, “we have to move before it’s too late”.
As they hastened towards the tower, Sansa could hear the cries and shouts behind her. With the return of the dragon, many of the adults were now abandoning their positions and deferring to the superior weapon.
Once all the survivors had barricaded themselves in the tower, Sansa stationed Ghost at the door as a first defense. Then she held out her arms to receive her son and buried her face in his curls.
“There are three of them, Sansa”, called out Sam excitedly as he stood watching through the loophole. “Three dragons, three riders”.
Sansa nodded but didn’t reply. Wrung out with exhaustion and pent up emotions, she let the tears flow, humming a sweet tune while she swayed back and forth with her son. She silently gave thanks for her son, for the people of the north and, in particular, the inhabitants of Winterfell and then she offered up a prayer of thanks to all the gods…the old gods, the Seven, the Red God…for bringing her husband home.
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