It all started when, after burning those they’d lost during the Long Night, Sansa still felt herself overcome with an overwhelming compulsion to undermine Daenerys Targaryen.
Actually, no. It had started much earlier than that. Upon reflection, Sansa realized that she–and indeed, most if not all of those around her–had been behaving in odd and often nonsensical ways for some time now.
Disturbed, she stuck her head out the window and called loudly, “All named characters, meet me in the great hall.”
She could not say why she had phrased it that way, but those had been the words to come from her mouth and despite their strangeness they must have been understood, for twenty minutes later she was surrounded by every face she recognized at Winterfell.
“I’ve called you all here because I feel that something unnatural is happening,” she began, wary of being branded a madwoman, but too disconcerted to keep silent. “We have, all of us, been acting very strangely. Stupid even, at times, in ways we wouldn’t have in earlier seasons.” Seasons? She wondered for a moment at her word choice, but pressed on. “For instance… Your Grace,” she said, turning to Daenerys, “you sacrificed so many of your own people to help win a war that was not yours, and in doing so saved countless millions of lives with no promise of recompense or even gratitude. And yet, though I know you should have earned my love, I feel compelled by something outside myself to remain hostile toward you.”
Daenerys, whose face had betrayed no emotion while Sansa spoke, now sagged in visible relief. “Oh, thank the gods, I was afraid it was just me,” she said, pressing a hand to her chest. “It really is the strangest thing. I have been wishing to make a political marriage to secure a strong alliance for years, but somehow the second I arrived at Winterfell I became determined to rule alone and terribly insecure about sharing power with Jon in particular, even though marrying him would be the most efficient way to gain the North to my cause.”
“My horrid sister swore she would send troops north and I didn’t doubt her for a second,” Tyrion Lannister said, gazing contemplatively into a large glass of wine though breakfast had not yet been served and Sansa could wager no guess as to how or when he’d obtained it.
Jaime Lannister shrugged. “If it makes you feel any better, I feel strangely compelled to die for our horrid sister, even though I’ve known for years that she’s a complete monster.”
“I took a handful of men north of the Wall to capture a single wight from the army of the dead and got one of Daenerys’s dragons killed when she inevitably had to come save us,” Jon offered.
“I’ve got the weirdest one,” Arya said confidently. “The other night after fucking Gendry–”
“After doing what, now?”
“–I got the intense desire to sail west and explore,” Arya continued, ignoring Jon’s stricken expression. “Which is stupid, since all I’ve wanted for years is to get back home.”
Sansa frowned. “Also, didn’t someone already do that, and sailing west just turned out to be an alternate route to Asshai?”
“Right, so doubly stupid,” Arya said. “Oh, and remember a few months ago, when Littlefinger of all people managed to manipulate us into wanting to kill each other for some reason?”
“That was really stupid.”
“So stupid,” Arya agreed.
“What’s happening to everyone, then?” Brienne asked. “Have we come under a curse of some sort? Do curses exist?”
“Perhaps the Night King’s magic is responsible?” Daenerys suggested. “Setting the living against each other would have been an excellent way to weaken our resistance. Perhaps the aftereffects haven’t yet worn off?”
“No,” Bran said, staring into the middle distance as though seeing something the rest of them could not. “Something far worse is to blame.”
“An… evil god of some kind?” Ser Davos Seaworth guessed, sounding doubtful.
“Worse,” Bran said gravely. “But we may yet save ourselves from the dark path we’ve been set upon. To reclaim our stories, we must write our own ending.”
After five minutes of tense silence in which Bran made no effort to elaborate, Samwell Tarly finally said, “What, you mean… literally?”
Jon sighed. “Bran, I love you, but I miss the version of you that just said what he meant like a normal person.”
“Literally write our own ending,” Sansa repeated, turning the concept over in her head. It sounded absurd. But then, given all the other absurdities they’d collectively endured, perhaps it was exactly absurd enough to work. “Well then, I suppose… who here has the best penmanship?”
Missandei of Naath raised her hand, and parchment, quill and ink were quickly brought forth. She dipped the quill, then hesitated, looking unsure of where to begin. “Er… Your Grace, would you like to start? With our battle plan, perhaps?”
Daenerys pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Cersei’s troops are not currently advancing, is that correct?”
The general consensus was that no one had learned anything to the contrary.
“Then we should heed Lady Stark’s counsel to remain here and regroup for a time,” Daenerys continued. “We have need of Yara Greyjoy and her fleet, and must make no advance without them. In the meantime, we shall do all we can to raise support and bolster our numbers.”
“That shouldn’t be terribly difficult,” Tyrion said. “We’ve just rather publically eliminated an existential threat to the continent, which ought to gain us some favor. Furthermore, we have in this very room the last scions of a variety of noble Houses from throughout the realm and all the influence that brings with it. We will dispatch ravens at once.”
Missandei nodded, scribbling furiously onto the parchment as Daenerys and her Hand detailed their plans–tentatively at first, then with increased confidence and certainty.
With each new line set down in ink, Sansa felt as though a fog was lifting. Her mind felt sharper, her emotions truer. She was becoming herself again, somehow, or nearer to it than she could recall feeling in ages. And when Bran looked at her–not past her, not through her, but at her–she knew she was not the only one.
“It’s working,” he said. Then he smiled, and Sansa forgot that she was a lady, letting out a squeal of joy as she hugged him fiercely.
“–at which point we will give her a chance to surrender,” Daenerys finished. “If she yields, she may live out her days in the relative comfort of a prison befitting a deposed queen. If she will not… well, I imagine Drogon will be feeling rather peckish by then.”
Arya smirked. “Eaten by a dragon? That’s a lot more poetic than what I had planned.”
Daenerys arched an elegant brow. “You’ve planned Queen Cersei’s death?”
“Gods, you’re terrifying,” said Gendry, looking entirely too aroused. Ser Davos sighed heavily and patted him on the back.
Missandei paused at the end of a line, her brow furrowing. “How far in advance do we need to plan?” she asked Bran. “And in how much detail?”
Bran shrugged. “Broad strokes?”
Missandei chewed the end of the quill thoughtfully, then began to write. “Then… after Her Grace has reclaimed the throne, I shall–” she stopped writing mid-sentence, looking vexed. “Oh, Grey Worm, we can’t sail for the beaches of Naath! I can’t believe I forgot how fatal the butterfly fever is to outsiders.”
“Tarth has a lovely shoreline,” Brienne suggested, and the scribe began to write once more. “I should like to return there myself, when Lady Stark has no further need of my service. My father grows old, and I am his only heir. Though I fear his line shall die with me.”
“I actually have some thoughts on that,” Jaime said hopefully.
“You do? Why?”
“I’ll go to Tarth with them,” Podrick Payne said. “I have a feeling this is going to be fun to watch.”
“What is?” Brienne demanded.
“I’ll go home too, I think,” Ser Davos told Missandei, as Brienne continued her inquiries with increasing frustration. “I’ve just remembered that I have a wife, and I find I miss her terribly. I’ll be a raven away whenever someone has need of a smuggler.”
“I don’t much care what happens to me as long as my cunt of a brother ends up dead,” said Sandor Clegane.
“I’m told it was your brother who slew my brother’s wife and children, so I would be delighted to deliver his charred remains to you,” Daenerys said graciously.
“A fitting end for the miserable fuck.”
Sensing an opportunity, Sansa leapt upon it. “I would like to remain in Winterfell as Warden of The North.”
“So you shall,” Daenerys said.
Sansa took a breath. “And Sandor? You’re still unwed, yes?”
Sandor laughed harshly. “Does this look like the face of a married man?”
“It could be.”
Sandor blinked. He opened his mouth, then closed it again.
Bran’s eyes went white. “He’s amenable, just stunned,” he reported. “Let’s move on. I would like to wed Meera Reed if she’ll have me, which–” his eyes went white again–“she will, once I’ve groveled enough.”
“You have no use of your lower half, correct?” asked Grey Worm.
“Come see me after.”
“If we’re doing wishlists,” said Arya, “I think I’ve had as much adventure as I can stand for the foreseeable future. All I really want to do now is relax with my family and… I don’t know. Learn to be me again? Also, I’m marrying Gendry,” she added, turning to him. “I mean, we fucked in the grain store. On the grain. If this is a story, I figure there’s about a hundred percent chance that I’m pregnant.”
“The seed is strong,” Bran said helpfully.
“And while I don’t care, I feel like you might be weird about fathering a bastard?”
“I don’t love the idea, no,” Gendry confirmed.
“Boom: betrothed,” Arya declared, and the pair bumped their fists together lightly in what Sansa somehow understood to be a gesture of agreement and teamwork, despite having never witnessed it before.
“Oh gods, I might be pregnant, too,” Daenerys said, her eyes going wide. “Do you remember, Jon, what a big fuss we made of my perceived infertility right before sleeping together? It seems illogical for that to go nowhere.”
“That does seem illogical,” Jon agreed. “If it’s a boy, can we name him Eddard?”
“Eddard Targaryen has a decent ring to it,” Daenerys allowed.
Samwell Tarly looked deep in thought. “Perhaps I’ll… write all of our adventures into a book?”
Bran shook his head. “Too meta. We need to stay at medium awareness.”
“Oh,” said Sam, looking disappointed.
“Samwell?” Daenerys said softly. “I have no idea what prevented me from saying this before, but I am deeply sorry for the loss of your brother. I don’t doubt he was a good man, but he and your father put me in an impossible position when they refused to bend the knee after being told in no uncertain terms what would happen if they did not. To be seen as weak or indecisive in that moment would have been my doom.”
“I… understand,” Sam said slowly.
“I still don’t like you,” Sam added.
“I suppose that’s fair,” said Daenerys. “Will you serve the realm as Lord Tarly, though? If not for my sake, then for Jon’s?”
“I’m sworn to the Night’s Watch,” Sam said automatically. Then he frowned. “But then, is there really any need for a Night’s Watch anymore, now that there are no more White Walkers? What would be the point, really? There’s barely even a Wall left.”
Jon grinned. “So that’s a yes?”
“Sure, why not,” said Sam, returning Jon’s grin. “Lord Samwell Tarly, with his Wildling lady. My father will be spinning in his grave for all eternity.”
“In a similar vein,” Daenerys said, “Gendry? Bastard or no, I believe you’re the last Baratheon standing, are you not?”
“He is,” said Bran, white-eyed.
“You’ve got to stop doing that, mate,” Gendry said.
Bran looked sheepish. “Force of habit. You are the last Baratheon, though. In this version, anyway.”
“Now who’s being too meta?” Sam muttered.
Daenerys shook her head and pressed heroically onward. “As the last living Baratheon, I believe the rule of Storm’s End falls to you.”
Gendry glanced at Arya. “Do we want to rule Storm’s End?”
“Do I get to make all the decisions?”
“Why are you asking permission for something we both know you’re going to do anyway?”
“Yes, we’ll take Storm’s End,” Arya told Daenerys.
“That leaves you, Lord Hand,” Missandei said to Tyrion. “What ending would you like for yourself?”
Tyrion seemed to consider. “I suppose I will continue serving Her Grace to the best of my ability.” Then a queer expression came over his face. “Bran? Could you tell me if–”
“Yes, she’s still alive,” Bran said immediately. “She’ll require a great deal more groveling than Meera, but she’ll have you back eventually.”
“Well, that takes care of me,” said Tyrion, raising his glass to the room.
“Excellent meeting, everyone,” Sansa said, her heart feeling lighter than it had in years.
The other attendants filed out to return to their tasks until only she and Sandor remained. He regarded her almost shyly as she took one of his large hands in hers.
“So… what now, little bird?”
Sansa smiled wickedly. “Grain store?”