Margaery saw Sansa two more times since she left Winterfell.
The first one was in the Red Keep.
Margaery went to the Maidenvault, to present her portraits under her brother’s name. It was easy, walking through the crowded room, excited to see the paintings, excited to see other people view her paintings. She was used to it, not only as the daughter of Mace Tyrell, but the granddaughter of Luthor Tyrell— Olenna’s husband. Everyone who’s anyone knew that the real artists were the women of the Tyrell family, but of course, their names could not be placed in the gallery.
Still, Olenna always made it a point to visit every gallery her paintings were accepted on. She would introduce the paintings in lieu of her husband, dawdling somewhere in the countryside, and would talk business with potential clients.
Once Margaery was old enough, she stood behind her grandmother… Until she passed away.
Olenna taught her everything she knows. Not only how to paint, but how to paint in the styles of the Masters, to highlight the best features of a lady (birthing hips, symmetrical features, even skin), to create some where there are none. To pick which galleries to showcase her work, how to showcase her work amongst the nudes of her male contemporaries. To paint in a man’s eye, she used to call it, that is what she is called to do.
“We never paint a woman just because she is beautiful,” Olenna said, “We paint her for her betrothed to fall in love with her. That is what we are paid for.”
It is no wonder that she is one of the most sought after artists to paint the noblemen’s daughters, and Margaery recognizes that she only has work because of her, that she only has the freedom, and opportunities, that her grandmother gave, from the cost of each portrait.
Although, Margaery thought, wryly, she never painted a lady through glances, through sneaking peeks while pretending to be her companion.
It was a good preview this year. More nobles were there to visit, and she established her brother’s name through her multiple works and her tutorials. She even dressed for the occasion, with her brown curls pinned up in a neat bun, and her blue coat, made with a gorgeous floral brocade.
She walked to her painting, Florian and Jonquil. It was a popular subject to paint, the two lovers were one of the few remaining legends from the First Men. As such, she painted the two lovers in the fields of Winterfell, foggy, cold, and mysterious.
She painted Jonquil, pale and red-haired, almost fading into the painting as if she was leaving the world, leaving her mind’s eye. Her Jonquil wore the white wedding dress Sansa was wearing in her dreams. In blue robes was Florian, riotous brown curls blowing in the breeze.
They hold a hand up to each other, trying to reach their lover, so close yet so far.
As she stood by her painting, she took note of each expression on the wealthy patrons. They take down notes. They push back their monocles on their eyes. They nod thoughtfully at the subjects.
“Are you standing guard?” An old man approached her, hat in hand.
“I’m observing reactions,” Margaery replied.
“Do you want mine?” The old man said, then continued on, without waiting for her reply, “This Florian is excellent. Your father is in shape.”
“It’s my painting,” Margaery admitted, “I submitted it in his name.”
“Usually he’s portrayed before he turns, or after, as Jonquil dies,” The old man continued, “Here, they seem to be saying goodbye.”
She remembered those nights in Winterfell, where she, Sansa, and Jeyne would read these stories in the fire. While the North was very cold, her room in Winterfell was heated by the underground spring, and the three girls would read by the firelight.
Sansa would read aloud to them of Florian, bravely delving in the Underworld to find his love. Jonquil was dead, but too soon, she was killed by a viper’s bite. He pleaded to the Lord of the Dead to unravel the thread of her demise, he pleaded to let her live alongside him, since they would go back to him, to their final destination, after a long life.
So convincing was his song that the god granted his wish, but on one condition— Florian must not turn back to look at Jonquil until they are both out of the Underworld, otherwise, Jonquil will be pulled back.
Silently, the two lovers go towards the light outside, shrouded in thick mist. Jonquil followed Florian uphill.
But Florian turned to her, impatient, and doubting the god’s word. Jonquil tried to reach for his embrace, but he was gone. His sole fault was loving her.
Margaery remembered Jeyne complaining how stupid Florian was, how close they were to the surface. She remembered Sansa, arguing that perhaps he was too in love. She remembered her words.
“He doesn’t make the lover’s choice, but the poet’s.”
If only her paintings could do the same! The memory of Sansa fades day by day. She remembered how she looked, and she remembered her mannerisms, and her singing voice, and the way Sansa would look at her, sneaking glances at her ever so often, the scarves they pulled from their faces, the kiss of her lips in the Northern hot springs—
She looks at the pamphlet given to her on the list of paintings. She must not have read it right, because a familiar name was there, a name that she hasn’t seen in a while.
She weaves through the crowd, looking for the portrait.
She missed Lady Sansa.
After Winterfell, Lady Sansa left for Dragonstone, to marry Prince Jon Targaryen. He became the heir to the throne after his brother abdicated the throne for a Martell, and after her own sister eloped with a blacksmith. The prince was a good man, Margaery was told, but she never met him, and never wanted to, really.
The painting was beautiful, yet it wasn’t her. The sight brought tears in her eyes.
If Lady Sansa was here, she would critique it, the same way she insulted her first work.
“Is that me?” Sansa turns to her, “You mean, there’s no life? No presence?”
“Your presence is made up of fleeting moments that may lack truth,” Margaery said diplomatically in the past, holding her tongue. It would do no good to explain yourself to the subject, as Olenna said, but Sansa was right. That painting then was lifeless, as lifeless as the one she stared into right now.
“Not everything is fleeting,” Sansa’s eyes flashed, “Some feelings are deep. I find it sad that it isn’t close to you.”
But she was close to her, even then. This portrait may not be the woman that she loved, but the wife of the bastard lord, but all she had was her memory.
A memory of a girl across a fire.
Across the fire, Sansa stands tall, her hair blowing in the breeze, almost looking as if she herself was on fire, burning but not being charred, a phoenix rising from the ashes of her family’s misfortunes, but her eyes, blue as the winter roses, her eyes—
Margaery can hardly tear hers away.
In this portrait, she looks like that lady, but without her fire, fresh-faced, red hair in one of those Southron styles. She was wearing a white dress, belted by Targaryen red. And her child, the shy princess holding her hand, looked exactly like her, only with violet eyes.
And she was holding a book.
The same book, Margaery believed, that she drew her own portrait, the page where Sansa tucked her finger in. Page twenty-eight.
The last time was in the concert hall in Myrcella’s Garden.
Margaery was able to afford a seat on the balcony. A bit further from the stage than she wanted to, but still a good seat to have.
As she entered the balcony, she excused herself. Thankfully the people seated were courteous enough to let her pass, and she was able to sit before the orchestra played.
The music that was to be played was Marillion’s Seasons of My Love. It was thought that it was about medieval Westerosi history, starting with Spring, with the rise of the Targaryen restoration; Summer, with the Year of False Spring and Robert’s Rebellion; Autumn, with the War of the Five Kings; finally ending with Winter, the Long Night that was fought for years in Winterfell.
It was a well-known orchestra. But she had no one to go with her to it. Everyone around her had someone to whisper to. What sweet nothings they would whisper behind fans, wives to their husbands, husbands to their wives.
Alone, Margaery stared out in boredom, waiting for the music to start. Her eyes roamed around, taking note of the furnishings, dragon embellished at the columns. She was an artist, of course, and while she mainly painted people, architecture was wonderful subjects too. The history infused in the capital, much more in this hall, was intertwined with its architecture.
But she gasped. Across the room, she saw a beautiful red-haired lady, with one of the Kingsguard, excusing herself as she passes through the crowd. She was courteous as always, greeting each noble with a smile, holding their hands in kindness. She lifted up her skirt and moved to the closest box to the stage.
Sansa Stark, alone in her box.
Margaery’s brown eyes followed her, as Margaery herself was invisible to her, hidden from her in the darkness, hidden from her from the crowd. She was royal now, of course, but if only Margaery could join her in her box, if only she could join her without the audience raising their eyebrows.
Sansa did not see her.
The music started playing. It was Storm, the last movement in Summer.
Storm was about Robert’s Rebellion. The Baratheon Stormlord fights against the Silver Prince, warhammer hitting longsword, shedding blood. The violins rush in, up and down, like the rush of the Ruby Ford.
Sansa was crying. Was she missing me? Margaery wondered, as she remembers the lovely afternoon they shared together. An afternoon of freedom. Storm playing on the harpsichord, slowly taught and mastered. Margaery reassuring Sansa.
In Margaery’s eye, she was the brave Stormlord, angry at the prince for stealing her beloved. Armed in silver, with the black-gold stag, she stood tall, her dark brown hair turning black from the water, and lightning blue behind her eyes.
Sansa’s lip parted, and her chest heaves, as the music swelled. They had only that summer to remember, they had no time to fall in love. But they did, and they tried to lengthen the time they had together, but she had her marriage. Margaery remembered that last day, where she begged Sansa for forgiveness in the hot springs, where they went back to Winterfell, naked as their namedays, where Sansa asked for that portrait on page twenty-eight. Where they stayed up all night, staring into each other’s eyes, trying to remember each moment.
Storm was the battle that turned the fate of Westeros. Singers swore that the Stormlord called on thunder and hail upon the battlefield, lightning and wind striking lowly insects. But the dragon was no insect— Each hit was matched, each swing was dodged with fire, sun shining upon Rhaegar’s rubies.
Sansa closed her eyes. The tears fall freely, heavy on her cheeks. But what for? Margaery thought, you are in King’s Landing now, city of music. You are alive, lively, in the way the wolf girl never was allowed to be. You learned love at my hands, and now you rule over kingdoms.
The Stormlord promised vengeance. The Baratheon warrior was furious over the loss of her life, so carelessly discarded, much like the wolf maiden’s father and brother. The wolf girl was meant to run free, wolf blood in her veins. She rode like a centaur, strong of will, and ran until the dragon caught her in his claws.
Alas, the Stormlord’s fears were justified. Dead in childbirth, in blue rose petals, the wolf maiden was lost to her forever.
Margaery remembered the last time she was in Winterfell, Lady Catelyn pleased with Sansa’s portrait, Jeyne saying goodbye, Sansa in the white Myrish lace dress given by the Targaryen.
She remembered turning, and then leaving.
Finally, she slams her warhammer on the Silver Prince’s breastplate, smashing the ruby dragon into pieces, falling into the ford.
Sansa smiled. She was victorious.