After exchanging pleasantries with Claire after she came back upstairs, Sansa locked herself in her bedroom and pulled out the letter. It was in a simple white envelope that was self addressed - E.B Holdings, Quite Isle Claim. ‘Little bird’ was scrawled across the front.
She opened it quickly and read it, her brow slightly furrowed at the messy writing.
If I know you, and make no mistake, I do, you’ll be knocking on my door this morning to check in on me. Hopefully, you'll get this. Don’t worry your pretty little head. I’m fine. My head is right ready to explode, but I’ll live. Damn me to hell, but I deserve it. I hurt you again. I don’t know what else to say. Might be I should have stayed and let you plow me one in the face. I deserve that. I don’t know why you’re up here in the north. Truth be told, I'm pretty impressed that you made it up here. Not many do. Don’t like that you’re with him. Don’t trust the bugger. He better treat you good. What do you do to me? It was like someone shot me in the gut. I didn’t even see my brothers head come off yesterday. Just saw you and your blue eyes.
Like I said, don’t worry about me. I’m going back to work. I’ll be back to town soon, there is a good reason, now.
And I’ll tell it true, haven’t had drink like I did last night for over four years now. I’m sorry, little bird. Take care of that wrist. Your kindness won’t be forgotten.
Sansa stood in front of her window, trying to stop the tears from falling. He is gone. What did he mean he just saw me and my blue eyes? She read the letter over several times before tucking it under her corset. He will come back. I don’t want Petyr to read this. She needed to know more about E.B. Holdings. Maybe Myranda or Lothor will know... She dried her eyes, determined to find out. She put a kettle on and waited for Myranda.
I know he never meant to hurt me. Will I ever see him again?
Soon, Myranda was filling the room with all her latest gossip. Sansa listened with half an ear as her thoughts kept drifting to Sandor. She was in the middle of telling a story of how a young dance hall girl had been proposed to thirteen times and finally settled on the highest bidder when Sansa interrupted her.
“What do you know of Quiet Isle Claim?"
With her lips still forming her last word, Myranda frowned in thought. “Well, not much is known about the founder of E.B. Holdings. Bit of a religious man, I heard," she said as she adjusted herself in her seat before taking a sip. "He is the richest miner up here, one of the very first before the boom hit." Myranda leaned in, wide-eyed. "There are stories of how he brings mule trains into town, with their saddle bags spilling out gold dust and all. It's true! I seen it with my own eyes. I know your father tried to convince him to go into business with him, too. But," she continued with an exaggerated sigh, "the man refused, of course, on account he doesn't condone all the whoring and drinking and whatnot. His workers aren't allowed to bring either into camp. Women are allowed, but only if they are married to one of the workers.” She took a deep sip of tea.
“What about that man?" Sansa inquired casually. "The one that was staying across the hall?”
“Who, Clegane? I don’t know much about him. That was the first time I had ever seen him. Though, I have heard rumors about him,” she replied, slyly.
“What sort of rumors?” Sansa asked trying not to sound cautious.
“I heard he made a living killing people. Down south. He was like a sort of a thug for a rich family. My father said smart men stay clear of him, the stupid ones, he won’t think twice of putting a bullet in his head,” Myranda said matter a factly.
This is not so. I know he did some awful things but to just kill a man...though he did say once that killing is the sweetest thing there is.
“He is a big man,” Myranda commented thoughtfully. “I tried to have a conversation with him last evening, but he was not interested. Kept mumbling about someone called ‘little bird’. And then he just stood up and left when I tried to sit on his lap! He didn’t even pay for my drink. I wanted to see how big he really is,” she said with a with a bit of a pout on her face. “Maybe next time.”
Sansa felt annoyed with her, though she could not understand why. It would not matter what went on between them, if something ever did. He is allowed to do as he pleases. She tried to convince herself that she was not jealous. I haven’t seen him in over five years and he was terrible to boot. I must be tired.
* * * * *
Summer, which did not last very long in the north, was fast approaching. Petyr would be gone for the the length of it, but that meant travel would be quick as long as the weather was favourable. Sansa knew that by the second week of September, winter would be making its presence known.
As the week went on, Sansa saw to packing Petyr's bags along with her daily bookkeeping. He had told her he was confident in her abilities. She figured he must trust her on some level, and it made her feel good that she was given this responsibility. They usually made lots of money in the winter months. The miners who decided to stay in town mostly spent their gold out of boredom. The dance halls will soon boom all day and all night, while casinos will continue to spin their wheels and deal their cards.
Lothor Brune was to go with Petyr as well. In the morning as they made ready to leave, Lothor told her he was sorry that he had to leave and if he had his way he wouldn't leave her alone. Sansa protested against this when she found out, but Petyr had been firm and said the Royces would watch over her, and if she stayed close, she would have no reason to worry. It was the first time she had ever seen Lothor argue with Petyr.
Mr. Brune had not looked happy about it, and he confirmed it the night before when he gave her a small, loaded, Iver Johnson revolver and a small knife that she was to keep under her vest or jacket. He showed her how to load and fire the gun and had made her swear that she would carry it with her at all times. She was not sure how she was going to be able to, but she had promised, nevertheless.
"Mya Stone is going to watch over you,” his voice raspy when he whispered in her ear as they said their farewells. Sansa hugged him tightly and thanked him.
When she handed Petyr the last of his luggage and he reassured her again that once the inheritance was settled, they would discuss how to go about breaking away from the Lannisters, as part of her inheritance was to have part-ownership of the Iron Fleet, which had been bought years ago from the Greyjoy family.
"You know that I only have your best interests at heart, sweetling," Petyr said with a sly smile. "Come, let father give you a kiss goodbye.”
Sansa felt sick, remembering how, just the night before, he had kissed her deeply and said she should marry him when he got back. She had pushed him away, but he gripped her arms still and took another kiss. Now, just a simple kiss on her forehead and a caution to be careful was all she had to endure before they rode off. She knew she could not go anywhere. It was up to her and he knew it, to be careful and watch out. Dawson City was her prison.
* * * * *
Two weeks after Petyr left, Sansa ducked outside, when Myranda left to do the daily banking, to walk on the boardwalk alone. Though the winter had been wicked, the summer heat was equally punishing, and she figured time alone might do her some good. She was a bit nervous from the previous evening, when man tried to coax her to have dinner with him and had become overly persistent, which in turn, had him flat on his back in the mud with a knife at his throat and threat from Mya that he would be gagging on his bowels if he ever approached the lady again. Sansa smiled at the image of her being her protector. Though she was small, Mya was as fierce as any man, and had proved to be an even more effective protector than Lothor.
As she walked she started thinking of Sandor Clegane. Lately she had been having recurring dreams of the man and she was puzzled as to why. Over and over she thought on them, he had been part of her life long ago, for a brief time. She blushed and tried to look impassive as she thought of the dream she had the evening before. He was naked, I was naked, and he was on top of me and looked as he would devour me whole...
Lost in thought, she glanced over to the train of mules heading down the main street, a group of dirty miners riding horses alongside of them. The sun was shining bright and she shielded her eyes with her hand. As they got closer, Sansa’s heart pounded as she saw a black, surly horse cantering to the front; on it, a familiar, broad-shouldered man dressed in black, a thick dusting of dirt covered him. He was barking orders over his shoulder when he caught sight of her and reared his horse around. Sansa stood there and watched them ride closer, her eyes widened and her mouth opened as he stopped right in front of her.
Sandor Clegane! He came back!
He leaned down towards her, and gently pinched her chin. “Your mouth is hanging open, little bird,” he rasped, his voice like steel on stone. He swept his eyes up and down her slowly.
She felt a rush of goosebumps down her arms and thighs and she glanced away, blushing deeply. His finger lingered for a split second, his thumb just brushing the curve of her chin before letting go. Why is my heart fluttering all of a sudden? She licked her bottom lip. She looked up at him and caught him staring at her mouth. Just as quick, he adverted his eyes and met hers.
He then touched the brim of his hat, clicked his tongue, and turned his horse away to follow the passing mule train towards the corrals.