Winter is coming. The Stark words played over and over in her mind as she watched the thick snowflakes flutter down from a steel grey sky. Sansa smiled gently when a few of those flakes brushed over her warm cheeks and nose.
More like winter is upon us, she thought while she glanced around the courtyard. Great drifts slanted up against the surrounding walls even higher than the already ankle deep snow that covered the ground. She pulled her grey wool cloak tighter around her shoulders and felt the softness of the thick white fur that lined it brush against the exposed skin of her neck. They were Stark colors, grey and white. Colors she was always proud to display, although the gown she wore was a deep sapphire blue that matched her Tully eyes almost perfectly.
A young woman of almost six and ten, Sansa may be a Stark, but her look was all Tully, after her mother. Creamy skin, fiery auburn hair, and deep crystalline eyes only enhanced her natural and undeniable beauty. Yet that beauty was often subdued, for her clear eyes were constantly tinged with sadness and the corners of her lovely mouth almost never turned up into a smile. Only in moments of sheer contentedness, moments like these, where she could forget the heartbreaking reality she lived in nearly every day that her true radiance shown through in one of her smiles.
Enjoying her lightheartedness, Sansa walked around the curve of the library tower in the direction of the kitchens. The noises of her home, Winterfell, danced around her like a comforting melody. It filled her with memories of a childhood spent chasing butterflies, weaving crowns of daisies with her good friend Jeyne Poole, and reading tales of knights and their lady loves under the shaded trees of the Godswood. Sansa was a child of summer, born in the spring, but living so far north meant that she was more than familiar with snowfalls and stormy weather. But the days of late had become much shorter, the nights colder, and wind had a bite to it that she had never felt before.
She turned her head towards the deep voice that called to her and allowed another small smile. Farlen, the kennel master at Winterfell, trudged forward through the snow wearing a grin that he seemed to only save for her. Directly at his heels was her direwolf, Lady. Her grey fur looked freshly groomed and bore no trace of the elements that continued to pile up all around them. Like her owner, Lady possessed a quiet grace and refinement. For a beast she had impeccable manners, which was why Farlen tolerated her presence in the kennels from time to time.
“My lady, I thought I would ensure your guardian’s safe return,” Farlen gave a short bow of his head before reaching up – for Lady was the size of a pony – and patting her shoulder.
Sansa’s laughter was light but full, and rang like tinkling bells through the icy air. “I doubt very much that Lady is in need of any protection.”
“As you say, my lady. Out enjoying the snow, I see,” he observed jovially. Lady padded over to her side and licker her hand. Her tongue was warm and wet, the roughness a contrast to Sansa’s silky skin, but she welcomed the contact.
“Yes. And the peace and quiet, while it lasts.” She tried not to frown.
“Aye, my lady. It won’t be quiet around here for some time, once the royal family arrives and all the houses and knights follow for the tourney. But I thought all fair maidens enjoyed the company of knights? Are you not looking forward to it, my lady?” Farlen rubbed his hands together before huffing warm breath into them.
And just like that, her cheerfulness evaporated. Her countenance settled into a cool mask of courtesy, practiced and honed to utter perfection. For a lady’s armor are her courtesies, as Septa Mordane had told her during her years of training. Sansa straightened her back and lifted her chin, her eyes fixed on some unknown point over Farlen’s shoulder.
“As a lady of Winterfell I will fulfill all the duties of my house. I do not think I should have the time for any enjoyment, but I hope to try,” she said evenly.
Farlen noticed the switch in her demeanor and his eyes became sad, his smile falling from his lips. Sansa ignored his pitying gaze and inclined her head towards him slightly. “Good day, Farlen,” she whispered before gliding away, Lady at her side.
She knew she had been short with him and she honestly felt badly for it. But she knew that if she told him what she really felt about the tourney that her lord father, Eddard Stark, would be hosting within the week that it would draw more questions that she was too personal and too depressing to answer. And she wasn’t prepared to discuss those feelings with anyone, let alone a man. Not that her predicament was a secret here in Winterfell. Dwelling on that fact only darkened her mood further.
As a child Sansa had filled her head with stories of gallantry and her heart with longing for her own brave knight or dashing prince. But those girlhood dreams were slipping away from her with each passing year. Or more accurately, with each passing month. For a young woman of nearly sixteen, Sansa had yet to have her moon blood. Maester Luwin had tried assuring her that some women bloom later than others, and ever her lady mother had kind and gentle words for her when each month would pass without occurrence. But Sansa could not be appeased. Jeyne had gotten hers when she was but two and ten, which resulted in her ability to marry last year when she turned fifteen. Sansa truly missed her dear friend, but she understood that Jeyne needed to go and live with him on his lands near the Bolton’s. And then, as if the Gods meant to add insult to injury, her little sister Arya had gotten her moon blood last year when she was three and ten. This would normally mean that she would then have been betrothed to a proper knight or lord, but Arya was wild as her direwolf, Nymeria, and would not consent to marry until Sansa had.
But no one will offer marriage to me anymore. No one of true worth, of high enough birth. They are too afraid I am barren, she thought with a strong surge of pain laced with a bitterness she often kept beaten down inside of her. The marriage offers had started pouring in when she was still a child of two and ten. Knights, lords, hedge knights even, but her lord father and lady mother would not even entertain the latter as a thought. She was a highborn girl from a line of two of the oldest and most respected houses in the Seven Kingdoms. There were few ladies that could make such a boast. Their bloodline is what secured her older brother’s engagement to Princess Myrcella of house Baratheon. Though she was only recently flowered and still a girl of only three and ten, he was a man of nineteen, and heir to Winterfell. That and the fact that King Robert and her father were childhood friends. Sansa had often hoped that perhaps her fathers or mothers high connections would secure her a good marriage as well.
But it matters not if I am not able to bear my lord husband any heirs, she reminded herself sadly and she made her way out the South Gate with Lady still at her side. No one had stopped her from venturing beyond the stronghold stone walls. She was used to wandering a little ways outside of the great walls that protected her home. She wasn’t nearly as adventurous as Arya, or her younger brothers Bran and Rickon, but as whispers about her circumstances floated around her she found that she needed the tranquility of the forests that stretched out across her father’s lands.
As Warden of the North, Eddard Stark was responsible for all the towns and keeps in the North all the way to the Wall. Sansa decided to stick to the woods since Lady often made people nervous with her size, even though she was far gentler than the tales of direwolves would have anyone believe. Sansa saw the Kingsroad off in the distance, filled with travelers that approached the outer walls of Winterfell. She could make out a huge wheelhouse from where she was and deduced that it had to be at least two stories to be so clear from this distance. There were scores of men in armor on horseback, all dressed in varying colors and holding banners of their great houses. Red with a gold lion for House Lannister. Gold with a black crowned stag for House Baratheon. And then the houses of her father’s bannermen: Karstark, Bolton, Flint, Umber, Hornwood, Mormont, and so on. Pretty soon there would be numerous camps erected around Winterfell, and the guest house filled to the brim with royal visitors and their guards.
“With me, Lady,” Sansa commanded her direwolf as she headed out further into the naked trees.
With no notice on how long she wandered or in what direction she ambled, Sansa let her mind wander. Stories filled her conscious; romantic tales like Florian and Jonquil, and other such nonsense where valiant knights rescued swooning ladies. For a time she let herself get lost in her fantasies where she granted her favor to a brave and worthy knight and return he would give her lovely words and promises of great and undying devotion. That no one would ever harm her lest they have her knight to contend with. And he would name her his Queen of love and beauty, falling to his knees and pledging himself to her always. A soft dreamy smile graced her full lips and she sighed while she tried to conjure up an image of what her noble lord would be like. He would be handsome for sure, but kind as well. Brave, gallant, chivalrous; these were the qualities she required in order to be worthy of her love. Worthy of the eldest daughter of Winterfell.
The sound of approaching hooves tore her from her thoughts. She turned in their direction and saw that Bran approached on his chestnut palfrey. Bran was younger than her, a boy of nearly two and ten, with a kind nature not dissimilar to her own. But Bran loved life with a zeal that she hadn’t possessed for some time. Often seen climbing the walls of the great keep or the trees of the Godswood, Bran would commonly venture beyond the walls with Robb and Theon, their father’s ward from the Iron Islands, to accompany them hunting. His bow was slung over his shoulder as he approached her, a quiver attached to his saddle, only half full with arrows. A few rabbits were tied to saddle horn and dangled down on his right side. Summer, Bran’s direwolf, loped gracefully beside him.
“Sansa, what are you doing out here alone?” he asked with a surprised smile.
“I would ask you the same thing, little brother but I see the evidence of your hunt from here. Gage might put those into a stew for our visitor’s small folk.” There would no doubt be richer fare for the lords, ladies, and members of the royal court. But Sansa knew there were always many mouths to feed when great houses came to call and not all of them noble.
Bran beamed at her observation. He did so love to be helpful. “That was my intention. I tried to get Robb and Theon to join me but Robb was preparing to meet his betrothed and Theon…” he trailed off for a moment and flushed slightly before coughing and looking away. “Theon is occupied.”
Sansa frowned and sighed before clearing her face of the expression. It was well known that Theon Greyjoy had a love of women, both high and low born, and often frequented the inn at Winter Town. There were several women that peddled their flesh there and were well known around Winterfell. Sansa knew a man had need of a woman and seeing as her father was having difficulty securing a proper marriage for Theon with any of the high born ladies of his bannermen, she knew he would seek the company of less…savory individuals in the meantime.
“I see,” she replied while smoothing her skirts and adjusting her cloak around her.
“You should probably ride back with me now. The King has just arrived and you know mother and father would want you there to introduce the whole family properly,” Bran went on to smile again as if the unpleasantry had never been mentioned. She couldn’t help but smile at him. He was turning into such a proper little gentleman that it warmed her heart.
He will be an excellent lord one day, or mayhaps a knight. Either way he will make a fine husband for his lady wife. He is so much like father. Her thoughts made her smile grow as she approached him. He extended his gloved hand to her and helped her up onto the horse behind him. They were nearing the same height even though she was tall for her age.
“Hang on to me, sister. I like to ride fast,” he called jovially over his shoulder and kicked his horse into action. The mare jolted forward and thundered back towards the South Gate. Sansa let go of her ladylike pretenses and just let herself feel free and childlike for the ride back. By the time they cantered back through the entrance she was giggling as Bran chuckled deeply in front of her. Her smile was so wide and stretched so tight across her face that it almost hurt. It was a foreign feeling in the recent years as joy wasn’t something that Sansa felt very often. After her last few potential matches had turned her father down she had lost the will to be the happy, carefree girl she once was.
Their pace slowed due to the number of people that ambled about in preparation for the throngs and masses that has already started to arrive. Bran turned to look at his sister over his shoulder and continued to grin.
“It’s good to hear you laugh. You’re so serious anymore,” he said with a little shake of his head.
Her smile fell a little but she tried to keep it in place. She would need to play her part soon enough, might as well start now. “Yes, so I’ve heard. I’ll try to be more pleasant with our guests here. Do remind me if I become a sourpuss again.”
Bran frowned after he dismounted and shook his head. “No, you’re not sour, you’re just unhappy. I can’t understand why. You know you’re the favorite.” He was grinning up at her again.
Sansa rolled her eyes and sighed. “No, that would be our dear older brother.”
“Jon?” Bran teased with a chuckle. This time Sansa frowned.
“You shouldn’t jest like that, Bran. Jon can’t help it that mother never liked him.”
“But everyone else likes him so much I think it makes up for it,” Bran sighed.
Sansa gracefully swung from the saddle and leaned down slightly to kiss her little brother on his cheek. “Don’t think on it. You’ve always been my favorite, you know.” She smiled affectionately at him.
“Not Arya? She’ll be so heartbroken to hear that,” he joked again.
“You’re terrible,” she laughed and ruffled his hair. Bran had always been able to bring her out of her somber moods. His humor and affection were more pronounced than hers had ever been, but he was so kind and genuine that his remarks were never taken badly. He never failed to bring a smile to her face and she loved him dearly for it.
Bran handed his horse off to one of the stable boys and whistled for Summer to come to his side and Lady approached as well. He then turned to Sansa with a bright smile and offered her his arm like a true gentleman. Grinning, she took his proffered arm and walked with him towards where their family was gathering at the East Gate for the arrivals of all their guests. Everyone was dressed in their warmest finery in honor of the royal guests. It would be the first time any of the children had met King Robert and his family. It would also be the first time Robb was to meet his future bride.
“Sansa, come and stand by me,” her mother, Catelyn called. Sansa nodded and made her way over to join the remainder of her family, minus one. Jon wouldn’t be part of the gathering for a royal introduction even if he still resided here in Winterfell. As it was, Jon had joined the men of the Night’s Watch two years prior, so his lack of presence had become less noticeable lately.
Robb had taken his place by their father’s side while the rest of the children, in the order of their births, lined up alongside their lady mother. Each of the five remaining direwolves (Ghost had accompanied Jon to the Wall) sat directly in front of its master. Only Shaggydog was taller than his owner, Rickon, who was a mere 8 years old. While Sansa noticed that her father looked excited and her mother looked slightly anxious, the rest of the family wore the common expression of anticipation. Everyone except for Arya, naturally. She portrayed the same bored indifference she did for anything that held formality or required her to wear a gown.
The procession was slow through the main gate, but lead by none other than the King himself. Sansa’s courtesies served her well when she took in the sight of a grotesquely obese man that sat upon a large warhorse. Her face was a mask of cordiality that betrayed nothing of the dismay she felt when looking upon their noble King. He was raven haired and fully bearded, and once may have been quite a handsome man, but now he was ruddy faced with sagging jowls and bags under his eyes, although those twinkled merrily when they spied upon her father.
“Ned!” he roared and laboriously clambered down from his steed. The bone crushing hug he gave her father made her smile.
“Gods, it’s good to see you man! Too long, it’s been too bloody long. When will you leave this frozen wasteland up here and join us in the decadency that is Kings Landing?” he inquired with a loud laugh and stomped in snow.
“I happen to love this frozen wasteland, and I’ve no love for the climate in your part of the Kingdoms,” her father responded with a grin and stepped back to rejoin the line of family.
“They’re all mine, you stubborn fool but you can bloody well keep this part for yourself. Warden of North. Seven bloody hells it’s colder than the crone’s teat up here. Cat, you’re from warmer places than this, how can you stand it?” King Robert asked her mother good naturedly.
Lady Catelyn smiled widely and laughed despite the informal way the king addressed her. “It grows on you, Your Grace. Although we haven’t had a winter here in so long I may just take you up on your offer before this one truly sets in.”
“Always welcome, you and yours, know that my lady. Now, I believe this is to be my future goodson?” King Robert turned to face Robb who immediately puffed up for his royal inspection. Next to Sansa, Arya snorted indelicately and nudged Bran with her elbow.
“Hush now you two. This is a big day for him. Let us not spoil it,” she chided her siblings softly, but not unkindly.
“He can have it, believe you me. But you and I are the ones who will have to entertain the Princess when he is off playing boy lord in training. Seven hells,” muttered Arya under her breath.
Sansa sighed and turned her attention to the massive wheelhouse that finally passed under the large portcullis of the East Gate. It stood two stories high and was pulled by many large draught horses. Eight knights surrounded it on horseback, seven with gleaming white cloaks, and one who was larger than the rest with a plain grey one. The men in white were undoubtedly members of the Kingsguard, and she guessed the other man, who was fully helmed so unidentifiable, was most likely the sworn shield of one of the royal children.
“Come, Ned and let us pay our respects before supping.” The king placed his hand on her father’s shoulder and started to walk in the direction of the crypts when Queen Cersei, clad in layers of white fur, emerged from the wheelhouse.
“Would you be kind enough to make our introductions before descending down to visit the dead?” Her voice was colder than the snow on which they all stood, and her emerald eyes flashed.
“Everyone knows who you are, woman. You can make nice without me for a short time. In fact, I hear you’re quite accomplished in that area,” King Robert replied curtly before turning on his heel and stomping away. Eddard gave Catelyn an apologetic look before trailing after him towards the crypts.
“Your Grace, may I welcome you to Winterfell,” Catelyn curtsied deeply and smiled kindly at the other woman. Cersei, to her credit, handled the rebuff of her husband well and responded kindly to the Lady of Winterfell.
Moments later the crowned Prince Joffrey, Princess Myrcella, and Prince Tommen were being welcomed into the Great Hall for refreshment, followed by the eight knights that accompanied them for their journey. They gathered before a roaring fire and were served mead, wine, ale, and cider alongside fresh breads, lemon cakes, tarts, meat pies, and pastries hot from the kitchens. There would be a grand feast later that evening but this was customary when visitors of high birth came to Winterfell. The north may be cold, but the same could not be said about the hospitality of its lords and ladies.
While her lady mother made polite conversation with the Queen and Princess Myrcella, Prince Tommen was busy inspecting Summer and prattling on excitedly to Bran since they were of a similar age. Robb sat and talked with a white haired knight who wore a strange fist shaped clasp on his cloak near the head of the table, and occasionally with an attractive blonde man who bore a striking resemblance to the Queen.
That is what a king should look like. Handsome and well mannered, healthy of body. Her thoughts must have shown on her face because they were interrupted by an observer.
“Got eyes for the Kingslayer, girl?” a deep voice rasped from behind her.
Sansa whipped around and saw the man in the grey cloak had removed his strange helm, which she now saw was in the likeness of a snarling dog, was sitting right next to her at the long table. He was facing her head on and staring right through her with hard grey eyes. Half of his face was set in a deep scowl while the other half was a twitching mass of scars. She knew who he was on sight. She doubted there was anyone in all of the Seven Kingdoms who hadn’t heard of Sandor Clegane, most commonly known as the Hound. His prowess on the battlefield was as legendary as his temper and brutality. He was almost as notorious as his brother, Ser Gregor, who was known as the Mountain that Rides.
Sansa had to dig deep in order to maintain eye contact with the Hound and not flinch at the sight of his scars, or the sheer hatred that shown from his eyes. She hid her revulsion and fear behind her neutral mask and answered back, “No, ser. I was just noticing how closely he resembled the Queen. I didn’t realize it was Ser Jamie until just now.”
Clegane snorted and took a long drink from his wine cup. “Aye, she’s him in skirts. Twins. And keep your bloody sers. I’m no buggering knight, girl.”
“My apologies, my lord,” she said while watching him tear into another pie.
He swallowed thickly and shook his head. “Not a lord either. Just a dog.” He drank deeply again and refilled his cup from the flagon in front of her.
Sansa frowned before she could catch herself and smooth her face back into an impassive mask again. She decided to change the subject. “I trust your travels went smoothly. Is this your first time in the North?” She knew how to be a good hostess and proper lady, no matter how gruff and lowly the person she was addressing.
“Is this really what your Septa teaches you, girl? You’re a well-trained, proper little bird aren’t you?” he bit out and glowered right at her. To her credit she didn’t lower her eyes or turn away. In fact, she stared right back at him until he broke eye contact and turned back to his wine.
“Be careful with that one, my Lady. He isn’t house broken,” a smooth voice said almost next to Sansa’s ear.
When she turned around she came almost nose to nose with Prince Joffrey. While he was handsome to look at, there was something about him that made Sansa’s skin prickle uncomfortably. He was fair like his Queen mother and had her bright green eyes, but they shone with a sharpness that reminded her of Theon when he was being particularly cruel or vulgar in her presence. She mistrusted him immediately.
“We were just discussing your journey here, my Prince. Was it an enjoyable one?” Sansa deftly turned her body both to allow more space between them, but also made sure she didn’t present her back to the Hound. He’d done nothing to earn such disrespect from her despite his roughness.
“I would love to tell you all about it, my Lady. Why don’t you show me around your charming keep and I’ll regale you with tales of my travels.” He leered at her over his offer, not even disguising the way his eyes roamed about her womanly curves. She suppressed a shiver and smiled sweetly at him.
“It would be my pleasure, my Prince. But you might wish to wrap up warmly before we venture back out,” she said kindly and rose from the bench. “Lady, to me.” Her direwolf silently appeared behind Joffrey and sniffed at him before daintily snorting and sidling up between him and Sansa. His eyes went wide and he took a large step backwards, bumping into a member of the Kingsguard.
“That beast isn’t coming anywhere with me,” he snapped angrily as he righted himself and smoothed out his crimson doublet.
Sansa reached over to gently scratch Lady between the ears, smiling gently at her. “She’s completely docile, my Prince. I assure you that no harm will befall you so long as she is present.”
“I have my own protection. I have no need of yours, my Lady. Isn’t that right, dog?” he all but shouted at the Hound.
Sandor bowed his head once and simply said, “As you say, my Prince.”
“Joffrey, do be careful out there. The North is a wild sort of place,” Queen Cersei called out from her place at the head of the long table. Her voice was soft, but the warning notes rang clear and echoed through the vast hall.
“Women with their worries,” Joffrey remarked with a sneer before he turned and offered Sansa his arm.
“We will stay within the castle walls, Your Grace, you have my word,” Sansa placated with a curtsy.
“We’ll go wherever I damn well please,” Joffrey muttered as they exited the Great Hall.
Sansa chose to ignore the comment and turned towards the Godswood. She would start there before showing off the rest of the grounds. It was closest to the glass gardens as well, and those always seemed to impressed guests from the south. The conversation was light and simple. Joffrey talked of how he planned to win the tourney and how he’d been training for such glories since he was a babe. Sansa was well practiced in the art of conversing with lords and knights about such frivolities that no longer held her interest. But interest could be feigned, and Sansa had become an expert of it of late.
When they entered the Godswood Joffrey scrunched up his face into a rather unattractive frown. “What are we doing here with all these strange trees?”
“The Starks keep the old Gods, my Prince. Here is where we go to worship. Well, except my lady mother. She uses the sept to worship the Seven,” Sansa explained patiently.
“You northerners still bow down and pray to trees? What an archaic way of life,” he commented with a snort. Sansa contained her frown and continued towards the heart tree and hot pools.
“What is that smell?” Joffrey gasped and coughed loudly.
“That would be the hot pools. They stay warm no matter the season, and can be quite pleasant for soothing travel weary muscles,” she offered sweetly, knowing very well that the crowned prince would never dare bathe out of doors. But her polite and innocent expression made it look as if she expected exactly that from him.
“And come out smelling like fouled eggs? Are you mad?” he practically shouted and gestured towards the steaming pockets of water derisively.
Sansa kept her expression in place flawlessly even though she seethed inside. His rudeness wasn’t something she had been prepared for. Most gently born people would at least pretend to be interested and politely decline rather than display such behaviors.
“The smell is something you grow accustomed to, my Prince. Much like the odors of city life, I am told,” she added with a beatific smile that beguiled her mildly insulting words. She had heard from many folk who had travelled to Kings Landing that the smell of the city was nigh unbearable in the heat of summer. Excrement and filth flowed in the streets and having a great many bodies packed in so tightly made for quite a stench when it baked in the summer sun. Luckily the prince seemed none the wiser to her veiled insult.
“I suppose you might be right, my Lady,” he relented reluctantly before turning to leave the Godswood again.
When Sansa turned after him she thought she caught a glimpse of a smile tugging at the corner of the Hounds half ruined mouth. But when she looked again the expression was gone, replaced by a light scowl that seemed to be a permanent fixture there. Lady kept close to her as she continued her tour for the prince and Sansa could sense her unease around Joffrey. Strangely enough though, Lady seemed perfectly comfortable being within close proximity to the Hound.
As they walked slowly back towards the Great Keep Sansa became more aware of the large, scarred man behind her than the handsome young prince at her side. There was something intriguing about the way he held himself, even though his constant state of anger and hateful continence scared the wits out of her.
Mayhaps there is a good reason for his behavior, she mused. It could have something to do with those horrible scars he carries on his face. Or it could be that he doesn’t care for those he serves. She glanced over and saw that Prince Joffrey was once again talking loudly and gesturing wildly as if in a great sword battle. She did her best to stop her mind wandering and focus on what he was talking about.
“. . . not that she would have known anything about it. She was from Highgarden after all,” he muttered somewhat bitterly.
“Yes, we were all so sorry to hear about the loss of your lady wife, Margaery,” Sansa interjected quickly in the hope that he would think she had been paying attention all this time. Joffrey stiffened slightly before he nodded once. Sansa continued, “She died in childbed, my Prince? You must have been devastated to lose both your lady wife and your heir.”
Out of the corner of her eye Sana saw something shift in the Hound’s demeanor. His eyes narrowed slightly and for a moment he grimaced but the expression cleared almost as soon as it had appeared. She wanted to ask him if she had said something wrong but thought it unwise to address him in front of his master.
“Yes, it was very sad. I was quite fond of her, short as our union was. I will mourn her loss for some time I should think.” The prince spoke with a tone of regret, but Sansa could plainly hear the false notes in his feigned grief. At her side Lady whined slightly and pushed between herself and Joffrey. Luckily, he didn’t seem to notice.
As they approached the door to the Great Keep their walking slowed. Loud voices could be heard from within and the thunderous laugh of the King echoed off the stone walls. Joffrey scowled in the direction of the sound, but then cleared his expression before he turned back to Sansa. He bowed slightly at the waist and brought her hand up to his lips, placing a cold, slimy kiss on her smooth skin.
“I thank you for your company, my Lady. Mayhaps you would be so kind as to attend me tomorrow? I have been quite lonely these past months in my grief and your presence has been very pleasant.” While his words were genial and held all the propriety that befit his station, his eyes were lecherous. Something in the way he caressed the hand he continued to hold made Sansa’s skin crawl.
Still, she was a lady and knew her courtesies well. She curtsied deeply and bowed her head as to break the unnerving eye contact he tried to hold. “It would be my pleasure, my Prince, to serve you while here in the North.”
Joffrey grinned widely before he headed back into the hall where the rest of his family were feasting and making merry. As soon as he was out of sight Sansa wiped the back of her hand on her cloak and stepped back towards Lady, finding comfort in the simple gesture of stroking her warm, soft fur. She was suddenly reminded that she wasn’t alone when a voice rasped behind her.
“If you’re a smart little bird, you will stay as far away from Joffrey as you can manage.”
He was so quiet that she thought she must have misheard him. For why would he speak in such away against the man in whom he served? But when she turned to meet his eyes she saw that they were cold steel, his face set in a serious scowl. She was about to ask him just what he meant by that when he grunted at her, spun on his heel, and walked after the Prince into the Great Keep.