Chapter 1: Dissent in the Air
The sea of ragged men and hungry women turned their starved faces to watch the Lannisters pass. Sansa could see the dull resentment in their eyes, the distrustful sneers on their faces.
We should not be here, she thought, Why do we ride through them in our glory while they starve?
None of the Lannisters would ever acknowledge that there was anything wrong with their behaviour. But the resentment from the people lining the route sat ill with her and gave her a sense of foreboding.
Sansa had sometimes rode out with her father and mother back home, greeted with welcome and affection from their people.
Her father would talk to young and old, bannerman and small-folk taking an interest in their lives and being welcomed in return.
"The people need to know they can come to you if they have any grievance and you will do your best to help them if it is within your power, she remembered her father telling Robb one day as they went on a ride, "They don't need a lord that thinks he is too good to talk to them, who does not care about their concerns." he'd sighed as he'd remounted his horse followed by the rest of the group and raised his hand in farewell. The villager had followed them on the route waving and bidding farewell to 'The Ned' as he'd been affectionately known by them. "A peaceful land and contented people, that's the blessing of a good lord."
Sansa's heart ached a little thinking of her father so cruelly killed by Joffrey. She must take care to shield her thoughts, no need to make Joffrey angry again.
The procession tried to make it's way through the hostile crowd but it was slow going as if marching through treacle. At every turn the crowds blocked their path, murmuring menacingly at them. There was an air of foreboding from the crowd, it was affecting the animals, making them unsettled and harder to control.
Queen Cersei cracked her whip against the flank of her horse in irritation, her mask of carefree bonhomie slipping. “What is taking so long? Why are all these fools blocking the path? Go and summon some Gold Cloaks to clear the way!”
A woman stood in the road with a bundle in her thin undernourished arms, she wailed, a terrible fell sound that set the fine hairs on Sansa's forearms standing up. She couldn't suppress a gasp of horror as she saw the blue swollen face of the dead child grotesque in it's decay.
Joffrey was about to ride her down but Sansa leaned over to him.
“What, my lady?” his lip curled in a sneer, as it did whenever he talked to her now.
“She's driven mad with grief. Her baby is dead. Have mercy, my lord. Please-” she pleaded, trying to appeal to some small speck of decency he might have inside him buried deep down.
The mother took no notice of them. She held the bundle up to the young king with dead eyes, a silent yet eloquent reproach.
His face contorted with disgust, disdain for this delay painted on his features. “What's this?”
“Her child.” Sansa felt the tears spill down her face. How desperate must the mother have been to take such a hopeless and miserable step. How she must have grieved her child, who died of starvation in the greatest city in the Seven Kingdoms. 'Tis still summer. No child should have to starve to death in summer. she thought.
Joffrey huffed, begrudgingly listening to her as he didn't want to look bad. “Very well.”
He reached in his coin pouch and flicked a silver stag carelessly at the hapless woman. “There-”
The woman didn't even see it, still holding up the corpse. She seemed as if one already three-quarters dead. She never even once blinked, her skinny arms trembling under the dead weight of the child.
The coin bounced off the dead body and rolled away under the legs of the Gold Cloaks and into the crowd where a dozen men fought for it like starved dogs for scraps of meat.
“Leave her, your Grace,” Cersei called to her son, “She's beyond our help, poor thing.”
Cersei's imperious tones got through to the mother cutting through her ravaged wits like a sword through curds. Her face which had been blank with hunger and misery twisted with rage. She looked as if she had been possessed by a demon. Sansa made the sign of the seven pointed star, warding herself unconsciously against such hate.
The woman's mouth contorted, her voice was a shriek of shrill loathing. “Kingslayer's whore! Brotherfucker!”
Cersei's confident smile was wiped off her face. Her mouth fell open in outrage, but the woman took no notice of her queen, screaming in impotent rage.
“Whore! Brotherfucker! This is your fault!”
“I beg your pardon?” Cersei lifted her chin as if ready for a fight. The woman dropped her baby like a sack of wheat and pointed straight at her, as if she was laying a dire curse on the queen.
“Brotherfucker! BROTHERFUCKER! Brotherfuckerbrotherfuckerbrotherfucker-”
The king was splattered with dung from on high. No one could see where in came from but Sansa gasped and Joffrey wiped the foul smelling brown mess from his face and golden curls, cursing soundly.
“Who did that!” he demanded, his voice rising into a petulant whine. “I'll have their god-damned head!”
No one leapt to avenge the king. A voice or two from the crowd shouted: “He's up there!”
“A hundred gold dragons to the man or woman who brings me the bastard who did this to me.” Joffrey declared. “Dog, go get them!”
“You're the bastard!” someone shouted back daringly to mocking laughter.
“Aye bastard! Bastard! Bastard monster!”
“Justice!” the crowd chanted, the ominous sound of makeshift drums behind them. “Freedom!”
“Give us bread! Bread! Give us bread and meat, bastard!”
“Renly the Golden! Did you murder him too, bastard?” they screamed. “He loved us-”
“Robb the Young Wolf!” Sansa felt a small strange thrill of pride that the small-folk should shout his name, though she made sure to hide it deep down.
“You killed the Northern Hand. You cursed us! Murderers!”
The crowd surged forward, breaking the line of the spears shouting abuse and throwing missiles, rotten fruit and stones.
“Half-man! Freak!” someone shouted at Tyrion.
“Back to the castle, now!” Tyrion ordered. He spurred to his sister's side.
“We must go. The situation is out of hand.”
Cersei nodded curtly, unable to argue with her brother for once.
Ser Lancel drew his sword beside her. Hands reached past the lines of Gold Cloaks grasping for him and Joffrey. One got hold of his leg for an instant. Ser Mandon Moore slashed down and parted the hands from it's wrist. There was a howl of pain.
“Massacre! Massacre!” someone shouted. “Now they shed good honest King's lander blood!”
The hatred welling up from the crowd was almost visceral.
“Ride, you stupid boy!” Tyrion roared, slapped Joffrey's grey palfrey on the rump. The horse reared, trumpeting madly and careered wildly ahead. Someone staggered in front of Joffrey's horse and he rode them down, crushing them under his horse's shoes. There was a horrid shriek from the hapless person. Was it man, woman or child? Sansa could not have said.
She huddled over the neck of her horse clutching the reins for dear life as chaos teemed and boiled around her.
“Head towards the Red Keep!” shouted one of the guards. In the confusion, Sansa got separated from the rest of the party.
The other members of the group rode away towards the Red Keep but she could not follow, surrounded by hostile maddened small-folk looking for a scapegoat and outlet for their rage.
Someone held her bridle stopping her from escaping. There were hands, dragging from the saddle, wicked hostile hands that were not gentle.
She felt the shoulder of her fine dress rip and panic filled her. “No!”
In a panic she put her head down and ran. She was disorientated in the teeming crowd, elbowing, punching and kicking like a wilding anyone who dared try and retain her. Somehow she managed to fight and duck her way towards the edge of the crowd while they shouted and fought between themselves.
The town looked very different from foot than it did from horseback. She knew she had to be calm and not panic.
She didn't know which way she was meant to be going. She gathered up her impractical silken skirts and ran, her kid slippers slipping and sliding in the muck. They weren't made for pacing the street and she cursed as she lost one of them in a muddy rut. Her foot hurt from the stones on the ground and she felt her ankle twist giving her a stab of pain but she gritted her teeth and kept pounding on.
I have to keep going, no matter what. I can't let them catch me.
“Who's this little butterfly then?”
The hem of her dress was absolutely filthy dragged in all the muck of the street and the spattering of shit she'd gotten from the attack on Joffrey from on high. She felt grimy and dishevelled, fiery auburn hair coming loose from her ornate updo.
She started at him with big scared eyes. What was she going to do? No one knew she was here. She was unarmed and trapped.
If I show fear I am lost, she thought trying hard to hide her trembling.
“Let's 'ave a look at 'er.”
“Please I mean you all no harm-”
If I'm good, if I'm polite they’ll leave me be. Even as she thought it, she knew she was being a trusting fool. It hadn't worked at the palace when the Kingsguard had stripped her and beat her at Joffrey's order, laughing at her distress. What made her think it would work here?
“It's one o' them fine ladies ain't it? look at her dress. It's a pretty bit o' skirt.” he leered
Sansa backed into a corner, terrified by the look on the men's faces. There were three of them, how was she meant to fight them off unarmed?
“No please,” she shook her head backing away until her back met the dank wall of the alleyway. There was no exit and still they kept advancing.
“Bit off yer path, ain't yer m'lady?” one said in a mocking tone, grinning at her in the dim light.
“She's kissed by fire. You know what they say about red-headed women.” he made a lewd thrusting gesture with his groin, which reminded her oddly of Theon and his exploits with their serving girls at Winterfell which her mother had so disapproved of. “Never had me a bit o' highborn cunt. Wonder if it true what they say, they fuck like stoats?”
“I'm a maid, I'm only a girl. Please ser let me go.” her voice rose in a panic. Even though she told herself that she must not lose her head the threat of these uncouth men and what they intended to do to her filled her with terror.
“With them teats? D'ye think I was born yesterday?” the man sneered making a grab for the neckline of her bodice, she swerved out of his path and tried to make a desperate run for it. He grabbed her arms. “Trying to run. That's not very charitable, is it lads?”
A girl emerged from the shadows brandishing a knife with a wicked serrated blade that gleamed in the dim light. She was dark-haired and skinny dressed in rags and broken down shoes. The girl looked positively feral but Sansa had never been so pleased to see anyone in her life.
“Keep away from 'er. Get back! Get back or I'll stick yer through.” she snarled. “Dirty bastards!”
The men muttered, thwarted from their wicked purpose
“C'mon 'Ponine, why'yer have to spoil our fun?” whined one. “haven't 'ad a bit in a week and she looks a prime bit 'o rump!”
“Them teats are enough to make a man sit up and beg.” the other man said almost admiringly. Sansa shuddered at the though of him touching her.
“No you won't, or you'll have me ter get through!” The girl looked at him in disgust. “You should know better, you have daughters!”
“This one's ours! You wouldn't begrudge us a bit o' cunt, would yer?” wheedled the first man.
The girl snarled still brandishing and jabbing the knife at her attackers. “Go on, make a move! Try it, Pate!”
The men slunk off, defeated by the fierce girl. One of them spat in their direction and the girl picked up a stone and dashed it at him in retaliation. She must have had a good aim, for he howled in pain and ran off.
Sansa was shaking too much to answer. Terrible images of exactly what those men were intending to do kept flashing through her mind. They would have despoiled me in this alleyway for sheer sport. Slit my throat afterwards and not given me a thought.
“I'm Eponine and me brother Gavroche is skulking about somewhere.”she looked round but it was just them in the alleyway. “What's your name?”
Sansa froze. She hadn't thought of a false name. How safe was it going to be? Still, the girl had defied those men to save her. Would it really be so unsafe to give a name. She didn't have to give her House, did she?
“Sansa-” she whispered.
A little face topped by a mop of dirty blond hair popped up.
“Who the devil is she?” he said, gazing rudely at her. “'Ang on a blinking minute-”
“She got caught up in the riot. She needs our help.”
The lad looked from her to Sansa rather dubiously.
“Oh come on, you saw what them filthy bastards were about to do. She's lost, innit?” Eponine said with an impatient gesture.
The little lad gave a world-weary sigh that made him sound years older than he was. “Awright, then. Soft-heart!”
“Traitors, I have all their heads, I'll boil them in oil! I'll shoot them through with crossbow bolts, I'll cut out their tongues and use them as a carpet-”
Tyrion gave him such a hard slap that his crown flew off his head and clattered to the floor. Then he shoved him in frustration and rage to the floor.
“What did you do that for? They were traitors! They attacked me! They called me foul names!” Joffrey clutched his face looking as if he was about to cry.
“You set your dog on them! What did you think would happen, Joffrey, they would genuflect in your golden presence?” Tyrion leaned over his nephew near shouting in his face.
“I am their king, they owe me their allegiance!” Joffrey's lip jutted out sulkily. He still had dung clinging to his curls and smeared on his face.
“Seven help me, are you honestly that stupid?!” Tyrion kicked him hard while he was down, his fists clenched in rage. His misshapen face was nearly scarlet with anger. “ Clegane is probably dead right now, we still have people missing presumed dead and you come through without a scratch!” he gave an inarticulate growl of anger. Ser Lancel's hand went to his weapon but Balon Swann managed to restrain him.
“Tyrion, stop it!” Cersei snapped. “Who's missing? How many are out there in the chaos?”
“No one has seen the High Septon, Your Grace. He was dragged out of his litter.”
Cersei sneered. “That old windbag! 'Tis hardly a loss-”
“My daughter, I don't know where she is. Oh please won't someone go out and find her?” Lady Tanda fretted, wringing her hands.
“Ser Preston and Aron Santagar are still missing, my lord.” said one servant.
“Wet Nurse isn't here either.” Ser Horas Redwyne added with a smirk, “We'd have heard him bellyaching if he was.”
“Thank you for that gem of wisdom right there, Horas.” Tyrion said cuttingly. “So Tyrek Lannister is missing too. Anyone else?”
“Where is Sansa Stark?” Cersei said in a ringing voice.
There was an appalled silence as the group realised the gravity of the situation.
“Seven Hells-” someone said feelingly.
“Are you telling me you've lost our most valuable hostage, the former Hand's daughter and you don't know where she is? Is that what you're telling me?” Cersei's voice went deadly quiet and saccharine sweet. You knew when the storm broke it was going to be volcanic.
Joffrey looked up petulantly. “She was riding by me I don't know where she went.”
“Oh Gods-” Tyrion placed his head in his hands, a blinding headache coming on. He badly wanted some wine at this moment. “Ser Mandon, you were her shield. It was your duty to protect her, was it not?”
If Sansa was lost in the dark and had come to harm, if this catastrophe cane to public light, Jaime was as good as dead.
“When they started shouting and mobbed the Hound, I thought first of my king and liege.” Ser Mandon gave Tyrion a smug smile, knowing there was nothing he could do about it.
“And rightly so, Ser Mandon,” Cersei put in before Tyrion could tear verbal strips off him. “Boros, Meryn, go back and find the girl.”
Boros's face drained of colour. “Us?”
“Yes, Ser Boros. I would leave now before it gets dark.” Cersei said crisply as she headed towards the chambers.
“But...but your Grace...” he stammered. “the sight of our Kingsguard cloaks might enrage the mob. Can't we?-”
“Can't you what?” Cersei hissed.
Tyrion was equally infuriated at Boros and Meryn's cowardice. “Get out there and find Sansa Stark, unharmed is that clear?”
“But my lord Hand-”
“Take your damned cloaks off if you're that afraid, but go and do not return until she is found.”
“She might already be dead.”
Tyrion went to kick the craven knight but it was Cersei who surprised him by boxing both their ears.
“Ouch! Your Grace!” protested Meryn.
“I have given you both orders and I do not expect to repeat them. You better pray you find the little Northerner – unharmed!- or Jaime's life will not be worth a stag to the Starks and if that happens your miserable lives won't be worth living. Am I making myself clear, sers?”
“You hungry? There's a pot o' brown over there. The landlord filled it up this morning, I saw 'im. Dunno how he got the meat with them prices-” Gavroche said.
Sansa was dreadfully hungry, her stomach was rumbling from nerves and lack of food as it was nearly dusk, but she'd heard dark whispers about what exactly went in those strange communal pots and she wasn't taking any chances.
“What's in it?”
Gavroche gave her a look as if she'd just said something comical. “Who the hell knows?
“It's food, it fills our bellies and it's cheap ain't it.” Eponine added. “- it's best not to think too hard about what's in it, or you'd ne'er choke it down.”
Sansa felt at her side. She still had her little purse at her side it didn't have much in it, a couple of coppers and some silver little more than small change. Cersei and Joffrey allowed her very little in case she ever took it into her mind to escape. There was enough to get them a meal, she thought. It was the least she could do after the girl and her brother had taken her under their wing and saved her from those lecherous men.
“You can't drag about in that, you'll just draw attention to yourself.” she shrugged off her shabby man's coat and gave it to Sansa to cover her fine garment. “'Ere, that'll do for the nonce-”
“You'll be cold, I can't take your garment!” Sansa said touched but appalled by the girl's generosity. She remembered her courtesies, “But thank you kindly, thank you very much-”
“You speak very proper, don't yer?-” Eponine smirked, imitating her high-born tones perfectly. “'-thank you kindly-'”
“How did yer get all tangled up in this? You were in that procession, weren't you? On yer fine chestnut. Good bit o' horseflesh, that were-”
Sansa thought she couldn't very well deny it. The lad was sharp as a tack, not getting anything past him. He seemed to be the same age as Bran. She wasn't sure, his face seemed quite a bit older, more wordly-wise.
“Let the lass eat, 'Roche, she's probably famished.” chided the girl, “-ye can question 'er later-”
She handed Sansa a bowl of the brown and a heel of stale black bread. “Get yer gums round that.”
She dipped the bread in the stew trying to soften it enough to eat without cracking a tooth.
“Eat up lass you'll need yer strength.”
Sansa tried to swallow a mouthful of gristly meat and tried hard not to think about where it had come from. She attempted to wipe her mouth but there was nothing to use as a napkin except for a sleeve and she wasn't that far gone yet.
"Why?" she asked.
Eponine gave her a smile over her bowl. "Got some friends I'd like yer to meet."
Chapter 2: The Friends at the ABC Tavern
Sansa followed Eponine and Gavroche through the back streets of King's Landing keeping her head down. She hoped her hair wouldn't catch attention and make people look twice at them as she didn't have a hood, but covering her bedraggled silk dress seemed to have done the trick. As long as they walked briskly and didn't linger, no one gave them a second glance. She'd tried to neaten her hair a little, tidy away the worst of her fallen locks into at least a decent knot at the nape of her neck. Eponine had exclaimed over her red-gold locks running a hand over them in awe.
“Lovely and smooth it is. Like new polished copper.” she'd breathed in admiration.
Sansa had wanted a brush to tame her hair which tended to wave and curl wildly but since Eponine didn't have one to hand she was just going to have to do without.
“Where are we going?” Sansa asked, struggling to keep up with Eponine and Gavroche's swift strides. She was still trying to manage in those cursed kid slippers which were worse than useless. Sansa heartily wished for some sensible shoes with decent grips so she would stop sliding round in the mud. She couldn't wait to get that hated silk dress off which was completely ruined by the day's events.
“It's not far,” Eponine reassured her. “Just a tavern where all our friends congregate.”
“They can help me?”
“You just leave the talking to me. We'll persuade them, won't we 'Roche?”
Sansa was unsure even though Eponine sounded confident and gave her a reassuring smile. “Courage, dear friend . We are so close. These are good men and they'll help you once they hear of your plight, I promise.”
It was so strange to hear the word 'friend' from this wild girl. Even though they were from worlds miles apart, Eponine had been a true friend to her in a way that she hadn't experienced since she'd left Winterfell and made her way to King's Landing. She's shared what little she had, saved her from those dreadful men. Sansa now found it hard to trust, she'd learnt that from the Palace and having to live amongst the Lannisters, but this girl had been nothing but kind to her.
“Here, look. The lanterns are on, so they're all there. Our luck's in!”
Eponine rapped on the door in an odd rhythm. It was evidently some kind of code.
A male voice came through the door. “Have you the password?”
Password?, thought Sansa. What kind of place is this?
“Damn, what is it again? They keep ruddy changing it. I can never keep up!” muttered Eponine.
Gavroche rolled his eyes as if used to this. “Seriously 'Ponine, keep up!” She bent down so he could whisper it in her ear.
“Patria-” she said clearly, winking gratefully at Gavroche. He scampered away, raising a hand in farewell.
The door creaked open.
They ascended a dark creaking staircase and pushed open the door. Eponine's face lit up as she spotted a young man with green eyes and freckles and she hurried to his side an adoring look of her face.
“Hi, Marius!” she said brightly but the man barely even seemed to notice, greeting her in an off-hand manner.
Sansa hovered on the doorstep unsure of her welcome as the occupants of the room stared at her, their companionable hubbub suddenly hushed. She went pink, feeling as self-conscious as she did during court functions when all eyes were on her.
“Who's this then?” one man said from the foot of the table where he was whittling a toy mule from a bit of soft wood.
Eponine took charge. “This is Sansa, she's with me. I wanted to her to meet you all for we need your help.”
“You were caught in the mob?”
“You could say that, I suppose-” Sansa said, hesitantly looking at her questioner. There was no need to tell these strangers that she was in the procession, not unless they insisted on details. I'm not lying, she told herself, feeling a little uneasy, I'm conserving the truth. I have no idea if I can trust these people so far.
“We need your help, my friends. You wouldn't turn away a female in need, would you?”
“As if you're a female in need. You're street tough, Eponine-”
“I wouldn't cross you with that wicked blade of yours.” laughed another man, the dour one who drank in the corner. His green eyes glittered with amused malice from underneath dark curls. “You most probably gut me like a trout as soon as look at me.”
“I might be, but Sansa isn't-” Eponine retorted, “it's her that needs our help.”
the group took another look at her, curiosity piqued by Eponine's statement.
“Sansa, is it? Riverlander, are you?” asked one man with interest. “Pretty name-”
She nodded shyly trying to make a good impression despite her bedraggled raiment.
“My mother was a Riverlander, but I am from the North-”
Catelyn Tully of Riverrun, although now might not be the best time to announce her ancestry. Not until I know I can trust them.
“You'll have to speak to Enjolras, but I guarantee he won't like it.” the drunkard said, devoting himself back to his bottle. “He's wary of strangers-”
There was an amused chuckle rippling round the room, as if they all knew and could easily guess the reactions of the man mentioned.
Who on earth was this Enjolras? Sansa asked herself. And why was his opinion so important? Was he the leader of this strange band of friends? Would she have to throw herself on his mercy?
The unmistakable sound of feet tramping up the creaking staircase caught everyone's attention.
“That's bound to be him. Late tonight, ain't he?”
A young man with blond hair walked through the door, eagerly greeted by all the group. Tall lithe with the ascetic air of a marble statue in motion, it was easy to see his charisma and why the group greeted him with such warmth.
He pushed a hand through a head of unruly golden curls, taking the enthusiastic greeting of the group as if it were his due. He shrugged off a dark red cloak taking a swiftly vacated seat by the fire.
“Ah, my bones are so weary!” he sighed, showing a moment of human weakness before the mask went back on, and he went back to business. “- but at least the edition is ready to distribute tomorrow morn. We have to strike fast and capitalise on the unrest today. We can reach more people than ever, if we take advantage of the public mood.”
“That why you've only now come home. We wondered where you'd got to?”
“There was a great deal to be done at the headquarters but they liked my piece about the riots.” A hint of a smile flitted across his mouth. “A vivid and true picture of this most dramatic and eventful day.”
“Who's this?” he frowned distractedly as if startled to see a stranger at one of their meetings.
“This is Sansa-”
“-from the North, she is.”
He gave her a shrewd look pushing his blond curls out of his eyes once more. “What is she doing here?”
“She was caught in the mob and nearly attacked down an alleyway by three creeps. They soon cleared off once I showed them the edge of my blade-dirty bastards! But she's lost and frightened and I was wondering if we could help her at least for tonight.” Eponine told him.
Hr frowned, making the carved marble perfection of his features seems stern and rigid for a moment. “I don't know if I approve of strangers at our meetings. How do we know we can trust her?”
Sansa knew she had to try and win this severe godlike being over. The last thing she wanted was to be slung out in the street on a night like this when the town was still in turmoil after the mob at the docks.
“I promise I would not betray your trust, ser-”She sank into a neat little curtsey, good manners ingrained into her by her poor dead Septa Mordane. The group looked at her oddly, as if she had lifted her silken skirts and done a handstand against the wall. Sansa looked up at the leader giving him a charming and sweet look as she could, appealing to his better nature if she could. She couldn't suppress a gasp as she took him in fully for the first time.
Stop staring at him like an utter idiot! You should know better than to gape as if you've never seen an attractive man before. Don't make a fool out of yourself! she chided silently. He had rather wild unruly golden curls that threatened to get into his deep blue eyes, a mouth that tended towards the severe.
You of all people should know just how deceptive an alluring exterior can be.
Joffrey had all the beauty of his family all golden hair and emerald green eyes, and yet his meanness of spirit and cruelty knew no bounds. I was taken in once, I can't afford to be again.
But oh, how beautiful and remote he seems; like a gallant knight of old. She thought admiring the high line of his cheekbone, the straight line of his nose even the gold of his eyelashes, like a statue of the Warrior in the sept back home.
“Please Enjolras, she won't be any trouble, I promise.” Eponine gave him her most beseeching look, all big appealing dark eyes.
“She knows how to be discreet, does she? Silent?” he questioned.
“I can be, if that is what's required, ser.” She gave him a demure look from underneath her lashes.
He gave her another searching look, giving a put upon sigh as he relented. “Very well. As long as she knows how to be quiet she can stay.”
He might be as beautiful as an angel, but he's not very friendly, is he?, Sansa told herself.
The group settled down to business discussing the doings of the day and laughing at the discomfiting of the Lannisters as they left the docks. They all seemed to think it was a huge joke; laughing heartily at Joffrey's impromptu shower of dung, applauding the mob's shouts for bread and justice, and mocking the young king and his party.
Sansa decided she would keep her presence at Joffrey's side a close secret. It was best when they seemed to have such a bad opinion of her and her kind.
“Could not have happened to a nicer lad!” laughed one man sloshing ale into a tankard. “I only wish I had been the one to shower him in shit!”
“My sentiments exactly, Combeferre! How sweet it was to hear the shouts for freedom and bread intermingling!” Marius said, his eyes shining with fervour.
So that's why they wanted passwords at the door, they plot revolution! Gods, what have I got involved in now?, thought Sansa slightly alarmed by what she was hearing.
“The people taking the Lannisters to account for the foul murder of Renly Baratheon. Blaming them for the murder of the Northern Hand, Ned Stark at the Sept of Baelor. Polluting even the church-” Marius spoke excitedly.
Sansa hadn't had a good opinion of him for being so dismissive of Eponine, when he clearly adored him, but he seemed more moderate in his views, less strident and extreme than Enjolras who was rather the firebrand.
Admirable sentiments, thought Sansa sceptically watching them, but who will bring the likes of Tywin Lannister and his family to justice? If even the Hand of the King- her own father -was not safe from their machinations?
Enjolras wrinkled his nose, unimpressed by the memory of the former Master of Laws. “What was Renly Baratheon to me? Sure, he talked a good talk of making King's Landing great once more but at heart he was one of them. He paraded in his silks and gold whilst the people struggle to scratch a living.”
“Renly wasn't a bad sort really. I remember he came to the Citadel once for one of our talks. He had some interesting ideas-” Marius answered, “-and the Hand was a breath of fresh air in this corrupt town. He came to a bad end. I think he was a man too honest for the position-
“That's all they were, ideas. He would ne'er have implemented them!” Enjolras sneered, which Sansa thought was a bit unfair. “-as soon as he tasted a bit of power, he would have soon abandoned them. He was no more a saviour then the rest of them. No, we should not put our trust in princes and lords. If we want freedom in the Seven Realms, we must earn it with blood if necessary-”
What kind of group had she found herself in the middle of? The leader freely talking sedition and rebellion while the rest of the men round the table encouraged him and cheered. Joffrey would have had his tongue for less if he had heard.
Is this how the people of King's Landing truly think of us? While we sit behind the walls of the palace in grand but luxurious isolation, they are plotting to throw us all down?
It seemed that she had walked from one dangerous situation into another.
By the time he'd reached the safe warm sanctuary of the ABC Tavern, he had so many ideas bubbling in his mind for speeches and pamphlets, he could scarcely catch them all. Now was the time to strike while the iron was hot, to capitalise on the wave of feeling against the regime. If encouraged, the people would rise. They would finally speak out against the ill-treatment they had been forced to endure under the Lannisters and their corrupt court.
The last thing he had expected was to find the group gaping at a feminine newcomer who stood there utterly out of place in their humble lodgings, like a battered stray flower growing out of the side of the road. She stood there in a ragged coat he vaguely recognised as one of Eponine's and a filthy dress which once might have been a delicate green-blue. The hem and skirts were all mucky with ground in mud and refuse, and her fiery red hair was slipping out of a low rough bun.
Eponine tried to intercede for the girl, pleading with them to help her in her distress.
She murmured some sweet little courtesy, giving an elegant little bob of a curtsey which would not have looked out of place at court. Her soft rose-pink mouth fell open staring at him as if he were the Warrior or the Smith reborn.
This girl is going to be nothing but trouble, he told himself forcing himself not to stare at her lovely face. Those big limpid blue eyes raised towards his shyly looking at him beseeching him to help her in her distress.
We're meant to be revolutionaries! What am I meant to do with a high-born maiden in our midst while we plot overthrow and rebellion. A maid as fair as autumn with fire in her hair-
She has distracted me enough, I have a meeting to get through, he told himself sternly, forcing his gaze from her and speaking gruffly to hide how disconcerted he was by her presence.
“For too long the Lannisters and their cronies have ridden rough-shod over the people of King's Landing and the realm itself.”
“Today we have seen the people rise up against their oppressors. At last raise their heads and say no more!”
“Tywin Lannister thinks he can buy off justice with his bushels of gold, but the time will come when justice will come for him too!”
“It is time to get rid of these useless high lords who contribute nothing of any worth to society. Like locusts, they take and contribute nothing in return.” carried away by his own words and fervour, intoxicated by his own eloquence Enjolras was stood up now, thumping the table with revolutionary zeal. “-the seven kingdoms would be better off without these lords who tear the country apart for their own petty motives whilst we the people suffer under their yoke!”
“Enjolras, on a roll here! Aye!”
“Did not Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark tear the country apart because of a woman? No one knew why Lyanna Stark ran off with Rhaegar in the first place? And yet they used it as an excuse to make the country bleed? We want nothing to do with such men!”
She tutted in the background, obvious disagreeing with every syllable he uttered but trying not to outright contradict him out of sheer politeness. That disapproving little noise led him to push back and challenge her.
“What is it, milady?” he said turning sharply, looking down his nose at her.
She blinked as if surprised to be challenged so abruptly, though her mouth was pulled into a disapproving line. “Ser-”
“I told you, I'm no ser-” he snapped, irritated by her for some reason. She got under his skin, making him lash out unreasonably at her. “Let's hear your objections, milady, since you evidently have them!”
She lowered her eyes demurely which merely annoyed him further. So the girl didn't have the courage of her convictions.
All of a sudden, Enjolras wanted nothing more than to needle her, to get her into an argument, to get under her shell as she had to him. Why should she remain aloof and untouchable whilst he was in such turmoil?
“I thought you wished for me to remain silent, ser?” she observed.
He scowled, infuriated that she was right, he had said that to her at the beginning.
“Very well...While what some of what you said is true I feel your argument is-” She stopped, as if not wanting to be frank.
“Spit it out and speak plain!” he snapped, raising his voice to her.
He could see her tremble but she held her ground, chin held up like a queen.
Damn, if he hadn't finally gotten to her! Enjolras found he liked the heightened colour in her cheeks, the sparkle in her lovely blue eyes as she entered into verbal combat with him. Flesh and blood; a spirited and beautiful young woman, instead of a dazzlingly unobtainable vision of the Maiden.
“-I feel your argument is frankly simplistic.”
He didn't have to even see Grantaire to know he was smirking at the thought of him being challenged by a chit of a girl. “What?”
The rest of the group fell silent, watching them argue avidly.
“I don't argue that some high lords abuse their position and make the people suffer. They forget that the people suffer too and more than they do. But to lump all in the same category and blame them for the ills of the realm seems wrong.” Sansa stated. Her voice shook a little, and she trembled a little but she held her ground.
“Our little philosopher has a tongue in her head!” he mocked, a slightly mean edge to his voice.
“You asked me for my opinion, ser.” she replied frigidly.
“Why, so I did!” he chuckled, infuriating her further. “-I suppose you think I was unfair about the handsome and gallant Lord Renly, tragically slain before he could reach King's Landing and deliver his people from the Lannister regime?”
Sansa didn't like his sarcastic mocking tone. “It was sad about Renly. He was a young man, and did not deserve to be cut down in his prime, but he should not have made a claim not backed by his birthright. I think perhaps he was influenced by his friends...My Fa-” she stopped herself just in time, reeling from that dangerous slip of the tongue. “-Lord Stark always said that though Lord Stannis was a hard man, he by rights was the next king of the Seven Kingdoms and we owed him our allegiance. No one expected Cersei and Joffrey to seize power-”
“Spoken like a true insider, milady!” Enjolras sneered. “I suppose all these great and good are intimate friends of yours?”
“I knew them, which is more than you can say-” she snapped, needled by his mockery.
She rose to leave; still dignified though trembling with fear, pride and more then a hint of anger.
“Where are you going, my lady?” Marius alarmed by the fact she was heading for the door at this time of night. Eponine grabbed her hand, pleading with her to stay, but Sansa seemed determined to leave.
“Sansa, it's late. Really you don't have to leave-” she said urgently. “I know things got heated. Things were said in the heat of the moment that might be regretted in the morning with cooler heads-”
“It occurs to me that someone of my kind is not exactly welcome given the aims of your group. I should leave now-” she slipped off the coat and handed it back to Eponine. “Thank you for the loan of your coat. I really appreciate everything you've done for me, Eponine.”
She turned to the rest of the group, looking Enjolras right in the eye.“You have my word of honour I shall say nothing of your conversations tonight. I am no informant, ser. But I think you have done me some injustice. I do have some sympathy with your cause; I said that at the beginning, had you the will to listen. But I think you are unfair to judge all by one example. Lord Stark was a good man and deserves not your scorn, ser.”
She swept from the room as dignified as she could manage in a filthy silk dress which rather spoiled the effect she was aiming for.
“Eponine, please go after her. She can't wander round King's Landing this late at night!” Marius said. “I'll talk to Enjolras-”
Grantaire took another swig, highly entertained by the spat. He addressed his friend, grinning maddeningly at him as he scowled. “Well, well...our pretty little high-born maiden certainly stirred things up some, didn't she?”
Enjolras glared at his friend.
Chapter 3: The Missing Maid
In which Joffrey sulks, Sansa Stark is still missing and Enjolras realises he has an apology to make to a certain little lady
A couple of things, firstly thanks for the reception this has got here. I really appreciate it, there's plenty more available although I might not be updating quite as quickly simply because I have a big bang that needs sorting for the end of the month.
I'm going with show-ages!for the GoT characters if I didn't make that too clear. I wasn't sure if I had.
One of the thing I had include which is not strictly in the books was Enjolras's pamphlet denouncing the Lannister/Baratheon regime. In the ASOIAF books there isn't any sort of mass print media. Most tales and news seems to be spread via bard.
I did toy with making Enjolras a bard especially considering the musical, but I went with proto-journalist!Enjolras instead. Hope none of you mind!
The Tower of the Hand
“I ask you to do one thing for me, find Sansa Stark and bring her back to the castle and you can't even do that?”
Frustrated by their lack of success, Cersei Lannister was raging. It was the next day and Ser Boros and Ser Meryn had failed to bring in the Stark girl.
Ser Boros Blount and Ser Meryn Trant stood there taking the brunt of her rage as Cersei paced the room and raged aloud. It was best not to interrupt the Queen Regent in one of her tempers, so both men stood there silently taking her copious verbal abuse as their due. There wasn't much they could say, after they had failed in their mission: Sansa Stark was still missing.
“Useless stuffed shirts!” Cersei raged, her voice rising. “Gods, why do I even bother asking you to do anything! If you want a job done, don't ask a man!”
In his chair at the head of the table, Joffrey smirked. There was nothing he enjoyed better than someone else getting it in the neck.
“Now, now sister that is rather unfair. Not all men are useless. Just these ones-” Tyrion said as he sat behind his desk glaring at the hapless duo. “I remember giving specific orders about the importance of finding Lady Stark as soon as possible. Perhaps I failed to impart the sense of urgency we required, or the consequences should you not succeed.”
“We did search high and low for her, my lord, but the girl's disappeared-” Ser Meryn protested.
“She is a high-born maid of six-and ten! She has no friends in King's Landing, no money, nothing! Tell me how the girl could be vanished into thin air?” Cersei had no patience for their excuses.
“I don't know, your Grace-” Ser Boros said in a sulk, resenting being dragged across the coals by the Hand. “I did say that she might well be dead.”
“The mob probably tore her to pieces.” Ser Meryn chimed, making things worse for himself.
“You idiots! The moment that the Starks hear a whisper about this, Ser Jaime's life will be forfeit and all thanks to you two bozos!” she hissed. She advanced towards them, fists clenched and the two men stepped back eager to avoid another ear-boxing such as they had earned the day before. Cersei had a heavy hand and she was snarling at them both in vicious fashion. “You heard how they like to carry out their own punishment – 'the man who passes the sentence must swing the sword'- Robb Stark will probably take him out and chop off Jaime's head himself!” she let out a distressed sob at the thought.
“Cersei, please.” Tyrion tried to soothe his distraught sister with little success. She shot him a look of loathing which was somewhat undeserved. He was trying to help her find the damned girl, before any more trouble came of it. He wasn't the one who messed this up. It was these two clowns, failing in their duties.
This was the last thing we need! Tyrion thought, weary at their lack of success. Father was still away harrying the Riverlands, and the city was still seething with unrest which had yet to be quelled. At the moment they were all trapped in the Red Keep and the tensions were all getting to them causing them all to lash out at each other. The girl needed to be found and swiftly before any more damage could be done. All it needed was for word to leak out to the Starks....
Joffrey sat there with a petulant pout on his face. “So send someone else out to find her! I want her back, Mother. She shan't get away from me!”
“You think that she took the chance to run away, Joffrey?” Cersei seized on her son's statement.
Joffrey sneered at thought of his betrothed doing anything so daring of her own accord. “ -I doubt it. The girl is biddable, and gullible. I don't believe the thought would have eve crossed her mind.”
“She may have been hurt, or someone with a grudge against us may have captured her. It's very possible she may have been dragged off her horse by the mob. She wasn't a strong rider really and she was unarmed, of course.” Tyrion fretted, worrying over the possibilities. “Gods help us, she must be found.”
“Not by these two. Couldn't find their own arses in a brothel!” Cersei took a deep breath, closing her eyes briefly.
“Clegane will be back on duty in a matter of moments. He was out all night looking for her and dealing with any trouble, which is a damn sight more than you two clowns managed! If his Grace did not need men to guard him I would demote you both for your utter imcompetence!”
Boros went red with anger, rage at Tyrion's scathing words welling up but Cersei cut across them.
“At least he managed to find the chestnut. But where's the damned girl?” She made a noise of sheer frustration.
“We'll speak to him when he reports for duty. Get these two fools out of my sight, they annoy me even looking at them!” Tyrion spat. “Too scared to look for a girl!”
Boros and Meryn did not need to be told twice. They left the Hand's office in an undignified scramble.
Sandor Clegane arrived to report to duty, knocking to gain admittance to the Hand's Office. He'd got little rest since returning from his search in the town which was still simmering with unrest. His fearsome appearance was enough to quell any burgeoning trouble, not many people were fool enough to tangle with a man with half his face burnt off and his reputation – and that of his monstrous brother preceded him.
“Dog, there you are!” Joffrey said imperiouly spotting him entering the room. “I was just about to have you summoned. I have a task for you.”
“My liege-” Sandor stood to attention, awaiting orders from Joffrey.
“Lady Sansa Stark is still missing. I want you to continue the search and track her down, dog.” Joffrey ordered. “She must be found alive is that clear?”
“Come in regularly to report on your progress, but I want you to keep searching until she is found. You are excused from your regular duties until such time as she is found .” Cersei added. “At least now we have someone competent on her trail. If she's still in King's Landing we should be able to find her. Ugh, those two idiots! We've lost a day at least now-”
Clegane bowed. “I'll leave straight away, your Graces.”
As soon as Clegane left, Joffrey scowled. “There has to be reprisals against the people. How dare they mock and attack their king!”
Tyrion couldn't believe Joffrey. They were hanging on to power by the tips of their fingers. For the first time in years, the Kingsguard were afraid to enter the town for fear of attack by the enraged populace. And Joffrey was seriously talking about reprisals? When they were trapped in the palace like rats in a golden cage?
“We should send some of the gold cloaks to round up some of the worst agitators.”
“How pray are we going to find them?” Tyrion didn't even hide his sarcasm. “- in the great teeming mass of humainty that is our capital city?”
“We go into the town in force and we kill one man in ten...or maybe five. That will teach the small-folk not to insult their betters.” Joffrey smirked at his grand idea. “That will be a lesson they will remember for a long time!”
This boy was going to be worse than Aerys if he was not firmly reined in. Tyrion almost wished his father would turn up at the palace. It seemed he was the only person who could control the boy; Cersei was completely out of her depth at this point.
“Joffrey, I don't think-” Cersei started to say dubiously.
“AM I OR AM I NOT KING?” Joffrey thundered, his neck and ears turning red. At that moment he really did resemble Robert Baratheon in one of his rages. “Those beggars insulted you, mother. They shouted sedition and treason. They threw dung at me! They called me a bastard!”
That's a damn sight more mild than what men call you in private, thought Tyrion. Gods, could the boy try and make the situation even worse?
“Uncle Stannis and his foul lies are poisoning my kingdom against me! I can't allow it! Send them out and make the people pay for their insolence, I demand it.” he stormed out in a temper, slamming the door behind him.
“What do we do?”
Tyrion sighed, as usual he was going to have to pick up the pieces and he'd likely get little thanks for it either. Someone was going to have to be the voice of reason in this family before they all imploded.
Sandor headed to the stables to fetch his horse. Back out on oatrol, still trying to track down the Stark girl wherever she might have gone.
If the lass has any sense in that little brain of hers, she'll take this chance with both hands and get away from the capital and the Lannister's long grasp.
Perhaps he had underestimated the little bird. She'd taken all the abuse Joffrey and the Kingsguard had thrown at her, still chirping her sweet courtesies to all and sundry despite the fact she would have every right to hate these people for what they had done to her family. The first chance she had to escape their depraved clutches, the girl had taken it. At least he hoped just a bit that she had. Knowing her, she'd probably been ravished and thrown in a ditch, her slender white throat slit. The lass has no friends and no common sense either. She's alone in a dangerous city boiling with resentment and anger towards her kind. So foolish and trusting, anything might have happened to her.
“C'mon Stranger, we've work to do.” he muttered to his great black beast of a horse as they headed into the city.
Combeferre and Marius went to find their leader, who was still awake and working in his room. Seeing the light of the lantern shining from underneath the door, they knocked once and pushed the door open. Enjolras sat in his shirt-sleeves, hand raking through his curls as he laboured over yet another piece for the pamphlet.
“I suppose you've come to reproach me for the way I spoke to this Sansa lass, aren't you.” he said looking up at his guests.
Enjolras didn't care if it sounded like he was sulking- well maybe he was a little bit and it didn't help that he felt terrible for the way things had escalated between the two of them.
He hadn't meant to raise his voice to her, to speak so disparagingly of people she evidently knew and felt strongly about. The tears that had sprung into her eyes at the mention of Ned Stark. She was a northern girl, she must have had a great deal of loyalty and respect for him. Perhaps she shouldn't have mocked her, assuming that she would only have interest in a tragic dashingly handsome figure like the late Lord Renly. She had spoken a great deal of sense about Renly, showing she had some understanding of the issues at hand.
“Weren't you listening when Eponine told you those men threatened her down that alleyway? She's young, unarmed and gently-bred. She must have been terrified.” He could hear the reproach in Marius's voice and though he felt a bit resentful he knew deep down that the other man was right. He had behaved abominably. If truth be told he was a little ashamed of himself right now.
“Gently-bred. Well, I suppose you'd know all about that, wouldn't you Marius?” he couldn't quite help jabbing.
Marius ignored the jab at his own aristocratic background. “Listen to the way she talks, the way she dresses, that silver dragonfly pendant round her neck... I know she looked like she'd been dragged through every gutter in King's Landing backwards but that dress was silk and there was silver thread and tiny pearls in the embroidery on it. It must have cost a pretty penny-”
“She was literally shaking as she faced you but she didn't back down.”
Enjolras had noticed her reaction and it had rather intrigued him. Why was she so scared? Had the girl been abused?
“Why were you so horrendous to her anyway? You were ripping her apart for no reason?” Combeferre remarked. “I've never seen you get so het up, and over a girl of all things! Even though she'd be gorgeous once she had a bit of a scrub.”
Enjolras couldn't have said why the girl irritated him so much, or why he was so discomfited by his friend's admiring words. She was beautiful, that much was certain, so lovely it was hard to gaze at her at close range.
“What do you mean, gorgeous?” he said to his friend, a dangerous edge to his voice.
Combeferre forged on, not noticing the chill in his friend's tone. “Come on, I know you're particularly single-minded and we all love you for it, but even you have to see she is stunning!”
Marius nodded in agreement. “I'm taken, of course, but even I can see it. The loveliest rose-petal complexion, those fantastic blue eyes and her bone structure is exquisite.”
“I thought you were mad in love with that Cosette girl?” Enjolras sneered, just for the heck of it. He'd pretty much got over his disapproval of Marius's ridiculous crush on the wealthy merchant's daughter. But he wasn't going to be as foolish as moon over this mysterious high-born maiden in the same way. She'd never look at you twice anyway, he told himself ruefully. Sansa is way out of your league, Enjolras, don't forget it.
Marius snorted a little scornfully, “I might be in love; but I'm not blind, Enjolras. Combeferre is right, that girl is well-”
He found to his surprise he didn't much like them talking admiringly of her in that fashion.
“Do you mind? She's a maid in distress, not a piece of meat thank you!” he snapped.
“But seriously, I think you ought to apologise to the girl.” Combeferre said earnestly not taking offence at his tone.
“Aye, perhaps you could offer her some help, seeing as she seems to have nowhere to go. She needs our help. Eponine was right; we can't leave a female in need, not if we can help her.” Now Marius was getting in on the act.
“Wait a minute-” Enjolras protested.
This was going all too fast. How did they know that Sansa would accept their help anyway? After the way that he'd spoken to her, she probably wanted nothing to do with any of them ever again. Damn it, he was right! He was going to have to apologise to the chit.
“It's the right thing to do, isn't it?”
“Fine, I'll apologise to the lass, just to shut you two both up.” Enjolras scowled as his friends grinned at him, knowing that he would do anything for a quiet life, especially where she was concerned. “Ask Eponine if she can bring her here again and we'll work something out.”
Eponine had managed to catch Sansa up before she stormed off in a passion into the night.
“Look, I know you're mad. I can understand that, truly, but you really can't head off into the night. Come on, let's be sensible about this!” she said hurrying to catch the redhead up.
Sansa's face was scrunched up as if she was trying very hard not to start crying. “I don't understand why he was so hateful! If he didn't want me there then why didn't he just say so?”
“It's not that-” Eponine started to say, trying to comfort her as best she could.
“-Then what, Eponine? He turned on me the moment I spoke. I know he told me to be silent but I couldn't stand aside and allow him to say those things about Lord Stark, it wasn't right.”
When Eponine impulsively gave her a hug, she sagged in her arms the weariness and heightened emotion of the day getting to her. “I'm so tired-” she said into Eponine's shoulder.
“I know dear friend, but there's no need to run off in the darkness, is there? Stay a while. Let us help you-” she raised her head and Sansa's gaze followed hers.
Enjolras stood a little distance off, as if unsure of his reception.
She blushed to have him see her so vulnerable.
“Go to him, Sansa. I think he wants to say something to you.” Eponine encouraged.
Sansa moved towards him until they were two feet apart from each other and than stopped, staring at each other as if neither of them could tear their eyes away from each other.
“I said some things that were out of line-” Enjolras said, soft and earnestly. “I lost my temper and refused to listen to what you were saying. My pride and zeal caused me to shout at you when you were in obvious distress.”
She stood there gazing at him, with huge eyes. He took another few steps towards her until he was so close he could have touched her easily, but he made no move to.
“I would understand if you wanted nothing to do with us, but I'd like it if we could start again, milady? Can we?”
“I-” she bit her lip as she gazed up at him. “Oh ser, I don't know-”
“Come back to the tavern, for tonight. Come home. We can talk in the morning, make everything right, I promise. Come home...The street is no place for a lass like you.” his voice was so soothing and almost tender as he talked to her Eponine was rather surprised by him. Enjolras was so dedicated to his cause so remote and proud it was strange to see him act so differently. So caring, so tender- almost loving to this mysterious young lady.
Slowly Sansa put out her hand, letting him capture it in his. She gave him a shy tremulous smile.
"Can you forgive me?" he said to her so low and gentle Eponine who was right behind them nearly didn't catch it.
She slowly nodded, almost nestling into him as he put his arm round her guiding her home.
Eponine followed the couple back to the tavern watching them carefully, lost in thought. Whatever thoughts she had, she kept them firmly to herself.
Chapter 4: The Morning After
In which we have some awkward courting between our young couple, and Enjolras gets distracted by a fantastic pair of legs
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The morning sunlight leaked through the shutters, waking Sansa from her light troubled sleep. She was curled up in a bed, covered in a rough blanket.
Where am I, thought Sansa groggily her mind still struggling to emerge from the depths of sleep. She spotted the desk and Enjolras's red cloak draped over the back of the chair. She got up and padded over to the desk looking for clues. She found a slate scribbled over with notes in a hasty hand, and a sheet of parchment, with lines nearly covering it. This must be his room. He let me sleep in his bed for the night, and slept in the chair so as not to disturb me.
The room was empty; Enjolras must have risen earlier than she did and left without a word. She wanted to thank him for his kindness and gentleness last night when he came to find her but now she had no idea where he was.
She had to get this filthy dress off, the smell was horrendous. She must look like some unwashed wilding bride, but she didn't have anything else. Disgusted by the grime she could almost feel coating her, she slipped off the ruined dress, leaving her only in her chemise and small-clothes.
It's hardly decent, but it's only until I can find something new... she told herself.
Why had he changed his mind? Sansa knew she should be grateful as if truth be told she hadn't fancied her chances on the streets of King's Landing, not after her encounter with those men down that alleyway. He'd just made her so angry after their argument. She thought she had better control over her fiery temper but she'd lost it around him and his scornful tone and looks. Why had I let him get to me so badly?
He despises all high-born men and women, why should I have expected that he would make an exception for me? All the same she had to admit to herself -even if she would never willingly admit it out loud- that she cared what he'd thought of her. To see him look down at her, to sneer at her as if she just some stupid girl who knew nothing stung her deep.
You want him to like you, don't you? You silly girl, haven't you learnt a thing from your experience? He's a complete stranger, how do you even know that you can trust him? As beautiful as he is...
Sansa was jolted out of her reverie by his return. He opened the door, stopping dead in the doorway and staring at her. His gaze ran over her body as tactile as a caress, taking all of her in.
She'd hadn't been so embarassed yet oddly excited for some time. She felt her cheeks grow pink with mortification.
What had she been thinking to let him see her in this state of undress, legs bare, hair down in rumpled disorder, fine linen chemise slipping off her shoulder? Be honest, Sansa, you wanted him to see you! .
She reproached herself for acting like a silly lass with a crush, exactly like she had once been with Jeyne when they saw Lord Beric Dondarrion, or Ser Loras Tyrell in his dazzling silver armour at the Tourney of the Hand, where he had ridden up and given her a rose, red as blood. As red as the doublet that Enjolras wore, highlighting the breadth of his shoulders, the lithe graceful length of his body.
His breath hitched slightly in his throat looking at her. For a long moment he seemed to have lost the use of his tongue.
Sansa hastened to alleviate the situation, blushing furiously. “I'm so sorry. I just couldn't bear to be in that dress a moment longer. It was filthy.”
“Er..I got you some second-hand clothes, milady. So you'd be a bit more comfortable. And there's food available if you want it. I've no doubt you must be hungry.”
“You don't have to call me 'Milady' all the time, you know. It's Sansa-” she told him softly.
“You call me 'ser' all the time.” he pointed out, trying unsucessfully to avert his gaze from her bare pale limbs.
Sansa wanted to point out that she was trying to be polite, but she held her tongue. He seemed a bit awkward around her, as if interacting with a female one on one was a bit out of his comfort zone. It was a bit different from yesterday, when he was freely arguing with her.
“There must be a way to repay for this kindness-”
He blushed a little, the colour glazing his high cheekbones. “We can talk about it later, um...” she could see him visibly attempt not to call her 'Milady' once more. “Sansa. They were right, you know.” he said more softly.
“Right about what?” She asked, puzzled by his tangent.
“It is a pretty name.” the colour deepened on his cheeks, as if embarassed by his unguarded statement. “Er...would you like?”
“Thank you, ser-” she said hastily, brushing against him to get the clothes. He dropped a few items on the floor, startled by their close proximity.
“Sorry...sorry I didn't mean-” Sansa bent down to pick up the shoes and stockings he'd managed to get for her.
“I'll let you get dressed. Call me when you're done and we'll talk-” he stammered, hurrying out of the door and closing it firmly behind him.
What was the matter with him? Why was he acting so strangely?, thought Sansa as she inspected the items Enjolras had obtained for her.
He'd not done too badly, all considering. There was a bodice and a skirt which would likely come up to mid calf, some rough worsted stockings which looked as if they were going to be itchy especially in the heat of King's Landing and rough shoes which were a size too big but she could stuff them. He'd managed to get a roughly patched cloak which was once a dark navy colour with some embroidery she couldn't make out, and some breeches.
I must thank him for his thoughtfulness, she told herself.
Enjolras leaned against the closed door of his room and tilting his head back, closed his eyes in something close to despair. I really hope none of the lads come out and see acting like a fool over this girl.
What in the name of everything holy was he meant to do?
He had expected to find her still sleeping like the dead, or disappeared to explore the rest of the tavern by daylight. Not sprawled out half-naked on his bed, long pale legs on display. He found it physically impossible to tear his eyes away from their sleek pale length, she must think him so rude and crass.
He bungled his way through the conversation, cringing inside at how foolish he though he sounded. He practically shoved the bundle of clothing at her in his eagerness to get away from the awkward situation, dropping some of the items on the floor in his panic.
She murmured an apology even though she wasn't the one at fault really; -I was acting a fool simply because she brushed up against me and I couldn't handle the contact. he thought. Then she bent to pick them up. Oh Gods, he was lost!
He was going straight to the hell reserved for lecherous bastards. No doubt old King Robert would be there to welcome him to his domain, a bare-breasted wench on each arm.
There was no rational excuse for staring appreciatively at her bottom, barely clad by her flimsy small-clothes and trimmed with some frippery bit of lace. No matter how sweetly rounded and peach-like it was, that was plain rude. Even if he had a strong sudden urge to come up behind her and bend her over his desk. His hands on her waist which was as slender as a young birch tree. That wonderful hair slipping over her shoulders like silken fire...
No, I will not think of such things! She's a young maiden of high birth, who is now under our protection. How am I any different from any of those men leching after her in that alleyway? To think I rebuked Combeferre and Marius for their hearty appreciation of her looks? I'm the one treating her like a piece of meat now!
I've got to exert some self-control. This Sansa is a distraction I really cannot have right now, not when the city is at last teeming with revolutionary fervour!
He jumped a little as he heard her voice from the other side of the door. “You can come in now, Enjolras, I'm decent now.”
Thank the Gods, he told himself as he went back into the room, detemined to make a new effort to behave appropriately in front of their new guest- no matter how attractive he found her!
“I wanted to thank you for the clothing.” Sansa said promptly as soon as he entered. She was braiding her hair with swift nimble fingers using some of the pins to re-secure her hair into a tight coil at the back of her head.
“It was the least I could do. Shall we make our way downstairs? I wanted to talk to you for a bit.” Enjolras looked distinctly more at ease now that she was clothed decently.
Sansa could not get over just how generous and kind these people were. Eponine had saved her from those dreadful men. She'd led her here to find help and even though Sansa had argued with Enjolras, mostly due to her stupid pride; he'd apologised and had gone out early to get her clothes; offered her food and friendship.
Perhaps...perhaps my luck is about to turn. If he and his friends could help me leave King's Landing....travel to the Riverlands and be reunited with Robb and Mother.
Dare I trust? Dare I hope my luck has changed and I might go home at last? She wanted it suddenly with a surge of longing that almost made her sob. Home and the North...
“Do you have any family we can find for you?” Enjolras was asking as they made their way downstairs. “There must be people worried about your welfare. I would not have them fret about your safety.”
The only people that would be concerned would be the Lannisters, but not for the reason you would think.
“No, Enjolras. I have nowhere to go. I can't return-”
He gave her a curious glance, his fingers straying towards her face and running down one soft cheek. “Are you running away from someone?” he asked her gently though his gaze was shrewd.
If only I could tell the truth...reveal what is truly going on, if he knew who I truly am, if he knew exactly who he was dealing with, he would despise me. They all would, and I can't bear that. I have no choice but to lie.
“There's people who would hurt me ...if I went back. I was lost during the riot and I took my chance. I ran for it.” she admitted, her eyes cast down.
He lifted her chin to face him, his fingers gentle on her skin. She was surprised to find sympathy in his bright blue eyes. “There's no shame in that, Sansa-”
She had a mad urge to lean into his touch, to beg him to touch her more.
Stop it, she told herself. It's just that you've been starved of sympathy and kindness for so long and he's so lovely when he's being kind. It doesn't mean anything, why would he take the slightest notice of a girl like you? He's just being chivalrous as knights should be. As I foolishly dreamed they would be, before I realised there were no true knights any more and all the tales were lies.
“I've been talking to the Landlord. He's a good sort. He has some shifts available if you're not afraid of hard work. Serving behind the counter, wipng surfaces taking payment that sort of thing-”
Sansa had never worked for a living, she'd never had to but if it meant she could stay and not rely on the charity and kindness of strangers, she would take it gladly.
“Yes, I'll try. Honestly I will. Thank you so much!”
“Come and meet the rest of the group. They're all curious about you.”
They were all a blur of names as Enjolras introduced her properly to the group; Grantaire with mocking green eyes and cynical smile supping on Arbor red despite the earliness of the hour- he was a painter when he could be bothered to complete his commissions; Courfeyrac who still had links of his Maester's chain to complete, he argued about the existence of Dragons and the links with the Doom of Valryia with Combeferre who smiled at her giving her a friendly wink; Marius with the soft aristocratic voice and those green eyes of his - she could see why Eponine adored him even if he didn't seem to return her dear friend's affection. Joly the healer, Feuilly, Jehan with his striking long red hair and a wilted flower tucked behind his ear who thrilled her by bending respectfully over her hand and kissing it, calling her 'a Northern Rose'. Even Bahorel who'd had to be prodded awake from a drunken stupor had been kind and friendly.
They were all polite and friendly to her, kind to her for their friend's sake and her vulnerable position but if any of them wondered why Enjolras's hand was linked with hers as they entered the room, they had the grace not to mention it.
Please feel free to give feedback. This is kind of a new fandom for me (Les Mis) so I feel a little bit like I'm flying blind.
Chapter 5: The Maiden in Hiding
Cersei sets a formidable asset to find Sansa Stark as soon as possible; while Eponine and Gavroche put two and two together...
This is a mini chapter, there's more on the way! I felt that it was a good place to divide this section before we get into the next part of the tale. As always please feel free to give feedback or suggestions on the story if you enjoyed it.
The Master of Whispers
Lord Varys glided into the Hand's office unperturbed by the Queen Regent's pacing. She was extremely agitated that despite her best efforts and sending not one but three members of the illustrious Kingsguard out into the streets of King's Landing, so far Sansa Stark remained very much missing.
It was getting harder and harder to conceal the fact that the girl was no longer under their control. They'd made some ridiculous excuse about her being ill and retreating to her chambers, but Queen Cersei was convinced that none with any sense believed the tale.
It was only a matter of time before the whispers about the riot and her humiliation at the hands of that woman started travelling up the Rose Road and the Kingsroad, shortly to spread throughout the kingdom and become common knowledge- with it their most powerful form of leverage disappeared.
They needed her back, observed the Master of Whispers with the faintest ghost of a smirk. The stakes were too high for them to lose such a valuable prisoner not with the Young Wolf moving ever south, winning battle after battle.
Joffrey was infuriated that his betrothed had so far not returned. Denied his usual outlet for his cruelty, Joffrey's behaviour had been getting steadily worse. Cersei had caught him trying to torment his younger brother Tommen and had been forced to put a stop to things.
The Lannisters are desperate to cover up their mistake and pretend everything was back to normal, nothing wrong here. Very hard to do when the secret had leaked out already.
“My lord Varys, how good of you to attend us.” Cersei intoned in her most imperious manner. She looked down her nose at him as if he was something dragged in by one of those feral cats that stalked the streets of King's Landing. He knew full well that the woman despised him personally, even as she appreciated his work and the fruits of them.
“How may I serve your Grace?” He gave her an unctuous smile, oily in it's insincerity.
She scowled, not inviting him to sit down. “The Stark girl is still missing. How could she have evaded our forces for so long? Even the Hound claims that he has had no luck. The Goldcloaks have been sweeping the city, looking for clues but not a word. She cannot have just vanished!”
“Are you sure she still lives?” he intoned delicately holding a silk handkerchief to his face. “Very tragic, she was quite the Northern Rose by all accounts. How his Grace must grieve-”
Frankly, he doubted whether Joffrey would grieve with any sincerity for the lost Lady Sansa. It was exceedingly doubtful if he truly loved the girl- or indeed if he was capable of love. His treatment of the girl whilst at his court left much to be desired. On the other hand, he kept her close to hand and refused to reject her – even though she was damned as a traitor's spawn, and she was beautiful, as lovely as a porcelain doll to look upon with that flawless fair complexion and those deep blue eyes. That wonderful striking hair, red as sunset and fire.
“We would have heard if something of that sort had happened. A body, a disturbance of the peace reported to the Goldcloaks.” Cersei fretted. “There's nothing! The girl just evaporated into thin air!”
“What would you like for me to do, your Grace?” he intoned.
“Do?” she stuttered, coming to a halt.
“I imagine that is why you called me here tonight, Your Grace?”
She stopped pacing, fixing him with her piercing emerald gaze. “I want you to use your 'Little Birds' or whatever you call them to find out what happened to the girl. My son and I need her found, alive and unharmed. You understand me?”
He inclined his head. “Perfectly-”
Privately Varys was intrigued that he like everyone else had underestimated the girl.
If this was an escape- if she'd fled her captors and disappeared into the teeming mass of King's Landing maybe there was more to her than met the eye. Not just a pretty face, then...
Perhaps the girl has friends in the town. Traitors willing to help her link up with her family once more.
If so, the situation was as dire as he suspected. Surrounded by enemies and rebellious subjects the time was ripe for the new regime to make a mistake. And when they did, he would be waiting in place. As he always had been...
Varys was returning from his conference with the Queen Regent when he was accosted by Petyr Baelish, the Master of Coin who gave him his usual smug little smirk.
“So the little wolf maid ran for it. How intriguing. I would never thought she would have the guts to do something so foolhardy.” Varys remarked, making small talk.
“The girl was very proper and delicate bred. She won't survive life on the streets of a city teeming with unrest.” Baelish's face turned sly. “Oh, is that why her Grace was so intent on seeing you today?”
There was no harm in leaking out a little information, priming the mousetrap as it were. “Her Grace requested that I use a few of my contacts to see what I can dig up.” Varys said in as bland a voice as he could muster up. There's no need to tell him how desperate the Lannisters are to find the girl, is there?, he thought.
“I warrant she promised you a handsome reward if the girl is found. They are very keen to keep her close to hand.” Baelish remarked. “Why send out Ser Boros and Ser Meryn, and then order the Hound to search for the girl if they didn't want her back?”
“Where brawn fails, brain might prevail?” Varys said with an arch little smile.
“You do have a way with words, eunuch!”
Varys was ready with the easy rejoinder. “They cut off my cock; not my tongue, Lord Baelish.”
Baelish smirked, acknowledging the sharpness of his quip. “If all goes to plan, well...it might not matter that we don't have the younger girl any more?”
Despite himself, Varys was intrigued by Baelish's words. He certainly did seem sure of himself. A substitute, eh? It would be an audacious move as soon as the Starks saw the lass they would not be fooled, but it might buy some time.
“May the best man win, Lord Baelish.” the other man smirked as if the prize was already in his sights.
Don't worry Littlefinger, he will, and it won't be you. Don't you fret...
Eponine and Gavroche turned up at the tavern to check up on their new friend. Relieved that Sansa hadn't disappeared into the night, and she had managed to convince the group to assist her new friend, Eponine had taken to dropping in while trade was quiet and catching up with the girl.
“So she's actually running away? Blimey-” Gavroche was sceptical as he walked with his sister to the tavern.
Eponine gave her brother a curious look. There was something that he had said that had interested her when they first met the mysterious maiden, but so far Gavroche had rather uncharacteristically held his tongue.
“'Roche, do you actually know who this girl is?” she asked flat out.
He toed the ground.
She knew when to press her advantage. “You do, don't you?”
“Ain't for me to say. I thought she were your mate. Ain't she told you anything?”
“No, she hasn't, not a word and I didn't push her.”
“Look I'm only telling yer 'cause yer family, but....”
“What is it? Is it bad?”
What on earth had the lass done? Was she a criminal or a conwoman? Had they been taken in by a pretty face and engaging manner? Or worse was she some sort of spy sent to damn them?
The little lad drew closer, lowering his voice. “I dunno...yer know the day of the procession?”
How could anyone forget? Eponine didn't think there was a single person in King's Landing who would forget that shocking confrontation for a very long time. “You said she was in the procession, wern't she?”
Gavroche made a noise half amused, half scornful. “Aye, she was all right! In the procession, riding right next to Joffrey the bastard.”
She turned to him in surprise. “Riding next to...why would Sansa be riding next to him?”
Gavroche rolled his eyes. “'Ponine, she's his girl, ain't she? His betrothed.”
“Seven Hells, you're japing aren't ye?”
His sister stared at him.
“Don't ye remember the day they chopped off the Northern Hand's head? All the town was there and she was there too, right on the dais. When Joffrey surprised everyone by demanding his head.”
Eponine remembered it clearly, the heat and oppressive press of the crowd outside the Sept of Baelor, the young king's smug tone as he demanded the royal headsman take Lord Stark's head. The grey tormented face of the northern lord as he'd been forced to lie to save his daughter. The girl's raw screams of anguish as they took her father's head right in front of her. And she was still being forced to be Joffrey's bride despite that?
No wonder the lass had taken her chance and ran for it. She couldn't really blame her for that.
“She don't want anyone to know who she really is, do she?” Eponine said rather wisely. “Can't say that I blame her.”
“Do our friends know who they're hiding?” Gavroche said. “That's the question I want ter know.”
Chapter 6: A Bit of Speculation
In which Eponine is asked some sharp questions about her new friend by her parents, Sansa decides to sell her moonstone hairnet, the friends speculate on their leader and and Sansa and last but not least, Enjolras has a bit of angst about his budding feelings for the mysterious maiden...
A couple of notes and things on the chapter as it stands.
* The introduction of Madame and Monsieur Thenardier - I felt it was about time they made a cameo.
*Grantaire is being a bit antagonistic but I reckon he would be a slight more suspicious of a fair lady attracting his idol's attention.
At the Thenardier's
Eponine was hoping to keep her new friend well away from the inquisitive eyes of her parents, but it didn't work.
Someone had evidently seen her and Gavroche take Sansa to the tavern and had informed her father and mother about the mysterious high-born maiden with the fiery hair and silk dress she was keeping company with.
As soon as she arrived at their ramshackle lodgings, to give them a little coin so that they didn't actually go out robbing or worse, her mother pounced.
“Is that all you've got? Slim pickings, Eponine dear, ain't it?” she sniped, rummaging in the pockets of her coat. “'least you brought a bit o' grub as well!”
Eponine thanked the gods that she kept her money close and far away from her grasping parents. Sometimes she wished she could do what Gavroche did and cut the cords completely between them. The little lad didn't even acknowledge them as family. Only Eponine was close enough to him to count.
“Time are hard, Ma-” she wheedled.
“Or maybe you ain't trying 'ard enough-” interjected her father.
Eponine still remembered a time when they still had the inn, when her father used to spoil her and treat her like his little lady. But as their fortunes had dwindled and the Thenardier family had slipped further and further down the social ladder, he had become more and more work-shy and more and more grasping. The notion of earning his own silver seemed to have passed him by a long time since.
“What's this 'bout a high-born maiden you were walking with the other day? Fire-kissed lassie in a silk dress?”
Eponine was put on her guard. Her mother and father were incredibly rapacious. Any chance to use their knowledge to enrich themselves would be taken and damn the consequences. They would think nothing of selling Sansa out to the highest bidder.
I can't let them do that, my dear friend is relying on me to keep her safe for now.
Her mother pinched her ear in between sharp grimy nails. Eponine winced in pain.
“Don't you act simple with me!” Madam Thenardier's sneer was a low threat Eponine well knew. “You were seen- by Montparnasse and Azelma walking down the street with a girl of six and ten. That little tyke Gavroche was right in front of you and you were talking to her.”
“The girl was lost and we was giving directions. That's all.” Eponine lied through her teeth, hoping her parents would not see through her tale. “I dunno what happened to her, Ma-”
“Lost!” the older woman scoffed.
Eponine hoped that her words were enough to throw her mother off the scent. The sooner they got off the subject, the happier she would be.
“I hope you picked 'er pocket well, lass?”
Eponine shrugged, deciding to go for a believable falsehood and get them off the scent. “Tried it, Ma, honest to the Gods I did. But the lass had nothing but coppers on her! Think she was probably an escapee from the Street of Silk in that dress.”
"Very well-" Thenardier sighed. "-you've got to start applying yourself and stop hanging round with those no good students. You've a living to earn for us and it ain't going to walk into yer pocket!”
Sometimes Eponine wondered when he had lost his pride and come to depend on her for their living. Maybe Gavroche had the better idea leaving them to it and walking away, but being older and remembering earlier times, it was harder for her to make a clean break. The students, for all their quirks and the dangers of their revolutionary talk were far more of a family to her.
Ah well, you can't choose your family, she thought with an internal sigh.
"Look, I have to flit. I'll see you later." she said hurriedly, as she sped out of the door of their den.
"Mind yer bring us more coin, lass, won't yer?-" her mother yelled behind her.
At the Musain
Sansa removed her moonstone threaded hairnet and handed it to Enjolras. “You've all done so much for me. I wanted to give you this. Perhaps we could sell it for additional funds.” she reached back to unhook the dragonfly pendant as well to add it to the haul. “This can be added to the haul as well. Hopefully the two items will fetch a decent price.”
Enjolras was astounded by the girl's generosity. He wasn't an expert on these things but those were moonstones of exceptional quality and lustre. The netting was made of silver wire, pure and untarnished. It would probably fetch a pretty price at a silversmith's if they managed to take it to the right place.
“You've all been more than generous to me, but I don't want to be dependent on your charity.”
“Are you sure about this? You don't have to feel that you owe us for anything-” he told her.
She gave him an earnest look. “I want to. It's the least I can do. I only wish I had more but they never gave me much money when we went out, only small change-”
She clammed up as if she were about to reveal something she should not have. He was very interested in her slip of the tongue. She'd done it a few times, let her guard down a little. He found himself trying to glean scraps of information about her and her mysterious past.
A Northern girl, with a Riverlander mother, in the service of Lord Stark, well-born, beautiful and unaccustomed to hard work, pampered and cosseted. Who was she? A companion? A lady-in-waiting or a chambermaid? Part of the background in the great hall of the northern stronghold.
“Such a beautiful item to give up, Sansa-” he changed the subject sensing that he was going to get little more out of her, now that she'd realised her slip.
“I don't need it any more.”
“Don't need? What do you mean?”
“I was thinking of cutting my hair, as part of a more effective disguise.” she told him. “I truly won't need it any more as I won't have enough hair to put in it.”
Enjolras stared at her in undisguised horror. He actually gaped for a moment.
She shook her head in bemusement. “Can't what?”
“Cut your hair!” his voice came out in a bit of a yelp at the end. "It would be a sacrilege!"
Sansa gave him another look, puzzled by his vehemence.
Why was he so adamant that she shouldn't crop her head? If it needed to be done... she admitted that she would have a pang at sacrificing her pride and glory but if it were a matter of survival she was prepared to make the sacrifice.
“It's a fairly distinctive feature, Enjolras. The first thing that anyone is going to be looking for is a maid with long red-gold hair and blue eyes. I can't do anything about the eyes, but-”
“I'll get you a linen coif, you can hide it underneath that.” he said hurriedly. “Truly I should have thought of it before. But please promise me that you won't cut it off. Not completely...” he was touching her long braid stroking it's length almost reverently.
He was so intent upon her, and she was so captivated by him that they didn't notice the odd looks his friends were giving them.
“D'ye think she's trying to attract him?” Grantaire remarked shrewdly, watching the couple interact. People often assumed that he didn't notice what was going on around him, due to the copious amount he drunk daily but it was actually surprising how little got past him and his sharp observant artist's eye.
“Enjolras? He's not interested in females!” Feuilly wrinkled his nose in disbelief.
“It distracts him from the cause, we've all heard him preach chapter and verse all about it, many a time.” Bossuet agreed.
“Gods, d'ye remember what he was like when you were courting Cosette? How he ranted about you losing your focus over some woman!” Feuilly turned to Marius.
“How could I forget?” Marius said dryly.
“If I had a star for every girl who lost their head over him and his golden good looks I would be a rich man! Hell, I'd probably be Master of Coin! Nothing could sway him from his path, nothing. You're fretting about nothing!” Feuilly said decisively.
“Enjolras eats sleeps and breathes our cause and he's not going to change for some female, gorgeous and high-born as she is.” scoffed Courfeyrac. “I'd bet you ten stags if I had them that there's nothing to it. 'Course he's going to look, he's flesh and blood like the rest of us!”
Joly didn't look convinced. “I suspect you would lose that bet, Courf. He's not been like this with other girls because he hasn't had any feelings for them. But this one...it's like watching sparks from a forge when they are together. And he's so tender towards her. They were holding hands when he introduced her-”
“Most men would. Isn't that right, Combeferre?” Grantaire jabbed, his eyes gleaming with amused malice as he latched on to his target.
The other man blushed furiously, cursing the artist under his breath.
“Gods, you too?” Marius had the temerity to look amused by the revelation. "Seems like love really is in the air at the moment!"
Even Combeferre's ears turned slightly red. “There's no need to mock!” he gritted out.
Jehan thought about it. "Well, she is undeniably fair. A true Northern Rose-"
“She is fair, and if she'd shown the slightest bit of interest in me, I would snap up the chance of being with her, but she doesn't see me like that. Not like him and her-”
“So you would gallantly stand aside for your friend?” Grantaire mocked, wine stained mouth curled up in a cynic's smile. “I would have known you'd be so selfless, my friend Combeferre!”
Combeferre refused to rise to the artist's needling. “Selfless has got nothing to do with it. He's my best friend and I want to see him happy. If that means him getting to know a beautiful girl- well, man cannot live by revolution alone. Perhaps she might be good for him, who knows?”
“So what's going on with you and this girl?” Corufeyrac asked, completely lacking in tact. he eagerly leaned forward keen to find out the answer to this riddle.
Enjolras scowled. The last thing he wanted was for speculation to start about him and Sansa, especially as he hadn't even come to terms with it himself.
“Nothing!” he was irritated to see Marius and Courfeyrac swap knowing glances across the table.
“What?” he snapped, feeling far more defensive than he would have liked.
“Oof, someone's like a bear in a pit this morning, aren't they?” Courfeyrac insinuated, not bothered by Enjolras's bad mood. “I was just curious about the pretty lass you introduced to us all.”
“'Tis no sin to show a little kindness to a soul in distress, is it?” Enjolras found himself saying, faced with Courfeyrac's disbelieving smirk.
Grantaire in the corner was amused by Enjolras's attempt to justify his care of the mysterious maiden. “Would he be swayed by such a thing as compassion, duty and chivalry if she had a face like a boot?” he muttered, a little too loud to be sotto voce.
“There is nothing going on.” Enjolras narrowed his eyes at his friend, ignoring Grantaire's muttered cynicism. “She's just a maid that we are helping. It's the chivalrous thing to do, is it not?”
Enjolras did not like the way that this was going. He didn't want to think about it in any depth. To admit the truth of it, that yes, he did have feelings towards Sansa and he didn’t like it.
He didn't like feeling so distracted and well...vulnerable.
I'm not going to act upon my emotions. I'm a grown man. I can handle myself around a mere girl, as lovely as she is.
Even as he told himself this as sternly as he could, Enjolras knew that he was lying to himself.
I don't have time for this. He sincerely hoped the rest of the group could not sense how she affected him.
It's completely inappropriate, she's just a maid. A high-born one, I must not!
I'm so tired, I should sleep. I'm going to feel like hell at the printer's if I don't get some rest.
Yet every time he closed his eyes and lay down on his bed, he knew the dreams would start again to torment him with what he cannot and must not want....
Sansa naked and pliant in his bed, her long pale limbs curled around him as he pressed adoring kisses to her throat, lingering on the warm hollow of her collarbone and the upper curves of her breasts. Her soft gentle sighs, her arms twining round his neck to draw him closer, affectionately playing with the golden curls at the nape of his neck. She looked at him with a dreamy smile, gaze lingering on his features as if he was infinitely dear to her.
That affection and intimacy almost felt more dangerous for his equilibrium; he could have dismissed the explicit nature of his earlier dreams as mere lust for a beautiful woman, to be sublimated and overcome with discipline and hard work, but this treacherous longing to be near her, to kiss and touch her was uncharted territory, a perilous path without a map or guide.
The night before he had been plagued by a dream in which she had boldly straddled his lap while he was at his desk and ground against his pelvis as she kissed him fiercely, sliding her tongue into his willing open mouth, undulating against him like a Lyseni whore. He'd woken up hard and aching, frustrated by his dreams and unable to do anything about it.
Other nights had found him dreaming about bending her over his desk, slick skin sliding against slick skin, gripping her hips as he pushed into her; or the two of them entwined in every lascivious pose imaginable rather like the commission Grantaire had been working on, which was a series of illuminations based on 'The Loves of Queen Nymeria' for a wealthy Dornish customer.
This has to stop.
I have to remember my aims, who I am. I have devoted my life to freedom and justice in the Seven Kingdoms. I don't have time for dalliances with fair maidens, however pleasant and alluring they are.
He remembered how he had rebuked Marius for falling for his Cosette- accusing him of losing his focus and not taking their cause seriously enough.
Now the Gods are surely having their revenge for my hubris for I am falling into the same silken trap!
He was worse surely, for at least Marius had hope of having his love requited!
Why would a pretty high-born maid like Sansa, however down on her luck ever accept my suit? And worse; what do I know about wooing?
And now I have fallen into the same snare; I'm falling for this maiden despite my best efforts and I know so little about her.
I have to master this weakness, plunge myself back into my work. The kingdom needs me right now, as it has never needed me before. Now is the time, I must not be distracted from my goal. I must put aside my own selfish desires, no matter how hard it is.
'Tis my only possible salvation.
Chapter 7: Little Birds
In which the friends realise they are being watched by unseen forces and Enjolras has suspicions about Sansa and her high-born origins.
The next day, Courfeyrac had been feeling quite cheerful that morning. The weather had been positively balmy and the mood in the city had lightened. There were rumours that the blockade may be slowly lifting and the distinct possibilities of food in the shops of King's Landing at last might soon come to pass.
“You staying out of trouble, are ye?” he said noticing the urchin in his over-sized clothes as he approached him. He couldn't help liking the plucky little lad, always stopping to chat if he had time or slipping him some coin or a treat if he could afford it.
“I'm awright. Thing's ain't so bad-” he broke off, as if distracted by the approach of someone else. Courfeyrac turned to see a ragged urchin with haunted eyes staring at them from the entrance of an alleyway.
I'm sure I've seen that one before, or kids that looked a lot like that. This is the second time this week I've noticed it.
Gavroche bared his teeth, and growled rather like a little savage warning off a rival. The ragged child got the hint and disappeared down an alleyway, but not before giving him one last lingering look as if committing his face to memory.
“What was that all about?” he asked Gavroche, ruffling the lad's messy blonde hair to hide how disturbed he was by the incident.
Gavroche gave him an odd look, still searching for the urchin. “Did ye not noticed you were being followed, guv?”
Courfeyrac had convinced himself that he had been imagining it and those small children with haunted eyes were a fragment of his imagination. It was more than disconcerting to realise that they were very much real.
“Followed? By who?”
“Them kids.” Gavroche looked up at him with an impatient gesture.
“They're not one of yours?”
Gavroche scoffed. “Nah, they're not. Ain't seen them before but I know their type, ennit? There's a bunch of them encroaching on our territory. The rest of us don't like it, not one bit. This is our patch!”
“Have ye seen them before?” Courfeyrac asked him.
“We caught one of them, trapped them down an alleyway and started asking questions.” he leant forward to confide in the older man, little grubby face worried. “-you wouldn't believe but they couldn't speak!”
Gavroche nodded. “Nah, they couldn't. Not a peep! No tongue, you see-”
If that was not ominous he didn't know what was. Why would he be followed though? What would they want?
Do you think this is to do with our group and it's aims? Or is this connected with the beautiful high-born maiden Enjolras was aiding and seemed more than a little intrigued by? Things were getting more complicated by the second.
“I think you'd best tell the others guv...it might be nothing but ye'd better not risk it.” Gavroche counselled.
Courfeyrac wasn't so sure, he worried about being seen as being as cagey and paranoid as Enjolras could be at his worst, but the lad had a point.
Courfeyrac had just decided not to broach the subject of these mysterious followers lest he be deemed paranoid when Grantaire of all people brought the issue up while they were waiting for their meeting to start. It soon turned out the situation was a lot worse than he'd first suspected.
“I feel like I'm being paranoid but I would swear I was being followed.” Grantaire remarked on his entrance. He sat in his usual spot, bottle of Arbor red already open by his habitual table.
“Followed, by whom?” Enjolras asked.
“Little ragged kids with big haunted eyes. Saw at least two of them tailing me down the street. Had to make a long detour to shake 'em off.”
“Are you sure this wasn't just some hallucination? You weren't drunk were you?”
“No!” Grantaire protested. “For once I was sober, albeit nursing a sore head. But it happened more than once and there was more than one of 'em. Creepy little buggers they were.”
Courfeyrac felt impelled to speak now, backing up the artist's claim.
Something was definitely going on, it might be nothing but the rest of the group had to be warned. This was far too much of a coincidence to ignore.
“Same thing happened to me this morning. Two of them tailing me.” he admitted. “Little Gavroche noticed as well. I asked him whether they were one of his gang, but he didn't know them. They're intruding on his patch-”
“He's got a point. I think I was followed by one as well. A little girl in raggedy tunic and shorts-” Joly said, looking troubled. “She looked rather ill, but didn't speak when I turned and questioned her. I suspect she'd lost her tongue.”
“Lost her tongue?” Jehan said a faintly horrified tone. “How dreadful!”
“Aye! Gavroche said that his team caught one of them and-” Courfeyrac's voice fell to a conspiratorial whisper. “-their tongue had been removed.”
“Why would anyone be so cruel to do that?” Jehan looked positively distressed at the thought of a child being maimed on purpose. “Those poor, poor children-”
Combeferre chewed thoughtfully on the end of his quill, thinking carefully.
Enjolras was alarmed at the look on Sansa's face. She froze, her face drained unpleasantly pale.
“What is it, Milady?” he asked her in a low urgent voice. “What do you know?”
She gave him a hesitant look, biting her lip. “Have you never heard of Lord Varys and his 'sparrows'?” She lowered her voice, as if she were afraid to speak loud for fear of being overheard.
“The Master of Whispers, they call him...He employs little boys and girls to spy for him. The tales say he cuts out their tongues so they can't be questioned if they are caught. They are loyal to him alone-”
“And these are his own personal spies?”
“So why are they following us?” Combeferre asked her.
“Do you think they suspect our aims?” Enjolras fretted.
The threat that they could be watched by their enemies without even realising it, chilled him. The authorities tailing our every move, compiling evidence against the group. Damning us without us even knowing...
“I don't know but I'm afraid. Those items I gave you to sell...what if they were on the look-out for them?” Sansa fretted.
Enjolras didn't like the sound of this at all. Who were these people who searched for this maiden so assiduously and why was she so terrified of being found?
Why was she so keen to go undercover and accept the humble help that she'd been offered by the group. To work in a humble tavern and crop her hair in order not to be found?
She'd confided that she'd run away from home and that she would be be hurt if she was found.
How did everything link up, these mysterious spies Sansa seemed to fear and her flight from the palace- he presumed she must be linked to the place now, all the pieces of the puzzle so far seemed to fit?
Who was this maiden?
“You think the silversmith would have betrayed us? You suspect they might be looking for you, milady?”
She quailed at the sharpness in his voice but she held her ground. “I don't know, ser-”
“Oh seven hells!” Grantaire downed his drink.
“It doesn't sound good, does it?” Combeferre said.
Sansa had to go back to work behind the bar, but the friends were still discussing this very unwelcome turn of events.
“So we're being watched. This is not good, none of this is good.” Enjolras said on a low voice as they huddled in their usual alcove downstairs.
“We should have suspected something like this was going to happen. Whoever is searching for the girl probably realised those were the only things of value she possessed. As soon as they went on sale-” he didn't even need to finish off his sentence. Those items led them straight to us.
“We were very careful about selling the items in different shops. The cover story was good...I thought of it myself.” Combeferre frowned. “-how long do you think these 'little birds' have been following us all?”
“Who knows but if even Grantaire noticed something was amiss...it could have been days!” it was not a pleasant thought.
“It's done. We can't fret about it now. But I have to say 'tis very unfortunate. This is the last thing we need right now, with the Goldcloaks on the prowl and the authorities probably seeking reprisals for the riot.”
The group looked at each other all thinking the same dark thought, what if? What if she's a spy? After all she did seem to know one hell of a lot about the Master of Whispers and his troupe of juvenile spies...
“Who is she, and why are they seeking her so thoroughly?” Combeferre asked. “What has the girl done?”
“I don't know. The lass keeps her secrets very close.”
Chapter 8: Misunderstandings
In which Combeferre and Jehan discuss the problem, Sansa is more affected by Enjolras's iciness than she would ever admit, and he is not nearly as indifferent to her as he would have everyone believe.
Another quite short chapter I'm afraid. We shall be catching up on events at the Red Keep and what exactly Varys and Littlefinger are up to soon so keep reading!
Most of this chapter is from Jehan's viewpoint mostly because he's not as emotionally involved as Sansa or Enjolras to be honest. Even Combeferre isn't as impartial as he might be because of his unrequited feelings.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sansa sensed that something had changed after the group had discussed being followed by Lord Varys's sparrows. She'd noticed the distrustful glances from the other men, Enjolras's frowns as she caught him looking over at her as she worked behind the counter.
They don't trust me. They think it is my fault they're being followed. Perhaps it is...I should have known the Lannisters would not let me go so easily. If I have to leave here swiftly and strike out on my own...
Don't be a fool Sansa, you wouldn't even make it to the gates of King's Landing, let alone the many leagues back to Winterfell.
She was surprised how much their distrust hurt her. She shouldn't care what they thought of her, but deep down she did. Every suspicious glance from Enjolras's stern marble countenance was like a blow to the heart. She plunged herself into her work, scrubbing surfaces and taking coins from the patrons with a strained smile, trying not to care about the situation.
I wish Eponine was here, she'd understand. I could talk to her and explain what is going on. If only I could make them understand that I keep silent for their sake too. The less they know about me, the less the group would be incriminated in my escape attempt. Sansa told herself.
Perhaps she should return to captivity at the palace... even as the thought entered her mind she knew that she couldn't willingly do it. To place her head meekly back into the yoke as if she'd never had the taste of freedom.
How do you expect them to trust you if you can't even tell them the truth? No wonder they suspect that you might be a spy. She heartily wished she hadn't been so forthcoming about the Master of Whispers and his network of spies.
I'm not upset. I will deal with this as I have dealt with every setback I have faced since I left Winterfell - with grace.
Sansa pasted a smile onto her face, even though being sweet and friendly was the last thing she felt like being at the moment.
One of the group was at the bar, getting a pint- Jehan the bard with his delicate features and flowers in his hair. She remembered his kindness and admiration of her beauty, how he had called her a Northern Rose and thrilled her by kissing her hand, just like in the tales.
“Can I get you anything, Ser?”
He gave a her a friendly smile, trying to get her to trust him a little. “Musichetta told me that you've been slaving away all morning.”
“I have so much to do-” demurred Sansa. “I need to earn my keep, I can't afford to slack-”
“We're the only ones in the tavern at the moment.” pointed out Jehan, “- besides, Combeferre and I would like to talk to you for a bit, if you wouldn't mind.”
“Go on lass, I can hold the fort here.” Musichetta encouraged. “Jehan and Combeferre are good lads, wouldn't hurt a flea.”
Sansa bit her lip looking unsure, but since Musichetta gave her a push towards him she could hardly refuse.
They walked past the rest of the group on the way to the alcove. Sansa tried to catch Enjolras's attention but he gave a deliberate distrustful look and turned from her.
For a moment she blinked, eyes suspiciously bright and then she lifted her chin and walked straight past him, proud and imperious as a queen despite her humble clothes and occupation. She didn't even notice his sideways glance of regret but Jehan certainly did.
He seems to be a lot more interested in the girl than he would ever admit. What is really going on there, I wonder?
“He doesn't trust me-” she told him. “He thinks...you all think that just because I knew about Lord Varys and his spy network that I am one of them.”
“I'm sorry- I really am...and now I've put you all in danger. I did not mean for any of this to happen. All I wanted was to give you what I had in exchange for what you've all done for me.”
Jehan was struck by the sadness in her voice, how her eyes lingered on Enjolras's golden beauty, even though he had turned away from her. He almost wanted to warn her off, to spare her the heartache of being entranced by him, when he wouldn't be able to give her the love and tenderness that she needed, but it was too late, judging by the hand-holding and the deliberate snubbing they were both doing to each other. Like sparks from a forge....
And to think dear Combeferre would give his right hand for her to look upon him in that way, but the girl falls for the unattainable demi-god instead... he thought, shaking his head.
“You must admit, it did seem very strange that you knew so much about these 'little sparrows'?” Combeferre mused.
“Everyone knew about them at court, though they dared not speak openly. 'Twas hardly a secret, ser-”
Jehan and Combeferre exchanged a look.
“You knew that you were being spied upon?” Jehan asked, leaning curiously forward. “How could you have lived like that?”
Like a songbird in a golden cage. No wonder the lass had taken her chance and ran.
“At court, we knew better than to speak out of turn. The little birds would know what you spoke of before you had even opened your mouth. You can't underestimate them, do you see?”
“Yes, I think I do understand-” Jehan said slowly considering her words. “I think there has been misunderstandings on both sides here.”
Show the girl a bit of kindness and she blossoms just like one of my flowers, thought Jehan. See how she shut down when she thought we were snubbing her. How upset she was when Enjolras turned his back on her. We have to be wise here and gain the lass's trust.
“But I have to ask, why do they want you so badly if you're just a serving-maid?-” Combeferre asked.
“It's not that I'm lying – it's just that there are things it's not safe for you to know.” she said earnestly. “All I need is some help to leave the city and get to Riverrun and you'll never see me again.”
Did she not know of the war being waged in the Riverlands by the Young Wolf and Tywin Lannister's troops, burning pillaging and raping as they went? Or was she so desperate to get away that she cared not about plunging from one dangerous situation into another?
“'Tis dreadfully dangerous out there. Are you sure that is what you want?”
"Yes, ser-" her voice was soft and wistful as she admitted something so personal to her. "I just want to go home."
As Sansa went back to work, Combeferre and Jehan conferred between themselves in hushed voices.
“So what do you think? Is she a spy?” Combeferre asked. “-because I will not lie to you, Enjolras is very concerned-”
And I'd warrant he is even more distrustful because he is entranced by the girl and does not dare admit it, even to himself. Jehan knew exactly how this was going to go.
Jehan shook his head. “No. I think she's even more keen to get away from the court and King's Landing than we are. She's in hiding. I don't think the 'sparrows' are looking for us.”
Combeferre found that hard to believe. "They're not spying on us? Despite our aims?"
“-No, my friend. I think they're looking for her.”
"Aye, she's running away from them." Jehan told him. "- and they are very keen to get her back it seems. We are unfortunate to get caught in the wake of their search."
“Hiding from what though? Who is she?” Combeferre frowned, trying to work it all out. “If she's just a serving maid, why has she got spies searching for her? Royal spies?”
“Perhaps she knows something-”
“Lord Eddard was executed as a traitor, or so the Lannisters claimed. But perhaps he knew something- something explosive about the regime- and they think the girl knows it too?” Combeferre considered what he was being told. Perhaps Jehan might have a point.
“Twould be easily done. If she was a member of the household and she overheard something she was not meant to. An open door... Servants hear a great deal-”
“So you think she is telling the truth?” Combeferre asked.
His friend agreed. “I think she is keeping something from us, but the girl is sincere. She's no spy, but she could be pretty useful for us.”
He nodded. “Definitely. She's an insider. She has knowledge of the court and the regime and for some reason they want her back, to silence her. If she trusted us enough to tell us that secret....”
"So what do you advise, Jehan?"
"Treat her with a bit of kindness. Get her to trust the group. She was starting to, until this situation with the spies came up. She'll talk eventually, you'll see."
"So are you going to persuade Enjolras, or shall I?"
Combeferre sighed. Much as he didn't like it, he was firmly involved now. "We'll both do it, Jehan. He trusts me, for what it's worth."
Gods, help him he hoped he and Jehan were making the right decision!
I would welcome any feedback as I'm kind of fretting about this chapter. Hopefully things will pick up soon.
Chapter 9: Interlude: No Compassion
Baelish plots while we meet a friend of Sansa who is in terrible straits.
Bearing in mind Jeyne Poole's unfortunate fate in ASOIAF, I'm warning for depictions of sexual slavery, just in case. This was not easy to write tbh.
The Street of Silk
Petyr Baelish liked a mystery and the unexpected disappearance of the Stark girl was one of the most intriguing he had come across for some time.
To think the girl had run away from them all using the cover of a violent out of control riot to do so. He wasn't convinced that she had come to such a bad end – the girl had gone to ground, and if there was anything he was good at doing it was delving into the underworld of King's Landing. If she was still out here, he had no doubt she would be found.
It was rather amusing that Varys himself was exerting his resources to try and find the girl and he didn't seem to want his assistance. No doubt Cersei had promised him a handsome prize if he was the one to find their very valuable hostage in one piece. It would be satisfying beyond measure to spoil his game, would it not?
Perhaps now would be a good time to go and check up on his 'investment'? The Northern lass was not easy to train, time was running out if he wanted to be ready to send her north.
The subterfuge would work, he told himself. The only people who would recognise the deception had a vested interest in keeping their silence and it would help to bind Lord Stark's territories to their new masters. He'd heard Roose's bastard had rather particular tastes so the girl would need more detailed and concentrated instruction.
Perhaps he ought to take it in hand personally?
In an airless room on the Street of Silk a young girl with tangled dark hair lay on the bed her face buried in the bedclothes. Only the heave of her shoulders as she sobbed could be seen.
“Come lass, let's not have any more of this.” an older woman with dark red hair said firmly as she tried to rouse the girl from her miserable stupor. "We have work to do, and Lord Baelish is on his way. How do you think he's going to react when he sees you like this? What man is going to want you weeping and crying?"
"Have mercy, Ros-" The girl trembled as she pleaded with the woman. “I can't. Please-”
Ros made an impatient noise and swopped a look with the other women in the room. “Such a fuss, Dancy-”
The other woman bared the girl's back tracing the raw weals and bruises on her back. The girl whimpered weakly in pain, too worn out and unhappy to protest any more. "She really can't. They made a mess of her back last night and she needs time to heal."
"He's on his way to take her in hand personally, that's what the message said. How can we present her like this?" Ros fretted. "- he wants to send her back by the end of the summer, Alayaya. We have two months to train her properly for his purposes."
Alayaya's full generous mouth thinned into a disapproving line. She shook her head about the whole sorry business.
"- and if they push her too hard she's going to be no use to anyone. Baelish is going to have to be patient. Jeynie needs sleep for now-" She slipped a small crystal vial into the palm of her hand and poured some wine into a goblet, adding the contents once she was done. She swirled it round to disperse the contents. She handed it to Dancy to feed to the girl who was falling asleep with sheer weariness.
"C'mon Jeyne lass, drink up." Dancy propped her up, slowly pouring it down the girl's throat.
Ros raised her eyebrows. "More sweetsleep? She'll get addicted if you aren't careful. I've got her on enough Dornish sweetleaf as it is to help her sleep. We want her compliant, not comatose!"
When Baelish arrived at the brothel he was disappointed to find that Jeyne was out cold and unable to be roused.
“What on earth did you give her?” he groused.
Ros gave her colleague a smug glance from under her lashes. “Dancy might have been a little heavy-handed with the sweet-sleep. I tried to tell her-”
“Sweet-sleep?” he exhaled sharply through his teeth. “How much did she give her?”
“A small vial. And the girl had some sweetleaf as well.”
He turned to Dancy in irritation at his thwarted plan. “You only need a couple of drops to calm the girl down, not knock her out like a light. You'd better check that she's still breathing. It would wreck my plans most terribly if she didn't wake. I still have need of the girl-”
“She was agitated. There was no way you would have been able to use her today, ser. Jeyne is not up to it.”
Baelish narrowed his eyes, as if he didn't like what he was hearing. “Not up to it? That's your professional opinion? Ros, what say you?”
“She is very hard to train, ser. I don't think she has any aptitude for the job.” she agreed with some reluctance. “She weeps constantly, she is a very slow learner, she has no enthusiasm for her work. And considering the specialised nature of her training requirements-”
“So you don't think that Jeyne will be ready for her Northern adventure.?” Baelish questioned keenly.
Ros couldn't suppress a shiver of disgust. She remembered the tales from back home in Winter Town about Ramsay Snow- whispers of depravities beyond measure, his wicked games with innocent young girls and very sharp flaying knives. Jeyne wouldn't have a chance with someone like that not at the stage she was at in her 'education', but they were being paid to prepare her for the Boltons and that's what they would do. There was no room for pity in their line of work.
“It seems I’m going to have to take her 'education' in hand personally.” Baelish said testily. “Let us pray it is not too late to get a satisfactory result.”
Chapter 10: Keeping Secrets
Grantaire's suspicion against Sansa lead him to make inquiries, Kevan Lannister is horrified by Joffrey's treatment of his betrothed, and Lord Tywin is not remotely impressed about the disappearance of his most valuable hostage.
Gavroche kept his ear close to the ground, eager to find out more about these mysterious urchins who were tracking his friends. He couldn't believe how long it had taken his friends to work out they were being followed.
Don't get me wrong I like them all- they were generous and kind souls. But perhaps they aren't very practical for all their high ideals and bravery, he thought.
He'd asked Eponine about her pretty red-haired friend, but his sister was adamant he shouldn't reveal what he knew, not just yet.
“They should know who they're harbouring.” he'd argued. “I mean she's Joffrey's bride, ain't she? She might be a princess and she's living in a grotty tavern scrubbing tables and taking coppers from drunkards. Dodging the wandering hands of letchy piss-heads. Hanging out with urchins like us and students.”
“She's afraid, can't you see that?” Eponine said. “- and Sansa hasn't complained about the work no matter how hard she finds it. She ain't too proud.”
Eponine had seen her wince with pain at her blisters and cracked hands, but as she said Sansa hadn't made any complaints and was a hard worker always eager to please Musichetta the owner. She'd gratefully used the salve Musichetta had given her and doggedly kept at it, desperate to keep her position and earn her way, not have to depend on the charity of Enjolras and the students.
“Why do you think she's in hiding then? You'd think she would be eager to get back to court and her life of ease, wouldn't ye?”
Eponine thought about it. “I don't think she wants to go back. I think she's running away from them.”
“Well, did you ever ask yerself what she was doing down that alleyway in the first place?”
Eponine reasoned. “The girl is doing a flit and frankly I don't blame her. She wants to hide for now in King's Landing, I say we let her.”
Gavroche wasn't so convinced by his sister's logic. “But what about the group? They're our friends. Don't you think they have the right to know who they're hiding?”
“She'll tell them when she's ready, 'Roche.”
“But what if she doesn't?” he frowned . “- because I ain't gonna lie to yer, them 'little birds were proper creepy. They 'ave to be spying for a reason”
“What little birds?” Eponine said puzzled by Gavroche's statement. “How can birds spy?”
“They ain't real birds, 'Ponine!” Gavroche sighed impatiently. “Yer mean you ain't seen them urchins following everyone about with haunted eyes and no tongues?”
“The group think they're spies – from court- and to be honest Sansa seems to know a lot about them, Courfeyrac said. Bit suspect, ain't it?”
It doesn't sound good, does it? Eponine had to admit her shrewd younger brother had a point. “I'll talk to her, find out what's going on.”
At the Musain
Grantaire arrived at the tavern rather cock a hoop at the prospect of employment and more riches as he had been running low of funds. He airily ordered a round for the group.
“Got something to celebrate?” Bahorel asked him, accepting his pint from Musichetta.
“I have got myself a job, painting a whole bevy of beautiful women.” Grantaire smirked. “- and my generous Dornish customer paid me for my work on those illustrations for 'The Loves of Queen Nymeria'. He loved it.”
Courfeyrac gave an appreciative whistle. “Nice work if you can get it! So who're you painting for this time, R?”
“The owner of a place called Chataya's. We're talking primo tail, the kind men would have to pay gold to get anywhere near having for a night. The most gorgeous girls in King's Landing and I have full access to them for two weeks.”
“Are they going to be 'paying you in kind'?” laughed Courfeyrac. “Nice work if you can get it.”
Grantaire looked round and leaned closer to the other man, checking to see if anyone else was observing them. “There was another reason why I accepted the job, actually.”
Well, this was interesting, Courfeyrac told himself. Grantaire was evidently sober and alert enough to be plotting something. What was he up to?
“I wanted to ask a few questions about our little guest-”
Courfeyrac didn't quite follow Grantaire's train of thought. “Our guest? What would they know about-”
“Don't look! She'll know we're talking about her!” Grantaire hissed out of the corner of his mouth with a wary glance at Sansa who was serving food to Combeferre and Enjolras who were at another table, papers spread over the surface as they planned the content of the next pamphlet. Enjolras smiled up at her in thanks and she returned it, shy yet radiant with pleasure and happiness.
“Speak plain, Grantaire what do you mean? Why do you think you'll gain answers about the girl on the Street of Silk? She's evidently some court lady-in-waiting, some miss from the former Hand's household caught up some intrigue and needing to make a getaway. I doubt she is a doxy!”
Grantaire still looked distrustful. “I think Lady Sansa is not what she seems to be. I think she hides a great deal, and I admit I'm suspicious that she's latched on to our leader so cleverly. The girl has her own agenda and we shouldn't forget it.”
“I don't think she's a doxy. The girl is innocent you can tell, you can see in her every word and movement.” Courfeyrac scoffed. “What makes you think she might be one of those girls?”
“Either that, or 'Milady Sansa' happens to be an amazing actress and we already know she has secrets. What's one more?”
Courfeyrac sighed, knowing that Grantaire was convinced of her duplicity and wondering what was behind his antagonism. He knew that he was fixated on their leader. He didn't share their ideals and he and Comebferre had often suspected that he stayed purely to be near Enjolras and bask in the light of his idealism. The prospect of a girl, and one that had entranced Enjolras into trusting her must be some hidden threat to him.
“I really would like to hear about it, I'm not just saying that. How did you all meet? Did you all study together?” she asked.
“Most of us met at the Citadel, some of us are still studying there. Combeferre and Courfeyrac are still working towards their Maester's chains. I graduated, specialising in law.”
She could not imagine him as a maester in some noble household; he was too rebellious, too questioning, not nearly servile enough.
And far too dangerously beautiful for a household with young daughters, or wives, said a voice inside her she tried not to acknowledge. “So what do you do now?”
“I write for a pamphlet which we distribute in town. Telling the truth about what goes on in this city in our name.” he confided in her, his voice low. “I write under a pen-name -Apollo.”
Sansa knew of what he spoke. She'd caught the serving-maids reading some pamphlets before her disappearance from the castle, even found one of them and managed to quickly scan it before her captors found her reading contraband. Bold revolutionary talk questioning and castigating the current regime with eloquent sharp prose and a keen eye for injustice. She had never before realised that others might be discontented with the Lannister- Baratheon regime. It had been quite an eye-opener.
“You're 'Apollo'?” she said in disbelief.
He nodded. “Now do you see why we were all concerned by the 'little birds'? This is perilous work and the authorities would count it a triumph to have us at an advantage.”
“But this is dangerous!” she exclaimed feeling fear and admiration for his bravery. “Why do you do this? Risk so much?”
“All the populace hear is what the regime deigns to tell them.” he said not hiding the hint of bitterness in his voice. “-very few ever go as far as to think for themselves. I and my friends merely seek to enlighten them. Combeferre, he's the wise one, the one who envisages how the world should be, and Courfeyrac he relates to the people, understands their plights and persuades them there is a different way.”
“And what do you do?”
His chin went up proudly. “I fight for what I believe, for what should and must be.”
“You risk so much, ser.”
“A free people should have the right to an alternative viewpoint, to question what goes on in our name and speak truth if need be to power. How can we be a free prosperous society if we can't do that?” Enjolras argued. “While we labour under false delusions of class and superiority for the few, the rest of the world is finding new ways to be. Should we not do the same?”
He burnt with an idealistic flame. Sansa was impressed that he believed so strongly in his cause like a knight on a quest of old. The kind of man she once would have admired and adored. It was just such a shame that Enjolras seemed to despise everything she stood for, and while he undeniably found her as attractive as she found him; he also didn't really trust her very much.
“You think that I despise all of your kind, and I admit that my opinion of most of them is not good. No wait-” he said as she was about to interrupt. “I just want for our society to be more equal. It shouldn't matter what House you are from; noble or small-folk. We all have the right to succeed in life.”“I do not deny that my family are well-off. They do not lack for much. I would be a hypocrite if I claimed different. But people like Feuilly, people like your friend Eponine, like Gavroche; they were not so lucky. Who will fight for them?”
She thought that might be the case; he was able to gain an education to talk eloquently. She was able to see the difference between him and small-folk that she had met. It intrigued that he felt impelled to fight the battle for people that could not.
She spoke, not wanting to anger him as she had on their first meeting, but wanting to give him a different viewpoint.
“Not all high-born families take advantage of the small-folk, you know Enjolras. I won't deny that some do. It's far too easy to abuse the position granted by fate, but as the leader of a region it is their responsibility to serve their people, not just take from them.”
“So what do you believe a high-born lord should do?”
“We - they- should give help, as well as justice. The Starks ruled the north for eight thousand years in unbroken line because their people loved them and knew they would get justice, and mercy in equal measure. When the Long Winter came we – I mean they - would look after them too. Not all noble families are a curse on their territories.”
He looked at her. “You are very loyal to the memory of Eddard Stark. Perhaps the Northerners did love their over-lords.”
“But you believe we were an exception-”
“Dear girl, I wish the high lords of this realm were as altruistic as you believe they are. But it's simply not true. They squeeze every last drop of wealth from their people, they use the justice system for their own ends., they crush everyone under their heels. If you are unfortunate to be born at the bottom of our society how are you meant to rise? Success should be based on merit; not the blood that flows in your veins.”
Sansa couldn't argue with that. “I wish you could see that we are not so far apart after all-” she said softly.
He smiled down at her and she blushed, feeling her heart beat fast within her chest. She should not be feeling this about any man, not when she was meant to be Joffrey's but she couldn't help it, falling deeper and deeper into the trap.
These unmaidenly feelings are dangerous. I have to stop – she told herself, and yet she longed for him more and more with each day.
At the Red Keep
Ser Kevan Lannister strode towards the Hand's chambers, deep in conversation with Tyrion. They were discussing the perplexing disappearance of Sansa Stark and the lack of success in getting her back.
“Well, I have to say this entire situation is very unfortunate and worrying. What have your sister and the king done so far to find the girl? You are still searching for her?” Kevan said to his nephew as he tried to match his stride to Tyrion's shortened legs.
“Of course we are.” Tyrion trotted at his uncle's side trying to keep up. “We sent two of our Kingsguard to find her – although they admittedly did a piss-poor job of a search. The Hound is out there in the town and reporting daily on his progress.”
“But still no girl...” Kevan frowned. He sighed heavily. “We have go face the possibility that something happened to the girl. She might have been taken-”
“Surely her new captors would have made some demands of us. She wouldn't have just disappeared without a trace. And there's been no trace of a body?”
“Not unless she fled into the capital.”
Tyrion made an exasperated gesture.
“So you suspect she ran? Why would she do that? Was she mistreated?” Kevan asked. He noticed his nephew's silence. “I have to say that I do not much like your silence here, Tyrion?”
There was no hiding the truth from Kevan. “Joffrey is out of control, Uncle. He got the Kingsguard to beat her whenever she displeased him.”
“The girl was meek and mild. When would she ever have displeased him?”
“Whenever the young Wolf won a victory, Uncle. Whenever Joffrey's cruelty motivated him to hurt a defenceless girl.”
“What?” Kevan looked horrified by what Tyrion was telling him. “The Starks won't pay a ransom if she is damaged. This must be some kind of a joke.”
“I wish I was, Uncle-” Tyrion told him. “they beat her with mailed fists, with naked steel. He stripped her in front of the entire court-”
Kevan seethed at the news of these unnecessary cruelties. “Is the boy stupid beyond belief? Why isn't your sister controlling him? You cannot be serious? Live steel?”
“I was there, I know what I saw.” Tyrion was serious. “-and Cersei has lost all control of the boy. This is beyond anything we can deal with. I think only my father can deal with and control him now.”
“Gods, if the Starks knew. If anyone outside the court found out...” Kevan looked horrified by what his nephew was confiding to him.
“If anyone knew, what he's capable of....” Kevan groaned, unable to believe the mess he had been presented with. “The Starks are winning in the Riverlands. They're very family orientated and thirst for revenge for Lord Eddard and their missing daughters. Catelyn Stark rides with him, advising her boy-king at every step. She is a formidable woman -”
Tyrion had met the woman on his trip to Winterfell and his forced march to The Vale. He did not doubt her vengeful streak, or the fact she would personally blame him if a hair on Sansa's head had been harmed.
“You think that she would have run and found some Stark sympathisers?”
“I heard them in the crowd. People calling for the Young Wolf to deliver them from us. He's a folk hero and barely out of leading strings-” Tyrion's mouth twisted cynically. “D'ye believe they howled for justice for Renly Baratheon's murder and claimed he loved them and he was the King who should have been. Bloody fools! For once we aren't responsible; that's all on Stannis Baratheon. The people blame us for every ill, and Joffrey has no idea how unpopular he's made us-”
Kevan shook his head. “None of this is remotely good, Tyrion.”
“I know, Uncle-” he sighed. “Trust me, Uncle, I know.”
“If my suspicions are right and we have a hidden column of sympathisers undercover in the town then this could become a very grave situation indeed. Sansa Stark may become the flash-point for a rebellion right in our midst.” Kevan said firmly. “We already struggled with a riot in our midst. We hang on the power by our fingertips; the people seethe under our yoke and dissidents like that blasted 'Apollo' and his populist rag fan the flames daily. The girl must be found. As soon as possible.”
Tywin was fuming at the news that Cersei and Joffrey had managed to lose their most valuable prisoner. It was bad enough that Arya Stark had vanished without a trace but Sansa was already in their keeping. To lose her now was nothing short of utter foolishness!
“Tell me exactly what happened, your Grace?” he asked Joffrey keeping his temper by a feat of patience.
Joffrey sulked at the forbidding look on his grandfather's face. “The girl disappeared after the riot. We sent men to comb the town but no one can find her.”
“She vanished without a trace?” Twyin questioned.
“Yes Father.” Cersei told him with great reluctance, knowing that he blamed her for this débâcle. “We have sent members of the Kingsguard after her. Lord Varys has his sparrows on the case as we speak, but-”
Tywin talked over her in his impatience. “I find this all too convenient for words. Sansa disappears and not a trace is found of her. I refuse to believe she didn't have help of some sort.”
“But who? Who would help the girl escape. She was meek mild and biddable. We monitored her constantly. When would she have had the chance to establish contacts to escape?” Cersei fretted.
Tywin looked down his nose at her. “You obviously didn't monitor her closely enough seeing as she managed to escape from us.”
“This situation is not my fault, Father!” she snapped, slamming down her goblet of wine. “I have tried everything to get her back. It isn't my fault I'm surrounded by incompetents!”
He looked down at her, making her feel as small as she had when she was a child.
“Nothing ever is Cersei, is it?” he said. “If we want the girl back, we're going to have to be clever. Leave it with me.”
Chapter 11: The Street of Silk
Sansa finds out about Grantaire's inquiries and is offended by his conclusions, Courfeyrac regrets getting involved and Jeyne meets Grantaire as he starts his new commission at Chataya's
I'm quite worried by this chapter and sequence but you should start to see how Jeyne and the students are interlinked.
As for the Sansa/Enjolras relationship, yes, there will be more of it but it's kind of a slow burn for both of them. There's a lot of trust issues these two have to get through, so bear with me on this one!
It didn't sit well with Courfeyrac that Grantaire was going out of his way to inquire about Sansa, especially when she seemed to feel adamant she had to stay hidden. While he could understand his friend's reasons for his suspicions, his motives didn't seem right. So what if she wasn't quite what she made herself out to be? She was still a maid in distress and they as a group felt some obligation to help her as much as they could.
The issue troubled him so much that he found himself confiding in Jehan and Combeferre, telling them what the artist had planned.
“He's convinced she is a doxy? Where would he get such an outlandish idea?” Combeferre frowned, alarmed by just how far Grantaire was prepared to go to discredit the girl.
“I don't know, but he was pretty set on the idea. I tried to dissuade him but he wasn't listening to me at all.” Courfeyrac shook his head.
Jehan thought, torn between his doubt about the situation and his sense of justice. For what it was worth, he liked the girl. “We don't know anything about her really. We've had to take what she says on trust. I don't like this any more than you do but something is going on. I wish she would tell us the truth. How bad can it be?”
“We've guessed she's court-bred that much is certain and she was lost during the riots at the docks. But in truth that's all we know.” Combeferre mused. “What's at the root of this, do you think?”
“Jealousy-” Jehan said firmly.
The other men stared at him disbelievingly but Jehan was quietly observant and he stuck to his convictions.
“Grantaire has always been very...” he cast around for the right phrase to use about the painter and their leader. “- well, we all know he idolises Enjolras. Hangs onto his every word, craves even the slightest hint of approval from him. Enjolras is his god, his sun. The thought that there might be a rival for his affections-”
Grantaire's efforts threatened to open up a can of worms and they had to minimise the damage his inquiries could do.
“He's determined to find out the truth about her-”
“He's determined to discredit her, you mean?”
The students looked at each other deciding how to tackle the problem.
“I'll talk to Enjolras, and you tackle Sansa. Can I trust you to do that, Courf?” Combeferre told Courfeyrac, making a decision. “At least if they know they're forewarned.”
Courfeyrac looked for his chance to speak to Sansa whilst she was at work. She was behind the bar with Musichetta, polishing some pewter tankards. He looked at her appraising the girl, wondering if there was anything in it. Had Grantaire any reason to feel envy of her and Enjolras's relationship, or was it just another misunderstanding?
There was no denying she was a remarkably beautiful girl – that fair complexion, her limpid blue eyes and the glory of her red-gold hair made her stand out like a stray flower in their humble surroundings. It would be difficult for her to pass as anything but what she seemed to be, a high-born maiden gone astray. Really, you couldn't blame a man for falling for her, poor Combeferre was smitten, though he knew full well it was pretty hopeless and a maid like that was out of his league.
But Enjolras? He simply wasn't into women. Courfeyrac had never met someone so dedicated to their work and the cause. His friend lived breathed and slept revolution and social reform. He was single-minded to the point of obsession. There was no room for anything else in his life but his work. So far Enjolras had shown no sign of being discontent with his lot, but ever since this vulnerable young maiden had arrived in the midst seeking their help, he had to admit that his friend acted differently around her. Sure they argued and had their disagreements, Enjolras seemed to enjoy antagonising the girl about her birth and background, but he was tender towards the girl in a way he wasn't with other women.
Could it be that Grantaire had a point feeling threatened by the hold this innocent girl was developing over their leader?
She was definitely interested in him, there was little mistaking the admiring look in her eyes when she talked to Enjolras, as if he was the Warrior or the Smith reborn. She was entranced by his golden good looks and the force of his personality. But did that mean she was falling in love with Enjolras, and was the feeling reciprocated?
He addressed the girl, hoping to put her at her ease. “Do you have a moment, Sansa? I'd like to have a word, if you please. In private-”
She bit her lip, her gaze darting to Musichetta. “I- I'm at work, ser.”
“Please, this won't take long I promise. It's important-”
Musichetta didn't look impressed but he gave her his most charming smile hoping to persuade her to let him talk to Sansa privately.
“Very well, go into the back room. Don't keep her long, we've the lunchtime rush to get through, Courf!” she told him.
Sansa followed him into the back room, eyeing him warily. “What is this all about?” she asked as soon as they were alone.
Courfeyrac looked so awkward and suspicious her instincts were aroused instantly. What did he want now?
“Look, I don't want you to take offence, but-” he stopped running a hand through his unruly dark curls. “Gods, this is so damned awkward!”
Whatever this was, Sansa didn't like the sound of it. She had done nothing to arouse their suspicions. She'd kept her head down and focused on her work. Keeping an ear out for the chance to get help to escape north. What more did they want from her?
“Courfeyrac, what is it? Why should I not be offended?”
He hesitated as if he were reluctant to speak but she was fed up of all this pussyfooting about. If she was going to be accused of something else she would rather have it out in the open where she could refute the charge. "Is there something that I should know about?"
“Grantaire is making inquiries about you, at his new job at Chataya's” he said in a rush, plainly trying to get this over with as soon as possible. “He thinks you'd fled -”
“Fled from where?-”
Courfeyrac spilled the beans unable to take any more and just wanting the whole thing to be over. “He thinks you've escaped from one of the pillow houses on the Street of Silk.”
The colour drained away from her face leaving her pale and peaky looking. She stared at him in consternation, her big blue eyes wide with shock and appalled horror. “ Pillow Houses? You thought I was one of those unfortunate girls?”
Courfeyrac fidgeted, hastily trying to backtrack as he belatedly realised just how insulted she must be. "Erm...I-"
Sansa was so stunned and offended she didn't know what to say. Her face turned crimson with mortification.
“Oh Gods, I've made a pig's ear of this!” he groaned. "I didn't mean...I'm sorry! Sansa, please don't be upset, I couldn't bear it if I made you cry."
“Made me cry?” There was an icy imperiousness to her voice that made him stop and take pause. There was a flash in her blue eyes that told him she was genuinely angry at what he'd blundered into telling her. Seven Hells, the sweet biddable maid has actually got a temper on her!
“You're angry with me-” Courfeyrac said lamely, in the face of her anger. “I never meant for you to...I didn't mean that I thought you were actually a doxy, but-”
“You think I am one of those girls. You all think it, don't you?” she snapped, her eyes challenging him.
Courfeyrac tried to straighten things out before they got even more snarled. "We don't all think it! I told Grantaire he was being foolish , but he wouldn't listen to me! he's got a bee in his bonnet about you. It's just jealousy, he doesn't mean it personally-"
"What do you mean, jealous? I don't understand?-" she said, thoroughly confused by his mangled attempt at apologising. "Why would he be jealous of Enjolras?"
She had him there. Courfeyrac was starting to regret allowing himself to get involved. Bloody Grantaire and his suspicions had dropped him right in it! No wonder she was mad at him, he'd pretty much called her a whore to her face. What a mess! “It's not that, Sansa, it's just that we don't know anything about you. You appeared from nowhere, for some reason you claim you can't tell us the truth, and there was that whole business with the 'little birds'. You must admit that-”
“Courfeyrac, I have to get back to work. I don't have time for this. If you will excuse me, ser-” there was no mistaking the bob of a curtsey she dipped him as anything less but rude, as she moved to sweep past him.
He reached out to detain her, but shrunk from the fierce look she gave him. “Remove your hand, ser-” she was so cold, so utterly detached and furious, he dropped her arm and let her pass. Her anger was like the bite of cold steel.
Courfeyrac moved to follow her but she didn't even look his way as she headed to the kitchens. Combeferre took one look at the furious line of her mouth, her lip bitten in an attempt not to cry and Courfeyrac's stricken face, and he knew.
Courfeyrac gave his friend a helpless shrug as if to say: I messed up.
"What did you say to her?"
Courfeyrac grimaced. "I think I may have messed up a bit. I didn't mean to say she was a doxy, but-"
"That's what she took from it? Aye, Enjolras didn't take it very well either. I really wouldn't want to be Grantaire when he attends our next meeting, let's put it that way."
The Street of Silk
Grantaire readied himself to meet the ladies he would be painting as part of his commission. Chataya's was one of the most prestigious establishments on the Street of Silk and they were paying a generous price for him to immortalise their beauties in paint, make them so desirable to prospective customers that they would spend a fortune for the chance to sleep with such goddesses made flesh.
The girls lounged idly introducing themselves in husky honeyed tones, eyeing his dark curls and blue-green eyes with interest. He was already looking forward to painting the languid beauty of Marei, with her pale Lyseni blonde hair and pale skin. Chataya and Alayaya had the most wonderful skintones, he couldn't wait to paint their dusky flawless complexions and rich curvy figures
“So which one of us d'ye want to paint first?” Ros asked with an arch little smile, before turning to the young girl with the flagon of wine by her side. “Come Jeyne, top up Master Grantaire's goblet.”
“It's Arbor red, my lord. Hope it pleases-” she murmured in a shy undertone, dark gaze flicking up timidly to meet his..
Grantaire's keen ears pricked up at the hint of a northern accent. He looked at her again. Big dark eyes and long dark hair, a pretty face with a tip-tilted nose. An idea was filtering into his head. It might be a fool's errand but what harm might it do to try?
“This one- what's your name sweet maid?” he gave her his most charming smile. Jeyne tried to pull away from the grip of his hand on her wrist but quelled her struggle at a forbidding glance from Ros.
Marei pouted, her vanity wounded by the fact she was not selected first. Passed over for that plain weepy girl Jeyne of all things!
Ros took charge of the situation, sensing an opportunity. "Jeynie here is learning the ropes. She will be more than happy to attend to your every desire. Won't you, sweeting?”
The girl looked at him with fearful dark eyes, Grantaire fancied that she was trembling. She's scared rigid. The girl is terrified. What the hell was going on? There was something going on some strange undercurrent that didn't sit right with him but he had to bury his scruples and play along. It was the only way to get the information he was searching for. She was a northerner, with the same slight lilt to her voice as Sansa, maybe a little less cultured and more pronounced. Was he ever going to get such a clear unimpeded chance to inquire about Sansa and what exactly she wanted with their group?
"I promise I will be nothing but gentle. You'll enjoy yourself." he coaxed, trying to keep eye contact with her and make her smile. Gods, the girl looked like she was being fed to the lions, rather than about to entertain a man.
She bit her lip, looking thoroughly miserable and wretched, but followed him into one of the bedchamber with no further word or sign of protest.
Alayaya frowned at Ros and her interference after the couple had gone. “Do you really think that was wise, Ros? You know Jeyne is still rather jumpy and unsure of herself-”
"We don't know anything about him as customer, just as an artist. What if she panics? the girl might cause a distressing scene-" Dancy fretted. "Perhaps one of us should join in their game, just to keep an eye on her?"
Ros wrinkled her nose. "Jeyne doesn't need mollycoddling! The girl needs training, as much as possible before she gets sent up North. What harm would it do to have her service our virile little artist? After all since Lord Baelish came in and took charge of her training she has been doing so much better, hasn't she?"
Alayaya was not convinced. That's because the poor girl is terrified of displeasing him. This situation stinks to high heaven. I don't like it and neither does mother but Lord Baelish and the Lannisters are paying us a fortune to keep her.
Let's just pray he is a decent man and treats her well.
Chapter 12: Interlude: The Weight of Secrets
Grantaire is shaken out of his usual cynicism by Jeyne's plight, while Sansa accidentally reveals something she would have preferred to keep hidden forever.
Jeyne ushered Grantaire into a deserted bedchamber, velvet cushions covering the low divan. There was a heavy scent of sweetsleep in the air, hanging like a golden haze in the room. Grantaire suspected that he would be utterly intoxicated by any more than an hour or two in the room. Drink tended to be his poison of choice, although he had partaken of the occasional toke of Dornish sweetleaf once in a while. The evidence seemed to suggest that Jeyne was a far heavier user. He wondered briefly whether she needed it's sweet oblivion as much as he needed the drink.
She closed the door behind them waiting until he had made himself comfortable on the bed. “What would be your pleasure, ser? Do you want more wine? Some food?”
He noticed she was still pale and trembling, ill at ease at the thought of being with him. She was a pretty girl, but her obvious fear of him and any other man kind of negated any arousal he might have been expected to have as a man about to dally with a woman.
That’s the trouble, isn’t it?, he told himself. She’s not really a woman of the world, is she? She's a poor frightened girl, terrified by the demands of this place and her superiors.
He was starting to suspect she had been forced to work here, by whom he was not sure. Does that mean that Sansa was forced to work here and she escaped?
Jeyne handed him his goblet, her hands shaking so much that he thought she was going to spill it all over him.
Poor girl! I don't know if I can blame Sansa for fleeing from a place like this. But that doesn't explain what she is doing with our group and more importantly what she truly wants with Enjolras? He tried to steel his heart despite his conscience, which had picked a fine moment to awaken and trouble him. I'm doing this for the group, for Enjolras, he told himself.
She reached up to the neck of her silken gown and undid the jewelled fastening, the material slithering down her body and pooling in a mass of silk. "Do- Do I please you, ser?" she stammered, biting her lip and raising anguished eyes towards his.
He took pity at the misery in her voice. He really couldn’t do this. It was just completely wrong.
He felt like a monster for even entering the room with her, seeing her bared and trembling in submission. She knelt prostrate at his feet, waiting for his signal. He saw the livid pink strips and scars on her back and winced, appalled despite his habitual cynicism by the sight. What in the name of seven hells have they done to this poor maid?
“You don't have to do that, Jeynie. Please-" he said, gently raising her so she could meet his gaze. "Be easy, lass, I don't want anything from you."
She glanced at the door over her shoulder with a terrified look. “You don’t understand, my lord, I must. "
Must? He definitely didn't like the sound of that!
"What do you mean, 'you must?'"
Jeyne flinched at the sudden sharpness in his voice. Grantaire found he had to soothe her again, before she would trust him once more. Jeyne was terribly skittish and so easily frightened. He must try not to forget that.
I must remember to be kind to her. She has to trust me, or this isn't going to work at all. "If Ros and the others check up on us, if I don’t please you in every way possible..."
"Would they hurt you?" he asked bluntly.
She looked at him with scared dark eyes, but she eventually nodded, with just the slightest most subtle movement of her head. As if she was petrified of being caught passing any information to him about what her life was really like here.
He noticed the slight glance towards the corner of the room. Following her gaze discreetly, he noticed at the very edge of his sight a small grille which was set high up in the wall. It was cunning enough that it would not be noticeable at first glance, unless you were actively searching for it, but once Grantaire actually started to look for it, his keen eyes wondered how he could have ever missed it. Is that a viewing hole?
So we're being watched as we speak? The situation becomes more and more murky by the moment.
Grantaire pushed aside his pity and his anger at her treatment. Right now, to help Jeyne he was going to have to be as compassionate and kind as Courfeyrac or Jehan would be, and as practical as Combeferre. For a moment he wished that his friend was here. He would know what to do in this situation.
"I won't give them any chance to complain about how you served me." It made his heart twinge inside his chest to see the spark of hope in her eyes at his words. Oh Jeyne, you deserve better than this!
Upstairs at the Musain
Musichetta and Eponine had dragged the big heavy metal tub to the room and filled it up with hot water. It was communal bath-day, and though Sansa would have preferred to avoid it, it would have brought up more questions than she could have explained away if she had skipped another one. Besides, she desperately wanted to be clean and fresh again. If she ever got away from here, and by some miracle returned to her family once more, she would never take such creature comforts for granted ever again.
Her employment with Musichetta at the tavern depended on keeping on her good side. If she started getting suspicious about her new employee, Sansa would be in big trouble, and she was no nearer persuading the group to aid her getting north through the Riverlands to Riverrun.
As pleasant as it has been to be among friends, I have to move on. I have risked too much staying here, she told herself; even though the thought of leaving one man in particular made her traitorous heart ache.
You must not think of him, he is not for you. Enjolras would despise you if he knew the truth. It's better this way! What can you do, but hold him back from his work, and estrange him from his comrades?
She knew the painter Grantaire suspected her lies - he had from the beginning- and now Courfeyrac had unwillingly told her that they believed she had escaped from a pillow-house. That she was a runaway loose woman!
“What on earth are these?” Eponine exclaimed, staring with undisguised horror at her back. "Gods, these must have hurt some, Sansa. What made these?"
Musichetta came to look, frowning as she did so. "That can't be a lash or a strap; the mark's too wide, surely. It's bruised and cut." She shook her head. "You poor lass, what have you gone through? No wonder you were grateful for the work, weren't ye?"
Sansa froze as she realised what her friend was looking at. How could she have been such a little fool! To forget her scars as she hadn’t a care in the world! She was getting far too complacent, lulled into ease by the companionship these new friends had shown her.Sansa scrabbled away, trying desperately to hide the fading marks on her back, but she knew it was far too late.
“Please, please, you mustn't look! You can't see, ever!” She was shaking her head frantically, her voice rising in a panic. Her wet hair hung round in a curtain round her and Sansa was grateful for it's scant camouflage. Her eyes were wide in fear as she pressed against the edge of the tub, her knuckles pale with her grip.
Eponine looked appalled at the result of her query. "Sansa, dear friend, I didn't mean to upset you-"
She could feel the tears starting to come and despised herself for her weakness. She couldn't stop them welling up and nearly choking her.
"Seven Hells, she's in hysterics, what's the matter?" Musichetta said to Eponine, appalled by the state Sansa was in.
"Sansa, dear friend, what is this? Who did this to you?" Eponine's voice was gentle as she comforted the other girl.
"I can't tell you! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, please don't tell-" Sansa was still in a state, trembling like she'd had a terrible shock. Her sobs were dying down to horrible rasping sounds, like a wounded animal gone to ground. "I have to leave, oh gods-"
"Now? Why do you have to leave?"
"I'm sorry, love. I shouldn't have stared at you. Didn't realise you would get so upset. I shouldn't have mentioned anything."
"She's trembling. Gods, she's shaking like a leaf in autumn." Musichetta was muttering, searching in her bathroom chest for some salve. "I don't know what the hell is going on, but this has gone too far."
"Sansa, come let's dry off and then we'll talk. Just us girls...you can trust us." Eponine said coaxing her to a place besides the fire, eager to make amends for upsetting the other girl. "Please, I didn't mean to hurt you."
It was sweet of her, but Sansa had to steel her heart and be wary. "I'm sorry, Eponine, but I can't. I can't trust anyone."
It was a horrible wrench to have to say it, especially to the two of them who had been so good to her, but she had to stick to the rules, the rules which had kept her going throughout this ordeal. Bad things happened when she didn't stick to the rules, Hadn't she just been shown that? Her cover was near enough blown and she'd foolishly fallen for a man she could never hope to have in a thousand years. How had she ever forgotten that she was Joffrey's and he would never let her go, not while he had breath left in his body.
Chapter 13: A Ticking Time-Bomb
Tywin sets one of his most persistent Goldcloaks on the search for Sansa Stark, while Petyr Baelish warns of just how much damage she could do if she is at large.
Meanwhile Enjolras and Combeferre are on the trail of a scandal which will affect the entire Seven Kingdoms for their pamphlet as they realise that things for the city could get worse than ever, as Winter looms. Enjolras meets with an official from the Treasury who reveals just how desperate their situation will be unless action is taken now.
At the tavern things are fraught as there is a confrontation about Grantaire's persistence in questioning Sansa's motive and identity.
Sorry about the delay, but I hope this chapter will make up for it a bit. Plenty to get your teeth into, as our proto-journalists tackle the problems in store for King's Landing. If this doesn't spark off a revolution...
The Tower of the Hand
Tywin Lannister sat behind his desk and regarded the man stood dutifully before him. By all accounts, this was one of the most diligent and best of the Goldcloaks available. If anyone was going to be able to find this blasted Stark whelp and remedy the disastrous situation his damned incompetent family had managed to get them all into, this was the man.
“What did you say your name was?” he asked , looking down his nose in supercilious fashion.
“Javert, if it please you m'lord.” the man raised his head to meet his gaze before looking down dutifully. Good, a man that knows his place. Tywin could hear the remnants of a lower class accent although the man took pain to suppress it, aping his betters no doubt.
The man by all accounts was like a bloodhound, utterly devoted to his job, with a ruthless streak that meant he was unlikely to give up at the first difficulty. With this man on her tracks, how long could Sansa Stark stay at bay?
“The girl needs to be found, before she causes any more disturbances.” Tywin instructed with a disdainful flare of his nostrils. “I'm sure you understand how important this is to us, and how richly we will reward any news of her, leading to her return to our fold.”
“I will set to work at once, m’ lord.” Javert assured him.
“Remember, she must remain unharmed. Not a bruise or a scratch, you understand, of course?”
“Of course, m’lord! How do we know she hasn't already left King's Landing?” asked Javert. “If you don’t mind me asking, m’lord?”
“Every port and road is being watched. Besides the Riverlands is currently under siege by our forces.” Tywin sneered. “Her luck may have held so far, but there is no way she is going to get to Riverrun past that.”
Tywin waited until his daughter had left before sending a message to Petyr Baelish. There was something that he wanted to discuss with him and seeing that he was such a slippery customer he wanted to make sure that their conversation remained private.
“Baelish, how good of you to attend me so swiftly!” he said as the other man entered his makeshift office.
Baelish bowed respectfully and waited for Tywin to invite him to sit down and get to business.. “Anything to be of service to my lord Lannister.”
“So does the Northern plan still look promising? The girl is being adequately trained, is she? I want no mistakes with this. Things are already unsettled with the disappearance of Sansa. I want nothing to interfere with the plan.”
Baelish made a slight face. “The raw material, I'm sorry to say is not promising, and yet my associates endeavour to shape her into a useful tool for our purposes.”
Tywin narrowed his eyes very displeased with Baelish’s news. More damned excuses! Was there no one who was competent in this entire sweltering city? “Well, they’d better redouble their efforts. Failure is not an option, Baelish, I hope you understand this.”
The other man’s smooth mask of a face barely flickered. “Perfectly, my lord.”
“I’d like to pick your brains on the Sansa problem, if I may. How is it possible that one lone female can evade our forces for so long? Who is likely to be helping her?”
“I would have thought she had no friends here in King’s Landing, but there’s been much unrest lately.”
Tywin looked down his nose. “Yes I had heard of the riot, thank you. So you suggest she’s fallen in with some of our more restless subjects?”
Baelish shrugged. “Well, she would be a figurehead to the disaffected, and who knows what she could tell them.”
“Tell them?” Tywin frowned. The thought that Sansa might well talk once she had left them had barely occurred to him.
“Tis very unfortunate that the king in his infinite wisdom saw fit to manhandle the lady. Very bad publicity if she talks about how the Kingsguard struck her in public with mailed fists, no less. It looks bad all round.” Baelish suggested with a hint of smugness.
“That was not done on my say-so!” Tywin retorted, angry flush rising up his neck. “Besides, Joffrey did not strike her in court technically, his guards did.”
“The girl already holds you a grudge because of the death of Eddard Stark. Though she swears blind she is loyal to the king, she would not be human if she did not resent him and his family for what was done.” Petyr suggested, with the faintest hint of a cynical smile. “You know at the time I suggested a match between the girl and I, since she is nothing but a traitor’s get now, and not remotely suitable for the king, but Cersei seemed to think it was a bad idea. I’m fairly sure that I could have had her under control.”
“Again, not our fault! Cersei was perfectly prepared for him to be sent to the Wall in perpetuity and forfeit his lands as a last resort, but execution in front of the populace, well, I will not deny that did not make us very popular. For some reason the small-folk seem to think he was unjustly murdered and in consequence we have been cursed ever since. Mere superstition, I have no time for it. ”
He pointedly did not say anything about his proposal for the girl, but the curl of his lip told him that Tywin was unlikely to champion his suit of Sansa.
A tavern in Kings Landing, evening
Enjolras was trying to concentrate on getting his latest pamphlet ready for print when he got a tip-off from one of his Oldtown accquaintances, which sent his enquiries in a new and profitable direction. Leaving the humble room where they worked, he met Alyn Goodsgrace of Pinkmaiden in one of the local inns and took a booth, accompanied by Combeferre and Feuilly. As they ate and worked, Enjolras scribbling as ideas came to him, the men discussed the issues in front of them.
"Has Winter been declared yet and has the Crown made provision for the people of King's Landing? I have to say it troubles me to hear you say that there was riots here in Summer." Alyn asked. “You’ll have to forgive me, I’m still not fully caught up on what’s happening in King’s Landing. We’re all so isolated in Oldtown.”
As he realised the serious implications of that remark Enjolras started to draft a new pamphlet one that would surely draw the attention of their audience. This was possibly one of the most important issues they would work on yet.
"It must be soon, by my reckoning." Combeferre commented.
"By Citadel reckoning as well. They're intending to send out the pale ravens soon."
His informant just looked at him.
"We have months left?"
"Makes you worry, doesn't it? When King's Landingers starve in summer..." Alyn grimaced. "Are they even stockpiling? Tell me they are stockpiling?"
Feuilly looked at Alyn in horrified anger as the full implication of their coming plight was revealed. How could the people have forgotten so easily? This was a disaster brewing and the small-folk, the beleaguered working people and the poor of King's Landing would suffer most of all.
"Do you know what I suspect? They haven't been stockpiling for Winter at all." Combeferre said quietly. “In fact we’ve been struggling for food as late. There was riots down at the docks, not long ago because of it.”
“Riots? I never thought the small-folk would be driven so far. What happened?”
“The small-folk rose up and detained the royal party after the departure of Princess Myrcella demanding bread, It got rather violent in places , but at least the voice of the people was heard loud and clear.” Enjolras told his friend with a note of pride in his voice.
“They cannot sit in their golden and ivory towers claiming that they do not know of our woes!” Feuilly said.
"Food supplies will be low, even lower than now, and the people already complain about the high prices even of the basics. It's been a hard few months here, bread and meat cost a fortune here, and most of it earmarked for the garrison and the palace." Combeferre told Alyn. “No wonder they reacted badly, and Joffrey, that arrogant little shit just made it worse.”
"If supplies are being withheld as you're already arguing?" Alyn leaned forward in concern.
"Aye, there are no food wagons coming in from the regions."
"None? Not from the Reach? Or the Westerlands? We know the Riverlands are decimated by war as it is." As they shook their heads, Alyn's bluff honest face twisted in pity.
“None, not one.” Combeferre affirmed.
"It will be too cold to go out and work. The poor and the destitute will starve and freeze on the streets as fuel prices and rents soar." Feuilly counted out his points on his fingers.
"This is a disgrace!" Enjolras declared as he took another drink.
"As soon as Winter arrives it's going to be a disaster. Who knows how many will die in the city and yet the King and his council will do nothing."
"Why are they not providing for the people of the city?" Comberferre said in frustration at the situation in front of them.
"Because Robert Baratheon, damn his soul, spent the money on tourneys, booze and women." Alyn told them bluntly, "Because while Stannis and Renly tussled over a pair of shiny golden antlers, the food wagons from the Reach haven't been coming up the Roseroad as you say."
"It's deliberate, I tell you!" Enjolras butted in. "I've said it for weeks. A dirty tactic by Renly and the might of Highgarden, so King's Landing falls and he gets to march in and be the hero!"
"This is far wider than King's Landing, though I have no doubt that it's going to be bad here.” Alyn told him. “They’re even starting to discuss this in the Citadel, can you imagine?”
“The entire kingdom is teetering on the brink. This is probably the biggest story we've ever tackled." Enjolras said, realising the gravity of their discussion, "The Crown should be shouldering its responsibilities to care for the people, and yet they are not. Why?"
Alyn leant forward, lowering his voice as he glanced around. "That's where my source comes in."
"Your source?" Feuilly asked.
"There is great concern in Oldtown about what is going on here and all over the Seven Kingdoms. One of our old classmates, you remember Addam Braythwaite?
“Good old Addam! Always-flush Addam! Pockets full of silver and gold!” Combeferre exclaimed. “Of course I remember him! Good lad!”
"The lad from Shipbreaker's Bay?” Feuilly frowned, “I think I remember him.”
“Used to work at Storm's End for Renly Baratheon? He had his tuition and stipend paid by the lord out of his own pocket." Combeferre recollected. “I used to take Old Valyrian with him. I thought he was going to qualify as a maester and return to Storm’s End? Evidently he thought better-”
"Aye, he got a job in the treasury under Petyr Baelish. More money, or career opportunities, no doubt!”
“Well, he always did love gold!” Feuilly cracked a smile at the thought of his old accquaintance.
“The things he could tell you would turn your hair grey overnight. The Kingdoms are going to the dogs, frankly."
"What did he tell you?"
"There is no more gold in the treasury, for a start." Alyn let that bombshell out. "Can you believe that?"
The three of them just stared at each other in shock, unable to take in the stark reality of what had just been revealed.
"What?" Enjolras’s mouth gaped open for a moment.
"It's all been pissed away. The Crown is broke. They can't afford to feed the populace, they can't even afford to run themselves. The Queen Regent isn't even making payments on her debt to the Iron Bank at the moment. There's talk that she's blueing what's left on an armada."
“On a-“ Jaws dropped round the table at the sheer hubris.
"We must write about it, Enjolras, do a series! The people must know what is ahead of them." Feuilly urged. "Of all the damn irresponsible-"
Enjolras frowned, considering what he had been told. "I need more information about this if we are to bring this message to the people.” He turned to Alyn, “Can I see your friend Addam, discreetly?"
Alyn sighed, "I'll see what I can do, but you have to understand that if his bosses find out that he talked to you, he's liable to lose his position?"
"I will be discreet, but I can't back away from this story, you understand?"
"I realise that. You know, some of us get copies of your pamphlet even in Oldtown? There's many who read 'Apollo' and his columns avidly. You all do a good thing here. Keep fighting the good fight for the small-folk."
Later that evening
Enjolras decided to meet the contact on neutral ground. If he was correct and Braythwaite corroborated his predictions, this had to be one of the biggest and most controversial scandals King's Landing had ever seen, something to rouse the people from their apathy, make them question the authority of the Crown and the Lannister/Baratheon regime.
How could they let it get that bad? Winter always hung over them like a threat, bringing cold, hunger and disease to the masses, who unfortunately did not have the resources to stave off distress.
He remembered something that Sansa had earnestly said about Eddard Stark and the North - that it was the lord's responsibility to look after his people in times of need, that they looked to him to care for them. The high lords had failed their people by indulging in petty revenge and land grabs, their own vendettas and wars which ripped whole regions like the Riverlands apart.
"Alyn told me where to find you. He said you want to talk about finance." Addam Braythwhaite said as he met Enjolras.
“I remember you! Combeferre’s friend from the other set. Smart yet idealistic, training to be a lawyer or some sort. You could have easily got a post under Renly Baratheon in the Law Office. He was a decent boss by all accounts, paid very well as long as you were discreet and very easy-going, he was. And he liked a handsome man in his office, they say, your looks might have taken you far.”
Enjolras’s opinion of Lord Renly Baratheon was not particularly good, seeing as he blamed him for the lack of food coming from the Reach and his reckless attempt at the throne- not backed by his birthright as Sansa had said- which had split the opposition to the current regime in two just when he could have stayed out of the business, or put his talents to better use, but many seemed to like the man personally. Enjolras could not really understand it.
"Shall we get a private chamber to dine? 'Twould be far more discreet and I would rather not be-"
Enjolras understood. Addam was taking a big risk talking to him. "I will arrange everything, never fear."
As soon as Enjolras and Addam sat down to their humble meal, Enjolras offered his credentials. "I work for a publication in King's Landing now, writing about current affairs."
"Aye, I read it, quite a few people do, even in the palace."
"They do?" Enjolras raised his eyes in surprise.
"In secret, of course they do. The servants certainly, though they are careful never to be caught."
There was a small part of Enjolras that was pleased at the impact his publication had made however slight.
"This is off the record, aye?" Addam said looking round warily, even though they were in their private room and the door was bolted.
"Of course, Addam."
"Ask your questions then and I will see I can answer them."
"Is it true that the Crown has no more gold?" asked Enjolras, getting straight down to the crux of the matter and taking notes with his quill. "I heard the rumours, but I couldn't believe that this was true so near to Winter when food banks need to be stocked up for austere times ahead."
"Aye, and it's even worse, Enjolras. It cannot even keep up it's payments to the Iron Bank."
Enjolras was so astounded that he could barely speak for a moment, the thought that not only was the kingdom in debt to a fearsomely powerful organisation such as the Iron Bank of Braavos, but now it was not paying back the money owed. Meanwhile the Seven Kingdoms were plunging into yet more debt, and the Iron Bank was known to interfere in politics if it impacted the running of the bank. This was a very serious matter indeed.
"Seven Hells, you don't even know the half of this, do ye?" Addam’s mocking chuckle sounded weary, as if he could hardly believe the mess they were all in, and could only deal with it by mockery and dry laughter.
"Tell me. The people need to know. They deserve to know what is being done in their name."
"The crown took out several loans during Robert Baratheon's reign to-"
"To do what?"
Alyn shrugged, pulling a cynical face. "Tourneys and feasts are expensive. At first he was being bankrolled by the Lannisters and their gold mines, but that came to a stop, so the Master of Coin had to look elsewhere, and the Iron Bank were happy to oblige."
Enjolras couldn’t help but notice how cynical working for the government had made Addam, who he remembered as a genial, harmless if profligate student at Oldtown. "How bad is it? And why did the Lannisters cut off their funding?"
"There's nothing in reserve, apparently."
Enjolras frowned. "Nothing in reserve? But the Lannister mines are-"
"Lord Tywin tells them that the mines are dry, what are they going to do? It's certainly true that there hasn't been any on the markets for a long while." Addam said with a shrug.
"Do you think he's stockpiling gold for himself?" asked Enjolras keenly, quill at the ready as he listened to Addam’s dry knowing commentary.
"Who can prove it, short of breaking into Casterly Rock and checking for yourself? I wish luck to anyone who is foolhardy enough to try it."
"So come the Winter, when food runs out and everyone is fighting over the scraps as the weather becomes more severe and people can no longer afford heat and fuel, can we get anything from the regions?"
"I hate to say this, but I sincerely doubt it. All the Seven Kingdoms are going to be affected by the War of the Five Kings and the Long Winter coming. The Riverlands are gutted by war."
"That's one region down."
"The Stormlands are leaderless now, Renly might have had stores, he did usually make efforts to succour the small-folk, but it's likely he took them to Bitterbridge when he wed the heiress Margaery Tyrell to prepare for war with Stannis. I doubt there's anything left."
"Gods, what a mess!"
"The North is decimated after Ned Stark's execution and Robb Stark's rebellion. When the Boltons took over, I heard tell they wrecked Winterfell."
Enjolras thought that Sansa would be very upset to hear about that as she seemed to have a deep affection for the place. She probably grew up there.
"-plus the fact that they would suffer the worst of winter due to their location. Stark is the one lord likely to have stockpiled extensively but those probably went with the wrecking of Winterfell."
That was a blow, definitely. He had no idea how precarious the situation really was all this time.
"Let's discount the Iron Isles: the will likely starve as they hardly produce enough for themselves even in good years. The Vale has gone full on separatist under Lysa Arryn, even if they shared their stores which is highly unlikely knowing what we do of the lady, it couldn't cover the shortfall even if we combined it with the stores of the Reach and the Westerlands."
"In short, it does not look good?" Enjolras looked up.
Addam had to agree. "I'm afraid it doesn't. Be ready for hard times."
“Thank you.” Enjolras told Addam sincerely as he got up to leave. He clasped his hand firmly, feeling a sense of brotherhood with this man who had shared his knowledge despite the very different paths their lives had taken since their days at the Citadel.
“Anything for a fellow student of the Citadel. God’s grace go with you, Enjolras.”
Now that he knew the awe-inspiring extent of the problems in front of them, he was torn between despair for their future and righteous burning anger. He could use that: use it to inform his readers of what they faced in the coming months and how little they could rely on the ruling elite to do their duty. Let them try and deny it now! He would eviscerate them in print and damn the consequences.
Back at the Musain
When Enjolras returned to the Musain, he was accosted by a rather distressed Courfeyrac.
“Enjolras, we need to talk before you go in and see Grantaire-“ he said before they could say another word. It was evident that his conscience was weighing heavily on him.
Enjolras was brought up short. He had been so preoccupied with the horrors of the coming Winter , and how little prepared the city and even the whole country were for it’s rigours that he had forgotten the cynical painter’s vendetta against the mysterious maiden who had swiftly become part of their lives. He had made it his goal to convince the rest of them that she was lying through her teeth and even Enjolras had noticed that the painter resented it when he paid her attention.
Too quickly. You should be wary of that, Enjolras. He told himself. She is not for you, however beautiful she is. You have a goal to attain, winter is coming and disaster for the people of King’s Landing looms, unless by some miracle we can get food to keep us alive during the lean years. This is the worst time of all to suddenly be enamoured of a girl completely out of your league.
“What does he have to say for himself?” He shrugged off his red coat and found a seat as the group greeted him and Combeferre.
“I was not out of line!” Grantaire’s chin stuck out, aggression gleaming in his blue-green eyes. “You know nothing about her, only what she deigns to tell us! Ask her! Demand that she finally tells the truth!”
“As far as I can see you are the one who objects loudest to her presence, Grantaire.” pointed out Combeferre, trying to keep the peace.
“Well, actually I do. A girl from Chataya’s who knows Sansa. Swears that she is as close to her as a sister.” Grantaire’s chin went up in a defiant line, eager to prove his point.
“Doesn’t sound good, does it?” Marius said with a grimace.
“I’m sure there’s a logical explanation, Grantaire, talk to her instead of jumping to conclusions.” urged Marius, refusing to believe that such an innocent looking girl could be a doxy.
“But why didn’t she just tell us her background?” Jehan wondered out loud. No one could deny that the bard had a point.
“Why do you think?”
Enjolras stood toe to toe with Grantaire, jaw tensed.
“Every single time you have to cast aspersions on the girl. What has she ever done to you? She is alone and vulnerable. She needs our help.” Enjolras insisted. “If she’s run off because of your accusations, I swear by the Seven I will-“
“So are you telling me you have never doubted the girl? Because I can tell you that is a lie!” Grantaire’s voice was starting to rise. “We wouldn’t be being chased by those ‘Little Birds’ if it wasn’t for her.”
“Aye, he’s got a point, I hate to say it.” Joly had to add, reluctant as he was to speak about someone who wasn’t there to defend herself. “She even admitted that Varys the Eunuch used them to spy.”
“But why would she have told us of the threat? If she was one of them, she would have said nothing while they got all they could from us and damned us out of our own mouths. But she seems to fear them just as much as we do.”
“And so you told her this?” Enjolras turned his attention to Courfeyrac. “Told her we all thought she was nothing but a lying doxy and taking us for a ride?”
Courfeyrac gave a guilty little gulp and shuffled back minutely. His apologetic little smile told him everything he needed to know. “I didn’t say that as such, I just mentioned that Grantaire was making enquiries about her at his new job on the Street of Silk.”
“And how did she take that?” Enjolras said to Courfeyrac, his voice tight-wound as an automaton spring, every vowel and consonant tenser and tighter with every word.
Courfeyrac gave a nervous smile. “Umm, she was offended? I didn’t mean to do it, I just wanted to warn her that he was asking after her.”
“She may not have meant to lie. Perhaps she was in a bad position and desperate.” reasoned Jehan, who had a tender spot in his heart for the girl, as he did for all fair and lovely things.
“It still doesn’t answer the question that we rightly have!” Grantaire retorted, keen to prove his point.
There was a loud knock on the door and the tension in the room dispersed as Combeferre readied himself to open the door. “Password?”
“Maiden, Mother and Crone.” came Musichetta and Eponine’s voices from behind the door.
Enjolras nodded at Comberferre to indicate he could grant them entrance. “Ladies, what bring you both here?” he said trying for politeness.
Musichetta’s chin was jutted out as she searched for Grantaire and Courfeyrac. Her sharp dark eyes scanned the room, landing on the painter. “I want a word with you.”
“Oh this is ridiculous! What have I done now?” protested Grantaire, exasperated at getting attacked from two fronts. All he’d done was make enquiries about someone who had not proven their credentials in the team. He was trying to be a part of the group, for seven hell’s sake!
“What have you done? How about the fact I have one of my workers sobbing in the scullery all afternoon, because she is convinced you all think she is a whore? “ Musichetta accused, going on the warpath straight away. She crossed her arms over her bodice, every inch the defensive mama bear guarding her cub, ready and willing to do battle on Sansa’s behalf.
There was a collective wince round the room.
“Nice one, ‘Taire! Thought that one through, didn’t you?” muttered Courfeyrac who was still sore about getting the blame for upsetting Sansa as it was.
“I’m sorry, gents, I love you all but if you’re going to upset my staff when they’re on duty, I’m not having it.” Musichetta put her hands on her hips, eyeing them severely. “You already interrupt her when she’s mean to be working, dragging her away from her work.”
“You made my dear friend cry?” Eponine was outraged. “Is this true?”
“Look, don’t get me wrong, I like the girl, I really do, but if Grantaire is right and she’s a spy? We can’t take that risk!” Joly’s voice rose.
Eponine and Musichetta exchanged another look and withdrew a little, urgently whispering to one another while looking over at Enjolras and Grantaire.
“Look, we’re going to mention this because we are worried, but if you’re going to be unpleasant to the girl, we’ll have her moved somewhere else. I brought her here in good faith, and I won’t have my friend given a hard time for no reason!” Eponine gave them all that piercing look that made many of them group fidget and feel bad. In truth, she was rather adept at it.
“She might be a spy!” Grantaire piped up, aware that he was losing his rhetorical advantage. “Are we going to stand here and wait, while she reports back to the Master of Whispers?”
“-and if she is a spy she’s on the run! She’s terrified. Wherever she’s come from, they’ve hurt her and hurt her badly. There, I didn’t want to say it, but-“ Musichetta burst out.
“Hurt her? What do you mean, hurt her?” asked Marius. “You’ve mentioned it now, you may as well come out with the whole thing.”
“Gods forgive us for betraying a confidence, but I’m really worried about the lass. We were having a bath, us girls, and we saw her back striped with lash marks and bruises.”
There was an intake of breath as Eponine’s revelation sunk in.
“Lash marks?” Combeferre asked.
“Someone’s given her a good working over with a whip or some sort of blade- maybe a sword. She has bruises on her legs and hips. We tried to salve as much as we could, but she was unhappy and distraught. I feel bad even talking about this, to be honest.” Musichetta chimed in.
“How could they?” Jehan said faintly, his empathetic soul appalled by the marks of abuse that the women had spoken of. “No wonder she ran away!”
“Wherever she’s come from, she’s safer with us. But please give her a chance to trust us. I think she would find it hard to trust anyone in this situation.”
“Did we do the right thing?” fretted Eponine as they left. “I still feel terrible about telling them about, well, you know.”
“We didn’t have much of a choice. I’m sure that they were convinced she was a spy thanks to Grantaire.”
“What has he got against her anyway? I’ve seen her with the group, she goes out of her way to be friendly to them all.” Eponine urged.
Musichetta didn’t say anything, but her mouth thinned into a severe line.
“It’s not for me to say.” Musichetta grudgingly said, falling silent as as they heard footsteps behind them.
Chapter 14: A Taste of Heaven on the Tongue
As Sansa prepares to leave the group, she and Enjolras have a heart to heart which quite changes everything...
It soon becomes quite apparent to everyone else that things have progressed somewhat, but their idyll is under threat...
Sorry for keeping you guys waiting for the update. It's taking me a while to knit this all together. Hoping you enjoy and it's not too sappy and OOC but it was time for things to progress Sanjolras- wise (is that even a thing?). After all, they have been pining for some time now!
Any comments to the usual place, and thanks for reading and following!
“Enjolras, what are you doing here?” Eponine still sounded distrustful, which was understandable in the situation, she felt. The women felt protective towards Sansa, especially as feeling had been whipped up against her in the group.
“I need to speak to Sansa.” Enjolras told her, an earnest gleam in his eye. "Please? It's important."
Musichetta looked down her nose at him forbiddingly. She could be formidable when crossed and she was plainly cross with the way the problem had worked out. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, do you?”
Eponine joined in, airing her opinion freely. “If you had seen her in that alleyway backing away from those creeps trying to attack her, you would never have said that about her, or allowed your friends to cast aspersions on her character. It’s not right!”
“Then please, please help me make this right! I don’t want her to go.” He found himself admitting, turning crimson as he realised that he’d confessed something so personal he hadn’t even acknowledged it to himself.
“You don’t?” Eponine couldn’t help being somewhat surprised by this admission. She eyed him shrewdly.
He shook his head. "I will never forgive myself if she leaves like this. Please let me make things right here."
"You know how you can make things right for a start? Stop Grantaire and his little campaign against her. Whatever she's done, she needs our help, not our censure."
When they reached Sansa in the humble room she was renting from Musichetta, she was hurriedly packing the few items she had managed to acquire during her working life at the tavern into a bundle: a couple of bodices, a rough linen shift with deft black-work round the neck and hem, and two neatly mended skirts. She was rolling them round a pair of wide wooden patten clogs, humming a sweet poignant little ballad to herself as she worked.
Enjolras saw the clothes he had got her carefully folded on the end of her bed and felt terrible. I never meant for this to happen… he told himself, his heart sinking. I don’t want her to go. How in Seven Hells has this happened?
She looked up guiltily, the colour rushing into her cheeks, up her neck and staining her delicate ears red. Evidently she hadn’t expected to be caught in the act. She was obviously planning to disappear without a word, possibly this very night.
“Sansa, dear friend what are you doing?” Eponine asked. She made a sign to Enjolras, silently asking to hang back for a moment. He didn’t like the sound of that but he did so reluctantly, lingering by the doorway.
She gulped, looking even more guilty.
“Eponine, please try to understand-“
Eponine shook her head in disbelief. “Were you going to skip town and not say a word, Sansa?”
“I’m sorry Eponine, Musichetta, you’ve both been so good to me, you saved me, but I can’t stay here, I’ve lingered long enough, I realise that. I must leave, head north.”
“By yourself? Eponine said incredulously, brows raised in disbelief, taken aback by her determination. “You’re going to leave King’s Landing alone, go all that way? But the Riverlands is a wasteland. By the time the Lannister troops have done with the region, there is nothing there. Sending you out in that would be like sending a lamb out into a pack of wolves!”
“And yet I must risk it, no matter the cost.”
“I don’t have much of a choice.”
Enjolras burst forward, unable to keep silent. “You do! You have a choice, Sansa. You don’t have to leave. Please reconsider-“
Eponine turned to him, startled by the sudden break in his cover. “Enjolras!”
The colour rose in his cheeks, but he stood his ground, devoting his attention to Sansa, holding her hands in his and looking her ardently in the eye. “I heard what you said to Eponine. You want to leave King’s Landing, but I think you are making a mistake.” He said earnestly.
"“Why must you leave your friends and risk your life? We said we would offer you our protection such that it was, and that still holds true. Do you not feel safe with us any more?"
“Because every moment I stay, I am putting you all in danger. This was foolhardy, you should all dislike and suspect me, I wouldn’t blame you if you did.”
“Sansa!” he wrenched her out of the dark brooding unhappiness which she was spiralling into.“What makes you think that?”
“The little birds,” she stammered, looking up at him with those big blue eyes, “You all thought that they were there to spy and that I had something to do with it, because I knew about them.”
“Courfeyrac did not truly meant to upset you. He did not do it right, but his heart is in the right place. He doesn’t think, none of them actually think-“
“Grantaire does. Grantaire thinks that I am nothing but a doxy!" she reminded him.
"He had no right to take things so far behind our backs. I will speak to him and set him right, don't fear about that. He has for some reason known only to himself, misjudged you dreadfully."
Sansa thought about telling him about Courfeyrac's odd statement that Grantaire was jealous of her, which didn't make much sense to her mind, but perhaps it was a motivation of sorts. She decided to hold her tongue, not sure how she would even bring it up.
“There was something that he said that I didn’t get?"
"I don't understand?"
Enjolras hesitated to explain himself. "He said there was a girl at the pillow-house that he is working at currently who said, well…”
“Who said what?” Sansa was genuinely puzzled at what this mysterious woman could have said to the painter to be taken as such secure proof of her alleged deception.
“He said that she knew you, a ‘Jeyne’ Is it true?”
Sansa went pale with shock at his words, her hands trembling so much she had to put her bundle down. “What was the girl’s name? Jeyne Poole? She was dark haired, this high, dark eyes, a northern accent?” She burst out, her voice low and urgent.
“You do know her, then!” Musichetta could not help but say, surprised she would openly admit it.” When Grantaire said it, I wasn’t sure what to think.”
Sansa turned to Musichetta, eager to exonerate herself. None of this made sense, but Jeyne did know her and in between the sheer relief of knowing that she was alive, she could now see why the misunderstanding had occurred. No wonder a suspicious Grantaire had leapt to the conclusion that she had fled from the pillow house. But oh, how awful for poor Jeyne! “Jeyne is my friend! She was closer to me than anything. I grew up with her. I thought…I thought she had died!”
“It’s not so outlandish that Grantaire may have leapt to conclusions?” Enjolras used caution, not wanting to upset her again.
“But she isn’t a doxy! Jeyne and I are innocent. We are maids, I suppose that means ‘we were’, doesn’t it?” Sansa insisted as she tried to work it out. “So why was she in a pillow-house?”
“So tell, me, who is this ‘Jeyne’ you know like a sister?”
“Jeyne came with me from Winterfell." Sansa explained, looking at them earnestly. "The day that they raided the Hand’s household. They stopped us from escaping, and then they killed or imprisoned everyone. I thought she was dead like Septa Mordane and Lord Stark.”
"Killed everyone? Are these people monsters?" Musichetta asked, shaking her head at such wicked doings of the great and good.
“They killed the whole household, so we would not resist when they came for Lord Stark. It’s all my fault…” her voice choked as the tears she had been trying so desperately to fight refused to be confined anymore and started to trickle down her face. She was just so weary and tired of it all, the heavy weight of guilt she had been carrying like a burden ever since that horrible day. She couldn’t go on, overwhelmed by the guilt that had weighed her down for months.
“Why is it your fault?” he asked Sansa as she sobbed, gently comforting her by stroking her hair holding her close, enfolding her in the scarlet warmth of his doublet.
She bit her lip, obviously wondering whether she could trust him.
Seeing them together, his arm round her waist, her hands clinging to the dark red cotton of his tunic felt like Eponine was witnessing an intimacy she was not meant to be privy to. Signalling to Musichetta, they slipped away leaving the couple to themselves.
"She is falling for him, that’s what’s breaking her heart. Poor lass! And he has no idea." Eponine sighed.
Musichetta was a bit more canny than that. She took one last glance at her in Enjolras's arms. "Oh, I wouldn't be too sure of that, Eponine."
Sansa and Enjolras were so intent on each other that they barely noticed Eponine and Musichetta leave.
"Why blame yourself for the Hand's tragedy, Sansa?"
Sansa looked up at him with miserable haunted eyes. “Because I told them.” Her voice was low and tormented as she admitted the truth, the things she had not thought, had dared to think since the fall of her father from the illustrious position of Hand. “I opened my big mouth and told them that I didn’t want to leave King’s Landing. I was nothing but a brainless little fool, dazzled by the glamour of King’s Landing and not heeding the danger.”
No wonder the girl blames herself. What a terrible burden to take upon such young shoulders!
“You blame yourself for something that was so much bigger than you. I know you grieve about your friend Jeyne and her fate, for your friends... You think that they deliberately sent her there t punish her? To a pillow house?”
The Seven alone knew how the girl had been treated there. If even a worldly man like Grantaire was moved to pity-
“They must have captured her and held her there. She must be so terrified!" Sansa sobbed, trying to pull herself together and regain control.
Enjolras just wanted to comfort her. He did not want to see her unhappy and in pain.
“Shush, shush-“ he murmured, holding her close. “I said I would keep you safe and I will. Whatever it is, whatever you’re hiding from-“
“How can I stay if your group don’t accept me? They all think-“
“No, they don’t.” he said firmly, thrusting aside his misgivings ”- and even if they did, they wouldn’t say anything, they wouldn’t dare. You are a lady in distress, and we have said that you are under our protection.”
Sansa hesitated, obviously wondering whether she could trust him. She was taken utterly by surprise to feel his lips on hers, tender, passionate and insistent.
"Enjolras-" she breathed, dazed by surprise and wonder.
He seemed almost taken aback at the boldness of his actions, as if he had surprised himself by expressing them after such long restraint. "I didn't mean- I don't- I didn't expect to do that!" he came out with, sounding rather shocked.
She responded to him, tilting her face and running her finger through those golden curls of his.
"Why on earth did we wait so long?" he breathed in awe. "Sansa-"
This time it was she who kissed him, silencing his words with the sweetness of her mouth.
Sansa leaned on his shoulder, taking comfort from his strength as he held her close.
She had held her tongue for so long, thinking that he would never be interested in a girl like her, that she was everything he disapproved of and fought against. The kiss he'd given her had proved differently. She gently touched her lips, still dazed by the tenderness and care shown in that kiss, feeling cherished for the first time in a very long while.
“I never thought…I never dared dream. I thought you didn’t like me, didn’t trust me at all.” She murmured.
“I will own that I have many questions about your background, and I wish you would tell us the truth and be done with it, but I understand your fear. Trust me to keep you as safe as I can.”
"I trust you."
This was like the heady daydreams she and Jeyne had harboured about kissing some handsome young lord or knight like Ser Loras Tyrell or in Jeyne's case Lord Beric, back when she was young sheltered and innocent. When she'd been happy. So different from Joffrey's cloying, overbearing attentions, always accompanied by a sly hand taking liberties and demanding more than she was prepared to grant.
Is it so bad to want to be loved and cherished? For someone to care for me?
“But what shall we do about Jeyne? We can’t just leave her there in that pillow-house?”
“Grantaire is the one person that might actually be able to help us.” Enjolras told her. "He seems to have developed a rapport with this Jeyne. She trusts him. If we came up with a plan to get her out, he could help us save your friend. Now that he had thought of it, it seems to fit so well.
Sansa looked less convinced. “But he has never trusted me. I truly don’t think he likes me at all."
Enjolras had noticed the antipathy and wondered what was behind it. “I will put it to the group and see what they have to say.Despite his bias against you, he is a good man. Let me talk to him, see if I can persuade him to change his mind. Jeyne will not be left in distress, I promise you." he vowed.
She looked up at him with grateful eyes, enjoying the comfort of his arms and wondering now that she knew the sweet comfort of his kisses, would she ever be able to leave him now? Oh Sansa, try not to be such a fool over this man, this paragon out of your reach!
Sansa, you are such a ridiculous fool for him. Just because he is more chivalrous, kind and loyal than any knight you have met since your departure from home, does that mean you should forget the very real danger you are in?
Yet she was so weary of hiding, hiding her feelings and emotions behind that cool, cautious wary facade, pretending that she hadn't been attracted to him, had not longed for him from the beginning, despite their disagreements and distrust.
She had started to believe that decent men like him simply didn't exist any more.
The next day
With all the romantic tension between the two of them, something was bound to give, and it just happened to ignite into passion the day that there was finally ample food in the shops and Sansa had taken it into her head to make lemon cakes for them.
“There's food in the shops!” she beamed bright as the noonday sun, followed by Eponine. Both girls were weighed down by sacks of food which they placed on the counter. “It seems the blockade is over for now. There were wagons coming into the gates and there's ships at the dock. We hurried there to see what we could get, before the crowds started panic buying.”
“So good to have decent victuals again.”
“Why is there food coming in now?” Feuilly asked. “Are the city’s troubles over at last, or is this just a reprieve?”
“Apparently there was some sort of a blockade from the Roseroad which was stopping the wagons from reaching the city. But it's over now!” Comebferre told them. “The Tyrells made a deal with the crown to let in the wagons once more and they’ve brought plenty in compensation. We have a positive glut now!”
“The Tyrells were blocking the food supply from the Reach and the Stormlands, well that figures!” Enjolras contented himself with saying.
I was right! The manipulative games these high-born fools play with our lives for their own gratification. Our hunger is mere sport to them! For some reason he didn't go into one of his famous rants on the subject. He just didn't want to upset Sansa, see the radiance fall from her face. I would have her smile as she is right now. Radiant and lovely as the Maiden herself.
“I know 'tis a bit of an indulgence but I got some Dornish lemons which were on sale, because a couple of them were over-ripe and dented. I wanted to do something nice for you all, since you've all been so kind and welcoming to me, so I thought I could make you all lemon-cakes!”
He drew Musichetta aside for a moment, as Sansa worked, mixing the cake batter with a concentrated face as Eponine grated the zest off the lemons, filling the kitchen with the sharp summery scent. She didn't even seem to notice the smudge of flour on her cheek as she baked. Enjolras could not help his gaze straying fondly towards her for a moment before getting down to business. “When you get supplies, remember to start stockpiling. It’s deadly important.”
She turned to him in surprise at the seriousness of his tone, “Stockpiling? I don’t know what silver and copper I have spare, times have been hard lately, but why are you so adamant about stockpiling stores?”
“Winter is fast approaching.” he told her.
She raised her brows in surprise, “Really? It’s that time again?”
“Yes, the pale ravens are going to be sent any time now from Oldtown. Times are going to be hard because supplies from the regions are going to be scarce. This convoy from the Reach is welcome, but will it last us?"”
“Worse than now?” she asked, facing the problem squarely on, like the competent and practical woman she was. Enjolras had to admire that in her. No matter what was thrown at her, Musichetta seemed to roll with the punches and thrive, even during the worst days of the blockage she had kept the doors open of their refuge.
“Aye. Much worse.”
“But surely the Crown will provide something for the capital. Soup kitchen, fuel stores…”
Enjolras shook his head, privately despairing at the unthinking trust the small-folk had that the great lords would fulfill their side of the social contract and provide for those well-off than themselves. Those selfish venal bastards cared only for their own! “Put not your trust in the Crown. Buy as much non perishable food as possible and start storing and let us hope it lasts until Spring starts again.”
In the kitchen , Sansa, Musichetta and Eponine mixed the ingredients for the cake. It reminded Sansa with a sweet yet sharp pang of home, Cook baking treats for the Starks, sharing with Arya, Bran and Jeyne. A taste of home she longed for with a fierce pang.
“These were such a treat at home. I loved these so much."
Eponine tried to swipe a bit of lemon cake batter to test. “Gavroche would love some of these.”
“We'll make sure we leave some for him. We have enough ingredients for three each, as long as we don't make them too big.”
“Lemon cakes?” The group were pleased but surprised by her little gift to them at the evening meeting.
"Just a small token of my thanks for helping me. I really appreciate all you have done, all of you." she said in her polite tones and a smile. Her gaze passed over Grantaire and he looked away.
The group fell silent, tucking into the delicious cakes with a healthy appetite.
"This is amazing." Jehan said in awe at the first delicious bite of cake. "Like paradise on the tongue."
"Musichetta and Eponine helped me make them." she said, pleased at his appreciation of their efforts.
“Do you not like your lemon cake?” she asked Enjolras, who had barely finished his first one by the time everyone else had embarked upon second helpings.
“I'm not really one for sweet things, but I'll share this one with you if you'd like.” he offered as he noticed the faintest gleam of greed in her eyes at his words. He had noticed how she'd relished the taste of the cakes.
He broke the moist sticky cake into two and handed her a piece, their fingers brushing as he passed it over to her. He noticed the secret shared thrill that passed between at the luxury of touch.
It was really was quite scrumptious, moist not too sticky but aromatic with the scent and taste of honey, fresh butter and the sharp taste of lemons. The cake was like heaven after the weeks and months of starvation in the city, a taste of hope and luxury. He broke off little pieces of cake, feeding her small slivers, prolonging the pleasure.
The tip of her tongue chased the last taste of lemon filling from his fingers. She licked his fingers with such a sweet innocence, barely stifling a soft moan of pleasure that went straight to his groin. The feel of her tongue, the warm softness of her mouth, her sweet full lips against his fingers was incredibly arousing.
Combeferre was staring at them, his breathing shallow and agitated.
“What's the matter with you?” Courfeyrac frowned, unable to work why his friend was acting so weirdly at the first sight of luxuries for months. He barely seemed to be enjoying the frankly delicious cake which was most unlike him.
“I'm going-” his voice sounded strangled.
“Combeferre? What are you-”
“Look I'm going to have to go, before I start lifting the god-damned table.” He nodded sharply at Enjolras and Sansa opposite him.
Things suddenly became a great deal more clear to Courfeyrac. "Oh, I see..." No wonder their leader had been so keen to admonish Grantaire for his attempts to discredit her.
“Think, Courf! Why was he defending her so strongly?”
Courfeyrac shook his head, wondering why he had not truly seen it before. Once you looked at the pair, it was clear something at least had happened between them. Enjolras sought her out now, and she fairly glowed, radiant in his presence, like a spring flower in bloom. “You know the saddest thing of all? I don’t think he even realises it.”
“That he’s a man just like any other, and he desires her, just as she is entranced by him.”
Courfeyrac glanced at the pair of them sharing the lemon cake, Enjolras's fingertips sliding out of her mouth, lingering on her lips lovingly. "I think he realises it now."
“You're driving me mad, do you know that?” Enjolras breathed as he caught her up in the service corridor.
Sansa stared at him, wide-eyed, as strongly attracted as he was and equally unable to hide it from the rest of them. His eyes fixed on her mouth as she bit her lip, eyes darkened with longing, "I'm sorry, ser.” she murmured, sounding positively alluring. If this girl really tried to entice, how irresistible, how dangerous she would be...
His hands wrapped round her waist, pulling her close and tasting the honeyed sweetness of the cakes from her mouth.
This was madness, a divine crazy madness sent by the Maiden herself, she knew this, but she couldn't tear herself from his arms. If her poor dead septa could see her now. She wasn't behaving remotely as a proper maiden should. She clung to Enjolras, kissing him over and over, wanting and needing to be closer than ever to him.
“Enjolras, I was just wondering whether we have enough space for another-” Marius's voice intruded into their amorous idyll, trailing into shocked horrified silence. "Oh! I-"
Sansa buried her face into Enjolras's doublet, ashamed of being caught kissing him. His arms wrapped round her defensively and she relaxed in his embrace, feeling protected and strangely safe.
Enjolras was too shocked to shout at his friend, having been taken by surprise. The silence stretched out awkwardly.
Marius hastily beat a tactful retreat. "I...well...erm...I'd better be going." he sputtered, scurrying away.
After Marius had beat his hasty retreat, Sansa pulled away from Enjolras with reluctance.
“You’ll stay with me?” he murmured. “Say you’ll stay with me?”
She was weak and foolish. Being with him was only going to make things worse when the truth finally came to light. And yet she was so desperate to be loved, she craved the affection of this beautiful remote young man so much despite the danger that she pushed her misgivings to the side and let him kiss her tenderly once more.
After 'the Lemon-cake Incident', as it swiftly became known, it was immediately apparent that Enjolras and Sansa had come to some sort of arrangement and were an item.
Marius and Courfeyrac discussed trying to get Enjolras alone for a rather awkward and necessary talk in Marius’s opinion. Courfeyrac thought he was fussing about nothing but Marius fretted so much and caused such a fuss that in the end, Courfeyrac agreed to go with him. “Fine! Enjolras won’t thank us for it, but just to shut you up.”
“I wouldn’t make a fuss if it was not important!” Marius was sounding positively shrill by this point.“They absolutely categorically must not sleep with each other. It’s of vital importance!” Marius paced up and down as he fretted.
Courfeyrac leant back in his chair, highly amused at how agitated his friend was, and managing to be very unhelpful in his suggestions.“I don’t think that it’s going to go that far, Marius, seriously. A couple of kisses and cuddles, that's all. Enjolras…well, let just say that he hasn’t had the experience of most of us lads. He won’t push her too far.”
“That’s exactly why I worry!”
“That's how it starts out and then you end up trawling the streets at midnight for a herb-wife or maester willing to supply moon-tea at short notice and a heavy price.” Marius said darkly. "Are you going to tell him, or am I?"
Courfeyrac gave a short cynical burst of laughter. "After last time? Absolutely not! You're on your own, Marius!"
"They'll be fine. Enjolras isn't exactly one of the world's great lovers, he's too dedicated to his craft. Sansa is just a sweet distraction while the struggle looms ahead. He's too sensible to throw everything away now. Stop fretting!"
Out in the quarter, the Goldcloaks were a heavy presence, lingering on street corners, questioning and searching. Sansa made sure that she stayed in the safe close confines of the tavern and if she risked going out that she was heavily cloaked and went out at dawn and dusk when there were less people about.
Gavroche and Eponine noticed that one particular man patrolled the area exclusively, interrogating and examining every resident he came across with brusque words. She didn’t know if she were being paranoid but he seemed to be looking for someone.
They're searching for my friend. I have to warn her! Eponine thought as she tried to side-step him. Even worse, she knew the man, Javert, a nosy prating busybody, with a nose like a bloodhound. He must not get her!, she thought to herself
He eyed her with great suspicion, taking her all in at a glance and not seeming to think much of what he saw. "You there!"
She opened her big brown eyes wide in mock innocence. "Me?"
He looked down his nose at her as if to say: don't waste my time. "I'm searching for a girl with red hair, six and ten years of age with blue eyes. Have you seen her?" Javert asked.
"Nah, guv, sorry." Gavroche responded with admirable cool, shaking his head. "-ain't seen nothing."
Javert scowled as if he would have liked nothing better than to prove he was lying but Gavroche was giving nothing away. Eponine decided to follow his lead.
"Not me, sorry!" she chimed in.
Javert leant forward still suspicious of them and everyone in the quarter, obviously suspecting they were all lying to him. "Well, keep your eyes open. There's a reward for her safe return."
"What do we do?" Eponine hissed under her breath to Gavroche as they hurried out down an alley, using a shortcut to get to the tavern. their encounter had scared them and made their mission all the more urgent. They just hoped that they were not too late.
"We're going to have to warn her about Javert. If he's on her trail, he won't give up in a hurry."
Eponine was inclined to agree, even though she knew now that Sansa and Enjolras were now involved with each other that she was unlikely to want to leave him willingly.
Chapter 15: Truth, Bitter and Sweet
Just a little update on this story as I haven't posted in ages.
At long last Enjolras finds out the truth, but unfortunately, he doesn't take it very well.
“So let me get this straight, you want us to break into a pillow-house, the same one that Grantaire is currently working at and take back this ‘Jeyne’?” Marius asked. The group were intently discussing Enjolras's plan to retrieve Jeyne from the pillow-house.
“It’s a preposterous task and I know that I ask a lot of you all, but I believe that it is the right thing to do." Enjolras explained.
Combeferre saw where his friend was going with this at once, admiring his bold move,“You think this lass is in danger. Such that you feel we should intervene.”
“The palace are involved. They sent her there after the breaking-up of the Hand’s household, to silence and shame her. Poor girl...”
Enjolras turned to the painter. “Grantaire, you’ve met this girl before, would you agree with this?”
“Yes, someone there is hurting her and feeding her drugs, sweetleaf and sweetsleep. The haze of it in her chamber was unmistakable.” He did not elaborate on how he could be so definitive about the presence of the drugs in Jeyne’s current existence.
“Feeding her sweetsleep? Why?”
Grantaire sighed, thoroughly involved now, despite himself. “I suspect that she cannot function in that place without it as a crutch and I don’t blame her.”
Combeferre weighed in, with a worried look. “It can be fearsomely addictive.”
“Why is it so dangerous, Combeferre?”
“The damned stuff is very easy to develop a dependency on. Too easy. The patient needs more and more to get their rest, and that’s very perilous. Even worse it builds up in the body. Far too easy to accidentally over-dose.”
“Seven Hells-“ someone distinctly said as they thought about the consequnces of someone purposely inducing a dependency in the girl to control her.
“It has to be dispensed very carefully almost drop by drop by pipette, for an overdose is very easy to give and in the right quantity. We studied it extensively when we did our half-maester qualifications. Combeferre spoke rightly, it should not be used recreationally at all.” Joly said.
“It can be fatal?”
Joly just nodded. “Perhaps they think that she will be more tractable if she is dependent and addicted to drugs. If she’s dazed and strung out, she’s less likely to try and escape.” They had to admit it had a sick kind of logic.
“Enjolras is right, then, we have to rescue this girl from the clutches of these people before she comes to any more harm. You will aid us, Grantaire? We can’t do this without you!” Enjolras turned to his friend.
“I never thought I would go into business as a knight-errant!” muttered Grantaire with a cynical twist to his mouth even though anyone could see that he was pleased to be included in the group’s activities as a vital member.
“You brought this girl’s plight to our attention. You did a good and admirable thing here, Grantaire.”
“I’ll do this because of Jeyne, because no one deserves whatever is going on in there.” Grantaire retorted, a pleased smile lingering on his face.
The Sept of Baelor, the next day
The populace gathered at the Sept of Baelor, eager to see how Joffrey would react to them,following his humiliation that day. Would he listen to their grievances and be reasonable, or would he indulge in the sort of brutality which had caused the rebellion in the first place?
“Good People, I call you all here today, because-“ he looked at his uncle as if Tyrion was prompting him in the unfamiliar situation of beseeching public help, instead of haranguing them.
“I understand that your grievances towards my family and I are deep-seated, but I come to you to seek your help, and to make amends.”
The crowd exchanged bemused looks, surprised at his apparent and uncharacteristic humility. What was the king playing at? Was there any chance that Joffrey was being sincere?
"My fiancée – the Lady Sansa Stark- has gone missing. She disappeared during the riots and we have been unable to find the lady. She would have been alone and defenceless, a fair maid of six and ten."
Joffrey raised his voice so that everyone in the sept could hear. “I have to believe that she can still be found, that nothing terrible has happened to her, that somehow she has managed to survive the terrors of the riot and remain unharmed. Her family will rain down vengeance on us all if she is harmed or worse...if she is dead.”
"Dead?" A rustle of horror ran through the assembly at the thought.
"Her brother rampages in the Riverlands, thirsting for blood and vengeance. If he finds out she came to any harm in our city , there's no telling what he might wreak upon us! Help me keep us safe! Help me find my bride to be." Joffrey pleaded, his voice breaking affectingly at the thought of that awful fate.
The group filed past the portrait as part of the seething mass, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible as they viewed the portrait.
Oh, dear Gods, it cannot be true!
Enjolras froze mid-step, all colour drained from his face as he took a good look at the portrait. He almost stumbled, completely shocked by the revelation of their guest's true identity.
He tried to speak, but nothing came out, merely a strangled noise.
"Come! Bring no attention to ourselves. Let us go, right now!" Marius had to nudge him into behaving with some semblance of normality before the group started to draw unwanted attention to themselves, though they were just as taken aback as Enjolras was by their discovery, for the last thing they wanted was to rouse the suspicions of the authorities against their little group.
It was unmistakably her, the red-gold hair dressed in an elaborate court half-do and falling down in waves down to her waist. Those clear blue eyes and lovely porcelain complexion were the same as ever. Her sweet mouth in a serious line, a haunting sadness in her blue eyes. She was dressed in a magnificent gown of grey-green taffeta with cloth roses around the neckline that brought out the fire and brightness of her long fiery hair. Joffrey stood behind her in the portrait, a possessive hand on her pale shoulder, a smug smirk on his face. The young and beautiful royal couple, the prospective king and queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
No wonder she been so desperate to leave King's Landing! All those times she'd referred to Lord Stark, Joffrey and Queen Cersei with such familiarity and had warned them of Lord Varys and his long reach. It was because she knew, from first-hand experience.
Eddard Stark, the former Hand of the King and Warden of the North was her father and she came from a venerable bloodline which had ruled the North for eight thousand years.
He realised the futility of it all, the bitter injustice of the situation he was in now. He loved her. He could deny it no longer. The girl had got under his skin, made him question and compromise his long-held beliefs, but all the time the girl had been lying to their faces, living a lie.
Was every night spent in her arms, every sweet kiss she'd given him a lie?
She was meant to be a queen, Joffrey's future wife and she'd stayed listening to their talk of rebellion and insurrection. Working in their humble tavern with not a peep of her true identity? What kind of sick game was she playing?
He didn't know why he felt so betrayed, but he resolved that he was going to get to the bottom of this intrigue if it killed him.
Back at the tavern
Sansa knew nothing of the group’s trip to the Sept of Baelor and was completely unaware of Joffrey’s public appeal to get her back. She had no idea her world was just about to implode once more.
“May I speak to you, alone?” he said as soon as he walked in. His jaw was set rigid as he gritted out his terse greeting, barely managing by a feat of patience not to starting yelling at her publicly, though frankly, he was sorely tempted.
It had been a long time since he had spoken to her like that. Sansa looked up at him, stunned by the tone of his voice, “Now? It’s not a good time, Enjolras, I have a mountain of dishes to wash in the scullery.” Her gaze darted towards the back room as if she were seeking an escape from his anger.
He was not going to let her get away that easily, following her into the scullery, eager and hot for confrontation, his blood up. “When were you planning to tell us?” he demanded straight away as soon as they were in the scullery.
“Tell you?” She was genuinely confused now. Why we he so angry with her? What had changed since this morning?
He closed his eyes, utterly exasperated by what he saw as her duplicity, “Don’t! Don’t bloody pretend you have no idea of what I speak! “ he snapped.
"What's going on? I don't understand?"
"I know now, we all do. We went to the Sept of Baelor, where Joffrey Baratheon, -gods curse his name!- addressed the populace and took great pains to show the congregation a portrait of his missing fiancée. Sansa Stark of Winterfell."
"I-" She started to talk, to try to justify herself, but fell silent at the look on his face.
"Well? Do you have anything to say?
“You don’t understand, I didn’t know how to say it.” She turned pleading eyes towards him, and he steeled himself to resist her allure.
She is far too good at throwing the wool over our eyes, dealing in deception. No doubt she learnt it at court, probably at the Queen Regent’s knee!
“So what is Sansa Stark doing skulking in a run down tavern in the student’s quarter?” there was a sneer in his voice that told her he was not going to easily forgive her for her omissions. “Did the lady suddenly get an irresistible urge to slum it with the students? Seeing how the other half live, eh?”
She could have borne anything but his scorn, the sarcasm lashing her, “I never meant for this to happen! I was lost down an alleyway and these men cornered me, and then Eponine scared them off."
“So tell me, how do you know this Jeyne? You do know her, do you not?” He kept his voice even by a feat of patience.
Sansa hung her head, ashamed of her omission, even though she not had much choice . “She was my- my handmaiden”
The disappointment and disgust in his voice upset her, as her idyll fell apart right before her eyes once more, “I’m truly sorry, I never meant to lie but it was too dangerous to tell the truth and it got harder and harder."
“You have to leave! You are endangering us all, lying constantly. How do I know that any of it was true?”
She couldn’t bear that he thought she lied about them and her feeling for him. That was the one thing in her life that was real and true, this sweet glimpse of love that she had thought dead, ripped apart by the intrusion of real life into their dream.
“I’m still the same girl you awoke with a kiss in the morning.” She pleaded, trying everything in her power to turn his righteous anger from her.
His stern statue-like countenance was unmoved. “Are you, my Lady?”
“When I realised I had feeling for you, even though I shouldn’t, I made a mistake. I was scared that if you knew who I really was you would all turn from me and I would have nothing. You would all despise me because of the aims of your group. Can you not try to understand?"
He shook his head. “In truth, I’m not even sure who you are anymore.”
Enjolras had never seen the mild-mannered Combeferre so exasperated and annoyed with him, glaring at him and showing disapproval of his friend's bitter stance.
Combeferre sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, evidently praying for patience, to stop himself from yelling at his friend.
Perhaps he was being unfair about the revelation of Sansa's identity, for looking back since she had arrived in their lives, the clues were all there. He could not help feeling a little bit betrayed by it, the thought of Joffrey Baratheon laying hands on Sansa ignited a storm of feelings he did not want to acknowledge, to admit to himself that Lady Sansa Stark - the sweet young woman he had fallen for despite his better judgement - was out of his reach.
No wonder she unfailing loyal to the memory of Eddard Stark, spoke with confidence of the workings of Court and the obligation of the nobility towards their subjects, for she was born into that rarefied world and had it in her blood.
She must be in extraordinary danger, he pondered, because I sincerely doubt that the Queen Mother or Joffrey would willingly let her go free, not as things were like now.
The thought of Sansa working in their humble tavern without complaint, desperate to survive away from the gilded cage of court, always wary of revealing her true self, and blowing her cover.
Why would she do that? Why would she lie?