When Joffrey fell to the floor in the banqueting hall, choking on his own blood, Sansa ran, as she had been told to by Dontos Hollard. But she did not leave alone; she grabbed Tyrion by the hand and dragged him with her to their chambers. She did not know why she did so—she could not think of a good reason why she’d dragged poor Tyrion, stumbling and falling over his stumpy legs, after her.
When they got to their rooms, she paused, gasping for breath as she looked at Tyrion horrified. What had she done? She’d jeopardised her plan for escape from King’s Landing. Of course, they would blame her for Joffrey’s death—all of them, including her lord husband.
“Why have you brought me here, Sansa?” he demanded angrily. “I should be in the banqueting hall, seeing what I can do for Joffrey...and so should you, if you had nothing to do with his death. Unless...” and here he fixed her with a glittering stare from his mismatched eyes.
“You think I had something to do with it, don’t you?” she blurted out, almost weeping with rage. “You think I had the means and the forethought to plan to poison him at his wedding so that I should escape?”
“Well, if you did not do so, why did you run when he began to choke?” Tyrion demanded angrily. “And why,” he asked in his most cutting manner, “are you bundling up my plainest and warmest doublets, breeches, stockings and smallclothes in that cloak?”
“Because we need to escape and we need to do so quickly. I’ve already prepared a bundle for myself and hidden it in the godswood. Everyone saw how Joffrey treated you at the feast, my lord—and your marriage to me makes you a suspect. His behaviour to you—and your manner to him—were not friendly.”
“No, they were not,” Tyrion acknowledged.
“And your father and sister—even Ser Kevan—how friendly have they been with you after the Battle of the Blackwater? No matter that you led the charge; no matter that you sent emissaries with treaties to the Tyrells and the Martells. Have you been rewarded at all for all that you did for Joffrey and Cersei while your father was fighting my brother—and losing?”
She spoke frankly and forcefully, although she spoke in a whisper. She had never spoken so openly to him—she had always maintained her pose of a young and silly girl, her head full of songs and stories, not just with Cersei and Joffrey but also with him. She had kept her observations of the court and its ways deep inside, only to give Lady Olenna and Margaery a glimpse of all that she knew about Joffrey and Cersei, before she closed herself up, tighter than a clam, after her wedding.
She grabbed his hand and began to move fast, tossing the bundle she had made over her shoulder. “I should have left ages ago...if I had not dragged you away from the banqueting hall and stopped to pack for you. I don’t know why I did that...it’s not as if you’re the man I dreamt of marrying...” she gasped out as they moved fast.
“Nor are you the woman I would have chosen to take to wife,” he snapped, as they entered the godswood. They could hear the bells ringing as she made for the heart tree, where she had concealed her bundle in a hollow. She threw his bundled up clothes at him.
“You’d better change into something plain and warm quickly—leave your fancy clothes here for them to find. You’d better hurry—Ser Dontos will be here any moment.”
“You trusted SER DONTOS HOLLARD...that drunkard...to help you escape King’s Landing? You really live in a world of songs and stories, dear wife,” he snarled at her, as he briskly flung aside his fine clothes on the grass and changed into something simpler and warmer.
She began to look around the godswood impatiently as soon as they had changed. She could not find Ser Dontos anywhere. And then she spied him, hurriedly rising from a drunken slumber behind a bush, rubbing his face as he looked all around him. She would have called out to him, to let him know she was there, when he lumbered to his feet and walked away, out of the godswood and away from the Red Keep.
Sansa and Tyrion followed him, through the chamber filled with dragons’ skulls, down the steep staircase out of the holdfast. The climb down was not easy for either of them—Sansa tried not to look down as she climbed, or she would faint from giddiness, while the steepness of the staircase wore out Tyrion’s legs and his patience. They followed him as best they could, as he walked away from the city, to a secluded wharf—he walked up to the only boat anchored there. They could just make out the name on its side—the Merling King.
He halted when he reached the boat and looked up towards its deck. Two men were standing there—Tyrion almost gasped aloud when he recognized one of them.
“Have you got her with you, you drunken old fool?” the taller, more grizzled man called aloud from the deck to Dontos, standing on the ground.
“No, Ser Luthor, I was unable to get her—she did not make it to the godswood in time. I waited and waited, till the guards came in and began to make themselves a nuisance. Then I came here.”
“Liar,” muttered Tyrion into Sansa’s ear. “He was likely sleeping off a drinking bout in the godswood.”
She pressed her finger to his lips—and then began to tremble when the other man spoke in a voice she recognized.
“Well, Ser Dontos, you have failed me. I asked you to do something simple—to get Sansa Stark out of the Red Keep and to this wharf, to take this boat to freedom. And I helped to create a diversion that would take everyone’s eyes off her for some time. Of course, you must have gotten drunk—and she might well have been caught by Cersei’s guards. Who knows?”
“Littlefinger,” muttered Tyrion. “Well, he was in love with your mother...and he is to wed your aunt Lysa...”
Sansa covered his mouth with her hand as Ser Dontos begged, “Let me go into the Keep and find out what has become of her...perchance I can get her out...”
“No,” Lord Littlefinger responded coldly. “I cannot give you another chance.” He nodded at Luthor Brune, who pulled a bow off his back and shot an arrow at Dontos, killing him instantly.
Sansa would have cried out, if Tyrion hadn’t covered her mouth with his hands. They watched the Merling King sail away eastward, to the Vale of Arryn, Tyrion surmised.
“I could have saved him,” she sobbed, when the boat was well out of sight.
“I don’t think so,” Tyrion remarked grimly. “I think Lord Baelish meant to kill him, whether or not he had you in his power. For, mark my words, Sansa; that man does nothing for anyone unless it is in his own interest. Do you know why my father had the two of us wed? Because Baelish told him of a plot to smuggle you to Highgarden and wed you to Willas Tyrell. That’s when my father had him made Lord of Harrenhal and asked him to wed your aunt.”
She was silent as he scanned the wharf, looking for another boat. He would have stayed to help Joffrey, if she had let him; but now that she had dragged him out of his comfortable prison, he was determined to see the world a little.
He soon spied two small figures, hurrying towards the wharf, looking for a boat. It did not take him long to recognize them—these were the two dwarves who had jousted at Joffrey’s wedding. He grabbed Sansa’s hand, and the two of them followed the dwarves.
Sansa had taken the precaution of tucking a pouch plump with golden dragons into his bundle—they found this useful when the two dwarves got onto a ship. Sansa and Tyrion also boarded the boat, and Tyrion offered the captain a handsome sum in gold to take them wherever he was going. It appeared he was going to Essos—to the city of Braavos. Husband and wife sighed with relief—they hoped Braavos would be safer than what they had experienced in the capital.
Neither of them were good sailors—they were both seasick as the ship tossed and turned on the voyage. They were glad to totter to deck when they made landing in Braavos—Sansa gaped when she saw the Titan looming over the harbour. They found a comfortable inn for the night—Tyrion had decided he would spend some time wandering the city, to see how they could make their life here. They also decided they would need to use some form of disguise, if only to hide from Cersei’s spies. Tyrion would have to cover his head with a hat in the Braavosi manner, while Sansa would have to wear a scarf to cover her auburn locks. And they would have to find new names, new identities, to use as their masks.
Although the dragons helped them live reasonably well for their first few days in Braavos, they both realised the need to do something useful to make their way in a foreign land. Tyrion soon found a job as a scribe and accountant—his neat and clear hand, as well as his facility with numbers, soon got him a good post at a merchant’s warehouse. Sansa’s skills as a needlewoman, as well as her sweet voice and ability to play the bells and high harps, soon got her clients—many a Braavosi courtesan wore dresses which the young Westerosi noblewoman had either embroidered or mended. And they sent her their pupils—those courtesans yet to complete their training—who needed to polish their accomplishments to gain admirers. And then, even though Braavosi noblewomen dressed simply, in dark colours, they were not averse to a little pretty embroidery on their plain dresses. Of course, neither used their own names here—they went by the names of Hugor and Maege Hill. Maege’s mother, so said Hugor, had been from the Riverlands—her father had been a ship’s captain from Sea Dragon Point, who had been killed by the Ironborn when they attacked the North. Hugor, the son of “a great Westerosi noble house,” had been the steward at their holdfast--she had escaped with his aid and they had married subsequently.
The two of them were able to lead a peaceful and quiet life in Braavos, undisturbed by the fallout from Joffrey’s death. Of course, Cersei and Tywin had put a huge price on both their heads—they were both convicted and condemned in absentia for the crimes of regicide and kinslaying. They heard of the return of Jaime Lannister to his family, minus a hand; of the marriage of Margaery Tyrell to her deceased husband’s brother, and of his coronation; of the death of Lysa Arryn, supposedly killed by a bard; and of the fall of Riverrun to Lannister forces, despite the death of Tywin Lannister, who was struck down by one of the many arrows shot at him by the Blackfish’s men. Although they maintained a facade of calm before the neighbours, they could not but grieve for their dead. However, while Sansa grieved sincerely for a relative she had never met and might have loved in place of the mother now dead, Tyrion was relieved when he heard of his father’s death. As he told Sansa quite frankly one night, after a cup too many of the local brew:
“My father never forgave me for being born—he believed I had killed my mother. He never loved me—it was only Jaime and my uncles Tygett and Gerion who showed me any affection. And as for Cersei...” He hiccupped and then began again. “When I was thirteen...” and then he spilled out what had actually happened to end his marriage with Tysha. Sansa listened to him silently, even as she raged with anger against the Lannisters. They were truly cruel, even to their own, she thought. When he finally wound down, she helped him clean himself up and undress, before she tucked him into their bed. She gently kissed his bulging forehead, brushing aside his lank hair as she did so. He mumbled something indistinguishable, before he fell off to sleep. She took care to place a jug of water and a tumbler by his bedside—she knew he would awaken with a raging thirst.
It was on one of their rambles through the Purple Harbour that they saw him—the big man in black, beating up a much handsomer, leaner man, outside the Happy Port, which Tyrion had told her was a whorehouse. He had not visited it—not because he had suddenly turned virtuous, but because he had suddenly become frugal. Moreover, honest Hugor Hill, clerk to a merchant, had no business visiting pleasure houses if he had a lovely wife at home. Especially if said lovely wife was showing him more affection as time passed.
They stood around as bystanders will and heard the big man shout about oaths sworn and forsworn; about babes and old men and a Lord Commander in the North; the need to pay an innkeeper, buy firewood and passage to Oldtown. There was a skinny girl hanging around there—Tyrion frequently brought mussels and cockles from her, for Sansa in their little home. She had been teaching herself to cook, with the help of the women in the neighbourhood, with most of whom she had formed fast friendships.
“Cat, what’s afoot?” he asked her.
The girl turned and looked at him, but her eyes widened when she looked at Sansa, who also stared at her, mouth agape.
“Is that your wife?” she asked him abruptly. Tyrion nodded impatiently. “Yes...but what in the seven hells is going on with these two men?”
“They’re men from the Night’s Watch,” the girl replied shortly. “It appears the handsome one’s a minstrel, who was supposed to make money from his singing and bring recruits to the watch. The fat man has to go to Oldtown, to the Citadel, to forge a chain—that’s what the Lord Commander told him to do. He has an old man, a woman and a babe with him—they were sent from the Wall by the Lord Commander...”
“If the fat man needs gold, we can give him some,” Sansa interrupted. When Tyrion turned around and gaped at her, she said, “We can give his companions a bed—I don’t think the handsome one will help. The women here have turned his head.”
“He’s married the Sailor’s Wife, that’s why,” the girl interrupted. “She always marries a new man every day. And he’s a favourite here, with Merry’s girls. They’re my best customers, for the mussels and cockles and oysters I sell.” She was speaking to Sansa; it seemed to Tyrion that she knew his wife.
“Why don’t you speak to him, husband?” Sansa turned to him. “Tell the fat man to bring the woman, her babe and the old man to our home. It is a small place,” she told the girl, “but we can give these people a place to stay and money for their passage.”
While Tyrion went to speak to the fat man, Sansa spoke to the skinny girl, who called herself Cat of the Canals. By the time Tyrion returned with the man in tow, he found the two females talking to each other like long-lost sisters. They stopped speaking as soon as he walked up to them.
“This, dear wife, is Samwell Tarly, a member of the Night’s Watch,” Tyrion announced. “He’s been sent by his Lord Commander, Jon Snow (both Sansa and the girl exclaimed in surprise) to make his chain at the Citadel in Oldtown—the Night’s Watch needs maesters, it seems. He’s got Castle Black’s maester with him—also a wildling woman and her child.”
“They can come and stay with us,” Sansa said happily. She turned to the girl and said, “Why don’t you come and join us, Ar...Cat?”
“I will,” the girl replied warily, “when I’ve sold all I have in my barrow.”
“We can buy that off you, surely?” Sansa exclaimed—when they had done that, the girl went off to Brusco’s to return her barrow and Tyrion and Sansa returned home, to await the arrival of their guests. While they waited, Sansa told him what she had learned from the girl, who was none other than her sister, Arya.
“She managed to get away when Ser Meryn Trant and his men went to get her,” she told Tyrion as she quickly tidied up their little home. “She was at Harrenhal when it was held by the Mountain’s men and Roose Bolton—then she fled for Riverrun when she learnt that Bolton would give Harrenhal to Vargo Hoat. She never got there—the Brotherhood without Banners took her hostage for money. She ran away again, this time with the Hound. She was there, Tyrion—she was there, at the Twins, when our mother and Robb were killed.” And here she broke down and wept. Tyrion hugged her, feeling both angry and helpless—why and how was it that her family had got caught up in this struggle for power? They had lost more than most—the boys and men dead, their home destroyed, the girls...
Sansa interrupted his thoughts with a loud gulp as she said, “I’m all right, Tyrion—she said the Mountain’s men ran into her and the Hound. There was a fight—he was badly wounded and might have died by now. She knows of our marriage and Joffrey’s death. She doesn’t believe we did it, Tyrion.” The hope in her voice was heartbreaking. As she washed her face, Tyrion told her what he had learned from Samwell Tarly about Lord Commander Mormont’s attempt to take his men ranging into the wilderness beyond the Wall; how he had been killed by mutineers at Craster’s; how Jon Snow had been sent to infiltrate the wildling hordes and how he had returned to Castle Black, to lead the resistance against the wildling attack. He told her how King Stannis had arrived just in time to save the Watch. He concluded with a description of the election that had elevated Jon Snow to the post of Lord Commander, and how and why Jon Snow had decided to send Samwell Tarly and his companions away from the Wall.
As he finished speaking, Sansa looked at him, her eyes shining. “Tyrion,” she said, her voice quivering with happiness, “perhaps I have not lost everything in this dreadful war, and neither have you. The gods be praised, we have found Arya, safe and well and alive. I have told her she is to come stay with us from now onwards, if you don’t mind. Jon is alive and well, I hope, at the Wall. You and I together can help Samwell Tarly and his companions get to Oldtown—surely we have gold enough to buy them passage? And we can give them a good meal tonight. Someday, when this horrible war is over, we can go home. Life is not so bad after all...”
Tyrion would have argued with her, reminding her of the false accusation of kinslaying that hung over his head, when Samwell Tarly of the Night’s Watch walked in, carrying Maester Aemon and followed by a wildling woman, carrying her babe. Cat, who sold the cockles and mussels he bought frequently, followed them, a suspicious expression on her face. Sansa welcomed them warmly into her home, her tears of joy merely adding a certain pink to her eyelids but making her eyes look as blue and bright as ever. As the evening continued, Tyrion felt the wariness he had built around himself relax; he had been playing a part in Braavos, a part he needed to play so that he and his child bride could live safely. He had enjoyed Maester Aemon’s company when they had last met at the Wall; he was astounded to see him so frail. Sam had told him that Jon had sent the elderly maester, as well as the infant, away from the Wall, so that the red priestess, Melisandre, could not use them as sacrifices in her rituals. They talked and laughed, although soberly; Cat (or Arya, as his wife called her) seemed to relax her guard as she asked Sam and Maester Aemon question after question about the Night’s Watch entering the wilderness to fight the wildlings, their encounters with the wights and how Jon managed to infiltrate their ranks as a spy and return to fight their attempt to cross the Wall. Sam spoke of Jon’s plans to settle the wildlings in the Gift, at which both girls expressed their approval. And then he grew grave.
“I have not shared this information with anyone,” he said, “not even with Jon, because I swore I would keep it secret. But, seeing you all here, I feel you should know—Lord Bran Stark crossed the Wall into the wilderness. He was on the shoulders of a rather large man...”
“Hodor!” exclaimed the sisters.
“...And he was accompanied by two young people, a boy and a girl. They looked like crannogmen.”
“Crannog...Could they be the son and daughter of Howland Reed? You remember, Arya, the man who fought beside father at the Tower of Joy...”
Tyrion had never heard the story of Ned Stark’s battle against the three knights of the Kingsguard at the Tower of Joy, so Arya told it to him. He sat silently, frowning. Maester Aemon began to drop off to sleep in the warmth—Sansa and Gilly gently led him to his bed. Gilly and her babe also settled down for the night.
Later, seeing her husband preoccupied in his thoughts, Sansa drew Samwell aside and presented him with the hairnet she had worn to Joffrey’s wedding feast. She told him how she had received it from Ser Dontos in the godswood and how she found one of the stones missing after the banquet that concluded with Joffrey’s death. Sam looked at it thoughtfully.
“Did you show it to your husband?” he asked her.
Before she could answer, Arya walked up to them to take her leave. She exclaimed in horror when she saw the hairnet in Sansa’s hand. “Sansa,” she demanded, “what in seven hells are you doing with that buggering hairnet full of strangler?”
In the old days, Sansa would have reprimanded her for her use of foul language; now, she merely told her the story she had just told Sam. Arya looked thoughtfully at her.
“Someone had Joffrey killed, and they used you to carry the poison to the feast.”
Sansa almost dropped the hairnet in horror. Just then, Tyrion walked up and took the hairnet from her hand. “There’s a stone missing,” he remarked grimly.
“Lady Olenna...” whispered Sansa brokenly.
“Yes—she touched your hair, did she not, just before the banquet?”
“I-I told her...about Joffrey; what he was really like. I told her about Mycah...”
“When did Ser Dontos give you this hairnet, Sansa?” her husband asked sternly.
“Just after...just after my betrothal to Joffrey was broken...”
“So the plan to kill Joffrey and smuggle you out of King’s Landing was made long before you told Lady Olenna the truth about Joffrey. Someone else—Bronn, I think—told me I should think of killing my nephew if I hoped to survive. He was not a good king, and he was not willing to learn.”
“But Dontos was working for Lord Petyr,” Sansa exclaimed suddenly.
“And I had sent Lord Petyr to Highgarden to negotiate an alliance with the Tyrells. Yes...he would have hatched this plot with Lady Olenna, using you as the person to carry the poison to the feast. And he asked you to leave immediately, did he not, to meet him in the godswood? And Petyr was waiting there in a boat, for you, to spirit you away to the Vale of Arryn... he would always have held this over our heads. Although I don’t think your aunt would have been of much help—she accused me, if you remember, of having killed her husband. The last time I was at court, then, was at Joffrey’s nameday tourney, when Lady Lysa was rude to Lord Frey. I left soon afterwards for Casterly Rock—my sister could not long abide my presence at court.” He grimaced in recollection. “So I would have no reason to poison Lord Jon, not that I wanted to, of course.”
“Why was my aunt rude to Lord Frey?” Sansa asked, wide-eyed.
“Something to do with the fostering of that horrid boy, your cousin. I overheard Lord Jon telling Lord Walder, in Lady Lysa’s hearing, that the boy would go to Dragonstone for fostering. It’s not a very comfortable place, and I don’t blame Lady Lysa for getting angry when she heard this and walking away. Which is why I suggested my father should foster him at Casterly Rock... but he was such an unpleasant little fellow...he wanted me to fly, if you please!”
Sansa exclaimed at this in horror, which ended the conversation for the time. Everyone sought their bed—Arya had told Brusco’s daughters she had met friends from home and would spend the evening with them. She told Tyrion and Sansa she planned to continue her work with the fishmonger and his daughters; they did not object, provided she spent the nights in their home.
The next morning, Tyrion went to the Purple Harbour to get a boat for their guests of the Night’s Watch. He had managed to book space for the party on the Cinnamon Wind, got everyone on board and was turning back, to get to work at the merchant’s warehouse, when he was hailed by a tall man in gray armour. Tyrion exclaimed in surprise when he saw him, for although he no longer wore his rippling blue and red cloak of Tully colours, it was none other than the Blackfish.
“You’re easy to recognize when seen once, my friend,” the Blackfish remarked to his grandnephew by marriage. He was accompanied by a pretty young woman, brown-haired and brown-eyed, who appeared to be heavily pregnant. And they were accompanied by a skinny little child in a plain dress, with brown hair braided with ribbons.
“Robert Arryn by all the gods! What in seven hells is the matter?” Tyrion wondered aloud.
“We must find a quiet and safe place to speak,” the Blackfish said. So Tyrion led them to their home, where Sansa offered them some wine and bread to break their fast. The Blackfish told them how he had escaped Riverrun while the Lannister host was confused by Lord Tywin’s death from a stray bow shot. Ser Jaime had taken charge, getting Edmure released to surrender Riverrun and take his place as a hostage in Casterly Rock. The Blackfish had already sent Jeyne away from Riverrun with the peasants he’d sent back to their homes. He was able to locate her and get away from the Riverlands—he told all who asked that he was a farmer leaving for a safe place with his young wife.
When he arrived in the Vale, he was able to hide Jeyne in Lord Bronze Yohn Royce’s home as a maid. He soon learned of the circumstances surrounding Lady Lysa’s death; the members of her household described how she’d violently quarrelled with Lord Petyr about sending away a bard, one Marrillon, of whom both she and her son had grown fond. The maids spoke in whispers about the tears of Lys given to Lord Jon and the strangler given to the king, all of which Lady Lysa had spoken about freely and frequently when she was in her cups, which was all too often after Lord Jon’s death. The Blackfish described how he had managed to steal Robert Arryn away as soon as Lord Petyr had left for the Riverlands.
“He’s on the lookout for the two of you, Sansa,” the Blackfish told his grandniece. “Mya Stone—she’s the mule girl; your husband met her when he was last at the Eyrie—learned from one of his knights that he’d already sent a girl who looked and sounded like a northwoman to impersonate Arya and wed Ramsay Snow. Now he wants Tyrion, so that he can hand him over to Cersei, and he wants you, so that he can control the North, as he does the Vale and the Riverlands.”
“But he can’t control the North—King Stannis is there, fighting on the side of the Night’s Watch...” Sansa exclaimed.
“He thinks, if he has you, he will have the loyalty of the North. He doesn’t know that Robb disinherited you after your marriage to young Lannister here. Lord Tyrion seems to have taken better care of you than I had expected him to. I have always been disappointed in your brother, Lord Tyrion—I am pleasantly surprised by you.”
“And he doesn’t know about Jeyne’s baby either,” Sansa said. She did not weep over the loss of Winterfell; if what Sam said was true, then Bran was alive and, she hoped, safe beyond the Wall. She was certain Rickon must have escaped as well; Bran would not have left their baby brother to face death while running away. She was glad she had escaped Lord Baelish’s clutches; he seemed to bring death and destruction wherever he went.
“He’s been trying to encourage the pretensions of Harry the Heir—Robin’s young cousin,” Robb’s wife, Jeyne, whispered. “He’s been telling the boy he’ll discover the Stark heiress, have her marriage to Lord Tyrion dissolved because it wasn’t consummated, and wed him to the girl. He’s been buying support throughout the Vale—that’s what the women said. He’s been trying to give the boy sweetsleep for his fits—but it’s a poison if it’s taken too frequently...”
They decided to wait till Arya came home before they made any plans. Sansa made her granduncle and her goodsister comfortable in their home before she went out to meet her customers, while Tyrion went to the warehouse to work. They left their guests well provided with food and drink.
That evening, the family sat together and discussed what was to be done. They put together all the information they had received—that Bran was alive; that Arya was with them; that Jeyne was carrying Robb’s heir; that Sansa was no longer heiress to Winterfell. Tyrion, for one, was glad of the last—he told Sansa frankly that he had hoped to make a home with her at Winterfell, but he had never wanted to marry her solely because of it. He had married her to protect her from a worse suitor. She told him, just as frankly, that she had grown to appreciate his kindness in King’s Landing; their closer relationship in Braavos had shown him to be intelligent and resourceful as well. She would stay with him, with or without Winterfell. They’d learnt from Sam that Stannis was at the Wall with his men and that Jon had been elected Lord Commander. “However, that might mean little—the Night’s Watch takes no part in the affairs of the realm,” said Sansa, reciting a lesson learned long ago from Uncle Benjen.
“But he did refuse to be legitimized and take Winterfell,” Arya reminded her sharply—she still regretted not going north to Jon, although both Sansa and Tyrion spoke of the dangers presented by the presence of the Ironmen and Lord Bolton’s forces. Sansa reminded her of the horror stories Jeyne Poole had often repeated, regarding Lord Bolton’s bastard and his servant, Reek.
“Stannis will not look kindly upon us—I’m a Lannister; Sansa, although a Stark, is my wife and brother to the King in the North, who would have diminished Stannis’ realm, had he lived. Arya, although unmarried, is also a Stark and likely to be married off to anyone who would support Stannis’ claims, including Lord Bolton’s son. As for Jeyne and her babe, he’d try to marry her off to someone loyal to him who would raise the boy as his supporter. As for you, Ser Brynden, you fought for Robb Stark... and Robert Arryn is too weak and sickly to be of use to him.”
Tyrion’s analysis was harsh but accurate—Stannis would not welcome their support for his cause with courtesy or grace. He was known to be just, but hard—Sam had spoken of how he had tried to use the Night’s Watch for his own purpose, which Jon had firmly prevented. However, as they all realised, Stannis was the only one left standing after the War of Five Kings who would give them a hearing. Cersei would not welcome them in King’s Landing, and although Tyrion had tried to improve the Iron Throne’s relations with Dorne, he would not be welcome there. Although the Blackfish told them of Lady Catelyn’s suspicions about Stannis’ role in Renly’s sudden death by shadow, and spoke disapprovingly of his tendency to hold a grudge, he agreed that supporting Stannis was their only chance to regain all that they had lost.
“Unless we travel east, across the Dothraki sea, to Meereen, to meet with Daenerys Targaryen,” remarked Tyrion.
“No,” said the Blackfish slowly, “not with three women, one of whom is pregnant and another who’s a temptation to any man, as well as a sickly little boy. Besides,” he continued warmly, “why do you think Aerys’ daughter would welcome a visit from a Lannister and a Tully, accompanied by two or three Starks and an Arryn in tow? Our families fought against the Targaryens less than twenty years ago, Lord Tyrion! And if she were to return, your brother the Kingslayer would be her first target, followed by myself and those of your relatives who participated in the sack of King’s Landing. And then she would attack the young ones—just as her father wanted to kill Ned and Robert after he’d killed Brandon and Rickard.”
As Tyrion sat there, rubbing the stump of his nose, trying to think of a plan of action, the Blackfish continued, “I heard rumours in the Vale—that Stannis had defeated the Ironmen and would take Winterfell from the Boltons. I hoped to come to Braavos to recruit sellswords to his cause. If I were to do that, and he were to win, I could claim Winterfell for Robb’s child. Will you join me in this enterprise, Lannister? You can rely upon this—that Stannis will help you gain the Rock if you help him gain the throne. He might even help you and Sansa clear yourselves of the charge of killing Joffrey. And perhaps you can save the lives of your sister, your brother and their children.”
Tyrion glanced at the three women—Sansa, Arya and Jeyne—and then he looked at Robert Arryn, lying there pale and listless. He slowly nodded his head. “We could take a ship from Braavos to Eastwatch. We could leave the women there with the Queen and the Princess and travel to Castle Black with the sellswords. I’m sure Jon, if not Stannis, will be glad of our aid.”