SUMMARY OF THIS CHAPTER:
He scrutinised Sansa for a long time and finally uttered, “Why didn’t you reveal yourself, little bird? He could have taken you away from here, you know.”
Over the next few days Sansa started gradually to feel better. She still slept most of the time, only leaving the bed by necessity to visit the garderobe and privy in the other end of the room. The Hound stayed away during the day, only coming back as the evening was falling, bringing with him food such as cheese, bread, cold cuts of meat, wine; sometimes a bowl of cold soup and once even some apples. They ate in silence and afterwards he laid a bedroll on the floor on the other side of the room. He left the room again and came back much, much later, stumbled onto his roll and slept.
Nobody else came to the room and not once she was taken elsewhere. As Sansa started to feel better and lose the thudding pain in her head and queasiness in her stomach, she started to wonder what her position was. It was clear she was kept in the Hound’s own room, but why? Why hadn’t he taken her to Queen Cersei and Joffrey? Where are father and Arya? She tried the door the next day when he was gone and noticed it locked – not that she would have had a mind to escape to roam the Red Keep on her own anyway.
She wanted to ask the Hound about her family, but at the same time she was afraid to, being fearful of the answers he might give her. Eventually – it was probably the third day after the accident, as much as she had been able to keep track of days – she gathered her courage and addressed him after he had returned once again in the evening.
“My lord, do you know what has happened to my father and my sister?”
The Hound stopped, turned towards her and after a while growled, “Don’t call me lord, girl. And don’t even think about calling me Ser either.”
“What shall I call you then?” Sansa was anxious about not wanting to make him angry.
“Call me the Hound, or a dog, or Clegane – or I do have a first name too, call me Sandor.” His grey eyes looked at her almost challenging. She shuffled uncomfortably. All those names were so impolite – she couldn’t call him a dog! Using his surname would sound as she would be addressing a servant – but using his first name was just so familiar and intimate. Sansa bit her lip trying to decide what to do, before he got annoyed. Eventually she continued, bracing herself.
“Sandor… do you have any news about my father and sister?” He looked at her approvingly and despite her nervousness Sansa felt better – and a bit more grown up.
“Your father has been arrested. He stands accused of treason for consorting with Lord Stannis trying to deny King Joffrey’s rightful inheritance of the Iron Throne.”
Sansa was staring at him uncomprehending. Treason? My father? This can’t be true!
As she didn’t say anything, Sandor continued. “Your sister hasn’t been seen since the day when the Hand was arrested. Some say she is dead, but her body hasn’t been found. Some say she turned into a wolf and ran away.” He grinned now, the burned side of his mouth twitching.
“That’s what they say about you too; that you became a wolf and slipped both the Red Keep and King’s Landing and are now halfway across the country on your way to Winterfell.”
Sansa closed her eyes wearily. I wish… But then she opened them again. As long as she was asking questions and he seemed to be amenable enough to answer them, she needed to know.
“Why…why am I here? Am I kept as a prisoner?”
“Aye, one could say so – but not of the crown. I am keeping you here as my own…guest.”
Sansa gulped, not knowing what he meant. His guest? He must mean his captive!
Sandor walked to the table and sat down heavily. While Sansa was eating, she felt his eyes weightily on her. It made her feel uncomfortable, that intense stare she could not evade. If I he aims to keep me here, what he intends to do with me?
The next evening there was a loud bang on the door. Sansa froze, her heart pounding. King’s soldiers coming to take me!
“What is it!?” Sandor growled towards the door
“Open the door, Hound, the King needs you!”
Sansa didn’t recognise the voice but it sounded uncouth and rude. Apparently Sandor did, as he thundered back, “Bloody hells, Boros, can’t you look after him for a moment without me as a nursemaid! I am done for the night!”
“Fuck you Hound! Just open the door!”
Sandor moved to the door, gesturing for Sansa to hide. Quick as a flash she dived under the blankets and flattened herself as well as she could, turning her back against the room. As an afterthought, she grabbed a wash towel hanging on a wall rack and bound it tightly around her head. She knew there were not many auburn-haired women in the court.
As Sandor pressed the door latch down, it was immediately pushed in so forcefully that even he couldn’t stop it in time. The man behind it sounded angry and slightly drunk from the slur in his voice.
“Do you think I wouldn’t rather retire as opposed to run around the Keep after you! The King wants you – the small council is organising yet another sweep of the keep and the city to find those Stark bitches.”
Heavy steps entered the room, stopping next to the bed. Sansa tried to be as still as possible, but it didn’t seem to help, as the next sound she heard was a derisive snort.
“So that’s why you are so reluctant to come; you have a whore here. Did I mayhap interrupt something? So sorry to intrude you lovebirds!” The steps approached the bed and lifted the blanket in one rapid movement. Sansa stilled but kept on staring at the wall, fisting the cloth against her head as tight as she could. The man – Ser Boros ¬– laughed and reached his hand to spank her on the bottom.
“Turn around girl, let me have a look. Mayhap I would like you to visit me after you have done the Hound. I may not be much to look at, but I am comelier than him, that’s for sure, and my coin is as good as his!”
“Leave her be if you value your life, you whoreson!” growled Sandor ominously. Sansa heard him stepping close to Ser Boros. The silence that ensued made her grimace. Don’t let them fight here …
Ser Boros must have seen something in the Hound that persuaded him to let it go. “Nah, not worth fighting for a cheap fuck. Nonetheless, when the King calls, you better come no matter how sweet cunt you have lined up here. Soon now, you know how he hates waiting.”
Sandor grunted and the next thing Sansa heard was the sound of his swordbelt clanking as he tied it on his waist. “You wench, you stay here until I come back. We will finish then what we started – and don’t you even think about leaving before that. My coin is good, and to make sure you don’t do a runner I will lock the door behind me.”
Thinking it might appear strange if she wouldn’t react, Sansa responded with her best imitation of the speech she had heard from kitchen maids, “Aye m’lord!”
The men left the room banging the door heavily behind them. Only after hearing the key turn, Sansa turned around and got up slowly, still breathless of the tension.
When Sandor came back, he removed his swordbelt and doublet and sat down heavily. He scrutinised Sansa for a long time and finally uttered, “Why didn’t you reveal yourself, little bird? He could have taken you away from here, you know.”
Sansa looked at him nervously. Why indeed? She wasn’t sure herself. All she knew was that despite her feeling of being trapped, she felt safer here than she would be out there, held by King Joffrey as they were holding her father. She mumbled, “I…I don’t know…”
He shrugged his broad shoulders. “Well, just as well you didn’t, as it would have surely meant the loss of my head. There would be no way explaining what the precious lady Stark was doing in the room of the Lannister dog, that’s for sure.”
After a short silence he continued. “Aye, I guess I ought to thank you for that.” He shrugged his shoulders again and moved to set up his bedroll. Sansa stared after him wondering how the situation had temporarily turned – he was grateful for her?
As Sansa still didn’t have proper outer garments besides her tattered dress, she went through the wall rack one day and found a light tunic to wear. It was ridiculously big, the hem reaching all the way to her knees, the shoulders sagging close to her elbows. It smelled different to any of her previous clothes; of sweat, smoke, horses and something earthly. Not a bad smell though, just different.
When Sandor returned that evening, he noticed her appearance immediately, rising his good eyebrow questioningly. Sansa gathered her courage.
“I do apologise for borrowing your clothes, but I don’t have anything else to wear. Do you think you could…” She didn’t finish her sentence, unsure of how exactly she could ask him to find some ladies clothes. He seemed to understand her nonetheless and nodded briefly. Sansa felt bold enough to ask if he could find some needle and thread as well, so he could make some adjustments.
The next evening he handed her a dress and a small package. The dress was of cheap but decent material, simply cut but of gaudy colours; bright red skirt with yellow bodice with clumsy red flowers embroidered around the neck. As Sansa tried it on behind the curtain, she blushed to see how low the neckline was, revealing much more than she was used to. Especially as the dress was too big and hang somewhat loose on her shoulders, exposing even more skin.
With a relief she noticed that Sandor had also brought a scarf of a different shade of red, which she used to cover herself. She didn’t want to ask where he had got such a dress but could guess. She had glimpsed similarly dressed women on the streets of King’s Landing, and Jeyne Poole had giggled and told her that they were ladies who got paid for sleeping with men.
The small package contained needles, several types of thread and a small pair of scissors, all brand new. It was a kind of package she knew men of smallfolk gave their brides as a bride gift. Sansa wondered where he had found that. Probably not from the same place as the dress. He must have gone to King’s Landing to purchase it. She felt suddenly a gush of gratitude towards the bold warrior, wandering into a shop selling women’s goods.
As she was not in a position to be choosy about the dress, she thanked him courteously and their evening resumed its usual pattern; they ate, she tried to ask him questions, he answered as briefly as he could, then he left and came back after she had already gone to bed, rolled open his bedroll and slept.
Sansa started gradually to feel more at ease in his company, and the next evening asked him once again for any news. “Do you know when my father’s trial is going to be – and what may happen to him?”
Sandor finished his wine with few big gulps, swiped his mouth with his hand and replied with a low voice, “The trial date has not been set yet, but will likely be in a few weeks’ time. He will be found guilty, of course. Nonetheless, the small council thinks he should be allowed to take the black and return to North.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Sansa. The Wall! It would be so far away…but at least he would be allowed to return to the North. He had always had such respect of the Night’s Watch, and his brother was there too. Maybe they could visit…
“And…what will happen to me?” She had not asked that before, not being quite sure as to why. It seemed as if the time itself had stopped, and her life shrunk only to daily existence in the big man’s room.
“When that happens, he will be whisked away immediately. He will be given an armed escort to make sure he goes all the way to the Wall. It will likely be joined by other smaller groups also going to the North. New recruits to the Wall, Northerners from King’s Landing returning to their homes, traders and hunters. I could get you a place in that procession, but mind you, you would have to pretend to be a servant or mayhap a squire.”
Sansa was so excited she hardly knew how to contain herself. I will be able to go back home!