SUMMARY OF THIS CHAPTER:
She gulped to see the sheer size of his bare shoulders and torso, and the way how his chest was covered with dark hair just like his arms.
One evening – they were starting to blur into one long, uneventful string in Sansa’s mind – there was a knock on the door, but much softer, rapping sound than the previous time. Again Sandor barked, “Who is it?!”
A woman’s voice beckoned, “T’is only me, m’lord, Ranna. Let me in!” Almost as re-enacting the last time he had had a visitor, Sandor went to the door gesturing for Sansa to hide. She retreated dutifully out of sight, but instead of a bed, she rushed behind the curtain of the garderobe.
She heard the door opening, but rather than letting the person behind it in, Sandor appeared to hold it firmly half closed.
“Thought you might wanna see me again, big man!” a teasing voice declared. Sansa couldn’t help but peek between the gaps in the curtains and saw a woman leaning against the doorframe. She looked young and not bad looking at all; long brown hair, twinkling brown eyes and an ample bosom and wide hips swaying invitingly inside a wide billowing green skirt. It was attached to a tight bodice which pushed her breasts up revealing a generous cleavage. She looked mischievously up to him and tried to enter the room.
“T’is been a while you have come to see me so I thought to come to you again. T’was a nice time we had here when I was here last, didn’t we?”
Sandor didn’t move and the woman stopped right in front of him, unable to come further.
“Not tonight Ranna, go find yourself another man,” he growled. The woman looked up startled.
“Come on now. What’s up with you? We usually have such a good time don’t we? You know I can take all of you in, your face and …all, you know…” she extended her hand and placed it quite brazenly to touch the front of his breeches.
Sansa saw that and gasped at the gesture. She is touching him there! He is surely going to smack her! To her amazement Sandor only winced and removed the woman’s hand almost gently. “Not now, as I said. Run along, I have things to do.”
The woman – Ranna – looked up with indignation in her eyes. “No time to become choosy now, you big oaf. T’is not like you’d have a long line of lassies queuing for you, you know. Most of the young ones won’t come near, getting nightmares just seeing you.”
Sansa felt outraged by what that coarse woman was saying. How could someone get nightmares for seeing him! It took only a moment for her to realise how blissfully she had forgotten how she herself had first reacted seeing him. She felt ashamed.
Sandor was still pushing the woman out of the door, apparently not being offended by what she said and muttering her to just go and leave him alone. Finally she gave in, drew righteously her shoulders up and stormed off with not as much as a bye. As Sandor closed the door and turned to the room, Sansa slipped out of the garderobe. She felt uncomfortable about what she had just witnessed and knew she was blushing. What should I say? That I am sorry that he could not take up on her…offer?
Before she had time to say anything, Sandor looked at her with something akin to embarrassment in his eyes and muttered, “No shame in them, coming to the Keep to hunt down squires and soldiers. Things must be bad in King’s Landing is there is not enough business there.”
Sansa realised that it hadn’t been a random knock on a door to find a customer – she had clearly been here before. Why that would make her feel so queer, and him so embarrassed, she couldn’t say. Yet she knew she was glad that the woman had not come in.
They didn’t talk about the incidence afterwards, but it stayed at the back of her mind. She was uncomfortable thinking Sandor with that woman, her hand touching his manhood so blatantly. The gesture had been so bold, so challenging – and the fact that Sandor hadn’t confronted her about it made it even stranger. He hadn’t even been irritated, the expression on his face being more anguished than angry.
One day after the incident Sandor went to the garderobe after returning from the practice yard. He closed the curtains carelessly leaving a gap that allowed Sansa a good view from where she was sitting. She saw him removing his tunic in one fluid movement and starting to wash his upper body with a cloth.
She gulped seeing the sheer size of his bare shoulders and torso, and the way how his chest was covered with dark hair just like his arms. The even cover was only disturbed by visible scars running through it, leaving a clear trail in their wake. He looked focussed on his task, wiping away the grime with smooth purposeful movements, splashing water over him to remove it all. As he moved, Sansa leaned over further and further in order not to lose the vision of him. Without warning she lost her balance and landed awkwardly on the floor – more embarrassed than hurt.
Sandor’s head snapped to her direction, and without saying a word he pulled the curtain close. Gods, does he think I was spying on him?
When he returned to the room, he didn’t indicate anything would have been out of ordinary, allowing Sansa to recover from her embarrassment. Once again she couldn’t help thinking of the woman and how open she had been about a good time they had had. Even as she was contemplating that, she had to admit to herself she had a pretty good idea what it meant. She was not completely naive after all, despite of what highborn maidens were supposed to know or not.
As curious as Sansa was to examine the man, she was also curious to know more about him by studying his possessions. Her examination revealed mostly nothing unexpected; unpretentious clothes, sturdy utensils and everyday living items. He had three books, which surprised Sansa although as she thought about it, it shouldn’t have. Cleganes were landed gentry, well enough to have their own maester. Surely sons of such house would have been expected to learn to read and write.
One of the books was about horsemanship, giving advice on how to train, handle and look after warhorses. The second book was a description of faraway places in Eastern continent, telling about exotic places such as Free Cities, Slaver’s Bay and others Sansa hadn’t even heard of before.
The third book was about the strategies of warfare, mostly of the battles of the Targaryen reign. As Sansa was examining it, few sheets of scroll fell from between the pages. She picked them up and examined the writing with a burrowed brow. The papers contained several lines of hand-written text; neat but simple writing, as done by someone who knew how to write but didn’t do it often. No flourishing touches of maesters to signify the first letters of the sentences or names, no embellished words. Just lines seemingly summarising the main points of one strategy or another – Sansa couldn’t really tell much about the contents. The last line in the scrolls read “Effective war leader leads by example”. In the sidelines of the text she saw “Robert”, underlined, then “Joffrey?”- that entry had been crossed over with sharp lines so many times the paper had partly torn.
The most unexpected find was in his chest. Sansa had grown bolder as the days passed – she might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, she reasoned to herself. So she had explored the chest, lifting all the items in it to the floor, taking care to note their position in order to be able to put them back exactly as they had been. Again, most of the contents were utilitarian, simple, useful items such as leather goods, small tools and more clothes. But as she got to the bottom she saw something she would have never assumed to find in the possession of the Hound.
Sansa lifted up a small doll, hardly bigger than her hand. It was made of coarse fabric, filled with animal hair as was common, giving it a round plump form. It was dressed in Clegane colours of yellow and black and had coarsely drawn features on its face. Why does he keep a doll in his chest?
Disturbed, feeling as if she had crossed a boundary she was not supposed to cross, Sansa put the doll back, filled the chest as it had been and went back to the bed. She sat there for a long time, her head filled with thoughts.