"I suppose you are wondering why I am standing over you, little bird."
Sansa didn't answer.
The man known as The Hound let out a frustrated huff. "Everyone is pissed I'm doing this but fuck'em. Think I should be doing more important things… important to them, mind you." He shifted his shoulders, causing the cape Joffrey had placed upon his shoulders to shift. "I just got this damn lily white cloak and they think it's going to turn me into some dashing knight like from your stupid fairytales. But it doesn't work like that, does it? There are no magic spells that make the ugly beautiful, no secret rings that let a poor man make gold by waving his hand, no oath to make me stop wanting to fuck girls, and no amount of wishing on that damn red star in the sky will make you open your eyes."
The Red Keep was silent at this time of night, the hour of the wolf. Oh, he wasn't foolish enough to think there weren't spies about but he doubted they cared much about him. Varys and Littlefinger and the Queen would have commanded their watchers to keep an eye on him, especially with this unusual choice, but even the best spy would have grown bored staring at a man such as him standing in watch over a dead girl. An hour, maybe two, three at most before they would wander off to seek other juicy tidbits for their masters. It always amused him how so many people thought that they owned the people in their employ and they were oh-so-loyal to them and would heed any command without a care. Varys believed his little birds would never disobey him because his watchers had watchers… but he failed to see that such acts only inspired the sneaky to be even more cunning. Littlefinger thought gold could buy loyalty but gold only clinked happily in your pocket when it wasn't tainted by vile hands. Even the poor had standards… and sometimes no matter the price some men inspired no loyalty. And Petyr Baelish made even Sandor sneer in disgust; he was an evil man but he would face whatever came in death and go "At least I wasn't the whoremonger". As for the Queen… well, one could only throw aside so many people before those that remained decided it was best to only deliver what was expected and nothing more. Give the bitch what she wanted and she was happy… and never learned of everything else that might have actually mattered.
That was the powerful, though. They thought they owned those under them. That was what Joffrey had thought when Sandor had made it clear he would be standing watch over Sansa Stark's body as it lay in state within the Red Keep. The boy had turned crimson and snarled that he wasn't allowed to, that he was to protect his king… and then Sandor had moved towards him, climbing the steps to the Iron Throne and causing the boy to lean back until the back of his blonde little head had scrapped against one of the blades that made up the ugly ass chair. He'd looked down upon him, Joffrey's ear and half his face still swaddled in linen as Pycelle desperately tried to repair the damage the Iron Man had done, and told the king he was watching over the girl. The boy had finally gotten the sense to nod and Sandor had left him to spill his blood and, if Sandor's nose was right, piss all over the damn throne.
"Fucking idiots, the lot of them," he muttered to Sansa's cold body. The Silent Sisters had done their best to make her look beautiful and perfect. To undo what Joffrey had done to her in his rage, like a mother mending a broken doll for their spoiled child. She'd wanted her life to be a fairytale and now she looked like a princess under some bewitchment with only a knight of the Kingsguard to stand watch over her within the dark and quiet of a magical castle. Of course she wasn't under some spell. She was dead. Her skull smashed in by their idiot king during a tantrum. Her blood and brains had leaked onto the steps of Baelor's Sept in front of all of King's Landing. She wasn't in some beautiful castle but in the Red Keep, built by a monster who murdered those who had made it so he'd be the only one to know its secrets. And the knight standing over her was a butcher who was only a member of the Kingsguard because there was no one else in the Capital who wanted the damn job.
He pulled out a wineskin and took a long drink. One was supposed to fast during their watch but that was a fucking stupid idea too. What did the gods care if a man had a sip of wine? If it mattered so much they could knock the skin from his hands.
When they did no such thing, once more refusing to answer him, he scoffed as he stared skyward before taking another drink.
"They didn't want to do this, you know," he told Sansa's corpse. He looked down at her face, with those silly little stones that were painted to look like her eyes and suddenly had the urge to take them and cram them down someone's throat. He didn't know whose. He took another pull from the wineskin, feeling it warm his insides. "Pycelle argued that your family has committed treason and that they should just bury you. The Queen really didn't care either way as she was more concerned with them placing a branding iron on that stump of hers." He smirked at that. "Gods, I wish you could have seen that, little bird. That would have made you smile. Hmmm… maybe not. You were too sweet to smile at anyone's pain, weren't you? King Prick wanted you fed to the dogs but someone told him to shut the fuck up, not sure who. Might have been me, to be honest. Wasn't until ol' Ser Barristan told'em all how the city was in revolt still that got them to actually begin thinking with their heads. Varys said to give you proper rights, that it would show that what happened was a slip and ease the tempers." Sandor scoffed. "Fucking idiot. I knew they took his balls but sometimes I wonder if they took his fucking brains." Lurching forward, finding himself a bit unsteady on his feet, Sandor made his way to the stone table that held Sansa's body and leaned against it, slowly sliding down till he was eyelevel with her. If anyone had looked upon him in that moment they'd have thought he looked like man sitting next to his lounging wife, telling her of his day. Just went to show how stupid people were. "If anyone thinks dressing you up and washing the blood from your hair is going to make anyone forget seeing your head smash in like that they are fools." He sighed and stared at the ceiling. "I know I won't forget it.
"That's the problem with them all, though. They don't think about us little people. You didn't think of us either but at least you had the excuse of being a stupid little girl with clouds in her head. That lot? Should know better." He took another drink of wine. "Damn it, I get talkative when I drink." He paused, liking about the gilded room in disgust. "Probably didn't know that about me, did you? Like that with all us Cleganes. That's why Gregor had to be careful with his liquor before a battle, or less he'd get chatty and that'd ruin the fuckin' legend he had going about him. Same with me. I yammer on. Hmm… not that you'd ever notice. People like you and yours? Never notice us. Forget that we even exist."
It always amused him how utterly stupid the lords and ladies of Westeros could be. They seemed to think that servants didn't have ears and would easily let slip secrets that should never be spoken right in front of those that scuttled about making their world run. Sandor himself had heard so many strange things. Facts that could topple dynasties and destroy so many of the noble elite. He knew that Petyr Baelsih claimed to be some great lover but then went to Pycelle asking for treatments for his flaccid cock… though that hadn't stop him from visiting Lady Arryn's bedchambers when her lord husband had been working late. He'd been given a message by Renly Baratheon to pass on to some prick named Phyllup of West Water and of course Sandor had read it; Renly didn't even bother to seal it. He was demanding Phyllup strike and 'kidnap the jackass and slit his throat quick', though Sandor had no idea who had pissed off the Dandy Baratheon so much. He'd been taking a leak when Varys snuck in with some fat bastard from across the Narrow Sea claiming he'd finally made contact with someone named Drogo. They all seemed to take his name literal, thinking that like any hound he would listen without understanding.
But he did listen. The only reason they weren't all dead, or worse, from their secrets slipping out is he honestly didn't give a shit. He was a simple man who wanted to kill when there needed to be killing done, keep his belly full, and earn enough coin that he could afford to kill his pig fucker of a brother and sneak off to Essos to drink himself to death.
"Except that won't ever happen now, will it?" he asked Sansa's corpse, frowning when he found the wineskin empty. "The Iron Man saw to that. Killed Gregor himself. Think I'll shake the man's hand… then beat him to death for taking my kill." He tossed the wineskin into the corner and sighed. "What the fuck am I even doing here? Why'd I agree to stand here like an idiot and guard you? You're a rotting corpse and even before that you didn't give two shits about me. Not because of belief… if the gods are real then they are cunts and can fuck themselves with hot spikes for all I care. Not out of duty because that is for fucking twats. No one wanted to even do this." He let out a bitter laugh. "How does it feel to know that everyone was forced to prepare your body? Your family abandoned you, your precious prince killed you and wanted you tossed into the Blackwater… it took the threat of knife work to get them to show you the decency you deserved!" His head pitched forward till his chin rested on his breast and for a moment, had anyone walked in, they would have thought he'd fallen asleep. But then, in a quiet, slurred voice he asked once more, "Why the fuck am I doing this?"
"Because you love me."
His body went rigid.
Slowly, ever so slowly, Sandor lifted his head up and turned it, inch by painful inch, until he was looking over his shoulder at the dead body that lay behind him. She didn't move, didn't breathe, didn't give any signs of being alive. She simply laid there, body cold and still, looking beautiful and untouched in her pretty dress with her hair braided so to hide the damage to her skull. Perfect, like the little doll she had been in life, meant to be seen and touched but not allowed to think or do on her own.
And then Sansa turned her head towards him, the stones falling to the table and rolling onto the ground, clinking on the stone as she stared at him with brilliant, almost glowing blue eyes.
"FUCK!" Sandor screamed, stumbling away from her as he tried to desperately get to his feet. "Fuck! Fuck! Fu-" a wad of phlegm went down his throat and he began to violently cough even as he struggled to draw his sword. "Fu…fu…" he hacked.
Sansa slowly sat up and looked at him intently. She reached up, stretching her arms without ever breaking eye contact, her movements languid and relaxed. "Why do you back away from me? Do you fear me?" She let out a tinkling laugh, like ice crystals falling to the ground, and rose to her feet. "How silly… you fear what is ugly, not what is beautiful." She ran a finger along her dress as she kicked off the slippers that they'd put on her, which Sandor dimly realized looked much too small for her. In fact her entire outfit looked too small, clinging to her body in a way that would make some whores blush. It was as if death could not stand that one so young had died and thus caused her body to age to womanhood to set things right. Except she wasn't dead. She was alive, her fingers working the laces on the front of her dress so that it pulled open, revealing that her small breasts had blossomed into pale full tits, the hint of large dusty colored nipples just barely visible. The hem of her dress rode up mid calf, revealing ankles and feet that were almost white. She gave him a pouty, sultry smile as she continued to advance, Sandor moving to place his back against a wall, eyes wide with shock and fright as the moving corpse continued towards him. "And you do find me beautiful, don't you?" Her voice was both soft and innocent and old and lust-filled; it was a combination that made him tremble for all the right and wrong reasons.
"How… how the fuck… you were dead. I watched you die."
Sansa just looked up at him, her unnatural blue eyes dancing in amusement. "And? What is death but another transformation? The Iron Born say what is dead may never die. Across the Narrow Sea they preached once that with our last breath in one life we breathe a new one in our next, the cycle seeing us live and die over and over again."
"You… you're dead!" Sandor repeated, part of him wondering if he said it loud enough perhaps the girl's body would realize that and crumple to the floor, lifeless once more. "I watched you die! You smashed your bloody head in!"
"Well yes, of course." Sansa seemed almost amusingly exasperated by the thought she'd been murdered. She reached up and pulled her hair back, revealing the twisted ruin that was her skull, bits of blood-soaked brain visible under her shattered skull. And then, as her fingers traced over the wound, it began to heal until all that remained of it was a white scar and the blood on her fingers, which Sansa stared at before whispered, "And now I'm not." She stuck one blood-coated finger in her mouth and sucked on it, running her tongue around it in such a way that a weaker man would have whimpered. "There are many who receive wounds they should have died from, and yet they continue to live. Why not me?" She reached out towards him, as if offering one of her bloody fingers for him to taste.
"Get the fuck away from me!" he roared, grabbing her by the shoulders and moving to shove her away. But Sansa merely grasped his wrists and broke the hold, using unnatural strength to force him to let go. Once sure he would not try that again she reached up and began to run her fingers along his scarred face. "What… what are you doing?" He hated how frightened he sounded, how terrified… but he was petrified. Scared out of his mind by this… creature… that looked like the little bird only fully grown, who spoke in sweet riddles and yet made every hair on his arms stand on end.
Sansa didn't answer him. Instead she merely ran her fingers along his disfigured face, tilting her head as she did so, staring at the old injuries. "You were hurt too. Hurt so bad you should have died. You were touched by the cruel fire. It takes everything away, burns all. Untamable, ruthless, horrid. Your brother did this to you, did he not?" Sandor could feel the flames once more on his face, hear the screams coming from his little throat as his brother punished him for touching his toy, taste the fire on his tongue. "You were wounded, just like me."
And then he felt a coolness the likes of which he had never felt before.
"And now you are healed," she said, pulling away from him. Sandor stared at her with wild eyes, trying to will his arms to work so he might strike her down with his blade, only for his eyes to drag down to his reflection in the mirrored surface of his blade. He stared in shock at what greeted him, the vision that should have never been that stared back from the sword's surface.
His face completely healed.
No scars. No melted flesh. No fused muscles that hurt when he tries to move his face. The tenderness and tightness were gone. The itching he'd felt from skin forever trying to heal damage that was too great no longer there. He flexed his jaw and wagged his eyebrows and was amazed at the sensation. He'd forgotten what it was like to be able to move his face without resistance and pain.
He looked over at Sansa and felt tears gather in his eyes.
"I can give you so much more," she said gently, stepping towards him once more. "For now you will need to hide your true self." With a wave of her hand the scars returned but he felt none of the pain… only the coolness, like a kiss from falling snow. Magic, of some kind, that made the world see his ruined face but allowed him to know he was whole once more. "But soon, when the time is right for me to reveal all I can do I will rip away this glamour and they will see you for who you truly are. Who you were born to be. The first of many to know my blessing… and to join my new world." She moved back and Sandor found himself reaching for her like a drowning man trying to grab a lifeline. "I only ask that you serve me… and only me. That your freeze your heart to all others and pledge yourself to me."
"I do," Sandor whispered in reverence.
"Kneel," Sansa said with a soft smile. He fell to his knees and his little bird approached him, placing her hands on his shoulders. "I will need to do many things you may find hard to bare… but know that despite it all you and I remain true. Do you swear to serve me and see me as your Queen?"
"Till death take me."
She laughed at that and though he didn't know why she found it funny he smiled as he listened to the soft sweet sounds she made. "Then, let it be known the compact has been made. You are no longer the Hound. Others may call you that but it is no longer your name. You… are the Queen's Knight."
Sandor nodded and stared into her shimmering, otherworldly blue eyes.
And in the hour of wolf Sansa Stark smiled.
"And I… am the Night's Queen."
The Story Continues in A Crack of Thunder
Author's Notes: So originally I planned to post this chapter Saturday. But I was just so excited for it and to finally wrap this book up that I decided to give you all an early present and put it up two days early! And with it, at long last, 'A Man of Iron' comes to an end.
Before we get to this chapter let's discuss update schedules. My plan is to post a couple of chapters of 'A Crack of Thunder' as quickly as I have done the last 8 or so chapters of AMOI before settling into a bi-monthly schedule. What I am thinking is roughly this: One week of Harry Potter and the Order of Moltress, one chapter of ACOT, a break week, and then back to OoM. This will give me three weeks roughly to write each chapter of both books while also giving me time to work on other projects (for example, I have about 6 chapters of a Downton Abbey fic I set aside to work on OoM and this; the story, for those interested, was about Mathew Crawley's soul traveling back to the day the Titanic sank and realizing he had a chance to change history. It is a really long and dense fic and while I love it I want to focus on stuff like this and OoM for now). I want to try and get into a good rhythm while also banking a ton of chapters; already I have five chapters of ACOT written and I'm working on the sixth with about 2000 words already done.
Now then, we move onto this chapter.
So… I think this is the first chapter where I dropped the F-bomb. But it's Sandor so hey. I do try to keep this T for Teen, which is why I avoid writing sex scenes and try and avoid the real nasty curse words. But for this the f-bomb was needed, as was Sandor dropping the c-word concerning the gods. If your virginal ears were offended welcome to real life, kids! If you are reading Game of Thrones stories your parents are the only ones to blame.
(Fun Fact! The reason Sandor begins to choke when he's freaked over Sansa being, you know, alive? Well, I act out most of the scenes before I write them and when I did that bit I actually began to choke myself and thought it was something cool to add… really made it feel real since… well… it actually happened).
Oh, and since we mentioned sex scenes, I'll finally answer one of the oddest questions I've gotten concerning this series or any series I've written: Do I write graphic sex scenes and will there be any in this story. Answer… yes and no. Yes I do write them, but not on and not for any of the stories here. I'm not going to reveal where you'll find my stuff (as I write that under a different pen name and with different fandoms and frankly I'm kinda embarrassed that I write that stuff… not the stuff itself but it's weird to send you guys off to find them plus underage kids might be reading this). Let's just say the closest I've come to writing in the same story world as one of my current stories is an Interactive Story post where Ygritte uses magic to erase Jon's mind so she can screw him silly. And please don't ask me to send links. I'm not going to.
Alright, back to the chapter and the thing you guys actually care about: the huge reveal.
Oh, my poor summer children. All of you begging me to bring Sansa back. "Have her be the Phoniex! Have her come back to life!" It took every ounce of willpower I had not to reply with "Be careful what you wish for".
When I plan out stories I tend to lump ideas into three categories: fleeting thoughts. These are quick ideas that may or may not come to pass. For example, Varys as the Kingpin. Literally just brainstorming notes. Next are possible thoughts. These I spend more time with and weigh, deciding if they will work or not for the story. I could go with them or not. Gerion as Fury? Possible thought I went with. One I didn't? One of my earlier notes from a year ago was "What if Cat and Edmure have a falling out and Edmure turns against her?" This would have put Riverrun against the North and seen a Riverun civil war. Decided against it as I want to explore other things with Cat in Book 2 and ESPECIALLY in Book 4, where, if I stick with the major plan there, she will be a major player for the side of good against the battle against evil.
Sansa being resurrected as the Night's Queen? That was in the final category: THIS WILL HAPPEN. One of my earliest notes was Sansa's transformation into one of the major villains of this story. At one point she was the Enchantress. Another I considered a Female Loki. But in the end I decided to make her an original character and thus we get the Night's Queen, the first member of The Court (and you thought I just threw that in last chapter for funsies). And with her Sandor Clegane has now, unbeknownst to him, pledged himself to the cause of the Others.
I warned you guys things would be radically different by the end of this book. Ned is the King in the North, Dany is a mutant, Arya is going to see Magneto, Jon has Power Armor, Tyrion is now more focused… and the Others have a foothold in King's Landing.
But wait until we hit Book 2…
"Book 2 of A Song of Metal and Marvels. Tony and Jon protect the smallfolk but are unaware of the threat from the Iron Islands. Arya journeys towards her destiny. Dany faces doom. Tyrion struggles to main control. And the Others plot. But things are about to change… for the gods have returned to Westeros and bring thunder with them"