*A/N: I apologize to everyone who has been patiently waiting for me to update this story. I promise you, I have not abandoned it. I had gotten married, then pregnant, and now have a darling baby that takes up a lot of my time. But I promise to update as much as I can. I also have two other stories on this site that I work on. One is a Supergirl (TV) fanfic, and the other is a DC's Legends of Tomorrow (TV) fanfic. Feel free to read them.
I know this is a shorter chapter than you probably expected. I used to go into every story saying "each chapter will be X amount of pages long, no matter what!" I no longer strive for a specific number of pages and only wish to give decent chapters for my readers.
Three years after The War of the Five Kings/The Stabbing of Jon Snow...
"Such a treasure," a voice hummed, disembodied. It was coarse and distorted, creeping through her very soul whenever it spoke. "So pretty and gracious. Such a shame. Such a shame."
Sansa, clothed in a black tattered dress, ran the length of a dark hall. She was alone, save the enigmatic voice that hovered over her. Whenever she reached the end of the hall, nothing happened. There was no door or window. No turns to the left or right to lead her down another path. There was only the way of which she came. And so, she would turn and run back in the opposite direction. Back and forth she went. Back and forth. Back and forth. With nothing to help her or guide her or show of her progress.
"Darling, girl. Treasured girl."
She did not know who the voice belonged to, nor did she care. Escape was all that mattered.
But Sansa had not known freedom for a very long time. Not even as Joffrey laid purple with death and Ser Dontos swept her away from the King's wedding feast. Nor when Petyr Baelish took her aboard The Merling King and fled to the Eyrie with promises of safety and security. And not now, as this haunted castle tricked her and trapped her.
"A treasure you are, and a treasure you'll be." The words were familiar, even if they were spoken in a voice too rough to recognize. It did not matter though, for Sansa was afraid nonetheless.
Breathless, she ran again and again and again, until her legs quivered from exhaustion and her heart hammered against her chest.
"Please," she whispered back, stopping her endless sprinting to press her back against the stoned dead end. She choked out a sob as she gasped for air. "Please, I am nothing and no one of importance. I'm only Alayne. And I just want...I just want to -"
"Leave? Oh, but you can't." It answered. "Don't you know? You can't leave."
She shut her eyes tightly. The voice swirled around her, horrible and loud. Sansa slid down until she felt the cold floor beneath her. She would never be rescued, no one was coming for her. And she wasn't smart enough to find the way out on her own. If only she'd had Arya's wits and resilience. If only she had been resourceful and cunning and able to care for herself. If only...if only...
Her head hung in defeat and she shook. "I just want to be left alone," her voice was weak. "I don't - I don't want to be a part of this world anymore. Please," she sniffed and wiped her tearful eyes on the sleeve of her dress. "Please just let me be. I have nothing left to give to you."
"No, no, darling girl," the haunting sound swam around her. "When will you learn? When will you learn?"
"Learn what?!" She shouted, slamming a fist down onto the floor she sat upon. Her frustration boiled and her willpower crumbled. "What do you want from me?! I've told you, I am nothing! I am no one! I cannot give anything more to you! Why won't you let me go?!"
"Go, go, go, go. They all go. The world is not happy, girl. No, no, no, no. The world is not happy, nor is it fair."
"I-I don't even know where I am," Sansa whimpered.
"Poor child, treasured child."
She shivered again, feeling as if the room around her was shrinking. Or perhaps it was growing darker? Colder? Did it matter anymore?
"Darling girl, sweet girl, pleasant girl…" The voice spun and filled the small space around her, echoing off the stone walls and enveloping her in the darkness it cast. She hugged her knees to her chest, burying her face and sobbing.
"Treasured girl, lovely, lovely, treasured girl…"
With a gasp she woke, lurching herself up and flailing her limbs. A pain shot from her upper back and down her body, making Sansa nearly shriek. She clenched her jaw tightly, breathing heavily through her nose as the striking agony simmered to a throb.
The bed she laid in was her father's - or, rather, had been her father's when he'd served as Hand to the late King Robert.
Sansa shivered, she should not be here. The Tower of the Hand no longer housed her family. She'd tried so hard to wash away the memories of this place; to forget the illusions of riches and royals that had fooled her into believing The Red Keep was wonderful and sweet. She'd sat on the steps with Jeyne Poole, whispering like the foolish, gullible girls they were. Her lessons with Septa Mordane had been on the balcony overlooking King's Landing, though Sansa was often able to persuade the old woman into a stroll in the castle gardens instead. The dining room had been used more for bickering with Arya than enjoying a meal, while their poor, patient father scolded them and told them to cherish each other.
They'd been children then, she and Arya and Jeyne. And life was colorful. Her days had been filled with the pageantry and magic of the court. Her attention had been given to the beauty of everything around her, the feasts, the tourneys, the lords and ladies dressed so elegantly. It was all as if it came from a story in one of her favored books. A romance, her life had been a romance.
Those days had been from before. Before her world had turned grey and dreary and hopeless. Before Joffrey has taken her father's head and Arya and Jeyne were never seen again. Before Sansa became a prisoner and pawn for Cersei and House Lannister. Before she'd fled with Petyr Baelish as the body of Dontos Hollard sunk to the bottom of the bay.
"My lady." A gentle voice interrupted her thoughts.
The room was dark save for a fire burning a few feet away. Sansa had to strain her eyes to make out the plump figure dressed in soft fabrics and cushioned slippers seated in a corner. He rose and came to the foot of her bed, staring at her with sadness.
"You poor, poor child." Lord Varys did not look much different than the last time she had seen him, except for the lines that had deepened with age around his eyes and mouth. The softness of his voice remained the same. "I cannot imagine how you must be feeling. "
Sansa cleared her throat and made to speak, but the eunuch held up a hand to stop her.
"No, no, my dear. Do not waste your strength on me. I've only come to mind you whilst Lord Tyrion attends a matter with the Queen." He smiled at her and slipped his hand to disappear inside one of the oversized sleeves of his robes.
Sansa stiffened against the pillows. Of course, Tyrion was the Hand to the Targaryen Queen. These were his chambers now, as they had been when Joff was King and Lord Tywin at war with Sansa's family.
When she and Tyrion had been wed.
She recalled the Great Hall and Lord Royce speaking on her behalf; Tyrion bewildered and waddling - no, limping - his way towards her. His tentative touch upon her wounded face.
"You're alive," he'd whispered in awe. He held her face delicately. Sansa had felt warm then, even for just the briefest of moments.
A small smile graced her lips, and she wanted to speak, to tell him she was sorry she left as she did. Regardless of the circumstances of their marriage, he had been an ally and friend to her. He'd never forced her, never asked anything of her, never disgraced her, or harmed her.
"And," Varys continued. "I have many of the answers you seek, I'm sure. First, you've been resting in Lord Tyrion's bed for three days. He has not left your side since that terrible attack in the Great Hall." He smiled kindly. "Our dear Lord Hand has been quite eager for you to wake, my lady. But of course, we all have been anxiously awaiting your waking moment. You've piqued the curiosity of the entire court. Half the Red Keep has been hard at work creating illustrious stories of your whereabouts. While the other half muses over your marriage."
Of course the lords and ladies were interested. They were bored, pompous, selfish people that only concerned themselves with the latest gossip to skirt through King's Landing. And unfortunately for Sansa, she was the topic on everyone's lips. She strained to keep a frown from surfacing.
"Now, I'm sure you're wondering where Lord Royce could be, and it grieves me to tell you that our gracious Queen Daenerys has him confined to guest chambers until a proper interview can be conducted. Have no worries, though, sweet girl. The Queen's council is fair and the Lord of Runestone will not be waiting for much longer for his summonings. I assume she'll want to speak with you as well, now that you've regained consciousness."
She bit her bottom lip. The Dragon Queen had eyed Sansa hungrily with her violet eyes, as if she starved for her Stark blood. It was...unsettling. Sansa knew she would have to provide answers of Petyr's death and the murder of Sweetrobin. And any gossip or news from the Vale would be expected as well. Daenerys had accepted Lord Royce's confession easily, not bothering to give him trial by law to prove himself justified in the death of Littlefinger. She had barely questioned him at all. Sansa had thought that was peculiar.
"I do wonder what goes on through that darling head of yours, Lady Sansa," Varys tilted his chin down and gave her a curious look. "You know," he came around to the side of the bed and stood next to where she lay. "As Master of Whisperers, I have been known to be a wonderful confidant. Anything you wish to release will be kept in absolute concealment..."
He is a spy. She reminded herself. Here to snatch my secrets and present them to his Queen upon a platter. She knew the Spider would jump at any opportunity to bring himself within the good graces of whoever sat the Iron Throne. He did so by gaining favors of Kings Aerys II Targaryen and Robert Baratheon. He was not a fool and he knew how to play his cards well.
Sansa let out an even breath. Varys waited and stared at her in expectancy. He wanted her to break her resilience and confess what has happened to her since the night of Joffrey's wedding to Margaery Tyrell. Under his scrutiny Sansa squirmed but did not speak a word.
A pregnant pause stretched between them, only the sound of the firewood cracking and popping as it burned filled the room. Finally, one side of his lips pulled into a half smile and his eyes slanted into something sly and mischievous. "Good girl," he said so low that she could barely hear him. In a swirl of his silks, he turned from her and resumed his position in the corner. His eyes never left her, the glint and sparkle of interest intensifying as the seconds passed on.
"You needn't glare at me so, my lady. I swear to you, I come to do no harm."
Before she could supply a retort, a quick knock and then opening of the chamber door snatched Lord Varys' attention. He stood to intercept the serving girl entering with an assortment of food and unopened letter.
"Thank you, thank you, sweet child." His kindness was close to pageantry as he bowed and took the tray himself. "You are most gracious. Please, seek your own dinner. Lady Lannister is in very good hands and will not be requiring aid for the rest of the evening."
Lady Lannister, Sansa shivered. Of course.
Varys returned and set her dinner on the table beside her and sat himself on the edge of the bed. In one hand, he held the rolled parchment paper. He plucked a grape from the tray and popped it in his mouth before smiling at her. "A matter for Lord Tyrion, sweetling. Do not fret. I'm sure whoever has written to your husband, it will be of no interest to you.I will be glad to deliver it to him myself." The warning was unnecessary. Whatever business lay within Tyrion's letter, she did not care to know of it. She had no right or claim over him and his affairs, despite being called his wife.
To prove her indifference, Sansa offered the Spider a small shrug of her uninjured shoulder and reached for a piece of cheese.
He beamed back at her, approving. Another moment passed before Varys leaned towards her. "My dear, I do believe you and I could be wonderful allies. If you'll allow it, I am quite certain there is a place here in Daenerys' court and we could take great lengths to improve your position. With your permission, of course."
She nibbled her slice of cheese, chewing slowly as she considered the offer. She needed allies and Varys was cunning and sly, he could be of use to her. Ultimately, she needed Daenerys' approval for her own survival. And perhaps Varys was the way to persuade the Targaryen to keep her alive.
Sansa smiled and stuck her bandaged hand out to him.
Varys' smile spread from one ear to the other as he covered the delicate appendage with his own soft hands. "Oh, my dear," he lowered his voice to barely a whisper. "You will not regret this."
Next chapter: Val II