I don't own A Song of Ice and Fire series or have anything to do with its creation or publication. I make no money from this; it is a fan-fiction where I gloss over major elements of the original story for the sake of SanSan love.
George R. R. Martin for writing books.
Note: Contains MAJOR spoilers up to the end of A Storm of Swords, and some spoilers from A Feast for Crows.
There's no M-rated content yet; I'll warn you.
Winter is coming. Those were the words of the Starks from Winterfell, the castle farthest to the North of all the Seven Kingdoms. The Starks were all dead now, but their words held true even in this Southron castle, proven by the bluster of snow that whistled and beat against its windows. This castle, called the Eyrie, was built on a mountain peak overlooking a meadow valley and its towers reached past the heights of clouds. Gray stones packed close together kept warmth from fireplaces and braziers trapped in the rooms and hallways of the castle.
There was one stone, though, that did not fit with the others. Where they were cold to the touch she was warm and soft, and human. Her name was Alayne and the surname Stone had been given to her to mark her as a bastard of the Vale. She carried herself well for a lady of low birth, gliding silently between the sconces on red slippers towards her father's office. Having many talents—she could play the harp and bells, sing, and read and write; not just letters, but poetry, too—and being possessed with a refined beauty, she seemed destined to rise above her bastardry.
At least her father thought so, and if there was one man who knew what tricks best served a person seeking to rise above their station, it was Petyr Baelish. Called Littlefinger, though he himself did not use that name, he had been born to a lesser Lord in the Vale and now he sat the high seat of the Eyrie. He was not the Lord in name per se, but the power that came with that title could hardly be set to rest on the shoulders of the ten year old boy who claimed it by birthright, and so that burden went to Petyr Baelish.
He was a master of sums, seizure and manipulation. To Alayne it seemed that everyone who stepped foot in this castle was his pawn, to be pitted and played against each other to further his own ends. She often wondered how she fit into his plans; she never wondered "if." For she and Baelish shared a secret too good to keep to themselves forever—that she was really Sansa Stark, Lady of Winterfell.
In truth she missed her old life, though things had gone horribly wrong for Sansa after she left the North. It was safer now to be Alayne, with Sansa Stark buried deep inside herself and almost forgotten. But deep inside her heart of hearts she felt nervous. What would Petyr do when she came of age in a month's time? The feeling gnawed beneath her lie and she acted out in the most forgivable ways.
Like now, coming to beg a favor him while he worked. "I'm going to be busy tomorrow morning, so don't disturb me," he'd said the night before. "If our young Lord Robert has any trouble you'll handle it yourself."
A group of riders had been galloping across the Vale, shadows afore the dusk. Alayne saw them through the window. "Is it preparations for the feast that keep you busy?" The Autumn festival marked the end of the season, when the Eyrie became too cold to live in and had to be abandoned until the spring.
"It is the guests themselves, my dear. Most are wroth to leave without some consult. Would that they enjoyed the food and left. Goodnight, Alayne."
He'd leaned in to kiss her then. At the last moment she turned her cheek.
"Surely, you have something inside you sweeter than that." He spoke in a whisper and did not take his face away. When she looked at him he kissed her on the mouth.
She could not be Alayne when he did that. Alayne was Petyr's daughter. She had kissed her real father on the mouth, true, but with Petyr it was different. He held it for too long and sometimes moved his mouth against hers. She always broke away, afraid that he would never stop or that he would start to touch her.
That was yesterday, and this morning she had left Lord Robert in the granary counting out grains of rice for the feast. So she had nothing to do but disturb her father and hope that he would honor her request just to get her out of his way.
She crept down the hallway on cat's feet. A man was already waiting outside Petyr's office. That meant that either Petyr was very busy, or the man was not very important. He was tall and had the straight posture of a swordsman. Once, Sansa would have taken him for a knight, but she had since learned that carrying a sword did not mean one kept an oath to chivalry. And there was something dark about this man, his features coming to her out of the shadows, with his thin black hair and straight-set jaw.
Then he turned to her, and she knew him. It was Sandor Clegane. Sansa froze and her heart caught in her throat. She searched the side of his face she had first seen for an answer to why she had not recognized him, but there was no mistaking the burned side of his face. The scar was melted flesh, making him look like a living cross-section of muscle and skin from a Maester's anatomy reference book.
I did not think of him as a man, but as a monster, she thought, studying the right side of his face. He could not be called beautiful like Loras or Renly, but there was something masculine and attractive in the hard lines of his face. She sought out the soft gray eye beneath his stern expression, but when she looked to the eye's twin and the raw flesh that surrounded it he turned away from her.
The door opened. For a flicker of a moment Petyr Baelish's smile changed to consternation, but then he was back to his honey-sweet self. "I did not expect to see you here."
He is talking to me, Alayne knew, but it was Sandor Clegane who answered.
"You knew I was coming."
Alayne felt herself growing hot beneath his anger, but Sandor just shrugged. "The Bear couldn't make it."
Littlefinger was much shorter than Sandor, but he could still look down his nose at him. "Is that so?"
Sandor grunted in approval. "He gave me a message for you, and a gift. I hoped I might trade it to you."
"It's hardly a gift if I need to buy it."
"It's not a gift from me."
"Still," his eyes flicked to Alayne. "I suppose the message is important, not the man who brings it. Alayne, this is Sandor Clegane, a freerider. Clegane this is my daughter, Alayne Stone. I don't believe you've met."
That gave them permission to turn to each other. Sansa's heart thudded in her chest. She was sure the men could hear it. "Pleased to meet you." She spread the front of her blue dress wide as she curtsied.
Sandor inclined his head to her at a depth that would have shamed a highborn lady, and she felt her cheeks growing red despite herself. "I don't recall you having a daughter, Baelish."
"My natural daughter. I only knew of her once I returned to the Vale, though she is so lovely I am not ashamed to admit her." Petyr took her hand and kissed it. "I'll give you something for your trouble, Clegane. As for you," his grip tightened around the bones of her fingers, "I thought you were too occupied with other pursuits to visit me today. To what event do I owe this pleasure?"
Faced with her father's obvious displeasure and unexpectedly meeting with Sandor Clegane, Sansa's countenance faltered. "I-uh, nothing is wrong, Father. The preparations for the feast are all in order and our Lord Robert is, uhm, taking care to observe them."
She took a quick breath. "Since there's nothing else for me to do this morning, I hoped I might go riding."
"Hah!" Petyr dropped her hand. "Did you take a look outside? Our guest here bought a storm with him."
"It's not more than a flurry, really," Clegane said. Petyr did not even look at him.
"Regardless, it's no weather for a young lady to be caught in, much less elect to place herself. You will find another activity to occupy yourself with for today."
He shut the door, leaving Alayne in the stone-cold hallway. She knew it would be no use to listen against the heavy oaken door, so she retreated to the lower levels of the castle. She found a way to occupy herself, stalking through the common areas, hoping she would run into Sandor Clegane. In the meantime, the heavy frost covering the windows brought a new thought to her mind. Winter is here.
It's been two months since I last posted something, because I've been working on this. And I'm still not done! I'm really slow :( I figured I would post the early chapters while I finish up the rest. Expect some things to change as I tend to go back and edit, but the main story stays the same. I have a cushion of a few chapters to give me some time to write the end. I will finish this...if I get enough reviews! JUST KIDDING! I will finish it anyway...but feedback is nice!
Thanks to everyone who reviewed and favorited my last story! You gave me the confidence to tackle this much longer project.