So, this starts off with a flash back and then returns to the opening scene by the river.
There will be a few flashbacks in the coming chapters as I fill in the blanks between Sansa's rescue and where they are now, but eventually it will be all present tense.
The day they came for her, Sansa had awoken in the dead of the night to Brienne standing in her chambers, shaking her gently awake. She'd been very confused, roused from a deep sleep and a pleasant dream of Winterfell that filled her with deep longing.
She'd thought, at first, that Brienne was some sort of servant, but realized, as she blinked herself into consciousness, that she'd never seen such a tall or broad chambermaid at the Vale... and none of them ever dressed in armor.
"Lady Sansa," Brienne had breathed, her voice just above a whisper. "I am sorry to wake you, my lady, but-" she looked wildly around the room. "There isn't much time."
She dropped to one knee, head bowed and said "My name is Brienne of Tarth. I served your mother, Lady Catelyn. She charged me with the task of returning you home. Though Lady Stark is no longer with us, but I intend to keep my vow. My steel is sharp and my arm is strong. I will use them to see that you reach the North safely, if you will come."
Sansa could do little but ogle at her.
I am dreaming, she'd thought.
Though if it is a dream, why would the gods not even be kind enough to send me a handsome gleaming knight as my rescuer... instead of this homely woman, who despite her large frame, seems barely more than a girl herself?
"I don't understand," Sansa had said, rubbing her eyes.
"I know, my lady, and I - I wish there were time to explain. A woman called Mya Stone helped get me in here and she swears to lead us down from the Eyrie through safe paths. But we must be well away by morning if we are to have any hope of a real escape," Brienne hesitated, biting her lip. "You do...you do want to escape, my lady?"
"I...I..." Sasna had stammered, staring into Brienne's large blue eyes. They looked so very wide and honest, and her words were full of such sincerity, but Sansa's trust had been shattered so many times...it would be beyond foolish, wouldn't it, to take off into the night with some stranger?
Lord Petyr would be so furious, if he were to catch her...how could she even be considering...
"My lady, I swear to you. No harm will come to you while I draw breath. Please, please come with me, Sansa," Brienne pleaded, her blue eyes swimming with tears.
And so Sansa did.
She took just a moment to gather her things while Brienne paced nervously about the room, poking her head out the door every time she came around to it again.
When Sansa entered the hall, dressed in layers of clothing, a small bag on her back, she'd met Hyle Hunt, who was standing guard. He bowed briskly to her and turned to Brienne, saying, "Let's go. Thought I heard something down the passage."
They'd weaved their way through halls and passages Sansa had not known existed, meeting Mya around a corner and following her out, swiftly and silently.
Sansa's heart was pounding so hard that it threatened to burst out of her chest, but seeing Mya put her a bit more at ease. Mya would not lead her to harm.
When they burst into the frigid night air and began their descent, Sansa, who had still been rather dazed after being pulled from a deep sleep, woke up entirely and began to contemplate the magnitude of what was happening to her.
She was free. Free of Lord Petyr, and his increasingly overt advances, free of the pain of witnessing little Sweetrobin fade away, and, if Brienne spoke truly, free to return to the North.
They began their descent.
Sansa lost her footing multiple times, but Brienne was always right at her side to catch her, with strong and surprisingly gentle hands. Not long after they'd begun, Hyle gave a low, hooting call, which was answered a moment later.
Then, two figures had emerged from behind a wall of rock, and Sansa's stomach plummeted as though she'd been thrown from a sky cell.
It took her a moment to recognize their faces in the low moonlight, but when she did, panic overcame her.
Jaime Lannister. And Tyrion's squire.
You fool, Sansa. You wretched, ignorant fool.
They'd come to take her back. Back to Cersei and the stifling Red Keep, to answer for a crime she hadn't committed. And she'd comewillingly. They hadn't needed to drag her from her bed. She'd followed like the stupid little girl she'd thought was long dead. She'd thought her trials had made her wiser and sharper, but she was still just that gullible fool who'd trusted the people responsible for her father's death.
Self-loathing mixed with her terror, and she turned on her heel to flee. A part of her recognized it was futile to even try to escape. Perhaps she'd fall off the cliffs in the attempt. Better than facing the wrath of Cersei Lannister. Better and quicker.
"Sansa, wait," Brienne had called desperately, but she ignored it, darting around rocks in the blinding darkness.
She could hear Brienne's heavy footsteps following, but did not stop until she tripped and slammed her knee into the jagged rocks. Pain shot through it, tearing through the layers of cloth and breaking her skin.
"Sansa, please," Brienne had cried, falling to her knees beside her. "I'm sorry. Please. I should have warned you. I was... I was so worried about being caught, I didn't think to... Oh, and you're hurt," she said, reaching towards Sansa's bleeding leg, which Sansa snatched away, overcome with terror.
Brienne looked so distressed, Sansa was moved by pity for an instant, before growing furious with herself once again. You soft-hearted fool. You stupid little girl.
But somehow, Brienne managed to convince her not to run. She'd stammered out her explanations...that Jaime too had sworn a vow to Sansa's Lady Mother, that he had given her a sword and bid her keep Sansa safe from his sister, that he was here now, to see it through, to help her reach safety.
Sansa was more than doubtful and her heart was still pounding like a cornered rabbing, but her knee was also throbbing so badly she thought she'd likely have trouble walking, let alone running.
And where would she even go? Back to the Eyrie, to beg Lord Petyr's forgiveness? Into the hills, to face the brutality of the hill tribes?
She had learned long ago to never trust a Lannister. During her captivity in King's Landing, she'd learned it over and over again, in increasingly painful ways.
But she could not help but trust this Brienne. She looked nothing like the heroic knights in the tales Sansa had grown up loving so much, but Sansa sensed this poor, ugly maid with her scarred cheek and bright eyes was more honorable and noble than any of the knights Sansa had encountered since she'd journied south.
In spite of her vows never to trust again, she could not help but believe in Brienne, who had wet some fabric with cold water and was gently cleaning Sansa's knee while pleading with her to understand that they meant her no harm.
Perhaps, Sansa thought, Brienne has been fooled by the Lannisters just as I was. She may be true, but there's no reason to believe her companions are.
She is good hearted, and strong, even if she is blinded to the truth. She will keep me safe, Sansa thought. Jaime Lannister no longer has a sword-hand, if what Littlefinger had told her was true, and that other knight did not look half so fierce as Brienne. And Pod is just a boy.
Sansa was sure Brienne could take them, if it came to that.
So Sansa agreed to journey on with them, as there really had not been another choice. She returned to the group, determinedly avoiding Jaime Lannister's eyes and vowing that when she got a chance to speak with Brienne alone, she would tell her the truth about the treachery of House Lannister.
After quite some time, Sansa looks up from her knitting to find that Jaime and Brienne have finally come to an agreement.
While it will take them a long time and a number of furious words, they have determined that felling a few trees and building a makeshift bridge of their own would be less risky and more efficient than seeking another bridge downstream, which could very well be destroyed as well, or wasting time looking for a shallow place to cross.
They are both glaring daggers at each other, neither one really happy with the compromise.
Jaime and Brienne both march over to Hyle who has been steadily drinking through their lengthy argument.
"On your feet, Hunt. Help us haul this tree down to the bank. Then we'll do a quick search for any other logs of suitable size before cutting down whatever live trees we might need," Jaime says sharply, nudging him with his boot.
Hyle scowls a little at the command, but gets to his feet. Rather unsteadily, Sansa notices.
Brienne has too. She gives Hyle a judgmental look before bending to pick up her end of the tree's thick trunk.
"Sansa," she says kindly. "Would you mind cutting some lengths of rope for us? About this long?" Brienne holds her arms wide to demonstrate the desired length, as Pod shuffles over to help lift the log.
"Of course," Sansa says, a genuine smile on her face.
Brienne, sensitive and kind-hearted soul that she is, is well aware of Sansa's desire to contribute to the group whenever possible, even if physical labor is not her forte. Sansa too gets to her feet and heads over to the saddlebags to find their coil of rope.
She gets to work, chuckling as Brienne and the boys bring their logs down to the river.
"Jaime! That was my foot," Brienne scolds when they reach the bank and drop it, and Sansa sees her hopping on one foot down by the river, a massive spruce tree on the ground beside her.
"It wasn't me, wench! It was your boy Pod here who dro-!" Jaime said defensively.
"Oh, that's very valiant of you, Jaime. Blaming the twelve-year- old boy," Brienne said with a scoff.
"I'm-I'm thirteen, m'lady," Pod chirped softly.
"Aye. Thirteen and strapping!" Jaime said, clapping Pod on the shoulder. "I, on the other hand, am a bloody cripple, if you haven't noticed, so perhaps you can forgive me for troubling those dainty little feet of yours, my lady," he says with a mocking bow.
"Can we just get this over with? Sometime before dark would be nice," Hyle asks in annoyance, hiccupping every few words. But his pleas are drowned out by a retort from Brienne.
Sansa can only laugh. She thinks back to those early days, when her affection for Brienne was growing enormously with every passing hour in her company, and every insult Jaime threw the sweet maiden's way solidified Sansa's hatred of Lannisters.
How blind she'd been, and how pleasant it had been, to slowly discover the truth that bubbled beneath their arguments and his insults...Notes:
Thanks for reading. I love reviews like Sansa loves lemon cakes!
Very much open to all feedback...con-crit, suggestions etc!