Leana sighed sadly and closed her eyes when she saw Gendry returned with Xander whose face and top were covered by mud. Poor Gendry, his clothes were also splattered by mud. Her son was growing up, he started to understand that his papa was gone for a long trip when they sent him off by the gate.
"Bronn, would you?" Leana handed her newborn to the sellsword who was only too happy to have him.
"Come little boy, come to your beloved uncle Bronn." Bronn smiled at the babe in his arms and walked away...singing for him as he took his spot where there was sunlight to warm both him and the babe.
Leana gently wiped the mud of Xander's face, the tot was still crying; she took Xander and she bathe him, she explained to him that his Uncle Robb and Great Uncle Ned were missing and his father was looking for them. The whole time Xander was calling for his 'papa'. It was usually Simon relentless teasing and talk to Xander that distracted him when Sandor was gone...but he couldn't, not this time.
She took Xander to see Simon and let the two year old accompany Simon who was still unconscious. Maester Tarqin said he had fever.
"My lady," she heard her maid called for her and passed Barristan to her, "The little lord is hungry, my Lady."
Leana smiled at the woman who she hired barely a day ago. She saw Bronn walked behind her, wanting to make sure the little one was safe; Bronn was a lot worse when Sandor wasn't there. He looked at Simon for the longest time before he left again.
Before Sandor left for Winterfell, he resumed his duties and for few hours people come...until the last day. Jon Snow arrived with a woman and her two weeks old babe in her arms, she was in tears.
She was the widow of their household guard who died when they were flushing the GreyJoy rats. The woman was distraught, she offered to Sandor her babe, she asked for no money, only for the House Clegane to feed her babe and he could be their servant boy when he was of age.
Sandor was horrified. She was seated beside him and saw her husband taken back – speechless, the babe was still red...borne days ago, and she had no other family to turn to.
Sandor lost his wit, he was just staring at the crying woman with her son in her arms. They were all looking at her. She knew what was running through his mind...what if? What if he died and no one took care of her and his children.
She asked to woman to come closer to her, she was nursing Barristan under his blanket. She asked if she would like to work for her, she needed help now that she had three children and her babe could live with her. The woman nodded furiously - with gratitude. She told her that she was so sorry that her husband died and she was more than happy to house her child.
She saw Sandor looked at her and she smiled sadly at him. He knew she was lying, she never needed help just for herself. Weeks before Barristan was borne, he offered her a maid and she said no.
Leana was nursing Barristan on the chair next to Simon's bed, she was lost in her own world, Xander was talking to Simon and touching him, patting Simon's head; Winter and Hammer were right next to her. She warned him not to be rough as Simon's stiches might be undone. Xander nodded his head, so he stayed closed and was whispering to him...Then she heard it...
"Simon! You 'wake'!" Xander tapped Simon's head lovingly and Leana saw her two year old plonked a kiss on Simon.
She gasped and screamed which alarmed the guards and they come crashing in, door slammed opened roughly by them.
"Please, call Maester Tarqin," she spoke to them.
"Mother..." weakly, Simon called for her.
"Simon. You are awake!" Leana took his head and kissed him, he was covered in sweat, his fever broke - his lips parched. She quickly fed him honeyed water.
Leana couldn't stop kissing him and Xander followed his mother. The small place was soon filled with people. News spread fast, within minutes, barely after the Maester took a look at him; Bronn, Jon Snow, Ygritte, Gendry and many other household guards and servants arrived.
Simon was too weak to do anything, Leana noticed he was looking for someone amongst the crowd of people around him...someone's missing. Someone who stood vigil for him while he was on his death bed; he was looking for Sandor.
"Simon, your father never left your side for days. He left for Winterfell yesterday for Lord Stark and Robb."
"Simon. Papa gone." Xander complain to his brother, he looked dejected.
"Would you like to write to your father? Tell him that you are awake yourself?" she asked.
"Yes." His eyes brightened.
Jon Snow smiled at him, he mussed the boy's head. "I'll bring your father's ink and seal."
"I have to admit," Bronn looked at Simon, "Clegane is hard to kill!" and the boy smile. All this time Xander was hugging his head and kissing him, telling him that he wanted to sleep with him and Hammer that night.
"Simon...meets your little brother...Barristan." Leana showed him Barristan who was awake. Simon smiled at the babe, "Hi baby brother."
"No, mama. NO!" Xander looked at Barristan with jealousy for he did not wish for Simon to be looking at him.
It was quite awhile until everyone was satisfied that Simon was finally awake and well. At the end, with the Maester permission; Gendry carried the boy to his parents' chamber. That night, Leana had all of her boys with her. She couldn't imagine how happy Sandor would be when he received the raven.
Simon was still given milk of the poppy.
Simon was dozing to sleep, nodding his head to the chatterbox...Xander couldn't stop talking to his sleeping brother. He didn't really understand what had happened in the last week. Before Simon closed his eyes, he told her that he could hear Xander's voices long before he woke.
"Xander, let Simon sleep...would you?"
"Yes mama." But he continued talking to him. She was too pleased to say anything to him and at least Xander wasn't crying for Sandor anymore. He was talking to Simon along with Winter and Hammer.
Sandor Clegane was awaken rudely by Arya stark. Before the guards managed to knock his door, the wolf girl started pounding on his door, it was past midnight.
"Hound! It's Simon! Wake up!" No one else called him the Hound in front of him except for wolf girl. His door banged loudly.
The White Knife sentries were just looking at the young Lady Stark, their hearts dropped...Their Lord's son was dead. They knew Simon well, he was their Lord's adopted son who sometimes trained with them, a gentle boy who said, "I am not a lord," when they call him little Lord.
Sandor Clegane thought Simon was dead when Arya banged on his door relentlessly. His throat closed up and bile rose, he wanted to hurl. He wanted to smashed all the furniture in his chamber, he lost Simon, they've protected him for barely a year and he sacrificed himself for his brother, he fucking lost Simon - then Arya barged in uninvited.
She must have seen his dreadful face, "Simon is awake! He is alive! He is fine! HERE!" she shoved the parchment to his face excitedly.
He snatched the parchment from her and read:
"Father, I am awake and well. Come home soon."
It must be Leana's idea. He exhaled in relief; he covered his face with both his hands. "I thought you are to tell me that Simon is dead." His couldn't recognise his voice.
Arya realised what she had done, "Oh...I am sorry Hound."
Sandor shook his head. He was fucking please! His son was alive and recovering. Maester Tarqin said once his nine year old woke from his sleep, he'd be fine.
He truly wanted to be home...but not now. They rode for the Iron Island in three days...
The wolf girl stood in front of him, she sounded much older, "Hound...you can go home, you know. My father would understand...He would never - "
"Wolf girl, my family is fine. They are safe. I have my duty to Winterfell. I am Winterfell's Castellan...I promised your father...I am waiting for your Uncle Benjen. I am not leaving Winterfell unguarded. I might be a dog but I am not a fool...Once he arrived, I am leaving with Jory for your father and Robb."
"Father and Robb are fine...I know...I can feel it...it's not too late." She said to him. She practically live in the shed, she had the servant helped her carry a chair in there. Her hand shook when she opened the letter from White Knife, she was dreading the same thing, another death; when she realised it was good news, she ran off to The Hound's chamber.
It wasn't until the following night Lady Arya Stark realised what the Castellan planned for them. She was roused by Jory and was told to pack and fetched her mother.
"Jory...What's going on? Are we under attack?" she was confused, it was too quiet.
"Arya, not now. Listen to me. Pack and go to your mother. NOW."
An hour later, she was helped by the Jory unto her horse, it was so dark she could hardly see anything if not for all of torch around the wall of the keep. Her mother and little Mary were already in their closed carriage. She saw who she thought was Maester Luwin near the Hound. Moments ago she heard shouting, fierce argument from inside the wall; she recognised the familiar voices.
"Uncle Benjen!" She was damn surprised to found her uncle and pleased. The man hugged her.
"When did you arrive?"
"Moments ago...I barely have enough time to piss."
They saw a large shadow approached them, "Time to go, wolf girl. Kiss my wife and sons for me. I'll come back with your father and brother."
It took a while for Arya Stark to comprehend what the Hound was telling her, "White Knife? I am going back to White Knife?!" She was deliriously happy.
Sandor nodded at her "Jory will take you, wolf girl. Stay there and help your cousin, would you girl? I am talking your Maester with me. Listen to Jon Snow, don't - "
"I know...I will, I promise." Arya cut him off, she knew what he wanted to say. She had her freedom at White Knife, but not during these perilous times ahead of them. She had her freedom, the Hound given her freedom in White Knife; yes, he assigned a personal guard for her but she was not bothered by him. Lately, she grew fond of the old one eyed man.
"I'll stay within the keep. We'll guard the keep...together." She promised him.
Sandor walked away from them as he instructed his men, he was always bad at goodbye. He was still pissed off that Benjen Stark refused to go with the Starks to White Knife. The man practically spat on the ground when he told him his plan.
He fought real hard, they shouted and he lost. His planned was to have his father in law took the Starks to safety but the man refused. Not even after he told him that Leana had birthed another son, he had another grandson waiting for him at White Knife.
All the man did was cursed furiously and then said "No, I'll see him when I returned with you, my brother and my nephew!"
Then it was his turned to cursed, he really taught baiting Benjen Stark with a promise of seeing his new grandson for the first time was more than enough, he was damn sure his plan would work! But the man was adamant. He walked away, ignoring him and prepared himself for the journey – no one ever defy him before, only Leana dared and of course now, his father in law.
"You better come back in one piece, My Lord." Jory shouted at him. He knew exactly how to annoy him – by calling him my lord.
Sandor looked Jory, "Clegane is hard to kill and Jory! You have Winterfell in your hands."
With that, Jory Cassell led a quarter of what was left of the Stark's men – two hundreds of them, along with all of his niece, nephew and sister in law and their household staff. No one question the Castellan, not even the oldest occupant of the keep, Maester Luwin, who had the honoured of being woken up by Clegane himself.
That night Sandor Clegane and Benjen Stark lead the rest of their men for Lord Stark and Robb, they left only a hundred men to man in Winterfell with the gate sealed.
"Son, they'll burn Winterfell to the ground..."
"We'll rebuild the fucking keep, father. It's just stones. The Starks are safe. I can rebuild Winterfell, but I can't fucking raise the dead."
Even Maester Luwin who had worked for the Starks and lived in Winterfell for fifty long years said nothing when he was awaken by the big brute, and was told that he was to pack and to follow him. The old man was alert and fast, he seemed eager to leave...not before he checked on the Starks who were already in their carriages.
Benjen Stark looked at the man for the longest time, he was biting his apple crudely; His Lord brother picked the right man, he knew exactly what mattered to him, his family. Without the Starks, Winterfell was just stones, woods and steels, and winter is coming.
Benjen Stark thanked the Gods for the boy with the melted face who managed to love and honoured his daughter and found his way to Winterfell. He'd be damned to hell if anything happened to him...it's long overdue, how he missed his wife. He had been having nightmares recently, he saw his wife smiling at him, felt her kiss on his forehead but he also saw his Sandor on his knees with arrows and sword on him.
Simon was doing very well, one week after he woke up from the fatal wound, he started walking and eating well. He told her that he was starving but the Maester only let him ate very little at times.
Xander who didn't really understand was really upset that his brother wasn't given food. Tarqin was dumbfounded when the little boy argued with him as he wished to feed Simon more food. The Maester stood his ground and said no.
The two year old sneaked into the kitchen and grab a whole chicken which he carefully carried to Simon.
The guards who were stationed at their tower didn't have the heart to stop him; they ended up helping him and told him he shouldn't be walking around on his own. One of the guards picked him up and carried him up the stairs, he asked who's the chicken for and he said, "Simon, he is hungry!"
That noon, Leana found a chicken carcass on the floor, licked cleaned by the dire wolf while her two boys were asleep comfortably with bits and pieces of chicken on their faces and clothes.
She laughed and whispered to the babe in her arms, "I can't wait for you to eat chicken with your brothers, son." she kissed him, saw Sandor's eyes and curls on him.
Leana just returned from the woods with Bronn, she went to the woods to pray for her husband's and her family's safety. Then she oversees the building of the bathhouse she commissions barely a week ago.
The small bath house which consisted of five large bath tubs was nothing compared to the bath houses at Casterly Rock, but she knew that Sandor would be very pleased and it would be a surprise when he returned.
Gendry almost crashed into her, the man was huffing and puffing. "My lady...I LOST XANDER! I look away for one second and he was gone! We were at the armoury. I am so sorry, my lady. I looked everywhere! I couldn't..."
"Gendry! Shhhhh...calm down." The man looked like he was about to cry. "My Lord will kill me if anything happened to him and..."
"Gendry." Leana grabbed one of his arms and pushed him into the chamber...and Gendry saw the little boy lost who was asleep...sprawled like a king, tummy bulging, mouth slightly opened, bits of chicken on him – as a result of the stolen chicken for Simon and himself. The Baratheon's bastard fell flat on his arse as he saw what was in front of him, he could finally breathe.
"Xander has a bad habit of disappearing – fast! Calm down Gendry. You did well." Leana looked at the young man who scratched his head sheepishly, face red with embarrassment. She looked at him for the longest time, she saw Robert Baratheon in him, he was only eighteen.
The day they took him in, almost a year ago, she quickly found out he couldn't read and she placed him with the Maester, if he was embarrassed to be learning alongside Simon, he did not show it. She was about to approached Tarqin to give Gendry separate lesson than Simon, but changed her mind when he saw Simon giving Gendry advice how to memorise.
Sandor was always hard on him, he was no longer his squire, he took him to all of his meeting and Jon Snow slowly let the young man did his duties and he never failed them.
Leana also saw how he looked at her Cousin Arya, with love and adoration, just like how Sandor looked at her. The young man took Xander when Sandor was losing his sanity when Simon was gravely injured at the same time she was in labour.
She wanted to ask him if he was alright but they were disturbed by a commotion at the main gate. Gendry looked alarm, he run to the nearest window and saw their men ride through the gate hastily.
Without warning, Gendry walked toward the boys and picked Simon, ordered one of the guards to take Xander and he dashed down the tower toward the secret chamber. That was the first time Leana heard the young man curse.
Leana heard horses and loud noises from outside the tower. "Ygritte! Gendry, get Ygritte!" he saw him nodded at her. Xander was already awake in one of the guard's arms, Simon looked scared and Barristan started crying. This is not going to work, Leana resigned to her fate, with a newborn screaming at the top of his lungs, they'll found them in seconds.
Just before they reached the chamber they heard the main door slammed opened.
"LEANA! SIMON!...GENDRY! LEANA! XANDER!" Arya shouted at the top of her lungs and ran toward the main hall and she saw them. Talk about unladylike!
"Aryyya," Xander called for his aunt as he saw her beloved aunt.
Arya took Xander from the guard and kissed him over and over again, "You remembered me Xander," she told him that she missed him and if not for Gendry who had Simon in his arms, she would have jumped to him too.
"Oh...Barristan..." She whispered his name as she placed Xander on her hip and leaned to kiss the crying newborn.
"He is loud!" Arya looked at Xander, "Your baby brother is very loud Xander...Just like you when you were a babe."
"Leana..." They heard her.
"Auntie Cat," Leana called for her aunt, she was so thin and frail.
Within an hour, they managed to house them comfortably, chambers readied, meal and bath prepared. Leana handed Barristan to her Aunt Cat who had Mary, Robb's daughter with her.
Arya was wolfing down her meal, she told her cousin that she was starving; Jory didn't want to stop more than twice in daylight. She was seated next to Gendry and her mother, she stole a look at her mother who seemed to be in a better spirit...she felt Gendry arms on her, she smiled at him.
Jory had his meal and right away get together with Jon Snow and Bronn, followed by Gendry – a small meeting to manage their men and the keep.
At that moment Leana Clegane had no idea that her husband and her father were walking into an ambush...
Thank you to Strange Demise, TeresaTrav, wabi-sabi1090, ZabuzasGirl, Lightan117 and firedew for taking the time to post your revuews. They are LOVED and APPRECIATED!