Tyrion had been dreaming of dragons when he heard the screams. He had seen Sansa face them fearlessly as they approached Winterfell; her body clad in blood-red Lannister armour; a horn clutched in her hands. She put it to her lips and blew; releasing a symphony of screams as the dragons roasted her alive. Her, and then the North.
You bring nothing but death to the people you love. You are an abomination.
Tyrion started awake, Sansa's screams echoing in his ears, and rushed out into the hallway to find lights burning brightly all over Winterfell and hordes of hysterical servants and bannermen well-nigh flying past his chambers in their anxiety to reach the family rooms.
Something has happened. To her, or to one of the children.
I can't…I can't think…
When he was finally admitted to Steffon's chambers, cursing the stiffness in his stunted legs and the guards that laughed at him as he passed, it was to the sight of Steffon and Tyrion the Younger arguing vehemently about the correct way to staunch the bleeding before the maester arrived.
Bile rose in Tyrion's throat as his eyes fell on Sansa; her hands wrapped in the folds of a shirt so bloody that it could easily have been rung out and used as food for wolves. Most of her dress, the sleeping shifts of both Tyrion's nephews, and the bed on which she sat were drenched and sprayed with blood, and the sight of her pale face and red eyes made his heart freeze and thaw repeatedly in his chest.
What in seven hells had happened?
When Tyrion approached her, his eyes met Sansa's, and she broke down completely; holding him tightly as she would a husband or a lover, blood trickling through his shift and onto his back as the warmth of her and the smell of her and the world of her flooded into him, making his blood sing again, making it alive.
'I'm alright; I promise I'm alright,' she sobbed.
'My lady, please forgive me,' he whispered, 'please.'
Her sons were cursing at her to keep still until the maester arrived, and Tyrion promptly disentangled himself, gently kissing her forehead and allowing them to fuss over her once more.
It was only then that he noticed Visenya pinning a man to the floor; the picture of her mother as she alternated between cries of 'Who sent you?' and inhumanly powerful blows to the man's head that elicited no response at all.
Seven hells. It's that mess with Brandon Stark all over again. Why are the gods such vicious cunts?
'Who sent you?' Visenya shouted, slamming the back of the assassin's head into the considerable pool of blood that had already accumulated there, 'who sent you?'
Tyrion could see, without having to resort to brutality, that the man was certainly not Westerosi: he had the wrong complexion, the wrong kind of face.
The Free Cities, perhaps, or Qarth. Or perhaps even further.
'Who sent you?' Visenya growled.
'Is he a Faceless Man, Uncle Tyrion?' Steffon asked innocently, his voice ringing out like that of a boy half his age.
'I doubt it, dear nephew,' Tyrion replied, 'Faceless Men do not resort to knifing their victims; it is why they are so expensive.'
'He had a bottle,' Sansa interjected abruptly, turning in her seat to face Tyrion, 'he had a bottle, I…I broke it.'
'Where is it?' he and Tyrion the Younger asked at the same time, too worried to laugh.
'Over by the window,' Sansa insisted, 'it broke when I - '
Sansa had not finished her sentence before Tyrion the Younger had reclaimed one of his old shirts from the bed and had knelt beneath the window, carefully dipping one of the shirt cuffs into the clear liquid and bringing it to his nose, smelling it. Fascinated, and rather proud, Tyrion approached the window to watch him, his fascination turning to panic as the colour drained rapidly from his nephew's face; emerald green eyes, like Jaime's, rising to meet Tyrion's own.
'This is the Tears of Lys,' Tyrion the Younger said, 'it's the fucking Tears of Lys.'
The whole world seemed to shudder. Tyrion whirled around in an agony of slowness as he heard Sansa scream, wanting to shout out to his niece, to warn her to keep her distance. But he saw that Visenya had only moved closer to the assassin; forcing his jaws open with her hands as they began to snap open and shut, like a dog's.
'Oh no, you don't,' Visenya was growling, tightening her grip, not wincing as her fingers were bitten, scarcely noticing as her uncle, Tyrion the Younger, Steffon and all the guards that were now crowded into the room rushed to help her, 'oh no, you fucking don't. Spit it out. Spit it out!'
But the man's face was already turning black, and his last breath was rasping hollowly from his lungs; provoking a storm of swearing from Visenya, and a storm of vomiting from Steffon and Tyrion the Younger.
As Visenya shouted angrily at her brothers, calling them lily-livered shits and gutless cowards, the maester burst into the room; Alyssa trailing behind him with his trunk. Tyrion rose and approached Sansa once again, ignoring the maester's insistence that Lady Stark was too distressed to talk.
'Did this man say anything to you, my lady?' Tyrion asked, 'anything at all?'
As Sansa stuttered her reply, she looked utterly and desperately confused.
'He said…he said…'I am so sorry.''