Pairing: Jon x Sansa
Summary: Brüderchen und Schwesterchen or Brother and Sister, a retelling of a German fairy tale of a brother and sister, an angry queen, a wolf, and a family reunited.
Notes: Written for the fairy tale AU challenge day of Golden Ships on tumblr's gameofshipschallenges.
Brüderchen und Schwesterchen
Do not tempt a dragon. Wise words and ones Sansa Stark and her brother—turned cousin—Jon Snow did not heed, when they took comfort in each other's arms in King's Landing under the violet eyed gaze of the beautiful young queen and conqueror. Queen Daenerys would have their heads on spikes atop the gates of the city in payment for their treachery. Jon's for having made her a cuckquean. Sansa's for seducing the queen's unhappy consort, trapped on a throne in a mummer's farce by virtue of parentage of which he was unaware until prophecy deemed it so. And so they fled.
The road ahead was rough, and yet he promised her, "I will keep you safe always."
They fled to the North, the place they both dreamt of long before they sought familiarity and an echo of the past and all things lost in each other's arms. They left with naught but their furs and Jon's sword, Lightbringer, to protect them, headed for a land where there was much to fear. While Daenerys ruled the Southroners with her dragons, the North was lost to magic and enchantment, when the Wall came down and Others spilled through, sparing little in their wake. Only wights and wildings on the run filled the North, and now a man and woman formerly known as brother and sister, the last members of a family that once upon a time held sway in this frozen land.
Magic touched everything in the North. Even the springs that filled their waterskins seemed tainted by the evils from beyond the Wall or the cursed grip of Daenerys' rage. And yet they had need of drink. Parched by thirst, they came to a spring, spared from freezing by a heat source deep below or a bewitchment meant to lure them to their doom. Sansa knew not which, but she trusted nothing, having learnt the lessons of poison and intrigue from the finest of teachers, during the wars that brought Daenerys and Jon to the throne.
"No," she said, holding Jon back, as he leaned over the spring. "Do you not hear it?"
The trees, which looked as if they harbored no life, seemed to whisper overhead to them, warning them of unseen danger. Whoever drinks from the water will become a tiger.
Jon had faced treachery of his own at the hands of those he called brothers, died, and been reborn, and he thought he knew something of magic. Confident in his imperviousness to the call of the Stranger or any other dark god, he tried to convince her that he could not be harmed, assuring her that he would test the waters for them both and keep her safe.
"What if you should change into the beast of which the trees speak?" Tigers were not found in Westeros. They were eastern threats and as much the stuff of songs as dragons, until Daenerys' three leathery winged creatures arrived with vast armies behind them. Sansa had learned that anything was possible. "You might tear me apart."
"I would never."
But he did not touch the water to his lips, so as to spare her worry, and they pointed their feet northward. They traveled, thirstier with every step they took through the deep endless winter's snows until they came to another unfrozen spring. Jon insisted once more that he test the waters, so that they both might drink in safety.
She heard a new warning whispering through the trees. Whoever drinks from these waters will become a deer. A deer was not a fearsome creature like a tiger, but it wasn't only sharp teeth she feared.
"If you were to turn, you might run away from me as deer do, leaving me alone."
"Never. I chose you over honor. I would choose you even if I were an unthinking beast. I will always choose you."
Sansa was not soothed by his promise, but he relented, helpless against her pleas and the frightened kisses she bestowed upon, as he had been helpless in King's Landing against their shared remembrances of Winterfell and the sweet forgetfulness she offered him between her legs.
When they reached the third spring, weary and without a drop to drink, however, he would not be deterred though she heard the warning plain. Whoever drinks from the waters below will become a wolf. Freezing tears streaked her cheeks, but Jon would risk it. They needed water and what did they, members of the House Stark, have to fear from wolves, when Sansa's sigil bore a grey direwolf on a field of white and Jon's a white direwolf on a field of grey?
A great deal, it would seem, for the warning proved prophetic, turning Jon into a beast as much as prophecy had seen him king. The broad, strong shoulders to which Sansa held in vain, trying to draw him back from the watery threat, were human when he leaned down to drink, but they were that of a monstrously huge, white direwolf once he touched his lips to the icy waters.
True to his word, he did not sink his fangs in her, when he turned from the waters and looked upon her face. Neither did he run. Though a beast, he kept his promises and Sansa could see that he was there, a living ghost, looking out at her through a direwolf's red eyes. What could she do? He was still hers. To prove it, she unlocked the simple golden necklace she wore about her neck and put it around his. Feeling quite alone, she buried her face and hid her tears in the ruff of his fur.
When there were no more tears to shed, she made her own promise. "We shall not be parted." They would live in the North and she would care for him and he for her despite the evil enchantment.
For several moons it was so. He brought her what little he could hunt in this wasteland and kept the dangers of winter's long nights away, but there were challenges to being alone together in this wild place. While Sansa was wise in the ways of court and could protect herself well enough there by means of lies and smiles, in the wilds she needed Jon, not just a ghost. Frantic for not only her own future, she made her choice, when a hunting party of wildlings happened upon them and being struck by Sansa's beauty, their leader bid her join him.
"Ghost," she said, naming the direwolf, so that no one might suspect the animal's true identity, "we will go with these men."
Their leader was a king of sorts, who once reigned beyond the Wall, and while Sansa mistrusted kings and queens, she went with him, Jon trotting at her heels, his voiceless anger noticeable only in the raised hackles of his fur. Not a week passed before she let King Mance steal her and make her his wife and queen of a scattered, desperate people. She didn't fight his efforts to claim her though she loved another and always would, for Mance Rayder was blessed with numbers unheard of in the North and she needed protection, as her belly grew thick despite aching hunger. If she waited, he would see what her body harbored and all would be lost.
She insisted that Ghost be at her side at the birth. In the South, such a request would be deemed too dangerous, but the wildlings did not trouble the queen about her wish to have the beast always at her side. When the babe came forth into the world and wailed with strong, healthy lungs, she showed it to her Jon, before Mance was called to see his son. Born to Northern parents, the cold did no harm to the babe, dark of hair and grey of eyes; he kicked his legs and his face turned red with effort, but the midwife pronounced to Mance that the boy babe would live and thrive.
When the spring thaw came at long at last, melting the winter snows, the queen in King's Landing heard news of the fiery red haired queen in the North blessed by the Old Gods with a bonny child and heir that she, Daenerys, being barren would never bring forth to sit the Iron Throne. Of Jon there was no word, but daily the thought of Sansa ate away at the queen. Sansa and Jon slipped her justice once, but she would not allow such a crime to go unpunished forever. Her wisest counselors knew her desire for revenge bordered on madness and could not be turned aside. They kept their silence, though the Half Man, who had once been married to Sansa Stark, hoped most fervently that his queen's plans might fail.
Assassins were sent into the North and the queen of dragons contrived to have Sansa murdered in the tent of her wildling king. He too died in defense of the woman who was the mother of his child, legitimized his reign over the North, and warmed his bed. Leaving carnage behind them, the assassins carried out their final task, to spirit away the child, too young to yet be given a name in wildling custom.
They would have succeeded except for the great white direwolf. Barred from the tent by the assassins, Ghost escaped the slaughter inside and followed the trail of those who had the child in their custody, moving south towards an unknown fate at the hands of the angry queen. Catching them unawares, he tore the throats from all the men of the party. The child was unafraid to go with the fierce direwolf, who had freed him from his captors, having been raised always in its company, and climbed upon the beast's back, so that they might flee the grisly scene of death.
Ghost knew he did not have much time, for the wildlings burned their dead and Sansa might burn while he made his way to Melisandre. He knew the witch would help him if he only could reach her soon enough. She called him a prince of prophecy. She named him a Targaryen. She had once brought him back to life by means of magic. When he came to her dwelling with his child weeping upon his back, she knew him for who he was, though he looked back at her with red eyes set inside a direwolf's head. Taking the boy from his back, she gathered up her red skirts, leaving her cavernous cave behind without a second look.
"Lead the way, Jon Snow, my prince."
Weighed down by a tired, crying child, who would only be calmed by the caresses of his mother, they were nearly too late. Sansa's pale, bloodless body was already laid out atop a pyre, when the three appeared outside of the circle of mourners. Having no love for the red woman they had long feared, the remaining wildlings scattered, and they approached Sansa's body without need of fighting.
Jon had never thought to have need of the witch's magic again. He did not share her God nor much like her ways, but she believed in him, which was all he needed to compel her to act. Melisandre petted Sansa's blank face and spoke gently to the pale faced child before ushering them both back away from the raised platform with a sweep of her draped sleeves. Lifting her arms to the skies, her foreign chants began to fill the spring air, making it spark with energy, and the ruby at her throat pulsed until smoke rose up about her and obscured her motions, frightening the little princeling, who clutched at the direwolf's flank in terror. Ghost stood steady, nuzzling the child's side and nipping him gently when he seemed as if he might stray, for the chanting had grown to a raucous scream, the smoke as thick as the coarsest gruel, and he could not risk the child wandering into whatever spell the red witch wove over Sansa in case it might do the boy harm.
Magic can harm and magic can save, sometimes at the same time. Such was the case when the smoke cleared. The red woman bore a mark, a burn, for her troubles. Well worth the price, for more than one life was restored in return.
Sansa rose from her funeral pyre, blinking and stiff limbed like a newborn lamb, and when her eyes fixed upon her child, it was not the enchanted direwolf at his side, but Jon, tall and strong and straight, dark of hair and grey of eyes. It was the man who was once her brother, but now was so much more.
Holding out her hands to them both, she wept with joy.
"It is so sweet to see you again. I did not think it would be so."
And so he did.
A family reunited, they fled the world of Westeros for the east, where the magic of the witch that brought them back together held greater sway and the long gaze of Daenerys did not reach. And there they lived happily ever after.