The story so far:
Chapter 5: A New Year
The old year was ebbing out, and the new one flowing in. And Tyrion, now that he had a better paying job as a clerk inland, was determined that he should make a decent start of it for his one-time bride. Sadly, though, it seemed that Sansa was fairly determined to be depressed on that occasion. Ever since her suicide attempt, her moods had varied from day to day, and it frustrated him to no end. It felt that yet another shield had been thrown up between them, and he was unsure how to penetrate it.
Sometimes she seemed grateful for his efforts to converse with her, and other times she acted annoyed by or even disdainful of his presence. She could be sullen and give him the silent treatment, or worse take snappish jabs that wounded him to the core. Sauriel insisted that she deserved a good spanking in such moments for her lack of appreciation for her protector.
But Tyrion could not find it in his hear to be truly angry with her over it, not when he recalled how she had braved his very ugliest side on the coast of Westeros, and still extended her hand when he needed it most. And he knew that often enough, she was not snapping at him personally as much as at the banner of his house, bleeding red in the rain of her own thoughts. He thought about how he might handle what she had already been through in the jaws of the Lannister lions, and realized that his temperament would probably handle it in a much more destructive fashion.
But still…he kept trying to break through her self-erected barrier on a daily basis. He had to. It meant as much to his own state of mind as it did to hers. It was their only chance of getting better together, though an admittedly slim one. Hence, he decided to recruit Sauriel to help him with something extra special for the coming of the New Year. After some small protest about him potentially wasting his time, she agreed to assist.
So it was that Tyrion came home on New Year’s Eve with a basket in his hand. Sansa was seated by the window, gazing out into the torch lit street with a strange gleam in her eye. He set the basket down alongside her chair.
“I’ve gotten you a present for the new year,” he said brightly, like a little boy, so very eager to impress. “I thought it might please you…”
“You mean the kind you used to please your brothel women?” she queried bitterly. The look of hurt on his face for once managed to penetrate her self-pitying exterior. “I’m…I’m sorry, that was…cruel. I don’t know why I said it.”
“You don’t…have to think of it being from me,” he responded quietly. “Just pretend it was left anonymously, and judge it on its own merits.” He jutted his chin towards the basket.
She gazed at it for a long moment, and then noticed with a start that something was moving inside it. Curiosity got the better of her, and she pulled it open. Staring up at her, with wide, watery eyes, was a small, wolfish puppy. She felt a lump rise in her throat as she picked it up by the scruff of the neck and cradled it against her breast.
“Tyrion, is he…is she…?”
“It’s a girl,” he confirmed. “A lady.”
She clutched the puppy tightly and blinked back tears as it started to lick her face. “You heard about Lady then, didn’t you?”
“Joffrey had a way of bragging about his cruelties,” he confirmed.
“I probably deserved it,” she sniffled. “I would not stand up for my sister and her direwolf. I lied about them for Joffrey’s sake, because I thought he was so romantic and would take me off on some white horse and make me his queen. I was…horrible.”
“No, not horrible,” he countered. “Just a child. We all do things in childhood we regret when we grow up. Recognizing that is a part of growing up, really.”
“Yes, but…I can’t stop thinking of everything I’ve done, everything I caused. Lady was the very sweetest, gentlest of creatures. It hurt my father so very much to take her life. He never was one to inflict pain on the helpless.”
“I…never was either, if it could be avoided.” He looked down. “But I’m afraid my nephew had a penchant for it. When he was ten, he drowned a scullery maid’s kitten, and nailed the poor dead thing to the door of her quarters.” A grim smirk played about his lips. “That, I believe, was the first time I struck the royal face.”
She eyed him levelly. “You risked your sister’s wrath over a kitten?”
He snorted. “My sister’s tender sentiments, or fierce threats, have never swayed me. If such an act were left unpunished, I feared it would set a dangerous president,” he explained. “It might lead to worse displays of cruelty for their own sake when the boy became a man.”
“Is it also true you stripped a man of rank and sent him to the wall for killing a baby girl after a battle?”
He sighed. “I have done many things that might be considered dishonorable, even cruel. Looking back at it now, with you as my…friend…I am starting to regret them. But they were never done for the sake of pleasure, nor with the intent of wounding the weak. I acted only when as I saw necessary. Otherwise, I did all in my power to avoid such acts, whether on the part of myself or others.”
“And to try and patch up those cut to pieces inside?” She gazed at him apologetically. “Even when…they are ungrateful?”
“Gratitude is not to be reasonably expected, nor sought after,” he stated. “But…to bring even the smallest taste of happiness to someone who has known too much of suffering is worth any effort.”
“So…the puppy is part of that?”
“Only a part.” His eyes gleamed a little. “I…we…have a little surprise for you. For our new year.”
That evening’s meal was the very nicest Sansa could remember since leaving Westeros. Tyrion and Sauriel kept exchanging self-congratulatory glances as the teenager reacted to the honey-glazed chicken, seasoned potatoes, rosemary bread, and lemon cakes set out on the table.
“Just a matter of saving up,” he explained with a smirk. “I wanted us to have a special New Year, even if it couldn’t be as lavish as it would have been in Westeros. Still, I thought…I could at least try to purchase a few items you might like. And Sauriel assisted with food preparation. It’s been our little surprise for you.”
“For me,” she whispered, tears prickling in her eyes again.
“Well, we are sort of your family now,” he offered with a small smile. “Maybe not the family of choice, but…at least you’re not alone.” The puppy in her arms started to bark. “And failing to be comforted by that thought, you have her to fall back on.”
“I…have more than I deserve in all of you,” she confessed. “I’ve been a terrible companion these past few weeks, but I promise…this coming year, it’ll be different. I’ll try to be…happy, as much as I am able, so as not to drain on you so much.”
“Sansa, you don’t have to force happiness,” he assured her. “Just don’t shut us out from whatever you might be feeling. We want to be there for you, that’s all.”
She smiled. “Well, I feel that I do have some genuine cause for happiness tonight,” she decided. “This is truly a feast to be remembered.”
“And I bought something else.” He promptly produced a bottle of wine.
“You didn’t tell me about this part,” Sauriel emphasized, crossing her arms.
“I’m not going to overdo it,” he assured, “just have one glass for flavor.”
She looked at him dubiously.
“Alright, maybe another for a chaser.” He turned to Sansa. “I was hoping you might share it with me. I know you don’t relish the taste, but perhaps you might learn to acquire one.”
“I’ll try it, if you’d like me to,” she agreed.
“Excellent!” he exclaimed, starting to pour the glasses. “Sauriel, would you care to indulge?”
“No thank you,” she refused. “There’s a certain self-satisfying feeling about being the only sober one in the room.”
“Fine, fine, be stubborn,” he fluffed her off, handing Sansa her glass and raising his own. “To the new year!” He clinked his glass against her own in a toast and then promptly started to gulp down the contents. She attempted to follow suit, but quickly started to choke.
“Alright, don’t follow my lead,” he decided. “Just…sip it. In a nice, lady-like way.”
She did so, slowly, gingerly. He looked at her for some response to the taste. “It’s…not…horrible.”
He grinned “I’ll make a convert of you yet.” Then the three of them sat down and started to enjoy the meal.
Tyrion snatched at a drum stick and started to devour it ravenously. Then he caught Sansa watching and slowed down. She tilted her head. “May I…have your plate for a moment?”
He looked at her, perplexed, but allowed her to take the plate away and dish the food onto it. Then very daintily, she started to cut his food into bite-sized pieces with her fork and knife. He observed her, mesmerized.
“You look shocked,” she clucked.
“I am, I suppose,” he admitted. “I’ve never had a lady…cut my food before.”
“Did you think I was going to let you eat like an animal?” She raised an eyebrow up.
He smirked, rather sadly. “I am an animal.”
She shook her head. “Never, Tyrion, never while I’m beside you.”
“Of course not,” he admitted. “Not…not with you here.”
The puppy started to beg under Sansa’s chair, and she was happy to oblige her with a strip of chicken. “What shall we name her?” she asked Tyrion excitedly.
He chuckled. “You’re speaking as if she were our first-born child!” He winced, realizing the awkwardness of his words. “There I go again,” he exhaled. “Still the dwarf who tells bad jokes.”
Sansa pretended to scowl, but her eyes were playful. He smirked with one eye-brow raised. “I take that noble title very seriously, m’lady.”
“Naturally, my lord,” she twitted in return. Then both started giggling spontaneously.
The puppy now started begging from his side of the table. “Oh, look, she likes me! I am shocked now!”
“Why should you be so shocked? You’re the one who brought her home,” Sansa reminded him.
“Yes, but my relationship with dogs has always been fragile at best. I think it has something to do with eye level contact,” he surmised philosophically. “Or maybe it’s simply because I am a cat …and a terribly chewed up cat at that.”
“You’re a very…nice cat, though,” she insisted, then chuckled slightly at how odd it sounded.
“I think I shall add that to my title,” he decided, grinning broadly He lifted another glass of wine. “To the title!”
The night continued on quite pleasantly, and by all accounts, Tyrion and Sansa seemed finally to have loosened up enough to enjoy each other’s company to the fullest. Sauriel played her usual role of straight-faced stoicism, but in her heart, she felt nothing but joy for the little man and his little sparrow. When the last plate was finished, the two of them settled in for one final half-glass of the wine.
“So how does it feel living the dream?” Tyrion inquired, sipping at it contentedly.
Sansa looked puzzled.
Sauriel raised an eyebrow. “What are you talking about, little man?”
He sighed. “Just bare with me, will you?”
“We’re trying,” she huffed. “It’s a struggle, but we are trying.”
“Alright, alright, so,” Tyrion inhaled, turning to Sansa, “for a long time you wanted to live in a fairytale, am I correct?”
She smiled softly. “I suppose I did.”
“Well, maybe it’s the wine, but I have this new perspective tonight…”
“It’s the wine,” Sauriel confirmed drably.
He eyed her with mock indignation, and Sansa giggled again.
“So my new perspective is that, actually, we’re all playing a part of this larger story, this fairytale of our own.” He gestured to his surroundings, making a circle formation with his hand.
Sansa tilted her head, looking more perplexed than ever.
“Alright, you’ve succeeded in your mission to completely lose us now,” Sauriel exhaled.
“Fine, I’ll tell it like a story then,” he decided.
“A bedtime story,” the old woman clucked. “This should be interesting.”
“Of course it will be, I’m an altogether interesting personage,” he bragged.
“Anyway,” he sighed, turning back to Sansa. “So…once upon a time, there dwelt a…princess, a strikingly beautiful princess, with hair like the tawny fire and eyes like azure ice. And she had a neck long and white like a swan, and a voice as fresh as the very first birdsong in spring.”
Sansa smiled a little. She had never guessed he would be able to tell a story in the manner of the old ballads. It felt funny, hearing his slightly wine-washed, sing-song voice telling it. It was really rather sweet, and made her feel warm and safe inside.
“But due to the wars in her native country, this princess was forced far away from her home, far off into exile in a foreign land, where she wound up going into hiding with a dwarf and a witch, both of whom weren’t much to look at.”
“Speak for yourself,” Sauriel snorted.
“I prefer to be inclusive,” he asserted, cheekily. “But all this works out alright in the end because it makes her stand out as being more desirable than ever, even disguised as a peasant. And do you know what all this is naturally leading up to?”
Sansa shook her head.
“Oh, come, you’ve read more fairytales than I have,” he exhaled. “Naturally, it will lead to some handsome prince showing up to rescue you from us. It’s as predictable as the changing of the years.”
She turned her eyes down for a moment. “The only one I’ve had to be rescued from thus far has been a handsome prince, and the one who did the rescuing was a dwarf.”
“Well, there was also that butcher…” Tyrion reminded her.
“And it was the dwarf who came to my rescue again, with the help of the witch.”
“Alright, so…you’re part of a unique fairytale. It will be more likely to be remembered because of the original elements. You’ll be famous.”
“Right,” Sauriel sighed. “While you’re planning to make her famous, I think you both need to sleep off some of that wine.”
“You are a killjoy, Sauriel,” he lamented.
“No,” she retorted. “Merely the adult in the room. Now off to bed with you both!”
As usual, Sansa undressed behind a screen Sauriel had erected for the purpose. Tyrion watched as her shadow dispensed with her clothes, and donned her thin nightgown, and listened to her humming an old ballad.
“What is the song about?” he inquired.
“A woman who drowns her sister to steal her lover away,” she explained, in an incongruently cheerful tone. “When her body is washed up on shore, these minstrels make a harp out of her breast-bone, and the harp plays by itself at the king’s high hall.”
She peeked out from behind the screen with a teasing expression. “I never thought you would be one to recoil at dark subject matter, my lord.”
“Just because I look like a ghoul, doesn’t mean that…” He paused for a moment, fearing the drinking had made him too sensitive. “I suppose my life has had enough…dark. I’d like to think…happy thoughts, for a little while.”
She regarded him with a soft expression for a moment. “You deserve happy thoughts, Tyrion. Lots and lots of them.”
He smiled sleepily as Sansa came over and started to settle into bed next to him. She started to undo her coils of hair.
“Would you allow me to…do that for you?”
Sansa giggled. She guessed it was the alcohol putting such an idea in his head. But then she was feeling more than a little tingly herself, so she didn’t oppose his whim. She felt his hands carefully undoing the strands of her fancy braided coils, and his fingers combing through the strands. She felt him stroking it gently, finding pleasure in its softness. Then he accidentally tugged at a tangle.
“Ouch!” she yelped. “Tyr…”
“Sorry, sorry, my bad…” he apologized. “I’ve got clumsy fingers.”
She clicked her tongue, then playful hit in the stomach with her pillow. He laughed and rolled over on his side. “M’lady, I’d never have thought it of you!”
They proceeded to fall into several seconds’ worth of an impromptu pillow fight/bed sheet tangle, until Tyrion managed to pin her down and win the round. Both were laughing hard at the ridiculousness of it all, and he rested his forehead against her own. “You’re a silly, adorable little thing when drunk,” he remarked.
“I’m not drunk,” she protested, with a mock pout expression. “I just…my brother Robb sometimes got me into things like that when I was very little, before I became a proper lady.”
“To hell with being a proper lady,” he exhaled. “We must do snow ball fighting one of these days.”
“No, no, that’s so unacceptable, that’s what Arya would do…”
“But pillow fighting is alright?”
“Well, no…I don’t know, I can’t think it all out…”
“See, you really are drunk.”
“Am not,” she countered, stifling a hiccup.
“No, no, no,” she denied laughingly, as he pulled her against him and cradled her against his shoulder.
“You need to go to sleep,” he sighed, tucking back her loose strands of hair.
“Mmm…” she seemed to agree, drifting off quite fast against him. “Tired…” She murmured a few other things he could not quite make out, then finished, “Night…love you…”
He could not help but feel his chest swell. Yes, she was slipping off into wine-induced slumber, and had just previously been thinking on her late brother. It might have easily gotten garbled in her mind. Yes, that had to be it. She probably didn’t know she was saying it at all.
But still…she had said it. Very quietly he responded, “You too.” He breathed out hard. “Truly…I do.”
Never mind it. She was sound asleep.
Avellina Balestri (aka Rosaria Marie) is one of the founding members and the Editor-in-Chief of The Fellowship of the King, a literary magazine with a strong Tolkienite influence (which, by the way, is open to submissions). She reads and writes extensively, and eagerly seeks out the deeper spiritual significance of popular fandoms such as The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Star Trek, Star Wars, and The Hunger Games. And yes, she does have a soft spot in her heart for classic Disney movies, The Princess Bride, and Merlin 😉 She is also a recording artist, singing traditional folk songs and her own compositions as well as playing the penny whistle and bodhran drum. She draws her inspiration from the Ultimate Love and Source of Creativity, and hopes to share that love and creativity with others.