The story so far:
Chapter 12: Siren’s Song
The journey into the mountains was precarious, as the roads were thin and often ran along steep precipices. But Sauriel was skilled at navigating such places, her many years traveling the world coming to their aid. Upwards they travelled, away from the world of nobles and their petty jurisdictions, and into the region of the independent, self-governing villages, that made do with a simple life, yet one unfettered by the tyrannies below.
Upon reaching the first of the villages, Sauriel ordered two rooms at the nearest inn, one for herself, and the other for Tyrion and Sansa. Given Sansa’s state, she believed it would be best for Tyrion to remain close to her and that they both be given some space. This was all the more advisable after Tyrion informed Sauriel of Sansa’s rather unexpected attempt at love-making in the back of the wagon and his own refusal to let it go too far for her own sake.
“By all the signs I have seen over these past weeks, she’s healing quite well,” Sauriel informed him, candidly. “And, as you have observed, in spite of her confusion, she is no longer a child. If your desires are in union, I do not believe there would be any danger in…”
“She doesn’t remember what I am,” he exhaled.
“She knows you are a mean that loves her. That’s a very accurate summary of you, I think.”
“She needs to know the rest before I would ever let her commit herself to me in the flesh, and she will remember soon enough. And then she might…” He drew in a shaky breath. “I’m not sure what she might do.”
“Whatever her reaction might be upon remembering, it will be just that – a reaction,” Sauriel reminded him. “When all the pieces filter back, the whole picture will become clear to her, and all you have gone through together will be restored to her.”
He felt a shiver run up his spine. “Will she remember…having her throat slit?”
“It’s hard to say. Perhaps to some extent.”
He clenched his fists, imagining the horror that such a memory would bring to her, the slow severing flesh and stifled suffocation. An image came to his mind, of her bleeding out over his unconscious body, and he hissed, “They’ll be made to pay for every drop of her blood shed.”
She looked at him levelly. “I never doubted that would be the case, in this world or another. No crime goes unpunished forever, nor a good deed unrewarded. But are you the one to mete it out for good or ill, little man?”
“I see no other law to accomplish it,” he responded. “The nobles have always been free to use their power against the weak in whatever form they see fitting. The only way justice will be served to them is by those who take the mantle of avenger upon their own shoulders. I am not a spiritualist, Sauriel, but a realist. I know what must be done, and I am unafraid of blood.”
“Tyrion, going back now would be suicide,” she counseled. “They think you are both dead, and by now corpses would be unrecognizable and unclaimable. They have no reason to pursue either of you. Returning for vengeance now would change that.”
“I am very deliberate in my craft,” he stated darkly. “All those who would have reason to follow would be rendered quite incapable of doing so.”
“The chances of your being overwhelmed and captured are at a high percentage whatever way you look at it. And even if you did escape unscathed, do you think Torquil’s men would hesitate in alerting your family? They would all have a stake in any bounty taken. Then even the mountain ranges’ would not be safe.”
“They would not have to know who dealt the blows,” he countered.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Lannister work has a certain…recognizable factor to it,” Sauriel hinted, “especially if observed by other Lannisters. Either way, the risks are enormous.”
Tyrion grunted. He still seemed determined, but frustrated by the realization that Sauriel’s logic was largely unassailable. “Their blood cries out to be drawn by me, and I will know no rest until the deed is done,” he declared. “He trapped and murdered a helpless girl…my wife…my honor…”
“Ah, so that’s it then,” she decided. “I thought honor meant little to you.”
He eyed her keenly. “Such a heinous crime can arouse the honor of any man. If I do not have the right to pay back blood for blood, who does?”
“No one,” was her simple response.
“Sauriel, don’t test me with your trick responses,” he growled.
“Oh, be reasonable,” she sighed. “Sansa does not need Torquil dead as much as you alive and by her side. At least have the good sense to wait until her memory returns, and you are functional enough to walk without the brace. It took us long enough to get up here, and I certainly won’t be helping you get back down to carry out such a scheme.”
He shrugged. “The outrage must be paid back by me, whenever I can be sure of succeeding in it. And I am the only one to determine that. Your approval or assistance in the matter is not requested or needed, thank you.”
“All I ask is that you determine your course carefully,” she cautioned. “Far too much has been regained to throw it all away lightly. Blood for blood has a way of reversing easily enough.”
That night, Tyrion returned to their room in the mountain inn with a rather large book in his hands. Sansa was already tucked into bed, but promptly sat up and observed him shuffling towards her. “Look what I found in a village shop,” he announced, holding the book up with some small difficulty. It was obviously too heavy for his small physique, but he seemed determined to show off. “It’s a book of ballads, and the historical origins of them. This, I think, is something that might suit both our interests. We could read it in turns or…together, if you wanted…?”
His sentence accidentally turned up at the end like a question. He was still as insecure as ever, instinctively anticipating that his kindest intentions might meet with scorn. It had been that way with brutal consistency almost his entire life, and Sansa herself had hammered it home back at King’s Landing. But so much had changed between them since then, and now she responded with a smile and a nod, scooting to one side of the bed as if to invite him in.
“Excellent, then let’s…do it.”
He headed towards her, then stopped short at the edge of the bed, realizing for the first time just how tall it was. He was used to sleeping on a straw mattress and in the back of a wagon, and it now looked just a little daunting. And, unlike his old bed in Westeros, there was no convenient stool.
He cleared his throat. “This, I believe, is going to be one of those interesting moments you may experience as the wife of one who vertically challenged.”
He handed the book up to her first, then took several steps back. “Please stand by.” He then took a deep breath, marched resolutely towards the bed, and made an awkward effort to jump and clamber up into it. It nearly failed altogether, as he landing half-way on the edge of the mattress, but she grabbed him and pulled him in before he could slide back down.
At first, the look on his face was a mix between relief and embarrassment. Then he burst out laughing, and she soon realized it was perfectly alright to join in. It felt so good having someone laugh with him instead of at him. “We make a very fine team, don’t we?”
She nodded. “I wasn’t going to let you miss out on feeling this bed…it’s so soft, like a cloud, and the pillows and sheets, oh, they’re something out of heaven.” She fell against the pillow contentedly, and he laughed.
“Solace for road-weary bones, to be sure.” He fell against his own pillow in dramatic imitation, and they both chuckled again. She rolled against him affectionately and started to open the book in front of him.
“Hang on, don’t crunch me,” he protested. “I need to get in the proper position for this.” He sat up a bit and leaned the tome against his brace. “There, that should do the trick. So…shall I begin?”
She nodded happily and leaned against him to get a better look at the first picture.
So again they found themselves enjoying a rather interesting night together, reading through the romantic ballads and their symbolic meanings according to the history and legends of Davneros. Interestingly, Sansa seemed most taken in by the pictures interspersed within, like a little child would be, and he would smile at her innocence, and let her lean up against his brace to get a better look at them.
Sometimes Tyrion wondered if perhaps she would scold him in the future for patronizing her like this, for not shaking her out of it and making her act like a proper young lady, as she had always aspired to be. But right now she was liking it, and he was liking it, and bloody hell, after all they’d been through, they deserved to do what felt good for a while, without fear of an after-effect. After all, it was far more harmless than other more mature activities she had shown an interest in recently. Woman or child or whatever she was, she certainly did present him with a constant puzzle. Would she ever be one or the other, or perpetually a mix?
When it became quite late, Tyrion indicated they should probably call it a night, she pleaded for him to read one more ballad, and he indulged her. He would live to regret it, for it told the story of a beast who reigned over a grand castle waiting for love to break an ancient spell. Her face blanched at the sight of the last picture. It was a castle with tall turrets that struck off a latent fuse in her mind. Tyrion immediately knew what it was, even before she said it.
“King’s Landing,” she murmured.
“Yes, I suppose it does look…like that,” he admitted. He looked at her steadily and saw the confusion in her eyes. Thoughts were assailing her all at once, and she knew not how to process them. She squinted at him, and then swallowed strangely.
“No, no, you’re not…”
“A Lannister?” he confirmed, reading her thoughts as quickly as they came to her. She winced, and held herself as if a cold wind had just blown in. He felt his saliva dry up and rasped, “Not much of a fairytale, is it? Or maybe it is…maybe…I’m the beast…” He started to put the book down on the end table. His hand trembled and he lost his grip, letting it fall open on the ground, just like all his momentary dreams of happiness.
The sound of the falling book jolted her as well. “You’re one of them, you are, and you let me think…all of you let me think…” She clenched her fists, disillusionment giving way to something more volatile “You killed him, my father, put his head on a pike…and my nurse, and mother and brother…and the others, all scattered…”
“The other one who wanted me, he was kind too, and bought me pretty things and said I was his lady, but then he beat me, and killed them all…” She was shaking now, panic seizing her, and her knuckled clutched white against her mouth. “You…you’re one of them…you would…hurt me…”
“I would not…”
“You would, you would, you would!” She threw herself on top of him and pounded on his brace with her fists, tears brimming in her eyes. He made an awkward effort to shield himself, then stopped trying, and let her have her way with him. Somehow in the horrific depth of that moment, he could not bring himself to excuse himself from the crimes of his family. No, he bore up to receive the punishment due to them, administered by weak, pain-clenched hands that beat his heart into glittering amber dust.
For her part, Sansa could not think, but only feel the rage burning up in her as blurred thoughts coalesced into a vision of cruelty that had blotted out all the fond moments of her childhood, first and second, along with everything she had held dear, even her hopes for a marriage of safety and love.
What a fool, what a little fool she was…oh, if only she could stop the thoughts, the horrible thoughts drowning her all at once! Please someone, stop them!
Then she saw blood trickling onto her hand, and she gasped. She looked up at Tyrion and saw he was biting his lip hard to quell an anguish deeper than any physical pain. Tears were running down his face and his breath was trembling.
It made no sense. Not from a Lannister. He should have enjoyed letting the mask slide, having her be shocked and grief-stricken, knowing that she had been trapped like a little bird in his cage. But no…no…he was hurting…and the hurt ran deep…
Still shaking like a leaf, she yanked up his shirt up and then started fiddling with his brace. He made no movement to stop her, although his whole body tightened, as if he expected she might try to stab a knife through his ribs…and giving her the freedom to do that. Perhaps he was wishing for it to end the misery once and for all.
When she managed to unhook the latch and the brace fell open, she saw the deep impression the wood had made across his chest. It was red and raw, and the area she had been leaning on all night and had just now had been pounding against was actually bleeding.
“I…I made you bleed,” she realized, and there was a twinge of regret in her voice. “Why didn’t you…tell me…to get off…before, when you were reading to me?”
He sucked in a sob. “Because…you wanted to see the pictures…and…it felt…so good…having you close, like we were…like I was…” He was faltering now, broken like a twig and dangling over an abyss. “Worth…worth something…after all.”
She felt an inexplicable pain, something deeper than memory, something that sorrowed her soul. “I didn’t… mean…to hurt you…oh, oh, Tyrion, I didn’t, I wouldn’t hurt you…I’m confused, very confused…but somehow…I still do…love you…” She shivered, the will o’ wisps of scattered memories dancing through her mind. “You…you wouldn’t hurt me, I don’t think…no, now I know you wouldn’t…because you…saved me…in the throne room, yes…you did…”
He broke down in a sob at the same time as she did, and they both fell into each other’s arms, crying it out together. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and she rubbed her hand over his chest. “You’re not…not theirs…you can’t be theirs…”
“No, never theirs…only yours…ohh…” He moaned as he felt her kiss the raw line across his chest, wiping away the trickle of blood with her hair. “Oh…my love…”
She curled around his body, and their breaths warmed each other, lips tasting, blood burning, hearts galloping like the wildest journey of the wind. Flutter, and gasp, and again…it was like swimming in the sea, rolling in the deep, and longing to plunge deeper yet…
She guided his hands to her gown, and helped him free her from it. Then his own shirt was stripped away. Nothing was between them now, even the shadow of dreams seemed to merge through the sense of touch. They found the scars of blade and lash on each other, and caressed them and kissed them. They were pouring out of themselves into one another, mixing and mingling like the rivers flowing to the sea, with waves that seemed to rise and fall eternally, exhaling on the sands of time.
Then for a moment, everything stilled, like a river just before going over the falls. “Sansa,” he panted. “Hold…hold my hand…squeeze it as hard as you want.”
Squeezing, squeezing…oh, oh…is this a taste of death? Oh…gods…
Her breath caught, and a sob was in it, gasping through the throbbing apex of agony wed with ecstasy. She did not know if she wanted it to end or go on forever. She did not know if her lunges or heart would give way. Then she felt herself give way to its mystery, letting it pull her under beneath the reach of the surface. There was music in the act, rapturous as a siren’s song, breaking the skin of the water and piercing through the ocean of loving.
Up and down. Back and forth. Swimming. Dancing. Movement. Life.
When it was over, she felt Tyrion pull himself up alongside her. “Sansa, are you…alright?”
At first she didn’t say anything, because she couldn’t find the words to explain all the prickling sensations coursing through her being. She felt emotionally drained and shaken the core by the intensity of the experience. And tears were welling up, she knew not why…
“Sansa, please, please tell me you’re alright.” He sounded scared now, not sure if something had truly gone wrong. “Did I hurt you…very much?”
She shook her head. “No…I’m…alright, I…” Suddenly the tears rushed down in force. “I’m s…s…sorry, I…I didn’t mean…to cry…please don’t be…upset…”
“Upset?” he repeated. “Oh, Sansa, my sweet Sansa…”
“They say men hate for their lovers…to cry…”
“Enough,” he quieted her, cradling her against him. “Your tears…are natural, they’re beautiful.” He stroked her cheek tenderly. She sniffled. “Shh, it’s alright…it’ll be alright.” Very gently, he helped her slip back into her nightgown, and continued to hold her softly, comforting her as he used to do at Sauriel’s.
“Tyrion,” she whispered. “If anyone else in your family had married me, it wouldn’t have been like this, would it? They would have…hurt me, especially if…I cried.”
He tensed a little. “I…don’t want to think about it. Not now.”
She snuggled her head against him. “Tyrion,” she breathed out. “Thank you for loving me.”
He closed his eyes and swallowed hard. “Thank you…for letting me…” It was all he could bring himself to say before nestling his face into the softness of her hair and letting his tears fall on it like dew on the morning grass, just as the gray rays of dawn filtered through the frosted glass of window and blessed the silence of their sleep.
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.