The story so far:
Chapter 11: Last Lights
The first week after leaving Caffe was hard. Sansa was very weak and skittish, and the rough ride in the back of Sauriel’s wagon along winding inland roads, heading towards the mountains, did not help make her feel any more settled. She could not talk; her windpipe was still far too swollen to make anything but a hoarse whisper which caused her pain.
But that did not stop Tyrion from talking to her. Indeed, his own swelling around the jaw did little to halt his enthusiasm for chatting to her about whatever came to his mind, although Sauriel had cautioned him not to try too hard to jostle back her memory. In her state, she might have an anxiety attack if her more traumatic memories were unearthed all at once. So he did his best to keep it at small talk.
Sansa would watch him wide-eyed, a mix of wariness and curiosity on her face as he rattled on, seeming to wonder exactly who he was and what his real intentions were. Tyrion was sorely tempted to just blurt it all out and get it over with, but he restrained himself. He would simply have to continue to wait and hope for her memories to come back naturally…if they ever came back at all.
And so he forced himself to keep up a cheerful front, day in and day out, even when he often felt more like breaking down in tears over the fact that his beautiful bride, who had finally come to express affection for him as her husband in Torquil’s courtyard, could no longer remember what they had been to each other. Indeed, she was almost experiencing a second childhood, although she had barely completed her first.
Poor child. She had been through more in the course of her fifteen years than anyone should have had to go through in a hundred. And he, over the course of his thirty-some years, felt as if he had never really lived. But she was alive. That was all that mattered now. Even if she remained lost in the shadows forever, her presence, however dimmed or damaged, kept his heart beating. He was shaken to the bone himself, and she was his only succor.
Forget the memories…forget the future possibilities…he’d resolved himself to a life of anonymity and celibacy if need be. Sauriel had hinted at the damage to both her body and her mind which might prevent her from ever being fully able to give consent or even carry out such an act. He was past the point of lamenting over it. She was alive. He could be kind to her, and win her trust again, and take care of her for the rest of his life. He could make love to her in every other way that mattered.
On the morning of her fifteenth name day, when the wagon halted to resupply outside the last village in the foothills before beginning the perilous journey up into the mountains, Sansa awoke to find herself surrounded by wild flowers. They were blood red and royal gold, and their fragrance was wild and adventurous. She turned and saw the dwarf, smiling broadly at her.
“Happy name day, Sansa!”
Now she looked at him and back to the flowers with a touch of concern and suspicion as to what the purpose of all this might be.
“Oh, yes, well…I know I might have overdone it with the flowers a little, but once I went all the way out there, I started to find so many nice ones I just couldn’t leave them behind, and I couldn’t go out for a second collecting round. When Sauriel gets back from the village with supplies, she would give me a proper thrashing if I tried walking with this thing twice in a day.” He gestured to his splint. “She’ll already be after me for doing it once…”
He sighed softly noticing the quizzical look on her face, wondering if anything he was saying was getting through to her at all. “I…I’m sorry if sometimes…I prove…rather annoying, chattering to you hours on end. I suppose I just get…lonely.”
He exhaled. How could he explain the fear that had gripped him when he had seen her swallowed up in death? How could he ever explain the aloneness that had broken all his bones? How could he make her understand how very deeply he needed her?
“I know it must all be quite confusing to you…having this cut up creature you can’t remember turn out to be a hopeless romantic. Might even be scary…I really don’t mean to scare you, I just…hope you might come to like me…even a little. Not that you have to, because…you don’t. That’s not why I got you the flowers. I just…want you to have…a happy name day…well, as happy as you can have with me for your only companion.”
Arya the dog barked in complaint at being neglected.
“Well, her too, but you get my general meaning.” His eyes sparkled a little, first in fun, then in pain.
Sansa picked up one of the prettiest purple flowers gingerly and brushed the softness of the petals across her cheek. Then she inched towards him and tucked it into his hand, letting her fingers brush across his own just so.
He smiled at the gesture and the sympathetic look in her eyes. “Thank you. I…needed that.”
She smiled sadly in return and touched her lips and then his cheek, in repetition of the gesture she make when she first woke. He touched the place where she had touched, chuckled a little, and bit back a sob. Something for him to live on, at least.
“Would you…like for me to tell you stories for your name day? Not just rambling on as I always do, but real stories that you might…enjoy?”
She tilted her head questioningly.
“I mean…I know it’s not much, but…I’ve been told I can be amusing sometimes, and I’ve read all sorts of tales in old books, and heard more in taverns…” He paused for a moment. “On second thought, we’ll just skip the tavern ones for now. I doubt they’d be in line with your sense of propriety.”
He cleared his throat, and she blushed bashfully as he started to weave a yarn in his very brightest sing-song voice. She listened enraptured as he told her every old legend of heroism from the founding of the noble houses of Westeros he could think of. Of course, he had always viewed such tall tales of dramatic derring-do as mere flagrant attempts to rationalize their rise to power by hook or by crook, totally unrealistic and sickeningly hypocritical. But they still made good stories, and he could never be as cynical when looking at them through her eyes.
But just to make sure the retellings would not rattle her into the cruel reality of her past, he changed the names of the houses, so they felt more like fairytales. Indeed, some of names he came up with on the spot were rather outrageous, but he was enjoying himself, and Sansa seemed not to mind any of his twists of hyperbole in the plot lines. He thought for a moment of what his family might think watching such a comical display of the Imp telling bedtime stories to their wide-eyed teenaged hostage. And he felt a small victory at the thought for once, for they could not see as he saw now, and they would be laughing at their own crumbling senses and petty prizes he had exchanged for something worthier to claim.
Time passed pleasantly enough in this manner, until the sun sank in the west and the last fireflies of the fading summer made their appearance. This inspired Tyrion to make up a pretty little story about fireflies serving a beautiful queen whose gown comprised all the stars.
As if on cue, Arya began to bark at a firefly that made its way inside the wagon. With admirable swiftness of hand, Tyrion caught it and extended it to Sansa. “Another gift, m’lady,” he offered gallantly.
She smiled as the firefly proceeded to flit from her hand onto her face and then along her hairline, flashing intermittently, like a magic jewel in a crown. It tickled. She fell back against the blanket spread down in the wagon for bedding and laughed for the first time since she had returned to life. He heard the semblance of her voice carried in that laugh, and his heart swelled.
“Sansa, do you think…do you think you could try and say your name?”
She looked hesitant as she sat up.
“Come on, I know you can do this,” he encouraged her. “Once you manage it, it will all come easier after that.”
She crawled over to him, like a frightened animal looking for comfort. Then very slowly she tried to make sounds come from her throat.
She swallowed back pain
“Just take your time, love,” he instructed, stroking her cheek.
She looked at him deeply, trying to grasp at a fleeting memory, and another word rose from her throat. “T…T…Tyr…” She inhaled. “Tyr…Tyr-i-on…”
“Yes,” he whispered, pulling her close as a lump rose in his throat. “It is…Tyrion.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck. Then she pulled herself upright, and studied him some more. She touched her chest and then his own. “Are…we…?” Her voice squeaked. She locked her two hands together, trying to show him through signs.
“Part of each other…?”
She nodded, and then held her hands out as if to beg a confirmation.
He remained quiet for a long moment, trying to decide whether to tell her the whole truth or not. “Yes, dear,” he confirmed at last. “I am…your husband.”
He braced himself for her reaction, which he more than half expected to be disgust or shock. But while she looked slightly mystified for a moment, she did not seem unduly disturbed.
“Am I…a…good wife?”
He chuckled a little, amazed at how that was her main concern. “Far better than I ever deserved.”
“Umm…no.” She looked slightly concerned, probably considering the possibility of their being something wrong with her, so he quickly added, “We just…never got around to it.”
She seemed rather unconvinced. “If I was…barren…you’d have to…get rid of me…”
“That would never happen while breath is in my body.”
Now she looked surprised, yet still unsure. “What if…I had only girls? I knew a family once…six sisters, not one brother…”
“Then they’d be our precious, beautiful daughters, just like their mother,” he said, and his words trembled with a depth of love and longing.
Sansa’s gaze fixated on his eyes.
“I know what you are thinking,” he dared to tease. “Any offspring of ours might just have the bad luck of inheriting these dizzying things.”
“No, I was just…thinking…your…eyes are…kind…you are…kind…just like father said…you would be.”
“Your father said…” His voice trailed off. “Er…what did he say exactly?”
“That he would…find me a husband…who would …love me…and…he did.”
Tyrion swallowed. Oh…oh, she thinks…oh…dear…
“Your father…was a good man,” he whispered, not sure what else to say.
“Like…you,” she insisted. “He…would not…have seen us wed…if…not…”
“Oh, San…” His voice cracked, and he pulled her close to him again. He would have given anything to keep her from remembering what he really was, that he was a Lannister, from the same family that had robbed his father of his life for his act of mercy towards them. Back then, he had scorned Eddard Stark as a simpleton, an idiot for honor, who had lost the game by his foolish trust in humanity. But now…holding the man’s confused, injured child in his arms, who innocently believed her father had chosen him for his goodness to protect her…he felt burned through with shame.
Then he felt a worse burning…because she kissed him, full on the lips, and he realized how easily innocence of a child might segue into the passion of a woman. Now he was the one who pulled back, not sure how to properly receive it. It was so unlike her to be that forthright. Was she…did she want to…?
She looked downcast over his reaction. “You don’t…want…my kiss…?”
“Sweetheart, I…do…very much…” He inhaled. “But aren’t you still a bit…disturbed at my…appearance?”
“No,” was her answer. “I wouldn’t want to kiss…anyone else.”
He swallowed back a wave of emotion, and let his lips collide into hers. She squeaked, and he eased into it more gently, cupping her chin with his hand and letting her adjust to the rhythm of love-making. He would not rush her; he wanted this to feel right for her. She responded on instinct, kissing and being kissed without restraint. He caressed her face and neck as they sank back against the blanket together. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and then ran them down his back.
He felt an old familiar sensation run up his spine, his whole body tensed, and cried out for release. She too seemed caught up in the moment; he felt it in her breathing and her pulse, the movement of her body beneath his, waxing and waning like the maiden moon controlling the tides as their mouths moved back and forth in a dance. Oh, he wanted to drown in those tides. He kissed her, up and down her neck, and she moaned. Automatically, his hand went to the top button of her gown…
Stop. Stop. She doesn’t know what she’s doing. She doesn’t know who you really are. You could hurt her. Stop. Stop before there is no stopping you…
He pulled himself back abruptly, with an almost super-human effort. She was breathing hard as she gazed up at him, trying to figure out what had gone wrong. “Did I…do something…not to your…liking?”
“There is nothing you could do that would not be to my liking,” he rasped with a shudder. “But…Sansa…” He reached down and laid his hand over her belly, where the knife had pierced her through. She winced. “See, my love? You’re not…ready for this.”
By all the gods…he wasn’t even sure if she knew what “this” meant…
“You must…trust me,” he whispered, and kissed her softly on the lips, then on both eyelids, and rolled her against him, with her head tucked under his chin and her body leaning on his brace. “Please…trust me…always,” he pleaded, as he drifted off in his arms. He wanted to stay like that, forever and ever and ever. And soon he too succumbed to drowsiness.
His sleep alongside her started out peaceful enough, all wrapped up in a blanket together, with the puppy comfortably snuggling between them to evade the chill autumn air.
Yet one dream rose to the surface of his soul, and forced him to come face to face with the one man who seemed to be axis upon which so much in Tyrion’s life now turned. The last time he had seen his countenance had been when his head had been stuck on a pike at King’s Landing. Sightless eyes and moldering flesh had still been visible, but all signs of the inner man had long since drained away. Ned Start had just been another pawn, cast off the board and smashed on the floor, with the fragments waiting to be swept away.
But now, in his dream, the Lord of the North was very much alive and seated on a great throne, as the Father sits in the court of the gods, weighing all lives, the short and long, according to their deeds. Tyrion was brought in before him, as at a trial, and with a glance, stern and strong, all the evidence of what he was pressed itself into his very being.
All the lurking shadows of fiendish cunning, all the pleasure and empowerment that tasted of blood, all the twisted grasping for something to satisfy the gaping hunger-wounds, and the stench of inner corpses sacrificed for the glory of the game, all of it broke apart his armor and left him stripped bare of defense. He did not try to make excuses, but waited…waited what had to come…what everyone always told him would be his final “reward”…
Then into the court there came a woman, with a gown that glowed with the blinding beauty of all the stars, and the singular sorrow of the last lights of a fading summer. She was part of his make-believe name day present for Sansa, unseen like the colors of the wind, but coursing silver, translucent like crystal…like water, and the thread of life, the thread of sanity, and all that imparts hope and meaning…
And her presence alone was enough to balance off the just yet merciful measuring rod of Eddard Stark, and the lord upon the throne looked through the littlest lord in the court, and made peace with him. For when the glinting grandeur of his armor in the mind could no longer save Tyrion Lannister, the purity of a childhood fable spun from the thread of twilight for a murdered warrior’s daughter did.
And he shifted in his sleep against the flower petals strewn across the blanket, and stroked a silken strand of his lady’s hair.
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.