Sansa still had crying fits since she felt so helpless in the face of the calamity that had befallen Arya. At first, it had looked as if her little sister would bleed to death. Sansa had also seen the tongue that had been cut out of Arya's mouth and that had been lying on the ground. That and her second kill had caused Sansa to vomit violently into the next bush, and she was still seized by heaving spasms now and again.
At the same time, Sansa had developed a physical strength she hadn't thought herself capable of. She hadn't wanted her sister to die where she had been struck down and had pulled her over to where their horses were still tethered.
Next, she had walked over to the body of the scoundrel, who had assaulted them. Sansa was still appalled by death and didn't act on the impulse, but for the first time in her life she had the feeling she needed to stab at this monster like a madwoman – much like her husband would have done in a similar situation, if Sansa had been wounded.
Instead, she sifted through the man's clothes the way she had learned to do it from Sandor after she had killed the assassin back in that forsaken inn. This time, her findings were interesting. No, the man wasn't carrying a heavy purse like the other one had, but he was wearing the tattered ruins of a tunic with the flayed man of the Dreadfort. And he had already been wounded even before he had met his well-deserved end. There had been a cut that had started to fester and some dried blood.
Had Sansa not been so upset she would have thought more about the mysterious situation, but as it was she could only think of Arya, and she returned to her sister's side. To her surprise, the bleeding was slowly starting to stop, but Arya was twitching weakly and whimpering.
Sansa started to weep again, cradled her gently and sobbed: “Shshshsh, the bad man is dead. He can't do anything to us any more. Now, you have to be strong. Do you hear me, Arya? Show me you're the stubborn, strong direwolf you have always been. You're a Stark. You're strong. Do you hear me? You'll survive!”
There was a faint whimper. And also the tiniest of nods. It caused Sansa's heart to swell with pride for her sister.
However, she had to think things through now. What would Sandor do and say in such a situation? What would he say...?
“Think! Think! Don't be a frightened little bird again!” Sansa chided herself.
Suddenly, it was as if she could hear the grating steel-on-stone voice of her beloved right next to her: “That bloody bugger is dead, yes, but the danger isn't over. Where there's one of his kind there might be another. And think of the wild animals. They'll be here soon to feast on the flesh of the carcass. Better get away from this place.”
Yes, this was true.
They had to get away from here, and quickly so.
The big problem was now that they had two horses, but there was no way Arya could mount her steed on her own. Sansa couldn't heave her onto the beast's back either. And of course, there were no rocks or overhanging hills or fallen trees nearby that might have helped them.
Again, there was Sandor's voice in her ear, swearing all the ungodly curses he had at his command.
Sansa squared her shoulders.
There was only one way.
“Arya, do you hear me?”
Sweet Mother, he voice sounded so week! Another tear spilled down Sansa's cheek.
“Arya, you must help me. I know you can't walk, so I'll carry you to a safe place. But you must hold the horses' reins for us. Can you do that?”
Another tiny nod.
“Good. You're wonderful, Arya. A true wolf from Winterfell. Let's go!”
By nightfall, Sansa didn't only weep from sorrow about her sister's mutilation, but also from sheer exhaustion. It was good that she had started to train with her great-uncle Brynden while she had still been in Riverrun, but the time had been short and she wasn't physically strong. There had certainly been nothing elegant in the way she had torn at her sister's body, but she had had no alternative. Sandor would have known how to make a stretcher that could have been dragged by a horse, but she didn't.
The process of dragging Arya further and further away from the dead attacker had cost her all her strength. Sansa wasn't sure, if they had gotten far enough, and she was sure they had left an obvious track for any possible enemy.
Yet, Sansa couldn't help it. She wouldn't abandon her sister, and she had done everything she could.
Finally, Sansa had discovered a number of huge rocks that looked as if some giants had tried to build a chart house. It wasn't a deep cave, but there was enough of an opening at the base that it would serve as some kind of shelter for the night for the two humans.
At once, Sansa started to prepare everything, no matter how tired she was: she arranged the bedrolls for Arya and herself and collected some wood next. They needed a good fire against the wild animals. Of course, they would be easily visible for any human who might chance upon them, but it was either one risk or the other, and Sansa needed some warm food and didn't want Arya to catch a cold on top of everything else; they'd both still need their strength.
Fortunately, Sansa had learned some elemental survival techniques by now, for example how to build and to kindle a fire. They were lucky that there was a spring nearby, and they head clear, fresh water. Yet, Sansa cooked it in a little pot first and let it cool off before she tried to feed it to her sister.
Maester Luwin had once told her that wounds had to be kept clean, and that hot water and hot iron were the cleanest things for some strange reason, and that this was also the reason why red-hot iron was used, for example, to cauterize some injuries. Sansa yearned for the old maester to be with them, but that was only wishful thinking, of course.
Yet, another thing became obvious that Sansa had never thought of before: Arya was having problems to drink, which was no wonder without a tongue. Once, she nearly chocked on a sip, and Sansa suddenly remembered Ser Ilyn Payne.
The mere thought of the mute man made who had beheaded her father made her feel nauseous, but she forced herself once more to think in practical terms.
Was Ser Ilyn's handicap exactly the same as Arya's? Did he have some special eating and drinking techniques? She had never paid any attention to this detail, and now, she berated herself for it. Well, at least Arya could read and write. It wouldn't help her much around servants, but she could still communicate in detail with educated people.
But why was she thinking ahead?
Sansa shook her head. They had to survive the night. And the day after. They could only start to think about the future once they had arrived at Harrenhal. Once she was back in Sandor's arms. Sandor...
It was the last thing that crossed Sansa's mind before she dozed off in her bedroll.
Fortunately, there were neither any wild animals nor any humans that threatened them at night. However, there was another kind of enemy that attacked them in a far stealthier way. When Sansa awoke the next morning, she had to realise with a shock that in spite of her best efforts Arya was glowing with a fever.