A Lightness


Chapter 037





It had been three days since her nameday, and she still barely left the wheelhouse. They hadn’t passed anymore inns, and they wouldn’t by the time they got to Winterfell in a few more days. The nights were cold in the wheelhouse, but Sansa had a bunch of furs to keep her warm and Shae nearby for the extra heat. She missed riding her chestnut, but she was still afraid to show her face. She knew Darol didn’t tell anyone anything and she was glad that they had talked. Cleared the air. But there was still Sandor. He hadn’t come to her to apologize and she certainly wasn’t going to go and find him.

Sansa found that she dreaded making it to Winterfell. She was safe here in the wheelhouse. Safe from the rest of the world, from her responsibilities. On top of it all, getting to Winterfell meant back to a regular routine. With Sandor. He would be around her every moment of every day as her sworn shield. She just didn’t know if she wanted it anymore. Sansa decided that if she was only going to have a few more days of avoiding him, then she was going to relish in it.

It was in the middle of the night when it happened. Sansa woke up to a frantic knock at the door. She smelled smoke. She heard yelling and horses neighing.

Shae opened the door and the cold wind blew in. Sansa pulled the furs up over her head.

“You and the princess need to get out. There is a fire in the camp.”

Sansa shot up. “A fire?”

It was Darol. “Yes. One of the tents caught fire.”

“Can’t the horses just pull the wheelhouse?” Shae asked.

He shook his head. “The horses are spooked from the fire. It will be safer if you walk further away yourselves. We’re all gathering up on the road.”

Shae and Sansa got their cloaks on, Shae grabbed another fur and wrapped it around herself. She wasn’t used to the North. When they got to the crowd of their party, Sansa noticed that not everyone was there, though everyone was busy somehow. “Where is everyone else?”

Darol answered her. “Moving the rest of the tents, tending to the horses.”

Sansa could see the blaze in the distance. “Shouldn’t it be put out?”

Another man spoke up. “The river is close by, but, the buckets of water weren’t doing anything for it Princess. We just have to let it burn out.”

It didn’t make any sense. “What about the trees? What if it catches?” No one answered her. “Whose tent is it?” She knew that Sandor would be as far from the fire as possible. But he wasn’t, otherwise he would be with her.

She walked over to where the horses were being gathered. They were going mad. One more than the others. Stranger was kicking his front legs into the air like she had never seen him before. “Where’s Sandor?” She yelled to the men who tried to hold him. No one answered her. “Where is Sandor?” She yelled. Stranger stopped kicking, but he neighed loudly, frantically. And then she knew. Sansa’s heart started to beat faster. She was breathing heavy, starting to panic. Something is wrong. Very very wrong. Before she could question herself, she ran, toward the fire.

“Princess!” She heard someone yell, but she didn’t stop. She was surprised when no one followed her, but glad that no one tried to stop her. Shae must not have seen. She ran as fast as she could, toward the flame and smoke. She finally got there and all of the other tents had been taken away. Only the one remained.

One side was completely covered in flames that licked up the canvas to the top of the tent. The lower hanging branches of the tree above it were already on fire. The smoke was overwhelming. But she knew, she just knew something was not right.

She tucked her hair into her hood and pulled it tight over her head, praying inwardly that the thick wool would not catch. She ran to the opening, trying to hold her breath, and lifted the untouched side of the tent. It took her a moment to see through the smoke that burned her eyes. But he was there. Sandor. He laid on a bedroll. Asleep? Unconscious? She supposed the latter. She threw herself on him, to wake him up, but he wouldn’t move. How was she going to do this? Then she saw the flames that licked at his legs. Her eyes went wide and that made them burn all the more. Frantically, she went to the untouched edge of the tent, by his head and lifted it. She turned back to him, on her knees, her shoulders holding up the tent to the free air. She grabbed his bedroll and pulled with all of her might. It took a moment to get it moving with all of his weight, but it worked. After about a minute of pulling, she had him out of the tent. But she didn’t have a second to breathe. His left leg was on fire. She ripped off her cloak and threw it on his leg. She screamed as she smacked the fire underneath the cloak, finally putting it out.

It was so hard to breathe with the smoke and the cold. She just wanted to collapse there, in naught but her nightshift, right next to him. But she couldn’t. She had to push through, get him further away. He would do it for you.

And then she realized she had no choice. She heard the creak of the dry wood above her. She didn’t bother looking. She got behind his head again and grabbed the bedroll. She yelped from the pain in her hands, they were covered in blisters from the heat under the cloak. But she held on tight as she pulled him away from the flames. The creaking got louder, but the pulling got easier. Sansa realized she was pulling Sandor downhill. Toward the river. Yes. She pulled harder and looked up, the flame was moving fast through the old tree, right above them. It’s going to collapse. Right on top of us. Finally, Sansa felt her feet hit the water. Ice cold, but beautifully wet and calm. The creaking was louder, and Sansa knew it was going to fall, any second. She needed to get him in the water. He would be easier to move out of the path when the water would help hold his weight. Her knees were in the water now.

With one last yank, she pulled him into the river, and pulled her shoulder back out of the socket. Sansa screamed from the pain. But there was no time. The branch began to fall as she pulled Sandor, with one hand, completely into the water, and not a moment too soon. She got to the middle of the river bed, gasped one last breath and went under the surface with an unconscious Sandor, just as soon as the heavy flaming branch came crashing down, right on top of them. Her eyes were wide in the water looking at the flames that were only inches above the surface, and inches away from her and Sandor. She held Sandor to her chest with her right arm as she pushed away from the fire under the water. She was a good twenty feet away before she felt safe enough to come up for air. When she did, the smoke was still so heavy she couldn’t even breathe. It was better underwater. She put her head back under, but kept Sandor’s face above the surface. She kept the pace in the water, thankful that Sandor didn’t wear his armor to sleep. The cold was beginning to slow her, her shoulder was killing her. It didn’t help when she bumped it into a boulder either. She checked the air again, the smoke had dissipated. She felt that they were far enough away from the flames, that it was safe enough to come out. Sansa couldn’t remember being so cold in her life, so out of breath. Silently she thanked herself for being so strange for holding her breath in the bath so often.

She thanked the gods that the current in this part of the river wasn’t too heavy. She couldn’t see anything in the darkness this far away from the flame. Her left arm was no use to her. She just moved sideways in the water until her feet touched the river bed. She pulled Sandor until she had to crawl out of the water. Her skin was ice cold. The wind made it one thousand times worse. She was glad no one was there to see her, soaking wet, her nightshift plastered to her body, making it absolutely transparent. She didn’t think she had anything left in her. But she had to get him out. Luckily, the water’s edge was not as steep as it was on the other side. She held her left arm to her chest, and grabbed him underneath his right arm with hers. She pulled with all she had left, and finally he was out of the water. She looked over to where the fire still roared in the distance, wondering how it would ever be put out. As if on cue, she heard thunder, and the sky opened up, covering them and the blaze in a cold rain. Sansa laughed and looked at Sandor.

She crawled toward him until she held his face in her blistered, shaking hand. Suddenly, he choked. His head lifted off the ground, water came out and he continued to choke for a moment. He fell back into the earth. Sansa hovered over him, all anger forgotten, holding his face in her hand. He opened his eyes, weakly. But she could still see their foggy softness. He swallowed and whispered. “Sansa.” His eyes closed again and his face turned against her hand.

Sansa felt like she could finally breathe. He’s alive. She let go of his face, and collapsed on the ground next to him. She looked up at the clouds in the sky, thankful for the rain they gave. She felt herself start to fade. He never said my name before. And then there was only darkness, and cold.