The gardens were so beautiful this time of year. Margaery loved walking through them, though the ones here in King’s Landing made her long for the far superior castle foliage at Highgarden. However, it wasn’t the roses that caught the queen-to-be’s eye, but something far fairer.
“Sansa,” Margaery smiled gently as she walked over to the young redhead, who was walking out of the godswood. Sansa looked up at her with those wide eyes of hers, stopping in her tracks as though she’d been caught taking lemon cakes from the kitchen.
“Your Grace,” Sansa curtsied prettily, as she always has. Sansa was the perfect polite lady, Margaery would give almost anything to see inside her head.
“Oh please, Sansa, call me Margaery,” the older woman looped her arm around Sansa’s. “Walk with me.”
Sansa said nothing as Margaery led her throughout the gardens around the Red Keep, but she didn’t resist either. It always made Margaery sad to see Sansa wandering about the castle, if that. The poor girl was always cooped up in her chambers or constantly with her handmaiden, it was as if she was a ghost that roamed the Red Keep, reminding everyone of their sins. Ever since all that had happened with Sansa’s family she’s been even more ghostly than usual and Margaery was going to fix that.
“Sansa, I still feel as though I don’t know you,” Margaery said as they walked.
“What would you like to know, Your Grace?”
“Margaery. And I would like to know absolutely everything.”
“Why yes, everything.”
“I wouldn’t know where to start,” Sansa shook her head and glanced at the cobblestone beneath their feet.
“Well, I suppose it would be appropriate to start at the beginning.” Margaery smiled and squeezed the younger girl’s arm gently. She could swear she saw a hint of a smile grace Sansa’s pretty lips.
They walked around the gardens for hours, talking and laughing. For once, Sansa seemed like an actual human being, instead of just the shadow of one. In fact, it seemed almost as if she were glowing. Her face lit up whenever she spoke of her needlework or those delightful little lemon cakes they had here in King’s Landing. When Sansa spoke of her singing, Margaery demanded Sansa sing for her one day. ‘ Surely your voice will be just as beautiful as you.’ That had made Sansa blush.
Margaery imagined that’s what she must have been like before all of this ugliness, before her happiness was ripped away from her. Margaery only wished the sun had not set that day and forced the two back inside to face whatever awaited them there. Her heart broke for Sansa when she pulled away and was ushered by her handmaiden, Shae, back to her chambers, to become a ghost once more.
That night, Margaery lay in bed, unable to sleep. All she could think of was Sansa’s pretty words and her pretty voice. She wished she could always see the girl like that, instead of the mask she put on to the world as she tried to disappear from it. Still, even in their talks in the gardens that day, it still felt as though Sansa was holding something back. Perhaps one day she could grow to trust Margaery and they could truly be friends, sisters as she had mentioned once. Then again, there’s no such thing as trust in King’s Landing. Tomorrow Sansa would be fitted for her wedding dress, Margaery had no doubt she would look stunning as always perhaps even more so. Though she wondered how it would work with Loras being who he is. But perhaps the time Sansa could be spending in the bedroom could better be spent somewhere else… with someone else. Margaery didn’t get much sleep that night as something gnawed at her heart.
The next morning was a wedding Margaery had not anticipated. She knew it would be soon and knew the lady betrothed to the lord was completely unaware that today she’d be married. It turned her stomach to know what was about to happen, as if she were given foresight and a horrible accident was just waiting to happen. Guilt wracked her brain as her ladies dressed her and pinned up her hair. There is still time. You can take her and escape . But that was impossible, they would be hunted like dogs. Still it didn’t make Margaery feel any better as she entered the Sept and took her place among the Hand, the Queen, and her brother Loras. King Joffrey was outside the Sept doors, waiting for the new bride, and her soon to be husband had just waddled up to the altar. All around voices echoed from the lords and ladies of the court. Margaery could catch snippets of certain conversations, each more drab or petty than the last. She looked to Loras but couldn’t read his face. Before she could think too much of it, the doors to the Great Sept opened and blinding light poured in. The music began to play and Tyrion Lannister stepped up on the altar. A gorgeous girl walked down the aisle on Joffrey’s arm, wrapped in cream and gold colored silks with her fiery red hair done up with pearls. Sansa . Margaery held the rest of her face in perfect composure, as she always did. Sansa glanced her way as she passed with Joffrey and the look on her face nearly caused Margaery to reach out to her. She looked like a cornered animal about to be led to the slaughter, a pup fed to a lion.
The rest of the wedding went by in a blur, the vows to the stunt with the stool and the cloaking ceremony, Margaery hardly noticed any of it. She could not take her eyes off Sansa, torn between her sorrow for what the girl must be going through and the small part of her that joyed that Sansa would be staying here, close to her, at least for a little while longer. Margaery was hustled out of the Sept as soon as the ceremony was over, back to the Red Keep where she stayed in her chambers with Loras.
“What just happened to that poor girl was obscene.” Margaery could hardly contain her fury.
“Do you think I like it any more than you? Grandmother’s plan of having all of us escape this gods’ forsaken city backfired. This was the only way to salvage it.”
“So we throw Sansa into the lion’s den? To save our own hides? What could that possibly accomplish? Now the Lannisters control two of the Warden seats and they’re going to use that to assert their dominance over everyone in the Seven Kingdoms. Plus they’ll have their claws in a third seat once Cersei marries you.” Loras seemed to grow paler at the mention of his own upcoming nuptials.
“It’s not going to happen.”
“The man behind all of this is Tywin Lannister. If he says it will happen, it will happen.” Margaery turned and crossed her arms as she went to the window and looked out across King’s Landing. “I only wish we had spared Sansa of this. She didn’t deserve this treachery.”
“Why do you talk as if you arranged her marriage yourself?”
“Well I might as well have. The Tyrells are responsible for this. Had we been quieter about her marriage to you, had we not told her, Tywin wouldn’t have found out. As it stands, now we have to do damage control. Sansa is going to be an absolute wreck-”
“Why are you so concerned with her? You speak like she is family. Let the Lannisters have her.” He paused when she looked at him, her gaze piercing him like a blade.
“Perhaps I should let the Lannisters have you. Sansa is an innocent, she has always been an innocent. After her family was obliterated, she was still held hostage here. No one deserves what she’s gone through.”
“What about us? What about what we’re about to go through? You are going to marry the most sadistic little bastard the world as ever seen, and I am going to marry his mother. Have you thought even a little bit about how we’re going to fair here? We should have stayed with the Baratheons, with Renly…”
“You’d rather us die? Because that’s what would have happened. Renly is dead, Loras. And as soon as Stannis saw us he’d have put us to the sword or worse, burned us for his fire god.” She cupped his face in her hands. “What we did we did to survive. We did it to ensure the survival of our house. Do not make me regret forcing you to come with me.” She let her hands drop and went back to the window.
“What do you suppose we do? There’s no changing it now, Sansa is a married woman. And you’re about to be one too. We can’t just flee, they’ll find us and kill us.”
“We’re not going to leave, Loras, not yet anyway. But Sansa is. I’m going to get her to Highgarden, one way or another.”
Here it is, chapter 2! Now with 100% more Tart-Tongued Queen of Thorns.
Margaery didn’t sleep well that night. The image of Sansa’s stony face with those terrified wild eyes was burned into her mind. The way the ceremony dragged on in silence deafened the young queen. She couldn’t even imagine what could be going on in the newlywed chambers at that very moment. It put Margaery’s stomach in knots at just the thought. She threw the gold silken sheets away and got out of bed. Hours ago, a day at most, Margaery had been at this very window, thanking the gods for brining Sansa Stark to her in all of her glory. And now what? The girl must be feeling such betrayal now. What if she never left her chambers now? No, Tyrion would never allow that and if not Tyrion, Cersei would force her out. Margaery sat on the sill, the stone cold against her skin. She opened the window and took in the breeze. Goosebumps raised on her pale arms and the scent of rose and honeysuckle filled her nose.
“Mother,” Margaery prayed softly into the restless night air, “please watch over Sansa Stark. Protect her from those that would cause her harm. Father, give me strength to get through what’s to come.”
Margaery didn’t pray often, a small part of her always admonished her to do it more often. As a girl, the gods always frustrated her. She would pray and pray and waited for the gods to show her they were listening. But they never had. If the gods are real, and they are just, why is there so much injustice in the world? But now was not the time for such thoughts. Hopefully, for once, the gods would listen to her request. And if they would not, surely Grandmother would. Margaery took another breath and looked out over the lights of the city then back to her own chamber. At least here, at the window, Margaery could pretend she wasn’t alone.
The sun was high and the air hot when Margaery set out into the gardens. The gazebo stood tall but Grandmother sat taller. Margaery smiled and took a seat across from the Queen of Thorns.
“Good morning, Grandmother.”
“Morning passed hours ago, dear. What kept you so long?”
“I’m sorry, Grandmother. I couldn’t sleep after yesterday.”
“And why is that?” Margaery paused, thinking about her next words carefully. However, Olenna wasn’t willing to wait. “Well? Get on with it I haven’t got all day.”
“We should not have let the Lannisters take Sansa Stark. I worry for her.”
“There was nothing we could do once they found out what we intended without jeopardizing your own betrothal to that sadistic little twat.”
“It would be worth it to have Sansa, and the North, on our side. Joffrey adores me, he wouldn’t cast me aside for a silly little marriage alliance.”
“Joffrey doesn’t run this country. And you really think, with the way he treats that poor girl, he’d ever allow her to leave the capital that easily? And do you really think that Cersei would stand for such an insult? Tyrion Lannister seems like a fair man. Out of all the Lannisters she could have ended up with, she got the best one. It could be worse.”
“It’s not enough, Grandmother. Sansa is a sweet girl and she deserves far more than being trapped in King’s Landing for the rest of her life.”
“And who’s to say Lord Tyrion won’t take Sansa home to reclaim the North?”
“He’s the Master of Coin, he would never leave the city.”
“Well yes, of course we know that. But Sansa doesn’t.” Margaery paused again at her grandmother’s words.
“Are you suggesting I lie to her?”
“I’m suggesting you make her feel better. Tell her what she wants to hear for now. Convince her this is in her best interest. Be there for her whenever she needs you. Be her best friend and try to get her to persuade her lord husband that he wants to take Winterfell back.” Olenna said it all so matter-of-factly, as though this were so obvious.
“And if she does that, he’ll eventually come back here to resume his duties, leaving her in Winterfell at her ancestral seat of power. Then we can make our move.” Olenna nodded and made a bored gesture before picking up a small cube of marbled cheese and eating it. Margaery placed her hand beneath her chin and stared out across Blackwater Bay as birds chattered around the gazebo. It was a few moments before Lady Olenna spoke again.
“Why do you care so strongly about this girl?” Margaery looked up at her grandmother.
“I’ve seen her, how she speaks and laughs when she thinks no one is listening. How ever face lights up when she talks about something she loves. I’ve heard her genuinely laugh at jokes that were not funny. But I’ve also seen her ghost. I’ve seen how she’ll go stock still when Ser Meryn walks by her, how she flinches in the gallery when Joffrey raises his voice. I would care for anyone so frightened. Her whole family is gone. She has absolutely nothing left.”
“Honestly, I’m surprised she hasn’t flung herself from the top of the Red Keep.”
“Grandmother! This is no time for jokes.”
“Look, dear, if you have a thing for the Stark girl, do what you must. But remember why we’re here.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t play dumb with me, dear. That may work with Cersei, but you’re not nearly as good at it as you think you are.”
“I care for Sansa and her wellbeing. Nothing more.”
“Once upon a time, your brother said the exact same thing of Renly Baratheon. And we both know what came of that. I don’t care, if that’s what you’re worried about, Margaery. Everyone has their preferences.”
“Am I not allowed to care about someone without being questioned?”
“Are you denying it, then,” Olenna shot back immediately.
“... I don’t know, Grandmother.”
“Well, either approach Sansa about it or find the nearest serving girl and figure it out. I will not have my granddaughter, the future queen of the Seven Kingdoms, moping around the castle over an unavailable, ghostly girl.”
“I am to marry Joffrey, and she is wed,” Margaery said, almost as an afterthought.
“And? Everyone everywhere has those who please them in ways they need. It’s no secret.” Silence. “Are you satisfied, my dear?”
“Good. Now walk me back to my chambers and we can talk of the wedding.”
Margaery stood as Olenna did and took her grandmother’s arm as they walked through the gardens.
“They want a seven course dinner for the reception. I’ve heard rumors of a surprise our Great King has planned. I wonder what fresh hell that could possibly be…” The Queen of Thorns spoke but Margaery wasn’t listening.
A flash of red caught her eye as they made their way inside the Red Keep. Sansa passed the two silently, her face completely stoic. No doubt she was headed to the godswood to pray, as she did almost every day. The girl’s light eyes flicked over to Margaery then swiftly away, her head bowed and her hands clasped in front of her. The only thing that remained of her when she left was the gentle smell of cinnamon.
Days had passed since Margaery spoke with her grandmother and the day of her own wedding to Joffrey loomed ever closer. Joffrey was… an interesting case. He was cruel, of course, and petulant. There was something more off about him than that, but Margaery could never place her finger on it. He acted differently when it was just the two of them (which was almost never the case). He did not seem interested at all in her feminine wiles, or what she had offered to him. Perhaps if he’d let out a little frustration, his cruelty would subside and would cement Margaery in her role. Not that she was necessarily worried about that, though Cersei didn’t seem to like her very much at all and would probably do anything to get her out of the picture. If Margaery couldn’t seduce Joffrey sexually, she’d seduce him in other ways; play along with what he likes, gain his trust. But his was not the trust she truly wished to gain.
Her shoes clicked against the hard stone floor as her legs seemed to carry her completely on their own across the castle. It felt like a daze, the stone walls and sconces passing by in a blur as only one place, one person filled her mind. She couldn’t take the silence any longer, she couldn’t bear the haunting. Nothing could stop her now, no matter how much her brain screamed at her, her heart was far too loud. The queen consort climbed the winding tower where the wolf hid away until she was face to face with a heavy wooden door.
The knob was cold against her hand but it was the muffled voices stopped her. The higher, more melodic one had to be Sansa, while the other one was low and rough, slurred but still feminine. Perhaps it was Sansa’s hand maid, Shae. Margaery stopped, she’d planned on speaking to Sansa alone, not in the company of her maid. The foreign woman was very protective of Sansa from what she could tell. There was a soft silence and Shae’s voice came closer to the door. Margaery backed away and stepped to the side of the small landing. The door opened and Shae stepped out, closing the door behind her. She looked over and caught Margaery’s eyes.
“What are you doing here,” she narrowed her eyes. Had she been from this place, she would be far more respectful. But the woman’s bluntness was refreshing in this tediously groveling city.
“Hello, my lady. I’m here to speak with Sansa.”
“She’s resting.” Shae’s tone was tart and her accent thick.
“It is very important that I see her.”
“She does not want to see you… Your Grace.” Margaery paused for a moment. She hadn’t thought about that. Of course Sansa didn’t want to see her, she was partly responsible for everything that happened.
“Please, Shae.” Margaery took the maid’s hands in her own and looked deep in her dark eyes. Shae paused, switching between Margaery’s eyes.
“... Fine. I have to fetch water for her bath. You have until I get back.” Before Margaery could thank her, she turned away and went down the steps into the darkness.
Once Shae left, Margaery knocked gently on the door and opened it. Sansa stood there in front of the mirror with a thin silk robe around her shoulders and her long auburn hair undone and cascading down her back. It looked almost as if her head was on fire with the way the torchlight glistened.
“Did you forget something, Shae,” Sansa said without turning around. She smoothed out the delicate silk against her hip and pulled her hair forward over her shoulder.
“No, my lady.” Margaery closed the heavy wooden door behind her and leaned against it. Sansa turned around with a small gasp and pulled her robe tighter around her under clothes.
“Your Grace! I-I’m so sorry, I didn’t know-”
“That’s because I didn’t announce myself. I wanted to come see you after everything that happened.” She walked a bit closer to Sansa. She could almost feel the heat coming from the other. “My heart ached seeing you so upset.”
“That’s kind of you, Your Grace.” Sansa only glanced at Margaery’s face before turning her eyes back to the floor.
“Please call me Margaery. Talk to me, Sansa. I know you may not think it but you can trust me. It is just you and I here, no one else. No one can harm you.” Margaery kept her voice soft. It took a few long moments for Sansa to speak again.
“I thought it was over,” Sansa’s voice was soft and small. “I thought he was done tormenting me. My family is gone, every single one of them is dead. There is no reason…” Tears welled up in those pretty blue eyes and Margaery pulled Sansa into her as the girl began to cry. She couldn’t even begin to imagine what this poor girl was going through, to have your whole house, your whole family to be obliterated in what feels like an instant… Margaery hushed the girl and rubbed her back. With the absolute outpour of emotion, Sansa had to have been bottling a whole lot more than just the recent turn of events. Of course, why wouldn’t she? She’s in a place surrounded by enemies who all had one hand or another in her family’s demise . Margaery led Sansa over to the bed and sat the poor girl down. The future queen perched beside her and continued to rub her back.
“It will be alright, Sansa darling. Lord Tyrion is not so bad as people claim him to be.”
“That’s not the point,” Sansa exclaimed through her tears, “of all the people to marry me to! They’re doing it to torture me. I don’t understand what I did to make them hate me so much. I was supposed to be free after you came…”
“No one hates you, Sansa, and they’re not doing this to torture you. In fact, this marriage was very strategically planned by the Hand of the King.”
“I don’t understand…” Sansa rubbed one of her eyes. The future queen took the girl’s hands in her own.
“You, Sansa Stark, are the key to the North. Whoever controls you controls the North. And after that war, the Lannisters need all the help they can get.”
“The North is in shambles and I haven’t been home in years.”
“You are still a Stark of Winterfell and rumors of the North’s loyalty to your house spread far and wide. If you were to return, the North would rally behind you. However, your Lannister husband may have a more difficult time.”
“I could go home?”
“That would be ideal. It is difficult to hold a seat of power from leagues away. And if all went right, Lord Tyrion would remain Master of Coin and return to King’s Landing, leaving you in Winterfell.” Sansa looked both hopeful and ill. Margaery rubbed on delicate hand along Sansa’s shoulder. “I know it’s scary and uncomfortable, but the results may be worth it.”
“Do you really think it will be that easy?”
“It won’t be easy, Sansa. In fact, it will be quite difficult, but that is the sacrifice we make for trust.”
“I’m tired of sacrifices.” Sansa’s voice sounded so hollow it made Margaery’s chest ache.
“I know, love. But the payoff will be worth every single sacrifice. When you’re home, sitting in your ancestral seat of power, you’ll look back and know that everything was worth it.” She couldn’t bear the brimming sadness in Sansa’s eyes. The queen consort tilted the girl’s chin up with delicate fingers but those beautiful blues still eluded her.
“Sansa look at me,” barely a whisper. There was hesitation but finally their eyes met, the candlelight casting gentle shadows across the girl’s soft face. Margaery didn’t move her hand. “You are sensational, Sansa Stark. I will keep you safe. You will never again be harmed, I swear it by the old gods and the new from this day until my last. Your days will be filled with joy and love, that I promise you.” Margaery’s voice was still quiet as she vowed to Sansa. Her hand dropped from the girl’s chin, their gaze still locked as the silence deafened the room. Sansa’s soft hands found hers and clasped them tightly.
“Alright.” She sounded stronger, more sure than Margaery had ever heard. “I’ll do it. But you must promise me one thing.” Margaery’s heart soared.
“You mustn’t forget me when I go.”
“Oh, Sansa,” Margaery pushed some of that fiery hair behind her ear with the lightest feather touch, her palm cupping Sansa’s cheek, “I could never forget you.”
There was another beat of silence as something flickered behind Sansa’s gaze. But perhaps that was only imagined because as soon as it was there, it was gone again as there was a sharp rapping on the door and Shae’s muffled voice cut through the air.
“Sansa?” The girl immediately pulled away from Margaery and stood up.
“Come in!” She had her hands clasped in front of her but her fingers wrung together. The heavy door creaked open and Shae stepped through with a few buckets of hot water. She shot Margaery a look and the future queen smiled, standing up and smoothing out her dress. She turned toward Sansa.
“I will leave you to the rest of the night, my lady. Think on what I said and perhaps I’ll see you on the morrow to break your fast.” Margaery bowed and passed Shae to leave the room with a whispered thank you .