“Wyman tell them, tell them what that wretched Baelish told you before his death!” Lady Dustin all but screeched.
“The man was a liar, I cannot repeat his words here. Excuse us, Your Grace,” Lord Manderly said in apology to Jon while trying to pull Lady Dustin back down to her seat.
As Lord Manderly continued to delay, Whoresbane Umber, stepped forward, “Out with it man! We haven’t got all day. What did he say?”
“The man was simply looking for excuses to stay alive. Grasping at straws. He told me the night our men took him to the dungeons that Lady Sansa was not as innocent as she seemed. According to him, she helped Cersei against Lord Stark when he planned to send Lady Sansa and Arya back to Winterfell before he acted against the Lannisters. But the man was a liar Your Grace. One cannot trust his word.”
“I apologise on behalf of Lady Dustin as well. She lost kin at the Red Wedding and has a woman’s soft heart. She wants to make sense of everything that happened and is seeking blame in the wrong place.”
“I wouldn’t speak of it if I didn’t try to confirm his allegations first, Wyman. None of you had the confidence of the Boltons. I did. Given my history with Brandon and my Willam’s bones not being returned, the Boltons believed I had good cause to hate the Starks and while they suspected you all, they gave me free reign of this castle. You’d do well to remember I was the one who found the passage into the castle through the crypts with Theon Greyjoy,” she said, turning round to look at the Northerners behind her.
“I went to the Maester’s turret during Lady Arya’s welcome feast and tried to find anything from the Lannisters to the Boltons to confirm Littlefinger’s word. I found nothing sent to the Boltons but I did find this letter...” she said, raising a letter up in the air, “...sent to our good King Robb upon the arrest of Lord Eddard Stark. In it Lady Sansa talks of Lord Eddard’s treason and she bid our King Robb Stark to come to King’s Landing to bend the knee to the good King Joffrey .”
“They forced the girl to write that letter!” Uncle Brynden said in dismissal of Lady Dustin.
“Is there any truth to this?” Arya asked, walking toward the front of the Godswood.
Sansa was struggling to breathe, these two nobodies were trying to ruin her wedding day. They never liked me. They are so ungrateful. I fed them! No I won’t let them ruin my day. I’ll marry Jon and we’ll be happy and I’ll never have to see Lord Manderly or Lady Dustin again.
“I asked you a question. Did you tell Cersei Father was planning to have us leave King’s Landing?”
When Sansa didn’t answer, Arya continued.
“I’ll take your silence to mean it’s true.” Arya scoffed then. “I remember how distraught you were about having to leave and not being able to marry your precious little Joffrey.”
Narrowing her eyes, Arya said, “Of course you would have done anything not to leave him.”
“I only visited the Queen to tell her we were leaving. I didn’t know how evil she was, she was always kind to me until that point. I thought I was merely paying her a courtesy. Cersei was always going to kill father. I was a child and I just wanted to stay in King’s Landing. I thought she would protect me. I had no idea what plans she had. She would have been planning to have Father arrested with Littlefinger long before I spoke to her. What I said made no difference, I know it. This is what Littlefinger does, he turns people against each other and he’s doing it even now from the grave!” Sansa cried, trying to find an understanding face in the crowd.
“You should have known not to trust Cersei! Father told us both King’s Landing was dangerous! In fact, he forbade you from seeing Joffrey and the Queen!” Arya glowered.
“I wondered why Father confessed to treason when he always said a man’s honour was the most important thing he had. But then I remember you standing on the platform that day with your pretty little dress, hair styled exactly like Cersei’s, smiling at that ugly Joffrey.” Arya’s lip was twisted in rebuke.
“The only reason I can think of is Father confessed to treason to keep us safe. Something he would have never have had to do if you kept your mouth shut. How many people died because you wanted to be queen?”
Before Sansa could say anything Arya sped on.
“Let’s start with the people who died that day. I was at my dancing lesson when the red cloaks came for me. Just hours before we were meant to leave. My dancing master was talking about how he’d let me practice with a real sword when we got back to Winterfell. Syrio Forel, first sword to the Sealord of Braavos.” Arya smiled a pained smile then. “He killed five red cloaks with just a wooden sword that day before Meryn Trant killed him. I’m alive today because Syrio died to let me escape. Syrio died. Because of you.” Arya’s tears were flowing now. She was looking into the distance, eyes dazed, as if she could see what she was describing.
“Then there was Desmond. You remember Desmond don’t you? One day I was chasing cats around the Red Keep, Syrio said, every fighter can learn something from cats . When I came back to him with scratches all over my body he’d tell me be quicker girl, your enemies will give you more than scratches. So I got quicker. I caught every cat in the Red Keep apart from one stubborn black tomcat, they called him the Black Bastard. I chased him until I ended up in the tunnels under the Red Keep. I finally caught him but when I did I was lost. I was trying to find my way out when I overheard two men talking about the Wolf and the Lion, and the Hand finding a big book and a bastard. I was sure the bastard was Jon. They also talked about a Khal and a pregnant princess, I suppose that was you Your Grace,” Arya said, turning to the Queen briefly.
“I was hiding inside one of the old dragon skulls under the Red Keep when one of them asked, if one Hand can die why not a second? I never understood what they were talking about then but I went straight to Father and told him everything and when we left the room I told Desmond I was worried about how few guards Father had. Desmond told me not to worry. Every Northerner is worth ten of these southron swords, so you can sleep easy, he said. Do you know how I found Desmond that day? Dead. By the stables. Desmond didn’t die in the throne room like Fat Tom and Cayn would have done with the rest of the guards. Desmond died. Near the stables. Getting our things ready. So we could go home without anyone knowing. He died because you wanted to be queen.” Arya scoffed again in a bitter laugh.
“We all used to say don’t tell Sansa whenever we shared secrets as children. Even Rickon knew not to tell you things and he was three! But none of us would ever have imagined your big mouth would get people killed!”
Once she started it seemed Arya couldn’t stop. Everyone in the Godswood was as quiet as a mouse while she raged, almost bewitched by her. Sansa was finding it harder and harder to breathe. She felt alone. Jon had left her side to walk over to Arya. Holding her face in his hands, whispering in her ear trying to break her trance but it was as if Arya couldn’t see anyone but her ghosts then.
“I was there when Hullen died. They stabbed him so many times his tunic looked like it was decorated with scarlet flowers. He was lying by the stable door. His last words were: Arya Underfoot you must warn your lord father . Even when he was dying, I was still Arya Underfoot to him.”
Arya turned to look at Sansa. Hatred in her sooty eyes. “Hullen didn’t even carry a weapon. He was just a Master of Horse and he died because of you.”
“How about Septa Mordane? You could do no wrong in her eyes. She loved to remind me how I was never good enough, not next to you. She thought the world of you and she died because of your actions. I bet she didn’t see that coming. Maybe if she did she would have been a little kinder to me!”
“And Jeyne? Jeyne was your friend! If you kept your mouth shut she would have been on that ship with us too. She would have never gone through what she went through but your friend had to suffer things we can’t imagine. Because of you!”
Jon tried to move Arya away then but she shrugged him off, her accusatory eyes never leaving Sansa.
“I was nine years old. I had never seen that many dead bodies in my life. I was scared. I didn’t know what was happening. A stable boy grabbed me and tried to forcibly return me back to the Red Keep. I was so scared. The only thing I had with me was the sword Jon gave me when I left Winterfell. I was so scared they would kill me like Syrio and Hullen and Desmond and everyone else. I stabbed him before I could think when he started pulling me. That boy’s parents probably expected him to come home that night and he never came home because I killed him. All. Because. You. Wanted. To. Be. Queen!”
“After that I spent days in Flea Bottom with hardly anything to eat. I finally managed to kill a pigeon one day and spent ages trying to find someone who would buy it off me when I saw the crowds running to the Sept of Baelor. I followed them. I was there when they killed Father. I was standing on Baelor’s statue. I think Father saw me. I started running to the platform, I’m not sure what I thought I could do for him but if I had to die I would have died fighting to save Father, but Yoren caught me. A brother of the Night’s Watch. He was a friend of Father’s. The first time I met him I asked him if he met Bran and Robb on his way down from Castle Black. I asked him if he would take a letter to Jon for me.” Arya let out another bitter laugh.
“When I was making my way through the crowds Yoren grabbed me and stopped me from moving forward, he held me against his chest so I couldn’t see the moment they took Father’s head but I heard everything. I heard the moment his head hit the floor. I heard your screams. I heard the crowd’s jeers. Yoren took me away, cut my hair and told me to pretend I was a boy. He was going to return me to Winterfell on his way back to Castle Black. He was killed by Lannister men before he could. Then the Mountain’s men caught me and my friends Gendry and Hotpie. They took us to Harrenhal.”
Sansa heard Robett Glover gasp then. “Weasel!” he exclaimed.
Arya paid him no attention.
“I was beaten, everyday I saw them rape and maim and kill wondering when it would be my turn.” Sansa heard Arya scoff before she glared at her. “All because you wanted to be queen!”
Jon looked at Sansa as if he could kill her then. You should be on my side, you’re marrying me, we're about to become one soul bound for all eternity.
Sansa couldn’t stand his murderous looks nor Arya’s contempt any longer.
Sansa straightened her back and her shoulders and walked over to where they stood. To hell with courtesy. She raised her hand to strike her ungrateful sister when Jon moved to grab her arm and stand in front of Arya, Sandor moved closer to Sansa’s side and the Greatjon closer to Jon and Arya, the few Knights of the Vale stood to attention while the Northmen, Jon’s outlaws and the Wildlings moved to block them. In the periphery of her vision Sansa could hear Ghost and Nymeria growling. Sansa paid no mind to the battle of wills happening around her and wrenched her arm out of Jon’s grip.
Their uncle Brynden tried to move Arya and Sansa out of the Godswood and away from the eyes of all in attendance but Sansa only had eyes for Arya. She would not be cowed by these vile accusations. Not after everything she suffered.
“Do you think I had it easy? While you ran off from King’s Landing, I suffered things you cannot imagine. While the Night’s Watch man protected you from having to see the moment Father lost his head. I had no such protection. In fact, after he took his head Joffrey made me stare at Father’s head on a spike. Every time Robb won a victory they’d beat me in the Throne Room. Sometimes they’d even strip me when they did. I was alone. I had no one while you had your precious little outlaws running around in the Riverlands. Do you think you were the only one threatened with rape? You are not.”
Her uncle tried to walk her away again but Sansa refused to hide away.
“Do you think I don’t regret what the Lannisters did? I lost the same people you lost. In case you forgot Ned Stark was my father too and Catelyn Stark my mother. Do you think only you lost Robb and Bran and Rickon? They were my brothers too! If you think I betrayed the North I will have you know that while you were away gallivanting in Braavos, or wherever it is you’ve been for the last six years, it was me who came home with the Knights of the Vale. I brought Jon an army and I made sure the people had provisions for winter.”
“You could not have survived what I survived. Your potty mouth would have got you in trouble and Joffrey would have enjoyed killing you. I lived to return and to serve my people. You cannot blame me for the actions of Cersei Lannister, I was simply a child who fell for her act and I’ve regretted it ever since!”
Arya pushed both Jon and Uncle Brynden out of the way, a murderous look in her eyes.
“You were a child? I was younger than you and I knew the Lannisters were not to be trusted!” she shouted as Jon and Uncle Brynden held her back.
“Even when I was in Harrenhal, I knew appearances weren’t everything and I was still younger than you were when you betrayed your father and the men who helped raise you to your Lannister queen. Roose Bolton took over the castle. A man of the North. He was Robb’s bannerman. But I saw his men abusing the prisoners and I knew he wasn’t a man of honour. So I never said who I was. Not even when they made me his cupbearer, not even when I was beaten or threatened with rape because Syrio taught me, look with your eyes and I knew Old Nan was never wrong about a person . Not long after that Roose Bolton betrayed Robb and took a fake Stark for a bride to strengthen his claim.”
Sansa saw all the Northerners crane their heads to look at Arya then. Some sighing in relief.
“But even a blind man would know not to trust the Lannisters. Robb knew there was something not right about Joffrey, Jon saw it too. You said Jon was jealous do you remember? Hells, if we’d asked Bran back then I’m sure he would say something was off about them and he spent more time with plump Tommen than you did with Joffrey!” Arya shouted
Pushing Jon and Uncle Brynden off and walking right up to Sansa, “ You ” she said, shoving her finger in Sansa’s chest “...should have known Joffrey and the Queen weren’t to be trusted when they ordered Mycah and Lady’s deaths. After all it was your trusted sword,” Arya moved her finger to point at Sandor then “...who butchered Mycah. He cut him into so many pieces he returned him to his father in a bag that made Mycah’s father think his own son was a pig they slaughtered. You must remember that? You and Jeyne made a point to mention how it was my fault Mycah died. What was Mycah’s crime? Playing sticks with me? He didn’t even strike Joffrey. Joffrey was cutting a slice off his face but you didn’t care. In fact, you were very clear that I should have died instead of Lady when it was you who lied about what happened. I was on the ground, Joffrey raised his sword to strike me. He would have maimed me at best or killed me instead, if Nymeria hadn’t stopped him but all you could do was screech about how we were ruining it.”
If Jon’s looks could kill, Sansa was sure she’d be a head shorter. His red-headed Wildling friend had joined him now, placing a hand on Jon’s shoulder as if to hold him back. Lady Dustin had a smug look on her face while Lord Manderly looked truly distressed.
“I also wonder whether Robb would have made the same decisions during the war if the two of us were safe. If he hadn’t lost half his army because Mother released Jaime Lannister would he have felt the need to turn to Walder Frey? I’m sure your trusted sword told you how we made it to The Twins in time for the slaughter. Did he tell you how they sewed Grey Wind’s head on to his body? The King in the North! The King in the North they were shouting. Mocking.”
“As for my gallivanting to Braavos, would I have had to go there if you kept your mouth shut?! I’d have been at home like Father intended. If you suffered, you suffered because of your own stupidity!” Arya seethed, eyes blood red, tears dropping freely down her face.
“All you cared about was a crown. The Lannisters killed Jory and Wyl and Heward, men of Winterfell.” At the end of every one of her points, Arya took a step forward and every step she took pushed Sansa back.
“The Kingslayer attacked Father in the streets. Joffrey and Cersei had your trusted sword kill my friend, a boy of Winterfell. And your only concern was that I called you a liar. Do you remember what you said to me? Call me all the names you want, you won’t dare when I’m married to Joffrey. You’ll have to bow and call me Your Grace. ”
“And when I tried to comfort you, my big sister, despite all the hurtful words you said to me, the only words you could spare me were you ought to marry Hodor, you’re just like him, stupid and hairy and ugly. Well, I may be stupid and ugly, but I did not betray my family and Hodor would have died before he betrayed a Stark of Winterfell which is more than I can say for you.”
Sansa’s back was against the Heart Tree now. She had nowhere to move. Even Sandor stepped away from Arya then and Brienne looked conflicted.
“Well,” Arya scoffed again, every one of her words dripped in loathing, knees bent in a scornful bow, “I suppose you're finally getting your crown today princess. Enjoy it. Many people died to get you here.”
Turning away from Sansa, Arya paused once to look at Queen Daenerys, and said, “With your permission, Your Grace.” Then she marched out of the Godswood, Jon and Uncle Brynden trailing behind her.
Sansa couldn’t breathe through her tears and felt as if the whole world contracted around her, crushing her. Her son was wailing in the background. Every Northerner in the Godswood looked at her as if she were Cersei come again. Even Yohn Royce looked disappointed in her. Only her uncle Edmure and his wife stood to help Sansa. Lady Roslin rubbed her back while her uncle began to walk her back to the castle. Sandor and Brienne walking on either side of them.
Never one to miss the opportunity for a barb, almost unable to help herself, Sansa heard Lady Dustin say, “I always knew Southron ambitions were dangerous but even I could never have imagined how deadly they would be. How can a daughter betray her father like that?”
Maege Mormont told her to shut up, but the woman was clearly enjoying herself.
“What? I’m only saying what everyone else is thinking. Didn’t you lose a daughter at the Red Wedding? I lost kin on both sides. Both Ryswells and Dustins died that night. Wyman lost his boy Wendel, The Greatjon lost his boy Smalljon. Everyone here lost someone they loved that night. We all lost our King.”
Sansa couldn’t hear anything more over the ringing in her ears. The abhorrent looks everyone in the Godswood gave her were the last things she saw before she fainted. Completely ruining her dress.