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Serpentine - Ch. 11/a
leighofoldstone
A million thanks to my amazing beta, ownsariver. I truly could not have finished this chapter without her!! <3 <3 <3


I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to update. I'm having to post in two parts because LJ was giving me an error message saying it was too long when I tried to post it all at once.

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Sansa stood in the balcony with the other highborn ladies, nervously clutching the rail as she looked down upon the scene below. The throne room buzzed with anticipation. Joffrey, making a show of his power, had decided to hear cases, but the lords and most of the smallfolk who crowded the hall were present for another reason. Today, the King would bestow the lordship of the Twins on one of his loyal subjects, and every nobleman in the room hoped it would be him. The herald dismissed the petitioners remaining to be heard when His Grace grew weary of passing judgments, and the throne room grew quiet. Joffrey stood and smiled. “It is a king’s duty to reward loyalty and service to the Realm. Today, I wish to reward my most faithful and loyal subject with a fine gift, long past due.”




Lord Sandor Clegane,” the herald called out. From where she stood, Sansa could see the crowd stir as the contenders glanced about in surprise. The confused murmuring that began at the herald’s announcement grew louder as Sandor crossed the room to kneel in front of the throne. Sansa’s heart swelled with pride. He was the very image of what a noble warrior should look like, and she marveled at the thought that not so very long ago, she had desired the Knight of Flowers more than any other man in Westeros. She looked upon Sandor’s face, at his sharp cheekbones and burn scars, his heavy brow and large, hooked nose, and knew that he would never be considered comely in the eyes of most women. Only a short time ago, she could hardly bear to look at his face herself because his burns and angry eyes frightened her so. But now she thought his strong, harsh features made him even more beautiful and pleasing to look at than Loras Tyrell. And his roughspun cloaks and drab, faded tunics had been replaced with garments made of the finest wool, richly dyed in the plain, dark colors he’d always favored. Cersei had probably made him do it so he would look more the part of a high lord, but Sansa approved of the change nonetheless. She leaned over the balcony rail to watch.

“Grand Maester Pycelle, I command you to read my decrees.” Joffrey sounded every inch the king today.

Pycelle stood a bit unsteadily and cleared his throat. “It is the wish of His Grace that his loyal servant, Sandor Clegane, be released from the Kingsguard and his honored place as the King’s own sworn shield, and be at once raised to the rank of lord and granted the ancient seat of the Twins with all its attendant lands and incomes, and that his sons and grandsons shall hold these honors after him until the end of time. So the king has decreed. The small council consents.”

The announcement resulted in an uproar, as Sansa had expected. Westeros had been ravaged by the war that started almost four years ago with the execution of her father. Many of the lords and ladies from old, rich houses had seen their lands all but ruined. Harvests had been burned, grain confiscated, livestock stolen or killed. The smallfolk who’d tended the estates had been killed in great numbers or driven off all throughout the Riverlands, so that these lords were gaining precious little income from their holdings. The Twins, however, still had its holdings largely intact, due to the treachery of Walder Frey. No doubt many of the highborn lords who had suffered great losses felt they had a better claim to the lordship and the riches of the Twins. They would have no hope of restoring their properties until the war was over. Even though no battles had been fought in the last year, the war dragged on. Stannis was still pressing his claim to the throne, and the Riverlords and Northmen had never bent the knee. They’d caused no trouble outright, but the threat that they would throw in with Stannis was always present.

But old names and ruined villages and the troubles of lords and smallfolk would never move Joffrey. And he was very fond of Sandor Clegane, in his own way. Sandor had served the realm as a warrior and as Joff’s sworn shield for years. No one could deny that he had proved his worth to the kingdom during the Battle of the Blackwater, when he led his men out three times into the wildfire and smoke and blood to push back Stannis’ army. He’d pulled his men out of the fighting before the battle was over, but even so, he had done more to slow the invasion than any of the other heroes Joffrey had rewarded when the fighting was done, and yet the King had never offered him so much as an empty title for his valor. Until now. Sansa felt sorry for the other lords who’d hoped to get the Twins, but she knew Sandor would be a just lord, and if anyone could defend the Crossing against possible rebellions, it would be him. The old houses might hate him for being low-born, but she felt that others surely must respect him for his fierceness as a warrior, his loyalty, his blunt honesty. She couldn’t be the only one who could see past his rough exterior to admire his better qualities. I will make them love him, she vowed.

Joffrey raised a hand, and the noise died down. He turned to Sandor. “Rise, dog. I’ve another little treat for you,” he smirked.

Pycelle stood again. “His Grace the King has decreed that Sansa Stark be released from her betrothal to his own person, and in so doing, the King will accept the fealty of the Riverlords and—“

“I’ll give them their wolf!” Joffrey interrupted, quivering with excitement. He’d clearly been waiting for this moment for days. “But she’ll go to them as my dog’s b—“

“Your Grace!” Cersei called sharply. When Joffrey turned to her with an angry look, she softened her voice. “Your Grace, all who are present must surely be inspired by your generosity, and the great joy it brings you to present such honors to your most loyal servant.” She turned to face the bewildered crowd. “Sansa Stark will return to her mother’s homeland as Sandor Clegane’s wife, and in return, the lords of the Riverlands and the North will swear their fealty to King Joffrey, their true and rightful king. It will mean the end of the war. Though the King is loathe to part with his beloved Sansa, his greatest wish is to see peace restored to the seven kingdoms.” 

Sansa let out her breath. It was real now, wasn’t it? The King couldn’t take it back after it had been  announced to the whole court. Could he? The ladies in the balcony made sympathetic noises, but Sansa also heard their whispers and tittering, and she could feel their eyes on her. Let them laugh. She didn’t care what they thought. She knew she was the luckiest woman in all of Westeros.

Their betrothal was greeted with surprise and ill-concealed amusement. The people of King’s Landing had little love for her, and maybe even less for Sandor Clegane. She could guess what they were all thinking. ‘It’s no more than she deserves. The Starks of Winterfell are traitors, and she has traitor’s blood in her veins.’ Who better to wed her to than the Hound, who was known for his loyalty to the Lannisters and King Joffrey? The court and all of King’s Landing, who held her in contempt because of her family’s treasons, would see it as a delicious sort of comeuppance. ‘The girl who would have been Queen of the Seven Kingdoms ends up married to the King’s dog.’ She wanted to laugh at them all. She wanted to show them all how much she and Sandor loved each other. But it was their secret for now. Though Sansa suspected the match had been the Queen’s idea, Joffrey would take it all away if he knew he was giving them exactly what they wanted.

Joffrey’s face was reddening. He hated being interrupted. He held his hand up for silence once again. “No, mother. I want my dog and his bride to have a homecoming fit for a king.” He forced a smile and a laugh. “What better way for the Riverlords to greet their new liege lord than a grand celebration and a feast? It is more fitting that the wedding take place at the Twins.” Now it was Cersei’s turn to look angry. Joff grinned maliciously at his mother, then turned to Sandor. “Dog, we will give you a royal escort as our wedding gift. Besides, I want to see the traitors’ faces as they bend the knee to me.”  And with that, he stormed out of the room with the Kingsguard in his wake. The herald dismissed the court.

Oh, no! Sansa’s heart fell, and she didn’t bother to hide her dismay. Anyone seeing her would think she was distressed at being cast aside to marry the Hound. How could she possibly wait that long? She was madly in love with Sandor, it was too cruel to have to wait so long for her wedding night! But there was no changing Joffrey’s mind once he’d given a royal command. Not even the Queen had influence over him then. She stared despondently at Sandor. His face was tight with anger, but whether it was because of Joffrey’s insults or the postponement of their wedding, she couldn’t tell.

The crowd was streaming out of the throne room, buzzing with excited chatter. The ladies left the balcony in pairs and small groups, giving Sansa smug glances as they passed, until only her maids remained. Finally, Sansa moved away from the railing and made her way down the stairs to find Sandor waiting for her. His eyes flashed with anger, and his mouth twitched.

“My lady,” he said, nodding his head stiffly. He offered her his arm, and she took it. Her maids trailed after them as they walked down the corridors to her rooms. She thought about asking him to take her to the godswood, but wasn’t sure if she should. Shouldn’t a lady distraught at being cast aside—by the King no less—take to her rooms in anguish? But why shouldn’t she pray for comfort instead? She suspected her maids would report it to Cersei, but Sansa decided that surely the Queen wouldn’t think it amiss.

“My lord, I wish to go to the godswood. Please,” she said, meekly.

“If it please you,” Sandor rasped in his deep voice. “My lady.”

Her maids followed them all the way up the serpentine. Sansa stopped short of the godswood and turned to them crossly. “Why are you still following me?” she demanded.

“Her Grace the Queen commanded us to attend you at all times, as it would be improper for you to be alone with your betrothed.” The girl blushed.

An older maid wasn’t so shy. “So that you come to your wedding with your maiden’s gift intact,” she said bluntly. The maids smirked at each other, scarcely bothering to hide it.

Sansa’s face was hot with fury. “I cannot pray with a crowd gaping at my every move,” she snapped, even though she often prayed in the sept amongst far more people. But was angry, and she wanted her anger known, even though her maids probably didn’t even care and she wouldn’t achieve anything by scolding them.

She turned to Sandor. “My lord, I would return to my rooms, please.” She glared at her maids and moved to take a step, but he stopped her, his strong fingers wrapped around her arm in an iron grip. She glanced at him over her shoulder in surprise, and he roughly pulled her around to face him again. One arm encircled her waist and the other was wrapped around her shoulders, pressing her body so tightly against his she could hardly breathe, and it all happened so fast she’d had no time at all to react. He wrapped his hand in her hair so that she couldn’t turn away from him, and then he was kissing her, in front of her maids, moving his mouth firmly against hers, urging her to part her lips and touch her tongue to his own as if they were alone together in the godswood under the cover of darkness instead of standing there on the steps of the serpentine, with the sun shining down and half a dozen maids gaping at them in disbelief. She whimpered when she felt the hardness of his manhood pressing into her belly and yielded to his kiss for half a heartbeat, and just as quickly wrenched herself away from him, before she forgot herself and wrapped her arms around his neck or reached for his manhood. They shared a quick look before Sansa lowered her eyes in feigned embarrassment.

“As you wish, my lady,” Sandor said, his voice like steel scraping against stone. He looked at the maids, each one of them in turn, his eyes daring them to say something, but they all shied away from his hard gaze and they descended the serpentine in silence. Sansa wanted desperately to talk to him, to ease her disappointment in the comfort of his arms, but she couldn’t say anything where her maids could hear. The unspoken words lodged in her throat so that she hardly managed to thank Sandor when he left her at the door to her rooms.

They departed King’s Landing eight days later, after giving the supply wagons a head start to make things ready for their arrival at the Twins. The High Septon himself was to travel with the company and perform the marriage rites, at the King’s command. It was a great honor, of course, but truth be told, they could be married by a wandering septon instead and it would all be the same to Sansa; she was leaving King’s Landing, she would be free of the Lannisters, and she was to marry Sandor. That was all that mattered to her.

Sansa stood still as a statue amidst the bustle and noise of the yard on the morning of their departure. Men and women were shouting and laughing, horses stamped their feet and snorted, and wagonloads were being tied down even while someone was begging to add just one more thing. The noise echoed off the walls and washed over her as she watched Sandor and his men make their final preparations. Sandor had his back to her. He had just checked his saddlebags and was now tying on his bedroll. When he finished, he slapped Stranger’s shoulder and gave the reins to his squire while he scanned the yard. Looking for her, she hoped. When he saw her, their eyes locked, and she couldn’t look away, even if she wanted to.

***************

Sandor crossed the yard towards Sansa, glancing neither left nor right, never once breaking their gaze. She stared at him intensely, and he drank in the sight of her. When he reached her, he wished he could touch her face, her hair, hold her and kiss her, but he couldn’t. He was the Hound, King Joffrey’s dog. If he acted like some bloody gallant knight, all eyes would be on them in an instant and the fucking gossips would start whispering.

He bowed stiffly. “My lady,” he said. He wanted to say more. And so did she. He could see it in her eyes. That was some comfort, to know that she was struggling as much as he was.

“I pray that you will have a pleasant journey, my lord,” she said. “May the gods keep you safe.” He snorted at that, and the little bird risked a hint of a smile. He didn’t believe in the gods and she knew it; he had often mocked her for her piety.

“You also, my lady.” Without thinking, he reached to touch her, but he remembered just in time and stopped the motion abruptly. Seven bloody buggering hells. It made his blood boil to have to be so careful all the time. Why should he be? He was the Hound, to everyone but Sansa, a mean, bad-tempered, half-wild dog, someone had once said of him. Everyone was afraid of him. If I’m half wild… Sansa’s beautiful eyes were still fixed on his, a deep blue gaze smoldering with desire, and he could feel his cock growing hard just from the nearness of her… and that look in her eyes. It was loud in the yard. No one would overhear what he was about to say to her.

“Sansa,” he said in a low voice, “I’m going to kiss you. Pretend you don’t like it.” Her eyes widened in astonishment, and then he had her in his arms and was kissing her hard as the driving force of his pent up lust surged through him. Sansa shoved her hands against his chest and tried to step back, away from him, grinding her hips against his as she struggled. He bent lower, forcing her to lean back, and tightened his arm around her waist to adjust the angle of their hips. His cock was hard as iron, pressing against her cleft now, and he could feel the heat between her legs. It was all he could do not to thrust against her as she wriggled and pushed and squirmed against his cock just like he’d hoped she would. Gods. It felt so bloody good, too fucking good, and it had been so long since he’d had her, or any woman… If he didn’t let her go now he’d probably have his release standing right there in the middle of the fucking yard. He loosened his arms and the little bird pushed him away, staggering back a step. She covered her face with her hands, looking horrified as the crowd in the yard hooted and laughed, but the sparkle in her eyes told him everything he needed to know. Dogs will be dogs. He gave her a nod and strode back to his men, almost wishing he hadn’t pulled that little trick. He needed a fuck now more than ever.

They were all ready now and mounted on their horses. Sandor swung into his saddle. He was flanked by two squires, each carrying a Clegane banner, and followed by the men-at-arms he had chosen to head up the garrison at the Twins. Many of them were men who’d fought with him at the Battle of the Blackwater, and not one of them was a bloody knight. A handful of freeriders had also joined his group in the days since he had been announced as Lord of the Crossing. He shouted at his men to fall in and led the procession out of the castle yard on his huge black stallion, knowing this was likely the last time he would see Sansa until they reached their destination.

 

***********

She stood there shaking, trying to catch her breath as she watched Sandor ride away. Gods be good. She’d been on the very edge of her release when he let her go; her lady’s place was aching and throbbing with her unquenched desire, and she was still so wet she could feel the moisture trickling down her thighs. The sudden heat that had flared in her belly when Sandor told her he was going to kiss her had turned to wildfire the instant he touched her, and it was still blazing and swirling inside her. She was trying to think of an excuse to run back to her rooms so she could bring herself to release when Cersei’s maids summoned her.

Sansa was to travel with the Queen in her wheelhouse and share her pavilion. She’d wanted to ride with Sandor at least on this first day of their journey, but it would have been unseemly for her to be amongst so many men with none of her ladies about her. She hid her reluctance and thanked the Queen for the pleasure of accompanying her, and settled back against the cushions, trying to ignore the exquisite feeling that shot through her when her thighs rubbed against the sensitive nub between her legs. It was a very comfortable way to travel, she had to admit. The day was cold and windy, and the sky threatened rain. Inside the wheelhouse, a short flight of stairs led to the top level, where a brazier and silk pillows and soft throws kept them warm, and they had wine and lemon cakes and other delectable fare that Sansa was too nervous to eat. There was even a small closet with a chamber pot, so the Queen need never suffer the indignity of answering nature’s call in front of her court. Sansa’s maid and a few of the Queen’s handmaids rode in the lower level, to fetch wine or food as Her Grace commanded.

All but one of her maids, along with everyone else who would be a part of her new household until she could find suitable replacements of her own choosing, had been sent ahead with the baggage trains to make the Twins ready for herself and Sandor and all of their noble guests. Sandor would no longer ride with the royal family, at the Queen’s command. When Sansa asked why, Cersei had snapped at her. “Do you think the Riverlords and the Northmen will pledge their banners to you if they think their liege lord is still ‘King Joffrey’s dog’? What do you think it will look like if he rides triumphantly into the Riverlands at Joffrey’s side? As much as I loathe that prickly lot, they are the key to making peace in the realm, so we must cater to their pride.”

They left the city behind and traveled in silence for some time. Sansa knew she should try making conversation with the Queen and struggled to think of what she might say.

“Have you ever been to the Twins, Your Grace?” she asked, politely, and then cursed herself for being stupid. Of course she has, she was the Queen!

“Of course I have, Sansa,” Cersei snapped in reply, echoing her thoughts. “I was Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Robert loved nothing more than to parade about the Realm every few years, making a show of being king and basking in the adulation of his subjects. I hated every moment of it.”

“It must have been dreadfully tiring, Your Grace,” Sansa said, and lowered her eyes. She could well believe it, if Cersei’s travels with King Robert had been as strained as these first moments. She wondered if it would be rude for her to work on her sewing so soon into their excursion. Before departing King’s Landing, Sansa had convinced the Queen that she would need a gown in the colors of her father’s house for when she met with the bannermen. She wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen, but felt that it might help them to accept her more readily if she wore the grey and white of House Stark, however she met them. She had cut out all the pieces before they left, and would have plenty of time to finish it during the long trip to the Twins.

Sansa decided not to work on the gown just yet. Cersei was in an irritable mood, and seeing the Stark colors might make it worse. She thought about reading the book of songs that Sandor had given her, tucked inside the little chest with her sewing. But she was afraid that Cersei would ask her where she’d gotten it, and the thought of telling her made her squirm uncomfortably; she couldn’t let the Queen know that she and Sandor had already grown fond of each other, considering she’d been betrothed to Joffrey when it had happened. She glanced up. Cersei was drinking wine and staring off into space, brooding. Sansa thought if she could open the curtains, she would at least have something to look at besides her hands folded in her lap, but when she asked, the Queen declared she would not have the servants looking in and gawking at her like she was a fish in a bowl. Defeated, Sansa decided to pour herself a goblet of wine. Sipping on it would at least give her something to do.

The Queen gave her a sly look. “Are you pleased with your match, Sansa?”

Sansa’s heart skipped a beat, but her voice betrayed none of her anxiety. “Yes, Your Grace. I am grateful to the King for making such an honorable match for me.”

“Grateful? Honorable?” Cersei sounded amused. “Truly?”

“Yes, Your Grace. I am overcome with joy that I am to be married to… to Lord Clegane.” Sansa’s mouth was dry. She took another sip of wine.

“Is that why your maids have reported you crying yourself to sleep at night?”

Sansa flinched. That had happened when she and Sandor had quarreled, though she didn’t think the Queen knew that much of it. “Tears of joy, Your Grace.” Does it give you joy to think me miserable?

Cersei laughed. “You’ve learned to lie so prettily, but don’t think I can’t see right through you. Ser Loras would have been more to your tastes, I’m certain of that. But you’ll do your duty, won’t you?”

“Yes, Your Grace.” Sansa fought hard to keep her face and voice expressionless.

“Sansa, listen to me. You should know why we are sending you to the Twins betrothed to Sandor. Jaime took the Twins, you know that. But it was the Riverlords and the Northmen who helped him. They’ve been shouting for revenge against Walder Frey for years, and as you know, they have never bent the knee to Joffrey. Of late, there have been rumors that they planned to throw in with Stannis to take King’s Landing. So Jaime bought their loyalty by promising to help them take the Twins and destroy the Freys, all under the King’s protection, if they would only bend the knee. But even then, they wouldn’t agree until we also promised to release you.” The Queen paused to take a sip of wine.

Sansa was stunned. She hadn’t thought that anyone, except for Sandor, might care about her now that her family was dead, much less people she had never met. But where would I have gone? Winterfell is… Oh.

Cersei resumed speaking. “They wanted a marriage, of course, and fought over who would get you. Lord Clement Piper had the best claim. He organized the force that infiltrated the castle and opened the gates to Jaime and the others. He wanted you for his son, Marq, who’d been held prisoner there since… Well. It would have been a good match, if only I could trust any of the bannermen to be good, obedient subjects after the marriage was consummated. As things stand, it couldn’t be allowed. The risks are too great.” Sansa kept her eyes lowered. She was afraid to say anything.

“Do you understand what I’m telling you, Sansa?” Cersei asked sharply.

“It is my claim they want, Your Grace. If… If one of the Riverlords or the Northmen could have married me, they’d have Winterfell. They share a grievance, and they could have joined forces to take it back. And then…” She didn’t have to finish the rest.

“A wolf in Winterfell has sharper teeth than one in the Riverlands, especially with Stannis plotting and planning his war at the Wall. We negotiated the surrender, but neither the Northmen nor the Riverlords had the courage to push too hard for the betrothal. It would have been too transparent. So we will wed you to Sandor, who only cares about drinking and fucking and killing, and finally have peace in the realm.” Cersei seemed to be searching her face for something, but Sansa couldn’t tell what it was. 

She swallowed and lowered her eyes again. It made her sad to think of how so many people only wanted her for her claim, even though she loved Sandor and wanted to marry him more than anything. She was lucky, she knew. Other highborn girls wouldn’t be so fortunate, and would never know the kind of happiness that Sansa knew was waiting for her.

“Allow me to give you a word of advice, Sansa.” The Queen sounded very serious now. “You may never love Sandor Clegane, but you’ll love the children you give him. I admit, you are stronger than I thought at first. I expect you can endure marriage to the Hound, however humiliating it may be for you.”

Sansa’s face grew hot, and she was surprised at the sudden stab of arousal she felt at the thought of Sandor getting her with child, of his seed growing into a baby inside her. It made her feel so womanly. He would be so careful and gentle and protective of her, she was sure of it. She wondered what their children would look like, if they would have his fine, straight black hair or her thick auburn waves, her Tully blue eyes or eyes as grey as slate, like his? Sandor had so much of the look of the First Men, she could well believe their children would have the Stark looks. She imagined him holding a baby and how tiny it would look in the arms of such a huge, fierce man, and would have smiled and laughed out loud if she hadn’t been with the Queen. She was once again giddy with anticipation about her wedding night, when she would finally feel Sandor’s manhood deep inside her and know that they truly belonged to each other. She wondered if they would make a baby that night.

The rest of the day passed largely in silence. The Queen drank another cup of wine and fell asleep. Sansa finally brought out her sewing and fell into the pleasant tedium of her favorite pastime, making the tiny, perfect stitches that Septa Mordane had been so proud of. The wheelhouse creaked and gently swayed as it rolled down the rutted road. When the sun came out at midday, Sansa longed to get out and stretch her legs and breathe deeply of the fresh, clean air after so many years of the stink of King’s Landing, but there would be no stopping until nightfall, not even for meals. There were hundreds of people and wagons and horses and livestock in their traveling party, and it would take ages for the train to start moving again if they all stopped.

The Queen didn’t leave the wheelhouse until after dark, when the royal pavilions had been set up. Sansa had hoped for a glimpse of Sandor, but she supposed he would be camping with his men, far ahead of them. In any case, he could no longer pay visits to the royal family without a summons, given that he was no longer Joffrey’s sworn shield. She sighed and resigned herself to a lonely excursion, comforting herself with dreams of the wedding and her new life at the Twins, and Sandor.


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You're so funny! But I thought you were a member of the two SanSan communities... I posted the update on those comms on Sunday, I think...

Yeah but that was, like...FOUR DAYS AGO! Re-read! ;D

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