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On the morning her new gown was to be ready, the serving maid filled Sansa’s tub with steaming hot water and scrubbed her head to toe until she glowed pink. Cersei’s own bedmaid trimmed her nails and brushed and curled her auburn hair so it fell down her back in soft ringlets. She brought a dozen of the queen’s favorite scents as well. Sansa chose a sharp sweet fragrance with a hint of lemon in it under the smell of flowers. The maid dabbed some on her finger and touched Sansa behind each ear, and under her chin, and then lightly on her nipples.  Cersei herself arrived with the seamstress, and watched as they dressed Sansa in her new clothes. The smallclothes were all silk, but the gown itself was ivory samite and cloth-of-silver, and lined with silvery satin. The points of the long dagged sleeves almost touched the ground when she lowered her arms. And it was a woman’s gown, not a little girl’s, there was no doubt of that. The bodice was slashed in front almost to her belly, the deep vee covered over with a panel of ornate Myrish lace in dove-grey. The skirts were long and full, the waist so tight that Sansa had to hold her breath as they laced her into it. They brought her new shoes as well, slippers of soft grey doeskin that hugged her feet like lovers. “You are very beautiful, my lady,” the seamstress said when she was dressed.  “I am, aren’t I?” Sansa giggled, and spun, her skirts swirling around her. “Oh, I am.” She could not wait for Willas to see her like this. He will love me, he will, he must... he will forget Winterfell when he sees me, I’ll see that he does.  Queen Cersei studied her critically. “A few gems, I think. The moonstones Joffrey gave her.”  “At once, Your Grace,” her maid replied.  When the moonstones hung from Sansa’s ears and about her neck, the queen nodded. “Yes. The gods have been kind to you, Sansa. You are a lovely girl. It seems almost obscene to squander such sweet innocence on that gargoyle.”  “What gargoyle?” Sansa did not understand. Did she mean Willas? How could she know? No one knew, but her and Margaery and the Queen of Thorns... oh, and Dontos, but he didn’t count. Cersei Lannister ignored the question. “The cloak,” she commanded, and the women brought it out: a long cloak of white velvet heavy with pearls. A fierce direwolf was embroidered upon it in silver thread. Sansa looked at it with sudden dread. “Your father’s colors,” said Cersei, as they fastened it about her neck with a slender silver chain.  A maiden’s cloak. Sansa’s hand went to her throat. She would have torn the thing away if she had dared.  “You’re prettier with your mouth closed, Sansa,” Cersei told her. “Come along now, the septon is waiting. And the wedding guests as well.”  “No,” Sansa blurted. “No.”  “Yes. You are a ward of the crown. The king stands in your father’s place, since your brother is an attainted traitor. That means he has every right to dispose of your hand. You are to marry my brother Tyrion.”  My claim, she thought, sickened. Dontos the Fool was not so foolish after all; he had seen the truth of it. Sansa backed away from the queen. “I won’t.” I’m to marry Willas, I’m to be the lady of Highgarden, please...  “I understand your reluctance. Cry if you must. In your place, I would likely rip my hair out. He’s a loathsome little imp, no doubt of it, but marry him you shall.”  “You can’t make me.”  “Of course we can. You may come along quietly and say your vows as befits a lady, or you may struggle and scream and make a spectacle for the stableboys to titter over, but you will end up wedded and bedded all the same.” The queen opened the door. Ser Meryn Trant and Ser Osmund Kettleblack were waiting without, in the white scale armor of the Kingsguard. “Escort Lady Sansa to the sept,” she told them. “Carry her if you must, but try not to tear the gown, it was very costly-”  Sansa tried to run, but Cersei’s handmaid caught her before she’d gone a yard. Ser Meryn Trant gave her a look that made her cringe, but Kettleblack touched her almost gently and said, “Do as you’re told, sweetling, it won’t be so bad. Wolves are supposed to be brave, aren’t they?”  Brave. Sansa took a deep breath. I am a Stark, yes, I can be brave. They were all looking at her, the way they had looked at her that day in the yard when Ser Boros Blount had torn her clothes off. It had been the Imp who saved her from a beating that day, the same man who was waiting for her now. He is not so bad as the rest of them, she told herself. “I’ll go.”  Cersei smiled. “I knew you would.”  Afterward, she could not remember leaving the room or descending the steps or crossing the yard. It seemed to take all her attention just to put one foot down in front of the other. Ser Meryn and Ser Osmund walked beside her, in cloaks as pale as her own, lacking only the pearls and the direwolf that had been her father’s. Joffrey himself was waiting for her on the steps of the castle sept. The king was resplendent in crimson and gold, his crown on his head. “I’m your father today,” he announced.  “You’re not,” she flared. “You’ll never be.”  His face darkened. “I am. I’m your father, and I can marry you to whoever I like. To anyone. You’ll marry the pig boy if I say so, and bed down with him in the sty.” His green eyes glittered with amusement. “Or maybe I should give you to Ilyn Payne, would you like him better?”  Her heart lurched. “Please, Your Grace,” she begged. “If you ever loved me even a little bit, don’t make me marry your uncle?” Tyrion Lannister stepped through the doors of the sept. “Your Grace,” he said to Joffrey. “Grant me a moment alone with Lady Sansa, if you would be so kind?”  The king was about to refuse, but his mother gave him a sharp look. They drew off a few feet.  Tyrion wore a doublet of black velvet covered with golden scrollwork, thigh-high boots that added three inches to his height, a chain of rubies and lions’ heads. But the gash across his face was raw and red, and his nose was a hideous scab. “You are very beautiful, Sansa,” he told her.  “It is good of you to say so, my lord.” She did not know what else to say. Should I tell him he is handsome? He’ll think me a fool or a liar. She lowered her gaze and held her tongue.  “My lady, this is no way to bring you to your wedding. I am sorry for that. And for making this so sudden, and so secret. My lord father felt it necessary, for reasons of state. Else I would have come to you sooner, as I wished.” He waddled closer. “You did not ask for this marriage, I know. No more than I did. If I had refused you, however, they would have wed you to my cousin Lancel. Perhaps you would prefer that. He is nearer your age, and fairer to look upon. If that is your wish, say so, and I will end this farce.”  I don’t want any Lannister, she wanted to say. I want Willas, I want Highgarden and the puppies and the barge, and sons named Eddard and Bran and Rickon. But then she remembered what Dontos had told her in the godswood. Tyrell or Lannister, it makes no matter, it’s not me they want, only my claim. “You are kind, my lord,” she said, defeated. “I am a ward of the throne and my duty is to marry as the king commands.”  He studied her with his mismatched eyes. “I know I am not the sort of husband young girls dream of, Sansa,” he said softly, “but neither am I Joffrey.”  “No,” she said. “You were kind to me. I remember.”  Tyrion offered her a thick, blunt-fingered hand. “Come, then. Let us do our duty.”  So she put her hand in his, and he led her to the marriage altar, where the septon waited between the Mother and the Father to join their lives together. She saw Dontos in his fool’s motley, looking at her with big round eyes. Ser Balon Swann and Ser Boros Blount were there in Kingsguard white, but not Ser Loras. None of the Tyrells are here, she realized suddenly. But there were other witnesses aplenty; the eunuch Varys, Ser Addam Marbrand, Lord Philip Foote, Ser Bronn, Jalabhar Xho, a dozen others. Lord Gyles was coughing, Lady Ermesande was at the breast, and Lady Tanda’s pregnant daughter was sobbing for no apparent reason. Let her sob, Sansa thought. Perhaps I shall do the same before this day is done.  The ceremony passed as in a dream. Sansa did all that was required of her. There were prayers and vows and singing, and tall candles burning, a hundred dancing lights that the tears in her eyes transformed into a thousand. Thankfully no one seemed to notice that she was crying as she stood there, wrapped in her father’s colors; or if they did, they pretended not to. In what seemed no time at all, they came to the changing of the cloaks.  As father of the realm, Joffrey took the place of Lord Eddard Stark. Sansa stood stiff as a lance as his hands came over her shoulders to fumble with the clasp of her cloak. One of them brushed her breast and lingered to give it a little squeeze. Then the clasp opened, and Joff swept her maiden’s cloak away with a kingly flourish and a grin.  His uncle’s part went less well. The bride’s cloak he held was huge and heavy, crimson velvet richly worked with lions and bordered with gold satin and rubies. No one had thought to bring a stool, however, and Tyrion stood a foot and a half shorter than his bride. As he moved behind her, Sansa felt a sharp tug on her skirt. He wants me to kneel, she realized, blushing. She was mortified. It was not supposed to be this way. She had dreamed of her wedding a thousand times, and always she had pictured how her betrothed would stand behind her tall and strong, sweep the cloak of his protection over her shoulders, and tenderly kiss her cheek as he leaned forward to fasten the clasp.  She felt another tug at her skirt, more insistent. I won’t. Why should I spare his feelings, when no one cares about mine?  The dwarf tugged at her a third time. Stubbornly she pressed her lips together and pretended not to notice. Someone behind them tittered. The queen, she thought, but it didn’t matter. They were all laughing by then, Joffrey the loudest. “Dontos, down on your hands and knees,” the king commanded. “My uncle needs a boost to climb his bride.”  And so it was that her lord husband cloaked her in the colors of House Lannister whilst standing on the back of a fool.  When Sansa turned, the little man was gazing up at her, his mouth tight, his face as red as her cloak. Suddenly she was ashamed of her stubbornness. She smoothed her skirts and knelt in front of him, so their heads were on the same level. “With this kiss I pledge my love, and take you for my lord and husband.”  “With this kiss I pledge my love,” the dwarf replied hoarsely, “and take you for my lady and wife.” He leaned forward, and their lips touched briefly.  He is so ugly, Sansa thought when his face was close to hers. He is even uglier than the Hound. The septon raised his crystal high, so the rainbow light fell down upon them. “Here in the sight of gods and men,” he said, “I do solemnly proclaim Tyrion of House Lannister and Sansa of House Stark to be man and wife, one flesh, one heart, one soul, now and forever, and cursed be the one who comes between them.”  She had to bite her lip to keep from sobbing.  The wedding feast was held in the Small Hall. There were perhaps fifty guests; Lannister retainers and allies for the most part, joining those who had been at the wedding. And here Sansa found the Tyrells. Margaery gave her such a sad look, and when the Queen of Thorns tottered in between Left and Right, she never looked at her at all. Elinor, Alla, and Megga seemed determined not to know her. My friends, Sansa thought bitterly.  Her husband drank heavily and ate but little. He listened whenever someone rose to make a toast and sometimes nodded a curt acknowledgment, but otherwise his face might have been made of stone. The feast seemed to go on forever, though Sansa tasted none of the food. She wanted it to be done, and yet she dreaded its end. For after the feast would come the bedding. The men would carry her up to her wedding bed, undressing her on the way and making rude jokes about the fate that awaited her between the sheets, while the women did Tyrion the same honors. Only after they had been bundled naked into bed would they be left alone, and even then the guests would stand outside the bridal chamber, shouting ribald suggestions through the door. The bedding had seemed wonderfully wicked and exciting when Sansa was a girl, but now that the moment was upon her she felt only dread. She did not think she could bear for them to rip off her clothes, and she was certain she would burst into tears at the first randy jape.  When the musicians began to play, she timidly laid her hand on Tyrion’s and said, “My lord, should we lead the dance?”  His mouth twisted. “I think we have already given them sufficent amusement for one day, don’t you?”  “As you say, my lord.” She pulled her hand back.  Joffrey and Margaery led in their place. How can a monster dance so beautifully? Sansa wondered. She had often daydreamed of ho............
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