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The next chapter will contain all the steamy bits, but this one leaves off for a nice lead up (I hope! More to come soon! =D)

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Unsettled

Ramsay wore a brimming grin as he was guided to Sansa's chambers. It was hard not to be elated having the worries of a conflict with the Umbers fall to the backdrop of his mind, to know Sansa was home safe happily awaiting his presence, and to top it off by putting the servant wench who dared taunt him back in her proper place. It had been far too long since he'd felt that thrill of dominance over another, and in some ways a part of him shifted internally to reclaim just a little bit of power from anyone; it was uplifting for Ramsay not to feel like he was the lowest rung on the totem pole. His euphoric feeling of triumph didn't last long as the sinking remembrance of his quandary returned to Ramsay upon reaching the top of the tower stairs where the vision of the grand master bedroom was well lit with candlelight through the open door awaiting his arrival. To be brought here like this, it was a reminder that he had absolutely no control anymore; it was worse than the restrictions that being a bastard had put on him (which he'd thought were rather demeaning and infuriating then) but of course he'd never known what it truly was to be humbled as he did now.

This wasn't the first time Ramsay had seen this room. He'd occupied it prior to the battle albeit not long enough to have had all of his possessions moved in to take up full residence. His father before him along with his fat Frey wife had also inhabited the room, and remnants still lingered such as an elegant tapestry of a flying hawk soaring above a forested ridge. It covered a large portion of the wall over the fireplace; that same drapery had hung in Roose's personal study at the Dreadfort as one of his prized possessions due to its intricacy and the fact some pompous well known artist in King's Landing had made it specifically for him. Roose had told Ramsay while admiring it one day that it reminded him that to rise above all standing obstacles gave way to insight and that until one did, they could never see clearly the path in front of them.

Ramsay had rolled his eyes at his father's back sneering in contempt as he immediately compartmentalized the old man's prophetic lecture to be more of the same gibberish that Maester Medrick often spouted. It wasn't until he'd killed his father and became lord of the castle did the textile and his father's reverence of it hold any meaning to him. To Ramsay, the picture had always reminded him of a hunting predator on a clear day (a much more simple and appropriate context to Ramsay and one he personally enjoyed envisioning as a sign of power over prey), so he'd not bothered to remove it, nor had Sansa apparently for whatever reason. To see it now sent a shiver up his spine; it was a weighty recollection that bore down upon him its significance. Suddenly his father's words regarding the wall-hanging came back to him putting in perspective once more what place in the world he now held; Ramsay finally saw the meaning his father had meant to depart to him clearly; it was of course, too little too late.

Ramsay's thoughts altered as his eyes drifted away from the tapestry and over to Sansa taking in the fact she only wore a loose robe and a barely veiled grin. The look of her in such a state caused Ramsay's cock to jump to half-mast with desire; she was ever the beauty with fiery thin spirals of hair escaping her tightly bound braided bun to waft about her neck in an unruly display. To set eyes on her now seemed to capture Ramsay and funnel him into a distant place seeded deep within his mind's eye where every step closer she took, it was if she scattered his thoughts like a shattered mirror, and the fragmented pieces he knew only she could put back together.

Her half lidded gaze poured over Ramsay noting the want for her he held; Sansa's lip twisted into a sultry smile to observe his avarice. Ramsay had looked at her in a similar fashion prior to their wedding night except now there was a distinct hesitation that remained about him and reminded her of a begging dog beneath the table. It was an apt comparison Sansa supposed since she had brought him to heel from the wild beast he had been into the man that stood before her.

Ramsay was still a work in progress, but he was hers to mold. The clay she was working with had started out hard and impenetrable like stone, but having etched away at him long enough, Sansa had managed to crack through Ramsay's barriers to find something far more pliable than she'd ever imagined. There was a person beneath the callousness and cruelty that had been the ever present exterior of Ramsay, and if Sansa hadn't seen it for herself, she never would have believed such a thing possible. The irony that she found herself curious enough to dig deeper had started only as a want to destroy him further, but when she discovered something worth saving and nurturing, Ramsay's salvation bloomed into a personal crusade.

Sansa had not told Ramsay as much, but his ability to show he was willing to change for her and wanted to just to gain her affections teemed a deep seeded hope and pride within her that she could have awaken such a thing in him of all people. She dared not speak it aloud and make real her feelings lest she open her heart to Ramsay and he betray her fragile trust. Sansa still questioned her ability to read Ramsay even if her gut told her what she was feeling for him and he for her was true; even so, it was difficult to easily let go of so much pain he'd caused her; the wounds were still so fresh, but they no longer festered, and that was a start.

Sansa turned to the guards as she nodded, "Thank you for bringing Ramsay to me; you may stand outside the door now."

Temeric and Cecil quickly nodded ascent to their Lady's command and backed out of the room shutting the door behind them without further word.

Sansa sauntered over to run a hand across Ramsay's freshly shaved chin, "That's more like it," she cooed, "I want to always see you well-groomed for me." As if on cue, her hand connecting to his skin sent an immediate shock of adrenaline to pulse through Ramsay, and he inhaled deeply in an almost instinctual manner to take in her scent. Sansa drew her hand down to cup his chin running her thumb lightly over his parting lips. They were warm, soft, and supple bringing forth immediate visual memories of all that she'd seen his mouth do when she had set him to the task of pleasing her. Sansa wanted to taste those lips now, and found herself pulling him forward by the chin as she leaned in closely with eyes staring into his to plant a gentle kiss on his awaiting lips. Pulling him forcibly towards her, Ramsay's breathing had quickened and his eyes widened, but he in no way resisted her, and that complacence to let Sansa do as she would with him ricocheted a swell of heat to bloom between her thighs. It was just the two of them here, and she'd spent too many nights since she'd left Winterfell thinking about having Ramsay all to herself once more.

The adrenaline just to get back to the keep and address the dangers that could have befallen her home had depleted Sansa, but the confrontation had left something else to reside within her that now craved satisfaction. Her lips pressed into his roughly now, and Ramsay let go of a small moan filled of his own desire for her attentions. The sound echoed through her and created a surge of want within Sansa to rip Ramsay's clothes from him, throw him on her bed, and shove her glass cock into herself and then powerfully into him. This image dominated her mind to an extent Sansa felt the need to pull away from Ramsay suddenly with a gasp. He had closed his eyes under the torrent of her passionate kissing, and when she'd broken away from him, his eyes fluttered open questioning why she'd stopped although he only remained silently observant.

Sansa grinned lustfully at the innocence reflected in his stare; her eyes grazing over Ramsay once more before untying her robe and letting the silken fabric slip from her shoulders to reveal her body to him. She watched Ramsay's throat bob as he swallowed, and his eyes roved over her curves to take in every inch of her exposed flesh. Her smile broadened as she instructed, "Come Ramsay; it's time for you to bathe me, and then I shall have a turn bathing you." Sansa padded towards the section of the room that housed the double bath letting the robe spill to the floor as she walked.

Ramsay's erection pressed painfully against the front of his pants and feeling suddenly very aware of himself, his hands moved to cover the bulge. He spun around finding himself just staring after Sansa watching her beautiful form traverse the expanse of the room before belatedly realizing he was still standing where she'd left him. He staggered into motion quickly making up the distance between them as Sansa climbed gracefully into the tub lowering herself to emerge in the steaming waters slowly with a sigh of relief. Her eyes flicked up to take Ramsay in as he wore a thunderstruck expression, cool blue eyes locked on her heaving breasts. Sansa inhaled deeply leaning against the large wooden frame of the ornate tub as she pointed to the bathing brushes, sea sponges, and salted scrubs that lay within an inline of the tub's design, "Look there, Ramsay. All the supplies that you should need; the pitcher of fresh water lay on the floor by the stool."

Blinking in recognition of what she had expected him to do, Ramsay's eyes moved away from Sansa's figure to take in all that she was referring to. Sansa observed him begin to roll his sleeves up to perform the given task, and she interrupted, "No," Ramsay halted in his action looking back at her in surprise, "Take it off."

He paused taking in her words before pulling the shirt free from himself and letting it drop unceremoniously to the stone floor. Ramsay found his muscles ripple as he flexed in a preening fashion before stepping towards the stool. Her voice rang out again in a more authoritative manner, "All of it. You see me fully bared, and I wish the same, to take in the sight of your nakedness for my own pleasure."

This statement caused another hesitation in Ramsay before a quirky grin spread across his face as a pang of further arousal flooded through him. His thoughts turned to where his and her mutual nudity may lead. They were to bathe one another, but she wanted to see his body as he did so. Ramsay could feel Sansa's sexual energy pulsing off of her like rays of the sun. His own member was pulsating in a similar fashion protruding from him and hard as a rock. Ramsay pulled the tie to release the hold his breeches had on his hips sending his pants to pool at his ankles, and his cock, more than ready to be of use, bobbed its eagerness.

Ramsay's smile grew as he took a strutting step forward and raised both arms to each side stating confidently, "Does this please my lady?" Intercourse with him taking her was an avenue the two had yet to explore again, but Ramsay felt assured not only from the fact that Sansa had brought him here, her personal bed chambers, but that she also had no restraints to limit him and no guard to monitor their tryst; tonight would be far different than any night they'd shared previously. The encounter with Melody shortly before had bolstered Ramsay's more sexually aggressive side, and with the way that Sansa had kissed him only moments before, Ramsay had more than high hopes of taking his lady to bed in a more traditional sense once their bath had concluded. This time he would be gentle with her; this time he would treat her as the noble woman she'd proved to him to be.

Sansa's smile turned devious as she replied, "It does; it will please me more for you to turn about so that I may take in the whole of you." Ramsay let out an amused chuckle moving himself in a parading circle, "As the lady wishes." As he rotated, Ramsay's mind flourished mental images of entering her in swift even thrusts to a symphony of the pleasurable moans he'd heard erupt from Sansa when she'd orgasmed with him before. His enthusiastic visions of love making were ripped from him in a halting mental screech by the angry tone that Sansa exclaimed with, "What's this? You've marks upon your ass that are far too numerous and fresh to be by my previous application. Were you troublesome enough for my brother to have had need to punish you in my absence?"

Ramsay's body slackened from the cocky stance he had been holding as he peered warily over his shoulder at her; his mouth parted to answer, but nothing came out. At a loss for words, his jaw clenched in dread as her query sent a wash of worry to shock through him making his cock deflate instantaneously. In his own sexual desire, Ramsay had forgotten the bruises he still sported from Jon's last heavy-handed strapping. The pain was gone, and it was only on rare occasions when he'd slumped heavily into his chair did a slight pang of tenderness give Ramsay recognition that there was still any evidence remaining that it had transpired at all. His pale flesh on the other hand told a very different account holding the imprints of faded lines here and there where the strap had etched a lasting impression into his skin. To Ramsay's credit, it had been a few days after Sansa's departure and a little over a week prior to her return since the incident had occurred, and for Ramsay, the slow crawl that his days had turned into, a week ago seemed quite a bit longer than it actually was. It honestly hadn't occurred to Ramsay that Sansa would not have already spoken to Jon and garnered such information already. In part, he'd assumed that her knowing and still being slightly miffed was the reasoning for her brusque response regarding his questions about the Umbers when they'd first been reunited in the dungeon.

Sansa sat up rigidly, and before Ramsay could dally further with his response to her question, she clipped out, "I see. That's unfortunate, Ramsay. I had hoped for us to share a pleasant evening together after hearing Jon speak so highly of your progress while I was away. Now I will have to punish you for your disobedience."

Ramsay felt a lump forming in his throat as he dipped his head losing eye contact from the immediate shame he now felt run through him. The knowledge that Jon had only said good things about him to Sansa made his chest tighten in appreciation that the man had been kind enough to have given him such a good report regardless of the misery he'd originally caused him at the onset of their budding relationship. Ramsay found himself flushing in heated embarrassment as he rotated back to face his ass away from Sansa's purview (as if taking the evidence of what she'd already seen out of sight would somehow make her un-see it.) Her implied threat had goosebumps ripple across his skin and a sinking feeling build in his gut immediately fearing what punishment would arise from his insubordination. Sansa had been kind to him their past few encounters, but this did not erase how unkind she could be.

His stomach tightened to think on what she had done to get him in line already, and Ramsay found his thoughts tumbling over the worst possibilities now as his eyes drifted up to meet hers carrying a silent apprehension. He heard the words come out of his mouth in a defensive blur before he'd realized he'd shouted them, "It's… Jon addressed my transgressions against him already. For him not to have reported it to you shows he's forgiven me! Can we not just put this behind us as well? There's no need to rehash what has already been worked out between he and I is there?" It sounded justifiable to his own ears, but the glare she penetrated him with made Ramsay wish that he'd just remained silent.

Sansa fumed for long minutes just staring angrily at Ramsay; he stiffened in response straightening rigidly to clasp his hands in front of him like a soldier coming to attention except her ire left him to look elsewhere as his head slumped and his eyes bore into the floor to occasionally flick up nervously and take her expression in before lowering his gaze once more. She could tell her fury had Ramsay frightened, and a small part of her wanted to see that reaction in him, but another part of her didn't want to ruin the entirety of their evening either. She sighed heavily, "I gave you fair warning what I expected from you, and your disappointing behavior I will take you to task for, but it is something we can address later. For now, let's appreciate the relaxation of a hot bath together."

Swirling banter to come back at Sansa on unfair expectations under the conditions he was being forced to endure formulated in his mind, but seeing Sansa was not in a hurry to punish him, Ramsay steeled himself to try and calculate a more tactful approach to avoid any more horrible pain and suffering. His nervousness displayed itself in Ramsay's jerky movements as his hands grasped the stool fumbling it into place beside the tub. He quickly plucked one of the sea sponges from the inline brow drawing down in contemplative thought as his eyes darted about the supplies. A small frown embedded itself on his face unable not to think on the looming threat as he stared back hotly at Sansa, "I've suffered for what I did; why must you make me do so again? You're beating a dead horse!"

Sansa took in the fact that Ramsay's knee shook violently as his fingers kneaded into the sponge to a point that if it were alive, he would have squeezed the life out of it. She laid a hand on his knee, and Ramsay instantly stopped his nervous twitch fixing her with a pout that was a mix of anxiety, resentment, and uncertainty. Sansa only remained staring at Ramsay silently until she was sure that she had his full attention before she began again, "I can't let go the fact that you defied my wishes, Ramsay. It's not what you were punished for that I find a need to discipline you for now but the fact that it had to happen at all. I've only been gone for ten days! You couldn't keep yourself in check, with Jon of all people, for less than two weeks? You've embarrassed me, and I intend to repay you in kind."

Ramsay's body undulated taking in Sansa's statement; Sansa watched him progress through the internal motions of processing her words, and when he'd opened his mouth to protest further, Sansa stood as she interjected sharply, "This isn't up for further discussion, Ramsay, unless you wish for me attend you now! I assure you my wrath for interrupting what could be a most enjoyable bath shared by the two of us will be far worse than if you let me simmer my annoyance away in the heat of these waters below. It's your choice, which do you prefer, Ramsay?"

Ramsay's eyes widened and his mouth parted in awe to take her in the sudden swell of fear that she erected in him. What had he been about to say? The argument was lost to the wind as he took in her dark glare descending powerfully down on him. To enrage her was definitely not what he wished, and the thought of a nice hot bath with her bathing him after he'd had the chance to run his own hands over her body sounded a much better alternative to a compounded punishment, so Ramsay found himself numbly shaking his head no, "I'd… I'd rather not…" Ramsay's mouth clamped closed, and he turned away from her demanding gaze before continuing, "The bath. I wish for us… please, we can continue as we were."

Sansa was satisfied that Ramsay had stopped resisting her; she'd grown worried that the direction their conversation had been headed that she was going to have to make a point of her authority over him if for nothing more than to ensure her own safety with him. Ramsay was still a dangerous man, and if he smelled weakness in her, this journey they were taking could be easily derailed. He needed to continue to respect her, and unfortunately that encompassed a healthy dose of fear for reprisal of poor behavior. Ramsay hadn't looked up since his last statement seemingly subdued by her threat, so Sansa quietly lowered herself back into the bath waters.

She didn't like seeing Ramsay so obviously conflicted and prodded gently, "I've been looking forward to sharing this bath with you. If you like, you can climb in the tub with me now. I'd like it if we could mutually enjoy each other in close proximity; this bathtub was made for two after all, so there's really no need for you to bathe me from outside of it. Would you like to join me, Ramsay?"

Ramsay did want to join her, but some part of him wanted to tell her to go fuck herself too. His eyes lifted, and he did not see a jeering smirk to which his pride had convinced him would be present; instead, Ramsay took in the concern for him that radiated from her person. She cared for him, to feel that now sent a jolt of turmoil to once again question his own burgeoning sentiments he couldn't help but to feel for Sansa. He wanted her in all ways, ways he'd never wanted to share with another person and was terrified to share now. Ramsay shook his head yes, and a blooming desire coursed through him when her smiled broadened sweetly to his agreeance of her request.

Sansa rose to her knees small rivulets of water spattering to the floor as she leaned over to grab the bathing supplies and line them along the bath's edge. As she did this, Ramsay stood from the stool and carefully maneuvered into the tub lowering himself to sit across from her. He let go a contented groan as he sank into the tub's depths; washing one's self with a bucket and a rag was in no way comparable to the enjoyable sensation of being enveloped in a pool of water hot enough to numb the flesh and loosen the muscles. Ramsay sat back against the sanded headboard and Sansa joined him as both just soaked silently for a few moments enjoying the relaxation such an experience permitted. Even if what was to come would be unpleasant, Ramsay decided that at least now he could relish the present.
I know many of you are awaiting the bath scene, and it's coming up next I swear! LOL! I got a little caught up in plot points I was developing not expecting that flushing this part out would encompass a little over 4K words... so, I made a chapter break. Forgive me! Oo

Chapter Twenty-six

Melody

It hadn't taken long for the servant to appear with another two that ushered in a chair designed to lean back specifically for shaving. Ramsay's blood ran cold to see the one holding the basket of shaving supplies was none other than the scullery maid that often attended his needs in the morning times bringing him changes of clothes, buckets of water for washing, and that crooked smile that he'd grown to loathe as a sign of mockery.

Ramsay didn't know it, but the maid's smile was not born of contempt but of a sense of displaced nerves. She, Melody Brent, had been quite terrified of Ramsay, having heard well of his reputation and observed the corpses littering the courtyard, flayed of their skin and placed on display as a statement that it was more than unwise to displease the bastard of Bolton. Melody's mother had served House Stark in the fledgling years of her life but had retired to live on their own homestead when their father had earned enough coin to buy a meager plot of land in a province that lay on the outskirts of the White Knife River. Her mother had taken ill herself in the spring, and Melody had to take up the mantle of sole provider for the two of them. She had had three other siblings, but like her father, when a particular bout of illness had swept through their quaint village, it had taken the lives of all but Melody and her mother.

Forced off of their land by the new levied taxes the Boltons had enforced they pay, Melody's mother had no other choice than to sell the land for the owed taxes and seek out employment from the new lord of Winterfell, Roose Bolton. The two were granted room and board with nicer accommodations for servants due to her mother's prior experience at the Stark keep. Weak as she became, Melody's mother still pushed herself working from sunup to sundown helping to direct the staff and washing endless loads of linens to prove her worth and keep their private room within the castle's walls. Melody was seventeen then, and knowing the reputation of the Boltons, her mother had managed to get her assigned to jobs in the kitchens and areas of the castle where she was markedly safer from possible assault. Melody was a plain girl, but she was not unattractive, and her mother often feared for her safety not just from the likes of Ramsay but from all men.

Her mother had created a jagged fear within Melody of the horrors this castle could deliver and of men and their propensity for wickedness towards women. It wasn't hard to assume the worst with the rampant speculations that echoed about the keep, and when her mother, still carrying a lingering cough from the village, had passed at the onset of the fall, Melody would have gone anywhere else had she the ability, but where was she to go?

Her mother's body was removed from the small room that they had shared to be burned before anymore sickness could spread, and Melody (once it was apparent she was not ill like her mother) had been shifted into another, less accommodating room, to share her living space with three other young maids. No longer sheltered by her mother's weighty contribution to the hold, she was given new tasks that sent her to work empting chamber pots, cleaning fire pits, and changing bed linens. She still worked in the kitchens and had even served the Boltons food on numerous occasions. There were times then that the bastard would look up from his goblet of wine to give her a tawdry smirk, but he'd otherwise given Melody no further notice. One of the girls that she had roomed with, a pretty sort with a graceful stride and cherry lips, wasn't as lucky. That girl used to fill Ramsay's baths in the evenings, but she mysteriously disappeared one night; all that had trailed her disappearance was the bays of Ramsay's dogs howling into the moonlight. The girl was never seen again, and Melody hadn't slept well for many weeks that followed. None of the staff really had.

After the battle on the ridge had proven the Starks to be victorious in reclaiming Winterfell, Melody was relieved beyond words, but as with most of the serving staff was more than puzzled that the Bolton bastard had not been put to death in the first evening or the morning that followed. As time had went on and rumors circled, Melody found herself more and more curious as to what had transpired within the walls of the dungeon.

Often Melody's chores led her to walk past Ramsey's cell, but she'd never been brave enough to pause and look in (mostly due to the lascivious stares that Jove and Reginald would lock on any female that passed by.) Even so, rampant tales mingled about the kitchens staff and the maids alike whom had caught glimpses of Ramsay in his newly reduced state, and having been offended by the man at one juncture or another, most seemed to thoroughly enjoy his plight; (the tales were quite scandalous, but then many tales of what lords and ladies got up to often were, and most of them were exaggerated immensely Melody's mother had always warned, so she paid them no heed.) Others about the keep were spooked by the events reported in flurried waves by those that claimed they had seen debauchery at its finest. These superstitious types remarked that there was a demon that had possessed Bolton's bastard. They wove stories that an eldritch powered entity of the old gods had resided within Ramsay and had leapt into the lady of the house to continue its evil work when he'd lost Winterfell. Why else would a noble woman of House Stark behave so brutally? It was a ridiculous notion, but it didn't stop a few gullible lots from believing such tales becoming thoroughly wary of Lady Sansa now. Melody remained quiet through such discussions and avoided participating in most conversations preferring to stick to the background where she was unnoticed as the mousey girl that found it better to say nothing.

It was this quiet and unassuming nature of hers that had gotten her assigned to the task of becoming a personal servant to 'the prisoner.' The head maid had suggested to the new Stark lord that out of the many servants in the keep, Melody was trust worthy and kept her nose in her work over the business of others. She had been a good choice as far as Jon was concerned, but for Melody, the job relocation was a horrifying nightmare that she wanted no part of. She was of course too afraid to turn down the order in fear of being removed from the keep entirely for failure to obey orders.

So it was, the first day of her new detail, she was assigned to fetch Ramsay clothes for an outing with their lord; Melody had spent several minutes emptying the contents of her stomach into a mop pail before moving into the room Ramsay Bolton had previously taken up residence in to fetch the man's clothes for him. She'd been in the room before, and it had filled her with countless nightmares. She had been instructed by Roose Bolton to go into the room and pull down and discard the filth of stretched out pieces of flayed skin the bastard had hung to the wall like that of an animal's instead of a person's. She'd come near fainting then on several accounts, and she'd been thankful to never be asked to do so again. Ramsay had raged at his father, but Roose had addressed him with a weary disdain that he wouldn't have such things stinking up the keep. That was the end of the discussion, and Melody was just relieved the bastard had never discovered it was her to have been the one to remove his trophies.

Ramsay hadn't made the new position any easier on Melody by immediately berating her to return the clothes she'd brought alongside bounding menacingly towards her in a provoking manner that had her almost tumbling to the ground in her fear of him. Ramsay's eyes were lit with glee wholly amused by her skittish behavior, and when she'd departed, Melody's eyes had brimmed with tears feeling shamed to have given him such joy through her own cowardice. He was a caged monster in her eyes, so how could she not be terrified?

Her outlook on Ramsay had changed though having been in the hallway that very afternoon when Ramsay had been dragged down the hall from the library kicking and screaming obscenities. Most of the other servants had fled the awful clatter of crashing tables and decorative ceramic vases, but Melody had lingered long enough to see the lord of the manor storm back toward the dungeon from the library. Melody should have moved on scrubbing a different section of the floor away from the dungeon hallway, but her own curiosity seemed to overwhelm her. Instead of listening to reason, Melody picked up her wash pail, looked in either direction to see that no one was watching her, and followed discretely at a distance behind Jon's storming pace. She'd watched him enter the dungeon, and heart beating rapidly in her chest, Melody quickly crept to the massive iron door setting her wash pail down next to it and laid her face to the floor, so that she could observe for herself the rumors she'd heard.

What Melody saw beneath the door's frame had mystified her; her wide eyes had transfixed on Jon as he grabbed the thick stitched piece of leather from the room's elegant chair before commencing to stride with purpose over to Ramsay's side quickly tossing the blanket up to expose his intended target. She watched in awe as Ramsay's lower half revealed a score of crisscross markings on his bared ass only visible from the distance she was at due to the stark contrast of Ramsay's pale pigmentation. What struck her most then was as the lord of the house went about this action, Ramsay's expression emanated fear and a hint of resignation, he was dreading what was about to come; it was an expression she'd never seen grace the bastard's face.

Melody was snapped back to reality upon hearing Jon dismiss the guards, and flushing in embarrassment, she snatched her water pail in a haste to remove herself from the doorway. She was barely able to keep from sloshing the pail's contents on the floor as she skittered clumsily forward about ten feet and crashed down painfully onto her knees. Melody swiftly grabbed the scrub brush from the pail then and fervently began scouring away at the floor as Temeric and Cecil exited the dungeon. They sent a cursory glance her way, but otherwise they paid her no mind as they whispered to themselves seemingly shell-shocked by the events that were transpiring in the room they'd just vacated over the presence of a lowly chambermaid cleaning the floor.

Melody continued nervously scouring the same patch of floor there on her knees where she'd fallen because to get up and leave now would have been a telltale sign that she'd been spying on the lord and prisoner. She really hadn't meant to be so intrusive, but what was done was done. She guiltily remained scrubbing away at the floor working her way down the hall while her ears sharply observed lash after delivered lash. Her scouring slowed as she found herself straining to listen to the entirety of the exchange although most of what Jon had said was muffled by Ramsay's keening cries of agony once so many stinging slaps had been administered.

Being so close to what was happening had Melody's stomach trembling with uneasiness; she didn't know whether to feel sorry for the Bolton bastard or not. It wasn't as if the strapping he was receiving wasn't well deserved, (whether from current affronts or prior ones Melody contemplated inwardly) but to hear a man broken down in such a way sobbing in a gut wrenching manner that spoke of true regret was enough to send shivers down her spine. The encounter seemed to go on forever, but in actuality, it had only lasted about thirty minutes if that. Once Jon had departed the dungeon, Melody hurried through the rest of the hallway scurrying off back to her room after she'd made it far enough down the hall to no longer be in view of the guards.

Melody laid awake that night staring at the ceiling unable to think of anything else other than what she'd seen and heard in that hallway; it was an experience she'd never forget. When the morning had come, she'd went to the kettle to prepare the wash bucket with warm water for Ramsay along with fetching a washcloth and bared soap. All of her newly assigned duties she moved through as if in a swirling daze while her mind still reeled over all that she'd seen and listened to mere feet away from her the day before.

Entering the dungeon, she'd placed the pail by the small table and backed away mesmerized by Ramsay's every move as she stared at him wondering in what physical state the lord of the house had left him. She understood more than most by his jerky movements why exactly Ramsay was so stiff. It wasn't a rumor to her anymore, it was a known fact, but the truth was of course nothing like that which had circulated that morning through the staff of back lashings and harsh tortures delivered by an unforgiving lord; Melody knew from what she'd been privy to that it was nothing more than a severe bout of spanking with well-meant intention to break through to Ramsay rather than tear him down (which made the Starks much less terrifying than the Boltons Melody had decided with more than a little alleviation.) The things she'd stumbled upon without ever knowing fully what had happened while in the Bolton's stead left Melody to fear for her life, but the Starks were good people her mother had told her, and Melody decided then that she believed her mother's intuition was true.

Thinking on these contrasts between the different houses as she observed him, she realized belatedly that Ramsay was now staring back at her. Some part of Melody told her to avert her eyes, but like a moth drawn to a flame, she couldn't make herself move or look away from him. Staring at each other it was clear to her that he knew she was aware of what had happened to him, and the implied accusation left her feeling anxious and guilty… guilty until Ramsay's gaze shifted, and he glared at her his most menacing glare.

The preposterousness of the situation struck her funny that Ramsay would try to intimidate her here and now in the state he was in huddled precariously over the pail she'd brought with his furred blanket wrapped tightly around him all the while scowling at her in a blatant attempt to exude his impotent fury that she was looking at him at all. He reminded her of a petulant child, and for the first time in all the time she'd known the man, Melody no longer felt afraid of him. Ramsay's flagrant intent to terrorize her had made an opposite comical reaction bloom inside of Melody, and in its wake a smile broke across her face. When she hadn't looked away, and he did, without trying to, Ramsay had given Melody reason to shed the fear that her mother, in all her most well-meaning ways, had drilled into her. He'd let her know then on some level that he was afraid too; they all were. Melody kept that smile until she departed the dungeon, and every time after that shared moment, when Ramsay looked her way, Melody couldn't help but to smile back at him in remembrance of the strength and wisdom he'd unwittingly bore within her.

It was easier to feel brave from afar though; she'd been given a different task now that required she make physical contact with the man to give him a close shave. Melody had never imagined herself in such close proximity to him, and to make matters worse, Ramsay would only glare daggers at her in clear dislike. He was going to make her duties difficult she was more than certain, and Melody felt her confidence to remain brave in his presence now slipping.

In a nervous twitch she found herself smiling at Ramsay once more which only seemed to make Ramsay more agitated as he growled hotly, "No, not her."

Melody blinked looking to Temeric and Cecil who only seemed puzzled by Ramsay's sudden angry outburst.

"What's that? What's the matter, Ramsay?" Temeric took a step away from the post he'd settled in to look the two over to see if he could ascertain what exactly had set Ramsay off.

Ramsay never glanced Temeric's way only bristling as he stared intensely at the blonde waif fuming inwardly. She thought she was good, really good. This unassuming girl; Ramsay knew better of the wickedness that lied in other's hearts. This girl would likely 'mistakenly' slip the razor across his throat in one quick motion to enact some plotted revenge that she'd no doubt worked diligently to place herself here ripe for such an opportunity. Ramsay immediately suspected Melody capable of such machinations as he ruminated on how she'd made a point to taunt him with her patronizing smirks at every encounter. To Ramsay, her deviousness shone through like a beacon, and he was hard pressed to give her such an easy opening to end him as he spat voice raising an octave, "You don't know this girl! I am almost certain she bears me ill intent from the malicious smiles she grants me daily!" Ramsay's lips were pursed, eyes glaring accusatorily at Temeric with a condescending glower on his face that spoke he knew something Temeric obviously didn't.

Temeric looked the girl over carefully seeing nothing more than a young confused woman staring back at him; he sighed tiredly glancing back to Ramsay with a softening brow, "It's been a long day, Ramsay. You're just a bit high on nerves is all. Sit back and try to relax; Lady Sansa is awaiting your arrival once you're finished here, and she's eager for your company as you are hers. Besides, there's two of us here with you, what do you think this servant girl is going to do exactly?"

Said like that, the threat seemed a bit overzealous to assume so much of this girl's capabilities and that she had that much gall; Ramsay switched gears and gave Temeric a depreciating smile, "Of course; you're right. Let's not keep Lady Sansa waiting." Moving casually over to the chair, Ramsay eased into the seat and leaned back slowly all the while keeping his eyes squarely planted on Melody in an attempt to measure her intent more fully. He laid an elbow on each chair arm leaving his hands to clasp neatly across his chest as his lip crested up into a sly grin. Ramsay prompted jovially, "Well then, let's get on with it shall we servant girl?"

Ramsay did his best to look relaxed, but his muscles were coiled and ready to react like that of snake waiting to strike. He didn't trust this girl like he did his Reek or Sansa, and after recent events where he had wished for death, that was no longer the case now. Ramsay was wary; he'd seen this girl prior to his loss of the keep, but he'd never paid her much heed, so he knew nothing about her or her possible intentions. Ramsay was regretting that now as his stomach churned and his mind whirred to devise why exactly this girl could have it out for him. Perhaps she just wanted to see him suffer like many did and failed to see come to fruition, or maybe she just outwardly took joy in his misery, but the real question he needed to discern was, was this girl a killer?

This display of aggression on Ramsay's part caught Melody off guard, and Melody wavered in her steps to proceed looking from the guards back to Ramsay noting that his smile only seemed to grow from her apparent lack of conviction. Ramsay knew then, this girl was no killer; she was too afraid of the world to take such a bold stance. No, she was just like all the rest of them, a scared rabbit ready to dart back in her burrow and hide only willing to mock him when he had no leverage to prevent it. Ramsay's smile now broadened feeling rather confident that he'd pegged her character.

For Melody, it was as if every step she took towards Ramsay the fear she'd seemingly conquered returned and amplified; he was eyeing her carefully drinking in her anxiety as she fumbled with the basket to set it on the slate embedded on the chair's side to hold such supplies. Their eyes were now locked, and Melody worked to swallow down the uneasiness she felt. It was just a shave after all, why was she feeling so nervous all of a sudden? She knew why, being so close to that which she feared caused a lurching through the entirety of her being that she could not explain. She wanted to be brave, so badly she wanted to combat these feelings of terror that seemed to overwhelm her like a tidal wave, but standing here beside Ramsay now with his irretraceable glare penetrating her core, some part of herself had to admit defeat and retreat into the recesses of her mind.

She looked away, and Ramsay chuckled lightly whispering derisively, "A close shave girl. You wouldn't want to disappoint me would you?"

Melody's eyes flicked back to his seeing Ramsay wore a cocky grin as she nodded meekly biting her lip in apprehension. She wasn't sure how she had buckled so knowing the position Ramsay was in now; he was no longer a lord of the keep, but Ramsay still intimidated Melody to comply readily with his implied demand. Ramsay's assuredness that she would made Melody want to proceed quickly with the intended task if for nothing more than to get it over and remove herself from his presence. Melody did as she was expected to do; she always did, and throughout her careful application (terrified as she was) Melody did indeed apply a close, well done, shave.

Melody did her best not to look Ramsay in the eye as she'd worked to complete the job (even though she'd felt his eyes throughout the entirety of his shave boring into her. If his stare could have burned, Melody would have sworn she would have caught fire.) Ramsay surveyed her with an entertained leer that made Melody sick to behold. He was getting great pleasure from her lack of courage to do anything more than comply.

She'd fooled herself once more, she wasn't very brave after all. Being faced with the source of her fear, Melody crumpled into the pathetic creature she'd always known herself to be. Ramsay saw her weakness immediately and relished Melody's reticence remarking as he leaned closer running his hand slowly over the completed shave, "Very good, girl. You're quite useful after all it would seem. I think I will look forward to you servicing my needs again very soon," his words were lined with honeyed amusement, but there was an undercurrent that lingered over Ramsay's statement, an imperceptible threat to those not caught within close proximity, but well felt by Melody. He was daring her now, and in response Melody simply shrank away from him taking two steps backwards.

She was more than grateful to have quickly finished the task, and Ramsay's words now echoed through her as a further mark of gluttony for ridicule by him. She didn't respond only continuing to stare at the floor, and Ramsay feeling vindicated to some degree by her demure behavior turned a swaggering smile and a chuckle back to Temeric, "It would seem I was wrong about this servant girl," his eyes drifted casually back to Melody letting his smirk linger on her, "She's obviously quite harmless. I'm ready to be reunited with my lovely wife; we should be off." Sansa had used the term husband earlier, so Ramsay felt confident to display the title now as he stared condescendingly at Melody if for no other reason than to implant the suggestion that he was worth more than her to still carry such a title.

Melody lacked self-esteem, so her eyes never rose to meet Ramsay's challenge, but her ears burned with the light mocking snicker he afforded her as he turned striding confidently away. Melody remained passively where she stood as the two guards lead Ramsay out of the dungeon. Once the dungeon door clanged shut, and she was alone again, Melody pulled back a sob feeling chagrinned that she'd ever assumed herself to be pluckier than what she'd always been; she was nothing more than a scared lost little girl in a world where she was sorely outmatched by those around her. The quicker she embraced this fact, the better off she would be.
Chapter Twenty-Five

Journey's End

There was no keeping them out Jon knew as he stood solidly in the keep's courtyard looking out through the broken remains of the once sturdy gate Wun-Wun had battered open; it was a boon then, but it was proving to be a detriment now. Jon had sent runners as he'd suited up in leathered armor, gauntlets, and cloak; his Valyrian steel sword, Longclaw, lay ready at his hip for another fight if the Umbers so wished it. Soldiers from the north and beyond the wall alike had been roused by the winding horn causing all that still milled about the grounds to start moving with purpose, suiting up, and readying their weapons for battle. Archers quickly made their way up the sides of the castle positioning themselves on the wall to prepare to shower a deadly wave of arrows at the entrance as the scouts Jon had sent out to meet Sansa barreled through the opening and headed straight over to where Jon stood.

The first man to reach him tugged violently on his horse's reins sending the beast whinnying with a balk to stop inches from Jon. Once the horse was under control, the man barked out fearfully, "There's too many to count, my lord! We tried to make it back to warn you, but one of their lookouts… they saw our fire by the roadside before we could snuff it out. I'm sorry!"

Jon's eyes were wild as they scanned back to see how much further away the Umbers were before switching his attention back to the scout as he yelled, "And my sister… did they have her?"

The man merely looked confused momentarily before shrugging and shaking his head simultaneously, "I… I don't know, my lord; I didn't see her!"

Jon turned to stare at the second scout who had come to a halt beside his companion, but the man only shook his head no before Jon could ask the same of him. Having heard all the news the two men could grant him, Jon gave a small nod of dismissal, and the two men cleared out leaving an unobstructed view of the gateway's opening as a line of riders bearing the Umber's flag trotted up to the opening and halted to await their lords' and lady's arrival.

Jon's heart thrummed in his ears as the shouting within the keep rose into a raucous clamor regarding the army's approach. Many of his men were now suited with weapons drawn and standing at the ready beside Jon as they funneled protectively around him and into a guarded stance. If the Umbers held Sansa captive, Jon had no real answer for them. Half of his army lay dead or too wounded to fight, and the knights of the Vale had taken up residence for the winter in Moat Cailin much too far away to get any help from them. It was a terrible disadvantage, but there was nothing more to be done, so Jon clenched his jaw in worried anticipation as he rigidly awaited the Umbers' arrival and the news they heralded.

…*****************************************************

The horses panted audibly in strained snorts as the small group galloped at breakneck speeds to make ground and ascertain just what had become of Winterfell in their absence. Sansa's heart was racing as fast as that of her horse; she worried about her home and the people that she was too far away from to know if they were okay. Surprisingly, Sansa discovered that her own group was not as far from the approaching forces as that which she'd assumed.

Tormund held up a hand to halt their progress much to the confusion of the others until he spoke, and they observed, "Do you hear that?" The party was silent save the horses heaving to catch their breath, and it was then that the sound of a procession of riders could be heard faintly trotting off into the distance. Having this news, the group cautiously rode forward until they physically spotted the cavalry and foot soldiers; it was an immediate relief to see that they were not marching back from Winterfell but towards it. There was still time to act; whether it was time enough to do something or merely be a bystander to carnage remained to be seen.

The assembled troupe was still about twenty minutes from their intended destination to meet up with the rest of their lagging party; it would take the others some time to cover their tracks and the carriage from sight, so they would not be able to join them in time to make a difference if they were to wait for their arrival. To know they would be able to keep tabs on the band of mysterious riders and perhaps surpass them in reaching Winterfell had changed much. Sansa had expected that her band would have arrived long after this force had travelled to her home and done what they set out to do, but to know that they were closing in on the legion before it'd reached Winterfell set her mind in a flurry of opportunities yet to enact. She was no tactician though, so she turned her gaze to one whom she knew was, "Ser Davos, what should we do?"

Davos' gaze moved around the circle of his companions noting that all eyes had come to rest on him. He squared his jaw reflecting on what they knew and what they didn't before finally responding, "We might be able to make it back to Winterfell before this army, but you may wish to stay behind, Lady Sansa. If we aren't careful, they could spot us, and if we are compromised…" his gaze fell gravely on Sansa, "…it could gain these interlopers an edge against your brother."

Sansa lifted her chin regally, "Then I would suggest we stay well out of sight. Forgive my harsh words Ser Davos, but I'm sick of running and waiting for something to happen. If I am to be a true protector of the North, as is my duty to hold the Stark name, I cannot bury my head in the sand wondering what has become of my home while others fight my battles for me."

Davos gave Sansa a slow nod, "Fair enough. It's settled then, if this is the course we will take, then we need to find a way to move well around these men and get back to the castle first. This is your home, my Lady; of all of us, you would be the best to decide on the most effective route to travel."

Sansa considered where they were and how best to keep from being discovered. The fear she now felt coursing through her made the blood drain from her face, but she kept a calm façade as she informed her attendants, "My guess is that this army will likely continue straight down the King's Road to the East Gate entrance. Our best chance will be to take a trail less travelled that leads to the outskirts of Winter Town. We can exit the hillside and travel along the keep's wall to the North Gate where there is an underground passageway to the crypt hidden in the rubble by the broken tower. Stark ancestors created it as a secret escape should our house ever come under siege. We can use it to gain discreet access to the castle, hopefully before this army has a chance to make their move."

Tormund chuckled, "We need to act now if we are going to get far enough ahead of these cunts."

"Agreed," Sansa announced turning to the two other soldiers that had ridden with her, Davos, Tormund, Brienne, and Poddrick, "Wait here for the others and continue to Cater's farm as planned. Tell them of what we propose to do and linger long enough for this army to leave Winterfell by way of the King's Road before you return. If we are captured, I want my brother to know what had become of me."

The two soldiers nodded an affirmative and the small band fractured as Sansa and her core group barreled off towards the keep and the two remaining soldiers followed their Lady's command to remain and meet up with the rest of their men still in route.

The cavalry and foot soldiers were travelling at a relaxed clip, but the quintet that continued on still had to ride their horses to the brink of collapse in order to weave around the army and avoid detection. It took veering off of the well-worn King's Road and over to the outer edge of the Wolfswood, where the low rise hills obscured them from view well enough to pass the convoy. They were semi-exposed for a fraction of the time, but it was a calculated risk they had to take. Thankfully the invaders were not watching for lookouts as they passed by. Retreat into the Wolfswood itself for a better vantage of stealth would have been ideal, but it wasn't plausible. Any time advantage gained would have been lost to the maneuvering of their horses through the wooded terrain.

The party rode hard across the expanse only daring to slow to give their horses a chance to recoup once they were well past the approaching riders. They did not stop though, and having surpassed the great odds that they may be spotted and possibly captured, Tormund announced heartily, "It's a wonder my people hadn't crossed the wall to settle these lands sooner; you fuckers in the North are oblivious!" The group shared smiles and soft chuckles at Tormund's sarcastic joke feeling well the relief in his statement that they could calm a little. They weren't safe by any means, but their morale had been significantly lifted to see Winterfell's keep coming into view. Sansa inhaled deeply thinking that she was never as grateful as she was right now to know she was almost home.

…*****************************************************

Jon wore a firm frown watching the Umbers assemble at the entrance of the castle until he felt a heavy hand give his shoulder a jovial slap. His eyes widened in surprise darting to his side to see who would dare approach him in such a way at the onset of a soon to be parlay. Jon's face immediately erupted into a smile to see the gruff grin of his redheaded alley. Tormund nodded at Jon's recognition, "I see we made it back just in time for the festivities."

Jon turned back to see the crowd parting and Sansa and the others striding towards him with triumphant smiles; he breathed an exhale of relief as the dread Jon had felt wondering about Sansa's safety melted away. "It's good to see you," Jon remarked with a heartfelt timbre.

Sansa beamed a smile confidently in his direction as she moved to his side to place a hand on his which was still tightly gripping the hilt of his sword, "I would wish to give you a proper embrace, but…" her vision shifted to the gate, "I see we have company." Jon's eyes followed her gaze as he gave an affirmative nod taking the initiative now to begin walking assertively forward towards their unexpected guests. His expression once more denoted his serious nature, and Sansa trailed boldly beside him with an equally stony mien.

Lord Lamor clamored forward to cross the gate's opening on a Clydesdale fit to bear the large man's weight. He was flanked by his equally large siblings Jareth and Matina who casually looked about the forces displayed in front of them as if assessing their ability to take the keep. Although the soldiers that trotted in beside the nobles bore white peace banners to state the intent of this meeting was a parlay, the stance of the Umbers and the scowls painted firmly on their faces suggested that they could care less if this were to be a civil discourse.

Sansa was the first to speak as the two moved within a few feet of the Umbers much to Jon's surprise who had prepared to begin the parlay. Her voice was crisp and direct as she glared daggers at them, "To what do we owe the unexpected arrival of those sworn against House Stark?" Sansa exuded an ember of agitation having recognized promptly their house's flag had flown on the opposite side of the battlefield.

All three nobles now starred down at the Starks with menacing grins. The air felt thick with tension, so much so, Jon felt a reflexive need to take a protective step forward as he added, "We have lost much on both sides, but I see that your banner men carry flags of treaty. In respect, I would ask what it is that you wish to speak on."

Lord Lamor's nostrils flared as he let go of a guttural chortle, "I've heard tales of the brass balls your sister possesses, and I can see the rumors may hold some truth to them."

Matina followed her brother's words with a condescending chuckle as she stared down at Sansa looking clearly unimpressed by the woman's comparatively smaller frame than her own stout form. Lady Matina was not like most noble women that wore dresses and proper composures choosing instead to wear a grimace and battlement leathers with steeled armor like that of her present kin. Having been the middle child with one sister and many rough and tumble brothers, she'd grown up, as many of the other nobles would whisper in private company, rather brutish (not unlike most of the youngest Umber nobles.) The fact that she was thick framed only had helped to cement to her a need to lay claim to an aura of intimidation, an attribute where looks had clearly failed her.

Sansa found herself bristling as the two shared a heated glare. The woman offended her even though she'd not said a word, Lady Matina hadn't needed to as her posture spoke intent far more plainly than prettily exchanged barbs. Her eyes bore into Sansa now in a visible effort to make her uncomfortable. The woman was manish, but unlike Brienne held no stance of nobility as she slumped forward in a hunched bored fashion making it quite obvious she held no desire to be present for these talks let alone held respect for House Stark. It took all Sansa's effort to pry her gaze from Lady Matina to address Lord Lamor's comment. She straightened lifting her chin to direct her attention back to him and away from his leering sister, "I stand before you now not as a rumor but as Lady Sansa Stark of Winterfell and wardeness of the North. We have retaken our home where you sought to defend those that had wrongfully usurped it, tell me now why I should not have you beheaded for treason in front of all houses that have united once more under our banners."

Lord Lamor's grin practically split his face as he rumbled with patronizing laughter, "Ah yes, a whole lot of heads rolling I've heard. No wait a minute, that's not what I've heard at all! I've actually heard lots of other rumors about what exactly you deign to do to your enemies, Lady Stark, but let us not speak on rumors and focus instead on the facts. We didn't come here to piss in the wind. We could have come to fight, and if we did, we might be an even match… perhaps even at a disadvantage I'll be kind enough to give you being this is your home and all. It doesn't right matter as fighting at this juncture does neither of us any good. Winter is upon us; let's not leave each other's company at odds. We've got too much to offer the other by standing together over apart wouldn't you agree?"

Jon cleared his throat asking inquisitively, "Have you come to claim fealty then?" He was relieved to hear that the Umbers did in fact want to make an effort to make amends although the friction Sansa was creating wasn't helping turn the discussion into an amiable one. Thankfully she said nothing more, but her glare and pursed lips relayed exactly how she was feeling.

Jareth spoke up now as he cursed in disgust, "Fuck taking a knee to these twats! We don't need em' Lamor. What the hell do they got other than a handful of weak houses nipping at their heels?"

"Shut your fucking trap!" Lord Lamor growled harshly at his brother whose horse staggered backward at the overbearing tone the eldest Umber carried. The youngest didn't respond, but the glare shared between the two held a static of its own. Lord Lamor turned back to focus on the Starks smiling once more, "Forgive my brother Jareth, it's been a long ride. His words were not elegant, but I mirror his sentiment that we didn't come here to beg forgiveness for the choices our brother made or add our people to your ranks. We did however come here to tell you that we would prefer to walk away from one another with no ill will."

"We want our brother's body," Lady Matina added brusquely, and Lord Lamor glanced her way nodding as he turned back to Jon and Sansa, "My sister speaks out of turn, but truly. We will take our dead and intern them on our lands where they belong."

Jon nodded, "That's a reasonable request. No one should deny the right to properly mourn one's kin. I…" Sansa cut him off as she announced harshly, "Their bodies still lay in the field buried in the snow; please collect them and leave our home. We will not hold a grudge against your house as we have a right to, but that does not mean that we are friends."

Lord Lamor smirked, "Aye, I suppose that's fair enough." He looked to either side taking in his siblings as he stated coolly, "We're done here then." He brought his gaze up once more to Jon and Sansa his smile reflecting an underlying threat as he rounded his horse to depart, "Many blessings and good tidings, House Stark."

Jon and Sansa silently watched as the legion retreated briskly and galloped towards the field that still bore burnt remnants of pyres where others had burned their own dead. With the winter upon them and so many in need of aide, it was a work in progress that Jon was now thankful he'd held as a lower priority to expending efforts in helping the wounded. If they had burned all of the remaining unclaimed bodies as they would have once the snow had let up and his injured were stabilized enough to have sent able bodies to the task, the tail end of this conversation could have ended on an even sourer note than it had.

Jon breathed a great intake of air visibly relaxing as he turned to look over at Sansa whose eyes still followed the Umbers trek like that of a hawk bearing down on a field mouse. Her features were grim, and she'd not relaxed on iota since their departure. He frowned at her now that the threat was seemingly waning into the distance and lectured low enough for only the two of them to hear, "What was that? Were you trying to start a war? I was worried that I was going to have to undermine you if you did not contain yourself."

Sansa's eyes flicked dangerously over to take Jon's expression in, and for a moment it looked as though her face was about to harden in anger, but instead, Sansa ingested Jon's worry, and her eyes softened as she apologized, "I reacted severely. I'm sorry. It took all that we had just to get here ahead of their army, and when I saw them staring down at us… like we were of so little consequence… I… I should have let you speak. You're better suited to it I think."

Jon's brow relaxed and his eyes reflected that puppy dog pout that all the girls fawned over, and Sansa couldn't help but to smirk, "Admit it. You wanted to say it too didn't you?" Jon found his own lip curling to bear a small smile as he answered, "Perhaps. What's done is done, but in the future promise me that you will stay a bit more neutral in the face of possible enemies?"

Sansa took a step towards Jon now wrapping her arms around him to which he followed suit embracing her to his chest tightly. "I promise," Sansa ensured a moment later, and Jon hugged her more tightly in response as he added, "I'm glad you're home. Come, let's get you inside. There's someone that I'm more than certain will be happy to see you've returned safely."

…*****************************************************

Ramsay hadn't stopped pacing agitatedly from one end of the dungeon to the other wholly hating that he was left in the dark having been whisked off to stay hidden away until any hostilities were attended to like that of the infirm or very young or worse like some coward shaking in their boots. He grit his teeth at the thought giving Cecil and Temeric a glare as if they had given him such branding just by keeping him down here. Ramsay growled his annoyance, "How long are we going to just stand here? Will you wait while the enemy raids these halls and skewers you through the backs? We're of no use down here; we should at least have eyes on what is happening out there!"

Temeric was frowning; he wasn't fond of standing down here waiting to hear back about the unknown confrontation either, but he was also well aware that Ramsay's presence would not only be unhelpful but also could cause an uproar if the Umbers spotted him and still considered him an alley. He replied gruffly, "We need to obey orders. We'll not leave this post until given direction to."

Always more on the nervous side when things got edgy, Cecil suggested, "Why don't we play a bit o Alquerques? It'll take your mind off of what's going on out there."

Ramsay scoffed, "By the old gods, are you daft?" He snorted shaking his head in disbelief, "I can't believe you're stupid enough to suggest we play games when by the end of whatever is happening out there may lead to your head lanced on a pike and displayed as wall décor." Cecil blanched surprised at the abrasive manner that Ramsay directed his way.

"Hey now, enough of that, Ramsay. If you can't speak to us properly, we can always lock you down to your bed and stand outside," Temeric piped in hotly to show Ramsay's cruel words towards Cecil weren't going to be tolerated. This was bolder than Ramsay had acted in a while, and Temeric would have normally let such rudeness go with a chiding rather than a threat, but with the added stress of the situation they were enduring, Ramsay's words were getting under his own skin as the fear of what could happen settled in the room like a ghost permeating the atmosphere.

Ramsay glowered at Temeric unapologetically but was wise enough to see that his pushing of limits and harsh comments weren't helping his cause. It didn't stop the roiling wave of worry that was coursing through him to wonder what would happen if the keep erupted in bloodshed. If all of the Starks' men were slaughtered, Jon included, would they spare him, or would his body be thrown upon a tower of mounting dead? Worse, what would happen to Sansa when she returned to Winterfell to see her home ransacked and whatever other atrocities may befall those that still remained here now? Ramsay felt sickened by the prospects and a building rage to the thoughts of what the Umbers might do to her. It was maddening and terrifying to think that there was absolutely nothing in his power he could do for her if this derailed horror he was building within his mind's eye were to actually play out. He held no power anymore, he couldn't protect himself; how could he protect Sansa when he didn't even have a clue where she'd gone?

He'd been so lost in these awful scenarios that he'd failed to notice the faint soft click of her heeled boots on the cobblestoned floor. It wasn't until the audible groan of the heavy door annunciated a breech into the room did Ramsay stop in mid-pace eyes wide and expectant to take in what would greet them. He dully thought to look for a makeshift weapon in the seconds of time that passed, but when he saw who was standing in the doorway, his thoughts halted and an overwhelming bloom of elation washed over him, a tidal wave of emotion that left his chest to heave in relief, "Sansa? Lady Sansa! You… you're home!"

Sansa rewarded him with a small smile as she entered the dungeon looking him over. She was pleased to see him too stating softly, "Ramsay." She strode forward, and he quickly moved to meet her his eyes searching and half expecting that if he were to blink that she would disappear from his sight. Sansa took in his concern reaching out a hand to gently cup his cheek running her thumb over the thick stubble that had taken over his face, "I will have to scold Jon that he did not take good care of you in my absence. You are in dire need of a shave, dear husband."

Ramsay's eyes fluttered as he immediately leaned into her touch feeling instantaneously electrified as he breathed out in a constrained utterance, "I've missed you terribly."

The heat and flush of his skin upon contact accompanied by his words created a shiver of goosebumps to ripple across her flesh; she missed him terribly too. She took a step closer, and his breath hitched as she laid a gentle kiss on his forehead and whispered, "Have you now." Her other hand pushed strands of hair behind his ear drifting down to wrap possessively on to the nape of Ramsay's neck bringing their bodies to such a close proximity she could feel his chest rising and melding into her own. She grew wet to hear him let go a barely audible whimper as she brought her lips down to kiss his earlobe and to feel an immediate erection pulse to life against her thigh. Sansa murmured playfully, "Are you sure?"

Ramsay only nodded lightly into her; swallowing hard as a mixture of desires flourished within him as his senses took in her heartbeat and her scent. His eyes darted about lost in the curvature of her slender neck and fiery tendrils of her hair as he remained rigidly still unsure whether or not he could hold her now even though he wanted to badly. As if sensing this need within him, Sansa's hand that had cupped his cheek maneuvered down his neck and shoulder to brace at the middle of his back and pulled him flat against her into a hug, and Ramsay in turn timidly let his own arms cradle around her waist laying his forehead on her chest. He closed his eyes instantly relaxing into her embrace.

Smiling, Sansa gently planted small kisses onto the top of Ramsay's head feeling a warmth blossom inside of her as he constricted his arms around her more securely the more attention she poured upon him. Thoughts of the affection he'd been denied cropped in the recesses of her mind to feel his need now, and it made her heart ache as she clutched him a little more firmly.

He could stay in this moment forever, but the longer he held onto Sansa the more fear crept within Ramsay that he could lose her until finally he released his hold and took a step back to stare up at her in wonder as he asked, "Jon and I… we saw riders for House Umber approaching… what happened?"

Sansa was silent a long moment studying Ramsay's features and deciding she enjoyed the small wrinkles that became well pronounced in the middle of his brow whenever he became concerned as she answered in an aloof fashion, "We have spoken, they will gather their dead and return home."

This answer didn't satiate Ramsay, and he prodded with a chuckle, "Wait… just like that? They had nothing else to say?" Sansa lifted a brow at Ramsay's newfound boldness as she replied, "Just like that. If they had anything else to say, and I wished to share it with you, I would. Try not to worry on affairs that do not concern you."

Ramsay hadn't expected Sansa to shut him down so thoroughly, and a rush of testiness rolled through him as he scowled. His feelings were quite visibly noticed, and Sansa's expression swiftly darkened as she clipped, "That isn't going to be a problem is it?"

Ramsay's frown deepened as his eyes sought the floor now knowing it would be a challenge of her authority to debate, and with everything else he would need to answer to in short order, Ramsay considered this argument not to be worth destroying the pleasantness they'd just shared, so he muttered out a deflated, "…no."

Sansa stared at Ramsay's bowed head, and whereas before she would have made him annunciate his answer to her, she sensed the struggle within him was great enough without her prodding him. Instead she brought her hand back up to caress the side of his face lifting his chin gently to take in his small pout and wide blue eyes that shot her a cool stare. He wanted to remain angry with her, but looking back at Sansa bearing a soft smile directed at him shook his priorities back to moments before where she'd held him and the want to feel her pressed against him once more. Ramsay blinked as his etched brow softened and his eyes locked on hers.

Sansa's smile grew, "I'm having a bath drawn in the master chambers. It's big enough for the both of us," her grin turned mischievous, and Ramsay found himself licking his lips as he took in the possibilities that such words brought to mind. Her eyes were have lidded now, and from previous experience, Ramsay knew when she gazed at him in such a way that she was aroused which in turn radiated a counter reaction of arousal in him. Sansa leaned forward then to plant a tender kiss on Ramsay's temple before she drew her hand back from him and announced, "A servant will come in to give you a clean shave," she glanced at Temeric and Cecil who stood now at either side of the door looking off in the distance so as not to pry into their Lady's affairs. Sensing that Sansa had turned her attention to them, the two men straightened and did their best to set an aura of attentive guards. She smiled inwardly thinking the two were perfect, and that Jon had chosen well in them. Once she had their full attention, Sansa purred, "When the servant has finished with Ramsay, I wish for you to bring him to my chambers immediately." As she said this, she turned back to glance at Ramsay once more with a flash of devious intent that had his breath catching in his throat as he numbly watched her exit.

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Chapter Twenty-Four

Bumps in the Road

The next four days passed in a similar fashion for Ramsay where Temeric and Cecil would come to fetch him for breakfast with Jon. The first few days in Jon's company had started off stiff and quiet but as each day came and went, their conversation grew less strained. Ramsay found his anticipation for Sansa's return growing and as such, he would typically start the meal with asking Jon if he had heard word from crow or if any of the scouts had reported back from the direction she had departed. Ramsay's concern for Sansa was something that Jon easily shared, and Jon was quick to impart the status that he had yet to hear anymore of her whereabouts to him.

Jon had sent two capable riders to ride out a few miles from the keep the morning after Sansa's crow had arrived. The men were given orders that once Sansa had been spotted to split off where one would ride to Sansa to escort her back to the keep, and the other would ride back to inform Jon how soon to expect her arrival home. Both men were eager for Sansa's safe return, so it made for an easy start to their morning meal conversation between the two to speak about Sansa's homecoming which typically branched into (for Jon) mostly boring matters of court that Jon felt comfortable enough imparting to Ramsay. Part of Jon's duties these days consisted of settling farmer's land disputes over such things as wandering cows eating another's winter food stores or some other fashion of drudgery Jon really didn't want to deal with, but the news seemed to engage Ramsay well enough to give the two something light to talk about during their meals.

Ramsay listened to Jon raptly not because he really gave a damn about some peasant's cows getting into another peasant's grain stores, but the summary of goings on around the area was better than the nothingness of his days filled with much of the same bland activity within the dungeon and isolated from the majority of any other people. His life had become better than it was Ramsay realized, and where he may not have appreciated the small added privileges he was now granted before, having originally spent over a week mostly chained to a mattress or tied to the X cross that decorated the dungeon had changed his perspective considerably.

As Jon had offered to him earlier, Ramsay was awarded a morning walk each day. To keep hateful eyes from staring Ramsay down or anything more drastic, Ramsay was directed to take his walks inside the castle and along the keep's upper wall. Jon opted this course to keep Ramsay safe; the first uncomfortable walk the two had taken outside around the perimeter had shown there were many in his ranks that still regarded Ramsay with glares that echoed intent to maim or kill, and so Jon decided it best to remove any opportunity for altercations (either from someone with a grudge or Ramsay himself who seemed prone to fight if at all goaded.)

Jon attended Ramsay's side for these morning trysts when time permitted him to do so, and if not, Temeric and Cecil still accompanied Ramsay and would occasionally amuse him by sharing stories or jokes walking beside him rather than a few paces behind him as they were prone to do when Jon accompanied Ramsay. Much to Ramsay's surprise, these guards treated him less as a secured prisoner and more as an amiable acquaintance now. They didn't chain him down to his mattress in their presence anymore and instead let Ramsay wander about the small space of the dungeon freely where instances of mutually enjoyed moments between them were becoming more common as the days went by.

There easygoing attitude was a mark of trust that Ramsay took to heart especially on their walks about the castle in the early afternoons. Temeric and Cecil (with Jon's permission) had decided to start taking Ramsay to the kitchens to let him be given his lunch to eat it in the servant's dining hall rather than at the small table in his cell. The change in environment meant that Ramsay was exposed to more people in the keep (even if none of them seemed to acknowledge him and those that did notice him actively avoided Ramsay.) The ability to at least watch people milling about and interacting with one another cheered Ramsay's mood and left him feeling less dour and lonely. It wasn't as if he'd regularly made a habit to talk to any of them anyhow, so taking in their activities from afar was calming like that of observing fish swimming about in a glass bowl.

Previously Ramsay would have taunted the servants to get a reaction out of them for a bit of amusement, but Ramsay was quick to forego such sport in memory of how Temeric and Cecil had openly disapproved of him bullying the maid that had brought him clothes and shoes for his first outing with Jon. That same maid had once feared him, and since Jon had last thrashed him, she now made a point to give a knowing smirk in Ramsay's direction whenever the two were in the same room. Her audacity to mock his humiliation made the bile in his throat rise, but he held his tongue mostly to remain good spirited around Temeric and Cecil. For some reason that he couldn't fathom, he didn't want to cause problems for or disappoint these men; Ramsay chalked it up mainly to the fact that they were his jailers and keeping them happy meant that they treated him well. This wasn't the full truth though as Ramsay was starting to genuinely like these men even if their kindness towards granting him privileges was a huge factor in his fondness.

Ramsay much preferred Temeric and Cecil's company over the evening watch that never spoke to him other than very generic responses to his queries (no matter how he had tried to engage them in a similar dialogue that he found stimulated conversation with his day shift guards.) These guards were not cruel to him like the previous two guards that Ramsay was more than happy he rarely caught a glimpse of (although Ramsay made sure to give them a wide smile and a nod when he managed to catch them on the start of his morning walks as they went about changing posts on the wall shivering with furs draped about them plentifully. Apparently their new detail was that of the earliest and coldest morning hours as wall lookouts. Ramsay had satisfyingly mused their fate was quite fitting, and he took much joy in their suffering especially as they returned soured hate filled glares to his malicious grin.)

No, the evening shift was thankfully nothing like that of Reginald and Jove; but they were rather a boring lot. The only interactions between Ramsay and the night guards came when Ramsay needed to be released to use the privy or Jon had arrived for dinner where he would be unchained to dine in much the same fashion as they had for dinner every night since Jon had made it a habit to do so. Ramsay looked forward to these dinners followed by a relaxing night cap by the fire. He found himself increasingly enjoying Jon's camaraderie as Jon became more comfortable in his presence enjoying the fascinating tales of Jon's encounters with undead beyond the wall and past journeys with his Wildling and Crow allies alike. Ramsay refrained further comments on what he saw as Jon's less civil friends, the Wildlings, when a remark meant to be an offhanded joke was taken very poorly ending in an early departure from Jon and no wine by the hearth for Ramsay.

The event had left Ramsay stunned as he was once more locked down by the guards for the night without further comment or any form of displayed anger other than for Jon to rise with a look of disapproval, placing his napkin on the table, and announcing flatly that they were done for the night. The guards had moved forward then, and Ramsay had numbly watched Jon depart as he was pointed towards his mattress like a dog being thrown outside for traipsing mud on a clean floor. It had taken several harried hours of reflection on what exactly he'd done that had set Jon off to leave so abruptly, and once Ramsay had realized his mistake in referring to the Wildings as 'a well-trained feral rabble,' he immediately felt chagrinned.

At the start of the next morning, Ramsay was quietly led to the study. He had been brought to this room, only a hall's length from the dungeon, for the past four days. Jon had designated the small room as a quieted away location within the keep for them to meet each morning for breakfast holding a far warmer atmosphere than the cold and drab cell Ramsay was restricted to for the majority of his day outside his brief morning walkabout and his afternoon lunch in the servant's dining quarters.

Ramsay was relieved Jon wasn't angry enough to forego breakfast with him entirely as he'd feared Jon might for his rude comment at dinner the night prior. Before Jon could address Ramsay with more than a nod of acknowledgement to his arrival, Ramsay opened with an immediate apology, "I'm… I'm sorry about last night. It was wrong of me to refer to your Wildling friends in that manner." Ramsay chuckled tensely, "I… don't really know anything of Wildlings outside of the stories I've been told from others and yourself; they have always been seen as a savage people that we killed on sight for invading our lands," seeing Jon's brow drawing down in agitation, Ramsay quickly added, "…but it was a mark of prejudice to assume they are all a barbaric lot. Forgive my misguided beliefs."

Ramsay should have been well aware by now though that the Wildlings that accompanied Jon were his allies, so the mean spirited remark had annoyed him. It hadn't helped that he'd had a particularly grueling day going back and forth with members of noble houses earlier that day wanting to know what he planned to do if the sighted ships from across the sea were in fact heading north to challenge them. Jon sighed taking in that Ramsay did at least wear the countenance of regret for his bigoted opinion (even if his apology was still tainted in narrow-mindedness.) Jon couldn't really blame Ramsay for that opinion as many of his Northern brethren had held similar views prior to the war, and Jon had met with enough disputes then and occasionally even now because of said bigotry.

It was an honest attempt to apologize, so it would have to be enough. Jon nodded, "Apology accepted, Ramsay. In the future please do refrain from passing quick judgement on those you have no bearing to evaluate," as he spoke, Jon gestured for Ramsay to take his seat. A visible weight was lifted from Ramsay's posture as he followed the motion to sit looking immediately relieved by Jon's invitation and acceptance of his apology. Jon continued to chide him though having felt not only the irritation of Ramsay's words but many disgruntled opinions lobbed at him over the passing days from others (nobles, soldiers, and Wildlings alike) that saw Ramsay walking freely from the dungeon as an affront to the war where their kin had perished violently in. Jon had done his best to assure that Ramsay would be working to repay his debt to those he'd wronged at Sansa's behest once the lady of the house returned. It was enough to send those that were unhappy with the situation away, but there were still many mutterings that moved under breaths that Jon had to let lay unheeded in hopes that the people's anger with Ramsay would begin to tone down once Ramsay had begun working on the list Sansa had pushed him to create.

Time would tell, but if Ramsay spouted off to the wrong person in the manner he'd done to Jon last night, it could cause an even greater wave of unrest in those that followed House Stark. For this, Jon felt a need to drive his point home to Ramsay, and his voice took on a more harsh timber than normal as he clipped staring his seriousness across the table at Ramsay who now sat stiffly with squared shoulders and hands folded in his lap as if her were a soldier standing at attention, "The Wildlings fought with me not only here to take back the North but on the other side of the wall. They're good, honorable people that have my back, and for being a feral rabble as you put it, they have acted more civilly than you ever demonstrated. I was initially upset by your words, but I was not evoked to respond, Ramsay. Others might truly take offense, and if that happens, you will bring problems not only down on your head but on mine and Sansa's for harboring you from the justice many wish to see you served. Your actions and words reflect our choice to keep your head on your shoulders, so it would be in your best interest and ours to consider your words and actions very carefully. You must always be mindful of how your words and deeds affect this house."

As the scolding continued, Ramsay's face fell and by the point Jon was finished speaking, he was slouching with folded arms wearing a deep tight-lipped frown. This conversation was beginning to sound like many he'd had with his father. It rang with the nostalgia of the same brow beating sensation Ramsay had often felt on numerous occasions where he was told what he should and should not do. Just as when he'd had these conversations with his father, Ramsay remained sullen, fuming quietly to himself but not daring to protest. There was nothing to be added that he was sure wouldn't get shot down or lead to more admonishment, so Ramsay did the next best thing which was to avoid any further discussion and let the topic blow over in the grace of stretching silence.

So it was that the two returned to that stiff and rigid dining experience they had shared in the beginning of their relationship where both men ate without speaking. Jon surprised Ramsay though as they both finished and rose from the table and Jon conveyed that he was free to join Ramsay for his walk. After this scolding and the obvious social blunder on his part, Ramsay had half expected the remainder of their time together, before Sansa's return, would be spent much like the first couple days where Jon had disciplined him, but it seemed that Jon was already ready to move on and show Ramsay that the matter was put behind them.

The incident had kept Ramsay's mind racing for half the night preceding he and Jon's breakfast; Ramsay knew he would have little time to make things right with Jon before having to face Sansa with his newest list of transgressions that she was more than sure to learn of quickly enough. The thought of Jon giving Sansa a bad report on top of his already to be seen poor actions had filled Ramsay with enough dread that he'd sworn he felt ghost pains of the strapping he'd endured twice over since the one that she'd delivered him before leaving on her journey.

The actual pain had faded; what had not faded was the embarrassing reminder as Ramsay had had to learn to cope with his stinging pride when moving in a given way in his chair, and the remnant chaffing from the fading rash of bruises on his backside that gave him a lack to find any comfortability sitting for those first few days after the fact. It was a firm statement of his unacceptable behavior being intolerable and how as a result he'd found himself bare assed and well-disciplined. This was a sad fact of his new reality, and as loathe as Ramsay was to endure it, he was more adverse now to have to repeat it in any degree!

The revelation that Jon had already seemingly forgiven him his latest lapse of etiquette eased the tension that had been building within Ramsay since the point he'd known he'd said something wrong to Jon. Sansa was due to return any time now, if her missive's arrival stated anything of the time it took her to reach her destination and return. The more upset Jon was with him upon her arrival home would be a direct correlation to how angry Sansa would in turn be with him. To see Jon seemed mostly unruffled by the event enough to be ready to drop it easily enough boded well for Ramsay and gave him an overall wave of relief that he may yet still be capable of explaining himself out of further punishment (or at least a much lighter one!)

The two donned their coats filing out of the room and down the hall towards the north-side entrance to the wall's perimeter. There was a point at every end of the castle to move across the expanse of the wall, but it didn't go around fully leaving a need to enter the keep to continue around to the next facing wall at each corner. The break in the wall lent for a small escape from the frigid winds that whipped against the men as they walked the narrow cobbled stone ledges.

They had moved into the second crossing, and as they continued on, Jon gravely remarked on the wounded soldiers that were set up now in makeshift cots in the banquet hall and how many had now perished due to the harsh weather and the grievous injuries they'd borne. Ramsay had been trailing a few feet behind Jon quietly taking in his words with head bowed as his ears focused on the distress in the other man's voice. Ramsay wondered why Jon was telling him this; Ramsay had to ponder now if by relaying this macabre news Jon meant for him to feel some sort of guilt for these men. The thought of such an expectation was laughable. How could he? Ramsay didn't care about those men; they had been his enemy, they had challenged his authority and position as warden of the North, so why should he care if they died screaming into the night or quietly in their sleep? Jon's intonation made Ramsay feel that he should care which caused Ramsay an inner wrenching of what? …shame? No… Ramsay couldn't put his finger on it, but it made him feel uneasy and out of his element. He didn't like questioning himself and his actions especially his feelings, but here he was again riding this same horse that the Starks continuously made him ride.

Ramsay had been contemplating all the implications of his warring emotions to Jon's statements when he'd realized that Jon had stopped speaking. Curious, Ramsay brought his gaze up to see Jon staring out at the horizon, and his own eyes drifted over following suit to catch what had caused Jon to pause. His heart lifted to see one of the two horsemen Jon had mentioned were to race back and tell of Sansa's arrival, but that unexpected joy quickly dissipated as Ramsay then took note of the second horsemen not far behind the first. The pause ensued as all eyes now probed the field still covered in morning fog that obscured any clear sight. They squinted leaning on the castle's ledge to register the meaning behind what they were taking in. "Wait… isn't there only supposed to be one of your riders returning?" Ramsay slowly questioned worry lacing his speech, but his concern quickly escalated to alarm as the thunderous sound of hooves beating reached his ears and many more men on horseback crested the hilltop carrying red flags bearing the motif of four chains linked in the middle by a central ring, the banner was readily known as belonging to house Umber.

Jon's jaw tightened as he turned briskly on his heel only stopping his stride long enough to hurriedly address Ramsay, "Go back to the dungeon with the guard and await my return." Jon only gave Ramsay a firm look that spoke not to disobey as he barreled forward with purpose across the length of the wall and into the keep.

Ramsay had gone slack jawed as Jon's words hit him and an overwhelming need to join Jon in this crusade rose through him. Ramsay roared back indignantly once he'd processed the command, "Wait… what? No! I'll not stand idly by awaiting an answer on Sansa's wellbeing!" As Ramsay yelled this to Jon's retreating back, he raced to follow after him, but Cecil and Temeric closed the gap stepping in front of Ramsay and restraining him from following Jon further. Ramsay's eyes whipped between the two men wildly, "Let me go! I know these people better than you, better than Jon! They're ruthless, and they shouldn't be trusted!"

Temeric sighed giving Cecil a look that spoke to the effect that he was surprised if anyone was to say as much about the Umbers that it would be, Ramsay, their formal alley, "Alright, alright," Temeric held up a placating hand doing his best to calm Ramsay as the smaller man doggedly sought to push forward and through his guards. Temeric huffed as he hooked his arm more tightly around Ramsay's bicep, "I get your concern, but Lord Stark commanded that you return to the dungeon and wait on him, and if you aren't going to go willingly, you're going to force us to make you, Ramsay.

Cecil chimed in imploringly, "Please don't put yourself in a bad situation again; you know if you don't follow the instructions given, it's not going to turn out well for you when this is all said and done… you do know that don't you?"

Cecil's words only seemed to enrage Ramsay more, but unlike previously, Ramsay didn't bite back with cruel snide remarks or resist the guards' further attempts to subdue him. Ramsay merely stiffened clenching his fists as he turned to stare out once more at the emerging cavalry army amassing through the fog with foot soldiers running in behind them. Ramsay was doing his best to make out anyone he may recognize, but it was to no avail as he didn't recognize any of the men he'd seen at Smalljon Umber's side when the men had met to strategize fighting Jon and his Wildling army originally.

Temeric and Cecil were on the verge of physically hauling Ramsay back to his cell when Ramsay growled out in exasperation finally taking in the expressions that the two men were losing patience with his failure to comply with Jon's orders, "Fine. Take me back then!" Temeric and Cecil shared a relieved glance before slowly releasing him and allowing Ramsay to willingly be guided back to the dungeon.

...

As the days went by, Brienne's words had given Sansa much to consider both before and after the eventful confrontation with Ramsay's mother. The Lady from the Sapphire Isles had assured her that the fears she had held about her feelings towards Ramsay were in fact not the same as the way Ramsay's mother had seemingly regarded him. It was no secret that Sansa had once hated Ramsay… only weeks prior in fact, and this anomaly created even more self-reflection on Sansa's part.

An epiphany had struck Sansa in her contemplations that she had truly let herself forgive Ramsay; she had already forgiven him to some degree when she'd seen him break into tears at the prospect of her ready to take him again yet still willingly ready to comply physically to her demand of him even though mentally she could tell he was in agony. She had seen his reaction as a curiosity then that caused something inside of her to seize to a halt as Sansa truly identified what in its entirety that she had done to Ramsay. She had done this, created a break in his psyche where she could have raped him with abandon heedless of his misery. Ramsay would have done so with her, and he would have taken great joy in it. If she'd been mentally weaker, Ramsay could have broken her spirit as he'd done to Theon. But, Ramsay hadn't broken her, no, she'd broken him.

She hadn't taken him that day even though the carnal beast that shadowed her desires, the wolf within, saw Ramsay's tears as an inviting weakness to tear in to. She had wanted to see his face streaked with those lovely tears, Ramsay's beautiful ice blue eyes spilling regret and staring pitifully at her. Sansa had put him on his back specifically to drink in the lovely expressions she'd encountered since the morning she'd seen him look up at her, folded in on himself, soiled from the abuse of multiple men, and shivering in the waters that had long since went cold.

It felt wrong to want to see the vulnerability she'd witnessed then in his eyes when she's put herself inside him. Sansa still imagined how he would have gasped at her invasion that day, and in the darkest part of the night when no one could see her, Sansa pleasured herself imagining that she in fact hadn't stopped. It was a fantasy, and even though she knew that she could not hurt him like this now, the fever within her wanted to claim him as she knew she could. The heady thoughts of holding him down and taking from him, feeling Ramsay's muscles tensing under her as she heedlessly pushed inside of him had Sansa teaming with unbridled desire as she fervently stroked her finger over her swelling clit.

Sansa orgasmed then, and she orgasmed many times over in the nights that followed to the remembered feeling of pushing her glass cock in and out of Ramsay. Her mind locked now on how Ramsay's own body had internally resisted her ministrations causing the bulb of the glass cock inside her to feel his every twitch and clench. The pressure against her labia built as she moved inside of him; it was an ecstasy that was beyond imaginable to her before she'd experienced it, and now that she had, she couldn't help the vivid fantasies that followed. Sansa was swollen with fleeting thoughts of taking Ramsay where she covered his whimpers with her hungry mouth and his tears were kissed away all the while as she continued to take from him as vehemently as she had that first time.

This was a lucid and pleasant fantasy that had carried on until she'd came and fallen to sleep only to invade her semiconscious mind as a dream in the wee hours of the morning. It hadn't taken long for these inspirations to truly take hold of Sansa's aching and budding libido to eventually crest her over the edge with a forceful scream. Sansa's eyes snapped open, and she gasped in shock clasping a hand over her involuntary cry in an attempt to muffle the noise that had long since escaped. The shout felt incredibly loud in her own ears, and her eyes widened in imagined horror that someone would have heard her keen and come to her carriage to investigate. Excruciatingly long minutes ticked by, and Sansa's now very sensitive hearing only picked up the casual murmuring of some of the soldiers carrying on by the fire. There were no footfalls heading in her direction; Sansa let go of her held breath as her body unraveled from the rigid stance she'd balled into created by her startled awakening.

Her mind drifted back to the happy carousing heard by the fire pit. The soldiers that had accompanied Sansa all seemed in good spirits now knowing that by some time tomorrow morning their trek across the frozen expanse of the Northern territories would be at an end, and all would be able to rest their weary bodies in front of the keep's main hall's hearth and drink to the accomplishment of completing the journey they'd set forth to endure. Sansa was more than ready to be home again, and although at points throughout this adventure she'd wished more than anything that she'd never left the keep, when all was said and done, she couldn't honestly say that it wasn't worth all that she had gone through. These thoughts calmed her as Sansa realized that her secret pleasuring of herself and the unintentional moan she'd let loose had in fact not been detected and assumed to be some sort of attack on her, Sansa let out a sigh of relief able to drift back to sleep with the comforting thought that she would be home very soon now.

The pleasant thoughts that Sansa had fallen asleep to were blissfully shattered to the sudden rousing she'd encountered when the carriage abruptly stopped almost causing her to roll from the carriage's bench. Having been jerked awake, it took a few moments for Sansa to register that the soldiers were barking in warning. She stumbled wearily to her feet making her way to the door and quickly stepping outside into the drifts of snow to wade over to what seemed to be creating such a commotion. By what she saw, Sansa grasped rapidly that they had converged with the King's Road, normally that would have been cause for excitement because it meant that they were scant hours from reaching Winterfell.

The King's Road was one of the most traveled roads in all of Westeros it was true, but the enormity that enveloped Sansa as she took in the wide spread tread of the many feet and horse hooves heading in the direction of her home created the sensation within her that she'd just had a bucket of icy water thrown over her head. The implications could not be ignored, this was no small party but an army heading towards her home. Her heart was in her throat as the worse thoughts that Sansa didn't want to contemplate but couldn't help but to overwhelmed her; she was terrified, terrified for those she cared for, terrified for the home she'd sacrificed so much to reclaim, terrified of losing everything and everyone she cared about.

Sansa said nothing as she moved deftly over to one of the horses she knew was swift and dependable mounting it and spurring the horse to the front of the gawking men that still were arguing about what tactics they could possibly employ to face an army. Their voices quieted as her horse snorted its impatience seemingly on Sansa's behalf; the mare pawed anxiously at the ground sensing the adrenaline pulsing through its human companions immediately putting the beast on edge. A few of the men suggested that the best course of action would be to hide and wait for the army to pass by before returning to the keep to which Sansa straightened regarding the soldiers with a cold glare as she spoke matter-of-factly, "We can't take on an army, but I'm not about to lie in the snow drifts waiting like a damsel in distress for these people to slaughter us. Drop what will weigh your horses down within the carriage, we will move it in to the wood line and come back for it. Right now we ride for Winterfell, and we do not stop until we are home."

Tormund chuckled in the gleeful manner he was known for as he rode up beside Sansa with a hearty nod giving her a wide smile, "Now that's the Stark attitude I've grown so damn fond of. Come on then, let's ride, I'm not about to let my folk have a fight I'm not a part of!"

Davos, Podrick, Brienne and a few men that Sansa did not personally know were the first to join Tormund and her as Sansa nodded to the rest of the men that still seemed a bit bewildered by the sudden change, "Ride as fast as you can to catch up to us once you've hidden the carriage and unburdened your horses. We will regroup in the Wolf's Wood by the well at Cater's farm." Without further word, Sansa turned her horse and barreled off down the well-worn road with those readily capable of keeping up trailing swiftly behind her.

The farm was one of the biggest in the area and only a few miles west of the King's Road and the keep. It was at least a two hour ride Sansa knew, and it would have to be enough time to consider what their next move would be. There was no way that the twelve men in the totality of their party (no matter how good they were) could take on an army. Sansa desperately hoped they wouldn't have to.
I finally took the time to make our baby registry! So now I'm sharing it for any who might be interested in participating. =D

Jenna Jenks' Baby Registry
Link: www.amazon.com/registry/baby/2…

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spankingfemfatale
Jenna
United States
I'm also an author, so feel free to check out my spanking stories here: www.fanfiction.net/u/1309081/

If you'd like to get to know more about 'me' here is my LJ: spankingfemme.livejournal.com/

I am open for commissions! =D

$15 for a single character

$25 for two

$30 for background included

$30 for portraits

All art (minus portraits) inked and colored!

Miles of Smiles! =D
Jenna;)

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:iconlexxii:
lexxii Featured By Owner Edited Jan 21, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Great Gallery Jenna & Invite to join Global Super Group :iconcutieshots: :star: & :new: Chat Room :star: Please join soon :star: xoLexxiiCutieShots

:star: *Submitted: "Sansa & Ramsay Aftercare" :star: For Your Approval :star:
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:iconka-ren:
Ka-ren Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for the fav )
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:iconrudos:
rudos Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
An evil grin by women makes me nervous, so I better watch you !
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:iconspankingfemfatale:
spankingfemfatale Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2016
Indeed! It's best that you do *eyebrow wiggle* ;)
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:iconmenkillers:
Menkillers Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2016
Thanks for watching Wink/Razz
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:iconfoxdragonlover:
FoxDragonLover Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
HEEEEEEEEEEY YOUUUUUUUUU!!!! *points*
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:iconspankingfemfatale:
spankingfemfatale Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2016
Hey yourself :)
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:iconfoxdragonlover:
FoxDragonLover Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I miss you ;A; HOW ARE YOU?!
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:iconspankingfemfatale:
spankingfemfatale Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2016
Just working, going to school, raising kids... the usual ;) I have been doing a lot of writing lately :) You?
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:icondeviantarmenian:
deviantarmenian Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2016
I always value finding creative, talented and impressive people like you. I like your style and thanks for sharing
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