Was it the frost that lined the windows of their bedchamber, or was it the frost over his heart that made Rickard feel almost immune to the warm clutches of his wife’s embrace? The hot springs coursed through the stone walls around them as his own manhood coursed between her thighs, yet he could feel the heat of neither of them no matter how powerful the water or deep his thrusts. Having let the heavy coverlets of fur and wool fall away from them, Rickard’s silent lovemaking continued to gently rock their bed on its posters, his eyes closed and head lowered into the crook of her neck. Though he plunged without interruption in and out of her, as he had done for many years past, the Warden’s mind was deceivingly elsewhere. Try as he might, his sighs came infrequently and quietly, and he made no move to show his wife any further affection beyond the movements between her thighs. Past the falling snow outside and the dark corners of the Wolfswood, his mind raced and wandered until it was only his climax that finally forced him back into the present, spilling himself within Lyarra’s womb and at last falling still atop her.
He still said nothing, rolling to the empty space beside her, emitting a low groan that seemed to reverberate through the mattress beneath them. A steady breath filled his chest and he rested his hand upon the inside of her thigh, solid grey eyes staring at nothing but the wood and stone ceiling above. For long moments he laid like this, listening only to the sound of their breathing and the hearth crackling nearby, perhaps even the slow rushing sound of the water through the walls, wondering not for the first time how he had gotten here. As lord, husband and father, it seemed as if one day as a young boy he closed his eyes and, suddenly, here he was… Rickard was still not sure he was so proud of it all. How could he? Lyarra and Benjen were not even resting in Winterfell’s crypts, if he could not do his own children that honor, what else was he possibly good for? Lyarra’s resentment, as well, was palpable enough beside him, emanating from every rivet and curve from her body even as he’d been inside of it. Though her arms and legs touched his own as they laid there, he felt as if not only the two empty tombs of their children remained between them, but the entire North itself.
Perhaps it was.
With a deeper sigh than he’d shown during his lovemaking, Rickard rose from the bed, journeying wordlessly over to where his flagon of supper’s ale still sat. He drank greedily, the bone in his throat bobbing with every swallow, and the belch that erupted after tasted only of the thick black drink itself. As bare as his nameday he stood before the hearth, the pale glow of his muscled form warming before the orange flames whilst the ale warmed the parts the fire could not reach. Still his thoughts troubled him, coupled with the brooding silence in his bed, Rickard knew it would not be long before peace was disrupted at his wife’s behest. “You have barely spoken to me for days,” he finally noted, the sound of his voice surprisingly rough against the softer, more serene noises of their bedchamber. Pouring himself another cup of ale, again he did not hesitate to tilt it down the back of his throat, and only turned to face her once it was nearly emptied a second time. Though the hour was late, late enough for most of Winterfell to be long in their beds, their room glowed with candles and torches that gave Rickard a clear view of his pale Lady Stark. Even his still-softening manhood seemed to glisten from the moisture left behind. “I presume that only means you have much to say.”