(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Theon had always believed himself to be almost a man grown when his father led the rebellion, even though he was given no fleet to command. He still believed it to be true when his brother Rodrik was killed at Seagard. The name itself felt like a backhand; how could the Ironborn be killed at sea? But then Seagard was just a castle with a false name…
Then Maron died defending their home, and somehow that idea was always strangely heroic to Theon, considering he never much liked his brother Maron. He never much liked either of his brothers, Theon would recall later, once the finality of their deaths settled in. They were both considerably older and never made any time for him. Theon always remembered being left behind or pushed aside; ignored and neglected. But still, they were of his blood, his family.
And they were gone.
Pyke was lost and his father finally surrendered. The only time Theon mattered was the last time he mattered. The invaders demanded his father's absolute loyalty and they demanded his only remaining male heir. When Balon Greyjoy relented, Theon would always remember the stillness of his father's face. Only his eyes betrayed any emotion.
His father had always seemed to favor Rodrik and Maron, never giving Theon much thought, so when Theon was summoned before his father, he was not expecting any anguish. Might be I was too caught up in my own world to realize it. His father had cared and loved Theon, albeit in his own way. But any chance of fatherly love was lost along with the rebellion. So what he got instead was an order and a goodbye.
When he was presented to the invaders, their forms towered over Theon, and he almost forgot he was Ironborn just like his father and his brothers. He almost forgot he was near a man grown. His dread only magnified when he heard his mother's weeping. At least I was sure she would mourn me. The great hall seemed to have consumed him, until a tall man with an austere visage stepped forward to claim Theon. That was a vision that would haunt Theon every night of his voyage to the North.
Eddard Stark was his name, Theon would later learn. He was not an unkind man, but neither did he offer any comfort as they traveled to Winterfell. My new home… Winterfell, not Pyke. Never Pyke, ever again.
This Lord Stark barely looked at Theon in the long journey, until they arrived at the foot of the castle. He greeted his Lady wife and introduced the tiny girl hanging off her arm as his daughter. She was a tiny thing, this Sansa, and Theon wondered if Lady Stark pulled the girl closer to her because she was afraid Theon would eat her or just because he was a stranger. A stranger in a strange land. This is my home now.
Theon was given a room, which was of reasonable size, but it was closer to the servant quarters than it was to the Lord's. I am a Lord, too, even though this is not my land. I should never forget that. Neither would he forget he was no true guest of Winterfell. Lord Stark called Theon his ward, but in truth Theon was just a prisoner. The Stark bannermen who often tailed Theon when he explored the castle served as good of a reminder as any.
And there were no one to befriend. The common folk and their children looked at Theon with disdain, which suited him just fine. It was beneath him to associate with the children of servants. He was the son of a lord. "A great lord," Theon would whisper to himself as he laid in his bed at night. There was no reason he needed their company, it was Theon who scorned them, not the other way around.
Lady Stark though, she made no illusions of his position. Other than their first meeting, Theon never saw the Stark girl Sansa again, least of all alone. He might have caught sight of her hair rounding the corner of a hall as her laughter rang out, but when he took a second look, it was always Lady Stark's stern face peering dispassionately at him back. But while she kept her daughter tight under protection, the same could not be said of her first born.
Theon had met Robb at the end of his second day at Winterfell. The boy had peered from behind one of the large pillars in the great dining hall, grinning and brimming with curiosity. Lady Stark was still near, overlooking them both from a distance. Her lips were pursed with reproach, but she refrained from voicing her concerns. Theon had tried to ignore the boy at first, deeming him too young to be of notice and too much of a Stark to be an ally, but then the boy had suddenly approached him.
"Are you really a Greyjoy? You don't look like a Greyjoy."
Theon's temper instantly flared and he bristled. "And what's a Greyjoy supposed to look like?"
"I thought they'd be more ferocious, with gills and claws for fingers." The boy mused, still grinning.
But before Theon could think of a retort, the Maester of Winterfell cut in, "Forgive the boy, Theon. He's heard too many wild tales and songs."
"Then they're not true, Maester Luwin?" Robb sounded so earnest, Theon felt his annoyance slipping away, if only by a little. "Rory says the Ironmen live and breathe the sea, and they can hunt with their bare hands."
"I'm afraid he was leading you on, those are just stories, with no truth in them. Isn't that right, Theon?" Maester Luwin gave Theon a gentle pat and a knowing look. Catching on, Theon puffed up his chest.
"The Ironmen of Pyke are fierce and I'll show you just how well we hunt!" Theon bared his teeth and made for a mock chase of Robb when the boy dashed off.
That was what broke Theon's cold resolve. He had intended to remain aloof and not associate with any of the Starks, least of all Lady Stark, but Theon could not deny Robb's boldness made him yearn for friendship. Perhaps this boy could entertain Theon, and in a few more years, he'll have a proper head. Just having one friendly face in this new home made the reality of Theon's circumstance tolerable. And somehow the reproach Lady Stark was bound to express thrilled Theon.
Lord Stark himself visited Theon once in a while, and when he asked Theon what activities he enjoyed, Theon dropped a few hints and was pleasantly rewarded with permission to practice in swordplay whenever he liked. Might be Lord Stark isn't as cold as he appears. He had to make the best out of his situation, and the only way to do that was to make himself believe Lord Stark could be kind to him.
Not as kind as he was to his own son of course, but certainly as kind if not more so than he was toward his base born bastard, for Lord Stark was not as honorable as his reputation. Theon heard enough gossip among the common folk to know about Jon Snow. But to Theon, fathering a bastard was no big deal. It was the fact Lord Stark had raised the bastard alongside his true born children that was odd.
When Theon first saw Jon Snow, he was struck by the irony that the bastard looked more like Lord Stark's son than Robb; it was no wonder Lady Stark shunned the boy. At one point, Theon had hoped he and Jon Snow could bond over that, but that was not to be.
The bastard boy feared Lady Stark, unlike Theon, and did his best to stay out of her way. But just as Lady Stark could not prevent her son from associating with Theon, she likewise could not stop Robb from playing with Jon Snow. Theon supposed it made sense; the boys were of similar age, and even if they did not share the Stark House, they shared a father.
Likewise, while Robb was at the naiveté of his youth, Jon Snow sulked more than he played. And that was probably the source of the problem. Robb took to Theon rather quickly. After all, Theon had all the glamours of being older, wiser, and more inclined to share japes. It was obvious to anyone paying attention that Jon revered the position Robb held and venerated Robb's every move. And Theon was indeed paying attention. Sometimes Theon was of the opinion that the bastard was a fool for doing so, but then other times Theon thought the boy had the right idea.
Better his friend than his enemy. And Theon had to make the best of his situation. Lord Stark treated Theon well enough, but that didn't mean the man bothered to make Theon's daily life easy. He was shoveled off to Maester Luwin for learning most of the time, and Theon was bored more often than not. And lonely. So very lonely. Between isolation with a stack of books and childish fun with Robb Stark, the choice was easy.
But his time with Robb earned him a handful of stares from Jon Snow. No doubt the bastard resented the ease in which Theon slipped in and stole Jon's spot, if there ever was a spot. At first Theon had made attempts to get Jon to venerate him as well, but that design did not go as planned.
"So you're Jon Snow?" Theon offered the first time Robb introduced the boy to him. He expected the boy to answer and then ask for Theon's name, but the boy just stared at Theon with suspicion. Well if he's going to be difficult, then there's no need to mince words. "I hear Lady Stark isn't your mother."
"Theon…" Robb sounded reproachful, but Theon had no intention of backing down now.
"And I know Lord Stark is your father." Theon glanced at Robb as he said this, gauging his reaction, but no anger flared, so Theon pressed on. "I hear you're a basta--"
Wham. A great clump of mud hit Theon square in the face. A bastard Jon Snow may be, but he had aim, Theon begrudged. By the time Theon got the mess out of his eyes, Jon Snow was no where in sight, leaving him alone with a Robb howling with laughter.
"What?" His eyes stung, damn that bastard. "I was just making conversation."
"Jon doesn't like talking about that." Robb's amused tone died down, and he added with hush, "neither does my mother, actually…"
Catching on, Theon puffed up his chest with indignation. "I wouldn't dream of mentioning that in front of your Lady mother, rest assured, my lord." That last bit set Robb off on another chain of giggles. Sometimes, Theon wasn't sure if he found Robb's antics endearing or exasperating. A mixture of both perhaps, but then Theon had to remind himself the boy was practically half his age.
The next time Theon ran into Jon Snow, the bastard glared at him and stalked right off before Theon could squeeze in a jape. If Theon had less pride, he might have admitted to himself the situation was of his own making, but every time he tried to work out how their first meeting might have otherwise played out, the sickening memory of how grass and manure tasted chased away any feelings of guilt.
So one of his favorite pastimes became competing with Jon Snow for Robb's attention. It wasn't much of a contest though; Robb was still intrigued about land outside of Winterfell, and Theon's vivid descriptions of Pyke won the boy over easily. Sometimes Theon did it just to bother the bastard. Other times he felt a tinge of guilt, but there was little point in dwelling on them, so Theon always shook it off.
Other than the occasional playtimes with Robb, Theon's life at Winterfell was pretty mundane. Maester Luwin grilled him on the histories of the seven kingdoms, and paused to analogize any rebellions against the old Targaryen kings with that of Theon's father's, though never unkindly. When he could escape the books, Theon took to the armory and imagined himself a hedge knight. But no matter how often he practiced, the wooden sword always felt awkward in his hands. When he brought this up in passing to Maester Luwin, the old man suggested trying another weapon, like the bow.
Theon was stubborn at first, insisting being a knight was for him. Despite how long his brother Maron had been dead, the memories of his older brother shooting arrows at Theon's feet as a favorite pastime was still too fresh.
When Maester Luwin pressed him for a reason for his refusal to try archery, Theon related the memory to the old man, after getting assurance the story would be just between them. Maester Luwin's face was full of pity.
"What your brother did with the bow was shameful, but you are not your brother. You can turn your bow for gallantry and glory." He gave Theon a gentle pat on the shoulder. "Give it a try, Theon. You'll never know unless you give it a try."
So the next day Theon grabbed a bow and some arrows, and started practicing. Having proper form when drawing the string was difficult, but Theon pressed on, making the armory master show him the correct stance again and again. He wasn't going to report back to Maester Luwin only to admit failure. If archery was not going to be his forte, it wasn't going to be due to a lack of trying.
Once he got the form down, letting that arrow fly across the practice yard became a thrill, especially if it happened to land anywhere near the target. He avoided audiences when he was still mastering the basics, but eventually Robb came to watch. When Robb would clap and cheer for every good arrow, Theon's pride swelled. If I had a true little brother, he would be like Robb; admiring me, not fearing me.
Sometimes, Theon would practice his aim and feel a set of eyes watching him silently. He thought it was Robb letting him concentrate, but when he turned to greet and show off, it was the cold eyes of Lord Stark watching him, not his son. Theon's grin slid off his face. He was ready for a reproach, but Lord Stark only gave him a curt nod and said, "Your aim has improved."
And he was gone. But those four simple words echoed in Theon's head and he felt a rush of exhilaration. It was like making his father proud of him for the first time. Theon must have stood there with that stupid grin plastered on his face for a good, long moment of triumph before he remembered.
Lord Stark wasn't his father.
Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Anything at all. If you don't feel comfortable leaving it on AO3, I crossposted this on LJ.
Over a year has passed since Theon was taken to Winterfell, but he still struggles to find his place in the North.
Sorry about the delay guys, I will try to get chapter 3 up faster than chapter 2 has taken. I actually started writing this back in February, but kept getting distracted along the way. Though I guess the plus side is, while I was slowly working on this, season 2 saved me the trouble of having the explain the iron price in the author's note for anyone who's not read the books.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Rodrik was drunk again. His flushed cheeks and slurred speech gave him away, if he had bothered to hide it at all. Theon pulled his miniature war ship closer to his chest and pretended he didn't notice his brother thundering in. Don't look. Don't look here. Please, not here. Rodrik made Theon's skin crawl when he was like this. Maron didn't put up with their oldest brother's prodding, so Theon got it instead. Theon carefully averted his gaze, concentrating strictly on his ship, but it was no use. The war ship was made out of gold and the sails were like silk.
"That's mine." Rodrik muttered next to Theon's ear, shoving his little brother aside and taking the ship for himself. Theon couldn't even find his voice, let alone tell his brother that he was wrong. In Rodrik's hand the ship turned into iron, and it grew larger and larger. There was a particularly dark smile on Rodrik's lips as he stared at Theon with his blood-shot eyes. "Don't touch what's mine, y'hear me?"
The next thing Theon knew, he was falling into icy waters. "You need to pay the iron price if you want your own ship." Rodrik's disembodied voice sneered. "Pay the iron price."
In the cold water, Theon's arms felt like dead anchors at his side. He was sinking, but he couldn't move. He wanted to reach up and find the surface of the water. But he was rocking back and forth, someone was shouting at him. "Shut up and help me out of this first." Theon wanted to say. This was all Rodrik's fault. Always Rodrik and his drinking.
"What price does Rodrik want you to pay?"
Theon's eyes shot open. But for what little good it did, he might as well have kept them shut. It was the middle of the night and Theon was in his room. Not in Pyke, but in Winterfell.
"Why would Jory's uncle want you to pay him the price?" Robb pressed on, utterly bemused.
Theon brought his hands to his face and tried to recall what he dreamed. Rodrik. I must have dreamed about my brother. Whatever the dream had been about was lost on Theon, so instead he asked, "What do you want? I was trying to sleep."
"With the way you were thrashing about?" Robb giggled, it was a bit infuriating. Robb was always amused. "Anyway, forget all that. Didn't you promise you'd help me sneak into the tombs while everyone else was asleep? I can't sleep. Let's do it tonight."
Rolling his eyes in the darkness was useless and completely lost on Robb, but Theon did it anyway. He muttered about his loss of sleep and pulled on his proper clothing while Robb kept repeating, "Come on, come on, comeoncomeoncomeon."
Robb was past seven now, and gaining years had only served to make the boy bold beyond reason. So long as he had someone else to back him up of course. His latest obsession was sneaking into his family tomb in the dead of the night. Theon wasn't sure how the idea came about, but Robb had pestered him every chance possible, and Theon had relented and agreed the night before.
Which led to his current predicament. When Robb had first brought up the idea of visiting the Stark family tomb, Lady Stark was instantly against it. That inspired more curiosity in Robb, and the boy later conspired to sneak in the crypts at night, when no one could stop him. With Theon's help of course.
But Theon had no idea exactly how to get into the crypts. It wasn't as if he was privy to all the Stark family secrets. Lord Stark had never quite gotten around to holding Theon's hand and leading him to every corner of Winterfell, showing him what was what. Despite the irony, that seemed to be exactly what the future little Lord Stark wanted Theon to do for him.
There was some part of Theon that was irrationally proud to be viewed with so much reverence by the boy. It was also that irrational part of him that secretly, despite all his eye-rolling and complaints, enjoyed the attention Robb threw at him. It wasn't as if he got it from anywhere else.
And now that Robb had indeed talked Theon into helping him sneak into the Stark family tombs, Theon wasn't about to back down and admit he had no idea what he was doing. He was almost twelve now, and had an image to keep up after all.
As far as Theon was aware, the old crypts were located near the oldest region of the castle. Or so that was what Maester Luwin told him in one of his history lessons. Unfortunately, Theon did not pay attention as to where the entrance was exactly, so he was left to wander one of the old keeps, with a small torch in hand.
Robb didn't seem the least bit worried. Instead the boy made a habit to kick every pebble his feet could reach, all the while Theon was trying in vain to calm his own pounding heart. Oh gods be good. What am I doing? He was starting to chew his lip away, in nerves. If he didn't find the entrance to the old crypts soon, Theon was willing to consider defeat and crawl back under his warm beddings. He traced his numb fingers over the old walls of the First Keep one last time as he made another circle around it.
Robb chose at that moment to kick a pebble right under Theon's foot.
Theon was sure he was going to smack face first into the ground, but his reflexes kicked in and he threw his arms out, catching his fall. Fuming, Theon groped for the torch he dropped, which was thankfully still lit, and glared at Robb. "Watch it! You could have broken my neck!"
Robb didn't look the least bit sorry. "You're all right," he said between snickers, and pointed down, "is that the entrance?" The fallen torch had illuminated a cellar door.
"Why don't you see for yourself, Stark." Theon bit back. Robb crouched to the spot and started to feel the edge.
Screwing his face in concentration, Robb grabbed onto something, and tried to pull, but it was too heavy, so the boy waved Theon closer. Between grumblings, Theon managed to pull the old hatch open, and a waft of cold air hit them. This is it, he gulped and pushed the hatch back all the way.
Robb chose this moment to be decidedly less daring, and kept behind Theon as they descended. With each step down the spiral, Theon's heart pounded louder and louder in his ears. He hated the dark. He hated dark stairs even more. When his brother Maron was bored late into the nights, if he happen to catch Theon out of bed, he would force Theon to walk up the steep stairs to one of the towers of Pyke. Then Maron would make Theon lean out of the window, insisting he look at the dark crashing waves and the bright moon above. Once Maron was tired of that game, he'd leave Theon behind and head back down to find some good wench. Once his brother's footsteps drifted off, Theon would slowly lower himself down the same steps, on his back, with his feet first and hands gripping the steps behind him. Theon used to think of it as an adventure, until one time he lost his grip and tumbled down half way. His mother was distraught over the bruises, and Theon got in trouble for climbing the stairs.
When Theon finally reached a door of some sort, Robb jumped next to him, and Theon rolled his eyes out of habit, with no real audience. "Let's go find the old Kings of the North." Robb commanded.
"Yes, my lord," Theon muttered, half with annoyance, half with amusement. The stairs seemed endless, but it was better that Robb get satisfied now, rather than try to go deeper, where the doors might lead to who knows what dangers, or ghosts, Theon thought irrationally.
The room they entered seemed to stretch on into the abyss, with no end in sight. What were in sight, dimly lit by Theon's torch, were pillars lining the tunneling walls. Between the pillars, figures stood in the darkness, filling Theon with a great sense of foreboding. He may have never aspired to be a scholar, but Theon knew the Starks of old had no lost love for the Greyjoys of old.
"Which one is Bran the Builder?" Robb's voice echoed in the darkness.
"Might be this one?" Might be they stood in order. Theon hoped so, since Bran the Builder was suppose to be the first. They moved slowly along, using the torch to illuminate the battered faces of the statues. Where's Theon? Not himself, Theon thought, but the Theon Maester Luwin had mentioned in his history lessons. It was the only name Theon cared to remember, carving it into his mind; his namesake. The Hungry Wolf, King Theon Stark, he repeated in his head, who ruled during a time of great strife. As the torch passed by a particularly thin figure, with a pointy chin, Theon wondered if that was the right one.
Robb clutched on Theon's sleeve as he followed mutely behind, but Theon paid the boy no mind, too awestruck himself. They passed a few more figures, some with the shapes of big wolves next to them, some with crumbled hands and noses. After a while, the figures no longer had the shapes of crowns over their heads. Robb made a noise and looked back. "That must be Torrhen, who yielded to Aegon the Conqueror." Theon quipped.
"Must be," Robb muttered, unimpressed.
They kept walking, but Theon's mind wandered back to his namesake again. Theon Stark, he repeated again, curiosity eating away at him. Theon Stark. If he married Lord Stark's daughter, he could be another Theon Stark. He could make this his home, and rule over the North, as Lord Eddard Stark has. He could show Robb how good he could rule. Nevermind that Robb would succeed after Lord Stark. A fool's fancy, he scoffed. If he wanted to rule the North, he would have been better off marrying Robb. But that didn't work either. What a little fool you are, Theon Greyjoy. You're no wolf, but a kraken. This is not your home. He reminded himself. This is not my home. Nor will it ever be, but Theon squashed that thought before it could form in his head.
He was roused from his musings by the tug Robb gave his sleeve. They had reached the last few statues, relatively new compared to the others. One was a womanly figure, whose face was immortalized in a mournful, knowing gaze. The man before her looked stern, much like Lord Eddard, but proud instead of pensive. Their visages had not yet been worn by time.
But before Theon could put words to thought, a sudden clang ruptured through the crypts. Being caught so completely unaware, Theon did the the first thing his reflexes told him to do: he dropped the torch. This time the flames went out, plunging them into total darkness.
More noises followed, but the only thing Theon could hear was the pounding of his own heart against his ribcage. Robb said something, but Theon didn't register the words. He only registered the flicker of light rushing toward them.
And rush it did. The light grew larger and larger, and soon a cloaked figure can be seen behind the flames. A number of wild ideas fluttered across Theon's mind, each of them as unlikely as the last. He thought of Lord Stark's stern and angry face as he told Theon his ward had overstayed his welcome. He thought of Lady Stark's pitiless eyes as she accused him of endangering her son. He thought of the ghosts of Winterfell come to dispel him back to the Iron Islands.
When the light finally reached them, it was old Rodrik Cassel holding a torch in his left hand, while his right was clutching a wide blade. Maester Luwin stood uncomfortably behind him.
"Theon Greyjoy!" Ser Rodrik snarled. "We thought thieves had broken into the crypts! What are you doing down here? And with our little lord no less?"
"This is no place for games, Theon." Maester Luwin tried to sound gentle, but a trace of exasperation showed through. "We could have hurt you. What are you doing down here in the dark?"
"I had a torch." Theon mumbled and prodded the extinguished torch with his foot. It rolled uselessly.
Maester Luwin made a deep sigh, and put his hand on Ser Rodrik's arm before the old knight could lecture Theon further. Theon thought about Robb, who had inconveniently stood silent behind him this whole time, and considered telling Maester Luwin the truth. Robb had been the one intent on coming down here, in the dead of night, against his own mother's wishes. Theon had merely been dragged along. That was all.
An uncomfortable silence had settled between them, until Robb stepped around Theon, and finally spoke up.
"It was my idea. I forced Theon to come with me. I wanted to see the crypts when no one could stop me." He paused a bit, as if gaining resolve. "It's not Theon's fault. I forced him."
Ser Rodrik sheathed his blade in visible irritation, and motioned them to follow. As they walked back to the entrance, Maester Luwin put a hand on Theon's shoulder, but Theon couldn't meet his eyes.
The walk back was a complete haze. Theon was too busy thinking about how to explain himself to Lord and Lady Stark with Robb's confession in mind. When they reached the entrance, Ser Rodrik grabbed Robb and led him back to his chambers. Neither Robb nor Theon made any attempts to communicate before their parting. Theon was about to head off to his own chambers when Maester Luwin's hand squeezed Theon's shoulder and made him stop.
"Come with me, Theon."
Figures it would have been too much to ask to come out of this escapade unscathed.
The somber mood did not ease when they reached their destination, or when Maester Luwin closed the door of his chambers behind Theon. Once Maester Luwin sat down, Theon took his customary seat across the desk, and waited for the reproach.
"It's just you and I now, Theon. Tell me what happened." He waited a moment, and then added, "your version, not Robb's."
Theon thought about what Robb had said. It had been the truth, hadn't it? This whole escapade was Robb's idea; Theon just got dragged along. And they had indeed come at night so no one could stop them. But I wasn't forced.
"Robb wanted to explore the old crypts. When Lady Stark said she didn't want him wandering in there, he decided he could sneak in at night instead." Theon avoided making eye contact, and tried his best to not admit guilt. "I may have mentioned I knew where the entrance was earlier, so he asked me to show him. I didn't really want to, I swear, but Robb was set on sneaking down there, so I agreed."
"And then?" Maester Luwin gently coaxed.
"And then we snuck in." There was no need to mention his near fall and other embarrassing details, but when Theon paused to muse over the statues he had seen, Theon wondered if he should tell Maester Luwin about them. But after quickly risking a glance up at Maester Luwin's face, Theon decided against it. Recalling how envious he had been of that long dead Theon Stark would only further shame him. And that was definitely not something Theon was keen on. "After walking down some of the steps, we went in that room to look at all the statues. Robb was curious which one was Bran the Builder. I just tagged along."
Maester Luwin's shadow shifted, so Theon finally looked up. "I know you understand why you are here in Winterfell, Theon."
Theon held his breath. Of course I understand. I'm here so my father won't start another rebellion, he thought with scorn. Of course he understood that if his father so chooses to behave, Theon would be put to the sword. His only beacon of hope all this time spent in Winterfell was the thought that his father loved Theon more than he loved his crown. I'm his only son, Theon thought stubbornly.
"But Robb does not." Maester Luwin's words shook Theon from his reverie. "Robb understands that you are here as Lord Eddard's ward, and that you're not here freely of your own choice, but he doesn't understand anything else. Not yet. What I'm saying, Theon, is that Robb is a still yet a child, and you do not have to cater to his every whim, no matter how fun they may seem. You won't get in trouble for turning him down, but you might get in trouble if he gets himself hurt with your help."
"I would never have let anything happen." Theon said stubbornly, on reflex. "It was only the crypts, and I had a torch, and I would have made sure Robb was safe."
"Ser Rodrik and I stumbled upon the open hatch, and we feared it was wildlings raiding the tombs, or worse." Maester Luwin let the worse remain unspoken, so that Theon's imagination ran wild. "It was almost sunrise; how long did you two stay in there?"
"I-I don't know." Theon averted his gaze again, focusing instead on his lap. "It won't happen again though, I swear it."
"See that it doesn't, Theon." Maester Luwin looked Theon sharply in the eyes. "I know you mean well, but you know what's at stake. You may not have come to Winterfell freely, but now that you are here, we should make the best of it."
Theon looked away at last, a sudden indignation overcoming him. "How do I do that?"
"By building your place here, under Lord Stark's care. Learn. Develop your skills. And live." With that, Maester Luwin stood up. "Now I think you should get back to your room before the rest of the castle wakes up. I'll come with you later to explain what happened to Lord and Lady Stark."
"All right." Theon said quietly, before getting up and following Maester Luwin to the door. With one last look at the old man, Theon bid Maester Luwin farewell as he headed solely to his own room.
As he laid under his covers, comfortable and warm, Theon thought about the events of the night and Maester Luwin's words, and resolved to become his own man, no matter whose ward he was. He was going to take the available resources here at Winterfell, like Maester Luwin said, and live well.
Let's all hope Theon will Live Well and Prosper. *wink* Once again, any feedback or comments would be greatly appreciated. And once again, any feedback would be great, either here or on livejournal, if that's easier.