They don’t tell him about Robb Stark right away. After his half-life below, before I knew my name, Theon sometimes muses, it wasn’t even clear that he would survive, let alone be able to assume any semblance of a normal life. Slowly, he’s able to think again, with a mind that is less clouded with each day, and although his daily rituals may seem off-putting to the men in Stannis’ camp, and troubling to the few Ironborn who have survived the onslaught, they are what keep him focused on living again. And that’s all that he cares about, for a time. That’s all that he can care about, as his body heals, the skin slowly knitting (I’ll always be scarred, Theon thinks without regret, the first time that Asha permits him to see what’s been done to him), hands gradually losing their tremor, shambling frame growing more substantial.
It’s gossip really, that betrays his recovery in the end. Frey and Bolton embroideries have reached them, via a few northern turncoats who have grown tired of swallowing some lies and who now enjoy telling new ones. He turned into a wolf, right before our eyes. Tore out throats left and right. We had to bring him down. We had to.
At first, he does not believe it, as it is ridiculous. Drunken bragging. Campfire stories. Wind, nothing more.
But as the war progresses, and houses fall, and ravens travel, he comes to know it as the truth, after a fashion.
Theon remembers a boyhood stunted, although not unpleasant. Time and distance have served to gild it in his memory, but it’s not a bad thing. He needs something to cling to. He remembers a boy who wasn’t quite his brother, a boy forced into manhood long before he should have been, and how he’d pledged himself, kneeling wholeheartedly, before everything went wrong. And sometimes he is even able to think about the things that they did in secret, as two boys sometimes will do, hands, lips, breath, all blurred together. A secret, sweet though.
I should have died with you, Theon will think when he remembers those times. But in a way, I have.