She was an ill-favored child, Asha Greyjoy, thin and ungainly in her thirteenth year. It hardly mattered. She was an ironborn, the kraken's daughter, meant only for the sea. There was no call for a girl of the Iron Islands to be beautiful, not when salt and wind and babes would steal a woman's looks away before she reached one-and-twenty. Theon was the beauty, her little brother, unseemly-sweet since the night he was born, his eyes red and puffy as he was packed for Winterfell. A ward, they said, as if anyone believed the lie. A prisoner to the green country, and no doubt about it. He was leaving an ironborn and Asha was sure he would be as soft and insipid as a southern lady if he ever made it home. Asha spared no pity for him, as stone-faced as her father. At three-and-ten, she was long past a child's tears.
Her pillow would never tell different.
Asha tumbled through her summer years with all the ferocity of an ocean storm. She was the last child, the heir, and she would not be denied her birthright. It was simple enough to slip into Theon's left-behind clothes, tight on her fourteen-year-old frame. She wasn't tall, not like her mother, and her young brother's clothes suited her frame well enough for the things she meant to do. Things like practicing with weapons she wasn't supposed to have, whirling haphazardly around Pyke's practice-yard until the master-at-arms cried foul to his lord. Balon Greyjoy had only one child left, the man was told, and it would not do to see her defenseless. So Asha learned, and before long her axe was her boon companion.
She would have a ship. All the world seemed to go right for Asha, these days. The summer was long and endless, no winter storms to wrack her life. She had grown, and grown, and now looked as well in a tightly laced gown as her mother, though she rarely wore them. It was no longer her brother's clothes she donned but her own, well-made breeches and shirts that showed the woman she had become. The prerogative of a Greyjoy. The only, the last, heir to the Pyke. It infected her dreams, the feel of the salt sea air, the sweet thick smell of the ocean, all to be hers. She had sailed often enough, but to have a ship, oh, that was a thing altogether different.
It was one thing to gaze at the Iron Islands and know, someday this will be mine. Another entirely to see the bones of her ship from her own window, watch it being build piece by loving piece. It was hers. She knew it would the fastest ship, the most beautiful. And hers. It was a thrill far beyond the everyday. Even when she had slipped into a tavern two years before, clad in her maid's tightest dress and little else, she had not felt this soaring freedom. Not when she smiled at a sailor from Lys and let him teach her, just a little, how she might use her body. It had been exhilarating… but now she awoke every day with one thought, one goal: that ship upon the sea.
Asha had seen a kraken once, as a child. She must have been little more than two or three, her memories tell her; she had been lifted high above the railing by a sailor, so that the youngest Greyjoy might see it. It had been the merest flash, a small thing floating briefly on the waves. The translucence of it, the strange, otherworldly shape, all of it had awed her, even then.
That faint thing was nothing compared to the creature that trailed the Black Wind, bobbing gently aft. Her crew went through their motions this morning with just the faintest hint of terror, wondering what the Drowned God had in store, that such a beast followed their path, inerrant. Asha merely directed them home, and sent word to the castle. The great kraken drifted gently in the port, ironborn staring at it for hours. Some tossed fish and bits of bread into the water, hoping they might entice it to stay. Balon ordered the port closed. There were few enough times in Asha's life that she'd seen her father smile; it was a rare experience to be the cause.
Asha Greyjoy had wondered, near on half her life, if she would recognize little Theon when he came home. If he came home. She was surprised to find she did, though not as well as she recognized the craft that had gone into his lovely new longship. He'd been pretty as a child and grown only more so. She could easily see how soft the green lands had made him. He was not the brother she would have imagined. And she not the sister he might have thought her to be; it was amusing, the utter lack of recognition.
It was easy enough to become Esgred, only the slightest variation on a role she had once or twice chosen to play. Simple to lie to a boy who knew nothing of the islands or the Old Way, who was no follower of the Drowned God, who called a mainland boy brother. Perhaps she would not have known him, had she not known he was on the island. He would certainly have not taken the liberties he did, had he known her. His reaction, his fury, it was laughable. She had wondered half her life if she would have been better for having a brother.
She knows, when she slips her husband and her suckling babe from the proper places (and oh, the look of him, at that), that it is a thought not worth thinking. She needed nothing more than what she is and what she has. She will forget this grass-green boy.
She has all she needs, for she is the kraken's daughter.