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Battling Death

Chapter Text

Theon gazed at Bran uneasily, sensing the anger boiling beneath the surface of the boy's skin. He was lifted into the basket once more of Hodor, a man Theon remembered well. He shuddered and looked away, the past hanging treacherously over their heads. Hodor seemed not to notice, and began to sing quietly to himself a mindless little tune consisting of one word that Theon had heard many times growing up in Winterfell.

Head swimming with self loathing, he nearly ran into the Reeds, as he had come to know them. They stared uncomfortably at Theon, and he came to wish more and more he had never gone on this venture. Muttering an apology, Theon quickly side stepped around them with imagined agility, and found, to his great relief, Jeyne, who was sitting alone on a nearby log, with the snow swirling around her. She smiled wanly as he approached, and something stirred in his gut. Theon dimly ignored it, and returned her smile with a small twitch of the lips. A slight sliver of fear ran down his spine, until he remembered that He was gone. He could not know you would dare to grin. You killed him, he thought without a shred of pride, remember, in the tower... Theon forced these memories roughly away, and helped Jeyne to a shaky stand. Behind him, standing just at the mouth of the cave, were many Children, people out of fables. One of them held many shafts of obsidian in their arms, which he gave to Meera, that was her name, the girl Reed, and she hid most of them in a bag on her shoulder. She gave one shaft to her brother, who hid it solemnly in a pocket hidden in his furs. Another she gave to Jeyne, who held it with trembling fingers, and the last in her hands, she gave to Theon. He stared at the shiny, sharp, smooth edges, and almost dropped it. Panic rising in his stomach, he forced it down, and shoved the weapon in a deep pocket of his trousers, refusing to let any painful feelings show on his face.

Theon remembered an object that looked like that, only it had been made of cold steel, with a curved blade, speckled with dried blood. No, this was quite different, he told himself inwardly, nothing to worry about. Besides, it was in his own hands, wasn't it? No one was pointing it at him. He was in control. Theon breathed deeply, thanked the Children for their hospitality, and soon, they had all begun their long pilgrimage right back to the Wall, this time, with Coldhands, Hodor, Bran, and his agile Direwolf, Summer, leading.

Theon's mind was in a whirl. He still could not quite make sense of all that was happening. He knew that Bran was meant to do something when they all came to the Wall, although Theon couldn't make out what it was, and he didn't miss the exact moment when Bran seemed to slump as though dead in his basket, and Summer take off at a run in front. At first, Theon felt fear for the boy, then relaxed, as the Reeds, nor anyone else seemed too concerned. Theon still could not figure out what was happening to the boy, until it hit him. All the talk of flying, seeing, and this time, running, seemed to click together in his rattled mind. He nearly let out a bark of laughter. It couldn't be true, could it? Then he remembered the Weirwood in Winterfell, how it's face had...and the voice...Theon understood, and it almost frightened him. He realized why Bran hadn't punished him. He had already seen...

Theon, muddled beyond reckoning, instead focused resolutely on the dull pattern of their ragged march to the Wall.

~

Bran could smell the earth beneath his paws, hear the crows calling in the trees. He was free, once more, to run through the forest. It felt strange, after so long, to finally be above ground. Summer liked it, loved to feel the wind through his fur, but Bran did not want to leave, though he knew he had to. After all that had happened, he was back on the same road home. He felt a dull pang of hatred, and remembered Theon. Bran was, well, a bit frightened by the way he had looked, and Jeyne, after all he had seen and heard at Winterfell... Mind distracted, he was forced from the Direwolf's mind, and shoved back into his own broken one.

Bran opened his eyes with a jolt, and sat upright in his basket. He could not feel the ground anymore, could not smell the air, or the trees. He felt dead, dim, and dull to the world. The walked on in silence, until Coldhands stopped, and motioned for them to rest. Bran felt Meera lift him from his basket, and placed him gently against a frozen log. His hand lingered a bit on her wrist, before she smiled and pulled away.

Bran watched as Theon helped Jeyne, weak with exhaustion, to sit on a fallen tree across from him, and saw as the once strong, grinning, arrogant man he knew stumble delicately beside her, his face a hollow mask of pain, his cloak hanging loosely on his shoulders. Theon seemed to be drowning in his clothes. Bran did not know what to feel. He had anger on the surface, and other more complicated feelings beneath, although he could not understand them. Anger was simple, so Bran just clung to that, although he still felt what seemed to be pity. Bran hated himself for it, but it could not be helped. The man had ruined himself, and yet, he had still come all this way, and Bran could see how Jeyne held on tightly to his gloved hand, and he returned it, his hand entwining around hers, though Bran could see the empty fingers. He couldn't help but shudder. He had felt those maimed hands on the Weirwood's trunk. Bran was confused. He did not know what to think of Theon anymore. It would have been so much easier just to hate him...

'Here, eat this,' Bran turned, and felt a flutter of excitement he did not entirely comprehend in his stomach as Meera leaned over, and handed him a small pile of crushed nuts. Bran took them, feeling his stomach twist as their fingers brushed, and quickly stuffed some in his mouth, savouring the bitter taste. When Meera dished out the rest, Bran noticed whe Theon slipped most of his portion to Jeyne, who reluctantly took them without comment.

'Why won't you eat your nuts, Theon?' Bran asked. Theon looked up at him, a shadow of the cocky youth he had been. Bran watched as he smiled humourlessly, showing a vivid display of crooked, smashed, missing teeth, once straight, and pearly white. Bran nearly wrinkled his nose in distaste, but could not bring himself to do so.

'R-Ramsay, he...' Jeyne stammered. Theon spoke up, perhaps to spare her.

'I'm afraid I would be incapable of eating them properly, and Jeyne needs them more than I do,' he said simply, something dark, and horrific dancing behind his eyes, hidden.

'What happened to you, Turncloak?' Said Meera, a hint of hatred in her voice. Theon's face visibly darkened at that, but he forced out a meek chuckle, possibly on the verge of hysteria.

'I've found you, but you were gone before,' he muttered, fear, pain, and a mad grin writhing in plain sight on his face, 'then, Reek, no, Ramsay,' he visibly grit his teeth upon uttering that name, 'he told me...had to go back with something... He came back, an army at the gates, and Smiler, on fire...' He was muttering incoherently now, although Bran already knew about most of what he had said. This man had murdered two innocent boys, because he could not face returning to Winterfell with nothing. Bran felt ill, this man had done so wrong, and yet...

'What happened after that?' Meera pushed further, although now, she didn't seem to want the answer. His smile had completely fled his face now.

'I became Reek,' he said, almost a whisper, 'and Reek was a pet, a plaything, for Lord Ramsay Sn-Bolton,' and for a minute he looked around the clearing, wide eyed, as though expecting someone to leap from behind a tree. After a few tense moments, he seemed to relax a little, although not much, and hunched over, staring resolutely at the ground. Bran did not want to know what had happened at the Dreadfort, but part of him was mildly curious. He quickly stifled it, and looked away, shoving more nuts into his mouth.

~

Theon hid his face in his hands, refusing to let the dark recent past seep it's way into vivid memory. His shoulders tensed as he felt various pairs of eyes on him. Look away, he wanted to scream, just look away and leave me be!

'Jojen, is having another dream,' Theon recognized Bran's voice, and relaxed with gratitude, although he wondered why that was of importance. Then again, why shouldn't it be? Old Nan's stories had come to life beyond the Wall; anything as simple as dreams could be of importance.

Theon slowly raised his head, and stared, as everyone's attention was now directed towards this small boy. He was ultimately grateful, and watched in subtle perplexity.

'What did you see, Jojen?' asked Meera, with concern etched along her voice. The boy sat up, where he had recently slumped over, and blinked owlishly. Theon felt uneasiness around this boy. Jojen spoke slowly.

'I saw the Wall...' He muttered slowly, everyone hanging heavily onto each word he said, 'it was dark, and, we were there. I saw your brother, Bran, but...' he took a deep breath, 'he was standing, recovered, with a heavy sword, and,' his brow furrowed in concentration, 'we were there, even Greyjoy, and Jeyne, and we were at the top of the ice, and Bran...' His face broke into a slight frown, then he quickly shook his head, 'I don't remember anything else.' Meera took his smaller hands in hers, and Theon knew, as well as everyone in the clearing, that the boy was definitely keeping something back. Something dark, and frightening. He could tell by the seemingly blank look Jojen was displaying. Blank looks always hid something darker beneath, as Theon had come to know, although, Ramsay had never displayed any such look. He had always been much to obvious.

~

They had been walking for days, again stopping continuously, and every time at Bran's command. He could see the exhaustion plain on Jeyne and Theon's faces, as well as Jojen and Meera. Coldhands never seemed to tire, and Hodor always seemed cheerful, although now, he seemed tired too, as his hodors were a little less enthusiastic. Whenever Bran felt tired, he would quickly slip into Summer, a welcoming body, always ready to hunt, and run. Running was the best part. He felt so free, and alive, and less cold. The cold would bite through his human flesh, but simply curl away and sit on the tips of his fur when he was a Direwolf.

Then Hodor gave a large, loud, booming Hodor, and Bran smiled. He knew they were finally within sight of the Wall. Bran gave a loud whoop of joy, and grinned as he saw Theon nearly stumble in the snow with surprise. Then it turned to unease, as the old Theon would never have... Bran forced these thoughts away, and let the excitement wash over him. He was finally going to see Jon again! This thought delighted Bran more than ever. They were going to have a proper reunion with food, warmth, shelter, dry clothes, a warm bed, and best of all, Jon.

They sped forward.

Chapter Text

The gate opened with the sound of ten dying men, and Theon cringed. He could guess the nature of their death easily enough. Jeyne had wound her hand tightly around his, and Theon could feel her fingers twitch at the noise. He still could not believe they had survived at all. It had seemed utterly impossible, and yet, they were alive, and had returned with even more to their company. Coldhands stood placidly in front of the gate, his ashen knuckles pulled into a fist, as though anxious. Theon couldn't blame him, but had refused to let the man, well, suffer on the wrong side of the Wall. He had done so much, and didn't deserve such a horrific fate.

As the gate screamed to a halt, to Theon's great relief, they entered the tunnel to the other side.

~

Theon watched as Jon careened towards Hodor, nearly ripping Bran from the simpleton's back, and carressed the boy in his arms, tears trickling down both of their faces, Bran's arms wound tightly around the older one's neck, legs dangling helplessly, while Jon, and Theon felt a pang of envy, looked like a boy again, no longer the cold, dying Lord Commander, but a young man born of spring, eyes flooded with relief, happiness, and love. Theon loathed himself, for he had created this mess. If he had not...

'Theon,' he jumped at the sound of his name, and met Jon's piercing, solid gaze, streaked with tears. 'I...thank you,' he said, and the look he gave Theon was of sincere gratitude, and just the smallest hint of, mutuality. Theon felt the corners of his lips twitch, hastening for a smile, but gave up. He turned to meet Jeyne, and saw, was it pride? Theon did not trust his eyes. It was never a look of which he was familiar with when it was meant for him... Then Theon did smile. It was a wide, beaming grin filled with cracked, broken, and missing teeth, but, without showing the slightest hint of disgust, she grinned back. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

Then a horn blast rang clear and loud. Jone nearly dropped Bran in surprise, but instead held him closer. Theon listened hard as the entire Night's Watch had suddenly fallen silent. Everyone had stopped in their tracks, barely breathing with fear.

A second blast sounded, and everyone paused in confusion. Theon had noticed how the Wildlings had banded with the Watch somehow. Theon gripped Jeyne's hand even tighter, waiting as everyone else did.

A third note. Theon's blood ran cold, and the yard had suddenly burst into an uproar of chaos. He did not need to guess what a third blast meant. Without a second thought, Theon, pulling on Jeyne's arm, rushed away from the Wall, and into the main castle. He barely noticed the sudden warmth from the large hearth that encased them. Instead, locating a small door in the corner, dragged her froward, flung it open, and pointed towards the stairs.

'I know this cannot be the safest place, so please, find the deepest, darkest corner under the earth where no one, and nothing could ever find you, arm yourself with fire, and stay there,' he said. At first, she looked about to resist, when she saw the look on his face. Instead, she loosened her grip, and cupped her smooth, pale hand against his hollowed cheek. Tears glistened in her eyes, and she gave Theon's maimed hand one last gentle squeeze, before turning, and disappearing into the darkness.

Theon felt a twinge of relief, but then remembered the Reeds, Hodor, and Bran. Cursing, he quickly shut the door, bolted from the Hall, and nearly gasped in the sudden cold. He saw the Reeds easily enough, and, stumbling through the snow, managed to reach them, his remaining fingers closing on the back of Jojen's collar.

'Where's Bran?' he said as Meera joined them, frog spear in hand. Hodor began to whimper.

'With his brother,' Meera replied.

'Look, in the Hall, theres a door with a staircase leading down. Go down the steps, and when you think you're safe, go farther. Don't come out,' he said hastily. Meera stared at him almost defiantly.

'I can fight, I've done it before, and a lot better than you could,' she replied. Theon was about to reply, when Jojen spoke up.

'Do as he says, Meera,' and that silenced her at once. Brow furrowing, she spun on her heel, wrenched her brother from Theon's grasp, beckoned for Hodor to follow, and trudged towards the welcoming light of the Hall.

Theon jumped as a hand clamped heavily on his shoulder. He spun clumsily to meet the shadowed face of Coldhands.

'We must find the Lord Commander. The boy has a part to play in the war to come,' he said darkly. From what Theon had seen and gathered, he understood. He had known from all the talk of destiny, and flying.

'I will only help if his safety in performing whichever task it is, will be guaranteed,' said Theon. 'I can't, I can't lose him again,' he nearly whispered.

'I am afraid I can not guarantee that, but in order to save others, he is needed,' and with that, Coldhands left Theon alone in the snow, weaponless, though, he remembered, and fingered the shard of dragon glass in his pocket. Feeling no more courageous or assured, Theon trudged towards the outskirts of the Castle, and stumbled blindly into the harsh wind, the heavy weight of Jeyne's life tearing at his heart.

He found them outside the gates, and saw Jon lifting Bran onto a saddled horse, seated in front of a young man dresses in a black cloak.

'Take care of him Pyp, see that he gets far away from the Wall,' said Jon.

'Jon, please, I don't want to go. Jon, I need to stay, don't, I don't want to leave you again, or we may never see each other again,'Bran was nearly on the verge of tears, his small fingers clasped stubbornly around Jon's cloak.

'Bran, please,'

'Jon, listen to him,' Theon spoke over the gale while slowly advancing. The man, Pyp, looked up, brow furrowed. Jon frowned.

'You have been beyond the wall. Have you not seen what is coming? To stay would be to die,' Jon replied.

'And yet, you condemn you own sworn Brothers to the same fate,' Theon replied, 'Worse than death it is, but I thought you as the Lord Commander would have more faith in the battle to come?' Jon scowled.

'You of all, Greyjoy, tell me this. I will not let Bran die, he can not defend himself,' said Jon.

'Listen, I, I would wish for him to leave as well, but, you did not see. He, he is needed, for a, a purpose, or task he needs to perform. Once he has done it, of course you can carry him off to safety, but, this may be the difference between life, and worse,' Theon spoke slowly, and, once he had finished, closed his eyes, and waited for the blow. How could he have spoken so...

'What-

'Jon, it's true, I need to-

'No!' Jon cut in sharply, tears glistening in his eyes. 'Greyjoy, I swear-

'Lord Commander!' The cry sounded from the gate, and soon, another young black brother had come forward, cloak flying, 'Commander Snow, they're coming fast, and nothing is organized, you need to get on the Wall and help!' With that, Jon, with one last nod at Pyp, struck the horse on the hind, and Theon watched as the animal flew south. Jon then grabbed him roughly by the wrist, and wrenched him towards the yard, following his black brother, who took but a slight perplexed glance at Theon, before turning, and speeding forward.

'Just, just get out of my sight, Theon, I don't know what to think of you,' Jon said harshly, and yet, with a lost tone in his voice. He released his grip, and left Theon to stand, shivering, in the snow. He fell into action at once. Theon ran blindly through the snow, until he seemed to crash into a shadow.

'Coldhands,' he said, for he knew at once who it was,'the, the Lord Commander, he set Bran on a horse, and he, he,' Coldhands did not wait for him to finish, but seemed to glide unseen from the darkness, and Theon knew who he was pursuing.

Hoping for the man's success, Theon turned, and plunged ahead through the gathering blizzard. He knew he had to help, even though he was good for nothing. His hands were numb with cold, and had begun to cramp. Winter was finally here, he thought, remembering the Stark words. Bran had to return, for it was his House alone who had been wary of this fact, and been apt to remind everyone of the true length of summer.

Tripping over sodden feet, Theon ran as fast as his body would allow towards the smithy stored with weapons of various kinds. His hands lingered nostalgicly over the smooth curvature of a longbow made of shiny, dark walnut, the stumps of his phantom fingers itching to tighten themselves around the wood, but just managed to pull away. Theon was not whole. He would not be able to carry, or aim that weapon properly for a long while yet, unless he had the chance to practice, but now, he did not have that chance, so he took a lighter, thinner sword of lighter colour, fastened it in a sheath at his belt, and left.

Theon managed somehow to catch a ride to the top of the Wall, where the wind was much harsher, the snow a relentless hail, and crowded with Black Brothers, his rags and Wildling furs clashing. No one seemed to notice him, as all their attention was focused to what lay on the other side of the Wall, something more profound than fear etched on their faces. Inching closer, Theon braced himself for what horror lay in front, quickly advancing.

Nothing in all the seven kingdoms could have prepared Theon for what he saw then.

A relentless seas of ragged corpses, flesh rotting clean from their bones, their eyes a vacant pale blue, their march unbroken, and relentless. Theon knew he would die and be added to their army, another slave of death. A fate worse than Ramsay's flaying knife, he thought, and a shudder ran through him. They were coming for the living, for every man, woman, and child.

Starting with them.

Another horn flew through the air once more, though this time, it was not that of the Night's Watch. Theon knew who was coming, their only hope. He nearly laughed at the thought.

The Night's Watch turned to the unexpected sound, desperation clear.

For it was Stannis Baratheon who had come to save them.

Then the dead attacked.

Chapter Text

Theon's heart seemed to freeze in his chest, as the decaying corpses broke from their monotonous March, and into a heated frenzy of mindless murder. Jon was shouting orders in a horse voice, men following without question, for they had seen him survive half a dozen knife wounds, and yet, here he stood, on the edge of the world, with only a Wall of ice to separate them, and what was advancing.

Without a second thought, Theon stooped to the ground to help a Brother, a pretty, green boy, with luscious black hair, who seemed almost mad with fear, roll a large barrel to the edge. The boy said nothing, but looked at Theon as though slightly perplexed. As long as he doesn't know who I am, thought Theon. The boy gestured for the flaming torch a few feet away, it's glow welcoming in the despair.

Theon clasped it between two hands, staggering under it's weight, and set the barrel ablaze. When the first few Wights hit the Wall, climbing over eachother in a sickening pile. The smell... Theon would have hurled, if there was anything in his stomach. Instead, he swallowed the urge, and, using the hilt of the torch, shoved the barrel over the side. As it fell, it became a small fireball, and soon, smashed into a million sparks. Still, the army came.

Jon then noticed Theon, and, something had changed in the Bast-Commander, he thought quickly, before remembering that Jon was no Ramsay Bolton. He could call him that, that word.

'Greyjoy, what in the gods are you doing up here? You, your're going to fall...just, get down on the ground, and, and...do you know how to command a small army?' He said. Theon stared at him. That, he had not been expecting. 'You have military training, unlike most of my Brothers. Go down, and, and see what you can organize of those few left below, and, give Stannis a message from me, alright?' Jon bellowed over the strong gale. Theon nodded dumbly. Why would he want him to-? 'Just, tell him Winter has come, and he just in time, and, he needs to set his armies up, quick like,' and with that, Jon turned back towards the edge, yelling orders. There was new found trust, Theon thought. The Lord-Jon, was his name, had trusted Theon to do something for him without turning his cloak? Of course, there had been the journey beyond the Wall, but that had been something else, hadn't it? Theon shook his head.

Without further hesitation, Theon turned back towards the winch mechanism, and quickly jumped inside. Another black brother lowered him to the ground, his only role to transport soldiers back and forth, and, with a hurried thanks, Theon ran through the thickened snow, nearly stumbling over his cloak, his maimed feet burning with cold, and rammed straight into a man. Theon sprawled backwards in the snow, numb from the blow, and began to dig himself to a stand. The man grabbed Theon roughly by the collar, and leered at him. It was a cold, Baratheon man, Theon saw, a flaming heart sewn upon his own, and angry, steel eyes.

'I need to speak with His Grace!' Theon stammered. The man's eyes hardened.

'Good luck with that, old man,' he spat. Theon wriggled gently from his grasp, and by some miracle, let him go. Theon instantly swerved around him, dodging the man's outstretched fingers, and, after running a few paces, nearly collided with Stannis himself. Theon, trembling, quickly backed away, and spoke hurriedly over the wind.

'Your, your Grace, King Stannis, I have a message from the Lord Commander!'

Stannis looked at him with subtle distaste, before interrupting. 'Ah, Turncloak, I see you're running errands for Lord Snow, now? Why in seven hells would he ever trust you?'

'He, he just, I don't know, Your Grace, but he said that winter has come, and you have arrived just in time, and he said,' Theon swallowed, 'he said to organize your army quick like,' he went on, and instantly realized he had made a mistake. Stannis raised a brow.

'I will not hold the Commander's words against you, but I will never take advice from your worthless mouth, Greyjoy,' he said, grinding his teeth together.Theon cringed at the noise. With a jolt, Theon felt a rough, gloved hand grab him by the back of his collar.

'I'm deeply sorry, Your Grace, for this man's impertinence,' Theon recognized the slightly winded voice of the man he had accidentally smashed into earlier. He groaned inwardly.

'It's alright, Sir, it's the Turncloak. Just let him hide in some hole to cower,' Stannis said with no trace of emotion, 'I hope my heir and my wife are safe, I trust?' He added. Theon shrugged, for indeed, he had forgotten that his family was at the Wall in the first place. The Knight holding Theon let go in surprise, before shoving past him with contempt, sneering.

Theon paid him no mind, but instead, turned back to the few black Brothers, and a waiting hoard of Wildlings standing disorganized, and looking ready to turn on each other at any given moment. Shaking his head with disbelief, Theon dragged his wary feet towards the group of men. He quickly speculated the crowd, and sighed with relief, as none of them knew his true identity, though the red bearded man, uh, Tormund, that was his name, was among them. No one would follow the orders of a Turncloak, and Theon certainly did not believe he had the right, or the means, or anything really, to be able to command, them. He immediately felt nervous.

'Men, er, uh...' Tormund turned towards him, and broke into an enormous grin. 'MEN!' He bellowed, causing Theon to shake, 'pay attention! The old man's got something to say!' Most quieted, and they all eventually fell into small laughter, and a couple of hearty, though fearful jeers rose from crowd. They looked at him expectantly, a few women, Theon noticed, joined up as well. He didn't make much of it; his own sister, Asha, was a tough fighter too.

'Right, uh,' these men, Theon knew, would not listen to an "old man" either. Instead, he sprang upon an idea. 'Lord Snow, he sent me with instructions, these are his words, not mine, as he needs to command you lot as well. I, uh, back in my day, (he further excercized the habit of an older man) I had a bit of leading, or fighting experience as I am, you know, anyway, uh, the Lord Commander, he said for you to...,' here, he thought hard of the best fighting tactic. His mind racing, as he had never, truly, been cut out for this sort of thing, he pondered the next moves to take. The worst decision maker in all of Westeros, and Jon wanted him to make decisions. Theon shook his head.

'Form ranks in front of the gate, no, wait...' Here, he had to think. This was definitely no ordinary battle, and in a few moments, many Wights, somehow, would come crashing through that strong, barred barrier. There was no time to think of strategy! Fire, fire, and Dragonglass...

If metal couldn't hold them, then fire would.

'Yes, the Lord Commander has asked for-you,' he pointed to a random, burly looking Crow, 'bring the torches. We have to build a wall of fire, not ice, but a much smaller one this time,' then he thought back to a time, a memory he had not thought of since...Theon shoved forward. Fire. Robb, one evening, had been drinking a bit of strong spirits, the strongest Theon could lay his hands on, for it had been a jape for the younger boy. Robb had hated drink at that age, hated the acrid taste. Theon had found an entire keg of it, and brought it outside, near a stack of sticks. He had carefully poured some of the foul, heavy liquid into a closed skin, as to not give the colour away. They had just been boys, maybe four and ten, and when Robb had come, with Jon at his side, he had served it to him. Robb, of course, had spat the drink out, and could not get rid of the taste for hours. Theon had laughed, and, in half rage, half amusement at the mockery, had pushed Theon roughly to the side, where he had collided with barrel, and all the liquid had come splashing out, spilling over the wood. The grass had been dry, he knew, as dry as parchment. Minutes later, after they had cleared the barrel, but had done nothing about the spilled drink, Bran had been playing with two sharp stones he had found, and was trying to teach himself how to light a fire. A single spark it took, and the whole pile had gone ablaze. Bran had been rescued by Jory Cassel, and Theon had gotten a severe beating, of course, but it had not been nearly as bad as any he had ever had on Pyke.

'Grab all the stores of the purist, strongest drink you can find, and lay the stores in front of the Gate, but not near enough to the Wall. We do not want the Wall to melt,' he said hurriedly. If it happened once, it could happen again.

'Fancying a drink then, are you?' A tall, light haired youth sneered, cheeks twitching with fright. All Theon replied was, 'you'll see' before turning, and ordering for all the wood they could possibly find, and he turned, and grabbed Tormund's large sleeve.

'Where is all the Dragonglass kept?' He asked. Tormund half smiled. 'You ain't gonna fight those evil blighters with glass, are you?' He said. 'Just, tell me,' he pushed. Tormund shook his head, and replied, 'he keeps it in the Tower. I'd wager he forgot clean about it when that little boy came, and the Walkers, well, you'd better hurry old man,' he said a bit more seriously. Theon nodded. 'Can you make sure they get the barricade ready? After that, they must definitely close ranks and surround the, the things, er, Jon's orders, and then, you must make sure they do not come out in one large mass. Construct the wall so the Wights can come forward only in small numbers. To make the flames go even higher, pour the spirits over the flames once they're dancing, but I imagine you know better than I do how to build a proper fire,' and with that, Theon turned, and ran as fast as he could, which was not that fast, towards the Lord Commander's Tower.

The steps were slick and smooth with ice, and Theon stumbled heavily as he ventured to the top. He burst into the top room, and came face to face with a giant, pure white Direwolf. 'Ghost,' he muttered under his breath, and slowly backed away from the beast's snarling jaws,it's teeth wet with saliva. Usually, the Starks never went anywhere without their wolves. Why Jon would choose to leave him behind, or perhaps he had simply forgotten. Theon, keeping well away from the creature, looked around the room. Where would he hide something like that? He moved to enter the room further, and, edging cautiously around Ghost, neared the bed, it's covers carefully folded over, when his foot slipped on a loose flagstone. He, remarkably, regained his balance, and searched under the stone, using all his strength to lift it, and pulled from the gap underneath, with a small grin of satisfaction, a leather satchel, it's contents clinking softly. He slung the bag over his head, replaced the stone, and nearly closed the door, when Ghost pushed it open further, and ran past him, down the spiral stair, and back, out, into the snow, where he disappeared.

With growing sensation of dread in the pit of his stomach, Theon hurried towards the rapid construction of the flaming barricade, already at least five feet high, and not yet lit. Theon opened the bag and passed each person around a fine dagger of Dragonglass, to skeptical glances in return, but they did not fuss under the golden orders from "Jon", Theon imagined he would have done the same anyway.

Under Tormund's instructions, the fire was lit, and the spirits, with much disagreement, and anger, was poured over the flames, but it did not last when the fire rose higher than originally anticipated.

Theon had them carefully assembled, and, as they waited, the large fire crackling, a certain group of men and women positioned closely, their duty solely to keep the fire ablaze, especially the sides, as there was only one, small weak spot for the dead men to enter by, and that was through the centre. Theon slowly drew the sword from his belt, not that it would be of much use, until he stuck the blade into the fire. It licked the steel greedily, and soon, it had turned into a brilliant tongue of gold. Confused, Theon turned, and, almost thought he saw a bright hem of red, when it vanished behind a corner. Many men, gazing in wonder at the dancing weapon, greedily plunged their own swords into the fire, and soon, the men waiting at the base of the Wall were armed with flames of steel, and each a small, dagger of Dragonglass, and the archers with arrowheads of the same material, and a beacon to light their own.

Theon felt a strange tingling sensation in the handle he bore, and felt, for once in a very long time, strong. Energy flowed to his few fingertips, and coursed through his broken, battered body. He did not feel old any longer, but a thousand years younger, and when he turned back towards the fierce, bearded Wildling, his expression changed to, first astonishment, then a tinge of horror.

'You en't an old man, are you?' He spoke softly, as though entertaining the thought of pity. Theon felt sick. He should not feel that way, not to him. He shook his head.

'No,' Theon replied quietly, 'I'm not.' 'You're just a boy,' Tormund muttered. Theon nodded. 'I, I don't really feel like one, anymore,' he said. Tormund answered with a half hearted chuckle. 'No, I don't believe you do.'

Then the gate was wrenched apart, and, through the strengthening flames, Theon saw at least twenty dead men halted in the semi circle the wall had constructed, nearly obscured by smoke. Then the first few began to break through. Theon was right to trust in Tormund to lay a good fire, but it would not hold forever, he knew.

A gradually increasing stream of corpses began to break free, and in no time at all, the battle had commenced. Theon raised his sword, power radiating from his own form, such as he had not felt in what felt like a life time, and now...He plunged the blade into the stomach of a man, it's blue eyes blazing with nothing behind them. He immediately pulled it free, to meet the next assailant. He hacked at it's side, before realizing it was a woman, with dirty, dark hair, but quickly shook himself from the corpse, turned, and stabbed another. The air was filled with black smoke, and a frenzy of fighting what was already dead. There was no time for fear, and adrenaline was the only thing keeping Theon from sagging to the floor with pure terror. Wight after Wight flung themselves forward, only to fall, twitching, to the ground, wreathed in fire, but after a while, the flow began to thicken, and soon, the small company keeping them at bay began to slightly weaken, though, Tormund noticed it first.

'Fight, you worthless pieces of shit! Fight or I'll rape your corpse, for it will certainly be alive!' He growled with a fierce, though spirited glint in his eyes, bashing mercilessly at the oncoming tide of animated bodies. That was when the Baratheon men had finally gotten organized, and Stannis had decided it was time to intervene, before things got out of control. There was a definite distinction between true Baratheon men, and those who worshipped some red demon. They all bore flaming hearts, and a disturbingly pious madness in their eyes. Theon stabbed another wight in the back with his sword, and saw, overtop of the building smoke, the Hand, Ser Davos, Theon remembered, the man you had vouched for him as well as Wex. For a moment, Theon glanced anxiously about the crowd for a sign of the steward, and perhaps his sister. They would not bring them along, would they? He relaxed, as they did not appear to be with the new arrivals, which was a mistake.

As he had temporarily let his guard down, a corpse had managed to clasped his neck from behind, and shove him to the ground, pressing his face into the snow. Theon's sword fell from his hand, as he struggled, choking on chunks of ice. The creature would not let go, until it's hold suddenly slackened, and Theon felt it's body removed from his own, and he quickly stumbled to his knees, gasping for breath. He turned, and saw his sword, lying in the snow, but, somehow, it was still lit. He moved to grab it, when he nearly rammed into his rescuer. Theon recognized the firm form of Nymeria, her fierce eyes blazing, and rotten flesh clinging to her savage teeth. Theon thanked her, retrieved his weapon, and immediately felt a warm glow of assurance.

The Baratheon men were assembled, and, in no time at all, Stannis was soon in command, but it was evident the Wildlings, nor the Night's Watch would listen to him.

That was when the fiery barricade fell, smoke billowing up to the endless clouds, logs and sticks twanging, and the flames spinning out of control. Many Wights were set a light, but the constant flow increased absurdly. The yard was suddenly turned into a ferocious battle field, with hardly any distinction between life and death. For every man that fell, was another number added to the opposite side.

Theon spun in all directions, dancing on feet that felt whole, but he knew they were not. His fierce, bright sword never met steel, but bit straight into flesh. No blood was spilt, but they fell none the less, flailing in the fire caught in their insides.

Theon soon found himself out of the heated fight, his blade silently thrumming with power, and such a simple sword it had once been, too. Then he heard a soft scream in the distance, from a branch of the castle, and turned. Some dead men must have escaped the massacre, he noticed with a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach. He ran, unnoticed, on strong legs, and stopped underneath a stone window, half shrouded by a torn, black cloth. There was the scream again, and Theon's skin crawled. It belonged to a child.

He was back in Winterfell again. 'Do it, m'lord. You have to come back with something, or they will never respect you as Eddard was.' 'Lord Eddard was merciful. This is not mercy...' 'They helped the Stark boys escape. They are nothing more than Miller boys. They do not matter, and if you do not do this, m'lord, they will accept, and respect you as their lord, for they will fear you. They will laugh at you otherwise.' '...'

And they had screamed just like this, high, and full of fear, before He had slit their throats. It had been all Theon's fault that two little boys were dead, two innocent, little boys... He had given the order...

Theon wasted no time, but sprang inside as lightly as a cat, and sprinted up the heavy, stone steps, sword held high to light the way, casting elongated shadows, twisted in agony all over the walls. Children's blood on his hands, and now there was going to be some more, unless...

Theon burst through a heavy oak door into the room matching the window, and saw a small girl, with cracked, grey skin obscuring half her face, and cheeks streaked with tears crouched in a corner, her mouth wide open, and what looked to be her mother at the end of a long sword, which belonged to-

Theon dropped his sword, all the warmth, and strength immediately wrenched from his body. He was an old man again, and he leaned on a table to gain balance. The audible clang that resounded through the room as the weapon crashed to the floor, shuddered through his weakened bones, and stole the attention from everyone in the room. The mother stared at him, wide eyed, her eyes half mad with fear at what stood before her, and Theon's heart stopped completely in his chest. He was no bloody hero, not one bit. He was a traitor, a mere creature, and he definitely would never be able to deal with what fucking lay in front of him, ready to ram an icy sword through a woman's chest.

He waited to long, and soon, the blade pierced through the woman's thin, pale skin, spilling her life's blood in a dark pool over the flagstones, her rich robes stained, and wet. Her body slumped backwards from the blade, landing with a small crack as her skull made contact with stone, her vacant eyes staring at nothing, lost forever, mudered before her own child. That was when Theon's senses finally kicked in, as the monster moved for the child, too traumatized to scream.

Theon grabbed the dagger of smooth obsidian from his pocket, it's blade pointed at the creature threateningly, which le the hilt shook in his maimed hand. Then the monster turned to meet him, it's sword raised, and a half amused expression on it's face, it's power clearly beyond any Theon could ever surprisingly muster. Theon nearly grinned with absurdity of it all. Robb should be here, not me, was all he could think. He was the bloody hero, and now Jon was, a Lord Commander fighting valiantly against the army of the dead, and doing courageous missions while Theon was stuck in a prison while He ripped him apart, piece by piece...But now was not the time to think about that, because another child was going to die if he did not act quickly, and he could not, could not again...

So Theon staggered towards the White Walker, and miraculously dodged a half hearted blow from the sword seemingly made of ice, but their was,certainly something more to it, but Theon certainly never wanted to ever get close enough to it to found out what it was. In a flash of movement, the thing swung the blade over, and let it slam easily into Theon's knees, knocking him to the ground, toying with him, he thought. Theon recognized what that was, instantly, and soon, he found what he was really up against. He smiled slightly. He knew what kind of beast this was, and he knew he could beat it, for it could be killed. It was not invincible, it was just like anyone else, only colder.

It came as a strange version of relief, and horror, for he was facing the past once more.

Theon had to be quick, and he struggled to his feet once more, eyeing his sword filled with power, as it lay, simmering, a few feet away. He knew he needed the life it gave him to fight, but, the Walker would never let him pick it up, he was certain. The White Walker lazily swung its weapon at Theon's head, and he dived for the floor, feeling a breeze of air over his hair as the sword swept by. That was when Theon shoved himself to his throbbing knees, hid the dagger up his sleeve, pressed his hands to together, and forced false tears from his eyes.

'Please kill me! I cannot live here anymore, and it would be the greatest honour to serve you,' he cried, grovelling at the monster's feet. The White Walker seemed confused for a second, before turning blank once more, but Theon knew this type. Instead, the Walker would want to play with him a bit longer. No, a death wish was too simple, and these creatures liked to enjoy themselves, unlike their dead servants. Also, most likely everyone they had ever met had definitely not wanted to die, but would, instead, fight or cry, or run, rather than submit themselves to this fate.

Instead, the creature thrust forward, clamping the coldest hand Theon had ever felt under his chin, and forcing him to a stand. Theon was familiar with the action the beast would perform next, and anticipated it. The Walker then brought his face close to his own, usually they would taunt him, or threaten Theon with more pain, but this one was curious. It had never met a human that had wished to die before, and so, it brought Theon's face closer to its own, icy blue eyes so penetrating, its fingers flexible icicles, and that was when Theon took his chance. The dagger came swiftly from his sleeve, into his palm, and, with a quick stab, the flesh broken smoothly, the Walker seemed to look down in further surprise, before it's figure cracked, and fell apart like mirror, shards of ice that looked like glass littering the ground in a deafening clash.

What used to be its fingers peeled from his face in large chunks, and Theon sank slowly to his knees, trembling, his hand still wrapped firmly around the dagger. A sob from the corner brought him to his senses, and a firm understanding of how little time they had, before more came...

Theon, shaking, enveloped a sort of mad giddiness, wiped the tears from his eyes, pushed himself to his feet, his stomach roiling in discontent, shoved the dagger in his pocket, turned, and helped the crying girl to her feet. That was when he realized who the girl really was, and stopped in his tracks, the little girl leaning on his frail form.

'You are, you are the princess?' He muttered. She did not respond. 'So that, that woman was...' Theon nearly laughed. stannis would most certainly not be pleased he had let, he had been there when...

'My mother is dead,' The princess choked, her little arms clinging to his own. Theon did not know how to reply, but instead stooped for the flaming sword left dejected on the flagstones, and felt the warmth and pleasure thrum through his body once more, but there was no time to enjoy it. With new found strength, Theon sheathed his sword, comfortable with the knowledge the fire would not be extinguished, lifted the girl into his arms, and sped down the stairs, the child leaving wet patches of tears on his shoulder.

The cold ripped through the little girl's thin, black garb, and he felt her shiver in his arms. He set the girl down, unclasped his cloak, and tightened it around her shoulders. She thanked him shakily, as he took her up in his arms again, and hurried towards, what? Then he knew, as a beast with long, shaggy fur appeared once more, her fierce eyes blazing.

'Nymeria, could you keep her safe?' He said, and set the girl on the ground. She was frightened of the enormous Direwolf, but Nymeria, who seemed to be even taller than her, just licked the salty tears from the girl's cheeks, somewhat roughly, and nudged her forward. Theon did not think it was too unusual, for, well... He did not entirely understand himself, but he somehow knew the girl would be safe. Theon unsheathed his sword, the magical fire still clinging to the blade, and set off for the battle once more, the screams, and cries of agony close, but before he could reach them, a shadow detached itself from the castle, and came to him through the snow. It gradually morphed into two shapes, and Theon knew that Bran was here, with Coldhands.

Once they stood before him, Bran alert in Coldhands' arms, a third shape appeared from the darkness, and materialized as Summer. Bran looked somewhat surprised Theon's sword.

'His natural body needs to be as near as possible to the sky, so we must get to the top of the Wall, now. The dead will not stop, unless...' Coldhands said. Theon nodded, and beckoned for them to follow, his weapon poised to defend, as well as Summer's jaws. They took a detour around the outskirts of the battle, and Theon had only needed to slay three Wights, before before they reached the winch mechanism. There, though, was a tight squeeze, with Theon holding off the dead on one side, and Summer on the other, before all four of them managed to leap inside at the last minute, and shut the gate on the corpses. Bran looked ready to faint, but he was stronger than he looked, and wrapped his fists tighter around Coldhands' cloak.

Once they had finally reached the top, the wind even more savage at this height, Theon worked the door open, and they all filed out onto the top of the Wall. Theon could barely feel the cold with his magic blade of fire, but Bran was shivering uncontrollably. They quickly passed unseen to a less manned part of the Wall in the mayhem that was ensuing. Then Coldhands gently set Bran onto the floor, his legs sprawled erotically. Theon peered over the edge, felt his stomach churn. The army was large, and vast, like a never ending ocean, and it was clear nothing Bran could do was going to stop it. They would all die, and succumb to the land of always winter. Theon felt strangely calm about this evil prospect, and refused to think further on the subject, for if he did, he would remember Jeyne, and all the children who would...

And Bran slumped to the ground as though dead.

~

Bran new it when he found it, and felt a surge of strength, power, and a taste for blood. His body was majestic, and beautiful, his lungs were full of smoke, while his stomach was a fire, but the smoke was delicious, like a sweet, fragrant rose, and he breathed it in with relish. Bran soon was aware that he was flying once more, soaring, gliding. His back was an armoured, scaly shield, his wings long and made of skin thicker than leather, but lighter than any silk.

Bran opened his new eyes, and became a thousand and one.

~

The silver queen sighed and stroked her pet, the land a world away, it seemed, small and insignificant. Her other two flew beside her, their wings fluttering rhythmically as the wind broke beneath their force. Then she felt it, a sudden halt in their steady beat, it was only subtle, but something had changed. She soon became aware that her direction had altered, and soon they was speeding faster than ever, a sudden urgency beneath their grace, and soon she saw white, but never felt the cold, for the queen was always warm.

~

Theon rubbed his eyes, brushing the frost from his lashes, and peered through the storm. Then he saw a miracle.

Thousands of crows and Ravens flew from every tree, creating a large black mass in the air, black against white. Then he blinked, and gasped. A glow, that was all, a golden haze lit a tunnel through the mist, and snow, and it grew, like a fire from a single spark. Beside him, Bran grinned openly, pleasure clear across his face so haunted by the past. Theon's heart beat so fast, he thought his ribs would certainly crack.

Then Summer came.

It came on a storm of fire against ice, through smoke, and blackened ash. The storm was evaporated in a seas of flame. Theon gazed in wonder, and awe, at the marvel of the spectacle. Down below, on the earth, the corpses were flailing, falling, dying once more.

Carried in the wind like a tuneless song, were the howls of three giant wolves, bound by flesh and blood. They cried at the moon with their call of deep grace, and a ballad of a battle won. The living had triumphed. Fire and ice had defended together, so different, yet bound in perfect harmony, neither entirely conquering the other.

Theon smiled, his cracked teeth beaming at life, and a pure death, for that was better than what lay in between.

And through the fire, lay a warmth thick, and inviting, like a long embrace in a mother's arms, but beyond that, and Theon could see,

was a dragon.