title: savage lands
chapter title: seven devils in my house
summary: I don't want your money, I don't want your crown – see I've come to burn your kingdom down. Jeyne, Theon, Ramsay and a ghost in Winterfell.
dedication: my hoes. and my bf.
Snow batters Winterfell on all sides and in the night the howling of the wind sounds like wolves. The whole castle is on high alert, the way it always is when Ramsay is gearing up for a hunt. Her husband is restless, fuming, never able to keep his attention on anything for long – even Arya's cries of pain don't seem to satisfy him the way they usually do.
I'm not the target he wants.
She thinks of the words written in red on the wall behind the high table, beneath the swollen, cut up corpses that hung like bats from the ceiling.
(She's heard the Frey's have been strung up too, somewhere in the Riverlands and Arya cannot help but think of vengeful ghosts, the crypts beneath the castle, the famous words there must always be a Stark in Winterfell and wonders why that is. She wonders if this, the bodies they uncover in the mornings, is what it means to find out.)
"We'll find the traitor," Ramsay had snarled. "I'll rip his fucking balls off and shove them up his arsehole, but not before I've flayed him first."
When she'd turned back to her Lord husband, his eyes were elsewhere. His eyes were on Freya, her small waist, and slender neck as she crossed the hall to Arya's side.
"My lady," she'd murmured, soft as a lovers kiss. "You're shivering something awful. Let me take your somewhere warm."
Perhaps she imagined it, Arya thinks, but she could have sworn Freya had turned her head back, just slightly, widening her eyes in a way that reminded her of summer silks – and a sharp blade concealed in its folds.
"I heard the guards talking."
"Hush now," Freya whispers, pouring another bucket of hot water into the tub. "You'll get us both in trouble, m'lady."
But Arya will not be deterred; there's a bubble of fear, of hope flowering in her chest and she cannot pretend it isn't happening. All those years in Kings Landing she clung to the hope of Winterfell, of the King in the North, of home and now –
"They say Stannis is marching," Arya murmurs, teeth chattering despite the steaming water.
It burns the hurt and filth from her skin, but no matter how hard she scrubs, she knows she'll never be clean again. Still, the way Freya scrubs at her back is tender and careful and for a moment she allows herself to think of her mother.
My mother was lady Catelyn, she tells herself. She used to brush my hair every night before bed but no that was Sansa, that wasn't her, was never her, her name isn't Arya.
"Is it true?"
Freya hesitates, her hand stilling half out of the water. "Stannis marches from the wall," she whispers after a moment, "and I heard them whisper that a Stark marches from the South."
"There are no more Starks," Arya says, before she can help herself. Bran and little Rickon are dead, just like Lord and Lady Stark and brave Robb who used to smile at her sometimes. No one knows what happened to Sansa after King Joffrey died.
No one is coming to my rescue.
Freya resumes her gentle scrubbing, head bowed so that copper hair catches in the candlelight. "I didn't mean to distress you m'lady. Tis only rumours. The smallfolk here do not love your husband and the Starks – the Starks were kind to those under their protection. Like as not, they miss Lord Eddard's rule."
There is a lump in her throat. "Did you know Winterfell before? You speak as if you have lived here for years, but I don't remember your face."
"Nor would I expect you to," the girl says, something hidden in her voice that Arya cannot quite read. If she didn't know better she would almost say the serving girl sounds…amused, as if she is reflecting on some private joke that will never be shared with Arya.
"I grew up here," Freya adds, after a moment, like she is telling a secret. "Same as you did, m'lady. This is a Stark place. And I daresay the ghosts here won't rest easy until a Stark is back among them."
Arya goes very, very still. There are bruises flowering up her spine in shades of black and yellow, but these are things she can hide from knowing eyes. What she cannot escape; her own brown eyes. Freya, mercifully does not remark on them.
Later, shivering in her bed as the white winds blow, Arya will realise that Freya said they miss Lord Eddard's rule – not we.
They find Sour Alyn three days later, his throat cut and a dagger in his heart. A new message is written in blood that night, painstakingly etched into the wall.
Jamie Lannister sends his regards
"That's what he said to Robb," he tells her, very quietly. Once again they are hiding beneath her bed, trying to shelter themselves from Ramsay's rage.
"Freya says there's a Stark riding north," she whispers back.
Reek can hear her teeth chattering, and he wishes that was enough to drown out the sound of her voice, the sound of rumours which promise to ignite hope in his chest for the first time since he met Ramsay.
"We mustn't talk about this my lady," he says, trying to hush her before they're overheard.
But she just looks at him with sad brown eyes, and it's like watching everyone he's ever loved dying.
It's like hearing of Robb's murder, and having Ramsay tell him all the gruesome details, having Ramsay promise to have the King's mutilated corpse sent North to keep Reek company.
He gathers his courage, enough to whisper between the gaps left by missing teeth, "They say Stannis is marching too."
That Baratheon King, all hard steel and iron will, never quite defeated by the high walls and the heavy snows, the feel of starvation creeping up through the ribcage – he will liberate them both, though Reek knows he and Arya have different ideas of freedom in mind.
"I know. But I - I hope it's Robb," Arya whispers. "I hope they lied, that he escaped and they didn't really kill him like they said. He'll come and save us, Theon."
And he can see by the smile threatening to curve her lips, just the hint of hope stirring at the backs of her eyes, that it is one less ghost to haunt her with accusing eyes. Reek is no less haunted.
"He's dead. He's not coming back."
He tries not to look at her anymore, because it is not her face he sees, but a dead girl staring back at him.
"Theon," Arya says plaintively, "there's no one else it could be."
Ramsay takes her that night and he takes her hard – slips into her bedroom as the lords downstairs are supping and drags her out from under the bed and –
Arya doesn't scream, but she cannot stop little whimpers of pain and fear escaping her, his body swallowing hers, ribcage pressed into the stone floor until she thinks she'll suffocate.
He's almost spent when the door cracks open and Arya hears a gasp, a basket fall to the floor. She cannot see much, but there is copper hair and a stammering apology and Ramsay says, "Stay."
Oh gods, she thinks, sobbing, Oh gods, make it stop, make him stop –
"M'lord," Freya manages to keep her composure, but her voice is higher than normal. "This. – tisn't proper, m'lord, please -"
"You'll stay," Ramsay commands, hips snapping faster now and he isn't focused on Arya at all, is staring across the room as he ruts into her, eyes focused on Freya, her copper hair and wide green eyes.
And Freya –
Freya stares back. Licks her lips, slow and deliberate.
"M'lord," she says and curtsies. "As you command."
Later, her lord husband tucks himself back into his breeches, runs a bloody hand over Freya's cheek and down her neck. She blushes prettily, but doesn't move away – like a coltish doe transfixed in the eyes of a hound.
"Perhaps I will see you later," he murmurs.
"You have to be careful."
"No. Listen to me. You don't know what he's like when he wants something. He'll – he'll hurt you, Freya. He'll use you up and tear your insides out and laugh because he finds it funny."
A long silence. The girl watches her with still eyes and a face which reveals nothing.
"You are very brave," Freya says at last, and touches Arya's face with a gentle hand. "Be brave for a little while longer."
That night the Frey retinue are murdered in their beds.
"So they didn't kill you, after all," a girl's voice says, bringing him out of a troubled sleep, dreams of blood and weddings and his whole life crumbling beneath his hands; the death of a King.
Theon – Reek, he remembers, my name is Reek, Reek, it rhymes with bleak…
The stables are still dark, but he's almost warm, burrowed under the hay with the only horse left from…before. The mare, which rears away from everyone – even Lady Arya, who so loved to ride – does not startle at the sound of the stranger's voice.
"Who are you?" he asks, shivering in the cold, wondering if this is the night he ends up dead (at last, he thinks, at last, at last).
"I've had many names, Theon Greyjoy. None of them matter. None of them were me."
She knows who he is – and he can tell by the voice, yes, it's a woman, a girl, and she knows, she knows who he is. Only the Northerners know to look past Reek's ruined face, but she has a lilt to her words that makes him think of the Narrow Sea.
"You're the ghost," he realises. "The one who's been killing everyone."
"Only traitors," she replies, stepping closer to the stall. A small hand reaches out, and the mare leans into her touch hesitantly.
"I was going to kill you," the girl continues, almost sad. "You're a traitor, too. You betrayed him first."
But not worst, goes unsaid in the air between them. Theon breathes slowly.
"I want you to."
He senses a smile, small and cold. "I know. You want it, the gift. I can smell it on you, can see it in your eyes. You want it, but you don't have the courage even for that, do you?"
"What are you here for," he asks, ignoring her, "if not for vengeance? 'The North Remembers', you wrote."
He catches a glimpse of her face as the moon comes out, at last – a downturned mouth, and dark hair falling into eyes he cannot fathom.
"You betrayed Robb," the girl snaps, quiet rage quivering in her voice, "but I want to know this. Did you kill them? Did you kill Bran and Rickon when you came and took this place in your father's name?"
His breath catches in his throat, and a suspicion starts to bloom in the back of his mind, in his startled heartbeat.
"The boys…they weren't Bran and Rickon," he whispers, "I don't know where they are now. Far from here, I hope."
The ghost doesn't move and the horse still nuzzles gently at her hand. He remembers a skinny girl who loved to ride. Lady Arya never does, and it's just one more tiny detail in the picture that tells a gigantic lie.
"Who are you?" he asks again, but deep in his bones he already knows.
"Death," the ghost-girl whispers, and smiles.
notes: still bitter about S5 of the show. what a trainwreck.
notes2: almost sliced my thumb off earlier when i was making dinner whoops. be careful with knives kids.
notes3: i don't want to go to work tomorrow