THE PRINCE OF WINTERFELL
The hearth was caked with cold black ash, the room unheated but for candles. Every time a door opened their flames would sway and shiver. The bride was shivering too. They had dressed her in white lambs-wool trimmed with lace. Her sleeves and bodice were sewn with freshwater pearls, and on her feet were white doeskin slippers – pretty, but not warm. Her face was pale, bloodless.
A face carved of ice, Theon Greyjoy thought as he draped a fur-trimmed cloak about her shoulders. A corpse buried in the snow. “My lady. It is time.” Beyond the door, the music called them, lute and pipes and drum.
The bride raised her eyes. Brown eyes, shining in the candlelight. “I will be a good wife to him, and t-true. I… I will please him and give him sons. I will be a better wife than the real Arya could have been, he’ll see.”
Talk like that will get you killed, or worse. That lesson he had learned as Reek. “You
are the real Arya, my lady. Arya of House Stark, Lord Eddard’s daughter, heir to Winterfell.” Her name, she had to know her name. “Arya Underfoot. Your sister used to call you Arya Horseface.”
“It was me made up that name. Her face was long and horsey. Mine isn’t. I was pretty.” Tears spilled from her eyes at last. “I was never beautiful like Sansa, but they all said I was pretty. Does Lord Ramsay think I am pretty?”
“Yes,” he lied. “He’s told me so.”
“He knows who I am, though. Who I really am. I see it when he looks at me. He looks so angry, even when he smiles, but it’s not my fault. They say he likes to hurt people.”
“My lady should not listen to such… lies.”
“They say that he hurt you. Your hands, and…”
His mouth was dry. “I… I deserved it. I made him angry. You must not make him angry. Lord Ramsay is a… a sweet man, and kindly. Please him, and he will be good to you. Be a good wife.”
“Help me.” She clutched at him. “Please. I used to watch you in the yard, playing with your swords. You were so handsome.” She squeezed his arm. “If we ran away, I could be your wife, or your… your whore… whatever you wanted. You could be my man.”
Theon wrenched his arm away from her. “I’m no… I’m no one’s man.” A man would help her. “Just… just be Arya, be his wife. Please him, or… just please him, and stop this talk about being someone else.” Jeyne, her name is Jeyne, it rhymes with pain. The music was growing more insistent. “It is time. Wipe those tears from your eyes.” Brown eyes. They should be grey. Someone will see. Someone will remember. “Good. Now smile.”
The girl tried. Her lips, trembling, twitched up and froze, and he could see her teeth. Pretty white teeth, he thought, but if she angers him, they will not be pretty long. When he pushed the door open, three of the four candles fluttered out. He led the bride into the mist, where the wedding guests were waiting.
“Why me?” he had asked when Lady Dustin told him he must give the bride away.
“Her father is dead and all her brothers. Her mother perished at the Twins. Her uncles are lost or dead or captive.”
“She has a brother still.” She has three brothers still, he might have said. “Jon Snow is with the Night’s Watch.”
“A half-brother, bastard-born, and bound to the Wall. You were her father’s ward, the nearest thing she has to living kin. It is only fitting that you give her hand in marriage.”
The nearest thing she has to living kin.