I dismounted off my horse and looked around the castle. It was huge, at least to me, and there were so many people. There weren't this many people in Pyke I was sure about that. I noticed a dark blur running towards me; I didn't have time to move before it stabbed me in the chest. I fell back to the ground, this was the end. I hadn't even been in Winterfell for an hour and they were already killing me off. There was a girlish giggle and I realized I had shut my eyes. When I opened them I saw a girl with dark black hair standing above me. She grabbed my hand and pulled me up. "Sorry I knocked you down. I'm used to sparing with Robb and Jon, they always hit me back."
"I wouldn't hit a girl," I mumbled.
"It's just sparring silly. Anyways if that had been a real sword we wouldn't be talking right now. Maybe you ought to learn how to fight. I'm Amina by the way," the girl said.
"Theon," I told her.
"I'm nine too so are Robb and Jon, I guess you knew that already. Anyways do you want me to show you around? I don't know where Ned went but I guess they wouldn't mind me giving you a tour." She grabbed my hand before I could say anything and pulled me into one of the buildings.
"Are you a Stark too?" I asked. "There sure are a lot of you."
"Oh no I'm not. I was…adopted." It was the first time I'd heard her hesitate. Though I guess she might hesitate all the time, she could be terribly shy and quiet, I wouldn't know. That didn't really seem to fit what I'd seen in the last few minutes.
"So you're a ward too?"
"No. I don't have parents; they died a long time ago. Ned saved me and I've lived here all my life."
"So you're a Stark."
She sighed. "No. I'm a Winterfell, the first and probably only ever with that name. Ned wouldn't give me the bastards surname because he didn't think that was fair just because they didn't know who I belonged to." She stuck her hand into the pocket of her dress and pulled about a piece of paper. She unfolded it and then handed it to me. "I even made my own house sigil. And my words are 'forged by fire and honor.' "
It was a fantastic sketch of a direwolf in the center of a circle surrounded by curling tendrils. "The circle looks familiar; did you borrow it from another house?" I asked.
"No. I made it up," she said quickly, snatching back the paper. "Come on let's go find the Starks."
"Is Ned…"I paused not sure how to word it.
"Nice? He's the best. Catelyn is too, sometimes, she can be super protective though."
"My parents were never really that protective, they always wanted me to be ready to fight."
She stabbed me in the side with her wooden sword again and smiled. "Maybe you ought to."
"You can start taking lessons with us; Robb, Jon and I. I'm sure you'll love them," she pulled me down the hall quicker.
"I have brothers," I said quietly and she stopped.
"But not anymore, right? I'm sorry I guess that was rude. I'm not saying you're going to love them like brothers today but you really can't help but like Robb, he's so charming." The way she said charming wasn't exactly flattering. I wondered if she really liked him as much as she claimed to.
"There you two are," A woman said coming around the corner.
"I was showing Theon around," Amina said bouncing on her heels. She looked like she was weighing her options, to stay or to take off running.
"There are things Ned needs to discuss with Theon," the woman said walking towards me. I took a little step back but Amina appeared next to me and grabbed my hand.
"Come on," she said. She smiled at me and I couldn't help but return it, even if mine was much less uncertain. "That's Catelyn by the way. She's really not that scary." She walked with me until we reached a big door.
"Go on in," Catelyn motioned me. "Amina run off and play with the boys."
"Can't I stay with Theon?" She asked.
"I'd rather you not."
Amina turned to me. "Find after you're done, I'll introduce you to everyone."She squeezed my hand once for good luck before running down the hall. Catelyn held open the large door and I walked in.
I walked across the courtyard, I saw Amina sitting with two boys on the other side. "He looks a little small," said the taller one.
"Be nice!" Amina snapped. "Jon, smile! Do you always have to be all moody?" There was a pause before she hit him in the arm.
"Ow?" He said.
"Not like that!"
"So much for being nice," the other boy, Robb, said.
"This is how I smile!" Jon said.
"Then don't smile! He's really nice guys, why are you trying so hard to scare him off?"
"We haven't even met the kid, give us a chance to decide if we like him or not," Robb said.
"It doesn't matter if you like him. I like him so you are going to be nice!" She crossed her arms and turned around to face me. I stood awkwardly a few feet away. "Sorry about that," she mumbled. "Anyways, this is Jon and Robb." She motioned to them. "This is Theon," she said to them.
"He still looks small."
"Ami, I came out here to spar. Are we going to practice?" Jon asked.
"Yeah, of course." She grabbed her sword and I stepped back to get out of their way. She turned sideways her stance looking too perfect for a kid. She was better than Jon, or at least I thought so at first, he looked clumsy compared to her. But after they both dodged each other's attacks she seemed to get distracted even though her eyes never left her target. He pushed his sword into her chest.
"I thought you had him that time," Robb said laughing.
"I did too," Jon said.
Amina shrugged. "Jon's better than me. I'm girl, he should be. I'd honestly be worried if he wasn't." She turned her loss into a joke but I felt like there was something she wasn't saying. She reached into her boot and pulled out a very real knife. She looked at the archery target that sat a few feet away she saw took a few seconds to set up and then threw the knife straight into the center.
"Wow," I said.
She took a bow jokingly. "I'm the best knife thrower here, it's natural I guess. No one had to teach me."
"If I was ever in a real fight with Amina I'd be dead. It's a lot quicker to fling a knife at someone than to fight them with a sword," Jon said.
"Can you fight?" Robb asked.
"I can shoot a bow and arrow," I said. Robb looked a bit skeptical. Amina picked a bow and tossed it to me. I caught it and she handed me an arrow. She ran and grabbed her knife before stepping out of the way. This shot could decide how I'd live the rest of my life here at Winterfell; if I missed I'd never live that down. I lined up and then pulled back, one, two, release.
"Wow," Amina said. Robb clapped and as Amina said earlier Jon just looked moody. Amina pulled the arrow out of the target and took it back to its quiver. "I'm hungry," she said.
"Come on little deer," Robb said. He put his arm on her shoulder.
"Was that supposed to be a joke about how much food I eat?" Amina asked.
"Well I wouldn't mind being a deer. They're pretty and they're fast, they aren't very dangerous though."
"We obviously need to come up with another animal then," Jon said laughing. He grabbed her arm away from Robb and spun her around.
"We should have a feast or something, with dancing and music and lots of food!" She said.
"We aren't going to have a feast," Robb said.
"Well, we could," Amina grumbled.
"You just want to eat," Jon said laughing.
"Well I'm going to take Theon to see the kitchens; we didn't make it there before Catelyn found us," Amina said slipping away from Jon. "Come on!" She grabbed my hand again. Before we were out of view of the other two she turned and stuck her tongue out at them before running down the hall pulling me with her.
"They like you," she said.
"They didn't really talk to me much," I said.
"The three of us are just really close; we don't get new people often. They'll warm up to you soon and you won't be able to get them to shut up. Well Jon is just naturally grumpy, but Robb and you will get along for sure."
She opened the kitchen door and walked over to a long table where they were preparing tonight's dinner. She grabbed two large pieces of bread and handed me one of them. "Yum," she said taking a large bite. She made a face at me with a piece of bread sticking out of her mouth. I took a bite and copied her. She snorted and almost choked on her bread. "Gods Theon! You look like a troll right now!"
"So do you!" I countered. She sat down on the ground laughing too hard to stand up. I laughed at her and she grabbed my leg and yanked me down too. "That hurt!"
"You still look like a troll," she giggled.
"That isn't very nice," I said laughing.
"I know." She couldn't stop laughing and just lay there on the floor until the cook came and shooed us out. This didn't help our laughing fit and she continued giggling into the hallway.
That night her weird little house sigil showed up in my dream. "Fire and Blood." The curling shape twisted into a dragon with three heads. I found her as soon as I could the next morning. "I know where I recognized your sigil from."
"I told you I didn't-"
She sighed. "Yeah."
My eyes widened. "You made it look like that on purpose?"
"I'm Targaryen. I didn't expect you figure it out this quickly, that's mostly my fault."
"Can I see the drawing again?" I asked. She handed it to me and I unfolded it. Now that the Targaryen dragon was fresh in my mind I could see that the curling lines weren't as random as I had originally thought.
"You can keep that if you want, I have a zillion."
I folded it back up and stuck in my pocket. "Do you want to go practice shooting arrows or something?"
"I can't, I'm supposed to help Sansa with her lessons," she groaned. I had met Sansa the night before at dinner and I saw perfectly well why Amina was groaning about it. "All she wants to do is sew and dress up."
"You dress up," I noted.
"I never said I didn't like dressing up, that's just all she wants to do. Anyways, I should get going. Go see if Robb wants to practice, you two better be best friends when I come back. If I come back."
I had been at Winterfell for six months and today was Amina's tenth nameday. I looked out my window and saw her by the target practice her knife throwing, this was my chance. I went down to meet her. "Amina!" I called.
"Shh!" She tossed her final knife. Four were all crammed perfectly onto the bullseye. "Now speak."
"I got you a present, for your nameday."
"I told you not to!" She said.
"I know but I think you'll like this." I handed her the lump which was poorly wrapped with some paper. She pulled the string I'd tied around it and unfolded the paper. The necklace was wrapped in its chain and she unrolled it. I waited as she studied the image on the pendant. "I used the drawing you gave me and the blacksmith helped me make it."
I still couldn't tell if she liked it. Then she threw her arms around my neck and hugged me. "It's perfect! Thank you so much!" She put it over her head. "I still don't like presents though."
"Always being stubborn," I said with a sigh. She was trying not to smile too widely and I knew she liked it.
"Come on little deer," I said using one of her least favorite nickname.
"I'm not a deer!" She protested.
"If I started calling you little dragon people might wonder about you."
"That's true…Well anyways; let's see if I can steal something from the kitchen. I'm starving." I started laughing. "Shut up!"
"What are you doing to my hair?" I asked laughing.
"Braiding it," Amina said like it was a totally normal thing.
"Because I'm going on this "hi, I'm 16 and almost old enough to marry your son even though my wedding was planned since I was a baby" tour and I'm not going to see you for over a month!"
"That is the worse excuse I've ever heard," I said laughing.
"You don't seem too concerned, Theon," Robb said laughing. "Maybe you should do your hair like this more often."
"Your next," Amina said without looking up at him. That shut Robb up for a minute. "Then Jon." Jon stopped shooting arrows and looked over.
"Jon Snow has never met a girl he likes more than his hair," Robb said laughing at him. "He's not going to let you touch his head."
Amina and Jon shared a long look that Robb was laughing too much to notice. I always noticed their looks though. "You're right," Amina said. "Damn." We sat in silence for a minute as Jon shot another arrow and Amina continued to torture me. "Can someone explain to me why this tour is necessary? The Starks have known exactly who I was going to marry since I was brought to Winterfell, and then I'm taking him with me? This doesn't make any sense."
"It's customary," Robb said. "I guess if someone posed a better offer for you then things could change."
"Except I'm not actually a Stark so how would that even benefit them?"
Robb laughed. "I don't know I'm just saying."
"Why couldn't you two come too?" She sighed resting her chin on the top of my head.
"No one wants to take the bastard or the ward of Winterfell anywhere, why would they?" Jon shot an arrow and you could almost taste the bitterness in the air.
Later than afternoon I wandered up to Amina's room where I assumed she be packing, instead she stood in front of the mirror twirling in a flowy summer dress. "What are you doing?" I asked laughing. She jumped when she noticed me.
"Trying on a dress, I might take it with me," she said quickly.
"Right, you know this is the North? Even in the summer its cold."
"I know, you're right. Never mind about the dress then."
She was obviously lying about why she was wearing the dress. I noticed her look out the window across the courtyard, the general direction of Jon's room. I didn't say anything because I knew she wouldn't listen to me, besides I didn't think she knew that I knew about her and Jon. "Yeah, I wouldn't pack the dress. I just remembered I needed to go do something, I'll see you tomorrow."
"Goodnight!" She called.
I grabbed my horse from the stables and rode him to the brothel. "Where's Ros?" I asked one girl. She pointed down the hall. I found her laying on one of the couches; her dress looked a lot like the dress Amina had been wearing earlier but Amina's fit unlike Ros's. Gods, had Amina been taking advice from the whores? "I need to borrow you," I told Ros.
"Anything for you," she purred. I was one of her best customers.
"I have a friend," calling Jon a friend seemed a bit of a stretch. "He's always in a bad mood; I was hoping you might be able to cheer him up tonight."
"A virgin?" She asked. I nodded. "That's annoying." She sighed, "Fine I'll do it, for the usual price."
"I've got it covered."
Extremely early the next morning Amina burst into my room. "Amina the sun is barely up, what are you doing?"
"Did you send a whore to Jon's room last night?"
"Yes." I waited to see if she'd give anything away.
"I walked in on her trying to undress him," she said uncomfortably. I laughed. "Theon, it's not funny!"
"It is actually."
She huffed and turned on her heel and marched out of my room. There were certain things Amina lived by and honor was one of them. She was betrothed to Robb and I wasn't going to let her toss away her honor for some crush.
"Theon!" Robb yelled from downstairs. "Aren't you going to come say goodbye?"
I walked downstairs where everyone was helping load up Eddard, Amina and Robb's things. Arya was begging her father to let her come along but he kept pushing her back towards Catelyn. Amina was dutifully putting crates into the wagon with her back facing me. "Are you ignoring me now?" I asked. She didn't answer. I sighed, "Come on, you're about to leave on your big long vacation."
"It's not a vacation," she said.
"Well whatever it is, you're leaving for a while."
"Yeah. Don't look to sad, you have Jon here still." Jon looked over and we stared at each other. Amina knew we didn't get along yet she always tried making us be friends.
"We'll be fine," Jon said gruffly. They weren't looking at each other and I knew that was mostly my fault.
"Amina it's time to go," Ned called.
"Well even if you are the singular most annoying person I know, I'll miss you."
"You know I'll miss you too."
"Friends shouldn't say goodbye, we'll always meet again."