It was early in the morning when they were waken up with kicks and curses from the crow that was leading them to the Wall.
Like every morning, his thoughts were quick to trail to Violet.
He though about her so much these days, he was surprised he hadn't dreamt of her.
He wasn't even at the Wall yet, and he was already beginning to forget what she looked like.
He remembered freckles, and the color of her hair. But her features were a blur now, and he began to lose hope in seeing her again, even in his mind's eye, or in a dream.
No. It was too cold to dream, and the closer they came to the Wall the colder it got.
And the more men repeated that he would grow used to it, the more he felt as though he never would.
The long walk to the Wall had been days of hunger, cold and uncomfortable, bumpy, frozen earth for a bed, every night.
Grenn had hoped things would be better once he arrived at the Wall, but at the sight of the men inside the Wall upon their arrival, the last shrivel of hope he had left turn to dust.
"This is your life now, boys." Alliser crowed at them as they were assigned to their cells. "And don't believe anyone who tells you you'll grow used to the cold."
He had to share the room with 15 other men. Both young and old. Strangers.
He looked at every face in the room. All cold men. His brothers now.
He had a brother, and these men here would most certainly not take his place.
He spotted an empty cot in the center, which seemed to be located in the warmest part of the room, and he began walking to it, not noticing the boy that was also headed towards it, and who arriving there before him, sat himself down.
"That's mine." Grenn grumbled at the small man, who seemed to be around his age, but nowhere near his size.
The boy inspected the cot qucikly before turning to face Grenn. "I don't see your name on it." the boy smiled up at him.
Grenn grounded his teeth together. He had the feeling the boy thought him a fool. He opened his mouth, about to say speak, but the boy cut him off.
"Let me guess... Brewer's Creek?" he said, pointing a small finger at him.
"Huh?" Grenn grimaced, confused.
"I'm Pypar. I can tell where a man's from by just listening to 'is accent."
Grenn lifted him off the cot by the shirt, feeling his thick neck heat with anger.
The fool was small, but he didn't seem scared, holding up his pointy chin high, waiting for Grenn to hit him. Suddenly, Grenn no longer felt like hitting him. The rest of the men in the room were already staring at them, and he was not sure exactly what would happen to them all if a fight broke out, but he felt too tired to find out, and he merely tossed the small man aside, watching as he stumbled back, off balance, before falling on the cot next to the one they were fighting over.
"Just... piss off." Grenn mumbled thickly, sitting on this won cot, setting his furs down next to him.
Tomorrow they started training. He would get to hit someone then.
That night, he didn't dream of Violet.
Instead, his dreams were full of winter.
Grenn was back home, but everything was frozen. Frozen earth, and frozen trees, and frozen expressions on his family's faces. North had seeped into their lives, eating away at everything.
He could hear someone whimpering, so he began to walk around the farm, looking for the source. Around the stables, near the old shed, he saw the well. The well he'd feared since infancy.
The whimpering came from inside.
Grenn felt too scared to go look, but then Alliser's voice echoed in his thoughts. He was a recruit of the Night's Watch now. He was a protector of the people. A sword in the darkness. He was no longer a boy.
He began walking towards the well, and whimpering got louder, and louder. He placed his hands on the cold stone, leaning in to look inside...
Then he fell out of bed, and he was back at the Wall.
It was still dark out, and everyone was still fast asleep. But he could still hear the whimpering.
He grabbed onto the side of his bed, and pulled himself off the floor, and he realized the whimpering was coming from inside the room. In fact, it was coming from the cot next to his.
It was quite loud, and Grenn was surprised no one else had waken from the noise.
Taking a few steps forwards, he realized it was Pyp.
The small figure was twisting and turning in his sleep, and the glow in the room provided by the small fire pits that were placed all around the room, cast demonic shadows in Pyp's face, bringing a shudder from Grenn.
At first, he just thought about throwing something at him, but then he remembered an old tale his mother used to tell him about the soul leaving the body during sleep, and sometimes even taking over the body of an animal for the night, and if you woke them up too violently, the soul didn't have enough time to return to the body, causing the person to die, and the soul to remain forever wandering.
The last thing Grenn wanted was Pypar's soul haunting him for the rest of his life.
Circling his bed, Grenn came next to Pypar, stretching out his hand to touch his arm, but then thought better of it, and reached to touch his shoulder instead.
He had hoped the touch itself would wake him up, but it didn't, so he shook him lightly.
"Pyp." he whispered near his ear. He had to be careful... give the soul time to return... "Pyp!" he shook him a bit harder.
Pyp's eyelids flew open, and both of them flinched back from each other, before Pyp threw himself forwards at Grenn, swinging his fist into his face.
"Don't touch me!" he huffed out, looking like a scared, threatened animal.
Grenn fell backwards, sitting hard on his bed with a grunt.
Some of the men were beginning to stir, and old one arm Sabel, who had the cot to his left, reached over sleepily to twack him on the back of the head with his remaining hand, muttering curses under his breath.
Grenn began to grind his teeth together, rubbing his face which still burned from the punch.
That's what you get for trying to help, he told himself as he pulled the furs from under him and began to cover himself, giving Pyp his back and not even bothering to check if he was still on the floor or not.
The next morning, Alliser gathered all the new recruits in the courtyard, pairing them off to fight each other.
Grenn had never been good with a sword. Back at the farm, he had been more familiar with scythes than he had been with swords, and there was always work to be done, and never time for his father to teach him and his brother a few of the skills he knew with a sword.
Some of the men chuckled at Grenn's slowness and clumsiness, but most of them were just as bad or worse than him. He doubted any of these boys and men knew anymore than he did about wielding a sword.
Without wanting to, his eyes trailed over to Pyp, who's spirits seemed particularly down today.
The previous day, he had been quite animated in spirit, telling tales, and after their introduction, Grenn had noticed he had not only tried guessing his origins from his accent, but he was guessing everyone else's.
Today though, he'd barely said a word to anyone, and he kept his eyes to the floor.
Perhaps the cold, brutal reality of this place was finally dawning on him.
Alliser Thorne was yelling at him, cursing him, trying to get a response from him. Any kind of reaction.
His opponent, Toad, beat at him with the dull sword, each blow harder than the last, but Pyp only blocked a few blows, making no effort to hit the small man back.
"Hit him! Harder! Don't hold back!" Thorne yelled at Toad, who seemed to relish obeying the old man's commands.
"Harder!" Alliser yelled a second time, turnning to Pypar. "Fight back! Or do you really have a lovely cunt between those legs o' yours!"
At that, Pyp sword tip disconnected from the earth, and swung around him in a large arc, connecting with Toad's blade, bringing a loud ring. He took a step back, and swung again, this time, striking Toad's side.
Pyp picked up momentum, and he was swinging at the small man repeatedly, over and over, until he had him on the ground, screaming "yield" over and over again in an unpleasant shrilly voice. But still, Pyp didn't stop.
By then, Grenn and the rest of the recruits had stopped fighting, and were now all staring in awe at the tiny boy with rage visibly flaring in his eyes though the visor.
Allister took a step forward, and with one swing of his sword, knocked Pyp to the floor.
"That's enough from you! To the armory, you useless fuck. And why have the rest of you stopped!" Thorne turned on them as Pyp rose to his feet and walked in the direction of the armory.
Grenn's stared after the small boy, until his opponent twacked the side of his arm with the flat side of his blade.
"Are we fighting or what?" the man grumbled, and Grenn dropped his visor back over his eyes and resumed his fighting stance.
Later he would learn from Jon Snow how wrong his "fighting stance" really was.
His opponent was as useless as him with the sword, but smaller, and this somehow benefited him. It made it difficult for Grenn to actually hit when he swung at him.
The muscles Grenn had, gained from years of working at the farm, where nowhere near accustomed to the fluidity necessary to strike at an opponent with a sword. Grenn found he was slower than the smaller man in front of him, and his larger frame made him even more so.
If anything though, his size served him in intimidating others.
Quite useless soon, when everyone found out how clumsy he really was, he told himself as he walked into the armory. Pyp was at the back of the room. Men gave him their swords and stripped off their scabbards, dropping them by his feet, which he picked up and hung on the hooks along the wall.
Grenn handed the boy his sword, their eyes locking for a brief moment before Pyp dropped his gaze.
Grenn unclasped his plates, dropping them on top of the rest and turned for the door without giving Pyp a second look.
Toad suddenly limped into the room, face twisted sinisterly as he pointed at Pyp.
"You're dead, you little cockless shit!" he yelled acidly, knocking his shoulder into Grenn's as he walked over to Pyp.
Grenn reacted quickly before he thought better of it, and grabbed Toad, pulling him back before he reached Pypar.
"Let go o' me!" the boy shrilled, but Grenn spun him instead, shaking him by the shoulders.
"You wanna cross Thorne? Do ya?" he asked the pig-eyed boy, releasing him as soon as he saw his small shiny eyes think better over what he was about to do.
"Do us all a favor, and save it for when were out training." Grenn told the boy with a hint of annoyance, surprising himself with his words.
Todder clenched his jaw proudly, turning to Pyp to spit at the boy's feet before pulling his plates over his head and throwing them on the ground with his sword and helm.
Through all of this Pyp had looked ready to fight, and Grenn would not have been surprised if once again he knocked Toad to the ground.
As Todder turned for the door, Pyp's gaze rose from the scabbards on the floor to meet Grenn's, his lips set in a thin line. Grenn figured out then, as he tore his eyes from Pyp's dark ones and left the room, why he'd stood up for the small boy, and he swallowed the emotions down, hoping they would go away.
They weighed on him the rest of the day, and that night, as he buried his face under the furs in his cot, he wept.
The next morning, Grenn woke with sores all over his body, and training was twice as hard that day, as every hit burned twice as much, and every move he made to strike at his opponent bit into his muscles like ice and fire.
The new recruits were much quieter than they'd been the first day as they all sat on the tables in the common hall.
Grenn took his bowl of luke warm broth and the piece of stale bread from the man that stood behind the serving table and headed towards one of the tables.
He slipped a spoonful of grayish broth into his mouth, mentally adding his mother's cooking as yet another thing he missed from home.
Someone placed a bowl next to his, and when he looked over to see who it was, Pyp was the last person he expected to see.
"Hi." the boy said with a smile, as he dipped his spoon into his broth. "I never thanked you for yesterday. I could've handled it, I didn't need your help, but thanks."
Grenn felt rage slowly rise inside of him as he turned to face the boy, holding himself back from punching the cocky smirk off his face.
"I didn't do it... for you." Grenn managed through clenched teeth as Pyp took a bite out of his piece. "And it certainly wasn't an invitation for you to come sit with me."
Pyp turned to face him at that, visibly biting the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling. "Are you still upset about your face?" he asked as he reached for Grenn's face with tentative fingers.
Grenn smacked his hand away, shoving him away by the shoulder.
His face still ached a bit from the punch Pyp had given him in his sleep the first night, but he wasn't aware it had bruised.
Pyp held on to the table to keep himself from falling back. "Of course not." he taunted, noting how Toad and some of the other men who had sat with Grenn the first days, now walked by them, and to another table. "It's because you don't want to be seen with me. Me, the cockless mummer... What? You don't think I know what they call me?" he rolled his eyes, and turned to his food. "Better than being a thick necked, clumsy brute." he muttered.
Grenn let the anger take over him at that, and reached to grab fistfuls of Pypar's collar.
"You wanna cross Thorne? Do ya?" Pypar repeated Grenn's words from the day before.
Grenn's grasp on his collar loosened, eyes wide with surprise, for he hadn't only spoken out his words, but also with his voice.
Pyp's smile widened.
"How did you do that?" Grenn gasped out in fascination.
"I can imitate any voice." Pyp said in Thorne's voice.
Grenn burst into laughter, smacking his hand on the table. Pyp was laughing too.
"Brilliant?" Pypar cut him off in a woman's voice, making Grenn jump back on the bench.
"Ugh!" he groaned with a shudder. "Don't do that."
"I'm small," Pyp said, as he took a sip of his ale. "The mummer's used to make me play women sometimes."
Grenn's brows shot up at that.
"Did you... did you really look like a woman?" Grenn asked carefully, trying not to show how uncomfortable he felt.
Pyp's face turned grave at that, and he shrugged, taking another bite from his bread.
Grenn looked over the boy's face. His thin lips. The angular shape of his face, the dark eyes. The large ears.
Pyp glanced over to him out of the corner of his eyes. "What are you staring at?" he asked defensively, his chipper mood completely gone.
"You remind me of someone, 's all." Grenn replied, turning to his food, which was now cold.
"Really?" Pyp uttered sarcastically. "Who?"
Grenn ate several spoonfuls of broth, thinking over whether or not he should answer, deciding there was no reason why he shouldn't. He liked Pyp. Oddly.
"Oh." Pyp said, no longer on edge.
They shared the rest of their meal in silence, each lost in their own thought, and when Grenn saw some of the others staring his way, he almost stood and left Pyp's side.
Yesterday, Pyp had beaten one of the men to near pulp, and he was right about what the others though of him.
The last thing Grenn needed was for others to think he was like Pyp.
He didn't leave though.
That night, as he fought the cold under the furs of his cot, he glanced over to Pyp who was laying on the cot next to his.
"Pyp?" he spoke out quietly into the night, hoping he was already asleep.
The furs began to stir as the small boy turned to face Grenn. "What?"
Grenn licked his lips before he spoke. "What was it? Your dream. The first night."
Pyp looked up to the ceiling intently, as if the dream had been carved there the night he'd dreamt it.
After a long moment of silence, he finally spoke as he gave Grenn his back.
"I can't remember."
The next day, after their training, Grenn found his way to the table where Toad, and the rest of the men he'd sat with the first days, sat at.
He fought with the urge to glance over to the table Pyp sat at, but when the roar of laughter came from that side of the room, everyone in his table turned to see the large eared boy kneeling on one of the benches, making faces and voices, which had the men on his table roaring with laughter.
Grenn noted how comfortable he seemed, and how much the men appeared to like him, and he couldn't help feeling a bit of jealousy.
Pyp became well liked by most after that. Most. Grenn and him didn't speak for the rest of the week, even when Grenn had planned to, something always got in the way.
Once, when they'd been assigned to clean the common hall together, they'd started talking about home, and Grenn couldn't believe how much he'd missed him.
He was different. Constantly teasing him, calling him ugly, and stupid, and slow, but it was this that reminded him of his brother.
Halder, one of the newest recruits, had walked into the common room as Grenn had an arm wrapped around Pyp's neck playfully, and Grenn quickly released him, and turned his back on Pyp, resuming brushing at the table in silence until the man left.
When he turned to Pyp, the boy's furrowed expression filled him with guilt.
"I..." Grenn began, but was cut off.
"It's alright, Grenn. You've made your choice."
Amongst the newest recruits, was a boy named Jon Snow, who quickly antagonized himself by approaching training with arrogance and scorn.
He became Alliser Thorne's favorite recruit to mock, and everyone found themselves wanting to beat him with the sword when put against him. No one had so far.
"Aurochs!" Alliser's voice boomed in the courtyard, tearing Grenn from his thought as he stepped forward with annoyance at the sound of his nickname.
Thorne signaled towards the Snow boy with a nod.
The fight between them didn't last long, as Grenn stumbled about foolishly, trying to defend himself from the blows skillfully delivered by Jon, until he was sat on the floor, cradling his burning wrist in his hand.
That afternoon, as him and his friends cornered Jon Snow in the armory, his thoughts trailed to the afternoon, over a fortnight ago, when it had been Pyp in Jon's place.
Grenn remembered what had made him come to the boy's defense.
Looking into Jon Snow's brown eyes, he saw nothing of his brother in them, or Pyp, for that matter.
All he saw, was an arrogant noble boy who, even as he was outnumbered, sneered down at them like he was a fucking king.
A king Grenn wanted to hurt so badly.
Which is why he still felt amazed everytime he recalled what happened several days after the attack on Jon.
Halder fought the new recruit with the flat of his sword, and him and Pyp shared a look, and he could begin to feel the panic rise in him.
For he knew.
He knew it, as Jon stepped forward in Sam's defense.
He knew it when he saw Pyp step besides Jon, chiming, "Three to two will make for better sport."
He knew it when he stepped forward to join Jon and Pyp, and for a brief moment, Sam and Jon and Alliser and Halder were all forgotten, and Pyp gave him a quick look of surprise and asked, "what are you doing?"
Grenn smiled his crooked smile, and turned to Alliser as the yard grew terribly silent.
"Making a choice." he whispered.
That was when he knew. That this was his place, and these were his brothers now. Jon, and Pyp... especially Pyp. Even the cowardly Sam.
But especially Pyp.