We pillage, we plunder,
we rifle, and loot
I was born during a lull in a raging storm, tiny and quiet. A Greenlander man would be pleased by such a placid daughter, but not an Ironborn, not my Father. He and his saltwife, who had been brought to play midwife to my Mother, wished to sacrifice me to the Drowned God. It didn’t help that I was a girl child, like all men he was more concerned by what was between my legs than between my ears.
My Mother’s wily words on that day saved me, claiming I would be a dishonourable sacrifice, too weak and scrawny to please any Ironborn god. She sealed it with a promise that should I be sacrificed, he would follow me to the Drowned Gods halls. He allowed her to keep me, as if I was a dog rather than his flesh and blood, and I took to life with a passion unexpected in one born so weak. Drinking my Mother’s teats dry until they considered providing me with a wet nurse to keep up with my hunger. I was Ironborn, strong and true, and the Drowned God would have to work to take me from this world, he would have to earn my presence in his halls.
We kidnap and ravage and don't give a hoot
I continued to be a disappointment to my Father, particularly after my brother, Rodrik, and sister, Elaena, were born. They were both born appropriately strong, for an Ironborn’s children. Furthermore, Rodrik was a keen student, taking to the lessons on how to be the Lord Harlaw of Harlaw like a fish takes to water; and Elaena was the warrior my Father always wanted, coming out of our Mother screaming like a harpy and never really stopping.
While I learnt how to battle along side my siblings it was a necessity. No person, no woman, should live upon the Iron Islands without knowing how to gut a man. We learnt of the Old Ways, the Drowned God and the Storm God. We learnt how to sail and raid and reave. But they were not my passions, my passion was adventure. As Elaena was drawing and dreaming of ships and battles, I dreamt of the lands in my brother’s books; horses pounding across the sand as I sat astride, imagining the feel of muscle tensing and stretching beneath my thighs; the silks and lace from across the Narrow Sea; and my future as a Captain, free to sail where I please.
My parents despaired of me, how would I attract a strong Iron Born husband with my Greenlander dreams and dresses? Of course, my Father never saw my Iron spine hidden beneath the soft, innocent exterior I portrayed.
The only time my Father showed any type of pride in me at all was when I was young, not quite flowered, and I slipped aboard one of his raiding ships. Hiding amongst the barrels of salted meat and oats was easy, especially for one as small as I. Holding my bladder for longer than the morning not so, and this is what had me found out. Furious the Captain turned the ship around and returned me, now he had lost the good fortune of the morning tide and my Father would not let such an advantage be taken without serious repercussions. A belt was taken to my bare backside and I spent the next week laid out on my stomach in bed or walking gingerly between the chores that I was assigned. My sister loved my punishment, being treated as a servant for a month gave me humility, and rage. It gave my sister airs.
I love my sister, she is my blood and it is my job as the eldest to protect and provide. But even now she grates against my nerves. As a child we avoided each other’s company. She was loud, bossy, proud and very unimpressed with my snarking comments and backhanded compliments. I could have raised my hand to her, but she would not think twice of permanently maiming me and I do not start fights I will not win.
We extort, we pilfer, we filch, and sack
I was not yet seven and ten when I first met Balon Greyjoy. I had served aboard a ship, raided and pillaged, taken a man’s life and given up my maidenhead in exchange for a night of pleasure, but I was not prepared for the pure desire I experienced when I saw him fight for the first time. It was just training, crossing swords against Captain’s and sailors of my Father’s fleet. Even that he accomplished with deadly dexterity. After spending supper listening to the passion, like molten metal wielded by a master weaponsmith, with which he spoke of returning our people to the Old Ways, I knew I would have him.
It wasn’t difficult really, after hearing him speak of his wish to improve alliances between the Greyjoys and my Father’s House, as well as his intent to return the Iron Born to a place of pride amongst the Seven Kingdoms. I knew he would be attracted to a warrior, one with the adventurous spirit he too shared. So, when I heard him clashing steal against the wood of our training dummies I slipped from my childhood room to face this visionary, axe in hand.
Naturally I couldn’t allow myself to be easily bested, no man like Balon would respect a woman who gave in after a few steel sparks. But I also didn’t want to scare him off, men have fragile egos after all, it is the job of women to crush it or soothe it, depending on how you feel for them. For this reason, I had to toe a fine line between giving him a challenge, to heat his blood, and being gentle, to prevent myself from thrashing him soundly. Or so I believed.
I was pleasantly surprised when I found we were relatively evenly matched, my training having long since evolved to accommodate for the greater strength my enemies tended to have over me. Eventually he had worked out my tactic for staying out of range of his weapons and toying with him, knowing my stamina and dexterity had often been my saviour in battle. So, he had dropped his weapons and charged, catching me unaware and dropping me on my back breathless. Covered in sweat and panting he looked down at my face with something nearing reverence before crashing his lips against mine. I bit the prideful bastard for his trouble, his throaty chuckle sending heat flooding through my body.
He took his pleasure from my greedy flesh through the night, binding him tighter to me. Eventually, in the after haze of bliss I demanded he give up his salt wives. Although I half expected it, his laughter did not please me. I left him a handprint on his cheek and cold sheets for his troubles.
The next morning, I carried my chest of clothes down to his ship, dropped it on the deck and claimed I was Lady Greyjoy, demanding to be lead to my husband’s quarters. Shocked could not appropriately describe the expression upon his crews faces, however they did as they were instructed. The no doubt informed him that I was waiting there when he arrived, for he did not appear surprised when he walked in to find me in my small clothes lazing on his bed and partaking of his wine.
He married me at first opportunity upon our arrival at Pyke.
Maraud and embezzle, and even high-jack
I fought alongside my husband till the round shape of Rodrik growing in my womb made it too difficult to lace up my leathers. The experience of having each other’s back in battle and sharing in the heady after effects of the blood lust it caused (likely how our first born was conceived if I am to be honest), brought us closer together. The trust formed upon battle has been long known to form bonds unable to be explained by mere words, only those who have truly experienced it understand. This is true for shield brothers as well as those bound in matrimony.
When I was too large to join the raids Balon returned me to Pyke, to take over the duties of Lady Greyjoy. I was found lacking for the first three months of our return, at least in the non-conjugal sense. The child in my belly causing me to want the caress of my husband’s hands even more than normal. Soon enough he returned to the sea and I was forced to entertain myself in other ways. Taking control of the household was one such way, the other was preparing for our child’s arrival as best I could.
My firstborn took days to arrive, and I spent much of the labour in a bath of salt water by the fire, helping to stave off the pains. Balon stayed with me, the thralls had suggested he leave in the beginning but my very real threats to remove his manhood if he took one step outside our bedroom door convinced him to stay with me. Sweat was covering my body and sticking my shift to my skin, my nails digging into Balon’s shoulders while his hands massaged my aching back, when our first born came into this world. His silence terrified us both as the thralls moved him away to clean his face and rub life into his body. I must have looked a fright, with my eyes bloodshot from bearing down, my skin white from the shock of the birth and dried blood dotting my lips from biting down upon them. That, combined with my enraged screeching to give me my baby had the thralls rushing for their very lives to ensure he was well and in my arms as soon as possible. It was only Balon’s arms that kept me from scratching their very eyes out. My shrieking must have awoken his warrior spirit, because that was what caused him to cry out, screaming his defiance at being out of the safety and warmth of my womb. He was quickly placed back upon my chest, and he greedily latched upon a nipple to feed. In that moment, I became a Mother. I had never felt so whole. Wrapped in Balon’s arms with our son held against me.
Donel’s birth was more hurried, more chaotic. I had taken Rodrik to paddle in the sea, in a cove close to our home, his chubby little legs and brown curls covered in sand. My contractions started not long after we arrived, and after the length of Rodrik’s labour I expected I would be waiting some time and decided to stay in our cove until Rodrik had tired himself out. That was a mistake. By the time Rodrik was tired I was unable to walk, so instead I wrapped my firstborn in my cloak and laid him close to the cliffs, biting down upon a piece of driftwood to prevent myself from waking him. The sentries and Balon came down to find us half an hour later, worried that they could no longer see us from the castle. I had never seen grown men turn white so quickly as when they found their lady, blood surrounding her, birthing a child in the ocean with a piece of driftwood between her teeth. Balon quickly waded in and as our son slipped from my body he was caught and lifted to take his first breath of air by his Father. That should have told me then and there how alike they would be.
Our next child born was Asha. Rodrik had spent the entire length of my pregnancy asking as many questions as he could, fascinated by this strange creature that was altering his Mother. Donel was just pleased that my pregnancy brought greater milk stores for him to guzzle, although by the time Asha was ready to make her entrance to the world he was very unimpressed by the size of my stomach, causing him to have to think of other positions to get the nectar my body supplied. Asha’s birth was a difficult one, once again, I should have seen the signs of what was to come. She came feet first and I passed out from the pain while my body and the midwives did their job in bringing her screaming to the world. Balon waited till I woke, named her, told me I was strong and brave before heading to brag to his friends that another Kraken was born. After cleaning myself and the room, and handing my daughter to me to nurse, the thralls left to gift the placenta to the Drowned God and his sea creatures. Not long later my firstborn slipped in on unsteady feet. He had obviously battled his weariness to come meet his newborn sibling, and it seemed to be a losing fight for the toddler. Still, he clambered up and crawled to lay against my side, watching her drink with gutso. Carefully he reached a finger out to touch against her hand and watched in amazement as it was grabbed with the shocking strength infants manage. This time I hoped it would be a sign of things to come, a child in the Iron Island’s needs a brother at their back. What a sentimental fool I had been.
The birth of Asha seemed to be a catalyst to all Balon’s schemes and dreams. While the ideas had flowed around in his head since before our meeting, they finally came to a head not long after Asha was born. Our glorious little girl, with a heart so like Balon’s. Some days she drove me wild with her demands and stubbornness, but her first name day heralded the arrival of Lord’s and Captain’s from all the Iron Islands. An innocent reason for that many warriors and ships to come together. A pity it was only a cover. There Balon gave his speeches, explained his intent and began the true alliance building. He was going to destroy the Seven Kingdoms and bring the Iron Born back to the position of power and fear they deserved. Seeing him fired up like that, so sure in his convictions, had me all over him. In the training yard, on his desk, against the wall outside our rooms, while he sat on the Seastone Chair…
At some stage my waist again grew thick. I cursed my lack of restraint when he set sail with the Iron Fleet, I should have been at his back. Instead I was standing on the dock with three children under five and a belly full of arms and legs.
A time later I received a raven from the Targaryen King, Rhaegar, telling me of the Iron Born’s defeat. No doubt many we’re limping home as I read the missive. He had decided to keep my husband and a few of the others in his castle, claiming it was as punishment for their crimes against his kingdom. In truth, it was to cripple us. The punishment for treason is death, but they couldn’t even offer him that. No, they meant to keep our men so that if we considered fighting back they could execute them, one by one. If I were a stronger leader I would tell him to just get it over with, the Iron Born cannot have a new Lord while their Lord is alive, we are stuck in a limbo. But I am not strong, I am a woman pregnant with a prisoner of war’s child. So instead I write him, begging him to allow my husband to return for our child’s birth, because while the rest of Westeros will identify the baby as Balon Greyjoy’s seed, the Ironborn will only see it as mine without it’s Father to acknowledge it.
I give birth cursing the name of my husband, I still haven’t stopped. How dare he abandon me, how dare he abandon us, his children not even old enough to be out from my skirts. But Theon, my beautiful baby boy, brings light to my world with his sweet face and gentle touches. So very unlike his older siblings who are warriors through and through. He, he is a dreamer.
Rodrik, my brave eldest child, tried to assist me as much as he could. He worked hard in his lessons and made sure Donel and Asha attended them as well, he distracted them while I fed Theon or sat upon the Seastone Chair, passing judgement and making decisions that only a Captain can. He was growing into a leader. Donel caused trouble wherever he went, he was strong and assertive, but jealousy marred his relationships with his siblings, Asha was the only girl, Rodrik was the heir, Theon was the baby and Donel, as every adult who spoke about him said, was the spare. It infuriated and drove him, sometimes to greatness and other times to causing harm to his baby brother. Asha was like my sister, a warrior who wanted to show all the men who laughed at her that she could best them, it was glorious, terrifying and nauseating to watch. Theon was quiet, sweet, and was happily passed around the thralls of our home, he became milk brother to many of the children on Pyke.
Eventually my brother arrived, being a Lord himself he thought to teach my Eldest boy the way of them. “Let me take him sister,” he had said “let him be playmates with my own, let me get to know the child you gifted my name.” A little piece of my heart broke and turned to ice that day, another when he returned, this time with my sister at his back, asking to take Asha. She had been causing chaos down amongst the docks, sneaking aboard ships and causing them to turn around. I had been so proud, but the Captains were becoming restless with my inaction. She begged me when she first saw my sister spar, so away my darling girl went. Donel became more violent towards Theon, jealousy and anger at the others being favoured and getting out from their Mother’s skirts. Another piece broke and hardened as I sent him with his Father’s brother, hoping his anger would be honed into a weapon to be used for the Iron Island’s, rather than against it. The last remaining piece of my family, with Balon, Rodrik, Donel and Asha all gone, was Theon. My baby. The thought of losing him had me curled up in pain, he was all I had left. If my accursed husband had not abandoned us I would have had more time for them, they wouldn’t have been roaming the docks and spilling the blood of their kin and having to learn how to survive on their own. I would not let anything happen to Theon. He would stay by my side, maybe one day he would even be able to help his brother, Rodrik, to control the Iron Island’s. So, he went to his classes, he went to his training, then he sat beside me learning our people’s woes or he joined me on my ship, learning the ropes and the lingo but never, never leaving me.
We kindle and char, inflame and ignite
Many years had passed by the time I received the letter from my husband, two decades, our children all grown. He was returning. Just as I was getting used to being alone, he returns and expects us to give up our lives to bring him home. I send messengers out to find Asha and Donel, before preparing a ship and, leaving Rodrik in charge, sailing to collect my wayward husband. A storm rises as we near the Westerlands, blowing us towards Essos, tearing holes in our sails and snapping our mast. The thought of meeting the Drowned God just as my husband is finally released infuriates me, and I stand on deck screaming at them all. Eventually the storm passes, and I send a raven to my eldest, requesting he man a ship to collect his Father. My ship, in all her past beauty, will take weeks to repair.
Slowly and steadily we limp back to the Iron Island’s, and from there I get upon another ship to return home to Pyke. Where I wait for my husband, who will have to win back my affections and prove he is the same strong man I married.