My name. A scream caught in his throat. They had taught him his name, they had, they had, but it had been so long that he’d forgotten. If I say it wrong, he’ll take another finger, or worse, he’ll … he’ll … He would not think about that, he could not think about that.
If I had a tail, the Bastard would have cut it off. The thought came unbidden, a vile thought, dangerous. His lordship was not a bastard anymore. Bolton, not Snow.
The crookback lord looked again and gave a sudden snort. “Him? Can it be? Stark’s ward. Smiling, always smiling.”
“He smiles less often now,” Lord Ramsay confessed. “I may have broken some of his pretty white teeth.”
“You would have done better to slit his throat,” said the lord in mail. “A dog who turns against his master is fit for naught but skinning.”
“Oh, he’s been skinned, here and there,” said Ramsay.
Reek had tried to bite his own ring finger off once, to stop it hurting after they had stripped the skin from it. Lord Ramsay would never simply cut off a man’s finger. He preferred to flay it and let the exposed flesh dry and crack and fester. Reek had been whipped and racked and cut, but there was no pain half so excruciating as the pain that followed flaying. It was the sort of pain that drove men mad, and it could not be endured for long. Soon or late the victim would scream, “Please, no more, no more, stop it hurting, cut it off,” and Lord Ramsay would oblige.
The other man had been a good rider, but Reek was uneasy on horseback. It had been so long. He was no rider. He was not even a man.
“A man would turn against me in your place, but we know what you are, don’t we?”
“Lord Ramsay treats his captives honorably so long as they keep faith with him.” He has only taken toes and fingers and that other thing, when he might have had my tongue, or peeled the skin off my legs from heel to thigh.”
“My lord,” he said, “my place is here, with you. I’m your Reek. I only want to serve you. All I ask … a skin of wine, that would be reward enough for me … red wine, the strongest that you have, all the wine a man can drink …”
Lord Ramsay laughed. “You’re not a man, Reek. You’re just my creature. You’ll have your wine, though.”
Ramsay slapped his face. “Take him,” he told his father. “He’s not even a man. The way he smells disgusts me.”
“M’lord. If I might ask … why did you want me? I’m no use to anyone, I’m not even a man, I’m broken, and … the smell …”
“A bath and change of clothes will make you smell sweeter.”
“A bath?” Reek felt a clenching in his guts. “I … I would sooner not, m’lord. Please. I have … wounds, I … and these clothes, Lord Ramsay gave them to me, he … he said that I was never to take them off, save at his command …”
“You are wearing rags,” Lord Bolton said, quite patiently. “Filthy things, torn and stained and stinking of blood and urine. And thin. You must be cold. We’ll put you in lambswool, soft and warm. Perhaps a fur-lined cloak. Would you like that?”
“No.” He could not let them take the clothes Lord Ramsay gave him. He could not let them see him.
“Would you prefer to dress in silk and velvet? There was a time when you were fond of such, I do recall.”
“No,” he insisted, shrilly. “No, I only want these clothes. Reek’s clothes. I’m Reek, it rhymes with peek.” His heart was beating like a drum, and his voice rose to a frightened squeak. “I don’t want a bath. Please, m’lord, don’t take my clothes.”
“Will you let us wash them, at least?”
“No. No, m’lord. Please.” He clutched his tunic to his chest with both hands and hunched down in the saddle, half-afraid that Roose Bolton might command his guardsmen to tear the clothes off him right there in the street.
“What did your bastard do to him?”
“Removed some skin, I would imagine. A few small parts. Nothing too essential.”
“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.
Ramsay smiled his wet smile. “Does she make your cock hard, Reek? Is it straining against your laces? Would you like to fuck her first?” He laughed. “The Prince of Winterfell should have that right, as all lords did in days of old. The first night. But you’re no lord, are you? Only Reek. Not even a man, truth be told.”
Ramsay rose, the firelight shining on his face. “Reek, get over here. Get her ready for me.”
For a moment he did not understand. “I … do you mean … m’lord, I have no … I …”
“With your mouth,” Lord Ramsay said. “And be quick about it. If she’s not wet by the time I’m done disrobing, I will cut off that tongue of yours and nail it to the wall.”
Lord Ramsay wanted his wife clean. “She has no handmaids, poor thing,” he had said to Theon. “That leaves you, Reek. Should I put you in a dress?” He laughed. “Perhaps if you beg it of me.”
He wanted to hit her, to smash that mocking smile off her face. He wanted to kiss her, to fuck her right there on the table and make her cry his name. But he knew he dare not touch her, in anger or in lust. Reek, Reek, my name is Reek. I must not forget my name.
She sat down next to him, too close, another of Abel’s washerwomen. This one was young, fifteen or maybe sixteen, with shaggy blond hair in need of a good wash and a pair of pouty lips in need of a good kiss. “Some girls like to touch,” she said, with a little half-smile. “If it please m’lord, I’m Holly.”
Holly the whore, he thought, but she was pretty enough. Once he might have laughed and pulled her into his lap, but that day was done.
Lady Dustin spoke up. “Take off your gloves.”
Theon glanced up sharply. “Please, no. I … I …”
“Do as she says,” Ser Aenys said. “Show us your hands.”
Theon peeled his gloves off and held his hands up for them to see. It is not as if I stand before them naked. It is not so bad as that.
Roger Ryswell grunted. “If not him, who? Stannis has some man inside the castle, that’s plain.” Reek is no man. Not Reek. Not me.
All quotes from A Dance with Dragons. Emphasis on “and that other thing” mine. The prosecution rests.