“I don’t want them here.” He told Bran with a pout.
“You don’t have to like them. But we have to welcome them.” Bran replied. “It’s what good lords and princes do.”
“Well, I’m not a lord.” He crossed his arms.
It was a never ending battle. He wasn’t happy when Jon left, or their father and sisters, least of all when their mother went away. Robb had been the last straw. He was beyond unhappy. He wanted to be around Bran, but he couldn’t play, so he could only cling to his wolf.
Then the Walders came. It took awhile, but he got used to them. But Bran had to be the first one to welcome them, to invite them to share their fire, salt and bread. Like their father and brother would have. It had also been Bran’s job to sooth his little brother every time he was upset; because he was the only other Stark left.
“I want Mother, Father and Robb!” he whined, for what felt like days on end for hours at a time. Once Bran successfully calmed him down Rickon would run outside to play. But never too far from Bran’s bedroom window. He’d look up at Bran, who liked to sit on the window itself and they’d exchange a sad look. They were both broken in their own way. The only thing Bran could coerce Rickon to do before the Walders came were to play outside mostly with only Shaggydog, go to his lessons with Maester Luwin, and listen to Old Nan’s tales. But slowly he was starting to not like her stories anymore. He was becoming more fond of the things Osha would tell them. She knew all the stories he liked, and she would tell them both about direwolves and other things North of the Wall.
The fact that she seemed to grow on him made Bran happy. Maester Luwin said it would only be a matter of time before he warmed up to the other children again as well, the Walders included. Bran wasn’t so sure, Rickon was mad at them the first night they stayed.
“They stole Jon’s room.” He said in a fury. If the boys were like their wolves, Rickon was only angry because in his short life so far when he threw his toys, screamed and cried. They would come to him, and he would settle down. But Maester Luwin was at a loss for what to do with him, the only thing to be done was to bring him to Bran. He didn’t want him to leave, not that he could if he wanted to. But, the next day it would start again. He’d find something else that made him unhappy.
“We have our own names in Winterfell.” He’d told the Walders hotly. He knew his name had come from his Grandfather’s but there was a difference between Rickard and Rickon. Even if Bran was named for their Uncle Brandon, he went by Bran. He didn’t care how many Walders there were. To him is was a stupid name. Good Stark names were Rickard, Rickon, Brandon, Benjen, and Eddard…. He was a Stark, not a Frey.
Rickon also didn’t really care what the Walders did. That was until he heard from some of the household guard, and the other children the Walders were playing a new game in the Godswood. He didn’t even seem to care for days about it. He’d just play alone, it didn’t bother him so much anymore. But when Maester Luwin added that Bran was with them one day, he changed his mind and went to look.
He didn’t need to know any rules or anything about the game itself. He was excited by all the yelling and laughing. Then he looked to see Little Walder on a log, in a shallow pond in the Godswood with a staff. He swung it from side to side, knocking every other kid into the mud.
“Me now! I want to play!” He yelled. Little Walder waved him toward them and he ran off Shaggydog close behind. “No Shaggy, wolves can’t play. Stay with Bran.”
Shaggydog listened, he sat next to Bran his green eyes glanced at Bran, then at Summer, then focused again on his boy.
Rickon was terrible at playing games. He was so little, and all of his siblings knew better than to be too rough or get too carried away. When Robb and Jon played with him they made things easy for him, and often let him win. Bran and Arya let him although in Arya’s case she would yield, after she was bored and tell him he was really strong and brave. Even Sansa told him he was the best knight or monster.But Little Walder didn’t care and before Bran could even think to say something Rickon was running along, to try and grab the stick from him, and Little Walder hit him across his stomach. Shaggydog moved like lightning against the trees in the forest and bit Little Walder’s arm with a long angry growl. There was blood spilling into the pool of water, and the other children ran off screaming. Soon they found themselves surrounded by adults. The kennel master, Maester Luwin, Ser Rodrick, every adult that could try, was trying to get the direwolf off Little Walder and chained somewhere safer.
The whole while Rickon laughed in the mud, he even splashed around in it excitedly. Bran couldn’t understand why, but he was relieved to know the Walders never wanted to play that game again. But now their wolves were confined to the Godswood.
“I don’t like Maester Luwin anymore.” Rickon told Bran that night. He’s keeping them away from us.”
“I hate the other children.” Bran complained. Rickon stared at him, wondering who he meant. “Well the Walders, They’re why we don’t have our direwolves.”
“Shaggy was just mad. I think he’s going to get more mad. You saw him, he wanted me to win.”
“You could have told him to stop.” Bran replied nervously.
“I didn’t want him to stop. It was funny.” Rickon giggled.
“It wasn’t” Bran replied firmly. “You need to control him, what if he did that to me?”
“He wouldn’t do it to you. He loves you, and Summer would be mad if he did. I do control him, but he didn’t like when I got hit. It was his fault, and it was funny.”
“It would make mother, very angry if she heard Shaggydog was attacking people because you thought it was funny.”
Rickon only tossed his head to the side and scoffed. He knew it was true, but would she come home? Even with the direwolves in exile in the Godswood the castle played tricks on people’s ears. Sometimes they would howl, and it sounded like it was coming from one of the boy’s rooms. Or it would come from a empty hallway, where Rickon liked to play. They knew which wolf was which.
“Come now little prince, ignore them.”
“Shaggy wants to listen to my lessons. You’re making him mad. You made Summer sad, he missed Bran.”
“They are wild things little Prince, they belong in the woods.”
“They belong with us!” He argued. “Old Nan says Starks have wolf blood, they’re just like us!”
“They’re just like you? You run through the castle, biting people?” He asked.
“I would if they made me mad.” he replied defiantly.
He sighed. “Why don’t you play little Prince. We’ll finish this tomorrow.” Maester Luwin said.
But, ever since Shaggydog bit Little Walder, he seemed to like them better. He wanted to play with them now, and they played everything like he used to play with his brothers and sisters. Rickon was so happy he went to show them the crypts, which they didn’t particularly want to come back to, when he told Bran he’d been so angry.
“That’s our place.” He’d said.
But he couldn’t bring himself to care. If his father wasn’t coming back alive, he didn’t feel anyone else would either. Not their Mother, or Robb, Sansa, Arya, especially Jon. He was bound to the Wall. They wouldn’t care, because they weren’t here. They would never know, only Bran would. But he couldn’t play the same way anymore. Nothing was the same, nothing would go back, his pack was scattered and broken. He was the only wolf left to prowl around Winterfell.
Winterfell needed it’s wolves, Winter is coming after all.