Gaunt eyes and emaciated bodies. Tattered clothing, sagging off of weary bones. Babies wailing and mothers too. So many left to fend for themselves.
Theon was watching the reactions of his small Ironborn crew. These were men who had seen blood and guts spill from severed torsos, limbs and heads sliced clean off. But they couldn't bear to look at their own people who were starving.
Fucking Euron. That lying sack of shit. No sign of him or Yara.
Theon was torn. Should he leave Pyke immediately and track down his sister or stay and help these abandoned people? What would Yara do?
They had just finished docking on the rocky shore as a small crowd gathered near the boat. Theon looked into their faces. Old men and women. Young women who had aged rapidly. And small, malnourished children who could barely keep their eyes open.
"Have you no food?"
A low murmur spread through the crowd. Theon pointed to an elderly man in front. "Friend. Tell me what's happened."
The crowd quieted down. Theon didn't recognize the old man. He truly didn't know anyone on Pyke, and he was startled by the lack of resilience in their expressions.
What is dead may never die.
"The wild one. The traitor. He sent a few ships back this way not long ago. We thought he was sending food. But the men only took from us. Their own blood. Ironborn pillaging Ironborn. It's unheard of." The man stopped to take a breath.
"We've no fish, and no one with the strength to catch any. There's only a few horses left, and they'll be gone within a week's time. Then...they'll be nothing left but..." Theon stepped closer to the old man and patted him on the shoulder.
He thought about his crew for a moment. They were tired from the long journey but well fed compared to this lot.
"Show us your boats. We'll bring in fish for you and get you back on your feet. Then I'll go after my uncle for his crimes. Euron's taken Yara prisoner. As you can see, he's only loyal to himself. We deserve better."
The crowd remained quiet. People were too hungry to think about much of anything and too hopeless to believe in anyone.
But they slowly began to scatter and lead the new arrivals to the various boats and nets that had sat idle for weeks.
Theon nodded at his crew and started on the long walk towards the castle. He'd have to find a raven and get word to Winterfell - to ask for help for his people and to warn Jon that Euron was not on the Iron Islands as he'd declared in the dragon pit.
"Son of Balon Greyjoy, is it?"
Theon turned around and locked eyes with the old woman standing behind him. She was clutching the reigns of a horse that was just as emaciated and weary as his owner. "Take him. It'll be faster. Just don't ride too hard."
"Thank you. I'll be careful with him." As he went to take the reins, Theon clasped his fingers around the old woman's hand. She didn't wince at the sight of his mangled hands but mustered a brief smile.
Theon rode to Pyke and was again met by a crowd in front of the castle. He gave them a similar speech and went inside to find a scroll and ink. The castle was in shambles - furniture strewn about and bodies huddled in corners - asleep or maybe dead for all he knew. Theon was reminded of Moat Cailin and how he'd found those Ironborn soldiers, ravaged by sickness and hunger. He hoped that he could stop the same thing from happening on the Iron Islands.
He wrote the message and located a raven. Theon hoped that Sansa or Jon would be willing to spare something for his people. But he also knew that the threat of the White Walkers could be upon Winterfell by now. He would have joined them in their fight and still could, once he'd freed Yara from Euron's clutches.
What is that fucker up to on behalf of Cersei Lannister? Where could he have taken Yara?
Theon would have to figure it out somehow, even if it meant traversing all the waters of Westeros.
He descended the stairs and began to look for kindling and wood to start a fire in the main room. Stepping into the courtyard, Theon paused beside a wishing pond. It had been a favorite spot of his mother's.
He glanced into the murky water and saw the reflection of a man he didn't recognize, or rather, the reflection of someone he hadn't seen for many years. Someone stronger. Someone more capable than he'd believed. And this time, there was no turning back.