|Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy in HBOs Game of Thrones|
With great clamor, Ramsay and his dogs as well as some retainers return from a sixteen day long hunt. They were unsuccessful in whatever they were hunting, and Reek is afraid that the angry Ramsay might do him harm. Luckily, Ramsay just orders a feast from their involuntary host of a small keep, and Reek is send off to tend the horses together with Big Walder. He tells Reek that Ramsay killed a shepherd they came by, but didn’t find their intended prey. Walder is not overfriendly to Reek, but he doesn’t partake in the cruel japes Little Walder and Ramsay’s bastards are engaging.
At the feast, Reek is chained at a distant corner of the hall since his smell disturbs the feasters. The feast itself is likely to ruin the winter provisions of their host and his people, but there is nothing to be done against the wishes of Ramsay, as Reek knows. Two of Ramsay’s bitches engage a dog of their host’s and tear him to pieces right there, when Roose Bolton arrives. He immediately commands the hall to be emptied entirely, complaining that Ramsay hasn’t found the missing Freys. He explicitly commands that Reek stays.
Ramsay and Roose engage in a discussion about whether Lord Manderly had something to do with the vanishing of the three Freys, but neither of them thinks it ultimately important. Roose Bolton tells Ramsay that he should be more quite with his hobbies since people start to talk already so much that even he gets the rumors. He tells Ramsay that he can do what he wants and that he is entitled to, but should he ever want to rule he needs to be quiet and unsuspicious. The talk then goes to the subject of Ramsay’s marriage.
Roose commands that it is held in Winterfell instead of Barrowtown, the seat of Lady Dustin, like planned originally. Stannis marched, and not on the Dreadfort, so holding it there will force him to attack since the mountain clans won’t stand the fate of Arya Stark. Roose also adds that Lady Dustin hates Ramsay, and when he responds by threatening to cut her tits off, flay her and make boots of her skin, Roose replies that then he would lose significant support and that human skin makes lousy boots. He then commands Ramsay to leave and to give him Reek. When Ramsay tells him that Reek is his Bolton just laughs and insults Ramsay, threatening to take away everything, thus forcing him to leave.
When alone, Roose is very gentle to Reek. He tells him the story of the first Reek, who was a very clean person but had a constant stench about him nonetheless, like a curse of the gods. He gave him to Ramsay when his mother demanded a servant for him, and the two became close and learned from each other. He then tells the story of Ramsay, how he came about a miller’s wife on a fox hunt, killed her husband for denying him the ius primae noctae and then raping her. He muses that old customs die hard in the North and that the Umbers at least keep to this ancient right too. After that, he goes to the topic of how Ramsay was brought to him by his mother, and he finally acknowledged him. Ramsay killed his legitimate son, Roose is sure, but there is nothing he can do about it. He tells Reek that he plans to impregnate his wife, but that he thinks that Ramsay will kill all other offspring as well. Apparently, he doesn’t want to anything about it.
On their way, Roose offers Reek to wash himself. Terror struck, Reek declines, full of fear of what fate Ramsay might install on him. They then go into the keep of Barrowtown and meet Lady Dustin, whom Roose presents Reek as Theon Greyjoy, rightful heir of the Iron Islands. She observes that he doesn’t look the part and asks if he is mad, to which Roose Bolton just asks if it matters in reply. The chapter ends with Reek fiercely denying that he could be Theon.
Several things in this chapter are remarkably, above all the cruelty that both Boltons display and the casual manner in which they do it. Ramsay is more directly brutish, taking a perverse joy in tormenting others physically and mentally, but Roose Bolton’s cruelty goes beyond that, being much more thought through and utterly without feeling or mercy. He kills, rapes and humiliates just because it comes as a convenient thing to him, because he feels like it. He does nothing with true passion, like Ramsay does, but with the full rationale of a man who sees himself above all morale laws (although he states a false pretext for not killing Ramsay when he talks about the sin of kinslaying).
Even more disturbing is Roose’s attitude towards the future of Ramsay and his house. He knows full well what a monster Ramsay is, not undertaking any major effort to change him into at least a tamed monster, and that he is responsible for the death of his own son. He knows full well that any other offspring he might have will be killed as well, not caring about since he won’t see them grow up anyway and “boy lords are the bane of any house”. How he can make rational decisions about power and be concerned about the future fate of house Bolton while simultaneously leaving Ramsay where he is eludes me. Most creepy is his casual dismissal of Ramsay’s hate fantasies with the comment that humanskin boots are crap since they are not tough enough.
As to side notes, we can also see that the winter is becoming more and more of a problem, although it’s not as yet fully there. The provisions are already getting short, and lordly assholes like Ramsay make them even shorter. Snows block travel, which will become a major issue for Stannis later. It is also interesting to see how long news needs to reach even a man as mighty as Bolton: that Stannis didn’t march on Karhold is news several weeks old, if not months. Third, it’s interesting to see that the two Walders aren’t that much alike, at least Big Walder is no complete jerk.