Lord Eddard Stark
He had been Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North now for six years, and still it felt strange to sit where his father had once sat, and to do the things his father had once done. By rights all of this should have been Brandon's, by rights everything Eddard had gotten when Aerys Targaryen had had both his father and brother executed should have been Brandon's. It was those thoughts that often kept Eddard up at night, he felt guilt about taking what should have been Brandon's including his wife Catelyn, he felt guilt about doing things that should have been Brandon's to do. The feelings he had had as a child, that he was only half the man Brandon had been always came to haunt him, as he would sit in his solar and read through various things. His father and brother's ghosts haunted him still, throughout the nights and days that had come since Robert's Rebellion had ended with Robert seated on the throne.
He did have the feeling that he had done his bit thought show the northern lords that just because he had grown up in the Vale, he would not abandon those practices that the north had followed for thousands of years. He felt that he had earnt their respect now, especially after the Greyjoy Rebellion, in which one of his bannermen Jorah Mormont had been knighted by Robert himself, and had been one of the first over the walls of Pyke, Mormont had wed Lynesse Hightower and from what Ned had heard from the rumour mill the marriage was not working out as well as his friend had thought it would. Ned just hoped Jorah would use his commons sense and not try to do too much to impress his southern wife. As to another one of the interesting developments in the north amongst Ned's bannermen, was the fact that Roose Bolton's wife, Bethany who was roughly the same age as Ned's cousin Benjen would have been had he survived through the war had given birth to a little girl whom she had named Lyarra. Roose Bolton one of Ned's more dangerous bannermen now had two true heirs to the Dreadfort, his son Domeric who was about four years older than Ned's own son Robb, and Lyarra. There was also Bolton's bastard who had already begun creating trouble, but that was a matter Bolton had assured Ned he would take care of.
As to his own family, after a very shaky start to his and Catelyn's marriage, Ned liked to think things had improved, they had gotten over the initial awkwardness of him being Brandon's replacement, and they were working together now to ensure that their children grew up happy and safe. After seeing Catelyn with their children, Robb, Sansa and baby Arya as well as with Jon, Ned was convinced that she was a perfect lady and that he was beginning to feel more than just fond of her. With regards to their children, Ned loved them all very much, his pack had after Robert's rebellion had been whittled down to just he and Benjen, and then Benjen had taken the black and it had just been him and his wife and young son, and now that the pack was growing he felt happier and safer. His eldest son Robb was a bundle of energy always doing some sort of mischief and always attentive, reminding him so much of Brandon that sometimes it did hurt, his daughter Sansa was already a sweet little girl and Ned knew she would be a perfect lady. Arya though only a babe, Ned just knew that she would be a handful when she grew up, if how active and loud she was now was any indication. As to Jon, well his bastard son (though not truly his bastard son, a precaution he had taken) well Jon looked so much like him and acted so much like he supposedly had acted as a child that it was hard for Ned not take extra care with him. Ned had meant to keep the truth of Jon's parentage from everyone, so as to better protect him from any potential plotters, but when his own mother had taken one look at the boy who he claimed was his bastard she had known straight away whose son he was and she had simply looked at him and said. "You will need to tell Catelyn sweetling, keeping such a thing from your wife will only taint your marriage." And so he had told her the truth, and though she did not view Jon as her own flesh and blood, she was not as harsh to him as he had thought most southerners were to their own bastards, and for that he was more than grateful.
He would never stop being amazed at just how understanding and patient his wife could be, for after he had returned from the Greyjoy Rebellion, he had come back with Theon Greyjoy now the heir to Pyke, and his ward for the next however many years. Something Robert had suggested would be good for them all as it would perhaps prevent something similar from happening again, Ned was not sure how convinced he truly was about it all and yet he had taken Theon and brought him home to Winterfell where Robb had eagerly accepted him as a new playmate, and Jon following his brother's lead also tagged along. Catelyn had accepted Theon as easily as she could. And now with another ward about to join Theon and their pack she had also made preparations for this new ward, Wallace Waynwood, his cousin Anya's youngest son. Wallace and his mother were the descendants of Ned's grandfather's sister Jorelle's eldest daughter Lorra and her husband Devon Waynwood. As such Ned viewed the fostering of Wallace as something that made perfect sense, should something happen to him or his, it would make sense to have their closest living blood relatives in Winterfell having known the north and the north knowing them, it also made sense to keep close ties to the Vale considering Ned's own fostering there.
A knock on the door took him from his thoughts, and he called for whoever it was to enter, he found himself looking at his wife, her hair tied in a neat bun and her cheeks rosy. "They are nearing the entrance my lord." Catelyn said.
Ned nodded and rose and walked towards the door taking his wife's hand. "Let us go and greet Cousin Wallace then shall we my lady?"
As they walked down to the courtyard Ned was pleased to see that his children were already present, Arya in the arms of her wet nurse, though the nurse was quickly dismissed when Catelyn took the babe from her arms. They stood waiting for the carriage to arrive, and soon enough it did. It had been many a year since Ned had last seen his cousin Anya Waynwood, she looked dignified as ever, riding her horse, her two older sons Morton and Donnel riding beside her, whilst a small lad with dark black hair and grey eyes riding a small horse next to his mother on the right. They stopped and dismounted, as Anya got towards them, Ned got down on one knee and kissed her hand saying. "My lady, it has been far too long. Welcome to Winterfell."
"Thank you my lord, now if I might introduce you to my son. Wallace come forward." Lady Anya said.
Wallace Waynwood was the same height as Jon, his black hair shoulder length, his grey eyes were downcast as he came forward to meet Ned. Ned took the initiative and said. "Hello Wallace, I am Lord Eddard and this is my wife Lady Catelyn. Here we have my children Robb, Jon, Sansa and Arya. I hope you enjoy your time here in Winterfell and if you need anything at all please do you let me or one of the attendants know and we do our best to make sure that your needs are seen to."
Wallace was as shy as any six year old boy replied. "Thank you my lord." After that they dispersed with Wallace going to play with Robb, Jon and Theon whilst Ned and Anya and Catelyn retired to Ned's solar.
They sat down in his solar and then Ned spoke. "I hope your journey was safe and pleasant and that there were no troubles on your way to White Harbour Anya."
His cousin took a sip of water and then said. "Aye it was okay Ned. There were a few disturbances along the way but all in all it was a safe journey. Now enough about that, what news have you heard about King's Landing and the south since you returned from Pyke?"
Ned looked at Catelyn then and for a moment wondered what could have happened since the time he had last seen Robert some four moons ago. "All I know is that Robert held a celebratory feast after coming back from Lannisport, and that there was some discussion over whom to name as the replacement for Ser Ronald Connington as Master of Coin. Apart from that we have not heard anything more."
He is surprised when his cousin sighs, her voice is soft when she says. "Well I can tell you that King Robert has come to a decision about the master of coin. He has chosen on the advice of Lord Arryn, Petyr Baelish. The man has already begun improving the royal coffers."
There is silence for a long moment and then Ned says. "Well that is an interesting choice, but I have heard that Lord Baelish has done his bit to improve the economy of the Vale. What Robert does is no concern of mine, so long as it does not affect me, my family or my people. Whatever past deeds Baelish has done do not truly matter to me now, so long as he remains in King's Landing."
His cousin nods and says. "Well then, seeing as you are mature enough to say that I suppose it shall be enough to ease Jon's worries then."
With that their conversation ends and four days later the Waynwoods say good bye to Wallace and depart for Iron Oaks, whilst Ned still ponders over what his cousin meant, he hopes nothing serious for he does not think he can deal with the south again, not for a long time.