"We were all excited when we heard the King and the court were to come to Winterfell. Princes, Knights, ladies, summer, and the King himself, Robert Baratheon, the Demon of the Trident as father called him. We expected much, and we got little. The Prince was an ass, but perhaps, on reflection we could have been different? Perhaps that would have averted the troubles."
King Robert I Baratheon
It was damnably cold in the north, he could feel the chill in his bones, and he was often left wondering how anyone could possibly want to live here. But this was where his friend was, this was where Lyanna was, and so he had come here. Jon was gone, but there was hope left for them. Ned was the last piece of hope he had, and he would be damned if his friend stood there doing nothing in this place.
He looks at Lyanna's statue, but when he speaks, he doesn't speak of her, though he knows Ned thinks he does. "Why did you bury her here? She deserves to be in the sun, basking in it, and allowing her glory to be seen."
As predicted his friend gives a token response. "She wanted to be buried here, next to father and Brandon."
Robert hides a snort, his friend likes to pretend he always cared for his siblings, but Robert knows the truth, he knows the darkness buried inside Ned. "Well, she's here now. But, that is not why I asked you down here Ned." He pauses, sensing the tension in his friend's shoulders, a sharp thrill runs through him. "Jon is dead. He was a father to us both, but he is gone now." His friend stiffens even more and Robert wonders at that, what is his friend hiding? "Now, you are more like my brother than any of my actual brothers. I want you to serve as my hand."
His friend exhales sharply, then gets on bended knee. "I am not worthy of the honour."
You're right, you're not. You left Jon and I down in the south and went hiding here, behind a ghost and your own secrets. But I will give you this anyway, for Jon's sake. Robert thinks to himself, aloud, he replies. "I'm not trying to honour you Ned; I'm trying to get you to rule whilst I drink and fuck myself to death." I wonder, would you care if I did Ned? Do you care at all?
His friend looks at him surprised. "I…I... do not know what to say Sire."
"You can say yes damn it man." Robert responds impatiently. "Say yes and rule at my side as you were supposed to."
He can tell Ned feels hesitant about saying yes, and Robert does not understand why, this is an honour, this is rightfully Ned's place, why does he hesitate? Eventually his friend asks. "Might I have some time to speak with my wife about this?"
Robert had suspected that this might be an issue, something his friend would use to weasel his way out of this, and so he says. "Very well you can speak to Cat about it. But I will also extend the invitation for you to bring your wife south with you."
He can tell his friend had not expected this, but he still nods. "I will speak with her and let you know Sire."
Robert nods. "Good. And be quick about it, I am not a patient man." And your time is already running out Ned. I know about your little secret. Robert blinks once to clear that thought away, it is nothing but a suspicion, and so he will not act on it now. But if he has to, he will. Turning attention away from that, he says. "Now, there is another thing that I wished to discuss with you."
"My King?" Ned asks, sounding worried.
Robert smirks a little under his beard, he likes seeing his friend uncomfortable, for all the years that his friend left him high and dry and did not reply to a missive or a letter, this is his time to strike back. "Had Lyanna survived, we would have been brothers by marriage. I have long cherished the thought of seeing our two families united together. You have a daughter, and I have a son. I think the time is right to see the marriage pact fulfilled."
As expected, Ned stutters and stammers. "Your Grace, Sansa is but a girl."
"A betrothal can be arranged Ned. She need not marry my son straight away. But it would be good for them to get to know one another." Robert responds, thinking back to his own betrothal to Lyanna and how they had not known one another, when that whoreson Rhaegar took her.
Ned looks suitably uncomfortable; his words are slow and measured. "I thank you for the honour Sire. And I will be more than happy to accept."
Robert nods approvingly. "Good. Now let us leave the dead to their rest Ned." With that he turns and strides out of the crypt, emerging into the sunlight, where he bids farewell to his friend and with the aid of the Kingsguard makes his way to where he and his wife will be staying. When the door opens, he finds his wife sitting on a settle, brooding. Cersei is beautiful there is no denying that, but she is cold, very cold. "You will be happy to know that Ned agreed to the betrothal."
His wife narrows her eyes at him and asks. "Are you sure this is smart?"
Robert snorts. "Smart? Cersei, it is genius. Ned is someone who was born to serve. He will serve as I wish and nothing more." He has his suspicions about his wife, but he leaves them be for the time being, for now he has won an argument.
"Well, I am sure Joffrey will enjoy having someone to talk to. I do not think the Stark boys like him." His wife replies.
Robert looks at her and says. "They will learn to like him, or they will suffer for it." He was not unaware of what his son was, but the boy was crown prince, the Starks would respect that, or they would hear his fury.
"When father told me I was to marry the Crown Prince, I was overjoyed. How could I not be? He was handsome and tall, and I was going to escape the cold and dreary north. If only I had known then, what I know now."