A/N: This is like 90% based on the book-universe, but I really liked the TV show's thing where Ned saw Arya on the statue of Baelor and gives a sign to Yoren to take her away… so that is mentioned. Otherwise, as I wrote this I was imagining the book characters in my head. But since this is a weird, hybrid sort of situation, I guess you can imagine either one (except for one brief comment where I reference Robb's age haha). Anyway, enjoy.
NOTE: All dialogue (except the last spoken line) is taken from the book. No Copyright infringement intended!
The hot afternoon sun beat down relentlessly over the countless figures that filled the large plaza in King's Landing. Most were forced to squint against its harsh light, straining to see the small group standing before the great Sept of Baelor. There were at least ten of them, maybe more, some dressed in fine armor, others delicate silk or handsome robes. Truly a sight to behold... But there was one, less-remarkable figure among them that truly caught the people's attention.
As the sea of angry faces looked up at the loathsome traitor, he looked right back, his grey eyes taking in every look of hatred and contempt from the crowd below. Each nasty glare or shouted curse cut deep into his heart, but his face betrayed no emotion as he spoke.
"I am Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Hand of the King," the man took a deep, shuddering breath. "And I come before you to confess my treason in the sight of gods and men." In a calm, clear voice he went on to confess his betrayal of his dear friend, King Robert. His plan to usurp control of the realm, to murder Joffrey and take over the Iron Throne. The lies came easily to Ned. He had rehearsed them countless times in his dark and dirty cell as he awaited this moment. Never in his life had he felt so ashamed, so helpless. But what choice did he have? His honor or his family… he now understood that he would have to lose one to protect the other.
As the final words of his prepared speech passed his lips, Ned felt a sharp pain against his temple. He let out a soft hiss and staggered backward slightly as the rock fell to the ground, clattering as it bounced away from him. Still reeling from the pain of the first blow, he turned away from the crowd and tucked his chin into his chest, trying to shield himself from the other stones and pebbles that now seemed to rain upon him. Though just barely audible over the roar of the crowd, a shrill cry of panic reached his ears as the onslaught continued. It was several long moments before the mob before him began to settle down and Ned was able to look out at the sea of people, already knowing where the sound was coming from.
There she was – the frightened young girl in her tattered clothes, still clutching to the enormous stone leg of Baelor Targaryen. Damn it, where was Yoren? Had he misunderstood? Simply ignored him? She shouldn't see me like this. For a brief instant, father and daughter's eyes met across the crowded plaza. Look away! Run! Ned wanted to cry out to her. Arya did neither.
"…What shall be done with this traitor, Your Grace?"
A sudden hush fell over the crowd at these words, and Ned finally noticed that the High Septon had been speaking. It took all of his effort to finally force his eyes away from his youngest daughter. He turned toward Joffrey, expectant in spite of himself. Lord Stark was no fool – he had already sealed his own fate. He would never return to Winterfell, never see his family again. It would be exile, surely. Perhaps to the Free Cities across the Narrow Sea, or maybe north, to The Wall. Perhaps he would see Jon again. A small comfort to be sure, but a comfort nonetheless.
The young "king" turned toward the crowd, a soft smile on his lips as he began to speak. "My mother bids me let Lord Eddard take the black," his bright green eyes fell on the trembling young girl beside him, "and Lady Sansa has begged mercy for her father." The boy's smile began to widen and, timidly, Sansa returned the gesture, her eyes darting just for a moment toward Ned. Her father gave her the tiniest of nods, hoping to reassure her. But the girl's slender body continued trembling in fear as Joffrey went on, his eyes once more looking out over his people. "But they have the soft hearts of women. So long as I am your king, treason shall never go unpunished… Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!"
It was though time had stopped. Ned's wide, terrified eyes locked with Joffrey's cold narrowed ones, horrorstruck. No! It wasn't supposed to be like this! He was vaguely aware of a sudden commotion behind him, the swelling roar of the crowd, and the stabbing pain in his shattered leg as he was shoved roughly to his knees. Everything felt so far away, so disconnected as a million panicked thoughts seemed to buzz within his head at once.
It was not his own life that concerned him. I've failed them. He realized, the pieces suddenly falling into place. Everything he had done was for naught. He was correct in believing he had sealed his own fate. But he had done so many months ago. Lord Stark had doomed himself and his entire family by coming to King's Landing in the first place, by becoming Hand of the King.
Tensions between his family and the Lannisters had been high enough, even before Catelyn kidnapped the Imp… But ordering the attack on Gregor Clegane, uncovering the truth about Robert's heirs, being foolhardy enough to confront Cercei… Ned may as well have dug his own grave.
And now, with him gone…
Robb will not let this go unavenged. The heavy footsteps of Ilyn Payne reached his ears as this terrifying thought entered his mind. War. Just as he had feared. But Robb still had a year ahead of him before becoming a man. How was he to lead an entire army? And what of poor Bran, crippled and broken? Rickon, scarcely more than a babe… If Winterfell were to fall…
No, Cat would get them out of there. Put them into hiding. She would protect them. But who would protect her? Ned's breathing quickened as the steps came closer. From what seemed like far away, Sansa's sobs were carried to him. Poor, sweet Sansa… So fragile, trapped in the very mouth of the beast. What would become of her? And Arya… Arya!
Lord Stark lifted his head ever-so-slightly, his gaze falling on the immense statue of Baelor. She was gone. Thank the Gods. Keep her safe, Yoren. He pleaded silently. Gods knew she would need it. All of them would. The lion and the wolf would be at each other's throats at last.
Lord Eddard Stark bowed his head as Ilyn Payne swung the sword high above him, the steel glinting in the bright light of the sun. He closed his eyes, and in his final moments wished that he had refused Robert's offer all those months ago, that he had stayed home in Winterfell with his family. How different things could have been…
He thought of Robb's warm smile and Jon's laughter as they raced their horses together. Bran's small, lithe form climbing easily up a knotted tree. Arya and Sansa's shrill screams as they argued relentlessly over their needlework. Rickon's tiny hands pulling at his bootstraps, begging for a piggyback ride. Catelyn's warm, soft body pressed against his. Her smile…
How quickly they would all fade. There, in the final moments of his life, he finally understood the words of his House more clearly than ever before.
"Winter is coming." He whispered as the blade came down upon his neck.
A/N: Hopefully that didn't suck too badly? Anyway, I had a lot of fun writing this, and I hope you enjoyed. I love Ned and I'm so upset that he died in the first book/season. LOL