Sixth Month of 298 A.C. Black Cells, King’s Landing
Lord Eddard Stark
It was cold, so very cold here in his cell, gods alone knew why, considering it was the height of summer. But something Elbert had said when they had found him after taking the city all those years ago rang in his head. When one was facing death, one always felt the cold, it was as if the gods were simply reminding you of the mortal shackles with which you were covered in. Eddard Stark had not had any company for close on two weeks now, if he had kept the time right, truly it could have been longer and he would not have known, but it felt long enough. How he longed to see the sunlight, and to feel the wind on his face. How he longed to hold his daughters in his arms and to know and to feel once more.
He had been a fool not to expect something like this, looking back on it all, he knew he had been foolish beyond recompense and now his girls were going to pay for that. Why he had told Cersei Lannister that he knew the truth of her children’s parentage he knew not, all he knew was that it was the honourable thing to do. Pah, honour! What a frivolous concept it was, there was no honour in the south, the last of it had died with Jon Arryn, Ned had learnt that to his sorrow here in this cesspool they called a capital. He just hoped his girls would be okay, if what the eunuch had said was true, the Lannisters had not been able to find Arya, his brave fierce little she wolf had escaped, hopefully she would make it as far away from King’s Landing as possible. As for Sansa, sweet Sansa who so much injustice had been done to, gods he hoped she forgave him, he should have spoken to her instead of merely commanding her, had he learnt nothing from Lyanna?
The pain in his leg was almost too much to bear, but still he tried to think hard to keep the pain at bay, whether or not he would succeed he knew not, but all he knew was that succumbing to the pain would not be good for him. He needed to find a way to get out of this cell and to get to Sansa, but every time he thought of something he would instantly dismiss it as too risky, his daughter’s safety was paramount. Gods, if only he had had the sense to go with Renly’s suggestion, by now they could have been marshalling an army and preparing to take the city. But no his damned honour had come into play once more and it had cost him and his daughters and those who were closest to him. That little worm. Littlefinger had been right, his honour would be the death of him.
The door to his cell opened, and two burly men, guards of the gold cloaks he imagined, came into the cell and picked him up by the arms, they carried him to the wrack. Gods this again, when would the woman learn, she could not break him. They put him onto the wrack and he numbed himself. He was tied down and then the wrack was expanded as a silken voice asked. “Tell me Lord Eddard, why you committed treason?”
Ned grunted. “It was not treason, Stannis Baratheon, is the true king. Joffrey Waters is nothing but a bastard.”
The wrack tightened and Ned felt his limbs begin to howl with pain. The voice tutted. “Come now Lord Eddard, let us not play this game. Joffrey Baratheon is the true king. Stannis Baratheon is nothing but a usurper. You are a traitor.”
“Lie to yourself all you want, but Stannis Baratheon has the only claim to the throne that is right by law. Joffrey Waters, is the Kingslayer’s son.” Ned replied through gritted teeth.
He could hear the wrack tightening, and his body began to groan in protest. “Come now Lord Eddard. Be reasonable. Admit that you were conspiring to commit treason and all shall be forgiven and you may be released from this torture. No one wishes for any more harm to come to you.”
“A lie. A lie told with a voice of silk. I am not such a great fool as to believe that. The mere fact that Cersei Lannister is having me tortured shows just what she means to do with me. If I confess, I am a dead man.” Ned growls, as much from anger as to hide his pain.
The voice tuts then. “And what of your daughters Lord Eddard? You would condemn them for your stubbornness and your honour? You would become your father?”
That hit too close to home for Ned, and his hands tightened into fists. “What do you know of my father? What do you know anything? You are merely a lap dog for the Lannisters to do as they please.”
The voice hardens then. “I know enough about your father to know that he was not the man you thought he was. With his scheming and plotting, it is no wonder both your brother and sister died during the rebellion. Had he had more sense nothing would have happened and you would all have been safe.”
“No. You lie, my father was a hard man that is true, but he had honour and he was only doing what he did for the good of the family.” Ned growls, the pain in his back getting worse.
The voice laughs. “Oh my Lord Stark, how little you know. Your father was a man determined to remove the established order and he suffered for it. He and your brother lied, but of course you are no stranger to lying, are you now my lord?”
Ned freezes then, his retort caught on his tongue, the image of a tower so long ago, and one white knight left, standing there, pleading for understanding, and Ned allowing the man, the white knight to leave so he could have a chance at one last goodbye with his sister, and when she had said goodbye and breathed her last, he had held her daughter, lifeless and malformed and howled. “I do not know what you mean.” He manages to grit out, though his teeth begin chattering, his back is crying out with pain and his head is pounding.
The voice laughs once more. “Oh come now Lord Stark, we both know what you did at that tower amounted to treason. Letting the man go will come to haunt you. You knew it did, and that day is fast approaching.”
The wrack tightened and this time Ned screamed as he felt his back begin to give way, his vision began to blur and his arms and legs began to howl in protest. Lights begin to flash before him, and he sees the ghosts of all those whom he has known, his father charred and broken, Brandon choked and lifeless, Lya holding her babe, and Robert gored by a boar. His visions torment him as the pain begins to increase, and by the gods, he wants to scream, but then there is noise already and he knows not where it comes from. As he begins to see darkness grow, he passes out.
When he wakes his back is on fire, and his arms and legs feel numb to the world. He blinks slightly and knows from the darkness that he is back in his cell. “Ah good you are awake my lord.” A voice brings him back to reality and he sees a slight shape standing there.
“Who…who are you?” Ned asks.
“”Oh you cannot recognise me now can you Stark?” the voice says turning mocking.
The shape opens the door slightly and Ned sees that it is Cersei Lannister. “What do you want from me Cersei?” he asks.
“Where have your courtesies gone my lord? No Your Grace? I suppose what they say is true, the black cells truly do change a man.” The Queen Regent mocks.
“Have you come merely to gloat?” Ned asks.
The queen regent’s tone changes then. “No I have come to speak sense to you. Confess your crimes and have done with it. You need not be put through any more pain and your daughters maybe spared the harm of knowing their father is in danger.”
“You would have me give up my honour to allow your bastard to sit the throne? Do you think me mad?” Ned rasps.
“I believe you to be a man who cares for his family Stark. Or would you rather see sweet Sansa harmed?” Lannister responds.
Ned feels his blood freeze at the woman’s words. “You would not dare! Sansa is an innocent, both my girls are. You cannot harm them and still expect me to co-operate with you.”
The woman laughs softly then. “Who said they had been harmed? I am merely stating what could happen should you choose to refuse to confess. Confess your treason and you shall be allowed to take the black. Your daughters shall be spared and nothing else shall come of it.”
“Allow Sansa to go home, you do not want your son married to a traitor’s daughter, and I do not want my daughter wed to that bastard of yours.” Ned growls. He feels the slap come and smirks somewhat through the pain. “I shall wear this as a badge of honour Your Grace.”
The queen slaps him again and then says. “You would dare to question my son’s parentage when you are the one who has committed treason? Regardless, I once asked you if you loved your children, and I love mine, I will do anything to ensure they are safe. And if it means keeping your stupid little daughter in King’s Landing along with her rabid little sister than I shall do it.”
“And what of my sons?” Ned asks.
“So long as they put down their swords before coming south, they shall be pardoned. If they continue south they must be told to fight against Stannis Baratheon. Otherwise hell fire shall be in supply for them. Your wife must also return my brother, the charges against him are ludicrous at best. He would have no reason to kill your son.” Cersei Lannister sneers.
Ned looks at the woman and feels all the hate and anger he had been carrying towards her family since the rebellion begin to boil over. “No, but you would. You and your damnable Kingslayer of a brother. You would both have reason to silence my boy. And for that you shall pay.”
The queen regent laughs at that. “You are a fool to think you can threaten me Stark. The might of the Rock and the Crownlands and soon enough the Reach is behind my son. Your sons have nothing more than northern barbarians, who are little enough liked here in the south. You shall not get far, and have no evidence that either I or Jaime sent that man to kill your son. Admit defeat like a man and go north to the wall.”
Ned looks at the woman and then asks softly. “And you promise that my daughters shall be freed from their chains here? Sansa shall not marry Joffrey and Arya will be free to return home?”
The woman nods. “A Lannister always pays her debts Stark. And this is one debt I am willing to pay. Admit your treason and go north, and you will keep your head, and your daughters will be safe. Refuse to do so, and you shall all die.”
Ned is silent for a moment as he considers this, the disgust he felt during the rebellion, the horror of watching supposed knights raping and beating women and innocent children, and he remembers the words he spoke to Willam Dustin, Howland Reed and Martyn Cassel on the journey to Dorne. He gives a rare smile and says. “Very well then I shall head north.” But not the way you imagine it, woman.