Winter Is Coming
House Stark is the most influential and notable power in the North. From their stronghold at Winterfell, the Starks guard the old ways against the dishonourable and fractious houses of the Seven Kingdoms. Their devotion to honour and the old gods wins them few friends in the court of King’s Landing and beyond, but this very same dedication to tradition commands respect from the lords of the North. Those Northmen who bend the knee to Eddard Stark have been hard won with respect, devotion, and justice. His sons show signs that they too will be well-respected and beloved leaders in the North upon ascending to the lordship of this enduring and storied house.
The history of House Stark goes back through 8,000 years of unbroken noble lineage. The Starks trace their roots to Brandon the Builder, the King in the North who built the Wall and ceded the lands south of it to its protectors, the Night’s Watch. For several thousand years, the Kings in the North defended the Seven Kingdoms from wildling attacks from beyond the Wall, and at the same time consolidated their kingdom by forcing the other lords of the North to bend the knee to the lord of Winterfell.
The Starks remained isolated in the North, though, having little or no sea power after their ships were burned by Brandon the Burner. Eddard Stark’s friendship with Robert Baratheon, formed when both served as wards to Jon Arryn, would, however, bring the house into the heart of Westeros. When Lord Rickard Stark and Eddard’s elder brother, Brandon, were killed by Aerys II, Eddard inherited both Winterfell and Brandon’s betrothed, Catelyn Tully. Eddard, the new Warden of the North, then rode with Robert to fight the Mad King and save Lyanna Stark. Tragically, the sister who was to marry Robert and unite the two men as good-brothers died. Although the war made the men more than brothers, the peace saw them drift apart.
Eddard came again to Robert’s call several years later, leading his bannermen against the Greyjoy Rebellion. Afterwards, he took the vanquished upstart’s young son, Theon Greyjoy, as a ward. In recent years, House Stark has kept to itself in the North, following their motto and preparing for the winter to come.
Following the death of King Robert Baratheon, and just prior to the start of the War of the Five Kings, Lord Eddard Stark was executed by order of Joffrey Lannister, after discovering that he and his siblings were the product of incest between his mother Cersei and his uncle Jaime, not of King Robert and Cersei as was believed. After Eddard’s execution, Robb Stark was declared King in the North and King of the Trident by Lord Eddard’s bannermen.
Robb and Catelyn Stark were later murdered by the Frey’s during a wedding ceremony at the Twins, later dubbed the Red Wedding, after a failed arranged marriage that pledged Robb Stark to a daughter of House Frey. This act violated one of the longest standing traditions in the Seven Kingdoms – to guard the safety of guests who have been given food and shelter – and outraged bannermen loyal to House Stark. Just prior to Robb’s death, he had learned that Winterfell had been razed by his friend and father’s ward, Theon Greyjoy, along with Ramsay Bolton and his men, and that his brothers Bran and Rickon had been killed in the process, events which led Robb to inadvertently break his mother’s pact with Lord Walder Frey and trigger the subsequent betrayal at the Twins.
Starks rarely turn to intrigue when confronted with a problem, preferring instead to face the problem head on — no matter the consequences. This trait is exemplified by Eddard Stark’s refusal to play politics with the lives of Cersei and Joffrey Baratheon, a mistake that will cost him both his honour and his life. His son Robb carries on this tradition, and has shown himself to be a decisive and shrewd military commander even at the age of 15. Honour is very important to House Stark, and their actions are governed by it — sometimes even past the point of wisdom. Their history of defending the Seven Kingdoms from the threats in the North has made them hard and practical. Starks tend to speak plainly and truthfully, although they know and use the courtesies of the court as needed.
Winterfell Castle is the heart and strength of House Stark. Located in the central plains of the North on the Kingsroad, this great castle stands in homage to the ancient line of kings who have called it home. House Stark is the undisputed ruler of the North and the second line of defence against the horrors beyond the Wall. The house’s holdings stretch south to the Neck, where the ruins of Moat Cailin still guard against invading armies.
House Stark is the third most powerful House in the Seven Kingdoms, behind the Baratheons upon the Iron Throne and the wealthy Lannisters who married into King’s Landing. Lord Eddard Stark is named Hand of the King, and moves from his castle at Winterfell to sit at his friend Robert’s side in King’s Landing. The Starks value honour and truthfulness, and do not play the game of thrones as skilfully as the Lannisters of Casterly Rock.
ALLIED HOUSES: Baratheon, Tully
ENEMY HOUSES: Greyjoy, Lannister, Targaryen
With the death of Lord Stark, the great House Stark is now in disarray. Its members are separated and its power diminishing, even as it wins victories against the forces of House Lannister. Arya Stark is on the run, disguised as a boy bound for the Wall. Sansa Stark, betrothed to the boy who ordered her father’s death, is trapped behind the walls of the Red Keep as a pawn in this most dangerous game. Catelyn and Robb Stark command a host of troops at Riverrun, Catelyn’s childhood home. Although they defeat one Lannister army and capture the Queen Regent’s brother, the Kingslayer, their march stalls as Lord Tywin Lannister’s host takes refuge behind the unassailable walls of Harrenhal.
As it stands, House Stark is at a crossroads. On one hand, Robb Stark’s military victories in the south increase its position, momentarily throwing it into the centre stage as his allied lords declare for him alone, swearing oaths to the King in the North. On the other hand, its wisest leader has been branded a traitor and executed, and its hopes may yet rest on a crippled boy and his dreams of a three-eyed crow. The fate of House Stark is in the balance, and the actions of every loyal bannerman and traitorous lord may determine whether this great house survives the long winter ahead.
Lord Eddard Stark leads House Stark, with his wife Lady Catelyn Tully. They have five children: Robb Stark, heir to Winterfell; Sansa; Arya; Brandon, called Bran; and Rickon. Jon Snow is Eddard’s bastard child, and second in age to Robb. Eddard’s siblings are Brandon (deceased), Lyanna (deceased), and his younger brother Benjen, First Ranger of the Night’s Watch.
FEATS: Animal Companion; Blood of the First Men; Dreams; Noble Spirit; Winter is Coming