The king eats, Robert had said, and the Hand takes the shit. How he had laughed. Yet he had gotten it wrong. The king dies, Ned Stark thought, and the Hand is buried.
The dungeon was under the Red Keep, deeper than he dared imagine. He remembered the old stories about Maegor the Cruel, who murdered all the masons who labored on his castle, so they might never reveal its secrets.
He damned them all: Littlefinger, Janos Slynt and his gold cloaks, the queen, the Kingslayer, Pycelle and Varys and Sir Barristan, even Lord Renly, Robert's own blood, who had run when he was needed most. Yet in the end he blamed himself. "Fool," he cried to the darkness, "thrice-damned blind fool."
Cersei Lannister's face seemed to float before him in the darkness. Her hair was full of sunlight, but there was mockery in her smile. "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die," she whispered. Ned had played and lost, and his men had paid the price of his folly with their life's blood.
When he thought of his daughters, he would have wept gladly, but the tears would not come. Even now, he was a Stark of Winterfell, and his grief and his rage froze hard inside him.