House Stark of Winterfell is one of the great houses of Westeros and the principal noble house of the North; many lesser houses are sworn to them. In days of old they ruled as Kings of Winter; since the Targaryen Conquest they have been Wardens of the North. Their seat, Winterfell, is an ancient castle renowned for its strength. Their sigil is a grey direwolf racing across a field of white, and their words are "Winter Is Coming", one of only a few house mottoes to be a warning rather than a boast. Members of the family tend to be lean of build and long of face, with dark brown hair and grey eyes.
Lyanna Stark was betrothed to Lord Robert Baratheon, who was infatuated with her from a distance. Lyanna, however, was not as ardent in her love for Robert, and was fully aware of his philandering ways.
Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark honored his late brother Brandon's betrothal to Catelyn Tully as part of an alliance to bring House Tully into the rebel fold. He was one of the principal commanders in the war, but had a falling out with Robert after he accepted the treacherous aid of House Lannister and condoned the brutal murders of Rhaegar's wife, son and daughter out of his hatred for the Targaryen Prince. After the Sack of King's Landing, Eddard and six companions went to retrieve Lyanna at the fortress Rhaegar had named the Tower of Joy. Eddard found Lyanna dying in a bed of blood and clutching a withered wreath of blue roses. She forced him to make a promise to her, the contents of which are unknown, but which haunted Eddard for the rest of his life. She was sixteen years old at the time of her death and was buried in the Stark family crypt in Winterfell beside her father, Rickard, and brother, Brandon.
Ned and Robert were reconciled in their shared grief, but Ned still disdained the court since Robert, the new king, married Cersei Lannister and allowed her brother, Jaime, to remain a Kingsguard even after slaying his liege, Aerys. Ned returned from the war to be presented with his trueborn son, Robb, but he carried the infant Jon Snow, whom he presented as his bastard son. Six years later, Ned helped his foster brother, Robert, crush Balon Greyjoy's rebellion, taking Theon Greyjoy as a ward of Winterfell. Lord Rickard's youngest child, Benjen, joined the Night's Watch, eventually becoming First Ranger. Eddard ruled the North in Robert's name, keeping distant from the intrigue-ridden, Lannister-infested politics of King's Landing.
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