Summer comes, and with it some good news. Years ago, I set Ned's ambition: to become exalted among men. My martial and marital successes have paid off enough prestige, and I now get to suffix my name with 'the great'. Attempts to make this stick in the PC Gamer office are still ongoing.
"My firstborn son and heir died at 35. He died of pneumonia."
That bright spot is immediately blackened by the news that Ned's ill. I'm in my late 50s by this point in the game, and I'm fully expecting this to be my last spin around the mortal coil. I say my goodbyes and am composing a letter to Arya – apologising for handing her a poisoned chalice of a lordship – when I suddenly spring out of bed, cured of my disease. I perk up, and picture Ned sprinting through Winterfell's corridors. Reinvigorated, I plan for the future.
That's when I get more news. Robb's dead.
My firstborn son and heir died at 35. He died of pneumonia, some two months after a decade of winter finally loosened its grip on the North and summer sprung forth. I cycle through my other children's portrait screens for the next few months, sad at losing my son and worried about my future. Half a year after Robb's death, Bran follows him into the afterlife thanks to some unspecified illness.
I have two boys left and, as I check their progress, I see they're squabbling. A spot of fabrication had secured me a claim on Seagard, an ex-Riverlander province independent since Arya's rise to lordship. I took the area with a small force and gave it to my youngest boy Rickard. One region over in the Twins, Jon Snow looked on enviously. The lordship of the Twins gives Jon the claim to Seagard, but I'd foolishly assumed he wouldn't attack his own little brother. I was wrong. Jon batters Rickard in combat and imprisons him, before usurping his claim and nabbing Seagard for his own.
Two months later, Rickard is killed in hand-to-hand combat with a character so minor the game can't even find him in its search function. He was 19.
"Harrenhal breaks free of Arya's rule, shortly followed by the Bay of Claws."
Seagard isn't the only territory to secede from the Riverlands. Harrenhal breaks free of Arya's rule, shortly followed by the Bay of Claws. The Riverlands, once the heart of Westeros's central spit, are now lumpen and oddly shaped thanks to the machinations of unhappy vassals. Arya's pain is compounded further when a force of locals rises against her, rebelling in the name of the deposed Whents. Her armies are still lacking from years of fighting, the pretenders oust her from Riverrun and reinstall the youngest Whent as lord of the Riverlands. She remains in control of a paltry two territories, split by a river and my own land.
I feel terrible. I passed over Robb in my desire to give Arya the Riverlands, but never asked my little genius what she wanted. She told me a few times – she wanted to get married and have children – but my plans for her were grander. Or I thought they were. Now she's stuck in a forbidding, rocky place called the Cape of the Eagles, in charge of an eighth of the land she used to have. At 65 and with a tomb full of dead sons – Jon Snow died a few months after fighting and imprisoning his own brother – I have time to reflect on my mistakes.
I try to fabricate a claim on the Riverlands again, to sweep down with my own armies and take the region for myself, but the three masters of law I appoint to the task die in the space of a single year. I can feel that spectre of death pointing his bony finger at me, but I've dodged him well so far, and he can wait a few more months. I allow myself one last scan around the map. It's then that I really look at what I've left on this planet.
"I can feel that spectre of death pointing his bony finger at me"
I've wiped most of the Freys – the family I dedicated my life to killing – off the map, assassinating their lords, taking their territory and giving them to my own dynasty. I've led an acceptable life: I hold kind, trusting and charitable traits, as well as more practical skills such as 'brilliant commander'. I have a wife who, despite trying to poison me once, and despite me being technically gay the last ten years of my life, loves me truly. I've achieved my main aim: simply to survive in harsh Westeros. I've outlived almost everyone mentioned in the books.
And I have my favourite daughter, Arya. I check her character card again from her home in the Cape of the Eagles, on the western sea. She's married. She always wanted to get married. And she is, I notice with a real-life smile, pregnant. She might have a poky little home compared with the grandeur of Riverrun, but free from my machinations, she's happy. She's not being forced to play that game of thrones.
Ned's last few months are, curiously, some of his most feted. My score rises higher as his legacy pays out. He dies at 66. His wife mourns his passing, and his sword goes to his grandson. Ned the great, Crusader Kings II informs me, will be remembered.