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While Ned is being held captive, Varys visits him and the two have an exchange. The following stuck out upon re-reading:

Ned: Would you at least consent to carry a message out for me?

Varys: That would depend on the message. I will gladly provide you with paper and ink, if you like. And when you have written what you will, I will take the letter and read it, and deliver it or not, as best serves my own ends

Did Eddard ever write the proposed letter? If so (or not even) what did/would it concern?

One theory is that it may be related to Jon Snow's parentage as later Ned thinks to himself:

The thought of Jon filled Ned with a sense of shame, and a sorrow too deep for words. If only he could see the boy again, sit and talk with him...

This would mean that Varys would have 'proof' of Jon's true lineage although this is very,very tenuous.

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    No one knows, as of yet. Only GRRM knows what last words Ned would leave. – TLP Apr 15 '15 at 21:42
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    Interesting question! But as @TLP mentioned, no one seems to know... My guess would be Howland Reed, or home to his beloved wife, or his son Robb saying "Dude, I messed up, bring the army". – Möoz Apr 15 '15 at 22:30
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    It's important to remember that Ned had no idea he was about to die. His "deal" with Cersei was imprisonment and possibly banishment. Perhaps the letter he wrote was the one going around to all the nobles that proclaimed Joffrey's true parentage? – Omegacron Apr 16 '15 at 15:07
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    @Mooz: LOL at the thought of Ned saying "dude". – PiousVenom May 5 '15 at 14:25
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    Even if Eddard Stark wrote a letter, it might not have information related to Jon Snow's parentage because Ned was told he could take the black if he confessed to treason. If he took the black, he would meet Jon at Castle Black and tell him the truth about his parentage in person, which was safer than relaying such sensitive information by letter. – Vishvesh May 6 '15 at 6:59
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I've searched and I've searched, but there doesn't seem to be any indication of what Ned was actually going to write, or if he even ended-up writing the letter in the end.

Possibilities

Letter to his wife
Ned and Catelyn were not initially in love, or determined to get married. However, after the passing of Brandon Stark - who was betrothed to Cat - Ned was honour-bound to follow through with the betrothal and they married.

This however did not stop them from growing fond of each other and eventually loving each other. As such, one possibility is that Ned wanted to write a letter to his wife, having not seen or heard from her in a while.

Letter to his son (Robb)
Robb being Ned's heir and current head1 of Winterfell and House Stark, Ned needs to inform him at least one last time of all of the important things which Robb needs to consider, i.e.:

  • R+L=J?
  • Robert left no legitimate heirs
  • Arya and Sansa captive, possibly in peril
  • Don't trust Littlefinger
  • Don't trust Varys
  • Don't trust anyone
  • Don't trust Littlefinger

Letter to Howland Reed
This is pretty much Ned's escape plan. Howland Reed is a mysterious character at best, and has been known to possess at least some magic or trickery, he also knows some interesting things2. Ned could have written to Howland explaining his current position and could have either asked for assistance, or let Howland know that he is on his own with the whole aftermath of the Tower of Joy saga.

Letter to Jon Snow
This seems to be everyone's favourite possibility. We want to see at least some proof of Jon's parentage. What a shame if Ned takes this humongous secret to his grave! In the show, Ned even promises Jon that he will tell him of his mother when they meet next - right in the feels!

For me, this is the most improbable; something so big and game-changing would not have been put in a letter. Although, this could be why Ned didn't end up writing the letter, knowing that Varys was going to read it!

Letter to Yoren
This one is my personal favourite possibility. Yoren seems to be very conveniently present at Baelor's Sept to rescue Arya; why? what's his purpose for being there?

I Asked this question on the Westeros.org forums to see if we can get a better response. Here is a breakdown of my favourite possibility.

User BigReadEyes writes:

I think the answer is in AGOT chapter 58 or Eddard XV. Varys in disguise visits Ned in the dungeon. Varys tells Ned that Arya escaped and fled & that Sansa has pleaded that Ned’s life be spared.

Varys drops the bomb: “I trust you realize that you are a dead man, Lord Eddard.”

I interpret that to mean that it does not matter what Ned does or does not do, Ned is a dead man.

The two carry on their conversation. Eddard asks

Would you at least consent to carry a message out for me? “That would depend on the message. I will gladly provide you with paper and ink, if you like. And when you have written what you will, I will take the letter and read it, and deliver it or not, as best serves my own ends.”

The conversation continues. Varys says on the morrow Cersei will visit […]

“So what is your answer, Lord Eddard? Give me your word that you’ll tell the queen what she wants to hear when she comes calling.”

Ned is not willing to do that until Varys brings Sansa into the conversation with the insinuation of threat against her life.

“Surely you did not think I’d forgotten about your sweet innocent, my lord? The queen most certainly has not."

I assumed that Ned was actually going to be given the chance to take the Black. I was wrong. He was a dead man. Taking the Black was a farce. Varys confirmed it. Insinuating that if Eddard admitted to being a traitor Ned could save Sansa.

[…]Yoren grabs Arya. Ned is beheaded. Then in ACOK chapter 1 or Ayra I Yoren tells her:

“Here’s something you don’t know. It wasn’t supposed to happen like it did. I was set to leave, wagons bought and loaded, and a man comes with a boy for me and a purse of coin, and a message, never mind who it’s from. Lord Eddard is to take the Black, he says to me, wait, he will being going with you. Why do you think I was there? Only something went queer."

I think that Eddard decided to send a message to Yoren that the accusations of treason were false, along with a bit of other information. I think that Eddard’s message to Yoren served Varys’ purpose.

This to me seems like the most plausible scenario, Ned is most worried about his unsafe daughters, and would probably have wanted them to be as safe as possible. At this point, all of the Northmen he'd brought with him were either dead or missing, so Yoren was his only choice.


1. Robb at this point is the current heir, because regardless of Ned's outcome: he either confesses his "treason" and gets sent to The Wall, or dies; either way, he has lost his title as Head of House Stark.

2. Did anyone beside Ned and Howland Reed survive at the Tower of Joy?

  • good breakdown, though... Night's Watch is supposed not to take any part in Politics, and you theorize that Ned Stark himself tells/asks Yoren something that might compromise Night's Watch? That's utterly not Ned. – Nika G. May 11 '15 at 10:27
  • @NikaG. Good point, but at this point, Ned is imprisoned for high-treason, he knows that his life is forfeit, be it sent to The Wall or executed. His most immediate priority is the safety of his family. He is honourable to a fault, costing him is own life, but he is never so honourable as to let his kin be in danger for the sake of his honour and upholding the "watch takes no part" idiom. He was also honour-bound and sworn to obey his King, but he disobeyed him when it was time to kill children (Viserys and Danny). – Möoz May 12 '15 at 1:06
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I'll go with Stannis theory, and as it happens Ned did wrote letter to Stannis that never left King's Landing.

(as op asked without spoiler tags, I'm answering without it too, hope I don't spoil it for those who haven't read the books)

AGOT chapter 47 Eddard

Ned turned to Tomard. “The Wind Witch sails on the evening tide. Have you chosen the escort?”

“Ten men, with Porther in command.”

“Twenty, and you will command,” Ned said. Porther was a brave man, but headstrong. He wanted someone more solid and sensible to keep watch over his daughters.

“As you wish, m’lord,” Tom said. “Can’t say I’ll be sad to see the back of this place. I miss the wife.”

“You will pass near Dragonstone when you turn north. I need you to deliver a letter for me.”

Tom looked apprehensive. “To Dragonstone, m’lord?” The island fortress of House Targaryen had a sinister repute.

“Tell Captain Qos to hoist my banner as soon as he comes in sight of the island. They may be wary of unexpected visitors. If he is reluctant, offer him whatever it takes. I will give you a letter to place into the hand of Lord Stannis Baratheon. No one else. Not his steward, nor the captain of his guard, nor his lady wife, but only Lord Stannis himself.”

“As you command, m’lord.”

When Tomard had left him, Lord Eddard Stark sat staring at the flame of the candle that burned beside him on the table. For a moment his grief overwhelmed him. He wanted nothing so much as to seek out the godswood, to kneel before the heart tree and pray for the life of Robert Baratheon, who had been more than a brother to him. Men would whisper afterward that Eddard Stark had betrayed his king’s friendship and disinherited his sons; he could only hope that the gods would know better, and that Robert would learn the truth of it in the land beyond the grave.

Ned took out the king’s last letter. A roll of crisp white parchment sealed with golden wax, a few short words and a smear of blood. How small the difference between victory and defeat, between life and death.

He drew out a fresh sheet of paper and dipped his quill in the inkpot. To His Grace, Stannis of the House Baratheon, he wrote. By the time you receive this letter, your brother Robert, our King these past fifteen years, will be dead. He was savaged by a boar whilst hunting in the kingswood …

The letters seemed to writhe and twist on the paper as his hand trailed to a stop. Lord Tywin and Ser Jaime were not men to suffer disgrace meekly; they would fight rather than flee. No doubt Lord Stannis was wary, after the murder of Jon Arryn, but it was imperative that he sail for King’s Landing at once with all his power, before the Lannisters could march.

Next morning (AGOT, Chapter 49 Eddard) all Stark household guards are butchered, neither Arya nor Sansa leaves Kings Landing and there's no one left to deliver the letter to Stannis.

Ned was not informing Stannis about true Parentage of Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen. Ned wants Stannis at Kings Landing to claim what is his by right. At the moment of Neds imprisonment there are just 2000 gold cloaks and some Lannister guards, so it will be relatively easy for Stannis to take Kings Landing, if he acts swiftly.

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This question brings up one of the many parts of the books that support the R+L=J fan theory. In short, the theory is that Jon Snow is not the bastard son of Eddard Stark. He is actually the son of Raegar Targaryan and Lyanna Stark. Here's how it's supposed to have happened: Raegar kidnaps Lyanna, though it's hinted that she eventually falls in love with him,and takes her to the Tower of Joy in Dorne. Then the rebellion begins, Raegar goes off to battle and Robert Baratheon kills him and takes King's Landing. After that Ned and six others go to rescue Lyanna. They find the tower guarded by three kings guards. After a bloody fight only Ned and Howland Reed survive. They go into the tower and find Lyanna on what is described as a "bed of blood" (theorized to be a bed of childbirth) and before she dies, she makes a request of Ned that is not revealed to the reader. The timeline works out so that Jon Snow was born around that time. So theoretically, Jon Snow is the true heir to the Iron Throne and also, possibly, Azor Ahai. Ned was most likely going to finally tell Jon of his true parentage so that he might continue the legacy of his ancestors.

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