Bran attends the execution of Gared, who ran away after Will and Waymar died but was caught and condemned as a deserter. Ned Stark, the Lord of Winterfell, performs the execution himself, using the greatsword Ice to behead Gared. Robb Stark argues that Gared died bravely, while Jon Snow, Ned’s bastard son, believes that Gared was terrified. Ned explains to Bran that a man can only truly be brave when he is in fact afraid. Ned also explains his belief that the man who passes a death sentence ought to perform the execution himself. On the ride back to Winterfell, home of the Stark family, the party discovers a dead direwolf with five live pups. Ned’s men are about to kill the animals when Jon points out that the pups are the same in number and gender, three male and two female, as Ned’s trueborn children. He says it’s a sign that the Starks were meant to have them. As the party rides away, Jon discovers a sixth male pup with white fur and red eyes and takes it for himself.
Catelyn walks to find Ned in the holy forest within Winterfell’s walls, known as the godswood. Catelyn reflects on the meaning of the words of the Stark house, “Winter Is Coming.” While Ned is cleaning his sword, Ice, he tells Catelyn that Gared was scared to madness. Catelyn informs Ned that Jon Arryn, the former Hand of the King, is dead. Ned is deeply saddened, since Jon Arryn was like a second father to him while the man raised and defended Ned and Robert. Ned is excited to hear that Robert, his old friend and now the king of Westeros, is coming to visit Winterfell. However, Ned bears a grudge against Robert’s wife Cersei and her family, the Lannisters. In the war that Ned and Robert fought against the Targaryens, who ruled Westeros before Robert, the Lannisters did not join Robert until his victory was nearly certain.
East of the continent Westeros, across the Narrow Sea, in the city of Pentos, Viserys prepares his sister, Daenerys, for a feast to take place that night. At the feast, she is to meet Drogo, the Dothraki warlord, or khal, her brother is forcing her to marry. Viserys and Daenerys are the last in the line of the royal family Targaryen. They fled Westeros when Ned and Robert defeated the Targaryen armies. Daenerys’s only memories of childhood are of a big house with a red door on the Braavosi Islands. Since leaving the house, she and Viserys have wandered from host to host, and for the last year they have lived at the home of the wealthy merchant Illyrio. Daenerys wants to go home, but she is not entirely sure where her home is. Her brother assures her that her home is in Westeros. Viserys is forcing Daenerys to marry Drogo so that Drogo, with his massive army, will help them retake Westeros.
Back in Winterfell, Robert arrives and immediately visits Winterfell’s crypts with Ned. There they pay their respects to Lyanna, who was Ned’s sister and Robert’s bride-to-be before she was kidnapped and raped by Rhaegar Targaryen. Rhaegar’s actions were part of the cause of Robert’s Rebellion against the mad king Aerys Targaryen. Robert bitterly remembers killing Rhaegar on the Trident River. Ned recalls how Lyanna died of a fever. Robert fondly reminisces about the time he and Ned spent together as children, and he tells Ned how much he hates being king. Robert asks Ned to be the new Hand of the King, which Ned expected. He also asks Ned to wed his eleven-year-old daughter Sansa to Robert and Cersei’s twelve-year-old son Joff, which is a surprise to Ned. Ned does not wish to accept the position as Hand, but he asks for time to consider the offer.
At the feast held for Robert, Jon talks with his uncle, Benjen Stark, about his aspirations to join the Night’s Watch, the group that defends the great Wall at the north of Westeros. Benjen tells Jon that he is too young to join the Watch. Drunk, embarrassed, and angry that he is a bastard with no place in a noble house like Winterfell, Jon leaves the table and walks outside, where he finds the dwarf Tyrion. Jon becomes angry when Tyrion refers to him as a bastard. Having been labeled “The Imp” his whole life, Tyrion advises the boy not to let such labeling bother him. He tells Jon to armor himself with the knowledge that he’s a bastard. Then it may never hurt him. As Tyrion leaves, Jon notices that Tyrion’s shadow stands as tall as a king.
After the feast, Luwin delivers a message from Catelyn’s sister Lysa. The message claims the Lannisters murdered Lysa’s husband, Jon Arryn. Though Ned does not want to be the new Hand, Catelyn and Luwin convince him that he now must take the position in order to protect Robert and bring Jon Arryn’s murderers to justice. Ned reluctantly agrees. Since Jon will be welcomed neither by Catelyn nor by the royal court in King’s Landing, Ned allows him to join the Night’s Watch. Ned fathered Jon by a different woman not long after he married Catelyn, and Catelyn is still bitter that Ned brought Jon back to Winterfell with him rather than leave him with his mother. She thinks that Ned’s honor compelled him to take Jon in.
Later, Arya, Sansa, and Princess Myrcella practice needlework under the watch of Septa Mordane. Sansa angers Arya by calling Jon a bastard. When Septa Mordane asks to see Arya’s shoddy needlework, Arya storms from the room in embarrassment. Outside, she finds her direwolf, Nymeria, which she has named after a warrior queen from ancient history. Sansa has named her direwolf Lady. Arya and Nymeria meet up with Jon and his direwolf, named Ghost. Together they watch Robb and Joff train at fighting in the yard under the watch of Rodrik and the Hound. Arya wishes she could practice sword fighting instead of needlework. Robb bests Joff in the fight. Angry, Joff demands that they fight with sharpened steel blades instead of practice swords. When Rodrik denies him, Joff insults Rodrik and Robb and leaves the Yard.
Before leaving the castle to ride south to King’s Landing with his father, Bran goes to climb over the rooftops and walls of Winterfell one last time. He is very good at scaling Winterfell’s towers, and from atop the castle he feeds the crows and studies the castle architecture to learn its secrets. While climbing up the First Keep, he hears the voices of Jaime and Cersei. The two are discussing Ned’s motivations for accepting the position as Hand. They think that Ned is dangerous to them, and they fear that he or Lysa Arryn will accuse them of murdering Jon Arryn. As he continues to listen, Bran sees the siblings start making love. When Cersei spots Bran, Jaime pushes him out the window.
Four days later, Tyrion is in Winterfell’s library reading about war and the changing of the seasons. As he leaves to go to breakfast, he finds the Hound and Joff. Joff complains about the direwolves’ howling. Tyrion slaps Joff and orders the characteristically rude prince to find the Starks and offer his condolences for Bran. At breakfast, Tyrion remembers how Jaime was the only person who showed him friendship or respect when he was a boy. Cersei says the direwolves scare her, and Tyrion tells her that he senses a strange connection between Bran and his wolf that is keeping Bran alive. Tyrion tells Jaime, Cersei, Myrcella, and Tommen that Bran might live, and wonders aloud what Bran would have to say when he woke up. Jaime asks Tyrion what side he is on. Tyrion smiles and says he loves his Family.