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The overcast sky looms over the city of three hills. On Rhaenys’ Hill, the broken cupola of the Dragonpit gapes wide, menacing the sky above the manses of King’s Landing. A chill wind fills the halls that house the nobles of Baratheon - it clatters through the heavy wooden door, up the wooden stair case, clawing at the tapestries depicting the heroic deeds of those who came before.
In the solar, where a wan light gleams through the narrow windows, two men of similar looks speak in the same deep sounding voice, one grimmer, taller, heavily muscled, the other affable, softer, yet still solid with the strength that burns in the blood of these men. The jovial one chuckles, stroking his trim beard, as he sits before the only table in the room.
The other, the Stormbreaker, stands with his back to the window, his massive arms crossed before his muscled chest.
A rosy page in Crakehall colors inspects the den of stags—and the most famous of its owners—with an anxious gaze. He stands not far from the table, ready to serve his master—no other than Burton Crakehall—at his first command. The master, however, is busy. Tall, muscular, and today unusually smartly dressed—a doublet of brown velvet, embroidered with gold and silver, a wide cloak of lilac silk, and several heavy chains around his neck—the heir to old Lord Jonos continues to speak in a calm voice, clearly addressing the man standing near the window. “Please forgive me the lateness of my visit”—he says, with a cordial smile—“But there is a matter of great delicacy and importance that I would like to discuss with you. It could influence the relationships of our two Houses greatly—and I hope it will indeed.”
“There’s someone at the window,” the Stormbreaker says incredulously. Behind the desk, Lord Corwen raises a brow, lowering his hand from his mouth and asks in exaggerated shock, “Who is it?!?”
Turning to face the window, the massive Baratheon knight peers through the window with his dark blue eyes and growls, “It’s Ser Burton Crakehall! Ser Burton, come in through the door!” He points to the side.
From behind the desk, Lord Corwen laughs and gestures to a servant who goes to open the front door and beckons the Crakehall heir to enter.
“A friend of yours, brother?” he asks wryly, and chuckles, “It’s a wonder you have any left. How do you keep that young wife of yours entertained? Do you sing her marcher ballads and juggle the skulls of your slain enemies?” Smirking, Sarmion answers, “In the usual way, brother. There’s only one thing that will satisfy the wiles of a young woman.”
The heir to Crakehall, who, a moment ago, was looking only at Sarmion, shifts his gaze to the man before the table and a grimace of surprise and joy appears on his face, “It seems that I have found more than was looking for,” he says cheerfully, taking off his cloak and handing it to the page “I didn’t expect that you were here now, my Lord, but this is even better.” He advances to both Baratheons and greets them with a deep bow, before speaking up once again, “My Lord Corwen, Ser Sarmion. I am a soldier in the first place, not a courtier—and I will be frank with you. I always prefer to take the direct approach—and hope not to insult you with my directness.”—with those words he once again bows to the Lord Baratheon, at the same time glancing around the room, with clear curiosity—it seems that he hasnt visited the Baratheon Manse before, “My Lords. My grandfather, Lord Jonos Crakehall, has always had great respect for the House Baratheon—and I do as well. I have served under the good Ser Sarmion during the rebellion and always counted him as one of the greatest knights and warlords of our time… Not so long ago the heir to the House, Ser Tancred, was betrothed to a cousin of mine, Obany Darklyn… And now I am here to suggest another betrothal, that could be useful for all of us…”
“Is this true, Sarmion? Does he truly consider you one of the greatest knights and warlords of our time?” Corwen asks with a sly grin. Sarmion straightens, clearing his throat with a frown, “It is true, my lord, that he served with me at the Tor and during the journey home.”
Smiling warmly, Corwen nods his head, looking at Ser Burton carefully. Leaning back in his chair, the Lord of Storm’s End says, “It is true, my son and heir has been betrothed to the Darklyn girl. It is also true that she is the granddaughter of Lord Crakehall.”
Looking from the Stormbreaker, to Burton, he adds, “No one can deny that. What is it you propose, ser?”
The Crakehall knight slightly inclines his head, as Lord Corwen mentions the “Darklyn girl”—and comments in his deep, rasping voice, “She is a daughter to my aunt Olenei. And Lady Olenei always remembered that she is a Crakehall by birth.” Then he returns to the initial topic, “My son Garen, the future Lord of Crakehall…” as Burton starts to speak about his son, his harsh and grim, if handsome at the same time, features become a little bit less so. For a mere moment, though, “He is a nice, clever and handsome lad. I am going to get him a position of a page at court here—so probably pretty soon he will come to King’s Landing. So I thought that it could be good, if he and Lyria… the daughter to Lord Corwen… were betrothed. What do you think about that, my Lord?”
At the blunt presentation of Burton’s offer, Corwen’s brow raises, his face unreadable. Finally, he strokes his trimmed beard thoughtfully, “I see. It is an interesting offer. However, you do see it does benefit your part more than ours.”
Smiling, the Lord of Storm’s End observes, “With this match, you elevate your son, the future lord of Crakehall - as you say - both improving his prospects and yours in Court. However, I lose a daughter and with her the dowry that befits a lady of House Baratheon.” Sighing wistfully, Corwen adds, “I am very attached to my daughter!”
Sarmion smiles grimly and nods his head, “Lyria, brother, is my favorite niece, as well.”
Burton’s facial expression is now serious and businesslike. Before he was standing, now he sits down, in front of Lord Corwen, and thoughtfully touches the golden chains hanging from his neck. “My Lord, House Baratheon is so great and mighty that it is nearly impossible to find an “equal match” for one of your daughters—if only members of the royal family or heirs to other Great Houses will be seen as such. None of these are available at the moment—forgive me my frankness. As for ordinary members of the Great Houses—as Ser Brynden Tully, to whom your daughter Sarya is betrothed—I don’t see in what way they are better than my son. He is not a Tully or a Lannister or Baratheon—but he is a future Lord, who will possess vast lands and considerable wealth. Such a betrothal will be advantageous for both of us.” He keeps silent for a moment, before making another brief remark, “I also should mention that Lady Lyrissa is your youngest daughter…”
“Lyrissa is my good sister,” Lord Corwen says bemusedly, looking at Sarmion, “Married to my brother, formerly of the House Hightower. Lyria is my youngest daughter, yes.”
Holding up a hand to stay a reply and smiling to soften his rebuke, the Lord of Storm’s End says, “You mention advantages… Speak to that. What are these advantages you mention? I appreciate your wisdom.”
“Well, firstly, a Lord is a Lord…” Burton Crakehall answers. He seems to be rather confused by his mistake. His cheeks are crimson and he bites his lip angrily, before continuing to speak, “Very often members of the great Houses—I could mention specific examples—married much below their station—to minor knights and lordlings. That won’t be the case. Secondly, I hope that Garen will acquire a high position at court with time. I have enough influence to put him on the right road. And thirdly…” And here Burton begins to speak more quietly, “Such a betrothal—and marriage—would mean an alliance. An alliance between our Houses. And I will be ready –- as the Lord Crakehall—which I will be—and a servant to His Grace—to support the Baratheon interests in the way we will find suitable… If Your Lordship has any terms or conditions in mind…”
“Very well!” Corwen says, slamming his fist on the table. He laughs a deep throaty laugh that fills the close wooden room with its merry sound. Stiffly, he pulls himself to his feet, steadying himself under one leg in particular and moves around the desk to greet Burton warmly. His large hands are held out in friendship to the Crakehall heir.
“Your son shall marry my daughter and I will help my future Good Son attain as high a position in the Court as my power can provide,” the Lord Baratheon laughs. Sobering a moment, his bright blue eyes gleam as he regards Burton, adding in deadly earnest, “And I will hold you to your promise.”
For his part, the Stormbreaker keeps his arms crossed before his chest and shakes his head with a mirthless smile.
“Excellent! My Lord, it will be truly an honor for me ,that my son and your daughter—a daughter to the Lord of the Storm’s End—will be united in a holy matrimony! I will be a good ally to Baratheons, Lord Corwen!” Burton Crakehall, with a solemn facial expression, takes Lord Corwen’s hand, grips it, but then, laughing heartily, hugs him—as a relative hugs a relative. Beaming, he moves towards Sarmion and, in his turn, stretches out his hand, “Not very disappointed, that my son will be taking away your favourite niece, Ser Sarmion?”
Rolling his eyes, the Stormbreaker unfolds his massive arms and takes Burton’s hand in his own large and calloused own. Smirking, with a hooded expression, Sarmion says, “Not disappointed, ser. I am sure your son will treat her with respect and honor.”
Then, gripping Burton’s hand tighter, he looms over the Crakehall suddenly, his dark blue eyes flashing, as he growls, “Or he will answer to me.”
Letting go of Burton’s hand, the massive Baratheon knight slaps him on the shoulder and grins fiercely as he steps away. Lord Corwen then steps up to Burton, placing his own large hands on the Crakehall’s shoulders, saying, “We should bring the two children together, first, I think, so they get to know each other as friends!” Guiding Burton to the door, he adds, “I shall have all the necessary formalities arranged for the betrothal.
Seeing that his master is leaving the ruddy page follows him—he, during the whole conversation, has been staring at the Stormbreaker, with a rather mesmerized expression. “It has been pleasure speaking to you, Sers. Good day to both of you.” Burton smiles, wraps his lilac cloak around him, bows to the Baratheon brothers, and heads through the door, throwing one last glance at Lord Corwen—that is happy and triumphant at the same time.
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