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Advancing Strategies

Posted on Sun Apr 4th, 2021 @ 10:21pm by Lord Jonah Tully & Ser Renn Baratheon & Lord Brannis Baratheon

Mission: The Great Council
Timeline: The day after the Funeral/Reception

Jon had sent one of his knights out with a sealed letter. In it he offered a small feast for Brannis Baratheon and his brother at the Tully manse. It was ostensibly for the Lord of the Crossing and the Lord of the Storm's End to meet and discuss the state of the upcoming Great Council and its election. The response he received was a favourable acknowledgment for the next evening.

So here he was again, a feast of chicken was lain on the table. Roasted turnips, carrots, and garlic adorning it. For the occasion, Jon had even sent for a good Arbor Red from the nearby seller. He knew little of the Stormlord, but he hoped he could make a good impression.

"You think so small, Renn," Brannis glowered at the failing light of King's Landing. The mass of Ironborn ships in the harbor put the elder Baratheon on edge. He had no particular love of the Ironborn- like most Westerosi it seemed- but seeing so many flags of the Kraken in what felt like the King's waters was... unsettling. Unnatural. Alien. They had neatly hidden away since the last Great Council. Brannis looked at his brother, "Cranberries..." he chuckled, "He wants to talk about cranberries."

Renn's look was one of neutral patience. He'd delivered his message from the North's Manderly ambassador and that was as much as he was interested to do. Their transport drew a halt at the foot of the Tully's accommodations in King's Landing and Renn was the first out. He wore black, sans his usual curved Water Dancer's sword because that would send the wrong message to their trade friends. Brannis was out second- broad, barrel-chested Baratheon male compared to a more slender-bodied Renn. "Let's go," Brannis said with a nod to one of his men. The man nodded and they approached the gates of House Tully's King's landing holdings.

A man-at-arms in a red and blue doublet covered by a mail shirt, with a sword at his belt nodded at the two men approaching. "M'lords." He greeted politely as he opened the gate for them. "Lord Tully is expecting you." He said. A second man-at-arms approached the two Baratheons. "If you'd follow me, m'lords, I'll lead you to my lord."

Renn gave a nod of respect to the guard while Brannis looked on at the holdings of the Tully House. "Please," Renn acknowledged the man-at-arms.

The second guard led the lords through the main door, into a small hallway leading to the central hall of the house. "Lord Jonah." The guard called. "May I introduce Lord Brannis and Ser Renn of House Baratheon."

Jon turned from the small fire he was looking into in contemplation to Brannis and Renn. "Gentlemen, welcome to my humble home." He said, spreading his arms wide and smiling at them. "Enter as honoured guests."

"Lord Tully," Brannis smiled a rakish smile, made so by his neatly trimmed beard and the sparkle of blue eyes. His muscular robustness approached and he offered out a hand of greeting. Renn observed the man in his pensive way, giving a nod of quiet respect to the lord of the Riverlands. "My father speaks fondly of his time at the Crossing on his way to White Harbor."

Renn cleared his throat, "Yes. How many artists come through wanting to paint it?"

"Very few, I'm afraid. The castles, while being impressive defensive structures, are squat and frankly ugly buildings." Jon chucked. "As for your father, I remember his visit well. He honoured me with his presence both going North and coming back South. If I remember correctly we caught a particularly tasty boar during his stay." He then gestured to the small table set for them. On it was a selection of prepared fishes and vegetables. "From the smell my cook has outdone himself tonight."

"Boar is his favorite," Renn nodded in laconic fashion to his brother and back to their host, "Have you hunted in Storm's End, Lord Tully?" Renn asked, stretching his pensive nature in an effort to be social.

Brannis, who was less a hunter, smiled and nodded, "We have much in common Lord Tully, in cuisine. Bounties from our waters, the envy of many."

"I'm afraid I haven't had the pleasure of Storm's End courtesies yet. But I do hope I have that honour in the future." He smiled at Renn before taking a seat at the table. "Please call me Jonah, Lord Brannis. And I've always felt a little odd eating fish, especially trout." Jon then chuckled at his own small joke.

"Renn," Brannis gestured to his little brother, "Brannis," he offered. The elder smiled at the jape, "Nonsense. To the First Men, the fish was a symbol of a spirit's guide. Mysticism and magic knowledge," he gestured with a carved knife, "To the Andals, a scout. A wayfinder. It always knows home."

"I doubt that the sellswords I used to fight with saw the fish on my shield like that." Jon smiled. "But I appreciate your kind words Brannis. To me, the trout stands for family above all. I've never been embarrassed to wear it, not for a moment." Jon used a skewer to pull a few of the trout onto his plate, together with some vegetables. "How have you been finding your time in King's Landing?"

Brannis answered, "Naturally a tragedy. My family did well enough under Waynn's hand on the rudder," he popped a chunk of fish in his mouth, "But the next King or Queen, I imagine, will do better." Brannis looked at his brother, "My brother Renn wishes to become a Kingsguard." Brannis smiled, "I'd rather he put his cock to good use, and there'd be a castle in it for him. A pretty wife," he charmingly smiled again, "That knows the Ghiscari graces if he were lucky, a few nephews for future knights in the Baratheon navies."

Renn stayed silent, poking at his fish with a troubled air.

"Having been to Slaver's Bay, I feel knowledgable in saying that those women are more hassle than they're worth." Jon smiled at the memory of being chased out of a noble woman's bed by her husband's Unsullied one morning. "I'd much sooner recommend finding a proper Westerosi woman to marry. "Is the fish not to your liking Renn? If you prefer, my cook can make you something else."

Brannis mused with a smile at the miscommunication: he meant the Ghiscari graces, not Ghiscari women. His gaze went Renn who had fallen into his pensive and laconic nature. Renn looked up at Jonah and shook his head with a brief smile, "No I like the fish."

"You'll have to forgive my brother," Brannis said, his eyes on the younger, "He's cursed with a melancholy humor. He lacks your," Brannis gesture with a roll of the wrist, "Ease, with conversation."

Jon gave Renn another look, studying the handsome younger man before returning to his elder brother. "Though I am most sure he could soundly beat me in a melee." Jon offered with a grin before eating a chunk of his trout. "As you know, the Grand Council is soon to convene."

Renn accepted the compliment in silence with a respectful nod to the Tully senior over his fish. Brannis gestured, "Oh yes, the Council. Is there any more important topic than that these days. It's on everyone's mind."

"It is to be expected." Jon agreed. "After all, it will decide who will sit upon the throne for the coming years, maybe decades. I imagine it's the one thing that every lord, lady, and landed knight in the realm is thinking about. Gods know that it has been on the forefront of my own thoughts for the last several days and nights."

"I imagine so," Brannis agreed, eyeing his brother. Renn gave his brother a curt nod.

"Indeed," the youth said.

"So I imagine house Velaryon has approached you in hopes of winning your votes for their claim?" Jon asked in the same pleasant tone as he had before biting into a roasted carrot.

Brannis didn't even break stride, smiling, eyeing his Tully counterpart as he deboned his fish, "Among a few contenders. We are of course considering our own bid. I take it House Tully would like to sit the throne as well?"

"I do think I'd make a striking king, wouldn't you say?" Jon replied, choosing humour as a way of coating his words in some proverbial honey.

Brannis smiled at the Tully, “Striking indeed, my Lord Tully, but the throne is kind to neither looks or charisma. It’s a cruel mistress I’d wish on few,” Brannis countered. He winked at the man, “We are the wiser men to stay out of the chair and pull the strings from the council table.”

Brannis looked at his brother, then swung his gaze back to their host, “Perhaps a boy new to ruler ship? Like the Velaryon lad.” Brannis sat back with a smile, coddling his goblet as his blue eyes focused on his counterpart, “A pretty, malleable face there that men like us could make into a good King. But with the weight of history behind him. His Valyrian blood could serve our business ventures in Essos.”

Brannis burrowed his stare into his brother, “What do you think brother?”

Renn had bristled to think of his brother making anyone his age into a puppet. He fished at his fork and ate a piece, “I have no opinion. I have no more stomach for scheming. Excuse me.” Renn rose, fingertips pressed to the table as he extended to his full height, “My Lord Tully you are a most gracious host and I thank you for the fine meal.” He bowed respectfully, “If you will excuse me.”

Jon took the familial disagreement in in silence. He nodded to Renn, "Of course Renn." before turning back to the elder Baratheon. "Do you truly believe you'll get your hooks in Aethan? While I don't know the man well, I know of his grandmother at the very least. As long as Shireen Velaryon is alive and able, she'll be the power behind the throne. Much better to crown a lord that is proven to be able to rule justly in his own right, and an able warrior as well." The pleasant smile had not disappeared, but Jon's tone had become much more serious. "I could have seen Aethan's father, Syreas as King. He was appointed to the Small Council when he was Aethan's age. Or even old Lord Jorgen, if he was alive."

Brannis with his black bearded charm and popped a candied fruit into his mouth, “Hooks my Lord? I don’t know what you mean. I’m a lord, not a lamprey. The boy is educated and will soon have an educated wife. He’ll be won by words. Logic and stability. I don’t fear Shireen Velaryon. Remember that we Baratheons shared much with the Velaryons.”

Brannis sat back, ever-pleasant. “And why would we need a great warrior, my Lord? We are not at war. Our kingdoms have known peace for nearly a century. Trade is abundant. Trade makes our banners rich, not war.” He winked at the man, “Still, you would make an excellent member of the Council. A Master of War. Or dare say, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. What could be more glorious?”

"I never called myself a great warrior, merely an able one. As for why, one never knows what heavens and hells the morrow brings." Jon retorted. "I don't expect that either Aethan or Shireen will hold much value to Stannis Baratheon ruling over them for less than a score years. Shireen most definitely wouldn't. As for the Kingsguard..." Jon let the position hang as he drank from his wine. "Be realistic Brannis. I have no heirs yet, and a powerful house to lead. Donning a white cloak is the least sensible thing I could do. I've no heir, nor anyone to take care of my House."

Jon emptied his goblet and studied Brannis for a moment before speaking again. "Master of Coin, and a promise for better trade with Essos. Shireen made the offer before I could, didn't she?"

Brannis tilted his head, “She made offers. It was a sweet pot. But it was not the deal clincher. You just spoke, My Lord, of a concern. You are an honorable and capable man. And though you say you are merely able, my father spoke of your skills on the hunt. Those skills translate. What its hunting but a war’s proxy?” He sighed, “It is true. You have no heirs. And that is a concern for any King. The Velaryons, though, are young and fertile. The Velaryons are of the blood. They are seen across the sea in Essos as a face of power. We need to project that confidence again. Not a Tully, not a Lannister, not a Baratheon. We’re either unknown, viewed as corrupt, or seen as failed drunks and leches. But a. Velaryon on the throne is something the world understands.”

"Why would a Velaryon heir to Aethan matter? When Aethan passes, are we not to elect another king?" Jon asked, interested. "As for the Velaryon reputation in Essos, I've heard those tales too. Blood of old Valyria, and not all that look at them fondly. The Free Cities also remember what those with that blood did to them and theirs in the past, most of all Braavos. But the Free Cities, and Essos in general, would not need to trade with the king, but with his chosen representative. So tell me Brannis, what would be a deal clincher for you?"

Brannis smiled at his Tully compatriot, “Same as the reason matters to you my Lord Tully. Continue the line.” He deferred with shrug of his goblet hand, placing it back on the table, “The gravities of fear and love are often mixed and confused. But the Velaryons control much of the Essos trade, and it is the Essos trade I want. And the weight of a great King that has those- and a name- are available. Waynn lacked that.”

"How about the Essos trade as a member of the Small Council, overseeing the Stormland, and the much of the Riverland's outgoing trade too? We both know Maidenpool has more trade than its docks can manage, and the harbour is a challenge to traverse in good weather. Besides that, I would still want a Velaryon on my small council, because few truly know ships like they do." Jon took the pitcher of wine and offered to fill Brannis' goblet before his own. "A known and respected Lord Tully on the throne, a Baratheon managing trade, a Velaryon for the king's fleet. Tell me that that does not sound like a recipe for a stable and prosperous realm."

Brannis declined the addition of more wine, “Ah no thank you My Lord. I know my limits when it comes to drink.” He studied the man for a few moments. “What about you Lord Tully? What does it take for you to support a Velaryon claim?” He asked out of curiosity, “Lord Paramount of the Riverlands? Guarantees that the Ironborn will not harass the Maidenhead? A seat on the Council... or perhaps even Hand of the King?”

"If I were to support the Velaryon claim, my own would have to be so outnumbered as to be unachievable." Jon answered simply. "I bare House Velaryon no ill will. I count Stevron Velaryon as a good friend of mine. But I truly do not believe that Aethan would be a better king than I. If it turns out that the majority of the houses feel different, so be it. Until then, I cannot support him." The words were calm, concise, and the Gods' honest truth.

Brannis raised a brow, “Both concise and quite final. I would say,” to the Tully lord. He eyed his mostly eaten food, “Now where is that wayward boy,” he asked with a renewed smile, an exasperated air in his blue gaze.

"There's a rather lovely garden out back. Perhaps he went for a stroll?" Jon offered. "But I'd hardly call Renn a boy, he can't be much younger than you are? And a knight in his own right as well."

Brannis smirked at that, “A garden you say. Well that seems likely to his interest.” The Baratheon merely sidestepped the issue of the diminutive Brannis tended to use toward his brother.

"Well, let us find your brother. I'm sure he hasn't wandered of too far. Maybe he's drinking with a few of my knights." Jon said with a grin as he rose.

Brannis rose and broadened his chest with a roll of his chest, “That would be a pleasant surprise indeed.” He gestured to the door with a smile, “Lead on my Lord.”


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