Seventh Month of 278 A.C. King's Landing

Lord Steffon Baratheon

The last time Steffon had been at court was when he had been a member of the king's small council, serving as master of laws. His cousin King Aerys Targaryen, second of his name, had changed much from Steffon's memories of him as a young man. Aerys had had long unclean hair, even longer nails and a mad glint in his eye that made him suspicious of nearly everyone most especially their old friend Lord Tywin Lannister. Aerys had muttered to himself constantly and had rarely attended council meetings in the time Steffon had been on the council and on more than one occasion had said to Steffon that he thought Tywin and Prince Rhaegar his own son were plotting against him. It was for that reason that Aerys had sent Steffon and his wife Cassana to Essos to find a wife of pure Valyrian ancestry for Rhaegar to wed. In truth Steffon suspected that his cousin was sending him out to find their great uncle Maegor's line, and as such there had been no luck. No matter where they went in Lys, Myr, Tyrosh, even in Volantis all daughters of Valyria they had been unable to find any such girls who could trace their lineage in a completely undiluted manner back to the dragon lords of old, and they even failed to find a trace of the supposed female line of House Blackfyre. As for Uncle Maegor's line, well that had seemingly disappeared off of the face of the earth about ten years ago.

And so Steffon and his wife Cassana had called the mission quits, and Steffon had written to Aerys of the failure of their mission whilst they had been in Volantis, his cousin's reply had been brief, accepting the failure and then summoning them back to court. The journey back itself had been slightly perilous, for a great storm had been brewing for some time, and just as they were arriving at Tarth the storm had erupted in full force. Steffon had thankfully had a friend in Lord Selwyn Tarth who had allowed them to stay the length of the storm at his castle, before they had then returned to Storm's End, where Steffon had left Cassana with their sons Robert, Stannis and Renly, for his wife was with child and he did not wish to endanger her or their unborn son or daughter with Aerys. And then he had sailed to King's Landing.

He was currently in the king's solar, waiting for Aerys to speak, Ser Gerold Hightower and Ser Barristan Selmy of the Kingsguard were stood behind the king's chair, silent shadows. "So you were unable to find a bride for my son were you cousin?" Aerys asks his voice soft.

Steffon nods. "I was unable to find a bride of suitable standing for Prince Rhaegar, Your Grace. You had given me specific instructions and I followed them to the letter, when I found none that suited your requirements I wrote to you."

"So are you suggesting that it was my fault then cousin? Are you suggesting that I limited your time to finding a bride for my son?" Aerys says his voice growing as he speaks.

"No Your Grace. That is not what I am suggesting whatsoever. I am merely stating the facts as they are." Steffon responds.

"The facts, but what are the facts Steffon?" Aerys asks his eyes mad looking. "You tell me one thing, and others tell me another. They say that you deliberately tried not to find a bride for Rhaegar. That you wish for my line to die out and take the throne yourself. Is that true Steffon would you betray me so?"

Steffon is completely stunned by this unsure how to react he merely says. "Whoever these people are, they are lying to you Your Grace. I do not want the throne, I have never thought of the throne as anything other than yours, and Prince Rhaegar's after you. I am merely a humble servant, who went to do as he was bid."

"Ah of course you are." Aerys says, his tone changing dramatically. "You must forgive me Steffon. I hear things you see, people whisper in my ear and they tell me one thing then another, it has become hard to assess just where the truth is from the lies. I know not whom to trust, and I know not whom to hate."

"You can trust me Your Grace. You always have been able to, and you always will." Steffon says.

His cousin looks at him for a moment then. "Aye, I can… or can I? I know you have spoken to Tywin before, whilst you served on the council. I know Tywin plots with Rhaegar my fool of a son. Plots to have me remove and replaced, so he can have his whore of a daughter placed as queen. He does all of this and he thinks I do not know. Oh I know! I always know when Tywin plots and when he lies!"

Steffon is taken aback by the change in his cousin's temperament, really though he should be used to it. Slowly he says. "I am sure that is not what Tywin is doing Your Grace. I am sure he is merely trying to ensure the kingdom remains running. He is your hand after all."

Aerys snorts at that and says. "Bah. Tywin hungers after my throne Steffon. He always has, even when we were boys and he knew that I was to be King, he hungered after it. You know they always say he loved Joanna, but that is not true, she loved me and I loved her. She gave me her maiden's gift you know, long before she was ever wed to Tywin. And Tywin, that fool wanted Rhaella, he wanted a royal match I know he did. I know she did as well my whore of a sister. And now Rhaegar, Rhaegar wants something he cannot have, not until I am dead."

Steffon is completely taken aback by this, he knew that when they were younger Rhaella had had feelings for some knight from the Stormlands but he never knew about her and Tywin… could it be? No definitely not. He shakes his head and says. "Your Grace, I do not think you should take stock in these rumours. For that is all they are, they are lies spread by those who wish to end the friendship between you and Lord Tywin. A friendship that has seen the kingdoms at peace for nearly two decades. Do not let them ruin that. You are the king, no one else is."

His cousin is silent for a long moment and Steffon thinks that perhaps he is finally calm, but when Aerys speaks again his voice is high pitched nearly hysterical. "I do not believe you Steffon. I trusted you with an important mission, and you and your wife failed me. You have never failed me before, but now, now you have. Why did you do this Steffon? I have always been good to you, from the days when we served as pages to grandfather, I was good to you. Why would you betray me like this?"

Stunned, Steffon knows not how to reply. "I… Your Grace I do not understand. I did as asked, I looked for a bride for Prince Rhaegar, that I could not find one, is merely down to bad luck nothing more."

Aerys snorts. "LIES, ALL LIES. I know of the treason you are plotting with Tywin and my ungrateful son. I know that you plan to have Rhaegar seated on the throne, and that you have been speaking with that northern savage about having your son betrothed to his whore of a daughter. Why else would you be doing that unless you were preparing for war?"

Steffon feels his anger boiling then and doing his hardest to keep it under control he says softly. "I will not stand here and listen to you question my motives cousin. I have done my duty by you with honour and dignity."

"So you are plotting something with Tywin then. I KNEW IT!" Aerys shouts. "From this day forth you are banished from court. I do not want to see you in King's Landing ever again, should you dare come here I shall have you killed and your wife and children imprisoned. Do you understand?"

Hurt beyond belief, Steffon merely nods and says. "Aye Your Grace I do. When do you wish for me to leave?"

"Tonight. You may begin packing your things, and sail on your ship once you have had dinner. Now leave me." Aerys says dismissively.

Steffon nods, bows and then leaves the room, anger and sorrow in his heart. He packs his things when he gets to his room, and as he is doing so there is a knock on the door calling for whoever it is to come in he finds himself face to face with Tywin. Steffon is silent for a moment before he breaks out into a grin as does his old friend. "Tywin, by the seven, what on earth are you doing here? I had thought you would be at council now?"

His old friend sighs and says. "Unfortunately not Steffon. The king has decided he does not wish to hold council today and instead has cloistered himself in a meeting with his lickspittles. So I came to see you, I heard about your meeting with Aerys, I hear it did not go well."

Steffon nods and grimly says. "Aye, you could say that. I know not what has happened to him Tywin. He has changed beyond repair, even beyond what I knew of him before this journey. Something is terribly wrong, and I know not what it is."

"The eunuch and Lucerys Velaryon have been whispering in his ear. They convince him that there are plots afoot that there are not. They hope to gain something by doing this, Velaryon wants power, what the eunuch wants I know not. And all of this could be sorted if Aerys would simply speak with me, but he will not do so." Tywin says.

"Aye, but alas, I must return to Storm's End by order of the king. I do hope that he comes to his senses and realises we are working for him not against him." Steffon replies.

Tywin nods and then asks. "How are your wife and children doing? If I recall correctly, Cassana is with child once more?"

Steffon nods smiling. "Aye she is, we are expecting in another four moons. And Robert and my other sons are doing well."

Tywin nods and asks. "Will your eldest be returning to the Vale or not?"

Steffon hesitates for a moment unsure of what to say and what not to say and then says. "No, he shall be remaining at Storm's End. I feel he has spent enough time in the Vale. It is time he learnt how to be a lord of the Stormlands. He will need to know his people and his people must know him."

"A smart idea my friend. My own son Jaime is currently squiring for Summer Crakehall and shall be returning to Casterly Rock soon enough. Perhaps when next we are both free we might meet and our children could meet as well? After all in this time you can never have too many allies." Tywin says.

Steffon's eyes narrow and he asks. "You think there is some sort of danger coming to Westeros Tywin? Does Aerys have a right to be fearful?"

Tywin looks at him then, as if truly seeing him for the first time. "He is the most powerful man in all of Westeros. People hunger for his approval and for his power, he has men whispering too him day and night. He has every right to be fearful."

Steffon sighs then and asks. "And what of you, does he need to fear you?"

"No. I am merely his servant." Tywin responds.