Reviews make me write faster! I use the quatermaester interracive game of thrones map when writing.


I homed in on the sounds of singing as I walked through the great keep, turning the corner to find Mace Tyrell heading in the same direction I was.

In a pre-printing press society singing, dancing, and theatre were huge parts of court life. This song was one based around food that espoused the bounty of the Reach, even with the Tyrells out of favour I'd heard it enough at court to know most of the words.

I quickened my pace to catch up and joined in with my passable singing voice when I drew level with the Lord of Highgarden. Mace looked over in surprise, but that look quickly turned into a pleased one as we walked through the corridors and up the staircases of the great keep singing together. I only stumbled over a couple of lines before the song reached its end.

"You have a good singing voice, Your Grace." Mace commented with a guileless smile, obviously cheered by not being told to shut up for once.

"You flatter me Lord Tyrell, mine own is nothing compared to your own voice. I've never heard lord more skilled in the operatic style." I replied honestly.

"Oh, you honour me Your Grace!" Mace preened and drew himself up in pride as we continued walking.

"Given your skill, I wonder that you haven't set up some sort of 'Citadel for the Arts' here at Highgarden. I would certainly make being trained there a condition for all singers and musicians in my employ, if the masters of the arts you recruit train them to your standards." I speculated, sending Mace a fond smile and actually making him blush as he practically burst with pride at my interest.

"What a splendid idea Your Grace!" The Lord of Highgarden babbled pridefully on the subject now that I had put the idea in his head. I listened happily as he boasted while we continued walking. I didn't have to fake my affection and high regard for Loras' father, it was entirely genuine.

As a man, Mace Tyrell was at the top of my list of people and parents I truly respected – If I'd been reborn into a child's body rather than Renly's, I prayed it would have been a child of Mace. The only other man on the list I'd have been pleased to be reborn as a child of was Ned Stark.

For all that Mace was an oaf as a lord, he was still competent enough to keep order and be liked rather than mocked by his bannermen. He listened to good advice, rarely disregarded it, and was willing to eat humble pie and ask for help if events got out of control. Tytos Lannister this man was not.

With his family, in an age of vehement homophobia, misogyny, and mistresses, Mace Tyrell loved and was loyal to his wife, and loved all his children passionately.

Any lord would love Garlan, he was the epitome of what Westerosi lords wished their sons would be after all. But Mace loved Willas, bookish and scholarly even before his crippling, and hadn't tried to side-line him as heir after his injury. Feeling a deep and genuine regret for his own part in it even as he wrongly blamed Prince Oberyn as well.

Where others would have cast Loras from the family in disgrace, Mace loved him. Indeed, the Knight of Flowers was his favourite son despite being a sword-swallower. A fact that many fathers found disgusting and tried to beat out of their sons 'for their own good' even in the modern era, let alone in Westeros.

He loved Margaery, even when her prodigious intelligence was on full display, battling Willas evenly and running rings around Loras, Garlan, and Mace himself. Something few lords' egos would have accepted from their daughters, fewer still would have listened to their daughter's advice.

When tragedy struck, Mace had been unwilling to allow his two youngest children to remain imprisoned. Instead, he tried to march the entire Tyrell army into the Great Sept and slaughter all inside – including the High Septon. The dire consequences from the rest of the Faith that he would surely bring down on his own head, the sort that had been the end of Aenys I Targeryen, were ones that he completely disregarded when faced with the safety of his children.

When that gambit had failed and Loras faced a trial of faith, Mace had broken the moment the blade touched his son's skin. The fat, unarmed, and unarmoured man had made to fight his way through dozens of morningstar wielding, well-muscled sparrows with his bare hands, to save Loras from pain. Only Margaery physically holding him back had stopped him.

And at the end, when everyone else was trying to get out of the Great Sept, Mace Tyrell died trying to get further into it, to reach his two youngest children – not entertaining for a moment the thought of escaping without them.

The difference in character with so many of the other lords in Westeros was clear, and I'd be honoured to claim him as family when I married Margaery.

Eventually Mace and I entered the small dining chamber set high in the great keep of Highgarden, an intimate space that House Tyrell could use for negotiations that was not as formal as the Lord Paramount's solar.

The rest of the Tyrells, minus Loras and Olenna, looked up from their various spots around the room as Mace poured water into the washbasin and cleaned his hands, while I marvelled at the solid malachite and gold-plated brass washbasin and water pitcher. At home either one of them would have cost more than my yearly salary.

Contrary to the common belief caused by later periods of history, medieval society actually valued cleanliness highly. With bathhouses being common in towns, large hot tub like baths a staple of the rich and highborn, and even peasants washing regularly with a washbasin and cloth.

What they lacked was the understanding of germ theory that explained why it was just as important to use soap when washing your hands as it was when washing or bathing. No matter how clean your hands looked after washing with just water.

I withdrew one of the bars of fine Dornish soap I'd bought in King's Landing and washed my hands thoroughly once Mace had finished.

"Soap as well as water?" The Lord of Highgarden asked curiously.

"I was obsessed with being clean as a child." I remarked casually, drying my hands. "Then I noticed that I suffered fewer illnesses than others who just washed their hands with water, so I carried on using soap and that has remained true. I admit I know not why it works, but it does."

"Huh." Mace raised his eyebrows before gesturing towards one of the seats while he washed his hands again with the Dornish soap. I expected things working without him knowing why was a common experience for him.

A vast array of cheeses, fruits, preserves, and breads were present on the dining table and my mouth watered. I quickly selecting some of the delicate ciabatta, light brie, gooey baked camembert, dripping burrata, red pesto, garlic butter, wafer thin smoked ham and salted beef, and delicate grapes, loading up my plate.

Compared to the hearty brown bread, strong goats cheese, cold mutton, and succulent apples that were the main food of the wet and mountainous Stormlands, the more forgiving climate and the rich, diverse, fields of the Reach were on full display even in this small meal.

"Here… try this one." Mace leaned over conspiratorially, filling my glass with a fine red wine. "Loras says you prefer sweet reds, this is Arbor Ruby and let me tell you…"

The doors slammed open, and the younger Tyrells stood as a pair of twins who stood nearly seven feet tall with bulging muscles and red moustaches came through and stood on either side.

A small wizened old woman walked through slowly, leaning on her cane.

"Mace are you talking about food again?" The Queen of Thorns scolded as she approached the table and Margaery quickly drew her a chair.

"Your Grace, allow me to present my grandmother; Lady Olenna Redwyne of House Tyrell." Margaery introduced perfectly.

"Your Grace, is it?" Olenna snorted. "Well, Your Grace, you should have the decency to stand in the presence of a lady."

"And you should have the decency to curtesy in the presence of a king." I returned sharply – fighting fire with fire, to the surprise of everyone present.

We stared at each other for a moment before Olenna conceded the round and sat – without curtseying. "Well, you aren't spineless at least."

I greeted the barb with nothing more than a raised eyebrow. "Shall we begin?"

"Without my grandson? Does he know you place so little value in him?" Olenna asked tartly.

"He knows full well I place a great deal of value in him my lady," I responded calmly, "but he will not be joining us. So if you wish to wait for him we will be here a considerable time."

"I told him to be present."

"And I told him not to be." I remarked casually, eating grapes without a care in the world as the temperature plummeted and Olenna's gaze turned hostile. "He has a more important task to perform."

"And what," the Queen of Thorns spat at the realisation that I had more control over Loras than she did, "is more important than the future of his house?"

"Controlling Arya Stark." I answered calmly. "If we try and have a secret meeting without someone doing that, we'll end it to find her hanging from the rafters like a squirrel. Having listened to our every word."

"Couldn't her bastard brother have done that?" Garlan asked tentatively, attempting to play peacemaker as Olenna and I engaged in a silent battle of wills.

I broke the staring match with the Queen of Thorns to turn my gaze on him instead. "And when she was in your care Garlan, how successful were you in preventing Margaery from completing whatever scheme she'd come up with this time?"

Garlan the Gallant grimaced. "A point well made. And one that will soon be your problem."

I only caught Margaery's satisfied smirk out the corner of my eye. Willas' however, was on full display.

Lady Olenna harumphed and helped herself to some cheese, apparently conceding the loss of control over Loras as a fait accompli. One she would no doubt be working to reverse as soon as this meeting was over.

"It will be my problem sooner than many would like I expect." I remarked, turning to face Margery. "I'm afraid we must marry before the fortnight is out my lady."

Commendably, Margery didn't blanch, though her father and brothers did.

"But Your Grace!" Mace stammered. "Mother cannot ride, and a carriage will never make it to Oldtown in time even if we left today! To say nothing of the carts of supplies, and lords further than Bitterbridge would never make it either, even if they rode unincumbered and knew to leave this very day!"

"I know, and I'm deeply sorry. But for reasons I will explain in war council I must be back in the field and at the head of my army three weeks hence. As such I must leave Highgarden for Bitterbridge in a fortnight, so we must marry before then." I answered as respectfully as I could.

"But my banners won't have mustered by then!" Mace cried out in confusion, the dream of a glorious wedding and coronation for his daughter in the Starry Sept, grandest in the Seven Kingdoms, slipping away before his eyes.

"I know that too. I will have to leave without them and trust that you will follow behind. There is no time my lord.I would love nothing more than to marry your daughter in the grandest Sept in the Seven Kingdoms, to be crowned as King and Queen of the Seven Kingdoms in the very sept where Aegon the Conqueror was crowned the same. But there is no time!"

"So you'll give my granddaughter a paupers wedding instead." Lady Olenna cut in bitterly.

"The castle sept of Highgarden is hardly a paupers wedding my lady." I replied tartly. "It is known as the only one in the Seven Kingdoms that can rival the Starry Sept and the Great Sept of Baelor."

I changed my tone to apologetic and turned to face Margery. "But I agree it is not what lady Margaery deserves. I would see her married in the grandest sept with every whim met and every lord and lady in attendance, but there is no time. When the war is won, I will have our marriage blessed in the Great Sept of Baelor, The Starry Sept, in every Lord Paramount's sept in the Seven Kingdoms if that is what you wish my lady. But I have information that cannot wait, if my army does not strike now and strike hard the opportunity will be lost, and our crowns may be lost with it."

Margaery studied me for a moment, her face carefully blank. "I will marry in the castle sept father, as my lord husband commands."

"But…"

"If you call the banners and make the announcement today, the lords and ladies will be here in time even if their banners are not. The castle sept is grand enough, and we have enough food and cloth here to suffice." Margaery cut her father off as firmly as she could without breaking her mask of a docile and obedient wife.

The tension could be cut with a knife as Garlan held my gaze defiantly, his stare one that promised brutal retribution if he didn't find my explanation for the dire need for speed sufficient when I called a war council.

"So, what else did Loras promise to secure your father's support for my claim?" I asked Willas respectfully in the tense atmosphere. As much as I respected Mace as a man, I didn't want to spend the entire meeting pretending he was actually in charge of the nuts and bolts of the agreement.

"My father will serve as Hand of the King, his uncle Garth Tyrell as Master of Coin, my uncle Paxter Redwyne as Master of Ships, my brother Loras as the Lord Commander of your Kingsguard, and Randall Tarly as your Master of Laws." Willas summarised succinctly.

Internally I winced even as I nodded magnanimously. Five. Loras had given away five of the seven small council positions to his family or their bannermen as well as the queenship. With Pycelle occupying the Grand Maester slot I was left with only the Master of Whispers position for me to bestow on my own supporters.

This was an absolute disaster, confirming me to be a Tyrell puppet, preventing me from honouring my own bannermen, and preventing me from using small council positions to bring any other kingdoms into the fold. With hindsight it was clear that Loras had been a poor choice of envoy, I'd been an utter fool to believe the more political members of his family would give him an easy ride. While Loras had easily been able to convince his father to support me in principle, Willas had clearly run rings around his baby brother. Walking away with everything save the shirt of Loras' back when it came to the actual details of our arrangement.

But even with all of that, I couldn't just throw Loras under the bus and renounce the deal he'd negotiated on my behalf as too difficult to swallow. To do so would be to utterly humiliate Loras and publicly declare him incompetent, show me to be of poor judgement as well as devaluing the word of both myself and all future envoy's acting in my name, and probably destroy my relationship with Loras as well. To say nothing of causing the Tyrells to cast me out of Highgarden without a second glance for the insult given to so many members of their family.

Fortunately, thank the gods, I had a way to re-open negotiations that sidestepped those consequences.

"I see no problem with this," I began watching Olenna's gaze turn to contempt at my weakness and stupidity, "or rather I would have, had I not since decided to reform the small council."

That froze everyone. Garlan, Mace, Alerie, and Leonette all looking confused, while Willas looked angry, and Margery and Olenna calculating.

"Reform, Your Grace?" Margaery spoke up for the first time, cutting across whatever angry retort Willas was going to issue before he could begin. She still sounded brainless, begging to have her husband explain things to her. The calculating gaze that I had barely managed to glimpse in my peripheral vision had vanished completely along with the strength she had faced down her father with.

"Reform." I confirmed, supressing the amused smirk that threatened to break onto my face at her skilful acting. "I have decided that seven positions are insufficient to competently govern the realm, so the small council will be expanded to twenty-one members."

I still maintained the base seven that was such a component of Westerosi culture due to the Faith of the Seven. But this larger number gave me considerably more room to manoeuvre.

"Twenty-one," Olenna scoffed, "well you certainly don't want to be without your ass kissers do you"?

"Far from it, Lady Tyrell," I returned, "few on the small council will be willing to do that. Indeed, ten of the seats will be reserved for one representative each from the nine existing regions of the Seven Kingdoms, and one new region I will create if all goes to plan. I highly doubt all of them will be willing to kiss my ass. Mathis Rowan certainly won't be, and it was his name I wanted to put forward for the Reach's seat."

Calculating gazes filled the table again. "Why did you decide to reform the small council Your Grace?" Margaery asked – the very picture of innocent confusion.

"Control." I answered harshly. "As it stands the small council can only directly inform the king about six of the nine regions of the realm, and that only if one region hasn't managed to secure more than one position. For the status of the rest of the realm the king is forced to rely on their own contacts or on the master of whispers. A situation all too easy to abuse. Having a representative for each region will allow me to keep a much closer eye on what is going on in the realm."

"If the Lord Paramount sends a representative they aren't fond of, it will result in them being represented poorly on the small council. But if they send one they care about, you have hostage if they begin to have any rebellious ideas." Willas muttered, stroking his designer stubble while clearly deep in thought.

Lady Olenna's eyebrow rose. "Surprisingly well considered from someone who thinks that they should be king because they know to dress and smile."

"A charming smile can mask many things Lady Olenna, something of which I am certain you're very well aware." I returned calmly, my eyes flickering to Margaery only briefly, but enough to give her pause. "Besides, it was not that which gave me the notion that I should be king, but rather the complete unsuitability of the other candidates."

"Ha! Candidates!" The Queen of Thorns barked out. "You speak as if we were discussing this in a Great Council, not a civil war."

"What is a civil war but a Great Council with swords?"

Garlan laughed even as his wife, Leonette Fossoway, dug her elbow into him. "He does have you there grandmother."

"He does not!" Olenna returned indignantly. "Robert has two living sons and another brother. This prancing fool has no claim to that ugly iron chair, your fat-head father pretending he does is treason. We should stay right out of it!"

Mace's indignant cry of 'Mother!' was ignored.

"You can't." I cut across Olenna sharply as she stopped to draw breath. "My brother Robert has no legitimate children, they're bastards born of incest between Cersei and Jamie Lannister – as you've certainly heard by now."

Silence fell across the table at my declaration.

Mace slowly spoke up. "Mother? Have you heard?"

"Of course, I've heard!" Lady Olenna snapped. "The ravens have been flying from the Stormlands' keeps for days! I doubt there's a lord south of the Blackwater that hasn't heard by now!"

"Whether we believe it is another matter." Willas spoke softly while gazing at me, but a note of challenge rang strong through his voice.

"Given that the Stormlands lords fervour in spreading the news has convinced many of our bannermen, the decision may be out of our hands." Garlan put in, his face serious for once as he nodded to his wife.

Leonette withdrew a raven's scroll from her gown and cleared her throat. "From Cider Hall. My brother Mace writes that father received a raven from Lord Dondarrion some three days passed. Beric lay the case against Queen Cersei before my father, then swore on his own honour and their shared friendship that Lord Renly had proven every word true to his satisfaction. My father is convinced by his friend's vows, and Mace begs me to tell him if we know otherwise as father makes ready to ride for Highgarden, to ask in person what the Warden of the South intends in the face of such vile treachery."

Willas winced. "If we'd have to spend influence to keep even the Red Apple Fossoways loyal and in line, then it seems impossible to stay out of it Grandmother. We may be able to compel our lords to support Joffrey if we use everything we have to declare these allegations false, but the Reach will fracture if we try to compel them do nothing.

"Indeed." Olenna spoke the word heavily, with pursed lips. "It seems you poisoned the well against your nephew quite thoroughly, Your Grace. Well done."

Stannis hadn't sent out the news of Cersei's incest until Robb Stark had had enough time to call his general muster and march all the way to Riverrun. With Renly having been in the field with the support of Highgarden and Storm's End for weeks as well, virtually everyone had believed the truth that the Lord of Dragonstone sent out to be a pathetic ploy. A transparent attempt to gather support from an unpopular contender for the throne who had waited too long to throw his hat into the ring. It was why Tommen had enjoyed such support even given Joffrey's actions, almost everyone still believed him to be Robert's son.

While a timely declaration from me would not have been as poorly received as the very late one from Stannis had been, it would still have been dismissed by most as a clear fabrication designed to remove the two claimants ahead of me in the line of succession that were actually popular. I was utterly thrilled that my grassroots communication campaign had proved so much more effective than a traditional lordly declaration, but I made sure to keep my focus on the here and now.

"Joffrey is not my nephew Lady Olenna – something that brings me great joy. Though it is tempered by the sorrow that Myrcella and Tommen are not my blood either." I chose my words very carefully. I was LGBT, I knew from bitter experience that family was far more than ties of blood, and that it could be found where no ties existed at all while your own blood would often eagerly renounce you. Myrcella and Tommen were still family to me, no matter who their father was. But that was not something any present would understand, so I stayed silent and let them misinterpret my words.

"Oh do shut up boy." Olenna snapped back dismissively. "None of your little lords are here, and you've cut us off from the only other palatable option quite thoroughly. You don't need to pretend with us."

"I swear on Loras' life, I'm not pretending. The allegations are true." I replied calmly.

I withdrew Ned's signed letter and a summary document of the traits of the Baratheon line from Orys to Tommen, signed by Maester Jurne. I lay them before the Queen of Thorns and the rest of the Tyrells quickly gathered behind her to read them. A deathly silence fell over the table as every Tyrell present reeled in shock.

"Grandmother….surely she didn't actually…." Garlan choked.

Olenna Tyrell finished reading and searched my face thoroughly. The Queen of Thorns gasped, slumping heavily into her chair. "She did. By all the gods she actually did! After a certain age it's hard to recall all the mad schemes people have come up with over the years…but this…this…this insanity has no equal!"

"It gets worse." I remarked.

"How?" Willas asked sharply, as Olenna was still staring into the middle distance in utter disbelief.

"They're not just bastards, they're bastards born of incest, and they suffer the Targaryen disease as a result." I explained, making the heir of Highgarden blanch. "Cersei beat the odds, Tommen and Myrcella are good children, but when the gods tossed Joffrey's coin it landed on madness. He's hidden it well so far, but now he's unrestrained."

"He has a regent." Margery replied weakly, the shock of the news momentarily shattering even her mask.

"His mother," I shook my head sadly, "who utterly unable to control or discipline him. She won't give up the regency to anyone. Joffrey has a regent in name only and acts on his own mad whims in fact. Until Tywin Lannister makes it to the city to take up his position as hand of the king it will stay that way. The Lannisters sole saving grace is that he's easily distracted, as Aerys was. At first at least, gods only now how long that will last."

"Well then. What are we getting?" Olenna snarked, with no evidence she had ever been shocked into silence.

"Grandmother, don't you think we should…."

"Don't be as fat-headed as your father Willas! Joffrey is mad, and more than half the realm will believe Tommen to be a bastard born of incest even if we crush the news about him here in the Reach. As for Stannis, if you think I'm placing the future of House Tyrell in the hands of a man your father made eat his own shoe leather and nearly made eat his own bannermen then I've been wrong about you all these years. That leaves us with only one candidate we can back, which rather diminishes our negotiating power."

Olenna Tyrell studied me hard again. "The gods favour you it seems."

I snorted. "Hardly. If they did then Eddard Stark would have agreed when I proposed we murder Cersei and Joffrey, crown Tommen, have us serve as his regent and hand, marry him to Margaery and me to Sansa, smuggle a few jars of wildfire on Stannis' bannership, and betroth my and Tommen's children to get Baratheon blood back on the Iron throne without a war that will claim over a million lives."

The Queen of Thorns' eyebrows disappeared into her wimple.

"I may actually come to like you." Olenna smirked, the remaining Tyrells all turning to look at her in surprise. "Don't look at me like that, I can like one of my good relatives."

"It hasn't happened yet." Leonette muttered bitterly, with a commiserating look with Alerie.

Olenna's smirk widened, and I was left with the impression that she actually liked Leonette far more than she let on.

"Well, you're marrying Margaery," Garlan tried to get the conversation back on track and strengthen the Tyrell position by stating some appointments as utterly certain, "Loras will be the lord commander of your Kingsguard, and we will have one of the ten regional seats to appoint a bannerman to. What are the other eleven, and how many will we get for our support?"

Willas rolled his eyes at his younger brothers lack of subtlety.

"The king will be counted among the small council, I know he isn't currently, but the message must be sent that being king is a duty, and shirking that duty is not acceptable. The queen will also have a seat, to counsel her husband and provide a woman's perspective. Obviously myself and Margaery will fill these seats."

Olenna actually favoured me with what appeared to be a genuine smile and look of respect. "And the remaining nine?"

"The master of laws is unchanged for now, except that they will no longer control the King's Landing gold cloaks. Though I do have plans to expand the role further in the future. As he is a well-known and respected legal scholar, I have given that position to my own bannermen – Orys Swygert. The master of coin will lose their ability to levy customs duties on foreign goods and negotiate trade agreements, but the role is otherwise unchanged in its duties. The position remains open for now, to secure support from other kingdoms in the days ahead. The position of lord commander of the Kingsguard is removed from the small council entirely. In its place is the new position of master of war, charged with creating plans for likely scenarios such as rebellions, war with the free cities, battles in the Stepstones and so forth. So we aren't caught by surprise and without a plan if they occur, as the Iron Throne was in the Blackfyre rebellions and Robert's Rebellion. They'll also be charged with training and commanding royal armies that aren't commanded by the king. I have appointed my grandfather, Eldon Estermont, to this position for now. Though as he is over seventy and no Walder Frey he is unlikely to serve for long. When he retires, I intend to replace him with Randyll Tarly."

There was a stony silence from the other side of the table, which was unsurprising. I had devalued Loras' appointment as lord commander by removing the positions small council seat, and announced three of the remaining nine seats with only the promise that one of them would go to one of the Tyrell bannermen at some unspecified point in future. Even if all six of the remaining positions went to them, there was no doubt House Tyrell was getting considerably less than they had expected when I first rode through the gates.

"The new position of lord steward will be charged with the rule of the Crownlands in the king's stead, including King's landing, to better allow the king to focus on the realm as a whole. My own bannermen, Steffon Mertyns, has graciously agreed to serve in this role. The other new position is master of trade. This position will be charged with the maintenance of the roads, bridges, rivers, and canals, and with the levying of tolls. They will also take over the levying of customs duties in our ports and negotiating trade agreements with the free cities from the master of coin. In times of war, they'll also be granted leave to command any merchant ship flying Westerosi colours, as the master of ships is with any warship."

Olenna snorted contemptuously at my creation of the merchant marine. The unsung hero of many an Earth war. "Paxter will love that."

"He'll live with it, as will all the lords." I declared firmly. "Speaking of your nephew, Paxter Redwyne will, of course, serve as my master of ships. Grand Maester Pycelle will be executed for treason, and Lord Mace's uncle Gormon will replace him as Grand Maester."

"But Grand Maester is an elected position." Mace Tyrell spoke up in confusion. "How can you promise that?"

All of the other Tyrells winced, and Willas went as far as to rub his brow in loving despair. None of them were so cruel as to point out how with their influence in Oldtown, rigging the vote in favour of a candidate the king had already expressed an approval of would be childsplay.

"If they choose someone else Mace, I'll charge the new Grand Maester with treason, exile them, and tell the Archmaesters of the Citadel to vote again – and to get it right this time!" I replied kindly, resulting in a number of smiles and a bark of laughter from Garlan.

Only two positions remained; master of whispers and hand of the king. I turned to face Lady Olenna. "I don't think there's any point in pretending not to know how far your reach extends my lady. As such I think it critical for the survival of House Tyrell and House Baratheon that the Queen of Thorns serve as my mistress of whispers. I would trust no one else to guard my back, and that of my queen, from the plots and assassins that surround us."

The shock was palatable. Giving the queen a permanent seat on the small council, rather than appointing Margaery as an advisor without portfolio as several kings who relied heavily on their queens had done in the past, was shocking enough. To appoint a woman to an actual small council position in her own right had only been done once in the entire history of the Iron Throne. When Tyanna of the Tower had served as mistress of whispers for Maegor the Cruel, nearly 300 years ago.

"I've decided. I do like you." Olenna Tyrell remarked with a cunning smirk.

"Mother will be in King's Landing!" Mace declared happily, looking like it was taking everything he had not to clap with joy.

"Now for the last and the best, the hand of the king." I replied with a winning smile as Mace sat up and preened. "This was promised to Mace, but I was wondering if you still wished to hold the position goodfather, given that Lady Olenna will be serving as my mistress of whispers in King's Landing."

"Mother will be in King's Landing." Mace groaned in despaired realisation.

"Quite." I replied, struggling not to laugh. "I'd hate to deprive the Reach of both of you, so I thought perhaps Ser Garlan could serve as my Hand, and you could remain here at Highgarden."

"And Mother will still be in King's Landing!" Mace declared joyfully, speaking loudly over Olenna's orders to shut up. "An excellent idea Your Grace, I agree entirely! I'll stay here and Mother…Mother can go to King's Landing!"

"Your Grace." Willas began, his voice shaking with the effort not to laugh at his father's clenched fists of joy and his grandmother's outraged expression. "Is not my brother a little young for the position? He has only just turned 22."

"Tywin Lannister was only 20 when Aerys appointed him Hand, and it is widely regarded as the only sensible thing that fool ever did." I replied calmly with a smile of confidence at a blushing Garlan. "I have every confidence that Garlan will prove as good a choice as Tywin was."

"Well." Olenna declared. "Queen, hand, ships, whispers, and grand maester verses king, laws, war, and steward. Five for us verses four for you, with the promise of six to three once old Estermont retires, and coin and trade currently uncommitted. Not a bad lot, not quite as good as Willas managed against Loras, poor boy, but not a bad lot."

"You arent not going to push for coin or trade?" Willas asked his grandmother in confusion.

"Not if the whispers about the gift the king has brought us are true." Olenna replied calmly. "Are they true Your Grace? Do you have a rippling moss and stone blade for us?"

"Why on earth would that be a gift worthy of mention….?"

"Valyrian Steel!" Garlan gasped out in shock and awe, cutting off Willas' confusion. "You've brought us a Valyrian steel blade Your Grace?!"

"A bastard sword, to be presented to Loras before I return to my army so don't give me away to him just yet!" I smiled conspiratorially. "It will pass back to House Tyrell upon his death rather than remaining with the Kingsguard."

"Just think of the Florent's faces when they see Loras with it!" Garlan crowed happily. "Something the Martells, Arryns, Baratheons, Lannisters, Tully's, and Greyjoy's don't even have! Not even the Targaryens had a Valyrian steel blade at the end."

"To be fair House Baratheon now has a Valyrian steel dagger, and House Stark may well have lost theirs to House Lannister. But I agree with your point, and having a dagger isn't the same as having a proper blade." I replied, passing Fury to Garlan to inspect, who cooed at the black and gold dagger as if it were a child. "Of all the great houses, only House Stark was still in possession of a Valyrian Steel blade when this war began. It will be an excellent boost to House Tyrell's legitimacy as Lord Paramount's of the Reach to have a Valyrian steel blade, when very few, perhaps none, of the other great houses will be able to boast the same by this war's end.

Willas cleared his throat, still amused at his brother's antics. "Does our new blade have a name Your Grace?"

I smirked. "Oh yes."

Inwardly I was utterly relieved. The Reach and the Stormlands were now fully behind me. My moment of critical vulnerablity had finally passed.


The Small Council of Renly I Baratheon - October 298 AC

King: Renly Baratheon

Queen: Margaery Tyrell

Hand of the King: Garlan Tyrell

Mistress of Whispers: Olenna Tyrell

Master of Ships: Paxter Redwyne

Grand Maester: Gorman (Tyrell)

Master of Laws: Orys Swygert

Master of War: Eldon Estermont

Lord Steward: Steffon Mertyns

Master of Coin: Vacant

Master of Trade: Vacant

Stormlands Representative: Owen Penrose

Reach Representative: Mathis Rowan

North Representative: N/A

Riverlands Representative: N/A

Vale Representative: N/A

Westerlands Representative: N/A

Iron Islands Representative: N/A

Dorne Representative: N/A

Crownlands Representative: N/A

Representative to be Determined: N/A