Cluiz

Sergeant
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Jul 19, 2012
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  • Crusader Kings II
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CH 5 - Life and Death

CH5 - life and death



It was as if a storybook had come to life and washed over Peckledon. In spite of the news of the war filtering in on a weekly – sometimes daily – basis, the castle and surrounding towns seemed almost to exist within a bubble of contentment. Or perhaps that was just how it appeared to Albright. He had expected the prospect of a child to be terrifying, and indeed, prior to the pregnancy he’d spent many a sleepless night imagining the realities of becoming a father.

But those doubts and fears receded every time he looked at Ashara and saw her smiling back at him, every time he laid one of his huge hands on her growing stomach. If being a father meant spending time with this beautiful woman, as well as fulfilling his duties, then that was a burden he would gladly shoulder. Their relationship had changed too. Where there used to be simple courtesy and an overriding sense of necessity about their dealings with one another, even in the bed chamber, now…

“’Bright?”

Albright looked up from his reading, a dusty tome concerning lineages and inheritance that Rolph had dug out of some corner of the library and insisted he read. Damned Maesters and their insistence on educating him. Ashara was sitting nearby, reclining on a set of soft cushions Albright had ordered up to his study for that express purpose. Lately, she’d taken to watching him work – or what passed for work to Albright. Much to his surprise, he found her presence there relaxing.

“Mm?”

Ashara shifted, trying to sit up a little more. She was very great with the child, and moving around was becoming a chore for her. Rolph – fussing as usual, had insisted that Ashara shouldn’t be straining herself by taking the flight of stairs up to Albright’s study. She had simple regarded him for just long enough to be uncomfortable, then asked the Maester if he was proposing to keep her away from her husband. That had shut him up in a hurry.

“Rolph says that baby will be here any day now, I haven’t given up trying to wring a name out of you yet.”

There was a slight tease in her voice, and Albright sighed, closing his book. They’d had this discussion several times already, and it was never one Albright enjoyed. He wasn’t any good at naming things, or else he wouldn’t have called his great beast of a horse ‘Barrel’. People still tended to look at him askance when he told them, though, so to his mind it was well worth it. Much like a lordship, Albright wasn’t entirely sure what gave anybody the impression that he was suited to the responsibility of giving a name to a child, but he’d been stalling and procrastinating the decision for almost the entire course of the pregnancy. Ashara had taken it amicably enough, to her credit, but ‘Bright could tell that she wanted his input.

That was something else new to him. He’d never been able to read the emotions of other before. In truth he still wasn’t the best at it, except when it came to his wife. With Ashara, Albright could all but read her mind, and she, his. The panic of their wedding day and the sense of finality when it came to the bedding seemed like very distant memories, these days. It took Albright some months to realise the truth of the matter, and when he did, everything made so much more sense. He’d fallen in love.


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In response to Ashara’s statement, Albright gave a shrug, which had become his default response. “I wouldn’t mind if you chose, you know.”

Ashara stuck out her tongue, an entirely unladylike gesture that made ‘Bright laugh. “In which case, it would help if you stopped rejecting every single suggestion.”

The giant’s smile turned sheepish. She had him there. ‘Tywin’ was a gesture he felt his kinsman probably wouldn’t appreciate, ‘Aegon’, while a fairly popular name, would have given the wrong impression. He’d pointed out that a Dornish name would have made Peckledon’s bannerman uneasy, a point that Ashara had conceded but reluctantly. ‘Alric’ had been struck down in the dust the moment it emerged; his father may have been dead, but that didn’t wash away the animosity between them. Not enough for Albright to want to give himself a pint-sized reminder of every last argument, at least.

“All right…” ‘Bright said after a moment. “How about you give me the rest of today to come up with something?”

“Boy and girl?”

Albright nodded. “Both.”

Ashara cocked her head to the side and smiled at him. He had to consciously check his heart was still beating. “Is that a promise?” she asked.

Another nod, and then he was standing, walking towards her. The big man knelt alongside his wife, one hand running across her swollen stomach and the other cupping her cheek. He moved in close, so close he could feel her breath across his face. “Promise,” Albright murmured, moving in close…

“MY LORD!”

Albright jumped out of his skin, managing to mash his lips directly against Ashara’s nose, a mis-step that was far from romantic. He whirled around, face rapidly reddening, to see his flustered Maester standing in the door way. Rolph’s robes were askew and he looked more than a little dishevelled, something which was largely lost on the young lord. He did not appreciate being interrupted whilst he was with his wife.

“What in the seven hells do you want!?” ‘Bright roared, springing up onto his feet and looming over Rolph. He didn’t often set out to intimidate, but with his size and natural strength, such things came naturally to him. There were perks to having to duck through doorways and stoop in too-small rooms…

Rolph reacted with his two natural responses; foundering and babbling. “My lord! I – well I didn’t mean to – there is – I mean… I’m sorry my lord but – great important news! There’s been – my lord this is uh – A raven! A raven from King’s Landing!”

Oddly enough, the panicked display gave Albright’s anger an opportunity to ebb rather than build. Rage didn’t come naturally to the giant – part of his agreeable nature. He was too lazy and relaxed to stay wroth for long. He held up a hand, the possibilities beginning to buzz through his head. Aerys, requesting his aid directly? Some scheme from the Red Keep? An attempt to get through to Tywin? “Rolph, slow down. What did the message say?”

The Maester clutched the letter like his life depended on it, holding it out in front of him. “It ah… it says that… well, do you want all of the ‘heroic and mighty’ and ‘foul usurper’, my lord?”

Albright rolled his eyes. “Let’s keep it simple. Just tell me the facts.”

Rolph cleared his throat, visibly calming now that ‘Bright’s rage had passed. “There was a battle at Bryce Hill, and King Aerys was leading the van. Apparently they defeated an army of Northmen, but during the chaos, Eddard Stark caught sight of King Aerys separated from the Kingsguard and rode to confront him,” Rolph glanced up at his liege. “It says that Lord Stark struck the King’s head from his shoulders! Prince Rhaegar was crowned the following morning. We have a new King.”


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That hadn’t been the news Albright was expecting. By every account, the war was going the way of the Targaryens, with the forces of ‘The Usurper’ Robert Baratheon hard pressed on every side. There had been absolutely no need for Aerys to be on the front lines, not at this stage of the war, but then… ‘Bright supposed that they hadn’t called him the ‘Mad King’ for nothing. Doubtless killing Hoster Tully had made Aerys an invincible warrior. In his own mind. The Lannister considered for a long few moments, then gave his Maester a shrug.

“I can’t see this changing much. If half the stories are true, Rhaegar is triple the man of his father, and his father was still managing to win the war.”

Rolph nodded several times. “Quite so, my lord! This may prove even better for the Crown than it appears. Ah… gods rest the King’s soul, of course.”

Ashara, who had remained silent since Albright’s initial outburst, suddenly spoke, voice clouded with uncertainty. “I… ‘Bright there’s…” the voice firmed into steely assurance. “Maester! The baby!”

Albright was already halfway out of the door, yelling for a midwife.


~*~


Some hours later, an exhausted Ashara was sleeping, and Albright, almost out on his feet, was cradling a bundle, seeming so tiny in his huge arms. The day still had the same sense of unreality about it, because all of a sudden, he was a father. He had a son.



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