Chapter 5: And All the World is a Stage
The curtain finally rises, and the performance begins. But behind the scenes, doubts still take hold.
Ned paced impatiently outside the doors of the Great Hall, Arthur and Wylla holding a squirming Jon standing vigil to the side. Jon Arryn had just gone in ahead, dealing out the necessary platitudes in order to ease the tension amongst the attending lords and ladies within, while preparing the ground for Ned’s introduction… along with his unexpected surprise.
Varys had worked diligently throughout the day whispering misleading rumors in order to keep the various occupants within the castle constantly guessing, and thus head off any potential discovery of his nephew’s existence. Yet even those efforts would eventually give way and arouse suspicion if they delayed any further.
So just to make matters even worse than the anxiety Ned already felt over the impending avalanche he was about to unleash, it was compounded by the fact that the other members of the Kingsguard were late!
Given he had expected Ser Gerold, Oswell, and Barristan to return to the Red Keep long before word finally reached him that they had, he felt his agitation was wholly justified. And now they were coming upon the very last minutes before Ned needed to march down that aisle in one of the most important ceremonies in the history of the Seven Kingdoms, with only one of their number on hand to escort him!
The runner they had sent ahead stated they had achieved their objectives over at the Lannister camp, but Eddard couldn’t help but be alarmed when he had heard that there were some... complications, along the way. The result of which was that the Mountain, Gregor Clegane, had apparently died during the attempt to take him into custody. That had been the only casualty reported, but the message held such scarce detail that he couldn’t help but worry now.
Perhaps one of them had been injured during the struggle, which would account for their current delay? But that made little sense, as they had stated they would meet him here before the ceremony began, and he had been told that all three had indeed arrived inside the castle prior to now. And if one or more of them was severely injured, why had they not told him or excused themselves to the infirmary? All of these questions had being racing through his mind, but was too short on time to actually ask any of them.
As if the gods finally decided to take pity on poor Ned, he snapped his head upright at the sound of shuffling metal plates thundering down the hallway in a hurry. While the white armor they wore were all perfectly polished and seemed no worse for the wear, Ned noticed the disheveled state of their hair, and the raw pink of their skin. Likely from cakes of soap used to wash their faces of dirt. Or perhaps more likely, blood.
A slow nod through heavy pants from Ser Gerold let Ned know that everything was under control. Sighing in relief, Ned returned the nod and asked no further questions, content to hear Ser Gerold’s report of what happened on the morrow. Turning his attention briefly to the knight breathing equally hard behind him, Ned noticed the weary grimace worn by Ser Barristen looking, as though he seemed embarrassed to be here. Upon meeting his gaze however, and seeing Wylla step forward to deposit little Jon in Ned’s arms, Barristen’s posture straightened abruptly. An undiscernible emotion passed through his eyes, before a look of earnest determination replaced it. Another meeting Ned would need to inquire the details about from the Lord Commander.
But it would have to wait, for inside the hall Ned finally heard the words from Jon Arryn’s booming voice, signaling his entry
“…. may finally put aside our worries now. For it is my pleasure to welcome back Lord Eddard Stark among our ranks. And my privilege to announce that he has returned in tow with the key to breaking our recent impasse, and restore order to the Seven Kingdoms… In the form of his nephew. My lords and ladies, I introduce to you all now for the first time, Aegon of House Targaryen, trueborn son of Prince Rhaegar and Princess Lyanna of House Stark!”
The sudden explosive furor inside seemed to cause the outer doors to abruptly fly wide open from Ned’s vantage, before it just as abruptly died at the sight of him and the four remaining members of the Kingsguard at his heel walking slowly past all of them, and ensuring they all got a good look at the proceeding.
The sight alone would have been enough to throw the entire gathering off, but the wiggling babe in his arm tugging at his formal wear seemed to rob them of all speech. Well, as formal as leather garb and a massive wolf pelt could be anyway.
Needless to say, carrying the babe himself was an unorthodox move, but both Jon Arryn and Ned had agreed that it was an important symbol to show the authority of his appointment wrapped together with the boy's blood right and legitimacy.
It was likely a more reassuring sight than the one of Ice strapped onto his back as well.
Proper decorum dictated that the king or the official hosting court at the time did not personally carry a weapon when taking audience on said throne. It could be taken as too intimidating and uninviting a message to send to visiting subjects.
Good thing Ned was not one for decorum. Or mistaken in exactly what kind of message he was sending.
And so with each step he took, the whispers slowly began to build around him.
For with each of those step the truth was finally beginning to dawn in the minds of the lords and ladies as they now realized their mistake. They had not been called for some grand assembly, to be consoled or conferred.
They had been summoned to a coronation.
And few failed to note the rows of household guards lining the entire length of the Great Hall’s walls surrounding them, hands firmly gripped to their shields and spear shafts. All of whom wore the colors of Winterfell and the Eyrie.
Ned’s eyes however, remained fixed on those in front of him as he continued his stride down the opulent red carpet leading all the way to the base of the monstrosity of towering twisted metal and fused blades that was known throughout the world as the Iron Throne of Westeros. There to meet him in front of the throne’s right hand was Jon Arryn, maintaining the same dignified pose he always put forth when in the public eye. Directly opposite from him on the left hand side was the High Septon, looking distinctly displeased but also seemingly resigned. And aligned to either side of them, stood the Lord Paramounts.
The clever arrangement had been entirely Jon Arryn’s idea. By having the Lord Paramounts positioned directly next to the Iron Throne and looking out across the rest of the Great Hall they projected a united front, lending the full weight of their support behind the ceremony and an air of credibility to Jon’s legitimacy. And if any of the lesser lords contemplated speaking out of turn, they would have to weigh that against the unnerving prospect of staring down their own liege lords in the process.
On the far right of that line was Stannis Baratheon, newly inherited Lord of the Storm’s End, his gaze as resolute and implacable as ever despite his older brother’s recent passing. All could tell where he stood on this matter, and would find no sympathy on his end. More than once Ned found himself grateful for the man’s staunch adherence to duty and oaths over his own personal gain. Without his refusal of the crown, Ned would have truly faced the unappetizing prospect of fighting another civil war, rather than simply handing Jon his throne today. In light of that, Ned’s current discomfort with the formality of the occasion was a small price to pay.
After him was Lord Hoster, looking distinctly uneasy but also relieved as Ned and his company came into sight. Whatever his misgivings, it was clear at least that Hoster was prepared to follow his two good-sons’s lead without question. Once the ceremony was concluded, Ned planned to raise his good-father to a place of honor beside him on the high table over the coming days of feasting. To assure him privately and directly that this was the best way forward for all of them.
Stationed at the end of the far left, Lord Tywin remained as impassive and inscrutable as always, which was likely the best endorsement Ned could reasonably expect. And it was useful in its own way. Everyone knew there was no love lost between the two men, so the scene of him standing alongside like the rest would dishearten any other potential opposition. After all, if even the mighty Tywin Lannister had no choice but to acquiesce to Eddard Stark, what chance did any of them have?
And finally, next to him lay Lord Tyrell, as nervous and eager as Ned had ever seen the man. Gone were his previous attempts at bravado in this moment, its enormity and weight in history likely finally starting to catch up to him. Along with fretting about all the implications of his recent decisions now that he was forced to put his new allegiances on open display.
Far from the boisterous, confident lord he often acted as, he now reminded Ned of a lost puppy. Frightful of everyone and everything around him, and thus eager for reassurance, comfort, and affirmation. Internally Ned sighed, knowing he would have to be the one to constantly hold Mace’s hand from now on.
Eventually, Ned reached the center of this unusual assortment, while the Kingsguard silently flitted past. They took up position just behind the Lord Paramounts, in-between the gaps separating each of them. Though they had removed themselves from the forefront of attention, their distinct White Cloaks still maintained an ever looming presence in the backdrop that none but a complete fool could ignore.
Eddard turned on his heel, snapping his pelt back with an overdramatic flourish, and faced the members of the assembly for the first time since he entered.
Surveying the room, he could tell most of the faces were either confused or dazed at what was happening before them. None looked as if they had any inclination this was remotely a possibility when they had been called to gather here tonight, which was all to the good from Ned’s perspective. The more off balance they were, the more susceptible they would be to wherever he led them.
Here and there though, he saw a mix of both ecstatic and forbidding expressions. It was easy to tell who had been a former loyalist or reluctant rebel and those who had completely dedicated themselves to the downfall of House Targaryen. Varys and his Little Birds were likely taking note of the various reactions as well in their hidden corners throughout the Great Hall.
Yet whatever their opinions, all of their attentions were now fixed solely on Ned.
He felt the muscles in his throat begin to constrict. The sweat slightly glisten on top of his brow. He had never been comfortable with public speaking growing up, had never had any need for it until now. But history waited for no man, they either rose to the occasion or fell by its wayside. He could only hope he would be amongst the former.
“My lords and ladies, I thank you for coming to bear witness to the events that will unfold here this night. And your understanding for why I take the steps I now must. That all of you have come to realize the dangers posed by division, disunity, and petty squabbling. And that what we need now, more than ever, is steadfast loyalty…. and decisive leadership.”
He turned his back to them without another word, facing the High Septon now. “Shall we begin, Your High Holiness?”
The much older man held Ned’s gaze for a time, searching for any sign of indecisiveness on the latter’s part.
He found none.
Then after a long, deep breath, he nodded in affirmation.
Ned came down on one knee before him and the Iron Throne, holding his nephew up towards both. Though his High Holiness had previously looked less than enthused by this arrangement, it did not stop his voice from loudly exalting the babe before the entirety of the Great Hall, lauding his long and distinguished lineage and with the blessing of the Faith in his capacity as High Septon, before finally proclaiming the boy all throughout the land, by the Old Gods and the New, as Crown Prince Aegon of House Targaryen. The rightful, and now acknowledged, heir to the Iron Throne.
When at last he finished, the audience remained mute. It was only when Ned pulled Jon back unto his chest and the High Septon placed his scepter on Ned’s shoulder did he feel the collective breath taken behind his back. Prince Aegon’s ascension was simply a formality after all. Now was the moment which would dictate the future of the Seven Kingdoms for years to come. When Ned would be formally entrusted with the mantle of responsibility in governing the Realm. And wield absolute power in the process.
“Eddard Stark,” the High Septon formally pronounced. “Before the Old Gods and the New, you are hereby charged to assume the responsibilities of both Lord Regent and Protector of the Realm, on behalf of His Grace, Crown Prince Aegon of House Targaryen, son of Prince Rhaegar and Princess Lyanna. To govern his realm in his name and in his stead. To serve and defend him, his lands, and his people from all which may seek to do them harm, until he comes of age. Do you accept?”
Ned took a deep breath of his own, steeling himself before say the words that would set the course of his life and that of the realm’s forevermore. "I, Lord Eddard Stark, do hereby humbly accept this responsibility in the name of His Grace, Crown Prince Aegon of House Targayen. To hold his throne in trust, until such time as he may ascend it for himself, and releases me from this duty. I swear to serve him in all things, and uphold his rule with all the diligence and meager strength I may possess. To govern as wisely as I am able in his stead, dispense justice fairly and accordingly amongst his subjects, defend his realm.... and destroy all those who would name themselves his enemies. This I vow, by the Old Gods and the New.”
“Then by the Old Gods and the New, and with the blessing of the office of High Septon, rise now, Eddard of House Stark, as Lord Protector of Westeros.”
And so he did, standing tall before turning with a snap of his cloak as the High Septon stepped to the side, to address the assembly before him once more. Only now, Eddard did so with both the highest rank of the land, and the undisputed authority that went with it.
"My Lords and Ladies,” Ned began slowly, his voice remaining steady surprisingly, as he continued. “We have all been through... an extraordinary and trying time this past year. Where friends, brothers, fought against one another in order to do what they felt was right. What they thought was necessary. Which is what makes this conflict all the more tragic, and why I hope history remembers these sacrifices we have made above all else. Yet at the end of all these hardships and tribulations, of terrible wounds we have inflicted upon each other, we emerge from it still as one people. As one Westeros. As Aegon the Conqueror himself envisioned nearly three hundred years ago, and why we are able to stand here again today. Together.”
Ned paused for a moment, allowing the gravitas of his opening to settle. Some did seem reassured by his words and his tone. Not nearly as many as he would have liked, but better than he feared at least. Regardless, he continued forward in that same vein, trying to reinforce that underlying message of reconciliation.
“It is in the spirit of that unity why I bring you all here tonight. Not simply to your future king or the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, but before hope itself. The hope represented by this binding union between ice and fire. Of love, that can still be born even amidst so much tragedy and loss. To demonstrate that life continues to find a way. And that with this hope, we may also yet heal.
Because as my nephew and our future king has shown, when we come together, we can overcome anything that stands in our path.”
It was a moving sentiment, yet still… Dubious looks remained on many faces, eyeing both him, the babe, and then one another uneasily. Pretty words could not so easily eradicate their suspicions of Ned and his sudden fortuitous rise to power, nor just wash away the grievances which still remained amongst his peers.
So be it. If they would not be moved by compassion, then he would scatter them with deeds.
Suddenly Ned’s shoulders hunched together, displaying the wolf pelt hanging on to them more prominently. His voiced shifted lower, almost to a feral growl and everyone in attendance stiffened now upon hearing it.
“Yet to carry on his vision, we must ensure it is done in good faith, and united in one purpose. To do so we must bridge our divisions and release any feelings of recrimination. I know that is not always easy, my lords and ladies. But it is a wound we must cleanse regardless. Freed from any signs of treachery, deceit, or mistrust, so that it does not poison or tarnish this new chapter we will write for the ages. And I mean to do so, starting here and now.”
With a dismissive about face, Ned turned and began his deliberate climb up the steps of the Iron Throne, baby Jon still held closely in his arms who was fiddling with the wolf pendant that hung around his neck. Eventually, Ned reached the top and then proceeded to firmly plant himself onto its seat, overlooking the entirety of the hall. And looking down upon all of them in turn.
“Bring in the accused,” he commanded, with all the icy finality of the North he could muster behind it.
The heads of the gathering all whirled back towards the entrance as the great doors swung open once more. The sight that greeted shocked them all, something none thought possible after everything that had already occurred. He could feel the sudden surge of tension snap across the spines of all those in attendance. Especially the one off to his far left. Tywin Lannister’s face had hardened like the stone of Casterly Rock at the sight of the poor, simpering Grand Maester.
The whimpering form of Grand Maester Pycelle dragged itself down the aisle, completely bound in chains with an escort of Winterfell guards headed by Martyn Cassel surrounding him. They led the old man forward until he lay prostrated at the base of the Iron Throne. A pathetic display all around, and one Ned intended to burn into the minds of everyone present.
To their immediate left the High Septon opened the proceedings with a prayer asking the Father Above to guide their hand to justice, before allowing Eddard to begin.
“Grand Maester Pycelle, you stand accused of oath breaking, treason, and the murder of Lord Robert Bartheon. What say you to these charges?”
The whole room seemed to take a single sharp breathe all at once. Whatever direction they had expected Eddard to take with this performance, this had certainly not been it.
“O-Of course not, my lord!” Pycelle mewled, “I-I would never dream of such a-”
“A questionable claim, Grand Maester,” he promptly cut off. “After all, you had both sufficient motive and opportunity to do otherwise if I am not mistaken.”
“Bu- but my lord, what possible motive could I, a Maester of the Citadel, have for doing any sort of harm to Lord Robert?”
“You served King Aerys throughout the entirety of his reign as Grandmaester did you not? Along with the reigns of his father and grandfather if I am not mistaken? Would that not provide you ample motive then? To avenge your former liege and his House against what many cast as a would-be-usurper?”
“But I-“ his eyes frantically darted to Tywin, but the ominous look he received in turn seemed to cause whatever protest Pycelle wanted to make to die in his throat, instead turning back to grovel before Eddard once more.
“Bu-but Lord Varys was brought into House Targaryen’s service by King Aerys in the first place, and-!”
“Is diligently working to earn his reprieve even now. Unlike you apparently, Grand Maester. As we speak, lord Varys is continuing to tirelessly serve the Crown by ferreting out potential malcontents to the realm. Such as yourself.”
That bit of news suddenly set the rest of their audience on edge now.
“Wh-while it is true that I have had the honor of serving King Aerys and House Targaryen for much of my career, we maesters are pledged to neutrality and service to the realm as a whole, regardless of affiliation!! I-I would never break that sacred oath…
“Perhaps,” he seemed to concede “And perhaps not. The truth of the matter shall be revealed soon enough. As will my judgement.” Ned interrupted with deadly finality, no longer interested in listening to further whining from the elderly fool.
He projected his voice forward now, for all those gathered to hear. “Upon my departure you had assured me, and other members of the court currently present, that Robert’s treatment was well in hand. That he would make a full recovery the next time we saw each other again. Yet instead I return to the capital only to find his lifeless body rotting in the castle sept! Do you perchance have an explanation then as to how that might have come to be exactly, Grand Maester?”
“My lord please,” Pycelle implored, “Even we maesters, as learned as we are, cannot control every aspect of medicine or reaction from the human body! That is a jurisdiction which only the gods can decide. What happened to Lord Robert was simply beyond my control!”
“That was not the impression you gave me when I left, Grand Maester,” Ned stated flatly. “So you can understand why I might be skeptical of anything else you may say now.”
“Th-ere were witnesses throughout my treatment of Lord Robert, my lord! Ser Barristen or Ser Jaimie were both constantly on hand during all of my sessions! I used every techniques as laid out by the Citadel to mend Lord Robert's wounds, grievous as they were, mixed and applied every poultice that could have possibly helped, and sewed maggots into the wound to eat away at the dead flesh once we had finally stitched it up as proscribed! There was nothing more anyone could have been done, my Lord!”
“Then what exactly did happen, Grand Maester?”
Pycelle looked down now, suddenly going from completely desperate to something almost resembling embarrassment. “Admittedly, Lord Robert did strain and overexert himself in the days leading up to his passing. He would often imbibe rather large quantities of wine, against my recommendations mind you my lord. At times, he would even visit the city on his litter or… or call various women up to the Red Keep to keep him company. He said it helped his focus and dulled the pain better than milk of the poppy.”
Ned let the long silence roll through the hall as the implications of Pycelle’s words began to sink in. Then, with utter incredulity seeping through every inflection of his tone, he exclaimed, “You mean to tell me… that you allowed Robert… to drink and fuck himself to death?”
A wave of startled chortles and choked gasps from Ned's sudden and unexpected coarse language rippled through the crowd. In the corner of his eye, Ned saw Stannis look up at the ceiling in silent mortification with a long suffering gaze the newly revealed shame and embarrassment of Robert's idiotic death had now brought upon House Baratheon.
Pycelle on the other hand, looked taken completely aback by the sudden unforeseen implication his confession had unintentionally implied. “Ah…. well… that is to say my lor-,” he tried to explain, stumbling over his words as he futilely tried to recover from his blunder. Everyone, even Tywin, seemed visibly aghast (or agitated in the latter’s case) and at a loss for words at the realization of just how badly the Grand Maester had managed to bungle everything, then and now.
Everyone except Eddard it seemed.
“And where exactly were you during all of your charge's... escapades, Grand Master?” he punctuated scathingly. “Were you not specifically tasked to look after his care, which would have included restraining such… debaucheries if they truly risked his health?”
“I-I-I gave him the best counsel that I could at that time! I warned him explicitly his actions risked reopening his wound, but it was not my place to insi-”
“And when his symptoms finally turned, what was your response? Describe for those gathered here today what exactly transpired in detail.”
“L-Lord Robert had woken the following morning after another bout of revelry, complaining greatly of a pain in his side. W-when I peeled back the sheets the bandages were drenched from his festered wound, and his blood had turned black like poison-"
At that, the room went deathly still.
"Poison, you say, Grand Maester?" Eddard whispered quietly, emphasizing the word with a cold keen edge that could have peeled the Grand Maester’s nails off.
Pycelle suddenly went pale, realizing his mistake now, and started to panic. "My, my lord I misspoke! I did not mean to imply Lord Robert was actually poisoned! Far from it! His blood had simply become infected from after the tear in his stitching’s the previous night is what I had meant and-!"
“Enough!” Eddard proclaimed with the sharp edge of finality, quieting Pycelle’s babbling immediately.
“I have heard enough,” he repeated more calmly but with an ominous tone as well, one which cause the Grand Maester to visibly gulp. “I will now pronounce my judgement.”
“In light of the lack of evidence, and in respect to the historic integrity of the Citadel as a whole, I, Eddard Stark grant you, Grand Maester Pycelle, a reprieve and henceforth the Crown shall rescind all charges of murder and sedition against you.”
The great hall once again burst with a flurry of mutters of both shock and confusion. Hearings by the Crown were usually about proceeding to trial and sentencing, not about retracting their accusations. Pycelle meanwhile gave out a shuddered breathe of relief before collapsing back on the floor.
Ned held up his hand then, quieting the hall once again. He was far from finished after all. “Nevertheless Grand Maester, that does not mean you are not guilty.” whatever your intentions there is no denying Lord Robert’s death is still irrevocably your fault.”
Everyone, and especially the Grand Maester now did a double take, “I- I don’t understand, my lord.”
“You were either derelict in your treatment, or in error of your assessment on the severity of Robert’s injuries, which directly lead to the death of a ruling lord under your care. Either way, this is a gross failing on your part that cannot be denied. One that is both disgraceful and unfitting of a Grand Maester.”
“M-my Lord! All men can make mistakes, even the most learned and gifted will over the course of time!”
"Perhaps. And perhaps your successor will have more luck learning from them, either by being less negligent or more mindful of making false promises."
"You are hereby removed from your seat on the Small Council as Grand Maester. I will send notice to the Citadel myself, along with a request for your replacement."
That sent the now former Grand Maester sputtering now. "But-Bu-My Lord! None but the Conclave can formally unmake a Grand Maester!"
“Correct Maester Pycelle. So I shall leave it to the Conclave to deliberate and formalize my request, which I have little doubt they will accept.” He had subtly threatened to introduce a ‘death’ tax penalty on the Citadel starting with Robert’s, which would be set at a King’s ransom, in order to make sure of it. “Yet it is within my immediate power to bar you from King’s Landing. And if you have not left this city by dawn I will consider that an admission of guilt on your part after all, and re-proceed with your sentence of execution. Thus I suggest you begin packing for your journey back to Old Town. Immediately."
Pycelle looked like he was about to absolutely faint, his knees giving out from under him as he collapsed on to his hands, staring in disbelief at the floor.
Ned waved the doddering fool off with his free arm, signaling a pair of guards who promptly dragged the disgraced maester out of the hall, before leaving him with one last, brutal parting remark from the newly anointed Lord Protector.
"Be thankful I do not remove your head instead, rather than just your position.”
The rest of royal court immediately broke out into hushed whispers at the sight. While Pycelle’s punishment itself could have been far worse ,the manner in which Eddard had handled it with this public humiliation and ending it with an explicit threat left the room reeling. And the implacable look on Eddard's face left no doubt in their minds that he had meant every word. Likely they were already making allusions to the second coming of Cregan Stark all over again.
But this murmur's trial, like the entire ceremony, had many other purposes behind it. The first being a conciliatory gesture to Robert's more ardent supporters. To demonstrate that despite Ned's new position he still loved and respected Robert’s memory, and that he would still be honored as befit his status… while indirectly discrediting his claim as a worthy king, thanks to Pycelle’s testimony of his ignominious death. Second, it showcased Ned’s even handling of justice for both sides and assured those who bore witness to the fairness of his judgements. And finally, it allowed Ned to hang the threat of accusations of treason over the heads of everyone present, at any point in time. A thought that would weigh heavily on their minds during the next phase.
As for the message that failed to register with everyone except one… He took a quick glance off to his side, noting the menacing gaze of Tywin Lannister follow the retreating form of his chief informant within the royal court being ungraciously removed and absolutely nothing he could do about it.
With that, Eddard turned to give one final sweeping look across the Great Hall and its once again silent audience before solemnly asking, “If there are no further objections, my lords and ladies, I shall now accept your renewed oaths of fealty.”
Though his tone was pleasant, there was no mistaking his message. Eddard was not asking for their allegiance.
He was demanding their submission.
The weight of his words only served to deepen the silence. As did the murderous glares and tightening gauntlets across the sword handles of the Kingsguard standing behind him. Though questions, concerns, and protests likely lurked on the tip of every tongue, none dared break it. And thus, one by one, every lord and lady in the hall cautiously made their way to the dais and bent the knee to their new Lord Protector and Crown Prince, swearing their allegiance once again to House Targaryen. Some came more slowly than others, some with far more fear and trepidation, but everyone from the lowliest of knights to the lords of ancient houses knelt in obedience before finally finishing with each of the Lord Paramounts, Tywin Lannister being the very last... and most begrudging of all. But bend did even he in the end.
Eventually, the room did calm as everyone fell back into their places, standing still and at attention to await and see what Eddard’s first proclamation would be now that his authority was firmly established with their full, if tepid, consent.
He did not make them wait long.