|About The Accord|
|Summary:||The Terricks … don't all quite agree, but come to a counter-offer for the Charltons.|
|Related Logs:||To Reach An Accord Pt 1|
|Great pillars rise above the occupants of the room, the ceiling arching across the structural supports in a lovely feat of construction. The north and south walls have expansive windows that filter in sunshine during the day while ornately designed torches provide light at night. The room is large enough to host a great feast for quite a number of people but the tables are typically kept elsewhere. The Lord's Throne is at the west end of the room on a dais with a high, circular window that brings in the setting sun with the late afternoons.|
|Mon Jul 30, 289|
There is parchment and ink laid out at several seats around the table, and a few snacks and drinks as well. Better snacks and drinks than there have been, even. Anais doesn't sit at the head of the table, but to the left side of the head, with a larger stack of papers bearing things that have already been put on the table. Messages were sent to all those concerned so that everyone might have a chance to prepare, and only the most trusted servants are here for the moment.
Dmitry saunters into the family meeting as a young man in the general habit of sauntering. His step becomes more of a wander as he heads to join Anais at the table; he leans with the hitch of his hip against the table's edge, arms loosely crossed over the dark fabric of tunic over his chest. "Let's hang 'em all," he suggests to Anais, just in case this is advice that might be applied to the Terricks' commercial situation in some way. You never know.
Lucienne is less sauntery as she enters, looking weary. Several guards trail her, but she stays them at the door with her handmaid. Private conversation is private, folks. She takes her seat, glances about, and affects a long sigh to go with her frown.
Hardwicke is even less sauntery than Lucienne, because he is Hardwicke. One of the only guards allowed past the door, he settles far down in the table hierarchy.
It takes a little while before Justin arrives, a bit late but not terribly so. Someone is with him to the entrance but they do not come in. He has changed into fresh clothes, his dark hair tossled and dried with sea water but other than looking tired, he seems otherwise to be himself. There's a fresh bandage on his right hand, his right arm guard only loosely set over his long shirt sleeve. Justin gives a hint of a smile to everyone and takes a seat a little stiffly, saying nothing as yet.
As people arrive, Anais greets each with a nod, smile quirking at Dmitry's suggestion. "Well, it's a thought," she agrees. "But possibly not a productive one. So." Once everyone is seated, she looks around the table. "I assume everyone's taken a look at the suggested terms. I told the Charltons we'd discuss and get back to them, so there's still room to try to edit these terms. I will say from my meeting, the Charltons don't seem particularly compromising, so we should consider if we're willing to walk away from this entirely if our terms aren't met." She shifts her papers, putting a blank one on top. "Let's start with terms we'd like to change?" she suggests, looking around the table.
Not long after Justin, Muirenn eases into the room with her Septa. Dressed lovely as ever but in Mallister purple and silver instead of black, the girl and the elderly lady take seats to one side. Politely, she gives everyone a smile as she withdraws an embroidery hoop from her bag.
Making his way in not long after Muirenn, Martyn offers a bit of a half-smile to everyone present now, moving to seat himself. Listening carefully to what's being said at the moment, he doesn't add anything yet.
"We can start with the compensation for the loss of our craftsmen," Lucienne pipes up, shaking her head a little as she draws a deep breath. "Three for the price of one on our smallfolk is… laughable."
"The ward exchange is ridiculous," Dmitry opines, "and I don't think selling our craftsmen like that is politically wise. Our people aren't exactly delighted with us as it is." He is still leaning against the table rather than sitting in the chair; tipping his chin toward Lucienne, he rubs his knuckles along the smoothly shaven line of his jaw. He looks less ridiculous without his wimpy fail beard. "Interest rates seem all right, though. We're starved for food, not leathers."
Justin motions down the table, since there are likely no servants to pour them drinks, so to indicate that he'd like water, or tea, whichever is the option. When it's placed where he can reach it, he pours himself a glass using his left hand. For the moment he is letting the others speak their mind while he listens. Justin's pale eyes slip to studying Anais since she's the one who had the first long talk with Lord Aleister, though he does glance back to Lucienne for her reaction to Dmitry's comment.
"They seem the harshest terms of the offers that have come through," Hardwicke says in quiet, succinct comment.
For once, Lady Muirenn is completely silent. Occasionally she glances up, but her attention seems to be upon the embroidery in her lap. From time to time she gives Justin a scrutinizing look but remains quiet, plying her needle and thread.
"They had the gall to laugh at the idea of compensation at all," Anais grimaces to Lucienne, though it's sympathetic. "They seem to be under the impression that the smallfolk are free to come and go as they please. I did specify that we would only send volunteers, and only those of apprentice or journeyman rank, so we'd be keeping all of our masters. And if there aren't volunteers, then we aren't forcing anyone. I do think, though, that there will be some. Especially if it means food for their families. Additionally, those craftsmen could be our eyes in Highfield. They'll want to send word home to their families, which can help keep us abreast of any movements the Charltons make. As for the wards," she wrinkles her nose at Dmitry, "That's what I said. Alys is betrothed, Luci's soon to be. It defeats the purpose of having wards when they're both headed to other families in short order anyhow."
Martyn nods a little as he listens, studying people at the moment for their reactions to what's being said now. Not saying anything at the moment, listening carefully for now.
"I have correspondence from Lord Ser Rutger Nayland," Lucienne shares in response to Anais. "He acknowledges that a meeting betwixt he and Lord Jacsen was soon to come to fruition, and wishes to reassure me that he intends to treat in earnest and with fair conditions for our House regarding the food we need. With the table's approval, I will return as emissary to Stonebridge or Hag's Mire at his convenience, and hear Lord Rutger's terms?" She grits her teeth and flattens her palms against the table, warning: "Whatever men you send to Highfield, do not expect back."
Kamron has connected.
Dmitry jiggles one heel against the floor, still leaning against the table in an attitude that tries for insouciance but mostly achieves restlessness, and bites at the inside of one of his cheeks. "Ech," he says, with an air of summary. "I think the Charltons want to know how far they can shove— excuse me. I think they want to see just how much Terrick pride we will swallow. Even mentioning the ward exchange is expressly designed to put Uncle out of temper. I don't think our smallfolk should be for sale." He cocks an eyebrow at Lucienne, and narrows his eyes slightly. "Really, in earnest and with fair conditions?" He doesn't make air quotes, or else I would have typed them, but his sardonic edge is very clear, his smile very nearly sunny. "I suspect that sending you to chat with the Naylands some more might offend the remarkably insulting Charlton offer right off the table, and then where will we be?"
Taking a sip of his glass, Justin speaks up though his voice is pitched low and a slightly rough, hoarse, "We've an offer from the Erenfords as well, though Lord Aleister arrived just as lady Anais was departing to go to Heronhurst to try to sort out further details. Lucienne and I, or Dmitry, should probably take a trip to speak to the Haighs, for we are running out of time." Justin pauses a moment to draw a breath, fingering his cup, "If we didn't loose /too/ many smallfolk in the deal, the Charltons providing us with supplies with some chance of not being cut off if there is strife over Stonebridge, is worth something to consider."
Oh boy. Lucienne brings up Rutger, "The Naylands have enjoyed playing us. You /still/ want to try and deal with them, Lucienne? It will certainly rile the Charltons and be taken as insult." Yes, what Dmitry says.
Kamron steps into the Throne Room, his clothes dusty from riding. Hurrying over toward the table, he bows his head to those present, "My apologies. Word caught me out of the Keep." He shrugs a little helplessly at the discussion volleying back and forth, "…And you seem to be well into it already." And he quiets down to see where the discussion is just yet.
"The last time the Naylands made us an offer, it was insulting," Anais says cautiously. "And it was far from going to solve our problems. Nor did they bother to warn us before we publicly found out about Roslyn's betrothal with everyone else. As much as I've worked for an alliance with the Naylands, they haven't acted in very good faith with us. And yes," she adds with a sigh after Dmitry. "If we choose to negotiate with the Naylands, we are choosing to refuse the Charlton offer. Perhaps it might be more…politic if we simply offered them terms that are more beneficial for us, and then if they choose not to accept them, it isn't because of us. Then we'd be free to treat with the Naylands and the Erenford are our leisure…if we weren't going to starve in the meantime."
"I've spoken with Ser Harlyn Haigh. He'd be happy to sell us grain," Dmitry shares, "although I don't believe the Haigh surplus is enough to feed the Roost. Of course, we'll have to sell him Justin in exchange. And some gold, obviously." He rubs a hand at the back of his neck, shifting out of his lean so that he can prowl around the table like a restless cat. "At the very least, it might give us breathing room."
"The Charltons are hardly more trustworthy than the Naylands," Hardwicke points out, "who have the most grain to give. Passage through Highfield is hardly such a benefit without strong roadways between them." His gaze slides down the table. "We'll never get a fair offer, not in our position. Best finding the /least/ unfair."
Justin simply looks to Anais to see if she wishes to voice the Erenford offer so far, since they are hitting on the various topics for comparison.
Martyn offers a nod and a grin in Kamron's direction as he appears, before he goes back to listening to what's being said now. At the mention of the Haighs, he glances around at the various people present for a few moments, but keeps quiet. Hardwicke's words causes him to nod a bit, though.
Kamron looks over to Anais, then Dmitry, a frown coming onto his lips, "Lord Terrick isn't honestly considering turning down this offer for the possibility of an offer from the Haighs, Erenfords, or Naylands, is he?" Coming up to the table, the Mallister doesn't actually sit down, but rather resting the heels of his hands on the table and leaning on them, "Unless there is something beyond the worry that The Roost might lose too many smallfolk to the offer — in which case you just put a cap on them, the worry that Highfield and Hollyholt cannot provide enough grain, or the worry that the Charltons will become too powerful if they hold Stonebridge as well, I see very few reasons not to take some variation of the deal the Knight of Highfield has put before The Roost." He looks over to Hardwicke then, "The Naylands have negotiated in bad faith with the Terricks, and have broken the sacred laws of guest-right with the Charltons. Do you really think they would respect any deal The Roost could broker with them?"
"Are they providing supplies? Once they have our men, why would they see any need to continue sending any shipment?" Lucienne responds down the table to Justin. She is unphased by Dmitry's sass, fixing him with an arched brow of her own. When she speaks, she addresses the table at large, her cynicism plain. "If you think the Charlton offer is the lesser of all the evils, then I consent to a wardship. What a smart man Ser Aleister has proven himself to be, I will be honored to be part of his household."
"Do the Naylands have the most grain to offer?" Anais arches a brow to Hardwicke. "They may have. I have some doubts, if Roslyn is betrothed to Ser Kittridge now. They already gave all their coin to the Groves for the surplus. What do you think they're dowering her with?" She draws a deep breath, letting it out slowly as she looks around the table. "It seems we have the Charltons on the one hand, or on the other we could make three alliances: the Naylands, the Haighs, and the Erenfords are also interested in an alliance of grain in exchange for a treat of mutual defense…against the Charltons. The Charltons can offer long-term aid and do offer a low rate of return at a cost of increasing their power, possibly to a dangerous level. The others offer less at a higher cost and less surety for it, but less of a danger of creating a long-term power. Does that seem a fair summary?" she asks, looking around the table.
"The Charltons marched a fighting force through Stonebridge without right of passage in order to provoke the ruling house into rash action," Hardwicke says flatly. "That they have not taken such action against us is no reason to believe they will treat with us honorably." He frowns distinctly at Lucienne's cynical assent. To Anais's summary, he says, "Lord Dmitry, weren't you visiting Kingsgrove recently to discuss negotiations?" To add to the pile of possibilities.
"Yes," Dmitry confirms. He glances in Lucienne's direction with a slight tilt of his head. "Jacsen has been discussing the marriage alliance with Ser Kittridge. I believe they were tossing dowries back and forth. House Groves provided us with terms for a loan, though what they are principally interested in is the lands that they once held, which I'm sure comes as a surprise to no one. The sale of some for gold that we need to buy grain. The conversation grew more complex at points, but that is the gist of it. Since they have gold and we have land that we can't actually /use/, it is a difficult idea to dismiss out of hand, as much as we may mislike shrinking ourselves." He glances at the ceiling and adds lightly, "I'll note that the Groveses did not offer me any terms that were actively insulting. Perhaps it is my warm and sunny disposition."
Justin gives a slow nod, "Yes, the Erenfords … seem, and by reputation, are the most trustworthy and honorable House we might deal with who's made an offer. They wish to provide us with teams of oxen, food, and seed to plant in return for a mutual defense alliance against the Charltons /if/ and only if attacked by the Charltons. Otherwise they wish to stay out of the Stonebridge issue. However, they by themselves can't supply us with enough food, so we'd need to seek an additional arrangement with the Haighs. To which, if it is necessary that I or Dmitry marry to seal such, we'll do what we must." Justin nods to points made about both Naylands and Charltons and though he's not at all happy with the Groves, his roughened voice adds, "As much as I don't like Ser Kittridge, selling them back their fiefs if they would pay well for them, is still a viable option. But we still risk being cut off if the Charltons fight for, or take control of Stonebridge." He quiets to listen once more.
The mention of House Erenford brings Muirenn's head up. She is quiet and then asks, "Politics aside, what is best for the people? Which offer will give them and The Roost food and stability to not only rebuild but get into a position to thrive. No offer is going to be ideal, it is an unfortunate fact…but food enough to bring normalcy to the area…stability without the threat of war so that people can rebuild their lives. It is naive I know to look at things so simply, but…." Her words trail off and her bared shoulders give a slight shrug.
Kamron looks to Lucienne, "What have the Charltons done to earn our enmity besides lay claim to unworked land and march a few more troops than other houses into Stonebridge." He nods to Hardwicke a moment, "I grant you that they may have marched with intent, but the Naylands still took that rash action before responding diplomatically." Anais laying out the options draws a blink from the more vocal Mallister, "The Haighs wish an alliance with House Terrick against the Charltons? They are marrying the second son of their Lord to Lord Charlton's only daughter…" he sounds completely surprised and shocked at that. "If that is true, then I don't know if we need worry about the Charltons attaining Stonebridge, so long as the other three houses can work together." He nods solidly at Muirenn's words, "Pride in your house is one thing, but what pride is there if the people starve because the house is too proud to bend its neck? A deal must be reached with someone, My Lords, My Ladies, and it will require sacrifice of some kind."
"Politics play into those things, Muirenn," Anais points out, listening to each option in turn before pulling out a piece of parchment. "All right. It sounds to me as though the majority would prefer we make more alliances with smaller houses rather than risk empowering the Charltons. Is that agreed?"
"I believe the idea, to clarify, was to seal Lucienne's marriage to the Groves Heir with one of the fiefs and to sell them the other one, either for ready money or for some more complicated arrangement involving interest rates, grain kickbacks, and et cetera," Dmitry shares. He rubs at an eye with his thumb. "Excuse me, Ser Kamron, but no one is discussing a total refusal to sacrifice. We are discussing the fact that we have multiple options. Why do you insist on making this an all or nothing proposition? Is there some reason we should be especially delighted that the Charltons are honoring us with unrealistic demands?"
Justin gives a slow nod to Anais, "I … prefer to make arrangements with the Erenfords, Haighs and even the Groves if we must. And to stay out of the Stonebridge matter if we can. That would partly give the Charltons what they want as well, that we would not side with the Naylands and thereby not agrivate them, nor risk loosing our smallfolk - but only if we can secure food stores rapidly. Else we risk the Charltons luring them away anyway." He gives Dmitry a nod for the clarification, "And, marrying Lucienne to the Groves heir might yet prove fruitful in the future."
Lucienne blinks at Kamron's question, her forehead creasing as her brows rise again. Clearly she expects that her look will suffice for explanation, for she stubbornly refuses to add anything further to the conversation.
Justin adds low, "Because … I do agree I don't think we can trust either Charltons or Naylands enough to put all our eggs into their baskets."
Martyn lets out a deep breath as he listens, keeping silent for the moment. Seems like he'll leave the talking to the others at the moment.
"The Naylands' response is not relevant to the character of House Charlton," Hardwicke says. "They're trying to steal a town out from under the Naylands, just like the Naylands did to us."
"Luci?" The stars must be falling from the skies, because Anais looks to the other woman for her opinion. "Would you prefer the others over the Charltons?"
Kamron blinks hard at Anais, shock written across his features as he looks around the table, trying to weigh the truth of her statement. Dmitry's words cause him to gape a moment, "I'm not a diplomat, so please correct me where I'm wrong, Ser Dmitry, and forgive me if I give offense. Where have the Charltons provided the Terricks with unrealistic demands? With relatively light interest on shipments of food, to be repaid in kind rather than in coin? Permission to hunt in Highfield with no payment but a portion of the hides taken? A way to remain outside of any fighting that may break out on the Cape? The offer of jobs for The Roost's craftsmen can be negotiated, I bet, to something palatable. How is this unreasonable?" He looks to Justin, "Aren't nearly all of the agreements with the smaller houses contingent on joining them in a defensive alliance, which — if the Charltons mean to have Stonebridge — will mean war, and the death and starvation of more of The Roost's smallfolk."
"Politics play only as much a role as we let them" Muirenn replies mildly. "Though it pains me personally for reasons I wish to not discuss, I would leave politics out of any negotiations if at all possible and merely keep things kept to a business deal of food or loans to buy food. I cannot imagine any of these families wanting to go to war again anytime in the near future. They are still grieving the loss of their family members…as are we all. Food is what is needed not a war for Stonebridge."
"There is no leaving politics out of any offer, Lady Muirenn," Hardwicke says quietly. "It's not the way of the world. The Charltons are making as much a political play as any house who asks the Terricks for military support."
Justin looks to Kamron, "The Erenfords wish to stay out of it and only want mutual protection. I can't speak for anything the Haighs have said, as I have not been privy to any such discussion. I agree we must stay out of fighting if we can. /I/ don't find the Charlton offer bad at all, except for letting them have Lucienne. But I do worry about them growing in power all the more, and I am concerned about loosing our craftsmen because I agree I don't think we'll get them back. How many craftsman do they require? A few? A hundred? Otherwise I think we can make a counter offer and see if we can improve the arrangement, aye."
He has got to stop and drink water, his throat hoarse. His right arm seems to be giving him pain and he's trying not to move it around.
"Leaving politics out of business is like leaving air out of outside," Dmitry says dismissively. "If you don't see the issues that half of the people in this room have been pointing out with the deal, Ser Kamron, then I am afraid we are doomed to disagreement."
"It's Lady Lucienne," snaps the girl by that name, twisting her chin to face to Anais. "And who you treat with is not half so important as the terms being offered."
Anais arches a brow slightly at Lucienne, but makes no response to the snapping, instead turning back to the rest of the table. "Are there terms under which the Charlton alliance would be amenable, and what would they be?" she asks, keeping her own opinion out of the matter for the moment. "If there are terms under which it would be amenable, we can always return to the Charltons with those terms, then turn our attention to the other alliances if they refuse."
Kamron shakes his head at Justin's words, "I bet that the Erenfords expect to be attacked again, and want to have a larger club to respond with when it happens, Justin. They are already pinched along the only good route from Hollyholt to Stonebridge, and flanked by Highfield." He stops to look at Dmitry, "I arrived late. Would you mind humoring me, Ser Dmitry? What issues? If the wards do not suit Lord Terrick, request that they be removed from the deal. I simply do not understand the unwillingness to at least offer a counter-proposal to the Charltons, as their deal seems the best offered to The Roost thus far. Given the impending Charlton-Haigh marriage, it may not even keep The Roost from buying additional grain from the Haighs if you need it." Apparently, the discussion has driven all of the 'we's and 'us'es out of the Mallister's vocabulary. Justin's words, and Anais' that follow, seem to have calmed his pure disbelief, however, and he nods to each of them in turn.
Setting her embroidery aside, Muirenn rises and moves over towards Justin. Bending she murmers in his ear and studies him appraisingly. The tall girl gives Lucienne a sharp glance, "My…lady…" the word is delivered with cool formality, "I am sure that your good sister was not intending disrespect. But you are correct. It is about the terms being offered. How you are able to get and what you are willing to sacrifice. So please, lay out what terms you would wish to provide for a counter offer." She glances towards Dmitry, adding with a faint grin, "Who knew my lord that I was such a political creature…I will remember your words the next time I negotiate for a bolt of silk."
Muirenn's approach turns his head to listen to her whisper. Justin gives her a nod and lightly touches her arm with his good hand, saying something low back to her.
"I certainly don't see a reason we can't make a counteroffer to the Charltons," Dmitry says, turning back with the balance of his weight on his heels as he once more folds his arms over his chest. He tips his head in a nod toward Justin. "But to treat them as our only option is a very bad mistake. Particularly when they are keen to humble us, and others are less so. I expect that any solution to our problems will take the aid and effort of multiple Houses, or we risk much of our own autonomy."
"You know, my cousin speaks wisely," Martyn offers after a few moments. "At least offer a counter-proposal, even if you may not primarily wish to deal with them. Partially because if they would accept that, it would be better terms than the ones offered so far." A brief pause, as he looks around the room for a few moments. "But also because at least attempting to come to an agreement could be seen as courtesy, compared to just refusing them outright." He shakes his head after a few moments. "But as he says," a nod towards Dmitry, "perhaps treating them as the only offer would be a bad thing. But at least treat their offer as an offer, and try to negotiate on it."
"What terms would we like to include in a counter-proposal?" Anais asks next, readying her quill and parchment. "Please let's try to make one suggestion at a time so we have a chance to hammer it out as much as possible before we try to decide five things at once," she adds, a faint smile flickering across her features. "I hear that the condition of wardship is not popular. I suggested as much to the Charltons. Does anyone have an alternative to offer on that matter?"
Kamron gapes at Dmitry again, "Keen to humble The Roost, Ser Dmitry? With a fair deal? When the Groves were demanding land for food?" The knight pushes back away from the table he's leaning on, although he is forestalled from any further departure by Martyn's words. Breathing slowly as if to calm himself, he bows his head to Dmitry for a moment, "Please excuse my impassioned words, Ser Dmitry." Looking back to Anais, he shrugs, "Perhaps a joint business venture, Lady Anais? Their assistance in completing work on the docks at The Roost in exchange for some portion of the tariffs?"
"Better to focus construction efforts on roadway between here and Highfield, if we'll be depending on them to allow transport of goods," Hardwicke says.
"We need to find out how many crafters they require, and then ask among our own if there are volunteers who want to go. I think, knowing it's a political thing and that we'll get food out of it, some will go. However, we still also need seed to plant and oxen or draft horses to plow if we are to get our own fields back into production." Justin speaks slowly, pacing himself, "And as already mentioned, finding out if this is one time hunting rights or for the coming year." He nods to Hardwicke, "A good road is a concern and neither of us will be keen to spare the men and materials to build it."
Glancing up from where she had been speaking with Justin, Muirenn replies to Anais "Perhaps a more lucretive ward would allow for the Terricks to gain better terms. If my cousin and Uncle Jerold are amenable, I offer myself up to be exchanged." There is a faint curve of her lips as she adds, "I am not entirely sure that either of them will agree to such nor sure that the Charltons would want it either, but I will put the transfer of my wardship upon the table." She glances towards her brother and then her cousin, giving a faint tilt of her chin towards them and smile.
"I did bring up to idea of docks," Anais nods to Kamron, "But they didn't show much interest. A road may be a wiser choice," she agrees with Hardwicke. "Do we know the exact boundaries of the lands Lord Tully confirmed?" She looks around the table again, searching for an answer. "Was it all of what was formerly Tall Oaks, or only a portion?" She offers a small smile toward Muirenn, but doesn't press that issue just yet.
"A road might be the better alternative, that's true," Martyn offers, after a few moments of pause, before he adds, "The construction of a road connection as a joint business venture, perhaps?" He pauses for a few moments as he hears Muirenn's words, looking to her rather carefully for now.
Cold formality seems to suit Lucienne, though she isn't much convinced by Muirenn speaking for Anais. "I don't believe it is our place to offer Lady Mallister as a ward." After this, she falls silent and sullen for a time, allowing those with more constructive ideas to voice them.
Justin blinks at Muirenn's offer but looks to the others, refilling his glass of tea.
Kamron nods to Justin's concerns, "The number of crafters is obviously a primary concern as well. Capping the number hired on at Highfield may make losses acceptable." He nods as well to Hardwicke's words, but Muirenn's offer causes him to blink and look over to his cousin in surprise. "That… may complicate matters. Word would need to be sent to Seagard to get Lord Mallister's approval." He then looks to Anais, "I haven't heard what was confirmed, but if it is all of Tall Oaks, perhaps The Roost can get a few fiefs from the southwest, which would partially offset those which will no doubt serve as Lady Lucienne's dowry wherever she marries. Also, putting wording in that releases House Terrick from their neutrality if Lord Mallister calls for their banners would be good. It would mean that in that unlikely event, you could hold your oaths of fealty, and it would require them to deal with House Mallister as well."
"Yes," says Justin speaking up after Kamron, "We could not make any agreement with the Charltons, or anyone else, that interfers with our oaths to the Mallisters." He quietly agrees.
"I think Lady Lucienne is likely correct on the matter of wardship," Anais agrees. "Though it's something to consider if there are no other options. Are there any younger cousins who might be suitable wards?" At Kamron's advice, she nods, making a note. "And if not the lands, then perhaps an extension of hunting rights in the area," she suggests, glancing around the table for opinions. "And the issue of the Mallisters is an important distinction to make."
"I imagine the Charltons would place considerably /less/ value on a ward offer not of the family itself," Hardwicke says. "I don't know where the boundaries of Highfield lie, but I don't believe they've the entire area of the former Tall Oaks."
"You didn't offer me Lady Terrick, I offered myself." Muirenn replies calmly to Lucienne as she goes to sit down beside her brother. Taking the embroidery given her by her Septa, she adds, "I agree, it will complicate matters, but it will also gain out bannermen time to solidify other offers so that they might choose that offer which will best help their people. It will complicate that other situation as well…any word of a transfer to Lord Patrek must necessarily include the other matter so that he might best choose."
"A 'fair deal' by which we sell off our craftsmen at three to one? An exchange of wards to which we would obviously not agree? It is an old tactic, used to force the other side to accept less favorable terms because you have caused all the argument to be over the ludicrous rather than the arguable." Dmitry tips his hand. "The best way to combat it is with the reminder that the Charltons are not the only game in town. Which they aren't." He scuffs his fingers through his hair next. "Really," he says, rubbing his fingertips along the curve of his palm, "I'm a little unclear as to just how neutral we are expected to be under this arrangement."
Properly chastisted by Muirenn's correction, Lucienne bows her head and remains silent, folding her hands atop the table.
"So." Anais clears her throat softly. "We deny the wardship clause. We add to our terms a joint effort to construct a road between Highfield and Terrick's Roost. We request lands in the adjoining forestland equal to the fiefs we're offering the Groves. Where would we like to place a cap on the number of craftsmen?" she asks next.
Kamron nods to Muirenn, "I intend to send word of whatever decision is reached here today to Lord Mallister as soon as possible. He should know how things are shifting to the north if he doesn't already." At least the knight is quite clear that he's going to be providing that information. "I may take it myself, to ensure that it arrives quickly." He looks to Anais then, "The joint effort might be suggested as another way to build trust, in place of the wards, perhaps, Lady Anais. As for the number of craftsman, perhaps just suggesting the idea of a cap might be useful, and then you can debate with them what the cap is?"
"Much easier to ask for land than have it asked for," Hardwicke observes with a rather dry voice.
"Without a marriage alliance, even," Dmitry says. He rubs at his eyes with thumb and forefinger. "Although I suppose we could try for one of those…"
Looking a bit relieved that her offer, sincerely given, is being refused Muirenn leans over and murmurs to her brother, "In truth, I had no idea how I would have told Ser Erenford such news. He would have been devestated." Glancing down at her embroidery she picks out the last few stitches and then begins the portion over again.
"Do either of you have alternative suggestions?" Anais asks, looking to Hardwicke and Dmitry. "If we're to discuss altering the terms, we should bring something concrete to the table."
"Not at all," Dmitry says, flicking his fingers easily. "I have no particular objection to asking for too much in our counteroffer. Perhaps the Charltons will respond with an interesting compromise."
Kamron shrugs slightly at Hardwicke's words, nodding at Anais as well, "They have to know that keeping The Roost out of any prospective war is worth almost as much to them as the food is to The Roost. Without a neutral Roost, Highfield is caught in a vice between the Erenfords, Terricks, and Stonebridge. They are not the only ones negotiating out of some position of strength." He nods then to Dmitry's words.
"So we're accepting one-third's compensation for a set number of craftsmen," Lucienne lifts her head to clarify.
"The issue of the craftsmen is still on the table," Anais looks to Lucienne. "I think we can either cap the number, or request greater compensation, though I don't think they'll agree to both. Thoughts?" she asks of the table.
Justin has leaned back in his chair, listening to the others but he looks to be resting. He cracks his eyes opens to nod to Anais, "I'm more concerned about not loosing too many, than compensation for them. We are getting a very low interest rate offer on repaying the food so by that way, we are also being offered compensation already."
Dmitry wrinkles his nose. "I still mislike that," he says, glancing back at Lucienne. "I continue to believe it politically unwise to expect our smallfolk to accept that proposition as the course of doing business. Especially this idea that one of their men is worth three of ours."
"If you have a map, perhaps delineate the fiefs you would like. The Charltons or yourselves should give a starting point regarding the exact amount and type of food to be delivered each month as well as for how many months this will last as well as how the interest works." Muirenn looks thoughtful, her brow furrowing as she clarifies her thoughts, "That the Terrick's will remain neutral, but will retain the ability to answer a Mallister call to arms. Hmm, that alliances of marriage can still occur between Houses, that the craftsmen moving to Highfield will be volunteers…these are all things to include in the counter offer, yes?"
"I don't think the smallfolk will see it that way," Lucienne points out, in reply to Justin. She nods at Dmitry's extrapolation. "And do we still wish to treat with Ser Rutger? I don't doubt that he expects a reply to his letter."
"The idea is that they are free to return after the one year, if they so please, Dmitry." Adds Justin, "I think many would be willing to go, to see their families fed /and/ they get paid. I believe they'll view it more as opportunity tan to be bartered away, particularly if we offer it for volunteers. Preferably young men without families already."
"If you are to take a map to delineate fiefs, we should probably know the actual boundaries of Highfield first," Hardwicke sighs.
Justin looks to Hardwicke and nods, "A raven could be sent to Lord Tully to confirm that easily enough."
"A moment, please," Anais speaks up once more. "We're spreading into several different topics at once again. Let's come to a decision on the craftsmen first."
Martyn listens thoughtfully for the moment, not offering much more for the moment. Nodding a little every now and then as he listens. He pauses a bit at Justin's words, "Men without families, taking the opportunities to see their families fed? But offering it to volunteers would be the wisest choice, that's true."
"I would not expect too speedy a reply," Hardwicke replies to Justin with a wry skew to his mouth.
"Surely the Charltons themselves would provide such as part of negotiations? That would only be wisdom." With a soft sigh, Muirenn glances towards one of the windows, "If everyone will please excuse me, I must go check on one of my patients in the village." Rising she smiles to each, "Thank you for humoring me and letting me participate, it was generous and thoughtful."
Kamron nods to Lucienne then, agreeing with her response to Justin, although her question to Dmitry draws his eyebrows up sharply, "There's an offer on the table from the Naylands?" He grimaces though, waving the question off, "Ignore that for now, Lady Anais. It can wait."
Justin frowns to Martyn, "Young men who may not have children of their own yet, but who have parents, siblings, etc." He huffs a breath of agreement then to Hardwicke, "Lord Tully likes to wait and see."
"As it stands," Anais says once there's a moment of quiet, "The offer only concerns volunteers. It was specified that only volunteers of apprentice or journeyman rank would be sent. Which means," she continues with a pointed look, "That if there are no volunteers, no one is going. I am inclined to agree with Justin, though, that if they think it will see their families fed, we will have at least a few young men who'd like to see the world beyond where they were born and are willing to go. Shall I press for compensation for every two men, or for every man who stays?" She narrows it down further, quill at the ready.
Martyn nods a little at Justin's words, before he offers a smile to Muirenn. "Take care, sister," he offers, quietly. Then looking back to the others. "And I'm sure some would go. There's always someone impatient to see if there's somewhere more exciting out there."
Kamron shrugs at Anais' question, then looks around to the others, "If a cap is being suggested, it might not be worth asking for full compensation. The decision, of course, is yours," he gestures around the table at the statement.
Hardwicke's jaw tightens as his gaze slides along the table. "You should value your people what they are worth, my lady," he says firmly.
Lucienne's shoulder drop as she lets go of an almost silent sigh. "I don't believe trading our smallfolk is a good idea," she repeats.
"Nor I," Dmitry agrees, turning his hand outward and up with inward-curling fingers. "At best, I believe it an unpopular move. Making it voluntary only makes it not … slavery."
"We are not trading them," Anais reiterates. "We are loaning them. And if we don't, they are likely to starve. They are craftsmen. Selling their services is what they do. We're giving them an opportunity to do that somewhere else when we can't offer them an opportunity to do so here. The alternative is either starvation, or they wander off on their own and we get nothing for it." She pauses, drawing a deep breath and squaring her shoulders before writing on the parchment once more. "Volunteers only, no more than ten percent of the total number within the Roost, to be compensated at full value for any who choose to remain behind. Unless someone else has a suggestion for something else we might offer the Charltons for the supplies that will keep us all from starving?"
Kamron shrugs a shoulder, nodding at Anais' response, "That sounds suitable to me, but I'm not a Terrick. Perhaps the Charltons will think so as well."
Listening, Justin lifts a hand to rub quietly at his brow but he's not been saying anything further as he listens. He'd only be repeating himself, unless he can think of something additional. So he quietly adds, "If nothing else it buys us time to speak to the other Houses but we really /must/ settle on something and very soon."
"The alternative is only starvation if we neglect to accept the terms offered to us by other Houses," Lucienne counters, growing visibly tired. "What of limiting peace talks with the Naylands," she suggests, trying to move on. "Lord Tully has previously instructed us to have ambassadors stationed there, and I had intended on speaking with Lord Jerold about resuming that duty."
Martyn nods a little as he listens, shrugging a little bit as he does. He doesn't offer much more at the moment, looks between the others for now.
"I don't believe any of the other offers are contingent on us asking our men to do any such thing," Dmitry says, tilting his head. Circling back round to the table, he plants his hands on the back of his empty chair, and leans on it. "Did the Charltons give you cause to believe the entirety of their offer hangs on this one point, Anais?"
"We already agreed that we would make an offer to the Charltons," Anais replies to Lucienne. "I am not stepping back to rehash paths that we've already relegated to later." She looks to Dmitry then, drawing a breath. "They main points of this agreement are first, that we not support the Naylands, and second, the Charltons want craftsmen. Without these two things, we have nothing with which to pay the Charltons for the supplies they have available."
Justin speaks up, "Though they want repayment later with interest, in addition to those two points."
"Yes," says Lucienne, a little impatiently, "And my question was: are you going to acquiesce to their request that we cease talks with House Nayland, or is the renegotiation of that part of our counter-offer."
Kamron settles into silence again, letting the Terricks handle things for now.
"If what they want is our neutrality, I hardly think that would be attained by our cutting off all communication with House Nayland," Dmitry remarks, glancing off into the middle distance.
Anais arches a brow at Dmitry. "Are you suggesting that we can both maintain neutrality in regards to the Naylands and continue to pursue an alliance by marriage with them? Because I doubt the Naylands will be interested in arranging a marriage if it gains them nothing."
"I am suggesting that we have nothing to lose by talking to the Naylands to find out their terms," Dmitry says, "since as long as we are still negotiating with the Charltons, we have not agreed not to talk to the Naylands."
Fingering an old scar in the table, Justin frowns, "I do not think we should deal with the Naylands anymore, for a time, either way. Let them stew while we look to more fruitful options. I think they are a waste of our time as they have been these past months, so far.
Kamron does respond now, "Does House Terrick want to be married into a house that ignores guestright and holds nobles without trial, Ser Dmitry?" He nods sharply at Justin, his lips tightening.
"Need every alliance be hinged upon a marriage? Our own brother is already within House Nayland, and they have an up front surplus to offer, if we're not mistaken," Lucienne adds.
"Do you think the Naylands have or will be willing to offer more than they've already offered?" Anais asks Dmitry and Lucienne alike. "Once again, I'll note that the Naylands have little coin after what they paid the Groves for the surplus, and now need to dower Roslyn as well."
"Since I believe at the last time the score was tallied, I was the cock on the marriage block, I can assure you that House Terrick is not terribly interested in hopping into bed with House Nayland," Dmitry says airily. He drops his head, bowing forward with a bend of spine and shoulder, and snorts. "But I believe that we have nothing to lose in discovering our options, since I don't believe everyone gets to choose who they wish to marry and then wed them in a panoply of wonder and delight."
"I wouldn't know," Lucienne responds to Anais, a little dry. "I've been trying to ask since we began this very conversation if you'd like me to find out."
Martyn lets out a bit of a sigh as he listens, expression tightening for a few moments now. Looking away for a few moments, then it's back to normal as he looks back to the assembled people. Looking over to Kamron as the man speaks, pausing for a few moments as he hears Dmitry's words. He doesn't say anything at the moment, though.
Justin looks to Lucienne, "The Naylands were only willing to offer 20 percent, Lucienne. Not nearly enough and we can't match anything near what they paid for it in coin. So how do you think we could obtain it? Especially with the primary marriage now offline?"
"All she's suggesting is further discussion," Hardwicke says with a sighing exasperation. "Obviously the lay of the land has changed. Find out what current offer we can wrangle from them."
"I wouldn't know," repeats Lucienne, just for Justin. She takes great care not to scrape her chair as she slides it out, coming to a stand.
Anais arches a brow at Lucienne. "That is unnecessary, Lady Lucienne," she says quietly. "We're having a civil discussion here, and I believe your mother would have expected better of you." She turns back to the rest of the table. "We have a timetable with the Charltons right now of two days. We do not have a timetable with the other families. Ergo, let us finish the Charlton discussion first. If they reject this offer, then we have more time to deal with the others." She lifts her quill once more, marking the page. "In counter, we limit the number of craftsmen to not more than ten percent of the apprentice and journeymen level craftsmen in the Roost, volunteers only. Should any choose to remain in Highfield, we will be compensated for each, as well as for any family members who choose to join them. We request that hunting rights in the adjoining woods be extended for the period of the loan in addition to the shipments of grain and seed."
Kamron's jaw tightens at Dmitry's words to him, but he keeps his tight voice polite and careful, "I have been blessed by the gods. Yes. I wish everyone such blessing, but I know that it's rare." He looks back to Anais, obviously counting each point in his head, and then nodding once, "It makes a good counter-offer, I believe, Lady Anais. What do you think?"
"We also request further clarification on the terms of neutrality on the subject of the Naylands," Anais continues, writing as she does. "With an exception that should Lord Mallister call us, we are bound to answer him as a certainty. We seek clarification on what actions would constitute a breach in this clause of the agreement."
Justin thinks about it, "Then Anais stays to negotiate with the Charltons.. Lucienne can go to speak with the Naylands, perhaps with Dmitry, to see if they wish to make us a better offer. I can go and speak to the Erenfords to hash out details there? Then … if we already know about the Haighs, we then need to meet back here to compare notes and make real decisions. Does this sound right?" He nods to Anais as she continues.
"I believe you know absolutely nothing of what my mother would expect, Lady," says Lucienne icily, through the clench of her teeth. "Seeing as my counsel is not required nor welcome here, I shall excuse myself and direct my questions elsewhere. Good day, my lords and lady." She dips the obligatory curtsy, and starts toward the door.
"Since I am clearly overruled as to the wisdom on the issue of the smallfolk, I believe a change in the wording might be politic, if the loan of our craftsmen is the gravamen of the deal," Dmitry says, rubbing at his head as though to stave off. "May I suggest that the offer be staged so that the given number of craftsmen of the Roost shall be offered the opportunity of work in Highfield, with the understanding that, should they permanently migrate…?"
Anais blankly ignores Lucienne the same way a mother ignores a temper tantrum, instead turning her attention to Dmitry. "Then we should be compensated for the loss of their services?" she suggests as a completion to his wording, tilting her head a bit.
Dmitry wiggles his fingers. "That would work."
"It would seem like a good counter-offer, for further negotiations," Martyn replies, taking a few deep breaths. Dmitry's words, and the reply from Anais, make him nod a bit, "Such a wording would probably make it seem better for… a number of people, I suppose." He looks to Lucienne as she takes her leave, but doesn't say anything at the moment. Glancing over to the other Mallister present again now.
"It would seem like a good counter-offer, for further negotiations," Martyn replies, taking a few deep breaths. Dmitry's words, and the reply from Anais, make him nod a bit, "Such a wording would probably make it seem better for… a number of people, I suppose." He looks to Lucienne as she takes her leave, but doesn't say anything at the moment. Glancing over to the other Mallister present again now.
Justin tries to catch Lucienne's eye but when he starts to put his hand out to stop her from passing by, he finds it is his bandaged hand so he lets her go instead.
Kamron nods to Dmitry directly, "I think that wording sounds solid, Ser Dmitry." Lucienne's sudden departure draws a bow of his head. He nods to Anais then, gesturing to Dmitry, "Then it's work for hire, and nothing more. It's not selling anyone or even suggesting it." One shrug is given to Martyn, but he doesn't comment on the Terrick daughter's depature.
"All right then," Anais says with a soft sigh. "We will begin there. We will deny the wardship, and suggest that we are, however, still searching for a bride for Justin if they have any suitable candidates. In the meantime, we know the Erenford's terms, and we know that they are mutually exclusive with the Charltons' terms, so we should conclude that business first. After the fact, we can always tell the Erenfords that we feared to dismiss the Charltons without a negotiation lest they attack us. Justin, Dmitry, let's have Lady Lucienne speak with the Haighs, since one or the other of you is on the block for a marriage with them. The two of you can deal with the Naylands and the Groveses."
"If Lady Lucienne's already brokered with the Naylands, and Lord Dmitry with the Haighs, would it be wiser to allow them to continue their respective courses?" Hardwicke asks, one brow arched.
"I have to agree with Hardwicke on that point, Anais. And … I'm certainly not setting foot on Groves land." Justin says quietly. "Trust me, you don't want me to go there right now."
Martyn keeps quiet as he listens at the moment, looking from person to person as they speak. Looking rather thoughtful right now.
"The Haighs wanted Justin for Ilaria," Dmitry supplies, in case this is helpful information. "But I'll be happy to talk to anyone about anything. Though I suspect I am a better choice to speak with the Groveses than Cousin Justin here; no offense meant, naturally. None of them are marrying my woman."
"I know Jacsen would prefer that the principal parties not be involved in their own betrothal negotiations," Anais grimaces faintly to Hardwicke. "But as we're short on negotiators and long on people with whom to negotiate, I suppose we don't have many other choices."
Justin smiles to his cousin Dmitry, "No offense taken, of course. Dmitry's quite smooth and in so far as I can reasonably do so, I'll try to abide by my brother's wishes in this matter. I still think I could go and hear the Erenfords out at least, agreeing to nothing concretely until we decide the Charlton offer. If they go offering their daughter to me I'll have to hand that over to someone else to handle anyway." And looking to Dmitry, Justin smiles tiredly, "Though the cousin, lady Aemy is very actractive and might suit you well, Dmitry."
Well, it looks like they are wrapping up here and Justin's have a /far/ more exciting day than he wanted. He moves to stand a bit stiffly, "If you are all finished with me for now, I'll bid you a good night."
Martyn still listens carefully, but is unable to hold back a half-grin at Justin's words. He doesn't say anything yet though.
Kamron shrugs slightly, content to let the Terricks figure out which of them will negotiate with which house. As Justin gets up stiffly, he moves over to the younger knight, "You alright by the way? You look like someone kicked the shit out of you, Justin." Since there's a lady present, and so as to not interrupt everything still going on, he keeps his voice low.
Anais nods to Justin, scratching out a few more lines on the parchment. "I'll make certain everyone gets a copy of the counter offer, and meet with the Charltons to deliver it," she concludes. "And of course, keep you updated on their response. Thank you, everyone," she adds, looking up with a small, warm smile. "I very much appreciate your words here."
Martyn gets up as well now, offering a bit of a nod. "I just hope we were able to offer some help, Lady Anais," he offers at the lady's words, before he steps over towards Justin and Kamron as well, offering them both a bit of a nod now.
Leaving the table, Justin pauses when Kamron steps up to him. He smiles a little to the Mallister, his own reply low, "I had … a little trouble … diving for oysters. I'll be fine." Yes, voice /quite/ low because he'd rather not everyone in the tower know about it. A nod to Martyn, then Justin's eager to leave and face those lovely stairs back up to his own chambers.
Kamron chuckles softly, nodding his head, "Diving… for… oysters?" he waggles his eyebrows, then shakes his head, shaking off the innuendo. He reaches out to clap Justin's shoulder, then manages to hold it back to a mere light tap. He moves to depart the room himself as well, offering the remaining Terricks a bow before he does.
Frowning a little, Martyn heads for the exit as well, after having offered a bit of a bow to the remaining ones. Letting out a few more of those deep breaths.