|Excuse me, Milord|
|Summary:||Stafford hears petitioners and discovers some discrepancies in the tax ledgers.|
|GrandHall, Braeburn House|
|It's a pretty grand hall.|
|Nov 22, 289|
Basworth's steps were slow upon the stonefloors of the greathall, a shuffle-drag-shuffle that bespoke his years. Shortly cropped graying hair adorned his features while a thick salt and pepper beard lined his chin and the curve of his neck. Grey eyes, the whites turned near yellow in time peered out with a mixture of worried anticipation, while his cap was turned over in knotted hands after the servant had announced him. A young boy of ten trailed in his wake, his arms full of ledgers, his eyes wide as saucers as they took in the finery of the room.
When the Young Lord stepped into view, both Basworth and his boy offered low bows and the position was held, while permission was waited on to rise. Basworth had been the mayor of Cliffton for the past eight years and for the past one, it'd been feeling a pinch. One of those territores on the coastal front that'd taken a measure of damage when the Ironborn had come.
Stafford took his time to cross the length of the Grand Hall, his movements calm and self assured, his features set in a mask of lordly authority. Patient and yet detatched from any personal feelings. No emotions, just that blank face of thoughtful judgement that he had practiced to command since he'd been about five years old and looking at himself in the polished bronze mirror. Imagining himself one day a member of the Inner Council at King's Landing. Or perhaps the Hand of the King! Or just the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Youthful fancy sometimes paid off.
He sank down into the high chair, with width of the polished table infront of him. Bare now of fineries except a law book, some writing paper, writing tools, and a few other documents pertaining to the land. Basworth wasn't his only petitoner today. It helped things along to have them all arrive on the same day.
His dark eyes fixed on the commoner, and at length said: "Mayor Basworth. What may I do for you today?" And once he was sure Basworth had properly taken in that stern first impression, he opened it up with just a hint of a smile. To set the man a bit more at ease.
"Milord," Basworth's voice rolled with a gravely undertones, as he straightened himself out as best he could.. His best was naught compared to that which adorned the young lord; a tunica of dark brown, that bore upon his heart the mantel of his House. "I would like to thank ye, for takin' the time to speak with me today. An I'll try no to take up too much of ye time." His gaze was direct in flickering glances only, the bulk of the time he spoke he was looking at his hands and watching his hat while it drug through his fingers.
"I've come…," he began and hesitation colored his words while his throat bobbed on a hard swallow, "I've come to petition for an ease of taxes, milord, on behalf of Cliffton. In the hopes that your lordship will see our need." Not a request that he felt comfortable making, truth be told, and it showed.
"It's no burden to take the time to speak to the honest goodfolk of my father's lands, Master Basworth," Stafford assured the Mayor. A white lie that sounded good, and even genuine when he put a bit of effort behind the reassuring tone of his voice. With that said, he leaned back in his chair and let the peasent make his petition.
A ghost of a frown stole across the Young Lord's handsome features when he heard the nature of the request. With a quick bark he told the scribe who was sitting in with him: "Tax and produce ledgers of Cliffton." The scribe took off immediately to find them. In the mean time, that small frown remained. It was not a request one made lightly of the nobility.
"While we wait that, why don't you expand on your reasons behind the request?"
There'd been a hint of a smile to show yellowed teeth, for all they were straight, when the Young Lord offered his kindness, a lie that was swallowed with the ease of evenings ale for all that Basworth bobbed his head for it. But what had been there, did not linger over long in the wake of that frown and his weight shifted from side to side in an uncomfortable suffle beneath the Lord's gaze.
"I know it aint much, milord, what you're asking," in weight of taxes and even if it -were-, Basworth would have said the same thing. "But we'd been short of boats since the reavers and much of what we'd smoked and salted to carry us through the crop rotations were lost in the same. Our best is sent always, milord, without fail, milord, right with the patrol escorts as requested but it's puttin' us a hurtin' something awful. Boy, take his lordship the books."
And with his eyes just a little too wide and thoroughly on the floor, the boy shuffled forward to present them.
"We're aware of your hardships, Master Basworth," Stafford said in a patient tone of voice. "And we sympathise with them. But the losses the costal hamlets suffered have been taken into account in your taxes already. Still, there is always the possibility we may have miscalculated your potential, and I'll note that you took the effort to come all the way to see us, and so we'll have a look." Normally not one to speak in plural like an arrogant princling, technically he was not speaking merely for himself while sitting in the high chair, and so included his father in the 'we' as he spoke. Awkwardness be damned, formality have to be kept.
He accepted the boy's ledgers, and set to read them while he waited on the 'official' ones.
<FS3> Staford rolls Administration: Good Success.
The ledgers were kept in a hand that was decidedly masculine, one that despite the suggestion of a hen scratching at grain, was still, almost painfully ledgible, as if the writer went to great pains to ensure that there were no miscaculations. True to his word, the best was sent as always, the date that the deliveries were sent as well as the coin that came with them and the initals of the patroling armsmen who escorted them back to Braeburn proper.
"Anything ye could do, milord, just being seen is an honor and I thank ye, kindly for giving me a moment of your time." His speech wasn't clean either, but there was an effort there in his words that bespoke an attempt to clean it up.
<FS3> Staford rolls Administration: Good Success.
Stafford didn't remember the exact returns of every village of his father's lands, so he still needed to wait for the official ledgers. After all, the mayor wouldn't be the first man to try to pad his numbers a little bit to ensure their taxes were lessened. He said nothing afterwards, merely nodded in regards to the words offered, to politely indicate that he had indeed heard, and acknowledged them.
"Ah, there you are," he said to the scribe when the pale young man returned. They always seemed to either be sickly thin, or too fat, the men of that profession. Always pale, though, and ink smeared.
The ledger was already opened on the proper place when it landed on the table infront of him. And with studious care he read over it.
There are, it should be noted decided differences in what's listed in the offical ledger and that which Basworth has provided. Off by twenty silvers on the most recent shipment and eight pounds of fish. The pervious month shows them a difference of ten stags and three pounds. The month before? None at all? Before that? It was thirty stags. It staggers, like the sharp jagged peaks of a mountian dating back over the course of a year.
Though where it first starts to mismatch, it may be said that the discrepiences were small, no more than five here and ten there. With a month or three in between them.
"Thank you, Master Basworth. It seems possible that you have been overtaxed somewhat, and it's to your commendation that you have brought it to our attention. I will have a bit of a closer look at the matter, and will let you know. Please, enjoy the hospitality of Braeburn House for the night, and I will be honored to have you as a guest at my Grand Hall at dinner this evening. You may ask the kitchen for travel food when you leave in the morning." Stafford said it all calmly, as if he weren't suddenly struggling with a great deal of anger. He did not appreciate being lied to, or stolen from, and someone was doing it. Either Master Basworth, of the Sheriff. Until he knew who, he'd keep his cards close to his chest.
A casual wave dismissed the petitioners, before he asked: "Who is next?"
"Of course, milord," Basworth dipped low, giving a tug to the boy's arm gesturing that he do much the same and the old mayor was bowing, even as he made those first retreating steps backwards. "We be my honor, milord. Yer too kind," and so he retreated, without his ledgers; away to the grandeur that was Braeburn, for all that he'd been there before over the years. He was grateful too, to be leaving when he caught sight of the petitioner that was coming in next.
Master Fyres was a tall brute of a man, who worked by no surprise at all, at the Smithie there in Kingsgrove proper. His father had worked it before him and his father before him. Master Fyres had not been blessed with sons, as of yet, he had instead been blessed with three daughters. And he came in fuming, "My Lord," the man, "It's that bloody Tlaerth boy. Again." It was on for there. He could go a good hour if he was allowed to build up steam.