|Letters, Leaks, and Leverage|
|Summary:||Several Terricks converge over correspondence.|
|The room has a large glass window and seat that looks out partially over the cove, in daylight hours the sun provides illumination to the room. Other stools and chairs linger in small groups as shelves along the walls are littered with scrolls, books, letters and documents. The contents are a modest collection of local records, histories, and literature offered to both the family and guests of Four Eagles Tower.|
|June 07, 289|
Justin is a only a couple of minutes behind the other two, stopping at his own room to gather up a leather folio. When he enters into the reading room, he looks around to make certain of who all is in the room before he closes the door. Justin doesn't bar the door, if it even has a bar, though there is at least one outside guest who might roam the tower currently. He walks over and untying the folio's right side, he opens it up to pluck out the very letter that arrived some hours before. Glancing from his cousin to his sister, Justin lays the piece of parchment down so that they, and especially Lucienne, might read it.
-- The letter --
I apologize first for the tardiness of this message. Our focus in recent days has obviously been on other matters and only now, with my sister and her septa safely returned to us, are we able to turn our attention to a proper reply. I regret to inform you that as we did not receive your note within the time period you and I agreed upon, it was assumed that your house had elected not to do business with us. We therefore accepted the offer made by House Nayland to purchase this year's surplus harvest. Our word having been given to them, we consider ourselves bound to honor that agreement, as I am sure you understand. I am sorry that things could not be worked out to the satisfaction of all. Should you wish to discuss the matter in person for any reason, I will be passing through the Roost soon and would be happy to make time for us to speak.
Ser Kittridge Groves
Dmitry is a quick reader, his palm hiding his mouth as his glance skims the parchment across the table. His expression is difficult to read, with mouth hidden behind his hand, but the cooling of his dark eyes is not hard to find. He nods once, finally, and settles his weight back on his heels with his arms a loose fold across his chest. With mild neutrality reflected in his low voice, he says, "I see."
Lucienne has taken the liberty of occupying Lord Jerold's favourite chair by the window, several others nearby with a small table between them. The tea tray is laid out, a pitcher of something sweet-smelling brewing upon it and another of watered wine, but the boys must needs be content to drink out of teacups. She looks up as Justin enters, curious to see this letter indeed, and takes a long moment to read it with a growing frown. "Oh," is all the response she can muster.
At this moment Justin would probably like very much to have a stiff, hard drink. He's certainly not interested in tea. However, he keeps a tight rein both upon his desire for a glass of whiskey as well as his anger. Or at least the outward violent expression of it. He's been too loose with his self control and apparently bent to force himself to practice keeping emotions in check. So he merely takes a seat.
The room gets very quiet and still before he says quite low, "I don't know if Ser Kittridge had any set date to sign documents as he states having given his word upon. If he /is/ an honorable man, then this … is … yet another example of this House dragging it's feet to our own suffering." His words are nonetheless cold, though he doesn't name any names specifically, his father's, Anais's or even his own though any and all of them are to blame. Instead, Justin skims a hand through his own hair and sighs, "On the other hand, if he's not an honorable man, this would be the reply we'd have gotten no matter what we did. I have no way of knowing, yet."
Dmitry lifts dark eyes to Justin beneath the quirk of an eyebrow. He tips his hand this way and that way in a so-so gesture, as though it makes little difference to him who has which honor; he asks, "What did we offer to House Groves?"
Lucienne looks a little paler than usual all of a sudden, the light draining quickly from her eyes. She breathes a little shallowly as the news sinks in, and says nothing for the moment.
Justin lightly fingers his jaw, staring at the letter before he answers Dmitry, "We offered them back the lands that were taken from House Groves by the Mallisters and my father, for their Royalist side in the Rebellion. They refused to follow their liege lord's orders and for punishment, Lord Jason took away multiple fiefs from the Groves and gave them to us. Valuable lands, worth a good deal more than the food." A brief pause to focus upon his cousin ere Justin adds, "However, I have heard that the Naylands made … a ludicrously high offer in coinage." Justin then pointedly looks to his sister and with far too much blandness says, "It is possible that someone leaked information from this Tower to the Groves as to what my dear sister proposed. Should any marriage be offered by this House to the Groves, they are now certain to manuver for those lands as her dowery. Thereby, aquitting themselves both handsomely with coin, slapping us in the face with retribution to see us suffer and be gouged by the Naylands, and perhaps regaining their lands as well if they can. On the other hand, it -could- be entirely our lack of action." Either way, it's bad.
Arms a loose fold across his chest, Dmitry drops his shoulder in a partial shrug. "And nothing else we might offer to sweeten the pot, I suppose, at this point," he says. "So we take these courtesies as a finality?" He glances at his own fingernails with a faint narrowing of his dark eyes. "Is there anyone aside from House Nayland left before whom we might eat pride and humble ourselves, or are we dependent entirely — speaking of dowries — on your talents as a kisser, cousin?"
That pointed look is not lost on the increasingly pale Lucienne, who shrinks back against her father's chair and takes a long, deep breath. She looks fit to shout, as her shoulders and chest puff up defensively, but Dmitry seems to steer the conversation in a direction that pleases her enough to stay her ire. "I can't believe you kissed her," she snaps, instead.
Frowning, Justin leans forward and picks up the letter to place it back into his leather folio, "Two points. We have enough food and supplies left to see us through about 3 months. Maybe as long as 6 months if we stretch things /very/ lean and do not suffer any depredations." His tone is very dry, especially on the last. "If we spread things that thingly for that long, we can expect some serious problems to arise even before people are starving." All the while Justin is keeping his voice quite low in volume, calm. He leans back and steeples his fingers, "We do have other choices." If he might say anything more, Lucienne's brother stops and looks at her. His eyes flicker with something but Justin doesn't take her bait. Instead, a muscle in his jaw tightens before he says, "The Naylands /may/ offer the Groves Surplus, or some part of it, as Lady Roslyn's dowery. They certainly aren't going to have any coinage to hand after paying the Groves so well, and I seriously doubt they will offer land."
"While I am sure that our family will suffer its straitened circumstances with great aplomb," Dmitry says with a distinct dry air that suggests he is not as sure as he pretends to be, eyebrows a high arch over his dark eyes. "I admit to some skepticism as to your figures. Six months?" He sucks a little on his teeth. His expression is dubious. "You may be excited to hop into bed with a Nayland but I am quite curious as to this plural you have appended to 'option'. You know, Danae has sent an emissary to cool his heels in our — whorehouse, apparently."
Lucienne simply stares at Justin, lifting her chin, her expression cold. Picking up on a tidbit from Dmitry, she enquires with unguarded interest, "She has?" Please elaborate, says the shift of her brows.
Because it must be said, even if he doesn't like it at all, Justin adds for Lucienne's benefit, "It is also entirely possible that the betrothal negotiations are a ruse, with no intent upon the part of the Naylands to go through with it. In which case they intend to bleed us for everything they can and starve us out. If they do that, our House is truely in peril as long as they control Stonebridge." Justin makes a parting gesture by spreading his hands, "Yes, I kissed her. Yes it was foolish. On the other hand, if we are not betrothed and marry, the Lady Roslyn might well be ruined. Do they hate us enough to do that to her?" Possibly yes, possibly no, "She is much beloved of them."
Listening to Dmitry, Justin shrugs, "Lady Anais thinks six months supplies both for us and the Roost. I think she's overly optimistic. I can hope that I am wrong but I do believe father agrees with her figures that we might hold out that long if we must." Justin's grey eyes narrow at Dmitry, "Yes, I'm aware of Ser Alek's arrival. I spoke with him briefly this morning. Aye, options. However, unless we can arrange for food and supplies to come from another house by sea, all of them who could spare such are inlands houses. Which means the goods still have to pass through Stonebridge taxes and tariffs which currently is yet controled by the Naylands. Even if the Lady Danae bears a child, and even if it is male and somehow is Ser Gedeon's and the King supports her claim, none of that is going to happen in time to feed our people. And … even if all of that comes to pass, the Naylands and Freys are not going to give up Stonebridge peacefully, are they?"
"I don't really see how it behooves us to pretend it might not be Gedeon's child," Dmitry points out as he rubs at his eyes with thumb and forefinger. "I presume he comes seeking support for his lady and the child. If our uncle continues to be unamused by the idea…" He turns out his hand, fingers up and wiggling a little. "I think you put a remarkably high value on your lips, Justin," he says. "Unless your tongue has made it between her legs, in which case I don't recommend you attempt to negotiate with it."
"Dmitry!" Lucienne's voice is shrill, and all the colour comes rushing back into her face as she blushes fiercely. HOW IMPROPER. After a moment spent attempting to regain her composure, she speaks again. "Perhaps I could speak with Ser Alek. I count the Lady Danae amongst my friends, at the very least."
All of this talking is a great deal more than Justin is accustomed to having to do. Gods, he needs a drink, something to ease his drying throat. So reluctantly he reaches over to pick one of the small cups, then another. He pours tea for Lucienne first, then for himself. It will need to cool a little ere he can sip of it. "It had crossed my mind that if the Lady Danae wants our support, that we might set a price upon it that includes a show of good faith on her part. Enough food and supplies to see us through the next two years, if she could help arrange it. There are rumors she may have sworn her allegiance to the Charltons already. If she has, she can't swear it to us, Dmitry. However, it's possible that she could marry a Terrick and bring it back to us." All contingent upon her having a child at all, preferably male. He scowls at Dmitry, "I do not, cousin. But at this point any leverage we might be able to use should be brought to the table and considered. Do you have better suggestions?" Justin looks to them both.
"I beg your pardon, Lady Lucienne," Dmitry says with the tip of a partial bow towards her that is as much a total lie as a bow can be. He arches his eyebrows at Justin. "Do you believe Danae would bring us grain, along with the chance of war and Stonebridge?" he asks curiously, head tilted to one side. "I believe it may be late to beg her dowry. Her time of greatest uncertainty is past. Though I believe she will certainly bear her fallen husband a child," he adds carelessly. "The only question in my mind is whether the child live, and whether it is male. It's a gamble that we must make before it is born to have any worth to her at all."
Lucienne clears her throat in reply to Dmitry's showy apology. That will have to do. She takes her teacup gratefully from Justin, blowing gently across the liquid to cool it some before she ventures a dainty sip. She adds nothing to the conversation for the moment, allowing the men to back-and-forth their ideas as she listens.
Justin adds dryly, "If she does, the real question will be who's child? She could easily be laying with anyone now to ensure a pregnancy." It was Dmitry who went so far as to suggest that at the family meeting, wasn't it? Justin fingers his cooling cup of tea without yet tasting it, then retracts his hand to rub it over his face instead. All of this is soo tiring. "I am beginning to think there will be blood over Stonebridge if she has any child at all, Dmitry. I have my doubts that can be avoided, no matter what part we think to play or even if we try to stay out of it entirely."
"Why in the world would we ever be the ones to suggest that it is anyone's child but his? Good grief." Dmitry looks exasperated. "For that matter. Why should we care whose child it actually is if it has an apparent claim to Stonebridge?" He flips his fingers dismissively. "What do we stand to gain by staying out of it? Do you suppose someone will hand Stonebridge to us afterwards if we keep our noses very, very clean?"
Lucienne draws her teacup away from her lips, to nod over the top of it at Dmitry. "He's right, brother. It matters not who sired the child, if only Lady Danae can convince old Hoster Tully and good -" is there a touch of sarcasm there? "- King Robert."
Goodness, Justin twists his mouth and leans back to sip of his tea. After a moment he says softly, "Well, those who want to know the truth, honorable men, want to know. Are we not honorable?" Careful, Dmitry. "Either way, it is very unlikely that Stonebridge can or will come back to us no matter what we do. At least not for a while. Do you think we as a House are fit to partake in a bloody civil war over a bridge on the river? It might be bloody smarter to build another bridge slightly south of it and simply take the trade from them." But, that's still not Terrick land. Justin sighs, "Suppose they do? What then?" He's tired of speaking. Let them talk now.
"Our people cannot eat honor, Cousin," Dmitry says mildly. "Who is to say that Danae does not carry his child? I have spoken to a lady who has seen their wedding, after all." He rolls his eyes and adds, "Anyway, you just talked about ruining a lady with a kiss as leverage so I have no idea what kind of honor I am supposed to lack for choosing a truth that favors my own family over one that doesn't. And wherever we stand with respect to an eventual war, we have nothing to gain if it's with our fingers in our ears … and we might lose anyway."
Lucienne sips her tea again, and then again, forcing herself to relax a measure. "Is Danae about the town, then? Or is it only Ser Alek? We should speak with them, at the very least."
Justin has to nod to Dmitry's comments, "True, though we do not necessary have to regain Stonebridge to feed our people, either. If her child is Ser Gedeon's it does not return it unto us." He shakes his head negatively, "I have no intention of harming or shaming the Lady Roslyn when I would rather make her my wife and repair things, if possible. But if her house utterly deceives us and tries to smother us? It's hard to say what I woudn't do."
"Mm." Dmitry tips a glance in Lucienne's direction. "He's here; I don't know where she is, if she is en route. If you do speak to her, I'd be delighted if you found out what she thinks of Justin's idea of marrying a Terrick." His smile flashes, a bright and sunny gleam in his dark eyes. "It doesn't, cousin; there are no free victories, but I believe it represents an opportunity nonetheless that ill suits us to overlook."
"If she is not en route, I will at least write to her; it has been too long since last we spoke, and it is only proper to correspond regularly with one's friends." Lucienne seems to have decided upon that course of action, anyway. She pushes up and out of Jerold's chair, gazing for a moment at the view out the window. "I expect the Lady Roslyn shall be making her way here within the week, unless she is severely more rattled than the rest of us. I had wanted to look in on Jacsen, if my lords have nothing further? I shall inform him of the word from House Groves."
Of course Dmitry's comment makes Justin exhale a breath, "It still brings us around to the same problem. What do we have to offer her that she should marry one of us? She did not come to us before when I myself invited her to shelter here and speak with us at Ser Gedeon's death. Why would she do so now when others like the Charltons can back her better than we?" Justin makes a dissmissive gesture, "Consider that question when you go to speak with her." He finishes off the cup of tea and moves to stand, picking up his folio. Justin stops to look at Lucienne, a flicker of concern briefly evident in his face for her over the recent ordeal. Their little meeting over, Justin lightly touches the back of Lucienne's shoulder in a small attempt to give her comfort and encouragment before he adds low, "Let me know how he is doing, later."
"It is possible I reason ahead far too much," Dmitry murmurs in reply, "but the lady knows her son will need support … and the lady has sent an envoy; perhaps she comes to us herself. If we have nothing to offer, I am sure my lady will learn as much." He tips his head, and then glances back to Lucienne. "I have nothing else, to be sure."
One hand sweeps down to claim a fistful of silk, and Lucienne dips a straight-backed curtsy to Justin and Dmitry. "Of course, Justin. I shall find you once I'm done." And perhaps bathed, and her hair re-braided. "We should make a habit of this," she observes, somewhat idly. "Talking, that is. Good day for now, my lords." Taking her teacup with her, she retreats from the room.