1866-10-12: The Value of a Gift
The Value of a Gift
Summary: Viscount Alfonso t'Rannis speaks with his daughter about their plans.
Date: 1866-10-12
Related: None
Alfonso  Paege  

House t’Rannis, like nearly any Viscount-level nobility, has a fairly large and impressive fortress that serves as the seat of their power. It is luxuriously appointed and well-defended, as befits their station and wealth, but it is not the true seat of t’Rannis power. Oh, Viscount Alfonso t’Rannis does spend a good bit of time there, but all the work he does there concerns the basic day-to-day running of the County, and a good deal of that work he leaves to his second trueborn son (his first often either accompanies him, or is travelling himself, attending to the family’s business).

No, most people “in the know” realize that the real seat of t’Rannis power is their manse in Pacitta. A Manse so well-guarded that it was left virtually untouched by the Brodlund Raiders (save for cosmetic damage in the yards). A manse filled from top to bottom with the finest and most opulent of luxuries. Rugs from Alhazred cover floors of polished marble or exotic hardwoods from that far southern Empire. Nigh-priceless works of art and antiquity from across the Edge and beyond hang on walls and rest upon pedestals throughout the house. Wedding Wine and fine vintages from across the edge are served regularly, along with century-old spirits and even the more-than-occasional Brodlunder Mead or Tirian Potato-liquor…highly illegal in Couviere or Rivana…not so much here in Pacitta.

And nowhere in this home is the wealth of House t’Rannis more apparent than Alfonso’s personal study (which is quite frankly nearly the size of some Great Halls), where some of the finest of those artworks and antiquities rest, including several exotic trophy-animals preserved with the finest techniques of both t’Andalucci and Silva. Alfonso himself is not a particularly avid hunter, but several of his great many bastard sons are…one or two in particular who have provided many of the creatures now found here. And that is nothing compared to what is rumored to rest in the t’Rannis vaults: Priceless relics of lost Arendra, Sidhe-steel weapons, famous works long since thought lost…though of course no one can verify the truth of these rumors, or even where the vault or vaults may be, save perhaps Alfonso himself and a trusted few others.

One oddity that may be noted of the t’Rannis taste in artwork is that very little of it is of past members of the House. Indeed there are no portraits of any t’Rannis anywhere in the Manse save here….where a literally larger-than-life portrait of Alfonso looms behind his desk, and on the wall facing it, above the entryway, a similar portrait of his father, the two now seemingly locked in a stare-down contest for eternity…or at least until the next t’Rannis takes over. They do not celebrate the past in House t’Rannis…they compete with it, to better it and to further the ambitions of their family, and those ambitions run deep.

Case in point, the door to the study opens, and a young woman steps through, clearly familiar as the oddities and opulent decor holds no wonder for her. Alfonso himself looks up from his desk where he is in the midst of writing a message, and his expression only offers the ghost of a frown as he speaks:

“You’re late.”

"I'm sorry, Father," pipes the musical voice of Alfonso's only trueborn daughter. "There was an incident at the docks. It's being handled." She makes her way over to a chair, one she usually perches in for these meetings.

Paege t'Rannis is small and almost cherubic in appearance. She favors her late mother more than she does her father, and her looks are often enough used to her advantage. As she takes her seat, settling into the comfort of the well-cushioned chair, she notes, "I received a letter from Lady Alina this morning. She wanted to know how long I planned to stay in Pacitta. She'll be returning soon enough, it seems." She shrugs languidly. "And she's with child again."

The latter barely made any difference to Paege of course, but she knew it was another piece her father would add to his own calculations. Wheels within wheels, the t'Rannis have been working on Alfonso's grand plan— not that Paege knew any more than what her roles was to be day-to-day— for decades. Paege didn't even know the ultimate goal, though she suspected for some years now it would be her father holding the dual roles James l'Saigner claimed: Duke of Lonnaire and de facto ruler of the Couveri Syndicate.

Though she doubted, privately, her father's ambitions would stop with a mere dukedom and half the Syndicate. No. He wanted to rule all things, and if she had a role to play in realizing that, then she would play it.

"Hm. Seems their "unmasking" was less troubling for them than I'd heard." There's a note of disappointment in Alfonso's tone at that, but he gives no further voice to it. "As for the docks, I assume the appropriate people are dead or wishing that they were?" He makes a dismissive gesture, not really needing to hear an answer, "It would seem that a gift would be in order." Alfonso reaches to slide open a drawer of his desk, and extracts a small parcel wrapped in Alhazred silks, "This should suffice." He gestures for his daughter to step forward and examine it for herself.

Carefully wrapped, the parcel proves to contain an artfully-carved medallion bearing a stylized image of the sun. Different from the l'Valdan interpretation (no face, for one). It hangs on a thick, braided gold chain. "I'm told Alhazred nobles wear such trinkets for the protection of their unborn. Superstition twaddle, perhaps, but the novelty of it may have appeal, and it is well-made." Of course, the fact that Alfonso has such a gift on-hand means he either already knew of the pregnancy or was preparing for it regardless. Neither would be unusual for him. "When she returns to Pacitta…I expect you to be by her side as early and often as you reasonably can be. The Duke is too busy to attend the negotiations himself, so likely he will send his daughter to negotiate for the house in his stead. Perhaps his wife, as well, but the daughter will likely be encouraged to take the lead even if the Duchess technically heads their delegation. We will need to steer her towards a course that will be profitable to us."

As to the limits of Alfonso's ambition? They are indeed boundless, even if he is wise enough to know that much of it would lie outside his lifetime. Ah well. Have to leave something for the next generation to aspire to. But that does not mean he will leave an easy legacy to surpass. "Any other news worth hearing?"

"She does enjoy her novelty," Paege agrees after examining the gift and rewrapping it. "I am sure she'll be thrilled. She may even make a dress to match this trinket," she drawls.

She doesn't need to reply regarding the incident on the docks. She shifts slightly in her seat. "I will be at her service, then," she nods. "And that will keep me here as long as she is around working on the treaty. Should I pay a courtesy call to Her Grace? The Duchess is still in the city, I understand." She drums her fingers on the chair arm.

"Did you want me to cause any instability between Alina and her new husband? You sounded disappointed they seem to be getting on as well as they are." Perceptive, that. And her tone is entirely neutral. Whether she interject hardships into that relationship or not is largely irrelevant to her on a personal level, but if it serves her father, she will do so without hesitation.

Alfonso cants his head slightly, and shrugs a shoulder, "If an opportunity to do so arises, take advantage. Otherwise do not press lest our intentions become transparent." He replies to his daughter, "Just as we cannot press openly to scuttle this treaty business, but we can slowly apply pressure to make it less attractive. I will provide you with suggestions in that vein when the time comes." Alfonso finishes whatever it is he's writing, sprinkling some sand upon it to help dry the ink and setting it aside for now. "I have already extended an invitation to the Duchess to dine with us tomorrow evening. You will join us, of course." Certainly not a request.

"As always, continue to reinforce the daughter's notions as to the t'Corbeau. We cannot move openly against them now, but we can set the stage for them to take a fall once she ascends." Alfonso doesn't add "subtly" to that first instruction because it goes without saying. "Fortunately the bitch makes that easy for us. If you can find any proof that she takes her pleasures with any save her husband, then by all means press that revelation. Likewise should you find her husband has a wandering eye. Any more disarray we can pile upon their image will only make it easier when the time comes."

"That shouldn't be too hard," Paege notes. "The t'Corbeau. As you are aware, father, her feelings towards Talia are quite less than fond." She muses. "I wonder if I could somehow get Talia and Sir Gabriel to bed each other? That would be a coup for us, indeed." She almost immediately dismisses the idea. "Ah, but he's l'Corren. Doubtful he'd even consider it."

She drums her fingers on the chair arm again. "I'll wear the purple," she notes idly to herself regarding dinner the following evening.

"It does seem unlikely." Alfonso agrees on the matter of Gabriel and Talia. "No doubt the Viscountess would be all too happy to climb into his bed, but I doubt he'd be so willing. Perhaps if isolated and sufficiently plied with wine…perhaps with something a little extra in Sir Gabriel's case." Alfonso shakes his head, "But no, not a plot we need overly dwell upon unless it becomes a simple matter to arrange."

Alfonso takes up another piece of paper, dipping his quill and beginning to write again, without at all losing the track of either conversation or missive, "We may need to keep an eye on the Giraldis. Their ennoblement has come with equal emboldening, and I suspect they will be making a play for a High Council seat." He scrawls a few more lines, "I will decide whether we oppose or support them in this and we will act accordingly, but of course if they begin to suspect our role in their former patriarch's death, it will be the former."

"They haven't figured it out in all these years," Paege replies with a shrug. "And Miranda may be formidable, but her children are all idiots." Uncharitable, but blunt. "I doubt she has time to consider it; and I doubt you left anything pointing to our involvement."

"Would that little Lord Lucas had accidentally killed that pompous ass Raimond in the fisticuffs match at the tournament," she laments. "That would have been something to capitalize on. Speaking of him…" she wrinkles her nose. "Now that Alina is wed, her father will start looking for matches for him. Do you intend on putting me forward as an option?"

"The younger ones, perhaps. The older boy has much of his father in him, and his father was formidable enough to require elimination." Alfonso replies, fixing his daughter with a flat stare, "Do not mistake our own superiority for the incompetence of others. They have not discovered the strings we pulled because I took great pains to insure they did not. I don't anticipate the Giraldis will be a problem…we took what we truly wanted from them in the wake of Armando's death…but their attempt at ascension in Pacitta could be useful to us in either direction."

At Paege's next question, Alfonso nods, "I will put forth your name, but I have no real expectation it will be accepted, and that is likely for the best. The boy takes after his mother and has little taste for the subterfuge and the practicality we demand. Pity the t'Corbeau got their hooks in the Bastard, though. By all indications he's a fine killer." Alfonso continues to write, uninterrupted, as he speaks, "I suspect the boy will be married out, and either way it is of little consequence to us, short of him marrying someone of the royal lines, which seems unlikely at this point." He adds, "But if you are concerned, rest assured I will find you a suitable husband when the time comes." There's a ghost of a smirk on Alfonso's face as he says this without looking directly at his daughter. He well knows she doesn't care either way.

She shrugs. "As you wish." She genuinely doesn't care. "I'll see what Alina might know as to where they'll place Lucas, then. I'm sure that time is coming soon. It may be of little consequence, or it may be something we might use to our advantage."

"Is there anything else you require of me now, Father?" Paege says, sitting up straight. "If not, I had some work to do in the Marchander sector."

“No. You may go.” Alfonso dismisses his daughter, and without another glance or word, returns to focusing his full attention upon the work before him. So much to do, so little time….

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