The Devil in the Details - Braiden

   
The servant pulled up short and appraised Kalem swiftly, a look of resignment flickering across his face before getting replaced by a smooth smile. "Certainly, Prince Braiden. Welcome, Master Kalem, you do look tired. Perhaps I could take your coat and hat?"

"No one touches my hat without my leave,"
Kalem growled, but the servant was already behind him, tangling up the mage's arms as he struggled with the coat. "Look here, I don't need mere food, I need-"

"Privacy, hot tea, and being able to put your feet up,"
the servant interrupted, tugging at the sleeves in a way that turned the mage's side toward Braiden. The servant glanced over at Braiden, and winked.

"See here," Kalem said, getting flustered without knowing why. "I have more important things to do than relax."

"And it's my pleasure to be able to see to them. Come now, there's a room not far from here and you'll be able to tell me all that you must do. Many hands make light the work."

"Unless they're the inept and unskilled hands of ignorant dullards,"
Kalem growled.

"Even so."


Braiden took the chance for a hasty escape, making a mental note to get that man a bonus of some kind. He almost felt bad for ditching Kalem when there was obviously something important to him that needed attention. Almost. This was important, too, and only wouldn't matter if the world ended within the week. In that case, he would apologize to Kalem for pushing him off for an hour or two while he handled something that clearly didn't matter in the face of the total annihilation of everything. Since it seemed unlikely that was the case, he wasn't terribly worried.

The room in question wasn't far, and he never knocked to go in there. That did once result in him walking in on one of his guards and one of his servants in flagrante delicto, but he found that amusing rather than offensive, and after making sure neither was supposed to be working, he sent them off with just a warning not to do that in any of the public rooms, no matter what time it was or where he was supposed to be or not be. He suggested a linen closet would be a better place, actually. Or the wine cellar. At least his experience with finding suitable places for that had some use these days. Cady wasn't much for that sort of thing, and why bother when there was a perfectly good bed with perfectly good privacy near at hand anyway?

As usually happened when he walked into a room (at least in this building), everyone turned to look, and he wore his pleasant, cheerful smile. "Ser Maire, It's good to see you again." The charm turned to eleven, he moved in to take her hand and greet her first, as a token of his relative familiarity with her. "That dress looks wonderful, it's a good color for you." None of this was a snub to anyone else in the room, of course, it was an opportunity for Maire to act as a broker for introductions, something that gave her a tiny bit of status in the room that she wouldn't otherwise have.

"Prince Braiden, always a pleasure to see you," Ser Marie said, rising with the others in greeting. She took his hand and compliment with grace, and as she clasped his hand, her fingers traced a swift pattern along its base. Her touch didn't linger, and she didn't hesitate when she gestured to the rest of her deligation. "Thank you for seeing us so soon after returning. I'm sure we won't take up much of your time. It's my pleasure to introduce you to Ser Dieter of the Smelting Guild, Ter Produ of his Majesty's House, Ser Kiril of the Rest House Guild, and Ser Adah of the Farmers Guild."

The other deligates murmured their greetings and, if they were annoyed that they'd been kept waiting for as long as they had, it didn't show on their faces.


"A pleasure to meet all of you." Braiden made the effort to shake hands with the others, putting faces with names firmly in his memory. He recognized the warning Marie gave him, but didn't acknowledge it. That would just be stupid. Gesturing for them to take their seats again, he moved to plant his own butt into one. Still smiling quite cheerfully, he sat back and relaxed. Appeared to relax, anyway. Even without the warning, he'd still be paying close attention. With it, he went hyperaware, watching body language and eyes and every little thing.

"So, what can Katar do for all of you today?"

Ter Produ smiled and folded his hands on the table. "Prince Braiden, as a member of our King's family, it's my privilege to represent a few of our guilds in matters of trade. The Kingdom of Arrion thanks you for your long-standing friendship, and hopes that our peoples will remain close allies in the days to come."

Ser Dieter picked up his cue and took over smoothly. "I also thank you for your time. My Guilds concern is a small matter that Im sure will be easily cleared up. Weve long had an arrangement with your region, and have traded and purchased quantities of Red Slate, and various ores. Ive prepared a list and the received quantities here. He slid a paper over to Braiden, and paused a moment to let him scan over it. As youll note, for the past several months, weve received less than weve paid for. At first, we let it pass by; knowing the damage your great people has suffered from the demonic attack. Its gone on long enough, however, that we need to know if we can expect such shortages to continue, or if well be able to renegotiate for our losses.


To be fair, this was a problem Braiden saw coming, he just had so many other problems to deal with, too. Nobody liked paying for something they weren't getting, but they weren't going to start a war over it, so it wasn't a high priority. Besides, he was the one getting the benefit from the problem, so it wasn't actually his responsibility to preemptively fix it (some people might suggest otherwise, but he would politely tell them to shut up). The answer here seemed quite obvious to him, but he took the time to scan the data, making an effort to not give away whether this particular issue was news to him or not.

He chose his words carefully. "It's certainly not in our interest to cheat you, Ser Dieter." Were they fishing for information, or did they already know what was causing the shortage? He couldn't be sure, so it was best not to get into it. "I think it would be in everyone's best interest to avoid this sort of problem in the future by going with a price per unit delivered. This sells by the pound, doesn't it?"

"Yes sir, by the pound, or ounce. We have a demand, though, so our orders have always been considerably high. In the past, we wanted to ensure the right amount would go to us, instead of risk others cutting in. Now, well... we're not cold enough to demand the impossible. How long do you reckon it'll take to go back the way it was, if you can tell me?" Either Ser Dieter was an extremely skilled liar, or he genuinely didn't want to upset Braiden or cause a problem over this. Perhaps even because he sympathized with Katar's losses.

Braiden stifled down a sigh but raised an eyebrow. "That's an internal matter, Ser Dieter. If what you're looking for is the right of first refusal up to the amount of the original agreement, I'm willing to allow to that. The relationship between our two nations is a valuable one, worth maintaining."

Sometimes, the things that had to come out of his mouth made Braiden feel like he needed to smack himself lest he turn into his sister. So to speak.

"Options are always worth having, but my original motivation were mere concern for your great state," Ser Dieter said, though Braiden got the impression that he was relieved with the out Braiden had given him. "I believe we're both agreed here. Thank you."

Yes, 'mere' concern for Katar was his 'only' motivation. Braiden had to wonder what kind of idiot Dieter was for either thinking he'd believe that or it being true. The latter seemed the more pathetic. Worried about his bottom line was more likely, anyway. Dragoncrap, he didn't even worry about the great nation of Katar so very much, beyond being interested in the prosperity of this particular part, and that was almost entirely selfish.

At any rate, he nodded his acknowledgement of the matter being closed to everyone's satisfaction and looked to whoever seemed inclined to take up their particular issue next. Hopefully, this wouldn't be an hour of dodging continuous needling about Katar's well-being. If it was, he might have to detour to something less annoying and more alcoholic before going to see Kalem.




 

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