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Negotiations

Colette Hasting's Photo Colette Hasting 03 Aug 2010

Colette frowned out the parlor window; the ashfall outside was getting heavier and heavier. This normally wouldn't have bothered her, staying inside as she was, except that such things often made guests late, and neither Colette nor her father, Lord Sheldon Hasting, enjoyed being made to wait. Even because of the ash.

Then there was the fact that more of the stuff would be tracked inside than usual, meaning it would take even longer for the servants to clean it up. What a bother.

Still, Colette couldn't let it ruin her mood. She was waiting with her father for their guest - one Lord Lian Vaunter - who was looking for contracts and support to keep his House afloat after investing in the construction of a Keep. The partnership sounded risky, but if it came through would pay off well: help an ally make it in Luthadel, and your partnership would be solid for years.

And if he betrayed them, well, there were ways of dealing with that too.

Ah, well. There was nothing they could do but wait. Colette sighed, turned from the window, and went back to discussing the upcoming meeting with her father.
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Lian Vaunter's Photo Lian Vaunter 03 Aug 2010

Ash fell from the sky. Lord Lian Vaunter checked his pocketwatch. It was an ornate work of art without being gaudy. There were no gemstones marring the gold, no fanciful workings of birds or flowers in silver. The Steel Alphabet was inlaid on the back, each symbol made of the metal it represented. Eight surrounding the central symbol. The allomantic symbol for atium. Made of atium. The face as inlaid with a large representation of gold. Simple, strong, and beautiful.

They were on schedule, if barely. They should arrive precisely at the correct time. Lord Vaunter had made a habit of precision. He glanced at the other passengers in his carriage.

Shennal fiddled with the papers on her lap, likely anticipating putting a seal on a contract. Brianille sat beside him, eyes focused, but on what, Lian could not say. She was often tense in new situations.

Lian could feel the nervousness in the carriage seeping into him. He burned copper, but the emotions did not pass.

Keep Hasting's seven massive towers rose into view, a stalwart bastion against the ash and mists. He admired the architecture as the carriage pulled up. Beautiful. Perhaps keep Vaunter could rival its beauty once finished, but the only other Keep in Luthadel that did was Keep Venture.

As the carriage rolled to a stop, Treshan stepped off the back of the carriage and opened the door. He held a parasol to ward off the encroaching ashflakes.

Lord Lian vaunter approached keep Hasting's doors with his entourage.
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Colette Hasting's Photo Colette Hasting 03 Aug 2010

"My Lord? My Lady? Lord Vaunter and his retinue have arrived."

Colette smiled. On time after all. Perhaps this meeting wouldn't go too badly after all.

"Send them up," Colette's father ordered, setting aside a stack of papers on his writing table. Colette was seated in a comfortable chair to the immediate right of her father's table, Faryk - their Terris attendant - was positioned to the left, distinguished and poised as always. The noble servants in their crisp uniforms were ready and waiting to make their guests comfortable, but would get out of the way once negotiations started.

Everyone was in place. It was time to begin.
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Lian Vaunter's Photo Lian Vaunter 03 Aug 2010

A steward appeared at the door, ushering them into the keep, and after a moment's waiting, into a parlor. Lord Hasting and his daughter? were seated around a small table. Several servants ringed the room, a show of wealth and power. Some of the anxiety he had been feeling previously faded.

Posturing was a simple game. One he was comfortable with. Which was why his entourage was so large. Along with his steward, guard-captain, and personal obligator, he had brought several minor obligators, guards, and servants. It had required the use of three carriages. Most waited in the courtyard, but several entered the room with him.

He bowed to Lord Hasting and his daughter. He was fairly certain this was Collette. Not exactly the house heir, but not exactly not the house heir either.

"A pleasure to finally make your acquaintance, Lord Hasting, Lady Hasting."
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Colette Hasting's Photo Colette Hasting 03 Aug 2010

Colette kept her face smooth as Lord Vaunter and his group entered, but her mind was already calculating. This was a man who obviously wanted to impress, as many did who came to approach a Great House, but this time Colette wasn't sure to think of the front Lord Vaunter chose to display.

On one hand, a display of servants and guards and obligators was a symbol of wealth and security. You can count on me, it was supposed to say. However, Vaunter had played the neutrality game for far too long, making no enemies, but no friends either. They had no strong connections; at least, they didn't have enough of them. And yet they had invested in a Keep. Now, of all times! With Central Dominance steeling themselves against the rebellion, just how well could a mercantile House be faring in the current economic climate? Surely his money would be focused on supporting his new Keep, and keeping his House afloat, instead of on so many servants and obligators?

Colette could only draw two decisions: either Lord Vaunter was desperate to impress, desperate for a contract with Hasting - or any Great House, most likely - and the stability it would bring him, he was richer than he made himself out to be and was only pretending to struggle, or he was just bad at controlling his spending. Either way, they would have to be very cautious with this one.

Colette's father greeted their guests first, of course, and then it was her own turn. "Welcome to Keep Hasting," she greeted with a pleasant smile that never touched her eyes. "Please, come in and have a seat. May we offer you any refreshments? Perhaps some tea, or pastries? They're a specialty of the Southern Dominance."
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Kaylen Hasting's Photo Kaylen Hasting 04 Aug 2010

Footsteps sounded along the corridor, as Kaylen made his way towards his uncle, Sheldon Hasting, and his cousin Colette. He had heard that the lord of House Vaunter had journeyed to Keep Hasting to petition Sheldon for contracts. Whilst he was not usually overly interested in creating alliances, as a prominent member of the House, Kaylen felt a strenge sense of duty to the House that he attend this talk. Also, it would be interesting to see why this lord had chosen to ally himself with House Hasting, when it was common enough knowledge that the Deveaux-Casuana alliance opposed Hasting, and they were close to getting House Venture on their side too.

Arriving at the meeting hall, he strode through the door, noticing lord Vaunter, along with a large retinue, standing on one side of the room, and Sheldon, Colette, and several Hasting servants, arrayed on the other side. He waited just inside the door until Colette finished speaking, then entered. Moving across to his family, he pulled up a spare chair in line with Sheldon and Colette, placing his uncle in the middle. "I apologise for my lateness, my Lord." He then turned to the Vaunter group, and bowed. "Greetings, Lord Vaunter. I trust your journey here was pleasant?"
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Lian Vaunter's Photo Lian Vaunter 04 Aug 2010

A young Lord entered the room, One Lian did not recognize. His anxiety instantly returned, but he believed he hid it well.

A lord he did not recognize from house Hasting? He did not appear to be intruding, judging by the reactions from Lord Hasting. Regardless, Lian had no idea the lad's social standing.

"As pleasant as is possible, I'm sure, my lord. The ashfall was quite heavy, but that hardly matters in a carriage. I'm afraid I have yet to make your acquaintance, Lord..." He waited for the young lord to reveal his name and station.

He chose a seat directly opposite Lord Hasting. His posture was perfect, as always. He removed his gloves and tucked them underneath his arm with his dueling cane. A servant relieved him of them after a few seconds.
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Kaylen Hasting's Photo Kaylen Hasting 04 Aug 2010

Kaylen laughed at himself quietly. He had always been terrible at introductions. "I again apologize. I am Kaylen Hasting, only son to Lord Sheldon's younger brother. My father cannot attend this meeting; he oversees most of our familial business in the Southern Dominance, and so resides there for a large part of the year. I am attending in his stead. Unless I missed it before I entered, I do not believe you have made yours yet..." All the Hastings knew who he was, and Lord Vaunter knew that they knew. However, this was their first meeting, and so introductions would always be welcome.
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Valkynphyre's Photo Valkynphyre 04 Aug 2010

"Charmed, I'm sure."

A little of his anxiety abated once he knew Kaylen's name and station.

Shennal sat to his right and organized her papers. A lesser obligator set forth a variety of pens and began trimming them.

"Shall we get down to business?"
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Colette Hasting's Photo Colette Hasting 05 Aug 2010

((Valkyn, that shade of blue text is almost impossible to read without highlighting Lian's dialog.))

Colette frowned slightly at Lord Vaunter's blatant lack of response to her offer. Perhaps he had simply become distracted by Kaylen's arrival, but at this point, it would be rude to break in to the conversation and repeat her question. It would also be rude to simply let their guests sit there with no hope of a little refreshment, so Colette motioned the servants forward with a sharp gesture. Since Colette's personal offer had been ignored, the servants could offer everything just as easily.

"Yes indeed," Colette heard her Father say as she returned her gaze to Lord Vaunter, though she monitored the servants out of the corner of her eye. "I understand you have a proposal for me?"
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Lian Vaunter's Photo Lian Vaunter 06 Aug 2010

((better?))

"Yes," he said, addressing Lord Hasting. He thanked a servant for puffed pastry and a small cup of tea. He took a sip of the tea and smiled. Tea was one of the rare things that did that to him.

"For the past several months, I have been mining Mount Kalling. Harvesting obsidian, granite, and the like. I have been stockpiling them for some time, and have, currently several hundred tons of each, of the finest quality. I have been hoarding them with this purpose in mind: To gift them to house Hasting."

This was his biggest gamble yet. A gift of such magnitude could bring Vaunter a lifelong ally, a secure foundation. House Vaunter was unable to put the obsidian to use, having no weaponsmiths. He was mining marble, granite, and pumice for his own uses and shipping them on the same caravans, but the obsidian he had mined exclusivly for securing a powerful ally.

It was, however, ridiculously expensive to ship. Carts and caravans often broke under the strain, and he was shifting skaa from plantations where they could be used to mine. Canals were unavailable for most of the journey along the routes he was forced to use, and banditry was always a risk. A small risk, but a risk nonetheless. The only profit they would be turning involved selling mineral ores and pumice that he was also shipping. He was using the Marble found there for his Manor, as well.

"My proposal is simply this: an overture of alliance. A gift that I hope you accept."
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Colette Hasting's Photo Colette Hasting 25 Sep 2010

Colette raised an eyebrow, and exchanged a pointed glance with her father. Just exactly what was the meaning of this? Houses like Vaunter - on the cusp between the status of minor or Great House - were often facing financial difficulties. After all, Keeps were expensive to build, and even more exorbitantly so to maintain. And Vaunter had few allies. It didn't add up, and that made Colette suspicious.

"I'm not sure I understand," Colette's father replied cautiously, turning his attention back to Lord Vaunter. "You requested this appointment solely for the purpose of offering Hasting a... gift. You wish..." He trailed off, interrupted by a fit of coughing. Colette was there in an instant, pulling a bottle of medicine out of one of the desk drawers and pouring a dose. Lord Sheldon accepted it gratefully once the fit subsided, but he waved for Colette to continue. She paused, giving her father a worried look, but he gestured to her again, and with a reluctant expression she returned to her seat.

"You wish to buy an alliance with gifts, rather than with business and contracts? Forgive my presumption, Lord Vaunter, but my father is has been offered such deals before. Those who made them often ended up being not what they seemed. How do we know we can trust your offer?"
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