Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

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Ramiro Guiate
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Name: Ramiro Guiate De Morua
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Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Ramiro Guiate » Thu Nov 14, 2013 5:55 am

February, 122PW

Ramiro Sebastian Guiate De Morua's world was quiet pandemonium. On the surface of things, all appeared in order: ships made port, goods were exchanged, deals were brokered, and profits came in. However, he had discovered papers missing from his secret office in the cellars. Papers which, although by themselves did not constitute proof sufficient for public censure, would alert Morua to his intentions. With the bliss of hindsight it didn't take a man of Ramiro's perceptions to figure out who was responsible. That bastard son of the main household, 'black of clothes and heart' Diego, had a reputation all of his own. Which was why Ramiro had never let the insidious viper out of his damn sight for more than ten minutes. Except for the night of the feast when everyone professed to the strength of the wine.

Again, hindsight being impeccable, Ramiro should have put two and two together when his normally reliable servant was found in a confused stupor reeking of alcohol in the cellar. But Ramiro had awoken earlier than Diego the following morning, and could even recall smugly gloating how he'd recovered sooner than the younger and fitter representative from the main house. Ramiro swore he'd find a way to pour hot lead down the blaggard's throat. But he had more immediate concerns.

The bastard Diego had trotted off to Morveres with the mail and Guiate regards, as promised. But reliable word had it that Diego, along with that sharp bitch Sarita and the insufferable trollop Costanca, had the very next day paid a personal visit to the Pazo de Palancia, home of the former spymistress Eluira, who still had strands of her web all over Corezo. It was clear that either they were aware of the reconnaissance into their records room at Morveres, were discussing the Guiate treachery, or both. Either way, the hitherto clandestine war was about to become more than just snipe shots from the Guiate against Morua. Now, Ramiro mused grimly, he would have to fend off Moruan plots aimed at him and his family. He'd lost one son, and a wife besides, but be damned if he'd let Morua bring his house to its knees. He'd see the Guiate ascendant over the Morua, if it took every last breath in his body.

But one step at a time. He would personally oversee the welfare of young Armando. Roque, well, as much as it pained Ramiro to admit it: Roque was a lost cause. Ramiro had clerks in Qadis more useful than Roque was to the running of the trade empire. Ramiro only hoped that Roque would provide a talented grandchild from one of his drunken pairings. Marcella though. There was promise there, if she could ever get over her self-absorbed airs and start putting the welfare of the family before her own desires. But there was still time for her to mature, and sometimes it took being pushed out of the nest to learn how to fly. Which was why Marcella received a request, via the household butler Iago, to attend her father's office following the afternoon's repast.

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Marcella Guiate
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Re: Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Marcella Guiate » Thu Nov 14, 2013 6:35 am

Marcella sat at her dressing table toying with the note that the butler had delivered a few moments ago. Dear Aunt Isadora was fluttering around the room, apparently in a tizzy over who knew what this time. Perhaps one of the servants had overcooked her eggs this morning. It wasn't as if an afternoon with her Padre was an unusually request, although it was one that she was glad only came once on a rare occasion. In most cases he would spend the afternoon quizzing her about her lessons, perhaps test her fencing skills and if she was really lucky perhaps they would take a ride about the estate and she could kept conversation with the man to a minimum. Why would today be any different?

"Ouch!" Marcella snapped, whirling around in her chair to find Isadora standing there with a mouthful of hair pins, one of which was the culprit for her pain. Sighing she turned back to her mirror "Auntie, I don't need my hair done up. I am simply meeting with Father and he would have told us if he was introducing another suitor or someone important."

"Nonsense child. Even if it is just your father, it is always important you look you best. What if we had someone arrive unannounced! it would hardly look well on the family if you looked like you just crawled out of bed."

"Well it would be their fault for coming unannounced." She grumbled, nevertheless allowing Isadora fix her hair up and even letting her choose out a pretty green dress for the 'occasion'. Anything to let the old bitty feel happy and save up some good points for a day when she decided not to listen to her darling auntie.

Eventually Marcella was walking along the corridors towards her father's office. True it was unusual that they would meet there. Most of their meetings took place in a sitting room where he would attempt to try to repair whatever bond they might have once had long ago. Perhaps he was finally giving up on the whole 'father-daughter bonding' and was sinking to a mere professional relationship with her. Either way worked for her as long as she was quick in and quick out so she could get back to her own devices. She had heard that there was some sort of important meeting today and she was eager to find out if Armando was going to be in on it and perhaps feed her some information for her slowly increasing file.

But enough of future plans, now was the tie to play the dutiful, if not slightly cold, daughter. Knocking on the door to Ramiro Guiate's office she waited patiently for him to allow her entrance.

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Ramiro Guiate
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Re: Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Ramiro Guiate » Thu Nov 14, 2013 7:17 am

Ramiro, seated at his desk, responded to the knock almost immediately "Ah, Marcella. Enter." For once, Ramiro dispensed with the habitual and awkward efforts at small talk which never seemed to go anywhere. Why talk about the weather when it was just outside the damned window, after all? No need to argue over the shade or shape of the clouds when there were larger things at stake. Instead, as Marcella entered, Ramiro gestured to the cushioned chair across from him "Sit down, my daughter, make yourself comfortable. We have, I am afraid, much to discuss. Some of it may be to your liking, some of it may not."

Setting his quill back in its holder, Ramiro absentmindedly ran an ink-spotted hand over his beard. "I have, I know, been less than an ideal parent. You have reminded me often enough, over the years, though I'd appreciate it if we didn't go over old recriminations this particular afternoon. Time is at a premium." There was a momentary distance in Ramiro's gaze, and an uncharacteristic hint of fatigue to his posture "I am well aware you have chafed under the guidance of Isadora, and resented my attempts to persuade you in the direction of marriage. However, despite that, the question of your future will not go away just because of its inconvenience. And so, instead of fruitless efforts to set your feet on the comfortable path of the married life, I am going to give you what I was unable to provide Vicente or Roque. An opportunity to shape your own future whilst advancing the interests of the Guiate."

Ramiro picked up a sheaf of papers "You will be travelling to Qadis, to oversee our estate and operations there. Our principal Factor in Hasele has come down with a deathly illness, poison I assume, and I have had to relocate my representative in Qadis to take their place. It will not be a simple task which faces you, as the operations in Qadis require a very hands-on approach. There is more to it, of course, but that is the principle reason for my calling you." Ramiro opened a silence for Marcella to fill with questions or protest, and steeled himself for what could just as easily become a full-blown argument as it could a civil exchange of words.

Sending Marcella to Qadis was perhaps the largest gamble of Ramiro's life. Their Qadis operation was one of the linchpins of the Guiate trade networks along the Mediterranean, and was responsible for easily a quarter to a third of their profits each year. It also had a reputation as the most dangerous assignment. Each year a handful of Guiate staff died to a quiet knife or slow poison. Each year, one or two people were unmasked as agents of a rival faction. Ramiro himself had a scar along his left ribcage where an assassin had come too close during an inspection of a new warehouse. Qadis was a cut-throat arena for mercantile politics, and ambitious people either grew into canny survivors, or they died at the hands of their rivals.

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Marcella Guiate
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Re: Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Marcella Guiate » Thu Nov 14, 2013 6:25 pm

Marcella had nodded respectfully towards her father before serving herself a cup of tea and settling in on of the arm chairs facing the desk. Apparently she had been right to feel apprehensive on the walk over here. Several times her mouth had opened and closed as she attempted to voice her opinion and each time her father disregarded her or because she was too surprised to voice what she was going to say. This was no ordinary meeting and he was not treating her as he normally did which she had yet to decide if this was a good thing or not.

As he finished talking Marcella let his words hang in the air for a few moments. Taking small sips of her tea she stared at the man in front of her and tried to figure out what game he was playing. It was true that Roque was in no position to take over for the family, at least not any time soon. Armando was still a little young to be taking up such a job without more assistance so if Ramiro was looking for someone in the family do take this job, she really was the only option.

Although....she had heard about Qadis before and not generally in a good light. It certainly would be a good way to dispose of someone who was less then a desirable and she certainly hadn't spent any time trying to endear her father to her. But at the same time, the position was an important one. Handing one of the largest sources of income the family currently held was no small feat. Perhaps this was the opportunity she was looking for to improve her standing among the whole family. Goodness knows that so far she wasn't having much luck.

Placing her teacup on the table beside her Marcella folded her hand in her lap, her eyes searching Ramiro for any clues to what his motive for this sudden request may be. "And how long will I be required to assume this role? You do know Father I have never done anything hand-on like this before. Not that I am questioning your decisions but I do know how important Qadis is to the Guiates'. I would hate for my inexperience to be the cause of our undoing. Will I have a guide or some sort of superior who will assist me in my endeavors? Will I be allowed to choose some of our men for protection? And when would I be expected to start?"

Leaning back in her chair Marcella picked up her tea again and took a sip "Por favor Father, enlighten me on the details of this request so that I might make a more knowledgeable decision on this matter. I do not wish to rush into something that I know nothing about." In the back of her mind though she was already packing and planning. She would show everyone that she was a force to be reckoned with and not someone who had to find a husband to become more powerful.

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Ramiro Guiate
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Re: Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Ramiro Guiate » Thu Nov 14, 2013 9:27 pm

Ramiro's lips twitched, the precursor to the normal look of irritation he wore when a conversation derailed into an argument. He controlled the impulse in favour of a more neutral tone of voice. "Marcella, I am painfully aware that you have never done something like this before. In part, it is my fault for being over-protective, and trusting that Isadora would ensure you had an education adequate to such a task. In part it is your fault for not creating earlier opportunities instead of spending your free hours on the back of some horse or other." Ramiro sighed "No, ignore that. Riding is an important skill, and I know you have been diligent with your lessons. But inexperience is the crux of this. You cannot overcome inexperience without gaining experience. Whether now or in ten years time, the inexperience of my children will be the undoing of the Guiate. Short of an unprecedented display of competence from Roque, or a change in personality from Armando to something more suspicious and calculating - which would, I fear, break my heart - you have the best likelihood of developing those traits required to defend the Guiate from its rivals in the years to come. You claim inexperience, and it is true. The gift of Qadis is the chance to overcome that weakness of yours with your own abilities."

The sheaf of papers drew Ramiro's gaze as he continued, answering in part some of her other concerns "You will not be alone of course. No Guiate ever is. You will have the advice of our brokers in Qadis with regards to matters of trade. The estate has a small complement of militia for defence of our estate there, though any more might be considered a slap in the face of the Duque De Quijas. In matters of trade negotiation I have requested for Don Bertran Casimir Guiate Alcaçar to join your entourage. Do not be fooled by his appearance, or the excessive collection of hats: he has a reputation as a shrewd negotiator. Finally, I have pulled some strings to assign you a specialist guide. Catalina Lucia El Viso Moriles is familiar with the more shadowy sides of Qadis, and will make certain skills available for your benefit. However, she will be more formally known as your new chaperone and personal maid for the sake of public appearance."

The contract in his hand for the services of one Saguzar of the Society weighed heavily on his mind and pocket. Still, she came highly recommended, and had succeeded in penetrating Morveres. That alone spoke volumes. "Quite simply, Marcella, we have entered dangerous waters where the successes of the past few years have gained the attention of dangerous foes. It was inevitable, but I believe that the murderous dogs of House Morua are finally aware that we no longer have their best interests at heart. You are at an age where you must either prove yourself as worthy of the Guiate name, forge us an ally through marriage, or sit idly as our rivals slowly tear down what our predecessors helped create."

Ramiro's smile was slightly bitter "I apologise that I failed in my obligation to properly prepare you for this moment. I apologise that Isadora also failed to do so. Which is why neither of us will be there with you for this. You will have the final say in matters pertaining to Qadis. You will need to learn when to listen to your advisors, and when not to. And you will need to learn when to be cautious, and when to be bold." Taking in the colour of Marcella's dress, Ramiro's smile turned wry "And I can tell by the jade hue of your dress that Isadora helped you pick that out. We have argued over this matter, she and I. I know you have spent little time taking into account the role colour plays in the subtleties of fashion and negotiation, so let me explain: Jade is the colour of criticism, and the emerald edgings there are Isadora's way of saying I could have changed my mind when I saw your dress and not told you any of this. She thinks that I should not provide you this opportunity. That it is too dangerous. That you are not ready. Isadora, bless her conservative nature, still holds out hope that you will marry respectably. I think now, on the balance of things, I would almost prefer you to learn how to take my place. If you prove capable of it."

Ramiro cut himself short "But enough of my ramblings. I know you find them tiresome. I have arranged for Don Bertran and Catalina to join us for lunch tomorrow so that you may meet your new advisors. With that said, I have no doubt that you have questions for me." Ramiro gestured with his palm, direct permission for Marcella to speak.

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Marcella Guiate
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Re: Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Marcella Guiate » Fri Nov 15, 2013 8:47 am

Marcella sat in silence once again, her tea forgotten in her hands. It was not often that she was left without words around her father. In most cases she had some sort of comeback or retort. Granted she had expected that he would train Armando as his successor and she was perfectly fine with that. He was pretty much under her control and she thought she had be subtle about that. Of course dear old dad was a perceptive man, she certainly had to respect him for that even if she didn't really love him.

Whatever her thoughts had been on his plans for her, she had been wrong. Yes she had expected there to be tests, events where Ramiro would watch and see how she handled herself. She never expected something of this magnitude though, a test that would put her in the foreground of so many different situations and in many ways, leave her vulnerable. The thought frightened her and she gripped the saucer of her cup to keep from shaking.

Her laughter rung in her ears, sounding much too forced for her liking. "Is this what it took for me to finally grow out of Auntie? Had I but known I would have offered up my services years ago." She tittered again, her composure returning once more as she ran her mouth in an attempt to figure out how to gain the upper hand in this situation, one that she felt she had lost the moment she had stepped into this office.

"I do love Aunt Isadora, don't get me wrong Father. But you are right, she has pampered me. I have learned much under her tutelage but those lessons that are better suited a housewife then a successor. And as past events have proven, I am not yet ready to be married off for someone else's personal gain."

Marcella set her tea down slowly, thankful that her brief shaking spell was gone. Standing up she walked over to one of the bookshelves, her eyes skimming over the titles before she turned back to her father. Hands folded neatly in front of her she was the picture of a demur daughter who she rarely was.

"Not only have you granted me to opportunity to learn more then I could here at home, but you have gone so far as to imply that I may one day take your place in the family. I hope I do not offend you in requesting the rest of the day in which to think upon all this. It is all moving rather fast you see. It is certainly news that should I accept will change my world forever, as well as our family dynamics. I do not wish to make an enemy of either of my brothers for taking claim of something that they may feel belongs to them." She granted her father a small curtsy before quickly heading towards the door.

"Don't worry Father, I will attend your little lunch in a more appropriate colour. That is if I don't end up falling violently ill. I will be taking supper in my room tonight and so I shall see you tomorrow." And with that she closed the doors, refusing to give up the last word or watch his reaction to her apparent indecision. Walking at a sharp pace she headed towards the stables, pulling out pins and discarding them as she went. There was no doubt that she would accept the task at had, but she was not about to be pushed and prodded into something. She would have appreciated a bit more notice before being selected for such a task. As it was she had been respectful enough to imply that should she decided to refuse the 'gift of Qadis', Ramiro would not have to suffer the embarrassment of her refusal but simply say that she was too weak to go for the time being which would mean that someone else would take the job and perhaps become permanent, or at least until the next death.

Arriving at the stable she found one of her riding habits tucked away, as precaution in case Isadora had hidden the rest. Or for a situation such as this where she didn't want to go back and spend the rest of the day with the old bitty pecking away at her. No, the rest of this afternoon would be spent on the back of one of her horses as she debated the enormity for how her life was going to change.

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Ramiro Guiate
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Re: Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Ramiro Guiate » Fri Nov 15, 2013 9:24 am

Ramiro nodded at Marcella's request for time to think. Grateful that the meeting had been somewhat less tempestuous than he had expected, Ramiro watched Marcella leave and waited for a count of twenty in case she burst back in with further rejoinder, then permitted himself the luxury of a deep sigh. The patriarch of the Guiate family rubbed his temples to relieve the tension. He had always preferred situations where all the odds and calculations had been neatly evaluated and decidedly in Guiate favour, but presently things were moving at too rapid a pace, and the loss of his principal representative in Hasele was a blow he could ill afford. There were talented people in his employ, but not enough with leadership qualities within the main Guiate branch. Worse, Morua would no doubt be making a more concerted effort to infiltrate his trading empire at every level. That family of venomous spiders were always happy to take the long path to victory, if immediate solutions were not open to them, slowly sucking the juices out of their rivals while they bound them up in one small mishap after another.

Throwing open a window to let some fresh air in, Ramiro half-filled a tumbler with port. He'd need to re-appraise their budget with regards to internal security and staffing checks. He hoped the Society of Negotiated Loyalties still held the view that the balance of power was in favour of Morua, thus making them more inclined to accept those contracts which ran counter to Moruan interests. His musings were interrupted a small while later when he heard the sound of hooves clattering from out of the stables. A small smile tugged at his lips. It seemed like Marcella might not fight her sudden change of roles as strongly as he'd suspected. Finishing his port, Ramiro shook off his sense of fatigue, and summoned his butler "Iago. A moment of your time."

Iago glided into the office, impeccable of posture as always, and uttered "Of course, Senor. Your instructions?" Ramiro placed his empty tumbler on his desk and picked up several ciphered communiqués for his principal representatives around Corezo and Eyropa. "These need to be delivered. Most of them can be transmitted via estate mage. For those representatives without access to the convenience, I want these in the hands of our best couriers to ensure delivery. The usual bonuses for speed will apply, with an extra 10 percent for this task." Iago bowed "Immediately, Senor" and exited.

Alone once again with his thoughts, Ramiro pondered Marcella's words. Roque, well, he was self-centred enough that he might resent her opportunity even while not wanting it himself. Armando would not mind Marcella's promotion of sorts, though he might resent her absence, but Ramiro planned to keep the youth busy at his own side. If Marcella could learn to handle the pressure and intrigues of a place like Qadis, she would need Armando's talent for numbers down the road. And if Marcella failed, then Armando would need these lessons even more, along with instruction on how best to pick advisors and gauge their trustworthiness. All he could hope was that he survived long enough to see one or the other succeed him as head of the family empire.

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Re: Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Saguzar » Tue Nov 19, 2013 1:15 am

As the Guiate Estate La Estrella came into view, Saguzar felt she could have used a much longer rest after the successful completion of her most recent task. Preferably somewhere as far from Corezo as the northern provinces. But such a luxury had not been permitted her. A month ago Shadow Marqués Guillen had summoned her in his usual peremptory fashion. There were times when the silver-haired dandy's affectation of a lazy drawl caused Saguzar's teeth to ache. That had been one of those times.

---

Guillen lounged back in his chair and, after a desultory "Please, be seated" by way of greeting, got down to business. "Your good work in Morveres has not gone unnoticed, and we have received an interesting request." Guillen pushed across a pile of paperwork. "It seems the Guiate are enamoured of their silent saviour in times of economic crisis, and wish to make an unorthodox arrangement with us." Saguzar kept quiet. She wasn't particularly 'enamoured' of 'unorthodox' when it came to contracts. She liked those to be simple and to the point. The Shadow Marqués continued "Naturally, we are charging them a ridiculous fee, with numerous clauses to our advantage, and some to theirs. It's all written down there for your perusal, my dear." Saguzar eyed the paperwork. She'd go through it intensively later, but felt one thing had to be established immediately "What do you mean, precisely, by unorthodox?"

Guillen gave Saguzar a crooked half-smile "We've been asked for an open-ended contract. There are numerous termination clauses for both sides, of varying severities and expediencies, but as I understand it we are requested to provide an assistant to the daughter of Ramiro Sebastian Guiate De Morua for an undisclosed period of time. 'For as Long as Necessary' did pass the man's lips, I am told. It turns out the man is sending his daughter into Qadis to learn the family trade." Saguzar didn't bother hiding her disapproval with, well, everything Guillen had just disclosed. "Charming. I hope our fees are going to bankrupt him. So what is the proposed angle?" Guillen grinned as he asked "How good are you at dusting lamps, my dear?"

---

Saguzar had accepted the contract willingly, of course, for to be seen as anything but willing would have left a very poor impression. But she was not pleased. Adding a new persona to her repertoire was a time-consuming and tedious process, and a month had barely given her the time to put it together in a seamless fashion. Two or three months' warning would have given her a better chance to establish some of the deeper layers to the identity, including paper trails to satisfy a more-than casual investigation. Guillen had assured her the paper trails had been laid, but Saguzar liked to know the finer details herself. As it was, Saguzar had finally started to think of herself as Catalina Lucia El Viso Moriles, and just in time.

Saguzar had, for the first time in several personas, spent the month ensuring her hair was trimmed and encouraged into a sturdy yet fashionable chignon. For finer detail, Saguzar arranged loose ringlet bangs and sharpened the angle of her eyebrows to give a hint of severity to her overall demeanour. For this first visit she wore a long and conservatively cut silver-grey dress with purple lace trimming, a subtle message offering her compliments to the hosts without requiring her to speak the words herself. As Saguzar's carriage passed through the main gates of La Estrella, she took one last look in the mirror as Saguzar, committing her core identity to memory so that she had a 'home' to return to when all was done.

When the carriage ceased its momentum, and the door was opened, Catalina Lucia El Viso Moriles alighted from her transport with graceful steps and a warm smile for the servant who'd opened the door "You are most kind, sir." The butler Iago, sent down by Ramiro, stepped forward with a slight bow "Senora El Viso Moriles, the Guiate Household bids you welcome to La Estrella. Please, follow me to the dining room. Don Guiate De Morua awaits you and the other guests.

Ramiro Sebastian Guiate De Morua had been the first to arrive, and housemaids fluttered about preparing the room around him. It was an imposition upon them, but Ramiro had seen enough of his office that week to last a lifetime, and any other room of the house might distract him into a disgraceful lack of punctuality. Instead Ramiro sat in his place, perusing a small manuscript of verse written by a poet aspiring for his patronage, and let the maids go about their duties.

Catalina, having arrived early deliberately, followed Iago to the dining room where she took a seat with a polite "Thank you all for your hospitality." Ramiro nodded to her, and made a subtle gesture which queried if the deal was still on. A countersign from the Society caballero confirmed that it was and Catalina smiled brightly "It is a lovely estate. I do so hope your daughter and I will get along. It is a difficult thing to become accustomed to a new attendant"

Ramiro's lips twitched slightly. 'Difficult' was a term which he felt well suited his daughter, but he didn't give voice to his thoughts. He shooed the maids away with instructions to enter only when summoned, and gave Iago sole authority to enter the room while Ramiro, Bertran, Marcella and Catalina spoke over lunch. The sound of footsteps indicated another guest was arriving, and Ramiro was resolved to speak with care given how much was at stake for the Guiate family.

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Bertran
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Re: Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Bertran » Wed Nov 20, 2013 10:16 pm

The sound of a pair of shoes against stone, heels rapping smartly in a measured cadence, was something Bertran Casimir Guiate Alcaçar envied. It was why he loved his various canes. Together with his extensive collection of hats, they gave him the confident appearance he otherwise lacked. He could announce himself with a sound more bold than the half shuffle his twisted body allowed, and present himself with some humor and levity with the hats. No one enjoyed seeing a cripple, but nearly all of the upper society could find something pleasant in a well-formed hat.

Today, he wore blue. It was his favorite color, beyond the general and specific meanings the Corezan 45 provided. He was careful to avoid the shades from that collection, though the use of blue itself allowed him, he hoped, to blandly assume his duties without the need to jockey for position. He was more than a member of the Guiate family, to this particular branch: he was an ally. He had no need to shuffle about with the political schemes. Orchid and flame (the latter forming the base color for his hat) rounded out the bouquet of meanings, allowing him to be as cleanly sincere as possible without tipping over into obsequiousness. Hector would have approved. Hector was en route to Hasele in order to assist with the transition there. Bertran would not be seeing Hector again for some time. Unfortunate, that.

Before he was introduced into the dining room, he instructed his manservant and chief bodyguard, Pau, to retire to the servants' waiting room until called; no reason to risk insult to Guiate hospitality by keeping the man alongside like a guardian nursemaid. He had hopes for the assignment, hopes fragile enough that he found himself taking extra care. Hector had aided in Bertran's placement; Qadis was Corezo's Keltaris -- a major player in the coastal exchange of goods. To succeed there was to pad one's reputation and fortune, and Bertran never settled for anything less. He may not have had the ambitions of his brothers and sisters, but he did have his pride. He was good at his job. He deserved the power and recognition that came with economic finesse.

He took a breath as he was introduced into the room, and folded his face into warmth and respect as the door opened. "Don Guiate de Morua," the unknown woman was a surprise that Bertran took in without a flicker, "I thank you for your gracious invitation. I pray I am worthy company."

He did not yet acknowledge the woman, besides the brief look. They were in the presence of a don, and his greetings came first. Should Ramiro desire to introduce his guest, he would. Bertran was not so forward as to jump the order, though he knew plenty of trumped-up nobility who would be more than happy to begin their manipulations during the outset. He knew his place.

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Marcella Guiate
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Re: Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Marcella Guiate » Tue Nov 26, 2013 9:06 am

The morning had passed much to slowly for Marcella, most of which she had been debating on her entrance and first impression upon her companions. Aunt Isadora had equally spent half the morning pacing the room complaining why she wasn't allowed to be Marcella's chaperon after all her years of service as well as demanding that Marcella refuse to go on what could possibly be a deadly task. Eventually, and to much protest, Marcella had finally evicted the woman from the room so that she could prepare for the events that would enfold that day. She did not need another chattering voice questioning her, the one inside her head right now was doing that just fine.

Much too soon she regretted sending Isadora away. Her father had been right, she did not have the understanding for colours that could often play an important role into the politics of things. She knew practically nothing about who would be joining them for lunch. She had of course been able to find out the names of their dinner guests but did not have the time to find out much else so she did not know how she would want to be seen to give off the best impression of who she was and who she wanted to be.

Gazing through her wardrobe she finally decided on a citrine coloured dress. While she didn't wish to give off the appearance of being a child, it would only take a few well chosen questions for them to figure out her limited knowledge and much more limited experiences. Might as well go with honesty, one could be commended for that rather then be caught in a lie. She was tempted to throw in a bit of pearl but decided against it, it probably would not look that good on her father and she honestly was not sure it would be taken the way that she meant in, at least not until she got to know everyone.

Looking at the clock she threw out the idea of trying to tame her hair into a submissive bun or anything of the like and simply tied it back with a ribbon. Slipping in to her shoes she did a turn in the mirror before nodding approval to herself and marching out the door with all the confidence she could muster.

Marcella waited in a small room a little ways away from the dining area. She had asked one of the maids to let her know when everyone arrived so she could get all the introductions done at once, hopefully get through the small talk and get down to business. She was still a bit confused as to what her responsibilities would entail and who exactly her companions were and how they would be assisting her. She really wished that she could have had more advanced notice but then perhaps this was all part of the test. From the moment she stepped into that room, she knew she would be judged on, well everything. Part of that terrified yet excited her, she liked being in control, and in charge and that is exactly what she was getting. Although her actions were to be under constant scrutiny, and even worse then that, under the ever sharp eyes of her father.

All too soon the maid came and left. Taking a deep breathe she walked to the doors of the dining room and waited to be announced. Practically gliding into the room she went and stood by her father. Her sharp eyes quickly observing the guests before relaxing, a soft smile dancing on her lips as she silently greeted them, waiting to be introduced rather then speak first and risk looking like an utter fool in front of these people.

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Ramiro Guiate
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Re: Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Ramiro Guiate » Wed Nov 27, 2013 6:53 am

The sight of Bertran was a relief for Ramiro. The man had been dealt a poor starting hand, but had been graced with the wits to know what his own trump cards were. It would be a loss, sending Bertran away from the heart of things to Qadis, but Ramiro was one of the few who realised it. Hopefully the man's talents would help outweigh Marcella's lack of experience.

It reassured Ramiro when Marcella timed her entry with perfection. Given the number of guests, that would have taken a coordinated effort between herself and one or more staff. A small foundation stone from which to plan a fortress, perhaps, but a foundation nonetheless.

Saguzar, or more correctly Catalina Lucia El Viso Moriles, remained largely an unknown to Ramiro. However, the operatives of the Society of Negotiated Loyalties had its own reputation, which both reassured and discomforted its clientele. Ramiro might not know Saguzar personally, but he could rely upon the strength of her recommendations.

With everyone gathered in so timely a fashion, and all maids and serving staff absent from the room, Ramiro wasted little time getting to the point, and gave little opportunity for interjection. Outside Iago guarded against potential eavesdroppers. "First, the introductions. You all know myself, Ramiro Sebastian Guiate De Morua. My daughter..." here Ramiro gestured to Marcella "...Senora Marcella Guiate De Morua, who becomes the representative of the Guiate in Qadis" Having to recognise Moruan blood in their veins galled Ramiro, but he could not forswear half of his parentage no matter how much he might hate the Moruan name. Ramiro nodded to Bertran "Don Bertran Casimir Guiate Alcaçar. There is no man I can trust more to advise Marcella in matters of commerce and trade." Ramiro then gestured to Saguzar. "...and Senora Catalina Lucia El Viso Moriles, who shall serve as Marcella's attendant, chaperone, and guide to Qadis."

Ramiro ran forefinger and thumb over a neatly groomed mustachio "I have not hidden my reasons for bringing you together. In the short term, to all appearances, the Guiate fortune waxes strong. We compete on mostly even commercial footing with the ducal houses when it comes to matters of trade interests and connections. However, it is my duty as head of the Guiate to consider the long term forecast. And it is grim. What we have in financial talent we lack in leadership. Presently, I am without a suitable heir to the Guiate empire. Armando is too young, an innocent still. Roque is a reckless wastrel. Marcella, however, merely lacks experience. Don Bertran, Senora Catalina, I entrust my daughter's continued education to your guidance. Advise her well. Marcella, our operations in Qadis are yours. Sink or sail, that ship is yours to captain." Ramiro allowed himself a small smile "I am certain you will do well, if only to spite myself and Isadora. Be safe."

Ramiro leaned back slightly "Marcella frequently complains that I ramble on too much, until no other voice can be heard, and it is perhaps true. I open the table to you all, to better get to know each other before lunch is served. Perhaps Senora Catalina might start by explaining her role better than I can." Ramiro looked at Saguzar expectantly.

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Re: Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Saguzar » Wed Nov 27, 2013 7:32 am

Catalina inclined her head in acquiescence. "Of course, Don Guiate. I remember your request for transparency in this particular meeting. I am, as introduced, Catalina Lucia El Viso Moriles. I have been contracted from the Society of Negotiated Loyalties to aid you both in Qadis. From matters of day-to-day living as Dona Marcella's personal attendant, and with regards to the gathering of intelligence and arts of subterfuge as a Guiate spy to aid Don Bertran in his area of expertise. I am also qualified to reliably discern the presence or absence of magic at negotiations, with appropriate documentation to that effect."

Saguzar had not been pleased with the latter aspect of the contract. Advertising any ability pertaining to magic always drew more attention than Saguzar liked, which put more strain on maintaining the integrity of a persona from less-than-casual inquiry. But Guillen had been adamant. Thus, as Guillen always seemed to get his way, Catalina Lucia El Viso Moriles evolved into a registered mystic scrutineer.

Still, Saguzar's qualms had to take a sideline as she allowed the new persona to entrench itself properly. Catalina bowed her head slightly to Marcella "I am restricted from leaving your general vicinity, Dona, save by your express command for the purpose of utilising my skills to your benefit. A copy of my contract will be provided to yourself and Don Bertran both, as interested parties to the arrangement, to read and memorise. Naturally, such tangible evidence of my true nature and skills should not be carried with us to Qadis."

The petite woman, having concluded the most dry and business-oriented aspect of her introduction, smiled warmly "I have been thrust upon you both with little warning, I know, and do not expect to receive your trust immediately. I am however certain that, once in Qadis, you will come to understand and appreciate the reason for my presence. Until then, I will consider it no imposition if you submerge me with a flood of questions. Or none, as suits your whim. I am, as of this introduction, an employee of the Guiate family; both your ally and assistant in Qadis. I look forward to our success."

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Re: Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Bertran » Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:03 pm

Bertran gave his curious, awkward bow to Marcella, and a lesser nod to Catalina. The woman was still unknown to Bertran, but that was hardly surprising given that she was an outlier in his world. Even had she been on staff in La Estrella for the better part of a decade, Bertran likely would still not know her. He offered his grave attention to Ramiro's words, both surprised and flattered that he had been given such an important task. But also hesitant. Unsure. Giants had fallen at lesser things, and the stakes had risen higher than he'd been first aware. Why not Hector, he wondered, or one of the other masters? Likely they wouldn't have accepted it. It was possible the offer had first been extended to Hector (or one of the others), and that passed along to Bertran -- a test, perhaps. But, too, an opportunity.

Nothing for him to fret over. What was done was done, and he instead focused his attention on Catalina. Pretty words. Less should not be expected from any Guiate estate. Bertran remained quiet, amenable to moving with the flow of conversation. He had met Marcella on previous occasions, though they'd never spoken more than courtesies; he saw no reason to intrude on Catalina's introduction. Given the personal nature of their soon to be sealed business relationship, he remained quiet. He would have much to say to Marcella soon enough.

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Marcella Guiate
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Re: Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Marcella Guiate » Sat Nov 30, 2013 7:00 am

"Thank-you Father, for this honour. I shall put my best effort into this position to make our family business a success." With a small curtsy Marcella started towards her chair, nodding to Bertran and Catalina as she sat down. She was a little surprised that her father had been so open about their family and currently position, but perhaps it was crucial information, it could influence how much they would help her and the decisions they all made. Listening to Senora Catalina introduce herself Marcella smiled, besides the fact that she was supposed to be under the constant watch of this new lady Marcella had a good feeling about this woman. Of course she would have to wait and see how they interacted with each other when her father wasn't around, she had met several people who seemed wonderful in the presence of the admittedly great man but as soon as he was gone she was treated with little respect.

Don Bertran on the other hand was still a question mark. With his blue clothes and brightly coloured hat he had the appearance of being one who was more outgoing, yet he had said nary a word. Granted once business got started he probably would have enough to say, after all her father wouldn't hire some man who couldn't speak, that wouldn't help her much. Oh she hoped he wasn't the kind of man who was all work and no play, if you were going to spend the next who knows how long with with someone it was nice to have someone who was at least enjoyable to be around. Oh well, it really would be more practical if she saved her judgments for at least until they were at least a couple days into their journey.

"It is a pleasure meet both of you. Don Bertran, I believe we have met before although I do not believe I have had the pleasure of really getting to know you. As for you Senora Catalina, I am looking forward to getting to know you better. I am sure we will have plenty of time to get to know each other better on our journey to Qadis. But first an important question, do either of you ride?" She asked with a grin. "I am planning on bring Erasmo for the occasional ride around. Which of course means I will have to borrow Viviana, Father. I hope you don't mind." She knew that he wouldn't be too happy with this 'request' but hopefully he wouldn't outright deny her.

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Ramiro Guiate
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Re: Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Ramiro Guiate » Sun Dec 01, 2013 12:48 pm

Ramiro mentally tallied the Society agent's merits as the petite woman spoke. There was no question that the woman had displayed an unwavering confidence in her charm assault, carefully balancing truth and deceit with a deft hand. Having a mystical scrutineer in Qadis who wasn't part of that city's usual guild intrigues would definitely give them a slight edge in certain negotiations. Mostly, though, Ramiro feared for Marcella's safety if there was none by her side who could alert her to dangerous sorceries.

Qadis, in the heart of Quijas, made sorcery, chicanery, and the subtle enchantment its frequent bedfellows. Or so his estate mage told him. The Quijas themselves were infamously fascinated by magic in all its forms, fostered no doubt by their relations with Darleone, and Ramiro hoped that Saguzar would be up to the task of warding Marcella from Quijan interference. Certainly, there were Quijan merchants who had lost out badly to the Guiate recently, and would undoubtedly be seeking some way to rebalance the scales.

Bertran, Ramiro noted, was being judiciously quiet. He'd seen the same facial expressions on clerks carefully balancing ledgers. Hector had assured him that Bertran was up to the task, and Ramiro agreed. He certainly appreciated a man who played his cards close to his chest. At least, so long as he was counting cards and playing the correct conquistas. As to that, only time would tell.

Most surprising, though, was the grace with which Marcella was taking the sudden shift in circumstance. More predictable, though, was the sudden entrance of horses into the equation. When Marcella asked permission to take not only Erasmo but Viviana also, Ramiro internally sighed, but outwardly spread both his palms in a gesture of permission granted. For now, it seemed best to let the conversation flow without his direct input. The three before him would need to learn to work with each other, or things in Qadis could turn dire in a short amount of time.

As to the horses there were other benefits to giving his consent besides a happy daughter in the here-and-now. Having something of familiarity in Qadis, such as Erasmo, might assist in keeping Marcella grounded when the stress of the assignment started to build up. Ramiro could, at least, trust her to look after the horses. Certainly, their estate in Qadis had a sufficiently large stables to accommodate them.

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