Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

The region of Eyropa (the Western empire).
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Bertran
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Name: Bertran Guiate Alcacar
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Re: Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Bertran » Fri Jan 17, 2014 9:43 pm

Now came the necessary struggle up and into a standing position, practiced long and hard so that it appeared smooth and without effort. One did not last long in Corezo (even if one took care to remain outside of the sphere of power that lay at the province's heart) if one showed too much weakness. The leg was a foregone matter, but Bertran had to treat it as if it was nothing, a matter so small as to be inconsequential to his daily routine. It always had its cost in terms of stiffening muscles and pain at the end of the day, but Bertran had seen firsthand what came of ignoring the little things. And once he was standing, he bowed. "I am quite satisfied, Senora, and I am familiar with the location of my quarters. I bid you a pleasant evening."

If the setting had been more formal, and attended by others of rank, he would have kissed the back of her hand. If the setting had been more focused on their kinship, he might have kissed her cheeks. As it was, the matter was settled with another, shallower bow. He waited until she had left before he went to his own room, picking up Pau and Miguel along the way. Once they were within the suite that he had been assigned some time ago he sat down on one of the chairs in his sitting room, and took a breath against the pain. Pau sat opposite from him, his slim and tidy form swallowed up by the overlarge sofa, but Miguel remained standing. Miguel was Bertran's other bodyguard, a man who was taller than average without being monstrous in size, and musculature that could allow him to dress nicely without it being obvious that he was hired muscle. Both of his men were that way. It was necessary. Standing out too much was not and never had been in Bertran's plans.

"Something is going on," he said without preamble, staring moodily at one of the portraits that hung on the wall. It was of some distant and long dead relative, a man whose pedigree Bertran could rattle off only because he was a common ancestor. "Something between Senor Ramiro and his daughter, and with the woman he hired. Something that doesn't have anything to do with my business. I may not be Hector when it comes to scheming, but I am not stupid."

Miguel was absolutely still, and absolutely quiet. Pau leaned forward, his elbows on his knees and his forehead wrinkling as he looked at his boss. "We don't have Melchor," Pau said.

"Melchor is Hector's man. I never paid for him. I'm not asking to ferret out every whisper and squeak that has come out of their bedrooms -- I don't care and it's not my business. But I will not go down in Qadis for some . . . some spat." Bertran stopped, realizing he had slumped forward as he talked, attempting to stretch out the spreading, cramping ache along his hamstring and through his glute, up into his lower back. He straightened.

Pau watched him, wary.

When Bertran spoke, his voice was quieter. "I need to know where to step. This is it, don't you see? This is everything. So if -- whether or not Senor Ramiro is setting up Senora Marcella, or Senora Marcella is hoping to topple her father or that new hire is preparing for a job that will damage some important relations in Qadis, I need to know. I can handle that, but I need to know."

"Senor," Pau started, tone delicate.

"I know I am not Hector, so do not say what you are thinking. I can do what I need to do to survive as a trade representative."

Pau glanced at Miguel. They looked at each other, communication explicit in that glance, and Miguel nodded. Bertan's jaw tightened.

"I'll call back Anton and Sancha, Don Guiate Alcaçar. I'll have them sent ahead to Qadis," Pau said.

Bertran got to his feet. Slow, painful, but he did not show the struggle. "Wake me before dawn. Senor Benito, attend me!" The last was loud, a call to his physician. The man was always close at hand within Bertran's personal rooms, and the only one who knew the extent of the twisting that crippled Bertran.

His night was long and painful. Then again, they all were.

It wasn't as if Pau and Miguel had it any easier. They watched their employer right up until he disappeared into his bedchambers, then looked at each other. "Do you think -- "

"Of course Don Hector knew. Don't be stupid." Pau's voice held none of the vitriol implicit in his words.
"We need Senor Melchor. Don Bertran isn't going to survive if he's been cut off." Miguel's voice was, likewise, bland.
"We don't have him. Pull Fernan out of Apthoni, too. We need to find out where that woman came from."

Miguel stared at Pau.

"I know, I know he's doing something with the focusing apparatus equipment out of Vitalis. Fernan is our primary sneak now we don't have Melchor. It's not like we're going to play Don Hector's games. We just need to know what part Bertran will need to play. You and I both know as soon as it becomes something other than business he's done. So let's make sure it is what he was called on to do."

Miguel's eyes slid sideways to some point on the wall.

"Miga."
"I'm regretting it."
"This is better than Bucholu."
"You said it'd be easy."
"It's easier. . ."
"I signed on to guard him against physical threats, not his own incompetence."
"So he's not some político, he is . . . good with money."
Miguel's lips thinned.
"He's all we've got."
Miguel shook his head, but after letting the silence draw out he blew air out from between his teeth. "I'll stay tonight, you go talk and drink with your friends."

Pau clapped Miguel on the shoulder on his way out of the room.
_____

The next morning saw Bertran dressed for travel, the colors understated and the cut simple. He wore cufflinks with a touch of purple; his own subtle compliment to La Estrella and her owner. He was always careful to compliment the staff and hospitality, and so far he'd not had an experience that could be construed as unpleasant, at least not in those terms. Varado had been made ready for him. As they were traveling, she was without the fine tack that dressed her up beyond her humble origins, and he knew it would make him seem lesser in the retinue, but it was the only way he was going to make it to Qadis sans being trapped in a carriage the whole way.

Pau was missing as his tailor, Ines, brought forth carefully packed bags with the attire he would need in Qadis. She would remain behind; the expense of bringing her with him was not one he was willing to pay. Miguel loaded up Bertran's luggage along with that of his own, Pau's and Benito's. Bertran did not worry over Pau's absence; he would show up before they were scheduled to move, even if that time was within the next several minutes. Bertran had given him an assignment, and he would carry it out. That was how things had to work. With or without the worry that gnawed at his stomach.

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

Post by Ramiro Guiate » Sat Jan 18, 2014 1:04 am

Ramiro was up at dawn, and made quiet preparations to ensure Armando's afternoon would be filled with activity. His son was going to be upset over Marcella's absence from La Estrella, but being kept busy would help him overcome those emotions. Ramiro needed Armando's attentions focused on the task of learning to manage both an estate and an economic empire.

When the time came for Marcella's departure, with Catalina and Bertran in tow, Ramiro kept his contributions to the event short. Anything more than a simple 'May good fortune support your talents; travel safely' might have engineered yet another sharp exchange of words with his daughter. Those, at least, Ramiro would not miss. Armando however had not yet quite mastered the stoic reticence of his father, and flew out to offer Marcella a hug. The youth, eyes threatening tears, demanded of her "You absolutely must write to me! Every week! Or I'll not forgive you!"

Eventually, when the entourage had departed La Estrella, Ramiro patted Armando on the shoulder "Come, how would you like to show me your progress in fencing? I'm told you are improving every day!" With Armando's attention diverted, Ramiro followed his son as the lad dashed to the training circle. Hopefully the Majordomo of his estate in Qadis, Hieronimo Bernat Errando De Torrijos, would have a reply to his message of the previous day via estate mage that afternoon. But, for now, Ramiro permitted himself the pleasure of spending time with his youngest son. As Armando enthusiastically showcased the cuts and circular footwork of Corezan fencing, Ramiro allowed himself one of his increasingly rare smiles.

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

Post by Saguzar » Sat Jan 18, 2014 2:19 am

By the time arranged for their departure, the persona of Catalina was in full force, and Saguzar but a texture hidden deep in her mind. Catalina dressed appropriately in an ankle-length carmine dress, tidying her braided chignon with a purple-laced decorative hairpin to quietly give her compliments to Ramiro. It was Saguzar's influence, however, which ensured that beneath the dress she wore light breeches, in case a crisis required action less suited to formal wear. Dresses could be replaced; her life not so much. She had travelled lightly, from a female perspective, with only two cases of clothing and accessories to match the most likely formal settings. It was something which the servants had quietly appreciated.

Saguzar, like Ramiro, was quiet during the understated farewell ceremony. She appreciated that Ramiro had the wit to forego a massive send-off. Such things attracted gossip, and gossip was a major currency of Corezan intrigue. The less other families knew about this change in Guiate circumstances, at least in the first week or so, the better. It would take a miracle of misdirection to keep the Quijans or Moruans from figuring out what was happening longer than that.

Instead, while farewells were said, Catalina mentally inventoried her list of appropriate contacts in Qadis. As she had done a hundred times previously. In some ways it was mental busy-work, while also a way to maintain the demure and servile posture appropriate for a lady's maid and chaperone without becoming fractious from inactivity. The body can remain still so long as the mind was engaged. She had so much work ahead of her, but first she needed to know what kind of people she worked for, and how competent they were for the task the Guiate patriarch had thrust upon them.

And deeper still, Saguzar's nagging concern that this was the Society's way of putting her out to pasture, a slow severing of ties. She would have to be watchful of all her Society contacts, careful in how she utilised them. She would need to be more hands-on than she had in other personas. It was a nightmare entanglement, and she only hoped that she had the finesse to untangle the knot of duties she'd found herself trapped in. Catalina would remain quiet until they were in the carriage, and stay that way until addressed by Marcella.

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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 Jan 24, 2014 9:43 am

Marcella made her exit and headed to her rooms. She hesitated when she walked past Señora Catalina's room but continued on. There would be plenty of time to get to know this new woman on the way to Qadis and she was honestly too exhausted to have to deal with all of this and with the barage of questions and demands that would be hurled at her as soon as she walked into her room.

She was right, Aunt Isadora was ready to pounce on her before she had even a chance to sit down. First were the questions about how the dinner went, what was served before she started easing into what was talked about. It was quickly apparent that she was more then a little bit irked that she had not been invited to join and even more-so that she was being replaced as Marcella's chaperone.

"You know I haven't even heard about this Catalina woman in my circles?" Isadora continued to complain. "I haven't heard of her as a chaperone or a lady's maid in any of my circles of friends. How well does your father know this woman? Will she really be able to take of you properly, keep you under control? She hasn't known you like I do. I just care about you mi querida."

Marcella decided to ignore the whole 'keep under control' comment and focus on the rest of it. "I know Auntie but she isn't just a chaperone Auntie. She is also going to be my guide in Qadis since she has much more experience there then either of us do in that city she is the ideal choice." Marcella said trying to explain once again to the older woman as she tried to tame her hair. Seeing Isadora's reflection in the mirror she quickly held up her in, holding up her index finger in an attempt to keep her from interrupting. "I know what you are going to say, why can't she simply be the guide and then you could still come along. I feel, and I am sure Father agrees, that if you were to come along I would be much too relaxed to accomplish my training."

Marcella put her brush down, giving up on her hair for the night, and turned around to look at the stubborn woman, she had certainly fought already with Ramiro, and probably would again before she left. The woman was nothing if not persistent, probably why she was the only one of Marcella's governesses who had stayed around for longer then a year.

"I need to grow up eventually Auntie." Marcella said softly looking up at the woman. "If Armando isn't up for the task and we all have little faith in Roque shaping up, then I will be all that is left for the Guiate's and you won't always be there to help me out, I will have to learn eventually. Might as well do it before it becomes a trail by fire. This is still quite intense but at least it won't be as much as a life and death experience." At least that is what she hoped even though Marcella knew she was being a bit dramatic with the whole thing.

Isadora stayed around for a bit longer before finally leaving Marcella to her own devices for the rest of the day. She seemed fairly calmed by the whole talk, even if she was still unhappy by it. Marcella guessed that some of it had to do with the fact that the woman was starting to feel her age. Sure she wasn't that old, but she was no longer young either and Marcella outgrowing her as a full-time chaperone probably brought more attention to that.

Although her feelings were not the issue. There would be much going on in the upcoming weeks and Marcella could not have her mind wandering to how her Aunt was starting to feel about her age. No there would be no time for that, and if the rumours she had heard about Qadis were true then she would need to keep on her feet, both to keep out of trouble and to prove that she was more then capable of handling herself in any situation.

------

Her send off was much smaller then she would have liked it but she was not going to complain so soon. Armando of course insisted on making a bit off a scene which warmed her heart. A promise to write to him often and either come visit or try to convince Ramiro to let him come visit her, settled him for the moment.

A short curtsey to her father and a final check to make sure that Erasmo was properly prepared for the journey wrapped up her responsibilities for their departure. She would ride with her new companions until they either ran out of conversation or, in the event that no one talked, she got tired of the silence.

And silent it was. Neither Bertran nor Catalina seemed willing to make the first move towards conversation, leaving Marcella with the responsibility of starting something up. That was not a power that she liked having, at least not among people she didn't know that well.

It took the better part of an hour before Marcella finally turned to Catalina. "I am looking forward to getting to know you more Señora, but perhaps before we proceed you could tell me a bit more about what I should expect from Qadis and from you? Don Bertran has already granted me a small lesson on the etiquette that will be expected from me and promises more lessons on the financial side of things." She smiled at the man before turning back to Catalina. "Perhaps you have some knowledge that you can impart on this long journey to help pass the time?"

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

Post by Bertran » Sun Jan 26, 2014 10:14 am

Bertran acknowledged Marcella with a nod and a small smile before he resumed looking out the window. Pau had come up before they had left to inform him of the things he'd learned the previous night. It had disturbed Bertran in some way, as much as it irritated him that there was no way he'd be able to get more information on the topic until they reached Qadis. Even then. . .

He turned back to watch the conversation in progress, paying polite attention even when his input wasn't required.

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

Post by Saguzar » Sat Feb 01, 2014 9:45 am

Catalina smiled "But of course, Dona Marcella. Qadis is a large city - one of the largest in Corezo - and a major port linking the northern and southern provinces of Eyropa. It's also a primary resupply point for trade vessels and the terminus point of many profitable trade routes. The city is a feast, Dona, where all the major economic and political players of Eyropa have a seat of some kind. It is also, regretfully, a very easy place to die if one does not take precautions."

The petite woman shrugged slightly, as if to say 'and also the sky is blue', before she added "As for myself, it is simplest to say that I am one of those precautions, positioned to minimise the risk of sorcerous interference in your business." Catalina tucked a curl of hair back behind her ear from where it had sprung loose from its restraints. "I can tell you more of Qadis if you wish, Dona, but as to what we can expect, business-wise? This I am thinking is more an area for Don Bertran. You will not be surprised that Don Guiate has not divulged much information regarding his holdings in Qadis to me. It was not something I needed advance knowledge of."

Catalina nodded to Bertran "Have you thoughts on which families and groups we will most have to be on our guard against, Don Bertran? House Morua, of course, but I am certain the Guiate have other rivals seeking to supplant its economic influence."

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

Post by Bertran » Tue Feb 04, 2014 5:23 pm

Bertran shifted. He was irritated, because if it had not been for Marcella's ill-timed question the day previous he likely would not now be so suspicious and uneasy around Catalina. Really, what were the chances that she was a pawn put in place to stymie Marcella? It didn't matter. There was a chance, because this was Corezo and not some barbaric backwater like Ciasse. While that did not immediately concern Bertran -- his loyalties thus far had aligned primarily with the head of the family, that being Ramiro -- there was still a slim possibility that his reputation could be damaged from even a small amount of political play in Qadis. Given that he had been set the task by his mentor, the probability of this being a test beyond his abilities as a trade representative was strengthened.

Catalina's neat sidestepping of any real answers smelled like shit from the political bull. "It is wise to remember that in Qadis there will be more families than those located in Corezo with which any business will contend. Still, out of Morua we regularly have conflicts of interest with House Gentil. There are many, of course, but I would say our primary rivals are the Novrai family from Madaal, who have significant holdings in Keltaris; the Trivisana League from Apthoni, who represent significant interests of the southwestern Apthonian city-states; and the Djaout Compact from Tamazgha, who have directly countered our attempts to expand into south Tamaz markets and threatened our interests in Qadis and, remarkably, Quijas itself. Even so, our primary concerns are House Gentil and the Trivisana League. Most of the mentioned use Corezan agents to represent their interests in Qadis, though there might be a few Apthonian representatives, and the Djaout Compact almost never uses non-Tamaz representatives.

"House Gentil will likely give us space; Trivisana will be the most aggressive immediately. Djaout will not hamper us unless we have direct dealings with Tamaz representatives, and the Novrai will only move to undermine trade agreements. They have a remarkable talent for taking investors, suppliers and clients out from under us, but so long as we keep abreast of their movements we should be able to counter. Trivisana and Gentil are the most subtle, and the most likely candidates to use treachery if they deem it necessary. Besides de Morua, of course."

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

Post by Marcella Guiate » Wed Feb 12, 2014 4:20 pm

The woman had danced around sharing information like a pro, easily passing the torch on to Bertran. If it wasn't for the disappointment in the fact that she had hoped to get more insite into who this woman was Marcella would have been more impressed in Catalina. For now though, she had to be satisfied with learning her lessons from whomever offered them up. Afterall it would be advisable to learn the most she could before she entered Qadis so it would not be as stressful to learn as she went along.

Once again Marcella found herself whipping out her notebook and taking notes from Bertran, this time using a small desk that she could place on her lap in an attempt to keep her writing readable during the journey. After she finished transcribing Marcella raised the book and retread everything that she had written, doing her best to commit it to memory to make her future correspondence with these people easier, or at least give the the knowledge how to approach each person.

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

Post by Saguzar » Sun Feb 16, 2014 9:42 pm

Catalina waited until Bertran finished, then smiled wryly "It seems the Guiate taste truly runs to dangerous competition. Of the four, the Djaout present perhaps the most danger, at least in terms of potential physical harm to those in their way. The best approach is to befriend or entirely avoid them." In Catalina's experience, those on the opposite side of the game to the Djaout were far more likely to risk a cut throat or a fatally spiced meal. Certainly it was well known in her Society that the Djaout Compact leaders all employed taste testers as a necessity to counteract the more prevalent aspects of internal competition.

Catalina mused aloud on the other factions "Gentil might give you space, yes, unless the main House of Morua use them as the conduit through which they make their moves. Don Ramiro Guiate may be concerned with direct attacks, but tradition shows the main branch of Morua tends towards far more subtle long-term plays. I would recommend maintaining a close watch on House Gentil, especially if there are any significant changes in staff composition or hiring practices. If there are signs of the latter, we will need to make more precautions with security for the kitchen, food, and beverages." The reason Morua rarely used the services of the Society was largely due to their own talented blackguards being capable of handling such affairs themselves. Never afraid to get their hands dirty, the Moruans.

"As for the Trivisana League, I agree. Their reputation precedes them and, of particular importance to myself, they are far more likely to use sorcerous means of getting a desired result. The Novrai are relatively unknown to me, which means they are either a straightforward mercantile family, or slowly building up to something. More information on them should be high on the list of priorities." Catalina offered a small shrug and smiled "All this, and the dinner parties and social manoeuvres as well. The life of a merchant is hard, no?"

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

Post by Bertran » Tue Feb 18, 2014 5:57 pm

"It is too late to befriend the Djaout. At best we might hope for neutrality by stepping back from overlapping interests. At present we are not authorized to offer them anything they might want; there has been no identification of a cost benefit great enough to warrant such an offer." Bertran's words were quiet, and mellow, but clear: he was giving background information on the situation, highlighting past choices and why they had not become options. "Thus far, so long as we have not tread on their territory they have had no particular problems with us. The issue in the longterm is, of course, that Tamazgha is an important market to our expansion as an economic power. Sooner or later we will need to overcome the hurdle Djaout presents."

He nodded along to Catalina's remarks with Gentil, though he did point out, "they have not previously intermarried with de Morua, not to any significant extent. If they are used, it is possible they might be convinced their best interests lay elsewhere."

"The Novrai are of Keltaris." Bertran shrugged. "If the wind blows the wrong way they pull out their interests. Keltaris plays a major part in the southern waterway, but they wield subtlety the way a Ciassian eats with fork and knife. They will make no moves with any great secrecy, though we might not understand why, at the time, we will at least have forewarning." That the infamous superstitions of Keltaris merchants so often turned out well for them was a constant source of irritation for more practical and civilized provinces. Even Bertran's mouth crimped for a moment.

"Ahh, yes, I believe we will find ourselves greeted by the Trivisana League's hospitality when we arrive at our estate. Don Hector's removal from Qadis will have . . . excited them. Senora Marcella, you might want to consider having Senora Catalina check through our lodgings immediately upon arrival. Not that they would offer direct harm so soon, but they have proven before to be, shall we say, tenaciously interested in gathering information through magical means."

Bertran felt his gut churn at Catalina's last words, though he did not acknowledge them. He was not sure where to guide this protege of Don Guiate's, not sure how to gauge her ability. He brought his knuckle to his mouth for a moment, thinking, before he said, "besides our enemies, we also have alliances, ongoing agreements, and two pending trade arrangements that will need to be concluded. I am not sure which of our interests and trade you have already been informed of, and I do not wish to offend or bore with impertinent details. Although, since it is also important to keep vested interests safe, perhaps it would be wise to know where the both of you stand in terms of knowledge. Senora Catalina will not be able to sufficiently advise if she is unaware of the pieces."

He looked between the two women, expression perfectly bland.

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

Post by Marcella Guiate » Thu Feb 27, 2014 8:26 am

Marcella wrinkled her nose before she looked over her book at the two of them. She didn't like to notion of magic being a big factor but she supposed she would have to get used to it. Marcella wasn't against it but before now magic wasn't anything she had to worry about in the confines of home, that was something someone else dealt with as far as she was aware. Catalina would hopefully do her best to make sure that they weren't taken advantage of or harmed. Although it did make her wonder how one developed such a skill and to what extent Catalina's powers stretched.

Marcella quickly refocused her attention on Bertran with a small smile. "I will be utterly honest with you Don Bertran, I know very little of what I will be required to do. As you probably have heard, my elder brother has shown little interest in the family business and so my dear father decided that Armando, my younger brother, would be the one groomed to succeed him. Mean while I was supposed to be married off by now." She refused to let the smirk that was rising show. True her singleness at this age was frowned upon but she was happier that she had won her freedom over being tethered to some fat old man or a handsome one with a little brain.

Marcella used a gloved hand to pull back the curtain as she continued "If it wasn't for his age it would most likely have been him accompanying you on this trip. Hmmm, it looks like rain, what a pity." A small frown crossed her face but she decided that now was not the time to be worrying about her horse, no matter how important he was to her. "I of course know bits and pieces of our relationships and business, one does not host dinner parties without having prior knowledge about who hates whom and hearing various snippets being discussed around the dinner table and such. I know enough about accounting to be able to handle most things I believe, although I will let you be the judge of that since that knowledge is more home then business based."

Marcella bit her lower lip and looked a little worried, an almost sincere emotion. "I know this may be discouraging to hear Don Bertran. But I guarantee you, I am a fast learner and I am determined that my father's business will grow and thrive under my control if I have to study every night to get there."

She hated the fact that she had been given such little time to prepare for this. She had been shut out of the offices and meetings and now was 'expected' to go and handle important dealing without the proper skill set and prior knowledge. She felt as though she looked liked a complete idiot in front of Catalina and Bertran. It wouldn't surprise her if the only reason that she had been sent on this assignment was for Ramiro to prove to her that she couldn't handle the family business. Well she would show him that she could handle it and when the time came perhaps she would snake the whole thing out from under him too. Then who would look like a fool.

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

Post by Saguzar » Wed Mar 19, 2014 2:15 am

Catalina slighty amended her appraisal of Marcella. Still unmarried? That spoke to a strong will, at least, because Ramiro had not struck her as a man who coddled his offspring. That Marcella had successfully stymied his attempts to choose the girl's future showed that she had some promise hidden beneath the frippery. Maybe Ramiro wasn't making a blind gamble after all. But still... "Marriage, Dona, is less important now. Consolidating your hold on the Qadis estate, and establishing yourself as the dominant figure of authority, these things are the most critical for you to consider. On this, perhaps, I can offer my advice."

Bertran, it seemed, was willing to let Catalina speak. She could almost smell the distrust on him, the restrained desire to analyse her completely, to reduce her to a calculated asset or threat. Prudent, and cautious. He would be useful in keeping Marcella grounded. Upon evaluating the situation, Catalina decided she did not need his trust or respect to perform her own role. "People are swayed by first impressions, mistress, and yours must be a strong one. It is vital that, upon disembarking from this carriage, you never give any outward signs of your lack of experience. You must comport yourself as if you were a marquesa born and bred to rule a family. The slightest hint of weakness, of uncertainty, and the sharks will smell the blood in the water. This I can assure you"

Catalina smiled reassuringly "But this will not be hard if you follow some basic protocols. Firstly, you must always pretend you understand what you have been told with regards to matters pertaining to the business, even if you don't. The best course of action is to firmly state that you shall consider the information or offer presented to you, and will respond or take action promptly. You must always buy yourself a day or two, so that Bertran can advise you on how to respond. If you need a confidante in times of crisis, that must be limited to Bertran or myself, should you so choose. To the rest of the world, housestaff included, it must appear that you are in absolute control of the Pazo Guiate de Qadis."

The carriage rattled slightly over a pothole, interrupting Catalina's flow of speech, and the petite woman smoothed her dress before continuing "You will need to establish a non-verbal code between yourself and Bertran. Something whereby he can alert you, or vice versa, to a required course of action. At first, as the most basic step, you will need to be able to recognise a gesture whereby Bertran advises you he needs to enter a conversation immediately. You will need to work out a fluid way of introducing him into conversations and negotiations so that it's not obvious that you are uncertain of the details. I would also suggest making similar arrangements with myself."

Catalina smiled "On a side note, Were you aware that your father can carry a conversation over a game of cards that nobody but he and the opponent can understand? He is a man skilled in intrigue and ciphers, and as you are his daughter I hope that the same talent is in your blood waiting to be developed. But for now, Dona Marcella, the one skill you absolutely must master before we even arrive is the appearance of competence and supreme confidence. It is up to Bertran and I to help maintain that illusion until it is an illusion no more. I'm sure Bertran can add more to this. Bertran?" Catalina smiled sweetly, wondering if the over-familiarity of using his first name would nettle the man. Such small details were also important to establish her understanding of the material she had to work with.

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Bertran
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Name: Bertran Guiate Alcacar
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Re: Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Bertran » Fri Mar 21, 2014 4:26 pm

Catalina was not some simple bodyguard.

Bertran took out his handkerchief and blotted at his forehead, nodding along to what Catalina said. He was uncomfortable, both physically and mentally, and knew that this was the start of a feeling that could only get progressively worse. He did not know from where Catalina had been hired, though he suspected Don Guiate of lying -- why? -- but wherever she was from it was not a place that taught subservience. She was treating him as a familiar equal. Don Guiate would not hire a woman who was ill-trained, not for such an important post as Qadis. Don Guiate was not in such a position that he could easily afford to throw away alliances or dealings, which meant that Catalina was not what they had said she was. She was more. But what?

Stupid Bertran was not, but he could not fathom what purpose this might serve. Pau would discourage him from trying. Hector would know what to do. Bertran would have to prepare for the worst and hope it did not come to pass.

"I think that is enough lecturing on necessities for now. I would like to, instead, familiarize Senora Marcella with her staff. After that will be our allies, and then our prospects. That which she will need to know within the first day or two -- more advanced lessons will follow."

He turned his attention fully to Catalina. "I would encourage you, Senora Catalina, to properly address myself and all others of Senora Marcella's staff, both in private and public. Not only is this to show proper respect, but also to discourage sloppiness on the part of Senora Marcella. As her closest advisers, it would not do for either of us to show impropriety. Additionally, it is considered rude in the extreme to address an unknown nobleman only by his first name in Corezo. Titles of address are necessary."

Bertran did not understand what game was being played. He didn't want to understand, doubted he would even if it was explained to him. The games of his betters always seemed so unnecessarily complicated and troublesome to him, so mind-bogglingly convoluted that he was not sure how they kept things straight in their heads. If they did at all. Perhaps a touch of madness was necessary to participate. He didn't know. What he did know was that his head was on the line if things didn't go well. He fully intended to keep it right where it was.

He smiled. "Senora Marcella, would you be willing to begin your first lesson?"

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

Post by Marcella Guiate » Fri Apr 18, 2014 7:35 am

Marcella sighed an inward sigh of relief. She had been concerned that Catalina had perhaps been put in such a position to press her to negotiate a marriage contract in order to solidify or guarantee a partnership. She was certain that is what Aunt Isadora would have done had she been allowed to join them.

Marcella liked the idea of finally being the face of something more important, being an actual figure of authority rather then just a front. It was a rather intimidating thought though. There was such a large margin for error, and from all she had heard, death was always a probability when dealing with certain people. She certainly wasn't planning on dying any time soon, not if she had her way.

She shifted in her seat, trying to find a more comfortable position as she listened too the exchange between Bertran and Catalina. She switched positions again before realizing that it wasn't so much her sitting arrangements that were uncomfortable but rather the entire air of the confined carriage that had settled over them like an thick fog. One could almost taste the distrust them emanating from each of them and feel the podding as they attempted to feel each other out. For a moment she regretted having brought her concerns to Bertran, perhaps it wouldn't have felt like this if she hadn't first planted such ideas during her tea with him. At least the ride would have been a little less uncomfortable.

Banishing such thought from her mind she smiled up at the both of them. There was too much to do without wallowing in such things that could not change. Instead she would have to do her best to garner trust and respect from both of them and hope that they could work things out between them - even if it meant they ignored each other. Fighting and challenging each other wouldn't do and she prayed it wouldn't come to that.

"Thank-you for the advice Señora, it is forever welcome. I have had to chance to see my father play such cards but never done it myself. Perhaps that is something we can start doing during tea and such until I can master it efficiently." She directed the comment towards Catalina before turning towards Bertran.

"And there is no time like the present to start learning. It would be most advisable for me to be as best prepared as possible before I do step foot in the city. As the Señora has mentioned, I need to appear strong and in control and that image will only get better with the more I can know and understand." She nodded at him to start, preparing herself for another long and probably boring lecture as she did her best to appear eager and interested, hoping that those feelings would manifest if she only willed them too. After all this would most likely be the first of many and it wasn't as if riding or any other such 'frivolities' would be of much help for the time being.

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Saguzar
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Name: Saguzar of the Society
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Re: Out of the Nest and into the Snake Pit

Post by Saguzar » Sun Apr 20, 2014 6:45 am

While the carriage containing Marcella, Bertran, and Saguzar wended its way through Quijas, the Pazo Guaite De Qadis had been busily preparing for its new mistress. Rooms were prepared, pantries refreshed, stables cleaned, uniforms washed and pressed, and the tempers of the house staff were frayed by the pedantic oversight of the Butler, Pero.

Pero, a tall and impressive man who affected a style of facial hair similar to that of Ramiro Guiate, ran the household with military efficiency. The Housekeeper, Maria, was no less efficient but at least knew how to smile and enthuse the housemaids into their work.

It was traditional to turn out the entirety of the estate staff for a formal introduction when management changed hands, and no effort was being spared for that first impression. Fortune had other plans, though. Disaster arrived the morning Dona Marcella was expected, in the form of the liaison from the principle Guiate Brokerage in Qadis, Nicolao Benito De Olvera.

If there was one thing Pero did not like, it was emergencies. They were a spanner in the works of a smoothly running household. Emergencies brought by Nicolao in particular were rare, and inevitably heralded some form of disaster for one of the Guiate enterprises. Such emergencies normally meant that the estate's Master or, in this case, Mistress needed to be brought into a meeting with Nicolao at the earliest opportunity. So much for the traditional introductions and refreshments in the garden. The only silver lining in all of that for Pero was that the Majordomo, Hieronimo, would have the dubious honour of explaining the situation when the Mistress arrived.

---

When the carriage finally arrived at the Pazo Guiate De Qadis after two torturous days, Saguzar was feeling a definite desire for a change of pace. It was not a difficult task to maintain a demure and pleasant demeanour, even in the face of Bertran's dour lectures, but by the Tapestry the man had competed valiantly for the title of 'most boring tutor ever'. Only resting at inns had granted some measure of ease from the man's diligence at his task.

Maybe it was just the subject matter. Saguzar had no need to memorise so many details of economic strategy. She did however make a note of names and relationships between the various merchant factions and other stakeholders Bertran had mentioned here and there. It was a testament to Saguzar's fluent acting that her eyes did not at any point glaze over during the journey.

When the carriage door was finally opened by the estate's head footman, Girardo, Saguzar could have kissed him. Although, for that to work she'd probably need to have him lean over for that to work. Girardo was a tall young man, cleanshaven, with a serious air about him. As Marcella, and then Bertran, were assisted out of the carriage Saguzar sensed something was amiss. There was a tension to the young man's expression.

As Saguzar disembarked, casually letting her hand brush the arm of Girardo as he assisted her, she realised what was wrong: there was no turnout of housestaff beyond Girardo and another older gentleman who had solved the issue of hairloss by shaving his pate completely bald and compensated for the loss with a well-groomed beard and moustache.

---

Hieronimo Bernat Errando De Torrijos was discomfited by the chain of events which forced him to abandon the previously established greeting ceremony. As Girardo stood in readiness at the side, Hieronimo bowed deeply to Marcella "Dona Marcella Guiate De Morua, welcome to the Pazo Guiate De Qadis. I am your Majordomo, Hieronimo, and I apologise that circumstances have not permitted a more leisurely greeting. Nicolao, your principal liason with the main brokerage in Qadis, arrived this morning with urgent news. I have taken the liberty of installing him in the parlour with light food and entertainment to await your arrival."

Saguzar noted that the sun had started its descent, and gauged the time to be approximately an hour past noon. It must be an urgent matter indeed if a man was willing to cool his heels for several hours just to deliver a message. She glanced at Bertran and Marcella to gauge reactions but held her tongue, preferrring insted to take up her position as Lady's Maid at Marcella's side.

The estate's majordomo, Hieronimo, straightened and enquired "Mistress, may I have your instructions?"

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