[Astedia]The Dragon and the Rose

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[Astedia]The Dragon and the Rose

Postby Tessa (Celeste) » Sat Dec 30, 2017 9:42 am

46th Zi'da, 717 Celeste was tired. Tired of this pregnancy, of feeling, well, tired. All of her life she had craved more political power, to be in charge of her own destiny and not be beholden to the whims of those who could dictate to her and it was, finally, happening. Which was frankly a little overwhelming for the Baroness of Astedia. But she was coming to grips with it, working hard and ensuring that she did everything she needed to, in order to be the best at this she could.

Pregnancy, though, did not help. She was tired and grouchy, she knew it. Her ankles and lower legs were swollen and she craved ridiculous foodstuffs. All in all, Celeste had decided that men, especially Xander, had it easy. They didn't have to haul around all this extra weight, experience so many additional symptoms and then, of course, the biggie, they didn't have to, oh, give birth. It sounded very painful and Celeste really didn't want to do it. As she'd told Xander, most sincerely, it really wasn't her cup of tea and she wondered if he might like to impregnate someone else next time and they could just pretend it was hers?

She'd been half serious.

However, this trial she had a meeting and Celeste knew it was an important one. So she let Lin fuss around her and sort out her make up. The Duke of Oakleigh was arriving for a visit and Celeste was rather delighted to hear that. She was determined that Andaris would be in the prime position, politically, and alliances were good for that. Also, the Duke of Oakleigh was rumoured to be quite the character and Celeste was just a little intrigued. He'd been to their wedding and had seemed perfectly lovely then, so she was pleased that he'd responded to her invitation.

So, when Tristan arrived, he was very quickly shown in to a very nice lounge and brought refreshments. Moments after he arrived, Celeste made her way in to see him. She was heavily pregnant, very much so. Although she was not due until the end of next season, the doctor had told them more than once now that the sheer size of her suggested a multiple birth. Celeste did not like the sound of that, not one little bit. Still. She walked in and she smiled, then did the best curtsy she could, all things considered. "Your Grace. Thank you so much for visiting. My apologies for not being able to make it to Oakleigh," she said, her hand moving to her stomach. "I appear to be somewhat indisposed."

Please note: As of Ashan 718, Celeste Andaris has been kidnapped and has disappeared. Following the events in this thread she believes herself to be Tessa Anders, a streetwalker in Ivorian.

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[Astedia]The Dragon and the Rose

Postby Tristan Venora » Mon Jan 01, 2018 4:17 am

Tristan on the other hand had never craved political power although he had occasionally pretended to be the king when he had been younger. Being a politician was often unpleasant and hard work, and you had a lot of enemies that either wanted what you had or simply wanted to kill you.

No, he’d just wanted to lead a comfortable life, eat nice food, wear nice clothes and sleep with the occasional woman. Then he’d somehow managed to help save the king’s life, and the king had decided to reward him with his own duchy. All of a sudden he’d become one of the most powerful men in the kingdom.

He had only found out that his appointment was controversial and that not everybody wanted him as their duke after he had said “yes”. That was why he was currently on his way to meet Celeste Andaris. If he wanted to be a successful duke, he needed allies, he needed to trade with other duchies, and he needed to convince people that he actually cared.

He knew the Baroness, having been a guest at her wedding to Xander Krome, but he didn’t know much about her as a person yet which, to him, was just as important as all the political stuff to him, so he was looking forward to getting to know her better. Who knew, maybe she’d become a friend?

Since dukes didn’t just walk somewhere on foot, and he didn’t much enjoy walking anyway, he arrived on horseback (and with guards). His horse was called Maxos, after Celeste’s older and probably deceased brother Peake Maxos Andaris, but he’d never tell her that.

Neither would he tell her that he had once made a sculpture of her brother that was completely naked. He didn’t much care about the rumours that might arise from that, but telling a woman that might still be grieving that you had made a naked sculpture of her dead brother was totally inappropriate!

Once his guards had gone wherever guards usually went when their employer had an important meeting, he was shown to a lounge. It was a very nice lounge too, and the refreshments they brought him were so delicious that he had to keep himself from just eating them all.

As Celeste walked in, he immediately stood. He knew that he was of a higher station than Celeste, and that a baroness was expected to curtsy when meeting a duke. Normally he would have enjoyed the attention too, but she was pregnant, so it just seemed cruel to him!

“You don’t need to do that, Baroness, at least not when we are alone and none of our fellow dukes and barons are watching us”, he thus informed her. “I gladly came to Andaris”, he continued and glanced at her stomach. It was so big that it looked like she had a couple of babies in there! Was looking at the stomach of a pregnant woman okay, by the way?

He decided to focus on her face again, just in case.

“When are you due, if you don’t mind my question?” he asked. He wanted to talk about normal things a bit before they moved on to politics. “I recently became a parent myself, but I decided to leave my daughter with my servants as such a meeting would only bore her.”

“Her name’s Ayla”,
he said.
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[Astedia]The Dragon and the Rose

Postby Tessa (Celeste) » Thu Jan 04, 2018 6:22 am

46th Zi'da, 717 When he was so kind and immediately gracious, Celeste looked at Tristan with a grateful smile and she spoke with genuine pleasure in her voice. "Thank you, your Grace. I assure you, I can usually muster up a better curtsy than that." She smiled as he stared at her stomach, as though expecting her to explode or some such at any trill. "Shall we sit?" He was glad to have come to Andaris? Celeste smiled at him and his thoughtfulness. It seemed quite genuine, she thought and that was rare. Still, she was also going soft as a brush, she knew, with the pregnancy - this man was a political animal, the quiet one who had stepped ahead of Alistair and Andraska.

"At the beginning of Cylus," she said in response to his question. Her hand on her stomach moved slightly and her face held a slightly ironic expression. "The doctor believes there might be more than one." She smiled in genuine delight when he said that he had become a parent and then told her his daughter's name. "Ayla. Oh, that's a pretty name. I have a daughter, too, Ala'ni. She was at the wedding." Celeste smiled what she would consider a sappy smile when she spoke her daughter's name.

"Honestly, your Grace," she said and her face was almost wistful, "I wonder how very different life is about to be, once again. It certainly changes ones priorities, or so I found." It was almost a shame to talk about politics and trade agreements, Celeste thought. "How old is Ayla? I would love to meet her some time, perhaps our children can be friends. Which sounds like a very mature and grown up thing to say, now I think on it." Not so long ago, she had rolled her eyes at the thought of being quite so old, but there it was.

"I haven't, as yet, had a chance to get there, I'm afraid," Celeste had intended to, in fact, "how are you finding the Eastern Settlements?"

Please note: As of Ashan 718, Celeste Andaris has been kidnapped and has disappeared. Following the events in this thread she believes herself to be Tessa Anders, a streetwalker in Ivorian.

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[Astedia]The Dragon and the Rose

Postby Tristan Venora » Sat Jan 06, 2018 2:08 am

“Yes, please. Let’s take a seat“, Tristan replied and stepped aside so that Celeste could sit down before he did so himself. She was due in Cylus? He looked at her as if he were doubting her words. Her stomach looked so big that it wouldn’t surprise him at all if she went into labor right now (which he really hoped she wouldn’t because he didn’t know much about childbirth and was sure he would panic or be sick). But if she was expecting twins or even triplets, then it was okay, right? Right?

He had been prepared to defend Ayla. When his half-brother Hart had been born his grandmother, Duchess Ebony, had done what she could to hide his existence. He had not found out about Hart until the arc before. Illegitimate children were often considered to be something to be ashamed of. He wanted to change that, and if he had to, he would force his fellow nobles to accept his daughter somehow. Ayla was nothing to be ashamed of. He was proud of her, and he would make her his successor even if he didn’t know how yet.

When Celeste didn’t make a face, but just made a compliment about Ayla’s name and smiled a smile that seemed pretty genuine to him, Tristan stared at her for a moment. He hadn’t expected that. She was a baroness. She would be Duchess Andaris one trial. She was supposed to be just like the rest of them, stuck-up and conservative beyond measure. Finally, he smiled at her as well and replied, “Thank you, Baroness. Ayla is a wonderful child. She isn’t two arcs old yet, but I already can’t imagine life without her anymore.”

Actually Ayla had only been born earlier that arc, but she aged faster than normal due to her Immortal blood. He decided that it would be unwise to tell Celeste – or anybody else – her real age though, no matter how tolerant they seemed. Magic was outlawed in Rynmere, and to somebody that had never met the child of an Immortal Ayla would look as if she were magical. He didn’t want them to lock his baby up somewhere and experiment on her – or kill her!

“I met Ala’ni at the wedding”, he replied, remembering that Celeste’s girl was adopted. Most nobles, he realized, would probably disapprove of the future Duchess Andaris adopting a child, but Tristan didn’t care. He was not like most nobles, and he had no desire to be like them either. “She seemed like a lovely child. Maybe I will take Ayla with me the next time we meet so that we can introduce our daughters to each other. It would be good for Ayla to get to know a few noble children. There are none in Oakleigh.”

“Time passes quickly, doesn’t it?”
he asked somewhat wistfully. The arc before he had just been the largely insignificant older son of Baron Noah Venora. He had made weird sculptures, written weird plays, and the greatest challenge had been getting his cat to behave. Now thousands of people depended on him. It had been quite an adjustment!

“As for how I’m finding the Eastern Settlement”, he replied and took a deep breath. This was probably where most dukes would start to sugarcoat things, but Tristan believed that it was best to be honest. Besides, there was nothing that he needed to be ashamed of!

“It’s challenging. You probably remember that King Cassander only recently turned the Eastern Settlement into three duchies to bind them closer to the kingdom – and made me the first duke. Before that the three regions had a lot of independence, and the merchant families were in charge. Part of my job is to convince the merchant families that having me there now really isn’t such a bad thing.”

“Oakleigh also has a lot of potential though. It’s beautiful. The people are very different from those in Rynmere. They seem freer and less traditionalist. There is a lot of undeveloped land, especially to the north of my duchy, and there are still a lot of possibilities for people to get involved, to trade as well as forge new alliances.”

“Oakleigh has been neglected a bit in that regard so far in my opinion.”
He paused and laughed as he realized what had just happened. “I wanted to get to know you a bit better before we start talking politics, but it seems as if I’ve broken my resolution. I hope you don’t mind!”

“By the way, how are you adjusting to your new position – if you don’t mind the question?”
he asked. She probably hadn’t expected to ever become a Duchess – unless she married a Duke!
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[Astedia]The Dragon and the Rose

Postby Tessa (Celeste) » Sat Jan 06, 2018 11:46 am

He seemed rather surprised that she reacted positively to his daughter. Celeste knew that Tristan wasn't married and she imagined that there was some sort of scandal somewhere regarding his daughter's mother. After all, as far as all her information told her, Celeste had no idea who Ayla's mother was. Probably a commoner, maybe even a low-born or slave, Celeste wondered.

Tristan regarded her and then he seemed to come to some sort of conclusion. Celeste smiled and shook her head, when he thanked her. "There is no need for thanks, Your Grace. I understand that the old ways, the traditions of our parents and grandparents," his grandmother was the Duchess of Venora, as her grandfather was the Duke of Andaris. "But I'm sure that the world won't end were we to call each other by our first names and, honestly?" Glancing at the door to make sure that no one of diminutive stature was listening, Celeste explained. "Ala'ni is my daughter by adoption, as is well known, I've made no secret of it. It isn't something which is easily accepted by those who do not like change. But I refuse to apologise for loving my daughter, Your Grace." It was rare, but for reasons which she did not fully understand, Celeste found herself quite liking Tristan Venora. He played the game, yet he recognised it as unnecessary and that was something which she appreciated.

When he said that Ala'ni seemed like a lovely child, Celeste smiled a most genuine smile, although she looked a little sad. "She's been through a lot and she's very aware of her difference. But thank you, Your Grace, yes, she is. And please, call me Celeste. I believe the house is strong enough to remain standing should you do so." If he brought Ayla with him, she assured him, she would be delighted for the two children to spend some time together. When he spoke of time passing quickly, though, she could only nod her head. Yes, indeed it did.

He would have issues, she imagined, with juggling the necessity to wed and also wanting Ayla to be his heir. If he wanted that, although she thought he would. But then, she was making a judgement based on an initial meeting and Celeste did not know, not for sure.

Duke Tristan's take on the Eastern Settlements, though, was surprisingly honest. Cassander had done a number on him, by the sounds of it and Celeste raised an eyebrow. "Sounds somewhat like a poison chalice, to be frank." But then, one did not refuse the king, not at all. Her smile was genuine, though, when he admitted that he'd hoped to get to know her better before talking politics. "Well, if it helps, I suspect we have managed more honest conversation in five bits than many of our peers would in a ten trial." Was she enjoying her new position? Oh, that was a tricky one, in many ways.

"When I was engaged to Alistair Venora," Celeste replied, "I believed that I understood what my role as a wife would be. Xander is nothing like most nobles, and I have to say I did not expect events to turn out quite how they have." Unaware that he was speaking of her position as Baroness, Celeste assumed he meant her role as wife ~ truthfully it had been as big an adjustment, if not more so. "What about you, Your Grace? I imagine there is not inconsiderable pressure on you to wed?"

Please note: As of Ashan 718, Celeste Andaris has been kidnapped and has disappeared. Following the events in this thread she believes herself to be Tessa Anders, a streetwalker in Ivorian.

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[Astedia]The Dragon and the Rose

Postby Tristan Venora » Mon Jan 08, 2018 2:56 am

“I’m Tristan“, he said as Celeste talked about calling each other by their first names and smiled because he really hadn’t expected her to say that. Baroness Andaris, he decided, was full of surprises. “I don’t like being called ‘Your Grace’ all that much anyway. It makes me feel old. My grandmother is ‘Your Grace’ as well”, he explained. “As for your daughter – you are sitting next to the duke who is probably the most open-minded and interested in change. You don’t have to defend her. I don’t care that she’s adopted. As I said, she seems like a lovely child.”

He laughed and shook his head as if she had just said something incredibly funny, but a moment later, when she called what he had been given a poisoned chalice, the expression on his face grew serious again. He had often wondered why Cassander had given him such a duchy. The king was supposed to be his friend. Surely he had been aware of the fact that the people of the Eastern Settlement would not welcome him with open arms. Couldn’t he have given him a different reward for saving his life or at least have supplied him with an army that protected him in case his new subjects decided to try and overthrow him?

He looked at Celeste, wondering if he should be honest with her in that regard as well – but if he said everything that was on his mind right now, it would sound like treason even though he was not interested in betraying the king right now. So he just shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Maybe. But what’s happened, has happened, and maybe I’ll actually be able to surprise them all and turn Oakleigh into a prosperous duchy full of people who love their duke.” He had decided to be optimistic because he really didn’t enjoy being depressed and was not very good at it either.

If everything failed, he thought, he could always take Ayla, run, have a castle built on an island somewhere and become a mysterious alchemist – or a pirate! That would be fun!

“I’m glad that you didn’t marry Alistair”, he remarked. “Even though I would have loved to have somebody like you become a member of my family. I think …” he leaned closer to her and lowered his voice. “I think Alistair’s gay – which is of course only a small problem compared to everything else. Still, it would have made things difficult.” He wondered if he should really have said that, and then he decided that it didn’t matter. Alistair had lost his title, and he was unlikely to ever get it back.

“Maybe we could become allies though”, he added. “That would be almost as good.”

“Cassander already told me that I would have to get married when I accepted the duchy”,
he admitted and made a face. He knew that he would have to find a wife soon if he didn’t want the king to be mad at him, but he did not want to marry a woman that he didn’t love and that likely didn’t love him either and might not accept his daughter.

He was about to ask Celeste what she thought about arranged marriages, if she thought that that custom was cruel and unnecessary as well, but then he realized that her marriage had probably been arranged, so he kept his mouth shut. She seemed to love her husband now, but she might still react negatively, and he really needed her support.

“I’ll probably have to get to know the potential candidates soon”, he said. He was pretty sure he would lose his duchy if he didn’t follow tradition and get married - within his own social class. On the other hand, maybe refusing to get married would be his way out if he didn’t manage to convince his subjects that having him in Oakleigh was a great thing!

“I can only hope that I’ll be as lucky as you are and come to love my spouse.”
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[Astedia]The Dragon and the Rose

Postby Tessa (Celeste) » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:49 pm

He didn't like being called 'Your Grace'? That was interesting, Celeste stored it away. "Well, then Tristan and Celeste we shall be. Although, if I might be so bold, Your Grace can be said in a number of different ways. Perhaps ask your servants to practice saying it in a way as though they were saying 'you're awesome' or 'you're brave' - said with amazement and astonishment, I'm sure it sounds better."[/i] At the very least she thought it might be something which appealed to him. When he put forward his viewpoint on Ala'ni, Celeste smiled a most genuine smile. "I am so pleased that you think so. Thank you." There were more than enough who would deny the girl and Celeste was horrified at them.

He laughed when she spoke of it being a poison chalice, but it was a hollow, brittle laugh. Like he felt the same way. He did, she thought, but he didn't like that he felt it. Or maybe he liked the king or felt something which wasn't appropriate. She did not and could not know, but Celeste knew better than to push right now. It would be crass and inappropriate and she tried very hard never to be either of those things. So, she smiled and nodded. "I look forward to hearing about it."

When he said that he was glad that she didn't marry Alistair, though, Celeste had to admit to being more than a little surprised. Then his reasoning was more than enough to have her look at him, somewhat flabbergasted, before a laugh escaped her. "I think he is, yes." She wasn't going to tell him more than that, or how she knew. Her brother had told her, after all. But when he offered an alliance, Celeste smiled in surprise, but pleasure too. "I have worked very hard to make alliances, trade agreements and so on. But I can tell you most honestly, Tristan, I would very much like that." He was like a breath of fresh air, in comparison to Alistair Venora certainly. She wondered just how much she could, and then she risked it. "Although, I am afraid I must inform you," she said, apparently seriously. "That Andraska Venora has the title of 'my favourite Venora' and I am afraid I must be honest with you about that. How is Andraska, have you seen him lately?"

There had been talk, of course, of Celeste and Andraska having some kind of a relationship and that had even made it into the Rynmere Gazette. Celeste couldn't help but smile at Tristan's face pull at the thought of a wife, though. Meeting the candidates made it sound like he was lining up potential women in a job interview. His final words, though, about her and Xander? Celeste smiled and spoke honestly. "I had no intention of loving my husband. I was quite prepared to quietly hate him my whole life through. However the fates, or the Immortals, saw fit to bless us." Her hand moved to her stomach, where her child grew and she added, "and then again. I hope you are as lucky."

Tilting her head to the side she wondered. "Should we discuss politics and trade agreements and such now?" It seemed that straightforward and without guile was how Tristan Venora, Duke of Oakleigh worked. That was fine, that she could do. When necessary.

Please note: As of Ashan 718, Celeste Andaris has been kidnapped and has disappeared. Following the events in this thread she believes herself to be Tessa Anders, a streetwalker in Ivorian.

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[Astedia]The Dragon and the Rose

Postby Tristan Venora » Sat Jan 13, 2018 4:24 am

“I should ask my servants to do that“, Tristan agreed and grinned. “That would definitely sound better!” It was a pity that there were none of his servants nearby right now because he was really eager to try Celeste’s suggestion out. Who should ask first by the way? Lianne, Brandon, Hannah – or perhaps Sintih? Sintih would probably make a face and be really reluctant to address him in such a tone which would make it all the more fun. Lianne on the other hand probably thought he was awesome anyway, judging by how often she had shared his bed in the past. Sintih it would be, he decided.

“You know?” Tristan’s eyes widened, and he immediately wondered if his suspicion that Alistair had only been engaged to Celeste in order to get closer to Peake was true, but he decided not to ask Celeste if her brother and his cousin had been involved. It would be completely unacceptable, especially considering that Peake was probably dead now.

Andraska was her favourite Venora? He furrowed his brow. He suddenly remembered an article that he had read in the Gazette ages ago. Had she been in a relationship with Andraska? He thought about it, and then he decided that it didn’t matter. In his opinion people were allowed to have a relationship with whoever they wanted, even if most other nobles probably disagreed, and Andraska was probably a better and more interesting lover than most.

“That’s okay”, he said. “I’m only half a Venora nowadays anyway. I’ll just be your favourite Oakleigh, if that’s okay with you. As for whether I have seen him lately, unfortunately not. He seems to be pretty busy now that he’s a Baron and future Duke. I heard that he will be attending Oliver’s charity gala though. Maybe you’ll be able to talk to him then.” While he was glad that Celeste had not married Alistair, it was definitely a shame that she hadn’t become Andraska’s wife, he thought.

Xander seemed like a decent man, but Andraska would have made her life fun!

“Sure”, he replied as she asked whether they should discuss politics and trade agreements and such. This, he thought, was where he would have to advertise his duchy.

“Let’s start with trade first”, he decided because it seemed like it would be the easiest part. He had actually done a little research before he had travelled to Andaris, and he’d even made a list (that he hopefully wouldn’t need because it would probably make him look a little incompetent).

“Oakleigh is rich in natural resources. The plains to the south are perfect for farming, and the merchant families, the Clydes and the Lancasters, breed horses, sheep and cattle, some of the finest, if I may say so. Wool and leather as well as items made from those materials are important exports as are meat and fish. Oakleigh also harbours the biggest vineyard in the entire area. And then we have the Thorn family who grow special plants that are used to make medicine of course. On top of that, I might be able to arrange trade agreements with Welles and Berwick for you.”

“What do you need, and what kind of goods could Andaris and Astedia in particular offer?”
he then asked and secretly wondered if that was how such matters were usually handled. Coming from a secondary branch of the family, he had never expected to become a duke one trial, and he had thus attended very few of his grandmother’s meetings.
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[Astedia]The Dragon and the Rose

Postby Tessa (Celeste) » Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:05 am

"The first rule of politics, so my grandfather taught me," Celeste said with a slight smile, "is that how you say something is at least as important as what you say." He was a very wise man, her grandfather and in fairness, Celeste could not fault his advice.

Tristan seemed rather surprised that she knew about Alistair's predilections and preferences. She nodded and, unaware of just what she was fueling, replied, "my brother, Peake, told me." That meant, as far as Celeste was concerned, that everyone knew. Of course, she didn't mention that her brother had told her to remind her that she would always be his, no matter who he married her to. That was a different issue and not one that the young Baroness shared. However, as the conversation moved on, Celeste smiled and nodded her head. "I assure you, that you are already quite my favourite Oakleigh," she smiled at Tristan as he suggested that. He would be at Oliver's charity gala? Celeste nodded.

"We will be there. In truth, my husband worries that it is too much for me, but I am sure it will be fine." Little did she know just how fine it would not be, but instead she smiled and asked, "will you be there?"

However, pleasantries aside, they began to discuss trade. Celeste had to admit, he was forthright and clear. She liked that and she realised that he reminded her of Andraska, but in another way not. "Well, Astedia specifically is known predominantly for books, luxury goods and medicine. We have the Verne Andaris Medical School, which is a very eminent and respected place for the study of medicine. There is a parallel focus, in Drakengard specifically, on the creation of, and training in, weapons and armour" Those were the main exports which he might be interested in. "What is needed is metal, livestock. Horses, certainly would be of interest and maybe other livestock too." Looking at Tristan she smiled. "It sounds like a fascinating place, your Duchy. I look forward to being able to visit"

With a slight frown, showing that she was thinking depely, she considered, "We could also look at, for example, us sending some people from the Medical School to train or set up a satellite campus in Oakleigh, with something similar being done in return? It might be of mutual use?"

Please note: As of Ashan 718, Celeste Andaris has been kidnapped and has disappeared. Following the events in this thread she believes herself to be Tessa Anders, a streetwalker in Ivorian.

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[Astedia]The Dragon and the Rose

Postby Tristan Venora » Tue Jan 23, 2018 3:26 am

“That sounds a lot like what they would tell an actor“, Tristan remarked and smirked. “I took acting classes a few arcs ago. A lot of time was spent on teaching us how to talk. There’s a difference between being on a stage and talking to your friends in your living room”, he explained. Sometimes the political scene of Rynmere reminded him of a huge theatre, with the lords and ladies playing the part of the actors. They frequently pretended to be something they weren’t, hid their true thoughts and put on a show for the sake of their subjects, vying for their attention so that they would like them better and give them stuff – and they would stop at nothing to get the leading role!

“I wasn’t aware that somebody had made an actual list though”, he admitted, and his eyes widened. Why had nobody ever made such a list for him? It sounded really useful, and it would make taking care of his duchy so much easier! He wanted one – right now!

“What are the other rules?” he wanted to know, and added, “Your grandfather sounds like a wise man.”

Her brother had told her? He stared at her as she said that. So it was true! Alistair and Peake had been in a secret relationship, and Alistair had wanted to marry Celeste so that he could be closer to his lover! That would be a huge scandal if it became public knowledge … or it would have been if Alistair hadn’t suddenly decided to also start a relationship with the madman that had tried to kill the king. He couldn’t help but wonder what his cousin had been thinking and came to the conclusion that he probably hadn’t been thinking at all.

Maybe he was suffering from brain damage. No normal man would give up a duchy and run away with a wanted criminal!

Fortunately Celeste distracted him from his least favourite cousin ever with her remark that he was already quite her favourite Oakleigh. He practically beamed at her even though a grown man and a duke really shouldn’t beam at people like that, and then he replied, “I will of course be there. I wouldn’t want to miss such an event. It will also give me an opportunity to talk to Oliver and Darcy again. I haven’t seen them in a while.”

Tristan really liked luxury goods, but he knew that medicine was more important, so when she talked about her people setting up a satellite campus in Oakleigh he replied, “That sounds like an excellent idea. In exchange I could send some of my subjects to Astedia so that they can teach you what they know. Oakleigh will also gladly provide you with livestock and horses in exchange luxury goods, weapons and armor.”

He hoped that his subjects would obey him and agree to trade with Astedia when he told them of this meeting … but then again, why shouldn’t they? They weren’t only people that had been given a duke they hadn’t asked for, they were also merchants and wanted to make money!

“As for metal, we might also be able to provide that in the future”, he said. “One of my long-term plans is to develop the northern half of Oakleigh. There is a big mountain range there”, he explained in case Celeste wasn’t familiar with the geography of Oakleigh. It was probably time to move on to the political part of their meeting now, but he didn’t know how exactly to broach the topic without looking as if he were desperate for political support. At the same time he was pretty sure that he ought to make the first step though because he was a duke, so he decided to just cast his insecurities aside and started talking.

“I also wanted to discuss a possible political alliance with you”, he admitted. “I know that a lot of people have a somewhat mixed opinion of me due to my rapid promotion, but no matter what they say, an alliance would allow you to extend your influence beyond this island, and that’s something that is worth striving for, isn’t it?”
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