Gerrhonot is heading back from the buffet after eating his fill of food he could recognize, with a fresh plate of delicacies for Seruffin, whom he left with D'zoll and Shorsh.
Eulalia is sitting on a chair in the room with the buffet, trying to gather the strength to play the hostess at the dancing. She's ~~ exhausted ~~ from the preparations, but she doesn't dare leave her son to select his own dance partners, or they'll all end up being married or otherwise ineligible. She just hopes she'll be able to find the stamina somewhere.
Gerrhonot threads his way around the edges of the crowd and almost passes an old woman sitting against the wall, looking very tired.
Gerrhonot: Are you okay, Miz? Can I get you anything?
Eulalia looks up, ~~ curious ~~ about the accent.
Eulalia: I'm just a little tired, Mr...? I'm sorry, I don't recognize you.
Gerrhonot: Oh. My name is Gerrhonot.
Gerrhonot offers his hand to shake.
Eulalia hesitates, as her hands are already sore from the receiving line, but manners were drilled into her at finishing school, and she gingerly offers her hand.
Gerrhonot takes the hand lightly and shakes it very gently.
Eulalia: Please to meet you, Mr. Gerrhonot. I'm Eulalia Pollovic, your hostess. At least, if I can last out the evening. I'm not as young as I used to be.
Gerrhonot: Pleased to meet you, Miz Pollovic.
Gerrhonot figures that nobody is as young as they used to be, but isn't going to argue.
Gerrhonot: Would you like some of these fruit things? They're very good.
Gerrhonot offers the plate. There seems to be an unlimited supply of food.
Eulalia: That's very kind of you. I'm famished, but there's too much jostling around the buffet just now -- I'd be knocked off my feet.
Gerrhonot sits in the vacant chair next to the woman.
Gerrhonot: You can have all these. I can go back for more.
Eulalia daintily eats a slice of apple.
Eulalia: These are good. Not that they shouldn't be, but caterers can take shortcuts when they think you're not watching.
Gerrhonot: It's nice to have fruit in the dead of winter like this.
Eulalia: You can always find something, if you're willing to pay for it. For catering, at least.
Eulalia: Finding good help with the proper skills is a bit more difficult. It's taken years, but I finally found a young man who can be trusted with my roses.
Gerrhonot: That's good. Not everybody likes working with plants.
Eulalia: He has a magic touch with them. I can't get a commitment from him, though. He doesn't seem to value a secure position and steady wages.
Gerrhonot: I guess some people are just like that. They don't want to be tied down.
Eulalia: Well, this Nick fellow said he had another position he was considering, but I offered to double his wages.
Gerrhonot: He must be really good.
Gerrhonot wonders whether Nick Reckage has met this gardener guy Nick. Nick likes plants too, but he told him out at the Dam that looking after Farrises doesn't leave much time for it.
Eulalia: Yes, he is. He repotted my roses, and they're looking beautiful. He's been staying here with a guest of my son's. Not a bad guest, even if she does have tentacles.
Eulalia says this ~~ grudgingly ~~, but honestly.
Gerrhonot: Oh, you mean Hajene Katsura and Sosu Nick?
Eulalia: Yes, the good-looking young gardener.
Gerrhonot: I don't think you'll get Nick to work for you.
Eulalia: Why not? I have a respectable household. He'd never have to be worried about not getting his wages, not like some households.
Gerrhonot: He's ambrov Sat'htine now. He won't move out-T.
Gerrhonot is a little envious of Nick's good fortune, but mostly he's happy for him.
Eulalia: He's what?
Gerrhonot: He's joined the House of Sat'htine, Hajene Katsura's House. They're one of the most famous and respected Houses.
Eulalia: He's running off to Simeland? Wasting his skills?
Gerrhonot: He's a really top Donor, a Companion now. That's his most important skill, but he'll get a chance to do some gardening if he wants. Sat'htine has a really good farm. Not many Donors have his rating, and hardly anybody has his talent. Except some Farris Gens, I guess.
Eulalia doesn't value Donor skills, but she hasn't been a political wife since Unity without learning a little bit about status in Simeland.
Eulalia: That's... very unfortunate. I suppose that means I'm going to have to find another way to get my arthritis treated.
Eulalia had been cherishing the hope that she could persuade her son's guests to change their plans.
Gerrhonot: Was Hajene Katsura treating you for that? I guess some other channel at the Sime Center could help you, but probably not a Farris like her.
Eulalia: She has been very helpful to me. She has very good handwriting; she addressed most of the invitations to this ball.
Gerrhonot: Hajene Katsura is a top channel. She must be one of the best in her House, since her Sectuib made her the Heir. But it was nice of her to help you with all that writing.
Gerrhonot finds writing difficult and tiring.
Eulalia is starting to get the impression that she's been conned.
Pollovic pauses at the buffet for a plateful of food. He's just finished dutifully dancing with Tammy, one of his mother's bridal candidates. He's already ruled that one out; whatever her other qualifications, she's just plain irritating to be with.
Eulalia: I can see that my son has some explaining to do.
Eulalia is getting quite ~~ indignant ~~, the more she thinks about it.
Gerrhonot wonders if he's said the wrong things again.
Eulalia: He gave me the distinct impression that his houseguests were not the sort to attract attention to themselves.
Gerrhonot: Oh, they were in some political trouble, so they were trying to keep quiet, but that's all sorted out now. My channel helped them. But Nick's a real nice guy, not a stuffed shirt like some top Donors. And Hajene Kat seems really nice too.
Eulalia: Political trouble? What sort of political trouble?
Eulalia has been focusing on New Washington politics and the social scene, not interterritorial affairs, lately.
Gerrhonot: It's kind of complicated. Um. Nick got assigned to work with some people, and some other people don't like those people, so they don't like Nick either, now. So they were trying to give him a hard time, but Hajene Katsura stuck with him and they protected each other.
Gerrhonot thinks that's the right way for things to be -- channel and Companion sticking together and protecting each other.
Eulalia is good judge of people, and right now, she's starting to suspect that this young man is a bit simple.
Eulalia: I'll have to ask them for the whole story, before they go.
Eulalia is definitely in the mood for some explanation.
Gerrhonot feels bad that he's set that off.
Gerrhonot: Um. I don't think Nick will want to talk about it. And a lot of it is hard to explain without using Simelan. It's kind of technical.
Gerrhonot wonders if that will deter Miz Pollovic. She probably doesn't know much about Simes or how they organize their lives, or how things are in the Tecton.
Eulalia: Your Sosu Nick has been leading me on, pretending to be a professional gardener. I think an explanation is the least of what he owes me.
Pollovic adds a small sandwich to his plate. It's almost time for him to go check whether the extra staff his mother hired have managed to take down all his Sime Territory signs again. His security people are starting to run out of spare signs to put up.
Gerrhonot: Oh, Nick worked on farms for about ten years before he became a Donor, so he's got a lot of experience with plants.
Eulalia: He didn't see fit to explain that he'd changed his profession.
Gerrhonot: But he's with Hajene Katsura. Oh, I guess you aren't used to channels and Donors, so you didn't realize how he was working with her all the time.
Gerrhonot figured she should at least have noticed that the two of them were doing shifts together at the Sime Center, but maybe not.
Eulalia mostly worries about the comings and goings of servants when they aren't where they're needed.
Eulalia: I realize he waits on her. A waste of his true talents, although I suppose it's a more prestigious position.
Gerrhonot: Well, he helps her work, just like I help Hajene Seruffin. It doesn't show much to Gens, but it's real clear to Simes.
Pollovic knows that legally, the tasteful, permanent brass plaque at the front gate of his estate is enough, but he'd wanted extra signage in sight this evening to bring the point home. He glances around the room and spots Sosu Gerrhonot politely putting up with his mother.
Eulalia sniffs, her ~~ disappointment ~~ apparent in her expression as well as her nager.
Eulalia: I just hope he knows someone else who can take care of my roses. I'm too old to keep hiring gardeners all the time.
Gerrhonot: Um. I hope you can find somebody good. I don't think Nick knows many people in New Washington.
Eulalia: If he did gardening for ten years, surely he knows somebody who can be trusted with the task?
Gerrhonot: Um. Maybe.
Pollovic crosses the room to join the pair.
Gerrhonot stands respectfully, and to make it easier to get away.
Gerrhonot: Hello, Senator Pollovic.
Eulalia: Brenn. You have some explaining to do.
Pollovic: Sosu Gerrhonot. How are you doing?
Gerrhonot: I'm okay. Thanks for inviting us. It's a nice party.
Pollovic: Are you getting enough to eat?
Gerrhonot: Yes. The food is really good.
Pollovic figures that question will give Gerrhonot an excuse to escape if he wants one.
Pollovic: Don't be afraid to go for seconds; there's more than enough.
Gerrhonot: Oh, okay. I want to get some for Hajene Seruffin, too. Would you like anything, Miz Pollovic?
Eulalia: No, thank you. I've had enough.
Gerrhonot: Um. Well. Nice talking to you!
Gerrhonot heads for the buffet table, hoping that Miz Pollovic won't give Nick and Kat a hard time.
Eulalia turns on her son as soon as Gerrhonot is out of earshot, her ~~ fury ~~ apparent in her glittering, beady eyes.
Pollovic: What's the matter, Mother?
Eulalia: How could you, Brenn? It's one thing to accept a Sime houseguest, and quite another to hide from your mother who she is.
Pollovic: I tried to tell you she's a top-rated channel. You weren't listening.
Eulalia: You didn't tell me she's, well, effectively a princess. Not even when she was addressing invitations, and her... accomplice was repotting my roses.
Pollovic: I believe I mentioned "Heir to Sat'htine" at least twice. And I tried repeatedly to tell you there wasn't much chance Sosu Nick would want a job as a gardener.
Eulalia is very good at ignoring things she doesn't want to hear, including evidence of her own ability to ignore things she doesn't want to hear.
Eulalia: Do you realize how easy it would have been to set off an Incident?
Pollovic: I did quite carefully warn you that their presence here was not to be advertised.
Pollovic is feeling stressed enough already tonight, and has little patience to spare for his mother's foibles.
Eulalia: But you didn't see fit to prevent your own mother from being publicly humiliated.
Eulalia: What else can you call it?
Pollovic isn't sure he really wants to know, but he makes a polite inquisitive noise.
Eulalia: You would think it was rude if a relative of a Sime official was crass enough to offer you a position as, say, a stable hand?
Pollovic: I'd be a bit amused, I'm sure. But I'd take it as a simple cross-cultural misunderstanding, not a deliberate insult. And maybe as a compliment to my skill with horses.
Pollovic privately doubts anyone would compliment his equine skills. To him, horses are a utility, not an obsession.
Eulalia: Well, I hope your guests accept it as such, because otherwise your position could become much more precarious.
Pollovic: I wouldn't worry.
Pollovic decides a change of topic is in order.
Pollovic: You'll be pleased to know I've worked my way through almost a third of your list, though only one from my own.
Eulalia: What do you think of their potential?
Pollovic: Senator Three's wife's niece, Slina, is...
Pollovic searches for a polite way to phrase it.
Pollovic: ... utterly unsuitable.
Eulalia: She was a long shot, but her mother is an old friend's daughter, so she had to be included.
Pollovic: I've ruled out Chuck's daughter, Tammy, as well. Whatever her other qualifications may be, she's just plain irritating.
Eulalia: Really? She talks a lot when she's nervous, but that's nothing unusual. She doesn't seem to be distressed by Simes, and I thought that was your main requirement?
Pollovic: I also want someone I can stand to be in the same room with. ~~ dry ~~
Eulalia gestures an impatient dismissal.
Eulalia: They're all young -- they have to be, if you want a family. Most of them settle right down once they're married.
Pollovic: Nevertheless, that one is off my list.
Eulalia: Have you spotted any good prospects, or are you categorically dismissing them all?
Pollovic: The Rittenberg girl -- Jacind, is it? -- passes a first inspection, though I haven't heard a channel's opinion on her yet. Likewise Pametta Doyle.
Eulalia: The Doyle girl? I wouldn't have thought she'd appeal to you. Too bookish.
Pollovic: Those books have given her a head full of interesting ideas. Not all of them practical, but at least she's open to new concepts, and isn't afraid to talk things out.
Eulalia would rather not have a daughter-in-law known for being a mousy dowd, but she supposes she can find someone capable of managing the girl's wardrobe, if she doesn't buckle down and learn how to do it herself.
Eulalia: Well, she's certainly available, although the Rittenbergs are better connected.
Pollovic: As I said, I haven't ruled out Jacind Rittenberg.
Pollovic hasn't particularly ruled her in, either. All she seemed able to talk about was her father's accomplishments.
Eulalia: If you like quiet and thoughtful, there's also Gigia Borrows.
Pollovic: I haven't spoken to her yet. It's still early in the evening, of course. The only guest from Nivet I've talked to yet is Hraylin Zettak. Her English isn't as fluent as I'd hoped, though she seems well-versed in our culture.
Eulalia stiffens with ~~ indignation ~~.
Eulalia: You are here to choose a wife, Brenn. A Senator's wife. That requires someone who has grown up in the circles of power here in New Washington. Be polite to your other guests, but don't forget your task for the night.
Pollovic: In other words, alliances across the aisle are good, but alliances across the border aren't?
Eulalia: Alliances across the border are useless, if you need to build a power base in the Senate. If you want to give up your Senate seat, and let your constituents fumble along under your cousin's tender care while you go play diplomat in foreign lands, a foreign wife might be acceptable.
Pollovic: I need to be able to do my job. All of my job. Knowing what's what and who's who in Nivet is more and more important to the Senate with each passing year. You can't imagine how valuable it's been these last few weeks, to have Hajene Kat on hand to explain some of what's behind some of the cross-border proposals that have come up on the floor for debate.
Eulalia: You have your Sime friend for that, Brenn. It's much more critical to your job that you have someone who can negotiate for you when you can't be seen to give in. Right now, you're only able to do half the job that's required.
Pollovic: And Seruffin, for all our friendship, has his own duties and his own agenda. Every argument you make about a wife from the other side of the aisle applies equally to one from the other side of the border.
Eulalia: Do you think that a Simeland-raised wife would be invited to join the wives of certain members of the Conservative Caucus for tea on Tuesday mornings? And do you think that you can afford to deprive your constituents of the benefits they will gain if you had a wife that can?
Pollovic: Not in the beginning, of course. But we've had this discussion a dozen times already, and I don't want to revisit it now.
Eulalia: See that there's no reason to, then.
Eulalia might be a head shorter than her son, but she's much, much more formidable.
Pollovic: I intend to meet every marriageable young lady on tonight's guest list, regardless of whether you or I invited them. I'll go on from there, after tonight. Now, if you'll excuse me, Mother, I just spotted Hajene Crynwyr. I had something I wanted to ask him.
Pollovic has, in fact, nothing in particular to discuss with Crynwyr, but at the moment he's willing to seize any excuse to get away from Eulalia.
Eulalia nods a short dismissal, and goes off to enlist the help of various friends and mothers of eligible daughters to ensure that her son's time isn't taken up by ineligible candidates.
Pollovic strides away, determined not to interview any more of his mother's candidates until he's been seen speaking to at least three young ladies from Nivet.