Rundle struggles to order his thoughts as he follows the Sime messenger boy across the grounds. In personal terms, this will be one of the most important negotiations of his life; his career will stand or fall on it.
Saag isn't very happy about bringing poor Randayl's odious father to him on a surprise visit when his friend is already so stressed out.
Rundle knows Simes can read emotions. He must therefore make every effort to think of this person he's about to meet as the boy who was his son, rather than as a snake who's in a position to destroy him.
Saag figures he can always go hypoconscious if it gets too bad, and hopes Randayl will remember that too.
Randayl is doggedly digging post holes, as he still has to pay his selyn taxes, and the lawyer warned him that Aunt Matilda's will could be caught up in the courts for quite a while. He doesn't expect his father to watch that kind of money slide through his clutches and do nothing.
Rundle struggles, as he walks, to picture a slightly older version of the son he was once so ~~ proud ~~ of. But every time his imagination adds tentacles to the picture, he feels another jolt of ~~ revulsion ~~ .
Saag really dislikes the jolts of revulsion. He wishes he had some way of warning Randayl who it is he's accompanying.
Rundle reminds himself that the money is the important thing here, and he must remain calm if he's to negotiate well.
Randayl zlins Saag approaching with a stranger who's clearly suffering from conflicting negative emotions, ~~ annoying ~~ despite his low field. He hopes the unpleasant nager will move on and leave him in peace.
Rundle follows the messenger past another tastefully landscaped clump of trees, and sees a bunch of skinny snakes -- Simes, he reminds himself -- heaving huge fenceposts into place with superhuman strength. He feels both ~~ fascination ~~ and ~fear ~~ .
Saag feels ~~ nausea ~~, himself, at these uncontrolled emotions.
Randayl notes that the installation crew are catching up, so he goes back to digging.
Saag spots Randayl out ahead of the rest of the crew and waves to attract his attention
Randayl sees the wave and stops digging while he waves back.
Saag: There he is, sir.
Randayl finally actually looks at the approaching pair, and his eyes widen in ~~ astonishment~~.
Saag zlins that and slows his pace a little, to give Randayl more time to adjust to the shock.
Rundle stares at the tall scrawny figure who's waving, trying to see some hint of the boy he knew.
Randayl retracts his tentacles in self-defense, although he can't bring himself to forgo the advantage of zlinning.
Saag is ~~ apologetic ~~ about being the one escorting Rundle, as well as ~~ sympathetic ~~ toward his friend.
Randayl looks at his father for a long moment, waiting to see what he will do.
Rundle: Clarence? ~~ doubtful ~~
Randayl takes a step closer to Saag's more pleasant nager.
Randayl: It's Randayl, now.
Rundle slurs the Sime name so it sounds almost like "Rundle".
Rundle: How have you been, son?
Rundle struggles to get out that last word, but manages it somehow. He sees no resemblance to the boy he knew in this Sime.
Randayl doesn't like what he zlins behind this innocent-sounding question.
Randayl: I doubt you came all this way to ask how I was doing.
Rundle: No, I didn't, son, but I'm asking nonetheless.
Rundle knows it would be easier to picture the boy if he weren't looking right at the Sime, but he can't make himself take his eyes from such a threat, standing so near.
Randayl inspects his father closely.
Randayl: I would have thought you'd send one of your lawyers. Or did they refuse to donate?
Rundle is briefly ~~ startled ~~ , before he remembers that this was the boy he was raising to someday inherit his own role in the Senate. Of course he'll be blunt-spoken and tough. He feels real ~~ fear ~~ . This isn't the respectful, easily-led child he remembers. This will be much harder than he expected.
Rundle: I wouldn't send a lawyer to talk to my son.
Randayl: But you don't have a son. At least, that's what you told the messenger I sent. And wrote on my letters when you returned them unopened. I had to write to Hajene Seruffin to find out if my sister had recovered from that pneumonia.
Rundle: I was... distraught. I'd had such plans for your future as the heir to my seat in the Senate. It took me a while to adjust. And by then it seemed too late.
Rundle has not, strictly speaking, told any lie in that statement.
Randayl: It was.
Rundle takes a deep breath.
Rundle: Is it still too late? After I've come all this distance?
Rundle does not add, and submitted myself to such indignities.
Randayl: That depends on why you came. And whether you can manage a better imitation of fatherly affection than you're projecting at the moment.
Rundle thinks back, trying to remember a time of affection.
Saag smiles faintly. He ~~ admires ~~ the way Randayl is standing up to his father.
Rundle: I remember the first time you held a shovel. A little blue shovel, and you were making sandcastles on the beach. I was so proud of you then. I never thought I'd see you all grown up, lifting full-size tools so easily. I never...
Rundle breaks off, realizing this is a dangerous train of thought.
Saag unsuccessfully suppresses a snort.
Randayl: You never thought your son would have to earn his living digging post holes? Well, neither did I.
Saag makes a tentacle gesture equivalent to "yeah, that's telling him". ~~ moral support ~~ encouragement ~~
Randayl: I wouldn't have to, of course, if my father had showed any natural affection for his son.
Rundle: It's not too late. You can have money for college, a chance to become... well, not a senator in New Washington, but I can help you build a career here
Rundle: I have connections. I can help you. The way fathers always help their sons.
Rundle is trying not to sound as ~~ desperate ~~ as he feels.
Saag's snort is not suppressed at all this time.
Randayl: Your connections are in New Washington Territory, not Nivet.
Rundle: The principles are the same. Some of my connections have connections here. I still have things you need, son.
Randayl: The only thing that you have that I need is selyn. And you didn't see fit to give that to me, either.
Rundle: I did donate before I came here.
Rundle hated the necessity at the time, but realizes now that there may be benefits to having done so.
Randayl: You didn't take a moment to fill out the form that would have assigned me credit for your donation. So I'm stuck digging holes to pay my selyn taxes.
Rundle: Form? Credit? ~~ puzzlement ~~
Randayl: Saag here can tell you all about it. His sister cared enough to donate and assign him the credit. That took care of most of his selyn tax. It still does, right Saag?
Rundle wonders if the omission was deliberate on Seruffin's part, that he was never told of such an option.
Randayl: Let me guess: you cashed out your donation voucher and never gave a thought about it.
Rundle takes out his wallet, pulls out and unfolds the paper Seruffin gave him.
Rundle: I've still got it. I didn't know what to do with it. What I could do with it.
Rundle braces himself for the closer contact, then steps forward, holding out the document.
Rundle: Here, take it.
Randayl waves it away.
Randayl: Only you can cash it.
Rundle: Then I'll find a bank, do the paperwork. This will be yours.
Rundle is on a firmer footing, now that this begins to resemble the usual quid pro quo of negotiation.
Saag rolls his eyes, and makes a gesture equivalent to "well, whoop-te-do".
Randayl: Don't bother. I no longer require your support.
Rundle: About that, son. We need to talk.
Randayl: Do we? It seems pretty clear, to me.
Rundle raises an eyebrow, with the scowl that normally invites an opponent to panic and start to babble.
Rundle: Does it?
Randayl: Yes. Aunt Matilda gave me the bulk of her estate, rather than you. Deliberately, in sound mind if not sound body, and so on and so forth.
Rundle: A little cash, which you can no doubt convert. Some real estate, on the wrong side of the border to be of any use to you. But the bulk of the estate is in stocks and ownerships you have neither the positioning nor the skills to manage.
Randayl: Not yet. You saw to that, by disowning me.
Rundle: I can help you with that, now. Or lift the burden from you in exchange for something you can use.
Saag wonders just how stupid Rundle thinks his son is. With that kind of money, there's no problem hiring somebody skilled to manage it, just as Aunt Matilda did.
Randayl: What would that be?
Rundle is calculating how much cash he can afford to offer.
Rundle: How much do you want?
Rundle hates to extend himself further, but with the stocks as collateral, he could probably raise enough to satisfy the boy.
Randayl: You don't want me to have any of it, do you?
Rundle: I want you to live comfortably, have an education and a future.
Rundle's nager says he cares about none of those things.
Rundle: But I have commitments to meet, and for that I need the leverage those stocks represent.
Randayl: Ah. Been speculating, have you?
Rundle: I... find myself with some unexpected debts.
Rundle doesn't really want to talk about any of them. Especially not the Connington case.
Randayl: Someone didn't give in to your methods of "persuasion"?
Rundle is ~~ startled ~~ . He'd never thought a thirteen-year-old boy was old enough to pick up on how his father operated.
Randayl has been subjected to the same methods more times than he wants to remember.
Rundle: You've grown up a lot, haven't you?
Rundle tries to put respect but not fear into his voice. In his world, though, there's rarely much difference between the two.
Randayl: I had a choice?
Rundle: You never deserved what happened to you. You were a good son, an obedient son. You shouldn't have been hit by the Sime curse.
Rundle feels real ~~ regret ~~ about that. This was a son he could have been proud of.
Randayl: I'm glad to zlin that you regret what happened, but you're still referring to me in the past tense. Which is kind of inconsiderate, since I'm right here in front of you.
Saag figures most of the regret he zlins is for the wealth Rundle's not going to be able to coerce his son to give him.
Randayl: Now, why don't you stop straining yourself trying to imitate a father with natural feelings for his son, and explain to me exactly what you propose as a solution to your... difficulties, and mine?
Rundle suddenly finds himself on much more familiar ground.
Rundle: I need...
Rundle names a large amount of cash.
Randayl: Really. How'd you manage to run up a debt like that?
Rundle: ... immediately, and the ongoing leverage those stocks represent. You need...
Rundle registers the Sime's question and pauses.
Rundle: You appear to have been far more aware of my dealings and methods than I expected of a boy your age. I think you can figure it out. ~~ grudging respect ~~ At any rate, how much do you expect to need over the next four years, to get you through university?
Randayl: I'm still researching that. In the mean time, what are your plans for repaying the loan?
Rundle: What I propose is that I liquidate enough -- probably mostly the real estate -- to cover your immediate needs and mine. That I manage the portfolios, in your name, while you're in school, taking half the profits and putting the other half into an account in your name here. And at the end of that time, you assume full responsibility for managing your own affairs, with... Loan?
Randayl: Yes. Loan.
Rundle takes a deep breath. He'd thought he was making quite a generous proposal, to a boy with no contacts and no management skills.
Randayl doesn't have contacts or management skills, but he does have a healthy skepticism for any proposal his father suggests for his inheritance.
Rundle: If I have the leverage represented by the management of those stocks, I can be out of debt in three years. Without that...
Rundle: I may go to my grave a debtor, and your sisters will have no dowries.
Rundle thinks that even if his own case is lost, the boy may yet have some care for his sisters.
Rundle: No dowries and few prospects.
Randayl: Sort of like they'd turned Sime and been disowned?
Rundle: I am prepared to stipulate that if they become Sime, they will have as much from me as they would have had in dowry, had they grown up human.
Rundle says this with a straight face and total ~~ sincerity ~~ , looking right at his tentacled son.
Rundle: How much that is, of course, depends upon my own financial condition at the time. If I am in debtor's prison, I can give them nothing.
Randayl: I'm not inclined to just hand my inheritance over to you, but I might be persuaded to loan you enough to convince your creditors to give you time. I would, of course, require certain gestures of good faith on your part.
Rundle: Which would be?
Randayl: Your selyn. Every month, until you've repaid the loan.
Rundle tries to show no outward sign, though inwardly he's ~~ repulsed ~~ . Still, he did it once and was unharmed.
Rundle: Very well.
Saag is ~~ surprised ~~, then ~~ suspicious ~~. What recourse is there if he defaults on this promise?
Randayl: You can be as discreet as you wish -- as long as you don't default. If you do, well, secrets have a way of getting out.
Rundle's jaw tightens, but he gives a brisk nod.
Randayl: All of this depends, of course, on my getting my inheritance promptly. A court battle over a contested will can last for years.
Rundle: If we are agreed on the terms here, I will not contest.
Rundle knows he can't afford the long delays in court, any more than he can afford to walk away with nothing.
Saag: [Simelan] Get it in writing. With a lawyer.
Randayl: [Simelan] Oh, I will.
Saag smiles, a little ~~ embarrassed ~~. He's glad that Randayl's doing such a good job on his father, but he himself wouldn't trust the lorsh as far as he could throw him without augmenting.
Rundle: Give me the name of your attorney, and I'll have mine get in touch with him.
Rundle doesn't understand Simelan, but he does know what one principle his son heard from him a dozen times a month since infancy.
Randayl: I'll have my attorney draw up a preliminary agreement for you to sign tomorrow, before you return home.
Rundle: Very well.
Randayl figures if his lawyer draws it up, there's a fighting chance that the final agreement will be something he can live with.
Randayl decides to tweak his father's chain a bit, and holds out a hand for the traditional shake.
Rundle shows no outward sign of ~~ distress ~~ as he clasps the muddy, too-hot fingers and feels tentacles wrap around the outside to seal the grip.
Randayl is ~~ satisfied ~~ with his father's reaction to his asserting possession of the Gen's selyn.
Rundle, as one who usually intimidates with the strength of his handclasp, is quite aware of the overpowering strength available to those slim tentacles. He repossesses his hand with as much dignity as he can still muster.
Rundle: I'll see you at your lawyer's office tomorrow morning, then.
Rundle gives a tight nod to both Simes and turns to stride back along the path to the Embassy building. Given that he won enough to keep him solvent, if barely, why does he feel so much as if he's retreating with his tail between his legs?
Randayl watches his father retreat, and only then starts shaking with ~~ reaction ~~.
Randayl: I did it, Saag. I faced him down, and won the advantage.
Saag: You were really impressive, Randayl, sort of like Gen sec. It was way cool the way you did it. ~~ admiration ~~