Rundle stalks through the corridors of the Senate building with his shoulders back and his head high. With his immediate financial desperation taken care of, he's now had a couple of weeks to push his trip to Nivet to the back of his mind.
Rundle has, after all, plenty of things to think about: the corn bill, the budget debate, the repairs to the crumbling front steps of his house. Plenty of reason to not think about the trip.
Seruffin is making his way through what he'd hoped would be a lesser-used corridor, only to zlin a nager whose normal unpleasantness isn't improved by the distortion of retainers.
Rundle is, in fact, thinking about nothing more pressing than lunch as he hurries through one of the less populous hallways. He comes around a corner and stops just in time to not run into someone.
Rundle: Hey, watch where you're going.
Seruffin reaches out automatically to steady the swaying Gen.
Seruffin: Senator Rundle. I see you're back. How was your trip to Nivet Territory? Business successfully concluded, I hope?
Rundle stares at the Sime, suddenly remembering a number of things he'd mostly managed not to think about for the past few days.
Rundle: In a manner of speaking. I did find the boy.
Seruffin zlins the mixed emotions behind that statement.
Seruffin: But the reunion didn't go as you'd hoped?
Rundle is good at not giving away anything with his face. His nager, however, is another story.
Rundle: We reached an agreement. ~~ relief ~~ frustration ~~ humiliation ~~
Seruffin: I gather you're not happy with it?
Seruffin is simply responding to Rundle's ill-controlled emotions while making polite conversation, not quite aware that such questions would only be asked out-T by someone who really cared about the answers.
Rundle realizes that he still has things he has to do if he's to get the second payment, and that Seruffin is the only... person... he knows who might be able to help.
Rundle: Have you had lunch yet?
Rundle knows that in the Senate building, the walls have far too many ears.
Seruffin is not particularly hungry, he just wants to get out of his retainers for a while.
Seruffin: I was about to have a cup of tea in the lounge your Senate has so thoughtfully provided for me.
Rundle considers. There certainly won't be anyone else there.
Rundle: Very well, then. Lead the way.
Seruffin: Certainly. It's just around the corner.
Seruffin leads the way to the door with the diplomatic signs, and politely holds it open for his guest.
Rundle glances around to make sure no one sees him entering, then hurries inside.
Seruffin follows and sets the teakettle on the burner to heat.
Rundle looks around the room. He'd expected Nivet-style decor, but this is just a plain, functional room.
Seruffin fusses over getting down mugs from the cupboard, hoping that the soothing ritual will relax the Gen enough to talk.
Rundle doesn't fidget. He simply waits, trying to gather his thoughts.
Seruffin hands the Senator one mug and takes the other to the couch, gesturing for Rundle to take a seat in the chair.
Rundle seats himself stiffly, and sets the mug down.
Seruffin settles back, looking ~~ professionally sympathetic ~~.
Seruffin: So, what is this agreement with your son that has upset you so?
Rundle knows he's here as a supplicant, but does not intend to grovel.
Rundle: I found it necessary to make certain concessions. However, I'm not certain of the logistics involved in implementing some of them.
Rundle thinks that doesn't sound too desperate. Nor too helpless.
Seruffin: What concessions are you wondering about?
Seruffin is quite aware of the desperation and helplessness Rundle is feeling.
Rundle: I have agreed to donate, and to send it to the boy. I don't want to make a public spectacle of it. Furthermore...
Rundle hesitates. It doesn't seem politic to say, "I sold my daughters' souls, and need to arrange for delivery."
Rundle: I agreed that my daughters would be... trained. As quickly as possible.
Rundle is aware, now that he lets himself think about it, that he's already wasted two weeks.
Rundle: In case the worst happens.
Rundle knows that God's punishment for such presumption is likely to be to make the precaution necessary.
Seruffin: Ah. You mean changeover classes?
Rundle gives a tight nod.
Rundle: I haven't told my wife yet.
Rundle is not looking forward to that conversation, either.
Seruffin: You expect her to disapprove?
Rundle: Of course. Wouldn't any loving mother?
Rundle's own ~~ disapproval ~~, of course, is blatant in his nager.
Seruffin: I would hope that a loving mother would want her daughters to grow up without having to worry that they'll end up killing someone they love.
Rundle: I have always known what a father's duty to his children is, and I was prepared for it. But not for this. Their souls...
Seruffin: Will be in the same condition afterwards as before.
Rundle: What would a Sime know about such things? ~~ bitter ~~
Seruffin: The theologians would say, "What does anyone really know about such things?"
Rundle: In any event, the commitment has been made. I must work out how to implement it with a minimum of fuss.
Seruffin: I see.
Seruffin takes a sip of his tea.
Rundle mirrors the gesture. He freezes in mid-swallow, then forces the mouthful of liquid down.
Seruffin politely ignores the reaction to what is really very good trin.
Seruffin: I'm not much involved in the Tecton's educational efforts here, so you'll have to confirm this with the proper department, but I believe changeover classes are offered on a rotating schedule at the different Sime Centers in the city. The classes meet twice a week, and run for six weeks, I believe.
Rundle: Someone at your Embassy would be able to confirm the schedule?
Rundle doesn't want to be seen running around to every Sime Center in the city collecting timetables.
Seruffin: Yes, I can put you in touch with the proper person.
Rundle: Thank you.
Rundle realizes that the two weeks he delayed are going to be costly in terms of his debts. He hadn't expected the classes to take so long.
Rundle: Is there a more condensed version of the classes available? Something, perhaps, intended for those who are only in town briefly?
Rundle is making mental calculations, and the financial arithmetic doesn't look promising. Might the boy, or his lawyers, take the beginning of classes as sufficient evidence of good faith for the second payment?
Seruffin: Are you planning to take your family out of town?
Rundle: No. It's just... there's a time factor involved. I need to be able to send a certificate of completion to my son's attorney in less than six weeks.
Seruffin: I see.
Seruffin looks at Rundle ~~ contemplatively ~~. He wonders if young Randayl would be willing to tell him just what hold he has over his unpleasant father; it could be quite useful.
Seruffin does have a Tecton channel's responsibility towards the young Sime's sisters, however.
Seruffin: You might be able to hire a tutor to give your daughters accelerated instruction.
Rundle: How would I go about that?
Rundle tries not to sound as ~~ desperate ~~ as he might.
Seruffin: You could ask the staff whether any of the instructors would be willing to give private instruction.
Rundle: I would prefer to have a direct referral, if possible.
Rundle can't see how he can hope to stay invisible in this process if he's running all over the place asking questions.
Seruffin: I do know a channel who does outside work sometimes, although as far as I know he isn't a changeover specialist. I'm not sure his English is fluent enough for your purpose, however.
Rundle: I'm sure it will be acceptable.
Rundle is not so much worried about the quality of the lessons, as about the all-important certificates of completion.
Rundle: May I trust your discretion in arranging the details, then?
Seruffin sighs, wondering when he became the go-to channel for the entire Gen Senate.
Seruffin: I will ask Hajene Crynwyr if he is interested in helping you. If not, they'll have to enroll in the regular classes.
Rundle: Thank you.
Rundle does not want to be beholden to a Sime. He'd prefer to settle the debt immediately.
Rundle: I understand that you're looking for an extra five percent on wool shipments for the next quarter?
Seruffin: Yes, I am.
Rundle: You can count on my vote.
Rundle is making a real sacrifice with this, as his district is a significant wool producer. He'll have to try to make it up on the barley tariffs.
Seruffin raises an eyebrow.
Seruffin: That is not necessary. You do not owe me payment for doing my job.
Rundle: This is a bit beyond the call of duty.
Seruffin concedes graciously.
Seruffin: Your vote will be appreciated, then.
Rundle is ~~ relieved ~~ . He didn't want to leave Seruffin holding his marker for this one.
Rundle: Very well, then. I'll leave you to finish your tea in peace.
Rundle stands, leaving his own, almost untouched cup beside his chair.
Rundle realizes, as he reaches the door, that they haven't discussed his own donations. He gives a small mental ~~ shrug ~~ . He's got two weeks before he has to worry about that.
Seruffin: Is there something else bothering you, Senator?
Rundle's shrug this time is visible.
Rundle: My own donations.
Seruffin: What about them?
Rundle: How to arrange them with a minimum of fuss, and to make sure the... product... goes to the boy.
Rundle knows an experienced politician like Seruffin will recognize "fuss" as a codeword for "publicity".
Seruffin: You can simply go to one of the New Washington Sime Centers. They don't normally have reporters hanging around waiting to see who comes in.
Seruffin really didn't enjoy taking Rundle's donation, and is hoping to pass the next one off to some other long-suffering channel.
Rundle: You said before that they would simply refer me to the one downtown. But it's far too close to the Senate building.
Seruffin: If you can stay calm, you ought to be able to donate at any Sime Center.
Rundle shrugs. Donating was distasteful, but he's not frightened of it.
Rundle: Very well, then. I'll take care of it myself.
Seruffin is ~~ relieved ~~.
Seruffin: If you ask, the channel should be able to provide you with the proper paperwork to target your donation to your son.
Rundle: Excellent. Thank you.
Seruffin: You're welcome.
Rundle tries not to show the little ripple of ~~ distaste ~~ he feels at the suggestion the boy might still be his son. He knows that acknowledging him as such was part of the agreement.
Rundle turns back towards the door. He opens it a tiny crack to take a look outside. It wouldn't do to be seen leaving this room.
Seruffin: There's nobody in the hall.
Rundle nods his acknowledgement. He leaves the room swiftly, and strides down the hall with the calm and confident bearing of a senator with no worries beyond the corn bill and the repairs to the front steps.
Seruffin sighs in ~~ relief ~~ as the ambient clears, and settles down to finish his tea.