Lanard is not actually running around Capital without a Donor, though because Sosu Roger is, erm, tied up somewhere, she only has one of her Nysek naztehrhai with her.
Lanard reflects that even an inadequate Donor is much better than nothing, and anyhow, her New Life has steeled her to hardships. Still, she's going to be put to a test.
Lanard: Are you able to provide more support, Sosu?
Lanard feels the Donor's concentration focused on her.
Bernice is in the sitting room of the suite she shares with her husband. He's napping and although he usually gets up about now, she's willing to let him sleep a little longer if he likes.
Lanard's appointment gets her past the outer staff, but she and her Donor are then parked for an interminable time in what appears to be a library. Most of the nagers around are in-T Gen, fortunately.
Staffer pokes her head into the Ambassadorial suite.
Staffer: Sorry to interrupt, but the Senator's appointment has been waiting for fifteen minutes now.
Bernice: Oh, dear. I didn't realize he had anything scheduled. Who is it? Perhaps I can help.
Staffer: It's one of those trade things, I believe. She brought a bottle of brandy with her.
Bernice thinks the last thing Ruthven needs around here is another bottle of brandy to tempt him.
Bernice: Well, I'll wake the ambassador and come down to speak with her while he's dressing.
Staffer: Very good, ma'am.
Bernice puts down the novel she was reading and goes into the bedroom. She puts a hand on her husband's shoulder and leans down to kiss his wrinkled cheek.
Bernice: Wake up, dear.
Tsibola grumbles, stretches, and opens his eyes.
Bernice: Yes. Some woman has come to see you with a bottle of brandy.
Tsibola blinks, then sits up.
Tsibola: Oh! She wants to talk about exporting it, I believe.
Bernice pats his shoulder.
Bernice: I'll go down and hold her off until you're ready, shall I?
Tsibola: Thank you. Give her my apologies for keeping her waiting, and tell her I'll be right down.
Tsibola reaches for his shirt.
Bernice: Take your time. I'll offer her some trin.
Bernice has observed that this is a necessary preliminary to most conversations of this sort. She goes down to meet the visitor.
Lanard stands up when the door opens, in proper out-T style, and extends her hand to the Ambassador, also in proper out-T style. Her Donor has his arm around her shoulders in proper Nick Reckage style.
Lanard naturally assumes that since she has come to see the Ambassador, it's the Ambassador that she's seeing.
Lanard: [English] Good day, Ambassador Tsibola.
Bernice is keeping her emotions ~~ calm ~~ and ~~ self-assured ~~, which isn't difficult for her.
Bernice: Good day, young lady. The ambassador will be with you shortly. I'm his wife.
Lanard ~~ bobbles ~~ but doesn't show it to Gen eyes.
Bernice shakes hands with the Sime and sits.
Bernice: I've requested refreshments. They should arrive shortly.
Bernice hopes the Sime will introduce herself and her associate, and that she knows more English than "good afternoon".
Lanard sits down too.
Lanard: My name is Lanard -- Sectuib Lanard of Householding Nysek, I should say.
Lanard's accent in English is slight enough to be considered charming. She doesn't introduce her Donor, of course.
Lanard: Should we wait for the Ambassador, then, or shall I begin?
Bernice is ~~ relieved ~~ at the Sime's grasp of English, and slightly ~~ embarrassed and annoyed ~~ that the VIP status of her visitor wasn't made known to her in advance. She expected a business lackey of some sort.
Bernice: I apologize, Sectuib, I wasn't informed of your title.
Lanard: I was only "informed" of it myself a few months ago, when my father d-died suddenly. As you can see, I'm not yet entirely used to it.
Bernice: I see. I'm sorry for your loss. ~~ mild sympathy ~~
Lanard: Thank you.
Lanard concludes that this is the time for [English thought] "small talk", so she attempts to manufacture some.
Bernice realizes that this Sime must be a high-powered channel like Seruffin or Katsura to be a sectuib, and hopes that her and her husband's untrained nagers won't be an irritant. On the other hand, that's what she's got that Gen for.
Lanard: I am finding life in Capital very confusing -- Nysek is a small rural Householding. How do you feel about it, Miz Tsibola?
Bernice laughs pleasantly.
Bernice: I've lived most of my life in a much larger city, New Washington, but of course this is a foreign country for me, with many differences in style and customs.
Lanard: Yes, of course it must be even stranger to me than to you. After all, you are not used to rubbing nagers with Simes, I suppose?
Bernice: Well, I can't perceive their nagers, but I hope I'm not rubbing them the wrong way! ~~ humor ~~ In New Washington, I occasionally met your diplomatic staff, but Simes are very rare back home.
Tsibola, now decently dressed and having brushed what's left of his hair, enters the library.
Bernice: Sectuib, this is the ambassador. Ruthven, this is Sectuib Lanard of Householding Nysek and her Donor.
Tsibola: I do apologize for keeping you waiting, Sectuib Nysek.
Lanard: Not a problem, Ambassador. I know you're a busy man.
Lanard also knows he's a sick one, but doesn't say so.
Tsibola thinks this sounds better than admitting he was napping and overslept.
Tsibola: Now that I'm here, what can I do for you?
Bernice looks up as a servant appears with the trin service and gestures her to serve the Sime and her Gen.
Lanard: As you know, our Householding makes brandy for select customers. We're interesting in setting up an escort -- no, sorry, I mean export trade in some of it.
Tsibola sincerely hopes they're not setting up an escort service.
Tsibola: I see. What sort of brandy is it? And how much of it do you have to sell?
Lanard: It's ten-year-old. We have quite a lot, but we don't wish to saturate the market. And we haven't yet come up with an English name for it -- perhaps if you tasted some you might have some ideas about that.
Tsibola's ~~ interest ~~ increases at the suggestion.
Tsibola: By all means.
Lanard: I've brought a bottle with me --
Lanard gestures to her Donor.
Lanard: -- but unfortunately no, umm, service, do you call it? Could you ...
Tsibola: Ah, of course.
Tsibola rings for service.
Tsibola: There is actually a shortage of really good brandy this year. I haven't heard why.
Lanard: Probably the bad weather five years ago.
Bernice gets up to tell the servant at the door to bring four brandy snifters and a corkscrew.
Tsibola: Perhaps. I'm not an expert on making fine brandy. I just appreciate its aesthetic features.
Lanard: Good. I trust, however, that given your health you aren't going to ...
Tsibola is instantly ~~ annoyed ~~ at having this strange channel lecturing him on his health.
Lanard backtracks as fast as she can.
Lanard: My apologies, Ambassador, for intruding on your privacy.
Bernice: Surely just a taste can't do any harm.
Lanard stands up and bows.
Lanard: Of course.
Tsibola is ~~ partially mollified ~~.
Staffer brings in a tray with corkscrew and snifters, then leaves silently.
Lanard uncorks the bottle and sniffs it to make sure no mistakes were made. Yup, oil and pepper, just as expected.
Lanard doesn't want to perhaps upset the Wild Gens with a display of tentacled dexterity.
Lanard: Sosu, would you mind doing the honors?
Lanard's Donor loads up the snifters and passes them to Tsibola, Bernice, Lanard, and leaves the last for himself.
Lanard is about to say "Your health!" but decides that might renew a sore subject
Lanard: To cooperation!
Tsibola raises an eyebrow at the toast, but clinks snifters with Bernice, who is close enough to reach without undue exertion. He then warms the snifter in his hands and raises it for a careful sniff.
Lanard signals to her Donor to drop support -- not necessary, as it turns out -- and zlins Tsibola carefully.
Tsibola is a bit ~~ skeptical ~~ of the quality, as Lanard's age and demeanor aren't calculated to impress an elderly out-T statesman.
Tsibola is ~~ pleasantly surprised ~~ by the aroma.
Tsibola takes a small sip.
Tsibola: Lots of pepper.
Lanard: Yes. That's a particular feature of this batch. Most of our other batches are -- less vividly flavored.
Bernice sniffs and tastes. It does have that strange off-taste her brother-in-law finds so "interesting".
Tsibola: What a pity. This tastes almost like a Grgich.
Tsibola takes another sip.
Tsibola: You should be able to market this without too much trouble. Whether there would be interest in the lesser vintages, I don't know.
Bernice wouldn't have poured quite so much into Ruthven's snifter, but isn't going to protest in front of the others.
Lanard laughs again.
Lanard: I suppose there's no harm in saying, then, that we wouldn't be able to sell this in Sime Territory at all, unless it was below cost! Tastes differ, it seems.
Tsibola: I suppose so. It's just as well, or luxuries would be even more scarce than they are.
Lanard: Yes. Of course, scarcity has its own advantages, both for the seller of course, but also for the buyer, who can feel that she is a person of great discrimination.
Lanard winks at Tsibola.
Lanard: We are thinking of laying down some thirty-year-old for that very reason, though frankly we believe brandy more than twenty years old is -- lacking.
Tsibola: I've had some older vintages that held up, but they have to be top quality to survive so long. Do your people disagree?
Lanard: By no means. There is, perhaps, a tension between our accountants, who like us to sell off as much as we can as soon as we can, and those who see the merit of waiting.
Tsibola: In the accountant's defense, most people who care enough to buy good vintages buy them young and age in their own cellars.
Lanard: And of course, waiting is a gamble in several different ways. What was quite saleable at ten years old may be unfit for our label at twelve.
Tsibola: True. Even the best noses can be mistaken.
Tsibola takes another contemplative sip.
Tsibola: Yes, this is good. I can get you in touch with the people in New Washington who can help you arrange the import licenses.
Lanard: Thank you, Ambassador. I won't take up any more of your time in that case. Please accept this bottle as a token of my appreciation.
Lanard deftly recorks the bottle.
Tsibola: Thank you, Sectuib Nysek.
Lanard: Ambassador. Miz Tsibola. Let's go, Sosu.
Lanard rises without offering her hand and sweeps out, Sosu in tow.
Bernice is ~~ amused ~~.
Bernice: Well, that wasn't quite what I expected.
Tsibola: She's obviously young and inexperienced. The brandy is good, though. If they do export it, remind me to lay in a case or two.
Bernice: For your guests.
Tsibola holds up his hands in surrender.
Tsibola: For my guests.