Cylus 25, Arc 718
Tristan was sitting in his office. There were a lot of important documents lying on his desk (a rather nice desk made of dark wood whose legs looked like dragons), but he wasn’t looking at them. They were full of bad news. He couldn’t stand any more bad news. He’d already had enough bad news to last him for an entire lifetime! King Cassander, his friend Cassander who loved puppies and who had been so happy for him when Zanik had marked him had decided that it would be a good idea to burn all mages alive. His cousin Pythera and her bandits were murdering innocents, and his subjects still didn’t like him and wanted him to leave again (or die, he’d actually gotten death threats once).
He didn’t know what to do about any of that. Sometimes he just wanted to run – as far away as possible so that nobody would be able to find him. He was one of Idalos’ greatest artists and quite a competent alchemist on top of it. He could probably make a living (and get rich) anywhere. Ayla would probably be safer in a place where nobody knew them. But he didn’t want people to call him a failure and look down on him because he had abandoned his duchy. Besides, could he really leave Rynmere to its own advices?
He sighed, uncorked the wine bottle that stood on his desk and filled a glass – before he went over to the window and poured the wine out of it. Drinking had used to make him happy and distract him, but Ilaren, the Immortal of Alcohol, the woman he had wanted to marry, had betrayed him. Now drinking just reminded him of her – and of everything that had gone wrong. Maybe, he thought, he should travel to Rharne and demand an explanation, but he was worried that she would just lie to him again. He had cared about those savages!
He grabbed a piece of chocolate instead and practically stuffed it into his mouth. It was almost overly sweet. He couldn’t abandon Rynmere and his duchy, not without giving it at least one last try – and seeing if he couldn’t change the minds of the people around him after all. Perhaps donating money to all kinds of charities (and orphanages and such) hadn’t been enough. Perhaps he needed to go to his subjects – or invite them into his house. Perhaps they would change their mind if they could see him with their own eyes and talk to him.
He grabbed the small golden bell that sat atop his desk and rang it before he sat up straightly. He had never cared about what people thought of him before, but he knew that gossip – any kind of gossip could be disastrous in the current situation – and thus he smoothened the wrinkles on his clothes, hid the bottle in a drawer of his desk and put on a smile. A few trills later a servant appeared, an older gentleman that looked as if he had swallowed a stick.
“Yes, Your Grace?” he asked and bowed.
“Could you please find Lianne and let her know that I have need of her?” Tristan asked. He knew that he should probably discuss the things that he had in mind with somebody that was better versed in politics, but Lianne was one of the few people in Oakleigh that he really trusted. She would never lie to him and betray him, and that was a rare thing these trials. Since he had moved to Oakleigh the redhaired woman had become more than just his bodyguard and occasional bedmate – she had become one of his closest confidants!
Lianne entered Tristan’s office, Mistral, Tristan’s cat in tow. She was dressed in tight-fitting black pants and a white blouse, and she had tied her long red hair back into a ponytail. She looked a lot like Ilaren in Tristan’s opinion, but she wasn’t like the Immortal of Alcohol at all. Whereas Ilaren liked to beat people up, Lianne stabbed them (she carried no more than five daggers on her person at all times), and what was even more important, she had never turned against them and played some sort of stupid game with him. She had always been loyal to him, and she had always been kind to him.
Tristan walked over to Mistral, patted him and gave him a treat (he always had a small bag with cat treats in a drawer of his desk), and then he embraced Lianne and gestured for her to take a seat. They didn’t sit down on opposite sides of his desk, but on the much more comfortable armchairs in front of his fireplace where a cozy fire was burning.
For a moment they just looked at each other, and then Tristan informed her, “I’ve decided to invite a few of my subjects. Apparently donating more than two thousand nels to an orphanage and supplying them with surgical masks during a health crisis wasn’t enough”, he said and made a face. In his opinion they should have been overjoyed because he had spent so much money on them. “Maybe they’ll decide to give me a chance if they see me with their own eyes and realize that I’m not some sort of monster with two heads. I saw a caricature of me once. They drew me with two heads and venomous teeth as if I were some sort of nightmare creature.”
“I’m not sure who I should invite though”, he admitted. “The merchant families? A couple of random citizens? What do you think? I thought I’d discuss the matter with you as you will be responsible for protecting me during the reception”, he told Lianne. “Besides you are probably the only person besides Faith and Valeria – and Brandon and Hannah – that I trust completely.”
The redhead furrowed her brow and stroke Mistral who was rubbing against her legs and purring furiously (she was one of two women that he liked – the other one was Valeria Burhan), and then she suggested, “Why don’t you invite the orphans whose orphanage you donated to? Show them that you care about the poorest of your subjects and have a heart for children. Besides that, isn’t your birth trial coming up? You could invite a few guests for that as well. Invite the orphans now and invite a few select members of the merchant families to your birth trial party. What do you think?”
“I think that’s an excellent idea!” Tristan exclaimed. “I’ll invite the orphans and the merchants. I’ll give the orphans sweets, and maybe I’ll give them books and new clothes as well. And on my birth trial I’ll give my subjects gifts rather than expecting gifts from them! Maybe they’ll like me better if I’m more generous to them!”
“Lianne”, he said and she looked at him. “I want you to work together with Sintih and his men and guard my house. I know that such a party will provide a good opportunity for somebody to sneak in and steal something – or make an attempt on my life. I also want you to stay near Ayla and me at all times”, he told her and thought of his daughter that was currently sleeping in her room, protected by Hannah, one of his other bodyguards. He hoped that he wasn’t making the wrong decision in giving himself and Rynmere another season. Maybe he should take her and run away right now …
“Do you still have the clothes you wore when we met at King Cassander’s ball?” he asked her, and she smiled at him. “Of course, I have. I’ll wear it for you on your birth trial. How many guests are you thinking about inviting, by the way, Your Grace?”
“As many as I can fit into the ballroom, I suppose”, Tristan replied and shrugged his shoulders before his eyes lit up again. “I’ll need to hire cooks and servants for the party as well – and musicians and performers. My guests will probably expect some sort of entertainment. Maybe some of the musicians I worked together with for my musical will have time. I think I need to start writing letters right now!”
“No”, he decided and looked at Lianne who looked back at him, smiling. “I think I’ll start writing letters this evening. I’d rather spend some time with you now. Maybe we can talk about my plans some more – and do other things as well”, he suggested. “I have wine and sweets. Oh no!” he suddenly remembered. “I poured the wine out of the window because I was mad Ilaren. I’ll have to call one of the servants and tell them to bring us a new bottle!”
“I don’t need any wine”, Lianne told him, rose to her feet, walked over to him and sat down on the armrest of his chair. “I only need you”, she said, took a chocolate cookie from the small glass bowl that stood on the table between the chairs and fed it to him. The cookies, Tristan decided, had never tasted so good!