When A Door Closes in Front of You, Gather Your Friends and Family and Prepare to Kick it down
“I’m going to kill him.”
“Don’t make a scene,” Geoffrey said, resisting the urge to rub Giacomo’s back as they left the throne room.
“I’m not going to make a scene,” Giacomo snapped, under his breath. “I’m going to kill Hans.”
Geoffrey sighed. Hans had held court today, and he’d named his advisors, and none of them had been named DiSheere. “It stands to reason he wasn’t going to put me on his council, Giacomo.”
“After all our family has fucking done for him he should have named one of us his military advisor a the very least,” Giacomo growled. “And who did he name to his little club? Five people from around the capital. Janus DiCrawe and Esmerelda Poilnan to satisfy the south and north, and Hector Matternach because it will demonstrate that he wants the western houses to be happy and make Isabella DeThane feel safe coming out of hiding. And how many people from the eastern reaches? Oh wait, as many as I have brothers whose dicks I haven’t sucked today.”
“Hey,” Geoffrey said, taking his arm. “You don’t know that dad didn’t secretly have other kids. We could have baseborn brothers somewhere. You sucked any commoner dick today, just to be sure?”
Giacomo looked at him, expression perfectly, publicly bored, his absolute fury hidden behind the mask he’d already perfected even at his age. “Don’t fuck around with me, Geoffrey. I’m liable to stab someone and I don’t mind if it’s you.”
“I know, and everyone can tell,” Geoffrey told him, squeezing his wrist.
“No they can’t. I look like a bored kid who doesn’t want to be here.”
“And normally when court lets out…”
Giacomo frowned, pulled his hand free from Geoffrey’s grip. “I’ll meet you at the carriage. Thanks.”
Geoffrey nodded, and Giacomo headed off, wending through the crowd until Geoffrey saw him collide with Pietro Poilnan, grinning and saying something that got Pietro smiling too. They all had roles to play in public. Giacomo was good at playing his. Better than Geoffrey.
“He remains exuberant,” a female voice said behind Geoffrey. He looked over his shoulder, slowed his step. His aunt Tanya was approaching him in their mutual quest to leave the throne room with everyone else. “It’s good to see.”
“Hello, Aunt Tanya,” Geoffrey said, nodding his head at her. “You look well.”
“And you look fit to skin our king regent alive,” she told him, smiling.
Geoffrey snorted. “I expect everyone who lives east of the Cyan river thinks that way. We may as well not exist.”
“Francisca didn’t ignore the east for the most part, at least. Neither did Stephan. Go figure. Hans spends half a year out there and doesn’t seem to remember we’re there.” Tanya was a short woman, her hair in a near-perfect ball around her head.
“Admittedly,” Geoffrey said, “I don’t have the pull over him that I had over Stephan that kept us represented on the council.”
“You mean you’re not sleeping with Hans,” Tanya corrected. “Have you tried?”
Geoffrey snorted. “Admittedly no. Maybe I should have.”
“I doubt he’d go for it. Maybe I’ll give it a shot,” Tanya said, considering, looking across the room for her husband Carl, who was a cousin from House DiRocce. “We’re going to have to do something to make sure that if he does get House DiGorre back on the throne, they don’t just write us all off like they did the plateau.”
“Hm,” Geoffrey agreed, watching as Giacomo dragged Tanya’s son Terry into whatever he and Pietro were scheming suddenly. He might end up going home on his own. “Do we want House DiGorre back on the throne?” he wondered aloud.
Tanya looked at him as they reached the doors, moving out into the hallway. “You know, that might be a question worth asking.”
“Why do you think I’m asking it?” Geoffrey asked, smiling. “Why don’t you come over for dinner later in the week? We can catch up. Maybe I’ll invite Jens too.” Jens DiHeere was the son of Tanya’s brother Teo.
Tanya nodded. “Why not make it a party? Invite Danai, Bernd and Carlotte.”
“Why, Aunt Tanya,” Geoffrey said, waving Giacomo’s companion Alfie over from where he was waiting by a window talking to another boy. There wasn’t enough room for all the nobility and all their companions in the throne room at once. “Doesn’t that represent all the major eastern nobility? Surely that could be interpreted as calculated.”
“Surely it could,” Tanya said, with the same smirk that Giacomo used. Clearly he’d gotten it from their mother Talia, who’d been Tanya’s sister. “Though surely anyone with cause to interpret it that way is only doing so because they’re intimidated, now aren’t they?”
Geoffrey smiled back. “A week’s time, then? I’ll even make Giacomo dress nicely.”
“Making him dress at all would be an accomplishment, if what I saw last time he was at my house was an indication,” Tanya told him, as her own companion came over as well.
Geoffrey rolled his eyes. “Let me guess. It involved Terry and both of their companions, and Giacomo wasn’t the only one with a clothing issue?”
“Quite. I understand suddenly why they’re so close. Boys.”
“Are you telling me girls aren’t the same way?”
“I like to think we’re more circumspect,” Tanya said, nodding at her companion. “I should go. If Terry ends up at your house, tell him I don’t want him travelling home in the dark.”
“He can stay the night if it gets too late,” Geoffrey said, as Alfie joined them. He was a big boy with a nice smile. “Giacomo’s bothering his friends inside. I have a feeling they won’t be coming straight home if you want to join them.”
“Sure,” Alfie said, smiling at Geoffrey as he headed closer to the doors, looking inside nervously. He was kind of a shy boy, but only when he was wearing his clothes.
“I shall see you later in the week, then,” Tanya said to Geoffrey, heading away.
Geoffrey nodded at her. “You too, Aunt Tanya.”
And then he was by himself, and Geoffrey headed for his carriage outside slowly, figuring there would be a lineup of people trying to leave, so there was no rush. It wasn’t like he could go anywhere until he was sure Giacomo wasn’t coming. Or until he was sure that Giacomo was coming but with several other people. Maybe it was Geoffrey’s turn to walk into a room and see his brother’s skill at talking his friends out of their clothes. That would be fun.
It was because he was walking slowly that Geoffrey ended up being caught, he thought. “Hello, Lord Geoffrey,” said a nasally voice that immediately put Geoffrey on edge.
He didn’t turn, just kept walking. “Hello, Jorge. How are you today?”
The newly named court wizard, a squirrely man who didn’t fit his robes, caught up with Geoffrey and walked alongside him, too fast, and then had to slow down when Geoffrey didn’t speed up. “I’m doing very well. Most well. And how are you?”
“Also most well,” Geoffrey told him, smiling. He had a feeling Jorge was here to gloat at Geoffrey’s removal from the council. Geoffrey had no intention of making it easy for him.
“Is that so?” asked Jorge, who contained not a drop of subtlety in his body. “I should think you’d be somewhat put out.”
“Put out?” Geoffrey asked, affecting confusion.
“Well…by the regent’s decision…”
“Not at all,” said Geoffrey, enjoying himself now. “I think his choices for the council were excellent.”
“Well…yes, but surely you’re disappointed that you weren’t selected to…”
“To have an unnecessary burden placed on my shoulders again?” Geoffrey asked. “No. I’m glad to have it removed. The regent must have listened to me when I told him I didn’t think I was a good fit for the council.”
“You…” Jorge scowled now. “You told him. No you didn’t.”
“Hm,” Geoffrey said, patting Jorge’s shoulder. “And you didn’t kill Stephan. Or heal me at the banquet. Or do most of the other things I’m betting you claim to have done. But I’m generous, so I’ll take credit for this one and we’ll call it even, okay?”
Jorge looked for a moment like he was holding his breath. “You…this is why I recommended that you not be permitted to rejoin the council. You’re not to be trusted.”
“I think you mean I’m smarter than you, but okay.” They’d reached the main doors of the castle and Geoffrey stopped, turning to face Jorge. “And if you think I’m not to be trusted, you should hear the rumours people are spreading about you.”
“Sp…spreading?” Jorge asked, starting. “What rumours?”
“I’m sure you must have an idea.” This was just fun. There were no rumours about Jorge.
“I’m…” Jorge looked frightened, which made Geoffrey wonder what he was up to in his free time. Maybe he should try and find out, blackmail him or something. “I’m s-sure I have no idea what…all people of authority are subject to slanderous things being said about them.”
Geoffrey laughed. “Calm down, Jorge. I was kidding. Nobody talks about you, don’t worry.” He patted Jorge again. “You’re bad at this game. Stop trying to play against people better than you before you get hurt.”
Jorge took a step back, sticking out his chin. “So you are angry. You’re threatening me now.”
Geoffrey shook his head gently. “I don’t care about the council, and I’m confident in knowing that your advice played no part in Hans’s decision.”
“I’m threatening you because you took credit for something Giacomo did, Jorge,” Geoffrey said, calm inside. “My little brother was very proud of that and you ruined it for him.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Lord Geoffrey,” Jorge said, swallowing. His hands were shaking a little. “I am the one who killed Stephan. I strangled him with magic.”
Geoffrey smiled, clasped Jorge’s hand to still it. “You don’t need to admit it, publicly or to me. But you have two weeks to apologize to Giacomo for hurting his feelings.”
“Or what?” Jorge challenged.
“You know who’d be a better court wizard than you?” Geoffrey asked.
“Anyone. And I include people who aren’t wizards in that. Have a good day, Jorge.” Geoffrey turned and went down the steps, looking for his carriage in the mostly empty courtyard.
All in all, he thought as he climbed into the carriage to wait for Giacomo, it hadn’t been as bad a day as it could have been. And when Giacomo showed up forty-five minutes later with Pietro, Terry, Raoul and a slightly confused-looking Darius DiFueure, as well as all their companions, and piled into the carriage with him, making noise, he felt even better about it. Not being on the council had made a lot more opportunities for House DiSheere than it had lost.