Noble, 25

Meetings Are Formalities, What Is Really Being Said At Them Must Necessarily Be Subtext

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“What the hell is this, Giacomo?” Geoffrey asked, in the wake of Giacomo’s declaration. There was no smile on Giacomo’s face, no joke, no mischief. He was more serious than Geoffrey had ever seen him. “This isn’t funny.”

“I agree. If you could sit down, we could talk like polite people, Geoffrey.”

Geoffrey sat down, pulling his chair in. Janus took the chair beside him, but none of the others sat. “When did you switch sides?” Geoffrey demanded. Giacomo hadn’t really switched sides, Geoffrey didn’t believe that. He wouldn’t believe that. But there was obviously a game being played here, and Geoffrey knew Giacomo wouldn’t forgive him if he screwed it up by refusing to play. “And why?”

Giacomo nodded, obviously having expected that. “I didn’t switch sides. I’m on the crown’s side like I always was. The reason why I’m not on your side anymore is because you’re in rebellion against the crown.”

“And since when do you care so much about House DiGorre?” asked Tanya, from behind Geoffrey. Geoffrey was very aware that there were twelve of them on this side of the table and just Giacomo on the other. It wasn’t a good look, he thought. It made them look scared.

Geoffrey was scared.

Giacomo gave a thin smile. He hadn’t said House DiGorre, Geoffrey thought. He’d said the crown. “Kyaine needs stability,” he told Tanya. “It needs a monarchy that can last for more than six months, and one that isn’t going to inspire half the kingdom—and all of Dolovai—to want to invade us. Do you really think that if your plan goes through, everything will be okay? We’ll have northerners massing at the borders as soon as their snow melts.”

“So supporting a monarch whose entire family is living in the Dolovin capital is the solution to that?” Janus asked. He sounded upset. He loved Giacomo, of course he was upset. “That sounds like capitulation to me, Giacomo.”

Geoffrey wished they would all shut up. They were all idiots. Nobody in Dolovai had enough spine to be a real threat to the crown, and Giacomo knew that too. He needed to figure out what Giacomo was really doing so he could figure out how to help him. He must be working with Hans for a reason, but if he was planning to kill Hans, why hadn’t he done it already? With Dahlia back, the war could end today if he just stabbed him.

“That’s because you’re not seeing the whole picture, Janus,” Giacomo told him, not gently. A cold wind blew through the square, and his hair flittered in front of his face. Giacomo pushed it behind his ear.

“Enlighten us, then,” Kristophe demanded, hand gripping the back of a chair like he might lift it up. He had strong arms and a short temper, so maybe he would. “What parts of the picture did you see while you were with the Sorcerer King?”

“Is Darius okay?” Geoffrey interrupted. There was no way Giacomo was going to answer Kristophe’s question anyway, especially not here. Kristophe couldn’t possibly have thought he would. Or maybe he was just that stupid. Geoffrey didn’t care either way. “Did he come back with you?”

“The Sorcerer King is holding him hostage,” Giacomo said, tone flat. “I’m trying to negotiate his release, but he hasn’t been harmed and he won’t be as long as his uncle doesn’t do something stupid, which he won’t.” His expression softened, just for a second. “Tell Aleksander he’s okay.”

Which he won’t. Of course, thought Geoffrey, one of the pieces slotting into place. “Hans didn’t ask you to speak in his place. He’s not really in charge anymore, is he?”

“Of course he is. He’s the rightful king regent.”

Sure he was. Giacomo was running the castle. Again. Okay. “Is he still alive?”

The corner of Giacomo’s mouth ticked up, just for a second. “Did you like my gift? Admittedly it was just as much a gift to myself as it was to you, but we’ve always shared everything before, so why stop now?”

Geoffrey nodded, hearing what Giacomo was saying underneath that. There was a whole second conversation happening here, one that only he and Giacomo could hear. They were sharing, the two of them. Sharing power. Giacomo wasn’t on Hans’s side. “Yeah. I appreciated it a lot. Thank you. When you come home, I’ll have to find a way to repay you.”

“Enough of this,” Danai said, pulling out the chair on Geoffrey’s other side and sitting down. “You can distract Geoffrey and Janus, but I’m not interested in your games, Giacomo. If you want to be a turncoat that’s up to you, but don’t act like you’re holding all the cards. You were just one part of our alliance, and anything Alfie has told you won’t be complete. You say all we have is each other, but there are more of us than there are of you. All you have is a pathetic excuse for a regent and two people named DiGorre, one of whom Hans gave that name and one of whom is a prisoner, and which is a name that doesn’t mean much anymore in any case.”

“Oh, I have a lot more than that, Lady Danai,” said Giacomo, while Geoffrey tried not to make a face. Did she really not understand the subtlety of what was happening here? “A good chunk of your support will defect back to the crown now that Dahlia is in Hawk’s Roost and you know it. Before, you had the excuse that you were supporting her. If you intend to continue your movement, you do it fully admitting that you’re staging a coup. And I think Kyaine has had enough of power hungry nobles starting wars for now, don’t you?”

“I think…”

“I don’t care what you think,” Giacomo interrupted. Geoffrey didn’t bother hiding his smirk of agreement, because only Giacomo could see him. Giacomo reached into the bag by his chair, pulled out a scroll, handed it over. “These are our terms for your surrender. They’re quite generous, out of respect for the fact that you thought you were doing the right thing in opposing the regent, and out of respect for the fact that no blood has been spilt yet.”

Danai glared at the scroll, so Geoffrey took it, unrolled it. “Every house involved in the rebellion will give a member to stay as a hostage in Hawk’s Roost for the next ten years,” he summarized, skimming past all the formal bullshit. He didn’t read aloud the specification that it be a child, a son or a nephew. “We keep our lands and titles but our taxation is increased for the next twenty years to pay for damages to the kingdom, all marriage alliances must be approved by the throne. We all have to formally repudiate our cause and swear loyalty to the throne, accept armed presence in our territories for the next ten years to ensure peace. It’s a very generous offer,” he said, handing it to Janus.

“I know. I made sure it was fair.”

It kept saying ‘throne’ over and over again, Geoffrey thought. The name DiGorre wasn’t on that scroll once. It was eminently reasonable—too much so, even. There was no way Hans or Giacomo would pay up on what was offered in there. Which meant that they needed a reason not to have to. “And where’s the page listing the concessions the throne is going to make to us?”

Giacomo smiled, and this time there was just the tiniest bit of that mischief in his eyes again. “You know that isn’t how this works. We’re not the ones surrendering. And we are making concessions by not hanging any of you.”

“Did the queen help in drawing up this list?” Geoffrey asked, leaning back in his chair. He needed to be unreasonable here. That was what Giacomo needed. “She is still the monarch, right?”

“Of course she did,” Giacomo said, tilting his head just a little. His hair fell from behind his ear, and he fixed again. He needed to cut it. “She, the regent and I worked on it together.”

“Did she?” Geoffrey asked him, calm. He felt on firmer footing now. He still didn’t know what Giacomo was playing, but he’d figured out what moves he had to make here, at least. “The queen offered us self-governance of our lands, part of Kyaine but independent of it. We pay our taxes and you leave us alone. I don’t see that offer in here, and I’m afraid it’s a dealbreaker for us.”

“Geoffrey,” Tanya warned.

Giacomo shrugged, carefully emotionless in that way he went when he was angry, but Geoffrey knew he wasn’t angry. “She never mentioned that to us. I guess she changed her mind and decided not to offer it after all.”

“It’s very unfortunate that she gave us that offer in writing, then,” Geoffrey said. She hadn’t, but that wasn’t important.

“Ah, that is unfortunate,” Giacomo said, folding his hands. “That our queen felt so threatened by her captors that she would be forced to make concessions that are against the best interest of all Kyaine.” He looked annoyed, in the way he’d used to look annoyed when Geoffrey would catch him sneaking into his room to steal something.

When Giacomo had genuinely wanted something of Geoffrey’s, he wouldn’t get caught taking it.

“So what this tells me is that you’re the one with Dahlia DiGorre locked in a room somewhere,” Geoffrey said. “And that she hasn’t even seen this treaty, nevermind written or approved it. And that makes you, little brother, a dirty little liar.”

Giacomo’s smile then was small, hard to even see. The one he smiled when he’d gotten exactly what he wanted. “I’m just keeping my promises, big brother.”

“Me too.”

“Good.” Giacomo stood up, fixing his hair again. “We’ve ordered all our forces to withdraw for one week to give you time to talk over that accord,” he said. “If we see any sign of hostile intent from you or we don’t get it back in a week with your names and seals on it—all of them, since you so aptly reminded me that there are many of you—then we’ll start spilling blood.”

And he walked away, heading for his carriage with the wind whipping his hair and clothes everywhere. Geoffrey watched him go.

“What the hell was that?” Tanya asked.

Geoffrey had forgotten for a second that he wasn’t alone. He rolled up the scroll, putting it inside his coat. He’d burn it when he got home. “A declaration,” he said, and stood up. “Let’s go home. We have a war to prepare for.”

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4 thoughts on “Noble, 25

  1. “Nobody in Dolovai had enough spine to be a real threat to the crown”

    You’re wrong on that count, Geoffrey. Spectacularly so.


  2. It sure does seem like this is the kind of move that’s likely to get Franz marching down with a Dolovai army behind him, to end the civil war and restore peace…

    Which, in turn, is exactly the scenario that would serve to convince the Kyainese nobility that House DiGorre have become pawns of northern expansionism, and that Kyaine needs new leadership.

    Giacomo has an interesting game going.


    1. He sure does! It’s a pretty deep game for sure. Whether or not this will actually have that effect remains to be seen, but you can bet Giacomo has considered it as a possibility, if nothing else.



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