Prince, 97

Being Obstinate Gets Nobody Anywhere, but Listening Is Powerful

You can read and hear the song that this chapter is focused on here!

Ao3 Link

It had been several years since Franz had heard a bard sing, so he was a little out of practice doing snooty aristocratic appraisals of their performances, but he was pretty sure Berry the bard who’d made an appointment to see him and Gavin today was better at it than any of the other bards he’d heard as a child.

But, Franz decided, as the song ended, since the bards’ guild had decided not to let any bards work two years ago until their members were treated fairly, this wasn’t an official performance, which meant Franz probably didn’t need to be aristocratic. So instead of that, he applauded. “Well done,” he told Berry, who was happily fiddling with his lute. “That was marvelous.”

“It was,” agreed Gavin, in a rare display of taste. He had a boner, which he wasn’t concealing. “You’re very talented, and the song is very interesting. Did you write it?”

“I did, your Highness,” said Berry, a little out of breath. “I’ve never performed it before, though. On account of, you know.”

“My parents refusing to negotiate with your guild leaders, yes,” Gavin said. “I know. The parts of the song that were about how important it is to work together with people with whom you’re at odds were very subtle.”

Franz glanced at Gavin. “That was the whole song.” It wasn’t hard to interpret when they’d spent an hour talking about the reasons why no bards were working beforehand. It turned out the king and queen were being obstinate, which certainly shocked Franz. He had a dinner with the queen later on, so this wasn’t even the last time he’d be faced with that today.

“That’s not true, there were also horny parts.”

There had been an awful lot of double penetration described in an awful lot of detail in the song. It had been about a peace summit that their respective great-great-grandfathers had been at just under a hundred years ago. Berry had reimagined the historical accord Francis DiGorre and Gabriel ven Sancte had come to as a threesome between them and a very accommodating servant, but the moral of the story remained the same, Franz supposed.

On the other hand, maybe Francis and Gabriel had fucked a servant together in Yoel Fortress. Franz had no idea.

Anyway, Franz wasn’t going to let Gavin be wrong. “The horny parts and the moralising parts were the same parts.”

“Just like in real life,” Gavin said with a sigh. He looked back at Berry, who was a pretty young man with almost white hair. “So if I’m interpreting your subtlety right, you’d like it if someone would convince my parents to stop being obstinate and start negotiating with your guild in good faith so that you and your friends can go back to barding?”

“I don’t think that’s the verbal form of what we do, but honestly I’ll start selling it myself if that could happen, your Highness.” Berry smiled. “I thought I’d have to be a whole lot subtler, but I see you appreciate directness. It’s really not working for me or my friends that we’re not allowed to perform. We’d like it if we could do that again. It’s kind of what we’re good at. But in order for us to be allowed to do that without getting kicked out of the guild, the crown and the guild need to come to an agreement.” He flashed them a smile. “If that were to happen, I’m sure I’d have the inspiration to write a song about the princes who made it happen.”

“Just not a horny one, please,” Franz asked.

“I mean,” started Gavin.

Franz held up a hand. “I know there are people out there who like to imagine that you and I are having sex, but I really don’t need widespread approval of the theory that I’m fucking my wife’s brother.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s fair,” Gavin said. He smiled at Berry. “You can write a horny song just about me and my husband. It’ll be his birthday present.”

“I’ve got one half-written already,” Berry said. “So, can we count on your support? I know this is a bit…unorthodox, and I don’t speak for the guild, but it’s really important that we be able to go back to work.”

“And you can’t just do that as-is?” Gavin asked, managing to lean back in his chair. “I understand you’ve been given the choice to do so several times.”

Franz had heard nothing about this, but that wasn’t unusual, since nobody told Franz anything and also he’d been involved in none of the bards’ guild negotiations. The tone of Gavin’s voice, though, suggested he probably knew what he was saying wasn’t true.

The sun was hitting Franz in the face, which reminded him his dinner with Georgina was soon and he needed to go to it to sort out the last of the stuff about the tariffs. He had a feeling she was going to corroborate Gloria’s story, and it was all just going to leave a bitter taste in his mouth. But he shouldn’t be late, either way.

“The choice to accept terms that the guild leadership doesn’t find amenable, yes,” Berry said. “Listen, it’s not my place to decide whether or not the terms your family is offering are fair. But…”

“They’re not,” said Gavin, standing up and stretching. He adjusted his pants a little. “Saying you shouldn’t have the right to ask non-guild members not to play your songs without credit is awfully rich coming from the people who own every orchard in Dolovai. I’ll tell you what. I’ll talk my parents off that ledge if you can convince your guild to step back from insisting on lumber discounts for instrument making. House ven Sancte really likes making money off of lumber.”

“I don’t…” Berry looked nervous. “I don’t really have the authority to do that, sir. I just want to be able to work.”

“Right, I know. But maybe if you told your leadership that I was willing to deal if they could move on just this one thing…”

Berry took a breath. “I can do that. But they’re going to want an assurance that if they compromise on that, your family will be willing to compromise on everything else.”

“I can’t give an assurance, but I…”

“I can give an assurance,” Franz said, leaning forward.

“Uh. No you can’t?”

“Sure I can. I’ll be the king someday, I think I have some pull around here.” Franz smiled. “Berry, this is a really important discussion and I want you to know that I’m committed to helping you and your guild.”

“Franz, that’s really not how a negotiation works.”

“We’re not negotiating, we’re just talking.” Franz smiled at Gavin. “Besides, I just heard a really subtle song that taught me why being pigheaded doesn’t work.”

Gavin mostly just looked amused, which was good. “I appreciate that, but this isn’t about me being an asshole. My mother has been stonewalling this process for two years and she’s not going to stop without a good reason.”

“Well. I just did your mother a series of rather substantial favours.” And Franz had an idea. “And you know what? I’m getting married soon.”

“And you want…bard’s labour rights as a gift?” Gavin asked.

“No. Well, sort of.” Franz stood up. “I actually have to leave to have supper with the queen, and you know, in all the planning of the wedding, I’ve compromised on everything I wanted so the wedding could be what everyone else wants it to be. But I wouldn’t be much of a diva if I didn’t put my foot down about a last minute change. And I want some bards to sing at my wedding.”

“That’s…a much faster timeline than I was thinking,” Gavin said. He sounded surprised.

“Two years is long enough,” Franz said. “It was nice to meet you, Berry. Thanks for the song.”

Berry looked confused. “Thank you, my prince. It was an honour to meet you.”

“And you too. I’ll see you soon.”

And Franz walked out of the room, pleased with himself. Georgina was going to tell him everything with Gloria was fine and that it was all closed down. Franz didn’t have a choice but to let her have that. But she was going to let him have this. He was going to help people. Not just the bards, but everyone who’d be able to hear their music again after this.

Maybe that was a bit tacky to think, but whatever. It had been a really good song.

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