I took the time to arrive in Dubrovnik in state, accompanied by a small contingent of my men as an honor guard. While I had no luggage with me, I had taken the time to have two trunks sent ahead, containing some of my personal effects, those that I did not wish to simply re-create. I stayed for the official receptions, and then retired. I had a lot of thinking to do, and for now, merely wished to be left alone. For the next several days, I went about making myself more at home, including transforming one of the rooms in my suite into a practice room. I also made at least some effort to meet the nobles and other persons of import in the town, and explored its shops and side streets, taking note of the defenses as I walked. After about five days, having not been able to find Andrevo at work on my own, I had a note delivered.
I can not seem to locate your studio. Perhaps we could dine? - Your fiancee, Juliette"
We arranged to have dinner the next evening. After a few, quick pleasantries, Andrevo quickly got down to business. "As for my studio; it's odd that you'd note its absence so quickly."
Hmmmm. A little touchy, perhaps? "I was interested in seeing your art."
"There is a museum in the town of my more common pieces about the surrounds."
"I wasn't really interested in your 'common' pieces. I thought your art, your...process, would give me some insight."
"I am tasked with creating new trumps of Masamba; you can witness that. It shall be... fun."
I raised an eyebrow at the last remark. "Fun?" He winked, and I smiled back. "I would also be interested...in learning."
"First I'll need to find him; that being the origin of the event in a sense."
"I know where we might look. But you seem to have...avoided my request."
"My actual studio is up the hill to the east a few miles, in a lodge I spend time in."
"Perhaps, at some point, when you are...ready, I could visit. Take...lessons."
"Now there is an important question I must ask, because it means a lot."
"Why do you seek Trump?"
"There are several answers to that question...I wish to learn to paint, that I might learn more about the painter...I wish to protect myself from those who would use it against me. And, I feel it might endear me more to my future...family."
"Has any art ever interested you before?"
"Not really, but I have to admit I have not had much...exposure. My world was a harsh one."
"What do you think is.... `art` ?"
"Expression. I haven't really thought about the questions much, I admit." I looked down for a moment, my answers seeming...not acceptable. "I feel perhaps my answers are...inadequate."
"Its the type of thing I consider often; and why perhaps I am of no use on a battlefield."
"Life does not exist only on the battlefield. The battlefield does bring one to mind, though."
"I have spent much of my time exploring your lovely city, when I was not evaluating its defenses, considering our current...situation...and think I may have come up with something that would be marginally acceptable to all parties...One battlefield."
"Perhaps I am confused as to your meaning."
"The decision before us." I found myself becoming more and more frustrated.
Andrevo arched an eyebrow. "It doesn't quite suit you to not speak plainly."
I gave up. "No, it doesn't...Concerning the throne...I should just leave the flowery speech and innuendo to you." He smiled. "My solution is as follows - Paki has offered me Forest Arden in exchange for the jewel...if we take him up on his offer, with the following posts going to the following family members - Ambrose and Fionn will be Admirals of the Navy, and Eathon will be Captain of the Guard. This leaves each family with some type of position except Sato - Eathon is pretty much Rose's anyway, Your Uncle is admiral and I am Lord Protector, being as I will soon join your family...and Fionn is also admiral. Paki is also the 'legitimate' heir...and would probably do a decent job." Andrevo furrowed his brow. Damn him! "Do you foresee a problem I have not anticipated?"
"It isn't the right thing to do."
"And what is the right thing to do?"
"Not jump at the first offer you got."
"So wait, and see who else tries to bribe me? While it was the first offer, it seems a reasonable one."
"Beyond being good business, I do not trust Paki to be King."
"He is Igare."
"You think he will try to conquer other shadows? It would be difficult to do without the support of his navies and his armies. Which will be under the controls of others." What was his problem this time?
"That separation of power isn't meaningful."
"You don't think so? What do you propose then?"
"Find someone less likely to be tainted by the machinations of Brand."
"Such as? I have considered the issue carefully. I am not simply acting out of my own interests." While I understood that we had to be cautious...this seemed ridiculous. This question needed to be solved, or nothing would be done against the larger threat.
"Then how do you weight the warnings of Callyn?"
"She said she saw Brand in *all* of her children, and that was why she asked us to choose. Unless there are specific warnings I have not been informed about."
"You didn't answer my question." He just didn't like my answer.
"I take her warnings seriously...but I fail to see how they apply to Paki more than others."
"Why would it have to apply more than others for it to be a danger?"
"It is a danger, but I do not see it as a danger which makes him less qualified than any other. It exists in all equally for the time being, until we have more information." I was starting to wonder if he was becoming as paranoid as grandmother.
"You pick him because he hasn't enough against him compared to others; I don't want to because I don't see enough for him."
"We need to make some kind of decision, so that greater matters can be dealt with." If I did not stop this discussion soon...why is the man so damn frustrating?! "But we should stop this conversation for now. It has become too...troubling."
"I had hoped we could use this time to...get to know each other better, if you'll excuse the cliche." Andrevo smiled, but mentioned that he had other business to attend to after dinner. So much for that plan. We finished quickly, neither speaking much, and went our separate ways. I had other business to attend to...my new shadow, so I left him another note, along with my plans for his defenses.
"Andrevo, I will be 'in and out.' Let me know when you wish to dine next...or when we will commence our lessons. You know how to contact me - J"