Vestibule - <Bloodwood Manor, Jade Gardens>

The vestibule of Bloodwood Manor is a warmly-colored place, with a somewhat odd mix of the rustic and the majestic. It is a roughly circular chamber, a good ten feet from floor to ceiling. Oak panels, varnished to a dark reddish brown, cover the walls, with viridian marble pillars regularly interspersed within them, twelve in all. Each of these pillars bears a glass lantern, and each has its own counterpart in an inner circle, a stone arch connecting each to each.

A cluster of sofas sits in the southern half of the room, before a window looking out behind the manor, while a few potted plants sit on the windowsill. For the most part, however, this room appears to be for show. More evidence of this would be found in the middle of the inner circle, where a marble mosaic depicts an ancient bloodwood tree.

To the north, an oaken double door leads out into the gardens, and two other passages branch off of the main hall, into the east and west wings. The western passage leads off into the banquet hall, while the passage through the east wing leads to the mastery. In the back of the room, a section of the wall is cut away, leading into a staircase that spirals upstairs.

A loud clang of the knocker upon the entry door signals the footpad nearby to turn about and open it. He allows admittance to the cloaked form of Voreyn Zahir, and she brushes past him to step into the foyer with a sigh. Reaching up, she pulls down the hood of her cloak to reveal her carefully tended black coif topped with her signature silver circlet symbolizing her superior rank. Her sharp gaze darts about the vestibule in observation before she turns her attention back to the servant. "Please announce to His Grace that the Duchess Voreyn Zahir is calling upon him," she instructs in a mild tone, obviously one used to ordering others around.

"His Grace welcomes you, Duchess Zahir," a voice calls from the stairs, and a man soon follows, winding his way down and for the vestibule. Gefrey is there with a warm smile, approaching the Zahir Duchess easily. "Light's Greetings. I trust the ride went well?"

Voreyn turns, flicking her fingers dismissively toward the footpad. "The carriages were swift, and the roads were decent. Of that I am glad. The weather has been cooperative as of late, as well. I was wondering when the storms would cease so the restless could be let out of their confinement. How do you find residence in Jade Gardens, your Grace?" the Duchess greets, offering a deep and respectful curtsey to the man as he descends the stairs.

Gefrey gives the Duchess a light bow as he comes nearer. "As fine a city as there ever was," the Driscol Duke says with a smile. "Well, after Silkfield, but that's just my opinion. Would you care to come this way, have a seat? I can have the servants prepare something to drink." He gestures toward the mastery.

"Yes, please, of course," Voreyn replies politely, offering Gefrey a demure smile as she removes her cloak and tosses it back for the footpad to catch. She does not turn to see if it's retrieved, but only makes a move to follow Gefrey toward the mastery. "You have a very pretty manor here, Your Grace, and nicely furnished. If I did not know better, I would say it had a woman's touch. Perhaps you merely have a taste for pretty things that few men do."

"I had a cousin help out," Gefrey admits, offering a hand to the Duchess as he walks down the hallway. "I don't think I have the best taste, I have to admit." He continues along at an easy pace. "Tell me, you've heard the news lately. What do you make of Tradesmeet?"

Mastery - <Bloodwood Manor, Jade Gardens>

Taking up most of the lower east wing, the mastery of Bloodwood Manor is built with a solemn air. Somber brown oak covers the walls, and the windows are designed to come to a point at the top as they look out into the gardens.

On the eastern side of the room, a heavy desk sits, stacked with papers, and with a line of shelves behind it for holding books. A pair of chairs sits in front of the desk, to speak with the master when he's behind it. Nearer the door, however, a small, round table has been constructed, for more personal meetings.

A few small statues sit in nooks through the room, trinkets or busts collected over time, and a tapestry is placed just behind the desk, depicting the fields around Jade Gardens.

Voreyn takes the arm and curls her fingers demurely against Gefrey's inner elbow. She smiles faintly as she glances about and follows into the mastery, and one eyebrow quirks as the point of the meeting is brought forth rather bluntly. "Trademeet? Ah, well, that is a delicate situation, I admit, require even more delicate words." She pauses to mull the matter over before replying a bit hesitantly, "My congratulations go out to House Lomasa for the rise they have made, and it is to be expected that a House of their particular power is granted the commendations it has earned. It does, however, place tension between the rest of the Ducal Council; although I admit that in the long run, it will likely mean very little. The elevation of His Grace Norran Lomasa above Ducal matters now means we have less boisterousness to contend with. I do not think the Duchess Tanara will be quite so difficult to handle. And you, Your Grace, how do you feel on the matter?"

Gefrey leads Voreyn to the table, a place where both can sit. "Mm," he says thoughtfully. "I think it is a great boon for them as well," he says evenly. "Though I admit, the sudden lack of neutrality in this center of trade worries me a great deal. They say the Lomasas have a laissez faire approach to trade, but when one controls the trade, how will that change?" He smiles. "But then, I could be missing the mark, I admit." He stands as he waits for Voreyn to sit first. "And then, there's a number of other things, but these concern me... slightly less."

Voreyn seats herself demurely, sweeping her skirts beneath her and offering a smile up to Gefrey as she sits. "It is, perhaps, a bit startling, but rather than start a skirmish with the change, I had perhaps thought of enticing the Duchess into our favor. You know the phrase, winning the bees with honey rather than sour milk? If -we- cannot control it, perhaps we can make sure what /does/ control it is willing to cater to our interests..."

"Oh, I never had any intention of control," Gefrey says as he takes his seat. "As I said, I'm in favor of a more neutral trade center. Perhaps that, yes, could help as you said. I had... a few ideas to handle the situation, though I certainly could not execute them on my own. Tell me, why do you believe Tradesmeet has been such a strong power in Fastheld's economy?"

"Because it has been a seat of the merchant trade," Voreyn replies slowly, eyeing Gefrey with thought. "I know where you are leading this: that because it was neutral territory, it invited merchants of all sorts to open up a business there. But honestly, I knew few merchants who get paid for /politics/; I think it will remain an economic power under the lax eye of House Lomasa. And even if by some mischance House Lomasa managed to dampen the trade, of which I am extremely skeptical, it will merely move to another township. After all, all roads lead to Lightholder, for instance, and House Zahir processes most of its trade through there, and not Trademeet."

"Mm. The term I was going to use was tradition," Gefrey replies easily enough. "Or, another word, inertia. Tradesmeet is what it is because it is a river port, and has traditionally been the seat of merchant trade, as you say." He closes his eyes, folding his hands on the table. "It had been my belief that Houses working together could fight that inertia, and work on facilitating this shift. Two Houses, or three, though I have my doubts about convincing the Valorian Duchess, working together and moving their trade to another township would certainly have an impact."

Voreyn allows a moment of silence to follow as she digests the implications of Gefrey's subtle machinations, and she eyes him speculatively after the pause. "It may also look like an act of open rebellion, defiance for the Crown Prince. How would you manage to smooth over the ruffled feathers if /that/ catastrphe should occur? While the Prince is charming, soft in many ways, and gentle, I know full well cold steel lies beneath the little bit of fluff."

Gefrey raises an eyebrow at that, looking at Voreyn thoughtfully. "My allegiance is always to the Crown Prince," he says simply, "although I have never met the man to know his nature. This is not rebellion to him, it is not working to bring him down. It is merely running my House as I see best fit within the bounds of the Law." He lets out a soft sigh at this, shaking his head.

"I am not accusing you of such," Voreyn replies with an amused smile, and the corners of her eyes crinkle unexpectedly with the genuine expression. "I am merely pointing out what /could/ become an obstacle, so that your plans may be as detailed as possible to avoid exceptions. I would not want an oversight to ruin anyone's venture."

Smiling a bit in return, Gefrey nods. "I realize," he says softly. "And I have a few things in mind. But first, what is your opinion of the... crude plan?"

"I cannot admit to an opinion yet, your Grace, as I have yet to hear the details." Voreyn fiddles with a ring on her finger and glances away, her pose assuming something of thoughtful tranquility. "I tend to reserve my thoughts until I understand fully the situation and its merits - or lack thereof."

"Fair enough," Gefrey says with a nod. "Mm. Well, if you must know, my hope had been first to acquire your aid, and potentially the Duchess Valoria's. One house cannot do this on its own, as you fully realize."

Voreyn gestures with one hand. "You could easily do it on your own, Your Grace, but it would have as much impact as a child throwing a tantrum. You see that, and so require more voices to put force behind your actions. What it is, though, that you propose House Zahir do - exactly? Our trade does not lie within Trademeet, after all; there is nothing for me to withdraw."

Gefrey considers Voreyn thoughtfully a moment, then lowers his head. "I am afraid I may have wasted your time, then," he says apologetically. "Perhaps, then, I should just be speaking directly to the Duchess Lomasa, yes? Is there anything I can do for you while you are here?"

Voreyn blinks rapidly at Gefrey and her lips turn down into a slight frown. "I apologize for putting a damper on your enthusiasm, Your Grace. I did not come here in mind to destroy any plans; it is only fate to have settled things just so, I think. And no, Your Grace, I should be returning to Fanghill if there is little else you wish of me."

Gefrey smiles at Voreyn. "It is quite alright," he says. "Perhaps this would have been a brash move, in any case, yes? I do wish to see you around more, but no, there is nothing I wish of you just now."

"When next I am available, I will make a pleasure trip to Jade Gardens," Voreyn promises quietly as she rises up from her seat and steps away from the table. She offers another deep curtsey to Gefrey before straightening and smiling. "I wish you a good evening, Your Grace, and good luck in your endeavors." With that, it appears she is ready to turn about and depart.

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