January 21, 2016

In Which Falidor Is Dull by Comparison

November 19, 1197

Falidor tried to keep a stone face as he mentally kicked himself. Marsden Tamrion was the technical master of this castle, having inherited it from his father, but it should have been obvious that it would be his widowed mother who ran the place. Marsden Tamrion, after all, was five.

Not that he'd thought all that much about who would be interviewing him beyond it being young Marsden's castle. He was only here because his grandmother had pulled some strings with her husband, who was Lady Renata's great-uncle. He was only here because he would be graduating in a few months and he had no other goals or prospects. He'd grown up thinking he'd inherit his father's farm, but he and Ivy had talked so much about how they'd run the place that the thought of an adult life there had died with her. He'd majored in Theology, focusing in Biblical Studies, solely to justify her death to himself and he'd failed--and he'd found little interest in any other subject the university had to offer, or much of anything at all. He doubted he'd make a good steward, and he wasn't even sure he cared. This was a pity interview.

He wasn't sure he cared about that either.

"So." Having studied him for the twenty or so seconds he'd been in the room, Lady Renata pushed back the desk chair and rose to her feet. She was plainly dressed for a noblewoman, wearing more the sort of thing his gentlewoman mother or not-quite-adjusted-to-her-rise-in-station grandmother would wear, a plain dress with a leather bodice atop it. The boyish haircut did nothing to advance her appearance, though Falidor would admit that it suited the shape of her face. "Do you speak at all? Or do you just stand around staring at the floor?"

In truth, Falidor supposed that was about all he did these days. But--if only for his mother's sake--he compromised a verbal response. "I can speak."

"Good; my inkwell's run dry, and I'd rather not have to read your answers off the dust on the mantle. Now, I'll get to the point." She interlocked her fingers and cracked her knuckles. "Why do you want to be steward here?"

From the unblinking stare, Falidor got the sense that Lady Renata was a woman who wanted the truth--and knew bullshit when she smelled it.

"I don't." His blunt answer brought no more damage than a raised eyebrow. "I mean... I don't much want to do anything, really. But I have to keep myself alive somehow." For all he had little reason to be alive in the first place.

"Right. Well, if you must know, I've been having a rather more difficult time finding a steward than most would, given my son's age. I want a steward who would be willing to live here at the castle, and who would be willing to impart some instruction on running the castle to Marsden once he had grasped the ropes of the job himself. And if I'm ever out of the castle for whatever reason, the steward would have to act as lord of the manor in my stead--but not without getting a swollen head and forgetting any direction I might have left him. Can you do that?"

Falidor shrugged. "I don't object to any of it, so I suppose I could at least try."

"Good. You can start as soon as you leave campus." Lady Renata flashed a grinned. Her no-nonsense hiring approach aside, it seemed that she indeed had a jovial side and enjoyed indulging it. She'd be tired of him in a matter of months, he was sure of it. "And given how many men turned this job down, don't you dare give me any reason to fire you; I'm damn sick of doing the work of two people myself, and I don't just mean in the--"

She cut herself off, but without blush or contraction. Whatever she'd been about to say, she'd left it off for his sake, not her own. She had little to no problem saying anything that popped into her head. "My apologies. I forgot that this was a professional conversation. Or perhaps you're so inherently dull that I felt compelled to liven the dialogue for the sake of my own sanity."

Huh. He ought to have been insulted.

But--for what felt like the first time in years--he smiled. "I suppose life in a castle run by a five-year-old and his firebrand mother would render much of the world dull by comparison."

"Since I want you to keep this job, I'll let you keep thinking that. Now, don't you dare get any better offers before the end of March, you hear?"

Falidor nodded. "There's not much risk of that. Thank you, Lady Renata."

"Oh, no--none of that 'lady' nonsense. Given how much time we'll be spending together, it's easier for both of us if you just call me Nata." She winked, then brushed past him on her way to the door. "Now, come along and meet Marsden; I suspect he'll have plenty to say about that nose of yours."



Van said...

Falidor is Cord and Riala's eldest. Nata is Rina's cousin/former college housemate; her husband was Octavius's son Farilon.

Ann said...

Well, if nothing else this job should be able to shake him out of his lethargy. Especially with those employers. ^^ Especially kids are good for that, as I should know.

Van said...

At the very least, it's a way for Falidor to occupy his days and make some money (and not have to live with his parents, as most oldest sons in Naroni tend to do; I think he wants to avoid the inevitable grandbaby rabies to the extent that is possible).