A Fair Proposal - House Strongheart - RPLOG
The interior of Strongheart Manor, is, like the House itself, old and sturdy. The stone walls are thick, the windows are wide to accommodate the Sweetwater heat, and looking out, nothing for miles around save for rolling fields of grain and the occasional homestead. The audience chamber has been cleaned and dusted as is reasonably possible, but there's still a certain something or the other about the mortar - perhaps a trace of moss - that implies age, and the sparse furnishings imply that this is a room that doesn't see much use. Lord High Strongheart lounges in a sturdy-looking chair, no doubt dragged in from elsewhere, looking very much like a man who'd be elsewhere but is forced by circumstance and ceremony to be here.
From outside, a voice rings out: "Announcing the High Lady Longtail!"
Flora seems to be dressed reasonably well today, at least by Flora's standards. Gone is the usual leather outfit, its place taken by an utilitarian, if spotlessly clean white robe. Her usual guards are dismissed with a simple gesture, to wait for her return. Her golem Bastet, on the other hand, is guided along besides her, as she enters the room, tails flicking behind her.
Noticing the Lady Flora enter, the guards step aside to permit her egress. The golem they're less sure about, but Lord Strongheart dismisses their concerns with a wave of his hand as he gets to his feet with the aid of a hardwood cane, moving to meet Flora halfway down the chamber. A gesture of goodwill, perhaps?
"Flora. Let's dispense with the pleasantries; I believe we both are people who have more important things to do than to play social games out of necessity. I don't spend ten months out of each year at my country estate for no reason, after all - what is it you want of me?"
Flora nods, seeming rather appreciative of the gesture, her tails twitching behind her. "A table might be useful, yes... Flora has some sketches," the cat notes, as she gestures towards the bag she's carrying, and the bags over Bastet's back.
"As Mister High Lord Strongheart may've already heard, Flora's been speaking with the other nobles, yes... Mister Lord Blackback is unfortunately busy today," she adds with a small shrug. "Flora's thought up a project, yes, but LongTech isn't big enough to fund it alone, yet," the cat adds after a short pause.
Lord Strongheart shrugs, and claps his hands. An attendant comes in, and after a few words, a folding table is brought into the audience chamber and laid out for Flora's perusal.
"I'm starting to get old, Flora. I'll look at these sketches of yours, but I'll state openly that their meaning will probably largely elude me. Such endeavours are better left to those with the youth or expertise to deal with them. If you have a project that you wish for me to patronise, then tell me what it can do for me.
"I'll give you an example. Thirty-five years ago, there was another individual who petitioned me for funding - an alchemist. He'd discovered that a simple concoction of animal bones dissolved in oil of vitriol doubled, in some cases even tripled yields. Grains, legumes... not to effective on fruit trees, though. He wanted money to be able to produce the things on a large scale. Obviously, I funded him because this was clearly in my interests to do so.
"Now, I don't see you as a rival house - our fields differ too widely, and as I said, I have no interest in playing social games. But others will, and will balk at giving money to such. So, tell me. What is it this project has in my interest, that I should part with my money to aid you with it? You must speak to their self-interest and practicality - I've had no end of entrepreneurs in my day walking up and telling me their new invention is going to revolutionise the world, every noble house who takes patronage has."
"Not Flora, no. Sweetater. Promise itself, yes. Why wait for the inventors to come, if one can draw them over? The scholars with their new spells... Give them a podium to display them, yes. If they're anything like Flora, they'll love the opportunity, yes," the cat notes, as she splays out a few designs... An architectural sketch of a large, domed building, something that looks like a set of weights, a beam of some sort, and finally, a contract that appears to have already been signed by Flora, Lady Solacious, AND Lord Blackback. Flora's certainly been busy, by the looks of things.
"Flora is hoping to have Sweetwater host a fair for the whole of promise. Inventors, scholars... Magic, machines, culture. The best Promise has to offer in all fields, a month long."
"It may not show immediate effects for House Strongheart, but... Flora is quite sure that if more scholars and inventors flock to Sweetwater, it will benefit the country as a whole, yes. And Flora figures it's a good place to meet promising inventors too, yes."
"Hm. So you don't. This complicates matters." Lord Strongheart turns away from Flora, and starts pacing back and forth by the windows. "It must be nice to be the only one of your house sometimes. To be answerable only to yourself in the event of either success or failure. You alone decide your direction, and in a sense, have more power than me. No doubt this must be how the progenitor of my own house was, generations ago.
"It's no secret that you have personal connections with many of the Solacious clan. As scholars, it's quite obvious why the Blackbacks would support a fair promoting their chosen profession. If I were more conscious of the status game, I'd be behooved to donate, but I'm not. The people in the capital - they call me a son of toil, or alternatively, a ton of soil depending on who's speaking.
"So at the end of the day, Flora, I must have something to show for my investments. I am accountable to not just myself, but also my family, my hirelings, and everyone who works the land I own - as I said, I probably have less power in my own house than you do in yours."
After another minute's worth of pacing, Lord Strongheart stops and turns back to Flora. "This, I believe, is the point where we negotiate, and I will open with my offer. I understand that much importance is being placed these days on advancements which capture the attention and imaginations of the populace. Golems. Flashy magics. Instant portraits. There's little incentive to look at the humdrum yet essential aspects of our lives, like the beds we sleep in, the water we drink, or the food we eat. If you can guarantee - in writing - that a not insignificant portion of this fair will be devoted to the field of - what's the fancy name they're calling it these days, angricultural science? If you can get inventors and magicians working in these fields, if you can promote their work, then perhaps I could justify the expense. It would, of course, be proportional to the percentable of the fair's total cost which I fund. Is this acceptable?"
"Of course, yes. Agriculture... Mining, smithing... Flora would imagine Mister Lord Strongheart would appreciate the latter two to be included, too? Given the House's other activities?" the she-cat questions, tails twitching behind her.
"Perhaps not every day, but a month is a long time, yes. And that means all fields can get the attention they deserve," the cat notes, as she gestures at the architectural sketch. "Flora hopes to build things large enough that everything has a chance to be shown during that time."
"And Flora agrees, yes. Big leaps are nice, but... The largest contribution comes from small improvements, yes. Often things that seem almost obvious afterwards, yes."
"But... Flora has another thing to discuss," she notes, as she rummages through Bastet's saddle-bags, and pulls out two metal objects... One cylinder, and one metal beam... Very similar to the design she's put on the table before.
"An event like that... Needs a gift, yes. A gift to Promise. Something that will help science, trading, production, everything," the cat notes as she gestures at the beam and the cylinder. "Many beings use their body to measure, yes? But Flora's arm is not the same length as Mister Lord Strongheart's arm... It causes problems. Things get worse when going to another country, yes. And while richer merchants and craftsbeings have their own standards, they're private, yes. Not easily compared."
"Flora is sure Mister Lord Strongheart has ran into this problem in the past too, while determining a harvest, or the yield of a mine, yes?"
"Hm. I see what you're about, yes." For the first time since the audience began, Lord Strongheart gives Flora a small, if recitent smile. "If you do have the ability to convince the whole of Promise to use your weights and measures, when there are so many vested interests against it... well, I wouldn't be wrong in saying that you'd be making history, Lady Longtail. Ambitious. Ambitious indeed. It is an endeavour that should be observed, at the very least, even at my age."
"Flora wouldn't know. But if the standards are there, the old systems can be compared to them... The old standard doesn't have to be thrown out, just documented, yes. And, of course, as a gift, the use is free. A copy for those Houses that benefit. Longtail, Strongheart, Blackback, Aldermann, Underhill, Snowmark and Caldera. A copy for the Churches. A copy for the Academies. And a copy for the ruling government," Flora notes, her tails flicking behind her.
"Lesser copies for day to day use. The originals to compare the lesser copies, to verify."
"But... There is a problem, yes."
"Hm." Lord Strongheart claps his hands again, and the attendant returns from the place where attendants go when they're not needed. If allowed, the being will take the cylinder from Flora. "Please, set that in my study for now.
"Now, Lady Longtail, another problem? Do tell."
"Just prototypes," Flora notes as she gestures at the cylinder. "A... Lesser copy. To perfect the shape, yes," the cat notes, as she pulls out a sheet of paper, listing various metals... Iron, steel, copper, bronze, everything stricken through, even creator steel.
"The standards need to last, yes. Iron rusts. Steel rusts, but slower... Bronze, copper, and silver tarnish... Creator steel... Too expensive, and worse, can't be worked accurately enough. Gold, too soft," she notes, as she goes down the list, until she winds up at one particular metal... Platinum.
"The only metal Flora knows that can be worked, doesn't tarnish, and is sturdy enough, yes... And, barring Creator steel, the most expensive."
"Hm. That. To be honest, we don't have much use for it. Getting the metal out of its raw state simply isn't worth the cost, even at the prices. Too hard to work with. There is some specialised demand from the Academy, but what we do have here in Sweetwater is largely a by-product of other mining ventures.
"If it's platinum you need, I can sell you either the raw ore or the metal itself at market prices - renegotiable, of course, if your fair is a success. I'll be frank, though - the supply in Sweetwater is rather limited. If you need larger quanities, negotiating with someone from Thera'dor or Shralesta would yield better results - taking into account, of course, transportations costs."
"That is the issue, yes. Flora needs a consistent supply of similar quality," the cat notes, as she leans back a little. "Flora has contemplated asking the creators, although the odds of success are... Slim, yes. With the trading embargo, yes."
Gears seem to be turning in her head, especially considering the metal still has a price significantly higher than gold, even if it doesn't serve much purpose.
"Flora will have to think on things... But suppose Flora could find some way to find a rich vein... Flora is sure a... Partnership of sorts could be negotiated? The initial batch will make for the largest requirement, but... Replacements need to be made, with the same quality of metal sometimes... And Flora is sure Flora can think of... Other purposes too, yes."
"I'm not averse to such further negotiations. Perhaps it will even suffice to explain to other interested parties as to why I've chosen to fund, in part, your venture. But details are details, and I'm sure that further negotiations between our people will be in order." Lord Strongheart makes a show of coughing a little after that last sentence. "Pardon me. It's almost time for my medicine...growing old can be tiresome at times. My body isn't what it used to be, even if I did wear it out in my youth."
"Now, if you need something signed..."
"Of course, yes," Flora notes, as she gestures at the document she's brought along. The terms are reasonably straightforward. Fifteen percent of the money comes from Solacious and Strongheart, if they sign. Similarly, the crown would pay twenty percent, under the same assumptions, and finally, Longtail and Blackback will make up the difference... There also seems to be a provision stating that, should House Ironsoul pitch in, the contributions of Solacious, Strongheart and Ironsoul will each be roughly ten percent.
"Flora will prepare photo-copies once back, so each House has a copy. Flora will also prepare an additional document containing the terms discussed, yes."
"Hm." Lord Strongheart gives the document a look-over, then nods and returns it to Flora without signing it after a good fifteen minutes of poring over the details. "The terms look acceptable, Lady Longtail. However, as I stipulated earlier, I would like to have the assurance that you gave me regarding this fair of yours to be in writing. As such, I would like the contract to be redrafted in order to accommodate such. It would hardly be fair to all parties involved if one were to give a written assurance first, with only a verbal one in return, would it not?
"You were kind enough to come out here all the way to see me, so perhaps I'll drop by Sweetwater in a couple of days with my solicitor. We'll redraft the contract then, and get everyone's words down in ink. For now, shall we both accept a verbal agreement to these terms?"
"Yes. Flora understands, and Flora agrees. Although Flora would appreciate a provisional signature, yes... To prepare for an audience with the King, of course, but Flora understands," the she-cat notes, ears flicking lightly atop her head.
Still, she nods, and after giving the Lord a moment or two to consider those words, she rolls up her sketches and documents again, and carefully tucks them away in the saddlebags on her golem. "A pleasure, yes, and... A gift," the she-cat notes, as she pulls a small, ornamental box from her shoulder-bag. "Flora is sure Mister Lord Strongheart already has one, but... Gifts are appropriate from guests, yes?"
"Ah. One of your pens. Quaint." Lord Strongheart offers Flora a friendly smile. "You will have your signature in time for your royal audience, so long as you do not intend to meet the Good anytime before the day after tomorrow. Now, I'm afraid I must retire. Please, my steward will show you out."
Flora nods and smiles, her tails still flicking behind her, as she takes her leave, ready to head back to the city...