... now they must watch their abundance of luxuries fall away, making room for the tools of survival, and witness this time of relative peace wither into the same fears that harper's ballads had warned them about for generations.
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 The Chains of Debt

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PostSubject: The Chains of Debt   The Chains of Debt I_icon32Sat Mar 28, 2015 11:24 pm

[Plot update]

Tossing in his sleep, Changhui had broken into a sweat as walls of fire surrounded him in a nightmare that took him back to the night he and his mother had been murdered. 

Through the dense smoke that filled the room he could see her figure, and he called out for her. But as he tried to raise his voice, sure that she would flee with him, disembodied hands pulled him away. Growing more distant, Changhui's heart pounded in his chest, fearing that the motherly figure behind them would disappear, never to be seen again. 

An instinctual desire to fight against the hands that served to rescue him rose up within his chest, but as started to turn to find the faceless figure that he knew must be his own mother, those same invisible hands that ushered him from the spread of flames, stopped him. Before he could lurch to escape, another roaring wall of fire fell between them. Wooden shelves collapsed, throwing up a dense, black air which he was unable to see through. 

Stalled in his progress, Changhui felt helpless. The sense of loss buried itself deep inside the core of his being as he felt himself being carried away. 

The tears that stung his eyes brought Changhui out of restless sleep. Even as he awoke, the image of flame burning behind his eyelids and the feeling of loss becoming like a weight in his chest, he wanted to despise the hands that saved him, keeping him from his mother. But he was all too keenly aware of who had saved him -his mother's handmaid, Lady Sienne. And knowing all the trouble that the woman had gone through to keep him alive all these years and to raise him properly in his mother's stead, it was equally as difficult to hate her. But even though she'd kept him from his mother, she had saved his life.

No. His mother had saved his life by giving her own in exchange. He knew the reasons she was left behind. 

Changhui dried his face on the sleeve of his night clothes as he sat up at the edge of the bed, realizing by the warm glow of light outside, that the sun would soon be up over the horizon. Those who spent their days working inside the walls of the Dragon's Venture headquarters were probably already starting their day. Shaking off the remnant of sleepy, nightmarish haze, he decided it was best for him to rise as well.

Taking his time dressing, it still didn't take long for Changhui to ready himself to face the day. Soon he was at the door, exiting his personal apartment where he was greeted immediately by Haran.

"Young Master." Came the guardsman's greeting as he bowed his head with reverence.

"Good morning, Haran. Is Sienne awake? I'd like to have my breakfast while visiting with her more about the situation she mentioned briefly yesterday."

As he talked, Changhui started toward the conference room where they usually met to discuss matters of business. His guard naturally fell in step with him, becoming a shadow of his every movement most days, though there were some times that Changhui protested it. Some days it simply felt more freeing to be alone. It was difficult at times to find release from ones innermost turmoil when there were always eyes watching and ears listening, giving little real room for privacy to sort through one's own feelings. Not that he wasn't used to their observance of his life, but he knew that it bothered them to see him struggle in those times when he did. And considering that it usually didn't take Haran long to recognize a shift in his mood, he figured that this morning, the older man would surely notice that his young master was feeling less than energetic.

"I will send for her. Your breakfast will be served shortly." 

The guardsman assured him, bowing his head once more before turning to fulfill Changhui's order.

Acknowledging the man, Changhui continued into the conference room, going to stand where he could gaze through the window.

Still troubled by his dream, he was unable to greet her with any kind of smile, still staring vacantly through the window.

Not recognizing his irritable mood at that point, Sienne crossed the floor, drawing nearer to him as she attempted to make an apology.

"You are awake early. Had I known, I would have prepared to be here sooner. Is there something that kept you from getting proper rest?"

Changhui wanted to snap at her and tell her that she had been the cause of his lack of sleep, at least within his nightmares, but he also knew that that wasn't exactly true. He couldn't take his irritation out on her like that. That didn't keep him from being irritated, though.

His gaze leaving the window, he turned in on the mistress of the Dragon's Venture, letting her know that his temper was likely going to be somewhat short all day. "Since when have you become so informal with me that you cannot greet me properly?"

Caught off guard by the sudden outburst, Lady Sienne stammered, eyes growing wide. She searched his face momentarily, as though an expression alone might explain his reasoning, but the Lady was sooner in a kneel before him, pleading.

"O-oh, Young Master! I was in too much of a hurry to see to your need, that I was not in my right mind momentarily. I have done a horrible thing, and am unworthy of your pardon. I would gladly accept your punishment of it could only erase the wrong I have done to you."

Honestly, Changhui stopped listening to her half way through the plea. The stammering only put him in a worse mood, but now she owed him one. 

Usually Sienne liked to try to insist that he take his breakfast in peace and quiet without any interruption, but this morning, he wasn't in a mood to wait around to get things done, so now, he could insist on her talking business over breakfast without her trying to act like his mother.

So, as a pair of kitchen drudges made their way into the room with his meal, setting it at the head of the table, Changhui made his way there, turning his back on the place where Sienne still cowed herself humbly.

Taking his seat, Changhui gave her the conditions of her pardon, "Come tell me more about the situation with the highborn mentioned yesterday, while I eat. Then you will have my forgiveness. I get the feeling that it is not an issue we should leave alone."

Assured by his words, the Lady realized what he'd done, but didn't mind the reprimand so long as he wasn't set on remaining angry with her. So, at his command, she rose from the floor, stepping to the side of the table next to his chair, where she comported herself appropriately. "Yes, Young Master. As you may know, some of them are starting to fall into debt. Those who profit most from the land have also suffered the most while there has been too little rain to make a good harvest. 

"I would suggest, Young Master, that the Dragon's Venture buy their debt or give them loans, accepting their estate heirlooms as collateral. We are Traders after all, and have handled such transactions in the past. It would not seem suspicious for us to do so, but that would allow us greater control over the opposition when we reach that point. They still do not know who is behind the Dragon's Venture -that they will be signing everything over to Keroon's future Holder. It would work to our advantage."

Finishing a bite off his plate, Changhui had only barely started to consider the suggestion, but already wasn't sure he liked it.

"The chains of debt cannot win the heart. Debt only fosters ill will, so transferring their debt to us could backfire. It may only buy their temporary silence; until the time we we relinquish out hold on them. But after my brother has written a letter of abdication, do you think they will remain silent? Or are they people who would be quick to turn against us?"

"We have the support of your father's men already -those who know that you are alive. However... there are still those who may not be so willing to support you, and some of those men are strategic persons whose voices and talents could be used to your advantage when it comes to removing your brother from his seat of power. Even if they do not have a preference for you, as long as we control their debt and have worthy collateral, we can at least stay their hands from taking action against you at that most important time. It may be the only way to ensure that those who do not support you openly, will not stand in your way."

Even knowing that, Changhui couldn't say he was completely happy with the arrangement, but he wasn't sure he had much a choice but to agree to the terms in order to make things happen. He wasn't a stranger to making agreements that sometimes compromised the good intentions of his heart, but it still hurt him to do so. To achieve great things though, sometimes sacrifices were necessary. 

The young man took several moments to enjoy the food prepared for him, before managing another response. "And the rest of them? Those who will support me, did you give them the Marks that they required to influence those who do not yet know I'm alive?" 

"I did. To conceal the transfer of bribe money, I have temporarily accepted heirlooms from their homes as well, which we can return freely after your brother has abdicated. For now though, without that exchange, it would look suspicious in our records to have departed of such large sums for no apparent gain."

Even without Sienne's elaboration as to why there'd been such a necessity, Changhui could foresee why she'd received highly valued items from them. And not just items valued for physical price, but items that they held priceless for the sake of sentiment. Though, surely, the heirlooms of well-to-do families were not worthless in monetary value, either. 

Either way, Changhui let those thoughts settle, taking much of the rest of the meal to mull over. 

"Alright. Do it. Buy their debt. All of it. And when this is over, we will see about dismissing some of that debt so that they don't have to feel as though we have taken complete unfair advantage of them. That will will our gesture of gratitude and my compromise in carrying through with it."

Lady Sienne was glad to hear that he was agreeable, and likewise found his own compromise agreeable. It would allow them to be viewed with greater favour, later. So, inclining her head, Sienne acknowledged that she would ensure the work was carried out. 

"I'm glad to know that the Young Master has grown up to be so wise. I will see it is done."

"Good. If there is nothing else urgent then, I will take some time alone, until the afternoon. You may leave."

Sienne curtsied, excusing herself from the room, knowing that Haran would be looking after him as Changhui found a few short hours of reflection in solitude. Of course, Changhui would soon have to retreat back into the relative privacy of his own room in order to find that kind of peace and quiet.

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