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Author Topic: Little Secrets (1965)  (Read 1192 times)

Offline Myroria

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Little Secrets (1965)
« on: September 13, 2014, 01:35:15 AM »
June 1945

“You’re a loyal man, Gothren,” said the Empeurer of Myroria through clenched jaws, holding a match to a cigar he was gently puffing on. Gothren Quarrith, the newly promoted Imperial Chamberlain, remained silent as the cigar finally lit up and the Empeurer shook the match out.

“Thank you, Your Majesty.”

“Fendryn, please.” Gothren looked down and smirked.

“I suppose as your butler I should be on a first-name basis with you.” Fendryn took the cigar out of his mouth and laughed.

“Imperial Chamberlain is a lot more than a valet, Gothren,” Fendryn began, adjusting in his seat - the Burgundy Throne. After 15 years he still seemed uncomfortable on it, like he’d rather be sitting on an upturned pail in a trench on the Neustrian border. “Deputy Chamberlain, sure - but the big man himself - well, some would call you the power behind this!” he said, pointing with his thumb vaguely at the throne’s canopy behind him.

“You’re my chief-of-staff now. I don’t have the time or the inclination to meet with these nobles… politicians. You’re more well-versed in that. At least I hope so!” he said with a guffaw.

“I will strive to meet those hopes, Fendryn.” Gothren replied solemnly. The Empeurer looked at Gothren for a moment before continuing.

“You’re a loyal man. You’ve always been someone I could confide in.” Fendryn said with a smirk hidden underneath his ragged beard.

“You honor me, sera.”

“And Varis said you never let him down as his Deputy;” the king continued.

He honors me.”

“I think that’s a rare quality in this country, loyalty. Especially in this place,” Fendryn said, gesturing with his cigar at the largely empty throne room. “Stay loyal to your country, your House, and myself. In that order. If you can manage that I think you’ll do a fine job as Chamberlain.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty.” Fendryn popped his cigar back in his mouth and smiled.

“You’re dismissed.”

July 1965

Gothren slowly tapped the brakes and let his car come to a stop in a parking spot - chosen at random, as the laundromat he was parking in front of had been closed for four hours by now and the lot was entirely empty. Turning off the parking lights and taking the key out of the ignition, he paused to look around the car. A 1955 domestic model based on a Novmiri chassis, it had served him well despite its age. It was a small car - a coupe, as he and his wife were the only people who ever had to use it - the decision against having children made long ago.

Gothren slowly ran his finger across the wood panelling on the dashboard and wiped the dust on his trousers. Gazing absent-mindedly at his hands in his lap, his attention was jolted within a few moments by a pair of headlights entering the lot. Rolling down the driver-side window, he waited as the car pulled up alongside and the other driver rolled down his own window.

“Must be important, Ervas, meeting in a place like this. At a time like this. I’d like to be in bed,” Gothren said, annoyed, as Ervas, the other driver, shut his car off. It was a bit flashier - made within the past three years, at least. The moonlight shone off the chrome hood ornament - a leopard mid-pounce. “What’s a dyed-in-the-wool Ivorheart man like you doing driving a Prydainian car like that?” Gothren asked.

“Some of us prefer not to horde our salaries, Gothren,” Ervas said, jocularly - but the kind of jocular tone one might use at the watercooler in an office, rather than the jocular tone two actual friends would use. “Where’d you dig up that hunk of junk?”

“This car went to Letonna and back at least five times,” Gothren defended. “I’d like to see your sporty putt-putt navigate those back roads.” Ervas shook his head, and reached down beside him, pulling out a manila folder. He stuck it out the window and Gothren grabbed it firmly.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“There’s a rat among us, Gothren,” Ervas began. “One of the king’s men. And if this egg falls down there’s no way it’ll go back together again.” Gothren groaned.

“Nice one,” he said sarcastically, opening the manila folder and giving its contents a quick glance. “Do we know who?”

“Nope. If he’s Eluvataran he blends in well;” Ervas said. “But he’s there. Donor in Fellowmoor said some people from the MIA paid him a visit. Said they had heard restaurants like his were laundering money for House Quarrovth.”

“And?” Gothren said.

“You know we don’t launder money.” Gothren rolled his eyes so violently you could almost hear them. “They didn’t get anything on him. Riled him up real good, though.” Ervas said. Gothren closed the folder and put it in his passenger seat.

“Why are you bringing this to me? This is grunt work.”

“I offered my services to Her Majesty;” Ervas said with a dejected tone. “But she said she wanted her best man on the case.” Gothren chuckled, facing away from Ervas and looking out his windshield a moment.

“You’re too ambitious, Ervas. You can’t do your job quietly.”

“What’s wrong with being ambitious?” Ervas asked.

“In this business you need to be loyal. That’s a rare trait.” Ervas scoffed.

“You’re one to talk - I don’t think the Empeurer would have fired you if you were completely loyal to him.”

“The circumstances of that incident are known only to myself and His Majesty.” Gothren said sarcastically.

“Well, for your information, I am loyal. To my House, my country, and Her Majesty.”

“That may be, but you’re not as loyal as you are greedy,” Gothren said. Ervas, annoyed, threw his car into drive.

“Good luck, Gothren. You’ll need it. This bastard’s slimy.” he said, his car rolling forward. “I’ll catch you around,” he continued, and the car roared away.

Gothren took his reading glasses off, threw them on top of the folder in the passenger seat, and turned the keys hanging in the ignition.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2014, 01:40:22 AM by Myroria »
"I assure you -- I will be quite content to be a mere mortal again, dedicated to my own amusements."

Offline Myroria

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Re: Little Secrets (1965)
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2014, 02:01:41 PM »
The Imperial Chamberlain’s office was on the tenth floor of a twelve-story building a block away from the Grand Imperial Residence called the Administrative Offices of the Throne; an ornate concrete mass built in the Novmiri art-deco style in the 1920s, it seemed to dominate its block more than the Residence dominated its own. The Chamberlain’s office was the largest one in the building, as the position was at the head of the various positions that made up the bureaucracy surrounding the Empeurer. The floors, made of oak from the forests of County Traval, was so shiny one could see their own reflection between their feet and the windows behind the Chamberlain’s desk offered a beautiful view over the street below. The walls, lined with bookcases and filing cabinets, seemed to show that the Chamberlain always had work to do while at the same time keeping the space from looking cluttered.

Gothren did not work in the Chamberlain’s office anymore - and had not for ten years. The Empeurer never bothered to appoint a replacement and presently it was closed up and collecting dust, Gothren’s law books the only thing he was allowed to take with him. He had heard rumors that they were storing chairs in there when the Ballroom in the Residence wasn’t in use, but he couldn’t be sure.

Instead, Gothren worked in a small office above the ‘Q’ Club in Pelagis; one of many private bars for House Quarrovth retainers, it was the only place that the House could put him as their office building in Fellowmoor had been filled to capacity. When Gothren was fired from the Administrative Offices, it didn’t take long for his House to snatch him up as a senior aide, despite the fact he had never personally applied for the position. Despite the House’s eagerness to work with the former Chamberlain, Gothren’s office in the ‘Q’ Club was much smaller - still with bookshelves, but only a few filing cabinets. The floors were wood, but they hadn’t been polished in a few years. Instead, he preferred to work out of his apartment in north-central Pelagis, or even at home in Novrith if he could make it - though as the burden of his work increased over the years, his trips to the port city became fewer and fewer.

When Gothren was Chamberlain, his work was variable, but the mainstay was meeting with House nobles on the Empeurer’s behalf. Fendryn always thought that such meetings were below him - as a soldier who only started to have political ambitions in the mid-1920s, after the birth of his daughter, he preferred to direct the nation from behind the lines, just as he directed his forces from behind the lines in the Great War and the Resdaynian Indigenous Wars. Gothren, therefore, was Fendryn’s lieutenant - it was his job to make the Empeurer’s plans known to various petty nobles and housemen, and often the Empeurer gave great discretion as to what “his plans” meant, just as a general might leave it to a lieutenant to decide how to command his own platoon so long as the force’s objectives were achieved.

When Gothren lost his job in 1955 and House Quarrovth hired him on as a personal aide, he was at first assigned directly to the Empeuress Consort herself; curiously, it was here that he served as a chamberlain in the traditional role of valet - spending more time zipping Her Majesty’s dresses than meeting with politicians. Eventually, though, Gothren’s workload had increased as various Quarrovth councillors and hangers-on came to him for advice. By 1963, he was working twice as much as in his old position of Chamberlain in half the space.

“I want him dead!” shrieked Tanasa Othrelith, a noblewoman who had been serving House Quarrovth since her youth. Adopted into the Great House in 1912, at the age of 16, she had accumulated more feuds than someone with six generations of Quarrovth bickering behind them.

Sera, as I said before, I think it’s best to solve this matter more diplomatically.” Gothren said. He had been trying to calm her down for almost two hours now, and his thinning patience was starting to show.

“That bastard killed my brother!”

“Tanasa,” Gothren began, taking his cigarette out of his mouth, “Your brother died of a heart attack. I knew him personally; he was a hard worker. It’s no surprise to me his heart gave out eventually.”

“The doctors are lying! He was poisoned!”

“Even if he was poisoned, what would you want me to do about it?” Gothren asked, irked.

“Don’t tell me you don’t know anyone. I lost all those connections when they outlawed House War but I’m sure you have a goddamn rolodex full of people that could take care of him for me.” Gothren laughed.

“I can assure you, I do not.” Tanasa groaned loudly.

“No one ever takes me seriously around here!” she said, standing up with a huff and grabbing her coat.

“Aww, no, listen,” Gothren said, regretting losing his patience. He stood up as well and put his cigarette out in an ashtray on his desk.

“Let me look into it. If your brother was poisoned, we’ll make him pay. But I can’t guarantee anything.” Tanasa adjusted the coat hanging off her forearm.

“Thank you,” she said curtly. “I’m right. You’ll see. Andavel Vrotrith murdered my brother.”

“Let me walk you out, ma’am,” Gothren said, walking to the door of his office, trying to mend what had transpired.

“That’s all right - I’ll find the way myself, Gothren.”

“Okay,” he said. “Well, it was nice to see you again, Sera.”

“You as well, Gothren,” Tanasa mumbled, walking out of the office. Gothren tapped the front of his shoe on the floor as she left and frowned. Hearing the phone outside ring, he yelled to his secretary.

“Can you get that?” The phone rang again. “Can you get that?” The phone rang again. “Can you get that?” Hearing the phone ring once more, he opened the door to his office and saw his secretary was nowhere to be found. With a sigh, he sat at her desk and picked up the phone.

“This is Gothren Quarrith.”

“Yes, sera, can you put me through to Gothren Quarrith?”

“This is Gothren.”

“Oh, hello Gothren! It’s Ervas. Where’s Volmyni? I love hearing her voice.”

“I don’t know where she is. But I don’t need to know that.”

“Well I think it’s probably important to know where your secretary is.”

“No, I mean I don’t need to know that you’ve been harassing her. Maybe that’s why she’s the third one in two years.”

“Lay off it, Gothren.” Ervas said with a sigh. “Like she hasn’t reciprocated. And have you seen that ass? Let me tell you - “

“I’m married, Ervas. Was there a reason you were calling my office? Because I’m sure there are a million men in locker rooms dying to hear of your exploits, and I have work to do.”

“Well, I was expecting it to me Volmyni. But hey, have you looked into that folder I gave you?”

“Briefly. I haven’t started sniffing around yet.”

“Well sniff this,” Ervas said. “Galos Othrerith was murdered.”

“What?” Gothren said, astonished. “I thought it was a heart attack. Who did you hear this from?”

“The coroner over in Llaryn’s Gore, where his house was. It was poison.”

“I was just talking to Tanasa,” Gothren said.

“Yep. Looks like the old bag was right.”

“Well, goddamn.” Gothren said. “Thanks for telling me, Ervas. I’ll have to look into this.”

“No problem, buddy.” Ervas said. “You wanna have Volmyni give me a call when she gets back?”

“Yeah, sure,” Gothren mumbled. “Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.” Gothren hung up the phone and sat back in Volmyni’s chair, thinking.

“Did I miss a call?” Volmyni said, approaching.

“Oh, yeah, but it’s okay, I got it. I’ll be in my office.” Gothren said, getting up.

“Was it Ervas?”

“What’s that, now?” Gothren asked.

“Were you talking to Ervas?” Volmyni asked.

“Oh, no,” he replied. “Just a friend of mine. Tell anyone who calls I’m out for the day.”
"I assure you -- I will be quite content to be a mere mortal again, dedicated to my own amusements."

Offline Myroria

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Re: Little Secrets (1965)
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2014, 02:01:33 AM »
Gothren absentmindedly and carelessly rubbed the cheap, thin plastic wrapper that said "ANCIENT GAEANIST SOOTHSAYER'S COOKIE" on it in loud, blocky letters. The cookie tasted like the package looked, and apparently Ervas - sitting across from Gothren - noticed as well.

"Do you think they used fake vanilla in this?"

Gothren swallowed, grimacing. "I can't imagine a reputable restaurant like this would use anything but the finest ingredients from Ozia."

"The owners are Jutensan anyway. Not even real Ozians. You know, I heard fake vanilla can thin your blood and poison you from the inside."

"From the inside is generally how poison works, Ervas." Gothren said with a short sigh.

"What does your fortune say?" Ervas asked, leaning forward.

"'Never forgive if your offender will only offend again.'"

"Oh, that's a good one! What's the back say?" Ervas inquired - far too eagerly.

"'Learn Ozian: "Rifle": "Ae-virzh".'"

"Aevirzh." Ervas intoned. "You know, I was thinking," he continued, "what if the rat inside the House has something to do with Othrerith's murder?"

"I was thinking the same thing as soon as you told me the coroner's ruling," Gothren said, reaching in his coat for a cigarette. "So I called him over in Llaryn's Gore. He said that a woman no one had seen in the area before was spotted walking away from the manor a day before he was poisoned."

"Look at you, Mr. Detective!" Ervas exclaimed.

"I just made a call," Gothren said as he lit his cigarette. "But thank you. Regardless, though, the real detectives are on the case now. They called in the prefecture. I couldn't get near that house if I tried. I guess I'll have to try Tanasa again," he said with dread in his voice.

"Oof," Ervas said. "Good luck with that." He glanced at his watch. "Shit, I gotta get back to the office. You coming?"

"Yeah, in a little bit," Gothren waved dismissively. "I'll see you there."

Ervas shrugged and walked out the restaurant's front door. Bells hanging from the door jangled and someone from the back of the restaurant yelled "Iji saghili!" - "Good health to you!"

Gothren's stomach grumbled. From the feeling in his intestines, he could see why Ozians felt the need to wish someone that. Sighing and standing up, he threw a few guilden on the table and buttoned his jacket. He scratched his head and reached for Ervas's fortune, discarded on the table.

"The person you can trust least is the person you want to trust most."
« Last Edit: October 04, 2014, 02:07:22 AM by Myroria »
"I assure you -- I will be quite content to be a mere mortal again, dedicated to my own amusements."