Trials of the Prey – Chapter 6

Posted by Akira | Posted in Author Platform, General Writing, Serial Fiction, Trials, Writing Projects | Posted on 07-10-2016

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Courtesy of: www.markhorne.com

Courtesy of: www.markhorne.com

Go to Chapter 5

Lord Turi Emberiz sat before a large oak desk as the empire’s independent auditor analyzed  a stack of receipts and folded parchments. The man checked each paper against a thick ledger, making notes in the margins, but remained quiet the entire time. Turi sat crossed legged and calm, hands resting on his lap, his pet leopard lying calmly on the floor next to his chair. He hoped this visit would mark the end of House Emberiz’s public humiliation, the settling of all their debts regardless of how they were paid.

House Emberiz no longer existed by King Kirwin’s proclamation. Lord Turi’s eldest uncle had been bankrupted repaying the empire for the failed betrothal between his sister Tallis, then the Duchess of Faft, and Prince Gannon of House Lupuna. They had collected the last of their rightful taxes from ancestral lands. Those lands had reverted back to the empire for redistribution among the barons. Their property had been auctioned and its furnishings sold to cover empiric debt. Turi and his uncles agreed to split House Emberiz’s remaining debt among their personal accounts. Until today’s final accounting, those accounts were frozen pending clearance by the empire’s independent auditor.

Turi and his uncles had given his sister’s former ladies-in-waiting one month’s salary, transportation to their kin and porters to handle their belongings. In truth, some of them left with more personal goods and salary than his own sister would take with her to the palace. He shook his head as he thought about each and every bank note he signed just to make good on his former house’s noble agreement with their household. They’d sent the rest of their staff on with a month’s salary as well – almost 150 people were dismissed with sizeable amounts, and all from personal accounts.

“With your payment of House Emberiz’s former staff and Miss Tallis’s former household, you have satisfied the remainder of the Emberiz’s debts, Lord Turi,” concluded the auditor.

Turi let out a long sigh of relief. “The Emberiz estate is released from the empire’s oversight?”

“Yes, it is.”

The auditor took a quill and parchment and began writing. When he finished, he sprinkled a fine powder on the wet ink and blew the excess powder off the paper. The blue powder landed on several clear crystals that had been sitting on the auditor’s desk just next to the ledger. These crystals would hold the print from these proceedings. Then he took out a stick of blue wax and held it over the flame of a short candle. He handed Lord Turi the parchment for review. It was his proclamation that the Emberiz debt had been satisfied. Turi folded the parchment, handed it back to the auditor, and the man placed his official wax seal on the document. He then made another notation in the thick ledger and handed the parchment to Lord Turi.

“We’re done here?” Turi took up the slack in his leopard’s leash and the animal lazily rose to his paws.

“Apologies, my lord,” the auditor bowed his head slightly, embarrassed that the process was so unfamiliar to almost everyone involved. “We have not seen the dissolution of a noble house since before the Great War. Once you analyze and approve the crystals, they will be forwarded to the palace for confirmation and then on to the major financial institutions.”

He placed the crystals on a blue silken pillow and handed them to Turi. Turi held the crystals over the candle flame one by one to examine the inscriptions. They read exactly like the parchment he’d just approved. He placed the crystals back on the pillow and handed it to the auditor.

“Thank you for overseeing this transition for my family.” He rose from his seat and the auditor did as well, bowing to him from behind the desk.

“It was not my pleasure, my lord, whatever you may hear from whispering gossips or read in the gazette.”

Turi took the leash and led his pet out of the auditor’s office. The walk through the administrative wing of the palace was lined with guards and mages, and protective magics that swirled around doorways ever since the failed treaties.

Turi was stopped several times and ordered to produce papers, proof that he was allowed to roam the palace with a leashed pet. He obliged each time as he made the trip to his sister’s new abode. He endured sideways glances and whispers all along the way. A walk of shame that he already wished he could avoid.

The loss of their noble house meant the loss of ceremonial titles. The men of the house, though they had suffered financial losses and the loss of their ancestral homes, would not lose their titles, which had been earned in battle and in service to the throne. They had worked for centuries in various capacities in the empire and abroad. They were skilled men, some of them warriors with very lucrative pensions awaiting them after the audit. They would be lords of the empire until they passed to the Summerlands.

The woman of the house did not fare so well. The former Lady Tallis was a duchess in name only, a ceremonial title bestowed upon her at the age of majority. She was not a warrior nor a politician. She owned no lands nor properties from which to collect income. Although well educated, she had no worldly skill on which to fall back. She subsisted off her uncles’ and her brothers’ wealth. Losing the noble charter meant that Tallis lost her titles. Bankruptcy meant that she could no longer afford to maintain her household. There would be no more allowances, no more ladies-in-waiting, no more shopping excursions or grand galas. Lady Tallis Emberiz, Duchess of Faft became Miss Tallis Emberiz overnight.

 

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