FanFiction > MerchantDeryni's FanFic

Pepper and Lace: Chapter 7

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MerchantDeryni:
Chapter 7

“My dear daughter. Why would you want to work on the network? Dhyrucc did it to bring money into the family. As Miss Abranel has just explained we are wealthy now. Out future is assured.”

   “Is it? Is it really? We can pay off the creditors, we can restore the house, buy more paintings and furniture, more land perhaps. Are we really safe? We are still nervous about who we are, our bloodline. Our servants and tenants are happy and loyal enough, but it will take one drunken night muttering in the pub to have a mob at the door. Deryni are barely tolerated, and any reason is reason enough to attack, kill, steal from. We are an act away from being stripped of our land. It happened with the Ramos convention.”
Alicia turned to Dhyrucc. “You stayed at home all the time you were working on the network. Just carrying for money, not seeing the world, not straying away from the home. You wanted to be close in case something happened, correct?”

Dhyrucc shifted uncomfortably in his chair. That had been part of the reason. Learning to move more material through the portals had shown him he could help rescue his family if it was needed. Alicia continued.
“So we are rich now. So what? What are you going to do now? Your duty is done, the family has money. Will you stop? Or does the idea of being able to see the world have an appeal?
   And what about me? I am 17 years old. My future is marriage and children. Mother never stops about it. Everything is focused on me finding a suitable husband. With the decline in our fortunes the standards for a husband lowered. Even mother accepted that. I started getting lessons in taking care of clothes myself. In case I was forced to marry at the level of my ever declining station. It was a possibility.
   Now we are rich, richer than we have ever been. So the list of suitable husbands is now from a different list. Father can now pay a dowry to have a landed man marry me. Or perhaps we pull an old trick from the past and find a Deryni family with a need for a new name. It's been done before. Why not again? But any path for me leads to marriage and children.
   But now I have read about Deryni heritage and gifts. Now I see a woman who has walked the streets of far Byzantyum, has seen the God-Emperor and the Forbidden City of Wa. Travelled the lands of the Great Khan. Places that are almost legend here. She said no to her traditions and future and has carved one out for herself. She has been able to do that because she has an ability to use magic, an ability that nobody can take away from her. I want that freedom in my life Father.”

   Victoria stirred in her chair. “Careful what you wish for dear heart. All gifts have a cost, some higher than others. My freedom comes at great cost. I am shunned by many in my family. They think I should be a wife and mother. I bring shame to the family.”

“But you've made them wealthy surely! Like what you did for us?” cried Alicia.

“Indeed. I have earned a fortune. I bring them shame, and gold. They accept the gold, but do not accept me.”

“The network does, or those who run it. You are allowed to use it, even as a woman.” argued Alicia.

“This is true. I make them money as well. Adepts can be of either gender. One of the strongest portal users in the beginning was a woman. She made a lot of money smuggling salt. Moved tons of it over the years. But there are some on the network who will not work with me, will not accept instruction from me because I am a woman and should not teach nor have authority over a man as in First Timothy, or simply because I am a Jew. Either reason is reason enough for some people.
The network just wants money and faith and gender play no part. Cargo moved is cargo paid. No distinctions.”

Alicia turned to her father. “Father I do not want to married right now. I know there have been offers. I know you and Mother have argued. You put the suitors off. I want my own future. I want my own path.”

“My dear daughter. I have always longed for a safe and happy path in life for you. Portals are not entirely safe you know. There are risks.”

“To use portals recklessly and untrained I accept that caution. Dhyrucc makes 4 transfers a day I understand it. Here to Longwyn, Longwyn to somewhere else, then back to Longwyn and then home. Hundreds of jumps in the last few months. He is still here. He uses his training, his discipline to use the portals safely and earn money. I know I can do the same.”

“It takes discipline, if you jump tired you take risks.” offered Dhyrucc.

“I know that, I've read the same books you have. Victoria would teach me. Why should I not have the same opportunity and the same options you have had? Is it because I am a woman?”

“Well we don't really need the money anymore now. We are rich.” Dhyrucc gestured to the bag on the corner of the desk.

Victoria interrupted. “Does this mean you will no longer be carrying goods for the network? For Longwyn? Are you ending your relationship with the Merchant House?”

Dhyrucc paused, “Well, that is to say,.... I mean...”

“We lose many that way.” Victoria continued, speaking to all of them. “ They make enough money to see to their needs, their future and they just stop. They arrange a safe place to live perhaps, a cover business to have an appearance of income. Then they do nothing the rest of their days. Well, nothing out of the ordinary. They live long happy lives, and are happy for it. They just do not do anything of import. Is that what you want Dhyrucc?” She looked steadily at Dhyrucc and he flushed and looked away.

“In truth I am floundering. I did not realize that the return on my labours would be so rapid. The merchant venture we invested in that broke us took almost two years before we received work it had been lost.” Dhyrucc stammered.

“Ah, well, the network does change how fast these things can be done. A single jump is a week's ride. It is why the contracts were backdated. We cheat time as well as geography with portals. The boat manifest and journal of travels is a fiction from start to finish. It was loaded on a small island and sailed a week upriver to Rhemuth. And thus your fortune was made. But the question remains, what will you do now?”

“Well I must admit now that my family is taken care of, I would like to travel on the network and see more of the wonders of the world. I had thought I would be working for a year before we were saved. Is it possible to establish a relationship with the network with a broadened range of activities on my part?”

“Indeed it is.” said Victoria.

“I still want to create a relationship with Longwyn House, and the network, and your bank if I can make money from my abilities.” said Alicia.. “I have not given up on that goal, nor will I.” She turned to her father. “Please Father, I do not wish to be married off to a fortune hunter of some country boy. I want to exlore my gifts, my potential, and the world.”

“My dear daughter,” Daniel said, pride shining in his eyes. “I have always feared what path circumstance and fate might force you down. In truth the risky venture I backed that shattered us was taken, in part, to provide the funds and fortune needed so that you might never be forced into anything not of your choosing. To see you choose your own path, and your own heritage fills me with so much pride as well as fear for the risks you could be exposed to. I am so proud of you, but fear for your safety.”

“Thank you Father.” Alicia turned to Victoria again. “Victoria, I wish to ask you for training, and an introduction to the Longwyn House or any other network House that might wish to employ me. Or can I simply pay a fee and use the network for myself and sell cargo to the Houses I pass through?”

“I am sure Terrel would be very interested in entering into a business arrangement with you, of whatever type you desire. I will  train you myself and assure him of your skills. I will speak with Terrel tomorrow if he is available.”

“Why do I feel that my family's direction is about to take a turn for the interesting?” remarked Daniel. “and I fear I shall never hear the end of it.” He looked at both his children with a significant glance. They both froze and said in unison.
“Mother.”

“Just so. She is glad of the money coming in and the restoration of the family fortune. The less socially acceptable aspects of the arrangements are a never ending cause for long discourses and soliloquies with myself as the sole audience. Once she learns her daughter is delaying an opportunity for decoration, celebration and social advancement, I fear for my nerves. Dhyrucc, please be a good son and remember to bring a bottle, no, two, of the good cognac. I will need fortifying.”

   They all laughed and Victoria reached again into the satchel next to her chair. She brought out a bottle of wine. “I did bring this to celebrate your good fortune and the conclusion of the contract.” She presented the bottle to Daniel. He looked at the label and smiled warmly.

“You honour our table with such a bottle. Surely it is too fine for the children. I will serve them a local vintage so that you and I can have more of this to appreciate. They lack the palate to fully appreciate such a fine wine.” His children voiced their protests and he waved them away. “Let us go to dinner and I will let Mother know of our good fortune. The future will take care of itself.”

Jerusha:
I am still thoroughly enjoying this story!

Laurna:
The independent woman in me says go Alicia go! The mother hen in me is worried about her.

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