Charmaine and Melodia Scene
The heels of Charmaine’s expensive shoes hit the paving stones with a satisfying click-click-click as she made her way along the wide streets of the Greens to the Delronge estate. It wasn’t often that Melodia requested a meeting with her in person. Usually their plans were set out through carefully coded letters, delivered by messengers with no provable connection to either of them, but Melodia’s last letter had been a simple invitation to tea to catch up with her old friend. Charmaine knew the second she read it that the woman had to be truly desperate.
The butler had been expecting her, and as he led her through the halls of the Delronge manor Charmaine began to think of what could have prompted Melodia to call such a meeting. Aldo Mondragon’s last missive had been scathing, certainly, but all of the accusations were ones that had been aimed at House Delronge in the past, and if Charmaine knew anything about Melodia she already had a “concerned friend” firing back a response. Could she have heard about Charmaine’s deal with Corthos Tanessen? She had been trying to come up with ways to contain that situation – perhaps Melodia could leak something that would prompt a reprisal from Corthos’ family. Charmaine didn’t necessarily want to go that public with it right away, but perhaps she could file it away as a last resort.
As Charmaine entered the parlor, Melodia rose from the chaise she had been perched on and moved to embrace the elven woman. “My dearest Charmaine, it’s been too long,” she cooed as she kissed the air on each side of Charmaine’s cheeks.
Charmaine smiled at her old friend. “A pleasure as always, Melodia. I must say your note was somewhat unexpected. We haven’t taken tea together in quite some time.”
Melodia waved a hand airily as she led Charmaine to the sofa. “It’s never a bad time to catch up with such a dear friend. Merritt, please tell Rosaline to bring in the tea – make sure it’s the blackberry tea, I know that’s Charmaine’s favorite.”
Charmaine settled back against the plush cushions. “How have you been, my dear? Are your girls doing well?”
Melodia beamed. “Quite. Corinna is in her third semester at the Alabaster Academy now, and Cosima is excelling at Lady Docur’s. I couldn’t be prouder of them. What about your girls?”
Charmaine smiled slightly. “Lovely as ever. Lisbeth is proving to be quite the apprentice – she’s been invaluable to the business, and she’s very perceptive.”
Melodia clasped her hands together. “I’m so glad to hear that. I sometimes worry that you keep too much to yourself, Charmaine. I personally find that having a number of friends I can count on makes my plans so much easier, you should really consider it.”
A young woman in an impeccably white uniform entered the room then, holding a tray with a teapot and two delicate porcelain cups with saucers. Charmaine waited as Melodia poured her a cup. “Is that why you called me here, Melodia? To ask for a favor from a friend?”
With a laugh, Melodia handed her the steaming teacup. “I can’t keep anything from you, my dear. I did genuinely want to catch up – goodness knows most people in this city are dreadfully dull, it’s so hard to have an intelligent conversation with anyone. But I also need your advice.”
A genuine smile crossed Charmaine’s impeccably painted lips. “I’ll help in any way I can. The Mondragon letter, then, I presume?”
“Always so perceptive.” Melodia lifted her own teacup delicately and took a sip. “I have a man already writing a response – a two-bit hack, but I needed to get something out there. But with any luck, it will draw more incriminating details out of Mondragon.” It had been obvious from the start that “Lord Aldo Mondragon” was a pseudonym, but Melodia and Charmaine hadn’t yet been able to deduce his true identity, despite paying what felt like half of Kintargo to learn everything they could about him. “You’ve read the last letter, yes? I believe it confirms our Vodun theory.”
Charmaine nodded. “He’s certainly got some sort of fixation on her. And the constant digs at House Thrune put him in a precarious position.”
“Quite.” Melodia bit her lip absently. “The new lord-mayor came by last week for dinner, you know. Truly a charming man.” Charmaine could tell from her tone that Barzillai Thrune was anything but charming – Melodia was barely trying to hide her distaste.
“Do you propose we make a move against Mondragon, then?” Charmaine asked. “I would most likely caution against it – we still don’t have enough information on him to do anything properly damaging.”
Melodia shook her head. “No, you’re right. As valuable as the Vodun confirmation is, we have nothing concrete yet.” Charmaine could see the anger beginning to form behind the woman’s eyes, and her tone was icy. “Although I wish we could strike now, we must wait for the perfect opportunity.”
Charmaine took a sip of tea thoughtfully. “I have a few people that I can encourage to take to the streets to protest Mondragon’s unfair treatment of House Delronge. You could also consider speaking to a few of your friends here in the Greens – I believe Geoff Tanessen and Sendi Vashnarstill would come to your defense. If we respond to Mondragon, he will feel empowered to write more, and eventually we’ll catch him in something he can’t write his way out of – or our esteemed lord-mayor will.”
Melodia nodded, her anger fading as she thought. “The Tanessens and Vashnarstills are dear friends – I’ll pay Geoff a call tomorrow.” A grin began to spread across her face. “You know, Charmaine, we really should do this more often. I always feel better after a visit from you.”
Charmaine simply smiled as she lifted her teacup to her lips once more. It was good to have a friend like Melodia Delronge.