A New Type of Fight
“To be heard in the lower courts today – a re-negotiation of the contract between House Jarvis and House Delronge with relation to the handling, tranportation, and resale of stonework within the lower market of Kintargo.” Belcara laughed airily, raising a glass of wine. “There will be no renegotiation. Melodia has already dug her claws as deep into that deal as she can get them. You know, you’ve seen the contracts. If we negotiate much lower…” She raised an eyebrow, and Corthos finished from across the table. “Then we lose our sliver of profit in the deal. She’s just frustrated that it was something set up without her own team all throughout it. They did make a mistake though, on the paperwork for the amount that is due back to them for use of their merchant storefronts, one of her auditors failed to properly dictate the percentage. He wrote a flat instead of an adjusted percentage based on the size of shipment.” Belcara smiled, raising a finger to pause him. “How are we certain that is a mistake, and not simply a change in her policy?” Corthos smirked as he replied. “Fourty-seven contracts that I have gone through adjusted for the size of shipment, through four auditors. Melodia Delronge would not make a decision to impact her profit without attempting to prove it the humanitarian effort of a decade, which means it wasn’t done with her knowledge.” Belcara laughed in spite of herself. “So you have been reading them. Honestly, I thought you might have just skimmed most of them with how rapidly you returned the papers. How much does she stand to lose if this stands?” Corthos pulled out a small pad. “At this time, based on the next two shipments estimate – Melodia stands to lose around two hundred and thirty seven platinum.” Belcara signaled for her servant to fill two cups with wine. “No wonder she wants to renegotiate. This….this may wind up being a fun evening after all.” Corthos raised his goblet to toast Belcara. “To the Accidental One.” The glasses met with a light clink.
Two hours later, Corthos found himself sitting in a carriage alongside two other delegates and Belcara. As they approached the court itself, she smiled and told him that his role would be to be at her side, as he had the most experience with the contracts. However, she wanted him to enter last. He smirked slightly and nodded as the carriage came to a halt and they began to file out. Entering the court, Belcara was already situated at the negotiation table – flanked at her left by a rather plain nobleman that Corthos knew as Desmond Eagon. They had been in a class together at the academy, and the man hadn’t left a large impression. As they approached, Melodia stood to embrace Belcara, and the two exchanged pleasantries. Belcara took a seat, her people standing behind her silently until she smiled. “I’m sorry, Melodia. It’s been a while since we had to do one of these. Jovan, Marcus, please go fetch the contracts. The other one will take notes.” The two men broke away to get research, and Corthos stepped to the table with a relaxed grin. Melodia paused, her eyes widening. He was here? In the court? She felt a flush of emotion rising and bit back on it. As Belcara spoke, Melodia’s glare narrowed tighter. “Melodia, I don’t know if you’ve met my new delegate. Quite the young gentleman. Corthos Mondragon, this is Melodia Delronge. Have you two met? I can never keep track.” Corthos bowed, his own gaze never leaving Melodia as she curtly bowed back. “Baroness Delronge, it is such a pleasure.” Melodia managed a thin smile before replying. “The pleasure is mine, Lor – I apologize. No longer a Lord, are you? Master Mandragon, as you wish to be known now. I don’t think we’ve had the satisfaction of meeting face to face officially. I tend not to find myself in the same circles you frequent.” She sat, glaring at Belcara, who seemed politely quiet and a little put off – but her eyes showed that she knew exactly what card she had played.
Corthos began to sit as well, still speaking. “Yes, well, I would much rather associate with the circles I do than the ones you do. I suppose it must be terribly difficult spending your days in such close proximity to the Lord-Mayor. But rest assured, I have long admired the property that you keep.” They stared between each other for a long moment before Belcara spoke. “Melodia, I had thought that you were attempting to be so benevolent as to negotiate something for our favor in this contract, and now you ask for us to re-convene? I must say, I’m a bit underwhelmed.” There was a icy hardness just behind the words, the warmth in choice not matched by the tone. The contracts were laid out on the table between them, and Belcara smiled. “Corthos has looked through all forty eight contracts personally, and assured me that your auditors have signed and legally sealed each and every one. Meaning that if there is any sort of re-negotiation, we certainly need to have a good reason to undo the hard work that has already been done. Corthos, please be so kind as to help Baroness Delronge find what she needs.” “With pleasure.” Corthos leaned forward, and began to go through the contracts.
Three hours later, Corthos and Belcara were still locked in the struggle with Melodia and Desmond. At this point, Desmond and Corthos were arguing the finer points while Belcara and Melodia glared across at each other. Belcara allowed herself a slight smile. Political damage aside, it had been well worth the risk to simply see Melodia’s face when he had walked to the table. But now…she could hear him talking circles around Desmond, and her smile grew larger. She was waved back to the table, and Corthos handed her a contract, talking low and hurriedly. “He doesn’t have a way out of it. It was signed with a witnessing delegate, and per the rules of the Coin it would require a complete rewrite of the entirety of the connected contracts. We could hold and delay that by requesting an individual perusal of each document by a third house, and the cost would become so great by the time they got through that she wouldn’t make any benefit from it.” He was almost beaming with a smug joy. Belcara smiled wide, nodding with his explanation – yes, it was possible for Melodia to continue to fight, but she wouldn’t take the cost. They were going to walk out of this one with a victory. She turned back to Melodia and spoke pleasently. “Melodia, my darling friend, I think we should agree to cease re-negotiation and let the deal stand. That would be for the best, wouldn’t you think? If not, we will have to find a third party to review these papers as per the Rosekettle accord. And that can be such a slow process. And the cost of justifying the delegates to review and argue….” Melodia waved a hand, looking only slightly irritated. “Belcara, my friend, I will do this as a favor for you. To many years of good business between us.” She stood to embrace her, the hug lacking any warmth whatsoever.
Corthos bowed elaborately as Belcara summoned them together, leading them back to the carriage. Behind him, Melodia glared daggers into his back. She had some people to speak to as soon as possible.