but it is Thoroughly Shortsighted and Entirely Unfair to force us to remain
we have fought Despicable Foes and triumphed over
please don't worry about us
Tamburlaine frowns. A single, malignant ink blot spreads from the tip of his quill.
(The ink is a fetching shade of blue. For some reason, like, everything in Councillor Cargan's household is blue.)
He sighs, crumples the page, and stares dejectedly at the antique escritoire. At least the guest rooms are nice.
A slight creak at the door. Then a voice, in peevish baritone:
“If you really must write me out of house and home, you could at least have the courtesy not to use the Beerbohm and Seton stuff.”
“Lord Councillor Cargan, sir!”
With exactly the level of nervous deference the situation requires, Tamberlin jumps to his feet. There is then no option but to hover awkwardly in place.
The Councillor faces him with a frown of the utmost derision: statuesque in the doorway; cravat set fashionably awry. Then, suddenly - horrifyingly -
- he bursts out laughing.
“Gods!” he splutters, leaning against the door frame for support. “You absolutely must do exactly the same thing when Francesco's around. Only add a bow or something.”
Tamburrlaine, ever adaptable, meets this with a grin of his own. “I thought maybe I should bow, sir, but I wasn't sure. I don't really know about the etiquette of… this…” Swiftly, he forges on, tone palpably and perhaps overly earnest. “Thank you for the hospitality, sir. And the paper. Sorry about the paper. I only wanted to write my parents. And a few other people. I'd forgotten everyone's probably worried. Sir.”
His cravat is tied in a plausible imitation of the way Councillor Cargan wore his last season. He probably hasn't gotten it too badly wrong. Already the Councillor thinks he's decidedly unfashionable and a little dull, probably. Life is so terribly unfair. He hopes he doesn't have ink on his face.
No acknowledgement of his meticulously (poorly?) tied cravat is immediately evident from the Councillor's expression. Nor any acknowledgement of his ensemble, or the probable ink, or anything, save -
“You mean to say your parents haven't the scantest inkling you're still breathing?”
And - oh - at that, his face darkens.
“Oh, no, they know that I'm alive!” Tamburlane says, quickly. “I mean, now they do. I met with cousin Tabby, like, a week ago. She tried to drag me back home and said I shouldn't go adventuring anymore, so I ran away.” He bites his lip. “I probably shouldn't have left it so long, should I? Sir.”
(In a casual and basically totally subtle way, he rubs at his left cheek with one hand. His index finger comes away a little smudged. Drat.)
The Councillor narrows his eyes, and it is really difficult to tell whether this is because Tamberlaine is not the least bit basically totally subtle, or because he is unreservedly irate at this latest botched admission. Tamburlaine can't imagine the obscene cerulean blot defacing half his features could help with the latter, though.
The response, when it comes, is unexpected. “Gods, you're an infant. Is the Terrec household really so despotic? I wouldn't have thought so. They're Terrecs.”
This, at least, is a subject on which he has strong and articulate opinions. “Not despotic. Selfish. Even though loads of people have been adventuring for ages just fine, Mother and Father are afraid I'll be maimed or killed - so they don't want me saving other people. As though we're worth more than everybody else!” His fists clench at his sides. “They won't let me do anything and how can I show anyone that I'm more than a stupid child if they don't let me try?” It takes all his willpower to keep his voice controlled and level.
Councillor Cargan finally steps into the room, eyebrows firmly aloft. “So, allow me to see if I've grasped the nuance of this situation. The issue, when it comes down to it, is that you have parents who love you.”
Somewhat nonplussed by this response, Tamburlin takes a step backward. Since he can't, you know, sit down, exactly. Since the Councillor isn't. “Yes?” he hazards. “I mean. No! That's not what this is about.” He falls back on the obvious. “I'm seventeen.”
“Sorry, the issue is that you're seventeen and you have parents who love you?”
Oh, no. He's flushing. He can tell. He's not sure if that's better or worse than being covered in ink stains, but both together is intolerable. “You don't understand,” he protests weakly.
The Councillor, in lieu of sitting, sort of rests his hands against the back of the chair, leaning forward. Tamberlaine's not sure if that's actually an improvement.
After a palpable pause, the Councillor speaks again. “In case you hadn't noticed, that was me giving you the opportunity to explain what I don't understand. You've yet to take advantage of it.”
Tamberlain bites his lip again. “Are you going to send me home, sir?”
Is it just his imagination, or does that give the Councillor pause?
“Tell me, infant. What kind of duty do you think you have to your family? If any. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.”
Since that's not an immediate 'yes', he considers the question properly. “I have a duty to uphold the name and reputation of the house,” he says, carefully. “But I don't think working for the good of the city goes against that. My parents wanted me to have some genteel occupation - that's why I'm training as a doctor. I'm still respecting their wishes for me. Mostly.” Chronic absenteeism aside.
The Councillor - snorts? Derisively. “And it never occurred to you that duty to your family and duty to the city are one and the same? You, by dint of existing, are the upholder and representative of something historic. Something monumental. Or - well, okay, granted, it's the Terrecs, but there's still a legacy there, and it's vital you acknowledge that.”
Honestly, truly, Tamberlain's first thought is to tell him that this just proves the point: that if doing his bit for the people of Acryn is what being a Terrec's all about, then his parents ought to be thanking him, because he's doing a much better job of it than they want him to be. But he's not - regardless of what everyone seems to believe - actually stupid. Clearly, the Councillor is trying to make a point. So, he opens his mouth - but he catches himself. Taking a step back to lean a little against the wall, he folds his arms and, with genuine curiousity, says, “How do you think I should be doing that?”
Belatedly, he realises that he's been rude, and straightens. “…Sir.”
The sudden alertness in the Councillor's expression is a little - more than a little, perhaps - unnerving, but he doesn't seem to be angry per se, so that's something.
“You'll never get far trying to rewrite the rules of the game from where you're standing,” he begins, in a curious tone that might best be described as quietly impassioned. “Not when you're hardly playing. No-one in this city is going to listen to you unless you prove yourself worth listening to, and the same goes doubly for your parents. My advice? Go home. Stop fighting this. Prove your worth (through charitable works within the city, or what have you) - and take some responsibility for the family business, whatever that happens to be.” Is there a hint of derision in that last bit, or is Tamburlaine imagining things? “Give it a year or so, and it will seem foolish not to give you freedom of movement. Trust is earned. Autonomy, I'm afraid, is also earned. In a couple more years, marry someone of decent standing - a Darrish, I suppose, if you really must; Cargan or Graves are somewhat out of your star - and there's no limit to what you might do.” He rolls his eyes. “Of course, you're not going to listen to me.”
It's a lot to think about. But, that doesn't make it right. “I'm not not going to listen,” Tamberlaine begins. Miserably, he wonders how many years his parents would actually take to start listening to him. The misery is compounded by the realisation that his internal monologue is becoming intolerably sulky. “But wouldn't I earn their respect better out here?” 'Here', he accompanies with a vague gesture, to indicate most of the world - though, in actuality, it ends up being toward the rose garden outside the guest room window. “I don't want to wait at home until I'm old enough to leave, or earn their respect by- by marrying somebody more important than me! I learned more about medicine by treating injured people than I ever have at school, and I saved people's lives… including Astraeus'! How can you say I shouldn't have been there?”
“Did you hear me say that?” demands the Councillor, impatiently. “I'm not making a values judgement here. I daresay if you were my child, you'd have been on at least one adventure by now - but that's not the issue. The issue is, if you want to convince your parents, this is not the way to do it.”
“Why not?” Tamburlaine presses. “Maybe I'll have an opportunity to do something that impresses them! Then they'll have to take me seriously.” But, there's a kind of tangle of uncertainty taking root in the pit of his stomach: why is he so insistent that he can't go home? Waiting a year or so wouldn't be all that much. It would be embarrassing, admitting he was wrong, and his pride would take a blow - but it would be better than working his way through the sum total of the Cargan-Graves' charitability. Right?
Only, it would be embarrassing and his pride would take a blow.
There are other things: the amount of good he can do in a year is not negligible, and maybe it's easier to evade the Wayfinders here - maybe his parents would even tell Hod to sign up, if they went back. Which would be terrible, since she couldn't really refuse, then, and the Guild was literally the dodgiest thing ever when they visited. Yes, there are certainly other reasons not to go home. There are.
“Because people don't work like that, infant.” Another impatient eyeroll. “You might as well have purposely devised a method calculated to put them on the defensive. Tell me honestly. Do you really think, if you were to come back home prattling of all the lives you saved, they'd be swayed?”
“Not really,” Tamberlaine admits, “but there must be some way. Because I'm not going home.”
“He said. To his host. At whose mercy he is currently housed.”
Tamburlaine makes a great effort not to cringe, and thinks he succeeds at least partially. “Sorry, sir. I didn't mean it like that. I'm extremely grateful for all you've done for me, more than you can imagine, and I only meant that, even if you don't house me, me and Hod still wouldn't go back to Mother and Father.” He folds his hands behind him, and tries to keep his chin up and his expression polite, but determined.