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Chapter the Forty Seventh: Since One Cannot Please Everybody, One Must Focus on Pleasing Oneself
I continued nervously avoiding the stares of my fellow Caladonians as I quickly scurried over towards the castle. I started to slow my pace as I made my final approach, growing more and more nervous that one of the guards would recognize me. If it hadn't been for the slight amount of whiskey keeping my nerves that much more calm, I likely would've turned around and gave up on the whole thing. Am I really so afraid of what Frederick is going to say? Of what he's been up to since I left? I pushed the thought out of my mind and focused on simply getting to the castle. I had to concentrate on one thing at a time or I'd never get anything done.
There was an obvious outsider standing in front of one of the lampposts next to the castle. Now that I was back in Caladon, I could easily pick the single Tarantian out from the crowd. When I thought about it, however, I must've looked quite the Tarantian myself. I was adorned with various bits of gadgetry, traveling in the company of a pair of gunners and a man in electrified plate. I cast the guards a nervous glance, half out of the fear that they'd recognize me and half out of simple habit, then I approached the outsider.
He looked up at me, smiling warmly. "Greetings, madam. I am Renard. I have been expecting you. You are sent from Mr. Willoughsby, no?"
His immediate recognition of me was distinct proof that I no longer looked like I belonged. I took comfort in that, although it was a guilty comfort. "Yes, Renard. I'm here for the negotiations..."
Sure, rub it in, why don't you? Insult my homeland while you're at it! Go ahead! Bastard. "...Interesting. Do you have any advice?"
He laughed out loud at my question before answering, "Yes... hold on to your wallet! So much money passes from hand to hand here... I've received bribes from beggars, here! Bless me, I have!" He made a Panarii sign across his chest, bowing his head religiously. "I pray to the gods that I survive this wicked place. Ahhh!"
I cleared my throat irritably, "Let's get to the point, Renard..."
He stammered a bit, starting to catch my annoyance, "My apologies, madam. I've just never had a more terrible time... no matter." He straightened his coat, getting ready for business. "You will proceed through these doors, straight ahead through, and to the large doors at the end of the inner courtyard. The guards there will be instructed to let you pass once we have finished our conversation here. Once through those doors, you will walk directly to the end of that long hallway to another set of large doors. Through those doors is the council. You will proceed to the podium, and the advisors will begin asking you questions.
"Once you've finished the negotiations, you will obtain the signed agreement from them, and leave the premises immediately. Mr. Willoughsby will meet you right here with me once the negotiations are done. You will be paid then. And, some personal advice... you will no doubt be approached by not a few persons on your way to the advisors chambers. These individuals will represent various interests here in Caladon, and will attempt to sway your position on any number of the points detailed in the dossier you've received. Do not speak with them, take no money from them, and for the love of the gods do not change your position on any of the points! The very economic future of Arcanum hinges on the acceptance of Caladon into the Unified Kingdom! Do you understand?"
I sighed, displeased. Just great... a whole hall of influential Caladonians... I've probably robbed half of them. "I understand. Good day to you, Renard..."
I turned away from Renard and walked through the doors hesitantly. It certainly felt odd to be making my way into the palace, and in broad daylight no less. I wondered what Willoughsby had to say to get them to acquiesce to my presence. I couldn't believe that none of them recognized me by name, even if they didn't recognize me by sight. Then again, it had been three years since I was even in Caladon, and over ten since I'd been arrested. Do noblemen even have memories that long? My past probably meant a whole lot more to me than it did to any of them anyway.
No sooner had I crossed the courtyard and entered the hallway leading towards the throne room than I was very nearly accosted by a woman just desperate to speak with me. "Greetings, madam!" Her voice was all cheery and she forcibly grabbed my hand for a friendly shake. "Could I ask for a few moments of your time?"
"Er... of course," I blurted out without thinking. Dammit, I'm not supposed to speak with these people! I don't WANT to speak with these people!
She smiled falsely and launched into a memorized speech, "Thank you. Thank you ever so much! I understand the position you are in, and I won't be long at all. I am a representative from the Department of the Treasury here in Caladon..."
Treasury? At the mention of where she worked the woman very suddenly started looking familiar to me. Agnes...? NO! She must have seen the recognition flare in my eyes, for she paused in her speech noticeably and stared at me just a bit more closely. I nearly winced under her piercing gaze, but it wouldn't have helped matters one bit. Her jaw dropped open just slightly.
I could hear the falseness in her voice, but I was secretly grateful that she aimed to remain polite instead of calling me a thief outright. I had to give her credit for making up such a believable excuse in only a moment. "Good day, then, madam." She barely even heard me, her mind seemed to rather suddenly be elsewhere. She kept looking at me, then turning away again as soon as I noticed. Go ahead, get a good look. Am I really that fascinating?
I continued down the hallway and a myriad of other shouts and demands were hurled at me, some more politely than others. "Madam, madam! I represent the Department of Transportation," one man shouted as I passed.
Another man shouted from the opposite side of the room, "You, madam, are a true technologist! We need allies such as yourself in the coming negotiations!" I resisted the urge to give in to his flattery.
I only stopped when I passed by a particularly gruff-looking, scarred dwarf. Perhaps it was my natural curiosity about a dwarf in Caladon, or perhaps I naively hoped he somehow knew something about the Black Mountain Clan. "Greetings, sir dwarf."
He nodded at me curtly, "Thank you for stopping to speak with me, I will keep this brief and to the point. My name is General Veers. I represent the Caladonian Military. I can tell you're a woman well-versed in the ways of war." He may have been right, but I certainly wasn't proud of it. "You might just understand our position here in the negotiations, and perhaps be able to give us some assistance..."
I sighed, "Let's hear it." Not bloody likely, dwarf.
Ugh. Of all people, why did Renard have to be right? "I can see the validity of your point. I'll consider it..." I wouldn't have been a good negotiator at all if I couldn't lie my way out of the situation, so that's just what I did. The dwarf smiled at me, not catching on to my ruse in the slightest.
I continued my walk, passing by the grubby gnome trying to catch my attention with freshly minted coins, and past the man shouting about how it was crucial to Caladon's future to ensure labor unions were outlawed as a part of the agreement. I especially passed by the heavily perfumed woman who looked like she'd been expecting a male negotiator and was planning on taking advantage of that fact. Ugh. How much are you getting paid for this one, anyway? Even whores should have standards. Then again, I suppose I'm not one to talk.
I did take special notice of the man near the end of the hall, however. He looked to be not bothered at all by the proceedings, not caring to shout to attract my attention. By the way he was dressed I knew he had money and was likely to try and bribe me, but my curiosity got the better of me as usual and I wandered over to say hello. "Why, hello there, sir."
He smiled, "Hello, madam. Could I speak with you a moment?"
I'm not going to like this, but sure. "Certainly."
For all the lack of respect I had for anybody in a position of power, the gentleman before me was quite an excellent representative for the parliament. He was attractive and well-dressed, not to mention confident. "How can I help you?" I should've been more put off by his affiliation, but at least he was a sight better than the rest of the sods in the hallway.
His speech was smooth and elegant, and I very much wanted to believe whatever it was he was trying to sell me, "As you know, Caladon is a monarchy, but we do have an elected Parliament with limited power. We also understand that the Unified Kingdom has a Parliament, and that each member has a certain number of votes, based on size and seniority. If we could persuade you to our way of thinking, it might benefit us both..."
Hmm, yes, that was mentioned in the dossier... Not only was he excellently persuasive, but he seemed to bring up a damned interesting topic. The more thought I put into it the more I realized that perhaps I was interested in what the man had to say after all. "And what is your way of thinking, sir?"
"Perhaps. I'll consider it." I turned away from the man and continued walking towards the throne room, but my mind was already half made up. It's really not a bad idea at all. I can't let Tarant bully Caladon around with more votes... I just can't do that to my homeland. With that thought, I walked straight into the throne room, leaving behind the awful noise of the hallway.
As the door shut behind me the noise was drowned out completely and I became acutely aware of the extreme silence in the throne room. There was a podium set up in front for me to speak at and the advisors were positioned behind that as my audience. I stepped up to it nervously. "Good day, gentlemen," I managed to croak.
I nodded my head, "Please..." I was still so nervous that I was actually shaking, but with the whiskey having finally left me I could only rely on the support of my companions behind me to calm my nerves. No doubt if they'd felt I wasn't the right woman for the job they would've said something. I had to believe in myself as strongly as they all seemed to believe in me. It was true, my negotiation skills were top notch... and the hard sell had been convincing Willoughsby of that fact. All that remained was just talking to my peers. It was perhaps inaccurate to think of them as peers, but they were far moreso than Willoughsby was.
Hmm... Willoughsby will throw a fit if I propose that Caladon controls the railroads, and I don't really like that idea myself anyway. I know these penny pinchers would just pay for it out of Maxim's salary, and that old man doesn't deserve that. On the other hand, I can't fully support Tarant so early or these advisors will distrust me right off the bat. Willoughsby said he'd accept shared ownership in the dossier, and that's just how it's got to be. "SHARED ownership of the railroads and stations in Caladon."
Why ever would I support anything but what has worked in the past? "Use of magick must be regulated, as well as where it happens." Willoughsby be damned, I knew better on that front. It was the secret to how Caladon had made technology and magick coexist so peacefully for so many years and no damned agreement was going to ruin it now if I had any say in it. Luckily, I did. I smiled wickedly at that thought. I would have loved to see the look on everybody's smug little faces when they read the paper announcing my negotiation.
To hell with Bates, he's a bastard of a man.... ugh, but Willoughsby would try to have me hanged. I'll have to go for a moderate approach if I want to appease both him and my conscience. "Bates will enjoy limited trade concessions within Caladon." At least that way he wouldn't be completely discouraged from business, making Willoughsby happy, but Maxim would still stand a fighting chance. I made a note to give Maxim the schematics I'd stolen from Bates' factory, since I'd been planning on visiting the old codger anyway.
What of it? The less killing the better. "Half of the army and navy will serve in the Unified Battalions." I didn't want to lose the advisors' trust just yet or I'd have argued for a full dismantling of the Caladonian army, but if I did that I would fail in my negotiations for certain. Whatever the details, it was still important for Caladon to join the Unified Kingdoms.
Now this is a good spot to impress Willoughsby, to make up for my other concessions. Although it felt somewhat like a betrayal of my homeland, I knew that such taxes would primarily be paid by the rich. The poor quite literally couldn't pay any more than they already did, and it certainly wasn't going to come out of the king's pocket. "The heavier the tax, the more Caladon reaps the benefits..." I could see the sympathetic look on their faces and I knew the advisors were buying it, even if it was a load of nonsense. I tried to think of it as justice against the upper class. They could afford it anyway.
I desperately wanted to argue for an immediate changeover, but I couldn't bear to think of what would happen to all of the laborers and the hard working poor who didn't have the time to get to a moneychanger so quickly. "Caladon may use her own currency for 3 more years." I didn't think most workers would be holding onto the same coin for even a year, let alone three, yet the upper class would have a hard time converting their massive piles of wealth in such a short period of time. I considered it yet another victory, though I could tell I hadn't won any points with the advisors on that one. Oops.
There was a distinct conflict in my mind as to how to respond to the question. I wanted to regain the trust of the advisors once again, but I didn't want to do so at the expense of Willoughsby's good will. Furthermore, while most of the tax money went to the larger shipping companies, there were some small time traders and ship captains that got by only through that tax. "Caladon will collect a toll from U.K. members for 10 years." It seemed like a compromise on all fronts. Willoughsby was willing to allow it according to his dossier, and the advisors would see 10 years as quite generous. Furthermore, it gave both the shipping companies and the smaller traders time to react accordingly. If nothing else it was fair.
While I was all in favor of worker's rights, neither the advisors nor Willoughsby would be particularly happy if I argued in favor of them. I felt that another compromise was the best diplomatic decision at the time. "Labor unions will have limited rights in Caladon."
"Caladon will have the same number of votes that Tarant has." There was no hesitance on that front. I'd made up my mind on that subject even before entering the room. Willoughsby would be furious on that point, but I thought he might let it pass by in favor of the heavy taxes Caladon would be paying. The advisors, needless to say, were quite receptive to my offer.
I did feel pity for the poor farmers who engaged in back-breaking labor for little reward, but the simple fact of it was that their taxes went straight to the king anyhow. If the taxes were eliminated the king might even be forced to pay the farmers out of his pocket to keep grain production high, and he most certainly would do so if he had to. "The tariff will stand for an additional three years." I'd won a lot of points with the advisors with my last position and they knew an offer like this would never come around again. I had a feeling they would see the grain tax as a small point in comparison.
"Of course." The advisors turned to each other and began whispering furiously, clearing having a disagreement on the subject. I certainly hadn't made the decision easy on them, that was for sure, but I felt confident in my decisions. I had a feeling Willoughsby would tolerate it, and I was pretty certain that the advisors would have a hard time passing it up as well. I'd minimized the damage to the poor and maximized the damage to the rich, so I was pretty happy too. All in all it was a fairly acceptable arrangement.
Sebastian looked at me with an expression of utter shock, "I gotta say, girl, that was some mighty fine mincing of words you did there. Willoughsby picked the right woman, no doubt."
Vollinger took a small bow as well, "Indeed, my respect for you only increases the longer that I share your company. You're a fine negotiator, Samantha."
I looked over towards Virgil, eager to see what he thought of my performance, but he was staring off to the side of the room silently. He didn't seem to want to partake in our conversation. Virgil... please, don't be upset with me... The advisors were starting to get quite animated in their hushed discussion and I chuckled a bit at the dilemma I'd presented them. I tried to ignore Virgil and I smiled at the other two. "Thank you for the kind words, both of you. Truly, your opinions mean a lot to me."
"Aw hell," Sebastian muttered, "It's no big deal. I just meant what I said is all." Vollinger nodded cheerily. I was about to respond when the discussion amidst the advisors started quieting down and I turned to see them all nodding their heads. The chairman turned back around to address me.
I accepted the agreement that he handed me. "I thought you would say that. Thank you, and good day."
Smiling I tapped Virgil on the shoulder to make sure he was still with us. He turned and looked at me, startled, then realized the meeting was over. He sheepishly hung his shoulders and followed along as we left the throne room. The outer hallway was significantly quieter than it had been when I entered, and there were only two men left. One was the man from the parliament whom I'd spoken with.
"There she is!" He cheered at me excitedly, "You've done well, madam! My congratulations and thanks!" He discreetly handed me a bag full of coins which I pocketed hurriedly. "I wish you the best of luck in all your endeavors."
I shook hands with him, smiling. I'd have done what I did anyway, but I'm happy to accept your gold regardless. "Thank you, and good day." The man departed, disappearing down a nearby hallway, and I decided it was my turn to disappear as well. On my way out I saw the prince pacing back and forth nervously in the lobby. I didn't pay him too much attention and I crossed back through the courtyard and out of the gate. My mind wandered on the subject, however, and just as I was leaving the palace grounds I realized he was probably waiting for the Cumbrian princess. Hmm... so she never arrived, did she?
No sooner had I taken two steps outside when Mr. Willoughsby himself greeted me cheerily. "Hello there, young lady!" Hmph, 'young'. Always the charmer, I see. "Well done, well done! I've heard that you secured an agreement with the council! Let me have a look!" I handed the paper off to him.
Dear god, he throws gold around like candy. I certainly wasn't one to refuse money, so I tossed the bag in my purse quickly. "And you'll train me to be a master in persuasion as well, sir?" An agreement was an agreement, regardless of how much he'd paid me.
He didn't seem to be offended, so he must have realized the same thing. "Yes! Of course! Now the important thing of negotiation is..." He whispered in my ear so that the others around me couldn't hear, and indeed the details of what he whispered are such that they likely ought not be disclosed to anybody aside from myself. If everybody knew, then it would hardly be a secret. "And there you have it! All of the secrets of the persuasive arts!"
I smiled and curtsied gently, "Thank you, sir..."
"Good day to you, Mr. Willoughsby." Well... I suppose that all went better than I expected it to. Now... do I dare pay Frederick a visit? The uncomfortable lump forming in my stomach suggested that either the answer was 'no', or that I needed a whole lot more whiskey.
Some random stuff... I mentioned the prince, but I didn't include any screenshots of him because he's fairly pointless. You can either taunt him into attacking you (I think), or get nothing at all from him.
This is the only thing you can say that won't immediately end the conversation.
I assume picking the bottom option starts a fight (that kind of thing usually does), but I didn't feel like loading my last save so I didn't bother.
Also, just in case anybody doesn't like how Willoughsby's "training" went, I made sure to save this shot to show you what I had to work with... not that any of the Master training really has a lot of effort put into it, but come on... what was I supposed to do with that?
This update took me forever to play out since I loaded my game and did the entire negotiation again probably 20 times (not exaggerating). It's really fucking difficult to please Willoughsby enough to get Master training without totally fucking over Caladon. I didn't want to have to skip out on the training, but I would've if it came down to it. If I'd chosen any option even just slightly less in favor of Tarant, Willoughsby would've been pissed and told me I fucked everything up.
I tried so hard to tax Bates more and give more rights to unions, but every time it would result in either Willoughsby being pissy or the advisors rejecting the agreement. Man, this quest is so much easier when you're not role-playing a Caladonian (though it's always baffled me how the game assumes your character knows nothing of Caladon when that's where the fucking zeppelin left from).
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