Disclaimer: This, obviously, is owned by me. I do not, however own the Latin language or the Italian Renaissance, so do with those as you will. I started writing this several months ago… and now intend to actually finish it. Hopefully in short order.

Enough blathering, on with the story.

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"Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage."

- Niccolo Machiavelli

"… and therefore the Eillen Houses will be forced to acknowledge the superiority of Renua." Duke Varinius Solemi concluded, pausing for the effect of his statement to sink in upon the four lords to whom he was explaining his master plan. There was Amador Segreti, standing next to the fire, and old Cornelius Orfeo, seated near it. A lord should not be seated in the presence of his Duke when said duke was expounding upon his policies, but as Duke Varinius had had pointed out to him by his uncle, Lord Lucio Celestin, the man was nearly eighty, and the whole dukedom knew that it was his failing joints, and not his rank, which allowed him his seat. Cornelius did not appear to be paying particular attention, where he sat with his gray beard falling nearly down to his belt and his hands folded on an old black cane, but then, one could never be sure with him. Some days Varin thought that his mind was surely slipping, and on others it seemed that those old, rheumy eyes saw everything. When Varin had been a very young boy, he had believed his nurse when she said that lord Cornelius had once had a magician change his eyes with those of a raven, causing him to be able to see a little ways into the future – or into another's secret thoughts. Try as he might, Varin had never been able to completely rid himself of that old superstition.

The fourth lord stood behind old Cornelius' chair, presumably because he'd found it hard to fit in Duke Varin's study with the two new marble busts that had been ordered from Paezzi. And he was looking directly at Varin, the very picture of complete attention, but there was still something that the young duke thought was off about him. Then again, he'd never understood Vespasian Xylandos, and it was probable that he never would. The lord was only two years older than Varin himself, a playmate from the days when they were still being fussed over by their nurses, the son of Varin's late father's most trusted friend, and yet Varin could neither claim to know the first thing about the other man's thoughts, nor bring himself to care.

"Now, this new mine is an important source of revenue for Renua," Varin continued, knowing that if he said it, he would be right, "A resource which the Eillenians don't have. As it is under Ducal control, I will be making the journey to Eillen, where I will be a guest of the House Argentus, probably for several weeks, though I expect their council to swiftly accede to our terms for trade in the silver ore, once they can be brought to see the profit it would bring them. After all, the houses of Eillen are merely merchants, not nobles. I expect that their hospitality, however, will be fitting to one of my rank."

You mean that you're looking forward to the prospect of feasting and lavish balls outside of your own dukedom for once, Vespasian thought dryly. The merchant comment he let slide. After nearly fourteen years, he no longer even had to grit his teeth.

Varin continued at some length, detailing his expectations of an easy political and economic treaty being accepted by the houses of Eillen forthwith, and his confidence that they would be honored to host a Duke, as well as some boasts about his "new policies" that would "surely ensure the prosperity of Renua for generations to come." Somewhere near the end he confirmed that Lucio would be in charge during his absence, and eventually, he dismissed the four. After waiting for Cornelius to rise, they left the Duke's study promptly. The conversation that they were about to have could wait until they left the fortress.

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A note on the setting:

When I say that the setting here is roughly equivalent to Italy in the late Renaissance, I mean really roughly. The general structure of independent city-states, each with their own different forms of government in varying degrees of nobility, oligarchy, and republic, is similar, as are some of the social customs and geography. Obviously, as this is a setting in which magic is alive and well, and in which I have elected to use actual dialogue readable to a modern audience, rather than ye olde butcheréd Englishe, the analogy can't be stretched to the historical reality too far.

Here's to hoping you know what to do with the little button at the bottom.