One Legged, One Armed, Cranky Bann Negotiations

[OOC The Arl of Denerim’s Estate, 14 Wintermarch, mid-afternoon, with ]

Ethan hated the damned cane. It made the heel of his hand sore and did practically nothing to mitigate the pain of walking on his halfway healed knee. If he’d had the choice, he would have stayed in his room in the Gnawed Noble for the duration of his convalescence, but then the damned Queen had gone and gotten herself arrested and there were rumours of a Landsmeet and he suddenly had work to do.

In a way the bandits had done him a favour. Forcing him to stay in Denerim for another few weeks meant he hadn’t been on the road when the rumours started to fly. The Storm Coast wasn’t important enough for him to learn about the Landsmeet any other way than officially, which would have meant travelling to, and arriving in Denerim with virtually no time to gauge the mood of the nobility. He would have walked into it dangerously ignorant.

As it was, he could use his time here to gather information and allies, and it was prudent to start with the Arl of Denerim.

The estate seemed less imposing than it had during Rendon Howe’s residence. Rumours of what the former Arl had kept underneath it had flown after the Hero of Ferelden killed the man, but the new Arl was, by all accounts, far more friendly and less prone to murdering entire houses. He was shown into the sitting room where he was to meet the arl and offered a seat, which he declined. He would need to stand again when the Arl entered and, frankly, getting up and down hurt. The servant left him and he waited, gripping the cane and trying to keep his irritation from reaching his face.
For the first time in a while Eideard’s schedule was jammed with things needing his attention right away. This wasn’t something he would complain about, necessarily, as much of that was seeing to his wife as per their contracts. Never had Eideard been so enthusiastic in seeing to his business arrangements. In fact, he’d spent the better part of the past couple of days attending to business with the strictest orders not to be bothered.

By the time Hamish announced his afternoon appointment with Bann Gunter of the Storm Coast, made before he and Mairyn had taken to serious legal matters, the long-sick Arl had a bit more of a spring in his step and a warmth about him he’d not felt in some time. No, perhaps this wasn’t a love match, but he had a wife. A wife who seemed pleased enough with him and the wealth of his, ah, business savvy (in addition to the ledgers).

He sent Seri to as the Bann his preferences and bring refreshments, noting that she seemed far less giggly these days, which he attributed both to her maturing and there being a woman in the household to see to decorum. He hoped Mairyn wasn’t too harsh with the young maids, but knew they could only prosper under her tutelage. That was, after all, the reason they were here.

“Bann Gunter!” he greeted with his characteristic boisterousness, reaching out with his right hand to shake his guest’s. His left arm, the removal of which was now common knowledge among his peers, still boasted a shirt pinned to the shoulder. He’d been tetchy with the tailors about addressing his wardrobe. “It’s good to see you, though I wish it was under better circumstances.”
The Arl of Denerim was exactly what Ethan had been told to expect, large, handsome, loud and friendly.

“Bann Gunter!” he boomed, reaching out to shake Ethan’s hand. Ethan took it and noted the strength of his grip, the lack of one arm had certainly not affected his other. He shook as firmly as he could manage and waited for the echoes of the man’s voice to stop bouncing around in his brain. Luckily his boisterous greeting was metered somewhat. “It’s good to see you, though I wish it was under better circumstances.”

Ethan inclined his head. “My Lord. Indeed circumstances have been less than kind to both of us of late.” He indicated that he would sit, offering with a gesture the excuse of his cane and his leg. “I am unused to being confined to one place, and my healer insists that I not spend more than an hour or two on my feet at present. Unfortunately our own personal misfortunes must take second place to those of the Kingdom.”

He eyed the Arl, noting that he did not seem at all debilitated at present. There had been rumours that the accident which cost him his arm had almost cost him his life, in that manner which seemed to befall a lot of nobility of his particular type, but there was no sign of illness in him now, indeed he seemed positively glowing with health. He reminded Ethan of Mathias, he realised suddenly, isolating the sense of unease that had boiled up in him as soon as the Arl appeared.

He mentally took a hold of that emotion and pressed it down. Eideard was not his brother, and he didn’t have to like the man to gauge his political positions.

A servant set out refreshments and Ethan covered his introspections with sipping tea while he looked at the other man. “I suppose you can guess why I wanted to meet with you today,” he said, slowly.
“My Lord,” the Bann greeted him in return. “Indeed circumstances have been less than kind to both of us of late.” With a gesture to his cane and nod to his leg, he took a seat in one of the plain but almost sinfully comfortable leather chairs. Or so Eideard thought. They’d been the first thing replaced when Eideard took up residence--gifts from his mother--and were far more to his taste than what had been left by the previous Arlessa. The second thing being the dungeons, a more recent change, as rumour from the staff indicated someone having used the space for an ill-advised interlude, and Eideard hoped to avoid any more disturbing occurrences of such a nature. “I am unused to being confined to one place, and my healer insists that I not spend more than an hour or two on my feet at present. Unfortunately our own personal misfortunes must take second place to those of the Kingdom.”

“Such has long been the case, I’m afraid.” Seri brought Eideard’s tea to him, something which he was still getting accustomed to, and wasn’t yet sure if he should accept the help or rebuke the bird for presuming he couldn’t do it himself. In the end, he accepted the cup with a warm thanks, not wanting to alienate her when she only wished to help.

Eideard had not known Mathias Gunter, or his father before him. Stormgard was not conveniently located to the Storm Coast, though they’d done a fair amount of trade with the Clacher’s quarry. Ethan Gunter, however, was getting to be a more and more familiar face in Denerim. He’d wasted no time in calling on the Teyrna on her previous visit, and Eideard couldn’t help but wonder at the motive behind it. Perhaps he felt protective of Frog’s widow, despite her not as clandestine as she might like arrangement with his former guardsman. But now he sat here, in Eideard’s study, making the more pertinent matter what his interests in Eideard were.

“I suppose you can guess why I wanted to meet with you today,” Ethan offered.

“I imagine it’s one of a few matters.” He took a sip of his tea. “If you have enquiries on the quarry, you’d contact my mother, so that’s not likely. Matters regarding my wife’s stables are addressed to her. With the Landsmeet morn’s morn, I think that’s most likely. Do I have the right of it?”

Eideard set his cup down. “If you want my opinion, you’re welcome to it.” He saw no reason to hold back. Eideard, like his father before him, believed in keeping their opinions blunt. “Teyrn Ainsley was a friend of mine, and my family sworn fealty to Teyrn Cousland a good long time. Sooner this business with the former Queen is set right, the better, in my opinion.” There was a slight twinge at the thought of being so quick and cavalier with a person’s life, but Eideard was almost certain that Rae and Frog had not been Constance’s first victims.
“I imagine it’s one of a few matters.” The Arl sipped his tea. “If you have enquiries on the quarry, you’d contact my mother, so that’s not likely. Matters regarding my wife’s stables are addressed to her. With the Landsmeet morn’s morn, I think that’s most likely. Do I have the right of it?”

Ethan couldn’t help but smile. The Arl’s directness was refreshing, reminding him a little of the Teyrna of Gwaren. While in her case it could be put down to unfamiliarity with the trappings of power, in Clacher’s case Ethan could see an awareness and comfort in his power that meant he could afford to lay his cards on the table.

Eideard set his cup down. “If you want my opinion, you’re welcome to it. Teyrn Ainsley was a friend of mine, and my family sworn fealty to Teyrn Cousland a good long time. Sooner this business with the former Queen is set right, the better, in my opinion.”

Of course there would be many who had similar feelings towards the Queen’s… targets. She had overstepped herself, and done it clumsily. While Ethan could admire her determination, her overconfidence had, in the end, been too great a weakness.

“Death, then,” Ethan nodded, sipping at his own tea. “I fail to see how the King could make any other decision. Frankly the Landsmeet seems… superfluous. But he is still young and new to power, relatively speaking, and having us all in the same place will make it easier to gauge our general attitude.” Executing a Queen had far reaching political consequences, and Alistair was right to be cautious. Ethan had no complaints about his rule - the man had originally seemed a buffoon, but then Cailan had been a dangerous fool, coddled by Loghain until the man had decided to stab him in the back.

The Blight had sent everyone mad.

“Of course the secondary problem is that the King is now single,” Ethan said. “I imagine there will be a great deal of jostling and negotiations to make sure that he does not stay that way for long.”
“Death, then,” Ethan noted. He took a sip of his tea, collecting his thoughts on this fact. “I fail to see how the King could make any other decision. Frankly the Landsmeet seems… superfluous. But he is still young and new to power, relatively speaking, and having us all in the same place will make it easier to gauge our general attitude.”

He was right, for the most part. The ways in which he was mistaken were slight and insignificant, at least to the conversation. Semantics, really. King Alistair believed in the importance of the Landsmeet, and not simply handing down huge proclamations unilaterally. The Landsmeet had chosen him to rule. He felt he owed it to the people to continue showing his faith in it.

Had Eideard been thinking ahead of the conversation, he might have predicted what Bann Gunter turned to next. “Of course the secondary problem is that the King is now single,” he noted. “I imagine there will be a great deal of jostling and negotiations to make sure that he does not stay that way for long.”

Naturally Eideard knew the plan in place, or at least the one the King hoped to broach with the Landsmeet. He suspected this matter was a larger reason to commit to a Landsmeet than the other, but he could not say for sure. Either way, their young King was playing smart and careful. The real question was whether or not he should divulge what he knew. If Bann Gunter was supportive of reinstating Anora, it would be good to give him time to use whatever influence he wielded. Being opposed, however, would afford him the same opportunity to rally against the idea and perhaps even build a force around some other biddable woman.

Even with his reputation of directness, Eideard knew when to hold his cards close to the chest.

“Aye, we can hope this doesn’t become the same mess it did before.” Before being before the war, before the Blight obviously, but no Ferelden needed that specified, in his opinion. “Many of us have been there to some degree.” Eideard had been pursued by foreign dignitaries and deceptively ambitious servants alike. Clearly it worked out in the end for him, but not everyone would find their Mairyn in the mess. “How would you see him proceed?”
“Aye, we can hope this doesn’t become the same mess it did before.” Ethan had been so newly minted in his role as Bann during the last Landsmeet. He wasn’t sure if Clacher would even recall his voice amidst the furor. He did remember being mildly disgusted that the nobles of Ferelden would bow to the will of a Grey Warden, even if said Grey Warden was the youngest of the Couslands. He had wished to see Anora crowned sole ruler, for many complicated reasons, some of which he would laugh at now with seven years of experience at the intricacies of politics under his belt, but Alistair’s ascension had not hurt the Storm Coast and he had not been unhappy to see Loghain separated from his head. Although he was certain the mess at Ostagar was less clear cut than a simple betrayal, he had still left the path open for the Blight to ravage their lands.

“Many of us have been there to some degree.” Clacher continued. “How would you see him proceed?”

Ethan waved a hand. “There are so many young, unwedded noblewomen,” he said. “I can hardly keep track of them all, to be honest.” Despite his seneschal thrusting names at him every second day. Ethan had no desire to marry unless the marriage would further him politically, and none of the women Restel had suggested would do anything other than look pretty on his arm while she waited to be impregnated with an heir.

Hardly his top priority right now.

“There were rumours of a dalliance between Cailan and Empress Celine, not that I or anyone else I know would condone a partnership with Orlais. Perhaps some other foreign noble, someone who could secure an alliance and financial aid for the aftermath of the Blight. I know there are some regions that still suffer.” He took a long drink. “As far as Ferelden women, the most powerful is Teyrna Ainsley, and she is still in mourning.” And not interested. And unlikely to be welcomed as Queen considering she was of common birth.

A common born Queen and a bastard King. It did have a certain ring to it, but Ethan did not think the King would go that way.
Eideard not only listened to, but watched as Ethan Gunter considered this information. Not that it was particularly stunning news that the King would be looking for a new Queen. Angry and hurt he might be, but he took his duty to Ferelden seriously.

Bann Gunter, himself, seemed unconcerned with the options available to bachelors among Ferelden’s nobility, of which Eideard was one until recently. He waved a hand, dismissing the notion of marriage. “There are so many young, unwedded noblewomen, I can hardly keep track of them all, to be honest.” A glib attitude, but unsurprising, given what he knew of Bann Gunter, his focus being elsewhere in his holding. Eideard gave a soft snort of laughter.

It was also true, though most of their peers kept extensive records or who was biddable.

“There were rumours of a dalliance between Cailan and Empress Celine, not that I or anyone else I know would condone a partnership with Orlais.” No, Eideard agreed that was very unlikely. Certainly not Celine herself, but possibly a closely trusted family member would be offered up. Eideard himself couldn’t imagine agreeing to such a union. “Perhaps some other foreign noble, someone who could secure an alliance and financial aid for the aftermath of the Blight. I know there are some regions that still suffer.” He paused for a drink of his tea, and Eideard did the same. “As far as Ferelden women, the most powerful is Teyrna Ainsley, and she is still in mourning.”

Well, perhaps not quite as actively mourning as most would think, but that was hardly information Eideard was willing to offer up. “Aye,” he agreed, “and unlikely to be interested, even were she to be an appropriate suggestion.” Which he could not imagine. Already Ferelden was led by a bastard, and was unlikely to welcome a common-born queen. There were some who barely tolerated her climb to teyrna.

Eideard drummed his fingers, debating. Already it seemed the decision had been made in the King’s mind, for however much Eideard kept his confidence. He waved a hand, half-heartedly changing the subject, or so he gave pretense that he did not expect Bann Gunter to believe. “I’ve seen Lady Anora spending more time in the capital since First Day,” he noted. “It’s good to see her returned, if you ask me.”