If you want to learn how Scrap came to join the Alizé family, read on …
Lucrezia Jacinta al’Cieleone Alizé, matriarch of the Tojiman branch of the powerful Alizé merchant family, doesn’t have time for this shit. In half an hour the Harbormistress will be here to talk about the tariff hike the Reformers are (yet again, uselessly) making motions about in parliament. Lucrezia isn’t concerned about the bill, but she wants to use the opportunity to catch up with Valeria, remind her how uncomplicated and supportive her relationship with the Alizé has always been, and see if she has a sense of how opinions in parliament are swaying on the Tiagan import tax question. And instead, here she is standing in her study in front of Evangeline and her latest mistress, already put off-kilter by her sister’s presence. This is always how it goes with Evangeline.
“What the fuck do you mean, you’re marrying her?”
“You heard what I said,” Evangeline replies with that infuriating little smirk on her face. “I’ve finally found the right person to spend the rest of my life with. I thought you’d be happy for me,
Lucrezia doesn’t bother suppressing her snort. “This is punishment for not bailing out your last boytoy who got arrested for drunken conduct, isn’t it. Do you actually think I’d believe that you’re finally ready to settle down at your age? Evangeline al’Cieleone Alizé, the most notorious bachelor of the Summer Quarter? With a whelp you dug out of Drevnia’s Fire District who’s barely out of her nappies?”
“She knows I can hear her, right?” the whelp mutters to Evangeline, whose smirk has only grown.
“Is that really the impression you want to make on your new sister-in-law, Lulu? Scáthach’s a talented young engineer, and I know she’ll make many valuable contributions to the family. Especially from such a vaunted position as sister-in-law to the head of the branch.”
Pinching the bridge of her nose, Lucrezia pauses for a moment to calm herself. Evangeline knows exactly how to get under her skin, winds take her. “You could have settled down with that nice young Gustav girl you met at University. Remember her? We all thought you’d made a sensible match at last. Instead you took her around to half the gambling parlors on the island until her mother threatened to shoot you on sight and packed her off to relatives in Cadmure!”
Evangeline smiles fondly. “Rosie did have a terrible poker face.”
“After you … declined to marry any of the suitable matches mother found for you years ago, we had always understood your estates would pass on to Renata, my oldest. Are you trying to tell me you’re going to disrupt your niece’s inheritance now? You’re in your fifties, Evangeline!”
Evangeline’s smirk grows wider. “You always tell me I’m a loose cannon, sister. It’s my job in the family to keep you on your toes, isn’t it?”
This farce has gone far enough. Lucrezia lets the ice into her voice. “And what if I refuse my blessing?”
Evangeline’s eyes spark. “You don’t want to start a family civil war, do you? You know I’ve fucked my way through half of Parliament -”
“You don’t have to remind me, thank you very much -”
“- and you know how many of them still think fondly of me, and how many others know what they owe me? Me, personally, not you, Lucrezia. Do you really want to discover where those loyalties lie? Who they’d side with, if it came down to it?” Evangeline’s eyes are glittering with triumph. “Do you have time to find out, sister? Because I do.”
Lucrezia’s teeth grind together, but she and Evangeline both know the answer. Evangeline has spent longer than the whelp has been alive moving in and out of the beds and confidences of Elutheria’s rich and powerful, and nearly as much time slumming it with the nearly-as-rich, just-as-powerful denizens of its underworld. She’s always made look effortless the part that Lucrezia hates: pretending you care about people and their worries and problems. Evangeline makes people care about her back, and that’s the real problem.
Taking a different tack, Lucrezia looks at the girl. “Do you understand what this means for you, child? I’m sure she’s painted pictures in your head of all the pretty things you can buy with her money, but there are responsibilities that come with being an Alizé, too. We have a reputation to uphold as a family, certain miscreant black sheep notwithstanding.”
The girl’s gaze is steady back at her. “Eva - Evangeline has said I can start my own shop and build things for her to sell. I want to be useful and make things. And,” her blush darkens and she glances at Evangeline, “and I love her.”
By the four winds, the girl is a romantic. This is worse than she thought. Lucrezia lets out a long, pained sigh, then turns back to Evangeline. “You’re going to get her tutors. I won’t have a barely-literate Drevnian orphan joining the family on your wedding day. And I don’t care if she has grease under her fingernails, that’s your problem, but she also needs to know how to administer your holdings. Up to my standards, mind you.”
Evangeline clasps her hands beaming, and winds take her, a tiny part of Lucrezia is happy to be able to make her happy. “I knew you’d come around, dear! Come, Skyling, we’re going to introduce you to the rest of the family.” And with that her whirlwind of a sister sweeps her soon-to-be bride out of the room, already listing siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews and tidbits of information about each.
Lucrezia shakes her head and tries to set her mind back to her visit with the Harbormistress. The poor girl has no idea what she’s getting into.