Politicking and Shit

Title: Politicking and Shit
Time Period: January 2, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Goneril seeks the advice of her brothers. As it expected, Edmund and Duncan don't see eye to eye.

It isn't like Goneril to not be waiting for her brothers after she's summoned them to her home, but the study she's claimed as her own in the Ross mansion is distinctly lacking the youngest of the three Rowntrees' presence. Winter brings with it early darkness, and the room is lit by desk lamps that give dark cherry wood a rich gleam. It makes the space look warm, but the situation the two men have been called to discuss chases that warmth away.

So does the look on Goneril Ross' face when the door opens to grant her entrance to the study. After shutting the room up behind her, she leans heavily back against the door, as though to fortify it. Or maybe herself. Some time ago, more than a decade and half that again, Goneril had worn such a face. It's the expression she wore all through her pregnancy. Babies die, and so simply being pregnant was no reason to hold any hope.

Unsurprising that the pragmatic Rowntree daughter would be holding onto no hope once more. "They want guns," Goneril tells her brothers with no preamble. Her voice so level, as though this were merely business to be discussed. "And horses. Presumably to escape on, or so they can more easily haul the munitions."

Duncan rode here, moving at an uncompromising and visible trot through the streets, his face a set, determined mask. Word is out; news spreads faster than a fever through such a small community. Ever aware of the gaze of the people, the stature of the family, the message he seeks to send is tacit but clear.

This will be taken care of.

There's very little reduction in the steeliness of his expression, however, even when they are truly in private. There is perhaps the faint corrosion of sympathy, a rusting of worry, but what he conveys to the world is still more or less what he wants to convey to his sister.

"We'll put forward the ransom," he says, a glance swinging Edmund's way, indicating the other half of that plural pronoun, "in father's name. Let that be what's talked about. The unity of our families."

This is a political decision, made politically. The practical issue brings Duncan's gaze around to his brother. He doesn't speak. He asserts.

"We can't just kill them. This demands executions."

The elder of the siblings looks a bit like he doesn't want to be here. But that's also what Edmund usually looks like, when in the company of this particular triad.

It's not particularly personal, and he likes them well enough, is loyal to them about as much as any one man can be. But whatever environment is comfortable for them is inevitably never comfortable for him, and he wears such sentiments on the outside and without complaint. "We don't negotiate with anyone," he says, mostly in response to Goneril's specifics.

As for Duncan's, he turns a look to his brother, patient for more elaboration.

Of course Duncan is looking at this from the extreme political standpoint. Goneril had expected as much, and goodness knows she employs the same approach herself quite often, but something about it in this instance seems exceptionally cold. "I've sent Jorn and Bridget out to check on the meeting location." As if that were her own idea. She has to feel in control of something at the moment. Control of her own emotions isn't enough to satisfy.

It's a bit like consulting the devil and the angel upon one's opposing shoulders when Goneril seeks the counsel of her brothers. For now, she also waits to hear Duncan out, but not without meeting Edmund's eyes as if to convey that he'll have his turn.

"We need the bait," Duncan says. It's an irritating habit, stating opinions like facts, judgments as certainties. "To make sure Cordelia is returned safely." He directs this reasoning towards Goneril either for purposes of reassurance or of rhetoric. Or both.

"When she's in our hands, we take whatever shot we have. Come back with heads, if we have to," Duncan speaks with level emphasis, "but we really need some of them alive, somebody who can be held responsible. Someone we can interrogate and then publicly execute. We cannot allow this to go without visible consequence."

Right, this. There's a doggish bend to Edmund's neck, head down, where he's taken over the chair at the desk, elbows on his knees and studying his hands. He's listening.

"If we can find where they are," he says, after a pause has gone by, "then we should go in, because fuck 'em. Kill them all, burn everything they have, take back Cordelia, and Dornie'll be better for heartlessness. They take the bait and only send men enough to carry back their prize, maybe." Unlike Duncan, Edmund does not assert his opinions as anything but opinions.

There's silence from their sister as the men's words are considered. The compatibilities and the conflicts of their proposals weighed with pros and cons. It's hard to tell what she's thinking behind the chilly mask of her stoic nature.

The follow-up is simple. Hazel eyes flick between each of the Rowntrees in turn. "Is this what you would do if it were your child?" Goneril asks of them both.

"This is my child," Duncan says, one hand lifting to form an edge than swings down, a guillotine blade, against the flattened palm of his other hand. The gesture makes more the impression of a sound than an actual sound. It punctuates his words. "All our children."

His arms cross, and there's a certain tightness in his jaw, a tenseness in his shoulders, that gives his posture a certain simple menace. Bullyish. "If we can find where they were," he says, echoing his brother, "not a single one will get away. But we need Goneril's daughter, Edmund. She's a living alliance. It's their child as well, and if we fuck this up, the blame's on those who fucked it. For blame will fall- and they'd be stupid not to push it on us."

"We need her back more'n we need to give up the weapons," Edmund states, with steel edged neutrality. He isn't going to let Duncan imply he'd think otherwise, desire otherwise, knowingly or not. He does, after all, have his own son who he can easily imagine in such a position.

He pushes himself up to stand. "Do it your way," he says to Duncan, a glance to Goneril that she knows he's fine with such a thing. He isn't being insincere, or sullen, or prideful - it's an easy hand over of opinion.

Seconds pass before it seems like Goneril may give judgement. But there's a crack in her diplomacy dam, a slow trickle of despondence that gives way to full-blown umbrage. "She is my daughter!" The youngest of the three shrieks with a vehemence that is quickly recognised and brought back in to heel. When she seethes now, it's quieter, but no less dangerous. "Cordelia is not the pawn in your game of political chess."

Not one to be bullied by anyone, and especially not her own kin, Goneril strides right up to the crossed-arms Duncan and jabs a finger into his chest roughly. "Not today." In the past, certainly. And most likely again in the future Goneril will treat her child as such - a means to an end in the Rowntrees political schemes. Unquestionably loved though she is, Cordelia is undoubtedly the leverage by which Goneril has ensured her own security in Dornie.

Tempted as she is to engage in a hard staring match with her middle brother, she shifts her gaze to her eldest instead. It's possible she seeks to tap into some of Edmund's own anger (in a sense), because it's unlike she seeks any sort of temperance from him.

Duncan is not moved. At least, not visibly. Something must happen to cause the ossification his features assume as Goneril advances on him. Something must move within him. But it stays out of sight.

"Sister-dear, she's both," Duncan says, eternally unequivocal, enduring the prod with a vexingly pointed resoluteness, "same as my daughter. This is the life we gave them. Denying it only risks them."

His arms release from their cross-guard. Relaxation comes with conciliation. Or what passes for it. "All I want is her safe return."

Now Edmund is being looked at by both his siblings. Sole object of attention. "Offering to pay sends a message, and we need to keep things close now. There's the question of how these people even got in, how they lured her away." His jaw clenches for a moment, a suppression of irritation.

"A masquerade ball-" incredulous, scornful and- regretful? Guilty even. "I should never have allowed such a thing."

Edmund agrees, naturally, with his sister, but finds himself caught between a place that echoes Goneril's sentiment, and desire to be effective. A glance to Duncan at that comment about masquerade balls, in blithe but silent disagreement, focused turned inward on the matter at hand and the future. "Her bein' dead ain't political," he says, eventually. It's his attempt at being reassuring. Not that he would have her dead if the opposite were true, but because that's where Goneril's worries lay. "But if we go through with the bargain, then they might hurt her anyhow, there's no telling. Could happen again, too, to any of our kin. Dornie's full of weak-hearted fools, they'll say."

A pause. He doesn't usually have that many words, all at once.

"A raid might see her to harm," he admits, after a second of thinking. "Mock up a deal and we'd stand a better chance."

It isn't often that Goneril is so outwardly moved. In that, she and Duncan are equally matched. And were their roles reversed, were it Constance they were discussing the safe return of, she would likely be the one speaking of alliances and political ramifications as he is. It remains to be seen if he would be ruffled as she is, or if that comes with having carried the child in question in her womb for nine months. She offers a nod, as if to suggest that she forgives Duncan's outlook or that she understands his position. Or perhaps it's just a dismissal of their conflict.

"I know, Edmund." Duncan's points are of course listened to and internalised, but unremarked upon for the moment. It's the future Rowntree patriarch's concerns she addresses now. "If we give in to the ransom demand, they'll believe they can push us around. But if we get her back, then we can return here and prepare to pursue them."

And when she says we, that's precisely what she means. "They want me present for the exchange," Goneril tells them. "I would have Edgar remain here." Which in itself is a political move. It shows her as the strong one, but it also keeps Clan Ross' future from being entirely wiped out should everthing go sideways.

Duncan seems ill pleased by this detail. Goneril at the exchange? "I would rather have Edgar come, and you stay," he answers, but that's a wish only, "any other stipulations? I need to know what they expect, so that's all they'll see. We will do this cautiously. As long as we get two or three of them, we can make an example." He gives a short shrug. "And worst comes, we pick someone of the town, call him the agent, and string him up. I'd rather hang a goat than risk the child."

"We show our strength through our actions," Edmund states, somewhat snappish, attention veered back to Duncan. "Not a performance. You want to find a stage to dance on, I'm sure your girl Constance'll help."

He looks to Goneril, lifting his chin a bit. "Let's not forget what we're after. Aye, the safety of your daughter, and aye, a show of strength, but we've an enemy now. One that's managed to hurt us in a way no one has before. Our task is to defend our town; do you both understand that? If we don't have a fucking town, the politics of it, even our family, means nothing at all.

"We'll do this properly. Goneril'll be at the exchange. We bring men. Sharp shooters at a distance if they don't hand the girl over first. I'll sooner bring back bodies than nothing, Duncan. We only take 'em alive if we can afford it."

Goneril's eyes stay on Edmund's for a time before she nods her assent. "If they've killed my girl, we wipe them out right then and there." Though she has to assume they haven't. They can't expect to receive what they've asked for if any harm's come to Cordelia Ross. "And if we can take some of them down when we take our leave, so much the better." To Duncan, she directs, "Bodies strung up on the outskirts of town send a clear enough message, I think."

"Maybe you do it t'other way 'round, brother, but I wipe my ass in a stall, and save my speeches for street corners. Where an action's performed, and who sees it, no mean matter," Duncan states, tone desiccated. "You can place your humanity over politics, but your house is built on my muddy foundation. You're free to forget that. I am not. We can only defend those who think we can defend them."

Duncan turns a considering look in Goneril's direction. It seems he's seriously weighing his sister's 'strung up bodies' proposal. "At the very least," he says, with a final nod.

The look Duncan gets is somewhat cool. Edmund's temper is renowed, but Duncan being something of an asshole is too. Still, it brushes close to pride and patience without crossing any lines. "Aye, well, it's a good thing we've got you, Duncan, to let us know when not to take a shit in the streets," he says, his voice dry. Then, he casts an uncomfortable glance between siblings, and lets it wander restlessly away again.

"We've got an agreement, then?"

"Duncan." Goneril's tone is a warning. He's in her house, and she won't put up with his insults today. She pointedly turns away from him to tip her chin downward just slightly in Edmund's direction. "We're agreed. Cordelia is our primary concern." She then tilts her head toward the door. "With any luck, Jorn and Bridget will return soon, and we'll have more details. I must speak with my husband."

Edmund's assessment of his value vis a vis public defecation brings a narrow smile to Duncan's lips. "You're lucky, brother, that you don't know just how frequent a problem that is." There is temptation to further bait his brother's presently temper, but one he doesn't succumb to. No more than this is said.

No more at all, in fact. His agreement is tacit, indicated only by an incline of his head. His heel shifts back, his angle turns. Readying to recede.

Edmund isn't entirely sure they've settled on anything at all, and his jaw hardens a little in irritation, but he desires even less to be here than the other two. He nods to his sister, waiting a good few moments for Duncan to get out before he follows suit, leaving behind the subtle imprints of snow-damp boots on the ground as he goes.