Shan and Priscilla Ride Again
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Chapter the Fifth
Richard leaned back and crossed his legs, ankle resting on knee.
“You’re still wanting to take the boy on, Johnny?”
“More than ever.”
“Has a talent for the trading, doesn’t he?” Richard was complacent. “Comes from his father, I don’t doubt. What a gambler that man was! Only bet he ever lost to my knowledge was the one said he could swim across the louch here.” He sighed. “Of course, he was deep in his cups at the time. . . You’ll be clearing this with Himself?”
“With Val Con?” Shan shook his head. “It’s up to yos’Galan whether or not to take a fosterling into yos’Galan. It might have been necessary to have the Delm’s permission, if Gordy were from an — unallied — Clan. Or if Val Con were Delm, instead of Nadelm and biding his sweet time.”
“That’s a likely lad, Johnny; you’d look far and come up with none likelier. But it strikes me that — what is it? twenty Standards? — is a bit young to be taking up as king.”
“Twenty-three. And it is, of course. He’s twelve years short of full majority. . .yos’Galan will hold the trust as long as needed — I believe Nova was born to administer a Clan, Uncle Dick! Details are her passion. Maybe I’ll resign and let her run yos’Galan after Val Con takes the Ring. Though I expect she’d die of boredom, after having run Korval entire. . .Have you seen Val Con recently?”
“He dropped by a time back — just before Gordy was coming home, I think. Said he was on the ‘garbage run’ and happened to be in the sector. Do you see him often yourself?”
“He’s home now. Relumma’s leave. . .” He turned his head, and spoke in the local tongue.
“A fine day to you, Housefather.”
“And to the guest.”
Morgan hesitated in the doorway; glanced to his wife’s father.
“I’d be hearing what’s decided for the boy. I stand father to him, though he denies it.”
The man radiated determination. Shan took a sip of the sweet local wine and held his tongue. The matter was for Uncle Dick to decide.
“We’ve just been having a bit of family chat,” Richard said slowly, “and it’s right you are that we should be taking business in hand.” He paused. “We’ll be speaking Terran, young Morgan. Johnny’s hold of our tongue is none so good as that.”
Shan privately thought his command of Old Gaelic equal to the task of negotiating Gordy’s future with the one person here who seemed aware of the boy as a unique individual and actively wished him well. He sighed gently and took another cloying sip of wine.
“That’s very well,” Morgan was saying staunchly. “I’ll just be getting Katy from her harping for the minute and have her tell me what’s being said.”
Shan stirred. Get Katy-Rose from her music? He recalled several occasions when summoning Val Con from his music had generated more difficulties than solutions.
“Gordy? Into an adult circle? You’ll do well not to encourage such things, Mister Galen. The lad’s father took him about to all the story-gathers and smiled if he sassed an elder. It’s been thankless, it has, trying to teach him to behave like a fitting boy. And it’s been that much worse since he’s gone a-trading. Mercy knows how we’ll keep him a boy when next he comes home.”
“He’s barely a boy, now,” Shan snapped, “and he’ll certainly not be by the time the next trip’s done. Time to start teaching him to be an adult!”
Morgan blinked and Richard raised his eyebrows. With a start, Shan realized that he’d spoken in Terran and was about to offer an intelligible apology to the man, when —
“Get Gordy, Morgan,” Richard said. “This concerns him more nearly than any. Best he knows the whole of it.”
A moment’s hesitation, then Morgan was gone. Shan turned to his uncle.
“Forgive me, Uncle Dick. I spoke out of turn.”
“You’re the lad’s foster father, aren’t you? As far as I can see, Johnny, you’ve a perfect right to defend him.” He leaned over and patted Shan’s arm. “Did my heart good to hear it.”
Gordy sat crosslegged on the floor by his stepfather’s chair, round shoulders stiff with importance; eyes shining. Softly, he spoke Gaelic for Morgan; translating, Shan heard with surprised approval, rather than merely summarizing what was said.
“Line yos’Galan agrees to accept Gordon Finn Arbuthnot as a fosterling into the House. We will be responsible for his needs, education, and care, as we are responsible for any other of the Line. He may, of course, visit his true-home often and he may end the fostering at any time and return here.”
Shan paused. Gordy murmured another half-dozen words. Stopped.
“It seems in the best interest of the foster child that he be apprenticed onto Dutiful Passage. In keeping with this, an apprentice fee of five cantra is offered Line Davis.”
Richard coughed in surprise. Morgan jerked upright.
“Here now, Mister Galen! It’s not buying the boy you are!”
“He’s right, Johnny. We’re not hurting for money. It’s possible for you to do this as a favor, isn’t it? We’re kin.”
“But we’re speaking of two different things, Uncle Dick. yos’Galan will have Gordy with joy. As Thodelm, I’m pleased to gain such a son for the House. There’s the favor — and it Balances both ways.
“The other matter is one of education. It seems clear to me, in my capacity as Gordy’s foster father, that his abilities would best be put to use on a tradeship. Like the Passage. It’s proper that the ship pay an apprentice fee. And it properly goes to the true-family.”
Once again, the soft flow of Gaelic continued for a space, then faded. Richard frowned and turned his head to look out over the louch. Morgan looked ready to speak; thought better of it after a glance at his father-in-law’s profile. Gordy sat and fairly shone.
Richard turned back.
“Five cantra. How long an apprenticeship does that buy?”
“The lad will be overage when he comes back to us!” Morgan said, disbelieving.
“Not overaged, Housefather,” Shan said gently. “Merely adult, by local custom.”
“I see,” Richard said, drily. “And the lad will earn a wage on the ship and have a chance to find out, would you say, Johnny, if he’s apt for the trading?”
“I’d say so, Uncle Dick. Yes.”
The older man nodded sharply.
“That’s a deal.”
He held out a hand.
Shan took it; solemnly shook.
Across the room, Gordy let out a shuddering sigh, began to rise. . .
Shan shook his head, very slightly. Gordy sank back.
“You’ve seven cantra of your own?”
“If you’re willing to put those up, I’ll match them and propose this: Of the fourteen, five will go into municipal bonds here, in your name. Six will go, if your foster father is willing, to buy the two of us a share of the Dutiful Passage‘s next voyage. Three will be your own, to do with as you see fit. Do you find that proposal fair?”
Richard’s brows went up.
“What’s unfair in it?”
“You’re putting in seven cantra, but you’re only taking profit from three. Can we agree that three cantra of my own money goes into bonds; that we buy a share-and-a-quarter between us, with your contribution seven cantra and mine two? I’ll take two cantra investment money.”
“That’s your notion of fair, is it?”
“It sounds equitable to me, Uncle Dick.”
The older man turned his head to glare.
“Rot you, Johnny Galen. You’re your father’s son and that’s no mistake!”
After a moment, so did Richard, though reluctantly.
“All right, Gordy, I accept your terms. At the end of this trip, come to me and we’ll discuss the possibility of a partnership.”
“Thank you, Grandad. . .” It seemed he would say more, then faltered to a stop.
Richard nodded, and rose.
“You be a good boy. Morgan, come with me, lad. We’d best make Katy-Rose understand.”
Shan stood and watched them out of the room. Then he smiled and held out his arms.
“All right, Gordy.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Well, there; that wasn’t hard, was it?
I’m awfully glad that Morgan was persuaded not to fetch Katy-Rose from her music. The poor woman needs some time with her harp after the last couple days.
We managed to get some Liaden cultural information into this bit — go, us! — such as the age of majority being 35 Standard Years, and remind people of Val Con’s ultimate place in the clan, as we’ve only seen him as the younger brother being dragged around to parties by his sisters. Also, I’m glad to hear that he’s not above subverting the Garbage Run to serve his own purposes.
Boy, Morgan doesn’t quite Get It, does he? Happily, Shan does.
I had to stop and do the math on the proposed deal that closes out the interaction with Richard, and yanno? Gordy’s right. His way is fairer.
Oh, and for those wondering about the whole “Johnny Galen” thing: John and Sean are the same name. Steve and I pronounce “Shan” as “Sean” (which is to say Shawn-rhymes-with-dawn). Therefore! Shan equates to John, and becomes Johnny, in affection.
Just a joke, that’s all. Nothing to see here. Move along.
May 17, 2015
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