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10.29.2012 , 12:19 AM |
The Advocate of House Girard
Varenne. BH Alderaan spoilers (lots of 'em). 2,600 words.
Varenne couldn’t believe it had been seven years since she had been back home to Alderaan. Castle Thul’s gardens were in full bloom and the palace spires, unfinished when she left, now almost touched the clear blue sky. She had been a girl of eleven when she had been scouted by, and began her training with, the Mandalorians – and this wasn’t so much a homecoming as seeing her homeworld in a whole new light. When she was younger, the glitz and glamour and underhanded politicking of the nobility had never entered her consciousness, but now, she saw it, clear as the Alderaan day she was currently enjoying.
Her enjoyment was abruptly cut short when she arrived at the entrance to the castle extension where her extended Girard family made their home. She had only been here a few times before; she had grown up in the main castle of House Thul, and only came here for big family parties. “It’s always a party at House Girard,” Uncle Heitor loved to say, and it looked like the house was certainly living up to that claim today. A lively party was in full swing as she entered the vestibule.
doing here?” said the guard at the door. He looked down his nose at her like she was some sort of vermin. “We haven’t got any food or credits for you. Please show yourself out or I will have to call the authorities.”
“I’m here to speak with Baron Zacar.”
It sounded weird. Uncle Raffid had died four years ago, but it still sounded odd to her. This also meant that Raf was now heir apparent to the title. Yuck.
“Baron Zacar doesn’t associate with the likes of you,” the guard said, looking her up and down with distaste. “Your dirty mercenary lot aren’t welcome here.”
“I understand he has need of my services,” Varenne replied, standing her ground and meeting the guard’s gaze, almost challengingly.
“His Grace is busy, and will be otherwise engaged for the rest of today. And tomorrow. In fact, for the rest of the week. Now run along, little girl, and take your filth with you.” The guard narrowed his eyes at her and pointed at the door.
Varenne snorted. Nobody went by “His Grace” in her family, to the best of her knowledge. It made the guard look ignorant and pretentious, but she was quickly learning to expect that kind of thing from everyone she met here. “He’s expecting me,” she said stubbornly. "I’ve been told that you have a certain Durasteel Duke problem that needs handling by someone with my expertise.”
“Ah yes, of course,” the guard said hurriedly, motioning for her to come forward. “Right this way.” He kept himself at a careful distance in front of the dirty girl he was leading into the pristine private back rooms of the house. As he walked toward Baron Zacar’s study, he thought about giving her a towel to sit on, so as not to spoil the furniture. Or maybe he’d offer the door mat to the service entrance. He didn’t want to waste perfectly good House Girard towels. Hopefully Baron Zacar would have the presence of mind not to ask her to sit down.
From down the hall, Varenne could hear raised voices.
“What is the meaning of this?” came Zacar’s voice. He sounded older and more authoritative than she remembered. Well, he
the Baron of House Girard now, so it made sense.
“I just caught this little rake in a dalliance with my wife!” replied an indignant voice Varenne did not recognize.
“More like you caught your wife in a dalliance with me, cuckold,” said a third, much younger voice. It could only be that of one person, and Varenne cringed inwardly.
Raf. Figures. A dumb twit, just as he always was.
Varenne walked into Zacar’s study to find a red-faced House Thul nobleman in Zacar’s face. Raffid stood by with his arms crossed, looking smug. “Unless you want half of House Thul questioning why we continue to keep you riffraff here, you’ll grant me that winter haven of yours,” snapped the nobleman, pointing a finger in Zacar’s face. Zacar’s eyes crossed as he focused both eyes on that one finger.
The blood drained from Zacar’s face. “My grandfather’s estate? Are you mad? That’s half my family’s lands!”
“Ahem,” Varenne said from the doorway. All three men turned to look at her. “You there. Don’t even think about it.” She flashed them a winning smile as she drew her blaster and shot the nobleman squarely in the chest.
Zacar looked down at the dead nobleman, bleeding out the last of his life onto the fancy carpet, and poked at him with the toe of his boot. “Mm. I know why you’re here. But first, let me thank you for this. Your passionate defense of our House is most admirable.”
You have no idea,
Varenne thought to herself.
Some of my favorite memories from my childhood were spent at that estate.
“Not a problem. I’m sure you’d have done the same.” Varenne dusted her hands off and holstered her pistols.
Zacar waved at the nearest chair, inviting Varenne to sit down. “So, you're the one seeking the Durasteel Duke? Well, I’m afraid the duke and his sister left House Girard some time ago under … unpleasant circumstances. House Girard now has a vested interest in finding the duke and having him meet an unpleasant end.”
“I can certainly manage that. Just give me an address and a carbonite freeze gun and I’ll take care of it.” Varenne nodded smartly at Zacar, who made no indication that he recognized her. It was probably better that way – for now, at least.
Zacar gave a small nod. “Your quick actions to save my family’s landholdings tell me much about you. I think we’ll work well together. I will give you the authority to negotiate on my behalf and that of my House for the purpose of finding the Durasteel Duke. As such, I name you the Advocate of House Girard, a role of honor.”
“Advocate, huh? I kinda like it.”
Zacar smiled. It was the first real smile Varenne had seen from anyone on the planet thus far.
* * *
One week later
“Advocate,” Lady Aitalla called, waving Varenne over. “Be so kind as to remove this …
from my presence.”
Varenne surveyed the scene with some amusement. A rather large, balding nobleman in formal attire two sizes too small for him was attempting to propose to Aitalla, who, as it appeared, was having none of it. Varenne couldn’t blame her; the guy was fat and smelled like rancid nerf cheese.
Varenne nodded at Aitalla with a devilish smile. “Look on the bright side, tubby – bouncing back is probably something you’re good at.” With that, she grabbed the fat nobleman, whom she vaguely recognized as some distant Thul relation from her mother’s side, by the lapels of his jacket and threw him bodily out the front door, with a heavy thump and a satisfying
of his clothing at the seams as he tumbled out into the snow. She hoped that it was his pants that sustained the damage.
“The nerve of Zacar and my father, treating me like some insipid, simpering … ugh!” Aitalla threw her hands up in the air. This was the fifth repulsive nobleman this week who had tried to get in her pants. “How many more of these absurd marriage proposals must I endure?”
Varenne rolled her eyes and looked over her shoulder at the fat nobleman, who still lay face down on the front steps. “You people have a funny definition of romance.”
“Romance? Marriage is the currency of politics. It is customary to gift one’s children for favors. Were you marriageable, I think you’d find that there
some distinction,” Aitalla said disdainfully. “But since you’re not …”
Varenne had thus far been enjoying observing the way her extended family treated outsiders, but she wasn’t going to stand for this. “Me? If
were marriageable, you wouldn’t be thirty-nine and divorced three times, with a daughter who has no idea who her real father is.”
“How dare you!” Aitalla flared. Her face turned bright red and she looked almost sheepish under that veneer of righteous indignation. “How do you even know about that?” she hissed.
“I hear things,” Varenne said airily.
?” Aitalla asked incredulously. “What would someone like you know about people like us?”
“Lots of things. It’s all over the HoloNet, for one thing.” Varenne heard a lot of it from Mako, who loved reading nobility gossip on the HoloNet. She wasn’t, however, going to mention what her parents and sisters told her, which was also a good deal. She’d certainly heard lots about that incident from her parents when it happened a few years ago – how Aitalla had been going around with four different men around the time Rhysenna was born, and how the poor girl was sent to Korriban early to get her out of the way since one of Aitalla’s new boyfriends didn’t like children.
Aitalla waved her hand dismissively, but she looked somewhat troubled. “None of that’s true. That’s all made up to titillate the masses. Masses like your sort of people.”
Varenne smiled inwardly. Most of the gossip on the HoloNet checked out with what her family told her. Her family just gave her more details that the reporters wouldn’t know about. The smile reached her face and she tried to make it look like she was smiling in agreement.
Aitalla sighed tragically. “Such is my lot in life. The ladies of House Girard are all destined to be nothing more than pawns in the game of politics, and fodder for gossip columnists across the galaxy. I suppose you should consider yourself lucky, even in your current station, that you are not, and will never be, a member of House Girard.”
And with that, she swept out of the room in a swirl of red silk and ivory satin.
* * *
Two weeks later
The weekly House Girard Sunday brunch party was well underway. Varenne picked a sandwich off a passing tray, as a nobleman whom she had come to recognize by his outfit as a member of House Cortess poured himself a glass of Corellian brandy from an ornate crystal decanter on the buffet. The nobleman regarded her critically over the rim of his glass, then turned around and walked away, revealing a stylishly dressed Raffid, who was leaning laconically against the door frame on the opposite side of the room. He looked at her appraisingly before walking over and invading her personal space.
“You look radiant with the blush of power. Ever considered becoming a baroness?” Raffid asked, his eyes sweeping suggestively over her. “We can skip the ceremony and go straight to the honeymoon.”
Varenne put both hands on his chest to fend him off, and took a step backward. She thought she’d seen everything that the nobles were capable of, but this was something else entirely. She decided that now was the best time to reveal who she was; otherwise, he’d be relentless in his pursuit of her, just as it seemed he was with every other woman on Alderaan. “Raf. Do you really not think about anything else but that? First you get caught sleeping with someone else’s wife, and now you’re propositioning me? I won't be surprised if you die of the Rodian clap someday.”
The lascivious half-smile quickly disappeared from Raffid’s face. “Excuse me? How dare you talk to a member of the nobility with such familiarity.”
“Come on, don’t you remember me? You used to pull my hair, cry when I’d win at hide-and-seek, and put chocolate cake on my chair at the dinner table so I’d sit in it and you could tell everyone I, you know, did a number on myself.”
Raffid stared at her, stunned. It took a few moments before he could speak again. “Rennie?!”
“… Yeah. Hi, Raf.”
Raffid’s face reddened. “Why didn’t you say something before about who you were?”
“Because it was too funny to watch all of you when you didn’t know who I was.”
Raffid stuffed his hands in his pockets. “I thought you were training with the Mandevillians or whatever they’re called. Nobody told me you were back.”
“Mandalorians. I’m back because one of my bounty targets was your Durasteel Duke, and for that I’m one step closer to winning the Great Hunt,” Varenne replied. “It was a win-win situation. I help the family, I win the Great Hunt. Done.”
“You didn’t answer my question,” Raffid said, shaking off his initial shock and taking a step toward her. She had certainly grown up to be more attractive than most of the other women he’d dallied with, scuffed armor and well-used blaster pistols notwithstanding. “
you ever considered becoming a baroness?”
“Shut up, Raf.”
“It comes with amazing benefits, starting with me.” Raffid flexed in the most manly pose a scrawny eighteen-year-old noble pretty boy could muster.
Varenne cringed. Was this really how Raffid got all those random married noble women to fall at his feet? He seemed to get a lot of them, but she couldn’t understand how or why. Nobody sane would go for anything like this. “In case you’ve forgotten, because of mother, I actually outrank you. And because of father, I’m your cousin. But thank you for the kind offer nonetheless.”
“You’re missing out, Rennie,” Raffid said in a sing-song voice, continuing to preen. “Think about it this way: we’ll be keeping the Girard line pure. Well, you know, somewhat pure.”
“Wow, my family is so delightfully screwed up,” Varenne said, more to herself than to him, unsure of whether or not to be repelled or amused by all of this. “You know, Raf, you sound really desperate when you talk like that. If you think you’re being charming or suave or anything like that, it’s not working. It’s because you think with the wrong head all the time. More often than not, whatever you say is a load of bantha s**t in a Tatooine sandstorm.”
“I’m the Baron of House Girard now,” Raffid said petulantly, complete with the pout Varenne had seen so many times since they were five years old. “The women will fall over themselves for me anyway, no matter what I say to them. Watch this.” He raised his eyebrows at her before making his way toward a group of ostentatiously dressed ladies standing in a cluster by the champagne. A few minutes later, he made to leave with two of them, one on each arm. As he exited the room, he looked over his shoulder, flashing her a grin that clearly said
I told you so
Varenne covered her face with her hand. He was unbelievable.
“Advocate,” said a voice from behind her. It was Aitalla, standing by herself in the middle of the room holding a plate of
and a glass of champagne. “I just wanted to say thank you for everything you’ve done for our family. Saving our winter estate, dealing with that awful suitor, taking care of the Durasteel Duke for us – I was wrong about you. You’re always welcome here in our house, and I hope you find a nice man to marry someday.”
Varenne grinned at her. “Don’t worry, you’ll definitely be seeing me again. After all, I consider myself lucky that I am, and will always be, a member of House Girard.”
And with that, she swept out of the room in a flash of durasteel and two spinning blasters.
The Girard Legacy
The Short Fic Weekly Challenge