I think I have a Plan

Diana Montclaire sat behind the broad desk, stained dark to match the rest of the study. It seemed like every memory she had of her father was in this study, surrounded by the heavy furniture and wood paneling that must have cost a fortune; wood being near impossible to come by in such large pieces. Then again, it was an old desk and older house and may have been around for generations - some of the drawers did have a tendency to stick.

“This is hardly what I meant when I asked to be involved with the running of the company. How can reading these and signing those really be all that’s left for me to do? Father was so busy at all hours of the day and night and I’m sitting here scribbling my name on the bottom corner of documents.” Diana tossed the pen down and leaned back in her chair.

Her nanny, who had recently been promoted to personal assistant, collected the papers and thumped them against the desk to square their edges. “It was your idea to demand more responsibility from the board. And you did demote five of them to stable boys, so perhaps it’s only fitting that you pick up some of their duties.”

“You don’t approve?”

“I don’t approve of the stables period. It’s a cruel life for those horses, always cooped up on the grounds when they aren’t on the occasional trip around town pulling that absurd carriage. Horses were meant to run free.” The No longer Nanny Nit gave Diana a detracting look.

“Where did you get an idea like that? Horses are a symbol to the people that the Montclaires have the power and wealth to stand resolute against anything.” Diana sounded as if she were repeating a mantra instilled in her as a child.

“The horses are damn expensive ornaments that you should seriously consider releasing to a life of more utility. You can’t afford to maintain them forever and even if you could, you can’t afford to lose the respect of the people when they see you trotting along while they’re starving in the streets.”

“I don’t even ride them anymore. I walk mostly, with Major; he likes the exercise.”

Nit carefully stashed the documents in a leather satchel and replied, “Thank you for making my point. Then why keep them at all?”

“Because Serenity loved them as did father. When Tate brings her home she will kill me if those horses are gone.” Diana actually sounded like she was looking forward to the retribution.

“Well, perhaps you should keep one or two of them, but not the entire herd. Business is not what it once was. Everyone is feeling the squeeze as resources grow scarce. There have been no new construction projects of any significance. Assets are being moved around to keep the Highholm board members in their life of luxury, but it won’t last long and then where will you be? Best to minimize your expenses now while you still have clout and leverage at the bargaining table.”

“You make it sound as if we’re destined for ruin.”

“Diana, when you were a child it was my job to keep you safe. That included buffering you from the dangers and cruelty of the city out there. Your father did this as well so it’s understandable that you struggle accepting the prospect of financial difficulties. But you are a woman now, more or less, and you no longer need a nanny. You need to accept the truths that you cannot change and brace for their impact. There is still time to make something good of this situation, but….”

“And what about the truths that I can change?” Diana lifted the intricately carved lid to the small box that contained the Elesium disk she found months ago. God, that felt like a lifetime ago. “My sister is still alive. I know it. Don’t look at me like that, yes it’s a twin thing. She’s alive. Tate may be in trouble, he may not have made it to the delve at all. He had Emily to look after and…. Well we are his sisters, but Serenity is my twin. I should have gone after her right away, but the Regent would have shipped me off right along with her, probably worse. I wish I’d used this thing against that Ines bitch, but now, with her gone from the People’s Palace, the council may just listen to me. I won’t sneak off by myself like a foolish child. I’ll go to the council and plead my case and marshall a small task force if I must. If the Montclaire money is drying up, I’d better spend it now while it’s still mine to spend. What do we know about the members of the Council? Who among them would champion a mission to the Delve?”

“I’ll put together a small list of receptive councilman if you’ll see to my pay. Something tells me getting paid will become increasingly problematic.” Nit gave Diana a smile, but she was quite serious.

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