The Road Of Danger – Snippet 71


          Adele happened to glance at Mangravite at the other end of the table. If looks could kill…, she thought.


          The fat man’s face had swelled in purple fury. All the renewed babble was agreement with Osorio in some fashion or other. It won’t matter how rich you are if you burst a blood vessel in your brain.


          Osorio bowed to one side of the room, then the other. Still standing, he said to Adele, “Lady Hrynko, we Friends cannot quickly raise such sums in hard currency, but we can provide you with notes to be redeemed in hard currency which you can negotiate.”


          “That isn’t acceptable,” Adele said. “I would have to discount them by ninety percent to get anyone to take them.”


          She would never be a financier, but years of learning to manage her increasing wealth–and the training which Daniel’s elder sister Deirdre had provided in handling that wealth–had taught her a great deal. Deirdre Leary approached finance in the same spirit and with the same genius as her brother showed for astrogation.


          “Not by so much, I hope,” Osorio said, nodding, “but with a significant discount of course. We would adjust the notes to reflect a portion of that discount. And–“


          Adele raised an eyebrow as she waited. She wondered how much of this performance was for Osorio’s fellows rather than really aimed at her.


          “–after your victory over the Estremadura, the value of our notes will increase to near par, providing your Ladyship with a very handy profit, is it not so?”


          There was a gasp of delight among the Friends who understood the proposal, and a wash of whispering among those who did not. Finance at this level was unfamiliar territory for many of those present.


          Adele considered the matter. Osorio was putting a very positive face on the proposition, but it wasn’t completely unreasonable. Adele needed a plausible reason to do what she intended to do anyway: to punish the Estremadura. This offer provided that color, though she would ask Cazelet to knock down the details.


          There was one further point to pursue, not so much for its own sake as because it would further Adele’s plans to learn as much as possible about the affairs of the Sunbright rebels and thus their leader, Freedom. She let her eyes rest on the fixtures which flanked the door, cascades of dangling crystals that diffused the light efficiently while sparkling like the sun on wave tops off the coast of the Leary estate.


          “Insofar as the hire of The House of Hrynko is concerned,” Adele said, “I accept Master Osorio’s offer as a matter for detailed discussion with my business manager. That does not cover the hire or more likely purchase of two subordinate vessels and payment for their crews, however. That will require hard currency, as you put it, and I will not defray those expenses myself.”


          Again there was a babble. Osorio, still standing, settled his face warily. He had been grinning broadly about the room, though he was careful not to let his gaze settle on Mangravite. From the fat man’s expression, it was not beyond imagination that he could be goaded into lurching from his chair and crushing his rival like an avalanche.


          “I can suggest an alternative to you Friends finding the thalers yourself,” Adele continued, raising her voice. Silence spread in waves. Those who had understood what she had said whispered to those nearby until everyone in the room had been informed.


          Adele looked left, then right, before focusing on Osorio. The Friends could provide hard currency in the necessary quantities: the five major members each controlled shares in blockade runners to the equivalent of two full ships apiece. It would require many days and the publication of their private financial records–which Adele could do, but which would make an enemy of each member affected–in order to get that money, however.


          “I believe your group has influence with the government of Cremona?” she said blandly. Mangravite sneered, and both men to Adele’s right at the table chuckled at the idea. They knew, as she did, that the government of Cremona was whatever a wealthy and powerful individual wanted it to be.


          “Very good,” Adele said. “If the government is willing to give me authorization, I will raise the necessary sum in the form of loans from the foreign factors here in Halta City. Can you procure me that authorization?”


          This time the chatter was delighted. Mangravite sat silently, his fists clenched like hams on the table before him.


          “I believe that should be possible, since the proposal doesn’t affect any member of this group,” Osorio said, cutting through the enthusiasm.


          He turned and for the first time looked directly at his rival. “That is true, is it not, Master Mangravite? Do you agree that we Friends of Sunbright should use our influence to permit Lady Hrynko to solicit loans for this purpose?”


          “The factors will never agree!” Mangravite said. His words were almost lost in their growling overtones.


          “I believe you’re wrong, my good man,” Adele said, the syllables sounding like whip-cracks. “But in any case, I do not require anything of you save the legal authorization to try. Do I have that agreement?”


          No one spoke for a moment.


          Adele put down her control wands, though she kept her hands on the tabletop for now. “Do you grant me that authority, Master Mangravite?” she repeated.


          “Yes, damn you!” the fat man said. “And much good may it do you!”


          Shouts of delight filled the room. Several Friends clustered about the beaming Osorio.


          It will, Master Mangravite, Adele thought as she leaned back into her chair for the first time since she sat down. It will serve my purposes very well.