To Be Gilded: Ch 1

“You will not consider any of this season’s bachelorettes, Deryk?” His mother’s crepe paper-skinned hand hovered near the bone china teacup handle. He lifted a shoulder and raised his own cup if only to have a way of not answering her. She pursed her lips, glaring under sparse white brows at his casual dismissal. “What of suitors then? Are there no fine men in this city to please you either?”

He choked on his tea. “Mother!”

“You will leave your father to roll in his grave if you do not find a partner for the business soon.” She lifted her cup from its saucer and studied the honey-orange shade.

“Father has been gone from us for near on two decades, mother. He would have rolled so many times in these many years, that me not taking on a partner will be the least of his worries. Or yours,” he gentled his protest. Maybe temperance would motivate her to drop the topic.

“Is it that you lack desire entirely? Tell me we are not to leave the whole fate of the Goldsman’s Guild in the hands of my grand-uncle’s progeny. That Wilhelm Van whatever his name is. Uppity little urchin.” She set her cup back down, put off by the smell.

He had hoped the peke would have made her leave. If tea was not to her liking, she tended to leave quickly with excuses of being busy. Not this time, though. He followed suit, dismissed the tea tray to the servant, and pinched at the bridge of his nose. “Is this a conversation to be having with my own mother? You wish children from me to carry on the line. Is that what you are requesting of me? Find whoever you want for the deed then, and I can get that done for you. I am too busy right now with acquiring the Zhargvackas mine, and the Queen has requested an entire set for her Diamond Jubilee.”

“You are not the only esteemed designer within the Goldsman’s Guild, Deryk. The acquisition of the mine is in process. The Queen’s Jubilee is not until summer. What do you mean you have no time?” She leaned back into the plush upholstery. “Grandchildren would be nice, yes, but that is not the point of the exercise, son. You need someone here to ground you. To give you more than work. You will put yourself into a grave right next to your father at this rate. You may not have grey in that black hair of yours yet, but you keep pushing, and it will just like Samson’s did.”

“A partner would be work, mother.” He released the button on his suit coat so he could spread out more comfortably. At the moment, it constricted worse than a straight jacket.

She leaned forward, stabbing a manicured fingernail into the waxed coffee table between them. “Don’t I ever know it. Your father was a piece of work. He was good to me, though, and I would not see all of his work thrown under gelding hooves by some pampered inbred hot air balloon.”

Tradition. He sagged at the unspoken word. Tradition. He was trapped in it. “Do you have someone in mind, mother?”

She smiled, a cat cornering a mouse. “Roderick!”

“Leonhart, mother. Roderick has been gone from us for well over ten years now.” An inkling crept into Deryk’s head as to why the other members of the Guild might be pressing for his marriage.

“Leonhart!” She waved me to silence.

The butler, having already come under the madam’s attack, appeared at the parlour doors with a leather-bound book. He shifted a glance between the Matron of the Goldsman’s Guild and his employer. Deryk twitched a finger, motioning him to come forward. They both shared a bedraggled glance of irritated concession. “Madam, Sir.” He set the thick folio between them, bowed and backed up a step.

“What is this, mother?” Deryk asked, though he already knew by the crest embossed on the leather.

“If there is no one in polite society that has caught your interest from the many seasons you have been privy to since coming of age twelve years ago, then someone designed for polite society might.” She turned the book so it faced her son and flipped the cover open to the bound vellum.

“How will the rest of the guilds react if I chose a Designer?” He turned his nose up at the pages as she flipped through them slowly. Sepia photos were carefully glued into small frames at the top left corner of each page. To the right was a short biography. Below was a resume of their accomplishments.

“I would not even be bringing it up if not for the meeting I just came from of the Guild leaders, Deryk.” She left off on a page and sat up to turn her head at him. A look of weary exhaustion framed her face beneath her carefully constructed curls.

“The leaders are even asking?” He sat upright, startled at the revelation.

“Not asking. Demanding. They do not want Wilhelm, and they are growing nervous with the energy you’ve been driving into the Goldsman’s. You continue with your course; they will see it as outright hostility.” She leaned forward once more to flip another page. 

He gritted his teeth and lifted the folio to his lap. “Who would you choose, mother?” She was here to warn him. Without realizing it, in his effort to keep his father’s memory, he had tread on toes he otherwise had no motivation to bruise. The guilds were joined in a union under the Queen. His father had negotiated, traded tricks, and bought out who he could to secure the working agreements that kept the economy in check. If his actions threatened that balance, he risked not only the Queen’s ire or the stripping of the Goldsman’s Guild name, he risked his workers’ livelihoods.

“Whoever piques your interest. They are Designers for a reason, Deryk. They’re to suit your fancy, or fantasy, however you wish to look at it.” His mother shrugged.

“What is the difference then between a Designer partner and a housekeep or butler?” He stalled on a picture longer than he wanted to let on.

“I could have sworn you had some experience in this, son.” His mother rubbed her forehead.

Deryk swallowed, heat blossoming across his ear tips. He cleared his throat in horror. “I-well, no, I mean. I don’t want to marry someone who will just cook and clean and keep the house, or be some errand-runner. I want someone who is equal to me. If I’m to tie myself to someone, I’d rather it be a proper partnership.”

“And yet, you’ve had chance after chance to meet so many people in these years who would have been of an equal partnership.” She pressed the needles in further on his crumbling facade.

“You know as well as I that if I had taken on any of those partnerships, I would have been considered being partisan. To align myself with another house would be almost a slap to the face of every Guild leader. It would have tipped the scales!” His fingers lingered to keep track of the page he had passed by in an effort to remember to go back.

His mother deflated with the comment.  “You are not entirely wrong. Gregor admitted as much in the meeting. He and Connor both had noticed your elusive nature and pinned it on that possibility. It relieves me to know you at least recognized your responsibility.”

“Then you understand why I have avoided entrenching myself with suitable personage from the recent seasons?” He sank back in relief before panicking about losing his page.

She smothered a smile as he quickly fished back through the bulky number of pages. “So you did find someone?”

“Maybe,” he hedged. The vellum flipped through his fingers until he landed on the page he was after.

His mother leaned forward to study who her son had found. He instead rose from his armchair to come around the coffee table and sit on the sette next to her. They looked at the column together, both silently working over the resume with a fine toothcomb, fingertips tapping out thoughts.

“A glassblower?” His mother broke their silence, asking her pressing question.

“A prior soldier of the Savia royal guard?” He tacked on.

“Sixth son of Malich Van Dermarch from Cardoon, a parliamentary district of Savia. He’s not even a citizen of Crimartia!” She did not push the book away, though.

“Then he is not bound to the Queen’s Guilds or nobility.” Caution slipped into his voice.

“A royal guard?” She turned back to the other question.

“No longer. This would not be a power grab.”

She flicked a silvered glance at her son. “No.” She dragged out the vowel as she studied the resume and bio a second time.

“I would like to see his work.” Intrigue replaced caution.

“Bodyguard or glassblower?” His mother caught on.

“As a glassblower. I want to see how he looks at the world.” A smile crept across his lips.

“Roderick!” His mother startled his contemplations as she demanded the butler’s attention.

“Leonhart, mother.” Deryk rubbed at the bridge of his nose.

“You called, Madam?” Leonhart bowed at her elbow. Quiet and efficient.

“Send word to Universite de Treasure de Deux that Deryk Goldman requests a meeting with Albrecht Van Dermarch. He would like to see his glasswork.” His mother returned her son’s smile.

Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.

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