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Favors and Negotiations (Aiden)

Melanctha Dallamoor

Duch'a of Cheruba
Melanctha had made a promise to visit Aiden, after careful arrangements she was on her way there. The trip was to be relaxing just one to show his mother that he actually had hapan friends and to see what favor it was he wanted from her. She had thought back many times in the last couple of weeks on her time with Aiden.

He was bookish, quiet his emotions at times hard to read. As were many Hapans but Aiden seemed more guarded she had not pushed hard for answers. He had helped her with her class, and she had provided him company. When she explained to her parents where she was going, they each looked hopeful. Yes she knew what was on their minds, she had not thought about Aiden in that way.

However. He was of a good family. His family had their own holdings. It was something to consider. Something that perhaps could be negotiated. Perhaps. Her ship, The White Rose, a recently completed and commissioned Baudo Class yacht, customed designed by the Dallamoor family for outings, and to impress anyone who would see it. Mendel Baudo had outdone himself this time, everything was perfection.

They were on approach, Melanctha smoothed her light gray pants suit, with cream colored top, and matching shoes. Her hair framed her face and hung loose about the shoulders, she almost looked like she did on the day she and Aiden had met.

Aiden Merritt

"But what about Tristen,” Aiden asked near panic.

“Your cousin Tristen Gray is a pirate. He stole a Nova class from the Hapan Navy and he and his crew have been prowling the Transitory Mists ever since. The Ereneda would hang him before she would allow him to assume the title of Duch’da of an asteroid, much less the Relephon system.”

Which was ironic to Aiden because Tristen had stolen the Nova-class battle cruiser and gone rogue to escape the same type of arranged marriage from which Aiden was seeking a reprieve.

“Are you sure it’s too late… you know… for you and Dad to have a daughter?”

The Duch’a Elaine AlGray (the Merritt name was officially dropped when they returned to Relephon) didn’t say a word, but, her severely raised brows told Aiden he had pushed his luck too far with that question and the conversation was over.

Aiden was saved from further grilling when one of the servants stepped nearby and discreetly announced, “The Dallamoor star-yacht is on final approach, Master Aiden.”

“Thank you, Thomas. I’ll go meet it myself.”

“Very well, sir.”

“Mother, I’m going to the pads to meet Mel. I think we will go up to the lake house as we discussed.”

It had been a hard fought negotiation… taking her up to the lake rather than into the chateau proper; but, Aiden wanted this first meeting to be just the two of them... with no concerned parents looking over his shoulder.

“Please don’t call her… Oh, Aiden… what am I going to do with you? Oh, all right… but must you wear that? You look like a mine worker.”

Dressed in a conservative pair of trousers, a knit shirt, and his old faithful leather jacket he looked like he might on an archeological dig site but still… if he dressed the way his mother wanted, Mel wouldn’t recognize him. Aiden was already walking out of the room and didn’t have the energy to argue that point again so he just waved goodbye and kept walking.

Standing at the edge of the landing pad as the Dallamoor Baudo touched down, Aiden whistled in appreciation and touching his comm unit said, “Arnie, time to clean up the Baudo… head to tail –clean, polish, detail… the works.”

A series of indignant beeps, squawks, and whistles in reply caused Aiden to laugh and reply, “Ok, ok… recruit some service droids and oversee their work but get it done.”

Aiden grinned hugely when Melanctha stepped out of the Baudo and this time he did hug her.

Then stepping back, he gave her a deep, formal bow and said with a laugh, "Welcome to the Gray Moon, m'lady."

Melanctha Dallamoor

Duch'a of Cheruba
Melanctha tried very hard not to laugh as she watched him bow to her. But it was no use as a smile slowly emerged across her lips. "Aiden." She was really glad to see him, it had been so long since they had been in a setting to see one another the Ball did not count it was formal.

"I'm very happy to be here now you are obligated to come see me" Mel reached out for him, "now stand up straight and by the gods let's really catch up. And tell me how did your evening go at the ball? Where are you now? "

She felt like such a kid around Aiden there was no need for the strict Hapan airs this was Aiden the only other Hapan she knew who smiled.

"And are you taking me to meet your mother or whisking me away to be alone? Hmm?" It was then that she took his hand.

Aiden Merritt

The Duch’a AlGray watched discretely from an overlooking balcony high above the landing pads. There were many days she wished only to be back on Arbra with Aiden and his father Landry. Those days spent exploring the endless forests and mountains of that world seemed like heaven to her - a time in heaven she was paying for now; as was, unfortunately, her only son. She knew unless Aiden accepted an arranged marriage; or, alternately, met, fell in love with an acceptably born Hapan and married her, when she reached an age that she was no longer able to administer the duties inherent with her title, the Queen Mother would award Relephon to another family. The AlGray dynasty would end and the remaining family would live out their lives subjugated on their own lands. Relephon had been theirs for centuries and she would fight to keep it; even if she had to sacrifice her beloved son’s happiness in the process.

She resolutely wiped away a tear that thought brought and watched intently as the Dallamoor star yacht landed. Oh, Gods… She actually cringed when Aiden hugged the future Duch’a of Cheruba. If only she had insisted he pay more attention in those etiquette classes. Her dismay turned to a stunned hopefulness when Melanctha not only smiled at him, she took his hand! Perhaps there was hope!

* * * *


Aiden cast a glance up towards the rambling mountaintop villa surrounding the central chateau and smiled. He could almost feel her eyes.

Motioning to a waiting Mekuun TR-14a land cruiser, he answered, “I’ve planned an escape… if only for a little while. At least today I have a promise that we won’t be asked to attend the lady of the house.”

Helping Melanctha inside and into the surprisingly comfortable seat he said to the driver as he entered, “To the docks, Philip.”

“Aye, Master Aiden.”

Sliding into the seat next to his old friend, he recaptured her hand and asked, “Fell like exploring a haunted house?”

“I thought if you were game, we would sail across the lake to the old manor house. It’s been abandoned since the failed rebellion and has some interesting stories I’d like to investigate. That location should give us all the privacy we want to talk since most of the locals won’t go anywhere near it. What do you think?”

Melanctha Dallamoor

Duch'a of Cheruba
Melanctha tried not to pay attention to where Aiden's gaze traveled, she could assume that his mother watched waiting to see what happen. Or to ensure her only son made the right impressions, what would the Duch'a Algray done if Melanctha had kissed him instead of hugging him.

They walked together to the next vehicle to take them on their journey. Without thinking she turned and pressed her lips to Aiden's cheek. "yes let's do a haunted house, it might be like that one they did there on Naboo during that one festival, do you remember? All the cobwebs, and darkness? did you go to it?"

She held his hand tightly, enjoying the warmth, and feel of how his fingers curved to hold her hand.

"Privacy you say Aiden Merritt, do you have something you want to do that requires privacy?" She teased him now knowing that the driver would report back to his mother. She would give him nothing but how she showered Aiden with compliments, and flirted outright with him. Even in front of the staff.

She turned to look away for just the moment, leaving the pale outline of her lips on his cheek. Why had she and Aiden not gone further then. She was not sure, perhaps because she had been focussed on her studies and making her parents happy. Meeting their approval to ensure she would inherit her title, and be funded.

"I have some business ventures coming up taking me to Naboo, and some that will keep me here in the Consortium. Will" She looked back at him, "This be the only time I see you?"

Aiden Merritt

Aiden wasn’t exactly a stranger to the act and art of osculation. He was familiar with the social kiss, the butterfly kiss, the cheek kiss, the earlobe kiss, the eye kiss, the finger kiss, the foot kiss, the nip kiss and others that slipped his mind at the moment. He had been kissed and kissed enough times that a simple kiss, although appreciated, rarely jolted him and stunned him to attentiveness. None that he could remember affected him like the innocent kiss Melanctha gave his cheek. An electric charge seemed to shimmer down his body and back to the blessed cheek giving it an instance of hypersensitivity and gave Aiden the odd sensation that his cheek actually craved her lips and begged them not to part from it. Of course his cheek remained mute… as did he for a moment as he realized how his heart was racing from that brief warm contact with this lady. Concerned that he, a jedi knight, should be subject to such vulnerability, he rallied to regain his composure and somewhat stammered…
“I don’t recall that festival on Naboo, Melantha. Perhaps it was during the period of time I spent on Lianna. I seriously doubt that we’ll find the old manor to be as glamorous. The receiving yard between the house and the lake was where several of my ancient relatives were executed for their part in the failed rebellion.” He doubted that he needed to explain further. Cheruba was one of the rifle worlds and he expected, if they didn’t actually participate, they knew the details of that affair better than he did, being a relatively new resident of the Cluster.

Her mention of business caused him to glance upward at what appeared to be a bluish-grey cloud the size of a small coin that hung just above the horizon. The cloud and what it concealed was what remained of the large asteroid Luciftias Tira or Brightness Three, one of a group of six large asteroids between the Gray Moon and the gas giant Relephon. Luciftias Tira was the third such asteroid being harvested with the assistance of Burke Enterprises. Harvested was the only word for it. All he valuable metals and minerals were mined; then the remainder of the asteroid was processed and sold to a terraforming company for raw materials. Even the dust that was currently visible would be vacuumed from space, erasing even that evidence the asteroid had once been there. When the AlGray family and Burke Enterprises completed the project and all six asteroids were processed, the AlGray coffers would be filled and the family prepared to face whatever their political fate might be. That reminded Aiden, Jon Burke was to arrive that same day to discuss the implementation for phase four of the project with his parents. For some reason Aiden couldn’t exactly put his finger on, Jon Burke being on the Gray Moon didn’t please him - odd considering their history together. Perhaps he would be away during Burke’s visit and not have to confront those feelings.

When she asked him if this was to be the only time she would see Aiden, it was his turn to shock his mother via her spies. He lifted the hand he was holding to his lips and kissed the backs of her fingers lightly as he replied, “I sincerely hope not, Mel. I find the idea of not seeing you again an unacceptable fate.”

Every word was the truth and he was puzzled by that very fact as much as she may have been. It was like the last time they saw each other in college was only yesterday and the Mel who drank too much stim-café, who only tolerated her intro to archeology class because he was a graduate assistant instructor, who delighted in stuffing a snowball down the back of his shirt right before class was to start… that Mel who was so different from all the uptight, stuffed-shirt Hapans he’d met since his return,,, that same Mel was here with him now. He realized how much he had missed having a friend like that and he really didn’t want to lose the chance to rekindle their relationship if it was at all possible.

“I will be staying here for a few days to be available if my parents need me during a meeting they are having with a business associate. Then I will be returning to Hapes to do some research in the Museum of Anthropology and Archeology. If that goes well, I’ll be trying to follow the trail of an ancient cult that thrived in the Cluster about two thousand years ago.”

As far as Aiden knew, Mel didn’t know he was a jedi. She only knew him from their university days and the fact never came up. H wondered how she would feel about that but didn’t broach the subject.

Then he thought about his mother and her scripted plan for his future realizing that Melanctha Dallamoor more than met all of her criteria for an acceptable “alliance.” Aiden scowled then quickly banished the evidence of his discomfiture from his brow lest he concern Mel. He would never use a friend to solve a family problem. In a way that he couldn’t describe, she was too valuable to him as a friend to use her like that.

He was given a respite from that train of thought as they crested the ridge of the mountains that ran between the chateau and the lake.

“We’re going to begin to descend into the lake valley now. Gray Manor is across the lake. We can repulse over in the Mekuun or we can take small sailboat; whichever you prefer.”


Melanctha Dallamoor

Duch'a of Cheruba
"Too bad Aiden, it was a lot of fun." Melanctha exhaled her body physically relaxing into soft, and warmth. Her fingers stilled curled around Aiden's hand perhaps a little too tight, or just right. A connection between them two souls looking for answers to satisfy their parents, and keep to all the rules that regulated their lives. Well regulated their public lives.

A failed rebellion, yes every Hapan grew up knowing about the rebellion, about what had happened to all of the conspirators. A time when the mistep had cost lives.

Oh he was very hapan when he spoke so eloquently, his steady gaze as his lips touched the soft sensitive skin of her hand. Pleasure rippled through her as she smiled at him again, "Well let us not tempt fate too much and make plans to ensure neither of us are disappointed." She felt a dull ache in her chest at the thought of not seeing Aiden again, why was she feeling this way. It was not like she could not find men to have an interest in her. But this was Aiden who she had met, who remained almost untouched by the politics of their world. Who spoke with a sincerity that she had trusted from the beginning, Aiden.

"Shall we make plans to go and play in the snow?" She grinned giving him that gentle reminder, of cold hands, warm skin.

Mel remembered that class, how boring she had found some of the material it was only the thought of watching him walk back and forth each day as he spoke that glued her to the seat, and when she had found herself fortunate enough to be in his company the thought of disappointing him had driven her hard to do well in the class.

Mel looked out they were in deed descending, "Oh Aiden can we really sail, I would love to sail over. It has been so long since.." she thought for a moment, "since Naboo that someone took me" yes just me she thought, "sailing" It did excite her, the thought of the open water, the gentle breezes that quickly glided them across the water. The exhilaration of the wind on her face, and that feeling of freedom. Aiden who offered possibilities.

Right now she knew her father would be contacting Aiden's mother to, see if something could be worked out. Mel had begged him not to, but an alliance of good families was hard to find. Coupled with the fact that Melanctha had actually wanted to go and meet with Aiden had pushed his name to the top of his suitable suitors list.

She would have to tell Aiden, but not now, not yet. She wanted to enjoy this time before they began the serious discussions of what he hoped to get her help on.

Aiden Merritt

Aiden glanced at the lake again confirming that it would be a safe sail. Normally, the lake was calm; protected by the mountains that surrounded it. On occasion, however, a low pressure front would drive moisture laden air over the tallest range to the north and katabatic winds would descend down the mountainside driving a frenzy of whitecaps before them down the length of the lake. That was a very good time not to be out sailing. Today the clouds were high and wispy giving no signs of such a demonstration by nature.

“Today should be an easy sail. We’ll take the small sloop across.” Aiden knew it was automated enough that the two of them would have no trouble making the short sail without the need for Philip to accompany them as crew.

The descent on the lake side of the mountains was steeper and the driver slowed to maneuver through a series of hairpin curves. Though the view kept changing, the dominant feature was the lake. Long and narrow it stretched out of sight down the valley in each direction, yet, it was easy to see the old manor across the lake as it grew larger the nearer they approached.

Aiden studied the old stone building for a moment pondering what it was about it that bothered him. That may have been the reason he wanted to explore it more, but, then on the other hand, perhaps he shouldn’t have brought Melanctha. It was undoubtedly the darkest place he had encountered on the Gray Moon – force-wise – and generally made his jedi-senses tingle.

Philip expertly parked the Mekuun so that it was an easy step from the coach to the wooden deck that surrounded the boat house. Aiden gave Mel a hand exiting the vehicle although he knew for a fact that she didn’t require assistance. The best he recalled, she would prefer to climb a mountain than act the demure and helpless damsel; nevertheless, helping her out gave him a chance to hold onto her hand, an act he found most enjoyable.

His thumbprint unlocked the front entrance to the boat-house. The front half of the ground-level floor was a workshop with all manner of equipment for the upkeep of the family’s boats. The rear half was divided into several slips where the smaller boats could be docked. The sailboats, because of their size and the fact that they had tall masts, were tied up along side of a couple of finger piers extending into the lake. Up a spiral staircase was a lounge and kitchen and, overlooking the lake, a large bedroom and bathroom.

“Umm… if you don’t mind… there are several outfits in the wardrobe in the bedroom that I’m sure will fit you.” He was sure because he had arranged that they be there, just in case. “If I take you back to the chateau disheveled or your nice suit soiled, my mother will hang me from a lanyard. Would you see if one of those outfits will suit you for an afternoon of adventuring?”

Melanctha Dallamoor

Duch'a of Cheruba
"Excellent" Melanctha could not be more pleased. Melanctha felt herself weave and turn with the curves of the ride even if it was not really happening the shift she felt and couldn't help herself to take the opportunity to crush Aiden a little more.

Melanctha could finally see the old manor house, it looked sad and alone. It stood there against the winds of the lake the elements that wore upon it's exterior. Once they had landed Mel contained her excitement at the impending discoveries they could make at the old manor. She had to let him go when he rose up, but just as quickly they were reunited again in the joining of their hands. Noting that the staff was not accompanying them, she looked a bit oddly at Aiden.

She eyed him quite carefully when he mentioned the bedroom after having led her up the winding staircase. She looked around the rooms noting how well she could see into each except for the bedroom. She stepped closer to him, "You arranged for clothes for me Aiden" She smiled, "I am wondering how you would know my size" She slipped from his grasp heading toward the bedroom, "An adventuring outfit, I hope you remembered shoes as well" She called to him as she opened the closets.

She found whomever had made the selections had done well, except for in the pairing of outfits she finally found something that appealed to her, and would keep her warm. As well as a jacket that she kept over her arm, she emerged, "How do I look Aiden? Presentable enough to show an abandoned manor house to?" She twirled around in front of him, waiting for him to assess her outfit.


Aiden Merritt

[SIZE=12pt]"I am wondering how you would know my size."[/SIZE]

[SIZE=small]“Umm, there’s an app for my handheld. If you scan in a picture of someone and enter their height, it will create a 3D wireframe image of their body and calculate sizes.” He didn’t mention that it would also flesh-out that wireframe based on the image in the picture. Having a pretty good idea of what she looked like naked didn’t help at the moment, in fact, he found that memory rather distracting.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=small]"[/SIZE]How do I look Aiden? Presentable enough to show an abandoned manor house to?[SIZE=small]"[/SIZE]

[SIZE=small]He couldn’t help but smile. He’d had an urge to include a leather jacket in her choices similar to the one he wore and see if she would pick it. She did look ready for an adventure and the thought of sharing the excitement of a find at an archeological site with her fascinated him. In his dreams, he supposed.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=small]“You look beautiful as always, Mel. Much more so than the ghosts of old Grey Manor deserve. Are you ready to sail?”[/SIZE]

[SIZE=small]He led her out the rear of the boat house onto the outer docks to the boat they would be using. There were two others. One was a larger ketch rigged sailboat that belonged to the family and the other was always shocking to Aiden when he saw it. It was over twice as long as the AlGray boats and was sleek, riding low in the water. The noteworthy part of the description, however, was that it was solid black – from stem to stern, mast and sails – all black. All in all, it looked like a predator.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=small]“That,” he said motioning towards the black sloop, “belongs to Jon Burke. He’s spending a lot of time in system while his company is completing some projects for us, and, asked if he could put a boat on the lake and sail in his off-time. My parents offered to let him use one of ours, but, obviously, he has different taste.” With a last look at Burke’s boat, he added in an exaggerated conspiratory whisper as if sharing dark rumors, “They say his favorite time to sail is when the lake is in full storm. He races from one end to the other, laughing like a mad man.”[/SIZE]

[SIZE=small]Laughing, he reclaimed her hand and helped her step aboard their smaller, more conservative sloop-rigged boat, oddly named Flotsom. Aiden didn’t know the story behind that name, but, he hoped it wasn’t indicative of things to come.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=small]“Have a seat on either side of the wheel, Mel, while I untie us.”[/SIZE]

[SIZE=small]Aiden unslipped the docklines and retracted them into their holding compartments. With the last, Flotsom was floating free. He joined her at the wheel and started the small motor to maneuver away from the docks. Clearing their ends, he turned 45 degrees across the wind and pressed a toggle switch that raised the mainsail. As it gained height, the boat heeled over leaning about 30 degrees, still leaving a manageable leeward freeboard and avoiding throwing spray into the cockpit soaking them.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=small]“We’ll tack uplake from the Manor awhile to get a straight run across to the house-side docks. That will be easier than trying to correct our approach from that side.”[/SIZE]

[SIZE=small]Setting the autopilot for the short run, he sat down beside Melanctha and put his arm on the top of their bench seat behind her hoping she would accept the invitation and cuddle in next to him.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=small]“Perhaps on a windier day we can sail the length of the lake and do some sightseeing along the shore. There’s not enough breeze today. We would need more speed to make that trip in a day.”[/SIZE]

Melanctha Dallamoor

Duch'a of Cheruba
Aiden always was smooth and eloquent. Melanctha had never heard a harsh word from him, least not what she considered a harsh word. "Aye Captain, I am ready to sail" The black ship had caught her attention how could it not it stood out like a sore thumb.

So Burke Enterprises, again. She was concerned was Aiden's family having financial difficulties. She laughed at his description of Jon Burke, "Well how about the next storm we find a fire place to sit in front of and let the madman have the waves, hmm" She held his hand tight as he reclaimed hers, this feeling she was having was far to quick wasn't it. This anticipation at him taking her hand, or listening to each word his spoke, content to be in his company all these things it just felt so complete for her.

She stood before the wheel looking out, watching as Aiden prepared the ship.

Unprepared for the change in angle but knowing the ship would lean, she could only nod at his talk of ensuring they approached the Old Manor docks correctly. She sat down, waiting and when Aiden sat near her she took the opportunity to be closer to feel all the warmth he radiated. She could smell the spiciness of his soap it filled her senses, she turned and looked out over the lake as the wind blew against her face.

"I'd like that trip Aiden." She could see everything so clearly now as the boat glided along the surface it was the most freedom she ever felt.

She looked back at him, trying to keep her hair from overtaking them both, "Aiden, why is your family so involved with Burke Enterprises, is everything ok?"

Dallamoor Estate

Elias Dallamoor paced the expanse of floor between the holo projector and the window he was making an offer. The call had taken time to place, and the Lady reserved about speaking of her son.

"Melanctha already has the title of Duch'a. In her own rights she had acquired three restaurants within the inner core, as well as secured the mining rights here on Cherubah in perpetuity, she owns a gem dealership, she is educated in many areas. A Good thing too or she would never have met your son, Lady Gray. And then there are all the holdings we have here in the Consortium, and on Cherubah" His face showed his worry. "She would make a fine wife for another Hapan of noble birth."

"When she said she was willingly meeting with another Hapan, I could not help but contact his family to see if an alliance could be made" There were concerns, always. "is this something you would entertain Lady Grey?"

Aiden Merritt

Aiden really hoped Melanctha would never meet Jon Burke. From what he'd heard and much of what he'd witnessed, Jon's smile alone could make a woman drop her pants. He felt oddly protective of Mel, not wanting her to be put in a position of having to resist the Burke charm. Protective and building a ready supply of kindling primed to ignite the flames of jealousy should the need arise.

He had to smile at the concern in her question and he appreciated the sincerity behind it. Actually the family had been doing well financially with its mining interests in the Relephon system before his mother returned to assume its leadership. Then, after several planning discussions, the decision to expand the mining operations to include the complete harvesting of the Luciftias asteroids was made to provide a rapid influx of funds. It was the family's version of building a war chest and would assure them a secure life no matter the outcome of any potential Hapan politics.

"We contracted with Burke Enterprises to provide specialized equipment we needed to mine the six asteroids that lie between the Grey Moon and Relephon. We were doing quite well financially with our routine mining interests and investments, but, we felt the need to bolster contingency accounts to have liquid assets available in the event,,, well, quite honestly Mel, in case we have to fight the powers that be on Hapes Prime to maintain control of Relephon."

There were so many unknown variables involved, that was about as suscintly as he could put it. He glanced up as the autopilot chimed, warning of a course change.

"Prepare to come about," Aiden warned making sure Mel stayed seated. The main sail's boom would be changing sides of the boat and he didn't want her knocked overboard or unconcious or both. The course change went smoothly and satisfied everything was set correctly for their run across the lake he told her, "We'll be on a direct approach now with the wind coming across the stern. We should build up speed and it'll be a quick trip across."



AlGray Chateau

Grey Moon

The Duch'a AlGray listened politely to the Lord of Cherubah. She understood the practicality of it and the cultural history of such presentations, but, to her it sounded like he was trying to sell a used landspeeder rather than take care of his daughter. When he seemed to be finished she responded...

"Lord Dallamoor, let me assure you I find the possibilty of an alliance between Cheruba and Relephon to be an intriguing notion. Indulge me in this way, however. When my son met your daughter at the landing pad, I noted a connection between the two of them that I, and I assume you, had no idea existed. For now I recommend we let them perform their own negotiations, as it were, and see if this can be accomplished without having to impose the collective family's' will on them regarding an arranged marriage. From what I saw, I'm hopeful that may be the case, however, if it becomes apparent that their progress has stalled, we can reconvene these discussions and I'm sure come to an acceptable agreement. I agree with you, sir, that an alliance would be mutually advantageous and I support it whole-heartedly. For now though, I counsel patience on our parts."

Melanctha Dallamoor

Duch'a of Cheruba
Mel had been listening to Aiden explain what his family was doing with Burke Enterprises, "I understand now I thought you might be financial trouble Aide and didn't know how to ask" She had not thought about Aiden's particular circumstances. "Aiden I have some resources which are solely mine, if I can help should it come to ti, I will" She would hate to see him hurt it gave her quite the amount of anxiety to think of him or those close to him hurt.

She turned to look out to the water again, they were changing directions making the turn that Aiden had given her warning on. "Not too quick I hope" she snuggled closer to Aiden, "I'd hate to lose my heat source so soon" She laughed. It was so peaceful in ways it was just them no parents, no codes of conduct. The ship had indeed began to pick up speed they were moving along quite swiftly, which meant her comfortable companion would be leaving her side.

She could see the manor house very clearly now it still looked lonely to her standing by itself looking out over the lake. If indeed it had ghosts they too must be lonely, and angry at having been abandoned. It was as though the house was reaching out as it waited.

"It's so sad" she whispered.

Dallamoor Estate

Elias stood there he knew he had to acquiesce, "Lady Grey my daughter while a strong woman does not often see what is in front of her. I will honor your wishes and leave this situation be. But I feel I must secure her future. Thank you for your time." With the the transmission ended. He looked over to his wife.

Alana Dallamoor crossed her arms, "Melanctha asked you not to interfere and now that you have the impression you may have made upon the Duch'a AlGray may hurt whatever chances she had for acceptance. I hope you are pleased with yourself"

Elias nodded, "I have already received a contract for Melanctha I only contacted the Duch'a for the opportunity since she had been so eager to go and spend time with him. We both know Melanctha is looking for something elusive to build a marriage upon, she will not find this proverbial soul mate. I will review the contract give you the details and then we shall decide whether to accept it or not for her" Elias looked at Alana, "Our marriage has worked out, has it not?"

Alana turned looking at Elias, "Yes Elias, our marriage brought both of our families the security needed, and I have grown quite fond of you over the years." But Alana wanted something more for Melanctha than convenience and as long as she did not giver her approval nothing would move forward, but she let her husband do as he wished. At least until his actions created irreparable damage.

[member="Aiden Merritt"]

Aiden Merritt

"That's very kind of you, Mel. At least at this point in time, our troubles are not financial and the majority of the new money is being kept in banks outside the Cluster to keep it out of the reach of sequestration proceedings should the Queen Mother decide against family AlGray."

He thought for a moment and, as reluctant as he was, he decided it was a good a time as any to explain his predicament.

"You know I'm an only child and you probably know my father isn't Hapan. You probably also know the only child of my aunt, Tristen, is... shall we say, indisposed to be in a position to inherit should I decline."

He paused a moment thinking how best to proceed. "So, if I decline to succeed after my mother... if I decided to leave the Cluster and continue my life on Theed... the AlGray family will loose Relephon. I know the immediate family has enough capital acquired to leave and live very comfortably elsewhere, but, the people..."

He waved down the valley at the small towns that lined the lake. "The people would be left to fend for themselves and be at the mercy of whichever family the Queen Mother awards Relephon. Mel, when I visit these small towns and when I visit the other moons, the people are genuinely happy to see and meet me. They are prospering as well as our family and are happy with their lives, but, they are afraid. They are afraid of what I'm going to do and they fear falling under some of the... shall we just say older Houses."

"Our advisors on Hapes tell us the only acceptable solution is that I marry a Hapan and that she would have to be one of pureblood since I'm not because of my father."

He gave her a rather sick looking smile and confessed, "Everytime I come home my mother shows me a stack of invitations she has received from Houses from Rainboh to Ket. They are inviting me to come meet and court their daughters. Mel, some of them are only teenagers!"

The muscles in his jaw clinched as he controlled his anger at what he considered child exploitation, fully acceptable and justified under Hapan custom. He sighed trying to relax and admitted, "I don't know what to do Mel. I want to help the people of Relephon, but, when I marry I want to be consider my wife's beloved not a family's solution."

He looked at her and asked, "I know what the lawyers have said but I don't trust that they don't have ulterior motives. You've lived here all your life and you know Hapan custom and legality - is there truly no other solution? You are really the only person I know well enough to trust to ask."

He looked her in the eyes and said, "My mother thinks that you... well, she hopes... ah, Mel, I think you know what she wants."

Melanctha Dallamoor

Duch'a of Cheruba
[SIZE=9pt]It was always more than just themselves as nobles there was the people to be concerned about. The ones that came for help the ones that felt safe only with the nobility in place secure.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=9pt]Melanctha listened to Aiden She could see the struggle in his eyes to do the right thing. She felt how his words touched the very things that her own parents had been telling her for months.

She wanted to advise him wisely.[/SIZE]

"If you're looking for time to ease some of the stress you can meet them, but explain later why it wouldn't work. It's what I've been doing. " She made a face the kind that said I know I understand. " I travel to them rather than them to us they want to see what they are trying to get"

She sighed the sailing suddenly second to the subject they discussed. "I want the same thing", She was uncomfortable some laughed when she said this, "I want love. To belong to someone have a connection I don't want to be a business deal."

She looked down a bit embarrassed. "Your mother could just name a different heir. One that would protect the people" she looked up, "or find a full blooded hapan. Those are the only two things I know but I can ask the barrister for advice too and let you know"

They were drawing near their destination. She smiled.

She knew it was what her parents wanted. "My father said he would be contacting your mother to look for an agreement. He couldn't wait. I actually wanted to go see someone" She looked at Aiden. "I am full blooded Hapan." Why had she said that.

"There us another way for us to gave time to find the right people." What she was going to say was nuts. Really nuts.

[SIZE=9pt][member="Aiden Merritt"][/SIZE]

Aiden Merritt

"Forgive me, Mel. I didn't realize you were facing the same issues."

Aiden was mentally kicking himself. He was so preoccupied with his situation that he failed to consider that he wasn't the only one in the Hapes Cluster with problems.

After listening to her, he wasn't encouraged. It was basically the same thing he'd been told over and over again.

"No, for now don't inquire of your barristers. I'd prefer to keep my inquiries as low profile as possible. No need letting the whole Cluster know I'm being difficult," he said with a rueful laugh.

When she said she was a full-blood he just looked at her. Was she offering..? He knew without doubt, if he was to marry for family and politics he would chose her over anyone else on the latest list he'd seen. In a heartbeat.

"What is that, Mel? What can we do to buy time?"

Melanctha Dallamoor

Duch'a of Cheruba
[SIZE=9pt]"You know as well as I do that Hapan laws were created to be very rigid, with little wiggle room without some creativeness" Melanctha smiled, "Every single hapan male and female faces the same things from their parents, we become their chess pieces. They manuever us around till it looks right or suits their purpose."[/SIZE]

[SIZE=9pt]She was still snuggled close to Aiden, "Oh my asking wouldn't surprise them at all, I've asked them several things. The biggest mistake made is that my mother granted me my title when I returned rather than waiting till I could inherit it. A reward for doing well in school. But the marriage is now foremost on marrying." She was close enough.

"You could spend some time with me, it would take some of the heat off of both of us. And we could travel openly without too much curiosity. That is if that would be ok. " This all felt a little odd, but it would help them both, solve both their problems to a degree. [/SIZE]

Were they compatible? Was it prudent to tempt such a thing, they had spent time together before without the thought of marriage, could they do it again. Or would it harm their friendship, their relationship as it was.

"What do you think, am I being insane?"

Aiden Merritt

Aiden was silent, thinking about her suggestion. They could deceive their parents by pretending to be involved? Aiden hated the thought of being deceptive, but, if she was right they would delay making decisions neither if them wanted to face.

"We could travel openly... together?," he asked not entirely sure what she had in mind but he had to admit the prospect had a lot of appeal to him. He was definitely warming to the masquerade. He gave her a conspiratorial grin and asked, "would I have to ask your father for permission to court you?"

He glanced up at the approaching shoreline and got up, taking position at the wheel to dock Flotsom. Actually, the idea of being Melanctha's beau or maybe even fiance was sounding better and better. He smiled, a truely relaxed smile for the first time in a long time.

"You ever have any desire to visit an archeological dig site?'"

Melanctha Dallamoor

Duch'a of Cheruba
She saw he was thinking knowing this one thing about him. "Remember Aiden Hapans we love a good game it's just a game to get our parents to relax."

She smiled. "Yes I arrived with a chaperone who threw a fit when I told them stay put. If we are involved I won't need the chaperone outside this system, and only a woman to help me with social events within the Consortium."

She looked at him again with different attitude different view. Aiden as a potential husband she had toyed with it when they first met but he was teaching then and they were such great friends. Come to think of it was he still teaching. Would they live here or there? Then she imagined being on a dig with him, watching what he did. His profession. Oh my. What was her profession. Did it matter?

"You know Aiden I would love to go on a dig with you, see one, get dirty"

They were going to dock, she was excited. A new adventure lay ahead. "Are we ready to ghost hunt"

[member="Aiden Merritt"]

Aiden Merritt

Aiden didn't realize she had left chaperons at the landing pad. He chuckled at the thought and considered calling the Chateau to be sure they were provided with the hospitality of honored guests; but, he knew at once that his mother would have expected them to be there and would arrange for their accommodations. That put her concern for them trapsing off to the lake together alone in a new perspective. He could see why she would be hopeful that they were forming an even more personal alliance than the families had in mind.

"So... when you come to Relephon you have to have a chaperon; when I come to Cherubah - no chaperon; when we go together to Hapes or elsewhere - no chaperon?"

Aiden wondered how to get around the local chaperon requirement. He had much more of the Relephon Moons to visit and having Mel along would make that more fun - without chaperons. Hmmm... Maybe with, but, definitely without.

Docking lines out and tied off, Aiden helped Mel off Flotsam and onto the dock. Looking around at the overgrown grounds, he found the walkway that lead to the front entrance of the huge old house. The ancient home of the AlGray family was large than it appeared from across the lake and parts of it were crumbling with age.

"We may have found our first archaeological site to explore together right here. There's an interesting rumor about this old place. They say that 90% of the place is in ruins as you would expect something abandoned this long; but, there are a few areas that are maintained in pristine condition by a secret group. Some sort of cult to one of the original members of House AlGray. I would love to find evidence of that somewhere in here."

[member="Melanctha Dallamoor"]