Merchant Wars Vol 4, 4SC
Seasons passed, and time marched forward. Other plots came to pass, and they were met in turn. The assassination plans on Hawkson never came to fruition. With half of the conspirators already meeting their end. Ajaxin knew something was wrong as soon as the death of Sewel became public knowledge, but he couldn’t do anything about that. Sewel’s daughter did admirably, and was a staunch supporter of the Throne, through her own personal choice. She didn’t pursue a Ladyship just yet and was more than content to sit out of the quickly defunct Council.
Uriel grew a bit of a spine, knowing that he had the backing of the Throne, so long as he stayed within his guidelines, and the support that structure gave him was great. He expanded his businesses into many areas that Sewel once dominated, competing with his daughter, but not enough to drive anyone out of business, more friendly competition than anything. Standing up to Ajaxin was still difficult for him, but he was learning, growing into a man of his own. The words of Lady Darley all those seasons ago resonated deeply within him. He was now building something for himself, and not just something that his father had purchased for him.
Farel was in a similar situation to Uriel, though he lost a fair bit of money on a dangerous gamble or two that might have best not been taken. He still sat upon the table of the Council, but until Ajaxin was dealt with, he and Uriel both just stymied the proposed dealings. This did result in a slowing of trade for the time being, but it was nowhere near the complete halt that Ajaxin had wished to force to bring Hawkson in line. In time, Farel and Uriel could even be called friends, relying on each other to help get through the circumstances that surrounded them.
Ajaxin was not idle at this time. Though Sewel was dead, he still sought to complete what he started. He knew that the noose was tightening around his neck, figuratively, but that was only a matter of time before it became literal. Unless Hawkson decided to deploy a more gruesome method, such as beheading. The thoughts of how he was going to die kept him up at night, but it also fueled his rage, and his once quest to bow the Throne had morphed into a burning hatred for Hawkson himself. Ajaxin had tried many times over the seasons to meet with the man and come to a compromise, but Hawkson never relented. He was always working to make sure Ajaxin was on the back foot, always angry. Many meetings began and ended just like the first, with veiled insults and jabs thrown out.
The whole debacle came to an end one day when Ajaxin was summoned to the Ruler’s Manor on Hawk’s Landing, where he quickly traveled from his own manor on the sister isle. His family, strangely enough, was already waiting for him upon his arrival. His son, and heritor, was more standoffish than usual. Not making eye contact, and what contact was made, Ajaxin could tell that his eyes were puffy and looked as if he had been recently crying. Before he had the chance to comfort his son, they were all led inside, entering into the opulent living room. Books lined shelves, paintings hung upon the walls, and an enormous bear pelt rug dominated the center of the room.
Hawkson was waiting, with Caspian at his customary place on his side. There were guards about, bedecked in ceremonial armour more than the functional gear that they usually wore. Nondescript individuals hung about in the corners, Stailceoir, no doubt. Ajaxin was about to offer greetings to Hawkson, but he was interrupted by the man himself.
“Hello, Ajaxin, and welcome to my home once again. Today is a day of celebration, for me at least. Today I remove a problem that has been in my side for as long as I have Ruled. Can you care to guess what that would be?” Hawkson held a smirk, a look of smug superiority, and that more than anything said angered Ajaxin.
“I wouldn’t care to guess at the thoughts of the Ruler, your grace.” Ajaxin retained his composure, for now, delivering the line with a bow towards the man. He kept the rage off his face for the most part, but the edges and his ears were set aflame. He was about to continue, but he was once again cut off, this time by the shrill cry of a hawk, and the fluttering of wings, as Helena, Hawkson’s familiar, burst down from her perch atop the bookshelf nearby.
“Hmm, yes I am inclined to agree with you, we should cut to the chase then.” This line was directed at Helena, who had alighted upon his outstretched hand, before she hopped up to his arm, before coming to a rest on his shoulder. Hawkson then looked up again, before saying, “You have two choices before you, Ajaxin. I know of your attempts at getting a plan together to ‘take care of me.’” He emphasized that portion with air quotes, making Ajaxin’s rage flee, In the face of sheer terror. Hawkson continued on, internally delighted at the emotions he could read within Ajaxin, “The choices are as follows, you can confess right now to your crimes, and your sentence will be carried out in the following week, as the evidence against you is great; or you may choose to relinquish all of your wealth and be set upon a ship sailing for anywhere but another Obrexian port, with nothing but the clothes upon your back. In the first scenario, your family may inherit your wealth, in the second they get as much as you, which is tantamount to nothing.” Hawkson paused after that, awaiting Ajaxin’s decision.
Ajaxin was shaking more than a leaf in the wind. Whether that was from rage or terror was unable to be discerned. Ajaxin looked around the room for support, but he was only met with stone-cold stares. His family held nothing else, likely having already been informed of the decision before he had even arrived. His wife looked remorseful but resolute. His son looked weary and tired. More than someone his age ever should. Internally, Ajaxin was weighing the pros and cons of the situations, and he had come to his answer before everything had even been laid out before him.
“I choose to keep my life.” It was all the Ajaxin could muster. He could feel the shame at abandoning his family spring forth within him, but it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome his own sense of self-preservation. He heard a sigh come from behind him, while Hawkson had adopted a sad, but knowing look.
Hawkson looked past Ajaxin, towards his son, and said “I am sorry that I was right, James. Your father is nothing more than an opportunist, and would give everything up to save himself, even if it meant depriving you and your family.” He swept his gaze back over to Ajaxin, continuing, “It is unfortunate that this choice was never yours to make.” Before Ajaxin could even process what he had said, Hawkson asked, “Does what has happened here changed your mind, James? You are the future leader of your House, and my offer from before still stands.”
Ajaxin just stood there, gaping like a fish out of water, unable to comprehend what was going on around him, he had made his choice, why would anyone else get a say? James, however, nodded, saying “I am sorry that it has to come to this father, but know that it is for the good of the family. Goodbye, I love you, even if you don’t feel the same.” He ushered his mother, Ajaxin’s wife, out of the room, and they were followed out by one of the Stailceoir, as well as one of the ceremonial garbed guards.
“Well. There we have it Ajaxin, do you have a preference? The noose? Headsman’s axe?” Hawkson asked once Ajaxin’s family had fully left. Only then did Ajaxin begin to cry, letting the tears flow down his face, as he closed his eyes. Hawkson spoke once more, this time quietly, and with more of an even keel, and less of the happiness that it had once held, “The noose then. I am sorry that it had to come to this, but if you had bowed before the planning began, maybe the outcome could have been different.”