The Precedent – a Patreon story

A story of Tír na Cali

Two lawyers and a judge bent over the paperwork, nearly-identical frowns on their faces.

Outside, in the waiting room, a red-haired man waited with all appearance of patience.  He was wearing a slim golden collar beneath the open-necked shirt of his expensive suit and a much less slim ring on his left ring finger.

“Is it legal?” the left-hand lawyer frowned. She bore a familial resemblance to both of the other women in the room,but her hair was a slightly darker shade of red and it was beginning to be touched with white at the temples.

“She dotted every i and crossed every t,” the second lawyer — younger, her suit slightly better tailored — opined. “She has it signed by all the right people.”

“They have no children?” the judge checked.

“An infant son.” The older lawyer dismissed the child with a flick of her fingers; the other two women nodded along.

“And the other heirs to the estate…?”  The judge was slipping through the folder.  It was thick, stacked with paper documents someone had gone to the trouble to have signed by a judge. Several judges, all over the country.

“Lady Seneida was the only surviving child of her mother, who was the only surviving child of her mother, who was the only surviving female child of her mother.”  The older lawyer seemed put-out by this string of ill luck.  “Most of them didn’t make it past infancy.”

“Ah,” the judge leaned forward.  “You said only surviving female child.  There was a male heir of the great-grandmother?”

“Lived to be a hundred and seventeen, never fathered a child.”  The lawyer’s shoulders were slumped by this point. “Their tree has been roughly and unkindly pruned by the Goddess, till it leads down to this man and this baby boy.”

“Ah, but then the Goddess’ disfavor…!”

“Nothing you could point to in a court of law,”the young lawyer put in.  “It’s been tried, in her mother’s time — they wanted to dissolve their tiny barony — but they could find no wrong birth, no evidence of actual disfavor in the childhood deaths, nothing.  Their family is just extremely accident-prone.”

“Pity our Lady Seneida didn’t bother to give birth to a daughter before becoming so unlucky,” the older lawyer muttered. “Now we’re faced with… with this.”

“Well, “ the judge mused, “the good news, such as it is, is that we won’t get stuck with making precedent here.  Or rather, we will, but it’s such a tiny sliver of precedent that by the time someone needs to call on it, our grandchildren will be long dead.”  She gestured broadly at the paperwork.  “Signed and sealed beforehand. Blessed by two priestesses and a priest for good measure. No living lineal relatives going back past the great-grandmother’s time. Hrrm… but the man’smother?”

“An American slave, your honor, and, what’s more, dead, with no daughters.”

“If I were the sort to muse on the Goddess’ways, I’d say she might have gone quite a long distance to make a point. If she has,” the judge sighed, “I suppose we’ll hear about it soon enough.”  She stared at the papers before her for another minute.  To either side of her, the lawyers said nothing.

Finally, she picked up her pen.  “Tell the boy he can have the estate and the title in regency for his son until he comes of age.  Tell him to keep quiet and not make a fuss.  And Elona?” The judge’s eyes went to the older lawyer, who froze.  “Tell the boy to be very careful when the marriage offers start coming in — and he’d best not dare settle for anything but a wedding band for that child.”

She signed the paper.  “The Goddess and her Consort did not do all this work to be thwarted by the child not inheriting. If they want a Baron… we’d best be careful to give them one.”

 

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