The Budget Cannot Be Budged

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They had finally made the journey back to where they would pick up their boats to merry old England, the salty air from the Channel scenting the air. Katherine stood a moment regarding the distance where home waited unseen and made a face. Turning abruptly, she strode over to where Neecy and Ezekiel were in the middle of some conversation and announced, "I want a wyvern."

A wyvern. What would they do with a wyvern? Ezekiel looked into her face to determine if Katherine was serious. Judging by the way her eyes swung intently between Neece and himself, she was indeed very serious. "Might I ask why, my love?"

The hobbit drew himself up to full height, straightening his cravat and looked up with a trepiditous air. "Madame has many wishes. Some have the possible solution. This, however, has the solution of non, not c'est possible." With an air of finality, he reached up to grasp the railing firmly as if from sheer will alone he could stop the interminable rocking of the boat.

"It is possible," Katherine stated plaintively. She looked sadly at the hobbit, her lips folding into a frown. She then looked back to Ezekiel, cocking her head. "A wyvern would allow me to fly with you when you get a machine like what Josephine's friends have. You seemed to love flying, my heart. I would be able to fly with you if I had a wyvern." Blinking, she again looked from man to man, seeking a better answer than "non."

Feeling a shiver of cold inevitability run down his spine, Neecy looked pleadingly up towards the under side of Mr. Drake's chin. "The cost. The expense. The need for a trainer, a roost. The mess. The MERDE. Non. This thing is like...," words momentarily failing him, Msr. Beinet pulled his hat lower. "There will be children. Neighbors. Delectable hobbits of suitable flavor. Non."

Reaching for Ezekiel's hand, Katherine looked into his eyes, avoiding the minor explosion at her elbow. "Does it not make sense, my love?"

"I do not deny that I enjoyed flying. However..." He paused and looked at her, trying to find the right way to phrase his concern. "Besides the cost, which as Monsieur Beignet points out is quite high, my concern is that we will be away quite often adventuring and a wyvern cannot travel with us."

With an obvious throat clearing cough, the hobbit looked up approvingly at Msr. Drake. "As you say. Travel. Why, what version of Grail Quest involves DRAGONS on the side of right?" Chuckling at his own cleverness, he presses the point. “The miraculous is possible, if one is reasonable about the miracles one presumes to ask for."

Katherine glanced down at Neecy, a soft sigh leaving her lips. "But Neecy, I already have a small dragon. Jayshree is quite delightful. Imagine how much more fun we could have with a larger one?" Her expression went from merry to sad in a moment. "I enjoyed flying. But I don't think that I can survive another fall. At least if I had a wyvern to fly with, I would have something that would try to keep us from falling. A wyvern would care that we survived a crash." She trembled abruptly, delicately. "The machine did not." Again, she looked from one man to the other, hoping that her argument would prevail.

Wincing inside, Dion was stung by the argument. "Madame has a point," he begrudgingly admitted. "All future flying is forbidden. Perhaps in a well maintained balloon. That seems reasonable, n'est c'est pas?"

Ezekiel grimaced when he heard Neece's argument. That was just going to work against them. He didn't want to deny her the pleasure that came from flight, but a wyvern just seemed an overwhelming idea. "It is not necessary to ban all flight, Monsieur. We do not need to own a wyvern to be able to fly on one. I'm sure that much like balloon rides, a wyvern ride can be purchased upon occasion."

Marshaling his most officious manner, the hobbit resorted to brute logic. "For Msr.'s consideration. The budget is such. A house of sufficient facility can be purchased, with a mews, a groundskeeper, a wing for the Fleming-Dashwoods, a smaller wing for the Drake-Flemings, and a small cottage on the grounds for Madame Arcenaeux. " Wagging his finger, he looked up with a disapproving air. "The wyvern or the friend of circus extraction." With a shrug, he dismissed the idea Msr. put forward. "A rented wyvern is a thing to be trusted only so far as it is comfortable to throw one. Artificial fierceness, I'm given to understand, is induced to make them crowd pleasing by keeping them hungered." Hanging his head, shaking his head side to side, with a pained expression of pity for poor beasts, he continued. "As one who has hungered, I cannot in good faith counsel you to take this sordid path. Rented wyvern's are more to be avoided then one owned outright."

"A wyvern would protect me and our children," Katherine rallied. "They are quite loyal."

"That fact was unknown to me, sir," Ezekiel said, nodding to Neece in polite acknowledgment. "I cannot say that I am particularly familiar with wyverns. I would not want to keep a beast that had been mistreated."

Katherine then chimed in with her comment about loyalty and he realized that she meant to dig her heels in on this one. "I must ask, Katherine, why the sudden urge to own a wyvern? Is it not enough to travel with me for a while? Then perhaps we could revisit the idea." It was beneath him, but he knew there was a good chance that an idea delayed would be an idea forgotten. At least when it came to his new wife, lovely and smart but upon occasion forgetful.

With an effort, Dion suppressed the urge to be snappy. "Wherever did you hear such?" With dismissive head shake, he continued. "Non. Like all reptiles, wyverns are cold blooded, and thrive on deceit as much as the viscera of their victims. The hand that feeds them is to them more delightful then the finest feast, I'm given to understand." Looking up imploringly to Msr. Drake, Dion made puppy dog eyes. "There is a chance that by skimping on a few necessities and limiting my own pay, we could adjust the budget such that training for the horrid MINOR dragon thing that has bedeviled my days and screeched for my blood at nights could be trained sufficiently that it could be taught to fly on command." Turning a shy eye to Madame, he drooped his puppy dog eyes even more. "Wouldn't it be delightful to have a trained dragon, sufficiently trained it could distinguish friend from foe, servant from serving?"

Katherine drew herself to her full height. "Jayshree has never screeched for your blood, Neecy," she stated sharply. "And the wyvern seemed an answer to a problem that I have with heights." Her nostril flaring, she looked up from Neecy to Ezekiel, her temper finally rising to the fore. "Well enough then. The budget cannot be budged. I will try to make Jayshree a more amenable pet, and I will keep my feet firmly on the ground. Logic has prevailed. Thank you for your consideration, my love," and she favored Ezekiel with a tight smile and then looked to Neecy, "and thank you for the logical advice." Turning to the rail, she looked out to the Channel, trying to calm herself. It was merely another constraint, one that she would overcome in time. But with the sudden realization that the life she had grown to enjoy was ending along with the freedoms and the delights of the flesh, she wanted to feel as if she had won something.

You picked your battle poorly, she admitted. The wyvern was irrational. She turned back to the mismatched pair, both invincible in their logic and persuasion. "I will endeavor to train Jayshree to be more useful. She could have helped with the flying imps. She is small enough to come with us on our travels, is she not?" She tried to make her voice light with the question, but it still came out with a steel that she did not intend.

"Of course, my love." His relationship should not be the same as a duel. And so it was not surprising that "winning" the argument only left him feeling somewhat empty inside, wishing there had been another way to handle the discussion. "We can figure out the details. Together. True?"

Truly angered, the small hobbit unleashed his most damaging argument in retaliation for Catherine's emotional blackmail. "Madame, Monsieur, I must tell you. The costs of things are such. Are we to retain the services of the Hindi woman? Shall you take up the care and support of Madame Arceneaux, or is Msr. Dashwood-Fleming to retain all cost of inconvenient friendship? Have my employers considered that the magical regime that Msr. must undertake upon our return is a highly specialized, expensive and of necessity oft repeated undertaking?" With a shrug, he inclined his head. "I serve. If upon consultation between yourselves you determine a wyvern is to be had, I shall of course happily continue as your associate and accountant as circumstances allow. I would of needs take employment with Msr. and Madame Dashwood-Fleming, in order to have sufficiencies of funds for myself and my emerging family." Bowing curtly to Catherine, he stonily informed her, "it would be my greatest regret to have need to tender my resignation."

"There is no need, sir." It was not just his new wife that was quick with the emotions, of course. He was marrying into an emotional family with emotional servants as well. Thankfully, he had not wanted a dull life.

He clapped a hand on Monsieur Beignet's shoulder. "The wyvern will be put aside; there is no need to go to extremes. Katherine's little dragon can be trained or so I understand. That will suffice, will it not, Katherine?"

Katherine sighed, instinctively reaching for Ezekiel's hand. "Feel no need to throw down the gauntlet, Neecy. I relent. I would not lose you or your services; I have had you as part of my life for far too long to lose you now. I trust that you have had and will continue to have my best interests at heart. Training Jayshree will suffice. I am content. Let us not be angry with one another over a silly beast." Turning her face to Ezekiel, she smiled. "I am angry not at you, love. I am merely frustrated that I am again to be constrained by the rules of our positions." She released his hands to bend over to look Neecy more fully in the face. "We are still friends, are we not, old friend? I wouldn't let a childish fancy come between us."

Softening, the hobbit almost raised his hand to touch Catherine's dear face, before recovering and lifting off his hat. Choking back emotion, he responded. "Madame is too kind, and too indulgent. I wished only to inform my lady and the lord that my duty is to see to your needs and comforts such as can be allowed." His eyes watering, he turned his face away. "If there was room in the budget, Msr. should buy all the slaves in the Americas to give to them freedom. Madame would own a zoo unparallel since the Caesars. The estate should spread from the Channel to the Irish sea, from Plymouth to a hunting lodge in Scotlandish moors. Alas, my charge and painful duty is to inform you of the limits of such that is real. It is for me to do my duty, and obey."

"I am not unaware of the limitations of the budget, my friend. It is not as if I lived a life where I had no concern for money. I am not the poor man struggling for food on many corners of London, but I have my own limits which I most follow. I appreciate you informing Katherine and I where our limits are to be found." Ezekiel smiled at the little hobbit whom he grown so fond of. The hobbit's interests and rules were not his own, but he had a great deal of respect for him.

The urge to catch him up to hug him was almost unbearable, but Katherine merely lay a hand on Msr Beignet's shoulder, squeezing it lightly before tickling his cheek with her forefinger before she straightened. "Almost more father than my Father," she murmured to Ezekiel, slipping her hand back into his. "Maybe one day, we can manage all of that. I suppose that I need you both to keep both my feet on the ground. Best get through the wedding and the house-buying before worrying about anything else." She smiled gently. "I suppose that I need to think about what my wedding dress should look like, not wyverns."

Bowing deeply, still unwilling to look either Msr. or Madame directly in the face, Dion backed away slowly, before turning to leave them in seclusion. "I take my leave of master and mistress, that you may take a more leisurely leave of each other before we depart by different boat. I have gained a master to whom I must prove my worth, and have lost the charge I have for so many years tried to take firmly but gently in hand. In her place is a lady deserving of all respect and deference. I shall hope that the home purchased will involve news of gladder tidings then this unfortunate pass has included. Adieu, Msr. et Madame, adieu."

She closed her eyes after Neecy departed, finally laying her head on Ezekiel's shoulder. "Forgive me," she murmured. "It was a childish effort on my part. I haven't even trained my Frendal Dragon. What was I thinking to have something as unwieldy as a wyvern?" A gentle giggle left her after a moment's pause. "That would be something as silly as what Bertie would buy."

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