Who: Arlet and J’kson
Where: Gambling Den, Bitra Territory
What: Arlet and J’kson consider options for the future.

J’kson and Arlet’s establishment has slowly grown since they opened it and additional buildings have popped up around the gambling den to support the growth of staff that has joined the venture. Though early days with Bitra seemed like conflict would ensue, J’kson has managed to soothe the ruffled feathers of Lord Bitra by paying him a monthly stipend to “keep the peace”. With the money that goes to Bitra, and the money that goes to the Court, the profit that the Den is able to pull in is still high enough to encourage more people to flock for the opportunities Arlet and J’kson provide their people. J’kson’s getting ready for the evening, dressed in a well-fitted black suit, he’s combing his hair back as he gazes into the mirror.

Whether consciously or otherwise, Arlet has started to favour the darker colours more prevalent at the Court in modes of dress, the shades ones that also happen to easily conceal the slender blade that she keeps strapped to one thigh. She takes a few moments to tug and smooth the skirts of her gown into their proper lines, black leather boots peeking out from where they brush the floor. Approaching her husband, she winds an arm around his middle and props her chin on his shoulder to study their reflection in the mirror. “We should stop dressing so well,” she drawls. “People might think we have money or something.”

“We get to dress this well //because// we have money,” J’kson answers with a smirk and a lifted brow shared through the mirror. “Even Malynth is enjoying new straps that we had custom fitted for him. It makes it a lot more comfortable for him. Cost enough.” He turns his head to kiss Arlet’s cheek. “I heard a rumor that some of the fosterlings that are staying at Bitra are going to be coming to check us out tonight. “I know Alda plans on encouraging more than a few of our serving girls to flirt and pour freely on the drinks.”

“As long as none of them think that the serving girls are on the menu too,” Arlet noses against his neck and presses a kiss then, there relinquishes her hold on him to adjust the straps of her dress. “Akanyth’s feeling far too smug this evening, so I hope we don’t get any pretty greens here to catch his eye. I’m half convinced that he manages to get some of them to rise just because he flirts with them long enough that they’re either so intoxicated with it or just give in.” She looks back over one shoulder at J’kson, saying, “That’d make a great impression, me hauling you off into a closet somewhere.”

“I’ve never complained before,” J’kson calls as he adjusts his button for the last time and then turns to face her. “And I wouldn’t complain tonight were it to happen.” He strides closer to Arlet to offer her his arm, meaning to escort her into the Den with the air of ownership to be shown together. “We will see how well these Lord sons’ behave. I can’t say those with the most money have a tendency to have the best manners, after all.” He opens the door for her so they can leave their home and walk the distance towards the gambling hall. There are two burly-armed men standing in front of the door that greet them both with bows and smiles before they open the doors to let them inside. The music and laughter of the place greets them as they enter and J’kson takes a moment to survey their place before he takes her towards the table that has been reserved for them for the evening. He pulls Arlet’s chair out first before he sits himself. “Are you feeling hungry?” he queries of her as he catches the eye of one of their serving staff.

“You could pretend to be most offended by the idea, you know. Just to try and give Akanyth //some// excuse not to pursue everything female.” Her mock irritation aside, Arlet takes her husband’s arm and allows him to escort her from their home and to the Den, where she settles herself in the seat that he pulls out for her. “I wouldn’t say no to something light, though I’m not sure I could eat a whole meal now,” she tells him. “But I could murder some of that fizzy citrus juice that’s come back into style.” She scans the crowd. “With any luck, those rich heirs will just get into a fight about who has the most money and end up losing it all to us.”

“That’s the plan. That they lose it all to us,” J’kson quips as he waves a server over. The young woman scurries over with a bright smile for the pair. “Hello ma’am, sir,” she chirps as she brushes her hands against a towel. “I heard the juice, ma’am. We have the most refreshing one in from Ista today. Can you believe it! A shipment from Ista!” She beams and shakes her head. J’kson gives Arlet a sidelong glance with a small smirk and then he tells the girl, “Two of the juices please. And bring some light appetizers. Cook should know what’ll taste good with the juice.” The girl bobs her head, makes a hasty bow, and then scurries off in the direction of the back rooms that host as a kitchen and staff area. J’kson looks to Arlet, “We’re getting more and more young people coming here for opportunity. We should consider if we want to offer them more than a job.”

“Have you considered opening up a restaurant in a separate building? Double the chance to relieve people of their money, whether on the way through to play or on their way out. If we could employ cooks with high-end skills, we could tempt the last of the money from people’s pockets.” Arlet lets her focus roam through the room again. “And that would need a wide variety of additional support staff. Anyone not comfortable with the… riskier side of things here could find employment there.” She blinks back to J’kson. “With your ties to Bitra, you could petition to become a formal satellite of the Hold. Build more accommodation here. Alter the arrangement with the Court: we employ their people instead of paying tithe.”

“I hadn’t considered that. Then again, this is why we’re partners. You’re always finding new angles,” J’kson answers her with an easy smile. Their serving girl bustles over and delivers the fizzy juice, along with a selection of fruits, cheeses, and biscuits. She bobs her head and would rush off, but J’kson catches her arm and hands her a generous tip. She flushes with pleasure, mutters repeated thank-you’s, and heads off to serve the rest of her tables. “We’d have to also consider building additional places for people to live. Or, we could see if Bitra, wants to pop up some new cotholds or small houses for rent… so that it doesn’t look like we’re encroaching more on his rights.” He frowns at the mention of his ties to Bitra, “I can’t say they’re strong enough for that. To get anything other than a gentle nudge for the Hold’s gain.”

Arlet murmurs her own thanks to the girl, then reaches for her glass to take a series of quick sips. “If the cotholds were for rent, we’d be paying wages that would be going straight to Bitra as well as what they’re already taking,” she muses, setting her glass back down. Her eyes narrow slightly, her attention wandering a little as she thinks. “Bitra will always be considering where the big money and big games are. That’s not going to change while we’re alive. But they need employees they can trust to do their work well. If they would want to build cotholds here, we could offer our facilities as a training ground for their people. We could go half and half on the cost and keep half the cotholds for Bitran trainees in perpetuity, the others for our own. Provide the trainees food and board, nominal wages… And then we’d some eyes in Bitra proper if we ever needed them. As would the Court.”

“That’d serve. Perhaps we can use this as a way to ease M’tan’s grasp on our finances here. A promise of information always suited him more than the money itself,” J’kson muses in turn, unconcerned about their discussion taking part in such a relatively public setting. He glances up randomly at the vaulted ceiling to see if any firelizards are lounging there. He reaches to lift his glass to his lips for a drink before his attention shifts out towards the various gambling tables taking part below their table. “We’re looking at a few months or more to build and haggle our agreements. Seems to me we’ve come up with our year plan,” he turns a smirk to her. “Always scheming.” He blinks and then tilts his head, glancing towards the doors. “Malynth says the Lordlings are approaching on dragonback. I hadn’t considered that. I wonder whose brought them here?”

“Benden, most likely,” Arlet answers a little darkly, fully aware of who it is who currently has command of that particular Weyr. “I’ve no interest in communicating with its riders, but Akanyth will keep an eye on them too.” She rolls her eyes. “Particularly if they’re green.” Securing a piece of cheese and a biscuit, she commences nibbling. “If we had further rider residents of our own, we could offer transport on a more secure and regular basis too. Grown dragons, I mean. I don’t think we can say that trying to raise weyrlings went spectacularly well for M’tan and my mother. Especially now that Safiye is staying at Fort.”

J’kson glances at Arlet, noting the dark answer, “I had forgotten she’s who runs Benden now,” he comments, looking towards the door as the Lordlings and three riders stride into the Den. “Looks like it’s a boys’ night,” he drawls, noting the blue and brownriders in attendance. “They’d best have brought marks.” He finishes off his juice and moves his chair closer to Arlet’s so he can toss his arm behind the back of her chair. The pair certainly look imposing up on their second story table, hosting the best view of the activities below. Only a small amount of other guests are eating and drinking at the surrounding tables behind them. “We’re dragonriders,” he agrees with Arlet easily, watching as the group heads towards the main bar. “But Malynth doesn’t need more reminders than he already has regarding his wing. He’s found peace here.”

“Malynth did well with the little ones when we were at the Court,” Arlet murmurs, leaning closer to press a kiss to her husband’s cheek. “Maybe if we have more residents living around here, he’ll enjoy interacting with any children the families have.” She arches a brow. “If anyone wants to bring their family here, that is.” Lifting her glass, she takes a few more careful sips. “Boys’ night… We could probably bring in some more money by hosting nights for women. Sometimes it’s nice to know you’re not going to get hassled while you’re on a night out. Present company excepted, of course.”

“Hard to say if this is a family place,” J’kson comments, careful around the words, “And I don’t know what a child needs to grow up well. I certainly didn’t have the best upbringing.” He watches as the drinks have been distributed and the Lords and the dragonriders remain in each other’s company. A few cheers go up from one of the poker tables as a big pot is earned. J’kson watches all of this with a thoughtful air. “A woman’s night sounds perfect,” he agrees, “I’ll let you organize it with our staff. I’ve noticed that there are some that have a better flare for hosting events. I believe Nadia was from the Bakerhall? Haven’t reasoned out why she left without her knot, though.”

“Not young ones, certainly. But we could be a lifeline to families who need to live on the outskirts of morality and wouldn’t be entirely comfortable at the Court.” Arlet lets her attention rest on the riders more than the heirs, her some measure of displeasure plain to be read in her stern gaze. “Those approaching their teens? If we open a restaurant as well, there are all sorts of things we could have them unofficially apprenticed to without a Hall breathing down their neck. Skills for life, without being beholden to a knot.” She drains the last from her glass. “Maybe people like Nadia. M’tan and my mother earn loyalty and instil fear in one way. Ours isn’t the same.” She wrinkles her nose. “I sound like I’m trying to lead a sharding Weyr again.”

“I don’t know how many flock to the Court as they once did,” J’kson answers, still keeping his arm loosely behind Arlet’s. “They’ve gathered their refugees and those have brought family and friends. I’d say M’tan’s tapped more than a few draognriders’ at this point to serve his purposes.” He watches as one of the Lordlings’ pinch at the girl who served them earlier’s rear with a frown. She turns on him and snaps her towel at him, flirtatiously reminding him to leave her be. His eyes narrow. “I worry if we bring in too many – young, like she is, that they may think they must put up with the nonsense this place can bring.” He looks to Arlet then and lifts a brow, “Your leadership has always been needed. The Weyr’s just never understood it. We thrive for it.”

“Well, the Weyrs can…” What Arlet mutters under her breath is not remotely ladylike or charitable, but at least it’s not so loud that anyone else nearby might hear it. “In any event, I think we ought to make our presence known this evening, in-case our esteemed guests think that they can treat everyone and everything here as they please. I’m going to take a turn around the floor.” She rises to her feet and smoothes imaginary creases from her dress, rounding her chair and J’kson’s to step behind him and drape her arms around his shoulders. “Don’t worry,” she whispers in his ear, through the faintest of smirks. “I’ll be sending you out on your own patrol later.” With that, she heads off and down the stairs, ostensibly to top up drinks and chat with patrons, but it’s their people who understand what she’s truly doing.

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