“It’s from Algernon.” Boris Sjeldnjar looked at the envelope in his hand with concern. At least his mother, who lived with them, hadn’t tried to open it.
“So,” that was his mother, Ludmilla, “what does it say? Has he invited us to live in the house in Thingborden? Or is he finally going to make you a suitable allowance?”
Boris sighed. “You’re the only one who wants to live in the capital, Mum. Svetlana and I have our jobs here and the children are well settled in school. I’ve told you before, there’s enough in your trust for you to live in a good location if you want to move there.”
“In a pokey little flat,” Ludmilla snapped back. “That is not the place for the mother of a Ruhtig to live!”
“There’s no guarantee that I’m going to be Ruhtig.” Boris would have preferred not to rehash this old ground, but if he didn’t rebut her assumptions his mother would carry on about it all night. “It wouldn’t surprise me if Sebastian gets married after he retires in the next year or two. It’ll probably be someone’s widow, the secretary he hires to dictate his memoirs to or,” a new though occurred to him, “his ghost writer.” He smiled at his mother. “Any children of his would cut me out of the succession.”
“Ptah!” Ludmilla pulled a face as she made a disgusted noise, “What woman young enough to have children would marry him? He’s my age!”
“He’s an Admiral and would have an Admiral’s pension, even if he has no other income. He’s likely to be Ruhtig after Algernon and Constantine.” Boris the accountant was counting off points against his fingers, using the envelope he held in his other hand. “His eldest child would be Ruhtig after him. He’s fit, healthy and active for his age and he has an agreeable personality.” Boris smiled again. “I imagine he would at least appear to be sound husband material to many women.”
“Have it your own way,” Ludmilla made a dismissive gesture, “but what is in the letter?”
Boris turned his attention back to the envelope and carefully opened it. Algernon used the latest in electronic seals and he had to press his thumb firmly against the wafer on the back for the waterproof membrane that covered the envelope to withdraw. He inserted the tip of his index finger into the opening under the fold of the flap and carefully tore open the top of the envelope, then removed the two folded sheets of paper inside. He read the top one silently, then the second one, then the top one again.
An enormous grin spread across his face and for a moment his resemblance to Algernon and Sebastian was quite marked. “Svetlana!” He roared his wife’s name out at the top of his voice. “Svetlana! Come here, you have to see this!” His voice echoed through the house, reaching his wife where she was supervising their children’s homework while doing some work of her own.
Svetlana ran down the stairs. Her husband rarely sounded so boisterous and enthusiastic, so what ever he was calling about must be important. She met him on the second storey landing. “What is-,” she tried to ask the obvious question.
“Sveta! We’re free! Here,” he shoved the papers at her, “read these!”
An accountant like him, she read them twice and began to smile, “Constantine has an acknowledged daughter, verified by the Assembly of Nobles? We could make a push for those partnerships.”
“Put Irina’s name down for the Lyceum,” Boris said in agreement, “Now we know we won’t have to move.”
“What’s this about Constantine having a daughter?” Ludmilla was stumping up the stairs from below to join them. “I suppose her mother’s from among the soviets? He was there long enough.” She took in the surprised expressions on the faces of her son and daughter-in-law. “No-one told me, of course, but I’m not stupid you know.”
“Not from the soviets, Mum,” said Boris while Svetlana handed her the papers to read. “She’s a shade too old for that. Algernon’s sent me advance copies of tomorrow’s announcements by the Assembly of Nobles and the Royal Household.”
His mother, who hadn’t had a chance to read anything, looked at him sharply. “Royal Household?”
“The Assembly’s inserting her into the Sjeldnjar Order of Succession and the Noble Order of Precedence. The Royal Household is inserting her into the Royal Orders of Precedence and the Royal Succession.”
“So who did he-?” Ludmilla examined the amended Royal Succession then uttered a long drawn out, “Constantine!” Her voice was full of admiration.