He had just received word that the Old King had put aside his second wife and affianced the daughter of the Eastern King. It could only mean a return of his ambitions, joined now to the ambitions of a man renown for his backstabbing ways.
"No effing kidding, Bruce marrying a Senator's daughter. Bet he runs for the House next year. He's threatened to, often enough." She sniggered. "Wonder if he's turned Democrat yet?"
"Gah, list, woman!"
She opened a new file.
(1) Walls to be moved/removed.
_Ooo_. She jumped back to the story.
The removal of the trade barriers to the south had opened the way. . .
She typed until the cell phone played again. "Mom! Dad says he's going to marry that woman!" Her daughter, twenty years old, a college senior.
"Yes, poor thing, I feel sorry for her."
"Brooke, it's over between your father and I. He can do whatever he wants to do, and so can I."
"Who is he?" her daughter's voice had gone cold. "I didn't believe Daddy when he said you'd cheated on him. And now this!"
"This what? That I've mentally and emotionally freed myself? Grit your teeth and admit that your father and I are not going to get back together. If I find someone I like I might remarry. And _that_ is what I meant when I said that I can do anything I want to do."
"Really." Disbelieving icicles all over her tones.
"How are your classes, dear?"
"Fine. And a good thing I'm about to graduate. Daddy says he's not paying for my apartment or tuition."
"Oh, good grief. That man has no honor. I'll find the money to get you through, after all it's just another two months."
"And then the job hunt."
"And then the job hunt," she agreed. "Don't worry about the money. I've bought a nice small house, just right for me, and invested the rest, so I'll have income, no matter what."
"You don't have a job," Brooke's voice was accusatory, "You're living off of Daddy."
"I gave up a great deal, including my education and having a career of my own, to raise you two, and run the kind of house your father wanted. The judge said I deserved alimony for four years. I may end up back at college, myself."
"He said you were a parasite."
"Parasites gain from their hosts. I lost. He gained. All he's going to lose now is a bit of money."
"Quite a lot of money. He says that's why he can't pay my rent."
"Dear. We closed on the house two weeks ago. We each got over three hundred thousand dollars. If he weren't being nasty, I'm sure he could have put four thousand aside for your needs."
"He said he's bought a house in Newport, and it took every penny for the down payment, and he'll be squeezed for the payments, what with your alimony."
"Newport? How interesting." _Across the state line, where he can politic without stepping on any Ohio machine toes._
Already rumors were circulating that King Bruce had crossed the border to talk to the local barons . . .
"Honey, calm down. I know the divorce is hard on you, but you need to look after yourself. Focus on your classes, and leave the old foggies to be fools on their own."
With a last tearful wail, "I can't believe you two are doing this!" she hung up.
With a sigh, Dina turned back and started on the list.
The Dwarf craftsman hemmed and hawed over the dungeon plans. "Taking doon walls, now, that's a thing to be done keerfully, m'lord."
The owner, manager and apparently roughly a third of the personnel of Balance Renovations wasn't actually a dwarf, just a bit under average height, actually. But he'd had red hair and a Scotts accent. He'd measured and taken notes, and taken the list away when he left, muttering.
The second remodeler, Mr. Delaval of Harris Builders wasn't an elf. But he'd been supercilious enough to qualify.
"Oh, no, you want to think long and hard before moving walls. Especially as this would remove the closet of one bedroom while joining two others. And losing the half bath. No, no, this plan would reduce the value of your home. I'll work up a new plan and get you an estimate . . . "
King Lucian remembered why he hated elves. They never listened, always thought they knew better than you. He nodded politely and said he was looking forward eagerly to seeing the draft proposal. He knew already that he would hate it.
The third company turned out to be the worst of the lot.
"What an excellent plan. It will lift this ordinary house into a work of art, you'll have a bathroom to brag about, all the neighbors will just die of envy."
The bootlicking minor noble was obviously hoping for a position at court. He already had the courtier manner.
She called Audrey. "I sure hope Kevin at Balance Renovations is your friend, the other two were ghastly."
Audrey giggled. "Isn't he cute? and don't get fresh with him, my single lassie! He's married and has five kids. They all work with or for him."
He also had the estimate ready the next day, three sizes. With and without the closet enlargement and the wall between the bedrooms removed.
The elf she never heard from, the courtier's estimate was half again the Dwarf's. She gulped and called Balance Renovations to schedule the whole thing.
They started work the next Monday. She accompanied him to the hardware store for ordering and paying for the cabinets and tiles. The store promised prompt delivery. "Thursday morning, before noon." The beaming manager ushered them out.
"My, they like people who spend money." Dina said, touching her purse to check if her credit card was igniting anything.
The Dwarf chuckled. "That they do lass. Now, let's get back to your home. My lads should be waiting for us."
He meant lads literally. Kevin junior was perhaps eighteen, Stevie, a couple of years younger. She wondered about school, and then realized this was the local district's Spring Break. Hence the start date she'd been given, no doubt.
"We'll start by taking out the wallboard," Kevin Senior told her, lifting a small sledge hammer from the back of the van. Junior and Stevie were already armed with chisels, saws, prybars, drop cloths and staple guns. "But first we'll see about containing the dust."
The orcs' armaments were impressive, but their clumsy handling filled the Usurper with apprehension. They were scrawny, half grown creatures, looking not civilized enough to understand the proper wielding of the tools they carried.
"Don't worry, m'lord, we'll have the Dungeon and Torture Chamber fixed up in no time at all. If Old King Bruce tries to cause any trouble, his henchmen will live to regret taking his coin." The Dwarf turned to the decaying chamber and bellowed at the scraggly orcs. "All right, I've marked the target areas, let's take down those walls."
Dina took one look at the white plaster powder escaping around the hanging drop cloth and fled to the office, closing the door carefully behind her. In fact . . . she shed her windbreaker jacket and wrapped up the tower. No plaster dust allowed on the hard drive.
She winced at every crash, crackle and "whoops", but steadfastly declined to go look.