The Green Duke wondered if he was going to have to get between the Duchesses of the North and West. The kingdom did not need petty squabbling, if Francesca wanted to be left to her grieving and not be involved, than so be it.
It did not escape his notice either when the consort actually called him by his first name. It seemed they were at least unified in their concern for Elliot. James might not want to be ruled by a boy unless he had direct influence over him…. But he would not see his nephew harmed.
Still being common born Sarnai probably had no idea that calling him by something so familiar in the presence of the duchesses was unusual. Doing it in front of the headmaster, should he survive long enough to speak of it, would raise many eyebrows and set tongues flapping.
He politely nodded his head to the consort, before rolling his eyes at the Duchess of the North for digging at Francesca, who in turn looked ready to murder.
The headmaster seemed less than concerned when the consort informed him he was accused of hiring an assassin. Or when Malia asked him questions about his teachings, about the gathering where he had been apprehended. James narrowed his eyes and watched Von Essen like a hawk watching a rabbit, as he explained.
"Hardly corrupting, if you'll excuse my bluntness," he said. "A well-designed thought experiment challenges students to consider new perspectives that they might not have otherwise. And that's all my lecture tonight was, I assure you. Part of a series of thought experiments exploring the fiscal advantages of decentralized power. Each of you dukes and duchesses, and even you, Lady Sarnai, understand the assets and the liabilities of your areas of authority. What does it benefit your duchies to offer welfare to the South from among your riches, for example? How much do you lose in taxes to the Royal City that you could instead use to repair roads or fend off enchanted threats in your own lands?"
He shook his head and gave a sigh, eyebrows gathering with what at least seemed like sincere concern."I would expect my students to understand the difference between a thought experiment and an actionable plan. And especially to understand the wrongness of attempting to murder a child, let alone the Crown Prince. Even if he is not crowned as the next king, and the honor instead goes to another selected by the Royal Scholar and General, his blood grants him status and influence that could be a source of stability in our fine city. I'm an academic and a merchant, no fighter. I never advocate for violence. Violence is bad for business."
James gave a snort, clearly he had no idea how to conduct the business of violence. It was necessary, just as was peace. Each had their place in the world.
Francesca: "So, your thought experiment features the benefits of a Queen in the West?" "You have my attention."
The Green Duke leaned forward as well, “Or a King in the East, or perhaps both to the South. Dividing the kingdom will not benefit the duchies in the end…” He frowned at Francesca, he preferred her to be selfish as always, and disinterested. But most of all...silent. “We must remain unified!” he growled eyes going to the faces around the table. “Von Essen… Headmaster, if I were to believe your innocence in these events….who would gain from your guilt and death the most?”