This was the original first scene introducing our heroine, Ailim D'SilverFir, and is now in the backstory of the book.
"The Family is deeply in debt. We must sell this Residence and Estate." Ailim D'SilverFir kept her tone steady though she blinked back tears. She glanced around the gleaming u-shaped reddwood tables in the D'SilverFir GreatHall, studying her relatives. Then she looked at the huge space of faintly rippling air that showed those attending by viz. Meeting blue gazes ranging from light sky-crystal blue to indigo, or her own shade of blue-gray, she watched shock ripple through them.
Family. They were all Family. And they were all her responsibility. Because of her great Flair, she'd been named her Mother's Heir at birth, but she hadn't anticipated inheriting the GrandHouse title until she was middle-aged at sixty or so. Twenty-nine was too young to be burdened with the Family.
All the muttering and mumblings stopped as if sucked from the room.
"NO!" screamed several people in chorus.
Even though she'd been braced, their emotions hit her mental shields like a tidal wave, testing their limits. She pulled more energy from her body to bolster them, and felt the beginning tightness in her head of an incipient migraine.
"You can't sell the estate! We are a FirstFamily, a GrandHouse, and the land has been ours since the Colonists claimed Celta four hundred years ago," sputtered G'Uncle Ab, his ruddy-veined cheeks puffing out a final breath.
Ailim matched stares with each of her relatives. "I see no other option. What little income we have should go to the productive lands. This town Residence and grounds only drain--"
"You don't know," Aunt Menzie shrilled, hurting Ailim's ears. "You can't know what has passed these last few years. How we've struggled. Your MotherSire and Mother--"
"Quiet!" Ailim commanded.
"You've no respect for your elders and betters," sniped Menzie.
Ailim nearly replied in kind, but that wasn't the way a GrandLady behaved. Whether they liked it or not, whether she liked it or not, she was now the head of the Family and held the title of D'SilverFir. Obviously, some of them didn't respect her. She stared pointedly at those who wore little cheaptin crowns. Even a couple of relations attending by holo sported the pointed metal bands. The headpieces were supposed to block the wearer's thoughts from any telepath. The cheaptin didn't work.
Ailim's specific psi gift, called Flair, was telempathy -- being able to hear thoughts and emotions from others, and she was acknowledged the strongest on Celta. She could have read every opinion in every head, even that of the person furthest away. And experience every emotion. But why would she want to? She already knew their arguments.
She had erected her own mental shields so her relations' thoughts couldn't pummel her more than the occasional sharp blows she expected of such an emotional meeting. But the discomfort of having so many people in the room, shouting at her with their minds as well as their voices, bordered on pain.
The tall white walls of marble veined with gold of the spacious GreatHall seemed to darken and close in on her as an effect of her Family's emotions.
After drawing a deep breath, Ailim returned to the topic. "We have a 1,500,000 gilt debt. The sale of the ancestral estate would clear the debt and allow every member now living here in the Residence a modest home."
Everyone followed her glance down to the flimsysheets containing Family financial information. For security purposes, the papyris was already deteriorating and would be gone in another septhour. Right now, the figures loomed large and red.
"This Residence would be transformed from a drain on the Family to a positive asset," Ailim said.
"This Residence and the estate, the FirstFamily GrandHouse D'SilverFir estate would be gone!" screeched Menzie.
"The Residence and estate, and the standard of living that the ten current inhabitants demand, consumes too much gilt," Ailim countered. "We cannot maintain the estate, let alone pay off the debt." Again she inhaled deeply. "That's why I've called this meeting. I would appreciate any input that would lead to acceptable alternatives."
She didn't dare look at Menzie again, or any of the other Family members who lived in the Residence and contributed nothing but complaints.
Ailim continued. "I urge Family members who have a paid avocation to donate as much as possible to the Family coffers. Both my past and my current annual allotment from the Noble Council has been applied to the Family finances. I've stopped my free circuit rounds. I have an application in for an appointment as Supreme Judge here in Druida."
The old folk scowled, but other heads nodded at her plans.
"Hopefully the Council will decide in a couple of days. I should hear no later than an eightday, when the FirstFamilies Council meets. Our financial dilemma must be resolved by then, so I can inform the FirstFamilies Council of our situation, for good or ill." Ailim stood.
Her shields weren't equal to the horrible lashing waves of emotions and thoughts thrown at her from the others, that started a migraine pounding in her head. The exertion of keeping her shields strong eroded her energy. Knowing her limits, she had to leave, now, or be incapacitated for the next day. And she couldn't afford that.
She couldn't afford much of anything -- certainly nothing she wanted.
She wanted to have her MotherSire and Mother back, but they were dead, their souls resting before rebirth.
She wanted to wash her hands of the Family and all its responsibilities, but that would bring a chaos of infighting amongst the others that would destroy it.
She wanted her old life back. It was gone forever.
Ailim squared her shoulders. "Please consider the budget, and your own personal and Family budgets and talk amongst yourselves. I encourage creative options and will welcome any new ideas. We'll meet again in three days to discuss this matter and any additional solutions that you can find, before I make my decision. Again, this needs to be handled before the FirstFamilies Council meeting in an eightday. Be inventive." She smiled crookedly. "It's a pity we aren't a more financially astute Family."
With raised hands, palms up, she uttered a Word. A one-word spell of the most powerful -- binding her relatives, and whoever they consulted, to silence. Then, with lifted chin and steady step, she walked from the quiet D'SilverFir GreatHall, her footsteps echoing.