Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
It was a warm, breezy mid-morning when Natalia Whitestar coasted into the market of Shanoa on her bicycle. People strolled between the small line of shops and stalls on either side of the main street, sat outside the cafe, rode their bicycles down the ancient cobblestone. There was a murmur of conversation on all sides. A few people waved as their emissary peddled past a modest-sized but exquisitely-fashioned fountain that gurgled cheerily in the middle of the wide square.
Her hair shone a deep brown in the bright sun, a color that matched her ambitious eyes. Natalia rolled to a stop in front of the Minor Council House and brushed her dark gray full skirt as she got off. She fitted her bike in an open stand and made her way through the tall, carved door and up the quartz staircase to her office. The whole lay out of the building was open and full of natural light and greenery, and the dark wood floors and banisters contrasted nicely with the more plentiful whites and light grays of the walls and ceilings.
Her office, though not very large, was full of windows and cushions and books. She hung her dark blue cardigan on a peg near the door and grabbed a fistful of small papers that had been accumulating in her mail basket. A lithe young woman with dark hair piled in a loose bun atop her head came in as Natalia stood near the window sifting through the papers and frowning. "Good morning, Natalia," she chirped. Natalia looked up. It was Lucy, one of her advisers and closest friends. "You've let your petition slips pile up again," she chided.
Natalia sighed and tossed them back into the basket. "I know, you warned me last week-- and the week before that." The emmisary smiled sheepishly and shrugged. "More requests for upgrading the roads, replacing burnt-out street lights, and I believe there was one there about moving the Spring festival from the town square to the field by the Northwest Brook."
Lucy smiled and shook her head. That had been the sixth petition this month about moving the Spring festival, and all were in favor of different locations. Natalia gave Lucy a wry grin and sat quietly into her swiveling leather desk chair. It didn't really matter anyway. If anyone actually got around to addressing the festival, it wouldn't be until next winter. Late winter probably. In the meantime the festival, the roads, and the light bulbs would all be lost among the more important issues. Like what they were going to do about the remaining Anti-Emissary groups.
The reform movement had been pushed down for the most part around two years ago, when Natalia had been elected. But some had regrouped and were flaring up again here and there. It was nothing too serious-- yet. But some thought there were signs that maybe, just maybe...
Lucy seemed to follow her thoughts. "This afternoon should be the last Minor's meeting before the matter goes to the Council."
The Steward Emissary nodded. Hopefully the Council would yield some better answers than she and her advisers had been able to come up with. It would give her something to go on at the very least.
She sighed slightly and looked up at Lucy. "We'll work it out," she said. Lucy smiled and left her to her work.
Later that evening, Natalia stood outside the heavy wooden door to the Minor Council room. For two years now, she'd been going to these meetings with her advisors, taking on the responsibility of making the right decisions to improve the lives of the over two hundred thousand people in Shanoa court, Misericord's capital. It never felt quite natural to her, having so much control over others. It had been different when she was leading a peaceful combat against the Anti-Emissaries who wanted to destroy the government; she was one with the people then. Now she felt over them in a way. But, they wanted her here their votes had said, and here she was.
She took a deep breath, straightened herself, and pushed open the door. Her thin fingers pressed into the engravings set deep into the wood. She felt their symbolic ridges as she let her hand slip away and stepping inside. The emissary strode to her seat at the large, round table, already occupied by officials whose low conversations respectfully stopped when she entered and came to the head of the table.
Natalia looked around at the seats. One of her six advisers was missing. Lucy, noticing her look, quietly said, "Lady Emissary, Mr. Beacher has sent word that he is no longer willing to attend Council until serious consideration is given to his proposal for reformed government. We didn't know until an hour ago."
She looked at Lucy a moment, then down at the table. So it's gotten that bad, she thought. "He knows the Council will never approve that."
Everyone was silent. They knew he knew it. That's why he wasn't here.
"We'll have to continue on without him, then," she said decisively. "I've been thinking about our suggestions for the Council. It seems to me, that the rebels won't be satisfied until they have a new government. Compromise doesn't seem to be an option here." She paused. "So the movement will have to be put down. Either by force or persuasion."
One of the older advisors said, "We should avoid force at all costs; it could ignite violence between the two groups." He spoke firmly, but with deference and that was another thing that was uncomfortable for her-- everyone there was significantly older than her, barring Lucy. It had taken awhile-- and required a bit of patience and understanding from her elders-- for her to settle in to this position. Maybe she was still settling into things.
Across the table, one of the women muttered, "You should not allow them to rally. If they can't band together, they are no threat."
A different man replied harshly, "That would only make them angry, and they would meet in secret anyway."
The old man turned to Natalia again. "Lady Emissary, I believe you should request that the Council meet with the leaders of the rebels. Don't give up on diplomacy yet. Perhaps an honest discussion and a bit of understanding will soften their stance."
She thought a moment, then nodded slowly. She didn't see much hope in talking, but it was worth another shot.
After a brief discussion of repairing roads and a bit of budgeting, the meeting ended and everyone filed out of the hall. Lucy stayed behind with Natalia. The emissary took off her coronet and turned it over in her hands. "I guess I'll find out tomorrow how things look around the rest of the country," she said thoughtfully. Lucy didn't reply. "We forgot the Spring festival." Still, Lucy said nothing. Natalia sighed and looked at her friend. "I've got a bad feeling about this."
"Go home. Try not to think about it tonight."
Natalia sighed again and nodded, rising from her seat, no longer toying with her coronet. She bid Lucy goodnight and spent the short ride home wondering if maybe... two years hadn't been quite enough.