Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
The next morning, Natalia was driven to the Council House. The cab came to an easy stop in front of the magnificent pillared building. It was built with an elegant architecture, open like the Minor House she worked in. Leafy or flowering plants had been carefully tended and arranged along the path outside. There was a bright fountain in front of the building, with a brick drive circling it.
The driver came around and opened Natalia's door. She thanked him in a quiet voice and looked up nervously at the gilded doors which had been propped open. He looked at her a moment.
"You'll be fine ma'am," he said with an understanding smile. He was young-- about her own age, and had dressed up neatly, just to drive her here.
She smiled back. "Thanks."
She made her way up the wide steps to the door. A guard stood on either side-- not polished guards in uniform, but two trusted citizens dressed finely, standing laxly at attention. They nodded as she passed by, welcoming her to the second set of grand doors that brought her into the Council room. She felt the coronet on her head, there to remind her of the importance of her duty. She strode to her seat at the round table, similar to the one in the Minor House, though much larger. The emissaries were chatting with each other, and some greeted her as she came in. Most had already arrived.
Natalia brought the Council to order and the thirteen emissaries began discussing the most important issues Misericord was faced with at the moment. She learned that there were signs that Nesrin might be making war on their neighbor Airira soon. The Nesrins were on another continent, but what truly worried them were the barbaric Belecthorian republicans to the northern border of Misericord that exceedingly outnumbered them. These republicans were expanisionistic and threatened the Misericord way of life.
"We don't have any conflict with these... republicans," Natalia said, replying to an old emissary from a northern court.
"That's true, but at the moment our defenses are-- lacking to them the least," Broswith answered. "They might easily overtake us if the fancy struck him. Suppose they wished to pass through our land to attack one of our neighbors?"
"We should pursue alliances with others on the continent," put in the Emissary of Nasheen. "The Minervatosans are peaceful people and in a strategic position on the continent. I believe we should request to meet with Queen Cynthia before a war breaks outin the north."
Natalia nodded thoughtfully. "But we have little to offer in return," she pointed out.
"Talk with her. We'll think of something."
There was a little more debate about Belecthoria and Nesrin, but it was generally agreed that this would be the best course of action. Natalia called the messenger house and asked them to send a request to meet with Queen Cynthia as soon as it was convenient. It seemed important enough to her that it would be more proper to send someone in person.
They moved on to talk about trade, and were in the middle of debating about the price of timber from the north when a younger emissary named Jason Homer, from the court of Leese impatiently interrupted.
"Members of the Council," he began, "with all due respect we are ignoring the most pressing issue: the desire of many of the people to re-form our government."
They were silent a moment. A few heads turned towards the Steward Emissary.
"...Leese Court is in favor of this reformation?" she asked.
"Yes. And you should know yourself that people everywhere are, even in your own court."
Her jaw tightened."The majority are not."
"Are you so sure Lady Emissary?" he spat, unable to hide his disdain for her. "People are becoming dissatisfied with the rule of Council, wondering if there isn't a better way. Some wonder how someone so young, and inexperienced could have gained position at the head of Council." There was just a hint of mockery, maybe even a threat in his tone as he said this. Natalia looked at him levelly, though he heart was beating quick. He knew he was hitting at a nerve.
Emissary Bronswith rose angrily. "How dare you, Jason! Natalia proved two years ago that she could lead the people when she reunited the rebels and the councilists!"
It was Jason's turn to stand, a stormy look on his face. "And you forget who led the people she silenced!" he roared, thumping his chest. "United? They were never united-- how could they be by someone who understands so little?"
Jason wasn't much older than herself, not yet even thirty, but he had a way of holding himself and a way of speaking that made him seem to be as experienced as the rest of them. Natalia watched as others began rising shouting across the table at one another.What was happening to their Council?
Her eyes jumped across the table rapidly until she finally stood and moved to Bronswith's side. Her hands touched his shoulder, and she reached for the next Emissary, urging them to sit with her eyes. She could see Bronswith's anger fade as he looked at her, finally releasing a breath and looking down as he took his seat. Her hand slipped away and she moved to the next calling them quietly. One middle aged woman sighed frustratedly and walked cross armed to the wall, turning her back to the bickering of the last few.
His fiery eyes snapped up to Natalia's from the other side of the round table. She looked back steadily, wishing her heart would stop pounding. He looked about the room as it fell silent. Just as Natalia opened her mouth to speak, he shot her a hateful glare and spun on his heal. Without a word, he stormed through the heavy doors.
Natalia's face fell. "Jason!" She moved to go after him, but old Bronswith held her shoulder gently. She looked back at him a bit confused, and he shook his head sadly. She looked to the door, back at the old man. It was done then. The Council solemnly shuffled out.
Over the past few months, five emissaries, including Jason, upped and left, forming their own separate "Council" that supported reformation. Negotiations had ceased. Already, the nation had been pushed to the brink of civil war before Natalia came to power. Whether or not she could do it again was another question...
Bronswith looked at the Lady Emissary as they stood outside in the sun, rainclouds visible to the far north. "There wil be war there, I think. Talking to Queen Cynthia will be a smart move."
Natalia nodded quetly, thoughts drifting off. Bronswith continued to speak, but she did not hear what he had to say. How could she listen to him when there was so much to take into consideration? The Nesrins were going to war, a King had been overthrown, the country was falling apart--
"Nava!" she cursed suddenly, covering her mouth upon realizing what she had said.
Bronswith offered her a small smile. "Nava indeed."